Just a young family with a passion...
Hi, I'm Nick Meissner, an entrepreneur, father of two precious children, homesteader, and married to the most wonderful and beautiful woman in the world, Lisa. We are having the time of our lives setting up our homestead in a little rustic cabin deep in the mountains of North Idaho. We hope you enjoy and are benefited by us sharing the experiences we go through while setting up and living on a homestead.
My background is in construction, but in the late '90s my family exited the "rat race" for a simpler lifestyle that is less dependent upon the "systems". We didn't know much about all these things, but we did what we could to educate ourselves through books and learning from acquaintances and then applied what we had learned. Through the experiences of setting up and living this lifestyle, we gained a great deal of OJT (on the job training) and we also enrolled in the school of hard knocks for a while.
I have been living off the grid in the mountains since 1999, and what an experience it has been! Starting out, life was fairly primitive (by American standards) with a mostly non-electric lifestyle and unfinished house, but we accepted these as part of our quest to shun debt like a plague and home is not made happier by having sheet rock on the walls. Home is where love and the Lord dwell with ones family. As time went on, we gradually set up a nice off grid power system and added more conveniences to our homestead, until now you wouldn't know we are off the grid unless you saw our solar panels.
When I was a young girl my parents decided to make the move out of the city into the country. My love for this kind of lifestyle was birthed during those years in the country and my limited exposure during my Senior year of high school when I attended an Academy that was ‘off the grid’. After high school I chose to pursue an education in health. I learned practical skills like massage and lifestyle counseling. Later I had the opportunity to study and train under physicians at several lifestyle centers and expanded my knowledge by teaching massage, hydrotherapy, health, etc in the US and abroad. Now my life is filled to the brim with two active, precious children, homesteading, gardening, and assisting my wonderful husband with our business.
What is Sustainable Preparedness?
In today's America, virtually everyone is dependent upon "the system" for most if not all basic necessities of life (water, food, heat, etc). One critical kingpin is electricity. No power, no water from the well. No power, no heat from most heaters other than wood stoves. No power, no refining or pumping of fuel. No fuel, no transportation. No transportation, no food or other non-local items. And it goes downhill from there. If a nearby natural or man made catastrophe disrupts transportation and prevent trucks from running to your area, this spells "disaster" even if you were not directly impacted by the disaster itself.
Thanks to this all-encompassing dependence that most Americans suffer from, conventional short-term preparedness is certainly a step in the right direction. But it is only a step. You are still only a consumer, dependent upon numerous pieces of infrastructure. The only thing setting you apart is your limited supply of certain important items. But what happens when you run out? This is the problem. What happens when you are down to a few days of food and your neighbor pleads for food to feed his starving children? You are not in a position to be part of the solution for anyone else. At best, you can provide basic essentials to your family for a limited period of time. After that, you become part of the problem.
This is why we advocate sustainable preparedness. You are now a producer rather than simply a consumer who stocked up. You can now produce your basic necessities for an extended period of time. And more than this, you are now in a position to be part of the solution for more than just your family. That is sustainable preparedness! Being in a position to grow and preserve your own food, set up a water system that will continue to function without utilities, have a renewable source of heat that will reliably keep your home warm without having to purchase fuel. These are matters that would have been a "given" in yester-year's America. It would have been common sense. Today these simple but important things have become uncommon sense. We are simply trying to reclaim the birthright of noble independence handed down to us from our forefathers.
Who is Interested in Sustainable Preparedness?
We see people from all walks of life, from all age groups, and all demographics getting into this. Probably the largest group would be families with younger children. 15 years ago, preparedness was something that was not very mainstream. It was often considered a little "fringe". But that has completely changed now, and I am very thankful. The proverbial ostrich is slowly pulling its head out of the sand and recognizing that we face some serious issues and that "prepared" is not a dirty word! Why has this happened? I attribute it to the increase of natural and man-made disasters, amazing economic instability, and political instability as well. People are beginning to realize that the government has no duty to provide for us, even during disasters. In reality, that is completely outside the legitimate realm of duties devolving upon our government. And even if you think they have a responsibility to provide for you, a quick look at the numerous failed disaster responses of the last decade should be sufficient to make reality set in. If you want to be sure your family is provided for, you have to see to it yourself!
A century ago, people would have laughed us out of town for talking about "sustainable preparedness". That's because what we advocate was the everyday lifestyle for most people back then. They weren't running down to Wal-Mart every 2 or 3 days! Water, food, and heat were basic necessities everyone made sure they were able to supply and they certainly weren't looking to the government to take care of them.
Then by the 1990's, we would have been scoffed out of town because no one lived this way unless they were "weird".
Now, no one is laughing, except TV programs cashing in on the general interest by producing ridiculous programs like "Doomsday Preppers" that makes preparedness look like something done only by strange creatures from outer space. But that is good old capitalism, you gotta love it :-).
What should people be prepared to give up in order to live this lifestyle?
My theory is to make sure I can provide for my basic necessities, but I have no philosophical objections to taking advantage of the benefits that come from modern conveniences. I just make it a point to not become dependent upon those conveniences. Even though we live in a fairly remote location, we maintain a normal standard of living. As an example, we have electricity and use virtually any appliance we need, but we produce the power ourselves from the sun. What do I suggest people should be willing to give up? The fast paced "rat race" lifestyle that so many are suffering under. The disconnected family life so many are dealing with. They should be prepared to give up virtual reality and enter the world of real reality, where we learn to deal with problems ourselves rather than picking up the phone and calling an "expert" to deal with it. These are all lessons one learns when embracing a sustainable preparedness lifestyle.
What about Electricity
The important thing to focus on is basic necessities of life: water, food, and shelter (heat). As long as you can obtain water without electricity, there really is not any pressing need for it. We live off the grid and thoroughly enjoy it, but water is usually the only reason why someone MUST have electricity. Food may be grown and propagated using hand tools, and a good wood stove uses no electricity. But most depend upon power in order to pump water from their well. We teach people how to set up a water system that can function without electricity. Then, if you have power, that's great! If you don't, you can still make it. So don't feel overwhelmed by renewable energy. If you get to the point of wanting to learn more about it, we'll be glad to share with you how simple it really can be. Some people have the misconception that renewable energy is very complicated, but it doesn't have to be. For more information about Renewable Energy, you can visit our Blog!
Do you practice 'Food Storage' with Sustainable Preparedness?
Yes, we do practice food storage. Even in a completely sustainable setup, you still have to put up enough food to get you through the winter until the next harvest season. A few things may be harvested almost year-round, but much will need to be preserved using either dehydrating, pressure canning, water bath canning, pickling, or fresh storage in a root cellar or equivalent. It is always a good idea to have a year's supply on hand, after all, severe weather can dramatically impact your garden.
Does this happen overnight? No! It takes time to build up to that level of food storage, as it is much like becoming your own grocery store at home. That is the title of one of our seminars given at different locations, "The Year Round Home Grocery Store".
My wife and I just got married and are starting our new home on a limited budget. We are steadily building up our ‘Home Grocery’. That is the key to sustainable preparedness--one step at a time. "Inch by inch, anything's a cinch".
Those who focus on short term conventional preparedness or urban preparedness often make food storage a major issue. We make it a major issue as well, but here is the difference. The typical urban or short term preparedness person buys a bunch of already preserved food (or perhaps preserves their own) and then stashes it away for a rainy day. They often continue living off of food from the grocery store. When some sort of disaster strikes, they have what they have (as long as it hasn't spoiled) and that's it! Our food storage program is a continually revolving shelf; we treat food storage as a part of everyday life. So what you would find at our home is a well stocked, much used pantry. When Lisa gets ready to order something, she doesn't run to the store and buy a small quantity of it, but rather buys it in bulk. That keeps our pantry full where we have a year's supply of food on an ongoing basis -- and cuts down on the overall cost! So how much food do we have? Its difficult to quantify our ‘food storage’ because it is not just a bunch of buckets stashed away.
Gardens…We have had bountiful gardens in the past, but we just started our home this spring/summer (2012), so with very limited time our garden was small our first year, but a good start. We intend to greatly expand and improve it next year. Thankfully, our first year we benefited from family and friend's gardens and also some gleaning which enabled us to do a bunch of canning and some dehydrating of fruits in particular. Foods we store are a number of grains & beans (wheat, oats, pintos, black beans, lentils, etc), fruits (peaches, applesauce, cherries, plums, etc), tomatoes, olive oil, nuts, honey (although we do plan to get into bee keeping soon) and especially things difficult or impossible to grow or produce here (lemon juice, salt, etc). We eat a lot of beans, so we may have a higher proportion of beans than others, but that is where it is important to tailor the food storage to your family's needs.
Grow, preserve, eat. Grow, preserve, eat. Certain items might not grow well in this area or take too much space to grow, or perhaps we had a bad crop or didn't grow enough. We will buy these items in bulk and preserve them, but then use them all through that year while periodically resupplying so that the stock doesn't get too low.
I can't stress enough the importance of making your food storage program a part of your everyday meal planning. This enables you to do it a little at a time on a budget and you also don't end up with the huge stash of old food that tastes awful, no one wants to eat, and is destined to simply go bad and be thrown out. So because of this approach, even though we just got married and are starting a home from scratch on a budget, we have been able to implement a viable food storage program that is very usable, because it consists of the foods we eat, and as we eat, we replace it. Are there aspects we plan on improving? Absolutely! But that is the essence of sustainable preparedness--doing what you can now, and then improving as you are able. One step at a time.
What is the single largest threat we face?
I think the single largest danger we face is our own state of utter dependence. This will come back to bite us with a vengeance if we don't remedy the problem ASAP. We can hurt ourselves far more than any outside dangers. I don't mean to dismiss the potential outside threats, because they are certainly there, but our first order of business is taking care of at least the basic necessities of life on the home front.
How do people get started and what's the biggest investment going to be?
The best way to get started is to first do your homework and to begin learning what the issues are and what to do about it. There is a lot of good material available on this subject. We published a book called Sustainable Preparedness in which we try to give the big picture along with enough detail to get started. But the key is to not get overwhelmed by the immensity of the task before us. It has taken us a century to become this dependent and we aren't going to get out of it overnight. Make a list. Start working on the things you can do right now. Check the items off your list as you complete them. Start with short-term preparedness like some food storage, water storage, warm sleeping bags, etc.
Then step up to the next level. Learn how to can and dehydrate food and start doing that on a small scale. Start growing a garden, even if you have to grow in pots on your apartment balcony. Learn about sprouting. Purchase a water filter. Become more energy efficient by turning off appliances that are not being used and choosing efficient appliances (a good preparation for going off grid). Start searching yard sales and flea markets for good hand tools or other items that will be useful. Anything you can do or learn will help.
Living this lifestyle requires some elbow room, it's not something that can be done in town. Yes, urban preparedness is a hot topic, but it is not and can never be truly sustainable. That goes without mentioning the many vulnerabilities that come with living in a densely populated area. So the largest investment in a sustainable preparedness lifestyle is usually the homestead itself. For many on a tight budget, this means getting very creative to try and make the finances work. That is the situation we are in, being a young newly married couple of less than one year.
We are leasing a rural rustic cabin that required a lot of work to make it suitable, but it provides a good "Lilly pad" for us to be as prepared as possible while we save our coins to buy land and build a simple cabin and homestead. But even while at this temporary place, we have been able to implement many things to make our home quite sustainably prepared. We produce our power from the sun, we heat our home, heat our water, and cook and bake our food with the wood cook stove. We cut the wood with our chainsaw and have a crosscut saw as a backup. We started a garden and plan to greatly expand it each year. We practice food preservation and storage. Our water source is a well, with an efficient DC submersible pump that is powered from our renewable energy system. (if we were going to stay here long term we would install a hand pump as a backup). So this is something you implement a step at a time. But don't get overwhelmed and don't give up. Just keep plugging away at it and checking off items on your list. Before you know it, you'll be in a much better position than you are right now!
What about the religious dimension to preparedness?
There is certainly a religious dimension to preparedness for many people in America today, particularly Christians. Although many people see many different things coming in the future, it certainly is apparent to us that most see really hard times ahead. Prophecies of the Bible point to cataclysmic natural disasters ahead. In addition, world powers are predicted to manipulate the earth's population through restricting the ability to buy or sell. But even more fundamental than that, I believe, is the principle taught in the Bible on ones responsibility to provide for his/her own needs and not to depend on the government or other entities. There is also the responsibility to practice charity to others who are less fortunate during hard times and the fact that God warned us of these coming events so we can prepare to share.
One last thing...
One other item I want to mention is that sustainable preparedness is tremendously beneficial to those of us who are not made of money! We have been able to cut so many expenses so far down that it really doesn't take much money to live. When you eliminate your power bill, water bill, garbage bill, greatly reduce or eliminate your grocery bill, get rid of your heating bill, and take care of any health care needs at home (as much as possible)...you can see how affordable it is. Like anything else, the challenge is setting up. But with a lot of hard work, I believe that virtually anyone can do some variation of this, if they desire it enough. After working with many many people from all walks of life, the common denominator among those who are successful with sustainable preparedness is the determination to do everything one can do and then not get discouraged about the rest. That is where faith comes in.