I sometimes hear misguided individuals who repeat the statement going around
that if the grid goes down we will be thrown back to the days before
electricity: The 1880s. The prevalent thought is that folks back then did fine
so it wouldn’t be so bad for us to simply revert to that level of technology.
Well, what if we examine your day in a post grid failure scenario? Here is a
reality check for you to consider:
Let us say you get up ‘the day after’ and you’re cold. Bummer. Well, in the 1880s if you got up and you were cold you would simply grab an armload of firewood from the neatly stacked woodpile out in the back yard and…wait a minute. You probably do not have a neatly stacked, or any other kind of wood pile out in your back yard. You, likewise, probably do not have the axes and hand saws or knowledge necessary for you to fell a dead-standing tree and crosscut, haul, split, and stack the wood. Nor, for that matter do you have a stand of timber at your disposal just waiting for your felling ax, crosscut saw and splitting maul. Also, I’ll bet you do not have a horse-drawn wagon to put the wood in, or a team of sturdy horses to pull your wagon in from the timber…but, for the sake of argument, let us say that you do. So you bring your armload of wood in to your house and before long you have a raging fire going in the sturdy woodstove in the livingroom…but, wait a minute. You most likely do not already have a stove to keep you and your post-apocalyptic family’s collective rear ends warm. Sorry.
But let’s say you do have the aforementioned.
Reboot. You get up ‘the day after’ and you’re a little hungry.Wouldn’t it be great to have some of those delicious biscuits and gravy just like your Grandma used to make?
Do you have any flour or a stockpile of mold-free winter wheat to grind into flour? How about a grain mill to grind that wheat into flour? How about a tin of indispensable leftover bacon fat sitting on the stove like it always was in my mom’s kitchen when I was growing up? Got salt or access to a salt mine?Or, here we go again, a specialized kitchen wood cookstove with a crackling fire going just waiting for the baking?
Probably not, but let’s assume you do.
While we have the fire going, wouldn’t a big juicy steak with all of the fixin’s for you and your family sound tasty in the TEOTWAWKI scenario we are discussing? How about beef? Y’ain’t got none. I guess you could slide on down to the Piggly Wiggly but the meat department is dark and all that remains in the cooler are rotting scraps contaminated by the riotous panic of ‘broken door shoppers’. It is a mess and a dangerous place to be.
But that is okay. How about, this ‘morning after’, you just trot on out to the pasture and harvest one of those fat juicy steers waiting patiently for you to carve them up and drag it back in for supper? What you say, Bucko? You don’t have a pasture with T-bones on the hoof, just waiting to fill your spoiled urban tummy. And you probably would not know how to butcher and preserve the meat even if it did make itself available to you.Unfortunate. instead, you could have ham. Oops, no pigs in your barnyard and even more depressing, there is no barnyard at all.
Oh, by the way: Do you want eggs to go with your bacon? (Cured in that smokehouse that does not exist?) Well, that’s easy, just go on out to the chicken coop, shoo the hens (that you don’t have) off their nests, and gather up a dozen or so eggs.
By the way you probably do not any have feed for your chickens, if you had any. And you don’t have, grain or access to pasture land to feed those horses, cattle, and pigs that you don’t have.
But you could live off the land.
How long do you think the deer, rabbit, and squirrel population will last with every Tom, Dick, and Turf-muffin trudges out to the woods stumbling around trying to find and shoot game? I shudder at the thought. Although that would probably thin out the population in a “What the hell are you shooting at”type of scenario.
In the early 1700s the population of game in the area where I live was nearly driven to extinction by over-hunting. Frightening when you consider that back then there was only a tiny percentage of the population that we have now that will be fighting over the finite resources available.
And back then the flora was much more conducive to harboring fauna. The entire state was forest. Now we have nothing but giant corporate-owned farmland with few places for game to flourish.
The reality: Hunting your own food will be a bust.
You say, ‘I’ll grow my own food’. Not without a place to grow the crops. Growing your own food is not for the novice. Fruit trees takeyears to develop and without pesticides and knowledge of preservation techniques, growing enough veggies to sustain your family is not for the amateur. Do you have the tools? That garden tiller you bought from Sears takes gasoline and oil to run. You can only stockpile so much and when it is gone you would be reduced to hand tools. And without pesticides? Well, the Japanese Beetles and all of their destructive pals are waiting and ever-present.
But let’s say you got lucky the first growing season, assuming by some miracle that you are still alive.
You deserve a treat. So you go out to your root cellar (which you do not have), and bring in a jar of jam for your toasted bread that you don’t have the ingredients for, baked on an oven you do not have, fired by wood which is not stacked neatly in your back yard and…Oh, you don’t have a root cellar full of canned food straight from the garden that you, by some freakiest good luck managed to grow, prepared by a Grandma, who is not now–and has not been for a long time–in your life. Grandma has long since been shipped off to a nursing home to rot where her knowledge is going to waste because you and your family do not have the time or inclination to listen to the lessons learned she could teach you if you were only interested in the experience she gained from her lifetime of struggle.
All of this doom and gloom has thrown you off your feed. You have lost your appetite. But still life must go on, and you feel the call of nature. You do a quick-step out the back door and take that well-worn path to the outhouse that you do not have because the EPA says you cannot build one in your urban area.(In many locales you cannot even build one outside the city limits. The overbearing arm of the Governmental Outhouse Police is long and replete with bureaucracy. You are not even allowed the freedom afforded others of God’s creatures, to defecate in the woods.
And when you are done with your necessary duties you reach for the toilet paper and you remember: The three rolls that you had when the SHTF went down is long gone. This is when you find yourself praying for an early frost to provide an abundance to dry leaves to meet your needs. It is either that or start on those spare curtains your wife has stored in the basement. In my opinion toilet paper is the greatest invention that modern society has contributed to our world.
I know about outhouses. I am sort of an expert on privies, you might say. My family did not have inside plumbing until I was 16. Thanks Mom and Dad. No,I’m serious. If it had not been for that upbringing then I would not be the Prince of Privies that I am today. I do not fear sanitation problems in the aftermath because I have lived it.
But all of this is academic if you wake up in the morning ‘the day after’, go to the faucet, turn it on and nothing comes out.
If you do not have a backup plan to supply you and your family with fresh potable water you have three days to wish you did have such a plan.This is where that well with an old fashioned hand pump would come in handy. But try to get the City Fathers in your area to sanction you drilling or driving a well. In most jurisdictions that ain’t gonna happen, Spunky.
Maybe you should go to town and tell everyone of the dismal future you’ve now recognized. So, quick, run out to the stable and harness up the team, hook them to your buggy and… You find you have no stable, no harness, no buggy.
Life in the 1880s was bearable because the infrastructure had already been put in place, built over generations by our extremely hardworking ancestors.Through knowledge acquired over centuries of trial and error. But these methods are missing in our society today. You say all of that information is available on the Internet but if there is no Internet? Libraries have gotten rid of many of their reference books, proud to be dependent on Google for information. The average young person would die without their cell phone and know nothing about how to survive should the SHTF. And that’s our fault. It is not too late but the end is near.
Prep, teach, and pass information along to any like-minded soul who will listen. It is a matter of life and death!
Remember, ‘God helps those who help themselves. – Blueleader
JWR Adds: Despite his tongue-in-cheek presentation, Blueleader’s points are well-taken. If you haven’t fully pondered what it would take to revert to more simple technology, then I’d recommend that you look through SurvivalBlog’s List of Lists Excel spreadsheet. But those lists are just a starting point. You will also have to delve into our archives to find the more arcane items like a hand crank clothes washer or a shingle froe. Most importantly, you won’t fully realize what tools and skills you’ll need unless you actually make the move and start living the life. That is the only sort of experience that will get you truly prepared.