Bugging In: Prepping for Sustaining

Recently I posted an article about bugging out, and what kinds of supplies to have ready to go in case you and your family need to leave your home quickly in an emergency. But if you end up having to stay put, say during a pandemic scare or if a mainland event caused the boats to stop coming to Hawaii for a time, you might want to consider some more long term and sustainable options. And let’s face it – we should be doing that anyway. Local food and energy production should not be a far-off dream, but a work in progress. Our civilization is precariously hinged on a continuous supply of electricity. It wouldn’t take much to knock it out, especially in the US with our crumbling grid.

If the recent tsunami from Japan wasn’t enough to kick your prepping up a knotch, there are plenty of other scenarios that might. NASA and other organizations have long warned the public about the possibility of solar flares knocking out grids for long periods of time – months or even years. And that is just one possible SHTF (sh—hit-the-fan) scenario – economic collapse, polar shift, supervolcanic eruption, mega-earthquake, nuclear war or meltdown…the list is endless. The governments of the world are building hundreds – if not thousands – of large underground bases worldwide, and storing seeds for any such possibility. In fact, if you have a lot of money, you might be interested to know about various long-term underground shelters people are building – self-contained units, some with supplies to last as long as five years. Since the Japan catastrophe, sales have skyrocketed. Recently, Australian television aired an interesting program, 100 Days of Disaster, about recent disasters worldwide, preparations some people are making, the 2012 phenomenon, etc. Worth a watch.

How far you want to go in terms of preparations is up to you, how much storage space you have, how much you want to spend, how long you feel you need to prepare for, the abundance of natural resources in your area, etc. My family has been preparing a little at a time for quite a few years; we have recently ramped up our preparations, as we feel things are becoming more uncertain every day now. We’ve always considered it money well spent, either way – a kind of insurance policy we hope we never have to use, but wouldn’t dare be without.

And depending on your location, bugging in might not even be an option. You might be in a big, crowded city, and not have enough rainfall, firewood, fuel, or space to garden. But on the Big Island, it could be more realistic, as we have a lot more resources at hand and a relatively small population to support compared to the huge and abundant island we live on. And, the weather is always temperate – we can garden all year round and don’t need to worry about heating our homes (as a side note, I still have some winter gear stored – hey, climate change is in the news a lot…). Regardless – as it is now, this island could not independently support its population without a LOT of work by a LOT of people working together.

This article is only the tip of the iceberg, as I am certainly no expert – there are many, many books and websites devoted to this topic, and a lot of people spend a lot of time researching, studying and living these methods. But I’ll try and give somewhere to start. One book I found is When Technology Fails – lots of information there, whether it’s for emergency preparedness or off-grid living. Back to Basics is a classic. Heck there are a bunch of them out there. Get one or two and do a little reading before anything happens.

Water will continue to be the most important consideration. Household water catchment is already quite common in Hawaii, especially in areas that receive more rain. But does your filtration system run independent of the electric grid? Something to consider.

Otherwise, have a stash of water in your storage, as much as you can fit and afford, and want to plan for. Plan on about a gallon of water a day per person. After that, you will have to filter, so even if you’re not on catchment now, larger storage barrels or tanks as well as smaller, collapsible water carrying containers are something to consider. During an emergency, you might want to fill your bathtub just in case – the WaterBOB is a pretty nifty idea. Solar stills can be cheap and simple to build, or there are more elaborate solar still set-ups available online, which is a good option for Hawaii. Boiling and distilling are certain, but require a lot of energy. The Waterwise 1600 is a distiller which doesn’t require any filters, works on seawater and is nonelectric (it must be kept at a simmering boil for hours over some kind of heat source) – however they are not readily available at the moment. I’ve seen bidding wars for them on Ebay.

Some people swear by their Berkey water filter – depending on the model they can filter up to 6,000 gallons before replacing the filter. The Kadadyn systems have ceramic filters which last a very long time (up to 13,000 gallons). These can all be expensive though. I did find a very interesting alternative at Emergency-H2O.com – check their blog page for a CNN video to see them at work in Haiti. Pretty good for the price – starting at $29.00 for a simple DIY. Even so consider having replacement filters, just in case. Water can also be filtered using sand and charcoal (not briquets!), or sunlight and PET bottles, called SODIS. And of course there are purification tablets and plain bleach which can work short term. You might want to have a few different water treatments options at your disposal, as not all systems filter all viruses, cysts and protozoa. Do your research.

Having weeks or even months worth of stored food would be a great help to support your family at first, but again, this is based on affordability, space, and what scenario and time frame you are prepping for, and whether or not you have a vegetable garden and/or fruit trees. I’d suggest having a few weeks of stored food at the least if you live in Hawaii even if you don’t think TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) is going to happen, in case there is ever a hiccup with the shipping, which has happened temporarily before. It’s estimated that most grocery stores have only about three days worth of food, so if transportation is halted for any reason, things would go south quickly. Here is an overview on long term food storage, pest prevention, rotation, and containers. And here is one example of the kind of preparations some people are doing – it’s very serious stuff here folks.

If you already have a garden, or have plenty of fruit trees on your property, this is great security and a step towards self-sufficiency. The localvore movement has been quite strong the past couple of years, and many more people are digging up their grass in favor of tomatoes. Consider getting a fruit picker, if you don’t already have one, so you can reach high branches when you go gathering. Canning and preserving are valuable skills, especially without refrigeration, and there are some great books out there to help you. Many people here I know also keep chickens, rabbits, goats, and even sheep and cattle. (We also know plenty of people who hunt the abundant wild goats, sheep, pigs and even cattle.) If you don’t already save your own seeds for next year’s garden, read up on that, and be sure you’re using nonhybrid seeds so it’s at least possible to try. Meanwhile, consider storing nonhybrid seeds. You can purchase sealed emergency seed caches which claim to last for years. Or, vacuum seal an assortment of seeds you know will work in your climate. Don’t forget medicinal herbs. Do what you can and trade for everything else. The ancient Hawaiian community system, the Ahupua’a, is a topic worthy of its own post. Ohana is everything.

As I said in the Bugging Out post, have several kinds of firestarters just to be safe. Lighters run out of fuel. Here in Hawaii, the traditional method of cooking uses an imu, and many people I know still do that for luaus and such, so fortunately that is not a lost art and is actually a very healthful way to cook your food because it’s steamed. Another popular way to preserve meat in Hawaii is smoking, and dehydrating for fruits and veggies. If you use propane, have some extra, but long term, that could run out. Have alternatives.

Solar ovens work surprisingly well, and you can make your own for pretty cheap. Rocket stoves are also pretty cool. Cast iron pots and pans will last forever, and large cauldrons for soups and stews to feel lots of people seem like wisdom. (An outdoor fire pit or wood-fired BBQ set up goes without saying.) If you think like the Amish, consider manual grain grinders, food mills and mortar and pestles, and even a wood-fired stove. Books on storing and preserving food will come in handy. Dehydrating sea water for salt will be an option here in Hawaii.

First aid
Aside from the smaller, compact kits in your bug out bags, a surplus medical supply is another thing to consider. How prepared you want to be for these types of emergencies is up to you, but living on a remote island, I would feel more secure having a larger supply of a few things, like bandages, pain relievers, ice packs and antibiotics, not to mention allergy relief, burn treatments, minor surgical supplies and even midwifery essentials. Of course if you or a family member has a medical condition, have plenty of prescription medicines and necessary supplies on hand. (You can buy antibiotics over-the-counter for fish at vet supplies online – it’s controversial, but it’s said they are the same ones used for humans, if you buy from a reputable vet supply.)  You can buy in bulk at Costco and even Ebay. Honey, tee tree oil, oregano oil, whiskey and vinegar can be used as disinfectants and/or topical antibiotics. I found a great resource on line at The Patriot Nurse – check it out. She knows far more about these things than I do. There are a multitude of great survival and basic medical first aid books available, such as Where There is No Doctor and Where There is No Dentist. Make sure you have a Nurse’s guide or other such handbook on dosages for antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, if you decide to stock up on those. I can’t take any responsibility for those decisions – it’s up to you, just know your options and do your research.

Dental care could also become a concern. You can get some temporary emergency filling repair kits, and salt is a good substitute for toothpaste, believe it or not, as is baking soda. Clove oil is great for treating abscesses, and Anbesol for oral pain relief. Medicinal herbs, how to grow them and how to make home remedies, is another skill worth studying. I recently took a CPR and First Aid course which I hadn’t done in many years. Just a suggestion.

Sanitation and hygiene
Keeping clean and hygienic is important to avoid disease, as we all know. Composting toilets are quite interesting, and some off-grid communities here already use them, as well as grey water recycling. Toilet paper will among the first things to run out if the boats stop coming, so store some extra. In Hawaii, we also have a toilet paper tree called Melocia, believe it or not. Wish I had one in my yard. 😉 Know how to properly dig and care for a latrine. For shorter term scenarios, you can use 5 gallon bucket-type camping toilet kits. Do a little searching online and be prepared at least for short term sewage stoppages.

A good supply of various soaps is wisdom. Castile soap is organic and can be used for showering as well as clothes and other things including pest management in organic gardens, believe it or not. Baking soda, corn starch, vinegars, and lemon juice can be used to make cleaning solutions and deodorants for all kinds of uses. Here is an idea for making your own manual washing machine using a toilet plunger. One of the aunties here on the island recently told me how her mother used to wash clothes in a metal basin over a fire made of coffee tree branches – they would boil the clothes, and have two other rinsing bins before wringing and hanging to dry. A solar shower is a handy thought too, especially here in Hawaii.

Most women these days probably use disposable products, but if you’re into being sustainable, you are probably already beyond this. The “cup”- there are several brands – is made of silicone and will last practically forever. Another suggestion is reusable fabric pads. You can buy them online or find patterns to make your own. Note that disposable maxipads are also usable for wound care – so, maybe have a pack or two around anyway for first aid. Also, tampons can be used as tinder for starting fires, among other things. Believe it or not, I’ve also heard of baby socks rolled up as a suggestion for reusable tampons. In a long-term scenario, birth control could become a vital concern. Something to think about.

Self Defense
If it’s really TEOTWAWKI, let’s face it: if you have a solid long-term supply, gear and bug in plans, your less prepared neighbors might find out about that pretty quickly. Of course, working together and community living will be imperative to long term survival in such a situation, and hopefully everyone will find a way to contribute, if if comes to that. But what about the people who will just want to steal your stuff, or even kill you for your food? I’d like to think that especially on the Big Island, this won’t be as big a problem as it could be in a larger, mainland city. Generally people are pretty aloha here, and tend to be very community oriented. But like everywhere else, we also have some lazy, mean, crazy and selfish people – and plenty of unprepared people, to be sure. In our family, we are ready for this possibility. Think about what you would be prepared to do, and what supplies you would want to have, to defend your bug-in spot, your family and stockpiles. You might have to move somewhere more defensible. And remember: ammunition can run out. Have options.

Tools and equipment
For bugging in, one assumes you will have access to your home tool shop. If you don’t have the basics in terms of hand tools, pick up a kit, same for gardening, if you have the space, and seeds. Have a few other essentials like a variety of nails and screws, duct tapes, tarps, zip ties, glues, and rope. More elaborate SHTF preppers might also have thought of manual hand drills and sewing machines. Maybe you have some antique tools in your attic or outbuildings. Dust them off and see if they need repair now. I found a manual crank attachment online for an old Singer I have. A store of threads and fabric will also be good to have, along with other various needlecraft supplies. Some people go so far as to have tools for tanning animal hides and stitching leather.

If you’re a hunter, consider have alternatives to guns to hunt with and start to develop your skill in using them. Long term, ammunition could eventually run out, but you can reuse arrows, and even make your own, for example. Traps and snares are an excellent option. If you’re a fisherman, make sure you have extra supplies to repair and build nets, spears, fishing lines, etc. In the old days, Hawaiians built fish traps near the shore with rock walls. Metalworkers and blacksmiths will be highly prized, if they know the old ways and had the old tools.

Some people have two-way radios, solar generators, aquaponics systems and other fancy equipment. Again – depends how deep you want to go with this, what you are preparing for, and where you live. Off-grid living and/or local energy production can be a challenge, and yet even as many people realize it is the best solution for what ails our planet, if things aren’t changed soon, we may have no choice in the matter.

Having a library of useful information will be important when there is no Google. There are all kinds of books out there on off-grid living, back to basics, homesteading, etc. You can learn to make soap, candles, and glue, for example, not to mention manual or animal-driven farm implements. Gardening, composting, preserving food, human waste disposal, and medical manuals like midwifery will be valuable. If you find something useful on the Internet now, print it out and keep it in a notebook somewhere. Don’t forget about entertainment! Have your favorite books and novels, and maybe pick up a few you haven’t read yet, to save for later.

Books, board games and decks of cards will be dusted off, as they often are, when the power goes out. Nonelectric musical instruments, and people who can play them, would be wonderful, as as would good storytellers. In any emergency situation, short or long term, keeping children occupied, and even adults, can be essential to psychological well being.

I’m not going to get too deep here on this. I’ve written quite a lot about maintaining one’s spirit and attitude over at Surfing the Tao. The gist of it is, the wave can be either big or small, you still need to be balanced as it carries you forward. Unfortunately, many people are mentally unprepared even for the smaller emergencies of “normal” life. If something major happened, fugetaboutit. But for others, look to your higher power, know you are not alone, and things will happen regardless of how you react. So, why not react with balance and forethought, compassion and calm? Do you want to be a burden on those around you, or a help? Something to think about. Because – It’s all good.

As I’ve said, this is merely the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully I’ve got your wheels turning. Spend some time searching possibilities online now while you can, purchase a few books for your library, and consider adding to your cache a little at a time. If you have the chance to live off-grid or learn valuable skills, please share. I hope in times of need, we can band together, so if you find this website, get in touch. Add a comment or email me at avmichaels@surfingthetao.com.

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2 Responses to Bugging In: Prepping for Sustaining

  1. Daniel says:

    Aloha Brah,

    Thanks for writing this article. My family (wife and 2 children) live in Northern Cal and have often thought about moving back to Oahu. More job possibilities, yeah? Plus all extended family in Oahu.

    But I have always thought Big Island would be better for prepping. (Well, if no volcano eruptions, tsunami, or hurricane, that is).

    When doing internet research, I have read that long term food storage would be difficult in HI given the humidity. Also, that there’s only enough food for 3 days if no more food coming in the containers! (So why not go fishing?)

    Anyways, thanks again for this write-up!!

    • Thanks for your comment. We think Big Island has the best survivability, due to small population, high mountains and abundant resources, in a SHTF scenario, especially as compared with the innate troubles in a metropolitan area. Food storage is same as everywhere – packaging methods are everything, and it surely can be done here – just remember, shipping costs to HI are high, so we shop locally as much as possible, and look for deals. But also, 3 days of food in ALL grocery stores, not just in HI! At least here you can go hunting and fishing very nearby. On the other hand, being near family, is a great asset too. As far as jobs go, this island has very little to offer in comparison to Oahu. Just depends on your situation I suppose – but my advice would be, if you sense changes coming, get out of dodge and come back to the islands, by hook or by crook. I don’t think you’ll regret it in the long run. Much aloha to you and your family. And if you end up here, get in touch again. 🙂

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