Monday, March 25, 2013

Survive The Drought

Did you know that Nebraska is suffering a Severe Drought? Not only some parts of Nebraska — the entire state! According to data supplied by the U.S. Drought Monitor, the percentage of the state of Nebraska in a condition of Severe Drought is 100%.

Well, who needs Nebraska anyway, right?

Not so fast; Kansas stands at 96.4% of the state in a condition of Severe Drought. New Mexico comes in third at 89.9%. Colorado is not far behind with 89.0%. South Dakota has 86.3% of the state suffering Severe Drought. Wyoming ranks next with 83.7% and Oklahoma comes in at 83.2% of the state under Severe Drought.

Those are the top 7 states when it comes to current drought conditions in the U.S. Unfortunately, those states are also some of the most productive agriculture regions of the U.S. But this year, the outlook for ag output is grim.

The USDA already declared a large portion of the nation’s winter wheat belt, from Texas to North Dakota, as a disaster area due to the drought. In Wyoming, ranchers have lost about half their pasture grass and hay production, causing feed shortages and driving up the price of livestock.

But if you’re not a farmer or rancher, why should you care? It’s not your problem, right?

In the states with Severe Drought conditions, the USDA has identified large areas of the worst-off states as suffering Exceptional Drought (which is even worse than Severe Drought). More than 70% of the state of Nebraska is now classified as being under a condition of Exceptional Drought.

The prospect this year is for widespread crop and pasture losses, water shortages in reservoirs, failure of streams and wells, all of which will create water emergencies across a large portion of the country.

But the local water emergencies are only the beginning. With massive crop and livestock losses, the price of food will escalate. If it gets bad enough, it won’t be just the price we’re worried about but the availability of food as well.

According to USDA meteorologist and Drought Monitor team member, Brad Rippey, “You really need to go back to the 1950s to find a drought that lasted and occupied at least as much territory.”

In the 1950s, the population of the United States was much lower than it is today. Now there are many more mouths to feed. Worse yet, much of today’s farmland has been unwisely dedicated to the growing of corn for ethanol production. So there could be serious food shortages as a result of the drought. And with the failure of the ethanol corn crop, what do you think will happen to the price of gasoline?

So, what can you do about it? How do you go about surviving a severe drought? Here are the some points:
  • You can’t eat money, so start trading in some of your money for something you can eat. 
  • Start stocking up now – don’t wait, because the prices are only going to rise, or the food will become unavailable at any price.
  • Organize your food storage by type and by date. That way you can see at a glance what you have and when to cycle it into your daily food routine.
  • Use your stored food on a daily basis, then replace what you have consumed. Rotate the supply, eating the older stuff first.
  • Don’t go nuts in a panic. Shop with a plan — buy a few extras of everything and stash the spares in your food storage area.
  • Figure out what you normally eat, and how much it takes to feed your family. That will guide you as to how much and what to buy.
  • Don’t buy junk — focus on food that provides real nutrition and energy.
  • Don’t stock up on foods you don’t know how to prepare, or don’t like, or have never eaten before. Stock up on foods you normally eat.
  • It’s best to store food in a cool, dark place (a closet, under the bed, on a shelf in the basement, etc.)
I recommend that you become as self-sufficient as possible, because if you’re expecting FEMA or some other agency to save you, you abdicate not only your liberty but your personal responsibility.

Contrary to what the government would have you believe, it’s not their job to save you. Do yourself and everyone around you a favor, and be prepared to take care of yourself.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wilderness Survival — Our Story

Our cave, during the warm season. 
It was February. Our breath hung in the air, a lifeless cloud of moisture that only moments before was inside the warmth of our lungs. All the trees looked dead, their gray decaying leaves frozen to the ground. The stream was solid enough to walk on and the stone walls of the cave we moved into were bitter as the inside of a freezer.

We came to live for a year in the wilds of southern Utah’s slickrock country, where the ancient Anasazi once dwelt among these same canyons. Our daughter Sharlene was three years old and our son Eric was just a year. Later in life, when Eric explained to his friends how he learned to walk while living in a cave, he took some flak for making up such a story. But it was all true.

The kids were too young to understand what was happening, or to protest if they didn’t like the idea. But my wife Becky was the real hero in our true-life adventure, supporting my desire to spend a year living in the wilderness in preparation for a career of writing about, and teaching, primitive living and outdoor survival skills. It was my job to keep us all alive and well during that year of isolated research.

This was no camping trip — it was a time to experience a more primitive lifestyle. We took no sleeping bags, no tent, no camp stove, no lantern, no axe, no saw, no expedition gear. All we had were the clothes on our backs, and none of that was anything special.

We each had a wool blanket and Becky and I each took a knife. The rest we made from what we found in nature — handmade traps, stone and bone tools, and such. Much of the time, we lived in an abandoned mine shack, but we also built a wikiup and spent some time testing caves both large and small, a mine shaft and other expedient shelters.

We brought some food — wheat to be ground between stones in ancient style, rice and a few other staples. Local ranchers and their wives who didn’t quite understand what we were up to took pity on us and provided other foods as the year progressed. We were fine with that and gladly accepted their generosity — we weren’t there, after all, to see IF we could find enough food to survive, nor to prove our primitive prowess. We were there to have isolated time to research all that the region offered, and we didn’t intend to starve ourselves or our children in the process. We were four consumers and one provider, starting with nearly nothing in a desolate spot. It was challenging enough, even with the contributed provisions. It was a year of learning not only about outdoor survival, but also about what’s important and what isn’t. It changed our lives forever.

In my book (Rich Johnson's Guide to Wilderness Survival), I tell some stories from our adventure in the wilderness, and from other interesting and/or tragic experiences — ours and others. But mostly, I tell how to survive in the wilds when everything runs amok. Because, if you spend enough time outdoors, the day will come when things will run amok. Guaranteed.

Maybe it’ll happen when you turn around and nothing looks familiar. At first, you chuckle at the situation and feel pretty dumb. But as the minutes pass and the realization sinks in that you really are lost, it is likely that you will succumb to a certain level of fear. Of course, once you’re happily back in camp with your buddies, you’ll never admit to being scared. But right at the moment, your gut turns over in a curious way and your mind races. If you looked at yourself in a mirror, you would see the face of fear, maybe even panic. And this is when things go to pot in a hurry.

Read the book, then get yourself prepared for whatever may come. ‘Cause sure as the sun rises in the east, something is coming, and you might as well know how to handle it when it does.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Collapse of Food, Water & Energy Systems

Here's some disturbing news — there is evidence that the world's food, water and energy systems are under threat of collapse.

Richard Duncan, formerly of the World Bank, and a chief economist at Blackhorse Asset Management told a CNBC reporter that America's $16 trillion federal debt has escalated into a "death spiral" that could plunge the U.S. economy into a depression so severe that he doesn't "think our civilization could survive it."

Duncan isn't the only one who thinks this way. Laurence Kotikoff was a member of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, and he agrees with Duncan.

But, that's just money, right?

Not necessarily.

Chris Martenson, a pathologist and former VP of a Fortune 300 company, is a member on a team of scientists, economists and geopolitical analysts. He says that the team has identified a pattern in the debt, total credit market, and money supply that "guarantees" they're going to fail. "The pattern is nearly the same as in any pyramid scheme, one that escalates exponentially fast before it collapses," according to Martenson.

Then he spells out the real nature of the looming disaster. "…what's really disturbing about these findings is that the pattern isn't limited to our economy. We found the same catastrophic pattern in our energy, food, and water systems as well."

Keith Fitz-Gerald, president of the Fitz-Gerald Group, is another member of the team. According to him, "What this pattern represents is a dangerous countdown clock that's quickly approaching zero. And when it does, the resulting chaos is going to crush Americans. If our research is right, Americans will have to make some tough choices on how they'll go about surviving when basic necessities become nearly unaffordable…. "

So what does this mean to you? Maybe the real question is: are you ready to survive if the food, water, and energy systems in America collapse? What would you do?

There is a wise saying: When the crisis strikes, the time for preparation is over. Take stock of what you have on hand to take care of your daily needs over a long term — months, maybe even years. Could you permanently shift into a self-sufficiency lifestyle that would allow you to provide yourself with enough food, water and energy to keep yourself and your loved-ones alive and thriving?

If there's any hesitation in your response to that question, now's the time to start moving in a more positive direction. Start learning what you need to know to survive. The more you know, the less you need. Stock up on necessities. Learn to use them on a daily basis. Make meals out of your long-term storage food supply, so you learn how to use those items most efficiently and get used to eating that way. Set up a long-term water collection and purification system. Practice economizing when it comes to water usage — you can't let the water run while washing hands and brushing teeth. Make arrangements for a waste disposal (toilet) system that's not a water hog. Figure out how to use whatever resources would be available if civilization collapsed to keep your house warm enough in winter. Think about alternative transportation modes if there were no traditional energy sources like gas or diesel available. Consider communication systems that don't depend on the grid.

I know it's a lot to think about. Keep coming back here. We'll be talking about all this stuff.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Composting Toilet

The big question is this: What are you going to do when there is no water available at your house, and you’re at the point of flushing the toilet for the last time? What are you going to do after that?

Reasons for a failure of the water system are numerous. It could be the middle of winter and the pipes are frozen. There could be a water main failure somewhere in the community system that cuts off water to your house. An earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood or landslide could disable the municipal water network. A power outage could shut down the city’s water system pumps. A drought could cause water shortage. An act of terrorism targeting the water supply could shut it all down.

It could be a lot of things.

So, what will you do when you’ve just completed the final flush of your toilet? Are you going to dig cat-hole latrines all over your back yard, run for the nearest treeline and squat in the bushes, dance in the hall and hope the system comes back up before nature calls again?

Personally, we don’t ever want to have to face that situation. Frankly, we don’t want to have to brave a dark and stormy night trudging to a makeshift outhouse…or worse. And it’s totally unnecessary, if we take steps to prepare.

To make sure that we are prepared with an alternative to the traditional water-hog of a toilet, we put together a system that can be immediately installed inside the house to serve as an emergency toilet right in the comfort of our normal bathroom.

Our solution is to use a composting toilet that requires no water, no plumbing, and exudes no foul odor. Our choice of composting toilet is the Nature’s Head ( We chose this unit because of its durable construction quality, simplicity of operation, comfortable seat configuration, and waste-holding capacity.

We knew in advance that we wanted a Nature’s Head for emergency use in the house because we’ve been using one for several years on our sailboat. I have to say that changing over from a chemical toilet to the Nature’s Head on our boat was one of the best modifications we ever made. Now there are no chemicals to deal with and no storage of wet sewage that I need to lug to a disposal site every couple days.

If you want to know how a dry composting toilet works, go to the website link I just gave you above, and read all about it. In this space, I’m going to focus on actually installing the unit in our house. It was easier than you might think.

I’ll continue with the description of the installation next time we meet.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Travel Warnings

Survival in foreign countries can be complicated by internal strife or a political falling out between that nation and the United States. If you happen to find yourself in one of those countries at the wrong time, you might be on your own.

The U.S. State Department maintains a list of countries that merit official travel warnings. To quote their site, “warnings are issued when long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable lead the State Department to recommend that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to that country. A Travel Warning is also issued when the U.S. Government’s ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff.”

The current list of Travel Warnings, dating from September 2012 until now (mid March 2013), includes some countries that are expected, but also some that might surprise you. In fact, the surprise might not be confined to the nations that are on the list, but alos those that are not.

That Libya, Syria, Iran, Algeria, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Iraq are on the list is no surprise. But the fact that Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Colombia are also on the list made me sit up and take notice. Personally, I love Mexico and I love the Mexican people — at least the nice ones. I wouldn’t think twice about my safety traveling to Mexico. Of course, I would no sooner visit the border towns than smear myself with blood and walk into a lion’s den ringing a dinner bell. Some places are not to be visited. But then there are areas of Los Angeles and Detroit and Chicago and other major U.S. cities I wouldn’t visit either, unless I had a death wish. Which I do not.

Discovering that Cuba and Venezuela are not on the list made me wonder about the wisdom of the list-makers. It would seem to me that traveling to those troubled countries might be considered imprudent for Americans, to say the least.

The current Travel Warning list includes 34 countries. The vast majority of them are in the Middle East and Africa. The safety issues are no longer simple things like “don’t drink the water.” In today’s world, the risks run the gamut from “normal crime” such as pick pockets and break-ins to steal from your hotel room, escalating to more violent acts such as abduction, rape, murder, forced marriages, and more.

To help with these problems, the State Department offers security seminars for the private sector (non-government personnel and their families). They call it Private Sector SOS — for Security Overseas Seminar. For more information, go to

North Korean Threat

There is never a shortage of rogue nations trying to find ways to flex their muscles. And North Korea is just one among several that wants to bask in the light of media attention.

The leadership of that pitiable country has a tradition of shouting threats against the United States as a means of garnering what they believe is a place on the world stage. When they might spend their energy and treasure on finding ways to feed their own people, they divert those efforts to methods of threatening others. It's a country that exists in a vacuum of honest leadership, being ruled instead by mad men who evidently pass the insanity gene down through generations of despots.

Nevertheless, like going to the zoo and watching the behavior of uncivilized creatures that beat their chests to attract attention, it is interesting to analyze the threats bellowed by similarly uncivilized North Korean dictators. So I include the following link to a recent analysis written by Van Hipp, Chairman of American Defense International, Inc, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army.

I am especially intrigued by the paragraph in the article attributed to Dr. Vincent Pry from the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, stating that the organization "has recently made a convincing case that North Korea possesses an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) nuclear warhead which would have the ability to take out a national power grid and destroy critical infrastructures throughout the U.S."

Study the material in the link, then ask yourself if you're prepared to survive the outcome of North Korean insanity unleashed on the western world. Hipp concludes, "The North Korean threat is real, it's here and it's not getting better."

My advice — start evaluating your alternatives for life without electrical power.

We'll talk more about this later.