A One Hundred Year Plan
From time to time, I see really well done posts on other websites, that speak to the skills and principles we talk about here on Green Wizards. Recently over on Peak Prosperity, a more upscale preparadeness website, a member named VTGothic posted the steps he is taking to get ready. He gave me permission to share it here:
"Yes, you can repost. Thank you for asking. I’m pretty busy in the summer working on infrastructure, since Vermont summers are short. This year the primary task is residing the house – which is a project (!) as it’s a large house, in places reaching 2.5 stories. And, of course, cutting, splitting, and stacking 3 cord of wood for winter."
My 100 Year Survival Plan: A brief intro to our ark-building metrics
I have my own 12-Step program for preparing, and for regularly evaluating how we're doing with the process. It's designed for someone with modest means, like me, and requires a corresponding greater commitment of time. (Money and time substitute for one another.) I wrote it 8 years ago and continue to use it to develop my "ark" for the coming troubled waters. I don't share it very much, but this seems like an opportune time and thread for doing so.
So, for what it's worth:
1. Own property free and clear - if you can't afford your own, team up. Form a "club" to purchase together, or get extended family cooperating. (One son of mine told me last night he and some friends are looking at purchasing 150 acres an hour from his city. Do something like that. I suggested they find a willing young farming couple who can't afford land to manage it and develop it for them, for a vested interest. Of course, he also knows he can come home whenever necessary.) We have "ski clubs" in my area that buy large houses and use them as shared home base for ski weekends; why not do that with arable land instead? Be creative. Road blocks are only challenges and opportunities.
2. Reduce legible income as much as possible - the simple fact is that governments confiscate wealth on the basis of current earnings from wages, and every government at every level thinks in terms of two columns: "Has too little," and "Has excess". If you don't have enough money to field taxes and still build your ark, you want your taxable reported income as close to the "Has too little" column as legally possible. Every dollar you don't pay in taxes is a dollar that can be redeployed. Understand the tax code and be (legally) creative about how you receive your compensation. (Remember Warren Buffet "complaining" that he paid less taxes than his executive secretary? It's because he pays himself in dividends and her in salary. Let that sink in and motivate your planning.) As entities move to increasing taxes on those in the "has too much" column, you want to be identified, as much as possible, in the "needs more" column. (Of course the whole conceit is unsustainable, but your goal is to survive the period of crash and burn without doing either.)
Tenet 1: Every penny saved is a penny earned. This is literally true. Don't pay retail for anything, ever. I just last week bought a half cow (265 lbs meat, plus free organs and bones) for $4.50/lb, packaged, right off the farm; grass raised and finished on organic field. That's less than store-bought commercial hamburger. I raise and butcher my own meat chickens and, because it's legal in Vermont, I raise more than I'll eat and sell the excess. The result is I pay all the expenses, and more, for my field-raised, organic chicken meat and for keeping a year-round flock of egg layers, and put a little money in my pocket - which in my mind offsets some of the beef cost, reducing my red meat cost another dollar per pound. I have 5 freezers of various sizes, and 2 refrigerators, but I only paid for 1 of the freezers, and that was $30. The rest I either inherited (2 strange stories involved there) or was offered if I'd just take them away. They're all functional, none have needed repair as yet. I belong to a local food buying cooperative made up of friends; we meet every 2 months for potluck and to order from Associated Buyers, a purveyor to healthy food stores; a week later we meet for potluck and to divide up the combined order, that we purchased at wholesale prices. It's great for a wide variety of bulk purchase and case lot products. I started a spice-manufacturing business in part because I wanted bulk organic spices at wholesale prices; my sales of spice blends is modest, but it pays for my own spice consumption, and wholesome sugar and maple sugar. I belong to a New England-wide coop that buys in major bulk supplies, through which I bought a number of things, including a large supply of bread wheat berries and a 5-gallon pail of raw honey (bears keep taking out my hives; problem not solved, yet; bears are smart). All at wholesale. All save pennies that I can redeploy.
Tenet 2: Time and money are interchangeable. If you don't have much time you need more money; if you don't have much money you need more time. Chris is demonstrating substituting money for time, and he's getting a lot done quickly. If your pocket is not as deep you need to free up more time, and have a longer time horizon to accomplish your preps. But not doing anything because you can't do everything, or do it as quickly as you wish, doesn't prepare you. (To borrow the tree planting quip: the best time to prepare was 10 years ago; the second best time to prepare is today. The day after tomorrow is too late.) Of modest means, I've used my monetary resources to make a few major infrastructure investments and to buy the tools I need in their high-quality versions so I can work efficiently as I invest more time than money on my infrastructure.
3. Get fit and healthy - The human body is designed for moderate exercise, punctuated by short periods of heavy exertion. (Good cross-fit programs imitate that, but real work is better.) Nothing is better for your health than daily moderate exercise - exactly what's needed to build and maintain a rural ark. If you don't move your body, at least slowly, you die slowly.
Vitality requires steadily incorporating 6 dietary practices, all of which lead one back toward more primitive dietary practices while building body integrity over time. These are principles to learn to incorporate; they were common practices for all of human history until the end of the Second World War. Two are negatives:
First, eliminate from your diet all sugars except whole cane, pure maple, raw honey, and unsulphered molasses - and use those in extreme moderation. We use sugar the way we do any spice - and that is, as a spice. The exception is molasses used in old-style Switchel, which is perfect for recuperating mid-day on those hot, humid, heavy-work days in the field or on a construction project. (It's about the only time we consume molasses, which of course we buy by the gallon at wholesale.) I buy a complex natural cane sugar - far less sweet than what most people use - from a company called Just Panela, and I get it in bulk wholesale; my maple sugar comes from a Vermont company, purchased in bulk wholesale. These are advantages of starting a small business.
Second, eliminate all man-made oils; use only real butter, cold-pressed olive oil or palm oil, and low-heat processed coconut oil (I buy Gold Label coconut oil from Healthy Traditions, wholesale, in 5-gallon buckets).
Those two eliminations will resolve a great many joint aches and pains, and will stop putting a burden on the digestive and elimination system. All by themselves, they make a huge difference in energy, vitality, and general health. In my experience, shifting from carbohydrates for energy to fats for energy also enhances energy and vitality (but the vegetarians will argue this point; what can I say? It works for me).
These four guidelines for what to put in the body build up physical integrity and, so, stamina and health:
3a) Eat meat, bone in, with its fat, cooked slowly in moisture. Think of the old pots simmering over camp fires or in wood fireplaces hung over coals. Today, a crock pot does the same thing. This kind of cooking relaxes protein bonds, avoids destroying many heat-sensitive enzymes and vitamins, and makes nutritive elements from bones and marrow available.
3b) Eat offal. The organs contain dense concentrations of nutrients essential to the corresponding organs in your own body. I'm not a fan of pate, so I use organs in my bone broths. (My now-deceased mother instructed her butchers to grind organs up and mix them into the hamburger when she used to purchase old organic dairy cows - at a discount, of course - but I think that makes a tough hamburger.)
3c) Eat vegetables and dairy fresh and raw. Ideally, right off your own farm, harvested just before consuming. I buy raw milk from a nearby family farm. Vegetables come either from my garden or, in years I'm busy with some major project, from a nearby farmer who grows the way I do.
3d) Eat fermented vegetables and milk. Make your own kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurt. Also, make your own cheeses. The health benefits are astonishing.
(My "bible" for this: "Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Foods," Catherine Shanahan, MD, Ph.D.)
4. Produce as much of your annual food as possible - it's a lot cheaper, and healthier, and more resilient, to grow vegetables rather than buy them. Penny saved. Time substituting for money. Fresher (therefore more nutrients). And I can select heritage breed veggies, and save their seed, making me more self-sufficient/resilient.
Plant breeder and biologist Carol Deppe noted that we need 5 core foods to survive: corn, beans, potatoes, squash, and eggs. Learn to generate those for yourself as your first task, especially if time or space is at a premium, then branch out.
5. Produce extra annual food to sell or trade to pay food expenses - It really doesn't take much more work to grow twice as much as you need for yourself. Sell or trade the excess to reduce the cost of your own food budget. I sell meat chicken and eggs; I haven't yet sold excess veggies (rather, I still put up canned and dehydrated supplies), but I have traded veggies and things I make from the veggies (like my killer varieties of zucchini relish) for minor labor or other things I want.
6. Start a food forest - A food forest of perennial food-bearing plants is your "plan B" survival back-up. It will supplement your annual food production (it's "free food," both in labor and cost once it's up and running; done well (see: permaculture), it will reinforce itself by building soil and mutual benefits among the plants), and it could keep you alive when the weather doesn't cooperate, or some other catastrophe hits and store shelves are empty.
7. Preserve food without refrigeration - learn the old arts of canning, dehydrating, and preserving with brines and salt and smoke. There's no guarantee we'll always have power, or be able to afford it. And I think of solar-generated electricity as a "30-year solution" rather than my benchmark "100-year solution" because solar panel systems are only good as long as you can replace them or keep them operational. My priority is knowing how to live well with only what I can do with my two hands on my bit of land in my locale.
This is why I spent significantly on a top-notch wood cooking stove that I have learned to cook on; it also heats one of the two areas of the house we live in during our Vermont winters. It paid for itself in 5 years just through saved oil heat cost, and now throws off annual cash in the "penny saved is earned" category. Money not spent on oil heat is money redirected to building infrastructure. (I can heat water through a stove bladder, and run it into the house hot water system, too.)
8. Invest in infrastructure, not stocks - This should be obvious to PPers. Chris' advice in this post to invest into hard assets like land and infrastructure is what motivated me to share my 12-step "100 Year Solution." Stocks are fine, I suppose, and we do still have an IRA that throws off the money we need to pay our annual taxes (plus extra). But we find more security in our infrastructure than in the highly-manipulated, House-rules stock market. And we don't need a big bank account for security because we have a sufficiently equipped, and increasingly comprehensive, ark built on land we own outright and can maintain ourselves. We put excess cash into small streams of income we control rather than into the stock market; several different streams keeps us diversified and insures us against any one suffering loss. We have 3 streams right now, beyond our retirement incomes.
9. Build community - This also ought to be obvious to PPers. My uphill neighbor has the big logging equipment I occasionally need. My new most-immediate neighbors have become good friends through my introducing them to others and sharing knowledge and tools as they get oriented to the country life, having moved from Boston as part of Chris' "back to the land" exodus. A couple winters ago, since we had no plans to go anywhere for a month, I didn't plow my driveway after a snowstorm. Within a week we had multiple uphill neighbors check in to make sure we were okay, seeing no evidence of activity. I have also learned a lot about farming and forestry management from members of the old Vermont families who live in our little township. This is security, a shared sense of looking out for one another.
10. Prepare for self-protection with and without guns - I put this low on my list because self-protection is not where my emphasis is, and I don't fear my resilient neighbors. We are out of the way, off the thoroughfares, but it's still good to anticipate and prepare for the potential for complete societal collapse. We not only practice our shooting skills, we also practice Target Focus Training, a bare-hands violence-inflicting last-ditch life-in-the-balance fighting technique. (I've studied several martial arts; this is different and, imo, superior as a game changer.)
11. Prepare for hunting with and without guns - Hunting is, of course, another way to get food, but if ammo runs out or the guns stop working and cannot be repaired, food still needs to land on the table. Trapping equipment and bow-and-arrow hunting (as well as learning how to make them) are worth exploring enough to at least know what to do.
12. Build a paper-based resource library - If the internet goes down or electricity becomes expensive or intermittent, having key resources in paper form will be important. Plus, a curated library of both practical and philosophical material can keep generations informed and resourced. And given how the "cancel culture" is purging the public square of "objectionable" material, it's not clear to me that certain kinds of thinking will always be welcomed or taught at school or available from publishing houses. We've been intentionally collecting fiction, philosophy, political and economic texts, and practical manuals on the pre-industrial and early industrial ways of keeping body and soul together as intellectual fare for those who follow us on this bit of land.