Wouldn’t it be nice if you could pop the lid on a huge bucket, open it up, and have an instant homestead? Inside that bucket would be a ready-built off-grid cabin, a huge raised-bed garden area fenced against the deer, a well with a hand pump, a pond, an acre of wheat, two milk cows, a flock of chickens, and all your seeds sprouted in pretty little containers, ready to plant.
Well I’d like that too, but it doesn’t exist.
While I applaud any and all efforts for people to adopt a more preparedness lifestyle, I must point out a dangerous tendency: the mindset that someone can stash away all kinds of supplies and equipment, but they won’t bother learning anything about it until such time as the bleep hits the fan. Bad idea.
It’s a whole lot easier to talk about doing something than to actually do it. Preppers must learn how to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. A mark of a real Prepper (versus an armchair Prepper) is the determination to make sure that his efforts won’t be wasted. This means testing your theories, supplies, and equipment; and it means learning how to do things by alternate means. And this must be done before the bleep hits the fan.
There are some people – the “garden of Eden in a bucket” types – who would have you believe the skills to run a self-sufficient homestead can be acquired after the fact as long as you have the equipment.
This is not only a foolish assumption, it’s a dangerous one. If the bleep ever really and truly hits the fan, you are going to be stressed, scared, desperate, panicked, and unfocused. If you think you’ll suddenly have the leisure and the interest in learning the intricacies of cooking from scratch, growing a one-acre garden, or plinking at targets, think again. Because make no mistake: all these skills take practice.
Remember, preparedness is a three-legged stool: supplies, knowledge, and community. You might have all the supplies in the world, but without the knowledge of how to use those supplies, they’re useless.
A reader once wrote, “My Grandmother was a true child of the Great Depression. She tried to teach me to garden, can, sew, knit, etc. I had little patience or interest. Now I find myself struggling to learn to do the things I thought were passé at the time.”
Sadly, such is the fate of most of the modern generation. For most of us, the mantra was “Study hard and go to college.” Our parents and grandparents were anxious to spare us the hardship and struggle they themselves experienced while growing up, little realizing they were doing us a disservice in the long run. Struggles and hardship breed knowledge and experience.
Let's face it, most of us didn't grow up learning homesteading or survival skills at our parents' knees. If we want to acquire the wisdom of our pioneer forefathers and their seemingly (emphasis on seemingly) effortless techniques for living a low-tech rugged lifestyle, we have to learn them the hard way. I had to teach myself to can, to milk a cow, to make cheese, to garden, and an endless list of other skills. And let me assure you I fail all the time. That's the price I pay for having grown up living a soft and modern life.
Today, almost everyone lives a soft and modern life. It's not meant to be an insult, it's just the truth. If you want to overcome that handicap, you must work very hard to do so. The dangerous part is when we think we can just effortlessly – tra la la – waltz into a pioneer lifestyle in a "bleep" situation and expect everything to be just like it is in the books. If we plant a garden, it will grow. If we get a cow, she'll be gentle, healthy, give endless milk, never get mastitis, and can get pregnant without breeding. If we buy a farm, fences will never break down, barns will never need repair, and cougars will never take a calf.
The pioneers didn’t launch themselves into the unknown without adequately preparing their brains as well as their supplies. They knew they would be without convenient “rescue me” resources. They brought what was necessary to ensure their survival in a new land, but they also brought the know-how and wisdom to understand the use of their supplies and equipment. Anything less would have been suicide.
Buying a “garden of Eden in a bucket” will not make you competent to run a successful homestead any more than buying a fancy rifle will make you a marksman. The time to make mistakes is NOW, while you can still purchase food from the grocery store if your garden fails.
My friend Enola Gay summed it up very nicely: “Walking the preparedness walk requires effort, commitment and inconvenience. You will be in for an expensive education, but an education that will serve you well when the grid goes down. Don't be the smartest guy in the room – the guy telling everyone else how to do it – with no real life experience backing you up. Be the guy who has done it. Be the guy who knows how to do it, not because you have read about it but because you have lived it, because you have practiced it. Be the guy who walks the walk - not the guy who talks the talk.”
I encourage any and all prepping efforts, but please – please – don't think homesteading or low-tech living will be easy or trouble-free if you spend enough money or read enough books. You need to go through trials and errors and endless failures at a time when those failures won't mean the difference between life and death.
There’s an old saying that goes, “Sweat in practice saves blood in battle.”
I suggest you start sweating.