So, you think you're prepared? So did I. Until Hurricane Irene destroyed the infrastructure around here. The roads were blocked to all the local towns, all three routes out of here. If it wasn't trees down, it was flooded, or power lines and poles leaned over the road in the 'maybe' zone (maybe you would hit them and maybe not, but why take a chance on /thousands /of volts? If not those, it was pieces of somebody's house across the road. And this was only a Cat 1 storm? Sigh.
Before she hit, I, being confident that we were 'prepped up', started rummaging around to get out the generator and put it in the 'ready' position in the carport. It had been started LAST YEAR, and had fuel stabilizer in the gas, with the gas valve cut off and I had ran it 'bowl dry', so it should be no problem eh? Yeah right. We had an extra 6 gallon can that we had filled up that morning, no problem, we can run the generator an hour or so every 4 hours, to keep the freezer and fridge 'charged up', or so I thought.
We had lots of canned food on top of the long term stuff, hadn't paid it any mind for a year or more and had been using it here and there, but as the economy gets worse, and our money got tighter, rotating the stuff became a battle, so it just sat there on the shelf in the pantry ...going bad in the heat over the last couple years, since, we quit running the central air to save money. No problem, we have a thousand dollars worth of food in the chest type deep freezer. Uh huh.
We had a camp stove, and lots of fuel, but it hadn't been used in years, no problem right? I mean, what could go wrong with a camp stove, right? Uh huh.
We had kerosene lamps and lots of lamp oil, no problemo, Kimosabe? Uh huh.
We had batteries, for flashlights, had just bought 'em, didn't really matter that much.
Now, the S[chumer] as they say, hit the fan, literally, and civilization all went poof about 6 a.m. on Saturday morning amidst all the snap crackle pop of trees and power lines coming down all around us. But never fear; Prep Man is here! So I went out to crank up the genny in a driving hurricane. That's when the fun began.
The day before Irene hit, I asked did you remember to get some extra chicken food, and goat food? No? Oops, have to let the chickens out to forage on their own, the goats can eat grass. (Note; there are good reasons farm animals are kept in pens and behind electric fences.)
As well as the generator, we had a solar operated battery system with inverter; did you check the batteries lately? No? Good luck with that, especially if the batteries are a few years old. Did you happen to have any distilled water on hand? No? Uh huh. (Even though there was plenty of 'distilled' water pouring off the roof, there was no Sun, and it takes 8 hours at least to get it up to charge. In my opinion solar sucks, even before the hurricane. If you don't have lots of money for a full blown large scale system, with a wind generator for those sunless days, don't waste your money. Being an ex-engineer type, I think I have come up with a good solution, a system I call H.O.E.M. gas. We shall see. The point is, power available 24/7 or bust.
The first thing I noticed besides the sideways rain, was that the goats and chickens had taken up in the carport. Goats and chickens love to climb, and goats jump up and down on things. One of the things they decided was a fun toy was the generator sitting under the carport, ready to go. It was sitting next to the deep freezer, a tempting target for fun and games. It was also the only semi dry, out of the wind place around, also, the chickens thought it was a wonderful roost off the flooded ground...
As I chased the chickens off, the goats and chickens became a mini tornado of fur and feathers in a small space, that was fun all on its own, and I didn't notice the smell of gas in the air. So I dragged the generator out and started to plug it up to the various necessaries...and went to crank it...pull, no crank, pull, no crank. Switch on? Choke set?, fuel valve open? Yup, pull, no crank. Arrgh!, now what? This thing was always running by the second pull. (One pull; switch off to prime it, then switch on.) I had maintained it well I thought, changed the oil, cleaned the carb just the year before. I looked, no gas in the tank. Huh? Ok, I poured the gas into it from the new can and as I reached down to pull, gas was pouring out the bottom of the tank soaking everything, including my already soaked shoe. Whaaaat? The plastic tank, had been cracked around the middle...goats playing...then I noticed, the carport was soaked in water and gas. You know, those little colored rainbows that you can see when oil products mix with water? This was not good, why is it always the little things?
Seeing no way to fix the tank with the immediate supplies at hand, I duct taped it and tried tipping the gen on an angle. This stopped the flow, and allowed it to retain what was left, less than half a tank, good for about 4 hours, maybe, if I prayed real hard. That wasn't going to work if the power stayed off for any length of time, especially since there was no gas to be had... (We found out, from texting sister in town, no power no gas. Texting was encouraged to save power.) The power company said they would try to have everything back on before 'the end of the week'. But by then, all the food in the deep freeze would be thawed out, and either grilled or thrown out. But the immediate problem was eating. The generator problem I had to get back to later. The smell hadn't sunk into my animal addled mind to start with, so it was a good thing that it didn't start, there are Angels, believe it.
Still having water pressure, I added to the runoff by hosing it all down, didn't want that catching fire in the middle of a hurricane. Little things can add up to big things.
The kerosene lamps, had rusted, the little wheel that raises the wicks, broke off, didn't work anymore...made in china?, bust.
Time to eat, so I went to crank up the camp stove. But, wonder of wonders, the little pump on the white gas tank, wouldn't pump up anymore; it had sat out in the barn, and rusted and dried into an unusable state. Bust. Then I announced to anybody around... that the electric operated can opener wouldn't work without electricity, another of those 'compromises' with the life style queen. Rummaging around for the old manual can opener, revealed a forgotten rusted piece of crap I wouldn't use. So another one of those 'little things' you tend to forget when you live under a 'Normalcy Bias'. I got out my trusty Swiss army knife, with can opener. No problemo... and grabbed a can of ravioli off the shelf. Hmm. Expiration date 2006? Wow, maybe it would be okay, I mean, those expiration dates are just to get you to buy constantly, right? I had thought canned food would last almost forever? Right? No. Not if kept in a house at room temperature, that is pretty high, because you're saving money on air conditioning, and the can's sit there in the heat and bake...the red ravioli looked brown, and smelled awful...but, what the heck, it didn't smell bad...so I tried some...eeeyech...I fed it to the dogs, they wouldn't even eat it all. So much for all that canned food.
Getting dark, no electricity, no hot food, with flashlights and afraid to open the refrigerator or deep freeze, we were stuck because as long as they were shut, they would stay frozen longer.
We were really starting to suffer the consequences of non preppers, and I was really beside myself, for being so lax, always too busy making money to pay bills. I mean the preps had been purchased in better times, so we would be okay? Right? Uh huh. It was a choice between breaking into the long-term storage, rice and beans or peanut butter sandwiches or get some power going so we could break into the freezers. I pulled out some jerky sticks, and that was supper. The wife was starting to get ... upset at me, and I blamed her. Round and round it goes, and with supper in hand...wind and rain dying out, I decided to go outside away from the heat inside.
So I went back to work on the generator. Three hours later, not being a pro mechanic type, I figured out we had gas to the carb, but no arky sparky...gas and spark, all you need to know about small engines. Since my problem before, when I bought the generator, was the carb, the previous owner had sold it to me cheap, saying it wouldn't run. I go to work thinking the same problem; something had gotten trash in the carb. Nope. Fuel filter wasn't plugged, plenty of gas in the bowl, no restrictions in the venturi tube. So the air filter and carb went back together, with great distress that the magneto had failed. Wrong, its always the little things.
After tearing the pull cover off the old Briggs and Stratton, I got out my new checker kit. You know, the little screwdriver looking things that check continuity, low voltage and spark voltage, for a car? Just little light bulbs in a screw driver really. So I go to hook it up to the spark cable, and sprong!, the whole thing flies apart, pieces everywhere. "CHEAP CHINESE C**P!", I yell. Wow, now what? So I get lucky, and a chicken feather fell out of the start switch. It's always the little things; remember Occam's razor, the simplest thing, is usually the cause of the problem. Thank you Lord. Note to self, no more tools; 'Made in China'.
So Plan A initially went down the toilet, but the generator finally started. "Yeah! We're back from the 18th century!" And the freezers and fridge and microwave works, and the TV, but we still can't get to town to replace the gas...
So, during the reassembly process, which I was doing 'hot' because it was running....the exhaust pipe came into contact with my left arm, yup, a very bad burn, and, I snatched my arm back which contacted the one ragged edge of metal of the gen cover standing to the side. When was the last time I had a tetanus shot? 1999? The first aid kit was a shambles, but we still had water and some silver solution, so at least that hasn't gotten infected. Its always the little things. Murphy lives, thank God for the Angels. We just went to bed when it got dark, I was exhausted from stress and frustration.
The next morning, the generator wouldn't crank, had to drop it down off the angle, duh, and after all this blood sweat and tears, pain, anguish and strife, there goes the power company truck, and an hour later, the power came back on.... just wonder- fully anticlim- actic. But, you never know when the Big Things will come back to life, since you're so caught up with the Little Things. If I hadn't gotten the generator started, the power would still be off, I'm convinced the Universe just KNOWS. Thank God and the utility company; we still have people who care about doing their jobs.
But by this time, I was almost out of my mind with frustration, and I was screaming at the wife. I told her, she and her lifestyle could take a hike, I wasn't doing it anymore, and she was cowed into finally, listening instead of talking. Like I had told friends before, macro economics is composed of millions of micro economic stories, this is but one. I sympathize with those who just give up. What's the old saying? Life's hard, then you die.
I now have to throw out a bunch of old food, not going to take the chance. If dogs won't eat it, it's bad enough to throw away.
The real positive outcome to all of this was the Conversion of the wife and attached family, to a real prepper/survivalist mindset and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Prior to this, my main problem was fighting the age-old battle between current lifestyle and future survival lifestyle. The wife is always the other half of the equation; those who are married know what I mean. When you have someone who thinks you are 'full of c**p', and fights you at every turn, for every extra dollar available, you are going to lose in the end.
When I wanted to buy a package of JB-Weld epoxy to put in my tools, she objected, she wanted to go to the new Harry Potter movie that she just couldn't live without seeing. That would have fixed the gas tank, or at least better than duct tape. When I wanted to buy the nice new battery operated lamp and radio, she wanted to go out for a pizza. When I wanted, whatever, it was a current lifestyle vs. future survival decision, where the cycling of preps was a battle over a dollar for an extra can of soup.
She wouldn't even buy the things she liked, because she disagreed with my whole 'survival nonsense'. She, and her whole family, was a classic case of DGI, Don't Get It. (Don't care, don't want to, don't talk about it 'cause "this is America, everything will be alright".)
Now, she understands, and asked just yesterday when she could finally get to town, "They have some left over battery lanterns and batteries on sale, do we need to stock up for the next hurri- cane?" "Yup" says I.
Smile. Which brings me to the Plan, all the gold in the safe, did us no good. I couldn't eat a single coin. Trust me, even with hot sauce; it would still not do anything but cause pain at the other end of the digestion process. Buying it in the beginning of this journey in 2005, at a whopping $425/oz, was a battle royal. I was called every kind of idiot in the book, and even had the rest of her family beating up on me for being 'so dumb'. It didn't matter that is was the only retirement money I was likely to ever see since my old company was bought out and looted. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I needed to plop it down into some 'safe' mutual fund. My protests that a 'Financial Hurricane' was coming, was met with the classic sound of crickets...and then a changed subject.
My admonitions that they needed to keep the pantry full, and get a gun, were met with laughter, and the classic sound of progressives who "didn't like guns in the house, that's why we pay police".
They all, to a person, suffered the slings and arrows of Mother Nature this Hurricane, with the grocery store emptied out. Peanut butter became the meal /du jour/, as they all, all, had to throw out good food. (Being too stupid & selfish to just have a neighborhood barbeque, and eat it all.) One, tried to get to my house, knowing where 'the goods' were, but was turned back by the sheriff. (Flooded roads, laugh out loud funny. It would have been even funnier if they had gotten here...)
What we have, now and in the future, my wife assures me, will be kept a secret, like I tried to tell her all along. OPSEC <http://www.survivalblog.com/glossary.html#OPSEC is now a word that has meaning to her. Since even she, didn't want her whiny niece and her whiny kids here eating our food. I told her to tell them all, that we threw it all out because it had gone bad because of the generator. Almost true, forgive me Lord. Gone are the old days, I hope, of her telling them everything, and it being a family joke, now, I'm her hero again, and her family is suspect. Hard times bring out the worst in everybody, trust me. I told her, this is only a small sampling of what a true SHTF situation would be like, since she knows our primary option is to just hide in the woods out back and pretend to be an empty house (after getting everything worth anything out.) She had joked about it, now she asks if I still think that would be necessary. "I hope not, but that's why you plan for the worst, and hope for the best..."
I quit talking to anybody about anything prepwise in 2008, one can only take so much abuse. At $1,000 gold, they were saying it was just a bubble, I just smiled and told them the dollar was being destroyed by the politicians. They would just laugh and say the dollar was "as good as gold". My only response to them was "that is illogical, since nothing else is gold." Now, I'm told, some of them have cashed out their 'safe' investments, losing their collective tail ends, since they never learn, that when it comes to investing, you can't act on emotions because by then its usually too late, and they sold at the bottoms. Good move guys.
Now they are seeing $1,800-1,900/oz gold and my greater than 300% gains, the news is now catching up to where I told them we would be, and they are now asking me where I bought my coins. I told them: "You might need to invest in food and a good gun first, and the waiting lists for coins are in months." Their eyebrows went up, but amazingly, they are now all listening, and they are all scared, I see it in their eyes.
They have all lost faith in the Hope and Change mantra, and the S&P downgrade affected them badly. I told them, "Outside of investing, fear is a good thing, it is natures way of keeping you alive. Listen to your fear, but learn to shoot, before you need it, and get your food pantry first, then gold and silver, and then pay attention to the little things". I still have my 'coin collection', and hope to keep it, but I might just sacrifice a little, to get a little bit better prepared.
(Previously mentioned homemade hybrid gas I'm working on, requires money. Everything requires money.)
The primary purpose of this article, is to impress on your readers the necessity of families pulling together in common purpose and singular mindset, cooperation and harmony, the maintenance of preps, and lists.
Do you have the little things to repair the big things? The little thing to open the big things you need to eat out of? Do you have the discipline to write down the little things you need, when you need them, or think about them? Do you have a list hanging somewhere handy, like on a refrig- erator magnet? Do you have a hurricane check list? Do you have a standard prep list of 'top off's, when, if, you hear that dollar crashing sound because China and the rest of the world has decided, enough madness, and to dump us into the 18th Century? Do you eat your preps, as they come due or before, and replace at least one can at a time? Do you buy the things you like, so it will be easy? Sure, buying a lot of peanut butter, rice and beans will keep you alive, but you won't be living. You will survive bodily, but will your marriage survive? Will your relationships suffer if family members are pulling in different directions? Have you learned to shut up yet? Have you learned who to cut loose and who to bring in? Have you got your group together? Have you paid attention to the Little Things?
Which reminds me, note to fridge, toilet paper and vitamins, lots of toilet paper and vitamins, also check on the ammo in storage. What is that latest government threat? Oh yeah, Codex Aliment- arious, that will make vitamins illegal or hard to get. Ever heard of Scurvy? Rice and beans don't have Vitamin C. Do I need a root cellar? Something to check on. Hurricane Katia? A Russian name? That sounds wonderful. Here we go again, but this time, we'll be in a lot better shape, trust me. Some of her family are coming out next week for shooting and zeroing lessons. "You mean you can't just pick up a gun and shoot it?" "Nope, without training you might shoot your- self or your daughter." "By the way, what happened to your arm?" says Sister in Law, "The little things, its always the little things that get you".
- D.M.L. in the boonies of Eastern North Carolina