I loved this quote from Jerry Young, doomsday prepper: "I'd rather be ready than wrong." See article here
Hail Storm Hell
People wonder why I am so fanatical about storing tarps, lumber, hammers, and nails. It's because three times in the history of my house, there have been catastrophic episodes of window-shattering: in 1935 due to earthquake; in 1982 due to hail storm; and in 1989 due to train wreck. How much time do I really want to spend trying to track down the things I need when my windows break? When I consider that the 1935 quake happened when it was 25 degrees below zero, and the train wreck happened when it was 29 degrees below zero, do I really want to have to wait for hours for the stores to open? And then get in line behind a thousand other people who were also unprepared for broken windows? Or would I prefer to have everything I need on hand so I can just get to the job right away?
True story: Several summers ago, the Montana town of Lewistown was hit by one of those hellacious hail storms. Lewistown is a town of about 6,000 people, and many of the west-facing windows in town shattered in the storm. Lewistown only has one hardware/lumber supply store in town, and they were sold out of their lumber and tarps within moments after the storm passed. Therefore, a long line of Lewistown residents headed to the next town over, Billings, to get lumber. Even though it's the next town over, it's still more than 100 miles away, meaning a 200 mile round-trip to get lumber. Soon all the lumber yards in Billings were sold out, meaning people had to drive back to Lewistown, and then head out to Great Falls, 100 miles away in the opposite direction. That meant some citizens had to make a journey of over 400 miles just to cover their broken windows.
What if the windows one day shatter due to a nuclear bomb taking out Malmstrom Air Force Base, which controls all of Montana's nukes? What if a radioactive fallout cloud was heading their way? All of the people who had to drive several hundred miles just to cover their windows would be far more likely to suffer and perish than those who already had what they needed on hand.
So that's why I'm fanatical about being able to tarp and board up all of my windows. If you live in hurricane country, tornado alley, or earthquake land-- you should, too.
Why I Do Not Rotate My Food
I am often asked, "Do you rotate your food?" and the answer is, "No" which elicits looks of stunned surprise. "Why on earth not?" they ask. Here's why:
When I first started prepping, my initial goal was to stockpile enough food to keep my husband and myself fed for a year. After I achieved that goal, I started talking to my friends about what I had done, encouraging them to do likewise. "Hell," they all replied, "We don't need to stockpile food, because as soon as things get tough, we're just going to come over to YOUR house, Janet!" This put me under tremendous imaginary pressure, because if I have enough food to feed two people for a year, then I only have enough to feed four people for six months, or six people for three months, etc etc. If I end up having to feed 365 people, then I'm only going to be able to get through two days before being eaten out of house and home by a large collection of unprepared grasshoppers.
There's no easy way of creating a dividing line between the people I'd be willing to feed and those I'm not willing to feed. If I must feed my dear friend Kathleen, then I should also feed her grown son. If I'm feeding her grown son, then I should also feed his girlfriend. If I'm feeding his girlfriend, then I should also feed her mother. If I'm feeding her mother, I'll be asked to feed her neighbor. Where do you draw the line? How do you say, "Sorry, YOU have to starve"?
As I began to realize just how difficult it is to convince people to start prepping, and just how many people were going to be showing up on my doorstep when SHTF, I also began to realize that my puny one-year stash of food for myself and my husband was just not enough. I therefore began a program of stockpiling the greatest amount of food, in the smallest possible space, for the least amount of money. I am not interested in keeping a moderate amount of food constantly fresh. I am interested in sheltering the greatest amount of food for the longest possible time under the best possible circumstances. Whether Doomsday arrives in a year, or a decade, or half a century, the whole thing will end up being a grand experiment in the effectiveness of modern-day food preservation techniques.
"But what if your food goes bad?" ask the Rotator people. I reply, "When SHTF, first we will eat the fresh food. Next we will eat the stale food. Then we will eat the rotten food. By the time we are finished with the rotten food, we will hope one of three things has happened: either A) the crisis is over; or B) the cavalry has arrived; or C) the first harvest is in.
My oldest foodstuffs were stored in 2004. I regularly break open caches to check their condition, re-pack them, and get them better organized. So far I have only come across a single package of ruined food, and that was ruined by bugs that were inside the package when it was at the factory, as all the bug poop was confined to the inside of the affected package.
Here's an article on bomb shelter supplies which were stored in 1964 still being edible (if not palatable) today. If I can achieve the same thing, then stores I am setting aside today will still be good fifty years from now. Who knows what might transpire in the next five decades? By the year 2060, the earth's population (if it continues to grow at the same rate it is now) will be about 11 billion. The world's supply of petroleum will be gone, or nearly gone. The climate may undergo rapid changes.
By then, I'll either be dead, or very very old. By then, if my crawlspace is still full of food, maybe there will be some starving hordes only too happy to eat some stale rations.
NOPE. NOPE. NOPE.
The issue has been broached that perhaps my prepping habit is merely a semi-acceptable disguise for a pathological hoarding compulsion. An interesting theory! Let's take a look at it.
The dictionary definition of a hoarder is: "A person who accumulates things and hides them away for future use."
Under that definition, I am absolutely a hoarder, as I do accumulate food and supplies, and I definitely hide them away, and I totally expect that there will be a future use for those items one day.
But now let's take a look at the definition and symptoms of pathological hoarding:
Definition: Pathological or compulsive hoarding is a specific type of behavior characterized by:
Do I collect items that appear to have little or no value to others? Hell no! OK, I admit that I now own four (count 'em, FOUR) gas powered electrical generators. I guess that might seem strange to non-preppers. All of them were purchased for less than $100 and all of them are in good working order, so I'm not collecting junky generators. When I bought the first one, I thought, "Great! Now I can have electricity when SHTF!" When I found the second one, I bought it thinking, "I can use the first generator for my own needs, and hook the second generator up to serve the tenants who rent out the apartments upstairs from me." When I found a third generator (for $25 at a garage sale) I thought, "Hey, I could use another one in order to give it to some needy person, such as someone who will die without their oxygen machine." When I found the fourth one (for $45 at an estate sale), I reasoned, "Now I can have an extra one to sell for enough money to pay me back for all four generators!" So, even though it's unusual to own 4 generators, I'm not collecting things of "little or no value to others". When these generators become valuable, they will be very, very valuable indeed!
The second criteria is severe cluttering of the hoarder's home. This one doesn't fit because I have made a schtick out of hiding all my hoarding, so much so that there is not a single clue any place in my home that I am a stockpiler. I live in a fairly small space; I have seven rooms, two bathrooms, three closets, a small basement, and a crawlspace. I do not have an attic, garage, or shed. I do not own any spare properties. None of the rooms in my home has a suitable set-up to be dedicated to holding supplies. I am not willing to give up ANY of my limited living space to prepping. Therefore, I've made a gimmick out of sticking my hoard where the sun don't shine: under things, behind things, above things, in between things. I have preps in all rooms of my home, but they just don't show. My house is tidy and organized. Therefore, this is strike two, because there is no inordinate clutter anywhere in my home.
The third symptom is impairment or distress in work or social life. This is another "Nope." My friends and co-workers think my prepping habit is a bit odd, but that's the worst that can be said. I have a terrific job that I've held for six years; a tight social circle that's been intact for two decades; and a vigorous marriage of 32 years, all to the same (slightly bewildered) husband.
Here are the questions a psychologist would ask of a compulsive hoarder, along with my answers:
Hoarder? Yes, I am a hoarder. Pathological hoarder? Nope, not by any stretch of the imagination. So there!
No Buckets Here
Many preppers store their goods in five-gallon buckets with tight lids. I don't. I prefer to use oversize tin canisters instead, of the sort that holiday popcorn or dog food come in. I don't have anything against five-gallon buckets; if you've got a supply of them, then by all means go ahead and use them. But I'll stick to tin canisters for several reasons.
First of all is the ease of securing a supply. To get a steady supply of food-grade buckets with good lids, you either need to know someone in the restaurant industry who can hand them over to you for free, or you must be willing to pay about five bucks for them at Home Depot or some other hardware store. I don't know anyone in the restaurant industry and have never felt comfortable asking some restaurant manager for his leftover food buckets. And I'm a budget prepper so paying five bucks for a bucket - when five bucks will also buy me ten pounds of rice - is out of the question.
Tin canisters, by contrast, come to me easily, effortlessly, and cheaply. I find them at thrift shops and garage sales constantly, in a steady reliable stream. People receive holiday popcorn at Christmas, and by New Year's a whole slew of those tins will be on the shelves at the junk shop for 50 cents each. Therefore, I can buy ten tin cans for the price of one plastic bucket.
Another reason I prefer big cans over big buckets is because when a five-gallon bucket is packed full of anything, no matter what it is: candy canes, soap, mashed potatoes, pancake mix, candles, or wheat, that bucket is too heavy for me to lift. Sure, I could ask my husband to haul that 40-pound bucket of dried corn to the crawlspace for me, but my husband is not a prepper and dislikes being saddled with such chores. As much as possible, I try to keep my prepping under his radar anyway, so I endeavor to accomplish all of my prepping chores from start to finish when he's not around to lecture me on what a waste of time this is. I need containers that I can carry around on my own without giving myself a hernia.
Then, too, if bugging-out ever becomes an absolute necessity, I want my supplies stored in containers that a single person can carry on their own, just for the ease of packing up and heading out. I don't want to have to delegate two-person teams to carry every single overloaded bucket.
Tin canisters have tight lids and are resistant to rust and decay if stored in a dry environment. They are sturdy enough to be stacked one atop another all the way to the ceiling. They are mouse-proof, moth-proof, and moisture-proof. After the collapse, they can serve as water containers, toilets, or stoves. They're cheap and readily available. If you've got a ready supply of buckets, good for you! If you don't -- check out your local thrift shop. I bet you a bucket of powdered milk you'll find what you need there.
1,000 Candy Canes
Last week I bought a thousand candy canes. Actually, I bought 1,152 candy canes, to be exact.
My husband, upon seeing me trooping into the house carrying a stack of candy cane boxes taller than I stand, asked a reasonable question: “But why do we NEED a thousand candy canes?!” And so I explained to him the following reasons why anyone interested in disaster preparedness might want to have extra candy canes on hand.
Point #1: Blood Glucose Levels
After a disaster strikes, the people caught up in the problem have a very predictable tendency to run around like crazy, expending far more energy than normal, while at the same time missing their regular meal schedule. They become dehydrated, and their blood sugar levels get wonky. After the adrenaline wears off, they collapse. Therefore, a quick sugar boost is often just the thing to keep someone on their feet.
Point #2: Indefinite Shelf Life
Sugar is one of the foods that lasts forever; it will never spoil or go bad, assuming it’s kept safe. Corn syrup is another “forever” food. Therefore, hard candy made of sugar and corn syrup can last years; maybe decades; perhaps even centuries, given ideal storage conditions. (Chocolate, by contrast, deteriorates very quickly, with a shelf life of a few months, or a year at most.) So if you want to stockpile candy that will last indefinitely—until whatever is going to hit the fan actually hits the fan— candy canes are an excellent choice because they are made of sugar and corn syrup.
Point #3: Thrift
The best time to buy hard candy with an indefinite shelf life is a few days after whatever candy-related holiday has just passed. Whereas some people just can’t wait for Halloween or Easter or Christmas, I can’t wait until the day AFTER Halloween and Easter and Christmas, because that’s when I find the bargains. Candy canes go on sale very predictably on the day after Christmas, and their price continues to drop the longer they remain in the store. One week after Christmas, candy canes are half price. Two weeks after Christmas, candy canes are 75% off. That’s when I go to the store and buy out their entire supply of leftover candy canes. In this case, I bought 96 boxes, with each box holding a dozen candy canes. Their original price was a buck per box; I paid two bits a box. For $24, I bought 1,150 candy canes, at two cents apiece.
If there ever comes a time when I am able to prevent an insulin-dependent diabetic from going into a coma because I have a ready supply of non-perishable candy, won’t that be two cents well-spent? If ever I’m able to keep an over-worked and overwhelmed first responder on his feet for another hour with a quick fix of sugar, won’t that be two cents well spent? If I can comfort a frightened and confused child with a small yummy treat, won’t that be two cents well spent? And if it should ever come to pass that, heaven forbid, the American gravy train jumps its tracks, cutting off the normal food supply – wouldn’t it be handy to have 1,150 candy canes packed away in permanent storage for bartering? What better thing shall I spend my money on than buying something today that might be so valuable tomorrow?
My husband folded his arms, heaved a sigh, rolled his eyes, and shook his head as he left me to my afternoon project of stripping candy canes from their packaging and packing them into canisters. My oft-repeated refrain echoed after him as he left: “One day you’ll thank me for this!
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