I have compiled a list of possible projects that can be accomplished by people of average skill with the usual tools and supplies. This list is just to get you thinking about what you might need and what you could use in the event of an emergency. Luckily, we currently have the Internet to easily find plans for these projects. Print the plans now and start a “to-do” list. The Internet is great but also have some how-to books on hand. The time is upon us.
In keeping with preparation priorities, let’s first discuss water projects. One of the first things to consider should probably be some sort of rain water collection system. You may live in an area in which rain water collection is illegal so check before you implement such a system. That being said, you could probably still go ahead with the assembly of materials and even construction as long as the system is not used. After a critical event, law makers and enforcers will likely have bigger fish to fry than someone who is utilizing rain water for gardens, orchards or water to flush toilets.
One simple method of rain water collection involves one or more large plastic trash bins that can be purchased at the big box stores for about thirty dollars. I have had good luck with Rubbermaid Brute® containers which hold 32 gallons of liquid. With some fall and spring cleaning and maintenance, mine have lasted more than five years without any signs of failure. Stock extra “O” rings and faucets for the tanks. Recycled poly drums or intermediate bulk containers (IBC tanks) are good, sturdy and cheap alternatives if you know what was previously stored in them.
One may simply let a down spout flow into a hole cut into the lid for collection. The addition of a hose bib near the bottom of the trash bin allows for running an irrigation line to the garden or filling a bucket or other container. Construct a strong frame to elevate the trash bin in order to have clearance for a bucket or watering can. If your 32-gallon trash bin is full of rain water, it will weigh slightly more than 267 pounds so plan ahead and secure the bin with ratchet straps so it won’t tip over.
Once you have water, you may have to filter it. Short of a purchased water filter, you may consider a do-it-yourself one with one of many plans available on the web. I have constructed a gravity filter from a leftover water cooler bottle. Include many layers of sand and activated charcoal under a cloth filter that can be changed frequently.
If you are a country dweller or maybe live in some suburban areas, you probably have access to at least some quantity of firewood. If you need to depend on that firewood for warmth or cooking fires, it will have to be dry. You may want to consider constructing some sort of wood shed or wood rack with a roof to be able to keep at least some of the firewood dry and ready for use.
For about a hundred dollars worth of pressure-treated lumber, an open air wood rack with a roof can be constructed in a weekend. If you have access to pallets or salvaged scrap, use that lumber for the build and save a lot of money.
Another ongoing project is the selection, cutting, splitting and stacking of firewood. Fuel in the form of firewood is vital for heat and cooking in a grid-down scenario, so be prepared. In addition to obtaining a good supply of firewood, have chainsaws, bow saws, axes, splitting mauls and wedges accumulated and ready for duty. For the chainsaw, don’t forget stored gasoline, two cycle oil, bar oil, spare chains, extra spark plugs and sharpening files.
How about a fire pit? Many plans exist for DIY fire pits and they have become quite common in the backyards of America. Build them with an eye toward having to cook your everyday meals and boiling lots and lots of water, not just roasting marshmallows.
Many internet plans exist for constructing a rocket stove. Consider building one to rapidly heat water to sterilize and to cook with. Better to have one and not need it . . .
I was concerned about safely storing treated gasoline inside my outbuilding, so one of my recent projects was to construct a small, locking storage box for my metal jerry cans. It allows for ventilation and keeps the sun and rain off of the containers.
Do you have a garden? If not, start now. You can fully expect food prices to rocket and availability will likely be limited. Every gardener will tell you that there is a leaning curve with growing your own food. In addition, what grows well in Pennsylvania may not do well in Idaho.
Start a gardening project by either planning and cultivating a part of your yard or building a container garden. I live on a rocky hillside with poor soil so I built garden containers out of one inch and two-inch lumber stock. Since my garden is small, (I am trying to get the most food out of the least space) I’ve even built a vertical strawberry plant rack.
With practice, a small container garden can produce an amazing amount of food, but get ready now. You must have lumber, hardware, seeds and soil material (and the garden itself) ready to go before a critical event removes these supplies from your grasp.
How about building a cold frame for starting plants in winter? If you are an apartment dweller, you could build a small vertical greenhouse that would fit on your balcony or in a south-facing window. Would the building owner allow a small rooftop container garden?
Build some sturdy tomato cages now, while materials are in supply. Don’t forget an arbor or trellis for vining plants like grapes, beans and squash. A related project is the enclosure of the garden. This is a must to prohibit animals from feasting on your labors. (See Security)
A small chicken coop or rabbit hutch would be a worthy project for a weekend and would pay off in fresh meat and eggs. The side benefit (manure) is great for your garden. Keep the project small and thereby portable so the “side benefit” can be spread around where it is needed. I utilized wheeled boat trailer jacks on my chicken tractor to aid its mobility.
A compost pile or bin may be a must once you get involved in growing your own food. The web is loaded with information on composting. I personally use a rotating drum to quickly create compost to invigorate and amend my garden. These can be manufactured by the homesteader from salvaged scrap. Again, plans can be easily found on the internet.
You may wish to construct a gambrel with which to hoist an animal that you need to butcher. I have a gambrel attached to coated wire cable which is threaded through a series of pulleys. The mechanical advantage of the pulleys allows me to lift a field dressed deer by myself to begin processing the animal in my outbuilding.
Larger projects like cattle sheds or farrowing pens can be started even if you are not ready for livestock yet. The structures can always be used as storage buildings until the opportunity (or need) arises.
Food storage racks and shelves can be built easily by a novice. I’ve built a couple of racks that can hold cans on their side so they roll to the bottom. This allows me to use older cans first as the new stock is placed on top of the older cans, first in-first out.
You may also want a drying cabinet with open air shelves to dry onions, potatoes, turnips, garlic, winter squash and other garden produce. An old garage sale beverage cooler filled with damp sand can keep your garden carrots edible for a surprisingly long time.
Along those same lines, a homemade food dehydrator rack is another project idea. The only power needed to preserve your meat and vegetables come from the sun.
So you have water and food, now you have to keep it! Consider security lighting in the form of solar motion sensitive lights placed at key areas of your house, outbuildings and garden.
Driveway alarms, sensors and security cameras are all force-multipliers and should be installed before they become necessary. Keep in mind that you may not have electrical power, so choose battery powered units with plenty of back up batteries and a way to charge them.
Fencing can keep pests out of the garden that you are going to need to survive. Other fencing projects can funnel “visitors” on a route that you choose or provide separate pasture areas for different animals or allow for rotation of grazing herds.
Concrete revetments can be utilized to slow vehicle access to your property to allow for observation and your reaction time to visitors. If you need to reach other areas of your property quietly, consider cutting and removing trees and brush from strategically located “fire lanes.”
While we are on this topic, remove brush and other fire load materials from around your house and outbuilding in case of wild fire. Special attention should be given to areas like gas tanks and your supplies of firewood. Can you supply water to all corners of your house? Have hoses and nozzles at each exterior hose bib and consider heavy duty, portable water sprinklers that can be used if wild fire danger threatens your home. Remember that you may not have anyone coming to help you.
If you have firearms, research any potential problems with your particular model(s) and order any replacement parts you may need. Think about springs, pins and other stuff that can and will break. Stock solvent, gun oil and cleaning supplies while they are available. Frankly, if you don’t have enough ammunition stocked by now, you are already behind the curve.
Now is the time to prioritize these and similar projects. We currently have the information and most of the materials to complete many of these tasks. If you can, stock up on the tools you will need and the consumables (nails, screws, bolts, lumber, paint, etc.) that will make your prepper projects a reality. It will be better to have some or all of your needed projects completed before another event happens. After the event, you will likely be devoting all your energy toward staying alive.
Try to stay positive!