Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Homesteader, Prepper, or Survivalist?

If you pay real close attention you can sense that a change is slowly occurring. There is a gradual but massive shift taking place. One side of this shift is very encouraging the other is equally discouraging. There are people who have never questioned anything starting to look around and actually see the world the way it is and yet there are still others that are falling further asleep. I get questions almost every week on a variety of subjects ranging from solar power to digging a well to food storage. I love these questions. They mean someone is working toward being more responsible for themselves and their families. 


For some reason we all have a need to label everyone, including ourselves. I think some of it has to do with the image we want to portray and some of it is where we live. I prefer to be called a homesteader with prepping tendencies. A friend of mine prefers prepper with homesteading tendencies and I also know a few survivalists.

We are going to talk about each one. The images that the general public have of each and what each looks more like in reality. Then you can decide which you are. You might just be surprised. But first I want to cover some terms that you will hear a lot when talking to anyone who considers themselves a homesteader, prepper, or survivalist. 

Self Reliance, Self Sufficiency, and Self Sustainability

The following are my definitions. You may find that they differ somewhat from the ones in the dictionary or they may be very similar. I am not even going to look. I just want you to think about the point I am trying to get across.

Self Reliance: the ability to take care of yourself and your family with what you have on hand. Your food and water storage all are taken into consideration in evaluating your self reliance. Self reliance can be measured by a length of time for example we may have 5 days of food self reliance. This would mean that for 5 days we would not have to acquire any additional food at all. Again self reliance is measured in time.

Self Sufficiency: the ability to produce everything you need to survive. Self sufficiency is normally measured in a percentage. If we have a well and a way to get that water no matter whether we have power or not we could be 100% self sufficient when it comes to water. If you produce 40% of the food your family eats you would be 40% self sufficient. True self sufficiency is all but impossible for a person, family, or even an extended family to attain. Why? Well let's just use this example. I can sew. Yup, I know not normal but hey, I can. Am I great at it? Nope, but I can do it. However in order for me to sew anything I need fabric, threat, needles, and scissors. Even if I grew my own cotton, I do not have a way to card and spin that cotton into thread. Once the cotton is made into thread it will have to be loomed into fabric and then dyed. That is far enough. Get the picture? 

Self Sustainable: the ability to trade with surplus for anything a person cannot produce. A person who is self sustainable my be a specialist or a generalist, but has the ability to trade or barter for all of the other items and/or services that are needed. 

There are some major differences between those terms, but many people use them interchangeably. 

What Comes to Mind

There is a saying that I have heard a lot lately. Perception is reality. I know this is not really true, but it is the way we as people look at the world. Once we believe something is the truth it takes overwhelming evidence to the contrary to change our mind. Some people are easier to convince than others. For a little bit we are going to talk about what the general public see in their mind when we say homesteader, prepper, and survivalist.

Homesteader: When the general public hears the word homesteader what do you think comes to mind. I have asked several people and the answer depends on where the person is from. An urbanite normally thinks of Little House on the Prairie. People envision folks working the land, not having much, and overall having a hard life. Friendly people but by today's standards a bit backward.

Prepper:  To the general public a Prepper could almost be synonymous with a hoarder. They see those of us who prep as people who take resources that we don't need. Many even see Preppers as a threat to the long term survival of society. Why? It is because in many people's minds if someone buys more of something today there could be less of it tomorrow. This is not true but some how in their minds it makes sense.

There is another component of public perception when it comes to preppers, paranoia. This image has been fed by television show and quite honestly by some of our own people. I think many preppers have their "go to" disaster. The one that they think about most, maybe it is the one they have learned the most about and are more comfortable talking about. When talking to a non prepper I avoid these topics: EMP (electro magnetic pulse), nuclear war, dirty bombs, super volcano eruption, CME (cronal mass ejection), and I even avoid economic collapse. I cover most of these topics briefly in my post Don't Fear the Reaper. I will talk about any of them if someone else brings them up first, but I am not going to start those conversations. Those are some of the topics that the general public think are crazy talk.

Survivalist: This is the one that has the most negative view as far as the public is concerned. As far as the average person is concerned, a survivalist is a person that relies on skills to get them by, those skills could include hunting, foraging, theft, and things like that. I have talked to several people that think a survivalist is a person that if you have something they want they will take it. This image is partially because of many who claim to be survivalists are what I would call pseudo military. These are a mix of former military people with trust issues and what many would call mall ninjas. Mall ninjas are people, mostly guys, who play at being military trained. They dress the part but very rarely have any real skills. They use their persona to intimidate people.

The funny thing about survivalists is that television has actually somewhat improved their public perception. Shows like Survivor Man, Man vs Wild, Dual Survival, and many more have shown that being a survivalist is more about knowledge and skills than predatory actions.  Being a survivalist is also more about being solitary or part of a very small group.

Wrapping Up Public Perception

So if we were to try to summarize what the public thinks about these different labels I think you would almost all agree with the following:

Homesteaders: Falling somewhere between being romanticized and considered uncultured or a little backward maybe even a bit odd.

Preppers: Paranoid conspiracy theorists, hoarders of food and supplies, with a tendency toward grouping together and possible violence.

Survivalists: Loners who will take what they need, but for the most part want to avoid contact with other people. 

The Truth

There will always be violent people, but for the most part each of these groups are filled with peaceful people who are making their way in the world the best way they know how. There are predators out there. But nearly all of the preppers and survivalists I know are not those people. There can be differences in motivation, but that is about it. 

The Best of Them All

I believe that if you truly want to be self sustainable you will strive to have a balance of traits from all three of these categories. Each one is about providing for yourself and your family or group. The only difference is the method each uses. Not only that but I believe they all lead to one another.

Part of being prepared is the act of buying supplies when they are abundant and storing them for times when they may not be as available. This, in my mind, is just being responsible for yourself and your family. But if you are looking for true long term sustainability you will eventually come to the point that you realize you will have to start growing at least part of your own food. 

Homesteading also leads to prepping. As a homesteader preserving your harvest is a big time concern. Canning and dehydrating is a must. It didn't take us long to realize that we couldn't produce everything we wanted to eat so we slowly started storing those items. Sugar, salt, certain spices, and flour just made sense. If we didn't want to or couldn't make it to the store we should have what we needed here. 

Homesteading leads to survival-ism. Part of the allure, if you will, of homesteading is a desire for a more natural and holistic life. Hunting and learning to forage just came natural. Knowing what plants can be eaten or used for medicine is the hallmark of a survivalist. I love being able to go hunting or fishing and munch on the trail as I go. I love the skills, so many of the skills transfer. 

You see all three of these are very closely related. Remember I said that you sense a change occurring? In many ways these three are becoming one. I think this is a great thing. So if you really have to label me you could call me a.....Homesteprepperist and I am proud to be one.

What do you think? What label do you choose? I would like to know.

Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes

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