Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Salt and Prepper

   I somehow got sucked into watching  a show on Netflix last night. The focus of the show were so-called 'preppers', a group of people who would  probably not count me among their numbers for reasons which will become apparent, but to whom I am very sympathetic. This particular set of preppers were having underground reinforced bunkers built so that they could  presumably  sit out the next zombie attack/nuclear winter/economic collapse/leprechaun apocalypse in relative safety and comfort. These folks were having  periscopes and machine gun turrets installed outside their bomb-proof doors. I applaud them for thinking ahead, and I truly enjoy  some prep writers,but I think there is something missing in the mindset of the people featured on this show. Let me  explain.
   First of all, I understand that it's a television show, and  out of dramatic necessity they showcase the most extreme mindsets and then, if necessary edit the  footage to present a more cohesive version of the narrative.  I understand that the one guy's comments that "everybody that's not a prepper is a zombie" and then the subsequent footage of his family conducting live fire exercises on  paper zombie targets  probably  seemed a lot less creepy  before editing.  He may not  have not meant to  imply that he was  looking forward to the chance to  'cap' his zombie neighbor when he comes over to borrow a cup of sugar.  Often what you  wind up with is  a caricature of what you started with. But hey, that's show business.
  Interestingly, what people  now call an'off-grid lifestyle' past generations simply called 'everyday life'. Our ancestors lived 'off-grid' before  there was a word for it, and they did not live in lock-down mode. They didn't build  elaborate structures to fend off the barbarians at the gate. They didn't  spend  hours  zeroing in their  rifles so they could  double tap the rabble coming up their driveway. They simply 'lived'.  What they had was knowledge, and that knowledge was surprisingly  common.They were confident in their ability to survive, and that confidence enabled them to  not turn into  paranoid zombie-shooting weirdos.
  True prepping isn't a lifestyle of  stockpiling of  beanie weenies in a converted fall-out shelter or shopping for discounted radio-iodine tablets. True prepping involves  reclaiming  knowledge that was available to  people in the past that made them independent of the infrastructure. This has always been true; knowledge is power, and it's also portable. The best bug-out bag is the one above your neck, and it's better to  know how to grow beans than to have a 50 lb sack of them.When it all falls apart, the ability to replenish your stock with your own effort  makes you more likely to share, and puts you in a better overall position to be a more decent human being.  It also means  , that, should you be forced to abandon where you live, you can take your skills with you.
  I have been blessed to have a little piece of property  on the outskirts of a tiny  town in the South, and over the last few years, we have been acquiring the necessary skills to not just survive the collapse of 'the system', but to make life better on all points in between.  I thought I would make a brief list of not only things we have already done, but things we plan on doing.it's a work in progress, like everything else. These things have been done a little at a time, one paycheck at a time, with no debt incurred.
  We have a garden. When we moved in, the soil was pretty poor. It's quite sandy in this part of the country and this pathetic yet indestructible grass grew everywhere.  We bought some books , most notably How to Grow More Vegetables, and  it was an excellent resource.  I also asked my grandparents a lot of questions.  The harsh reality is, it takes time to  build a garden that will feed your family.  You can't start  today and have  vegetables tomorrow.  So the sooner you get started, the  more time you have to make mistakes. For us it has been a multi-year process of building up the soil with compost,  horse manure and  chicken manure.  The soil quality has improved so much that the grass in that area is a different shade of green than everything around it.
  We save seed and reuse them. One of the  first mistakes we made was not  rinsing the seeds and then drying them. It turns out it can get pretty  gross in a ziploc bag with wet seeds.
  We have some livestock.   We bought some  baby chicks for about  3 bucks apiece and  I built an enclosure for them out of scrap wood.  We have had as  few as 4 and as many as 30. The chickens  lay eggs and when they stop laying, they find their way into my freezer.  The chickens also are  voracious consumers of kitchen scraps, and the  manure they produce goes back into the garden. It's all very 'circle of life'. Chickens are also excellent at pest control. We had a flea problem a  few years back. We turned the chickens loose in the yard for a couple of days, and there were no more fleas.  I can also  pile a  bunch of compost on the far end of the garden, and within the hour, the  chickens will have sorted through it and inadvertently  spread it out for  me.
  We have a very small  pond that has a couple of fish in it, and has been stocked with crawfish, which I eat.  It will soon be the home to  some  ducks that  will give us some variety in our eggs, plus I just like baby  ducks.  It's not all about what you can eat, mind you.
  I also have a pony that I was  persuaded to buy by a six year old  girl with eyes the size of dinner plates.  About once a week we  go into his pen,  scoop up what he has left behind, and we  toss it into the garden where the chickens sort it out.  This , honestly, is the only contribution he makes, at least from my perspective. We  intend on buying some goats, mostly for landscaping purposes, though they will be on the menu if push comes to shove.
  We had bees a couple of years back, and that provided  some interesting comedic fodder along with a little bit of honey. We are revisiting  our beekeeping this year, although I'm not sure if they qualify as 'livestock'.
  We have a well. Our well is powered by an electric pump, but  it capable of  being foot-powered.  I also have plans to  install a well with a hand pump on the other end of the property.  That way, if the grid goes down, we can  carry on, although with a bit more effort, and in the meantime, we can water the animals without using any electricity.
  We have plans to  close off our property.   Obviously  there are a lot of ways to do this, but our plan is simple. We intend to put a gate on the front that we can lock, and  then create a perimter of trees and thorny bushes, which are much prettier than fences. I mean if somebody was determined, i suppose they could ram the gate in their vehicle, or jump the ditch on either  side of the fence and drive through the bushes.  If somebody really wants to get on your property, it's almost imposible to stop them , so we focus on  making it as inconvenient as possible.  As my dad used to say "Locks keep honest people honest.". Should that fail, we  have our next point to fall back on.
  We have firearms. The less said about this the better, because you  never know who is listening, but  suffice to say we have some.   We also shoot fairly regularly. This has the double benefit of  creating proficiency and remind the neighbors that we are armed.  Often they will respond with their own target shooting that echoes through the trees. We live in a great neighborhood.
 We are nice to our neighbors.  If it all does fall apart, more will get done, I believe,  with  small, tightly knit communities than by some bozo with a bunker that  shouts "Sucks to be you" as he walls off his family from the outside world.  When times are hard, your neighbor who has gotten swept up in the roving mob may remember that  you brought them a  cake once, or helped jump-start their car and pass you by. It's worth a try, and in the meantime it makes life more pleasant. 
  The idea overall is not to create some sort of compound, and it's to  to foster an  'us vs them' mentality.  It's to survive, and it turns out the same skills and knowledge that   makes you more prone to survive also adds to the quality of your life in the meantime.

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