Friday, February 22, 2013

Life on a Primative Farm

This is a Chapter from my book 'Everyday Prepping for Beginners'.

My grandparents were farm people. My mom and her brother and sister were raised on a farm. They had no electricity, running water, or indoor plumbing.

Grandma taught school in a one room schoolhouse. She lived with the parents of her students, each family for a set amount of time. She lived with the family of my Gramps as she taught his younger siblings in school. Of course he didn’t look like gramps then. He was young with black hair and teeth! We always teased Grandma about living with Gramps before they were married, but she actually lived with his family. She did admit they sat on the cellar steps a few times after they were engaged, but it didn’t do much good as Gramps’ sisters sat there with them.

Living on the farm was hard. There was practically no money coming into the little community in which they lived. That meant that everything that they had was basically produced on the farm with the exception of their clothing, which was purchased when absolutely necessary. I know for a fact that Gramps used to cut new soles for his shoes, and attach them to the shoes with bailing wire. Still, they were a family with a reasonable level of satisfaction and experienced joy in living within a loving family.

They lived in a log house that Gramps built. He cut the logs for the house. He took lumber to the mill and had it cut on the halves for the lumber for the floor. They split wood shingles for the roof. They explained to me many times how you do it – but I totally don’t remember. If we ever have to do that I sure hope my husband is around to do. He actually listened to Gramps tell us how to do it. The nails were mostly used nails that Gramps salvaged somewhere.

My mom has said many times that they while they were poor in many ways, they fared much better than many other families who were in the same situation. They did it by hard work and planning ahead. Many other families worked hard, but did not seem able to plan ahead. Here are some of the things they did.

Grandma said that she counted the days and meals from harvest to harvest. She planned how many times a week she would cook what, and tried to manage having food on hand for that. For instance, if she wanted to cook soup 3 times a week, she would try to put up at least 150 quarts of mixed vegetables that would be needed to cook the soup. Other vegetables were canned in pints or quarts, depending on what was available. Corn was a favorite and easily grown. There was no real recipe. She said they just had to basically cook up a vegetable soup with whatever had done well in the garden that year. If they had meat to go in the soup, or to serve separately from the soup, then that was great. If they didn’t have meat, they still had soup for the meal.

Fruit was something else that was canned. Apples and peaches were the most common as that is what they grew most easily on the farm. Peaches had to be canned. Some apples were slow to rot and more easily stored. Blackberries were needed for stomach ailments. I think Grandma said they tried for at least a total of 150 quarts of fruit.

Drying food: They didn’t’ have a good way to dry food. It was put out on sheets of tin, and someone was supposed to watch it constantly to keep the flies off, the animals away, and move it undercover immediately in case of rain.

Potatoes: Potatoes were stored in the barn in layers of hay. They tried to keep the potatoes from touching each other so that if one potato rotted, it would not touch and spoil other potatoes. Apples were stored the same way.

Beans: beans were left on the vine until they were dry – or as close as possible.

Meat: the old timers like my grandparents did not can meat. They were sure it would not really keep well. I know some people today do can meat, most notably fish, but I am sure that they old farm families like my grandparents did not.

Meat was preserved by smoking. Hogs were butchered when the weather was cold. Then Gramps soaked it in some sort of brine, and hung it in the smoke house. He smoked the meat steadily to begin with. Then, he only kept a smoke going on the days the weather was little warm. The smoke was to keep the meat from spoiling. Mom said that the later in the year, the more smoke flavor in the meat. As warm weather approached, the family tried to eat up all the meat left in the smoke house.

Chickens were the main source of fresh meat. Hens were saved for laying eggs, and roosters were eaten when available.

Butchering a beef was difficult because it provided such a large amount of meat and there was no refrigeration. Families usually formed a co-op for beef. People in the co-op would provide a beef at an interval. The meat was divided up among the families, with each family getting the beef they had given to the family who butchering the beef the last time they had butchered a beef. For instance, if you gave your neighbor a loin and ribs when you butchered your beef, they would give you the same thing when they butchered their beef.

Lard – or fat: today we are totally hung up on healthy fat, and low fat, and different types of oil for cooking. The primitive farm families were just intent on keeping a supply of lard for cooking. Honestly, they did not fry everything in hog fat. Hog fat was the cooking oil they used mostly, but it was not that easy to come by. First, they had to kill the hogs. Then they had to render the fat. Gross! That means they cooked the fat until it melted! Then they had to can the fat to use throughout the year. So, having fat to even grease a skillet required that they put up enough quarts of fat to last a year. The fat was sort of on an as needed basis. If they used it to fry a skillet of potatoes today, then they might not have any next month. Or, if the potatoes were having a bad year and rotting early, they would probably use more fat to begin with early in the year. Also, some fat was gained when they fried the bacon from the smokehouse. Grandma said that if you were running out of fat before it was time to butcher hogs again that you had to grease a dishtowel. Then you used the dishtowel to grease your skillet for cooking the cornbread.

Corn: Gramps grew a lot of corn. It was used to feed the animals in the winter, and ground into corn meal at the mill. They ate cornbread at almost every meal. Soup and cornbread made up many good meals. They normally cooked their big meal at lunch. Supper was left over cornbread and milk – as long as they cow was giving milk.

Cows: they had cows and never had goats. I don’t really know why. Butter comes from cows and cheese comes from goats. I suppose the bottom line was they really did not have the time, energy, or resources to manage both. Predators were another consideration. Mostly cows are far less likely to be taken down by a predator than a goat, and easier to keep in a fence.

Chickens: the source of eggs, and fresh meat.

Dogs and cats: pets are expensive. A big dog is like another mouth to feed. There was no place to go buy a sack of pet food. Cornbread was the main food for the family dog. For a farm family, an expensive and generous food for a dog was to be given a fresh egg and spoonful of bacon fat. That was to keep the animal healthy and his coat looking good. Cats mostly lived in the barn or under the house. They were supposed to catch rats and mice, and were given some milk when it was available.

Illness: there wasn’t a doctor anywhere nearby. There was no money for a doctor if there had been one nearby. God just blessed them repeatedly that no one died from an illness. Their best option was to stay healthy. One year when my mom was small, she developed an allergy to corn. This was a disaster because cornbread made up the majority of their diet. Eventually they sold enough of their chickens, and bought a 50 pound sack of flour. Grandma made mom a biscuit at mealtime, and the rest of them ate cornbread. Today, we do have information regarding the uses of many plants, trees, and herbs. I believe that could be very helpful in very hard times

Did I mention they had little to no money? Once year they had had a bad year for farming. They were concerned for how they would even eat during the winter. Gramps took my grandmother and their children home to her parents. He went wild hog hunting, which was dreadfully dangerous. Wild hogs will eat people if given the chance. Anyway, he managed to survive, capture a good number of hogs, sell them, and return to my grandmother wearing new clothes he had bought in town. Then he took the family out for a new outfit as well.

Children and people died young in that era. One of their friends lost a child. As time went by the friends lamented that they could not even remember what their dear child had looked like. Gramps managed to come up with money to have a photograph made of their three children. I have a copy of the photograph somewhere. Three children, dressed nicely, and looking sort of worried about having their photograph taken. To this day if mom sees the photograph, she tells us that what looks like a tear in her stockings is a flaw in the photograph, as she was wearing brand new stockings. That was a very big deal to a little farm girl.

Education: farm families for the very most part were intent on getting their children a proper education that would enable them to function in society and even prosper. Grandma said that in the one room school house she taught everything through algebra and beginning geometry. Every child learned, and learned well according to Grandma. Her method was to divide the children into about 4 age groups, and give the same lesson to all children, with much less required of the younger children. By the time they reached the upper grades they had heard the lessons so many times they could have almost given the lessons themselves. Grandma said it worked quite well because learning was required of the children by both the parents and the teacher. The poor kids had no place to hide!

Gramps was one of those kids who had to drop out of school himself to help the family. (true story) When he was thirteen, he was out logging by himself. He was trying to help the family survive. A tree fell on him and trapped him. He managed somehow to hook the mules to the logs to pull the log off his legs which were both broken. Then he had the mules drag him all the way home. He spent the next year in bed and had a limp the rest of his life – although not really noticeable most of the time until he was older. He could read and write quite well, he just did not finish his formal education. That is something to remember in itself. Education is possible even without the formal schooling. Gramps had an interest in botany, and used to drive mom nuts explaining to her the names of different plants and trees. She later developed the same interest herself. Grandma always said that if she had gone on to college she would have studied botany as well.

By the way, Grandma did attend ‘teaching school’ which lasted six weeks. She said she already knew how to teach school, as she had attended school herself. She knew everything was going to be taught in school, and the methods which teachers used. What she got from teaching school was additional counseling from local preachers to determine if she was called to teach, and some Bible learning they thought to be essential foundations of proper teaching methods.

I am sorry to say that my grandparents did not take their children to church regularly. However, mom is very thankful for one very important thing. They were taught that Bible was absolutely true without error, and the final authority on every subject. This made it much easier for her to be saved when she and dad heard the plan of salvation at a little Baptist church. If my grandparents could come back and do one thing differently. They would make church a priority.

The story of my grandparents’ life on the farm is not unique. That is the way farm families lived. Prior to having jars for canning, life was even more difficult for the farm families. By the way, Grandma said that of course you saved your canning jars. You also saved the lids to reuse only if you had to. New lids were a top priority, but not always possible. Can you imagine that?

Farm families worked very hard in the spring and fall. The crops were ‘laid by’ in the summer, and that gave a breathing spell for recreation like fishing. Wood cutting was a year round chore, as wood was used to cook all the time, and necessary for heat throughout the winter. A lot of ‘spare time’ was spent dragging up wood for kindling. The fall was also time for berry picking. I cannot imagine picking enough blackberries to can 50 quarts of berries, but they did it. Gramps and Grandma called it a picnic when they went out after berries. I think mom knew it was really a work release program. They were released from the daily grind of picking crops and canning and storing food to go out after berries instead. It was all related to putting up enough food to make it another year.

No one knows what the future holds for any of us. We may continue in a level of prosperity that has been peculiar to this country and this generation throughout all history. God has blessed and protected America beyond what we can really comprehend. If the economy should collapse to the point that we find ourselves back on a primitive farm, then I doubt we will have it as good as my grandparents had it. The government is far too intrusive now. It is possible that those who try to grow food and prepare for a full year until the next harvest will have their food stores confiscated for the common good and redistributed among the population who sit around with their hands out.

I read years ago that in Russia food was confiscated from certain areas to create a famine. Those who didn’t go along with the Communist theology were systematically starved to death. ‘Enemies of the State’ and ‘anti-revolutionaries’ were purged through whatever means available. Starving people was just an easy way to get rid of them.

Can you imagine a state of economic collapse today? My grandparents did not face lawlessness in the general population. The vast majority of people had a very firm grasp of right and wrong, and a fear of God. If they didn’t fear God, they did fear the long arm of the law. In addition to growing food, future farm families could very conceivably have to not only protect their food from government confiscation, but from lawless gangs and thugs totally lacking any moral core values.

However, our God is able to protect us and even keep us alive in famine. We should be as prepared as possible given the circumstances in which we now live. It is a good thing to at least know a little bit about how an old fashioned farm worked. I hope you enjoyed hearing about Grandma and Gramps. I hope you found some useful information in how they lived. The main thought I get every time I consider their lifestyle is, ‘Oh my! That sounds REALLY hard! I hope I never have to live like that….

Oh, one more thing, wash day….. there was not a local laundry mat to say the least. All the stories I have heard about wash day are all awful! Mostly there were just stories about how hard it was to wash and then dry the clothes in all sorts of weather. One particularly hard story is this. Ladies had gotten together to do the laundry. Water was being heated at several fires. My grandmother and her little friend were playing near the fire. Grandma’s little friend was an only child who was wearing a new outfit made of stiff cotton. Her dress hem caught fire, and the child burned to death. My great grandfather actually caught the child, but was unable to tear the heavy cloth to get the clothes off, or hold her down to smother the fire. It was a terrible tragedy. The end result of that was that my great grandfather and great grandmother put their three little girls in overalls. Little girls were far more likely to burn to death in that era because of open fire and their long dresses. And, that is the story of how the women in my family gave up dresses for pants.

Barbara Henderson 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Practicing for Disaster

Practicing for Disaster
by Barbara Henderson

Disaster is coming. There is no question about it.

However, there are many questions about the disaster(s).
When will it come?
What will it be?
How long will recovery take?
Is full recovery even possible?
What other hardships will be brought about by the disaster?
And blah, blah, blah. The only element of any given disaster that we can know in advance is that disaster is coming. While you can’t be specifically prepared for a specific future disaster, you can be generally prepared for whatever comes.

For most of my readers it is a given that the first thing one must do to be prepared is to become a Christian. That prepares you for eternity. It also gives you a bright future that only Christians can hold onto in times of trouble and darkness. The second thing to do is follow the instructions in Psalm 37 – the entire chapter. In other words, just work daily to get it right with God, and He will direct your path and care for you in whatever disaster may cross your path at any given moment.

However, there are also a number of hands on things you can do today in order to better prepare for a disaster of any kind, and to increase the likelihood of safety and comfort for you and your family.

You can start preparing for a disaster by ‘practicing for disaster’. I am not talking about anything big or major. Just start small.

When a disaster occurs, your routine is disrupted. Why not disrupt your routine yourself?

Here’s a good way to begin. Let’s say you go to the grocery store once a week for major grocery shopping and then 2 or 3 more times a week to pick up perishables, or stuff you forgot on your major shopping day, or just something your tummy tells you that must have. A way to disrupt your routine is to take an extra day, or even two days, that you don’t go to the store on days that you normally would. Then you have to come up with a way to do without the things you would buy on those days. In many disasters you would not be able to go the store. You would have to make do with what you have. Even if you have faith that the government will step in and provide what you need, they won’t get the help you need to you in record time. In fact, you might be dead of starvation or exposure to the elements by the time the government even acknowledges there has been a disaster and that people are in need. Just a little practicing with ‘making do with what is on hand’ can provide you with invaluable experience in a real disaster.

I think one of the best ways to prepare for a disaster is to practice doing without and making do before you have to. It can even be fun. And, keep in mind that you can step back into your routine any time, so that takes the stress out of the situation.

Then, there are things you can consider doing at home even though you don’t have to at the moment. Try heating water on the stove for cooking and bathing. Or, heat water on the gas grill if you are pretending you don’t have electricity. Or purchase a one or two burner camp stove just ‘in case’. Then practice using it. If you are in a hot climate, it is nice to just cook outside sometimes to keep from heating up the house.

I actually once heard a lady telling anyone who would listen that she literally scalded her head trying to wash her hair during a time when the electricity was out for two weeks. She just boiled the water and then dumped it on her head. Thankfully, the emergency room at the hospital was open, so she got treatment for the burn immediately. I know this is a silly sounding question, but have you ever had to heat water for bathing and hair washing? Nothing makes you feel more normal than getting a shower and clean clothes. Learning to do that with as little water as possible now might be very important to you later. (And this is not a ‘conserve water’ article – it is all about learning things now that will help you later.)

You should also learn how to build a fire. It takes kindling and dry wood. There is a real skill to actually building a fire. You can have the best fire starters on the market, and the most neatly stacked firewood in the neighborhood, but if you don’t have some dry wood and kindling, you are not likely to get a fire going. That can be really bad if you are trying to stay warm by a fire or cook on a fire. Honestly, experience is the best teacher. I could explain all day long how to actually build a fire, but until you have done it a few times you aren’t going to be able to do it yourself. You need to understand that dry wood – as in wood that has not been in the rain – and dry wood – as in wood that has been cut long enough that the sap has dried out – are two different meanings. You can’t build a fire with wood that is wet. And you can’t build a fire with wood that is ‘green’ or freshly cut. Then there are tricks like burying hot coals under cold ashes so you will be able to start a fire more easily the next morning. You just get your kindling and small wood together, uncover the hot coals, and put your starter wood on the hot coals. Poof! You have a fire going in no time, and you can be boiling coffee and frying eggs before you know it.

Once you have learned to actually build a fire, the next step is to learn to cook on a fire. Man that is a royal pain! I can give you a few pointers, but you really have to do it yourself to figure it out.

First, you want to cook on hot coals, not over a roaring fire. If you are able, put a few rocks in a very small ring about the size that your skillet will sit on nicely. Then fill the ring up with hot coals from the fire itself. This would work with charcoal lumps, but it isn’t really likely that you will have an unlimited supply of store bought charcoal in a real disaster. A cast iron skillet is the best possible camp skillet, but you just have to make do with what you have. Once you start cooking you can sort of move the skillet around to keep it from getting to hot – or center it on the ring to heat it up quickly. Add more coals as needed to keep the heat as consistent as possible. Probably a good rule to make and stick with is that the first person who complains about the food gets to cook the next meal. That pretty much keeps the grumblers quiet.

What food should you attempt to cook on a campfire? I highly recommend something straight out of a can. All you have to do is get it warm without burning it. You can cook anything you have. It gets easier the more you do it.

If you have to leave your home for a disaster, there may be some pretty difficult days ahead. The government may try to get you to go to a shelter. Yuk! There will be tons of people you don’t know. Most of them will be whiney-hineys. Some of them will probably be perverts, thieves, ax murderers, and escaped convicts. There will definitely be a lot of people with ideas on what is and is not acceptable behavior that are totally different than your own idea of acceptable. Think now about how you would handle that situation.

To me and my family, the first thing to consider is how NOT to get stuck in such a place. You want to think in advance about your options. If fuel for your vehicle is available and roads are open, then you have the option to drive out of the area, or at least to an area that is less impacted. That means a car trip with as much of your stuff that you will need as possible stuffed in the car along with all the people who live with you. If you have given some thought to such a trip, then you will be a step ahead of the rest. You might just beat the traffic jam caused by those who are thinking about driving away, but taking longer to get their stuff in the car.

If you are blessed with extended family somewhere out of the area, there home is a possible first place to go. Talk it over with them in advance. It could be that they might be the ones running from a disaster and will be coming to your home first.

Camping out is a short term option. That is only if you can’t stay in your own home, and just need a place to stay until the flood waters go down, or the radiation levels drop, or the chemical spill dissipates, or something like that. There could even be a time when friends and relatives so overwhelm a host family that some people must camp in the front yard. We used to live near a family who had a yearly reunion in their yard. They were educated people who lived in a nice home in a nice neighborhood. But, every summer their acreage looked like a refugee camp. Family came from all over and just set up tents in the yard. They set them up right in the front yard too. People were all over the place for close to a week. (The neighborhood smelled different that week because all the men were cooking ribs on the grill every day. I guess they had a cooking contest or something.) Then, they all went home. Now, no one wants to camp in their aunt’s front yard, but sometimes it might work out to be the best solution to a bad situation. It can be a safe place that can be set up to be relatively comfortable.

That brings us to the next thing you can do now in order to prepare for the future. You can learn to camp out. I know, if you don’t already know how to camp out, you just don’t want to camp out. Honestly, I would have probably never learned to camp out if my parents hadn’t dragged me camping as a kid. I tried to be cheerful about it, but I really preferred sleeping in my own bed even when I was little. I don’t care for camp fire smoke in my eyes. I don’t care to roast the side of my body next to the fire, and freeze the side of my body away from the fire. I still don’t like marshmallows or hotdogs on a stick. The first thing I had to learn about camping was to be a good sport about doing something as a family that didn’t really cost a lot of money, and that most of the family enjoyed. In a disaster, being a good sport instead of a complainer will make you one of the most popular people around.

When camping out, people sometimes sleep in their cars, but they often buy a tent. You need things like sleeping bags or blankets to keep warm. Camping out is a good way to get acquainted with ways of providing food and shelter outside the four walls of your home. If you are a beginner camper, start small. Day trips are good – especially if you limit yourself to just taking things that you have on hand in the way of food and shelter. If it were a real disaster, then you would not be able to run out to the sporting goods store and the grocery store before you left home. Venture into spending the night in the great outdoors after a couple of successful day trips.

I also don’t care to fish. I learned to fish because dad thought it was everyone’s duty to fish for food for supper. I also learned to clean fish and even fry fish. Thankfully, my mom did most of the cooking when we were camping. I started camp cooking when I got married. Just remember the rule – the first person to complain about your cooking has to cook the next meal. The second rule is practice makes everything better. It is really all about learning to get and keep consistent heat under your skillet if you have to cook on a camp fire. If you are blessed with a camp stove, then you will be as good a cook as you are in your own kitchen.

Most people need a cup of coffee or tea to get their day going. When you are without electricity you have to come up with a way to make your coffee, or tea, or hot chocolate. The sad truth is that you just put the coffee grounds in a pot of boiling water and boil it for about 20 minutes. When you drink the coffee you have to sift the grounds out with your teeth. Fortunately for me I drink tea. I just have to boil water. I suggest an enamel camp coffee pot. You can use it to heat water for other things. It is a really useful item when you are camping out, or just dealing with a few days without electricity and cooking on your gas grill burner. Starbucks will not be in your vocabulary during a real disaster. You just have to make do with what you have. If you need that morning cup of coffee, then you will learn to drink the boiled coffee in about two days. My parents used to drink it by the gallon when we were camping. It didn’t hurt them. They were odd to begin with, so you can’t blame it on the coffee. A stew pot will work if you don’t have a coffee pot. It just has to hold water and be fire proof.

Prepare your pets for disaster. Make part of their diet something that you eat yourself, and would likely have on hand during a disaster. If you have a problem with feeding your dog or cat table scraps, then read the label on the pet food. I think ‘meat by products’ means guts and bones. I don’t think some left over mashed potatoes and gravy is going to hurt my dog. My cat is a little more difficult to feed. The point is that no matter what brand of pet food you use, it likely will not be readily available during a disaster. You may not be able to get it for days, or even months. If you pet eats what you eat, then you are going to get your pets through the crisis better than changing their diets in the middle of changing everything else in their routine.

Another thing to consider is what needs you consider the most important, and even any phobias that you have.

I have a real phobia about being trapped somewhere without my glasses or my Bible. I have Bibles stashed everywhere. I only have one Thompson Chain Reference which I would hope to have with me if at all possible. However, I have cheap Bibles in quite a few places. Reading glasses are everywhere. I practically buy them by the case, and stash them in various places – cars, trucks, tool boxes, glove compartments, overnight bags, suitcases, and in kitchen supplies. If you have something you think you can’t do without, try to have more than one, and keep them in places where they would be easy to grab. I need my own pillow, too; but I do acknowledge that I might not have that if we ever have to leave the house in a hurry.

I know you have probably already set up things like a first aid kit, a grab and go bag, and prescription medicine – or at least a way to fill the prescription and things like that. What I want to do with this article is to encourage you to just think about things that would make an interrupted life more comfortable and familiar. I definitely don’t usually care for change. I certainly don’t like change for the sake of change unless is something very minor like adding extra pepper to my French fries first instead of adding the salt first. Some kind of disaster that throws you out of your routine definitely will not be pleasant. But, in the midst of the change and uncertainty, any little thing that you are able to do that is somewhat in the realm of normal will be a comfort to you and your family. I don’t think anyone will ever be ready to give up their home and live in a tent. But, if they are already comfortable with camping, living in a tent a little longer than a camping trip will be more easily done than for someone who has never spent a night in a tent. Building a camp fire when evacuated from your home will be more easily done if you already know how to do it. The middle of a disaster and emotional trauma is not a good time to learn anything. Learning to cook and eat what you cook on a campfire will be easier during a time when it is your idea to do it.

Then there is self defense. Get a gun. Learn to shoot. Do it now. Don’t wait until you need a gun to get one. Get a common gun that has ammo readily available. I shoot guns. My family has had generations of hunters and hand gun enthusiasts. There has never been an accidental shooting. No one has ever had to shoot an intruder. Years ago my husband and I had a business in a dangerous neighborhood. We had some threatening customers. I was afraid to be there by myself, but occasionally I had to be there by myself. I started carrying a gun into the business in the morning and carrying it out in the evening. I made no attempt to conceal the gun as I went in and out of the business. I wanted people to know I had a gun. I also got a dog that was somewhat frightening to many people and took her to work with me every day. We just made it clear that we had means of self defense. I honestly believe that that was a strong deterrent to the thugs and hoodlums in the area. I prayed I never had to use a weapon, but I made it clear that I had one to use.

If I had a choice in a disaster in choosing two helpful people to go through it with me, I would chose my husband Jerry and my mom. Jerry and mom are both really good at seeing what needs to be done, seeing what supplies are available to get it done, and coming up with a way to get something accomplished that works. It may not be the text-book case of how to do something, but they will wind up with something that is workable and helpful. That is the type attitude that everyone should have during a displacement disaster or a disaster where normal services and good are unavailable. It takes a willing attitude. Everyone needs to find something to do and do it as best they can for their own good. Forget that kindergarten attitude that is afraid of doing more than your share. Where my husband works he and the people in his department do the clean up chores each day without any set pattern. They just do what they see that needs to be done when they have time. The other department micro-manages everything. They have lists of who takes out the trash when, who sweeps the floor, who does this, and who does that. They fuss continually and their work area is always a mess. They keep going to Jerry and asking why his work area stays so clean. They want his method of delegating jobs to co-workers and his method of making sure everyone does what they are supposed to do. He keeps telling them the same thing. ‘It don’t matter.’ (Jerry’s grammar ain’t that good.) ‘Just do what needs to be done and let the slackers face themselves at the end of the day. If you do the best you can do, then you have had a good day.’

The lesson here is simple. Anytime, disaster or normal day, just do what needs to be done if you are able. Forget what anyone does or doesn’t do. Forget whose turn it is to do a job. Just do what you can do yourself.

In a disaster, there are no textbook cases of how to handle the situations that arise. You just have to do the best you can do. You cannot sit around and wait on the cavalry to arrive. Furthermore, being able to do some things that help you to better cope with the situation puts you more in charge of the situation than just sitting around waiting to be rescued by the government.

In preparation you need to definitely do the following:

1. Set up a family meeting place. Unless there is absolutely no possible way, get your family together to begin with.
2. If you must leave the area, then you should have already made some choices about where you will go and what to take with you.
3. Be realistic. Remember that your plan is just a general plan bases on generalities. You will have to adapt the plan to suit the situation best.

Remember that your normal life, or your routine is pretty much up in smoke for the duration of the disaster, whatever it may be.

Your job is to set up a new normal, or a new routine as quickly as possible.
The situation will likely change, and you will have to change with it.
The more effort you have made to learn to do and be familiar with things that are normally out of your comfort zone, the better you will adjust to the new and changing situations.
Do your best to be a good sport about the situation.
No one is really responsible for most disasters. Things like fires, floods, storms, hurricanes, and the like just happen; so don’t take your frustration out on anyone.

Make an effort to learn to do anything that might be helpful during a disaster before the disaster actually happens.
Learn how to do as much as possible during the disaster. If you wait for someone who knows how or is willing to do something, it likely will not get done.
Anything you learn in one disaster may be very useful when the next disaster comes along.
Anything you learn while practicing for a disaster will make getting through a disaster easier.