Food, water, shelter, clothing and hygiene are our basic needs. Some people say “sleep” or “warmth” instead of shelter but I’d argue both are met by a shelter. I mean, even clothing is debatable, especially if you’re a naturist!
To be self-sufficient in SHTF or in life as it is at the moment, where we can see the S but it hasn’t quite HTF yet, you need more than just a big stockpile. I guess this is the distinction between preppers and survivalists. I’d say I’m a survivalist and self-sufficiency enthusiast more than I’m a prepper. An overgrown girl scout, if you prefer. But lately I got to thinking, self-sufficiency is so much bigger than I ever realised.
So here are some questions I asked myself based around human needs, and I’ve also put my answers. Then I thought other people might want to have a look and reflect on their own readiness in case there’s any areas here you’ve missed. I know a lot of prepping blogs focus on very specific areas (beans, bullets and bandages, as Patriot Nurse puts it) but I envision a future where we will need to do a lot for ourselves that we currently pay for. With the price of electricity and other energy going up, and the cost of food increasing, along with the EU considering a ban on fast fashion, self-sufficiency as a lifestyle doesn’t look very distant any more, and that’s before you get onto things like the WEF’s “you will own nothing and be happy”, the plans for carbon net zero and so on. I want to be self-reliant. So here’s my skills audit:
- Making fire
This is one of the first things I focused on. Even as a child, I used to be fascinated with matches and candles, and my running away plans (from age 6. Sad childhood blah blah blah) always included long lists of stuff I’d need, but matches and candles were always near the top. Somehow I’ve always known you need fire to survive, and yet… I don’t own a flint and steel! What? I have waterproof matches in a waterproof safety tube but if those failed… I’d have to go outside and find a piece of flint and use my Swiss Army Knife to get it going. I always thought that wouldn’t be an issue but I was neglecting two things: First, I no longer live in an area with ample flint; in fact it’s quite hard to find where I now live. And second, I disregarded nuclear attacks as a credible possibility. That was stupid. Hi Biden vs Putin. However, I also have a camping cooker (but no gas for it. When they said “reusable cartridges available all over EU” it was silly of me to think they meant Ireland) and my home cooker runs off-grid on bottled gas. Next steps: Buy a flint and steel and practise with it!
- Making shelter:
No worries. I always have a tent to hand, ever since I left home at 18. I actually hate camping but know how to do it if needed. I would use my house until it was no longer viable. Other options include sheltering in a bin if necessary (not on bin day) or under a car in urban areas, or building a basic shelter elsewhere. I did have an article on this which was all about homelessness but I had to delete it a few years ago, because my knowledge of the legalities is now 17 years out of date (thank God). At some point I’ll rework it into just the part about how to make shelters but let’s agree my skills in this area are fine. I’ve previously made an igloo and am currently building a fallout shelter in the backyard.
- Getting water and cleaning it:
So I know about iodine pills but I don’t have any. I currently have a Brita Maxtra Plus water filter in the cupboard ready to use when it’s needed. That’s not a skill, though. Do I know where my nearest water source is? Yes, my garden is built 2 metres below ground level and I could easily dig a well. Purification would involve filtering it then boiling it (and if I wanted to be really sure, filtering it again in a separate jug then using it, like my dad used to do). I used to have a couple of Lifestraws but I burned them out when I was nomadic in 3 extended trips to America, because the water smelled so bad of sulphur in Yuma that I didn’t feel safe drinking it as it was (the Flint water scandal was fresh at the time). These days, a Lifestraw feels less useful because I have two young children depending on me and neither are old enough to drink from a Lifestraw, but if I was alone I’d have bought another one by now. I also know how to make a water filter because my class three (first grade, because the classes were messed up) teacher was a bit of a survivalist.
I am currently growing raspberries, gooseberrries, blackberries (not to be confused with blackcurrants), hazelnuts for protein, cabbages, carrots, strawberries, onions, cherries, blueberries, and last year’s broccoli is still giving decent yields, along with a bunch of herbs. I haven’t finished planting for the year, yet (OMG it’s May already).
When it all crops, I won’t be short of food. In the meantime, I’m stockpiling food for short term use (I have 1 month of food to meet all nutritional needs, and am trying to build this to 6 months, but I currently have 4 months of rice for a family of 4 and 6 months of pasta).
I am currently having success dehydrating spinach and other leafy vegetables and storing them in jars. If we had to survive a nuclear attack right now, we could, easily, however, we wouldn’t have much for the ensuing seasons.
My main issue is I need somewhere to store any further stockpiles and I think growing is a better long-term solution, so I’d like to learn hydroponics and get a heat lamp, as it covers situations where growing outdoors isn’t possible.
I know how to make soap. And I’ve made it. A lot. I can recite soap recipes to total strangers in general conversation off the top of my head. However, I never seem to have enough cloths and I’d like to practise making cleaning products from home-grown ingredients. Next steps: More cloths, practise stuff.
I am very good at hand sewing. I resisted buying a sewing machine until I was 33 then after my first child was born, I bought a children’s one and used it until I knew what I was doing. Earlier this year, I upgraded to a basic adult model as I have need of different stitch patterns e.g. that zigzag one for stopping seams from fraying when I’m making children’s toys.
However, sewing has limitations. So I have been teaching myself knitting since this time last year. Clothes wear out and knowing how to repair them is great, but with the poor-quality materials used on most commercial clothes these days, knowing how to make your own is a very overlooked survival skill. Frostbite is dangerous.
Knitting also means blankets, rugs, curtains and cushion covers without being dependent on a good supply of the right thickness of cloth, cotton and metal needles. And it also means you can make toys for children. You could even knit with beanpoles in a desperate pinch.
So that’s my self-sufficiency/survivalist skills audit. You might not view some of these as having “done enough” or you might think I’ve gone overboard in some areas. And that’s okay. Having differences of opinion IS okay. Regardless of what the media tries to make us think/feel, we are all individuals with our own thoughts and feelings. What essential survival skills have I missed? I’d love to learn from you, so let me know in the comments.