It is interesting to see the different types of people that are drawn to tiny houses, they come from all walks of life, all political leanings, religions and nationalities. We are read in over 160 countries so we get quite the mix. Over the past few years we have seen a lot of interest coming from the prepper community, the survivalist community and from the homesteaders. While each unique groups in their own right, they all have a good bit of overlap.
I’ve come to know people from these groups and while it’s true I get the occasional “the sky is falling, put on your tin foil hat” email or phone call; by in large these folks are very normal people that have a practical way about them. I don’t particularly subscribe to prepping mentalities, but I thought I might share some of what I have learned over the years from talking with them. I do spend time on various prepping, homesteading and survivalist websites because they typically are the best source of information on things like off grid living, practical solutions to modern day problems and other useful skills. There is a strong overlap between between my interest in permaculture and tiny house living, and these schools of thought, so its an interesting topic to me regardless.
Preparing for what might come, whatever it is, seems to be a balancing act; everything in moderation right? I like what Jack Spirko says about preparing “everything you do to prepare should help you today, not just in a disaster”. So whatever you do, should improve your life and situation now. Along with this, is enjoy the life you live now, don’t spend it worrying about what could happen later.
Another lesson I learned from studying permaculture and the Transition Town Movement is that there are simply too many possible things that can go wrong and while you can make educated guesses, even those are just guesses and how they actually play out will vary wildly. Take the email I got recently that sparked the idea for this post. The person that emailed me was worried about hurricanes threatening the coastal town where she lived. It is true that a hurricane could rock their world, it’s happened plenty of times before, but how the aftermath plays out could vary.
So the take away that I gleaned was that there are any number of things that could happen and each of them could have a wide array of outcomes, meaning an almost infinite possibilities; including the possibility that nothing will happen at all. So how does one prepare for that many events? The simple answer is that you don’t.
Preparing for all those things isn’t practical, so the only thing we can do is to become resilient to changes that will come at us. Resiliency is the ability to react to changes in our system, adjust our environment, behaviors and systems to then rebound from that. Our ability to recover from the shock to the system is key, the faster we can recover, the better we will be. We start with being resilient as an individual and then grow it to our neighborhood, our town and beyond. We can achieve this by generating our own power, growing our own food, building community and other proactive steps.
So how does this all tie into tiny houses?
Tiny houses present an unique set of hurdles because of the space that we live in is so small. While many peppers focus on gathering and storing things that they might need in an event, this doesn’t work well with limited square footage. So how does a prepper manage this?
The likely hood that of a long term event is generally pretty small and most of them will be localized. Most events will disrupt things for only a few weeks at most and if we are in good financial shape, we can recover quite well even if we loose everything. The likely hood of a long term event that is wide spread is significantly less likely to happen. Equipped with a few tools, a knowledge base and a plan, we can be pretty resilient to most things. So if we can prepare for a 3 months disruption we can either last the event or move to an area that was effected and since we have our ducks in a row, we can start a new life.
That isn’t to say there aren’t considerations to be made for longer term events that are wide spread, take the great depression, it affected millions and lasted over a decade. The point is, plan for the most likely events first.
The one big thing that we have to our advantage with a tiny house is that it is mobile. If the SHTF we can pack up and move on, maybe even before the event with enough warning. The only flaw to this is if roads become blocked and/or lawlessness spreads; but these are things we can plan for and develop contingencies for.
Another obvious thing is that most people opt for off the grid solutions for their tiny houses, so this is naturally a happy coincidence when it comes to prepping. The one thing to consider is how you move these capabilities if you need to bug out.
A good portion of people also look to the famed “bug out bag” or “go bag” which is simply a bag that is all set to go at a moments notice that contains most of what you need to immediately leave. Most of these bags are setup to only last short time frames, they are self contained kits to keep you alive if all else fails. Its a great place to start and I know of several tiny house dwellers that have them in their tiny houses.
Another thing that a lot of tiny house dwellers do is garden. The ability to grow and store your own food has a ton of benefits right now for your budget and health, but with the added benefit of you being able to keep yourself alive if food becomes in short supply. While I have seen a ton of people store a lot of food, the truth is that you need to be grow your own because it could be lost and will always run out.
Now growing food is one thing that I know very well, in fact I do it professionally. I am literally a sustainable urban agriculture professional/farmer. Here is a sobering truth, even though I do this almost every day of my life, even though I have grown literally tons of food in a given year, if things got really bad for a long time, I’d most likely starve. This will improve dramatically when I shift to a perennial food forest, but even then it will be tricky. It’s because growing enough calories for a person, which is expending a lot of energy farming, 365 days a year is a really hard thing. Don’t forget that if food is in short supply, so is gas, materials, seeds, amendments etc. There are many people out there that can grow a few things really well, but can they grow a full diet of crops without any machines or amendments?
My experience focuses on sustainable agricultural systems, meaning I grow a diversified group of perennial crops organically with on site nutrient sources in a way that cycles through the system. The problem is that sometimes you don’t have a good crop, sometimes you need something that is from an off site location. It can be tough to produce enough calories The point is in a survival situation there is no store to go to and if you can’t grow enough because of a disease or bug, you’ll starve.
So when it comes to food production, start now because it will take a lifetime to get good at it and focus on perennial organic crops. Taking lessons from permaculture will go a long way to meeting this need.
Finally the greatest asset you can have outside of a few basics, is knowledge. Knowledge can’t be lost or stolen, it doesn’t way anything or take up space, it is always with you and it can be shared or traded. Skills that you have can be practical for everyday life such as food preservation, bartering, fixing things, growing and gathering food, etc.
The one parting thing I will say is that in my opinion, whatever that is worth, is that the ability to take care of one’s self is a powerful thing. It is why many of use come to tiny houses, because it enables us to live lives that are more practical, purposeful and to live the life we want to lead. I also feel like your ability to help yourself and your neighbors in tough times is more than just a moral obligation, but should be seen as a civic duty, one that is generally missing from our society today. Not only does it help to do some of these things in the good times, but it will help in the tough times; even if nothing happens saving money, eating good food, and connecting with neighbors are all things we can benefit from.
- What are things can you do that improves your life now, but also increases your resiliency?
- How do you handle prepping in small spaces?