Logistics Win Wars
(The cold spell of the last week has it a bit too cold in my basement to apply drywall mud to my stair project, so I'm going to push back Part 3 of my tutorial to next week. Instead I wanted to talk about an often overlooked part of prepping.)
General John J. Pershing (1860-1948), who fought in 7 American conflicts and who was the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front of World War 1, once remarked that “Infantry wins battles, logistics wins wars.” Pershing was an asshole and in some ways a poor general, but he knew what he was talking about with that quote. Logistics, the people who move the ammo and equipment to the battle field, or in time of peace, move the milk, eggs and bread to your local grocery store, get ignored unless the shelf is bare. When its bare they catch hell.
(copyright Lance Cpl. Seth Starr, I Marine Expeditionary Force, WikiCommons)
Logistics for a person who prepares for emergencies, disasters and just the occasional disruption is just as important as for the soldier at war. We fight a longer battle with the coming Long Descent and the Collapse of our global civilization back to a day of lesser tech and lesser resources. In that decline there will be many time when that useful tool or good to have supply will suddenly not be there anymore.
What then is a Green Wizard to do?
Think Long, Think Smart
Its pretty common knowledge that we recommend you have some measure of preparations. Things like a month or more worth of food in the pantry, a good week's worth of water in containers, maybe some emergency equipment like extra lights and a first aid kit. All of these general resources help you if suddenly you can't get to your regular lines of supplies. Besides tiding you over from an unexpected snow storm or power outage, putting away something extra gets you into thinking longer than the immediate.
The problem, especially if you are newer to preparing, is figuring out just what to put away. Its not just a problem for the beginner. Even old hands like myself can mess up. Either forget to buy something that when you need it, and don't have it, is one of those sudden "What the heck was I thinking". Or you can fall into the trap of buying something without having a clear need. The "I don't know what I'll need it for, but I better get it anyway". Five years later and you're looking at it on the shelf, covered in dust and wondering just why did you waste your money again? I've got a whole shelf of ethnic canned food in my pandemic pantry, which I keep looking at. I know I need to eat it or its going to waste.
That's one of the often over looked downsides, we waste money and resources on things. It's ok to do when you have it to waste (no it's really not, lol) but we rationalize it to ourselves.
One of the ways to think smart with your prep supplies is to keep records. Just like the documentation we've been discussing on the forum for our gardens in "What Records Would You Want For Your Garden?", which is a great post by the way, your pantry and supply closet should get the same record keeping.
It doesn't have to be huge spread sheets of meticulous data. No one but the complete logistics geek lives to stay up nights updating their inventory. You should though have a general ledger with your supplies. At a minimum a list of what you have and where in your storage you have it places is important. In addition when you bought it and how much it cost is helpful. This information is good when you need to buy more of it because you can decide whether spending the money to replace it was worth it.
One helpful tool beside your ledger, is a white board. I don't always have time to go back into the notebook, when I pull some item out to use it but I can take a second and jot it down on the white board. Then when I'm making a run to the store, check what I have used and what I need to replace.
Knowing when you bought something, is very useful for the hard good, like fuels or shop liquid which you use slowly. I've come across solvents with use by dates from the 2000s. Here the old habit of writing the date purchased on the can with a black marker is good, but once you throw the can out, the information goes with the can. Having it written down makes going back later much easier.
You get the picture.
Words Of Wisdom From Someone Who Does It
I'm a big fan of letting people much wiser than myself say it. Scott Skowronski, who runs the "Prepping For Beginners Facebook Group", reposted this recently. Great post for this topic. If you are on Facebook, this is a group you want to join.
I'll leave it to Scott to wrap this post up.
SOMETIMES THE BEST DATA IS YOUR OWN
By Scott Skowronski
©Prepping For Beginners 2022, ©Total Preparedness Solutions 2022
After answering a question here, it occurred to me that sometimes a universal truth isn't universal - it's very subjective. And when it comes to prepping and survival, a LOT of truths are subjective. Sometimes, the information offered to us from other sources may be honest, but not necessarily accurate when applied to ourselves.
Sometimes, we need to find things out.
Preferably not the hard way but that happens too.
What I am saying is, that if you're planning on being a prepper for any length of time, you are going to find out things you didn't know about your specific situation - whether it is the unique storage conditions of some widget, or the long term change in consumption rates of certain items by your family.
More and more, I am realizing that I need a way to track the data I'm learning. Sure, I've got a bunch of great stories about how I managed to screw up, but they're me-specific. Maybe you can make them relate to you, maybe you can't.
It's your life. They're your preps. When you're new, you don't have any data but what someone else has given you. But having been doing this Prepping stuff since it was called Survivalism from the 1980s, I have once again noticed a significant deficiency: Tracking.
I still discover things the hard way, and sometimes I document them here. But as I do so, I realize I really should be setting up some way to gather data on all the useful things I've learned, both good and bad, over the past forty years. I bang my head against the wall trying to remember what I wanted to say last week...how the hell am I supposed to know where and when and why I bought something that's been sitting in my Master Storage for the past 20 years?
What's even worse is that I KNOW how to use pretty much everything in there...or...I did when I PUT it in there. I've had a few professions, from locksmith to paramedic, and my Master Storage definitely reflects this. But am I REALLY going to be able to tell a Weslock from a Kwikset in a crisis? Or remember what the Arrow keyhead looks like? -- I can tell you from personal experience that the answer to that, is no (I am/was a journeyman locksmith, and I totally bombed an interview because I couldn't remember half of the keyways they showed me pictures of, even though I KNEW them because I had WORKED on them...a decade prior).
But it really was today when I realized that I REALLY should be collecting my OWN data on my OWN preps. Because, as from the lighter thread, I learned the hard way that butane lighters stored don't last 10 years in my master storage. Is that because of the humidity? Or the heat/cold, or another factor I don't know? Perhaps, but what data I NEED to collect is just how long they DO last. For ME.
Just like you should be at least considering some kind of data collection on your own preps. Whether it's a notebook of dates/times/locations with a LARGE notes section for each item, or a computer database (again, with a LARGE notes section -- I cannot stress this enough - Notes can encompass everything from detailed descriptions of how something went bad to simply saying, "This is the biggest piece of whale shit ever to be shat in the Pacific and I will tie my tongue to my bumper and have my friend drag me 80mph NAKED across a field of broken glass before I ever buy another!"
Notes are also INCREDIBLY useful for making note of when you move something. Each time you move an item, make a note. For two reasons: 1) So you can find the damn thing, and 2) If it goes bad prematurely, now you have a "paper trail" with a timeline so you can see if any particular storage condition could have contributed to its failure.
Making note of occurrences TO your preps is just as important as making notes OF your preps.
So yeah, BIG "Notes" field. I'm gonna pound this concept a little, fair warning.
What should you be tracking?
Well, of course, the obvious: WHAT you bought, WHEN you bought it.
Then, the useful: WHERE you put it. HOW you packed it.
Then, the hopeful: HOW LONG you expect it to last. WHEN you will check/rotate it.
Then, the numerical: How much did it cost? How much will it cost to replace?
Then, the tracking: How much does it cost now? Can you still get it? How long did it actually last vs. expectations? Did you use it before it expired? Why or why not?
Then, conclusions: Would you buy this item in this quantity again? Why or why not?
Keep a running commentary of ALL of the above for each of your items. You don't have to go into great detail. All of the above can theoretically encompass half a sheet of college-rule paper (so you can leave the bottom half and the entire back for Notes.) or it could take up some serious database space.
Bottom line: It's YOUR stuff. Make sure your stuff correlates with YOUR data. Because "knowing is half the battle."
The other half is actually using that knowledge, that data, to your advantage.
And this way, you're not relying on anyone ELSE's data, no matter how much you trust them, their prepping and storage conditions are NOT yours - so either you have to factor in a "fudge factor" to adjust for the differences, or you can accumulate your OWN data and be much more accurate, efficient, and most importantly, COST EFFECTIVE.
I had to throw out stuff because I didn't track it properly. Because I didn't have a "notes" section to say things like, "Expiration date was this but it sure as hell didn't last that long." And "Still kinda worked even after expiration." And little highlights like, "Had to throw out over half my supply because I didn't use it in the last decade like I thought I would."
YOUR data. YOUR life.
I HIGHLY recommend that, no matter WHERE YOU ARE in your prepping journey, you start logging your stuff so you can collect your OWN RELEVANT DATA.
And remember, have a LARGE notes section.