We heard a medical doctor issue a warning before the dawn of the new century that we needed to get prepared. All of the engineers interviewed in IEEE Magazine at the time said we were in trouble. I did not want to face my family at the dinner table regretting there was no food because I did not heed qualified warnings. I had to act. We considered what we might need and went out and purchased what we could afford by priority. We prepared as though we were preparing for war and assumed we would have to make it on our own. Love of family and understanding that fiat currency will someday become worthless causes us to continue preparing.
Food was, is, and will be the chief concern. Adding only water to prepare food would be an advantage to us in an austere environment. Having food that is already in cans eliminates labor and the risk of crop loss. Sampling different dehydrated and freeze-dried foods taught us which ingredients we liked and what to avoid. For example, apple slices taste great, dices good, and flakes bad. We learned not to assume scrambled eggs, brown rice, and all milk powders keep well. Some entrees become off-flavored with acidic tomato and acrid cheese powders. We learned that sealing cans in nitrogen and keeping them cool extends their shelf life. We stored vitamin and mineral supplements with desiccants and oxygen absorbers in Mylar bags in sealed buckets. Some savings have been made by buying in bulk, not having to make frequent trips to the stores and procuring items prior to inflation. I have to say that every power outage was painless for us.
Planting perennials, especially pears, cranberries, and elderberries, produced favorable results. We are adding honeyberry bushes for an earlier fruit. Our hazelnut trees gave us nuts, so we planted more trees. Growing garlic is amazing. Open-pollinated seeds are essential to our gardening plans. We plant only crops requiring little care. We have had much success with carrots and greens. Kale is particularly nutritious. We compost leaves and vegetable parings for three years. The planting areas are rotated annually. Unfortunately, it is not realistic for us to raise animals.
We had the pleasure of meeting the owner of Bison Pumps. After a demonstration, we decided to buy one of his water pumps. The hand pump fits our well casing exactly and satisfies our needs when power is not available. We continue to use and stock gravity water filters. Probably the greatest thing we realize by living in the country is having our own water supply.
We can heat both the house and water with our flat-topped wood stoves. We have insulated tanks with spigots for saving hot water from the stoves. Stove top ovens, sun ovens, kerosene burners, and rocket stoves are counted on for cooking and for heating water. Solar showers are also available. Of course I get warmed twice from the firewood!
Considering a year-round need for firewood prompted me to buy multiple, quality felling axes, saws, splitting mauls and sharpening files. I had to stock hardware, building supplies, hand tools and repair items we anticipated needing. It has been sweet having everything on hand for recent jobs.
Fire extinguishers are kept charged throughout the house. Trees and brush have been cleared around the house and a 700-gallon concrete dike placed near the well for fire protection. A generator driven pump, solar-powered battery-driven pump, hose, portable spray tanks and buckets are kept handy.
Solar power is expensive, and our latitude limits it; but it is necessary for some of the things we want to do. If I have any regret, it is not having enough alternative energy to do more.
Quality footwear, merino socks, layered clothing, water-resistant and insulated coats, watch caps, broad-rimmed hats, bug gear, bandannas, and work gloves are all stocked. It is nice to have a wife who is a seamstress whose sewing machine can run off the inverter. Clothes can be washed in the manual washing machine with wringer and then dried on the clothesline.
We stocked up on soap products and personal hygiene items. For all of Cal Ben Pure Soap products that can be bought in bulk, visit their website. We added a composting toilet (http://natureshead.net/), built an outhouse, and have since set up a sick room in our home according to the SurvivalBlog article by G.A. (RN). Large concrete tanks with lids were placed outdoors for future waste containment.
I had being prepared drilled into me as an Eagle Scout and know that medical help can be stretched or non-existent in an emergency. After completing Red Cross First Aid and CPR in high school I longed to take additional training. I was uneasy imagining trauma care and squelched the desire by telling myself that emergency medicine was for professionals. The articles in SurvivalBlog by LEO Medic Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 liberated me from my fears and enabled me to focus on what I could do. Renewed and motivated, I completed 150 hours of advanced first aid, EMT refresher classes, and Prehospital Trauma Life Support. I was privileged to have some of the very best teachers out there, including one who had just completed a course in Tactical Combat Casualty Care. All the Paramedics gave me confidence and competence to be a Wilderness First Responder. The training unexpectedly made me aware how narrow is health and how important is safety to avoid the need for treatment.
I felt naked on the way home having only my bare hands to use in a medical emergency. I committed from that day forward to carry medical gear. My IFAK items are stuffed in a Blackhawk drop leg medical pouch purchased from a discount dealer. I outfitted Doc Blue’s Family Medical Kit , bag only, with medical supplies to carry in my truck. I modified the contents of an AMP-3 Outfitter for my grab bag and have oxygen in a shoulder strap carrying case at the house. I stocked the kits according to LEO Medic’s advice to my level of certification, except I chose to have Chito SAM gauze, which is now FDA approved. (Info on Chito Sam gauze is available online.) I read EMS materials to stay fresh. It is great to cover medical care with my wife, who may have to apply emergency care someday. Basic life support training is for everybody, or should be. BLS is mostly non-invasive or topical in application. The primary focus is on preservation of cell oxygenation. I am glad that my first two patients were low maintenance. A lady in a motor vehicle accident had an acute stress reaction only. A co-worker had a concussion only, with no increased cranial pressure. I learned not to become a casualty in an emergency and to be observant. Deescalating the situation makes it better for me and for my patient. It is up to me, as a good Samaritan, to find the problem and fix it until I can get higher help.
We have 2-meter portable radios plus a mobile in the vehicle and a base station in the house. We have extra batteries and chargers for the portables. The mobile is fused at the truck’s second battery and the wires run inside conduit to reduce the chance of a short occurring under the hood. The base station operates on voltage-regulated battery power, which is solar charged. We have tested reception at various locations in line of sight of our base station for simplex operations when we cannot make use of local repeaters. Voice-activated head sets allow for hands-free operation. Ham radios can be used without a license in an emergency, but obtaining licenses was easy and allowed us to set up communications and practice transmitting with COMSEC. Scanners enable us to listen to worldwide broadcasts.
We are not planning to go anywhere except occasionally to a local orchard or to our friends’ house nearby. A truck with 4-wheel drive and fuel additive, bicycle with baskets and puncture resistant tubes, cart, sled and snowshoes provide for our transportation. On good days we walk a mile on our dirt road together. To get in shape I walk three to six miles on cleared trails daily. In bad weather I use the rowing machine.
Massad Ayoob’s books In the Gravest Extreme and Stressfire greatly influenced us about personal protection and prompted us to make additions in discipline, armor, and munitions. My petite wife is relieved to have appropriate, one-shot stopping power with a 20-gauge shotgun that is furnished with a youth stock. Having guns with the same action and ambidextrous safety allows for joint handling. Slings and ammo carriers provide retention. Lasers and tritium night sights are useful when sighting with the non-dominant eye or in low light conditions. An outdoor backstop with realistic targets for live fire and the use of dry-fire rounds to achieve muscle memory keep us in practice. Pressing a weight straight up from the shoulder, 100 reps each day, produces steadier arm support of long guns. We used Joe Nobody’s book Holding Your Ground as an independent evaluation of our defenses.
Proving survival systems is when it really gets interesting. Then things overlooked become apparent and demand solutions. Some notable instances:
- acquiring a target and seeing the gun’s front site in the dark;
- keeping the basement from freezing;
- damage from corroded alkaline batteries; and
- having to add bypass diodes to a string of solar panels.
These were discovered from testing. We bought some magnesium oil to treat pains from increased manual labor. I don’t think we will stop preparing until we have to sequester. So far, we found only one family close by doing much the same.
Our spiritual preparation was complete before we started preparing physically. The only change we made is we now use text-only KJV Bibles. Without man-made notes and commentary, God has more room to meet with us. The faith of Jesus Christ enables us to endure to the end. -M.G.