The Accidental Prepper

A recent blog post inspired some great comments about whether or not I’d crossed the Rubicon to ‘la la land’ writing a ‘prepper’ book.

I understand. As soon as you hear the term “prepper” you probably think of a guy dressed in camouflage with a gas mask, assault rifle and a year’s worth of toilet paper stockpiled. I actually love watching National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers” on a number of different levels. I think it’s a lot of fun, and it’s their highest rated show!

Michelle and I were contacted a few months ago about being on a new show they’re putting together. I think they are planning to ratchet down the hyperbole and be less “over the top” with the new show. We went through a phone interview and then did a Skype interview with a casting agency in New York, but alas, they didn’t ask us to be on the show. And as we’ve discussed before, this is probably not a bad thing.

I think we probably weren’t ‘extreme’ enough for them. Apparently Michelle and I are just way too mellow. Well, Michelle is anyway. Laid back apparently didn’t work for them. I’ve just written the section in our new book where I discuss how Michelle and I ended up independent because we wanted to lower our footprint on the planet, so we started producing our own electricity. Then we started growing more and more of our own food. So we basically fit the “prepper” profile from an independence point of view, but how we got there didn’t seem to fit their prepper profile. If we had said we expect some rogue meteorite to hit Russia any day now (huh? I never even thought that was remotely possible) and we’re preparing for the complete disintegration of civil society shortly afterwards, we probably would have had a better shot.

I feel as though we are “accidental preppers.” We didn’t mean to become preppers, but suddenly we are.

The casting agency asked if we had any big projects planned, you know, the kind that make for great television, like building a concrete bunker, or fabricating a homemade grenade launcher out of birch trees. I couldn’t give them anything. After 15 years of fine-tuning and basically replacing every system in the house, everything is finally working great here. We don’t need anything else. I said I should probably tighten the guy wires on the wind turbine tower. You know, me with a socket wrench! Looking frantic! And I’ve got to sharpen some chainsaw blades. Me at the sharpener, looking frantic! Anything … anything? Does that work for you, Mr. Casting Director?

A few years ago we watched a show about a guy who is a survivalist and he was building an off-grid house. He kept making these over-the-top exclamations like, “if I don’t get this building finished before the snow flies, my family could freeze in the dark!” Then his wife would arrive from town in their minivan with a take-out cup of coffee in her hand. Really? This is living on the edge?

So, if you want an “over the top” prepper book, “The Sensible Prepper” is not for you.

On the other hand, if you want a reasoned, logical look at the steps you can take to increase your resilience to things like power blackouts (from someone who has spent 15 years making his own power,) then this book is for you. And if the last time there was tornado warning while you were at work and you realized that you weren’t sure about your children’s school’s policy on evacuations, then this book will help. Most of us don’t plan to fail, we just fail to plan and having an emergency preparation plan for your family is important. With the nature of climate-change-intensified storms, it’s even more important. When agencies like FEMA make announcements that your neighbors are your first responders, then maybe it’s time you got a little more serious about having an emergency kit in your home. Because isn’t it getting a little tiresome being lined up with everyone else buying cases of water when a storm is approaching?

Michelle and I watched the trauma of so many people after Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy with great discomfort. People living near one of the richest cities in the world were at their wit’s end while politicians played partisanship over the fiscal cliff and took 3 months to release any funds to help them. I watched a group of people struggle to get a tiny generator going in one of the blacked out areas of New York City. It was outside a restaurant. I guess everyone was hoping that once they got this generator going, they’d all be able to enjoy a 4 course meal but from experience I can tell you this generator was going to be hard-pressed to just run a few lights. They all cheered when it finally got going. The news crew didn’t stick around to show the disappointment when no one knew what to do once it was working. “You mean our lights don’t end in an extension cord we can plug into this thing?”

It’s taken me 15 years but I’m finally at the point that when something goes wrong at my house I actually feel positive about the challenge of fixing it. Like the night just after I got into bed when I realized a water pipe had burst in the cellar. Okay, where’s the nearest shut off? Can I solder it? Crap, it’s some of that PEX which I hate. All right, go to “Plan B.” Growing up in suburbia, a burst pipe meant a call to a plumber, so this has been a paradigm shift for me. Recently I stopped when I saw a woman standing next to her vehicle at the side of the road. I am no mechanic, but hey, I’ll try anything. It turned out that part of her exhaust system had broken loose and was dragging along the ground making a horrible racket. It was still hot so I got gloves out of my trunk and wedged it back in place and off she went.

My confidence in fixing whatever is broken comes from my neighbor Ken, who will gladly help me with any project but who won’t actually do anything for me anymore. He will happily coach me through whatever needs to be done. Replace a faucet, install a toilet, and wire a solar panel. Ken should hire himself out! Sensible Prepper CVR

So don’t “plan to fail” by failing to plan for the next big event that creates havoc in your life.  The Boy Scouts have it right with their “Be Prepared” motto. “The Sensible Prepper” will help you do just that.

The Sensible Prepper will be published this fall. We’ll start taking pre-orders this summer so that our blog readers get the first copies available!

8 Responses to “The Accidental Prepper”

  • SteveR:

    Matthew Stein has already written two good books on prepping ‘When Technology Fails’ and ‘When Disaster Strikes’. Yours will have to be something different.

  • One of your best yet. Where you find time to write another book is beyond me. Sign me up for a copy.[Until to-dasu I didn’t know what a “prepper” was!

  • Lynn Benson:

    Ohh Cam, you’ve done it again. In your witty way you have shown up the majority of people who think they know more than the rest of us.
    We, of course, are the ones trying to protect our planet and get called “freaks”. I have tried every company around to put a solar panel on my mobile home and no one will. One guy thought I was some sort of tree hugger. I looked over to my garden in pots and barrels and my 5 fruit trees and said, “if they were bigger I might…lol”
    As for being prepared, I am. I have a rolling trash can full of 7 days worth of food and clothing, just in case I need to walk. I have backpacks for each of my grandkids and myself. I actually gave my niece backpacks for both the car and the house. One for her and one for her daughter to carry. The next time I went over there, they were both empty and in the toybox. I started in on the “what ifs” and she said I was too pesimistic. Since when is being prepared a bad thing? Why am I the crazy one for not wanting to be cold and starving after an earthquake or car breakdown in the middle of the night? I never thought of myself as a survivalist, just a survivor. Single parents need to be that way. Oh well.
    I love your blog and I wish I could be more like you with the bigger garden and free electricity. If you can come up with an idea for a “crazy” old lady in a mobile home, I would love it. Im sure one panel wouldnt harm my home, but I cant get anyone to do it. I would love to have an old fashioned windmill to make electricity, but Im not smart enough to do it myself.
    Keep up the good work and yes…put me on the book list. Cant wait until it comes out.

  • Add us to the book list as well please! I am looking forward to reading it already 🙂 In fact sign us up for two and I will use it for a prize on my blog!

    I do love your humour Cam – I read your blog just to see what crazy thing you are going to say next and then I enjoy the content. Ha ha!!

  • Steve Martyn:

    The survivalist you mention sure sounds like Les Stroud, Survivorman. His documentary on building his off grid place is on YouTube. I think it’s in the Muskoka, Ontario region. He’s a great marketer.

    Speaking of great marketing, I think “The Sensible Prepper” title will appeal to people like me who are interested in being more self-sufficent, but are not part of the camouflage/target practice folk. I think there are a growing number of normal people like me (ok, so my wife might take issue with this claim on occasion) who want to become more self sufficient.

    Connie, to me prepping is simply a term for becoming more self- sufficient. The “Why” for prepping can be for many reasons, including being an environmentalist. If calling it prepping helps reach more people, isn’t that a good thing?


  • Neil B. (Orleans):

    Cam, I always enjoy your books. Please add me to your new book waiting.

    Accidental Prepper, thanks for being “boring”. Your blog has more reality to it than just about any blog I read. Most others are full of doom and gloom and have little concrete advice on preparedness, etc. Besides the great insight, your blog is entertaining and funny sometimes which I appreciate!

    On another note, I meant to comment on your last wood blog. Then it in this blog, you mentioned “The Doomsday Prepper” which reminded me. Did you see the show where the family shredded newspaper and then mixed it with dry leaves and water in a large tub. They then let it sit for a couple of days. After they put chunks of this mixture (leaves and newspaper) and compressed by hand into a donut shape about 3 to 4 inches in height. Then they let that dry for months and then used this in a stove. Cam, have your ever tried this or heard of it before?

    Since I live in the city, I thought this may be a cheap way to make firewood. I am already collecting newspaper from a neighbour for my garden and to start my fires in the winter time. Another neighbour has a huge silver maple that covers the street with leaves in the fall. So I was thinking of trying this out this fall to see how well it burned and how well it heated our house.

    Looking forward to your new book.

  • Gerrit:

    We enjoy your books, so you can put us on your waiting list. Good luck with finishing it, what with all your other projects. You folks are busy.

  • Connie Murray:

    Couldn’t you and Michelle be the Sensible Environmentalists instead? Why is “prepping” so glamorous and being an environmentalist so dowdy? Everyone should try to live lightly on the earth and be more self-sufficient. Not because of a Zombie Apocalypse or Martian Invasion but because this is the only planet we’ve got.

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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