Eating That Preparedness Elephant, One Bite At a Time, by M.H.

It’s probably safe to assume that if you’re a regular reader of this blog and a follower of Mr. Rawles’ books and writings, you are no newbie prepper. I have been making a concerted effort to become prepared since Y2K, and I have bumped up my efforts in the past couple of years, as events have become more disconcerting; even so, I’m sure that compared to many of you fine folks I am just wet behind the ears. Based on what I have learned from Mr. Rawles’ books and others, my attendance at several Prepper Expo’s and participation with various groups online and meetups in my community, and from what I learned from Charley Hogwood’s great work on MAG’s, I have put together a group of solid, like-minded families, and we are striving to learn and prepare together. Monthly meetings, workdays, annual family camps, training sessions, and other forms of education are all, well, quite an adventure! However, even with the help and cooperation of great friends, it can be a very daunting prospect.

Organization is the elephant in the room, as far as preparedness goes. Without a plan, a system, and a coherent way to keep track of everything you have/do/learn, you can never feel the peace of mind that preparedness should bring. At least that’s how it works for me. Without decisions already made ahead of time about where to focus, I spend a good deal of precious time and energy running around like the proverbial headless chicken, not knowing where to start. I begin on task A, and when I move into room B to put something where it belongs, I see C, which also needs attention; I get distracted dealing with that and forget to finish task A. By the time I get through with my day, I feel as though I have very achieved little, if any, “completion” of anything to show for all my efforts. (If you have never seen it, you really should watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oHBG3ABUJU to see a funny and also sadly accurate spoof of “Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder”. This totally nails how my aging brain works, or doesn’t!) I thought I’d share some thoughts I have put together over the years, in the form of a yearly preparedness plan and a few basic principles that have worked to help me be better organized, more effective in my efforts, and less stressed about the whole process.

I know there are some good preparedness-by-the-month plans out there, and I’m sure any one of them would be helpful. A general principle many of them share is that it is helpful to round out your efforts– don’t put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. In terms of just food storage, for example, don’t try to buy ALL your wheat, then move on to ALL your vegetables, then ALL your meat, and so forth. It’s safe to say that none of us will ever be completely DONE with our preparedness checklist, and if you are interrupted by some life/society changing event with enough bandaids and bullets to survive the zombie apocalypse but zero beans, you’re in trouble. So a monthly schedule that includes obtaining a little food, a few items on your backup power list, a few items on your medical supplies wish list, and so forth will be a safer bet. Gaye Levy of Backdoor Survival has put together a good beginner’s plan, accessible here: http://www.backdoorsurvival.com/12-months-of-prepping-year-one/

Most of you on this site are, I am sure, well beyond the beginner stage. So, I won’t try to outline a primer for beginning preppers; that’s been done many times by those much better positioned and equipped to share that knowledge than I am. Since I have been prepping for some years now, have attempted to cover all of the bases, and worked to get a handle on what I should consider, learn, and store, I have found it works best for me to just focus on polishing and augmenting one area at a time. It gets overwhelming and mind-boggling when I am trying to juggle too many balls at once. The never-ending conundrum in the journey to preparedness is how to still have a LIFE outside of prepping. So, when I focus on one area and limit the time I spend each day, week, and month to a certain doable and measurable amount, I find it much easier to maintain balance in my everyday life and keep what’s left of my sanity.

Before I start on my year’s outline, let me just share a couple of basic concepts that have helped me organize my home and my time and keep a better handle on what I have and where it is. It does me no good to have purchased preparedness doo-dad “A” or nifty survival gadget “B” if I either forget I have it at all or vaguely remember getting it but for the life of me can’t remember what happened to it! So I go through my home, one room at a time, in the same way I go through my preps– one area at a time. My house has two floors and a basement; we also have a barn. So each month, I divide them up. The first week of the month is devoted to the top floor; the second week is the main floor; third week is the basement; and the fourth week I focused on the barn. Then I have divided each floor and the barn into six “rooms” or areas, and each month I work on one of those, so each room/area gets a thorough going through twice a year. For example, I divided my top floor into:

  1. Master bath/closet,
  2. Master bedroom,
  3. Guest bedroom,
  4. Guest bath,
  5. Boys’ room, and
  6. Daughter’s room.

Each week I go through that week’s room in a “spring cleaning” mode. I start at the door and work my way systematically around the room, going through each shelf and drawer until I get back to the door, returning things where they belong, if they are out of place, and reminding myself of what is there. This really helps me avoid the “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon, where I would never see something sometimes for years until I had to move and had to pack everything, and then be amazed what I found! It also help prevent me from buying the same item six times because I keep forgetting where I put it (them!). This alone has really brought me a lot of peace of mind and helped me feel much better prepared.

Second, in terms of limiting my time, since I work at home, I have no help forcing me to be scheduled; I have to be kind of ruthless with myself, so I don’t get lost in the weeds. Years ago I read a book on organization called The Creation Plan, which has formed the framework for all my efforts to get organized. It organizes your week parallel to the seven days of Biblical creation. Since much of that has to do with things other than preparedness, I won’t bore you with the details, other than to say that assigning certain tasks to different days of the week (remember the old “wash day” and “baking day” schedules our foremothers used?) helps immensely to keep the pile whittled down and to add enough variety to your life to keep you from getting bored with tedious details and repetitive tasks. I have a couple of days of the week that I have assigned primarily to preparedness tasks; these are the days that I focus more on cleaning tasks, more on organizing tasks, more on reading and catching up on online preparedness resources, and one day is the day I try to schedule most of my running-into-town errands, and so forth. Lest this seem like it’s really unrelated to preparedness or survival, let me assure you that it has enabled me to accomplish many times what I otherwise would have; people I know are always amazed at all I manage to get done, and believe me I have PLENTY of room for improvement! I feel much better– more physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared– for whatever may come, when I am able to stay disciplined and organized with my time and my resources.

Now on to the year of preparedness. Here are a few words of explanation first. I base this on the climate in my area and my lifestyle. I run a small (20 acre) farm at our home, and a small (500 acres) off-grid cattle ranch in-state, which is our GOOD go-to; I cover my checklist and purchase replenishments as needed for both locations each month. We live in the Southwest, so my planting/gardening calendars will be different from yours, if you live in a location with cold winters to deal with. Since I have livestock, that is a large area of my preparedness planning, and it is part of my calendar. I focus on animals in June, as that is generally a good time to buy hay around these parts and I buy it by the truckload. You could substitute something else for my month of animal-related stuff. I have several wells, and so well maintenance and issues are part of my package; backup power for me includes propane and generators, as well as solar and wind power, so I have those things to consider. I put together this plan in 2011 and wanted to hit the end of the year collision/Armageddon (!) with fresh food and water stores, so I put them in October and November; I like to have December a little light from the preps side because of all the usual family and Christmas happenings.

Some months are busier than others; it just depends on where I find holes. I had to combine several areas to cover everything in a year; I chose ways to combine that made sense for me, for one reason or another. You might find other ways that make more sense for you. There is nothing to stop me from buying batteries in October, say, if I come across a really good sale on them; and paper goods and food products get replenished with much more regularity than just yearly. The list just provides me with a reminder that if I haven’t dealt with that area for a while I need to do so, and the schedule offers me at least a yearly target date to bring that area up to speed. Here we go.

A YEAR OF PREPAREDNESS

  • January – POWER

    • lights (bulbs)
    • matches, lighters, candles (3 candles/day)
    • firewood
    • generators, backup power, propane tanks filled
    • solar/windmill components and backup parts checked
    • batteries
    • put candles/matches in each room
    • backup fridge in basement, not plugged in
    • emergency cooking: camp cooking, solar oven, charcoal oven/charcoal
    • Dietz lanterns, fuel
  • February – CLEANING/HOUSEHOLD/PAPER

    • t.p. (1 roll/person/week), paper towels
    • kitchen: dish soap, plastic utensils, paper plates/cups, napkins
    • laundry: detergent/fabric softener, washboard, wringer, outdoor tubs (Lehman’s)
    • bleach
    • ziploc bags/foil/plastic wrap
    • soap, etc., making supplies
    • sheets/towels/linens and similar items
  • March – PERSONAL CARE

    • shaving supplies
    • feminine hygiene
    • shower; soap, shampoo, conditioner
    • toothbrushes/toothpaste/floss/mouthwash
    • lotion
    • shower to showerpowder
    • clothing repair and replenishment
  • April – DESERT SURVIVAL/GARDENING

    • local plants– learn about native edibles/herbals
    • locate and map nearby springs, water
    • garden seeds, fertilizer, tools
    • canning supplies
    • spring garden prep and planting
    • landscaping/irrigation supplies and parts
    • irrigation pivot system– parts, maintenance
  • May – COMMUNICATION/DISASTER/FINANCIAL

    • radios
    • walkie-talkies
    • learn about Ham radio/get license?
    • Faraday cages for radios/file cabinet
    • KI– read up on nuclear survival
    • read up online on preparedness
    • emergency cash reserves restocked
    • investments/financial planning/documents
  • June – BARN AND ANIMALS/WORKSHOP

    • year’s supply of hay ordered
    • pallets of pig, dog, chicken/turkey feed, grain for milk cows
    • barley seed for fodder
    • animal first aid/vet supplies
    • butchering tools/supplies
    • meat preserving supplies – salt, curing, smoker pellets, sausage stuff
    • check tool/equipment inventories/maintenance schedules
    • oxygen/acetylene tanks
  • July – TRANSPORTATION/SECURITY

    • guns/ammo/reloading
    • check security system
    • gas cans, diesel; fill large diesel storage tanks
    • tractors, quads, auto maintenance
    • spare parts, batteries for vehicles
    • car emergency kits

      • First aid
      • Blanket
      • 3-day meds
      • Water
      • Tools, booster cables
      • Flashlight/batteries
      • Traction mat/chains
      • Shovel
      • Rain gear, extra clothes
      • Matches, candles
      • Small canned goods, food bars
  • August – 72-HOUR KITS

    • documents
    • emergency cash
    • food/water rotated
    • clothing/shoes/socks updated as to size, appropriateness
  • September – MEDICAL/FIRST AID
  • October – WATER

    • Purification (filters, bleach)
    • fresh water in barrels
    • pump/siphons in good working order
    • check well backup systems (generator, solar, hand pumps)
  • November – FOOD

    • basics, supplemental
    • inventory supply sheets, look for holes and replenish as needed
    • more experimenting cooking with storage
    • cooking with milk, cheese-making (have supplies)
  • December – SPIRITUAL/EDUCATIONAL

    • books for library
    • entertainment
    • games, puzzle books, other fun items
    • scriptures
    • notebooks/pencils/pens
    • paper, printer ink

I’m just a 57-year old grandma, with a husband who is neither particularly handy nor interested in prepping, but at least he’s content to let me do my thing! So I’m trying to cover all the bases on my own, and I know there are lots I don’t know and lots of great skills y’all have that I don’t , but I keep trying to learn something new every day and get a little better prepared in terms of both skills and stuff. I’ve kind of got the food production thing fairly well down over the past few years, learned how to raise and butcher poultry, beef, and pigs, and learned to smoke and cure meat, manage dairy cattle, and grow some vegetables and fruit. I am also experimenting with grains, canning and dehydrating, shearing and spinning, making goats milk soap and lotions, getting started making cheese, and now I’m signing up to take some trade classes to learn some mechanical, electrical, and welding skills. Aquaponics and Ham radio are also on the bucket list for this year, and as I keep learning, I’m sure my lists and my life will evolve! It’s a wild ride and NEVER boring!

I know this doesn’t cover every possible eventuality and consideration in everyone’s planning, but I offer it as just a jump start, perhaps. If you find it helpful in that it gets your thinking going about ways you could customize it to your areas of concern, that’s great! I’m sure within each area everyone could think of plenty of details I’ve not included; this was not meant to be an exhaustive list of every single item, but it’s a reminder of some key areas and items. Do I always keep up with my list? Well, no. Again, it provides me with reminders, and when I get busy with LIFE (remember that elusive critter?) and the list languishes, I will catch up as I can. Each month I try to check back six months and, if I didn’t do a good enough job with that category, that becomes my second focus as soon as I finish the current month’s updates. Speaking as someone who by nature is seriously organizationally-challenged, trying to be a little better organized makes all the difference for me, and it lets me get so much more accomplished to where I feel SO much more confident about facing whatever the future may bring. Life is good!!!!

Elephant stew, anyone?

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