What is a "tiehacker"?

"Tiehacker" is a term originating in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri. It referred to a class of people from WAY back in the hills that made a living cutting trees into ties for the railroad. I first heard the term from my wife shortly after we married. I had been working outside all day and was dirty and stinky. She had learned it from her father, and thought it just meant "a bum". Never having heard it before, I looked it up. Although I am not really a bum, I thought it was interesting, and I do have a life-long love affair going with the Ozark hills, so ... there you have it!

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Prepping": fantasy vs reality

I have been reading and thinking a lot, lately, about "prepping". You know, the fad sweeping the country that has people buying guns and ammo in bulk, storing food and water in every possible nook and cranny, taking classes in herbal medicine, foraging for food, guerrilla warfare, seed-to-seed gardening, raising chickens and rabbits in back yards, and who-knows-what-all.

Some of what they are saying, I agree with whole-heartedly. Many years ago, I did my time as a Boy Scout, where the official motto is "Be Prepared" and where we were trained in all sorts of basic outdoor survival techniques and activities. (From what I understand, the Scouts these days are more urban-oriented, but that's OK, because that's where most kids live anyway, especially the ones that can benefit most from the program.)

A few years ago, severe storms knocked out power in a lot of areas around Saint Louis, and many homes were without electricity for up to 10 days. Though we lost our power, we were fortunate in that it was back on in just a few hours. But my mother-in-law's house was down for over a week; she stayed with us until things got back to normal. I remember the Great Blizzard in the early 80's, that had our area grid-locked for about a week. And we all know that it is proverbial around here, that just a hint of snow in the forecast will cause store shelves to be stripped of bread and milk almost instantaneously. Then there are the tornadoes that we are subject to every year. Other parts of the country have to deal, on a semi-regular basis, with floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, tornadoes, just about every natural disaster imaginable.

Some are predicting wide-spread economic meltdowns, even civil and/or guerrilla war in our streets and countryside. That, I think, though in theory possible, is a tad far-fetched. But, you never know, I guess.

So yes, it behooves everyone to think about, and prepare for, the almost-certain eventuality of being "off the grid" for at least a short period of time at least once or twice in their lives.

But what, exactly, will this REALLY entail? Realistically speaking, running off to the woods with your trusty "bug-out bag" and living off the land while the country goes to hell in a handbasket, is pure macho fantasy. I predict that if people actually attempt this, most if not all will come running home to mamma pretty quickly, if they survive. As much wild game and edible wild plants as there may be, most areas would be hunted out and picked clean in a relatively short time. 

Those that own acreage in remote areas, and have a decent cabin built and vegetable gardens and livestock will do better, of course. They actually would stand a good chance of making it through the emergency, provided they aren't over-run by starving mobs or government troops or hordes of zombies. Or some combination of the three. But even that is not a realistic possibility for the majority of people. There simply isn't enough land available for it, and most wouldn't know what to do if they had it anyway.

So, where do I stand on this? Well, let's consider where we are starting from. Dear wife and I are in our mid-50's. Neither of us is in top physical condition. Her knees are so arthritic that she can barely walk, and she has other medical conditions as well. I am overweight and have high blood pressure and a touch of arthritis myself. So the "bug-out-bag" scenario is a non-starter for us, even if such a thing were truly viable for anyone, which I doubt. We do not own any land out in the middle of nowhere, and would be hard-pressed, money-wise, to be able to buy any. So, unless some things change drastically, we are pretty much stuck with staying where we are and riding it out. "Bugging-in", I guess you could call it.

So what should she and I be doing to "Be Prepared"? The first order of business is to get healthier. That should be easier for me than for her; most of my physical problems stem from being overweight and smoking too much. Both of those conditions can be remedied, and I have begun to work on them, Trying to lose weight and cutting back on the smoking with the goal of eventually quitting completely. I can also begin a regime of exercise to build muscle and stamina.

I put in a small vegetable garden this past year, but it did not turn out well. Good news is that I learned a lot from my mistakes, and so next year I think it will be much more productive. Growing as much of our own food in the small space available will be a help. It is healthier than store-bought, would give us a big psychological boost, and would save us money that can go towards other things. Plus would give me, and maybe Dear Wife also, some much-needed exercise.

We also need to implement a systematic plan to store a variety of basic long-shelf-life foods, toiletries, first-aid supplies, candles, all sorts of things that would be needed if the grid does go down. We also need to think about the possible need for self- and home-defense. More on these things next time.

God bless you,


PS: Heard another good joke:

Wife tells her husband, "Stop and buy a carton of milk. If they have avocados, buy six."
When he arrived home, his wife asked why he bought six cartons of milk.
He replied,

...wait for it ...

...wait for it...

"They had avocados."

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