On our curious and sometimes convoluted path towards being prepared for TEOTWAWKI, I have sometimes impressed, often confounded and occasionally amused myself and family with our brilliance and stupidity. Here follows the outline of the story of our adventure in the hope that it will inspire or amuse or warn you and help your own journey be a bit easier and the load a bit lighter.
We began our journey after Hurricane Katrina when FEMA so effectively demonstrated how inadequate the federal support system was dealing with large scale disasters. So what began as a ah-ha moment of “perhaps we should be prepared to take care of ourselves if the lights go out,” turned into the beginning of this continuing adventure. It started with a search for information on how to be prepared for disasters. The ensuing internet search led to all kinds of official and non-official sites, books, groups and stores. The government sites are so basic it should embarrass them. Thank God I stumbled across SurvivalBlog with all the references and links. Thank you SurvivalBlog and to all you contributing authors.
We are outside of Austin, Texas city limits in a “country” suburban neighborhood. The homes are on a couple to a few lightly wooded acres and mostly open with no fencing. The neighbors are friendly and stubbornly independent. Being close to Austin, the state capital, a tech and education center, we expect if the end comes in the form of a nuclear war we will be some of the first to know and go. Some type of pandemic, economic or power collapse we should survive and is really what we are preparing for.
As we grew older our preparations evolved from wanting to be ready to bug out, to being wise enough to know that hiking the high roads would no longer be a practical solution and likely would hasten our end. We are now deep into the hardening and hunkering down mode.
The Food Stuff
Everybody starts to beans or bullets right? Remember that first burst of excitement when you came home with that first big bag of bean and another one of rice? “Wow that will take care of us for almost forever. ” Oops, better get some Sterno so we can cook this stuff too. Then digging a little deeper we decide to add some canned vegetables, milk, salt, etc. The feeling that we had this under control lasted virtually no time at all. Finding the many archived SurvivalBlog food storage and cooking articles, The Prepper’s Blueprint and LDS Preparedness Manual put all those delusions to rest, permanently, as in forever, as in we know we will never be truly ready. Good bye, sheeple world.
Now we need to go about this a bit more scientifically. We hope to have 13 family members show up in a SHTF scenario. Worse case timing of a disaster would be the fall when it is too late to replant the garden. Simple math of 13 people eating a minimum of 2,000 calories a day, multiplied by 270 days (nine months) before the next decent harvest means a whole lot of food! And space. And organization. And expensive. And way too much food for us to be able to “eat what you store.” No possible way! So our first road took us to store what is high calorie, low cost per calorie, long shelf life (or donate it to the local food bank just prior to the “use by” date.)
We ended up counting calories in containers and dividing that by the cost in dollars to arrive at an 1,000 calories / dollar number. Try that with freeze dried food for 13 and it will freeze your wallet. We bought the cheapest first (rice, sugar, oils) then moved on to what you really want to eat and can afford. The local Costco promotions on peanut butter always gets my business. We would not want to live on rice and beans or even peanut butter but at least we would be living and able to swap a cup of carbs for something we want.
Once we reached our goal of enough calories for 13 people, we kept going but a slower and with more luxury food items. Adding canned vegetables, fruits, spices, canning our own meats and honey. Lots of honey! Now we have food to share with the neighbors and people who ask for help. Christian charity.
We can’t do much about the conventional brick our house is made with but the next home improvement is to replace the windows. They are due for replacement and for a bit extra cost I can get windows designed for hurricane country. They won’t stop bullets but it will take a few big hammer blows to get through. Hopefully that will sound the dog alarm and slow intruders down enough for the cavalry to arrive with some welcoming buckshot. Longer term, we have a good supply of sandbags we could fill and deploy if the worse really happens.
We have a small collection of arms. Growing up in Texas I hunted, so am neither afraid nor infatuated by firearms. They are tools for a job. We have some old hunting rifles for deer and shotguns, some modern .22 LR for squirrels with AR 15s and Glocks to do the security job. Lots of ammunition and spare parts seems as important to me. Pat Cascio gets me fired up (pun intended) to buy something new on occasion but then I cool off and buy more food or ammo with that money.
Light and Water
A major concern of mine is a grid down nightmare. Whether it is a solar flare, EMP, hackers or terrorists, it seems the most likely possibility to me. Read the book, Lights Out by Ted Koppel, if you really want scare yourself. No electricity will be no fun but with solar panels and batteries for minimal lighting and radio, a wood stove for heat and cooking, it can be done. But water? We must have water. We are on well water and a good mile from the closest natural water source. It would soon be overrun, polluted and a danger to reach.
An obvious solution would be to buy a water tank. Thirteen people, 3 gallons per person per day, 270 days, it would be a big tank. And it would be vulnerable to vandalism and we would never have enough for the garden. I could install a hand pump but our water is shy. It likes to hang out 800′ down. So we must have a well pump, which brings us to the conclusion that we needed a solar or wind power system to run a well pump. That takes some serious electrons, 240V at 15 amps.
We contacted Sol-Ark (aka Portable Solar LLC). Sol-Ark is a company near Dallas which is run by Christian veterans. They offer an EMP-hardened, second generation 8,000 Watt inverter, solar panel and battery system for homes and businesses. After futzing around trying to decide on how many panels, batteries and how and where to install the system, we got motivated when it sounded possible that the Federal tax credit would be eliminated in 2018. (We later learned it was not.)
It turned out that the south facing roof of our 2,400 ft sq home was just large enough for 32 280W USA made solar panels ( permanently installed not portable ). This was also the limit of the Sol-Ark USA made inverter. This system now provides us with enough power to run all the house lights, plugs, microwave, refrigerator and fans. Even more critical, we can run the well water pump and if needed the outdoor security lighting. We have enough batteries for about three days if we conserve. We do not have enough juice for the central AC, electric stove or oven. Our electric water heater will also go cold but I hope to replace that with a heat pump type soon which has a byproduct of cool air. A big advantage in Texas. I have to admit, this solar system is as much of a want as a need. But then drinking water is a definite need. With some shade and enough water getting through Texas summers are possible. And I reasoned it allowed my wife to use her medical devices and me to feel less tied to the grid. Mental happy dance!
An Almost Gotcha Moment
Nuclear EMPs seems less likely than a grid failure but just in case we have taken some preventative measures to save some of our electronics. The radios, communications, guns and ammunition all stayed ( past tense ) in a steel gun safe. Then one day while punching in the code to our safe it dawned on me, ( I actually said “Huh” out loud ) this thing is vulnerable to being EMP fried. The keypad, battery, circuit and wires of the safe are all attached to the outside of the door. Maybe it would work after an EMP, maybe not, but who wants to be the guinea pig to test that out at the beginning of a SHTF event? Just when we would really begin to need the communications, guns and ammo, they would all be safely entombed in our very sturdy hack saw proof safe. Now they are locked up behind a door with a mechanical lock and the safe is looking for a new home to be replaced by an old-style mechanical locking gun safe.
The Circle of Life
I lived in Brazil for a few years and enjoyed the way the farmers used pig manure to feed the worms, who made the fertilizer for the garden, which grew the plants to feed the pigs. We have our version of this with bees that pollinate the garden and provide us with a surplus of honey. The garden provides for the bees and vegetables for ourselves and the rabbits. Rabbits will provide meat for us, fertilizer for the garden and will flourish in the Texas summer heat when tilapia will go belly up. The honey should have great barter value, never spoils and can be fermented for barter or special occasions. We use the wax for candles and fire starting. Nice big overlapping circles.
We have a fair neighborhood watch group who could easily become a force. In addition, I have cultivated some friends with like minds, values and needed skills; a couple gun geeks, some combat vets, nurses and a Physician’s Assistant (PA). We will have the skills if everyone shows up.
The Medicine Cabinet
Here is where we spent more dimes than nickels. The first dimes were spent on First Aid, then over the counter and band aids. Then pandemic preps. After reading numerous articles on the Doom and Bloom web site on medications to stock, we had to get seriously scientific. We sized our pharmaceuticals for the most common and the serious health problems the kids might contract and a bit extra for our adults. We started out with US animal lab meds then gradually added Indian pharmacy goods which is much less expensive. Now we have quite a large stock of medical goods, half of which are ready to grab and go.
The End Game
My wife is not on board with much of this. She thinks it is too negative and chooses not want to think about it. Her plan is to be one of the first to go. That may happen anyway since we are both into the last third of a normal life expectancy. But she is my sheeple so I do her planning for her. I do think about and want to help the families in our neighborhood and our own family who may make it here. That Christian charity thing again. We have some of the knowledge to survive and some of the resources saved up. And I bet my wife comes around when the grandkids show up. She will have all the motivation she needs to start packing and survive.
This story ends here but our adventure continues. Good luck on your path to preparation.