Saturday, December 3, 2011

2011 Safecastle Freedom Awards

2011 Safecastle Freedom Awards -- a "New Media" Survivalist Contest

Our latest entry

First off, let me apologize to those of you who have submitted entries for the tardyness of my posting them. My only excuse is that I've been running like a chicken with its head cut off for the last couple of months. I will now get those unposted entries, in the order received, posted over the next week or so.

However, although I suspect many of you have already heard, the prizes were modified by the folks at Safecastle due to poor economic conditions. You can see the modifications here:

While we agree that times are tough, we want you, the Rural Revolution faithful, to know that we are still offering our own contest prizes, complete and unedited. To wit:

10 Rural Revolution laser-engraved tankards for the top 10 entries!

There is still time to get your own wisdom on display for a chance to win such a valuable prize! So (forgetting entirely about what a slacker I've been) submit your original essay or video on self-sufficiency, survivalism, and prepping.

Now to our next contestant:

From Jennifer Henry,

I think most of us live our lives as expected by others and very few view life through open eyes. The man that became a doctor because his parents wanted him to be; the girl that married a rich man because her gold-digger of a mother told her to; the woman that stays with the man who beats her because everyone else thinks he's perfect. People live in the cities or the suburbs because that's what everyone else does. They have 2.5 kids and 2 cars and host birthday parties with the bouncy bounce and clowns and the custom cupcakes that cost $5 a pop but they're so darn cute they just had to have them for their cutesy-wutesy wittle 1-year old birthday girl. They sign up their children for every sports activity that's available and spend the next 18 years shuttling kids to practice and games and leaving no time in between for family time.

I used to want that life. I thought it was the way to live. I'd sigh with envy at my BFF and her husband living in a great house in the suburbs and always having somewhere to be. I am ashamed to say that I even went so far to tell her husband-to-be not to marry her and that I was interested in him. Thankfully, he didn't listen to me and married her anyway. They had a big house, nice cars, and what I thought was the perfect life. Little did I know, they were in debt, he was an alcoholic, and they have health issues aplenty. People were always dropping by the house for impromptu dinner parties and the young children were always around people drinking and smoking. Their door never seemed to be locked because there were constant guests at all hours.

He came from money, but it was tied up in rental properties and when his father died, the will stipulated that he couldn't touch the money until he was 35. That didn't stop them from spending, though. She had lots of work done on herself at his expense. They went on many vacations and overseas trips. Fancy clothes and private schools. Toys for the kids that never got picked up and I once saw my BFF sweep up a room and everything swept went into the wastebasket-- including toys. She went out of town once and came home to a sink full of dirty dishes and complained to her husband about it. His response? He grabbed the huge trash can that sits on the curb, dragged it in the house, and dumped every single dish, glass, pan and utensil into it. Then he went out and bought new sets of dishes, pots and pans, and utensils. Just so he didn't have to wash them.

Meanwhile, I married a man I fell in love with and we lived in a small apartment on the other side of the county. We spent our days off scouring the thrift shops for old things we liked and slowly built our life together. We decided that we wanted to live in a house with a bit of land instead of in the suburbs like everyone else we knew. The Realtor we talked to laughed at us when we asked for a house with 5 acres for $130,000. When he realized we were serious and stopped laughing, we were already out the door. We eventually found a house with a little more than an acre on a quiet country lane which required us to drive 45 miles one way to work. Unfortunately, we put ourselves into debt with several credit cards, buying furniture and a new car. Things we thought would make our lives happy and if we didn't have them, we would be miserable.

We started a small garden and I learned how to can rhubarb-strawberry jam all by myself. I quit work to raise our children without daycare. We started to really enjoy our country life and being so far away from my BFF and her suburban life, I stopped craving her lifestyle. The few times we went to their house for dinner, we hated to leave our country home and return to the hustle and bustle of the city. It was bad enough to have to go back and work there, but to visit on our days off? My eyes opened to the dark side of BFF's life and the problems that her husband had with alcohol and her spoiled children. I knew I didn't want my children there and so visits became less frequent.

After 5 years of country living, we wanted more. More land, more distance between us and the city. More US. We found a house with 14 acres in rural West Virginia, far enough to make us happy, not so far to make our family sad. Since moving here, we have grown to 4 children, added chickens, and a larger garden. I have learned to can much more than just jam and feel so proud to know that I can feed my family just on what I have put away in the pantry. My husband quit his job shortly after moving here, taking a lower-paying but closer to home job. We were able to pay off all our debt, which was over $50,000 in credit card debt using the money from the sale of our little house and now we live debt-free. What a feeling that is!

Our children are growing up knowing exactly where their food came from and help us with the care of the garden and chickens. We hope to add goats and a pig to our small homestead. They play outside most of the time, and their toys are picked up and put away after playing. Our clothes are mostly from yard sales and thrift stores, but you wouldn't know it if I didn't tell you. We still drive the same cars we bought 11 years ago that put us into debt in the first place. We are living the life WE want to live, no one telling us how or where or why. Our home might not have the latest style, but our furniture is comfortable and our house is clean. The dishes are old because we like vintage dishes and they are clean and put away. We don't go on lots of vacations or trips not just because money is tight, but we honestly don't feel the need to go anywhere. I did my traveling before I got married, as did my former Navy husband. We were ready to settle down when we met, to start our family and live.

We got rid of our TV service-- the commercials drove me crazy. The kids always begged for whatever toy was advertised, another example of being told what you're supposed to want. Since canceling the TV service, the kids no longer beg for the latest new craze and have become content with what they have already. We still watch movies on DVD, but under our supervision. We also have no video games except for some old ones we break out on rainy days and we all play together as a family.

When my BFF and her family come for a rare visit, her kids come armed with portable TVs, handheld video games and laptops. They wrinkle their noses at the food I serve asking where the pizza or chinese takeout is. They make fun of my oldest girl and her "pet" chicken. They are grossed out at eating a radish plucked from the dirt and spend most of their visit sitting in the van with their electronic toys. After they leave, my children ask why BFF's kids did not play with them. I struggle to answer. I decide to ask if they wanted to play with BFF's kids while they were here and their answer? "All they wanted to do was watch TV." Well, there you go.

As I sit and write this, my children are outside playing on the swings, chickens around their feet. My husband is home and preparing lunch for us. I have clothes on the clothesline, swaying in the wind. How can I not want this life? This life is so much richer than the life I used to want. Keeping up with the Joneses is too much work, too exhausting, too expensive and emotionally draining. I don't envy my BFF anymore. I'm not sure if I can call her that now, I haven't seen her in over a year. Our lives are far too different.

The last time my family visited, our children came home with attitudes and their behavior was very much like her spoiled children. It took a couple days for our children to return to normal. Her oldest daughter, 13, was telling me that her best friend's boyfriend had a birthday coming up and she wanted to buy him a bracelet as a gift, but had no money. The best friend asked the daughter for money who then asked her father for it. My mouth dropped when he forked over $100. The daughter then told me that her best friend better give her a good gift when her birthday rolls around because she spent a lot on hers. What are they learning here? Easy come, easy go? Give and expect something in return?

I am content to live the life we have. It's simple and uncomplicated. It's not always easy and sometimes I think how nice it would be to just buy what we want on a whim, much like BFF. But we appreciate every single thing we have. We work hard to put aside money for things we need and nothing goes to waste. Often, by the time we have enough money saved up, we find we don't want it anymore. We make do with less and truly don't miss all the stuff that society says we are supposed to want and have. We enjoy our family time at home, getting our hands dirty in the garden, raising chickens for meat and eggs, and chopping wood for heat. I wouldn't trade this life for anything, not even BFF's.


Thank you Jennifer.

Just so you can see where you are in the rotation, I still have entries from:


PS. If you sent something and I don't have you listed, let me know at


  1.'s Just Me again. I'm enjoying a nice cozy night of surfing my favorite sites while listening to the cold rain outside.

    Jennifer's essay was a fun piece to read. It's a nice narration of what it takes to build a good life together with a good partner.

    Just Me

  2. Hello Patrice, I am French and I am a faithful of your blog. Like you, I realize the stupidity of the current system. I wanted to ask you a question: is it true that the United States, you must have permission to make a garden? It's a rumor running here in Europe. Thank you for having the kindness to answer me and for the quality of your articles. Good day.

  3. Life is what we make of it. That was a good read and a good reminder of why we live the way we do. Thank you.

  4. Bonjour, Trystia:

    Wonderful to have you reading! I had no idea I had a French reader.

    Regarding gardens: I believe this rumor came about because of HR 875, which is aimed at commercial food growers (see this link: So no, trying to legislate gardeners isn't happening (yet). Personally I think if our government wants to see a revolution happening with furious speed, it should tell people they need permission or can't have gardens!

    That said, there was a case near Detroit, Michigan in which the CITY made a stink when a woman planted a garden in her front yard (see this link: I believe the city later backed down after intense media pressure, though rumor has it they're harassing this same woman on other trivial charges.

    CITY governments can often make local ordinances regarding things like gardens. Depending on the city, you may indeed need permission to grow a garden in your FRONT yard. I can't imagine they would care if you grew one in your BACK yard.

    - Patrice

  5. I enjoyed Jennifer's writing too. We live kind of in between. I don't have a garden any more but we buy at the farmer's market. I have the least expensive cell phone and plan I can purchase. I have a desktop computer for blogs and internet research. Love to sew, my daughter loves to knit and crochet. We have pets and enjoy being at home with them. We have netflix and almost never watch tv because of commercials and tv filth. Took care of my mother for 11 years after a massive stroke and she just passed away. I'm going through all the papers I put in a stack while she was ill, and giving clothing and other things to the thrift store for other who might be in need. Lots of times if we eat out we share a meal although most times we enjoy home cooking. Life is good. We enjoy our ways and others think we are different. We use the library all the time and for birthdays allow ourselves to buy and choose one book at a bookstore. We look forward to this each year. We also eat out at our favorite place but cakes are made from scratch at home. We like our simpiler life so much that we lean more in that direction all the time. We get scripture from some that refers to if we would just trust God and have more faith God would give us the desires of our hearts. What in thunder! We never ask for a thing and have given lovely gifts to them like a baby monitor for their first child. They make me smile. We are happy to live life just the way we do.

  6. Wow, Jennifer, way to go! "To thine ownself be true". How happy I am that you got far enough away to look at your BFF's sad life and see it for what it is: a shell of a life, an imitation of what everyone else is doing, making all the same mistakes they are making. Good for you!

    I did not have a BFF like yours, but I had a good friend like yours. Now I cringe when she calls and wants to come for the weekend with her children. Her kids are barely tolerable, actually they are not tolerable. My husband says to have them and keep modeling an appropriate parenting/limits for her and her kids. They love to come here because of how peaceful and orderly it is...while they have more resources, more land, and more stuff, more debt, and continue to indulge EVERY demand their unappreciative spoiled offspring make.

    Keep up the good work!

  7. Thank you very much, it reassures me a little because it is a rumor that has invaded Internet. Your blog is a message of encouragement vai to open their eyes and take their destiny into their hands. You know that here in Europe, we are not spared either, but the money goes mad king and too few people realize what will happen. Europeans mostly, still the American dream ambition: they still do not realize that it's over and you start to jump ship before it sinks. Europe has for years behind the reality and he will have time to react. Thank you for so kindly answered my question.
    Sorry for my vocabulary !
    Good day to you .

  8. Now, that is a life to be envious of and you can guarantee her BFF definitely is, even if she wouldn't admit it.

  9. I love this. We too left the city. My husband commutes a few days a week. We miss him terribly when he is gone, but we are working on that as well. I agree, the Joneses can stay in the city and out do each other!

  10. we can learn alot from watching and listening to others...i enjoyed this story very much. i think alot of us could see ourselves in this ladies shoes or are already knowing that we have "been there, done that".