A lot of people ask me this question and the answer is always the same. In 2009, I lost a substantial portion of my retirement savings as a result of the Wall Street meltdown. I had done everything the proverbial “right” way: living modestly, saving my money, paying off my mortgage and dreaming about travel and leisure during the golden years.
As with many in my generation, I was caught in the trap set by sneaky politicians, greedy corporations, and bankster crooks. Starting the blog was a catharsis and I felt if 50 people came to my site during the first year, it would be a success. When 50 people showed up the first day, I knew I was on to something.Was there a specific event or realization that you had that made you begin preparing?
I started preparing – or prepping as we call it – for a variety of reasons. The initial catalyst was my move from the city to the San Juan Islands in NW Washington State. For those of you that may not be familiar with this area, we are geographically disconnected from the mainland of the USA. For the rank and file, the primary way to get on and off the islands is by ferry. There are no bridges, no highways, and unless you have a private vessel or plane, you are pretty much stranded if the ferries are not running. In the event of a disruption in the transportation system, there would be no goods and no food brought in to our community. A disruption can occur when there is a mechanical problem, staffing issue, a natural disaster such as a devastating storm or earthquake or even a terrorist attack or other manmade disaster. Given the logistics and geographic isolation of my home, it seemed prudent to acquire the gear and supplies that I would need survive under these and other circumstances. Learning self-reliance skills was a natural outgrowth of that. I also became alarmed by the state of our economy as well as the global economy in general. I felt that these were desperate times and that there was a possibility that things could get worse – a lot worse. This reinforced my interest in being prepared and the prepper lifestyle.What were the first steps that you took?
The very first step I took was to walk around my home, thinking of the activities I do in each room as well as in the garage and yard. I tried to imagine what life would be like if there were a disaster – in my case an earthquake – and assuming that the walls were standing, what I would need to continue daily life on my own. And by on my own I mean without fresh water, without electricity, without grocery stores full of goods and without medical care. Perhaps this was an unorthodox approach but being the pragmatic type, it made sense to prepare for my own needs and not those defined by someone else. Plus, given limitations of space as well as budget, I did not want to waste resources on throw-away solutions to problems that I did not have. Once I defined what I thought at the time were my needs, I tackled the obvious: water, food and fire (or heat). My first purchase was a 55 gallon water barrel. I was so proud of my purchase and really felt that I was on my way to doing something to secure my survival if the big one hit. After that? As cliché as it sounds, I purchased 100 pounds of both beans and rice and learned to cook them outdoors on a wood burning cooking source.Has your preparedness changed over time? And if so, how?
Most definitely. Once I had acquired plenty of food, water and the gear to survive an extended grid down situation, I turned to learning skills, having practice drills and acquiring a reference library to draw upon if need be. I also became focused on defense not only in terms of securing my home and supplies, but also personal defense. For me, the issue of personal defense was a difficult yet important step towards total preparedness and self-reliance. I found that learning to defend oneself and one’s belongings was no different than learning to build a fire or learning to fish or learning to grow food. It takes perseverance and practice but eventually you come around and have the confidence you get from knowing that you can do it. I have also fine-tuned my own mindset when it comes to preparedness. For example, one important lesson I learned is not to become obsessed with my efforts to prepare for every little thing that may happen down the road. Doing so can be daunting – as well as expensive – leaving no time to pursue the many other things that life has to offer including friends, family or even quiet time with a book or hobby. Another lesson I have learned is that it takes a community of like-minded people to set yourself on the right course. If you are lucky like I am, you have a supportive spouse and close friends that share the survival mindset. Beyond that, there are bloggers, web sites and even neighbors that can help you form a community for sharing ideas, skills, and knowledge in the prepping arena.Did anyone specifically influence you to prepare, and if so, how did they do so?
Actually, no. I became the lone voice out in the wilderness with this one. On the other hand, I would like to think I have influenced and helped others to prepare and to embrace a self-reliant lifestyle.Can you describe what your personal food storage is like? What are the critical items that you have?
I like to eat and I like to eat good food. Having been a health nut for most of my life, an issue for me was stocking up on canned goods and processed goods laden with chemicals, sodium and who knows what else. I simply was not going to do it. From the get go, I sought out bulk foods (beans, rice, oats, grains) as well as canned items that I knew met my standard for healthy fare. Over time, I added lots of spices and condiments that could be used to add variety and taste to these very basic food items. These days, my deep storage, as I like to call my emergency food stash, looks a lot different than it did a year ago and a year before that. In addition to those initial items that I packaged myself in Mylar and buckets with oxygen absorbers, I have an extensive assortment of #10 tins containing freeze dried meats, cheeses, vegetables, and fruits as well as staples such as powdered eggs, milk and butter. I also have meal pouches. These are premade meals that only require hot water to become edible. The advantage of these pouches, of course, is that you do not have to cook them. You do not even have to think. As long as you have some clean water and eating utensils, heck, you can even eat them straight from the pouch. Plus given a bug-out situation, they are highly transportable. Can you imagine slapping 20 pounds of beans into a backpack while you are on the run? Lucky for all of us, the quality of these freeze dried products has increased dramatically this last year. You can now find gluten-free, GMO free, low sodium and even kosher foods in freeze dried form.What items do you have for comfort in your food storage?
Comfort food is a personal thing but since you asked, I have supplies for making breads and pizzas, popcorn with butter (well butter powder, actually) and my favorite, macaroons. With the macaroons, you just add water, plop them in a covered skillet over the fire and you are done. Instant gratification.How often do you rotate your stored food items?
Here is the way it works in my household. New purchases go in to deep storage. We “shop” our deep storage to fill our panty, taking note of what we take. Then we replace the used items with new. I cannot really say how often because this is a weekly process. The weakness in my system is that I do not have a complete inventory of everything in deep storage. I need to work on this to avoid going overboard in one area while shorting another. Even I am not perfect in this regard. I will say this, when we do shop, we purchase a lot. For example, if we are purchasing coffee, we might purchase 20 or 30 pounds at a time. When we get down to 10 pounds, we will once again stock up. The other thing worth mentioning is that we definitely do eat what we store. That includes our freeze dried foods as well. What better way to learn how to use them than to cook with them daily? Plus, given the logistics of shopping (which is a twenty mile round trip in to town), it is more cost effective to cook with our freeze dried foods than to run to the store for every little thing. Plus, there is no waste.Do you stock up certain things seasonally?
To be honest, I will have to answer no to that – at least not right now. Living on an island, I find our prices do not fluctuate much from season to season like they do in the city. As far as preserving a garden bounty goes, our growing season is short and I don’t get a lot of sun. As a result, I mostly grow greens and only in the summer months. If I had more open space and more sun, I would grow tomatoes and green beans then preserve them myself for the winter months. On the other hand, last summer, I located some apple trees whose fruit is mine for the taking so I hope to learn to dehydrate apples for storage purposes.What is the most important skill that you have personally learned since beginning to live the preparedness lifestyle?
I have actually learned two important skills. First of all, I now know how to start a fire and keep it burning long enough to generate heat and to serve as fuel source for cooking. Now to some this may sound simple but for a former city girl like myself, it took practice. I can make my own fire starter and can use a fire steel. I can also keep a fire burning for as long as it is needed to keep me warm and cook my food. There is nothing sexy about building a fire but the time could come when my life depends upon it. The second skill is something I mentioned earlier. I learned about gun safety and I learned how to shoot a firearm. That said, I am still learning and will never know enough. A day does not go by without hearing about civil unrest, chaos around the world or crazies out for revenge or worse. Sure, it may never happen to me in my neighborhood, but if it does, I will be ready.Do a lot of survival skills that you have learned translate into everyday life? And can you give us an example of one or two.
I like to tell people that I embrace the preparedness lifestyle. What I don’t tell them is that it has taken over my life. Seriously, though, for me to separate survival skills from just living my life would be difficult since I do not think I can separate the two. Putting food and supplies away for an emergency, gardening, cooking from scratch, fishing, sewing and building new things from discarded items are now so ingrained in me that they just happen. You did ask for an example though, so let me use an example of food preparation. Since embracing the preparedness lifestyle, I have not purchased a single loaf of store-bought bread. I make 100% of all of baked goods here in my own kitchen. Now to some, baking bread may not be considered a survival skill. But what could be more basic to survival than eating? I have another example as well. I no longer rely on the so-called miracles of modern chemistry to produce laundry or cleaning supplies. I make all of my own cleaning supplies and soaps from a handful of basic ingredients that have been around for years and years. As a matter of fact, I was mentioning some of them to my 90 year old mother the other day and she told me her mother used those very same items when she was little girl. You cannot get more basic than that.Are there members of your family, extended or otherwise who doubt that a crisis will happen and think that your preparedness is unnecessary?
I would not say that they think it will not happen – it just will not happen to them. Or equally naïve, they think they will show up at some FEMA or Red Cross shelter and be fed and clothed and tended to as though they were in a five star hotel. Okay, that is extreme, but they still feel that the government will be there for them. I make no secret of the fact that I have been preparing for a while now and if a family member shows up on my doorstep, they will not be turned away so long as they can bring a skill or some labor to the table. There will always be chores to do so I do not see that as a problem. But they will have to check their attitude at the door or, hard as it may be, tough love will prevail and they will be asked to leave.How do you deal with people who doubt your efforts and have you changed anyone’s mind about the way things are?
Perhaps I have been lucky but no one has been bold enough to really challenge my lifestyle to my face. It is somewhat hurtful to see that certain extended family members call this “Gaye’s little hobby” but I just toss those types of things aside. I am far too busy with my work on Backdoor Survival to try to become an evangelist. You are either a prepper or you are not. Among preppers, there are newbies and there are old experienced hands who have been preparing for years. And there is everyone else in-between. find that I can learn something from all of them and hope they learn something from me as well.Let’s say that someone wants to start getting prepared today and has never done so before… what is the FIRST STEP that they should take?
Other than read my blog at Backdoor Survival? I have a series on my site titled 12 Months of Prepping, One Month at a Time that is very popular. Each month I identify tasks, skills, supplies and gear that you should acquire in a steady, systematic, and affordable basis. That said, acquiring a two week (or longer) supply of food, the means to store and purify water, first aid supplies and items for self-defense rank right up there at the top of my list.Let’s say that someone thinks that they are the most prepared person in the world… what should they do to ensure this?
If I understand correctly, you are asking what the prepared person should do to stay prepared. First of all, I would re-evaluate potential risks and hazards annually if not more often. This includes home hazards as well as those in the community and of course, with mother nature. What has changed? What needs improvement? What have I done to practice the skills I already know? Things change and situations change. Perhaps this “most prepared person in the world” is strong and healthy and has a good job. What happens if he or she gets sick and cannot work? Or is laid off and has no source of income? In my opinion you are never totally prepared. Stuff happens. Plans need to be changed and new strategies need to be developed to overcome potential roadblocks that never before existed. The other thing is that no matter how prepared you are, you need to reach out to your community to find like-minded people that will watch your back as you will watch theirs. I really do not think you can do it alone.THE FINAL WORD Since I have your attention, I want to add that Backdoor Survival is all about learning to survive and to cope in today’s uncertain world. As world citizens, we are all facing unprecedented turmoil in terms of the economy, our planet, our relationships with our neighbors and our ability to sustain ourselves for both now and future generations. In some small way, I hope that I can help ease the way with common sense tips and tools for creating a sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle, regardless of the changes happening around us. As bad as things may seem at the moment, we still have just a single life to live. Prepping can become an obsession and all-consuming to the exclusion of other things in life. Just keep in mind that being happy and having fun is equally important to being prepared. It is all about balance – and learning to live life with grace and optimism no matter what.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!Gaye If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Backdoor Survival on Facebook to be updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon. In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.
The Lamplighter Report Free Trial for Backdoor Survival: As some of you know, in the past I have been a sometimes contributor to “The Lamplighter Report”. This has been an honor for me as I have been featured in this report with other big names in the survival and preparedness world. If you are interested in checking it out, you can sign up for a free trial that will also get you access to the Lamplighter vault; an archive of every ‘Lamplighter Report’ ever published. Not only that, you will get instant access to every one of the Absolute Rights and Survival Life 7.00 e-books currently available and any new reports that come out in the future. I am thrilled to be able to offer this special to you and hope that you enjoy the Lamplighter Report! Interested? Here is where you can go to check it out: Lamplighter Report Free Trial for Backdoor Survival.
Bargain Bin: The recent article on DIY cleaning turned out to be hugely popular all around the web. In cased you missed it, here is a link to the article Prepper Checklist: DIY Cleaning Supplies and to some of the products that I use to make my own cleaners. Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds Liquid Cleanser: I know that Dr. Bronner’s Magic Castile soaps have a cult-like following but I prefer the Sal Suds. I call my DIY cleaner “Sudsy Sal”. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps Pure-Castile Soap: Of all of the Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps, peppermint is my favorite. I use it to make “Peppermint Magic”, an all purposed cleaner. Soft ‘n Style 8 oz. Spray Bottles: I happen to like these smaller bottles and you can not beat the price for a set of 3. Likewise for these Pump Dispensers. NOW Solutions Glycerin Vegetable, 16-Fluid Ounces: You will need this for your Dirt Cheap Soft Soap. I paid almost as much for only 4 ounces locally. This is a great price and 16 ounces will last forever. NOW Foods Peppermint Oil: I favor peppermint essential oil (okay, I like lavender too) so this is what I get. But there are many types of essential oils to choose from. Take your pick. One thing you will find is that a little goes a long way. Microfiber “Magic” Rags: No list of cleaning supplies would be complete without these wonderful microfiber cloths. They will last you for years and will allow you to replace paper towels forever. Truly. I color code using green for glass and windows and the other colors for everything else. I love these. Mobile Washer: This is hand operated washing machine. Like a plunger, it uses a technique of pushing and pulling the water through clothes to clean them well without wearing them out. It uses a minimum of water and less soap due to the agitation motion. Use in a bucket (5-gallon suggested), sink or tub. The best part is that it is only $14.95.
Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials: The monthly specials at Emergency Essentials feature discounts of up to 35% off sometimes a bit more. One item I can recommend available is their Do It Yourself SuperPail Combo. It includes 8 x 6-Gallon Buckets with Lids, 8 x Metallized Storage Bags and a 10-Pack of Large Oxygen Absorbers. Don’t forget that you do not need fancy equipment to seal the metalized bag. A cheap hair iron will do the job.
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Shelf Reliance Virtual Party: Are you a fan of Shelf Reliance and Thrive products? Backdoor Survival hosts a virtual, online Shelf Reliance party with discounted party prices and some special packages not normally found at the Shelf Reliance site. As a matter of fact, all of the packages you see available at Costco.com are available at my party and at better prices too!