I was raised in a small town outside the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois A normal kid in the 1970s, I really didn’t care about anything except getting out of high school and moving on with my life. I hated history class, geography was alien to me, and other than having to know the constitution in order to pass out of eighth grade, politics didn’t mean much to me, either. I did, however, try to get my fellow classmates to vote in a mock presidential election in 1980. My family didn’t discuss worldly events. In essence, I had no clue.
After moving to Arizona in 1992, my eyes began to open to the world around me for the first time. I was a business owner and when President Clinton raised the minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.00 per hour, I paid attention. I had one new employee that had been earning $4.50 per hour prior to the increase. As he ran around telling everyone how wonderful Bill Clinton was, and how he was going to vote for him again, I began studying the affects of that raise. He was shocked when I showed him that he was able to bring home .02 cents per hour more than he had before even though he had just gotten a .50 cent per hour raise. The government, on the other hand, between unemployment, workers comp, social security, medicare, and state and federal taxes, took $1.25 per hour more for each hour he worked. What a wonderful trade! And of course, because the government raised the minimum wage, all of my employees demanded raises. I took a cut in pay to compensate and paid myself less than one of my countermen earned.
In 1997, I met a man that opened my eyes more. He introduced me to guns – something I had been desperately afraid of up until that time. We even became members of a local shooting range, where I eventually was voted in as treasurer. Hmmm… politics! After the weekly shooting matches, several of us would go to a local truck stop to discuss the match scores. Eventually, conversations turned to world events, religion, and politics. One evening, one of the better shooters looked across the table at me after I had responded to a question with more than usual passion and told me I was a “Patriot”. I had never heard the term before. And at first, my only thought was, “Yep. I knew it. Finally met one of those people!”
By 1999, most of the talk in our group, turned to the infamous Y2K and what preps needed to be made. Since my business relied on computers, I thought everyone had gone nuts. Stockpiling food? Trading cash for gold? Yeah, right! Then, someone mentioned 9-9-99. That was another date the computers were not supposed to be able to recognize. I laughed at the people that believed that was going to be the day TSHTF! That is, until a vehicle accident caused all the electricity to go out in the downtown area on that particular day. Now, I didn’t believe in the dreaded 9-9-99, but what I saw forced me to take another look. Business owners all over downtown had stepped outside their locked doors and stood in front of them with their arms folded across their chests. They were going to defend their businesses against looters. They could not sell any of their goods because “the computers were down”. I could not buy a pack of gum from the corner gas station because they had no idea how to ring up a sale without a computerized cash register! Now I was scared! I knew then that though I did not believe computers would cause all the problems, panicky people would! I suddenly found myself eagerly searching out Preparedness Expos and bulk foods for long term storage.
In the year 2000, my husband found the novel “Patriots“. He read it so many times he could quote portions of it. He had me read it. He had our kids read it and actually quizzed them on it to be sure they had actually read it and not just gone through the motions. I found much of the book interesting. I learned quite a bit. However, I will not deny that after seeing the people’s reactions in 1999, I am sure that everything described in the book is quite feasible when The Schumer actually does Hit The Fan. One thing I knew for certain, the desert did not offer a chance for survival in any TEOTWAWKI situation. Water was scarce and growing our own food would not be cost effective if it was at all possible. We had to get out of there before anything bad happened.
In 2004, we found our survival retreat in the Ozarks. It’s a tiny, poorly built cabin in the middle of the woods. It had a private well, septic, electricity, phone service, and even DSL! A small spring-fed creek is near the front of the house. The nearest neighbor is about 700 yards away, through the trees. Our intentions were to work hard and tear the cabin down to rebuild something a little larger. I began trying to figure out the whole “gardening” thing. I am finally making some progress with that, though the bugs still get more of my produce than I do. We raise chickens and have raised several pigs. Someday, maybe, we will clear some land and have a small pasture to raise a cow or two for dairy and meat. Someday….
The bad thing about our little retreat is that it is in the middle of the woods. The dirt roads and the creek we have to cross have caused constant damage to our vehicles. The cost of gas has escalated, which wouldn’t be bad if we worked at home, but the nearest town of any size in either direction is 30 miles away. Not only had our cost of living increased tremendously, but then our personal fan was hit in 2008 when I was injured and could no longer work.
Since then, we have restructured the way we live. We took a long hard look at what was really important in our lives and made changes that, though difficult at first, have made us more self-sufficient and less reliant on others. The first thing we did was get rid of the satellite television. Where we live, that means no television as we are too far away for cable and live to deep in a holler for antennas to work. Dropping our satellite subscription saved us $900 per year. I am forever grateful for the Internet! Our home is all electric, except for the heater, which is run on propane. During an ice storm in 2009, we found out the hard way that the propane would not work without electricity as the furnace still has an electronic ignition. That’s when we discovered that the wood stove that came with the cabin could keep the inside temperature at 70 degrees without a blower. We canceled our propane service and saved $500 per year. During that same ice storm, we learned how wonderful the creek really is when there is no power as we still had flushing toilets when we hauled water into the house. We do not have trash service as the local refuse collectors will only pick it up if it is at a major roadway, which is 1/3 of a mile away. Food scraps go to the animals or in the compost pile (which my chickens have discovered), we drive anything that is recyclable into the nearest center, and in six years, have only had about ten bags of trash go to the landfill after we deliver it to the refuse plant.
Where we live, the soil isn’t soil at all. It is rock and clay. Therefore, all of my gardening is done in raised beds that are made of wood frames, tires, or self-watering Earth Boxes. At first, we tried to haul water to the garden from the creek in 5-gallon buckets. That did not work well. We then set up a 50-gallon drum with a solar powered pump that was connected to a battery. That worked better, except we still had to haul buckets of water to fill the drum. We contacted a local well company and learned it would cost approximately $600 to drill a 60-foot well and in our remote location, the whole process would take more than a week to accomplish. Ummm… we learned that water hoses could be stretched the 300-foot distance from our frost-free pump to the garden for a much lower cost!
Last year, we finally grew enough tomatoes so that I had to learn how to can them. I tried to get advise from neighbors, but learned that the few neighbors I have that do can anything, don’t like to follow the guidelines in any of the books on canning – that’s just a waste of time. So what if some of the jars don’t seal! Okay… back to the books. I found that to be much safer. I have found myself wishing my grandmother were here on several occasions just so I could have someone to teach me!
Through all of this process, we have made many more discoveries. First and foremost, we can do it on our own. I do not get disability benefits, and we have never received welfare. I have discovered that Staghorn sumac makes a wonderful lemonade in the summer. Tiny wild strawberries grow in abundance here, as do wild plums and of course, walnuts. Green Briar tears clothes, but the fresh new shoots taste better than green beans when eaten raw. Crows and squirrels will take all of your fruit before you ever get a chance to sample any of it! And I haven’t found a way to make a squirrel taste good when I catch one eating my peaches.
My most important discovery, though, came only a couple of weeks ago. Our daughter’s boyfriend indicated he would like to join us and learn how to prepare as well. He is an avid hunter and fisherman, but he wants to learn more. He wants to be part of a group. He wants to know how to survive and how to keep what he has. As he is only twenty-three years old, I was impressed.
However, one morning, I made the mistake of asking him what he thought TSHTF means. I was curious to know what he wanted to prepare for. I was not prepared for his answer. He answered that he believed it would be total anarchy. Most importantly, in his young mind, since he had not had a chance to make prior preparations, he was not above stealing whatever it was that he needed for his family to survive. At that moment, I panicked and thought, “Wow. Instead of being one of us, he is the one we are trying to protect ourselves from!” I was no longer sure I wanted my husband to show him where our caches of food and supplies were buried.
I couldn’t help myself and pressed him a little further. If he looks around at the world, does any of the current events constitute even slightly TSHTF? You know, like Hurricane Katrina and all of the problems there, the shootings, the increased crime rates because more and more people are losing their jobs and/or homes? The government intervention into the private sector and into our lives? The thought of a serious injury? He replied only that he doesn’t pay attention to that stuff. People that worry about that every day rather than living are as bad as the people that believe in the Mayan calendar. He feels that everyone that believes that December 21, 2012 will be TEOTWAWKI will be totally lost when they wake up on December 22, 2012. I tried to explain that there is no preparations for that scenario except to make peace with our God. He then turned it on me and asked me what I will do to prepare. I could only answer that I could only do what I am doing right now. Live. Live the best way I could with what resources I had.
Mulling over the conversation in my head a couple of days later, it dawned on me. I thought I was clueless when I was young. I didn’t care about anything happening around me as it didn’t affect me. Why should he? He is young and no one has taken the time to teach him. His eyes have not been opened. He has not been taught how to survive.
The point is, TSHTF scenarios can be in any form – from natural disasters to total anarchy and anything and everything in between. Depending on your own point of view, any major event can cause TEOTWAWKI for us personally. It does not have to be a global event, nor does it have to be local. It can be personal. How you react, how you respond, how you have prepared yourself, all will determine your own survival rate. Get out there and practice! And teach someone else if you are able!