The Internet is a wonderful thing.  Or a terrible thing.  Depending on the user, and the day, and the attitude of the user at any given moment of any given day.

Personally, I couldn’t see what the Big Deal was back when my husband started making noise about getting a computer.  My entire computer experience up to that point had to do with playing solitaire without shuffling, finding Carmen San Diego, and doing general office stuff on an internal network.

For the first few months after the newly refurbished computer came to reside at our house, I dusted it and looked on with bemusement as hubby hunted and pecked his way across the ‘net.  It was cute.

Then one day, he said “You know honey, we can get email now… wanna set up an email account?”

My horizons grew, and I began to spend time on the computer keeping in touch with people I used to have to actually TALK to on the phone.

I can’t remember the exact moment I discovered Google, but I do know it was life changing and historic, mainly for my husband, who hasn’t seen his computer since.

Before you feel TOO sorry for him,

a)     He introduced me to the computer in the first place.  If he had just continued his hunt/peck web surfing, my house would be clean, the yard would be tidy, and this pile of laundry wouldn’t be threatening to avalanche down on us—even I can only play so much solitaire, and after a while you cease to be concerned about Carmen San Diego—she’s a big girl, where she goes is really none of OUR business, and

b)     I did take pity on him and purchase him a shiny new laptop computer one Christmas along with a wireless router.  While I am sadly tied to one spot (at my desk in the comfiest room of the house, but STILL….) he can roam at will throughout our domicile and if he REALLY wanted to, could even surf the ‘net from the Throne Room, if you get what I mean…

Along with learning the ropes of ‘net surfing and the finer points of computer ownership and use (don’t be deceived, I still can’t tell a megazilch from a gigahurtz), I found I needed to learn a whole ‘nuther language – Computer Acronym.

In the beginning it was confusing (is DH Dear Husband or Dancing Hamster?), and it seemed I was always waiting for others to BRB—from what I could gather, they were picking up their A’s from the F after L-ing them O.

With the general trend, downturn, spiral, tanking, apocalyptic cataclysm  (the adjective will change according to the reporter) of the economy, more and more the acronyms WTSHTF and TEOTWAWKI are making their way out of the realms of the Furtively Glancing Tinfoil Hat Wearing in an Undisclosed Location (or FGTHWIAUL’s) crowd and into the general Mom and Pop Just Trying to Do the Best We Can With What We Have (a.k.a.  MAPJTTDTBWCWWWH’s) ‘net where I hang out.  WTSHTF and TEOTWAWKI are usually accompanied by flashy advertisements for all that leftover Y2K stuff that (thankfully) was produced to never go bad.

So what to do about this universal Call to Prep?   How much is hype, how much is true, how much is fanned by those REALLY needing to empty their warehouses of all the stockpiled cases of MRE’s, and what is your gut feeling reaction to the happy knowledge that we won’t have an answer till the reality is full upon us?

In general, Homesteaders are a thrifty lot.

We’ve learned to use, re-use, re-tool, re-work, re-pair and re-do every single item till it’s gasping for breath and begs to just be re-cycled and be done already.

We don’t pinch pennies, we suck them completely dry.

We’ve been saving for rainy days since we heard the story of The Flood in the church nursery, and are such experts that Noah could’ve done well to consult us while packing.

So the sudden Mainstream News about Living Green, Being Frugal, Self Sufficiency and Sustainability is not really News to us at all—it’s our lifestyle.

Some of us who were around (and out of diapers) in the ‘70’s remember similar calls to action back then.  We remember the lines at the gas stations.  We remember thinking “This will be good for us – life will get simpler, more ecologically friendly – surely America will see Its slothful greedy ways and turn from them, embracing Mother Nature and we’ll float off into the sunset hand in hand in hand (insert “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” music here) with all our Brothers and Sisters.   Please pass the brownies.

What really happened is that the above didn’t.

This is not the place to point fingers and get all worked up about WHY it didn’t.

We need to figure out what we are going to do about it NOW.

Not in a big ol’ Global way, although that’s important to care about, too.

But in a “needing to care about and take care of those people you love who are right in this room with you” way.

Where you personally are in this scenario is important and going to sway your thinking.

The following tips are certainly not geared towards those who’ve been “putting away and putting up” for years, and have carefully stored and cataloged supplies, plus the knowledge to go on once those supplies are depleted.   I hold all ya’ll in the highest regard, and could no more write about what you’ve done and are doing than I could write a builder’s manual for a space station.

No, this is for the rest of us—those who’s age, circumstances and/or scope of enlightenment have left us reading the current news, looking around and feeling decidedly nervous and unprepared.

This is also not going to touch on the pros and cons of a personal arsenal.   Gun usage and ownership are intensely personal decisions and must be dealt with on an individual basis.   Although it can be argued that a firearm, or three, are handy and necessary tools around the homestead in general, I know plenty of homesteaders who do not, and will not, have a firearm on their property.

WTSHTF and It’s TEOTWAWKI Step One:  Remain calm.

WTSHTF and It’s TEOTWAWKI Step Two:  Look at your current situation.   If you were to become ill, say with a particularly nasty virus that kept you within yarking distance of your commode, would your family be out of breakfast food and laundry soap after 3 days?   Start there.   Do not let your pantry get down to dust bunnies and that last can of Vienna sausages.   Begin with a week’s worth of easily prepared, shelf stable (or frozen) food in the house at all times.

WTSHTF and It’s TEOTWAWKI Step Three: Pretend you are going camping for the weekend.   Gather your items needed, right down to bug spray and matches (in a Ziploc baggie).   Check the batteries in the flashlight, toss in some spares and Ziploc up 3 days worth of non-perishable, ready to eat foodstuffs and a can opener.   Don’t forget dish soap and a roll of TP.   Get one of those little wind-up radios.   Toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, deodorant.   Plastic trash bags, a small hatchet, pocketknife and coil of rope.   Now roll up a seasonally appropriate change of clothing for each family member into a large ziplock and stuff it all into a duffle bag (everything will fit—I promise you).   Tuck as much money as you can spare (I’ve had as little as $20 and as much as $100) into one of the zipper pockets and stash the duffel in the trunk of your car along with a case of water and a few blankets if climate dictates.

Repeat for each vehicle in the family.

Congratulations… you’ve just assembled your BOB’s.

(And you thought this was gonna be hard)

The items packed should be tweaked according to your family, and certainly, there are LOTS of other cool things that can be added, but the above items should be able to be had for under $100 per bag (not including the cash, silly), and those are the very basic basics.

WTSHTF and It’s TEOTWAWKI Step Four: Every time you go to the grocery store, buy a little extra of things your family will eat (no point in having 50 cans of fruit cocktail if everyone hates fruit cocktail).  Staples like coffee, flour, baking mix, sugar, cocoa, coffee, rice, beans, oatmeal, coffee, plain pasta, salt, pepper, vanilla, coffee, can add up very quickly and stored properly, will store indefinitely.   Don’t forget paper products and cleaning products – and if you are space-challenged like most of us are, remember that things like dish detergent can be used for washing ANYTHING – laundry, children, pets.   Likewise, items like honey and maple syrup can be used for sweeteners in lieu of sugar.

When you buy over-the-counter medications, check the date and if they are “long-dated” (over 3 years out), pick up an extra.   Make sure you have lots of first aid stuff.

WTSHTF and It’s TEOTWAWKI Step Five: Learn to grow stuff.

Every little bit helps, and in fact makes meals healthier for both body and soul if there’s even a bite in there that came out of YOUR garden, YOUR chickens, YOUR goats.   Get a canner and learn how to use it.    If you are garden-challenged like I am, proceed to

WTSHTF and It’s TEOTWAWKI Step Six: Learn to wildcraft.   Get books and go to classes that teach you what weeds are edible – you’ll be amazed by the variety out there in even the lowliest urban vacant lot (just be sure it hasn’t been poisoned and even then wash it REALLY well…….  ewwwww).

WTSHTF and It’s TEOTWAWKI Step Seven: Think beyond the Grid.

Your family is not doomed just because your bank account does not contain $10,000 for an off-grid power supply.   Again – think “camping.”   Imagine the electric is turned off for a week – how ELSE can you heat, cool, draw water, cook, do laundry, see in the dark?   Low-tech Rocks.   Have at least a few oil lanterns and spare oil and wicks.   Make sure you have wood put up for cooking/heating (if you don’t have a woodstove – even a little one, make that a priority – if you live where you CAN’T have a woodstove, have a grill – even a little hibachi one, and a good supply of charcoal).   Where do you get your water?   Where COULD you get your water?   What would you need to do to make it potable?   A gallon of bleach (unscented) goes a long, long way.   Get a washboard, washtub and wringer.   When your friends comment on the new Folksy decorating touches in your house, just smile and change the subject.

Here’s where SMALL livestock comes in very handy.   If I don’t have a refrigerator/freezer or a small army to feed, I don’t need a steer or pig.   I need chickens and goats beCAUSE chickens and goats will keep my eggs, milk and meat fresh for me till I can use them in handy serving sizes.

WTSHTF and It’s TEOTWAWKI Step Eight:

Never stop learning.

It matters not if you have 5 years’ worth of food stocked up, if your SHTF for 6 years, you will still be SOL.   Once your sugar is gone, what is out there that you can learn to grow/gather that will REPLACE sugar?   And so on and so on.

And maybe nothing bad WILL happen.

Maybe our economy will turn around overnight due to the sudden overwhelming influx of money from the many new jobs created by the New Green Sustainable World, and we’ll all float off into the sunset holding hands with our Brothers and Sisters, singing songs and eating brownies.   That would be swell.

But here’s the thing.

There doesn’t HAVE to be a large noisy messy Event.

Because the truth of the matter is that every minute of every day in every neighborhood in every city EVERYWHERE, the S is HTF for someone, somewhere.   And it signals TEOTWA(they)KI.

A father is laid off.   A wife is diagnosed with a medical condition.   A child is in an accident.   There’s drought, flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, ice, heat, SOMETHING that takes everything a family has worked so hard for and makes it……gone.

The funny thing about fear is that it either renders a body paralyzed, or makes it capable of vaulting through fire and into bravery.

If a family is faced with loss and has never considered loss before, it’s easily paralyzed.

But if that same family has considered loss (calmly), and made a conscious effort to gain the knowledge to feed itself, care for itself, and go on from wherever fate lands it, even if the larder is NOT stocked for years, that knowledge will be invaluable.

Knowledge is power.

Power is liberating.

Liberty is sweet.

In the movie Ice Age, the mammoth, the sloth and the tiger are trying to get food for the human baby they are caring for.   They come across a HUGE flock of dodo birds who seem irrationally protective of a few watermelons.   The conversation goes generally like this:

Dodo: “This is our private stockpile for the Ice Age.   Sub-arctic temperatures will force us underground for a billion billion years.”

Mammoth: “So you got three melons?”

Dodo: “If YOU weren’t smart enough to plan ahead, then DOOM ON YOU.”

It’s good for a great belly laugh, cuz obviously, three melons were not going to sustain a whole flock of birds for a billion billion years.

Or would they?

What if the dodos had PLANTED those watermelon seeds in their underground caverns warmed and lit by the volcano and watered by snow?

And clearly, the mammoth, the sloth and the tiger had no place mocking the dodos; since three melons were exactly three more melons then THEY had come up with.

I really think the dodos would have come out alright if their last female hadn’t launched herself off that cliff……

My 8-year-old son is concerned about 2012.  The End of the World (literally the End of the Age) in the Mayan calendar.

I’ve gotta admit that it creeped me out more than a little bit too.

Until it occurred to me.

Why can’t the New Age be ultimately a Better Age?

Without a doubt, the end of the Oil Age will be a bad thing for a lot of people and a lot of our society’s infrastructure.   But aren’t we as homesteaders already ON that path to the New Age?

Think out of the box.

Do what you can, as you can do it.

Love your family.   Enjoy life.

Remain calm.

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