Thoughts on Preparedness, by Mom in the Colorado Rockies
Most of us have it down to a science on what we are going to do every morning. Wake up, grumble at the alarm clock, stagger in for coffee, etc. You know what time you need to leave to get to work on time, and maybe squeeze in a drive thru run for coffee or a breakfast biscuit. Muddle through the work day and pray for it to hurry by so you can fight traffic and get home in time for dinner, baths for the kids and vegetate in front of the television till bedtime. Our existence as the average, everyday Joe is rather simple and mindless sheep leaving the barn to graze for the day and return to the barn to sleep. But there are a lot of folks out there that are really beginning to ‘wake up’ to the fact that our everyday routines need to change.
Moving to the high Rockies has given me a different perspective on what survival means. Folks out here in these small mountain towns have a true understanding of what is needed just to get by every day. There are very few drive-thrus to grab a bite to eat, if any. In fact, a lot of the restaurants communicate with each other to see who is going to be open so they can close for the day. There are not a lot of big box stores nearby so you save the gas and pay a little extra at the local, way over-priced stores if you need to fix your commode or the crack in your hammer handle finally gives way. And snow is practically a season of its own up here. It seems there is snow, summer, then back to snow. No need in putting away your winter clothes or gear as summer can mean 50 degrees one day, 85 degrees the next, then snow in September. Oh! I forgot to list ‘mud’ season! That’s when the snow melts and you have about a month of mud to sludge through to get anywhere!
So, a lesson learned. I know I must keep all weather conditions items in my vehicle year round. I have ice melting spray in my floorboard and liquid in my windshield reservoir tank. And yes, I have already needed it three times in mid-September for ice and/or snow. I keep food and water, map and compass, a candle lantern for light and warmth, a mac-daddy first aid kit, boots and wool blankets, hunting knife and a strong, lite weight flashlight in there too. This is by no means a full listing but you get the point.
Collecting, cutting, processing wood is year round. You never really stop because, like they say, cut the amount of wood you think you will need, then triple it. Never under-estimate your wood supply. You always need more than you think you do. And, trust me, digging around in a foot of snow for those cut logs you haven’t split yet is no fun. Neither is splitting them when they are wet or frozen, as you will also be wet and frozen by the time you are done. And you still can’t use them because they are wet and frozen!
Most folks have wells, not a lot of city water out here. So, do you have the ability to run your pump when the power is out? Is it a generator you need gas/oil for? Do you have enough in case you can’t get to town in the near future? Do you have a standby water supply tucked away? Is it enough to cook with, bathe with, flush with, wash clothes with for an indefinite amount of time? Do you have access to more? Where is the nearest creek, river, lake and how do you get it home?
Four wheel drive is not mandatory up here… but it should be. Most of us have at least one per household. With the access to trails and mountain roads, they are a lot of fun to have. Not much you can’t do in the summer if you have one. But in the winter, they are pretty darn handy to have. Yes, they plow the county roads and highways. And yes, you will see the plows out 24-7 through the winter. But what about the folks that commute over the passes for work? Businesses don’t shut down because of snow, schools don’t shut down because of snow, government doesn’t shut down because of snow. Sooo, you still have to be able to get there. What about the folks that work the graveyard shift or have to be in at 6 am? Yes, we need four wheel drive vehicles. And you will see quite a few with small plows on the front. Not everyone lives on a well maintained street in town. In fact, very few do. And these side roads are not priority for anyone other than those of us that drive them every day. And yes, most of them are still dirt roads.
So let’s discuss gardening. We have about a 60 day grow season, if you’re lucky. Factor in your potting time, keeping your seedlings warm till it is safe to put them outside. Tilling is not much of an option here as our particular soil is rocky. It costs a small fortune to pay anyone to come out here and drill a new well or put in fence posts because they will spend most of their time hand pulling rocks or breaking auger/drilling bits. So you need to bring in soil to either mix in or cover over. And at almost 10,000 ft above sea level, the sun can burn up your plants if you are not careful. So what do you do? Put up a greenhouse! Oh wait, there are some of us that live in high winds areas. You know the places you drive through that have the big snow/wind breaks by the roads? But that doesn’t really slow down the 40 to 60 mph winds we can have blowing over the roads and fields. Trust me and learn from my failures, a greenhouse is a task of its own. Factor in the sun’s path for the two months of growing season, the normal wind path, the ‘other’ wind path for when we get the south to north winds and storms, the questionable soil, etc. Gardening at its finest is still a lot of hard work. Don’t forget to figure in the local climate too.
Now, considering all of the above, I will cover food supply. Being gardening is tough, you don’t dare want to lose any food you can produce. Be prepared to either make sure you have a heat alternative for your greenhouse or a spot inside to bring your plants. We pot in containers so it is a feasible task to bring them in. Heavy lifting, but doable. So do you have an area in your house with great sun exposure and ventilation to complete their growth and yield? Or do you do what you would do in the cities… go to the market and buy. You can definitely buy whatever fruits and vegetables you could want in the markets here, and we have a lot of option for organic produce. But you will pay for it, literally and figuratively. These local stores can be pricey so do you pay the extra in gas to go to the nearest big town or suck it up and pay for the convenience? You do what most do, buy your day to day locally and make a plan for your trip to the city and hit every store you think you might need something from. Make a list, make several lists. You will need them so you don’t forget anything.
With that being said, do you have at least a 30 to 60 day food supply stored? Beans, rice, flour, sugar, and let’s not forget coffee! What about that generator we talked about earlier… will it run the fridge? Or do you need adequate cooler storage space to last for several days till you can eat what is in there? Do you have plenty of canned fruits and vegetables? What about meats? Are they all frozen or do you have some canned or dehydrated put away somewhere… Let’s not forget the fact that in a short time span you could get extremely bored with peanut butter sandwiches. And what happens when the bread runs out? Oh, do you have a way to actually cook any of this food you have in the pantry if the power goes out indefinitely? Consider what your options are for safely cooking indoors in inclement weather for a family and then factor in a backup. Like they say, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Gaskets dry rot, tanks leak fuel, charcoal runs out for the outdoor grill eventually. And the high winds and snow can definitely hinder your charcoal grilling on the back deck, trust me. And, as we discussed before, do you have enough water to actually cook those rice and beans and dehydrated vegetables and backpacking meals included in your water storage calculations?
Now… this was not meant to discourage anyone from moving to the country or the high country areas. This was meant to make sure you consider what it means to live in some of these more remote areas. I have always tried to have a prepper mentality when it comes to ensuring the existence and safety of my family, but I can tell you that moving from my safety net on the edge of a big city to a small mountain town in the high Rockies has truly been a learning experience and one I wouldn’t trade for anything. We live on a shoestring budget week to week and do not have the funds to put into the large purchases I know a lot of preppers have. So we do the best we can with what we have. Our neighborhood barters with each other for things each house may need but doesn’t own. We trade off babysitting or canning or dehydrating or water storage containers, whatever can be done to make sure we all are taken care of. We watch each other’s houses, vehicles, pets while they’re away. We help each other with cutting wood, mending fences, fixing holes in the roof or moving furniture around. You learn real quick who to trust and can count on should SHTF tomorrow. And, I have to say, that is a good feeling I did not have back in the ‘city’.
So for those of you wanting to move to some small town in the middle of nowhere and set up shop, consider the above. Think about it, have a plan, then have a backup plan. It took me several months to find work out here when a job back home was fairly easy to get with a good resume. Research the area, see what type of businesses are there or nearby that you can feasibly commute to in bad weather. If you are going to have neighbors, try to meet them when you look at a house you are considering buying. Are they nuts or fairly like-minded people? Find out the gun laws for the area and state, how hard or expensive is it to get a permit to add a solid greenhouse or storage shed. How many and what size can you have without a permit? Is there somewhere to obtain firewood and water should you need emergency supplies? And, most of all, can you get out of your driveway and to a main road should you have a heavy snow or rainfall? If not, either plan ahead or reconsider your housing selection. These are not frivolous things, these are your survival pitfalls. Think ahead, discuss your options with your family, can you afford it if you can’t immediately find work, what do you really need for your family to survive. All the ammo in the world does you no good with a gun that breaks a piece and you have no spare parts. All the food you could possibly eat is of little comfort when you have no way to cook it or water to cook it with. Electric or propane is awesome, but with no power, no way to pump water and losing the food in your fridge and freezer is not exactly what I want to do in the middle of winter with snow on the ground and a family to take care of and a job to get to.
The true lesson here is: think smart, work hard and have a backup plan for your back up plan!