I was a city boy, but my wife was a country girl. In our early years while raising young children we learned how to garden and my wife used the skills she had learned from her mother preserving the food we raised. Raising our own food had become a way of life.
After ten years of married life living in the city life we moved to rural Tennessee. For me, it was a huge change, but one that I embraced fully. Sometime during that first year in the rural life, I realized that I had found my home and lifestyle. We were lucky to meet with people that were willing to share their knowledge with us.
I bought a small farm at auction. The house was livable but needed a lot of work. The pastures were fenced and it had a good sturdy barn. The only heat in the house was a large fireplace in the living room. We moved into the house from out of state in the month of January. We had no wood for heat; all we had was a small electric heater.
A neighbor that I had met when I bought the farm at auction showed up the morning after we arrived and announced he was there to help us unload the U-Haul truck. I had talked to the man for five minutes at the auction and here he was ready to spend the day helping us. And he did. He called a friend of his and told him we needed firewood. A couple of hours later a man arrived with a pickup load of firewood and refused payment. He just welcomed us to Tennessee. That kind of thing didn’t happen in the big city.
The man that lived across the road came over and introduced himself. He was a much older man and he informed me that I had bought his family’s old home place and he had been raised in our house. He and his wife turned out to be our best friends, even though they were forty years older than us. We learned so much from these people.
My wife and I spent many hours sitting at their kitchen table drinking coffee and learning what their life had been like. They told us about raising their own food to survive. What they couldn’t raise themselves they traded to get the things they needed, such as something so common as salt. Jack told us about his first alarm clock when they were a young married couple. Jack had to get up early and walk a mile to the country store to catch a ride to town where he worked for the county for twenty-five cents an hour. He didn’t have an alarm clock, so every night he would bring in a rooster and set him on the back of a chair. When the rooster crowed in the morning it was time to get up. One morning the rooster crowed, they got up and his wife made breakfast and Jack walked to the store. When he got there he found he was two hours early. When he got home that evening, he killed the rooster and that was their supper the next day.
We were among people that had been preppers all of their lives, they had to be able to survive. We had neighbors that could barely read or write, but had decades of experience in survival. They were some of the smartest people that I have ever known. I was taught so many things that I would have never learned living in the big city.
I had bought a small farm, but knew absolutely nothing about farming. All of my neighbors were farmers. We have all heard the stories about people in farming communities being standoffish when it comes to city folks moving in. I found that to be somewhat true, until they found out that you were willing is listen to their advice.
Too many people that move from the city to the country have a superior attitude. They have an education. They acted superior. I didn’t, I was humble and willing to admit that I didn’t know a thing about farming but was willing to learn and work. In a few years I had learned from these people and we had cattle, hogs, chickens ducks and a large garden. We had a pantry full of home-canned goods, a freezer full of meat and frozen food. It was a small-scale operation designed to provide for our family.
When our first calf was about to be born, I realized that mama was having trouble and I didn’t have a clue as to what to do. I drove down to the old country store a mile from the house. A few old-timers were sitting on the front porch of the store talking. I told them my problem and in a few minutes I headed back to the farm followed by a half dozen pickup trucks. In a half-hour the problem was solved, these men knew what to do and showed me what needed to be done. We saved the calf and the mama. This is what it means to be accepted into the community.
Little things mean a lot in the country. Having a large garden we always had something that grew like crazy and had more than we could use. We had a widow lady living down the road; she could no longer garden but could still put up food. My wife and I took her tomatoes and beans from the garden that we had in abundance. It didn’t take long before everyone in the area knew what we had done, and that little gesture brought us closer together with our neighbors. Those kinds of things mean a lot. Be willing to share, be willing to help your neighbors.
Prepping Before It Was Cool
It turned out that we were preppers long before the term became popular. We spent time learning new skills and improving our already existing ones. We had always had a garden and were skilled at preserving what we grew. As time went on we expanded our skills and increased the size of our gardens.
I learned about hunting and shooting and the use and care of firearms. For years I commuted sixty miles to the big city to earn a living. But eventually was able to find employment close to home. We worked hard to become debt-free and stayed that way for over forty years. I learned that with proper maintenance vehicles could easily last twenty years.
We moved to a house further back in the woods away from most people. The property allowed us to become much more self-sufficient. The garden was larger and fenced to keep the deer out. When we moved into the house the move required us to move over seven hundred pint and quart jars of fruits, vegetables, and canned meat.
Hundreds of cans of freeze-dried products were also included in the move, and now we had more room for all of our supplies. We also had room for a few more animals. We equipped our home with a very good wood stove that could heat our whole house and had the ability to use it to cook with.
I had a whole house generator with a 1,000 gallon propane tank. A five hundred gallon tank for gasoline and a 500 gallon tank for diesel fuel. I cut enough firewood to last us three years.
Everything we owned was paid for and we had no debt. Life was good. Our biggest regrets were that our two children did not follow us in our thinking. They tolerated our endeavors but didn’t follow us. But we were secure in the knowledge that if and when the SHTF we could take care of ourselves and our children and grandchildren.
When we started the prepping journey we were in our early thirties. I learned things that I would have never learned. I made mistakes and learned from those mistakes. We made a huge difference in our lives. But alas, things happen.
Thoughts on Gardening
I would like to take this time to talk about gardening as we get older. Our last garden was thirty-foot wide by ninety-foot long. It was totally enclosed by a five-foot fence. Having the fence kept the deer out but made it difficult to completely rototill the garden. I gave the rototiller to my son and changed my gardening methods. At the time we had a small business and accumulated a large amount of cardboard boxes that were all approximately the same size.
I collected those boxes and over the winter I would remove all of the tape and any staples and break the boxes down to long flat cardboard sheets. In the spring I would mark out my rows for the new garden. Laying down the cardboard the full width of the garden for the first row was the start. Then I would take my small midget tiller and till one row to plant my seeds. Then I would set down a second row of cardboard leaving space for another row of garden.
In time I had the garden completely covered with the cardboard with these neat rows of newly sprouted seeds. I collected all of my grass clippings and covered the cardboard with the grass clippings. This went on all summer long. As the garden progressed and the plants were no longer producing I kept piling on the grass clippings. I was worried that I was introducing grass seed and weeds into the garden. But that didn’t happen.
When fall came and all of the large trees we had started dropping their leaves, the leaves went into the garden. By the time the leaves were all collected and put on the garden they were almost two foot deep. Now the fun part. I turned the chickens loose in the garden for the winter. It’s just amazing what a dozen chickens can do in six months of work. By the time spring rolled around the leaves and grass had been scratched into the soil. The chickens had spread their droppings all over the garden and we were ready to start again.
Putting down the cardboard kept any weed or grass seeds from germinating and the garden was very easy to keep weeded. By the third year of doing this the garden soil was in much better condition and the quantity and quality of our garden produce was greatly enhanced. Because of all of the organic matter introduced into the garden I had to occasionally put some lime on the garden. I was doing much less work in the garden but reaping larger and better crops. The first year was the toughest, but each year got easier.
Something called old age happened. It started with my wife and serious back problems and brittle bones. A broken hip and several spinal fractures ended her ability to do any lifting. Gradually we had to quit our gardening and canning. It was just too difficult. So instead of a large garden I planted a couple of tomato plants and some cucumbers and that was the extent of our garden.
I also got older and could no longer cut trees and split firewood. So now I have to buy my firewood. As I aged I tried to keep in as good as a shape as possible. At 78 I was still going to the gym three days a week for a workout that my body allowed. But now other health conditions prevent that.
The years have gone by and all the canning supplies have been sold off. Hundreds of empty jars were sold off or given away. The pressure cookers are gone. We have about twenty jars of canned meat left and are slowly eating that as time goes on. We still have about a hundred large cans of freeze-dried fruits and vegetables that we use and are not replacing.
I can no longer lift an ammo can full of reloaded ammo and carry it across the room. I have sold off most of my guns and ammo, with the rest to be doled out to my grandchildren when I’m gone. The kids will hold an auction to get rid of the vast array of tools and supplies that I still have. They are old enough that they have what they need.
An End of an Era
I know that an era has come to an end for my wife and me. I have no regrets about our prepping and all the things we were able to do. If I could, I would do it all over again. I feel lucky that we had what we needed, if we needed it. We learned a lot, made many new friends.
We survived the time with no SHTF situation occurring. I don’t classify the Covid Cr*p as a SHTF situation. But you must remain alert. The world is not getting any better, and I fear that we have not yet seen the worst.
We are all going to grow old. As preppers, we each have decisions to make about the future. Start planning now for the time when you can no longer do all that you do now. Each situation is different. And we must each determine what path we are going to take. I must warn you, unexpected health problems can throw your plans out the window in just a few minutes. Adjustments have to be made as we have learned.
I cannot stress enough the importance of getting to know your neighbors. If you have the right attitude they will accept you and provide you with a wealth of information that you can get nowhere else. If a SHTF situation had occurred these people would have been there to help, of that I have no doubt.
While my children and grandchildren are not preppers, they have learned a lot from their parents. They all know how to hunt and garden and live close by. They stand a better chance of surviving than most everyone else.
About the Author: Wayne Bosak is the author of six published books. From his biography: “