(Continued from Part 1.)
Where do we Start?
Like everything we do in survival we have to look at vulnerability, that is: That which can hurt us the most and quickest. In my opinion safe and plentiful potable water is the highest priority. So, what can we do now to build our own water infrastructure so that when our blue 55-gallon drum is empty we don’t die of dehydration or cholera? Depending upon your living situation (urban/suburban/rural) this may be a simple process or a major challenge. The point however is to ensure that you have the infrastructure ready to fill the void. Again, depending upon your living arrangements, you may be able to plan, build and integrate your survival infrastructure right alongside your current infrastructure.
For an example of water infrastructure, someone living in a rural area with a well can easily add a hand-operated pitcher pump, a ram pump, a PV-powered pump, or make a bailer bucket to access water when commercial power goes down. A person in an urban/suburban area that has supplied water could add a rain catchment system. But they would also have to have a system for purifying that water for personal use. For some, their survival water infrastructure may be centered around traveling to a lake or stream to fetch containers of water to take back to their home for purifying. So perhaps this infrastructure would be a bicycle and trailer with cargo racks, 5-gallon jugs, and a water purifier. This plan would, however, create a dependence upon your post-SHTF transportation infrastructure for your water infrastructure.
Depending upon your situation your survival water infrastructure may also need to include how to water plants and livestock. For some, being able to set up and use systems like rain barrels may not be an option until SHTF. Perhaps your option might be to design your system, gather the equipment and supplies, put the system together, test it then take it down and store it. Think about routine maintenance that might need to be done to keep your systems operating. If your water system relies upon a bike do you have a patch kit, extra bike parts? Do you have a way to patch containers that might get a hole in them due to gunfire or due to an accident? Do you have spare parts for your pitcher pump?
Less dependence on canned foods
The other micro infrastructure that we need to consider is food production. Waiting to build this infrastructure until after SHTF will be a big challenge and is risky, especially if you take advice from Mike Bloomberg. Gardening is not easy and the more experience you gain when your life isn’t dependent on a successful garden, the better your chances of actually producing food when your life does depend upon it. Parts of your food infrastructure could include raised beds, cold frames, and greenhouses. Besides growing food in gardens consider establishing an orchard and planting things like grape vines or berry bushes. Can you raise animals? Can you raise fish in a pond? Many urban areas are now allowing residents to have a few chickens in their backyards. When I lived in the City, my daughter’s friend’s dad had beehives. Keeping bees not only pollinates your plants but also provides honey for a good source of carbohydrates and wax.
When considering raising animals for survival, can you produce enough animal feed in a grid-down scenario or when fuel is very scarce or expensive without going down to the feed mill? Depending upon your location water for animals and your plants may also be needed, thus your food infrastructure may depend upon your water infrastructure. There is more to building food infrastructure than merely growing and raising foodstuffs. You also must be able to process and store your food. Butchering a 170-pound deer is one thing, but butchering a 1,000-pound steer is another thing, especially grid down. Do you have space to safely keep a side of beef hung up for a few days? Can you freeze, can, dehydrate, or otherwise quickly preserves that much meat?
Do you have the supplies to pressure can roughly 400 pounds of beef? That could be around 200-quart jars and lids for just one animal. There are other things that will have to be overcome when trucks stop running and grocery store shelves are empty. Can you render fat for tallow? Can you process hooves for gelatin? Before the Industrial Revolution ladies spent most of their day preparing meals. Chores for the men and children were also centered around food, whether it was taking care of animals, planting, cutting wood, or picking up sticks for kindling and firewood. Having non-electric kitchen utensils will reduce the amount of time people spend in the kitchen post-SHTF. Ever try to make butter in a hand-cranked butter churn? Having a well-thought-out and built food infrastructure will help ensure you eat long after the last can of stored food is eaten.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness
Sanitation is another infrastructure that we need to build. Some of your sanitation infrastructure may depend upon your water infrastructure. In a prolonged grid-down environment there will probably not be too many flushing toilets. I have heard people say “I’m going to carry water from the pool/creek/pond/et cetera to flush the toilet if there is no running water”. That may work for you but you might want to try and figure out where you are in the “system”. We have all heard the age-old adage about how poop flows downhill. In our modern sewage systems, many areas are lower than where the sewage treatment plant is, therefore the system has many sewage lift stations that pump the sewage up. If these lift stations stop working then sewage could back up in some areas. Are you in one of those areas? Those living on rural septic systems already have a micro sewage infrastructure.
Preppers with septic tanks will be okay for a year or two until the tank needs pumped. Part of my plan is to ban toilet paper from going down the toilet to prolong the capacity of the tank. Composting toilets and outhouses are possible alternatives to modern sanitary systems. Besides getting rid of our human waste, how are we going to stay clean? Hand washing will become even more important in a prolonged grid-down society. Bathing or showering will still need to be done however it probably won’t be with the frequency that we are used to today. Many of us probably have the black vinyl solar shower bag tucked away and that may well work but in my experience the water never got very warm.
Like the food we have stored away, what do you do when the last bar of soap is used? Can you make more? Besides washing ourselves we need to build an infrastructure that can accommodate the effective and efficient cleaning of our clothes and cookware. As a society, we have become accustomed to disposable items to meet many of our sanitary needs. At some point in a long-term grid-down world, disposable items will be used up what are the alternatives? Cleanliness will be very important in a long-term SHTF scenario to maintain one’s health. Hot water will be a huge part of keeping things clean whether it be dishes, diapers, towels, dishcloths, linens, or ourselves. Sure, a pot over a fire will work but in the long-term is that the most efficient method? For a few bucks and a little time, you could build a number of water heating systems now.
Many of us will be “bugging-in”. Thus, we will remain in our current homes. Has anyone considered how to clean the carpets grid down? Wall-to-wall carpeting took off in the 1960s but before then, wood floors and area rugs were common. Area rugs were rolled up and taken outside and beat to get the dirt out. A dust mop was used to clean the wood floors. As we become more agrarian in our post-SHTF world we will track in more dirt which will help breed pests and pest carry diseases. Modern medicine will fail, like everything else, so the importance of prevention of injury and disease will become even more important.
Third World Healthcare
In a long-term grid-down scenario people are going to get hurt and get sick. Unfortunately, most of our modern medicine is dependent upon electricity to function. How many doctors’ offices use, let alone even have on hand, a non-electric blood pressure cuff? I suspect that much of today’s modern medicine is taught with the assumption that all the modern diagnostic testing equipment and results will be available. I wonder how many doctors who graduated medical school in the last few years could diagnosis someone with Rickets, Scurvy, or other diseases without a blood test. Would our modern-day doctors even be able to treat injuries and diseases without all the modern-day medical advancements? I’m sure there are some that can, like those that do missions work in Third World countries, inner cities, or in very poor rural areas.
How many of us have plans for a sickroom post-SHTF? Who is going to staff it? What are the plans to replace our modern-day medicines with herbs? My mom spent much of her life learning about medicinal herbs, she was a wealth of knowledge about which herb was good for various ailments. When she passed away all that knowledge went with her. My point in bringing this up is that books are great but having a person with years of hands-on experiences is priceless but that knowledge and experience has to be built and shared with others long before SHTF. Try not to rely upon one person for any of your infrastructure needs. Today, our society suffers from First World problems like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and mental health issues. But Post-SHTF we will see more Third World issues.
When you look at the most dangerous professions you will see farmers, loggers, construction workers, and miners. In a post-SHTF world, we will see more people engaging in more of these types of activities thus equaling more injuries. A robust micro medical infrastructure will be very dependent upon people with special knowledge. We can haul and purify our own water, chop or gather our own wood, plant and nurture our own plants but when you are knocked unconscious and bleeding from an accident you cannot be your own medic.
I once read a book on the history of surgery. What I was surprised to learn is how many surgical tools haven’t really changed much over the years (compared to other technologies). I’m sure there are some medical types who will take issue with this statement but most of the surgical instruments used today are still of the basic design of the instruments used in the early 1800s. That isn’t to say that there haven’t been any advances like microscopic surgery or the gamma knife but the normal scalpel used today is very much the same design as those used 100 years ago.
Doctors and other medical professionals are smart people and they have a lot of knowledge. But when you look at the medicine from a historical point of view, barbers were also the town doctor/surgeon. My point in bringing this up is to say that today, we are probably better educated on the human body and its various systems than the average barber, 100 years ago. I still have a copy of “Grey’s Anatomy” on my bookshelf. Besides knowing more about the body and its systems we also understand much more about bacteria, viruses, and the need for sterilization. In my humble opinion, if you only learned one key thing medically, it would be to deliver a baby. Besides a plethora of diseases, childbirth was a very big cause of death, both for the child and the mother. Are we prepared and able to practice Third World ditch medicine?
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 3.)