Friday, September 11, 2009

"Prepper" in Alaska


I recently found your site and thank you for the reams of useful information.

I'm a "Prepper" and have been for a while. I live in Alaska, a few miles outside of Wasilla. I thought I might share how some of my preps up here are the same and different .

First of all I agree with you on food. However, how I go about it is a little different. First of all I count on catching between 300 and 400 pounds of salmon every summer, which really isn't hard to do once you learn how to work the salmon returns. I smoke about 50% of this catch and freeze the other half for consumption throughout the year until the next summers salmon run. Then each fall I rely on harvesting one Moose, which gives me anywhere from 500-600 pounds of red meat. I also hunt small game throughout the winter. In addition on our few acres I keep a flock of laying hens, 2 dairy goats, and fairly large garden with green house where we grow our own fresh vegetables that are mostly canned for use until next growing season. We also collect wild blue berries and raspberries which we turn into preserves. Beyond what I hunt/gather/grow we store up much like you do with normal store bought items. I do work full time as a professional in Industrial Safety, however I feel I could comfortably feed my family a whole year if necessary without "store bought" products.

Now being here in Alaska I don't plan at all for "Bugging Out". There's nowhere really practical to go from here, except deep into the subarctic wilderness or flying to the Lower 48, driving through the Canada would entail all kinds of problems in a worst case scenario. Even if my home is destroyed, my plan is to stay on the land in my camper/tents and rebuild. So as you might assume I put a lot of thought, work and money in prepping my home. For water I'm on a well, I have arranged for my electric well pump to be quickly connected to gas generator for short term water needs. For a worst case scenario I have a manual "Arctic" pump which would require going outside to fill a bucket; but I know I will always be able to get water.

As you might imagine heating the house comes next in priority. For this I've diversified as best I can. I have a boiler that works on either home heating oil or wood. In addition I have installed 2 modern wood stoves that on their own are capable of heating my house comfortably with outside temps down to -50 degrees F, and both have cooking surfaces. In addition I have kerosene space heaters for emergency use and a cache of stored 1k kerosene. Now the big problem for me is putting away enough firewood each year as I can easily go through 10 cords. Purchasing firewood doesn't make much sense to me as the costs per btu is comparable to oil/propane/natural gas. So I go about it the old fashioned way.........with a chainsaw, and a power log splitter. With the proper power tools and a long bed work truck it really isn't as time consuming as one might think to put away that much wood and there's essentially an unlimited supply up here.

For defense I'm well stocked with all types of guns, more than I need but fewer than I want. I've been stocking ammo and reloading supplies since the 1994 Clinton Ban. I can go a looooooooooong time without needing ammo.

For transportation I've also diversified: I have an economy car and a 4x4 truck for everyday use. In addition I have a four wheeler (atv), a snow machine , 2 horses, skis, snow shoes, mountain bikes and a canoe with outboard motor. Come hell or high water I'm getting around at least up here in a 200-300 mile radius.

My house isn't paid for, but my Mortgage is fixed, I have a military retirement, and skills to drum up enough money to at least pay the mortgage. I 've put away $$$ including Gold and Silver. If the US Dollar crashes far enough I might be able to pay off my mortgage for a few pieces of gold or silver.

Anyways I figure up here in Alaska if there's a US Dollar collapse a bunch of folks up here will return to the Lower 48. Firstly most people up here come for jobs somehow related to Oil, Tourism, Mining or Fishing. About half the population in Alaska live in Anchorage and Anchorage is highly dependent on these industries, I figure at least 3 of the 4 are going to be severely impacted. Most of these Anchorage folks live just like folks in Wichita, Tuscon or any other city and it's expensive up here now due to the fact that just about everything except fish, moose, wood, gold and oil needs to be shipped in. Once they loose their jobs up here they'll go back to where ever their families are from as this could be a hard place for an Environmentalist "city fella" thousands of miles from his family to survive in should the SHTF. My guess is there will be plane loads of these folks leaving behind almost everything they have in Alaska to get the hell out, probably not good for home values but what do I care as I'm not looking to sell. Because of this mass migration back to the L48, I'm not as concerned about long term crime, rioting etc. I figure those of use "fools" who are committed to Alaska have the same values and will make a go at it, perhaps in a semi-isolated, semi-barter free market economy.

Let me know what you think.

Wasilla, AK

Hi Paul!

Sounds like a terrific place to live in, congratulations!
Your food preps sound good too, and I like the way in which you have a balanced setup with some animals and an orchard, but still allowing you to keep a fulltime job.
Mountains around Wasilla, Alaska

Going entirely into the “live off the land, escape the modern world” thing never works out as expected.
Guess it’s like everything else in life: Escaping society is no different than evading other problems in life, instead of accepting them and dealing with them.
My wife loves gardening so I see a nice garden in our future as well.
My mother in law had a small but productive garden, several hens and other small animals in her tiny backyard. She tells me they had so many eggs she would give them away for free to the neighbors. (I would have loved it if she had told me she was selling some as well :) ).
She also used to breed German Shepherds as a hobby. She sold those mostly, also gave some away to people that really wanted them but couldn’t afford them.

About bugging out, I don’t think its something you should discard completely as plan B.
“Bugging out” sounds very commando like, E&E through the snow wearing you BOB and covered in cammo, and needing to go on foot is a possibility, but most often its far less dramatic and a plane/car will do nicely.
Having a bag or kit ready to go is important, but there’s much more to it than that.
Staying in contact with relatives/close friends could provide you with a plan B. A roof over your head, a place to live in if something unexpected happens.
Here it would be important to relocate some of your gear, at least a small part.
Too many times we hear of good folk that lost everything to a fire, flood or robbery. You know, not putting all the eggs in the same basket deal.

It’s great that you diversified on all the important aspects.

Woods stoves are great, and I’d love to have a heating system that works both with fuel or natural gas and wood.
The woods cooking stove are also very nice, used often here, mostly in farm houses.
You can cook, heat up a small home and even do the plumbing to use it as a water heater.
My grandfather along with my parents used to have a small house in Mar del Plata (CapnRick, in Constitucion, about 4 blocks from the beach). Not much to brag about, a small lot, and they built most of the house themselves. But it was comfortable and back then there were still many vacant lots, “baldios”, full of pine trees. We had a great time.
Anyway, there was the fireplace, and we also had a woodstove in the kitchen, similar to this one:

Vogelzang 200,000 BTU Cast Iron Pot Belly Stove

It’s not like the cooking wood stove my friend has but I remember my mom would put the kettle on top to boil water (even though we had a regular oven and burners ) or warming it up a bit of drinking mate.

Wood Cooking Stove

The exhaust pipe would go up to the roof and through the kid’s bedroom where my brothers and I slept. It heated up the room nicely.
It was so much more efficient than the fireplace. A waste of money compared to that little wood stove.
Anyway, sounds like you have great place up there.
Say, don’t you have some extra space for a couple with two kids? (just kidding :-) )

Congratulations man, sounds beautiful.



Anonymous said...

I am looking at land north of Placerville, California now. The area has plenty of oak trees, which is important because acorns are an excellent source of good carbohydrates and good fats. The carbs in acorn meal are far superior to those in common flour. The numerous streams provide plenty of fish. Also, I know of a cattle ranch near Carson City, Nevada, about 120 miles east of Placerville, that sells beef on the hoof. There are also berries in the area.

The area is close enough to the cities to provide employment, but far enough away that any civil disturbances are unlikely to reach it. I know that Argentina is mostly flat, so you don't have hill country like that in California's Mother Lode, where the folds of the land provide a natural barrier against marauders. Now I just have to figure out how to earn enough cash to pay for the land, and to put a cabin on it. :) My business doesn't earn very much money right now.

Bones said...

Paul, you're a lucky b*st*ard! :) There won't even be a squirrel left around here a month after SHTF.

Is it possible to utilize solar or wind power up there if the grid goes down?

Get off the grid and if the SHTF you won't even notice!

gaga said...

If the Dollar goes down, natural resources will be even more valuable in Dollar terms. Similar to the last oil price spike which was caused very much by the weakness in the dollar.

So I expect Alaska to boom with an increase in population - why go south where there is no jobs and nothing like the abundance of free food in Alaska.

Bones said...

This post got me thinking about the Amish communities near here. These folks are "off the grid" by design. No electricity and no technology they can't produce themselves. By maintaining an entire communities ability to be self sufficient through preservation of traditional skills, they've successfully prepared themselves for SHTF or even TEOTWAWKI. They make their own clothes and tools, grow their own food, build their own houses and transportation. Their strength isn't in the stuff they own, it's in their collective knowledge and commitment to one another. Food for thought.

Michael Dukes said...

Gaga - Being a 3rd generation Alaskan, I can tell you that over the last 50 years the 'abundance of free food' your talking about is a myth.

In the 30s and 40s the entire Mat-su valley (the area where Paul lives) was an agricultural haven. There were many dairy, grain and ag farms in that area, supplying the entire state with fresh food.

And up until the early 90s many grocery stores used nearly 50% of their square footage for storage of backstock, meaning they had plenty of food on hand in case the barge didn't arrive with their shipments.

In this day and age of 'velocity reporting' and 'just in time' delivery we have seen all major stores shrink their backstock to nothing. I mean literally. The only storage place is above the actual display shelf.

About 2 years ago I interviewed with our borough (county) Emergency Services Director. In the major cities in Alaska there is only about 3-4 days of food on the shelf at normal consumption levels. If there was some kind of panic, that would disappear in a matter of hours.

As far as wildlife goes, while it's true we have an abundance, the explosive pressure put on the population by a SHTF scenario would make things pretty iffy within a very short time.

Finally, the main reason I disagree with Gaga's assertion that there would be an influx to folks to Alaska, is the climate.

It was hard enough during the Depression for families to make it together in the mid-west, under fairly mild weather. While Anchorage and the Mat-su basin has some of the mildest weather in the state, it still can see wintertime temps of 20-30 below zero. In the Interior where I live, it's not unusual to see 55-60 below for days on end. Add to that a fairly short growing season where much of the 13-16 weeks of 'summer' will be spent putting up food for the remaining 8-9 months of winter.

I can guarantee you that in the even of a TEOTWAWKI/SHTF situation the living won't be that easy in The Last Frontier.

But, Paul and I will still be here.

Anonymous said...

Bones, I've been thinking a lot about what form a new society should take, and I'd have to say that the Amish are pretty close. A few weeks ago on the BBC News website I saw an article about how Cuba coped with a sudden lack of oil after the USSR collapsed and their supply was cut off. Cuban agriculture was very dependent on oil, but they learned to live without, turning parking lots into small farms and using natural pest remedies. And they did it without the massive losses in population you'd expect, although hunger was epidemic for a while.

Success needs to be redefined-Americans view material possessions as a sign of wealth, but there are other ways to satisfy the human need to improve their environment without materialism.

Gaga, Alaska will see a decline in those who live in the traditional suburban manner, but likely an increase in the truly self-sufficient. Will the overall population increase or decrease? Hard to say.

If you read Into The Wild, you can see how easy it is for an outsider to venture into Alaska and starve from "rabbit starvation", meaning that they can only catch small game and a few foragable items and thus die. Americans in general are poorly equipped to survive in a SHTF situation, and thus the population should decrease rapidly and then stabilize as the "softies" die off.

Unknown said...

Michael D. is right on target. People will be bugging out of here pronto, especially if it happens in winter. I can only imagine what a nightmare the airport will be. As far as oil production goes, AK's N. Slope field is declining and the Imperial Federal Government owns the land where the other big find is located...........which combined with the 9th Circus means no new drilling. Further, when/if the dollar collapses the worldwide demand for oil will drop as world trade will probably initially nearly halt.

Up here in AK not only will food be off the shelves in 3 days, so will most other goods. I endeavor to collect almost everything; toilet paper, motor oil, oil filters and basic engine parts, glues, screws, nails, spare lumber, toiletries, roof shingles, matches, and just about anything you can imagine and I can afford. Further I've learned all kinds of skills such as basic welding, plumbing, electronics, woodworking, I can hillbilly fix most stuff.
As far as going off the Grid, my current option is either by generator or doing without. I have 2 gas generators and I'm thinking of getting a diesel one. I think Ferfal is correct about there not being a total loss of electricity, but rather rolling brown outs. Solar would work well in summer, but not well in winter when we only have 5 hrs of daylight and the sun is low on the horizon. I've looked into wind but where I'm at it was rated as poor when I had a survey done. Any other ideas out there???

Ferfal: My plan B is to rebuild, not evacuate. This may be somewhat of a Little House on the Prairie "Frontier" mentality, but that's my plan. If we have to we can live in our 24ft camper which can be heated while reconstructing. I guess you can say I live by the old saying "Better off dead than red". Come Red Dawn, Earthquake, Fire, or Economic Collapse I'm staying; and if I've got to go down fighting to keep what the Lord's blessed me with then so be it as the only way to eternal life is through Jesus anyhow.

Paul in Wasilla

Bones said...


It's not reasonable to expect that you can do everything yourself, which is what led me to think of the Amish communities. Their example shows that a strong work ethic, strong bonds with your neighbors and a stronger faith in God are sufficient. You don't NEED electricity to get by in a worst case scenario. You'll want to conserve fuel for heating anyway. The things you NEED are air, water, food, clothing & shelter. Everything else is icing on the cake.

Don Williams said...

There are some things for Paul to consider:

1) It is almost impossible for an isolated farm to defend itself against bandits. Imagine constantly having to worry about roving bandits smelling your woodsmoke and snipers suddenly shooting you without warning when you go outside.

Or being trapped inside because you know they are waiting outside. Or being attacked at night, including your house being set on fire. What happens to your wife and kids?

2) 5000 years of human history show that that the fortified village is what survives in chaotic times. Small enought to feed itself -- big enough to fight off most bandits groups and to mount guards at night.

3) There is also the issue of medical care. What happens if you cut yourself in the foot with an ax in an accident? Or develop tetanus or infection? No isolated stronghold can reproduce the skills and inventory of the modern hospital or even medical clinic. What happens in five years when most of the antibiotics have expired. True -- mankind lived for thousands of years without modern antibiotics -- but he often only lived to age 30. What happens to the wife and kids if you die?

4) In bad times, roads quickly turn to crap when not maintained. It's a long walk to town in mid-winter when the fuel runs out and you need to see a doctor.

5) I also suggest Paul read Jared Diamond's "Collapse" to see what happened to isolated communities in the past when the world /climate changed.

I am not arguing against Paul's plans but I didn't see him mention much about joining with the people in his local area to form a community.

Don Williams said...

PS I grew up in the country -- and once looked into how the early settlers survived against hostile Indian raids in my home area 240 years ago.

The answer was that they had isolated farms --the Little House on The Prairie -- but that the Government of Virginia also paid some men to be full time scouts-- who would constantly patrol the area ON HORSEBACK -- and sound the alarm when Indian war parties were sighted. (The scouts --being on horseback -- could reach the settlers before the war parties --traveling on foot -- could.)

The alarm being given -- rifle shots, bells,etc -- the settlers would load their families into wagon and retreat to one of several forts in the area. The militia would then track and attack the invaders. If the invaders were too large, people would wait until the invaders left the area (looting completed, food running low,etc.)

Sometimes people were trapped in their cabins --not having received the warning in time. Militia records indicate those isolated settlers were often wiped out by even small bands of 5-10 men. I recall one guy managing to hold off 5 men because the farmer owned 4 guns and had his wife constantly reload while he shot.

The settlers also made blockhouses -- basically two-story log cabins in which the top story extends out over the walls of the ground floor by two feet. This allowed defenders on the top floor to shoot down through gun ports in the floor and kill any Indians attacking at the CORNERS of the cabin.

You see, a rectangular house has big blind spots at the corners. A defender inside can't see or shoot at invaders who attack at the corners of the house.

That's not a problem you want to discover in the middle of a battle.

Don Williams said...

Re Bone's comment: "The things you NEED are air, water, food, clothing & shelter. Everything else is icing on the cake."

Nah -- one of the things you need is Security.

Bandits sitting on a mountain side could spot the column of Paul's chimney smoke in the early morning from miles away. Two compass sighting made a mile apart would let them triangulate his position to within a few hundred yards.

ANd when he shoots that elk? That's like ringing a dinner bell for every hungary person within 5 miles. Better have some extra bullets.

Jason Cato said...

I am not sure if an expectation of rapid depopulation is realistic. Sure it would be nice, but many people don't have the money or even anywhere to flee too, just like during hurricane Katrina.
I think anyplace within 4 driving hours of Las Anchorage would be a bad place to be.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to help those who worry about "rabbit" starvation. Rabbit is a great protein source. Stock up on stuff to fry it. Margarine, grease, lard. We need two essential fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic. Lard profides it as does other fats. If you can't stock fats or procure them it'll be tough going. While you're at it stock a large bottle of a simple multiple vitamin.
Physician in Colorado

Anonymous said...

All the above is one of the reasons why Alaska isn't as enticing as it first appears. It gets REALLY cold there. Most people who challenge the wilderness end up dead (enter "Chris McCandless" into wiki) because they can't kill enough game (the term "rabbit starvation" is-or was-on that wiki page, which is where I got it) and can't forage enough.

A lot of guys will schlep into the taiga with tons of supplies and simply die when the rations run out. The indigenous people live along the coasts, and live off the sea.

I am only moving from here because there's not enough natural food down in the valley, all the trees are gone and the streams polluted from old mining sediments. Also, the weeks on end of still fog means that solar and wind power are often useless here. Some people have solar panels, but they're all tied into the grid. Placerville is above the fog, and just above that the fish are clean.

Cryingfreeman said...

Alaska has always fascinated me as far as retreat potential goes, and when I read Paul's and Michael Dukes' comments I do find myself yearning to be in a region / community where a fair number of the populace share my conservative, survivalist, Bible believing ways (speaking as someone stranded in overpopulated eastern Northern Ireland).

However, I've read Rawles' Patriots and FerFal's wonderful book in the course of my seemingly endless study into the vast subject of preparation and I too have finally concluded that, against my desires to be quite reclusive from society, the only way to truly last in a hardcore grid down scenario is to band up with others in a small, rural defensible community. I recall during the Troubles in N Ireland how isolated farmers (some of whom were part-time soldiers) were always easy pickings for IRA hit teams and often would work the fields with their wives standing guard over them with a paltry shotgun.

That all said, I am no longer as convinced as I was in the past that a total Mad Max breakdown (a la Patriots) will happen. It's more likely now, in my opinion, to be a gradual collapse and rapid descent into police state lockdown with food security being the big issue in years to come, especially for those who will be excluded from commerce for refusing to comply with Orwellian / Apocalyptic means of biometric ID.

In previous generations, with foresight one could of course move overseas but it seems as if the whole world is going against liberty. So maybe it will be the remnant who can survive and thrive off grid in desert places - like Alaska - who will do well.

Anonymous said...

I've met few Alaskans as numb-nutted as mr. into the wild. Cold, is not a problem for anyone who prepares, Negative temperatures are no more of a problem than mildly cool days provided one prepares and dresses properly.
That being said, there won't be an animal alive in the mat-su valley within a year, and you can expect the fishing to be more competitive than ever, if you can find a fish left by year two. A homemade silencer is pretty easy to make, if you haven't one already. Oh, and woodsmoke? If you have an efficient masonry stove, it's hardly visible. Just some thoughts, thank you for these posts,I've found them very useful :)