An Elderly Prepper Moves On, by L.T.

My husband and I started following the writings of Jim Rawles many years ago and his advice helped us find our ideal location in the Missouri Ozarks. Then, unexpectedly, my husband passed away and now Jonathan Rawles’ SurvivalRealty website is helping me sell my homestead. The tapestry of life.

My husband and I loved the challenge of creating a sustainable lifestyle, a productive homestead, and learning the rural life.  We took a piece of rather rough land and created a beautiful place. Not finished when he passed, but I’m not sure it would ever be finished, that was the enjoyable part. (Not an enjoyable part was living in a camper with four dogs while building our shop/house “shouse”.)

We built a metal-clad shouse with a large patio area under a roof. Perfect for sitting during rainstorms; cleaning garden produce out of the sun; drying off wet dogs who went swimming in the pond. My husband put foam insulation under the concrete floors keeping them warm in the winter and the walls were heavily insulated so heating and cooling were not an issue. We bought a soapstone wood-burning stove which could easily heat the entire place. A cast iron dragon filled with water helped tame the air dryness and a small metal fan (which cost over $100 and was well worth it) activated by the heat circulated hot air in the room. The property has acres of trees which provided an ongoing wood source. We had a propane tank but often didn’t have to use it.

He built a great metal-clad chicken house with concrete floors, insulated walls, two areas for the poultry and a hatching area in the middle; designed so you could reach into the nesting boxes from the center area and not disturb the hens. With electricity and water, I thought it looked more comfortable than our camper! It has a large fenced in area in the back and all sorts of obstacles around the front area so the hawks could not swoop in. Since land predators do not swoop, we built modified chicken tractors so the girls could graze and still be protected, moving it daily and making sure they were safely back in the hen house in the evening. We never had problems with disease, they were healthy and happy and we were awash in eggs and hatched out lots of chicks and guineas. The eggs shells were ground into a powder and the worms in bins loved them.

After the chicken house, one of our projects was planting a fruit orchard. Since the Ozarks are rocky, we had to prepare planting holes as opposed to northern Missouri where you just dig a hole and plant something. Most of the trees are heirloom varieties, ranging from apples (Ashmead’s Kernal, and Spitzenberg) to plums, pluots, etc. We planted over 80 trees from saplings. My favorite part of our orchard is the pawpaw area with five different types just about ready to fruit. We have mature black walnut trees, gooseberries, currants, elderberries, asparagus, aronia, and witch hazel. We had honey bees for honey. The best bees for fruit trees are orchard mason bees. The size of houseflies, they are fabulous pollinators and we built them a living area.

I planted the perennial herb comfrey to use as fertilizer. When the leaves are soaked in water for a day, it becomes a really smelly and effective treat for plants. The fresh leaves make a great poultice for the fruit tree trunks and a nutritious treat for the chickens. The pond is full of fish; making fertilizer readily available. We purchased lots of rabbit pellets for fertilizer and were getting ready to raise our own.

Building a large hoop house (70×30) with electricity, water, drop-down sides, air vents on the top, fiberglass panels front and back, raised beds down one side and tomato trellis on the other was one of our best investments. I used the tomato trellis system from Johnney’s, one year I grew over 40 different types of tomatoes. Most of my seeds came from the Baker Creek company here in Missouri. I started everything from seed in the hoop house. That was easy since there is power for the heat mats, water, and plenty of light.

I used fabric bags for the tomatoes. Yes, they don’t let you overwater but you need to keep watering since they dry out easily. Since water is not an issue here and I love to water, it was not a problem. We did install a portable drip system used on a timer for when we not at home. I started planting mint around the hoop house, it is invasive but the mice detest it.

We joked we could feed the county on what I could grow. We bought old stock tanks and used them for some raised beds and my husband cut and milled our cedar trees for the other. We bought some large tanks and my first mistake was trying to grow corn in them. I am a short woman; corn grows tall and I had not considered how to reach the ears. So, potatoes became the crop of choice, using planks to crawl and reach the middle. Making sure the stock tanks had good drainage was important. We beat holes in the bottom, set  them on pea gravel. That’s why you need to buy old ones! My husband attached hog panels between the cedar raised beds, curving them to make a tunnel. Perfect for growing squash, and they were a hit. We were setting up a commercial food prep area in the shouse since Missouri has cottage laws and we could sell our farm products.

Following JWR’s advice we stockpiled a significant amount of dehydrated food, rice, and beans in a rotational system. We had oil lamps and oil, candles, solar lights, soaps such as Castille, Zote and 20 Mule Team Borax. Quantities of salt, sugar, peppercorns, etc. Did we end up needing to use these items? No. However, we were glad we had them. Peace of mind knowing we were doing everything we could to take care of ourselves and others if needed.  Of course, we had firearms and other forms of defense. In our area, people look out for each other while respecting privacy. In a small rural community, you quickly learn who is honest and who you can trust.

I am in the process of selling my homestead and I’m missing my husband. I am happy to pass on my property to someone who seems to understand our vision, our source of happiness (sometimes some poison ivy), and wants to embark on their own journey.

I am moving on to another stage of my life, sad to leave this one but knowing God has plans that I will follow. The old adage stating life is not a destination but a journey was true for us. I pray it will prove true for the new owners. Many thanks to the Rawles family.