Hiya! My name is Sandy, and I don’t have a bunker full of foodstuffs or the super-cool armory of doom. What I do have is freckles. *smile*
One day, as I was sitting at my desk in my nice little office, clitty clacking away at the computer, I realized I didn't have a single outdoor hobby. And I wanted to change that, just to put a little color in my otherwise nerdy-pale skin. And because I look cute in freckles!
A conversation with our building custodian led to him becoming my fishing mentor - I hadn't fished since I was a little kid and my big brother would dissect the fish for me. This time, I wanted to know how to go from the Wal-Mart tackle aisle to fish on the table. My new fishing buddy taught me how to catch little sunfish, and my, are they tasty all fried and buttered!
James became not only my mentor for fishing, but for other "creature catching" activities. He took me to the gun range for the first time, and taught me safe gun handling. We started talking about going squirrel and deer hunting one day, and he politely asked that I take a Hunter Safety Class before going out in the woods with him. Ha! I did, promptly, and discovered that he had already taught me the safety basics for firearms, but that there was always more to learn.
It started out with a desire to catch my own food (fish). And maybe hunt, if it wasn't too hard to shoot a live animal. But I got to thinking about other types of food. I had a little backyard garden by then, just 2" by 6" where I grew tomatoes and pretty flowers. I started looking around, and wondering if the flora near me was edible. I checked out a great local edible wild plants book from the library, and would go for walks with my friends and pick mulberries and milkweed. It was fun! I was getting outside; bringing home some tasty treats and, most importantly, getting these cute freckles!
That first trip to the library led to another, and I picked up my first "survival manual". They come in all shapes and sizes for the uber-bunker type to the layperson like me. It talked about keeping an Altoids tin of useful things with you, like fishing hooks (cause I can fish now!) and matches. And sugar, tea and Gatorade. I started carrying around a little kit which came in handy mostly for the occasional need to duct tape something and for the band aids at work.
After trekking around the woods with James for several weekends looking for squirrel (and not a nary one to be found, wily little creatures!), it was finally deer season. I wasn't sure I could actually shoot a deer, but there's really only one way to find out for sure.
We get up onto the familiar mountain, leave our vehicle and start out in the pre-dawn hour, trying to find a quiet spot to lay up and quietly watch for some deer without getting in the way of another hunter (there's only so much public hunting land, and a lot of hunters on opening day!). We find our little spot and snuggle in... and then we wait. A few hours. Not a deer in sight either (who knew so many woodland creatures were so wily?). Alas. But then James turns to me and asks if I'm carrying around my little kit... I say, "Of course, I always do." (especially when in the woods, that's part of the point of having one), and he asks if I have any sugar. Of course, but why? Well, it turns out James is an insulin-dependent diabetic and was having a major low blood sugar moment. He had forgotten to bring any sugary snacks with him, and was quickly progressing into an emergency. I tossed him half a chocolate bar to start, and used my kit for the first time to actually start a fire and make sugar tea (the kit is actually inside of a heat-able mess tin).
In those moments, I was incredibly grateful that I had listened to the hunting safety instructor and my library books and brought a little kit of "usefuls" with me. James wouldn't have died on the spot or anything, but I surely wasn't strong enough to carry him back to the car, nor could I have driven his stick shift truck down the hill (yeah, I still need to learn how to drive a manual!). And I may or may not have found another hunter to help in time. But with a little chocolate and a little hot tea, he was well enough to leave the mountain.
I had never heard of preppers or survivalists. I just knew that I wanted an outdoor hobby or two to get some sunshine on my cheeks, and that bringing home food was just really neat. I started collecting a few more books about hunting, then about edible wild plants, then about medicinal uses of the same plants, and before you know it, I had a mini-library of useful books. And while I dearly love my books, they don't do you any good on a shelf - they do you good when you go out there and DO something with them. Try it! Start easy, find a local fruit-picking farm for strawberries or blueberries or pumpkins. How? Every town has a farmer's market (Google!); ask them. You'll have so much fun out with your family, out on a date or out solo - just picking berries and stuffing yourself with them on the spot (you're allowed!). When you get home, you can put them in cereal, on desserts or in the freezer for later. It's just fun knowing you brought them home yourself.
And that can be the extend of it. But if, like me, you had a great time, expand that thought to other outdoor activities. Learn how to fish. Or grow a tomato. It's addicting. It's fun. It gives you freckles.
And for me, before I knew it, my hobbies had become something more than just a hobby. They are a way of life. I see opportunities to learn useful skills (like driving a manual or learning how to can my mutant tomato harvest) and am inspired to take the time to learn them both because they're enjoyable (Figure 8s in a Wal-Mart parking lot, here I come!) and because they're smart, and they might help in an emergency. It's very satisfying to know you are more prepared for an emergency than you were before, and it feels safe and even comforting to know you can make a meal from the outdoors around you. Prepping isn’t about underground bunkers – it’s about taking care of yourself, your family and your friends when they need you.
Give it a try - go exploring. Get a little sunshine!
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