Confessions and Evolution of an ‘End Times Prepper’

In late 2008 I became a Prepper. A Prepper is someone who wants to be ready when disaster comes. It was fun, hard work, and extremely exciting. But I must confess, I did it for some bad reasons. I did it for some good reasons. I’m going to lay it out here. Judge me, if you must, but please recognize that sometimes people do the right things for the wrong reasons.

We moved from Maine to Georgia in January of 08. Later that summer, the economic world started melting. First, the housing market blew up. Our house lost 25% of its value the first 6 months we owned it. That was tough to swallow. Especially since we had bought a big house with a half an acre yard.

The next thing was the stock market. It crashed and burned. My 401k turned to dust. At the same time, I was a senior manager in a publicly traded company and began to see the ugly side of those companies. My attitude went from trust, to disillusionment, to outright disgust and hatred. Someday I’ll tell you all about it. But by the beginning of 2009, I wanted nothing at all to do with the stock market.

Thirdly, Barack Obama was elected president. I believed that was going to produce a disaster for America. Before you go there, race played 0 part in why I thought he was a mistake. Anyone who knows me, will vouch for that. I believed his extreme left wing policies would take us down a hole from which we might never recover. Frankly, I believed his was a nice person. I loved the way his family was presented. He was someone I would like to go to dinner with and talk about things. I think it would have been great to go to a basketball game with him. He loves basketball and I’m from Kentucky. Instant room for rapport. But as a conservative, I found his fiscal and foreign relations policies a nightmare.

Finally, my wife and I had begun to be concerned about GMOs, the issues of highly processed foods, big Agra, the severe cruelty in the meat industry, and other health related matters. We began thinking about growing some of our own food.

Then, I heard about the Prepper movement. People, some like us, and others for different reasons, were starting to take matters into their own hands to make sure they could survive anything, from an economic meltdown to a zombie apocalypse. I was attracted and jumped into the pool head first.

First, I bought guns and ammo. I bought lots of both. I bought a huge gun safe for my basement. I filled it with hand guns, shotguns, rifles, a crossbow, two sling shots, and thousands of rounds of ammo. Each pay day I purchased ammo.

I bought it all for hunting, for self defense, and as an investment. As I already said, I was no longer even remotely interested in the stock market. The morality in that industry was directly opposite of my core values. For those who care about such things, I never purchased an AR, although I wanted to. Prices went through the roof and I didn’t want one that badly. Besides, hand guns, shotguns and hunting rifles were still extremely affordable.

In the spring of 2009, I planted my first garden. My wife was, I think in Florida, and I planted. The first year was tomatoes, peppers, kale, cabbage, and green beans. Later that year, we bought a freezer and my wife also learned to can. We were on our way.

We had a few problems. Primarily because we lived in a Home Owners Association. The rules didn’t allow for livestock. Heck we weren’t even allowed rabbit hutches. We figured out a way to keep rabbits without making a scene. We bought 6 of them and cages. We set them up in the basement of our house. I wheeled them out in the mornings about 6 a.m to empty the cages and clean them. Rabbits are great, but you have to keep them clean or the stink will run you out. All the waste went into a compost pile in the garden. The rabbits had a duel purpose. One, there is no fertilizer like rabbit dung. It’s the best. Secondly, rabbits are a phenomenal protein source. They reproduce quickly and the meat is really good for you. Some people can’t get past the cute factor and that’s unfortunate.

We also put bees in the Garden. That was against the HOA rules too. But bees are essential to pollination and honey is so good for you. They are also easy to hide.

I began to learn about aquaponics and hydroponics. Our basement and garage became home to several tanks of Tilapia, catfish and bluegill. I was having the time of my life. And breaking every rule of the HOA. I was such a rebel.

In the spring of 2010, a friend from Church offered to rent us some land for grazing livestock. I was ecstatic. The price was cheap and the place already had a barn, electricity and water. We installed some fences and brought in chickens, turkeys, sheep, goats (dairy and meat), Dexter Cattle, pigs, donkeys as guardians, and our biggest mistake two beautiful, huge, draft mules.

When the goats had babies, we took the babies home and kept them in the basement for about 8 weeks to care for them. Yep, at one point we had 8 baby goats living in our basement. See the land was about 5 miles from where we lived, and we had to bottle feed them, because we were milking the mothers. So to make that easier, we build a stall in the basement.

In 2011, we raised 150 chicks in our garage and the HOA never suspected a thing. Obviously, we took them to the farm once they got big enough. What a rush, keeping goats, rabbits, bees and chickens right under the noses of our Home Owners Association. We bribed our neighbors with fresh veggies, eggs and meat.

I was blogging about it, and writing articles for online magazines. We had people contacting us about eggs, chickens and ‘how to’ advice. We had a group of teachers come out and visit the place to see what we were doing. It was all great fun. We even had a national television program ask to come out and film at our place. We were having discussions about it, but 5 days before the cameras were scheduled to show up, we backed out. First, we didn’t want our secret to become public and secondly, the program was pushing me on some things that we weren’t ready to do. And I didn’t like their pushing. Especially since it was going to cost me some considerable coin to do it. So I missed my chance at television fame.

By 2012, we had gone from Preppers, to suburban homesteaders, to small farmers when we found a repossessed farm in a nearby county. We purchased it, moved there, and sold our big home in the suburbs. We didn’t make any money. In fact, we had to take $5,000 to the closing table. Our house was still slightly underwater.

But out in the country, we weren’t breaking any rules and life was great. We loved our simple, sustainable life. We had blankets, bandages, tents, extra fishing lines, knives, matches, candles, light bulbs, batteries, lanterns, heck we even had toilet paper. We had bug out bags for each of the cars. And we had very large dogs. Dogs who were big enough to defend the homestead, or to backpack with if we had to walk away. We provided most of our own food. We had stored up 2 years worth of supplies, seeds, and cash. Life was good.

Then in 2014, what we were prepping for came to pass. I lost my job. Its a long story. It wasn’t personal. I hadn’t done anything wrong. The company was making all kinds of changes and I was let go. For that matter, so was our boss, and his boss. It was devastating. Except my wife and I were prepared. We had food, seeds, livestock, supplies, and cash, and we kept right on going. During that time, my wife had begun making goat’s milk soap because of the excess milk our girls produced. That business became our primary source of income. We also sold eggs, pork, vegetables, rabbits, goats, and starter plants.

In 2017, we decided to move to Scotland. I had lived here in the 1980s and we had a chance to come back, so we sold off everything and moved in July. We live in a 2nd floor apartment with no yard at all. I miss my animals, my land, and sometimes my life. But, I still have seeds in the freezer, candles in the drawer, and have all the knowledge we gained stored on flash drives and my memory.

I’m still a Prepper. I have learned all about how to live off the land. I can do plumbing, electricity, and other basic maintenance. My wife can make soap, fix a car, milk animals, and a hundred other things. We learned those skills. We are still prepared. If society goes crazy, we can take care of ourselves. And we can help others do the same. I am not afraid.

Prepping is not much of a thing these days. It has run its course as a fad. A lot of Preppers have become homesteaders. Some have become strong voices in animal management, gardening, and care of the environment. A few have gone off grid. And a small minority have become end of the world hermits.

The U.S. Election in 2016 oddly killed off the Prepper movement from public view. Frankly, that’s odd to me, because the choice between Trump and Clinton scared me senseless. I didn’t vote for either one. I wrote in my choice. He wasn’t elected. Prepping, though, is not about presidents or congress or the supreme court. It’s about taking responsibility for yourself. Its about budgeting and being wise with your money. Its about being able to adjust to the circumstances of society and thrive.

What would happen to you if you lost your job tomorrow? What if you lost your house? What if the economy collapsed? What if something went wrong with the grid and you didn’t have access to the supermarket and were forced to rely on yourself. Could you do it? Are you sure? That’s what prepping means to me. Developing the skills and resources to be able to do more than survive a crisis. I sleep well.

Five Surprising Things Farming Has Taught Me About God’s Relationship With Us

old-stone-barnFarming is one of the great joys in my life. I never ceased to be amazed at how much can be done, or how much work there is to do, even on just the few acres we have. Often, it is not the idyllic life I once imagined in my farm fantasies, but I still love it.

For example; vacations are things other people take. It’s very rare that my wife and I can go anywhere exotic or romantic together for more than a day.  Someone has to be there for the garden and animals.

Also, the myth of the rich farmer is just that, a myth. Money is always tight, except when it’s not there at all. Yes, we have many things money can’t ever buy, like beautiful sunsets over our front pastures where Brittan and I can sit side by side in our rocking chairs, sipping iced tea, enjoying the animals romping together in the fading light as the sun slips over the horizon. Those stuck in commuter traffic rarely get to take time for such pleasures. Still, gorgeous views don’t pay the electric bill.

Did you know that it’s possible to get sick of zucchini? Are you aware that a human can only eat fresh chicken or lettuce or green beans so many days in a row before we begin to crave something really unnatural, like Krispy Kreme donuts or Dairy Queen?

When I used to dream about having a farm, and imagine the infinite joy it would bring, I never once considered weeds, or how stubborn and prolific they could be. I only saw rows of corn and bushels of strawberries.

Yes, farming is sometimes just plain hard. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. How could I ever measure the joy of listening to roosters singing their morning songs as I wander out to begin my day? How could I describe how much better it is to watch a flock of geese on their seasonal commutes than to watch the cars and trucks on I-75 in theirs? How could I ever compare sitting on our deck staring agape at the multitude of stars in the Milky Way lighting up the night sky to the street lights and headlamps of city living?

I think, though, that some of the things I love best about farm life are the lessons I’ve learned about God and His incredible relationship with us. There are far too many to count, but with your indulgence, I want to share five of them

  1. It’s Messy. If farming is anything, it’s messy. For one thing, there is poop everywhere. Cows poop.  Chickens poop. Pigs poop. Rabbits, turkeys, quail, goats and donkeys all poop. Everything that hath breath goes number 2. It smells bad and, like Visa, it’s everywhere you want to be.

Where there’s not manure, there’s mud. At certain times of the year mud is a fashion style and a food group. Then, just when you think things are starting to dry out, a water line bursts somewhere and you’re up to your waste in mud again, trying to mend the pipe.

I suspect that’s how God must feel about us, sometimes. We make messes everywhere, all the time. The stink must be awful and He must have one heck of a set of chest waders. Yet His love for us looks past our stench and our stains and He wallows in the sheer joy of fellowship with us.

Each morning, when I head out back to feed the pigs, they surround me. There are four of them. Each one has done their best to out mud the other three. As I pour some soaked feed into their trough, they take turns rubbing their snouts all over my legs. It’s their way of saying good morning. By the time I’ve finished with them, my entire lower body is covered in Georgia clay and snot. But I am still compelled to take time with each pig, scratching behind their ears and along their backs. They wiggle with delight and smile up at me, hog jowls dripping with swill.

I can’t help but think how God delights in our special moments with Him, despite the sheer volume of grime we get on Him.

  1. It’s Emotionally Draining. There is great joy in seeing a pantry filled with freshly canned produce, a freezer filled with meat for the winter, or a garden ripe and ready for harvest. There is also enormous satisfaction in watching a pasture full of baby goats or calves suckling on their mothers or chasing each other around the farm at sunset. Yes, those are pleasure that silence the pain, but I assure you there are many hard days and tearful nights leading up to those happy endings.

It is extremely frustrating to walk out to feed your chickens only to find thirty carcasses scattered around the field, having been tortured and mauled by neighborhood pets, a weasel or some other ambassador of terror. You can almost feel the fear in the survivors, and even emanating from the corpses of the dead.

After waiting anxiously for a doe goat to get through her pregnancy, it is draining to sit with her as she struggles for hours with babies turned wrong or underdeveloped only to have three born dead. Your heart breaks for her, and for the money you will not be getting from the sale of those kids that was going to pay for seed for the garden.

It is almost impossible to describe the anguish of coming home from Church to discover your future milk or beef cow, down in the pasture unable to rise because of some disease or attack.

There is a real sense of shock and awe in stepping out of your house only to discover that in the night, something has gotten into the garden you’ve tended to for months and have devastated it. Seeing the tomatoes, peppers, corn, beans and squash all eaten to the ground can truly create a sense of loss and hopelessness.

Birth and death, disease and health, Joy and heartache, abundance and famine are all a part of the farmer’s life. And it can be exhausting. I just can’t help but think about how emotionally draining we can be for our Heavenly Father. We read in the Bible about God ‘inhabiting’ the praises of His People. In Luke 15 we read all about the joy of lost sheep found, lost coins discovered, and lost sons coming home. The same Bible tells us how human sin caused our loving God to ‘repent’ of ever making the Human race. During the Israeli’s 40 years in the wilderness there were times God told Moses to stand aside so He could wipe out the people. We are an exhausting species.

  1. No Matter How Much He Gives, We’re Never Satisfied. When I go out in the mornings to feed, usually just before 7, the chickens and rabbits are already at the gate awaiting their breakfast. Sometimes they risk life and limb by jumping into the yard to escort me to be barn. We have two collies in the yard that have a real taste for fresh chicken and rabbit, but the thought of food drives all fear from the hearts of my birds. That, and the fact they have brains the size of salted in the shell peanuts.

By the time I’ve gotten to the barn, the pigs are climbing on the gate, and each other, unable to wait 4 more minutes for their grub.  Even the cows will come running straight for me if they catch sight of a bucket in my hands.

When I return an hour or so later to top up their water, all the animals are begging for more food. This is despite the fact that I have never missed a day of feeding them, or that they have an entire farm full of edible pasture available to them 24/7. The simple fact is, they are never satisfied. They always want more.

Aren’t we that way with God? Regardless of how much or how frequently He provides for and blesses me, I always want more. I cry and whine and complain like a hungry boar hog. If he gives me shoes, I want boots. If he gives me a shirt, I complain that I wanted a suit. If He gives me potatoes, I whine that I have no gravy.  I have so very much, but greed drives my appetite, begging for more, more, more. Dear God, have mercy on me.

  1. When We Run To Him, It Gives Him Pleasure. This morning, after giving some hay to the cows and filling their water tank, as I turned to head in for some coffee, two things caught my eye. First, the sun had risen over the house creating a magical scene as its light sparkled in reflection off the dewy pasture. My heart leapt inside my chest. At that very instant, the second sight stopped me in my tracks as Lady, one of our two collies, came flying through the gate running across the field towards me as fast as her legs would carry her. She ran to me, jumped up on me and showered me with kisses before dropping like a stone to the ground so I could rub her belly. Needless to say, I was grinning from ear to ear as I gladly obliged her and fulfilled her wishes.

Anytime I step into the back pastures where the chickens hang out, they come running to me as fast as their little legs will carry them. They waddle and wiggle all at the same time. I have seen this same sight multiple times a day for 6 years, and it makes me smile every time.

God wants to be in a relationship with us, and when we run, or waddle, towards Him, it makes Him smile. He is no absentee Father, He is among us, enjoying our adoration and our company. We make him Happy. Our fellowship gives Him Joy.

  1. Our Needs Are More Important Than His Pain. Farming is not for the faint of heart or self-centered soul. My wife and I have crawled out of bed with fevers, injuries, colds, flus, headaches that would drop a bull moose in his tracks, and more, for no other reason that there are things that MUST be done.

Last week, I injured my foot and it resulted in the agony of Turf Toe. I could not begin to describe the pain associated with Turf Toe (tearing of the ligaments in the knuckle of the Big Toe.  It feels just like gout and lasts two to three weeks with proper care. There is no proper care in farming. Period. I’ve had fever, body aches and much pain from the injury. I would gladly cut off the toe to stop the pain, but I do the chores regardless, because they need to be done. I’ve known farmers who go to work despite crushed discs, pulled muscles, pneumonia, broken limbs, or even cancer, for no other reason that it needs to be done.

Yesterday, I stepped in a hole, twisting my ankle on the already swollen, aching foot, adding insult to injury. With each step the pain grew in intensity and walking became more and more difficult. I wanted to sit down and have a good cry, then take the rest of the day off. But I didn’t. I am not particularly noble, or brave or strong. The simple reality is, the animals and garden need cared for regardless of my comfort. Their needs are far more important than my pan.

Today, as I grunted and hobbled through throbbing toe and ankle during my chores, it dawned on me that in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, God truly demonstrated that our need for a savior was more important to Him than His own pain. God’s very Son took beatings, endured scorn, carried a cross and bore the agony of the nails all because our need was greater that His pain. By comparison, I have endured nothing.

I love farming. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth whatever I’ve sacrificed. It gives me more back than I ever put in; but more than anything, what I love about farming is how it’s revealed to me just how much the Great God of the Universe loves me. By the way, He loves you, too.