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Although we have been practicing preparedness for several years now with an eye towards becoming more resilient in our every day lives overall, 2013 has proven to be a quite an interesting year around the homestead. Even though we have long been the outdoor types that enjoy all that this old world has to offer, when the year started one of our new year’s resolutions was to spend even more time outside. We quickly decided to take that notion one step further figuring that if we were going to outside more anyway, we may as well spend that time in various productive pursuits. The following are a few of the projects we’ve upgraded or completed over the last twelve months.
Growing Our Own Food
Full disclosure, we started our vegetable garden back in the spring of 2011, but if you know anything about gardening at all you understand that you never have the same garden from year to year whether you’re responsible for changing anything or not. Climate, pests, the size of your garden, what you choose to grow, your garden’s soil and any number of other things can and most likely will impact your gardening experience from year to year. With that said, we chose to expand the size of our backyard garden plot by making it about eight feet wider and six foot deeper with the final size measuring 28 feet x 24 feet. In addition to growing in size, we also decided to try several new crops this year including both red and sweet potatoes as well as experimenting with raised garden beds and container gardening for the first time. We also really ramped up our understanding and development of the composting process and have seen some decent results. Overall, our three years have been very successful and we are learning more each time we break the ground.
Rain Water Catchment System
Living in Georgia, we are no strangers to long hot summers and varying levels of drought. So, once we had the garden in place we decided to build our own rain water catchment system to employ as our main source of irrigation. I found a good deal on a couple of 250 gallon food grade containers with ball valves and after a quick visit to our local big box home improvement store, we had rigged up a very efficient and effective method to capture and hold up to 500 gallons of fresh rain water. My wife Alice built a gravity fed watering system that runs from the holding containers to the vegetable plot and we use that system daily to water the garden. This set up also adds resilience to our household in that it can serve as a source of fresh water for drinking, cooking and hygiene should the need ever arise.
Once we saw how much success we were having growing our own food (more than the two of us can eat in most cases), we decided to add to that by turning some of our previously unused space beyond the original fence line into a mini-orchard of fruit trees. We invested the labor and sweat equity ourselves, felling trees and clearing brush, and cleared a space measuring 66 feet by 25 feet. We now have six fruit trees, three apple and three peach in dwarf varieties and we hope to add a cherry tree or two this year if possible. Another happy byproduct of our efforts was a large supply of wood that we cut up into workable pieces that was divided into firewood and lumber that we are going to use to build a Cold Frame to protect our small plants like a mini-greenhouse, as well as more raised garden beds.
More Fruity Goodness
Around this time, we had a friend offer us several small blueberry bushes that they had harvested from their older plants. Seeing no reason to not continue to maximize our space by planting delicious eats, we moved back inside what was the back fence line and planted a long row of blueberry bushes from one side of the yard to the other. They all seem to be doing rather well and we look forward to seeing if they really “jump” this spring.
As I mentioned before, we have been very successful with our vegetable garden since we started it three years ago. The very happy result of that success has been an abundance of fresh produce, so we decided to meet this scrumptious challenge and get up to speed on all the various ways to preserve our harvests through canning and pickling. We have learned a lot, gotten a good handle the basics and are trying new things all the time. Our various pepper jellies have even become the stuff of local legend and rather high demand around these parts. :o) We also have plans to build a solar dehydrator in the next month or so to begin drying more of our garden goodies.
About the time we were finishing up the orchard project, we finally made up our minds that the time was right to get ourselves some chickens and crank up the egg production. We settled on five hens…a White Rock, two Easter Eggers, a Rhode Island Red and a Golden Buff.
Now if we were going to do this thing, we certainly weren’t going to be boring about it. We had been thinking about making this move for some time and had given it a lot of thought, so we had a really vivid image of what we wanted the coop to look like. This would be no run of the mill coop with some basic unstained lumber and a little chicken wire. We intended to build a really strong and attractive coop that would look more like a backyard play set or clubhouse than a chicken coop. Once we got our hens and we began to see their personalities develop and get an idea of what they might look like as they grew older, we decided to name them. We’re huge music fans, the Blues in particular, and that proved to be our inspiration when it came time to name our ladies. That process shook out as follows…Meg, the White Rock, because…Meg White…I mean, come on; Aretha (Franklin) and Koko (Taylor) are the two Easter Eggers; Bonnie, the Rhode Island Red, in honor of Bonnie Raitt; and Pink, the Golden Buff, after her namesake’s brilliantly bleached golden-white locks.
The next evolution of ideas in this process led us back to the coop. If it was going to house such a group of rock stars, it would have to be fitting of such guests both in appearance and style. So, we proceeded to build what we have come to affectionately call The Rock and Roll Hen Palace. It comes complete with designer window shutters, a gravity fed nipple watering system, a drawstring controlled door to the hutch and even a dance floor!
We believe that happy chickens are healthier, lay more often and produce very tasty eggs. Our ladies are free range, we let them out of the coop every morning and close them in every night once they go to roost, and they get only the best when it comes to feed. Even though we named our hens after rock stars, they are actually living up to the title and have been fantastic egg producers for us. We have come to REALLY enjoy and care about our ladies and we cannot see a future in which we do not have chickens and fresh eggs on the counter.
Another challenge I have long considered taking up that finally made its way off my board and onto the grind stone this year is making my own bread. “Hello. My name is Mr. Powers and I’m a carb-o-holic.” They say admitting you have a problem is the first step, you know. Well, I have no intentions of giving up this addiction. This summer I jumped into bread making with a no-knead option that turned out extremely well and I’m just getting started. I am really looking forward to trying all sorts of new breads going forward.
So, there you have it. This past year has proven to be extremely productive for us and we’ve certainly gotten a lot accomplished, learned a ton and have had a blast along the way. The best part is that everything we have done was not done just for the sake of doing. Relentlessly practical in their own right…food, water, fitness (both physical and mental), skill building…each project we improved on or completed in 2013 was based in our desire to become more resilient in all facets of our daily lives. We are aggressively turning the land we have from some thing that we just make payments on and trim up to keep the neighbors happy into a living, breathing asset that is working for us, 24 hours a day to help provide for our most essential needs. What’s more, the positive psychological impacts of our efforts are immeasurable. The entire process has been extremely rewarding for us both and we look forward to bigger and better things going forward. We believe that we have developed a solid foundation in our resilience infrastructure that will serve us very well in the future, even as it continues to grow and expand with each new challenge we decide to accept.
You’ve probably heard of a Bug Out Bag (BOB) or a Get Out Of Dodge (GOOD) bag that can be used as a grab and go kit in case you have to leave an area during an emergency situation. At Practical Tactical, we urge our clients to build what we call a BOLT (Basic Operations for a Limited Time) Kit. This mobile kit based on the basic tenets of preparedness: shelter, water, food, fire, comms/defense and psychological…and is geared towards executing your plan that was developed based on the threats in your area and your individual circumstances and will allow you to maintain your Basic Operations for a Limited Time as you BOLT to your next location that will hopefully be your safe haven from the immediate threat.
Now, what makes our BOLT Kit any different from every other Bug Out or GOOD Bag out there? A focused philosophy, that’s what. Often when people talk about emergency bags (regardless of what you call them) the idea starts out the same…put together a bag of essential items like food and water in case you have to leave in a hurry because of an emergency that will help you survive the event…simple, right? But from there, things tend to spin out and become ever more nebulous. Inevitably you end with Jack the Survivor strapping a pack to his back that contains everything from his favorite comic books to ammo for his Barrett 50 cal. which by the way, he has lovingly cradled in his arms as he treks into the wilderness to live off the land for the duration of the apocalypse, and if you don’t do that too you’re doomed to fail miserably and die immediately or be swallowed up by the very mindless hordes you were trying to escape in the first place.
Whew! Just thinking about that was exhausting.
The point is this. With so many variables involved in any possible future evacuation scenario, it is very easy to quickly become overwhelmed and intimidated simply by the thought of it all. Nobody wants to leave their home, but the SHTF every day for someone and you never know when you might be the one standing in front of the fan. So why not face reality and prepare yourself as best you can to be able to meet the challenge should it ever come knocking at your door at 4 am on some random Tuesday night by taking a focused approach to the task at hand, and that’s getting you and your family out of harms way in the quickest and most efficient way possible.
At Practical Tactical, we believe in developing a plan in advance of the chaos that will keep you from becoming a refugee should you ever have to leave your home due to an emergency. We think of it as the software to go along with the hardware (read as gear) of preparedness. If you leave your home or primary residence without a definite destination and a well thought out and practiced plan on how to get there, you have instantly become a refugee and that’s a bad spot to be in. During a time of crisis, history has shown us that the life of a refugee is cold, hard and short. Whatever you do, you do not want to become a refugee.
Now, if you have grown up in the woods and have years of experience living off the land out there and that is the plan you choose to craft, kit and employ, that’s fine. But let’s be honest, that’s not most people. And that’s okay. Developing a plan that calls for you to relocate to another more “permanent” location is just as viable an alternative, but must be crafted, kitted out and employed just the same. Where you go, what you do and how you do it are all parts to this formula that each of us must decide for ourselves. Be it another piece of land that you own or if you have planned ahead of time to go to a friend or relative’s home outside the impacted area, in our view a definite destination point is vital and that is where a thought out and well built BOLT kit comes in to play.
Read below as we further lay out what a BOLT kit is and what it’s for. Keep in mind that the list you will find below should be considered a starting point and is in no way the end-all-be-all of mobile emergency kits, nor should it be viewed that way. It is simply our goal to get you to think a little differently about what it means to have to evacuate and how to best develop your plans going forward.
BOLT Kit (72+ hrs as you go from point A to point B)
Bugging out, getting out of Dodge (GOOD), emergency evacuation….they all mean essentially the same thing. Something’s gone down in your area, it is no longer safe for you to stay there and you have to leave your home in a hurry. This is counter intuitive in every way for most of us. Your home is your safe place. None of us would make this option our first choice, but that doesn’t mean some situation might arise that will force us out and that is why we strongly suggest you have a BOLT Kit prepped and ready to go for each member of your household. This mobile kit will allow you to maintain your Basic Operations for a Limited Time as you BOLT to your next location that will hopefully be your safe haven from the immediate threat. We cannot control when, where or how disaster will strike, but we can control how prepared we are to deal with disaster. There is a fine line between order and chaos and sometimes that line can be measured in seconds. When every second counts, having a plan and the tools to see that plan through are crucial to survival. As the name implies, your BOLT Kit is the tactical advantage that will help get you through and past any emergency situation.
• Winter storms
Fire (wildfires, neighboring buildings)
Extended power outage
Your BOLT Kit should be a backpack. This will allow you to keep you hands free to deal with any other challenges you might face as you put your emergency plan into effect. Your pack should be large enough and sturdy enough to carry all the gear you will need to sustain you for at least 72 hours of independent survival and comfortable enough to carry for long periods of time. As mentioned above, your BOLT Kit is the gear you will need, based on your plan, to get you from point A to point B and away from the immediate threat that is built by you. You can easily extend the gear in your kit to sustain you for a longer period of time if you choose to do so. Your kit should be ever-evolving and based on your needs, wants and tastes and any B.O.L.T. Kit is better than nothing at all in an emergency.
Water (1 liter/day minimum)
Water filter / purification tabs
* Three options of boiling, filtering and chemical treatment will give you flexibility in securing one of the most basic survival needs
Stainless steel water container
Energy bars and/or other packable/portable foods
* Dehydrated camping meals
* MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)
* Canned goods or Soups
* Meal bars / Energy or Candy bars
Small cooking kit/Small metal pot
Spork / utensil
P38 Can Opener
Lightweight backpack stove with fuel
Hiking Boots / Walking Shoes / Wool Socks
Change of clothes / Weather appropriate (rotate seasonally) and Underwear
Ear plugs / Gloves / Hat / Sunglasses
Military poncho (can be used as shelter)
Emergency blanket (can be used as shelter)
Waterproof rip-stop tarp (can be used as shelter)
Lightweight camping tent
Lightweight (small pack) sleeping bag (30 degree)
Fire starting capabilities (lighters, tinder, etc.)
Quality knife and Knife sharpener
Flashlight / Headlamp with extra batteries / glow sticks
First Aid kit / Insect repellent
Hygiene kit (including toilet paper)
N95 face mask / bandana / shemagh / scarf / etc.
Fully charged cell phone
Emergency radio (battery or hand crank)
Maps of local areas (pre-marked with multiple routes home) / Compass
Pen and Paper
Copies of Important documents (driver’s license, social security card, account & phone numbers, medical information)
Self-Defense Items (in accordance with your local laws and personal comfort level)
Cash (stored in several places; DO NOT show all your money at one time)
Rescue signal items
200 feet Parachute cord
Heavy duty garbage bags
So just to recap:
**Decide on a definite destination (with multiple alternatives depending on the crisis) should you ever have to leave your home
**Get a plan on how to reach those destinations
**Build a BOLT kit tailored to fit your plan and review the contents every six months
**Practice your plan before you need it