Lessons Learned (From Personal Events, Mistakes, etc.)

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    MERGED Posts today


    Most of the posts on APN focus on the breakdown of society, whether it’s a localized catastrophe (like an earthquake) or something global. As a new prepper I’ve concentrated on how I’d manage if the System suddenly wasn’t there. Recently, however, I realized that my focus was too narrow. There’s another aspect of being prepared that I hadn’t considered: can I function fully WITHIN the system if it’s just my world that falls apart?

    My mother is a self-reliant woman. She lives in Maine, I live in Oregon. Even though she’s elderly I never worry about her. I know she’s prepared for blizzards, power outages… all of the disasters that happen in her neck of the woods.

    Yet she doesn’t like the modern world. She won’t get a credit card or an ATM card — they “complicate your life.” She avoids cities and finds it difficult to drive even in small ones like Bangor, ME. She hates computers and can only barely use them. She rarely flies, and if she does, I have to make all the reservations for her because “they’re too complex.”

    In October I was hit with a rare malady (ITP). Literally overnight I went from perfectly fine to being in the ICU in a life-threatening condition. And for the first time in my life, I saw my mother caught flat-footed. She wasn’t prepared. She wanted to come be with me — and she couldn’t.

    This hit on a Saturday night, when the banks were closed. She didn’t have much money in the house and with no ATM card she couldn’t get any until Monday morning. She didn’t know how to make plane reservations on-line. She didn’t have a credit card to make those reservations or to reserve a rental car. Even if she could have gotten to Portland (OR) she wouldn’t dare drive from the airport to the hospital. She depended on me to do all of those things. To make her reservations, to pick her up, to navigate through traffic. And this time I couldn’t be there for her.

    It made me take a harder look at my own self-reliance. How many times, I asked myself, do I say, “Eh, I’ll wait till my husband comes home. He’ll take care of that.” I was disconcerted by the answer. I realized that I was afraid to drive in major cities. That I couldn’t locate all of our investments. I couldn’t fix the cars, the computers, or any of the household appliances if something went wrong with them. The more I thought, the more of these tiny “holes” I spotted. Places where, through laziness, I depended on other people.

    To some extent we have to depend on others; the world’s complex enough that we can’t master it all. But my mother’s predicament taught me that if I really want to be self-reliant, I need to expand the scope of my preparations. I need to force myself to do things — like drive in Portland — that I would rather let my husband handle. Because some day it might be him in the ICU, not me.


    My one year anniversary of prepping is fast approaching and I thought I would throw out some of what I learned as a latecomer to prepper.

    1. I am not a kook. My desire to be more or totally self sufficient is not necessarily the rantings of a delusional, anti-social freak. So Mom and Dad if you are out there, running away to live with John Denver in Colorado wasn’t so abnormal. Don’t worry folks, I made it to the mountain top that our borough is on and spent the night. I came home the next morning hungry.

    2. A lot of people I used to think were kooks, well, they’re not so much. The biggest lesson I have picked up on is just how big the prepping community is. The spread of persons across any type of demographic you wish to label is huge. By and large it is accepting, friendly and willing to share information. I don’t have to re-create the wheel, someone else has already done it and will tell you how to do it if you only listen and learn.

    3. How much I have to do to even get near the goals I want to have accomplished. My wife is not so much on board with this but she is willing to do the couponing thing and doesn’t hammer me to much over food storage. Some of the other things, well I might just have to find alternate methods of storing.

    4. Just how much I do have available to me right now. Over 20 years in the military, add a lot of camping experience on the civilian side and I have accumulated a fair amount of useful stuff. I had to sit down and inventory/catalog it, but that self examination helped me to define and prioritize the direction I need to go.

    5. The feeling of being overwhelmed by it all will pass if you stick to it. This has been primarily a year of learning with a little action. The coming year will be food storage year. We are currently up to around three months of edibles. I will be adding some more canned goods to the ready shelves in the next couple of weeks and then will begin accumulating freeze dried and bulk foods. I want to be around 9 months worth at the end of the next year and increase the number of people that I am prepared to feed.

    6. Establish a friend network. The more I mentioned stuff, the more people I found were doing it to some degree or another. I am galled at how far behind I am some of my friends. Catch up is a must within the budget constraints I have set.

    7. Establish a Library. Both digital and in print. A binder system is what I have started on my shelves as well as digital on my computer. You can know how to do something, done it a million times even, BUT, somewhere, sometime, you will need to reference

    8. Ready Mom seems to be on ALOT of other websites. I go through a pretty fair number of websites or blogs and sift for information. The different perspectives really are important if you are trying to learn. While I don’t post often, I am trolling through the sites weekly at worst. I have narrowed a couple of sites down to almost daily, but it is the differences that make the information valuable. When you see the same things on several different sites, well take it to heart that they might be important.

    9. Nobody else’s plans will necessarily be a perfect fit for you. In other words, be flexible. Don’t be afraid to add your personal touch to “the plan.” Only you can assess what you are prepping for.

    10. Burn out can occur with everything. Especially if you are a part of short attention span theater like me sometimes. Pace yourself, you are not in a sprint. I wouldn’t even say it is a race. Everything you do, every step you take, gets you closer to your goal. You could financially burn out as well. There is a lot to do and buy, prioritize and set a budget you can afford and stick to it. There are plenty of examples out there of what twenty dollars can buy you. Taking out a second mortgage so you can spend thousands right now is only setting youself up for failure because you will never attain self sufficiency. Unless you belive in the Mayan calendar thing, the world will not end. It’s an election year so our economic data will look good. Plus a year is a lot of time even if you think that it is all going to come down. The key is to start and don’t stop. Start simple, food and water, use coupons, buy it on sale just buy one or two extra cans of veggies or fruit. You will be suprised how quick you can get to three months worth.

    Well, if you read through all of this, I thank you for your time. Many of you out there have been a great help to us new to the process and for myself and my friends who have joined me in this – thank you. I hope all of you find success in your endeavors in the coming new year. If I can even glean half as much information from all of you next year as I did this year, I will consider myself fortunate.



    In April I was diagnosed as a non-brittle type 2 diabetic as a result of My attacking this like a dog on a ham bone My blood sugar has tanked to low a couple times. results: I cannot drive until I am cleared by My Doctor this summer. This has put Me into prepper Mode like nothing else.
    One: do not depend on others for a ride they will leave you hanging.
    Two: Public transportation is not fun but usable, the only other choice is walking ( in warm weather I will use My customized Prepper bicycle)
    Three: those “Granny shopping carts” are not just for grannies mine has proved useful for many tasks.
    Four: A 31 day buss pass is cheaper than running My truck and has allowed Me to pay of Doctors early.
    Five: I spend less money on “empty purchases” since I have to hoof things home now.
    Six: My prep items are again growing since I can no longer use grains, rice and most beans (Mine were donated to help those in need)
    Seven: this is a great way to innovate solutions to mobility problems.
    Eight: farmer markets near Me are no bargain.
    This list is in no way complete but it is a start.


    Prepping is more than squirreling away food and ammo. We need to gather knowledge and dig into the ways things were done in the past in order to get through what may be ahead for us. Please share what you have learned that we may also benefit your knowledge.


    I would like to see this topic available for us all to learn from: :thumbsup: ie.

    1) How did proper preps that help you and yours
    2) preps we should have made or changed
    3) Incidents to be learned from.
    4) how did those not ready act?
    a) how do we feel they would have been if “help” was not on the way ?
    b) What would you have done differently if it was long term ?

    The philology of this event as well as the physical happenings are excellent pointers


    Well, our power came back on on Sunday morning. Four+ days. We had gotten a “whole house” generator (that is a nice concept) after being out for four days with Hurricane Sandy, and thought we were set. It worked well the first day and a half, and then constantly cut out. (We have a geothermal heat pump with electric backup, so essentially all electric heat, so you really can’t use a generator to run your whole house). In our case, the generator is just supposed to heat the second floor.

    It’s a long story, that I think has been corrected, but the geothermal was drawing too much when it automatically went to emergency heat.

    Anyway, what we learned from this is that we need a wood stove if at all possible. We have a fireplace with one of those pipe grates, (which helps slightly–it added about 2 degrees to the family room). But, we are now very uncomfortable about being reliant on anything we can’t control. Right now I’m waiting for a propane delivery. We used more than half of what is in our tanks, and I called Friday, but no delivery yet.

    There is a shortage of propane right now, what if we can’t get it? We need some way to heat our house no matter what. That was our biggest struggle.

    Another thing, it is amazing how exhausting it is living in 45 or 50 degree temps all day is. We were just exhausted and couldn’t concentrate on anything. Even though I have all this prep food here, I didn’t want to deal with it. (This happened with Sandy too. We mostly ate out/took out). Sleeping isn’t bad. If you have enough blankets, once you get in, it’s okay. It’s the days that are the problem. I would fill hot water bottles and put under the blankets at the foot of the beds and that really helps warm you up.

    You’d better have multiple ways to heat food. I have a solar oven. No way it would have worked these last few days. Very cloudy.
    Make sure you have some cast iron if you are going to cook over the fire. I didn’t, but I realized I’d better make sure I have a sufficient amount and a grate that works in my fireplace. I have a couple of methods to cook outside, but who wants to do that when it’s 20? Also, make sure you have some simple/quick things to cook. I have lots of beans etc., but my go-to foods are to take a can of black beans, a can of diced tomatoes, some chicken stock, cumin, and cilantro if I have it, a little can of ham, and make soup. There will be times you won’t want to/can’t cook something for hours.

    After Sandy I got some large plastic containers with a spout that I could put water in in the bathrooms, so we could have “running water” to wash hands. That’s awesome. I got them from US Plastic, I think.

    Have plenty of light. I find myself getting depressed after a couple of days in the dark, and I have all sorts of lanterns, etc. Solar, oil and battery lanterns, candles, etc. It’s not much. I need to get still more. Some battery lanterns give a fair amount of light, but I went through batteries. I’d get more rechargeable than you think you need and a couple of ways to charge. And have more than just battery powered, because you may not be able to charge for a few days, or it might take a few days to charge.


    My very first storage tote that i had prepared for medical emergencies years ago has failed. :cursing: I made the mistake of keeping supplies together as I thought they would be needed. For example in this tote I had alcohol swabs, latex gloves, medical tape, cotton swabs, masks, feminine pads, gauze, betadine, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, splints, compact emergency blankets, saline, hand sanitizer, etc. Sounds logical right? Well, guess what happened……

    Yup, the hydrogen peroxide bottle failed and guess what? The whole tote was covered in mold on the inside!!!! I noticed it today when I had to get something out of another tote for a painting project. Clearly this tote had been ‘growing’ for a while now. And, since it’s a tote that i haven’t had to use, it’s on the bottom of a couple other totes. Thankfully it has clear sides or I never would have known……until I needed it in an emergency. I saw condensation on the inside of the tote and thought, oh no…..not a good sign. Well, I had to throw most of it all away. I was able to spray some things with vinegar and wipe them clean and now will have to let them sit out for a while to completely dry. I’ll have to re-evaluate after that to make sure it’s OK. The splints were expensive and some of them I will toss in the wash and hope for the best. One of them was completely plastic so I wiped it down with vinegar and dried it and will sit it in the sun for at least a day and see how it goes.

    So, I would highly suggest a couple of things when stocking things away:

    #1 – buy the translucent plastic totes so that you can keep an eye on your stuff. Regardless if it’s condensation, mouse droppings, or whatever…..if you don’t routinely get into that tote, it’s best if you can at least keep an eye on it from the outside.
    Had I also made a point to at least glance at the totes every couple of months or so, it wouldn’t have gotten as bad as it did.

    #2 – do NOT store liquids with anything that you don’t want to get wet or moldy. I thought I was doing the right thing with my original storage strategy…..I was proven wrong. Lesson learned! I had to toss some stuff today that was painful for sure. :shakeno:
    As a side note: yes, hydrogen peroxide will indeed mold!

    #3 – even if you have multiple liquids stored together, consider individually wrapping them in plastic bags so that if it does fail, it won’t spread mold to the entire tote. Thankfully I did have some things double bagged. Some of those things were salvageable. However, when mold spreads to the entire tote without any additional barrier…..it’s not pretty, and likely not salvageable. 🙁

    I hope my mistake helps someone else here…..at least it won’t feel like such a total loss for me if I have helped someone else keep their belongings safe. 😉

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