Low-Nonsense Doomsteading: Rough drafts coming...

   I've decided that my next book is going to be Low-Nonsense Doomsteading.  Will probably be a ponderous tome, as it'll be based on our decades of real-world doomsteading.

   That's why LOW-nonsense, rather than NO-nonsense.  Going to need just a little nonesense to keep it tolerable.

   Will update this top-post with links to rough draft pages and other updates for anyone wanting to follow-along as this thing gets put-together.

Click on links below to view draft sections!

Communications: Internet Of Last Resort.

   TEOTWAWKI Doomstead is in the hills on the far end of a rural county, more than a mile (rough and rocky access 'road' with a creek to ford) back into the woods.  Forget about cable, fiber, or even passable cell signal out here.  We do have a line from the old phone company, and have been able to get the ragged edge of a DSL connection.  But, since Windstream bought out the local co-op, maintenance hasn't been a thing.  I can only patch the brittle, aging copper wires and corroding junction boxes together for just so long myself.  And we were paying way too much for under 5Mbps at best, when it worked at all.

   So we finally decided to try the only alternative there is for us.  Satellite Internet.  Despite the horrific reputation it has online...

The Deceptions!

   One of the complaints I often read about Satellite is that the companies (all both of them) lie to get people to buy...  There's some truth to this.  But I have to wonder if the complainers are "new" or something.  In my day, we were educated young by comic book ads for X-Ray Specs and Sea Monkeys.  Advertisers have been known to stretch the truth just a bit!  The pretty lady in the Satellite commercial has like 30 seconds to get you interested.  She's gonna keep it simple and positive, but not entirely honest!

  "FAST SPEEDS"...    Well, I suppose they're fast relative to dial-up or a bad DSL.  But not really anything to brag-on in the world of cable, fiber, 4G, etc.  Folks just a few miles closer into town are supposed to be able to get DSL with twice Hughesnet Satellite's advertised speed.

   "UNLIMITED DATA"...   Hughesnet is fibbing pretty bad with this one.  They don't cut you off or charge you extra if you overshoot your monthly data cap, but they do throttle your access speed down to under 3Mbps for the rest of the month.  ViaSat is a little harder to pin-down.  But they will also throttle your service for a while if their algorithm determines you are using too much data too quickly.

   "STREAM VIDEO"...  Some.  But you're gonna need the super-premium package to stream HD NetFlix, Hulu, or whatever for binge-watching.  Even then, you'll be astonished how quickly you burn through your data.

   "ALL THE THINGS YOU LOVE ON THE INTERNET"...  Unless you love real-time gaming, sensitive content (to the degree that you need a VPN), or using your home WiFi as a hotspot for your cellphones.  Latency (the delay created by the time it takes your signal to make the side-trip to a satellite 25,000 miles away) makes these things difficult to impossible.

   "AFFORDABLE PRICE"...  Well, compared to paying to have enough infrastructure privately installed to reach good Internet hard wire, it's affordable.  But it's more money for less value than any other broadband on the market, subscription-wise. (Especially if you remember to include the equipment rental!)

   Funny thing is, five to ten minutes reading the Hughesnet website would have consumers forewarned of all this.  They give a pretty good estimate of how much you can do with a gigabyte of data.  They admit that latency ruins gaming, screws-up VPNs, and makes cellphone-through-WiFi a mess.  You just have to scroll down the page a bit.  Go to the FAQs.

   Instead, people chat with a rep on the phone...  Forgetting that these are SALESPEOPLE.  They are paid to get you to order the service, not to talk you out of it!  Most of them don't even use Satellite themselves.  They probably aren't intentionally lying when they tell you that you can do games, HD video binging, etc.  They're just guessing that you can, because they figure that's just regular Internet stuff!

   I read the site.  Knew about the confessed shortcomings.  Ordered it anyway.  'Cause I'm getting too damned old, and have too much else to do, to be spending days Tarzanning around in the trees re-stringing broken telecom lines!



   Because Satellite Internet requires transmitting as well as receiving, you're not legally allowed to self-install like you can with Satellite TV.  But there's no way that the Satellite Internet companies, with only a little over a million subscribers apiece, spread-out over the hemisphere, can maintain a fleet of trucks and crews to do installation and service.  So they have to rely on independent contractors.  (Some of whom then rely on sub-contractors!)

   So the folks who show up to mount your dish and set-up your router are a mixed bag.  Lots of horror stories about obnoxious installers who left a mess and / or did a lousy installation.  (Even though HughesNet and ViaSat both have detailed installation standards and requirements, with photo verification and post-surveys.)

   The lad they sent 'round to do our set-up was polite, knew his job, and got it done well and efficiently.  He was driving an old, somewhat battered pickup truck, which is really for the best considering the kinds of places that need HughesNet Residential.  I would've felt bad if he'd had to drive a shiny, new vehicle through the rough brush and rocky, rutted path that we call a driveway.

   I suspect a lot of the complaints about Satellite Internet have to do with poor installation.  It's difficult to hold on a target at 25,000 miles!  The dish may get a good signal through trees in the Winter, then lose it when they fill with leaves in the Spring.  A dish mounted to a shaky structure isn't going to have consistent reception.  Even a fairly solid wooden structure may swell and shrink with the weather and throw your alignment off.


   Only six weeks in at this writing, so just getting a feel for this Buck Rogers tech...

   Speed...  I've been checking regularly, and I usually get the advertised 25Mbps or better from HughesNet with proper, long-format tests.  The more common quick tests indicate how erratic the speed is though.  Ranging from 2 to 50Mbps from one moment to the next.  Latency / ping is so high that some tests can't even measure it correctly.

  Reliability...  Severe storms have taken us offline a couple of times so far. (Naturally the weather goes to Hell in a handbasket the week after I get the dish.)  Both times, the system came back online when the weather started to let-up.  Other than that, the connection has been constant.

   Ease of use...  At the user end, it's your basic broadband router.  Four Ethernet ports and WiFi.  You can access the modem's internal software through your browser to see current satellite signal strength, remaining plan data, etc.

   Basic Internet Functions...  Email, web browsing, research, message boards, social media, private messages, online shopping, etc.  All these pretty much work normally.

   Video streaming...  I don't know about NetFlix, Hulu, or the rest of the subscription services.  (We get Gunsmoke and Svengoogie via an old-fashioned antenna. Who needs anything else?)  Other Internet videos work, but can be a bit tricky.
   Video servers usually check your connection speed, use an algorithm to decide what resolution to send you, at which data rate, with what amount of buffer.  At the same time it's doing this, the video page is sending you advertisements, annotations, suggested videos (with thumbnails and maybe previews), and the comments section.   With the satellite latency and erratic transfer speed making this a bad case of cyber-hiccups, the server often gets confused and sticks you in the super-slow lane with repeated buffering.
   An ad blocker helps.  I pause the video immediately, then switch off annotations, manually set the resolution to SD (480), scroll down a bit to load the comments, let the suggested videos thumbnails load...  By this point the video should have a bit of buffer loaded, and should play well when I resume it.

   Uploading...  No problems so-far.  Much faster than the DSL was on its best day.

   Downloading...  No matter how fast your connection speed, you can only download as fast as the servers will  feed you the file.  Downloading from a monolithic host has been very fast.  Downloading from any sort of torrent/P2P type server tends to be horribly slow.  I suspect this is due to the satellite latency slowing down the ever-switching connections involved, bottlenecking the flow.  Still looking for a workaround.

   VoIP...  Saying "goodbye" to Windstream also meant losing our land-line phone.  With no cell service back here, we would have to rely on phone via Internet.  Due to the connection switching latency, this has known issues with Satellite.  Both Satellite providers have their own VoIP services that are supposed to be optimized for the purpose.  But we're trying the third party VoIP we already had, which costs well under half as much.
   Aside from the inevitable lag, it works well with outgoing calls.  But it doesn't ring-through for incoming.  Those go to voicemail/email.  Need to check with VoIPly to see if they have a fix on their end.

   Data...  I was in for a surprise when we started.  I knew we were being frugal, but the needle on our 'fuel gauge' not only didn't go down quickly, it seemed to be going back up now and then!
   Turns out this wasn't a delusion.  Although they don't promise/advertise it, HughesNet seems to give new users a 20 day breaking-in period during which data consumption doesn't count.  Now that this is over, I see that the plan data is being consumed at a rate that will probably have us run out of data before the end of the month this time around.  Then we'll see how much of a handicap the throttled speed is, and whether the throttle is lifted during the bonus hours.



Low-Nonsense Doomsteading: On Guns...

  When it comes to guns, the LATOC, prepper, and survivalist folks run quite the gamut.  From hippies who think the oncoming discontinuity will finally give Mankind the chance to discard evil weaponry and live together in harmony (good luck with that), to Rambo wannabes who are obsessed with having enough military-style firepower to hold-off the Zombie Masses, all the way back around to Apocalypse Absolutists who argue that pointed sticks and fists are the way to go because guns will become useless when the ammo dries-up...

   In practical terms, guns are useful, sometimes essential tools for the doomsteader.  Calling 911 is already an iffy proposition out in the country, and will become more so as the collapse continues.   We're even less likely to be able to rely on Animal Control to deal with feral dogs, coyotes, and other menaces to the livestock.  Hunting has usually been a way to augment rural diets.  And farm animals sometimes need to be dispatched.  (If you think Old Yeller was sad, imagine if Travis had to use a fence post instead of a rifle!)

   Even if it were a good idea, you can't un-invent technology.  Guns are going to be around whether you're a fan of shootin' irons or not.  So you'd best familiarize yourself with them.

Gun Tech...

   Guns are really pretty simple technology.  If it were somehow possible for the Authorities to eliminate enough of the hundreds of millions of guns that are already out there in America to create a shortage, making more would be no great difficulty.  Never mind the new 3D printable firearms.  Anyone with a little skill and access to a typical garage can whip-up zip-guns and slam-fire shotguns easily.  A hobbyist with a decent backyard machine shop can produce fully-functional, modern firearms.  In fact, it is far easier to fabricate a modern submachine gun than a common revolver.  So attempts to disarm the public could actually result in weapons upgrades.

Training Hype...

  "Get training!" the parrots love to squawk when you talk about guns.  And it certainly is important that anyone handling firearms know how to do so safely and with a reasonable degree of skill.  But the obsession with formal, standardized instruction and certification plays into the hands of hoplophobes.  Modern guns are designed to be simple and easy to carry and use safely.  Stick to a few rules (covered in another chapter) and you won't shoot anyone you don't mean to.  A modest amount of practice, and you'll be able to competently shoot someone or something when you need to.  It just isn't rocket science.

   There are also a lot of folks out there selling tactical / combat / advanced defense shooting courses.  If it looks like something you'd enjoy, go for it.  But don't take it too seriously.  More than a few of the wannabe gunfighting experts are working to prove Barnum's theory about suckers being born every minute.  Even those with legit combat or police cred have training and experience in something that has rather little bearing on anything we're likely to face defending our doomsteads.

Guns Do Not Imbue Superpowers...

Biggest gun doesn't always win!

   After a much-publicized incident where one jihadi reportedly gunned-down dozens of people in a nightclub, some noted that one patron with a handgun might have cut short the rampage and saved many lives.  I was struck by how many people thought this was ridiculous because there's no way someone with a pistol could stop a maniac wielding an "assault weapon".

   Picking up a gun... Even a scary, black, modern-looking rifle, does not make a person invulnerable to a humble .38 Special bullet from a cheap revolver.  Or a tire-iron to the the back of the head for that matter.  Remember that a gun isn't a magical trump card, whether it's in your hands or someone else's.

Gun Jocks, Range Snobs...

   Guns are like a lot of other things in that you can go cheap and get junk, spend a bit more and get decent quality, or spend a king's ransom to get something just a little bit better.  Most people find the price-to-quality balance that suits them, and the brand / design type they find most appealing, and are comfortable with their choice.  They also respect that others have their own priorities and will choose differently.

   Then there are jackasses who hang around firing ranges and Internet forums and seem to think that anyone who buys less than the Super-Elite Deluxe Custom Special Platinum model firearm is pathetic trailer trash.   Sometimes it's a Fudd who believes his engraved and inlaid over-under fowling piece is morally superior to your economy model pump shotgun.  Other times it's a wannabe Operator who belittles any rifle not chambered in the latest super-cartridge and fitted with optics that cost more than a nice used car.  Frequently it's someone with an irrational fixation on their favorite brand.  (Looking at you, Glocktards.)

   Also acting as the rain on everyone else's parade are the know-it-all types who have to rag on anyone who doesn't (yet) shoot quite as well as they do.  Or uses a different grip or stance, even if they DO shoot better!

   Basically, try to ignore these jerks.  If you need to shoot a deer to feed your family, an old thutty-thutty with factory irons will get it done just fine.  If you have to stop a punk who just kicked-in your front door, it's not going to matter if you can shoot 100% in the ten-ring, or if you teacup your grip.  And the bullet holes will be the same whether you use a Kimber or a Hi-Point.  If today turns out to be the day you have to defend yourself, a Taurus revolver in the hand is worth much more than a Colt Python you're saving-up for.

Safety Sally...

   You can't emphasize safety too much, right?  ...WRONG!  Harping on something incessantly doesn't get your point across.  It gets you tuned-out and ignored.  And, after a point, it becomes lame "virtue signalling".

   Yes, it is essential to employ safe gun handling habits and procedures.  But check out Internet videos and you'll see it taken to weird levels.  Some gun reviewers verify their guns are unloaded so many times I think they are going to wear the things out with all that compulsive slide-racking.  What?  Do you think it magically reloaded in the two seconds since you last checked it?

   Then come the comments.  "You swept somebody/something!" "Can't you see that traffic downrange?!" "You don't have a good enough backstop!"

   Of course everyone muzzle-sweeps themselves and other people sometimes.  It is impossible not to.  That traffic downrange is miles beyond the range of the shotguns we're shooting.  (You can't judge distance on a video screen.)  We know what is beyond that treeline or hill rise you think we're counting on as a backstop.

   So chill-out.  You can practice and encourage safe firearms handling without being an obnoxious nag.

Shot Placement Is Everything...

   When discussions turn to choice of caliber, someone is bound to spout the old chestnut about shot placement.  And it is true that a hit with a BB gun will do more damage than a miss with a 12 gauge slug.  But, given the same shot placement, caliber can make a huge difference.  When you're a split second from dying if you don't shoot the other guy first, you will not be a perfect marksman, no matter how much time you've put in on the range.  Caliber can be the difference between a bullet that slows down in clothes and surface flesh before stopping against a rib, and a bullet that crashes through that rib and the vital organs beyond.

   Yes, the humble .22 rimfire has an impressive record of lethality.  But having a maniac die of internal bleeding or peritonitis hours or days after you shoot him won't do you much good.  You need something that is going to end the threat immediately.

   Choose the most potent caliber you can shoot well and reasonably carry.

- - -



Low-Nonsense Doomsteading: Communication.


   Science Fiction of yesterday sure overestimated us in most regards.  Here we are, well into the 21st Century.  No condos on the Moon.  No robot butlers.  No practical jet-packs.

   But SciFi seriously underestimated the development of computer and communication technology.  Almost everyone these days is walking around with a device in their pocket that can outperform Mr. Spock's communicator and tricorder combined.  We've got broadband Internet, WiFi, cellular networks, hundreds of television channels via cable or satellite, etc.  People can communicate instantaneously with voice, text, images, and video to and from nearly everywhere.

   This incredible, multi-layered grid of communications technology doesn't just happen though.  Like most of the Cornucopian world, it requires a constant flow of resources and perpetual skilled maintenance.  It is almost inevitable that these requirements will eventually fail to be met, and modern communications will collapse.

   Those of us who remember living with telephone party lines and three channels of snowy over-the-air analog standard definition TV may not be quite as devastated at losing hundred megabit per second digital communication as the Millennials will be.  But we'll all need some alternatives as the Information Age breaks down.

HAM Radio.

   Amateur Radio covers a lot of ground.  It is relatively high-powered, long-range, two-way radio using many signal formats and bands, including shortwave, which can 'skip' very long distances.  Entry-level equipment starts at a few hundred dollars, but you can quickly get into thousands as an enthusiast.

   In most countries, including the US, HAM Radio is regulated by law, and a license is required to broadcast.  The fact that Little Tin God bureaucrats think they own the electromagnetic spectrum, and that usually proud, nonconformist Preppers are oddly supportive of this notion has long baffled me.

   HAM is one of those things that people get into mainly because they enjoy it as a hobby, then use prepping as a justification.  In practical terms, it is obsolete in today's era of layered global communications.  Ordinary events, like storms or earthquakes, may disable modern communications for a brief time on a local or regional basis.  But it would take a continental or global catastrophe to cause the final breakdown of modern communication networks.  When this happens, long-distance communications will become all but irrelevant anyway.    (A post-apocalyptic world is a localized world!)

   There may be a period in the later stages of collapse, as current networks fail, but before we're all fully hunkered into place, when HAM Radio will prove invaluable.  But I expect that, by the time the Internet and telecom services go bye-bye, sending out long-range messages may not be the wisest of things for a doomsteader to be up to.

CB Radio.

   Citizen's Band Radio in America is a two-way, shortwave, usually AM, analog voice communication system.  Stock CB radios are low-powered (four watts) and short-range (around ten miles).  They come in automotive mount, home base station, and handheld form, and can still be purchased new for under $100.

   CB was enormously popular for a time in the 1970s.  So much so, that, even when the number of channels was increased from twenty-three to forty in the later in the decade, you still had trouble getting a word in edgewise on any of them.  It didn't help that the AM analog signals were subject to static, fading, and bleed-over.  Plus, the potential for shortwave skip meant that users might be competing for a channel with signals coming-in from far outside normal range.  It was a glorious mess, but the only means the Average Joe had for mobile communication.

   Today, CB is effectively obsolete.  We've got cellphones for mobile communication.  Internet forums for the semi-anonymous socializing that CB once provided.  Truckers still use CB, and, without the zillions of voices trying to use it all at the same time, it is easier to hail and talk with people these days than it was in the disco era.

   CB originally required a license, but at the peak of the craze, the FCC gave up on any serious regulation and enforcement.  Enthusiasts routinely (and technically illegally) boost their CB radio transmitting power dramatically, using CB as a sort of redneck HAM Radio capable of interstate communication.  You can receive these souped-up signals with a stock radio, but you won't have the broadcasting power to reply.

   Providence only knows how many million CB radios are laying around in attics, basements, and garages across America.  They are pretty easy to set-up and use.  As communications infrastructure crumbles, I'd be surprised if a great many of them weren't fished-out and put back into use.  Handy for maintaining contact with your neighbors, and perhaps making first contact with strangers from a safe distance.

   1970s era kids' walkie-talkies usually operated on CB channel 14.  Their pathetic broadcast power makes them nearly useless for practical two-way communication.  (You can holler farther than they can transmit.)  But they can receive strong signals at long range.


   The General Mobile Radio Service is a whole 'nother kettle of fish with pro-grade handhelds, vehicular mobiles,  base stations, repeater networks, etc.  Licenses are required to use it in the US, and many regulations apply.

   But we're not interested in all that here.  (SEE DISCLAIMER AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS BOOK.) Inexpensive bubble-pack GMRS walkie-talkies have long been available in America, and hardly anyone bothers with licensing.  There are new regulations on the manufacture and sale of these, but millions are already out there.

   GMRS operates with frequency modulation (FM) on UHF bandwidth.  This tends to provide clearer voice communications with less static interference than old CB, with no need for long antennas.  The drawback is that GMRS signals don't bounce and skip like CB, so radio-opaque obstacles like hills and buildings can block transmission more easily.  Modern electronics allow pocket-sized, short antenna GMRS walkie-talkies to exceed the transmission power of stock CB radios, giving them five to ten miles of range.  (Never mind the advertised ranges.  Those are only going to happen with zero obstructions.)

   The Family Radio Service is basically GMRS Junior.  It requires no license, but has fewer channels, and operates at lower wattage and range.  The modern equivalent of the Channel 14 CB walkie-talkies from the '70s.   Primarily used by kids.

   The popular bubble-pack radios were usually GMRS/FRS hybrids.  This gave them twenty-two channels.  1-7 were shared by GMRS and FRS.  8-14 were FRS only.  15-22 were GMRS only.  Because 8-14 were strictly FRS, it was illegal to transmit at over half a watt on them (regardless of GMRS license), and most radios automatically switch to low power on those channels.  So using 8-14 could be handy if you don't want anyone picking up your signals beyond about one mile...  Channels 1-7 and 15-22 would broadcast at the full five watts unless you intentionally set them to low power.

   At this writing, GMRS/FRS hybrids are still available new, but rule changes are supposed to end sales in late 2019.  After that, new FRS radios will be allowed to transmit at up to two watts on channels 1-7 and 15-22.  8-14 remain limited to half-watt.

   GMRS gets eight new channels.  Supposed to be used for high-power repeaters.  Not much change in the radios, except they'll probably be explicitly labeled for licensed use only.  (And no one will care.)

Antenna Television.

   Those of us with a touch of gray remember the days before cable and/or satellite TV was considered the norm.  When most people got their TV programming through a simple antenna.

   Some folks don't seem to realize that over-the-air antenna television broadcasting never ceased in America.  In fact, it got substantially better, with taller transmission towers, and more independent channels, which later formed the foundation for new networks.  Then came the digital transition, which added an array of digital subchannel programming to the mix.

   All you need to get free programming over-the-air is a TV manufactured since roughly 2005 (or an older TV with a digital converter set-top box) and an antenna.  Contrary to advertising hype, it doesn't have to be a special "HD" or digital antenna.  The modern ATSC digital signals are broadcast on the same UHF / VHF radio bandwidth that American television has always used.  Plain old rabbit ears with UHF loop, or a rooftop antenna like Granny used, will work fine.

   We use a home made antenna mounted on a mast.  We're out in the boonies, but on a hilltop, and get forty to fifty channels in decent weather.

   We haven't had to pay for TV in over a decade.  Frees up money for beans, bullets, bandages, etc.

   Since our signals come directly from the various stations' transmission towers, rather than from a central up-link like a satellite provider, antenna TV is a bit more bomb-proof.

AM/FM/Shortwave/NOAA Radio.

   Listen-only radio became a revolutionary thing about a century ago, and it's still highly useful today.  The Clear Station blowtorch AM stations that blast news, weather, and more across large swaths of the American continent (especially at night) will probably be the last vestiges of modern communication technology to go silent, and they require the simplest of equipment to tune-in.

Crank Radios:

   There are a ton of off-grid "emergency" radios on the market now, powered by crank handles and solar panels.  Most of them use a hand crank to turn a dynamo that charges a battery which powers the radio.  Problem is that the rechargeable battery is the weakest link in this set-up, and may go bad from either frequent use, or extended storage!

   There have been clockwork radios in which the crank winds a spring which turns the dynamo to power the radio directly with no battery involved.  The BayGen Freeplay was to best-known of these, and their spring-driven radios are still available on eBay.  But the company has gone to the cheaper, battery-powered design with their new models.  So shop carefully.

Crystal Radios:

   There is a way to get AM radio without any power source at all.  The simplest form of radio receiver there is still works, and can be assembled from widely available components.  In fact, people have put them together without any proper electronic parts at all.  (Known as "foxhole radios".)

   Crystal radios do require a fairly strong signal, a large antenna, and a ground, making them immobile while in use.  They also produce only low-volume audio, best listened to with an earbud.

   If you really want to have the ultimate in primitive wireless two-way wireless communications, you can learn Morse Code and pair your crystal radios with equally simple to fabricate spark-gap transmitters.

Wired Telephony.

   A simple way to maintain communication between people in fixed positions not too many miles apart is to run a simple telephone line.  (Or re-purpose existing land lines that have become defunct.)  Telephone communications are reliable, resistant to interference, require relatively little power, are difficult to intercept, and even more difficult to intercept without being detected.

   The military has been using self-powered Field Telephones since the late 19th Century, and used military models are widely available at a reasonable price online.  Ordinary land line phones can be modified (mostly involves adding a battery) pretty easily.


   Coping with collapse and disasters can take a bit of jury-rigging.

   Hurricane Hugo caught us without a decent battery radio, so I dug out an old car stereo, speakers, rigged a wire antenna, mounted the whole thing to a plastic milk crate, and powered it with lantern batteries wired in series.

   With just a little understanding of basic electrical circuitry, it should be possible to cobble together functional, if primitive, communication networks from materials and parts available.

Note: Include schematics of crystal radio, spark gap transmitter, simple phone.  PD HAM materials.


Low-Nonsense Doomsteading: Heating.


   Not freezing to death ranks pretty high on the "to do" list when it comes to survival.  It's also pretty beneficial to be able to have water pipes and liquid stores that don't burst when Old Man Winter asserts himself.  Of course, this is a greater problem for the poor souls not fortunate enough to live in Dixie, but even here in the Uwharrie hills, we're not fully immune to the Snow Miser's wrath.

  Here on the doomstead, we have several ways to keep the chill out of the house...

Passive Solar.

   Sounds fancy, but it's really old school for the most part.  The house is surrounded with deciduous trees (primarily big fruit trees for dual purpose) which provide shade in the Summer, but shed off and let the Sun warm the place up in the Winter.  May make it look like the Addams Family or Munsters live here by Hallowe'en, but on a bright day it'll be comfortable inside even when it's a deep freeze outside.  Decent insulation, storm windows, and heavy curtains to hold the warmth in gives us a good head start on the cold nights.

Wood Stove.

   Unfortunately, ol' Sol can be a stranger in the Winter, and the nights do get long.  So we need another way to heat up the cabin.  And it's hard to beat good old fire for the job.  If your place was built with a fireplace, you're ahead of the game.  But, if not, there's still a practical alternative.

   A wood stove is basically a cast iron box that allows you to build a fire indoors without burning the house down or choking on smoke.  (Hopefully!)

   There are modern wood stoves which are airtight, super-efficient, thermostat-regulated, with built-in blowers, soapstone segments to enhance heat radiation, water coils, etc.  If you are in a position to buy one of these and have it professionally installed, by all means do so.  But, if you can't budget five figures right now, 18th Century tech can still get the job done a lot cheaper.


   I was recently a little surprised to learn that you can still buy a plain old cast iron wood stove brand new from major retailers today.  I figured the lawyers and regulators would have put a stop to that by now.  Must be an oversight on their part.  As of this writing, these cost a few hundred dollars.

   We bought ours for $30 at the antique junkyard.  A rusty mess, but all the pieces were there and intact.  Cleaned it up with an electric wire brush, put it together, built a fire in it out in the barnyard to heat it up enough to paint-on and smoke-off linseed oil to re-season the surface.

   Ours is a simple two burner stove with no oven section.  There are bigger cook stoves with multiple burners, ovens, and greater heating capacity.  There are also smaller single burner (and no burner) caboose or parlor stoves designed to take the chill off one room.  What you'll need depends on the space you need to heat and the kind of Winters your area experiences.

Stove Installation:

   Where you'll put your stove depends on which room you want the warmest, the kind of use you expect to put it to, and where it is most practical to fit it and its pipe.

   Old type wood stoves can get very hot, and radiate that intense heat upward and to all sides.  So you're going to need plenty of space between the stove and anything flammable, including most walls.  Like a few feet.  Even then, you might need to set up some reflective heat shields.  You'll want to monitor the situation closely during your first several fires to make sure that you aren't getting things around the stove too hot.

   Since heat rises, and stoves are normally on raised feet, the floor under the stove isn't likely to be cooked.  Many old cabins and country stores have had stoves burning on hardwood floors for decades without problems.  But it's safer to put thick tile (that can withstand the stove weight), brick/concrete pavers, or a fireproof pad down before putting in the stove.  This floor protection should extend well out from the stove on the sides with doors, because sparks and embers will sometimes sneak out when you open the box to tend the fire.  (I really hope I don't have to tell anyone not to install a wood stove over carpet, which has no place in a doomstead or farm house to begin with.  See the "House" chapter.)

   Then there's the exhaust...  There must be a big pipe from the stove to a point well above the peak of your house to consistently draw the smoke out.  You can do this by having the pipe run straight up through the roof, which provides the most effective draw, but allows more heat to escape with the exhaust, and requires a hole in the roof which almost always winds up leaking.

   The more common way in cabin style installation is to have an elbow pipe above the stove, a horizontal pipe out through a wall, then a T connector to a vertical smokestack pipe outside the house.  The downward-facing branch of the T pipe is capped, but can be opened for provide cleaning access.  The two bends will slightly reduce draw, but the horizontal pipe will radiate heat into the house that would have been wasted with a straight-up pipe.

   All the stove pipes will get dangerously hot in use, and cannot be positioned close to anything flammable.  Passing the stove pipe through a combustible wall or roof will require a kit that insulates the building from the hot pipe.  The vertical smokestack outside the house must be well away from the outer wall and eaves.

   If there isn't an exhaust damper built into the stove, you can easily install one in the pipe where you can reach it.  This will give you a bit more control over your burn rate.

   You'll need some sort of cap to keep the rain out of your smokestack.  A simple shanty-cap works fine, but line the openings with offset layers of chicken wire or something to keep birds from crawling down the pipe.  Those little idiots can never find their way back up, and you will seriously get a pipe full of feathered mummies over the Summer.

   We put the wood stove in our bedroom, where we can keep an eye on it.  (This does mean the bedroom door has to be kept open when a fire is going.)  There was a convenient, big window in the wall.  I removed the glass and replaced it with a double layer of corrugated steel, which is impervious to the stovepipe heat.  There is a second big window in the room, so we could afford to lose the use of one.  Running the pipe through the steel that replaced the window saved me from cutting a hole through the wall proper and made the stove installation fully reversible.

   The vertical smokestack outside the house is primarily supported by a thick steel pole driven into the ground.  This also serves to independently ground the smokestack if it is hit by lightning.   Guy wires and long stainless steel brackets help support the stack against wind.

   We've used our wood stove for primary home heating for many years.  The original galvanized pipes failed catastrophically due to rust after the first few.  We switched to black stovepipe, but they also started to rust through after a couple years.  We then upgraded to heavier stainless steel pipes.  These are harder to find, don't look very rustic, and are much more expensive.  But they've lasted twice as long as the previous pipes, and are going strong.

Fire Extinguishers:

   Every doomstead should have multiple fire extinguishers strategically placed through all the buildings.  This definitely includes placing a big one in the room with the wood stove.  A smaller, disposable aerosol can extinguisher for minor mishaps, and a simple spray bottle of water to douse the odd spark are also handy.

   Dousing the fire in the box, especially with a chemical extinguisher, will make a godawful mess and fill the house with smoke.  Don't ever do it unless you absolutely have to.


   One advantage of old-fashioned, simple wood stoves is that they can burn just about anything flammable in a pinch.  But, to avoid toxic fumes and troublesome leftovers in the fire box, you'd best stick with wood.

   Of course, the availability of wood is a factor you should consider before installing a wood stove.  Our doomstead has enough wooded acreage to allow us to cut all the firewood we need from deadfall.  If you have to truck-in wood from elsewhere and store it, a wood stove may benefit you less.

   Well dried, small sticks and splits start easily then burn fast and hot.  So does conifer wood, though it will create more creosote residue in your pipe.  Green (less cured) wood and bigger pieces burn cooler and slower.  Adjusting the kind of wood or mix of woods you use is a good way to regulate the heat of your stove and duration of your fire, especially with an old school stove that allows only limited regulation via venting and the damper.


   Being a tall guy, it's easier for me to lift the top plate off the stove so I can build the fire from above when starting with a cold box.  Of course, not all stoves have a lift-off top.

   As with a camp fire, you begin with easy to light, fast burning materials at the bottom.  Paper and cardboard are good.  Crumpled, individual sheets.  Air has to be able to get in-between them.  Intact magazines, stacks of junk mail, etc., won't burn well.  Then twigs, sticks, arranged in crosses for breathing.  Smaller splits midway up the stack.  Bigger pieces on top.  You need to make sure you can get a match to the paper at the bottom through a front or side door.  It might be wise to avoid putting heavier wood in until later, as there's a possibility your light materials will burn away before the logs get going, and they will be left on the bottom, forcing you to pull them out to start over.

   You really shouldn't need an accelerant, but I have been known to add a little used cooking oil.  Just make sure it doesn't run out the stove onto the floor.  Don't even think about gasoline.  Not only are you likely to wind up in a hospital burn ward, but it won't even work!  (Burns away too quickly, before the wood can even warm-up!)

   With the top plate (and all burner plates) in-place, I open the exhaust damper and the stove intake ports all the way.  Then I light the paper at the bottom through the front door.  (A butane BBQ lighter is handy for this.)  Then I let the blaze grow until I'm confident that wood, rather than just starter material, is burning.

   My old stove is usually able to pull enough air in through its various seams for a good heating fire, so I close the intake ports.  For a low-intensity, fuel-efficient fire, I close the exhaust damper until smoke starts to escape from the seams, then open it back up a bit.

   Once you've got a nice fire with a bed of glowing coals at the base, you just add splits or logs as needed.  It's best to just let the fire burn itself out when you no longer need it, so cease fueling accordingly.  You really shouldn't leave an old style wood stove unsupervised with much of a fire going in it.

   Wood stoves seem to pull all the moisture out of the air.  Even to the point of discomfort.  So we usually keep an old tea kettle full of water on top of the stove to act as a humidifier.
   Traditional stoves seem to work best with an inch or two of wood ash in bottom.  But it will build-up more than that pretty quickly.  Let the stove burn itself out and go completely cold before cleaning out the ashes.  It's a pretty simple matter.  Use a steel fireplace shovel and a steel bucket, just in case there are a few hot coals hiding in the mix.  Get the bucket of ashes outside the house and away from anything flammable.  Ash is a good insulator, and can keep an ember or two alive in the pile for days.

   Once cool, hardwood ash is alkaline and can be used much like slaked lime to counter acid in stall floors, latrine pits, and gardening soil.  It is also used to make traditional lye soap.

Kerosene Heater.

   This one is easy.  Modern indoor kerosene heaters are reasonably priced, widely available, easy to use, and quite effective.  No installation.  Portable.  The kerosene heater is our first back-up to the wood stove.  (The electric central heat furnace is the back-up's back-up.)

   Kerosene is a handy fuel in general.  It keeps a bit better than gasoline, especially if you use a stabilizer.  We use it to fuel our old tractor, as diesel fuel seems to break-down rather quickly these days.  (Biodiesel mixed-in?)  And old-style kerosene lamps can provide a lot of light for hours on very little fuel.  So keeping a few jerrycans of kerosene around is no problem.  It gets used.

   You'll want a few spare wicks.  They don't need to be replaced very often.  And a simple siphon pump to fill the heater's tank.  These are cheap, and prevent you dumping fuel all over everything trying to pour it directly from the can.

   Follow the directions that come with the heater.  Keep it away from flammables. Turn it off before refueling.  Don't feed it diesel fuel or vegetable oil...  (These might work, but could imbalance the burn and release carbon monoxide.)

   Ours has been working well for over twenty years.  Comes in handy when we just want to take the chill off one room, or when we get caught with an insufficient supply of dry wood when Winter suddenly decides to assert itself.


Low-Nonsense Doomsteading: Dairy. (Part I.)


“The cow is the foster mother of the human race.
 From the time of the ancient Hindoo to this time have the thoughts of men turned
 to this kindly and beneficent creature as one of the chief sustaining forces of the human race”

 – W.D. Hoard

   One essential feature of the classic, self-sufficient homestead that may go unnoticed in the background is the milk cow.  But ol' Bossy is always there, and she is a huge asset.

   Grass is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to convert solar energy into nutrition...  But human guts can't digest the stuff very well.  A cow can.  And she'll convert it into milk, a near-perfect food source for most living things!  (Don't buy into that 'humans can't digest cow milk' hooey.  That processed whitewater from the supermarket doesn't come with the essential enzymes for proper digestion like raw milk does!)

   The dairy cow is a fount of sustenance for the whole farm.  Milk, cream, butter, and cheese for her masters.  Clabber for the chickens.  Whey for the pigs or tomatoes...  And let's not forget the by-product in the form of hundreds of pounds of beef.

   The downside is that even a one cow dairy program is a huge commitment and a lot of work.  She's called a "family cow" because you really need a family to divide the chores, as well as to consume all the milk.  One person handling the whole dairy operation is overwhelming, especially when the cow is fresh.

Getting (or Raising) a Cow...

   Theoretically, any cow of reproductive age can be milked.  But countless generations of selective breeding have produced dairy cows so different from beef breeds that they could pass for separate species.  In addition to higher milk production, dairy cows are selected for quieter, more manageable dispositions.

   Everybody gets too clever by half these days with fancy breeds.  You really need look no farther than the traditional family cows, like the Jersey and Guernsey.  The most commonly seen commercial dairy cow in America these days is the Holstein.  An old joke claims that the government wouldn't allow dairymen to water-down their milk, so they bred Holstein cows to do it for them.  (Holsteins are bigger than other dairy breeds, and produce more gallons of milk, but with a lower concentration of milkfat and protein.)

   'Miniature' cows have become trendy, but keep in-mind the inbreeding that was used to scale cattle down.  If a Jersey cow is too intimidating, you might want to consider goats.  (More on those later.)

   You may be able to find a dairy cull for a good price.  Commercial dairy operations dispose of cows when they no longer meet a set output relative to upkeep standard.  Many of these cows are fairly young, and could produce more than enough for doomstead needs for years to come.  But industrial scale milk production is hard animals, and does not impart the kind of human-oriented social imprinting that is desirable for a family cow.  Look well about these for chronic mastitis, poor disposition.

   If buying a 'new' cow, a good argument can be made for starting with a heifer already confirmed well along in her first pregnancy.  That way you know she's fertile, and you don't have to wait too long to start getting a return on your investment.  But these can run you a pretty penny.

   We started with an early weaned Jersey/Guernsey heifer calf because we wanted to make sure our cow had a good upbringing and was completely imprinted on us.  We were acquainted with some folks through LATOC who had a small homestead dairy operation further up in the mountains, and knew they'd handled their calves extensively from birth.

   Starting with a calf means you're going to have to invest a lot of time and effort and upkeep into the critter before you get the first cup of milk in return.  But a family cow really needs to be part of the family, completely comfortable and trusting of her people.  This isn't just for sentimental reasons.  Commercial dairies have lots of concrete and steel facilities, with sorting chutes, head gates, tilt tables.  They can use injections to get cows to let-down.  And they only expect two or three milking seasons from a cow before she becomes Big Macs...  You probably won't have anything like that.  So you'll need a cow who wants to cooperate with you.  Will let you catch her out of the pasture and lead her in.  Tie her to a post and milk her without restraints.  Will let down with just a little warm-up and sweet talk.  Even stand for artificial insemination procedures without trouble.

   Basically, we raised our little Maudie as if she were a foal.  Grooming, bathing, leading, tying, hoof handling.  She also learned to tether, which is something horses should not do...  Cows are naturally better at being tied with long (like 50') sturdy ropes to solid anchors like fence post bases.  Their leather hides are less likely to get rope burned, and they tend not to panic when they get tangled.  Tethering is a very handy way to let your cow consume grass in areas not fenced for grazing.

   One decision you may have to make when raising your own milk cow is whether to let her keep her horns.  Most dairy breeds do have the genetics for horn growth, although some lines and crosses may be polled (hornless).  Horns can easily be eliminated early in a cows life, prior to the horn buds attach to the skull.  Before around eight weeks of age, they can be cut, burned, or chemically eliminated (with a mild acid somewhat like the Compound W used for warts in humans).  The paste is nearly painless.  Other methods hurt a bit, and should be done with some sort of topical numbing agent and possible sedation.  Get a vet or experienced cattleman to help you the first time.

   Letting the cow keep her horns gives her some defense against coyotes, dogs, and other threats.  They also give you a convenient handle to take hold of her head.  The intimidation factor of just having horns may discourage city folk from messing with your milker...  Heck, half of them seem to think only bulls have horns!

   No decent family milk cow would ever think of goring her own people, but accidents do happen.  And mischievous cows will definitely use their horns as tools to disassemble fences, stalls, and other things.  So it's a judgement call.  We let Maudie keep her horns.  But she's the only one.


   When we brought Maudie home, we gave her a stall in the horse stables.  This worked just fine while she was a little heifer.  But, as she got bigger, then had to share with her calf, it became a real mess.  Cow manure is near-liquid, and a pregnant or lactating cow will make barrels of urine.  Cows are deceptively heavy, with relatively small, cloven hooves that will grind filth into a pit gravel floor.  And bovines have ZERO sense of hygiene! They will turn a stall floor into belly-deep septic muck over time, despite your efforts to clean it regularly.

   Her current accommodations are an anchored-down steel tube corral panel enclosure on a reinforced concrete floor with heavy rubber mats and (of all things) an old boat secured keel-up to provide a partial roof.  (Remember, we're in Dixie, where a cow only needs a roof for shade and sometimes freezing rain.)  This is situated in her primary turnout paddock so that, when she has a new calf, she can go out to graze while he's safe inside.  She can come back and feed him through the panel when she sees fit.  (They figure that out pretty quick.)

   We also started out milking Maudie in her stall.  This was a BAD IDEA that got worse as the stall grew ever more foul.  Then I built a Milking Parlor...  Just an 8' x 12' extension on the barn with a gravel floor, rubber mats where the cow stands, a feeder, a low table for equipment, lights, a fan, and power outlets.  This little, dedicated workspace made milking so much faster and easier that I can't believe we ever did it any other way.


   To make milk, a cow has to first produce a calf...

   Heifers usually come into heat for the first time sometime between six and nine months of age.  Then they cycle about every three weeks unless they are pregnant...  This is going to test your patience a bit, as you shouldn't have a heifer bred until she's past fifteen months old.  So you'll have to put up with several rounds of her relentless bellowing, crazy eyes, and jumping on everyone and everything.  The saving grace is that cows are usually in full heat less than two days.

   When she's fifteen months or so, you can get your cow bred either the old fashioned way, putting her out with a bull, or employ the more modern approach of artificial insemination (AI).  The former may be handy if you have a good neighbor with an appropriate bull he'll share.  Keeping your own bull to freshen just one or two milkers is beyond impractical.

   AI means coordinating with your vet or a reproduction tech, who will show-up with a tank of frozen bull semen, packaged in one dose straws.  A dose will be selected, carefully thawed, and inserted into the heifer's uterus.  Well-handled cows in full heat are usually pretty tolerant of the whole process, requiring little restraint and no sedation.  But the person going shoulder-deep into the cow gets to make that call!

   Bulls inclined to produce small-headed, low-birthweight calves are desirable for a heifer's first pregnancy for easy delivery.  Angus bulls are a popular choice, as their calves are easily born and grow rapidly into good beef producers.

   Breeding to a dairy bull gives you a chance for a relatively valuable full-dairy heifer.  But, if you get a full-dairy bull calf, he'll produce less beef than an Angus cross.  You can use sexed semen to assure a heifer calf, but availability can be a problem, cost is higher, and potency tends to be far lower than whole semen.

   Bovine gestation is usually around 283 days, a bit over 9 months.  Dairy cows tend to go a little shorter.  Cattle are pretty low-maintenance in pregnancy.  Just keep her well-fed (more on that later), with access to clean water, and the usual shade, shelter.

   Calving is normally a pretty quick affair.  Most cattle come into this world with no assistance.  If you happen to be present when the calf comes, you can reduce some of the stress on cow and calf once the front feet and nose show.  (They should be oriented hooves-down, as though the calf was jumping out and intends to land on his feet... They may also be covered in the birth sack.)   Take a firm hold on the legs, just above the feet, wait for the cow to push, and pull out and slightly downward.  Don't yank.

   If the calf appears in an incorrect orientation, or birth takes more than 45 minutes after the water breaks, get a vet or experienced cattleman's help ASAP.  Don't panic.  Cows are pretty tough.

   A newly born calf usually appears lifeless.  Make sure its mouth and nose are clear, rub on the critter a minute, and it should soon awaken...  Then you have a decision to implement...

Point of Divergence.....

   You've now got a cow with (hopefully) full udders and a newborn calf.  You can let Mamma keep her calf, or you can split them up ASAP.

   Commercial dairies usually do the latter.  Some homesteaders do as well.  Taking the calf to another stall or hutch to be bottle-fed.  The primary advantage to this is preventing the cow from becoming calf-bound.  Although a dairy cow will produce far more milk than her calf needs, some will instinctively hold-up milk for the calf, shorting her people.  She may even dry-off when the calf is weaned, ending the milking season months ahead of schedule.  This maddening problem may be avoided if the cow never bonds with her offspring, but learns to rely on the milker for udder relief.

   Family milk cows are often allowed to keep their calves.  This has the advantage of saving the humans a lot of work.  Instead of having to milk the fresh cow three or four times a day, and bottle feeding part of the milk to the calf, we just let the calf self-serve, and milk the cow twice a day.  The dairyman typically gets a little less milk this way, but there's still usually more than enough for a family.






SJWs Ruin Time Itself!!!

   Yes, the way I look and live, you might suspect I was created when someone ran Hoss Cartwright and Grizzly Adams through the Brundlefly Machine.  But, under this 19th Century throwback hide beats the heart of an old nerd...

   I became a Whovian about 40 years ago when, in the wake of the Star Wars phenomenon, American PBS started running the UK's best-known sci-fi show, Doctor Who.  Low-budget, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes goofy, and I watched hell out of it until it was cancelled in 1989 and faded from US rebroadcast in the '90s.  Rode-out the bad '96 failed attempt at a restart via TV movie special.  And was right with them when the proper (and ultimately very successful) relaunch came in '05.

   If you're remotely interested in this show, you'll know that the central character is a human-looking alien known as "The Doctor" who periodically 'regenerates' into a new person.  (Explaining recasting the actor.)   There have been twelve starring Doctors since the show started in 1963.  (Plus a few other incarnations, but that's far too timey-wimey to get into here.)

   Now the BBC has given into SJW pressure, and/or pulled a stupid ratings stunt, by naming a woman to play the next incarnation of the Doctor.

   I've got far more important things to be writing these days.  But, after four decades of fandom, I'm going to allow myself the indulgence of a rant explaining why this is industrial grade asshattery.

   As a nerd, I'll start with the nerdiest pet peeve: Continuity.  Seems like everyone disparages the concept these days, but what's the point of SERIES fiction without it?

   From 1963 to 2010, I'm not aware of any in-universe suggestion that transgender regeneration was even a possibility.  (Spin-off media doesn't count. Only madness that way lies.)  The Doctor had regenerated ten known times, all male.  Others of the Doctor's species regenerated, or were seen to have done so, always retaining the same gender.  The first hint we get that transgender regeneration could happen is when the freshly regenerated 11th Doctor was taking inventory of his new form and, feeling his ample head of hair, was momentarily horrified that he might be a girl!

   In a 2011 episode, the Doctor recalled an old friend called the Corsair, who was notorious for transgender regeneration...  Reinforcing that this was a very unusual occurrence.  In 2014, the Doctors arch-enemy, formerly known as The Master, appears, having regenerated into Missy.  In 2015, the military commander of the Doctor's home planet regenerated from a man into a woman.  Now, at the end of 2017, the Doctor will go transgender.  So, after half a century of same gender regeneration, we're suddenly getting three transgender regeneration in a row, with no explanation?

   Okay...  Aside from being a continuity wonk, there are a couple of story formula and structure reasons why a female Doctor is a bad idea.

   The most common structure for a Doctor Who story has a situation already in-progress when the Doctor arrives on the scene.  He then slips into events, usually with remarkably little notice from the characters already in the thick of the plot.  There's often a scene that goes something like this:

  "Hey, where'd that guy come from?"
  "I thought you knew.  He says he's a doctor.
  "Doctor who?  Nevermind. He's the only one who seems to know what's going on!"

   This doesn't work unless the Doctor is kind of nondescript.  That's why, despite being an alien, he doesn't have six eyes, plaid skin, and antenna.  He's usually taken for some sort of mid-level official or consultant.

   In 2017, we don't bat an eye at a female doctor, medical or otherwise.  But the Doctor is a TIME TRAVELER.  Every time a female Doctor lands in Earth's past, we're going to be treated to her having to convince people that she's not supposed to be barefoot in the kitchen... And a big dose of Feminism On Parade, even though that means belittling people for having outdated attitudes which are NOT outdated for their time.  (I'm pretty sure that's discouraged in the first chapter of the time travelers' handbook.)

   Another structural problem with a female Doctor is that the Doctor is a quintessentially male character...  No, he's not 20 stone of bulging muscles with a machine gun, or any such macho stereotype.  But he goes around FIXING THINGS.  That's what he does, who he is.

   Women love to curse men for that!   "Stop trying to FIX everything! Just LISTEN and BE HERE for me!" So, either you're going to have a character who is absolutely not the Doctor, or you're going to have a female character acting fundamentally male in a way just subtle enough to be off-putting.

   Network suits catch a lot of flack for stifling creativity and promoting homogeneity in programming, and there's some justification for that.  But they never get the deserved credit for buffering some of the less-viable notions from the creative types into something that has a real chance of success in the marketplace.

   I think the network suits at BBC have gone AWOL or something.  It doesn't matter if the so-called SJWs, liberals, and feminists think "It's time for a female Doctor!" It's a television show. It's function is to draw viewers, not to fulfill some lefty social agenda.

   And it's a science fiction show.  That means the core audience is nerdy guys.  If you want to keep and expand that audience with a female lead, you'd better have her fighting Daleks in an aluminum space bikini!  I don't care if you find that offensive.  It's just the way it is.  Guys aren't going to want to sit around watching a schoolmarm lecture cavemen on the finer points of political correctness very long.

If you want a female lead that gets ratings...

   Of course, Doctor Who has expanded its viewer base to include a lot more fangirls in the 21st Century.  This is because the Doctor was finally allowed romantic story lines, and Non-Threatening Boyfriend type David Tennant was cast as the lead.  Historically, young women do not turn out in droves to watch 'strong female leads'.  They'll pick up on something being 'not quite right' about a young woman subtly acting like a man even more than male viewers will.

   The lack of successful female leads in sci-fi isn't oppression or conspiracy.  It's human nature.  Exceptions that prove the rule include...

   Wonder Woman (1970s).  Gorgeous brunette running and jumping around in what was essentially a strapless one-piece swimsuit and go-go boots.

   Xena.  Hot brunette and her cute girlfriend, lots of even more scantily clad Amazons, goddesses, and tractor trailer loads of fanservice.

   Star Trek: Voyager.  Finally, a non-fanservice female lead...  But in a large ensemble cast where her essentially gender-swapped version of Picard has other characters for the male viewers to identify-with and lust-after, and to engage in romantic plots for the fangirls.

   Call me a sexist for saying that you can't build an iconic level sci-fi show around a serious female lead character, but apparently the 'feminists' cheering for this transgender regeneration agree with me!  Otherwise, why would they be so enthusiastic about riding on the coattails of a dozen male actors instead of creating a brand new, female sci-fi icon of their own?

   Maybe they think some sort of male oppression has prevented female characters from having a shot at rising to icon status, so they deserve some affirmative action to compensate?  Okay...  They could have been spotted access to the Doctor Who fictional universe.  Over a half century of backstory and world building already done for them.  And a roster of female characters ripe for development.  Missy, Susan, Vastra, River, Jenny, Clara, Romana, Bill...  But no.  Even that colossal head-start isn't good enough.  They want an already-established icon role handed to them on a silver platter.  And they think this is some sort of glorious victory?

   Actually, this is the underlying spiteful nature of the SJWs exposing itself.  It's not enough for them to make gains, men have to suffer a loss.  They're enjoying the destruction of a male icon much more than the elevation of a female.

   What does this mean for the future of Doctor Who?  I expect that the 2017 Christmas Special and the first several episodes of the 2018 season will garner huge viewer numbers, and the 'progressive' press will gush about how wonderful the new lady Doctor is.  Then ratings will start to slide into a plunge.  Just because the SJWs want the Doctor to be a woman doesn't mean they'll actually tune in to watch the damned show every week!  They'll quickly lose interest and move on to ruin something else.

   And, given their behavior so-far, we can expect the BBC to respond by trying to browbeat people into tuning-in.  Claiming the only reason we stopped watching was that we're misogynist scum.  Yeah. That's the way to make a show successful.  Attack your audience.

. . .


Low-Nonsense Doomsteading: Water.


   Water is just below air at the top of the list of things you need in order to postpone dying.  Virtually unlimited, uninfected supplies of fresh water are one of the unsung heroes that enabled the big lifespan increase in the Western World through the 20th Century.  So maintaining the flow is a high priority.

The Typical Farm Well Pump...

   The best source of clean water is a well drilled into a reliable aquifer.  The most common set-up for getting the water from the bottom of the well to your spigots is a grid-powered, automatic, submerged pump with pressure tank.  If you acquire rural property with an established home site, this is what will probably already be there.  If you buy raw land, this may be the simplest thing to have installed.

   The well casing is essentially a big (usually around 6" diameter) pipe that goes straight down to into the ground to below the water level.  Near the bottom of the casing, deep under water, is the actual pump.  A cylindrical thing connected to what is essentially a heavy-duty hose and some wires which run back up the casing to the surface.  The upper end of the hose connects to pipe which, in-turn, connects to a 20 to 50 gallon tank and then out to the homestead plumbing. The wires from the pump run to a pressure switch at the tank, which then connects to the household panel electricity.

   When the pressure in the tank is below a set minimum (usually 30 to 40psi), the switch will send electricity to the pump, which will force water up the hose pipe into the bottom of the tank, compressing the air in the tank into a smaller space at the top.  When the pressure reaches a set maximum (usually 50 to 60psi), the switch will stop power to the pump.  The compressed air in the top of the tank acts as a spring, maintaining fairly constant water pressure for the plumbing without the pump needing to switch on every time water is used.

   Wells under 100' may use surface pumps to pull water up, but deeper wells, and the higher flow rate needed for farms, makes the submersible pump more common in most rural areas.

Alternative Power For Standard Well Pump...

   If you've set-up a backup generator for your doomstead (as detailed in another chapter), you're already ahead of the game.  The well pump should be powered along with everything else when your generator is going.  But you may not want to run the generator 24/7.  So be sure to flush your toilets, fill your water jugs, top-up the livestock troughs, and so-forth while the generator is going.

   A freestanding solar power station is a more long-term (not to mention quieter) solution for running the well pump.  (You may want to read through the Generator chapter for some info on basic electrical stuff.)

   Contrary to what you may have seen on Captain Planet, photo-voltaic solar panels are kinda' wimpy.  The standard circuit feeding my well pump can provide 3,600 watts.  It would take thirty big solar panels to collect that much power.  At high noon. On a clear day.  So you can't just run a typical well pump system directly from solar panels.

   Fortunately, a pump doesn't draw full power constantly.  In fact, most of the time, it doesn't use any.  When it cycles on, it pulls a big surge of electricity for a second or two, then settles down to more moderate wattage until the pressure maxes out and it cycles off again.  While solar panels collect only a relative trickle of energy, they do it for hours on-end on clear days.  That can add-up to enough to supply the big gulps of power needed for the pump, if you have some way to store the accumulated energy.

   We have two 12 volt, 10 amp solar panels connected to four big marine 12v  batteries.  (These are better for extended charging/output cycles than automotive starting batteries, and better for the high-amp starting load from a well pump than pure deep cycle batteries.)  There's a 35 amp-rated charge controller between the panels and batteries, which keeps the batteries from being overcharged by effectively disconnecting the panels when the battery voltage gets above 15v, reconnecting them when it drops below 13v.  During the day, the solar panels act as a trickle charger to top-up the batteries for when the pump needs power, day or night.

   Problem is, the solar panels and batteries produce low voltage, Direct Current.  The well pump runs on 240v Alternating Current.  To rectify this, we use an inverter.  A device which inputs low voltage, high amp, DC electricity and outputs high voltage, low amp, AC electricity.  Once connected to the inverter, the pressure switch controlled well pump works exactly the same as when it's on grid power.

   Naturally, the solar panels have to be out in the open.  Usually oriented to face directly towards the sun at midday in the Spring and Autumn.  It may be worthwhile to mount them in a way that allows you to adjust them (more upright in Winter, at a shallower angle in Summer) to catch maximum sunlight.

   The batteries and charge controller need to be under cover.  The inverter is the most vulnerable component, and needs more protection from the elements.  It is also capable of producing sparks which could ignite gas vented from the batteries.  So the inverter needs to be enclosed separately from them.  We have the batteries under an old camper shell, with the inverter in a large wooden box also under the shell.  A canister of silica gel beads are kept in the box like a gun safe, to reduce moisture condensation on/in the inverter.

   Remember that low-voltage, DC electricity doesn't carry well over distance.  Keep your components reasonably close together, and wires short.  Use the heaviest wire practical for connecting the panels to the charge controller, and controller to the batteries.  Use the thickest automotive battery cables and clamps to connect the batteries to one-another and the inverter.  Our inverter takes 12vDC input, so the entire DC side of the system is wired in parallel.

   We use a modified sine wave 12vDC to 240vAC inverter which is considerably more affordable than pure sine wave inverters in the 5000 watt range, and works just as well for our purpose.  Oddly enough, it has weird sockets designed to accept a lot of different electrical plugs, including standard American 120vAC extension cords.  This could actually be a hazard if someone plugged a 120vAC device into these 240vAC-only sockets.  But, since the inverter is out by the well house, that's not likely to happen, and the use of a common plug came in handy for us.

   After switching off the pump circuit at the main panel (of course), I reworked the well house junction box so that, instead of connecting the underground electrical conduit from the house to the pressure switch, the line from the house connects to a short 'pony tail' ending in a heavy-duty standard type extension cord socket.  The line from the pressure switch connects to a section of heavy extension cord long enough to reach the inverter in its box, and ends in a standard plug.  This enables me to switch pump power from grid to solar simply by unplugging from one and plugging into the other.  There is no 'suicide cable' risk, as the pronged plug is never live when out of a socket, and no chance of backfeeding as the well can only be plugged into one power source at any given time.

Operating Notes:

   Always power-up the inverter first, then connect a load.  In fact, I've found that it's best to leave the inverter on at all times, even when your using grid power, as powering up from cold seems to really tax the electronics.

   Try to do your heavy water use in the middle of the day, so that the batteries will be charged up by the morning sun after the night's drain, and so that the afternoon sunlight can charge the batteries up before the coming night.

   You may need to open up your power system to fresh air in the heat of Summer.  The inverter will shut down if overheated.  Remember to put the lid on your silica canister when the inverter box is open.

   Still on my To Do List (yes, after two decades on the doomstead, I still have a long one!) is the addition of a small wind turbine to top-up the batteries during the dark seasons.  It should be possible to simply wire it in like another solar panel, although another charge controller may be needed.

   During the aforementioned extended periods of gloomy weather, I have run a trickle charger to keep the batteries up on occasion.  In a few pinches, I've used jumped cables from an automobile to charge the battery array.

Off-Grid From the Start...

   If you're starting from scratch, or determined to be fully self-sufficient, you may want to skip the whole grid AC and pressure tank set-up altogether.

   You can't get much more Old School than a hand pumped well.  (Well, you could lower a bucket on a rope, I suppose.)  No electricity involved.  Back down in the Lowcountry, a lot of Old Timers (including my grandfather) insisted on having a pitcher pump backup for their well.

   Of course, hand-pumping water for just household use can be a big chore.  If you need more fore livestock, irrigation, etc., a hand pump isn't going to be sufficient.

   But it's not quite rocket science to build a windmill and have it mechanically drive the pump for you.  You'll see this sort of thing filling stock tanks on big cattle farms across the country.

   If you set up a windmill-driven pump, and have it push water into a water tower, you can not only have plenty of water even when the wind is calm, but also have gravity-provided water pressure to your plumbing.  (You'll need to make sure the bottom of your water tower is a few feet higher above the ground than your highest shower head!)

   A limitation on hand and mechanically-driven wind pumps is that they can't pull up water from very deep wells.  Nothing really beats a submersible, electric pump for that.  But, using the same water tower approach as a windmill, you can forego the battery array and inverter to have solar panels and/or wind turbines power the well pump directly.

   The problem is that low voltage, DC pumps drive water up the pipe slowly and at low pressure.  So they won't work with a typical pressure tank.  But they can tickle-fill a water tower whenever the sun shines or wind blows...  If you have enough panels and/or turbines.

Artesian wells...

   Some underground water sources are naturally pressurized to the point that you don't need a pump at all.  Just drill a pipe into the aquifer and the water gushes up.  But you're very lucky if that happens, because it requires rather specific geological conditions which are not that widespread.

Other sources...

   Deep wells are your safest, most reliable source of potable water.  Surface water, such as creeks, ponds, springs, collected rain, and condensation are subject to many sources of pollution.  As infrastructure declines, the likelihood of surface water sources being contaminated will get even worse.

   Filtration, boiling, distillation, UV, and chemical purification of surface water may be useful means to get through rough spots.  But, unless you are part of a group that can do this on a fairly large scale, it won't be enough to maintain a comfortable standard of living long-term.


   In the Doomstead Layout chapter, I mentioned that you want the well house near the middle of your barnyard to minimize hose drag.  Even so, you're probably looking at 100' or more hose to reach all the stalls and paddocks.  Don't cheap-out and try to use ordinary, vinyl-shell garden hose.  Not only will it fail often (I mean every few weeks), but it also doesn't patch well due to its layered construction.  Get the heavy, solid rubber hose.  It's more than worth it.

   For the 'way down yonder' troughs and garden sprinklers, it may be a good idea to just leave a section of hose running back from them to within range of your regular hose, so you can just connect to run water out there without having to drag the full length every time.

   Rather than a spray head or other restrictive valve on the hose (which slows down bucket filling), I prefer about a 6' section salvaged from an old hose with replacement fittings on both ends.  Having this on the end of the main hose allows me to crimp the water off a few feet from the outlet as I thread the hose through a stall wall or paddock fence to water the stock, or to allow easy connection to one of the aforementioned extension lines.  The frequent crimping will wear the hose, but just the easily replaceable 6' piece.

   Weird thing about the solid rubber hose is that it will conduct high voltage electricity.  So you (or your critters) can get zapped running it over an electric fence.  Wrapping about 18" with electric tape just where you need to lay it across the fence will fix this.


   Solar panels can last decades.  Batteries can go several years, and can be rejuvenated if replacements aren't available.  Charge controllers seem fairly tough, and you can get by without them in a pinch if you figure out how to balance panels/turbines, batteries, and power usage.  Inverters are the weak link in standard well pump to alt energy conversion.

   Modern, electronic inverters are simple to use, provide very stable output, and are very efficient.  But moisture, heat, overloads, and various other things can mess them up.  And they aren't easily reparable.  So it's worth investing in a backup or three for the long term.

   It's also probably a good idea to look into old-fashioned mechanical inverters, dynamotors, and the like.  These are basically some form of DC motor driving an AC generator or alternating switching system into a transformer coil.  Nowhere near as efficient or self-monitoring as modern electronic inverters, but they can give you AC from DC sources, and can be repaired or even built from scratch by a handyman.


- - -


Low-Nonsense Doomsteading: Horses. (Part I.)


   This may seem strange, coming from the LATOC's Old Horseman, but horses may not figure into many preppers' plans.

   Our grandfathers switched from horses and mules to trucks and tractors for good reason.  Horses require considerable knowledge and skill not only to work well, but just to keep sound and healthy.  Unlike infernal combustion machines, which can be put into the garage and ignored, equines have to be fed and cared for three-hundred and sixty-five days per year, whether you're using them or not.  They need pastures and paddocks with well-maintained fences.  Properly constructed stables.  Hay, feed, hoofcare.  Etc., etc., etc...

   Fuel, replacement parts, and other things needed to keep tractors and automobiles going may someday become inaccessible, making horses the best solution for rural transportation and farm traction again.  But, if all you really need is a light motorcycle for errands, and a rototiller for the kitchen garden, you might be able to scrounge up a few gallons of gasoline and motor oil to keep them going for years to come, even in the face of shortages or rationing.

   On the other hand, if you need to transport people and cargo beyond what you can move with a cycle, or your doomstead operations require substantial pulling power, equines might make sense.  Riding horses are excellent for long-range reconnaissance, being quieter than motorcycles, better off-road than wheeled vehicles, and having a built-in GPS system.  (Horses are great at finding their way back to the feed trough, no matter how lost their riders get.)

   Whether you have a pressing, practical need for them or not, the opportunity to keep horses may be considered one of the benefits of doomsteading.  If you're living out in the boonies anyway, may as well take full advantage and experience the joys of horsemanship, if you are so-inclined.

   If you are one of the few 'steads in a 'neighborhood' with solid workhorses and equipment, you could find yourself in a position to provide valuable services to your community should the petroleum-fed equipment be silenced.  Hobbies sometime become lucrative occupations.

   Horses do require a substantial investment in treasure and/ or personal effort.  The more equestrian knowledge and skill you have, the less coin you'll need to spend.  Many books have been written on husbandry, training, horsemanship, and farriery.  (Some by myself.) So I'll try to keep it to an overview here...

Speaking the language...

    An intact male, adult (usually over four years old) horse is a stallion.  A juvenile male is a colt.  Stallions are sometimes called studs, especially if they are used for breeding.  Some folks, especially our cousins across the Big Pond, call a breeding farm or program a stud (shortened from stud farm or stud book).

   A castrated male horse is a gelding.  Most colts are gelded, as geldings are generally the preferred gender for riding and work horses.

   An adult female (usually over four years old) horse is a mare.  A juvenile female is a filly.  Mares are very rarely spayed, as the surgery is far more expensive and risky than gelding colts or spaying smaller animals.

   Very young horses of both genders are foals.  Pregnant mares are said to be in foal.  The birth process is called foaling.

   Horse height is usually measured in hands (four inch units) followed by remaining inches.  "15-3" means the horse is fifteen hands and three inches (63" total).  This measurement is made at the withers, the bony protrusion where the top of the neck meets the horse's back.

   A pony is a small horse.  Usually less than 14-2 hands, though breed and show organization standards vary.  A pony under 9-2 hands may be called a miniature horse.  Ponies and miniature horses are the same species as full-size horses.

   The donkey, also known as an ass or burro (especially smaller specimens), is a separate species in the same genus as the horse.  Donkeys tend to be smaller, slower, less athletic, smarter, surer of foot, more fuel-efficient, and tougher than horses.  The go-to beasts of burden in the Third World, they can be prone to some maladies due to easy living here in Cornucopia.  (Like founder from overeating.)

   A male donkey is a jack.  A female is a jenny.  Large donkeys are called "mammoth jacks" (over 14-2) and "mammoth jennies" (over 14 hands).  The largest are up to 17 hands.

   A mule is the result of a mare being bred to a jack.  Being a hybrid of two distinct species, they are almost always born sterile.  A male is a john, and is normally gelded, since he has no reproductive potential, and all the behavioral challenges of a stallion if left intact.  A female is a molly.  In extremely rare cases, mollies have been fertile, but it's a literal one-in-a-million fluke.

   A hinny is the result of a jenny being bred to a stallion.  Generally smaller and less strong than mules, and harder to successfully produce due to the genetic technicalities of having the female parent with the lower chromosome count, hinnies are somewhat rare.

Horse types....

   There are countless breeds and types of horses on the market today, each with their ardent fans.  Since the focus of this book is doomsteading, I'll be omitting horses bred for show, novelty gaits, and racing.  We're looking for animals who can get enough useful work done to justify their upkeep around a self-supporting farm.

Quarter Horse.

   The American Quarter Horse got its name for being bred for the equestrian version of drag racing; quarter-mile races from a standing start.  Their explosive acceleration and agility made the breed dominant in cutting, reining, rodeo, gymkhana, and similar competitions.  Handsome in form, calmly alert in disposition, muscular but compact in size, the Quarter Horse became the default ranch horse...  But the primary breed registry, the American Quarter Horse Association has a long history of tossing the breed standard out the window in favor of generating revenue for the organization, so there are horses of such broadly ranging types with AQHA papers now that registration is virtually meaningless.  There is little wonder that, in recent years, "quarter horse" has come to denote any generic riding horse between pony and draft size, including paints and appaloosas.

   Quarter horses are your basic American riding stock.  It's easy to find tack, equipment, and everything else to fit them.  Most are pretty durable and easy keepers.  And they can do a very wide assortment of things well in terms of riding styles and activities.

   Quarter horses can be trained to harness, and many do quite well.  But sudden acceleration and turn-on-a-dime agility are definitely not desirable between cart shafts or in a plow row, and the 'rear wheel drive' conformation of the quarter horse is not ideal for pulling.


   The old-school Morgan is like the quarter horse's even more blue-collar cousin.  Not quite as athletic, but strong, compact, rugged, and utilitarian.  Unfortunately, Saddlebreds (among the least practically useful horses for real work) have been a corrupting influence on the Morgan breed in recent decades, making the classic type Morgan harder to find.

   Traditional Morgans are the quintessential, jack-of-all-trades farmstead horses.  Being a little heavier on the forehand, they generally fall just shy of quarter horses for riding applications, but tend to be superior for harness work.  Their compact size makes them easier to manage and fit with tack than draft horses.


   Draft horses are the giants of the horse world.  Commonly a foot taller and a half-ton heavier than the typical quarter horse.  And they're even stronger than they look.  Because the draft breeds were developed with matching hitch teams in-mind, they tend to be very uniform in appearance.  (American Belgians are usually red with blonde manes, blaze faces.  Percherons are usually either black or grey with stars and minimal white leg markings.  Clydesdales and Shires usually have dark body coats with lots of white on the faces and limbs, long 'feather' hair on the legs.)

   Draft horses are bred to pull heavy stuff.  If one gigantic superhorse isn't enough to move something, they like to work in teams.  Draft horses are usually calm, even stoic. (But don't buy into the 'Gentle Giant' thing too much. They can spook like any horse.  Some know their own strength and get pushy.)  Most are fairly fuel efficient, needing no more feed than quarter horses, and only a bit more hay.  When it comes to pulling deep plows through tough ground, big combines, or freight wagons, draft horses rule.

   Draft horses can be ridden, and doing so has become quite popular lately.  But, honestly, they aren't very good for it.  They're slow, lumbering, and lack endurance.  Their height makes them difficult to mount.  Their size can be problematic all-around.  The horse world is geared for quarter horses.  Harness and tack for full-size draft horses often has to be special ordered.  They may not fit into horse trailers for transport.  They require double-doses of dewormers.  Draft shoeing is widely considered a specialty, and farriers competent to do it properly may be expensive and hard to find .

   In the Deep South, the square-cube law, which dictates that bigger horses have less skin surface per pound of body weight, hits draft horses hard.  (Darn you, Galileo!) They have considerable trouble coping with the heat and humidity of the Dixie Summer.  In my own experience, top-quality bred drafters have had a distinct inability to bounce-back from infections the gigantic Petri dish that is the southern environment can throw at them.  Perhaps due to inbreeding.  They don't seem to get sick more often than other horses, but they tend to die (despite massive veterinary intervention) when a quarter horse would have recovered.


   Once upon a time, some Belgian draft horses got so dirty that their people washed them with REALLY hot water, and they shrank somethin' fierce!

   Okay.  The Haflinger is an old and storied European breed.  But they do look rather like one-third scale Belgians.  Usually large pony to small quarter horse height, around fourteen hands.

   With their modest size, strong build, and tractable nature, Haflingers could fill a farmstead role similar to the classic Morgan.  They are about the least intimidating mounts for inexperienced riders due to their modest stature, sunny look, and friendly disposition.

   While they are strong enough to carry men, their size does make them more suitable for kids and ladies when it comes to working under saddle.


   The Standardbred was developed for harness track racing at the trot or pace.  Those that retire from or don't make it to racing careers are often picked-up by the Amish and other folks looking for good light driving horses.  They are similar in height to quarter horses, but a bit lankier.  Bred for function, they do tend to be a bit plain in form and coloring.  But that may be considered a plus from a doomsteading point of view.  They are generally less high-strung than their Thoroughbred cousins.

   When it comes to driving the buggy or buckboard into town, the Standardbred will get you there faster and easier than any other.  They are bred to trot or pace long distances, and most get basic driving training at an early age.  They are the size of an ordinary riding horse, and many serve well under saddle as well.

   Standardbreds are a bit light for heavy pulling and farm work.  (Cultivators, hay rakes, and the like should not be a problem for them.)  Under saddle, it may take some work to perfect a smooth transition to the canter, as Standardbreds are trained never to canter on the track.  Some Standardbreds are bred and trained to pace rather than trot.  This is fine for driving, but the pace is not a desirable gait under saddle.  Most can be trained out of it.

Draft Cross.

   "Draft cross" covers an awful lot of territory these days.  The ups and downs of the Premarin market have flooded America with assorted draft and part-draft mares and their offspring.  Essentially, big mares whose previous greatest value was the ability to make copious amounts of urine, and the results of them being bred to whatever stud was handy.  Not exactly a recipe for consistent quality.

   On the other hand, some breeders have crossed carefully selected light and draft horses to achieve an intermediate type, physically similar to European Warmbloods.  Our own program bred full-sized, fancy hitch type, pedigreed Belgian and Percheron mares to extremely sound and athletic American Quarter Horse stallions.

   The better draft cross horses are bigger and stronger than quarter horses, but have better speed, grace, endurance, and hot climate resiliency than full drafters.  The have the mass for fairly heavy pulling and farm work, but don't need to stop and blow too often when pulling the buggy down the road, even at a near Standardbred rate.  They fit well under a big man's saddle, yet you don't quite need a ladder to get onto them.

   While some 'rescue' part-draft horses are surprisingly good specimens, many more are about what you'd expect from such programs, or from breeding Premarin cast-off mares to Billy-Bob's backyard spotted rackin' hoss stud.  Big, intimidating horses originating from situations where training isn't a priority, 'rescued' by well-meaning but not horse-wise people, can be a menace.

   Most draft cross horses can use large or warmblood sized tack and trailers, and can be serviced by general practice farriers.  But some of the larger ones may require draft specialty equipment and services.


   Mules come in all sizes, from miniature to draft.  Their application is generally the same as the corresponding type of horse.  But they tend to be stronger for their size, surer of foot, more durable, and able to stay in good condition on less feed and hay.

   Since mules don't reproduce themselves, quality specimens of working size can be hard to find and sometimes expensive.  Mules also tend to be noticeably more intelligent than the average horse, which may not always be a good thing.   Pretty much all equines can physically overpower their human masters.  We don't need them outsmarting us as well!


   Most ponies today are the outgrown and forgotten playthings of children, who are lucky to find a place as pasture mascot or back yard pseudo-dog somewhere.  But that doesn't mean they can't be useful on a doomstead.

   Ponies tend to be proportionately stronger than horses, as well as tougher and more fuel-efficient.  Their small size makes them suitable mounts for children, less overwhelming for inexperienced handlers, and more maneuverable when working in tight spaces, like short crop rows.  Harness and carts are widely available in pony size, and the little guys can pull a considerable load.  Ponies seem to have an extended life expectancy, though this is hard to pin-down since many have been hanging-around in the background so long that nobody remembers exactly how old they are.  Reasonably healthy, young ponies are often very inexpensive, though training is usually required.

   Ponies have a reputation for bad attitude, though this may be due to being handled by ornery children, then abandoned and neglected.  Short legs don't make for speed or grace.  Size does matter, so they are limited when it comes to how much they can carry or pull.  They can be 'easy keepers' to a fault, becoming obese on just grass in some cases.  Founder is a very common problem with ponies.

------------------------------------ End Part One -------------------------------------

   This is going to be a long one, so I'll be posting it in sections.  Much more to come on doomsteeds.



Low-Nonsense Doomsteading: Outhouse.


   The medical / pharmaceutical industry always tries to take the credit, but the real boons to human life expectancy in modern times are taken-for-granted things like indoor plumbing!  Like refrigeration, it's the sort of thing we'd do well to hang onto as long as we can.

Vaccines and Wonderdrugs get all the credit, but here's your REAL hero!

   If you have conventional toilets and septic system, you're in business so long as you have water.  (If you're building your doomstead from scratch, spring for a couple levels above what required for your house size in terms of septic tank and drain field size.  Doing so may avoid the need for pumping or professional maintenance for you lifetime!)  Even if you don't have running water, you can flush with a bucket.  Pour a couple gallons into the main bowl, and it'll trigger a flush.  Or you can fill the rear tank and flush with the lever.  Lugging buckets of water in is a healthier and more elegant solution than lugging festering chamber pots out.

   But, if water is too dear in your situation to be used for waste disposal, or you're one of the 'composting toilet' / 'humanure' obsessed hippies, the good old outhouse is the next best thing to indoor plumbing.

   If Family Guy is any indication, most of America has forgotten how a traditional outhouse works.  (Hint: They aren't like modern Porta-Johns.  Tipping one over will not get 'it' everywhere, or even into your raccoon wounds.)

   Basically, an outhouse is a movable shed with a wooden floor and a bench with a hole in it.  A deep hole is dug into the ground away from the house, shallow well, etc., and the removed dirt is preserved in a pile nearby.  The shed is then moved over the hole so that what is dropped through the hole in the bench falls into the hole in the ground below.  When the hole gets close to full, a new hole is dug, the shed is moved to it, and the dirt from the pile is used to fill and mound-over the old hole.  After a year or so, the hole can be re-dug and used again, with the now thoroughly composted / decomposed black soil usable for plant fertilizer.

   The floor and bench should be tightly constructed so that fumes from the pit don't fill the shed.  A lid over the bench hole helps with this as well.  (Modern toilet seats can be used if you're highfalutin.)

   In addition to toilet paper (or a reasonable alternative), outhouses are generally stocked with a bucket of wood ash or slaked lime and a cup or ladle to dust over the pit contents after each use to reduce acidity, odor, and insect activity.

   Traditional outhouses usually had a base of heavy wood runners to withstand dragging, and an iron ring for attaching the mule's singletree to pull it.

   Somewhere along the line, a crescent moon shape cut through high on the door became the most familiar way to admit the modicum of light needed to do one's business...  Some say this was originally an ancient symbol for the ladies, with men's outhouses having a sun or star shaped cut-out instead.  Others say it's a 20th Century contrivance, probably invented by a cartoonist who'd never seen a real outhouse.  Be that as it may, the moon cut-out is the norm now.

   There is some potential for methane build-up in an outhouse that might be considered before using an ignition source like a candle or lantern in one.  But just opening the door to get in would probably air out the shed sufficiently to prevent serious problems.  Modern LED lights should be even safer.

   A stovepipe drawing vent can be added to prevent fumes from building-up under the floor.  The opening at the top of the pipe needs to be lined with fine mesh wire (like chicken wire overlapped to make the holes half-sized) to keep birds out of the pipe.  The feathered morons love to go down stove pipes, and never figure out how to get back up.

   Come to think of it, there's no reason you couldn't use PVC pipe here instead of steel stove pipe.  Either should work.