As early as fifty or sixty years ago, whether we realize it or not, modern society was learning basic survival skills. On any given weekend a boy usually could be found under the hood of the car with his Dad, changing plugs or replacing a battery.
There was raking and mowing to be done, wood to be chopped and/or piled up near the house. These days nearly all those skills can be hired out and often times they are.
The older generation were far more self-reliant then those of today. Pretty much everyone knew the basics of carpentry, growing plants, or even knew some basic metal work.
There are many skills that are taken for granted these days that our grand-parents saw as normal when they were a young man and woman. It’s time to go back and take a look at some of those old fashion ideals that can aid a modern day survivalist.
It’s unfortunate, but most of us have limited finances, space and time when it comes to getting prepared. The few minutes daydreaming about an arsenal in the basement, with tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition can be a brief reprise from the humdrum of the day, but it is only a daydream.
It is nice to fantasize about opening the door to an underground bunker to find rows of shelving weighted down with food, blankets, medical supplies, protective suits and masks and full water barrels by the hundreds lining the walls. In your mind and the mind of most people you cannot have too much when it comes to prepping, but again space is limited, and money is always in short supply and time, there is never enough time.
What Can Be Done
In reality if you do not have it, cannot make it, or trade for it during a crisis then you will have to survive without it, if you can. This means you not only need a supply on hand, you need the ability to produce life essentials or be able to barter for them.
Skills will be in demand during a crisis so do an assessment of what skills you have that can be used in trade. Everyone has skills, and it is never too late to learn some more.
These top 10 survival skills below are examples of things that we all used to know and practice in our everyday lives. Remember, there was a time when people were self-reliant and didn’t depend on a chain of systems to get them though.
And also remember that, YES, it is possible to regain this self-reliance and take control of your own survival.
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In 1900, only 13% of the US population lived in urban areas. The rest lived mostly in rural areas and many worked as farmers. Today, half of all people live in cities and the figure is expected to grow.
In the cramped living conditions of cities, it is no wonder that people have stopped gardening. For them, food is something that you get at the supermarket and not pick from the ground.
To urban dwellers, growing a garden might seem like a simple or even fun task, with the hardest part of it being all those weeds to deal with. But gardening (at least in a way which will actually produce you a substantial amount of food) is actually a task which requires vast amounts of knowledge.
Here are just some of the things you need to know to grow food effectively:
- Soil conditions
- Crop rotation patterns
- Sun exposure charting
- Seed germination
- Planter building
- Pest control
- Tool care and maintenance
In a SHFT situation where food is a commodity that you can’t get at the supermarket anymore, you will wish you knew these skills so you could produce your own food.
Better to start learning these skills now than when your life actually depends on it!
2. Raising Animals
We’ve all heard the stories about the farmer having to get up at the rooster’s crow to milk the cows and feed the animals. Raising animals won’t just teach you responsibility (which is one trait our great grandparents definitely had more of than us). When you are responsible for animals, you learn everything that goes into caring for a living creature.
You will get really good at working with wire for all those times you need to make repairs to the fence – a skill which will come in handy if you ever need to string barbed wire around the perimeter of your home for a SHFT defense system.
You will get really good at diagnosing and treating animal diseases – a useful skill for when no doctors or medicines are available.
You will get good at building coops and pens — a skill that you can apply to building a survival shelter in Bug Out situations.
In 2013, an Austin-based startup created an “auto-aim” rifle which automatically locks onto the target and tracks it. Whether it is a goose flying in the sky or a deer bounding away, you are guaranteed to get a hit. This is yet another example of how technology is destroying our self-reliance.
Hunting used to be a common pastime, and many schools even had hunting clubs and the students would bring their rifles to school and keep them in their lockers (good luck getting that started again in our schools!). Yes, there still are plenty of people who hunt, but the numbers have dwindled.
Even the people who still do hunt today don’t do it in the way that our great grandparents did. Hunting usually means setting some bait, climbing into a watch tower, and waiting until a deer comes around to take your shot.
By contrast, our great grandparents hunted by staking out animals – a skill which required them to be very familiar with animal habits and tracks. They could walk quietly and undetected through the woods and patiently wait for the right opportunity to get a shot at a large prize.
Along with hunting with rifles, our great grandparents also knew how to set up snares to catch smaller game.
In a SHFT situation, it is these snares which will probably be most useful for survival.
Unlike rifles, snares don’t require any ammo, they don’t make a loud noise which will give away your location, and are more likely to get a catch since small animals are found in greater abundance.
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4. Preparing Meals from Scratch
FEMA recommends that everyone keep a supply of non-perishable foods like dry beans and flour in their homes in case of a disaster. The irony of this is that many people have absolutely no clue on how to prepare these dry foods.
As for the 50lbs of flour that some people have stockpiled, I hope they like eating raw flour – because it takes some knowledge to turn flour into bread!
Processed foods make up approximately 70% of the American diet, and only a small percentage of Americans are cooking at home. When they aren’t eating fast food or take out, they are eating frozen dinners and meals which came from boxes.
Our great grandparents didn’t have 45 different types of frozen lasagna to choose from. Heck, they didn’t even have supermarkets, never mind freezer sections!
They make food from scratch out of necessity, and it was nutritious and wholesome without needing any fancy ingredients.
5. Preserving Food
Thanks to our complex food storage and distribution systems, we can have foods like bananas and cucumber year round – never mind that the bananas probably grew over 1,000 miles from where you live or that cucumbers are only in season in warm months.
Our grandparents and great-grandparents didn’t have this. Instead, they would take advantage of the food seasons. They’d produce a surplus and preserve it for times of scarcity.
Thanks to the food revolution that is occurring, there are increasingly more young people who have gardens and are doing things like home canning. However, we could really step this up a notch and start teaching people food preservation skills like:
- Dry salting
6. Not Wasting Food
When you have to grow, forage, and hunt for your food, you don’t take it for granted. This isn’t something which can be said of today’s generation!
Consider that the average American family throws away 1/4 of the food they buy, adding up to a total of approximately $1,365 to $2,275 annually. Our great grandparents would be horrified!
The reason that people are so willing to toss food into the trash is because they assume that they can always go to the supermarket and get more.
Our great grandparents and grandparents lived through the Great Depression and World Wars I and II. They knew that crises can strike at any time and leave you hungry and deprived.
So, when you have surplus, you put some aside for those rainy days – something we should all be doing right now by investing in a long-term food storage supply.
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7. Natural First Aid
Did you know that you can stop bleeding with cayenne pepper, or that thyme is a natural remedy for coughs?
You might not, but your great grandparents certainly did.
Before the era of superhighways and cheap cars, people didn’t have easy access to doctors. They did things themselves. When SHFT and you’ve got a case of bad diarrhea from drinking dirty water, you will wish you could call up your grandparents and ask for advice.
8. How to Navigate (without a GPS)
If you have kids, then you probably know about the children’s show Dora the Explorer. When Dora goes on adventures, she calls on her friend Map to get instructions. Except that Dora doesn’t actually read Map. She just tells Map where she wants to go and Map tells her how to get there.
The first time I watched that show with my daughter, I thought it was ridiculous: You just can’t say the name of where you want to go and expect map to know everything! Then I realized that Map is exactly the same as the GPS systems which virtually everyone today relies on.
Once the grid goes down and everyone’s GPS is fried, you are going to have a lot of people wandering around lost in their own cities.
To increase your chances of survival in an emergency situation, you can take these steps to learn more map reading skills and familiarize yourself with your area:
- Hang a map of your local area in your home so you can study its layout.
- Look at your map from a tactical standpoint and devise exit strategies and pinpoint safe zones.
- Determine where you will go in a disaster situation where you must evacuate; chart multiple routes from your home to this location.
- Go for a hike in the woods with a map and a compass.
- Sign up for your local orienteering group.
- Drive around your neighborhood without a map or GPS to familiarize yourself with it.
9. Home Maintenance
How many people today know how to do even the most basic of home maintenance or repairs, like putting up shelves or fixing a leaking pipe?
In a serious disaster situation, these skills are going to go a long way to your survival – such as when to put those basic carpentry skills to use when building a shelter. However, there doesn’t have to be a major SHTF disaster to get use out of these skills.
In a local disaster such as a hurricane (and these are happening with higher frequency), it is common to have broken windows, roofs, and doors. You must be able to fix these so your home remains safe and livable until you are able to clean up or evacuate.
At the bare minimum, everyone should know the following three things. After you’ve got these down, you can gradually build up your skills by fixing home maintenance issues as they arise.
- How to shut off the water main: Make sure you and all your family members know where the water main is located and how to shut it off. If a water supply pipe gets damaged during a disaster situation, you don’t want to confound the disaster by having water flooding into your house.
- How to shut off the gas main: This is especially important for earthquakes and other natural disasters as gas supply pipes are often damaged. The leaking gas can kill you!
- How to board up a window: Before a hurricane, you should always board up windows to prevent glass from breaking and flying everywhere. You’ll also need to board up windows before evacuating to protect your home from looters, and to fix any broken windows for protection against the elements.
10. How to Reuse Everything
In one memoir about growing up in the Great Depression, a woman tells about how her family salvaged socks which got holes in them. The holes usually appeared in the toes or heel. The hole would be sewn up, causing the sock to be slightly smaller – so the sock would get passed down to the next child in line.
When that child got a hole in the socks, they’d be sewn up once again and passed down. So it would continue until the socks were too small to be used. No, the socks still didn’t get thrown away. At that point, they’d be used for cleaning and scrubbing floors.
When you don’t have much, you learn how to make use of every single thing you can find. Luckily, this life skill is becoming popular again. You can see examples of people making all sorts of furniture, decor, and kids’ crafts out of old plastic bottles, salvaged wood, and so forth.
Take a look in your own trash can. What items are in there? Which of these items could be used in a survival situation?