Top 10 Self-Sufficiency and Survival Skills

These days a lot of folks are thinking about how to survive tough times ahead.  It’s tempting to end your short list after a stash of food, and an assault rifle with plenty of ammo.  Good luck!  In a pinch, it’s not the things you have as much as the skills you have that will be your most valuable assets.  By the way, since it takes years to acquire all the necessary skills for provident, abundant living, I recommend adding COMMUNITY as a pre-requisite to an attempt to become truly self-sufficient.  You will find that the task is much less daunting and the journey more enjoyable if you work with other like-minded people to divide, conquer and share the spoils of your efforts.

Whether you want to move into rural America or stay put in the suburbs, here are some skills you will need whether or not TSHTF.

# 1 Grow Fresh, Wholesome Food

Most people have some experience gardening even if it was just watching a bean grow in a Styrofoam cup way back in kindergarten.  But could you live off of what you grow?  It’s definitely possible.  Our first summer garden in the Village provided us with roughly 80% of everything we ate, but we learned in subsequent seasons that doing it consistently can be challenging.   We added a 2,000 square foot green house, intending to grow food year round and found that it was a whole different animal… uh vegetable.  It takes time to build up soil quality, learn what grows best in your area, how to control insects, crop rotation and a myriad of other complex and inter-related issues. 

Fortunately, gardening is the single most popular hobby in the USA, so you know that it’s rewarding and you can swap knowledge with lots of people.  Agricultural colleges operate an Extension Service in most counties where you can get tons of useful, local information and soil analysis.  Local farmer’s coops are a great source for tools, fertilizer and seeds.  But your best source of information will be your neighbors who have successfully grown food for years.  They know local soils and weather patterns and where to buy or trade non-GMO heritage seeds.

Extend your garden with permaculture methods by planting a fruit and nut orchard that will yield abundant crops year after year without tilling and planting.  But start soon.  Developing a productive small-scale farm takes time.

#2.  Learn to Weld

Learning to weld is easy, especially if you use a MIG wire-fed welder. Just adjust the wire feed speed and voltage to match the thickness of steel you are welding.  You can get the hang of it with just a little practice and a few tips from a friend who knows how.  Community colleges often offer inexpensive classes on Welding. One near us is also certifying welders for work at nuclear plants in Alabama and NE Tennessee. 

I bought a little 120V MIG welder at Harbor Freight for about $100.  It’s a good idea to stock up on a bunch of flux wire.  Not a bad investment as inflation kicks in, especially on commodity intensive stuff like steel.  I use my little welder a lot and liked it so much that I bought a second one that runs off of 220V current and can do deeper welds.  It was about $180. 

If you haven’t welded before you will be amazed at how often you will use it, whether in a survival situation or just doing some DIY repairs around the house or shop.  Then again, you can barter or start your own small welding business for some extra cash.

For real self-reliance you might want a portable generator/welder combo. You can find these for sale all the time on www.governmentliquidation.com or, just use one of the generators you already have.  When we built the amphitheater stage, we added a 40’ container with massive doors that open to a big movie screen and lock closed to house the barbecue and A/V equipment.  It’s in a scenic, remote location at the Village. My 7KW Honda generator and MIG welder worked great.  I’m now putting the finishing touches on a guest house built from two shipping containers.  If you plan to do any welding on this scale, I also recommend getting a plasma cutter, also available inexpensively from Harbor Freight.

#3 Learn Basic Carpentry and Home Repair Skills

Start with some DIY projects around the house.  Build a deck, a shed or a playhouse.  Building it plumb, square and level are the basics and are easily learned. Ask a friend who has some carpentry skills to help out.  The Amish don’t have a patent on community barn raising.  It’s a great way to learn, build something great in a short time and bond with resourceful friends. 

Any long-term crisis requires these skills.  Even in good times there are plenty of opportunities for the service-minded person to enjoy helping a widow or single parent in need.  I have found there is nothing more satisfying than building or fixing something well.  Carpentry, Electrical and Plumbing skills will all be in demand.  Having learned some of these skills from a friend, if you are the one on the block who knows how to fix stuff it’s your turn to make a lot of friends quickly.

 #4 Learn To Trap and Hunt

Hunting is one of those basic survival skills that have also found their way into mainstream recreation. There are plenty of hunters around.  You need to make sure you are one of them so some of the local game finds its way onto your table and not someone else’s.  This is a skill that takes time to master.  It’s not just about marksmanship.  It requires one to understand the movement patterns of animals in the wild – the where and when of their eating, drinking, sleeping, communication and mating patterns. 

Since we have an abundance of hunting land right here in the Village, it has been easy to barter for hunting lessons with good hunters for the right to hunt here.  I think that’s a far superior learning method to book or video learning because it’s local.  But traditional learning methods have their place too.

Trapping gives you a more reliable, efficient way to get fresh meat.  Traps and snares work while you work at something else or sleep. Traps can cover a wide area. A hunter can sit in a tree stand all day and not see a thing.  If you are more interested in dinner than sport as I am, trapping is for you.

There are a lot of different types of Snares, Live/Box traps, leg hold traps and body gripper traps. Each has a different purpose and different methods that need to be learned for trapping anything from small game like rabbits or squirrels, to large game like deer or feral hogs to nuisance animals like coyotes, beaver or raccoons.

Look for a local Trappers Association and join up for their mailing list, workshops or just some fun outings.

 #5 Learn how to Butcher Animals

This skill is a natural, not only for hunters and trappers.  Near the Village there are several small farms that raise grass fed or free range livestock (beef, goats, chickens, turkeys, etc.) One of our Villagers is an avid carnivore.  He’s in the process of buying more land from me, planning to raise his own beef.  I lowered the price a bit with an option to keep a cow of mine in his pasture land.  Butchering skills come in handy for significantly reducing the cost of bringing your beef (or chickens or wild game) from the field to your dinner table.

The first time I butchered a deer, I was pretty clueless.  It was a partial road kill, with a broken back it limped onto my property and I needed to learn quickly.  That deer made it into my freezer and we enjoyed the venison, but it wasn’t pretty.  Later a hunting friend showed me how.  Learning how to properly butcher and store animals for meat is a skill that everyone wanting to be self-sufficient should have.

 #6 Fish for Food

This isn’t about trophy or pleasure fishing where a secondary objective is to have a nice nap in the sun. You need to be able to bring in a quantity of fish reliably and fast.  First, buy and learn how to use trotlines, fish traps and nets.  Then learn how to make your o  wn.

Like trapping, a good trotline can be left to do your fishing while you build a barn or chop firewood.  And when you return, you’re likely to find several fresh fish on the same line just waiting to be fried up or smoked.

In spawning season, many fish will school up and move together.  My wife and I have enjoyed a salmon run on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.  Many other freshwater lake and river fish like Walleye, Bass, Stripers and Crappie have similar spawning behaviors you can take advantage of.

Google trawl and gill nets for supplies you need.

Warning!  These techniques may be illegal where you are. Be familiar with local regulations.  But then, if it comes to a choice of a potential fine versus hungry kids, well… you decide.

#7 Gunsmithing – Learn To Repair Guns

For the aspiring Survivalist or Self Reliant person, having a variety of guns for various purposes is a no-brainer, whether for hunting or defense.  Knowing how to clean, repair, site and adjust guns is probably just as important as knowing how to use them.  Any  guy who has been through basic military training remembers that one of the first things you learn is how to disassemble, clean and reassemble your weapon efficiently so it will work properly? No shortcuts when your life depends on it.  Keep basic spare parts for your guns and learn how to fix each one if it breaks.

Many Video’s and Books on Gunsmithing can be found on Amazon or Brownell’s. Pick ones that cover your gun types.

#8 Operate a HAM Radio

We decided early on that having someone in the Village with communications skills and equipment is important.  With the many skills I need to master, we decided another Villager would take this on.  He happens to be my brother who is just finishing his house.  Since he already had his license, this decision was easy.  For now, he has a good portable HAM, but he’s planning to install a fixed unit with tall antenna.  I plan to get my license when I can get to it.  In a disaster, a HAM radio is your communications lifeline to the outside World.  To appreciate its importance, there was a great TV survival mini-series a few years ago called Jericho.  You can find it on Hulu.com.

Last year, the requirements for a HAM radio operator’s license became a lot easier.  No Morse code is required.  A few hours study and pass an online test and you’re on your way.  Then, join a local club for practice and to build a resilient network.

  #9 Advanced First Aid

“Knowing advanced life saving first aid skills should be the goal of every person who is prepping for life.   And I’m talking about skills that go above and beyond those taught in basic first aid classes.

Learn how to treat major wounds, such as a sucking chest wound, until help can arrive. Could you set a broken bone? How about removing a bullet? It’s not as simple as some macho guy on TV makes it look. You’ll have to assume at one point during a crisis, you’re first aid skills will be needed. If not by you, then possibly by a family member or friend. You may be their only hope for surviving.”
The Survival, Emergency Preparedness and Self Reliance Blog

  #10 Small Engine Repair

Small engines provide most of the power that makes self-sufficient living enjoyable and even doable for folks of our time.  As I look around our homestead, I’m surprised to count the number of small engines I use.  (Chain Saws, 4-Wheeler ATV, Generators, Pumps, Air Compressors, Saw Mill, Rototillers, and the list goes on)

Knowing how to repair any of these small engines is a huge plus because it seems they’re always breaking down.  Because we’re in the country there are a number of small engine repairmen I can and do depend on, many more per capita than you would find in a big city.  Most people around here use small engines a lot.  But in a crisis situation, good repairmen may be overwhelmed.  Your local community college may offer classes on basic and advanced small engine repair. Once you’ve learned the basics, the rest is a piece of cake.

Auto repair has elements of Small Engine repair skills, and I’m tempted to include it here, but in a real crisis I’m thinking of getting back to alternative modes of transportation.  Automatic transmissions or sophisticated electronics built into most newer model cars are way beyond the reach of today’s shade tree mechanics.  If I can fix the small engine on my 4-wheeler that will get me by for transportation within a ten to fifteen mile radius, that will do, especially if I have more than one vehicle.  I do have an older model 4-wheel drive stick shift, carbureted vehicle.  It’s great for off-road use or on icy roads.  And, for those wanting to be prepared in case of an EMP attack, it has no sensitive electronics that could be fried by a massive pulse.  For this older vehicle, small engine repair skills will get me a long way.  Then, of course I could go back to horse and buggy days as some around here do.  I know where to buy a saddle horse for almost nothing.  Come to think of it, where the cost of gas is headed, that might not be a bad idea.

At a minimum, you should be able to change a tire, and change out parts that frequently break like starters, alternators, water and fuel pumps. If you can’t do these simple chores, you’d better have money or another vehicle to rely upon should one go down.

This is my top 10 list.  It is only the start if you want to be truly self-sufficient.  To give credit where credit is due, I got inspiration for this article from a like-minded blogger on The Survival, Emergency Preparedness and Self Reliance Blog.  My list is a bit different from his, so you might want to visit there for more ideas and a different slant.

 

#11 Food Preservation

Yes, there are many other important skills I couldn’t squeeze into the top 10.  I’ll sneak in one more.  Food Preservation is really important because in most climates your winter garden won’t satisfy all your needs for fresh food.  Food preservation includes Canning, Smoking, Dehydrating, Salting, Pickling, Root Cellars, Refrigeration/Freezing and much more.  Maybe I’ll do a list of the next 10 another time and lead off with this one.

Hands-On Preparedness Fair – Workshops

Our call for highly qualified workshop leaders has been answered in spades.   The quality and diversity of topics to be covered at the Fair on July 23-24 is outstanding.  See some of my older posts for a flyer and overview.  Here is a sampling  Preparedness Fair Schedule 7-24-2010

A sequence of three presentations, starts with
Permaculture Design and philosophy, (Saturday @ 10 am)

Permaculture is a design science that takes a whole-ecosystem approach to sustainable development. The term, Permaculture, means permanent agriculture and permanent culture. Permaculture developed in Australia in the late 1970s, by Ecologist David Holmgren and Natural History Professor Bill Mollison, and has since spread throughout the world. Leaders of the sustainability movement are applying Permaculture principles and design methodologies to everything from gardens, home sites, village designs, businesses, and entire regional economies.

Participants will be introduced to a unique tool that incorporates natural design systems into problem solving on multiple levels. Design Resource will offer future classes with in depth studies on topics like energy, food, healing aspects of the landscape, community networking and financial permaculture                                              

 BACKGROUND:   Kevin Guenther is a registered landscape architect, Leed AP professional and certified permaculture designer who has focused his consulting business (Design Resource) on sustainable design

Followed by:
Foraging and Gathering Food and Meds  (Saturday @ 11 am)

Hike through our 500 acre natural preserve in Sewanee Creek Gulf:  Foraging for food and Medicine is the 2nd hour of the permaculture presentation                                                                                                   

Workshop leader, John Rose says, “I work very much hands on, and each location I visit is different. There are a few guidelines common to the practice of safely interacting with anything in nature, whether it is wild plants, wild animals, weather, the elements in general, and ones approach to them.  Includes a general document that will help clarify these things.  I will also include a list of items that are useful learning tools such as a good small notebook with pen, or pencil for drawing and describing plants in their element.  This same notebook can be used as a nature journal for keeping track of such things as time of year, environmental conditions, weather, terrain, and many other aspects, all important to correctly identifying a plant at any given time of year, and under varying conditions.  I will look at not only edible and medicinal plants, but also poisonous plants, and plants that have other utilitarian uses for such things as fire starting, cordage, shelter, and other things.”

And third in the sequence:
Preparing Foraged Foods and Meds  (Saturday @ 2 pm)

Dr. Christina Berry adds that simply identifying edible plants and meds won’t get you far if you don’t know what to do with them.   This workshop will teach about preparing foods and meds from the foraged vegetation found on your foraging journey. Preparations of tinctures, teas, salves and syrups will be made and explained. Discussions of the use of different herbs for different treatments will also be discussed. Resources will be provided for further research.

And there will be much more.  Other workshops include:

TVA’s energy expert, Les Hartman and Village founder Grant Miller present
Alternative Electricity Generation Options.  (Saturday @ 9 am)

Understand available options, pros & cons of each, cost/KWH range, personal work cost, etc.    Understand options for grid tie vs. local battery storage.  See various electricity production options including water, PV, a Lister Diesel Generator and Wood Gasification.

Delve deeper into PhotoVoltaic Solar electricity with George Horrocks, chief design engineer with Tennessee’s largest PV installer.
Power from the Sun  (Saturday @ 10 am)

 Learn the Basics of Producing Electricity from the Sun and Why There has Never Been a Better Time to Go Solar. Whether you want to lock in your energy costs for life, clean and green the world, have backup security when the grid goes down, or see solar as a revenue generator for your family or business, with the price reductions of nearly 50% for solar in the last two years, coupled with incentives in the form of grants, tax credits, and TVA’s Generation Partners payments, now is the “perfect storm” of opportunity to install a solar array.

First on the priority list for preparedness is water.
Rain Water Collection Systems Tour and Demonstration  (Friday @ 3 pm & Saturday @ 1 pm)

Join Paul Owen of Nature’s Tap for a tour of the Miller Home off-grid system.  Understand the benefits and costs of setting up a Rain Water Collection System that can reliably supply all of your water needs.

Then explore options for Water Purification with George Miller,  water quality lab manager for the Palm Springs/Coachella Valley Water District via internet link from California. (Saturday @ 1:30 pm)

Discuss water purification options including filtration, chemical, UV, distillation, etc.    Learn the best use of water from various sources, its treatment primarily for drinking, and its storage.

What about food?
Tour the garden, greenhouse and orchard with permaculturists and gardeners.  (Friday @ 5pm & Saturday @ 1pm) Explore your questions about self-sufficient gardening.  Then learn how to prepare food, observing dutch and solar oven prep’s.  (Saturday 11 am through lunch).  Enjoy tasty BBQ catered from local restaurant, Holy Smokes and learn how to preserve meat and fish by smoking, drying and making jerky.
Sample some local favorites while observing the process of milling wheat for bread, home-made yogurt from milk and tasty jam from local berries.

And you can Can.  Learn how with Carolyn Park and Becky Miller
“Food Preservation Made Simple, Quick and Easy, By Dry-Pack Canning Method”  (Saturday @ 11 am)

CLASS OBJECTIVE:
Have a hands-on experience while learning a proven food storage method.
PARTICIPANTS WILL…
-Learn how to properly can foods such as whole grains, legumes, sugar, and other dry foods.
-Participate in a step-by-step process for canning and sealing dry food in #10 cans and mason jars without the use of electricity.
-See how proper food storage can extend food shelf life for up to 30 years.
-Obtain handouts to help you gain the knowledge to build your own food bank and become food secure.
DISPLAYING:
-Other Food Preservation Methods
-Equipment
BACKGROUND:
Carolyn and Becky have had life long experience in gardening and food preservation. Experience was drawn from three generations of family farming and homemaking.  Recently they have focused on long-term food storage to promote family sustainability and wellness.

“But wait, there’s more”   🙂

  • For hunters or wannabe hunters, expert hunter Bob Blackburn will host a round table discussion on hunting in the Tennessee Woods.   (Friday @ 7:30 pm)
  • For self-defense, expert Brad Bleasdale will present a two-hour course entitled “Choosing and using a Pistol for Defense”   (Saturday @ 10 am)

This Class will cover gun safety, types of handguns, how to eliminate “caliber confusion”, holsters, lights, and lasers, and a host of other topics.
Designed for people considering a pistol, or as a refresher for those who already carry.  Perfect for women, youth, or novice shooters.
Class will include hands-on instruction, and range time with a certified shooting instructor.  Gun and ammo will be available for those without.
Children are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult.

Bio:  Brad Bleasdale is a lifetime shooter and shooting instructor.  Blessed with the heart of a teacher, Brad teaches novice and intermediate shooters the basics of firearms safety and competence.  Brad has instructed hundreds of people in the safe and effective use of firearms, with specialized classes for women, youth, and church groups.
$10/person or $25 / Family.  MUST HAVE:  Eye Protection (sunglasses are fine), ear protection, folding chair, notebook, water.   Bring your own Handgun and Ammo

Alternative HealthCare for mind and body.

  • Start with a 2-hour Native American flute lesson that will soothe and heal the soul, by renowned musician Tony Gerber.  This hands on instruction includes a Native American Flute, all for just $60. (Friday @ 4 pm)
  • Take care of the physical you with a discussion of holistic healthcare methods that have worked for you.  Remedies for every day live.  This round-table will be presented by Dr. Cliffton Brady.  (Saturday @ 1 pm)

Entertainment and Fun

  • Enjoy a movie under the stars at the 26′ wide Village Amphitheater.  Bring your own steak or hot dogs to grill for an outdoor feast.
  • Groove to the jam session sounds of “Space Craft”  (Friday Supper, Saturday Lunch)
  • For the young in body and spirit, learn to rappell off the cliffs near Miller’s Falls with certified instructor, Jesse Gainer or play Village Games with Haley Blackburn.

And that’s just a sampling.  So much to learn and do.  So little time.  Come, join us for the first annual Preparedness fair at the Village on Sewanee Creek.

Personal Freedom, Creativity and Work

“Everything that is really great and INSPIRING is CREATED by the INDIVIDUAL who can LABOR in FREEDOM.”

 Albert Einstein

In this quote, Einstein pulls together several of my most cherished themes (emphasis is mine). I feel most inspired when I can create something with my own mind and hands. It may not be ground breaking to someone else. But to me, it is beautiful. It makes my life happy. I feel inspired.

Yesterday was one such example. I worked all day beside my neighbor, Joe. We put up the frame for a dock on my brother’s pond. That simple installation was part of several other solutions.  We now have an inexpensive valve system for a 4″ pipe that won’t freeze and break in the winter, a place to fish from in the summer and overflow control for the dam. I can look forward to extending that big pipe from the bottom of the dam to a micro-hydro generator. I think we finished it in time to let the pond re-fill before summer sets in and to stock it with lots of catfish.  All together, it’s a very simple, yet elegant solution that took time and several iterations to figure out and implement, culminating in a sense of satisfaction.

We also restarted the wood furnace and routed hot water through an old car radiator with a fan behind it to heat a greenhouse cold frame tunnel within the bigger greenhouse. I was surprised by the amount of heat it puts out and how efficient the solution is. I went to bed last night feeling good. What a blessing it is to be able to work and create on my own land with my own hands. One of the reasons it is important for Villagers to own their land is that essential element of personal accountability. Without that, it becomes too easy in an intentional community to expect others to carry the load. One must give in order to receive. As the scripture says, “Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread … of the laborer.”   Upon achieving a measure of self-sufficiency based on one’s own labors, it becomes even more fulfilling to help others. 

Finally, Einstein speaks of freedom.  How wonderful to be able to make my own choices and either enjoy or suffer the consequences of my own thoughts and actions.  Out in the country, I feel so much more free than in a suburb where everyone is looking over my shoulder, judging every action or inaction, and the epitome of creative labor is how well and often my lawn is mowed.

Prepper’s Top Ten Necessities for Life in Troubled Times

  1. Relationships: Positive, mutually supportive with capable, skilled people
  2. Spiritual & Mental Health: The foundation for all positive action.
  3. Physical Health: Sustainable, natural health care to supplement a healthy lifestyle.
  4. Water: Reliable, secure source of pure water
  5. Food: Natural food from a source you trust and control (yourself)
  6. Shelter: An energy efficient dwelling
  7. Energy: Redundant, reliable, private sources of storable energy.
  8. Reserve: Store and rotate a backup supply of everything you use (water, food, medicine, tools, fuel, clothing & other consumables)
  9. Trade: Prepare to trade for everything else (Cash, Non-Depreciating Assets, Barter-Valuable Supplies, Practical, marketable Skills)
  10. Knowledge & Skills: True self-sufficiency comes from experience – knowing how to do it yourself.

Take a good look at this list.  If this were a report card, what would your grade be on each of these important subjects? For the past 50 years, the developed world has lived in a pampered, complex, yet socially dysfunctional style that values:

  • Entertainment & Entitlement over productive Work
  • Self-Indulgence over Selfless Service
  • Pleasure over Moral Integrity
  • Intellectual Prowess over Practical Skills
  • Dependence on complex systems over Independent Self-Sufficiency
  • Conspicuous Consumption over Provident Preparation.

Is it any surprise that most people lack the skills, preparation, and resources to confidently face a troubled future? Is it any wonder that people feel helpless and out of control? Is there any way you can become confidently competent and provisioned for these ten essential items all by yourself? It’s a daunting task.  But, with help, you CAN do it.

That’s why relationships are at the top of the list. That’s why we are building a community of self-sufficient people at the beautiful Village on Sewanee Creek. If your values are the inverse of the above list, If you want to become more confident, more self-sufficient, and more at peace with your neighbors and in harmony with nature, If you desire close, trusting relationships in a like-minded community, but aren’t ready for a religious or hippie commune, give us a call.