As a theater teacher and director I am primed for drama. I hunger for it. But what to do while waiting for the aliens to land, the dollar to collapse, the bombs to start flying, or Yellowstone to have its say? I have always told my actors, don’t rehearse it, do it. After all, preparation is important, but performing is better. Act as if you have an audience now and do it the way you will perform it. I am new to this “prepping” phenomenon. It can be an overwhelming, and for some of my friends, an inexplicable thing. So what can I share that is useful? For those well into the process, maybe just a confirmation of things they already know and do. For those who are just starting out and wonder what to do first, I would offer the following Drama Queen version of prepping and sustainable living.
The saying “write what you know” inspired me to use theatrical terms to outline ways I have become more prepared. My former Navy Corpsman husband and I have made some simple but profound changes in our lifestyle. While we may not be living the post-apocalyptic dream, we know that current conditions in this world aren’t exactly normal, and they don’t seem to be getting any better. Crazy weather? Check. Fossil fuel? On the way out. Economic stability? Um, since when? So, it makes sense to live now the way we may be forced to live later. In a very real sense, The End Of The World As We Know It has already arrived.
THERE ARE NO SMALL PARTS, ONLY SMALL ACTORS Maybe you are the sort who feels “unless I can do the whole thing and do it perfectly I don’t want to do it at all.” Rather like those who say, “unless I am cast as the lead in the play, why bother?” Remember, like the chorus members on stage, no matter how small your efforts, they make a difference. Even a simple change will lead to more. Here are some baby steps for your role as Third Guard From the Left, before you take on your End of the World tour as Hamlet. There is no limit to ingenuity, so start creating instead of tossing away.
Compost food waste We used to just throw things out. Now we sort items into what is recyclable or garbage, and happily compost what’s not eaten or used by us. Our eco footprint has gone from Godzilla to Cinderella, and in such easy steps. What’s more, we are creating soil for next year’s healthy garden from this year’s waste.
Look at your yard with new eyes – Our back yard has a bumper crop of dandelions. I used to curse them as noxious weeds. Not anymore. Why curse something that has the ability to relieve liver disorders, aid the pancreas, maintain bone health, and cure acne? What an awesome plant! Not a weed. Not anymore. And if you don’t fancy the taste, then feed them to your chickens and you will have happy feathered friends and healthy eating eggs.
Find new uses for common items – One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. For example, make a sterno burner using tuna cans, cardboard and old candle wax. Or transform aluminum pop cans into solar heating devices.
Light up your life Some call it energy conservation – I call it love light. Candles are so much more romantic than conventional lighting. We really enjoy candlelight dinners, and choosing to use electricity less not only saves money, but reminds us of the need to look to other sources for our energy needs. Remember, TEOTWAWKI is now. What happens if the power goes out permanently? You’ll need a lot of candles…so here is a crazy way of extending candlelight – not romantic, but very practical: One tub of Crisco, one candlewick, 45 days of candlelight.
JOIN A GREAT CAST OF PLAYERS Being a jack of all trades is useful, but exhausting. Plays have multiple characters for a reason; and it takes the onstage and the backstage crew to succeed. Being with like-minded people in a community is so much easier than doing it alone. TEOTWAWKI isn’t a one man or one woman show – this is a huge production. Here are ways to find cast members for your local production:
Join a community garden – Take 30 strangers, put them in a room and tell them to start planning a garden. I thought it would be more like our current political process –a lot of talk, not a lot of progress. Wrong. We planned, we plotted, we laughed, and disagreed, and then kept working to make things right. A perfect example of what can work in the democratic process as well as a wonderful way to learn more about gardening. We know and grow with a variety of people; some are experienced gardeners, others are beginners who kill off their first three tries at tomatoes. We also have refugee families who are starting new lives and have knowledge to share. Find a local group of your own – there are opportunities everywhere.
Get to know your neighbors – That crazy guy down the street? The charming lady across the way? They may be the ones who help you most if the fertilizer hits the fan. Also, a group of watchful neighbors are less likely to fall victim to mob mentality, and it is far better to know who is right next door in a catastrophe.
Make friends with those who work or shop at places that give you knowledge and help When you find an excellent source of products for your home, your garden, or anything else, chances are the people who shop or work there are just as valuable as the items purchased, often even more so. We have learned from others’ mistakes without having to make them. When in doubt, ask. Better to look stupid now, than stupid later. Wish we’d thought of that before we tried storing potatoes in a freezing cold shed….
DON’T JUST STUDY THE SCRIPT – GET MEMORIZED Old school knowledge is out there – and Google won’t be around in a catastrophe, so having written as well as practical knowledge is critical. Here are some remarkably useful scripts for your prepping role:
Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World by Kelly Coyne & Eric Knutzen. If the authors can do what they do on a 1/12th of an acre plot in the heart of Los Angeles, what’s your excuse? Want to make your own soap? Transform your backyard into a haven of healthy foods? From the minuscule to the mighty, Making It takes you from easy day to day projects to yearly concepts that will free you from manufactured dependency. The ultimate guide for a homemade life. We’ve made our own tooth paste, soaps, and conditioner. We’ve brewed beer, made wine from our grapes, and are looking for more and more ways to produce instead of consume.
The Original King Arthur Flour Cookbook The Holy Grail of Cookbooks. I kid you not. King Arthur and his knights would have gone on a quest for this one and come back to happy castles. Over 600 pages of recipes – and just with flour. Breads, cakes, cookies, biscuits, muffins, scones, etc, etc, etc,. But the value in this book is far beyond the fantastic recipes. There is history, and not just 40 years ago history, but the history of hundreds of years of working with glorious grain. There are fascinating stories about why the recipes came about and what to do to amend them to make them your own. I learned more about breads and cooking with this one book than any other. Now I can make Braveheart-worthy scones, our whole wheat banana bread begs bananas to go brown, and the list of deliciousness goes on and on… By the way, the company is as cool as their compilation. Top quality healthy flour for over 200 years, King Arthur Flour is a company our country can be proud of. www.kingarthurflour.com
The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C Smith My husband and I both come from families that garden – but we hadn’t planted anything since we were kids. It was daunting to start our garden last year out of the tangled mess of weeds that was the back yard. We planted peas too late and corn in bad soil. But the things that worked were amazing. All summer and into the fall we had the joy of harvesting beans, lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes and potatoes that were all our own. Every time we wondered anything about any type of veggie we grabbed the Bible. And it came to pass that our vegetables grew. And lo, they were delicious to the taste, and were very plentiful. And we looked upon our garden and said, yea verily, this is heaven!
Crisis Preparedness Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Home Storage and Physical Survival by Jack A. Spigarelli Where to start with food storage? This book has lists for what you need and instructions on what to do with your stockpile written in a practical and understandable way. It details not only crisis options but day to day food production and preservation tips. We now have our year’s worth of food storage, which came together bit by bit, rather like learning lines for Shakespeare. You don’t get it all in one sitting, just take it one line at a time. Another package of sugar here, extra case of beans there, and then one day – ta-da! Food storage.
TRUST THE DIRECTOR Many a great actor has butted heads with their director. It always ends the same. The Director wins. This wonderful planet, our Mother and Home, has a plan. We can fight it, or we can go with the flow. Evolution and Nature are far more resilient than even the most stubborn human, so learn from the Director. Watch how She does it. After all, She’s been at this a lot longer than we have. Lessons in what can be done are all around us. Can you grow citrus in the Austrian Alps? Trick question? The answer is yes, if you are Sepp Holzer. He learned how to mimic nature’s ability to create micro-climates with ponds, trees, rocks, and plant diversity. He has proven beyond a doubt that there is no limit to what you can grow if you understand how Mother Nature works. For the amazing details read Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening.
BE A METHOD ACTOR – LIVE THE ROLE Gandhi said it best, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The first part of being the change is changing yourself first. Do you despise Monsanto’s and other big corporations and their world-ignorant practices? Then live a clean life and do not give them your time or money. Inform others. Stand up for what you believe and do not give in to the opinion or even the mockery of friends. The Ant prepared for winter all summer long despite what the Grasshopper said about “take it easy” and “why work so hard?” The world has changed. We are the change.
VOTE – You have a voice, and maybe you feel like the littlest Who in Whoville on a political dust mote of individual unimportance, but say something. Do something. Others will add their voice to yours and what was just one “No!” will soon resound worldwide.
PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR HEART IS – Is it important to you? Get behind it with support. Is it appalling and wrong? Don’t add your money to it. Don’t buy things that hurt others in the process of production. We have options, and the sooner we spend the way we truly feel the better those options will become.
JUST BECAUSE THEY SAY IT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S SO – FDA approved…hmmmm. Why would the government let us eat/drink/take things into our bodies that are harmful? Why would anyone knowingly let a product out on the market that is known to cause cancer or other drastic side effects? Sorry, Pollyanna, it’s not the sunshiny world it should be. The hard truth is your lack of health makes you a cash cow that is part of a trillion dollar industry of disease and distress. But not anymore. Not if you are willing to read labels, stand up for preventive health measures, and become an informed consumer. If it says “High Fructose” we put it back on the shelf. We have learned more than we wanted to know about what is in processed foods. We are picky eaters now, but so much healthier.
TIME FOR DRESS REHEARSAL When our second refrigerator in the garage died, we had a crash course in what happens with no power. The food within was instantly “use it or lose it.” We saved some, lost some. So, we are now in a more active dress rehearsal mode. My man frequently asks the question, “If today we found ourselves in a major crisis, what would we most regret NOT doing?” We work on that answer first. Recent endeavors include: Honey, I Can’t Make it Home Day using GMRS hand held radios, Little House on the Prairie Day with no electricity, and All Shook Up earthquake prep day. Dress rehearsal is a great way to find out what works and what doesn’t, and who is up for performance, and who needs a bit more stage time…
AS THE FINAL CURTAIN GOES UP… The Greatest Performer this world has ever known lived His part perfectly: “Love thy Neighbor As Thyself.” Imagine a world of loving, caring, planet-conscious humans whose role it is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for those in need. More than just mankind caring for our own, imagine finally understanding that being one means every living organism, from the smallest microbe in the dirt, to the molecules of air, the vast oceans of water, and every form of plant and animal life. Everything should be protected and esteemed by us as caretakers of this beautiful Earth.
Start with the understanding of One Home. Take care of every needful thing for you and your family and then help others to do the same. Eventually you will come to understand that we truly are one world. One family. Why classify by color, race, country or creed? They are only the costumes we wear for this particular performance, and as Will Shakespeare, another great performer said, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.” The part you have been cast in is a critical one. You were born to play it. So act your part with pride, fellow Preppers. TEOTWAWKI is now.