Finding Community, by Jim Fry

Here at the farm we had the first of a series of free and open classes on disaster preparedness on February 1st. One of the things I intend to talk about at the upcoming meetings are various options for joining a community.

When discussing disaster preparations, the first thing to decide is what you think is most likely to happen. If you think the world is a friendly place where snow means skiing and flowers always bloom, then a disaster is the electricity going out for a couple days if a tree happens to fall. You’ll need a case of bottled water, some soup and maybe a barbeque for cooking. With just that little bit, you’ll still be ahead of most of your neighbors and mostly be comfortable. But what if disaster means, ‘The End Of…Everything’? Then the preps you’ll need will be very different.

We’ve all watched the aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina/Haiti/Tsunami/wildfires and snows. Generally life sucks, then the cavalry comes. But what do you do if help never comes? Never. Ever. None. Can you provide for every single thing you will need for the rest of your life, and your children’s lives? Food, water, warmth, medicine, security, communication, civil order, sanitation, entertainment, livestock, eligible partners for your progeny, trade goods, tools and so much more? Can you walk into the wilderness right now with only what you carry, build house and barn, and be able to defend against whatever predator awaits, just as our ancestors did? Because that’s what TEOTWAWKI means. The end of everything as it now exists.

I believe we live in such a fragile society that if the electricity goes off for several weeks continent wide, it just as likely won’t ever come back on. Without power there’s no food, gas, medicine, order. Without the basics, too many people will perish. And since we have become so specialized in job skills, it will only take a few key missing knowledgeable workers for the whole system to permanently break.

Two generations ago there where many self-sufficient generalists. There are very few now. My Grandma saved seeds, kept chickens, put wood to stove, and pulled water from the well. And during the Depression she and her brothers sat on the porch at night, holding a shotgun, to protect the apple orchard. Are you ready and able to do all that? Can you fix or make every single thing you will ever need? We’ve all heard stories about the intrepid pioneers who carved out a life. But for every family that made it, many more failed. Most of them died.

So what do you do? It’s not so likely any of us will do well alone. There’s just too much to do. I believe the best, and maybe only, survival strategy is to join a community. Seems to me there are only several basic ways to do so. 1). Be in one before TSHTF. 2). Be close friends, or family, of folks in a community so you can join when you need, (and trust they will still let you in). 3). Bargain your way into a community with what you know and the skills you have. 4).Bargain your way in with the goods you carry.

Of course joining a community right now, (or yesterday), is best. There is so much to learn, acquire and establish that doing it now, while times are good, is much easier. It’s also much better to work out all the personality issues when not under maximum stress. I’ve have dozens of dozens of folks living here at the farm over the last 35 years. First impressions don’t always count for much. Some people are pleasant to live with, some really make things difficult. You don’t want to find that out when its too late. When it comes to survival, you really need to depend on and trust those around you.

There are actually quite a few communities already out there. You’ve probably already checked the “Finding Others” page on SurvivalBlog. But there’s also . On their home page, click on “resources”, then click on “reach book”. There are intentional communities all over the world. A lot of the ones listed are “love me, love me” type folks, but there’s also some pretty good ones. And of course talk with your trusted friends and at Church to see who’s doing what and what’s possible.

If you’re not already in a safe place, or set up to go to one, then you’ll have to walk up to the unknown “door” and ask to join. You’ll need something better than, “I’m hungry, my kids are starving”. That’ll maybe get you a meal, hopefully, maybe. But it doesn’t get you in. You’ll need skills. Everybody’s a babysitter/cook/computer programmer/garden weeder/ditch digger. Don’t really need you. Blacksmiths are surprisingly common, (gotta love America and all her hobbyists). What’s valuable is a really good herbalist/midwife, a veteran with experience, somebody who knows and can do the thirteen ways of preserving food, a trapper/skinner/tanner, a shoe/boot/wagon wheel maker, a weaver or tin smith. Be a veterinarian or nurse/third world doctor or dentist. Then you have usefulness in really basic times. If you can’t get to community now, acquire some of the more rare or valuable skills. You, and they, will need them. With knowledge, it’ll be harder to turn you away.

Another way into community is what you possess and can offer. If you have lots of antibiotics, treadle sewing machine needles, surgical instruments, maybe fish hooks, certain books, maybe bullets, the more rare tools for old time crafts and trades, copious amounts of food or a thousand spools of thread, most communities will consider you. The problem is some communities may like your goods better than you. Some might decide to “share” what you have then say bye-bye, (or worse). You might try to bury your goods, observe the community from a distance, then walk in and make a deal. But they better be kind hearted or you’ll just end up “sharing” again. And if you hunker down concealed in order to observe a community for a couple days to see if they are worth joining, you probably don’t want to join them anyway. If they don’t catch you, its not so likely they’ll catch the bad guys doing the same thing. With goods, you’re possibly valuable, but at a real disadvantage in deal making.

Then there’s the last unmentioned way of joining a community. That’s “joining” by not joining. For thousands of years there have been traveling tradesmen, craftsmen and peddlers. Folks with tools, goods, and skills who traveled from community to community where they provided items to trade, gossip and information from down the road, sometimes entertainment and amusement to break to sameness of everyday life in isolated villages, and needed specialty skills such as dentistry or pewterer. They’d stay for a short while, re-equip, rest up, then move on. Keeping to somewhat scheduled rounds, so they would be expected and welcomed at the next stop.

Peddling may not work so well in the first months or even year after TSHTF; the world may be too unsettled and dangerous. But for certain personality types, it may be a good option. It’s something to think about.

So, I suggest you give some real thought to how you will get into a community. My opinion is we survivors/thrivers will need to. I think it will get that tough. And that soon. Don’t know what’s going to bite us. If its a pandemic, being near a city might not be so bad, if the hordes die off fast enough and you don’t also get sick. If its EMP, then being anywhere within a couple weeks walk of a major city may really suck. And if certain people get re-elected, then we’re all toast. I don’t really know what will happen first and worst. But whatever it is exactly, I suggest you have a determined way to join with others in order to survive.

A few books that might be helpful, to add to SurvivalBlog’s already long list of suggested useful books, are:

The preceding list is just a few of the hundreds that are useful to have. Do searches on Barnes and Noble Used books, or Borders Used Books in subjects that interest you. Get them now. The world will become very small when the power goes out. Also, at YahooGroups there are hundreds of Groups of people with extremely useful knowledge on any subject, trade or skill you can think of. Get the knowledge before it is all lost. – Jim Fry, Curator, Museum of Western Reserve Farms & Equipment

P.S.: For those interested, see the posting at the Preparedness Groups Page for Feb. 1, 2010, about North Central Ohio. Free and open meeting for discussion of disaster preparedness. — If we can help you now to be prepared, you can help others later when charitable living will be needed.