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Friday, April 21, 2023

The Top 3 Mistakes I Made BEFORE the SHTF

 Original Article

There’s a lot of concern out there over rising fuel prices as the US and European economy heads off a cliff. As an outside observer who already passed through one of the worst economic downturns in the world, I can identify with that concern. There were mistakes I made before SHTF that rocked my world.

I learned from that experience, however, and I think I have valuable advice to share you may find beneficial here. I took my time to elucidate the things I regret the most, so you don’t fall for the same pitfalls that I did. My three biggest mistakes were…

  1. Miscalculating the duration of the crisis period.
  2. Believing that my closer partners were on board while trusting in their support without confirmation.
  3. Not following my instincts to increase the sustainability of my compound, and improving whatever I could when I had the resources. My gut talked to me. I just didn’t listen.

Mainstream media seems desperate to make us believe that the “world” is falling apart. Very much has been written about this already. Yet there are few out there shouting that this ISN’T the path we need to follow. Why is this?

We preppers just want to be ready for hard times.

Job loss. Hyperinflation. A flood, a drought, hurricanes, monsoons. Wildfires. Social turmoil. Some of us are aware now that a collapse or crisis can last for decades.

There is some personal information below about a few past relationships I’m making available to the public. I want to apologize for exposing you to those personal affairs. I’ve made mistakes, but I include them below so you can learn from them. 

My first mistake was thinking everything would blow over.

Once I first learned about different “prepper worthy” events in different countries and cultures, I believed six months’ water and food reserve would suffice. Water is not much of a concern (it rains a lot in my area) but purifying and filtering it is. I covered that prep fairly easily though.

However, what happened was an entirely different event from what I’d prepared for: a politically-induced Holodomor that generated a refugee crisis and spread instability in neighboring countries. This is a technique that the communist world uses against targeted countries. See Spain and the sub-Saharan invasion.

Two hundred males between the ages of 18 and 35 hardly can be considered “harmless.” This is NOT a regular or normal “migratory” situation, in my opinion. There is clearly an agenda behind this. (Some precedents are here and here.)

After their policies caused starvation, the socialists in power here needed to get as many people out of Venezuela as possible. No matter if they were followers or not. (Many socialists actually flooded Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, and Peru).

They needed to calm down the social pressure caused by the hunger, homelessness, death, and crime, and thus, the migration. Things were actually so bad here that it generated an intervention by the International Court of The Hague, leaving the socialists nowadays with severe reports of Human Rights violations and in the middle of an awful swamp. How was I supposed to know all this back in 2017?

Never in my life had I imagined something like this would happen to my Venezuela.  

And it didn’t just blow over. This induced crisis lasted for four years, give or take. Timing allowed me to avoid most of the turmoil in Venezuela from 2018 until 2020. I had my quota, sure. Surviving in Peru was not easy at all. But Venezuela was much worse. A friend recently referred to the period 2016-2018 as the “Years of the mangoes.” When you see his reasoning, I think you’ll see it’s an apt description.

My family could have ridden this out, though. 

I’d been prepping for a while, and I had some savings in USDs, but I wasted it all by running away from my country. In hindsight, I should have hunkered down in the countryside.

Mind you, all three of these mistakes are intimately related. Our current situation is a direct consequence of this fantastic trio, and I’m aware of that. All of us in my family are well-fed (very important in a crisis to avoid sickness and keep morale high), as everyone in the family collaborates and pulls their own weight as much as possible.

Household cleaning, clothes, sweeping, and mopping floors – we all do them. We just need to tune up our bulk buying process, but there are no big chains here anymore. The commies kicked out Makro, a Dutch company, because they needed complete control of the food chain. They’re still working, but not as the major player they once were and under the force jacket of the surveillance every totalitarian regime exerts.

(Do you have enough food stored to weather a crisis? Read our free QUICKSTART Guide to building a 3-layer food storage plan.)

This leads us to the second mistake I made during the crisis in Venezuela.

Our original plan (I have a scheme I wrote back in the day to prove it!) was to get together and head out to our country cabin. Back then, I had six people in my family: the (now) ex, her kid and our baby, my sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law (Plus two kittens and our dog.). The plan was for everyone to travel in the SUV, fully loaded. I would ride the motorcycle.

There were two bedrooms in our cabin. Grandma would sleep in the living room in a folding bed. Once there, we’d use our savings to buy necessary supplies in bulk, and start immediately preparing the land for our crops. Using the motorcycle, we would transport the supplies from town up to the cabin. 

Those days carrying a 24-kilo package of ANYTHING was like having a bull’s eye on the back, but we didn’t know things were going to get that way. Our plan was to buy a lot of pasta, flour, cornmeal, etc. With the saved cash, we could have easily made the supplies last quite a bit of time.

People were desperate to get USDs to leave the country. We would have done well. Getting seeds and labor (indispensable in our case!) would have been much easier. Getting raw milk up there in the mountains is easy. Even these days, you can find raw milk anywhere it seems. They only stopped production a little bit in the worst of the pandemics, but that is old news now. Dairy farmers here are making more money with 60 cows under full production in one year than whatever I made in 15 years in the oil industry.

As the state of Venezuela got worse, I knew that it was time to put our plan into action.

It was time to go. I told the now-ex to pack her suitcase, as I was sick of watching how people in the Caracas demonstrations was being shot without mercy. Mercenaries were on the loose all over the country. Unlicensed trucks full of masked men toting AKs and sidearms were everywhere. No plates, no names, not any visible ID. A patch on the shoulder with the initials of the “corps” (which “corps” I’m not mentioning here.).

But my wife’s answer was shocking. “I’m NOT going to lose my time and youth in that God-forsaken mountain. We have to leave the country,” she said.

After meditating on things on my own for a while (trying not to laugh at the “youth” part), the disappointment felt like I’d just been hit upside the head with a bucket full of ice water. Leaving my parents was never an option we had considered together. Her family was already abroad. Her only desire (it seems so obvious now) was to go with them.

However, our savings wasn’t enough for everyone in our family to escape by plane. In one of the worst decisions of my life, partially because of the possibility of having our borders closed and being trapped, we decided to flee to Ecuador, where my ex’s sister and mother were. They’d made plans of their own without telling me. Their plan was  for me to get a job, work my backside off, find an apartment, and then ship my wife out with the baby. (The older kid was by then a grown man, and his biological dad had taken care of him since he was 17. He became a productive human.)

Although that would leave me to personally suffer the harsh conditions while my family were gone and safe, I now feel I should have come back to Venezuela, instead of then heading down to Peru. These decisions may seem easy, but trust me on this one, please. They’re NOT. Never.

Long story short, I found a good online job that was enough just for paying my part of the rent, and contribute with 1/3 of the food bill. This worked as there were just four people living in the flat, three of us working. Once the entire family arrived – the ex’s middle sister with her husband and four kids – well, the flat was crowded, and the landlord didn’t like that.

The rope usually breaks in the thinner part.

I was “invited” to leave the apartment, as my marriage had essentially already ended. My son took this pretty hard, as was to be expected. Maybe that is the reason we are so close now.

This happened to countless couples after leaving Venezuela. Women kicking out their life partners when things got harsh became a common conversation topic. In most examples, within a few months, the woman had already found a better provider.

Interesting how love, like space and time, can be relative, isn’t it?

But my third mistake was not taking better care of our survival retreat – our mountain cabin.

mistakes I made before SHTF
A cabin, but not my cabin. (I’m not showing the world where we’ll live!)

  • The walls of the main cement water tank, 10.000 liters or 2640 US gallons, are cracked. It is like 30 years old, maybe more, but the failure is severe. It desperately needs waterproofing.
  • The roof of the space destined to be a garage-rabbit-chicken coop is falling. The roots of a nearby tree affected the feet of the wood poles used for this roof. It is a discarded asbestos roof, and it weighs a ton.
  • None of the citrus trees, some coffee trees, and many of our other fruit trees didn’t survive the drought. Fuel scarcity made it impossible for my father to go up there to check on everything for 1.5 years. They got the last coffee crop in 2019. Go figure.
  • The cabin roof is leaking (I’m fixing that now).
  • The bathroom main pipe out from the septic clogged.
  • The vegetable layer of the surroundings was thinning out because of incorrect management of the mulch. I mean, why waste time and effort collecting dry leaves falling from the mango trees, and take them to the compost pile when you can just pile them up and light them on fire?
  • There is no fridge.
  • Mattresses are too old and moisture damaged.
  • The lights in the bedrooms were not working (now fixed).

As I explained earlier, it was a complex issue. One thing led to another.

For example, coming back before the pandemic would have meant the failure of our main water tank could have been resolved much earlier. With this as our only insurance against our severe droughts and dry season, we can’t fail again.

Now, we know that building new cement tanks is not a good idea with all the trees over 40 years old around. Polyethylene, or even geomembrane liners, and a pond could be a better choice. Larger trees are far away.

Surface tanks take a lot of valuable space, and need maintenance. PVC Geomembrane has a limited lifespan, but it works well enough for our purposes. The best option is steel, properly coated and protected with a technique called cathode protection. This works by inducing damage to a piece called a “sacrifice anode” which will corrode instead of the tank. It’s the more expensive option, but the results are splendid.

I’ve seen above-ground storage tanks with 60 years of almost continuous operation, and the bottom (the easiest part to corrode) is in great condition. Another option is to build it ourselves, and as things are going, this could be a possibility. I have good experience on manufacturing stuff to make this work. Plans are everywhere, and materials won’t be so hard to find.

I should have already built the meat/cheese curing room and the worm beds should already be producing humus. The cherry tomatoes planters should already be producing, too. The only producing trees are the mangoes. That’s great though. Iced mango juice sweetened with honey is delicious and full with Vitamin C. We got a handful of certified corn seed that should provide us with some corn enough to accompany some meals in August.

mistakes I made before SHTF

A mango tree, but not my mango tree.

The tapioca plot I was planning is not yet there. This is an important crop, and doesn’t need much care. It’s pure carbs and fiber, and very filling. With this tubercle ground coarsely, spread on a pan and toasted, people make something like a large cookie. It doesn’t spoil, and lasts for many weeks. Good fiber source. Add it to soup to make it thicker, and it’s quite tasty.

I found the needed materials for the sun dryers are now much more expensive. Mosquito screen prices increased exponentially. Wood is almost impossible to get here as well. The local sawmill is bankrupt, and all the tools are for sale. Unbelievable. That was a huge business.

The papaya plot I wanted so we could make our traditional papaya dessert for Christmas doesn’t exist. Let’s see if this rainy season allows growing some seedlings strong enough to withstand our dry season, starting in November, give or take.

The banana trees plot has been delayed too. Mind you, all of these are common items in our table. A couple of tapiocas, potatoes, two carrots and one kilo and a half of ribs will produce a very nutritious soup for six people.

A banana smoothie in the morning before school is great for children.

Papaya is excellent for digestion, and green slices of papaya are great to tenderize beef, added before you take it off the grill. A papaya juice made with the blender and with some lemon juice is great when it’s hot (all the time!) and it is very common in lunch down here.

The same goes for the cantaloupe plot. All of these should have been already sowed, and producing, but without fixing the tank first, it is not worth it.

I should say these items are not necessarily expensive. These can be store bought with a few dollars. The important point here is to substitute as much as we can with our own production.  A small bag of frozen cantaloupe is almost $2. Same for frozen peach juice, and for strawberries. That means almost $12 a week. We try to have fresh fruit juice every day with lunch, mostly for kiddo and the elders. My brother just drinks pop soda as if there is no tomorrow. It ends up being almost $50 per month just for the fruits for smoothies and juice.

The potatoes and carrots plots should already be under full production too. That means another $20-25 a month, maybe more. With a planned production scheme, we could cover at least 50% of our consumption at 30% the cost. That is why prepping and homesteading is worth all the research and effort.

The negative side is, many things can go wrong. If you believe that setting up a compound to produce 15% of your daily diet is easy, you have no clue. I’ve spent my entire life watching producers of all sizes come and go. I saw many going broke in a couple of bad years in a row, when they had been doing fine for ten years prior. Tomatoes, corn, tobacco, sorghum, dairy, cattle, cheese. All of these items belong to local production down here.

It is very difficult try to make a living on such a small plot. However, it seems there will be not too many options left.  

These are the mistakes I made before SHTF I think about regularly.

Self-reliance is power. Independence is strength. And we missed the mark on both of those the first go round. I’m striving to do better this time.

Thanks for your reading, and for the sponsoring that keeps me writing for you. Tell me what you’re thinking in the comments below.

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Be safe!

Have you learned from prepping mistakes?

Have you made errors in judgment in the past that made a situation worse? What were your mistakes and what did you learn from them? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

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