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Monday, July 26, 2010

Focusing Your Skills Building

What do YOU do to determine the skills you want to acquire?

If it's a hobby skill, you might want to learn how to do something more efficiently, or in an entirely different way.  Many years ago, this is what I did with my brewing hobby - I went from simply mixing up a batch of prepared malt syrup to extracting the sugars  from whole grain (mashing).

At work, you might want to acquire additional skills which will make you more valuable to your employer.  You might see an area of the business that is having difficulties, and learn the skills to help make that area work more smoothly.

How do you do this for emergency preparedness skills?  It should be a two-pronged approach:  Life Sustaining skills and High Demand skills.

The first step - and perhaps the most difficult - is to predict our future!  Are we going to have a crash-and-burn collapse and end up in a Mad Max or Book Of Eli society?  Will we end up in an Argentina-like economy?  Or will we get through this rough-patch, and pretty much return to normal?

Your answer to that question will drive your priorities.

Personally, I think we're headed towards an Argentina-like collapse.  Our dollar will be further debased, there will be shortages in almost all commodities, crime will increase and more and more industries will be nationalized - resulting in greater inefficiencies in getting most things done.

Just like the Great Depression and the Argentinian depression, individual citizens can have no impact on whether it occurs or not.  It is out of our hands.  All we can do as individuals is to work NOW to lessen the impact if it does happen.

In the Great Depression, what was in short supply? 

Food, certainly.  The ability to obtain a steady supply of food was significanly impacted.  Our government actually paid farmers to reduce their planted acreage and slaughter animals to help increase prices.

Tangible wealth - currency, stocks and bonds all evaporated.  Those with precious metals and real property got through the difficult times more easily (even though much gold was seized by the government).

Jobs - the ability to provide your talents in exchange for cash payment.  People without the skills in demand were reduced to having to live in food lines, or literally selling pencils and apples on the street corner.

In Argentina, crime is an ongoing problem as well.  If this was the case during the Great Depression, is was not widely reported.  If we go down the same path as Argentina, I think we'll have the same crime problems but on a much more significant scale. 

We have a huge portion of our population that has no idea how to care for themselves.  If our "safety net" is torn, all hell will break loose.  They WILL come for your stuff.  Knowing how to provide for your personal safety and to protect the assets you possess will be paramount.

World War II was a direct result of economic difficulties.  Germans felt they had been wronged by having to pay reparations as a result of WWI, and Hitler was able to ride that wave of anger into power.  We all know how that ended.  But it's important to understand that a terrible economy and stifling debt were the precursors to war.  Hmmmm.  Sound familiar?

Thrown into the equation are external forces influencing our decisions.  The US military came out in April and said they believe we're going to have oil shortages -
"By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day," says the report, which has a foreword by a senior commander, General James N Mattis.
Is Peak Oil real?  I really don't know.  I do think, though, that like any commodity, oil will be more difficult and more expensive to acquire.  If Peak Oil is in fact a reality, it will negatively impact virtually every aspect of our lives.  Oil drives our economy.

Accept The Challenge

What every-day functions do most Americans have no idea how to do?  We don't know how to repair anything!  If it breaks, we buy a new one.  That will change.  Repair skills will be in huge demand.  Small engines, small appliances, electronic devices, computers, knife and tool sharpening, tool making, welding, making/repairing clothes, roofing a house, building a wall, etc.

Buying broken down appliances/electronic devices then repairing them and selling them for well below new prices might be a profitable venture as well.

Each geographic region of the US will be a bit different.  Here in the SF Bay Area, there is little need for someone that can clear snow (since it doesn't snow here), but a lot of need for learning how to shoot (since most folks are gun adverse and government dependent).

Growing and foraging/hunting your own food, and knowing how to preserve it will be huge.  It could also become a money-making proposition.  Or, as discussed in a past post, it can be used to reduce your cost of food by doing a bartered preservation-for-a-portion-of-the-product deal.  Smoking, dehydrating, canning, pickling, curing.  Learn how to do these things with as few store-bought supplies as necessary.  For instance, make jam without buying pectin.

Along these lines, learn how to make alcohol.  In trying times, people need to catch a buzz once in a while!  Beer, wine, mead, cider, etc.  Learn to ferment grains and fruits that are indigenous to your area.   I have two projects on my To Do list in this regard:  Malt my own grain (malt is needed to convert starches into fermentable sugars) and to do an Open Fermentation where wild, open-air yeast do the fermentation for me.

Alcohol can also be turned into vinegar.  Learn how to do this, and you have a skill and a commodity.

If you own a home, I would start putting some money into solar energy systems.  Both photovoltaic and hot water systems.  At this point in time, the government is still dumping big bucks into subsidizing these things, and you might as well get your piece of the pie while there's still some pie left.

At a minimum, move away from oil-based systems and towards alternative or renewable sources.  I've been doing a lot of reading on wood gasification, and prices for these power generation systems are coming down from the clouds.  Victory Gasworks is a good place to start to get some education on the subject.  If you have access to wood or other combustible materials, it might be a good option for you.

Learn how to shoot.  Plain and simple, it is the only way you will be able to protect yourself through any sort of large scale civil disturbance or rioting.  It gives you the ability to extend your defensive perimeter.  Martial arts, pepper spray/stun guns and other options require you to be in (literally) striking distance of your attacker.  If there's more than one of them, you're toast.

Be proficient in handguns, shotguns, carbines and long rifles.  Each has a purpose.  Practice, practice, practice.

Be sure you have plenty of ammunition, cleaning supplies and spare parts for each type of firearm you own.  Have the repair manuals and the tools to make your own repairs.  Learning how to re-load your own ammo might not be too bad of a skill to have...

Along these lines, look at your health.  Get off or reduce your dependence on medications.  Obviously, don't go cold-turkey and kill yourself, but try and reduce your dependence if possible.  Lose some weight, get your teeth fixed, exercise regularly, improve your lifestyle.

Read the Surviving In Argentina blog.  This guy, Ferfal, has lived there since their society crashed in 2001.  It gives you great insight into what day-to-day life is like under such a system.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.


Anonymous said...

Some very good points. In the phillipines they took the WW II army jeeps that were left behind and used them till they were broke then rebuilt them multiple times. They used the basic components to make trucks and busses and some are still in use today. There is absolutely no reason that the majority of the things we throw away today could not be fixed/rebuilt and in fact many things could be re-purposed. My hobby is machining and there are a lot of people who own metal lathes and milling machines, etc. Most just work on their hobbies, most often steam engines, but if you can use these machines you can make almost anything. The only reason we don't repair common household items today is the labor costs to repair exceed the retail costs for a new one. Once new stoves, refrigerators, cars and guns are no longer available a repairman will be in demand

MikeH. said...


Mashing!!! You must have sensed that I am a sour mash (George Dickel) aficionado. lol

Some years ago, my hobby turned into licensed gunsmithing. Although I eventually gave it up, I still retain certain skills and a small cache of repair / replacement parts and specialty tools.

Also, over the last few years, I have become fairly adept at home remodeling type construction, electrical and plumbing installations / repairs. One thing I have, retired, is a lot of time to learn new things. Which I do since I tend to become bored easy.

I am fortunate to have a master auto mechanic son and a former professional meat cutter son in law. And the three of us do hunt and fish. We are prepared to easily transform into a formidable team when the time comes.

By the way... good job!!! You've smacked another one over the center-field wall.


Chief Instructor said...

Anon, aren't those called "jeep-nies" or something like that?

I find this whole thing quite interesting. My grandfather was a tool and die guy and a machinist during WWII. As a kid, I remember asking him why they didn't just go out and buy the stuff. He told me it was because most of it didn't exist anywhere else. For his entire life, he re-threaded nuts and bolts until they were too thin to be safe for the application.

I just recently bought my first tap and die set. I've used it to re-thread a couple of stripped bolts, but want to make my own just to see how it's done. Gettin' back to basics!

Mike, gunsmithing is a skill I'd love to learn. If TSHTF, you'd be so busy you'd have to turn business away.

I'm a decent "gross" butcher. When I was a kid in high school, the restaurant where I worked would buy half-cows (whatever that's called) and a butcher would come in and do his deed (always for a small amount of cash, and a case of beer!). He showed me how to identify the major portions and would allow me to make the cuts on occasion. I've since "broken down" a whole pig, and it came out decent enough.

I'm fairly well surrounded by talented people as well. I have a paramedic son and an electrician son.

They both have friends with a ton of skills including small engine repair, automotive repair and welding. I'm working on the welding kid to do a skills trade: welding for firearms training. We've come to terms, and now must work out the timing.

suek said...

>>The only reason we don't repair common household items today is the labor costs to repair exceed the retail costs for a new one.>>

That plus the fact that many of the parts that need to be replaced are made of plastic. How do you overcome that problem?

By the way...a revision of sorts.

I commented recently that I didn't understand why the big concern about hybrids. Genetically speaking, it's only a problem in the consistency of production, I thought. However, the other day, I was looking for sources for a particular vegetable seed, and was struck by the similarity of the pages for two different companies. I had recently learned that Park Seed is no longer owned by the Park family (and should have known that because I received catalogs from 4 different seed companies last time I ordered)but is owned by an umbrella company that also owns other seed/nursery companies. Anyway, searching for the "owned by" company name, I ran across this article:

It's actually an article for Countryside Magazine, and I believe there's a link there if you want to follow it. In any case, it was a bit disillusioning and even a bit scary.

I guess the skill I feel I need to learn is how to save seed. Some are easy - corn, beans and peas - but then there's that hybrid factor she discusses. Would it pose a problem? I suspect you have to just grow, save and see what you get to know for sure. When you peruse the seed catalogs, there are _so_ many hybrids!!

At one time, Bill Whittle had a site that attempted to organize those who were interested in forming an internet commune of sorts - people who were willing to offer skills in trade for skills - teaching as much as doing. I don't know what happened to that particular site - he closed his blog where the "commune" was located, and joined with pajamas media. I can no longer find that site, but enjoy his writing. He also makes excellent videologs, but I have no sound card on my old computer, so don't watch those. Anyway...I suspect that those who read this blog would find this article enjoyable, if they haven't found it already:

suek said...

Here's another one that might prove interesting. I've enjoyed his day to day diary sort of blog, and decided to "go back to the beginning". It doesn't actually start at the beginning, I think, but he's learned lessons many of us may need to learn. His focus is different, but in many ways the same.

Chief Instructor said...

Suek, plastic parts: a difficult problem, indeed. If they are intricate parts, you might just be out of luck. If it's things like plastic nuts, bolts, clamps, etc., you can fabricate them from metal. It's really not that difficult if you have the tools and a bit of practice.

You understand that the major benefit of non-hybrids is that the seeds can be used when they're saved from the beans/legumes, right? They hybrids are genetically modified so that their saved seeds won't sprout when planted - you must buy new seeds each year.

Great link to the Whittle article. I've read him in the past, and like his outlook on things.

The off-grid article was also great. I just sent that link to a number of friends. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to find the ideal contents for a 5 gal bucket cache of food for one person for one month. The easy to prepare foods that store a long time and provide the primary calories for a meal. The intent is to hunt and gather greens, fish, small game, roots, etc. to supplement the cache. It would be an interesting post for your blog to open it up for discussion. One bucket = one month. 12 buckets = 12 months. Simple, repeatable and invaluable. I could easily dig 12 holes outback to protect my food in case I am forced to leave my home either temporarily or long term. But a years supply on shelves is problematic if someone is breaking down the front door or you have to bug out for any reason. Any ideas?

Chief Instructor said...

Anon, an absolutely excellent idea! I'll take a swing at it later this week after the PM series.

Thanks for the great suggestion.