It’s All Good- One Prepper’s Journey

This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest by J.D.

At 48 years of age, I found myself with an empty nest and unexpectedly divorced after a 25-year marriage. The inevitable anxiety that comes with adjusting to both of those life-changing events was even more heightened with 911 still fresh in the National memory and threats of escalating terrorist attacks looming on the horizon. Taking even small but deliberate steps in preparedness was not just forward-thinking, but in my case, cathartic.

While divorce had left me financially challenged, I figured anything I could do to prepare for the unexpected was better than doing nothing. Divorce had caught me off guard. The last thing I wanted was to be left vulnerable for another unpleasant surprise. So I started small, buying whatever extra groceries I could each week and putting them away separate from my regular pantry goods. As I was able to improve my financial situation even a little, I also stepped up my efforts to expand my survival stock.

Aside from a possible nuke attack, my family and I lived in a sprawling urban area that was within critical fallout distance of a nuclear power plant and at least three volcanoes. Nuclear power plants are subject to human error and sabotage. Volcanoes are never really dead, just sleeping; and even the “experts” didn’t really know when one or more of ours might awaken. Added to all that was the likelihood of a major earthquake, since volcanoes generally lie along fault lines.

My kids lived about 1/2 hour from me in our greater metro area, so one of the first “major” purchases I made was an emergency bag – a simple backpack with 3 days food and water supply along with a first aid kit, lighter, camping saw, flashlight, N100 masks, gloves, etc. – everything I needed to give me the best possible chance of getting home in case of a nuke attack, meltdown, volcanic eruption, or earthquake. I kept my backpack along with an extra change of clothes sealed in a plastic bag and a sleeping bag in my car at all times.

Eventually I was able to get an emergency bag for each of my two daughters and their families. They humored me, but except for my best friend, they and everyone else I knew thought I was nuts. I didn’t care. I knew my kids would be heading for Mom’s house if there were an “event”, so my prepping wasn’t just for my own survival, but for theirs.

Nothing says, “I love you” like a key chain Nuke Alert and a bottle of potassium iodide. That‘s what I got that year for my birthday from my best friend and only ally at the time.

After two years of hearing me yammer on about how they should be stocking up on extra food, and fearing that I might be spiraling into obsessive behavior, (although by today’s standards, I was a total prepping novice,) my grown daughters decided they wanted a new daddy and that I needed to “get a life”. The obvious answer to both was online dating and they convinced me to go on eHarmony. Together we spent over an hour filling out the lengthy profile questionnaire. After 6 months, I’d decided that their lack of a father figure and my risk of obsessive prepping was preferable to serial rejection, so I decided I would let my membership lapse.

A week before it ran out, Jerry’s profile popped up on my list. He was an organic farmer who lived out in the sticks about two hours away, (if one stayed within the speed limits.) We instantly connected and were married less than four months later. My daughters had unwittingly helped catapult me into the next vital step in my prepping journey – getting out of the city.

Although, my new husband found some of my views a bit extreme, eventually, as he watched socio-economic policies evolve in increasingly horrifying ways, he came to the conclusion that I may indeed have been on to something. As a result, he started taking the idea of self-sufficiency more seriously.

It became a life goal when we were given the proverbial kick in the pants a little over a year after we were married. At the end of 2007, just before the economy really started taking a dive, we both lost our jobs within two weeks of each other right before Christmas. That was the next defining moment in what would become a serious journey toward preparedness and self-sufficiency.

There was no mortgage on the farm and both of us were loathed the idea of collecting unemployment, especially since we were convinced that we had the resources not just to survive, but also to thrive. Besides that, at our ages, the chance that we would be hired anywhere became more remote with each passing month, not to mention the economic impracticality of driving a minimum of 20 miles to the nearest centers of employment for near minimum wages when gas prices were steadily rising. On top of that, being beholden to someone else for our livelihoods would only add insult to injury.

We had income from odd jobs and tractor work that Jerry did for some of the neighbors, as well as a little contract income from a wetlands restoration project that had been started years before. A couple months after we were married I had purchased a gently used fairly new iMAC at a local camera store. It had the CS2 version of Adobe Suite already installed on it, so I was able to pull in some income from a graphic layout job here and there.

One of the attributes that Jerry and I share is the propensity for salvaging and re-purposing stuff we already have and/or other people’s discards. I had never been well off, so over the years I had developed the ability to meet my family’s needs with whatever resources I had, could get cheap, or find. My kids called me the Queen of Make-Due. My dad preferred “The Rube Goldberg Mama”, but you have to be of a certain age to appreciate that one.

To add to our income base, Jerry and I decided to turn our seasonal vegetable stand into a country store so that we could stay open year round. This was accomplished by enclosing our three-bay carport using salvaged lumber and windows from neighbors who were conveniently enough, cleaning out their shops and/or upgrading and remodeling their homes at the time – an expense we thought foolish, but which was nevertheless, of benefit to us.

Somewhere along the way, one of the clean up jobs we did yielded a 125-gallon water tank that had never been used. We hooked that up to a downspout for rainwater collection. We were also able to bottle and store 65 gallons of water from a natural spring about 5 miles from our farm. I added 6-8 drops of food grade hydrogen peroxide to each jug for safe long-term storage. We used our well water for showers and necessary household cleaning. We heavily mulched our garden plots to keep our watering needs to a bare minimum. That along with wood stove heat helped keep our electric bill down, which in turn helped us meet our goal of living well on only $6,000 a year.

We were already growing most of our own food and then some, both in gardens and in a greenhouse, so our monthly grocery budget was only $26. Aside from the little bit of fuel for the tractor and chainsaw, we had virtually free firewood from ash trees in the wetlands project that needed thinning.

I had stocked up on cheap olive oil from Costco for burning in oil lamps along with small propane tanks for Coleman lanterns whenever they went on sale. Jerry taught me how to oven can, so any extra food that we didn’t sell or eat ended up in Mason jars.

We had our first test run in December of ‘08 when a storm knocked out power for three days. While our neighbors were heading for town to stay in motels after just one day, we stayed cozy at home with easily enough heat, food, and water to keep us warm, fed, and hydrated. It was just long enough to build some confidence, but not long enough for over-confidence.

The next year we started a website targeted to our local community and added a food-buying service using Azure Standard. We could offer outstanding prices on bulk organic grains and other foodstuffs, which we augmented with additional emergency preparedness items. This naturally attracted other like-minded people. Our country store evolved into a community hub and a place where preppers from outlying areas as well could get food, supplies, equipment and helpful suggestions for their own planning.

Each new prepper we met brought skills and ideas of their own to share. It quickly became obvious that “survival of the fittest”, (ie. competition for survival) was a huge fallacy and that building a community of fellow preppers would be the best way to survive any type of disastrous event. With that in mind, we also stocked up for those in our community who will inevitably come knocking at our door with their hands out, because we’d rather feed our neighbors than shoot them.

Putting the obvious sensationalism aside, we watch National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers with prepper friends who record it for us, ideas we may not have considered. We also got the Jericho series from Netflix as a study and review on the range of human behavior in the face of adversity, (obvious editorial fauxpas aside.) Knowing what to expect from those who are unprepared is an integral part of being well prepared.

To minimize that aspect, our efforts are now concentrated on encouraging and helping equip as many of the members of our community as possible. The more each of them is prepared, the better our own chances of survival. “A prudent man foresees the difficulties ahead and prepares for them; the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” (Proverbs 22:3) To the best of our ability, we’re trying to reduce the number of simpletons.

Most people are familiar with the wisdom of preparing for the worst, and hoping for best. I would add: “It’s all good.” Every experience is valuable and necessary, even if it seems horrible at the time. Would I be a prepper if I were still married to my children’s father? Probably not. Would Jerry and I have met and married if my daughters hadn’t been ridiculously concerned over my meager prepping efforts? Certainly not. Would Jerry and I be as far as we are now in our preparedness if we hadn’t lost our jobs? Definitely not.

Hardship is the blessing that propels us forward in maturity, offering new opportunity to forgive and show love. And that is the best foundation for preparedness, because it is the best reason for surviving.

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:

First Prize) Winner will receive a Stealth Body Armor Level II vest courtesy of SafeGuard ARMOR™ LLC and a $150 gift certificate for Wolf Ammo courtesy of   A total prize value of over $600.

Second Prize) Winner will receive a Wise Essentials Kit courtesy of LPC Survival and an EcoZoom’s Versa Stove courtesy of EcoZoom stoves.. A value of over $300.

Third Prize) Winner will receive copies of both of my books “31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness” and “Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man’s Solution” A total prize value of $28.

Contest ends on June 5 2012.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Thank you for telling your story! By far this was the most encouraging article I have read. I’ve only been prepping for about a year and my family thinks I am crazy. I do have 1 son that is with me and my husband I believe is coming around. I am now encouraged to give it my all. Once again thank you for sharing.

  2. This is probably one of the most positive article ive read here. Thank you very much for your input, it opens my mind a lot since I can relate to the financial ‘challenge” which I am now facing myself. What touched me most is “I’d rather feed my neighbors than shoot them” , and the last pharagraph about hardship… which am inwardly looking bout my own prep issues now. God Bless you and Jerry. and again, thank you.

  3. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Excellent writing. This will certainly aid others who need a reason to prepare but lack the knowledge and the will to start. Your efforts may be a catalyst that will get them on the road to their own possible survival.

    I would like to hear more on your “oven canning” that you mention as well as some of your ideas on sharing with others. Your efforts in forming cohesive groups is probably one of the more over-looked principles of preparing that many of us are not using.

    Keep writing as you have a talent for it.



      I am a Master Food Preserver. Oven canning is NOT recommended for non-acid foods (like vegetables and meats).

      If for some reason, you choose to disregard my warnings and oven can your foods, PLEASE, be sure to empty the contents out into a pan, and bring the contents to a FULL ROLLING BOIL and boil for 15 – 20 minutes before you even so much as taste it.

      Botulism toxin is one of the most deadly substances on the face of the earth, and it takes so little to KILL YOU.

      Botulism spores grow in anaerobic environments (like canned foods, or onions with a covering of butter) where the PH is more than 4.5% (like vegetables and meats). When the spores grow, they put off botulism toxin, which is the stuff that kills you.

      Non-acid foods need to be pressure canned to kill off the botulism spores so they won’t be able to grow.

      Canning is a wonderful way to preserve your food if it is done in a safe manner – and that is easy to do – just follow directions. If any of the Wolf Pack are planning to do canning of vegetables and meats, please contact your local agricultural extension to get up to date information on times necessary, and proper canning methods. I’d like to know you are all going to be around for a while longer!

      • trapper from manitoba says:

        Thanks Michelle for your insight and warning. I still would like to know what exactly oven canning is though.

        • charlie (NC) says:

          For those with canning questions, suggestions or just plain canning chit-chat I highly reccomend the Yahoo group “Canning 2”. Just go to Yahoo, click on groups, search for canning 2 and sign up. There you will find good hearted folks with excellent canning knowlegde that for the most part fit right in with the prepper community.

          • charlie (NC) says:

            BTW if I remember correctly food has to be heated to excess of 240 degs to kill Botulism. I believe it would be possible to oven can successfully if you make sure the contents of the jars are heated above that temperature for several minutes and you make sure your lids and rings are sterile. Double check that temperature. My memory might not be correct.

  5. Thank you for sharing your personal journey with us, and I am so glad that you are in such a good spot in your life at this point!

  6. Northbound says:

    Boy, this is one of the most well-reasoned articles I’ve read in a very long time. With humor and common sense, you’ve examined the situation in which many of us find ourselves: once we commit ourselves to becoming prepared to live through disasters of many kinds, how do we plan our path forward?
    I’ve read this article through twice, and intend to read it again. It’s a good yardstick to find holes in my own plan.
    Thank you!

  7. Great article! Would love to hear more about “oven canning”!

  8. trapper from manitoba says:

    I like this story, its nice. Can someone explain oven canning to me please.

    • Hi Trapper,

      Typically there are two canning methods recommended and in current use at this time, one is water bath canning (big boiling pot of water approved for high acid or high suger content canned products, like jam, jelly, juice or pickles etc

      Then the current recommended safe method for low acid foods, most veggies and meats/fish etc is pressure canning..

      However for many years in the past and to be honest in certain countries currently (example England and Ireland) folks can in a heated oven, so instead of heat boiling water, they use a heated oven to “oven can” for the recommended time.

      I have a ton of older cookbooks and at one time this was a recommended way to do but not currently, there are lots of folks that still do it, and I got a current just published book from ireland in the last two months and they are still providing recipes and instuctions in it for both oven canning and open kettle canning, which was interesting as you would not! see that in a N.A. new cookbook.

      Hope that helps answer your question.

      • trapper from manitoba says:

        Thanks, i did not know about this and with the strong warning issued and a bit of research i have done, will not consider it.

  9. JedRebel says:

    Thank you for this article. You have come a long way. Very inspirational.

  10. sheeple_no_more says:

    Thank you for sharing and I am pleased things worked out for you. I can sense forgiveness in your heart and grace in your soul. I am not that far along in my walk with God. The saying “what does not kill you makes you stronger.” It seems to me it leaves you broken and bruised.
    Good luck and keep prepping!

  11. Very encouraging article! I am wondering if your girls are Preppers now as well.

  12. Miss Molly says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I was wondering if you are still operating your little store? It sounds like this entrepreneurial venture helped you build solid relationships in your community and gave you the opportunity to reach out to others and build a support network. Just curious, if you are by any chance located in Oregon? I am not sure why but something about your article screamed Oregonian to me. (lol)
    Thanks again for such a well written and positive article! God Bless you & Jerry!

  13. worrisome says:

    Nice article on finding ways despite what we normally think we must do to earn our way and take care of ourselves. Very encouraging. Hope it continues to go well for you and yours!

  14. SurvivorDan says:

    Well written article JD. Greatt story. Warmed the cockles of my leathery old heart. Glad you met the right person for you. I worry about your Opsec but applaud your attitude and spirit. Best of luck!

  15. Canadagal says:

    Loved your story JM. It is such an encouragement to read about how people make it through adversity. it lights our path. Thanks

  16. Thanks for a well written article that is highly encouraging.

  17. J.D. in Ohio says:

    I’ve changed my posting moniker since there seems to be several people posting with the same initials.

    This is a really good article with a lot great life-lessons in it. I am glad that the author has triumphed over many of the tribulations that she has faced.

  18. charlie (NC) says:

    Great article!

  19. Chilly Beaver says:

    Inspiring story, thanks for sharing J.D.

  20. JD..what an amazing life…thank you for sharing your story – and your last paragraph …can so relate to that.

    Can see that you are definitely going to go from strength to strength – in many areas of your prepping.

    Just goes to show we do not know what bounties the future holds for us. cheers.

  21. Mary in GA says:

    Very inspiring, great article!!! May God continue his provisions in your life.

  22. Mrs. Prepper says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey. Very well written and extremely inspirational. Prayers for your continued preparedness and those in your community.

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