Prepping and The Greek Financial Crisis

So, I’ve been debating whether to address the Greek financial crisis here on the blog. I mean, sure, it is a fairly important event and one that bears discussion from the prepper perspective. On the other hand, just about every other prepper on the web has posted about it already. Never let a crisis go to waste, right?

Here are a couple of observations regarding the situation over in Greece and how it might relate to future events here in the United States. First, this didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t like everyone went to bed Sunday night, looking forward to a great week and woke up the next morning baffled by what had happened while they slept.

No, this was a fairly gradual decline over a lengthy period of time. There were tons of warning signs that things were getting worse and worse. Unfortunately, a whole ton of people there ignored all those red flags and are now in a world of hurt. Shelves are bare, cash access is severely limited, and many people are now finding out they don’t have jobs. It is rather difficult to run a business when you can’t get products shipped or pay your employees. So, not only are people running out of cash they had in the house, they aren’t going to be able to earn any more.

At the time of this writing, the ATM limit in Greece is roughly $75 per day. That’s actually a good-sized amount of cash. I mean, if your typical day-to-day living expenses exceed $75 each day, you might want to take a good, hard look at your budget. That said, there’s more going on here than just pulling out money to hopefully pick up some groceries.

See, the thing about an economic collapse is, well, your bills don’t just disappear. It isn’t like you can call your mortgage company and say, “Dude, you realize everyone is broke, right? Howzabout just leaving us alone for a while?” Nope, they want their money and they won’t take late payments lightly. Same goes for utility companies. You don’t pay your light bill, you lose those lights, pure and simple. Sure, there have been instances where the country’s government stepped in and basically placed a short-term moratorium on foreclosures and such. But, those measures were always very short-lived and rarely affected the majority of people in trouble.

Naturally, because I wrote a book on financial preparedness, I’ve have a few people ask me for my input or advice. Here goes, take this for what it might be worth. As I’ve said countless times, everyone is different, every situation is unique. Take what works for you and leave the rest. No one has all of the answers.

First, try to set aside as much money as humanly possible so you have a cushion later. A good initial goal is to have enough cash on hand to pay all of your bare minimum living expenses for 2-3 months. This would include your mortgage/rent, utility bills, groceries, gas for the car, all that good stuff. This should be kept in cash, not just sitting in the bank. As many Greeks have found out, money is no good if you can’t access it. This isn’t easy, I know, nor will it happen quickly for most folks (myself included). But, commit to saving as much cash as you can each time you get paid and set it aside.

Where should you store the cash? Well, a good quality safe is a wise investment. If you can’t find one for cheap on Craigslist or perhaps Freecycle, invest in the best quality one you can afford. You could always go with the old fashioned backyard bank approach and bury it in mason jars or something. But, you best be sure you’ll never forget where to find it.

Next, work on building up your supply of food, water, and other necessities. Again, shoot for enough to last 2-3 months. Do this slowly and build it up over time. A couple of cans of soup here, some home canned veggies there. Don’t forget things like pet food, toiletries, and paper goods (toilet paper, paper towel, etc.).

As I wrote in Prepper’s Financial Guide, an economic collapse is a disaster without all of the death and destruction. That, however, doesn’t make it a cake walk to endure and overcome. Many experts say the United States is headed toward its own financial collapse in the near future. Personally, my crystal ball has been in the shop for some time now and so I can’t make any reliable predictions. But, I can say this – we’re in for a world of hurt if it does happen in this country.

Avoiding Clickbait

The online world is very much a double-edged sword. I mean, we live in an age where just about any piece of information we seek is, quite literally, at our fingertips. Yet, at the same time, people are becoming less and less likely to make even the most minimal effort to obtain reliable information. Case in point – Clickbait.

Clickbait is a technique used by websites to increase their traffic. Basically, the website will come up with some sort of sensational headline, one that is sure to evoke an almost immediate, emotional response from the reader. Something like, “Obama sues trucking company for not hiring Muslim terrorists!” The headline is posted on social media along with a link to the website. The linked page typically contains very little in the way of hard facts and instead is usually a poorly researched and sometimes horribly written “article” that, from time to time, might even have little or nothing to do with the headline.

The idea behind clickbait is to accomplish two goals. First, many people will just share that post without actually reading the article. The headline is enough to incense people to the point to where they’ll post a comment and share the link. This increases the reach of the website, allowing more and more people to see that link. This serves the second goal of increasing traffic to the website. The more people who see the link, the more who will click on it. These websites make money off of your traffic through advertising. Often, the rate of pay is linked directly to the number of clicks the website generates in a given time period. The more clicks, the more money earned.

Keep in mind, too, that there really is nothing to prevent any website from posting whatever the hell it wants. Some sites, such as The Onion, specialize in parody and making their “news” look like real news. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people share links to Onion articles believing the stories to be genuine, regardless of how ridiculous the story actually is.

There is a difference, though, between parody and outright bullshit. The latter is what many websites consider to be their stock in trade. The folks running the sites don’t care that the stories posted are utter and complete fabrications. As long as the traffic numbers are high, that’s all that matters. The sad fact is, many people who read such nonsense can’t be bothered to apply even an iota of common sense to see if the story passes muster. They read it on the Internet so it must be true! So, they forward on the link to the story to every person in their address book and on their friend’s list. At least a percentage of those folks will click on the link and the circle continues on and on and on….

Preppers and survivalists often say that they believe facts about the world, the government, whatever, are being withheld from them. That conspiracies are afoot and we are in danger from Jade Helm, Planet X, New World Order, whatever. I don’t know what truth, if any, lies behind those so-called conspiracies. I do know this, though. You aren’t likely to find any real answers on a quasi-news website that is filled with clickbait.

We complain a lot about the mainstream media and how it distorts the truth. There is definitely a bias present in just about any news story that you read, see, or hear. Gone are the days of “just the facts” reporting. That said, people sometimes overlook that this applies across the board, no matter if you’re looking at a liberal or conservative news source.

Use your head for something more than just a hat rack, folks. Apply just a little logic and common sense before you buy into these sensational stories hook, line, and sinker.

Cashier as Career Path? – A Rant

I have three boys, one in high school, one in junior high, and one in elementary school. Yeah, parent-teacher conferences are loads of fun, as is scheduling the different extra-curricular activities, field trips, and all that fun stuff. Anyway, my middle son took a career assessment test at school yesterday. It wasn’t very in depth, of course, just 40 or so questions like, “Do you like to work with people?” and “Would you want to work outdoors?” Once the test is complete, the computer spits out a list of about 20 suggested careers based upon the answers given.

My son’s recommendations ran the gamut from computer programmer to set designer for TV and movies to video game developer. Many of the suggestions made perfect sense to us. This boy is very much into computers and loves things like math and science. He is frighteningly intelligent and is years ahead of many of his classmates academically. That’s not just a proud Dad talking, either. We have the test scores to prove it.

One of the career paths, though, gave me pause – cashier. Seriously, I thought, cashier is one of the options? Now, before I get all sorts of angry emails, let me elaborate on this. I’m not saying my son, or anyone else for that matter, is somehow too good to be a cashier. That’s not it at all. The problem is that cashier shouldn’t be considered any sort of “career path.” Being a cashier, like working in the kitchen of a fast food joint or waiting tables or any of the other hundreds of similar jobs, is a means to an end. It is either what you do while you’re working on something else, such as going to school, or it is doing what’s needed to bring in money. It is a job, not a career.

Why would cashier, assembly line worker, carpet cleaner, or customer service employee (yes, those were all on the list) even be options for a career assessment test? I mean, if you have students at the middle school level whose aptitude tests would indicate those as strong career options, something in that education system has almost certainly gone awry. If you have students who enter the real world and the job options for which they are best suited consist of nothing more than ringing up a sale or inserting 3 screws into a piece of sheet metal 787 times a day on an assembly line, something is seriously wrong.

Back in the day, a guy or gal with no desire to move on academically beyond high school could strive for a job working in a local factory, planning to get hired on and staying there until retirement. Those jobs paid well, had great benefits, and were solid as a rock. Today, not so much. I worked in a factory for a couple of summers while I was in college. This was back in the early 90s and starting wage where I worked was $15.00/hour, full benefits after 90 days. Today, you’re lucky if you can find a factory job that pays more than $8.50/hour to start and it’ll be a full year before you qualify for health insurance. The health insurance coverage is also likely to be abysmal at best, nothing at all like what Blue Cross Blue Shield offered 20+ years ago.

Look, the point is this. We need to get back to teaching our children that the sky is the limit when it comes to setting goals and achieving them. If you tell a kid that the best they will ever be able to do for a job is work as a cashier, odds are they are going to believe you and they’ll shy away from any opportunities to do otherwise. Instead of allowing them to be complacent with mediocrity, challenge them to do better.

My Favorite Things

I am often asked for recommendations on knives, gear, books, and such. The thing you need to understand is that everybody is different. I mean, I think Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man is one of the best movies ever made but there are a lot of people out there who will disagree. The knife I find works best for me and my purposes might not be the ideal solution for you.

With all that said, though, I thought I’d put together a short post here detailing my personal choices in several categories of products. If nothing else, then when people ask for my recommendation on this or that, I can just give them this link.

Knife — Folder
Folding knives are great for every day carry (EDC) and the technology has improved to such a degree in recent years that I’d put some of them up against smaller fixed blades. My current favorite is the Kershaw Thermite. The 3.5″ blade is plenty long enough for most tasks around the house and retains a razor sharp edge even after heavy use. Plus, it isn’t all that pricey at about $25.

Knife — Fixed Blade
A good quality knife is perhaps the single most important tool you can have in a survival situation. My personal favorite is the GNS made by LT Wright Knives. Here’s a link to their site. You can read my full review of the GNS here. It isn’t an inexpensive knife, though, at $155.00.

For the budget conscious, a great alternative is the Condor Bushlore. I’ve reviewed it at length here. You can find it here on Amazon for under $40. This really is a great knife. My son carries it and loves it.

Multi-Tool
I have three different multi-tools I use fairly regularly. My SOG Power Lock is the most robust of the three. As such, it is also the heaviest so I tend to only use it when I’m around the house.

Next is my trusty Leatherman, which I’ve had for more years than I can remember. It is one of the first models they ever made and I don’t even think they sell them anymore.

The third multi-tool is the Gerber Dime. It is a great option if you’re trying to keep things low key and trying to avoid having a ton of stuff hanging on your belt. Small enough to fit into a pocket yet with most of the traditional tools you’ll find in the larger versions.

Flashlight
The problem I’ve had with many small flashlights, those designed for EDC, is that they are too long and heavy. They might be called “pen lights” but they are far from being actual pen-sized. The ones that truly are small are also fairly dim. Then, I found the Streamlight ProTac 1AAA. At just four inches long and a half inch thick, this light is small enough to take just about anywhere. On High, the ProTac shoots out 70 lumens, which is incredibly bright for such a small flashlight. Amazon has it for under thirty bucks. I reviewed the ProTac 1AAA here in full.

Survival Kit — Small
Any instructor worth his or her salt will tell you that assembling your own survival kit is typically a far better option than buying a premade one. The sad fact is that there are hundreds of companies out there trying to make a quick buck by selling inferior crap and just capitalizing on the “prepper” craze. That said, there are a few companies out there doing it the right way. One of the best small sized survival kits on the market today is the Pocket Tin Survival Kit designed and sold by Survival Resources. My full review is here. As with any small kit, consider this to be only a backup, a “just in case” sort of kit.

Survival Kit — Large
If you are in the market for a full-size kit, one that is basically ready to grab and go with little in the way of customization, you can’t do much better than the Echo-Sigma Get Home Bag. My review, with a complete breakdown of the components, is here. It isn’t cheap by any stretch but you’ll not find many other kits on the market today that have this much in the way of high quality gear inside. Plus, there is plenty of room for adding your own goodies, too.

I’ll be adding more categories as the year goes on. The above covers the most common items people ask me about.

Listen To Your Elders

Before she passed away a few years ago, I used to love listening to my maternal grandmother tell stories about what life was like when she was growing up. She was born in 1925 and was raised on a farm. Grandma knew how to pinch a nickel until it screamed, that’s for sure. After she married Grandpa and they moved to the southern part of Wisconsin, she began working in a factory, a job she held for a couple of decades until she retired. I’m one of nine grandchildren of hers and one of the only ones she ever taught how to make her signature fried chicken. Even knowing exactly how she cooked it, I can never get it quite right.

Yet, for all that, there is so much I never thought to ask her about, so many stories I didn’t get the chance to hear.

Here in the United States, there is a huge knowledge gap between the generations. We sometimes joke about Grandma or Grandpa trying to figure out Facebook or texting. But, to be fair, they’d probably laugh at us during our first attempt to make bread from scratch. Then again, maybe they’d be too polite to outright poke fun at us.

For most of us, our grandparents grew up knowing the value of a dollar and lived by the motto — Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without. Today’s adults and young adults would likely toss out a pair of socks with a hole whereas the elder generation would have sewn it up. Our grandparents and great-grandparents, at least for the most part, maintained food pantries at home just as a matter of course. They grew gardens and preserved food. Even those folks who were born and raised in cities still learned many life skills that have been lost today. Many of them raised “victory gardens” during WWII.

The point is this. There is a ton of knowledge and information that is slowly slipping through our fingers. A lot of this stuff isn’t the sort of thing you’ll easily find using Google, either. I mean, I don’t know about you but I hated history class when I was in school. Today, though? I can’t get enough of it! Probably because now it isn’t all about memorizing names and dates but instead it is listening to stories about what things were really like back then.

Many if not most cultures around the world recognize the importance of elders and the knowledge they have to offer. In many countries, it is common to have grandparents living in the same home as their children and grandchildren. Honestly, it is rather shameful how we here in the U.S. often treat the elderly.

Here’s my suggestion to you. If you have older family members still around, make the time to sit down and talk to them. Ask them to tell you about their lives. Ask questions. Consider taking notes or even recording the conversations. My wife loves the voice recorder I bought her for Christmas a couple of years ago, particularly because the recordings can be downloaded as mp3 tracks. If you’re looking for some ideas of what to talk about, try some of these prompts:

–Tell me about a time you got into trouble as a child.
–What was a favorite treat of yours back then?
–What chores were your responsibility?
–Tell me about some of your favorite meals from back then.

If you don’t have family members available any longer, consider volunteering some time at a local nursing home. Many assisted living residents would love the opportunity to spend some time chatting, reliving memories and passing down knowledge.

Do anything you can to preserve the lessons our elders still have to teach us. Remember that old saying — those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Scavenging Supplies — A Thought Exercise

As you might expect, the subject of survival and disaster planning comes up somewhat regularly at our home. I like to toss thought exercises out to my kids from time to time, just to see where the discussion leads.

Over the weekend, my wife and I were heading out for a few hours to do some running around. I decided to leave my boys a short homework assignment, based in part on a book I’m currently reading. In the story, there is a small group of young adults who are traveling across the country after a major disaster. As they begin their journey, they come across a big box retail store and stock up on supplies and gear for the journey. I decided to use that premise as a thought exercise. Here’s what I gave my boys to work with:

There has been a major disaster. You and a small group of survivors are traveling home and it will take several days to get there. You come across a Walmart store. You have one backpack, nothing special it is just like the one you use for school. What supplies would you take from the store? Remember, you’ll need to be able to carry the fully loaded pack, so weight is a concern. Assume you have nothing with you other than the clothes on your back.

I asked each of my boys to make a list of their chosen supplies. When we returned, I went over each list and we talked about the different choices. Here are some of the highlights.

My eldest (15 years old) was the only one who had included a knife on his list. My middle son (12 years old) was the only one who thought of socks and other clothes. My youngest (10 years old) thought to grab apples and oranges, assuming they’d still be good to eat.

They all thought to grab water bottles but no one thought of water filtration gear or purification tablets. No one grabbed any sort of cordage but my eldest mentioned taking a couple of bandanas. All had matches or lighters on their lists. No one thought of flashlights, though.

One thing I found rather interesting was that no one had anything on their lists that you might consider frivolous or foolish. No toys, mp3 players, or other nonsense. My eldest mentioned a prepaid cell phone, which on the surface is a good idea, depending upon the nature of the disaster, but he didn’t know the phone cards had to be activated at the cash register, which likely wouldn’t be an option.

A few other things I pointed out that might be good ideas to grab:

–Multivitamins
–Mess kit
–Granola bars and other prepackaged “ready to eat” food
–First aid kit

All in all, the exercise resulted in a pretty interesting discussion. For those curious, the book that prompted this discussion is SYLO by DJ MacHale.

So, what would be on your list?

3 Common Prepper Complaints (that are just bad excuses)

I’ll warn you right up front, odds are there will be something in this post that will irritate, perhaps even anger, you. Well, so be it. See, here’s the thing. I’m tired of listening to the same old complaints over and over. I understand that preppers are human beings just like everyone else and, that being the case, complaining about this, that, or the other thing is sort of hardwired into their DNA. But, I hear these complaints so frequently, I’ve decided to just answer them all at once in a single blog post. That way, I can just send out a link to the post rather than typing out the same response over and over.

Complaint #1 — I can’t find any local preppers!
Many people have woken up to the realization that long-term preparedness requires a team approach. Community survival planning is the way to go. Of course, that means you need to be in touch with others in your area who are of like mind. Over and over, I hear how preppers just can’t seem to find anyone in their local area who is interested in disaster planning. Look, there are over 3 million self-avowed preppers in the United States. There are countless more who might not think of themselves as preppers but are taking active steps to be better prepared for emergencies.

If you can’t find a single person who is interested in prepping, the problem lies with you, not with them. Sorry, I know that sounds harsh but that’s what it boils down to, really. One or more of the following likely applies to your situation.

A) You interact with exceptionally few people in your daily life. If you only ever speak to the same three people every day, you’ll need to expand your horizons a bit. Either that or quit complaining.

B) You tend to be more than a little passionate about the subject of prepping, which in turn makes people uneasy. Take it slow and easy when broaching the topic of prepping. If you go from zero to TEOTWAWKI in 0.6 seconds every time, yes, you do indeed sound like a whack job.

C) You just flat out aren’t trying very hard and expect people to find you instead. Face it, you’re probably going to actually have to leave your house once in a while. Visit some community events where preppers are likely to be in attendance, such as farmers markets and such. Go out to gun shows. Attend local classes on topics like gardening and food preservation (you can find these classes at your library or through the park & rec department).

Complaint #2 — I can’t afford to prep!
Yes, prepping costs money and most of us aren’t recent lottery winners. However, quite often I hear this complaint from people who, for whatever reason, feel they need to buy everything all at once and, if they can’t, they just give up. Not a very smart approach, once you stop and think about it. That’s like interviewing for a job you really need, but telling the interviewer that if you can’t start out as Vice-President, you’re going to pass on the whole deal.

In order to add funds to the prepping budget, one of two things needs to happen.

A) You need to increase your income. You could do this by working part-time outside the home or perhaps turning a hobby into a home-based business, such as woodworking or car repair.

B) You need to reduce your expenses. Most, though certainly not all, people have at least a few things they can do to cut down on expenses, such as reducing the number of drive-thru meals every week.

Complaint #3 — My spouse doesn’t support my prepping!
Often, this circles back to the point made earlier about how you talk about prepping with people. If this topic dominates every single conversation you have with your spouse or significant other, I guarantee you they are tired of hearing about it. Dial it back a notch or two.

When you do talk about prepping, keep it low key and free of wild predictions of the coming zombie apocalypse.

Sometimes, putting a financial spin on prepping can help get spouses on board. Explaining to them, and using real life examples, of how you can eat tomorrow at today’s prices by stocking up during good sales can go a long way toward getting the “buy in” from them.

Another point to consider, though, is the impact your prepping might be having on the family as a whole. If it has become all consuming on your part, it might be reasonable for your family to feel as though something isn’t right. Communication on the part of all involved is key to resolving any conflict.

Look, the reality is, these complaints are excuses, nothing more. If you truly want to be prepared for life’s little (and not so little) emergencies, you’ll find ways to overcome these obstacles, rather than sitting down and pouting because it hasn’t all worked out exactly as you’d hoped.

Freecycle for Preppers

The Freecycle organization has been around for several years, yet there are still lots of folks out there who’ve not heard of it. Freecycle can be an excellent resource for rehoming your unwanted stuff and occasionally receiving items of use to you.

Taken from the Freecycle.org website:
The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,206 groups with 8,600,848 members around the world. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.

Once upon a time, Freecycle groups used the Groups feature on Yahoo. Nowadays, pretty much everything is done via the Freecycle website. Here’s how this works.

Visit Freecycle.org and open an account there. You’ll need to provide a username, password, and email address. The link to sign up is located at the top of the screen on the main page.

After you’ve logged in, it will prompt you to find groups in your area. In the search box, put in the city closest to you. There may not be a group based in your exact town but you should be able to find one reasonably nearby. You can certainly join more than one group, too, if there are multiple groups in your immediate area. For example, I travel a lot for work so I’ve joined groups in the areas I visit most often, as well as the groups nearest my home.

As you join different groups, be sure to check your email settings with each one. If you click on the My Groups tab, you’ll see a list of all the groups you’ve joined. For each one, you’ll see a button that says, “Change Settings.” There are three options:

None apart from ADMINs — this means you’ll only receive emails that are special notices from the group administrators. To view the actual group posts, you’ll have to visit the website.

Email digest — you’ll receive one email a day, with all group posts contained within it.

One for each post — you’ll receive each post to the group as an individual email.

What gets posted to the group?

There are two main types of posts — Offer and Wanted.

When people have something they want to get rid of, they’ll post it as an Offer. Typically, they will tell you what the item is, the condition of the item, and a general idea of where they are located. Here’s a sample Offer post:

OFFER: Coleman lantern
I have a Coleman lantern up for grabs. It is in fairly good condition, though I’ve not used it in several years. Located on east side of Chicago
.

The other type of post is a Wanted post. These can get sort of tricky, believe it or not. In many groups, you’ll see far more Wanted posts than you’ll see Offers. You can’t expect to ask for, and then receive, a ton of high-end gear. Posting a wish list is usually not very well received by group members. Instead, here is a typical Wanted type of post.

WANTED: Coleman lantern
In need of one or two lanterns for an upcoming camping trip. I can pick up anywhere local either evenings this week or any time this weekend.

No big long story about why you need the item, just the basic facts. Offering to pick up the item is actually pretty much a given as whether the post is an Offer or a Wanted, the recipient is typically expected to arrange for pickup of the item.

Responding to a post

If you see an Offer of something you want, you’ll contact the person who posted it, either via the website or via email. It always pays to be very polite. Keep in mind that you likely aren’t the only person contacting them. Don’t give them a sob story about how much you need the item, though. That gets old quickly. Just explain that you are interested in the item and give them a time frame of when you might be able to pick it up.

Hi, I’m very interested in the Coleman lantern. I live just outside Chicago and could pick up as quickly as this evening, if you’ll be around. Otherwise, I work days and any evening this week should work. Thanks!

Rules of the group

While there are some standard rules that are common to almost all Freecycle groups, such as nothing illegal is offered, no drugs, no weapons, etc., each group may have their own little foibles as well. Some groups require new members to make at least one Offer post before posting a Wanted, for example. The rules of the group should be found on the group’s page on the Freecycle website.

I’ve been a member of many different Freecycle groups over the years. Some were great, others were terrible. Often, it comes down to how the group is run by the admins. Now, Freecycle folks are all volunteer. They don’t get paid for the work they do, so keep that in mind. Occasionally, though, you may find an admin who apparently just has entirely too much time on their hands. They will reject posts for seemingly random reasons. Or, they will argue with members about what is appropriate to be posted and what is not. The groups run by iron-fisted admins tend to peter out after a while because members tire quickly of that nonsense.

Common sense safety concerns

Unless you happen to know personally the person you’ll be meeting, it pays to exercise good common sense. If you are going to them, make sure a family member or friend knows where you’re going, who you’re meeting, and when you should return. If they are coming to you, what many folks do is leave the item on the front porch in a bag or box with the recipient’s name on it. This reduces the danger of having to open your door to a stranger.

Many people will agree to meet at a public location, such as a fast food restaurant parking lot. But, if the item is large or cumbersome, that might not be an option.

Final thoughts

It is best to look at Freecycle as a way to get rid of stuff you no longer need, rather than just expecting to get a ton of free stuff. It really is about paying things forward. That said, there are people out there who have stuff like tents, backpacks, books, camping gear, and other cool stuff that they might be looking to part with, if only they knew it was wanted by someone else.

4 Great Martial Arts for Survivalists

Let me say at the outset that I’m not suggesting these are the BEST martial arts for survivalists or preppers. I don’t like that term “best” as things are different for everyone. What works well for one person might not be a great thing for another. Instead, what you’ll find here are suggestions for a few different martial arts that are well suited for the likely needs of survivalists and preppers.

Eskrima / Kali / Arnis

These are the traditional martial arts of the Philippines. Focus is on the use of weapons, such as knives, sticks, and machetes. What is interesting about Eskrima is that most students learn weapons first, then advance to empty-hand techniques. This is the complete opposite of most other martial arts. In fact, with Eskrima, many of the weapon techniques utilize the exact same or very similar body movements as do the empty hand techniques. This allows for a greater utilization of muscle memory.

Students learn how to defend against angles of attack, rather than against specific types of strikes or styles of fighting. This makes Eskrima rather fluid and a proficient student is able to quickly counter an attack regardless of the aggressor’s fighting style.

While it is all but impossible to truly learn any martial art simply by studying a book, this one will give you solid information on Eskrima, enough for you to make a fully informed decision on whether to pursue study in it.

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is about as “real world” as a martial art gets. It combines techniques from street fighting, boxing, wrestling, judo, aikido, and several other arts. Krav Maga was developed in the 1930s and 1940s in Israel. As with most martial arts, the emphasis is on avoiding a fight if at all possible. However, if it is unavoidable, Krav Maga teaches students to end the fight as quickly and decisively as possible.

It is a brutal art, teaching students how to exploit any weakness and how to cause as much pain and injury as possible. As I said, this is real world stuff, not really suited for tournaments and such.

An excellent primer on Krav Maga is Complete Krav Maga: The Ultimate Guide to Over 230 Self-Defense and Combative Techniques.

Jeet Kune Do

Like Krav Maga, Jeet Kune Do (JKD) is a hybrid art. It was founded in the mid-1960s by Bruce Lee. JKD incorporates a wide range of techniques, including strikes, grappling, and kicks. The main idea is for the student to be able to flow from one technique to another seamlessly.

One of the key elements to traditional JKD is the idea of not telegraphing your intentions. In many martial arts, there are specific poses or stances one adopts. In JKD, the focus is on surprising the attacker by not tensing your muscles or even twitching until you strike. When done successfully by a practiced student, the attacker (now the victim) will not be able to defend. JKD as an art is based on the concept of staying loose and flexible.

Learn more by reading Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method: The Complete Edition.

Ninjutsu

Like most boys growing up in the 1980s, I was infatuated with all things ninja. However, like most things portrayed in the media, real life ninjutsu isn’t much like what you’ve seen in the movies. You aren’t going to be tossing around throwing stars, at least not right away. Nor are you going to be lurking in the shadows, waiting for someone to assassinate.

Honestly, ninjutsu is very much the survivalist version of the martial arts, when you get right down to it. Ninjutsu is a very well rounded art, encompassing everything from empty hand combat to weapons to situational awareness.

Stephen K. Hayes is one of the most well known American instructors. He has been referred to as the “Father of American Ninjutsu” and has written several great books on the subject. One of his latest, The Ninja Defense: A Modern Master’s Approach to Universal Dangers, even includes a lengthy DVD.

Whether you choose one of these arts or a different one, take the time to fully check out the school and instructor. Talk to current students and sit in for a class or two. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Go in knowing you aren’t going to become any sort of master in just a few weeks. However, it won’t take long before you notice an increase in your physical fitness as well as your self-confidence.

Guerilla Gardening

Yes, it is only January and, for most of us at least, actual gardening is still a ways off. But, as the snow flies and temperatures dip, this can be the best time to sit down and plan out your gardens for the coming season.

Many of my readers live in an area that, for one reason or another, isn’t great for planting gardens. If you’re in a condo or apartment, there’s just not enough space. If you’re in a neighborhood governed by a homeowners association, the rules might not allow it. Fortunately, there are still some options available to you, if you’re willing to get creative a bit.

Guerilla gardening is basically growing food under the radar, so to speak. Rather than having actual plots of land where you carefully sow your seeds in neat little patches, you’re using a variety of techniques to keep things at least reasonably hidden from plain sight.

Historically, guerilla gardening referred to using vacant city lots, highway medians, and other such unused areas for planting food crops. The idea was to put to use these abandoned areas, not only providing food but also improving the aesthetics. This is certainly one option you might consider, should you have a vacant lot in your immediate area. However, I would caution you that if you don’t own the land yourself, you could be opening up a large can of worms. If the owners decide they want to build an apartment building on that lot, there is typically nothing you will be able to do to prevent them from destroying the gardens, as many such gardeners have found over the years.

That said, if you have what seems to be a suitable vacant lot in mind, you might consider tracking down the owner. Contact them and see if you can get permission to plant a garden on the lot, with the understanding being that if the lot is ever sold or the owners decide to build on it, it is up to you to either move the garden or let it be razed as needed. It can’t hurt to ask, right?

Container gardening is a viable option for most apartment and condo dwellers. While you certainly won’t be able to grow a ton of food in this way, some is better than none. Basically, container gardening is where you use planters and such on your patio or driveway to grow your plants. Using a cold frame would fall into this category as well, I think.

For most plants suited to container gardening, you’ll want pots or planters around 16″-18″ deep. While pretty much any plant can conceivably be grown in a container, provided the container is large enough, some that work particularly well are pole beans, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. Potatoes can be done as well, but you need a fairly large container to end up with a decent crop. One method that works well for taters is to use a container about two feet deep. Plant the potatoes at the bottom and as the plants grow, add more soil and compost to cover the tubers. Keep repeating this process all season long. Toward fall, when the plants die off, dump out all the potatoes.

Dwarf or miniature fruit trees are something to consider for those living in a tight space. As the name implies, these are smaller versions of the standard plants. Be sure to do your homework, though, as many varieties require two or more of them in close proximity for pollination.

Edible landscaping is another option, particularly for those living in HOA communities. Basically, this involves using food-bearing plants to decorate your yard. For example, rather than planting hedges along the border, try using blueberry or blackberry bushes. If you have landscape beds in your front or back yard, consider scattering some food plants in with the decorative shrubs. Just be sure they will get plenty of light throughout the day. Some good choices for these beds would be broccoli, lettuce, and kale. Strawberries make for an attractive ground cover, too.

Whenever possible, be sure to purchase or otherwise obtain heirloom seeds. This means the seeds obtained from the fruit or vegetable grown can be planted and will grow true. Most of the seeds found in big box retailers are not heirloom but are hybrids. Trying to grow viable plants from hybrid seeds is usually a fruitless endeavor.