Monday, September 19, 2011

Armchair Survivalist

Whenever I get an email that begins "Someday, I'm going to...." or "I read that you really should...", my eyes glaze over and I develop a twitch.  Over the course of the last couple of years, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon in the survival/preparedness movement.  More people are talking about it and fewer people are doing it.  As preparedness has become mainstream, talking heads have popped up all over the internet, on TV, in magazines and any other medium willing to capitalize on the newest multi-million dollar industry.

Every wanna be survivalist has an opinion.  They have read every book, looked at every product and developed their survival strategy.  They all have their pet project and to disagree with them is close to a mortal sin.  They wax eloquent about their plans for food storage, alternative energy, personal hygiene and practical medical protocols.  But they have never done any of it.

Changing connectors on a battery
Our homemade clothes horse
Oh, they may have a pallet of freeze dried food in the basement, a complete backup solar system, including lead acid batteries and a stockpile of band-aids, but they remain hermetically sealed in their original packaging while the batteries discharge and sulfate from lack of use.  They are for "some day".  While the internet survivalist dispenses page after page of "first hand advice", their preparations sit, untested.

Sir Knight and I speak from 15 years of active suvivalism.  We KNOW what works and what doesn't work.  We have had an Outback Flexmax 80 charge controller fail right out of the box.  We have had lightening destroy a Trace inverter and have had generators go belly-up.  We have had an M1A fail, destroyed radio headsets and almost caught our house on fire with a Petromax lantern.  We have washed laundry on the top of our wood cookstove, used a Wonder Washer and made our own laundry soap.  We have explored the simple pleasures of the James Washer, made our own clothes horse and sighted in more AR-15's than we can count.  We have learned to make candles, milk a cow, can just about everything and make our own soap.  Our children can garden, butcher a deer and make range cards.  We are not your garden variety, mainstream "preppers".  We are get your hands dirty, figure out how to do it, walk the talk kind of survivalists.

AR with green furniture
Freshly cut soap
Using the James Washer
Making candles
Finding a vein
The reality is that we are fast approaching a critical moment in the history of our great country.  Now is not the time to talk about "what we are going to do".  Now is the time to put your money where your mouth is.  Now is the time to put into action all of those grand ideas that have been floating around in your head.  Until you actually do something, you will not know what will work and what will fail.  If a component fails now, it can be easily remedied.  Not so if it is TEOTWAWKI.  You might not have "someday", but you do have right now - today.  Make the most out of this moment.  Don't become an armchair survivalist.

Use it, use it, use it.  Survivalism is a way of life. It is not something you talk about, it is something you do.


  1. Thank you for your post. We are new to prepping. We have been married 25 yrs and 5 kids, and have been through a lot. We have camped 2 full summers. May to Sept. I just hope we are not to late to get peppered.

  2. I SOOOO agree with you! Recently a post I made on one website about my food storage using 2 and 3 liter bottles was discussed on another website.
    On the other website, my technique was picked apart and many posters came up with science and videos and chemical and nutritional breakdowns saying how it COULDN'T WORK PERIOD!
    Uhmmm...being doing it for 15 years and it has worked just fine!
    I checked out past postings from some of those individuals and I found most of them were *saving up* to do their food storage "right". In the meantime without, I guess.
    They have all the answers, know what the "experts" say, yet they have no food storage.
    I'd rather have what I have now, stored cheaply and rotated regularly, than be sitting around waiting for the "right time to buy".
    Good post, lady!

  3. When I was in my recent marriage is when I seriously began to prep. My grandfather went through the Great Depression as a child and was wounded in France in WWII. These things had a lasting impact on him. Growing up, I noticed how he always had reserves for everything in his basement. You name it, he had it. I began to learn from that around Y2K. Then I lapsed in my preparations until 2008, just before the election of an unqualified and hostile presedential candidate. In earnest, I resumed my preparations, going way beyond those I prepped for years ago. For 2 years I stockpiled and learned what I could to survive in a suburban environment. Then, boom, I lose everything in a divorce. Everything. I'm so broke from that horrible ordeal, if TSHTF today, I'm probably a statistic.

    Jeff from Mississippi

  4. Buying a single shot 22LR rifle and 200 rounds gave me more satisfaction than every firearm related forum and blog I'd ever read.

    p.s. Jeff. I hope you spent a lot of time getting your skills up, too. Nobody can take those from you!

  5. And this is why I follow your blog. When you say something works, I know it works and I can get it done. You have helped my husband and I push our preps to a much greater level. Thank you for what you do.

  6. Amen and amen!
    Lists are great, but, Get busy and Get 'R done!


  7. "Use it, use it, use it."


    It took me a few loads through my new All American canner before I felt confident in what I was doing. Just picked up some Tattler lids to try next.

    I have owned and used a generator since 1986 (yes right after Gloria had us without power for 5 days when we lived in CT). Recently when I purchased a used Honda ES6500 (amazingly well built) to have a backup generator, and installed the power changeover panel we bought for Y2K (yes a _bit_ behind getting that done) we discovered that the Honda while great would not make out computer UPS happy. Working that out now, but if we had only discovered that in an emergency it would have been a much larger problem.

    I could go on and on, but you are so right that preps must be used and not just stockpiled.

  8. This summer the Lord has been working on my "perfection paralysis" by saying "It doesn't have to be perfect, it JUST HAS TO BE DONE!"

    Gardening, prepping, housekeeping, yardwork, whatever.

    Also, from a recent survivalblog post...having anything is better than having nothing.

  9. To Lamb: I hear you when you describe how folks have been critical of how you have stored your stuff BUT THEY have yet to put something away.

    I have gotten criticism about canning stew with grocery store meat instead of using ORGANIC free range meat. The critical person has never canned ANYTHING and has not even acquired a jar, canner, lids, rings, recipes, or toothpaste, laundry soap or extra toilet paper!

    Are we perfect at our house? NO! But we are doing our best with the funding available. I'd rather have 100 quarts of stew made with grocery store beef than only 10 quarts made with organic beef.

    There was a write up in our newspaper last year that caught my attention. A local nurse flew to Haiti to provide aid to the hurting and injured. She said people just loved to be in the tent "hospital" because they received FOOD! She said that the children in the community would get so hungry that the adults would grind up rocks to feed to them so they would have something in their stomach.

    So when a friend is critical of what we have stored, or when we ourselves question whether or not we will actually like that particular variety of bean we have bucketed, we say,"Well, at least it is not ground rocks!"

    I am sensing that the time to gather is short. I've had 4 powerful, warning/instructional dreams that confirm this to me. I believe that God is speaking...anyone listening? Yes, folks ARE listening.

    Peace to all of Enola's readers!

  10. You are absolutely correct! You also motivate me so much to do more. I have had emails from people reading my blog telling me to save and not to eat from my food stores and that I need to be stockpiling more household goods instead of making my own. They just don't get that prepping involves using and rotating your stores as well as being self-sufficient. I have a long ways to go, but every day I get a little closer! Thanks!

  11. I'm probably not technically a "prepper". I keep emergency supplies(and junk) around, but most of my experience would be what I call The Institute Of Advanced MacGyverism. A problem presents itself,and I look around to see what I have that will fix the problem(part of this came from my previous two jobs-rental maintenance..the supervisor wanted to cut so many corners the buildings should have been cylindrical,and part of it came from just not having much in the way of cash).
    First things first-I'm saving up enough to get outta town,and just outright buy some property(in a place with minimal rules and government interference-such things can't be completely avoided,but you can keep it down to a dull roar).
    In all honesty, I just want to live where I can experiment with the things I want to try.
    No doubt it doesn't hurt to read things by doers,and if at all possible, talk to them..

  12. Well said. My wife and I are relatively new to the idea of prepping/survivalism. As such, we tend to keep our mouths shut because we know that we don't know. When people find out we're of this mentality, we get a lot of unsolicited advice. Quick acid test as to whether I trust it: how tan are these people? How scarred up are their hands? If you haven't been working you aren't ready.

    Unfortunately, you're right: most people equate preparedness with purchases. Buy the right things and voila you're prepared. Ja. And buying a box full of wrenches makes me a mechanic and buying a nice watch makes me sophisticated and debonair.

  13. you are right enola- very few people are really putting their newly learned survival skills in action...i guess they think this big voice from the sky is just gonna make a surprise announcement one day that the doo doo has hit the fan and the end of the world as we know it is upon us. they have tools, seed, water storage, canned goods stacked up the wazoo but they have absolutely no practical experience in actually doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and how it needs to be done. reading the directions is the easy part. living the survivalist life successfully is the part they just dont get. al said it all-look at their hands and you will be able to tell who knows and who doesnt. around here being a redneck is not a bad thing..means you have real knowledge, little bit of wisdom, and a lot of determination. from northeast parts of mississippi.

  14. You're so right Enola (by the way, I received your book and love it!). I did just want to say that even though many of us are nowhere near where you are, we are serious and getting there. I admit that I haven't made my own soap yet, but have come a long way in canning, gardening and shooting. I have chickens again, even though I had them in the past before I was a prepper and had bees back then too. I have improved my sewing and quilting skills, have been teaching myself to knit and learned to make goat milk cheese. My herbs are coming along as well as my orchard. We are not off-grid yet but are working in that direction. We had cows in the past and are looking to again, come to think of it, maybe we were preppers in disguise, LOL! I read recently, maybe here, maybe elsewhere that God doesn't call the prepared, he prepares the called, I feel that way many days. Thanks, God bless you, your family and your readers!!
    MaryB in GA

  15. Ahh..Enola...your point is important but the disdain with which you made it is disturbing. Lots of people need to think through and talk through a thing before they can take action. It could be that is just "where they are" when they want to talk to you about something. Maybe they want to "pick your mind" before they start off on their project. There is no requirement for everyone to live without electricity while it is still available. There is no requirement for everyone to light with candles right now...etc., etc.
    Please remember that you are a public example to many of us. We come here every day to see if you have published something helpful or inspirational to encourage us. We NEED you to be our light on a hill and practice forebearance and love in these posts.
    Bless you. Your North Idaho Neighbor

  16. We practice survival cooking most every day. Here is what we are cooking tonight - salmon soup/chowder

    This may sound weird but it is good enough that Bev (my dear wife for the last 56 years) demands it once per week. And it’s all made with canned or dehydrated stuff from my pantry. It can be made in your regular kitchen or a propane camp stove or on a wood fired cook stove. All the preparation is done in “one pot”. None of the ingredients require refrigeration. The first time we made it was during a multi-day power outage following a big snow storm.

    Super market stuff:
    1 can pink salmon
    1 can evaporated milk or the equivalent amount of powdered milk plus water.
    Potato flakes or instant mashed potato as required.
    Buttery spread (I use Smart Balance which I don’t refrigerate)
    Minced or crushed or powdered garlic to taste

    Home or store bought dehydrated stuff:
    Diced potatoes
    Chopped onion
    Green & red diced bell peppers
    Carrot slices
    Sweet corn
    Spinach flakes
    Mashed potato flakes

    Other stuff (condiments) to taste:
    Italian seasoning
    Salt (I use potassium chloride or a 50/50 mix of NaCl & KCl)
    Black pepper
    Fresh chopped parsley from your herb garden
    Grated cheese of your choice (sometimes I use grated cheese made from my home pressure canned jack or cheddar cheese)

    Rehydrate veggies (in your double boiler to hasten the process and so you don’t have to constantly stir things to keep them from burning) with water enough of each dehydrated item to make about 1/3 cup each. Simmer until they are done (my celery takes the longest to rehydrate).
    Mix in evaporated milk.
    Add salmon including juice, bones, and skin – they are quite edible and good for you. Break it up to get the chunk size you desire.
    Add 2 tablespoons of buttery spread or olive oil or regular cooking oil.
    Stir occasionally if you feel that will make it “cook” faster.
    Add potato flakes as required to get the thickness of soup you desire.
    Taste and then add condiments to suit your taste.

    Serve with parsley and grated cheese on top of the soup.

    Hangtown Frank (aka Sauerkraut)

  17. I've been purchasing more tools and doing more and more myself. I basically rebuilt a Springfield M1A rifle recently and now Im considering my first AR-15 build (all legal of course)
    Enola, if you dont mind me asking. How did that M1A fail, and can it be repaired?

    Best advice I can give anyone, get the right tools and repair manuals for the job at hand, whatever that may be.
    That will increase your chances of success and survival.

  18. CaptainCrunch;
    Please email me and Sir Knight and I will fill you in on the problems we have experienced. As far as we know, the M1A is an outstanding weapon, and not prone to failure. Ours was an anomaly. Sir Knight has also built many AR's (both the AR-15 and the AR-10) and I'm sure has some tricks to share.

  19. Prep the best you can, and learn to use it all. Great advice.
    Hangtown Frank, is that Hangtown as in Placerville? I grew up there.

  20. Hello Paintedmouse
    Yep, Placerville, CA 95667
    Been on our 15 acres since 1961
    Hangtown Frank

  21. I'm new to your blog. What is the significance of drawing blood; the photo finding a vein?

  22. Elizabeth;
    It was just an example of practicing your preparedness skills. Our oldest daughter just returned from the Philippines where she practiced as a midwife in a filipino clinic. It was she that was finding a vein on her dad to practice starting IV's. She is our go to person for medical issues. She is an EMT, Midwife and will be taking an advanced EMT course this fall. She was just keeping her skills fresh.
    It is nice to meet you.

  23. I began preparing back in 1979 and made a number of typical stupid mistakes in the beginning. I was a student and limited by a lack of finances at a time when there was little information about how to prepare and how to put it into practice. I was living in the city, but I dreamed about living out in the country off the grid.

    I suspect the biggest mistake I made was to buy a quantity of long-storage food and do just that with it. Store it for a long time. Here I was with a closet full of beans and wheat (freeze-dried food hadn't come on the market at that point) and I felt prepared. Fortunately, nothing bad happened because if it had, I wouldn't have known the first thing to do with all that food.

    Thirty years later that entire hoard of survival food was donated to the soup kitchen when I retired and moved to the suburbs. Once I got situated in my new digs, I began the reconstitution of my survival food with the objective to learn how to incorporate my preps into my daily life. Now, 10 years after retiring, I've learned how to make bread, prepare beans in several ways,and I even have a good size garden. Although I'm not off the grid, I have the means to get by if the grid fails - which I did during hurricane Irene.

    No one should feel guilty for not living off the grid (as ideal as that would be)if their circumstances don't permit it, but not to be prepared for the loss of it or especially not to have used your preps and to have incorporated them into your lifestyle is a big mistake.
    The Sacristan

  24. Well, I've read both posts and I think your message and your tone was just fine. We are new to prepping, but we've moved off grid (almost--I've got freezers on grid) and we are trying to implement new skills every day. I'm looking forward to gardening this fall and winter (warm climate), canning meat (which I've been warned against) and I may even try my hand at making soap. I've stocked up on all kinds of soap, though. Anyway, I enjoy your postings and I think you were spot on with your assessment of some preppers today. Prepping should be 99% skills and 1% stuff. In my humble opinion. Blessings to you and your family.

  25. Hi Enola,
    I love your blog! We are a family of 6 storing up for 14 in anticipation of helping out some extended family members when the time comes. For now we are concentrating on food and water, but hope to start working on some alt energy soon. (Propane tanks and gererater this year, then hopefully start on solar next year.) I was wondering if you have tried the solar desalinator from ecogreenenergies that you provide a link for, and if so, are you satisfied with how it works? Thanks for shating your experience!