A Prepping Reality Check – Part 3, by Mama Bear

(Continued from Part 2.)

Communication

Communication methods must be well thought out, ahead of time. Most communication methods that are mentioned on the blogs/literature involve electronics such as ham radios, CB radios, walkie-talkies, portable radios, etc. All of these require some source of power. As discussed earlier, computers are very fragile and should not be depended on for communications.

  • What power source does your communications technology use?
  • Do you have backups?
  • If using rechargeable batteries, how many times can they be recharged before they die?
  • Are your communication methods subject to eavesdropping? (HINT: the answer is yes.) How will you communicate securely when needed?)
  • What is the range of your communications technology?
  • Have you practiced using it?
  • Can you communicate with your neighbors or similarly minded preppers?
  • Is the technology stored in such a manner that it is safe from an EMP?
  • What will you do if the government/invaders/whoever knock on the door to confiscate your communications?

Look into alternatives as well. Telegraph between close neighbors might be feasible given a battery, telegraph key and wire (old phone wires, perhaps?). Coded light signals using lights or lanterns might be another method. Another method might be drum codes. A drop location to leave messages that can be checked by those who share that drop location might be another option. After all, humans communicated for many years before our current electronic technology became available. Consider researching and learning some of these older methods.

Medical Care, Health and Hygiene

An extremely important part of planning is to prepare for the health, hygiene, and medical needs of your family. An assessment of the health issues of members of the family/group is essential. As is the overall physical fitness of each member. I mentioned earlier that I went on a program to lose weight and improve my physical fitness. I have also changed my diet and lifestyle and been able to get off all prescription medication.

  • Is your weight at a healthy, physically fit level?
  • Have you had a recent physical?
  • Have you made any necessary diet and lifestyle changes to eliminate prescription medications as much as possible?
  • Do you have a year’s supply of prescription medication stored? Do you rotate this supply?
  • Have you had a recent dental exam and cleaning?
  • Taken care of any caries or necessary dental work?
  • Have you had a recent eye exam?
  • Do you have a spare pair of glasses? Plenty of extra contacts and solution? Spare reading glasses?
  • Have you stocked up on medical supplies? Bandages, antibiotics, burn ointment, splints/wraps, disinfectant, sutures, etc.
  • Have you taken any first aid/medical training?
  • What herbs and/or essential oils do you have on hand?
  • What will you do if a member of your group is giving birth?
  • Is there a local midwife?
  • Is there a local doctor who is similarly minded?
  • Do you have soap, toothpaste and other hygiene items?
  • When you run out of hygiene items, can you make more?
  • How much toilet paper do you have and what plans do you have for when it runs out?
  • Do you have the means to wash clothes when the washer and dryer are not functional?

I located two books which have been very useful in preparing. One is called “Where There Is No Doctor” and the other is “Where There Is No Dentist.” Both are available online as free PDF downloads. I found the dental one very helpful in describing exactly the dental tools and techniques needed when no dentist is available. The medical one is also very helpful.

Many medical supplies such as scalpels and sutures can be purchased from veterinary supply catalogs when unavailable from other sources. Even IV saline can be purchased from these suppliers. Some drugs may require prescriptions, discuss this with your friendly fellow prepper doctor or veterinarian.

Both your local Red Cross and your local college offer first aid and medical classes that can be taken pretty inexpensively. Even to the extent of having a member of your group go through EMT and/or paramedic training.

Some areas may have classes in using herbs for medicine, if not, there are many excellent books available. But start to study now, purchase the essential oils, practice making tinctures. After the SHTF, it is a little late to try to figure out how to obtain, prepare and use these alternatives. Another excellent alternative to have on hand is colloidal silver. Although purchasing colloidal silver can be a little pricey, it is possible to purchase a colloidal silver generator and make your own. This is actually ionic silver but seems to work just as well as the colloidal silver.

One of the keys to maintaining health post-TEOTWAWKI will be nutrition. Interesting statistics from the medical field indicate that of all the health issues for which people seek medical care currently, close to 90% can be attributed to diet and nutrition. This includes diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, digestive issues (stress), arteriosclerosis, even autoimmune disorders such as many cases of arthritis. By starting now to eat more nutritionally dense food, avoiding pre-made foods with added chemicals, losing weight, and becoming physically fit, you increase your chances of staying healthy. Among the benefits are a stronger immune system to reduce the chance of disease, a body less prone to injury in performing unaccustomed physical activity, and the reduction or elimination of many chronic health issues.

I have chronic Lyme disease and before embarking on this journey, I was almost bedridden. Since the changes I have made, I am seldom sick, seldom spend the day in bed and am able to move 50 pound sacks of feed on a daily basis. So much for the predictions that I would be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.

Investigating old methods of soap making and practicing how to do it is both a useful skill and a fun activity for children who may be involved in Scouts or other youth groups. Soap will be critical to maintaining cleanliness and good health.

Food Preservation and Storage

Having healthy food also requires a way to preserve and store the food that your precious labor has produced. So consider –

  • Do you know how to can in a boiling water bath and/or pressure canner?
  • Do you know how to dry produce and/or meat?
  • Do you have a stock of canning jars, lids and rings?
  • Have you estimated how many canning jars it will take to store food for your family for one year?
  • Do you know how to smoke meat?
  • Do you have a supply of salt for preservation needs?
  • Do you have an alternative cooking source that generates enough heat to safely can?
  • Do you have a place to store the canned/dried/smoked food?
  • Do you know how to cook with the food you have preserved?
  • Do you have a stock of multivitamins laid in to provide any nutritional needs that may be lacking in your diet?
  • If you have a dehydrator, how will you run it (power source)?
  • Do you have a supply of glass and metal storage containers for dry goods?
  • How will you keep pests out of your stored food (i.e., mice, rats, cockroaches, etc.)?

For myself, I do considerable canning and drying. I use a turkey fryer burner as the stove in my trailer does not generate enough heat at 6700 feet altitude to safely pressure can. I can also can over an open fire or on a wood stove. I have estimated that I can consume one quart of canned produce and one pint of canned protein per day. This results in an estimated 350-360 quarts of produce and the same of pints of meat for one person for one year. Multiply that by the number of persons in your family and you will begin to understand the quantity of supplies needed. This does not include grain for bread. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints recommends at least 350 pounds of grain per person per year for making bread. This falls in line with old medieval records indicating rations of one pound of bread per person per day. And this is whole wheat dense bread not the white sponge sold in grocery stores.

Remember also that store bought quick rise yeast will not be available. Keep enough fresh yeast on hand to make a starter. Practice keeping a starter going over long periods of time. Sourdough starter from the yeasts native to your environment will be the only way to make risen breads. There are excellent cookbooks on creating starter and cooking with it.

Many local community colleges offer courses in canning as does the local agricultural extension office in many communities. There are also many excellent books available which teach how to preserve food. This is another skill that should be learned and practiced before the SHTF as you do not want to take any unnecessary chances with your family’s lives.

I am building a smoker in the future to preserve the meat from my hogs and have my own bacon and ham.

Waste Disposal

A critical consideration in planning for TEOTWAWKI is waste disposal. Improper waste disposal can generate deadly disease and draw pests in the form of rodents, cockroaches and flies which can bring potentially deadly disease as well. Consider –

  • Do you have a way to burn all burnable trash that is separate from any fire you may use for cooking as both paper (the printing ink) and plastic can release toxic chemicals in the smoke?
  • Can you rinse metal and create a recycling pile? (Metal in all forms will be precious.)
  • What will you do with plastic that is not burnable?
  • What will you do with containers that had paint and/or other chemicals and could be toxic to people and/or animals?
  • What about disposal of human waste when the public sewer no longer functions?
  • What will you do when your septic tank is full?
  • If you create an outhouse, can you dig it sufficiently far from your water source to be safe?

One potential solution is proposed by The Humanure Handbook available online. This teaches how to build a simple, inexpensive composting toilet and how to manage the compost. It was designed for third world countries but has been approved by the New York Department of Health. Properly maintained, this system is very safe for the handling and disposal of human waste.

If you have a septic tank, be prepared to suit up in a biological suit and dig it out when it is full and you will still need a way to deal with the waste that is removed from the tank. Burial is an option in some limited circumstances but does not eliminate the health hazard entirely as in many areas of the country (especially arid areas), the buried waste never decomposes.

Personally, I use the system described in The Humanure Handbook and have found it very satisfactory. The compost does not even get flies in the summer. Trash is sorted into scraps for the livestock, compostables, burnables, recyclables/reuseables and actual trash. The actual trash in very minimal. One way to minimize your trash is to consider the packaging of items that you buy. For example, I buy sliced cheese that is NOT individually wrapped.

Remember, waste disposal is critical to your group’s health. Carelessness in this area can lead to cholera, dysentery, and plague, among many other health and safety issues.

Clothing

Have you considered where your clothing and footwear will come from in a grid-down situation. Most clothing and footwear are imported from Asia to this country. They will no longer be available after TEOTWAWKI. Unfortunately, there will not even be much cloth available.

  • Do you have enough clothing for all seasons for at least two years?
  • Do you have enough sturdy footwear for all seasons for at least two years?
  • What about extra shoelaces?
  • How will you make or acquire replacements when items wear out?
  • Do you know how to sew, knit or crochet?
  • Do you have extra socks and underwear stored?
  • Do you have cloth stored?
  • Have you ever made a quilt? Remember, blankets will also become unavailable.
  • Do you save scraps or worn out clothing to use for quilts, rags, etc.?
  • What about diapers for babies?
  • What fibers can be raised or grown in your climate?
  • Can you raise/grow those fibers?
  • Can you process the fibers into thread/yarn? Carding, spinning?
  • Can you weave, knit or crochet the thread/yarn into cloth or items of clothing?
  • Can you tan hides from your livestock into leather?
  • Can you turn leather into outerwear and/or footwear?

I have practiced tanning hides from rabbits and goats. It can be done and is hard work to achieve a good leather product. It takes practice! I have sheep and have sheared, washed, carded and am learning to spin with a drop spindle. I would like to acquire a spinning wheel and loom eventually. A good friend who is about four miles a way is an experienced spinner and weaver and we have discussed trading her services for meat, produce or a share of the wool when the SHTF. Wool can also be felted into material for hats, slippers, liners, etc.

We are experimenting with growing flax here but the main obstacle is the lodging caused by the wind here in the high desert. There is too short of a growing season for cotton. But I have considered the possibility of long distance trade to southern Arizona to obtain raw cotton that we could process into clothing.

Another friend is an experienced leatherworker who would create clothing from our leather in exchange for a share of the leather. This is all part of the network that can be built prior to grid-down so that options are in place.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 4.)




21 Comments

  1. Thanks for all your very helpful ideas the last few days, Mama Bear! Very comprehensive, and brought to mind a few things I had neglected.

    For anyone who is following the current COVID19 news, there is an interesting article on Zerohedge this morning about how the media has started vilifying “hoarders” who are stocking up for potential coronavirus shortages. It’s a very timely article for those of us who lean toward being prepared; it shows how they are going to start to demonize us:
    https://www.zerohedge.com/personal-finance/media-vilifies-preppers-and-those-stocking-selfish-hoarders-potential-mass

  2. Get rubber gloves, basically light Costco medical gloves. Here’s why these might be useful.

    1. Caring for a sick person obviously.
    2. If you wear gloves shopping and outside then every time you inadvertently touch your face, because of the glove texture, you will immediately remember “hey, i need to be more thoughtful around cross contamination”
    3. You don’t know who has handled which package of goods in the store (e.g. the stocker at a minimum and various buyers/customers at worst). If you wear gloves and then toss your recent purchases into a pile, toss a sheet over that, and leave it for a week then you know any virus (or germs of any sort) are dead.

    “Hoarders” is just another liberal name for what is jealousy. It is coveting what your neighbor has instead of being focused on your own responsibility. When my neighbors talk about hoarding, I try to soften this and suggest that extra supplies can be donated to the local Food Bank. Like Mama Bear’s advice, before having any conversation you need to ask yourself “Is It Worth It ?” Is the audience a learning interactive person with whom I can exchange views and give/take to make me better ? The answer to that will inform us. Wish DiDi was my neighbor but I’ll do my best with the neighbors I have.

    1. Another distinction, in my mind, is this: “Hoarding” is to “keep a stock or supply of valued objects”. Preparedness minded people put away extras of items during **times of plenty** when those items are not considered to be valued objects. The items we stored up over the past number of years were both plentiful and cheap. Therefore, we do not meet the definition of “hoarding”. Those who run out in a panic at the last minute to swipe up massive amounts of items now considered to be both valuable and limited in quantity do qualify as hoarders.

      1. That is true. By tapping the supply chain well in advance, we represent one less individual stressing the system during times of crisis, so hence we are part of the solution, rather that part of the problem.

  3. The zero hedge article is good reading, a lot of the comments are worth the trouble as it gives you an insight of what people are thinking. I suggest you keep in mind that few liberals read zero hedge. If someone finds info where the liberals are discussing the subject please share it with us. “Know your enemy” I came away with one quote that is worth repeating. “Liberals are like crabs in a pot, one tries to escape and the others grab on to it and pull it back into the pot.”

  4. Nice article series Mama Bear. Fills in some gaps for me in terms of the inventory of questions.

    Clearly, if you can’t farm or hunt, then you need to have other things to trade instead. Trading with the right friends and neighbors is a great idea within reason (trusted partners)

  5. Stuff getting cheaper now so stocking up:

    Gasoline.. to treat with PRI -G for long term storage

    Butter.. down in price by 15 percent now, store long term in the refrigerator or make ghee

    And today at Bremerton, WA is the Penninsula Fruit Club’s annual spring grafting clinic and plant sale. Over 400 heirloom varieties of apples, pears, cherries, etc., etc., plus varieties of grapes, berries, and more. 10 am to 3pm at the Westside Improvement Club.

    Get your stock now for planting.

    God Bless

    1. Dear Wheatley Fisher,

      I’m always watching for your posts as there are so few of us in the immediate area. Thanks for the heads up on the spring grafting clinic and sale. I’d be there, but Doctor has ordered no weight on foot that was injured. I’m trying to be optimistic and looking forward to next year and so its been logged in the phone calendar. Thinking the virus may likely be burned out by that time, hopefully without not too great a loss of life.

      I’d like to meet some day if ever we get a chance.

      May God Bless

      1. Sure I would be glad to meet somewhere.

        October 22d will be the fall fruit show where you can come sample all 400 varieties of fruits. Same location.

        God Bless

  6. More excellent stuff Mama Bear!

    I wonder how many people think about TEOTWAWKI clothes washing that you mentioned? I spent a few years in South America and hand washing was the only option. When I built my homestead, I naturally built a station for hand washing clothes. Here is a link for the best thing available IMO for hand washing. This same company also offers the old hand-crank clothes wringers, which I also have. They greatly reduce line-drying times so I strongly recommend those as well. Shop around, there may be better prices elsewhere. Lehman’s in general has lots of good grid-down items.

    https://www.lehmans.com/product/breathing-hand-washer/
    https://www.lehmans.com/product/lehmans-best-hand-wringer/

    I also designed my system using a 30-gallon blue barrel instead of a sink, it lends itself better to the plunging action of the hand washer than a square shallow sink. I used my system for two years so I can highly recommend its effectiveness.

    Your idea on using phone wire to create a telegraph system with a neighbor post SHTF is also workable. When I was a young teen, a friend and I found a roll of phone wire some kids had wrapped around the fence surrounding a swimming pool. We wrapped it all back up and it was 1,000′. We knew you could talk into the microphone of a cassette player and hear it in the earphone so we rigged up a phone system between his house and mine using all that phone wire. Essentially, his earphone was plugged into my cassette player and vice versa so we had ourselves a phone system. Phone wire is fairly cheap in bulk (10¢/foot) so this kind of a system could have several advantages over radios for keeping in contact with family members in the same compound or close neighbors. And there are some more modern things available than cassette players. 🙂 But I really like the hard-wired idea.

    I’m glad you mentioned the Humanure Handbook. I’m a huge fan and this is a very misunderstood area of prepping where a lot of cognitive dissonance exists.

    Looking forward to part 4.

  7. Most Iraqi’s had Internet before and after the media blackout during the war. Even when there was no electricity. There are charging devises for a world with no power, we just don’t plan for it.

  8. Good job Mama Bear!! So happy that your Lime disease is manageable by lifestyle and diet. I consider my cancer at bay for the same reasons! This is great news for you! I’m truly happy for you.

    In other news, reporting in from the middle of Idaho… We have no reported cases of the virus yet. However, the Costco that I order from (to be delivered), is having an issue with online orders. Unheard of. Every time I put something that was supposedly available into my virtual cart, by the time I put something else in my cart, I got an error message that something in the cart was “out of stock”. So I would remove it and find an alternative. I played this game for quite awhile, and finally satisfied that these additional items I thought would be handy could be purchased, boom, the website froze while I was trying to finalize the purchase. Not my Internet connection. Everything is working fine. It’s actually possible that the online Costco site crashed. Unbelievable. I half expect to get an email saying I purchased the same things five times, but not yet. Fortunately, I can take the blow if that happens. Unfortunately, (or fortunately?), an awful lot of people are doing the same thing from around the country. I heard from a family member in California. They live out in the country and they usually go to Costco on the weekends. Their Costco is always pretty empty and well stocked, but not today. She said she’s never seen anything like it and people were being limited to only 2 cases of toilet paper and 2 cases of water. There is *definitely* panic going on in Cali. My heart hurts for them. This is the result of absolutely terrible policies. People know that with the large homeless population and the hidden illegal immigrant populations, that they are now personally at risk. Before, it was just their tax burden to be angry about. Now, it gets personal. Please pray for the faithful who remain there.

  9. Mama Bear… it is good to hear that you have your Lyme disease under control… I have a lady in my Life Group ( Church ) who has had Lyme for 10+ years … would you please share things that you do that have enabled you to live a more normal life… I would love to pass the information to her… TY so much for your attention…may The Lord continue to bless you in your pilgrimage…Robert

    1. An excellent traditional Chinese medicine doctor and accupuncturist made a huge difference in my health and taught me about eating a balanced diet from the Chinese perspective.
      Eliminating stress and spending time outside in the natural environment are also helpful.
      Get away from processed foods and corn syrup also.

  10. Mama Bear, fantastic! So many items touched on, thank you! I actually had put in an order for essential oils this morning before I read this installment as I am intrigued by some comments SaraSue posted yesterday about the Theives Oil. Aromatherapy is something that I’ve recently begun to study.
    I also received last week my copy of Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. I’m going to start studying how/what/why of natural kinds of ways to manage my health. I have Lupus, Fybromyalgia, degenerative disk disease , high Lymphocytes . All the Doctors want to do is put you on all kinds of crazy medications (antidepressants, anti-this anti-that, steroids, muscle relaxers, blah blah blah)!! I refuse to take any of these!!
    In fact, I was taking a small dose of Singular to manage my sinuses but I stopped taking it when I read an article a couple days ago stating they were putting the black label warning on that medicine because of high suicide risk. That was enough for me.

    I’m so glad to hear you are managing your Lime Disease. Health is everything

    Gotta go, gotta put in an order for some more canning jars. The calculations you mentioned just for jars alone sparked me to take a look at my supply. Yikes, I need more!

    Looking forward to the next installment

  11. I never hoard, but I do stock up early when nobody cares on things I think will be useful in the future.

    In January when the COV-19 was starting I checked my stockpile, yep about 350 of those N95 masks on the shelf. Picked up another 100 just for fun, before anyone really cared, now I guess I’m part of the problem.

    I also picked up 4x half gallon bottles of hand sanitizer, not something I usually have but it seemed prudent.

    So being a prudent fella, and looking into the future about… 2 months here is my plan:

    I’m going to call Cenex and see if I can buy and fertilize my pastures early, I only need 4 tons but who knows what the supply chain will be like in the spring.

    I already have my diesel tanks topped off for the year (I wish I would have waited, the price is better now)

    I need more dog food, I guess I’ll hoard a few months back for my wireless security device =)

    I have 5 x 5 gallon gas cans I need to refill with premium gas and Stabil, for the year after next, I guess I’ll hoard those as well.

    My septic tank hasn’t been pumped in 10 years, probably not a problem but I guess in my hoarding way I’ll have it pumped this year in anticipation of a down turn in the economy, what a selfish bastard I am.

    I’ll sell the last 20 tons of hay in the barn, no doubt the price of hay is high right now for those that didn’t prepare. I guess my hoarding of that hay has led to higher prices, so now I am guilty of gouging those that didn’t buy enough last fall.

    lastly my 1000 gallon propane tank is about 70% full, so I guess I’ll selfishly refill it (now that the price of gas is down). In 3 months when propane is hard to get, I guess I’ll be guilty of hoarding that too.

    1. Montana Rancher, I am a hoarder brat just like you! Back about 8 years ago when that bad drought hit the TX panhandle, OK, and other parts of the Plains, I was a really horrible person and bought an extra 18 months of hay for my horses and cows. Then I rudely went to the extra effort to make room in the barn for hay storage so I could keep it as fresh as possible. (THAT was a lot of extra work.) If you recall, it took about 6-8 months before the price of hay started to sky rocket here in Montana. I was surprised that it actually took that long for prices to go up. But eventually Montana hay farmers started shipping hay to the cow/calf operations further south, and they were selling it for a pretty penny too! Folks here in Montana grumbled mightily as the cost of hay went up. I was glad I had seen the writing on the wall and acquired my hay at a good price… and was happy that our hay farmers could get a nice profit on their hay too! I warned many of my friends but no one thought hay could ever be as expensive as it turned out to be that year.

      Montana is blessed with many smart and self sufficient folks and it certainly sounds like you are one of them!! 😉

  12. Montana Rancher,
    LOL, you crack me up. I guess we’re all selfish hoarders here. Too bad!!we thought ahead, the snowflakes didn’t.
    I will provide for me and my family no matter what some brats say! Always have, always will.
    Thank you for making me laugh today

  13. Mama Bear, I see you note food drying in passing. Having done both, I choose drying over canning.

    Safer, faster, less fuel intensive, way less storage space and weight, no botulism danger. I so enjoy teaching people the basics of dehydration.

    Then there is salting, fermentation…

    Carry on

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