The self-redundant home

{This is a guest post from Matt.]

A lost idea with self reliance is the redundancy of systems. What I mean by this is that if you have a system, be it water, food, power, shelter, chickens, pigs, whatever, you should look at how you can make that system have a backup. Now I am by far no means an expert on this topic but I do have some good ideas sometimes. [From Amanda: Matt asked me to add this: “Any ideas you have or that you get from me should be fully researched so you know what you’re doing.”]

First lets look at why we need to have redundant systems.  For starters when you are self reliant it pretty much means you are all alone no one can save your dumb ass when not if when you do screw up.  So in my mind its pretty damn important to have a backup for when that day comes.  Another problem is the general lack of funds those of  us that chose this life have,  When the shit hits the fan Ya simply can’t go out and buy another dohickey to replace the one ya just ran over with stupid, so having another is kinda nice until you can fix the first one etc.  Being self reliant is a little like jumping out of a perfectly good air plane, Ya wouldn’t do that with out a backup parachute would ya?  In a nut shell multiple systems is a way to insure that you stay self reliant no matter what happens.

Now to clarify “multiple systems”. What this is is essentially having two or more ways to accomplish any task you may need to do ever.  It does not mean having two identical power poles with meter boxes and the works just in case one gets ran over by the tractor.  What it is is having two shovels one big one that ya always go to and the little one or of a different pattern that you can use if the first one brakes while digging the hole to bury the “__________” in. Cause the last thing ya need is to run the hardware store at midnight to buy a shovel [very suspicious…].  A lot of people have electricity generators Just encase the power goes out while watching the BIG GAME [read stupor bowl], we have one because the power always goes out here and I really don’t want the food in the freezer to spoil.  This is a really good example of why you need multiple systems.  Put simply shit breaks wears out gets lost whatever and it really sucks when you rely on what just up and quit on ya.

There are priorities when instituting multiple systems.  Do you rely on it daily.  Do you need it just to survive,  is this what feeds you, does it keep you warm,  Does it keep you dry.  These are some of the things to think about.  Keep in mind that not everything absolutely has to have multiples.  Take you’re spouse for example…  But I guarantee that some things need to have at a minimum two.  Consider this when you begin to acquire backups.

Some things that I consider to be absolutes are food, heat, shelter,transportation, friends [bed or conversation].  Food, plant more than one variety of every crop whenever possible,  have two or more of each type of animal,  have more than one garden plot, keep more than one type of critter.  These are very old methods of farming.  Some diseases and pests will only hit one variety,  one of yer critters might get out and hit by a car but both?  Heat, we have electric heat and a wood stove,  I try to keep two years of wood at the house what happens if I brake a leg? The electric heat works but is very expensive.  Shelter, This gets kinda funny what happens when your house burns down because the wood stove you illegally installed fell over?  You move into a tent or a shed of a van down by the river.  Transportation,  I currently own two trucks they both run they both have fuel they can both break down but probably not at the same time.  Friends,  friends are very important with out somebody to talk too you will go crazy and get very depressed I don’t care how cool you think you are, this could be as simple as being nice to the crazy cat lady next door or the Man/Woman of your dreams,  surround yourself with good people that way when one of them goes wonky and ya have to cut ties your not all alone again.

Now on to more specific Examples.  Food how do you make Food redundant.  It surprising how many ways you can secure your “food chain”.  You could stock pile all you’re food say enough for a year or a month what ever.  This method is to prevent starving when something happens to your super market down the street and you can’t by creamy peanut butter on a whim no more.  A better way is to farm as it where then if the super market takes a dump big deal.  Now with farming its always better to hedge your bets so plan on having more than one way to feed yourself.  Those of you who read the blog to much for you’re own health may have noticed that we always try to have more than one variety of every thing in the garden.  The reason for this is that a disease or pest may attack one species put leave the other completely alone. The more different stuff you plant the better the chances of having anything to eat are.

The same can be said for animals.  Don’t just have chickens have chickens and sheep,  or sheep and pigs.  This narrows the chances of say swine flue wiping out you’re entire flock/herd in one fell swoop.  So if the pigs all have to be trucked of to area 51 for “BIOLOGICAL CLEANING” at least ya still got chickens to eat.  In the same note have more than one of every critter.  If little cow Joe go’s for a stroll and gets hit by a log truck his sister Heidi is still standing there waiting to be eaten.  Besides if ya got chickens one chicken makes one egg every 25ish hours makes it pretty damn hard to make an omelet every morning let alone everything else eggs are in.

Food is probably the one thing everyone that wants to be self reliant should be concerned about.  Especially making damn sure there is enough of it.  If ya got a full tummy ya can do anything else yourself.

Now I sort of put water in with the food section to me they are kinda the same.  In that case way to many people never think about what happens when the water company fucks up and suddenly you got no water.  If you don’t have any put away BEFORE you need it you literally have three days to find more than you die period.  For us right know we are on what is a community well… Might as well be a municipal water company.  They have skrewed the pooch in the past, unfortunately the ass-bastards also control our water rights so we can’t legally  drill a well, besides taint no room any way.  However what we can do is have water filters and big ass food grade buckets handy encase we do need to haul water again. In our future property I intend to have two wells having lived off a well for 20 years or so they can and will go dry without warning.

Shelter,  this is a hard one for a lot of people to make redundant.  But really its not that hard.  If ya have a tent, tarp, van, shed, its not the Ritz and it sure ain’t home,  But I guarantee its a hell of a lot better than sleeping in the rain.  There are a plethora of alternative housing options having a backup is easy and smart.  Another thing to keep in mind is the redundant systems already built into your home.  The roof is made of or should be made of three or more layers first layer generally being ply wood then Tar paper. Then the top layer be it shingle tin asphalt tile whatever,  But that tar paper layer is there encase  the top layer leaks.

Heat, Heat for cooking heat for comfort heat when ya got hypothermia.  Staying warm and having hot meals can make world of difference.  Sure the bitchin-cool touch auto timer electric stove won’t burn junior’s hands when he’s crawling on the counter when mommy is cooking dinner.  But it still don’t work when the power is out.  Enter the Coleman stove or a shit ton of other “camp stoves” I have personally cooked breakfast and dinner on these beauty’s at home a dozens or more times. As for heating the home got your spiffy electric furnace [that is hooked to the power line] oh but I run natural gas [ever heard of gas lines blowing up?] Well easy peasy My generator will just heat the house,  not likely Most home generators might power your T.V. And just maybe the micro wave definitely not the heater,  As for the natural gas and propane guys Most of the new ones will not run without electricity Yay modern science and  bullshit safety laws.  Enter the Wood stove Its cheap its clean its been around for eons It will probably last for ever yea.

Transportation, whether it be a car truck horse and buggy,  being stranded really sucks.  Think about this you live 20 miles out the end of a dead end road and there is a forest fire approaching really fast. You have one car it needs a new battery that you should have installed a year ago.  Until now you have just used the battery charger to help it start, well now the power is out on account of the forest fire you have to leave in less then 10 minutes are ya gonna walk?  I didn’t think so.  So in my mind having at least two forms of  transportation available is very important.  It can be as simple as a motorcycle or a horse and buggy.  Point is when and if you ever absolutely need two scram right bloody now the last thing ya want to worry about is fixing the transmission on your beat to hell 1964 Volvo wagon.

Friends,  Face it unless your a hermit and like to have the peace and quiet that being completely alone affords so you can talk to yourself without being interrupted by the men in white suits with giant butterfly nets,  Ya gots to have your peeps.  This doesn’t necessarily mean having a full blown commune with all the drugs free sex and laziness that goes with it, it just means having some people off farm and on that you can talk to and not go bat shit crazy.  Sure ya got you’re spouse and kids what have you,  eventually you will both get tired of each others company after six months of winter and its real nice to be able to talk to somebody not currently in a life and death struggle to keep food on the table.  You’re friends can also give good third party advice on you’re next crazy idea for building a water wheel out of an old cable spool [if it works give me some credit will ya…]. That and when ya throw in the towel and go back to “civilized” life they can lend you a couch to sleep on…

In closing I am by far not an expert on self reliance or having redundant systems.  This is really meant as a heads up to those of you thinking about moving off the radar screen of normal society.  Shit happens all day every day, its up to you to wear a rain coat.

Some ideas on redundant systems:

  • Light, kerosene/propane lanterns, candles, flash lights
  • Power, Generators, wind mills, solar panels, micro hydro Gillagan’s bicycle
  • Heat, Small electric heater, wood stove exercise
  • Water, two wells, large storage “cisterns”, filters boiling
  • Cooking,  Coleman type stoves, Bar-b-que, Sterno, open fire [some of these should not be used in the house because of co2 poison]
  • Food, diversify, put lots away, dumpster dive, food bank, forage
  • Shelter, Tents, sheds, cars, tarps, lean too,
  • Friends, don’t be a jerk and you should have lots of good friends

One last word of advice collect tools good quality tools, learn how to use them, learn how to fix the stuff you own, and learn how to make what you might need.  Without tools we are no different than Shaved Monkeys shot into outer space.  I feel this is one area where too many people have no idea whats going on around them.

Matt Fink


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