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Old 09-10-2008, 03:58 AM
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Default A (Tiny) Bit of Explanation

Webstral 07-29-2008, 03:00 AM Naturally, anyone who hasn’t been exposed to Thunder Empire before is wondering how I justify the very high troop strengths of 111th Brigade and 3rd Brigade. The answer is food. Where’s the food coming from? The survivors are growing it. How are the survivors growing enough food to field 10,000 troops in semi-arid southeastern Arizona when more-fertile parts of the country can’t seem to support formations of more than 1,500? The answer to that is more complex.


Huachuca planned. That’s the crux of it. And they had help, as the self-motivated often find. In 1995, Huachuca got serious about planning for surviving a nuclear exchange. Over the course of the next two years, the post acquired expertise, funding, equipment, and experience. While most CONUS installations were just getting serious about surviving a nuclear exchange in mid-1997, Huachuca was in full gear. There are details, of course—legions and legions of details. The long-timers on the board have endured many detailed posts on how Fort Huachuca not only survives after the Thanksgiving Day Massacre but manages to keep the local population alive and fend off the Mexican Army. Newcomers will have to accept that there’s a logic to all this, provided you can believe the snowballing cause-and-effect relationships. It all comes back to planning early and being at the right place in development at the right time. It doesn’t hurt that the Huachuca-Tucson cantonment has become a veritable oasis in the surrounding deserts. Thanks to planning and the virtual suspension of civil rights, enough food is grown to keep most of the original population of the three counties alive.



Webstral

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Hangfire7 07-29-2008, 11:04 AM Actualy that is totaly plausible. That was part of the crux of a campaign I had about 4 years ago taking place in the area. And the two main aspects were food and water, but mostly food was the principle issue. The3 end result most of the time my PCs and NPCs were eating a thin soup with a handful of beans, dried corn and some peppers for flavor, sometimes a bit of rabit or squirrel or squash but those were not that often..


That is something that was touched on in "The City of Angles" although it could have been handled better, re: the cannibalism that occurs. Without water much of the SW as fertile as it is will revert to a desert. Can it sustain small populations in pockets, sure as long as they have access to the water via a river, lake or other water source. Can a family or similiar small group manage using well water to grow crops to live on, I beleive they can, but we are talking small area growing to sustain a small number of say a dozen or less, to grow larger would over tax the water resources.


A very good point was made.


PS, even though well water is available in areas, where does the fuel come from to man the pumps to bring it to the surface? <remember most have been converted to gas powered or electrical pumps these days.>

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Webstral 07-29-2008, 01:12 PM Farming under semi-arid conditions requires learning to manage the water resources very well indeed and lowering expectations. Methodologies have to change from purely rain-fed farming, although even under quite dry conditions it is possible to harvest rainwater. The biggest obstacles to making the transition are having enough of the right kind of seed, educating the new farmers on what they are supposed to do, and feeding them while they manage their plots during the first growing season. There’s also the prep work, which takes a lot of calories for the people with the spades.


Rain-fed agriculture is possible, even in the parts of Arizona I’m talking about. The Native Americans used a very simple technique. They dug a shallow, sloping pit. The effect was to create run-off that would accumulate at the bottom of the pit where the crops grew. This technique is well-suited for the “monsoon” style rains that fall in southeastern Arizona [and elsewhere in the region]. Rainfall is sudden and fierce. Run-off is high. A shallow pit that accumulates run-off for the crops at its lowest end effectively concentrates rainfall. The moisture soaks into the soil. Below a certain depth, evaporation becomes a minor factor—even in desert soils. The single largest drawback is that the pits must be dug and maintained. The farmer has to move some dirt to create the pit.


In Africa, many farmers in semi-arid conditions use a similar method with semi-circular basins located near the bases of slopes. The basins catch rainwater run-off and concentrate it in the soil directly under the basin. Yields from this method are surprisingly high, even where precipitation is highly seasonal. It’s labor-intensive, and no one is going to become an agricultural tycoon. However, it’s just fine for Twilight: 2000 purposes if a farmer can feed himself and another person.


Indian farmers bordering the Thar Desert have developed a method of using clay pots to irrigate their crops. Clay pots are buried up to their necks in the soil. The pots are filled and capped. The water seeps out through the pores of the pot at a slow but steady rate, keeping the soil nicely moist.


There are also some labor-intensive, limited-area methods of agriculture that can have amazing yields in small areas. Soil bed preparation is critical, as is ongoing watering. However, the total annual consumption of a human being can be grown on an area <4500 square feet, provided certain conditions are met. Surprisingly, high temperatures and desert soils are not the kinds of obstacles I had thought. Preparation of the bed is the first critical issue. This includes laying compost on the top of the bed. Compost is likely to be in short supply in the Southern Arizona Military Administrative District (SAMAD). [SAMAD is the name the CG of Huachuca gives the Huachuca-Tucson cantonment area.] However, good results still can be had from properly-aerated but compost-poor soil. Regular watering is important, especially during the early growing season and for shallow-root crops throughout the growing season. However, crops planted at ideal densities provide their own shade for the soil, greatly reducing the need for mulch and/or the loss to evaporation. I’m experiencing this latter phenomenon in my own back yard this year. I water every four days instead of every day. I give the soil a good soaking, but I use less water in four days than I did last year. On the third day, the topsoil underneath the shade of the plants is still moist, even though the soil a few feet away is hard and dry. My tomato plants are bigger now than last year’s tomato plants were in September. I’m also having much better results with my chives, parsley, and mint, despite that fact that the first two prefer cooler weather than Mill Valley has in June and July. Oh, and everyone got a trowel of rabbit manure upon being planted. That’s something SAMAD is going to have trouble replicating in 1998.


Getting back to the water issue, much of SAMAD receives one acre-foot of rain per acre. Higher elevations receive more. This is not a lot, but one can work with it. Due to the nature of rainfall during the monsoon months (July and August), there is a lot of run-off. The run-off goes into the arroyos and poses a flash-flood problem. However, with catchment basins located along the slopes of the arroyos, there will be a lot less going in. Yes, this is a lot of work to shape enough basins to markedly reduce the run-off. I’ll get back to that.


As a side note, cisterns become mandatory on-post in 1996. I’ve always felt that it is incredibly wasteful that Huachuca and the surrounding towns allow so much water to run right off the roofs and onto the ground.


Where the arroyos meet and grow, strategically-placed earthen dams can capture much of the run-off. Early in the planning process, Huachuca identifies key locations where the run-off can be captured. One of the long-term plans is the construction of rammed earth (concrete added) cisterns alongside the earthen dams. This is good work for the EPWs. More on that later.


Pumping ground water is going to be a huge challenge. It helps that local governments seize the available stocks of fuel immediately. Huachuca gets around this issue through planning. With funding by the Pentagon’s Contingency Planning Division (CPD), Huachuca purchases photovoltaics and other alternative energy systems in early 1997. Obviously, they are ten years ahead of the systems we enjoy today. Still, some electricity is available for pumping water and other priority functions.


Tucson is in a tougher situation. With no surface waters and with the completion of CAP in the future as of late 1997, Tucson is completely dependent upon groundwater. Tight rationing goes into effect immediately. Again, seizure of the fuel supplies and tight rationing of electricity go a long way towards keeping the pumps running. In conjunction with Huachuca, Tucson has done a little planning (albeit FAR less than Huachuca) for the dark times. It’s possible to move a great deal of water with methods employed by the Romans, provided you are willing to use manpower the way the Romans did. Thankfully, in the lawless circumstances of post-attack America, there are many “volunteers” for this kind of work, as well as a number of their compatriots who are willing to make great personal sacrifices to keep the soil fertile. In the long term, Tucson moves people into small encampments upcountry (which means, in effect, Cochise County).

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Raellus 07-29-2008, 04:53 PM The more I think about it, the more a S. Arizona campaign appeals to me. I'm reading Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian right now, and even though it's a western set along the border in 1850, with a few minor changes, it could describe T2K era American marauders/gang-members rampaging through the S. Arizona region. Anyway, in a S. Arizona campaign, you've got U.S. troops, civilian militia/partisan groups, Mexican soldiers, marauders of every stripe, refugees, the list goes on.


I'm not sure how well folks would manage to survive when the lights go out down here. Without AC or swamp coolers, it's almost unbearably hot during the summers. People die in the desert every day. Outside of the monsoons, where rainfall varies from year to year, precipitation is sporadic at best. The state has been under drought conditions for the most of the last decade.


The farms out here in Marana (just north of Tucson) produce mostly cash crops (cotton primarily) and all rely heavily on irrigation water. The CAP canal runs past my house. Without that water, Tucson has some major sustainability issues.


One of the reasons Native American tribes were able to farm out here was the relatively higher water table that existed before the arrival of waves of Mexican and Anglo settlers. In fact, many of the "rivers" that are just large dry washes now, used to flow year-round. As the population grew and more wells were sunk, the water table dropped dramatically and the rivers dried up.


Small scale agriculture is entirely possible, but there is no way that the "original population of the three counties" could be fed by regional farming. Even today, most of the produce, not to mention the staple grains and such, is trucked in from out of state.


I think that once the power shuts off (following the TDM), there would have been a mass migration out of the Tucson area. More would undoubtedly flee following the Mexican invasion. There would be plenty of abandoned houses for the Central American refugees flooding the area.


I think a campaign set in the region would include some interesting and perhaps controversial conflicts regarding ethnicity, nationality, and patriotism.


I think that the "white flight" phenomenon would be a significant aspect of the evacuation of the region. Fear among whites of the invading Mexicans and distrust of local Mexican-Americans would, unfortunately, play into it.


I think, however, that Tucson's Mexican-American population would be some of staunchest opponents of the Mexican invasion, and would form the backbone of many local partisan groups. Many of them have built up relatively prosperous lives here from next to nothing and would be extremely reticent to abandon what they've worked so hard to create.


It's an interesting place and the gaming possibilities of this area are extremely varied.

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Webstral 07-29-2008, 10:38 PM Excellent point about the water tables, Raellus. It’s a sin that the lovely Santa Cruz River, which was a verdant and beautiful riparian community even in the 1940’s, is bone dry today. It’s certainly true that our profligate water use has turned the fairly lush Chihuahuan Desert into a more Sahara-like area. Ten years ago, there was a great display at the Sonora Desert Museum showing the riparian communities in Arizona in the early 1800’s. If you pushed a button, the surviving riparian communities would light up. They represented a pitiful fraction of the original. Sigh.


At any rate, however, there was commercial agriculture throughout the area prior to the completion of the CAP extension to Tucson. A horribly wasteful agriculture, I might add, what with spray nozzles that lost half of the water being applied to evaporation before it even hit the ground. Half. And let us not forget that for all that Tucson is a water-conscious city, per capita consumption in the mid-1990’s was well above one hundred thirty gallons daily. (I’ve never understood how that much water gets used. Granted, per capita averages include industrial uses. Still--what a tremendous amount of water for a desert city to consume. The only saving grace is that in the same timeframe, Phoenix had twice the per capita consumption.)


People need a slender fraction of the pre-war daily consumption in Tucson for personal survival, so let’s move on to the sticking point: agriculture. The agricultural set-up I’ve envisioned for Thunder Empire involves a lot of factors coming together just right. That’s where the real suspension of disbelief is required for the reader—that things work out the way they do when common sense and the Howling Wilderness canon would indicate something else.


First, a note on the “Howling Wilderness” canon. We should be very wary of accepting Howling Wilderness with anything less than a barrel of salt. Loren Wiseman created something great. However, can we really treat the following as an in-depth and well-informed sketch of an entire state?


“West Virginia was not the target of the nuclear strikes, and its remoteness made it undesirable as a relocation site. It is most famous, however, as the location of the New American headquarters.”


We’re clearly expected to fill in the gaps for ourselves and adjust the canon descriptions as needs be. The very slender description of Arizona is fine—with room for certain exceptions based on circumstances.


Western agricultural practices in dry states are wasteful beyond any reasonable description of wasteful. For instance, broccoli farmed in some locations of the Central Valley is irrigated with thirty-six inches of water per acre. That’s three acre-feet of water per acre, or enough water to keep three American families of four for a year, or slightly less than one million gallons of water. One million gallons of water per acre. How can this be economically feasible? How does this farmer compete with an Eastern farmer who gets his thirty-six inches for free? Subsidies, of course. Whereas metropolitan water boards pay upwards of $250 per acre-foot, Californian farmers pay from $50 down to…well, less than it’s decent to claim.


This state of affairs seems ludicrous, of course. How on earth can we complain about water shortages when we are giving it away to Californian farmers? What sense does it make to grow crops like these in California at enormous cost to the taxpayer (dams and water transport not being accustomed to building themselves)? Why does agriculture, which consumes 85% of the water in California while contributing less than 5% of the GSP get to consume all of that water at such cheap prices? What gives? Well, it starts with the desire on the part of the federal and state governments to promote agriculture wherever possible. Agriculture is supposed to stabilize the economy. If you are a farmer in the Central Valley, it sure makes sense to have water delivered and sold at a fraction of its market value. If you are a representative for the farmer’s district, it sure makes sense to get him and his neighbors that water and claim credit come election season. If you are a legislator who needs the vote of the farmer’s representative for a bill, it sure makes sense to do a deal.


I digress, though not without purpose. We find ourselves faced with situations which, taken as a whole, are ludicrous. However, each step along the way has its own logic. Each step makes sense given the step before and probably the step afterwards. The whole v1 chronology is based on this logic. How is it that the Soviet Union and the United States both brought themselves to ruin? It is this step-by-step progression that turns a reasonable expectation that southeastern Arizona will be a sparsely populated, slightly better-watered version of “The Road Warrior” into “Thunder Empire”.


Getting back to the water issue, the apparent water shortage in southeastern Arizona is both real and illusory. There isn’t enough rainfall to support the kind of rain-fed agriculture that marks the (American) East. However, there is enough water to support very labor-intensive agriculture if one changes the entire idea of how labor is to be used. In current American agricultural practices, labor is the most expensive component. Price supports for water and water policy in general throughout the West have seen to that. It’s no coincidence that illegal immigrants are picking so many of the crops. If the value of labor drops below the value of water, then labor will be used in a very different way.


If crops are watered at twilight, evaporation can be greatly minimized. If crops are watered by hand, waste goes down enormously. Essentially, this is where SAMAD goes. Water is pumped from the existing wells into tanks or other containers which are in turn taken from the wells to the crops by human-powered vehicles. Africa is full of bicycles which have been turned into very light cargo haulers. The Third World is quite creative when it comes to adapting Western goods to their own circumstances. Post-attack Americans will be the same. If hauling water on bicycles or carts or by whatever means comes to hand and watering by hand day after day means the difference between life and death, people will do it.


Of course, getting here from there is the real trick. In November 1997, the people of southeastern Arizona are not organized for this, nor are the “fields” ready for the workers. There aren’t any cargo bicycles, carts, or water-hauling wagons. There are no shelters for the survivors-cum-farmers. It’s all well and good to claim that with the right organization and motivation, the populace of SAMAD can conduct semi-arid agriculture and eke out a living in large numbers while all around them scattered survivors fall back on ranching. How does the region that will become SAMAD make the transition?


The short answer is preparation. The long answer is, well, longer.


Webstral

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newyorkronin 07-30-2008, 12:22 AM Great thread!


Dry-farming text from 1910:

http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/4924


Re: Catching run-offs at bottom of slope. Across Asia, rice paddies are maintained on hills by building several "steps" to the top to catch rainwater and maximize usage of land area. From the air, it looks like a live topo-map!

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thefusilier 07-30-2008, 01:56 AM Web, I am a huge fan of all your "published" work here. I'm glad you are still working on this.


BTW - How do you pronounce "Huachuca"

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Webstral 07-30-2008, 12:35 PM Web, I am a huge fan of all your "published" work here. I'm glad you are still working on this.



BTW - How do you pronounce "Huachuca"


Thanks much. Wah-CHOO-kah.

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Raellus 07-30-2008, 10:18 PM First, a note on the “Howling Wilderness” canon. We should be very wary of accepting Howling Wilderness with anything less than a barrel of salt. Loren Wiseman created something great. However, can we really treat the following as an in-depth and well-informed sketch of an entire state?


I agree with this point entirely. The whole post exchange mega-drought theory presented in Howling Wilderness seems odd to me given the prevailing scientific consensus at the time v1.0 was released- the idea of a Nuclear Winter. Now certainly, the nuclear exchanges described in canon don't really come close to the MAD-type general strategic exchange that the Nuclear Winter camp was thinking about but, with the abrupt ceasing of global industry, coupled with the thousands (if not millions) of tons of dust, ash, and other particulates thrown up by the scores of nuclear blasts, one would assume that perhaps some cooling would have taken place. At the very least, the human component of what we now call "Global Warming" would have been eliminated almost overnight, slowing, if not stopping or reversing, the warming trend.



Getting back to the water issue, the apparent water shortage in southeastern Arizona is both real and illusory. There isn’t enough rainfall to support the kind of rain-fed agriculture that marks the (American) East. However, there is enough water to support very labor-intensive agriculture if one changes the entire idea of how labor is to be used. In current American agricultural practices, labor is the most expensive component. Price supports for water and water policy in general throughout the West have seen to that. It’s no coincidence that illegal immigrants are picking so many of the crops. If the value of labor drops below the value of water, then labor will be used in a very different way.


If crops are watered at twilight, evaporation can be greatly minimized. If crops are watered by hand, waste goes down enormously. Essentially, this is where SAMAD goes. Water is pumped from the existing wells into tanks or other containers which are in turn taken from the wells to the crops by human-powered vehicles. Africa is full of bicycles which have been turned into very light cargo haulers. The Third World is quite creative when it comes to adapting Western goods to their own circumstances. Post-attack Americans will be the same. If hauling water on bicycles or carts or by whatever means comes to hand and watering by hand day after day means the difference between life and death, people will do it.


Of course, getting here from there is the real trick. In November 1997, the people of southeastern Arizona are not organized for this, nor are the “fields” ready for the workers. There aren’t any cargo bicycles, carts, or water-hauling wagons. There are no shelters for the survivors-cum-farmers. It’s all well and good to claim that with the right organization and motivation, the populace of SAMAD can conduct semi-arid agriculture and eke out a living in large numbers while all around them scattered survivors fall back on ranching. How does the region that will become SAMAD make the transition?


The short answer is preparation. The long answer is, well, longer.


Webstral


Tanks Web. This has filled in some of the gaps for me. After giving it some thought, I quite like the more hopeful vision that you've outlined. Even in a more civilized and stable S. Arizona, I'm sure there would still be plenty of conflicts/struggles for a gritty and dynamic campaign.


Just out of curiosity, what kinds of food crops would folks in the Ft. Huachuca area be planting?


Perhaps a cool, long-range, long-term, tie-in mission for a campaign set in the "Thunder Empire" could be the retrieval of an old Native American dry-climate, high-yield Maize or bean or squash strain kept in the World Seed Bank* on a Norwegian island north of the arctic circle.


*Not sure what this place's real name is. And, I don't think it was completed until just a couple of years or so ago. Anyway, saw a bit on it on 60 Minutes and they're trying hard to preserve every modern, traditional, and historical seed strain on earth in case a day comes when some random, uncommon seed's genetic make-up is needed to help feed mankind.

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thefusilier 07-30-2008, 10:45 PM Not sure what this place's real name is. And, I don't think it was completed until just a couple of years or so ago. Anyway, saw a bit on it on 60 Minutes and they're trying hard to preserve every modern, traditional, and historical seed strain on earth in case a day comes when some random, uncommon seed's genetic make-up is needed to help feed mankind.


I think you mean that underground vault in Norway. Keeping all the grains and seeds and things for when the time comes they go extinct. For example the US only haves something like 15% of the species of apples it once had say 200 years ago.

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Webstral 07-31-2008, 12:19 AM Tanks Web. This has filled in some of the gaps for me. After giving it some thought, I quite like the more hopeful vision that you've outlined. Even in a more civilized and stable S. Arizona, I'm sure there would still be plenty of conflicts/struggles for a gritty and dynamic campaign.


Just out of curiosity, what kinds of food crops would folks in the Ft. Huachuca area be planting?


Perhaps a cool, long-range, long-term, tie-in mission for a campaign set in the "Thunder Empire" could be the retrieval of an old Native American dry-climate, high-yield Maize or bean or squash strain kept in the World Seed Bank* on a Norwegian island north of the arctic circle.


The basics are the Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. The populace of SAMAD eats a lot of corn tortillas and some corn flour bread. There are some of the other grains present, as well as some root crops. And potatoes—we mustn’t forget the potatoes. Sweet potatoes respond very well to labor-intensive methods on small plots of ground. The introduction of the sweet potato to China caused a population boom in its day. There are a few herbs—very few. Peppers are pretty much the source of excitement in the Huachuca diet in early 2001. Nevertheless, the basics are corn, beans, and squash.


Not surprisingly, the Huachuca diet doesn’t include much in the way of animal products. Milk is more widely available than in other locations because Huachuca is able to preserve the herds of cattle on the local ranches. I’ll talk to that a bit more another time. Nevertheless, dairy is not very widespread because there are a lot of survivors in SAMAD and only so many cattle. The future does look fairly bright on that front, though.


On the gathering front, mesquite beans play their part in the Huachuca diet. There are a lot of mesquite trees in the area, thanks to overgrazing in years gone by. A few other wild edibles also play a very minor role. Hunters and trappers bring in javelina, which by early 2001 are pretty scarce in the SAMAD area. Also on the list are deer, squirrel, rattlesnakes, and quail.


I like the idea of sending characters to retrieve samples of a desirable variety of maize. What if they had to penetrate Mexico to get it? Perhaps reliable information comes out of northern Mexico that someone is growing corn that has high yields in desert soil. The characters are sent to acquire as much as possible.


As of early 2001, SAMAD is facing a time of transition. More than half of the surviving population have been reduced to serf status, for all intents and purposes. They haven’t forgotten that they are Americans who used to have some rights. The entire agricultural/labor arrangement that emerged in 1998 is starting to come unglued—partially as a result of its own success. As agricultural surpluses increase due to improved techniques and soil conditions, less of the population needs to be on the land. Sorting out land ownership, the economy, and a whole host of other issues are going to present serious challenges to the SAMAD leadership.


Also, Huachuca is looking at taking the offensive. They have to. The machine shops and chemistry labs of the Huachuca-Tucson cantonment are running out of key materials. SAMAD needs raw materials, semi-finished materials, and salvageable materials. The Thunder Empire has to expand or collapse. Opportunities abound for characters. Reconnaissance is needed for the 111th Brigade to move into Phoenix, or Yuma, or southwestern New Mexico. There is also some talk among the senior leaders of moving against the Mexicans in the Imperial Valley. Capturing the Imperial Valley and its agricultural resources (still in play because the Salton Sea is downhill from the Colorado River) would bring the rest of southern California back into the fold, for all intents and purposes. That might be just enough to earn MG Thomason forgiveness for his sins against MilGov. In turn, forgiveness for his sins might just enable Thomason to acquire some of the specialty items he needs from Colorado. Now that MilGov has an airship with more on the way, trade might just be possible.


Another adventure along these lines would be helping to establish a way-station in New Mexico. Small airships might not have the range to fly from southern Colorado to SAMAD in one bound.


Webstral

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Targan 07-31-2008, 12:21 AM You probably already know this but potatoes and sweet potatoes aren't closely related. I'm a New Zealander so let me tell ya, I know my sweet potatoes (they are a staple Maori crop). Sweet potatoes are basically a type of yam.

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