I cannot even remember a time when I wasn’t a “prepper”. Although until a few years ago, I had no idea of what I was preparing for. Before the dawn of my awakening, I had serious urges to learn how not to kill plants and flowers. I wanted to grow my own food eventually, so I started with a trip to the local Big Box store, and bought some bare root fruit trees. Now in my mind, they are already dead, so if I could resurrect them, and keep them going, I was on my way. If they didn’t survive my over-nurturing tendencies, then I wouldn’t feel bad, as they were dead already! To my surprise, all but one survived the first year, and I tasted the sweet success of peaches fresh off the tree! What I didn’t know then, was that you always thin out the fruit the first year or two, or all the branches break. I learned the hard way. That summer I built two 4×8 raised bed garden boxes, and planted up a storm. I read nearly every garden web site, watched all the you tube videos and read all the books that I could get my hands on, and learned about proper drainage, shading, and organic pest control. It is all a balance act as I found out, but I am now eating most of my diet from my garden. Quality garden soil is the key. Everything else can be managed.
Along the way, I found articles and blogs on TEOTWAWKI and WTSHTF. I read Bible prophecies, Hopi indian prophecies, and listened to those whom I trust, warn of impending disasters, and world wide trouble. Economic collapse, social unrest, changing weather patterns, and evidence of global disasters increasing in intensity, and frequency, answered any questions I might have had about the urges to prepare that I had been experiencing for many years. In a disorganized way, I started buying long term food storage, beans, rice, wheat, and canned meat. At the time, I did not have a wheat grinder, and had absolutely no idea of what I would do with it, when the time came. A plan would have been the smart way to start, but I eventually bought a hand grinder. It was not until the electric grinder that I found at a yard sale, came into my life years later, that I actually ground the wheat to make bread. Another lesson learned along the way : White wheat? Red wheat? Which do I use for bread? Gluten? Why do I need to add that? Gluten needs to be added to make it rise better. After a few flat loaves, I asked questions. Once again, I learned the hard way. I also did research, and learned that the nutritional value of wheat is increased by up to 700% by sprouting. What a find that information was, for my long term food storage plans. I will sprout my wheat, and throw it into salads!
Momentum was building, as guns were acquired, CCW permit obtained, ammo purchased, water tanks, 72-hour kits assembled, and a trailer for hauling what I needed out of town if it came to that. I’m a single mom here, with two grown boys, and I was feeling a little bit lonely as I used what extra money I made, to purchase more and more food storage, for at least a year’s provisions. I personally knew of no one else doing this. I was feeling a bit like a hoarder, and occasionally had to do a reality check. Finding like-minded people on web sites, and blogs like SurvivalBlog.com was a tremendous help, to center myself. Reading and re- eading the lists of organized ways to approach preparations has helped me move forward. I sure wish I had started that way. Just after the real estate bubble burst, I saw the values declining so rapidly in housing, that I realized one of the most valuable pieces of advice given to me is to be debt free of consumer debts, and to own a house free and clear. I accomplished getting free of installment debt after a time, but the house mortgage was going to be a bigger challenge.
I still had a little money in savings, but really felt uncomfortable with the money in the bank, after having narrowly avoided the markets’ mini-crash in the late 1980s, and read about savings and loans collapsing. So I decided to use what I had, to build my emergency short term, or long term retreat on a piece of land that I had purchased some seven years prior when I had been buying things to prepare without knowing why. This was a perfect plan, to secure a small home that would be paid for, off grid- independent of city utilities of any kind. It would be for me, a great investment, and a place to retire to as well. I work for myself, so for me, this was it. This was the only retirement fund I would have, a place to live. Construction started two months later, after researching plans found on line. Again, planning was lacking, as there was urgency in completing this project, and the builder was pressed for time too. But my cabin stands proudly, in a rural area, 165 miles from the nearest city, and 15 miles from a town of 20,000.
There is a fantastic neighbor across the street, but the first line of defense, is a fence! So that went up right away with the help of one of my sons, and some friends. In spite of broken bits for the rock drill, cuts, bruises, and sore backs, we made it through the excruciatingly long week of stretching fence, and barbed wire on top. I did the hard part – I watched, and made lunch for everyone! 🙂
The house is equipped with a composting toilet because I bought property without doing a percolation test first. (Learning the hard way.) The perc test determines if a septic can be put in, and in this case, there were too many rocks! Water must be hauled, but there are underground tanks that can be purchased inexpensively, to hold plenty of water. (you can buy up to 10,000 gallon tanks) I presently have 1,200 gallons stored, in 300 gallon tanks, but will be installing two 1,500 gallon tanks this next summer. Wells dug in this area run $35,000 and up. When in conservation mode, the average adult uses three gallons or less per day for drinking, cooking and washing (heated over the stove- sponge bath I would suppose) So I will have plenty of water for over a year. The water system is pumped with a 1/3 horsepower recreational vehicle water pump, and an extra pump is hidden away for emergencies. Water is run through the cabin with pex line, which is easy to work with. I installed an on demand propane water heater for the shower, and kitchen sink. The Berkey water filter sits proudly by the sink, and is always filled. Extra filters are in the pantry.
The cabin has a ventless propane heater, and a cast iron wood fireplace. A funny thing about propane I learned last winter: In extreme cold, regulators freeze, and propane heaters do not work, nor do propane stoves and ovens! Last winter I went to the cabin to experience the Christmas season in the snow. Hah to me. the temperature had dropped to -15 degrees Fahrenheit and everything in the cabin when I got there at 9 p.m., was frozen! I think of SurvivalBlog, where I learned “two is one, and one is none”. Oh thank goodness I thought, that I had just installed this new woodstove. I had not yet used it, but this was to be it’s maiden fire. Funny thing about fire places and wood stoves… there is a bit of a learning curve. I was being conservative of electric, because I wasn’t sure of how charged the batteries were on the solar system, so I lit the oil lamps for light, which adds a cozy feel, and I set out to light myself a great fire! I remembered to be sure the flue was open, but I left the door open while I was attempting to defrost the cabin. I grabbed a cast iron pan from the kitchen, threw in a piece of chicken and some veggies, and shoved it into the wood stove. Yum, dinner was great, but when I stood up and turned on the light to wash the dishes, I realized that the whole room was filled with smoke, and if I had installed a fire alarm, everyone within miles would have known what a dummy I was with my first fire!
The smoke was so thick in the cabin that I had to sleep on the floor that night, because I couldn’t breathe! Yes, I did open the windows a crack, to vent the smoke outside, but I realized that there was a flue adjustment, and the door was suppose to have been closed. (No wonder the cabin was still cold, outside the four foot ring around the hearth). I called a friend in a panic, who after having a great laugh at my expense, told me how to adjust it to heat the house comfortably. (yes I learned the hard way – again)
The following day was sunny, and a bit warmer but still no propane. No worries, I have a solar oven. It worked like a charm to cook lunch, but I soon realized that if I was to survive with this thing, I had better plan my meals a day in advance, because the sun is out for a limited time. No planning dinner at 3 p.m. in my neck of the woods! The sun… A funny thing about the sun I discovered. It never makes appearances when you need it! I had decided with the cabin, solar was the way to go. So I started small, with two 175-watt panels, and eight T105 batteries, and an Outback pure sine wave inverter. Great system if the sun is out all day. Some days it is not. Darn that jokester the sun. It seems to be out all day when I am not there, but when I go to visit the cabin, it is cloudy. The battery bank is drawn down too quickly, and then Wham! I’m out of juice. No lights, no water pump, no radio, no charging the cell phone. During the summer, which is the rainy season, it happens this way every day. So I learned two more lessons the hard way: Lesson 1. Always have a water tank that provides gravity feed to a house. Lesson 2. Buy more panels to charge the batteries up faster, or a wind generator. I also have a gas generator, but it does require gasoline, and I am 15 miles from town. Lesson 3. Always keep a spare can of gas handy. So now I have a great log sided shed built behind the cabin, to house the back up generator, and the 25 gallons of gasoline, the stockpile of charcoal, the 8 gallons of oil lamp fuel, the tools, washer (which will be run with generator power, and gravity fed water), dryer for use when it is raining, and all of the camping supplies.
I have built up to a two year supply of food, soaps, Clorox, medical supplies, hundreds of matches, and flints for when it is raining, and I am outside for what ever reason. Handguns, rifles, shotgun, ammo to hold off an army, 300 + seed packs 1/2 heirloom, and 1/2 hybrid to sell or trade. I am finally taking inventories of all that I have stored, to best rotate, and plan for future needs. I have learned that vodka is used for making tinctures with herbs, and I may consider buying a couple of cases to sell or trade in an extreme situation. I am designing my green houses, and a heating system to extend the growing season well into winter. I am collecting books to read, mostly non fiction, and movies to watch on cold dark nights. I have purchased 4 more solar panels 190 watt each, and before they are installed, I will be pricing the tracking pole mount. It increases productivity by at least 30%.
I now have two 55-gallon drums, and hand crank gas pump, which will all be assembled and filled next summer. I expect to fill one with diesel fuel for barter or to sell. Diesel lasts for years, and I have distant neighbors who use it. A four wheel drive vehicle is a must in a rural area during winter. I would love to learn about ham radio, and to be certified to operate one. I have a 10×20 covered chicken run with a coop at the retreat location and a small flock of eight hens. They live in the city for now with me, but travel to the cabin and stay in the summer for extended stays. They seemed to enjoy their last summer vacation. I always have eggs to share with neighbors. Last but not least, My son and I purchased an older kick-start dirt bike, kept in our home in the city, with a 72 hour kit nearby, and an off road map from point A to point B. Next year my project is to learn to use those fishing poles I bought at the swap meet! Respectfully submitted B. R. in Arizona