You could say that Y2K started us on a serious survival path. But long before that, preferring the peace and quiet of country life, we had already begun our search for a small acreage some distance from any cities. The idea of simple living and self-sufficiency appealed to both my husband and me. Finally, in 1998, we were blessed to find a few acres in Central Texas. With a partially built house on a dead-end road, trees and some pasture, it mostly fit all our requirements and was within our rather meager price range. So 15 years later, we are both retired and, through frugal living, everything is paid for. Now our primary goal is surviving whatever may come but also to maintain a semblance of mental and physical well-being in a world that could become quite insane. The possibility of a TEOTWAWKI event seems to grow more likely each day. Whoever you are, wherever you are, the better prepared you are when it happens, the less likely you or members of your household will “lose it” when the dreaded events
are playing out before your eyes. I am here to help you and I am not with the government!
As matriarch of my family (not about to give away my age here, but I admit to having great grandchildren), the job of chief cook/caretaker/comforter in our group will naturally fall to me. Before your eyes glaze over, remember that with age, comes wisdom! When SHTF, I hope to ease the transition from that to which we are accustomed to a new, possibly stark reality and way of life. I can shoot a gun if need be, but that is not my area of expertise. Whether you intend to stay put or “bug out”, it’s a good idea to decide ahead of time the responsibilities that each person in your “survival family” is best suited for. A written, detailed plan should be compiled, scrutinized and agreed to by everyone involved so there will be no question of leadership and who does what when it’s necessary to put your plan into action. Each of us is born with a natural talent. Keeping that in mind, choose (or accept) your role and become proficient at it!
Assuming that you are on the way to having your retreat well-stocked with water, food and medical supplies and your haven has been made as secure as possible, let’s consider psychological effects of a SHTF situation. In our relatively safe, comfortable lives today it is hard to imagine how we may react when the worst becomes reality. How will you respond when the grocery shelves are bare, gas tanks are empty, the lights suddenly dim to darkness and violence is all around? The possible traumatic impact should not be overlooked or underestimated. There is a good probability that medical care will not be available. It may be up to us to deal with any after effects, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) This may occur after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. Educate yourself online about this serious condition. There are steps we can take to lessen the inevitable shock following a breakdown of society. If you haven’t already done so, I urge you to begin now to hone your survival skills, build up your stockpiles and practice various “what-if” scenarios. Besides giving you peace of mind, your chances of coming through a crisis alive may depend on it!
I’ve come up with some suggestions which may be helpful to you preppers:
INFORMATION. The Internet, as long as it’s available, is surely our best source, including JWR’s blog, and we found his books to be very helpful, especially in matters of security. For Christians, the Bible is essential. I can highly recommend Carla Emery’s The Encyclopedia of Country Living for all-around how-to info. If you intend to prepare meals on a wood stove there is an excellent cookbook titled Mrs. Restino’s Country Kitchen. And the More-With-Less Cookbook by Doris Longacre is valued for thrifty, basic recipes. I compiled my own menus with dishes we like and that can be put together with a minimum of time and effort using our food storage. I’ve also run hard copies on every survival subject you can think of and these are categorized and in binders with labels. Do what you can now to get organized as there may be little time for that down the road. I think our predecessors had the idea of comfort during hard times down to a fine art. They not only made do, but they found small ways to bring joy into the lives of their families. I’ve gained much knowledge and inspiration from reading stories about the depression years and journals written by pioneer women!
WATER. WATER. WATER. It’s already been said. We can live much longer without food than we can without water. Set up a rain catchment system suitable for your property! For $15 each, we purchased several 55 gallon plastic drums from a soda pop company. Though food-grade, these barrels aren’t ideal because the syrup residue is difficult to remove, but water is water and there are good filters available.
This year we added a 1,500 gallon water tank next to our shop, utilizing a simple gutter and spigot system to capture the rain run-off. To deter the growth of algae caused by sunlight, white or light- colored barrels should be painted black or covered with black plastic. Water collected in rain barrels should be fine for laundry, watering a garden or flushing a toilet but is not recommended for drinking unless it is well-filtered. When time allows, we hope to add an outdoor shower using one of the 55 gallon barrels and a small solar panel. I can’t think of anything more comforting than a warm shower! .
COMFORT FOODS. Every family has their favorites so practice creating those dishes using only items from your food stash. In stressful times a special treat may be just the thing to make life bearable. Possibilities in that category are chocolate, popcorn, hard candy, dried fruits, olives, nuts, flavored gelatins, peanut butter, instant puddings, and jelly beans. In addition, include baking goods such as vanilla, cocoa, cooking oil, leavenings, pie fillings, sugar and/or sugar substitute, instant milk, coconut and flour. And did I mention chocolate? A variety of grains and a manual grinder are a must. Don’t forget a variety of soup ingredients such as canned meats, dried or canned veggies, stock and bouillon cubes. I have successfully canned butter and preserved cheese by coating with red cheese wax that I ordered online. (I can’t imagine a world without cheese!) You’ll want a good supply of tea, coffee or a favorite drink. Caffeine withdrawal amongst the turmoil is something we want to avoid.
Foraging for foods is possible in most areas. In our immediate vicinity we have cattails, cacti, acorns, dandelions, mesquite beans, purslane, wild grapes, and dewberries. All can become nutritious and appealing food with the proper preparation. These plants will supplement our fruit tree and garden production which is not always as dependable as we would like. Unless your garden has a high, sturdy fence, plan on planting extra for the varmints that will no doubt be showing up for meals.
QUICK BREADS TO EXTEND YOUR MEALS. (cheap, filling and surprisingly good)
1. Our family’s version of Indian fry bread or what we commonly call “POOR MAN’S SUPPER”: To two cups of flour, add 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt and enough water to make a soft dough.
Dust with flour, knead a few times, roll out, cut into strips and fry in deep oil (365 degrees F) until puffed and golden. Drain well; serve hot with syrup or honey. These are also very good with stir-fry
2. We like these corn pones or “CORN DODGERS” with beans and that combination will give you a complete protein. Heat about 1/2″ oil (I prefer peanut oil for its high heat tolerance) in a large iron skillet. Take a cup or two of yellow corn meal, salt to season and add enough water to make a mush consistency. This batter dries out quickly, so add water as needed. Using a large spoon, dip into the batter and drop into the hot oil, spreading to flatten to the thickness of a thin pan cake. Brown well on both sides and drain. Eat while hot and crispy.
FOOD STORAGE. This will be a challenge for us if the power goes down and we are experiencing one of our intensely hot, humid summers. I have researched alternative cooling methods to save our food preps and it looks as though our best bet will be a root cellar. The pot-within-a-pot or zeer refrigeration technique is supposed to work well in arid climates but our humidity runs way too high for that to be successful here. If you live in a hot and dry part of the country that is worth looking into. Besides using a vacuum sealer and food dehydrator I have canned vegetables, fruits and meats using water bath and pressure canners. I recently did some oven-canning of dry goods such as flour, corn meal and bread crumbs. That venture was successful and freed up space in our freezers. My best source for canning/drying basics has been the “Ball Blue Book”. ALWAYS follow the safety guidelines when using any food preservation methods. Generally, a cool, dark and dry environment is recommended for optimum
storage life of foods and seeds. My attempts at drying veggies in the sun or a car have failed. Due to high humidity, the food turned moldy before it dehydrated. Because they don’t require refrigeration, we have sugar, baking soda and salt stored in a broken freezer in our shop. It is air-tight and mouse-proof. Our grocery store deli gives away those handy food-grade buckets with lids which have been a God-send. If space is an issue, conceal items behind books on bookshelves, under a cloth-covered table or add extra shelving above doors or in closets. Part of our this spring’s potato crop, layered with shredded paper and stored in burlap-lined wire baskets, awaits planting in the fall garden. For less than $10 we bought a set of bed risers to raise our bed several inches for underneath storage. I recently lucked upon a yard sale at closing time and picked up a free wooden bookcase. After a bit of touch-up it now hangs on a kitchen wall filled with colorful jars of canned goods. Free, decorative and useful!
PHYSICAL NEEDS. The additional work and physical exertion we will experience is going to require more calories than previously needed. That should be considered in your food preps. Stock up on vitamins to supplement your diet. Dehydration can become a real danger so make sure everyone drinks plenty of water. With our hot summers in mind, we built our home with wide overhangs for shade and plenty of windows for good air flow (no, we weren’t thinking of the defense aspect when we put all those windows in!). A wet towel wrapped around your neck does a pretty good job of cooling your body. You can buy small, battery-operated fans for relief from the heat in case the power goes out. Start walking or jogging for good health and along the way, notice what natural resources are around you. When outdoors, protect your skin with long sleeves and straw hats. We will have enough challenges without dealing with skin cancer. Buy a bolt of cheesecloth. It’s great for straining fruits, making bandages and
slings and it can be dampened and hung over an open window to cool down a warm room. It could even become mosquito netting. Seek out multi-purpose items! It’s a good idea to have a variety of fabrics, yarn, needles and thread for repairing or replacing clothing and making quilts. Whether your winters are severe or mild as ours generally are, if you are caught without a heat source or trying to conserve your wood supply, lots of warm clothing, blankets and quilts will be needed. To keep clothes clean and fresh, all you need are a couple of wash tubs on a sturdy table, a scrub board and a plunger. And of course, soap, water and plenty of elbow grease! Hopefully you already have a clothesline. The old-fashioned clothes wringers can still be found at thrift and antique stores. I bought one because wringing out wet clothes is hard work for anyone but would be very painful to my arthritic hands. If you anticipate sleeping in close quarters, a stash of ear plugs to muffle objectionable sounds such as snoring, could make a big difference in your ability to get a good night’s rest. Those little clip-on LED lights are great for reading in bed without disturbing others. We may be forced to be resourceful in order to keep our families fed, clothed, safe and relatively comfortable. And there’s nothing more comforting than a good hug. I believe in the healing power of touch and that includes lots of hugs!
DOMESTIC & OTHER ANIMALS. Chickens are tops because they are easy and inexpensive to raise and their eggs and meat provide protein. Ours provide us with free (well, almost free) entertainment! Add a rooster if you want baby chicks AND a non-electric alarm clock. The few cows we had were sold after several years of drought which also caused our pond to dry up several times. We would like to try rabbits or goats but other projects have taken precedence over building cages and fences. I prefer a good dairy goat to a milk cow because they are smaller and easier to handle and an excellent source for meat, milk, cheese and brush clearing! A necessity for any retreat: a cat or two to control the mouse population and to cuddle with. A good dog can do double duty as a devoted, loving pet and an alarm system/guard animal when unwanted visitors come calling. Presently we have wild game such as deer and occasionally wild hogs to hunt. Small game that can be trapped or hunted here include rabbits, squirrels, wild turkeys, birds and frogs. (Toads are not edible.) In more desperate times there are snakes, raccoons, turtles, armadillos, opossums and coyotes. Forget about skunks. I have a horror of catching one in our Hav-a-Heart box trap. By the way, those traps are humane and come in various sizes, including ones large enough for boars. A simple way to catch squirrels is by nailing a large rat trap to a tree. If any of your “quarry” has an objectionable gamey taste, try pre-soaking the meat in milk. This works so well with venison that it tastes more like beef than deer meat. Keep plenty of spices and condiments in your pantry to enhance (or conceal) the flavor of foods you may not be accustomed to. It’s well worth setting aside a good portion of your storage for animal food. That would include wild bird seed to entice those fat little squirrels and birds. Some corn and a salt lick can serve a similar purpose by attracting deer and hogs to within shooting range. IMO if you haven’t eaten dove, you haven’t lived. They are ground feeders and prefer to eat rice and you should certainly have plenty of that put away..
RECREATION. There may be little opportunity for recreation but even short periods of down time are necessary for our mental and physical well-being. Think lots of books, art and craft materials, small toys, crossword and jigsaw puzzles and board or card games.
LACK OF FUNDS. If this is a problem, maintaining a frugal mindset goes a long way. Before you throw away anything, think about re-purposing, selling or trading with your neighbor. Stretch those prep dollars at thrift stores, yard sales or flea markets – these can be found in most regions and there are incredible bargains out there! A large portion of our preps have come from those sources. Be on the alert for inexpensive or end-of-season sale items and freebies. The quickest and easiest way I’ve found to bring in extra income is selling on eBay and Etsy but do your homework first if you go that route. I am amazed at what people will buy online and there is big demand for used and vintage goods. Make prepping a top priority and the confidence you will gain from your readiness will be worth any sacrifice of luxuries you’ve made to get to that point.
RANDOM TIPS. Place a map of your county on the wall and familiarize yourself with the layout of the land in case you are forced to bug out. Aerial photos are also helpful and can be obtained from most county USDA FSA (Farm Service Agency) offices. On your maps, draw in cache spots, fox holes and getaway routes and of course, keep your bug-out bags in a convenient spot. Consider these possibilities for bartering: heirloom seeds, fish hooks, clothes pins, salt and matches. They don’t take up much space and they’re inexpensive now but potentially very scarce and valuable once SHTF.
Save plenty of containers for barter items, too. Vitamin and pill bottles are excellent for holding small portions such as salt and spices. They are also perfect for seed saving and often come with small packs of desiccant. Speaking of seeds, don’t forget to store plenty of sprouting seeds. So healthy, and sprouts give a wonderful crunch to salads and sandwiches! Willow tree bark was used by native Americans just like modern aspirin. Go online and search “willow bark – uses and side effects”. Willow branches can provide material for making twig furniture and a piece of stem will act as a growth stimulant when rooting plant cuttings in water. The versatile willow is common along river banks and other wet areas in most parts of our country. After one of our construction projects we were left with a big pile of sand.
Part of that we tilled and used as a plot for planting peanuts which, by the way, are super easy to grow. (Watch out for Peter Cottontail as he loves munching on the leafy green tops!) We plan to use most of that sand along with saved feed sacks to make sand bags (for defense purposes). Make your own lip balm with petroleum jelly, melted beeswax and a few drops of peppermint oil. (To please the girls, add a bit of lipstick and it becomes lip gloss.) So soothing to dry, chapped lips! Also, Avon sells a lotion called “Skin So Soft” that is an excellent mosquito repellant. The lip balm and the lotion are great anytime but an absolute necessity for our bug-out bags.
IN CLOSING. Are we where we would like to be in our plans for survival? No, but we’ve come a long way. There have been successes and failures, a few of which I have mentioned here. We would like for our children and grandkids to be more “on board”. Hopefully this piece will serve as a wake-up call for them and others who aren’t there yet. Our home is always “almost finished” – we continue to make changes and improvements on the house and land. And for the greatest comfort of all, we have a Savior who vowed to never forsake us. We have His written word to teach and sustain us and His promise that He will return. When I get tired or discouraged in our journey, I recall these lines from Isaiah 40:31: ” But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Note: Any mention herein of products is intended for information only and not promotional purposes. I have no affiliations with the companies or products mentioned in this article.