Hard Times Handbook

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 I am part of a vanishing population in America-those who are still intimately connected to a time of self sufficiency and survival. My great grandfather took part in the run for Indian land in Oklahoma territory. My grandmother grew up on that homestead, raised her own children nearby, without electricity or running water. They knew how to ‘make do and get by‘. I was born to a generation without television, where only a few people had telephones and many, many people still lived without electricity. We didn’t own a TV until I was in fourth grade, and then there were only three channels, very few shows that children wanted to watch and programming ended at 11pm. I learned to butcher and clean chickens, and prepare a full meal for a family long before we bought that first television. My sister and I were expected to be out of bed at 5:00 am to feed the drop calves. We went to school and come home to do chores. We ate out of our garden, butchered our own meat and picked fruit from nearby orchards. Our birthday and Christmas gifts were more than likely homemade, as were most of our school clothes. We went to church on Sunday and praised God for what we had. And even without personal computers, ipods and cell phones, we had a happy childhood.

     By writing this book, I don’t mean to imply that civilization is going to hell, but maybe to heck. We need to face reality. Everyone has not been included in prosperity. Some countries are much richer than others. The United States is one of them. We consume far more in resources than Africa or India. Over 3 billion people around the planet live on less than $2.00 a day. Over 26,000 children die each day from the effects of poverty. Generations of people are born, survive for a while and then die without attending school, experiencing the benefits of electricity, or eating a meal that is acceptable by American standards.  The world is a closed system. What happens on one side of the planet effects the other side as well.  Although the majority of radiation material from Chernobyl fell within 300 kilometers of the plant, there were ’hot spots’ all over Europe, and the radiation could be measured, although in minute amounts, all around the globe. The same is true of economics. There is only so much wealth and over the last few decades it has been moving into the hands of fewer people. The effect of this polarization of capital can be felt around the globe. Those who have the money feel a sense of entitlement. They begin to see the poor, whether individuals or nations, as somehow deserving of their fate.

    As our economy tanks, our wealth is shrinking. That’s because our money system is based on what we owe, rather than on what we have. To maintain our economy, it must continue to grow. Banks create money (yes, create it!) based on the amount of money owed to it in the form of promissory notes-mortgages, car loans, credit card debt, etc. The money that is owed is what is loaned out all over again, creating wealth. There isn’t actually any money in your checking account, it only contains a promise; the promise that the paycheck you deposit is good. That paycheck is supported by promises from the people who do business with your company, that their checks are good. All those promises are supported by the banks promise that it will make all of those checks good, based on the promise that all of those promissory notes are good. When any part of the system breaks down, the whole thing collapses and wealth actually disappears.

     We are experiencing an economic correction. We have had lots of them. My Grandparents lived through two Depressions, one when they were kids and again as adults. When the economy starts ballooning too quickly, or one commodity gets out of line (as it did when speculators inflated the oil market and the oil companies themselves began to help the inflation along) and large numbers of people begin to get squeezed beyond their economic capacity and default on their promissory notes (like the massive mortgage defaults), the economy slows. The lowest paid wage earners are always the first to go under. When you barely make enough to stay afloat, something like a fourfold increase in the price of gas is enough to put you out of your home. As the cost of everything else inflates with the cost of gas- electricity, heating oil, delivered goods- more people will default on their promissory notes. Car payments fall behind, utility bills don’t get paid.

Your employers costs have increased too, but fewer people are buying his goods and services.

He either has to lay off employees or cut back hours. More people default on their promissory notes. The banks, worried about their bottom line, are not so willing to give out more promissory notes. Now the lower strata of the middle class are starting to feel the squeeze. More and more of them will be laid off. See how this works? And it doesn’t just effect one country. Like Chernobyl, the recession spreads around the world, affecting everyone to some extent-small or large.

     The correction will end, either naturally or with the help of government, but it takes a long time. Think of the economy as a stampeding elephant. First you have to slow it before you can turn it. As a nation, we will be all right, eventually. Your job is to survive and protect your family until the stampede is over. That’s what this book is about, to help you survive anything from an ‘economic down turn’ to a worst case scenario natural disaster. It’s not comprehensive; it’s not likely you can take one of the money making ideas in this book and run out and start making money tomorrow, for example. You need to do some research. Learn what local costs and demands are. If you are going to make something, you will have to make some practice articles first. If you are going to offer a service, you will have to become proficient in it before you can expect people to pay for it. You must use common sense and care when making any of the items in this book. Practice building a shelter before you lope off into the woods to live. Do not take risks with your own or your family’s life before you are absolutely sure you know what you are doing. Any subject in this book can be researched on the internet or at your local library, and you should take the time to do so. I have not gone into the many, many wild plants that can be eaten because you cannot identify a plant from a picture in a book. You must have the plant identified for you by some one who already knows it. There are a lot of poisonous plants that are almost identical to edible ones. When handling flammable liquids or open flame you must be cautious. Use common sense and adapt the ideas in this book to your own circumstances. But most importantly, remember you can and will survive, and you might find you can enjoy your life and freedom, even without cash!

     This book is divided into three parts. Part 1 is a cookbook-Maybe the last cookbook you will ever need. No filet mignon or Osso Bucco; just good cheap meals (some under $5.00 for 4 people) that are tasty. Part 2 is a guide to stretching the dollars you have and earning a few more. How to live cheap and even cheaper, have fun with your family and friends even when you have little or no money, what to do when you lose your home, preparing for the worst and then living though it. Part 3 is how to survive-well, anything, from a total economic collapse to a natural disaster. This is not a book of despair, but a book of hope and joy. Once you read it, I hope you will have a better sense of security, a confidence that sooner or later, all will be well, and until then, you and your family will be fine.