I would love to never have to work for an employer ever again. I am 30 years into working for other people, with the exception of a total of five years during various time periods that I worked for myself as a consultant. I have run more than one small business from home over the years. Each time that I was working as a consultant, I loved making my own hours and answering only to myself, because I am far more demanding than any employer has ever been in regards to delivering excellence. The part about working for myself that I hated was the marketing/advertising, bookkeeping, and fighting for a work space at home. The part that I loved was the freedom to creatively problem solve without the interference of the corporate hierarchy and politics. The problem that I have is none of my skills are applicable in a “The End Of The World As We Know It” (TEOTWAWKI) scenario.
Working for yourself is a prime goal of survivalist-minded persons. I want to figure out how to live on the land and become as self-sufficient as possible. The skills I have are those learned in the high tech industry (and very much in demand), so I lack in the basic survival skills needed to “live on the land”. I’ve done a few things, mind you, like learned to grow an organic garden; perfected canning various fruits, vegetables, and meats; learned to cook from scratch, using healthy and organic foods; and learned to make soap and how to replace household cleaning and personal products with just a few simple supplies. I know how to sew and mend, and I can build a fire pretty well. I’ve revived the knowledge I learned from my parents and grandparents, in regards to frugality. I’ve spent years researching, so there’s a lot of knowledge crammed in my brain that might be useful, but there is not much hands-on experience. That’s all I’ve got, and I know it’s not near enough to survive without modern conveniences. I haven’t had the time to tackle much else around the demanding 60 hour per week job. I realize that in a SHTF scenario, I won’t have much to offer. I have reviewed various types of work that might be in demand when SHTF, but I just can’t see myself learning how to fix a tractor from spare auto parts. About the best I can offer is how to filter water from the stream to make it safe enough to drink. I guess that could be helpful, but I don’t want the simple title “Water Girl”. I want to be useful, self-sufficient, and in the position to help others.
I decided to get serious and make the move to self-sufficiency within a year or so. Part of that plan is to cash out and move to the Redoubt. I’m not going to take too big of a risk at first, so I will hang onto my job as long as is possible, until I am well established. I realize I am very fortunate in that I have a telecommute job where I work from home and use the computer and phone to do my work. I can work anywhere, as long as I can get to the Internet with reasonable response times. I even talked to my boss about the possibility of moving to another area and he said, “You can live wherever you want as long as you don’t ask for more money.” I had to laugh. No, I don’t want more money; I just want to live differently. My husband has agreed that we can move to the country, although he thinks I’m a little off my rocker. He’s retired, so where we live won’t matter to him, as long as the weather isn’t harsh and we are not too far from civilization, since he’s a rather social person. Got it. We are looking at areas that meet both our requirements.
Back to me now. What are my current skills that I could put to use in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, and what are skills that I could reasonably develop in a short period of time, if I put my mind to it? I’ve spent a lot of time reading about various types of businesses and skills that could be useful in becoming self-sufficient or for bartering. One of things I always did when managing folks is understand what their best attributes were and putting them in a position to succeed, rather than forcing him or her into a project or set of tasks they were not good at. Happy employees make for a successful business. I want to be a happy and fulfilled survivor, not a miserable, uninformed, aching loser. One of the questions I would ask employees, after sharing the goals of the corporation and of our department, is “What part of this would you enjoy doing?” Then I would listen. We would then discuss options for creating a job that would be most satisfying and discuss how to get accomplished the “dirty work”, because there are always things we have to do that we don’t like. I would do this with each team member. At the end of that process, I would get the team together and we would discuss openly what each person wanted to do, how the “dirty work” would be accomplished, and what was left over. It was very surprising and interesting to find that the collaboration was very high when each person felt they would be assigned to fulfilling work, and it was also interesting to find that each person was more than happy to assist one another with the “dirty work”. Not to say that my teams were always well adjusted and happy. There were occasional crisis to referee and very seldom, hard decisions to make when a team member just didn’t fit in or have applicable skills. Overall, success in management was made enjoyable by this strategy. I consider my management ability to be a strong skill, which could be applied to other scenarios.
Now that my husband and I are empty nesters, the team consists of the two of us. We have been able to hire help when we couldn’t do a particular task, and I can see that continuing if we play our cards right. We have a large family, and each person has different skills and interests. I have considered how each one could become a part of the team, and we’ve had a few discussions, should SHTF. For the most part, our grown children don’t feel the same earnestness that we do about getting out of Dodge, but I’ve noticed them following my example in becoming more self-sufficient. Several have developed skills in self-defense, homemaking, and stocking up. That’s a good start. I’ve told them about our plans and stressed that we will have a place for everyone. A few of them think I’m off my rocker, but for the most part I feel some admiration. As for my husband and myself, I have looked at what each of us loves to do and tried to figure out how we could turn that into a home-based business, if/when SHTF.
Some of the ideas that I’ve come up with are simple, and with a little assistance we could surely do them together. First, we must find the right location that is congruent with our skills and lack of them. We are looking for a medium-sized home in good condition on at least an acre of land that is already developed. This means the land has a good well and irrigation and is near a stream or lake. It must also be on septic that’s in good condition. The land must be well fenced, partially landscaped for lawn and gardening, fairly flat, on the outskirts of a small town, and within an hour or two of a major medical facility for health crisis and major shopping outlets for stocking up. It must also be in an area where the weather is not too harsh and there is plenty of sunshine for a long growing season. Since we aren’t handy people, we need the small town atmosphere in a mostly agricultural area so that we can hire the help we need. We have no delusions about our inabilities.
Once the location is decided, we know that we can raise chickens for eggs; that’s not hard to do. We are good with gardening. We realize that raising other animals for food would be out of our league. However, I did meet with a woman who had a similar background to me (an engineer), and she had successfully gardened, raised chickens, honey bees, and dwarf goats. She gave me a tour of her property (about an acre) and showed me how she accomplished each task. She learned to milk her goats, drink goat milk, and make cheese. She learned to breed and sell goats. She learned to develop several beehives and sells honey. I figured, if she could do it, so could I. Additionally, she still worked in her field of expertise. My husband thought raising goats was a smelly business, and he wasn’t willing to go in that direction. I thought I could graduate to raising chickens for meat after talking to a few friends who had done it, but that’s where I got stuck. What kind of business could I do should SHTF and I wasn’t able to work in my field?
Then it hit me. We have a love for German Shepherd dogs and have owned many over the years. Three of my friends are GSD breeders. Two of my friends specialize in the East German lines. These dogs are used in police work, search and rescue, and home protection. This could be something that I could do financially and physically; I could breed GSDs trained for home protection. You would be surprised how much work and money goes into these dogs, not to mention the training and certifications they must achieve. This is something that I could devote myself to and love it, and it would be useful and important in a SHTF scenario. A beautifully-trained and titled GSD is worth thousands upon thousands of dollars and could be sold or used for barter. One of the hardest things, I think, in breeding GSDs, is letting one of them go. You have to find the right buyer– someone who will give the dog respect and love as a family member deserves. These dogs are truly man’s best friend. They’re intelligent, responsive, powerful, loving, eager to please, and fiercely loyal. These dogs are bred for temperament and ability; they’re not something you would find at the local pound or on Craigslist. A good GSD is worth its weight in gold. The initial investment for breeding this type of dog is in the tens of thousands, and it takes years to develop a solid breeding program. My husband absolutely adores the dogs and is very capable of running the training aspect of their development. In fact, our GSDs follow him wherever he goes. This idea could work for both of us. I could start now and pray that S doesn’t HTF for a few years.
I gave you the above example because I believe that you can find something that you can do that would be a solid business on the home front in a SHTF scenario. It’s important to start now, so that whatever program or business you create has a chance for the kinks to work out. A friend recently having moved to the Redoubt, bought a few hundred acres and has decided to go into the lumber business, treeing the land and selling the trees. He has done the research and is developing the land now. His lifetime career gave him skills that he can use in a completely different kind of lifestyle. If you can identify your core skills and then start thinking about how you can apply them to a different type of business, you have a good chance at becoming successful. My skills assessment (what I’m good at) is project management, people management, creative problem solving, loving and understanding animals, food and cooking, and gardening. If I can apply my project and people management skills, along with my creative problem-solving skills to my love and understanding of animals, food, and gardening, then I can devise a way to run a home-based business, whether that’s raising chickens for meat, goats for milk and cheese, bees for honey, and/or breeding GSDs. Should the Internet survive a SHTF scenario, I can still apply my technical and professional skills in security and privacy, as much as is possible.
I think the trick in moving to a more self-sufficient lifestyle is to understand yourself first. Understand your partner or any other team member that will be involved. Understand what you can and can’t do. One of the biggest mistakes people do is wear rose-colored glasses when planning a retreat escape. Hey, if you can’t cut wood, you better figure out where you are going to get it from and if you can pay for it. If you can’t shovel through six feet of snow, don’t move where that’s necessary. If you aren’t good at home repairs, don’t buy a fixer upper. If the country life bores you silly, don’t fool yourself into believing you will fall in love with it. We shall see, but in the meantime I can put together the business plan for the breeding program and get it all on paper while we prepare for our move to the country.