Passing on Family Prepping and Gardening Experience, by J.L.

Continuous Learning

I officially became a prepper during the Y2K experience, but upon reflection I have been prepping most of my life. I have always been fascinated with how things work. Learning became a lifelong occupation. I sometimes wish that I could focus on one discipline and become an expert. But looking back at the age of 61, I suspect that I’ve always had a little ADD (attention deficit disorder). Because of that, over my life, I have been involved in most phases of construction. I’ve been a welder, an instrument technician, a tree worker, an environmental analyst, and a manager in a large power company. Currently, I currently own multiple businesses, after retiring four years ago from the corporate world. My hobbies include gardening, woodworking, reloading, and doing as much shooting as I have time for. We raise chickens, bees, and have a year-round greenhouse.

I believe, in a TEOTWAWKI or even a SHTF moment, what we have in our head is the most important piece of survival gear we possess. I am amazed, in every job I have had, how the skills and knowledge that I learned in my other pursuits helped me out. And I am baffled at how few interests and skills other people have developed.

Never Give Up

Thirty plus years ago, we moved to the country. We were able to buy 37 acres by being willing to buy the land with a house that needed total renovation. Other than changing the main electrical service, I did all the work myself. Even before the Internet, the local library had tons of how-to books. It wasn’t fast, and I did a whole lot of do overs, but each time it was better and I grew more confident. One of my best attitudes, I believe, was not being afraid to fail. It has served me well. I have failed so many times it is ridiculous. But I never gave up. That’s the secret.

Attitude is so important it cannot be over stressed. When things go bad, you cannot give up. And things are going to go bad. Plan A almost certainly will either not work or must be modified…on the run. Even if it’s not TEOTWAWKI, things happen. You do things wrongs. Things don’t work the way you expect them to. You can’t give up. Do it again. Do it over. Learn from your mistakes. Do it now, while there is time and it is not critical.

Hone Your Skills

Continuing to hone your skills is important. The first twenty years we had huge gardens. As our interests changed and job and business obligations grew, we backed off from vegetable gardening. After I retired and the prepper feelings got stronger, we went back to gardening. For several reasons, we had to make a new garden and start from scratch. I am amazed at how much I had forgotten. I forgot how much work it was. Besides the knowledge, you need to be in good physical shape if you are going to plant a garden. This is especially true if you are want to do it with the minimum of power equipment. So, start now and keep at it.

Some Gardening Tips for Older Folks

Raised Beds

I have started building raised beds. It keeps me from walking on the beds. This way the soil does not get compacted. I only make them four-foot-wide, so I can reach the center easily. But best of all, it brings the plants up so I don’t have to bend over as much. If you are starting a new garden, invest in compost. Make your own, but if you can find someone producing it locally in volume, buy it. Our old garden had beautiful black loamy soil.

But that was made over a 20+ year period of green manures, soil management, and a lot of work. Good compost is a great way to shorten the time needed to obtain good soil. Raised beds also allow you to only put it where it is needed. Good soil is the key to good gardening. The more you focus on improving your soil, the higher your yields will be for a given area.

Permanent Beds and Dwarf Fruit Trees

We are also making permanent beds for berries and asparagus. Spend the time and money to prepare these beds before you plant in them. They will be there a long time. The more you do at the beginning, the better the plants will produce over the long run. Also, look at planting dwarf fruit trees. They have made great advances in these trees. The yield can be very close to the yield of a full-sized tree. As we get older, we have no business climbing up in trees to get to the fruit. The old bones don’t heal near as fast as they used to.

Deer Prevention Fencing

Fencing out the local wildlife has become a priority with the new garden. I learned that deer do not have good depth perception, but I have been told they can clear a six to eight foot high fence. I didn’t want to build a ten foot fence, so I built a double fence. The inner fence is four strands of electrified cable. The bottom strand is about two to four inches off the ground. This is the most troubling part of the fence system.

You have to be diligent about keeping the weeds down off this wire to keep your system in top shape. A larger than necessary solar fence charger will help if you have let some grass grow up. The bottom strand is necessary to keep rabbits and groundhogs out. The top strand only needs to be about four feet high. The outer fence, which is placed about three feet from the inner fence, consists of only one strand of electrified fencing at about three feet.

This will apparently confuse the deer. Without depth perception, they cannot tell how far it is to the inner fence and are not willing to jump into the garden, even though it would be easy to do so. The company I purchased my fencing material from (Premier) also sold a training device for the deer. It consists of metal wine bottle lids that are wired to the outer fence. Inside the lid is a small cotton wad that is soaked with an apple scented liquid product. The idea is that the deer will touch the metal cap with their nose while smelling the apples, thus learning about the electric fence. Although I have never witnessed the event, it seems to have worked. We have not had any problems with deer since we installed the fence. It was a constant problem before the fence.

Family Prepping

Last year we received a huge blessing. Our neighbor passed away. No, that was not the blessing! The blessing was that his children sold us his house and 6.5 acres at about 2/3 of the assessed value. Both of our grandchildren and their families have wanted to move to the country, so they could be near us. So, one moved into the neighbor’s house and the other is building on the lot we cut off. By summer, both granddaughters, their husbands, and our three great grandkids will be living on property adjoining ours. Both families recognize the need to be prepared.

They want to be involved and learn the necessary skills. God has indeed blessed us. Fortunately, we had already planned for them to bug out to our property if the SHTF. Now, we can work together to become a more cohesive family unit. Hopefully, we will be able to teach our great grandchildren the joy of continuous learning.

Passing on the Fun

The reason I decided to write this column was to stress what had been on my mind lately. Being prepared for a catastrophe is our responsibility to our family. But the need to make sure we live our lives to the fullest is just as important. My desire is to pass on the fun and the need to be lifetime learners to our grandkids and great grandkids. If you direct your learning to areas that make you more self-sufficient all the better. I feel I have a second chance to help my grandchildren learn to be their own man/woman. It may be tomorrow, or it may be two generations before we are required to have the skills necessary for survival. These are skills that if taught properly can add joy and prospective to life.

There is nothing better than realizing you have the skill to do something that you did not know how to do a short time earlier. If we can make learning survival skills just a normal part of life, it can be a rewarding life even if you are never required to use them. And trust me; these skills are useful in all the other areas of your life. If nothing else, it will make those you have taught more confident and self-assured throughout their lifetime.

No Man Is An Island

I have learned over my lifetime that you need to take care of yourself and those you hold dear. In fact, biblically, as a man, it is your responsibility. The government can never be trusted to do what is the best for you and yours. As well as family, you need to develop friendships with other like-minded local people. No man is an island. Our location may not be the best from a survival perspective, but it is where my family and friends are located. Those relationships have been developed and cultivated over many years.

After my time in the military, where I had to move every two years or less, being around close friends and family is important. I would recommend people move to wherever they want to be as soon as possible and develop long-term relationships with the others that live in the area. When we first moved to the country, I asked an older local how long it took to become a local. He answered that it was according to how hard I worked at it.

The Most Important Relationship

Finally, I can’t quit without encouraging everyone to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the most important preparation you can make. All else is for naught. Everything in this life is but a blip when you compare it to eternity. Remember, God loves us so much that in the end He will give us what we want. If we want to be with Him in this life, He will let us spend eternity with Him. If we decide not to have Him in our life on this earth, He will stay away from us during eternity.

My prayer is that I never have to use the survival skills that I have learned. My responsibility to my family and friends is that I learn those skills. God bless.

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been another entry for Round 71 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. An infrared sensor/imaging camouflage shelter from Snakebite Tactical in Eureka, Montana (A $350+ value),
  6. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  7. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  8. Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by,
  7. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  8. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
  9. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A custom made Sage Grouse model utility/field knife from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
  3. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  4. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  5. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  6. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  7. Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a $125 Montie gear Gift certificate.,
  8. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from (a $240 value), and

Round 71 ends on July 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. I put my (permanent) strawberry and asparagus beds near the steepest slope in my garden, to prevent erosion. Also, dwarf fruit trees will start providing fruit in only a couple years, where a full size tree will take much, much longer. Full size trees live longer though. So plant both.

  2. JL-Great article, being a jack of all trades is much better than an expert in one in my opinion-at least in the prepping/homeowner/real life world! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great article! He is exactly right, your most important tool is on your shoulders, and since you have to carry it around your whole life, would you rather carry a sharp tool? or a dull one?

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