Going off the Grid

Started by Mister URL, August 29, 2022, 09:54:23 PM

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Mister URL

I will stop beating the Members over the head with these snippets soon, I am getting my snippet file cleaned out.

Going off the grid? Read this before you go.

At one time or another all of us dream of getting away, just turning off the path instead of going on to work, heading into the woods with nothing but what you are carrying. Or maybe you haven't. In any case, this essay will make you think about it one more time before you do it.

Whatever your reason: Mayan calendar apocalypse, urban revolt, invasion by foreign powers (or worse,  space aliens). Revelations (the Jesus stuff), runaway biological killer virus, exhausted with current political powers. Even common Zombies. It all ends up with you wanting to get away, take your stuff with you and go somewhere They can't get you.

And you do need stuff, you know that by now. You have seen and imagined enough of these scenarios to realize that just turning off into the wilderness with nothing will soon end up with you badly dead. There are four basic essentials:
    • Water
    • Food
    • Shelter
    • Tools

(You need air as well, but if you go to a place that doesn't have air, you are far too dumb to live through this apocalypse anyway.)

We can take these needs apart and analyze them.

Water. You need a constant supply of fresh water. Many quarts a day. For drinking, cooking, cleaning. But presumably you locate your hide near fresh water, a creek or river. You might still need to work on it to remove pollutants and parasites and stuff. But sources of water are available. Try to get upstream of any obvious bad things like sewage overflows or rotting animal carcasses.

Food. Well, if you have planned ahead at all, you will have to some degree brought it with you. Canned, freeze-dried, smoked: there are various ways to store food that do not require refrigeration. Because remember, you won't have electricity unless you generate it yourself. And that would come under "tools". Of course, you will want to catch some of your own food from the wilderness. Fish and such from your fresh water, small and large game you trap or kill, perhaps even a garden, depending on where your cabin is.

Shelter. Your typical crazy-man cabin or something similar built on-site because bringing in materials would be very hard. Not a frame house: too much trouble getting materials into the backwoods. And a portable shelter, like a tent, would be unsuitable for long-term use. So you will probably want a log cabin of some type. That means your site needs to have plenty of good trees. Hardwoods, because part of having shelter is fire. You need it to warm you, cook food, keep the beasts away, and provide light (remember, no electricity). You will be splitting a lot of wood and of course, you need wood to build your cabin. You could no doubt use pine or some other softwood for your cabin, but you need hardwood for fire. So a mixed forest site is best.

Tools. This is where you live or die. While these other elements must not be dismissed or reduced in importance, tools are what separate us from the Monkey. I think you can safely say that your survival during this apocalyptic event depends on tools as much as it does water. It is just that a lack of water will kill you faster. You will have to bring these tools with you. Hand-created stone tools are fun to think about but are both beyond the scope of most peoples skills and are inefficient. A stone ax will take a long time to make and an even longer time to split a log that a modern steel maul will handle quickly. That means getting these heavy tools to your hideout far back in the woods. A number of trips both to your local hardware store and to your cabin to get the axes, saws, hammers, nails, hand tools, forges, garden tools, skinning gear and all the other things you will need.

And weapons. Don't forget the most important tools of all. You have ravening hordes of hungry people or zombies or whatever and they want you or your stuff. You have to keep them away and you also have to obtain food. So: weapons. Long guns, handguns, longbow/crossbow, cutting weapons. You will need ammunition, maintenance material, bow strings, arrow/bolt making materials, and repair gear.

You are now beginning to see the problem with dropping off the face of the planet. You are not really dropping off the grid, you are simply taking it with you. Can you make a rifle? Not a chance. But you say, 'I can reload and make my own ammunition'. Yes, there is a whole sub-industry to provide you with reloading tools and the components of ammunition. But what happens when you use the last primer? Your rifle becomes a club, and not a very good one. Don't consider using your longbow against hungry zombies. Zombies only respond to traumatic tissue damage: a chopped off head or arms, or a whack from a sledgehammer. A crossbow bolt would just zip right through their rotting flesh and hardly slow the hungry paranormal.

Take the simple item of firearm ammunition. There are four elements to modern ammunition: the brass case, the primer, the powder, and the projectile. You can certainly buy all of these things in bulk and make your own ammunition. Until you run out of one of them. It is slightly possible that you could make the bullets, if soft lead will do. And if you have sited your cabin near a lead supply. Probably galena, the most common ore of lead. Then you have to extract the lead. Lead is poisonous to humans, so be careful.

You might, if you are very fortunate, obtain lead. But there is no way on Earth you can make the other components of ammunition. The brass shell casing is beyond any shade tree production. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. Hope you have some nearby! Then they must be mixed in the correct proportions and made into brass, which has to be formed to a precise shape and dimension, and to complicate it further, the shell casing in not a uniform thickness. It is thicker at the bottom, near the primer, then tapers smoothly up to the rim where the bullet is inserted.

Then the powder. You probably think you can make powder, and you are probably thinking of black powder. Black powder is easy to make if you have a source of sulfur, saltpeter, and charcoal. But black powder is not used in modern firearms. Smokeless powder is a far different and more complex thing than just mixing the three elements of black powder. Modern firearm propellant is more akin to nitroglycerin than to black powder.

Then there is the primer. Way beyond your backwoods manufacturing ability. You need an explosive compound, something that will create sparks when struck by the firing pin. Can you make such a compound? I bet not. Then the primer housing has a tiny anvil inside that the firing pin strikes. And there are small holes on the inboard side of the primer to allow the sparks to reach the main powder. Then this primer has to be formed to fit and swaged  into the precisely sized hole you left in the base of the shell casing you made.

Conclusion. One could go on and on about the other things you would be giving up that you take for granted now. But you can see that there is no way you can "leave it all behind". Everything we do, everything we use, is the end of a complicated supply and manufacturing chain that stretches from the extraction and production of the raw materials to the manufacturing process, and involves outside elements that all must work together. When you buy a gun and ammunition, you are buying the work of many industries and many specialty processes and skills that you are not going to have.

You are probably better off just letting that zombie eat you ... which brings up a different issue: why a zombie so badly needs to eat people. They have no functioning digestive system, no requirement for minerals and vitamins; they are dead. But that's a story for another day ...
"...Things I learned in a bobo jungle are things they never taught me in a classroom ..."
― NOT Merle Haggard


Quote from: Mister URL on August 29, 2022, 09:54:23 PM

...realize that just turning off into the wilderness with nothing will soon end up with you badly dead.

badly dead.

I didn't realise there were differing degrees of dead ;-)

If, for example you had most of the stuff on your lengthy list, could you see yourself as mildly dead.  Or existing in a state of deferred death.  Just as swimming is merely delayed drowning if you're out in the middle of an ocean.

Gyppo (Having fun)

Mister URL

You are right. I wanted a nice modifier to keep from having a raw 'dead' but I ought to have used my rusty thesaurus (which you also might want in your cabin) to find one. I am Grinning.
"...Things I learned in a bobo jungle are things they never taught me in a classroom ..."
― NOT Merle Haggard