Taking Stock

This has been an interesting week.  The various chicken-littles have been focusing on the stock market “correction,” predicting full-on collapse in the near future.  The war-hawks have been calling for World War III, pointing at Russia and Ukraine, and the West getting embroiled in that mess.  (This one concerns me, too, but only because so many players are so completely unpredictable, and because there are so many moving parts that a misstep by any one could gum up the works…)

And yet, the year marches on.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of perennials (trees, berry shrubs/canes, and a few decorative things) that not only survived the harshness of this winter, but seem intent on making up for lost time in their growth.  Seeds sown for this year’s harvest seem mostly to be doing well; some of the tomatoes are being hesitant to sprout, but we’ll make it work somehow.  And we’ll be in various winter squashes up to our eyeballs, barring another round of squash-borer beetles.

Some of our “extended island” (our ‘survival crew’) is coming to visit this week.  They actually live at our emergency bug-out location; this is the first time for any sort of large-scale “reverse trip,” with them coming this way.  The house will be a zoo for a few days–four adults, five kids, five dogs, six cats, and a goat–but we’ll be able to use the opportunity to learn a few things during the visit.  Plus, the extra hands to get some things done are always useful.

Then, a day after they have gone, other of our friends come and we’ll have another work party, with a little more emphasis on the “party” part.  (It’s spring, after all–and the weather should be nice.)  The ‘breather’ from the two weeks’ worth of mad dash will be quite welcome.

Afterwards, though, it’s back to work.  The woodpile is woefully low, there’s grass to cut, and fences to tend to.  Lots of the house still needs mending, bracing up, or finishing.  The cellar needs to be set to rights–and there are canning jars that need cleaning, and shelves to be built…

To bring things a bit more into the present, I’ve a prep that I rarely see mentioned anywhere: Do you have your will up-to-date?  A living will?  How about a Power of Attorney, for “just-in-case”?   An Advance Care Directive?  All of these are of incredible importance, in the off chance that (fates forbid) something should happen to you.  My wife’s friend (currently still in rehab, re-learning to stand, before going on to walking) had all of the above, but it was out of date; some of the people named ‘in charge’ she had had fallings-out with, and didn’t want guiding her care or handling her assets.

A prepper warning tale: don’t forget your EDC, and make sure it has an ID in it of some sort.  A different dear family friend, just this past week, went out for a casual walk around his neighborhood, had a sudden, massive heart attack, and died.  Fortunately, his papers were in order… had he had an ID on him, his wife would probably have been notified much sooner.

I would attach a link to somewhere to go for all of those documents, but the rules governing them are going to be different, state-to-state.  A little time with Google should bring up sample local forms.  Remember, when you’re filling them out, to be as specific as you can, and not to mince words.  Also, don’t forget that when you’re naming people to take care of certain things, you can specify people as not to deal with things.  (“Aunt Jane can make health-care decisions, but she is not to have access to my bank account.”  That sort of thing.)

I hate to end on that sort of a somber note, but it’s important.  I hope everyone out there is finally enjoying spring!

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Semper Gumby, Again (Still)

The flexibility theme continues. This week, we’re not just talking about being able to adjust your plans on-the-fly, but mental flexibility. What do you do when you’re confronted with facts that run contrary to your world-view, or worse, to your self-image?

We humans are in a lot of ways still a very primitive bunch. Our brains are still hardwired to be able to keep track of our “village” (‘Dunbar’s Number,’ or about 150± relationships). We’re still generally pretty xenophobic by default, fearing the “other” (and hating what we fear). What I’ve long suspected, and now can show research to confirm, is that we’re generally pretty ‘tribal’, and will resist things that might make us not fit in our current ‘tribe’.

This plays out in a number of ways. One way is to continually extol the “exclusivity” of your ‘tribe’—this tactic has led to the modern concept of “American Exceptionalism”. Another way is to deny anything that would change the status quo, particularly as it pertains to one’s own social standing or belonging. This version leads to any of a number of neuroses. (Yes, I’ve thought up and discarded any of a number of plays on the “Survivor”-“survivalist” theme, and getting “voted out of the tribe.”)

How do we get around our innate tribality? I believe that it’s primarily done by growing the f**k up. Admitting that you can be wrong, and admitting and accepting it when you are. Allowing your opinions to be swayed by facts. Being aware of the “us-vs-them” mentality, and stopping it when it crops up. Yes, the “right-vs-left” version of this is a regular player on this and other political blogs, of whatever stripe; that seems to be the nature of the beast. I will continue to push openness, and the willingness to change one’s mind (both for myself, and for others) as the a primary force for good.

With that being said, I’m cutting this week’s blog post short. A sudden advent of Real Life ™ has made things quite hectic, suddenly—nothing bad, this time, but scheduling has become difficult, and the good weather lately has exponentially increased the amount of work to be done around the homestead. Seeds are sown, and the chicken countdown is C-minus-45 days. I’ve got fences to mend, and fields to be tended! What’s keeping you busy, faithful readers?

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This should probably be one of the key words for prepping.  I’m always surprised at the folks who think they know exactly how everything is going to fall apart, and prep for that eventuality.  Where will they be when things go another way?  More prepared for it than otherwise, certainly; I’m curious as to whether the resulting cognitive dissonance will cause some degree of freeze-up. (Vapor-lock of the brain, anyone?)

Additionally, it seems that with the rapid-fire “world crises” of late, much of the  community is suffering from “prepping ADD.”  Where will the “EOTW” come from?  Now it’s a financial crisis; now it’s WW3 due to this crisis or that; I’ve even seen posited that “something big is brewing under the Ring of Fire” and the Big Earthquake ™ is coming.  Something new every day…

For our part, we had hoped to renovate our kitchen this summer, to the tune of far more money than I really like thinking about; with my job throwing me a big question-mark, we’ve had to shift focus elsewhere.  Instead of the big-budget kitchen makeover, we’re doubling the size of our garden.  More money is being put into the chicken preps than might be otherwise.  Other things are likewise getting more attention.

What doesn’t change (much) however are the basics, for a more rational type of prepping.  Community.  Broad skillsets.  These things are much more important (for believers in the Long Collapse) than having a years’ worth of food, water, and ammo.

We’ll be working on both community and the skillsets over the next couple of weekends: large groups of friends over for work (still lots of clean-up to do, among other things), followed by barbecue and pot-luck.  People can learn things they didn’t already know–I’ve got a couple of friends who’ve never worked a chainsaw, for instance, or built raised garden beds.  And later on, we can reciprocate at their places, and maybe learn something new ourselves.

During all of which, though, we’ve got to maintain our flexibility.  As we said in the military, Semper Gumby (‘Always Flexible’).

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For one’s own sake

As mentioned in my previous post, before last week’s hiatus, lots of things recently have been “up in the air.”  Predictably, some of those things are starting to come back to earth.  Here’s where we are:

  • My wife’s friend is out of the hospital again. In addition to everything else, she’s now being given (extremely addictive!) painkillers, and still laments often that “God hates her,” at least in part due to…
  • Her dog has a UTI, a double ear infection, and possible liver problems, all in addition to (still) not really knowing how to dog. (The animal is poorly socialized, not used to schedules/routines/rules, and ‘plays’ like an 80-pound puppy–whose ‘nips’ have already been the cause of another vet visit.)
  • Work, at least, is settling down. I’m off to a new office next week, and things will be played by ear–but at least no pay cuts (or layoffs!) are forthcoming.
  • The greenhouse has been repaired and re-established. Judicious application of some rope and a couple of cinder blocks are thus far working to hold it down, despite 40+ mph wind gusts. Seeds have been re-done, so when warm weather finally gets here, we may have some sprouts. Our mix of varieties has shifted, but it was going to do that over time anyway.
  • Two months until chickens!  A coop has been built, but it’ll probably get converted into a tractor, and a new one built to replace it.  (Suggestions? I can certainly build one for cheaper than buying one. I’m looking for plans…)
  • Speaking of plans, they are afoot to expand the “orchard,” such as it is. I’ve got two new apple trees on their way, and we’ve pruned the old trees (mostly removing dead and/or cracked branches from the winter).
  • SNOW?!  We had just gotten things thawed, and dried out a little…

One theme running through all of this–something my wife’s friend hasn’t figured out, and by which our various priesthoods (theological, technological, or otherwise) do us all a disservice–is that God/Fate/the Universe/pick your ‘higher power’ doesn’t hate anyone. Nor does it love anyone.  No, it simply doesn’t careIf you set yourself up to be ready (prepared), you’ll be pretty well covered.  If not, you’ll get eaten.

Me, I’m banking on preparedness.  That’s what this is about, though; not just to ‘survive,’ but to thrive through whatever hardships come.  How about you all–have you more or less made it through the winter intact?

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Silver Bells and Cockleshells

At the least, that’s how the garden feels–lots of wonderful imaginary things.  Normally, by this time of year, we would have been hardening off the earliest seedlings and finishing getting the garden beds ready.  The weather hasn’t been cooperating, and yesterday was truly the icing on the cake.  Our ‘greenhouse’–a contraption of steel pipes, normally covered with a fairly heavy-weight plastic shell–was insufficiently tied down, and decided to become a sail.  I managed to catch it before it went to visit the neighbors, but not before it dumped all of the seed trays across the yard.  It won’t rule out vegetables, to be fair, but it will make the garden much more random. (We have generous friends who have offered some of their ‘extra’ seedlings, so all is not lost…)

In all, it’s been a demoralizing week.  Last Friday, I fractured a headlight on the way to work in an unfortunate encounter with a deer.  Monday, I was informed that my job is being “reorganized”–fortunately, the ‘worst-case’ scenario is a slight pay cut, but uncertainty is never fun.  Our hospitalized friend was out of the hospital, but went back in on Tuesday night.  Now the garden is set back.

All of that said, though, it’s for times like these that we prep.  (Well, okay–it’s for much more trying times than these, but these seem to be good practice.)  We’ve got food in the pantry to last a while, we can power the pump for the well, and we have fuel to cook with.  The house is sound, and warm; we’re all healthy.  While I may be temporarily down, I’m confident that we can make it through to ‘sunnier days,’ both literally and figuratively.

Compounding everything is that the next week is going to be busy–extra-curricular school activities for the kids, plus family visits, plus a few car repairs, plus just getting everything settled back down a little.  With that, I’m cutting this post short–stuff and things to do, you know–and I’ll be off next week.  With a little luck, and a bunch of hard work, things should be a bit more even-keeled when I return.  See you then!

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Snips, Snails…

Recently, while perusing YouTube looking for some information on wiring a small solar generator (more on this later), I stumbled across another list (turn down your volume before opening).  This one, from a fellow’s YouTube Channel, proposes 10 things that are necessary to be considered a “prepper” (as opposed to a “survivalist”, a completely different animal).

The guy starts well.  He’s a bit rambling, and not necessarily 100% coherent, but he certainly has some good points.  Made me laugh on a number of occasions.  He’s got quite a bit of non-directed anger, which I suppose is understandable.  Overall, I’d rate his “10 requirements” at “9 stars” out of ten–he had me up until the very end.  But that being said, I can’t really argue with his points:

  1. Health.  Don’t call yourself a “prepper” if you can’t make it from the living room to the kitchen without getting winded.  You’ve absolutely got to take care of your health first and foremost.
  2. Friends.  Not “the other guys in your militia.”  Actual friends, with whom you get together and do things.  You’ve got to have them, you’ve got to be able to make more.
  3. Know your neighbors.  Don’t just know the “firing lanes” towards their houses.  Actually know your neighbors, and build a community.  You’ll be better off in the longer term.
  4. Focus on skillsets.  Not just bushcraft.  Not just firearms.  As much as you can learn to do self-sufficiently, you should.  Minor vehicle maintenance (change a tire?  change the oil?), basic carpentry (driving screws, nails, and saws).  Animal husbandry (how to feed chickens; how to deal with an unruly dog).  All kinds of things.
  5. Know how to grow and preserve food.  Not on a farm scale–although if you can do that, great–but even as small as an herb garden in pots in a windowsill.  And preserve what you grow, be it by drying, salting, smoking, canning, or whatever.
  6. Cook.  Know how to cook healthful, nourishing food.  Have a variety.  Learn some of the basics of cooking, and figure out how to mix and match styles and ingredients to spice things up.
  7. Preppers don’t hide.  If the government really cared about who you are, they’d be able to find you with little-to-no difficulty.  Don’t do anything illegal, and they won’t much care about who you are–and you can spend that much more time/energy/money on your other prepping.
  8. Off-grid for at least one month.  This means no grocery runs, no “outside” electricity.  This is the hardest one so far, I’d say–but even this is relatively doable, with a little thought and effort.
  9. Happy and hopeful.  If you’re waiting for the world to end, how great can your overall outlook be?  Talk about being a wet blanket at a party…
  10. Belief in God.  This is where he lost me.  I’d say you can be fully successful simply having a belief that you can make it through whatever situation, and come out alive on the other side.  Not just “to survive,” but to live.

He also had 10 acts that (in his opinion) immediately disqualify you from being a prepper; that’s a list for another time.  I’ll have to check out more of his videos for a better grasp of just where this guy is coming from, but I’m favorably impressed by this snippet.

What say you?  Would you add anything to his list?  Remove anything?

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What will it be like?

I’ve seen a number of posts elsewhere recently that began with, “When the Collapse happens…” or, “After the Collapse…”  I thought I should weigh in again on that.

As I believe we’ve established, I’m not a believer in Fast Collapse.  Rather as with the Roman Empire, I think that historians in a thousand or so years will spend time arguing about the exact date of the End of the American Empire. Above all else, though, I don’t claim to have any idea what exactly things will be like “after”.  That said, however, I think I can make a few guesses as to what things won’t be like.

First, we’re not looking at Mad Max. The end of Big Oil will (hopefully) not end with a ‘bang’ but a ‘whimper’–as the Hubbert curve truly indicates, we won’t ‘run out’ of it, so much as it will eventually get priced beyond the reach of most. Renewables (biodiesel, algae production, hydrogen) probably won’t be able to replace more than a fraction; they’re simply not energy-dense enough in a short enough time.

I strongly doubt any scenario that has a sudden collapse of the dollar leading to widespread anarchy, especially due to any of the reasons typically listed for said collapse. China dumping all of their holdings?  Less than 8% of our debt; painful, but not impossible. “Burst bubble” in the stock market? Yep; happens pretty often–and we muddle through it every time, with varying amounts of pain. (And if politicians develop a collective common sense–Ha!, I make myself laugh–they’ll re-instate some of the regulation [Glass-Steagall] that helped prevent and ameliorate the bubbles…)

Nuclear winter? Increasingly unlikely, particularly on a global scale. Pandemic? Possible, but we’ve generally got a pretty good handle on the really scary ones for now; the trick is to convince people that vaccinations are a good thing.  EMP, with or without a solar flare/CME?  Well, to be anything like a major problem, it would have to be with, I’d think; the odds of a big enough one to drop the overall grid are somewhere between slim and none. There would have to be a really big flare, and it would have to be ‘aimed’ just right.

Nearly everything else I can think of would be fairly localized.  Extreme weather (hurricane, tornado, blizzard, etc.) or ‘Act of God’ (lightning, earthquake) would be at most regional. Terrorist attack–local. Accidental explosion of some sort–probably very local. With that, my advice to any beginning prepper remains my advice to most “mid-level” and “advanced” preppers: get yourself situated for the small stuff. If you’ve covered your bases, you’re probably pretty well covered for the big stuff. At the least, you’ll be much more flexible in your ability to respond.

I’m curious what anyone else out there thinks of the recent call (by the Secretary of Defense, no less) to decrease the size of the military. I’m cautiously in favor; I’ve long thought our Empire was a bit too strung-out and extended for its own good. It will be interesting to watch what becomes of it, once the predictable Congressional postulating is over.

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