Having had the great good fortune to grow up with my grandparents, I had the opportunity to sort of skip back a generation in time. I call this good fortune because while my peers were often drinking Tang and eating Poptarts or sugary cereals, I was enjoying freshly caught fried trout along with garden fresh strawberries sliced into cream for breakfast. While television became a central form of entertainment for many kids my age, learning to garden and preserve the harvest, to wander the mountains and fields to find useful wild plants, and a wide variety of handcrafting skills were my pastimes. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was being schooled in living locally and seasonally.
Fast forward a couple of decades to the 1980’s when my husband and I began our own homestead in the mountains and you would see us repeating many of the homemaking rituals and habits I learned, or wished I had learned, from my grandparents. Gardening, food preservation, home birthing babies, quilting, baking bread, gathering wild foods and medicinal plants, even hand building our home; these were all joyful parts of our days.
At no point did we feel motivated to do these things as a way to prepare for catastrophe. Rather, they were activities that brought us the pleasure of creativity while meeting practical needs. I genuinely preferred sewing and quilting over shopping, cooking from scratch at home over eating out or purchasing more expensive prepared foods, and learning new skills over buying readymade solutions to our everyday challenges.
When being a “prepper” became all the rage, many who visited our home and saw the shelves stocked with home canned foods and bulk-bought grains would comment derisively or sometimes admiringly along the lines of: “Preparing for the zombie apocalypse, eh?” It took me some time to appreciate that the way I had grown up and chosen to live as an adult was not the mainstream way. During financial boom times we could be perceived as paranoid. But my grandparents had not been thinking of such things and they had not passed on a fear of the future as my heritage. In truth, it was a profound appreciation of the gifts of the present that led them to make good use of the abundance in seasons of growth and productivity, preserving the excess as much as a form of gratitude as a practical preparation for the lean seasons to come. I continue to carry on that tradition.
My experience of life has been, in the main, one of blessings and abundance. We have never been wealthy and some might even view our life as hard. But I am thankful that in my earliest days I was trained to see bounty and apprenticed to an ongoing sense of wonder and appreciation. These tools are a practical way to prepare for whatever challenges we may meet. In truth, life is full of surprises, as we are learning with this novel virus currently affecting us all globally. We’re having to adapt in place, make do with what’s available, and be wise stewards with the materials and opportunities at hand. It might even be an opportunity to flourish in new ways.