Baby Steps to Preparedness, by Holli S.

While TEOTWAWKI may or may not happen soon, one can never be too prepared. Loss of job or illness can happen any time. Being prepared can lessen the stress in your life and also lead to strengthening your family bonds. Not everyone has the financial or physical means to opt out or bug out at a moments notice. What we can do is start with Baby Steps and work our way up to where we want to be.

• Research
• Plan
• Schedule
• Execute
• Learn to be thick-skinned
• Follow up and be flexible.  Change can sometimes lead to opportunity.
• Try new things when possible.
• Don’t get discouraged.
• When you can’t trust your own government, trust in God

Below is how we started.

Baby Step 1Get out of town if possible. If you are in a city, at least try to position your family / self as close to the edge as possible. If you ever need to escape quickly, the closer you are to the edge, the higher the probability of making your exit strategy work.

After many years of research and talking about moving out of town and becoming self sufficient, last fall we finally had the means to do what we called our first Baby Steps. We purchased a new home on 5 acres out in the rural farm area. While not as off-the-beaten-path as we would like, it was what we could afford at the time and it had several advantages.

It is largely wooded, with a creek running along the property, deep well that is connected to one of the largest aquifers in the country, septic and leach field already in place, sufficient outbuildings to get us started, and no neighbors for a quarter mile. The downside is that it is on a state highway and is totally electric. We can’t remedy the location, but will do our best to be off grid as soon as possible.

While we had been talking about doing this for years, many of our friends and family thought we were nuts! No we are not right wing fanatics, just realists. My husband and I have watched, listened, read, talked about trends we see happening in our country and figured, better safe than sorry.  Raised as a Mormon, it was routinely pounded into my brain that we needed to have 3 years food storage. While I’m no longer Mormon, I still believe that they were right about being prepared. Our journey had begun.

Baby Step 2.: Do your research. Write your plans down and make a schedule. When possible include family and let them help you execute your plans. Develop a thick skin as you will always have someone who doesn’t get it.

I am very lucky that my 76-year-old mother has always supported me in anything I wanted to do. She is one smart woman and realized that what we were contemplating was not only to our advantage, but hers as well. If SHTF, she too would be cared for. God blessed me with a wonderful mom and to this day, she still inspires and encourages me to do my best and knows I can do anything I set my mind to do. She has also come out to the farm to help with canning, gone to yard sales looking for supplies and even come out and taken care of our animals so we could be elsewhere for a few days.

Baby Step 3: Learn to be flexible. Plans can change and rigidity can lead to disaster.

This spring we bought our first chickens. We didn’t have a coop yet, but bought chicks and had them in a big tub with a light and feeders lying on top of wood chips. Watching them grow fast, we realized that we needed a coop quickly and began to prepare in earnest. My husband designed and built a very affordable chicken tractor that would allow us to move it around to a fresh spot on our property every day so that the chickens could forage. They can get in out of the weather when needed and have a safe place to roost at night. While this was a good start, after two months of having to move it every day, we soon realized that we wanted a more permanent coop before winter. I really didn’t relish going out in the cold to move it or even to feed and water the chickens in the cold. Also, watering in a tractor in the winter could be impossible in freezing weather. We will continue to let them free range in the warm months, but are building a new 9′ x 12′ coop with a covered 20′ x 20′ run for the winter to keep them safe from hungry predators. This will also allow us to increase our flock size.

While they may be dirty little birds, they can be quite endearing as well. All of our chickens come running to greet me whenever I come out. I have a couple of small hens that when I sit down, will jump up and sit on my lap and wait to be petted. They don’t do this to my husband or anyone else, just me. This may seem weird to some readers, but they tend to lay more and larger eggs when I treat them well. They will eat any scraps we have and between the chickens and dogs, we don’t waste anything! They are now laying eggs every day and our friends and family who once thought we were nuts, are asking if we have any extra! Eventually we hope to produce enough eggs to provide local family and have extra to sell to cover the cost of feed. We will also be raising chicks to coop-ready size and selling them to folks who don’t want to raise baby chicks but want to have a small backyard coop. Again, this should offset the cost of feed and supplies. They are also great for barter or for a charity item.

Baby Step 4: Be willing to try new things.

At the beginning of summer we decided that we needed to be raising meat in some form, but couldn’t afford to buy a cow, pig, or sheep. After researching alternatives we decided to invest in rabbits, so we purchased two small female California/Mini Rex cross rabbits, and soon after added one California buck and two California does. In August we were lucky enough to obtain another California doe and a New Zealand Buck.  Breeding began. We had our first two litters last week and are getting ready to breed the other does this week. These first litters will be part of our breeding stock. Their offspring will be dinner! Many of our friends and family are watching our farm’s progress. I know when it comes time to butcher; there will be those with their hands out wanting meat since prices are steadily rising, even here in farm country. Rabbit meat tastes much like chicken but is much leaner. We have limited freezer space,  so we will be canning much of the meat as well as smoking some of it. 

Baby Step 4: Don’t get discouraged if you have to deal with stumbling blocks. Think of them as opportunities.

This was our first year to have a garden and we were very unprepared. To say that it didn’t do well is an understatement! When the opportunity to make friends with a couple of local farmers arose, I grabbed it. We now have a list of farms and orchards to get fresh fruit and veggies and have been canning up a storm.  I have even canned chicken and inexpensive cuts of beef. Later we will be doing venison and rabbit…. Yum!

We have a room with really good light exposure and I hope to grow herbs, lettuce and whatever else will grow there this winter. I’ve already signed up for a Master Gardener class in January and hope not to have the same issues with my garden next year.

We don’t typically eat much jam, but I decided to can as much of it as I could. This can be used for gifts or as barter down the line. I let all my friends and family have samplers of my Caramel Apple Jam to try. Getting volunteers to come help is no longer a problem! I can always use the help and this is also a way to get them to start thinking about prepping for themselves. Apples don’t can well unless you are making apple butter, jam or apple sauce. Using a dehydrator we have been able to put up a bushel of apple slices with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar. Later they can be eaten as is or added to oatmeal, bread, muffins, or anything else.

Food storage is such an important part of our survival / self-sufficiency strategy and knowing how to store is important. We would love to have a nice hidden root cellar or storage room, but it isn’t feasible yet. For now we have  converted a small room into our storage room. We purchased metal shelving from Sam’s Club that are easy to put together, take down or move and have shelf height flexibility. Everything is dated and oldest items are used first. I have divided the room into six sections.

  1. Canned foods/ bottled foods
  2. Non-foods such as shampoo, soap, zip-lock bags, aluminum foil, garbage bags, paper towels and toilet paper, etc.
  3. First aid supplies.
  4. Barter and/or gift items
  5. Animal feed and supplies.
  6. Seeds for next year.

One of the things that drew us to our property was the backwoods. When we initially walked the property, there were signs that deer had been bedding down in the little glade out back. Neither of us have had much experience hunting. I have been once many decades ago but really want to develop that skill-set. We bought my husband a shotgun and I’ve been encouraging him to hunt. He loves my cooking, so talking to him about a recipe for venison pot roast or spicy venison sausage gets him thinking about hunting. I may try to hunt myself, though being only five feet tall, I am unsure of how I would get it strung up or transported without the help of a much sturdier person.

Our dryer went out and the washer is on its way out. We have been nursing it along for weeks now. Instead of going out and buying another big expensive set, we have ordered a small portable washer and a dryer that mounts on the wall. We put up several retractable cloths lines, two in the house and a large one outside. While I don’t particularly like the feel of line-dried clothes, they will do in a pinch. To save on our electric bill, I am line drying everything we don’t need right away and the things we do need quickly, starting them on the line and finishing in the dryer when they are just slightly damp. This also softens them up so they don’t feel like cardboard. It is good to have options!

This summer I took up fishing and was able to stock some fish in the freezer. Some of it was carp. People say they aren’t edible, however, they are a great source of protein for our animals. I keep and process anything that was legal size. I would love to learn how to smoke them the way the Indians did. For the time being I am only able to can, freeze or dehydrate anything that we want to store.

Division of labor has been a big deal here. My husband works seven days a week most of the time and because it is third shift, his internal clock is not on the same schedule as mine. We discussed the division of labor when we first got together 17 years ago and while the workload has increased dramatically since we moved out here, we have tried to stick to it. He brings home the majority of the money that allows us to survive and I take care of the day-to-day things. I am able to generate some income from my home, but can only do so in my spare time. I currently design web site for local groups, do art work and hope to add more money to the family kitty by selling eggs, chickens and maybe a few rabbits. For any woman reading this, there are always things you can do to help your family financially. Whether it is bartering or cash, it all helps.

During our Baby Steps process, one of the most important lessons I have learned is to keep myself on a schedule. If I keep to one, I get things done in a timely manner and have extra time to read or try new things. If I miss a scheduled time, my whole day seems to be flipped upside down and I feel exhausted by days end.

I tried cleaning the rabbit hutches and coops every day, but found that it ate up too much of my time and really could be done every other day. Now I have set it up so that the chicken coop is one day and the rabbits the next. The rabbits and chickens can’t tell the difference.

There will always be extra projects to take up your time. If you stick to a schedule as much as possible, you will have time to do more! While we are still taking Baby Steps, we can foresee a future where we are self sufficient and ready for anything. With God’s blessing and many Baby Steps, we know we will survive what is to come!