Starting Over After Disaster . . . Again

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Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Paul Bunyan. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.

My wife and I had never thought about living in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, except when we’d watched movies about it. We’d never thought about owning firearms, even though we had 5 children to protect, because we didn’t view guns as necessary in our suburban life. Then things started to change in the world. 9-11 happened. It seemed like violence was on the rise within our own country. Home invasions were on the rise as reported in the news. Then two things happened in 2008 – the market crashed in September and Barack Obama was elected, and it suddenly seemed as if the freedoms we had always enjoyed were slipping away. We then decided it was time we start preparing for unexpected events that might cause us to see ourselves in one of those end of the world movies. We never realized how we would also be faced with starting over after disaster.

We started by reading about what it meant to be prepared. We watched videos and TV shows about prepping and living off the grid. We learned about survival and defense. And we realized that we needed to start taking action ASAP. We purchased our first firearm, a Glock G17 9MM. We took classes on handling firearms and we practiced. We enrolled our three youngest teenage daughters in NRA Firearm Safety classes. We acquired a couple of hunting rifles, bought a Mossberg 500 shotgun, and a gun safe and began buying more than the safe would hold.

We also purchased a foreclosed log cabin home on 40 acres with equal parts of fields, woods and wetlands in a very rural area in Central Minnesota about 90 miles from our home. That’s when things kicked into high gear. We purchased and stored supplies of all kinds. We accumulated food for storage and firewood for heat. We planted a large garden. We raised chickens and rabbits for food, and I shot and butchered my first deer. We developed great relationships with like-minded neighbors. We had created a perfect, prepared, survival retreat.

Starting Over After Disaster

Just a few days over a year after buying the cabin, we were driving up when my neighbor called frantically saying “Where are you?! Your place is on fire!” One of my daughters was living there full-time, but happened to be away at a horse show. By the time we all got there, the entire place was ablaze – the house, the garage, the bunk house, and the indoor pool that we had planned to get up and running one day. Being in a rural area in the midst of the coldest part of winter, the local volunteer fire department couldn’t keep up or stop it. They made seven 3-mile trips to town to fill the water truck. In a little over an hour, our plans and dreams had turned to ashes.


Everything was gone. Our family pets, our guns, our stored food, our library of books on survival, prepping and homesteading, our tools and equipment, our supplies, our rabbits & chickens, our RV, convertible and utility vehicles, our buildings, our retreat . . . . worst of all was that it was woefully under-insured. It was determined by the fire chief to have started from an electrical short in the unused bunk house. This was something we never anticipated or planned for. For me, my faith helped me deal with the loss, but it was not so easy for my family. However, we all committed to start over. As the basement foundation was still intact, it would be possible to rebuild, and we still had our home in the suburbs. We moved two small travel trailers onto the property to live in while rebuilding. We rebuilt the 35 x 35 garage on the same slab, and resumed raising rabbits and chickens on the weekends.

Lightening sometimes does strike twice

Eight months later while I was driving home with my youngest back from our retreat, I got a call from my wife “The house is on fire. Click.” I arrived home to see fire engines and hoses and neighbors and lights, and I felt weak until I saw my wife and our family safe on the lawn across the street. Our house had been saved but the attached garage and everything inside it was burned, although the master bedroom above it was damaged from fire, smoke and water. Again, it was started from an electrical malfunction in the ballast of the old fluorescent light over my workbench. We spent the next 13 months moving between a rental house, an apartment, and our trailer until our home was restored. Thankfully, we were well insured this time.


Lessons learned

Five months ago, we found another property about a mile from our original retreat. It is an old farm on 40 acres. In many ways it is better than our first retreat as it has a barn, a great chicken coop, a woodworking shop, several usable outbuildings (one of which I hope to turn into my gunsmith shop), a deep well with great quality water, 3 fenced pastures, a horse training arena, two ponds, three hunting stands. It is also adequately insured. A plus is that it has a mobile home pad with all the hookups. I’ve already bagged my second deer, and we’ve got around 100 chickens, ducks and turkeys. Unfortunately, it’s also on a well-traveled 2 lane state highway, and the house sits fairly close to the road. We plan to take advantage of that “negative” by turning the arena into a market garden, and setting up a vegetable stand for extra income.

We have again started rebuilding our prepping supplies, food storage, firearms, equipment, tools and resources. I now am very aware that any electrical defects or questionable or aging wiring or fixtures need to be addressed immediately. We know what we can now live without if we have to. We know that we should not put all our eggs in one basket, unless it’s from the chickens – splitting our supplies between our suburban home and our country retreat gives us a better sense of prepping for in-place and bug out situations. We learned that we can always start over from right where we are, no matter the past or current circumstances. Who needs TEOTWAWKI movies when we’ve lived through it? Through all our challenges, we have held onto our purpose and our hope. Our family is closer as we have worked together to restore our interrupted prepping/homesteading life, and my wife and I can again begin planning for retirement.



    February 23, 2016 at 4:42 am

    It’s all very well buying log cabins and lots of land but what about ordinary good people who are hard working who haven’t got much money, don’t they deserve to survive too. Here in the UK mostly what we have is forestry commission land that’s managed by the forestry commission belonging to the government, even though thery are very very remote and haven’t seen another human being for over 30 yrs then that’s all we have here in the UK. I myself have built a log cabin in one of these forestry commission land unbeknown to the government it is the least I can do for myself without much money. So how about someone telling other less well off people on how to survive in the event of a disaster or natural disaster.

  2. Mike Lashewitz

    February 23, 2016 at 10:36 am

    First I have to say Amazing story and come back. It is important to understand that not all disasters come with destruction.
    My 33 year old daughter met the third “perfect man”, he was a British Military SAS officer. They were to be married and we all were to move to Scotland and live on his 300 acre sheep farm. The mansion was enormous basically consisting of two large homes connected together with a courtyard.
    I was to manage the farm while he was away to war. My daughter raising her two and his four children. However there was one small problem his passport and ID had been stolen at a party on the local Air Base and the hoops one has to go through to get a replacement were phenomenal.
    We spent 6 months traveling from military base to military base only to encounter one problem after another. Twice we were not permitted to travel, once because of a terrorist attack and another because of a volcano eruption grounding flights. Hassles going to embassies in Atlanta, DC, and New York City. Problems with the banks transferring money into the US from Barclays.
    In all our savings, our silver were all eaten up on a 6 month trip up and down the East Coast. $60,000 gone, wasted.
    As it turned out Mr Perfect was a Con Artist named Chase Bryan Phillips. A man who had never been out of the country, a man who had never served, a man who had 13 felonies and today has 15. He spent 15 months in jail awaiting trial when the local County Solicitor decided we could not “win” the case even though we had solid evidence in the forms of signatures on forged checks, hotel bills and more. Including photos. Mr Phillips was then turned over to the BATF for stolen weapons trafficking. There he spent one year and was released and is once again pulling a similar con.
    You see “Lawyering” and courts are BIG Business and the criminal has more rights than the victim. Hos first con was at the age of 17 when he conned a kids baseball team to do a “drive” for donations to buy uniforms. He has felonies in 4 states. He walks free today..
    Oh and It took me 4 years to rebuild my savings, meanwhile my daughter is off in another state with “Mister Perfect # 5”. Three months ago his 11 year old mentally defective child tried to murder the entire family, apparently his first wife a drug abuser abused the children and Mr Perfect did not even learn the children were his until they were 10 years old, then he fought for custody and got the twins. Only to open another bag of worms. Since getting the boys they have burned a property stolen from a neighbors, broke into a business downloaded porn onto school computers twice, hacked into the schools mainframe, stolen money from everyone ran away twice the one cut off a monitoring cuff (felony) and of course the attempted murders. . . . Yep pretty much perfect.

  3. Huples

    February 23, 2016 at 9:40 am

    The audience are writing these articles so write the articles you want to see.
    As a general rule being prepared means generally coming up with the answers to your own problems so I will look forward to your article on the lack of places to build cabins in the UK and how you can get around it.

    Hint. Cheap terraced (town house) in small town away from nuclear power plants, military installations, rail and road hubs, industry. Fortify it as a bug out location leaving the outside looking normal.

    As for the article what did you think? Myself I saw it as a clear example of all your eggs in one basket. Sure the bug out locale seemed okay but storing all your supplies in it? Fire did them all in but looters easily could do the same

  4. NRP

    February 23, 2016 at 10:55 am

    A good article on what would happen in a personal SHTF. I
    also understand the “gest” of your article. Unfortunately I really disliked the
    fact that this particular story was a lesson of having money money money. Prepping is NOT about buying and buying
    more and more land a “second” retreat, stocking up on supplies, livestock, and
    so on. Again, fine if you have the cash and think that’s what being prepared is
    all about, I personally do not and take offence to those, like the people portrayed
    in this article, that seem to buy their way into preparedness and most likely
    everything else in life. Sure it would be GREAT to go buy Walmart and Sears,
    but good luck surviving without your checkbook.

    I do applauded your wanting to pursue prepping, and it’s NOT
    an easy road I understand, unfortunately your article gives a strong message
    that “money” will conquer all in a time of crises and EOTWAWKI, even if a small
    personal SHTF. Prepping is not a hobby and “buy now, use later, buy more and
    more”; for those that truly understand the meaning; it’s a lifestyle and not a
    game of “I can buy more than you can”.


    • Paul Bunyan

      February 23, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      I’m sorry if I have given the impression that it’s all about buying stuff or that we had unlimited funds. This story is not complete and actually unfolds over many years even though the two tragic events were only 8 months apart. We started small and cheap. We have always managed our finances better than most, and I would consider that part of prepping as well. As seasons passed, we accumulated food and other supplies by buying extra on trips to the grocery and department stores. We would buy books and supplies as gifts to each other for birthdays, Christmas and other holidays instead of things we would rarely use and throw away. I mentioned the property we bought was a foreclosure, however we had to refinance our suburban home to pay the down payment for it – it was in poor condition and required a lot of work by our family to clean up, repair and make livable. We would buy furnishings at garage sales and thrift shops. These accumulations of things were moved to the cabin, so that in the event we needed to go there, we wouldn’t be trying to haul everything up in one trip. The new (but very old) farm we recently bought was two years after our house fire, and it’s on a Contract for Deed. So you see, it’s not about being wealthy, it’s about being resourceful, and willing to sacrifice to get what you want to have the things that will prepare you for living in a different world if the SHTF. The story is more directly about what happens if you are not prepared for the unexpected even AFTER you’ve prepared for what you think might happen, and then overcoming those events and pressing on to pursue the plan put in place long ago.

      • NRP

        February 23, 2016 at 2:24 pm

        @ Paul Bunyan

        No need for a “sorry” at all, my comment was my evaluation
        of that I saw in the article. Not the persons involved, by any means.

        Unfortunately “Prepping” has become Big Business (just look at the Ad’s to the right), and the
        reflection of which we all see dozens/hundreds of people rushing out and buying
        years’ worth of Augasons Farms or 200 cases of MRS and think their good to go.
        I for one find it despicable that media is using scare tactics to flame this “movement”.
        As I said before this is a “lifestyle” something I have been “into” basically
        all my life, so it gets to me at times when I see the indications of people believing
        they can just purchase stuff and they will be of the 3%ers. Please don’t misunderstand
        I fully indorse being prepared and yes I see the time left as short, but with
        that said it will be very improbable that the sheeple are going to ever open
        their eyes, leading into the question of what does one do when the hordes
        decide to take or burn you out for what you have?

        Again I really do understand the “gust” you were trying to
        get across, I probably took your intensions differently that most then, for I
        have seen what true EOTWAWKI situations are and normally it’s not just buying
        the way out of it.

        Hard work is not a stranger to anyone that is a Lifer in
        this “prepping”, it sounds as you and family are able to adapt and overcome.
        That you should be very proud of, it is not easy to rebuild afterwards. Or
        twice afterwards as in your case.

        That’s the difficult thing about prepping, what do you prep
        for? If you’re doing it “right” than it should not matter what TSHTF is, it’s
        the getting back up and walking the road again.


  5. Madrhino

    March 1, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    Great article. Happy that no one was hurt.

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