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How we need to prepare

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Getting beyond living hand to mouth

In the post ‘The real point of what we do‘ I have explained why we prepare for survival. Many of us will not have thought it through beyond the keeping ourselves alive bit and think that if we survive then we will settle back to where we were. As I have explained it isn’t going to be like that for any significant events. We have already identified the first stage in our preparations, keeping ourselves alive in the ‘Identify what you need to put aside series‘. Once we are happy we will be able to keep ourselves alive we need to look at preparing for the next stage; To rebuild and improve our situation so we are not living hand to mouth. We are talking about condensing thousands of years of trial and error into as short a period as possible by implementing those experiences. Only through knowledge and careful thinking are we going to do that.

To rebuild our situation so we are not living hand to mouth
We have, using the items stored previously, managed to survive. We are more than likely spending our time tending livestock and crops, deterring predators and working harder than we have ever worked before. At least at this point we won’t have a useless government taking over half of what we make. So, what do we need to do to move to the next level?

We need to reduce our workload so we have more spare time. That spare time can then be used to enhance our lives by improving our living standards, working on reducing more of the workload and improving what society we have available.

Group working
If you are lucky enough to live in a large group or a local community then you will find that with peoples skill set and the number of people you have to call on you can find the experience and time you need to maximise the best use of your resources. The larger the group the better as people can specialise and load share. I suspect that it is unlikely that we could set up such a group in the UK. Although of course in theory it could work.

How can we automate tasks or make more efficient use of our resources?
We have to consider that manpower, which is currently expensive, is going to be a cheap option at that point. It will be cheaper to have a child watching the livestock at night than spending the resources necessary to enclose the animals securely at night as we will have limited materials and will need to prioritise.

Even today many of the livestock tasks are currently labour intensive. They require constant monitoring, they break out of their fields and they get stuck in ditches. It may not be viable to automate much in the livestock area. Currently the only real area of automation here is milk production where the cows are milked by machine. Are you going to have a herd of cows? If not then you will find that with livestock your only gains will be when the number of animals is increased to an optimum level. It takes one person day to spend all day looking after one animal and one person day to look after 50 animals which is where you gain your productivity.

Unfortunately with scale it means we are looking at more expense for food, bigger fields, more service tasks on the animals and this is only justified if we are consuming the output or trading it for other resources. Maximising our productivity is usually economies of scale even now and needs to be carefully balanced between costs and benefits.

Agriculture is another labour intensive task and again scale is one of the easiest ways to increase productivity. However, it is also possible to utilise additional labour, such as horses, to help us here this would enable us to plough a dozen fields in the time it would take a group of people to plough one field. Having a tractor will enable us to do treble that amount including some fields that would be impossible to do without the sheer power behind a tractor.

Where to start?
Where though will we prioritise our time and resources? I would suggest that priority projects are as follows;

  • Produce drinkable water
  • Produce food
  • Produce power
  • Secure the water supply from disruption
  • Secure the food supply from disruption/predators
  • Weather proof the homestead
  • Automate water production
  • Automate food production

Obviously if water is not an issue you don’t bother with that and move on to food. If it later becomes one because of an issue or perhaps you have added to the community then revisit the decision. Revisit all decisions if anything changes not just on significant changes. The easiest way to identify what needs prioritisation is to identify what you are short of on your critical items and making those your top priorities. Identify what you are spending your time on and what are you spending disproportionate amount of time doing, how can those be done more efficiently? Could you build something to help you or does it have to be manual? By automating tasks you free up time for other tasks and improve your lot.

Look for projects that will free up manpower with minimal resource use. Digging a ditch to dispose of waste will be more cost effective than installing a complete sewage system and installing a water capture system with filtration will be better than carrying water from a source a mile away.

If you have several projects that will save time and effort so how will you identify which one is going to be the best for your situation?

Return on Investment
There is a business KPI (Key Performance Indicator) that we can use to prioritise our work and help us decide what to do first. That term is called ROI (Return on Investment) and gives us a figure we can use to aid in our planning. ROI simply gives us a number, a value in monetary terms that is the return on what we put in. It is a complicated calculation which takes everything into consideration so that managers and investors can work out which will be best for their particular situation. Although we will not do the calculation with money we still need to identify the systems that will give us the biggest return for our investment of labour, material and time.

There is one slight issue with this process after an event. The values we have on items in £UK no longer apply; Your time is no longer as valuable as it was in monetary terms and where before you would expend resources to save yourself some time now you are likely to spend the time to save the resources. What were consumables may now be irreplaceable and treasured items. Materials are likely to be the main limiting factor.

New ways of calculating your ROI are required for your new environment. Unfortunately, there is no equation you can simply plug in and use you have to look at each project and work it out for your situation and everyone’s situation will be different which changes the weighing when you look at them. For example you may have several teenagers in your group. They could look after goats, chickens and pigs 24/7 and help that way whilst you may not have any teenagers at all and building a mini stockade to house your chickens at night might be a more viable option despite the resource cost. Your investment and returns are different. Look for those that use the minimum of your irreplaceable resources and maximise the return on your time or the resources it produces.

There are no quick and easy solutions. Remember your objective in this case. What you are trying to do though is free up your time to spend them on more productive things. Eventually, that will lead to spare time which you can use in other ways such as educating the children, rebuilding a society, trying something new or simply some relaxation time.

Getting beyond living hand to mouth is the first step we take towards a better standard of living and is a necessary step to improving our society.

As usual, these things are best thought of now and preparations made. If you can do them now before any event your life will be easier. If not, can you purchase the materials now for later even if that later is undefined and maybe after an event? Obviously it is better working on something now when you have the chance to replace any faulty materials or correct and design flaws than in a situation when your life may depend on it.

Think about your situation. What equipment could you buy now to enable the water supply to be filtered and stored ready for human consumption. A sand filter bed? What do you need to buy for that, where can you install it? Get the parts delivered and start building it now if you can. How can I ensure the livestock gets watered even when I am busy? A solar pump? What do I buy for that, how do I install it? Get the parts delivered and installed if you can so it is in and ready. Design your retreat. Identify what you want to put in to make your life easier. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a place yet just use what you think you will be doing as a basis for your planning. Then you can plan that on paper and put aside what you need. For example; hoses and barrels are cheap now and will be a problem to create in the future.

If something happens then the items you have put aside will be of massive benefit. Even better if they are built and working. You will have less work to do in the transition and are more able to spend time on issues that you have not identified or you just couldn’t know about that change all your plans.

Suggested projects
Some ideas for productivity improvements;

  • A sand filter for water
  • Armour your vehicles. Protect tyres, fuel tanks etc.
  • Biofuel equipment
  • Build a chicken coop, bird house
  • Build a hydroponics area
  • Build a radio aerial
  • Build a raised garden
  • Build a reception area for visitors
  • Build a root cellar
  • Build a solar cooker/dryer/water steriliser
  • Build a workshop/storage area
  • Build a worm, snail or bug farm
  • Capture rabbits or other livestock for captive rearing
  • Cloches
  • Collect cutting from useful plants to move closer to home
  • Compost heap
  • Create somewhere where you can subdue and restrain prisoners
  • Dig a pond
  • Feeding trays for livestock
  • Human waste composter
  • Install a bee hive
  • Install a fish tank with edible fish
  • Install a furnace
  • Install a water turbine
  • Install a well with a solar and manual pump
  • Install a wood stove
  • Install a wood stove hot water system
  • Install a workshop with lathe, drill, miller, etc.
  • Install an automated watering system for the greenhouse areas
  • Install barrels for rainwater storage
  • Install some hidey holes around your home and garden
  • Make all weather paths on critical pathways (Remember OPSEC)
  • Mini diesel tractor with tiller
  • Netting for fruit bushes and trees
  • Plan an escape procedure from the retreat
  • Plant brambles around your property
  • Planting crops in a woodland patch
  • Prepare black out sheets for all windows and doors on your property
  • Prepare hook points for camouflage netting over your garden
  • Prepare metal covers for all windows and doors on your property
  • Put a solar pump in to move water to a holding tank or remote site
  • Put solar panels or turbines on neighbouring houses
  • Put up a clothes line
  • Remove or booby trap surveillance points on your retreat
  • Review your local area and increase security by blocking access
  • Set traps and warnings around your property for food and intruders
  • Set up a secure livestock area
  • Set up wire fencing around your homestead
  • Strengthen your homestead from invasion
  • Use a neighbour’s garage roof as a veg bed

Some big and some small. All will save you time in an event and allow you time to invest in more productive ways.

I’m going to create another spreadsheet with these in for you to think about. As I find more I will add them to the Suggested Projects Spreadsheet.

6 comments to Getting beyond living hand to mouth

  • Luddite

    You are right to raise the return on investment angle. I often see on survival websites how people have planted their gardens which they plant to live off when the SHTF.

    However, they’ve not considered the effort it takes to dig, plant, grow, fertilise, remove pests, harvest and process the food plants. Many plants will ‘consume’ more calories then they provide, and if a planted garden is all you have, then planting the likes of lettuce is a total waste of time. Some plants even use more calories to pick than they provide – for instance, mushrooms provide just 13 calories per 100g. The walk to where they grow, bending down to pick them, walking back and processing the mushrooms will consume much more than those 13 calories.

    People need to be learning to grow high-calorie vegetables, not celery and mangetout.

    Perhaps fruit is the answer? Unfortunately, when your body metabolises fruit sugar, it depletes all the cellular energy in the form of ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate) which sends signals to the brain and produces hunger. So, while fruit provides some calories, it won’t do anything for your hunger pangs, and if fruit is all you have, you’ll be feeling permanently tired.

    If times are tough, feed your plants to your livestock (you have planned for livestock, yes?) and they will turn anything from weeds and peelings to apples and insects into prime protein. For all their problems, the return on livestock is far greater than growing stuff.

  • Skean Dhude

    A mixture is always best, you want meat, fruit and veg. You also want the quickest ROI you can so you can move on to the next big thing.

    Businesses do it all the time and you continually see them fall by the wayside because they took on a project that didn’t give a return quick enough to keep them afloat. Cash flow problems. In survival terms it is like spending six months working on a plant that will keep you fed properly forever but it doesn’t produce fruit for a year after you finish. What do you live on for the 18 months. You have not planted nor kept your liverstock fed. You starve before this bounty comes along.

  • grumpy old man

    don’t take everything form calories only you body needs much
    more to fuction.
    If you just eat rabbit you will starve and die, remember you aren’t running a business you are surviving
    just a thought?

  • Skean Dhude



    Yes. Your body needs many things. Rabbit has little fat which you need to live. These can be consumed in eggs as well as pig and cow meat. Fat is necessary for live despite our governments view fat is bad.

    Initially you are surviving. Eventually you may very well be running a business.

  • Olio

    Hi guys, anyone thought about storing sprouts? (grains and seeds for sprouting).. efficient, lots of good stuff, and fast!

    • Skean Dhude

      I have looked at sprouts. I’ve got some of the kit but not much in the way of sprouting material yet. It is on my list. Need to look at it a bit more so I don’t need to buy anything to be keeping it going. At the moment I buy the grains, use them and then I have nothing. Not the self sufficiency way.

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