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September 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm #37162
This is going to be long, but I hope you can appreciate this wall of text I am about to write and the mindset behind it.
My prepping mind set.
I’m of the opinion that while it’s sensible to be prepared for a short term disaster with food storage, water storage and such, you should also be prepared for the long haul. Stockpiling 2 or 3 years or even a years’ worth of food just doesn’t make economic sense, nor is it feasible with the average families storage capacity. I’m a firm believer that while I will always have enough food to get through a couple months’ worth of disaster, I have to think that it just makes more sense to prepare to take a step back in time and learn to live like people did for thousands of years. Holeing up in your home and eating the stockpiled long term food storage you have spent thousands on is just no way to live, but that’s simply my opinion. There are many ways to be prepared, but I’m trying to offer an alternative to the stockpile, hunker down mindset that so many think is the route to go. Prepare to survive for as long as needed even if that is for the rest of your natural life, get your friends and neighbors involved, make a plan, execute the plan. If you can depend on yourself and your community, it will be a breeze. But only work with people you can depend on and trust.
Small scale homesteading is an option for nearly everyone. I myself have over 30 acres I can take advantage of for my families survival, but not everyone has that option. Just think about these things. Converted pools in backyards covered with greenhouses growing Tilapia and an aquaponic garden being supplied by the water in the pool is amazingly efficient food supply taking up an amazingly small space. Toss in a few laying hens, and a few rabbit hutches, Cistern water storage that catches and stores large quantities of rain water from your roof accessible with a hand pump, and food stops being the problem with long term emergency survival situations. All your basic needs can be attended to on a surprisingly small piece of land. You just have to be creative with it, and think outside of the box. No pool? No problem, You can build these systems smaller scale in a greenhouse and just raise less fish and more chickens and rabbits, use a combination of square foot gardening techniques in raised beds, container gardening, and guerilla gardening. Might be surprised how many folks in your neighborhood might buy into the idea of a community gardening space to work together and have a large area to grow things like corn, wheat, soybeans, oats, etc. (google gorilla gardening if you are unsure of what I am talking about, there is a short explanation below.)
Consider areas of the neighborhood that are wooded or open spaces that are never used (Guerilla gardening), why not plant some useful fruit trees in these areas, some grape vines, blackberries and perennial vegetables in some of the underutilized common areas in the neighborhood? Sure in an emergency situation, others will be likely to find and utilize them, but you don’t have to have just one guerilla garden, you can create several of them. Be creative, Blackberries, fruit trees, grapes, muscadines, scuppernongs, blueberries, devote a large area to cultivating Polk salad, dandelions, and other wild forgeable, and it’s not hard to do, and once established these things will all take care of themselves, that’s low maintenance for you, big benefit. Got an area nearby that has downed trees (most of us do now in Alabama) Shiitake Mushrooms as well as other edible mushrooms will grow in the decaying trees, and they can be cultivated with incredible ease and almost no maintenance. Foraging is an important skill that EVERY prepper should get familiar with. But when you cultivate the wild areas around to promote the growth of wild foragables, it sure makes foraging wild foods a ton easier. Have a low lying shallow wetland area nearby? Cattail! Cattail has more uses than you can imagine, you can eat it, use it for quilt insulation much like down, use the fibers etc.
People have this tendency to forget that city water and power are unlikely to be available in a situation such as this and very well may sometime go down permanently, so there really needs to be a backup plan, water, heating, and cooling are way too much of an afterthought in prepping it seems. Outdoor solar lighting can go a long way here, charge them during the day, bring them in at night. But what about heat? That electric heat pump does you no good without power to run it. Too cool off, those fans aren’t doing you any good if there isn’t power to run them, that air conditioner is just in the way. Do you know what to do? Did you know there was a time when people built their home to take advantage of solar gain, positioning of the home, materials used in the homes construction, etc. were taken into account to take maximum advantage of the suns power. Study these concepts and think about where you can make improvements to your home that can take advantage of some of these proven effective concepts.
Tip: Dark color stones, dark colored water storage tanks, and just about anything containing lots of mass will collect the suns energy during the day and release heat during the cooler hours of the night. The more mass, the better it will work.
Did you know you can make solar powered passive air exchange heaters to put in your south facing windows and during the day that will provide heating into the home, that pulls cool air from the bottom of the room up through a solar heat collector, and pushes it back out of the top of the collector? Less wood collection for the wood burning heater, cheap to make, free to operate. Did you know that the air from under your house if you have a crawl space can be upwards of 20+ degrees cooler than the air in your home? Why are we not pulling that air up into the home and pulling the heated air out of the top anymore? Wood and solar are going to be your most dependable source of heat of course, and learning how to deal with hot months like thick reflective curtains on the sunny sides of the home, creating cross ventilation, pulling cool air from your crawlspace while pulling hot air out of the roof, and cooking outside rather than inside will make a HUGE difference, let’s face it, who really wouldn’t want a sweet outdoor kitchen?
As for lighting, there is the solar lighting option, they aren’t very expensive, oil lamps are a good solution as well since you can make the oil from animal fat and skimming and filtering veggie oil, and you can also learn to make your own candles. Smart use of mirrors and light colors in the areas you plan to keep these types of lights help as well.
Tip: Take one of your solar lights inside, it’s not a very bright light. Now fill up a Mason jar with water and stick your solar light in it and notice how much more efficiently it spreads the light around now, it appears much brighter, this will filter the light better for area lighting, but for reading, you would be best served putting it above you and directing the LED light (LED light is directional) toward your reading area.
What about sanitary concerns? How do we deal with waste? How do we deal with bathing, hot water supply, sanitizing dishes, etc.? Too easy! Ever heard of an in line batch solar hot water heater? A flat plate heat exchanger to heat water? These used to be one of the ways people heated their water other than attaching a water tank to the wood burning stove and letting it collect heat, or heating it up on the stove. These can operate much like your standard hot water heater only don’t require electricity, they simply use the suns energy to collect heat. Now that I’ve given you a place to start in water heating, let’s move on along to sanitation. Solar Showers are cool, you can use something as simple as the camp solar shower all the way up to a more complicated permanent solar shower systems, heat up water on the stove and make a bath, etc. Bathing isn’t going to be the worst part. Let’s move on to dealing with waste.
Tip: Build a solar hot water heater into your existing systems now and reap the benefit of lowering your electric bill a surprising amount, Hot water heaters average out to be between 15 to 30% of your electrical usage depending on how often you shower, wash clothes in hot water, dishes, etc. No longer does your hot water heater struggle to heat the incoming cool water, it also maintains the temperature. An inline batch heater will send hot water into your hot water heater, and the hot water heater does not have to heat that water.
Now how do we deal with all that waste you will be generating? There is more than one way to skin a cat, but one thing I am going to say is this. In a prepper situation, it’s best not to plan to use your perfectly clean water for flushing toilets, that’s just outright silly and wasteful. How about this? Collect up your grey water from showering, laundry, and dishwashing, and use it to flush those toilets? Not a bad plan right? Don’t let that grey water run into the septic or sewer while it is perfectly useable for other things! It’s perfectly fine for flushing toilets. I will prefer much different methods of dealing with this issue. But they typically aren’t for everyone. Using sawdust toilets, then composting the waste is one option (collect urine separately from feces) that is perfectly fine and sanitary if done correctly. Another option is build a Methane digester. You can to turn your waste into an equal part water/equal part organic waste (vegetable based table scraps, feces from most farm animals, humans, pets, spoiled fruits and veggies, etc.) slurry and pour it in the methane digester, the bacteria in the methane digester will consume this waste and release it as methane that can be stored and used for cooking, heating, running a generator for electricity, etc. The only byproduct of this method is a perfectly inert liquid fertilizer you can mix into your irrigation water and pour directly in your garden. This is one of the first things I’m building once we finish remodeling our farm house.
Tip I: Also consider grey water collection systems, they essentially are large natural material filter systems that the grey water is routed into, it filters through a system of gravel, dirt, charcoal, etc., and then pools into a collection tank for later use in garden irrigation or even watering livestock, some systems even supply fish ponds with water for raising Tilapia or other species.
Tip II: I advise study how to and get the tools you will need to build your own well. Water is essential to life, the old belief was that at least one child in ever family would be born with the ability to douse for water (water witch to some, douser to others) because without water there is no life. Transporting is unlikely to be an option unless you live fairly close to water. Knowing how to build a well and get it working will be one of the single most important things you ever do with your time. And just imagine how valuable you could be to others having the skills, tools and knowledge to bring them life sustaining water. A heck of a bartering skill indeed.
Another thing people often to don’t take into account is physical fitness, in the event of disaster a poor level of physical fitness will be worse than not preparing at all. It will require work and effort to prepare for the worst and make it through. Medical problems caused by poor physical fitness will be your most likely cause of failure when there is limited access if any access at all to medical care. Work toward a fairly good level of physical fitness, start eating healthier now, start getting healthier now. In a disaster scenario there is no time to get fit enough to do what you need to do. You need to be fit enough NOW. There is no time to address poor health related issues, you need to be addressing that NOW.
Yet another overlooked thing comes to mind is building materials, containers, etc. etc. You know if things go down to the point that it was necessary to survive off of your long term food and water storages, you aren’t the only one. People aren’t going to be out running the mills to make lumber, people aren’t going to be out maintaining large fields of corn or soybeans, or wheat, etc. People aren’t going to be maintain dairy’s, chicken houses, large cattle farms, etc. People will be surviving first and foremost the same as you, and when society begins to stabilize again, chances are it will still be a very long time before super markets, gas stations, hardware stores, building supply businesses, etc. are available again. There will be no Ace Hardware, Lowes, Wal Mart, Kroger, nor gas stations. Most will have been ransacked long ago. Those motor vehicles you are so dependent on are going to run out of gas, that shingle roof of yours could spring a leak at any moment (If you have a shingle roof, change it to metal at the earliest opportunity, TRUST ME), your plumbing may blow out at any second, a large limb could damage your home, or chicken coop, or shed, etc. You will need to be able to fix stuff, transport stuff, and rebuild some things. Nothing wrong with having a decent stack of spare lumber under a tarp in the back yard, or even stacked in a crawl space under your house, same with plumbing supplies, extra roofing supplies, tar, paint, fencing repair items, etc.. Most preppers look to be prepared for a year or two long collapse for whatever reason they choose to see coming. Where I think the issue is, stems from assuming that after a certain period of time, society will just jump back up to normal operations. I don’t think that’s going to be the case. My belief is that if society goes down to the point where I’m having to live off of a year or more supply of shelf stable food and chlorinated water, it’s unlikely to start getting back to normal for several years. What happens when your stockpile depletes and there is no store for you to go and buy seeds to grow a garden? What happens when your water storage is nearly gone and you have no water source nearby to get water from and no clue how to create a long term water source for your family? What happens if natural disaster requires your home to need repairs and there is no Lowe’s, or Home Depot, no Ace Hardware?
This is just a minor run down of the things you can do as a person and family to be prepared for long term problems. I have a wealth of ideas on what I perceive is the best way for a family to be prepared. Simply put, if society collapses because of any particular reason, you will be set back to living like people did for thousands of years. This information and knowledge isn’t something new. But the art and simplicity of this type of lifestyle is just short of lost in modern America, and setting up to live that type of lifestyle will be VERY difficult if you wait until after the breakdown occurs.
Nothing in life is certain, you need to be prepared to provide for yourself and your family long term, if you start working toward sustainable living practices now, it’ll be a breeze when you need it. BUT, what if a hungry mob takes over your food supply? Well, simply put, you need to know how to hunt for your food NOW, you need to know how to forage for your food NOW, you need to know how to fish for your food NOW, you need to know how to cultivate land and make it provide for you NOW, you need to know how to build or find shelter NOW. Sure you can stockpile years of food supplies and water. But once again, none of that is certain in a disaster scenario as we are all too familiar with, a tornado or flood, or hungry mob of desperate people could take over your preps tomorrow. But a family who knows how to live a resourceful, self-sufficient and sustainable life with nothing more than what you can provide for yourself from the earth will thrive while others suffer.
It’s just my opinion, but everyone wanting to prepare to take care of their families should really be considering long term lifestyle adjustments, a reorganizing of priorities, etc. Let’s face it, you can prepare and prepare, and prepare, but NOTHING will prepare you for the adjustments you will have to make when it becomes a necessity to completely change lifestyle without doing it before hand and working through the adjustments, trials and tribulations first. You don’t have time to suffer setbacks in the event of societal, financial, or systems failure. The only way to prepare for that is to practice it now. That’s simply my opinion on prepping, it’s to make my lifestyle one of constant self-sufficiency, remove my reliance on anything that I am not in control of. I just feel that in order to do it right, I have to do that now, grow my garden, practice all the skills I need in case the powers down, the supermarkets close, the economy crashes, natural disaster happens, etc.
Sure I’m not quite there yet, but that’s the goal I’m working for. Not 600sq’ foot of food and water storage, thousands of pounds of guns and ammo you can’t carry with you if you have to flee (you may very well end up arming your enemies), not holeing up in my house until the threat disappears, not going rogue in the woods like a want to be Rambo. No one will thrive more than the self-sufficient Homesteader. Because even if their homestead is destroyed or taken over. They can live off the land, they are familiar with naturally occurring foods, fishing, hunting, foraging, raising animals, they will be familiar with cultivating land and building structures that are necessary and helpful to live life.
My long term lifes plan Is not solely prepping for disaster. It’s a conglomeration of survivalist, prepper, homesteader, and other similar knowledge and ideas. This way if society breaks down, we already are intimately familiar with living without what so many think is necessary so the adjustment will be nearly none, our homestead will go on as normal, if my gardens are eaten by bugs, or marauded by people, I have my preps for backup, if my homestead is all together destroyed or taken over, I can survive without it until I find another place to rebuild a home for my family. Simply put, prepping and thinking about what you will do in a SHTF scenario just isn’t enough in my eyes.
If you want to build yourself a self sufficient off-grid homestead that you can live on and support your family on no matter what for the rest of your life, independant from relying on outside sources, I think you have chosen the smart thing to do with your life. But there is no better time than now to get started in that direction by going ahead and making some of those adjustments in your current home. You can hang a clothes line and start line drying clothes, hand washing clothes, tie in a solar water heater, practice keeping cool and warm as needed using off-grid type tactics, start drying some food, container gardening, etc. Practice, practice, practice now, and when you decide you have your ducks in a row, you can up and move to the homestead and already be proficient in some of the things you need to be proficient in. And that’ll take a lot of heat out of the learning curve.
Hope someone finds this helpful or interesting.September 7, 2012 at 12:00 am #42945
great post. Can we copy paste it to other locations?September 7, 2012 at 11:22 pm #42947
Sure thing, Just gimme some props on the cross posts and such.September 11, 2012 at 9:01 pm #42950
Excellent post! Thank-you.September 12, 2012 at 4:18 pm #42954
You are welcome, and thank you for the kudos. I have some more things I’ll be writing in the near future, but unsure on what I want to focus on first.December 22, 2012 at 7:07 pm #43786
I hope you don’t mind but i just saved the entire thing down to my laptop for reference. :)June 26, 2013 at 10:53 am #46719
I created a presentation out of this post and gave a seminar to our local prepper group and they loved it. We are still currently working toward this goal, and each and every week we are steps closer to the goal. The only hold back is financial and the fact that I seem to now constantly be having issues with my back. It will not keep me from reaching my goal now.July 5, 2013 at 12:05 am #46916
Eric T DanielsParticipant
Very well thought out. My family is planning on finding and helping multiple groups become sustainable. I would be able to provide a little extra income and free labor while visiting these groups. We want to build a network of people. I drive truck for a living and once things start to collapse feel it would be a great benefit to the network of communities to be able to trade items between groups. We also believe as Micheal Reynolds does that it isn’t enough to just be prepared because those who aren’t are going to become very motivated to take from others. It is and will continue to be our goal to be able to learn quick and effective ways to gain support of these prep plans from those people who haven’t yet excepted that our current situation is going to get far worse before it gets better. We are almost ready to head out on our adventure and are excited. We are still looking for those who would welcome us to get started. I don’t believe that turning back to the colonial days is going to be the answer. I also believe that if people pull their resources together not only as a group but also forge alliances with many other groups the speed at which progress can be achieved is unlimited. I live in central Pa area. I know how well the Amish system works and understand that it isn’t one church of people. In fact each group operates in their own way, however as a whole the groups can and do pull resources such as heavy equipment and building large structures. We believe that a modern approach to this lifestyle will have great rewards for everyone and will launch the Off Grid movement in ways never before dreamed. We look forward to having more conversations about the future of people. It’s time we get moving on our dream.July 5, 2013 at 1:35 am #46917
Eric T DanielsParticipant
My Biggest Part of our plans is to simply educate people on energy. Most people don’t grasp it. A huge amount of people believe that the best source of electric is what comes from the power lines that as produced by a large power plant. I worked in that industry as a repairman for awhile. Yes many people have watched documentaries on the sad state our power grid and other infrastructure is in. Those who want to GO GREEN are the worst group of people to be misinformed about energy. This group of people though well intention ed are fighting for so called green energy. They believe in a false set of rules that the very producers of energy have created. This group still believes that green energy can be produced and transferred on the grid at an affordable cost. They also believe that the cost to an individual to produce their own energy can’t outweigh the benefit. I truly care and value those who are fighting every day to protect the environment. This however is the truth they haven’t heard from their well adjusted, high income organizers.
Here in Pa we produce 1/3 of the power for America. This power has been produced in a large part from coal, nuclear and now natural gas. The goal as said by our president was to make it unprofitable and impossible for coal power plants to continue to operate and end any possibility to build new ones. I know this is not anything Off Grid people care about given they are geared up to eliminate this source from their lives. However it is a planned approach from the big energy companies to keep the cost of self produced energy products or the use of them out of the reach of every day people.
So to educate those misguided well meaning folks does two very important things in the quest for those who desire an Off Grid lifestyle. One the more people who get with the program the cheaper the products, most of which are already produced here in Pa and other parts of the country. And secondly it creates careers and small business. I hope a huge amount of Off Gridders can get this. I hear it many times every day when talking to people who believe going green isn’t an option for them.
How to reach these people and why. The fact is as stated before the faster this trend goes the less of a fall that happens. Don’t get me wrong going off grid isn’t going to solve the worlds problems. I however know it is the number one greatest factor that will change the world on multiple layers. While each of us strives to prepare and achieve our sustainability getting into the mind set to explain why others should doesn’t take a lot of our time. It is important to bring these people toward the favorable conclusion in bite sizes they can grasp. I am still learning myself how to do this while learning ways to explain energy to them in a way they can grasp.
When opportunities arise to have a conversation about solar, wind, green energy and even off grid I have learned to avoid the traps the big energy companies have set first. I simply explain the loss of energy that they are paying for but will never see. I explain to everyone that wind mills are no greener then coal fired plants if not carried out properly. I explain that energy is spent to gain the raw materials needed to build the new plant. Energy is used to build the service roads, and the power lines. The whole process for Pa to change from dirty coal to wind, natural gas or solar in the end uses up so much energy that the pollution of that energy will take 100’s of years to gain any benefit.
Next I explain energy loss. Everyone on the power grid pays a bill for energy that was produced but will never be used because of loss. 35% loss in production 35% loss in transferring. It is further loss in our homes by the very products we cherish in our high tech gadgets. So people who are ill informed seek out what cost they will incur to produce energy for their home which was designed to waist energy. The power companies didn’t get where they are by making energy less needed. So I explain to people before pricing what it would cost to have enough solar panels to run their home they first need to price what it would cost to transfer their life to DC.
Most people never think about the products currently in their home and on the market that use DC. My TV, laptop, daughters Desk top our printer the Xbox many light fixture and the list goes on are in fact DC products that have a built in loss when AC has to be turned back into DC. I explain to people that the same wire in their home that carries AC will carry DC. SO before these people spend $20,000 on solar panels and $5,000 on a wind mill they need to have an electrician fix their current wiring. Then Have these DC powered products power without the AC to DC transformer. It isn’t easy for the average person to due but much less of a cost then 25 to 30k in green energy.
Then As you stated fixing the heating system, water systems and fictions of their home that were not meant for self produced DC power. When they Are done then a proper energy plan can be designed for their home. And even if they aren’t completely off the grid the average American home would only need 30% of it’s current electricity. That is 70% gain. If people understand that by doing this they will fend off the proposed 600% energy cost we are faced with. If they don’t I ask them their current monthly bill and ask them if they can afford that % of increase in the next 3 to 5 years?
In the end My desire to go Off grid no longer seems crazy to them and also gets them thinking in the right direction. What I don’t tell them is my goal is to bankrupt the big energy one home, one community, one day, every day I can. That means the cost of energy for those who resist change will go even higher then the proposed 600%. Our dream is to gain speed on our plan and bring down the cost of products and get them directly in the hands of the customers. We are wanting to gain the interest of small investors and business minded individuals to sit down and develop a micro manufacturing process for these products. Make it local, build it local, sale it local, and maintain it local.
I have a great amount of ideas, plans and ability get this over the top. What I need is the people and more funding. Until such a time I need to be out in the trenches with the front line Off Grid people. I need a place to set up a camper that can accommodate a family for a smaller cost then renting homes. I need to be off grid myself.
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