We Aren’t All Farmers, Soldiers, or Master Gardeners, by Sootgrinder

I would like to share some of my observations, feelings, and plans for dealing with the current and future difficult times that we face. As I have read and studied the survival plans and strategies of the fine members of the SurvivalBlog community, as well as other sources, I have frequently been overwhelmed and discouraged about my ability to deal with the inevitable trouble that is barreling toward us faster every day. I read the stories of people moving to a fully-stocked and well-equipped retreat with their ex-military buddies, who are also master gardeners, trained medical personnel, and have every other skill imaginable, and then realize that I will never be able to protect and provide for my family in this manner. I live in a rural, but not isolated, part of Appalachia, and for various reasons I will not be able to bug out to a fully-equipped and ready-to-go homestead when things get really sour. Furthermore, I am not a farmer, master gardener, or a soldier, but I have developed a plan to try to maximize the potential for survival for my loved ones. We do have a couple of gardens that do generate a significant amount of our nutrition, and I plan to add a couple of pigs in the near future. Also, we are continuously working to expand our farming skill set, but if I have to rely on my gardening and farming skills right now to survive, we will starve in short order. I don’t have the land necessary to support livestock of sufficient quantity to feed us long term. So, you may ask, what do I have? I have my head and my hands, which are the two most important aspects of survival. My grandfather, who lived through the Great Depression, told me that “a man who was good with his hands and willing to work would never go hungry”. I am an engineer by profession and a mad scientist at heart; there is very little in this world that I cannot either repair or build from scratch. The place where I feel at home is in my workshop. I have a pretty good side business going already repairing motorcycles, ATVs, and rebuilding tractors and other farm equipment. I also do welding and fabrication jobs. I use the money raised on these side jobs to buy more of the things that will keep my shop viable in a collapse situation.

Now first things first; I am not naïve enough to think that I can start to pick right up fixing things for barter immediately following a collapse. I have a well-stocked pantry, water resources, and a security plan in place. We are constantly working on other aspects of our “bug in” to allow us to more or less hunker down in the immediate aftermath, but I believe that when the dust starts settling down that there will be a significant need for persons with mechanical and welding skills. There will be people dragging old horse-drawn equipment out of sheds and needing hand tools to be repaired and even engines converted to run on wood gas or other fuels. I hope to barter my skills and stockpile of scrap metals, bolts, rivets, and so forth into food, material, and services that my family will need. There is enough farmland around me that I believe there will be enough farmers in need of repairs or modification to keep my family’s bellies full. As a matter of fact I already barter with a local farmer for my firewood. I trade him my labor to maintain his tractors, and he delivers me dump trailer loads of wood. It’s a win-win for both of us.

I also believe that there will be a tremendous demand for farm tools and equipment that can be traded or given in charity to my community, so I have a shed full of shovels, axes, saws, post hole diggers, hammers, scythes, et cetera that I have picked up over the years for next to nothing at auctions and yard sales. I consider this to be a no-risk investment, as these items have already fully depreciated. They will always be worth at least the pittance that I paid for them, even if the hard times are somehow avoided during my time on this earth.

In order to run a repair shop, post-collapse, there will be a significant amount of work and investment done before hand. The most obvious is power. How are you going to perform the work you do every day without the convenience of unlimited electricity? By reviving old world methods and technology! I have acquired through yard sales, swap meets, and the Internet a surprising amount of functional antique tools, such as hand drills, a manual drill press, anvil, coal forge, and many more for very little money. I mentioned that I am a welder. Well, welding takes significant amounts of energy. The obvious first choice is to learn how to hammer weld, using a coal forge. Plus, there is oxy-acetylene gas welding, if you have enough bottles of gas stored away. However, there are certain types of welds that only an electric “stick” welder can do, plus it is so much easier than forge welding or gas welding. Even if you do have a diesel-powered welder/generator, you will run out of fuel eventually. So I will share a “trick” with you. Many years ago when I was involved in hard core, off-roading, I learned this “trick”– welding with batteries. You can perform professional quality welds with the use of car batteries. By wiring three car batteries in series, putting a ground clamp on one end and a welding stinger on the other, you have enough energy for several minutes of welding. If you need to “burn” a heavy rod, such as 1/8” 7018 to repair a thick, heavy piece, you add in an extra 6-volt battery in series to raise your voltage. If you need to weld a thin piece of metal with a 1/16” E7014 rod then you can use two 12-volt and one 6-volt battery. Do an Internet search for welding with car batteries for more details. I highly recommend that anyone interested in using this technique to go ahead and at least make up the ground clamp, stinger, and the short jumpers between the batteries now, while heavy gauge copper welding cable and battery post clamps are both readily available. Obviously, one will need to have welding experience and a large stockpile of welding rods before things get really bad, also. I recommend a healthy stash of E7018, 6010, 6013, and 7014 electrodes. Don’t buy them in the large 25 lb cans, get them in the smaller 1 or 2 lb containers so they aren’t all exposed to humidity when opened. I also recommend building a “rod oven”, out of a large steel mailbox and a 25-watt light bulb, to keep your opened cans of welding rod dry. I recharge my batteries using my solar panels or a generator that I built to run off wood gas that powers a small lawn mower engine that drives a car alternator. I also have a lot of cordless tools, drills, saws, grinders, drivers, et cetera that I also charge using solar panels. The shop is stocked with lots of bolts; welding rods; tie wire; rivets; zip ties; various pieces of “scrap” metal; tire plug and patch kits; various glues, epoxies, and other useful chemicals; rubber hose of various sizes; and tons of various clamps and fasteners. These are all things that I already use nearly every day anyway, so it isn’t like I am hoarding up stuff that I might never use. Since I have been operating my little side business over the years, I have made enough contacts and had enough word-of-mouth advertising about my skills that I believe I will have a customer base that will think of me when they need something fixed after the collapse. Thus, it will make it easier than if you were starting up something like this from scratch after a collapse.

I know that many people are thinking that I am a giant target for theft and looting in a post-collapse scenario, and you are probably right. However, I think anyone with a garden, food, or livestock or any other asset is just as vulnerable of being a target. So, creating a security plan that fits your home/business/farm is critical. My property is already fenced, and I have the ability and material to make it much more “varmint” resistant. I have security cameras that are able to be monitored from various locations, to help make “watch duty” easier with my limited manpower. I also have Doberman Pincher and Rottweiler dogs on the premises at all times; they are wonderful, loyal companions that really keep people on their best manners. It is amazing how most people react to these animals. Sometimes you would think I had a shotgun in their face. Anytime people come in contact with the dogs, I assure them that they are fine and in absolutely no danger as long as myself or another family member is around, but if we aren’t here or if you lay hands upon one of us, that they will not allow you to remain on the property. I think this may help deter someone from scoping out my place and attempting to sneak in later when we aren’t home. There are other security measures in place that don’t need to be brought up here, but you can all think for yourselves. People are inherently lazy, and I am hoping to make myself appear to be a target that isn’t worth the work and risk.

Make no mistake, I whole heartedly agree that the best place to be would be a well-stocked, secluded retreat in the mountains of nowhere, but that just isn’t a reality for many of us. Don’t get discouraged; get thinking and get moving to make things the best you can for your family in the circumstances that you have to work within. Whether you are a mechanic, a nurse, a seamstress, a teacher, or have nearly any other skill set, there are ways to parlay those skills into a way to survive, especially if you work now to lay the groundwork to provide a foundation for your business in the uncertain future. No situation is perfect, but we owe it to the ones that we love to do all that we can to tip the scales of survival in our favor.

May God Bless each and every one of you. Without the SurvivalBlog and the contributing members of this community, I would still be wandering in the darkness, feeling helpless to provide a secure future for my family. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for the information and inspiration that you have each provided.