I have come to a point within my preparedness goals that my life style has changed, as I spend the majority of my time seeking self sufficiency, with less dependence upon the globalized system. With this life style, I focus on preparedness with two schools of thought– short-term emergencies and long-term emergencies. This post is two parts, with the first being short-term emergencies, the BOB, and ways to minimize your ruck. The second part is focusing on the long emergency with Permaculture (sustainable gardening).
Part 1- Knowledge and Items for Short-term Emergencies
I highly recommend everyone interested in preparedness take a primitive living skills course in their region, as learning species of plants in your biome, or the biome where you plan to bug out to, is critical. I recently participated in a primitive course and learned to make fire by friction with a bow drill, how to make cordage, and how to use that cordage to make traps. While fire by friction does take longer than flicking a bic or striking flint steel, it did serve as a comfort to learn that by knowing just a single tree, such as the Basswood, I can make fire, cordage, and obtain food, all from recognizing and obtaining this single species. This knowledge weighs nothing.
Also during the primitive course, I made a water-proof, primitive shelter. While this is great knowledge, it is not practical. I suggest making a primitive water-proof shelter is not practical, because you won’t have the time required to make a water poof primitive shelter (that could take 3 to 6+ hours to make), once you see storm clouds moving in. Not to mention, the large amount of energy you exhaust making such a shelter. Because of this experience, a rain tarp went to the top of my list of “needs” for my BOB. Be it a hammock-style rain tarp, a GI poncho, 55-gallon drum liners, or industrial trash bags, a quick and easy way to stay dry is critical. Every task during this primitive course was completed with a 5” fixed blade.
On the topic of an edged tool/ weapon, I see a lot of Internet forums and blogs talk about knife redundancy. I agree with this, it’s great. Though, you do not need two fixed blades, a folder, an axe, and/or a machete. I assume if you are reading this that means you are seasoned in the mall ninja Internet ways and you have seen exactly what I just listed. I recommend two, quality fixed blades. The size is one of your choosing but consider the weight. I recommend one of those blades be larger, for hacking at limbs, and then a smaller knife for close work. For me, I carry a 5” along with 2” fixed blade, but that’s just what works for me. I prefer a plain edge to a serrated, as serrated is more complex to sharpen and tends to get hung up/snag with close work. A serrated edge does not provide any additional assistance with batoning. I prefer simplicity, so I prefer a plain edge.
The hardest item to construct or find in nature is a way to hold water. For me, this is another critical piece of my kit. A Kleen Kanteen is my choice, as I can cook and boil water in this item. While I do have bladders and GI-issue canteens with cup, which are great, the Kleen Kanteen kit with a GSI cup is perfect for me, since it is small and has a minimalistic approach.
With these five items– fire, rain protection, quality knife, a way to hold water, and knowledge– I feel fairly confident in being able to survive for an amount of time. These five items fit in a bag so small that I do not really feel like I am carrying anything at all. Everything else that I would add to the bag would be for comfort.
I did not mention first aid here, as I am currently refining that aspect to my BOB by learning native plants that have medicinal purposes, while trimming down the kit that I do have.
Of course, we could argue all day about what else we feel we need in our bags, but this list is based on my experience with getting out into the field, learning more, and tossing away material items with the goal to lighten my load. In a true “SHTF” scenario, we gotta make room for the weight of the self-defense items.
Get out there and play with your gear.
Part 2 – Knowledge for the Long Emergency
I am a certified Permaculture designer, and I practice Permaculture on a 45-acre farm. Permaculture is defined as permanent, sustainable agriculture or, more simply, permanent culture. The basic concept is to mimic the natural environment through ecological design to build a food system. As an example, in all the natural woods and fields you have seen in your life, there is no human oversight on those systems. Natural systems grow and function on their own, and in Permaculture we look at the ecology of the why and how those system works, with the goal to mimic that system with edible varieties. As a good portion of the nation is currently affected by drought, I want to tell you about a “Hugelkultur” bed. (This is pronounced “hoogle culture” or “hue-gul” culture.)
A Huglekultur bed is woody debris covered by soil with the goal to maximize the bed’s ability to hold water. Huglekulture beds are a self-irrigating system, or at least have less need to irrigate. To start, you want to mark out the topographic contour of your land for the area you want your bed. You want to do this so rain runoff will soak evenly into your bed. You then dig roughly 18” deep for the length of your bed, and let’s say 12” to 18” wide. You then fill that hole with logs and the discarded limbs from the trees you used for firewood. Take the dirt you dug out of the hole, and then fill the hole, covering the woody debris. As you begin with the fill dirt, I would add compost and any other soil additives at this time. You do not need to dig a hole, as you could just pile soil on top of a bush pile, but that technique would require bringing in soil and possibly a machine of some sort. A short video to further demonstrate Huglekulture can be seen here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sso4UWObxXg
Covering your bed with straw and/or wood chips is also an excellent way to hold moisture and keep the soil cool. Roughly 3” of straw will hold 1” of water. You do not need the soil exposed once plants begin to rise, as the photosynthesis takes place in the plant’s leaves. On 90 to 100+ degree days, the soil that is exposed is dry air and heat leads to plant stress, which impacts your yield. Soil that is covered by straw remains cool and wet. As an example, a forest floor is typically covered in debris, and if you scratch away a section of that debris, the soil is damp, cool, and abundant with micro-organisms that make plant life flourish.
Diversity is key to a natural healthy ecosystem, and modern agriculture focuses solely on what is called “monoculture.” Monoculture is just a single variety of crop that degrades the soil over time, creating a greater reliance upon fertilizers and pesticides each year. In a long emergency, you most likely will not have access to fertilizers and pesticides. In Permaculture, we practice “polyculture,” which is planting many varieties in the same area to minimize a crop being wiped out due to an insect, among other reasons. I use red clover as a cover crop, as Red Clover is a nitrogen fixer (adds nitrogen to the soil) and a dynamic accumulator. Once the clover grows tall, you just chop it and drop it so it composts right back into the soil, adding more nitrogen. The root system runs deep, which loosens up the soil, so there is no need to till. Chickens also love eating red clover, so you have a food source for poultry. Clover also serves as shade for the soil to keep it cool, and it is also a perennial. Clover is a huge benefit for the retreat. You then want to space out your varieties of crops all over the bed. There is no one section for tomato’s or a section for lettuce. You want to space them out, so a single cut worm or other insect does not pop up in the middle of a huge section of tomatoes and wipe out your entire crop. As an example, last year I planted kale in rows. The insects had a field day with the Kale. This year, I still planted a row, but I mixed the kale in with the clover. The insect damage is almost nonexistent. If you are interested in learning more about Permaculture, you may want to research plant guilds and food forests. Food forests are awesome and are my next adventure.
The philosophy behind emergency preparedness is to minimize the effects of an emergency by maximizing your efficiency through knowledge and gear. Permaculture is exactly that, as you can increase productivity with less labor than traditional agriculture. As an example, it is estimate that an average industrial farmer needs 640 acres to earn roughly $50 to $60K a year. Permaculture farmers have reported making $100K/year on 10 acres. This is a huge gain in yield and profit, compared to the investment necessary with industrial farming.
The main point I have attempted to make through this post is to obtain new information, while applying that information to secure knowledge. Knowledge that leads to increased efficiency will help you not only survive but thrive during an emergency situation.
Over and out.