From Zero to Prepared in Five Years, by Jon the Marine

At the young age of 17 and a half after having completed High School earlier than most of my peers and with parental consent, I joined the United States Marine Corps.
The date was June of 1999. The next four years of my life would be interesting, exciting, dangerous, and eye opening. Quickly making me leave the naive boyhood I had then, and realizing what a dark place most of the world really is. At the end of my four year commitment, I returned home from a year deployment in Afghanistan, and chose to discharge honourably once my contract was completed.
A few adventures later, found me moving to Ontario, Canada. By adventures, I mean my current, and at that time, future wife. We just married May 1st of this year, 2010.
Arriving back from the Honeymoon a few days ago, I was surfing through many of my favourite internet survival sites, and came to Survival Blog as I always would at least once or twice a week but had neglected to do so lately, with all the wedding preparations and stress the past few months.

Up until recently, I felt that my own TEOTWAWKI plans were not to the point I would like them to be. So I told myself I would write a piece one day, when I finally had reached the comfort and safety blanket that I thought was finally good enough for myself and my wife. If I felt it was good enough for us, it should be good enough for others, right? Or so the thinking goes.
Having been a combat Marine, I of course have advantages that a lot of people that are only recently waking up don’t have. But let me tell you. Even having been in the military for four years did not prepare me nearly enough. The knowledge I have gained in the last six years from reading resources on sites such as these, if not outweigh, definitely are the defining attribute to complete the brute force survival instincts one receives in the military.

Lucky for me, my wife has been willing to humour my survival instincts and supports me, so long as I don’t make us bankrupt in the process! So without further adieu, I will tell you how we slowly prepared for TEOTWAWKI. Due to the space constraints necessary for this story, the juicy storyline details are going to be left out with just the necessary ones included. The planning stages began of course, in the spring of 2006 after having stumbled upon some “nefarious” web sites such as Infowars, SurvivalBlog, and many others. It didn’t take me long in the military to realize that while I was a patriotic, country loving American that you could not trust the government completely. If anyone was going to secure our future, it had to be us.

The first thing that really caught my eye was an event still fresh in my mind, Hurricane Katrina. We had opened our wallets immediately, donating to help the tragedy stricken people of the area. But the more we followed the story over those months. The more we realized the complete disaster it was.

How could a government of 300 million people of the largest and richest nation (in terms of resources) on the earth be so unprepared? While this event was big, it was not nationwide and it was not global. It affected only a few percent of the entire population of our great nation. The response was mind numbingly slow.

This is when we decided to take matters into our own hands. This wasn’t even close to a TEOTWAWKI event, and it was obvious just from watching the news just how devastating it really was.
The first thing I began to do was research on methods of food storage and water purification as well as making some emergency kits. A first aid kit, water, candles, all the primary goodies a kit should have. Wound up getting a food dehydrator, and lots of #10 cans to dehydrate food and store it. Ultimately after a lot of trial and error, over the next two years we wound up storing away almost 200 of these cans. We stored beans, rice, quinoa, oats, wheat, honey, salts, sugar, spices. I Dried fruits, vegetables, meats, all sorts of delicious things. Even as I write this, I had opened one of the cans now being almost four years later. This dried fruit still tastes amazing. Yum.

Fast forward two years. I’m cruising on my survival web sites and come across the web site for Mountain House foods. After doing my due diligence and research I head to the local survival / surplus store and buy a few individual pouches to try out. Wow, I’m blown away by the great taste of the freeze dried foods. After going home and doing some more research, I’m saddened to learn that nearly of all them have monosodium glutamate (MSG) in them, but I think to myself: “We all eat some terrible things once in a while in peacetime. Who among us hasn’t headed down to the pub for chicken wings and beer once a month or so with the buddies?” I’m guilty as charged. Eating some food with MSG has got to be healthier than not eating at all.

Comfort food is sometimes just as important as any other food. We decided to buy 2-3 of these #10 cans from Mountain House every month to add to the stash. Normally we were against buying pre-packaged stuff like MREs because the shelf life was only 5-6 years on average, and the per unit cost was (at the time) too high to justify the short shelf life. Dehydrating was far more economical. The 25-30 year shelf life of this, what I called “The fast food of survival food” was more than enough to convince me (along with the taste of course) that they were worth the prices listed.

Fast forward another year. After our diligent monthly purchase (and a few times throughout the year we decided to purchase a case of them when we came into unexpected extra money) we had about 50 of these cans. They varied from breakfast foods, desserts, dinner entrees, and even frozen ice cream! Between these, and all the other things we had purchased and or dehydrated in the past, based on some rough calculations I figured we had nearly two years supply of food for the two of us combined. That’s two years of eating at 2,000 calories. We definitely weren’t planning to skimp. I mean, it’s TEOTWAWKI. We aren’t going to be going to our office jobs all day, then playing PS3 all night like we do now. There is going to be a lot of physical labouring going on right?
Yet something still wasn’t sitting right with me. We had food. We had water purification systems. We had written plans to execute for the day the emergency did strike. We had our cozy little condo that we could hunker down in on the umpteenth floor. We had means by which to defend ourselves with. Even a solar powered generator that ran almost silently on our balcony in the sunlight to charge the icebox and emergency communications equipment that we would almost certainly need. What was missing?
Then it hit me. We were sitting ducks. And sitting ducks in the city which is even worse. How long before our neighbours and others realized we didn’t look like we were starving and still somehow paying our mortgage (with the silver and gold we have also stashed away in the form of bullion coins.)
Did I really think we could defend ourselves in some kind of Rambo: First Blood scenario? A mob will always win. They have the same determination to survive that you have. But they have numbers on their side. They can sleep in shifts. They can wear you down or just brute force you.

I somehow convinced my wife of this. Our search for a property outside the city began. We eventually came on a piece of land a few hours outside the city that was off the beaten path. There was no electricity on the property, no roads leading onto it or anywhere near it, no plumbing, nothing. The parcel of land was surrounded by what we call “Crown Land” which is owned by the government. There wasn’t a neighbour or a building within 50 miles of us in any direction. The fact that this land is so remote meant another great aspect. It was cheap. Believe it or not, we got near 75 acres for under $12,000 dollars Canadian. We had rights to the trees but not minerals. Oh well, we weren’t planning on digging for gold anyway.
I’m going to break down an entire years worth of anguish for you in a few sentences here. If you have ever had the boyish dream of building your own log cabin or cottage in the woods, please let me warn you of the absolute agony you’re going to put your body through. It is hard, hard, hard work.

A year later, I am looking around proudly at my little 650 square foot handmade log cabin. It looks like a snap shot out of a Lincoln cherry wood scene. It’s not the prettiest site. But it has held up all winter and is weather tight. The wood stove keeps it toasty as can be. The outside is nicely done up. My wife just has this amazing ability to bring out lovely flowers and gardens anywhere she goes!
We even built a few really cool things like a small patio covered outdoor kitchen with a stone/brick stove and oven. Powered by, you guessed it, just wood or charcoals. It has a stone water basin with drainage system for washing dishes with a tank above that slowly releases rain water collected from the patio roof. The water runs through a filtration system of course. A large fire pit is in the center, to help provide some heat in the winter if any cooking needed to be done outside. You have to be able to get back to the basics right?

My wife suggested that we attempt to build some sort of refrigerator system into the ground. It was freezing here 6-to-7 months of the year. Mild three months, and the others were just plain warm. A little procrastination and a few youtube videos later, I was back up at the cabin and managed over the course of a month (during the weekends) to dig in a very nice root cellar as well as an underground, very well insulated refrigerator. It keeps things very cool in the summer, and prevents them from freezing in the winter. It is between 2 and 3 feet underground.
It took a long time (several months) to get all of our supplies moved to the cabin and its root cellar. Trucking the supplies up and then ATV-ing them off-road style to the cabin. I had to do other work to the root cellar just in case some sort of rodents or animals managed to burrow into it by mistake and find it, lest our tin cans be discovered. Although they were all properly packaged and sealed so should have been odourless. The entrance to the root cellar was cleverly disguised to appear as part of the hill it was dug into.

We have even managed through a close relationship with our family doctor, to obtain prescriptions of antibiotics that neither of us are allergic to, for our retreat. The only stipulation that he gives us is when they expire we return them to him for a new prescription. They expire about every three years if stored properly. He gave us lots of training and literature on how and when to use them and only under the circumstances that of course, no medical help is available at the time. No one should ever try to diagnose themselves if they are not a doctor.

Fast forward again (I know, you must feel like you’re in that Adam Sandler movie “Click”) to the present day. With our retreat in place and our supplies stored in it, what now you ask? Continue to live life. Continue to gain survival and knowledge skills. We are even considering taking a year off work to move to the cabin and see if we can live at it long term. Maybe even build a chicken coup and small building to raise some rabbits in for meat.

All you can do at this point is to try and continue to live life, and thank God for every day that he gives you. While we are now very much in our minds prepared for what is or what may be to come when TEOTWAWKI happens, five years ago we were ill-prepared individuals and I was naive enough to believe being a marine I could just “bug out” into the bush and survive.
When we first began preparing, I can tell you, I felt like the end of the world was around the corner any minute and I would never have enough time to prepare. None of us middle class citizens can afford to instantly build a hedge against a society collapse. This feeling of helplessness and hopelessness engulfs many of us and probably prevents many of us from acting in the first place.
I can assure you from experience that all the baby steps will eventually come together. Don’t hesitate to begin planning for your future. I think society has brainwashed us to believe the end is always “just around the corner” or maybe it is our own survival instincts. It may be 20 years from now or 50 years or 200 years from now. But isn’t having some sort of peace of mind worth it? I don’t any longer feel that same desperate sense of impending doom that I used to when we were unprepared.

Rather than being sitting ducks like the government wants us all to be, my wife and I took charge of our lives and made our TEOTWAWKI retreat. Could we defend our retreat against a mob should they find it? Of course we couldn’t. But we’re investing in the fact that it is so far away from civilized life that an angry mob shouldn’t be tramping around in the middle of nowhere in a forest hoping to find our garden of Eden. We’ve told no one of it. When the social breakdown begins, we will get into our truck loaded with ATVs on the back and head for the retreat and hope for the best along the way. If your circumstances can help it, don’t bunker down in your condo like we were planning unless it’s absolutely your only option. If it is your only option, then prepare as privately and quietly as you can. All any of us can do in the end is hope that our preparations were enough. God Bless America, and all of humanity!