February 24, 2024

It does not take much imagination to realize that our society will come crashing down without the cheap, steady flow of electricity. The world’s electric grids are the lifeblood of our modern lifestyle. Many predictions believe that if the electrical grid was shut down, by something like an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or a very strong Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), then civilization would be thrown back into the 1800s. Some predictions even think the 1700s or even further back. Regardless of what time period we are all transported back to, we are going to have to find ways to replace all the modern conveniences, instantly made useless, that we currently depend upon for our daily life and survival.

As a society, we do not realize how good we have it. Americans and others enjoy several hours of “free time” compared to those living in the 1700s and 1800s. All that “free time” will evaporate along with the electricity. Many of us stock months or years of food and other supplies to hopefully survive long enough for society to get back on its feet, that is for the power to be restored.  Society getting back on its feet will take people with the knowledge, skills, and the tenacity that spurred the Industrial Revolution. However, unlike our ancestors, our generation will have some disadvantages. These disadvantages are nothing that cannot be overcome with a little foresight and preparation.

When the great industrialists and inventors of the late 19th and early 20th century invented, developed, and manufactured their products, they were built with the technology of their day. It was the blacksmiths and their forges that helped build the machines and tools used to usher in the Industrial Revolution. It was computer-programming languages like Pascal and COBOL that laid the foundation for our current digital technological wonders, like artificial intelligence. But as technology progresses, the old technology disappears the building blocks to help rebuild from a catastrophic collapse are lost. So, in order for the people in today’s world to start re-building the low technology machines of the early 1900s the technology of the late 1800s will have to be recreated.

A day in the life of the Apocalypse

I like reading post-apocalyptic fiction, but it never ceases to amaze me how many authors make a day in the life of an apocalypse survivor seem like a cakewalk. Can this be what the authors really think life will be like? We moved to our bug-out-location full-time in the summer of 2019. Our “spare” time is spent building infrastructure for us to use to survive TEOTWAWKI. We have cows, pigs and chickens. Feeding and watering our animals, who will feed us, takes about a half hour to hour each day thanks to electric.  In the summer watering is an easy task, but when the temperatures fall, the days become shorter and snow is on the ground, it is not so easy. Then I think about how my ancestors had to manage these same chores and how good I really do have it.

Last year we did not have any electricity in our barn. This year we do and we feel spoiled. I recently sold two piglets to an Amish neighbor. I realized how much we take for granted something as simple as lights in a barn. When we got to the Amish neighbor’s barn with his piglets, his wife and a few kids were busy milking the family cow as we got the piglets into their new home by the light of headlamps. Thinking about this, most tasks we do in the night will be done with light from some other source than a lightbulb powered by the grid.  I see and hear many preppers talk about having generators and fuel stored but at some point, those will be used up.  Then, our survival will be by the sweat of our brow, instead of the internal combustion engine or the electric motor powering the world.

So, how do we prepare to live a life that resembles that of the 1700s or 1800s? Very simply, we find the tools, devices and methods used in those time periods and learn how to use them. Let us look at some long-forgotten things and some items that are still around but their utility has been marginalized compared to what it was back in the pre-industrial revolution days.

Calluses will make the world go around, not oil

About 42% of Americans are deemed to be “overweight” compared to about 10% in the 1950’s. Instead of burning hundreds of calories collecting and cutting wood to stay warm, we instead turn up the thermostat via our smartphone without expending 100 calories. Our great technological advances have, unfortunately, made us lazy. Our lives do not require us to burn calories doing simple everyday tasks that need to be done for our survival. I think it was in the movie Cool Hand Luke, where one of the characters says, “Laziness breeds inefficiency.” It isn’t that we want to be lazy, it is that societal norms have driven many of us to a life style that does not necessitate much, if any, manual labor.  However, when technology fails, we become an inefficient society. As Preppers, we should not fall into this trap.

I like to use non-powered hand tools when I can. Why? Simply so my body becomes accustomed to using those tools. I can also gauge how long a task may take in a post the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) world.  It also keeps me from falling into a pattern of always choosing the easiest way to do something (That is not to say I do not own and use cordless tools). It is good to sometimes do things “the hard way” that way when we are not given a choice, we don’t view it as “the hard way” but just another way. Of all the years reading about survival, I have never read anything about the need for calluses for survival. Our forefathers had callused hands, we need to consider this and try to get our hands prepared for hard use in a post-electrified world. The good news is developing calluses on our hand does NOT require money but rather time. The best way to do this is to look for tasks that you will have to do post-TEOTWAWKI. For example, I split our wood with a hand maul. Other examples could be using a shovel instead of a snow blower or using a rake instead of a lawn tractor to bag the Fall leaves for composting. Get your hands prepared now, they will thank you later.

When the #10 Cans and 5 Gallon Buckets Run Out

I consider myself Blessed to have a decent supply of food stored away, but I do not have illusions that the world will be “back to normal”, should we suffer an EMP or massive CME, before our food runs out. That means we must be ready to scale up our food production right after a TEOTWAWKI event. To do this, we have had to study the past to prepare for our future. As agriculture has changed, it has gotten to the point where it is highly dependent upon electricity, like everything else in our world. As a Prepper, I am trying to be prepared to farm without all the new farming technology. Some of our adaptions follow.

Cultivation

With a little education and preparedness, we do not have to live like a peasant in medieval times post-TEOTWAWKI. Instead of your family and others spending most of the day tilling the land with shovels, we can incorporate some more modern technology to help grow our crops. There are two basic choices, hand tools or implements that are pulled or pushed.  At one point in history, humans pulled plows but animals, being more efficient, quickly replaced humans. Some of the first plows in the American colonies were made of wood then metal ones became all the rage around the 1880s. A post-TEOTWAWKI world will require us, at some point, to till the land. We have several raised beds and three patches of land that we currently rototill. Since these plots are already tilled regularly, they will be somewhat easier to till in the future without modern means. So, perhaps I do not need a single bottom plow and a team of oxen, perhaps I can get by with an old-style push powered wheeled cultivator to break up our soil. The nice capability of some of the push-powered wheeled cultivators is that you could change the “implements” depending upon the task needing to be done.  Another possibility is the use of pigs.  Pigs are very good at breaking up the ground by rooting with their snout.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)