We recommend you review Part 1 to provide some necessary background before you read this section. Part 2, below, address lifestyle changes we will be forced to take at our prepper home after a SHTF even that results in the collapse of our society, meaning no utilities and no commerce.
With a crowded house and the absence of utilities, we will need to make some immediate lifestyle changes. One of the biggest will be in our bathroom habits.
Water and Sewer
Without modern appliances like washing machines and dishwashers, our spring-fed system should have sufficient water for 12 residents, although there will have to be limits on showers during dry periods during which we will water the garden. Of course, anyone who wants to get clean can always visit the creek. It has a few nice pools that you can submerge in if you squat or sit.
One of the biggest changes we will have to make relates to sewage. A septic system built for a three-bedroom house cannot accommodate ten or 12 people for very long. We will have to minimize the solids going down the pipes and into the septic system. As a result, people will have to change their bathroom habits.
First, we will instruct people to “go” outside, especially during good weather. To facilitate this, we will dig a latrine and a pit toilet. The latrine will be a simple trench that can be filled in and dug again six or eight feet away. The latrine is for urine. A pit toilet will be for #2. It will be at least six feet deep.
Second, we will minimize or eliminate flushing of toilet paper. Dirty brown TP can be flushed, but wet ones or those with minimal color will be placed in a bucket and burned in the fire pit. This alone should extend the life of the septic system.
Third, if possible, we will redirect gray water so that waste water from the kitchen sink and showers drain down the hill like runoff from the roof. This will be a job for the construction/repair crew. Redirecting some of the gray water will minimize the amount of fluid being sent to the septic field, which should also extend its life.
Because we will consume more food than we produce, we will rely on stored food and cannot afford to waste any food. A lack of electricity means fresh meat and prepared foods cannot be stored in the fridge or freezer and must be consumed or canned before they go bad. This, in turn, means we will have to be careful preparing food; it is better to prepare a little less than optimal than too much that will go to waste. I expect everyone will lose some weight, but it should be a couple of years before we have to worry about starvation.
If someone has left some sauce or food on their plate or there is cooking waste, it should be offered to the dog or cat. Vegetable waste declined by the dogs should be given to the chickens. Trimmings from meat animals will help feed the dogs and cat, but can also be fed to the chickens. The chickens will also welcome garden scraps and vegetable trimmings.
While we can cook on our wood stove, this is only practical on those days when we want to heat the house with wood. In the middle of the summer, we will need an alternative. I plan to fabricate a rocket stove which uses small amounts of kindling to create a hot fire. We will cook on this using a frying pan or sauce pan. We will cook over an open campfire using hanging pots or Dutch ovens. I also plan to build a pizza oven that will be suitable for baking bread and anything else that needs to bake.
Our garden is too small to sustain the two of us, not to mention a dozen people. While it can be expanded, and the electric fence with it, we would need even more garden space if we are to produce enough food to feed ten or 12 people.
We have elderly neighbors with a large garden they no longer use. Our hope would be to trade our labor for their space and soil. We would then share the crops with them. I have several years’ worth of heirloom seeds and plenty of supplies for seed starting.
I have also identified a relatively flat area near one stream on our property that would make an acceptable garden–once the trees are removed and the rocks are cleared. The tree removal would be a source of firewood for the first couple of years. Without heavy equipment, removing the stumps and leveling the space will be a challenge. We’ll have to do it like the early settlers did–manually. We can use all the rocks to build a wall around it, just like they did.
Finally, there are abandoned pastures within half a mile, most on empty properties with rundown houses. Some of those pastures might be suitable for planting grain or potatoes. Without a plow, tiller, or team of horses, that could be quite a challenge. Still, by the time we are at the stage where we plant grains, there might be someone local who will rent out their plowing services if we cut down the saplings and remove the rocks that have popped up. It will all depend on how long the collapse lasts and how long the recovery takes.
While I usually have five or six cords of firewood on hand–a year’s worth under normal circumstances–we would have to produce more firewood immediately since it must dry for a year. The plan is to do the following:
First, we will remove a six-in strip of bark from around the trees in the area where we want to place the new garden. This will kill them, but leave them standing. Depending on the season, we will harvest them months or a year later. That will allow the wood to dry. At the very least, it won’t be green wood with sap when harvested.
Second, we will cut the fallen and standing dead trees within a few hundred yards of the house or the road. If this isn’t enough, we will keep expanding outward, even though it will mean more labor.
We will use the gas-powered chainsaws for large logs, but to save gas, we will use the 40 volt battery-powered chain saw for smaller logs and limbs. (I have five batteries which can be charged by the solar system.) We can make use of the truck or my friend’s side-by-side to haul the largest pieces of wood back to the house. The plan is to use no gasoline for splitting the wood; we will do it all the old fashioned way, with wedges, mauls, sledge hammers and splitting axes. This will be easiest once the cut logs have dried for six months or more.
We will also burn limb wood that does not need to be split and gather fallen and sticks, which are often disregarded for firewood. They can be used as kindling or in the rocket stove or pizza oven. Just as we don’t want to waste calories, neither do we want to waste BTUs.
Third, we will harvest those trees in the garden area, both the large ones that need to be split and the smaller ones. Where possible, we will hack out the stumps or burn them out. At the same time we harvest these, we will kill trees we want to harvest elsewhere on our land so they can be cut as part of the next phase.
The firewood team is eight people. We will probably send them out four at a time. Perhaps each team could focus on a different area of the property or a different task.
Conservation and Composting
We will have to minimize our trash, not only because there is no trash disposal available, but because we have limited resources. Items that we would discard today will need to be re-used, repurposed, or salvaged after the SHTF.
For example, we should repair worn or damaged clothing, or the cloth recovered and used to make another clothing item. The term “ragg wool” came about because ragmen would collect worn and discarded wool clothing. Ragg wool was created by recovering and blending the used wool fibers with some virgin wool. Growing up, we had a rag rug in our basement. There’s no reason we can’t return to these and other practices in which every scrap of fabric can be saved and re-used.
The same goes for metal, plastic, and electronic components. When these goods die and cannot be repaired, they can end up in our own personal scrap pile. We can then root through this pile and recycle a component when needed.
Any organic wastes that are not saved or consumed by pets or livestock for reuse should be composted. Because of potential contamination, some items may need to be burned in a burn barrel. With no food waste and little or no packaging waste, we should have very little that needs to be disposed of off-site.
Post-SHTF Life Won’t be Easy
As I have said before, getting thrust back into technology level we last saw in the 1880s won’t be easy. It will take a great deal of adjusting. It is far better to consider what you need to do to survive without utilities and modern conveniences, who will do it, and how it will be done. I hope this two-part article has given you something to think about and perhaps a starting point for your own plans.
Remember what Benjamin Franklin said: Failing to plan is planning to fail.