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Friday, March 6, 2009

Adapting In Place - And When Not To

Welcome to the first day of the Adapting in Place class - most of my posts this month will focus on the theme of how to get along where you are, with what you’ve got. I love this class, and enjoy doing it. I would note that some of the registered participants have not yet subscribed to the discussion group - please do so, so you don’t miss anything!

I thought I’d start out with the question of who *should not* adapt in place. The very first activity we do in both classes is to sit down and make a list of what your alternatives are if you have to leave your present place. The reason we do it is because things like that could happen - people lose jobs and homes, they have fires, they are forced out by climate changes or environmental crises - sometimes you can’t stay where you are. And as much as we’re going to focus on staying in place, we should also make sure we never lose sight of the fact that we do have other choices, even if we don’t much like them,

And for some people, getting out of Dodge is the way to go. That is, I think that some people should absolutely consider leaving where they are, and doing sooner, rather than later, because they have little or no hope of successfully remaining in place.

Now some of this comes down to long vs. short term issues - and there are balances to be struck. For example, let’s say you live in a place that may be underwater in a couple of decades. You love it, you are in your 50s or 60s, your kids are here. Do you have to leave? No, you don’t have to, but you might want to think about your choices. For example, do you want to have to evacuate your location regularly due to coastal storms in your 80s? Do you have a support network that will make that possible, that will help you? If you plan to move when things get more acute, how likely is it you will be able to sell your house, as areas look increasingly difficult to inhabit. Do you need to sell it? If you have family inland who would take you in, maybe risking that you might have to walk away is ok - or maybe it isn’t.

Our homes are our homes, and our right to stay and choose them sometimes seems inviolable - but it isn’t. In the next decades there are going to be a lot of migrants - and you may be one of them. Migrating and settling in a reasonably liveable place might be better - or it might not, and you might want to wait and see. But don’t do it in ignorance - find out all you can. The reality is that many people do more research on what movie to see than we do about our future, and the risks and benefits of the locations we choose.

So here’s my list of when to think seriously about getting out. There will be exceptions in every case - my claim is not “you definitely must go” but “think hard about what you are choosing.”

1. If you have an ARM and can’t reset it, are already facing foreclosure or have no reason to believe you’ll be able to pay for your house, or if your current house was bought near the market peak and you require two ful incomes to pay for it.

The odds are good you aren’t going to keep your house in those circumstances - and the worst possible scenario for you may well be that you go into debt frantically trying to keep your old way of life open, which closes off other options. If you have a better choice, one that can provide some stability, or there is hope of selling and getting out from under, seriously consider it.

If you do end up in full foreclosure, remember the magic words - “Produce the Note.” Rerquire that the company do full due diligence and stay in your house as long as you can - you might as well save up rent for the future. And unless your loan is a recourse loan (be very careful with state assisted refinances, since many of these turn no-recourse loans into recourse loans - you do not want to be paying for this forever) But do me a favor, and don’t trash the place on the way out - someone else, even you may eventually end up renting a foreclosure, so don’t trash what assets we’ve got indiscriminately.

2. If you have young children or are elderly, have close ties somewhere but are living far away from them in a community that you are not invested in. Not everyone has people (family biological or chosen) who will give you a place at the table, thin the soup to make it stretch, let you sleep on their couch and otherwise cover your back. But if you do, recognize that these people are the beginnings of your tribe. Not all of us have tribes in one place - and some of us have multiple tribes. But if you aren’t rooted where you are in some deep way, if you live there primarily for a job, and you can get back to your people think about it seriously.

The people who will most need the support of their family are young families themselves struggling to make do and older people who may need some help. Sometimes these peopel are related to one another ;-). Not all family is good, not every friendship can go this far, but if you have these ties, they matter, and they are essential.

3. If you have children or parents you need to care for far away. Again, this is ymmv, but if you are going to be dealing with your parents’ decline, or if you don’t have custody of your kids but want to spend time on them, you need to set it up in a way that doesn’t make anyone rely on airline or other expensive long distance travel. That means that if they don’t come to you, you go to them. It was once perfectly viable to live across the country from your kids, and say, have them spend summers with you - it may no longer be viable. I realize this will be enormously painful and disruptive to families, but if you are the resource for people very far away over the longer term, you need to find a way to be closer to one another, or accept that you may not be able to take on that role.

4. If you live in an extreme climate, likely to become more extreme with climate change, but you are not particularly and unusually well adapted to it. That is, unless we check climate change, which at this point seems unlikely, if highly desirable, at some point, many places are going to be uninhabitable for many of the people who presently live there. Some may become literally uninhabitable over time, but more likely, what we’ll see is that small populations, extremely well adapted to their environment, and extremely attuned to it, become native to many places as long as they are even marginally inhabitable. But the question is, are you one of them?

That is, if you live in a very hot, dry place, and are an expert desert farmer, gifted at retaining and using every drop of water prudently, and comfortable living without lots of input or air conditioning, and happy to live on the diet that grows there well, great, you and your descendents will probably do very well there if anyone does. But if you are fond of long showers, keep the a/c on six months a year and think that hamburgers are a right, you might want to think about somewhere else. Moreover, if you need income from the sale of your house, you might want to think about it sooner, rather than later, because there will probably come a point at which the number of people who want to live there declines dramatically, and it will be even tougher to sell than it is now. Now even if some places do become uninhabitable, they probably won’t do so immediately - you might well be able to live out your life where you are. But remember that it will probably become gradually and increasingly hard - the summers will be worse, the storms will be stronger, the ice pack will be smaller. Are you prepared to be that adaptable?

5. If you live among people with lousy values. I’m on the record saying that most of us can probably get along in most places with at least some people. I don’t think everyone in your town has to be like you, or that ecovillages are the only way to find community. That said, however, there are exceptions. And even if you can find some small community in a larger culture of rotten values, you may find that it wears you down.

Thus, if your neighborhood is chronically ridden with violence and crime, maybe it is a good idea to fight it - but maybe you’d be better off somewhere else. If you bought in a gated community full of self-centered rich assholes, and now you regret it because they are pissed about your garden, sometimes, if you can, living somewhere else might be nicer.

If you belong to a minority community, you might want to live where people like folks like you, or at least tolerate them, rather than a place that is hostile to them. If you rely on a religious community, you might want to live where you feel that the cultural values reflect your own.

Personally, I’ve always had a lot of luck finding allies where I went, even if we didn’t share faith or experience. But there are root values we did have in common - integrity, kindness, a desire for community. If those things don’t exist, you might seriously have to consider another choice.

6. If you don’t think your children (and by your children, I mean the children in your family, even if they aren’t your own) have a future where you are. Now this is somewhat speculative, and may partly contradict what I said above - you may, for example, simply not be ready to leave a place, even if you don’t think it will be sustainable in the long term. But it is worth thinking about the larger consequences of committing to a place that may not have a future. If your children have to leave to get work, if your children have to leave because it isn’t safe or is underwater, are your prepared to part with them? Are you prepared for your family to be parted in circumstances that might not be conducive to cross-country travel? More importantly, if you have land or something you hope to pass down to your kids, are you prepared not to be able to do so? Is it an asset that they will be able to do without? Again, you can’t know all this for sure, but it is worth thinking about.

7. If you plan to move anyway. That is, if you have a family place or somewhere you have always planned to return to, if you can, now is probably the best time. It takes time to build soil. It takes time to get to know people. It takes time to see fruit trees come to maturity. If you were planning on going anyway after a few more years of earning, or something, now might be the right time. That said, however, I’d be awfully cautious about buying, and only recommend this *if you can* leave - either by selling your current place or if you’ve been renting. But building roots is important.

8. If you aren’t prepared to live in the place you live as its culture demands. That is, as we get poorer and travel and transit become bigger issues, living in the country is going to be a lot different than it is now - instead of living essentially a suburban life, commuting to activities not available and relying on trucked in supplies, you may have to shop occasionally and mostly stay home in the country, making your own entertainment. Are you prepared to do that? Urban dwellers may have to make do in tougher conditions as infrastructure problems come up. My own analogy is this - if you’d be ok living in the worst neighborhood in your city as most of the people there live now, you’ll probably be fine. But if you’ve been affluent and comfortable and might not be forever, be sure you can afford the city and like the life. I believe strongly that city, suburb (most of them) and country all have a future - but the differences between them are likely to become more acute. If you aren’t prepared to deal with those differences, you might consider moving.

9. If you live in a outer suburban housing development, particularly a fairly new one. This is the one exception I make to the question of whether the suburbs are viable. Generally speaking, I think a lot of suburbs will do fine, others will adapt in different ways - some may become more like small cities, others may be more country like. But the ones that I think the least hope are the larger developments that were built in the “drive ’til you buy” model of the last few years, where lower income families have to move further and further away from urban or suburban job centers. If your suburb was built on a cornfield forty miles from your job, think seriously about how you will get along either in an energy constrained world or one where energy is much more costly because of carbon limitations. Do you really think anyone is going to run public transport out there? Is there topsoil? Is it a place worth maintaining and farming? Are there neighbors? Are there going to be? If you are already in a half-finished development, you really might want to get out.

10. If you are native to another place. By native, I mean that many of us have a strong sense of place, and a strong sense of belonging to a place. My husband once went on a job interview at UIL Champagne-Urbana. He recalls looking across the land and seeing the horizon and thinking “oh, there’s the ocean.” But of course, there was no ocean there - his misperception lasted only a second, but revealed something about his ability to live in that place - he comes from people who live on hilly land around water, and know the flat horizon as the space of the sea. It is possible that he could have adapted to the flat open land of the midwest and learned to love it - but it is also possible that one’s sense of place should be respected if possible. I know people who have never fully adapted to their place, in the sense of being truly native to it - desert born people who could never breathe comfortably in the humid air of the southeast, warm climate people who found the cold of northern winters unbearable, city folk who find the country abnormally empty and silent, water folk who can’t imagine life away from a boat.

Not everyone is tied to a place - some people can live anywhere, others in a wide range of places. Some people can take their sense of place to wherever they go, and find a new home. But some people can’t. And it is simply the case that your body, and parts of your soul are shaped by your experience - a college friend of mine once spoke of people who grew up by the sea has sharing “water thinking” and noted that she who lived in Hawaii and I who lived in Coastal Massachusetts had that in common in our way of viewing the world. More mundanely, people who grow up in hot climates develop more sweat glands, and a better ability to cool themselves than people who grow up in cold ones - our physiology is shaped by our place.

And our native knowledge of our place is valuable - in fact, it may be the most powerful tool we have. Now some of us will have to leave our native places, to journey again as people so often have. But if we can stay where we are, knowing our flora and fauna, knowing what grows where and how things smell when the seasons change and how to heal or feed or tend with what is native here is absolutely valuable - as is the ability to adapt that knowledge as our places change. So if there is a place where you feel at home, and no other constraints bind you, perhaps you will want to go there, and be there, and help other people be there.

Again, all of these examples will have exceptions. No one, especially me is saying “move now!” And some people who probably should leave will not be able to for reasons of family and obligation, underwater housing and job commitments. But do think about all your choices.


Original: http://sharonastyk.com/2009/03/03/adapting-in-place-and-when-not-to/

How to Prepare for an Emergency on a Tight Budget?

Another message and another recipe.

This time I’m going to start with the recipe. It’s called Chicken a la Queen, and it’s great whether you find yourself in an emergency survival situation and living off of your food storage or not.

chicken-a-la-queenChicken a la Queen

2 5-ounce cans of boneless chicken or turkey meat

2 cups of uncooked elbow macaroni

½ cup of minced onion

1/3 cup cooking oil

2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce

1 ¼ cups of water

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup of grated cheddar cheese. (Of COURSE I use more than that. You can also substitute Velvetta cheese if necessary.

velveetaDice the meat if it is in large chunks. Set aside chicken in natural juices from the cans. Be sure the oil is hot before you sauté UNCOOKED macaroni and onion in large skillet, stirring frequently, until macaroni turns slightly yellow. Add tomato sauce, water, salt, and pepper. Bring to boil; cover and simmer 15 minutes. Mix in chicken and juices; simmer 5 minutes more. Sprinkle the top with cheese.

For those of you who I’ve heard from constantly that claim you aren’t able to afford to be prepared, this one is for you.

First of all, I’ve discovered http://PinchingYourPennies.com. It’s really, really great and replaces all of the time that you would have to spend pouring over coupons. And it’s FREE membership, unlike many sites. A large troupe of women volunteer their time every day to make sure you’ve got the best deals available. You can even end up spending a 10th of the price of groceries with their help.

tight-budgetMore importantly, I have this message to those of you who aren’t able to afford to stock up on food and other supplies in order to be ready in an emergency. If you are short money, you need to make up for it in time…time in the library, time on the internet, and time in classes. You need to posses the knowledge which is available freely so that you can sew, make soap, start a fire (preferably outside J), repair shoes, sprout seeds, garden, cooking with a Dutch Oven, and so many other life skills that will truly save your life if you’re having living off of only what you can garner. Not having money in this day and age is no excuse for not being ready. If you have these kinds of skills you will be able to trade for what you need and you will be an asset to your community rather than a liability. If you’re not building up the Kingdom of heaven, then you’re sucking it dry. So get as much knowledge as possible in this regard. There are no excuses to not be ready for a disaster. Just poor choices.

Be safe and be prepared,


Original: http://preparednesspro.wordpress.com/2009/03/03/how-to-prepare-for-an-emergency-on-a-tight-budget/

plans to go camping

Those of you who enjoy recreational camping are probably familiar with the ritual of packing up all the gear you’ll need for a camping trip. Perhaps some of you keep a list to help the process of packing go faster and more smoothly and to keep you from making mistakes that might prove disastrous like forgetting to bring the matches.

Most of the items on your camping preparedness list probably help to meet one of eight basic human needs:

Health Care
Other Tools

For instance, campers will need to carry enough water for each member of the group or some way to purify water. Food is another necessity as is some sort of tent or other shelter to keep the campers warm and dry. It’s likely that the group will need a form of energy to cook their meals and they’ll need basic first aid equipment since the campers won’t have easy access to professional emergency medical responders. Campers would also be wise to carry at least one cell phone as a way to call for help in case of a more serious emergency and they’ll need a way to get around, even if it’s just a sturdy pair of boots and a backpack for hauling all this gear through the woods.

The guys I regularly camp with would probably include other items on the list of camping necessities like a shovel, a bottle of whisky, a deck of cards and a sharp knife. I’ll lump this last group into a category called “Other Tools.” Embodied within this category is a debate about which of these is a necessity and which is more of a luxury. For now let’s just suggest that there are other very helpful tools that humans need on a camping trip.

In many ways, planning for a future in which change will be constant and less energy and fewer resources will be available is like planning a camping trip. A decline in the availability of petroleum and other fossil fuels will mean less energy available to most of us in the future. This fact will bring on its own set of unexpected changes even while climate change provides another source for surprise. Meeting basic human needs becomes a more complex problem when other dynamics such as finance, time and politics are factored in against a backdrop of rapid change and unfamiliar situations. This might be the kind of camping trip Hollywood makes movies about.

It is impossible however to plan for such a camping trip while keeping all of this in mind. For sure the need to stay flexible should be considered but there are too many possible problems to account for them all. You can’t take a backpack big enough to weather every possible storm. That’s why we make a list of items to pack. It’s helpful to step back and revisit the list when preparing for a camping trip and in much the same way it is helpful to revisit the list of categories that describe basic human needs when making decisions about how to plan for your future during the era of energy descent, resource depletion and climate change. So let’s examine each category and consider our own needs in terms of how much we use in our daily lives and what sort of resources are available to us at this point in time.

1. Water. Healthy human beings need to drink between ½ and 1 gallon of water per day depending on the level of exertion. Add more for cooking and basic hygiene and daily water use could easily exceed 40 gallons of water per person. In the US the average is about 80 to 100 gallons per person per day. There are many ways to calculate this but what’s important for you is to understand how much water your family currently uses and how much is available in your area.

Those of you who draw municipal water will have a monthly bill you can use to calculate the amount your household uses on an average day. Those of you with your own well may find this calculation more difficult. It’s important though to have an idea about how much water you’re using. Here’s a calculator that will help.


Now take a look at how much water is available in your area. Here’s a list of monthly and yearly rainfall totals for cities all over the US.


This site is easier to use and also lists average temperature highs and lows. It doesn’t list annual totals though just monthly totals.


Of course rain is not the only indicator of the amount of water available. Are there streams or rivers near by? Do you know the condition of the groundwater in your area? How many people are drawing from these streams and rivers or from the ground water in your area? Water is an essential human need and a better understanding of how much you have and how much you need is important.

2. Food. The USDA estimates an average daily intake of about 2000 calories. This varies widely though depending on age, sex, and level of physical activity. How much do you eat each day? How much food does your family eat? You can save receipts from food purchases or better yet, keep records of your meals and use that as a way to gauge how much you eat.

For starters here’s a food calculator.


Here’s another.


It’s important to remember though that food storage is a complicated topic. Rather than use the estimates suggested by these calculators it would be better to understand how your family actually eats when examining your needs.

Then take a look at how much food of that food comes from your yard? Your neighborhood? Your greater community? How about your region or your state? Obviously the closer to home the more control you have over a particular source of food. It’s unlikely any of us will be eating totally out of our gardens in the future. What is the local food scene like where you live? Do you see local eating as a possibility for your family?

3. Shelter. I’m guessing you sleep in your house most every night. It’s obviously one of your most important needs. This particular need is pretty complex though. It’s probably easy for you to ascertain whether or not your house keeps the rain from falling on your head. But there are more multifaceted questions like how well your house keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Are there issues that will need to be addressed in the near or mid term like roof replacement, plumbing or electrical work? How about the exterior? Are there flooding and drainage issues? Windows? Insulation? How air tight is your home? In what condition is the mechanical system that heats and cools your home and bring fresh air indoors? Are there other unique features that warrant attention?

And the big one, do you own it? If you have a mortgage you don’t really own it. You are entitled to stay in your home only so long as you keep paying your mortgage. Is that likely to be the case? I know that’s a big question but some of the projects you might entertain will be worth it in the short term and others will only be worth it if you plan to stay in the house for a long time and can afford to do so in the future.

4. Energy. OK generally speaking energy use can be divided into three categories. A) Electricity B) Home heating and cooking C) Transportation. We’re going to address C as it’s own category later on. To gauge your use of electricity open up your monthly utility bill. For a better understanding of how you probably use energy take a ook at this website.


Here are a couple of examples.

If you really want a clear picture of your use by appliance I recommend a kill-a-watt. It’s a device that will tell you exactly how much electricity each appliance in your home is using. You can buy one online for less than $20


The next question to ask yourself is where does you electricity come from? The cost of generating electricity is very likely to increase in the future as fossil fuel resources are depleted and some sort of carbon tax or cap and trade system is put in place. What would happen if the cost of your electricity doubled? Triple? Went up by a factor of 10?

Home heating and cooking energy will differ from one household to another. What is most important is to understand how much heating oil or natural gas or electricity or how much wood you use to accomplish these task and where that resource comes from. Those of you dependent on heating oil to stay warm in Maine will use this information differently from those who burn wood in cook stove in Alabama. I haven’t included home cooling here because for almost all of us that’s a function of electricity but it’s important for those in the southern portion of the US to understand what it takes to keep our homes cool in terms of energy use.

5. Health Care. What are your health care needs? The answer will obviously be different for men and women and people of different ages. And of course there will likely be unforeseen health care issues in the future for all of us. At this point in time though what are your specific needs? How well can you meet them yourself? What resources are available in your community? We all tend to think of the nearest doctor’s office but are there other options- a friend who is a nurse or a midwife, an herbalist who might offer alternatives to the medications you use, a retired dentists who lives on your block.

Remember this is the part of the discussion where we’re making a list of our needs and a list of the resources that might help meet those needs. You’re not likely to invite your neighbor the retired dentist to go camping with you just in case you get a tooth ache but knowing he’s there and having him on your list of resources is an important step in the process of planning for your future in a changing world. So list out all your health care needs, including medications and then list all the local resources you can think of.

6. Communication. Now we’re getting into the grey. Some people might argue that communication isn’t necessarily a basic human need. In a certain sense that’s true. If you can meet all your other needs adequately on your own you don’t technically need to communication with others. However as I mentioned before, it’s handy to have a cell phone on your camping trip in case anything goes really wrong. Cell phones will probably continue to prove useful in certain circumstances in the near future but do you also have a land line phone in your home? Is it the cordless kind whose battery will one day wear out? Who about a CB radio for emergencies or a short wave radio? How about just a regular Am radio for news during a blackout. Can you crank it for power or does it also run on batteries? Can you charge those batteries using solar power? How reliant are you on email? How about correspondence over snail mail? The point here is that you want to be able to communicate with people and you want overlapping system for doing so that are available in a variety of circumstances.

7. Transportation. Take stock of your transportation needs and your resources. 97% of transportation worldwide is powered by petroleum. How much transporting of yourself and your family do you do on a regular basis? How energy efficient is your form of transportation. That is, how much fuel do you use? This is a critical number to know. What resources are available to you? Can you walk? Bike? Take a bus or a train? Ride a horse? Again at this stage we’re simply taking note of the amount transporting we do and the amount of energy we use doing it. Then we’re making a list of the options available to us.

8. Other Tools. OK this one is really ambiguous. What might make sense is for you to list the tools and appliances you rely upon. In most cases there are many tools that do the same job. For instance you might rely on a refrigerator to keep your food from going bad. Other options you might rely upon when planning for the future include root cellaring, canning, freezing, smaller refrigerators or refrigeration systems that run using other energy sources, etc. The idea here is to become aware of all the tools you use and would need to take camping or do without if you were going camping for a really long time.

While you’re making your camping list of your needs and the items available to you, resist the urge to make projections at this stage. The extent to which energy descent, resource depletion and climate change affect your life and manner and the timeframe in which you feel those effects is impossible to accurately predict. We can make some basic assumptions but this is mostly about reviewing where you are, what you need and what you have available at this time. Actually I think that with the proper preparations any individual, family or community stands a pretty good chance not just of surviving the coming changes but thriving in a new era.

Original: http://poweringdown.blogspot.com/2009/03/plans-to-go-camping.html

Camping As A Lifestyle

How to Camp As a Lifestyle

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Want to escape from the rut of work/bills/schedules and see the world? Try camping as a lifestyle. Every day is yours to do exactly as you please, you can travel, work seasonally, and rack up several lifetimes-worth of experience. Once you've tasted that kind of freedom it will be difficult to go back to a 9 to 5 existence.


  1. Save money. You can't do anything without some cash first. But you don't need to save forever. A few grand can last a very long time if you budget, and will at least get you started.
  2. Throw out or sell most of what you own. If you have things you cannot part with, rent a storage unit. They're much cheaper out in small towns than in big cities. Incorporate your monthly storage unit expense into your budget.
  3. Pick your mode of transportation. You're not going to want to sit around somewhere. Boredom is actually the toughest thing you'll face.
    • Hiking. Hiking is by far the hardest way to go. Everything you need is latched to your back, and the ground you can cover is limited. However, thousands of people hike incredible distances every year on major national scenic trails, and many find the experience addictive. Keep in mind that just because you're hiking doesn't mean you always have to be 'on the move'. Find a spot you like way off trail and stay as long as your food lasts. You can also use buses, cabs and shuttles to drop you off in the middle of nowhere, then hike in and find some place gorgeous to stay for a while.
    • Biking. Biking allows you to cover much greater distances, and it's easier than backpacking. However, you are tied to roads, instead of on trails. Get 'touring' bikes and rig them out with saddlebags and pull a cargo trailer. Mountain bikes can work also, if you plan on doing any off-road touring, or just exploring down trails and 4x4 roads. Bike touring is hardest in the mountains, with continual climbs. But the mountains are where the majority of public lands are in America, with lots of free camping. But if you have children, as well as all your gear, biking might not provide enough long-term room for you.
    • Canoeing. Canoeing is the ultimate in non-motorized travel. It's infinitely easier than hiking or biking (even paddling hundreds of miles upstream), and you have plenty of room for food and gear and small children. Get a 17'4" or longer for touring so it tracks straight. Camp on islands. You can swim, fish, and bathe every day. You can travel almost anywhere via big rivers, lakes, and canals. Water is where all the life is - you can guarantee every minute will be scenic. It's where towns are also, so getting groceries and necessities will be as close as the next bridge.
    • Get a 4 wheel drive vehicle and do them all. Use backpacking gear, put bikes on the back, and your canoe on top. This way you're ready for anything. You can leave the car and hike in, take a trip down a river, go explore an area on mountain bikes. If you have more than one bike, place rags between them so metal isn't scraped away going down bumpy 4x4 roads. Lightweight bulky items can be strapped in under the canoe. And the inside of a vehicle has all the room you'll ever need. The drawback of course is the cost of gas and repairs. But if you budget for it, and stay put in each spot as long as possible, you can make it work.

  4. Rough out some plans of where you want to go. Come up with a general itinerary. Find out about any public lands you're visiting through the internet - and if you call, or write, they'll send you an avalanche of information for free. Come up with a set period of time, say a month, or six months, or a year, and plan and budget for it.
  5. Outline a budget, and stick to it fanatically. The minute you begin deviating from your budget it will only get worse, the downward spiral will begin, and you will be broke and desperate in no time. Allot so much money to each month, and when you're out, stay put, until the next month begins. If that means an extra week or two in the same boring spot, do it. The longer you stay in one place the more you'll come to love it. Stay a month, and leaving will be like moving out of your home.
  6. Get high-quality tents and sleeping bags, if you can afford them. Your tent is your only shelter - make it comfortable. Sleeping bags should be rated below zero - synthetic tend to be more durable than down, and still work when wet. Have plenty of wool clothing, blankets, tarps, and rope. Be aware that cotton has no insulating value when wet, unlike wool and synthetics, so have non-cotton versions of all clothing items with you. Bamboo mats are nice and great to lay out on. Sleeping on the ground will wear you out fast - get thick foam pads, or an inflatable mattress. And if you have the room, a futon mattress is worth its weight in gold.
  7. Hit the road, or trail, or river - whatever the case may be. Relax, stay organized, stick to your budget and your plans. Always set up camp long before dark, or you'll end up in motel territory. If a motel is part of your monthly budget - fine...show up early, and enjoy it for a full 24 hours. But if you end up getting last-minute motels out of poor planning and decision-making, you'll be back in the city in no time, and back to work.
  8. Make sure there's a major water source wherever you're going, whether it's a creek, lake, or river, or hot springs. You're going to need to bathe, wash dishes, do laundry (if you're hardcore - most people use laundromats), drinking water, possible edible plants, etc. Not only is water where all the life is, it's where most of the food is also. Wild fruiting trees do very well off water, and aquatic plants such as cattail are in abundance. Bathing on a daily basis will ground you in this lifestyle like nothing else. The greatest luxury are hot springs. They are all over the west in the US, generally free to camp beside, some deep in wilderness areas - and often a great spot to meet similar-minded people.
  9. Go where it's warm, and move seasonally. Nothing will destroy your enthusiasm for this lifestyle like cold. There's simply no reason to be cold and sit in your bag in the tent. In the U.S., focus on the south, places like northern Florida, and southern Arizona and New Mexico are great in the winter - tons of wild land, spectacular, nobody around, mild weather. Over the summers, go north. Check out Montana or the Adirondacks.
  10. Utilize free campgrounds. Some have stay limits of up to a month. If you're on the trail, or along the river - free camping is everywhere. But in a car, it's not so easy - you'll have to search. There are still a surprising amount of low-use free campgrounds across the U.S. And often if you go down any dirt road, in National Forest lands and BLM, it will lead to something interesting...

  11. Get hammocks. Anything that will increase your comfort level is huge. Without furniture, it gets old sitting on the ground. You can even sleep in your hammocks.
  12. Bathe daily. Even if it means jumping in a cold river quick. Feeling clean is very important, and will cut down on the longings for a motel. If there's no water source nearby, sunbathe. An hour in the sun will open up all your pores and make you feel clean. If there is no sun, and it's cold - build a sweatlodge out of saplings and tarps and blankets. But consider that if there's no sun and it's cold, maybe you're in the wrong place!
  13. Eat well. You can cook anything you like out on a fire. Try cast iron skillets and baking in a Dutch Oven. Stromboli, cinnamon rolls, lentil stew, pancakes on the griddle, roasted yams in the fire, it is all possible. Everything tastes better cooked over a fire - and considering your Spartan lifestyle, you'll worship every bite. Your appreciation for life and everything it offers will jump 1000%. You can even dry fruits into leathers and smoke your own jerky. If you do not spoil yourself at meal-time, you will start longing for life indoors and inevitably break down.
  14. Learn edible plants. Pack as many guides with you of edible plants that you can - take a small library. There is a staggering abundance of wild food out there, if you only look around and get the most basic knowledge of edible plants. Incorporate whatever you find into your diet - this will easily cover any nutrients you're craving for with your limited access to fresh food. Wild plants are the most nutritious food on earth. It will also connect you to the land, and build some independence. Make sure you eat sustainably, though, leaving some of the plants behind.
  15. Try to slow down and enjoy life. This is harder than it sounds. See How to Be Laid Back. Find things to do besides just playing and loafing. For instance:
    • Work on primitive crafts, such as cordage, vine baskets, mats, coconut bowls, sandals, etc.:
      • Make a pine needle basket.
      • Try beading and sewing a pair of moccasins.
      • Start building a primitive shelter, such as a thatched hut.

    • Paint some of the fantastic scenes you come across, if you're an artist. Small galleries are very open to local work. An income from this could go a long ways towards supporting your minimalistic lifestyle.
    • Take some time to read literature and philosophy, and try to get a feel for the 'big picture'.

  16. Work seasonally. When you're low on money, go make some more for a while. Do something new and interesting. Tourist areas are always hiring outside people during their period of peak tourism, and the jobs run the gamut. You can also make money gathering and selling wild mushrooms. For example, you can sell lobster mushrooms for $15/lb to chefs in high-end restaurants, and they're a lot of fun to gather. You can even make money gathering seed such as 'desert willow' to sell to companies for reforestation. There's infinite opportunities out there to make some cash and regroup - you don't need to be tied to a job/career to survive.
  17. Document your experiences. Keep a journal of all that happens, as well as your thoughts and moods. Take plenty of pictures. It will become a precious record of one of the most significant times in your life.


  • Have respect for the surroundings that are your new temporary home so that the natural beauty will be preserved for those who come after you. Don't pollute water sources by bathing or washing dishes with soap, even the biodegradable kind. Be proficient in making latrines and catholes for human waste, don't damage vegetation--move your tent every couple of days to let the grass underneath recover, or camp on a more durable surface. Watch your campfire impact--use only a pre-existing fire ring if possible. In short, don't bring a high-impact "civilized" lifestyle with you--visit lnt.org for information about minimum impact goals and practices for life in the outdoors.


  • Be safe. While most people on the trails are friendly, you will be miles away from bystanders, police, or locked doors. Stay friendly and calm but alert, and know how to defend yourself should the need arise. You may want to carry pepper spray in an accessible location.
  • Prevent tick bites. Lyme disease is the most widespread vector-borne infectious disease in the United States and can have permanent health consequences. Lyme disease, Bartonella, Babesia, Proteobacter, and other tick-borne diseases are spread by several kinds of ticks and are most commonly transmitted in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Great Lakes regions during the spring, summer, and fall. During these times, wear long pants tucked into socks to prevent ticks from climbing up your legs. Check your whole body and scalp for ticks every night. If you find an attached tick, grasp the head with tweezers and pull straight out. A precautionary run of a few weeks of antibiotics is recommended immediately after any tick bite.

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be safe during... a flood.

technically, any sort of freak accident could befall you at any time - snowstorm in june? not likely, but possible. but here in texas, we would most likely fall victim to:

  1. flood,

  2. hurricane,
  3. tornado,

  4. drought,

  5. thunderstorm,

  6. winter/ice storm,

  7. of course a fire could happen anywhere, and

  8. or perhaps some manner of disease epidemic

we'll go through these a few at a time. no need to get all gloom-n-doom and overwhelmed at once. so, if you chance to meet a flood, what should you do?

planning ahead -- well first let's address what you should have done already - have insurance. yeah, it's kind of a drag - but it's important. FEMA released a statement in 2005 saying: "flood insurance is affordable. everyone needs it. it is the first line of defense to protect against the cost of flood damage." since i'm no insurance pro, i won't go through the technicalities of the policies; i will leave it at this: insurance - it's important, so look into it. and then get it. if you don't know where to start, google it.

vehicle safety -- if you're at work, or outside your home and are worried about a flood coming, you may think you'd best be getting in your car to get home. ironically, this might be the most dangerous choice. texas has the highest number of flood-related fatalities, almost all deaths were vehicle-related. most cars will float and be swept away in 18-24 inches of moving water -- and don't think because you have a van or suv that you're safer than the mazda miata next to you. you're not really. if your car is swept away, it will likely roll or even flip over entirely. once this happens, you have only seconds to escape the vehicle - and can you even imagine trying to undo those tricky carseat buckles when really, all you want to do is panic?

so what should you do if you're out driving (or about to drive home)? just hurry up and wait for the rains to pass; resist the urge to rush home during heavy rain. remember: turn around, don't drown!

be safe at home -- even if you're dry and warm inside, there are still some hazards to be on the lookout for; here are some tips:

  1. turn off your electricity - some appliances can shock you, even if unplugged. so don't use any appliance that has gotten wet unless you have cleaned and dried it

  2. watch for animals - many small animals, including snakes, can be pushed from their homes and may try to join you in yours. so keep your eye out for them!

  3. watch where you step - the ground can become covered with debris, including broken glass. or, it could be very slippery with mud - so tread lightly.

  4. check for gas leaks

  5. clean everything that got wet - in a flood, the waters can pick up sewage and chemicals from roads, factories, businesses, storage spaces and many other undesirable places. food, cosmetics, medicines can all become tainted if they get wet - when in doubt, throw it out!

  6. have your emergency kits handy - if you are told to evacuate, do it. it will be way simpler and safer if you do it when first advised instead of holding out. and take your emergency kits with you.

  7. make sure your whole family knows of your emergency communication plan and that you have all decided what to do in an emergency (where to go, who to call, where to meet, etc.). and if you have pets, don't forget to plan ahead for them as well.

most importantly, do not underestimate the destructive power of a flood. it is more than just a little rain.

Original: http://mansfield2nd.blogspot.com/2009/03/be-safe-during-flood.html