As a regular reader of SurvivalBlog, I have found a fountain of information to be gleaned from the many great writings posted on here and wanted to quickly say thank you to all those who write in with their thoughts and experiences.
What I wanted to share was something that I experienced recently. I found in all my prepping and plans something I had not realistically considered. I have considered the possibility of many scenarios for a long time but I think it has been in just the past few years that I have felt that things are rather precarious. I guess one of the biggest things to influence me was my Grandmother, she would tell me stories of the Great depression and how the family managed to get by during the “lean years”. Keeping her words and stories close to my heart I began more recently to really get my preps in line. I have a very rural retreat property that someday I hope I can move to but in the mean time, I try to keep things on track here at home. I have a small farm and I think it is coming along nicely toward being self sufficient but I actually feel we live a bit too close to a big city for me to view it as the retreat I would like it to be. We raise chickens and goats and have a nice garden that I can most of the things out of it. I put up a pretty nice amount of stored food.
I thought I had already taken into consideration many scenarios and issues that might arise during tough times including family and close friends that might appear on my door step in an emergency, and while; some I am certain will come with some supplies, there are others… they are the scoffers that would undoubtedly show up just in time knowing we were prepared. I thought I had covered all of this with my calculations and figures. I thought about those I know and who would travel a great distance to arrive here and how much food would need to be stored. I have lots of calculators to tell me how much of what I would need to sustain these extra people and I was seriously thinking I was in pretty good shape as far as being on a good track.
Until a few months ago, when all of a sudden we had a house full of people, all of whom were unemployed which meant they brought into the house little to nothing in the way of help for food, utilities or even in some cases labor around the farm.
The first few weeks we would just make due and I would make what I could for meals with much of what I had here in the house augmented by frequent trips to the grocery. Even still it was difficult to keep food on the shelves, things started to get sparse real fast and much to my chagrin I found that my preps were suffering under the strain of the added mouths to feed, Not only could I no longer afford to add to my preps but they were dwindling at an amazing rate. But the most frightening thought that came to me was if it all went this quickly all the while augmenting our needs with grocery store runs, what would happen when we could no longer do this? When there was nothing to be had at the grocery store? This thought was very troubling for me and I began to feel woefully unprepared and foolish at thinking that this could be so easily a task to prepare for. I found that this issue is much more complex than just putting up a few extra things for the unexpected house guest.
In my panic at watching my years of work disappear right before my eyes, I began to ferret away supplies to other parts of the house, I had a trunk which held my wedding gown for years, I moved the gown to a box and this trunk now became my new food storage area, my bedroom closet now held my liquor cabinet and ammo and even behind books on the bookshelf you might find a can of soup or box of Jell-O. I at that moment realized the “why” of having some caches, I recalled that I had read in Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. The protagonist, Randy Bragg, had put away a trunk full of things and this motivated me to think more about how to put up these “Extra” things. So as I began my hide and seek with food stuffs, I began to try to put things into these places but now with a clear organizational pattern. I considered what each person was doing to contribute to the house but when I spoke with our “guests” about our feelings with regards to the current state of things and the need for them to pitch in even if it were to only weed the garden, it turned out that often times they would scoff at our “doom and gloom” and avoid us or turn up missing when it was work time, but they never failed to be present when it was dinner time or when it came time for us to go to bed. This is when they would “raid” the cupboard, which is how I discovered what was happening to the food. There were a number of offenders that would pilfer from the cabinets when everyone was sleeping. This brought me to my next realization, that you can’t expect that these guests will be honest. If someone feels like they are not getting enough they will steal it. I first thought I should lock the cupboards but that is so harsh. It was then that I decided I would simply keep it all out of the cupboards and pull out what I needed as I needed it. Having experienced this I have decided to permanently keep most of my food preps in stashes about the house noting the date the stash was established and in using these would completely empty the stash into the cupboard and replenish with a new date (rotating the food in larger quantities). This is actually working well as I replenish an entire week or two’s worth of food in an instant and it is just part of my regular shopping (which always includes a few extra of this or that as well) but now as I shop, I take all that I just purchased to the trunk or box, remove the contents of the cache and insert the “new” groceries and place the cached items on the pantry shelf, I then note the date of the switch and move the cache to the bottom of the list.
Add to all of this the little idiosyncrasies that come with cohabitation. If you can, just imagine how annoyed I was that a whole roll of toilet paper that was used by only two people took only a matter of a day or two to disappear, I began to wonder what they are doing with it. Eating it? Thankfully No, but I came to find that my son’s girlfriend was using it to take off nail polish, makeup, wipe the sink off and anything else she wanted to wipe or dab. Before I had even realized it twelve big packages of toilet paper were missing! All I could think was: "Have any of you ever heard of a rag?"
This is but a small example of the usage and the lack of knowledge, but there are other things to ponder that we never thought of until it was staring us right in the face. Like the septic system, ours, which is okay for about 4 people could not sustain with 9. We were selling eggs from our 35 chickens but now we could not keep enough eggs in the house for some reason, all of these things made me think of the resources and strain additional people bring into the picture.
Where this brought me was the realization that while one might think about the thief that comes to take your preps after the SHTF, whom we would of course promptly run off with our defenses. And this is because we have taken a good bit of time thinking about how to keep these unsavory types out and how to keep our location safest. But, how do we deal with freeloader family members? The ones that show up on your door step tattered and sad looking, who will it be? Your brother? Your mother? Your child? These people will assume you have it all going on and will be looking to you to “fix” things for them.
At some point in all this it dawned on me that this is a lesson I am to learn, that in all likelihood this is something that not might happen but will happen. We will be overrun with friends and family that will be looking for what they view as salvation. Granted there will be those who show up and you are glad to see because you know they will be less of an inconvenience and more of an asset. But really, do any of us think that if our freeloader child shows up we will turn them away? How could we? So now what do we do with this dead weight? Not to mention that after reading “"Patriots" by James Wesley, Rawles, I and few others realized that a group of like minded individuals would better weather such storms than those going it alone. Well now, what is the rest of the group going to think of your freeloader relative?
I have taken some time to think these things through and a few conclusions came with amazing clarity. First, I have discovered that, no, I do not believe that I or my fellow group members could turn away family. So I began to think about how to handle the “freeloader”. And a verse from 2nd Thessalonians comes to mind, from the New International Version Bible: For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10.) Going on that premise, I began a chore list where each person had chores to do each day, everyone was assigned a laundry day (which incidentally we removed the washer from the septic to a gray water area that we used to irrigate the garden) if a person failed to be bothered with laundry that day you were to either go dirty or go to the laundry mat. Everyone had indoor chores as well as farm chores and this really made a difference in my irritation levels. I would cook a generous meal we would all sit at and eat and then at the end of the day, everyone was locked out!! Okay, okay I know this sounds awful, but we have the extra bedrooms in the basement which has a separate entrance and bathroom so they were only locked out of the kitchen, thus prevented the pilfering during the night.
It was amazing how quickly they began to get jobs and even moved out. Since this time I have thought about how to accommodate these people without alienating others in our group that will help to establish a set rule when it comes to the dynamics of a group and how to handle these unexpected persons.
We discussed ways to assign levels to each grouping of individuals that would best accommodate these people and the needs of the group while maintaining a clear hierarchy or chain of command. Which I believe is important not only for the smooth running of things but also for each person to understand their role in things (no need for the alpha male or female instinct to take over). While it is a bit cut and dry and I think in need of more work as there is always the exceptions to these things, here is what we are doing to best outline these persons, their needs and what they can offer in such times.
Level 1: the operations level this level is our main group! These people have been working on our preps and skills for some time and are the ones with supplies and a specific skill set. These people are the ones that we chat with, work with and plan with for the inevitability of SHTF. Each person in this level has a clear idea of their role and expectations in the eventuality of bad days. No expectation need be set.
Level 2: this level is the persons that have not actually become part of the group but are still well ahead of the curve with their preps and needed skills. Each person in this level is most likely the "go-it-aloner" who did not want to get together, but found that for any number of reasons they need to ally themselves with a group. While these people will most likely be an asset a skills assessment and work allotment will be necessary.
Level 3: This level is the persons that show up with either some kind of preps or skills but not typically both, minimal need or very willing to work. Each person in this level has something they can offer even if it is to weed the garden and while a family member will be given preference, there are no guarantees the other persons can be accommodated or integrated.
Level 4: comes knocking with neither skills nor preps but is family, this person is typically the freeloader and will not work or offer anything. While I believe it is necessary to do for ones family, it will also be the family members that must pick up any slack or share their food and things with this person.
Level 5: comes knocking with neither skills nor preps - a refugee (frankly this level, would most likely be sent on their way with a couple of cans of food and some water. )
Each person will need to be assessed to determine where they can best fit in with the group and if they want to eat they will work. Anyone can weed a garden. Everything is to be done using the level system. However you choose to utilize it, the insurance that those who “show up” will do their share is important to the whole group, no one wants to just give away their hard work and will resent it if they have to especially if it is not even their family.
I found that while we had our “guests” visiting there were some things that I could recognize as qualities that would be useful, my other son’s Girlfriend could eat more than anyone I had ever seen before in my life and was sneaking food all the time and this was profoundly distressing for me, however I began to see she loved to work in the garden, tending it fastidiously. Once I locked up the food I began to see her as an asset more than a liability. I believe that everyone can pull their own weight if they have to but I would hate to have my sister arrive on the door step with family in tow barking out demands to someone simply because her family owns the land. With a system that clearly defines a role of each person, each person can be a useful integral part of the community without the strife the can often follow!