Saturday, September 19, 2015

Prepping throwback: The Greek Strategy

I spent a couple hours tonight watching Youtube vids about prepping. It's not completely out of nostalgia, for while I have blogged less about prepping here in the past year, I've not lost any interest. There's just less left to be done and therefore less new stuff to share.  So this is going to be more a philosophy post. For those of a more practical mindset, instructions for the salsa and jams I canned today are available in the Recipes tag.

One thing that never seems to change is the preppers' obsession with storing enough stuff.* They want more canned green beans and more ammo and more gold, as if once SHTF hits, there's nothing left to do but live off your stockpile. Here's the short answer to that obsession: if we're not going back to the way things were, you can't store enough stuff. Ever. So stop trying, and plan to produce what you need rather than consume all the stuff you've stored.

I noticed that approach especially in a vid by a former marine explaining how to inform your family that they oughtn't show up at your house on SHTF +1 because you can't support them. Even aside from my biblical responsibility to support certain folk**, this is, IMO, wholly the wrong approach. It betrays the wrong mindset for one trying to prosper, rather than merely survive, in a new world.

Now, obviously I can't support folks coming to eat Fritos and play Minecraft all day.  But we will not be eating Fritos or playing Minecraft at Casa d'El Borak, and not just because I'm not storing any Fritos. I won't support adults who produce nothing.*** But can I support them if they are going to be feeding animals, trimming plants, digging beds, and hauling wheelbarrows full of coal up an abandoned US69?  Of course, as they will be supporting themselves. If we really expect that when SHTF comes, the shit is going to hit the fan, then we need to realize what every ancient society realized: every mouth comes with two hands. And we are going to need a lot of hands, because there is going to be a lot of really hard, nasty, backbreaking labor to be done. Serfs are wealth. Enrich me.

But thinking about those ancient societies, I was reminded how the Greeks managed to get so rich and powerful. It wasn't because they were great subsistence farmers: the poverty of Greek soil is legendary. In fact, you can't even grow some of what they grew in good soil. Yet the ancient Greeks built an incredibly wealthy and powerful society on that soil.****

The lesson isn't that shitty soil is better. It's actually a bit more obscure, though it becomes obvious when you look at it straight. The lesson is that if you want to produce more value, you concentrate on high-value products. The Greeks grew herbs and grapes and olives - items that could grow in shitty soil and that held a far higher unit value than grains - and concentrated on small manufactures, which they then traded to the Egyptians and Syrians, who grew plenty of grains.

Think about it this way. You can generally get 2 pounds of potatoes for $3 m/l. A third of an ounce of rosemary leaves costs 3 bucks retail, while a pack of rosemary seeds, enough to grow 100 plants, costs half that.  So better than saving #10 cans of dried potatoes is planting your own. But even better is planting rosemary, which has a high unit value, and trading that for potatoes.  Sure, grow some spuds of your own, for you never know what the market will do in the short term. But find a high-unit-value crop or learn how to make a high-unit-value item; you can then trade that for all the potatoes you'll ever need on really good terms.

In the ancient world, certain societies prospered, while others always seemed on the edge of starvation. Some lived in luxury, while others slogged along in poverty. It was not at all related to soil, nor was it always related to government nor trade rules nor slavery nor culture. The people who lived well were almost always those who produced items they could trade on favorable terms.

If we are going back anywhere near that world, then the rules that ruled then will rule again.  You're likely not going to live well growing corn by hand.  But lots of people will be growing corn by hand. Produce something that people who grow corn need, and you'll have plenty of corn to eat.

Then put all those slackers at your door to work doing the grinding.

* I'm by no means immune to that approach. After watching Patriot Nurse hits the Dollar Tree, I have a shopping list that I plan to fill on Monday.  It's a small list and if I didn't fill it, that would be fine as well.  You can have enough to get by.
** Parents on both sides first, then other family.
*** 2 Thess 3:10. Family and friends who have no intention of contributing will be invited to leave.  But I will have met my responsibility.
**** That they burned up most of their wealth fighting each other in idiotic and futile wars helped their success to be historically short-lived. Word to the wise.


  1. One wonders if horses will come back. Making saddles and shoeing horses is a dieing art. And they will come back, if Christ doesn't first. Unless we transition to nuclear power and electric cars. but it could be a potentially valuable way to collect corn and potatoes.

    1. I have no doubt they will, though I wonder how quickly. Not as fast as they would have 50 years ago, still faster than they will if this economy limps along another 20 before going tats up.

  2. Horse drawn implements are gone. Part of the problem is that all the old stuff is going away because of high scrap metal prices.

  3. I have a near neighbor who uses only horses on his 23 acre farm. Thing is, he is quite a rarity. The Amish will be of service in this, though they are quite far away from most people. Oh, that other thing... 23 acres... That may not be the limit of a man to farm, but 3,000 acres is out. Things will definitely change regarding farming. My grandfather was a tenant farmer, but I don't think people will go back to that easily. All he ever had was enough food. They were quite poor. Though, if that sort of farming comes back by necessity, larger families will return as well. One son can milk a goodly number of cows, feed hogs, but many sons can do the work, with father, fairly quickly.

    Oh, and schools will shrink. Schools will be abandoned if they are beyond walking distance because horses are too dangerous, and expensive to let out for, children's use. While I sweat some things, there are other things about the failure(tm) that I truly appreciate. Small schools mean controlled schools, large families result in a weaker hold by government over people. There is more, but a start. I have no doubt that it is coming, it's only a matter of a few details which might heavily effect some outcomes. Could go horribly wrong right out of the gate or could be moderated and negotiated until it burns out and rebuilding starts.

    I can slide with the slide. And I might be able to push through a short hard. But a longer, more brutal, and I would be in trouble. Same with everyone else though, really. Good for being mostly dead. But if I could get to better shape I'd be much better than average (for what that might ultimately be worth... more suffering to still die??? yeah, but... that IS life, currently, to a degree... as fallen men... or nephilim. :p)