Do you have friends and loved ones who are still living a “sheeple” life and don’t see the writing on the wall, no matter how much you try to educate them about the need to prep? Me too.
You have probably thought about what is going to happen to them after the SHTF, but have you thought about how that will affect you… and prepare for it?
My husband convinced me to go all in on this prepping thing after we lived through a nearly two week long power outage that hit the tri-state area after a summer storm about six years ago. We were in the midst of a heat wave, near drought, and were townies then.
It was a small town in a rural county, so the entire community banded together and got through it, we had no safety concerns like folks in urban areas would have had.
But no store in a 30-mile radius had water, ice, or gas for days to a week. When some stores in the next county over did get power, their supplies were very limited and ration limits were strictly imposed, resulting in very long lines (we are talking two hour+ wait here, folks) and the majority of the hot and thirsty people in line, going away extremely disappointed.
By the time power and normalcy were restored, although the storm cost us the only grocery store in the county, a smaller one only opened, finally, a few months ago, I was ready to become a full-fledged prepper.
Before I signed on the figurative dotted line to become my husband’s prepping partner, we had a short but emotionally poignant discussion about not only our relocation plans, but how people showing up at the gates of our homesteading survival retreat – no matter who they were, would be received.
Until I got a commitment from my Bobby that I, not he, would be dealing with all comers post-doomsday disaster, I was not going to even bother engaging in any type or preparedness activity or agree to major purchases…there would simply be no point, because it would all be for nothing.
He agreed, and now we are perfecting our 56-acre homesteading survival retreat in Appalachia.
I adamantly believed, and still do, that all couples and mutual assistance groups, MUST sit down and specifically detail how not just members of a marauding horde will be dealt with when they show up your gate, but folks you know, extended family, kind and desperate strangers both with and without anything of value to add to your survival efforts.
Without such a written in stone plan, chaos and turmoil will result within your family or group – and fester.
I knew, without a doubt, that my Bobby would not be able to turn away a crying mother holding a hungry child in her arms, an elderly couple desperate for food, or members or our community he had known all of his life an exchanged pleasantries with just prior to the arrival of the apocalypse.
My husband is the strongest man I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, but he has a servant’s heart that would prompt him to give what he could to those in dire need – and then go without himself so our children and grandchildren would have enough food and water to survive. We need his strength and guidance too much for me to let that happen.
When the strongest, most stable, and skilled member of your family or tribe is not functioning at full strength, the entire group suffer and the chances of survival are reduced.
I would find it gut-wrenching to turn them away with nothing, but I don’t think my sweet husband would be able to pull it off, not at all.
Does that make me sound heartless, unchristian witch? Probably, but I am willing to live with that label in order for our children and grandchildren to survive. Giving away a few cans of food, water, or homemade natural medicine to the people at the gate would not help them survive for more than a day or so.
What it would do, however, is deplete our stockpile of supplies to an extent that our children and grandchildren would go hungry, not have the medicine they could come to need, or enough water to drink when the dry season came during the summer.
It all boils down to priorities, not just for my decision-making thought process, but for the unprepared that will show up at our gate. They all had the same chance to prepare as we did, and chose to go spend their money and time on less essential things.
What if they prepared too, but their home burnt down, along with all of their preps, or some similar scenario beyond their control? Well, I will have both more respect and sympathy for them, but the same end result would occur. The care packages given away, to even unfortunate preppers, will still deplete our stockpiles.
My children and grandchildren will come first. My loved ones inside the survival homesteading retreat “tribe” members, will come first.
Even though this is a cut and dried decision for me, there will be an emotional toll taken when I have to exercise my power to make decisions at our gate. Of that, I have no doubt.
To help keep my conscience clear, I spent a lot of time and money trying to educate the masses about preparedness. I do the same with people I care about and the community at large, and give away resource materials, seeds, etc. to encourage them to become more self-reliant. I have done my bit, it is up to them to do theirs.
Being charitable now is easy, the supply of goods seems infinite.
Some preppers, like James Wesley Rawles, advocate putting together a Christian relief or charity package of sorts now, to hand out in such situations, and not count those supplies among your preps. If you can afford to do this, it is a superb idea, and a loving gesture, to be sure.
But will a day come when you wish you had used your ample funds to stockpile more survival kits for your own family? It just might.
There are a three issues with such a plan that must be discussed in a prepping family or survival group meeting, before bagging up the supplies.
Will an end come to handing out the relief packages if your own supplies begin to run low because of a failed crop or other situation?
- Who will determine when your prepping stockpiles have reached a concerning level and no more relief packages can be handed out?
- How low will your stockpiles have to dip before you call a halt to the charity packages?
- Will you hand out packages based upon the number of people begging, i.e. will a mother with three children tagging along behind her get more than a single man, an elderly woman, or parents with only a single child?
- Will a person who is obviously too sick or injured to continue on much longer, receive as much aid as a healthy person?
- Will age be a factor in how supplies are given out or how much goes in each bag?
- If you know the person is reliant upon prescription medication that is no longer available, will you “waste” a charity bag on them, or give more to the starving children crying and shivering in the arms of their panicked mother?
- Will the aid be a one time deal, or will people who come back a second, third, or even fourth time, receive another package?
- How will you know if the person is a repeat begger? It is unrealistic to think the same member of your tribe will be on the gate at all times when the charity packages are being handed out.
Even without cellphones, word will spread that you have ample supplies AND are giving them away at the gate of your survival compound. In just a couple of days, maybe less, you could have hordes of desperate people at your gate first asking, then demanding, and finally, pushing their way inside, to get their share of your stuff.
Will you, can you, shoot the people climbing over your gates, people you may know and with children in the crossfire, if they refuse to stay off your land, after telling them they cannot get any more food and water?
Where will you give out the food, water, and first aid supplies? Having even a few people piled up at your gate will be a distraction that could leave members of your tribe unaware of a looming threat
Pulling members of your surveillance team to stand guard during aid distribution will leave you more vulnerable elsewhere on the retreat or compound. It will also show your hand and give too much information about your numbers and the weapons you have.
Giving out the charity aid packages away from the gate and off of your property will expose the tribe members to even more potential harm, and set them up to become a hostage a begger could use to demand more food or worse yet – access to the inside of the compound.
If the person outside the gate has value due to their professional or amateur skills, will you let them in to enhance the overall skill set of your tribe? Who would make this decision and how many extra people could your stockpiles support before they become strained?
Types of people of value you might want to consider include: medical professionals, veterinarians, veterans, butchers, hunter, gunsmiths, blacksmiths, mechanics, carpenters, and other types of skilled tradesmen and women who can ply their skills in an off grid world.
Giving away free food and survival kits is a whole lot more complicated and dangerous than engaging in a kind gesture should be. But so goes life during the apocalypse.
The safe solution? I am not sure if there really is one, not for either your heart or your body. Whatever you decide, you will be risking emotional heartache and bodily injury – there just might not be a way to give so it doesn’t hurt.
One thing I am sure of though, is not hashing all of this out with your prepping partners, will cause major problems in the long, hard days to come.
Hide Your Food
The desperate good, yet unprepared people and the marauding hordes fleeing from the cities, do not have to see your handing out charity packages to know you have plenty of food around.
Before we moved onto our secluded retreat, I knew the very moment any of our small town neighbors put a big juicy steak, some BBQ ribs, or even a hot dog on their outdoor grills.
Smell travels just as easily as sound. You should try to do all of your cooking indoors during a SHTF scenario. Your BBQ grill should not be your primary off the grid cooking option, nor should an open flame in your fire ring ring be where most of your meals are prepared.
If you have to cook meat outdoors, check the wind direction, and put extra guards on duty to make sure no one hiking in the woods or walking along the road hugging their aching empty bellies, has caught a whiff of your dinner.
When the presence of strangers, marauding hordes, or beggars grows near your home, skip preparing meat altogether for a few days, and keep your livestock closed up in the barn – back water to them by hand in buckets if necessary.
Hide signs of livestock on your property as much as possible. Muffling the sounds of animal noises, or the smell of fresh manure is likely going to prove impossible. So keep them close and protected, and never reveal their numbers visually.
When you have extra dollars to invest in your preps, put the towards strong sheets of metal, wood boards, or cinder blocks that can be quickly placed on top of your existing fence to further shield the inner workings of your survival retreat from view.
You don’t even want people who knew you had livestock before the SHTF, to be sure you have any left now or the number of animals in your barn. Invest in the quietest breeds of chickens, and consider keeping your number of cows low.
They are noisy and require a lot of pasture to eat year-round. Dexter cattle, a miniature breed of bovine, require less space to live and feed, and could be a better beef and milk source during a SHTF scenario.
If space is not ample, you might consider raising goats instead.
Even better (from this point of view), rabbits will provide meat, are a lot quieter, require very little space to keep, and reproduce rapidly. Build as many ponds as your land allows, and stock them with fish and turtles to eat – you can’t get much quieter and space-confined of a meat source than fish and turtles.
Reduce the Need for Charity Packages
Getting involved in your neighborhood and community now, before SHTF, may vastly reduce the need for charity when things go pear shaped.
There will be no way to avoid it, but mitigating the need will make you feel good because you are doing something for your fellow Americans that just might inspire them to become more self-reliant.
Start or help expand a community or neighborhood garden.
Start a garden along the edge of your property so it can become your charity package when a disaster strikes. This will still alert others that you have so much food that your are willing to share, but will at least not inform them you have any stockpiles of canned good, long-term storage meals, etc. inside your retreat.
As far as the desperate people will know, you planted the garden during good times because the soil was good and you had ample seeds and are willing to share it now because you are busy working your main garden and do not want to venture outside of your gates.
But, going outside to tend the garden will put your and members of your tribe in danger. Use containers or thick landscaping cloth to keep down weeds as much as possible to avoid going out the perimeter to tend it.
You could also plant fruit trees and berry bushes along the road near your home and allow the desperate to pick from them to put a little food into their bellies. Hopefully, they will think they are stealing food from you and not think you have planted extra food as part of an aid package because you have all that you need inside the survival retreat.
Connect with local scout and civic groups, and give each member some seeds and talk to them about growing their own groceries and the value of being self-reliant – without giving away that you are a prepper.
Host free gardening, butchering, and livestock raising workshops for the people in your neighborhood or community. If you live in a right to farm state, keeping backyard chickens, ducks, and meat rabbits should be allowed in your small town, suburb, or city.
Show up at your neighbor’s house uninvited with fresh produce from your garden, supplies to make a rainwater collection system if they do not have a pond, creek, or swimming pool to get water from during a long-term disaster.
Basically, put yourself out there as a homesteader for free hire, going as far as you can without infringing upon your OPSEC plan.
Network with volunteers at your local food bank, church pantry, and similar facilities to donate seeds, dehydrated food from your garden put together in emergency packs to hand out now – anonymously, along with some literature about self-reliance and how to grow your own food, even in small spaces, to save money.
You can drop these kits off at night in front of the facilities, due to OPSEC reasons, but you best call first (while concealing your phone number), or send an email from an account that does not bare your name, to ask about donations procedures, or the valuable goods will likely get pitched out of food safety concerns.
Get involved with your local farmers’ market. This is also a place to educate others about self-reliance, hand out seeds, and dehydrated produce emergency packets.
Every Christmas season communities host coat, hat, glove, and scarf drives. Donate warm weather clothes for both adult and children now, when supplies are unlimited, to be charitable, and not after SHTF when your own family could end up needing warm outerwear during a long-term disaster.
Make cloth baby diapers, and donate them to groups who accept such items, on a quarterly basis.
Donate non-perishables to food pantries now, and not to beggars after the SHTF, to do your part for your fellow man. Those types of places will get hit first by desperate people.
This will allow you to help feed the hungry without taking away food and survival supplies for your loved ones or mutual assistance group when you know no more are going to be arriving on store shelves for a long, long time – perhaps forever.
As the old saying goes, “charity begins at home.” How far are you willing to go to protect your family? You may have worked to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself to kill for them, without a second’s hesitation, from the charging horde armed with a rocks, sticks, baseball bats, bows, or guns.
But, are you truly prepared to kill for them, without hesitation, when a group of unarmed neighbors, some of them children, are rushing onto your land and headed right for your garden, your stockpile of preps, or the dwindling water in your creek or pond?
If you did not immediately answer yes, even if it made you wince and feel ashamed, then you are not truly, 100% prepared for SHTF, or to protect your loved ones. That may sound rude, cruel, or socially unacceptable, but it is true nonetheless.
Seeing others suffer, good people you may have known for a long time, especially when there are children involved, is almost too awful of a scenario to contemplate, but your must.
You must think about it, get a vivid visual image of it, role play the heck out of such potential encounters during survival training exercises, and be prepared to deal with it from a survival standpoint, and not how your heart is urging you to.
Disasters have always brought out the best and worst in people. There is absolutely no reason to expect anything different during a nationwide or worldwide SHTF scenario. You probably want to be one of the good guys, I want to be one of the good gals.
That is why I do whatever I can to help others NOW, and not when the survival of my children, grandchildren, husband, parents, nieces, nephews, sibling, great nieces and nephews, and prepping friends, who pull work details at our retreat until they are sweaty, filthy, and sometime a little bit bloody, depends on it.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.