I have been living a real life trial of TEOTWAWKI for the past 6 months and wish to share what I have learned. My wife and I have made a decision this past spring to pack up and move closer to her parents. He is 90, and she is in her 80’s and has developed Alzheimer’s. During one of our visits last winter, her father, who I don’t believe ever asked for anything from anyone, asked if we could come back to help. Both my wife and I are in health care, and she has spoken of caring for her parents for many years. We agreed that if a reasonable position opened in the area, I would attempt to secure that. God, doing what He does best, touched us that evening. While getting ready for bed, my cellphone pinged a message with a job opportunity in the town where they live. So, what do you do with that? You apply, interview, secure, and sell the home. That is exactly what happened.
LESSON 1: Trust in the Lord!
I gave my notice, which was four months, due to my contract agreement. We decided to build our home to be able to accommodate the in-laws as well as future retirement needs. After finding a nice spot in the hills well away from the Golden Horde byways, we started clearing. We also put the current house up for sale believing it would take a few months before it sold. Wrong! Five days later, it was under contract, and 28 days later we closed and were homeless, plus we had to leave behind the most splendid garden we have grown to date. The new owners (a young couple) were very pleased and excited.
LESSON 2: Be humble and gracious for what you have and have to offer.
Luckily, my wife’s brother has a cabin near the new homestead, and we were able to move there temporarily. For the first couple of months, she spent the time at the cabin making it “home” with the dogs, cat, and also the chickens, which we had just decided to start about the day we made the changes. I had to continue with the current position and was lucky to have friends who allowed me to housesit. I would go up on the weekends, which became old quickly, as it was a three hour journey but well worth while seeing my wife. The cabin is a rustic log cabin. At 18×24 feet, it is not large, but it is homey. Her brother and I built it by hand, often with no power tools. It has running water, as long as you run and get it. It does have a solar panel that is charging two deep cells, which we use for 12v lights. A large composting toilet is in place as well. We have been using it as a deer camp for many years, so it is not uncomfortable.
LESSON 3: Be thankful for manual skills you have learned, and if you have not, learn how to use simple tools.
The time is NOW! Being able to use a hammer, nails, saws, brace, and bits, and so forth will be of utmost importance if there is no one to simply call for repairs. Besides, a lot of this is fun to do. As there is no running water for bathing/showering, we obtained a couple of EZ UP canopies with walls. After securing them with sand bag ballast to help stay in place during storms, we purchased a camp shower. This is one of the 5-gallon solar bags. I created a mast for it off one corner of the canopy and placed a hook to hang from. This allowed a nice warm-to-hot shower after working at clearing the land for the house.
LESSON 4: Be sure to put the bag out early, to maximize the sun’s benefits when you live in the north.
A cool shower on a cool day is not necessarily great. Worse is a cool shower after a cold front goes through. BRR. We also started heating water on the wood stove after a while, as the sun’s energy is way too shallow at this time of year. As mentioned, there is a nice old wood/coal cook stove. This has been heating the cabin since the weather turned. It has a small wood box, so it burns relatively quickly and needs to be stoked several times a night. It’s not a big thing during the fall when an extra blanket will work, but come deep winter there will be some tiredness.
LESSON 5: Have your wood ready.
We had been using it on weekends when we would come up, so having multiple cords was not an issue, but now it is going daily, and we are out looking at all the standing dead and recent falls to get somewhat dry wood for the winter.
There is a large, cleared area, which she began to turn into garden area almost immediately. Being cut from the forest, it needs a lot of help. Thankfully, through the use of Craigslist, we found a local farmer who was having trouble getting rid of his manure. Taking advantage of this, we enlisted the use of her father’s and brother’s trucks as well as our own and made multiple trips to the farm. Now the field is like the government: full of crap. We have worked it into the soil at different levels. Having a father-in-law who is a master gardener has its perks! In the spring we will be making many raised beds as well as in-ground beds.
LESSON 6: Don’t be afraid to get dirty.
Dust to dust, trying to stick with the current easy ways only will lead to certain demise. Grab a shovel, rake, and other implements and get that garden worked. Again, there’s nothing like good solid work to make you feel better, exhausted, but better. During the warmer months, the second canopy served as the cook tent. Two propane grills adorned the area as well as a picnic table. This was a multipurpose table in that it was a prep spot, dining spot, as well as cleanup area, if needed. We tried to maintain a separate cleaning station, but thunderstorms would prevent us from using it, being fully exposed to the elements. Overall, this setup worked very well. We found that if we were lazy or distracted and did not take care, critter and bugs would invade gladly.
LESSON 7: Practice good hygiene.
Mosaic law gave the Hebrew people rules, many of which pertained to health and hygiene. Again, God knows what is best for us. Keeping the bugs and critters out is not only healthy but also safer, particularly if you have Yogi and Booboo hanging around your mountain. As mentioned above, we had running water when we ran to get it. Water is life. Not having a way to obtain and store it is simply unacceptable. Thankfully, we have a nearby running spring, which we could drive the truck down with large containers and fill. Now, if the grid dropped, we would have had to make some decisions on how to most effectively obtain the water, including perhaps using the bicycles. This would have changed everything, as the return trip is up 700 feet. This is not a fine thought. As the new home was being constructed, we prayed that we would have at least usable water with some flow from the drilled well. With some local’s wells reaching to 800 feet and producing only two gallons a minute, we accepted this possibility. I will tell you that we are truly blessed! The Good Lord opened the ground at 138 feet with a current ongoing overflow of 35 gpm. I now have a regular system built in as well as the emergency overflow, which we will be using to build a small trout pond in the spring.
LESSON 8: Do not underestimate the power of prayer, ever!
As the seasons changed and the cold weather has settled in with darker days, we found ourselves indoors more often. This posed a new complication, as her brother, who is a single gent had decided that we are not so far off on our concerns about this society and has sold everything in his city life and moved up with us. We had anticipated being in our new home, but complications in building arose (of course) and now three adults and pets are in this cabin. Oh, yes, the boy has returned, blessedly safe, I might add, from the Army service. He is now with us as well. This made things very tight and cozy to the point of discomforts. Differing opinions, the fact that her brother is the “owner” of the cabin, and just too close of quarters with no breaks pushed us all to certain limits.
LESSON 9: Be sure there are clearly outlined definitions, roles, and expectations for a group.
Having a sudden surge of family or friends descend upon you in a TEOTWAWKI situation is going to make for higher stress and anguish. We are close but not having discussed each role prior nearly took us to a bad place. Thankfully, we are all well with no long-term damage. Plan for your medical emergencies. Throughout this journey we have been taking pretty good care of ourselves. However, the undue stress of slow building processes, alterations, close quarters, and the new job, not to mention the main reason we came up, had accumulated in my system to point when one Sunday morning I awoke to an odd sound. As I lay there quietly, I exhaled and heard a bubbly sound, much like listening to Rice Crispies in milk. That, my peers, is what pneumonia sounds like. I knew instantly. I did not have a fever or a cough before this, but I sure did later in the day. Planning ahead, I did have the correct medication to start; however, by Monday, I was worsening and needed another added medication. This I did not have in my preps, and so I simply went to my practice and was a patient rather than a practitioner. I am now better, but I do wonder how this would have turned if not for the current system.
LESSON 10: Check all your preps routinely, and don’t sneer at those “overkill” items.
I sure could have used the Rocephin in my stocks had it been a real disaster. Now it is Christmas. I am sitting here comfortably in my new home with its modern fineries, but also with its hidden securities. Up the hill, we have multiple cordage and both her brother and ourselves have coal ability too. The hand tools are put up and ready for work. The relationships are secure. The water is tasty, cold, and still flowing. I am well as is my lovely and most wonderful wife. I still have a few items to tweak, but it is all here. Am I ready for the event? Who truly is? Most likely I am not, but I have learned a lot of what I was missing before– LESSON 1: Trust in the Lord. May you all be safe, secure, well, prepared, and blessed.