Friday, June 24, 2011

Things I Can Do in a Day

Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs: The Thrivalist's Guide to Life Without Oil is based on the premise that we have twenty-one days until some catastrophic event takes place, the result of which will be the loss of all of the modern amenities we've come to expect and which many of us (believe we) can not live without.

While it is completely true that I've spent years transitioning my family and myself from complete dependence on modern conveniences, and while we still enjoy those things as much as anyone else, if the power goes out for an extended period of time, if I couldn't get to the grocery store, if the faucet went dry, if there were no more heating oil deliveries, if the garbage truck didn't come down my street anymore, if I couldn't put fuel in my gas tank or in my chain saw ... if any of those things happened, my family would continue living our lives, with only some exceptions to what we do on a daily basis. In particular, we wouldn't be spending hours on the computer ;).

But if I hadn't done any of those things, and I only had twenty-one days to get ready for this catastrophic event, there are a number of things that I could do that really would only take one day to accomplish. Like planting a garden. It doesn't take more than a day to do the actual planting. Certainly, it takes a lot longer for the food to grow, but for the most part, once it's planted, there is only so much I can do to make the plants grow, and mostly, I just have to wait until they're ready to harvest.

It's not about becoming an expert in a day - or even becoming proficient - but rather about starting to plan for a future of less, and the only way to do that is one day at a time.

So, with that in mind, here is a list of some things that I could do in a day that would go a long way toward helping me to be more prepared in the event that some catastrophic event does occur.

  • Walk around my neighborhood and see if there are any fresh sources of water, and if there are none, find a local source for rain barrels (or food grade barrels that can be converted into a rain barrel with a simple water spigot from the hardware store).

  • Learn to build a fire. Learn how to start a fire using friction. Build a simple fire pit in the yard.

  • Build a simple hobo-stove/rocket stove for cooking with minimal fuel.

  • Go to the PYO strawberry (or apple or blueberry) farm with my kids, pick 40 lbs of strawberries (or apples or blueberries), and preserve them in canning jars as jam or sauce.

  • Buy some seeds and start a garden - and I wouldn't even need a "garden" to do this one. My mother-in-law has started an amazing container garden and is currently harvesting four salads per day from her garden. The garden won't grow in a day, but it only takes an hour or two to get it planted.

  • Acquire two rabbits - a boy and a girl - and build (or buy) a place for them to live - preferrably separately. Go to the library and find a book on breeding rabbits for meat and study up on how to take care of my new "suburban" livestock (and the bonus of having rabbits is that they make the most awesome fertilizer for the garden ;).

  • Find a 5 gal bucket (which can often be aquired for free from bakeries and delis) with a lid and an unused plunger and make a manual clothes washer.

  • Make a canning jar oil lamp.

  • Build a bicycle generator.

  • Harvest some herbs to make a tincture.

  • Find a simple recipe for lye soap.

  • Learn to sharpen an axe blade.

  • Stop by Goodwill and pick up some books and games.

Once we set our minds to something, we can accomplish an incredible amount in very little time ... just like we can grow an incredible amount of food in a very small space. There's that saying, it's not what you got, but what you do with it, and it applies to all of our resources, including time.

In short, even if I were starting from scratch as a typical American suburban soccer mom, I could have my family pretty far along the path toward self-sufficiency in less than a month taking just one step, one day at a time.


  1. I love the fact that you help people to see that small but attainable goals and steps can help families to become more self-sufficient. I think many people are overwhelmed with the idea of how they would survive in a long-term situation where things shut off, delivery trucks slowed and they had to figure out how to fend for themselves.

  2. Great advice - one of the problems I run into is that things just seem to be huge and overwhelming, especially in aggregate. Having some specific ideas like this broken down in a manageable way just seems so much more realistic and far less fear inducing, and I think makes it more likely that people will actually feel like they can do something and then actually make a change.

  3. One more thing to add to your walk around the neighborhood: identify food items that grow wild close by. A field guide specific to your state or region is a big help.

    We're nearly overrun with edible weeds around here this year. I hope it's not a warning.