Where Do I Start? Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew, by Kentucky Girl in Ohio

One of the most daunting challenges in preparing for TEOTWAWKI is the absence of our crystal balls. What will TEOTWAWKI really entail? Let’s be honest, would a catastrophic disaster be necessary to majorly upset the balance of life as we know it, or could even the simplest of events turn our cushy, pampered, disposable income lives into a tailspin?  I think the answer is obvious. Despite any financial challenges we may be facing, it’s safe to assume that we all live relatively pampered lifestyles. Because we have become so far removed from our forebearers’ day to day struggle for existence, I have found that the “best case scenario” is an excellent starting point for beginning a preparedness plan. Arriving at this point is a challenge in itself, as the enormous volume of survival information available to us may also be the largest detriment. Because the authors are so versed in the world of survival preparation, many survival blogs and web sites contain subjects and language that the layman would find difficult to comprehend.  How do you sift through all that information and turn it into a real cohesive plan that you could actually use or even remember when the situation arises? Tiny steps, my friends…one bite at a time.

After a pathetically ill prepared three days of power loss a few summers ago, it became clear to my husband and me that we needed to get serious about the responsibilities of preparedness. Despite the fact that I have been an outdoorswoman all of my life, I found myself embarrassingly lacking in this domestic enterprise. It was eye opening for me to realize that I had spent countless trips, over seven days, backcountry camping in the wilderness, yet I had no real plan on how to survive in my own home. The biggest hurdle we faced in the beginning stages was which disaster to prepare for! Considering the overwhelming number of potential TEOTWAWKI scenario’s that we face , how could anyone really be 100% prepared without spending every last dime they owned, expelled every last ounce of energy they had and spend every last waking moment preparing for the perfect storm of impending disaster? Will it be nuclear attack? A weather disaster? an EMP? an epidemic? a financial meltdown? As in anything in life, we must ask ourselves……what can I control? What can I, despite all my good intentions, have absolutely no effect over? What skills or items do I already possess that will benefit my family? What real life actions can I take to make survival easier or even possible?

To begin answering these questions, apply them to a best case scenario. These types of situations require the basics. Think of it as your beginner’s kit and build it from there. What do you need to “survive” a week without power? If you answered “a credit card to book a room at the Hilton” then you will probably need some help with your list. Remember, this is a process and a prepper is not born overnight. Don’t let it overwhelm you and don’t be ashamed to admit that you are starting with a blank slate. Assess your location and what possible situations might affect you such as hurricanes, tornados, flooding, earthquakes or urban blackouts. Similarly determine what resources surround you. Could you build a fire ring for cooking in your yard? Do you have access to a water source; do you have adequate space for emergency supply storage? Walk through your house; think about your daily routines. Do you have any source of light, communication or food preparation besides electric? Do you have extra batteries, potable water supplies, enough existing non-perishable food to last more than a week? How would, or even could you heat your home if you lost power in the winter? If you have small children, consider what you may need to keep them, not only healthy and safe, but occupied in an unplugged world. It seems so elementary to most, but the reality is that many of us do not possess even the most basic of survival skills. There is no reason to feel ashamed, we are all the products of our environments, you simply must examine your environment to begin your transformation into a responsible, informed and prepared citizen. Once you begin the process, depending on the level of preparedness you wish to achieve, the overwhelming scope of the task will subside a little bit at a time.

Once you have your basics down add an additional layer to your scenario. What if there is an extended power outage and your home is damaged? What if you must evacuate your home abruptly? Plan how you will communicate with your family, how you will evacuate in different situations and where you will meet up in the case that you are separated. Include a course of action for your pets in you plan as well as extended family members that might need your help. Will your elderly parents or neighbors need your assistance? Encourage your family and community to prepare as well. Approach them with the same “best case scenario” when broaching the subject. People tend to think you’re crazy if you come at them with “end of the world” talk but they are usually receptive to some basic survival discussion. Usually, those who are interested will evolve in their desire to take their preparation to the next level as well. Those who aren’t receptive, however, might think your crazy at first but will likely thank you later in the event that you are able to share your resources with them in an emergency. There is always safety and strength in numbers. 

Allow yourself to acclimate from one scenario to the next. Once you have achieved what you feel is an adequate level of preparedness for one situation, move to the next. Familiarize yourself with current events, not just in your community, but worldwide. Ask yourself how the current political or financial climate might affect you and your family. For instance, it’s likely that inflation will skyrocket in the coming years, and the value of our dollar will decline. Are your cash reserves better used now for stock piling necessities? Consider investing in items that you know you will need over the next few years now, rather than wait until they cost double or even triple their current retail price. If you have growing children, you understand how often you must replace shoes, jeans and winter coats. Inventory what will need to be replaced or repaired in your home. Also, do some research on investing in gold or silver coins with a percentage of your disposable income. Gold and silver may be the only currency of any value in an utter financial meltdown. Be sure to do your homework and consult with a trusted financial professional before making any investments.

Examining your food sources is a very important step in your preparation. Do you have any means of sustenance other than the local Piggly Wiggly? A well thought out garden can flourish in just about any environment. Obviously, rural and suburban gardening can yield a bumper crop of vegetables every year but urban gardening can be a challenge. Check with your local extension office for help getting started if you are a novice. Many urban areas have community gardens to which you can contribute and benefit. Window and roof gardening is also an option in urban areas. Canning and preserving what your garden yields is imperative to optimize your sustainable food source. It does require a small investment in equipment and jars, but will more than pay for itself in a few short seasons. Start small with your first crop so as not to overwhelm yourself and increase your garden in pace with your developing expertise and knowledge.

As you become more comfortable with your new mindset, inventory your skills and those of your family members. In a world where know how and resources become currency, how will you obtain the things you need to survive beyond for what you have prepared? Sewing, automotive repair, plumbing, carpentry, welding, fishing, hunting, foraging, even cooking skills will be invaluable in a post TEOTWAWKI world. Barter may become the favored way to exchange goods and services. A stocked pantry full of canned vegetables from your garden, a flock of egg laying hens or even a stash of vegetable seeds could render you the “wealthiest” member of your neighborhood. Likely, a sense of community will return to our towns and neighbors will share their resources with others. However, there will always be those who want to take what you have. Despite how you may feel about weapons, they will likely be a necessity. If you have no knowledge of firearms and make the decision to purchase one for your protection, it is imperative that you seek the help of someone with extensive familiarity with guns. Contact the NRA or a local sporting club for names of certified instructors in your area. 

Assign tasks to your family members to expand your preparedness repertoire. One family member may find greater interest in certain topics than others. A passionate interest in a task or skill will yield much more information and versed knowledge than a forced, disinterested lesson. You may be surprised in which new hobbies your family members may embark or to what extent they might develop a skill or education.  Lastly, be sure to document in great detail, observations, skills and insights as you and your family members master them. The reality of the world as we know it today is that there just isn’t enough time to pass on every bit of our knowledge to all of our family members. Also, who in the world has time to practice making soaps or candles or butchering a chicken? While very important proficiencies in certain situations, they are not practical in our busy, day to day “real world” lives. My youngest stepson once asked me why I was typing out basic cooking and food preparation instructions for our survival notebook. I asked him what would happen if I were to die in an epidemic and wasn’t around to cook? I explained that he might have food on the shelves and pots and pans to cook with and could even bring plenty of venison home but if he didn’t have even basic cooking knowledge, he might be eating a lot of really bad meals before he mastered something palatable. We are currently working on documenting every survival detail we can think of. In addition to “how tos” for daily tasks, I’ve mapped all local public river access points, any private waters that we have permission to use as well as the closest wilderness areas where hunting is legal. From the farthest fetched to the most basic task, you should have written accounting or explanation of its purpose and execution. You might not think you will need to make your own rope or fertilize an egg now, but you will most certainly thank yourself should the day ever arrive that you need those instructions. If you have multiple books, manuals or videos, that you regularly reference, try to consolidate the most important information into your notebook or binder. When the time comes to use these skills, you won’t want to be sifting through dozens of books, looking for a chapter you read long ago. Sharing your knowledge as well as retaining a summarized accounting of it is imperative.

So, if you don’t bite off more than you can chew in the first stages of your journey, you will certainly find your efforts a little less monumental. Once you have some basic cognition and understanding of what you are trying to achieve, the opportunities for learning are endless. You will find hundreds of manuals, books, magazines, videos and private instruction for nearly any survival skill that you desire to learn. Fold these into your education as you go so that you can actually wrap your mind around the content. You can achieve any level of survival preparation that you wish, you just have to take one bite at a time!