We started prepping about 18 months ago. I have felt like a chicken with its head cut off, going wildly in all directions. I’ve learned a lot about a lot, some by research, but have learned most from doing. Being prior military (I served six years in the Army Captain, and as a civilian, I was a financial planner), I started identifying mission statements and initiating plans, backwards (aka backwards planning) in order to get them accomplished on time.
The first mission: “How do we survive hyperinflation?” My readings led me to believe that the best protection is to plan on not needing to spend money on stuff and save money for taxes. The question is how to accomplish that! I concluded that becoming as self-sufficient as possible and inter-dependent and mutually supportive with other like-minded persons.
Another mission: “How to survive societal meltdown with options and strategies.” We determined that we needed to prepare in-place in our current home while we simultaneously worked to identify a homestead, but one that also optimized our security needs under a societal meltdown scenario. We had to define those security needs and defensive goals. We also decided to initiate some basic security in-place.
What kind of retreat? What does one need for a retreat and where? Our pursuits included looking at everything from two perspectives, the retreat and the in-place strategy. We have decided that if we haven’t relocated, that bugging out would entail leaving the majority our resources and is not a viable option. We will defend in place if we don’t get relocated before TEOTWAWKI.
My research indicated that to be fully self-sufficient where we not only grow our own food, but also that of our livestock, that we would need around 15 acres. Notably, a 5 acre homestead would do a lot! In researching homesteading and agriculture in-place alternatives I found out that Cubans grow 70% of their own food in the cities! I found that there are several cases of very small acreage homesteaders of an acre or less growing nearly all their needs! I recently discovered that I wouldn’t need to preserve so much if, instead of a huge garden once a year, I maintained a year-round greenhouse and grew what we needed on a staggered rotation basis inside the greenhouse with fresh food all the time! This year a summer thunderstorm hail storm wrecked a good portion of my garden and reminded me of the need for having a storage pantry! I will be doing a bit of both, for safety.
Other factors which have bearing on the retreat are:
1. Water. We wanted a creek, and especially if it had hydroelectric possibilities year-round; plus sub-irrigated property, and possibly a spring. Meanwhile, we have purchased a number of water barrels, filled them, and discovered some alternatives to ‘keep’ the water: bleach every 6 months, or other additives which could keep it up to 5 years, or boil it before use, and /or filter it. We bought a water filter system. Wells are acceptable for domestic use, but we still want a dependable surface water source in case the well ran dry. We found information available on property wells on the Internet under ‘well logs’ and the respective state.
[JWR Adds: Finding a property with sub-irrigated pasture is great, as is finding a property with micro-hydro development potential. But finding a parcel with both is a genuine rarity, because land that is sub-irrigated is almost always dead-level, near a stream or river. But for good micro-hydro power, you need a fast-flowing creek or river, with plenty of "fall" that you can exploit. For that, you need hilly property, not "bottom land." So those two goals are almost mutually exclusive, unless you buy a huge parcel that has both features.]
2. Sun. We looked at properties, and in particular, the garden and agricultural spots for solar exposure. This is affected by location such as northern or southern latitude, proximity to trees and hills, sun-angles including winter sun. We also looked into Solar for Solar Power. We found hydro-electric power to be less expensive and more available than solar so we have decided to make hydro a priority on our retreat search.
3. Soils. Self-sufficiency is agricultural based so having access to good soils for crops and livestock is paramount. Soil also needs to drain well for crops and septic systems as well. Meanwhile, our home garden soils have been amended (enriched) with compost and chicken manure and the garden looks like Hawaii, lush, green and prolific! The county ‘extension office’ was able to provide a lot of information about the agriculture in the local area of interest.
4. Elevation. The higher the elevation of the property, the shorter the growing season is. We determined that we preferred properties below 2,400 feet elevation, and although we love Montana, we found that virtually the entire state is above 3,000 feet, and Wyoming is largely over 4,000 feet, Northern Arizona is high elevation too! So, for agriculture, we like parts of Washington, Idaho and Oregon.
5. Population. After fairly extensive scouting of the territory, we found that a lot of the country is fairly densely populated, especially the good agricultural areas! It takes a lot of research, to locate remote properties. We found a useful tool for this research is the Internet, and specifically, Windermere.com (which also has aerial views) and Google Maps (which has terrain view) and MapQuest.com (aerial view). We found that the listing office web site often had additional information and pictures available. The SurvivalBlog provided a link to a great city population comparison tool at Moving.com.
6. Security. There are numerous factors to consider when contemplating retreat security, including in-place home security: the Lay of the land, Visibility, Obstacles, Community, Alert systems, Accessibility, Cache, Population, and Ammunition. Regarding Ammunition, if we need to defend in place in our current home, it would be appropriate to have more shotguns and handguns for the home. Rifle fire in a residential neighborhood is not a good choice. We don’t want bullets flying out through the neighbor’s property. Looking at fields of fire and early warning systems has become a high priority. We remember that it was during the Los Angeles riots that the armed Korean businesses were left alone, passed on by and onto easier targets. Being armed is important!
How does one survive hyperinflation? Research includes Harry Figgie's book Bankruptcy 1995, in which Chapter 8 spells out the history of hyperinflation. I figure that the US didn't go Bankrupt in 1995 because it has been spending Social Security funds for operating capital. Can you spell Ponzi scheme? Other research included the hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic 1923, Argentina 2001, and Zimbabwe today. I have obtained an actual 100 Trillion Zimbabwe dollar note, worthless and no longer a currency, as a reminder of where we are headed. The Zimbabwean people have to pan for gold to buy bread. With worthless currency, the population (will that be us?) cannot get paid enough to keep up with the ever increasing costs of things and cannot afford heat, or food.
It is my belief that hyperinflation can be survived primarily through Homesteading and Self-sufficiency and/or inter-dependence in a tight-knit group. Essential Elements for self-sufficiency and which I/we have done include:
1. Canning. With the Ball
Blue Book of Preserving, which is about $6 at Wal-Mart, you can ‘can’ almost everything you may want to put up including meat, vegetables, and even condiments and meals! I also discovered Lehman's catalog is indispensable for homesteading tools!
2. Gardening, Green House gardening, Container Gardening, and growing Herbs. This year I have learned about non-hybrid seeds, to grow crops that I can and did save the seeds to grow the same crop next year without having to buy seeds. I also saved seeds from fruits and vegetables eaten and successfully grew and harvested crops this year from them!
3. Dehydrating (vacuum sealing jars and crock-pot meals) http://www.excaliburdehydrator.com/media.php These 9 incredible videos are on dehydrating foods and preparing meals, really quickly too.
4. Making bread (wonderful resources are at www.youtube.com and www.cook.com and many more.)
5. Making cheese (with friends)
6. Spinning wool (with friends)
7. Food storage long-term, Poly buckets, Mylar bags
8. Inventory management (FIFO) Pantry rotation
9. Cooking out of the pantry (www.backwoodshome.com) "Store what you eat and eat what you store!"
10. How to make stuff from scratch (baking powder, toothpaste, shampoo, dinner Not in a Box, beer, soda, root beer, ice cream, yogurt, cheese, butter, soaps, sew, automotive repair/rebuild, and much much more…)
11. Water. Water barrels and RV water system. Roof is ample for rain collection and plan on the above ground swimming pool for a holding tank.
12. Power. Our new China Diesel generator from India is nearly finished (teardown/rebuilt). It should run for 30 years. Long term fuel supplies will be a ongoing need.
13. Refuse/Garbage/Recycle … by canning and making from scratch, we have virtually eliminated ‘trash’. Leftovers get reused and consumed in casseroles, stews or other dishes and / or fed to the dog. Vegetable remnants go to the compost. Yard and trees waste get run through our shredder and put into the compost pile for our garden. We run two compost piles year-round.
13. Livestock. Currently in town, we are planning on chickens, rabbits, plus bees. We are fortunate enough to have an acre. If we are to make it on only an acre, we may have to barter for livestock feed because we may not have enough land to grow it. We can at a minimum raise rabbits for meat. We have city friends which have raised chickens, rabbits, bees, and sheep successfully for years. We look forward to a remote retreat where we will have more options for livestock.
How do we survive a melt-down crisis?
We decided that we wanted to provide for at least a year of reserves. We came to that conclusion calculating that our food supplies would need to carry us until we got the garden harvested in the year following the collapse; and, time to acquire and raise livestock (hopefully we would have chickens, rabbits and goats at a minimum before meltdown; but, if not, we have alternative foods stored for a minimum of a year!) We determined that there are several ways to achieve this goal depending upon timeframe, time you have to do it yourself, and money. First you have to determine what you need and how much. This can be quite involved depending upon your approach. Then your options are: Meals-Ready-to Eat (MREs), packaged foods such as Mountain House or Alpine Air which are either freeze-dried or dehydrated and you just add water, or you do it yourself, which gives you some flexibility and more important ‘repeatability’, but is very time consuming, and that is important if you think there is not much time left. You may want to ‘acquire’ a year’s supply of food package, and then learn ‘how to’ as you go. We found poly-buckets free at Costco Bakery, and for a nominal cost at Nalley's. Yes, they smelled of icing or pickles, but washed up fine and are food grade. With Mylar bags and CO2 from the local welding shop, we put up food stores readily.
In addition to food, we wanted a year’s store of normal shopping of household supplies: toilet paper, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, (handkerchiefs instead of Kleenex tissues), (towels instead of paper towels), laundry soap, bar soap, shampoo (sure we could make it, but we’d need “fat” and “hardwood ashes” to make it ourselves), medical supplies for general medicinal and also for emergencies: bleeding, dental, disease / quarantine supplies (masks, gloves, antiseptics), etc. We also anticipate that the banking system will not be available, i.e. there will be no operational ATMs, no open Teller Windows, and credit cards will be declined/inoperable. We set aside an amount of “cash”, today’s currency, for our crisis operating capital, and some in silver. We liquidated some IRAs to obtain the assets now. To us, these assets are better now to get prepared and are better than having more, but worthless currency in the future. The saying, a bird in hand is better than two in the bush, comes to mind. We have researched the metals markets and deemed them manipulated but with lots of upside (see Ted Butler's commentaries). We feel that one of the best investments is agricultural real estate.
We are debt free and hope to stay that way. We own our own home free and clear. This is not to brag or make someone feel bad, but rather to motivate you to wonder how. It is by not being a ‘consumer’, but by being balanced and frugal, buying what we needed, foregoing vacations, doing without ‘designer labeled jeans’, without landscaping, however we did invest in having a dump truck load of dirt dropped in the backyard for the garden since all we had was rocks for soil. We have several original household appliances and fixed them when they broke instead of getting new ones. We buy good used cars, maintain them well and keep them for years as long as they meet our needs.
I believe that there is a game of keep-away when it comes to how to get and stay ahead financially. The banks and others profit more by people remaining ‘consumers’ and participating as a throw-away society. Massive disinformation exists to misdirect and profit from the populace efforts. A lot of wealth for others is made and maintained by keeping the populace misinformed about financial tools, how they work and what they are used for correctly. However, ‘financial tools’ (CDs, Stocks, Insurance, Loans) are exactly that, “tools”! Tools can be an incredible resource and can help us build monuments, or can be deadly weapons that can destroy us.
Financial success starts with you. Identify your ‘needs’. Spend to meet your needs, not to ‘save’ on an on-sale item that you truly didn’t ‘need’. Shop wisely. Will second-hand merchandise meet your needs; can the item be repaired, etc.? Take care of your things and you don’t have to replace them so often.
You need to shop and learn about financial tools to meet your goals. The first is the placement of your savings (short-term, mid-term, long-term). There are numerous options with a few listed below.
Banks ‘are not your friends’! They are a ‘Tool’! They are a place to situate your short-term cash--your working capital that is used to pay bills.
Loanership dollars where you loan your money for a rate of return to you (interest): Banks (CDs), Money Markets, Insurance Companies (annuities), Corporate (Bonds), Municipal (Bonds), and Government (Bonds).
Ownership dollars where you invest your money and accept ownership risks (of loss or gain):
Stocks (owning a fractional interest in a company), real estate (your home, other real estate), Partnerships (business enterprise, etc.), and Precious Metals.
Insurance is a “Tool”! You need insurance to cover the calamity expense/risk(s) which you cannot afford, only! Often, you are not informed that your premium would be much lower if you accepted a higher deductible. It might be inconvenient to have to pay $1,000 if your car was wrecked or your home damaged, or a major medical claim, but the insurance would cover a catastrophic loss!
A home loan is a tool too. The structure of a loan is important, fixed or variable. Variable contains a ‘gamble’ element. Unless it is stipulated otherwise, most home loans can be prepaid, or accelerated. You have the ability to pay an extra amount above the mortgage payment. This extra amount can be applied towards principal, which you need to specifically specify ‘apply to principal’! Pre-paying a mortgage, especially in the early years of a loan is one of the greatest savings rates a person can achieve!
We actually paid our 30 year mortgage off in about 12 years. Admittedly, our friends drove newer cars, went on vacations, have better furniture, prettier lawns, fancier clothes, and went out to dinner and the movies more than we did. However, we are debt free. Yes, we are still worried about tight finances and the world situation, but our current position is a lot less stressful than being loaded with lots of debt. It can be done, with sacrifices!
It is an imperative for Americans to educate themselves, to not trust the system. Find out about things. Get inquisitive and broaden your horizons. This year I have eaten cooked nettles. Yes, it was very good. It was similar to spinach and no nettle burn! I had Yak meat at a local restaurant and now want to pursue having Yaks for livestock. Learn new things and hard skills. Become creative and inventive; how else can it be done? Become flexible, find alternative ways of getting things done, adapt!
We have a small group of friends with whom we meet regularly, try new projects and explore ideas. Our daily ‘walks’ have helped us meet our neighbors. Our friends suggested that we hold a ‘Meltdown Neighborhood Tea Party’ Potluck get-together. That sounds like a good idea to meet our kind of people. I believe we can do anything we put our minds to, especially if we work together.