Blending prepping into your “normal” lifestyle

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – Matt in the Midwest

I enjoy prepping. I value independence, self sufficiency, and taking responsibility for myself. I consider it a hobby with perks. I like growing my own food, canning, hunting, shooting, reusing or repurposing materials. I love reading apocalyptic fiction as well as survival nonfiction; homesteading, organic gardening, Mother Earth News, Outdoor Life, Guns and Ammo.

But I also live in the “real” world of having a wife, 2.5 kids, full time job, a mortgage, car payments, vacations, soccer, baseball, and gymnastics. Trying to find a balance or better yet an “integration” of the two worlds is what I try to achieve. Not everything can fit in both worlds. But I use this as a guideline. The more integrated I make prepping into my life the more I can work towards being prepared. Here’s how I do it.

Where to start? That depends on you, your family, cash flow, and interest. I’ll describe my situation and where I’m at. I’m not saying this is the only way or the right way. Just saying this is how one man and family is doing it. I consider our basic needs and multiply to broader situations or applications. Some categories to consider: Water, food, shelter, security, communication, medical, transportation. Get the basics in place then add to each area. Look for ways to work on preps as you go about your “normal” life.

I avoid putting too much emphasis on long term, unlikely to use, hope I never have to use it items or supplies. I don’t own a bulletproof vest, geiger counter, or gas mask. Hard to justify this as useful in my “normal” world. When I consider a purchase, I often ask myself, “will I use it now? (meaning in the next 6 months or so). And would it come in handy in 5-10 years if “bad things happen?” I don’t dwell in the doom and gloom issues, but at the same time, a little preparedness goes a long way. If you have the money, or see a great deal, by all means add something off your wish list.

I didn’t think I was really prepping for many years. I had hobbies I enjoyed like hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping. I like to reuse things, save money, buy used, repair what I can repair. I also buy bulk when I can. Two for one deals, coupons, dented cans, day old donuts, whatever. Along the way I realized the combination of these activities, and the mindframe of preparedness meshed with what is known as prepping. Adding on to activities you already do is one way of making more progress with your preps.

Thriftiness: I’m a sale shopper. Goodwill, resale shops, yard and estate sales are my favorite places to shop. I once found a new blackhawk tactical pack at Goodwill for $5. Sold! Saved me $80-100 that one time. Kevlar chainsaw chaps for $8? Sold. I often walk away empty handed which is fine by me. Buying to just buy isn’t for me. I’m not a big shopper, but if I’m at a pharmacy to get something, I take the time to walk through looking for clearance or sale items.

I’m happy to buy two for one of something I already use like soap, toothpaste, deodorant. Is this prepping? Yes in two senses. I’m purchasing bulk supplies of things I need and will use and second, I’m saving money that can be used for other purchases. One thing I am careful of is not buying things that will go bad before I use them. Check expiration dates. This is the integration or blending of habits or hobbies that I’ve described.

Will I get rid of our old bike trailer even though the kids are too big? Nope, it’s useful for getting groceries or hauling wood on a camping trip. And it folds up pretty flat in the garage. Also good long term to bug out if needed. Again, think short and long term, daily living as well as doomsday living. This item has applications in both worlds.

I try to balance short term and long term gains. Immediate use versus hope to never need. I can’t afford a bunker on 40 acres. But I can make sure our 21’ camper is adequately stocked and maintained, all the time. I don’t store 500 gallons of stabilized gas. But I do keep 5-10 gallons on hand for the lawnmower, chainsaw, truck, and generator if needed.

Do I have 2000 watts of solar panels with batteries? No, but I do have a portable panel and battery charger for my phone, and many sizes of batteries. Also a 20 watt panel for trickle charging our camper batteries. Look for ways to expand what you’re already doing. Think about what activities you did this week, stores you shopped in. Try to brainstorm ways you could have worked on your preps as you did those same activities. I’m guessing you can come up with some ideas pretty easily.

Family: As I mentioned, I am married with young kids. Does my wife think I’m crazy? Yes, many times. Does she support my interests? Yes, indirectly. She has gone shooting with me, but usually only if we go with friends and she can choose where to eat afterwards. Does she wince when she sees another box on the stoop from Amazon or Midway? Certainly.

Do I show her the tool or book I ordered? Yes, kind of. But only after I put away the new mags or hogue grips in the same box. If she asks, I can call all those things “hunting supplies,” an innocent synonym for survival supplies. She would go nuts if she looked through all the rubbermaid tubs in the basement and garage. I hope to avoid that day. She sees the benefits of growing our own food, reusing or repurposing old materials, camping, canning/freezing our harvest or product of hunting, buying bulk and on sale. These are the easy sells with her.

We do many activities that I consider part of my preps together as a family. We shoot occasionally, garden regularly, fish, go canoeing, camp quite often, cook outdoors, bike, and hike. I consider these great family activities, as well as having additional side benefits of fitness, building skills, food production, navigation, survival skills.

Do I feel that going on a vacation, out of state or out of the country, plane tickets, nice hotels, car rental, etc. is a waste of money? Sometimes. Let’s be honest, most of the time. But my family’s happiness, my wife being happy, us having experiences together, makes us stronger as a whole. And for short and long term survival, I need us to care for each other, love each other, work together, have fun together, have common experiences. At times I do feel paying $100 for a dinner out with my wife is an extravagance. And if given a choice, I’d spend it at Cabelas or Natchez. But my wife wouldn’t have it so I accept it and move on. Save in other ways.

Organization of consumables: We use a two pantry system – the first one is what we use daily, weekly, basic ingredients. The second one is more of the same but in quantity, bulk purchases. I don’t buy long term storage items, like # 10 cans of dried corn or MREs. I might get there eventually but for my family right now, this is not where we’re at. I won’t have the shelf life, but my family will eat what I have because our bulk purchases are an extension of our regular purchases.

We stock the upstairs pantry from the basement pantry, then restock the basement/tier 2 pantry with new purchases. Same system with batteries (a big drawer upstairs and the spares are in a tub downstairs), cleaning supplies, medical supplies. Same with our freezers. A few items in our fridge freezer. Home frozen meat, fruit, and veg in the deep freeze. In our basement, I just built shelves for store bought and home canned food. Build them strong; food weights a lot. You can adapt this for your situation. Keep food visible, easy to get at and you’ll be more likely to use it, keep it up to date.

I would recommend using this two tier system for all consumables, not just food. Anything that has a shelf life should be rotated with the oldest used first. Batteries, vitamins, some medical supplies all can go bad over time. Hate to lose money by having to throw it out. One method it to keep a shelf or cupboard in a bathroom or linen closet for your medical supplies.

Then surplus/bulk purchases can be stored in the basement or in a tub somewhere else. Then when you buy 3 tubes of antibiotic cream or 10 toothbrushes, put them in the tub and rotate up to the bathroom the oldest. A posted inventory list is also very helpful. Just update it as items leave or are added to your designated storage area.

Here are some other activities that help me balance or integrate my immediate personal and family needs with possible long term prepper needs:

chickens – we’ve had between 4 and 20 at different times. Mostly layers but sometimes meat birds. I am no expert, just learned by having them. We’ve lost a fair number to predators but overall I consider them a good investment. Fresh eggs, compost/fertilizer for the garden, and to be honest, they’re just fun to watch. Very entertaining, quite funny at times. The kids love them. having chickens integrates food source, gardening (chicken poop), and family fun.

go bags – bug out, get home, 72 hour bag; call it what you will. But should have one for each family member and include the basics: water, food, shelter, security, medical, communication, transportation. Each might be different, should be different, but the basics need to be covered. We live in the midwest and have 4-5 months of winter with feet of snow and below freezing temps for weeks at a time. I add a winter go bag in addition to my basic one that lives in the truck. It contains mostly extra clothes, candle, pot, handwarmers, snacks. I also add extra tools like two shovels, tow strap , jumper cables. Is this prepping or just being prepared?

garden – integrates food production, healthy eating, family activity, lifelong skill. Canning and freezing gives us more food on hand in the off season.

hunting – fun, kids are beginning to try it out, adds food to the pantry as well as a possible barter item. My wife never had wild game before we met but now it’s more normal to eat venison than beef. I have handheld radios to communicate with the guys I hunt with which would be valuable in other situations. An example of blending hunting and communications into my normal life.

shooting – ties into the hunting, as well as personal defense, family activity, and fun to do with friends or other couples. We will meet up with a few other couples to shoot for an hour or two, then go out to eat. Combines a “prepper” activity with a common social outing. I guess to some it might seem weird, the shooting part on “date night.” But to us it’s just a social outing and could as easily be a movie or hike in the woods before we go eat.

I guess to sum it up, prepping has become part of our lifestyle, not a separate activity. My “normal” life includes work, family activities as well as shooting, canning, gardening, hiking, etc. I have “blended” or “integrated” those prepper hobbies/activities into my normal life.

My wife would never call herself a prepper but loves to garden and camp and is happy I hunt and shoot. I can accept that. Overall I see prepping as one more way for me and mine to be responsible for ourselves. Personal responsibility is a value I hold dear. Will I ever be done prepping? Not a chance. Because it is not only a list of supplies or a set of skills, but more so a lifestyle I have adopted. So as long as I’m living, I’m prepping.

Prizes for this round (ends October 11 2015 ) in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive –  Two Just In Case… Essential Assortment Buckets courtesy of LPC Survival a $147 value, a  Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill courtesy of FoodPrepper.com a $219 value, and a gift certificate for $150 off of  Rifle Ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo… Total first place prize value over $516 dollars.
  2. Second Place Winner will receive – A case of Sopakco Sure-Pak MRE – 12 Meals and a Lifestraw Family Unit courtesy of Camping Survival.com, and a One Month Food Pack courtesy of Augason Farms.com
  3. Third place winner will receive –  $50 cash.

Comments

  1. I am so impressed! Good for you!
    You sound a lot like me. I prep according to how I live now, but I did invest in essentials like a water filter, a wagon to be able to tote potable water, and a source of cooking without gas or electricity. I have a small stove I can cook on using wood and I also have a portable camp stove. We are working on having an outdoor oven made with brick but that is still unfinished.
    Please be sure with children that you have larger clothing/shoes available. Amy of The Tightwad Gazette suggested to build a storage unit with shelves, label everything in totes ie boy 2 yrs or girl 10 yrs along with shoes, belts, etc.
    A good sewing/mending kit will go a long way along with knitting skills for socks, mufflers, etc.
    I am very confident that you are heading in the right direction. Thank you so much for sharing your practical wisdom.

  2. otterridge says:

    great post. I do a lot of the same things drives the wife crazy sometimes but she understands.

  3. mom of three says:

    Very wonderful article, don’t beat yourself up on taking your wife, out on a date at all its very good for your marriage just put that as a prepping skill four hands are better then two 🙂
    You sound like the rest of us for sure I just go about our day I can’t worry about what the rest of the world, Is doing I can only worry about my world.

    • Florida Preppergal says:

      Good post I do so many of the same things when I started my preps I was into short and now long term so I get that both is good to have and knowledge is power that’s my motto so keep it up.

  4. Great tale!

    We do a lot of the same. DW has a full time job. I’m the one who checks the sale fliers, plans the purchases, etc. DW is fully on board. Our ultimate goal is to live in such a way that the next “crisis” in simply “interesting”.

  5. I would call you self reliant and not a prepper. It sounds as you are doing fine, great article. I really enjoyed it.

  6. We have always looked at it as a part of life and not an end goal, looking at what would be our most immediate threats. We are older and retired, not able to bug out, so we will stay in our home for most any event that may happen. Second, where we live, there is very little chance of driving out once the roads are full. There are very few roads running north out of the Florida peninsula and all would be grid locked very quickly. Our biggest threats will be hurricanes and possibly a tsunami from an earthquake. When we purchased our home, we planned on this and bought on high ground (130 ft above sea level) and in the center of the state almost equal distance from both coasts. Since then we have slowly built up our resources, expecting to be basically stranded here for an extended length of time. One of our biggest concerns is consumable water. Since almost all standing water in Florida is contaminated with pesticides and fertilizers, we will have to plan on collecting rain water and filtering it, once our stored water is gone. We have several hundred gallons of water storage ability and have several water filtration systems on hand. Our rain catchment system routes all collected water into the garage and out of sight of prying eyes. From there, it will be filtered and moved into the house. All reclaimed grey water will then be used to water the garden and fruit trees.

    • Hi JAS, ” almost all standing water in Florida is contaminated with pesticides and fertilizers”

      You might take a look at AquaPail water purifiers. As the name suggests, they are plastic pails with layers of filtering materials. Pour contaminated water in the top, it comes out the hole in the bottom clean.

      They claim to actively kill viruses and bacteria, and remove dissolved chemicals including heavy metals, which the regular filters can’t do.

      They come in various sizes from 400 gallon rating to I think 5000 gallons, and have a high flow rate.

      Last I looked Amazon listed only the 400 gallon version, but if you Google you should find them.

    • PrepperDoc says:

      Would a well solve your problem?

  7. 3rdgen4wars says:

    Great read. Thx for sharing. I could’ve written that myself & it’s refreshing to know I’m not the only one “prepping around” the wife. She comes around a little more each year & I’m better off now than 8 yrs ago. Just gotta get her convinced on some property.

  8. Chuck Findlay says:

    I get out and enjoy life quite well, but prepping is a definite way of life for me. Lucky or not (depending on your viewpoint) I’m single and don’t have to justify my actions and spending habits to anyone so it’s easier to prep. Didn’t want to be single (wife got pregnant 1.5-years after I got fixed and walked out of the marriage.) but there is no way I’m going to get married again.

    As far as unlikely events and the items you think would be handy (usually the more expensive items fall into this group) and the more expensive items for any event. What I do is put up money gradually for the item and as it works out every few months I end up with enough to buy the next big item. And it doesn’t seem to cut into the funds to buy other things. Windfall money also goes into this pile. I don’t gamble at all, so to me a windfall is a big unexpected job that gives me a lot more then normal work and income. And lately I have been getting big jobs often.

    Unlikely to happen isn’t the same as can’t happen. At the very least you can learn how to cope with bad events (learning is not expensive other then the time invested in learning) and have an idea how to deal with them. One thing that is important is to think of solutions to a problem, not the road blocks to them. Most times you should be able to come up with a work around to a problem that is not too expensive. It probably will take more time and effort then just buying the newest prepper item to solve the problem. But in the process of doing it yourself you learn more and it makes you much more able to cope with a problem. Search U-Tube for any item you want but can’t afford right now, I guarantee someone out there wants the same item and can’t afford it and made a substitute (and it may be better) item then the likely China-made item.

    I don’t know your skill set or if you have the time, but coming up with a second or home-based income stream will give you extra money to buy the more expensive items. And every new skill learned goes a long way to build independence and self worth and value to others you interact with.

    We all should be learning new things to not only make us better preppers, but to also build a way to make money post SHTF. I’m lucky in that I’m self employed and any new tool and or skill gives me an almost instant boost of money as I put it to use right away (usually in only a few days) to make money. When you work for others a new skill usually doesn’t give an immediate income boost, but the new skills are still important. And everything you do, every home repair you do yourself is that much more money you don’t have to pay out for someone else to do it. That translates to more prepping money. As an example of instant boost to income is that lately I have been getting several jobs to build sheds and it takes a long time to hand nail them. I just bought a Ridgid jobsite air compressor and a air nail gun. This makes the job go a lot faster giving me a better per hour income.

    PS anyone can put an add on Craig’s List or in a local paper to build sheds for people. They are within the reach (skills wise) of anyone with a basic set of hand tools. They go up in less then a day and will give you a few hundred dollars.

    The Good Will Store’s almost always have home repair books that you can buy for $1.50 and learn home repairs from.

    I know I talk too much about having an extra home-based income, but I really think the ability to make money in a down-turned or SHTF environment is an important prepper skill that few people think about. We all need money and in today’s world a job can go away with little to no forewarning.

    What you can do get the family interested in target shooting is to get an air pistol and make a homemade pellet trap. You can shoot in the yard, basement and even the living room. Search U-Tube for homemade pellet traps. Some of them are made from spoons bent around a rod and spin like crazy when hit. Lots of fun for everyone to see when you hit the spoon. This will get them more interested in shooting. Stay away from CO-2 air guns as the cylinders are expensive and will be just about impossible to get should the feces hit the air mover.

    • Hi Chuck,

      I totally agree with the advice to get a second stream of income or “home-based business” and I second your implication that it be in a skill set that is just as applicable and serviceable now as in SHTF/TEOTWAWKI. That’s a big part of why I’m getting into naturalistic health. While it may not be as prestigious at present as a position in conventional Western medicine, I think that more people are going to be turning to it because they are starting to feel like the conventional system is broken and a bit like being on a hamster wheel. Certainly, it will serve the need that people have in an SHTF scenario or post-TEOTWAWKI world.

  9. Chuck Findlay says:

    One thing you mentioned you do that I would not do is to buy dented cans of food. If the enamel paint chips off from the inside of a dented can you could get a nasty reaction of the food with the metal in the can. I never buy a dented can of food. And if I drop a can and dent it, I open it for the next meal and use it right away. And also look to make sure I don’t eat any loose paint chips that may have flaked off.

  10. Hunkerdown says:

    All I can say is, the less shock we go through when teotwawki first hits then the better our chances at surviving will be. Could it be we are looking at the reverse angle of an idea/solution. Instead of blending prepping into our normal lives, shouldn’t our ‘normal’ be the prepper/survivalist’s life. Indeed, using our preps, and replacing what we use makes a lot more sense than eating out or not knowing what works until the yikes meter is ratcheted to 300psi. What about living without electricity, and as I am doing, keep all of your living outdoors and eating only out of preps and the garden. The first 30 days are tricky, after that it’s business as usual. If we willingly create our own teotwawki now, then when teotwawki forcibly hits for the rest of the population we’ll be light years ahead of the game. The mistakes I make now, and there are lots of them, can be easily corrected. After the lights go out for good, not so easy a game to play, especially when oops goes from being a minor setback to a deathtrap. We all love to prep, but prepping without the passion for survival is not very medicinal in the long term. Well anyway, give it some thought. Best of planning and practicing: God bless always.

    • Bear in mind hunkerdown, that certain circumstances inhibit some preppers from embracing this “normal” that is suggested we aspire to. For example, a significant portion of the “prepper community” live in urban/suburban areas. Yes, ideally they will bug-out in an SHTF/TEOTWAWKI situation, but while they liv “in the present” and prep at the same time, they have legal obstructions to contend with. Most urban/suburban areas place a ban on livestock (especially chickens) within city limits. They also place heavy restrictions on CSA (Community-Serviced/Supported Agriculture), which makes growing things as a “network” largely verboten. You mentioned living without electricity; recently, in the state of Florida, it has become ILLEGAL to be disconnected from the grid! In the Carolinas, it is/has also become illegal to “hoard resources” (if I understand correctly, it specifically relates to stockpiling food in North Carolina and water in South Carolina). Also, there was recently the story of a prepper and his son in North Carolina being killed by state police (although it is also being reported that he was mentally ill, calling for the death of various public officials, and that the majority of the “stockpile” was weaponry of all kinds). All that to say that not EVERYONE can live “TEOTWAWKI now.”

  11. Really enjoyed the article! You are on the right track. We do many similar things but my children have their own children now. Keep the better half happy and all is good. Sometimes they surprise us like when she recently said we should get some chickens! Some of our best memories have come from camping , fishing, and hunting with my kids. Still hunt with my son and he is passing that on to his sons. Also from the Midwest and the winters can be long and hard so my wood stove is an essential part of the winter prep and have had it for many years. Keep living your life the way you are and you will be fine!

  12. PrepperDoc says:

    Thanks for the article! I think you are considerably younger than I am, and lead a more outdoors life which means you have some areas better under control than I do despite my efforts.

    However, not sure why you eschew solar power. 2000 watts is really a small system, only about six panels, but it would easily run your refrigerators / freezers and give you a considerably greater quality of life in a bad situation. Even a four panel, 1200 W system is something you could put in in one weekend. Done properly, it has a higher rate of return then either Bonds or stocks may give us for quite a few years.

    You’re a bit ahead of me on the deer hunting, but I’m still in the running. Have you added reloading to your skill set? Lee presses are a cheap tool for a survival system as well as another money-saving effort.

    Sounds like your family cans regularly, have you considered dry canning for much longer term storage? would give you decade or more grain storage, but far cheaper prices than freeze dried.

    I’m surprised you are reluctant to store more fuel. Perhaps you have abundant Woodlands near you. Have you considered an inground propane tank? Safe storage of much larger amounts of energy. Or trade eventually for a diesel car, and store some diesel?

    You didn’t mention it, or if you did I missed it, do you have a well?

    Would rechargeable batteries save you considerable administrative effort as well as money in the long run?

    Not real hard to add most of these items to a normal lifestyle, most can have value even in normal times. You are already so well-prepared, a few extra items would boost your preparedness.

  13. axelsteve says:

    I liked the mention of the lee loader. I had one when I was a teenager and it fed my o3a3 just fine. It is slow but so what.The instructions are straight forward if you can do the basics breathe in breath out you can reload ammo. Just watch what you are doing. They also come in a multitude of calibers. My main prepping lately is avoid burning up and candles from loss of power. We lost power for a couple of hours friday night and we had enough flashlites and candles to make it til we had power back on.

  14. Great article, I can relate a lot to what you wrote.

  15. Wow! This has probably been one of the most impactful article that I have read here (no offense to M.D. or any other contributor here). It is especially poignant to me because I am a Midwesterner too! Being where I am at (rural southeast Iowa) we do lots of the things mentioned in the article already. A large focus in life here is on”self-sufficiency” and “being prepared for emergencies,” and I would suggest that that is the stepping stone to the “integrated or blended prepping” that Matt is referring to. Private garden plots, private herds of livestock (chickens and goats mostly), and alternative methods of energy and gasification are relatively common in the well-to-do rural populations here. I think having the “self-sufficient mentality” is essential to moving into prepping.

    P.S. Great advice for further blending prepping into daily life. Using flee markets, yard and garage sales, Goodwill, and other places as cheap “prep supply” opportunities, as well as reusing “junk” items are things that I think most preppers either miss or don’t pay nearly enough attention to. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Andy,

      Be sure to read the articles here, here and here for even more great info to keep you prepping in the right direction.

      • Thanks M.D. for linking some great resources! I’ve got a lot of this covered or at least on the ‘to do’ list actually. Always good to see a reminder to ‘keep it in gear’ though.

  16. Encourager says:

    Well written article, Matt. We, too, live in the Midwest, so ‘prepping’ for us a lot of the time, especially the months before ol’ man winter comes visiting, is actually putting enough aside (plus some) to get us through the winter in case we are snowed in for weeks at a time. This is what I have advocated for neighbors and others in our community. Just have enough stored up to get you through the winter and early spring. It is a start in the right direction, without waving a Prepper Flag and saying, in essence – “come and get it!”

    I had a visitor a few days ago – the young man who is so trigger happy. We had quite a long, productive conversation where he was very respectful (quite a few ‘ma’ams’). He asked what ‘rules’ I wanted regarding his shooting. I said to him “Instead of ‘rules’ how about common courtesy? Have you though through what happens to your neighbor on the other side of you when you make explosions after dark?” He was puzzled until I pointed out said neighbor was a Vietnam Vet, and there were other vets in the neighborhood, that may have had problems with PTSD and triggers. He was shocked, and upset. Said he didn’t know. I told him – now you know, what are you going to do about it? And he agreed – no more explosives. He even volunteered to come knock on my door when he and his friends were going to have a shooting session. I did ask him to limit them to a couple of hours at a time and he agreed. I also told him HE was responsible for every guest that joined him and if I heard bullets whizzing by my windows again, I would again be calling the cops. He said ok. Amazing. Now if he just holds up his end of the bargain.

  17. Northern Mrs says:

    I am the prepper/homesteader in our family. I grew up hunting and fishing with parents and grandparents that taught me to reuse, repair and repurpose. Sometimes my reluctance to spend money makes my hubby a bit crazy but he loves it when I turn a thrift store/garage sale find into a treasure. And even better is watching the savings account grow. He didn’t understand the canning and freezing of all the food or the need for the big garden until he tasted the better quality. Now he is totally on board. A few years ago we left suburban life for a large piece of land in a rural area. Since then the garden has gotten bigger and we started adding livestock. Now that he has gotten over my insistance on chickens (he loves the fresh eggs) he is asking me where to put the pastures for the next additions to livestock. He shook his head at the food storage initially but now there is a six month supply and he even purchased and set up the racking in my deep pantry so I could organize better and store more. He also likes that it is really easy to find Christmas presents for me such as my solar panels, crossbow, cider press. We now also heat our home through the long, very cold winters with wood. His initial reluctance, partially due to the work involved, has evaporated along with the expensive winter utility bills. We have also found that the cutting, splitting and stacking of the winter fuel provides us with some quality time together. Working toward a common goal strengthens the bonds. Each time I come up with “one of my crazy ideas” from which he soon sees the benefit makes each subsequent “crazy idea” more acceptable. We are now at a place where he is even coming up with some “crazy ideas” of his own.