I wish to present an alternative prep situation that I have not really seen talked about on your blog and at other other sites. First a small bit of biographical background and anecdotes to explain my reasons for what I (now recently we) are doing.
Ten years ago, I retired from the military (26+ years, Life Scout (in a younger form) and an ex-scout leader (both Boy and Girl Scouts), fixed income with a part time job, never lived at one address longer than three years (requirement of military lifestyle), hobbies oriented to colonial/fur trade eras (see anecdote), recent earnest prepper (caused by that feeling in the pit of my stomach and head that things really aren’t right and not going to get better). Fiscally responsible but bought the “earned your retirement” false dream long ago–that can’t be changed now.
While in the military a lifestyle of semi-preparedness was necessary because of my low income. (I suffered through the Carter and Clinton administrations). We canned food from our garden wherever we were stationed to stretch the food budget and teach our children how to make their own food; we cut firewood for heat in some locales; we relied on kerosene lamp back-up lighting and camp stove cooking because of unreliable base power grids. At one base I was even visited by the Public Works officer to find out why my quarters had lights during a power outage. Imagine his surprise to find both lights and heat off the grid, plus all my neighbors and their children warm and well fed.
At times, while in the service, we qualified for assistance food and based upon those experiences have reached some unconventional decisions. Assistance food usually meant a five-pound block of USDA cheese, #10 cans of dehydrated soups or powdered eggs, surplus breads and very large containers of dried milk. When you open these it becomes a use-it-or-lose-it menu even for a family of four!
My colonial/fur trades hobbies came about with involvement in Scouting, teaching merit badges, Indian skills and camp crafts. They are both enjoyable and practical from a barter-trades aspect: hide tanning/leatherworking, moccasin and footwear making, non-manufactured clothing making (no zippers or buttons) and using trade cloth/blankets), primitive cooking and camping skills and pioneering–the art of using logs and rope to construct bridges, platforms and watch towers, cranes and jack-legs, and other basic heavy lifting rigs. I highly recommend adding Scouting handbooks and merit badge books (older printings) to family preparedness libraries. There is a wealth of information there!
Last year, while looking for our current home, I was really taken with a 1950s home that still had a primo Civil Defense specification bomb shelter in the back yard, primarily as a safe place for my reloading and weapons storage. It was the high end style that was connected to the basement of the house with a concrete tunnel, doored at both ends, and three feet underground. It was in mild disrepair: vent system damaged and entrance sealed off at the house, but repairable. We passed on that house because it was in the end too small for our needs and in a shall-we-say “unstable” neighborhood. Six months after purchasing our current home my wife, out of the blue, says that maybe we should have bought the other house! This from a woman that has made disparaging remarks when I have added to our LBE kits and checked the status of our “homeland defense” items.
She seems to have had an epiphany after our taxes were prepared when she wanted to know why we had not taken the $3,000 credit from our small investment nest egg before and I explained that we had never lost over half of it to the economy! When the “boss” changed her attitude and became interested in my “below the radar” preps, I started to include her in the decision and prioritizing of what to buy and the impacts on our limited budget.
“Below the radar” preps means passing off a purchase as some other need (diplomatic when not everyone is on board with the idea): a small generator was for our tent camper, food items were for this summer when our grandson visits or to replace things lost in a move, water jugs were because of the places where we camp, extra gas cans were for the lawn mower (a stretch but it worked), the FRS radios were an aid when we are out hiking, though there was no need to disguise the increase in reloading components when the election results were in.
All this brings me to our different style of prepping.
While I would like to be able to stock up as is generally noted and advocated, our finances and storage space do not permit the expenditure of the amounts necessary to buy in bulk. Also from my experiences in the military I don’t like to place all my eggs in one basket. I will admit that while it is more expensive per unit cost, it is also more “do-able” in an on-going practical sense on a fixed income and has an unforeseen future benefit.
We make our storage food purchases with only the two of us in immediate mind, to aid in use and rotation, by buying individual serving packages for most of the items that we get: boxes of rice sealed in boil-in-bag pouches, powdered milk in boxes that have quart size servings inside, individual packages of Ramen style noodles, small cans of fruits and vegetables (the type with the pull-off lids), non-refrigerated microwave meals that serve one (these are very practical as they go in our lunches on a daily basis), individual packet boxes of instant oatmeal, and normal sizes of canned meat, chicken and fish. Some items naturally are bought in what would be normal sizes but for only the two of us they seem to last forever: Five pound bags of flour, sugar, cornmeal, coffee and pancake mixes. The primary factor in these purchases is getting the longest expiration dates that we can find. All this gets put into 22 gallon Totes that have latches for the lids but only one container of each item per Tote: a box of rice, a box of milk, salt, coffee, etc., 4 each of the fruits and vegetables (36 total), 4 rolls of toilet paper and towels, strike anywhere matches, sets of durable plastic knife, fork and spoon, zip-lock bag of 28 individual size soap, 4 empty plastic bullet boxes that hold 4 Bic style [disposable butane] lighters, 2 packets each type garden seeds. This list is not complete, but you get the idea. The content of each Tote equate to one month’s food and paper needs and is movable by even our 13 year old grandson. We currently have six totes filled, after only four months of serious additions. We are trying to add one Tote a month in addition to the other things that we are getting. My part-time job provides the funds for this so what we can get depends on what else is on a priority that month. We do have an additional Tote that holds 36 MREs and is marked for priority loading. Our water is stored in the newer G.I. five-gallon plastic water cans, available at flea markets. These are stored in a dark storage room. Our small camper is always stocked and ready to go no matter what season of the year.
Now for the reasoning behind this method. If TSHTF or TEOTWAWKI occurs it may be gradual or a traumatic event requiring different tactics. If gradual and we can hunker down while finishing up necessaries, only one Tote at a time needs to be opened to augment what we have. If traumatic, anyone can carry/load the Totes into one of several available G.O.O.D. vehicles or the trailer while another watches their “six”. The urgency of a bug-out may dictate how much can be loaded in the time available. The more Totes that can be grabbed, the longer we can make do but the MRE Tote and water is always loaded first. This is in addition to B.O.B.s and homeland defense items.
Now for the unforeseen future benefits that I mentioned. As you have noted several times and places, I too could not turn away others that are in need if I can help. But giving someone a #10 can of beans or soup will not really help them. A grocery bag of individual servings that they are familiar with and provide variety and full meals for one or two days plus a means to heat it will help while not depleting our stores. Secondly, if a bad guy finds a single Tote with a few of everything in it, they may assume that’s all there is and not attempt to engage in a protracted search for more.
One last item that may not meet with approval but is out-of-the-box thinking in the selection of several fallback retreat sites that most others probably will not think of. If we cannot stay in the city, as small as it is, I have found a couple of locales that would prove ideal. One is a semi-restored 1870s military post. Yes, I know that I don’t own it in the traditional sense though I have paid for it through my taxes, but if there is no more authority in force, it could prove useful. The fort is already set up to function without power as we are used to, just coal or wood heat and cooking (there is no electricity on site), bulletproof buildings and pre-determined fields of fire, close to a year round water source, small homes for families and barracks for singles and designed by some of the best military minds of their times. Even has a powder magazine and jail! It also has a very low visitor count. If it is occupied or contested, no problems, as there are others at regular distances closer or farther. If not, then it allows for a rally point and the expansion of a Group as others arrive that are aware of my thinking. And they are not unique to our Area of Operations (AO). I have been to some really complete ones back east, in the south, and on the west coast. Let your mind do the walking.
I didn’t realize how long this became. If you find it suitable for others to see to help them achieve their goals with limited or minimal means, please feel free to chop it as necessary.
Very Respectfully of your efforts to aid others, – R.D. in Wyoming
JWR Replies: That is an interesting concept, but implementing as you describe would require a quite unique set of circumstances. Namely, it could only happen if there were a sudden an near total collapse of society, and if all law enforcement evaporated overnight. It is far more likely that we will witness a “slow slide” from recession to depression, (and then, much less likely) to collapse. For most that continuum, your actions would be seen as criminal, and you’d quickly attract the attention of government. So then you might end up behind some other very stout walls. And BTW, any of these forts that are on National Forest or National Park land are considered Federal property, so any occupation deemed “trespassing” would be a Federal offense and likely carry a much more severe penalty than trespass on state or county parklands. So it is best to make this a “very low likelihood” contingency plan.
In my estimation the only pragmatic way to occupy an old fort in the midst of a slow slide situation would be to include representatives of county, state or perhaps even Federal government as part of your planned cadre, and characterize it all as a “continuity of government” (COG) endeavor. Bureaucrats often enjoy thinking (or pretending) that they come up with original ideas. Given the promise of safety for “selected” people, this should not be too difficult to orchestrate, especially as the economy worsens and the crime rate escalates. Creating a nexus with a governmental organization could be as complex as getting qualified as an EMT, or as simple as joining a Sheriff’s Posse, joining a County SAR team, or becoming a RACES-affiliated ham radio operator.