Settling Scores After TSHTF

A friend of mine brought this up the other day and I thought it was worth discussing here. In a society that is suddenly without the rule of law, folks will probably get into all sorts of mischief. Looting comes to mind immediately, of course. We’ve seen that happen countless times during and after local disasters.

What isn’t talked about quite as much though is the settling of scores. By that, I’m referring to people who feel they were wronged at some point in their life and decide to get even with the offending parties. Perhaps a jilted ex-spouse decides to make a visit to the one who broke their heart. Or the guy who’s house was taken by the bank wants to discuss the matter with the bank president, who just happens to live in the same town.

If law enforcement has, for all intents and purposes, ceased to exist, these people may decide to take matters into their own hands. Hell, in some cases it might even be justifiable, at least to a degree.

I used to say there were essentially four categories of potential enemies in a post-collapse world.

1) Desperate neighbors
2) Power mongers
3) Looters and other ne’er do wells
4) Psychos

I think perhaps we should add a 5th category. Maybe we’ll call them vengeance seekers. While you may have led a charmed life and never once got anyone angry with you, if you’re between them and their targets you might just be seen as a minor obstacle to be run over without second thought.

Just one more thing to watch out for.


So, my wife and I are thinking of beekeeping this year. From what I’ve read thus far, it seems a little less labor intensive than other homestead critters. Down the road, we’re thinking of adding chickens and possibly bunnies too. But for now, bees will be a good start, I think.

We always have gardens going in season so having bees around to help pollinate things just makes sense. Plus, the idea of producing our own honey is appealing. While we’re not looking at this as a financial investment, if we can make a few extra bucks by selling/trading the honey to family and neighbors, all the better.

The health benefits of honey are huge too. It helps alleviate coughs, heal wounds, is a great natural energy source as well as an antioxidant. There is also research out there that seems to indicate it can have a positive impact on Type II diabetes.

Have you raised bees before? How did it go? Any suggestions or pointers you can share?

New Book Sneak Peek!

The Prepper’s Guide to Complete Disaster Readiness will be out sometime this summer, coming from Ulysses Press, the same great folks who brought you Prepper’s Home Defense. Currently, it is still a work in progress but the manuscript should be complete by the end of March. What follows, publicly available for the first time anywhere, is the Introduction to the book.


It is October 1999. My wife is pregnant with our first child. I am awoken in the early morning hours by my darling bride. As I recall, the conversation went something like this.

“Honey, wake up! It’s time!”


“You need to call the doctor. We have to head to the hospital.”

“Huh? What’re you talking about? What’s going on?”

“Well, either my water just broke or the dog peed on the floor. Either way, you need to get up.” One of the many things I love about my wife is her grace under pressure.

It finally sinks in that my wife is in labor. I jump out of bed and go to the phone. We had seen our doctor a few days prior for a regular prenatal appointment. My wife wasn’t due to give birth for a few more weeks. The doctor had checked his schedule to ensure he wasn’t going to be out of town during that time. He gave us his pager number and said to give him a call when my wife went into labor.

The doctor called me back within a few minutes. I told him about the water breaking and he said to grab our bags and head to the hospital.

Bags? Grab our bags? Uh oh. Believe it or not, we hadn’t packed yet. We had talked about packing many times. We had discussed what we should try to remember to take. But somehow, we never got around to actually doing it. We figured we still had a few weeks to get around to that.

I ran out into the garage and grabbed a couple empty duffel bags. Since the hospital was a forty-five minute drive from home, time was of the essence. I had no desire to be featured in any news story about a guy who delivered a baby in his car. We started tossing everything and anything into those bags. Sure, we remembered some of the important stuff, like the baby’s coming home outfit, the camera (forgot batteries though), clothes for my wife, and her toiletry kit. But to this day I still don’t know why I grabbed a flashlight and tossed it into the mix. Just seemed like a good idea at the time. I’m not sure what I was planning to do with those pliers either but, hey, they were there if I needed them.

As my wife was recovering from the birth and we were basking in the glow of our new bundle of joy, we remembered a few things we had forgotten to grab, like the baby’s car seat. I ended up making two separate trips home and back in the course of the next couple days, picking up things we needed and bringing home the stuff that served no purpose.

Now, how might this have played out had it not been a relatively common occurrence like the birth of a child and instead been an emergency evacuation? Let’s say a police officer knocked on our door at five in the morning, telling us we had ten minutes to grab some belongings and then vacate the area as a train carrying toxic chemicals had just derailed. We probably wouldn’t have the luxury of being able to return home to get the things we forgot to grab. We’d have had to make do with what we had in those bags.

Obviously, we didn’t plan very well. Thankfully, we had the ability in that instance to rectify our mistakes. Next time, that might not be the case.

The purpose of this book is to educate you on what you can do to help mitigate the effects of disasters, large and small. Everything from a temporary power outage to a complete societal collapse will be discussed. Remember though, making the plan is only the first step. You have to take action and implement the plan.

Pack your bag now and get ready for what might be coming. Don’t wait until disaster strikes. You just might find yourself trying to tackle the apocalypse with nothing more than a hair dryer in one hand and a camera with dead batteries in the other.


Gleaning is a great way to augment your food storage. This is a form of foraging but rather than concentrating on wild plants, you’re picking up corn left behind in farm fields, that sort of thing. Now, before engaging in gleaning, you MUST ask permission. Otherwise, you’re just stealing.

If you have farms in your area, talk to the owners. Quite often, there is a fair amount of good stuff left behind, such as at the corners of the fields or when they dump the pickings into trucks.

Check your local parks and see if there are any fruit trees there. If so, ask at the park and recreation department about picking up windfall apples and such.

You might have some luck too in talking to local gardeners about getting their trimmings and thinnings. With many plants, you can repot these and grow them.

If you have factories in the area that produce food products, you might find they have small stores inside where you can purchase at a discount “factory seconds.” These would be things like dented cans, mislabeled products, or other items that are perfectly edible but just didn’t get cut to the right length or something.

Some states will allow you to pick up roadkill deer, provided you buy the appropriate tags. This does vary state to state so check your local laws.

Remember to always ask permission before gleaning. It makes no sense to try and save money on food and then have to spend the savings on paying fines and such.

Deciding When To Bug Out

This is a question I get asked fairly regularly — when should I bug out? Unfortunately, there are so many factors that come into play, it is difficult if not impossible to give just one pat answer.

First, let me define what I mean by “bugging out.” There’s a difference, to my mind at least, between bugging out and evacuating. If, for example, you live in an area where a hurricane is predicted to hit in the next few days and you make the wise decision to head inland during that time, that’s not bugging out, that’s evacuating. Bugging out, to me, is leaving your present location with little to no expectation of ever returning.

Fairly often, I see a survivalist or prepper post a message online saying that they plan to just bug out if ever the SHTF. What is left unsaid is, what sorts of S could HTF to prompt them to bug out? I mean, we prep for all sorts of catastrophes, from bad weather to terrorist attack.

I do believe every prepper should have a bug out plan. It is just a way to cover all the bases, so to speak. You never know what could happen that might prompt you to feel you need to bail. However, as I’ve said over and over here and elsewhere, bugging out should be your last ditch plan, not your primary plan.

Remember too that bugging out without a specific destination in mind just makes you a refugee. A possibly well-equipped refugee, but a refugee nonetheless.

Ok, so back to the main question. What I suggest is you plan to bug out if and only if your location becomes unsafe. This could mean different things to different preppers. For example, an urban home might become more dangerous much sooner than a rural one, all other things being equal, in the face of disaster.

Added to this is the fact that you can’t predict what the future will bring. Could be, disaster hits your area and for the most part, you, your family, and your home survive relatively intact. Then, during the recovery process, things start to get a little dicey. You obviously would want to get out ahead of the crowd but it becomes a guessing game. Will it eventually get bad enough here where I’d not want to be around? How long until that happens? How bad will it get?

Like I said, there is no pat answer. The best advice I can give is to have a bug out plan ready to go, practice it on a regular basis, and be prepared to head out if/when the need arises.

Urban Garden Planning

Many preppers live in cities, whether they truly want to or not. Their life situations are such that they are unable to just pull up stakes and move to the country. Yet, they want to at least be a little self-sufficient and urban gardening is one way to accomplish that.

There are options available for those who don’t have large yards where they can have an extensive garden. Of course, limited space means limited garden produce but you have to start somewhere.

Container gardening is one avenue worth exploring. With this method, you grow your veggies in planter boxes and other pots. No, you aren’t going to be able to grow rows of corn, of course. But, things like strawberries, tomatoes, even pole beans are doable with the right set ups. You may be surprised just how much you can grow on just a small patio or deck. You can even do potatoes this way. Use a barrel or make a cylinder out of fine mesh chicken wire. Plant your seed potatoes in several inches of good soil and compost. Keep adding soil as the plant grows, making sure new potatoes are fully covered at all times. By the end of the season, you’ll have quite a number of taters, just dump out the barrel.

For those with even just small backyards, try square foot gardening. Popularized by Mel Bartholomew, this is sort of like container gardening taken to the next level. Build boxes out of cedar or some other weather resistant material (but NOT treated lumber). I have success with using 2×10 or 2×12 boards. You’re just making squares with the boards resting on their sides. Use galvanized nails or screws made for outdoor applications. Put the boxes on the ground and fill them with soil. Square foot gardening actually incorporates an entire system, with dividing each box into a grid and planting certain things in each. Stop by your local library and pick up one of Mel’s books or do some Googling for all the details.

Many cities and towns have set up community garden plots. Some are free and others require a small fee to rent your own space. Essentially, these are vacant lots that the city owns and they allow gardeners to plant their stuff there. This is a great way to meet fellow gardeners, many of whom may just be preppers. Contact your local university extension office for info on where you can find a community garden in your area.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Get creative and I bet you can find some way to grow at least a little bit of your own food this year.

Differences Between Survival Kits

Maybe it is because I make at least part of my living with words but it drives me nuts when people misuse survival terms. Perhaps it is just a mild form of OCD, I don’t know. Either way, I thought I’d talk a bit today about the different terms we use for survival kits.

Get Home Bag
This is a kit designed to meet your needs while you travel back home or to another safe location if you’re out in the world when disaster strikes. It is not meant to sustain you indefinitely but just to keep you fed and warm until you can get home. I’ve also heard of these being called Just In Case (JIC) kits.

Evacuation Kit
This kit is kept at home and is grabbed on your way out the door if you should need to bail immediately (fire, toxic spill, that sort of thing). Not only should it have what you’d need to survive away from home for a few days, but also copies of important papers and such. The idea here isn’t to live forever on the contents of the kit but just to give you what you need for a couple nights in a hotel or at a relative’s home.

Bug Out Bag
Sometimes called a Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) bag or I’m Never Coming Home (INCH) kit, this one is your “live by your wits for as long as possible” survival kit. The S has definitely HTF and you’re headed for the hills, possibly never to return.

Now, some folks may only ever need the Get Home Bag. Others may only ever assemble the Bug Out Bag and figure that will cover pretty much anything that could happen. To each their own. Everyone’s personal situation is different and only you can make the best determination of what’s right for your individual circumstance.

My suggestion is this. Assemble a kit to keep in your car, another to keep at home, and a third to keep at work (if you have a secure place to store it). This way, you should have all your bases covered, just in case.

Interesting Approach to DIY Water Filtration

I came across this the other day on Ranger Rick’s Survival Outdoor Skills website. I’ll confess I’ve not tried it yet myself but the logic appears sound.

While this method of water filtration is time consuming, it is passive. Meaning, you can just set it up and let it go while you’re busy with other things. What you’ll need are two containers and some cotton cloth.

Fill the first container with the dirty water and set it up so it sits a little higher than the second, empty, container.

Rest one end of your cotton cloth in the dirty water and drape the other end into the clean container. It helps if the ends are roughly cut, so as to expose as many cotton fibers as possible.

Slowly, water is drawn up those fibers and eventually will drip down into the empty container. As the water moves through the cloth, the particulates are filtered out.

Now, this method will NOT remove harmful bacteria so you’ll still need to purify it through boiling or chemical means. But, if you’ve run out of coffee filters or just have no other means of getting dirt and such out of the water, this should work well.

Why Pepper Spray?

Now, I fully realize that suggesting big, burly, outdoorsy, macho survivalists carry pepper spray might be seen by some as justifiable cause for revoking my “man card.”

Hear me out, though.

If you cannot possibly imagine a single situation where you may want to utilize less-than-lethal means of self-defense, then you apparently lack anything approaching a working imagination. The whole point of self-defense is for you to get away from the danger. Pepper spray gives you that time to get free, with much less potential for a life-changing lawsuit being served on you down the road.

If nothing else, think about it like this. Pepper spray gives you the time to make an informed decision on how to further address the situation. Rather than having to make up your mind in the blink of an eye, you can have a few moments to determine how best to proceed.

When shopping for pepper spray, look for a device that shoots a stream, rather than a fog. On even a mildly windy day, that fog could come right back at you. Even better are those that shoot a foam, as this sticks to the skin longer than a pure liquid.

As I’ve said countless times here and elsewhere, I’m all about options when it comes to prepping. Leaving yourself without options is allowing the situation to control you, rather than you being in control of the situation.

Altoids Tin Alcohol Stove

Prepping is all about having options. Taking the ten minutes or so to fashion together an alcohol stove from an Altoids tin is just one more option when it comes to heating up a meal or even just some water for coffee.

What you’ll need for this project:

Altoids tin
Window screening — any old screening will do
Perlite — found at any garden center
Denatured alcohol — get this from the hardware store, stick to 91%

For those not familiar with perlite, it is often used as a soil amendment because it helps prevent soil compaction. It is a white substance, looking somewhat like small rocks, but very lightweight.

Ok, so here’s what you do. Wipe out your Altoids tin so it is clean inside. Open the tin and turn it upside down on the screen and trace around the tin with a marker. You’re only concerned with the open part of the tin, not the lid.

Using scissors, cut around your marked line.

Fill the tin with perlite, all the way to the top. Shake it slightly so as to keep it all level. Fit the screen into the tin on top of the perlite. You may need to snip and trim here and there to get it to fit nicely. You want to tuck in the edges between the perlite and the tin. A thin ruler may work well for this.

When you’re ready to use the stove, pour alcohol over the perlite. About three capfuls should be sufficient. Light it with a match and you’re good to go. Remember, alcohol burns hot and the flames are nearly invisible, so be careful.

When you’re done, flip the lid of the tin closed to put out the flame and let it cool down before handling.