The Schumer has hit the fan. Hyperinflation has crushed the economy, an EMP has disabled the United States, or some other disaster has brought TEOTWAWKI.
And you’re not ready. Your retreat isn’t stocked up, or you haven’t found one that fits right. Or you have, but you’re far away from it. You’re stuck in the city when the SHTF, or you’re out traveling and you’re far away from your new home. The credit-card infrastructure has sizzled. Your credit card is only good for opening insecure doors. All you have is the cash in your wallet.
Travel to your retreat, if you have one, is now out of the question. The highways are jammed and plane service is gone. You’re stuck where you are, or face a hike that may last weeks. Panic is beginning to spread; at the Wal-Marts, it’s a new Black Friday or worse. People are beginning to run for food, gas, generators and other obvious survival goods. Pollyannas are still legion, but their ranks are thinning as the SHTF news sinks in. Where you’re at is becoming dangerous.
Time is short; you need to survive. You need to prepare to job-hunt.
Where The Jobs Are
Should a TEOTWAWKI disaster strike, the only jobs worth having will be in the countryside. You may have to hoof it. If you’re in a strange locale, then find a Pollyanna and ask him where the farms and populated woodlands are. These locations will be the booming areas for TEOTWAWKI jobs. Farmers have food; so do woodsmen. The overlap between the two is the place where fellow survivalists are going to be. Where there’s food, where there’s land that can tide over survivalists, there’s work.
What Job To Go For
The most obvious job, if you’re an old hand with a gun, is freelance security. It seems like an easy line to get into, especially if you’ve worked security pre-disaster. The growing mobs will have the farm folks sweating. There’ll be a demand for security personnel once the criminals and gangs figure out they’ll have free rein. It’s the obvious job to aim for, right?
Wrong. Betting your future on a security job is a trap.
There are two reasons. First of all, thieves will pretend to offer security services to case the properties they intend to loot. They’ll also pretend to be law enforcement to gain entryway to sack and pillage. Even now, there are criminals that pretend to be police officers to gain entry into unsuspecting homes. If you’re a farmer or prepared survivalist, once the SHTF, you’re going to remember those stories. You’ll remember them like you remember the flash mobs now.
Secondly, organized criminals will take advantage of the anarchy to prey upon innocent farmers with the oldest gouge known to organized crime: protection rackets. They’ll offer “security” services as their shake-down.
Everyone with sense in the countryside will be cognizant of those two dangers. Since you’re a stranger, they won’t know you. So, beating the bushes for a security slot is much riskier than it appears. Not only are you likely to be turned down hard, but you’ll also acquire a bad reputation. You’ll be lumped in with the predators, even though you’re not one. The strangers you’ll be canvassing can’t give you the benefit of the doubt.
Even a world-class disaster can’t eliminate the grapevine. Once you’ve been pegged as a potential predator, word will spread: count on it. You run the risk of being treated like a real one.
With security out, unless you’re lucky to be canvassing regions where people know you already, what is the best job to go for?
The easiest and most-in-demand skill you can offer TEOTWAWKI job market is one you might not have thought of: firewood cutter.
Firewood cutting is ideal in a disaster scenario because it’s still labour-intensive. The need for firewood is obvious. Depending on the time of the season, the need might be urgent. There are Pollyannas in the farm belt too; it’ll take some time before they realize that the diesel they depend upon won’t be available. In the interim, they’ll turn you away because they think their heavy equipment is labour enough. If they have regular slots, they’ll be reserving those regular jobs for their regular hires. The only exception to this rule will be farmers who use migrant labour in harvesting season. If you’re lucky enough to be near those openings, you’ll have little to worry about – provided those farmers aren’t flooded by your fellow refugees.
Farm jobs will come into play once the farmers realize that their machines are inoperable – once the disaster sinks in. In a sense, an EMP attack is advantageous because reality will intrude on Pollyanaish fantasies quickly. Within days, farmers will realize that their agribusiness had better be shifted towards subsistence farming. They’ll be needing a lot of farm hands then. Finding a job won’t be that hard, especially if you’re unarmed and don’t show a fighter’s reflexes. You can bet a case of MREs that you will be sized up for threat potential by your prospective employer.
If disaster doesn’t strike suddenly, all but a few farmers will stay stuck in the furrow of denial. Hiring farm hands to work on land that’s cultivated by machine is counterintuitive to a farmer stuck in Pollyanna Land. He’ll see it as an unnecessary step backwards, and anything you say won’t convince him. He’ll have to wake up on his own. Under these circumstances, manual farm labour like seed planting is a new kind of job that most farmers will see as obsolete. They have to see the new reality for themselves.
On the other hand, there’s already a labour market for wood cutters. It’s already an established line of work. Someone who has a need for your services won’t need to make the mental leap that farmers will. Unlike farming, timber felling isn’t fully mechanized. It still requires lumberjacks to work the chainsaw and use the axe for the limbing work that the chainsaw can’t do.
How To Prepare
Preparing for a wood cutter’s job isn’t that hard once the SHTF. If you have a couple of hundred dollars in your wallet, then you can equip yourself adequately. Crowds and Black-Friday-style riots won’t be a problem unless you go to Wal-Mart instead of a locally-owned hardware store. When everyone has food on their mind, who in their right mind would buy an axe, a bow saw, a sharpening stone for them? Only someone who thinks ahead – someone like you. That kind of thinking will be in short supply once the SHTF.
Don’t buy a hatchet or camp axe unless you have the money to spare for a secondary. The most versatile tool will be a three-foot single-bit axe. You need the extra leverage that comes with a long handle and wide swinging arc. [JWR Adds: You will soon find that you'll need one or more felling axes, plastic felling wedges, single bit utility axes, a buck saw, splitting mauls, steel splitting wedges, several files, and at least one sledgehammer. See the previous discussions in SurvivalBlog for details on timber felling saws, crosscut saws, and buck saws. Without a chainsaw, the most labor intensive work will be crosscutting the rounds for splitting. Buy the very best crosscut saw that you can afford. It is not realistic to think that someone can carry all of their gear on their back. See the many previous discussions in SurvivalBlog about garden carts, deer, carts and bicycle trailers. ]
If you have a choice, go with wood handles. Fiberglass is promoted as better than wood, but wood handles have been around for much longer than fiberglass[, and can be fashioned by hand from some hardwoods like hickory]. I’ve never broken a wood handle on a snow shovel; not ever. But, I have broken the handle of a fiberglass shovel near the blade. A disaster scenario is the worst time to learn that the manufacturer’s claims are hyped-up, or that your axe has been designed to fall apart a month after the warranty expires. Wood is tried and true. If you can carry it along and can afford to, an extra handle would be prudent. You will need a hammer and something solid to get the old handle out. A red Robertson screwdriver will do the trick, but if you want to be safe, also pick up a punch and chisel. Those will work if something happens to your Robertson. [JWR Adds: Be sure to also buy rubber bumpers to protect the handles of your mauls and sledges. This prevents most of the typical handle breaks.]
You might not have your BOB on hand. If not, grab a tool bag and add it to your shopping basket. You’ll also need any waterproof fire-start kit that the store has on hand. Unfortunately, beggars can’t be choosers once the SHTF, so you’ll have to go with what in stock and hope for the best.
A 36-inch axe weighs three and a half pounds, which won’t be that big a load. If you’re strong and can afford it, consider adding a 5-pound splitting wedge and a sledge hammer to your woodcutting kit. Ten pounds and up is best for the sledge, but that might be too heavy if you are traveling afoot. Eight pounds will suffice. Again, the wood handle is tried-and true, so get wood if you can.
As for the bow saw, a twelve incher can suffice for cutting off branches and limbs. You can use the axe for anything bigger. Make sure you get at least three spare blades for the bow saw and the right kind of screwdriver for the blade. If not absolutely sure, buy a multi-screwdriver.
You should consider the hammer and wedge, despite the weight, because showing up fully equipped makes you look more professional. Remember, your potential employers will be on the look-out for beggars and camouflaged criminals. The more ready-to-work you are, the better your chance of landing the SHTF job. It might be tempting to buy a chainsaw, but [if your concern is societal collapse,] don’t bother. How are you going to lug around the gas? If you’re not going to lug the fuel, then why carry around a chainsaw at all? Your employer should have one: if not, then [it will be in a circumstance where] he’ll be glad for your axe.
Once you’re through at the hardware store, find a convenience or dollar store that isn’t too crowded and get that cooking glove. Also, get quart and gallon Ziploc bags. Put the sharpening stone in the smaller and the entire package in the bigger. Do the same with your fire starter. Then, get any food items you’ll need for your journey.
How To Land The Job
In TEOTWAWKI, the "Human Resources" infrastructure will vanish. That will make finding a job more straightforward. There won’t be any more résumé-and-interview songs and dances.
On the other hand, you’ll have to canvass rural folk who are on their guard. When approaching them, be non-threatening. Hide your hunger and tiredness, else you’ll come across as a beggar. Once you see someone, leave your axe strapped to your belt or in your pack.
If you’re hustled off, go quietly, peaceably and cheerfully. Thank him for his time. The more you establish yourself as a nice guy, the better. That way, the grapevine network will work to your advantage.
If not, don’t make the mistake of asking “for work.” The more general you are, the more you’ll sound like a beggar. Don’t ask for “work:” ask for a wood-cutting job. Be specific, and show that you’ve got the equipment; that will anchor you as a serious journeyman.
Be polite and respectful, and try to be as “normal” as you can. Being courteous taps into the unconscious hope that things will get back to normal soon. That hope is the secret behind “leadership.” You might as well tap into it while job hunting.
Ask these three questions:
- “Do you have any wood-cutting work you’d like done?”
- If you get a no, then: “Do you know of anyone else who needs wood laid in for the winter?”
- If you get another no, then ask if your prospect has any other work he’d like you to do.
If the final answer is no, see if you can stay awhile and chat. Needless to say, there’ll be a lot to talk about. Although the goal is to make the grapevine work in your favor, you’ll appreciate the company. After five minutes or less, head down to the next prospect; if one’s not in sight, ask where the nearest neighbor is. If you’re hiking to your own retreat, ask where the nearest neighbour is in the direction you’re going. Rinse and repeat until you’ve landed something. Stay as upbeat as you can.
In TEOTWAWKI, consider yourself fortunate if you get paid in room-and-board. A berth then will be just as prized as a permanent job with full benefits is now. Unless your employer’s food runs out, you’ll get through until normalcy is restored. Once you’re hired, and do a good job, you’re a good worker. A good person to have around. If you’re lucky enough to be hired by a farmer with a wood lot, then you’ll be first in line once he realizes that the Schumer has truly hit the fan. Once he knows he’ll need labour to replace the tractors and combines that don’t work or have run out of diesel, you’ll be first on his list.
If you’re not lucky enough to land a farm berth, ask your employer how you can be useful in other ways; look out for other tasks he needs. The wood job might not last, so it’s best if you can leverage it into dogsbody work unless you’re on a journey. If you plan to be itinerant, if you’re trying to get to friends, family or your own retreat, ask for a bonus once you’ve proven yourself. Food, of course, is best; MREs would be a real boon. Of course…you might end up liking your berth enough to stay. Either way, you’ll be truly blessed.
The above advice is contingent upon you being caught unprepared. If you are, you’ll find out quickly which muscles you need to swing an axe and handle a bow saw.
But, if you want to prepare for TEOTWAWKI labour beforehand, there’s no better time to start than now. Get the axe, extra handles, sharpener, bow saw, spare blades, 5-pound splitting wedge(s) and sledgehammer. The basics will cost you less than $300. Once you’ve got your kit, get out and practice a lot– preferably in your retreat, where you can also gain experience in using and maintaining a chainsaw. If you don’t have one, do the best you can at your locale. If you have a house, either find a legal place to cut wood or purchase a cord of wood in rounds and split it further.
If you’re stuck in an apartment, your situation will be a little more challenging. Contact the volunteer services who look after seniors in your area. Ask the field staff if any of the clients have a fireplace. Once you’ve got a name, go over and volunteer to split wood for them. If you don’t get any names, try putting a “help available” ad on Craigslist. Ask for a name from every seller of firewood in your locale. With the practice, you’ll find out what muscles you need to build up. With respect to workouts, keep these two points in mind:
- Fatten up. When the SHTF, having “six-pack abs” only means you’re closer than most to starving. There’s no need to become obese, but a small beer belly or fat thighs will mean stored energy that’ll keep you alive longer.
- Work Out To The Task. There’s a bit of a vanity component to even a sound workout plan. Consider Sylvester Stallone in the movie Rocky Balboa. He had pythons for arms, so he could swing an axe all day long – but his chest was flat. He didn’t develop the pectoral muscles that you will need for the sawing. Buttonhole someone who knows anatomy to ask what your hurting muscles are called, and find workouts that strengthen them. A Google search will pull up all the routines you need.
- Take Up Hiking. Not only is it great exercise, but it also prepares you if you’re caught flat-footed. You don’t want to wait until it’s too late to find out that you’re a stiff stumbler after five miles.
Unless you’re fully prepared and already at your retreat, you need a backup SHTF plan to keep yourself alive and housed. The best way to do so is employment. Since it’s highly unlikely that your current expertise will be in demand in TEOTWAWKI, wood chopping is an ideal field to get into because people will need wood to survive. You can prepare for it on the spot if the SHTF and you’re caught unprepared. You’ll be zigging while others are zagging to Wal-Mart.
Acting professionally, showing up prepared for a specific line of work and asking for that kind of work, will set you apart from the beggars. Even if you’re turned down, you’ll still be respected. You might even get a different kind of job out of it.
And, in your own small way, you’ll be helping to build a post-TEOTWAWKI free market. As a free worker, and as a free human being.