One of the things no one talks about is how much work it is to be self-sustaining. Maybe that’s because somewhere along the way we have lost our work ethic. Or maybe it is because this new life style of being prepared is supposed to be so superior, so glamorous. After all some of the biggest names in the “prepping” world run big splashy blogs and sell branded items with their logos and write books too. They have Face book pages devoted to their lives and thousands follow every word faithfully. How many TV shows are now devoted to the movement? And it’s not only an American phenomenon! You can read blogs from around the world now talking about the same things.
The reality is that running a self sustaining homestead of any size is hard work and lots of it. There is nothing glamorous about it either! Chicken coops need to be cleaned out – and chicken poop smells! When it rains (like it seems to do constantly lately in many parts of the land), the poop smells horrible. Yes, do not waste your time telling me a clean coop does not smell. I know that and I clean constantly – more often than most probably because I do not want neighbors upset with us. I use herbs to freshen their nest boxes and I use coop compost deodorizers too.
Rain helps to breed flies and that is another issue few folks talk about. The chickens enjoy eating bugs but even they cannot keep up with bug patrol without my help. Whether it rains or not, the animals need to be fed. And winter months it snows. They still eat.
Now let’s talk about the rabbit hutches. There’s another smelly messy yucky job! The manure makes great fertilizer just like chicken manure does. But most of us do not live on huge farms or homesteads where we can have piles of this stuff sitting waiting to be used. We have gardens to use it in but can only use so much at a time. I share with everyone I know but not everyone wants any. For some reason many folks think buying their fertilizer in neat little bags that have less smell and muss is a better choice?
So then I have to raise the next messy smelly and not fun issue. We raise our rabbits for a food source. That means butchering and cleaning up afterwards. Someone has to do this job too! It is not a clean job and it is time consuming to boot. Again living in a neighborhood, I am not going to be leaving this around for animals and flies and smell to take over. That means more work to dispose of the leftovers properly. How that is done depends on where you live and those local ordinances too.
Having a garden that yields enough food to feed your family takes a lot of back-breaking work. The gardens you see on those web sites are beautiful and it is exciting to break ground to start a garden. There are lots of tips and hints out there to encourage you on the journey. Planting a seed and watching it grow is a wonderful experience for the children. But how many of you were made to help weed gardens (even a flower garden) when young? Rain makes plants grow but it makes weeds flourish and outgrow the veggies! Trying to fight those squash beetles without using nasty chemicals is a challenge and takes work. That home grown fertilizer is now going to smell at that end of your yard too! Weeding is a never ending task no matter how much you mulch.
Does all this mean it isn’t worth it? Does it mean it’s a waste of time? Several of you would rather buy convenient no fuss MREs. They can have a place in some prepper situations but one important point to remember is that sooner or later that food source may not be available. Why exactly do you want to prep, to store food, and/or be self-sustaining? Are you preparing for the apocalypse or simply want to control what your family eats? Are you an environalist or simply wanting a more simple lifestyle? I personally am a little bit of all of the above. That however also brings challenges of its own to the plate.
I am not well to do. I don’t have enough money to buy the huge plot of land far from the rest of the civilization. It’s doubtful to say the least that I could afford to live way out there anyway. I certainly can’t afford a separate “bug out” location secondary to my home. I have to work a full time job to support my family. That means the homestead has to fit around other obligations in my life. Most of the work falls to me. Yes, I do have some help in the form of feeding the animals or penning them up at night away from predators. But the more physical aspects are usually my job. Occasionally I can afford to pay for additional help to work in the garden but that is not the norm for us either. My days off from my full time work are not days of rest. Lazy days are few and far between. And this was reality for most folks only fifty or sixty years ago. Women worked from sun up to sun down on the farms. They took care of kitchen gardens and small animals as well as cooked, cleaned, did laundry, made soap, sewed clothes, and so on. That list went on and on! It was second nature to most of them and few thought twice about it. There were harvest festivals to celebrate the end of one season of work before starting the next. Barn raisings and slaughter days were social events built around helping each other accomplish some of those necessary chores everyone had to accomplish!
If (and I accept it is a big IF) any of the scenarios we fear do come true, our young folks will have a shock adjusting. I suspect many of us will have a shock, even those who thought they were prepping and prepared. Back in the Great Depression stories abounded about those who could not accept what happened and committed suicide or lost it emotionally and mentally. We have a lot more population to contend with who will not have a clue how to survive or where to even begin. Does this mean that we shouldn’t bother with any of this? Does it mean that we not enjoy life and the conveniences or perks we have now? I enjoy having my nails done and wearing my high heels and going out to eat, being waited on too. I like my silks as well as my jeans. I enjoy shopping at Publix (such a clean store with beautiful produce and fresh meat) as well as eating a tomato from my garden! I love shopping the deli as well as opening one of jars of home canned foods. There is pleasure in both and there is no sin in admitting it. Just as it is not an unspeakable sin to speak the truth about the yuck factors of being a prepper or homesteader! Surviving is more than just stock piling food and weapons. It means being prepared in body, mind, and soul for all of the challenges that we face! Be honest in sharing the reality with others because not knowing and suddenly being thrust into it will be stressful – too stressful for most. Having to face the realities shouldn’t scare anyone away. It means rather that we are honest with ourselves about the work and less and worse involved and that we face those challenges honestly. There is pleasure and sense of accomplishment and pride in a job well done. Those eggs taste better for many reasons! The pantry is pretty because of the colors but also because of the work that went into filling it. The peace of a good night’s sleep from the work is a sweet sleep indeed. Sitting out on the patio in the wee hours of the morning watching the sun rise while sipping coffee and listening to the sounds of the chickens is great feeling… no matter how much work it takes, this is the mornings I live for.