Letter Re: Learning the Details of Self-Sufficiency

None of us here can know the hour when 1 Thessalonians 4:16 -17, will come to be. There are Prophesies that seem to indicate that that time approaches. But we don’t know. We are not Prophets ourselves. We can just know to be ready. But until that time comes, there are also many other possibilities for which to prepare. We are in the early stages of a world-wide economic meltdown. As that grows worse, it can lead to all sorts of interesting events. Unemployment will likely lead to increased crime and even food riots. That can lead to the break down of systems. And that can cause the loss of health care, electricity, sanitation, water and so on. And that will inevitably lead to epidemics.

The Sun is the “quietest” it has been in many, many years. The last time Earth experienced so little sun spot activity, hundreds of thousands died from cold and lack of food because it snowed during the summer. The Yellowstone Caldera, a super volcano, is 40,000 years overdue to blow. When it does, it will spread ash across the entire US and block sunlight for years. There is an undersea volcano off Africa that is in danger of collapse. That could cause a tidal wave that would take out the entire east coast of the US. …And then there is the ambitions of our governments “new friends” in Venezuela and Iran, and Al Qaeda and N. Korea. An EMP attack will surely make us all take notice that being “friendly” and acting weak is no solution to bad behavior by evil people. ..Not to mention what the closing of the Hormuz Straits will cause, if certain folks decide they can get away with it.

And all that is just some of the possibilities as televised on PBS shows in the last week. Not even alarmist conspiracy theory or doom and gloom, just Public TV science and reporting.

I am of the opinion that the “first world” industrial societies are so complex, that they could collapse fairly easily. It’s just like my tractor. For lack of grease, the bearing spun. For lack of a bearing, the field didn’t get plowed. With no turned earth, there was no garden and no food.

In these kinds of economies, small events can have remarkable consequences. Several years ago, a tree fell against a power line in Ohio. That small outage spread. Power went off in parts of Canada and as far away as New York. A couple more trees, and there could be no power anywhere. And then who would there be to help Florida or Texas, after a hurricane.

So what are we to do? Certainly reading survivalblog everyday is a great start. Acquiring knowledge thru books is absolutely necessary. Getting training and practical experience at such schools as Front Sight and Midwest Native Skills Institute is crucial. You can also volunteer at any of many the open air museums, and learn about appropriate non-electric skills and tools. But, there is more. We really need seven day, everyday, experience.

For example, there has been a good bit of discussion lately about “city retreats”. Some folks believe they can make it in a well equipped “abandoned” factory or warehouse. They will hide in plain sight. That may work for a time, but what happens when the power goes out, and your stored fuel is used up? You might have bullets and food stored to last three years, then what? In my opinion, if you are concerned enough to be reading survivalblog, you ought to be realistic enough to get where you need to be to survive. And, IMHO, that ain’t the city. You simply won’t learn the practical skills needed to be self-sufficient, if you live on cement

It is remarkably complex to be self-sufficient. Without daily experience, you are unlikely to make it. It can easily take three years to successfully cultivate and grow an organic garden. It can take years to really learn to save seeds or prune a fruit tree. If the electricity goes out, you’ll need to be able to do that and much more. If you can’t, your children will suffer. It may take you a season or two to learn to get your fences built before the deer eat your crops. (They can clear a garden in one night). It can take years to learn what you actually need to run a farm. Little things like having lots of nails and screws on hand. If the big box stores close, how are you going to build shelter for city family refugees if you don’t already have the supplies? And do you know construction? Do you have the tools? Or, without lots and lots of files and hack saw blades, how will you work metal when the gas runs out? It takes more than just having an anvil and hammer. Do you know the simple things like stacking hay bales on their sides, instead of “strings up”? If the hay gets wet, the water will run through the bale if it’s on its side. The hay will much more likely mold if you store it with the strings pointing up. Right now, we all have the time to make such mistakes. It’s not yet life or death. But soon, it may be.

In a crisis, being efficient also becomes much more important. You’ll waste all kinds of time until you learn to carry a tool box on your equipment when you go to the field. It can be pure aggravation to need a wrench, screw driver or piece of wire, and have to walk all the way back to the barn. A simple fix can easily turn into a wasted hour, if you don’t have the experience and tools to know better. And an hour lost is a job undone. That can be very costly.

It’s taken me quite some time to learn to consistently keep certain things lined up by the back door. If I turn on any lights at night, a raccoon or coyote going after the chickens will run. I’ve learned, if I hear a noise, to get up in the dark, put on my boots, which are always where they need to be, have the other necessaries in easy reach, and to get out the door, silently, to take care of business. That’s not something learned easily or quickly. Just developing night vision and how to see in the dark, and how to listen to the sounds of night in the country, can take a lot of time. Not knowing that can mean losing half your chickens in one night. It happened to me.

It can also take some time to learn which neighbors are reliable and which farm equipment dealerships are best. You don’t want to buy major equipment from a dealer that has poor service and inventory. And asking for help from the wrong neighbor can be worse than no help at all.

It can take many seasons to learn the weather of your farm. I know that there is always a dry week in April when I can till the gardens. If I miss it, and it rains, it may be May before the ground will again dry out enough to plow. And when snow comes from certain directions, it may mean I need to clear a roof before it falls under too much weight. ..It’s happened.

It’s taken me some time to learn to put a broody chicken in wire cage inside the hen house. I put as many eggs under her as will fit, put in a bit of water and food, and shut the door. I’ve had many a hatch of eggs go bad because the chicken got up and didn’t find her way back. With this little trick of confining the chicken, I get chicks every time. That’s not something you learn just bugging out from the city.

It’s also taken some time to learn that its hard to read by candle light. An oil lamp is better, it can give between 2.7 to 4.4 candle power, depending on how wide the wick is. And having an oil lamp with mantle, which gives 40 candle power, (or the equivalent of a 60 watt bulb), is really important if you have any medical needs at night. I know I much more appreciate sewing myself up when I can see where to stitch, instead of kind’a poking around by candle light.

And so it goes. We all know something is coming. Most of us believe it in our cores. We wouldn’t be here otherwise. So, what are you going to do? I believe the time has come to take action. It may not be comfortable to leave the city and a well paying job. But you have so much to learn, and so little time. You really need to get moving. Because the mistakes you will certainly make today, just may do you in, tomorrow. – Jim Fry, Curator, Museum of Western Reserve Farms & Equipment, Ohio