My alembic copper pot stills, nestled over open flames, often seem like a throwback to a bygone era. Their stove boxes are designed to be packed with wood, and our distillers are trained to manage temperature and transitions in fluctuating heat environments without the assistance of a single computerized measurement. Visitors are charmed by the beauty of my distilling equipment, but they are also convinced that this old-school approach must make me a Luddite rather than owner of a competitive worldwide brand.
But today, as our country faces the most divisive politics and economic disparity in my five-decade lifetime, some of my colleagues wonder if I am clairvoyant. After all, if COVID-19 cases surge even further, if the bottom drops out of the economy and our country descends into chaos, if grocery stores close and craft distillers are no longer shipping spirits all over the world or promoting ourselves on social networks, if the infrastructure grid of electricity and natural gas crumbles under the weight of anarchy or civil unrest, would you still be able to make and sell your spirits? I would. Would you be able to survive if the supply chains died away? I would. But only after much thought and preparation.
In March 2020, as COVID-19 cases emerged heavily in my small mountain town, I reread The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. This beautiful novel about a pilot who has survived nine years after a viral pandemic killed most of humanity suddenly felt like a letter from the future. I began to ask myself how I would survive — and better yet, thrive — if the pandemic and unrest took a deeper and more devastating hold in the US. Instead of becoming distressed, I became galvanized and intrigued. (I also may have watched a few too many episodes of Alone.) I didn’t stock up on gasoline and rice. But I did become a prepper of a different kind.
I began to envision life with no Internet, no cell phones, no electrical service or gas lines and no incoming or outgoing freight supplies, no central government and no banks. No Aperol Spritz on the deck in summertime! I began to imagine a world without mapping software. I also began to look at what my community has in abundance: water, trees, sunshine, animals, lovely people, forageable plants.
Here are the 20 steps I took to be ready for an apocalypse, should it arrive, which I still think it may.
- I assessed all the ingredients to harvest and ferment within 50 miles of my distillery to make spirits. This included crab apples, rye, stone fruit, grapes, cherries and wild berries.
- I scoped out a trading route to a lower elevation farming region where I could trade spirits for nutritional basics that don’t grow at 9,000 ft., like quinoa, corn, fruit and root vegetables.
- I installed a 15-watt full solar array and battery storage system.
- I purchased an e-bike that could charge on the solar power system.
- I bought an electric forklift that charges off the solar power system and is able to cruise around everywhere needed, even on rough gravel and packed snow across distances.
- I stockpiled three styles of guns and their ammunition in my safe: a rifle for big game hunting (elk, antelope, deer), a shotgun for small game and foul (ducks, geese, partridge, grouse) and a handgun (for trading route security).
- I outfitted fishing poles, trapping kits, bait and tackle for river expeditions.
- I created a library of foraging books about edible plants in the Rocky Mountains.
- I banked heirloom seeds rated to USDA Zone 3 for quick growing vegetables like greens, cherry tomatoes and herbs.
- I installed a woodstove in my house to avoid reliance on an external supply of natural gas.
- I created an indoor greenhouse in my garage with grow-light technology for winter/spring/summer growing.
- I stashed away fire steel in case lighters and matches ran short.
- I set aside a high volume of salt and an electric dehydrator for curing and preserving game meats, vegetables and fruits.
- I researched and bought a set of ham radios that can communicate by a variety of radio signals across the spectrum for short- and long-range communications, including walkie-talkie function.
- I collected a set of solar rechargeable batteries and headlamps.
- I developed systems for water carriage and water storage.
- I acquired a small library of guides to natural medicine and first aid in the wilderness.
- I started a compost bin to begin my supply of highly nutrified soils for growing vegetables, along with a worm colony, some initial plant nutrition and organic fertilizers.
- I stockpiled some very basic pain relievers, antibiotics and medical supplies that cannot be foraged or found.
- I stashed a good bowie knife, bow and arrow and guides about properly harvesting all sorts of wild game, along with topographical maps of my area.
So if an apocalypse arrives, I will be prepared and my cocktail game will be excellent. What might you have added to this list? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org