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  1. my parents, who grew up in the 20’s and 30’s still did a lot of these things. In the 50’s I helped slaughter a couple hundred chickens for canning meat. Big family on the prairies who had great work ethic.
    I remember the big galvanized bathtub on the front porch and heating water on the wood stove to have a bath. No electricity until late 1950’s on the farm.

  2. A couple of takeaways from this great piece: Even in these rough times, water was gathered and hauled in quantities beyond the capacities of drip filters. Without a horse to aid water transport from the source to the point of use it would have been impossible for this family to live where they did. Without the natural water source, the homestead would not exist. There will be no such source in the cities.
    Grow it or store it….if you can’t grow it, buy it by the ton. Jettison that “one year supply” mantra from your life. I’ve bought pallets of rice from Costco. Sure, they stare, so what? Beans by the ton from elevators. 55 gallon steel drums are your friend.
    I visited a friend last week who has been living on his forklift batteries for 15 years, and wind/solar power. He tried L16 batteries at first, but they gave up in three years. Forklift batteries are by far, more cost efficient than “solar batteries”, and will last decades. I can see a wind turbine in my future!

    1. Yep, brother. Water is a most critical issue. We do well to heed Paul’s words. The weakness one has going without water is likely to lead to more problems. Stock up or find a nearby, reliable source today.

      Carry on

  3. Great article!
    We experienced much of the same in the South where I grew up.
    People did not have time to get in trouble…..too much work to be done.

  4. Excellent remembrance! We often lapse into nostalgia when thinking of the self-sufficient lifestyle, forgetting that it was (and is) HARD WORK! My parents were born in 1920 and 21 – growing up in rural Georgia, they shared many of the same stories with me. My mom’s father, who hacked out a life for his family with his own two hands, saw nothing romantic about subsistence farming! The part that I find most assuring is that, notwithstanding the hard work and responsibilities, these folks did not sacrifice joy in their lives. Sometimes I feel that their joy was more authentic than ours, as it was EARNED, and focused on rare, but anxiously anticipated, social events and the beauty of God’s creation. My dear mother, who had precious few toys as a child, could walk through a forest and be entertained all day, simply by examining each little detail in wonder. She would make little people out of acorns and foliage – sometimes creating little towns that they could inhabit! I saw her do it even when she was 70 years old!

    This phenomenon is vividly recorded in the thin little book, “Letters of a Woman Homesteader”, by Elinore Pruitt Stewart. The hardships she faced in early 20th Century Wyoming would make many of us lie down and die today (after rifling through a bottle of Prozac!), but through it all, the joy that she experienced from her life is evident. It’s a good, short, read, that reminded me that love of life is not necessarily connected to property and leisure!

    I think this topic is worth contemplation – we need to be realistic about the workload and stressors associated with TEOTWAWKI (or even moving toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle while the TV still works), but remember, our forefathers did it without total loss of the joy of life. We can too!

  5. The life described by the writer is an instant replay of the lifestyle lived and discussed by my father-in-law. His family homesteaded 17 acres of oceanfront property in Alaska. They built their own road hauling gravel from a glacier one truck load at a time. They captured and sold wolverine and black bear and patented a shipping container to ship them to zoos. (The Smithsonian bought the rights to that container design and sent them annual stipend). They hunted eagle and seal for the federal bounty and used the funds to build a custom 47 foot fishing boat and float. Hauled ice from the nearby glacier. They had a large garden and hunted deer. Had cold cellar and processed meat in their custom screened meat house. I could go on.

    I asked my father-in-law to reflect on his upbringing; he said it was an incredibly hard life but looking back didn’t realize how much fun it was.

  6. This brings back memories of my early childhood in rural SW Wisconsin. Our family farm was not quite this rustic or remote but the patterns are the same Seasonal garden over 2 acres and 80 chickens and slaughtering older non milk producing cows and calves, hogs and chickens as needed in the fall and large canning operations getting ready for winter. We kids would pick gooseberries and we had a strawberry patch. A windmill and pumpjack and cistern to provide water. As I was pruning some trees yesterday I was remembering at 8 or 9 years being sent up the tree with ropes fall trees and the hours of brushing and sawing and splitting firewood for our hot water radiator boiler in the farmhouse. We used both tractors and on occasion a old horse with my grandfathers harnesses to pull logs out of the woods nearby. I remember riding on the horse grain drill being pulled by grandpa on a old Massey tractor making sure the bins of seed were flowing. It is a life that without some modern infrastructure and “Horsepower” would not be possible for most people. In SHTF scenario not many folks will know how to work with horses nor have the ability to use them for toil… assuming any can survive being eaten by hungry humans. I store food and lots of crop and garden seeds… just pretty sure my body wouldn’t allow the hard labor it would take… I am looking at more permaculture to supplement and support. As far as milking cows and goats I did that for years including making a lot of cheese at home. I know how… but don’t want to do that again.. unless I had no choice.

  7. My Grandparents raised ten kids on such a homestead farm in Tennessee. Funny, none of the kids became farmers.
    Grandpa’s farm would have been the perfect Bug Out Location as it had all the features mentioned, gardens, orchards, pastures, wells, ponds, etc. But the government in their infinite wisdom put the Interstate thru about a mile away from the farm and its too exposed for Post-SHTF use.

  8. Several years ago I had an opportunity to visit with a 101 year old lady who lived near Roundup, Montana during the depression. She had nine brothers. All of them died during that period. As I remember, she had a sister who survived. Never forget her telling me how they canned gophers (ground squirrels) for winter meat. Only the tough survived. People are not like that now. Prepping may get some folks through for the first year or two, after that….

  9. Slightly pendantic but important:
    Unless that tree had removable frames then that gentleman still destroyed the integrity of the hive to get the comb. The old woven bee hives you see in paintings worked the same way.

    Second, your family was still dependant on commerce for salt and flour, and the coal. I point this out because people forget it somehow when they plan out little feifdoms.

  10. My Mom was born in 27 on a farm outside Waukomis, OK. Everything you said here was still true in her time and location. The Christmas stocking present of an orange was a very special treat. The house walls were stuffed with prairie grass for insulation. The barn her Dad built lasted over 100 years, until some crack head burned it up while making a batch in the early 2000s.

  11. Thanks for the good comments. I will add one thing about my mother, and it is important. She always approached new things with interest and almost glee, and if it was a problem to be solved it had her full attention. Her attitude to problems is to go thru, over, under or around. She is 98 and still doing well in her own home.

  12. People that like to work will be the ones that survive, if there is a total collapse. … Rural people had to work 7 days a week, not too long ago. … All the animals needed to be watered, fed, ~milked, and put out to graze, ~ even on Sunday. … Everyone in the family had to eat on Sunday, too. Meal making was a laborious task. Fresh eggs were collected first thing. Water was fetched from the well. Clean up was done after the meal.
    Families then made the journey to Church on Sundays.

    Back in the Appalachian Mountains, many of the kitchen stoves had a reservoir tank for hot water, attached to the outside of the firebox. The extra water needed for bathing and washing clothes could be heated on top of the stove, when needed.

    The kid games were arduous. … Wikipedia has an article about ~’Hoop rolling, also called hoop trundling.’ YouTube has hoop rolling videos. … Back in the hills, during the Great Depression, the kids were still hoop rolling along the dirt roads. [Kids would run for miles.]
    … After a heavy rain, the burning of a big Hornet’s nest would turn into a group play activity. The oldest boys would hold up the long stick with a burning rag, while the rest of the kids stood close. At ignition, everyone would then take off ~ running away.
    … Kids that lived near a Rail Road line would walk the RR for miles, picking up the chunks of coal that had fallen-off of the coal trains. The coal was placed into cloth sacks. The boys carried the bigger heavy pieces of coal, as the girls would give their larger pieces to the boys to carry.

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” and Woe to those, that think they can do it all without a Creator.

  13. I remember stories my father shared about the Depression days in the copper-mining town of Ray, Arizona. The village is no longer in existence due to hundreds of feet of excavation – the Ray, AZ pit mine. The family moved there when he was nine (about 1931), due to my grandfather’s tuberculosis, and he soon died leaving dad as the ‘man of the house’ with Grandma and four siblings, surviving by any sort of job & income patchwork they could. Some memories: He described driving a lumber-yard truck – at 9 – by strapping wooden blocks to the clutch, shift and gas peddles to get enough ‘reach.’ One family tradition carried over: he worked at a local small dairy, and got to take home one pail of fresh milk each day, for the whole family. (He swore that HIS kids would always have milk in the refrigerator, and all six of us drank it for life.) Recreation? – his Boy Scout troop (with no adult leaders) would go camping in the surrounding desert hills & mountains – one boy would round up a burro for packing basic gear, someone would scrounge some beans, flour and cornmeal, and another boy would bring along a .22 rifle – for jackrabbits to flavor the bean pot. Dad was always the one called upon to slaughter cattle for the local butcher, because he knew just where to put that .22 bullet in the cow’s head for an instant kill. Critical skills he taught us as kids included shooting, camping, frugal living, handling a very tight budget (Mom, Dad & us six kids on a military officer’s pay), and most importantly, like his beloved Louis L’Amour “Sackett” novels the absolute requirement that family stands with family through rough times. He wasn’t, himself, easy to live with, but he’s greatly missed, and gave all of us siblings a great start.

  14. Fantastic (but real) article AND comments, reminding me of my grandparents raising 8 children in rural Missouri. They did all that AND helped start the local church- and never missed a Sunday morning, Sunday evening, or Wednesday evening service until they were well into their 80s. They passed on their work ethic and belief in Jesus to their children and their grandchildren, hence the family is still going strong.

  15. My mother- in- law grew up on a small farm in far east Texas during the depression, she was mainly raised by her then single grandmother. Life was very hard and food was scarce. She tells me travelers, sometimes small families, or people alone would come to their back door and ask for food in exchange for work around the farm. Her grandmother never turned anyone away and they often shared what little food they had at the same table. They were welcome to stay overnight in the barn. She says most left the next day, occasionally some would stay a little longer with a job to be completed. She has said all were very polite and extremely grateful for the kindness they were shown.
    What a different world we live in today!!

    1. TXnurse, there are still many, I say many, kind people today. I know people in the Catholic Worker Movement who offer wayfarers that same kind of charity. In my travels across this USA, I have been similarly blessed by generous people. I talked with one today, who offers me surplus from the grocery store where he works. He hates to see it being thrown out.

      We each are called by Jesus to show similar generosity to those who we encounter.

      It seems that I can hear the God of history saying, “That was not enough! But I was hungry, and ye fed me not. I was naked, and ye clothed me not. I was devoid of a decent sanitary house to live in, and ye provided no shelter for me. And consequently, you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness. If ye do it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye do it unto me.”

      Carry on

  16. Thank you for publishing this. I found it fascinating reading. My parents were born in the 1930s. One of my grandmothers kept meticulous records of everything that was spent, literally each penny, from 1930 until the end of World War 2. Skimming the ledgers provided a great perspective on prices and price increases over time.

  17. One huge difference in life without fuel and motors is that there won’t be any horses doing work. First off, there aren’t work horses in the tens of thousands, and second, even with the available horses, there is extremely little harness or functioning equipment……for even one hundredth of our existing human population.

    Makes me a bit morose, as I bought my first horse when 16 and rode for hundreds of miles and thousands of hours in WA, OR , MT, WY, CO over the decades.

    1. Wheatley Fisher, everything depends upon the providence of God. … Man has the ability to improvise, and find some solutions to the problems of life. If there was a complete collapse of civilization, the US Mail might run through the use of ~Goat Carts. It wouldn’t be as picturesque as the old John Wayne, Stagecoach movie.

      Around the world Goats still provide milk, meat, vegetation control, and people transportation (on carts). A Pastor at Church spoke about going back and visiting his home country. He said, the biggest danger he faced, while on vacation, was almost being run over by a speeding Goat Cart, one evening.

      There does seem to be a slow collapse of civilization in many countries. What were once, prosperous cities and neighborhoods in the USA and Europe, are now ‘no-go zones’ as they are dangerous places. The redoubt area may become a stronghold of peace.

      1. I appreciate your observations. For a few years we maintained our own dairy goat herd of the daddy and 5 to 7 mommas and the resultant babies so we have some experience. But there are far more guns in the US than there are goats, cats, horses.

        Read the first chapters of Judges carefully, for accuracy use a Geneva Bible. The highways were unusable due to crime. Travelers used the byways to survive. Goats and actually sheep have both been used in harness but they are very much more consumable than horses.

        Stealth animal production is the best but transportation of bull food and supplies will require groups of armed guard travels. Most probably with horses.

        1. Wheatley Fisher … You are/will be one of the experts on the use of Horses and Goats for transportation. I will not argue that point.
          [My comment was offered for humor, and how other animals can be used for transportation. +Oxen (and mules) did a lot of the heavy work hauling wagons for the early pioneers. Animals still work for people all over the world.]

          I read Judges through Chapter 7, where Gideon was speaking with God, and listening to God (Pastors say, listen to God is more important than talking to God). I didn’t see the byways section. I may have missed it. I read the Geneva Bible translation on Biblegateway (Internet).

          You’re right though, Wheatley Fisher. = The roads will be filled with outlaws and villains preying on people, if there is a collapse. [We see it now, when there is still a functioning society in the USA]
          SurvivalBlog must be right about how: = The Redoubt Area, will most likely contain a larger population of people, that understands Right and Wrong; And will act accordingly.

  18. Gosh, reading these comments are as interesting as the article! My Dad was born in 1925 and raised in Francis OK. In those days there was a train depot on the edge of town. Dad told me of seeing whole families and their dogs riding the trains headed for some better place. Probably California. There was a hobo jungle not far from the depot and Dad remembered a man showing up on their back porch one day hungry and begging for anything to eat. The family was just finishing eating but there was one biscuit left and a little bit of gravy stuck to the side of the bowl. My grandma gave it to the man and Dad set and watched him set there on their back porch and wipe the gravy from the bowl with the biscuit. I always found it funny that Dad would remember something like that.
    My Grandpa provided for the family in three ways….cutting and selling firewood, catching possums and selling their hides and making and selling moonshine. As far as I know he never got caught bootlegging. Moonshine fed his family so grandpa didn’t have a lot of respect for the government when they were butting their nose in his business. I think I may have inherited that from him.
    Their house was more like a shack and when the snow would blow Dad said he would wake up in the morning with a dusting of snow on the covers. The old tin roof had too many holes in it. In the winter all the kids would stand around the wood stove in the morning trying to warm up and a typical trick Dad would play on his brothers would be to sneak up behind them and pull their pants legs backward, causing the front super heated pant legs to burn them.
    He and his brothers had to ride a horse to school which he hated and later in life Dad could never figure out why someone would purposely want to ride a horse.
    When he got drafted in to the service during world war II it was like being on vacation. Plenty of food to eat, a warm dry place to sleep and even getting paid for it. He had second thoughts later though when the Germans were shooting at his B-24.

  19. I am not optomestic about most of America making it if food , electricity fresh water, sewage removal, etc was not avaliable. Many reading this column could make it but I know of food stamp recipients that wouldn;t know what to do with a sack of flour , yeast andwater. There are thousands that wold be helpless and take to the streets and then to the weak to get what they needed. If you couldn;t defend what you had it would be taken from you. The first month or two would be the worst.
    After Katrina i met people in my business that couldnt buy a candy bar without a credit card. They weren;t poor people they were just unprepared.

  20. Wow, do I remember my parents/grandparents recounting much of this to me as a child. I also lived part of it as I grew up in the late 40’s n early 50’s. Both parents/grandparents were farmers so we lived close to the land.

    I now live off grid in Alaska n while it is not like described for me, some of the things are quite similar. Have an outhouse n a humanure pit, water from a hand pump and we’ll, we garden or do without – mainly preparing for the future – build what we need, – and the list goes on.

    We are building some solar panels n installing a wind mill. Look forward to when they’re operational.

    Lots more I can share, but maybe I’ll just write n article n share what I’ve learned in the last couple of years.

    Rich blessings on each of you.

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