Hard Love Preparedness Upbringing, by FBP

As a child, I was orphaned by age 10. I went from living in wealthy lifestyle with maids and yard handyman, with ponies and pet monkeys in Miami, Florida, to living in rural mid-West with my Grandparents. This was truly a culture shock. It has been with prepping that I have truly appreciated the time spent with my Grandparents. From them learned about gardening, canning, freezing, sewing, and mind expanding experiences from visiting relatives on the farm (acres and acres of corn, and livestock!)

I remember Grandma’s bootstrapping on everything. She’d lived through the depression and WWII with its rationing. She saved everything useful. She explained to me that sewing needles were hard to come by, and butter had been rationed. In today’s perspective, it reminds me to stock up on those little things, like needles. Butter making is a skill and relatively easy to do if you have the animals to do it, but without them, I stocked up on powdered butter, just in case! Old clothes were always saved, and were sometimes remade into new ones (hand-me-downs) for another. I even remember an old rag rug made from scraps of old materials braided and then sewn together in an oval shape. Nothing went to waste.

My other Grandmother told me of her experiences during the Depression. They didn’t have electricity to ‘do without’ because they didn’t have electricity back then! They managed and just didn’t seem to be aware of how hard they had it; just because that was the way it was then. However, she did mention that there were problems in the area with hobos and less fortunates stealing and killing livestock. Grandpa had been more fortunate and not had as much trouble with them due to his reputation for being fair. He paid anyone dropping by, ‘a meal for a day’s work’, such as splitting wood, or other farm chore. The word got around that one could get a meal for work and some would come, help, and eat. Grandpa’s farm wasn’t bothered by losses like some of the neighbors.

Today, when reflecting on my childhood and the things I learned, and in contrast looking at today’s young people, gave me pause. Our group of prepper families consists of older parents with young adult children who are continuing their lives as usual. We had viewed it as giving them a chance to enjoy life and have some good memories before the hard times. It occurred to me today, that for our kids, it is comparable to the Roaring Twenties just before the Great Depression.

But, isn’t the prepping for the continuation of our offspring? I realized today that they are not gaining as much of the skill sets for survival, like I had gained from my Grandparents, by working at their side pulling weeds out of the garden, picking green beans, snapping green beans, shucking corn, blanching and freezing corn, canning green beans, cooking (from scratch!), sewing, automotive repairs, and on and on… Or rather, the extensive lessons gained from this year’s prepping.

This summer’s garden has been unusual for us. We have had a large garden for nearly 15 years, but this year’s garden was planted as a training garden. It was laid out on paper first, companion planting in mind. We innovated and experimented with several new crops, including hops. We planted some both in the garden and in containers for comparison. There are berries, tomatoes, peppers, grapes, lemon bushes, pole-green beans, tire-stack potatoes, yams, and landscaped with herbs and cucumbers and pumpkins. Before planting the garden, we assembled a PVC water distribution line with on/off valves for each row and for the garden as a whole. After rototilling the compost into the garden and covering it with black plastic for two weeks to kill weed seeds, we made furrows and laid out the soaker hoses on the rows, and connected to the water distribution line (PVC) at one end of the garden. The seeds were planted according to the preplanned paper charted layout; each soaker hose was planted on both sides of the hose, essentially doubling the garden’s capacity. (We did have to fertilize a month ago because of the doubling of the crops.) Marigold seeds were planted around the outside perimeter of the garden, unfortunately not on a soaker hose, which required manual watering. This turned out to be a blessing because it provided a bi-daily requirement to water and an opportunity to review progress and address weeds and needs of the garden. It has blossomed like a jungle forest in Hawaii despite being in the middle of a drought and 100 degree summer weather! I have maintained my first ever garden journal and noted all progress and failures. Our hops are now over 9 feet tall, and covered with hops. Our potato tire stacks looked like they worked well, but we discovered potatoes only liked the first tire which held dirt; the tires above were filled with tree mulch and grew no potatoes. This was a good lesson before TEOTWAWKI. The green beans have produced 49 quarts to date and are ready for their 4th picking and are still blooming! The bell peppers are nearly the size of a baseball. These were grown from seeds we saved from Costco’s bell peppers eaten earlier in the year! We have a patch along the side of the garden which holds the perennials which don’t get rototilled. There grows the asparagus, which gave us spears for two months early in the year and then goes to frond, tall and wispy, to support the root structure. We also grew new asparagus from seed saved from last year! We have tomatoes planted next to the asparagus. They repel each other’s pests! In between are basil and parsley and garlic. We have had no problems with pests this year! Yeah!

We learned not to plant winter crops in spring, but rather in July. We learned that spinach and lettuce like shade, and that spinach bolts (goes to seed) when the days are too long. Our pole beans have grown up 6 foot rabbit/deer fencing staked down along the soaker hoses. Pole beans are vining plants and have grown into arches making getting down the rows difficult. Next year we will alternate pole bean rows with spinach or lettuce I think. Our cowpeas/black-eyed peas are doing fine and require no work! They will also make a great cover crop for the winter and to rototill into the garden. They add nitrogen to the soil!

The entire garden survived a devastating hail storm which tattered much of the garden, and bruised some of the produce, but most survived and recovered. I discovered that thinning can be done with scissors to remove the extra plants without disturbing the roots of the “keeper” plants.

The garden has always been canned, but this year, we have discovered that much of it can be put up through dehydration. The Excalibur dehydrators web site has excellent videos of how to dehydrate food for TEOTWAWKI, which saves space and weight! We are still canning meats. We also smoked our first freshly caught river salmon and vacu-sealing it before freezing it, to keep it around for awhile. (Of course, that is after we ate lots of fresh salmon.)

The discoveries this summer have been wonderful, but the kids have not been around for much of it. They have been too busy enjoying their own lives in our urban community. They have grown gardens before, but they missed out on much of what we learned this year, by not being around. It is hard to tear them away from their friends, girlfriends, jobs, college, parties, movies, and of course electronic games.

I have learned, like the song says, “You’ve got to be Cruel to be Kind”. To do the right thing for our kids will take ‘Hard Love’, like my Grandparents did with me; chores and responsibilities/school homework came first, before play, and before friends! I hated that rule, but it made a better me as a result of it. Wish me luck. – FBP