Saturday, April 7, 2018

And to think it all started with a potluck

If there’s one thing I’m always harping about when it comes to preparedness, it’s comparing it to a three-legged stool. One leg is supplies, the second leg is skills and knowledge, and the third leg is community.

In our neck of the woods, the ties that bind us with our neighbors are our potlucks. We've been having these neighborhood potlucks for about nine years now. Nine years. That's a long time. Many of you have heard the story before; but for those unfamiliar with it, here’s how our potlucks got started.

Way back when, some new neighbors moved in across from us. They had a rough start. While the wife and four kids settled in, the husband kept his job on the east coast. For the next three years, the husband visited his new home whenever he could, but he had career commitments to tie up before he was able to move here permanently.

During this time we got to know the wife and kids quite well. One day we invited them to dinner, figuring the mom would like some adult company. She brought dessert, the grownups sat around the table and talked, the kids (our and theirs) did their own thing, and we all had a splendid time. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we invited them back the next week for a repeat performance.

As she was heading out the door at the end of that second meal, the mother said, “I’ll host next week,” and our weekly potlucks were born. Soon the husband was able to conclude his job and came home permanently. We invited a third family to join us, then a fourth, and these four families became the core of a weekly sociable that has taken place for nearly a decade.

My potluck dishes

In the last year or so, the potlucks have grown as we've had more people join our circle. I think the most we've ever had over at one time was 35 (I now keep stacks of extra plates and bowls for potluck meals). We now have four separate families acting as hosts, so no one gets overwhelmed (at least not more than once a month).

Sometimes we have to cancel for a week or even a month when schedules get busy, to resume when things are more settled. We’re fluid in our arrangements. Newcomers are always welcome – other neighbors, visiting friends and relatives, guests. With so many people, folding chairs and folding tables get passed around from house to house. Even so, often there aren't enough chairs to go around, but people are very good-natured about sitting on the couch balancing plates on their knees or eating standing up.

Folding table and chairs, stored until needed

I can't tell you how much these potlucks mean to me. To look around a crowded room, to listen to four or five conversations going on at once, to open with prayer, to see everyone pitch in to clean up ... even after nine years of this, it never gets old.

As a result of these potlucks, we’ve been blessed to know these good people better than most neighbors ever get to know each other. We cheer each other’s victories, we mourn each other’s losses, we commiserate hard times, we laugh about good times. We celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and graduations.

If someone needs help, we know who to call. It might be a horse tangled in a fence. It might be a flat tire or a vehicle stuck in snow. It might be a missing dog or an escaped cow. It might be something heavy that needs to be moved. If someone is ill or recuperating from surgery, we pitch in to feed livestock, cook meals, and run errands. We share garden produce and seeds. We keep others informed if there’s a good deal on hay for winter feed. If one of us visits the city, sometimes we’ll pick up a needed item for someone else.

Stuck in the snow

In short, these potlucks have strengthened the ties we have with the people surrounding us. To be honest, none of us gave this much thought – it just seemed like a natural thing to do – until outsiders started saying in awe, “You meet every week?” or variations to that effect, and we realized we had something special going on.

As a community, we'll often share tools and equipment, saving people the need or cost of purchasing each item on their own. Our log splitter gets used by several other neighbors. We've borrowed trailers for hauling heavy loads. Seed spreader, plow, disker, back blades, cultivator, rototiller -- all these tractor implements get passed around wherever they're needed. We have a neighbor who's taken it upon himself to be the neighborhood snowplow (since our road is not county-maintained), and we'll pitch in some money to cover his gas. Another neighbor with a Very Beefy Tractor will stack our hay for us in the barn each summer.

Now that our girls have spread their wings and entered adulthood, there are times Don and I think we should sell out and move to a smaller house ... but quite honestly, we don't want to leave our neighbors. We're not certain we could ever duplicate the love and friendship we've developed with these people if we moved anywhere else. So -- we're staying put.

And to think it all started with a potluck. Something to think about as you look around at your own neighbors.

UPDATE: Oh wow -- this got featured on SurvivalBlog!


  1. Speaking of pot luck neighbors, how are the folks that purchased the little shouse on the prairie from Enola Gay and family doing? I haven't seen any activity on Google maps but the last photo was early spring and the place had not been sold for long enough to see any changes.

  2. You are VERY lucky to have such a caring, close group of neighbors.

  3. What a blessing to leave in a community like that. To find neighbors that look out for each other, help each other and enjoy each others company. Would have to guess you will not find this in too many places.
    Do not ever want to live long enough where have to leave the country side and be part of the rat race else where.
    Best to all.

  4. We just moved to a city.... East coast. Too expensive to buy land. I cannot yet imagine a potluck on our very diverse street but God willing maybe it can happen. I'm not a city person at all.... I'm used to chickens and cows as neighbors. It's a huge change but important to have that community. It seems wherever God puts us it's for a reason and the neighbors become like family.

  5. I am very interested in the "borrowing and using" of items. One of the rules I was raised by was, "Don't borrow or use anything that you are not prepared to replace or repair." Now I understand the normal use and 'wear and tear' on mechanical things, but I am just interested in the 'hand shake' understanding on what happens if something breaks down while it is being used for or by you. I am not fortunate enough to live your life style (but I greatly admire it.)
    So ,I have watched enough Judge Judy shows to know that long time friendships and family relations have been shattered by unresolved issues less than this.

  6. Your analogy to a three-legged stool is right on the money. Those are the Big Three and the ‘community leg’ is often the weakest link for us.

    It seems to this old coot that you and Don are at a great situation at this stage of life. Rural independent living is physically very hard and fairly expensive. With what little I know about the girls I think it very probable that at least one will return nearby with family (including a like-minded strong husband). Your ‘community’ will support during this time. Six years will pass quickly and by then you’ll know. And maybe one of them could raise their family on with your awesome homestead.

    Patrice, you and Don are such valuable role models for younger families. I bet you have changed many the lives for many families for the better.

    Dock Guy


    Take it from someone who has a hard time fitting in.

  8. Congratulations. I see that SurvivalBlog featured this awesome article.
    Dock Guy

  9. You are so right! So many think that they can lone ranger things in a SHTF scenario but boy will they get a shock.

    You can't keep watch 24/7, complete a three man task with one and other things that take many hands to do without the help of a community.

    We found our place in a tiny rural community that came with less land vs buying a large (isolated) parcel of land where we would be hard pressed in an emergency.

    Prepping takes balance and living within the reality of your lifestyle, budget and ability. Community is vital to that balance!

  10. Patrice
    Please do not sell your house. My parents will
    be like 95 this year.They are still in there
    house because my daughter is taking care of them.Now with that being said they heave a 2500 spaure foot house and my youngets brother in his 60's and retired still comes
    home with his kids.So just because the kids are gone?? doens't mean that they won't be in and out for ever.