What You Know Might Save You

We received a very interesting and informative comment yesterday that we feel is worth posting for all to read. I have said something similar to this opening statement, that I was born in the wrong century. Frank and I have long known that our varied life experiences have brought us to this place and time with a plethora  of skills and perspectives that may help us as the current crises of the world unfold. It really doesn’t make any difference when we were born or where we live, this is where we are and what we have to deal with. The events of the world will continue to unfold, whether we are ready or not. Please share your thoughts. Enjoy.

I feel as though I am a person born out of my time period. I am not yet sixty but my childhood experiences include using an outhouse, drawing water from a well, and taking baths in a tin bathtub after heating water on a wood cook stove. My parents grew corn, peanuts, and other vegetables in a five acre field. I grew up helping to harvest and can what we grew. We milked cows and my mom made butter from the cream. I was the last born of my siblings, and born late in my parents’ lives. They grew up in the Depression and married at the beginning of WW2, so I am a tail end of the Baby Boomers. 

My experiences were embarrassing as a child but came back to help me cope many years later in the aftermath of a hurricane that plowed through our area. We lost power for about four weeks. I tried to do what my momma did and found that I was not the woman she was. But I did learn some very important lessons. I relied too heavily upon electricity and on my freezer for food storage. I had a pressure canner and had canned some vegetables, but I still had a lot of vegetables and meat in the freezer. Now I try to keep plenty of jars empty for emergency canning of meat and most of my vegetables go in jars. 

 I was given a dehydrator several years ago and found that drying vegetables and sealing them with a food sealing system in jars takes up less space that fresh. 

Since I did and do most of my cooking on an electric stove, the lack of that power has stirred me into looking into other ways of cooking without power. I have since discovered an interest and love for cast iron, especially Dutch ovens. My first experiment with one was in the coals of a burned brush pile from a tree blown down by a hurricane wind. Food burned on the bottom and was raw in the middle. But my daughters have taken up my pursuit and they cooked much of our Thanksgiving dinner last year in Dutch ovens outside over a wood fire. 

I liked your article because it fits my lifestyle of gardening, canning and enjoying the fruits of my labor. I live in a climate that allows me to grow food almost all year round, but for the past several years, I have had an urge to save seeds from the vegetables we grow and to try to save extra possibly for neighbors in the future since I can’t feed them all and they may need to have something to plant. Most of us “country folk” live like city folk now because we buy fresh seed from the feed and seed stores each year and there are fewer and fewer of us gardening and growing our own food, because it is quicker and easier to run by the grocery store and get what we need or want. It is a lot of work to grow and process your own food. I have heard comments to that effect. 

After reading the Woodpile Report, I found someone giving voice to some concerns that have been in my heart for a couple of years…namely, what would happen if we could not grow food for a year or so because of outside circumstances. And what would happen if the stores that sell seeds are no longer open or stocked? About three years ago, I saw a clearance sale of end of summer goods at a dollar store. Included in those goods, were packets of flower and vegetable seeds. I bought quite a few for pennies a packet and so I have been collecting these seed packets and storing them in my freezer for my own use and for future giveaway seed. To my surprise I even found a few heirloom seeds among them. I have other seed that I have saved in glass jars using the food sealer system and jar attachment. I opened a few jars of seeds this spring and was amazed that most of the seeds were viable. Only one of the jars of seeds failed to germinate. 

Anyway, my next canning experiments are going to include oranges, lemons, and butternut squash. By the way, have you heard of okra seed being roasted and ground to be used to stretch coffee grounds? I have heard that such a thing was done in the Great Depression, but I would like to know if anyone else has knowledge of this. 

Thanks for sharing your experiences with others.

[Name removed]

Please share what you know and have experienced. We’re all in this race to survive together. The finish line is simple. It’s your life.

Until next time – Fern

14 thoughts on “What You Know Might Save You

  1. I seem right at home here with the other commenters though a few years younger from the sounds of it. My parents would have liked to have done things the easy way, but couldn't afford to. I grew up on a ranch used an outhouse, cooked over wood, have helped butcher and eaten various critters and a garden at times but generally it was easier to open a can of store bought whatever. I however am an old soul and have always been drawn to times past. I'm fortunate that my parents weren't wealthy as we would have been one of those families who never ate together. What I have learned is to ask questions when there is an opportunity to learn. Most folks are willing to share their knowledge and stories. I've still a lot I want to learn, but have gone without power for a week or so at a time. Like one of the folks above, the meat in the freezer is my greatest concern and I too keep a stock of extra quart jars just in case.Frank and Fern – I believe I first found you right before your break and have just rediscovered your blog and so glad for it.

  2. My maternal grandparents brought my 1 year old mother with them out of Russia in 1921, and came to America by ship. They were used to having kitchen staff in their previous days so they didn't know how to cook for themselves, or sew either. Growing up, my mother tried to make some meals by herself but even she admitted that they were awful, so my father hired a cook and a maid to keep up with things. Needless to say, that meant that I never learned to sew or cook either. I took an academic path in school which didn't include \”home economics\” and later attended a boarding school where they had staff that prepared all of our meals (of course). The first time I tried cooking something for my fiancé I made hamburgers on the grill and couldn't even do that right! Luckily he liked me enough to guide me through simple meal preparation over time. I found that I liked it and started watching food network shows for ideas – these days I'm a very good cook. A few years ago I decided to become a \”prepper\” since the future seems very uncertain in many ways, so I learned how to can foods by watching You Tube videos. These days I'm canning beef stew and roasts when they're on sale because I believe the prices are going to skyrocket in the near future due to several factors including grain shortage due to weather, herd culling due to rise in grain prices, and ever more unfriendly government policies against \”meat\” (thanks to enviro wackos). In case the power goes out I have both a propane grill, a sun oven, and a volcano grill as well as solar lights and lanterns around. I'm just mentioning this because the original article pointed out the problem of relying on an electric range if things so south. It's important to think about alternatives and have some available.

  3. My Mom taught me to sew, make jelly and can. I leaned to make quilts from Mom and a Neighbor Lady down the street. My Dad taught me how to work on cars, measure twice and cut once, how to shoot, hunt and fish, and garden. They both taught me love of our Nation and to always look for the grains of salt in anything. Red

  4. Thank you for your blog and sharing your knowledge. I was fortunate to grow up with a grandmother (maternal) that managed to hold onto the small family farm after the early death of my grandfather. I remember as a kid the chickens, eggs, garden, harvesting and canning. My Mom and Dad may have moved to the \”city\” yet continued to save money, spend less, can foods and help with the garden harvest. My paternal grandmother lived in an apartment. We still went to u-picks, preserved fruits, canned beans and corn etc. Food was all made from scratch. I grow a garden and can now. Fruit trees are finally producing. So much more the learn and pass on to my children and grandchildren. Thank you again.

  5. Like everyone above, I am from the tail end of the boomers. My husband is from the beginning of that era. He has more memories than I do but both of us are struck by our parents frugality. My grandparents died when I was very young so I did not get the opportunity to learn from them directly but did hear plenty of stories. My mom was a child of the depression and we grew up with the mentality of waste not want not. I must confess that early in my parenting I spent much less time perfecting skills. Now that I have the time, it feels like there is such an urgency and so much to either learn or resurrect. My husband and I owned a river outfitting business for many years and we cooked using dutch ovens, and generally made clients comfortable in the remote outdoors. We are very comfortable in the outdoors. With that said though, age certainly changes perspective. Surviving for a few days and long term survival are two very different scenarios. Logic would tell us that we will be much better off if we combine our knowledge and work together. Looking back at the depression era, there are many things I have not tried such as baking bread without yeast. The BBC series on the Wartime Kitchen and Garden and the Wartime Farm on YouTube has given me much to think about however we can never learn everything. The issue as everyone is describing is our isolation and lack of friends that believe similarly. Frank and Fern, I appreciate your blog as it is a bridge to hear from others I don't normally see or hear from in my daily life. Tonight I am making dutch oven chicken divan. It was a recipe we served on the river. Tomorrow will be another day for something I have not yet gotten to on my long list of things to do. Keep sharing..

  6. Thank you for the repost of the e-mail that was sent to you. There is lots of interesting and timely things to think about in that post. It looks like the writer is certainly on the right track as we go down the pathway of our future.Skills, knowledge and prudent thinking are of the most importance as we move forward with our lives. I also remember outhouses ,family garden plots, canning your food and much more civility between folks. Common sense also seemed to be in more use in the good old days . Saving for a rainy day, what a concept ! Buy only what you can afford , another great idea !In The American's Creed at the top of the post were words that rang true for me . I do not wish to be a kept citizen , humbled and dulled by having the state look after me . We have far too much government in our personal lives today. I would prefer to have no government involvement in my life . Our government today is bloated beyond repair. We are a nation of crazy laws. Why do we have ethanol in our gas tanks ? Ethanol reduces gas mileage as well as destroys engine parts . Certainly no one was bribed , excuse me , lobbied to vote that corny law into the books. Where does that money trail lead?Learn as many skills as you can, have a backup library, do a garden , be aware of the world around you and for gosh sakes stay away from crowds.Enough ramblings , Good health and blessings to all,Bluesman

  7. I'm a 'tail end' boomer too. I learned a lot from my grandparents. Not a lot of 'skills' were passed along, per se (neither grandma canned, as far as i can recall, for example). But frugality, that was the big one. And having a well stocked pantry (well, and knowing how to cook too, LOL). I think both my grandparents and my parents not only wanted better for us kids (what parent/grandparent doesn't) that they 'insulated' us from their trials and tribulations. So as an 'older' adult, I am now learning the things I wish they would have passed along. And doing my best to share them with my kids and grandkids All we can do is continue to 'revive' those 'lost' skills and try our best to pass them on. I have one daughter who, while still in the 'connected' generation, is very interested in 'the old ways'. I consider that a win.

  8. You have no idea how I look forward to your postings and all of the wonderful comments. I love knowing others out there feel as I do. What a shame we feel so isolated from one another. Being in my late 60's, my parents grew up and left the farms for the city life. I feel very blessed to have left the city and moved back to the rural area where my grandparents lived. I treasure the few things I have from them. I don't leave home often, but when I do go to town for groceries and supplies, I cannot resist going to the thrift stores. I am always amazed at the beautiful and still useful vintage items that have been tossed out for new. I believe that those of us who love the simple things in life and appreciate the old ways of doing things have been and will continue to be blessed many times over. Now if only I could have each of you for my neighbors. Please keep sharing your thoughts…CW

  9. How blessed are we who learned the skills of yesterday. I learned sewing and gardening and the preserving of food and how to stretch both a meal and a dollar from my parents. At my grandmother's house I learned the joys of an outhouse in a Minnesota January, about hauling water from a hand pump outside the kitchen door, of reading by the light of a kerosene lamp. I watched her take loaves of bread from the oven of her wood burning cookstove and learned to make butter from cream. Grandma's family not only survived the Great Depression, but thrived. They knew how to do stuff. They knew how to make do with what they had. Those skills are all but lost. And those are the very skills we need to have and more importantly, the younger generations need to have in order to get through the bad times lurking just around the corner.

  10. HiMy husband is 69 and I am 64. Seems to be a lot of people our age holding on to and improving these skills. I don't know if we will ever need them but I have always been driven to try to homestead and prep for the future. Lately I have decided that it is kind of lonely because it separates us from the majority of people. They all want to show you what new thing they have bought or how they have decorated their home or where they have or will travel to. They take their grandchildren to Europe and I plant beans with mine. They don't understand why we work all day at cutting fire wood and gardening and preserving what we grow when we could just pop down to the store for a loaf of bread. We seem foolish to them. We don't have time to spend several hours a week shopping for new do-dads or going to the coffee shop to make prayer lists, (that takes 4 or 5 hours a week) or seeing the latest movie. It is a self imposed loneliness, we could live like others. Part of me thinks that maybe God has set some of us apart to keep these skills alive because someday they will be needed, Someday someone will say remember Frank and Fern, they knew how to make bread without yeast, or milk a goat or…. maybe we can ask them. My husband and I look at each other and decide this is a good life and we are happy. We pass on to our grand kids as much as they will accept, they much prefer their video games and Legos but they do love us an soak in a little of what we offer them. I do wish there were like minded people near by, this is a rural community but when the logging was shut down they left for other places and city folks and their values moved in.

  11. I grew up in the country where my Mom was trying desperately to shed all that she had learned during the latter part of the depression. She hated all of it because she \”had\” to live that way. She used to say she would never touch a squirrel again because her Dad went out every morning and shot their breakfast or lunch and it generally was a squirrel. She and my dad were determined that we kids were to have a better life. All old recipes, pots, pans, dishes, clothes, you name it, were thrown away for the new and improved. Therefore, there was very little after they passed away that gave me any sense of where I came from. It's all fine – that was just the way it was and I understand why they felt the way they did but oh my, I love all the \”old\” stuff, old ways, cooking each meal, canning your food, raising chickens, etc. I'm still learning about all the things they were running from. I've lost so very much but I'm learning and maybe, just maybe, there will be a granddaughter or a grandson who will want to garden, preserve their food, grow herbs, make their own medicines, fish, hunt and find joy in the simpler things of life. Maybe.

  12. I was six months old when I came to America on a boat. My mother said she was knitting a sweater when one of the other wives (this was a ship filled with military dependents and soldiers) informed my mother that she did not need to knit in America. You went to the store and brought what you need. My mother who knew how to sew, knit, crochet, garden, etc. NEVER passed any of those skills on to me. I am also in my 60s and have been reading, taking classes and learning from trial and error. More errors than I care to admit. How lucky was your reader that she learned those things in her past.

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