Welcome to Freedom Hold Ranch

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog.

My intent is to create a survival/preparedness resource for those who are interested in such topics. I will not limit the posts to just information, but also stories, ideas, and other like writings will be available.

Please note – Yes, I know I have type-o’s, I write quickly and edit even faster. Yes, I know my pictures suck, but they mostly are from an old blackberry phone.

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Why you need to start stocking food NOW

Part of “prepping” or just preparedness in general is that you have to be proactive about stuff, if you’re reactive to things then you’re stuck in the same situation as everyone else. To do this you have to pay attention to a lot of different things. You need to be constantly (at least once daily) seeking out different sources of information for things that are going on in the world. You need to have a “pulse” on the events of the world so you can see what’s coming before other people do. Over time, you will develop a keen instinct or feel for things and you can adjust yourself, your preps, your family, etc, for those situations. I’m writing this article because I see the potential for a dire situation in the mid-near future. Below are just a few things that collectively raise an eyebrow to me, and they should for you too.
California is in the midst of a severe drought and with summer upon us, it’s only going to get worse. For those of you who think California is full of nothing more than liberal hippies and surfers, consider that California is a major livestock and agricultural powerhouse.
“California is the top producer of agricultural products in the nation. It produces a wide array of commodities but, its single most valuable category is dairy products. In the livestock group, production of cattle and calves is also important to the state, as is, to a lesser degree, the value of California eggs. Broilers can be counted among the state’s top livestock products but, because data are not available, it’s not possible to determine where they rank among the other commodities.

Among a broad range of crop products, California’s greenhouse and nursery products rank at the top of the list. Grapes, almonds, lettuce, and strawberries round out the top five most valuable California crops.”

http://stuffaboutstates.com/california/agriculture.htm

As the State tries to deal with the lack of water, there are several communities that currently have no water at all. Zero, zilch, nothing. The State is pushing residents to cut water use by 28-32% or face increasing fines and fees. This is causing a major push against the agriculture industry. Some farmers have stopped producing crops all together because it is more profitable for them to sell their water rights to other farmers. Some farmers who do not have water rights and cannot afford to purchase water are either going out of business or simply not planting this season. The drought does not affect crops alone, this will spread to the poultry, dairy, and livestock industry as well. If you don’t think California’s agriculture and livestock industry will impact the rest of the world or the country, you’re wrong.

The Federal Government is working with 33 States to try to contain the worst Bird Flu outbreak in our nations history. The article cites 33 million as the number of birds being culled, but the last number I heard on the radio was 40 million. If this outbreak is not contained over the Summer it could likely be made exponentially worse in the fall as millions of migratory birds pass through the flyways potentially spreading the virus.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/05/15/nebraska-declares-state-emergency-in-bird-flu-outbreak/

I was reading an interesting story today about ISIS setting fire to a major Iraqi oil refinery and the potential consequences for the rest of the world if ISIS captures another major oil field. They certainly have the capability to do so. A lacking Iraqi military and an unwilling US Coalition, to me, means this situation is unavoidable. I remember in 2006(ish) when gas prices in California rose to $5 a gallon and diesel rose to $7 a gallon. Many truckers stopped hauling because they could barely break even. At $8 a gallon for diesel, they (the talking heads) estimated that no trucks would haul goods. Think about that.. NO TRUCKS would haul any goods of any kind because to do so, they would lose money with each trip. It takes time for market prices to react to this kind of disruption so a temporary cease in delivery services to grocery stores would be unavoidable. Consider still, in the State’s effort to recoup tax money lost to fuel efficiency they have increased taxes primarily on diesel fuel. Diesel is now in many cases MORE expensive than gasoline even though it is cheaper to produce!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/11638709/Opec-under-siege-as-Isil-threatens-worlds-oil-lifeline.html

Looking at these issues individually, they are all potentially very bad things. When you start to look at them collectively you start to see the bigger picture. This is what those of you reading this must be able to do. I recently read a very good book by Fernando Aguirre “FerFAL” where he gives advice from having survived the economic collapse in Argentina. One of the things he mentions is, if he could do one thing differently he would’ve had more food. “There’s no reason why you can’t have 6 months – 1 year of food in a first world nation where food is cheap.”

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AR-500 Concealed Plate Carrier/Armor Review

You may be thinking to yourself that you’re not a Cop or a Soldier so you don’t need armor. Personally, I think if you are willing to carry a gun then you should also be willing to wear armor (not necessarily on a daily basis, but you should have it for emergencies). Do you really think if you have to use a gun you will be the only one doing the shooting…? Unfortunately though, I have talked to many people who see nothing wrong with carrying a gun everyday, but when you start talking to them about buying armor you suddenly become a crazy person. To a point, I get it.. I mean, when was the last time you trained with your weapon as if you were the one who got shot? For most people, a little one handed shooting is the extent of that scenario. There’s something about our mind that does not let us imagine we are the one who gets shot first, we’re always the winner in our mind.

As someone who has worn all types of body armor for the last 14 years, I have worn some really good armor that I loved, and I have worn other armor that I hated. I picked up the AR 500 Concealed Plate Carrier because I liked the idea of having rifle protection capability in a low profile platform. I think for 99% of the people this is also the most practical form of armor. I personally don’t foresee a time where the average citizen will be wearing an outer load bearing vest, walking the streets of America looking like a Soldier. The reality is most of us may find ourselves in some type of economic collapse scenario and crime suddenly skyrockets, but even in that scenario there will still be some form of Law Enforcement (most likely).

Back to the vest… I would give the AR 500 set up 4/5 stars. Let me start off by saying it appears to be made out of quality, durable fabric. It is adjustable in the shoulder straps with velcro and with an elastic band that secures the abdomen area (common on most armor). The only option available for color when I purchased was Black. The plates slide in from the bottom and once you’re adjusted you’re ready to go. If you opt to get the side armor, the side armor slides into a pouch (almost like an M4 magazine would slide into a pouch and be secured with a flap) and then slides onto the band that secures the back carrier to the front carrier.

There are many videos available on YouTube or other sites that test the effectiveness of the armor plates themselves. From all accounts they appear to be very good plates, only about 1/4″ thick (which is thin in the armor plate world), they have a protective Paxcon coating to catch bullet fragments (important so you don’t catch shrapnel in the jaw/chin as the bullet smashes against the plate), and they even offer a level III+ plate which will stop some .308 rounds. The plates are very affordable at about $80 for the III+ plates. Remember the plates are steel, so they are surprisingly heavy even though they are relatively thin.

The things I did not like about the armor: I wish they would sell a white carrier, white blends better with undershirts and doesn’t show through thin fabric like black does. I ordered the side plates as well, but the pocket for the side plate was so bulky I had to remove the side armor from the carrier for it to be effective as a “concealment” carrier. AR 500 does make a hybrid IIIA plate, which appears to be more of a soft plate overall. I would recommend the soft hybrid plates over the hard plates. You may not get the full rifle protection like you would with the hard armor, but it’s lighter, and since it’s soft it will be more comfortable, and won’t project through your clothes on tight spots (such as across the top of your back/shoulders) like hard plates will. The carrier runs about $130, which I thought was kind of high considering it’s just a sleeve to carry plates..

For the price and quality I would recommend considering AR 500 Armor for those considering a body armor purchase. I would also recommend American Body Armor (ABA) Xtreme Body Armor. I wore their level IIIA vest for about 5 years and then shot it with two shotgun slugs, and a 357 Sig, stopped them all, even after 5 years of wear.

Finally, I do not think you should purchase armor and wear it daily when you are out and about (unless you live in a REALLY bad area I guess..) Consider armor as a specific tool for a specific time, just like you would your storage food, your first aid kit, etc. It has its time and place, but you should not write it off as an unimportant or crazy purchase.

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Check out what Derek is up to (from lightweight backpacker fame) here. Some good info on raising your own chickens. – FHR

tolivealovelylie

My room mate Adam and I decided we wanted to raise egg hens, so we got 3 Ameraucanas: Louise, Thelma II, and Thunderbird. They are healthy quickly-growing chicks, and the cardboard box we brought them home in was not enough space for them, so we set out to convert an old wood shed in our yard into a single-(chicken)-family housing unit.

One word about DIY chicken cooping, and especially about converting an existing structure: reconsider. Designing a coop from scratch would be a project by itself. Making that coop fit into a non-square, non-level woodshed is just plain difficult. Especially when the masochism doesn’t stop at site selection, but spills over into materials.

Being a couple of modern sorts, we wanted to be as green as was reasonably convenient, which meant recycling. We had a bunch of scrap lumber lying around the yard, so we decided we could piece together…

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Leveraging Your Abundant Resources – And How To Make A Wood BBQ

To make a fully-equipped and ready prepper base of operations or retreat you need stuff. Tons and tons of stuff. Knowledge and intestinal fortitude (defined this time as the inner will to do without creature comforts) can lesson the amount of stuff you need, but resources will still be required.

Look around you, what is in abundance? Water? Wood? Dirt? Nottadamn? (as in nottadamn thing – if this is the case, you should think about moving.) Every ecosystem or area has something to offer, but rarely any has everything you need.

In our case, we have tons of wood – a 1000 trees, give or take on just our land… not including the thousands of wooded acres surrounding our ranch. So, looking at the needs of (wo)man, we want to check as many boxes off that could be answered by wood. Cooking and heating come to mind.

In order to use wood for cooking and/or heating, you most likely need a stove, fireplace, fire pit, or oven. Being the red-blooded, meat-eating, macho American men we are, we decided to make a wood-burning BBQ. Out of cinder blocks. Awesome.

Parts List

18 Cinderblocks
6 Red Bricks
BBQ Grill
4 x Rebar
Dirt and Rocks
Steaks and Corn to Test Functionality

The design is simple, yet sophisticated – the steps to build are as follows:

1. Clear a decently level area where you will be putting the BBQ. Make sure the area has little overhanging foliage, and is far enough away from anything that may burn, ignite, or go bang. You can add some dirt or gravel to an uneven area to make more suitable. We actually used a pick to break up the rock hill and surrounding area to make our BBQ ground level enough.

2. Place the cinderblocks into an interlocking pattern, as shown. Note that the bottom blocks to the front of the ‘Q are sideways – this allows for air to come in from the bottom and facilitate wood burning.

3. Put rebar in the corners of the holes shown. If made correctly, each rebar pole should “weave” through three blocks. Sledge in the rebar until it is below the top of the highest block.

4. Put four bricks in the bottom of the BBQ as shown. This will elevate any wood put in so it will have better air circulation.

5. Use dirt and rocks to fill the cinderblock holes that form the back and side walls of the unit. You could use cement or something more permanent – but I like the fact I could break this down in like 5 minutes and move it, or design something else with the components.

6-11. Fill with wood, light, place grill on top, use bricks to hold down the grill, place meat on grill, enjoy.

NOTES:
We let the wood burn down to hot coals before throwing the meat and corn on, but it was just not hot enough at the grill. So, every few minutes, we moved one of the corner blocks on the front wall and threw on some twigs to get a small flame – this worked perfectly.

After cooking, we removed the top three blocks of the front wall to make a cool fire pit. When it was time for beddy-bye we rebuilt the wall and threw a block infront of the bottom air holes, and the fire calmed down nicely.

In closing, and as an FYI – the steaks were fricking amazing. Nom nom nom…

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After Action Review: A trip to the BOL (Bug Out Location)

A few weeks ago I went out to the ranch, practice runs are the best thing you can possibly do for yourself. It will get you in the habit of knowing where your stuff is, what you’ll need to bring and you will learn your route without needing assistance from a GPS.

On this last trip I was able calculate exactly how many miles it was from where I am to where I’m going, What kind of gas mileage I would get fully loaded, how much stuff I could fit into my vehicle and most importantly How much gas I would need to bring and also, how long it would take to get there.

While en route to the ranch I realized that I would probably need, at a minimum, a secondary route. The route I chose this time was backed up with road construction (something to think about in the spring/summer months) and went through some areas that I would not want to pass through if the SHTF. I was surprised at how tired I got while driving. Having some 5 hour energy drinks or instant coffee in your bug out bag is a must. You never know when you will have to leave, it could be after a long day of work or in the middle of the night.

While at the ranch these were some quick take away things that came up (and some other general ideas we wanted to share):

  • Solar showers work! But unless you want to stand in the mud we recommend a pallet or something elevated to stand on.
  • Have quick foods available. We all have massive food stores in #10 cans and 5 gallon buckets but who wants to prepare that kind of stuff just for a small meal? I personally recommend buying MRE/First Strike Ration components from www.theepicenter.com their prices are good and their products are fresh!
  • Make sure you have something to sit on. I know it sounds silly but depending on how primitive your BOL is, you may need to invest in some folding camp chairs.
  • You can never have enough bins/basins for water. Dirty dishes, rinsing, cleaning, laundry, hygiene etc.
  • You can never have enough bandanas or wash rags. It seems like there is always a need for small towels.
  • Stay organized. It decreases stress and makes finding things easier.
  • Replicate what you have at home. You have a bathroom, so have an organized hygiene area with soap, towels, water, buckets/sinks, etc. this will decrease the stress on those who will have a hard time transitioning from living on the grid to the reality that you may be “camping” for a while.
  • Oil lamps, love them. They work great!
  • Don’t forget the things that may not save your life but will certainly make it more tolerable. Coffee, Chap Stick, sun screen, bug spray, a hat, sun glasses etc. We’ve all had caffeine headaches, they suck. Chapped lips can be horrible. Sunburns can be unbearable especially if they are combined with bug bites!!  
  • Water. You will go through more water than you think. Make sure you have a very large quantity on hand and a way to renew it.

All in all, the trip was good. We got a lot of work done and I look forward to sharing some of the projects with you!

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Oil Lamps

A few years ago I was in Virginia during a hurricane and as expected the lights went out. Luckily, I had stocked up on Lamp oil and some oil lamps. Not many people are experienced with oil lamps so I thought I would touch on the subject. First off, I love oil lamps. They are by far my favorite alternative lighting source.

Kerosene vs. lamp oil: Personally, I have used both and I don’t have a preference. Lamp oil is in the same family as kerosene but has been refined to burn cleaner and have less odor. If the grid is up and it’s available I would go for lamp oil but I’m equally comfortable burning clear kerosene in my oil lamps as well. From what I’ve read you can use red kerosene in oil lamps but due to the dye in it, it can cause some health issues so I would only use it outside if I had to. I’ve read several different estimates on the shelf life of kerosene. I’ve read one to five years to people talking about using kerosene that’s 30+ years old with no issues. The long shelf life is another reason why I am a fan of kerosene burning products.

Generally all oil lamps have the following parts: A base, a reservoir (Oil Font), a collar (connects the reservoir to the burner), a burner (holds the wick), a wick and a shade or chimney. I personally like oil lamps with thin chimneys such as an Aladdin or Kosmos lamp. (Yes, we get a kickback if you buy from St. Paul Mercantile. So why not do it!?) The thinner chimney, once heated makes the kerosene burn more efficiently. DO NOT use an oil lamp without a chimney! It could possibly pressurize the reservoir and cause a fire!

One common problem people have who have never used kerosene or oil lamp before is that their lamp produces a lot of soot and smoke. Your wick should be trimmed so that it has the same contour as your finger. It should resemble a half circle on the top, not straight across. Too narrow and pointed, and it won’t burn well either.

There are pressurized kerosene lanterns but I have no experience with them. I plan on getting one to see how they work, how durable they are and how much kerosene they go through. Once I do I will write about my experience with them. In the mean time, here is a youtube video comparing the a pressure lantern to a Colman lantern. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDuPzQ0qTyE

One thing I cannot stress enough. I don’t care where you buy your lamps or lanterns, DO NOT buy the cheap, tin, made in China hurricane lamps. They leak, they fall apart and they will burn your house down. I know it’s hard to invest a lot of money into something like a lamp but when you need it, you will want a good one that will work safely.

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Bug Out Bin Update

If you’re like me, you’ve been prepping for a long time. Over the years you probably have accumulated tons of gear, survival equipment, long term storage foods, guns and ammo. My problem was that I felt extremely un-organized. As if, I had all this stuff but if the mushroom cloud went up and it was time to get out, I would just be grabbing boxes at random, throwing them in the truck and hoping for the best. I brought this issue up with FreedomHoldVP who was having the same issue and we came up with a way to further hone the bug out bin system.

Go into every room in your house and think to yourself “What do I need to duplicate this when the SHTF?” For example: In the bathroom you bathe, brush your teeth, shave/groom, and relieve yourself. So what I did was created a “Bathroom Bin”. In it I put baby wipes, toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, a towel, I added a solar shower to the large bin, feminine hygiene items, a trowel for digging a toilet, an L.E.D. lamp, deodorant, shampoo/conditioner and a candle.

 

Then I went through the rest of the house and thought about how to replicate the kitchen, bedrooms, living room and the house overall. The plan is to make small bins for each area of the house and place them in a larger bin for ease and speed when it’s time to go.

 

In the above photo you can see I have cooking utensils, a snow peak backpacking stove (small white box), fuel for the stove, matches, a candle, dishes etc. The things that are not seen are the sponges, dish soap, trash bags, L.E.D. light, dish gloves, and drying towel.

The finished product, for me looked something like this:

 

 

Again there are items you can’t see such as an emergency radio, a two burner Colman camping stove, a skillet and there is also a second large bin that has things like my sleeping bags, tent and shelter items, tools, entertainment items and food.

The rules of redundancy always apply. If you need something you should have at least 3 ways to get it. If you need light you should have a flashlight, a lantern, glow sticks, candles, head lamp etc. If you need fire you should have matches, lighters and a ferrocerium (fire steel) rod or flint and steal. By being redundant when something runs out, breaks or gets lost you’re still okay.

Also, the bins are not to replace your B.O.B. the bins are in case you can drive to your B.O.L. but along the way a road may be closed, your area may be quarantined, there may be a car accident or some other obstacle blocking your path. You still need your B.O.B. in case you have to leave on foot.

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