I think we all, at one time or another, need to do a serious self-assessment to determine exactly where we stand in regards to the future and what it will mean to us on a life sustaining basis. Most people reading this have already done this, to a degree. After all, you are prepping bacon, beans and bullets, and it is an admirable and necessary pursuit that you are engaged in. But, what about when (not if) the SHTF? Sure, you have food, shelter, and the means to protect it, but what about when things settle down and life begins in the new normal? Have you thought about what you can do to make a living, besides farming, hunting, fishing and bartering excess prep goods? You might not have enough land to self sustain with farming, hunting will play out after a while with so many pursuing a limited amount of game, you might not be close to a body of water to fish in, and barter goods will eventually run out. You will need something that is not self-depleting to be able to continue to eat and live. You will need a skill, or skills, that you can barter for what you need to live. Not everyone will need this, as some will be able to live well on a farm or ranch. But for those without livestock or the land to live off of, you need to be able to barter with those who have so you will not be one of the have-nots. Now, before the SHTF, is the time to self-assess and come to this conclusion. Do a frank inventory of your skills to determine if what you would have to offer in a grid-down situation would be enough to sustain you and your family on a long term basis. If you come to realize that you simply don’t have one of these skill, of which there are many, now is the time to acquire one.
As I ponder the coming collapse, TEOTWAWKI, I wonder “How on earth am I going to make a living?” After all, everything that I depend on as a carpenter/cabinet maker now to make a living will be gone: electricity grid, lumber yards, hardware stores, paint stores, glass shops, brick yards, metal roofing suppliers and a myriad of other suppliers of raw materials that I use on a daily basis. How will I survive without all these supporting material suppliers?
I took a step back to get a better perspective of just what I might have to offer in a grid-down situation. I have spent the last 35 years of my life building and remodeling residential buildings, commercial buildings, and industrial buildings, and building cabinets and furniture. Before I became a building contractor, I had always had a shop where I gave my imagination free rein to build and create many things. I developed many different skills during this phase, which began as a young boy and continues today, and used many of these skills when I became a building contractor. I still like to try new things, things that many people call hobbies, but to me they are a part of my life itself.
What could I do that would provide a living for me and my family? I am now semi-retired at 68 years old, and it is just me and my wife, so we wouldn’t need much. The first thought that comes to mind is that I am a Master Carpenter. While power tools are a great help in my work, my brain works without an electric grid. I would still be able to do a great deal of carpentry work, cabinet work, and furniture building. To continue to use power tools I would need a generator, which I have acquired. After determining the minimum size that I would need based on the requirements of my largest power tools, I bought a 3000 watt generator. This will allow me to use my table saw, compressor (for nail and staple guns), circular saw, drill, planer, jointer, miter or cut-off saw, and any other power tool I need. Of course this will last only as long as the gasoline lasts, and then it will be back to the old way of working with hand tools only. I am searching for a small diesel generator, which could extend its use by several years, as diesel can be stored much longer than gasoline, with the proper additives. I haven’t had much luck finding one yet of an appropriate size.
In preparation for the day when the fuel runs out, I am expanding my supply of hand-powered tools: hammers and mallets of all sizes, hand saws, with appropriate maintenance tools, hand drills and hand braces, assorted drill bits for use in these, hatchets, axes, chisels of all sizes, and even an adze. At an estate sale I found an edge sharpening stone that is foot powered and water lubricated. It is amazing what one of these old grind stones will do for an edged tool. I’m also laying in a supply of all sizes of metal files and wood rasps, as well as a cedar shingle splitting tool.
After thinking about it a while, I realized that I had several other options that could provide work. In the course of my contracting, I learned to lay brick, stone, concrete and hadite blocks and tile of all sorts and sizes. Roofing installation and repair was always part of the job, as well. There may not be much call for my skills as an electrician after a year or so, but plumbing will always be needed. And, as long as materials are available, I can form, pour and finish concrete. It will be much harder without modern finishing and digging tools, but that is what God gave us a strong back for.
“What else?” I’m thinking. Well, I taught myself to cut and weld with an oxy-acetylene torch, and to make many things out of scrap metal. Both of these gases store well, so I’ve put back several tanks of both, along with spare hoses, cutting heads, welding heads, welding rods, and gauges. I have a 200 amp arc welder that would be useful as long as the fuel holds out.
Along the way, I learned a little blacksmithing, mainly using the cutting torch for heat. I’ll have to acquire a good forge to continue this, but I can make all sorts of tools for use on the ranch, farm, or grid-down homestead. I also learned how to make knives of all types, making the handles out of various woods, bone, antler, and metal, and how to work leather to make the sheaths and scabbards, as well as belts, rifle slings, pouches, moccasins and other useful things. I have a couple of saddle stitching tools with spare needles and quite a bit of nylon cord used to stitch leather goods. I even have a set of tools for decorating leather, and a tool that cuts leather strings out of a large piece of leather. I really need to learn how to tan leather, as I think raw hides might be in greater supply than other types of material to make durable goods.
Upon further reflection, I realized that I can carve kitchen tools, such as spoons and forks, make candles out of paraffin or wax (for casting), make candle lamps out of old bottles with cotton string for a wick (for kerosene or lamp oil, or even vegetable oil), make bows, arrows and metal arrowheads suitable for hunting or self defense, make spears for fishing, hunting, or defense, with or without metal heads. A lifetime of working with my hands, partly as hobby work, can lead to a great deal of serious work when the power is gone. I thank God daily for those skills that he has seen fit to loan to me, and I use them whenever possible to his glory.
I realize that being 68 years old, I might not have many years to utilize all these skills, but I can teach some or all of them to other people. I would like to be able to pass them along to younger generations. So, with that in mind, I plan on setting up an apprentice program of sorts. Some young people would learn some valuable skills and I would get some physical help. I figure that after a year or so of a grid-down situation, young people will have forgotten their video games and be looking for something that will help them make a living. I have two grandsons that I have been working with to teach them some of these useful skills, but I think that there would be room and time for several more willing students.
After this self-assessment, I feel better about my long term prospects for making a living when the SHTF. It has also led me to see some shortcomings in my preps, allowing me to acquire those materials and supplies that will be necessary but will be in short supply once the supply lines shut down. All I have to do now is live through this time leading up to TEOTWAWKI. Continue prepping everyone, keep your powder dry, and God bless these United States.