As mentioned last week, this week’s post is about community. Particularly as it relates to the third of my “Four Points:” your neighbors are a resource as important to your survival as your stockpiles. TheAuthor asked how I’m implementing that point; I’d like to talk a bit about that.
My particular situation is somewhat outside the “usual,” I think, and I’ll get to it shortly. Broadly speaking, I think that the cultivation of neighbors as “resources” should be done informally. Particularly given how the perception of preppers has been tilted by the media (Doomsday Preppers, anyone?), I’d bring up prepping very slowly, if at all. By all means, chat with your neighbors about “What if the next big hurricane hit here, what would you do?”, or “Do you have any plans for an earthquake?”–get them to think about things, at least a little.
Also, by all means try to keep on good terms with your neighbors, where possible. It’s always better to start off in an emergency situation on someone’s good side, than to have to try to “win them over.” (Besides, you never know how many of them are “closet” preppers, too!) Get to know them, and learn what you can about their hobbies, skills, and abilities. For instance, in our old neighborhood, I knew that the guy across the street was a general contractor/handyman, had tools, and could build stuff; his neighbor was an avid hunter, and usually had guns and ammunition, as well as venison in the freezer; another neighbor’s wife did lots of gardening and canning, both locally and at a relative’s property outside of town; the guy a few houses up the street was handy with engines and mechanical things; and so forth. Knowing this information, and being friendly with all of them, I could better focus my prepping while there–we could all mutually rely on each other for one thing or another.
For my personal situation: as you know from reading this blog, my family and I recently re-located to what is now our “bug-in location,” a small farmstead located well enough to suit our purposes. We’ve got between five and eight neighbors (depending on how you count them), and in good “rural life” fashion we’re on at least “waving as they go by” status with them all. Indeed, one neighbor has been regularly dropping off 5-pound bags of home-grown tomatoes as a “welcome to the neighborhood” gesture; I suppose with the approach of autumn, that will trickle to a stop. Being new to the area, we (my family) haven’t struck up the “prepping conversation” with them. Thinking about it, though, it’s quiet likely we won’t, ever.
I can already hear the anguished cries: “Doesn’t that fly in the face of the principle of working with your neighbors?” Well, not really. A reasonable amount of prepping looks strikingly like what used to be called “living on a rural farm.” We’re establishing a garden; we’ve got fruit trees; we’ll be getting some small livestock (chickens, goats). Harvest time will include a rush of gathering, canning, preserving. I’ll be harvesting firewood from our stand of trees, for warming the house in winter. Nothing particularly unusual in any of those activities. Will we also be putting up stores of “useful things,” to see us through possible tough times? Of course. Will we have enough to help out the neighbors, if only a little, if tough times hit them as well? Yes. Do I think that they’ve got their own little stash of stored goods? Most of them probably do. I’m not so worried about it–we’re all living on rural farms.
No, with my neighbors, the extent of my “community development” is likely to be maintaining good relations, with (maybe) the occasional nudge of “you should preserve some of that x, y, or z from your garden…” Where things get interesting is in my family’s broader circle of friends. We’ve got two families who have asked if we can be their “Bug-Out Location;” additionally, we’re a secondary or tertiary location for at least one or two other families. If everyone were to converge on our place, we would find ourselves with between nine and eleven adults, as well as a whole passel of kids.
Which brings us to the title of this week’s post. Despite what those numbers make it sound like, we’re actually fairly picky in deciding to let someone use us as a BoL. In our family’s vernacular, we imagine being stranded on a deserted island, and decide who we’d want to have with us. Not just because they’re our friends (although we do all get along pretty well), but for the things they know how to do to survive. There’s a broad range of skills among us, with enough overlap for some redundancy, and we’re all willing to learn how to do new things. I don’t expect we’ll form a completely harmonious autonomous collective (yes, that’s a Monty Python reference), but we’ll probably be able to scrape by. And there are folks we’d love to have “on the Island,” but for one reason or another probably won’t be coming. In the meantime, we try to learn as much as we can from those people.
As for the neighbors–well, we’ll continue to be neighborly. Trading home-grown veggies, and tasty recipes; swapping the services of one neighbor to disk a field for a bit of the yield of that field’s harvest. Helping collect wayward dogs or livestock who have wandered from their owner’s property. All the while, slowly and subtly nudging everyone towards more self-sufficiency.