Letter Re: “On Population Density”

Jim, read the ‘population density’ analysis and couldn’t agree more. When I was on the road moving to North Idaho earlier this year I came up[U.S.] I-5 and swung over through Washington. There are a lot of people in that corridor. But when I went back for the second load I went down [U.S.] 395. I was amazed at the absence of civilization (at least on a large scale) From John Day [Oregon] through northern California it was DESOLATE. To the uninitiated this would seem frightening. Sometimes a half hour would pass before you passed another car. And the Eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada isn’t bad either. (Except for the fact that its in California). When we again headed north it was up 395 to Reno then North/east on 80 to Winnemucca. That stretch as well is quite appealing. Checked eBay and there is a lot of land for sale in those parts ‘dirt cheap’. And the area you mentioned in Idaho County as well appealed to me for the same reasons–small towns and few of them! Good growing climate and lots of wildlife. Northern Idaho is quite frankly TOO CROWDED and we will be leaving here soon. My circumstances (family) dictate that I leave this area but I will be relocating to a smaller town in Nevada and will keep my eyes on these areas that you have mentioned. OBTW, I lived in D.C. in the eighties while in the Air Force and was amazed at the number of people there. You are right, less is better!
– J.M. in Post Falls, Idaho

JWR’s Reply:

I agree that the Coeur d’Alene area of northern Idaho has too many people. However, there are a lot areas that are outside of commute distance to Spokane and the Aluminum Gulch that are very lightly populated. And those same areas are also where rural acreage is still affordable.



Letter Re: Small Livestock on a Budget

Howdy Jim & Memsahib,
Regarding getting rabbits free after the usual Easter bunny buying frenzy – great idea. Get them producing, and optimize your cage designs at the same time by using those Easter bunnies as test subjects.

One notes however that the “pet” rabbits are generally not designed specifically for meat production, and there are oftentimes sizeable efficiency differences between the breeds. As soon as possible, consider sourcing true breed lines that are designed for meat – you’ll kick up production quite a bit. Using the 4H as a source is probably the best idea – depending on where you’re at. Our 4H locally has been absolutely decimated by PC folks….not many of the 4H clubs still extant here.

If possible, stay away from wooden cages, or wooden cage frames. The rabbit’s eat and chew the woods, damaging and weakening it – and the urine will soak in, making it pretty nasty after a while. If you’ve got to build from wood, make sure you staple the cage wires to the inside of the frames. For cleaning, a 15% bleach/water solution sprayed on liberally and allowed to soak in works well. I’d also say, if you’ve got to use wood, use Cedar or Redwood only.
Good sources for these (at least in urban areas) are old fences, decks, spa surrounds, etc. (At least once a year I advertise for free demolition and removal of a deck. That keeps me with enough Redwood for my projects.)

Ideally, make those cages out of only metal mesh. The wire cloth (hardware cloth, hot dipped galvanizing) that’s out there is miserable stuff to work with, but it’ll work in a pinch. Lot’s of sharp edges and spikes on it, so wear gloves. Plus it’s got the problem of spiking the rabbit’s feet, sometimes giving some nice cuts and abrasions.

The best mesh material is [Smooth] Welded Wire Mesh – 16/14 GA will do just fine. Something like 1/2″x1″ openings. Get some hog ring pliers and hog rings, wire cutters, 4×4’s and hinges for a bending brake (not absolutely necessary, but sometimes will save time and materials) and a tape measure and you’re in business. (OBTW, this stuff is also great for building aviaries, live animal traps, shrimp/lobster cages, fish weirs, etc.)

Great blog so far – looks like it’ll be a winner. I’ll be making it one of my commonly visited sites. – G.T.

JWR’s Reply:

Many thanks for your well-informed observations! I concur that wood-framed rabbit cages are a bad idea. At the Rawles Ranch we use only all-wire rabbit cages. We were able to find our latest batch (made by Bass Equipment, Inc.) via mail order when one of their distributors had a sale a couple of years back. The only wood that ever goes in our rabbit cages is a resting board. (A piece of scrap lumber–usually 2″x6″ or 2″x8″, about 18″ long. This keep the rabbits from getting infected haunches from extended exposure to wire mesh.) We change the resting boards regularly!



Letter on the Asian Avian Flu

I have an idea for a topic that I would certainly like to get your thoughts on. As you probably know, scientists are nervously watching poultry in Southeast Asia for signs of a new virulent strain of flu. Just today the AG体育 published an article on the topic, and how scientists think they can contain the epidemic to 200 people. I am not so confident in their efforts, and would like to hear your thoughts on the topic of how one can prepare for the possibility of a possible flu epidemic. – “T”

JWR’s Reply:

Asian Avian Flu (H5N1) is indeed an important topic. Perhaps we have a reader out there who is an epidemiologist lurking out there who can give us some further details. (Hint, hint!) Like you, my main concern regarding the Asian Avian Flu is that the virus could mutate into a strain that could easily be transmitted between humans. That could result in a pandemic worse than the . (Which killed 20 to 30 million people–far more people than World I did.) For anyone interested, I recommend the books and by William H. McNeill. I also recommend the science fiction novel . While it is ostensibly fiction, Crichton manages to weave a lot of non-fiction into the storyline. His succinct description of natural mutation toward non-lethal strains is easily understandable to the layman.

T’s letter reminds me: Every forward thinking survivalist should have the ability to hunker down at a retreat in complete isolation for six months or more. With apropos warning signs (and perhaps a few prudent warming shots), this this would ostensibly protect you from a pandemic that is spread by casual human contact. (Typically, unwashed hands and/or spittle.) That means an independent water supply and a six month supply of fuel, food, and so forth.) This approach would of course be of no use if the bug is carried by the winds.

Consider preparing large convincing (official-looking) “Plague Quarantine Area” signs. Place those at the perimeter of your property. Those ought to scare off most looters. Closer in to your retreat/house post large “Warning: Land Mines and Man Traps!” and “Looters will be shot on sight!” signs. For those readers in The Americas, the latter signs should be bilingual. The bottom half of each should read: “!Se prohibe entrar! !Disparamos al intrusos!” Needless to say, post your signs only after it is clear that it is absolute TEOTWAWKI.

OBTW, I’ll cover antibiotics storage in an upcoming issue.



Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“The larger [Persian] Ismaili fortresses provide outstanding examples of military architecture. Their strategic position and the skilled use of natural resources to ensure, that despite the difficulties of the terrain, the castles were well supplied with food and water and therefore able to withstand a prolonged siege of many months, even years. In his account of the destruction of Alamut by the Mongols, the historian Juwayni (d. 1283) describes with considerable admiration the vast underground store rooms built by the Ismailis and the difficulty the Mongols had to destroy the castle’s fortifications.”
– from Nizari Ismaili Castles of Iran and Syria, published by the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London



The Golden Horde

Because of the urbanization of the U.S. population, if the entire eastern or western goes down for more than a week, the cities will rapidly become unlivable. I foresee that there will be an almost unstoppable chain of events: Power -> water -> food distribution -> law and order -> arson fires -> full scale looting
As the comfort level in the cities rapidly drops to nil, there will be a massive involuntary outpouring from the big cities and suburbs into the hinterboonies. This is the phenomenon that my late father, –half-jokingly called “The Golden Horde.” He was of course referring to the Mongol Horde of the 13th Century, but in a modern context. (The Mongol rulers were chosen from the ‘Golden Family’ of Temujin. Hence the term “The Golden Horde.”) I can remember as a child, my father pointing to the hills at the west end of the Livermore Valley, where we then lived. He opined: “If The Bomb ever drops, we’ll see a Golden Horde come swarming over those hills [from Oakland and beyond] of the like that the world has never seen. And they’ll be very unpleasant, believe you me!”



The Thin Veneer

In my lectures on survival topics I often mention that there is just a thin veneer of civilization on our society。 What is underneath is not pretty, and it does take much to peel away that veneer。 You take your average urbanite or suburbanite and get him excessively cold, wet, tired, hungry and/or thirsty and take away his television, beer, drugs, and other pacifiers, and you will soon seen the savage within。 It is like peeling the skin of an onion—remove a couple of layers and it gets very smelly。 As a Christian, I attribute this to man’s inherently sinful nature。

Here is a mental exercise: Put yourself in the mind set of Mr. Joe Sixpack, Suburbanite. (Visualize him in or near a big city near where you live.) He is unprepared. He has less than one week’s food on hand, he has a 12 gauge pump action shotgun that he hasn’t fired in years, and just half a tank of gas in his minivan and maybe a gallon or two in a can that he keeps on hand for his lawn mower. Then TEOTWAWKI hits. The power grid is down, his job is history, the toilet doesn’t flush, and water no longer magically comes cascading from the tap. There are riots beginning in his city. The local service stations have run out of gas. The banks have closed. Now he is suddenly desperate. Where will he go? What will he do?

Odds are, Joe will think: “I’ve gotta go find a vacation cabin somewhere, up in the mountains, where some rich dude only goes a few weeks out of each year.” So vacation destinations like Lake Tahoe, Lake Arrowhead, and Squaw Valley, California; Prescott and Sedona, Arizona; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Vail and Steamboat Springs, Colorado; and the other various rural ski, spa, Great Lakes, and coastal resort areas will get swarmed. Or, he will think: “I’ve got to go to where they grow food.” So places like the Imperial Valley, the Willamette Valley, and the Red River Valley will similarly get overrun. There will be so many desperate Joe Sixpacks arriving all at once that these areas will degenerate into free-fire zones. It will be an intensely ugly situation and will not be safe for anyone. In some places the locals may be so vastly outnumbered that they won’t survive. But some of the Joe Sixpacks will survive, and then the more ruthless among them will begin to fight amongst themselves for the few remaining resources. They will form ad hoc gangs of perhaps 6 to 30 people.

Once the Golden Horde has been thinned (and honed to ferocity) and they’ve cleaned out an area, the thugs at the pinnacle of ruthlessness will comprise the most formidable rover packs imaginable. They will move on to an adjoining region, and then another. But the will work in your favor: Imagine that you take a jar of marbles turn it upside down on a wooden floor and then lift the jar suddenly upward. The marbles will spread out semi-randomly. But the farther from the mouth of the jar, the lighter the density of marbles. Hence, the rover packs will attenuate themselves into a huge rural expanse that is peopled with well-armed country folks. By the time the looters work their way out 150 miles from the big cities, they will be thinned out considerably. The rover pack is your primary threat in a total collapse, no matter how remote your retreat. Here are your potential adversaries: A squad to company size force (12 to 60 individuals), highly mobile, moderately well armed with a motley assortment of weapons and vehicles, and imbued with absolute ruthlessness. Be prepared.



From The Memsahib: Small Livestock on a Budget

I suggest that when in comes to small livestock equipment, start out with used equipment and/or build it yourself. If you want new, your local feed store is likely to have fair prices. But do not buy your equipment at a big chain pet store. Compare these prices. Used rabbit cage at a garage sale: $10 with everything included. Build your own: $20. Buy a similar cage at the chain pet store: $75!
The handy person can construct much of the necessary equipment themselves. But if you want to buy it, I have some suggestions for you.
A great time to get set up for rabbits is a month or two after Easter. Likely there will be families in your town who thought if would be fun to get Junior a little pet bunny for Easter. Now the bunny has grown in to a large cranky teenager that bites!. You can likely get the rabbit, cage, and all the equipment for an low price. Most people at this point just want to get rid of the rabbit and will not question if you are giving it a “good home”. But if the seller want a “good home only”, I would respect that, and pass up on the deal. Another good place to get good used equipment is from your local 4-H Club. Contact the Rabbit Leader. He or she may know a youth who is leaving 4-H and has rabbits and/or cages to sell. And don’t forget garage sales…
I have used a lot of kitchen items from Thrift Stores as feed pans, water bowls and the like for my small livestock. Occasionally thrift stores will have “pet supplies” at good prices too. Just remember that you can start your small livestock project for less money than you thought if you shop around and are creative.



Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“In the summer of 1994, I visited the safest place in the United States. I can honestly say I stood in the most protected room in this entire nation. During one of my visits to Washington, D.C., another Army officer, assigned to the White House military office, asked if I would like to experience something that few people have ever seen. Of course, I agreed, and he proceeded to take me to the bomb shelter beneath the White House that would house the President and his family if nuclear attack or civil unrest ever hit the city of Washington. This Army captain showed me the briefing rooms for the Cabinet members, the housing for the troops that would be assigned to guard our nation’s leaders, and even the living quarters for the First Family. I realized at that moment that I was standing in the single most protected spot in the United States, that no other room in America could provide equal safety or protection from harm. In my experience, then, the safest place in this country is in Washington D.C. But the safest place in this world, the safest place in your world and mine, is wherever the sovereign God of the universe takes us. You can be no more secure, you can build no thicker walls, you can find no greater protection than being in the very center of God’s divine will for your life. If God calls you to a place, you can be sure He has gone before you and prepared the way.” – Trey Graham



I Told You So!

I posted the following to the misc.survivalism Usenet newsgroup on February 8, 2001, under the title: Rawles Calls Major Bottom in Silver Price:

“I have come to the conclusion that the long term bear trend in the price of silver has finally come to an end. Silver touched $4.55 earlier today. (Feb. 8, 2001.) If it closes in N.Y. at over $4.75 anytime in the next few weeks, that would be a strong bullish indicator. Look at the six month and ten year silver charts at for the “big picture.” Once there is a strong bullish indication, don’t hesitate to buy a good chunk of silver, pronto. FWIW, I just made another silver purchase to take advantage of the recent dip. (I’d rather buy early than late.) For those of you living in these united States, I recommend buying silver in the form of pre-1965 mint date circulated U.S. silver coinage (dimes, quarters, and half dollars.) That is the best for barter purposes, and unlike bullion rounds/bars is less likely to be subject to government confiscation. See the free FAQs at my web site for details: www.rawles.to. For the market fundamentals on silver, see: (Some interesting observations on the lack of silver to meet demand.) And for general information and analysis on precious metals, see: ?(Note: I am not affiliated in any way with either of these sites.)

[Some commentary on interest rates snipped, for brevity]

I may not have called the bottom perfectly, (silver may sag down to $4.25 before it rallies), but beyond that, IMHO the downside risk is minimal. And what about gold, you may ask? In my opinion, silver is much more likely to double than gold. This is much like buying penny stocks. (Which is more likely double–XYZ Corp. at 58 cents a share, or IBM at $108.00 a share?)”

For the record (as of August 4, 2005): IBM now sells at $83.12 a share. (A 24% loss, after four+ years. Charming.) And I wasn’t far from the mark when I cited $4.25 as the potential bottom. Silver actually bottomed just a few months later, at $4.19 per ounce. (I was off by less than 2% of calling the absolute bottom in a 10+ year bear market.) Silver has risen in fits and starts ever since. I am still convinced that silver is in the early stages of a multi-decade bull market and is headed to $60 per ounce (and possibly higher). Spot silver was at $7.21 an ounce at yesterday’s close, according to the folks at –a 58.1% gain, after four+ years.) But IMHO silver is still a bargain. In the long run the dollar is doomed. Are you worried that investing in silver won’t earn interest or dividends? Silver isn’t that sort of investment. Rather, think of it as fire insurance–for the dollar. Oh, and what about the fact that silver dropped from $7.21 to $7.11 on Friday (5 August)? The silver market is volatile. You should look beyond the daily fluctuations and instead concentrate on the long term trend. Gold is and silver are both in long term secular bull markets.



From The Memsahib: Raising Rabbits as a Protein Source for Tough Times

It was the late 1930s, the Nation was still in the throes of the Great Depression. Jim’s grandparents and their three young children were getting by on Grandfather’s teaching salary. Then he died suddenly of a heart attack leaving Grandma Julia a widow and the children fatherless. Julia had to go to work. But, not only were women’s wages lower, but she had the added expense of hiring child care. Jim’s mother tells us that they raised rabbits in pens in their backyard to supplement their mother’s meager grocery budget. She and her little sister gathered grass from vacant lots to feed the rabbits. As we can learn from our parents and Grandparents, rabbits can be a good source of protein for your family during tough times. They do not need much space. They can multiply quickly. They do not eat much food. They are easy to handle and to butcher.
Rabbits are one animal you can start raising right now. A generously sized rabbit pen is two feet square. You will need at least two pens. One for the male rabbit (buck) and one for the female (doe) and her babies. (Adult rabbits are extremely territorial and will kill each other in defense of their territory.) I have a number of friends who raise their rabbits inside their homes. But most people raise them in a shady spot in the back yard. Rabbits are the only small livestock you can raise in a suburban neighborhood. They make no sound, unlike hens that cackle and roosters that crow.
Rabbits can be very prolific. I will write more about selecting prolific rabbits in a subsequent blog post. A doe can produce five litters a year. An average litter is eight bunnies butchered at eight weeks old.
Most people feed rabbits commercial pellets. They are convenient and fairly inexpensive to feed. But, if you believe things are going to get really bad, you might consider raising your rabbits on forage like Jim’s grandmother did. Today’s rabbits have been bred to thrive on a pellet diet. So you might want to select for rabbits that are productive on freshly cut grass or grass hay for a long term survival situation.
Because of their small size, rabbits are easy to handle and easy to butcher. The trick is to handle them very firmly. A rabbit held tightly by the scruff with one hand and the other hand supporting its feet will not kick and thrash. Don’t be timid, but hold your rabbit firmly so to avoid getting scratched by the toenails on their powerful hind legs.
I have found butchering rabbits to be much quicker than butchering chickens because a rabbits skin is extremely loose. I can skin a rabbit much faster than I can pluck a chicken. No, it is not pleasant to butcher any animal. But there is a certain sense of satisfaction knowing you can feed your family even if the grocery store shelves are bare.
Rabbits are an excellent small livestock to get started with. Even if you don’t have the ability to move to the country, you can still gain many valuable skills by raising a few rabbits in your backyard.
A great book to buy and read before buying any rabbits is “Raising Rabbits the Modern Way” by Bob Bennett.

#1 Son Adds:

I recently read in Bradford Angier’s book How to Stay Alive in the Woods that a diet of rabbit meat alone will cause diarrhea, due to its leanness. Be sure to have some sort of fat in your diet to avoid “rabbit starvation”, which can cause death in less than a week. How to Stay Alive in the Woods is published by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.
It has also been published under the title Living off the Country



Reader’s Letters: On Hubbert’s Peak

> Hi Jim, I realize that you are a busy man but was wondering if you have been
> following the Peak Oil story. Seems like everyone is talking about
> our world oil supply. I remember following Gary North and taking
> heed to his advice, as much as I could. Still seems like a
> sustainable, remote lifestyle makes sense in light of what is looming
> on the horizon.
> Best regards to you and your family
> – J.M.

JWR’s Reply:
I think that the Hubbert’s Peak talk is a definitely premature (and perhaps a bit over-blown), but regardless, your children and grandchildren will thank you
for planning ahead. It is prudent to have large liquid fuel storage tanks (diesel and propane), and lot of stored firewood (or coal), regardless. (Both in anticipation of a potential Grid Down situation and as an inflation hedge, if nothing else.) Presently, I’m more concerned with China and/or North Korea and their published nuclear threats, and the even greater implicit “we’ll use them on you as soon as we lay hands on them” nuke threat from Iran and Al Qaeda. (See the recent ) Hence, a “sustainable, remote lifestyle” makes sense for MANY reasons. Head for the hills, my friends! Here is some Food for Thought and Grounds for Further Research (FFTAGFFR): Hubbert’s Peak oriented web sites include and . Again, I think these folks are overly alarmist in the short term. (But not in the long term!)



Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“It happened that a fire broke out backstage in a theater。 The clown came out to inform the public。 They thought it was just a jest and applauded。 He repeated his warning, they shouted even louder。 So I think the world will come to an end amid general applause from all the wits, who believe that it is a joke。” – Soren Kierkegaard





On Population Density

The Night Sky

Take a look at The Lights of the U.S. photo map at: . This montage of satellite photos makes it clear most of America’s population is east of the Mississippi River and is highly urbanized.The population density of the U.S. is dramatically lower west of the Mississippi River. In troubled times fewer people means fewer problems. In the event of a social upheaval, rioting, urban looting, et cetera, being west of the Mississippi will mean a statistically much lower chance of coming face to face with lawless rioters or looters When The Stuff Hits The Fan (WTSHTF).

The northeastern states depend on nuclear power plants for 47% of their electricity。 (South Carolina is similarly dependent。) This is an unacceptable level of high technology systems dependence, particularly in light of the emerging terrorist threat。 You must also consider that virtually all of the eastern states are downwind of major nuclear targets–most notably the USAF missile fields in the Dakotas。 If for one reason or another you are stuck in the northeast, consider New Hampshire or Vermont。 They are both gun friendly and have more self-sufficient lifestyle。 But unless you have some compelling reason to stay in the East, I most strongly encourage you to Go West!

Urbanization

The other startling thing you will notice when looking at the Lights photo montage is that even in the western states, Americans live in a highly urbanized society. Roughly 90% of the population is crammed into 5% of the land area, mostly within 50 miles of the coast. But there are large patches of the west where there are virtually no lights at all–particularly in the Great Basin region that extends from the back side of the Sierra Nevada mountains to Utah and Eastern Oregon. The average population density in this region is less than two people per square mile.

As an example of the low population density in the west, I often like to cite Idaho County, Idaho: This one county measures 8,485 square miles–bigger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. But it has a population of just 15,400. And of those residents, roughly 3,300 people live in Grangeville, the county seat. Who lives in the rest of the County? Nary a soul. There are far more deer and elk than there are people. The population density of the county is 1.8 people per square mile. The county has more than 3 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land, BLM land, and designated Federal wilderness areas. Now that is elbow room!



The Return of Jonny Quest (on DVD)

Jonny Quest

Not only are we home schooling our kids, but we are also raising them without television. I can think of no better gift for a child than an upbringing WITHOUT broadcast or cable television. Current-day television is geared toward the beer, wrestling, and MTV crowd. As The Memsahib says: “Televisions have brightness controls, but they don’t work.” We do let our kids watch some carefully selected movies and TV shows on DVD, but NO broadcast television. We don’t even own a television set. But we can watch DVDs on our Mac computers.? Most recently I bought our kids the entire first season of the original 1960s TV series “Jonny Quest” DVD.

Now *that* is my idea of a manly-man cartoon for kids. Jonny Quest kicks tail! It is outrageously politically incorrect by current standards. Could you imagine a cartoon anything like it being produced these days? It shows children praying before going to bed. (Gasp!) It shows private citizens defending themselves with rifles and machineguns. It even shows children shooting semi-automatic rifles to fend off attacking alligators. (The horror!) If you have kids between the ages of 9 and 16, I recommend that you pick up a set of the first season on DVD. Because it is fairly expensive new, it is probably best to find a used set on eBay or Amazon.