Letter Re: Barnyard Junk: The Things that You Do and Don’t Need for TEOTWAWKI

Much has been written in all the various books, discussion groups and forums about acquiring the best G.O.O.D. bag, BOVs and medical kits. Much has been said about what garden seeds to get and the best lead delivery systems to have. There’s been endless discussions about setting up the most survivable retreat and packing the maps to help get you there. …But I recall very little talk about what you don’t need.

I’ve lived on the family farm all my life. I’ve also spent a great deal of time delivering survival supplies to Indian Reservation all over the US. I’m currently managing a Farm Museum. And I spend a good deal of time visiting several Amish communities nearby. In all these endeavors, I’ve had occasion to visit people living on the land. I look closely at how various folks and cultures manage how they live.

On many of the Reservations, there’s trash along the roads and cars up on blocks in many fields. It’s common for someone to take a tire off a vehicle because they just need it until they get a new tire for a different car. Then they “borrow” the battery, then maybe a headlight/radio/other tire/gas tank etc. Next thing you know, there’s a permanent memorial to G.M. sitting in the drive. It all contributes to an environment of futility and hopelessness.

In Amish country, some farms are neat as a pin, and others are just falling apart. I stopped by one yesterday that was just depressing. Not a blade of grass, not a flower bed, dirt and chicken manure everywhere. The signs advertising maple syrup for sale, were hanging akimbo. I stepped in the house to talk to the family, and the clutter was an accident waiting to happen. The man of the farm was as messy as his farm. I doubt he gets up in the morning thinking how much he is looking forward to going out to the beauty of his place.

On the many “English”, (Amish term term meaning anybody not Amish), farms I visit while collecting for the museum, it’s much the same. A friend of mine lives on a diary farm not far from here. There’s several falling down buildings full of grand dad’s rusty stuff, none of it useful any more. There’s discarded and rotting feed sacks inches deep in the milk house. And lots of unused and unusable equipment scattered across the yard. He farms, he makes a profit. He has pretty good hay for sale. But his working environment,…ughh ! Where he works and how he works holds him back. He can’t get as much done for all the junk in his way. Other farms are models of efficiency.

What I’ve learned over many years of “farming”, is that farming gets harder or easier depending on how organized you are. If all your tools are well kept and organized in one place, every repair job is much easier, ..there’s no need to spend half your time searching for a misplaced wrench. If what you look at, as you walk to the barn, is neat and cared for, it tends to help you feel more like doing the next job. If your place is a mess, with lots of undone chores to do, it can get so overwhelming that you to just want to say the heck with it, there’s too much to do.

Right now our society is still functioning fairly well. Most places, the government does its second most important job fairly well. Once a week the trash gets picked up. After the SHTF, getting rid of junk will be much more difficult. When you are getting your retreat ready for what seems more likely every day, consider this. If the economy collapses, what you have is what you will have. The more helpful stuff, the better. The less trash, the better. I suggest you be rigorous, right now, about getting rid of the things that won’t help you survive in tough times. Right now, it’s fairly easy to do.

If a dead washing machine is sitting out back, cut out the metal side panels for use on some other project and maybe save the motor if it’s working. But get rid of the rest of it either thru a scrap yard or trash pick-up. If you don’t, it’s just going to rot away and cause you trouble later on. If the power goes off and there’s no more gas, consider using the last half pint you have to move your BOV to some out of the way place. Once it’s parked, it’s going to be there a very long time. You’ll be tempted to keep many things, thinking that someday you’ll need/fix them. But if you can’t get them running now, it’s less likely you will when the electricity goes off. You might think of it like inner city graffiti. The first day you see it, it might have some “artist value”. But as it deteriorates, it just drags the whole neighborhood down.

The environment you live in really does effect the way you feel and work. Right now, get rid of what you don’t need. Arrange your retreat as neat and clean as you can. It will make all the thousand other jobs of self-sufficiency easier. Give it a thought, what you don’t clean up now, may be a real hindrance later on. The neater you are now, the more efficient and happy you will be now, and…later. – – Jim Fry, Curator, Museum of Western Reserve Farms & Equipment, Ohio