Years ago, before I started on the path that eventually brought me to homesteading, I assumed that the status quo was okay – normal even. The thought had never occurred to me that there was something inherently wrong about food traveling hundreds of miles from production to consumption. Honestly, that truth is not what started me on the path either. Learning about some of the things allowed on or in our food horrified me, to the point of wanting to take back control of what my family consumed. We vet carefully what we watch or read in our home, but many times forget to pay that same attention to what we eat and drink. Sometimes the best we can do is focus on one small thing at a time, and on the heels of a year like we had in 2020, I am the first to admit that is how I survived mentally.
Throughout much of my life when I would hear of preppers it was in demeaning references that discredited anyone fitting into that category in any way. I ignorantly brushed it off as a fringe ideal that did not need my attention or research. My opinion changed when I had a family. In my “Food for Thought” post, I referenced the New Testament parable about the wise and foolish virgins, which was (unintentional) foreshadowing to this post I suppose. This parable perhaps most easily defines the stance I now take on preparedness. I see it as a matter of stewardship in my personal belief system, a provision I feel is required to walk through life with any level of peace about providing for my family.
You see, as I started to study about the chemicals in food or the processes used in so many products, I decided to grow my own food. Knowledge alone is not enough, for your knowledge to have power it must be activated! As I began the painstaking process of learning gardening, I began to see the benefits of thinking a step ahead. It did me no good to buy all the plant starts without the garden spot tilled and amended with the right additives. The plants did not thrive when I listened blindly to the growing advice of people I knew personally, because their recommendations were based on their yard, their climate, their growing zone. I had to search out others who had a similar growing climate to me and adjust from there. In the process of that research, I discovered people balancing caring for gardens and animals. I had never been an animal lover, but I married one. We have had rotten luck with dogs and cats throughout our marriage, so I assumed that we did NOT need to be animal people. Still, if we had just a FEW chickens in the yard, we could have eggs and I could start a serious composting system that would feed my future gardens. I was not immediately ready to commit to the idea, though.
As I was researching all the ideas related to how animals could help me grow my gardens, Bret was researching animal husbandry. He decided he wanted to raise rabbits, and he met someone who was retiring from the routine. This man generously gave him all the rabbit cages and rabbits he had. This is where we learned a vital lesson about committing to something before adequately prepared with your infrastructure! Once we acquired our bearings with a yard full of animals, we were well on our way. And the I’m-Not-An-Animal-Kind-of-Girl became one quickly. Those baby bunny warning stomps melt my heart every single time, I just gotta say! The chickens came quickly next, and another vital lesson was learned about placement of animals in the yard. I still pray for the neighbors we had then because we lived together through some of the downfalls in our animal education. Chickens can be escape artists as good as goats! Our chickens loved the cat food on the neighbor’s front porch, much to our dismay. We offered eggs when we could as a peace offering, but the habitats will be prepared BEFORE the arrival of animals this time. The fences will also be taller, because chickens – even with clipped wings – will escape the fences when able and free range at will.
With the addition of animals, the addition of animal feed is necessary. My experience with tending animals I would compare with tending to infants and toddlers, except they stay toddlers. I mean, diaper-stage toddlers. There is lots of poop. Never in my life did I realize the deep level of girliness in my soul until I had to deal with animal poop. It does NOT make me happy – unless of course it has been properly composted to put into my garden. Then the plant lover in me can forgive its poopiness. The point is, caring for animals’ eating and refuse needs requires thinking ahead. It is not a “let’s see if we have enough to feed them for today” kind of situation. This stage of the homesteading game is where I learned that, if you need one, buy two. As soon as you finish the first one, buy a third. On a homestead, one extra is still barely prepared. The thing about a habit is, once you establish it, that habit affects more than one area of your life. So, I moved the “need one, buy two” concept to the pantry inside. This habit gives me much greater peace of mind when feeding my family, and it has been a lifesaver multiple times now that we are legit country people.
There are preppers that ready themselves for dramatic scenarios, which have been proven to be possible, but that is not how I categorize myself. Ephesians 5:15 admonishes the Christian to “walk circumspectly,” and that is my prepping approach. I look at what is going on around me and what is most likely to affect my region and my life. Tornadoes happen multiple times a year in my area, and now especially with being rural, I want to make sure that I have enough supplies to last at least a full weekend without power should a storm affect my area. My assumption is that the more rural a home is, the lower on the priority list it will be by default when restoring power, etc. If people are hoarding toilet paper, you had better believe I am buying the next package as soon as I open a new one. And, while I make a habit to cook from scratch as much as possible, I am going to have a few convenient things that are at least healthier than fast food to eat when we have one of those days that what could go wrong did go wrong. When I really have my life together those are also homemade and prepped from my kitchen, then stored for later use. To be honest, my life is not always quite that together, yet still we strive!
I have heard prepping equated to food insurance, and that is a decent description. However, I term it more as a lifestyle of thinking ahead. I do not want to be a supplies hoarder, but I want to make sure that I have reasonable security to take care of my family, which is my life’s greatest calling as a wife and mother. I consider that provision to include feeding them, financing their needs, remedies for minor ailments, and plans for “just in case.” On my journey into freedom, I find freedom in the details like an emergency fund that can cover lapses in income or extra expenses that arise, a month’s worth of food in my pantry, a supply of medicines to handle allergic reactions that would give us time to get to the doctor if needed, means to secure my home against invasion, and multiple ways to educate or entertain ourselves without electricity or internet. I want my children to know a game plan of “if this happens, this is our system.” These plans and provisions do not have to be elaborate. The ten women with oil carried enough oil for themselves, and the wise ones carried enough extra to last. They did not think that they had enough extra to share, so their provisions were for only the immediate need. I am not saying it is unwise to prepare enough to share, but I am urging a lack of guilt for those who feel they cannot do the extremes advised by so many preparedness advocates. We do what we can, where we can, for who we can. If it is our best effort, it is enough. Without guilt. Without overthinking. Without judgment.