Three weeks without food is survivable, but three days without water will kill you. With water being one of your main survival priorities, you want to know multiple ways of procuring this vital resource in an emergency situation. There are hidden water sources in your home, as well as in the wild. Knowing how to fine tune your skills in order to make the most of a precarious situation will save you time, energy, and potentially, your life.
Survival Tips for Locating Water
If you find yourself in the wild without water, there are ways to locate it. The following survival tips are common sense, but many forget them when lost in the wild.
Locating contour lines in the earth and following them will more than likely direct you to water source you can use. Keep in mind that all rivers and streams will end up in one central location. For example, if you come across a dry creekbed and follow it far enough, you will find a water source.
Another common sense survival tip to remember is when snow melts, it travels down mountain ridges and creates rivers, streams and lakes. The further you move down a mountain crevice, the more likely you will find water. Therefore, when locating water on foot and near mountains, follow the crevices the crevices of mountain ridges and you will likely find water sources near the bottom.
If you are unable to find water sources, check out these videos on ways to find water in the most unlikely places.
Heavy dew can provide one with an ample source of water. Dew will settle on foliage such as grasses and tree limbs at night. If you have a plastic bag (sandwich bag, trash bag, grocery bag, mylar blanket) in your pack, you can cover the limbs of trees and add a rock to provide weight. Secure the bag to collect moisture from the air. Over the course of the day the plant will transpire and produce moisture that will collect at the low point. Poke a hole in the bottom of the bag and collect the water. The video shows you the classic way of collecting moisture from the air, but it also shows you a quick and easy way of accessing it. Watch the video to see what I mean.
Tap a Tree
The guys over at Sigma 3 Survival School demonstrate a rather primitive way of tapping a tree to procure water. Bear in mind this technique only works in late winter/early spring and when the sap is running high in the tree. As well, this only works with certain trees such as birch and maple. Although I have never tried this method, the video states you can get enough water to fill a canteen and the water is already filtered.
Here’s another great video from Sigma 3 Survival School and is a relatively easy way to collect a considerable amount of water. Absorbent bandanas, towels or shirts can collect water in a short amount of time. You can also tie absorbent material to your shins and walk through tall grasses to collect morning dew. Remember, you want smart survival tricks in order to conserve energy levels.
I’ve always been apprehensive on making the suggestion of using copper dowsing rods as a way to find water, but it has been used for centuries to locate underground water supplies. The two main items needed for dowsing is a metal “L” rod and a humble stick shaped like a fork. Click on the video below to see how easy it is to use these simple tools to locate water. Once water is found, all you need is a shovel to dig it up.
Knowing the hidden sources of water in your area and how to procure it will keep you alive. Remember, just because water looks clear and clean, does not mean it is safe to drink. You can chemically treat your water using purification tablets, iodine and chlorine, have a portable water filter such as the Katadyn Pro Hiker or LifeStraw, or distill or boil it. Ensure that you have a means to filter or purify your water in order to avoid water-borne illnesses.
Have you ever heard anyone utter some variation of one of these comments?
“I’m going to start prepping as soon as I can move.”
“I can’t prepare because I live in a tiny apartment.”
“Well, once we are able to get moved to our farm in two years I’ll start prepping hardcore.”
“I’m saving the money for moving instead of using it for preps.”
“There’s no point in prepping here because if the SHTF I’ll be dead.”
Maybe you didn’t overhear someone else saying it. Maybe you said it yourself. One of the most common excuses that people use for prepper procrastination is the unsuitability of where they currently live.
This is the kind of thinking that will get people killed.
While your current situation may be less than ideal, you have to remember that very few locations are actually perfect for prepping. Nearly anywhere you live will be subject to some type of extreme weather, be it crippling cold, blazing heat, drought, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Chemical spills can taint water supplies anywhere. Riots and civil unrest can occur outside of the big city.
The point is, to borrow an old saying, you just have to bloom where you’re planted.
There are many things you can do to create a viable preparedness plan wherever you happen to live. Apartment dwellers at the top of a city high rise, folks in the middle of the desert, those in a beachfront condo, and people in HOA-ruled suburban lots all have to examine their situations, figure out their pros and cons, and work towards resolving what they can. With some pre-planning, there is a lot you can overcome if you have the right mindset. I suspect there are just as many (and probably far more) preppers living in the ‘burbs than there are living in perfect rural locations, with a lake, 10 acres of cultivated farmland, and an off-grid house.
Stop waiting until you move to the perfect location. Make preparations for the situation you have, not the situation you want.
Moving isn’t always an option.
One of the most ridiculous quasi-solutions you will hear is this one: “Oh, you should just move.”
Preparedness forums are rife with this off the cuff advice from people who haven’t thought it through. And if you’re one of the people giving that so-called advice, you need to consider how completely impractical this is.
There is no “just” when it relates to packing up everything you own; abandoning job, family, and friends; and relocating like money is no object.
“Just” picking up and moving isn’t that easy. People have obligations and ties that some Joe-Blow on the internet shouting out advice can’t even begin to understand. Some in the prepping community have a complete disconnect with the realities of everyday people. There are reasons like:
Not enough money to leave
A good job (increasingly hard to come by these days)
Family members in the area that you don’t want to abandon
No work opportunities where you want to go
Custody orders that require you to remain in a certain area
A spouse who is not on board
A house that won’t sell or with an upside-down mortgage
The list goes on and on. There are as many reasons to remain in one place as there are people living in cities. While we could sit here and logically refute each and every reason a person has chosen to remain, it is only philosophical. It still doesn’t address the practical reasons that people have for staying put. Sometimes people who are interested in preparedness are alienated when it seems that everything is black and white or like their personal decisions are somehow less valid than the decisions of some random person on the internet.
So, if you are interested in getting prepared but feel your current situation is hopeless, ignore the naysayers and forum curmudgeons. Take your current situation, warts and all, and work with it. This doesn’t mean that you should abandon your plans for a better location sometime in the future if such a move is warranted. But it means that you shouldn’t put off important preparedness steps until after that move is made.
Assess Your Situation
You don’t know where to go if you don’t know where you are. The first and most vital step is an honest assessment of your current situation. The situation that you have right now, this very minute, not the one you will have in a month or in a year. Assess your needs regarding the following:
Once you know exactly where you are with these things, you can begin to look for solutions that will work for you, today. Dig in and make a plan
for the survival of your family.
Survival in a Population Dense Area
A little note to those who say, “It doesn’t matter, I’m in midtown Manhattan. I’ll die anyway.”
No, you won’t. You won’t be that lucky. You will be absolutely thoroughly miserable, breathing foul unhealthy air. You’ll be thirsty enough to drink unsanitary water, which will cause bowel issues to worsen problem #1. You’ll be hungry, but not hungry enough that you die of starvation. You will be at the mercy of thugs better armed than you. You won’t die, not right away, and neither will your children. You will live like I just described, and it will be horrible. Look at the residents of Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy. They didn’t die but they were absolutely miserable, they were terrified, they were eating from dumpsters, and much of it could have been avoided with some basic preparedness.
Before I relocated to the boondocks, I lived in a very metropolitan area. I was lucky: I had 1/10th of an acre. I did everything I could come up with to make my little house as sustainable as possible should the poop hit the oscillating device before I could get out. A disaster in the city IS survivable.
I planted every inch of the backyard (and some of the front) and grew enough food that the home-canned and frozen produce lasted until Christmas. I stockpiled groceries. I had plywood cut and pre-drilled to cover each window of the house. I had printed official looking quarantine signs to hang on the door of my house as a deterrent should the city fall into civil unrest. I put together a little outdoor fireplace in the backyard behind my fence. I got a big dog. I collected rainwater from downspouts at each corner of the house. I purchased an antique oil heater in good working order, and stockpiled heating oil. I had enough seeds to plant for the next 4 years. I located nearby sources of water, wood, and nuts. I got a wagon for hauling stuff if the transportation system was down.
In short, I did everything possible to make the best of a potentially terrible location. It wasn’t perfect, but we were determined to resolve as many of the concerns as possible.
The major challenges that you face in an SHTF situation are the same no matter where you are. Of course, the issues will vary from one situation to another – these lists aren’t meant to be comprehensive. This is a starting point to get your wheels turning, so that you can figure out how you and your family can best survive, exactly where you’re planted right now.
Water preparedness should be at the very top of your list. You can only survive for 3 days without water (and you’ll be weak and suffering way before that). A water preparedness plan is essential for survival, even in a short-term scenario. Here are a few ways you can prep for a water emergency, no matter where you live:
Store a month supply of drinking water (plan on a gallon per day, per person and pet)
Scope out local water sources that are within walking distance
Stock up on buckets and be prepared to transport them with a sled, wagon, or wheelbarrow (this depends on the season and climate).
If you have a house instead of an apartment, set up a water catchment system
Stock up on water purification supplies (bleach, pool shock, tablets)
Figure out a system for catching gray water to be reused for flushing, washing, etc.
Figure out how you will go to the bathroom in the event that the public sewer system goes down. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in New York, it was reported that people were defecating and urinating in the hallways of apartment buildings once the sewer system stopped working. Lack of sanitation is not only unpleasant, but it spreads disease. Figure out ahead of time if any of these suggestions will work in your situation, and then stock up on the required supplies:
Get a porta potty – there are camping ones that will hold several days worth of sewage. (Caveat: You have to have a safe place to empty this should the disaster persist.)
Make a human litter box using 5 gallon buckets lined with heavy duty trash bags (get the kind designed for contractors). Scoop in a small amount of kitty litter each time you use it. Don’t let it get too heavy to carry outside – you don’t want the bag to rip and spill several days worth of human waste in your home.
Stock up on water for flushing if you have a septic system
Learn how to shut off the main valve so that city sewage cannot back up into your house or apartment
If you have enough outdoor space, keep on hand the supplies to build an outhouse. (Don’t forget the lime!)
Keep these extra personal sanitation supplies on hand: baby wipes, antibacterial wipes (for cleaning food preparation areas), white vinegar, bleach, hand sanitizer, extra toilet paper.
Not only should you stock up on food, but you need to consider how you’ll cook it. Most preppers have a food supply, but in a down grid situation, food that takes 4 hours to cook will use a prohibitive amount of fuel. If you’re new at this, you might not yet have a food supply. Here are some considerations:
If you live in a place with cold winters, a secondary heat source should be a priority. Of course if you rent or live in a high-rise condo, installing a woodstove is unlikely to be a viable solution. The cold can kill, so this is a necessary part of your preparedness plan. Consider some of these options for a secondary heat source:
Use your wood stove or fireplace (if you’re lucky, your house is already equipped with your secondary source!)
Acquire a personal heating unit. Look for one of the following: an oil heater, kerosene heater, or propane heater (We have this propane heater)
If you absolutely can’t get ahold of a secondary heating system, prepare with non-tech ideas like:
Arctic sleeping bags
Winter clothes and accessories
Covers for windows
Segregating one room to heat
Setting up a tent in the warmest room to combine body heat
Secure heavy doors with reinforced frames.plywood or gridwork to cover the windows, keeping lights off or low, thorny plants around the perimeter of your house and yard, hardening access points, a big dog, an alarm system, and visual deterrents such as warning signs and quarantine signs.
Cut plywood or gridwork to cover the windows, making them difficult to breach.
Keep the lights off or low.
Nurture some thorny plants around the perimeter of your house and yard.
Harden the access points to your home.
A dog can serve as both a warning system and a deterrent
Install an alarm system
Use visual deterrents such as warning signs or quarantine signs.
Don’t underestimate the value of light in a dark world. Most city dwellers don’t consider exactly how dark the night can be without streetlights and lights from houses. Emotionally, having a bit of light can help soothe frazzled children (or adults) and help the night seem a little less scary. Use caution that your light cannot be seen from the outside. Like moths to a flame, people will be drawn to the only brightly lit house on the street. Keep some of the following sources on hand.
Solar garden lights
Kerosene or oil lamps (and extra fuel)
Flashlights (and extra batteries)
Battery operated LED lights,
Solar camping lanterns
Glow sticks for children
Increase Your Personal Sustainability
Of course, all of the above are solutions for a short-term situation. There’s always the possibility that a crisis could persist for a longer period of time. You should include in your plans as many ways as possible to be personally sustainable. This might include some of the following strategies:
Set up a permanent water catchment system at your home.
Grow food on every possible space available: balconies, windowsills, courtyards, backyards, front yards, flower beds.
Consider raising some micro livestock: rabbits and chickens take up very little space and can be raised in most backyards. If your city has an ordinance against backyard chickens, rabbits are quiet and multiply…well…like rabbits.
Learn to make things from scratch and practice your sustainable skills rather than relying on storebought goods.
So, if you’re reading this and you’ve been putting off preparedness due to your location, what’s your plan?
If you’ve been feeling disheartened by all the folks grimly telling you that your home is a death trap, what can you do over the weekend to improve your chances, right where you are?
And if you are fortunate enough to be in an ideal location, please share your ideas about overcoming some of these difficulties in a less than perfect place on the map. As a community, we can all help one another solve problems that could otherwise seem insurmountable.
Let’s face it: The world is a scary place to be living in right now. Many countries are dealing with serious political instability and the threat of terrorism; economic turmoil is pervasive worldwide; Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, has warned that antibiotic-resistance might “mean the end of modern medicine as we know it;” and then we still have to contend with good old-fashioned natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis. The potential for collapse is immense, but instead of worrying endlessly, what we should be doing is preparing to face whatever comes our way.
Hide your valuables: While it might be a good idea to hide your valuables so that they can’t be stolen, it is equally as important to remember where you stashed them. A good idea would be to bury them somewhere in your garden and then take a photo of a family member standing in that spot. Put copies of the photo in the family bug out bags, and make sure everyone knows what they’re for.
Improve your fitness: Any stressful situation calls for physical endurance, and there is always the possibility that you might have to carry injured people, the elderly or children to a place of safety. So, take the time now to get fit so that you’re up to the task when called upon. You’ll be protecting your health and longevity at the same time.
Move to the ‘burbs: While convenience might make living in the city an attractive prospect, from a survival point of view it’s a really bad option. In any collapse situation cities become hotbeds of mayhem. Being in a safe area out in the suburbs will be far safer, and will likely save you money on your mortgage in the meantime!
Rotate your survival foods: While stockpiling food is obviously essential, the problem lies in keeping it fresh and not wasting money on food that goes bad. An excellent suggestion is to keep taking food from one side of your shelf and replacing it with fresh cans or boxes on the other end of the shelf.
Make sure you’ve got baking soda: Baking soda has a myriad of health benefits, and most importantly, in a survival scenario it will protect your dental health. All you need is to mix half a teaspoon of baking soda with half a teaspoon of water to form a paste, and then use it to brush your teeth. [RELATED: Discover the cancer-fighting properties of baking soda and lemon.]
Learn about the trees and plants in your environment: Whether you’re making a rope, looking for drinkable sap or simply starting a fire, the plants and trees in your immediate surroundings are an invaluable resource. Start learning about what’s in your area now, and how best to utilize it in a time of need.
Plan your escape: Everyone in your family should receive SERE (survival, evasion, resistance and escape) training, which involves learning when to rest, move and hide, among other things.
Be ready to secure your person and property: Civil society quickly disintegrates into violent gangs in a collapse situation, so you need to be able to protect yourself and your family. Purchase things like bulletproof vests and barbed wire ahead of time for this purpose.
Be careful who you tell: Don’t tell anyone anything they don’t need to know. Someone might inadvertently reveal important information about your plans, compromising your security. Even your family members should be informed on a “need-to-know” basis.
Make sure everyone knows the escape plan: Since you never know where everyone might be in case of an emergency, every member of the family needs to know exactly where to meet, how to get there, and any other relevant information. Plan ahead and have family drills so you can be sure of exact time-frames.
We all hope we never to have to deal with a natural disaster or other collapse situation, but if you take the preparatory steps above, you will be in the best possible position to keep your family safe. [RELATED: For more tips like these see Bugout.news]
The lack of sanitation following major disasters can quickly escalate and create secondary problems in a post SHTF situation. If the water lines are damaged, or if damage is suspected, do not use the water. Having an alternative to indoor bathing would be advisable if you believe there are questionable water sources.
Sanitation-Related Diseases are Common Following Disasters
Keep in mind that poor sanitation conditions is one of the most likely ways a person could die following a SHTF event. As well, a woman’s personal hygiene and ensuring children are clean is essential in making sure sanitation-related illnesses do not occur. Contaminated water, poor sanitation and/or lack of hygiene leads to diseases such as hepatitis A, viral gastroenteritis, cholera, shigellosis, typhoid, diphtheria and polio. If these diseases affect enough of the population, an epidemic will ensue. Taking proper precautions and stocking up on sanitary items will help eliminate most issues regarding poor sanitation.
Disposable bucket or luggable loo
Garbage bags with twist ties ( for liners of toilets or luggable loo)
Cat litter or absorbent material such as saw dust or dirt
Baking soda can be used to help eliminate odors
It is important to continue regular hygiene habits during an emergency. Habits such as brushing your teeth, washing your face, combing your hair and even washing your body with a wet washcloth. This will help prevent the spread of disease and irritation, as well as help to relieve the stress brought on by the disaster.
In a pinch, water can be heated outside using a solar visor for a vehicle. Use filtered potable water or fresh rainwater during times of emergencies. To prevent sanitation-related diseases, do not use standing water.
Heating Water Outdoors
The following video, shows how easy it is to construct a solar heating element for water. This method can also be used during times of drought in order to cut back on water usage.
Other sanitation considerations to consider in an extended emergency are outlined in week 26 of the 52 weeks to preparedness series. For a longer-term showering solution, check out this video on how to create an outdoor gravity-fed shower using a 5-gallon bucket.
Injuries are part and parcel of a long-term survival scenario. Many realize that good boots, gloves, and even protective eyewear will prevent many of these injuries, but few will take action to protect against head injuries.
Most head injuries cause superficial damage and are not life-threatening. Indeed, most amount to only a laceration of the scalp, a black eye, or a painful bump. These wounds, however, can hide damage inside the cranium, the part of the skull that contains the brain.
Injuries that affect the brain are called traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). It’s important for the medic to recognize when trauma to the skull has caused damage that is more than superficial.
Concussions – The Most Common TBI
Concussions are the most common type of TBI. A concussion is associated with a variety of symptoms that are often immediately apparent. The presentation of a concussion will vary from one individual to the next.
Although you might expect a loss of consciousness, the victim often remains completely alert. As you might imagine, pain at the site of injury or headache is the most commonly seen symptom.
Loss of motor coordination
Blurred or double vision
Ringing in the ear (also called “tinnitus”)
A person with trauma to the head may be knocked unconsciousness for a period of time. In most cases, they will “wake up” in less than 2 minutes, but you can notice them to be “foggy” and behave inappropriately (put me in, coach!). They may not remember the events that led to the injury. This patient will merit close observation for the next 48 hours.
Examine the victim for evidence of superficial injuries and determine that they has normal motor function. This includes making sure they can move all their extremities with full range and strength. Even so, rest is prescribed for the remainder of the day. When your patient goes to bed, it will be appropriate to awaken them every two or three hours to make sure that they are easily aroused. In most cases, a concussion causes no permanent damage unless there are multiple episodes of head trauma over time, as in the case of, say, boxers.
It should be noted that a physical strike to the head is not necessary to suffer a concussion. A particularly jarring football tackle or the violent shaking of an infant can cause a concussion or worse traumatic brain injury. This is because the brain “bounces” against the walls of the cranium. When injury occurs at the site of a blow to the head, it’s called a “coup” injury. Just as often, it can occur on the opposite site of the head, known as a “contrecoup” injury.
In many cases, evidence of direct trauma to the skull is visible. An “open” head injury means that the skull has been penetrated with possible exposure of the brain tissue. If the skull is not fractured, it is referred to as a “closed” injury. An indentation of the skull is clear evidence of a fracture and the outlook may be grim, due to the likelihood of bleeding or swelling in the brain. A closed injury may still become life-threatening for the same reasons.
The brain requires blood and oxygen to function normally. An injury which causes bleeding or swelling inside the skull will increase the intracranial pressure. This causes the heart to work harder to get blood and oxygen into the brain. Blood accumulation (known as a hematoma”) could occur within the brain tissue itself, or between the layers of tissue covering the brain.
Without adequate circulation, brain function ceases. Pressure that is high enough could actually cause a portion of the brain to push downward through the base of the skull. This is known as a “brain herniation” and, without modern medical care, will almost invariably lead to death
Signs and Symptoms of Serious TBI
There are a number of signs and symptoms which might identify those patients that have a serious TBI. Besides an obvious indentation in the skull, they include:
Prolonged loss of consciousness
Worsening headache over time
Nausea and vomiting
Bruising (around eyes and ears)
Bleeding from ears and nose
One pupil more dilated than the other
If the period of unconsciousness is over 10 minutes in length, you must suspect the possibility of significant injury. Vital signs such as pulse, respiration rate, and blood pressure should be monitored closely. The patient’s head should be immobilized, and attention should be given to the neck and spine, in case they are also damaged. Verify that the airway is clear and breathing is regular. In a collapse, this person is in a life-threatening situation that will have few curative options if consciousness is not regained.
Other signs of a traumatic brain injury are the appearance of bruising behind the ears (Battle’s sign) or around the eyes (raccoon sign). These signs may occur despite the point of impact being elsewhere. Presence of Raccoon or Battle sign suggests a fracture with internal bleeding. Bleeding from the ear itself or nose without direct trauma to those areas is another indication. The fluid that drains out may be clear, usually representing leakage of spinal fluid.
In addition, intracranial bleeding may cause pressure that compresses nerves that lead to the pupils. In this case, you will notice that your unconscious patient has one pupil more dilated than the other.
The Final Word
Luckily, most head injuries will be minor and the effects temporary. Major traumatic brain injuries will be difficult for the survival medic to effectively treat, just one of the hard realities that face the caregiver in long-term survival.
Joe and Amy Alton are the authors of the 3 category #1 Amazon Bestseller “The Survival Medicine Handbook“. See their articles in Backwoods Home, Survival Quarterly, and other great magazines as well as their website at www.doomandbloom.net. The opinions voiced by Joe Alton, MD, and Amy Alton, ARNP. are their own and are not meant to take the place of seeking medical help from a qualified healthcare provider.
Of all of the reasons to prepare, one that we all need to take seriously is the possibility of a catastrophic EMP, or electromagnetic pulse. This is a frequent topic in many post-apocalyptic novels and something that most of us are aware of, even if we do not completely understand the science.
To be blunt about it, an EMP, if large enough, would affect the entire planet. In an instant, civilization as we know it would change as we get swept backward in time by a century or two.
Understanding the risks of an EMP goes hand in hand with threats of a cyber-attack since there is a cause and effect relationship between the two. In this article I want to accomplish a few things:
Explain EMPs and the risks in simple, easy-to-understand language
Give you instructions to build a simple Faraday cage to protect your electronics
Provide a list of items to put inside your Faraday cage
To start with, an EMP is caused by certain types of high energy explosions. A nuclear explosion, for example, will surely cause an EMP. Likewise, an EMP can be the result of a suddenly fluctuating magnetic field. Or, as I have mentioned before, it can be the result of Coronal Mass Eject (CME) from solar activity. But perhaps most sobering of all, is the possibility of a man-made EMP weapon that is purposely deployed in order to wreak devastation on our planet. Scary stuff.
Regardless of the trigger, an EMP can be devastating to the power grid, resulting in rapidly changing electrical fields that will create fluctuating electrical currents and wild voltage surges. Bottom line? The electronic gizmos we have come to rely on would be toast. The microchips would be fried or so severely damaged that they would become useless.
So what would life be like following a massive EMP event or episode? There would be no power, no transportation systems, no communication systems, no banking, no internet, and, no surprise, no food and no water delivery systems. This would truly be an End of The World As We Know it situation.
Ask yourself these questions:
What if the power went out and never came back on? Could you fend for yourself?
Could you keep yourself warm in the winter and cool in the summer?
Where would you find food?
What would you use for money if credit cards and ATM’s no longer worked?
How would you get from one place to another without transportation?
How would you wash your clothes?
How would you keep yourself healthy if sanitation systems were no longer functional and medicine could no longer be manufactured.
And the biggest question of all, how would you communicate with the rest of the world?
An electromagnetic pulse could potentially fry the vast majority of all the microchips in the United States. In an instant, nearly all of our electronic devices would be rendered useless.
Back in 2004 the Wall Street Journal wrote:
“No American would necessarily die in the initial attack, but what comes next is potentially catastrophic. The pulse would wipe out most electronics and telecommunications, including the power grid. Millions could die for want of modern medical care or even of starvation since farmers wouldn’t be able to harvest crops and distributors wouldn’t be able to get food to supermarkets. Commissioner Lowell Wood calls EMP attack a “giant continental time machine” that would move us back more than a century in technology to the late 1800s.”
With that introduction, today I would like to introduce you to the Faraday cage, and further, how to build a simple Faraday cage.
The Faraday Cage
In the simplest of terms, a Faraday cage is any shielded enclosure that surrounds your electronic devices and protects them an EMP blast. Commonly used enclosures include galvanized metal garbage cans, popcorn tins, and even tightly sealed metal filing cabinets. In all cases, the metal container is lined with insulating material to prevent the contents from having contact with the metal. Examples of insulating material are cardboard, Styrofoam, and even carpet scraps.
More elaborate structures can be custom built from sheet metal but for the home user, why bother? As a matter of fact, I suspect that wrapping your devices in plain, ordinary, aluminum foil will work as well.
Factoid: Faraday cages are named after English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented them in 1836.
What About Using a Microwave Oven?
In my research I read that a microwave oven, new or used, can be used as an effective Faraday cage. On the surface, that seems logical since, by design, a microwave oven keeps the energy it creates confined to the interior which likewise, should prevent strong electrical pulses from getting back inside.
This was easy enough to test. I put a cell phone inside my microwave oven and tried calling it. It rang. Oops. On the other hand, I wrapped my cell phone in aluminum foil and called it. Nothing. Nada. No Michael Buble ringtone; the call went straight to voicemail.
A foil-wrapped cell phone blocked the cell signal
Granted, cell phones operate at various radio frequencies so while one cell phone may not work, another one will. Still, with this being so easy to test, why chance it?
Testing the Faraday Cage
Aside from calling a cell phone, you can test your homemade Faraday cage by putting a portable radio inside the shield after tuning it to a strong FM station. If you can hear the FM station while the radio is inside your Faraday cage, then you need to go back to square one to ensure your shield is properly sealed.
Sealing your garbage can with duct tape will help tremendously.
A Second (Expert) Opinion
I asked my friend George Ure to comment and to offer his perspective on Faraday cages since EMP preparedness is something he covered in-depth on his subscriber site, Peoplenomics ($40 a year but worth it for the technical information on the many topics he covers.).
So, a quick inspection of the EMP failure modes, George offers, is one way to build a list of items to put in your Faraday cage.
He also told me some personal research he’s done that seems to indicate that about 90% of cars will continue to operate after an EMP event of moderate size. The problem, he points out, is that with an EMP, the grid is likely to fail, and with that, power transformers will likely fail, along with the supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA) control systems for railroads, power, water, and other utility distribution.
George’s personal Faraday cage is a 33 gallon garbage can. He considers his metal garbage effective by itself because the metal lid overlaps the can itself by an inch and radio waves don’t like to go around corners, too well. Still, the ultimate prepping device would be a metal garbage can which has the top cover sealed to the bottom of the can with aluminized duct tape such as the type found at Amazon, Lowes, Home Depot and other hardware stores.
What to Put in the Faraday Cage
The equipment you store in a Faraday cage should encompass those devices that will help you communicate with the world following a devastating loss of the grid. Short-range communications will be critical. A good starting list would include:
Multiple GMRS radios and chargers along with cables to plug in for solar charging.
Multiple 2 meter and 440 MHz ham radios (such as the portable Baofengs), again with charging cables and solar power adapters.
A laptop computer with a fresh battery, a charger, solar adapter, and all the key software on CD so if you need to bring up a fresh copy of the operating system, you’ll have the product key and then any prepping articles or references you might need.
High-capacity USB thumb drive holding pertinent financial information including past year tax records, scanned copies of birth certificates, passports, marriage licenses, deeds, vehicle registrations and medical records.
George also recommends simple insulation for your electronics, so that units do not touch each other, He uses low tech insulation: a combination of cardboard and bubble-wrap works well.
Protecting Small Electronics Day to Day
This article would not be complete if I did not mention the availability of small, shielded metalized bags that can be used to provide EMP protection on a daily basis. I am currently testing this type of bag from Mobilsec and an quite impressed. While my phone is in the bag, it reads “no service”.
If a cell signal cannot be detected, I can only assume that an EMP would also not touch it. Good to know and certainly an option, especially for a laptop that could be placed inside a properly sized bag when not being used. Couple the Faraday bag with a solar charging system and if there was an EMP, you would still have a working computer.
One other thing. You may find sources online that say that when a device is turned off, it will not need EMP protection. I reached out to Joel Ho, the developer of the Mobilesec Bagsand asked him about that. Here is what he said:
I’m assuming you are referring to the part about devices being off not needing protection – it’s simplified a bit – essentially, devices that are off are extremely difficult to damage because there’s no existing current to piggyback on.
Imagine that an EMP is a tidal wave. If it approaches a full reservoir (electricity and current) it can keep going. If the reservoir is empty (no juice), the tidal wave loses energy navigating the reservoir.
The major reason [most sources] don’t say “your devices are safe if off” is because most devices are usually still connected to power lines and thus susceptible – but if devices are in EMP bags (which by definition are almost always disconnected as the filters are expensive), AND the devices are off, it is unlikely, given the relatively high FCC shielding regulations to prevent excess energy from bleeding OUT into the environment, that enough can get IN to damage those electronics.
This is NOT true for every device – more like a guideline than a hard 100% rule. Different devices have different levels of built-in shielding – a computer has much more than a $10 Radio Shack timer, for example.
The Final Word
Should a massive EMP occur, stores won’t be open, credit cards won’t work, and the gas you have in your car may be all the gas you’ll ever have for months or even possibly years. When you think about it, an EMP will become the “Ebola virus of electronics”.
That said, you know that I am not a doom and gloomer. Quite the contrary. I am an optimist to the nth degree. Yet even the optimist is sobered at the ramifications of an EMP and especially at the prospect of a weapon-based EMP. If nothing else, I would like to have a mode of communication following a massive EMP.
Will the DIY Faraday cage work? It is speculation to say for sure. My own research plus my limited understanding of electronics tells me it will, but this premise will remain unproven until an actual EMP event occurs.
The bottom line is that I hope a catastrophic EMP never happens. But if it does, I want to be ready to fend for myself without electronics. Sure, having communication gear and other electronic gizmos in a working Faraday cage will be a wonderful thing. But even if it doesn’t work, the goal of preparedness is to prevail, even if that means living in an off-grid society for weeks, months, or even years.
I would like to acknowledge my pal George Ure for his assistance with this article. His research and first hand experience with Faraday cages, along with his perspective, is appreciated.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
In a long-lived emergency, our food stores can quickly be depleted. If this occurs, we must rely on our knowledge of native food sources growing wild in our area. One such wild edible is found in great abundance in many parts of the country and is a food source that is long forgotten. We are talking about the acorn.
Acorns can easily serve as an efficient way of pulling together a large amount of food. Many indigenous tribes and groups from around the world have utilized the acorn for its ability to give us nutrition and sustenance. In fact, it is estimated that in some regions of California, where the natives used them, fifty percent of their yearly caloric intake came from the humble acorn.
Acorns Serve Multiple SHTF Purposes
Native Indians used acorns as a huge source of their nutrition. As well, acorns should be looked at as a staple foods and can replace our dependence on corn and wheat. Acorns of white and black oak trees are readily available in many parts of the country and have a wide variety of uses.
Acorns can be used to make a variety of different foods sources ranging from coffee, flour, soup thickeners, alternatives for oatmeal or just eating the nuts as a protein source.
The vegetable oils in acorns are comparable to olives, corn and soybeans and can be used as a cooking oil or biofuel source.
The nut meal can be used as animal fodder after the acorns have been shelled and ground.
The shells can be used as a heat source, garden mulch, or added to the compost pile.
Acorns are a complete protein and nutrition source.
Acorns possess many medicinal properties.
Acorns can be scattered around an area to lure wild game for additional food sources.
Health Benefits of Acorns
Help control blood sugar levels.
High in complex carbohydrates.
Lower in fat compared to other nuts.
Rich in vitamins B12, B6, folate riboflavin, thiamin and niacin.
Good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, copper and zinc.
Good source of fiber and protein.
Medicinal Benefits of Acorns
The water used to remove the tannins in the boiling process from acorns can be saved and refrigerated to use for various medicinal applications. Over time, it will develop mold on the surface. Before using, bring it back to a boil which will kill the mold and continue to refrigerate for future uses.
Sooth skin rashes, burns, and small cuts
Use externally to help treat hemorrhoids
Soothes and heals the blisters and helps reduce the itching
Brown water ice cubes helps to soothe inflamed tissues
Use as a gargle to soothe your sore throat
A mild tea can be made to reduce symptoms of diarrhea
Important Points to Consider When Harvesting Acorns
The amount of tannins present in the acorn can play a role in the taste factor. Like most nuts, lightly toasting them in an oven can help the taste improve. Toast on a cookie sheet in an oven at 175° F. Stir acorns around to prevent scorching. Tannic acid is water-soluble and can be removed by boiling or flushing them out.
Collect healthy acorns that have right type of kernel. Avoid acorns that are still firmly attached to the cap were shed early and are defective. As well, acorns that have streaks indicate a fungus is present. Also acorns that have holes had an acorn weevil present in the acorn and should not be eaten. Throw out any acorns that have already begun to germinate.
If you have access to a running stream, to save on time and energy, some have added their acorns to a mesh bag and secure it in a stream for two days to help naturally leach out the tannins. If you cannot do this method, see the following video for to learn how to effectively leach out tannins and make acorn meal and flour.
The acorn flavor is slightly nutty, very hearty and can last as long as regular flour, as long as it stays dry. Store your acorn flour in a cool, dry place.
Here are some great recipes to practice using acorn flour:
1 teaspoon salad oil
1 teaspoon of honey or sugar
1/2 cup of ground and leached acorns (see video)
1/2 cup of cornmeal
1/2 cup of whole wheat or white flour
2 teaspoons of double action baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of milk
Mix all ingredients together. If the batter is too thick to pour, thin it with milk. Pour pancakes into a hot, greased griddle and cook slowly until brown on both sides.
1 lb. lean stewing meat, cut quite small
1/2 cup dehydrated wild plums
1/2 cup acorn meal
Boil the lean stewing meat. When it is tender, drain and allow it to dry in a bowl. Grind all of the ingredients together in a meat grinder using a fine blade. Grind again, mixing finely, distributing the ingredients very well. Place in a covered dish and refrigerate overnight. (Or you can eat right away, but like many foods, the refrigerating allows the flavors to blend nicely.) You can serve this on any flatbread, such as a tortilla. It is best served warm, or you can reheat it in the pan in the oven like a meatloaf.
Cornmeal and Acorn Mush
4 cups water
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup acorn meal, ground
1 cup cornmeal
Bring salted water to a boil and sprinkle the acorn meal into the boiling water, stirring briskly with a wire or twig whisk. Then add the cornmeal. Add just enough cornmeal to make a thick, bubbling batch in which a wood spoon will stand up fairly well. Place the saucepan in a larger container holding two inches or more of boiling water. (Use a double boiler, if you have one.) Simmer the mush until quite thick, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep it from lumping.
Cornmeal and acorn mush is very good for breakfast on a cold morning. It can be served with sweetened milk and a dab of wild fruit jam or homemade butter. But it is also great as a main course lunch or dinner. You can also add salsa or bacon bits and grated cheese on top to get great variety. This mush is very filling and will stick to your ribs.
Apache Acorn Cakes
1 cup acorn meal, ground fine
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup honey
pinch of salt
Mix the ingredients with enough warm water to make a moist, not sticky dough. Divide into 12 balls. Let rest, covered, for 10 minutes or so. With slightly moist hands, pat the balls down into thick tortilla-shaped breads. Bake on an ungreased cast iron griddle over campfire coals or on clean large rocks, propped up slightly before the coals. If using the stones, have them hot when you place the cakes on them. You’ll have to lightly peel an edge to peek and see if they are done. They will be slightly brown. Turn them over and bake on the other side, if necessary. Add butter, if necessary.
To conclude, the mighty oak tree is a symbol for strength, longevity and durability, and their seeds are no different. Understanding how underutilized this food source is can give you an upper-hand for a time when food may not be as readily available.
For the past five years, I’ve lived the prepper’s dream. I’ve lived on secluded acreage out in the boondocks, with a gate at the driveway to deter those who just wander past. I moved from the Canadian boondocks to the American boondocks (in foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California) and lived the life that all the prepping books recommend.
I grew food, raised livestock, and had hardly any neighbors, and definitely none close enough to be up in my business. I learned more about self-reliance during those years than I ever realized I didn’t know.
I scrimped and saved to be able to move ever-further out into the woods. I loved finally being able to have a small farm. But, then, I came face to face with two people who had lived through the kind of epic, long term SHTF event that we all prepare for and they both told me, based on their personal experiences, I was doing it all wrong.
Here’s the reason I changed my long-term survival plan.
When I first began working with Lisa Bedford, the Survival Mom, on our live webinar classroom Preppers University, my job was to teach people the things that I had spent years learning. But I never expected our guest instructors to have such a profound impact on my own long-term survival plan.
The first seed of doubt was planted by FerFAL (Fernando Aguirre), the author of The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse, who taught a class sharing his experiences during the collapse of Argentina. He commented that the people who lived more remotely were nearly always victims of horrific crimes. Their little homestead nirvanas were pillaged by criminals. The women were raped. The men were slaughtered. As ideal as their situations sounded, by nature of their very solitude, made them the perfect target for those without morals.
According to Fernando’s experience, unless you have a small army with you, round the clock sentries, and unlimited ammo, living in the country might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
As a single mom with a teenage daughter, that gave me pause. I knew that we didn’t have the firepower or the tactical skills to fight off hordes intent on pillaging our farm. And I also knew that we were so isolated that no one would be around to help if we needed it.
I began thinking about all of the fictional apocalyptic stories. People quickly formed communities because there is safety in numbers. Think about the prison and Alexandria in The Walking Dead. Think about the town of Jericho. Think about the novels of A. American or the books Alas, Babylon and One Second After. In a truly dire scenario, I’m talking about grid-down, all-out collapse, your community becomes the people who live within walking distance of you. And if no one lives within walking distance, well, then, you are truly on your own.
But the final decision was made when I got a chance to talk to Selco.
Like I said, I began to doubt the wisdom of my plan after Fernando’s class, but then came Selco’s class. Selco runs SHTFSchool, where he teaches about his survival experiences living in occupied Bosnia. He survived several years living the life that we all plan for but none of us are truly ready for.
He talked about the crime, the desperation, and the outright brutality.
He talked about how families and groups of friends lived together in one home for safety. It was the only way to survive.
During the Q&A session, I told him about our own situation. That I was a single mom with a teenaged daughter. That we lived 40 minutes from the nearest town with any place with a Wal-Mart or bigger grocery stores and that our nearest neighbors were half a mile away. That we raised out own food, had off-grid water, and a big gate.
And Selco told me, respectfully, that we would not survive in a situation that was like his.
He reiterated that extended families and groups of friends had to band together for survival. He explained how small communities arose inside the walls of their city and how neighbors had each other’s backs.
When my daughter graduated early from high school and our former state threw up a bunch of roadblocks when she wanted to go to vocational school, we decided to expand our search. Then, she got accepted into a prestigious private vocational school in a smaller urban area across the country, and I knew the time had come to head back to neighborhood living.
There is nothing more enlightening than talking to people who have been there, done that.
No amount of theory that I could write could ever compare with the real-life experiences of these two men. And being able to ask them these questions was absolutely invaluable.
I didn’t start running these classes expecting to be the student, but it turns out, I was. I learned something that could save the life of my child and myself. I learned that I was making us both horribly vulnerable should the situation in our country go horribly wrong.
While living in town has its own set of variables and concerns, creating a community in your own neighborhood can be a much more realistic way to survive.
To me, the best part of the Prepping Intensives is the fact that you can ask questions like the one I asked Selco and Fernando. This class completely changed my own preparedness plan, and I wasn’t even supposed to be a student. It showed me the flaws in my logic. It gave me an opportunity to reroute our preparedness path.
Even if you feel like your preparedness plan is completely nailed down, you may be missing something essential, like I was. There is nothing like a live conversation to put things in perspective for you, and students get a Q&A session with every single speaker.
This time around, here is just a part of our line-up:
Brandon Smith talks about barter economy
Tim Young talks about moving to the country to become more self-reliant
Tammy Trayer talks about off-grid living
Merriweather talks about foraging
Dr. Arthur T. Bradley talks about EMP survival
Selco talks about survival in war-torn Bosnia
FerFal (Fernando Aguirre) talks about surviving the collapse of Argentina
Toby Cowern, an Arctic survival expert, talks about surviving with nothing more than the clothes on your back
Cherie Norton, an NRA instructor, talks about situational awareness and personal safety
Jim Cobb talks about hardening the security of your home
A. American talks about surviving long-term scenarios
Cat Ellis talks about herbalism and medical preparedness
Lisa Egan, a personal trainer, talks about the importance of fitness as a prep
Patrice Lewis talks about rural life
And that’s just a sample of our speakers and topics.
Maybe you’ll discover that your plan has some holes in it, too. Better to find out now than when it’s too late to do anything about it.
Food has always been a form of currency, especially during times of economic strife. Over the last several years, we have witnessed the drastic shifts of food prices, causing many of us to prepare for future times of hardship. As we live through these unprecedented times, we bear witness to not only economic uncertainties, but political shifts, environmental changes, and societal upheavals. All of these events shape how we perceive the world. That said, if our environment shapes and influences our perceptions of the world, wouldn’t it make sense to prepare for this uncertainty? It’s common sense, I know. Yet, there have been times in history when preparing during times of strife was frowned upon and had the potential to cause imprisonment, as a result.
Was Shakespeare a Man of His Time or a Product of His Environment?
Most notably, William Shakespeare, arguably one of the greatest writers who lived, lived during his own time of strife. He lived and wrote in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, during a period known as the “Little Ice Age,” when unusual cold and heavy rain caused poor harvests and food shortages. Surviving during this time was a struggle, and food insecurity was at the forefront of problems.
William Shakespeare is quoted as saying,
Famine is in thy cheeks,
Need and oppression starveth in thine eyes,
Contempt and beggary hang upon thy back;
The world is not thy friend nor the world’s law:
The world affords no law to make thee rich;
Then be not poor, but break it, and take this.
Shakespeare’s insights into famine were because he lived amongst it. As a wealthy landowner and successful businessman, he saw those around his struggling to survive. He invested some of his wealth into storing large amounts of grains and later sold it for inflated prices. Whether it was to prepare for long-term famine or to make a quick buck, no one really knows. What we do know is that it was illegal during the time.
Academics at the University of Wales claimed they have uncovered court documents that, during his lifetime, threatened Shakespeare with fines for illegally stockpiling food during a famine and imprisonment for tax evasion.
According to the article:
Court and tax records show that over a 15-year period Shakespeare purchased grain, malt and barley to store and resell for inflated prices, according to a paper by Aberystwyth University academics Dr Jayne Archer, Professor Richard Marggraf Turley and Professor Howard Thomas.
The study notes: “By combining both illegal and legal activities, Shakespeare was able to retire in 1613 as the largest property owner in his home town, Stratford-upon-Avon. His profits – minus a few fines for illegal hoarding and tax evasion – meant he had a working life of just 24 years.”
While some may deem Mr. Shakespeare as a businessman for selling food at inflated prices during a time of famine, others would consider him an opportunist. He saw an opportunity in storing grains for a long-term famine and also realized it meant he could profit off of the business venture, as well. These days, one would be more likely to call Shakespeare a capitalist rather than an illegal food hoarder.
What Can We Learn From This?
As preppers, we know that when a population’s basic needs are not being met, a person will do anything to keep their family fed – even pay inflated prices. So, I ask you, what side of this scenario do you want to be on: The one who has the grains to barter and sell, or the ones begging for it at the mercy of the seller?
The only way to change how severely these types of debacles can affect us is by recognizing them for what they are and preparing for them beforehand. Knowing the possible storms that are on the horizon and preparing for them will help us stay better insulated from them. This concept is gone over in great detail in The Prepper’s Blueprint, and focuses on the importance of keeping a vigilant watch for potential hazards that are in our field of vision.
Whether or not Shakespeare was a ruthless profiteer and food hoarder, he can teach us a valuable lesson. In dire times, our food sources are a lifeline and something we should all prepare for. With the concern that many of our main food sources have peaked in productivity, in the future, we could be facing a famine of our own. Calculating how much food we will need for a long-term disaster is essential in ensuring we have everything we need for our family. While others are investing in worthless nickknacks, investing in goods can help us invest in our wealth.
It is hard to believe that a little over a year ago I decided to pull up stakes and search for the perfect survival retreat. More than a retreat, I wanted to find a forever home. It has been quite the journey and now that I am within days of fully moving into my new home, it is time to come clean on the how-to’s of moving, prepper-style.
Before starting, let me just say this. Planning and executing a move is going to take over every free moment for up to a year. There are more moving pieces than you can imagine, especially if moving more than 300 miles from your home base. At times, you will want to give up. It is a lot of work, and it can be lonely.
Step One: Define the Criteria for Your New Home
Something I did up front was to define a punch list of items that were a priority at my new location. Here is a summary of the list I shared last year. I called it my survival retreat bucket list.
Minimum of 1/3 acre and preferably more.
Sunny space for a garden. Existing fruit trees a bonus.
Trees in the general vicinity to provide wood and biomass for heating and cooking.
Local source of water such as streams, ponds, or lakes. Bonus if a well can be dug.
Abundant wildlife for hunting as a food source.
Favorable tax environment.
Sufficient storage space for a two year food supply.
Zoning that allows for water catchment systems and auxiliary fuel/propane tanks.
History that shows area is relatively free from wild fires and floods.
Moderate climate 20F low to 90F high.
Proximity to health care within a 20 mile radius.
Very good to excellent cell phone service.
Availability of high speed internet (for as long as it lasts).
Peace, quiet, and no tourist activity.
Mind you, this list was generated before I knew exactly where I was going to relocate. At the time, I had a good idea of the state where I was headed but nothing was cast in stone. Because I did not want to get my hopes up for a quick sale, I did not research precise geographical locations until my existing home sold. I did that because there were some unique characteristics to my San Juan Island home that limited its appeal to a specialized buyer. It could take a year or possibly longer to sell.
We were lucky to have a seasoned real estate agent who specialized in our type of property. He set realistic, priced-to-sell expectations, and coached us on what we needed to do to attract a buyer. As it happened, our home sold quickly but closing took forever. We did not start looking for our survival retreat until the money was in the bank.
You may approach things differently but at this stage in my life, I did not want to set myself up for disappointment. That becomes my first tip: do not set yourself up for disappointment by setting unrealistic expectations. Much like prepping itself, when it comes to moving, prepare for the worst but hope the best.
Be Mindful of the Cost of Moving – Especially Your Food Storage
One of the more shocking parts of moving is the cost. When planning a move, be realistic about what it is going to cost to move both your household items and prepping supplies. This includes food storage which can be heavy!
In our case, the cost came to about one dollar a pound. Half of that was getting our stuff back to the mainland.
Think about that. It makes sense to pay to have furniture moved but those cases of canned foods? Not a chance. We gave away hundreds of pounds of food because it was too bulky or heavy to transport. Some of it no one wanted because the canned items were out of date. That was a shame because as we all know, the expiration on canned goods is mostly a myth.
We did rent a U-haul to transport our freeze dried foods and some of our food buckets. I admit that the movers also transported food buckets full of cheap beans and cheap rice but after accounting for the convenience of having it packaged and ready to go at my new location, it was worth it.
A question I am frequently asked is whether I paid to have my furniture moved. The answer is yes and here is why. Although the buyers of our home were interested in our furniture, to start all over would have been disruptive and expensive. While not new, our furniture was of good quality and comfortable. I ran the numbers and by my own estimate, it would have cost over $40,000 to replace my furniture, and most likely a lot more than that.
Thank you very much but I will keep my used furniture.
Be Prepared to Compromise
Something I learned a long time ago is that life is a compromise. And so it was with moving. Although I had 40 years of memories invested in my stuff, much of it had not been touched in years. Perfectly good items, no matter how precious, were donated to the local thrift store.
Chances are we could have raised a nice pile of cash by holding a garage or estate-type sale rather than giving things away. This is where compromise stepped in. In order to maintain my privacy, I gave things away instead.
The biggest compromise, however, had to do with seeking a new place to call home. As much as I wanted to find the perfect prepper palace, I knew that my age and budget would restrict where I ultimately landed. Transcending our dream into reality meant we had to give up on our hope of having a flock of chickens, and enough raised beds to grow at least half of our own food. It simply was not going to happen so I let it go.
I reminded myself that I was going to homestead in place on a property I would want to maintain for the next twenty years and until I was well into my senior years. That meant a two-story farmhouse was out, as was grass and brush that needed to be mowed weekly.
I chose instead to compromise with a beautiful and serene environment and a home I could fill with creature comforts with plenty of room to cook, can, and pursue crafts and other amusements.
Where Am I Going to Put All of that Stuff?
Something every prepper needs is space for all of their stuff. Most of us have backup cooking facilities, backup water and water filtering devices, backup fuel, backup food and backup everything else. This all takes space not only for storage but for organized storage! Oh my!
While house hunting, I found a number of delightful properties that lacked storage. There was no garage, no pantry, and no spare closets. Where would the food storage go? What about the manually operated tools? And what about the ammo and other items of defense that need to be hidden away, free from prying eyes?
These are factors that should be considered before you make an offer and not after. Don’t let your judgment be clouded by clever staging. Look for closets, attics, crawl spaces, and rooms that can be converted to meet your storage needs. This may seem obvious, but believe me, it is easy to fall in love with a property only to find those things lacking when you look a bit closer.
Remember, sellers are going to try to tempt you with glitz and glamour. Look beyond it.
Finding the Right Community, Or Not
How close do you want to be to your neighbors? Do you want paved roads to your retreat or are dirt roads okay? What about the driveway? Will a steep hill pose a problem for you or for emergency responders, heaven forbid?
I believe the most important assessment to make when it comes to a community is to determine whether you wish to keep your prepping lifestyle private or whether you wish to join others in a like-minded community. Regardless of your choice, I suggest attending some community or church events to get a feel for the social milieu. Visit the local hardware store and look around. Chat up the clerks. You will be surprised at how much information you can glean by simply observing and listening.
In our case, we visited one particular local hangout two times and were so put off we crossed that particular community off the list.
You are a prepper. You have good instincts. Use them.
How Did I Do?
For the curious, we purchased a home in the Mogollon Rim area of Arizona. The elevation is 5,000 feet and the climate is moderate. We spent a lot more money than we planned but less than we realized from our Washington State home so we were happy.
I call our new home “The Cabin” and it is as close to perfect as I could get. With just a few exceptions, all of my requirements were met. Let me run quickly run through the list for you.
Minimum of 1/3 acre and preferably more: We have one acre surrounded by 18 other one-acre parcels. It is like an oasis.
Sunny space for a garden. Existing fruit trees a bonus: The property is lightly wooded and backs to undeveloped forest. We have had clearings made to expose more sun. Alas, there are no fruit trees and given that the elk make frequent runs through the property, we will like need to compromise in this area.
Trees in the general vicinity to provide wood and biomass for heating and cooking: Definitely.
Local source of water such as streams, ponds, or lakes. Bonus if a well can be dug: There are plenty of water sources in the area but none are within walking distance. Although that is a concern, we are planning to store extra water in multiple 160 gallon tanks, plus a series of rain barrels.
Abundant wildlife for hunting as a food source.: Elk and rabbits roam the the property and fishing is close by.
Favorable tax environment: Good enough. Local government seems non-invasive and the taxes seem fair.
Sufficient storage space for a two year food supply: YES YES YES!
Gun-friendly: This is Arizona. The previous owners had a huge gun safe and our neighbors own firearms. That is all I will say about that.
Zoning that allows for water catchment systems and auxiliary fuel/propane tanks: There are restrictions that we will need to take into consideration relative to above ground water catchment systems and propane tanks. I am satisfied that we will find a suitable alternative.
History that shows area is relatively free from wild fires and floods: There is a fire risk; this is the national forest after all. Still, we are in a Firewise community and have had our property cleared of low growing brush that would potentially put our home at risk.
Moderate climate 20F low to 90F high: Check, although summers can reach the high 90s.
Proximity to health care within a 20 mile radius: Although we are in the middle of the woods, there is a hospital less than 10 miles away.
Very good to excellent cell phone service: Yes
Availability of high speed internet (for as long as it lasts): Yes!!
Peace, quiet, and no tourist activity. Being on our own acre surrounded by forest in a community with no major industry translates into serenity, The only noise we hear comes from the birds and the animals. That said, it is a short drive into town for as much activity as I can handle given my interests and needs.
All in all, I am thrilled with my survival retreat. The home itself needed a lot of cosmetic work inside and the outside needed to be tidied but the bones are good and the property is exceptional. The biggest challenge will be transporting water from off-site if our tap water ever stops running. Purifying compromised water I can deal with in five or six different ways so that is not a concern.
Moving Can Be Lonely So Be Prepared to Get Social
Moving away from friends and family is pretty scary when it comes to settling in a strange location where you know no one. For many, that will be fine and I applaud you for your ability to adapt to total isolation. I am not that person.
Although I am not particularly social, I do occasionally enjoy face to face contact with the outside world. If this describes you, then know that you will need to put yourself out there. Walk your neighborhood and meet the neighbors. Chat with the lady behind the counter at the post office. Shop the local merchants and tell them you are new to the area.
In a very short period of time, Shelly and I have a found handful of new acquaintances to share an evening BBQ and to shoot the breeze about this and that. The goal is to establish a base of trust and to identify those that will be there to watch our backs as we watch theirs.
The Final Word
When we crossed the Columbia River last October, I announced that Elvis has left the building. It was time for a new life and a new adventure. Now that I am within days of moving to my survival retreat (aka The Cabin), I have a renewed outlook when it comes to my chances to survive should the worse happen.
Yes, I gave up an abundant source of water but, on the other hand, I gained a whole lot more. Mostly I hope to have gained the ability to grow food, fish, and hunt and enjoy the serenity that comes from living in the woods.
As you seek refuge in our own survival retreat, whether at your existing location or elsewhere, I hope you are as blessed as I have become.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!