Monday, June 1, 2009

Jim Wiseman: 'Suburban Survivalist'

Alright. This guy's been popping up all over the web and MSM lately (like here and here).

He's getting some praise and catching a lot of flak. I've left some comments around about how I feel, but I figured I'd clarify here instead of jacking someone else's blog.

First off, I'm not claiming to be an expert on survivalism or preparedness. I've had the mindset ever since I was in Boy Scouts and especially after the Loma Prieta Quake back in '89. I've always had a small stash of food and ammo, but I've only started actively increasing my stashes in the past year or so. I started off with the Rambo mentality and stocked up on magazines and ammo before considering food. I'm not entirely sure that was a mistake, though. Ammo prices have gone up considerably faster than food prices, so I may still come out on top for that one.

Secondly, I'd like to say that I'm very happy that this man has his shit together and believes he is "pretty well set." He and his family are better set than I and mine. I'd like to be at his level of preps, but I'm not. There's one thing I read that really sets Mr. Wiseman apart from me and most of the people I know:

In the last six month he's spent about $20,000 on food, a 250-gallon water storage tank, a water filter, medical supplies, a grain mill (which can be operated by hand if there's no power), a generator for his RV, and guns and ammunition. "I believe I'm pretty well set." Wiseman says he spent $6,900 alone on food...
After my mortgage, utilities, car payment, insurance premiums, gasoline, regular food, diapers, and day to day food, I'm lucky to have that much discretionary income over the course of two or three years.

Whether he intended it or not, Mr. Wiseman has become a poster child of sorts for the survival/preparedness movement. The MSM has latched on to him -- for better or for worse -- and thrust him, and the movement, into the spotlight.

The better: Finally, a story in the MSM that doesn't portray all survivalists as armed, anti-government, xenophobic, racist extremists with itchy trigger fingers. A well written story like this could help more people get the idea that they should be prepared to take care of themselves; that Uncle Sugar may not be around or willing or able to help out.

The worse: Someone reading these stories may see the price tag associated with Mr. Wiseman's purchases and immediately balk at the idea of becoming prepared. If someone is actually watching MSNBC (or most of the other MSM outlets), he's probably not "woken up" yet. If he's interested in the stories about Mr. Wiseman, the viewer is probably starting to wake up. Unfortunately, I worry that many people will see the pricetag of Mr. Wiseman's purchases and walk away.

It's absolutely lovely that Mr. Wiseman could drop 20G's over six months and get himself squared away. If I had the resources, I'd have already bought acerage, built a bunker and a castle and stuffed it full of beans, bullets and band-aids. That's just not an option for most of us.

Being on a budget means doing things slowly and having patience. I'm doing a lot of sale shopping. I normally go grocery shopping twice a week. I'm spending about $10-$15 extra each trip on buying canned goods (mostly fruits and vegetables). About twice a month, I'll throw in a few pounds of dried beans or rice. When flour, sugar, salt and other baking needs are on sale, I'll pick some up. I grab a case of bottled water -- needed or not -- every time I go grocery shopping. We only go through a case a week, so we're stockpilking one to two cases per week.

Over the course of about 2 months, I've managed to accumulate nearly four months of food for two adults and a toddler. It may not be delicious Mountain House lasagne and chili mac, but it's a good variety of things we normally eat. If the shit doesn't hit the fan, I'm not out as much money since we'll probably eat and rotate 90% of our supplies before they expire. When they do get close to expiration, we'll take them to a canned food drive and claim a tax deduction on it.

I also bought a pressure canner recently. When we make a big batch of beans or lentils or just about anything else, we now can what we won't eat for leftovers. We're also starting a small garden plot in our backyard. It's basically going to be a 10'x15' plot of containers, but it will end up cutting down -- albiet marginally -- on our regular grocery bill as well as on the money we spend on preps since we'll be able to can our own vegetables. Also, in the event of SHTF, the garden will provide a welcome morale boost in the form of fresh food. That assumes we will have enough water to keep the garden going, though.

Over at Boniface's Treatise, Wyn mentions fishing is probably the best way to supplement one's stores. I am inclined to agree with him, but, unfortunately, it's a lot easier for me to bag squirrels or rabbits than fish. If I lived 20 or 30 miles south or west, it would be the opposite. Either way, fresh meat and fish should be simply looked upon as a way to supplement one's food stores. Unless you're some kind of super wilderness man and a professional hunter/trapper, you will definitely starve if you plan on living off the land. Even if you are an expert, one bad season will still kill you.

I don't want to come across as a jerk -- any more than I already have already -- but I do have some concerns about the way Mr. Wiseman has chosen to spend his money. I'm going to try to be critical, but constructive.

None of the article's I've come across have mentioned anything about Mr. Wiseman's personal history with firearms. I'm curious if any of the $20,000 he spent involved any training or range time for him or his family.

Mr. Wiseman has a generator, but does he know how much noise those things make? If there is a complete economic meltdown and he and his family are living off of the food in his garage, that generator is going to be screaming "come loot us!"

I also wonder how Mr. Wiseman plans on filling -- or how he filled -- his 250 gallon water storage tank. Did he just run the tap? Is he counting on rain water? Collecting 250 gallons of rain is going to be quite a task given that California is going to be pretty dry until winter comes back around.

Has Mr. Wiseman come done any contingency planning? Unless he's managed to fortify his home to the point where it's fireproof and impenetrable, he may have to bug out. Does he have any routes mapped? A bug out location just as well stocked as his home? Pre-positioned supplies? I don't either, but that's one reason why I'm not completely confident in my preparations.

Being private orgainizations (assumedly), the MSM outlets are not -- nor should they be -- required to convey my point of view. It would be nice, though, if someone who wasn't fabulously well-to-do were to be the focus of one of these stories so that the average Joe can see that it is possible to build preps without selling a kidney.


  1. I've been watching his meteoric rise to fame myself. I remember in one of the first articles about him it said he had been at for six months. Seems strange to me that the media would choose him as the poster child for survivalism, since he's a neophyte. But he does come across well, is not threatening, and probably appeals to a lot more main stream readers than say Kurt Saxon or Ragnar Benson would.

    I wish I had the kind of scratch he's got at his disposal. I saw the video where they showed the beautiful big house on the beach, if that's his I would say $20,000 didn't put much of a dint in his exchequer.

    It's been interesting to see all the articles about him, and as you say, they are generally at least neutral if not positive in tone.

  2. He ain't heavy- he's my brother, LOL
    Pam Wiseman in Az

  3. He's one of my boyfriends at home in San Diego!....we split though, because I am a pacifist and think we should "GET THE F*** OUT and Fly South...South....South!...
    Good Luck Jim!
    I love you!

  4. Oh, really? I will ask my brother about you when I call him up tomorrow. Hummm.
    Pam Wiseman

  5. Well Pam, so what did he tell you?...that we've been friends for 20 years and homeschooled our kids together?

  6. Haven't called him yet, lol. But yes, he is into homeschooling. Friends, or one of his girlfriends? no matter, he's a big boy,
    and for most part he is a pacifist too. He never owned a gun til couple months ago. Best way to survive is to get out of the city, I moved from LA in late 1998 to C Az.
    And began making earthquake predictions in 2002,