Monday, January 13, 2014

The Preparedness Arsenal - Ingenuity

"Now is no time to think of what you do not have.  Think of what you can do with what there is."
Ernest Hemingway

Not to long ago, Master Hand Grenade pulled on his coveralls, pulled the four-wheeler out of the shed and began the process of attaching the snow plow.  Our snow plow is really pretty easy to install, requiring nothing more than sliding it into position and inserting a couple of self locking pins.  Sounds simple, huh.  Well - it is, if you can find the pins, that is.  In our defense, we put the pins in the plow every spring when we dismantle it for the summer and put the snow plow in an out-of-the-way location in the shed.  It would stand to reason that the pins would still be in place in the fall when the plow is again called into service.  Not so.  It seems that over the summer, when the snow plow had been on vacation, it had played host to a tea party, it had been a hiding spot and a lookout tower and provided cover as a fort and in the course of performing these additional duties, the pins had magically disappeared, never to be seen again.

Not realizing the pins were missing, Master Hand Grenade attempted to attach the plow, while holding the entire weight of the plow with one hand and fumbling for the pins with the other.  After numerous attempts to locate the pins with his free hand and failing, he set the plow down, grabbed a flashlight and tracked down the problem.  Within minutes, he came back in the house and said "Mom, the pins are gone, I'm heading out to figure out how I'm going to attach the plow", and out the door he went.  It was snowing rather vigorously (of course)  and I was interested to see what solution presented itself to him.  I heard the container door open and close a couple of times, as Hand Grenade stomped back and forth through the snow and pretty soon, I heard the four-wheeler start and saw Hand Grenade take the first pass down the driveway plowing snow as he went.

When he finished and had the four-wheeled tucked back into the shed, Master Hand Grenade brushed the snow off his boots and came into the shouse to warm his hands by the fire.  I asked him how he had managed with the plow and he said he had picked through the nut and bolt supply in the container, come up with some hardware that was the correct size and bolted the plow into place.  He said he put some service-removeable lock-tight onto the bolts so that the nuts wouldn't work their way off while he plowed and that it should get us through winter just fine.  He was right.  He had effectively turned what could have been a pseudo-emergency into a non-issue with just a little bit of ingenuity.  He made do with what he had.

We live in a time when we don't really have to be creative or ingenious.  We just buy what we need.  And that has been to our detriment.  We no longer think outside the box.  We don't come up with viable solutions to complex mechanical problems simply because we don't have to.  We have lost the ability to either "make-do" or find a way to "make it work".  And that, my friends, will be one our biggest survival obstacles.

Fourteen years of off-grid living has been a wonderful teacher - not a teacher I have always embraced or enjoyed - but a school-master nonetheless.  After more than 8 months of hauling water and doing laundry in a huge galvanized tub on the wood cookstove, it occurred to us that we could hook our washing machine up to a garden hose and the generator and - Oh Joy - machine washed clothes!  I had been waiting for hot running water and regular plumbing and power, but when we thought outside the box, we were blessed with a clean clothes in a fraction of the time.  When cold weather set in and we had no way to keep the pipes from freezing, we learned to fill the Dietz lantern, light it and place it near the toilet - by the pipes - to keep them thawed.  When we needed a dry, cozy spot to milk the cow, we crafted a "milking parlor" out of pallets in a protected corner of the shed and miked in warmth and comfort when the winter storms blew their fiercest.

Although I have murmured under my breath more than once about our trying circumstances, I am more than a little grateful for the education they have afforded our family.  We have been schooled, just as our forefathers, in the ways of necessity.  We have learned that "Now is no time to think of what you do not have.  Think of what you can do with what there is".

As you stock your Preparedness Arsenal with food and tool and weapons, don't forget one of the most important items of all - Ingenuity.


  1. Call it what you want ingenuity, thinking on your feet, or shadetree engineering, this is definitely one of the most important abilities to develop and have. My friends are always amazed when we are doing something and it doesn't go exactly as planned and I'm able to come up with a way to make it happen anyway. I'm always amazed that I'm the only one of us that can do this.

  2. Plywood. That ubiquitous home building supply item that can fix so many things. I bought a few extra sheets of plywood and screwed them into the wall of my shed under the eaves. They just sit there protected from weather, up off the ground ready and easy to access and they even have the screws I will probably need when I use them already attached. If the wind or falling branches breaks a window or any other disaster strikes I have one of the most useful repair items already handy. I got them on a sale and they actually cost less then a couple of 2x4's. By the way I also have a dozen 2x4's behind the shed as well.

  3. It's what we used to call The Institute of Advanced MacGyverism..salvaging things is important, too-or he likely wouldn't have had that box of bolts to pick through.

  4. Kudos to Master Hand Grenade from a proud Luddite. I often remind myself of the words of James Rawles, 'Skills Beat Gadgets and Practicality Beats Style.'
    Montana Guy

  5. Wonderful article. I'd also like to add being mentally prepared. For all the "gear" and supplies we store, Hurricane Sandy was a true eye-opener in terms of how ill-prepared, mentally, we were to deal with our new circumstances. And honestly, compared to some, we didn't even have it that bad.

  6. Thought you might like this, if you haven't seen it... Josie the outlaw has other youtubes that go right along with your philosophy. Enjoy your posts~