I’ve always been a “glass is half full…when life hands you lemons you make lemonade…” kind of person. So despite a divided nation after this recent election, geopolitical unrest, and our nation on the brink of financial collapse, I still see the silver lining.
My husband and I purchased a small 900 square foot home, because it was all we could afford. It was near the height of the housing bubble so we bought high. We then spent the next four years, remodeling the one bathroom the tiny kitchen and living room to suit our needs. After investing tens of thousands of dollars of our hard earned money, blood, sweat and tears we were feeling good about our sweat equity. Then the market crashed and I got pregnant. Deciding not to pour any more money into the pit, and deciding to take control of the financial situation we decided to sell our home and purchase a new one. By that time the real estate market seemed to have no bottom and loans were nigh on impossible to secure from lending institutions. We staged the little house perfectly and lived in that staged house for several months, evacuating every time a potential buyer came by, because an extra body in the house made it feel so much smaller. Fortunately we were able to find a larger home that was more suitable for our expanding family and were able to purchase it at a 30% discount, however we finally sold our first home at a significant loss. Investment guidelines for the early 2000s had become: “Buy high and sell LOW.” But not paying two mortgages was nearly “priceless.”
The Tale of Two Mortgages
It was the tale of two mortgages that was the spark that initiated this whole journey. My husband and I carefully assessed our financial situation and eliminated all “non-essential” expenses. Those things included:
-Some expensive vitamins that were being shipped automatically and payments were automatically being submitted to our credit card. This was something we weren’t paying attention to until then.
-A wine club gift that we had gifted to our neighbors. We didn’t read the fine print that after the $60 intro offer, you’d be billed quarterly for $200.
-No non-essential food items. Only buy what’s on the list and only if we really need it.
-The Cable Television – Gasp. horror! What will you do without television? This is the key to us developing our survival plan.
Life Without Television
We did keep Internet, as this was our means for paying bills, e-mail communication, web surfing and phone connectivity. We began to read, a lot. In fact, we can’t wait to crawl in to bed, early, once the kids are sleeping and read the news. The mass media has become such a biased and agenda-driven source of misrepresentation, it is no longer reliable. It has become a vehicle for propaganda. The children absolutely did not miss television. Though we’re not purists, we do have Netflix and Amazon video, so the young one loves the educational shows and the older one loves Mythbusters. But as a parent I now have total control over what they watch and this includes, not exposing them to the early sexualization of children, the “new normal” of a “modern family” the extols the virtues of a non- mother, father, and God-centered family.
My Favorite Web Sites
I truly admire those talented individuals who are able to organize and centralize great information into a user friendly web site. I wish I could do it because I occasionally get some good ideas, but I don’t have the time. My "go to" favorites include:
-The Drudge Report
-SurvivalBlog.com, of course
-Thedailysheeple.com… “Wake the flock up” one of my favorite new quotes!!!
-Dailymail.co.uk (my ultimate gossip go to site for pure entertainment)
-Happyherbivore.com (because after watching Forks over Knives I freaked out and went plant based for six weeks)
My Eyes Open
When you begin to piece together the unprecedented power grabbing, freedom-reducing moves our own government is doing and put it in the frame of reference of what is happening geopolitically; it’s enough to lose lots of sleep. The Middle East is destabilizing and essentially is one misunderstanding or missile away from full out war. There has been an increasing frequency of climate change that has unleashed massive power outages, gas rationing, and Martial law – as evidenced by Hurricane Katrina, Fukushima, Haiti, Irene, Sandy, and the recent Nor’easter.
So We Became SLOW Preppers
I believe that these patterns are an excellent opportunity to learn “real time” about how people and governments react in times of duress. We’ve all seen how the grocery shelves are wiped out within 48 hours of the weather channel predicting a storm.
When we lost power with Irene then the Nor’easter, we decided the first order of business was to install a generator. That project was eight months in undertaking. There were no generators to be had, as a freak windstorm affected the western half of the US knocking out power to 3 million people in the southwest. Once we got the generator, there were no transfer switches to be had. The demand was high. We finally got the transfer switch. It took another three months to get a propane tank and service, again because of the backlog, but we stuck to our guns and finally got it all put in. This time around, Hurricane Sandy left us without communication by phone but we had power thanks to the generator.
Speaking of guns. Living in the Northeast makes obtaining a firearm difficult. It took about 8 months. First to find a class, then get signed up – another backlog there. Then permits at the police station, state processing, temporary permit, and official permit, followed by my favorite part, shopping. We started slow, read a lot and made one purchase at a time. Now whenever we go to Wal-Mart we buy essentials and a box of ammo. Say it with me now: milk, bread, eggs, toilet paper and ammo. Try it again, diapers, wipes, and ammo. See how easy it is?
The Mormons are on to something. I like their idea of food storage and rotation. We should get into the practice of that. I’m still working on it. Christmas = family gift of a case of MREs. When Mountain House backpacking pouch freeze dried food goes on sale at Wally world I pick up a bag or two. It doesn’t have to be in bulk, but building it slowly is cheaper and you incorporate it into your lifestyle. The kids love the camping section of the stores. Then once in a while we pretend to camp in the basement and “sample” the food stores that are about to expire and rotate fresh stuff in.
Bug Out Tins
There are so many good Bug Out ideas on the web. I came across “survival in an Altoid tin.” It’s good to keep a few bucks in the car, some analgesics, band-aids, floss, matches a mini mag lite etc. It’s always a good idea to carry a case of water in the car, you never know. Making the tins was a fun weekend afternoon activity for the kids and we may turn this into a Christmas gift idea.
Our new home has a little more land and I grew up with chickens as pets. My husband loved the idea as we often romanticize “living off the grid.” Easter came around and we bought three chicks and the kids loved playing with them and caring for them. My husband is pretty crafty and good with tools. We purchased a scuffed up Rubbermaid tool shed from the local home improvement store. He cut some windows and a trap door out. He installed a 2x4 beam for the roosting bar and because of the shape of the interior, was able to put two nesting boxes in there. My husband thought that pets that give back in the form of food were so cool. We eat beautiful omelets with tasty eggs that truly are antibiotic-free and hormone-free. I reduce my garbage by putting kitchen scraps into a bucket and the chickens are so happy to get stale bread, pancakes, and bok choy stems. The chickens think left-over spaghetti = worms and go nuts! When we can’t keep up the 15-20 eggs per week, we again make good neighbors by giving away farm fresh eggs.
My parents always made it look easy. Let me tell you, if you can grow a successful tomato plant from seed, you are waaay ahead of the game. Gardening is a major skill. Start by trying to grow anything. I love perennials. I have peonies, lilies and some other flowering bushes that come back every year. Collards and Kale are almost year round depending on how harsh the weather is. Herbs like rosemary, lavender, thyme, chives, mint, come back every year and are low maintenance. I just put in some asparagus; we’ll see how it does. I also am trialing cranberries as a ground cover and purchased a really great book on edible weeds, so I can increase my foraging knowledge. This really makes you think twice about using poisons in your yard when you free range the chickens and want to forage weeds.
It takes time to build up your stores. I think you should store things you like to eat because then you use it up and aren’t throwing away expired “survival rations.” Pick up new skills, whether that’s gardening, weed identification, how to camp or build a fire, start small, make it a hobby. When a disaster hits your area, open your eyes and perform your own mini SWOT analysis: S – Strengths, W-weaknesses, O- opportunities, T- Threats.
This is a very individualized thing. But I can tell you when gas cans become available again at the local store, I’ll be stocking up on a few. While it’s nice to have a stockpile of gold and silver coins, it can be expensive. Buy an extra roll of aluminum foil or duct tape the next time you are out shopping. When you’ve been sitting in a dark cold house for a week, it can be demoralizing; you’d love some hot cocoa with a splash of brandy. Stock up on cocoa, liquor, comfort foods and items. Some of these have a very long shelf life and will probably be easier to trade or barter than a precious metal that has precious few calories. Good luck with your slow and systematic prepping!