A Mind To Homestead

“A MIND TO HOMESTEAD” is now in print.
It is 104 pages and is the first volume in the series, “Old-Time Skills For A New Generation”.
Written from a traditional agrarian point of view, this first volume of the series examines the mindset, outlook and attitudes necessary to successfully pursue a long-term life of homesteading and self-reliance.
Illustrated with black & white images from life, the non-electric and off-grid topics include: home heating with wood and coal; oil lamps; basic cook stove advice and operation; and an extensive and indispensable treadle sewing machine chapter.
Many of the popular notions of contemporary preparedness, prepping and the modern survivalist movement are challenged and assessed.

You can find it for sale on Amazon for $8. Here’s an excerpt from the book.

It’s not a secret. I’m no fan of so-called “prepping” or “survivalism”. What follows is a question from a few years back regarding prepping and preppers. Some of my objections to the notion of prepping are outlined in my answer to the reader. But what I didn’t convey in my answer is my long-held belief that preparedness and prepping are simply the latest installment of historical and traditional American agrarianism. It seems that every 25 years or so, there’s some kind of new “back to the land” or “simple living” or “return to my roots” movement.
It’s a generational thing.

Since the beginning of our nation, American agrarianism has piloted personal and public change. Every rebirth of agrarianism provides a reassurance of traditional values and a hoped-for economic sanctuary for the middle and working classes.

My Grandmother As A Child

My Grandmother As An Emigrant Child From Spain – 1916

Agrarian revivals are almost always a reliable social protest against the status quo. Typically agrarian movements occur during economic and political change and upheaval. They often contain the seeds of civil disobedience and a mistrust of government. American agrarian revivals predictably follow periods of war or a collective national trauma.
During such times the values and principles of rural life are idealized, while the perceived insecurity, dangers and difficulties of city life are rejected. People instinctively flee cities and make a run for the country when times are uncertain.
Modern prepping and preppers are the expected and anticipated American agrarian response to the events of September 11, 2001.
But most preppers don’t know that.

Every generation of homesteaders and small holders owes a debt to the generation that came before. My generation of homesteaders took off during the 1970s. We were the natural agrarian social response to the War in Vietnam and to the other political and social upheavals of the time.

Cluess in 1972

Young & Clueless In 1972

Back in the 1970s most homesteaders were “hippies” who were flocking “back to the land” to tune out the “man.”  At the time the “establishment” was a “bummer” and the government couldn’t be trusted.  (The government still can’t be trusted.)
It was during that period of American agrarian regeneration that many intentional communities and communes like The Farm in Tennessee were formed. Homesteaders of the 1970s were heavily influenced by the late John Seymour, Louis Bromfield, J.I Rodale and Scott and Helen Nearing.
Seymour, Rodale, Nearing and others were part of the agrarian revival that predictably followed World War I and World War II. Their writings heavily influenced the post-World War II generation of American authors and small holders; most notably a young and green Gene Logsdon and a wet-behind-the-ears Wendell Berry. Both Wendell Berry and Gene Logsdon have rewritten and redefined American agrarianism. Both Berry and Logsdon inspired and schooled Joel Salatin, Michael Pollan and many others of my generation.

One difference between this current generation of young “preppers” and my generation of old “hippies” is the emphasis upon paramilitary philosophy, consumerism and technology. My generation’s philosophy was the exact opposite. It emphasized a willful ignorance of nature, pacifism, and disdained materialism.
But philosophy and classifications really don’t matter. Because when it comes time to shovel a steaming pile of manure or pick beans in the hot sun, labels are positively useless.

Picking Beans

Picking Beans In The Hot Sun

You can read the question and how I answered it in, “A Mind To Homestead”.

101 Basic Homesteading Skills

What follows below is a partial list of homesteading skills that my husband and I share between us.
I offer this list as a starting point to hopefully inspire young couples or new homesteaders to learn at least one or two new skills in the coming new year.

Homesteading Skills

A Young Cornish X Rock Chick

Why not finally get rid of the TV and ditch Facebook in 2013? Dare to find a new way of life.
Every skill that you learn will be one step closer to a life of greater self-reliance and independence.

101 Basic Homesteading Skills
1. Learn how to safely use a chainsaw
2. Learn how to grow a vegetable plant
3. Learn how to sharpen any edge tool – knife, axe, hoe, chisel etc.
4. Learn basic firearm safety and gun proof your children and grandchildren
5. Learn how to dub a chicken
6. Learn how to read the weather
7. Learn how to spin wool, cotton or flax into thread or yarn on a spinning wheel or with a drop spindle
8. Learn how to use a garden shovel, spade or hoe without hurting your back
9. Learn how to light a fire indoors or outdoors
10. Learn how to go to a country auction and not get skinned
11. Learn how to crochet
12. Learn how to butcher small livestock like rabbits or chickens
13. Learn how to hang clothes on a clothesline
14. Learn basic tractor maintenance
15. Learn the differences between trees and the unique properties of various types of wood
16. Learn how to cook 10 basic meals from scratch
17. Learn how to pasteurize milk
18. Learn how to witch for water with a forked branch or a bent metal hanger
19. Learn how distinguish healthy plants and animals from unhealthy plants or animals
20. Learn basic sewing skills
21. Learn how to set an ear tag or tattoo for animal identification
22. Learn how determine an animal’s age by its teeth
23. Learn how to cut and glaze glass
24. Learn how to drive a standard transmission vehicle
25. Learn how to thaw out frozen pipes without busting them
26. Learn how and when to use hybrid seeds
27. Learn how to hand thresh and winnow wheat or oats and other small grains
28. Learn how to train a working cattle or sheep dog
29. Learn how to read the moon and stars
30. Learn how to make soft or hard cheeses
31. Learn how to live within your financial means
32. Learn how to fillet and clean a fish
33. Learn how use a wash tub, hand-wringer and washboard
34. Learn how to make soap from wood ashes and animal fat
35. Learn how to lay basic brick or build a stone wall
36. Learn basic home canning and food preservation
37. Learn how to save open pollinated seeds
38. Learn how to de-horn livestock
39. Learn how to use an awl and basic leather repair
40. Learn how to make long-term plans for the future – plan an orchard or a livestock breeding program
41. Learn the mental skills necessary to jury rig anything with duct tape, baling twine and whatever is on hand
42. Learn how to read an almanac
43. Learn how to euthanize large livestock
44. Learn how to cook on a cook stove
45. Learn how entertain yourself and live without electronic media
46. Learn how to shear a sheep
47. Learn how to manage human urine and feces without plumbing
48. Learn how to swap, barter and network with like-minded people
49. Learn how to make a candle
50. Learn how to dig and properly use a shallow well
51. Learn how to refinish furniture
52. Learn how drive a draft animal
53. Learn the mental and spiritual skills to realistically deal with life, death and failure
54. Learn how to use non-electric lighting
55. Learn how to caponize a chicken
56. Learn how to restrain large livestock
57. Learn how to use a treadle sewing machine
58. Learn how to give an injection
59. Learn how to properly use a handsaw, hammer & nails, screw driver, wire cutters, and measuring tape
60. Learn how to recognize your own physical and mental skill limits
61. Learn how and when to prune grapes and fruit trees
62. Learn how to hatch out chicken, duck or other poultry eggs
63. Learn how to use a scythe
64. Learn how to skin a furbearer and stretch the skin
65. Learn how to tell the time of day by the sun
66. Learn how to milk a goat, sheep or cow
67. Learn how to stomach tube a newborn animal
68. Learn how to break ground and plow
69. Learn how to use a wood stove and how to bank a fire
70. Learn how to make butter
71. Learn how to knit
72. Learn how to make and use a hot bed or cold frame
73. Learn how to deliver a foal, calf, lamb or kid
74. Learn how to know when winter is over
75. Learn how to plant a tree

76. Learn how to brood day-old chicks
77. Learn how to dye yarn or cloth from plants
78. Learn how to haggle like a horse trader
79. Learn how to bake bread
80. Learn how to use a pressure tank garden sprayer
81. Learn how to halter break a horse or cow
82. Learn how to graft baby animals onto a foster-mother
83. Learn how to weave cloth
84. Learn how grow everyday kitchen herbs
85. Learn how to make sausage
86. Learn how to set and bait traps for unwanted vermin and predators
87. Learn how to grind wheat into flour
88. Learn how to make paper and ink
89. Learn when it is more economical to buy something ready-made or when to make it yourself
90. Learn how to castrate livestock
91. Learn how choose a location for a vegetable garden or orchard
92. Learn how to weave a basket
93. Learn how to use electric netting or fencing
94. Learn how to make fire starters from corn cobs or pine cones
95. Learn how to use a pressure cooker
96. Learn how to correctly attach 3 point hitch implements to a tractor
97. Learn how to trim the hooves of goats or sheep
98. Learn how to sew your own underwear
99. Learn how to make your own wine.
100.Learn basic plumbing and how to sweat copper pipes and joints
101.Learn how to reload ammunition

Chamber Pots

Like many older farm houses my home was constructed without indoor plumbing. But in the early 1970s, indoor plumbing was added to my house. That’s fairly late by American standards.
Up until that time all water for drinking, cooking and bathing was hand carried into the house. Water was also carried in by buckets to the cellar for laundry which was heated by fire in a copper boiler .
For most of the family’s toilet needs an outhouse was located in the backyard. The outdoor privy has since been torn down but a foundation stone remains to mark the spot. For nighttime toilet needs a chamber pot was used.

A chamber pot is also known as piss pot, a jerry, a jordan, a thunder pot and probably by several other names that I’m not familiar with. Up until the advent of indoor plumbing, most people would keep a chamber pot in their bedroom for nighttime convenience. The pot was kept under the bed or in a nightstand or washstand and emptied in the morning.

Chamber Pot

Chamber Pot Kept Under A Table

I have early childhood memories of hearing my grandmother using a chamber pot at night. I don’t know why she used a chamber pot instead of the toilet when the bathroom was right next door to her bedroom. Maybe she was afraid she of waking up the house?  Maybe old habits die hard and she preferred it?
I really don’t know.

But what I do know is that like my grandmother, once I reached my mid 50s, I too needed to answer the call of Nature at least once at night. The problem was that I was sleeping on a second floor which had no toilet. So for 10 years I choose to use a chamber pot until I could afford to have a toilet installed in the second floor of my home.

 Ironstone Chamber Pot

19th Century Ironstone Chamber Pot

If you find yourself persuaded that a chamber pot may be a temporary or even permanent solution in your home I offer a few suggestions.

  • Old chamber pots can be found at auctions, yard sales, eBay and elsewhere. Lehman’s Hardware used to sell chamber pots but don’t any longer. I know there’s a need for them. Maybe American Manufacture will rise to the occasion and begin to produce them again.
  • If you are going to use a chamber pot make sure it has a lid. No sense smelling urine all night or splashing urine when you move the pot.
  • When the chamber pot has been used, set it out of the way so you don’t kick it over when you get out of bed in the morning.
  • Ironstone chamber pots never rust and stay fresher than enamel pots but they can be broken.
  • Enamel chamber pails usually are more budget friendly and have a handle that makes them easy to carry, but they are prone to chipping and then rusting.
Enamel Piss Pot

An Enamel Piss Pot

Homemade Peppermint Tooth Powder

I’ve got a really big toothy smile. And I keep that toothy smile bright and healthy with twice a day flossing and brushing with budget friendly homemade tooth powder.

The tooth powder that I make up in my kitchen doesn’t use bentonite clay or any type of exotic spice or resin. It’s simply cheapo baking soda mixed with peppermint oil.

Homemade Tooth Powder

Homemade Peppermint Tooth Powder

The way I make tooth powder is pretty simple.
I put plain old-fashion inexpensive baking soda in a small Mason jar. Next I add about 10 – 15 drops of peppermint oil and stir thoroughly with a fork. That’s it.

Simple Ingrediants

It’s Just Essential Oil & Baking Soda In A Mason Jar

To use the tooth powder I first wet my toothbrush. Next I dip the brush into the tooth powder and shake off the excess, then brush my teeth.
It’s not a particularly posh or luxurious personal care product, but homemade tooth powder sure lasts a long time and is easy on the pocket-book.

Small Animal & Livestock Euthanasia – What You Need To Know

Tibby is a young barn cat that will need to be euthanized within the next few days. She is less than a year old and is suffering from an aggressive form of cancer.
For the past week I’ve been spending extra time with her and feeding her all the milk and cheap bologna she cares to eat.
She doesn’t seem to be in any pain just yet.  I’m watching her carefully for the first signs of pain; or for a change in her behavior or for the tumor to begin to rupture. At the first hint of a change my husband or I will euthanize her quietly here on the farm.

Tibby Will Be Euthanized

Tibby The Barn Cat With An Aggressive Cancer Tumor

Without a doubt one of the most unpleasant but vital homestead skills is the ability to quickly and painlessly euthanize sick or suffering animals and livestock.
For most animals the preferred method on this farm is a well-placed bullet to the front or back of the head while the animal is eating or distracted in some way.
That’s how Tibby will be released.
She will be shot from behind while she is eating and her death will be instantaneous. She will never know any pain.

On our farm we use small-caliber bullets for small animals and a larger caliber for large livestock. Chickens, ducks and other poultry are not shot but instead quickly euthanized with a broomstick. We never use the services of a veterinarian for euthanasia due to cost, time considerations and because it is less stressful for an animal to be put down by someone they know and trust.

I prefer a .22 caliber bullet for cats, small dogs, goats and light pigs, and a .38 caliber hollow point for sheep, cattle, horses and heavy hogs.
My husband prefers the .45 Long Colt for larger animals.
It doesn’t matter if the shot is made from a rifle or a handgun. However a rifle produces a higher velocity bullet and that can be an important consideration in some situations.
I almost always use a handgun when I have to destroy an animal because it’s what I’m comfortable with.
But at times it can be safer for the shooter to use a rifle if the animal is very large and in pain.
An animal in pain is unpredictable and can be dangerous.

Whenever possible I restrain and remove the animal from the other animals so that they don’t witness the killing. Some people say it doesn’t matter but I think that it does.
Animals understand a lot more than we sometimes give them credit for.

Sick Ewe

A Sick Ewe

When euthanizing an animal the most important thing to keep in mind is safety for the shooter and to any other creatures nearby. It is safest to have bystanders stand behind the shooter and well back away from the animal.

If at all possible I try to move the animal out-of-doors and not take the shot in the barn if I can help it.
A ricochet bullet is unlikely, but I do take care that nothing obviously hard or solid is in my way or in the line of fire.  That said, if it is too stressful or upsetting to the animal to be moved, I will shoot it in the barn.

Outdoors, I try to take the shot while standing behind the animal and facing downhill if I’m on a hill. That’s because an animal will often lunge forward when first shot and it is easier for the shooter to back up.
Almost always animals will jerk, thrash and twitch when shot in the head and it is important to be able to step out of the way so as not to be accidentally hurt.

The most effective head shot is a shot that is taken 3” -12” away from the back or front of the head and not with the muzzle of the gun placed directly on the head.
A little extra distance allows the shooter to shift if the animal moves.

Photos are not three-dimensional and have limitations. But in general, the shot should be aimed downward directly between the ears when standing behind the animal or between the eyes or mid-line on the forehead when in front of the animal. The angle of the shot and placement depends upon the species and where the shooter is positioned.

Cattle Head Shot

Bullet Placement For Cattle

This is where it’s important to be aware of the basic physiological differences in livestock and small animals. Skull shape is not the same in all animals. Take the time ahead of time to learn how the animals you keep and are responsible for are put together.

Pig Head SHot

The Bullet Placement To Quickly Euthanize A Pig

The more precisely a bullet is placed into the center of the brain – the more catastrophic the tissue damage. Catastrophic damage results in a merciful and quicker kill. It’s a case of lights on – then lights off – and there is no pain for the animal. It’s a complete short circuit from the brain to the body.

If you are unsure about exact bullet placement a larger caliber bullet can reduce the margin of error. Two shots fired into the skull in rapid succession will kill or fatally stun most large farm animals.

With chickens, ducks and other poultry I believe the most merciful and quickest killing is by way of cervical dislocation with a broomstick.

I first restrain the chicken and hold its wings in place close to the body. I next place the chicken, beak and breast side down, on a very hard surface like a cement sidewalk.
The broomstick is placed so that it directly spans across the back of the chicken or duck’s neck where the head meets the neck. I then step quickly on the left side of the broom stick and then on the right side, and pull the chicken’s body by its feet towards me, and away from the head and broom stick.
By stepping on the broom stick while it spans the chicken’s neck and pulling the body backwards, the spinal cord is severed from the brain and death is instantaneous.

The proper disposal of euthanized animals is an important consideration. On this farm all animals are either buried or taken to the woods and left exposed so that other animals can make good use of them.

My pet dogs have been either buried in my flower and rose garden or the hill behind my mother-in-law’s house.

If you know ahead of time that you will need to euthanize an animal it is helpful and practical to have the grave dug ahead of time or have a plan for the removal of the body.

If you’re going to bury an animal it’s important to be sure to bury it deep enough. Graves should be at least 3’ deep for most animals – deeper for large livestock – and plenty wide. A backhoe and a set of chains are real time savers for large farm animals. Keep the graves well away from wells and other water sources.

No conversation about animal euthanasia would be complete without a mention of the human emotions that are involved.

Speaking from personal experience, I have found that there’s a profound sense of regret, sadness and emptiness when any animal has to be destroyed.  A feeling of interior hollowness and the stillness and absolute finality of death is always present.
Often there is self-blame whether or not it is merited.

When the animal is a pet or there is a strong emotional attachment, euthanasia can be very hard. It’s at that time that personal courage, bravery and faith is necessary.
Because euthanizing a pet can be difficult many people will elect to use the services of a veterinarian or call a trusted friend. There’s no shame in asking someone else to shoot your dog or horse.
We unfortunately live in a society that denies death and anthropomorphizes animals so there are bound to be problems when we’re face with the euthanasia of our pets and animals that we love.
Often emotions will cloud good judgment and sadly many animals have been held onto way past the time when they should have been allowed to pass away.

But sometimes euthanasia can be an easy choice with few regrets.
I have found this to be especially true with large livestock. When an animal is obviously suffering and there’s no possible hope or remedy for the situation it is easy to take the shot.
At those times courage is not needed – only mercy is required.
Mercy is a gift that we as humans can bestow upon the animals that serve and depend upon us. Mercy is what helps me to find my target and to remain calm, detached and determined while I do what I must.

I always say a prayer right before I take the life of any animal.
I pray that God will steady my hand and give the animal a quick and painless death.
I also pray for forgiveness.
Never once have I killed an animal that I was not cognizant that death is the cost for this earthly life and that one day I too will be required to pay the price.

How To Write Your Own Obituary

Seven years ago a local couple was killed in an auto accident as they were traveling across a bridge that my husband and I travel once a week. Their sudden and unexpected deaths stunned our local community. I remember saying to my husband the next time we crossed the bridge together, “It could have been us.”
I considered and reflected what our sudden deaths would have meant to our grown and out-of-town children if indeed it had been us killed on the bridge that day.

Wolfcreek Bridge

Wolfcreek Bridge

I put myself in their shoes and imagined the shock, the grief and the logistical nightmare of coming home to two dead parents and a barn full of livestock. I considered the heartache and long distance mess that our children would face in the event that both of us die suddenly. Then and there I resolved to make the inevitable burden easier on my children.
While I was thinking about death, I also considered the possibility of what if I was to die suddenly? What could I do to help my husband and make my death easier for him to bear? I thought about both scenarios for a while, and then set out to prepare my household and my effects in the event of my death.
The plans and preparations that I made for that future event are to my way of thinking, one of the most loving and thoughtful things that I have ever done for my family. I am prepared for the inevitable. I prepped for my own death.

Here’s What I Did And Why I Did It
I made sure that both my husband and my Last Will & Testament were in order and current. My kids will have a list of all bank accounts, passwords, lawyers, leases and business connections. I can only imagine what a mess it must be to leave someone without the benefit of legal protection or without a list of important phone numbers and up-to-date information.

I made arrangements with local family and neighbors to help our big city children with the care and sale of our livestock and the eventual sale of the farm. Life goes on and the animals in the barn need food and water every day no matter where I am. Those animals can’t wait for my kids to fly in from NYC to feed them or to milk them.
Fact is my kids have families, jobs and responsibilities of their own. They shouldn’t have to take weeks off from work to sort out a mess that I could have prevented with beforehand planning. My children have no idea how to disperse a herd of cattle and sheep. Or what to do with a barn full of hay, pigs, goats or chickens.My kids will need the help of trusted friends and neighbors to see them through and advise them.

I wrote a very detailed letter with instructions for my children. That letter has been pinned to my intended burial clothes. It’s bad enough to bury your mother or father. But consider the sheer bewilderment of trying to figure out who to call for trash pick up or what’s the name of the insurance agent? Why burden your children with, “Who’s the lawyer?” “Does she want to be buried with her wedding ring or not?” or “Who gets the big spinning wheel?”, if you can help it? My children will never have to concern themselves with that sort of thing. I took care of all the details for them in my letter of instructions. They’ll have enough heartaches without all the headaches too.

I Wrote My Own Obituary
Writing your own obituary is I think one of the most constructive life affirming exercises that any adult over the age of 25 can do. Fact of the matter is you are going to die. Young people die. Old people die. Sick people die. Healthy people die. Just about nobody wakes up in the morning thinking, “Well, I guess today is the day.” So realistically, unless you’re sitting on death row with a date and time already set or you are planning a scheduled suicide, you have no idea when you are going to die.

Obituary & Cemetery

West Liberty Cemetery

I found that by writing my own obituary, I was able to leave a written testament to my life and personally reaffirm for posterity, those people, places and things which have been most important to me. For the vast majority of people our obituary will be the only thing that is ever written about us. It can be an ordeal to write an obituary for someone else. I clearly remember how hard it was to write the obituary for my father-in-law when he died without too much warning. My husband and I struggled to slap something together while sitting in the funeral director’s office. Think about it. How do you confine an entire life inside of a few paragraphs? Did we remember the right things? Did we actually know what was important to him? How can other people know what were the most significant things in our lives? My husband and I did the best we could for my father-in-law. But I will always feel that we could have done better.
By writing my own obituary I saved my children from that task. They will never question themselves. The world and my posterity will know what really mattered to me. After all – it was my life.

What To Write
There are no set rules for obituaries and most obituaries have a few basic shared elements. Obituaries usually contain some of the following:

  • Name, age, occupation and address of deceased.
  • Time, place and cause of death.
  • Birth date, birthplace.
  • Survivors. (Only immediate family.)
  • Memberships, military service.
  • Funeral and burial arrangements.
  • Outstanding or interesting activities and achievements.
  • Memberships in fraternal, religious or civic organizations.
  • Service in armed forces.

When I wrote my own obituary I took a day or so to think about my life. I considered what has been important to me. Once my thoughts were collected it only took about 30 minutes to write it. Now every couple of years I update my obituary and I keep it with my Will and other papers that my children will need.
I don’t think it is morbid or unhealthy to look to the future and plan for your own death. I think it’s responsible, realistic and prudent. So far I’m healthy. I fully expect to live a long life.
But you just never know what’s around the bend. Or coming at you head on from across the bridge.

People store food, supplies and prepare and plan for all kinds of sudden events and “if come” occurrences. Some of the planned for possibilities and events are reasonable and sensible. Some possibilities are down right wacky and paranoid. But I promise you –you are going to die. It is not a wacky or paranoid possibility. You can face it or not. Your death is inevitable no matter what you think of it. So why not plan and make preparations now while you have time? Please don’t let fear or uneasiness about death keep you from doing the right thing and providing comfort and help to your family during one of their greatest times of need. You have it within your control to ease some of the heartache for those left behind.

I thought you would like to read my obituary. Because this is the internet, names, dates and some other information has been changed to protect privacy. With the real obituary all my kids have to do is plug in the date; the manner of death and ditch the two bogus books that I didn’t write.
So read and weep – or not. I wrote my own obituary.
So I get the last word and the last laugh.


I Wrote My Own Obituary So I Get The Last Laugh!

I Wrote My Own Obituary. So I Get The Last Laugh!

On August 15, 2034 Katherine Mary Grossman (Kathy) of Worth Township, died at home surrounded by her family after a brief illness.
Mrs. Grossman was born Katherine Mary Underwood (Eiserhardt) on July 18, 1950 in Washington. D.C. She is survived by her husband Richard Lee Grossman.
She leaves behind, her beloved children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; Rachel Elizabeth Tervel, Anna Louise Gregory, Barbara Marie Clair: granddaughters Lillian Katherine Tervel – Desmarias, Beatrice Ann Trevel- Kam, Morgan McConnell and their children; Martha, Peter, Mary Jane, Joseph,Louisa, Elizabeth, Matthew and Thomas.

Mrs. Grossman is also survived by her brother John Eiserhardt, and sisters Margaret O’Hara and Theresa Eiserhardt; nieces Caitlin Shannor, Leah O’Hara – Brown, nephews John Shieder and George Eierhardt and their beautiful children.

Mrs. Grossman was the author of “Pitchforks & Aprons: 19th Century American Agrarian Women
and “Blue Doors, Crossed Mops and Dropped Dish Clothes:A Short History of Appalachian Household Folklore“.

Mrs. Grossman was an avid knitter, home sewer, hand weaver and hand spinner and was a member of the Mercer County Spinner’s & Weavers Guild. She was a familiar face at the Old Stone House during the 1990s. Mrs. Grossman raised purebred Border Cheviot sheep for many years and was an excellent cook and an enthusiastic home canner. She loved her vegetable, herb and flower gardens and apple orchard. Mrs. Grossman was an astrologer and spent many years observing predictable agrarian cycles in the natural world.
She attended the Al Ahliah School for Girls in Beirut, Lebanon and was a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University.

Friends of Katherine Grossman, who died Tuesday, August 15, 2034, will be received from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday August 17,2034  at the Grossman Farm, 945 Bent Oak Lane, Plain Oak, PA.

The funeral and memorial service is at 10:00 a.m, Friday, August 18, 2034,  at St. Elias Orthodox Church, 915 Lynn St, New Castle, PA. Internment immediately following at the West Liberty Cemetery, Otter Creek, PA .

Survivalist, Prepper or Housewife?

Lately my husband and I have been having an ongoing conversation about the so-called “survival” and “prepper” movement. We both are more than a little dismayed with the entire phenomena.

Aladdin Lamp On Table

Aladdin Lamp On Table During a Snow Storm

Many people don’t understand the concepts, skills or life choices often associated with “prepping” or survivalism by any other name.
And that fact alone caused me to change the way I used advertising, meta tags and links for the old GRANNY MILLER website. Survivalism and Prepping, and the ignorance and fear mongering that often accompanies it has become a big business.

Frankly I find the terms “survivalism” or “prepping” to be positively inane.
From my point of view, much of the “prepper” and “survivalist” mentality seems born of an apocalyptic Hollywood and TV Land fantasy founded upon fear, ignorance and on unabashed consumerism. The fact of the matter is, many of the skills and life choices often associated with modern survivalist living or prepping, were at one time the everyday skills and choices of simple living and traditional, old fashion common sense.

Small Kitchen Garden

A Small Kitchen Garden

So you can imagine my chagrin when 10 or 12 years ago a dear friend described my life as that of “being a survivalist”.
I knew what she meant and what she was trying to convey. I took her description as a backhanded compliment.
My friend was trying to find the words to communicate and illustrate a lifestyle that is self-sustaining, non-consumer oriented and not completely dependent upon “the grid”.

Her comment gave me food for thought.
I found it curious that a way of life that would have been considered quite normal and middle class in western Pennsylvania from the 1920s to1970s, was by the year 2000, considered to be extraordinary, radical and a tad kooky.
I also found it interesting that in less than 2 generations the average American household had become for the most part, an isolated and non-productive, debt driven economic model.
The concept of a traditional and contained productive household economy had become alien. The American “housewife” was rare and becoming an anathema in modern America.
She was going the way of the dodo bird.

Whole Wheat Bread Rising In Bread Pans

Whole Wheat Bread Rising In Bread Pans

The most basic of human needs revolve around food, clothing and shelter.

And those needs are only met by an understanding of who we are as people and of our particular environment; combined with a good and sensible stewardship of our individual circumstances. The exact ideas and concepts that preppers and survivalists have as of late begun to realize – and that’s a really good thing.

The lack of traditional housewifery and the lost concept of self-contained household economies which are interconnected with other traditional households, seems in part to have been the breeding ground for the modern survivalist and prepper moment.
America became a helpless and dependent society the day American housewives quit working for themselves and their households, and became wage slaves for someone else.

Laundry Drying By Cook Stove In Kitchen

Laundry Drying By Cook Stove In Kitchen

The average American housewife for most of the 20th century didn’t work for wages. Food, clothing and shelter were her specialties. She knew how to cook, sew family clothing, kill and dress a chicken and get by without electricity or indoor plumbing if she had to. She had a full pantry, backyard garden, raised her own children and had plenty of time for her outside interests and community. She also didn’t have a car payment, a TV, credit card debt and managed to marry and stay married.
The average American housewife from 1920 – 1970 would today be considered a survivalist. For many of you reading this, your great-grandma was a hard-core prepper.

Today most American households are non-producing households.

The concept of a contained domestic economy has been long forgotten along with the skills to sustain that household economy. The average American household is now a consumer based closed system economy.

Just about everything – from food – to entertainment – to underwear – is produced outside the confines of the home. And most adults work to make money so that they can pay someone else to make or provide their most basic material and non-material life needs.
Many American households actually produce very little for themselves except for debt, depression, divorce and bratty kids.

Basement Pantry Storage

A Basement Pantry Stocked With a Year’s Worth of Food and Household Supplies

The notion of a self-contained, interior based household fueled by self-labor, traditional sex roles and frugality was the exception years ago when my friend described how I lived my life. Hopefully for America I think there may be the beginnings of a social change and so-called preppers and survivalists could be the first hints of a reawakening. For me my life has been that of a traditional housewife and farmwife and I have no need to call it other than that.

Seed Pots On A Kitchen Window Sill

Seed Pots On A Kitchen Window Sill

The basics of what I have done with my life and the way that I have consciously chosen to live my life could have been achieved while living in town or in the suburbs or the Upper West side of Manhattan.

While I could not raise cows or sheep on a 100’X60’ town lot, I most certainly could provide for my household by sewing, gardening, raising rabbits (in my basement or garage if I had too), canning and having an off grid source or back-up for water, heat, lighting and toilet needs. It takes no great skill to refuse all consumer debt, to use only cash and to live beneath your means. It only takes a dream, lots of hard work and plenty of self-control and discipline.
So the next time you see a picture of my pantry, or read how I spin yarn or plant onions – remember I’m doing what every traditional household economy has always done and it is not exceptional. Fact is a household that doesn’t provide for its own needs is the historical exception.
I work for myself and provide for my own household. I literally make a living by the sweat of my brow and by my own labor. You can do it too.
I’m not a survivalist or a prepper.
I’m a traditional housewife.