Wednesday, September 4, 2013

apocalypse college


You can love somebody’s work without it being necessary to accept all their conclusions. I love Ayn Rand for bringing a work to the masses that should last through the ages. That said, she was one crazy crap house rat. Who, incidentally, was not above ignoring her own work when it came time to get a bit of hot monkey love from a much younger student of hers who was not her husband. Robert Heinlein was not the most talented writer out there, but he did almost if not more than Rand to keep the spark of libertarianism alive and well. It is to his credit that he also embraced survivalism- at least the concrete fallout shelter version of the early Cold War- but because he wrote best sellers does not make him infallible with his advice to preppers ( to the point of a recent minions comments, remember that I use survivalist and prepper interchangeably as I do guns and rifles- not proper but it should be understandable in context ). As I’ve yakked about before, his advice on “specialization is for insects” is ill informed. Man is compensated for his labor by changing economic conditions. If a mans time is free but outside labor is too expensive, a man learns to do most things himself. That labor is rewarded. If a man is too busy earning trading credits, and others labor is cheaper than his time, he pays others to perform tasks outside his specialty. In Bob’s time, it was still cheaper to do things for oneself, from raising food to repairing cars. Today, not only is it cheaper to pay others to do those things, in many instances you must anyway due to regulations and restrictions.


The notion that a true survivalist must train himself to do everything himself, then perfect pre-petroleum skills as well, is just ignorance. And the only faint acknowledgement of this is the equally misguided advice that once you give up television than you free up enough time to become the next Renascence Man, a modern day Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson. And no where in the discussion is the notion of both desire and aptitude. You are told that you must train to be the next gunslinger and martial artist. But what if you are a bit uncoordinated? What if , regardless of practice time, your hand-eye coordination won’t improve due to a physical defect? The simple fact is, not all of us can be a bit of everything, few of us want to, less of us have the spare time or the cash. The whole philosophy of a survivalist jack of all trades is retarded. We barely have enough time to commute, work to the boss’ satisfaction, stay updated on our work skills on our own time and then try to have some quality family time ( to mention nothing of keeping the house up and running with off time maintenance ). We don’t have time to learn herbs and gardening and livestock rearing and butchering and tanning and shoe making and bowery and ham radio and being a sniper and a hundred other things.


What doesn’t take much skill is stockpiling and hiding. You have enough food, and you get the hell away from people in time for a die-off, and THEN, not before but after the collapse, you have plenty of time to learn what you need to learn for a post-petroleum existence. This has been one of the many drawbacks to limited food storage. Because Yuppie Sucks want you to eat a balanced diet with zero taste fatigue, most survivalist yuppie scum only stock a few months of food ( at most, a year ). Hence, you are expected to emerge on the eve of a collapse as a fully trained Wyatt Earp, Chuck Norris and Village Butcher, Baker and Candlestick maker. But if you spend a whole extra $500 on grain you then have multiple years of food supplies to act as a cushion and you can learn all necessary skills at your leisure after the collapse. Which, as an added bonus, is a better time than before because things you couldn’t plan on or conceive of will only become obvious then. It isn’t a perfect solution, but then as I’ve talked about, neither is pre-collapse learning because of time limitations. But after the collapse, you’ll have time aplenty assuming you can already feed yourself and your house isn’t so poorly designed you’ll spend all the time cutting wood for heat.


Loyal minions have rightly chastised me for preaching a post-collapse nomadic life without getting experience in animal husbandry. And I’m glad of this ongoing tirade, as it has led to this concept I’m now discussing. Before, I hadn’t a clue as to how to resolve this dilemma. It would take a five grand hole in the ground or a $200 a month car payment, not to mention maintenance costs, tanks and fences and a lot of other things beyond my budget, to even start to keep livestock. Now, the answer seems so obvious. Learn AFTER the collapse, not before. It isn’t a perfect solution. NOTHING, not a Gott-damn thing about prepping, is ever perfect but rather compromises. It could easily backfire. You still need to find breeding pairs after they have become dinner targets. Yet, if I had livestock prior to the collapse, they also are magnets for trouble because they are food. The way I see it, you have a fifty-fifty chance either way of a successful strategy ( if I was far enough away to avoid being a target, I couldn’t easily work a job in town- a whole other set of problems including not being able to pay for the livestock anyway ). Whatever skill you are looking at, you still need minimal tools. Actual tools of the trade and then books. As you eat off stored foods, you read and study and practice. Then, you still have food to get you through all the mistakes. By the time you are a year or two into the collapse, your new post-petroleum skills are hopefully mastered and you now have a means of production and still have stockpiled foods in reserve for the lean years to come.



  1. If at some point, you decide to try your hand at animal husbandry James, I would stick with something simple to start, such as chickens or rabbits. Rabbits burrow, so I would set it up so that they can do so to escape the extreme temps, but not so that they can escape. You also have those wonderful and useful skins for use. Just be sure to follow a complete diet as not to succumb to protein poisoning from that lean meat.

    Both animals will thrive on table scraps, but perhaps chickens have a more versatile diet?

    1. What few scrapes we have go to the mag-pie birds. They eat 99% elsewhere. And animal I had on scrapes would die quickly.

    2. Exactly , there is not enough forage type crops to keep rabbits where you live. Chickens could be free ranged and suppliment with wheat, still you'd have to secure a water supply for them, and if they are free range the coyotes would get them. Where you live , hunkering down and migrating to "greener pastures" after the die off makes more sense.

  2. I am a jack of all trades believer but as you I recognize the problems with doing so under today's rules which is why I presented it in scale and even posted once about the need to learn some things and then let those skills get pushed back to make room for learning other skills.

    Get what you can now. Collect resources that might help later even if you don't have the time to use it now. Time will be more available later to make up the difference.

    1. I don't know who has time after work, after family and after chores to constantly learn new skills. And for those of us who work a second job-including myself-you still need a smidge of down time to stay sane. This is a compromise, but I guess folks need magic assurances that violating the constraints of time and energy is possible.

    2. Being a true jack of all trades is a lifetime pursuit, not something one can do only just starting say from Y2K on. I've been at this game since say 76, before that even, just without realizing it. Yet still I've much to learn and tho I be much brighter than the average bear. Joe average cannot even comprehend the magnitude. Least you are smart enough to realize it O magnificent one of the high desert.

  3. Sorry Jimbo, I'm not buying your argument.

    First. You create a straw man argument then you knock it down. That is a cheap rhetorical trick that only fools the simple minded. Your argument is basically, you cannot practically learn everything now so you don't have to learn anything now. The first part is true, the second part is a non-sequitur. It is the equivalent of saying, "I cannot learn to be a doctor now so there is no reason to learn first aid now." It is a little late to learn first aid after you need it. I don't know anything about herding, but I have worked with horses and there is a learning curve. Perhaps where you live there are herds of tame saddled horses wandering the countryside. Or do you think that the ranchers, who definitely have a head start on survival are going to give you saddle broke horses and their tack?

    Second. There is a saying that Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Saying, "When things fall apart, I am going to survive by finding some horses and cattle and learning horsemanship (it is more than riding) and herding." is like saying, "When things fall apart, I am going to survive by finding a gun and ammunition and learning how to shoot and hunt."

    Third: You have grain. Grain has two characteristics that you cannot avoid. It is heavy and bulky. That is another reason why farmers are not nomadic and only migrate when the land is used up. So how exactly do you travel to capture horses and cattle when you are tied to your grain storage?

    1. 1. you are busy surviving now, in an Oil Age
      2. you won't learn half the skills you need for post Oil
      3. stock up on Oil Age surpluses to be able to take several years of trial and error to learn
      4. your chances are better doing this than trying to learn today- and today's learning is larded with oil dependence
      5. I'm not saying learn everything after, but rather the new skills. Old skills that help you now, first aid and shooting, are another issue. I'm saying learn a PODA skill later. If I wasn't clear on that, apologies.

    2. Besides which, there will be much to salvage for many years after population depletion. Surviving and hiding the first two years is key. Eating for the following five years will be tough for all those freeze dried cowboys.

    3. I agree that to actually MASTER the PODA skills needs to wait until PODA, but you can learn just enough to lay in the stocks you will need to master them later.
      For example cobbler- I dont need to be a master cobbler now, and probably not PODA either, but if I learn -in about a week from reading- what I will need to know and stock to be a decent one, then I can lay in those stocks now - such as tools,leather, rubber, glue, etc- and come PODA if I dont need them I can trade them away.
      just enough skill even if just books, to get you started and knowing what is needed to master will also be enough to just scape by in most situations.
      for example rabbits is a good idea, one or two as pets, a book on how to butcher them, and sell them or let their hutch stay empty after they pass due to predators once you have learned what you need to know.
      same for shoes, leather making, ore smelting, mining, hunting, butchering, horse riding, etc, etc.
      Put back the books tools and supplies (once you have food shelter and security safely arrainged and backed up) and then learn just enough to ensure you can scrape by or learn more as needed - and to see any holes you might still have.
      You cant expect to have even decades worth of food and shelter and expect to be able to learn skills without some teacher or other costs that you havent even priced out- so how much food will you spend on learning how to ride a horse? how much shelter will you be able to spare to learn animal husbandry? PODA you wont be able to spare ANY with any safety, now you can shave a little expense (one less cigarett a week) and get a book on how to do it, and maybe some of the basic tools.
      Sure books arent experience, and novice level experience isnt mastery, But lord bison is right there isnt TIME in anyones lifetime to learn all the mastery needed for PODA, instead be able to just scrape by with book learning or novice skill and rely on what community exists for mastery in fields not worth your learning PODA.


    4. Thank you. Said much better than I was trying to.

  4. If there are any nearby ranchers, maybe you can volunteer your services to help with their animals, with the understanding that you are there to learn as well as help. Many ranchers, especially the older ones, would welcome the help and the teaching with animals as an example is invaluable. There are a lot of skills in dealing with animals (especially their psychology) that books cannot adequetely explain.

    My wife and I have two cows on our small pasture, just to keep the agricultural on land taxes. Learning on how to deal with them takes time - you are dealing with a 1000 lbs of live meat guided with a brain the power of an ice cube is pretty much our experience.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Wish I had a wife that could help, but other than household chores I'm out of luck.

    2. Actually on that subject. Way back when I was attending Univercity in So. Cal. often I hitch hiked on breaks between San Diego and Mtn. Home passing thru Helco.
      One time an old fart and his wife gave me a ride down from Mtn. City to Elko. They had a ranch out off of That highway which goes over to Tuscarora. At that time they asked if I was interested in living and working out on their place as a ranch hand. Now out there is definitely off the beaten path ! Have ya ever thought of pursuing something like this Jim ? Sure those type jobs don't pay squat but room and board, but hell all them ole boys are Prepper/survivolists and don't even freaking know it lol.
      Man would be set up right nice way out there...

  5. Damn! That was good.

  6. Jim. Its no rocket science to learn skills after the collapse. You just wont have nothing a tv, or computers to spend the time.
    Also, just a divorce will be apocalyptic disaster. My co-worker got divorce and after that he didn't have money to pay the rent in a run down room. He had to pay child support for the children of the wife that he adopted. That was one of the most stupid moves I have ever seen. He was married for 4 years and the kids never called him dad. There is no need for external circumstances to live in a hell hole. Stupidity does it.


    1. Well, yes, a lot of stupid. But don't discount others evilness as a partial factor.

  7. I have always been in the middle on jack-of-all-trades vs. specialization. It is good to be able to do the day to day things. Save some money, but at some point you will be out of your depth.

    Even Heinlein had it slightly wrong. Even pre-industrial we had specialists.. they were called guilds! You can cook your daily meals, but go out for really fancy food. You can change your car tires and oil, but call a mechanic for valve grinding. You can build a basic wooden box or build a shelf unit, but you will call a woodworker for that fancy carved dining table. Anyone can keep a cow alive day to day, but when it gets seriously ill you call a vet. Even 100 years ago they called the specialists.

    so, no... you can't expect to learn *everything* and be an expert as well. Maybe instead of waiting though for PODA to start learning, you should identify some of the more likely skills that will be needed and at least get a working knowledge of what is involved. At the least you may keep from getting ripped off by the real expert... or be able to identify the fake expert before they cause you loss or injury.

    sorry.. rambling!


  8. OMG!!!! JIMMYS LOST IT!!!! Heinlein was Gil's first love!!!!

    Anyway, here's a link to some intel on .303. About halfway down the page, there is a diagram for Military Rifle Wound Profiles. That .303 has pretty much perfect wound expansion tween 20-30 cms.

    Strangely, the .223 isn't on the Military Rifle Wound Profiles chart. ????

    Gil, (who's weeping & clutching his plastic rifle, whist rocking to and fro... :p)

  9. You are full of it, Jim.

    Adam did a good job pointing out the flaws in your thinking.

    It's a piss poor survivalist who thinks its OK to wait until after the event before they start to learn a skill his life will depend on.

    Let's try this... tell us the number of books you have on herding????????

    You Know Who

  10. Lord Bison of the Great Basin and King of Coiffure;

    While at considerable expense and time, I've learned a great deal about animal husbandry over the last six years, does it mean I'm all of a sudden the expert, not at all thank you, however it's provided me a skill, I wouldn't trade for all the tainted baby formula in China.

    Additionally other skills, because of my terrible day job, I've learned during limited weekends and assorted time off. Instead of traveling to see relatives, I've learned archery, practical chemistry, biodiesel refining, distillation/fermentation, advanced carpentry, leather working and gardening.

    No expert level here, but enough to get by in the event it becomes necessary to ditch the day job, any day job and go to work manufacturing the products that desperate consumers will pay for thru innovative means.

    Trial and error is for the here and now, while we fools can live off the fat of the land, the time for good enough will be vital when we no longer have the resources to waste on said trial and error. If you are able to learn while under huge extremes of constant combat stress, then you are truly the King of Coiffure, for the rest of us shade tree minions, I for one learn better without a bayonet in my ribs. Keep keeping it real James!

  11. "The notion that a true survivalist must train himself to do everything himself, then perfect pre-petroleum skills as well, is just ignorance"

    Wow, James, you must be bored with this whole survival thing. Maybe you need to change shampoo and conditioner, your hair could just be experiencing build-up.

    A true survivalist may not be able to master EVERYTHING, but every skill that he can passably learn is another arrow in his quiver. Some skills can be mastered easily and some take time.

    For example, several years ago I took the time to learn how to make homemade soap by rendering my own lard. It was fairly easy; I just did it the one time; then I filed away the reference material. However, it's easier and cheaper to stockpile commercial soap. But at least now I know how to make soap from scratch. Total time invested: 1 afternoon.

    On the other extreme is gardening. I have spent almost 20 years gardening in North Idaho. The first 2-3 years I would suffer crop failures. Thank goodness I wasn't dependent on my garden for all my food. Even now, I will run into a new problem, bug or disease. Thank goodness I have plenty of experience under my belt. It has taken years to build up my soil, gain experience, find seed varieties suited for my climate and accumulate the tools needed.

    To tell potential preppers that they can just stockpile wheat, a bolt action rifle, some ammo and call it good is very misguided. The most valuable thing when the SHTF will be time. Doing, creating, making things yourself is VERY time consuming. Just trying to keep warm, have clean water, and preparing food from your stash all while you are trying to stay away from the bad guys is going to take all your time. You won't have the luxury of TIME to learn skills after TSHTF.

    Some skills that I would recommend that people actually learn by doing, not just reading:

    1) Learn to make a primitive shelter that will let you handle the heat/cold in your area.

    2) How to find water and make it fit to drink.

    3) How to move stealthily in your local environment.

    4) Learn about several edible plants in your area.

    5) Learn to shoot, hunt, butcher and cook animals.

    6) Learn basic medical care and stockpile some medical supplies including antibiotics.

    7) Take up hobbies that don't need electricity/modern supply chains.

    8) Practice making a fire. (You would be surprised at how many adults are totally clueless on this one. I've given people matches, kindling, newspaper and split firewood and they still can't make a fire!!!)

    9) Learn to play well with others. Gain some people skills so you can know when you are being lied to and when someone is being sincere. Learn to be a leader and a follower.

    10) Find something or someone that will give you inspiration and hope.

    Remember the more skills you have the less 'stuff' you need.

    Idaho Homesteader

  12. OK, I'm not going to be able to answer each comment individually. I really stirred up a hornets nest. I like the notion of gaining a passing familiarity with all skills. This is very doable and not at all like gathering the family together every night before bed to drill in combat, practice chop suey moves, simulate dressing combat wounds while prepping for field expediant surgury, removing your own teeth, and on and on it goes. A quick read and casual, non-intensive hobby level practice on all skills, cool. Being anywhere close to being an expert, not cool. Every swinging dingus out there that learns one skill then seems to think every other survivalist needs to atain the same level of expertese. We are busy with Oil Age skills ( and while man obviously survives and thrives without oil, everything now is oil dependent because we've thrown away the non-petroleum infrastructure and replaced it with an oil one- so we must survive the crash of the oil economy and live to see the old pre-oil one rebuilt over time ). If we learn other skills it is because it substitutes for money ( growing your own food ) which is a motivator or it is of personal interest to us and fits our aptitudes. Not everyone is capable of fine motor skills or has the photographic memory or whatever of certain skills. We are dealing with reality- city job gardeners for the most part. We are not all homesteaders who have the economic motivation to learn everything pre-oil related. Extra cheap food, never to be seen again after oil, both substitutes for lack of skill and serves as a safety net. It isn't as good as being a farmer. We ain't farmers. We are Roman citizens stuck in the city waiting for North African grain shipments to come in and there is only so much we can do to prepare.

  13. Wha...? I was completely fan-boyish, Lord Bison! I praised the MIGHTY 303! (Granted I whinned about no luv 4 Heinlein but Ima plastic rifle lover. What do I know?)

    Groveling Gil

    1. And you are still my favorite! What was the Wha... for?

  14. I agree with Lord Bison on this approach. Get your fundamentals correct before you learn how to become a pilot so you can fly your bug-out airplane.

    The first lesson starts with the concept of living below your means today. In every sense, that is what survivalism is about; making do with less.

    The second lesson begins with stockpiling the right items. While using those supplies post-collapse, you are buying time for whatever disaster has struck to somewhat straighten out.

    The third lesson (which mainly comes into play immediately following the disaster) is to contemplate what needs to be done once you analyze the nature of the disaster. You cant prepare for every kind of disaster out there, so having a cool head, no debt, and some popcorn to munch on while everybody else butchers each other is a good way to position yourself for your own victorious endgame.

    The fourth lesson is to then swoop in and pick up the leftover crumbs. This will be easy, seeing as how you watched and waited for the dust to settle while everybody else made themselves easy targets. Other "preppers" will emerge from their holes too early in order to flaunt their bitchin' paracord braiding skills. You'll watch them be devoured (neat little skills and all).

    It is the Survivalists that will inherit the earth. They get used to lower standards now. They stockpile what they can right now. They watch and they wait during and after the disaster. And finally, once the smoke has cleared, they take what has been left behind by those who couldn't make the cut.

    1. Nothing wrong with easy pickings, sloppy seconds and uptown people rejects. Less energy to attain.

  15. Gee, I think you touched a nerve with some folks on this one. I think you are right on target in assessing that much of the standard "prepper" messages out there are based on unrealistic expectations for all the skills one "should" learn before the big collapse. It is really f'ing hard just to do all the crap I need to do to be a husband and father and keep the homestead together. Plus, if I value my life and the life of my children, I'm supposed to go to the shooting range once a month and train until I'm an action movie star, learn how to produce a crap ton of food on my property, make soap out of wood ash that smells like fresh cut flowers, be a ham radio operator and talk to Hans in Germany every week, and so on and so on. Never. Going. To. Happen. I can see dabbling in this and that (which I do as time allows), but other than that I try not to have these false expectations. But, some people live off of false hope.

    1. Anything to contine the Luxury Paradigm.