Poll Results: An Exercise in Humility–a Poll on Embarrassing Mistakes

Mr. Rawles:

When I think of our early mistakes, so many things come to mind!
1. Buying ten #10 cans of T.V.P. for Y2K. Ick! We could not give the stuff away. We learned never to buy large quantities of anything we don’t normally eat until we try it first

2. Buying cheap BOB backpacks. We thought that since we would most likely never need them, we could buy the cheap backpacks from Walmart. A few years later, when we decided to take a test run, we found that the packs were incredibly uncomfortable and the bottom fell out of one of them. We also discovered that it is near impossible to wear a fully loaded BOB on your back with a toddler in a front pack and be able to balance, hike, etc.

3. We just jumped in with both feet doing food storage instead of learning the proper way. We bought tons of wheat, cornmeal, and oatmeal – poured it in buckets and stuck it in several locations. About 3 years later we started learning and realized we should have taken more care, rotated our stock, etc. When we checked on things we ended up feeding about half of it to the chickens.

4. Underestimating what we need! This was the biggest. Several years ago my husband got sick and was off work for four months – unable to get out of bed for two of those months. Because we were debt free and had food stored plus some savings we did okay, but we realized how many things we had overlooked that I had to run to the store for – spices, OTC medicines, shampoos and toiletries, even socks and undergarments that were about worn out and had no spares. Nothing absolutely life shattering, but those creature comforts make life bearable.

5. We also realized during that time that our roles were too separate. We are very traditional, with me doing “women’s” work and him doing the “men’s” work – that’s how we like it. But when he could not do it we realized how dangerous that could be. We have always hunted for elk and deer, and I am a good shot – but he always loaded the gun for me and did all the reloading. I did not know how to start the tractor, milk the cow, or even which feed and the quantity for our animals. While I could learn most of that, we did come to realize that my physical limitations are much different than his – so we bought a smaller tiller that I can run, he started putting up smaller bales that I can lift, he made charts for animal care and doctoring, etc. Likewise, he learned to deal with the milk, make cheese and butter, and I made a special “food storage cookbook” that he can work from. We don’t like to think about managing without each other – but it is part of being prepared!


When in doubt, read the directions. Years ago during the first Bush ban on semi-auto rifles, I acquired a new-in-box Colt AR-15 H-BAR pre-ban rifle for $700. Before taking it out for my first bench test with USGI green tip, I cleaned and lubed the rifle, but didn’t read the directions closely enough to realize I had left out the cam pin when I reassembled the bolt. The rifle seemed to rack and function fine, but when I put a round in the chamber and aimed at my target downrange 100 yds. away, I recall a hot rush of air and loud sound, which got my attention.
The bottom of the 20 round magazine was blown out, base plate, mag spring and follower were missing. The bolt was locked about half way open and there was a bloom of brass expanding like a small daffodil or somesuch protruding from the back of the chamber. The bore was clear of the bullet. The case head was gone but I was intact and so was the rifle except for being jammed half open. A gunsmith performed the “casectomy” and all was checked out fine with the rifle. I had no injuries, but I did go and re-read the Colt manual and realized that the cam pin got rolled up in my cleaning rag and I had missed it during reassembly. I now real the manuals with guns, especially new ones.


Hi Jim,
Here is a planning mishap realized by that most ancient of adversaries, vermin. I had several boxes of bottled water. Nice, heavy, sturdy cardboard boxes designed to withstand hard handling, etc. Had them stored under the workbench in the garage along with some white buckets of bulk wheat and rice. But all were largely invisible because other items were stacked in front of them. While I regularly check on how my firearms and ammo are storing, I had not looked at these supplies for several years.
We had been fighting with some small rats for several months. The traps weren’t working and the rat poison did not seem to have an effect. I had to get something out from the pile of gear under the work bench and noticed rat spoor. As I pulled out the gear, I realized why the poison had not been working: We had provided our little furry friends a comfortable and well-stocked home. They had eaten away the holes in a couple of the white buckets and were consuming the foodstuffs. And they had eaten away the sides of the cardboard boxes of water, actually eaten the
plastic of the water bottles, and had consumed several gallons of water. Cleaned the mess and sadly threw away some supplies that were now suspect.
Bright side to the story, once we had removed our unintended rat support system, I started catching the despicable critters in my traps and the poison containers show signs of being eaten. No more rats! Moral: watch where you store stuff and check on your storage regularly.