Archive for September, 2013

Doomsday Preppers: Grace McLeod

The episode (and the mini-season??) concludes with Grace McLeod, of North Carolina.
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
She and her husband Craig claim to be preparing for an “economic collapse, resulting in food shortages and unwelcome visitors.”
Grace is a former police who left Florida for NC, which—let’s face it—is really a no-brainer.
However, it seems that Grace is so special that she has a one-on-one direct line to ‘The Lord’, who apparently directs her every move and decision. Yeesh.  Of course, that kind of talk is pretty much required when you run your own ‘ministry’.

Anyway, it’s revealed that she and her husband have a unique, custon-designed survival fortress. While our narrator informs us that they “didn’t choose a typical retreat”, its location (on top of a 3,000-foot mountain, miles away from the nearest road) sure sounds like an ideal prepper hillfort to me.
The house is 3,500 square feet, and while the parts we see look like concrete, it’s not entirely unattractive—clearly it was designed and built all together, not piecemeal over a long period. Additionally, it includes a one-ton welded steel raise-able staircase (‘drawbridge’), and second-floor-only windows, meaning it could potentially function a lot like an actual castle—are you taking notes, Brent Doomsday ‘Castle’ Senior?

For additional storage, the couple have two shipping containers buried in a nearby hillside. Unfortunately, they haven’t exactly been camouflaged yet, so they’re pretty obvious.
To help them with their defensive measures, Grace invites some PMC ‘security consultant’ guys to take a look around and give some tips. They suggest using trail cameras for the outer perimeter, adding additional locks to interior doors, and a neat trick to buy more time should the house be breached: In the room most likely to be an intruder’s route into the house, they rig up a big-ass spotlight with a motion sensor directly opposite the door; when the door is opened, the intruder gets hit with about a million candlepower beam, which is quite enough to blind you for a good while, especially if it’s in a dark room. Nice to see practical applications like that.

The experts give Grace 69 points, for a year’s initial survival time. Now they just need to start up a raised-bed garden, and not rely on a shipping container’s worth of hoarded foodbuckets.

Honestly, aside from Grace’s annoying habit of chalking everything up to The Lord (where’s your sense of personal agency, woman?!) and lack of gardening, I’d say they have a pretty good setup.

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Doomsday Preppers: Brenda McSwigan

The episode continues with a visit to the Appalachian home of Brenda McSwigan.

© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentShe’s preparing for an Avian Flu Pandemic—wow, seems like we haven’t heard about one of those since Season 1!

The question now becomes What’s She Selling? As soon as I see a person on the show agreeing to air their full name, I assume they’re not really worried about ‘OpSec’ and having their location revealed, so they must have something to sell. In Brenda’s case, it’s her how-to-survive-a-pandemic book.

So with that fact established, Brenda sits on ten acres of woodland, which she shares with horses and at least one squirrel. There’s a shot of installing some 400-watt pv solar panels, and she gets nineteen food points from the experts at the end (must have one helluva garden we didn’t see, or something), so I’m guessing she’s at least aiming for self-reliant homestead.

To help her survive her predicted pandemic, she’s recruited a “task force”—read: a group of friends—that includes a hunter, nurse, and farmer. Hey, at least it’s way better than the usual Kevlar-clad, gung-ho wannabe soldiers-of-fortune this show usually fixates on, but I still strongly dislike this kind of specialized pigeonholing, distilling all the various facets of an individual into a single label. As a certified jack-of-all-trades, I’m scared to think what simplistic occupation someone would stick me with if I got roped into someone’s survival group—educator, craftsman, musician, writer, gardener…? Hmm, probably best to stick with ‘freedom enthusiast’.

On the plus side, at least Brenda has an altruistic angle to her ‘prepping’ and actively wants to help people, so she and her crew whip up a horse barn hotel for potential bird-flu ’fugees. There’s some roleplaying with inspecting new arrivals, and some drama when a couple have to get ‘quarantined’ for a few weeks in a camper, but nothing comes of it.
Then there’s a segment where Brenda gets a lesson on checking chickens for the birdflu. It goes on way longer than necessary, especially since it revolves around repeated use of the word ‘cloaca’.

And finally there’s a rare glimpse of level-headed realism, sorely missing from most preppers’ post-disaster visions, when Brenda ponders a pressing issue if a pandemic should occur—what to do with bodies? Answer: have your farmhand start digging a mass grave.

The experts give her 73 points for thirteen months. Given what we’re shown, that seems a little high, but as we all know, the points don’t matter.

Doomsday Preppers: Alex Dunbar

Up next is the episode ‘People Become Animals!’, which seems to continue the previous profile’s theme of low-key prepping. On the whole, this one is pretty much the Least Prepper-y Episode ever—nobody shoots anything, and incredibly, nothing blows up.
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
So we begin with Alex Dunbar, of around San Luis, Colorado. He’s former USMC, which usually translates to supertactical and generally obnoxious. However, he seems pretty down to earth, as you’d expect from someone who claims to be “training an army of dogs to survive World War Three”.

Of course, I think—like most of the folks on the show—he’s really just appearing for some publicity for his dog-training outfit.
His rationale is something about “the whole world hating America” or some such. I dunno, the world didn’t always hate us back in our isolationist days, but about a hundred years ago that started to change. Now that we’re the imperial World Police, you can’t really blame them. But don’t worry—every empire in the last six thousand years (which is to say, all of them) has collapsed after exhausting their landbase and/or stretching themselves too thin.

In order to confront his hypothetical scenario, Alex has “pre-bugged out” to a 320-acre compound out in the middle of nowhere, very well-suited to his dog-training enterprise. As he says, a well-trained German Shepherd can fill all the roles of a body guard, offensive weapon, defensive alarm system, &c.

There’s a bunch of unnecessary focus on the individual dogs, giving them names and headshots and stuff. Bleh.

As you might imagine, it could potentially cost a lot of money to keep this many big dogs fed, so Alex takes the DIY route and makes his own dog food, using fruits, veggies, and yak meat. I think he says something about planning to raise yaks? That’d be cool, everywhere could use more megafauna.

Something I thought was interesting was how Alex has chosen to train his dogs in Slovakian. The rationale being the idea that it would give him a slight edge over anyone he was operating against, expecting to hear ‘Attack! Heel! Sic balls!’ or whatever, only to hear some completely foreign language (unless he’s invaded by Slovakians, that is). It’s probably not a bad idea.

The producer’s stunt comes when Alex takes one of the dogs (who has a fear of heights) and rappels with him off a 50-foot bridge. The dog doesn’t freak out too terribly, so I’d say Alex trains them pretty well.

On account of his isolation and pre-bugged-out-edness, experts award him 70 points for a year’s worth of initial survival time.

Doomsday Preppers: Mike and Grayson

The episode’s final ‘preppers’ (and we’re using that term lightly here) are Mike Umberger and Grayson Smith of Maryland.

I guess they were hoping to get some publicity for skateboarding?

Mike is apparently a former Navy MP and Grayson is a…former Zen-Buddhist monk? There’s a lot of focus on how the guys seem like ‘polar opposites’, but that’s really just the angle the producers are spinning for drama. Ignore it.
Really, just be glad we’re seeing Young People with Little Money on the show for once, instead of the usual Middle-Aged-Guys With More Money Than Sense.

The show tries to pass them off as ‘slackers’–although that really hasn’t been a valid label since about 1995.
Their supposed fear is of a Third World War, which they describe by getting creative and actually giving specifics!: they predict that “by 2017, the Chinese will have cemented their place as the world’s superpower, and will quickly blockade the US&A”—something to do with too much of our food being imported instead of grown at home? At least it’s a novel idea!

And if you’re worried about blockading Chinese cutting off your foodstuffs, the smart thing to do isn’t to drop a couple grand on one-time-only foodbuckets *coughWiseCompanycough*, but to set yourself up to grow as much of your food as possible. And that’s exactly what these guys are starting to do: one of their fathers owns 100 acres, and so they’ve moved out of the city (which is a good move in itself) and started to farm it in their own way.

Right off the bat, Grayson and Mikelet us know that they’re “not looking to be traditional farmers”. Now, normally when people say they’re into ‘traditional’ things, that’s usually code for ‘old-timey’—which often happen to translate well into self-reliance (think blacksmithing, spinning, basketweaving, butter-churning, &c.
Here, the opposite is meant: when the guys say they don’t want to be traditional farmers, what they’re really saying is that they don’t want to keep Our Culture’s oldest tradition, totalitarian agriculture!
Hmm, what a novel idea! Says the average viewer: “But why would these bright young men not want to associate themselves with the most productive agricultural paradigm ever devised?”
I dunno, maybe because that approach has never been sustainable?, and because its current iteration amounts to little more than throwing petroleum and ‘natural gas’ (which, by the way, is a bullshit greenwashed term anyway—it’s fucking methane!) onto our fields to grow three main monocrops, all resulting in everything from topsoil loss and soil compaction, to eutrophication, loss of fertility, and greatly-reduced biodiversity? All of these translate to fundamental unsustainability. Especially given the fact that global petroleum production has likely already peaked, why we continue to operate under this model is beyond me. Well, it’s not really beyond me—I know exactly why we continue to do it, but the root causes are about eight thousand years old, and most folks these days seem to have trouble comprehending anything past about 50 years ago.

The dudes admit they’re different from most farmers another way: they don’t want to be part of the grid. There they go, using their brains again! Says the average viewer, “But why would they want to remove themselves from the most glorious organization of shelter, heating, cooling, electricity, water, and sanitation, again, ever devised?”
Perhaps because such wonders of the modern age are again, completely reliant on unsustainable nonrenewable resources (coal, petrol, propane, natural gas methane) and painfully indicative of Our culture’s belief in the One Right Way to Live? If you don’t believe me, why else do we build living structures that are identical (and identically connected to the Grid) whether in Arizona or Alaska? When did we exchange regional diversity for cheap two-by-four stickframing, drywall, and vinyl siding? (answer: probably around 1492, when White people showed up on the scene and set about replicating their beloved England/Spain/France, which required extirpating all the indigs and their pesky regional adapted-to-specific-environments lifestyles).

So yeah, Grayson and Mike intend to turn the traditional farm into a self-sufficient one. Exactly!, because sustainable/self-reliant living is real preparedness! Unfortunately, we’re seeing their self-sufficient farm project in its infancy, so they’re still taking baby steps. But hey, baby steps are better than none!:

To start out, we actually get to see them put together a COLDFRAME!
For you non-green-thumb’ed folks, a coldframe is basically a mini-greenhouse—a sun-warmed, glass-topped container that usually translates into about an extra month of growing time before and after the main season. They’re handy as hell.
Better yet, Grayson declares his bias when gathering building materials—“free is better!” WORD. A society that believes everything must be ‘new’ is one destined for failure (oh hey look, here we are!).
I also like the water-filled wine bottles—for thermal mass/solar radiators—that they stick in the ground inside the coldframe. That’s a good trick; I might have to steal that idea and implement it into my coldframe.

And it just keeps getting better, because HOLY SHIT, not only did the narrator actually say PERMACULTURE, but they even got a captioned definition!! This might just be a miracle—one of the most unenlightening shows on what has become a channel of regrettable, sensationalist programming actually gave its average viewers a like, 30-second glimpse of something actually worth learning about! I just wish they’d done it sooner on an earlier episode, because folks watching this might get confused and think that permaculture-in-action looks like gray, unproductive farmland.

It doesn’t.

But that land won’t be unproductive for long, because it just keeps getting even better, when they wheel out the CHICKEN TRACTOR!!! Grayson explains the genius of these moveable coops, which allow the birds to eat bugs (pest control/less feed to buy), scratch up (aerate) soil, and defecate (fertilize!) everywhere! If you move the tractor every day, pretty soon you wind up with light, fertile, bug-free soil, which is exactly what you want if you’re looking to grow all your own food.

Unfortunately, the producers apparently weren’t content with educating average visitors with three fantastic items of self-reliant living, and felt the need to remind us that we’re watching Doomsday Preppers. And so, for the mandatory producer-enforced stunt, the guys head into the woods to set up spikey booby traps to catch watermelons!

Yeah. It’s especially sad when you think about what they could have filled that time with—maybe the guys could have shown off their properly-carbon/nitrogen-balanced compost pile, or waterless humanure setup, or root cellar—who knows??

Being new transplants (gardening pun?) to the area, the guys throw a barn party, to meet their neighbors (building community is a huge part of offgrid living that we rarely hear about) and I guess maybe recruit folks, because let’s fact it—with 100 acres, these guys have all the ingredients for a kickass intentional community. There’s a Jack White-looking guy in a fur coat and derby hat at the gig, so I guess the producers told attendees to dress as outlandishly as possible?, because hey, let’s make sure nobody takes millennials seriously.

The experts give them just 51 points for five months’ initial survival. Ugh, experts: first off, these dudes aren’t even real ‘preppers’;
therefore, the form their ‘preparedness’ takes results from their operating on a completely different paradigm from the one the scoring system is designed to evaluate;
And finally: everyone has to start somewhere. If NatGeo sends a film crew back to their homestead in two or three years, I bet we’ll see some serious off-grid organic horticultural goodness. Best of luck, dudes!

Doomsday Preppers: Moffatt Family

Up next we have a profile of Brian and Sheila Moffatt, of Arizona:

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
They’re supposedly using their 15-acre plot as a ‘doomsday academy’ for their—wait for it!—seven children (with one on the way, of course). From what we’re shown, this amounts to training in a variety of activities one would associate not with disaster or lost-in-the-woods survival, but with being able to ‘take out’ as many hungry ‘fugees/marauders as possible, because surprise surprise – like everyone else, they’re preparing for economic collapse!

We open with a long lingering shot of a biblical quote pinned to the wall—something designed to instill unthinking obedience to one’s parents or something. Ugh, I knew it! Seriously, anytime I hear about or see a family with any more than three or maybe four offspring (who always seem to be creepily indistinguishable), I immediately have to ask myself which evang/fundie snakehandling sect they’re a part of.
Oh, and they homeschool the kids, too. Again, what a surprise!

So…Brian starts us out with the mandatory prepping-rationale soundbite, declaring how “the rate of inflation is absolutely unsustainable!” Yeah, dude, that’s called the end-result of six thousand years of Our culture’s compounding inherent unsustainability coming to bite us in the ass. Maybe prices keep going up because Our culture is built on a foundation of infinite growth on (what we don’t want to admit is) a finite planet, and we’re starting to hit walls as we exhaust the nonrenewable resources we’ve come to rely on to continue prolonging our little experiment?

Brian continues with some blahblah, “…people can’t put food on the table!”
Rhetorical question: has anyone ever stopped to think why people can’t put food on the table?
If (as I assume) he really means, ‘People can’t buy food at the grocery store anymore!’, could that maybe be because Our culture has come to equate ‘putting food on the table’ with ‘being an obedient cog extorted into exchanging one-third of his day in exchange for fiat pieces of green paper’?, all while the so-called ‘value’ of those green pieces of paper continues to drop? What’s the real problem here? Do we want to deal with the symptoms, or the causes?
“You say it’s money that we need/As if we were only mouths to feed”

Anyway…on to the ‘academy’ curriculum. They start the day with some full-contact pummeling (aka Krav maga), and then move onto teaching ‘camouflage’ with stock green ghillie suits. Yet another handy caption reads: ‘The US Army advises adding natural vegetation to suit to blend in locally.’ Moffatts, you live in a scrubby desert – take a tip.
Then there’s a big section where they have shooting practice, at least for the ones over ten years old. I’m sure folks are meant to be shocked about younglings armed with semi-autos, but aside from the obnoxious ‘DOUBLE-TAP IN THE HEAD!!!’ tacti-talk, I didn’t see anything that jumped out at me. I mean, they did at least cover three of the Four Rules of Gun Safety! Thumbs up!
the four rules of gun safety
However, the only thing that seemed off to me was Brian’s comment that ‘shooting skills are only to be used in a worst-case scenario’. So, he’s pretty much telling his progeny that the guns are only to come out to shoot people in a crisis? Not that shooting is simply a valuable skill, or a powerful mental/physical exercise, or a way to humanely harvest game? Mixed signals, much?

Then they do a ‘dad-is-away-from-home’ invasion drill, one of the older daughters gets all shouty and take-charge-y; whatever. I did like the low-tech perimeter alert system made of tin cans!

And to wrap it all up with a bow, Brian says something about how despite all his preparations for collapse, he really just hopes that at the end of the day, everyone can just have food in their bellies so “that we can all have more children!” OH, COME ON! REALLY??! You’re worried about the System collapsing, but you continue to procreate like it’s going outta style?! What the fuck do you think is causing the System to collapse?!?!
Brian, man: barring outside help from an external entity like a comet or whatever, when this little civilizational experiment collapses (just like they’ve all done), history has shown it will ultimately trace its roots to a single Mesopotamian tribe whose top-of-the-pyramid rulers—infatuated with backbreakingly-created agricultural surplii (and mad with the power it allowed them to wield)—began telling a myth of unlimited growth (so long as there was some other tribe next door whose lands they could take), individual competition, the virtues of patriarchy and militarism, a labor-divided production economy, the ‘middle class’, and the wickedness of ‘human nature’ (manifested symptoms which are actually just the result of living in such an abhorrent system), &c., the list goes on and on…
We’ve all inherited this culture’s legacy, and while some of us are trying to do something about it, the Moffats continue to embrace it with all their hearts.

Very surprisingly, the experts give the family only 67 points for ten months’ time.

And as usual, the closing blurb ‘The Odds’ says that the USA could never fail (because that would mean we’ve been wrong!)! Thanks, status quo media mouthpiece!

Doomsday Preppers: Jason Johns

The miniseason drags on…with the episode “Whatever It Takes”, which begins with Jason Johns of Alabama. Now, unlike the vast majority of folks profiled on this show, Jason has had actual real-world experience with a life-or-death survival adventure—at age 19 he got lost in the woods. They don’t really go into much detail about how he got out alive and didn’t freeze to death (exposure being THE number one killer in survival incidents), which would’ve been interesting to hear, seeing how he says he only had a knife and a lighter and it was freezing rain!
Anyway, now “almost 20 years later”, he and his eighteen-year-old son Jacob are determined to be “prepared for a solar flare and the civil unrest that follows.”
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentSo, after the usual brief primer on solar flares (and that big one in the 19th century that set the telegraph wires on fire), we hear Jason recite the usual ‘for all its greatness our world is so fragile, if people didn’t have the Juice, they couldn’t get food blahblah’ mantra. And then Jason comes to the part that really freaks me out: “…after two months, people like me will be left, and that’ll be our chance where we get to rebuild society”. *eyetwitch*. And I’m sure they’ll do it the same way that got us to where we are now—by being fruitful and multiplying as soon as possible, because the Earth was made for Man to abuse as he sees fit, ecology be damned!, right?
“The worst part of it is this,” I said, “that the survivors, if there are any, will immediately set about doing it all over again, exactly the same way”, replicating (“rebuilding”) the only world they’ve ever known, not recognizing its inherent unsustainability.

So…apparently Jason has 1,000 meals stored? I dunno, looks like a whole lotta ramen to me. Seriously, the cardboard it’s packaged in has more nutritional value! Ramen can be fine survival food—it helped me survive college (rimshot!)—but you can’t rely on it solely; don’t think of it as the main course. It works best as a meal supplement, something to stretch the healthy survival rations you’ve already got: make a big pot of stew, and then throw a half-brick of ramen in everybody’s bowl. Yummm!

When the narrator tells us that Jason constantly “preaches the gospel of preparedness to his son”,  that should really read, “evangelizes the gospel of his model of preparedness to his son”.

They go on a field trip to the local junkyard for lead wheel weights—because “when the solar flare goes down, with abandoned cars these’ll be everywhere.” Yeah, except that lead wheel weights already are everywhere. Travel by foot or bike instead of car for once, and you’ll see them at intersections, in the gutter, everywhere. Do a good deed and pick them up, and maybe spread less birth defects through the water system (lead is, after all, just really depleted uranium).

But I can’t really see ol’ Jason picking up environmental contaminants off the road out of the goodness of his earth-loving heart, because after melting down the weights, we see him spoon out the ‘impurities’ (which are all naturally coated with molten lead) and just throw them out on the ground. Well, that’s just lovely—sloppy and disrespectful!
*For future reference, when melting wheel weights, drop a bit of beeswax into your crucible to attract the impurities, and then skim them off for use them in something that doesn’t require perfect lead—like a round ball for a blackpowder rifle. As for the steel clips that attached the weights to the wheel’s rim, just pick them out (the lead will come off), and take them to your local recycling center.
(And one final note—while the caption informs us that one should only melt lead in a well-ventilated area, smelting outdoors can still be dangerous. The first time I melted down a batch of wheel weights outdoors, I spent the afternoon hovering over the crucible instead of sitting back and watching from a distance. Not only did I have the smell of molten heavy metals in my nose for two days, but I wound up with a killer headache that rivaled the worst hangover ever.)

Once Jason and Jacob melt down their lead, they mold some bullets for…hot damn, a muzzleloader! And not even an inline, but a percussionlock, to boot! (While I have huge love for blackpowder guns, for future reference, in a long-term collapse scenario, reliance on fulminated mercury percussion caps isn’t a sustainable solution—a flintlock, however, could be run indefinitely on naturally-occurring ingredients—just saying).

Next, the duo decide to test out their “worst case scenario” in which “all their food is gone, so it’s time to abandon their home and live off the land.”
That sentence perfectly illustrates the truly unsurvivable nature of Doomsday Prepping, as opposed to preparedness-through-sustainable-living. In the doomsday model of preparedness, families (or perhaps more likely, individuals—because this subculture is infatuated with the idea of the ‘lone wolf’, head-for-the-hills survivorman) have their everyday pantry of food from which they eat and replenish from the grocery store, while down in the basement they have their stash of Doomsday Food, not to be touched until, you guessed it, ‘doomsday.’ (But what if the End Of The World As We Know It isn’t brought on by a single, isolated event, but instead by a prolonged, decades-long steady degradation of the systems of our civilization (which we are likely in the middle of right now)?) Once said event has gone down, only then may the family crack open their purchased foodbuckets of beans, rice, ramen noodles, and freeze-dried chili, which will be steadily depleted until they are empty, because no resupply plan has been considered. (Also loathsome to my ears is the phrase ‘live off the land’, which implies an unsustainable one-sided Taking of resources, instead of a two-way dialogue between land and individual in which the individual also gives back to the land).

Compare this to ‘lifestyle prepping’, in which most of one’s food is produced, harvested, and preserved by the individual and no differentiation is made between Food and Doomsday Food. I don’t have a separate stash of the latter, but I do have a basement larder and a couple of giant Rubbermaid boxes, full of home-canned and -dehydrated fruits and veggies respectively (a combination of homegrown and freegan foraged). When a recipe calls for something, I simply get it from a jar or I rehydrate it. And there’s never a shortage, because I have a good idea of how much I need to get through a year from one harvest to the next—it’s constantly being restocked.

Anyway…father and son go out in the woods where son will hopefully survive the night after learning all of dad’s survival tricks. Somewhere younglin’ makes a quip about how he has to carry all the heavy backpacks, because his dad is SO OLD. Ahh, the Deep South, where 40 is considered to be an ‘Old Man’. :-S
Jason’s big thing is a bugout bag organized around what he calls “the Ten C’s”: Cargo tape (duct tape), ‘Candle-ing device’ (headlamp), a Cutting tool (knife), Combustion device (firestarting kit), a Canvas needle, a Compass, a Cotton bandana, Covering (tarp), a Container (canteen), and Cordage—which he claims is “hard to recreate in nature”. HA! Plus a pistol (of course), but he can’t figure out how to make that start with a C.

Together, they put together a squirrel pole and a twitch-up snare, then build a lean-to (out of live trees??).
Supposedly they catch a rabbit (I’m not convinced it wasn’t provided by the producers), whose meat Jason seems to consider his first priority food—“if we didn’t catch this, we’d have to eat…plants” he says, as a look of disgust crosses his face, as if eating lower on the food-energy pyramid was his absolute last resort.
Dad shows son how to start a fire with flint and steel—which is cool and all, but unless you’re like, really hardcore into 18th century reenacting, just use some kind of ferro rod—the less demand on fine motor skills in a survival situation, the better.

In their score, the experts give them 19 points on water (even though they only have 300 gallons stored?) and a final score of 64 for 10 months. That’s apparently unacceptable for Jason, who instead of taking what he can get and saying ‘Well, there’s always room for improvement’, gets an attitude and talks shit like he has a big chip on his shoulder. Blech.

Doomsday Preppers: Suzanne Strisower

This episode wraps up with a visit to the California homestead of Suzanne Strisower (on the right:).
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertaimentAccording to her blurb on NatGeo’s page, she “and her life partner Dave (on the left^) are both psychics. She was led to her hilltop home several years ago by her spirit guide.” Man, I’m infinitely thankful that they somehow managed to not touch on this angle at all in the segment—talk about dodging a bullet! (I don’t really have anything against New Age-y types, but I can only tolerate them in extremely small doses).
As it turns out, Suzanne is another one of these folks using her appearance on the show to pimp whatever she’s selling, which in her case is ‘spiritual life coaching’ with runes/crystals/energy-work/past-lives/astral projections/other such that-sort-of-thing. Honestly, if her page used Papyrus font, I would’ve had to punch something.

Anyway, Suzanne maintains a 30-acre plot near the Sierra Nevada mountains, which she is slowly turning into a complete self-sufficient homestead. As the show insists on pigeonholing her as a true prepper, she asserts that she’s getting ready for—surprise!—economic collapse.

However, as she explains, she’s definitely a ‘lifestyle prepper’ instead of a doomsday prepper—meaning that she’s ‘prepared’ only due to the simple fact that an off-grid lifestyle is naturally more self-reliant and therefore less affected by those potential shocks to the System that cause doomsday preppers to lose so much sleep.

In her obligatory declaration of evidence, she explains “The U.S. is doing things that are unsustainable for itself…”
Honey, I got news for ya—it’s not that the U.S. is doing unsustainable things: it’s that the U.S. as we know it is fundamentally unsustainable. And it’s not just us, it’s Our Culture’s entire six-thousand-year-old history of Empire which we’ve inherited and blindly continue to carry on. Read a book, wake up, recognize the bars of your cage, and do something about it.

So…as part of her continuing efforts to maintain self-sufficiency, Suzanne places a big focus on bartering. And why shouldn’t she?—her land supports fruit trees, nut trees, chickens, goats (dairy), and llamas (wool)—she’s got plenty of high-value goods.
After doing some bartering for bulk grains with a neighbor, she takes a trip to the local recycling center and does some more bartering with the gentlemen there. I was kind of surprised at how it played out—usually on the show when someone goes a-bartering, they edit it to make them look all kooky and like it’s so out-there to trade goods instead of pieces of green paper. But not this time—the guys haggle a bit and then go along with it. Suzanne winds up with a junked refrigerator, which is going to be turned into an industrial-sized food dehydrator? Awesome! As an avid dehydrator advocate, I’m really curious to see how that works. Surprisingly, they bring back the post-filming update segment (remember those??) so Suzanne can show off her repurposed-‘fridge-dehydrator. Looks like they just took the top off to let sun in, and put food on screen shelves, which seems like it would actually work pretty well. Thumbs-up.

As you’d expect from someone who wears a giant crystal-thing around her neck, Suzanne is adamantly nonviolent. And as you can imagine, that kind of puts a damper on her efforts to defend her homestead. She goes to the local surplus shop and consults with the guys there. Eventually they decide to hook her up with a paintball gun. I dunno about that. Sure, they sting and leave welts, but is that enough to dissuade hungry marauders? Wouldn’t bear mace or something be more effective?

In her ‘expert’ assessment, she’s given 49 points (four months). The experts’ breakdown—as usual—makes little sense, for example scoring her only thirteen points on water, even though she has over 9,000 gallons stored. Once again, those guys seem unable to accurately assess someone’s preparedness when that approach stems from a completely different worldview from theirs.