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Prepping is Only a Band-Aid

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I mentioned a few days ago how I felt compelled to speed up my prepping efforts. This was just another gut feeling that our time is running out which could obviously be chalked up to lots of different things. Maybe I had been watching too many movies, or reading the wrong news stories, or listening to the wrong talk show hosts. There are many of you who think I am foolish for prepping, but if you are, I can’t understand why you would be here reading this blog.

Most of you are prepping for some reason too. You could be preparing for a specific event like a hurricane. The residents of North Carolina just had a relatively minor one roll through their neck of the woods July 4th weekend. You could be preparing for something more sinister and dripping with conspiracy theory like a tyrannical government. If you call yourself a prepper there are hundreds of reasons why you may be prepping and each one of them are just as valid in the long term as anything else. It doesn’t matter why you have food stored up as long as it is there when you need it. It makes no difference if the global apocalypse comes or not as long as you have supplies to keep your family alive if needed. Prepping should be for all sorts of contingencies, not only a single issue but even with all the advantages you gain, in the end, prepping is really only a start.

Prepping for most people begins to cover the most basic necessities that we worry we will be without or unable to obtain if some “thing” happens. You store up some food and water, buy a few cases of MRE’s and plant a garden. Maybe you will invest in some firearms and call everything good as you wait for whatever calamity you have been envisioning to strut down your street and beat on your front door.

Even if you are very disciplined and focused, the average person in my mind would have at maximum 6 months’ worth of food or water stored. The average person might have a generator with several dozen gallons of fuel stored up. Your tomatoes in the garden might look beautiful this year but prepping for short-term events is only the beginning. What then? What happens when the food you stored up is gone? What happens when your small garden isn’t feeding your family? What happens when you run out of fuel or your generator breaks down?

What next?

I will say that as much as I have tried to avoid it, there have been times when I have been willfully blind to the bigger picture and proud of what I have accomplished since I started prepping. I have been guilty of thinking about the poor unfortunate souls who have nothing stored up. I have envisioned doling out charity in small doses as my supplies would allow, of needing to protect my family and of thriving in a collapse because of the wisdom of my efforts pre-collapse. In my pride, I realized how easily I was sweeping the 300 lb. gorilla in the room under the carpet.

Prepping is so very important that I recommend everyone without exception to begin immediately and become as self-reliant as possible, but I know full well that even if we bought all the ammo in existence, drilled a bunker a mile down and stocked up on 3 warehouses full of toilet paper, it wouldn’t be enough. Eventually, your supplies run out if you live long enough. Our hope is that society will be restored well before we run out of anything though and I think that is

A solar array can be the first step towards self-reliance.

A solar array can be the first step towards self-reliance.

what most preppers are counting on. They assume like I did that I can stock up for 6 months to outlast pretty much any crisis and I will be all set. That’s all well and good, but what if the crisis lasts 12 years? What will you do when you have exhausted your food, the garden is a weed pile and the chickens you raised for meat and eggs are stolen? Prepping can only postpone the inevitable if the crisis you are prepping for is severe and the duration of the supplies you have stored are directly related to how long you need to live off them. If you get a bad cut, a band-aid might last for a few minutes, but eventually the cut bleeds through and you realize you need something stronger. Something that will last longer than that little band-aid.

I believe that you should start out reasonably slow and start getting the preps in your home for small, minor inconveniences, then localized weather disasters and then finally global or cataclysmic events. Even when you are finished, I would assume you only have enough supplies to last one year, tops. When the initial bases are covered you need to graduate to something a little more permanent. At some point you have to think about upgrading your band aid.

Replace the Electric Company

We focus on short term electric needs when it comes to prepping. The Generator is an easy go-to, but they are not without their own issues. Generators aren’t cheap even if you get a good deal on one. They are noisy so you can pretty much forget about noise discipline. Once you fire up a generator everyone within a half a mile or further can easily hear it. You have fuel and oil that must be maintained to keep the generator running and like everything else there is a risk that it could break or be stolen. A generator is a short-term solution to the problem of replacing the electric company.

For long-term replacements that would need to outlive fuel supplies and routine breakage, a solar panel system would be more ideal. Solar systems aren’t without cost themselves and they are actually much more expensive at the start but prices are dropping. What you trade for the expense is lifetime, lack of noise, maintenance and if you do it right convenience. Having a solar array that would replace the power from a 4500 KW generator wouldn’t be much more expensive once you factor in maintenance and fuel use of the generator comparable with the life of the panels. Will this replace the electric company? Well, it depends on how you are living. If we have a crisis and you are able to light your home and charge small electronics as well as run the fridge for a few hours a day would that be enough? If the electric company wasn’t available any more would this work

Replace the Grocery Store

We have chickens and a garden, but to be perfectly honest, we still shop at the grocery store for most of our food. Fresh eggs and some fresh vegetables being the exception. If the grid collapsed today and our food supplies were exhausted, the garden we have –  even filled to the edges with vegetables wouldn’t be enough to feed our family if we had to rely on this for 3 meals a day. If we had no other source of protein, the eggs we get today wouldn’t replace what we are used to taking in.

Aquaponics, small livestock and gardens combined could feed your family.

Aquaponics, small livestock and gardens combined could feed your family.

If you think you are going to live completely off-grid then your food supply is crucial, probably even more so than power. Could I hunt for wild game? Of course, until it was hunted out of existence locally and I imagine that we would have so much more competition for these deer that walk through our neighborhoods that it wouldn’t be more than a week before they would be long gone. A garden is great for fresh vegetables, but this is only part of the equation. You have to store more food than you will eat so you can eat when your garden isn’t growing food. This is another reason why stocking up on food is first and foremost on most preppers minds.

Other renewable food options are what I think would be a perfect start. Aquaponics would give you fertilizer for your gardens while at the same time provide fresh fish for eating. This isn’t as simple as buying a box of MRE’s but the combination of aquaponics, a productive garden and small animals (chickens and rabbits) would be what is needed I think to replace your grocery store long-term.

Replace the Police

I know there are a lot of people who bemoan any mention of guns or stocking up on ammo. Usually, the statement goes something like ‘preppers think they just need some guns and they are all set’. That isn’t how I see it at all, but I honestly believe you do need to have some form of protection if you are going to say you are covering as many of the bases as possible. If you don’t have a firearm and you think you will defend your home in a grid-down situation that lasts a long time, I believe you are delusional. Does that mean you only need guns and nothing else? No, but you should have some plan for security that is going to allow you to defend yourself against people with guns. You may not think you need them, but a lot of bad guys will disagree with you.

A long term disaster will bring out the worst in people. Just look at recent events and you will see even after the storm has passed, the waters are receding people still find themselves at the mercy of criminals. It has always been and will always be the nature of some people to take advantage of others when they are weakened. If you plan to be able to replace the police, you will need to use at least some of the tools they and the bad guys use.

Can you ever be completely self-sufficient? I think that is the logical extension of prepping and the common-sense long range plan of anyone who is preparing for a total collapse. If this is you, cast your eyes 2 or 3 years down the road and tell me if you think what you have stored away right now will still be enough. If it’s not, what are you planning to do while we still can, to last the duration?

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  • Bobcat-Prepper

    Good points, Pat, that prepping is just a transitional phase, before the survivors must be self-sufficient. And I liked your way of organizing the actions – replacing the electric co, grocery store, and police.

    I only recently realized how difficult replacing the grocery store would be – survival blog had a post by an experienced gardener, who calculated we would need to garden/farm about 3/4 to 1 acre/person to provide for a family’s caloric needs of 3000 calories per day, reasonable considering all the back-breaking work that would need to be done when becoming self-sufficient. How many of us preppers have that kind of land? Not many, I’d wager.

    • obxster

      I totally agree with your assessment of 1 acre per person. We would also be doing that without any powered equipment to till the soil each spring. Though I have gotten an electric tiller and have the solar power to use it. It would take up most of our power for the 2-3 days it would take to till 3 acres. But if the tiller breaks then what? My wife with a yoke pulling the plow and me walking behind to guide her? LOL, don’t think that’s gonna happen.

      Then you have to have enough of a water supply to water the garden when needed. Where we live hopefully that wouldn’t happen often due to normal rainfall occurance.

      Then there is the problem of being able to preserve the produce from one crop year to the next. (also holding back enough seed for next years crops) We currently dehydrate most everything and can a little bit of it. I guess we could build a solar dehydrator and it’s best to do that NOW while we can obtain what we need for materials. We also need a pressure canner.

      We have chickens and a rooster but none of the girls have ever been broody which means we would have to have an incubator and heat lamp. Which requires solar power usage.

      Aquaponics sounds good but how do you breed the fish used in the system? Will they breed within the system or do they have to be moved to a better environment? If they don’t breed the system is only good for as long as you still have fish. Once you eat them all it’s over with. Then there is the problem of having enough fish food. Of course you could use fly larvae and worms and such but then that’s another operation to take care of.
      What it all boils down to is growing your own groceries is not as simple as having a seed bank stored in your supplies. We are learning this the hard way.

      • If I’m not mistaken Obxster, fish like Tilapia will reproduce on their own and I have read that they are so prolific that if you aren’t eating them regularly you would soon have too many fish. Of course you would need balance and that is why the small animals like chickens or rabbits, a healthy garden with plenty of canned food and auquaponics together seem to be the best idea for self-sustaining so far. This and solar are the next big frontiers for me to figure out because like you, I don’t have a mule for a wife.

        Pat

        • obxster

          I was just reading up on Tilapia reproduction and what I didn’t know is that the females carry the eggs in their mouths until they hatch. It mentioned having a piece of PVC available for the female to hide in and defend herself. Once hatched they have to be separated from the adults because the adults can eat all the young. Of course doing the hydroponics means you have to have a place inside a greenhouse or storage building with grow lights in the winter.
          I like the idea of it all because I would get tired of chicken, rabbits, squirrels and deer and who wouldn’t miss fish in their diet. We do have a bunch of ponds in the area but not sure how many of them have fish and if they do they have been stocked and will be protected. Good barter opportunity.

    • I read that too and its possible that was part of my motivation for this post. I know I don’t have that kind of land, but if anything happened, what land I do have wouldn’t be covered with nice green grass I would have to worry about mowing anymore….

      Pat

  • Cypherpunks (a public account)

    What I think is delusional is the idea that you’re going to survive in the long term, if you are “self” sufficient, emphasis on “self.” What helped us survive against other predators, including and especially human ones, was the fact that we organized into tribes, societies, and civilizations for mutual benefit and protection, and also to relieve the work burden. What has to happen, if a disaster scenario becomes long term, is those human groups have to be re-formed if you want to survive. Don’t isolate yourself. Get to know, trust, and rely on your neighbors. Form alliances, learn leadership and negotiating skills. Master one or two skills that make you indispensable in a disaster situation, not just short term but long term, such as medical skills, hunting, or some type of old-school fabrication like sewing, leatherwork, or blacksmithing. Look at how people survived in the1800s on the American frontier – a lot of folks who tried to make it entirely on their own starved or died of disease or even murder. The infant mortality rate in the mid-1800s was about 50%. Those who didn’t die, their lives were very hard. Even today’s hunter-gatherers out in the Amazon, or Papua New Guinea aren’t solitary – they live together in small villages! They also don’t work terribly hard to meet their needs. This whole nuclear family idea is pure nonsense. Isolation is the enemy. It’s a grave mistake to try to be on your own, even if “on your own” includes your spouse and children.

    • Thanks for your comments!

      I agree with you and didn’t mean to imply that I thought our family could survive on our own forever. Each person should be self-sufficient to a point though and I believe that is a good thing. Is a larger group better and easier for all involved? Probably in most cases yes, but you have to bring something to the table as you say. Not prepping at all would automatically preclude a lot of people from consideration even with the skills you mention.

      So, I am a skilled leather-worker, but I have no food and all I can really bring to the table is a unique skill set that nobody else possesses. I have not planned on any event like this because I thought that potential was stupid and believed all along that Uncle Sam would take care of us. Will I make a better tribe member than a single mother who couldn’t tell the difference between an animal hide and a wool blanket, but who stored 6 months of food and has been taking firearms training classes for a year? The same mother who has a nice garden and maybe a couple of solar panels too?

      I have read numerous times about the skills you need to have and they usually come down to what you mention and a lot of others you see at the fair on display every year by local craftsmen. I have even written about them, but we aren’t going to go Walton’s overnight. You won’t find a lot of people looking for leather goods or a blacksmith for years I don’t believe because the stuff we have will still be working for a long time. Could we get to that point? Absolutely, but I see years of trying to live before we would ever see someone setting up a forge and hanging a shingle out by the road.

      The best candidates I believe for the type of group you mention are those who have been prepping and have a interest toward self-reliance even if they end up as part of a larger group for everyone’s safety. Just knowing how to make a belt isn’t that effective in my book if you can’t contribute to feeding or protecting the tribe.

  • Sean Odom

    You are trying to get people thinking with some really good points. I read a book called “Nine Meals To Anarchy”. Which is one of the best books I have ever read on prepping by the way. But that book in a way gets you to think of everything and not just food you might need if SHTF. I highly recommend it to you to read.

    • Thank you very much Sean. I haven’t read that book, but have heard of it. I’ll have to add it to my growing list of books I need to get to.

      Pat