All Posts by Chloe

Prepping for a Blizzard: A Practical Survival Guide

Few can deny the common sense behind preparing for something that is definitely going to happen, yet every year, an impending winter storm sends people rushing out to the store at the last minute, prepping for a blizzard that is due to hit in mere hours. Every winter, if you live in certain climates, blizzards are going to occur. Usually, at least one storm will hit that will cause you to be snowed in. Often, those storms mean you will also lose power. There is the inevitable rush to the store for milk and bread, during which people battle it out for the last supplies left on the shelves.

But you can avoid all that. You don’t have to be a bunker-dwelling, MRE-chomping, camo-clad prepper to see the logic behind keeping some extra food and other supplies on hand for something that happens every single year.

This year, avoid the last minute panic and the discomfort of being unprepared. This article is full of links to previous articles that will help you in prepping for a blizzard. Put together a at least the bare minimum kit for riding out the storm.  (Camo is optional.)

Water

Everyone knows that clean drinking water is something you can’t live without. In the event of a blizzard and power outage, the water may not run from the taps.  The pipes could freeze, or, in the event of grid failure, an electrically driven pump will not work.

“I’ll just eat snow.” No, this is a horrible idea. First of all, snow is mostly air, and you’d have to eat 20 quarts of it to equal 2 quarts of water. Secondly, if you eat that much snow you will lower your core temperature and put yourself at risk for hypothermia. If you already don’t have water, you have enough problems. You don’t need hypothermia. For a small amount of money, you can have a 5-gallon jug of water sitting in your closet, instead of melting snow, crouched beside a fire in the backyard, watching the pot.  You aren’t in the wilderness fending off bears. This really is not a good plan. First of all, the snow picks up all sorts of pollution as it falls through the atmosphere. The impurities can potentially make you sick. If you really get yourself in a poorly thought-out situation in which snow is your only hope for survival, boil it for 10 minutes before drinking it. Then, when the crisis is over, please store some water so you never have to do this again.

Each family should store a two week supply of water. The rule of thumb for drinking water is 1 gallon per day, per person.  Don’t forget to stock water for your pets, also.

 

Bare Minimum

Advanced

Food and a way to prepare it

Enough with the milk and bread already. Do you even consume milk and bread on a regular basis? This is really not the food you want to propel you through shoveling a driveway 17 times until the plow goes past, at which point you shovel it again.

There are two schools of thought regarding food during a power outage.  One: you need a cooking method that does not require the grid to be functioning.  Two: you can store food that doesn’t require cooking. This is a good idea if you don’t have an emergency stove or wood heat.

If you opt for a secondary cooking method, be sure that you have enough fuel for two weeks.  Store foods that do not require long cooking times – for example, dried beans would use a great deal of fuel, but canned beans could be warmed up, or even eaten cold.

Shopping Lists:

Bare Minimum

Advanced

Heat

Freezing to death in your own home would be a terrible way to go, wouldn’t it? It’s pretty anticlimactic. There’s no grand story of adventure. You just basically didn’t have enough blankets and common sense to stay warm in a house. Don’t be that person.

During the first 24 hours after a power outage, you can stay fairly warm if you block off one room of the house for everyone to group together in.  Keep the door closed and keep a towel or blanket folded along the bottom of the door to conserve warmth.  You can safely burn a couple of candles also, and in the enclosed space, your body heat will keep it relatively warm.  As well, dress in layers and keep everything covered – wear a hat, gloves (fingerless ones allow you to still function), and a scarf.

However, after about 48 hours, that’s not going to be enough in very cold weather. You will require back-up heat at this point. If you are lucky enough to have a source of heat like a fireplace or woodstove, you’ll be just fine as long as you have a supply of dry, seasoned firewood.

Consider a portable propane heater (and propane) or an oil heater.  You have to be very careful what type of backup heat you plan on using, as many of them can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if used in a poorly ventilated area. If you plan to use off-grid heat methods, pick up a carbon monoxide alarm with a battery back-up. The gas has no smell, and often people who die from inhaling it simply drift off to sleep, never to awaken.

Shopping Lists

Bare Minimum

  • Extra blankets, candles, socks, hats, and gloves

Advanced

Sanitation needs

A common cause of illness, and even death, during a down-grid scenario is the lack of sanitation.  We’ve discussed the importance of clean drinking water, but you won’t want to use your drinking water to keep things clean or to flush the toilet.  If the pipes are frozen or you have no running water for other reasons during a winter storm, you’ll need to consider sanitation needs.

For cleaning, reduce your need to wash things. Stock up on paper plates, paper towels, and disposable cups and flatware.  Keep some disinfecting cleaning wipes and sprays (I don’t recommend using antibacterial products on a regular basis, however in the event of an emergency they can help to keep you healthy.)  Use hand sanitizer after using the bathroom and before handling food or beverages – there may be a lot more germs afoot in a disaster.

Look at your options for bathroom sanitation.  Does your toilet still flush when the electricity is out?  Many people discovered the hard way that the toilets didn’t work  when the sewage backed up in the highrises in New York City in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  At our old cabin, the toilet wouldn’t flush without power because the pump was electric.

If you are on a septic system, with no risk of the toilet backing up into the house, simply store some water for flushing in the bathroom. At the first sign of a storm, fill the bathtub for this purpose.  Add the water to the tank so that you can flush.

If this is not an option, another solution is to stock up on extremely heavy duty garbage bags (like the kind that contractors use at construction sites) and kitty litter.  Place a bag either in your drained toilet or in a bucket.  Sprinkle some kitty litter in the bottom of the bag.  Each time someone uses the bathroom, add another handful of litter. Be very careful that the bag doesn’t get too heavy for you to handle it.  Tie it up very securely and store it outside until services are restored. (Here are the complete instructions.)

Shopping Lists

Bare Minimum

  • Supplies for a kitty litter toilet
  • Disposable disinfecting wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Paper plates and paper towels

Advanced

Light

Lighting is absolutely vital, especially if there are children in the house.  Nothing is more frightening than being completely in the dark during a stressful situation. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest things to plan for, as well as one of the least expensive.

Candles are the first things that most people think of in the event of an emergency. While they can be a great solution, they do increase the risk of house fires. Be sure to use them safely and keep them away from children and pets.

Shopping Lists

Bare Minimum

  • Candles
  • Flashlights (don’t forget batteries)
  • Matches or Lighters
  • Glow sticks (Great for kiddos)

Advanced

Other tools and supplies

Some basic items will make your life much easier during an emergency. The good thing is, most folks already have the supplies on the “bare minimum” list. All you need to do is collect them and put them in one easily accessible container.

Shopping Lists

Bare Minimum

  • Lighter/waterproof matches
  • Batteries in various sizes
  • Manual can opener
  • Basic tools: Pliers, screwdriver, wrench, hammer
  • Duct tape
  • Crazy glue

Advanced

  • Survival Knife
  • Multi-tool
  • Bungee cords
  • Magnesium firestarter
  • Sewing supplies
  • If you’d like to expand on the basic supplies, a more detailed list of tools and hardware can be found HERE.

First Aid kit

You probably won’t need a field trauma kit that allows you to amputate limbs or remove a bullet, but you definitely want to have a few things on hand. It’s important to have a basic first aid kit on hand at all times, but particularly in the event of an emergency.  Your kit should include basic wound care items and over-the-counter medications.

Shopping Lists

Bare Minimum

  • Bandages
  • Antibiotic ointments
  • Disinfecting sprays
  • Pain relief capsules
  • Cold medicine
  • Cough syrup
  • Anti-nausea pills
  • Allergy medication
  • Anti-diarrheal medications
  • First aid book

Advanced

Special needs

This is something that will be unique to every family. Consider the things that are needed on a daily basis in your household. It might be prescription medications, diapers, or special foods.  If you have pets, you’ll need supplies for them too.  The best way to figure out what you need is to jot things down as you use them over the course of a week or so.

Prepping for a blizzard is just common sense

Don’t feel like you are crossing over to the tinfoil hat side by preparing for all eventualities during a winter storm.  This doesn’t mean you’re loading up on gas masks and decontamination suits. It doesn’t mean your house is stacked to the rafters with ammo and body armor. It’s just plain old-fashioned common sense to keep a naturally occurring event from becoming a crisis.

How to Survive When You Can’t Pay Your Bills

Let’s talk about poverty.

I don’t mean the kind you’re talking about when your friends invite you to go shopping or for a night out and you say, “No, I can’t. I’m poor right now.”

I don’t mean the situation when you’d like to get a nicer car but decide you should just stick to the one you have because you don’t have a few thousand for a down payment.

I don’t mean the scene at the grocery store when you decide to get ground beef instead of steak.

I’m talking about when you have already done the weird mismatched meals from your pantry that are made up of cooked rice, stale crackers, and a can of peaches, and you’ve moved on to wondering what on earth you’re going to feed your kids.

Or when you get an eviction notice for non-payment of rent, a shut-off notice for your utilities, and a repo notice for your car and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about any of those notices because there IS NO MONEY.

If you’ve never been this level of broke, I’m very glad.

I have been this broke. I know that it is soul-destroying when no matter how hard you work, how many part time jobs you squeeze in, and how much you cut, you simply don’t make enough money to survive in the world today. Being part of the working poor is incredibly frustrating and discouraging

It is a sickening feeling when you’re just barely hanging in there and suddenly, an unexpected expense crops up and decimates your tight budget. Maybe your child gets sick and needs a trip to the doctor and some medicine. Perhaps a family member is involved in an accident and can’t work for a few weeks. It could be that your car breaks down and you need it to get back and forth to work because you live too far out in the country for public transit.

As our economy continues to crumble, these are the situations going on in more homes across the country every single day. It’s simple to believe that the people suffering like this are just lazy, or not trying, or are spending frivolously. No one wants to think that these things can occur through no fault of the individual.  Why? Because that means these things could also happen to them.

Every time I write about crushing poverty, someone adds the comments section a smug declaration about how people need to get an education, hang on to a job, buy cheaper food…there’s a litany of condescending advice.  I’m sure this article will be no exception, and please, if you’re in the situation I’m describing, let the criticism roll off of you.

The advice I have may not be popular, but let’s talk about prioritizing your payments when you can’t pay your bills.  I am not promoting irresponsibility here. It’s just math. When you have less money coming in than you have obligated to go out, you will not be able to pay all of your bills. It’s that simple.

First, do a quick audit of your financial situation so you can see where you’re at.

This list of priorities assumes that you have some money coming in, but not enough to meet your obligations. When things improve, you can try to catch up, but for now, you simply have to choose survival. I suggest the following order of payments.

1.) Pay for shelter first

Your number one priority is keeping a roof over your head. That roof may not be the roof of the house you are in now, though, if your circumstances have changed and you can no longer afford it.  If you can still manage to pay your rent/mortgage, do so in order to keep your family housed.

If you rent, and your rent is a reasonable price, make this the first payment you make from your limited funds. You really, truly don’t want to be homeless and moving is expensive. Try your best to stay put.

If you own, consider your property taxes and insurance as part of your mortgage, because if you stop paying any of these, your home will be foreclosed on.

If you can’t pay your mortgage, property taxes, and insurance, you have a while before the home gets foreclosed on and you are forced to move out. If this is the case, it’s absolutely essential that you put aside money for the place where you’ll move should you have to leave your home. You’re going to need first, last, and deposits in many cases, particularly since your credit isn’t going to be stellar due to your financial situation. When you are in this situation, it can be difficult to force yourself to save money when so many things are being left unpaid, but if you ever hope to bail yourself out of this situation, you absolutely have to do this.

The laws vary from state to state, (find the specifics for your state here) but basically, this is the timeline:

  • When you make the decision to let your house go back to the lender, you will have a month or two before they send you a notice of default.
  • From that point, you usually have 3 months before the foreclosure proceedings begin. During those 3 months, you should be saving the money you would normally be putting toward your mortgage.
  • At some point, you’ll get a notice to vacate the premises.
  • When this happens, you have two options. You can choose to move to  a different home, or you can file for bankruptcy, if you feel your situation is such that there is absolutely no way out.
  • If you file for bankruptcy, the home can’t be re-sold by the lender for 3 more months, giving you more time to put aside money for your move.

Should we all pay the bills that we have promised to pay? Of course we should. Our word is very important. Remember, though, that the information here is for people who are in a position in which they DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY.

So, the bottom line is this: either pay your housing costs or put aside money for future housing as your first expenditure.

2.) Buy food

You have to eat, and so do your children. If you don’t eat, you’ll get sick, and then your situation will be even more dire.

  • Stick to simple, wholesome basics and cook from scratch. Beans and rice have fed many a family.
  • Tap into your inner southerner and make inexpensive, filling meals like biscuits and gravy.
  • Make soup to stretch just a few ingredients to feed a family.
  • Save ALL of your leftovers, even the ones on people’s plates. Add them to a container in the freezer and make a soup from that at the end of the week.
  • Clean up after the potluck at church. Sometimes you can take home the leftovers.
  • Don’t skip meals to stretch your food further. You need your health and your strength to overcome this situation.
  • Go to the library and check out a book on local edibles. Go foraging in the park or in nearby wooded areas.
  • See if your grocery store sells out-of-date produce for use for animals. There’s often a fair bit you can salvage and add to soups or casseroles. (This is the only way we were able to have vegetables and meat during one particularly painful stretch when my oldest daughter was young.)

In a worst-case scenario, food banks are an option as well.

3.) Pay for essential utilities

You should be cutting your utility usage to the bare minimum and using every trick in the book to keep your bills as low as possible.

If your utilities get shut off, it’s going to be difficult to cook from scratch and you won’t be able to keep leftovers from spoiling. You need the water running from your taps to drink, cook with, and clean. Depending on the climate and the season, heat may be vital as well.

If you can’t ay the entire bill, call the utility companies and try to make payment arrangements. If your utilities are shut off, then you will have a hefty reconnection fee on top of the bill.

Another point to remember is that our culture believes it’s absolutely necessary that all homes be plugged in to the utility system. If you have a work-around, like wood heat and hand pumped well water,  and decide that your utilities are not essential, you need to be prepared to face those whose opinions differ. Some cities have condemned homes which are not connected to the grid, and if you have children who are of school age, sometimes a “concerned” teacher or neighbor has been known to report your situation to the child welfare authorities. (Recently an off-grid homeschooling family had their children removed from the home by police.)

4.) Pay for car/work necessities

What must you have in order to keep working? For me, it’s the internet, since I work online.  All of my clients contact me via email and the work I do requires that I be able to send it to them and research things online. I live in the country, so driving to the library on a daily basis would cost more than my monthly internet fees. For another person, this necessity might be the cost of public transit or keeping their vehicle on the road so that they can get to work.  Choose the least expensive options to keep yourself working, but maintain your job-related necessities.

5.) Pay for anything else

After you’ve paid all of the above, if you have money left over, now is the time to pay your other expenses.  These expenses include debt that you’ve incurred, contracts you are involved in (like cell phone plans, etc.)  Choose very carefully how you dole out any remaining money.

  • Keep one phone going, with the lowest possible payment. This is necessary for work, for your children or their school to contact you in the event of an emergency, and as a contact point for your financial situation. Compare the cost of a cell phone, landline, or VOIP phone. Every family member does not require a phone – you just need one. (I actually did go for a couple of years with no phone at all, but I’m uniquely antisocial and had email by which I could be reached.)
  • If it’s at all possible, try to use the snowball method made famous by Dave Ramsey to pay off your debts and bail yourself out of your situation. Being free from debt will allow you to live a much freer life in the future.
  • If paying off debt is not possible, try to make the minimum payments.
  • If the minimum payments are not possible, you may have to default, at least temporarily, on debts.
  • Buy some pantry staples.  If you can add some extra rice or cans of tomatoes to the pantry, it will help see you through this tight situation.
  • Be relentless in deciding what will be paid and what will not. This is not the time for arguments like, “But it’s our only form of entertainment” or “We deserve this one luxury.”  Cut all non-essentials until things improve.
  • Focus on the most frugal options possible.

Things will get better

I’ve been down this road.  I really get it. It saddens me to see people I love in this situation now.

These books can help. I found them to be life-changing when I was broke, and the lessons have stuck with me throughout my adult life. You may be able to find them at your local library.

Finally, if you are in a situation in which you can’t pay your bills, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry about…

  • The embarrassment you feel when you can’t afford to meet someone for coffee
  • The sick feeling of seeing the bills pile up on the counter and not being able to do anything about it
  • The knot in your stomach every time the phone rings and it’s a 1-800 number that you KNOW is a bill collector
  • The stress of knowing you can’t remain in your home
  • The fear that someone will say you aren’t taking care of your kids and they’ll be taken away
  • The humiliation when people don’t understand and think it’s all your fault
  • The hopelessness of watching the bank account empty out the day your pay goes in, and still having a dozen things unpaid
  • The overwhelming discouragement of having fees assessed on top of debts you already can’t pay
  • The anxiety over what tomorrow will bring

It will get better. You’ll find a way to make it work. You just have to survive while you make it happen. Maybe you will pool your resources with another family, or get a raise, or find a cheaper place. But you will find a way.

Life may not be exactly as it was before, but it will be good again.

8 Steps to Surviving a Job Loss

A 2014 report on jobs showed some alarming statistics:  1 in 5 Americans have lost their jobs over the past five years and remained unemployed. The US economy is free-falling, and the middle class is taking the hit.

Unless you live in a neighborhood of rainbows and unicorns, it’s a good bet that this has happened to either your family or someone you know.  Sometimes the lay-off is expected, as you see your company’s profits dwindling. Other times, it is completely out of the blue when you get called into the managers office and handed your walking papers.

Either way, when the axe falls, you are reeling in shock. Well, tough love, here: Get ahold of yourself!  The first steps you take can help you to survive until you get a new source of income.

This article is not about how to prep for a personal financial collapse. Hopefully, you’ve already begun creating a food stockpile, socking away an emergency fund, and working towards self-reliance.

I recently wrote about the 3 steps for surviving any disaster, and job loss is no exception. You must ACCEPT that the event has occurred, you must make a PLAN, and you must ACT on that plan. Here are the steps to minimizing the damage to your personal finances when a sudden job loss occurs.

1.) Don’t sign anything right away.

As much loyalty as you may have had to your company, they clearly don’t feel the same sense of loyalty towards you. Many companies will try to get you to sign paperwork right away to “settle the details.”  Trust me when I say, these details will be skewed in their favor, and not yours.  You do NOT have to sign anything while sitting there, stunned at your sudden change in circumstances.  It’s vital that you take the time to read over everything carefully. Your severance package, your 401K, any accrued pension, and unemployment benefits will be at risk.  In some cases, you can negotiate this, even though you are not sitting in the power seat. Don’t commit to any type of agreement while you’re reeling, particularly if they try to coerce you into signing immediately. Regardless of what you may be told, any delay in your unemployment benefits or severance will be minimal.

2. Begin a total spending freeze for a couple of days.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when faced with a shocking job loss is to go on spending as though they still have an income. Perhaps they go and buy something to try and make themselves feel better. Maybe they just continue spending like they always did, with hundreds of dollars going out for kids’ activities, dinners out, and shopping trips.  Just stop.  You need a few days to re-assess your budget and see where you’re at.  You don’t want to regret the expenditures you make right after a job loss. Put yourself on a complete spending freeze for the next few days while you assess the change in your financial situation.

3.) Apply for unemployment benefits.

Unemployment is not welfare. It is something that you paid in to the entire time you were employed. Please don’t feel guilty about taking the money that is rightfully yours. Keep in mind that it can take up to two months for your benefits to start, and that money from your severance package can delay the onset of benefits.  Unemployment is only a portion of what you made when you were employed, so a revamp of the budget is a must.  Make your application immediately so that you know where you stand and when you can expect the money to start coming in.

4.) Create a budget for necessities.

It’s absolutely vital that you drop your expenditures to the bare minimum until you are able to get another stream of income.  You need to take a look at where your money goes and base your new budget on the necessities. Although having a vehicle in each stall of the garage and an iPhone in the hand of every family member is nice, these are not necessary to sustaining life.

  • Water
  • Food (and the ability to cook it)
  • Medicine and medical supplies
  • Basic hygiene supplies
  • Shelter (including sanitation, lights, heat)
  • Simple tools
  • Seeds
  • Defense Items

Absolutely everything above those basic necessities is a luxury.

So, by this definition, what luxuries do you have?

5.) Slash luxury spending.

Reduce your monthly payments by cutting frivolous expenses. Look at every single monthly payment that comes out of your bank account and slash relentlessly.  Consider cutting the following:

  • Cable
  • Cell phones
  • Home phones
  • Gym memberships
  • Restaurant meals
  • Unnecessary driving
  • Entertainment such as trips to the movies, the skating rink, or the mall

6.) Start looking for new streams of income.

You know those people who tell you that it’s easy to find a new job if you wouldn’t be such a snob? Ignore them. The job market of today is not the job market of a decade ago. Jobs are few and far between, and good jobs are as elusive as unicorns in Central Park.  You may need to look at creating your own streams of income, like:

7.) Sell stuff.

All that stuff you’ve been meaning to go through in the basement just might be the key to keeping a roof over your head.  It’s time to start an Ebay account, have a yard sale, or get on Craigslist and start selling things that have just been sitting there for a while.

Your trash might be another person’s treasure.  Instead of regifting those things in your attic, sell them so they can become someone else’s clutter.  You’d be surprised how much money you can make while decluttering your home.

8.) Look for the silver lining.

Although job loss can be terrifying, it can also be the start of something wonderful.

When I lost my job in the automotive industry, I was devastated. As a single mom, how was I going to continue taking care of my two girls with no income?  Instead of being a bad thing, it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. I was able to take the writing I’d been dabbling in for years from a hobby to a full-time job.  I made a conscious decision NOT to search for another job, but to follow my dream of being a writer and editor.  Maybe I succeeded because it was do-or-die time.  There was no option but to make it work. I began writing for other websites, started my own site, and began outlining books. As it turned out, that shocking, unceremonious discussion in the manager’s office was the best thing that ever happened to me.

As it turned out, that shocking, unceremonious discussion in the manager’s office was a turning point in my life. I’ve read many success stories that began the same way. Sometimes what seems like an ending can actually be a new beginning.

How to Prepare for a Cyber Attack

There is a lot of debate on whether Wednesday’s computer issues that shut down the New York Stock Exchange, the Wall Street Journal, and United Airlines were just a very strange coincidence (very strange) or a deliberate cyber attack.

This isn’t the first possible cyber attack on the United States this year. Heck, it’s not even the first one this summer. On June 5, Reuters reported a breach occurred that comprimised the personal information of millions of federal employees, both current and former. This breach was traced back to a “foreign entity or government.”

Regardless of the origin of the so-called computer”glitches” that shut down Wall Street and a major airline, the events of Wednesday gave us just a tiny glimpse at how serious a cyber attack could be.

What exactly is a cyber attack?

A cyber attack is more than just shutting down the computer systems of a specified entity. It is defined as “deliberate exploitation of computer systems, technology-dependent enterprises and networks. Cyberattacks use malicious code to alter computer code, logic or data, resulting in disruptive consequences that can compromise data and lead to cybercrimes, such as information and identity theft.”

Technopedia lists the following consequences of a cyber attack:

  • Identity theft, fraud, extortion
  • Malware, pharming, phishing, spamming, spoofing, spyware, Trojans and viruses
  • Stolen hardware, such as laptops or mobile devices
  • Denial-of-service and distributed denial-of-service attacks
  • Breach of access
  • Password sniffing
  • System infiltration
  • Website defacement
  • Private and public Web browser exploits
  • Instant messaging abuse
  • Intellectual property (IP) theft or unauthorized access

Cyber attacks happen far more frequently than you might think. Check out this real-time map for a look at the almost constant seige.

How does a cyber attack affect you?

You may think that if you don’t spend your day working online, that an attack on our computer infrastructure isn’t that big of a deal. You may feel like it wouldn’t affect you at all.

Unfortunately, there are very few people in the country that would remain completely unaffected in the event of a major cyber attack. Our economy, our utility grids, and our transportation systems are all heavily reliant upon computers. This makes us very vulnerable to such an attack.

And by vulnerable, I mean that if it was done on a big enough scale, it could essentially paralyze the entire country.

Here are some of the systems that are reliant on computers.

In the event of a widespread cyber attack, the following could be either completely inoperable or breached. Keep in mind that a domino effect could occur that effects systems beyond the original target.

  • Gas stations (most of the pumps are now digital and connect right to your bank)
  • Banks (all of the records are online) would not be able to process electronic transactions. ATM machines would not function to allow customers access to cash.
  • Utility systems (most power stations are run by computers)
  • Water treatment facilities (these are automated too)
  • Protection of personal information, including data about your finances, medical records, physical location, and academic records – everything a person would need to steal your identity
  • Government operations, including dangerous identifying information about federal employees or members of the military
  • Transportation systems (trains, subways, and planes are heavily reliant upon computers)
  • Traffic management systems like stoplights, crosswalks, etc.
  • Air traffic control
  • Everyday trade – most business have a computerized cash register that communicates directly with banks. Many business are also reliant on scanning bar codes for inventory control and pricing. Point-of-sale systems would be down and people would not be able to pay using credit or debit cards.
  • Telecommunications systems can be affected if cell towers are disabled or if the landline system were directly attacked. As more people rely on VOIP, taking down internet service would serve a dual purpose.
  • SMART systems could be shut down or manipulated. All of those gadgets that automate climate control, use of utilities, or appliances through SMART technology are vulnerable.

Here’s a video from NATO that explains a little bit more about the dangers of cyber attacks.

Prepping to survive a cyber attack

Prepping for a cyber attack is not that different from prepping for other types of disasters that affect the grid. You want to be able to operate independently of  public utilities, stores, or public transportation.

Click each item to learn more details.

  1. Have a supply of water stored in case municipal supplies are tainted or shut down
  2. Be prepared for an extended power outage.
  3. Have a food supply on hand, as well as a way to prepare your food without the grid.
  4. Keep cash in small denominations on hand in the event that credit cars, debit cards, and ATMs are inoperable.
  5. Keep vehicles above half way full of fuel, and store extra gasoline.
  6. Be prepared for off-grid sanitation needs.
  7. Invest in some communications devices like ham radio or one of these other options.
  8. Be ready to hunker down at home to avoid the chaos that could come in the aftermath of a massive cyber attack. Be prepared to defend your home if necessary.
  9. Remember that your prepper supplies and skills will see you through this disaster
    just like any other.
  10. Protect your identity with a service like LifeLock (which will alert you to suspicious activity once things return to normal). Use some of these tips to keep your information locked down.

What do you think?

So, let’s hear from the “hive mind” of the preparedness community. How likely do you think it is that we’ll be hit by a massive cyber attack? Was the event on Wednesday just a coincidence or some kind of test run? What other effects do you think a massive cyber attack might have? Do you have any additional preparedness tips for such an event? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Without an Emergency Fund You Are One Missed Paycheck From Disaster

What would it mean to you if you had an unexpected trip to the emergency room? If your car required an expensive repair? What if your income was interrupted for a week, or two weeks, or even longer? Do you have an emergency fund built into your budget to see you through these everyday calamities, or are you only one missed paycheck from disaster?

According to a recent survey released by Bankrate, 63% of Americans do not have the emergency savings to take care of a crisis that costs $1000 or more. How do people handle unexpected expenses? According to the survey:

  • 40% would use savings
  • 23% would reduce other spending to cover the expense
  • 15% would use credit cards
  • 15% would borrow from friends or family

Many said they had no idea how they would cover an unexpected expense of this magnitude.

So what about you? Do you have an emergency fund? It’s really just one more prep that you should put aside for a rainy day.

An emergency fund is a vital prep

When your finances are tight, sometimes your first impulse is to spend every dime.  Many people focus on things like paying off debts, stocking up on food and supplies, or paying more than the minimum payments on bills.

However, that may not be your best bet.  Don’t get me wrong – paying off debt is absolutely vital,  but most experts recommend establishing an emergency fund as the first step back to financial security. There are several reasons why this should be a priority for you:

  • What if you suddenly lost your job and it was 6-8 weeks before unemployment payments began to trickle in?
  • What if your child suffered a medical emergency and you needed to purchase an expensive medication?
  • What if your refrigerator began making a death rattle and you needed to buy a new one immediately in order to save your expensive frozen food stockpile?
  • What if your car, that you needed to get back and forth to work, required a costly repair?

The reasons you might need to tap into an emergency fund are as varied as the news headlines – there are many different disasters that can arise, and nearly every single one of them will require that you have some additional funds available.  You simply cannot call yourself “prepared” if you don’t have currency on hand to see you through the rough spots.

It’s important NOT to rely on credit cards, overdraft, and lines of credit for these unexpected events – these things will cost you far more in interest in the long run. Credit cards are NOT an emergency fund. An emergency fund is currency that you have on hand that will not cost your interest. Don’t make your personal disaster worse than it already is by paying compounded interest on it for the next two years.

How much should be in your emergency fund?

This is one of those numbers that will vary with different families. Most experts recommend a starting point of 1-3 months of expenses. And by expenses, I mean everything from house payments to car payments to projected utilities to food costs.

Don’t underestimate how much it takes to run your household every month – be sure to account for all of the regular expenses you might need to cover during an emergency situation.

In addition to an emergency fund in cash, other prepper items can help see you through a rough spot. Your general supply stockpile and your food pantry mean you have to spend less money on day to day items when times are tough.

When budgets are tight, how can you bankroll your emergency fund?

If you don’t have some rainy day money set aside, it is of the utmost importance that you fund this right away It’s time to change your financial lifestyle.   This isn’t really fun, but the economy is continuing to freefall (despite the blithe reports from the White House and mainstream media). Hardcore frugality is the answer. If you don’t have enough money set aside to weather a crisis, then you need to cut your spending to the bone until you do.

  • Most of us have some places that we can cut the budget. To put it into perspective, a fancy frozen coffee concoction from Starbucks is about $6.  Today,  the price of silver is just under $20 per ounce.   Three and a half days without Starbucks =1 ounce of silver.  Exercise some “tough love” and strip your budget down to the bare bones until you have a months worth of expenses put aside.
  • Sell something.  Do you have a basement full of unused relics? Exercise equipment, old furniture, unused appliances -all of these things taking up valuable storage real estate can help you to establish your emergency fund.  Hang on to things like gold and silver jewelry, though – it will increase in value.
  • Get a second job. You don’t have to plan to work two jobs indefinitely, but spending one day a week babysitting or taking on a different part time job can help you get your savings into the comfort zone.
  • Make only your minimum payments.  I realize this is not the standard financial recommendation, but until you have a one-month rainy day fund set aside, you should forgo making the extra payments even on interest-bearing accounts.
  • Eat cheap for a few months.  If you can manage one cheapo meal a day, this can result in massive savings. Look into different meals that are less than a dollar per serving – generally these will be vegetarian offerings like beans and rice, a bowl of cereal, or eggs and toast. Soup is also a great budget-stretcher.  Cheap doesn’t have to mean unhealthy – we never eat things like Ramen noodles in our family but we manage to have frequent low-budget meals that are tasty and filling. For the love of Pete, don’t eat out – the cost per serving is 5-10 times the cost of making the same dish at home.
  • Get rid of some fixed expenses. If you can get rid of some of your monthly fixed expenses, you can build your emergency fund very quickly. Cancel gym memberships, extracurricular activities, phones, satellite, cable and internet.  Funnel all of that money towards your emergency fund. Once the fund is built, you may discover you didn’t really need those services as much as you thought you did.

What constitutes an “emergency” worthy of dipping into the fund?

Once you have your emergency fund established, you might wonder, “What can I spend this on?”

Ideally, nothing. The goal is never to spend this money.  This little safe full of money squirreled away is there for situations that cannot be addressed with your regular income.

Here are some things that are NOT emergencies:

  • Trips to the mall
  • Concert tickets
  • Vacations
  • Your 346th pair of shoes
  • A celebratory dinner at a nice restaurant
  • Cell phone bill

As yourself a few questions. Will it cost me more money if I do this later rather than sooner?  Is the expenditure related to a safety issue?  Is the expenditure related to a health issue? When will you have the money to pay for this out of your regular income?

  • Refrigerator
  • Car Repair
  • Medication/Medical Bill
  • Washing Machine (not in all situations, but if you have a baby in cloth diapers it’s pretty vital!)
  • Utilities that will result in reinstatement charges

Only you can judge whether or not an event constitutes an emergency.  If you must use money from your emergency fund, make it a priority to replace that withdrawal as quickly as possible.

Make this the year you get your finances under control

If you don’t have an emergency fund, take your preparedness to the next level.   Get financially prepped for those unexpected “rainy day” moments. Then, make a concentrated effort to reduce (or completely get rid of) debt. If a financial disaster were to strike, the less debt you have, the fewer payments you would have to make until you got back on your feet.  Other preps will go a long way toward helping you through a financial emergency, too. Never underestimate the value of a fully loaded pantry.

For those of you with a little bit of money squirreled away,  have you ever experienced an event that made you relieved that you had an emergency fund?  Your comments can be very inspiring to those who are new to preparedness.

How to Survive a Terrorist Attack

When horrible events happen, people want to know why. Why was a random group of people targeted to have their innocent day destroyed by violence and terror? Why did the culprit choose that group of victims, that day on the calendar, that specific location? And who? Who was the mastermind behind the event? Who were the members of the group that perpetrated the horror?

This is always followed by the speculation that things are not as they have been presented to us.  Most people in the preparedness world have a very valid mistrust of the corporate-sponsored mainstream media. We look to other sources for our news, and rightly so.

Every time, that speculation includes accusations that our own government is behind it, pulling the strings. Other frequent theories are that the events never actually happened at all and that the victims are 100% made up of crisis actors.

The pursuit of the truth is an important quest. Some journalists have dedicated their entire lives to uncovering the Machiavellian plots of those who pull the strings and it’s a noble and meaningful calling.

And that is why what I’m about to say is controversial and probably won’t be well-received.

Strictly from a survival point of view, it doesn’t matter at all who committed the acts of terror that occurred on 9/11, on the streets of Boston, or on the other evening in Paris. It doesn’t matter whether the shooting at Sandy Hook was perpetrated by a kid with behavioral issues or by operatives with an agenda.

If your focus is preparedness and survival, the most important thing you can be doing right now is learning from these events.

Whether you believe what happened in Paris was at the hands of Muslim extremists waging a jihad or a state-sponsored act of terror to clamp down and take away more freedom, the single most important thing you can take away from this is a lesson in survival.

This article is not a debate about the different conspiracy theories. If you are present during a terror attack, my opinions on the culprit don’t matter and neither do yours. All that matters in those minutes or hours is surviving.

Survival is the focus

Massive disasters happen when people are going about their daily business. People go to concerts, fly to visit relatives, take vacations, run marathons, walk to work, take public transit, and shop at the mall. No matter who you are and where you live, if you aren’t an agoraphobic hermit, there are going to be times when you are part of a target-rich environment.

And if you find yourself in the midst of an attack, the motivation of the people attacking doesn’t matter at all. You are in just as much danger whether the perpetrator is a member of ISIS or a member of a secret government agency. A bomb is a bomb, an AK-47 is an AK-47, and a machete will lop off your head, regardless of the motivation of the person wielding it.

So stop with the accusations and focus on what is really important – your survival.

Think about what you would do in an event like the ones that have taken so many lives and harmed so many people. Thinking through events before they occur is what allows us to act quickly when they do happen. Believing in the possibility of bad things helps you to accept it and move to save yourself and your family, while others stand there in shock, making targets of themselves. It’s time to consider what you would do to survive a terrorist attack.

What would you do if you were swept up in a terror event?

The world has always been populated with those who seek power, attention, and control. Acts of terror are nearly always about one or all of those things. The perpetrators are predators, and the victims are the prey. If you are a target of the first wave of the attack, there may not be a lot you can do about it. If you’re hit in the back with gunfire, if you happen to be on a plane that is hijacked and crashes into a building, if you are going about your business and your location blows up, there isn’t a lot you can do.

But if you are fortunate enough not to be a victim of the first wave, then you can survive. And often, before the first wave occurs, there are minute details that can tell you something is wrong. One of my favorite movies is The Bourne Identity. If you haven’t seen it, despite Jason Bourne’s amnesia, he possesses skills that are ingrained into his psyche. As a former operative, he was trained to be highly observant and to make rapid assessments of what he has observed.

While most of us haven’t been trained as operatives, we can still maintain a high level of situational awareness merely by being observant. One way to develop your skills is to play something called Kim’s Game.  My friend Scott, at Graywolf Survival, used to use the game to train his soldiers in situational awareness. He wrote:

Situational awareness is key to understanding your environment so you can know better both your circumstances and your options. There are myriad examples that could be given but would you notice the bulge (called printing) of someone’s ankle from a concealed weapon if you were asked to follow him to barter for goods? Would you remember enough details of the turn of a path you passed two hours ago to be able to find it again? If you were attacked, would you be able to give a good enough description of the subject and getaway vehicle to have him identified?

Kim’s Game comes from a novel by Rudyard Kipling and is something you can play with your family, any where, any time. Go HERE to learn more about how to play it.

A higher level of situational awareness can help you in many ways, should you be unfortunate enough to be present during an active of terror.

It can help by:

  • Allowing you to identify a threat before it becomes active
  • Allowing you to locate exits and routes to the exits
  • Allowing you to determine sources of cover

If you can identify a potential threat before it exists, you can sometimes prevent an attack or at the very least, you can protect yourself and your family more effectively. A book by Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley describes this as being on the “left of bang”. The left of bang is a term used to describe the moments before something bad happens, when you have an inkling that something is wrong, but you just can’t put your finger on what it is.

The book, Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life, discusses how establishing a baseline can help you to identify a threat. (I can’t recommend this book strongly enough.)

A baseline is a “normal” for your immediate environment. Once you have a baseline for behavior in a specific environment, then it’s easier to spot anomalies. According to Left of Bang, it’s the anomalies that should put you on high alert. “Anomalies are things that either do not happen and should, or that do happen and shouldn’t.”  Watch this video with Patrick Van Horne to learn more about positioning yourself to realize something is wrong before a disaster actually strikes.

Acceptance is the first step to surviving an attack

If you don’t realize ahead of time that something horrible is going down, that doesn’t mean that you won’t survive. It’s the actions you take immediately upon the realization that have the potential to save your life. And the first step to that is accepting that a terrible thing truly is happening. In an article called How to Survive Anything in Three Easy Steps, I wrote:

No matter what situation comes your way, the first step is to accept that whatever the event is, it really happened.  This is tougher than it sounds, because our minds are programmed to protect us from emotional trauma.  Cognitive dissonance means that when a reality is uncomfortable or doesn’t jive with a person’s beliefs, that person may opt to believe in something false just to assuage his desire for comfort. Psychologist Leon Festinger, who identified the principal of cognitive dissonance, suggested  “that a motivational state of inner tension is triggered by logically inconsistent ways of thinking.”

If you’re wondering exactly how powerful cognitive dissonance can be, check out Amanda Ripley’s book, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why.  Ripley, a journalist, covered many disasters of immense scale: plane crashes, natural disasters, and 9/11.  She became curious about the difference between those who survived, and those who did not, wondering if it was dumb luck or if there was some other quality that made survival more likely. She interviewed hundreds of survivors and got her answer.  The ability to immediately accept what was occurring was the quality most of the survivors possessed.

The story that stands out in my mind the most was the one about the people in the World Trade Center on September 11. They described the last time they saw some of their coworkers.  There were many people who simply could not accept the fact that a plane had crashed into the building and that they must immediately evacuate. They gathered their belongs, tidied their desks, finished reports. They didn’t feel the same sense of urgency that those who survived did, because the situation was so horrible that they just couldn’t accept it. Their inability to accept the scope of the danger caused many of them to perish in a tragic incident that other people, who acted immediately, survived.

When disaster strikes, you can’t spend 5 minutes thinking, “This can’t actually be happening.”  It is happening, and moving past accepting that propels you through the first step into the second one.

The people who freeze in a mass shooting have done nothing but make themselves easier targets. Freezing is an innate reaction for some people, but you can train your way through that. Training in self-defense, first aid, and disaster preparedness can help to offset the brain’s neurobiological response that leaves some people paralyzed with fear.

Pat Henry of The Prepper Journal recommends action plan simulations to help you become more prepared for a sudden crisis. He wrote:

When you are out in public, try going for an hour without looking at your phone to start with. Instead, observe your surroundings. Who is near you and who is walking toward you? Does anything seem suspicious? If something were to happen, what would you do and where would you go. Do you know the quickest way to get out if needed? Can you access your concealed weapon if you need to? Imagine what you would do if you were out at a mall with your family and someone started shooting. Where would you take cover? What would be your escape route? What if that was blocked?

When you have a preparedness mindset, you’re a step ahead of those who never even considered the idea that something bad could happen.

Three Courses of Action

We can’t always predict when an attack is about to happen. There might be no indications in your immediate surroundings to alert yourself to the fact that something is going down. You may be blithely unaware until the moment that a bomb goes off or a gun gets fired.

If you find yourself suddenly in the midst of an act of terrorism, your actions should be one of the following:

1) Escape. Get as far away from the threat as possible. This is where your early observant behavior comes in handy, because you’ll already know the escape routes. If you are in charge of vulnerable individuals like children, your first choice of actions should be to get them to safety if at all possible.

2) Take cover. If you can’t get away, get behind something solid and wait for your opportunity to either escape or fight back. This is something else you may have observed when doing your earlier reconnaissance.

3) Take out the threat. If you are armed (and I really hope you are) and/or trained, use your abilities to help remove the threat.

The most important thing to consider here is not necessarily which action you will take. It’s that you will take an action, not just stand there in shock. You can be a victim or you can be a warrior.

In Paris, unarmed hostages were at the mercy of their captors. One hundred people were kept in line by just a few men with guns. Keep in mind that fighting back doesn’t always mean a fancy Krav Maga move that takes down two armed men with one trick maneuver. There are many ways to fight back, and not all of them require physical prowess. Don’t let fear incapacitate you. Your brain is a weapon too.

Are you going to wait for someone to save you or are you going to save yourself? Don’t be a kamikaze, but look for your opportunity. There comes a point in some of these situations in which survival is unlikely. Don’t go down without a fight. These two videos from Mike Adams offer practical tips for fighting back.

You have to train

As a wise friend pointed out, while a plan is important, you have to train to be able to carry out your plan. If you don’t have the fitness level or skills, you won’t be able to accomplish what you’re planning to do.

  • Are you working out?
  • Are you fit?
  • Do you practice your self-defense skills?
  • Are you spending time at the range?
  • Are you comfortable with your firearm in a variety of settings and applications?

If the answers to these questions are not “yes,” all of the planning in the world will be of little avail.

The Goal of Terrorism

The goal of terrorism is to spread panic, fear, and instability. By arguing amongst ourselves, we concede the victory to the terrorists.

After the fact, when we point fingers, belittle the victims, make broad generalizations, and deny the event occurred, we aren’t winning. We’re falling neatly into the plan of the terrorists.

The most important thing you can take away from a horrible event like the one in Paris is knowledge. Don’t lose your compassion, don’t become arrogant in your opinions, and don’t make sweeping generalizations. When you do those things, you become willfully blind to the nuances of your surroundings. Your situational awareness becomes shaded by your biases, which can cloud your observations.

Of course it’s important to learn the truth, but don’t lose sight of the fact that if you are IN a terror situation, all that matters at that moment is survival.

It’s time that we stopped getting distracted. While we argue with each other over which news station is full of hot air (I think we all know the answer to that) or which government funded an attack or if the attack even actually happened, our enemies are busy, too. They aren’t arguing about things like news coverage. They are enjoying watching us chase conspiracies and fight with each other. When we become increasingly divided, we become easier targets.

Have you considered what to do in the event of an attack? Do you have some special skills amd training that will help? Please share your advice in the comments below.

Remember this, my friends:

Right now, someone, somewhere, is making plans to kill you. Does it really matter who when the bullets start flying or devices begin exploding?  Are you arguing over theories, or are you making plans to survive a terrorist attack?

Create a Collapse Supply List Based on the Things They Are Out of in Venezuela

Sometimes a cautionary tale is more motivating than any amount of positive reinforcement every could be, and the horrifying reports from Venezuela are a perfect example. If you’re paying attention to the things they’ve run out of, you can put together a collapse supply list to see you through the crisis in the event of a breakdown in our own country. The time to prepare is now, well before the situation devolves to one that is similar.

Every day, there is more dire news out of Venezuela.  It’s so bad there that even the mainstream news can no longer ignore that the country is in the midst of an economic collapse. Thousands have turned to looting in order to feed their families. Even their soldiers have been stealing food. Long lines, empty stores, and hospitals without electricity are the norm instead of an unusual occurrence.

It wasn’t always like that. Life before Venezuela devolved into socialism looked a whole lot like our lives do today. In fact, as recently as the 1970s, Venezuela was one of the top 20 richest countries in the world.

So, today, our financial situation certainly looks far brighter than that of Venezuela, but according to a lot of experts, that is a glossy veneer over a crumbling foundation.  Obama calls it “peddling fiction” but the outlook here is not good. Financial statistics are massaged and many of them hidden to keep us in the dark. Jobs are nearly impossible to find, and heaven help you if you lose one.  The price of living is going up, but financial solvency is going down as personal debt outstrips the ability to pay it. Pension funds that people rely on are going bankrupt, one after another.

It really isn’t a question of if, but when.

Economic collapse starts out as “going through hard times.” It isn’t mobs on the streets or regression to Third World status initially. Before it ever gets to that, you have time to prepare. So let’s get started.

Pay Attention to What They’re Out of in Venezuela

The best way to make your supply list is to figure out what they’ve run out of in Venezuela.  Below, you can find a list of the things they do not have, along with suggestions for stocking up or educating yourself.

If we never have a problem in the United States, you can rest assured that none of these supplies are crazy things you’ll never use. Most are the most basic of necessities and you’ll find it’s very convenient to be able to “shop in your pantry” whenever you need something. As well, learning to be more self-reliant is a great way to save money, live simpler, and often be healthier than those who depend on the store to meet all their needs.

Food

The first thing we saw as Venezuela began going down was that the government cracked down on the ability to stock up on food.  They instituted a fingerprint registry for buying food, made prepping illegal, and began to dole out supplies. The government took over most of the stores, then forced farmers to hand over the majority of their crops at the price the government chose to pay. These crops were then marked up extravagantly and sold to people who suddenly found they could no longer afford to eat. Eventually, the government announced that the country was out of food and that if people wanted to eat, they’d better grow their own.

Supplies mentioned in articles that people have stolen and waited all day in line for are milk, bread, chicken, rice, and flour.

Here’s a list of food and related supplies you should stock up on.

  • Long-term emergency food buckets: I never used to stockpile these because most of them have horrible ingredients. However, Preppers Market products are non-GMO, have few additives, and even have gluten free buckets. They’re packed in square containers for easy stacking at the back of your closet, and each container is a month of food for one person. You can build up quite a stockpile this way that doesn’t take up a lot of space. As well, it’s packaged to last for up to 30 years, so you can get it and forget it. (ORDER HERE)
  • Build a pantry: Purchase things on sale to build your first line of defense against food instability. The pantry you build today can help you weather difficult times in the future. Stock up on shelf-stable versions of the things you generally consume in your family. You want to create at least a couple of months’ supply where you can supplement what you get at the store with what you have in your kitchen cupboards. Check out my book The Pantry Primer: A Prepper’s Guide to Whole Food on a  Half Price Budget for details on building your short-term supply. Be sure to focus on pantry staples (here’s a list) so that you can combine ingredients for delicious, from scratch meals.
  • Gardening Supplies: Once everyone wants them, the price will skyrocket. Stock up now on seeds, tools, compost bins, soil amendments, and testing kits.These books can help for those who want to start a small-scale homestead:

Also, check out this article: The Self-Reliance Manifesto: More Than 300 Resources to Guide You on the Path to Radical Freedom

  • Ways to Garden in an Apartment: I frequently suggest that people take more steps toward self-reliance and there are always folks who say, “That’s fine for you – you live in the country. I can’t grow food in an apartment.”  Well, you’d better figure out how to grow food in an apartment, because I can tell you quite clearly, President Maduro’s suggestion that people grow food didn’t have the caveat of “if it’s convenient and you live in the country.”  I understand that you can’t raise all of your food in a tiny apartment with a postage stamp balcony. But you can raise something. Lettuce for salads, sprouts that can be used in many different ways, or if you’re really industrious you could try aquaponics and/or rabbits. Everything you do produce can help to supplement the meager rations you may be forced to live on. These books and supplies can help:
  • Milk: One of the first things people run out of is milk. If your family regularly drinks milk, or if you add it to your coffee, the lack of it is something that will be immediately evident and make them feel deprived in an already unsettling situation. You can freeze milk when it’s on sale, and you should also stock up on shelf-stable dry milk. That’s the best way to have it on hand for the long haul. (Order Hormone-free dry milk HERE)

Hygiene Items

It’s important to be able to remain clean if you want to stay healthy. Following are some of the supplies that have been in shortage in Venezuela for months now.

  • Soap
  • Laundry detergent
  • Toilet paper
  • Diapers
  • Feminine hygiene supplies

For some of these items, you can learn to make them yourself. For others, you can make or purchase reusable versions.

Public Utilities

The country is rationing electricity and has been for quite some time. Currently, there are mandatory rolling blackouts. This is affecting everyday life, in that food can’t be kept in freezers, they are dealing with the hot humid weather without air conditioning, and they must use alternative lighting.

Stock up now on ways to deal with those concerns. These articles, books, and supplies can help you make your plan.

Medicine and Medical Care

Your heart will break into a million pieces, but this article from the front page of the NY Times (hat tip to Mary) tells you the real nitty gritty of the situation in Venezuela. A hospital is just as likely to kill you as make you better now, due to terrible sanitation and a lack of supplies.

They’re out of antibiotics, cancer medicine, and equipment. They can’t do dialysis or other life-saving treatments. They have no running water so they’re doing operations on a table still covered with blood from the last patient. The rolling blackouts mean that every single days, babies and other patients dependent on respirators are dying. Doctors are making lists of supplies for the families of patients to go out and attempt to procure from the black market.

It is essential that you keep some supplies on hand and that you begin learning all you can about survival medicine.

The best book for that is Cat Ellis’s book, Prepper’s Natural Medicine. It isn’t dependent on expensive, difficult-to-find supplies, but on things you can find in your area. This book is something you absolutely must add to your stockpile. If you can treat most ailments at home and stay away from hospitals, you’re far more likely to survive in a scenario like the one described above. A trip to the hospital in that situation is probably more likely to result in your death than avoiding it altogether.

  • Stock up on over the counter medications for pain relief, allergies, colds, diarrhea, and inflammation.
  • Some people purchase veterinary antibiotics
  • Create a kit of wound treatment supplies to help prevent infection. (This fantastic article can help you decide what you need.)
  • I’m a huge fan of Vetricyn. We spray it on human wounds as well as animal ones.
  • Besides Cat’s book of natural medicine, look into adding other guides to your stash. I like the field manuals from the US military, which are available on Amazon.

Now is the time.

Be watching for a comprehensive 3-month program that is coming soon to help you get prepared with one-on-one help from some of the most popular preparedness authors around. More details are coming soon.

If you wait until a crisis is already occurring, you’ve waited too long, which is exactly what the people of Venezuela are learning. By preparing ahead of time and filling your collapse supply list, while you may still experience difficult times, your struggle will not be as extreme as the ones we’re seeing.

Searching for the Perfect Prepper’s Retreat

Do you ever feel like this is it? Did some world event (or a series of them) make you feel like time is running out for getting your preps in order? Have you decided that now is the time to pull up stakes and begin searching for the perfect prepper’s retreat?

Recently I’ve felt a renewed sense of urgency that has prompted me to make some big changes in order to get more prepared.  So many world events lately have pointed toward a looming crisis, and the truly scary thing is, the crisis could be one of many scenarios. Lately it seems that every single month, we are on the sidelines of a dramatic event.

  • The horror of the recent terror attacks happening in places like Paris, Brussels, and right here in San Bernardino
  • The collapses of places like Greece and Venezuela
  • The onslaught of refugees who seem intent on changing the very fabric of Europe through sheer numbers, a refusal to conform, and undermining the safety of European women
  • The slim pickings for the presidential election (do you want a psychopath, a narcissist, or someone suffering from delusions to lead the country?)
  • The looming nuclear threats from that chubby little lunatic running North Korea, not to mention hostile feelings from at least half a dozen other countries
  • The race war going on in our own back yard, egged on by those with an agenda of divisiveness

Combine all of these things and if you aren’t just a little bit uneasy, then you should probably stop reading right now and tune in to the latest episode following the antics of that crazy Kardashian family. Go on, who knows what they’ll do next?

Are you ready for our world to change dramatically?

Any of the things mentioned above could suddenly change our lives in the blink of an eye, and if you aren’t ready, you darn well better get your bootie in gear. Have you given any serious thought to how well your home would work for you in a long-term scenario?  Is it a place where you could dig in for the long haul? Could you raise food, defend it, stay warm in it, cook in it, and survive in it if the grid went down? If not, maybe you need to make some changes.

For some of us, getting down to business means improving the situation at our own homes, and for others it means seeking our version of the perfect prepper’s retreat. As I’ve written about before, planning to have a prepper’s homestead after disaster strikes is doomed to failure. It takes time to learn to raise your own food, and many people overestimate their abilities in this regard. It’s imperative to deal with the learning curve now, when the grocery store is accessible 24 hours a day.

After some eye-opening major issues with the house we moved to last summer, my family and I decided we couldn’t trust that location for the long haul. The week without a working septic system was enough to provide a reality check.  The house was simply too run down, too close to a main thoroughfare, and too dry, despite the coveted well and the most wonderful barn that I’ve ever laid eyes on. Never have I been so happy to be a renter who could pick up and leave an undesirable situation.  There were some red flags earlier, but the septic disaster was the last straw. Had it occurred post-disaster, we would have had no alternative but to leave our home and all of our careful preparations. Moving now was a pain, especially with preps and livestock, but moving later after working to build a homestead would have been even worse.

So, we did an intensive search to find a place that would serve as a retreat, but one that we will live in now. We moved deep into the mountains, down a road that is really more like a trail, to our long-term retreat.

What makes the perfect prepper’s retreat?

Everyone has a different idea in mind for their perfect retreat.  Some folks like balmy weather, while others prefer a cold, forbidding winter. Some people feel better in wide open spaces, while others feel safer nestled in the trees.

Regardless of your personal preferences, there are several characteristics that are imperative if you’re looking for property – the lack of any of these things could doom you to failure in a long-term scenario:

  • Water

There is nothing more important than water.  Water is the difference between life and death, so start your search by looking for places with more than one source of water.  Look for a place with a well, a body of water, and/or a spring. Don’t count on something “nearby.”  What if you have to carry water on foot from that location? The supply you’ll need each day will get pretty darned heavy, and it’ll be even more work hauling enough to water a garden and care for livestock.

Another concern with “nearby” water is that the people who own the water rights just might not let you cross their property to fill up your vessels. Think about it: would you let people possibly befoul the most precious resource around?

Water is everything in a survival situation.

In the event of a long-term down-grid situation, municipal water will most likely stop flowing from the taps. Even if it does continue to flow, the water will not be treated and may not be safe to drink. Even more alarming is the threat that someone could easily taint a municipal water supply as an act of terror. Think about the accidental chemical spills that have occurred just over the past couple of years here in the US. Now, imagine that someone up to no good got access to our water supply.

Most of America is dependent on municipal water – you truly want your own sources and a way to purify the water to make it safe for drinking.

  • Location

Is your location one of safety?  Some things to look for are defensibility, distance from large population centers, privacy, and difficulty of accessibility.

Defensibility: Can you protect the perimeter of the property? Can you see someone before they get the chance to sneak up on you? Is your property well fenced? Is your driveway gated? Is your community one that will band together to protect one another?

Distance:  Everyone knows that being as far away as possible from major thoroughfares and big cities is ideal.  However, not everyone can move out to the boondocks right now. Many of us have jobs, families, schools, and responsibilities that keep us near population centers.

Of course, it’s ideal to be about a tank of gas away from the major cities. That will mean that if the fuel pumps are no longer working, anyone headed your way will most likely arrive on foot. In this age of obesity and poor fitness, that rules out a whole lot of folks who might want to eat your food.  Most fuel tanks hold enough to get the passengers between 250-400 miles, assuming the driver starts out with a completely full tank.

If you do live near the city, try to find a place that keeps some distance between you and the major thoroughfares. If you happen to be right by the highway, where do you think people will go when their car runs out of gas? That’s right – they’ll head for the nearest home for help. You don’t want strangers showing up at your door.

Difficulty: If that type of distance is unattainable, another bonus is natural obstacles. If you are up a tall mountain, folks are less likely to hike up your way unless there is some kind of specific draw, like a large body of water.

On that note, while living on the banks of a river or lake might seem ideal, your home will be the target of every person from a nearby city who has ever visited your area.  This means that creeks, streams, ponds, and natural springs are more desirable features. Avoid the tourist spots that draw the crowds. Those same crowds may remember your home as the Promised Land in the aftermath of a disaster.

  • Other Resources

There are other resources to look for when searching for your ideal location. You will want a way to provide food, a way to cook food, and a way to maintain a livable temperature. The following can help:

    • Fertile land
    • Space for raising animals
    • An area for hunting (only count on this if your location is fairly remote and you already hunt regularly. “Living off the land” is a prepper myth that will get you killed.)
    • A strong local economy made of people who produce instead of people who consume
    • Wood for fuel
    • Sun for solar power
    • Moderate temperatures in the absence of wood for fuel
    • A long growing season
    • A local government that supports self-sufficient endeavors, instead of one that charges fees and taxes for every single project
    • A place that isn’t upwind from military targets in case of a nuclear attack
    • An area not prone to natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, or tsunamis

Home Sweet Home

When searching for a home there are different schools of thought. If you have building skills and the wherewithal to purchase necessary supplies, you can purchase a home that requires some tweaking to be perfect. If you’re really talented, you can even build your home yourself and end up with a prepper dream home.

However, this isn’t realistic for some of us. Personally, my budget is limited and I’m a single mom with iffy building skills. Therefore, I looked for a home that checked most of the boxes already.

If the power was out (as it often is in the aftermath of a variety of disasters) would the home you want or already live in be functional without the grid? This should be a top priority when seeking a retreat property.

The things that I looked for were:

  • The ability to use passive solar for heating
  • A secondary, off-grid heat source (woodstove or fireplace)
  • The ability to cook in the absence of electricity (If your stove is propane, you will be able to use it for quite some time if you reserve your propane for that purpose only)
  • Windows placed in a way that allow breezes to help cool the house
  • Tree cover in summer that is absent in the winter to adjust the home’s temperature naturally
  • A well with an off-grid back-up like a manual or solar-powered pump
  • A septic system so you can use the toilet indoors (We have a family of girls – while this isn’t an absolute necessity, it’s certainly a perk)
  • Shelter for livestock
  • Ample storage space for preps (I now have an entire room in which to store these food buckets.)

The home we found is nearly perfect, although unfortunately there was no barn for housing our livestock.  In the grand scheme of stuff to add, that is fairly minimal, so we’re in the process of adding shelters.

The importance of the right neighbors

Very little is more important than the neighborhood you find yourself in.  It’s best if you have a longstanding relationship with your neighbors, of course, but you can get to know people in your vicinity fairly quickly if you put in a bit of effort.

Obviously, you want to be incredibly careful not to disclose too much information about your preps. (Never forget OPSEC!) I like to bond by finding people who also enjoy firearms, for example.  In the community where we relocated, you can often hear a few dozen rounds being fired as people send some lead down range.  Finding other vegetable gardeners is another good way to meet folks who might be like-minded.

When house-hunting during an election year, pay attention to the political signs in the yards. You want to be surrounded by people who think like you do, and if you find that most of the signs support a political view that is diametrically opposite yours, you may not be very happy there.

I chose a house at the very end of a country road. There is only one way to drive into the neighborhood, which means the road could easily be blocked off in the event of a long-term disaster. In fact, I discovered that the neighbors have discussed doing just that, which points to the fact that they will be cognizant of safety in an emergency.

Not everyone is in a position to relocate to a retreat

Not everyone can undertake a major relocation. There are times during which we have to live in circumstances that are less than ideal from a prepper’s perspective. Never let anyone tell you that you’re doomed if you can’t move to 20 acres in the country. We all have to live within our means and within the confines of our personal situations:

While your current situation may be less than ideal, you have to remember that very few locations are actually perfect for prepping. Nearly anywhere you live will be subject to some type of extreme weather, be it crippling cold, blazing heat, drought, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Chemical spills can taint water supplies anywhere. Riots and civil unrest can occur outside of the big city.

The point is, to borrow an old saying, you just have to bloom where you’re planted.

There are many things you can do to create a viable preparedness plan wherever you happen to live.  Apartment dwellers at the top of a city high rise, folks in the middle of the desert, those in a beachfront condo, and people in HOA-ruled suburban lots all have to examine their situations, figure out their pros and cons, and work towards resolving what they can.  With some pre-planning, there is a lot you can overcome if you have the right mindset.  I suspect there are just as many (and probably far more) preppers living in the ‘burbs than there are living in perfect rural locations, with a lake, 10 acres of cultivated farmland, and an off-grid house.

Stop waiting until you move to the perfect location. Make preparations for the situation you have, not the situation you want.

Is it time for you to search for the perfect prepper’s retreat for your family?

Sometimes, though, you just feel compelled to take the plunge. When you do, be sure to go about your search in an organized fashion. Figure out what your priorities are, have a clear picture of your budget, and find the retreat that fits your carefully chosen criteria.

Remember, it’s far easier to already be at a bug-out location than to go on a journey to get there after it all hits the fan. If you have to bug-out there are many things that can go wrong, such as an issue with your transportation, the inability to get enough gas to get there, impassable roads, and the horrifying reality that someone else may have already taken over your location.

Strategically Relocating? Here’s How to Move All That Prepper Stuff

In the prepper world, everyone always talks about “strategic relocation” but it’s rare to hear about the actual act of moving the enormous amount of stuff that we accumulate.

We’re preparing for what I hope is my final move ever. We have a nice little farm awaiting us, with a deep well, a greenhouse, and a barn: everything we need for self-reliance heaven.

But holy cow, we have a lot of stuff.

Nothing makes you come face-to-face with the extent of your stockpile like moving it from one place to another, trying to find space for it in a new home, and trying to move it with OPSEC (operational security) in mind.  Most of my prepper friends who have moved to a better location have shared my opinion: the sheer amount of “stuff” that we have makes a move quite an undertaking. When you’re setting up your little homestead, the first step is to get there, with all of your belongings intact.

Long distance moves have many logistical challenges, but local moves are also nothing to sneeze at when you have a stockpile to move.

Because my family has moved numerous times (including one move that included an international border crossing and a drive across the continent), I’ve put down some tips to make it a little easier. Note that I said “a little” easier. Moving is never actually easy, as anyone who has ever done so can tell you with technicolor details of what went wrong.

A word about OPSEC

A very important issue is OPSEC – (operational security).  Preppers are private people, and moving opens us up to others seeing our supplies. Whether you have hired movers or you have friends and family helping you, suddenly, someone outside your immediate family knows how much stuff you have. When people are unloading your truck, you want to take care that your possessions don’t scream PREPPER.  Otherwise, you’ll hear that phrase we all love so much, “I know where I’m coming if I ever run out of food.”

One option is to box up your supplies like long-term food storage or weapons in boxes labeled with different names – even something vague like “basement”.  I know that all of the moving specialists tell you to be specific about what you write on the outsides of the boxes, but you really don’t want people commenting on the 90 boxes of ammo that they’ve just lugged into your new abode. (There’s more on organization below that will keep this from being a logistical nightmare when unpacking.)

Of course, the best OPSEC is moving all of the items yourself.  This isn’t always an option, though, for smaller families or those with physical limitations.

Before the move

The things you do before the move can make all the difference in the world to your ease during the actual move and while you’re getting settled in.

Get good quality moving boxes.

One thing I like to splurge on when I move is professional moving boxes. Sure, you can get boxes from the grocery store and liquor store, but the pro boxes are uniform in size, making them easier to Jenga into the moving truck. This saves space, stacks more securely, and these boxes tend to be very sturdy. As well, I often use these boxes at my destination for organizing my supplies for the very same reasons – ease of stackability and uniform sizes mean your storage space is used efficiently.

Get organized.

This is your chance to become the uber-organized prepper you always see on websites, with their glorious pantries, labeled tubs, and storage rooms, where all things needed can be found in a matter of seconds.

Before you start packing, if possible, designate a room to be packing central. (We used our dining room and have been eating in the living room since we began packing.)  Move everything of a type into the packing room. Here’s an example. Pull all of your food storage from various nooks and crannies in your home.  Divvy it up according to type: cans, dried foods, etc.  Check to be sure everything is packaged properly, with dates marked clearly on the packages. Wipe them if they’re dusty, and then box items according to their type.

Make a “key”.

For our moves, we have a notebook with a “key”.  This is a little trick we learned when we moved here from Canada and were required to have a complete manifest for crossing the border.  For the obvious reasons of OPSEC, you don’t want to write “Food” on dozens of boxes, but you could mark them F and add a number. In your key notebook, you can put a description of what is in each box to make unpacking or finding an item easier.

If you already know where the item will be stored once you move, mark the room on the box too, so the movers can take it right to its destination.

Of course, at the end, you may lose steam and just start chucking things into a box with no care for organization at all. But if most of your boxes are packed with organization in mind, unpacking will be vastly simpler. As well, if you absolutely must have a certain item, it’ll be far easier to locate in the pile of boxes with your notebook.

Do some decluttering.

As you pack, you will find that this is an excellent time to declutter and pare down your belongings. While the move we’re undertaking now is just a couple of towns over, when you’re undertaking a cross-country move, reducing the amount you relocate is even more important.  Many people who lead a preparedness lifestyle have accumulated a lot of “stuff” – we dismantle no-longer-working items for the spare parts, we save buttons and rubber bands, and we have stockpiles of all sorts.  If you are going a long distance, for some things, it will be far cheaper to replace them on the other end than to move them. Large items require a larger moving truck, and the weight increases the fuel usage. Make your judgment based on the following questions, particularly in the case of a long distance relocation.

  1. Would I be able to easily replace this in the future?  I get a lot of my things at yard sales and thrift stores, and this makes some of them tough to replace.  For example, I have an antique coffee grinder, an adorable little device with a hand crank.  I picked it up for $3, cleaned it and now use it on a regular basis in my kitchen.  It could be tough to replace because of the age and condition, so my beloved coffee grinder has always made the cut.  On the other hand, I had a toaster that I still use even though only one side actually works now. (Yes, I am so cheap that I turn the bread partway through the toasting time.)  I could easily find another one (that works!) for just a few dollars at a thrift store when I move, so the toaster is history.
  2. How much would it cost to replace this in the future?  This is a similar concept to question #1.  If you have a  collection of shampoos and soaps from the dollar store, they will take up a lot of space, but you could quickly and easily build a new stockpile of these items.   If most of your furniture is “vintage” – which is a nice way of saying that it came from yard sales and the occasional curbside pile, you can refurnish from yard sales when you arrive at your new home, rather than moving a couch that cost $20.
  3. Is it worth the space in the moving van?  How you rate the importance of an item is a personal decision for everyone.  There are some things that aren’t particularly useful, but they are sentimental – gifts from departed loved ones and photo albums, for example.  Expensive preps, like the Big Berkey water filter, the pressure canner, an assortment of books collected over the years, hand tools, and other off-grid kitchen tools, would be very costly to replace.  A great way to save space is to pack clothing and linens in “space bags”.

Make sure to have Box 1.

On the last day at your old home, put together Box 1 and keep that with you. Box 1 should contain the things you’ll need immediately: bedding; pjs; bathroom supplies like toilet paper, towels, soap, and shampoo; the coffee maker and supplies needed for coffee; paper plates and cutlery. This way, when you arrive you can immediately have these necessities available without a frustrating search.

Actually moving

When the big day arrives, your truck or trailer is loaded up with all of your worldly possessions.  The kids are buckled in, and the dog has her head out the window.  If your move is not local, there are some considerations for the road trip itself, some of which are unique to preppers.

Be prepped for the potential of disaster.

I always worry that a life-altering SHTF event will occur when I’m in the middle of a field in South Dakota, with no friends or family within 500 miles. (I can’t be the only one who thinks this way!) It is the preparedness mindset to constantly run scenarios – EMPs, sudden gas shortages, nuclear disasters, natural disasters… if these things happen while you’re on the road, you are a refugee.

The good news is, if you are driving your possessions, you have every prep that you felt was worth keeping in that big rolling bug-out bag of a trailer.  The bad news is, you have to protect those items, and you have to get them to a secure place.  Be as prepared as possible, with food that doesn’t require cooking, comfortable hiking gear readily available, camping gear easily accessible, and all of the necessary defense items.

Pay special attention to security.

Another consideration is general security.  This is particularly important if you are moving weapons.  Be sure that your truck or trailer is locked securely and consider installing some type of alarm on the door of the cargo area.  Be prepared to protect your family and possessions (all within the confines of local laws, of course). Choose stopping points and parking spaces carefully, and consider cracking a window if you are staying in a motel, so that you can hear what is going on outside.

Use common sense safety measures during the road trip.

  • Keep the kids within view of an adult at all times.
  • Keep a cell phone charged in case you need to call for help.  (If you are like me and don’t use cell phones, consider the purchase of an inexpensive Tracfone for the trip).
  • Make sure your vehicle maintenance has been taken care of before your departure.
  • Don’t let the fuel level drop below 1/4 of a tank – in remote areas, gas stations can be few and far between.
  • Always have plenty of drinking water in the vehicle, especially in hot weather.
  • Follow the rules of the road.
  • Remember that the police are not always your friend.  Strictly abide by speed limits to avoid lining the pockets of small town PDs. Be very aware of your surroundings if you are pulled over.  If possible, pull over in a public area, like a restaurant parking lot.
  • Don’t get lost – use a GPS or maps to stay on course.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings – ditch the headphones and remain alert during rest stops.
  • If possible, keep one adult with the moving van at rest areas, and take turns going to the bathroom.
  • Be constantly prepared to defend yourself if necessary.
  • Follow your gut – if you have a bad feeling about a situation, chances are, you’re right.

Settling in

Once you’ve arrived, it’s time for the fun stuff: settling into your new home.

First things first, unpack Box 1. This way, your basic necessities are available.

Get some food.

Before unpacking everything, make a quick run to the grocery store. Grab some healthful snacks, but splurge and get things that are already prepped. We usually get a veggie tray and a fruit tray from the deli, a rotisserie chicken, and a couple of frozen pizzas. Make it easy on yourself while you get unpacked.

If needed, do a quick clean of the house before putting things away.  (Hopefully the previous residents left things nice for you, but you always want to do at least a swipe to get rid of the cooties.)

Prioritize the most important rooms.

I usually prioritize unpacking in this order:

  • Bathroom
  • Small children’s rooms
  • Kitchen
  • Living room
  • A place to sleep in my room
  • Everything else

Once the necessities are put away and you can function, it’s time to get to all of that other stuff. Now’s your chance to be the most organized prepper around.  Remember all of those belongings you carefully sorted? Before putting them away, try to get the necessary modifications to your storage areas made. That way, you can put away your carefully organized possessions with the precision of a Costco warehouse.

Tell us about your experiences, moving as a prepper.

Keep in mind that during every move, there’s a catastrophe. There’s always something that goes wrong.  One friend was moving across three states when something flew off a vehicle ahead of her and punctured her fuel tank. She had to get a trailer to go on the back of her Uhaul at the last minuted to take her damaged vehicle to the new location. For us, the internet tower we thought we could hook into was shut down. Because we’re moving to a more rural location, I couldn’t find a service provider. (Panic-inducing for someone who works online and homeschools using an online resource.) Thankfully, we finally found a company that could work with us, but it was a sketchy, stressful couple of weeks.

The point is, there’s always some chaos. As a good friend of mine says, adapt and overcome.

It’ll be worth in when you look around your well-organized new home.

Here’s Why a Prepper Homestead May Not Be a Good Plan for Survival

Lots of preppers are convinced that they’re going to “live off the land” should the world as we know it come tumbling down around our ears. Seed banks are stockpiled, books are purchased, and people are confident that they’ll be able to outlive everyone else based on the sweat of their inexperienced brows.

But no matter how hard working you are, farming takes time. Time for learning, time for mistakes, and time for your plans to come to fruition. A prepper homestead is something that must be built over a period of time – it’s absolutely not a plug-and-play solution, regardless of the number of survival seed packets you have carefully stashed away. Farming for survival is not a good plan if you have never done it before.

If a prepper homestead is your survival plan, let me give you some advice: STORE. FOOD.

You are going to have to have something to get you through that first year when your farm doesn’t produce diddly squat.

As anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows, my family is prone to new adventures. We’ve moved from a large city to a cabin in the North Woods, where I discovered I knew nothing about building fires and living in the wilderness. We drove across the continent to move from Ontario, Canada, to the West Coast, where I had to rebuild my preps from the ground up, since US Customs would not allow us to bring our food supplies across.

This year’s adventure is food production. My daughter and I recently moved to a small farm, eager to polish up a new skill set and build that idealized prepper homestead that many of us dream about.

After only a few months here, I feel it’s my duty to announce that while raising your own food is a noble goal, it’s not as easy as people seem to think. Heck, even though I expected some setbacks, it is way harder and more time-consuming than I expected.

Of course, shortcuts do exist to help you circumvent all of these issues. If you have lots of money, you can shorten the amount of time it takes for your farm to be productive. The shortcuts all seem to cost a lot more money than the hard-work-method, and if you’re getting into self-reliance on a dime, they may not be practical or affordable. The other issue is, you may not even know the issue exists until it smacks you in the face and you’re chasing a goat down the road in your pajamas, frantically waving your arms to warn approaching pickup trucks to slow down so they don’t mow down your livestock. (Ask me how I know this.)

The real truth is, raising your own food takes time. It isn’t something you undertake after the SHTF. If a self-reliant homestead is your survival strategy, you need to start now.

The garden

Unless you’re Jack, the possessor of magic beans that grow to prolific heights overnight, you’re going to get awfully hungry waiting for your garden to feed you. The first year a garden is grown in a new place, you learn about all sorts of foibles of your location, things you’d never know unless you have taken the effort to create your own salad bar.

Some folks get lucky and end up with a lush green jungle from the very first season, but for most of us…well, let’s just say that my daughter and I would struggle to live for a week on the calories produced by this year’s garden.

We have had all of the plagues this year that condemned us to gardening failure. First, we moved late in the season, but I had nurtured my veggies in buckets, so I assumed I’d transplant them and they’d magically grow.

Alas, on the first night, they fattened up the local deer. If I shot a deer that got fed by my vegetable plants, would that count towards the success of my gardening efforts? Because that would substantially up the caloric bounty.

So, I re-fenced, got a big dog, and replanted. Then, like something out of a sci-fi movie, freaking GOPHERS yanked the plants down by the roots and made them vanish. All that remained was a fluttering leaf here and there.

I dug out my raised beds, laid hardware cloth at the bottom, and refilled them. Then I replanted again. By this time, it was late July and we had a heatwave. Many of the new plants didn’t survive the blazing 110 degree days, despite shade and plentiful water. Some of the ones that did survive got peed on by the dog I got to protect them from the deer, and immediately withered from being drenched in urine.

Did I mention hornworms? They decimated several of my tomatoes and peppers overnight! I watered in the evening and things looked great. The next morning, half of my plants looked as though they’d been scalped. Out of a sense of vengeance, I threw those hornworms in the chicken run to be pecked, tortured, and eaten alive. Take that, you evil little jerks.

I am still picking tomatoes and peppers from the plants I saved, but that’s all we got this year. Thankfully, we’re big fans of salsa and marinara, but we don’t have enough to live off. In four months on my little prepper homestead, I’ve basically produced a large salad.

This is all part of the game, though. Next year will be better because I’ve put into place what I’ve learned. I’ve gotten a deer-proof fence, I’ve gopher-proofed my raised beds, I figured out how to keep my dog out of the lower beds by  placing barriers at the corners after he peed on my favorite tomato plant. Once I’ve harvested the last tomato, I’ve got a cover crop ready to go into the beds to enrich the soil and feed my chickens this winter. And to greater express my determination, I’ve enrolled in a master gardener’s course through my county extension office.

I will grow food next year. But if we had to live off of this year’s harvest, we’d be screwed.

Shortcuts:

As I mentioned above, shortcuts are expensive and all of these may not be realistic or fall within your budget.

  • Start out protecting your garden from all possible foragers by building a deer-proof, gopher-proof area before you ever plant a seed.
  • Test your soil and amend it with stuff from the nursery to provide the perfect growing medium for your veggies. (Add these kits to your stockpile so that you can test your soil regularly throughout the season.)
    Take a class from locals, geared towards your environment.
  • Install a drip irrigation system.
  • Pay a master gardener to help you get your garden established.
  • The best (and most expensive) shortcut? Move to a place with existing fruit trees, established gardens, and permaculture fixtures.

The eggs

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

In farming, it’s the chicken. The chickens come well, well, before the eggs. Like, at least 6 months before.

I have 13 chickens of varying ages, and nary an egg in site. My oldest three hens will be laying soon, but there’s a lot more to backyard egg production than throwing some feed into a henhouse or opening the door to let your birds free range and telling them to be sure and deposit their eggs neatly in the bins provided to them.

First, many people start with little baby chicks. Not only are they flippin’ adorable, but they’re way cheaper than adult birds. You get to know exactly what they’ve eaten for their entire lives, which means you know whether they’ve been consuming antibiotics or hormones, and can alter their diets to fit your personal food philosophies.

But chicks are fragile. Out of my first batch of 8, five died.  FIVE. More than 50%. I felt like an unwilling serial killer of baby animals. Since my subsequent batches have flourished with the exact same care, I suspect there was some illness from the feed store where I purchased them. Baby chicks need special food, an environment that is safe from predators, and a heat source so that they can maintain the right body temperature. Of course, you have to be careful with the heat lamp or you can set your coop on fire, something that very nearly happened to me, but mercifully, we caught it just in time.

When they get big enough, you have to teach them where the water is and put them in a safe place where they won’t be eaten by predators. We have a large covered run that keeps them protected while allowing them fresh air and some freedom. Keep in mind that when it’s too cold or too hot, your chickens won’t lay eggs, so hens of laying eggs are actually no guarantee of fresh eggs on a daily basis.

Shortcuts

  • Have a predator-proof coop built for you by someone who has raised chickens.  You’ll need a floor that nothing can dig under, good door latches, a sturdy top, shade, nesting boxes, and roosts.
  • Install an automatic waterer that refills when it gets too low.
  • Buy full-grown, already laying chickens.

The milk

Everyone thinks of cows when they think of milk. A calm, productive dairy cow is a wonderful thing. However, this is not an instant kind of thing either. If you get a calf, you should know that cows should not be bred before 15 months, and may not reach maturity until they are 22 months of age. Cow gestation is 9 months, like humans. So you’re looking at about two and a half years or more before you can get so much as a drop of milk from a cow. Their poop is enormous, smelly, and draws flies, which is a problem if you don’t have a lot of land for them to roam on. Cows are also quite expensive to purchase and eat way more than goats, so for the homesteader on a budget, goats are a better option.

Goats come with their own set of difficulties.If you go and get a couple of female baby goats with the intention of bottle feeding them to make them friendly, that’s awesome. You will succeed in having the sweetest goats around, and they’ll follow you around the homestead like a dog. What they won’t do is give you milk for at least a year and a half. 18 months of feeding for them, caring for them, shoveling their poop, and cleaning their stalls.

You should not breed a goat until she’s a year old. Then, if the breeding takes, you have 5 months of waiting for babies. Then, you have a couple of  weeks where she’s producing colostrum for her kids, which you should never, ever take. Finally, you have milk. FINALLY. And it’s delicious. But that first glass is the most long-awaited glass of milk you will ever sip.

Goats are cute but can be a total pain in the rear. If you give them a cardboard box full of veggie scraps, they’ll eat the box and ignore the vegetables.  They will climb on your vehicle and dent it with their little hooves of destruction. If you fence them in, they will get through, around, or over your fence. No matter how many acres you give them to romp on, whatever is on the opposite side of the fence is what they must have. Our 10-month-old goat discovered that she fits through our gate and we had to chase her down the road that leads to our farm the other day. In pajamas, since it was morning and we weren’t dressed yet. Today’s project is running hardware cloth through the bars on the gate and hoping that keeps her in. There’s a project every day with goats. Here’s some GREAT information on housing your goats that I wish I’d seen at the beginning.

Shortcuts

  • Fence your grazing area with goat-proof fencing. Once you’ve had goats, you will know that they can jump over, climb through, open the gate, or knock down just about anything you put up.
  • Buy cows or goats that are already producing milk.  You’ll need more than one mama animal because a) goats and cows are herd animals and b) you can give one mama a break while they other is producing.
  • Plant hay.  If you have enough space you can greatly reduce your food bill this way.

The meat

Meat is also far from instant. The closest thing to instant meat is going to be rabbits. Cute, fluffy rabbits.  They breed quickly and prolifically and are mature by the age of  8-12 weeks, at which time they can be butchered for food. Below, you can see the ages at which these animals can be butchered for meat:

  • Chickens 16-20 weeks
  • Ducks 24-28 weeks
  • Turkeys 24-28 weeks
  • Rabbits 8 weeks
  • Lambs 10-15 months
  • Goats 12 months
  • Pigs 8-10 months
  • Cows 18-24 months

Of course, this is the age of maturity in the best of all possible worlds. The world that contains premium feed, the ability to pick it up from the feed store, a controlled environment safe from predators. If your animals are free-ranging, they’re going to grow more slowly and be leaner since they’re working for their food. If you have selected heritage breeds, they grow more slowly still than the hybrids that are bred specifically for a speedy maturity. As you can see, this isn’t an instant gratification kind of thing.  Add a SHTF long-term disaster to the mix, and you’re looking at quite some time before you can harvest meat.

It gets even trickier when you want to develop a breeding program on your farm in order to raise your meat. Then, you must add in the time for the mother animal to become mature, waiting for the right time to breed her, and then waiting for the gestation period to be over. Literally, we’re talking about years before you have meat production for many species.

Then there’s the butchering. Are you going to be able to slaughter the animal you saw born, raised from a little baby, and perhaps gave a clever name to?  Lots of people are fine with this, but many others will find that it’s much harder than they expected. Humanely dispatching an animal takes experience and the right tools. Cleaning and butchering the animal is also not something you can dive right into. If you’re lucky, you have some farmer friends who will help you the first time or two.

Shortcuts

  • Buy animals that are just past the fragile stage and raise them to maturity
  • Stock up on a whole full of pellet food and hay for your livestock
  • Have your property professionally fenced.
  • Buy a property that is fenced and contains housing for various types of livestock
  • Get to know local farmers and learn all you can from them. They can help you prevent expensive mistakes.

Reality check: You’re probably going to fail

So, you might read this article and think I’m telling you that a prepper homestead is an unrealistic survival plan. That’s not it at all.

What I’m telling you is that a prepper homestead has to be created well before a disaster strikes. You have to figure out:

  • How you’ll care for your crops and animals.
  • How you’ll nourish them.
  • How you’ll protect them.
  • How you’ll water them.
  • How you’ll harvest the food.
  • How you’ll fail to do one or all of these things correctly at some point.

You have to learn many of these things from experience. My experience can’t teach you because my setting is entirely different. You may have different predators, a different climate, differently physical challenges – every single family’s circumstances will be unique. The only way to predict the problems and overcome them is to experience them in the first place. And trust me, it’s way better to experience failure when the feed store and the hardware store are only a short drive away.

While it’s incredibly important to take every step you can towards self-reliance, it is equally vital to have a backup plan. Have these things to fall back on:

Most of us learn our homesteading lessons through failure. Something we thought would work, did not. The weather turned against us. The point is, you need to have experience to be able to overcome the things that go wrong. Better to get that experience now when the store is only minutes away.

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