This guest post is By Judy S and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .
Sometimes I think we all see the future when the SHTF through slightly rose-tinted glasses… some folks almost seem to be looking forward to it. Ha, you say, not us, we’re preparing for TEOTWAWKI, we know what we’ll be facing and we will be ready. We are stocking up. We are going to be the survivors. We can make our own soap. We can grind our own grain and raise chickens and dry herbs. We have lavish stockpiles of toilet paper and toothbrushes. You should just see all our guns and ammo and sharp knives and slingshots, oh my! We’ll hunt and fish and trap tasty critters for the family table. We’ll raise our own healthy veggies. We’ll can, preserve, dehydrate, jell, salt and smoke a hearty winter food supply to fill our hungry bellies. We’ll make it! Yes, we will. It will be a walk in the park! Just look how prepared we are.
Think about this while there is still time. Brain-sucking zombies aside, are we really prepared to suddenly face a life style of two centuries ago – to turn our soft palms and pasty fingers into strong work-callused capable hands? Are we actually going to be able to provide for ourselves with no police, no fire department, no hospitals or medical care, no dentists, no electricity, no running water, no corner grocery, no gas stations? Not for a few weeks or months, but long-term. Look around you, assess your comforts, treasure your luxuries – count your blessings. For blessings they are. Blessings we will not fully appreciate until they are gone, mere memories that are the stuff of tales we’ll tell our round-eyed, vaguely disbelieving grandchildren by the toasty fire on a cold winter’s night.
Are we prepared to watch our children die from measles, chicken pox, strep throat or whooping cough? To see our elderly deteriorate because the medicines they need are no longer available? To watch a simple cut become blood poisoning and attempt to amputate our loved one’s leg in hopes of saving their life? Do we have the mental toughness to attend a woman who has labored in vain to give birth for three days and watch helplessly as she bleeds to death? Our ancestors did, you say, and we can too. We’re tough and we have skills. We’ll adapt. We have decades of increased knowledge. We have modern medicine, uh, okay, maybe not that, but we’ll never be as isolated as our great-grandparents were. Unless we ARE. Who will you trust? Who will have the skills? How can you find them or pay them? Poverty is the great leveler.
Being without power for a few hours, or even a few days, is annoying instead of deadly because we are prepared. We make it through and pat ourselves heartily on the back. Good job! It was tough, but we sailed right through it because we are prepared. Okay, that’s fine. But what about when there is no more power AT ALL. When we don’t know that there will be power in a few hours or days? What about when there is no end in sight? When all the newness of using those pretty oil lamps and candles has worn off… when filling the oil lamps, trimming the wicks and cleaning lamp chimneys has become a chore. When the noise of the generator is no longer a reassuring sound that let’s us know the fridge is still working, but instead just sounds like precious fuel being consumed at an amazingly rapid rate.
How long are we mentally and physically prepared to carry on without all the luxuries we now take for granted? A few days of washing in a basin of room temperature water is bearable, even in the heat of summer. But how long will it be before a basin bath gets old and the memory of a hot shower or a long soak in the tub with bubbles up to your chin becomes an almost painful yearning? Have you ever used lye soap – it is some harsh stuff. Those 36 bars of Ivory on the shelf will eventually be used up and Mom will be far too busy cooking and preserving and gardening and milking and tending the chickens and mending and teaching the children their ABCs to make lotions and potions.
Cooking on the grill or camp stove is fun! Yeah, for a few days. Maybe even a couple of weeks. But every day? For months, maybe years? Not so much. Aha, you say, WE have a wood stove and we have actually cooked meals on it. It was great! But how long will it be before filling that wood box, cleaning out those ashes and starting that fire becomes a chore? How long before merely providing a family with a couple of hot meals each day becomes a full-time job in a kitchen that is sweltering in the summer and has ice on the water bucket in the winter? Hmm, that takes some of the romance out of it.
That lovely garden out back is quite nice. When your stockpiled canned goods are gone can you feed your family from that produce until the next harvest? Really? What if there’s a drought or a hail storm or a big wind that rips it all out of the ground? What if the deer eat it all up? How many hours will you have to devote to do the work that will be necessary just to keep food on your table? Gardening won’t be a relaxing hobby. It will be a matter of thriving or starving. Do you have the skills and the stamina?
But I can hunt and fish, you say. Do you bring home the “bacon” every time you go into the woods or to your favorite fishin’ hole to drown a worm? Do you know when not to hunt? When it’s breeding season? When the youngsters are dependent on their mothers for survival – gotta have that next generation growing big and strong for your future larder. Do you know how to preserve those fish or that venison when pressure canning and freezing are no longer options?
Are we getting so wrapped up in the “adventure” of living off the land, being self-sufficient, going back to a simpler way of life, however your particular vision can be described, that we are ignoring the fact that there will be some very harsh realities to face? I’m afraid many of us are doing just that. It won’t be “Little House on the Prairie,” folks. No vacation camping week of “roughing it.” This will be a huge every minute, every thought, every action change even for those of us that are in the process of getting prepared for it. There will be hard, grinding, back-breaking work. There will be successes to celebrate and failures to learn from. It will be exciting and rewarding, frightening and depressing, and possibly deadly. It will be our new reality. Some of us, because of our prepping, will make it. Some of us, in spite of our prepping, will not.