Our Prepping Journey – Part 2, by Elli O.

(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)

Resources:

I found it quite helpful to have books at home that cover raising, dispatching (killing), and processing livestock. The internet is useful but nothing beats a written guide when the internet is unavailable.

Lessons learned from having livestock:
  1. Remember the reason for raising the livestock. They are not pets; they are food for the family. The first cute calves we brought home were named Lunch and Dinner, which served as a reminder to all that these bottle fed babies would someday be on our supper plates.
  2. Animals get sick and die. Be prepared both emotionally and physically to deal with this.
  3. There’s no such thing as a “free” animal. They will all need to eat and need medical attention- both of which cost money!
Organizing it all

I try to simplify things in order to remember so when it comes to prepping I try to divide supplies into 7 different categories. Yes, many say that this is an over-simplification, but it works for me. Below are the 7 categories I use.

  1. Food
  2. Water
  3. Heat
  4. Light
  5. Safety
  6. Security
  7. Sanitation

These categories can be subdivided as needed, but they were a good place to start for me.

As I began filling in these categories, I would see voids- areas that were greatly lacking. Some of these voids were higher dollar items such as generators or hand pumps for the well. Rather than go into debt purchasing these items (remember our low debt tolerance?) we would save up for them.

After much research we recently purchased a solar generator that can also run off of a wind turbine. This $1,500 purchase will help many areas but mainly keep our freezers and refrigerator going in a grid-down situation.

Also when prepping for our family, we have to prep for our animals (both livestock and pets) in the way of feed and medicine.

I have found that filling in the voids can be a fun adventure by attending auctions. We recommend using auctionzip.com to find possible used items of value. Some of my cheapest buys from an auction have been the following items:

  • Over 100 candles for under $10
  • Kitchen hand tools (non-electric kind)
  • Used water troughs for $20 each
  • Pressure cooker for $5

And many other useful items!

I have also purchased items for the farm from Craigslist but we are always cautious when meeting with sellers. Many of the items we buy are for sale on someone else’s farm, which means meeting them in a public place is difficult. Who wants a farmer to bring his chickens into the police station safe room for a potential buyer who may or may not show up? So when possible, we travel in pairs to their farms and always have some form of self defense on our person.

Remember how I mentioned that it is best to start out small? I began with just a few tubs in the laundry area. As room and funds became available, I changed a spare bedroom on the lower level into the pantry. This holds almost a year’s supply of food and paper products. Also in this area are the medical supplies, toiletries, and OTC medicines.

Although most of the food is home canned and in jars on metal shelving, I do have some supplies in food grade 5 gallon buckets whose contents are sealed in mylar bags with O2 absorbers.

Inventory is Crucial

The contents of this room are inventoried and kept on both the family computer and on printed sheets in the room. My husband brought me home some of the plastic covers- the kind that your mechanic places your work order in. I place the printed sheets in these holders and have zip-tied them to each shelving unit. A pen is handy to change the inventory numbers as items are added to and/or removed from this room!

Lessons Learned from Pantry Inventory
  1. Inventory is easier if you do it as you set up the area you plan on using as a pantry.
  2. Maintain it as you add and remove items
  3. FIFO (First In, First Out) is important. Set up your pantry so you can accomplish this.
  4. Take pictures and print of lists for insurance purposes, just in case the home is damaged by fire. Keep this list with your important documents in a fire safe.
A Word on Medical

If you remember, I said earlier that my prepping strength was in food and medical. So here are a few comments about medical prepping.

  • Don’t wait until you run out of prescription medicine to renew. Yes, I realize that insurance makes it difficult to stockpile more than a few extra day’s worth, but still, DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST DAY!
  • Due to the probability of high costs, buy medical and first aid supplies a little at a time.
  • Discount stores such a Family Dollar, Aldi’s, Dollar Store, etc. are good resources for OTC medicines.
  • Items such a fluid replacements (ie. Pedialyte) can be life savers. And they come in packets of powder.
  • Having resource books on hand can also save lives. Two books, “Where there is No Doctor” by David Werner and “Where there is No Dentist “ by Murray Dickson are worth every penny. Both books are also available for PDF downloads!
Communication is Crucial

Having been through multiple emergencies from a responder’s side, I know that communication (or the lack thereof) is always a problem. To improve our odds of overcoming this problem (or at least improving it), I became certified as an amateur radio operator (ham). Our likeminded neighbor who lives on our farm is also a ham. Earlier this year our family purchased an eight pack of Baofeng radios that will also help during with communications. These specific radios can be used as walkie talkies and as amateur radios.

Security

It can be a difficult balance between spreading the news to our friends and family about prepping, and maintaining operational security (OPSEC). We want people to wake up and start preparing for the unstable and uncertain future that lies ahead. But we don’t want everyone to come knocking on our door when bad times come knocking at theirs. To handle this, I start the prepping conversation by stating the need to be prepared for the most common disaster we experience in this area: power outages. I generally cite common past disasters and then follow up with basic tips on how to start preparing for the next power outage.

And remember that neighbor who lives on the farm in my parents’ home? His strong suit is security- all aspects of security. This includes but not limited to firearms, knives, and night vision goggles.

I have read that no property is totally secure, but the property owner’s goal is to make theirs appear more secure than the next property. This was one of the reasons we decided to put up a woven wire fence across the 500+ feet of road frontage. The second reason is to deter the occasional loose livestock from escaping to the neighbor’s farm. The only openings are at the driveways.

Community Plays a Part

Our faith in Jesus Christ is very important to us and our daily lives. Because of this we are part of a small Christian community. Although many know that I teach disaster preparedness, only a few outside of our immediate family know the extent of our pantry. Something that our prepping has made possible for us is being able to help others during their times of need. We also enjoy opportunities to share with others their need to be prepared- even if it’s only having 3 days worth of food and water on hand-as suggested by FEMA.

Family on the Same Page

I am able to prep to this extent only because I have the support of my family. They have realized the value of having extra supplies on hand, regardless of the reason it is needed. As possible, I include immediate family members in the organization and inventory activities of the pantry. We have made sure that everyone in our immediate family has “get home” bags that are kept up-to-date.

Thankfully not everyone in our family preps the same way. For example, our son is proficient in firearms and rather than duplicate that skill, my husband has taken up archery. I have books on livestock; my husband is reading a book called “Backyard Foraging” by Ellen Zachos.

Diversity is a good thing. If all we had in our food supplies were rice and beans, we would survive. But with a variety of foods and skills and knowledge, we hope to thrive.

What we have learned – a general list
  • Start small – just start!
  • Try planting herbs in the window sill as a beginner’s garden
  • Pick one (of the 7 broad) categories a week and work on that
  • Don’t wait until the _______ (fill in the blank with your least favorite, but most common disaster) happens and you need to make a Wal-Mart run
  • Voids- Think outside the box when you have a need that can’t be filled at this time.Find like-minded people without blowing your OPSEC – a whole other topic!
  • Learn/Read/Research- some of the best resources I have found are James Wesley, Rawles, Joel Salatin, and Justin Rhodes (IMHO)
  • Lots of opinions, lots of resources- find what works for you
  • Try your tools prior to needing them in a disaster

We know that our solar generator will run our freezer where we keep the majority of our meat.

  • No animal is free (in the long term)
  • Do your research before making the purchase
  • Think before you throw- (Nothing goes to waste) – another writing, another time!
  • Print out how-to articles so that you don’t rely on web access
Where We Are Today

We are actively adding new skills to our resources. This past summer we recently took a free training session in how to start a fire with just flint and some shavings. To prove we could do this, we cooked hotdogs on our blazing inferno! This was fun and educational, as well as learning a skill that be life saving.

Decreasing our debt is also a priority for us. Without the burden of a house payment we will be able to 1) help those in need now and 2) increase our prepping. We want to use our resources to bless others today and our family later when basic items become scarce in the world. We have invested just a bit in precious metals (besides lead), and we hope to get more silver as our debt goes down.

In Conclusion

We are far from where we began, and far from where we want to be, but we are on our way. This is a life long journey, and although it may not be the easiest path, we truly are enjoying the trip. Thanks for walking with us.




24 Comments

    1. One area that I see a lot of preppers are lacking in when they mention their preps is in construction material. Simple thing as having a bucket of nails and screws and maybe a few pieces of plywood and 2x4s could be invaluable if you are not able to go to the store and pick some up. Just food for thought.

  1. Elli,

    Thanks for the article, you hit on a few something that I use when teaching disaster preparedness which are one, start somewhere and start now. I usually suggest water since most of us have food in some way, shape or form in our homes already for at least a few day. Considering we can go without food for weeks but water only a few day this is the logical starting point. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your preps. Second, Auctions are a preppers friend, I have saved thousands of dollars by buying at auctions. Besides the money savings many times I am able to buy Made in The U.S.A. products that are now only made cheaply in China. Third is Books, sure you can store a ton of info on a computer or thumb drive but how many computers last over 100 years?

    1. Great thoughts, and one to add… We shop for items manufactured for longevity with a strong preference for Made in the USA. In fact, this thinking extends to everything we purchase, right down to the dust pan! True. Cheaply manufactured goods go too soon to the landfills, and make advancing the cause of true preparedness more difficulty and costly over time.

    2. I just ordered the book, “Backyard Foraging” by Ellen Zachos. I look forward to using it when the landscape is less white and more green.

      Just today, I saved money to invest in food by asking my sweet spouse to cut my hair. To quote her, “I enjoy cutting your hair, big fella.” Her sister taught her.

      Then I go soak some of the ache of snow shoveling out by resting in a tub of hot water. A little music on the radio. Lovely.

      As winter’s jaws tighten around us, we hunker down and enjoy the bounty of the garden that we have stored.

      Carry on

  2. Ellie-O! We very much enjoyed “Our Prepping Journey”. It was well organized, and provided an overview with just enough information about each subject to stir the interest and inquiry of people who may be new to the idea of prepping. Thanks for including as well the reviews and reminders for those of us who are on the journey in parallel with you and your family. Your concluding message was excellent, and we share in the sentiment. Wishing everyone a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

  3. For necessary prescriptions: A) really get to know your doc, and simply explain why you would like to have some extra medication on hand – say a year’s worth. This usually works. or B) ask your doc for a “travel script,” which can be used if traveling and you run out of medication. I took mine to an “off the grid” local pharmacy, where I had never been, and thus they did not have my info on file. Filled the script for $4 cash (no insurance) and six following refills. Did it again the next year. Now I have a year of medication on hand.

          1. 1) Agreed. Most meds are in dry form (capsule of powder or solid pill). Obviously wouldn’t work w/ insulin solutions, etc (although I currently have frozen 1 gram of dried insulin…good for thousands of maintenance injections), but there are ways around that.
            2) Certainly not ALL meds can be safely used within a year, but the vast majority of them (stored as solids…see above) can. Freezing (solid phase) meds keeps them safe and effective indefinitely.
            We can certainly disagree on certain points of storage. Each person’s preps requires different perspectives and visions. God bless, and Godspeed ThoDan.

          2. This subject has been studied pretty extensively by the DoD and others.

            Here is one study that appears to get into the details of specific drugs and specific lengths of time. A casual web search reveals lots more data on this subject.

            https://zenodo.org/record/1229249#.Xd73tc97mxg

            Somewhere on SurvivalBlog this was addressed in the not too distant past and I believe it was stated that about 85% of drugs tested will last considerably past stated expiration dates. However some pretty common/important ones were in the 15% that truly do expire.

            Bottom line is the DoD has verified that extension is very doable for a lot of stuff but you have to do your homework and make sure the medication you are interested in will last.

  4. Enhancing prescriptive medication supply I am a retired nurse, having spent my nursing career in a major hospital complex in an urban medical mecca. Several years ago there appeared in our weekly work newsletter a list of medications in short supply, along with the recommended substitutions. This list continued to grow over time, and became surprising in 3 ways:

    1) the commonly used drugs that were contained on the list
    2) that this hospital is part of a powerful consortium, yet we could not access drugs
    3) the list grew to an absolutely ridiculous length, and then just disappeared from weekly publication. However, I did not believe this issue had just magically disappeared.

    I was caring for my mother during this period, who was on several medications that were essential to her well-being. I spoke to her doctor about my concern over the med shortages and requested duplicate prescriptions. I took those duplicates to a different pharmacy to fill, without using insurance. I started with the most essential. Bit by bit, I accumulated a years worth of back-up meds. It was less expensive than I thought it would be.

    *Don’t forget to rotate your supply of meds [First-in, First-out] to avoid expiration dates.*

  5. @thodan,

    Always a reason NOT to do it….

    Which med? I’m willing to bet someone here will have a link to the true longevity and continued efficacy. Since our .mil and .gov did a very though study of this very issue, it’s likely that specific info exists.

    I’m not a pharm tech, but I don’t see coolers and freezers at my local store, I see shelves. Since heat, sunlight and moisture are the enemies of most things, storing them in the original containers and in a controlled environment is usually MORE than sufficient, freezer or fridge is just icing on the cake.

    If you are truly dependent on a med, why on earth wouldn’t you get as much as you can? Even a few months supply is better than none, and short of TEOTWAWKI, most disruptions are measured in weeks or months, so even a couple of months will get you clear.

    No matter the subject, I see this syndrome again and again. “I need to learn to use chirp to program my radio before I use it.” — no you don’t. Most areas will only have one or two active repeaters and you can enter that by hand… adding more later AFTER you’ve begun using the radios. “I’ll start stacking food AFTER I get moved to my new location.” –what if the problem happens now? A few flats of cans, a couple buckets, and a water filter and butane burner are not HARD to move. A queen Temperpedic mattress is hard to move…. “I can’t prep because I don’t have any money” –well, you probably do, but prioritize other things, or you are focused on expensive preps. Perfectly good rifles can be had for <$75. Canned food is regularly on sale for $1/can. Books can be had for FREE at the library and VERY low cost at thrift stores. Knowledge and training opportunities are everywhere for low or no cost. CERT is a great place to start.

    If it isn't clear by now, my point is that unless you start, you won't get anywhere. To everyone, stop coming up with reasons NOT to do what you know you need to do. There are a million reasons NOT to do something. Focus on the reasons TO do something. Family, friends, REVENGE, whatever motivates you… but GET STARTED.

    Let incrementalism work for you. Baby steps will still get you there eventually.

    nick

    1. @nick flandrey

      No, an advice from someone who has some experience in this field, and so i advised for caution, not doing Nothing, but please do no do it wrong.

      That could get very dangerous

      1. Thanks ThoDan, sometimes intent is hard to read. So I did some googling, and all I get is “ask your pharmacist.”

        Other than vaccines, and children’s liquid antibiotics, and insulin, I haven’t found many specific recommendations.

        https://prescriptionhope.com/can-you-freeze-liquid-medication-or-has-it-frozen-heres-the-answer/

        was the most even handed and had actual info instead of generalities.

        https://www.pharmacistanswers.com/questions/are-frozen-medications-okay-to-use

        had some more specific information, but about vaccines and medication made from “recombinant proteins” in aqueous solutions. Those are not generally something preppers are concerned with.

        I hate generalities. Especially wrt health advice. “Pregnant women shouldn’t eat sushi” is something you find all over the place. When I finally dug deep enough, it was originally recommended because VOMITING is bad for them and sushi can cause vomiting. So the correct advice should be “pregnant women should avoid vomiting (you know, except that caused by morning sickness, I guess) and EVERYONE should avoid sushi that is bad and will make you vomit.

        So– ask your pharmacist about your specific meds, and most likely he’ll say “we don’t know”, but he might say “absolutely not.”

        nick

        (and like most prepping topics, it turns out there is both more and less to it than you might think at first glance.)

  6. I vote for this article being the best for November so far.

    Regarding naming animals prior to butchering.

    When our children were young (may 9 and 7?) we raised a pig. It somehow got named Tina. My wife and I thought this might turn out bad with the kids. We butchered her and she produced some excellent meat. The only negative thing about it was that when we would be eating bacon, the kids would go on and on about how good Tina tasted as they would pound through the stuff. Never bothered them a bit but it was a little strange for my wife and I. The next couple pigs received no names. Not for the kids sake. For our sake.

    Tomorrow we will eat a turkey my son raised and butchered. I don’t think it had a name.

    1. I have had this exact experience with a sheep we had once. Bought her to be part of our breeding herd. These ewes sometimes get a name. We realized soon after we got her she would not be OK to breed. So she went in the freezer. The next time we had lamb all our children could ask was “is this Annie?”over and over as the are chowing down. We finally had to ban that question from the dinner table!

  7. Sounds like you’ve done a lot of work ! I agree there aren’t any free animals. You pay one way or another. Even when hunting, tags are usually required and then there’s gas. One comment about your solar/wind system. Freezers and refrigerators require quite a bit of power to “start up”. They don’t run continuously. But start and stop to maintain the even temperatures. You should check to see if your solar/wind system can handle it. We lived off grid 13 years and on our system and we weren’t able to run a freezer . Our current system should run at least one. There’s a learning curve when living off grid ☺.

    1. Consider looking for an antique icebox. I saw a nice one in a vintage/junk shop. You will have to learn how to use it.

      You can also make an ice room in the basement. There is one you can see at the Vanderbilt mansion, if you are in the area.

  8. Very nice article. In survival training , the organizational chart is the rule of 3’s.
    1. 3 seconds to defend yourself. 2. 3 hours to protect yourself from exposure. 3. 3 days to find water. 4. 3 weeks to find food. You know the rest. God bless!

  9. Elli,

    I liked the article. It was an encouragement piece told through your story about your journey.

    Alarm bells went off in one place. Solar generator. Too many times I read the words online but the product is really a battery pack, or a battery pack with a converter, maybe a charger too. I make my living delivering small scale electricity to remote locations. Been doing it for decades, technical education and I love what I do.

    I don’t know what you bought so I really can’t comment on its capabilities or suitability. I can provide energy concepts, questions for you to ask, and tests. I could write pages in details but I’ll try to keep it brief.

    I’ve always considered electricity a force multiplier in a grid down situation. It powers lights (#4 on your list) extending the work day and amount of work that can be accomplished. It can run refrigeration and freezers extending the life of my food supply. Batteries store energy chemically and deliver it as direct current. They are quiet, they can be reloaded via charging, but are not very energy dense, degrade over time and are very expensive for the amount of energy they store. Fossil fuels store energy in chemical bonds but must be burned to release the energy as heat which is converted to mechanical energy and then to electricity, typically in a generator set. Fossil fuels are low cost (heavily subsidized) for the amount of energy per gallon, are very energy dense on a weight and volume basis but liquid fuels deteriorate, require a device (generators, stove, fuel cell) to convert the fuel into useful work. To me a solar generator is really a solar panel. A solar panel converts the suns energy into direct current electricity. This electricity can be converted into AC power, stored via battery chargers in batteries or used for useful work (lights, DC appliances). A wind turbine is another electricity generator whose power can be used just like a solar panel.

    If your “solar generator” only has batteries, chargers, or converters you really purchased a storage device with electrical outputs. What is the storage capacity of your generator? Recommend you test it with your grid down expected loads to see how long it lasts before it runs out of energy. Will it power the loads for 6 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours? Is this enough time? Do you have a way to recharge the solar generator with the grid down? I have a 12 VDC 2 cubic ft freezer that I power with 110V, with my vehicle when moving and a 110 pound, 180 AHr AGM battery pack. In the summer the small freezer will drain the battery pack to about 50% capacity in 12 Hr. Batteries are not very energy dense nor should they be drained any deeper than necessary to maximum battery life. This applies to both lead acid and lithium-based batteries.

    If your solar generator can be charged with a wind turbine it should be chargeable with solar panels. This allows you to harvest the energy of the sun or wind in a grid down situation for decades, well after the battery fails. Do you have any panels? How much energy do they capture? How fast can they recharge the solar generator? Can you add solar panels? Recommend you run the solar generator down with your loads and measure how long it takes to refill. The sun’s energy is very diffuse. It takes a lot of solar panel surface area to capture modest amounts of power. Wind is similar, requiring large windmill blades or high wind speeds to generate modest amounts of electricity. Based on market research some solar generators appear to have so little solar panel capacity that it could take days to recharge the battery. Test to make sure your system meets your needs. To charge my battery pack in a SHTF scenario I currently have 800W of rated panels that might delivery 400-500 W of power for 6 hr a day. I buy a new 100 W panel every year and a new charge controller every couple years. I’m also a firm believer in redundancy, so I also have generators that run on gasoline and generators that run on propane that I can use for power and to charge my battery bank.

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