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Urban Self Defense: For The Desk Jockey

by Erich on February 6th, 2016

The following article was contributed by Cory Hinton.

urban-self-defense

Why Should you listen to me?

Fair question.

A little bit about me is that I grew up basically adopted into a household of Marines, 4 generations of Marines with 2 record holding M-16 sharpshooters to be exact, and this helped develop my early years into that of a junior Marine.

But as life is usually not the most fair, I was rendered deaf in my left ear at a young age, which disqualified me from any sort of service on the battlefield. And if I was to join the military I would want nothing short of the front line experience. So I continued training with my family outside of the military.

This allowed me to learn the ins and outs of urban warfare at a distance. Don’t let that fool you though, when we spared for practice it was full contact, I know what it’s like to get punched in the face and it’s not a pleasant feeling.

Anyway, I trained with them until I was 19 and moved away. I landed in Louisiana where I picked up prepping and put the years of military guidance to work in combination with my new friends who are fire fighters and paramedics. I learned field medicine and more urban self defense strategies, because if you know Louisiana then you know it’s not the safest place in the world. And that’s my story.

The Need for Self-Defense

We’ve all seen the videos of the thugs who stalk an innocent person or persons on a casual walk, the couple is blissfully unaware as to the danger their in. Then the thugs descend on their unsuspecting victims, they’re badly beaten for no reason, and it could have been avoided had they known a few rules of how to protect themselves.

Ruthless violence like this is becoming commonplace in our society unfortunately.

That’s why over at survivethewild.net we’re exploring methods of preparation for the 9-5 desk jockey that include urban self defense. Not just learning a few blocks and how to take a hit, but how to effectively overpower your assailants with minimal effort. And this can be done with a few simple rules to follow.

Here’s an outline of the “rules” we’ll be going over today:

  1. Don’t put yourself in danger
  2. Protect The Asset
  3. Using Their Strength
  4. There Are No Rules

#1 Don’t Put Yourself In Danger

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first, if you don’t put yourself in situations where you could be assaulted, then the chance of you being assaulted goes down dramatically.

So if you are leaving a crowded bar at 2 am with a lady friend, and decide to take a shortcut down a poorly lit alley in the bad part of town, then whatever happens next is on you my friend. Take calculated risks if needed, but don’t do anything that could put you in harms way.

You as the person in charge need to know which areas of town you’re going to, and if they’re close to the dangerous parts of town. Ignorance is bliss only when ignorance can’t stab you and take your money for making a poor decision.

So don’t put yourself in a situation that could end badly. Enough bad things happen in decent places, don’t go to where the pain is.

#2 Protect The Asset

If it’s just you that gets assaulted then you are the asset, but if you’re a male walking a female home then she becomes the asset. Do not let anything happen to her.

In a situation where you’re assaulted by surprise you need to have it in your head already that you’re going to stand between whatever is happening and the woman you’re with. This isn’t to say that women can’t handle themselves, but chivalry isn’t dead at the same time. If she pulls out a Glock and blows them away, marry her, if not then protect her.

Odds are that you’ll never get attacked for no reason at all, they’re after something. If it’s money go ahead and give it up, it’s harder to recover from a beating than to explain why you need to cancel your credit cards. And if you have a woman with you then for her sake you need to make sure they don’t get to her.

The best tactics to secure an asset is to make yourself the barrier to get through. It may sound fool hardy, but if they’re trying to get to something that’s directly behind you then that creates a natural bottle neck that you control. You can maneuver them and force them to follow your lead to make a move, and with the right amount of situational awareness you can use this to your advantage.

If you stall them long enough you can call for help, make a plan to escape or make your stand.

#3 Using Their Strength

This isn’t about some Tai-Chi move to literally redirect their energy or force back at them, rather you need to use the same tactics or “strengths” they’re using on you.

What tactic did they use on you? How about surprise and violence. Assuming you have the wherewithal in the moment to understand what’s happening, it would be a great idea to suddenly start making noise. Like any kind of loud noise. This will throw your attackers off for a few moments, and that’s when you take the upper hand and either run or deal a punishing blow.

The assailant is depending on you to crumble and be scared, and while you may be scared in the moment, if you can muster enough courage to yell, jump, charge and attack the attacker, you’ll gain the upper hand. And all while using their “strength”.

#4 There Are No Rules

As you can tell I don’t subscribe to the notion of a fair fight. If you can scream like a girl and rupture their eardrums then do it. There’s no trophies given for style points in these situations. All that matters is that you make it out alive and protect those you’re with.

Biting and scratching are great ways of inflicting damage on an emotional level with your attacker. If you punch someone and they scratch your arm and bite your neck hard enough to draw blood then I’m pretty sure they’re going to proceed with caution.

So do what you have to do to make it out alive, because if you’re a guy defending a girl then she shouldn’t care how you saved her life, only that you saved her life.

Conclusion

This might not have been what you were expecting in terms of self defense, but the term self defense implies that you’re defending, which is a position that holds and withstands. Should you be in a situation where you need to use these urban self defense tactics then the most important rule of all is that you remember that there’re no rules when it comes to getting out alive!

Please visit us over at survivethewild.net if you’re a desk jockey who’s just venturing into this world and looking for some help. Our community is great and we love hearing from new comers. We have everyone from the barely able to buy and store cigarettes to the barely able to hold a cigarette on our team. So we would love to have you!

Copyright © 2016 Tactical Intelligence. All Rights Reserved


What To Do When “Authority” Comes a Knocking

by Erich on February 1st, 2016

This article has been contributed by Anne Marie Duhon. Anne Marie is a wife, mother of six and a full time off-gridder. She and her husband currently live in a totally off grid 200 sq foot “tiny home” and are in search of (again) that elusive perfect spot to call home. Besides being a wife and mother she, and her family, have raised many different animals on their various homesteads and have lived and loved being off the grid and many miles from the nearest paved road. She would like to share her first hand experiences and help others to learn to live and love living off grid and being as self reliant as possible.

Police Knock on Door

Ah, I don’t need to be worrying about THAT! I am a law abiding citizen just minding my own business you think.

RIGHT keep thinking that…

Everyday every one of us breaks several laws and never even knows it. There are over 100,000 laws- federal, state and local- on the books, do you know them all? Doubt it, considering not even cops and lawyers know them all! The only reason we all are not in jail is because of selective enforcement of the laws (remember driving one day and passing 5 cops and none of them pull you over then the sixth one does for a broken tail light- selective enforcement based on the cops mood at the time).

The thing is, authority knows that we do not know all the laws or what our rights are and authority uses it against us. Authority knows that people like us, survivalists, preppers, off gridders, homesteaders whatever you want to call yourself tend to do things a little “differently” and we tend to be a little outspoken and Authority knows given a chance they will find something to use against us. So it is our job to deny them that chance. So what to do?

What authority wants to happen

Authority knocks on your door, and you open it smiling. Police officer, animal control what have you waves a paper in front of you and says
“I am Officer Snatch and this is officer Grab, you are in violation of xxx law (waving paper again) and we are here to take it.

You private citizen say “Oh you caught me. Come on in and take whatever you want”.

Authority will come in and take whatever they came for, take you to jail and while they are at it ransack your home and find many other things to charge you with to make this perfectly worthwhile for them. And if they are feeling mean probably steal a few things from you too knowing that you won’t be able to do a damn thing about it. Later, when your attorney files a motion to suppress the evidence before your trial, the judge will deny the motion on the grounds that you volunteered the evidence to the police. You will then be convicted of being in possession of an “illegal” whatever. And at that point unless you are or have very good friends that are independently wealthy you are screwed.

What you should do when authority comes

There is a knock at the door. Private Citizen DOES NOT open the door but calls through the door. “Who is it?”

The reply: “I am police officer/ animal control/deputy Sheriff/Snatch”

Private Citizen AGAIN THROUGH THE DOOR should reply: “Please go away unless you have a warrant. Please get off my property.”

Now in a perfect world that should do it but of course we do not live in a perfect world. Authority is going to get mad at this point because you did not immediately bow to their wishes. They are going to make threats DO NOT RESPOND, and NEVER no matter what authority says open your door! KEEP SILENT! Do not answer any questions. Just politely say “I refuse to answer any questions without my lawyer present or without a warrant”. If they claim to have a warrant tell them to slip it under the door (if they really had a warrant the door would be gone by now and you would already be in handcuffs).

Things to do/think about before authority shows up

IT is a fact of life now a days that people like us are considered “terrorists”. People who before would have been considered solid old fashioned Americans (72 types of people considered terrorist). And because others chose to think about us as such they are going to fear what they do not understand. What people fear they try to stop by fair means or foul. It is our duty to protect our families and what we have worked for against these people. How?

Know your rights

First and most important KNOW YOUR RIGHTS! Authority wants to and will use our ignorance of our rights against us and once we lose our rights it is very hard to get them back. Know the laws of your area. If you have guns know the gun laws, if you have animals know what the animal laws are in your area. I am not saying you have to agree with them but if you don’t and chose to break the law don’t make it obvious! Many innocent people end up in prison because they did not know their rights.

Keep your mouth shut

Second, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! Do not be telling anyone you raise rabbits in the city to eat or have “assault” weapons in the garage! Do not give anyone any reason to question you about anything. Remember, everything you say can and will be used against you and that does not only apply to when you are talking to the cops.

Other things that can help in dealing with authority

Set up game cameras or closed circuit cameras at all entrances to your property. Have the cameras record and upload directly to the internet for safe keeping of the video. Cops will demand and destroy videos if they know they are being filmed and many a time a cell phone video has gotten someone off trumped up charges!

Fence off and post no trespassing signs on your property. LOCK the gates!

Consider getting a video camera or voice activated recorder and leave it by the front door/gate. Tell authority all interactions will be recorded.

Consider joining a prepaid legal service like Legal Shield or The Calvary Group which is a prepaid legal service for animal owners.

Never allow authority inside your home or to even SEE inside your home. If they can see something questionable in their suspicious minds they will use it for probable cause to get the warrant! This goes for the stuff in your yard that is visible from the road and driveway or the neighbor’s yard. If for some reason you feel the need to speak to the police, step out of your house and shut the door behind you. IF you can lock it all the better!

Make duplicate copies of all important paperwork – deeds, titles, rental agreements, birth certificates, social security cards, adoption records, marriage/divorce records, medical records for ALL family members both two and four legged, business licenses and any other records you deem important. Keep these copies in a secure location besides at your house. You can keep them either in paper format or on a thumb drive and save a copy to an online private site, say email them to yourself so that you or someone you ask can access the copies from anywhere with a computer and your passwords. Never leave your passwords laying around ANYWHERE!

Folks, there is nothing “wrong” with our lifestyle! A hundred years ago EVERYONE lived on a farm, carried guns, stocked up, and minded their own business. Be proud of your ability to care for your family and stand firm in the face of all the “authority” out there! The Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution is short, to the point and written in English. The Fourth Amendment is easy to understand. The Attorney General hopes you don’t understand any of your rights. Don’t let them trick you. If the first one hundred attempts at trickery fail, the government will give up. Don’t be fooled. Learn your rights and exercise them. As long as you keep your questionable activities private and as long as you are polite and respectful, you can keep authority out of your business. Police do not like dealing with well educated, respectful people and will back down in most cases.

Copyright © 2016 Tactical Intelligence. All Rights Reserved


Lock Picking as a Survival Skillset

by Erich on January 29th, 2016

The following article was contributed by Ryan B.

Picking Locks Survival

“Why?” I am often asked this by people once they learn that I practice the art of lock picking. Why would I spend the time learning a skill that I will maybe only practically need to use a handful of times in my life? But you see that is the point they fail to see. That the usefulness of this skill isn’t determined by what it can do for me now, but how it can help me down the road. It could one day be useful.

This is the difference between the average mindset and the mentality of the survivalist. We spend our time learning skills that we may never once need to use in our lives. But by God if the need ever arises that we need these skills we can lace up our boots and tackle whatever problem we face with an inspiring level of grace and confidence.

Lock Picking as a Survival Skillset

But what still begs the question is how exactly can lock picking be a survival skill? Where is the practically in it? The fact of the matter is there are two things people will need to survive if the SHTF — Supplies and shelter that is safe. lock picking is a sure way to both.

One of the sure facts of any SHTF situation is that the low hanging fruit will be picked first. The simple fact of the matter is supplies will dissipate fast in a post societal world and having the means to access places no one else can would be ripe with its benefits. While you may think a crowbar and bolt cutters are all you need to be a worthy scavenger, the fact of the matter is not all doors can be knock in nor all padlocks cut. Brute force can only get you so far.

There is a certain confidence that comes with knowing that no matter how strong the door, you can always rely on lock picking as a means of infiltration. Additionally who wants to lug around a heavy set of bolt cutters when you can comfortably fit a set of lock picks in your back pocket?

One of the great things about lock picking is that it has a non-destructive quality about it.

Everything that you pick can once again be locked. Unlike knocking down a door, lock picking can help you take shelter and allow you to lock the door behind you granting a certain level a security to your new establishment.

This non-destructive attribute can also be useful in many other ways. An excellent example of this would be trigger lock on a firearm. There are not a lot of methods of removing a trigger lock without possibly harming the weapon and the difference of acquiring addition weapons in a SHTF situation could easily be the difference between life and death.

Paradigm Shift: The “Security” Facade

There is one additional perk that comes with acquiring the skill of lock picking and that is a truer sense of what security really is.

The first time you pick the lock on your front door you will have horrid realization. This little piece of metal we call a lock is a lie. If you could bypass it with a little patience and a few lock picks then of course anyone else could too.

By learning how these devices work and how they can be compromised, we will gain an invaluable perspective of what exactly locks provide for us in terms of security and what we can do to further that security. Know thy enemy. You never know what kind of enemies you may face in a SHTF situation nor what skill they themselves may possess.

By becoming aware of the security flaws in whatever environment you are in, you can turn the tides and better protect yourself and your interests.

Lock Picking is not Difficult

So as we can see lock picking is a very underestimated skill in terms of survival. But just how hard is it to learn?

There is a very common misconception that lock picking is a very complex skill by nature, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. lock picking is extraordinary simple in theory and just as simple in practice. You yourself could expect to learn and apply the basic concepts and techniques of lock picking within an hour.

Everyone I have ever taught how to pick a lock has been able to pick their first lock within 10 minutes. With a little patience and practice you can gain proficiency in this skill rather quickly and can expect to blow through a common lock within minutes, sometimes even seconds.

With lock picking in your toolbox you can experience a unique peace of mind knowing that locks aren’t the enemy. Open up your world and learn the craft that is lock picking .

Lock Picking Resources

Here is a list of recommended resources to start with:

Copyright © 2016 Tactical Intelligence. All Rights Reserved


How to Keep Warm in a Winter Power Outage

by Erich on January 7th, 2016

This article has been contributed by Anne Marie Duhon. Anne Marie is a wife, mother of six and a full time off-gridder. She and her husband currently live in a totally off grid  200 sq foot “tiny home” and are in search of (again) that elusive  perfect spot to call home. Besides being a wife and mother she, and her family, have raised many different animals on their various homesteads and have lived and loved being off the grid and many miles from the nearest paved road. She would like to share her first hand experiences and help others to learn to live and love living off grid and being as self reliant as possible. 

winter-power-outage1Winter is upon us again and with it comes storms that can cause wide spread or localized power outages. Losing power in winter does cause many more deaths than a power outage in the summer.

So how do you protect yourself and your loved ones during those cold dark hours? Read on and I will share some of the ways we do it…

The Ideal: Preparing for a Winter Power Outage

winter-power-outage2My husband and I never notice power outages anymore because we have removed ourselves from the grid so we have keeping warm without electricity down pat!

First, you HAVE to think about winter power outages long before winter gets here. Take a look at your home. Is it big and roomy with lots of open areas or small and compact? If it is large, can living areas be closed off to make smaller areas to heat? Does it have lots of windows and which direction do those windows face? North facing windows will let in lots of cold while south facing windows can be used for passive solar heating. Is your home well insulated and does it have any fireplaces or wood heating already installed? How will you be able to cook during a power outage? What about your water pipes?

So now you’ve inventoried your house. You live in the typical three bedroom brick house on a slab with windows all around and a porch on the south side. How to make it winter ready?

Check all windows and doors for leaks of air. If air can come in warm air can escape. Caulk or seal the leaks. If the windows are old and drafty consider putting plastic sheeting over the windows or making insulated drapes to hang during the winter (the drapes would work to keep the house cooler in summer too!).

Close off unneeded or unused areas during the power outage. This is where you are going to see just how fast family members can get on your nerves! Make just one or two rooms be used.

Inspect already installed fireplaces/woodstoves or install a small woodstove in a main room. You would be amazed how much one small woodstove can do! And of course have on hand a cord or so of cut, seasoned firewood for that stove and MATCHES!

Look into enclosing your south-facing porch for the winter and buy in advance the necessary supplies to do so. Enclosing your porch will give you some heat from the sun during the day and an outside place to cook if you have to use a grill.

winter-power-outage3If for some reason you cannot have a woodstove in your home look into getting some other heating source like Little Buddy camp heaters and a supply of fuel for them or a kerosene heater and several gallons of kerosene.

In a pinch, lanterns and candles do put off a bit of heat and can warm and light a small area. These choices are dangerous and should only be used in an emergency with all necessary precautions. But they are better than freezing to death.

Wrap water pipes to keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture. Look into storing several gallons of water incase pipes do freeze or your well isn’t working.

All the above can be and should be done and ready long before the first cold snap.

How to Survive a Winter Emergency Power Outage

But what if you get a surprise and are not ready? During an emergency power outage you need to:

  • Move all family members to one area and close off all the other rooms.
  • Select a space on the “warm” side of the house, away from prevailing cold winds. It’s best to avoid rooms with large windows or uninsulated walls. Interior rooms, such as inside bathrooms or closets, probably have the lowest heat loss. Your basement may be another great option in cold weather, because of the heat gain from the earth.
  • Isolate the room from the rest of the house by keeping doors closed, hanging bedding, heavy drapes, blankets or towels over entryways or erecting temporary partitions of cardboard or plywood. Hang drapes, bedding, shower curtains, and such other insulating items over doors and windows.
  • Drip your faucets to prevent them from freezing or shut off the water at the main and drain the pipes. Store that water for drinking and cooking.
  • Let the children make a fort to sleep in to help retain body heat.
  • Dress warmly and EXERCISE! It will help keep your core body temp up.
  • Eat and drink warm things like soups or coffee/hot chocolate. Heating up water on a small sterno can is easy, safe and does add some warmth to the room.
  • Don’t forget your pets! Many animals can and do make it through the cold months just fine as long as they are used to living outside but for those pets that are not make room in your warm spot and in your plans for them! A warm dog or cat is great to snuggle with on a cold night!
  • Turn off all electricity except for maybe one light to protect against a possible power surge when the power does finally come back on.
  • If all else fails and this power outage is going to last for a while contact your local Red Cross or church and they can probably direct you to a shelter in your area or you can contact out of area family or friends for an impromptu visit!
  • After the lights come back on take stock in how it went for you and take steps to improve on your ability to provide for yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you had to evacuate to a friends or a shelter consider this a wakeup call and make it a goal to do better the next time because there WILL BE a next time.

Additional Resources

Copyright © 2016 Tactical Intelligence. All Rights Reserved


Reader Submission: hidden wall safe with an expedient, emergency retrieval system

by Erich on January 4th, 2016

The following has been submitted by Claude Thigpen

In my idle thoughts, I often find myself mentally running “what if” scenarios.

The one I return to the most is if I awoke in the night and my home was ablaze. After securing my families safety, what would I carry with me? In that moment, which item would I value above the others? Or would I have an opportunity to save anything? This scene alters and plays differently depending on where I am in my home when I run the drill.

I originally thought of purchasing a fire safe for protecting my valuables. However, after some research and finding that in a perfect world where either your home was across the street from the fire department, or your home burned completely in less than 3 hours and sustained temps never exceeded the rating for the safe, that a fire safe was not a realistic option for me. Especially since my valuables would not be readily accessible in emergencies (for example, when rapid retrieval of a weapon was needed).

So while in a waiting room, watching a reality based police television show, I saw how the police hooked a cable to a wrought iron burglar bar door and snatched it clean away. This was the inspiration I needed when I devised this notion…

How to Build a Hidden Wall Safe (with expedient, emergency retrieval system)

Here’s my idea: I’ll fab a sheet metal cabinet, sized to fit in the thickness of a stud framed, exterior wall, this in turn provides a hidden, in the wall, safe.

This cabinet would have a rigid metal frame, on the exterior side of the cabinet. To this frame, 2 cables would be attached on either side, as high as possible so as to create more leverage when pulled against. These cables would be connected to each other with a shackle, and then to a longer, primary cable.

This would look like a Y configuration. These cables would be covered by siding, a false exterior door, false window, etc. Each install would have unique requirements. The primary cable could be discreetly located a safe distance from the wall in whatever you could dream up — a bird bath, a patio stone, a plumbing cleanout, etc. The camo is in the eye of the beholder.

From this point, in case of something as catastrophic as a house fire, retrieval could be achieved with a vehicle, i.e. a fire truck, simply by pulling the safe through the wall, out of harm’s way.

I like this choice, rather than having to choose. I’m sure I left some details out and I would like to hear any input, comments, thoughts on improving or questions.

Copyright © 2016 Tactical Intelligence. All Rights Reserved


Flint and Steel Kit Review

by Erich on December 21st, 2015

In this latest post on the TI website I’m going to be reviewing a flint and steel fire making kit created by Mikhail Maletkin of flint-and-steel.com.

I have long been a practitioner of primitive survival skills (going on 20 years now). And in that time I’ve made a number of flint and steel kits for myself as well as other primitive fire making kits such as bow drill and hand drill kits.

Especially when it came to my own homemade flint-and-steel kits, I’ve never considered them any more then objects of utilitarian purposes. They help me make fire, that’s about it. This kit I’ll be reviewing here, goes way beyond that. But before we get to it, I thought I’d provide…

A Short History of Flint and Steel Fire Making

I hear a lot of modern survivalists talk of using “flint and steel” or “firesteel” for fire making, but what I find they are actually referring to is modern fire strikers, which are actually made from ferrocerium alloys. 

Although I’m a big fan of modern ferro rods and typically have one with me, these are not true firesteels.

True firesteels go way back. If you’re not familiar with the flint-and-steel fire making, it is one of the oldest forms of making fire that we know of. Although it is most commonly associated with the fire-making method of choice for our pioneers, early explorers, and frontiersman it’s been in fact around since the age of steel (essentially, from the Iron Age onward, as early as 1200 BC).   

And If you’ve never made a fire from real flint and steel I encourage you to do so. I find (and I’m not unique in this) the process of using a real firesteel with some flint somehow connects a deeper part of yourself with your ancestors — something that the modern ferro rods just don’t quite accomplish.

OK, enough of the history lesson let’s get on with the product review…

Flint & Steel Kit Review

The first time I heard about these kits was when my friend Bill reached out to me asking if I’d be willing to review a product made by a Russian friend of his. He was going on about how his friend made these wonderful flint and steel kits that were works of art. Skeptical, but always willing to help a friend out, I gladly welcomed the product not expecting the prize that I would shortly receive.

On receiving the package I was blown away by the incredible craftsmanship and attention to detail and quality that these kits are created with. Mikhail, the creator of these kits, is clearly an artisan of the highest order and his passion shines through.

Everything in the kit (other than the tin that holds the char cloth) is made by hand. Mikhail comes from a long line of artisan blackmiths, so the skills and methods used in the manufacture of these kits has been preserved and passed down from generation to generation.

The bags are made from sturdy leather and are solidly assembled. There’s a front flap with a leather tab and clasp to keep the kit shut.

IMG_4969

On the back is a belt loop for easy attachment to your hip.

IMG_4979

Opening the kit you’re presented with a set of instructions, and two rolls of natural jute twine for tinder. 

IMG_4970

Under the tinder there are two inner pockets which contain a firesteel striker and a tin of charcloth. And in the main area, you’ll find two chunks of flint.

IMG_4974

The steel striker is carefully forged and quenched over charcoal in the same manner that Mikhail’s ancestors had done.  For the char cloth, Mikhail scorches linen fabric himself to create a high quality cloth tinder. Again, the attention to detail even down to the placement of the char cloth within the tin is quite impressive.

IMG_4978

How to Use the Flint & Steel Kit

If flint and steel fire making is new to you, you may think it’s a difficult skill to learn. In reality, it’s a very simple and elegant process that takes a little practice. The instructions Mikhail includes are very clear and when followed you’ll be making fire in no time.
 
Here’s a short video of me demonstrating how to create a spark and turn it into a fire:

Where to Purchase a Flint and Steel Kit

If you’re interested in getting your hands on one of these (Mikhail has a number of other kits as well, so be sure to check them out) you can do so at flint-and-steel.com. You won’t be disappointed.

Copyright © 2016 Tactical Intelligence. All Rights Reserved


Learning to Thrive while “Going Homeless”

by Erich on December 15th, 2015

This article has been contributed by Anne Marie Duhon. Anne Marie is a wife, mother of six and a full time off-gridder. She and her husband currently live in a totally off grid  200 sq foot “tiny home” and are in search of (again) that elusive  perfect spot to call home. Besides being a wife and mother she, and her family, have raised many different animals on their various homesteads and have lived and loved being off the grid and many miles from the nearest paved road. She would like to share her first hand experiences and help others to learn to live and love living off grid and being as self reliant as possible. 

homeless

I am not going to say that I am by any means an expert on this subject. I’m not really sure if there is even anyone that would claim to be an expert on ACTUALLY living and thriving as a “homeless” person or what that would even be! What I am going to try to do here is to share how we by choice and circumstances went “homeless”.

We have chosen to live in a small camper pulled by a truck and parked at various locations wherever our hearts and our wallets allow. I do want to apologize in advance if this comes across like  I am preaching and telling you the best way in the world is to “go homeless”.  For us and for now it is. For some, it may NEVER be the right thing to do especially if you have a medical condition or young children.

While being homeless may not work for everyone, learning to be self-sufficient and lessening your need for “civilization” and money WILL work for all, and I hope at minimum I can teach you some skills that you can use if your personal world should ever fall apart and being homeless becomes the ONLY choice for you.

When it comes down to it, skills you can never lose but you can lose your house.  In your final moments you are not going to wish that you had spent more time at work but that you spent more time — QUALITY time — with your loved ones. In the end, your loved ones are all that matter and all the things you work so hard for you will have to leave behind one day.

Think about that while you hurry off to earn that paycheck. Like the song says I have yet to see a hearse with a trailer hitch.

WHAT IS HOMELESSNESS?

Let me define for you what I mean by homeless.

Homelessness is living without a stationary “traditional” home — be that an apartment, mobile home, or a house in the suburbs.  I am not talking about living on the streets sleeping under cardboard but many of the ideas in this article could be used by those that are living on the streets and HAVE been incorporated into our lifestyle.

I aimed this at those of you that have chosen or are thinking about choosing VOLUNTARILY living without a home.  This type of homelessness goes by many different names: camping, boondocking, RV’ing, nomads, hobos, escaping the rat race, what have you.  For  those of you who are reading this and facing homelessness through reasons that may or may not have been totally within your control I hope and pray that within this article you find some ideas and some hope.

Your level of homelessness depends totally on your comfort level. If you are the Bear Gryllis type you could probably take off to the woods with a knife, compass and a bottle of water and do quite well. And GOD BLESS YOU if you have that amount of skill!  You are someone that I would LOVE to meet!

What I am talking about here is at minimum you have some sort of transportation and at the bare minimum a tent to sleep in, but you could sleep in your vehicle.  Having said vehicle is going to leave you tied to “civilization” for at least the gas and insurance for the car.  If you chose to go without insurance you are running the risk of getting a “home” with very sucky views and no choice of your companions but that is on you.

Also, for us the main goal of “going homeless” is to be as self-sufficient and as minimally tied to civilization as possible. We strive to provide for our own basic needs like food, water, shelter and clothing on our own with the least amount of money spent.

To accomplish that usually takes an equal amount of labor to replace the amount of money not spent. That exchange of labor for money usually has many great benefits in a healthier lifestyle and the satisfaction of knowing that you ARE capable of caring for yourself and your loved ones no matter what, that you are not dependent on the almighty dollar to warm you on a cold night or cook your food or bring fresh safe water to your family to drink.

This, I feel, is the BEST part of this whole “homeless” experiment.

WHY CHOOSE TO GO HOMELESS?

Why go homeless can be answered a million different ways.

For us, it was the challenge of pitting our minds and bodies against Mother Nature and not just surviving but THRIVING. For some, it is not so much a matter of a choice but forced on them by a job loss, illness, or some other personal Feces hitting the fan situation.  For others, it was a conscience decision to leave civilization and all the trappings and encumbrances that includes, or it was the fact that even though they were working, the majority of their paycheck went towards housing expenses (rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance etc.) and they decided they would rather keep more of their money and give up the monthly bills.

This is where living in a tent or a camper at a campground really saves you money. Instead of several monthly bills that can and do fluctuate at a campground you pay a flat rate, usually about $10-$15 a day for electricity, water and lot rent. Many RV places will give you a better rate if you are going to be there for a month and some like KOA have laundry facilities, showers, WIFI and pools! A lot cheaper than an apartment!

<h2>DECIDING ON HOW HOMELESS YOU WANT TO BE</h2>

Okay so now you have decided for whatever reason you and yours are going to ditch your stick-and brick home and go on the road. The big question is how much are you going to reduce your possessions and how “homeless” do you want to be?

Here are some questions that you and yours need to consider before striking out…

  • How much time do you have?
  • Are you looking at eviction at the end of the month or do you have months or maybe years to plan this?
  • How much  money do you have to put into this? This one goes hand in hand with how much time you have.
  • Have you lost your job and are flat broke or are you looking at maybe having a big tax return or saving money up for this?
  • How many people and animals are you going to have coming on the road with you? Do any of them have any “issues” that require some sort of daily care that will keep you tied to civilization?
  • How old are the other people coming with you and what kind of physical shape are they in?

This “homeless” lifestyle trades work and very little in the way of “free time” for money and leisure. And now some more questions…

  • What are your personal limitations?
  • What skills do you already have that could be used for your life on the road?
  • How are you going to finance your time on the road?
  • Do you get a “check” each month for some reason or are you going to have to secure some kind of income somehow to pay your minimal expenses?
  • And the biggy, how on board are the other people in your group with this?

There is NO WAY that this will work if only one person in a group wants to do this and all the rest expect that one person to do all the work. This has to be an all-in or all-out effort. That one person may be willing at first to do all the work in the hopes that the rest will fall into line but trust me that WILL NOT happens. What will happen is that the willing person will start to resent the rest of the group and the experiment will collapse.  This is not something that can be forced on anyone except for maybe the very young who really do not understand in the first place.

WHERE CAN YOU GO HOMELESS?

Now it used to be that you could pack a backpack and hit the road and be relatively safe and do quite well. There used to be hobos all over that would watch out for each other and help each other. Ah, but the world has turned and not for the better. These days being homeless is considered ILLEGAL in many places.

Even though most cities do not provide enough affordable housing, shelter space, and food to meet the need, many cities use the criminal justice system to punish people living on the street for doing things that they need to do to survive. Such measures often prohibit activities such as sleeping/camping, eating, sitting, and/or begging in public spaces and include criminal penalties for violation of these laws.

Some cities have even enacted food sharing restrictions that punish groups and individuals for serving homeless people. Many of these measures appear to have the purpose of moving homeless people out of sight, or even out of a given city.

Depending on what your arrangements are for sleeping there are many different options on where you can stop and have minimal chance of being harassed by the locals and by the authorities. There are websites that you can get on like freecampsites.net that can give you lists of places you can stay for free or for a minimal charge.

Unless you are going out west most areas will have a time limit that you can stay and most of the free ones will not have any amenities.

Car Living

If your home is now a converted van or truck with a slide in, you could even get away with parking near your work on the street.

This would work great for a single adult or maybe a couple. This kind of living can be hard on children because you have to fly under the radar and stay quiet. It also requires you to move your vehicle often so that the cops or locals don’t start wondering about it. If you are lucky you might have a friend who’ll allow you to park in their driveway but do be careful and check out local ordinances because more and more cities are making it illegal to sleep in your vehicle on public OR private property.

Tent Living

If your home is a tent, you have a wide choice of places you can set up at night. I have seen people camping behind or near Wal-marts or other large box stores in cities, or you can set up your tent in an open or wooded area on the outskirts of a town or in a park.

The best part about living in a tent is that it is easy to hide and easy to move. If you decide to make an overnight stop , set your tent up in an out of the way spot not easily seen by people (like behind or in some trees or behind a building) and plan on having the tent down very early in the morning.

This is called stealth camping. Of course, you could tent camp in pretty much all the same places that you could park a camper and be able to stay for a while.

Camper Living

If you are like us and have a camper and a separate vehicle your best bet is to stick to campsites.

We bought a full sized pick-up truck second hand, and a camper that needed work. Totally paid for with cash mind you. We did the fixing up the camper needed and set out. This is called boondocking.

Our camper is totally self-contained with solar panels and a generator for electricity, a wood stove for cooking and heat and tanks for potable water. We worked towards this for about a year discussing exactly how “rough” we wanted to live. We had tossed up getting a big tent or maybe a Winnebago but the tent would not give us the space for supplies and the Winnebago would be too hard for day to day driving.

This way the camper can hold our supplies and give us more cargo space while moving and having the pick-up gave us a vehicle to drive after the camper was parked. We also added a canopy to set up outside the camper to give us more living space.  To accomplish this we had to learn many skills, like packing and weight  distribution in the camper for ease of towing, how to wire for 12 volt for the solar and regular power for the  generator, how to filter “wild” water for safe drinking, and of course how to cook more than hot dogs and  hamburgers on an open fire.

All these skills make it so that we need as little as possible from the towns we stop at.

CONCLUSION

Do not get me wrong, “going homeless” is A LOT of work, but it is also very freeing. It is basic cause and effect with the middle man taken out of the picture totally.

You decide to have a “lazy day” and not gather any firewood then that night you are going to eat a cold meal. Totally your fault and totally your choice. You have no “they” to blame.

See how easy and freeing that is? It reduces everything down to the basics, from the amount of stuff you have to how you deal with the rest of the world but it does give you the assurance that you can take care of yourself and your loved ones no matter what and that is something many in conventional homes cannot say.

Recommended Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Tactical Intelligence. All Rights Reserved


Raising Chickens in Winter

by Erich on November 30th, 2015

This is part two of a two-part in-depth series on raising chickens written by Bill S in upstate NY. The first article can be found here: How to Start Raising your own Chickens

An Intro into Raising Chickens in Winter

In the last article I was privileged to write for TI, I discussed the very basics of raising a small flock of chickens. Now that winter is fast approaching, we need to look at what needs to be done to keep the flock healthy when the temperatures drop. But, first let’s make the assumption that you live in an area that has 4 seasons, and it will get below 32 degrees F at least some of the time.

To start with, you will need to choose the right breed of chicken to suit your life style, needs and climate. While most breeds would probably survive winter with minimal preparations on your part, not all would. Some chickens are much better suited to hot climates. The goal here, though is not just to have them survive winter, but to actually thrive.

By thriving, they will be able to provide you with an almost self-sustaining source of high quality meat and eggs. Regardless of what is happening around you, storms, riots, acts of terrorism, or disease, by having your own private source of high quality food, you will have a much better chance of surviving than many others. But, just having the chickens running around your property is not enough to feed your family. You need to learn some basic skills to maintain them before they will provide you with an ongoing food supply.

The Importance of Free Range

When your chickens are truly “free range”, and they eat bugs, seeds and vegetation, as they were meant to do, the nutritional value of their eggs are dramatically improved when compared to commercial eggs.

Courtesy of Mother Earth News

Courtesy of Mother Earth News


The image, below, although of a U.K. operation, is similar to some commercial poultry operations here in the U.S., as well. They are packed several birds to a cage and that is where they live 24/7 for their whole (but thankfully, brief) lives.
battery-farms

This is why they are dosed with antibiotics. Injury and wounds from pecking causes infection to run rampant. All those drugs are passed directly to the consumers and will contaminate local streams and ground water near the operation with all the manure and antibiotics used.

The use of antibiotics in commercial operations is directly responsible for the new drug resistant “super-bugs” like MRSA and other staff infections that are so common in most hospitals. The commercial farms are certainly not the only cause, but one of several major contributors.

Raising your own flock will help keep your family healthier

Here are links to a 3-part article on how to start changing local laws to allow backyard flocks.

http://blog.mypetchicken.com/2014/03/07/legalize-chickens-diy-part1/

http://blog.mypetchicken.com/2014/03/14/legalize-chickens-diy-part-2/

http://blog.mypetchicken.com/2014/04/04/3-final-tips-legalizing-chickens/

You need to find the right breed for your location and your needs. If the ultimate safety and security of your family’s food supply depends, at least in part, on how much fresh, high quality protein you can provide for them, year round, then you need to get this right.

Luckily, it’s not that hard and can be an educational experience for everyone.

Every family or group member needs to learn how to start and maintain a flock of chickens should be a high priority. It could prove vital someday soon, that another family member knows how to raise the flock. What if you were stuck out of town when a disaster struck? Or you were incapacitated in some way, or even killed. The survival of your family may be at risk if you were the only person who knew how to raise and butcher the chickens.

Maybe that sounds a bit extreme, but not planning for it now, I think, would be a grave mistake. The chances of your family or group thriving in an adverse situation, is much higher, if all the members learn the skills they need to survive.  

This applies to anything, really. Fire making, shelter building, water purification and the few hundred other skills that prepared people should be striving to learn. The more family members who have learned and practiced these skills the better the group will fare in hard times.

Having a healthy and productive flock of chickens and learning the skills needed to care for them year round, will provide you and your family with a level of security many others will not have. The flock will be an almost self-sustaining source of high quality meat and eggs for your family when times are uncertain at best and possibly even hostile.

There are, obviously, many ways and methods to raise your chickens throughout the winter. I’m going to discuss what I have experience in and give you links to learn much more.

Raising Chickens in Winter – A Micro-Course

To begin with, some people like to butcher the whole flock in the late fall and have a freezer full of meat to start the winter off. In doing this, they eliminate the need for insulating the coop, hauling feed and fresh water through the snow, and even shoveling a path to and around the coop. Then in the spring, buy chicks either from a local farm or a mail order hatchery, and start all over.

It is certainly a viable option. Some hatcheries will ship you a box full of day old chicks of your choice, overnight. (links to hatcheries below)

Not the best option, in my opinion, but many people do it. You can pick between many breeds and even choose to have only pullets (young females) or add a cockerel (young male) to the order, if you wish.

Telling the sex of a chick can be difficult, even for the hatcheries, and sometimes you will accidentally end up with a chick or two of a gender you didn’t want. The hatcheries only ship during warm months and almost always have a minimum number of chicks per order. This minimum order, usually around 25, is to ensure they are warm enough in transit.

I would rather visit a local farm and see the birds in person and the conditions they live in and look for signs of disease and at the overall health of the birds before I commit to buy. I can also ask the farmer about what, if any inoculations they may have had, and why.

I am all in favor of raising chickens organically and with little, if any medicines, but sometimes they might need to be medicated for one of several reasons. Keep in mind, though, what goes into your chickens, either through food or medicine, goes into you. If you spray herbicides and pesticides on your property, and the birds eat the vegetation you sprayed, it is little different than you eating the chemicals, too. (There are organic versions of pesticides and herbicides that are much safer, if you need to use these things.)

This holds true for neighboring properties if the chickens wander there. You need to be sure they are only eating and drinking fresh, clean and safe things, since what they consume will directly impact the health of you and your family.

For most people, butchering chickens actually ends up costing a little more per pound of meat than store bought, if you take into account time and equipment, but it is much healthier meat, provided you raise the birds properly. There are several pieces of equipment you will need for efficient butchering. It doesn’t need to be very expensive, but to do the job well, and do it humanely, takes some instruction and practice. I will leave that for a future article, though.

Most people, though, prefer to keep the chickens all year round and only butcher when necessary. It is more effort, but for people who like to prepare for emergencies, it’s a smarter option, too.

A live chicken will keep producing eggs, which are, ounce for ounce, one of the highest quality protein sources you will find anywhere. Once you butcher the bird, obviously, you will eat the meat and that’s it. Its usefulness as an ongoing food source just died with the bird. Also, if disaster strikes, and all your birds are butchered and in the freezer, you will have a real problem when the power goes out and they thaw.

A live chicken can also be very good in bartering. Either the whole bird (live or processed and frozen) or just the eggs. When the chicken is alive, you have more options open to you. You can always butcher them one at a time as you need to. When you do butcher a chicken, you can skin it rather than pluck it (with the feathers still attached to the skin) and use, sell or barter this for use in tying flies for fly fishermen. The cape is the area behind the neck and shoulders, and is especially good for fly tying.

With that in mind, the rest of this article will assume you will keep the flock alive all winter long.

Winter Considerations

Here are the main considerations; keeping water from freezing, ensure good coop ventilation without drafts. providing adequate and appropriate food and shelter for the climate, keeping rodents and other predators away and giving the flock ample room both in the coop and out, so they stay relatively stress free and productive.

The most any hen can produce is one egg per day. That’s it. Usually they will lay 5 or 6 a week, sometimes 7. It depends on the breed. Luckily, most of the winter hearty breeds are also some of the best layers. Barred Rocks, New Hampshire and Rhode Island Reds, Orpintons and Austalorps are dual purpose chickens, winter hearty and excellent layers of large eggs. There are other breeds as well, in this category.

When days grow shorter, hens will lay fewer eggs, and they will begin to molt (lose and regrow feathers) By adding a light in the coop and artificially extending their days to approximate summer hours, they can be made to lay more eggs, (about 16 hours of light is needed for them to lay their maximum amount of eggs) when nature tells them to slow down, but I feel it’s better to allow them their natural rhythms and cycles. They will be happier and healthier for it.

Molting requires lots of energy and nutrition, so if you make them lay more eggs at the same time you will really stress them. This is just my opinion. If you do choose to provide the extra light using a bulb, keep the wattage low. 60 watts or less is good. A timer can be used to switch the light on and off so you don’t have to get up at 2 am to do this.

I have been told by people who have really studied this topic, that the light should be turned on early in the A.M. and left on until it is light out, rather than turned on in the evening and left on all night.

A great local resource for chicken questions (and gardening questions) is your local county extension office. In New York state, Cornell University has hot lines for just such questions and they are always glad to help.

On average, hens will lay at their best until 2 or 2 ½ years old, after that production will slow. They may live for quite a few years yet, but egg production slows with each passing year and will eventually stop altogether.

If you know you require a certain quantity of eggs per day, let’s say 6 a day, then getting only 6 chickens will not be enough most of the time. They will have a day here and there when they won’t lay an egg. So, plan on having a few extra chickens to make up the difference.

Also, as chickens age, they lay fewer and fewer eggs. Usually after 4 years or so, they have about had enough. Sometimes they will still give you one, once in a while, but don’t count on it. You can butcher it or just let it live out its life with the flock.

Keep in mind, the more chickens you have in a coop in the winter, the warmer they will be, just provide enough space for them. Here is a link to a great site, “My Pet Chicken”, they have loads of good info and sell chicks and supplies, as well.

Winter Breed Choices

This link takes you to their “especially cold hearty” breed page.

http://www.mypetchicken.com/catalog/Especially-Cold-Hardy-c68.aspx

This link is to their “best layers” page http://www.mypetchicken.com/catalog/Our-Best-Layers-c67.aspx

This last link is for something unique, a “Breed Selector Tool”, enter the parameters and it tells you what breeds fit your needs. This is very good!

http://www.mypetchicken.com/chicken-breeds/which-breed-is-right-for-me.aspx

As I said earlier, start with a breed of chicken that will tolerate your winter climate. This usually means larger, dual purpose breeds. A dual purpose breed is simply a breed of bird that will provide a steady supply of eggs year round and, if necessary, be a good source of meat as well.

Birds bred in Northern climates that do well in the deeps of winter, may not do so well when the summer temps climb into the 90’s, though. You will need to provide shade and plenty of fresh water for those breeds during the summer or they will suffer and not produce many eggs.

Some of the breeds that fall into this category are, in no particular order; Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshire Reds, Barred Rocks, Australorps (mix of Australian and European breeds) Orpingtons, Dominique’s, Speckled Sussex and Wyandotte’s.

There are many others, but these are popular and easy to find. Pay attention to the colors of the adult birds if you plan on having your flock be unobtrusive and even un-noticed. The colors of the chicks are not always going to be exactly what the adult birds look like.

To be as discreet as possible, look for subdued earth tone colors and a temperament that is calm and docile and not prone to running around flapping its wings and making a racket. The sites and catalogs below will give you enough information to let you choose wisely.

This is a good article on chicken breeds from Mother Earth News. There is also a short list of mail order hatcheries there, too. http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/best-breed-of-egg-laying-chickens-zmaz03fmzgoe.aspx

All of the breeds I listed above, plus many others, will be cold hearty and lay a good amount of eggs through most of the winter, as well as be able to supply enough meat for a meal.

Here is a link to one of the most popular hatcheries in the U.S.   https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com

Their web site and catalog will give you a good place to start to look over several breeds and see what qualities each have. If you give them a call, they will gladly let you pick their collective brains on any poultry subject.

Look for a breed with a small “comb”. Which is the fleshy, red protuberance on top of the heads of most chickens. If the comb is large and sticks up like a red glove, then it stands a chance of getting frost bite in the winter. Some people rub some Vaseline onto the comb to help prevent freezing.

Rather than try to get a chicken to cooperate for this, I find it easier to get a breed with a small “pea” comb. Look through the photos of the various breeds offered in the hatchery catalogs for a bird with a small comb.

Here is a link to Mother Earth News. They have an interactive map showing registered breeders and hatcheries, across the U.S., plus a listing of them.     http://www.motherearthnews.com/directories/hatchery-directory.aspx  

Mother Earth News and its sister publication, Grit magazine   http://www.grit.com/ are great sources for a wealth of information on many, many topics and contains ads for dozens of poultry related products.

Here is an article from Mother Earth News on raising a backyard flock ; http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/raising-chickens/raising-backyard-chickens.aspx

Okay, you have a breed chosen that will work for your climate. Now look for a coop design that will allow your birds between 2 ½ to 4 square feet of room per bird. Chickens are well insulated and many will do well in the cold. But, they need some type of shelter to protect them from wind, rain, snow, ice and summer sun. Here is a link to a lot of free chicken coop designs and plans.   http://www.todaysplans.com/free-outbuilding-plans.html#ChickenCoops

Winter Coops

Most people don’t want to spend a lot of money on a chicken coop, so scrounge around for materials.

I like to find building sites and ask permission to haul away scrap Tyvek plastic house wrap, lumber and other things. If they plan to take it to the dump, they will pay a hefty price to throw away scrap materials. Most sites would be thrilled to give you some un-needed supplies, if you ask.

In my last article I mentioned coop designs in more detail, so I won’t re hash it all here, but put some thought into the type of coop you may need, like portable chicken tractors on wheels, which you can move from spot to spot on your property, or a full-fledged hen house and complete enclosure for the ultimate in security for the flock.

I built my most recent coop attached right to my back porch. I extended the roof about 3 feet further than the porch and built a narrow coop whose floor is level with the porch floor, about 3 feet off the ground. I used plywood and T-111 siding and it is almost unnoticeable.

The birds can stay sheltered under the porch or go into the fenced yard to forage, as they see fit. I used two old windows on opposite ends of the coop so they have plenty of natural light and I can control ventilation. I attached a section of an old dog crate (heavy wire cage section) over the window to keep predators out when the window is open.

Let’s get to some specifics about how your coop should be designed for the winter.

The rule of thumb for space is between 2 ½ to 4 square feet per bird. Less than that and they’ll peck at each other and be too stressed to lay well. Too much room, though will make it harder for the chicken’s body heat to keep it warm, without a heat source.

Overcrowding can lead to pecking due to stress and can lead to infection very quickly, which can be a real problem if they are confined much.

They should have roosting bars to perch on. This is a natural behavior for them and keeps them up off the cold floor. During the day they will need to come down from their perch to eat, drink, lay eggs and socialize, whether they are in a coop or not.           

(photo courtesy of www.raising-chickens.org.)

(photo courtesy of www.raising-chickens.org.)

They need nesting boxes to lay eggs in. Any semi enclosed area will do, usually raised up off the floor a little. You can buy wooden or plastic nesting boxes but it’s very simple to construct one yourself. The hens will share boxes. You don’t need one nesting box per hen. One box for every 3 or 4 hens, is fine. Take a look at the link to coop designs, above to see examples.

Here is a link to an article from Mother Earth News on coops:
 http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/easy-backyard-chicken-coops.aspx

Here is another one:   http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/portable-chicken-mini-coop-plan-zmaz07amzsel.aspx

This is a link to the coops offered by “My Pet Chicken”http://www.mypetchicken.com/catalog/Chicken-Coops-c3.aspx

By looking over these types of coops, you will get a feel for what will work for you. It’s always a good idea to leave room for more birds if you choose to expand the flock a bit in the future.        

Below are 2 photos of a pre-made nesting boxes, from My Pet Chicken:

nesting-box1 nesting-box2

I’d rather make my own out of scrap wood but plenty of people buy them.

Hens will share the boxes to lay eggs in. For example, if you have 6 hens, 2 or maybe 3 nesting boxes would be plenty. Build them a foot or more off the floor of the coop to deter them from leaving too much manure in. Many people also put a slanted top on them, to prevent them from hanging out or perching on the boxes, again leaving manure over them. Keep fresh litter in them, like wood shavings or straw. (never use hay! It does not absorb much manure and your chickens will end up getting sick. If that happens, you will need antibiotics for them, and you should not eat the eggs they lay while they are being medicated.)

The bedding material, with the manure, is perfect for using in a compost pile! Be sure to let it decompose for at least a few months before adding to your garden. The manure is very high in nitrogen and will “burn” your plants.

This a link to a blog post with more tips for keeping chickens in winter.                                                                 http://blog.mypetchicken.com/2012/11/16/cold-weather-chickens-8-things-not-to-do/

Composting in the coop

Composting can also be done in the coop. Layer the floor with straw or whatever bedding you use and vegetable scraps all summer long. Put down some straw, then some kitchen scraps in alternating layers (never use meat). Sprinkle a little water on the layers and let the chickens scratch it all up.

Soon the bacteria will start to break down the pile, giving off quite a lot of heat in the process. Let it accumulate until it is at least a foot deep. This is called the “deep Litter” method, and it works beautifully. In the spring, clean it out and add it to the garden compost pile. It not only keeps the birds warm without electricity and the risk of fire, but it allows the composting action to continue all winter.

In an outdoor compost pile, when the temps drop too low, decomposition stops until it warms up again in spring. You can (and should) continue to add to your regular pile all winter, though. This is another example of how raising chickens goes hand in hand with gardening. Your flock will love the vegetable waste and scraps, and their manure is a great addition to the compost pile. Everything comes full circle.              

What to feed your flock in the winter.

Like humans, they benefit from extra calories in very cold weather to help stay warm.

Commercial “layer” feed is pretty good. You can get organic feed, if you wish but it is expensive and not that easy to find. For the most part, commercial feed comes in 2 forms. Crumbles and pellets. Crumbles look like Grape Nuts cereal or granola. All chickens will readily eat this. Pelleted feed looks like pellets for a pellet stove. Mine have always liked the pellets, but either is fine. Give them unrestricted access to feed and fresh water.

Laying hens will also need a calcium supplement if they are to be in a coop, especially in the winter. Laying hens need extra calcium because to make the egg and shells require extra calcium. If they don’t have it supplied, calcium will be leached from their systems, usually from the bones. Most people buy crushed oyster shells, which come in small, but heavy (50 lb.) bags for only a few dollars, and are available at all farm and feed stores that sell animal feed.

You can mix some of this into the feed or you can offer it to them in a separate feeder. This is called “free choice”. Personally, I never saw the benefit of giving chickens a choice, but many people prefer to.

Another requirement for a flock is “grit”. All chickens will need this. Tiny pebbles / sand like particles that will grind up and help digest food in lieu of teeth. If the chickens have access to the outdoors, they will get all the grit they need on their own, but if they are inside a coop for a long time, you need to provide this, too. Every feed store sells these things in various sizes for only a few dollars. I always store the feed in Galvanized steel trash cans. This will help keep rodents out.

To help them stay warm, it’s good to supplement their regular diet with some whole corn and / or black oil sunflower seeds. They don’t need huge amounts of these. Just mix some in with the regular food and give some before they go into the coop at night.

You can use striped sunflower seeds, but the black oil seeds have a higher oil and calorie content. I have found that cracked corn can scratch a chicken’s throat and other digestive tract organs, so use the whole corn, for adult birds. The adult chicken can easily swallow a whole corn kernel, but if your birds are still young; the whole corn may be too big. The black oil sunflower seeds give them more calories / energy than corn and will be easy for birds of all ages to eat. There are also many types of treats sold to give them more calories.

This is a link to good chicken products for the winter. www.mypetchicken.com sells these products.

http://www.mypetchicken.com/catalog/Feeders-and-Waterers/Heated-Pet-Bowl-p482.aspx?gclid=CN-SlJzO8MgCFZGRHwodZrgKwg

Ventilation

Ventilation is critical to your chickens, especially in winter. If they are “cooped up” in bad weather, be sure there are no drafts on them. But, be sure to have plenty of ventilation in a spot in the coop. Chickens breath as well as their manure contain a lot of moisture.

This moisture will build up in the coop and will make it harder for your flock to stay warm. I like to have 2 old windows installed in the coop, that I can open and close depending on the weather. Put one down low and one up above the highest point the birds have access to. This lets in fresh air at the bottom

and the moist air exits at the top. Be sure to cover them in hardware cloth to prevent predators from entering.

Water Considerations

You also need to keep the water from freezing. The easiest ways to do this are products made to keep the water above freezing all the time.

See some products offered for this, in the above link. I use a heated dog water bowl mostly, but I keep it outside. If it were on the floor of the coop, they would walk through it and poop in it. The water will be fouled and their feet would freeze. Outside, at least for me, works best.

To keep water in the coop, you must be sure whatever container you choose is not located under the roosting bars, or manure will just go right into it. You can use a heated metal base and a waterer that sits on top of it. As long as it is several inches off the floor, it should stay clean. Be sure the electrical cord is not accessible to them. Run it through a piece of PVC or something similar. Some waterers have the a/c cord covered in wire to keep the chickens from pecking at it, like the green water bowl, below.

The red and white waterer is heated and can be either suspended off the floor (usually at the level of the birds’ backs to help keep the water clean). The Galvanized metal heated base at the left is meant to use with a metal waterer, not a plastic one.

Below left is an example of a basic feeder. Like the hanging waterer, it should be suspended off the ground to keep it free of bedding and manure. 

galvanized-feeder normal-feeder
green-hanger red-white

These products and others are available at www.mypetchicken.com

Bio-Security and the Avian Flu

Now some information on bio security and the Avian flu.

The USDA has some suggestions for owners of “backyard” chicken flocks.

  • Restrict access to the yard. Do not allow anyone in who does not have to be there.
  • Always wash your hands before and after handling birds or any equipment used in their care.
  • Wash and disinfect your equipment, clothing, shoes and any equipment that were in the chicken’s area.
  • Do not borrow tools or equipment from anyone who also raises birds. (any type)
  • If you are near other flocks of chickens, wash and disinfect hands, clothing, shoes and equipment before returning home.
  • Learn about warning signs of the Avian Flu, and what to do if signs are present. Mainly, upper respiratory distress like sneezing and runny discharge from nose. Watery or green diarrhea, loss of energy or appetite, sudden decrease in egg production.
  • Swelling of eyes, neck and head
  • Purple discoloration of waddles, combs and legs.

If any of these signs are present call your local or state veterinarians or call the USDA at 1-866-536-7593

This is a link to a USDA article (PDF) on questions and answers regarding the flu. http://www.usda.gov/documents/avian-influenza-protect-birds-qa.pdf

This link takes you to the USDA site on the page dealing with Avian Flu. There is a lot of very good info. Here. http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=avian_influenza.html

Another very good USDA link to a very recent Avian Flu page. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/wps/portal/aphis/home/!ut/p/a1/04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfGjzOK9_D2MDJ0MjDz9vT3NDDz9woIMnDxcDA2CjYEKIoEKDHAARwNC-sP1o8BKnN0dPUzMfYB6TCyMDDxdgPLmlr4GBp5mUAV4rCjIjTDIdFRUBADp5_lR/?1dmy&urile=wcm%3apath%3a%2Faphis_content_library%2Fsa_our_focus%2Fsa_animal_health%2Fsa_animal_disease_information%2Fsa_avian_health%2Fct_avian_influenza_disease

This last one is to a PDF article from the CDC on Avian Flu and other pandemics. http://ftp.cdc.gov/pub/phlpprep/Legal%20Preparedness%20for%20Pandemic%20Flu/8.0%20-%20Non-Governmental%20Materials/8.1%20ABA%20Journal%20-%20Avian%20Flu%20Time%20Bomb.pdf

Conclusion

I hope this article provided you with some good information about raising chickens at home. I think that having your own flock is one of the best ways to insure you and your family will have fresh and high quality food for years to come. Once the flock is established, maintaining them is very simple and does not take more than 15 minutes a day, usually. Read the information the links provide for more in-depth information on the various topics.

Take the time to talk to people who have been raising chickens also. Keep in mind everyone has a different opinion on how things should be done, and there are usually many good ways that will work. It is well worth the time and effort , in my opinion to start raising chickens, even on a very small scale.

Copyright © 2016 Tactical Intelligence. All Rights Reserved


Choosing the Best Containers for Your Stockpile

by Erich on November 22nd, 2015

The following post has been contributed by Dan F. Sullivan, the owner of the popular SurvivalSullivan survival and prepping blog.

survival containersSo you spent time and money putting together a stockpile to last you weeks, maybe even months. You chose the foods with the longest shelf life, you made sure you only got things your family enjoys and you cached them in various places around the house, maybe even at your bug out location.

Only problem is, food and water have 5 ruthless enemies that could compromise your entire stash and, I don’t need to tell you that waking up with spoiled food after it hits is one of the biggest nightmares you could face.
They are moisture, heat, light, air and pests and you need to fight all of them. There’s only one way of doing that and that’s to choose the right containers for them in the first place. Your food, water and medicine, even your clothes and gear should be stored in buckets or bags that provide protection from the elements. Let’s take them one by one and see which ones are best under which circumstances.

Food Containers

The vast majority of preppers who store food for the long term use this proven combination to ensure the shelf life of their foods:

  • Mylar bags
  • oxygen absorbers
  • and 5-gallon food-grade plastic buckets

The foods that can be stored of this manner include dried beans, white rice, pasta and whole grains.

Now, you’d think the above trio is enough but we’re not done yet. We still need to protect it from pests. You probably know that mice can easily chew their way through your buckets. This is why you need to put your food-grade buckets inside metal buckets. That’s it; the only thing you need to worry about now is temperature.

What about larger containers? They’ll work but they’re going to be tough to move. Say disaster is upon you and you need to load as much food as you can in your truck. You can carry two 5-gallon buckets at a time on your own but a 30 gallon bucket will require two people.
By the way, you can get free food-grade buckets from deli shops, bakeries, restaurants and fast food places. They’re throwing them out anyway, so why not?

This all sounds good but what about canned food? Whether you buy it from the supermarket or you make it yourself using a pressure cooker, you’re going to need Mason jars. The good news is they are reusable, meaning you can rely on them in a post-apocalyptic world to can the foods from your survival garden.

However, you’re also gonna need calling lids and, unfortunately, these are not reusable. You should stock up on as many as you can, given that they’re dirt-cheap and, before you use them, you need to make sure they don’t’ have any dents or cracks.

The alternative to lids is to use cellophane but that might be hard to find as well in a post-collapse world. They obviously work, people canned food long before lids became popular.

Water Containers

Though water doesn’t really expire, you need to be careful when you store it to avoid the growth of algae and bacteria.

The most basic container is the old plastic bottle that you can get at the supermarket. This would be your emergency water reserve that you’d keep in your survival bag or somewhere in your pantry, ready to load in your bug out vehicle at a moment’s notice.

Of course, the price per gallon would be pretty expensive to grow your stockpile this way. You can move on to bigger containers such as 5 gallon water jugs which you need to keep them in a cool dark place.

You should know that some water jugs have issues, though. Many people report leaks and the ones who prefer to use thicker, milk jugs, risk contaminating their water. You see, no matter how well your rinse milk and juice jugs, you’d still won’t be able to clean them 100%.

The best way to have a serious water stockpile is to keep it in bigger containers such as 55-gallon BPA-free water barrels. These will truly allow you to build a long-term emergency supply of clean, drinkable water.

Most preppers only use plastic water bottles and these 55-gallon barrels but not all of them stop here. You can store water inside larger 300-gallon or 500-gallon tanks or even your pool.

Truth be told, every container in your home can be re-purposed to store water. When you hear the news that something bad is happening and you determine that you need to bug in, one of the first things you should do is turn on every faucet in your house and gather as much water as you can in things like bath tubs, sinks, pots, jars, pans and even glasses.

Containers for Your Medicine

Small disclaimer: I’m not a doctor so please only use my advice for information purposes only. That being said, the first thing I’d like to point out is that you shouldn’t take the pills out of the blister packs they are sealed in. This way, when you’ll need to take one, you’ll leave the others intact.

As far as the container of all these containers, the medicine cabinet, it should definitely not be stored inside your bathroom. Moisture will decrease the shelf life of all your meds. You can just store them in a plastic tote that you should keep in a cool, dark, ventilated room.

As far as containers, go there are other options. For example, if you don’t want your kids finding your medicine, you can get lockable plastic boxes. If kids aren’t a problem, you can simply use those 5-gallon buckets we talked about.

What about the Other Preps?

If you have various other things that need to be waterproofed (such as thermometers, batteries and so on), I strongly recommend using Ziploc bags. One thing, you should put each battery in a separate bag as you don’t want them to be touching. Other than that, you should waterproof most of your bug out bag items.

Final Word

There’re many mistakes to be made when it comes to food storage. After all, if you don’t get it right, you could face serious health issues so you should never compromise when it comes to containers. The other thing you can do is buy more containers that you need. Right now they cost pennies but post-collapse… they might be impossible to find.

Good luck!

Copyright © 2016 Tactical Intelligence. All Rights Reserved


The (not so) Lowly Boot

by Erich on November 14th, 2015

I can still see George Washington pictured astride a gallant white horse. Perched on the generals head crouches the tri corner hat. A dark coat with white piping accented by white breeches is finished off with shining leather boots. 

 But let your gaze fall lower, and beneath the general and the wafts of breaths from the steeds flared nostrils, is the scarlet trace of blood on the newly fallen snow. For the Continental army has fallen in short supply of shoes.

Fast forward almost a hundred years and a new set of armies rip up the young country. A new southern general rides atop a white horse. This general has a similar problem, once again the army needs shoes. In Southern Pennsylvania, two great armies clash and the Southern hope begins to fall. 

 Perhaps if you would stretch the facts far enough, one could say the Civil War was won because of sore feet!

Probably most of us who travel in the outdoors have heard of trench foot, that awful bane to the soldiers who failed to mother their feet. 

 As odd as it sounds, one could say if your feet aren’t happy, you aren’t going anywhere or at least no where fast.

 Capitalizing on this truth, businesses abound that offer the glib outdoorsman high priced choices. Glorified sneakers cost you more than a green Franklin. Boots zip, stretch, gel, hook, and shine; but do they work? 

Today I propose a trip into the low underworld of the boot!

The Hobnail. – the Old Trooper

survival bootsIn WWII the German soldier wore the hobnail boot for its tough durability. For years, boots were favored for their ability to be worn not for a season of style, but for years. The nails gave extra endurance.

 Russia also supplied hobnailed style boots, especially to officers. I came across these boots on eBay for about forty dollars. They seem to be made of thick leather. They are probably 70’s Russian boots, but they still bear a hint of the past. I cringe at the thought of marring their bright sheen with snarling thorns or the fists of craggy rocks.  

They remind me of a day when soldiers looked like a crisp, decisive professional. Close cut boots, tight jacket, and a thick Sam Brown style belt cut a smart looking officer. But now comfort has replaced such lofty ideals. 

 Perhaps for the better.

The Hobnobber- Rich trash

boot2If you are serious about your gear, you early on become a tester.

Some years ago, I bought these Bates boots for over a hundred dollars. They were on the store’s free points or I would be even more bitter about the deal. I eagerly took them to work and began breaking them in. 

In a short time, it seemed the tread began to wear and the rubber split. Eventually the side split opened, and I became Doc Backstuffin fixing the rip with a liberal amount of superglue. The superglue seemed to melt the fibers back in place.

I still use the boots, even though the toes are horribly scuffed and they look war battered. Some how I guess, I expected more.  

What I’m trying to tell you is- don’t waste money on names if you can get a good deal on a real boot.  

Hobo Boot-eBay bounty

boot3On another eBay scavenger hunt, I found a “lot” of ten boots. Some I’ve sold. But this pair, I kept. Seemingly military issue, these boots have marched miles over my concrete warehouse floor.

These boots have kicked pallets and thudded against metal carts. They have pivoted on the wood floors of semi’s and squashed along in the rain. And after all that, they hardly look different then when I first saw them. 

 I don’t know what the army did, but a $5 boot has lasted far better for me than a $120 one. I understand that when those leaflets come in the mail about a break thru in foot technology some just feel the addiction to buy, but for me I’ve learned the hard way, you have to be skeptical of what you put your feet in.

Heat or Mud- The Light Giant

boot4Another $5 boot I found was this jungle style boot. Already dog eared when it reached my abode, I eventually gave it a try. I was surprised how comfortable it was and especially by its lightness. 

 So often as survivalists we load ourselves with abundant gear. But this boot seemed just the right balance of tough but light. 

My pair desperately needs replaced, but for a $5 test run, now I am willing to buy a decent pair some day. 

 The advantage of these style boots is their mesh sides. Provided for the military fighting in Vietnam, they were designed so the inevitable rush of water would drain out. These boots are on purpose not waterproof. Their sides are still thick enough to offer fair protection for a long hike.

The High Roller-Mickey Mouse himself!

Sadly, I can give you no picture of the boot that has won my enduring admiration. 

Years ago at a yard sale I spotted the pair. For $0.25, I picked them up. Designed for the air force, these boots are tough rubber with the inside providing a soft gel like feel. I suppose one could label them advanced muck boots. At surplus stores these boots run from $50 to perhaps $100. 

In my eyes, these are the king of hiking boots. Although at first, rather awkward, they swath one’s feet in a tomb of comfort. After several miles and no blisters, the boot becomes more than a purchase. but a dear friend. You don’t have to baby these boots, they will send you safely over rocks and jagged protrusions.

These boots gained the nomenclature “Mickey Mouse boots” because of their obvious blob style. But ugly or not, they really spoil your feet. 

My pair met its demise when a sewer line had to be dug up. At a quarter, these became the martyr for the job. With refuse caked to their sides, I regretfully disposed of such a loyal friend. Now I dream of finding another pair, perhaps my dream will one day materialize.

I used to wonder why a UK based survival magazine always had monthly articles showcasing new boots. Somehow feet gear seemed boring and monotonous. But I have a new appreciation now of how important the choice of a boot is. 

 Find what’s right for you. Try different options and don’t be afraid to come up with a bizarre favorite. Someday you might take a wrong turn and your feet might have to march for hours. It is a good idea to pick out good footwear now, rather than to have it fail when you need it the most!

Copyright © 2016 Tactical Intelligence. All Rights Reserved