Survival Is Also About Earning a Living!

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My husband and I were freaking out about the economy in 1978, so we moved from a metro lifestyle in another state to rural Kansas where we fenced and planted a half-acre garden. I learned to can, soon filling the basement with Mason jars. We went “off the grid” for a while, so learned to live by the light, getting up early and going to bed early. Taking a bath by candlelight is no fun.

We bought gold and silver. We kept it under our own control. We stocked up on ammo and such. Tools. Food. Seeds. Practical things. We had a 90-foot well. We became vegetarians. Life was good. Weekend auctions were our entertainment. It was so much fun driving to different farmstead auctions, meeting super-nice people, spending a very few dollars for fabulous deals.

About auctions. I cherish a 12-seater dining room table and caned chairs purchased at auction for a mere $210. After kids put their knees through the cane years later, it cost $22 per chair to repair in a small Kansas town. The next generation of kids, that gent was gone, so it was $450 to repair just two chairs in Wichita. Yow! This year, I was blessed to meet a 90-year-old in Missouri who repaired three chairs for $75 total.

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I then bought the materials from him to cover the next round of repairs in 10 years, for all the chairs. Had to drive for 18 hours total to deliver then retrieve my chairs, but it was a fabulous deal. He and his wife are awesome. Spent quite a bit of time with them. If you need a caned chair, they have a basement full of them that he has re-habbed. He has amazing war memorabilia, and she has a great garden. They were peeling apples and making applesauce last time I visited.

Back to survival. I substituted, tutored, and sold vegetables. I protected our homestead and worked hard in the garden, while my husband traveled and sold industrial supplies. We saved as much as we could. Gold went from about $200 to $800. Before long, we had saved enough to live 10+ years (frugally).

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We had essentially traded even from our city home to our rural home, giving up a newer house with a small yard for an older home with land. It was my first experience with high ceilings, plaster walls, a basement, and tall windows being so high off the ground. The glass in the windows had “runs” which distorted the view. Our outbuildings included a super-high-ceiling garage for a combine, a stable, and a large bee-keeper’s workroom tricked out with a deep sink and toilet.

There were pear, peach and cherry trees, and lots of roses, irises, and lilacs. The asparagus bed was impressive. I had never eaten asparagus, but now love it!

I bought all the Mother Earth News issues, and How to Live on Five Acres, and similar reading. Still have them all. Excellent information. I spent winters poring over seed catalogs, planning next year’s planting.

I started a home-based business, to be able to work at home and raise kids. My “office” was a country sunroom with windows on three sides. No A/C, very hot in the summers, but my husband installed a gas heater from Graingers, so winters were relatively pleasant.

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Here’s what I can advise.

Live on less than you earn. Life has waves. There is a rhythm. Up and down. Seasons. Hills and valleys. Cut off the tops of the hills, and tip them over to fill the valleys, and you will be fine. The difference between what you earn and what you spend is the source of your WEALTH.

For business, SOLVE PROBLEMS! All the money in the world is hidden under the rocks called problems. Great opportunity is brilliantly disguised as insolvable problems. Be a CONTINUAL LEARNER, and you will do well. While I had to order and read a bazillion books, today’s access to information makes it incredibly easy to learn. SPEND THAT TIME. Learning is the best thing you can do with time.

People will trade. The gent who painted our house was happy to work many evenings (until dark) in exchange for our old Toyota for his daughter.

Beans + Rice. All the amino acids! There’s nothing as delicious as a big bean pot plus cornbread. Soak dried beans in water overnight in the fridge, then cook them the next day. Almost all day. Slowly. The more different beans, the better.

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Peanut butter + milk. All the amino acids! If you don’t like to drink milk, then soften peanut butter and mix in dried milk powder. My son, a National Merit Finalist, grew his great brain on beans/rice and pb/milk.

No chemicals. Homemade oil spray protects fruit trees. Homemade pepper spray protects most vegetables. Plant flowers, with a bias toward perennials. Established irises can survive anything. For annuals, petunias, zinnias, and hollyhocks prosper in hot weather.

Deadbolts. Lock up. Keep a loaded (though shell not chambered, to protect kids) shotgun by your bed. When you get up to pee during the night, pick up the shotgun, and go through the imagined motions of chambering a shell, taking off the safety, and shouldering the gun.

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After a while, you can do it in about two seconds, second nature. The life you save will be your own, or your family’s. The chuck-chuck sound of chambering a shell is unmistakable and a powerful deterrent. It would be terrible to have to actually shoot someone, but hey, don’t break in!

FYI, in Kansas a concealed carry license is essentially permanent. No need to renew every few years. If you don’t drink and drive or beat up people, you’re good.

Think critically. Be aware. Consider who is telling what, and why. Though country people are generally wonderful, some may try to take advantage of nice people. Do NOT give out information to anyone who calls or visits you. If you call them, that’s different.

Freeze your credit. At present it costs $30 to freeze with all three bureaus. You will be unable to get a car or home loan until you unfreeze it (another $30), but you will not be a victim of identity theft. DO NOT be the low-hanging fruit for thieves! You can de-activate charge cards until you need them. When you are ready to go shopping, call and re-activate.

One in the hole. ALWAYS have extra. When you need something, buy two.

Back to business now. If you work for wages, you are taxed on EVERY dollar you earn. If you own a business, you are taxed on the dollars left over after you have spent for what you need. And, if you happen to lose money occasionally, a business can GET BACK federal taxes for the past three years, and in Kansas, not have to pay state income taxes for up to 10 years forward. Sweet. So every fourth year could be a loss. You cannot take depreciation on a loss year, so plan for that. Overall, a small business can avoid most income tax (but not payroll or other taxes).

If you operate a small business, you are in charge of your schedule. You never need to miss a school meeting, a doctor’s appointment, or a child’s sporting event. Not much need for daycare. Children who grow up with a WORKING parent are blessed. They learn what work is – that parents don’t disappear all day then show up with money. They learn how to speak to customers, how to organize, how to plan, how to follow through. The best thing I EVER DID was start a business so that I could stay “home” to raise kids.

Though my little business started out small, over the years it has grown to provide jobs to dozens of people. I am proud of that. Our kids come to the office, and I spend time teaching them to be learners and problem-solvers. Kids are our future.

If I can do it, anybody can do it!

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September 24, 2010

M.D. Creekmore [send him mail] is a full-time blogger and preparedness consultant. He currently lives completely off-grid somewhere in the Appalachian mountains and is currently working on his upcoming book The Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat for Paladin Press. To connect with M.D. Creekmore please visit his Survival Blog.