Lessons Learned and Important Experiences (continued)
Food and animals. When you start storing food and grains, be prepared to defend it against hungry critters. I’ve had a mouse that got into one of my bug out bags and ate through all the MRE packages. (I now store all dry goods in plastic totes.) I’ve had neighborhood dogs smash through fences to eat my chickens. (I now use chicken wire with electric wire on the outside.) I bought full-size metal trash cans to hold dog, fish, and chicken food and keep it away from rodents. I lost numerous fruit and other trees to insects because I try to stay away from insecticides. I had my heart broken when I came back from summer vacation to find I had experienced an algae bloom that suffocated all the fish in my pond ($2000+ worth). I also realized that the runoff from the chicken pen probably amplified the algae bloom, so I decided to purchase a commercial grade fountain pump to keep the pond aerated. (That was not cheap!) I found that one day of mild frost can ruin your whole year’s fruit harvest but leave your neighbor’s trees untouched. However, trees are pretty self-sufficient and require little overall work. Chickens give eggs every day, but they also need attention every day with food, water, and shelter. (Hauling water by hand is NOT fun!) I learned the hard way that one good rain storm can put your low-lying garden under water and ruin any chance for that year’s harvest, but putting it high means you will have to haul water to it rather than use gravity if the power goes out. I now have two refrigerators and a small deep freeze that I use to take advantage of good sale prices on food staples as well as provide space for locker meat. I have experienced butchering a pig from start to finish and decided it is hard work! I’ve learned that my fish antibiotics, store bought medical supplies, and injectable penicillin can save me quite a few trips to the vet. I learned that if you’re planning on eating the chickens, don’t let your kids name them. I also learned not to wear flip-flops while you’re feeding them!
Fitness. I’m a middle-aged sized XL guy. I always have been, always will be. I love to cook, and I love to eat, but that’s about the only bad vice I have. I’m large-trunked and short legged (thanks to my northern European heritage), which means my BMI score is far into the obese range. My main form of exercise is from jogging and soccer, which I referee, coach, and play. I’ve definitely noticed that in the last 10 years my body is changing. I’m taking longer to recover from injuries, and it takes much more effort to get back into shape after the holidays. I’m not under the delusion that I am going to hike 20 miles with a full pack or be able to outrun a mountain lion, but I did hike 10 miles at 10,000 feet elevation in the Rockies this summer with my daughter. I’ve also noticed how various pairs of shoes will differently affect my feet, knees, and ankles. So make sure you’re not completely out of shape, you have good shoes, and that you’ve tried them out before TEOTWAWKI.
Faith. Our new church is very active in obeying the Word, when it comes to helping widows and orphans (James 1:27), and we felt God pulling us towards helping with foster care. Let’s just say that the list of requirements for foster care housing is not conducive to a prepper household, and it took quite a bit of time and money (and an extra gun safe!) to meet all of the requirements We were nearly forced to put a chain link fence between our house and our pond! Also, we were still subject to spot inspections from the state agency. I was more than a little upset by all of the regulations, so when we discovered there was a large sibling set that had been split up that needed a permanent home due to all the parents being out of the picture, we knew what we needed to do. By last Fall, they had all moved in with us and everything was starting to move forward… Then in January, I was laid off (along with about 700 others) from my job of 23 years. “How awful!” you say? Not me! I praise God for knowing my heart and the needs of my family. While many of my co-workers were crushed by this event, I was able to collect a sizable severance package that has allowed me to stay at home with a three and four year old all year while my wife was able to move to a higher paying job that had a steep learning curve that required her to work seven days a week for several months. I was also able to roll my trapped money out of the Wall Street (401K) casino and into an IRA. I went with a SurvivalBlog precious metal advertiser and their recommended self-directed IRA company to move a big chunk of money into a completely legal, physical gold and silver holding at an approved vault. I also now have additional money ready to quickly use if I want to cash out other IRAs when TSHTF.
Energy/security. Depending on my tax refund this year, I would like to install a mid-size solar system with off-grid capability and/or look into wind turbine usage. Another goal is to expand my fuel storage capability with the addition of a second propane tank and an elevated diesel fuel tank. I’m not planning on storing additional grain onsite due to potential rodent and mold/mildew issues.
Finances. This year has been rough on our finances, and my main concern will be finding an acceptable job next year. We hope to have all of our consumer debt paid off by the middle of next year, which should allow us to have an achievable budget while still not requiring me to find a high paying job again (if it comes to that). The budget is getting complicated by our goal of having all the kids in private school in the near future. This could add up to $40k per year to our budget requirements when they get to high school.
Food and animals. My only plan for the immediate future is to plant a variety of additional fruit trees to try to expand my potential of achieving a significant fruit harvest. I also need to update and repair my fishing gear. It has not seen much use in several years, and I will a get a bigger deep-freeze when this one stops working.
Although I have all the equipment I need to hunt most any animal in my area, I do not have any experience in hunting the vast majority of them. This is something I plan on changing in the near future, as I want to be able to experience hunting/butchering deer and game birds in the next couple of years. However, finding public land where I can do this for free can be problematic, even in the suburban/rural area I live in, because I don’t plan on spending hundreds or thousands of dollars just to eat wild game from a private land owner hunting lease or a paid hunting trip.
I’m also currently experimenting with several different methods of pumping water from my windmill outlet to storage tanks (275-gallon IBC totes) for the animals (and the house, if required). These include small DC pumps powered directly from batteries or AC pumps using inverters or motor generators connected to a vehicle.
Fitness. My main aim is to try to maintain or decrease my weight and to get my wife (who is in worse shape than I am) to do the same. Luckily, I have pretty good genetics, so my blood pressure, blood sugar, and fat levels do not mandate take any medications. If that becomes the case, I know it’s time to start hitting the gym!
Faith. This is one area that I think divides the prepper community. You can probably tell by now that faith/God/religion plays a big part in the life of my family. Many of you reading this will never consider spending money on private school for your children or grandchildren or dedicating part of your life to help others less fortunate, purely because of your desire to “be prepared”. This mostly revolves around having time to work at a job to make more money (to buy more stuff) or needing more time to work on “stuff” that you’ve already bought. Many people will even legitimize their Christianity by buying more “stuff” so they will have some to give away after TEOTWAWKI. None of us know whether a super-volcano, EMP attack, financial collapse, NBC attack, or something else horrible is going to happen before we die. However, we do know that death and taxes are both guaranteed, so make sure your soul is prepared too. Find time to help those less fortunate, read your Bible, go to church regularly, and make it a priority to give money to charities and tithe right now rather than after TSHTF.
James 2:14-17 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (KJV)