This article has been shared with the SHTFplan community by longtime contributor Norse Prepper.
It always frustrates me when I turn on the television, read a newspaper or any other source of main stream media that is running a story on preppers. Invariably, with any television series or special, it is promoted with pictures of people with gas masks and AK 47’s talking about how they intend to kill zombies when the golden horde arrives upon their doorsteps when the SHTF. The most popular of these shows is the “Doomsday Preppers” series that is running on the National Geographic channel. I will admit, I watch every episode because there are always things I can learn when seeing what others have done to prepare for whatever they are preparing for and find the show to be very entertaining. In my opinion however, these extreme preppers are not a good representative of the vast majority of preppers.
Depending upon what any person is prepping for, be it an EMP attack with the long term loss of the power grid, a tornado/hurricane/flood, collapse of the financial system, nuclear war or any number of potential calamities that may come your way, there are always some basics that are universal across the board. These being food, water, defense of life and home and sustainability into an unknown future that will last as long as it does. Outside of these staples of prepping, I have seen some of the extreme preppers having gas masks for the family, underground bunkers designed to ignite propane through hand rails to fry intruders in hallways leading to safe rooms and even homemade explosive devices. I can see why they do it and by having some of these things, they are probably more prepared than most. Having gas masks may be more common place in the prepping community and important for survival, but my point is that these are things that preppers typically take care of after the basics are complete.
Then there are the prepper want to be’s of the world. These are people that if National Geographic wanted to do a special on them, would show up and see them overloaded on information and lacking on results. They do research, read books on survival skills and talk a good talk about what’s coming and what they are planning on doing. It would be a very boring episode so you won’t see these people on any upcoming episodes I’m afraid. They are severely unprepared for whatever TEOTWAWKI situation arrives at their doorstep. Post collapse, they will be identified easily by listening to people in food lines and FEMA camps saying “I knew it!” and “I just didn’t have enough time to put it all together!” They may own a bunch of guns, mostly never shot more than to sight them in. They probably haven’t actually grown a garden, but have some seeds. They probably have never harvested a deer or game and prepared it for a meal. They call themselves preppers, but will have a very rude awakening when the SHTF.
That covers the 5% on either side of the bell curve of preppers, so who would be classified as the 90% and what would describe them? The answer is simple and can be answered with a single word. Grandparents. I recall a story my grandmother told me regarding arriving on a boat in North America. Her birthday was on Christmas and she recalls her and her sisters had a beet that was given to them for their Christmas meal. The moral here is that when someone tells me it could never happen here, I am reminded by this story that I am only 2 generations removed from it actually happening here in this nation. Is it ludicrous to think that these times instilled within our grandparents a sense of responsibility to prepare for leaner times? Today, many consider this extreme and would label them fringe nut cases.
When I think of the ultimate preppers, the picture in my head is of my grandparents. Growing up they were always known as “Farmer Gramma and Farmer Grampa”. They lived in a small farm house in northeast North Dakota and throughout life worked hard and played hard. They were preppers, but didn’t know it. When I was young, the farm seemed more like a playground, but in hindsight, they are what I believe all of us as preppers should aspire to become. They were hard working, self sufficient producers. The following is just a short list of things I remember that they had in place that would apply to preppers:
- Rural setting far from any major city.
- Community. Surrounding farms were either family or very close friends. They all provided for their own families and helped each other when it came to butchering, harvest or anything that would be of need. They knew everybody and were very valuable to each other’s well being.
- Farmers with farm equipment along with the means, methods and knowledge to fix anything. If it broke, grandpa could weld it. He had a pole barn for a shop and it had every tool imaginable, many of them hand tools, some electric.
- Animals…lots and lots of animals. They had cattle for dairy as well as meat, hogs, chickens, horses and other occasional animals that were used to provide food and income to the family and a barn to house each of them complete with a hay loft that had a hook on the ceiling that could be used for transporting a hay bale from one side to the other or to turn a 6 year old into superman, flying over the countryside to eventually cannonball in to a pile of hay at the end of the barn. One main stay at the farm was a golden retriever named Goldie who would always let them know if someone was approaching or if there were unwanted animals like foxes, wolves or other predators. He was a great dog.
- Fruit orchard. There were numerous apple trees and plum trees. My grandfather could actually take limbs from one species of apple trees and graft them on to a different variety of apple tree. Maybe this is something that is common, but to me it was a master at work.
- Gardens. There was a fruit garden where you would find raspberries, strawberries and watermelon. The vegetable garden had, well, everything. Corn, peas, cucumbers, radishes, beans, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, beets and I could go on forever. From the eyes of a 6 year old I would estimate the vegetable garden to be over 2,500 acres, but in actuality it was probably about a half acre.
- Food preparation. This is an overall generalization of hundreds of things that my grandparents did to preserve food for winter or leaner times ahead. All excess fruits and vegetables were sold, given away or canned. They had a cellar below the house where a room was filled with potatoes after harvest and there were hundreds of canned items lining every wall. I’m guessing my grandmother could take a railroad spike and turn it in to a loaf of moist, perfect home cooked bread. What’s a microwave?
- Water source. There were two ponds dug for cattle, the original hand pumped shallow well that provided water to the farm and later a new well was drilled with an electric pump.
- Shelter belt. There was a perimeter line of woods about 40 feet wide surrounding the house and rear yard. This provided shelter from winds and drifting snow as well as provided free heat for the house.
- The house. I spoke of the cellar which contained mostly food. It was a small, modest typical farm house that was constructed at the turn of the century. Centered in the house was a wood stove that always had a pot of hot water used for providing humidity to the house as well as warm water for dishes, bath’s and other things necessary. Directly above the stove was a grate that went through to the small upstairs which had two rooms. Heat would rise from the stove and provide a very warm and comfortable atmosphere where their 7 children who shared the two rooms slept.
- Entertainment. Let’s face it, grandpa had a radio and that was it until the television arrived. He learned to play the harmonica, piano, fiddle and guitar and was quite talented at all of them. They had a handmade wooden miniature pool table that had metal pegs sticking out of it. You would take the cue stick and hit wooden checkers along the table and each peg had behind it a hole that would represent different points.
- A gun. You read that right, he had a gun. It was a .22 long rifle that was used to take a deer every now and then with uncle Nub back when you just decided it was a hunting weekend. They would take a deer and by nightfall it would be completely butchered and processed. The .22 was used during slaughter of the hogs and cattle, protected the farm from predators, provided entertainment in the way of target practice and was the only gun I ever remember seeing. It always was above the door, loaded and ready if needed. It wasn’t ever thought of being needed to shoot people, it was a necessary tool. One of my earliest memories of the farm was grandpa would take us out to shoot barn swallows if we would hand in the plug we still had in our mouth. Today that would be considered illegal, back then it was babysitting.
- Faith. Above all else, my grandparents had faith in God. They lived a sustainable life and believed that God honored their faith and efforts by providing, and at that He did in abundance. I don’t remember the stern dad that I heard grandpa to be when mom was growing up. I remember that every meal started with a prayer and every day ended giving thanks to God for the blessings He gave our family. When grandpa was in a nursing home on his death bed he could still quote scripture word for word and his bible was littered with personal notes showing a lifelong journey walking with God.
I encourage all of you blessed enough to still have their grandparents wisdom available to talk to them of what life was like when they were young. If you are like me and they have passed away, there is probably someone in a local nursing home with a story to tell if you would be so generous enough to take some time to use their stories to further your education. Believe me, they will be doing you a favor and it would make their day that someone would care enough to listen. Just a suggestion.
I could write a novel on the other million things I remember of Farmer Gramma and Farmer Grampa and their prepping retreat we called the farm. It saddens me to no end that today, in these United States of America, the land of the free and home of the brave, that they would probably be labeled as suspected terrorists according to recent descriptions of what the government considers key indicators in a recently published document on what to look for when on the lookout for terrorists. They were hard working, God fearing patriots that loved their family and country. They were the ultimate preppers. You see, prepping wasn’t a movement at that time. It was survival. It was providing for their family the best they could with what they had. It was life on a farm.