Most "Preppers" are Men? Ha - Check the Kitchen!

Sharon October 31st, 2008

So I found this article from Details Magazine on “Preparedness Style” (gotta love that) over at Savinar’s site, and mostly, what amused me about it was the insistent message that this is a guy thing.  “Preppers” (I actually hate that term, but what the heck) are “guys in suits” and “most are men.”  Then we get some examples of how their wives don’t really understand them.  They derive, we are told, from the old Dudes with shotguns awaiting nuclear war, but these are stylish, urban dudes with Starbucks coffee in their storage.

To be fair, it really isn’t a bad article, but I thought it would be fun to explore the question of whether “preppers” as a broad category, really are mostly men.  Because I have the suspicion (I can’t prove it, but since the article doesn’t even bother to do more assert it, I don’t know that I have to) that if you look carefully enough, and think carefully enough about preparedness, you’re going to find that women are more present than anyone thinks.

Let’s start on the bookshelves - who is on the library list for most people trying to be prepared to live in a harder future?  Well, the hardcore types probably own Matthew Stein’s _When Technology Fails_, James Talmage Stevens’ _Making the Best of Basics_ and Cresson Kearny’s _Nuclear War Survival Skills_ - which would be right on the shelf next to Carla Emery’s _The Encyclopedia of Country Living_, Anita Evangelista’s _How to Live Without Electricity and Like It_ and Kathy Harrison’s superb new classic _Just In Case: How to Be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens_.  Heck, they might even own one of my books :-)

It is true there are more male preparedness authors, narrowly construed, than there are female ones.  What do I mean by “narrowly construed?” Well, the thing is, “preparedness” in a lot of ways comes down to and overlaps with a lot of really basic, domestic kinds of things.  A lot of preparedness really comes down to food, water, health and safety.  And these territories also overlap with an awful lot of stuff people who aren’t preparing for anything do.  Cooking, gardening, seed saving, making do, saving money, repairing things, building, first aid, etc… - these are relevant to millions of people who wouldn’t call themselves “preppers.”  So the partial list above assumes a rather narrow category of thought - people who explicitly and primarily write and teach how to do things in case of rough times.  And it is definitely true that those authors are more often men than women - although there is a solid contingent of smart women involved.

If you add in the range of authors who cover skills you might want even if times aren’t bad, but that are extremely useful to people who might need them, the scales come out a lot more evenly.  Suzanne Ashworth, Carol Deppe and Raoul Robinson’s spectucular books  on seed saving and plant breeding are well worth the investment - whether you are concerned you may have to rely on your saved seed, or whether you simply want to adapt crops to your conditions and reduce pesticide dependency.  Glancing over my shelves, the scales aren’t perfectly balanced - there are more guys in books on building and shelter and more women on cooking - but what you get a pretty solid balance.

But that probably doesn’t tell you much about the ordinary prepper, who, after all, probably doesn’t write books.  Is he really a guy?  Does he really wear a polo shirt, and if he does, will anyone date him ;-) ?  Or is it just possible that the gender balance is closer than you think?

Again, I think we come back to this question of broadly or narrowly construed.  Obviously, this article is concerned with the style issues of the young, urban professional survivalist.  And there’s a lot of references to how cool they are and to all the stuff they buy - their stash of Chilean wines, their Starbucks coffee, their waterproof Ipods and vaccuum packed quail.  But sort out the lifestyle stuff, and what you really find are a lot of references to food.

And that I think is what’s really interesting about this.  Underneath the cool gadgets, the camo and the wine racks - that is, the things that make this kind of preparedness spiffy enough to make _Details_, (the message being - these are paranoid nutcases, but cool, well dressed ones), the blunt reality is that preparedness is about that uber-chick thing - making sure everyone has dinner.

“Eric, a 32-year-old CPA in Northern California, is so concerned about his stores’ going to waste that he has his wife and children do regular tastings of freeze-dried foods and MREs, so they can decide what they do and don’t like. “Why have it if they’re not going to eat it?” he says. Unfortunately, his family proclaimed all of the MRE fare—except for the chocolate-chip brownies and chocolate-peanut-butter spread—“gross.” So Eric has squirreled away M&Ms in bulk to keep the kids quiet. For himself, he as a case of vodka. “If the shit hits the fan, I might want to tie one on,” he says.”

This is not the article’s first reference to MREs, either.  And this seems to be what makes a real guy prepper - they don’t preserve their own food, and they aren’t going to eat dried beans.  They’ve got manly MREs, or freeze-dried food, or pallet loads of canned goods from the grocery store.  Or if they do preserve things, they are weird things, like vacuum packed quail (a major staple of my pantry, of course) and canned pasta (!?!?!).  With the exception of one gardener who makes salsa and something with zucchini, the way we know that these are narrowly construed preppers is, well, that they don’t cook much.

Now consider what would happen if you were paying attention to me, or to Kathy Harrison on this subject.   Harrison explores the questions of MREs and dehydrated meals, and concludes that they are expensive and extremely high in sodium.  She recommends basic staple foods, most available at grocery stores or coops, and growing and preserving as much as you can yourself.  That’s not that different from my recommendations.  But underlying both of our assumptions is this - you can cook, at least enough to feed yourself.

And that’s important, I think, because preparedness, at its root, is more than anything about making sure people get dinner.  Yes, we can prepare to fight off zombie attacks, build earth shelters in case we lose ours (although odds are most of us will move in with a friend or relative), learn how to handle background radiation - but the first tier problems most of us face - and the ones most people prepare for first, are the ones we’re familiar with - what will we eat?  How will we cook it?  How will the hungry kids get fed?  How will we keep the food and water coming in a supply disruption, or when we’re too poor to buy it? It isn’t that no one needs a gun or potassium iodate - it is that generally speaking the first question you will encounter in most crises is “Is there dinner?  Do I get any?” 

And that question isn’t traditionally a guy question.  Historically speaking, most of the people figuring out how to make sure everyone gets food, and that there’s enough to go around and that it keeps coming in are women.  Most of the cooking in the US is still done by women.  I suspect a lot of the emphasis on the manliness of these guys is to cover the fact that preppers are really doing something quite feminine - they are worrying that the time might come when they and theirs go hungry - and they are trying to ensure that it never happens.  Not just by abstractly providing money, but by getting down and dirty with their food - by finding ways to fill the pantry, by canning or buying or storing - by taking over those roles their wives don’t want to handle.  And where they haven’t quite made the connection is at the ultra-central point of cooking.  Because that’s a survival skill - kids who won’t eat MREs can’t live on M&Ms.  And those who don’t have the money to spend 10K on preparedness, as one person in the article did, need to know that you don’t have to.  You just have to be able to cook. 

But cooking is the preparedness skill probably least recognized.  Matthew Stein’s terrific _When Technology Fails_ has the best bibliography around.  It has sections on identifying edible worms, making bowls from pottery, spearing fish, and a host of other useful skills, along with a fabulous bibliography of relevant materials.  And it contains not a single section on how to cook, nor any bibliography of cookbooks.  The assumption presumably is that that’s too basic to be a survival skill.  But unfortunately, that’s wrong.  We’re a nation who doesn’t cook very well in general, and men particularly often lack that skill (let me be clear, I’m talking statistically - my husband is a superb cook, my father is a superb cook , I’ve always lived around men that cooked, and don’t in any way diminish their gifts.)

The inability to cook in both men and women is the single greatest factor driving us towards hunger - our immensely destructive industrial food system is in very large part a product of a society in which most people don’t cook. The processed food industry, the markets for corn syrup and continuous soy and corn, the reduction of nutritional value and taste in produce varieties - all of these things are the product of the way we eat. The reason most of us need preparedness is that we face disruptions in the industrial food supply that depends so heavily on fossil fuels. The dangers we face cannot primarily be prevented at the agricultural level - averting the disasters all of us are preparing for depend on a society in which most people either cook or eat in restaurants that use sustainably produced, local whole foods.  And since most of us can’t afford to eat out or buy dehydrated food, that means both preparedness for a disaster and averting it in the first place depend, in large part, upon how we eat.

And that’s why I suspect that if there was some useful way to establish who all of the “preppers” really are, you’d find that there are a LOT more women than people think there are. Not just hanging around my site, but stocking up at the grocery store and filling their pantries because that’s what they always did, and what their Moms and Grandmas did.  They probably don’t wear polo shirts, and they live everywhere, not just in the city, and style magazines probably won’t ever profile most of them because their work is too ordinary to be counted.  Maybe they do this because Mom always had a big garden and canned a lot, or because their grandmother remembers the old country ways, and they do too.  They are cooking from scratch - and keeping extras around.  They are teaching their kids to eat from their pantries and what Mom or Dad sets in front of them.  They are canning and drying and pickling, and sharing recipes over the internet.  They are the 30% of American women who really cook - they bake bread and make soup and fill their pantries.  And yes, some of them are men - about 15% of American men also really cook. 

Now most American cooks, male and female, don’t store food - but a surprising number do keep some extras around, just in case.  They probably don’t even think of themselves as “preppers” - maybe they call themselves homesteaders, or traditional, maybe they are tied to an ethnic, religious or cultural tradition that suggests that some kind of reserve and self-sufficiency are essential.  Around me the Hmong, Somali, Russian and Polish families are out there with the Mennonites, Amish, Quakers and Mormons, the farm families, the homesteaders and those who are a little worried about the future, filling their pantries every year.  They do it for different reasons - because they can remember hard times themselves, because they always have, because their faith or their culture requires it, because they aren’t so far removed from an agrarianism that reminds them that this is how it always was.  Maybe they do it because they aren’t ever going to see their kids or grandkids go hungry, or because the food is better.

And if you decided to define “prepper” as “someone who is prepared for uncertain and difficult times by having a reserve of basics at hand” I think what you’d find is that close to half - maybe even a majority of this nation’s and the world’s preppers are women.  Look at the bunkers, and the yuppies, and you’ll see a lot of guys.  Check the kitchen, however, and the story changes.


45 Responses to “Most "Preppers" are Men? Ha - Check the Kitchen!”

  1. Meadowlark says:

    Yeah, I think there’s a marked difference between “preppers” and “survivalists” although the media gets them confused quite regularly. These differences do tend to fall more along gender lines, with marked exceptions. I count a few of these women among my friends - “survival chick”, and “she survives” for example.

    Me? I’m neither. I’m just a farm girl who stressed when the larder’s not full. :)

  2. MEA says:

    I’ve never thought of myself as a cook — just as someone who can get a meal on the table, which I my world means stew, soup, eggs cooked six different ways from Tuesday, stir fries, incluing the ever popular national stir fry of Britian, simple cakes, bread, scones, veg, endless veg, puddings…. but I’ve now learned I’m not only a cook but a prepper too!

    I think that most women (gross generalizion here) look for ways to keep things the same, even if they use different method. That is, I’ll still feed my family, even the food and cooking method are different; I’ll still do the wash, even if I’m beating clothes against rocks: where as men think — oh, my god, everything will be different (not done differently but BE different) must get MREs and beer.


  3. Green Assassin Brigade says:

    I think there are more women in general preparing to change their way of life for the long term while the majority of men are more focused on short term fixes or stop gap measures that will breach the crisis, so somehow magically things will get better.

    While not universal more women work to survive all the time, cooking , canning, gardening, nurturing etc while men have been more cut off from actually providing for their families. Sure we work and bring home the cash so the family can buy neat shit, go to drive through, buy groceries but few men actually labour directly for their families survival and are cut from the process.

    I think this leads men to throw money at a problem, to buy survival booze, guns, MREs as we’ve been programmed to do, rather than learn the skills to directly and personally support our family. We are our jobs and can’t see a future without that, so we try to buy a get out of jail free card that once played will allow us to go back to being what we percieve oursleves to be.

    I know from the people who write to me on my financial blog that few if any take my advise of a buying heritage seeds, converting land from grass to food or learning a survial skill but they but often tell me as one fellow did just yesterday that he bought more gold, another gun and extra can goods were on the list for this weekend’s shopping

    While I have those things too I also have acquired a frozen bucket of heritage seeds, a solar cooker, the tools and the skills to cook, can, make bread, garden, make candles, fix things. Men need to learn to invest in themselves and their skills rather than just buying more crap.

  4. Evelyn says:

    I like the idea that storing is being brought to the main stream. Obviously this was written for a male magazine. It is very interesting that none of them mention that they have enough gas for their BBQ. Wine and Starbucks is not something that my husband will consider a necessity but we have vodka and scotch. I have always made sure we have extra because I went thru a big hurricane at 19 years old when I was away in college. I survived with my storage food and a make shift BBQ made out of the oven grill and wood from fences. Now I am ready year around, with almost a year of storage. I agree that in the city people make fun of you and that you do not want people to know what you have. I lot of people came to my apartment on hurricane Hugo to ask me for tools, gasoline, and ice that I never saw before I never saw again.

  5. Greenpa says:

    “Preppers!” Ha! I love it. Hadn’t heard that one before.

    So; I’d have to assume your next book in line will be “Four Little Preppers, and How The Grew.”

    You just haveta. :-)

  6. Gina says:

    I don’t think I could ever use the word ‘prepper’ to describe what I do, LOL! It reminds me too much of ‘preppie’ (a word from my teenagehood)…I still prefer the broad term ‘homesteader’.

    I have to say I agree with the above (and you) that there are just as many women (if not more) that are preparing for the worst right now. In my personal life, I know many more women (I can only think of one case where this is reversed) who are trying to convince male SO’s that things need to change and preparations are in order. I’ll have to read the article, but it sounds like “store-bought” preparedness.

    It’s a funny thing, but I just bought that Stein book today!
    I look forward to reading it (I’ve been done with your’s for some time and will be passing it on as a most recommended read).

    Canned pasta (preppers’ term)=spaghetti O’s

  7. says:

    MRE’s are way overblown. To newbies they sound like the ideal solution, but actually beans and rice, wheat, and etc are a far better option for the long haul.

    Beyond that though, what exactly is a “prepper”? The mainstream has it as someone who does what nearly everyone who could did a century ago - stock up on basic items in preparation for the hard times that always occur at some point in the future.

    The media needs a history lesson because prepping is the norm, it is what intelligent people have done for centuries. Ignorance prevails in the modern age where food and supplies are usually as close as the corner store - and that can change overnight.

  8. jill says:

    it will be hard to fight the zombies when you’re malnourished from eating M&M’s and MRE’s too, you’ll be too weak.

  9. Rosa says:

    This isn’t true everywhere, but in the hard-winter places I’ve always lived, just gardening or eating seasonally makes you a “prepper” at certain times of year. We could feed everyone through til spring from stores right now - but if Camp TEOTWAWKI happens in March, it’ll be weed salad and pigeon wings at every meal.

    The other thing is, anyone who’s ever been broke with kids knows the security of a full pantry. I have so many women friends who keep a giant tub of oatmeal and ten pounds of potatos and a box of powdered milk on hand all the time because it makes them feel better, emotionally, even if the bank account’s full and the kids are grown.

  10. Hausfrau says:

    I read the Details article and am considering sending to my husband at work, where he can pass it around to other men who might consider themselves cool. My rationale is that they will think, hey, what do these prepper guys know that I don’t? After all, according to the article, you never know WHO might be a closet prepper…. your boss? your kid’s pediatrician? your golf buddy? :)

    The article blew me away a little bit because I always see the women as the ones who are preparing. Learning to preserve, growing gardens, stocking up - while the men are the ones who are in denial, or patronizing. Totally the opposite of the article! I guess I just haven’t met any of the closet preppers yet.

    They seem very isolated, and I think women naturally gravitate towards forming communities.

  11. Heather Gray says:

    I noticed that the quail guy vacuum packs the quail himself — he’s probably a hunter, so that would actually be a normal part of his diet, along with the zucchini (and hopefully other veggies) he’s been growing in his backyard for the past three years.

    That Eric guy with his MREs and M&Ms though…

    And what’s with that guy Matt canning pasta? Why not store dry pasta and canned sauce? Although at least he’s thinking about what his daughter likes to eat…

    The video games for the kids was funny — I wonder if he has backup power for the games… Or maybe they’re those battery-powered portable games. Still need batteries though.

    Now the first guy they talked about, at least he also had a lot of water stored, but why 10 backpacks? He can’t carry them all… weird stuff.

    Too bad more of these guys (those with partners) can’t get their partners on-board, might (possibly, depends on the partner) create a little more balance in the stored goods. Also, learning new skills is often more fun when you have company :)

  12. Green Assassin Brigade says:

    I’ve never had the MREs but the Canadian version (the might be the same) of field rations are pretty damn good, I wonder what their normal diet was like that these were considered so bad?

    It might not hurt to have a few MREs to take on extended hunting/trapping trips, or to stash somewhere incase you got robbed or chased out but they certainly are poor bang for you dollar and there would be many other things to buy first.

  13. Anna says:

    Hi Sharon,

    Just thought you would like to know that my husband and I have decided to move in with an older couple who need help with their farm in Ohio. They are friends of friends, about to be adoptive family. One of your ideas is being fleshed out in real life!

    Now we have many, many things to learn and adjustments to make, but it is a win-win for everyone!


  14. Ani says:

    So maybe a good example of a blended male/female “prep” book would be “The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and cookbook” by Albert Bates- interesting prep material AND awesome sounding recipes, written by a guy.

    Have never even considered doing MRE’s- blech- would be like eating TV dinners or something I suppose. I think though that many guys do tend to focus on “techno-fixes” (and guns and ammo)while women focus on having enough food and clothing and blankets and such. This could all work well in a 2 adult M/F household but obviously would need some tweaking if it were otherwise configured……

    As for me, I think I try to focus on the whole picture- I grow food for a living and can and such, but also am tuned into energy issues being off-grid and heating with wood, so I guess I’m sort of well-rounded in that regard….

  15. spirit says:

    I am part of a large, mostly country, family. All of the women freeze, can, dry and ‘put up’ food for the pantry. The men assist by staying out of the way when the work is getting done. I am not sure we would call ourselves preppers, but we certainly would call ourselves prepared. We are one generation removed from active framing, and we make it a point to pass on our heritage of being prepared to the females in the family - of all ages. We all cook from scratch, including home made breads, noodles, all kinds of soup…. All of the women are well educated and work at big city type jobs and still find time to garden, gather and save for the winter and beyond. Sorry to leave out the men but here they have excluded themselves.

    In my circle of family, friends and coworkers, it is the women who prepare for the future, not the men. Maybe we are not the norm, but that’s how it is here.

  16. Chile says:

    Jill, that’s where the vodka comes in handy. Give it to the zombies so they’ll get drunk and fall asleep. If that doesn’t work, drink enough yourself that ya just don’t care anymore.

  17. madison says:

    “…that generally speaking the first question you will encounter in most crises is “Is there dinner? Do I get any?” …”

    And THAT’s the true question, isn’t it?

    Loved the article.


  18. NM says:

    When I developed carpal tunnel in both wrists the summer before last, nearly everyone I knew thought I was nuts to go on canning and preserving anyway, despite the pain. They kept telling me that we could always buy any food we needed from the grocery store. When I said, “yeah, probably, assuming nothing goes wrong — like us losing our jobs and not having any money, or the economy crashing and the stores not having food, or the price going up beyond our reach due to rampant inflation, or a quarantine because of a flu pandemic, or some sort of natural disaster — I got weird looks. Apparently thinking that the store might not always be there confirmed that I was nuts. As did wanting much better tasting food even if it was difficult to prepare.
    But DH eventually gave up arguing with me, helped chop vegetables, pit cherries and lift jars, and bought an expensive (electric!) food processor to help with the chopping. This year, he never did bother arguing, just sighed and let me buy 100 pounds of local wheat, and sign up for a year-round CSA. And put in a third raised garden bed, a second apple tree and some fruit bushes. He even brought home fruit for me to process, because he knew I’d love it.
    Speaking of ridiculous techno-fixes, the carpal tunnel freaked me out, because every medical website I read, and every doctor I saw claimed the Only remedy was surgery to cut the muscle band in the wrist. Which can go horribly wrong. Finally found a good physical therapist who said, that’s ridiculous. You just need to know how to exercise and stretch them properly and have the patience to let the tendons heal, which takes a very long time. (Especially if you go on abusing them). Sure enough, they’re healing, slowly, in spite of my continued abuse. But now I’m on a permanent rant about medical society recommending unnecessary surgery.
    By the way, I’m a MSM reporter.

  19. Survivalist News » Casaubon’s Book: Most “Preppers” are Men? Ha - Check the Kitchen! says:

    [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Most “Preppers” are Men? Ha - Check the Kitchen! So I found this article from Details Magazine on “Preparedness Style” (gotta love that) over at Savinar’s site, and mostly, what amused me about it was the insistent message that this is a guy thing. “Preppers” (I actually hate that term, but what the heck) are “guys in suits” and “most are men.” Then we get some examples of how their wives don’t really understand them. They derive, we are told, from the old Dudes with shotguns awaiting nuclear war, but these are stylish, urban dudes with Starbucks coffee in their storage. [...]

  20. Leila Abu-Saba says:

    I’ve been learning about traditional Lebanese/Palestinian/Syrian methods of food storage and preservation. Their winters are not all as tough as northern Europe…. but even on the temperate coasts you have to put up your food to tide you over in the winter. They call their food supplies the “mounieh” and it’s a vital part of the Levantine household. Dry grains and pulses of course. Olive oil. Then preserves and pickles galore: pickled cauliflower, eggplant, olives, cucumbers, turnips; candied pumpkin; syrups or pastes made of pomegranate, carob, tamarind and fig. Just a beginning of the list.

    Also they are forever gathering and drying herbs: fennel, anise, dill, thyme, oregano, lavender, mallow, “Jew’s mallow” (molokhiyeh - makes a glutinous stew). Must store onions and garlic in quantity of course. I’ve seen dried okra too.

    Cheese is preserved as yogurt cheese balls suspended in olive oil. Also the mountain people make a yogurt/burghul wheat thing called kishk which is dried and then reconstituted into a sour yogurty porridge.

    Folks always keep lots of flour, burghul, rice, chickpeas and lentils on hand so that in case of war or other disruption, nobody goes hungry. When Israel bombed Lebanon in 2006 my village took in 700 refugees and fed them all out of people’s pantries - for a month.

  21. Raven says:

    The thing about MREs, according to my active duty military friends, is that they… um, stop you up. They’re designed to. Soldiers who are in combat apparently shouldn’t have to stop to have their “daily constitutional”. Which is why in the military they are only supposed to give you MREs for 15 days at a time. This alone seemed to me to be good reason to avoid them; if I’m eating storage food, it seems like constipation’s going to be an issue anyway unless I have whole grains & dry fruit stored. Spagetti-Os and MREs and M&Ms? Sounds like a disaster, especially if flush toilets aren’t working… :D

  22. dewey says:

    Leila, I’ve seen the very high rate of stomach cancer in East Asia attributed to their high consumption of pickled vegetables, which makes me leery of relying on it as a major food source. East Asian pickled veggies are very salty, which might have something to do with it; is that an essential part of pickling, or can you make a low-salt pickle? (If not, maybe another question to ask is, I’ve never heard of that being a major disease risk in the Levantine - if it is not a common disease there, maybe pickles have nothing to do with the problem in Asia.)

  23. AnnaMarie says:

    I guess I’m weary of the term prepper as I am weary of the term doomer. I have redundancies built in in case of an ice storm or power loss due to wind. I plan to power down because I want to, not because I expect the power not to be there. I have a pantry because I like to cook from scratch and I hate to shop. Buying in bulk means shopping less. I make my own clothing, knit, spin and “craft” because I enjoy it.

    I’m not prepping for an uncertain future, I’m living my future every day.

  24. homebrewlibrarian says:

    Here’s a shout out to Anna - yay! While I don’t share living space with anyone, I am one of six souls who shares a three unit building. I’ve been friends with the owner (who also lives there) for forever and becoming friends with his daughter, her husband, their child and their roommate. It’s been slow but we’re starting to share a little with each other - knowledge, skills, time, food - and building trust and relationships. It’s slow but it’s happening.

    I am so excited for you! It won’t always be easy but, as far as I’m concerned, the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. And when the inevitable arrives and the older folks pass on, consider opening your home to others and keep the home fires burning.

    Good luck!

    Kerri in AK

  25. curiousalexa says:

    I ran into this with a friend of mine several years ago - he was after an independent life in just about everything *but* food. His argument was economy of scale. He didn’t think the effort of a garden held sufficient payoff for only one person, and preferred to focus his efforts in other areas (managing his woodlot, processing his own lumber to build structures, building a dam on a creek to create a resevoir/swimming hole).

    This blew my mind, as food seemed to me like the logical starting point (after at least a rough shelter). I *think* that may be what led to the fall-out between us. I’m still not quite sure what happened that caused a rift between us…

    He did have a stock of MREs when the groceries ceased to provide for him, and also hunted on his property. “I eat what I kill. I hunt deer because I like vension. I hunt squirrel because I hate squirrels.”

  26. homebrewlibrarian says:

    And about “prepping.”

    Recently, I started to think about what I would need to do if I was completely unemployed. The first time I thought about it I was so frightened that it took weeks to have it roll around again in my head.

    While part of me longs to take up Wendell Berry’s call to home economics, the reality is that I don’t yet have the infrastructure in place to leave the formal economy. We just put in a couple of raised beds and grafted some apple trees this past year. Because of my income, I’ve been able to put up a great deal of whole food over the last six months - much of it staples that don’t grow in Alaska. Except for fava beans and peas, pulses won’t set seed here. I’m going to experiment with amaranth next year and I know some form of barley and oats will grow here but wheat and rice are right out. If I had no cash income, I’d probably end up without a lot of easily stored staples.

    Okay, I’m creeping myself out again. Nonetheless, I’ve probably got enough stored food to feed me and one or two others for several months. I’ve been stocking up on bulk, whole spices lately to make sure that I can make the same beans/rice/potatoes/pasta/whatever taste different and yummy from meal to meal. I’ve also been eating out of my pantry and larder almost exclusively, too.

    This is a complete turnaround for me all in less than a year. I went from barely any stored food in my house (part of one kitchen cabinet - I swear I’m not making that up) to not having enough space to keep it from being underfoot. Also I have extra blankets (synthetic and wool) and will be working on picking up or knitting extra hats, scarves, gloves, mittens and socks to have on hand (for others - I have plenty of those for me). Except for a couple of folks I know (women, to be exact), no one else is the least bit concerned about preparing for anything. So I’m making sure to have extras just in case.

    So now it’s fashionable? Who knew?

    Kerri in AK

  27. abbie says:

    My husband and I prepare together. I focus on growing and preserving vegetables and fruits, stocking up on essentials for the house. He focuses on the house, splitting wood, and raising animals for slaughter. I wouldn’t say one of us does more than the other, we’re just both different.

  28. Kati says:

    My parents were a little unusual in the way they raised my sisters and I. (Though, their “teaching” totally didn’t “take” with my baby sis.) Mom and Dad both worked full-time out of the house, and Mom ALSO took college courses at night in an attempt to get a Social Work degree (which, she now has, and is using in practice). At the same time, my dad has always had this conspiracy-theorist streak, and had the first 7 foxfire books, multiple small-homestead type books and tried raising chickens (just three, it didn’t go well) and even contemplated rabbits, while doing a bit of gardening. (Though it turns out, Dad has a black thumb. My middle sis and I however, Do not. We turned out quite good at it, through trial and error.) Dad also happens to be an excellent cook! Man, his fried rice and wontons are worlds better than ANY you get at any oriental place.

    Mom, while she was working, was also crafting. Cookies and cakes and bread and rolls from scratch. She also did a bit of quilting, a bit of sewing, a bit of knitting, a bit of embroidery and cross-stitch. And she encouraged us girls to dabble in the same. I love crocheting now (though I learned from a friend of Mom’s, not Mom herself), and can sew at least on a basic level. (Still working on getting my seams straight. *grin*) I’m also a damned good “down home” type cook. My middle sis sews up a storm (has even set up an Esty shop with hand-bags & purses to supliment her grad-student-T.A. income) and cooks like nobody’s business (though she tends more toward the gourmet outcomes).

    My hubby, on the other hand, is all about Nascar and football and hockey and doesn’t pay a bit of attention to the economy, or the climate, or any other such thing. My recent attempts to stock up where I can have gotten mostly scoffing and remarks of “who cares?!?!” from him. (That is, till I remind him that he likes to eat, so he better not get in my way of storing some stock of food-stuffs. He backs off when I threaten him with my refusal to cook dinner.)

    I think you’re largely right, the tendency to be a “prepper” is really pretty well balanced. It’s only UNbalanced when you look at one aspect of that prepping while disregarding all the other aspects.

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, I’m getting to do a little bit of “living off what I’ve stored” here this past week and this coming week. Pay-checks were slim, and the hubby said I’m not to spend more than about 20 dollars for this coming week at the grocery store today. That means cabbage and onions, basically. Maybe a link of Keilbasa. I’ve got some Split Pea soup frozen in the freezer (from a super-large batch I made a couple of weeks back), and a bowl of left-over turkey-tetrazzini (also from a batch that would have gone to waste if I hadn’t frozen half of it). I’m planning on thawing both of those out sometime this coming week, and making Fried Cabbage and Kielbasa another night. And I’ve still got a bit of borscht in the fridge from last weekend soup-batch that is going to be my lunch today, and probably tomorrow. (It’s not getting frozen, apparently, so I need to use it up.)

    There’s also a likelyhood that I’ll be baking tomorrow to provide bread for this next week (rather than shelling out what little money we’ve got on store-bought, when I have the ingredients and skill to make my own). Oh, and I’m going to a get-together tonight and will be taking “Popcorn and pepitas”: home-popped popcorn mixed with dry-toasted (shelled) pumpkin seeds and tossed with a bit of real butter and cajun seasoning. I expect it to go over rather well. Cheap, easy, and made with ingredients I’ve got on hand.

  29. Eva says:

    Change to word homesteader/prepper to survivalist and it seems they are mostly guys with patronizing attitudes about how their wives “don’t get it”. Maybe a case of different terms for different sexes/groups of people but we all mean the same thing (more or less) but misunderstand?

    The little reading I’ve done on survivalist blogs seems to paint a bleaker, harder future with lots of weapons. Seems like they don’t need a lot of women there ;)

    I’m with abbie same goal, different skill sets= good team work.

  30. kiwano says:

    On the Canadian military rations vs. the MREs, they’re definitely a different quality of meal. I biked across Canada this past summer, and when I passed by/through a military base where one of my friends was stationed at the time, he gave me 4 lunch rations (I only had to prepare 4 more meals for myself before finishing the ride, so…) and they were surprisingly good. The thing is that unlike an MRE, they require the ability to boil water to cook them in (which wasn’t a problem for me, I’d been making pasta — not the canned variety — for dinner pretty much every night up until then; I certainly had water to boil and the means to boil it).

    Basically the IMP (the Canadian ration) is just the sort of food you’d get in cans (and some chocolate bars and other such goodies), but packaged to have a relatively consistent “stick it in boiling water for 5 minutes” method to cook all of it. MREs, on the other hand, are meant not to require a stove or water to be prepared. They contain all manner of dreadful substances to heat the ration up simply by tearing it open, shaking it, or some such action, and than an assortment of other substances in some sort of effort to mitigate any unpleasant taste or other side-effects of the first substance.

    MREs are a far cry from anything I’d call good food, and I’d actually hesitate to call them food at all. IMPs are mediocre food at best, but that’s still pretty damned good for a military ration.

    For my own personal survival, I’m more inclined to stick to dry goods (e.g. split peas, dried noodles, beans, flour, oatmeal, etc.), root vegetables, squashes, apples, and a few canned foods in the cold part of the year, and garden-food in the warm part. Military rations are designed to solve the problem of maintaining a large supply-chain containing them in a theatre of combat; that’s just not a problem that I expect to ever have to solve for personal survival.

  31. Texicali says:

    In my own experience “prepping” has been a joint activity. I came from a family that canned, gardened, had chickens. My wife did not. I suggested canning, gardening, and chickens. She makes sure we follow the details on canning, regularly harvest the garden, and makes sure that the chickens stay in good health. I read a post by sharon about knitting, and my wife took up knitting and has since made scarves, hats, and gloves. It seems to be a detail and follow through thing. I am good on concept and grunt work (I dig and prep all the garden beds, plant the trees, split the wood), but don’t have an particular talent for the fine details. In addition, my wife has what she terms food anxiety, but is really what is described above as “will there be dinner, and do I get some.” In that way canning, and learning skills like pasta making have empowered her to believe that because we can grow it here will be dinner, and since she knows how to make it she will get some as well. Me, well I know how to grow it.

  32. Rebecca says:

    I think MREs ‘stop you up’ because they don’t have any fiber -mostly it’s meat and cheese. If that’s the case, theoretically you could store some canned bread and fruit and get along better.

    Me, I’d rather just eat rice and beans. ;-)

  33. Greenpa says:

    Kati, whose hubby “all about NASCAR”- good news! You have an educational opportunity coming up:

    Money and fans are disappearing- because; everybody is broke.

    And I’m devastated that nobody liked my “4 Little Preppers” crack. Has that classic series really disappeared? And such a relevant story!

  34. Sharon says:

    I don’t know if Asher would appreciate being renamed “Phronsie.”

    Actually, that’s next on my end of our collective family reading list.

    At any given time, Eric and I are each reading a chapter book to the boys. Eric’s latest were _The Hobbit_ _Robin Hood_ and now _Charlie and the Chocolate Factory_. I am coming off a massive Mary Poppins kick (who knew there were five of them, if you count the cookbook) and before that was _The Fantastic Mr. Fox_ and _Half Magic_. I think The Five Little Peppers are next, since we’ve decided that even edited down _The Princess Bride_ is a little too advanced.


  35. Greenpa says:

    Sharon- wow! Now there’s a bit cosmic synchronicity! :-) Maybe you could talk him into an updated version; say- Fonzie.

    We’re reading “A Cricket in Times Square” to Smidgen at the moment. She’s at the point where we have to nudge her into new books; otherwise she’d want us to read Charlotte’s Web for the 5th time.

    Do you own all those? Or use the library? I’m sad to say Smidgen has pretty much finished off my old paperback copies of Laura Ingalls Wilder; they were much thumbed, and she’s loved several of them to death, finally.

  36. Greenpa says:

    oop. wasn’t finished. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read The Princess Bride. I’ve been afraid to; I love the movie immensely.

    Next on my list for Smidge- maybe “The Borrowers”- if the library has them.

  37. Rosa says:

    Greenpa, if it doesn’t I have a spare copy of the first 2 books I would mail you (or you could pick up if you’re ever in the Cities - when my mom sold her house she gave me the omnibus I nearly destroyed as a kid, but I had already gotten copies of the first two.

    Mica started sight-reading a few words and now he won’t let me crack a book that doesn’t have very large print, so he can point out the words he knows. So we’re pretty much reading Commander Toad every night, and picture books.

  38. galacticsurfer says:

    My wife grew up doing lots of prepping in Russia. They got a dacha out of town(govt. gave pieceof land to evrybody for free and they had to buld a cabin on it) and made a big garden and canned everything. Her Dad picked lots of mushrooms and canned them as well. Everything was stored frozen on the balcony(no prob in the far north). This was necessary for normal survival as the stores were pretty empty in 70s -80s.I grew up with supermarket fare in Alaska. I hear that most families now just heat up from cans as both work and nobody wants the hassle. Personally although I do no storage prepping we cook from scratch. Food is real life. My mother grew up making jam from garden berries in England during the war when everybody had a garden. Pantry was normal and not a fridge. People went to the various corner shops daily by foot, no supermarkets. I think the whole end of the world BS is wildly overblown. We just have to get back to a normal way of life. All that gun toting paranoia, stash gold and ammo and silver in an underground bunker for the nuclear war is just not looking at reality as it has always existed.

    I’m reading my 6 year old Mary Poppins and just read the 9 year old the Hobbit. Charlie and Fantastic Mr. Fox I finished reading to the 6 year old a while back. I read Aesops’s fables, Robert frost, Wind in the Willows, David Copperfield to the kids currently. My wife reads to them In Russian and I in Geman and English. The complete Oz books are available by Amazon in one volume (15 books).

  39. Sharon says:

    Galactic Surfer, thanks so much for the news about the Oz books - that’s excellent! I’ve been hunting used bookstores for hardcovers of the Oz books, plus the aging paperbacks from when my Dad read them to me as a kid, but an all in one - the only problem with those books is that they are tough for kids to manage - I just gave away my individual, ratty Narnia books to someone, and poor Simon promptly took them up and is hauling the giant one-volume about. I’m going to have to do some yard saling to replace the small copies. We’ve done Wind in the Willows, and are doing some of the original Bros. Grimm and Russian fairy tales (Baba Yaga scared the heck out of me when I was a kid, but my kids love her and her child-eating house ;-) ) but I think Dickens is going to have to wait a bit (the two main listeners at this point are almost 7 and almost 5 - they aren’t quite patient enough with prose.

    Greenpa, in summer 2007, some homeschooling friends of ours and I joined a bus trip to Malone New York to go see Almanzo’s house with the boys - it was WONDERFUL - something I have no regrets about doing. The kids loved it - it is very untouristy, very isolated, and very charming. You can see the cannons on the town square, walk across the road from Almanzo’s house to the river and play there… it was perfect. The house is intact and gorgeous. And while I was there I spent a lot of money and bought a full, hardcover set of all the Little House books. I’d been reading to the boys from the ones my grandmother gave me when I was 6, and one full cycle through, plus Isaiah’s first trip through Big Woods and Farmer Boy had them completely falling apart. I wanted some that would last for my grandkids. It was an incredible extravagance, but one I don’t regret.

    We have an astonishing number of children’s chapter books - when Eli was a baby, I started buying them for a quarter at yard and library sales, and I’ve managed to accumulate four large bookcase’s worth (this doesn’t include the four bookcases of picture books) - I was a book junkie as a kid, and my parents could never keep up. I figured if I started early, I could get ahead. So I had most of the books - the two Mary Poppins books I hadn’t read as a kid (Opens the Door, in the Park) were gifts from my father when Simon became obsessed (we had done the first MP when he was five and Isaiah was 3, but it didn’t really take in the same way - it is funny how stories hit when they hit - also how much personality influences things - Isaiah likes sword fighting and sat through the entire Howard Pyle Robin Hood at 4, but has no patience for stories about families and people ;-) , while Simon really likes stories about big families and magic - Asher is still at the “just able to sit still for Winnie the Pooh” and Eli doesn’t tell us what he thinks - he’d be happy if we’d read him “A Child’s Garden of Verses” every night - actually, I’m ok with that.

    Thanks for the reminder about “A Cricket in Times Square” - I forgot about that one. I’ll put that on the list. We’ve started a couple lately that haven’t taken - the language of Swiss Family Robinson didn’t do it for them, and I need a copy of the old Boy’s King Arthur or something (the original was my Dad’s, but my Sister’s and I actually took a marker and crossed out “Boy’s” on the inside cover and wrote “Girl’s” ;-) ) for Isaiah. I have to take a look at Podkayne of Mars - Isaiah would love it, if it isn’t too old for him. I’m still accumulating Oz, Redwall and other long series. Little House shows up near constantly at library sales, though.

    Oh, and the Princess Bride is one of those books - you know, the movie was really good but the book is….they are both wonderful, but there’s a subtlety and delight to PB. Definitely worth a read for an adult.

    Is there anything more wonderful than getting to pass your beloved books on to your kids?


  40. Greenpa says:

    wow, everybody. Delightful sharing here. Rosa- that’s such a wonderful offer. I’ll take you up on it- how do we get in touch?

    Sharon-”We’ve started a couple lately that haven’t taken - the language of Swiss Family Robinson didn’t do it for them”

    I confess- I cheat. I learned to from my mother. My mother was very much into stories and reading to us- taught me how. When I was in High School, she worked as a part time librarian, and she had the children’s story circle. So I got to watch her do that. Rather than use an edited version of a story, she’d do the editing herself, on the fly. The kids stayed fascinated, and she was always pushing the edge of their language. She’d just change a word here and there, to put it within their reach. I do that with Smidgen; and I have the very powerful ability to NOT edit it on the third reading- so now she knows what’s going on in the story, and when I throw the complex language at her- she knows what it means. Most of the “simplified” versions are just yucky to me, drive me crazy.

    We also play a game where I change the words- on the 6th reading of Curious George, I started changing everything- “George was an .. elephant.” as we’re looking at the picture of the monkey. “The Man in the Purple Hat.” “The whole bunch of watermelons came loose, and he floated away..” etc. She’ll correct me a couple times- then let me have my way, knowing that I know that SHE knows.

    I will most definitely get a copy of the Princess Bride. Smidgen already is familiar with the differences between movies and books- she loves both movie and book for Charlotte’s Web; nary a problem.

    “Is there anything more wonderful than getting to pass your beloved books on to your kids?”
    :-) It’s really hard to think of anything. When they’re snuggled up on you; and you’ve been reading to them for a half an hour, and they’re kind of sleepy- then they look up at you and make some brilliant observation about the story, and you know they’ve absolutely been following every word…

    yep. That’s it.

  41. Christina says:

    A very early read-aloud in our family - eldest was probably 4 at the time - was Watership Down, a childhood fave of my partner’s. Next came Hobbit and LOTR…

  42. Sharon says:

    Greenpa, I edit on the fly as well, but I’m also trying not to rush some books, if that makes any sense - there are so many great ones that they can appreciate the language of, so I feel like I have time before I need to push them - the same with the Princess Bride - I’m happy to wait another year, because after all, there are so many amazing books in the queue. I thought Heidi, for example, was worth pushing (and editing most of the German romanticism out of ;-) ), but I think there’s time on TSFR.

    We also have a house policy - you can’t ever watch a movie until we read the book ;-) , assuming, of course, that the movie comes from a decent book.


  43. Whereaway says:

    Interesting observation.

    I was the person in our household who decided we needed to start ‘prepping’.

    My wife was the person who had the far better ideas on what we needed to do to prep (at least in the context of food).

    We’ve gone from less than 2 weeks to around 4 months of food in storage, and we eat out of our pantry. If I’d been prepping, we probably would have had a lot more dehydrated food and MRE’s :(

    With the food in the pantry, we’re starting to eat cheaper and healthier.

    I’ve been the one putting more thought on how to survive in a single family suburban home when we have no electricity, and no gas for heating. But, without the food knowledge my wife has, we’d be in far worse shape.

    My brother-in-law also sees bad times coming. But, he’s stocking up on MREs. On the one hand, that’s so like him, on the other hand, he has a store of not particularly pleasant food that he’ll never eat unless things get really bad, and that’s an extra cost.

    We’re eating better, and saving money at the same time (at least on a cost-per-meal basis, we’re spending money on increasing our food stores).


  44. Survivallady says:

    Preparation is not just for men, and frankly I think if something catastrophic does happen, the men will be so busy shooting each other, we women will be the ones holding it all together. Let’s face it, the only reason men wear clothes, use a napkin and put the seat down is because we insist they have some semblence of society. We may not call ourselves preppers or survivalists, but we are interested in having a plan for the future, whatever may come.

  45. Transition Times :: Transition Times » Blog Archive » Peak Oil Is Still a Women’s Issue, and Other Reflections on Sex, Gender and the Long Emergency says:

    [...] poverty, job loss and changes in status, I’ve written about the false perception that everyone who is “prepping” is male, about why it annoys the crap out of me when men say they think all women should be like me, about [...]

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