I have written this to encourage others that may be getting weary with the never-ending labors of preparation.
I have divided this into four parts:
1. Learning from my family.
2. Adjusting to my own family.
3. Persevering through the years
4. Where we are now.
Learning From My Family
I’ll start by describing my father and his family. I was raised in a family that by modern standards would be considered preppers, at least by some. Prepping is not universally defined, to my knowledge. Be that as it may, I say we were preppers, but were unaware.
It started with my father. He was seven when the Great Depression struck and put the farm in jeopardy. He turned 18 six weeks before Pearl Harbor was attacked. Soon drafted and quickly put through basic training, he was off to Africa to face Rommel. Then it was on to Italy where he would be captured and sent to a camp, eventually being held 16 months as a POW. He went from 180 to 90 pounds from the lack of food and being forced to work while he was able. He came home with a commitment that he and his family would never go hungry.
He returned to Alabama knowing he would need a more consistent income than farming to provide for a family. However, he would never see himself as one that was not dependent on the land. He did what many of his cohorts did. He lived on his farm and commuted into a nearby city for employment. From there he began to build a house, married his pre-war sweetheart, and they moved into the home before it was completed. He installed the windows as soon as possible, some time later.
His ‘garden’ consisted of several acres where he raised vegetables. I remember helping clear ‘new ground’ as a child so the production could increase for the growing family. Several animals were kept as well.
My early memories include images of my mother and my aunts, along with their children, picking and shelling peas and butterbeans and processing corn. The other families had gardens, usually no more than an acre or so. My father would grow an acre or more each of peas, butterbeans, and corn with some tomatoes and peppers and such on the side. What we could not use, he gave away to elderly people that could no longer work a garden, or to others in need.
We were also self-sufficient in other ways. Anything that needed repairs was either a challenge or a chore, depending on what he knew about the thing. He repaired cars, even bodywork when needed. When televisions came along he learned to repair them (most were intended and designed to be repaired in those days). His said to me “If others can do a lot of something, I can do a little of it”, and he did. He depended on no one if it were possible. Beyond that, he was very reluctant to ask anyone for any assistance. He would sacrifice to help others and this caused him to know the cost of helping. It made him slow to depend on others when he had paid so much for others himself. He knew the pain of helping and of doing without.
This was the way I was brought up to think. Our obligation was to take care of ourselves and to assist others in their time of need. This commitment was a product of the times (depression and war) and of the Christian influence of his father. He was a pastor of poor rural churches filled with folks who were generous and caring but who had little or no cash. Preachers were of such short supply that he preached at one church on the 1st and 3rd Sunday and at another on the 2nd and 4th Sunday. Things were so tight that at the end of the year of service one of the churches gave him a nickel, a chicken, and a sack of flour for his year of being their pastor. This example of sacrifice along with the common suffering of the populace molded my father into a good and stable man.
My mother and her family were quite different. When looking at these two, they seem to be a study in contrasts. My mother was from a family that was based on small business. Depression and wartime was difficult for everyone to some degree, including them. However, they maintained a better standard of living than many. The ‘domestic help’ was never dismissed. Although they had to see changes in what the business focused on, they never were bankrupt. Selling dry goods evidently was somewhat stable and for a time, my grandfather established and operated a company that built caskets. It appears he had it covered. If alive you would need dry goods and if dead, you needed a casket.
My mother was never required to labor in the fields but did do household work and was also given a strong Christian upbringing. When she and my father were married, they face quite a time of adjustment. But true to their faith, they were together ‘until death’.
Adjusting to my own family
With my upbringing you might think I would marry a local girl and keep going without missing a beat. However, things were not to be so simple. While still in my teens, I knew I would follow my grandfather’s path and be a pastor, all the while knowing that my primary income would likely have to come elsewhere. I went to my denominational college for training. There I met and later married a young lady from South Carolina. We were about as different as my parents were. I came from a line of Christian homes; she was the first believer in her family for a couple of generations. Until moving to college I had lived in the same house all my life; she had lived all over the southeastern U.S., usually in a small ‘trailer’ set up near the jobsite. I had the farm background and she knew little about that lifestyle.
I brought her to my home for a visit and before the end of the week we eloped. We had a week of honeymoon travels and began living on family land. Because we were married in the middle of June the garden was in production mode. The new wife was thrown into the work of ‘putting food by’. She would pick butterbeans for about 6 hours in the morning. After that she would have help with shelling, blanching, bagging, and freezing that would take several hours more. The focus shifted to pinkeye purple hull peas after the butterbeans were completed. It was much the same process with the peas.
After we decided that there was a limit as to how much frozen foods we could store, we decided to can as much as possible. We studied and prepared to begin canning almost all vegetables except corn. Over the years we began canning meats; beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and venison.
Persevering through the years
Over the years we added chicken pens, a hog house and began to make a pasture. Before long we had chickens, three pigs and a milk cow. Over the years we have sold and given eggs away, produced more milk than we could use, added beef cattle for slaughter/sale and more so for pleasure, added ducks, geese, guinea fowl, and peacocks. At one time we had white pigeons, but like some of the others, were not captive and eventually left. (Occasionally we still see some mixture of them in the local population.) Recently to protect the livestock we added Pyrenees dogs. They have completely stopped the coyote losses of our livestock.
Twenty years after our move here found us with four children that we homeschooled. We were ahead of the times in that and the first in our county to do such. There is another story there, for another time. The big thing for us at that point was that we were facing Y2K. We knew we had to make provisions for our family beyond food and shelter. We were on the county water system that at times provided horrible water. We had a deep well drilled and put into use. We also bought a hand pump capable of getting the water from that well if needed. (The hand pump is still waiting to be put into use.) Although the water seems good we filter all drinking water through a Big Berkey system.
Just this year we finished putting net fence around 15 acres of our 42 acre farm. We have also converted a building first constructed for honey processing into a butcher house. We process our own beef and pork.
A few years ago we purchased wood caskets that are easily assembled. We are not to be embalmed. We have a nearby family cemetery that will not charge for our plots. We have not decided on headstones.
Where we are now
We are no longer feeling ‘pushed’ to get everything ready. We continue to watch sales to replenish what we use. We will upgrade things if possible. One example is this: We had used our meal-sealing vacuum system to seal jars of dry foods, spices, and such and even to reseal liquids we repackaged into glass jars (vanilla flavoring, etc.). Recently I found a vacuum pump used for home health care in a thrift store. It was not obviously dirty, but it received a through cleaning anyway. It delivers a stronger vacuum and has a gauge that allows us to keep things at a more uniform vacuum for long-term storage.
Surely there are things that we will have missed if a complete failure of our system occurs, but we have some cushion. Beyond that we have done for ourselves, much of this is for younger members of our family and others that may also need our assistance in the future. We have tried to accumulate what we think will be needed, but it is difficult to predict what will be needed beyond the basics. We have young grandchildren and have even stored clothing of assorted sizes hoping they will never need them due to societal failure.
One of the main struggles we face is how to prep and still keep our basic reliance on the Lord God. It is tempting to trust in ourselves and our ‘things’. About 39 years ago we lost everything to a house fire so we know what it is to be without and dependent. Now that we have many things stored, we know it is easy to see security in those things and not in the One who gives us ‘every good and perfect gift’.