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What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part I - Getting Started)

Monday, July 26, 2010, 2:54 PM

Note:  This is the first of a series on personal preparation to help you address the question, "What should I do?"

The copy in this series comes from a book chapter I wrote for The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises (Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch, eds.) 

It is being reproduced here with permission.  For other book excerpts, permission to reprint, and purchasing, please visit http://www.postcarbonreader.com.


The point of personal and community preparedness can be summed up in one single word: resilience.

It can feel pretty personally overwhelming to learn about all the economic, environmental, and energy challenges in store for us for the rest of this century.  There's plenty of work to be done by governments and businesses, sure—but what about preparing yourself and your family for this quickly changing world?  The choices seem overwhelming.  Where does one begin?

Six years ago, I began to address these questions for myself and my family.  I'll be honest; my first motivation came from a place of fear and worry.  I worried that I could not predict when and where an economic collapse might begin.  I fretted that the pace of the change would overwhelm the ability of our key social institutions and support systems to adapt and provide.  I darkly imagined what might happen if a Katrina-sized financial storm swept through the banking system.  I was caught up in fear.

But I am no longer in that frame of mind.  Here, six years later, I am in a state of acceptance about what the future might bring (although I am concerned), and I have made it my life's work to help others achieve a similar measure of peace.  While I am quite uncertain about what might unfold and when, I am positive that anyone can undertake some basic preparations relatively cheaply and will feel better for having done so.

I am passionately interested in helping others to gracefully adapt their lifestyles and adjust their expectations to a very different-looking sort of future.  I have no interest in scaring you further, or having you approach the future with trepidation, anxiety, or fear.  Quite the opposite.  I want to let you know that adjusting and adapting can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling journeys you could undertake.  It has been so for our family.

Just so you have a sense of the scope and the pace of these changes in our lives, I should mention that in 2003 I was a VP at a Fortune 300 company, forty-two years of age with three young children (the oldest was nine), living in a six-bedroom waterfront house, and by every conventional measure I had it all.  Today I no longer have that house, that job, or that life.  My "standard of living" is a fraction of what it formerly was, but my quality of life has never been higher.  We live in a house less than half the size of our former house, my beloved boat is gone, and we have a garden and chickens in the backyard.

Peering in from the outside, someone might conclude that our family had fallen off the back of the American-dream truck with a thud.  But from the inside they would observe a tight, comfortable, confident, and grounded family.  We owe much of our current state of unity to the fact that we embarked on a journey of becoming more self-sufficient and discovered the importance of resilience and community along the way.

Anyone can do the same.  But first, we must lay some groundwork and address the question, "Why prepare?" After that, we can delve into the details.

The Basics of Preparing

Becoming Resilient

The point of personal (and community) preparedness can be summed up in one single word: resilience.

We are more resilient when we have multiple sources and systems to supply a needed item, rather than being dependent on a single source.  We are more resilient when we have a strong local community with deep connections.  We are more resilient when we are in control of how our needs are met and when we can do things for ourselves.

We are more resilient if we can source water from three locations—perhaps from an existing well, a shallow well, and rainwater basins—instead of just one.  If we throw in a quality water filter (essential for the rainwater anyway), then just about any source of water becomes potentially drinkable.

We are more resilient if we can grow a little bit more of our own food, rather than rely on a single grocery store.  Our community gains food resilience when we demand local food, perhaps by shopping at a farmers’ market or purchasing a farm produce subscription (also known as "community-supported agriculture"), and thereby increase our local supply of food and farming skills.

We are more resilient when our home can be heated by multiple sources and systems, perhaps wood and solar to complement oil or gas.

For my family, resilience now stretches well beyond our four walls and physical things and deep into our local networks and community.  But it began with focusing our initial efforts within our household.

Resilience, then, becomes the lens through which we filter all of our decisions.  It is a great simplifying tool.  Should we buy this thing?  Well, how does it make us more resilient?  Should we invest in developing this new skill?  Well, how will that help us be more resilient?  Should we plant these trees or those?  Well, which ones will add the most to the natural diversity and abundance around us?

It's really that simple.  Instead of finding ourselves overwhelmed by all the things we could or should be doing, we find our lives simpler and easier.

The first concept of becoming prepared is resilience.

(Photo credit

Sand Storm cc-by-nc Roadsidepictures)

Insufficient, but Necessary

We must become the change we wish to see.  If we just sit back and wait for a world where people are living with a reduced footprint and in balance with our economic and natural budgets, that world will never come.  It is up to each of us to inspire others by first inspiring ourselves.  The good news is that you are not and will never be alone on this journey.

But let's be perfectly honest:  Any steps we might take to prepare for a potential environmental, societal, or economic disruption, no matter how grand, are nearly certain to be insufficient.  Nevertheless, they are still necessary.  They will be insufficient because being perfectly prepared is infinitely expensive.  But actions are necessary because they help us align our lives with what we know about the world.  In my experience, when gaps exist between knowledge and actions, anxiety (if not fear) is the result.  So it's not the state of the world that creates the anxiety quite as much as it is someone's lack of action.

To put it all together, we take actions because we must.  If we don't, who will?  We change the world by changing ourselves.  We reduce stress, fear, and anxiety in our lives by aligning our thoughts and our actions and by being realistic about what we can preserve, setting our goals and plans accordingly.

The second concept of preparation is that actions are both necessary and insufficient.

What's the difference between being zero percent self-reliant and 3 percent?   Night and day.

Set Targets

When considering preparation, the first question is usually, "How much?"  Here I recommend setting a realistic goal, given the amount of money and time you have to devote.

My family's goal has never been to be 100 percent self-sufficient in meeting any of our basic needs.  Instead, our goal has been to increase our self-sufficiency to something, anything, greater than “none.”  For example, until we got our solar panels we were 100 percent dependent on the utility grid.  Now we are something laughably less than that, perhaps 3 percent, but we can manufacture and use our own electricity.  What's the difference between being zero percent self-reliant and 3 percent?  Night and day.  We can charge batteries, have light at night, and, most important, prevent our fully stocked freezer from thawing during a power outage.

There's an enormous difference between being zero percent and 10 percent self-sufficient for food production.  In the former case you rely on the existing food-distribution system.  In the latter case you have a garden, local relationships with farmers, fruit trees in the yard, perhaps a few chickens, and a deep pantry.  Developing even a limited percentage of your own food production does not take a lot of money, but it does take time.  So set a realistic target that makes sense for you and your family, and then find a way to get there.

The third concept of preparation is to set realistic goals.

Being In Service

Reducing my own anxiety was reason enough to prepare, but an equally important objective was to be of service to my community.  Should a crisis occur, I expect to find many unprepared people scrambling around in a desperate bid to meet their needs and many others paralyzed by the situation and unable to effectively act.  I feel it is my duty to not be among them.

Some have commented that they think of personal preparation as a selfish act, possibly involving guns and bunkers, but that's not what this is about.  My experience in life tells me that being a good community member means having your own house in order.  If you do, you'll be in a better position to add valuable resources and skills to any future efforts.

My expectation is that communities will rally in the face of a disruption, an act I've witnessed several times having lived through hurricanes in North Carolina.  But some communities will fare better than others and the difference between them will be dictated by the resilience of their respective citizen populations.  I wish to live in a resilient community, which means I must become more resilient.

The fourth concept of preparation is that your community needs you to get yourself prepared.

Step Zero

Many people, when daunted by the potential magnitude of the coming change, immediately jump to some very hard conclusions that prove incapacitating.  For example, they may have thoughts such as, "I need to go back to school to get an entirely different degree so I can have a different job!" or "I need to completely relocate to a new area and start over, leaving all my friends behind!" or "I need to abandon my comfortable home and move to a remote off-grid cabin!"  These panic-driven conclusions may feel so radical that they are quickly abandoned.  As a result, nothing gets accomplished.  Further, nearly everyone has hidden barriers to action lurking within.

My advice here is crisp and clear.  Find the smallest and easiest thing you can do, and then do it.  I don't care what it is.  If that thing for you is buying an extra jar of pimentos because you can't imagine life without them, then buy an extra jar next time you are shopping and put them in the pantry.  I am only slightly joking here.  I call this "step zero" to symbolize something minor that might precede step one.

The point is that small steps lead to bigger steps.  If you have not yet taken step one toward personal preparation and resilience, then I invite you to consider taking step zero.

Examples might be taking out a small bit of extra cash to store outside of the bank in case of a banking disruption, buying a bit more food each week that can slowly deepen your pantry, or going online to learn something more about ways you can increase your resilience with regard to water, food, energy, or anything else you deem important to your future.  It doesn't so much matter what it is, as long as an action is taken.

The fifth concept of preparation is to start with small steps.

The Importance of Community

My community is the most important element of my resilience.

In my case, I joined up with eight other gentlemen, and, as a group, over the course of a year we went through each and every “bucket” of a self-assessment we designed covering nine basic areas of our lives.  We took a good, hard look at our then-current situations, made plans for preparation and change, and held each other accountable for following through with our plans.  The support we shared was, and still is, invaluable.

My wife, Becca, and our children are deeply hooked into a wider community of people actively engaged in nature awareness, permaculture, native skills, fruit collection, and other pastimes that to them seem recreational, but also offer deeper local connections to people and nature.

I would recommend working with people you trust or with whom you already share basic values.  The closer they live to you geographically, the better.  One of my core values is this:  I have no interest in living in fear, and my plan is to live through whatever comes next with a positive attitude and with as much satisfaction and fun as I can possibly muster.  So it has always been important to me to be in community with others who share this outlook.  And even now that I've experienced the pleasures (and joys and frustrations) of working in a group setting on matters of preparation, I would still immediately join or start another one if I happened to move away.

I now count this group as one of the most important elements in my life. I know who I can talk to about next steps, I know who I can count on in an emergency, and I know who will look after my family should I happen to be out of town when something big goes awry.

It is incredibly helpful to find people to join forces with as you step through the basics of self-preparation.  I encourage you to consider seeking like-minded locals with whom to form such a group, if you have not already done so, and to encourage others to do the same.

My preparation group is now working outside of our group and exploring ways to help get our larger community into a more resilient position.  I am only as secure as my neighbor is, and we are only as secure as our town, and our town is only as secure as the next town over.  But it all begins at the center, like a fractal pattern, with resilient households determining how the future unfolds.

The sixth concept of preparation is that community is essential.

(Photo credit Hand tower (c) Claus Mikosch)

[Note:  Several individuals have had enormous success in rallying their communities and/or finding like-minded individuals by hosting public viewings of the Crash Course using the special edition 3-disc version which we prepared specifically for those purposes.  You can obtain it here.  It works!]


If you have not yet seen the other articles in this series on resilience, you can find them here:

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36 Comments

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 13 2008
Posts: 1573
Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Way cool, Chris!  I think a lot of people on the site are going to be very happy to see this new series!

Also, congrats again on the book chapter; I can't wait to get a copy of the book! 

best,

pinecarr

SagerXX's picture
SagerXX
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 11 2009
Posts: 2115
Excellent!

Very much gratified to have this conversation (which I suppose is really a series of conversations) kicking off!

To those out there who have not begun preparation -- who have not taken steps to increase their resilience to the ongoing (and coming) changes we're experiencing -- I strongly recommend getting to Step Zero.  For me it was signing up as a full member here.  Step Zero-Point-One was starting to lay in extra canned goods for the pantry.  (I'd scope out what was on sale each week and just buy a bunch without much thought as to nutritional completeness or variety.)  The cost-per-week of that was anywhere from US$5 to US$20.  Not expensive.

Step One was buying a 3-month supply of hardcore dehydrated #10 can food.  Not terribly exciting from a culinary point of view, but I immediately felt better/more secure.

Step Two was procuring a firearm and starting to learn how to use it (I had never owned one before).  Step Two-Point-One is to go hunting w/a friend that's a lifelong deer/turkey/bear hunter.  I say "is" and not "was" because he and I haven't been able to get out there yet but we're set on deer season this Fall.  Having hunting skill will also add to our food resilience.

Subsequent actions have focused mostly on deepening our supply of stored food, socking away some PMs, and working hard on the Community Building front.  The last of those three is IMO the more vital link in the resilience chain -- but also has the longest incubation time.  

So I've  been working on this stuff for about 15 months, give or take.  I know I have a lot of things still ahead of me.  But I'm a lot less nervous about the future than I was in April '09.  

If you haven't already, get out there and start making a more resilient future happen.

Viva -- Sager

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 13 2008
Posts: 1573
Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Chris, I just pre-ordered a copy of the Post Carbon Reader.  I look forward to its release date in September!

After I submitted my order, I got thinking that I may order a few extra copies for my local libraries (town and colleges).  Trying to educate people in my local circle of friends (let alone area) has been very difficult... most of the people I've talked just don't want to hear anything that is different from their current set of beliefs about the world.  So I've re-learned the old adage, "you can't lead a horse to water".  By the same token, it can't hurt to put the "water" out there and make it available to whoever, whenever.  At least that way, if they do get thirsty to learn more, the resource will be readily available to them.  (I hope this doesn't sound like a marketing pitch -it isn't meant to.  Rather, I wanted to share the idea with others who -like me- are having a hard time getting people in their community to listen to them.  This may be a different approach to try.)

Sager, really great post!  It is very interesting to see what other people's priorities were at the outset and compare/learn from them! 

idoctor's picture
idoctor
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Posts: 1731
Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

I have pretty much done what Sager posted. Just received my 2 yr supply of Thrive food in 168 one gallon cans (#10). They boxed them in 6 cans per box. It is easy to stack & really takes up less space than I thought. Cost was $1600 & worth every penny for the peace of mind. It lasts up to 25 years.

Now I just need my front fence & electric gates for my final security. On my lower property I have a dam that I would love to make some hydroelectric with. Have to see about costs but this is one dream I hope to see in my lifetime.

For the first time in 20 years of living on my space just outside the city I had a Meth-head pounding on my door at 4:30 am. It was pitch dark & he said he was lost asking for directions for the city. These lost souls are multiplying like flies so don't forget fencing gates & dogs!

Rector's picture
Rector
Status: Gold Member (Online)
Joined: Feb 8 2010
Posts: 340
Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Excellent presentation.  I am going to get my wife to read this and move her one step closer. . .Thanks a bunch for helping the uninitiated get started.  It is important to know that we aren't alone, and that I am not crazy.

It was getting hard to explain why we "might" need  things like body armor (I live 7 miles from Mexican border, give me a break).

idoctor - you bought how much? from whom?  Please post link to site so I can order from these people.  That seems like a really excellent price.

Thanks all.

idoctor's picture
idoctor
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Posts: 1731
Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Rector here is the link. http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11487214&whse=BC&Ne=4000000&eCat=BC|3605&N=4040913&Mo=25&No=0&Nr=P_CatalogName:BC&cat=75277&Ns=P_Price|1||P_SignDesc1&lang=en-US&Sp=C&topnav=

This just went on sale on July 15.....cost was 799.99 but it is now $200 higher. Give it time & watch it will be back on sale. I am munching on the first can I just opened (strawberries LOL) not bad I might add. The pressure seems to be coming off emergency supplies at the moment....all seems to be a little more calm.

Shelf Reliance THRIVE™  1-year Supply  Dehydrated & Freeze-Dried Food

One guy comments on the Costco site:

"Excellent Product, buy while you can. If you can't see what's comming, buy some glasses.
dbworld's picture
dbworld
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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Chris, thanks for giving preparation a priority in the blog. I definitely have room to grow in resilience so that

I can lead others. Thanks for your guidence.

ffshack165's picture
ffshack165
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Posts: 30
Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

pinecarr said it...Way Cool!

Much appreciated.  I have been stuck in step zero for some time now.  I really look forward to Part 2 and will start back at the beginning after reading Part 1.  This is invaluable information and it looks like you have several members that are well on their way.  Hopefully I can pick their brains as you go along.

Thanks again,

Shack

jhart5's picture
jhart5
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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Rector - You might also want to check out the Nitro-Pak site as they also have a wide selection of freeze dried foods including beef & chicken entrees. They also have a good selecion of water filters & purification devices etc. 

taxed2death's picture
taxed2death
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Posts: 22
Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Thanks,Chris

I can in jars anything and everything.I also prepare dried food,jerky,mushrooms,berries,etc.they don't last forever but if you keep your stock rotating you won't have to worry about wasting any.I also trade food with my neighbors,If I have more than i need of something,berries for example,then I will make my rounds giving it all away.I never expect or ask for anything in return but I always recieve something in exchange.

r101958's picture
r101958
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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Great job Chris!!

gtazman's picture
gtazman
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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Great Job Chris!

I too have used the resilience filter whenever I buy staples and food.  Just got an All-American Pressure cooker (21 QT) to can recipes this Fall.  It is actually an like preparing for an extended camping trip.  Prepare as if you would to be self-reliant, but as I found out, don't buy canned or freeze dried foods no one else would eat.

Nate's picture
Nate
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Posts: 461
Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Sager,

Thanks for sharing your personal preparations.   I've taken a different approach to food.  My food storage is minimal because  I've been able to grow fresh garden produce and fresh fruit every month.  Since we are surrounded by agriculture (lots of dairies, chickens, fruits, nuts, sweet potatoes, dried beans, grains, and even spices, food has never been a major concern.   My weakest link is electricity.  When the neighbors down the road installed two very large racks with solar panels, my wife was less than pleased and made it be known that wouldn't happen on our 10 acres.    I feel this is a potentially large problem, since we have our own well.  Windmill sounding better all the time.

Nate

Gaborzol's picture
Gaborzol
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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Chris, I love how you are able to think things like this through in an organized way, and write it down succinctly with a beginning and an end.

I have started my own step zero a long time ago – or, rather, I never really lived without taking it, as growing up in communist Hungary I never had the full trust, that the government/economy will take care of us all. But as I have been doing it over the years with more and more organization, and less and less alone, I can attest, that it can very much be a fun (and never ending) process.

One thing I noticed in my own process is, how much better it is when I don’t have to do these steps alone. I am one of those gentlemen in the group Chris mentions, and to work together towards a common goal with a group of men I love and respect is truly a blessing. And the “not having to do it alone” piece is only a small part of the relief I get through banding together with other like-minded people: the other, even more important part is the mutual inspiration we provide to each other by making commitments to stretch our abilities to prepare, and consequently being accountable by sharing our successes, as well as shortcomings, with each other.

The good news is, you don’t have to ‘luck out’ to have an all special and unique group of people to do this with – a lot of towns are starting up groups in connection with the Transition Town movement which is especially geared for creating the community that is able to deal with changes in circumstances in the environment – resilience. I am part of the one in my home town, so I know the effect is similar.

One more important piece for me of any step I take is the concurrent emotional preparation. To thoroughly acknowledge, that the next twenty years in my own (and everybody’s) life will be profoundly different than the last twenty years, and to work on being OK with this in a deep-deep level. Chris may not mention it explicitly, but it is implicit in the “small steps” of Step Zero, or in the “community is essential” of his 6th concept. Anything can happen. Fighting with reality creates chasms (“when gaps exist between knowledge and actions, anxiety (if not fear) is the result” as Chris wrote), while looking at it honestly and attempting to learn moving with the flow releases the tension. And I put energy into my emotional preparation to be able to deal with the odds, or unforeseeable in the future.

Gabor

SagerXX's picture
SagerXX
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Posts: 2115
Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Nate wrote:

Sager,

Thanks for sharing your personal preparations.   I've taken a different approach to food.  My food storage is minimal because  I've been able to grow fresh garden produce and fresh fruit every month.  Since we are surrounded by agriculture (lots of dairies, chickens, fruits, nuts, sweet potatoes, dried beans, grains, and even spices, food has never been a major concern.   My weakest link is electricity.  When the neighbors down the road installed two very large racks with solar panels, my wife was less than pleased and made it be known that wouldn't happen on our 10 acres.    I feel this is a potentially large problem, since we have our own well.  Windmill sounding better all the time.

Hey Nate -- If I was still living Maui (as I once did) I'd sweat the food less (at least in terms of storing veggies, etc. -- I guess I'd be busy learning how to raise chickens/goats), but here in New York state we don't have a 12-month growing seez.  <smile> 

As for power gen -- I'd dearly love to have some PV capacity, and also some wind (directly generating electricity).  But seeing as how I live in hilly country, one of my ultimate dreams/plans is to put in windmills to pump water uphill to a (in my dream) huge cistern, from which we can either flow the water downhill for plumbing or irrigation purposes, or to generate electricity from a micro-generator type thang. 

Why does your wife have an anti-PV bias? 

Viva -- Sager

joemanc's picture
joemanc
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Posts: 834
Step Zero

I don't remember what my Step Zero was. It may have been buying extra food at Costco. Anyways, once I took that 1st step, Step Zero, I gained confidence to take additional steps, such as keeping lots of cash hand and buying gold, both things that I have never believed in. And every step I took lead me to take additional steps. I tried my hand at canning applesauce for the 1st time over the winter. I'm canning peaches this weekend. Next week I am closing on a house, and 2 days later I am meeting with a local permaculture expert for a site assessment. My steps have gone exponential per se! So make sure you take that 1st step, Step Zero.

Thanks Chris!

Full Moon's picture
Full Moon
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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Today I found a pressure canner, Hot bath canner ,  Blue Ball book ,and jars at the  thrift shop !  All total $20  .  Now  I  will take small mouth jars if I find a bargain ... 25 cents to free  . But if I have to buy them new, I will only get wide mouth jars .    Biggest thing I learned recently is that you can   hot bath in the oven any acid food .. Fruit , pickles ,tomatoes, etc.      Follow directions until you get to the putting the jars in the water bath .  Here is where you have heated the oven to 500 with a pan of water in the bottom .    Set  your MANY jars on cookies sheets and turn the oven down to 200  for 30 min.   Then turn the oven off  the jars will be sealed when they finally cool off .  You can do dozens at a time . I am considering doing this to my dehydrated food too , because when I went to drag out some of these for the fair a few bags of peppers and onions had softened up some .  Still tasted fine but would not have gotten a decent ribbon.

Do not do this with low acid foods that need to be pressure cooked .. Vegs , meat ,fish , and such .  I have to admit that  just one years supply does not give me  total peace  because of the failures I have had in gardening seasons past . 

I get a joy out of hearing the grandchildren spy a  bunch of elderberries , choke cherries. wild plums , etc .  along the road as we travel to any destination .  They say  " Grandma  did you see that ?  Will you remember where we saw these when the time is ripe ?" 

Anyway... always keep you eyes open for such treasures as these .....   and the bonus is that  the grandchildren will listen to you better than your children will.   I have a feeling that they will need this training even more .  

I got  6 rabbit,  stacking cages to  put starter chicks in for $10 ,  Lastly I  brought home shelving from a grocery store ... many shelves for $25 !   My basement is beginning to look like its own little store .

Didn't I confess I am a scrounge a couple times before .   It really gets kind of challenging to see what all you can do for very little money .

Any prepping feels like you are at least stepping forward , not backward .

Nate's picture
Nate
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Posts: 461
Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Sager,

My wife (great women) has an anti-PV bias because she is very old school.  She grew up on a dairy down the street that had a windmill that pumped its own water (mechanical system, no electric generated).    Since we are in an electric district that has its rates 'subsidized' by hydro electric, the payback is ... well, never.  That being said, would still live PV panels for our freezer and enough water for our emergency needs (like CM). 

FWIW, she is our local 4-H rabbit leader.  Don't think I could eat the French lop.

Nate

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Jager06
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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Great job everyone!

Chris, this looks awesome. Well done sir.

We are moving towards another step....not sure which one. We have almost 2 years food storage, canning, garden, etc. The things to replicate our food supplies, but not all of the knowledge I would like.

I have been teaching my children the things I learned as I grew up (very poor). Hunting, fishing, trapping are high on the list. We have taken to modifying the stream through our property to accomodate a few more slow moving areas to try our hand at crawfish encouraging ( I dont think I could call it farming at this point).

All the maintenance issues that come with a micro farm are here too. It's time for a new roof on the shop. A new bridge deck over the stream. painting and fencing chores, in addition to the Steps. The value for us is to look at something at the end of a weekend or afternoon and see it done. We did that. Nice feeling, that is.

Energy is our next issue. I have completely converted to L.E.D. lighting in the house with only three exceptions, and those are still CFL. I want enough solar to run our freezers, one fridge and three lights (total 7.5 watts for the lighting!) as well as our 1000 watt microwave for up to 1o minutes a day, and 3 loads of laundry per week. (No dryer). Just setting these parameters for consumption has been actually liberating. We have agreed as a family what we will live with in the event of the myriad events capable of taking us off grid happen. We have a plan.  Now we need to purchase the solar panels, charge controller, inverter etc. BUt to be resilient we have to have at least one other source...right? Gasification, wind and maybe hydro power are high on our lists.That would give us the boost necessary to be able to run some of the shop tools, to weld and to make or fix many other things.

The energy alternatives to solar might be fun options to look at with your wife Nate. Especially if you can use the local biomass generated from farming to run a gasifier.

Last night we ate our first dinner of food that we ourselves had produced. Breakfast for dinner, venison sausage (from last seasons hunting), eggs from the chicken coop, and greens from the garden. That was a nice completion to several steps.

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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Has anyone done the math on minimum required electricity. Jager06?

My soon to be solar electric system will still be tied into the grid Is it necessary to add the battery storage and converters?

I am considering a masonry heater as one source for heat. Perhaps it would work for you.

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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

db-

Since you have a solar system now, you may know the variables that are involved with calculating usage and determining system size.

If you have a grid tied system now, you will not have electricity on when the main grid goes out. You enjoy a rebate on your consumption now, but there is no back up resilient benefits to you personally for such a system in the event of a grid failure.

The best way I have figured out to determine how much electricity I will need came as a two step process. The first step was a solar survey to determine the amount of sunlight available and my current usage. I learned that a $55,000 system would cover about 35% of my usage at that time. That was shocking to say the least. From that I learned that for every dollar invested in becoming more efficient I would be saving many more dollars on the cost of a system. Basically at $2 per watt for a solar panel, for every watt I could scrounge out in efficiencies, I could save myself at least $2 on my system. It became a game for me.

The survey included my average usage report in terms I could better understand than what my utility was sending me as a bill at that time. This gave me a jump off point for trying to figure out my biggest consumers of juice, and how to mitigate or eliminate them.

I decided to purchase a watt/ amp meter that plugs directly into the wall socket and allows the device being used to plug into it. WIth this I could see exactly what was being used by the device, and I could compare that reading to the data plate on the device to compare numbers and see if they were close. Most were pretty close.

Next I had to try to figure out how much I was using on each device. I literally checked everything in my home and my shop, including my welder. I took notes on the amps/ watts and volts while it was turned on and functioning (like the fridge running) when it was not actively functioning but still "on" and when turned off but still plugged in. Most items continue to draw while plugged in and this can be a large source of savings when you go to find efficiencies. For example my son's Playstation is 120 volts, 5.3 Amps and consumes 30 watts while it is being played. While it is off, but plugged into the wall it still consumes 3 watts. Thats 3 watts 24/7 and it adds up. For comparison most of my LED lights now only use 2.5 watts each. I realized that using a surge protector on those type items and turning it off when I wasn't using them would save substantially.

Then I needed to know HOW LONG my family used each item on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Once I had those numbers I could average the amount of electricity each item would need to perform as required for a month. That was my Kilowatt Hour Bank Account. The less I had in it, the more I saved.

In the process of getting every bit of efficiency out of my home's electrical system, I realized there were quite a few things we could completely do without on a survival basis. I conferred with my wife and older boys and we came up with a list of items we would use if we were going to subsist only. We narrowed that list down to:

1) chest freezer,

2) refridgerator,

3) 1500 watt microwave for no more than 10 minutes per day,

4) 3 LED lights per night, total of 7.5 watts for 3 hours per day.

Most cooking could be done with the microwave, the wood stove, BBQ or solar oven. Wash could be done by hand and line dried. Food processing would be limited to jerking meat, drying fruits and canning over an open fire. This brought the realization that the one most needed survival item for my family was going to be a large pot and a large metal tub, for cooking, canning, bathing and laundry.

So my solar system was downsized to a 1.4 kw, battery based, grid tied system. That sized system had enough excess in the system to run my welder for 5 minutes once a month, and other smaller tools more often. This gave me the excess to create other energy producing devices like a gasifier, water wheel etc if needed.

The point of my sharing all of this with you is to show you that each system has to be a custom fit based on YOUR family's needs. If I did not have a wife and four children, I could get by with much, much less.

Best of luck to you. THis is a very rewarding path you have set yourself upon. Congratualtions on starting.

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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Nate wrote:

Sager,

My wife (great women) has an anti-PV bias because she is very old school.  She grew up on a dairy down the street that had a windmill that pumped its own water (mechanical system, no electric generated).    Since we are in an electric district that has its rates 'subsidized' by hydro electric, the payback is ... well, never.  That being said, would still live PV panels for our freezer and enough water for our emergency needs (like CM). 

FWIW, she is our local 4-H rabbit leader.  Don't think I could eat the French lop.

Yeah, I'm thinking ol'skool-style windmill (i.e., not to generate electrons but to move water) filling a cistern uphill from where 'tis needed to run the plumbing of a house (or houses) on gravity.  Could also, I suppose, then put in some kind of micro-hydro power generator between the cistern and the houses to generate a little electricity.

I'd love some PV panels but that's down my wish-list a ways...

I wouldn't go out of my way to eat the French lop, but if it was the only animal protein around...I don't reckon I'd balk at it.  

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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Building resiliency takes time.  Many ask me how I have the time to do so many things.  My main answer is I don not own a TV.  Get rid of it - it's a great first small step on the path of preparation. 

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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Get right with Family, Friends, and Neighbors!

Glad I found this site!  Excellent!!

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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Amish expanding westward

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The search by the booming North American population of Amish for affordable, fertile farmland has produced settlements in 28 states and Ontario — and has even led parties to scout recently for suitable properties in Alaska and Mexico.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38450390/ns/us_news-life/

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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Chris, thanks for sharing your personal pathway toward making you and your family more resilient.  I especially appreciated your description of HOW you went about creating a small community that made the steps seem much less daunting by adding a social element to them. I know that for myself, a feeling of being one of the few sane souls in a world gone insane (prioritizing purchases, building projects and other choices on the basis of contribution to resiliency rather than typical bourgeois consumerist metrics) has always made this journey harder.  Now, I'm going to actively seek out like-minded people in my own community with whom to take these steps collaboratively -- even if it means that I have to do the "starting" of it.

I think that there's another thing that needs mentioning as well as personal preparation and involvement in community (although it ties in with both) -- and that is developing and broadening your skill set.  Perhaps pick up a trade or expand your knowledge in a certain area.  Try and focus on "appropriate technology" -- that is, ways of doing things that are achievable at a lower level of complexity and energy input.  Although having a significant store of freeze-dried food may help you get through a short-term crisis, hoarding won't exactly make you popular with your neighbors, and if you don't have much meaningful to contribute toward the viability of your community after the early stages, you won't be all that well off in the long run.

Also, I'd appreciate any input from other members of this forum who are trying to make steps toward increased resiliency in their own lives, but who also encounter resistance from a spouse or S.O. who still keeps their head either partially or completely buried in the sand.  As much as I love my wife, she has not always been the most accepting of learning about these things or taking steps to deal with them proactively, instead tending to default toward the status quo.

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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

One other thing I forgot in my previous post regarding canning:

I personally can as much garden produce as I can every year -- especially green beans, tomatoes and making peach preserves with local fruit.  However, canning is energy intensive in its own right, especially if you use one-use lids.

An option that I've found to be at least as good is dehydration of food.  While you can use an electric food dehydrator, it's also relatively easy and cheap to construct a solar one that runs for free.  Also, you can just throw the food into bags or screw-top jars and store them for years.  I've found dehydrated tomatoes to be especially good in this regard -- they're basically like sun-dried tomatoes that, when cooked with some oil and minced garlic, are absolutely delicious over pasta.  Dried bean varieties (black beans, kidney beans, etc.) are also very good in this regard, and they can be cooked somewhat quickly from a dry state with a pressure cooker if you want to avoid the overnight soak.

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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part I)

Chris, you are absolutely right about all, but especially the 4th concept where your community needs you to get yourself prepared.

If society and life changes as we curently know it, be it from an economic collapse, limited terrorist nuclear attack, or whatever,...the better off we are prepared as individuals, groups and communities will enable us to stand this country  back up quicker.  Even then, Survival is a group sport.  You have to count on people and these people need to be one's you can count on and having the same values. 

Small steps is where you start.  I started http://www.urbansurvivalskills.com in order to help people get started. I am in exact agreement that being 3% prepared is night and day difference from zero percent prepared.         

It's not just about stocking Survival gear and foods,...it's also a mindset.   Learning that you can do things and having confiecne in your abilities to endure. 

Great site.  I'll post at link to this on mine. 

UrbanMan

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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Woodman wrote:

Building resiliency takes time.  Many ask me how I have the time to do so many things.  My main answer is I don not own a TV.  Get rid of it - it's a great first small step on the path of preparation. 

Good call, Woodman. We shut off our sattelite TV service in February as a cost cutting measure and realized an added bonus of a more productive use of time. Hardly miss it at all.

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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part I)

Thx Chris ! I'm printing copies for daughters and husbands who do not read CM. They both now have gardens.

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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Preparation (Part I)

Musings_from_the_Fringe wrote:

I'd appreciate any input from other members of this forum who are trying to make steps toward increased resiliency in their own lives, but who also encounter resistance from a spouse or S.O. who still keeps their head either partially or completely buried in the sand.  As much as I love my wife, she has not always been the most accepting of learning about these things or taking steps to deal with them proactively, instead tending to default toward the status quo.

This is tricky ... has your spouse watched the Crash Course?  That was the trigger for my OH to start paying attention to resilience. A steady diet of key articles from the daily digest has helped keep us both alert to what's going on, and has highlighted the huge disparity in what we're told by the BBC and what's happening in real life. 

One decision for us was - do we pay off the mortgage now, using tax-shielded savings plans, thereby losing some future interest, or for the sake of relatively little money do we risk losing our house and farm, eg if the banks collapse and our savings are forfeit? Put like that, the benefit of paying off the mortgage so outweighed the minor financial loss that we both quickly agreed to bite the bullet and pay it off. That decision was reached just this week.

You might want to sit down with your spouse and listen to a recent presentation given by Stoneleigh of Automatic Earth at the Transition conference in the UK, called "Making Sense of the Financial Crisis in the Era of Peak Oil". This talk caused shock-waves through those participants who hadn't been paying attention to the coming crash.  Listening to that programme, then reading Chris' 'Basics of Preparation' series makes it 'real'.  http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/06/453356.html?c=on#c250822

I find it comforting to think that even having 3% resilience is significant - just as well, as we've still a long way to go in our preparations! Also, everything we're doing to make ourselves more resilient is worth doing - like an insurance policy - whether or not the economic crash appears sooner or later.

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it's hard to start walking into prepardness and resilience

Hi pinecarr! You're right. I experienced the same, when hinting other people onto some strange ongoings related to the world we live in and the way it is managed.

It doesn't matter, whether these people are friends for years and years, smart and/or aware of  some things or not. Most of them don't want to get nearby the cliff of anxiety or a reducing standard of living.

I for one had to made my first DECISION when I stood in front of a shelf inside our local food store. I wondered whether all the people around will think I'm neurotic and heavily foolish, when I put a bunch of cans onto the conveyor belt in front of the cashier. And what will my wife say, when I put lots of cans into the basement making it a pantry ?!

I decided to trust my convictions. Just these days we increase the number of self made shelfs in the basement, got food and drinking for 3 month and even 2 barrels of fuel outside the house. I invested 1 and 3 quarters of a man-year of work to deepen our basement and bring in lots of concrete. Our gain were 25 additional cubic meters of storage.

Next month we take every money left and buy a more efficient heating system. We took all money from the banks and canceled all insurances (savings) and retirement plans. We will buy a stock of silver.

During nearly 20 years in IT business on my own I learned and experienced a  lot of things. But this is really hard stuff. We don't have much area for gardening. But I think about the possibility to combine the repair of our roof with some changes in structure, making the use of solar panels possible. Some good: we got lots of water around.

It's hard, to do everything alone. Most of my friends do not intend to awake. Only 1 friend and a farmer down the street got chickens, ducks, solar supported heating and gardening.

@Chris M.: You are right. It is expensive to follow that path. After doing the mentioned preparations I'm piling up since a few month and spent nearly 2.000 Euros. The preparation of the basement was really heavy duty. The wood (material to made the shelfs from) costs about 300 Euros alone.

It's so much that has to be done!

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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part I - ...

Re: Musings (#26) resistent spouse. Mine is almost granite. A retired corproate exec who still has faith in the world as he has always known it. Normally he functions using facts to formulate decisions, but this impending implosion is more than he wants to factor in. Patience becomes a virtue when trying to convince him to be prepared. If I push too hard, he gets angry and things could go backwards.

Glenn Beck finally got to him a few weeks ago and to my surprise, he turned to me and said, "OK, buy some gold". You never know when lightning will strike! I did it immediately before he had second thoughts. Solar is going to be harder.

You probably can proceed with small steps for preparedness that aren't too expensive and don't create much disturbance. It's like the camel getting his nose in the tent. I am starting to enlarge my pantry and have a one-acre seed bank. This next year we will start enlarging our almost non-existent garden (plenty of room as we live on 45 acres). I used to do a lot of canning - - time to remember how to do it.

At least my marksmanship is improving - - he just laughs about that, but realizes it might prove useful, if only to put some of our resident deer in the freezer. I really recommend The Revolutionary War Veterans (RWVA) Appleseed Project for learning about American history, the rifle and marksmenship/safety.  Best weekend you will ever have.

Don't give up, just keep knoodling along.

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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part I - ...

For years I have been writing stuff and forwarding articles to family and friends, trying to pass on what I know and what other people far smarter than me have written.  It has been frustrating because most "experts" only talk about one segment of the whole.  I discovered the Crash Course yesterday - what a gift !!  Finally someone has done the work to synthesize all the major factors into a coherent and comprehensive body of work.  IMHO all Americans should be required to watch the entire course.

While our country's "leaders" are all trying to reinflate the credit economy, the realization has yet to dawn on them that the '90's and '00's were an unsustainable bubble that cannot be reinflated without blowing up the economy totally/  They seem unable to grasp the concept of "sustainable" or "unsustainable".

The Crash Course link will be going out to everyone on my mailing list and to a few folks with huge mailing lists.  I hope it gets picked up and sent to a much wider audience.

Thanks, Chris and keep up the good work.

David Myhre

Stuart, FL

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Re: What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part I - ...

Thomas Carroll, I want to ID myself so you might understand why I might respond in a different way regarding particular solutions. Having Hope and a Good Attitude are everything! I Lost Both Hands & Legs from an accident followed by my Lawsuit and my Wife after an accident is how the story begins.

Your videos are an incredible display of information and concern for your fellow man, Thank you so much! I am a quadriplegic male 53 years old living on SSDI & In Home Support Services(IHSS). These are both government programs, plus I am receiving section 8 housing. I forgot, my left hand was amputated the same year the majority of my right was, so you can add the difficulties of a Double Amputee to my quadriplegia. An accident changed my life in '85, my lawsuit with the federal government made me understand how the Indians felt. I am alone in Irvine Calif. except for a couple good friends. At the time of my accident I was married and was a mainframe computer operator @Hughes Aircraft, my wife was a Buyer at Hughes. After a year of rehab I went home started a Tax business using my data processing experience and after acquiring a tax preparers license. I did pretty well too for the next 3 years. Then I lost my lawsuit and wife. I had bought a van with my insurance money the divorce put me on the state assistance and 5 year waiting list for housing, but opened up free college. I jumped on it graduated from a JC Orange Coast College. I received a scholarship to UCI that ended with a Bachelors Degree in Environmental analysis & design & Political Science in 1999. I was then accepted into their, Urban Planning, masters program, but in 2001 infection caused me to be hospitalized. A bad roommate got me stuck in a nursing home, lost everything I owned, including my van.

      I escaped the nursing home and certain death due to 2 very kind doctors and close friends. After leaving I needed both hands amputated, three major surgeries with rods to straighten my spine. My goal continued to be complete independent and my return to work, after my 3rd back surgery I wrote a Plan to Achieve Self Support (PASS) to try and secure a new van and real employment. My Lack of transportation together with my disabilities has proved to be such a burden, coupled with the worst economy in my life has put me in a real precarious position. That, together with my very vocal position on Justice & 911(which I believe is key and central to this country’s ability to face reality and alter course), my opinion. I did research for my law professor at UCI and became quite skilled at getting to  the root and facts. That is why & how I found you and Miss Catherine  Austin Fitts. Last week Orange County housing sent DA investigators to dig through my apartment and find dirt, Catheryn’s term attack poodles seems to be appropriate.  I guess they threaten me with the nursing home again, even though I have almost secured a home employment that could help even little savers build some silver reserve.

Check out my site www,SilverCoinsUnlimited.com and go to my Facebook page. We the people thrown into the Social Economic Prison have very few real solutions to break the chains only to further our dependence. I WANT MY FREEDOM, BUT at least give me a chance to succeed. If someone would get back with me on FaceBook or get involved, Please do!

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