A day in the life of a survivalist mom

Thank you for the wonderful response to my article, Top 8 Deadly Myths About Survival.  Many of you wrote asking for more information about the day-to-day life.   Here’s a peek at a typical non-winter day.

It’s noon-ish.  The first round of chores are pretty much done.  So far today, here is what we’ve been up to:

Woke up at 4:00 a.m. because a pack of coyotes was howling too close to the chicken coop and we had to let the dog out to protect them.  Then we went back to sleep to the sound of the dog barking.  Well, okay.  That’s not exactly a daily happening, but it did happen – last night!

image by L. Allen Brewer

Around 6:00 a.m. we get up for real.  I light the kitchen wood stove to warm up the house and get breakfast going.  Breakfast is usually fresh farm eggs, pancakes, biscuits, cracked wheat cereal or such.

We grind our own flour by hand.  That means attaching the grain mill (we use and recommend the Wondermill Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill) to the kitchen table and the guys taking turns cranking for about ½ hour to an hour, depending on how much flour I think I’ll need that day.   Sometimes we add rice flour with the wheat, and rice is even harder (and slower) to grind than wheat berries.  The guys are getting such bulging biceps!   If you’d like to know how to use that flour for biscuits, etc., we’ve got a great recipe section in our book, Surviving Survivalism – How to Avoid Survivalism Culture Shock.

While I’m making breakfast the guys feed the chickens yesterday’s leftovers and feed the dog and cats.  Cats are an absolutely necessary tool in the wilderness.  They not only keep the mice at bay, they take care of snakes and large bugs, too.

Also while breakfast is made, the guys tend the garden and greenhouse.  They water it, feed it with a little extra compost and prune the suckers off the vegetables.  Then they jump on the Internet to check things out…and see if the outside world is still in existence!

We finished breakfast at about 8:00 a.m., and the guys go out to cut and gather wood, tote water from the large storage tanks into the house and into the garden for afternoon waterings (don’t forget we live in the desert) while I clean the house – clean the kitchen, make the bed, sweep the floor (a never ending battle between us and the dust!)  Before I do the dishes, we need to make sure the gray water collection barrel under the sink is emptied to be used for plant watering or mixing mortar. 

I want to note here that we do not assign chores based on gender, but by ability and availability.  Many days I have something else taking my time and by the time that chore is done, the kitchen and cleaning chores have been done by Dan or Jesse.  I can’t help cut the firewood, so since the dishes need doing, I do them – with a happy heart.  If I am interrupted in the middle of cooking, one of the guys steps in to take over so I don’t have to worry about it while I’m busy with something else.

While I’m cleaning, I put up a big pot or rice for later meals.  Usually we’ll fry up the cooked rice with seasonings, herbs, maybe scramble an egg or two in it for lunch.  Sometimes we make fried rice balls.  Sometimes we make veggie gravy to go with it.  You really can do a lot with just a few ingredients!

After I’m done cleaning, I get the bread dough mixed and rising.  I make two loaves of peasant bread (a very simple bread, only flour, water, salt and yeast in the ingredients list, baked free-form – no loaf pan) each day.  They’re usually both gone by the evening, but if I’m lucky I have a half loaf left for toasting for breakfast the next day.  Some days I make whole-wheat tortillas instead.

By mid-afternoon (often earlier) it’s time to get dinner going.  Often it’s lentil chili, or home made pasta, boiled then sautéed with our garden vegetables, or beans and rice, or stir-fried veggies, or maybe this week we’ve got a chicken for soup with fine noodles.

After dinner we generally watch DVDs to chill out.

In between chores, at any time of day, we take a break here and there outside, under a juniper tree, enjoying the light breezes and just stopping for a moment to smell the roses – well, the cactus anyway!

In addition to the daily chores, we experience some things that throw our schedule off:


  • The toilet is backed up and needs fixing.
  • No power because of clouds several days in a row.
  • Having to stay indoors more for a few days because of smoke conditions in the air from distant wildfires.
  • Someone gives us a gift of a ¼ of an elk and we spend the day butchering, pickling and feasting!
  • Some days it’s the day we plant the garden.
  • Some days we pump water from the well into the storage tank.
  • Some days we do laundry – during “monsoon season”, July and August, that means we put the dirty clothes into a barrel of soapy water, stir them around, squeeze them by hand and lay them, soapy,  along the slash fence, waiting for the next rainstorm to rinse them and the next morning’s sun to dry them.

Add to that, in winter months we are constantly filling both wood stoves to keep warm.  Although, we don’t get out of bed till one of us is warm enough to brave the cold and light the first fire of the morning!  We have woken up to temperatures of 12 degrees – in the house!

In between all this, Jesse is building a new house for himself, made from local rocks and local mortar (adobe) while we write more books, essays and articles and produce a podcast.

I often ask this questions of people considering the self-sufficient lifestyle:  Even if nothing happens in the outside world to change things from how they are today, wouldn’t you want to live this way anyway?

Sheila and Dan are the authors of Surviving Survivalism: How to Avoid Survivalism Culture Shock and have a weekly podcast.


There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

© Copyright 2012 The Survival Mom, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Survival Mom
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  1. Karyn says

    I feel like sooo much of my day is taking up with food preparation – either making the meals, cleaning up after them, harvesting, preserving, or shopping! But it looks like a good portion of your day is spent that way as well – up to an hour just grinding the grains. Maybe I’m not so inefficient after all; maybe that’s just what it takes to eat “real food”.

    I loved reading about your day. So different as I live in a very rainy part of the Appalachians. I was curious about your laundering system. Whenever I accidentally leave my clothes on the line and it rains, it seems that they always dry with a “sour” smell. Maybe it’s the rain in the woods versus the rain in the desert?

    • says

      Must be the humidity making the clothes dry more slowly…ours is usually about 6% ! in less than an hour they are dry and smell like ozone — wonderful!


      • Coupon Cook says

        Karyn, I live in a wet climate. Its not exactly self sufficient styling but to keep the sour smell out of my line dry clothes I spray them with a vinegar and water solution. They don’t stink when they dry. They just smell clean.

  2. says

    My entire day has always been taken up with cleaning, cooking and kids. We are working on our self reliance. (my husband is a little more reluctant than me) but I feel like if I am already doing all of these things they might as well be working towards self reliance. Thank you for sharing! This is very inspiring instead if always feeling slightly overwhelmed at the process. This puts it into the perspective that we do a lot of these things daily anyways. The method is just a little different!

    • Jackie says


      My day is the same, kids, cooking, cleaning and maybe a few times a week I can sit and learn for myself. My husband too, is not as into becoming as self reliant as I am. But, he works his own business and that keeps him plenty busy. He lately has come around to better understanding why I am doing what I have been doing. He is starting to slowly see the benefits to me doing what I call “homesteading” in stead of prepping. So many people look at me like I am crazy if I say I prep. But, if I say I “homestead”, they say, “oh that is cool”. Funny thing how a choice of words changes a view. Basiclly, what I am saying is. It is really nice when you realize you are not alone. Trust, me you are not. There are more people out there doing this than you think. We are just now starting to become viewed a little more as normal and smart. I was even told I was “crafty” b/c I repurposed something someone else wanted to throw away. Go figure. Keep up the work, I feel ya and hear ya.

      Great Article Shelia! Thanks so much!

  3. Casey says

    Thanks for all these interesting details. Where do you get the wheat berries? We grew some wheat in a container as an experiment. Do you really need to grind the wheat into flour, or could you just crack it and/or soak it whole and cook it as hot cereal? We have a grinder but haven’t used it yet, and we wondered if we really need to do all that muscle work.

    Do you buy chicken feed, or grow enough to feed them?

    • says

      We purchase whole wheat berries in bulk from a local supermarket that orders it for us. Yes, in our book we have recipes for cracked wheat cereal and such, but you’ll get tired of chewing on big pieces of wheat after a while and will want to make bread, pancakes and gravies. However, the mill we recommend, the Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill has an attachment available to turn it with a screw gun. But, really, you should see how hunky Dan’s biceps have gotten since we grind! LOL

      Our chickens mostly free-range. They love those black beetles, maggots and juniper berries! And we augment that with our left-overs. It does my heart good to put leftovers in the “chicken bowl” instead of the trash!


  4. Josh says

    Such an appealling lifestyle. Working hard around your property with your family with you. I envy you in a way. Yet I can imagine how much work it must take.

    • says

      Yes, it’s a lot of physical work. But at night, we sleep really well, not bothered by making tomorrow’s bucks. And it keeps us in shape — no need for a gym!

  5. Amy says

    My husband and I dream of owning a piece of land somewhere where we can build a cabin, raise animals, and have a substantial garden. We would love to be away from people and the hustle and bustle of everyday life. If we could we would do it tomorrow. That being said unfortunately we will always be in need of a substantial income with health insurance and access to doctors. My middle son is a type 1 diabetic and will need insulin every day for the rest of his life or he will die. There is nothing we can do or make to to replace this life giving hormone. So until a cure is found our ranch at the base of a mountain will just have to be a fond dream.

  6. John says

    My wife and I have been storing pre-cooked brown rice. Questions: how long will this grocery store rice last in our airtight containers before loosing its food values? They are put into the airtight containers in zip-locked bags. If we run into a situation where we cannot boil the rice, can we eat the raw pre-cooked rice kernals, without any water available? Have not started storing yet, what is the shelf life of peanut butter and the shelf life of tuna packed in water? We also purify our drinking water by using filters that fit into a specially designed pitcher. A very sensitive pocket meter is furnished by the Zero Water Co, that allows an instant water purifier rating! ALL contaminents are removed, no batteries, hence the name Zero Water. We purchase the replaceable cartridges at WalMart anf Target stores. We keep a big 5 gallon glazed jug in the kitchen and keep it filled for household drinking, cooking water. We have been well satisfied with the performance, and great access to the NY manufacturer for product info, and replacement parts! We travel all over the USA/Canada and certain parts of Mexico in our RV. Zero Water assures us of purified water where ever we travel too! Hope this comments helps someone looking for pure water!

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