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!
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.
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