Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Armchair Survivalist - Addendum

After re-reading my post on armchair survivalists, I thought I would take this opportunity to clarify my position.

Some of you may have thought I was scoffing at your level of preparations or didn't think people should research or talk about preparedness.  That couldn't be farther from the truth!  In reality, all of us have different resources from which to draw on as we prepare for an uncertain future.  In a perfect world, we would have unlimited time and money and could build zombie proof bunkers that would see us safely through World War III.  The world just isn't perfect, and nobody (at least nobody that I know) has the time or finances to accommodate such a plan.

The real world dictates that we go to war with what we have.  My entreaty to all of you is to make sure you know how to use what you have.  If you only have a can opener and some canned goods - make sure you know how to use your can opener.  If you only have a Buck knife, don't leave it in the box - use it so you know how to when you really need it.  If you are fortunate enough to have an AR-15, don't let it become a safe queen.  Sight it in, put it through its paces, oil it - prepare it to stand at the ready.

We all learn from one another, but we can't rely on the "experts" that have never done it.  Seek out people that have skills that you don't have and learn.  Ask questions.  Be prudent.  When push comes to shove, only the skills you have learned will be of any use to you.  All of the research you have done and information that you have garnered will be like so much rubbish unless you have put it into practice.

When Sir Knight and I were preparing for Y2K we read every magazine, book and article we could get our hands on.  We drank in stories of living off the grid with nothing more than a China diesel generator and a few Aladdin lamps.  We "knew" that you could run an entire household, including freezers and refrigerators, with a few gallons of diesel and a little ingenuity.  We read product reviews and researched energy systems.  We talked and planned and bought.  We smugly waited for midnight on December 31, 1999.  We were ready.  And nothing happened.

As 2000 ambled into fall, we moved into Little Shouse on the Prairie.  Unexpectedly thrust into pioneer life, we were confident that we would have no problems with our new normal.  As we put each new skill to the test and each new tool into service, we were awakened to the fact that we were ill prepared for our new life.  Nothing worked the way the "experts" said it would.  The China Diesel leaked like a sieve.  Refrigeration was an impossibility.  The Aladdin's burned up one mantle after another and the Petromax caught the kitchen table on fire.  Cooking everything from scratch in a wood cookstove was time consuming and hard and the romantic notions of gathering in the evenings to read out loud were marred by freezing temperatures and shivering bodies.

Through the school of hard knocks, we learned that many "experts" were, in reality, armchair survivalists.  They talked a good story, but they had never lived the life.

We do need to exchange ideas.  We need to know what works and what doesn't.  But we need to be prudent when we are acquiring information.  Do we ask the guy that has written the book on off-grid living, or the guy who has lived off-grid living?

You don't have to spend a million dollars to be prepared.  You don't have to live without electricity and do your laundry on the wood stove, but you do have to know how to use what you have, whether it is a kerosene lamp or a 5KW solar system.  Preparedness is going to look different on each of us.  What it looks like doesn't matter, how it functions does.


  1. Thank you for your wisdom of your blog. I am new to prepping and I am trying to learn as much as I can. I have found several blogs to be more to the left than my views to the right.

    I believe this country has many problems and we pray daily that they can be over come.

  2. Great Post and everything you wrote about I can relate. I want to learn from those who walk the walk, not just talk the talk!

  3. Enola,
    I am a city dude with no chance for the country.
    I am interested in your comment,"if you are fortunate to have an AR-15". I have .38's and 16ga. pump with personal protection ammo. Could you expound on why an AR-15.

  4. Thank you Enola! I love your blog and your book and your wisdom. We are all alike in one regard, for sure, we are all human. We know the problems that go along with that! I give you major kudos for coming back humbly if you feel the need. Trust me, I have to humbly bow my head...well, all the time actually! I am no armchair survivalist but no expert either. I sure have learned much from your blog. I check it daily. I feel blessed that it is here and appreciate the time away from your work and family that it takes to keep it up. I believe I read that you were raised in the South? Aside from the Grace of the Lord Jesus the next thing that gives me the most survival instincts is the good old Southern upbringing!
    MaryB in GA

  5. Thank you. Your graciousness remains a beacon.
    N. ID Neighbor

  6. Life is not static and neither is prepping.
    What is most important about getting prepared to meet the priorities, is that you are actually doing the action work of preparing and not just "listing" what you will do.
    There is a vast difference in wishing for knowledge and learning, and in perfecting it from knowing, and using what will work for you and your family, and thus, also what will not work.

    I agree with Enola, attempt now to Do the fine tuning and as much of the transitioning to actually living a preppers life now. Time is ticking, major negative consequential events are pacing ever more frequently, and the rapid inflation of our dollar purchase power to obtain tools, supplies and consumables, is no longer working with us, but against us.
    It's time to practice your skills and hone and perfect daily living techniques with what you have, to work with on hand. Make what you have on hand work for you now, incorporate them, tools, equipment, skills, into your daily use, until it becomes a natural part of your everyday living.
    If you transition away from some of the modern conveniences now, a little at a time, to a more
    non-electric lifestyle, you will suffer the changes to come much less, and instead you will prosper in comfort when those flip-a-switch and auto-run devices are no longer available to you.
    You'll also figure out for yourself, NOW, rather than later, just what else you need to learn and procure in order to succeed and thrive, instead of just surviving.

    God bless all who are actively working now, toward assisting themselves for the difficult times ahead.


  7. Enola, there has been an increasing number of blogs urging people to stop being armchair survivalists. Maybe that's a coincidence, maybe not. I think it's God's way of getting the word to the people - prepare now and quit putting it off. Time is a'wastin'.

    Never took your comments as criticism, but took them as a warning and good advice.

    You know, I think part of the problem with this country is people have become too touchy-feely. We need to have thicker skins and not get riled up over something or to take things personally when they are not meant that way. What we face in the near future will be harder than any of us anticipates. So if you can't take a little nudge, how are we gonna deal with real problems when they arise, and arise they will?

    The bottom line is this: do something, learn something, help somebody. The dividends will be astounding!

    NoCal Gal

  8. Enola,
    love your blog and am learning so much from you. So after searching online for an answer and not finding it, I'm turning to you! I am new to canning and over the weekend canned two dozen jars of applesauce. When I took the rings off (four days later) I found some of the jars had dried or sticky applesauce under the rings. I think I filled the jars too full and it bubbled over during processing. The lids are flat but there is a tight seal. I tapped the lids with a spoon and got a dull thud rather than the "cling" sound. I read the dull thud could be because food is touching the lids. Should I toss these and chalk it up to the learning experience or if the lids are tight (I can't pry up with my fingernail) do you think they are ok? Hate to waste good food but don't want to make the family sick. Advice?? Opinions??

  9. Thanks for both of these posts. My fiance has been enlightening me on preparedness etc...and while I see where he's coming from this is more where I'm thinking. It's great to have all that "stuff" he's accumulating (empty containers etc) and gear, part of me wonders if he really knows how to use it. And if not, why keep collecting? These posts are a great reminder to know how to use your tools of preparation not just think you know how to use them. Thanks again!

  10. Newtoprepping;
    Don't worry - your applesauce is not lost! You are probably right about overfilling your jars - it is a perfect learning experience. Don't let it discourage you! I wouldn't toss them if I were you. In reality, if the applesauce goes bad, the pressure will loosen the lids so that when you go to pick a jar up, it will come off in your hand. If the seal is tight, there is nothing to worry about. The truth of the matter is that in the "old day" our grandmothers would just scoop any mold off of the applesauce, jelly or any other canned fruitstuff that had mold, toss it and eat the applesauce or jam. Just like cheese, the mold that forms on fruit can be scraped leaving the rest perfectly edible. Like I said, that is something our grandmothers did. I am positive if you were to talk to a "master canner" they would adamantly deny the acceptability of this practice. I can say that I have scraped mold off of jam and used it on numerous occasions. You will have to decide if that is something you would like to do.
    Keep on keeping on.

  11. City Dude;
    Oh, were to start? I grew up with the AR-15, so I am particularly partial to it. The most important thing with any weapon is familiarity. Whatever you have, you must know how to use it! It has to be second nature. You can't afford to waste time trying to figure out where the safety is or how to dump the magazine. That being said....
    Benefits of the AR-15. It is current issue military which means that ammo is plentiful and relatively easy to come by. It is combat tested. Magazines are everywhere. If you disarm someone, chances are they will have an AR or an M Forgery. They have a large capacity magazine, shoot a standard NATO round and are easy to field strip and clean. I could go on and on, but you probably get the picture.

    Ultimately, whatever you have, make sure you have plenty of mags, lots of ammo, extra parts and that you know how to use them. Like any other tool, take care of them and they will take care of you.


  12. Dearest Enola Gay,
    Great series of posts lately! I find that having an unexpected loss of power helps to remind all of us quickly that we are not as prepared as we thought. During a recent hurricane we lost power for a mere 36 hours, and that was enough to show me that the rubber wasn't meeting the road in a few areas in our supplies....

    I think God said it best when He said "Let there be light". I have loads of 'emergency candles' most of which are non-scented wax, and my brother's family has all kinds of fancy scented candles which are also wax. After a few hours of trying to read and see by these candles in our different houses, the consensus was that the house smelled terrible, the ceiling was getting dirtier, and there simply wasn't enough light to make one 'feel' comfortable and cozy. I finally realized that I had bought 6 of the 100 Hour Emergency Candles and should have been using them instead - DUH! THAT WAS THEIR ONLY PURPOSE! These 100 hour candles burn liquid paraffin and are clean burning, odorless and smokeless and you can pull the wick up a bit for more light. When I have to 'eat crow' I have a big glass of wine with it..... I made a full confession in an email to my friends and family about this issue and most of them have 'seen the light' and may even begin to prep themselves. I also have a cheap oil lamp with a 3/4" wick that looked simply lovely on the table BUT did nothing but smoulder and billow smoke when I lit it no matter what I did to it. Thankfully I was smart enough to light it OUTSIDE. Good grief! Who wants to be outsmarted by a measly oil lamp!?!? I finally figured the lamp and wick out without burning the house down but it was a good lesson. I consider myself reasonably intelligent and prepared but this lamp issue left me feeling very much unlike Laura Ingalls Wilder. Shhhhh! Don't tell my friends! They think I am the ultimate pioneer. 8-)

    God Bless,
    Janet in MA

  13. Dear Enola,
    Your post on canning is so timely. With sales on meats right now, I'm wanting to can them up! I've canned meats for years, but with the current financial crisis, need to investigate by comparing the cost of store bought to the costs of home canning. Part of that discussion centers around shelf-life. My home canned meat is properly pressure canned and kept in a dry room that never gets above 70 degrees. Store bought has a shelf-life of 3-4 years. What do you think about home canned? I need some straight-skinny from someone who isn't afraid to answer with their head instead of through their liability attorney. Would you help me? THANK YOU and BLESSINGS to you.

  14. Do you use Tattler reusable lids? I think they are the only sustainable option. Although I do stock up on regular, when on sale.

  15. BonnBlu, good question, I canned some stew meat today, I found it on sale, but even though it is so much more compact to store canned than frozen, I'm uncertain how long I can keep it.
    MaryB in GA

  16. Haven't bought Tattler lids yet as there are dozens of regular in my pantry. It's something I MUST do. I've canned chicken, pork loin, ground beef, meat sauces, beans with ham, etc. for about 6 years but have always used it within a couple of years. If the seal is good, it's not off-color, smells great, think it would be good after 5 or more years?
    Thank you for any advice you might give.

  17. BonnBlu-
    So sorry I haven't written sooner! We have been having internet problems. In reality, the FDA has forced all food manufacturers to give their foods a "best used by" date. Canned goods, meats included, have an almost indefinite shelf life. There have been reports of 80 year old meat being opened and being perfectly good (a loss of flavor can be expected over that many years). If you canned according to directions and the seal is still good, your meat is fine. We have canned meat, opened it 10 years later and enjoyed a wonderful meal. I wouldn't hesitate to home can meats for long term storage - especially in the ideal storage conditions you have. Can confidently! And, the Tattlers are wonderful - I highly recommend them!

  18. Thank you for advising me on the meat. I've been hesitant to can more "sale" meat than my family eats over about 2 years. But with food prices going up exponentially, we should all be canning and putting away everything our storage and pocket books allow ASAP. Your information tells me that chicken breasts are in my very near future - a LOT of chicken breasts!
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with me and your readers. YOU are a blessing to us.

  19. Excellent post. Unfortunately I have a friend, who "knows everything" about survival...

    ...who spent this past weekend berating me for refusing to pull an abcessed tooth, in squalid conditions, with dirty tools. I realize that her economic circumstances are truly dire, but taking me up on $20 worth of amoxicillin a few months ago (or taking me up on my offer to pay for her to see the dentist) would have gotten her a lot farther than assuming that, since I consider myself a "survivalist," I would be totally comfortable with extracting a badly infected tooth in primitive conditions.

    A little more thinking, a few less hours spent watching "Doomsday Preppers," would have her in a better condition today.