The Long Journey Home

The Long Journey Home, by Lew B.  is a contest entry, don’t forget to submit yours.

August 18, 2009 – My wife and I leave Southern California for a nice 5 day drive through the beautiful (but desolate) state of Nevada.

As we are about 50 miles into our trip, with the Starbucks in the cup-holders of the Suburban, I asked my wife what we would do if the economy were to collapse?

We spent the next 5 days talking about all the things we would need to live a life even remotely similar to the one we have now.  It was quite overwhelming.

August 11, 2011 – Just a few days shy of two years, I can safely say I think we are ready to go.  Below I will detail what we have, in hopes that this might help others think about what they still might need.

Shelter – We bought a 900 sq ft cabin in a rural area at 4800 ft in March of 2004.  We had a dream of cashing out our businesses and retiring peacefully up there around 2015, maybe 2020.  So when we first began prepping, it seemed great.  However, we quickly realized that was incredibly small for a tribe of 12-15 people.  So the first thing we did was place a 19 foot trailer that can sleep 3 comfortably.  Then we built a 130 sq ft shed that serves as storage and can sleep 4 or 5 people.  Most recently we picked up a cheap 21 foot drivable RV that will sleep 5-6 people.  We also have another trailer that will arrive on site with the tribe nurse and her crew.  We also have a van, suburban, and a couple of pick-up trucks.  So our sleeping needs are set.

Food, Now – We started buying canned goods in September of 2009.  I wasn’t very good about dating the products at first.  But once I filled up the best area of the cabin (an area under the stairs where an insulated water heater is kept; nice cool, consistent temp), I began dating my 5 gallon, mylar-lined tubs of rice, wheat, flour, sugar, powdered milk, oats, and beans.  When I was keeping an inventory, I guess-timated that I had about a years worth of food for 15 people.  I kind of lost track, but my best guess is that I now have a 2 years supply of food for 15 people.  And we just discovered sprouts.  We grew some just to test it out.  They are delicious, nutritious, and a batch grows in about 3½ days.  We got a couple hundred pounds of sealed buckets of those.

I have deep freezers (hooked into the home solar; one with its own panels & battery) that have upwards of 500 pounds of frozen meat and many gallons of citrus juice (both concentrate and fresh-squeezed).

We also have oils (olive, canola, shortening) and many spices.  Overall, I think we will be eating fairly well.

Food, future – We have enough Heirloom, non-hybrid seeds for 4 acres.  Since we will start the plants in a 6×10 greenhouse on a second floor deck (to keep the critters away), then transplant them into what will probably be about ¼ acre growing area, this should last for a while.  We also bought from several internet vendors, so if some are better than others, we don’t have all our eggs in one basket.  We also stored them in different temp zones (from cool to refrigerator), for the same reason.

Speaking of eggs, we’ve just finished our solar-power chicken coup that will house 12 hens and a rooster (which I already have at my semi-rural home, ready for transport to the retreat when the time comes.).

Water – Always have as many options as possible in this area.  Our retreat is on a community well shared by 14 other houses.  I am on the Board of Directors for the water district.  It is grid operated, but can be run with generators.  It only takes about 1.5 gallons of gas to fill the two 10,000 gallon tanks.  I have installed a 2500 gallon tank on property in case of failure (temporary or permanent) in that area.  Also, an old-timer across the road from me has a grid-powered little well in his garage.  So if the grid goes down, me and my portable solar generator can get his water out of the ground (and share it with him, of course).

Power – Solar power is the name of the game.  But you need a system with battery back-up.  Otherwise, when the sun goes down, the lights go out.  Our system was way overpriced, and the salesman lied to us in regards of what we could expect from the system.  But it will get the job done up to 60% of the power we were used to.  The notable exceptions being the 220 water heater, stove, and washer-dryer.  But we’ve compensated by getting pool-style solar panels to run water through, getting a large 110 toaster oven (plus BBQ’s and washtub insides for fires).  But what will make us royalty on the mountain will be our ability to make ice.  I will make blocks of ice and give them to my neighbors so they can have ice-chests and keep them somewhat cold.  Also, if a neighbor kills a deer and needs the excess meat stored for a bit, I can probably help them out.  (We are also exploring wind-power and gasifiers.)

I also have six extra sets of 45 watt solar panel set-ups.  We set up the first one on the chicken coop.  Works great.  I will set up the rest on all the trailers to keep their batteries full.  With any luck, a full battery will run a space heater in the trailer for the night.

Personnel – I am quite proud of myself in this area.  You see, one of the first things I realized is that I can’t fix stuff.  I am a writer, cook, comedian/ entertainer, and administrator.  But technical stuff has never been my cup of tea.  So I have enlisted like-minded folks to help in that area.  I have a former Special Forces fellow to head up security.  A carpenter-electrician and electrician-refrigerator tech will handle repairs and keep things going.  The little lady will be in charge of food distribution and meals, and possibly oversee gardening.  I have a nurse who has worked the last 18 years in the ER of one of our local hospitals.  I am also currently trying to recruit a second nurse, because hey, two is one and one is none.  Yours truly will be breaking his back helping with all the grunt work and doing admin duties.

Security – I don’t want to go into too much detail here.  Let’s just say I don’t have anything illegal.  But the massive quantities of what I do have might make some folks nervous.  Especially if they don’t know anything about prepping.  And it is a good variety.

I have  8,680 feet of barbed wire.  I have been saving chicken broth cans (filled with gravel) and have 10 lb test monofilament for primitive noisemakers around the perimeter.  Because of the layout of the land, I can’t chain-link the entire property.  But I can put up enough (and have it all on site) to funnel people in the direction I want them to go.

I also have about 50 solar-powered motion sensor lights that I can spread around the perimeter.  But my proto testing has shown them to be less reliable than I would have liked.  Of the 50, forty of them are cheap and can crap out in the rain.  My guys think a little silicone might fix that problem.  I set up one of the ten that were a little more expensive.  It lasted about a year in rain, heat, wind and snow before giving up the ghost.  But I think if the fall lasts longer than a year, most of the motorcycle zombies will be eliminated by then.  I suppose there will still be dangerous scavengers here and there.  I’m not too worried about foreign armies, as history shows the mountains are a terrible place to deploy troops.  And I have no shame in telling U.N. forces whatever they want to hear, then secretly plotting behind their backs.  If they wanted to disarm me, well, I guess I’ll decide what to do when (if) that time comes.

Medical – I listed this one near the bottom of this article not because it is less important, but because it was one of the harder hurdles to tackle.  So if you are just starting your preps, you may not even make it to this.  But if you have a little prepping under your belt, perhaps you can start working on this.

As mentioned in the personnel section, I have one, maybe two nurses lined up.  I have also been stocking up on first-aid supplies via the 99 cent store.  Unscented maxi-pads are great blood absorbers for large surface wounds.  Tampons are good for filling a bullet hole.  Don’t forget you Rubbing Alcohol and Hydrogen Peroxide.  Ointments and creams will make life much more bearable, as well.

I lucked out and found a pet pharmacy in a small town between my home and the retreat.  They sell Penicillin, Amoxicillin, and Cephalexin in 250 mg tabs.  I also have some Tetracycline I got from the feed store.  But that will have to be thrown away after November of 2014, as it is one of the few antibiotics that can get toxic after the expiration date.  If you don’t have a pet pharmacy near you, the internet can help.  Look up aquarium antibiotics.

Barter Items – As I write this, I am currently engaged in yet another smoke cessation program.  I have high hopes this one will take.  And one of the upsides (aside from better health) is that I can then use the 4 cartons of cigarettes in one of my deep freezers as a barter source.  I have little zip-lock style baggies and will put 5 cigarettes per bag.  I am an ex-drinker (been off the sauce since 5-8-95).  But I have about 10 gallons of cheap booze locked away in one of the trailers.  I’ve got vodka, bourbon, gin, rum, and a few bottles of wine I have received from holidays past.  The booze I poured into little plastic pint water bottles.  I realize within a few months of a deep dive, ‘stills will be made by folks.  But until then, I will be the go-to guy for that stuff.

Another barter item I have is silver.  In a deep dive, we will eventually need some sort of recognizable currency.  We can’t be trading chickens all the time.  I have about 200 ounces, ranging from 10 ounce bars all the way down to pre-1965 dimes.  (I’m hoping a 10 ounce bar will buy me a whole cow [haha].  But I guess we’ll have to see what level things begin to trade at when the time comes.)

Storage – This is one area that has been tough.  I am up to my gills in stuff.  I found a company that delivered a cargo container like the type that transport goods from China.  This one had actually been cut in half and the door was re-attached.  Makes it a little easier to have on property, and less obnoxious looking.  I also rented a 10×10 storage space about 2/3 of the way from my home to my retreat.  I keep extra supplies in there, as well as an emergency supply of food, blankets and water (in case I arrive to that unit on foot; more on that in a moment).

Main residence – About half of my tribe will be abandoning homes they own, and the other half are renters.  My primary residence is nearly two acres semi-rural with 1600’ and 2900’ homes on the property.  If I didn’t have my rural cabin, I could actually make a pretty good stand here.  This property has well water, a mature citrus grove of about a dozen trees, very flat farmable land, and moderate year-round climate (a little frost in winter).  What it has against it is that it sits on an artery 45mph road, and a ton of “affordable” housing has been built over the years about 5 miles away.  The refugee drift will pour right down that road.  But I have a friend who lives in a trailer on this property.  She doesn’t believe the fall will ever happen.  So I told her she can stay on the property when I flee.  I did stock up some seeds, food, and an old 20 gauge shotgun for her.  I also told several of my employees who live in less desirable parts of the county to come to this property if everything falls apart.  So it feels kind of good to know that I am leaving this property to people I know, and not just abandoning it to the wolves.

EMP – I am the least prepared in this area.  However, given the current state of the economy, I suspect it won’t matter.  Right now I have a 68cc motor attached to a beach cruiser that will be totally operational in the event of an EMP.  We may attach the same motor to a smaller child bike (my wife is little).  If so, then we would each have one of these vehicles to slowly make out way to the cabin.  If we left the absolute moment it happened, probably nobody would try to harm us along the way, as the mass public won’t have figured out what has happened by that point.  And the storage unit I have will serve as a good re-supply point for the final 1/3 of the journey.

We have been trying to find a reasonably priced pre-1970 vehicle.  But the only ones we have found are totally restored vehicles on car lots that are a little outside of our budget.

The bottom line here is, my wife won’t survive the journey on foot 40 miles from sea level to 4800 ft.  So since this is the only thing I really need to work on still, the good news is I can focus what little time is left to knock out this problem.

In conclusion, I hope this piece was helpful.  Obviously I couldn’t mention every single thing I’ve done in the area of preparing, or this article would have been twice as long.

If you are new to prepping, try not to get overwhelmed.  Just do a little bit at a time.  But the trick is – you have to do it.  You can’t just think about it or talk about it.  Good luck.  Lew

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4 Responses to The Long Journey Home

  1. Matt in Oklahoma says:

    Good article and it sounds as though you have put a lot of work into it. I have a few commentaries/questions which can be ignored if you dont agree. We all have our own ideas on things, not to say right or wrong.
    Bartering alcohol to desperate people? Be careful being the “go to” or they might just come in the wrong way IMO
    On the water do you have some already stored to get started, at least a few hundred gallons? That water plan of yours is awesome BTW
    The rest of your plan is great, looks like you will be ahead of most!

    • Lew B. says:

      My alcohol is more for the four homes in my area that I have already been building “community” with. Being mountain folk, they are always stocked with 6 months worth of supplies anyway. So the booze will just be for building bridges of goodwill with my neighbors to help increase the likelihood that they will “have my back” and we can work together as a sort of mini-village.

  2. A veteran who is preparing says:

    The food thing is an area we are going to discuss heavily at our next meeting. Just what counts as a years worth of food per person? Every site you look at online is different on this and is usually based on the authors personal preferences (not set nutritional guidelines).

    Here is one source that may be helpful:

    Our group is most likely going to combine multiple suggestion lists to suit our needs and preferred diets. Just remember variety is highly important. If all a person has is wheat, beans, honey, and rice….well I hope they have really good cookbooks then and don’t mind gaseous emissions from others.

  3. Richard in Colo. says:

    Good article, very timely. Short feedback:
    1. Oils: donate canola (and any vegetable oils) and shortening to a charity; they are extremely unhealthy which you don’t need in a crisis situation. Then buy cases of ghee, virgin coconut oil, and canned butter.
    2. Kersosene: put in a 55-gallon drum. Long term stable and can be used for heating and cooking. Solar/batteries do NOT work well with electric heaters.
    3. Canning jars and canner: this will be critical for garden produce and meat.
    4. Dehydrator, especially solar: same function as canning.
    Good luck!

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