I work nights in a hotel.
Sometimes I have to sit here and wait till the last people check in for the night before I proceed with my regular work.
Tonight was one of those nights. I started browsing through You Tube videos. My sister lives pretty much off the grid, simply because she and her husband love that woodsy lifestyle, much as my father in his time loved being outdoors and hunting and fishing. So, I often look at alternative heating, lighting and energy videos to tell her about, as they obviously do not have an internet hook-up. Being five miles from the nearest year round road and 28 miles from the nearest town of any size, they tend to feel isolated.
So, I came across several videos that just happened to be put out by dyed-in-the-wool Preppers.
I was enjoying a few of them, and found the information to be very interesting, when I came across a couple that just left me speechless for a couple of minutes. One guy had a hyper religious T shirt on. He had a military haircut and the most outrageously heavy accent. I watched his videos and had to get back to my work. I found myself stopping in the middle of a task...wondering what I would do if I wanted to tell people about some of these skills, and then slowly falling into uncontrollable laughter till I teared up. This happened several times. This guy was SOOOOOOO SERIOUS....and he was such an odd character. Paranoia just oozed out of the computer screen while he spoke.
Now, I have no doubt that some people would find my accent funny or at least unusual, so I do apologize to those who might be offended.
But, I found myself thinking: "Is this the type of person who is going to survive an apocalyptic event? Good heavens, if most of the people who survive have that kind of paranoid personality, that kind of persona...I just would not want to come back and meet future generations!"
The funny thing is...yes, they probably will survive while the rest of us fade away...These are not stupid people for the most part...maybe a touch pixilated....maybe a bit outside the mainstream, but not stupid...for the most part.
The message was valid too, except that you had to strip away all the paranoia, and crazy, wild eyed stuff...for want of a better word.
Just a bit of advice for the Preppers trying to get their message out... Let your military haircuts grow out a bit, lose the fatigues and the camouflage clothing, hide all the over sized and overpowered weapons on a top shelf somewhere, and plant petunias and geraniums around your bomb shelters. If you truly want to help or to convince the majority of Americans that they should learn these skills, then you have to appeal to those who might think you are a bit nuts right now.
As you get to my age, you get a bit more fatalistic than in your youth. You perhaps fear the impending death event that you will have to face, but the fact of death does not frighten you anymore. I can truly say that if I got wiped out tomorrow, I might be happy that I do not have to face all the craziness in the world anymore. On the other hand, if I am not going to be killed in a blast or something, I would like to have a few skills that would make my remaining life more comfortable than someone who does not know how to eat, and stay warm in desperate circumstances.
I am just a few years too young, but my brother and sister grew up with kerosene lamps, milking cows, and with horses working the woods for stove wood. Waking up to frozen water in the water pitchers was not unknown. Curing meats and saving bread dough to make the next batch of sourdough were not foreign to them. Weeks of canning and making jelly and jam were a part of their lives as well.
They still had manufactured goods however, as did my parents and grandparents. To really know how to live in a collapsed society, you have to go back to the 18th century. You did not light with kerosene, you collected the tallow from your food animals, and saved the knots from the pine and spruce trees for light.
So, what am I going to do here? I have extensive knowledge of the past. I have a background in history. I was a museum curator for an 18th century house in Maine. I know how to cook on the open hearth, how to work a wood fired bake oven, how to build a house with the older methods. I know how to tap trees for maple sap. In short, I have a lot of experience in many of the ways that people survived before manufactured goods and electronics came along.
At the same time, there are wonderful ideas out there that use our 21st century junk to make life easier, that 18th century people would not have even thought of. Some of these ideas are great, but it takes some sifting to find the practical versions of the ideas. Lets just look at Rocket Stoves. It is easy to make a rocket stove, and they are easy to transport. The problem is that many of the designs burn through very quickly. Just how often, in a post apocalyptic world, are you going to be able to rework and find new materials for the maintenance of such a stove? So, I would like to sift through all of the ideas and find the most permanent and practical version. It is one thing to take the kids out camping and make a rocket stove out of tin cans or something, but living for years with this as your only form of cooking is a very different story.
One really good mission for some weekend, is to search the used book stores and flea markets for Boy Scout Manuals from the fifties and even earlier. They are fascinating to read, packed with practical information, and provide a snapshot of attitudes from the time period. I had my older brother's for years. It was a very treasured possession. I read and reread that book a hundred times.
Another good search is the Foxfire Books. So much practical information...folkways from the Appalachians(as I remember)..how to make lye to how to build a house...so much wealth in a single set of books.
Wean yourself off technology! I do not mean that you should not enjoy surfing the net and keeping up with your grandkids on the internet, but you should begin your preparation for the future, if you believe it is going to be difficult, by preserving the printed word for your ideas, and entertainment. What are you going to do if the world falls apart, fire up the kindle and spend your evenings reading "War and Peace" with a squirrel in a treadmill?
Buy and preserve good, hardbound books of good quality(paperbacks will not outlive your childrens' lives because of acidic and poor quality paper.) in a variety of subjects, fiction, non fiction, technical etc. Lets say you wanted to go back to the 15th century and make yourself king...What would you want to take with you...a good encyclopedia and a stack of textbooks...algebra, languages, how to find, forge and refine iron, blow glass, make a generator....Imagine your power....unless they burn you as a witch!
When you find good information on the internet, print it out using a very good quality paper and a good non fading ink(possibly toner would be better. Stack them in a sealed container that has little room for air, wrap the pile of paper in a low acid tissue before putting it in contact with wood or other high acid containers. You tube has a captioning for it's videos. Try to copy and paste the transcripts.(I do not know if that is possible) Saving the information in hard copies is much more likely to be of use to you than anything stored on the computer or internet if things do fall apart. Do not rely on disks or mass storage of any kind....Paper! Give a logger a job!
Now I understand that Ewell Gibbons died very young, and he was a bit odd, but his books are excellent resources for how to find food in the wild. You cannot survive for long by hunting, using an ever dwindling supply of high power ammunition. What will you do when your last grenade has been thrown at Bambi and no one has ammo to trade for your home made beads?
For now, let me finish this first post by saying...Not everyone is big and brawny...into firearms...able to drag trees around to make a log house. Those of you who wish to survive, need to be sources of information. Perhaps you have stored books that will help people...or you may be a voracious reader and have the wisdom of the ages stored in your head....You have learned first aid...know how to make herbal medicines...can do math or have the geometry book stashed under your bed. You will ultimately be most valuable to that band of roving bullies if you have all of that to offer. Instead of pushing the button on a computer, they just need to press your navel! You need to be more valuable to them than having your pants dropped, entered from behind and your throat slit!
If you are not Paul Bunyan, never forget the value of knowledge!
Coming next: The 18th century....