R. Ann Parris on Resourceful Raccoons


Resourceful Raccoons by R. Ann Paris

Prepping can be an overwhelming prospect from many angles — the desires for self-sufficiency and self-reliance, the push-pull between bugout/evac and shelter-in-place plans, the sheer number of categories involved with even 3-30 day disasters, and the stuff we need to accumulate to check those boxes.
How much that stuff costs — and where in tarnation we’re going to put it all, let alone organized enough for the periodic checks and rotating it all — is routinely a biggie.
We can cut some of the stressors there by developing the tendencies of a resourceful raccoon.
A raccoon goes strolling down a lane and can take any crossroad because they can find what they need no matter where they end up.
They don’t get hung up on how the city ‘coons are doing things. They don’t let themselves be pigeonholed by the pretty forest settings they originated in. They pull the best of both worlds together, make do with whatever they find, and aren’t afraid to get their paws a little dirty — so long as they can wash them afterwards.
It’s the “make do” aspect that’s huge.
It’s what let them spread far beyond normal ranges, put up with human encroachments, and continue to not only survive, but thrive, in changing environments and climates.
We’re not quite as ferocious and dense-furred, and not quite as happy regardless of whether our meal came from auto litter, garbage bins, a bird feeder, somebody’s catfood or garden, a city park ditch, wash-up near a shipping bay, or a natural bayou, creek, or berry patch, so we’re a little more selective.
Secondhand items — and a keen eye for spotting potential — are just fine.
The raccoon doesn’t care if the hole in a tree was used before. If it’s not occupied now, it’s fine, just like somebody’s cast-off filing cabinet, disused dove cote, abandoned vehicle, or the unpatched hole in a shed.
We can use the same, for aboveground caches, to strip for parts for projects, or to clean up and help us with storage.
Most areas have a “marketplace” on Facebook (create a dummy account with an initial and last name that’s a nickname or be creative for the account and the associated free drop email  — “Ba Rackoon”, “J. Prphunt”). Online trader sites, Craigslist, and Freecycle can be other options.
So can estate sales and yard sales, and a little research to find out what day is trash day so we can cruise past for curbside pickups.
Need some netting, windbreak, or fencing? Watch for road construction with the orange hurricane/blizzard fence, find out who’s doing it, and call to find out what they’re doing with it when finished (with check-back calls periodically).
Also a good way to get salvage: Watch for low-end and foreclosed real estate to sell. A lot of times, fixer-uppers are about to repair and reno, and we can score everything from panel and planks to sinks and storm windows for our garden or outdoor cooking area, bookshelves ready to use after a hit of pine cleaner for our storage or to lay flat and become a garden bed, and all kinds of others with water catchment, storage, fence-building, trellis, container garden, and shed-building potential.
The upcycle/repurpose crowds and the re-use-it folks are two areas where we can apply raccoon resourcefulness quickly and easily.
There are some basic tools that belong in any home, tiny studio or pop-out RV to the ‘burbs and rurals. Still, we want to be watchful for projects that are going to require more “stuff” than we’re saving.
A lot, though, go from one use to another immediately.
Plastic bottles and jugs are one. They give us as-is storage for small items of food or materials, our own become water storage, heat sinks, and cooler ice blocks. With some holes and-or a cut, they’re windowsill and porch and fenceline planters, cloches, speedy-fill drip waterers, bait fish and slug traps, mosquito and fly traps. They also cut down to be “drawers” for organized shelving of materials.
Canning jars we’ll want when we go full-hog gardening can be used to hold storage foods we repackage, or small items like gauze, band-aids, exam/handling gloves, hankies, or water. And then we stack them up, throw some salvaged panel on top, and have ourselves a workstation. Or, top that with some salvaged curtains or sheets, and we have an indoor side table, desk or counter.
Filing cabinets are storage or come apart to be planters. DVD racks and wire shelving are outdoor planter shelves, or supports for winter hoop plastic or floating row cover.
Set up two and top with a salvaged door or shipping pallet boards we’ve remanufactured into a sturdy two-ply shingle, and we have either a desk, a work counter, grow space for sprouts or shallow-rooted plants, or a hollow we can use to store larger, odd-shaped items. With tall ones, we can suspend hooks for line or a curtain rod/straight-ish limb and hang clothing or shoe/hat organizers to keep supplies or seasonal gear accessible and organized. Pretty up either with salvaged blankets, strips of discard from lampshade and couch manufacturers, raw cloth bolts, or split pillowcases hung like curtains.
The possibilities for a resourceful raccoon are pretty endless.
From where we get items to how we use them, rethinking our supply sources can save a lot of money and keep those supplies neater, more organized, and easier to use — and commonly, hidden in plain sight.
Developing and nurturing that flexible, versatile mindset and DIY can-do mentalities will serve us well all on its own.
It’s contagious, and it spreads through all aspects of our lives. We’ll stop seeing only an as-is item and start seeing ways to adapt and overcome, not just surviving but thriving no matter what comes, just like that canny North American rodent.