I am continuing to share some of my hard-learned lessons as a single woman who moved out into the country. My story and lessons that follow, provided in no particular order, might save you money, time, injury, and humiliation as you make this journey towards self-sufficiency and preparedness. Yesterday, the lessons were on chainsaw, firewood, and wood stoves.
Bears, Birds and Bullets
One part of moving out of the suburbs and into “the country” that I was really excited about was being more in touch with nature, especially birds. I have always loved watching wild birds and hearing them sing and saw this as an opportunity to create a “wild bird friendly” environment in my yard, complete with multiple birdhouses and bird feeders to encourage them to hang around.
In addition, when I moved, I brought my suburban “back yard chicken” experience with me and was sure that I was ready for a real flock. I had visions of a cute coop that looked like a miniature of my house and happy hens scratching in the yard. I enjoyed watching the deer in the meadows at dusk and was charmed the first time a flock of wild turkeys moseyed up my driveway looking like a bunch of grumpy old men in dusty overcoats.
The dogs would have a blast chasing woodchucks, rabbits, and chipmunks through the woods and if there was an occasional fatality dropped on my back porch, well dogs will be dogs. I had heard that there were black bears in the woods. However, I hadn’t seen any and was assured that they were more afraid of me than I was of them and that as long as I kept my garbage secure and never got between a mom and her cubs, they would leave well enough alone. Besides, they would stay away from any yard where dogs lived.
Well, I had a few lessons to learn. They follow.
Lesson #1: It’s Not Fat Squirrels
When you find your empty birdfeeders knocked off of the shepherd’s crook hangers in the morning, it was not fat squirrels. After you decide to mount your birdfeeders on 12’ 4x4s that you sink 2’ into the ground with your handy post hole digger with a pully system to lower them to fill them up and you find the 4x4s knocked over and the birdfeeders empty on the ground in the morning, that was also not fat squirrels. Bears are strong.
Lesson #2: Bears Aren’t As Stupid as You Thought
When you decide that you will not be defeated by a stupid bear and you dig 4’ holes, sink 16’ 4x4s, and anchor them in 100 lbs. of quikcrete to hang your bird feeder pulley system and you find the poles standing but the empty birdfeeders and pulleys on the ground in the morning, you discover that the bear may not be a stupid as you thought.
Lesson #3: You Can Beat the Bear!
You might re-hang the birdfeeders and run the pully cords through 10’ 1 ½” pvc pipes that you mount onto all four sides of the 4x4s with brackets. Then when you go out in the morning to see a fully intact (if somewhat ridiculous) bird feeder system with muddy pawprint swipes and slide marks on the pvc pipes and tufts of bear hair caught on the brackets and you start laughing and dancing around the yard, you will know that you probably look more than a little crazy, but that through a little creative problem solving and a couple of trips to Lowes, you solved the problem. You beat the bear! At least you did for now.
Useful Bear Fact #1
People who say that black bears are herbivores are being somewhat optimistic. In my experience, black bears are opportunistic gluttons and will eat almost anything.
Useful Bear Fact #2
When people say that bears are more scared of you than you are of them, they are making a potentially dangerous generalization. Bears that have come to view humans and their homes as food sources do not always agree to follow this rule. Also, these bears appear not to be completely deterred by the potential presence of dogs.
Useful Bear Fact #3
Those DIY chicken coops that look like little houses and come flat in large boxes are actually fancy bear buffet tables. They can be knocked over or just opened up like a cheap tin can by a half way determined bear.
Useful Bear Fact #4
When you come face-to-face with these realities at 3:00 in the morning while standing on your back porch in your pajamas and rubber boots with an air horn in one hand and bear spray in the other, and the dogs are trying to chew through the back door to get out while you are watching a giant VW-sized bear easily remove the nesting box of your cute DYI coop and chew on one of your girls as you yell “Go Bear!” authoritatively and blow your air horn as you have been instructed, you will realize that the bear is not scared.
He is just mildly annoyed at the interruption. When he looks cranky and starts swinging his head from side to side and moving your way (still chewing on your favorite girl), you forget that the wind is blowing in your face and you are standing right outside your back door and could just turn around and go inside.
You lose your mind. You raise your hand high and squeeze the trigger on your industrial-sized bear spray with all of your might while screeching “NOOOOO BEAR!!!!!!!” at the top of your lungs. If you are lucky, as you curl up in the fetal position on the back porch in your pajamas and rubber boots with snot streaming down your face and your eyes swelling shut (oh yeah, the wind…), the bear will get bored or embarrassed watching you snuffle and sob and will just waddle away, leaving a long trail of feathers into the woods.
Useful Bear Fact #5
You will realize exactly how lucky you were when, less than a week later, you find out that a far better prepared individual than you was forced to shoot the bear less than a mile away after it charged people coming out of a local restaurant at night. (Apparently, unbeknownst to you, this bear had already been identified and designated as an aggressive nuisance bear.) You will also realize that it is way past time to expedite the firearms acquisition and training portion of your long-term plan and you need to get your very lucky butt in gear ASAP. (There will be more details on starting that process in a future article.)
Useful Bear Fact #6
While I am sure that there are many effective options, I think I’ve found the best way to protect chickens from being bear supper and to keep you from losing your mind and accidentally macing yourself (or maybe being mauled by Attila the Bear). This is to build a coop as if you are stick building a house and then install multiple strands of well-grounded electric bear fencing all around it, including on the door.
Bits and Pieces
There is no need for anecdotes here. I’m sure it will be obvious what this section is about.
When you are looking for a ladder, spend the extra money on fiberglass. The difference in weight is well worth the difference in money if you ever actually want to be able to use it or put it away afterwards without throwing out your back or losing control of it and breaking a window.
Leaning the Ladder
Don’t lean your ladder against the gutters; lean it against the house. And don’t lean too far out on the ladder. Get back down and move it over if you need to, no exceptions.
Hammering and Wasp’s Nests
If you are going to be using that ladder to repair the roof of a shed, make sure that there is not a giant wasp’s nest in the eaves before you start hammering. This applies to other structures as well.
When you are looking for a wheel barrow and think that it would be smart to get the light weight plastic tub kind, don’t. It will crack and break almost immediately as soon as you actually use it for anything more than leaves. This is a case where the increased weight of metal is really worth it.
Wheel Barrow Tires
Regarding the above wheel barrow, spend the extra money for a solid tire. Just do it.
There is a difference between top soil and garden soil. Know the difference.
When installing an 80-gallon rain barrel, just thinking it looks level is not good enough.
For storing dog food, cat food, chicken food et cetera, invest in galvanized steel trash cans with tight fitting lids. Because of mice and bugs, keep in the house or basement and not the somewhat derelict shed because of bears and raccoons.
Filling Dog Craters
If your dogs repeatedly dig craters in the ground and you don’t want to sprain an ankle in the dark, fill the craters with wood ash from your wood stove (cold). For some reason they won’t dig through it.
Vicious Nesting Canadian Geese
- If you see Canadian Geese on your property and they look like they are even thinking about building a nest, chase them away immediately and aggressively (or eat them). Geese guarding a nest are vicious. They will fly at your head like a giant feathered kamikaze. Stay away. You will not win this one once they get the nest finished unless you kill them from far away. Try not to have to resort to that because orphan gosling guilt would be a bummer.
I speak from experience when I say that the whole preparedness world can be a bit intimidating to newcomers. It can be hard to imagine that you could ever accumulate the skills or preps that are widely discussed in these blogs. It can seem like everyone else already has years and years of supplies, a fully stocked bug out location, a fleet of EMP-hardened, armored bug out vehicles, an arsenal with the skills to use it, and a complex community of like-minded folks with military, medical, dental, engineering, farming, animal husbandry, and blacksmithing skills just waiting to implement the meticulously detailed action plan when trouble strikes.
In the beginning, all you may have is a queasy feeling when you watch the news and a list you printed up off of some random website about what to put in a bug out bag. Getting from there to the level of preparedness folks are discussing can seem overwhelming and discouraging to say the least.
A Beginning of Real Prepping
While experienced preppers may well view this article as silly (yeah, it kind of is) and wonder what this has to do with real prepping, I would respectfully submit that this journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and for those closer to the beginning of the journey and still in, or relatively recently out of, the city or suburbs who are long on enthusiasm but short on practical “country” and survival skills, those first steps are the only way to get started on the long, hard road to preparedness. Hopefully presenting some basic tips in the context of my own real life “Darwin Award” worthy learning curve will make it all feel just a little less overwhelming and encourage them in their journey. Hey, if I can do it, anyone can.
In closing, while some of this hopefully made you laugh, I do know that I was incredibly lucky that I did not do permanent damage to myself and that the only real victims of my foolishness were some money, my pride, a roof, a window, and a very sweet Silver Lace Wyandotte (poor Gertie!). That might not have been the case if I waited until SHTF time to try to figure some of these things out. I hope I have provided not just laughs but some actual useful basic information for the less experienced.
Underlying Lessons for All Readers
The underlying lessons (that I am still working on…) that I would encourage all readers, no matter how experienced, to be reminded of are:
- Don’t be so stubborn that you cannot admit, even to yourself, when you have made a mistake.
- There is no shame in admitting that you do not know everything and cannot do everything all by yourself.
- If someone knows more than you about something and is kind enough to give you advice, listen.
- When you know more about something than someone else, stand ready to provide advice.
- If you need help with something, ask.
- If you can help with something, offer.
- Most of all, be safe and remember to laugh at yourself, now and in the difficult times ahead.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
Today features another entry for Round 75 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
Round 75 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.