Thursday, November 17, 2011

What would it take......

One of the questions my husband and I are frequently asked are "what would it take to set up an off grid system and not change my lifestyle?".  Sir Knight turns to them, with a level gaze and replies unflinchingly "anywhere from a quarter of a million to half a million dollars".  They stare at him, flabbergasted, their dreams of living the off-grid life vanquished.

The reality of an off-grid life is that unless you are independently wealthy and have a crew of technicians at your disposal 24 hours a day, you will have to change your lifestyle.  Gone will be your electric stove, electric dryer, forced-air electric heating system and electric hot water tank.  You will never again own an electric stock tank heater or an air conditioning system.  A large freezer is a thing of the past (you might not even get away with a small one) and that cute little electric fireplace - not so much.  Without an endless stream of money, you are going to have to make some changes to the way you live.  And that is really the point, isn't it?

When Sir Knight and I used to dream of being off-grid, we planned an elaborate system that ran perfectly and allowed us to live in the way which we were accustomed.  Oh, there would be an adjustment here and there, but really, nothing too major.  Then suddenly we were unwillingly thrust into the real world.  The world of faulty generators, broken inverters, wind that blows too much or not enough and sun that just won't shine.  Out went our plans for a propane dryer (they use way too much propane!) and our idealistic notion of powering our generator with homemade bio-diesel (when would one find the time?).  The farther down the road of off-grid living we traveled the more convinced we became that being off-grid was not for the faint of heart.  We had to change our expectations and our lifestyle or become nothing more than urban folks who said "I once had an off-grid farm in Idaho".

As I watch the survival/preparedness movement take root and gain steam, I have noticed the same trend among preppers.  The basic motivation seems to be "what would it take for me to take care of my family when TEOTWAWKI happens, and not change my lifestyle".  This cannot be!  If our world crumbles we are going to have to change the way we live.  Regardless of what kind of preparations you have made, how much food you have stored up and how many knowledgeable members you have in your group, life will not go on as normal.

Think of it.  The electrical grid is down. Chaos reigns.  People are starving.  Dying.  And you are living, fat and happy in your off-grid, stocked, armored up enclave.  Really!?!  No.  Truth is, you have no idea how long the world will be turned upside down.  You have to start food rationing immediately.  Your solar system works great for the first 6 months and then, in your attempt pacify your sick children, you allowed them to watch a few hours of cartoons while you conduct perimeter patrols and care for livestock.  Your batteries become depleted (not as much sun as in the summer - and you didn't want to attract attention by running the genset).  The winter temperatures drop to an unheard of low of -10°.  You wake up in the morning to battery acid all over the bathroom floor.  Your batteries froze and the cases split.  No more solar.  Now you are truly "off-grid".

Then, your area is hit with an epidemic.  People (the few who are left) start showing up on doorstep, begging for antibiotics to save their children.  They had some stocked up, but they went through their supplies in the first few months.  Your are their only hope.  You have a store of Amoxicillin (you bought in bulk from a pet supply website).  You know that it takes 24 pills (500mg every 8 hours for an eight day run) to cure this particular bug.  There are 7 people in your family.  They haven't come down with this nastiness, but how long can that last?  Just your family would require 168 doses.  You have stockpiled about 500 doses.  But this is just one bug.  And you are only into TEOTWAKWI 6 months.  What do you do?  I know what you don't do - you don't live your life as if nothing has happened.  You change your lifestyle.

The bottom line is this - we don't know what tomorrow holds.  There is no possible way that we can be prepared for every eventuality.  We can't possibly expect to have every base covered.  And really, we need to change our mindset.  We have to expect to have to go without.  We are going to have to be ingenious, inventive and creative.  We have to think outside the box and not expect to maintain our current lifestyles.  We need to think of the possibilities and work out solutions ahead of time so that we are not caught off guard.

If we don't expect the unexpected, we are sunk.  If we really think that we can stockpile enough to insulate ourselves from the end of the world, we are sadly mistaken.  Just because we have antibiotics doesn't mean we will survive the epidemic.  Just because we have a solar system doesn't mean we won't end up with the unprepared masses, burning candles to light our nights.  Survival isn't about the stuff.  Survival is about cultivating the proper mindset and attitude to make do - whether you have gear - or whether you don't.

The question isn't "what would it take for me to survive the end of the world and not change my lifestyle".  The questions is "what would it take for me to survive the end of the world".  That is what being a prepper is all about.  Get the gear.  Stock the food.  Beans, bullets and band-aids, by all means.  But - get your head in the game.

Use it up.
Wear it out.
Make it do.
Or do without.
            Old Pioneer Saying

Don't expect to go to the end of the world and have it look like your world looks now.  Plan to change your lifestyle.  It is much easier to prepare for a difficult lifestyle than it is to be thrust into a difficult lifestyle.  And so, I urge you - prepare.


  1. AMEN, Sister! Now how do I get my husband to understand that, that is the question. He understands the need to prepare, just doesn't have the understanding that life WILL change dramatically, and now is when to start getting used to it!

  2. I have said to my grown kids it takes a lot of money to go back in time and suffer.
    I think timing is a factor in a lot of peoples prepping along with the money factor. It's that I wish I had known then what I know now factor. If I and my family had of known we would be better prepared.
    I dream of being able to have things, not exactly what I have now, but would sure like the kitchen fully functional. There just seems to be something wonderful about that blasted refrigerator. And that freezer sure has become dear.
    Water has become one of my main concerns there just doesn't seem to be enough vessels to hold what would be needed for any length of time.
    I dream at having land with a aource of water on it.
    I wrestle with the idea of taking from my stores and helping those that did not and would not take care to take care of their families. Especially since it is going to be hard for me to take care of myself and family.
    I must commend you, you are the first I have read that says that you have to ration at the onset of trouble. That has been my thought from the git-go.
    As in the movie Heartbreak Ridge and what Gunny Hyway said, I will have to Improvise, overcome and adapt.

  3. you are right about a lot of preppers working to preserve their surrentl ifestyle. It just won't work! Heck, it doesn't work, it is a-changing, and fast. Best to give up the dream of having everything at your fingers and learn to live a simpler life now.
    I have this fight in my own home, I say live simple and they say "why now?"...argh! (lol)

  4. "dreams of living the off-grid life"

    My goal at the moment is much more modest. I have medical equipment I need to run to sleep. After that our only "must have electricity" item is communications.

    I bought two very small solar electric systems, one to power the medical equipment, and the other to power a ham radio. They worked great all summer, but now come winter the system charging the deep cycle battery for the medical equipment is just not keeping up, and I have to charge the battery from the wall each day.

    At least I am learning this _now_ and not in an emergency. Now I need to decide what to do about this ...

    "If we don't expect the unexpected, we are sunk."

    Yep. Right now I am trying to prepare for a modest range of emergencies. I know any sort of significant emergency will involve drastic life-style changes. Rationing? Absolutely!

    "But - get your head in the game. "

    I preach this to anyone who will listen. The most important preparation is mental. Thinking about various possible futures is our best insulation against "Future Shock". All other forms of preparation must follow the mental.

  5. I would like to add an "Amen" to your post, sister.

    After being "itinerant" for almost our entire lives (we are both Army brats and my husband was career Army/SF, and is now a railroader) we built a big new house and put up two solar arrays, a type of "roots" for us. We invested ourselves and our money into it, doing much of the work while working extra to pay for what we needed. Our panels drew much attention and the newspaper came and did an interview. We had our opportunity to teach and teach we did. We explained that we would never recoup the money invested, that we didn't have cable or satellite TV, we use the washer and the dish washer on sunny days only (never at night), that the well was the only item on the system that was 240V, and that instead of "stuff" we had saved and bought LED light bulbs for each other as presents over the course of a couple years. We explained that when the power goes out we have water and only the lights that are needed in the room we are in. We could not stress enough that our lifestyle was different from most, we have a TV but it is not on except for a DVD once or twice a month which is a luxury for us, despite the big new house. Basically, we tried to inform the public that our system supported our well, refrigerator and freezer. On a day to day basis, we run our house on the solar system during the day, except for the dryer and the stove/oven which remain grid tied, and switch over to grid when there is enough sun left to charge our battery bank up for the night, as to leave the batteries in a state that would sustain power for the "essential" water and food storage in case of a power failure. We babysit the system to achieve the usage we get and we put the investment out because we live in the mountains and get lots of winter weather, plus the power company just can't come up and fix whatever is broken when the road crews haven't been able to clear the roads.
    I am very glad you have reiterated earlier columns that explain the work involved in a solar system and the lifestyle changes that must occur for that to be successful.
    BTW, we can't rely on propane because the trucks can't always get to us. We can order way in advance but customers who waited until the last minute get served first and of course, we have the problem of weather (which in TEOTWAWKI will be to our advantage), so we use it only for our on demand hot water heater, something we hope to address in the future with homemade solar hot water.
    Blessings to you and yours.

  6. To run just my electric stove(4500 watts), I would have to cover my backyard with solar cells-not really practical. Batteries die-in a prolonged event,you may not be able to replace them, or have to accept reduced voltage(I plan to have a split 12VDC/120VAC system. Inverters cut out after the voltage drops to a certain point, but most automotive lamps/electronics work acceptably at voltages as low as 8). You can't prepare for everything-I suppose it's really educated guesswork,with the ability to adapt on the fly(What they called the Institute of Advanced MacGyverism at one of my past jobs). Don't buy anything you can't fix, or do without. Or easily modify, if need be. Part of "getting your head into it" is integrating it into your everyday life seamlessly. See candles on sale? Grab a few. Ever wanted to try reconditioning a battery? Give it a try on that old battery. Or building a mini 12 volt electrical system(done that,with flea market components). Make a hobby of it-experiment!
    Read up on old-school skills,and give'em a try. Go by candlelight for a weekend,and see how it is. Keep hand tools around.Practice using them..It's really a lot of fun, once you get started-a hobby that leads to a series of hobbies that just might turn out useful.

  7. Been at this for more years than most. First set up as total non-electric, but later added a small PV system for lights and a freezer.

    Here is how: gravity water, gas lights, gas refrigerator, wood cookstove that also makes hot water, solar hot water panels, solar electric panels for lights, CFL lights in use, but switching to LED, 24 volt freezer, 120 volt high efficiency freezer, sized PV system to favor charging. Have gotten 11 years SO FAR on Exide golf cart batteries. Bought DRY replacement L-16 batteries.

    Turns out that propane refer is an energy HOG. I can do better by buying two more solar panels, again sized for winter charge requirements.

    So, much is possible with limited funds, BUT ABSOLUTELY lifestyle changes are ESSENTIAL.

  8. Two jobs ago, part of my maintenance route was a 1930s era alarm system that had nickel iron batteries in it that were just short of 50 years old at the time,and worked just fine.Add a little water every so often was about it for maintenance. The golf carts at the same place had batteries that were about 15 years old.
    In town, there was an old house I called the Gas House-it had its original 1880s gas lights and gas outlets along the wall(like you'd see in a college lab for bunsen burners). Originally, it was set up with an acetylene generator,later switched over to city gas(so I was told). Cool old house.A Steampunk Dream.
    Some friends of mine salvaged a 110volt/12 volt/propane fridge out of a junked RV-I take it heat was used to move the refigerant around, like a kerosene fridge. I saw a kerosene fridge in a farmhouse once,and the guy said it would run two weeks on a gallon of kerosene-that doesn't seem like a high fuel consumption to me(no freezer). Yeah,a low-energy/off grid lifestyle would require changes. The Grid is a pretty fragile thing,and it doesn't take much to knock it out for a while(like the recent snowstorm in the Northeast).

  9. My parents grew up without electricity, city sewer, garbage service, and all the other conveniences of modern-day America. They told many stories about their early lives, now I wish I had paid more attention. The skills they had and the things they knew would make the modern-day Back-to-the-Land books seem trivial.

    I don't expect to survive for long if it's TEOTWAWKI. I'm too fat, too old, too vulnerable. But I hope my younger relatives do survive, so I have accumulated books, tools, food, etc. for their use if they get here in time to grab the stuff before the zombies do.

    Skills and mindset will be vitally important. But sometimes one of the best thing we can learn is to recognize our limitations and not try to swim across the Mississippi in a downpour.

    NoCal Gal

  10. My guess is the first three months of a complete collapse will be "zombie defense" and a mass die off.

    The hard part will be holding off bad guys. I may have to resort to some rather un-christian behavior to keep what little I own. One ethical question is at 'what point does charity end, and self preservation begin. Does owning 500 doses of Amoxillian and keeping it for your family and not passing it out to others classiflie as un-chritian?

    I know there are stories in the Bible where people where warned of calamity and did not prepare, like when Noah built his Ark and his neighbors laughed at him (I would be in the crowd scratching my head, thinking that this guy Noah may be on to something and maybe I need to build a raft)

    Enola, this latest edition on your blog and the blog on "never being fully prepared" from a few blogs ago were more thought provoking. Its great to look at guns, gadgets and gieger counters, however looking at the big picture of what we do, and why we are doing it, and what direction we take, along with the ethics behind it is most important. Enola' I applaud you for bringing up subjects in your blog that look at all aspects of survivalism. You may save many human lives without even meeting them in person.

  11. Seems to me one of problems is, most wait and wait and wait. When the time comes, it is too late to readjust the mind set. We here are only on wood heat both for heating and cooking (we do have an 'old style' propane stove non-electric) but for the most part we get along. Not easy but if there is a system failure (of any type) we can/could make it. It takes active work beyound 'just thinking about it'.
    Nice post as ususal - keep up the good work.

  12. To me it's all a "crap shoot" (excuse my language). We know there will be tribulation. The Bible tells us that. We also know that no matter how much of anything and everything we are prepared with - food, water, medical, fuel guns, ammo, beans, etc., eventually it will run out, be used up.

    We have only so much money to spend within our financial limits. We only have a certain amount of storage space even if we put things behind and under furniture, in the attic or cellar, hidden in plain sight, build cupboards, go solar (not always realiable)etc. It will all run out sooner or later.

    God always warned His prophets and His faithful remnant. He always gave His beloved faithful ones just enough time to escape before He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah; flooded the world. He told Joseph through interpreting Pharoahs dream of 7 years of plenty, then 7 years of famine. The prophets and patriarchs had such great faith and KNEW God. Do we have that kind of faith today? As His word says "When I return will I find faith...?

    He still warns us today for those with "eyes to see and ears to hear". Most can't, even if they profess to be "christian". They love their "religion", the "tradition and precepts of men" more then they really study the Truth of His word as He tells us exactly what will happen and the signs of the time.

    Most have no idea of what His Word says. He tells us in Hosea 4:5 "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." What knowledge is He speaking of? It's knowledge of Him. Yahweh never changes. HE wants us to KNOW Him.

    That's the first preparation that should be understood. What He wants us to do and how He wants us to be. He tells us. Exactly. He also tells us through the story of the 10 virgins to be ready. For What? For His return. 5 virgins had their lamp filled with oil to meet their Bridegroom and were ready when He came. The other 5 had no oil and wanted those who were ready to share. How could they share when there would not be enough oil for all! So as the 5 who were not ready went to buy oil the Bridegroom came. They were not ready. They missed Him. The most important item to be ready with is the Knowledge of God, who He is, His Truth, His armor. Who are His saints - He tells us that too Revelation 14:12 "Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and and their faith in Jesus." (All 10 not 9!)

    His "little flock" will be small because many are called but few chosen that go through the narrow gate. Once that door is closed that leads to eternal life, it will not be opened. The best readiness is the knowledge of and faith in Yeshua Messiah, Jesus Christ before all else.

    Whatever your preps - earthly treasures - are, they need to be held lightly.

  13. I occasionally talk with people who act as if in TEOTWAWKI they will just rapidly adjust to how things are. I don't live off-grid as you do, but I have no misconceptions that the off-grid live is nothing like my life now. I am very grateful, that even though I have never lived that way, I spent many summer weeks with my grandparents out in the country. I must admit that by the time I remember well, they had gotten electricity and their sons and son-in-laws had wired a few things for them. They had a 6 room house (very tiny rooms though) and I think 4 of the rooms had a single light bulb fixture on the ceiling and they also had a refrigerator. Their well was on the back porch and they still used a bucket and crank, had an outhouse (those flies were bad in the summer) and heated with a coal heater in the den. When school was out and I stayed with them in the winter, we would have so many quilts piled up on us that you could barely roll over!! My grandpa still used a mule to plow his garden until I was about 4, then got an old used tractor. The way they lived wasn't easy, but they celebrated their 50 year anniversary about 8 years before my grandma died. They had a lot of children and grandchildren and a whole lot of love. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!! :)


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