Knowledge = Survival

This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest  by Annette L

I’d like to reach out to the newbies as well as the experienced preppers. Long term survival will depend on skills more than what stores we put by. We all need to learn something new each day and for me, the day I don’t learn something new is the day I’m put in the ground.

My parents were from immigrants/farmers and were born during the depression, so I’ve had a pretty good start on my self-reliance. Added to that was a poor choice in a mate and raising 3 children with little to no money of my own. I can open a nearly empty cupboard and put together a meal that is nutritious and filling because unknowingly I’ve always “prepped” to a certain degree.

I have no fear of experimenting in the kitchen. I garden, I can, I sew, I knit, I crochet, I’ve repaired my own appliances, I’ve rebuilt an engine for a VW, done my own oil changes & brakes, I’ve replaced a cracked toilet, rewired a broken light fixture, replaced leaky plumbing under my kitchen sink and I’m learning to spin my own wool sheared from my rabbits. Does this make me a Superwoman? No, it makes me an independent one borne of necessity and childhood teachings. I thank my mother for making sure my sister and I knew basic household maintenance , that my brothers could cook and thread a needle to sew on a button.

The best prep you can do for yourself and your family is to educate yourself. It’s never too late to learn and never too early to teach your children basic home repair or crafting. I challenge all readers of this post to spend 1 to 3 hours a week at the library, NOT THE INTERNET, the place where the real books are. Choose a topic that you know little to nothing about and put it into practical use. Look at “educational” cookbooks to create your own supply of ready to use mixes.

Read up on small engine repair and tune your lawnmower. Find information about various types of food preservation, make some jam or jelly. Look at the history of a craft, make a rag rug or quilt. Learn about beekeeping and the varying ways to create a home for the honey providers, purchase or build your own hive, purchase or capture your own bees (we caught our own swarm but that is the stuff of another post). Study a tribe of Native Americans indigenous to your area and make an article of clothing as they would have. Look up back issues of Mother Earth News or Foxfire to find plans for building furniture, smokehouse, clay oven, greenhouse, root cellar, or even a home. Once you have the information you need, put it to work!

Now why the library vs. the internet? Because there are less distractions. Whether you go in with one specific topic or a general idea it is easier to tunnel your vision in the library. Zero in on one topic at a time then slowly expand your viewing field. Relax I’m not saying never use the internet to research again, but if you are anything like me, you get too many great ideas by the distraction of “Related Topics” or “Similar Searches” and lose the focus. Besides, the libraries need us! I hear of reduced hours to flat out closures do to lack of use as much as from lowered funding.

You can take on this endeavor by yourself or with your partner, or child(ren). You can make a family affair of it! Or a group effort if you have a “colony” planned for off grid living. Choose a topic, do your basic research then divide out the finer points with the ultimate goal of putting to use what you have learned. Think back to when you were in grade school. What projects do you remember most? My guess would be the ones that were challenging but fun and provided a finished product that wasn’t just a report on paper.

I was reminded of one early grade school project right here on this site. I’m re-growing celery! I’d forgotten about that little experiment from 2nd or 3rd grade and remembered also sprouting beans, potatoes & carrots, so I have those going too. Speaking of which, there is another place to search for your project! Teacher’s educational projects for grade/middle/high school. (don’t laugh, but you will probably find more useful experiments at the grade school level) Should we all find ourselves in a situation where the life we are currently living does not exist, having knowledge of the basics will sustain us.

Before I close this, a friend made another suggestion as to an excellent place to learn. Get to A Mountain Man or Black Powder Rendezvous or gathering. You will pick up some great things to put into practice or pique your interest. This is actually what started my honey and I to dive more seriously into the prepping world.

There are many wonderful old techniques, crafts, and survival skills demonstrated by blacksmiths, flintknappers, weavers, trappers and more. Most importantly talk to the Rendezvousers, a large number of them actually live the life! As a matter of fact if you are in Cascade Locks, Oregon on the last weekend in June be sure to stop & say hello. (did the wolf pack come up with a secret handshake?)

Our plan to move out to the middle of nowhere & be old hippies has not happened…. yet. That’s ok though, it gives us more time to learn more things to put to use on our planned 2-5 acres. Should the EMP-Mayan-Nostra-Zombiepocalypse hit tomorrow we’ll be alright where we are. We’ve learned to be prepared, protect what is ours, take care of our own and do what needs to be done.

With Mr Creekmore’s permission and kind indulgence I’d really like to revisit this post in 30 days to see who took on my challenge & what task/experiment/project they decided to undertake. Knowledge is not just power, it’s survival!

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:

First Prize) Winner will receive a Nomad – 1 Person Standard Survival Package courtesy of Shepherd Survival Supply, a One Month Food Pack courtesy of Augason Farms, a $150 gift certificate for Remington Ammo courtesy of and a EcoZoom’s Versa Stove courtesy of EcoZoom stoves. A total prize value of over $875.

Second Prize) Winner will receive two (2) Rothco Sure Paks With Heater courtesy of Camping Survival, a Wise Food Vegetable bucket courtesy of LPC Survival and a Wonder Junior hand grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads. A total prize value of over $509.

Third Prize) Winner will receive 3 – 27 Variety of Non Hybrid, Heirloom Non GMO Survival Seeds, 2 – Fruit Pack of Non Hybrid, Heirloom Non GMO Survival Seeds and 2- First Aid Kit with Sutures in a Waterproof Resealable Bag courtesy of Be Prepared Now. A total prize value of over $215.

Contest ends on March 30 2012.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Matt in Oklahoma says:

    My SIG Line

    Knowledge is Power, Practiced Knowledge is Strength, Tested Knowledge is Confidence

  2. Your premiss is great, knowledge is power! I believe in books, have all my adult life (much to the displeasure of my 1st wife). Now that I’m not sending 50+ hours into the job hole, I have started working on my “skills”, and these are now getting into food prep, and hopefully soon (we need to move 1st) into gardening, chickens, and rabbits.
    I just got my dehydrator and have started “playing”. The next project here will be dry canning those dehydrated items.
    On a similar note, I was saddened to see Encyclopedia Britannica is going strickly on line. My main problem with only on line information is that it, especially history, can be changed without your knowledge.

    • JP, I hear the news as well and decided to go to the thrift store and picked up a set that’s 5 years old. The tech and new discoveries may be slightly outdated but for the most part its still valuable.

    • AnnetteL says:

      We are allowed chickens in the city (burbs actually) as long as no rooster. We also have a couple of ducks and of course my 3 rabbits. Has been a true learning experience for sure. Dehydrators are fabulous, enjoy your play time!

  3. Annette-
    Great post. Feel a bit of deja vu reading it! I agree wholeheartedly, and based on your list of practical skills and motivations for your choices, suspect you and I might have a very long evening over a cup of coffee if we were to ever meet!
    There is another place where it will not blow OPSEC to learn some skills from actual practitioners rather than books: Rev War or Medieval re-enactor clubs. Many of these people take great pride in learning subsistence skills and true crafts as they are rarely performed in the modern era. There are also traditional guilds, complete with apprenticeships, journeyman and master’s status requirements, and regularly-scheduled campouts and events open to the public where anyone can walk up to a demonstrator or performer and learn about the craft. Members of my prepper group are involved in more than one of these clubs… and our children have each found teachers for skills they find of interest. From handcrafts to weaponry to medicine to the bardic arts, there are people who have used their free time for decades to investigate and practice their chosen skillset. Some of these people are truly amazing with what they know.
    People laugh at the re-enactors for silly grown-ups playing dress-up, but there is a real pool of knowledge there in some of the old-timers… and there is no danger to OPSEC in participating.
    So as to your challenge: I plan on learning how to spin this coming spring. I’ve spent a couple of evenings with a dear elderly friend in the last month doing just that, but my results are significantly less than successful! I would never try to make anything with the lumpy mess that my newbie hands made on her beautiful wheel. I will consider success in this endeavor to be a useable product, perhaps one that I can put into a pair of mittens or hat for use next winter.
    Stay tuned… for descriptions of my probably laughable results!
    Thank you, Annette…

    • Kelekona says:

      Lumpy yarn has its place. The search term that seems most productive is “thick and thin yarn” and manufacturers actually sell purposefully-made stuff.

      • Hi Kelekona… for that stuff to be of use, I’ll bet it wouldn’t snap at a thin spot! No… my thread/yarn is anything but useable. I’m actually slightly better with a drop spindle that I made from a knitting needle and wheel from one of my boys’ broken trucks. But what I’d really love to do is learn how to properly use the wheel. I’ve had a couple of lessons from a true professional, and know just enough to know that I’m not up to that particular task yet!
        The drop spindle, may yield enough useful yarn to allow me to knit warm hats/mittens/etc. I’m a pretty fast knitter… but producing enough yarn by drop spindle would take much too much time/effort for anything bigger than a hat or mitten. Unless I learn the wheel, I can pretty much forget about sweaters or scarves.
        I’d love to be able to give sweaters as Christmas gifts to my sons that I made from raw wool! And my friend’s wool is sooo soft… not itchy at all, and there’s much more there than she will use, and she doesn’t merchant much any more. Bet she’d let me buy some from her. Let’s see if I can do it. There’s plenty of time to work on it between now and then.

    • AnnetteL says:

      Thanks Cat! So glad you are taking up my challenge! I know what you mean about the lumpy product, I still have problems with it winding on my bobbin!!! But I WILL win!

    • AnnetteL says:

      Ok, so I’m early, how’s the spinning coming? Wish more would have taken up the challenge, was hoping to see some new ideas spring up! Right now I’m reading about the Mennonites & how they built their homes & barns as one & the central woodstove contruction for heating & cooking.

      • alikaat says:

        Hehe…yes, you are early, but I haven’t been able to get back on the wheel in the interim – my friend’s husband is doing poorly, and spinning hasn’t been her first priority – but I have been using my drop spindle, and am getting better at it. I used up all of the undyed wool that I had on hand, and last weekend, began casting around for another source of fiber. Now… This is going to sound a bit odd…has anyone ever heard of spinning dog hair? I went over to pick up my youngest son at a friend’s house, and stayed for coffee . They have a beautiful white german shepherd who is shedding her very soft undercoat. I convinced my friend to give me a gallon ziploc of hair, and spun some of it, untreated/cleaned just to see if it can be done. It’s nice! There might be something too it… Nothing like ‘putting on the dog’ for real.
        So no spinning wheel…but I have made some kind of progress on the spinning front, and may have found an alternative source for wool that many of us have on hand at any given moment…or not! Remains to be seen if dog hair yarn will turn out to be useable or not.
        I am also fascinated by mennonites’ building methods. There are a number of sects in my region of upstate NY and their handiwork is everywhere. They mostly stay apart, though. Not sure how you would go about studying their building methods except by looking at barns and other buildings they may no longer occupy.
        Good thing to learn, though!
        Good luck,

        • AnnetteL says:

          Ok so I won’t “hound” you about the spinning for awhile. I hope your friend’s husband will be on the mend soon. Dog fur is an excellent source. I work with a woman who has a memorial scarf from her dog’s fur that her sister gave her. You will need to ply the dog yarn with Marino wool because like rabbit fur, dog is extremely warm without much elasticity. Long hair cat is another option and plied the same. The only down side would be for those people allergic to them. Try Craigslist for local sources on the wool, we have scads listed here. You might want to try a dog groomer for practice fur too. Do you have carding combs? You could blend your fur & wool before you drop spindle it. Look forward to hearing how that works out!!

  4. sharoola says:

    Yes! I live at the library. I will, however, admit that I find the books I want first on the internet, then reserve them on the library’s website.

    I always try to get a book of interest from the library first before I decide I want to spend the money to buy it and keep it in my own personel collection. ANd I always buy used.

    And I totally agree with the author “the day I don’t learn something new is the day I’m put in the ground.”

    Since I started prepping I have learned to:
    * square foot garden
    * crochet blankets and hats
    * pressure can veggies and meats
    * shoot a .22 (more to come!)
    *use self-defense moves
    * Compost

    And there is still SO much to learn!

    • sharoola,
      Evaluate a book from the library and then buy one used if it’s worthwhile is how I’ve done most of the books I own. Most of our libraries also have a book sale once a year where they get rid of perfectly good extra or older books. Many of these books still contain very useful information and can be had for pennies on the dollar.

    • Sharoola,

      I have picked up just about the same list of skills (except for the crocheting)–I am much too hyper to sit still to learn that. I do the same thing with library books and videos. I come home with a stack so big that I can barely carry them. And I read them all in a week or two.

    • Used books are the best! I am one of those silly people who like finding a book someone has made notes in, especially if they have found a flaw in instructions, saves me the time/cost of discovering it myself lol.

  5. Annette, great article! I agree with you about keeping a library and actually going to the library for knowledge over the net. Its best to research and create a library on these topics as well as water purification and basic medical first aid and even advanced treatment and triage.

    The Rendezvous are fun to attend and you can learn a lot. In a instant gratification and need it now society we forget about the basics.

    I can sew, have made quilts (for my self only so far), have made (sewn) ponchos out of wool military blankets for winter camping, grandma had me help her put the thread through the eye because her eyes weren’t as good and hand not as steady so watching her I learned to sew and it helped when I tore/ripped uniforms in the field. Leather work is another trade to learn as well.

    Fieldcraft is an art in itself to learn like making a compass with only a leaf and sewing needles, how to make traps, flints, basket weaving, weapons from wood, rocks and even metal around home and streets (own a knife and hatchet made from railroad spike), making traps by hand and not store bought as well as bows, arrows, sling shots (david and golliath) crossbow, arrows etc.

    • Thank you Jarhead,
      I agree there is a certain art and even flair to the old-old school ways. I have a lot on my plate right now but will be visiting with the flintknappers quite a bit this year!

  6. Kelekona says:

    Collecting random knowledge is a low-cost hobby. As for the libraries, either I was really blessed when I was growing up, or I keep moving into areas with less-than-stellar library systems.

    Collecting books is also a good hobby, especially if you find “bagful of book” deals. I have a special fondness for non-fiction from the 70’s, seems that a lot of the best hand-craft books were published then.

    If you have the room, or a desire to line your walls with books, go ahead and collect some of the stranger ones. You never know when you might be desperate enough to page through “101 goat diseases” out of boredom. Or you might actually want information that you didn’t think you needed, like now I’m wishing I had paid more attention when reading about how to make a child-size yurt out of a bicycle rim and wooden snowfence material.

    (Wasn’t there something about how books could help cover the lack of stopping power in standard house walls?)

    • Rich Muszynski says:

      greetings. if you want old ways of doing things without a machine shop full of brand spanking new highly specialized machines then one could do much worse then gather old popular mechanics and popular science magazines from the 1920’s and 1930’s when hand made was common and not the unusual stuff that hand made has come to mean now. My collection of both plus other publications in the same time frame of pre-modern life crafts go back to the early before the teens days, teen days of the 20th century not my own teen days. collected mine at yard sales and used book stores as well as auctions on the eBay. Knowledge does not have a expiration date on it. a interesting thing on the old magazines. they did not automatically assume that the reader was already a expert on the skill being written about. and here, though we have only a small community library to go to that has very little in it, we have a town recycling center where they have a big cardboard box, about 4 feet square and high, where reading books are put by those wanting to get rid of them. I pick up fantastic books in there. actually stopped buying most books now, other then special interest ones, i simply pick them up when i go to dump the garbage. and in another area. they commonly or often have entire encyclopedias there in the reading material box.

    • Kelekona,
      Older non-fiction really is a great source for instruction and inspiration. I think I may need that goat book soon, will be on the look out!

  7. 1984MSgt says:

    Anette my hat off to you and your approach to life’s daily problems.
    I have two daughters both of which are more knowledgeable about automotive maintenance, plumbing and electrical repair than their husbands. I have found it rather entertaining over the last ten years.
    Oh, don’t get me wrong the sons-in-law are great in the chosen fields – it is they were never taught practical things as young men by their parents.
    The guys are good wage earners and love the girls dearly. But when the chips are down I’ll be lookin’ at the girls for firepower support.
    The trick is to teach your children the skills they will need in an emergency so when one happens they can cope and carry on. Things like, gardening, slaughtering chickens, turkeys, rabbits, deer, elk. Know where to find the fish hiding in the stream, which flies to use in which month. Teach them smoking, jerking and canning, sewing.
    Men need to know these things so they can help out with the work.

    Great article. I enjoyed it.

    • Thank you 1984MSgt,
      Never did do any slaughtering and I know I will have a hard time of it, but if it needs to be done, well it will. I know my daughter would rather become a vegetarian before she has to kill anything, she cried uncontrollably when she gutter her first fish, and threw up the first bite.

  8. Annette,
    You’re my kind of woman darlin. Remind me so much of my late wife. We both grew up on a farm and between the both of us there wasn’t much we could not get done. Oddly, I was the better seamtress and she was the better shot with open sights. Great article! Thanks for posting it. I pray everyone will take heed of it and go even farther.
    Be Blessed,

    • Oh, BTW, that long cup of coffee someone else mentioned, sure sounds good!

      • Very sweet of you, thanks Rex J!
        I was hoping more would take my challenge, but this post has only been up a few days.
        I’d actually like to sit down over coffee with a lot of people here! The Wolf Pack ROCKS!

  9. STL Grandma says:

    So very true. I have a huge library that my kids hate to move when I move but covers so many subjects that are useful. And the medieval re-enactors are great. I’ve been involved in this with my sons for the last 8 years and it’s taught them so much. All four sons own their own sewing machines and use them regularily, not to mention the leatherworking, shoemaking, etc, that they do and I do it, too! It’s facinating as well as instructional.

    • That’s wonderful STL Grandma!
      I found the Rendezvous a little later in life so my kids aren’t really involved but all have said that this year is the year! Can’t wait.

  10. Knowledge without practical experience is simply information

  11. NC Farm Girl says:

    It was suggested I write an introduction to this blog but I could not find the right area to do it in…so, Here I am!

    My husband and I have prepared for several years and, we think, we have done a fairly good job. We bought 24 acres in NC with 5-6 acres we can farm, 18 of woods and a year round small stream that borders on two sides of the property.

    We have over two years of food storage with a combination of freeze dried, dehydrated and canned goods. I have an over abundance of wheat, sugar, salt, canning supplies, medical supplies (including anti-biotics) water filtration supplies, TP and alcohol (we don’t drink). We gather rain water in a 1500 gallon cistern and have 3 other 250-300 gallon water tanks located in the barn and in our emegency shelter. Our water supply is a dug well. We took an old tabocco barn and used the underground cinder block basement and converted it to a “bomb shelter” with a lot of food, weapons, water and other supplies. It has basic living quarters, bathroom, camping stove and the basics to eat and cook. We do not plan to ‘bug out’ (although we have 72 hour packs) we plan to stay put.

    We build a brick oven to cook with. I bake bread, sew, knit, can do leather work and am just a handy person. We are learning to grow and harvest our own wheat this year (and other crops) and we have a grain mill. We raise chickens and I will soon be getting a few pigmy goats.

    We have a lot of extra building materials (screws, nails, wood, plastic sheeting, etc.) and have a basic supply of hand tools. We hoard gas and propane and have a generator and solar cells.

    We have several weapons and a lot of ammo. We stash cash in a secret underground area were we also have a small amount of gold and silver (not coins, as these are hard to melt).

    My husband is very handy with engines, farming and making things.

    We grow vegatables and just bought several fruit trees (apples, cherries and almonds).

    We have bicycles and a small cart for them with extra tires and such. We were going to get horses but they eat way to much and take a lot of time to care for (been there, done that!)

    I find it important to prepare for many things: economic disaster, nuclear war, civil unrest (I believe will come soon), inflation (coming now, at a theater near you), food shortages, etc. I also think it is important to help others who may not have prepared – without letting them know we are prepared. We do not have a survivor community – we are too cautious and don’t want to be taken advantage of and our families are clueless!

    We work hard at our plan. Try and fill the voids – but, I tell my husband, we can’t do everything! We are self employed but if the economy fails we will be out of jobs. We have enough cash, barter items and gold/silver set aside we will survive! Actually, we will thrive! We plan on paying our mortgage off in the next 4-6 years (we just bought the place and are fairly young). We have no other debt.

    We do not live and breathe a survivalist life – we have fun and do many other things.

    Anyway, that is us in a nutshell. Let me know what you think.

    Best Regards to All,

    Just a Northeastern couple turned southern farmers who care about others and want to thrive in this world.

    • NC Farm Girl,

      Wow. It sounds like you and your dh have made a lot of smart decisions. You will be an asset to the pack.

  12. Ok Wolf Pack it’s been 30 days! Did anyone take me up on my challenge? Would love to hear what new skill you’ve taken up!!!!

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