It’s not too late to build a small lifeboat

After my last blog post, I’ve been thinking about how I’ve changed my thinking in the past few years. Changes in mind-set and views can happen at any point in life and mine have shifted a great deal, not just since 2020 with the pandemic craziness, but really since 2016 and watching that entire spin information war effort – both the Clinton campaign and liberal media side, but also Trump and the right-wing media side too. Now, just about everyone who pays attention to political news is aware that we’re constantly manipulated and fed false narratives and that long ago complaint among the right about “liberal media bias” has been exposed, not just as some unintentional bias, but as an orchestrated, deliberate information war being waged by politicians and the media against the American people 24/7. Unfortunately, the right-wing media is fully-invested in the information war effort too, because it’s profitable.

The thing is whether you look at the media hysteria since 2016 or from 2020 and compare it to the level of media-generated hysteria before that, well, we sure seem to be in a different era now. What 2020 taught me was I was too trusting in the government in many ways. What the aftermath has taught me is a whole lot of Americans buy into mob thinking and mob rule and all it takes is some online or social media hype and people are “fighting mad” about one thing or another – without ever calmly doing more research or thinking about situations. I used to have more faith that the American people wouldn’t tolerate corruption and now I think many just make excuses for wrongdoing by their side, while wanting the book thrown at people who are on the other side of the political aisle. Mob rule wasn’t on my radar years ago.

Just because the media decides to drop a narrative, in favor of sensationalizing another hot take topic, well, sometimes those previous narratives don’t really go away, just because the media and political class moved on to ranting about some other topic. For instance, in 2020, federal and state governments pushed to shut down a sizable portion of the US economy, shut down schools, imposed draconian “social mitigation” policies, made monumental changes to health care. Most people prefer to just go about their daily life and forget about all of that, which is understandable. However, is it wise to forget government overreach and massive power grabs, undertaken under the guise of media-generated mass panic and fear? The economic fall-out from those 2020 shutdowns is still hitting us daily.

While I want to remain hopeful and optimistic. When I write about undertakings that I don’t think are practical or within my abilities, like in my last post I mentioned I’m not embarking on trying to replace all my big systems, like power and water, producing all my own food, in my own life, that doesn’t mean I think such undertakings are misguided or crazy. What I think is everyone needs to assess where they’re at in life, their physical ability, their technical and mechanical abilities, their finances and then think about what is doable in their own life to become more self-sufficient and better prepared for both today and the future. I’ll use the example of needlework and what often happens is someone becomes interested in learning, say counted cross-stitch, and that person has never hand-sewn anything. Then the person picks out a big project that they absolutely love. Inevitably, most people who do this quickly realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Then frustrations and disappointments build. Most people don’t continue on if what they imagined would be smooth sailing to creating some lovely finished project hits one iceberg after another.

Other people often start one needlework project after another, because they see so many projects they love and want to jump right in. Both approaches from the starting a big, complicated project or too many projects, without having built any foundation of basic needlework skills leads to failure – and unfinished projects. I see a lot of this behavior online too and while people can stage videos and show what they want people to see, often what I see are people who flit from one thing to the next – whatever is the hot new project on YouTube – I’m skeptical that I’m seeing the real life situation.

The magnitude and multitude of preparedness projects you can encounter online is mind-boggling and for me, I use the same lessons learned from starting needlework projects to other areas of my life – I like to start with learning basic skills first and tackling smaller projects. I also try to prioritize. Then by trying to do an honest “lessons learned” assessment, I look at how successful a project or effort was, how much money, time or resources it required, and how does it fit into my lifestyle and my preparedness goals. With home gardening, there are challenges and this year my seedlings struggled and I debated just buying plants at the store. I got my seeds started though and I’m glad I didn’t give up, but I’m also not adverse to buying plants or even buying fresh produce and canning it, freezing it or dehydrating it. The same goes for buying canned goods or already frozen products. Whatever options matter to you – organic, no-salt or additives, lowest price, etc. – being open to looking at those store-bought options too, instead of trying to produce everything yourself can widen your horizons actually. Sure, it’s important to think about what you’d do if there’s an emergency and the big systems aren’t available, but I want to utilize as many options as I can until then.

Last year I received an Aerogarden for Mother’s Day and if you don’t want to attempt an outside garden, this little indoor hydroponic garden has been pretty nifty. Mine came with herb pods and those did well. After the herbs, I bought cheap replacement pods on amazon and planted leaf lettuce. which produced fresh lettuce throughout the winter. I just replanted new pods with green and red leaf lettuce, so I’ll have leaf lettuce indoors for the next few months. The grow lights are on a timer, so all you have to do is add water to the container and a light comes on to remind you to do that and also when to pour in a small amount of the liquid plant food. That’s all the care that’s required. It’s been effortless really and mine has 6 pods, which produces more than enough lettuce for salads for a few people. There are also all sorts of do-it-yourself hydroponic gardening set-up ideas online, if you want to try something less expensive.

I actually use the cheap, little solar-powered emergency weather radio all the time in my sunroom now and it recharges in the sunshine out there. And that’s where I’m at with emergency preparedness in other areas of my life too – I’m trying to become better at skills in my everyday life that will hopefully help me in emergency situations too.

Everyone has their own take on personal finances, but I am a firm-believer in working to become debt-free and I like living debt-free and having money in savings. It took some time to become debt-free and it takes commitment to continue on this path, but the level of personal freedom and calm it has provided is worth it. It’s not easy making the mind-set shift to living debt-free, when you’ve been immersed in our consumer culture your entire life and most people you know are stuck in the consumer culture belief system. A lot of people I know don’t believe living debt-free is possible and they also don’t believe their mountain of consumer debt is really an avalanche that’s going to bury them when the financial system wobbles. It’s easy to feel like an oddball when most people you know have different priorities, but I feel this is a better path and I think it would be a better path for most people, who are stressing about personal debt constantly. With all the dire financial crisis news that’s even in the mainstream media daily now, building yourself a small financial lifeboat and stocking it with some supplies just seems like common sense. I don’t want to be drowned by the first financial waves, when I could have easily prepared for that. Well, I mixed up my metaphors, from avalanches to crashing waves, but either way, planning to be able to survive tough financial times seems sensible.

During the 2020 craziness I decided to increase my food and basic supplies storage. I’m still doing that on a regular basis. When I started I probably had enough food to last a few months. My goal was a 6 month to one year stockpile. Here again, I incorporated that into my meal-planning and I pay more attention to food rotation and keeping inventory of what I have than I used to. It’s become part of my everyday lifestyle. It feels reassuring that if some emergency happened, I wouldn’t need to rush to the grocery store and deal with a panic-buying crowd. Here again, having multiple ways to heat food and cook has taken time to work out. This summer I’m going to purchase a solar oven – mid price range, to work on learning solar cooking skills. I also want to improve my grilling skills. I just bought two more grilling cookbooks, to add to my pile, at my local Goodwill store a few weeks ago, so I have more recipe ideas. I’ve made numerous changes to what I stock up, how I organize my pantry, and how I utilize the food I store since 2020 and continue working on becoming more flexible. Being willing to honestly assess my food storage efforts took time, as I readjusted my thinking and it will likely change more over time.

A while back, an online prepper mentioned a book, Roughing It Easy: A Unique Ideabook for Camping and Cooking. I bought it on amazon for under $6, in very good condition. Finding books that are in very good condition or like new isn’t hard, if you’re patient and look around. My Goodwill sells hardback books for $1.99 and paperbacks for 99 cents, which although higher than it used to be, is still a bargain.

I guess the question we should ask ourselves is, “Where am I at?” Then honestly assess if you’re more prepared for daily life or some future difficult times than yesterday, last month, last year or are you in worse shape. A whole lot of people, who didn’t make any changes to their financial habits or think about preparedness at all, are probably in worse shape. The thing is it’s still not too late to make some efforts to start building that small financial lifeboat and stocking up on some basics, however, with inflation, it’s going to cost more. It might be prudent to start looking beyond where you usually shop and look at other alternatives. You can find all sorts of used items and things that aren’t from large stores, often at bargain prices. You might even find things you have in your own home that can be repurposed. It’s never too late to make some changes.

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