Start Where You Are, by Sanders

I’m older than you are. I’m female. Wanted to get that out of the way early, so you can decide whether to keep reading or not.
I assume you’re new to being prepared. Long-time survivalists wouldn’t want to read an article titled “start.” But you do. You’re interested in the subject of preparation, but you’re also a little overwhelmed by what you’re seeing on survival sites. You don’t think you can do all that stuff.

The fact is, you probably can’t. You’re a bank teller, not a former Marine. You’re alone, not affiliated with 30 like-minded survivalists. I’ve read all the warnings that I “can’t do it alone.” Maybe I can’t, but my situation today is if I don’t do it alone I might as well go rock in that chair. I am doing it alone, but with the idea that if any of my family or elderly neighbors need a place to go, I’ll be ready for them.

Of all the people I know personally, none are preparers. Since you want to be one, you’re already prepared more than most. You didn’t realize that any experience you’ve had with “hard” living (homelessness, unemployment, any abuse situation) would one day be useful to you. You’re already a survivor. You can do this.

It’s probably a good idea up front to tell you “one day at a time.” That means starting with today and what you can do with it and letting God show you what to do tomorrow. The most productive time you will ever spend will be while investigating the fact that Jesus Christ is the only reason we’re all here. A good start would be reading John in the New Testament. The John that comes after Luke.

Two more useful slogans for beginning preparers and alcoholics are “first things first” and “keep it simple.”

First get notebook paper and a good pen then simply stare into space while you think of what you really wished you had the day the power went out, the gas station closed, and the grocery store was just an empty building. I’m laughing here. I used to smoke. I’d have wanted a cigarette.

Write down what first came into your mind. Let the thoughts continue to flow from your mind, down your arm, through the pen. Nothing you write down is stupid. Your list will tell you who you are. Keep writing. When your words trail off, you can stop. Put the list down and pet the kitty. Look out the window. If you’re at work, put the list away until you get home. Once home, put the list down, pet the kitty and look out the window.

On my list I first wrote toilet paper, coffee, water. My priorities were a little skewed, but that’s what I wrote. Gather clean paper and begin a neater list from your free-form list. Pay special attention to what interests you most. This will probably turn into your area of study and expertise. Make this list neat, but be aware that you’ll make many more and much neater lists as time goes on. I finally have my needs and desires for preparation neatly hand-lettered on 3 x 5 cards.  When I acquire something on my list, I color it with a yellow marker. That’s how I do it. You do not have to do that. Develop the list that works for you.  If you can keep track of it all in little columns in your head, wow, go for it.

After I reworked my free-form list, I put the water first, then the toilet paper, then the coffee. About that time I decided I needed separate categories. I now have cards marked Medicinal, Paper/Cloth Goods, Metal Goods, Tools, Lights/Fire, and Food/Water. I see I need one labeled Play. I’ll do that this afternoon.

Let’s take Metal Goods and work through some of what is on my list. My weapons are there. I inherited the 16 gauge, 12 gauge, .22 pump and WWII bayonet. I bought the .32 revolver because I fell in love with it. A great challenge these days is locating and affording ammunition. Not a problem with the bayonet, but I really don’t want people with evil intent that close to me. If talk of arming yourself is alarming, you are allowed to put off thinking about it. We’re prioritizing. Your priority is not self-defense. Your strength lies somewhere else.

Maybe you’re an inventive cook. If everything goes kersplat, survivors will eventually wish for inventive cooks. Your skill could be in high demand. You could trade grub-worm gumbo for personal security.

Now think about the Medicinal list. If you take a prescribed medicine, stocking some extra is a first-level priority. Maybe explain to your doctor that you’re building a “blackout” supply. Except for the ones caused by alcohol and pill consumption or medical issues, we don’t have blackouts down here in the lower south. We’d tell the doctor the extra prescription was for a hurricane “power outage.”

Time to talk about keeping one’s mouth shut. This is a required quality in serious survivalists. In a long-term worse-case situation, being an amateur, and thus a blabbermouth, can get you and yours dead. Practice keeping secrets. Don’t write that down.

Since, except for the metal roofing, I built a house once, I have carpentry experience.  For fun I build sheds and animal pens   To save myself personal aggravation and what little hearing I have left, I only work with hand tools. In what looks like a hardship, I have the advantage. When the power goes out, I won’t grieve over the loss of my tools or have to build up a different set of muscles.
My most-used tools are a Stanley 15-inch small-tooth saw, a WorkForce hammer, and a Stanley hammer. Didn’t cost much, but I’ve used them for years. If you take time to choose tools that fit you and please you, you’ll use them for years, too. If you don’t own any, I suggest you first purchase a handsaw, a hammer, pliers, and wire-cutters. Over time you’ll learn what else you need.
For you to get a handle on all the “I can’t do its” pouring into your mind right now, calmly think about yourself and your skills. What do you do now that could translate into back-to-the-land style living? Do you have a knack with indoor and patio plants? You’ll make a fine gardener. Do you visit or help care for your handicapped or elderly relatives? You’ll make a fine counselor and emergency nurse. Do you volunteer at the animal shelter? You’ll make a fine shepherd.
When you were in Scouts, did you learn to make a Dakota Hole for cooking and heating? … No? … A Dakota Hole is a hole dug in the ground with a vent dug off one end. Complete directions abound on the internet, but the gist is once you’ve dug a 2 x 2-foot-or-so hole, you lie on your stomach and dig a “cave” (I use a spoon) at and parallel to the bottom of the hole as far as you can reach. Then you get up and find where you think the cave (aka vent) ended underneath you and dig down to meet it, all the while pulling dirt out like a terrier.
Build a fire down in the pit. Use a grate over the hole for steaks, pots and pans. Or lower a covered Dutch oven onto and down into the coals, cover the oven with foil, then bury the whole shebang with dirt. You can fill the hole entirely if you’re so inclined. If you’re cold, pull your sleeping bag over the mound and take a nap. If you need a third reason to spend time digging a large hole, consider that the only enemies who might see the flames of your fire will be flying overhead.

In a worse-case scene with armed nuts shooting at everything, you do not want to give away your location. Liberal use of flashlights is for the early minutes after the crisis when you and your children are getting accustomed to the dark. And by the way, if you’ve hunkered down near the python-riddled Everglades, I suggest you use the lights to find a way out of there.

My store of matches, lighters, LED palm-size flashlights and solar flashlights is not large enough yet for my feelings, but week-by-week I work at it. One valuable find is a 7-inch solar-with-battery-backup flashlight. You can charge the solar part right there under the lamp you’re writing your list under. If you want one, see or go get one for about $13 at Wal-Mart.

The Paper/Cloth category is of course where I list toilet paper. I intend to store enough for trading. Also in that soft-goods group are cheesecloth, bed coverings, tents, clothes/coats/rain gear, shoes, boots, socks, towels, tarps, and drop-cloths.  I go overboard on socks. If you do as I do and lay in more toilet paper and socks than you can use in a lifetime, after the apocalypse you will be a wealthy person.

Food/Water is a first-rate category card. I left it for last so it wouldn’t get lost in the crowd. I don’t think I have to explain why. This is the category where I spend the most time thinking, planning, and doing.  I can’t afford a case of MREs, but after dining on several after Hurricane Katrina, I surely would like to.

Dehydrating foodstuffs is easy, cheap and fun.  Carrots, onions, peppers, and yellow squash are good practice produce and put all together can make a nice soup.

My dehydrating technique is low tech. If it wasn’t so humid here, I’d use the even lower-tech sun. As it is, I turn my gas oven on as low as it will go, put the chopped carrots (I cook mine a little) on a cookie sheet and into the oven, prop the door open with a spoon, turn on the inside light and go away for several hours. When I remember, I go stir the carrots. They’re ready when they rattle when I shake the cookie sheet. Three pounds of raw carrots make about a half cup of dried ones.

By reading this far, I imagine you’ve picked up on the state of my budget. Knowing a fixed-income person is building a store for harder times should be the best kind of news for you. If I can do it, you certainly can.

If you aren’t preparing now, but are encouraged to begin, here are starter suggestions I wrote for my grown son (who will make a weird face and ignore them).

Every payday, buy a small silver coin. Save it. (Pawn shops usually have them.)

Every payday buy an extra can of food you like. Save it.

Every payday buy an extra of something you need often or wouldn’t want to do without. Save it.

If you don’t cheat, in one year (with twice-a-month paydays) you will have 72 survival items stashed in the armoire you bought for storing your survival goods.

If you live on the 16th floor of an apartment building, you might want to store most of your things in the trunk of your always-half-full-of-gas vehicle or with your beloved non-snoopy country grandmother.  If you don’t have a car or a nice grandmother, consider renting an out-in-the-boonies storage unit.

The best-case apocalyptic scene for a car-less city-dweller will be that a day before things fall apart forever, you rent a vehicle with a trailer attached, drive to your rental unit, load your supplies and head where, very, very early on, you planned to go.

One caution here:  survival preparation can become an obsession. Obsessions make you blind. Obsessions remove people from your life. Obsessions make you talk too much.

So go at preparation gently. You have time.