Monday, July 12, 2010


We all know I'm all about being prepared, but the term that Kate coined many months ago, thrivalist, more aptly describes my philosophy. I'm about being prepared, more in the way I learned as a Girl Scout, and that's with an accumulation of knowledge and experience rather than an accumulation of stuff.

Make no mistake, however, we have stuff ... and a lot of it, but most of our stuff is books. When it comes to books, we're kind of like the goat in the movie Hoodwinked: we have books to teach us canning, and books that show us weeds, we have books for when we raise our flock will show us what they need ..... Anyway, you get the point. We have books.

Years ago, when I first started contemplating the state of the world and grew concerned about what I saw ... when I swallowed the proverbial red pill ... I understood on a very fundamental level that hoarding *stuff* might not be the best option. It seemed very intuitive to me that I would never, ever be able to stock up ALL of EVERYTHING that I will need for the rest of my life. First of all, I don't have the space, because my house isn't so very large, and second, some things get old and then can't be used.

But also, even if I could stock up on ALL of EVERYTHING *I* would need, I couldn't possibly stock up enough for all of my children ... and their children ... and their children, and if we're preparing for a future when those things we deem necessary are no longer available, then we'll want to have them, right?

So, the question, for me, became, what do I REALLY need? Followed up by, of those things that I really need, how many of them can I produce myself or replace with something that's renewable?

First we looked at our diet, but I've covered that ad nauseum in the past. The highlights include: we don't stock-up on commercially canned food, most of our diet consists of foods that are locally grown, we buy in bulk in season or raise our own and then, preserve as much as we are able for use during the winter - oh, and we're learning to identify local, wild edibles and are incorporating those foods into our diet.

Next, I started looking at things like hygiene. I realized that I don't have the money or the space to store up another ten years' worth of disposable napkins and/or tampons, but more, I have three young daughters, none of whom are that age, yet, and I definitely can't store feminine hygiene products for the next FORTY years for three girls (and that's if I don't get any for my adult daughter or her two daughters (one who is still being "cooked" - as it were ;).

So, I looked for options, and I bought a Diva cup for myself and made cloth napkins. I will teach my still-yet-to-hit-puberty daughters to use these reusable options.

But it goes further. What about deodorant, soap and shampoo? What about toilet paper and laundry soap and other cleaning products?

I can't store all of the [insert name of commercially produced laundry detergent] I will need forever, but I can store many years' worth of ingredients to make my own. Homemade laundry soap uses Borax, Washing Powder and regular bar soap. But it is possible to make an all purpose soap from lye (which is water that has been filtered through hard wood ash) and animal fat (like lard) - neither of which I would have to store, but which I can procure on an as-needed basis, for the most part.

I also don't store gallons and gallons of potable water, but we do have rainbarrels. Instead, I know to boil 'wild' water, and instead of trying to store gallons of water (which can get stale), I would have a water filter. Between boiling and filtering, even river water would be safe to drink.

In the movie, The Matrix , Morpheus tells Neo, take the red pill, you'll stay in Wonderland, and I'll show you how deep this rabbit hole goes. I've been "prepping" with a thrivalist mindset for years, and I am pretty sure that I haven't reached the bottom of the rabbit hole, yet. I'm sure there are things I haven't considered I might want or need in the future, and I haven't learned nearly enough ... although I can make a birch bark basket, and like the Native Americans in my region, I'm learning to make Jerusalem Artichoke a staple in our diet.

Prepping with a thrivalist mindset - that is one that focuses on self-sufficiency and independence, rather than on preparedness with a focus on "stuff" - has actually calmed most of my fears of the future. If the absolute worst happens, even if we had to abruptly abandon our home in the middle of the night with only the clothes on our backs and a knife, we'd know what to do to survive, and no amount of thievery or destruction of our property can take away what's already in our heads. In a world gone mad, even if we lose our precious stores of food, water, clothing, and other goods, we could still thrive.

If you're reading this, you already know how bitter that red pill is, but it's actually like those Atomic fire ball candies - once you get past the bitter outside, it's actually kind of sweet ;), and, seriously, knowing how to do for yourself is incredibly empowering.


  1. I agree, the things we can't make or likely wouldn't be able to otherwise find easily are prime. Canning supplies, certain tools, ammunition, various chemicals, some medical supplies, seeds, etc.

  2. I so agree, the best thing to stockpile is knowledge of how to do things. All skills learned are a true asset.
    And I am so excited, I just got rain barrels!

  3. "knowing how to do for yourself is incredibly empowering."
    You are EXACTLY right on that one and learning to do anything is just one little step at a time, a little patience and determination. Too many women talk themselves out of doing or underestimate their abilities to do for themselves.

  4. Wait, did I read here that you don't really need soap to wash your clothes? It's the agitation that gets rid of the dirt?? So hey, when the grid meltsdown, I'm cool wearing "dirty" clothes!

    I'm also about collecting skills (which is what you're saying here). My coworkers giggle at me for being able to knit, sew, can, etc. But when the next ice age is upon us, who will be laughing then?

  5. My mother recently asked me why we live on a farm. She was referencing my past corporate life as somehow better. I told her that the skills my kids are learning now will make them able to thrive the rest of their life. Anyone with half a brain can make tons of money if that is their god. And, my kids might choose a life or part of their life (like I did) in that world. The $h*T will hit the fan in their lifetime and maybe already has. Having skills of survival, a classic education and the ability to fly by the seat of their pants make them prepared for everything.

  6. Suburban - yes, there are definitely things we will want to be able to store, but also, learn to make ourselves or do without ;). That second may very well be the final answer - whether we like it or not ;).

    Janet - Congrats on the rainbarrels! That's so awesome!

    Edifice - Deus Ex Machina and I had an interesting chat this morning about the fact that we know so little about the role of women and spirituality in Native cultures - and that's because, to a large degree, the history of our native cultures was written by men who were unaware of or simply ignored the role of women or relegated them to just "household" tasks. I think it's a common thing in our culture to overlook the importance of both genders, and as women we tend to minimize how important our part in this world is. It's like when we were getting life insurance. The only consideration was how much income *I* would lose if something happened to Deus Ex Machina, but there was no discussion about how much of Deus Ex Machina's income would have to be used to replace what I do, essentially, for free. We got new insurance ... and a new insurance carrier, too ;).

    Bezzie - What's that they say, he who laughs last ...? I've had people poke fun at me for wanting to learn these skills, too, but I figure knowledge is power ... even if it's just *em*powering, and I never use any of it, it's nice to know I can do it myself.

    Graffiti - *grin* Thanks!

    Karl - yep! My family has never said anything, but I wonder if they think I'm wasting all of my education by not making lots of money, and that I'm wasting myself by choosing to stay home with my children.

  7. Some things we're not going to be able to make in the garage but will still need (e.g., Mason jars). Perhaps a good glass blower could come up with something close (and wouldn't glass blowing be a good profession after TSHTF?). An excellent book that deals with survivalism as part of the story is, "Mysterious Island" by Jules Verne. Some of the archaic terms make it difficult to know what they're doing at first reading, but very useful. From brick making, to a primitive foundry, to some neat chemical tricks. (I know this was made into a move a few years ago, which I haven't seen, but I assume the book does much more explanation of the processes, since it was done in a narrative form.)

  8. Suburban - Yes, I agree with you. There are some things that are so specialized and require such a specific skillset that making them myself is unlikely - like the canning jars you mentioned.

    That's where the second part of my comment comes into play - the doing without part. When I've used all of the lids I have store (and that's a when, not an if) to the point that they are no longer sealing, I will need to have the knowledge of or the resources to learn how to preserve the food my family will need to get through a Maine winter without canning. That's when storage crops, like potatoes, pumpkins, apples, and acorns will become incredibly important, and dehydrating instead of canning will be the primary way we preserve our food.

  9. another wonderful post. I just LOVE your blog!