With the current geopolitical situation in the world, I find myself pondering: “What else do I need to do to be better prepared?” For someone who has been preparing for about four decades, and lives on a small homestead, this is a hard question. I could stay the normal course and just add a bucket of rice here and a box of ammo there, but times are far from normal and my thoughts are that we should be thinking like today will be our last day to shore up our preps. Through the course of decades of prepping, I have only let one event spur me to buy more and that was Y2K. My instincts tell me that some very challenging times are just over the horizon. Therefore, tangible goods will be worth more than a wheelbarrow full of federal reserve notes. The urgent need to shore up our preparedness is not just limited to purchasing items but includes other actions like coordination with neighbors, training, maintenance/repair, planning and organization.
Here are some of the things that I am working on to be better prepared:
Know thy neighbor
One of situations that I’m trying to fathom is getting to know, not just one new set of neighbors, but two. Having good neighbors is luck, but having great neighbors is a true blessing. I have learned that one of the new neighbors will be a young Mennonite family moving in from Lancaster County Pennsylvania and the other will be a newly married young Amish couple. I have not met the new neighbors but I will be assuming that they will be Blessings, as well. This change is scheduled for the Spring of 2024. The one question I have concerning Amish and Mennonite neighbors is will they defend themselves or others if need be? I make the assumption that they will not disregard their religious beliefs regardless of the world situation. Having new neighbors will require establishing a trusting relationship and this is not a prep that is done overnight. This will be a major priority.
Preparedness – in sickness and in health
About 11 months ago I was diagnosed with an incurable medical condition that affects my blood. Before this, my medical preps were mainly dressings and over-the-counter drugs. Now, I have to think about how to treat my condition without the “normal” health and medical infrastructure. I have watched the “blood letting” procedure numerous times and have asked all the nurses doing the procedure lots of questions. I have also done a massive amount of reading to familiarize myself, as best as I can, about my condition, its impacts, treatments, et cetera. I currently have a year supply of low dose aspirin and am working to make the stockpile 3 years. I’m trying not to buy all the aspirin at one time so I can stagger the expiration dates. I am also putting supplies back for performing phlebotomies (blood letting). I wanted several ways to do this (Primary, Alternative, Contingency).
One of the issues that I had was how would I sterilize stainless steel needles. I have learned that I can us a pressure canner as an autoclave, so I am going to designate one of the pressure canners specifically as an autoclave. I can use normal IV catheters as well but the flow will just be slower. I have several beakers, marked in millimeters, so I can measure how much blood has been taken out. I am looking for a nurse locally, so that if worst comes to worst, I can take the supplies to them and have them perform the phlebotomy for me. I may have to barter for that service so I will need to consider barter items a little more than normal now. If I cannot find an RN I am going to get in contact with the local midwife that the Mennonite families around here use. Being able to perform the phlebotomy is one thing, the harder part will be knowing when to perform the procedure. That requires being able to look at my blood and figure out how many cells and platelets I have. I am looking at purchasing a Hemocytometer that is basically a gridded glass microscope slide and a centrifuge to separate the components of the blood. Having this capability may also help diagnosis others who are ill.
Saving my bacon
Since we raise our own beef and pork we normally have a lot of meat in our 2 freezers in the basement. If world events spiral out of control or someone gets an itchy finger and nukes start flying, we will probably lose power and have to shelter in our basement for about 2 weeks. I do not want all our meat to go to waste, so I have been thinking about ways to save it. One idea is to pressure can some now to reduce the amount in the freezers. I am looking at the feasibility of a battery backup for the freezers. The other idea I am exploring is being able to run our small 2KW Honda generator in our basement. Obviously, the carbon monoxide issue has to be dealt with. My idea is to pipe the exhaust to the outside. So I am working on assembling the materials to do this. I will also have two battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors in the area as well. Once the radiation levels are safe enough outside we can finish pressure canning the meat. I have bounced my idea off a few of my prepper friends and they concur with my idea.
Buy now, build later
We are always adding to our “infrastructure” at our homestead. On next year’s “to do” list are; a building to house my blacksmithing equipment (forge, anvils, tools) and either a small smoke house or a summer kitchen. It would be a misfortune if we could not buy the wood, cement, and hardware for these projects, come Spring, due to increasing world upheaval. We are going to start buying the materials now so we can have them on hand in case they are not available in the Spring. We keep a supply of wood, metal roofing and hardware but they are intended for repairs and smaller projects, like a chicken coop or shed, not larger buildings.
Although I have 5-gallon buckets full of various sizes/lengths of nails and exterior construction screws, it never ceases to amaze me how many screws and/or nails can be used in a building project. I just finished building a small lean-to for our cows out in the pasture and was shocked that I used about 200 hex-head roofing screws. I may even consider putting some foam insulation boards away for the future ice house build. We already purchased some livestock gates so we can enclose a small area within the pasture to keep cows in if we ever need to take a temperature, give a bolus, or treat a wound. We do not want to spend a thousand or more dollars on a chute but a few gates connected to the side of the lean-to shelter and a few 6×6 posts is better than nothing. So, we will definitely be stockpiling some additional building supplies, just in case.
Raising extra cash
We all know prepping is not cheap. When I was dating my wife we were discussing finances and she was asking me about savings and investments and I said I had an “IRA”. She asks which kind and I said it was not any of the types of IRAs she was thinking of but rather an “Individual Rifle Account”. I “invested” in firearms. So now that we are picking up the pace of our prepping, I sold off a few of the “Safe Queens” to a local FFL dealer. The selling of these firearms was also an opportunity for me to use my barter and negotiating skills. I have also sold a few ounces of silver as well. I’m sure some will disagree with this strategy, but it makes more sense, in my head, to sell an ounce of silver for about $23 and buy sugar for about 81 cents per pound now, than to pay $23 a pound for that sugar post-SHTF, if there is even any available. I am also considering some woodworking projects that cost very little, in terms of both material costs and time, that I can sell as a side hustle.
Wood, Leather, and Metal versus Plastic
Before the advent and wide-scale use of plastic many of our consumer items were constructed from materials like wood, leather or metal (think tin and brass). Once The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) happens plastics will disappears, along with our supply chains, and people will revert back to making needful things out of wood, leather and/or metal again. I made a trip to Hobby Lobby and purchased some additional leather crafting items. I was at one of the big national hardware stores and they had a large roll of aluminum flashing on clearance so I picked that to put in storage too. I think leather making and crafting is not something that a lot of preppers give a lot of thought to. My leather tools focus on the utility of fashioning items and not the punches and tooling to make elaborate designs in the leather.
Shopping for old technology
I have been hitting thrift stores and antique shops more frequently looking for items that will make our lives somewhat more productive without electricity. I am currently on the lookout for a push-behind wheeled cultivator and the various attachments. Most of the time when you find one of these types of cultivators they only come with one attachment. This lack of implements is something else I have kept in mind for future projects for blacksmithing. I recently found a book from the year 1900 on how to make various distilled petroleum products such as kerosene. Living in the county where the oil industry was launched, we have a lot of early petroleum antiques around here.
For some reason, however, I did not buy the book but I have been thinking about that book ever since, so I will be going back to get it. I have been bidding on more items at online auctions but that are within about an hours drive so I can save on shipping costs. I recently picked up several pieces of new stainless steel stove pipe and fittings. I have a wood/coal burning cook stove that we want to put into our summer kitchen but I did not have the pipe, now I do and for less than a tenth of the price of buying it at a hardware store. This also goes along with the “buy now, build later” category. At the same auction, I picked up a bunch of new American hacksaw blades, a lot of various kerosene heater wicks (for barter mostly), and a box lot of tools that included a like new bit and brace, a hand-cranked drill and several corner clamps. Once the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) hits, old technology that is seemingly obsolete pieces of junk today with be rusty gold.
Fueling the urgency
In mid-Fall each year I head off to refill all the gas cans that we emptied mowing grass, running the weed wacker and other small engines. Besides replacing the non-ethanol gasoline, I got another 20-pound propane tank and had it filled. I am also refilling a 55-gallon drum of off-road diesel. Other types of fuels I have added recently also include bituminous coal and Coleman white gas. I am considering also having a load of seasoned and split firewood delivered to the house just to be a little further ahead. Another project that I am studying, and starting to buy the needed items for, is a biodigester system. This is a system where I can take my cow dung and capture the methane as it decomposes and then use it to burn in stove burners, lights or heaters. Cow dung is definitely a renewable resource!
Food for thought
Having prepped for decades I am not feeling the urgency to run out and buy more rice and beans, at least not more than I normally buy. Since we are getting good at gardening, our orchard is producing and we have livestock we can produce much of our own food. Our priority for food items are those items that we cannot produce on our own or that are not produced locally. Specifically sugar, salt (non-iodized), and baking soda. Why? Besides needing these staples for baking and cooking they will be needed for food preservation. In the case of salt and baking soda they also have many non-food related applications. These three staples also have very long shelf lives.
I grew up helping my dad reload, this included melting and casting our own bullets (projectiles). So over the years I’ve purchased lead which I melt into one-pound ingots to store. Lead is a very dense material, thus making it an excellent material at blocking radiation. I have been thinking about re-melting the lead to reform the ingots into thin sheets. Why? I can place the lead sheets on the floor above the area where we plan to shelter should radioactive fallout become an issue. The added shielding and the time it would take to lay down the sheets would be well worth the time and fuel costs to re-melt the lead.
Knocking on and opening new Doors of opportunity
I want to start introducing myself to more neighbors. All this costs is time. My thought for an ice breaker is to see if anyone has any old farm equipment they want to get rid of. That should get a conversation going. My intent is not to create a neighborhood mutual assistance group (MAG) but just to get to know them now so when SHTF and they knock on my door or vice versa we are not strangers.
Several years ago, my wife came home with fast food and was spitting mad because the order was “all wrong”. She went on a long tirade about “kids these days”, “laziness” and other shortcomings of the staff. My response to her was she needed to lower her expectations because then she would not be disappointed. That might sound odd but I thought she was gonna have a coronary while she was on her rant. The point is, the anger and other emotions we feel, when our expectations are not met, are counterproductive and cloud our thinking.
Having prepared for SHTF for decades, I make no illusions that I will not have holes in my preps or that I will have anticipated everything. I expect many things to go wrong but because that is my expectation I will not be focused on complaining and beating myself up for not thinking about something, but instead I’ll be focused on dealing with the ramifications of my shortfalls and looking for a fix. I remember being in a leadership course at work and the facilitator was discussing how we view change as negative and that most of us do not deal will change very well. The facilitator recommended putting changes into our daily lives so we can get used to them. On the way home from work I would take different routes. So start managing your expectations by having realistic expectations.
I highly recommend you all ask yourself: “What else can i do to be better prepared?” Perhaps you have the ability to rectify what you come up with. But even if you cannot fill all your gaps, you know you have a gap and just knowing your gaps can be very useful.