Survivalist Anonymous, A Common but Intriguing Creature from the Humboldt Hills



Daily Photo

Though not as rare as their sightings would have you believe, the Humboldt County survivalists are shy birds. They prefer to keep their name out of print.  Since I have my own home in the hills stocked with food (less than I should) and amenities, some of the shy creatures will even spend hours explaining how and why they prepare for disastrous times.  But, the article I wrote for the North Coast Journal this week required names and thus some of the wonderful interviews I got were unusable.  Here are some fascinating tidbits from the Anonymous Survivalists.

First, most are unwilling to give their names for simple privacy reasons.  Though many mentioned how foolish it would be to let the possible starving hordes know where a large supply of food could be found in the event of a disaster, there were other concerns.  One related the tale of how during the Y2K scare he had mentioned to a neighbor that though he wasn’t that concerned about computers failing, he was going to stock up on food nonetheless.  To his chagrin, the neighbor replied, “That wouldn’t be fair.” According to my interviewee, his neighbor felt that the government should be in charge of taking care of people and the survivalist stocking up on food would somehow have an unreasonable advantage over the rest of the community. The survivalist felt that in an atmosphere of “such idiocy,” he didn’t want to let his neighbors know who he was because “there is no tolerance for diversity of opinion” and not much appreciation for independence from the system.

According to this source, “People used to understand that you need a couple weeks worth of food” but now they have no more than a day or two on hand.  He feels that everyone should have at minimum a two weeks supply. He suggests people start out by purchasing double of all their basic grocery shop items.  “Instead of buying 1 of what you want, buy 2.  I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.”

He suggests for more complete supplies buying large bags of beans and grain.”Eureka Natural Food Store has a nice big sack of Fred’s organic wheat for less than $1 per pound.  You can purchase hand grinders at the Mexican Market there on Broadway.”  He says that that kind of grain can last up to 5 years.

“Once you see that the Dow Jones can plummet 600 points in minutes… The domino effect.  Bank runs.. People run into stores and buy…,”  the man pauses before explaining that just the transportation problems in this area indicate some need for having a supply.  Several people I spoke to mentioned the ’64 flood and how trucks couldn’t get into this area for weeks. My family fed neighbors off my mother’s food storage.

Many people plan on supplementing supplies by hunting (one sporting goods store told me that firearms are just flying off the shelf right now in response to the economic downturn) but one man I interviewed laughed, “You can’t count on animals surviving–not a week- if everyone starts killing them.”

Gardening offers more long term stability according to almost everyone interviewed.  Several people are looking into purchasing seeds to store for future gardens. Tomatoes, potatoes, and kale–were suggested frequently.  Fruit and Nut trees were also offered as smart choices.

Beyond food, some suggestions for storage include having an oil lamp and fuel for it, fencing and waterline for gardening and personal care items like shampoo and soap.  In fact one person urged asking yourself, “What is the kinds of stuff I’m used to replacing on the fly?”  and then making sure you have a stock of it on hand.  “Basically, look at everything you’re using and then you create a queue.” Every time you buy something you need that is non perishable, add a little bit more for your storage.

Though not everyone is willing or able to create a homestead like some of the people I spoke to, nonetheless, I came away from my conversations with a renewed desire to keep my cupboards stocked with food and emergency items.


Here is another post on being prepared.

  • Laytonville Rock


  • Really good post, I look forward to reading your next article in the Journal. Your last one was great. We believe in stocking up too, of course. We actually have followed the buy 2 principle for most of our marriage and we are silly enough to tell others. I have often wondered if our transparency in so many issues might turn out to be a bad thing.

  • Well, I’m stocking up on bullshit, so my blog doesn’t run out, but I’ll probaly starve to death before then anyway.

    Nice White Shypoke photo by the way.

  • Be sure your food storage is protected from rodents and moisture. If you have access to a “canning machine” you can store things like powdered milk, oatmeal, rice, even candy bars, in cans and they will last a very long time. The cans come with plastic lids so when you do open the cans, they will still remain protected for awhile.

    I’ll look for the NCJ and your article when I am out and about today.

  • You wrote, “one sporting goods store told me that firearms are just flying off the shelf right now in response to the economic downturn…”.

    Actually, the conventional wisdom is that the big run on firearms is because of Obama getting elected. Obama has a well deserved reputation as a gun- grabber so, fearing he’ll try to shut off people’s access to firearms, people are buying them while they feel they can.

    Same thing happened when Clinton was elected, if memory serves me correct.

  • BTW; I saw you wrote a letter to the North Coast Journal, but didn’t know you’d written an article for them. Do you have a link to it?

  • Acorns, I’m tellin’ ya….acorns!

  • Ooops! Never mind the link. I found your story and remember it now.

  • What an excellent post. I am going to pick up the NCJ to read the rest of your story.

    It’s interesting; when I made my to-do list this morning, I wrote a list of survival items I needed to add to my stock. So this subject was already on my mind today.

    I’ve always had a survival kit of some sort, especially in my car. There was a fire in ’03 that cut me off from my house for a couple of days. Although I had access to stores and friends to stay with, I didn’t have things like GLASSES! (I am totally blind without contacts.) So now I carry extra glasses and have a well-stocked car trunk.

  • It’s ‘you should do it anyway in case of an earthquake’ kind of thing – remember the storms a few years back? The shelves at Safeway were bare in a matter of days. Even things you’d think would NEVER sell were gone.

    There were long lines that wound through the store, as every transaction was slow, no longer automated.

    It was quite a reminder.

  • The storms of 2005. 3 games of monopoly, hot dogs, potato chips, and top ramen noodles. …thank god for a gas stove!

  • This is something we tend to procrastinate on but I try to live by the motto, “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.”

    I have had wheat stored for many years and just last month made a really delicious chili, substituting wheat for beans. The 30 year old wheat was really good. I am sure the nutrition value was less than the year it was harvested but it would certainly fill an empty tummy.

    I have heard for years that when one of the Egyptian tombs was opened they found wheat that they were able to sprout. Does anyone have any verification for that story?

  • During Y2K, an outfit in Fortuna did a good business in survival larders. I have a few friends who bought them. I’ve been alive 66 years and haven’t really gone hungry yet, though we were pretty poor when I was a kid. I don’t even own a gun. The day those Safeway and Ware Mart trucks stop coming up the freeway I’ll start to worry. I’ve always figured that in a real crisis it’s best to live near the ocean. Lots of food there.

  • Excellent post, lovely photo. I usually stop at the grocery store every day, but I could live on what’s in my freezer and cupboards for a couple of weeks if I had to.

  • Since seeing what happened after Katrina, I have kept my cupboards overstocked.

  • Content-wise, this is one of you best posts – it comes from your heart like all good writing does. My sister is a Mormon so all the buying ahead comes naturally to her – for me it is a work in progress. Gun sales are up 10 percent nation wide, and it is mostly due to Obama being elected, he is very anti-gun. Keep on writing from the heart on things that interest you . . .

  • Kym… Just finished your article and it is really good. I’m reading a great book: “Little Heathens” by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. She describes growing up on a small Iowa farm during the depression. The only things they bought at the store were cloth, sugar, flour, salt, baking soda and soap. Very entertaining, she is a fine writer. I guess I’m the grasshopper incarnate. Do you remember the stock market crash of 1987? Well, I sure don’t. I think Southern Humboldt is rather isolated from events that are pretty hard on city folks. If I were really worried about the economy, I would get some chickens. They would recycle my garbage and provide eggs and an occasional meal. I love the sound of a rooster in the morning but my neighbors might feel otherwise. I don’t hear a single rooster here on the Avenue. It sure wasn’t like that twenty years ago. We can jams and jellies and that’s it. I do admit that here is enough wool in this house to clothe all of Salmon Creek. Plus five spinning wheels to make the yarn. Maybe we can barter yarn for venison.

  • I was nine months pregnant when the storms hit in 2005. I remember trying to go to Ray’s Food Place to get some incidentals and finding hardly anything. Between not having the ability to ease my prego cravings and having two angry, hungry children, I’ve yet to make the same mistake! Since then, I’ve been a “stocker-upper” and I keep at least a couple of weeks of food in the pantry and freezer. You just never know.

  • I read your NCJ story today. You did a great job! And now I feel inspired to buy huge sacks of grain.

  • I’d love to peek into the cupboards of people who only keep a couple days food supplies on hand. Are they single and live within walking distance of a grocery store?

    I thought many people keep overstocked cupboards, a prime reason boy/girl scout food drives are successful when they go door-to-door. You give up all the cans you had sitting around for 6 months or a year.

    Gardens would be an easy target during a long-term disruption to the food supply. Your loving neighbors take what they want in the middle of the night. And if not your neighbors, then scavengers in your community going home to home.

  • Great article, Kym. And it inspired me to post my thoughts on the subject as well over on the 299.

    You, my friend, are a very good writer.

  • Yesterday the Safeway in Eureka was out of electricity and they were hauling all sorts of items to the food pantries but if there was a major problem here we’d probably have trouble getting items we usually consider staples like milk and eggs. Our way of eating would have to change. However, I don’t think I’m ready for a steady diet of acorn yet, Kato.

    According to a site I was looking at, wheat can last for centuries if properly stored BUT so called Mummy wheat is a myth sadly. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London, used a computer model to figure out how long the stuff would last—not long enough to sprout now, they said. I can’t find any reliable source (in my half hour search) that actually found any still intact grains and tried to plant them.

    Mummy wheat

  • Eko, Thank you. I enjoyed yours and Ernie’s posts. I take it you don’t have any nostalgia for the “simpler” times;>?

  • Kym,
    I remember the argument I had with my father when I was a sophomore. I told him I was going to move to town and get gas heat because I was so tired of dealing with wood heat. We four boys started to learn to cut kindling at around age 7 or so and we were making wood by the time we could crawl. Also, I saw my dad and mom toil during difficult times trying just to “survive” in the rural manner. Yes, we were always warm and well-fed,
    but it wasn’t the lifestyle I longed for. I longed for the more “complex” lifestyle of higher education, movie theaters, coffee shops, book stores, art galleries, record shops and restaurants. So, in order to achieve those “things”, my father and I had a discussion about how I was going to make a living. He suggested I take as many bookkeeping and accounting and business classes at Hoopa High to be able to get out of the Klamath-Trinity region. As you can see, I didn’t get far.

    Don’t worry, I can always go back and live on the same flat as my brothers in Willow Creek if it all goes to Hell in a handbasket. That is if the locusts don’t show up.

  • Locusts can be pan-fried, ekovox. Might go well with a side of acorn bread…

  • don’t forget about medications ie insulin etc.

  • Good suggestion, Tom.

  • Great blog, and writing. I added you to the blogroll.

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