Fortitude Ranch: A Survival Community For The Rest Of Us

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Do you have a place to go in case of an apocalyptic disaster? Most of us don’t. Now what if I told you that for a $1,000 a year, you could have a bug out location that is built to withstand doomsday, loaded with plenty of supplies, and populated by dozens of survival experts? It […]

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An Off-Grid Survival Retreat For About $760? It’s Possible.

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A Survival Retreat For About $760? It’s Possible

For most of us, building that dream survival retreat, our “cabin in the woods,” is nothing more than a dream. It’s not that we don’t want to fulfill that dream some day; it’s just that our dreams are bigger than our pocketbook. Paying the monthly bills is hard enough without making payments on another home or piece of property.

But believe it or not, having a survival retreat doesn’t have to be expensive. In a previous article, I discussed buying junk land to use for a survival retreat. In this article, I want to talk about how you can have a place to live on that land, without spending a fortune.

Some people have managed to build themselves cabins out of 100 percent salvaged materials. That’s great, if you can do it. But I’ll warn you right now: You’ll spend more time scavenging and sorting materials than you will in building anything. If you have the time to invest, then go for it. But if you don’t, then that could keep you from ever finishing it all.

Scavenged Materials? Think Again

The problem with scavenged materials isn’t the scarcity; you can always find someone who is getting rid of a stack of 2x4s or leftover roofing shingles. The problem is that it is rarely virgin material. What you end up getting is material that is odd lengths, sometimes attached together, with bent-over nails in it that you must remove.

Goofy Gadget Can Recharge Your Laptop — And Jump-Start Your Car!

A Survival Retreat For About $760? It’s Possible

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My sister is building a tiny home and began with the idea of using scavenged materials. What she ended up with was stacks of material that she really couldn’t use. The structure of her tiny home is much heavier than it should be because of having to scab pieces of material together. She also ended up with some custom windows that someone was getting rid of. Those were great — until someone threw a rock through them and she had to custom order replacements. Ouch!

Don’t get me wrong; if you’re thinking of using scavenged materials for your project, don’t let me dissuade you. Just be ready for the work that it’s going to entail. But before you start, let me share another idea with you — one that might save you a lot of work and money.

Travel trailers are intended to be totally self-contained units, designed for living in for a short period of time. Even so, there are people who live in them full-time. My family and I lived and traveled in a motorhome (essentially the same thing, but with an engine) for nine years, so we know what it’s like.

Good Enough for NASA

Travel trailers are so complete that NASA used an Airstream trailer for years as a quarantine module for the Apollo astronauts when they returned to earth. The concern was that they might have picked up some sort of bug from outer space. Rather than build a quarantine module, with all that entails, they just used a commercially available travel trailer.

Travel trailers are essentially like small apartments, but with everything built in. They have complete kitchen and bathroom facilities, as well as beds, sofas, dinettes to eat at, and even chairs. Some come with generators, although you’ll need additional power production for survival. Being complete and self-contained, they are almost ideal as a survival retreat.

“But,” you’re probably thinking, “they’re expensive.”

Yes … and no. If you’re going to go out and buy a brand-new travel trailer, it’s going to be expensive. Probably much more than you can afford to spend for a survival retreat. But you can buy older used travel trailers for as little as $1,000. I just saw a 33-foot unit going for $760 on eBay. Hardly anyone was bidding on it because it had some water damage on the inside. But if you’re handy with tools, it was a great bargain.

What You’ll Need to Do

A Survival Retreat For About $760? It’s Possible

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Having lived in a recreational vehicle for nine years, I can tell you that they aren’t hard to work on. The biggest problem in most cases is that they typically use special materials. But I found that with a little ingenuity, you often can replace those special “RV” materials with things that are available at your local home improvement center.

Get Backup Electrical Power In A Convenient, Portable Briefcase!

The other problem with working on them is finding the structure hiding within the walls. The structure on a travel trailer is nothing like that on a house. So, you’ll need a good stud finder to help you know where your structural elements are. Otherwise, you’ll be screwing into the paneling, which won’t hold.

Fixing up the travel trailer as a survival retreat can become a family project, with everyone pitching in. You will need to do a bit more to turn your trailer into a full survival retreat. Although it will have some electrical capacity, water tanks, wastewater tanks and propane tanks, it won’t have enough capacity for more than a few days of survival. You are going to have to have some additional electric power generation capability (solar panels or a wind turbine), an external water tank, some sort of homemade septic system, and additional propane tanks. But you’d need those things no matter what you do for a survival retreat.

Essentially, the travel trailer gives you a place you can live while in survival mode. It provides you with a rather comfortable shelter, and it can do so at a very reasonable cost. Just don’t think that it will be a full-blown survival retreat without some extra work.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Preppers Stuck In Cities: Elite Chartering “Getaway Boats in Case of Manhattan Emergency”

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By Mac Slavo –

There is an inherent dilemma for most of the people living in cities.

Even those who are aware of the extremely fragile fabric of society are often stuck living urban lives. Perhaps they plan to retire to a country abode, or construct a hideaway to escape to if the need ever arises, but for now, they are stuck in the city making a living.

This is true even for the rich, but now, they have a back-up plan.

The biggest of American cities, and one of the most gridlocked, is New York City, with Manhattan and Long Island both isolated islands – trapped during emergencies from the rest of the world.

That’s why those with means, and forethought, are now chartering emergency charters to get out of the city – probably a good idea, especially if the helicopter is out of your price range.

via NY Post:

“A lot of people don’t want to wait on a line to get on a ferry, and they don’t want to worry about walking off of Manhattan, as people had to do in the past,” [Chris Dowhie, co-owner of Plan B Marine] told The Post.“They know a boat is the fastest way, and we take the worry out of maintaining and preparing and always readying your vessel,” he added.

Not only does the company promise a speedy getaway, it plans individual evacuation routes for each person, depending on their personal needs.


“You don’t have a captain. You have to drive this boat yourself,” Dowhie told The Post, adding that in a crisis, people are more concerned with helping their own families than maneuvering someone else’s escape vehicle.


The unique evacuation service costs an annual fee of $90,000 and is catered toward wealthy individuals and corporations who don’t have time to mastermind their own escape.

Clients access the boats with an individual punch-in number, and should they need to abandon it at any time, Dowhie’s company will locate it.

Interesting concept, and the fact that this has become a business model is also telling of the times.

Estimates have placed evacuation from major coastal cities at more than 24 hours:

Estimated evacuation times during major emergencies.

For Long Island, where millions of New Yorkers live, it would be 20-29 hours to get off the island – during that time, people will lose their patience, run out of gas, become hungry, be denied access to medications and drugs, need emergency services, resort to crime, etc.

The one percenters have long been serious about their prepping, for they know too well about the very real dangers being constructed, and the house of cards that is ever poised to collapse.

There has been a steady rise in the upper class investment into underground bunker communities – typically decked out with furnishings and amenities that nearly compare with above-ground living.

They have also been the high profile investors buying up getaway farms in places like New Zealand or South America, and hedging with mountain retreats and fortified safe rooms.

While the amount of money they are spending remains mostly pocket change the biggest players, it represents a serious consideration of the high risk for social disruption, chaos and mega-disasters, such as the collapse of the power grid.


The good news is that while the rich may indeed be living the high life, with escape hatches built in, there are many steps that the average, and more modest, individual can also take to increase your chances of survival during modest times.

Todd Savage, who specializes in strategic relocation, says that finding balance is key. For some, a permanent move isn’t possible because of work, medical needs or family life:

Not everyone will prepare for the same threats. It’s a personal choice. Some folks think that a nuclear exchange is imminent, others a socioeconomic collapse, maybe an EMP (solar or military), or a worldwide pandemic.

Everyone who is concerned with a potential disaster should perform a personal threat assessment. It can help you decide to either relocate permanently to a rural homestead or acquire a bug-out survival property.

(Survival Retreat Consulting)

When it comes to elite prepping, you have to always ask yourself: ‘Do they know something that I don’t know?

Considering their access to power, and their insider vision of human affairs, the chances are very good that they may.

Boats and hideaway properties can be arranged at lower prices as well, or DIY. If you’re not on an island, there are likely some back roads that can save your life, and keep you out of the major chaos. Plan your escape route, with several alternate routes, that avoid the major intersections with highways, bridges and other points at which the majority of traffic is forced to flow, at a slow, grinding and dangerous pace.

Safe rooms can been adapted to almost any space, and for relatively little money, and fortifications can be retrofitted where ever you need them. Just food for thought, better now than too late.

Something big is coming.

This article first appeared at SHTFplan.comPreppers Stuck In Cities: Elite Chartering “Getaway Boats in Case of Manhattan Emergency”

Filed under: Disaster Scenerios, News/ Current Events, Prepping

7 Things You Need For The Perfect Survival Retreat

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7 Things You Need For The Perfect Survival Retreat

Unfortunately, having a ‘Plan B’ just isn’t the modern American way. The great and diabolical misfortune of having two to three solid generations of assumed prosperity in one’s culture is the side-effect it has of lulling the populace into comfortable apathy. “Prepping” becomes a kind of novelty; a lifestyle that people joke about while planning out their next vacation or their next suburban home purchase. It’s something that others consider in that fleeting moment in front of the television while witnessing the news of a catastrophe on the other side of the world, only to be forgotten minutes after changing the channel. Such things do not happen here. Not in the United States…

I am a child of an age laden with illusory wealth, and have benefitted (for a short time at least) from the financial fakery of our economic system, as have many Americans. Most of us have not had to suffer through the unmitigated poverty, hopelessness, and relentless fear that are pervasive in harsher days. All our problems could be cured with money, especially government money, and as long as the greenbacks were flowing, we didn’t care where they came from. Ultimately, though, the ease of our well-to-do welfare kingdom has set us up for a cultural failure of epic proportions. Anytime a society allows itself to be conditioned with dependency, its fate is sealed.

We do not know what crisis really is. Many Americans barely have an inkling of what it entails. We imagine it, in films, in books, and in our own minds, but the fantasy is almost numbing. We lose sight of the tangible grating salty rawness of the worst of things, while imagining ourselves to be “aware”. Most people today are like newborns playing merrily in a pit of wolves.

Preppers, on the other hand, are those who seek to understand what the rest of the public goes out of its way to ignore. They embrace the reality and inevitability of disaster, and suddenly, like magic, they are able to see its oncoming potential where others cannot (or will not). The price they pay for this extended vision, however, is high…

I see the prepper generation as a generation of sacrifice; men and women who must endure the collapse of the façade for the sake of an honorable future society they may not live to experience. Modern day Cassandras? Hopefully not. But, certainly a group of people who have lost much in the path to knowledge. We lose our blissful naivety. That which once easily entertained us becomes banal and meaningless. We set aside many of our dreams to make room for the private and public battle we must wage for the truth. And, in the early days of our awakening, we tend to lose sleep.

The primary advantage of this otherwise complex life is actually simple: we have a ‘Plan B’.

Independence, self sustainability, true community, and redundancy in systems; it’s all in a day’s work for the prepper. But, one thing tends to sit upon our minds above all else, and that subject is ‘home’. Not necessarily the home where we are, but the home where we will shelter during darker days. Call it a retreat, call it a bunker, call it whatever you like, but every prepper has to have that place set aside that gives him the utmost advantage while facing off against calamities that normally annihilate average people.

Choosing a retreat can be easy, or so difficult it explodes your brain depending on how you approach it. The problem I see most often with those seeking a back-up location for a collapse scenario is that they engage the process as if they are still living in 2006, hunting for their McMansion with a view on the sunny hillsides of Colorado or California, instead of thinking in practical terms. So, to help clarify a more fundamental approach to choosing a survival retreat, here is a list of priorities that cannot be overlooked:

Property Placement

You may be searching for a homestead property or a more discreet retreat area for only the most violent disasters. In either case, property placement should be your number one concern. Where is your subject property located? What are the strengths and weaknesses, economically, socially, and legally, in the state you are considering. What is the disposition of the government and law enforcement in the county your retreat resides in? What kind of environment are you surrounding yourself with? These are all very important issues to consider.

Even more important, though, are the dynamics of the land you are choosing. Are you looking for a typical flat piece of developed farmland with easy access to roads and town amenities? Then you are going about this all wrong. Are you purchasing a cabin in the woods where you and your family will be isolated and alone? Again, not very bright.

The ideal retreat location is a combination of rugged terrain and varied topography that is just accessible enough, and set in proximity to like minded neighbors who will aid each other in the advent of a social implosion.

RELATED : My Experience of Moving To the Country: Some Pros and Cons

It may feel strange to consider it at first, but try to think in terms of an aggressive party: a looter, a criminal, or just a hungry refugee. Now, take a second look at your retreat selection. Is it easy to wander into? Can a person stroll right up to the front door, or do they really have to spend a lot of time and energy to reach you? Is it within sight of a major highway? Is it in the middle of a funnel or valley which people would naturally take to get to a tempting destination? Is it flat with little cover and concealment, or is it nestled in the midst of hills and crevices which can be used strategically? How many routes in and out of the region are there?

Crops can be grown in any area with any climate if the correct methods are used. Energy can be produced with a multitude of technologies and tools. Structures can be built to adapt to the materials that are most abundant in the region. However, once you commit to a particular environment and terrain type, you are stuck with it for good. Choose wisely.

Community Network

As mentioned in the section above, isolation should NOT be the goal here. The concept of the loan wolf survivalist waiting out the implosion with his family in a secret fortification is not realistic, or likely to work at all. In the most volatile of collapses, such retreats only offer a tempting target for unsavory characters, from Bosnia to Argentina and beyond. If you don’t have a community of preppers around you, you have nothing.

Ideally, choosing a retreat location, especially for a homestead in which you will be living on a day to day basis, should be done with multiple families involved. The more preppers involved, the larger the perimeter of warning and defense, and the safer everyone will be. It is not enough to have a friend or two on the other side of town, or to have a couple neighbors who are open to the subject of collapse but have made no efforts to prep. A return to a true community foundation is the surest way to secure your retreat. There WILL be people who will wish to take what you have in a crisis situation. Your best bet is to surround yourself with people who already have what they need…

In Montana, I have used the idea of “Land Co-Op Groups”, expanding on the barter networking concept to include helping people of like-mind to meet and find property within proximity of each other, or to choose mutual retreat areas where there will be safety in numbers. Explore real estate markets near family members who are on the same wavelength. Talk with existing prepper communities and see if you might work well together. Form your own group of land seekers and make purchases together, saving money for everyone. Know who you will be weathering the storm with!


This has been mentioned in previous sections, but let’s establish what defensibility truly involves. Do the natural features shelter you, or hinder you? How many lanes of sight are near your retreat and will they work to your advantage, or someone else’s? Is your homestead on the top of a wide open hill and visible for miles around? Will attackers exhaust themselves attempting to reach you? How much warning will you have if someone is approaching your location?

Make sure your surroundings work for you. Folds in the land topography not only off greater surface area for your money, but also cover and concealment. Forget about beautiful views, perfect soil, and room for a gazebo. Is the retreat actually protecting you or not? If this single issue is not considered and resolved, nothing else matters.

This is why I recommend starting from scratch with raw land if possible. Many people dislike the notion of building their retreat or homestead from the ground up, claiming that there is not enough time, or that the project will be too costly. This is not necessarily true, especially for those who plan the construction of their retreat around off-grid living strategies. Raw land purchases, depending on the region, can be highly affordable. Building using present materials, like native timber, reduces costs drastically. And, as long as your house plans remain simple, construction can be started and finished within a matter of months.

When building from scratch on raw land you have chosen using the guidelines already discussed, you can place your living quarters in the most advantageous position for defense, while being able to reinforce the home itself as you go. For those using an existing structure, the job becomes a bit more difficult. Additional fortifications will have to be planned carefully to adapt to the framework of the building. Weak areas of the property will have to be strengthened using fences, walls, or strategically placed vegetation that frustrates approach. High points in the terrain should be used to establish observation posts. At every moment of the day or night, someone must be awake to keep an eye on the surroundings. Respect the realities of a collapse, instead of disregarding them, and your chances of success increase a hundred fold.

RELATED : The Ultimate Survival Food? 4 Simple Ways to Dry and Smoke Meat

Water Availability

Many would place water resources at the very top of this list, and having an ample supply is certainly vital. Digging a well is a must. Building in proximity to a stream, river, or lake is even better. That said, rainwater collection is a viable supplement to weaker indigenous water supply, along with water storage done in advance of any event. The average adult human being needs approximately 2.5 liters of water per day to survive comfortably. The common vegetable garden needs around 2” of watering overall per week. Bathing and general hygiene requires several gallons per week depending on how conservative you are. It is important to gauge the water production and storage capacity available at your retreat. If the math does not add up, and if rain collection is not enough to fill the gap, then move on. Find an area that will sustain you with water, but do not neglect the rest of the items on this list just to be near a roaring river…

Food Production

This is an area with far more flexibility than most people seem to realize. With the right methods, a garden can be grown in almost any climate, and at any time of the year, even winter. Every retreat should be fitted with a greenhouse, and this does not require much expense, or even energy to build. Makeshift materials often work wonders and the cheapest greenhouses tend to supply as much produce throughout the year as expensive and professionally built models.

Raised bed gardening is efficient, requiring less water, and producing more food than typical gardens. Small orchards are possible depending on the climate and elevation of the property. Wild edibles in the area should be cataloged. Find out where they grow in abundance, how to cook and prepare them, and which edibles you actually enjoy eating.

Animals require at least some acreage. Two acres being the minimum if you plan to raise several species. Goats, chickens, and rabbits are much easier to squeeze into a smaller parcel than cattle or horses, and draw much less attention to your retreat. A single milk producing cow and a bull, however, have the ability to keep your family healthy and fed for a lifetime. The trade-off is up to the individual prepper. The bottom line is, the number of animals you plan to raise determines the amount of open field you will need to clear on your property to provide the grasses and feeding area they will require.


Proximity To National Forest

Another aspect to consider is how close your property is to national forest areas or unclaimed and unpurchased acreage. Perhaps you are only buying 5 acres of land in a well placed area which borders thousands of acres of forest service. Not only have you purchased the use of 5 acres, but the potential use of thousands of acres through attrition, while guaranteeing that no unpleasant or unaware neighbors will move in too snug next door. Abundant resources will be at your fingertips in a post collapse scenario, including timber, wild game, possible minerals, caching sites, secondary retreat locations, etc. The advantages are numerous…

Secondary Retreat Locations

Never put all your eggs in one basket. We hear that warning all our lives but few take it to heart the way they should. I have dealt with many a prepper who has become indignant at the idea of having to leave his home to escape danger, claiming that they would “rather die” than have to beat feet to a secondary location. I personally don’t get it. Fighting back is admirable, but fighting smart is better. There is nothing wrong with living to die another day, and this is where the multiple retreats strategy comes into play.

Some survivalists live in the city, and have set up a retreat in an area distant but reachable. Others have taken the plunge and uprooted to start a new life on the grounds of their new refuge, leaving behind the metropolis and sometimes even their high paying jobs. In either case, they have done far more for their futures than the average American has even vaguely considered. However, it is not quite enough…

Back-up retreat locations should be chosen in remote areas near your primary retreat, and very few if any people (even friends and associates) should be told about these places. Keep in mind, these are last ditch survival spots. They are not ideal for long term living arrangements. Little if any infrastructure will be built in these places, and all shelter materials should be heavily concealed. Caching sites should be set up well in advance and placed on at least two separate routes to the same location. You should have no worries over whether you will be able to feed, clothe, and protect yourself on the way to the emergency site. Hidden approaches to the area should be scouted ahead of time. A viable water source should be present nearby.

Thinking Ahead: It’s Pure Sanity

There are all kinds of excuses for not doing what needs to be done. Americans have an ingenious knack for rationalizing their own laziness and inaction. If you want to know how to get ahead in the world of prepping, or just the world in general, all you have to do is become a man or woman who makes a plan, and then follows through on it! Welcome to the top ten percent!

One excuse that I do in some instances take seriously is the problem of the conflicting family. We all know a prepper or two whose spouse or children are not on board, ridiculing or even obstructing their efforts. When expenditures of cash (or large expenditures of cash in the case of a property purchase) are in debate, the tensions can be crippling. In every disaster there are oblivious masses which make things hard on those who are aware. From the Great Depression and Weimar Germany, to New Orleans after Katrina, it is not uncommon for people on the verge of starvation and death to still assume that government help is right around the corner and all will be right as rain.

All I can recommend to those struggling with the survival-impaired is that you educate friends and loved ones on the nature of recent events like Katrina, or the economic collapse in Greece and Spain, or the tsunami and subsequent reactor meltdown in Japan. Show them that this is real life, not a cartoon. Make them understand that they are not immune to the tides of catastrophe, and that preparation is not only practical, but essential.

Survivalism is not a product of insanity; it is merely a product of our precarious times. A disaster is only a disaster for people who are not prepared for it. The only madness I see before me in our country today is the madness of those who believe themselves immune to the fall of the curtain. The true “insanity” rests in the minds of men who presume tomorrow will be exactly like today, and that the comfort of their existence is law, a foregone conclusion, set in stone, forever…

Saving our forefathers ways starts with people like you and me actually relearning these skills and putting them to use to live better lives through good times and bad. Our answers on these lost skills comes straight from the source, from old forgotten classic books written by past generations, and from first hand witness accounts from the past few hundred years. Aside from a precious few who have gone out of their way to learn basic survival skills, most of us today would be utterly hopeless if we were plopped in the middle of a forest or jungle and suddenly forced to fend for ourselves using only the resources around us. To our ancient ancestors, we’d appear as helpless as babies. In short, our forefathers lived more simply than most people today are willing to live and that is why they survived with no grocery store, no cheap oil, no cars, no electricity, and no running water. Just like our forefathers used to do, The Lost Ways Book teaches you how you can survive in the worst-case scenario with the minimum resources available. It comes as a step-by-step guide accompanied by pictures and teaches you how to use basic ingredients to make super-food for your loved ones. Watch the video HERE


Source :

About the author : Brandon Smith is the founder of Alt-Market is an organization designed to help you find like-minded activists and preppers in your local area so that you can network and construct communities for mutual aid and defense. Join today and learn what it means to step away from the system and build something better or contribute to their Safe Haven Project. You can contact Brandon Smith at:

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How To Light Your Home Off Grid

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How To Light Your Home Off Grid

With winter just around the corner, I’m beginning to prepare for the shorter days ahead when the darkness creeps in long before we’re ready for bed. Although we are currently running all of our overhead lights on solar, we still put non-electric backups in place. We only have about three days’ worth of energy stored in our battery bank… if we’re careful… so it’s important that we have options for extended cloudy weather and longer nights.

For those of you still 100% dependent on the grid for your electricity, having non-electric alternatives for unexpected power outages is a must.

Lighting is one of the easiest things to find off-grid alternatives for. There are several good options to choose from, and most of them cost very little money at all to purchase.



Nothing beats the ambiance of a flickering flame warming the faces of your loved ones on a dark night. Candles can be a very inexpensive way to light your home off grid. You can often find candles for free or just pennies at yard sales. I’ve read that you can make a candle last longer by freezing it for several hours before burning it, though I’ve yet to test this theory.

Although I do have a large tote full of various candles I’ve been collecting for my preps, I have become more conscious about what I burn on a regular basis. Paraffin based candles put off a dangerous toxin-filled smoke when burned. Some studies have found paraffin candles to be almost as bad as cigarettes. For regular indoor use, opt for safer bees wax or soy based candles for indoor burning and save the paraffin candles to be burned in an open, airy place, like outdoors. (I’ve lucked up and found some nice bees wax candles for super cheap at yard sales!)

Keep a few extra candle wicks in various sizes so you can make more candles from the leftover melted wax. You can also make your own wicks out of cotton string by soaking the string in melted wax and allowing it to cool and harden.

oil lamps

Oil Lamps

Good ol’ fashioned oil lamps are another great option for lighting your home without electricity. They can be fueled with kerosene, lamp oil, cooking oil, and even animal fat. However, not all lamp fuels are created equally.

Kerosene has been used as a source of light for ages, but you will want to burn it in an area with plenty of ventilation due to the strong odor it puts off.

You can make an oil lamp from cooking oils at home using pretty much any type of oil or fat you have on hand. Olive oil is the best choice. It doesn’t produce smoke or odor when burned. All you need other than the oil is a mason jar, some wire, and a wick. You can read the instructions on exactly how to make an olive oil lamp in this interesting article.

I made an emergency lamp once by pouring hamburger grease into a tin can, dipping a wick into the center, and allowing it to harden to room temperature. It burned for 11 hours straight before the wick fell over and put itself out. Sure, the house smelled like a burger joint and my husband was craving a double-stacker, but it worked!

When shopping for traditional lamp oil, try to find a brand that carries a non-toxic,  “clean burning” oil; something that says it’s “smokeless” and/or “no-odor” is best.

There are many different styles of oil lamps you can choose from: wall mounted, table top lamps, Aladdins, hanging lamps, reading lamps… all of them are great for their intended purposes. I like to find oil lamps second hand for a couple bucks a piece. Don’t forget to stock up on lamp wicks to keep those lamps in service!

solar light

Solar Lights

We’ve adopted the practice of using outdoor solar walkway lights around the inside of our home when it begins to get dark outside. Each morning, we put the solar lights outside to soak up all the sunlight they can. When night falls, we bring the lights indoors and place them in eye hooks we’ve screwed into the walls around the home to help light up dark bathrooms and hallways. Solar lights have rechargeable batteries in them which do need to be replaced over time, but so far ours have lasted for almost a year and are still going strong.


Battery Powered Lights

Flashlights are a great portable solution for off-grid lighting, especially for short term or emergency use. If you don’t want to fool with replacing batteries, check out some of the solar flashlights or hand-crank lights available on the market.

Battery powered lanterns are a great option, especially for kids’ rooms, as they don’t run the risk of fire like candles and oil lamps do. You don’t have to worry about strong odors or irritating fumes either. We have one little battery powered lantern for each of our children to use- though we mainly save those for camping trips.

LED Bulbs

Solar Panels and LED Lights

Our main source of off-grid lighting is a small 1000 kW solar panel kit installed on our home. All we had to do to modified our existing light fixtures to be solar-compatible was replace our old Edison style light bulbs with LEDs. They are a little more expensive up front, but they last forever and use only a tiny fraction of energy. Where our old bulbs pulled 60-75 watts each, the new LEDs light the same amount of space with only 6 watts, making them very easy to support with solar energy.

To make the best use of our limited supply of solar power, I only screwed one to two light bulbs into each ceiling fixture, depending on the size of the room. After all, do we really need four light bulbs in one bedroom, or nine in one bathroom? Not really. We quickly adjusted to the softer lighting, and really don’t miss the excess at all.

We’re also good about keeping lights turned off during the daytime or when somebody isn’t occupying a room. When your power is limited you become very conscious of not being wasteful.

solar security light

Outdoor Security Lighting

When we switched to off-grid lighting, we still wanted the security of outdoor motion sensor lights at the corners of our home and at the entrances. Our local hardware store had some fairly inexpensive solar motion lights that served the purpose and were quick and easy to install. They aren’t the brightest lights ever, but they shine enough that we would be able to see if somebody was outside, and hopefully would act as a deterrent.


Have a Backup For Your Backup

To be as prepared as possible, we keep all of the above mentioned items on hand for our off-grid lighting needs:

Solar powered LED lights in the ceiling fixtures are used as the main lighting source throughout our house, only at night or as necessary.

Solar powered outdoor path lights are brought indoors at night and used in the place of nightlights.

Oil lanterns and non-toxic candles serve as backups to our solar lights during extended cloudy days when solar charging is weak.

Battery powered flashlights and lanterns are mainly used when we need to head outdoors at night, or for camping.

Solar motion-sensor lights are used for security around the perimeter of the home.

Something else you might consider are these low-budget EMP Proof Solar Lightbulbs.

I’d love to hear how you plan on lighting your home if the power goes out!

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Monday Mania – 10.5.2015

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In this weeks edition of Monday Mania: Why Buy Books When We Have The Internet?, How To Store Fuel For Emergencies, Clothing You NEED To Be Prepared, How To Avoid Getting Trapped In Your Office Building, Create Your Own Altoids Tin Seed Vaults, and 6 more. Monday Mania I’m not in a chatty mood at … Continue reading Monday Mania – 10.5.2015

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Building a Community Reliant Life

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It has been said, that no man is an island…and neither is a family. Many people believe that being self-reliant means meeting all your family’s needs from what you produce on your property. Our family believes that being self -reliant means meeting the needs of our family in the most sustainable ways possible.

We have come to believe that the way for our family to be prepared for whatever the future brings is to invest in our community. There are several benefits to this. First of all, we don’t have to wear ourselves out trying to to provide for all of our needs by ourselves. And we can spend time doing the things we enjoy and relying on our community for the other things we need.

It also helps to ensure that we can provide for our needs, should something unexpected happen. If my garden gets hit with squash vine borers and wipes out my squash harvest, I can rely on gardening friends or local farmers to fill that need, either through bartering or purchasing. If we believed the common definition of being self reliant, we would have to just go without squash that year. But since we don’t believe that being self-reliant means producing everything ourselves, we are free to meet our needs through our community.

SP - Squash on vine

But here’s the deal, you can’t wait until some tragedy strikes to rely on the community. You have to invest in it before you need it.

Investing in your community can be as simple as building a community garden in the parking strip (the grassy area between the sidewalk and street) in front of your home. Amy from Tenth Acre Farm did this and had some unexpected results. She readily shares her struggles, triumphs and the journey it will take to build community.

You can also invest in your community by teaching your skills to others. When a community is full of producers and not just consumers, the entire community benefits. I’ve often heard preppers worry about how people in their community will be too dependent on them if there is huge economic downturn. But what if preppers started teaching those in the community how to grow and preserve food, how to sew or make soap, or how to do basic auto repairs? Kathie from Homespun Seasonal Living teaches canning classes through her local community college. She’s investing in her community and in return her community will help share the burden if things go south.

SP- Fixing Truck

Last fall, our 17 year old son damaged his truck helping a friend move.  Through a series of contacts he met an older man who fixes automobiles. This gentleman taught our son how to fix his truck, loaned him tools and shared his wisdom. The $1100 repair turned into a $100 repair plus time. His willingness to help and teach a young man whom he doesn’t even know spoke volumes to us. If this man is ever in need, you can be assured we’ll do whatever is needed to help meet his needs. And we’re not the only ones who feel this way towards him.

Education is an important part of any community. Many times, students learn how to operate the latest technology yet have no clue that cheese comes from milk or carrots grow underground. If you enjoy growing food, maybe the schools in your community would benefit from you leading a junior master’s gardener program? If you have a farm (or even a homestead) maybe giving a farm tour field trip is how you invest in the education of your community? As we become a society that is more and more disconnected from our food supply, we owe it to the children in our community to rebuild that connection. We all benefit from living in a well educated community and children who actually know where their food comes from are well educated children.

SP - Pecans on tree

Bartering is another great way to build community. Bartering is really just a fancy name for trading. I have something (or a skill) that I don’t need but you need. And you have something that you don’t need but I need. We decide to trade and be both benefit from the trade. This could be a formal thing and the trade involves high ticket items. Or an informal thing, like my pecans didn’t make this year and yours did, so you share your excess and I give you eggs because I have excess. We don’t really keep score we just know that when it’s all said and done, we both come out ahead.

Skills can also be bartered, maybe I need a couple of cabinets built and you are a cabinet maker, but you hate the painting part. I’m a pretty good painter so I paint the cabinets that you built for me and several other ones to “pay” you for building my cabinets. Bartering takes a certain level of trust and that trust needs to be built over time. It’s important to begin building a network of bartering friends and professionals before something huge happens and you have to rely on bartering to survive.

Sharing goes beyond sharing our skills or knowledge, we can also share our tools that make our lives easier. It’s called collaborative consumption and it goes something like this, I own a lawnmower but only use it once a week so I allow my neighbors to use it on the other days of the week. A neighbor has a snow blower but it doesn’t get used every day, so he allows me to use his snowblower when I need it. Another neighbor has a pressure canner and allows us to use it when we need to can low acid foods. This way, every family doesn’t have to have a lawn mower, snow blower and pressure canner. Again, this takes a certain level or trust, responsibility and respect.

SP - eggs for trading

The idea of being community reliant is nothing new, for thousands of years this is how people lived. In fact, much of the world still lives this way. I have friends who were raised in small villages in Kenya, they have shared with me that the within the village the people look out for one another to make sure everyone has the food that they need. So, if someone is out of flour and needs to borrow some, a neighbor will loan them some. The borrower will just pay it back when she gets more flour. When I asked if there were people who just always borrowed and never repaid, they said, “Occasionally that will happen but there is shame in that. You never want to be the one who is always taking and never giving. The village cannot survive if people do that.”

This kind of community reliant life is more complicated than a self-reliant life but it’s worth it. Working with others can get messy and sometimes there is conflict. But part of living in a healthy community is learning how to resolve (not avoid) conflict. The ability to resolve conflict is another way of building trust in a community.

As we live out this community reliant life, we won’t have to worry as much about people raiding our supplies, stealing our vegetables from our garden, or taking advantage of our hard work. If we have a big economic downturn, we’ll have a community or network of people who are prepared, educated and trustworthy because we invested in them before there was the need.

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