My Zombie Plan, Part 3

 By Shamus Feb 8, 2013 158 comments

splash_zombies.jpg

According to the previous entries, we’re a few weeks into the zompocalypse. It’s late-ish summer, perhaps mid-August. Once things settled down we formed a little band of survivors, I miraculously survived, and even more miraculously I was chosen leader. We scouted around for a few days looking at farms before choosing the best location we could find.

Assuming we survived all that and the writers didn’t decide to bump me off early, then we’re now living in a cluster of houses along a river near a farm. We’re operating under a “no one left behind” mentality. Now we need to get down to the business of surviving.


Village Defenses

The movie Stakeland is a vampire apocalypse instead of a zombie one. The story and characters don't deviate very far from established conventions, but I loved that people sometimes remembered to wear armor.

Do I need to point out that our zombie fighters would wear armor? I hope I don’t. As I’ve said before, human teeth are for tearing, not piercing. Even simple cardboard ought to be able to stop those quick “gotcha!” chomps you see in these stories. And with some proper sports equipment, a person should be almost immune to bites except on the joints. (Note how zeds always try to chomp your fleshy bits and not your joints.) Zombies still have that mysterious ability to rip open abdomens if they pin you, but with the proper gear we shouldn’t have people getting bitten on a regular basis. Maybe we won’t find any sports equipment, but I’m sure we’ll find cardboard and duct tape, which should turn away most bites.

I’ll admit it’s pretty hard to defend yourself against a threat whose power is, “They always win eventually no matter what, by writer fiat.” I mean, that’s the zombie setting in a nutshell.

Walls take time, labor, and lots of resources to build. Also, pounding all those nails will generate a ton of zombie-summoning noise. Given this, it leaves us in a bit of a Catch-22. If we can survive long enough to build something as ambitious as a wall, while exposed, at the height of the zompocalypse, while making a ton of noise, then we probably don’t need a wall. Or at least, we’ll need it less by the time we’re done with it, because the local zed population will have fallen.

It’s not quite that simple of course. I imagine your wall-builders will just be your perimeter guards, and building wall is what they do between fights. Once they finish the wall they will be free to go do other jobs. Still, you wind up with a lot of strange opportunity costs and a huge up-front cost just when you’re trying to get the group off the ground.

I think the best solution here is a “staged” defensive system. First we install something cheap and quick, then we go for a simple wall, then we improve the wall. This will get us something quick to start, when we really need the help. If we ever find that zeds stop being a problem (say, after the first good freeze) then we can stop improving the wall and not stress too much over the costs we’ve already sunk into it. This is much better than (say) building this super-fortified stone wall, getting halfway done, discovering the zeds are now a minor threat, and then realizing you’ve built half a wall that isn’t helping you and that you no longer have any reason to finish.

More importantly, we chose this rural location because the zed population should be only a dozen or so per square kilometer. If we’re getting mobbed by large crowds this far out, and if they keep coming, then clearly the zeds have magical homing abilities or scouting parties or something. In that case we might as well flap our arms and fly away to safety, because this world no longer has any rules.

But still. Like the St. Johns, we should assume we’ll have some trickle of meandering zeds, punctuated by larger groups if things get noisy. Not because it makes sense, but because that’s how these things work in these stories. Here is how we’ll handle that without building the Great Wall of Shamusville…

Diversionary Chimes

Martha Stewart Living Dead

The Walking Dead seems to present zombies as being attracted by sounds, so we’ll place wind chimes like these around the perimeter.

The sound is both loud and wide-spectrum, and generally inoffensive to the living. (Not a fan of chimes myself, but most people seem to tolerate or enjoy them well enough.) They can be made from simple bits of widely-available pipe and wire, without any special tools. If we’re lucky enough to have someone with a good ear we might be able to cut the chimes to form musical notes, which ought to make them more aurally pleasing. The chimes will be hung up on a pole or tree, out of reach of the zeds. This pole will be in the open, where we can easily see if any walkers have gathered.

We’ll also make a wind “chime” that consists of a simple window shutter on a wooden stud, which should make a steady “door slam” sound. In the first days we’ll see which sound is more attractive to the zombies and focus on building those in the future. From here on, I’ll refer to these noisemakers as “chimes”, regardless of which noisemaker we go with.

These sounds will travel… what? A hundred meters on a clear day? Probably less than that. Certainly not as far as a gunshot. The sound should be drawing in zeds that are a possible threat to the community, but not gathering up extra zombies from distant hills.

Most zeds that stray near the property will be drawn towards the chimes and away from the squishy center where our survivors hang out. Even magic ninja zombies that somehow appear IN the camp at night would be drawn outward, towards the chimes and away from the people. For the first few weeks it might be part of the morning routine to go out and destroy all the zeds that have collected around the wind chimes overnight, but sooner or later their numbers ought to run out.

At night, the guards will go around smacking the chimes with a stick as they walk their route or sit their watch. This will ensure that we get sound even when the wind is down, and will also give the people inside an audio cue if something is wrong. If we stop hearing the distinctive ring of someone striking the chimes, then there’s trouble. The guard has either been attacked or fallen asleep.

Also, we should rig up a way to trigger the chimes from within a house. If the worst happens and moaners besiege the place, we should be able to make a bunch of noise to lead them away. (Not that I think it’s likely this far out, but you never know what kind of shenanigans the writers will pull.)

We’ll get the wall up as fast as we can, but in the meantime the chimes should keep us safe from the early-morning “gotcha” zombies.

The Wall

Like this, only without the dudes holding them.

It’s very likely that this area will already have some sort of fence. There might be fence around fields or crops to keep cattle in or pests out. However, I don’t want to cheat by claiming, “And then we find walled city and live there.” If there are electric or wooden fences, then certainly we’d make use of those materials. But it’s unlikely there’s enough fence to cover the neighborhood or that it’s formidable enough to keep the zeds at bay. So let’s just assume we have to build the whole thing from scratch.

We don’t want to waste time building a stupid vertical wall for zeds to shove over. That’s a ton of work, requires a ton of wood, and is prone to structural failure. Instead our fence will be outward-facing pikes, staggered at different lengths and angles. The point of this wall isn’t to stab the zombies to death. I mean, Duh. The wall is there to present something impossible for a mindless zombie to climb over. Their blind “run forward” instinct isn’t smart enough to wedge the pikes to one side so their zombie brethren can enter. Heck, a human could just pluck spears from the ground until there’s an opening, but rotters will just shove forward and either impale themselves or become entangled in the poles.

Wooden pikes are easy to make. (At least, compared to two-by-fours.) They don’t need to be perfectly cut. Unlike lumber, they don’t have to conform to certain size specifications to fit together. They can be ugly and slightly crooked and still do their jobs. The wall won’t require any nails or hammering. Even better, we can build the wall in stages. First we shove the stakes into the ground a meter apart, tilted outward at (perhaps) a forty five degree angle. Then we put more stakes at the midway between those ones, except tilted at (say) thirty degrees. Then another group of stakes between those ones, except pointing at a (suggested) sixty degree angle. The actual angles will be determined through experimentation, but you get the general idea.

I don’t expect untreated wood to last more than a year or so. Maybe someone in the village will know how to treat the wood to make it endure the weather longer. I could swear I’ve heard of a technique where you singe the outside of a bit of wood to protect the inside. Maybe you wet the wood first? Or after? I can’t remember. Hopefully someone in town knows about this.

Now we have spikes every 20cm (every 8 inches or so) that stand at varying angles. Zeds trying to shove forward will get stuck and won’t be able to produce the leverage needed to overcome the spikes. The guards can then make the rounds and dispatch the snared zombies at their leisure, without needing to go outside the wall.

The staged building of the wall means that we can get something around the city in a short amount of time, and we can improve it only as long as we need to.

The numbers I’ve read suggest that you need 4 acres of farmland to feed a family. That’s a lot of real estate. We’ll probably want to build a wall around just the houses to protect our non-combatants. This means the the fields will be in the danger zone. Still, this will make it so that the only people facing zeds will be armed, healthy adults who are aware they’re going into danger. The sleeping, the weak, the children, and the sick should be kept safe.

Once the houses are protected, we can consider the larger and more formidable task of walling off our fields, assuming that seems like a worthwhile investment.

I thought I was being a clever monkey when I wrote this series. I planned to end it just as Season 10 and our coverage of The Walking Dead ended. But now this series is going to drag on for one more entry. At least.

To be continued…


A Hundred!202018We've got 158 comments. But one more probably won't hurt.


  1. Jeff R. says:

    You’ve got a solid defense against Zeds, but some of its aspects are going to bite you in the ass when it comes time to face human opposition, either of the stupid-short-term-bandits-and-raiders varieties or the smarter would-be feudal lord protection mob types. In particular, you’ve got your guard patrols set up in a way that makes them fantastically easy to predict, track, and ambush.

    In general, just because you’re more or less able to win or at least make the other guys pay dearly in a stand-up fight doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about other survivor groups. You’re still going to be highly vulnerable to extortion, from hostage-taking to ‘It’d be a shame if that wall of yours caught fire, wouldn’t it’.

    • Bryan says:

      See Part 2 on that, actually. :-)

      At first I was worried about being so exposed to the road where raiders might find us. But now I’m thinking this is just an artifact of playing too many videogames. [...] But criminals would have to be insane to assault a group of armed adults like this. If they kill us, then we’re no longer growing food and they’d have to run the farm themselves. But if they wanted a farm, they could just help themselves to one of the many empty farms without needing to assault a fortified location with an unknown number of armed adults. From their perspective, the assault couldn’t possibly be worth the risk. Such an attack would require several desperate, foolish, short-sighted, and depraved people to all wind up in a group together. (And be able to cooperate with each other.)

      [...] The number of reasonable people should vastly outnumber the bloodthirsty nutjobs.

      • Isy says:

        I always enjoy seeing Shamus’ optimism – on the other hand, I sometimes feel like he underestimates the bloodymindedness of short-sighted idiot jerkwads.

        • Ravens Cry says:

          Yes, I am afraid I feel this is true. Look how people have acted in non-Apocalypse but still very drastic on a local level disasters, like Hurricane Katrina. Something about a disaster brings out the best and worst in humanity.
          Romero style walkers are stupid and slow, only a threat in numbers, defeated by minimal armour.
          Bandits, the looters who were tough enough to be able to beat out the other looters for the last scraps of civilization, but now are now in need of supplies, are far, far scarier.
          That’s why you want walls. We have met the enemy and he is us.

          • Isy says:

            That crap is contagious, it really seems. We have a guy we play Mafia with sometimes. Every single time he is in the game we lose. Why? Because he manages to convince everyone to lynch everyone else and then everyone dies. (He’s not a jerkwad, he’s a pretty swell guy, but he is very excitable when playing Mafia.) It doesn’t matter that we all know he does this, and that this happens every single time. Everyone still winds up doing what he says against their own best interests, and we lose.

            As any tabletop player knows, being reasonable takes everyone working hard to be reasonable, and all it takes is one guy yelling “SCREW IT” to irreparably ruin everything forever. At which point, the whole party has to go along with it, because…. party!

            • Ravens Cry says:

              Yeah, there is that. Another problem is cheaters, people who do as little as possible for as much as possible. If you are trying to save everyone, what do you do about those people?

    • Much worse would be “It’d be a shame of those fields of produce you’re counting on to survive the winter caught fire.” Plus there’s no way to effectively prevent this. If you start fighting humans, it’s going to get ugly no matter what kind of wall you build, or preparations you make.

      • Not to mention you run into why there are so many stories and fables about the farmer being evil (Cain) while the hunter/gatherer is a great guy (Abel). Hunter-gatherers could wander wherever they wanted, raid others or hunt game, and you didn’t have to do much, relatively speaking, until it was time to go and get food again.

        If you took up agriculture, you got stuck in the same place, you’re doing back-breaking work against nature, pests, and jerks who want to come in and burn/steal your stuff. A lot of anthropologists think the weary farmers got nostalgic for the easy life of just going out and putting an arrow in your dinner every so often and this was reflected in their stories.

        As for the idea that raiding your farmstead is a short-sighted idea, your farm is the only one YOU have, but the raiders just move on to the next one.

        • Amarsir says:

          The farmer and the cowman should be friends.
          Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends.
          One man likes to push a plough, the other likes to chase a cow,
          But that’s no reason why they can’t be friends.

    • James says:

      Thinking about that wall, assuming you can protect it, i’m sure there will be some varnish in the farm, after all its a farm, there bound to need to protect wood.

      if you plant the spike about 3-5ft out of the ground and 6ft into it, and its good wood, not easily snapped, that thing ain’t moving without considerable effort, i have once removed a fence pole, it was about 4ft in the ground, took about 2-3 hours to remove, and that didn’t have a spike at the end, thinking of that, arming your guards with medieval weapons might be better then using guns and bats, especially with pike’s long reach and stabby, perfect anti zed weapons.

      just my 2 cents

    • SolkaTruesilver says:

      I was thinking of the relevancy of having a dedicated Warrior/Scout caste in this survivalist society. The people meant to go out and hunt down zombies to whittle their number down (Zombie Apocalypse IS a genocidal war, and you gotta kill them all in the end).

      They also would be the ones going on scavenging missions, either generic scavenging or with specific objectives in mind. They could also be the ones trying to find contacts with other settlements, maintaining trade relations.

      And you know it’s just a question of time (be it years, decades or centuries) until humanity becomes healthy again to devolved into conflicts.

  2. McNutcase says:

    For the pikes: plant, THEN sharpen. For wood preservation: your best bet in a post-zombie world is to drain the oil out of all the vehicles you’re not gonna use, and soak your stakes in that. This WILL poison the ground at the wall-line, but it should keep the stakes from rotting; motor oil is toxic to most organisms.

    • ? says:

      If you can get your hands on some tar around the farm you can cover the part that will go in the ground with it, no rotting, no poisoning the ground. Covering the above ground part with motor oil might help it endure elements more. Also digging the hole for a pike, putting it in and covering with ground would probably give better results than shoving them into the ground.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        Sharpen bottom, drive with sledgehammer, then sharpen top.

        Raid a hardware store for sealant.

        • Yeah, there should be some stain around. I wouldn’t expect that to be what every survivor instantly stocks up on. No need to muck around with petroleum when there’s cans and cans of antifungal mildew-resistant all-weather outdoor wood stain stacked up.

      • Moloch Horridus says:

        No, you would absolutely have to drive pikes to the ground, digging a hole first and then burying leaves them jiggly no matter how hard you try.
        On the other hand the whole poles idea probably won’t work, it will actually be more work than building a proper wall. The ground around the fields, the settlement in this case, is usually littered with stones driven from the land when it was turned into a field. Purposely brought there to act as a foundation to the settlement. Not to mention driving pikes deep into the ground is hard work, especially at an angle. And there is a lot of ground to cover.
        The maintenance would be a nightmare, ripping out moaning zombies and driving new pikes into the ground while working in the middle of sharpened poles. Plus you need a ton of straight young trees to make all those pikes in the first place.

    • Allan says:

      Perhaps you could also use those vehicles to make an even quicker first defense. Just drive them into place and you’ve got an instant obstacle.

      • McNutcase says:

        The vehicles I’m figuring on draining are the fancy stuff. Corvettes and the like will be worse than useless in a zombie apocalypse; what you’re going to need is carrying capacity for both people and stuff, along with fuel efficiency, and reliability. This suggests that the vehicles you want are crew-cab small pickups (regular cab is OK if people are OK with riding in the bed, but crew-cab is preferable), older Volvo wagons, small SUVs and suchlike. Sportscars are a liability; too much fuel consumption, too little carrying capacity and too little reliability. The huge SUVs are also bad; they carry a huge amount, but they’re thirsty. You’ll do better taking two small pickups than one Hummer.

        Building a barrie out of Corvettes is unlikely to work out well. They’re so low to the ground that zombies will just get over them easily. The hummers and suchlike are more likely to stop them, unless they’re crawlers. The only really effective option is to tip them on their sides; stake them on the inside to keep the zeds from pushing them inwards, and cables to keep them from falling outwards. Even then, with the fibreglass body, a Corvette is less than ideal.

        Some amount of motor transport will be wanted. I’d strongly recommend looting auto parts stores for fuel stabiliser, and also stuff like spare parts, spare batteries, winches (incredibly versatile; you can do a LOT more with a winch than you can without), come-alongs, shop manuals (a surprising amount of working on cars is common to ALL cars; what differs is where on the car the job is, and how much of the car you have to dismantle to do it) and consumables like oil, filters, spark plugs… That said, get anything that needs motor transport over and done with as soon as possible. Even if you stick with the must-be-reliable policy that’ll keep you running nothing but stick-shift Toyota pickups, you will run out of gas eventually. Plan for it.

        • Felblood says:

          Tip them up on their side and then brace them up.

          If you want to get fancy about it, you can rig them to fall outward onto zombies, while the defenders fall back.

    • Khizan says:

      God, no. Don’t use precious oil and other fluids like that on rotproofing wood. It won’t work that well, and you have no idea when you’ll be able to get motor oil production running again. You’d be way better off hitting up a hardware store for a few 5 gallon buckets of a sealant, but even if that’s not possible, I doubt using motor oil from vehicles(@ ~5qts/car) would rot-proof enough wood with enough effectiveness to make it worth wasting it.

      Your best bet is going to be a wood like mountain cedar, which is naturally rot resistant. You can plant a cedar fencepost in the ground the same day you cut it and get decades of use out of it. Of course, that’s probably less common in PA than in central TX, but you’d still be better off looking for rot resistant alternatives. Cedars, junipers, cypresses. Metal fenceposts, even. Sections of pipe(from non-functional irrigators, maybe?)

  3. Steve C says:

    Another simple fast wall that would go well with your spikes is a bourn. It’s a dirt embankment. Since it’s a farm there’s going to be farm machinery. It’s not viable to rely on it in the long term but in the short term it would be very useful to dig protective ditches/embankments around the property and would only take a few days. It could make an effective wall. At the very least it will funnel the zombies.

    • Geoff says:

      I was thinking as I was reading that a wooden fence could be easily reinforced and made twice as high by digging dirt out from in front of it at a sloped angle (deeper near the fence) and then piling that dirt up behind the fence and packed down. It’d be a lot of manual labor moving all that dirt, but machines would make that go much quicker as long as you’ve got the fuel.

      • harborpirate says:

        I think that you actually want to start with the trench and not the fence. You should utilize existing fencing to your advantage by digging the trench in front of it as much as possible, but don’t worry if there is no fence where you need to dig – just get it completed around your domicile as quickly as you can!

        You want to start doing your trench by hand. Shovels are easy to come by, and shoveling is extremely quiet when compared to hammering or using machinery. You want to get your zombie trapping trench going as quickly and quietly as possible. All available hands should contribute to this measure that aren’t on watch. Once it is complete, and you’re secure, you can build up and reinforce walls behind it and expand and deepen it using machinery.

        The only thing I would build with hammer and nail in the early going is reinforced, wide wooden planks to enable the group to cross, that can be pulled back at night and during emergencies. I’d only build those AFTER the trench was almost entirely complete, where I only had one spot left in the trench that was easy to climb out of using a rope or ladder.

        Once this spiked trench is in place, your biggest worry would be a zed group large enough that the initial zombies falling in create an impaled zombie bridge that others can cross. Singular zeds would no longer be a serious threat to your well being.

        • Mimir says:

          You should basically just build a Vallum

          • harborpirate says:

            Yes, exactly.

            I was too lazy to look it up, and its been far too long since History of War to remember specific names for things.

            But your post brings up another point: You’re going to want to use time tested techniques, and any detailed book on ancient warfare constructions would be tremendously valuable in the early going. This would be especially true if you have trouble getting your hands on guns or ammo, or wanted to conserve them.

            • Step one: Oppress a nearby city-state for a large supply of slaves. Try to have your soldiers spare the artisans for their talents will become evident after your infrastructure is adequate and you find yourself in need of a throne…

              • StashAugustine says:

                Step two: Dress up in football pads and arm yourselves with machetes.

                • Note: Do NOT cover anyone bad-ass in pitch, set them on fire, and toss them into canyons. This will only encourage them.

                  • Even says:

                    P.S. Skimming on advanded medical knowledge can come back to bite you in the ass.

                    P.P.S If all else fails, hire a mailman.

                  • anaphysik says:

                    Note: Do NOT, under ANY circumstances, actually dare to SIT on that throne. Some mailman may come along and murder you just so that he can rest his butt.

                    Also, after researching the fates of your fellow survivors, we’ve come to learn that under no circumstances should you wear a spiffy hat.

                    • Zombie says:

                      Only wear a bonnet. The bonnet protects. Also, find a flamethrower and lug it around and grow mutton chops. I think I’m going to start a Cuftbert cult if the Apocalypse actually happens.

                    • Neruz says:

                      I can just see an army of bonnet-wearing muttonchop-having flamethrower-wielding cuftberts walking through the wasteland obliterating everything that moves and a lot of things that don’t just in case.

          • Kaeltik says:

            This prompted the following Wiki chain:
            Vallum > Vallum (Hadrian’s Wall) > Antonine Wall > World War Z.
            We must be on the right track.

          • Or the outer bit of a motte-and-bailey.

        • Mimir says:

          So, basically, just build a roman Vallum

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          Since it’s a permanent defense, would you want to put the stakes at the top of the trench, or in the berm itself? Being mounted in the berm would make them more stable and make it harder for the zeds to pile up against the berm.

        • anaphysik says:

          Yeah, but digging a deep-ass trench sounds like a TON of labour. That’s a lot of dirt volume to move in a short period of time :/

          • James Pope says:

            You don’t have to make berms out soil actually. Anything that can be compacted and won’t deteriorate will do. Instead of trench line labor I think I’d got for sandbags, because that’s something you can do from the interior of your camp and just move the creation edge of your berm as you need to. If someone else in the interior is making “pikes” you could hand them forward using the same labor train.

            Pikes is a good idea, but I think you’re getting too stressed on the lethal aspects of the weapon. A dense, but still properly spaced, hedge of blunt lumber would do just as well in a pinch. The whole point of pike hedges isn’t to kill the bad guys, it’s to inhibit their movements so people can come around and kill the bad guys who are stuck in them. I’d install all the loose lumber and saplings I could tug out of the ground with a winch as my hedge first, then I’d “make them sharp” by just nailing some random nails through most of it. If I was thinking longer term I might plant roses, not so much for the zombies but because human raiders reduced to horses are going to find a rose hedge covering an impromptu 2×4 hedge in front of a sandbag berm a lot harder to jump over if their horses aren’t well trained.

            Similarly, I wouldn’t discount just tying regular fence wire between trees everywhere around your camp. It goes up really easy and even thousands of zombies pressing their weight at once aren’t going to make a lot of an impression on big enough trees or the regular sort of fence wire we use at my dad’s farm. Will it kill zombies? Probably not, but a zombie that can’t get to you because it’s lost in your wire maze is just a target. And even if your raiders come in with rifles and well-gassed off road vehicles it’s going to be a hell of a thing to get through any areas you’ve got set up to use mature trees and wire. Well, up until they bring out the wire cutters, but the point isn’t imperviousness. The point of any static defense is to slow, channel, and deny the enemy until your guys can show up and kick some butt or get out.

            • Aldowyn says:

              Actually sharpened stakes would do wonders against an enemy that doesn’t feel or notice pain. They’d just keep driving forwards until they get totally impaled.

              Of course, then you have to finish them off and get them off the pikes…

              An idea is to have all these pikes and stuff go THROUGH a fence of some kind. That way they hold up the fence as well as providing an obstacle of their own.

          • Syal says:

            I think depending on the soil a more-than-man-deep trench would either be too hard to dig or too likely to cave in on itself/whoever’s digging it to be worth doing.

          • Steve C says:

            It’s surprisingly not assuming you have access to some farm machines (which you would in farm country on a farm.) This is how earth levies are thrown up so quickly when a river floods. Sandbags are good too but you would need too much of labor. Specifically you’d need more labor to create a perimeter than food that can be grown on that area to feed that labor.

            BTW I also was thinking spikes at the top, not the bottom. The idea being something that can be put in a hurry but a huge herd of zombies can’t push over by sheer mass weight. Ever hear about people dying because they were pushed against the fence like in a stadium riot? Typically the fence is also pushed down… really sturdy fences too. I also like the use of wire but I’m not so sure. Zombies crawl too.

        • kelryck says:

          If you are taking over a small farming town/community, or even just a reasonable sized farmstead, you’ll probably have a tractor with a front end loader and a backhoe. If you’ve got one of any size (I have a 18 inch bucket for my 6.5 acre country farm) you can put together a trench/dirt wall in a hurry.

          The stake part is also a good idea, and is time tested as the combined ditch/rampart/stake fort was used extensively by the romans on campaign. They had it down to a science where they could put up a good sized fort in a couple hours time. Of course, they usually had 100-200 men, but a John Deere Tractor of any size can do a heck of a job pretty quickly.

          We dug out a 3/4 acre sized pond, 6 feet deep, put up a 4 foot berm around it 5 foot wide then sloped out with a fair sized backhoe in less than 2 days work.

          If you say you’re by a river, you could even surround the town with a moat if you want to get really fancy.

          One other handy thing.. while you’re hitting up hardware stores, pick up as much ready mix concrete and mortar mix as you can carry. Stores well in a dry place and you can make all kinds of things out of this stuff.

  4. HiEv says:

    Walls take time, labor, and lots of resources to build. Also, pounding all those nails will generate a ton of zombie-summoning noise.

    Ah, this reminded me of something I was going to say about one of the comments in one of your earlier posts, but I forgot.

    That, and river water itself isn’t usually the best drinking water. This boiling will consume firewood, which necessitates more gathering, which further strains our workforce.

    Assuming you’re not just gathering loose twigs and whatnot, this means that you’re going to be chopping up wood for fires, and let me tell you, that’s pretty freaking noisy. If you’re going to be chopping firewood, you’d better be doing it in an open field, away from the houses, with guards. Chopping down the trees themselves will be even less safe.

    To stave off this situation, I’d recommend scavenging firewood for as long as possible before you start chopping your own. Even stealing the wooden posts from around pastures and such would help. Using up propane and other quieter less noticeable forms of cooking and heating might also be recommended.

    Then we come to the question of whether the zombies would be attracted to the smoke from fires. Very probably the smoke might also attract survivors as well.

    • If you live somewhere that gets cold in the winter, you WILL need firewood, or zombies won’t be a problem for you once the snow falls. You’ll just freeze to death.

      And it takes a LOT of firewood to keep you warm through an entire winter.

      The PBS show, “Frontier House” was one of the reasons I really, REALLY hated the TV show “Jericho.” Those idiots rightly should have died after their first winter since they just seemed too busy with drama, the bar that somehow had an endless supply of booze, and the fact that they shouldn’t have been able to support their community’s needs.

      But that’s a rant I go off on a lot. Sorry, folks.

  5. Mimir says:

    couldn’t you mkae an earthen wall (just packed dirt, really) without too much noise? especially if you cover it with wooden stakes on the outside, it would give both protection and altitude to the patrol, as well as being much harder to push over than a wooden wall.

    • Stranger says:

      Earthworks done by hand are going to require a lot of time, a lot of manpower, and a lot of earth to actually make something. And this assumes the walkers don’t burrow through it, or push it over with numbers.

      Again, as stated in the above . . . one of the problems with zombie films is that inevitably they always win. They always pierce defenses, no matter how “foolproof” they seem. Somehow, they get in.

      • The Rocketeer says:

        Burrowing zombies?

        There’s writer fiat, and then there’s DM’s petulance.

        • Stranger says:

          If we’re talking zombie films/scripts? Yeah, burrowing zombies. There’s “zombies which somehow can home in on living flesh”, there’s “zombies which can walk along the bottom of water” and there’s “zombies which slowly become able to comprehend complex tasks” all throughout zombie films.

          It’s why I hate talking about zombie plans when it comes around to it, because the end result is *always* “zombies win”.

          • Felblood says:

            This is why the comment thread on the previous page, about doing science on zombies is so important.

            Forget harnessing Zs for useful energy. You need to know what weaknesses you enemies have in the universe you occupy.

            Can they figure out a trap, or do they fall for the same trick every time? This is important if you want to re-use a test subject, but aren’t sure if you should let them live that long. Note that capturing live Zs for experimental treatment, rather than killing them, is considered a priority for the CDC in any rage virus outbreak plan.

            Does the winter kill them, put them in stasis until spring, or even effect them at all? A walk-in freezer will allow you to test this before you gamble the lives of your whole tribe on this assumption.

            • kelryck says:

              There’s your secret power generator. Put zombies in giant hamster wheel cages hooked up to generators. Since they never get tired and will just keep walking until they get to unzombified folks, you should be all set!

              Of course, there’s catching the zombies first…

  6. MrGuy says:

    Just pointing out…

    While I appreciate the desire to not just assume “we’ll use the magic pre-existing fence,” in practice the type of area you’re talking about (rural farm country) will have an excellent cheap quick low-noise fencing product available at the local farm products store (and there’s a high likelihood there’s one nearby). Barbed wire.

    It’s quite literally custom made for this purpose. Almost every farm supply store I’ve been to has rolls of it, and the rolls are fairly long. Driving in poles to support barbed wire is way less work than your stake idea.

    Having barbed wire available is at least as likely as you having reliable weapons (which, by the way, I’m assuming you’ve implied you have by the comment that you’ll go “destroy all the zeds that have gathered overnight).

    • Thomas says:

      I’m not very familiar with barbed wire apart from gashing an arm once, but do you think it would be effective against zombies? Because they’re unnaturally strong, not very attached to their flesh and are unmotivated by pain. I could imagine them stumbling over it and just ripping chunks of themselves off as they struggle past?

      • swimon says:

        They shouldn’t be able to get through without pushing a few fence posts down. At that point the fence has already done the important parts, it made it obvious to the guards that there are zombies about (even in the dark you’re going to see/hear that) and it slowed them down. Giving the survivors enough time to prepare a defense/escape route is the main job of the fence, actually keeping them out is a nice feature but since they’re still there in the morning it isn’t really solving the problem anyway, really you don’t even really need barbwire any sort of wire fence creating a hindrance will do (chicken wire has real potential since it’s both sturdy and easy to get caught up in.

        I mean if the choice is between barbwire and stone fortress walls with moats then go with the moats, but I think barbwire has real potential per time invested. One person could probably do it in two days, one and a half to make the posts and an afternoon to set it up (depending on a lot of things obviously, hard ground means it would take longer and frozen ground might make it impossible).

      • The Rocketeer says:

        Barbed wire, no. But razor wire would work wonders, and also typically comes in very long rolls made to cover wide perimeters.

        Where one gets razor wire I don’t know. I’m used to seeing it on base, but if you’re raiding a military base in the zombie apocalypse you’re probably playing on hard mode and don’t need my help, or you’re a doomed fool and don’t need my help.

        The downside with razor wire is the same as it is for a pike wall, except even worse: extracting a walker from razor wire after he’s been struggling and thrashing around in it for a while would be a labor-intensive, time-consuming nightmare task.

      • guy says:

        I expect that it’d tear up the muscles in their legs if they push through it by brute force. So it’d seriously slow them down even compared to normal zombie speed and ruin their ability to handle obstacles they’d normally go right over. They’d also probably be stymied by fences they could push down if standing upright, so a simple picket fence around the houses could keep them from crawling in during the night.

    • rayen says:

      Barbed wire is for keeping cattle in, and even then it isn’t actually supposed to hurt the cattle (lower values if the livestock is cut up) just if they press against it a sharp point to discourage them. Same with humans, it doesn’t kill, just ensnares and discourages rather than stops. Those metal poles it’s strung along will eventually be bent over under the pressure of many zeds. it may stop one like any good fence but swarms and herds will present a bigger problem.

      • ? says:

        Farmers set up their barbed wire fences in different way than military does precisely so that animals and humans don’t get injured. Set up your fence like this and it will hurt anything that gets entangled in it. A horde of zombies can get through it, but than again, there is no fool proof solution for a horde of zombies.

        • Aldowyn says:

          not to mention it’s METAL WIRE which is pretty hard to break just by pushing through it. A person with time and something fairly sharp could get through it, but a zombie would have MAJOR issues with something like that military WW1-type setup.

      • Syal says:

        Keep in mind if they push the fence over there’s still a bunch of barb wire on the ground that’s likely to catch feet.

      • MrGuy says:

        It’s in no way a perfect solution.

        It is, however, in my opinion at least as good an option as Shamus’ “wall o’ pikes” solution, and would be considerably simpler and faster to implement.

        Shamus describing the goal of his approach:

        The point of this wall isn’t to stab the zombies to death. I mean, Duh. The wall is there to present something impossible for a mindless zombie to climb over. Their blind “run forward” instinct isn’t smart enough to wedge the pikes to one side so their zombie brethren can enter. Heck, a human could just pluck spears from the ground until there’s an opening, but rotters will just shove forward and either impale themselves or become entangled in the poles.

        Barbed wire seems to accomplish this goal with similar efficacy

        • Shamus says:

          Barbed wire would indeed be better, I think, provided the barbs are large enough to really grab zombies. (Since obviously they wouldn’t be afraid of it or physically threatened by it.)

          Before I outlined the pikes I mentioned that there might be fence around. Certainly it’s WAY easier to unroll wire than to build pikes. However, I didn’t want anyone to claim I was cheating by giving myself half a mile of barbed wire. The pike plan is what I’d do in the absence of proper fencing.

          • guy says:

            Enough barbed wire to encircle the fields is definitely practical in a rural area. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could find a large farm already protected by it, although only one layer deep wouldn’t stop more than a couple zombies at any section.

  7. MrGuy says:

    Also, you’re way overthinking the wood preservation problem.

    The tool for the job is paint. People don’t paint houses because it makes them pretty colors. They do it because it’s a protective waterproof membrane.

    Granted, standard latex paint won’t hold up terribly well on the part of the wood that’s buried in the ground. But a decent quality spraypaint should (at least as well as your burning approach).

    Paint is sufficiently common you’re likely to find it out in the garage/barn. If not, it’s a pretty simple salvage item (easier than the pipe you’re building your windchimes out of).

    • Stranger says:

      Paint alone isn’t good enough, though. You need several coats and a finish to seal it. OR you can go with another method . . .

      - Soak the wood in water until you get essentially driftwood.
      - Now soak it in resin.
      - Let it dry.

      What you now have shouldn’t break.

  8. guy says:

    I would advise against dismissing large hordes coming. It depends on the setting, but sometimes zombies hang around in one place and other times they pour forth from the cities in mobs thousands strong. Whether they’re likely to show up in a horde is dependent on the precise mechanics of zombie behavior, your exact location, and a good amount of blind luck. Plus there’s always the possibility that some unrelated group of idiots will startle the Wit- I mean, lead a horde of zombies down the road.

    For defenses, I’d advise making like the Western Front and stringing up barbed wire. It should tear up a zombie’s legs pretty well. Layer it and dig ditches so that the crippled ones can’t crawl into the fields. Plus if you do have raiders, barbed wire slows humans fairly well. It’s not actually very rare in rural areas; livestock pens are often lined with the stuff. You could probably get an acceptable depth up by spring, though the ditches would be somewhat time consuming and World War Z zombies gain magical powers when hamstrung.

    Of course, the wire could be overwhelmed by weight of numbers, but it’d hold out the random wanderers and allow you to work on proper walls in peace before the hordes start emerging from the cities.

    • I second the non-dismissal of hordes. And by “horde,” it could be as little as ten zombies. If they’re in a tight enough bunch, your stake wall would impale/entangle the first few, but it wouldn’t be too far out of zombie capabilities we’ve seen in fiction to have those in back climb over their stuck counterparts. If a truly large Romero (the official plural for a large group of zeds) showed up, your stake wall would be a zombie speed-bump.

      • rayen says:

        not really. The way these things work is the more pressure you pout on them the stabler they become. The idea is to keep the impaled semi up right forming a meat wall. and if the stakes are sharp enough pressure pushes the first bodies down far enough that the points poke out the back and stab the next wave. I have problems with the pattern more than anything, but the stake wall idea (along with the trenchs suggested above) would be fairly adequate for a shambling horde. Remember these were originally to slow down charging armies bearing swords and spears, and they had enough mind to not to just march mindlessly forward into them and soldiers still ended up dead on those spikes.

      • anaphysik says:

        Yeah, but let’s be honest: if you encounter a serious Romero-style horde, you’re pretty much fucked. At that point, you really ought to be coming up with some sort of tactical retreat (e.g. luring the zeds away from your settlement into some environmental hazard (get the environment to take them out, or get them to a bottleneck/trap where you can take them out slowly but safely), then returning back home some time later).

        (If noise really is a concern, then luring them away from the settlement should definitely be a priority. I’m also wondering if setting trapped zeds on fire might be a decent way of taking care of a bunch of trapped zeds, in which case having those flames (and smoke) well away from your homestead would be pretty necessary. (Then again, that’d probably take too long, & even a little firestarting supplies wasted is probably too much wasted :/ ) )

        • Octapode says:

          Fire is not a good solution for zombies, at least not in the Left 4 Dead style molotov chucking sense. It takes about 10 minutes of sustained heating to get the human body to properly self ignite, which is what you need for complete destruction (which is what I assume you would need to destroy zombies), and simply coating someone with liquid will not burn that long (if I am recalling the New Scientist article I read on this correctly).

          • anaphysik says:

            I was talking about controlled burning of already trapped zeds, not ‘chuck some fire on that unaffected-by-pain monster marching towards us!’.

          • Felblood says:

            Drip torch fuel should work.

            It’s mixed from gasoline and diesel, so it isn’t cheap, but it’s not unreasonable to think you could make a few gallons. To save yourself diesel for the farm machines, you can jelly gasoline by dissolving packing peanuts in it. (Though that kind of peanuts are getting harder to find, and the smoke this produces is pretty toxic.)

            It’s meant to reduce all the organic fuel in an area to smoke and mineral soil, and it works pretty well, even on animal matter.

            The heat impact alone can seriously injure a person before they actually start to burn (Your fatty tissues will start to melt before your skin starts to burn, and that isn’t good for you, especially if you’re in a situation where your skin might be torn off, like by a barbwire fence.)

            If you can trap the zeds in a pit, you could use this to destroy them without using up bullets or having to stand too near the pit.

            That distilled Everclear I was talking about last week would come in handy here, as well.

          • This always bothered me. You SHOULDN’T need to immolate zombies to ashes. After all, a headshot kills them typically. Being on fire does massive structural damage. Zombies on fire would have muscles, joints and bones failing, and would see the head collapse.

          • True, although human composition varies–if you’re in such a situation, use molotovs by preference on the fattest zombies.

          • Broggly says:

            The real issue of fire affecting is whether they need to breathe or not. Either zombies are magic and don’t need to breathe (in which case the evil spirits animating them might be playing dumb so we let our guard down) or fire is going to damage their lungs both through burns and smoke inhalation, the zombies won’t be able to sustain gas exchange at a useful rate, ATP production in their muscles stops, myosin can’t detatch itself from actin in the muscle filaments, and rigor mortis sets in. Even if they use a different physiology, unless zombies are solar or nuclear powered they need to breathe to produce the energy needed to move.

            If fire doesn’t work, then the best wall against zombies would probably be getting your cleric to draw out a Magic Circle against Evil using powdered iron, salt, or holy water

  9. vamphri says:

    So the “Chimes” will really only be useful if they are louder than the inhabitants. Meaning if you have a good night around the campfire/meal/insert fun thing here the people should be louder than your chime unless its something really big like the church bell tower from TWD. Also the chime must be louder than the zed when they are pounding on walls to get in to distract them from whats in side…basicly they need to be really really loud in order for them to be effective but at that point its counter effective because its drawing in zed from farther away.

    • What are the rules for “insert fun thing here?” I didn’t realize it had a formal title and thought perhaps I should ask to see if I’ve been playing it within the bounds of official guidelines.

      • vamphri says:

        Really it could be most anything that creates a significant amount of sound. From beating the sheets to dancing, or operationing machinery to cutting down trees. Again you would need something to make the chimes louder than they naturally are or make them super loud in which case they work better as an alarm system then a zombie attracting system…(which you already are…)

        • I guess double entendres are silent, then. I’d rather thought the opposite.

        • ? says:

          I think the idea was that chimes will draw out nearby walkers into the open, so they are less of a threat. If you have to make some noise like cut down a tree, then you have to check if there are zombies nearby, and have some people watching your back as you do it, no way around it. That’s not what the chimes are for. If they are louder than the community at it’s nosiest, then they are attracting zombies all the time and in a bigger radius. People would just have to learn to keep quiet, think before they act and warn others before they do something.

  10. swenson says:

    For making emergency chimes ring from the central house/barn/whatever you’re in, just get a lot of rope. Or extension cords, or string, or whatever else. Easy peasy!

    Mmm, your fence idea is all right, except for the seemingly enormous amount of wood it’d require. Wouldn’t it be easier to string a couple of lines of barbed wire and just have good patrols? It’d be enough to foul up the zombies, it’d be easy to repair, it’s fast to put up so long as you have posts (most farms would have a post holer, which would really help), and it’d use less wood. Also doesn’t obscure vision too badly. Sure, a determined zombie could get over or through it, but I doubt they’d know how to climb on wire, even if the barbs aren’t much of a deterrent.

    • Stranger says:

      I’d also almost (almost because, remember, zombie writers are notorious for subverting any defensive idea you can name) suggest a spiked dug trench with the poles. Smooth the sides or otherwise make it steep enough they can’t haul out or unable to get a grip . . .

      Sure, it would eventually fill up with corpses if not tended but I figure if tended it can do fine. And if you’ve got a big enough invasion that they can fill up the trench at a location and still be a credible threat, you’re not winning.

      • rayen says:

        emptying the stake pit is easy, the people that made them originally figured this was a problem too and had a quick way of solving it. Make sure you have plenty of extra stakes, then dump Gasoline or oil or lighter fluid or something flammable and easy to come by all over the highest concentration of corpses, and set it alight. once the bodies are burned away replace the stakes. as long as there are stakes and fuel it isn’t a big problem.

  11. Stranger says:

    Have you considered stone walls with some sort of mortar? Such as quick-set concrete if you can raid a Home Depot or something? I’m not sure how feasible but you should be able to get a small inner wall up with that. I know that in Ohio when I lived there, you could pretty reliably get rock in large chunks and I don’t think Pennsylvania is all that different geologically . . .

    . . . if need be you can apply pikes and heavy wooden support framework. Or save those rocks for anti-siege defenses to preserve ammunition. (Against human opponents, zombies would be almost pointless to try to repel.)

    Honestly, it’s what I’d go for if there was enough time and manpower. As for the chimes idea, couple those with watchtowers and you’ll be fine. What, build one? If you have rope and long poles of wood or saplings, and a Boy Scout Handbook you can throw together a simple mostly-sturdy watchtower in an afternoon.

    • MrGuy says:

      So, you’re suggesting building a stone wall from stone by gathering local field stones?

      To do this, we’d need to a.) lift all the stones, b.) tote the stones to where they’re going, and c.) lift the stones out of whatever we’re carrying them in and put them in position. That’s tons of work (literally).

      Lets say we want to build a wall 100 feet on each side, that’s 3 feet tall, and 9 inches thick on average. That’s not actually an amazing wall – it’s enough to defend an average-sized house, but nowhere near large enough to defend our crop fields. It’s also too short to deter anything other than a mindless zombie – 3 feet is very climbable. But it’s probably the “best case” for a stone wall that will be remotely useful.

      To build the wall, there’s somewhere between 30-35 cubic yards of stone needed. Stone weighs somewhere north of 2 tons per cubic yard, so you’re talking about picking up, toting, and setting down 60-70 tons of rock. One rock at a time. On the expectation you’re doing most of this as hand work, we’re probably not going to want to be working with many rocks that weigh more than 50 pounds or so, which means around 2000 rocks.

      That’s an awful lot of lifting and toting, and a pretty high risk of someone sustaining a serious back injury.

      • Stranger says:

        It does depend on how big the community gets; I wouldn’t suggest trying this for anything less than a dozen people. If this wound up being the “Twenty Sided compound” then we might be able to pull it off with the hands we’d wind up with :) If it was just Shamus’ family? I’d go with the above wall, though I’m not sure how long it would stop even a minor horde (a dozen).

  12. Scourge says:

    For the armor idea: Get biker armor. Seriously. Why? Biker armor is easy to move around in, is not to bulky and it was made in mind to protect people skidding along a highway at 210 MPH without them getting speedburns, scratches, or anything else. If biker outfit can survive that then they can survive some rotten corpses chomping on them as well quite easily.

    • Aldowyn says:

      Basic biker leather (which is meant for the same thing, really, as well as warmth) would work work probably just as well against piercing, which teeth DO do, as well as being more common.

      Honestly a decent coat and full-length pants (I’d say jeans) would do WONDERS for randomly-getting bitten. A decent pair of gloves would help.

      Leather in general is a great idea. A deer is a heck of a lot harder to bite than a person, I imagine, and leather clothing is treated in such a way to make it more so.

      • swenson says:

        Jeans are a good point. I know plenty of people who’ve been bit by dogs (small ones, granted) and didn’t even have it rip their jeans. Human teeth are even less suited for puncturing than that.

      • Felblood says:

        Actually, deerhide is generally used to make softer, thinner leathers.

        For a good, tough leather that’s still supple, it’s hard to beat a cow, but pigs and horses are good enough in a pinch.

        I’m sure somebody with more specialized knowledge than me can recommend some really good, exotic leathers, but these are the types of animals you’re likely to be killing for food, anyway.

        • More to the point than exotic leathers is a big supply of beeswax. Then you can make boiled leather. You melt ze beeswax, stick the relevant hunk o’ leather in the melted beeswax for a while so it infuses it nicely, take it out and arrange for it to be in the shape you want while it cools. Once it’s done you have the stuff they’re talking about when they say “leather armour”. It’s light but tough and rigid, nearly as good as tough plastic. OK, so hockey gear may still be better if you have some, but hockey gear doesn’t cover everywhere.
          The stuff eventually gets softer, but you can just re-bathe it in the beeswax to rejuvenate it.

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “rotters”

    The zombies havent even risen from the ground,and you are already discriminating against them with your racial slurs.For Shame.

  14. Sydney says:

    Re: Noisemakers

    Another idea I’ve had is to make some big wooden ‘spoons’, load them with stuff what jangles loud (keyrings from the old life, strung together into giant rattles), and sling them away as sonic diversions. The launching mechanism is silent – or at least far quieter than throwing by hand – so the sound would just come from “over there somewhere”.

    • rayen says:

      also, get some of those screamer fireworks from one of the many many MANY firework stands in rural areas (dunno if this applies to all of the USA but in the south it’s pretty ubiquitous). Light em and throw em, lots of noise, lots of light. and they last for awhile.

  15. Ithilanor says:

    Your pike wall is basically an abatis. For a simple version you could just cut down trees, tie the branches together a bit, then lay them down facing outward. I don’t know what the vegetation in the rural areas you’re considering is like, but hopefully there’s some kind of tree that would work well. Brambles and dense bushes could also be used, I suppose.

  16. Nick Pitino says:

    The chimes are a good idea, and I do wonder if they could act as bait in some sort of zed trap.

    While the fields are one thing whatever it is I’m actually living and sleeping in I would fortify to be absolutely zombie proof, and around it’s outside perimeter I’d place roughly mail-slot sized ‘kill holes’ through which I could shove weapons. This way if zeds get into the encampment it should be possible slowly to thin them out without exposing oneself to danger.

    Thinking longer term, building a wall is still probably the wisest thing to do as I do expect there to be some level of raiding activity.

    Probably the most likely thing eventually is that the most well armed and organized group (There’s a national guard base here in town and an airbase about 40 miles south for example. Even if the military can’t defeat the zeds there will still be a lot of soldiers around with weapons and motivation to organize.) will install themselves at the head of a pseudo-feudal fiefdom with them providing protection and not, you know, shooting you and taking your stuff in exchange for feeding them. Having said that, there’s still no reason not to put up a barrier to keep out ever Tom Dick and Harry who’s running around causing trouble. Animals too for that matter.

    Once completed, if zeds continue to be trouble in later years (lets say they freeze in winter but reanimate once thawed because of zombie magic!) they’ll be pretty effectively kept out by it.

    Also thinking about being in a rural area if you can find one of those giant propane tanks that would be useful in more ways than one, sure you can cook with it but it’s also relatively easy to convert generators to run on propane. They do sell kits for it:

    http://www.propane-generators.com/

    But if you have a reasonably crafty person it can also be done with out a kit:

    http://otherpower.com/otherpower_propane_convert.html

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but just the possibility to fire up some electric lights now and then and being able to charge and Ipod would be a nice luxury and contribute massively to my personal sanity.

    Plus considering that it would be nice to perhaps rebuild society someday, being able to generate electricity is obviously vital to run machinery. The ability to fire up a lathe and turn metal parts puts you back into the late 1800′s technology wise almost all by itself, and being able to fabricate parts from raw materials is obviously necessary to the manufacture of new machinery.

    In a similar vein, homemade vacuum tubes:

    http://www.hpfriedrichs.com/bks-ioa-gallery1.htm
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHFkZlYlWBc

  17. KMJX says:

    Just build a Wallnut fence, put some Eaters behind it, and plant a few rows of Sunflowers, then rush some Corn Cannons or Watermelon Catapults.

    Problem solved.

  18. Kavonde says:

    I agree with those above who suggested barbed wire vs. wooden stakes. Having worked in a mid-sized Lowe’s garden department, I can tell you that all the material you could need–spools of wire a mile long, posts to string it from, mallets to drive them in–should all be located fairly close to eachother. Bust open the garden gates, and you’ve got easy access. Plus, if the outbreak actually is happening in the spring, there should be plenty of fruits and veggies you could plant back at the farm, and if you’re willing to venture inside, more than a few gardening guides with tips on how to properly cultivate them.

    Oh, and while you’re there, the axes, hatchets, picks, gas cans, and generators are usually just inside from the garden, too. Bring as many trucks as you can get. Hell, if you’re willing to venture all the way in, you could probably find the keys to the store’s delivery truck (and/or flatbed) either in the managers’ office or down at Commercial Sales, by the bricks and stuff.

    Hey, I watered plants all morning when I was there. I had time to think.

    • anaphysik says:

      I heartily laud this ‘recommendations on how to pilfer this store I worked at’ type of suggestion.

      • Neruz says:

        If you can manage to pilfer a hardware store then you’re going to be pretty much set for the immediate future. Rural areas also tend to have hardware stores in abundance since one of the things farmers need a constant supply of are tools and materials and those stores also tend to be fucking huge.

        Down here if you could locate a bunnings warehouse that hasn’t been stripped bare then you’d probably have enough materials to construct a full on WWI style trench network with barbed wire and fencing.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      Raiding a store like a Lowes or Home Depot is a really good idea, and one that I think way, way too many people would have. If you want anything at all from one of those places, you’d need to get there early and bring LOTS of ammo.

      • Kavonde says:

        I dunno; other people trying to establish a long-term community would see the value of it, definitely, but casual looters or lone scavengers wouldn’t find much there that they could both use and carry. And there are enough hardware stores, at least around where I live, that even if there are other long-term survival-focused groups raiding a store, there should be a competing chain or local shop not too far away.

        • Lame Duck says:

          Another thing to bear in mind is that if there are other people trying to establish long-term communities nearby, you definitely want to try to get in contact with and build good relations with them. A friendly community allows trade, sharing of knowledge, greater genetic diversity, somewhere for any survivors to go if your community falls to the zombies. Obviously if the communities are too close together it might result in competition and fighting over local resources but in a zombie apocalypse scenario I imagine most groups trying to build a new home wouldn’t want to get involved in a war with another village.

  19. Deadpool says:

    On the subject of noise makers:

    Another idea is to have a loud noise maker, a REAL god damned loud one, and just set it off far away from where you plan on being.

    If you’re lucky enough to have a landfill, or some other big gaping hole type of area to set that noise to, even better.

    On the subject of armor:

    BMX gear tends to be pretty easy to find, light weight and effective for this. Chain Main should be easy enough to find in lots of museums if you’re lucky enough to have one nearby. Hopefully right next to a mace…

    Also, relatively easy to manufacture. Won’t be done in the first month, but a nice long term goal.

    • swenson says:

      Or you can strike up a friendship with your local SCA people and see if they’ve got some extra mail you can borrow… probably easier to find than the historical stuff.

      • Incidentally, while chain is technologically easy (wire, pliers, time) it’s labour intensive as all get out. If you have what it takes to make plate (e.g. 16 gauge sheet metal) it’s a much quicker job.

        In my SCA region there’s a popular easy kind of armour for beginners: You get tough sheet plastic (recommended = 1/8″ high density polyethylene, but really anything fairly tough will work OK) and cut it into smallish rectangles. Get a loose-fitting leather jacket, remove the insulation, and rivet the small plates in overlapping rows to the inside. You’ll need a drill to make holes in the plastic, a hammer, and the rivets (split rivets if you can, or burst rivets). Voila, plastic brigandine. Not much good for limbs but covers the body well and is pretty light.

  20. The_Unforgiven says:

    Others may have already said this, if so just ignore me.

    But I think the first thing you should do is build a ditch, and this ditch should be around all your holdings. The ditch should be a minimum of 6 feet deep and 4 feet wide, with the dirt piled up along the inside to make it harder to climb out. This will help to keep out both the living and the undead (though the undead would have to be dispatched and removed). Behind this is where you should build your ‘spike wall’.

    Now, while stakes are an acceptable defense, it’s my opinion that you build an actual wall behind that. A simple palisade would be more than enough. You could use rope/wire/other similar material to attach the logs together. Obviously this would use a lot of wood, but is still a worth-while investure.

    Remember, always plan for the worst, and hope for the best. Just becuase you find it unlikely that there’ll be large numbers of raiders/bandits, doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be.

    • X2-Eliah says:

      I don’t think it will keep out undead, though. They will just come at a steady stream, fall in, and die/shamble. Over and over. Either you will have to pull them out and get rid of the bodies, or accept that the ditch will be getting shallower and shallower and stink to no end (also, health hazard).

      • Stranger says:

        Fire does wonders for disposing of what was once alive.

        • X2-Eliah says:

          Good point. Very good point.

        • Octapode says:

          Fire is not going to be a good way of disposing of dead zombies. At the very least, you’re going to need a lot of fuel to properly destroy the zombies, and especially if you are burning them in place, that means using your precious liquid fuels. It’d also smell really bad, just differently bad from rotting zombie.

          Alkali, on the other hand, would be a wonderful dead zombie disposal tool. It’d break them down well, neutralise the smell, and if you’re burning wood for fuel then the ash will be a plentiful source of it. You might want to move bodies first to keep the runoff from contaminating fields or water supply, or if that is too risky/difficult, have an outlet ditch for your moat.

          • Stranger says:

            Very good reasons not to use chemical solvents, but as for using up liquid fuel . . . there are ways to start fires without using up your fuel. Again, Boy Scout Handbook. I just know there will be at least ONE nearby you could get to consult.

            It starts with tinder, which is anything that can catch fire quickly. Dried grass or leaves, for instance. Paper with a little bit of cooking oil on it. That will serve to get things going . . . if these zombies have been walking around their clothes MIGHT serve as good fuel.

            Friction method with a bow and spinning stick will work, just take time . . . and it takes lots of practice but it works.

            In case you don’t get that to work, we can move up to nine-volt batteries and steel wool. Or any current you can do.

            Again, if that fails, flint and steel throws sparks to ignite it. More chancy, but you will find this much easier to do as an amateur or first-timer.

            As for how to start the fire? Dry grass in the bottom of the ditch, and get a stick. Wrap a rag around the tip and use some cooking oil or any mild accellerant on it where you go to light it. Get a small fire going, then light the “torch” and throw it into the trench.

            Sure, this method might need tweaking . . . but that’s what this whole series is for :) Fire is very important, as a tool and as a weapon. Not forgetting about it is equally important.

            • The Rocketeer says:

              It really doesn’t seem anywhere near as effective as “lifting the zombie from the pit.”

              I mean, getting zombie gunk on your gloves sucks, but not as much as smelling rotting flesh smoldering day in, day out.

              If you can’t think of any good ways to dispatch the zombies stuck in the trench beforehand, you aren’t likely to survive anyway, so you may as well see how many walkers you can put silly hats on to entertain real survivors down the road.

              • Stranger says:

                It may not be as efficient, and the smell may suck but you don’t need to build that trench close to where you live. And short of a massive amount of incoming zombies? You’ll be able to do a daily sweep and figure out what you need to do. You shouldn’t need to burn out the corpses every darn day.

                But fire would do several things simply hauling the corpse out wouldn’t do. It would remove the actual biomass, and it would kill most of the diseases that would find haven in rotting flesh. And it’s not chemicals like lye or acid which can harm groundwater around your crops.

                (Actually, a thought – Since they’re still ambulatory with no heartbeat or conscious thought, would it be safe to assume they’re actually alive and thus can harbor diseases requiring a living host? I’m having “Miracle Day” thoughts here . . . if they can harbor and incubate communicable diseases then burning them would be probably THE solution you want.)

                All this said . . . I have said, earlier in these plan posts, I don’t expect to be capable of survival. Mostly because I’m not fit for it and enough of an idiot to make really bad decisions. I’m chiming in because this has caught my attention and a friend engaged me with thoughts on this the other night.

                If there was a situation like this theoretical one? I’d swallow a shotgun barrel and blow out the back of my head as soon as I could find one. I ain’t living through it anyway and leaving a corpse capable of becoming a zombie seems rude.

                • Octapode says:

                  Dead bodies are not actually a particularly dangerous source or disease unless they died of disease. Not that you really want them contaminating your water supply of course, but decomposition is mainly caused by the bacteria and juices in your gut and stomach, not by some other nastier disease.

                  • Stranger says:

                    I know that, and that worms/maggots and the like break down rotten flesh or other things into soil. But corpses still aren’t a good idea to leave laying about because:

                    - You don’t know if they died of disease before turning into walking corpses.
                    - You don’t know if what caused it can be transmitted.
                    - You don’t know if they’re carrying something which didn’t kill them but could still be enough to kill you or put you under to where you would die.

                    Personally, I’d be surprised if zombies were able to survive out in the wild . . . given that they’re perfectly serviceable as a meat supply for predators/scavengers.

                  • The Rocketeer says:

                    If we’re using the rules from the Walking Dead, though, that is how they work. People bitten by zombies die from regular bacterial infections that zombies harbor in their mouths, komodo style, not from the zombie virus itself.

                    So apparently not only do they carry these infections, they carry versions of them strong enough to kill an otherwise healthy individual in a few hours.

            • Octapode says:

              The problem isn’t the ignition of the fire, the problem is getting enough fuel into the pit full of decomposing zombies to actually burn them. If you’re hauling them out then that isn’t a problem, you can just do a funeral pyre type arrangment, but that is still going to eat up a lot of fuel. And really, burial may well be the best option if you don’t need to dispose of them in situ. No fuel or anything else needed, just shovels and a bit of spare land.

  21. Ravens Cry says:

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: bicycles. Seriously, quiet, maintainable, efficient,faster than any zed and unmistakable for a zed, (seriously, when did a zombie ever ride a bicycle?) bicycles are probably your best bet for a lot of transportation for healthy adults and children past a certain age.

  22. Khizan says:

    I don’t like the idea of a pike-wall, like you mentioned.

    Look at it this way. The way you described it, each meter of pike-wall is going to require ~4 posts(0m > 0.25m > 0.5m > 0.75m and the next meter starts at the fifth post).

    These posts are going to have to come up to ~4 feet off the ground, because they’ve got to stop a zombie from passing it OR falling over it easily and forcing it down, and that means it’s got to hit an average person in the ribs.

    A quick bit of napkin-trigonometry gives me 4ft / sin(45) = ~ 5.65ft exposed above the ground. Add another ~2(minimum!) feet below the ground to anchor it, so 7.65ft per post. At an angle of 45. At an angle of less than that, you need an even longer post to get the same height. At all 45 degrees, though, you’re still looking at ~30 feet of ‘pike’ per meter of fence. An acre is just over 4000 square meters, so that’s ~16000 sq m, so 160×100 ends up with a 520m perimeter, which ends up with 15,600 feet of pikes, or damn near 3 miles worth of wooden posts.

    The other thing to consider is this: The pikewalls work against humans and horses because humans and horses won’t just mash themselves into it until the sheer weight of them forces the wall down, because the ones in the lead will die and we’re not too keen on that.

    That is not the case with zombies; that hoard of zombies will mindlessly hurl themselves into the pikewall. They will force the front zombies onto the wall. The front zombies will get impaled. As soon as the clumsy impaled zombie loses his feet or dies(again) or otherwises ceases to support his weight, he becomes a ~150lb weight hanging on the end of your pike. This will eventually force the wall if a horde is shoving at it.

    Also, the pike-wall is really only effective if they hit it at a perpendicular angle. If they hit it at an oblique angle, they’re really just pushing on the long end of a lever. If the ground is soft, it will fall rapidly.

    Me, I’d probably go with a vertical wall and then backfill it. Pile a bunch of old vehicles and appliances up behind it, cover it all in dirt. Now you’ve got a wall with a heavy reinforcing buttress. As long as you ensure that the wall is properly maintained and build it strongly enough, it’s not going to fall to any reasonably sized horde.

    Of course, that’s also massively labor intensive and requires a ton of materials, so I’d probably just do that around the house and rely on relatively light fencing around the fields while I worked on more substantial defenses.

  23. X2-Eliah says:

    In that case we might as well flap our arms and fly away to safety, because this world no longer has any rules.

    But… It already has no rules. First off, there are zombies. That alone is enough for physics to start packing and leave the universe. Second, there are a LOT of arbitrary coincidences and cases that are just as much a writer fiat as anything else (summertime, happy-go-lucky-no-drama-group, little to no raiders, very specific style of harmless zombies, lots of guns/weapons). I don’t think that introducing factor X will make the world rules go away if factors Y,Z and G didn’t.

    Don’t get me wrong, this series of posts in entertaining. But it is still about as much of a writer fiat than any ninjazombie jumpscare or ultimate horde, for example.

    • Shamus says:

      Look, I’m just trying to avoid writing a whole book here. I accepted a few givens at the outset, and there are some unknowns. At some point I have to say, “I’m not willing to explore this branch of possibilities because that would be another ten posts all by itself.” I’m willing to swallow SOME troll science for this exercise, but there are limits n how far I’m willing to go with it.

      I mean, if we take it too far then the setting breaks in other ways. If zombies are magical perpetual motion machines, then we should be capturing them and using them to generate energy, and so on. The more we bend the real-world rules, the sillier it gets and the harder it is to have entertaining speculation.

      So I chose an arbitrary cap on bullshit. The fact that I’ve allowed SOME leeway isn’t a blank check for nonsense.

      • Deoxy says:

        In every zombie universe I’ve seen short of “zombies still have human intelligence, they just like to eat brains”, your bits about needing to produce food are good, but your bits about zombie defense are rubish.

        Seriously, short of higher intelligence, building mechanical, human-powered zombie-killing machines is much easier than almost any of the stuff you are mentioning for defenses.

        KILL THEM ALL, then get back to defending humanity from the real enemies: starvation and freezing to death.

        • Shamus says:

          I think you need to explain your idea better before you can call it superior to mine. How are you killing? Where? Using what power? Where are the bodies going? Why are you wasting time killing zeds that will be neutralized in 4 months?

          • Deoxy says:

            You are assuming structures strong enough to keep out zombies. Any such structure could hold something heavy enough to crush humans skulls, which equal dead* zombie. (* Insert usual discussion of “dead, dead-dead, re-dead, etc.” here.)

            Objects heavy enough to do that are all over the place. Refrigerators are nice and square, engine blocks are denser than most, use your imagination.

            Chain strong enough to hold said heavy object is easily scavenged from any farm area, most body shops, and many other places.

            Any half-decent pulley system can haul up said heavy object easily with human power alone.

            Noise attracts zombies, yes?

            1) Set up death trap in disposable location (not where you intend to live, though within some fairly easy distance would be good – close enough that a runner with a noisemaker could lead a night-time horde to it first thing in the morning).

            2) Get on top of death trap. Make lots of noise. Squish any zombies that show up.

            3) Get off of death trap walk/run/drive around making noise, lead horde to death trap. Squish zombies.

            Lather, rinse, repeat. Do daily until you have a day with no squishing. Repeat process any time more zombies show up.

            Put on your gamer hat! Abuse the crap out of the lousy zombie AI!

            Surviving in a world with 90%+ of people dead is hard – the stuff you have about that is important.

            Surviving zombies, after the very first bit of sheer luck and craziness, is not. Non-super-strength zombies are PATHETIC foes; even in huge numbers, their lack of intelligence makes them ridiculously easy to kill.

            Heck, you could do this plan in a residential area of the city – use the house on the corner, kill all the zombies in the area. When the yard is nasty with dead bodies, move down a couple of houses and repeat… the bloody, nasty, gore-encrusted “heavy object” can be easily replaced.

            The bodies can be left. The only power necessary is human power (with a pulley system).

            If we actually KNOW the zombies will be neutralized (permanently) in 4 months, it might not be worth the effort, but A) the effort is much less than a lot of the other stuff you are talking about, and B) there’s no way for us to know that.

            And really, this is the “thought it up in 5 seconds” method. Better physical killing methods would be easy to come up with, though probably a little more work to build.

  24. Nick Pitino says:

    Hey Shamus, I had tried to post a comment earlier and it was sitting in moderation for a while but then disappeared.

    I don’t know if there was a glitch or something.

    Alternatively I don’t think there was anything offensive or inflammatory in it, but…sorry just in case?

    EDIT: Pff, and of course as soon as I post this it reappears.

    Never mind then I guess.

  25. Moloch Horridus says:

    The whole poles idea probably won’t work, it will actually be more work than building a proper wall. The ground around the fields, the settlement in this case, is usually littered with stones driven from the land when it was turned into a field. Not to mention driving pikes deep into the ground is hard work, especially at an angle. And there is a lot of ground to cover.
    The maintenance would be a nightmare, ripping out moaning zombies and driving new pikes into the ground while working in the middle of sharpened poles. Plus you need a ton of straight young trees to make all those pikes in the first place.

    Chimes idea is great but why not try to figure out where the main pathways for zombies are, like cities and other towns where there are a lot of them in the first place. Go and plant a few noise makers there (raid the vicinity first) and let the rotting party begin. If zeds never leave their homestead they won’t be coming at yours either.

  26. Having grown up on/around farms, I can tell you that most farms have some sort of small earth-moving machinery (even if just a simply post hole digger attachment or a bobcat with a shovel) and their own small fuel supply. If you go to a farm that has any animals at all you will be guaranteed to have some decent fences and possibly a supply of fencing material.

    I know my family orchard has a good 8′ fence surrounding it to keep out deer.

    Most farms will also have multiple tractors/combines. Usually it is worth more to keep depreciating old equipment than it is to sell it so there is usually the new and the old tractor. Get a body up in the combine to act as a scout/guard who can figuratively mow down large groups of zombies, and use the other to reinforce existing structures.

  27. The Rocketeer says:

    I’ve got to throw in my hat with the folks nay-saying the pike wall. This is a lot of labor and a LOT of wood for something not likely to work.

    Like I said before, razor wire is a great solution, if you can find it. If you can find ANY, though, you’ll have probably found more than enough for your needs. Razor wire is best used stacked two layers high, which puts it at about chest high, with the lower roll staked into position. Better yet, razor wire is also a great deterrent against the living, too- but only when guarded. Real folks can easily deal with razor wire if no one is shooting at them, but not if someone is. Which is why razor wire exists in the first place. As stated, the drawbacks is removal of snagged zeds and finding the stuff in the first place.

    Lacking that, sandbags might be a good option, especially if you’re digging the dirt yourself. A 3 foot wall of sandbags might not seem like much protection, but if it’s behind the trench you dug to get the dirt for the bags, it gets a bit more intimidating. Also, this is something you can do in stages, starting with the trench. It also lends itself well to assembly-line work: dig trench to fill wheelbarrow, wheel dirt to pile, dump, return. Get a few teams working in shifts on it and you’re in business. Later, start filling bags from the pile, wheel them out to the site, and start stacking. Sandbags have surprising longevity, especially if they’re ‘real’ sandbags, ie, actually made for that purpose, and they have the advantage of being ‘easy’ to work with, for a given definition of easy. Not as bad as just piling dirt in a heap, anyway, especially if you want to reconfigure, later; just load them back in the wheelbarrow and take them somewhere else. Also, you could always build spikes into the wall later if you still want your defenses to have spikes, they really do just scream “fortress.” Maybe you won’t be able to find ‘real’ sandbags, but they aren’t difficult to improvise, either, and if you do find real ones, you’ll probably find a hundred times what you need, just like razor wire.

    Also, make a sign. Not necessarily for outsiders, even. Just having one will contribute to morale. You know, build a sense of community. I mean, some hungry jerks in a cold farmhouse don’t have a hope, but “Uncle Shamus’ Dream Ranch” doesn’t take shit from dirty zeds, and an emblem of a man in scrap armor smashing a burning zombie with a cement block on the end of a fencepost will threaten would-be raiders and keep a real man warm for hours. In general, community morale and beautification projects are great jobs for kids and nonners.

  28. For those looking for a fun way to burn off zombies without using fuel and using SCIENCE, go raid a warehouse that caters to classroom materials. There, grab a bunch of Fresnel lenses from the overhead projectors. With sunlight shining through them, they’re like a short-range death ray.

    VERY short range, so you’ll need to rig up some method to get them close enough to the zombies you want to immolate without you getting hurt. But still, it’s educational for the young’uns, it doesn’t use gas or wood, and best of all, it’s a DEATH RAY!

  29. Lazlo says:

    Just a note on farm sizes: I did some research on this not too long ago, and according to numbers from the USDA, there are currently approximately 4 acres of farmland in the US per person, and that’s making heavy use of fertilizer, irrigation, and modern machinery. Then again, there’s transportation waste, and frankly, people eat more today than they absolutely need to to survive (then again, we also burn less doing manual labor.)

    Now, as a historical estimation (because I haven’t looked up actual data), “40 acres and a mule” came from the mid 1800′s, at which time a bit over half of the population was farmers. Assuming that was an adequate farm size, that implies that 40 acres could feed two families (the farmers themselves, and one family from the non-farm population). At 4 acres per person, that would imply a family size of 5, which just sounds about right.

    OK, now I’ve done some looking up. In 1910, there were 878,798,325 acres of farmland in the US. There were 92,228,496 people in the US. That works out to 9.5 acres of farmland per person in the US. Of course, there was some export (and I believe that the US has historically been one of the largest food exporters), but I believe that was dwarfed by domestic consumption.

    So that leads me to suspect that, given turn-of-the-century farming techniques, you’d need more like 10 acres per person. Given a family of 4, that’s more like 40 acres per family. So your size estimate may be off by an order of magnitude.

    • Shamus says:

      Depends on what you’re farming. For a ranch / dairy, you need a TON of land, because cattle needs to move around to get more grass. The 40 acres probably also includes forested area so you can cut wood.

      You need the 4 acres to grow the FOOD, but obviously you need a larger area than that for housing / barns / storage / grazing / foresting / etc. I’m assuming this is where the 40 vs 4 discrepancy comes from.

      In our case, we actually have all the land we could possibly want. We just need to decide how much of it needs a fence. Long-term, it’s probably best to layer this. The toughest walls around the houses, the next-toughest around the fields and barns. Low-cost obstacles surrounding the commonly-traveled lands.

      • Lazlo says:

        That Cornell PDF is actually really fascinating. It doesn’t have a breakdown for 1910, but for 1925 it does. The 1925 numbers are 924M acres of total farmland of which 345M are “crop land harvested”, 13M are “crop failure”, 34M is “idle or fallow”. This is clearly distinct from the 408M acres of pastureland (which is further subdivided into plowable, woodland, and “other”.) Then there’s 67M acres of woodland not used for pasture, and 57M acres of other land in farms (barns and houses and such, I’d guess)

        So that’s 39% of the total area as planted crops. Given my original 9.5 acres from 1910, that’s 3.7 acres of planted crops per person, with another 4.2 acres of pastureland.

        I completely agree with you on the layering. Though I’m not entirely sure how I’d layer it. On the one hand, some crops (like corn) provide cover even for shambling undead, and if numerous movies on the subject have taught us anything, those sent to a perimeter field of corn will be unlikely to ever return. But having livestock innermost means living moving things close to the center, so that at night your guards may mistake a wandering undead for just another cow. I still think I’d rather have the livestock closer, so that there’s a strong fence around the center, followed by a range of open pastureland, followed by another reasonably strong fence, followed by cropland, followed by a weak fence whose main purpose is to be easy to visually inspect for signs that it’s been crossed.

        So if we take a group of 40 people (ideal tribe size with respect to Dunbar numbers), I’d say around 5 acres would be a decent size for living needs, surrounded by 170 acres of pastureland, surrounded by 150 acres of planted crops. Assuming you’re up against a straight river on one side, make it into semi-circles, and if my calculations are correct, you end up with:

        acres sq yd radius perimeter
        5 24200 124 390
        175 847000 734 2300
        325 1.573e6 1000 3140

        (I’d bet money that table will not make it through formatting.)

        So that’s a settlement that’s a bit over a mile in diameter, needing about a mile and a half of strong fences and close to two miles of weak fence. As people have pointed out, chopping down trees for fencing is incredibly loud and will probably draw zeds from miles away. I would strongly suggest hand-sawing trees, which is much quieter up until the one loud crack as it falls.

        You know, one of the reasons I make such a horrible GM is that I really do think about things like this, and it irks me when there’s a medieval town with blacksmiths, innkeepers, a brewery, guards, leatherworkers, cobblers, and pastry chefs but without a hundred square miles of farms surrounding them to support all those non-farmers.

    • Don’t forget plenty of that acreage is non-food. Cotton, for instance, flax and whatnot. Back in 1910, probably also hemp for rope and so forth. But particularly King Cotton.

  30. Four acres to feed a family of four? Could be. The U.S. currently has about 3 acres of farmland per person–and we export/waste a STUPID amount of food every year.

    • Stranger says:

      I’ll throw in a thought: We export a stupid amount of food perhaps due to the efficiency of modern technology harvesting and cultivating. Take that away, I don’t think as much can be done with the same amount of land. And four acres probably won’t be enough to sustain both grains AND livestock.

      • Very true. Apart from the genetically modified high-yield strains, the machines that plant seeds are incredibly high-tech. My father has an old college buddy that runs a large (I think it was in the hundreds of acres) farm and thanks to the modern machines he uses, he only needs to hire help for the harvesting.

        Now, without fuel, parts, batteries, and GPS, it loses a lot of its functionality quite quickly, and that’s assuming you can get the seeds you want.

        Come to think of it, one of the top priorities might be re-discovering old forms of farm equipment while you might still have the resources to make plows, scythes, etc. and figure out the best way to use them.

      • Well, true and not-true. On one hand, modern methods get surprisingly high yields given the low-labour, monoculture approach they’re framed in. And of course, initial yields in our post-apocalypse scenario would be low because nobody knows what they’re doing. Might initially need some extra acres beyond normal calculations unless you happen to have some expert organic farmers around.

        But I’ve read a number of articles which say that in fact, smaller plots farmed with a more labour-intensive approach actually end up with higher yields per acre, even done organically without chemical fertilizers. You do things like combining crops in a single plot, putting stuff in between rows that often not only gives you extra stuff to eat but actually aids in reducing pests at the same time. Thing is, it’s a trade with a lot of tricks–a really high yield operation is practically more like a little ecosystem, with waste from one bit feeding into another and so on, than like a typical modern wheat farm. So our refugees are gonna take some years to start figuring it out.

  31. Riktol says:

    You know I’m not terribly hopeful for the spike wall, I think you would simply need too much material and manpower to set it up. Also, I would imagine that even zombies would manoeuvre their way through unless you increased the pike density. That said, I’ve never done a hard day’s labour in my life so what do I know?

    Barbed wire or a wire fence sound easier to set up and more effective as they cover the perimeter continuously. Sand bags also sounds easier than just digging a trench, even though logically sand backs have more steps in their production.

    While none of these would hold up against a horde, if there is a horde you need to strategically retreat to another (pre-chosen) location, or break out the 50 cal machine guns & RPGs.

    With regards to the wind chimes, I’m not really convinced about them.
    Firstly, if zombies are draw towards just any sound, they would congregate in areas where it is windy and the wind howls noisily, or places where water drains noisily such as waterfalls, and I don’t believe this has ever been demonstrated. To counter this you could use recordings of human voices which would require power and equipment.

    Secondly, I don’t think the noise from the recordings would keep the zombies there once gathered. Once at the recording, if there is no prey around, why would the zombies stay?
    Also, the recording would be a good place to pick up the scent of the humans at the settlement. I suspect that even if zombies were initially attracted to the recordings, they would follow a scent trail. This would lead them to your settlement, which is not what you want.
    I think that digging a deep pit and suspending the recording above it might work, until the CD player runs out of batteries.
    I suppose they might buy time for you in the first few weeks.

  32. You know, one thing that occurs to me that would be hugely valuable: A LIBRARY. Get all the books you can. Aside from the morale bonus of having entertainment you don’t have to run a generator to power, you can LEARN all of the tools like preserving wood, finding gasoline, growing plants and gardening, repairing tractors, etc.

  33. guy says:

    In addition to the outer defenses I and others suggested above, I think you want to build yourself a citadel. Nothing too fancy, but you want a building with metal doors, barred windows on the ground floor, brick walls, food storage, and balconies or a flat roof to pick off zombies from. That should be able to hold off an arbitrary number of zombies as long as the food lasts unless they get superhuman strength, in which case you’re pretty much screwed.

    This is more manageable than trying to wall off the entirety of your fields and will give you a way to survive a horde attack.

    • Just let the Brotherhood of Steel build one and sign up.

    • Deoxy says:

      Forget using normal weapons to kill them off – just get an solid object large enough to crush skulls when it falls, some heavy duty chain, and a winch.

      Lift, drop, crush.
      Lather, rinse, repeat.

      The hard part is making the lower part of the building truly horde proof (even hordes of living people have broken into things stronger than most people realize).

      Of course, just have the roof part with the weapon and extremely strong metal structure would really be sufficient – go up there, make noise, attract zombies, start squishing.

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I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

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I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!