My wife and I are both in our late 30s and have just started living a life of preparedness. Unfortunately, we started this journey just after building a new house on 15 acres in Northeastern Minnesota. We wish we had a few years back to build over with a different frame of mind, but we count our blessings and enjoy our rural location. We live on my single income (about $70,000) and have four beautiful children, ages 4 through 9.
While having four children makes life a little more interesting financially, by being frugal, we have still been able to prepare with our limited disposable income. In the past three years we have:
- Installed a wood stove to heat the house
- Installed a hand pump on the well along side the electric pump
- Put away over 65 buckets of food in Mylar bags and 5-gallon buckets.
- Built a small inventory of ammo for hunting and defense
- Bought numerous back-up items like: medical supplies, ordered a Big Berkey, a pressure canner, a grain mill, and put together a large pantry that would feed us for about a year.
- Purchased the building materials to build an underground root cellar with a small cabin (16’ x 10’) over the top of it.
How did we do all this? We quit eating out as a family once every week or two. Now, if we go out for a burger or pizza, it is once a month or once every two months. We cancelled our cell phone coverage and bought a TracFone. We stripped down our land line to the bare necessity, and then we shut off our television service. In addition, we changed investment strategies to give us more money for practical goods. We bargain shop and buy online a lot through eBay and other such sites (like Lulu.com to get Mr. Rawles’ the SurvivalBlog Archive CD-ROM).
Preparedness with Kids
Having supplies is great, but a true plan must have the full family accounted for. If it were just my wife and I, it would be much easier to prepare, not only financially, but logistically. With kids involved, there is much more to think about. The first step in preparedness with kids is in really getting to know them. This may sound like a dumb statement, but it is vitally important to know each of you kids’ strengths and weaknesses. I will come back to this in numerous parts of this entry.
A Firm Foundation
It is our firm belief that a plan made without a grounded faith in the Lord will only be as strong as the individual making the preparations. We believe preparing for all possible scenarios goes beyond that. Our children have a short devotional time each morning during breakfast where they learn biblical truths through Children’s Bible stories. We are preparing to not just survive, but to have the ability to help others.
Last year we decided to shut off the television. We really only watched football on Sunday afternoons in the fall, but in our opinion, every commercial our kids were viewing was the worldly culture trying to get a foothold on our kids. We shut off the television and this one single act has paid more dividends than you could possibly imagine. If the power goes out (which it has) our kids are not glooming over their loss of electronic gadgets, but instead we light a candle and get out a board game, a deck of cards, or we each grab a good book. It is business as usual for us in that regard.
Investing in Education and Book Reading
We believe strongly in education and want to give our kids the best chances to succeed in school (maybe college one day?). We recently pulled out all four of our kids’ college funds from the bank that were started by my wife and I and largely funded by their grandparents. We took that money and invested all of it into gold and silver. It is our kids’ money of course, but it does give the family a sense of financial security. We also love to read at the house with our kids and have slowly started to incorporate more and more wilderness adventure stories. Some of our favorites our:
- Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and all of the corresponding books in the series
- Little House on the Prairie Series
- One Man’s Wilderness by Sam Keith
Gardening and Cooking
Our small garden of a few raised beds has grown into many raised beds, a raspberry patch, blueberries, a couple of apple trees, a pumpkin patch, rows of sweet corn, and an array of garden veggies and herbs. Our kids take part in picking berries, pulling the carrots, and even pollinating the pumpkins. In addition, my wife has each kid plan a meal once a month. They can choose the menu items and then they must help cook the meal. This is where getting to know our kids comes in handy. Knowing what our children like to eat helps my wife and me when we are deciding what to stock up on. In addition to using our traditional kitchen, we cook on a propane stove, over our outdoor fire-pit, using a charcoal grill, and on our wood stove. We now also make our own bread. We include our kids in this process as one can pour the wheat berries into the hopper and then we will let the oldest try his hand at cranking out some flour. It is usually too tough for him at this point, but our children being able to do everything isn’t the point. Including them in the process is what we are striving to do.
When we installed our wood stove, we were looking to minimize the use of the electric boiler that our in-floor heat runs on. We instantly fell in love with our stove, but wood heat isn’t easy….in fact, it is a lot of work. When it is time to go out and fill our ½ cord wood bin outside the basement door, we include all of the kids, even our four year old daughter. We trek out and carry in wood from about 40 yards away. It is not back-breaking, but in a small path surrounded by four feet of snow, it can be quite laborious. Each of the kids carries what they can physically handle, with our four year-old carrying mostly kindling-sized pieces. I also have each kid watch me making the fires and controlling the damper of the woodstove. While I don’t let the young ones work the damper, etc. while the stove is hot, I do give each one a shot at starting their own fire. I believe each of the three boys could start a fire on their own if they had to.
We live in a two story home with the second story sitting on top of a walk-out basement. We want our kids to be ready for anything, so each spring we have a fire drill. Two brothers share bunk beds in one room while because of their young age, our oldest boy shares a bedroom with his younger sister. In our fire drill, both sets of kids must hit the floor and crawl to the window. Then, the oldest boy in each room, opens the window, pops off the outside screens and helps his younger sibling out the window. Then they exit the house and meet in our garden shed. They must do this entire drill in one minute or less. At first, the kids could not make the time that we had set. With practice, however, they could do it in one full minute. Once in a while we will throw in small obstacles to make them “think on their feet” so that they are conscious of what they are doing. This summer, phase two of the drill will be going over to Grandpa and Grandma’s house (they have the neighboring 15 acres) through the woods on their own with a time requirement. We also will have future drills that will have us meeting at a small cabin that we are building on a secluded part of our property this year. Our kids enjoy these drills and really feel good about themselves when they can make the time that we have set for them.
Smart in the Woods
We have never wanted our kids to fear playing in the woods and exploring all that nature has for them to see. However, with more and more signs of aggressive and even mangy wolves in our area, and even the rare sighting of a mountain lion, we have had to be smart in this regard. We are not paranoid, but we don’t need to be the first family in this area to lose their kid to an animal. The kids can go anywhere they want on our property under the following conditions:
- They are with a sibling, friend, or adult
- Wear blaze orange of some kind
- They carry one of our Motorola handhelds with them, and have the household handheld on and assigned to either myself or my wife.
- They know where all the deer stands/shelters are on the property and how to get into each of them. (they must pass a test I give them)
Birthday and Christmas Gifts have Changed
Kids love presents and despite what we have tried, they are still in that naïve stage where while they understand the meaning of Christmas, they still look under the tree to find gifts with their names on it. In a coordinated effort with their grandparents, we have tried to minimize electronic gifts and get them items of “substance.” For example, our eight year old wanted binoculars like his dad. This past Christmas, his grandparents got him camouflaged Bushnell binoculars. (They are better than mine!). They also got our youngest boy the BB Gun he wanted. When all of our children got new camouflaged pajamas from Santa, they wouldn’t take them off on the weekends! Gifts now have more of a practical goal in mind. Yes, they still have normal toys, but our kids are buying into a way of life that is centered around outdoor living.
Hunting and Fishing
While my boys all like hunting, my middle son loves it. He will sit in the deer stand with me for hours without making a sound or movement. When one of his birthday gifts was a blaze orange vest and hat combo, he was in heaven. I let all of the boys take turns sitting in the deer stand with me. When my dad or I get a deer, we bring the boys so that they can see the deer and watch us gut it. My oldest (Mr. sensitive) watches from about 25 feet away, while my middle son gets right into it and asks more questions than one could possibly answer. In addition to hunting, my dad has a small 16 foot boat that we take out fishing. I take two boys at a time and they rotate so they all get to go the same amount of times over the course of the summer. While we all have busy summers, we decided to “schedule in” two fishing nights each week for the duration of the summer. This forces us to go and gives our kids great experiences.
We have much to learn about preparedness, and our family learns more and more each day. My preparedness plan has my kids joining my wife and I in this adventure. From canning raspberry jam and green beans to learning how to start a fire to learning how to set the hook for their first fish, we just want our kids to learn more skills that will lead to a life of self-sufficiency. The more we do now, the better prepared they will be in the future. If TEOTWAWKI happens sooner than we want, we hope our simple household preparedness steps will help us serve the Lord in a time period where people will need it the most.