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Every Day ‘Survival Lessons’ From The 1800s

Every Day “Survival Lessons” From The 1800sThere’s a lot of great information available for surviving when society ends as we know it.

Much of the guidance, however, deals with using modern technology and conveniences to survive long term. This makes sense, because modern technology makes life a lot easier.

Nevertheless, I’d like to discuss a different approach. It’s based on several years of experience living off the grid and preparing for the worst. Over time, my approach to survivalism has changed (I won’t say evolved, because there are no wrong approaches here). I started out like a lot of people concerned about where society is headed — I had a 15 kW diesel generator supplemented with solar power, a well, and a large propane tank.

Even though diesel generators are renowned for their reliability and staying power, they do require care. Over several years, I went through two batteries, dozens of oil/fuel/air filters, a couple of belts, and myriad other minor issues. There’s nothing wrong or unexpected about preventive maintenance of a generator, but it got me thinking — if society ended, where would I get a new battery, or filter, or any other part that was minor but critical to operating the generator? The standard answer is to have backups, and I did: a battery, three of each type of filter, gallons of oil and radiator fluid, and more than 200 gallons of diesel fuel.

However, if there was truly a catastrophic event, you may have to survive a long time without modern supplies. How long will your generator last, especially after you’ve used your last battery, filter, or bottle of oil? How will you get water without the generator, or after your well pump (and your backup pump) die? Who knows?

A Simpler Approach (But Not An Easier One)

So I made a big decision. My new plan for survival would not rely on modern technology (with a few exceptions).

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I moved from the 40-acre homestead to a small house in the mountains. It gets electricity, I have a propane tank, and that’s great. However, when a disaster comes, I plan to live without modern power. The remainder of this article will cover the barest basics (water and food) of living without modern power, while future articles will discuss other requirements (like medicine and security).


Without electricity, you need to figure out how to get clean, fresh water. You can do this by having easy access to surface water, a hand pump for a well, or a gravity-fed water system. The latter is the best approach, but not easily found. For me, I have a creek that runs by the house. I have purchased several stainless steel buckets and containers. My plan is to gather water the way humans have done it for thousands of years — by filling containers with water. Then I will decant it to remove the particulates and boil it to kill bacteria.


Boiling water every day requires a lot of firewood (about nine pounds per gallon of water). Fortunately, I live in a forest and even without cutting down trees, I currently gather enough firewood from naturally downed trees to heat the house. If disaster strikes, I’d probably have enough wood to heat water every day without cutting down trees.

I’ve invested in some sturdy one-man saws (and sharpening kits) that allow me to cut logs. Manual sawing is labor-intensive, but the saws will last a long time and no gas or oil is required.


Every Day “Survival Lessons” From The 1800sMy plan is twofold. First, it doesn’t make sense to be dogmatic about my new approach. Pragmatism is key. Therefore, one of my exceptions for using modern technology is freeze-dried food. Like many concerned about survival, I have a good supply of freeze-dried meats and entrees that will last for 25 years. There’s simply no reason to bypass a technology that allows you to store food for decades, in a small area, without the requirement of refrigeration.

I intend to use the stored food as a last resort, however. I’ve started a garden for fresh vegetables and foods that can be stored over the winter (root vegetables, dried peas, dried beans, and winter squash). However, it will be several years before my gardens are large enough to provide a significant amount of my dietary needs. Especially when I have to share with the rabbits….

Yes, next year I will start breeding rabbits. (Read about breeding rabbits here.) The advantage is that rabbits easily reproduce copiously and require little space. Breeding rabbits will provide protein, but it takes a lot of planning and practice to be able to do it without having to buy a ton of 50-pound bags of rabbit feed and without having a vet nearby. I figure it will take seven or eight years to get to a point where I can breed rabbits with little help from modern society.

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Also, although rabbits are a great source of protein, they actually don’t have enough fat to be the sole source of protein. I plan to supplement my diet by bartering some of the rabbits, and there are also big (well not so big) fat trout in the creek.

19th Century Living Is Not For Everyone

I’ve laid out my plan for long-term survival if there’s a major catastrophe. Obviously, my plan is not for everyone. In some areas of the country, there is not easily accessible water or enough trees to burn and heat it every day. And not everyone is up for lugging around pails of water.

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While my approach may be extreme, it can be compared with the other excellent survival plans out there that rely on technology, and you can develop your own plan. My approach can be modified to be supplemented with modern technology.

For example, over the past decade there have been tremendous improvements in solar power — both in generation and battery storage. There are many solar power solutions for heating water, cooking food, and even pumping water. A well-designed solar power system, with a good battery storage system, can last a very long time with some basic preventive maintenance.

Another compromise is propane. Although propane won’t last forever, you can store a lot of propane and use it efficiently for heating water and for cooking. There are also propane refrigerators and freezers out there that could store a lot of food for quite a while before you ran out of fuel.


There’s no right way to plan for survival if the grid goes down – or if there’s another type of disaster. The important thing is that you are planning and actively preparing for it. With the plethora of excellent survival advice on Off The Grid News, there’s plenty of information available for you to choose the best plan that suits your circumstances and where you live in the United States.

How are your survival plans similar or different? Share your thoughts in the section below: 

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