I hope you are all having a wonderful, healthy, and safe winter, spring, or whatever season it is for you at the moment! Recent events, or more accurately, some of the reactions I've seen from people to them, have prompted me to cover a little bit about what I do when things go wrong around here. I've been asked many variations of these questions over the years. "What if you get sick?" "What if you get hurt?" "What if you are snowed in?" "What if your vehicle breaks down?" "What if any of the other million things someone can think of goes wrong?"
The short answer is that I plan on things going wrong, breaking down, and getting ill. Because this is what I've observed through both my life and broader history. Stuff breaks. Weather does unexpected things. Things wear out. I get ill. And usually all these things happen at the most inconvenient times too.
One good example is shortly after I moved into my tiny house here, the heater broke. Now I'd just moved in recently. I only had one heater, a situation that is no more as I now have at least three options to heat my house! It also happened to be a Friday night. Also it happened to be twenty something below zero fahrenheit. Also, the closest heater repair guy was a 17 hour round trip drive away in the winter, and did I mention this was heading into a weekend? Also, I happened to pick up some kind of stomach bug and was flat on the couch throwing up. Toomuch info I know, but this is a real story. All those things went wrong, at once, in about the most inconvenient combination possible. This was by no means a totally isolated incident in my life. Where more than one inconvenient thing failed or went wrong at the same time. Reading through history from just before my birth to several thousand years back, it seems like such things are not unique to me either, but a common human experience in this world.
So I simply plan on such things happening. Not in a I'm-going-to-live-in-terror-all-the-time kind of way at all. Just an expectation that things will eventually go wrong. Now if you're picturing a "Prepper" wearing a tactical vest, building a nuclear bunker, training a militia, and stockpiling freeze dried foods they've never eaten before, that is not what I'm talking about here either. Nothing against those who choose to do those things if that's what you are into. What I do is just try to be sure I always have a good supply of all the things I use on a daily basis as well as any non-daily things that I am likely to use at particular times, especially if something breaks. Now there is no way I can cover every aspect of this kind of thing in a single post. Many great books have been written detailing different ways to approach living in a functional way. But here are some of the things I do, to maybe spark ideas in your own life.
Not because planning ahead and being prepared prevents all pain and suffering of course. The point for me is to be less inconvenienced. To not have to stress about any particular emergency "right now." To be able to be more comfortable and less miserable when something does go wrong. Or miserable instead of dead. Or whatever. You get the point. None of this is out of my routine or done just in case of the end of the world, but because I'm going to for sure use or do all these things anyway at some point, so why not be ready ahead of time and save myself a lot of stress and emergencies? And if I can do this living in a 160ish square foot tiny house, there's not many of you living in the States anyway that can argue you don't have space to do something similar. :)
So for things like the "what if you get sick, hurt, or there's a worldwide pandemic?" question, this is what I do. I always have the things around that I'm likely to need if I don't feel great. From keeping a jar of my ginger tonic brew in the back of the fridge (see how I make it here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UJu-9WP99o) so I can brew up a cup of tea any time my immune system needs a boost, to having a well stocked first aid kit around (see the one I keep in my car here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1eljGWAJIM, plus more supplies in the house) along with training in backcountry medical first aid, to having a whole host of herbs and wild plants I dry or create tinctures with treat or support most health issues, have natural antibiotics, antivirals, and immune boosters like garlic, colloidal silver, oregano oil, bone broth, echinacea, elderberry, grapefruit seed extract, and more in the medicine cupboard should I need them. And mostly working to maintain an active, strong, and healthy weight body every day with real foods and lots of activity and good sleep.
Don't ever forget that whatever might go wrong, the stuff between your ears is the most valuable resource you have! It's never a waste to take the time to read, learn, take a course, etc. in learning useful skills. And keeping a few handy references around in a physical form if you need to look something up is a pretty good idea too. Google is convenient for looking up info for sure, but power outages, equipment malfunctions, or internet connection issues can all come along with a lot of other things that go wrong, whether it's in the wider world, or just a tree blowing down and crushing the power lines to only your home.
Water is a big topic as it quickly becomes essential to continued life. And in any kind of natural disaster you'll notice that it's one of the first things to fly off of store shelves. Whether you have the space and want to store bottled water, jugs, or buckets somewhere, have well water and some kind of hand pump option should the well pump not be operational, a setup to capture and store rain water, or have access to open creeks, streams, or ponds that would require filtering or otherwise treating to be safe, it's a good idea to think about where you'd get water to wash, cook, and eat if something cut off or polluted what normally comes out of your tap. For me, I have access to a well where I normally carry my water from who's pump is backed up by a generator. I also could carry water up the hill from the creek below my home though that would all require filtering or boiling to be safe for drinking. And of course in the winter I could melt snow though there's no usually much water in the snowpack here since it's so dry and cold and again that would require boiling or filtering. But at least I have multiple options.
Food of course eventually becomes a necessity for continued human life too. And most grocery stores only stock one to two days worth of normal sales before they would be empty if new trucks are not arriving with items to restock. So the option to buy more can go away quite quickly. Like if a tornado might have crushed things all over the highway preventing travel in your area. Or flooding, snow, wind, and many other things that can interfere with delivering food that, last I saw a figure for the State, travels an average of over 1500 miles before making it to a plate in front of someone who is going to eat it. I have to laugh every time I hear of some area where a blizzard is supposed to hit and everyone is racing to a store to buy up all the bread and milk. Come on folks, if you plan on eating every day, please have more than a few hours of food on hand!
No, again I'm not talking about buying some kind of "Survival Food for A Month" kit or stocking up on things you'd only consider actually eating if you were starving. Just the normal every day foods you already eat. Have enough on hand to be fine for a while. Hey I live where there are blizzards more months of the year than not. And I never run to a grocery for anything that is an emergency. I have a cupboard full of things that I could eat for probably at least 4-6 months before I'd get hungry. If I eat pickles for instance, I either can or buy something like 6-20 jars, and adding more to the list to buy if I'm getting toward the low end of that number. New jars, cans, bags, whatever go to the back of the row and I always eat from the front so everything it naturally rotated. So other than right at the start, I'm buying the same amount, but always have plenty on hand for a while if something interrupts that normal plan.
This is repeated for everything else I eat regularly. For example I can at any point in time decide to toss together a meal of spaghetti since I have jars of sauce I made in the pantry, keep dry pasta on hand, and have either ground elk in the freezer or can make a vegetarian version with canned or frozen veggies if I'm out of fresh. I have canned fruit around that can be enjoyed on it's own or made into pies or cobblers. I have beans, rice, lentils, etc that can be made into rich soups, side dishes, and more especially with the addition of bone broth that I make regularly. I have either flour or whole wheat on hand so I can always make a batch of fresh bread or biscuits. Even when it's winter and I don't have fresh greens in the garden that I can eat, I almost always have sprouts growing indoors. (They are a super easy and inexpensive way to grow fresh nutrient dense food without hardly and space or material! See how I do that here if you haven't already watched the video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEG9eH6Y_YE ) I have canned sardines, kippers, and mackerel around so I can always make a creamy fish and pasta dish, again with dry pasta on hand. And so on. I can't possibly list all the options, but that's the gist of it. I'd eat well for a long time were the ability to restock cut off for some time. And this is accomplished just by keeping more of what I use regularly on hand. Don't worry, the same is true of Burley's food, he's not going hungry anytime soon either.
Finances are another great place to work toward creating a buffer. With cash on hand and/or easily accessible in a checking account or similar. Preferably, according to most financial advisers, enough to cover whatever standard living costs are for you for 3-6 months. Which could also cover emergencies like a broken down car, broken leg, emergency vet bill if you have a pet, and so on. This alone is another huge topic I couldn't possibly cover comprehensively in one post and there are many great places to find lots more advice on that. https://www.mrmoneymustache.com , in addition to having a great website name, is one I've really enjoyed reading over the years thanks to his clear advice and entertaining writing. No I didn't get to having a financial buffer overnight. In fact I think being ready for things to go wrong in this department took me longer to be able to build up to than almost anything else I discuss here. It might take you a while too, but that doesn't mean it's not worth working towards. Imagine the amount of stress having a buffer like that would take off your life in many situations! Again, whether it's a big disaster that affects lots of people, or just a personal injury or even lay off from a job that only affects you or your family.
Living in a very cold climate, heating is of course pretty key for much of the year. So again, I keep more than what I plan to need around. For me this mostly means plenty of firewood. Most years I use one and a quarter to one and a half cords of wood. So I always have a little more than that split and in my wood shed, and then an extra half a cord or more in a pile of rounds under a tarp right beside the wood shed so if I do need more, it's very easy to access and split up even in the middle of winter. Without requiring heading off into the woods and trying to fell trees and haul them in with everything buried under snow. This winter, for the first time since I've lived here, I dipped into that extra stash so I've been very glad it was there! We have had some record breaking cold temps through the winter starting back in November of last year, and I've never burned through so much wood. But instead of stressing about that, being cold, or having to go to a lot of effort to collect dead trees in the middle of winter, I can just pick a day with pleasant weather and split up some extra from that backup pile as I see the supply dwindling. A chore I actually enjoy.
For you, heating may well not be firewood, but if it ever gets cold in your area at all, having some kind of heating option that will work even if something takes out electrical power to your home is key to reducing a lot of stress and potential bad situations. If you have it, and better yet use it regularly, then a cold snap combined with some other disaster can just be enjoyed, or at least lived through semi comfortably, from a warm home rather than becoming truly miserable or life threatening.
Lighting is another thing that can be a huge inconvenience if not available and even make other bad situations much worse if you injure yourself by tripping in the dark or something similar. Now my tiny house is already off grid and on a little solar power system. But even though no grid power outage is going to affect my daily life, I still have backups as any component of that system could break down. So I have several lovely oil lamps that provide a wonderful light as you can see below. I also have flashlights and headlamps for times when I might need to move around and have my hands free. And extra batteries for them. All rechargeable so that presuming either my solar system or my vehicle (I have an little plug in inverter for the cigarette lighter so I can charge things via that should I need to either on a trip or at home) is working, I can replenish those.
On that note, if you ever travel anywhere by vehicle, have some basic supplies in there and at hand. These may vary widely depending on your climate. For me, there's about 8 wintery months a year where that includes a full sized snow shovel and five gallon bucket of gravel. Year round there's stuff like a battery pack that can jump a car, air compressor that can inflate a tire, spare tire, tow strap, extra bottles of oil, transmission fluid, coolant, spare fuses, wool blanket and sleeping bag, water, food, and more. At some point over the years, I've been very thankful to have all of those things. Like the time a few years ago when I was about 3 hours drive from any kind of service station in the winter and out of cell phone coverage, and the head gasket cracked. I went through almost all the coolant and water I had with me to get to a place I could buy more, to get back to an auto repair shop. Or just a few weeks ago when I was driving home from cleaning a house and encountered two other vehicles that had both slid off the road and into an irrigation ditch and then fence. Neither the couple in the one, or the single guy in the other had anything that could help out their situation. Again it was a location with very spotty cell coverage. It feels great to be able to stop and offer a shovel, towing ability, etc to someone else even though it wasn't my emergency.
Of course there are so many more things I've not touched on at all like if you or anyone in your household is dependent on any particular prescriptions, having some extra on hand should something prevent a prompt refill. Or alternative or back up communications, transportation, growing food and seeds, and on and on. But basically, if you're worried about not having or running out of something, just notice what you use every day. If you touch something in a day and would find it inconvenient to not have, make a note of what it is and try to add a few extra of that item, or a backup option to what you have around all the time.
So if you are a little freaked out right now by current events, I advise you to take a deep breath and stay that way! What I mean is that whether a particular virus ever actually affects you or not, remember the feelings you are having right now as you worry about the security and supply of many daily basics. And then take a realistic look around you at the things you need or use every day. And build up a little supply so when everyone else is getting into fist fights over toilet paper at the stores, you can relax at home knowing you already have enough in the cupboard to last a couple months at least. I think of this as just responsible living since not one part of anything I've described makes my life worse off or goes to waste if nothing happens to ever go wrong again in the world. No "survival food" is decomposing in the back of a closet because what I have on hand is what I eat and enjoy anyway. Extra cash savings I've never found to be bad to have even if no financial expenses come up unexpectedly. I could always go on vacation or buy a new camera! :) You get the picture.
Just don't forget the deep breath part too. Many things in the news have created widespread fear over the years without many or any actual effects on most people. So from that perspective, don't freak out. Just do the things every day that make it not necessary to freak out when a new emergency comes up. Because you were always planning on something happening anyway. Because it usually does, whether a global pandemic or a something that's only in your home. I love the freedom of being the person who can hear that a storm, literally or figuratively, is coming and think, "Huh, interesting." And pretty much just go on with normal life because every day life already includes being ready for storms to happen.
Whether you've been super concerned about the newest strain of Corona Virus, any other latest and scariest stories in the news, or just the logistics of living on your own in an off grid tiny house in the woods, maybe that is some helpful tips to think through how to have back ups in place so many potential disasters can just be inconvenient instead. Be safe, healthy, and don't forget all this once one story leaves the news, only to panic again when there's some new scary emergency!