Preparing for TEOTWAWKI Part 1 – Self-reliance & resiliency

Emma:

I’d always thought of myself as pretty tough but I started to really consider the meaning of that word when John was diagnosed with cancer. An older lady said I’d have to be very self-reliant and resilient to get through it all. I looked up the definition of resilient and realized I’d have to be very resilient; tough, strong, and flexible if we were going to make it.

re·sil·ient

rəˈzilyənt/

adjective

adjective: resilient

(of a substance or object) able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.

synonyms:       flexible, pliable, supple;

(of a person or animal) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.

“the fish are resilient to most infections”

synonyms:       strong, tough, hardy

The current state of the world has most people wondering what will come next. Economic upheaval, terrorism, the threat of war, natural disasters, and disease seem to be coming at us from every side. We may all have to become very self-reliant and resilient to make it in this new world. It makes sense to prepare yourself and your family for whatever may lie in store but figuring out how to prepare can be a daunting prospect.

Most people begin “prepping” because they’re afraid. They’re afraid of the state of the world or the state of their government. They’re afraid of job loss or social unrest. My own desire to become as self-reliant as possible came from a life-altering injury and the subsequent loss of my job. We had three teenage boys at home and we’d lost more than half our income and had astronomical medical bills. That first summer I realized that, if not for the generosity of my husband’s co-workers and some help from a food pantry, we would have struggled to even feed our sons. I looked into my pantry and I was terrified. I vowed never to be that dependent on anyone or any agency ever again. When John got cancer last year my careful planning was invaluable. I was able to keep things going here with very little outside help. After years of research and trial-by-fire learning I know that I can keep my family going should anything happen to drastically change our circumstances again.

This past year, more than any other, has shown me how resilient and self-reliant I am and I know that I’m not alone in that. People surprise themselves with their level of resiliency when disasters strike. Sure, some folks curl up in the fetal position and wait to be rescued, but if you’re reading this it’s because you’re not that type. You’re ready to take on the challenges and not only bounce back but thrive. I also learned that I have many areas in which I need to improve. I take heart in the knowledge that I’m wise enough to recognize that I don’t think I know everything and I’m still able to learn. If you’re just getting started you may feel overwhelmed. Don’t. We start everything in our lives with no experience. This is just like learning to read or drive a car. You need instruction and practice but you can become great at it.

It may be hard at times but there are some key things to remember when you’re getting started. First we need to consider the things we must have in order to be resilient. I’m talking about the most basic needs for survival. The “rule of three” applies here. This rule states that we can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. The more sources for those things available to us, the more likely we are to survive.

Let’s start with water and food. If we have several sources of water available we’re more likely to survive if the municipal water stops flowing. If you have a pond, a river or creek, and ways to filter that water so it’s potable, your chances of surviving increase. If you don’t have to depend on daily, weekly, or even monthly trips to the grocery store for food you’re more likely to survive if the trucks suddenly stop delivering to the market. You’re more resilient if you can grow at least some of your own food. This includes both fruits & vegetables as well as (if this is possible for you) your own sources of protein. Even if you can’t have cows and chickens in your back yard there are ways to prepare should the system fail.

No one I know can be entirely self-sufficient. We’ve become too accustomed to “specialists.” If an engine fails we see a mechanic. If we get sick we go to the doctor. We’ve lost so much of the knowledge our grandparents and great-grandparents once took for granted it’s nearly unimaginable. But we can learn what they knew. We have greater resources for learning than they could have ever imagined. And we can develop relationships that will be of mutual benefit. We have gone from having real communities to living in proximity to others. Part of being resilient is having not just the things you need but the people.

Get to know the farmers and others at your local farmer’s market. Investigate groups in your area who are interested in growing their own food or in operating a ham radio. Join a group who can teach you to sew or do carpentry. It may sound funny but there are “zombie societies” that teach people about survival. And they often do great things in the community while teaching very important skills. Many have events to stock local food pantries or raise money for local charities. There’s no reason becoming self-reliant can’t be fun!

Unless you’re a billionaire you’re probably never going to be fully prepared for every possible contingency. This is the real world and we live with real limitations. We’re limited on how much we can afford, how much space we have to grow and store food and other necessities. We’re limited on how much time we have to spend getting ready for disasters and limited in the ability to foresee every possible emergency. But you can learn to prepare within your budget, space and time constraints and for every disaster for which you can reasonably expect to be ready.

Don’t feel you have to suddenly be fully prepared or it’s not worth starting. I’d rather be 5% ready than not ready at all. I’d rather budget to be prepared than to succumb to defeat and blow my money on wasteful things. Set realistic goals for yourself. Even if you only spend an additional $5 – $10 a week on “prep” items it’s better than nothing. And you’ll find your confidence and inner peace growing as you become more and more self-reliant. Sure, awful things may happen but at least you’ll be able to meet the requirements of your family to survive and eventually thrive.

Over the next week or so I’ll be sharing some of the things you need to prepare yourself and your family for a TEOTWAWKI situation. Feel free, at any time, to comment or to ask questions. We’re all in this together!

Mulberry Leaf Tea

Emma again:

In my first post about mulberries I listed some (many) of the health benefits of this amazing tree. It’s not just the fruit that’s good for you! Since John has been battling cancer since last year I’m going to make a large batch of Mulberry Tea leaves so that he’ll have it available all winter long. It’s a really simple thing to make and store.

First I’m picking a large quantity of leaves. The ones you want to use are mature leaves, free of blemishes. I wash all the leaves and then pat them dry with paper towels. That way I know they’re clean of bird and bug messes.

Mulberry-leaves-washed

From there it’s simply a matter of drying the leaves. Drying can be done by spreading the leaves out on a screen in a sunny area, and covering it with another screen to keep the leaves free from insects. I use my dehydrator as it’s easier for me than locating a spot where my curious dogs won’t disturb the drying leaves.

leaves-ready-to-dry

It doesn’t take too long to dry the leaves in a dehydrator. In the sun it will probably take two or three days. You want the leaves to be so dry that you could grind them into a powder but don’t do that. Just break them up into pieces. Remember, they don’t have to be uniform but you want them relatively close in size.

dried-leaves

Once dried and broken up you simply store them in a plastic bag or in a jar. They’ll keep quite well if you’ve dried them properly. I’ve temporarily stored this tea in a zip lock bag but I’ll put it in canning jars which I’ll seal with my Food Saver later.

bagged-dried-leaves

When you’re ready to make a cup of tea just put a few leaves in a cup of boiling water. You really want to be sure the water is screaming hot. If the water isn’t hot enough it will either be extremely weak tea or won’t even really steep at all. The tea should turn out the color of green tea. It has a pleasant taste and can be sweetened if you like. So go out, find a Mulberry tree and get started with your own healthy Mulberry Leaf Tea!

Ready-to-drink

Pemmican – An Ancient “Survival Food”

Pemmican is a “survival food” made of lean meat, beef tallow (rendered beef fat), berries, and nuts. The creation of Pemmican is generally attributed to the Cree people from Canada. There are many recipes available for Pemmican but they’re all basically the same; meat, tallow, fruit, and nuts. Honey can be added to improve the taste. While it’s unlikely you’ll love it so much you start having Pemmican Thursdays at your house it’s a great thing to add to your food storage because it stores extremely well and provides lots of nutrients in a SHTF scenario.

Basic Pemmican Recipe:

Ingredients:

4 cups dried meat (only venison moose, caribou, or beef)

3 cups dried fruit

2cups rendered fat (only use beef, preferably leaf fat ) An excellent article on how to render fat can be found at http://christeguh.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-render-youre-own-beef-tallow-or-lard

1 cup unsalted nuts (this is optional but I highly recommend it)

1 tbsp raw honey (not the stuff you find on the grocery store shelves in the little bear bottle) (optional)

Equipment:

Cookie sheet

Mortar and pestle

Sharp kitchen knife

Directions:

Dry the meat by spreading it thinly on a cookie sheet at 180* for at least 8 hours or until crispy.

Grind the dried meat into a powder using the mortar and pestle.

Add the dried fruit and grind, leaving some larger fruit pieces to help bind the mixture.

Cut the beef fat into small chunks and heat over medium heat until it renders (melts) making tallow.

Stir the rendered fat into the meat/fruit mix, mixing thoroughly.

Add (crushed) nuts and honey if using.

Shape the Pemmican into bars or small balls and wrap individual servings in wax paper or store in plastic bags.

Vanilla Mint Body Lotion

Kate here again!  We all want to feel pampered from time to time, so I let the girl children choose scents for their own lotion/body butter.  They were really hip on this, which meant they needed to sniff every bottle of essential oils in the store.  It was a tedious adventure, but it all turned out pretty well.

My 13 year old had decided she wanted to clone the scent of her favorite chapstick which is vanilla mint.  So we set off to work on it.

Our ingredient list:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup aloe vera gel
  • 1/4 cup grated beeswax
  •  2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 drops peppermint essential oil

To start, we grated up the beeswax (because the only kind I could find was in a block).  We added it into a glass bowl with the coconut oil.

IMG_1952

We then filled a pan with water, set our glass bowl in it and heated it on medium, stirring until it was all melted.  (Note: the beeswax takes longer to melt than the coconut oil, so it will look like this before it all gets clear)

IMG_1954

And…..this is where my camera apparently decided it wasn’t going to save anymore photos….because I took them, I swear I did, but they are just not there now!

So, as you can see I used a big pan thinking it would be easier to retrieve the bowl for my 13 year old, it was not.  I ended up having to lift the bowl out ninja-style with a bendy spatula.  It was awesome to behold, and yet sad at the same time.  Next time I’ll just go with the smaller pan size like a double-boiler.

Once you do your ninja moves on the bowl of melted coconut oil and beeswax, you add in your aloe vera gel, vanilla, and peppermint.  Of course, according to your tastes and smells you might want to adjust the amounts you put in.  Mix until the aloe is well incorporated.

Now she liked the consistency of it just the way it was.  However, if you want to go for some extra flare, you could probably let the mixture set up for awhile and then whip it up into a fluffy and luxurious body butter.

So let us know if you’ve tried this out.  Post in the comments if you made any changes to the recipe that made it better (or worse LOL)!

Housing Your Rabbits Outdoors

So you’ve decided to jump in and start raising your own meat rabbits. In my last rabbit related post I described the type of rabbit you want and a little bit about what you’ll need to get started. In this post I’ll go into greater detail about housing your rabbits outdoors.

One of the biggest considerations is how you’ll keep your rabbits safe from predators. Every night I see coyotes, foxes, racoons, and feral cats prowling my property. It’s imperative that you provide a safe place for your rabbits to escape them as well as any dogs that might wander on your land.

Rabbit hutches can be as simple or as grand as you want (and can afford). There are a few “rules” for properly housing your outdoor rabbit but glamour isn’t one of them.

Trixie-Pet-Rabbit-Hutch-with-Attic-P16271218 This hutch is available on Overstock.com and is quite fancy! I’ve actually never seen a hutch with an “attic” before and I don’t know how much your rabbit would have to store up there. I think this is a palatial hutch for the single, pet rabbit but expensive and not really workable for more than one rabbit.

very basic hutchesThis hutch, on the other hand, is extremely basic and was probably made from materials that the builder mostly already had on hand.

I prefer housing in the middle. Below is a list of my requirements for outdoor housing. Remember, keep your adult rabbits housed separately to avoid fights.

Our winters can be extremely cold so I have an outside and an inside wall with insulation in the middle. This insulation can be as simple as straw pushed down between the two panels. Be sure the straw can’t get wet or it will not only lose its insulating qualities, it will mold and could even spontaneously ignite! Plywood is great for the walls of the hutch.

I use hardware cloth for the majority of the floor. Rigging the hardware cloth to either swing down or slide out for ease of cleaning is a time saver. Just be sure that nimble-fingered raccoons can’t remove the floor. Part of your flooring should be solid so that predators can’t reach through and also to provide insulation. Something as simple as a wooden box open on the front will work.

The does should have a larger hutch than the buck as they will be sharing quarters with their kits at least part of the time. There should be a panel of hardware cloth on the front of the cage to provide air circulation and to give your rabbits a way to look out on the world. Be sure this panel is not too small to hook the hanger for your water bottles & feeders through.

Be sure to have a hinged door so you can reach into the hutch for feeding, cleaning, and checking on your rabbits. You want to ensure that the doors lock so raccoons (those clever little critters) can’t simply open the door and feast on your kits.

The roof of the hutch can be simple plywood as long as you use something to protect it from rain/snow. You don’t want your investment rotting and you don’t want your rabbits getting wet and cold. This material (from Lowe’s) is inexpensive and easy to use.

roof material

Finally, be sure to think about the elements when placing your hutch. If it faces south will it be too hot? In the winter will the prevailing winds make it too cold? From which direction do most of your storms come? A protected area with enough shade for summer and enough sunlight for winter is what you want.

Mulberry Cobbler

Emma: I took some time off because Kate brought 3 of my grand kids to spend a week with me and their Poppa. We had a great time but now it’s back to the work/fun of summer harvesting and making delicious things with the bounty our property provides.

Today I’m going to share a really simple recipe for Mulberry Cobbler. This recipe will also work with raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. You may want to adjust the sugar in the filling based on your taste and the berries you use.

BAM’S MULBERRY COBBLER

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 cups mulberries, rinsed
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (may adjust to taste – optional)
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 400*

Filling: In a non-reactive saucepan combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Acooking-and-thickening-for-dd water and stir. Stir in berries. Cook over a medium heat, stirring, until thickened and bubbly. Keep filling hot while preparing topping.

Topping:

Mix flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon (if using). Cut in the butter until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Mix beaten egg with milk and add to the dry ingredients. Stir until moistened.

dry-ingredients

Pour the still hot filling into a baking dish (8×8). Top with mounds of the crumb mixture. This will spread as the Cobbler bakes.

Cooked-mulberries-ready-to-

Mulberry-cobbler-topped

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

Mulberry-Cobbler-ready-to-eMy topping didn’t spread as well as it should have but I may have been a tiny bit under on the milk. Also, be sure your butter is nice and cold so the proper “crumbs” form.

Serve warm or cold. This is great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Mulberry Recipes

In my last post I gave you lots of information about mulberries. While the health benefits of food are very important it’s crucial that things are pleasant to the taste or we don’t want to eat them. For me, mulberries are high up on the list of tasty, healthy foods.

Below are my recipes for Mulberry Jam, Green Leaf Mulberry Tea, and Mulberry Pie.

Mulberry Jam:

  • 6 cups mulberries, stems removed and washed
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 box pectin

Pick about 6 cups of mulberries. A good mix is about 1/4 red berries to 3/4 very dark berries. The red berries will help set your jam as they have a higher natural pectin content. I let the berries rest in the refrigerator overnight. Pick off the tiny stems and wash the berries. Warning: mulberries stain everything. Be prepared to have purple hands for several days and don’t wear anything you want to keep clean!

Freshly-picked-mulberries

Prepare jars, lids, and rings for hot water bath canning. Half pint jars will yield 6 – 7 jars of jam. Please be sure to follow all instructions for hot water canning!

Crush berries thoroughly (I used a potato masher) and begin to heat in a non-reactive pan, stirring constantly.

When the juices begin to release from the berries add the lemon juice and pectin. Bring to a full boil (one that cannot be stirred down). Stir in sugar until well incorporated, stirring constantly. Bring back to a full boil and continue to boil, stirring constantly, for 4 minutes.

Adding-sugar-to-mulberries

Constant-stirring

When the jam has boiled for a full 4 minutes carefully pour into clean, hot jars. Leave 1/4″ headspace. Add lids and finger tighten rings.

Filling-jam-jars

Cover your hot water bath canner and bring to a full boil. Reduce heat to a gentle boil and cook for 10 minutes. Immediately remove jars and keep in a draft free spot until jars have cooled completely. Check the seals on your jars. The center should be down and there should be no “give” in the lids. Remove the rings. Wash and label your jars. Any jars that have not sealed properly should be refrigerated and used within a week.

Clean-labeled-jarsThese jars are ready for storage in a cool, dark spot. If you have a basement, this is often the ideal place to keep the jars. Mine is cool, dry, and I have a nice dark place for them.

Next: Mulberry Cobbler!

All Natural Vapor Rub Alternative

So I (Kate) and the girl children that I spawned have been keeping ourselves busy outside as often as possible now that the weather has gotten nice.  However, on the rainy days we did some shopping and some creating.

I don’t know about everyone else’s houses, but in our house, we go through VapoRub like the stuff will cure all the ails of the planet.  So I set out to find a way to make my own…also because I don’t like the nasty greasy feel of the store bought kind.

This is what we came up with:

  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 10 drop eucalyptus essential oil
  • 2 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 5 drops lavender essential oil

IMG_1949

And it was literally so easy a 6 year old can do it and mine did. You just mix it all together.  So simple and easy!  It may have even been easier if I had melted the coconut oil before adding the essential oils.

IMG_1950

After she was done I did use the electric hand mixer and give it a whirl to smooth the consistency before putting it in a jar, but for the most part she did it all on her own.  Again, if I had melted the coconut oil, I wouldn’t have had to use the mixer on it, but we’re learning as we go.  Next time I’ll melt it down to save myself some time, but it literally only took 3 minutes to make a batch of it.  And it smells better than the store bought stuff.  It’s still “stinky” so that it works, but the lavender really gives it another layer.

It will be a staple in our house from now on, that’s for sure.  No more icky VapoRub.

In Praise of the Mighty Mulberry!

Mulberries-on-treeI admit it. I’m a mulberry freak. I love the things and I try to bring more and more people into the fold. When I say, “Come over to the dark side” I’m talking about those wonderful berries. And the trees are pretty common. Many people have mulberry trees on their property (or a neighbor’s) and don’t even know it! It’s tragic! Okay. Maybe not tragic but it’s a waste of some really great berries that are free for the picking. There are multiple health benefits to eating mulberries or drinking mulberry leaf tea. Below is a pretty extensive list of them but if that kind of thing bores you just skip to the next post which is all recipes! Mulberry leaves contain calcium, iron and zinc. Mulberries also contains the antioxidants ascorbic acid and beta carotene. Antioxidants inhibit cellular damage caused by free radicals, which get created during food digestion and smoke and radiation exposure. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by increased blood glucose levels. According to a study published in “The American Journal of Chinese Medicine” in 2012, mulberry lowers blood glucose due to its gallic acid content. In a study published in “Diabetes Care” in 2007, this effect was shown in Type 2 diabetes patients. In the study, everyone in a diabetes group and a healthy control group received a sucrose drink, but some also got mulberry extract, while the others got a placebo. Blood glucose was tested beforehand and two, three and four hours after sucrose consumption. The results showed that taking mulberry significantly curbed glucose spikes in the first two hours after consumption. The scientists concluded that mulberry could be useful both in the treatment of diabetes and in its prevention. In a study published in 2013 in “BioMed Research International,” triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels were lowered significantly in patients given 280 grams of mulberry leaf powder three times daily for three months. A study published in 2010 in the “Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition” found similar results after giving participants 12 milligrams of mulberry leaf extract three times daily for three months. These studies suggest that regular heavy doses of this herb may be required to see significant results in lowering cholesterol and triglycerides. However, sipping some mulberry leaf tea regularly may help prevent high cholesterol. According to a study published in 2013 in the “Journal of Functional Foods,” mulberry leaf has been traditionally used to treat inflammation caused by chronic diseases, and the results of the study verify its anti-inflammatory effects. In vitro, scientists found mulberry leaf inhibits inflammatory agents in the body, cutting off the body’s inflammatory response. This effect was shown in rats in a study published in 2010 in “Phytotherapy Research.” Rats with induced paw edema were introduced to mulberry, which inhibited the formation of inflamed paw tissue. These studies suggest mulberry leaf tea could be used to help ease pain by reducing inflammation.

  • Delicious, fleshy, succulent mulberries are less in calories (just 43 calories per 100 g). They compose of health promoting phyto-nutrient compounds like polyphenol pigment antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that are essential for optimum health.
  • Mulberries have significantly high amounts of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals called anthocyanins. Scientific studies have shown that consumption of berries have potential health effects against cancer, aging and neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and bacterial infections.
  • The berries contain resveratrol, another polyphenol flavonoid antioxidant. Resveratrol protects against stroke risk by altering molecular mechanisms in the blood vessels; reducing their susceptibility to damage through reduced activity of angiotensin (a systemic hormone causing blood vessel constriction that would elevate blood pressure) but potentiating production of the vasodilator hormone, nitric oxide.
  • In addition, these berries are an excellent sources of vitamin-C (36.4 mg per 100, about 61% of RDI), which is also a powerful natural antioxidant. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents, counter inflammation and scavenge harmful free radicals.
  • Further, the berries also contain small amounts of vitamin A, and vitamin E, in addition to the above-mentioned antioxidants. Consumption of mulberry provides another group of health promoting flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin, ß-carotene and a-carotene in small but notably significant amounts. Altogether, these compounds help act as protect from harmful effects of oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
  • Zea-xanthin, an important dietary carotenoid selectively concentrates into the retinal macula lutea, where it thought to provide antioxidant functions and protects the retina from the harmful ultraviolet rays through light-filtering actions.
  • Mulberries are an excellent source of iron, which is a rare feature among berries, contain 1.85 mg/100 g of fruits (about 23% of RDI). Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, determines the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.
  • They also good source of minerals like potassium, manganese, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
  • They are rich in B-complex group of vitamins and vitamin K. Contain very good amounts of vitamin B-6, niacin, riboflavin and folic acid. These vitamins are function as co-factors and help body in the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein, and fats.

Mulberries coFully-ripe-and-mostly-ripeme in three varieties; white, pink, and red. I’m going to stick to the red in this post because it’s the kind I use for jam, pie, and sauce. I also have a white mulberry tree but I’m sticking with the black for now. A word of warning; mulberries stain. They stain hands, feet, clothing, and everything else the juice touches. Don’t wear anything you want to keep stain free when picking or cooking with mulberries! The stains will (eventually) come off skin but be prepared to have purple fingers (and maybe feet) for at least a few days. An important thing to note about unripe mulberries: they are poisonous/hallucinogens.  The leaves, when dried, are edible and dried mulberry leaves have been used to increase weight gain in lambs and goats. The Chinese have eaten the berries and used the leaves for teas for centuries. Just stay away from white and mostly white berries. You’ll not only hallucinate but your tummy will never forgive you! Picking mulberries isn’t really picking. The ripe berries fall to the ground and are perfectly safe to pick up for use as long as they aren’t falling on sprayed grass or next to a roadway where they’re subjected to lots of exhaust. On of the easiest ways to gather mulberries is to spread a sheet or tarp on the ground beneath the tree and shake the branches. The ripe berries fall right off the branch like manna from heaven. But for jam you will want to add a few that are still red instead of the deep black color of the very ripe berries. Shoot for about 1/4 red berries in the total mix. The slightly under-ripe berries will help your jam set up properly. In the next post I will give you my recipe for Mulberry Jam and also for Green Leaf Mulberry Tea.

TEOTWAWKI

You may have heard the acronym “TEOTWAWKI” before. It stands for The End Of The World As We Know It. Most people think of it in terms of a zombie apocalypse or nuclear war. But really anything that profoundly alters your way of life is a TEOTWAWKI scenario for you and your family. It can be the loss of a job, your home could burn down, or a family member could have a serious illness. That’s what happened to me (Emma) and her husband, John last fall.

Beginning in about March of 2014, John began having pain in his neck which shot up to his left ear. At first the pain was fleeting and not all that bad. But as time when on it got worse and more frequent. It lasted longer than a moment or two. Finally he went to the doctor who suspected some kind of infection. He was faithful about taking the antibiotics and we expected the pain would end quickly. It didn’t.

Returning to the doctor, he was again given antibiotics. Both visits showed no ear infection, no infection in the throat, nor anything else that was obviously the source of the problem. Still, the doctor thought it had to be something minor. It was not. In September, after months and months of worsening pain, he was sent for a biopsy of his esophagus. John has a condition called Barrett’s Esophagus which is a pre-cancerous condition. That biopsy was clear. No sign of cancer there. But in November, with the pain still increasing, he was sent to a head/neck specialist who scoped the back of his tongue and throat. There was a lesion on the extreme back of his tongue. It was impossible to see by looking in his mouth. Another biopsy was ordered and before he was even taken to the surgical suite we were told it was “probably” cancerous and that chemo and radiation would likely be next.

On the day before Thanksgiving we got the results. The doctor called to tell us John had cancer. It was, for us, TEOTWAWKI.

Exactly a week before Christmas Eve John started chemotherapy. That was Wednesday. By Friday he was in the hospital with kidney failure. He started radiation therapy that Sunday. They’d wheel his bed over to the cancer center in the hospital for radiation. He had radiation five days a week for months. He had chemotherapy three times. He was very sick, weak as a kitten, and required round-the-clock care and I was the only one who could do it.

It was then that I realized how fortunate we were to have prepared for emergencies. This winter was particularly cold. I am disabled and the cold is extremely hard on me. By having enough food in the house to feed myself (John was on a feeding tube all winter) I could get by with our son going to the grocery store for me every couple of weeks just for odds and ends. I actually could have done it all on our stored foods.

And it wasn’t just food that came in handy. I had a stockpile of paper towels and John used a roll every couple of days. I had buckets for when he was too sick to get to the bathroom. We had, in short, everything we needed except the new prescriptions John required.

That’s not to say this wasn’t a learning experience. As I mentioned, this winter was extremely cold here and during the worst of it, when the temperatures were -15 below 0 without the wind chill, our furnace went out. I had no way to keep John, myself, and the dogs warm. Thanks to our youngest son and two great friends we had 4 heaters within an hour but it woke me up to the fact that it’s not always going to be possible to depend on the fireplace. It would have been very difficult on him to move John’s hospital bed to the family room where the fireplace is located. It would have meant opening that room to the outside elements every time I had to let the dogs out. Now we’re making adjustments to our heating plan knowing that we can’t always, even with the generator, count on the furnace.

And I learned that, in spite of trying to think of every contingency, life will throw things at us that we didn’t anticipate. I learned that it really does take a group to get through things. I’m building my community so that, if the zombie apocalypse does come, we have enough people with crucial skills that we can not just survive, but thrive.

John is cancer-free now and we’re rebuilding our stocks. I’m investing in items I never realized I’d need and we’re refining our plans.

When you’re planning for your TEOTWAWKI scenarios don’t forget that the end of the world may come as something you didn’t consider. Try to think of every possible situation and plan, as well as you can, for those situations. Fire, flood, famine, illness, and zombies are just a few of the possible situations you might face. Consider, plan, study, and prepare.