Did you know that I joke (but I’m not really joking) that I’m a secret prepper? Yeah, like a doomsday prepper, it’s true! In this blog post I’ll talk about why I love this topic, how I grew up around this culture, and some of the benefits of living this lifestyle. If you are interested in how you can get started, I have some tips there, too. By the end I hope you don’t think I’m too much of a weirdo!
In this post, I’m going to fill you in on one of my hobbies. It’s also is something I know from your guys’ responses you have a lot of interest in. And then I’m gonna tell you about my family and how they got me interested in survival and prepping early on. I’ll explain to you why I think it’s important that everybody has a skill set like this, and then some tips at the end on how to get started.
My Prepping Background
So if you have followed me for a while on social media, you may have heard me joke about being a secret prepper, like a doomsday prepper. I joke and make light of it, but I really do believe that it’s a good skill set to know how to grow your own food. I know not everybody here agrees or has the desire to hunt or fish, but for me it’s more about having that knowledge and that skill set. Like if something serious were to happen, how many of us would know what to do if we didn’t have a grocery store to go to? How many of us would be able to grow our own food, or have the tools necessary to survive?
My mom is one of eight kids, and each of the kids in the family had like six to eight kids each, so I’ve got tons and tons of first cousins. When I was growing up, every year we have a big family reunion. Sometimes it’s every other year, and it’s so much fun. We usually go out where there’s a lot of property and everybody brings tents and we tent camp for three days. It’s a blast. Somebody usually sets up a slip and slide, and every single night we have a big Dutch oven cook off where we compete on who has the best Dutch oven recipe. We even do a talent show. Then, different family members will share different survival tips, gardening tips, or other skills like that with the rest of the family.
So ever since I was little, like three years old, I’ve been learning all these different skills. Like how to grow herbs in your backyard that can reduce a fever or reduce a toothache, or how to build an oven out of bricks if you had to cook something without electricity. Or grow a backyard vegetable garden, and how to plant trees that you can eat from. So that’s where this passion inside of me for prepping has always come from. I always laugh when I talk about it because I think it’s kind of funny. I think a lot of people think preppers are crazy people, but I don’t think I’m crazy! Like I said, I just think it’s important just to have these skill sets. Is the world really going to come to an end or something like that? Probably not. But if there is, I want to be prepared!
My Dream Garden
I’ve had this idea to build my dream garden for a while. Last year I built it. I built a 1400 square foot garden up in White Bird, Idaho. It was beautiful. I had like 11 fruit trees, every vegetable you could imagine, and it had a big deer fence around it. The flaw in my planning and thinking was that I built that at my boyfriend’s house at the time. And then we ended up breaking up after being together for like two and a half years. So lesson learned, never build your dream garden in somebody else’s backyard. Which is a pretty good metaphor for relationships in general!
This year I started from scratch and I built my dream garden at my own house, in my own backyard. I’m documenting the process because this is the only time we’ll be able to show how I’m doing it. Start to finish. I’m built raised beds and planted my fruit trees. Eventually I want to have a chicken coop. However, my HOA doesn’t allow chickens right now. Even though I could probably secretly put them in, I know there’s some people in our neighborhood that do, I’d probably get caught because my account is so public. I’m going to try to petition for it, but that’s probably a next year project. I eventually want to build a greenhouse, too. Someday!
The Benefits of Gardening
Some of you might be thinking that gardening sounds awful! So I just wanted to talk about some of the benefits of gardening, at least for me.
Gardening for the Kids
My kids are really good eaters and I really do believe wholeheartedly that part of the reason is because they grew up in the garden with me. I didn’t really know what I was doing. It was just kind of trial and error. I started with a 10×10 garden. My husband at the time didn’t really want me to do a giant garden in case I hated it, but I tried it and I loved it. So I expanded it to a 10×20 garden, and then expanded to another 10×20 garden. I had two big gardens, put in tons of fruit trees and then, unfortunately, we went through a divorce and moved back to Idaho, so I didn’t get to really see the fruits of those fruit trees because fruit trees take about three to five years to produce.
My kids will try any vegetable, and I think part of it is because they had so much fun gardening when they were kids. They still like putting a seed in the ground, watering it, watching it come up, and being curious about the process. And proud that they planted that seed. They would want to know what their seed would taste like, and loved to watch it grow. We also had fun experimenting. You go to a grocery store and you have whatever vegetables they have there, but if you grow your own food, you can experiment. Last year I had purple Cherokee tomatoes, and stripey tomatoes, and all kinds of cool things that you would never see in a grocery store.
You Know Where Your Food Comes From
The other benefit is that you know what’s in your food. I try to stick to all organic gardening, and I know exactly where my seats came from. This year I’m going to attempt to save my own seeds so that I don’t have to buy new seed packs every year. That way you have them year after year because you saved them from the plants the year before. You’re basically eating food from the same family as the year before, so you know you’re getting really good quality food.
As a side note on keeping seeds, you want to make sure that you’re getting heirloom seeds because if you get hybrid seeds, they won’t reproduce the next year. So you always want to get heirloom.
So it’s way cheaper to grow your own food. However, it’s not cheaper the first year. This year I’m planning it as a pretty big investment because I had to buy the wood to build the raised beds, which you can plant straight into the ground, which is cheaper. It’s just a little more annoying because you get more weeds. You have to buy the soil, you have to buy the seeds, etc. This year I bought six fruit trees for the backyard. So it’s definitely more of an investment the first year. But then every year after that, it’s a cost savings. I mean, how much do we spend on produce every month? For me it’s a lot because my kids love fruit. And so to just be able to go into the backyard and pick your fruit is amazing. This year I have a pear tree, a nectarine tree, a peach tree, and plum tree in my backyard. I even got a cot-n-candy aprium, which is a crossbreed between an apricot and a plum, and it’s supposed to be a really sweet like cotton candy. I have two cherry trees, an apricot tree, and two apple trees. So it’s going to be this amazing oasis in my backyard. I can’t wait!
I know it sounds a little out there, but just having the skill set is so important in case the zombie apocalypse happens, or something crazy in politics happens! I know it sounds silly, but I just like having the assurance that I can take care of myself and my kids. For instance, if something crazy happens and I can’t go to the store and get Tylenol, I know the herbs that can reduce a fever, and I have them in my backyard. I have things like yarrow, calendula, and garlic, which is one of the most amazing herbs that you can grow because it does so many things. I could go on and on, but I think just having that knowledge is important.
Exercise and Mental Health
When I planted the trees in my yard, my back and my shoulders were so sore. If you hate working out, you can go out into the garden and get your exercise for the day. It really is a great workout. Especially when you’re planting, that’s a lot of work. Plus, you get outside, you get vitamin D, and it can do wonders for your mental health. Not everybody is this way, where being outside and working your body gives you a mental health boost. But for me, it brings me so much joy and so much happiness. I woke up this morning, made my cup of coffee, walked outside and I was just smiling ear to ear. I looked at my little fruit trees and envisioned what it’s going to look like when they are grown. When I walk out and I hear the birds chirping and I see my plants growing, I feel so good and at peace. There’s just something about planting a little seed and tending to it and nurturing it and watching it grow. That makes my heart happy.
How to Get Started with Gardening
So how do you actually get started? I know it can be intimidating, but just start small. Not only will that make it easier, but I think that’s important in case you end up hating it. I started with a 10×10 garden in the ground, so it wasn’t super expensive. I mean, the soil in Texas has a lot of clay so I had to kind of amend by digging some compost into the soil to make it more usable.
What I do is I visit my local nurseries pretty often, and I ask them questions. I know not all nurseries are the same, but ours holds free classes for the public where they teach literally everything you would need to know everything about growing berries, pruning, planting fruit trees, building backyard garden, starting seeds, etc. I mean everything you could imagine, they have classes on it. I tried to go to as many of those as I could and took a ton of notes. One time I asked if they’d do a Facebook live of one of the classes because I knew I couldn’t attend, and they did!
Also, just know you’re probably going to screw up your first year. This year, even though I’m filming what I’m doing, I don’t totally know what I’m doing because I’ve never built a raised bed before. I’ve always done my garden in the ground, but I’m just starting. I’m just doing it and learning along the way. Remember to take notes. I have a little expandable file folder where I keep track of what I planted and when I planted it and how it did every year. That way, the next year I can refer back to those notes. You learn more every single year.
If you don’t have the space, you can do so many things in containers. When we lived in Washington DC, I lived in an apartment so I went to the dollar store and I bought sand pails, like the ones you take to the ocean, because pots can be expensive. I got on some little pebbles, put them in the bottom, drilled some holes so they could drain the water, and that’s how I grew things. It wasn’t a massive amount of vegetables, but I was learning. I was just trying to figure it out. And so I grew a little container garden.
Also, using YouTube tutorials is a great tip. YouTube is sometimes a little tricky because you want to find somebody who grows in a same similar climate is you. If I’m growing in Idaho and I’m watching someone who grows in southern Alabama, the techniques will be different. The general stuff is still really helpful, but if you can find somebody who’s in the same climate as you, that will be really beneficial.
When I lived in Texas, one of the local churches had space where they had a sort of community garden. There was one gal there that was a master gardener and she kind of ran it. She was volunteering in the church soup kitchen and realized they never had fresh vegetables. So she asked if she could turn some extra space into a big garden. So you could come and volunteer in the garden. It was the most beautiful, amazing garden in Beaumont, Texas. It was called The Giving Field. It was cool because I would go and volunteer and learn about gardening while also helping them. So everything she did, I just did in my own garden at the same time and even used the same organic fertilizers. I planted at the same time. I watered the same way. I just learned so much. In fact, there’s still things I learned there that I want to do in my own house someday. Like she taught me how to collect rainwater and then use that to water your garden.
I could go on and on about some of the cool things they did there, so yeah, get involved.
I don’t know if every state has this, but I know for sure Texas had it and I know Idaho has it, but they are called extension agents. Whatever county you live in, just look up “extension agents” and there’s a person assigned to every county that knows the soil, what typically grows well, and knows the conditions. Oftentimes you can bring soil samples in, or if you have a fungus on a plant, you can bring a branch or a leaf or something and they will diagnose it for you and tell you had to fix it. These are people are paid by the state and they are there for you to use. They’ll sometimes even make house calls depending on where you live. So that’s a cool trick that I didn’t know until the last couple of years.
Just Another Passion
I just wanted to share this with you because, if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll probably see my gardening stuff because I love it and I’m finally starting my dream garden in my own backyard. I almost pivoted my business and went in this direction because I love it so much. I still think down the road I’ll definitely be doing something around prepping or gardening. It’s not the time right now because I would have had to completely pivot from what I’m doing and a 180 like that is kind of hard to do. So who knows, right now I’m doing business building and fitness stuff, but down the road you may see me switch more towards prepper stuff!
Maybe I can write some eBooks giving step by step instructions. I think we could do courses. I mean there’s so many cool things! But again, I have to tell myself all the time to stay focused on the one thing Natalie!
I hope that was helpful. If you guys have questions, go ahead and post them on my social media. I’d love to hear what kind of questions do you guys have around this topic. I’d love to know if it’s of any interest to you, or if it’s totally boring. Let me know all of your feedback.
Talk to you soon!
P.S. I also talk about this on my podcast, so if you’d like to listen you can do so HERE!
Here is a link to my gardening highlights on Instagram
Here is a link to my YouTube video on Tomatoes
Here is a link to my YouTube video on my previous dream garden