The following article has been contributed by a fellow prepper and homesteader named Darlene. It has been published with permission of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of PreppingToSurvive.com.
In 2007, I abandoned a career in banking – shortly before the bottom fell out – and started on a journey which now I can see was preparing me for prepping! We live on five acres, with our house located right in the middle. My husband and I had built a chicken coop in the back yard years ago, and we have enjoyed fresh eggs and the 5 a.m. wake-up call of our rooster ever since. Farther out back was a small building that was hollering to be made useful, and my bored, unemployed mind needed something to occupy it.
It Started with Goats
While trying to figure out what I wanted to do with that building, I visited some folks about 5 miles away who had started a community supported agricultural farm (CSA). Walking around the farm, I met their goat who seemed much more of a pet than a milk source to me. She was a sweet little Nubian who was milked in their living room, providing delicious raw milk daily. (Okay, I thought milking in the living room was a bit weird, but whatever!) A light went off in my brain: GOATS! Being lactose-intolerant for most of my life, it seemed like something worth investigating.
Now, I’m not an impulsive person. (That’s my husband’s department!) It took two months of research after meeting that goat before I took the plunge and bought a pair of Nigerian Dwarf doelings . The little building out back became their first barn! My herd has since grown to eight goats, –consisting of 5 does, 1 buck, and 2 wethers, a.k.a. castrated males. The small building was quickly outgrown, so I designed a very functional goat barn, complete with milking parlor, kidding pen, dry storage room for hay, and two “goatie bedrooms.” It’s an awesome structure—and my favorite place to be. There have been 13 kids born here in the last 4 ½ years, with most being sold to other local folks looking for fresh raw milk.
Ah, yes! Fresh, raw goat’s milk is the single most wonderful food in this world. To me, at least! It has been over 20 years since I had been able to drink milk, so my taste buds are making up for lost time. In addition to having milk I can digest, the girls provide me with enough milk to make yogurt, cheese, and kefir. That all sounds difficult and mysterious to folks who don’t know beans-from-apple-butter about farm life. However, yogurt takes about 10 minutes to stir up. Simple cheese can be made in 30 minutes, using either lemon juice or vinegar to set the curd. And kefir makes itself in a mason jar on the kitchen counter.
Striving towards self-sufficiency, I found a way for the goats to pay for themselves: SOAP! Six months out of the year, I set up a booth at our local Saturday’s farmers market to sell goat’s milk soap I’ve made here at the farm. It covers the cost of hay, grain, and minerals for the herd and is an outlet for my extra eggs, too.
Once I became a goat owner, I started learning about different things I could grow to supplement their feed. Sunflowers are great for goats, and very easy to grow. They also love most vegetables which opened yet another farming adventure. Gardening began to intrigue me, so I purchased books on organic farming methods, composting, and seed saving. Again, my research-mode went into overdrive. What started out as a few 4×8-foot raised beds has expanded to become 2,000 square feet of edible goodness.
It has been a trial and error, learn-as-you-go gardening experience. Being in the extreme south, our best growing time is fall/winter. Major planting occurs in October and November. All things green do well here: spinach, broccoli, lettuce, collards, mustard greens, cabbage, and green beans. Tomatoes are year-round growers, as long as they’re protected from our scorching summer sun. Potatoes and carrots do surprisingly well here, and are such a treat for the grand children to harvest. Their eyes get so big when they pull straight up on a carrot plant to discover that big orange veggie that’s been hiding in the soil.
My favorite vegetable, asparagus, takes a couple of years to get established and isn’t supposed to grow well here. So, I planted an experimental plot of 30 crowns that I had ordered on-line from an organic seed company, Seeds of Change. Following instructions I had studied on how to plant and mulch those crowns resulted in a successful plot of asparagus! So I expanded my plot to 150 crowns, and now have plants that should meet my needs for the next 15 to 20 years.
How to Preserve What I Grow
Growing all of these marvelous vegetables took me down yet another path: preserving the harvest. I remember my Aunt Dot canning her garden produce many years ago and storing them in her root cellar in Virginia. So I started studying and then purchased my pressure canner. Gosh, that’s one of my favorite things to do now! It’s like a trophy shelf in the pantry when you look at the results of your labor in the garden. Canning isn’t difficult, and the food tastes so much better than store-bought junk.
Since I’m not getting any younger, I wanted to add more permanent agricultural products in my garden area. That way I wouldn’t have to re-till the soil each season, which my lower back does not tolerate very well. So, I’ve been adding grape vines, fig trees, banana trees, papayas, blackberries, and various citrus trees. Yes, that garden is really coming along, and I’m toying with the idea ofputting a sign by the garden gate: Welcome to Eden! With the addition of these fruit sources, I’ve made grape jelly, and have dehydrated banana slices and diced figs. Life is good.
The Pig Palace
Late last year, that same small building out back was hollering again to be made useful. This time, I turned it into what I call the Pig Palace. My research led me to buy a pair of Berkshire weaners (that’s pig-talk for freshly weaned young pigs). Pig-Pigs have grown well, thanks to a special planting of pig-loved veggies: corn, pumpkin, beans, and squash.
In addition to non-medicated swine feed, they also got scrambled eggs for breakfast, mixed with garlic and fresh rosemary for natural parasite control. Tomorrow Pig-Pigs will make the ultimate sacrifice and go to freezer camp so we won’t need to buy pork for a year.
Big Fish in a Little Pond
While still on the subject of protein, I failed to mention the stocked fishing pond we have at the north end of the farm that is receives a constant supply of FRESH ARTESIAN water, (thank you Jesus!)
We had a four-inch well drilled a few years back that provides free-flowing clean water from 900 feet down, no power needed. We occasionally harvest a few tilapia for dinner, but there’s also plenty of bream and soft-shell turtles.
Feeling the Need to Prepare
Of course, all the while I am on this merry little trail of returning to living off the land, the rest of the world has been slowly going down the drain. I knew the economy tanked in 2008 and that things didn’t seem to be rebounding, but I was more focused on my little farm. I remember reading “way back when” about the bankrupting of social security when all of us Baby Boomers retired. Shoot, our government is broke NOW and living on borrowed money that it can’t pay back.
A year ago, I started paying more attention to national and international news, especially with the upcoming presidential election. I began asking questions, researching on line about what the economic outlook REALLY is—not what mainstream media pumps out to the masses. The world economic future isn’t looking very promising!
And so, the next piece of my self-sufficiency puzzle became obvious to me: Prepping!
Based on what is happening nationally and worldwide, prepping is the most important thing I can do. Those things I cannot grow are now being accumulated and properly stored. Wheat, rice, oats, and corn are making their way to my special pantry. Mylar bags and O2 absorbers are a regular part of my life now. Sugar, salt, and cooking oils are on the shelves in very large amounts. Beans, did someone say beans?
Yes, we’re gathering them hard and fast. Implements with which to survive are being researched, purchased, and practiced with on a weekly basis. Extra meat is being purchased when on sale, and canned. Manual grinders for meat, grain, and coffee are part of the accumulation now.
Craigslist helped me obtain a Sun Oven for just $100 last month. A solar-powered/hand crank emergency radio/cell phone charger has just been ordered. Next on my list is SOLAR POWER—enough to run a window-unit air conditioner and a small refrigerator. My husband is on board with preparations, too. He’s in charge of the bullets, while I take care of the beans. He’s taking his job as seriously as I am mine.
What started out as a bored, unemployed woman looking for something to do has turned me into a food-producing-and-preserving farmer. Little did I know that my curiosity, research, and farming ventures would become a possible means of survival for me and my family. I am preparing for the worst, hoping for the best, and living without fear because I’ve got skills, experience, land, seeds, critters, water, faith, and I’m a pretty good shot!
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