I was channel surfing looking for things to watch on TV, and I came across a show about Preppers. Preppers are people who are preparing themselves for some major disaster, like the complete collapse of government or society, or an environmental disaster that results in needing to survive by going back to the basics of growing their own food and eating whatever animals are available. This particular show was focused on living off the land by hunting, gathering and growing their own food. It piqued my interest, so I watched for a while as they talked on about their preparations. Well it did not take long to realize this was a group of city dwellers who were now trying to guess how they would survive off of the land by growing their own food and hunting and preserving that food.
It was a lot of theory as opposed to any type of experience. I don’t want to judge them on how to prepare, but to me as a farm girl from Pierz who grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s, anyone who grew up on the farm will have all of the skills necessary to survive. Our farm was like many others in that area. We raised chickens, hogs, cattle and crops. We had a large garden and fields for the animal feed. We had some cows for beef and we always had two cows for milk. We made butter from the cream and my mom could make cottage cheese. It was a very self sufficient operation.
One of the things that seemed to be missing in the “Preppers” show was to learn the skills to utilize all of the crops and the animals year round. Granted it was a short show, but growing vegetables is not that hard; preserving vegetables so you have them all year takes some knowledge and practice. My Mom could can any fruits and vegetables. Also, butchering of animals is a learned skill and not wasting takes practice. We ate almost every part of the animals, so there was little waste. We ate the tongue, heart, tail and made head cheese. Yup, don’t ask. It is actually made from parts of the pig head, but it is surprisingly delicious! My kids don’t think so, but being adventurous as they are, they did try it.
Even as kids we had to help butcher chickens and help with the feeding of all animals and giving them medicine. There was not a lot done on the farm without everyone’s help. Grandpa and grandma came over when any big butchering or harvesting was done, and all the kids did what they could to help, depending upon age. Grandma always brought a big batch of homemade donuts, that were fried in lard of course, when she came for anything. We loved them. You probably would die early if you ate too many, because they were fried in lard, but it was worth it. They were delicious!
I have also eaten wild meats of every kind. I saw them eating squirrel on the show Duck Dynasty and had to laugh because we ate squirrel one time to taste it and we quite frequently ate rabbit. Rabbit was a quick growing and quick breeding stock and my grandpa raised them and it was a great source of protein, and they tasted good too.
I was in college when I went to visit a friend and her husband. While I was eating the delicious stew they served, the husband, in a very matter of fact way, announced that the stew was made with wood chuck. The wood chuck had been eating his garden, so he ate the wood chuck. I had no problem eating wood chuck. It was delicious.
In our area people hunted raccoon, deer, bear and every kind of bird. Many of us also trapped. My brother and I actually had a trap line in the winter that we checked every morning before school. We were in High school at the time. We made some extra money that way and learned some skills. On the farm you learned to fix anything with what you had. You did not run to town for every little nut, bolt or piece of wood. You made due and got the job done. You threw little away and many things were used and reused. We built fence and rode horse. We swung in the barn and learned to watch the weather to know when to cut the hay. We knew how to bake pie with the apples from the trees and make jam from the berries we picked in the fence line. We were good to the animals and we did not kill for pure sport or fun. We used the meat of anything we killed as humanely as possible.
The term “simple farmer” has always bothered me. There is nothing simple about them. These are people with amazing skills and abilities who are constantly finding ways to grow more food for our growing and demanding needs as a population. In any survival scenario, for the best chance at survival, I would pick the farmers every time.
The Duck Dynasty guys, while entertaining, have nothing on those of us who lived or still live on a working farm in rural Minnesota. The Preppers have some good theories and ideas, and you have to applaud them for trying, but these skills that rural farmers actually lived cannot be duplicated by reading about it or talking about it. The actual hands on experience give those from the farm an instant level of competence and confidence.
Some people may be embarrassed to admit they ate tongue and heart. I have always embraced my past and appreciate the skills that were handed down to us on the farm. It was a gift that not all are lucky enough to have lived. The diversity and variety of life skills that we have from our experiences on the farm are irreplaceable. We learned our work ethic, confidence in our own abilities, respect for the earth and its bounty and most importantly, problem solving skills. Farmers have been working together as families and neighbors for years to accomplish tasks. There is no group that is better prepared, who could survive and thrive if a disaster occurs, and most importantly, farmers are also the best at looking after their neighbors. These are real people with real skills.