Prepper Stories: Adventures in Adaptability

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By Daisy Luther

When things go awry, do you instantly try to return to normalcy or do you think about ways to adapt to the situation?  Adaptability will make you a much better prepper.

Did you ever see a flower growing out of a brick wall or a crack in the sidewalk? That flower is blooming against all the odds because it adapted to an unfriendly environment and found a way to grow and blossom despite the concrete getting in its way.

And we, as preppers, can be likewise adaptable.

Here’s what got me thinking about this.

We’re moving in just a few weeks and the propane in our rented tank has run out. So (because I’m cheap – ahem – frugal) I’m not getting it refilled. It’s a rented tank and is being picked up by the propane company when we move, since the folks moving in after we leave own a propane tank that they’ll install. The company won’t give me just a little bit of propane, so, to save several hundred dollars, we’re going to just live without it for a few weeks.

Our own adventure

This is far from the end of the world. It’s not an earthshaking emergency by any stretch. But it’s an interesting adaptability challenge, right?

At our house, no propane means:

  • No hot water
  • No dryer
  • No stovetop
  • No oven
  • No central heat

But there are numerous easy solutions to all of these concerns. Having all of the things above at the turn of a dial or flip of a faucet are luxuries rather than necessities. There are lots of other ways to acquire hot water, heat, and food.

Figuring out ways to do things outside of your normal methods is a great mental exercise for emergencies that make life anything but normal. My (long-suffering) children are pros at this. By now, they know that resistance is futile when Mom says, “Hey, this will be an adventure. Let’s do an awesome experiment!”

We can:

  • Boil water with an electric kettle or on the woodstove
  • Shower at a nearby campground for a small fee
  • Hang our clothes (which we usually do anyway)
  • Cook using the kettle, the woodstove, and the crockpot
  • Reheat using the microwave
  • Heat our house with the woodstove

Easy-peasy, right?

Sometimes, you have to be flexible.

One thing I want to add is this: unusual times can call for unusual measures. Like the microwave. We hardly ever use a microwave and had to dig this one out of storage. I’m pretty sure using it to reheat things for a couple of weeks won’t be a terribly big deal. We’re eating food that isn’t our normal fare – storebought sourdough instead of homemade, frozen organic waffles, and things like that. This isn’t a long-term lifestyle change, but a temporary adaptation to a situation.

It helps a lot to be flexible. Even though we generally eat a from-scratch, organic diet and we don’t “nuke” our food, for a couple of weeks, I am going to be flexible on those points. Decide which points are essential to your health and well-being and which ones can be subject to adjustment during an “adventure.” You will fare much better if you can go with the flow in these kinds of situations.

Currently, at about 6 am, there’s a fire taking the nighttime chill off our house, there’s a sink full of dishes soaking in 3 kettle’s worth of hot soapy water, and there’s a homemade vegetable soup simmering away in the crockpot on the counter. We have a fresh loaf of sourdough from the market to have with our dinner. For breakfast, there are frozen waffles for the toaster and some fruit, and for lunch, we’ll have burritos made from canned beans and store-bought tortillas.

Yum. We’re not suffering one bit.

10 Preppers Share Their Stories of Adaptability

I asked the community over on Facebook to tell me about situations during which they adapted so that I could share the information here. In every single story, they showed creativity, frugality, and a willingness to be flexible and adapt to a situation that was beyond their control. People like this will survive when everything changes because they are willing to accept a different reality and figure out a plan on which to act. They didn’t waste time crying or complaining. They simply adapted.

Check out their fantastic and inspiring stories below.

1.) Stephanie

We lived at our cottage for 8 months while the house was being built. For various reasons, there was only running water for half that time and never to the shower. We had neighbours who offered a hose from their place and we could gather water from a lake just down the road. We collected water off the roof and bought water for cooking and drinking. We didn’t end up using the neighbour’s hose or the lake, but that roof water barrel was pretty low on moving day! It was fun to see how far we could push it.

2.) Deb

You reminded me of when we built our house….we dug a hole and lined it with plastic, and filled with rainwater from the roof it was our bath for a while (we could empty and refill every few days).

3.) Valorie

We boiled water for baths when our water heater went out and we couldn’t afford to replace it.

4.) Rebekah

Our dryer died almost a year ago (but came back to life the other day somehow? It was really weird.) so we started using the clothesline for everything, even through the winter (which was a challenge, and there were some days where I just had to haul the laundry to Grandma’s to use her dryer because it was non-stop raining for days). Upside: the electric bill has been dropping…

The oven died right before Christmas, though (fortunately not the stovetop). That one has been a bit more challenging to work around, but my mother-in-law has loaned us a countertop convection oven so I can at least cook meat. We also have a countertop toaster oven, so we can cook small batches of things. The oven situation is not one we’re going try and live with any longer than we *have* to, but I’m also thinking that going a summer without it would be much more comfortable inside.

5.) Erin

Yesterday, I came home to a driveway blocked by a pile of dirt that had obviously been dumped and left. I had a good idea by whom–the city. I parked, got out, and retrieved tools to clear the path. Right then. I snapped a pic or two but made it gone so I could access my property. Once clear enough to drive, I called the city to lodge a complaint, called the Hubster to alert him, and took some more photos. The city workers had gone home and my garden and lawn were still under dirt with rain on the way. Monday was the soonest they could look into it. I told them they would find the dirt roadside on city property and not to bother coming back to my property, that I would handle it.

Fix it move on. Stay safe and don’t waste time on worthless bureaucracy.

6.) Nikki

After hurricane Katrina, it was weeks before we had electricity, running water was a problem, and there was no way to get gas for the generator. We figured out how to do things pretty quick.

7.) Gale

I grew up in a dirt poor family with 5 children in a 2 bedroom sh*t hole. No hot water (we boiled it and carried to the tub). No dryer, ever (we washed clothes in cold water in the tub w/o soap most times and hung them around the inside of the house to dry. One burner on the stove top worked/no oven. We ate loads of mac n cheese with pork n beans. No furnace either. My father used a garage heater and damn near killed all of us. Nobody died ~ we survived. I’m ready to get through darn near anything  Bring it.

8.)  Mimi

When things go awry I’m immediately thinking about how to get back into a new ‘groove’ aka normalcy but that always involves adaptation and flexibility too. Eg: when I was completely out of action after surgery recently Hubster had to take on all my household roles (which is my full-time job) as well as his own job, his usual chores AND doing everything for me. He was overwhelmed at times!

After I suggested he stop and breathe, we literally made a list in a booklet of what really needed doing NOW (like my medical needs) what was semi-urgent (like laundry and meals) and what could wait, (like calling this person or that, cleaning house and making the bed). This helped him see things as a conglomerate of smaller tasks rather than one big ol’ mess. He naturally started to prioritize tasks and relax that some things could be put off till the weekend. We also established new routines that worked FOR HIM, not me, like supper, followed by cleanup, then my shower and my medical needs, he’d get his work clothes out for the next day, put the kettle on for our herbal teas and we’d sit and watch tv together. Somehow creating a new normalcy along with us both adapting worked.

9.) Karen

Years ago, my hubby changed jobs, and we went a couple of weeks with very little money. The house we rented ad no washer/dryer, so for those 2 weeks, I washed all of our clothes by hand, and hung outside. You just prioritize your needs, and find ways to make do.

10.) Helene (who wins the internet with this story!)

Okay, childhood home in rural Greece.

We had electricity for light but not much else. Running water AT not IN the house and when there wasn’t enough pressure it was shut off by the water dept and we had to haul from a central well, propane two burner stove that used a small tank the size we use here for bbq grills for daily cooking (lots of amazing delicious stewed/braised meals) in the kitchen with a flue above for ventilation, actual ICE BOX with ice delivered weekly, coal stove to heat in winter, outhouse- ours was fancy we had a toilet but had to dump water into it to flush, boiled water to wash, wood burning oven outside fired up once a week to make bread and a “roasted” meal, ALL laundry done weekly by hand no machine to wash or dry and everything (yes, even drawers and towels) needed to be ironed because the water is SO hard that clothes practically stood up until softened by ironing…so yeah, I could make it through just about anything

Here in CA, I’ve been known to move my countertop oven outside in the summer and to use the camp stove on the patio when it gets hot because I’m too cheap to run the AC. I also line dry everything but whites and towels year round. Believe me, you’ve got this!

Do you have some stories to share?

I want to hear about situations in which you adapted. Please share your stories in the comments section below.  These are great prepper mindset exercises.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • Our old dug well would often go dry (or come close–we monitored it closely!) in the summer all through my childhood. The cows and horses HAD to have drinking water, so… Baths became a gallon of water in the washbasin for a sponge bath. Dishwater and bathwater were saved for flushing the toilet and watering the garden. (We were also sort of raised to use the bathroom before leaving school, or a restaurant!) A rain barrel–in fact anything that would catch rainwater–was a must.

    Although we have a better well now, I’m actually in better shape anyway–no toilet water needed, since we now use a humanure toilet for composting!

  • Our electric stove/oven went out and we couldn’t afford to replace it. We had a two burner electric unit, a toaster oven, and microwave, as well as the crock pot and propane and charcoal grills. Lived like that for over a year! We ended up finding a stove/oven a neighbor was getting rid of, FOR FREE! Score! Inconvenient? Nah, not for us. We can definitely adapt!

  • Our family just went through the The great flood of 2016 in Louisiana. We received over 7ft of water in our home and lost everything, including our stockpile. Our family of 6 moved 3 times in 2 months until we found a more stable residence in a camper on the property, cooking most of our meals outside, setting up a permanent pump system for the waste, and finding local washateria’s to do laundry. I won’t lie it was hard but it brought our family so close and made us realize we could live without all that “stuff”. It created a minimumlistic mindset for my husband and I that we will live by now.

  • 2008 was one of the most challenging years of our lives. We live in the Arkansas Ozark Mountains.

    In early Spring we had a pretty wicked ice storm that can still be seen in our broken tree trunks. A, tornado went through our community which totally destroyed our community hospital & many homes, taking only one life. We watched helplessly as rescuers across the valley tried to make it to the home of one of our neighbors who had been crushed when their home had collapsed on them. And then an amazing flooding situation pretty much isolated our community.

    Off & on for 3 months we had no electricity or phone service. We went for a stretch of three weeks without electricity after the tornado & had to cut our way along our 3-mile gravel road to our county road, which had barbed wire & trees that needed to also be cleared off.

    We lived on our on-off generators, only using them as needed for a few lights at night, & our refrigerator & freezers. Our crank radio helped us keep up with some weather news & our walkie-talkies helped us communicate with neighbors as needed. We put our antique kerosene lamps to good use. We gathered around our living room fireplace & night to stay warm in our down sleeping bags. Because we had a kennel full of dogs, we had to travel 8 miles every day to gather water in big barrels for them & our other ranch animals that didn’t have ready access to our creek.

    When the ice storm hit we had to make home-made kleets for our shoes so we could feed our animals. Traveling on a pretty steep hillside wasn’t as easy at it might seem. We put screws through pieces of 1″ boards that we cut with our hand saws & then duct taped them to the bottoms of our boots. They worked pretty well, but had to be changed when the screws got worn down or the duct take didn’t hold any longer.

    Our church family brought our coolers & camp stoves into town & set up a food line for two weeks, cooking food from our freezers that was thawing. We fed hundreds of meals every day for the many volunteers that had come to town & also families who had lost everything.

    We live in the mountains, away from the city life, so we can be self-sufficient, but had never really depend on our “stashes” & preparations until 2008. We made it just fine. And our animals did well, too. We still keep old soda bottles filled with water in each bathroom in case of emergency & are ready to fill our bathtub as well. We use our camp stoves, fireplace & sterno to cook as needed. But we also have stashes of dried fruit, nuts & vitamins in case of a long haul.

    I think we can survive most things. We have a great support group of like-minded friends, although we are pretty scattered throughout the county. But we have contingency plans to assist each other as needed. Plan ahead is our motto.

  • I grew up with no dryer, never was one. When I got divorced moved back in with my dad with my young son . there was no dryer. No problem we used clothes racks and clotheslines in a old upper hall my mom used for years. Summer outside line. My sister couldn’t see how I could stand it. Honestly didn’t bother me at all. I grew up that way nothing to it. My son didn’t mind he said the clothes smelled nicer. We figured out how to adjust our habits to have less clothes to wash . We reused clothing for 2 days before washing unless dirty. Even our sheets and towels were hung to dry. Fun days for me and my son!

  • Last night my wife wanted a “light” dinner and I wanted a “man sized” dinner. No problem, I broke into the mountain house and had a great dinner of teriyaki chicken and I prepared it all by myself.

  • I think of everyday as a day of “pinching pennies” trying to be frugal. Grew up in Nova Scotia with no central heat or air (WOOD STOVE only. We always had to heat water for dishes ,baths ,laundry etc. I guess that is why to this day, I collect rain water to flush toilets etc…..really cut my water bill cost.

    I still wash plastic milk bags to freeze anything and everything……I do have a dryer, however, haven.t used it in 6 yrs…either hang laundry outside or line in basement in winter. I recently rec’vd a letter from our hydro co. stating that I used 49% less hydro than my neighbours and this saved me a whopping $1213.00 p/year…..guess because I only use electric stove/oven after 7:00 p.m or on weekends and holidays….. here in this province of Canada, electricity is half the price during those time periods.

    Although we do have an oil furnace, it is rarely used….we burn wood in an airtight stove/fireplace and buy wood from our local amish folks…sooo cheap, hubby only has to cut with chainsaw….only downside is that it is a tad bit messy…forever sweeping up bits of sawdust!

  • This reminds me of a lesson I learned very early on in life. When I was 3 we moved to Lincoln, MT because my Dad was logging up there. I don’t know about now, but Lincoln in the late 60s was a tiny dot on the map. We lived in a cabin off the road. We were blessed to have running cold water, but no hot water. I well remember Mom heating water on the stove to give me a bath. As a very small child, I’m sure there are many things about that “adventure” that I don’t remember, but the lesson of adaptability and managing has stuck with me ever since then.

  • Power outages happen occasionally. Usually not for too long, but we had a nine-hour one not long ago. I know, that’s not terrible, but still, it disrupts a person’s routine.

    We have some old antique kerosene lamps in the house that are normally just decorations, but when the lights go out, we put them to good use.

    I wouldn’t recommend kerosene unless absolutely necessary because it’s stinky, but you can buy oil for lamps that the local hardware store. All we had to do was light the wick and we had light to read by and work by while we waited out the storm. First thing to do – eat some ice cream before it melted, but keep that freezer closed otherwise. Next, crank that crank-radio up. We found a nice radio station with 1940’s music to match some of the other non-modern things that were happening.

    Yes, it was a disruption, but a good one. I found I couldn’t paint that wall that needing painting in the lamplight. That was a good thing because I really dislike painting.

  • My wife and I had just bought our first and only home in Southern California in 2000. What we didn’t realize is that this home is one of three in the neighborhood that hasn’t been improved upon since they were made in the early 70’s. We had AC, but the previous owners were into construction and had made some home improvements using bits and pieces that they would get from the job site. It wasn’t up to code in a lot of cases. It would cost me and my wife a small fortune to tear out and replace the stuff these contractor idiots had done.

    The AC vent tubing laid on the small craw space floor and rats had chewed threw them. So when the AC was on, only the craw space would receive the nice cool relief of the AC unless the pressure of the AC forced the coolness back into the rest of the house. When I got the bill for using the AC I was shocked and mad. To run the AC was almost half of my mortgage payment. So my wife and I decided not to run the AC anymore. So for five years here is what we learned to keep the our house cool.

    During the day we would close off the rooms that were receiving sunlight. So early in the morning the East side of the house would get sunlight. We would close the windows and doors of the rooms that were getting the sun and heat. We would then open the rest of the rooms up to enjoy the coolness that was still inside them. As the day wears on we would shut the rest of the rooms off. Each room had black out curtains and the heat and light would be reflected back outside.

    As the sun moves to the West side of the house, we would go back to the rooms that were closed off and open the windows so that the cool of the evening would cool the rooms off. So by the time the sun had set all the windows and doors were open to let the heat of the day out through cross ventilation. As we slept, the house would become cool once again and we would start our routine all over again the next day.

    If we failed to follow our routine, say by leaving the doors open to allow cross ventilation of the house, then the house would heat up to the same temperature as the outside, a sweltering 110 degrees plus. It took my wife a constant reminders to follow our routine or suffer the heat of the day. It is funny how she would complain about having to go through our cool routine instead of just doing what was asked of her. I told her that we would have to save our money before we could repair the house properly.

    Due to the heat, when we washed our clothes, we would dry them in our garage by hanging them inside by running a clothesline between the rafters, low enough to reach but high enough to be out of the way. Funny how your California neighbors can be so offended by you drying your clothes in your own back yard. However, we found it most convient because of the dust that blew around here.

    We would also grill a lot of our food outside because the kitchen would heat the house up making it hotter than being outside.

    It wasn’t until a rat had shorted out a wire in the craw space starting a fire in the bathroom were we able to get up enough money to repair all the deficiencies in the house. We put on a new roof, double pane glass windows, new heavy doors, texture coating the outside walls. With these new improvements to our house it is now so cool throughout the day we don’t need to run the AC at all. All we have to do is just open the doors or windows just to get a cross ventilation to warm up the house instead of freezing in it. Just a note: I added solar panels to the new roof and now I only pay $1.00 a month for electricity.

    My wife and I only had to run the AC three times in the five years because the outside temperature was 115 degrees plus outside and we wanted a cool 85 degrees inside.

  • When my son was in elementary school, we had an​ second-floor apartment in a four-family building in the city. Red brick, flat black-tar roof, lots of concrete all around and NO AC. It was what we could afford and was near his school; but really got hot in the summertime. Almost impossible to get a good night’s sleep inside. So, we’d put the air mattresses and sleeping bags out on our apartment’s huge covered balcony. We slept outside like that almost every night, even when it rained. Great times, never felt deprived… He’s 30-something now and still reminisces about when we camped on the balcony every night.

  • Right now, during the Corona pandemic, of course folks are in high pursuit of toilet paper. My simple solution is to keep a bucket in the shower, and use a stack of washcloths for tinkle visits. Just wash them in bleach, and save the hard to find stuff for the number 2 visits. Sure has helped us cut down on the overuse of this overly-pursued item.

  • For the first 5 years we lived out on our property in North Idaho we did not have water or power. we caught rain water off the awning on our travel trailer and supplemented it with water from a near by spring. We used a RV battery I kept charged by keeping it as the extra battery to our truck, it went was hooked up to our 12 volt tv/video so we could watch movies and get the news. we were building our house as our income allowed so the power for the tools came from our generator which ran the big ones and charged the batteries for the little ones. we had an outdoor shower with solar heated water in the summer and we took 2 gal hot water baths/showers in the travel trailer in winter. Cooking was easy, winter, in the trailer, summer, out side on the camp chef and dutchoven table. we were able to do a fair amount of canning at that time as well on the camp chef. We had 2 grand kids that came out almost every weekend. They still talk about the fun times we had then.

  • I moved back into my old family home years later. My mom had never had a dryer she used clothesline in summer the winter we used wooden clothes racks. My sister could not believe we did this for 3 years. Actually it was so easy my son and I never even noticed it . It really woke me up how easy to do without it!

  • After reading these stories,I realize I haven’t done anything compared to most of these people! I give them so much credit! My boss had a bad fire 6 years ago he lives in his office now ,you could call it an efficiency as his wife divorced him one day after the fire. There is no kitchen . when I am working I make food in instant pot , crock pot, toaster oven ,an d never forget the george foreman grill . we joke about it but it is great for hamburger, steak, and chicken breast. There is a one burner hot plate that is so slow but works. I have been cooking like that for 6 years for him while I d o office work. Luckily I grew up with my Mom doing home cooking. One other thing Daisy, I and he had toilet paper for this crisis because after I started reading the organic prepper I stocked up on things like toilet paper years ago at my and my bosses places. My sister laughed at me, but she isnt now she called and told me she had listened to me 5 years ago and now had no worry to have TP. And best of all, we not only don’t have to hoard we can not buy now leaving for all those who need it! because of you I canned on a camp chef at my work last summer with my bosses permission and the pantry is full at the office and my home. I am finally feeling like I’m not crazy for prepping but happy and relieved. Now Tylenol in short supply . Young coworkers worried about childrens tylenol not being available. Guess what I have to share? It’s wonderful! JoAnne

  • We bought an 80 acre farm 7yrs ago at age 60 and for the first time since my 30s, had to buy a dryer to dry his work jeans occas when the rains would not stop for wks. I currently have 2 loads outside drying in the warm sun,( 45 degrees). I have hand washed partial loads but not jeans, too hard on my arthritic shoulders…

  • Love your site and all the great stories. Years ago living in the country and new to the whole propane tank thing one Friday evening our tank went dry since I hadn’t been paying attention to its level. Didn’t have any of all the possible electric substitutes for cooking, or any other way to heat. We were at 2800 feet in California and it was not summer. Feeling all the things you might feel in this situation (also newly married for just a couple months) I suddenly remembered that I had a full 5 gallon propane tank in my truck which I used to refill a torch for work. All the fittings worked together and some wrenching later with some teflon tape and we had enough propane to keep us going until we could get the tank refilled.
    It may not be cost effective if you don’t have a 5 gallon tank already, but I know you can get those 5 gallon tanks for rent all over the place. You just use them up return the empty and get another one. Never had to use one but just another possible way to get through the next couple of weeks.

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