Prepping the Homestead

As we wait for the political worm to turn (again), my family has been taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to make some early preps to get the homestead ready for spring.

The biggest, most obvious chore over the last few weeks has been getting the garden ready. Some parts didn’t need much assistance–the asparagus rhizomes are apparently snug in their bed, waiting for spring; the beds of garlic and onions are just waiting out the season–but getting the last of the old detritus pulled, and tilling the raised beds made things look much tidier.

While my back and shoulders aren’t really happy with the world, I’m hopeful that getting the weedlets chopped up and buried will at least slow them down a little. And we’ve had enough wet that I was able to pull the burdock plants that seeded themselves (they’re a continuous nuisance, around here)–if we could get our carrots to put out taproots like that, I’d be thrilled.

My Lovely Wife ™ also planned out what and where we’ll be planting, this year. In addition to the normal crops (cabbage, broccoli, radishes, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions), we’ll be experimenting this year (for fun) with popping corn, which I haven’t grown since I was a kid. Last year we tried okra–an experiment that would have been much more successful if we had done a better job keeping up with the plants. Once they started producing, it was a pod or two per day, per plant–and later in the season, you needed a ladder to reach them.

I also spent a good bit of time in the unheated part of the shop, putting together new bee hive bodies and frames. The two hives are looking good, thus far, and if I can keep at least one of them going to spring, I’m certain I’ll be able to do some splits. With luck, I can go from the current two, up to four or five hives. Six is about all I would want here on my property, for space reasons, but I’ve got a couple of friends who have asked if I can set up hives on their properties (“out-yards,” they’re called), so I can probably get as high as ten hives total–assuming I can get the equipment together…

In walking news, today (it’s Wednesday the 2nd, as I write this) I got about a mile in, on breaks at work–with a bit of planning, I can easily stretch that out much further; before I get too deep into things, though, I’ve got to invest in a good pair of shoes. (Even, possibly, some hiking boots–two pairs, so that I can break one pair in, and leave it in the car with my GHB, then break the second pair in for daily use.) If anybody has any brand recommendations, I’m all ears!

Silly quote “in the wild” for the week:

“So in light of The Birdbox Movie, what kind of blindfold is in your EDC and BOB?”

Really, people? We’re seriously going to base some of our preps on (spoiler alert) the sudden appearance of, basically, demons?
How about it, folks? How are your preps going in the New Year?
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Almost the New Year

In fact, my next post will be next year. We’ll have a Democratic House of Representatives, with supoena power and everything, which will be–well, if not “nice,” at least a positive change. Hopefully we can do something about the daily s**tshow that has been our government for the last two years…

Considering that, and that it’s coming up on the time folks like to talk about New Year’s Resolutions, I figured I’d issue a couple of challenges–things I intend to work on, myself. But things I think it would be helpful for everyone out there to do, too.

Firstly, I intend to work a little better on my health. I’m not doing poorly, nor am I ailing; outside of the odd, “common cold” here and there, I’ve been healthy all year. But I don’t feel that I’ve kept up with things like I ought. So I intend to do something simple to start fixing that.

I’m not looking at a “couch-to-5K” sort of thing–although it appeals, somewhat, and if anyone is thinking about doing that, I heartily applaud and encourage it. (Please, check with a doctor, usual caveats, etc. etc.) I am, however, looking at upping my walking game. I plan on starting light, at first–maybe a mile or two a day, either at lunch or just before/after work. But my goal, ultimately, is to be able to do a five mile walk–maybe ten, depending on how I feel about things as the year goes–with a forty-pound pack.

I do this not with an intent to practice “bugging out”. If that’s your thing, it’s certainly a reason. But rather, I’m looking at practicing my “getting home.” As things stand, I spend most of my waking hours away from home–getting to, being at, and coming home from work. If something drastic were to happen, unless it happens at night, the odds are good that I’ll be away from the house, and will want to get back here.

While I’ll probably have my car for that, well–one never knows, which is the problem with disasters, emergencies, and other catastrophes. And if I’ll be hoofing it, I’ll want my GHB, which means toting a pack. While my GHB doesn’t weigh forty pounds, I’d rather be over-prepared than under, which means being ready to haul that much, just in case…

The second thing I plan on doing over the year might be termed “and everything else.” I hope to take one portion of my preps at a time–my BoB/72-hour kit, my GHB, the various household emergency kits, etc.–and go through them (again), making sure that I know what’s in them, and how to use everything. At the same time, I’ll be checking to make sure that stuff works, and looking at expiration dates on things that have them, and replacing as necessary. That process should keep me busy through the year–and I’ll keep everyone here updated as to the progress, naturally. (I think I’ll do my 72-hour kit to start, for those who want to follow along…)

I’ve got plenty of other plans and intentions, as well–actually getting the garden to produce, this year; making improvements on outbuildings around the homestead; actually building (or at least starting) a new smokehouse and/or wood-fired oven. Work and family things, too. Spending less time at the former, more with the latter, primarily… We’ll see how that goes.

How about you all? What grand and glorious plans do you have for the coming year? Please share, in the comments!  Happy holidays, and happy New Year!

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Back at it

Real World update: 7.2 magnitude earthquake, just outside Anchorage. As I keep saying, don’t prep for the “End of the World;” rather, prep for what could happen where you are. Anchorage, unfortunately, gets hit in lots of ways. They’ve got the potential for earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami, and blizzards–and, I’m sure, more, depending on particular circumstances. So think about what your area is prone to, and prep for that–if you’re ready for anything, then a “big collapse” is the least of your worries.

I’ve recently read a couple of articles on, for lack of a better term, “Prepping like the Amish.” The principle, I think, is sound–the Amish live, for the most part, without modern conveniences, and have largely (in the words of John Michael Greer) “collapsed early and beat the rush.”

The two articles I have in mind are “Learning from the Amish,” and “5 Lost Survival Lessons I Learned About the Amish.” I’ll give my thoughts on them individually here.

The first, “Learning”, seems to focus on how the Amish live without electricity. The article itself is light on details, though. They start with a handful of questions: “How do they do their laundry? What is Amish Friendship Bread? Where do they get water? How do they stay warm in the winter?” Then they almost answer the question of laundry, and veer off into starting to describe Amish shopping habits… I’m left curious, though: after buying grains and legumes, powdered milk, and sugar in bulk, what else do they buy?

The page itself has a number of links to relevant items (galvanized tub and wringer for laundry; a book on “Living Without Electricity,” oil lamps, and the like), but I found I had more questions at the end than answers. I haven’t delved deeper into the “Happy Preppers” site–but if it’s all like this, I’m not particularly impressed.

The second site, “5 Lessons,” was a bit meatier. Again, the focus was on living without electricity, which slightly misses the point about the Amish (I won’t claim to be an expert, but I’m aware that there’s more nuance to their belief system and lifestyle than that).

The first lesson was the use and care of non-power tools. While I agree with the principle–I’ll try to learn the “manual” way to do something, before I break down and get the power tool for it–I’m not sure I see the “point” of the lesson. Particularly when they begin to emphasize the Amish’ use of horses. If you, as a prepper, don’t have and use well-trained horses before a collapse, you can hardly be expected to have them afterwards… The earlier point on maintaining your tools, and keeping them in their place (which I have a problem with) is well-taken.

Lesson two was homeschooling. I’m afraid I mostly have to disagree, here. While I’ve met a few homeschooled individuals who were well-adjusted, well-rounded, and seemed quite functional, the vast majority of the ones I’ve met were anything but. Of course, I’m of the opinion that we have experts in various fields for a reason, and we should let them do their jobs. A majority–not all, certainly, but most–of the schoolteachers out there are more than capable, and their job is providing educations for our children… We should let them do that. (It also must be said, however, that one of our jobs as parents is helping that education, and instilling respect and willingness to work in the kids…) Any of the education in “household stuff” (how to manage various of the things around the house) can, and probably will, be taught in less formal surroundings, yes, but there’s more to education than either book-learning, or “practical application of a limited set of skills.” (Why limit the set? Give the kid both types of learning–help them learn how to learn–and they’ll be set for life…)

Lesson three is handsewing. In my opinion, this is one of those “household things” that probably should be taught, but I’m not sure I’d hold it up as one of the five pillars of learning. I do believe that everybody should be able to sew on a button. Patching a hole in your pants is helpful–but it doesn’t have to be pretty, so there’s that. Should we be able to make full sets of clothes by hand? I mean, while I certainly could, again, it wouldn’t be pretty… But even in a “big collapse,” scrounging and/or barter should be fine for the big stuff, at least for a while. (And in the event of a “big collapse,” I’m not going to be worrying about my sartorial splendor…)

Lesson four is “primitive farming,” which the author presupposes the Amish do without benefit of any modern tools and conveniences. I’m pretty sure, however, I’ve seen them using steam engines; also, the height of horse-drawn equipment is really very nearly as effective as the smaller modern stuff. (They won’t be farming the tens-of-thousands-of-acres of monocrop that is today’s “modern farming,” but they can certainly cover quite a bit…) I’d downsize this lesson to plant husbandry–gardening, if you will. You don’t need a huge plot to make a whole lot of wheat for flour; likewise, if tended well, you can (in theory, at least) get a huge amount of food out of a surprisingly small area.

Rounding things out with lesson five is plant identification. I’m not certain that I’d go to the Amish for this one; it seems more a bushcraft thing to do. I will say that I take time to learn the plants that grow in my area–trees, bushes, and all the flowers and weeds and such. Scavenging for food is one purpose; finding medicinals is another possibility. Mostly, I’m just curious about it–and I like learning about the local diversity. I don’t know, off hand, what I’d replace this one with, necessarily… Maybe animal husbandry? Getting, maintaining, slaughtering and butchering livestock (or even game–deer or hogs, perhaps) would be worthwhile knowledge. Or, perhaps, cooking and baking–knowing what to do with the harvest and such…

I’m digging in to a few more “apocalyptic” prepper-style books, lately; maybe I’ll have a review or two, in an upcoming post. Anybody have any good reads, outside of the “classics” of the genre? I’m always open to suggestions–and to questions from you, my readers. Let me know in the comments!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I obviously didn’t look at the calendar when I was writing my last post–this week, here in the States, is Thanksgiving!  As such, I’m going to hold off on writing anything major.

I’d like to take a moment to thank all of my regular readers! I’m glad to be able to shine a beacon of sane, progressive prepping, and I love seeing new people introduce themselves in the comments!

I hope your holiday week is filled with good food and good company!  I’ll be back in two weeks, with a “regular” post.

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So There’s That

As one of the pundits stated, we as a country have stepped back from the abyss. It was, let’s say, a halting, grudging, shuffling half-step back, but it’s further from the edge than we were. The left has taken back the House; it could have been better, but we crossed that line.

Our showing in the Senate, while not as horrible as it could have been, was also not as good as it could have been. I really wanted to see O’Rourke in Texas beat out Senator Cruz, but I suppose it was too much to ask. It was close–and Democrats flipped a few seats in the state legislature. (That said, I think “Beto in 2020” might be a bit premature… But that’s a different discussion.)

And then there’s today’s asshattery. (I’ve got other words for it–what my wife calls my “sailor words”–but asshattery will suffice for now.) Sessions was asked by the President to resign. This is possibly the first step towards a “bloody Wednesday” scenario. In a fair and just world, his ad-hoc replacement, whose name escapes me, will decide to actually follow the rule of law, and allow Mueller to continue things unhindered.

The other of today’s events was the White House pulling Jim Acosta’s press pass (he’s the CNN correspondent). Frankly, the administration’s version of events is, in my opinion, deranged and deluded–but I’ll let you decide: here’s a link to the video.

In other words, while some things have gotten better (all the reins of government are no longer in the hands of a single party–one seemingly bent on destroying the country), some things are just as messed up as before, if not a little worse. Part of me is eager to see the fireworks come January, when the new Democratic House starts to subpoena documents (Trump’s tax returns, anyone?), and investigating things on their own, in parallel to Mueller. But the rest of me is concerned that the right will use their remaining “lame duck” period to enact a scorched-earth policy. So let’s not let our guard down, shall we?

And I’ll cut this short, for this time around–I’m coming off a slight illness, and the kids’ extracurriculars are running me ragged. Next time, let’s talk more survival, shall we? I’ve seen a couple of links that promise some good grist for the mill. Please stick around!

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Not By Yourself

Well, crunch time is almost here–we’re under two weeks to the mid-terms. This is it, folks! My next post will be after we’ve determined if we want to keep going with this marvelous experiment of ours (Democracy), or if we want to watch it all really start to fall apart, potentially even going down the path of any of a number of failed states…

Which means you’ve got to get out there and vote. Not just for Federal representatives, but for whatever of your State officials are running. Your local ones. Even your dogcatcher, if they’re elected. (In fact, arguably, your state and local officials have a greater, more direct impact on your daily life, than do any Federal critters…)

And don’t just take yourself out to vote–bring a friend! Bring a neighbor! Don’t lecture them on who to vote for–really, it’s the participation that’s the key. Everybody who’s eligible should go vote.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to my main topic for today: Everybody.  Which is to say, “community.”

I’ve said often here that your #2 practical resource (after your own knowledge and skills) is your community. With a strong, tightly-knit community, a number of your preps become easier, as you can “share the load” across the group. If something calamitous happens to one of you, everyone else can pitch in a little and help fix it.

I’m not talking about going “full communist,” with a central warehouse of equipment, stores, etc, that gets handed out “to each according to his needs.” But see if you can’t set up, say, a neighborhood email list; then, should something happen, whatever it may be, you can ask around–and the odds increase greatly that somebody in that circle of folks will have the tools and knowledge needed to deal with the situation.

The notion struck me as I was re-reading one of my favorite book series, the Change books of S.M. Stirling (particularly the first trilogy: Dies the Fire, The Protector’s War, and A Meeting at Corvallis). If you strip away the various fantasy bits, you’ve got several groups of people all trying to survive in a pretty catastrophic collapse scenario. And while several things are made somewhat simpler at times for plot reasons (some folks give up a lot easier than maybe they should, while some give up a lot less easily than they ought), it’s largely a story of communities surviving, to greater or lesser extents.

I don’t want to give too  much away, so I’ll keep light on the details. But it struck me that the most “successful” groups (communities) in the stories were the ones that either went full-on dictatorial, or the ones that had folks sharing as much as they possibly could, in the name of the survival of the group. Nobody shared everything–as humans, we really need some periods of privacy, and some of our own things. (I believe some of the later books had a group or two that shared absolutely everything, to one extent or another, but things went poorly for them, overall.)

This isn’t to say that “community” is a magical cure-all: there are groups that get the sharing/private balance wrong, and suffer for it. But if nobody is left on their own, with only their own resources, for too long–well, it’s always nice to have the backup, and somebody to lend a hand.

What do you think, dear readers? How are you encouraging community around you? What suggestions do you have for helping build local groups? (And what other books can you recommend? I’m always looking for more reading, and would be happy to review things!)

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Ancestral Hard Times

I was trolling about the internet the other day, as I’m wont to do, and stumbled across and interesting site: Next Preppers. Their stock-in-trade seems to be list posts, of the “X items that will help you survive the apocalypse” sort. Some of them seem pretty meh; a few of the lists are pretty good. And, whatever the overall quality of the lists, I’m sure there’s food for thought in each of them.

One in particular caught my eye: “8 Forgotten Ways Your Great-Grandparents Survived Hard Times.” I’m all about doing things the “old way,” so I gave it a read, and I’d like to go through it here.

  1. They asked themselves: “Do I really need this?” I really like that this started their list. It’s a question we don’t, in my opinion, ask ourselves nearly often enough. If we paid more mindfulness to what we truly need, versus things we merely want, we’d go a long way towards decluttering life, cutting back on waste, and saving money.
  2. They slowed life down. The author meant “they weren’t so quick to replace things with the latest and greatest;” in my opinion, that falls under item #1. By slowing life down, I’d be more inclined to mean remember that ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ It’s not necessarily as important that things get done right now, so long as they get done–and, preferably, done right. Often, that takes a little more time than our instant-gratification culture would like.
  3. They thought twice, then bought once. Again, this seems to me to fall under #1. I’d suggest, rather, that when you’ve decided that buying something is necessary, you do some research, determine what exactly you need, find the thing that provides that, and get the best-quality widget you can afford. (And while I’m all about being patriotic, “Buy American!” doesn’t always get you the best thing out there… Globalism, for its many drawbacks, does have the occasional benefit.)
  4. They re-used and re-purposed. This is one that I can really get into. I’m all about keeping things out of the waste-stream, and if I can find secondary (or tertiary, or quaternary…) uses for things, I very much like to use them. There’s more than one piece of furniture in my house that’s kept level with snippets of the cardboard packaging that things came from. Bags from the grocery store generally get at least three uses before being disposed of…
  5. They asked good questions. The author goes into asking “how much toothpaste, really, do you need?”, which is as good a case in point as any, I suppose. (Hint: it’s not the caterpillar of toothpaste they show in the commercials…) But I’d expand it to thinking about not just what happened in a certain event, but to go a step beyond that to why. Treating first principles (causes), while it can be more difficult, tends to be more efficient in the long run than treating secondary effects.
  6. They were willing to wait. To my eye, this is similar to point #2 above. I don’t have much to add, beyond the concept of a “cooling-off” period when you go to make larger purchases. If you feel the urge to buy something above an arbitrary amount, make a note, and put off the purchase for a set period (overnight, at least; ideally, a bit longer). If, after that period, you still want to buy it, and haven’t come up with a work-around or cheaper option, go for it.
  7. They did things themselves. Another one that I agree with completely. Just about everything that’s out there to be done can be done by someone, and there’s no reason that someone can’t be you. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty; learn to take things apart (and, preferably, put them back together). Change your tire. Change the oil in your car. Fix an electrical outlet that’s gone on the fritz. Replace the blades on your lawnmower. Believe me, there are instructional books out there–and Youtube is definitely your friend.
  8. They repaired, rather than replaced. This is the logical follow-on to #7 and #4, with a healthy dose of #1 and #3 thrown in the mix. If something is broken, it very often can be fixed–and usually for less than it would cost to replace. (And if you can fix it yourself, which you very often can, it costs still less.) Modern “disposable” culture really carries with it a significant burden on the environment, as well.

What do you think, readers?  Any other commentary on these points?  What other points do you think should be added? Let us know in the comments!

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