Prepare ... Don't Panic!

With so much bad news, catastrophic predictions, economic turbulence and political and global unrest coming at us from almost every possible angle, what’s a Farmgirl to do? DON’T PANIC, that’s what!!  In true Farmgirl spirit, preparation, as always, is the key. Let’s talk candidly about ways we can prepare for life’s possible speed bumps, and then meet whatever challenges confront us with confidence. Join Mountain Farmgirl Cathi Belcher as she prepares for an always uncertain future, and then relaxes … not afraid to let life just “Bring it ON!


Today is the Tomorrow We Worried About Yesterday

Howdy Farmgirls … how are things in your world? I’ve talked to more than a few people lately who have expressed concern over the future and what it might bring. As if the headlines in the papers or the top stories on the nightly news weren’t enough, we have movies like 2012, and predictions from the ancient Mayans to Nostradamus that would have us all believe that uncertain times – even end times—lie ahead, possibly within our lifetimes. This is nothing new, but as good a motivator as fear can be, it is not the most effective way of dealing with uncertainty. My husband, whose personality has always been much more ‘laid back’ and 'even' than mine, always reminds me that most things we worry about never actually happen.  Rather than wasting precious time and energy fretting about such things that may never come to pass, somehow it’s better to prepare for the worst, hope for the best and enjoy the gift of every moment of every day that we are given.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Don't waste your life in doubts and fears: spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour's duties will be the best preparation for the hours or ages that follow it.”  Wise words that I could do well to remember more often ... 

That being said, I might not be the absolute most perfect person to talk about this subject; after all, I went more than a bit off the deep end right before Y2K.  But then again, with such a perspective, being now much older and hopefully wiser, I might be just the very one to share some lessons learned -- as well as some skills we all need  for uncertain times!  For a bit of personal history on this subject, we need to go back to the year 1999. That year I read everything I could find about how the world was going to come crashing down around my ears as computers worldwide melted down at the dawn of the new century, bringing us all down with them. It’s embarrassing to remember the great lengths to which I went to ensure that my family and friends would survive the dark days which were about to come. 

During this time my church community seemed to belong to one of two distinct camps: those who felt that the whole idea of Y2K was ridiculous and went blindly and blissfully along with their lives completely ignoring it; and the rest (sadly, I admit belonging to this latter group) who felt that disaster was imminent. And so it was that at the 11th hour of 1999, I found myself in a real panic. Despite the perpetual voice of reason from my very rational husband, who kept trying to reassure me that the world would not come to a screeching halt, I was busily making preparations for the End Times, stocking up on food and water, seeds and supplies, even cashing in my IRA account. (Gee, did I really do that?).  I’m not proud of the fact that fear was my biggest motivator, but in my own defense, I had 4 precious little children at the time, all of whom I wanted to see safely  into adulthood. Much of what I did was perfectly in line with what any homesteading wife and mother would have done to keep her family safe in any potential emergency … even if some of it was definitely ‘over the top’!  (By the way, after Y2K, my wonderful husband never once said “I told you so” and the only reference he ever made to the dreaded IRA – the one I cashed in against his advice – was, “We all make mistakes sometimes”.  I’ve always loved him as much for what he said as for what he didn’t!).

‘Panics’ in and of themselves are nothing new; they have been happening all throughout history. I read a really interesting book about the subject once, called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. This book, written  back in 1841, covers everything from economic bubbles to witch hunts, from alchemists to foretelling the future… things that have lead people to panic and do extraordinarily bizarre things. Human emotions ---mostly our extreme insecurities – can cause us to act irrationally. One such panic that was addressed in the book that stands out in my mind was the ‘tulip madness’ which took place in the 1600s. It caused people to maniacally invest in the bulbs of these spring beauties at the cost of more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman! Tulip bulbs became more precious than gold or diamonds. Eventually the economic ‘bulb’ bubble burst and the extreme absurdity of the situation became obvious, but not without first destroying huge fortunes and the economic stability of the times. Ahhh… the strange things that we can convince ourselves are real. Whe studying about the Great Depression with my kids, I remember  reading somewhere about the banker JP Morgan whose cool, collected actions prevented a run on the bank when economic panic was very real and running rampant. Wanting to give the appearance that his bank was not filled with worthless paper money  but was actually backed by gold, he ordered armored cars to deliver trunk upon trunk of “gold” to his bank vaults for safekeeping, temporarily relieving the pressure of a bank run and giving shareholders and bank customers the confidence they desperately needed. Of course the trunks of ‘gold’ were actually filled with rocks, but the watching public did not know this and the panic of the crowds was averted; the bank did not go under. Panic is never a healthy emotion or a solution to real problems.

Whether  I look back on Y2K or look to the future of a tenuous world, I see things now from quite a different perspective. The ‘Henny Pennys’ like myself who convinced ourselves  that the sky was falling may have been wrong about the outcome, but we were prepared, unlike the ‘ostriches’ who had their head in the sands of denial, who would NOT have been if something bad  had actually happened. Neither denial nor fear is helpful in everyday life, but I believe that you can never go wrong by being prepared for the worst and hoping for the best. It is the saner ‘middle road’ I choose to walk down these days. As Farmgirls at heart, we are all in various stages of preparedness in the event that some manmade or natural disaster should strike in the future. A decade ago I lived on an off-the-grid homestead where we grew most of our own food; I also had a year’s supply of dried goods set aside for our family along with a ready supply of potable water. I heated and cooked with wood, and if the power had gone off, I would never have even noticed, let alone been inconvenienced by it! Today, sadly, I am not quite in the same place of security, but neither am I afraid.  As an innkeeper with a public to provide services for, interruption of either power , food or transportation would prove catastrophic for my business. In my personal life, my large gardens and orchards of New York State where I used to live have not yet been duplicated here in the mountains of New Hampshire, although they are currently a work in progress. While I do not feel as prepared today as I was a decade ago, I don’t look upon that with fear.  As a Farmgirl like all of you,  I am a survivor, and  have many skills from which to call upon in the event of an emergency.  While I continue to work toward a self-sufficient future, in the right-here-and-now (wherever that might be for each of us) there are many things we can all do to be prepared that do not take a fortune or a large amount of storage space and will give us real peace of mind.

In a nutshell, if you don’t have a well with a hand pump or a spring from which to get water, having some bottled water on hand is an important first place to start. As far as food is concerned, dried beans, nuts,  grains and fruits take up little room to store but will provide important calories and nutrition for your family. Salt and honey are also staples I keep on hand. Do not overlook the mighty little sprout!  Sprouted seeds are tiny powerhouses of nutrition, the vitamin content of which can increase by up to 20 times during the sprouting process. They have saved many a family from starvation in extreme circumstances, and I keep a lot of them on hand. Sprouts are a staple in my daily diet. Speaking of vitamins, keeping a current supply of those on hand is a good idea as well.




While I do not have room here today to go into a complete lesson in Family Preparedness, I would like to address that in more depth sometime  in the future because it is a subject in which I have a lot of experience and knowledge, not to mention passion. My main focus today, however, is to tell those who may be feeling insecure and afraid of what the future may bring, that worry doesn’t help.  There are many simple  things we can do to provide for our families in the case of an emergency, whether it be from a hurricane or something worse. But instead of fear, we need to cultivate our inner resources, skills and Farmgirl strengths that will help us through life, the good and the bad, no matter what each day brings. Farmgirls are role models when it comes to this, fusing form with function, living life as an art and approaching it with confidence, strength and back-to-our-roots know-how. I hope you will all share with us some of your thoughts, fears and hopes for dealing with life in uncertain times, and any hints you may have to share on how to keep fear and insecutrity at bay.  Of course,  as ALWAYS, trust in a loving God will always see us through anything that life can dish our way.

Until next time, Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from The Mountain Farmgirl

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” - Buddha



By: donna
On: 02/20/2011 21:42:06
I agree completely. I am trying to live more like my grandparents. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I am trying to grow more of my own food and think about how I would mannage if I could not get to a store or if I did not have electricity. Even if that never happens it is a very rewarding way to live. We take so much for granted and waste so much.
By: Tamara
On: 02/21/2011 07:08:01
I always keep this reminder in my mind:
F alse
E vidence
A ppearing
R eal
By: Marisa
On: 02/21/2011 07:13:43
I too am daily trying to become more independent and prepared, not out of fear but good stewardship. I live in an urban area, but try to do what I can to make our family more self-reliant - still have a long way to go, but I'm glad that 'preparedness' is becoming more accepted in mainstream media.
By: Sandy
On: 02/21/2011 08:38:56
Hello! What a wonderful submission this was! Thank you for helping to put everything into a workable perspective. Keep the insights coming... :)
By: Diane
On: 02/21/2011 09:37:25
Thank you for the words of hope. My DH is a prepper, stockpiling MRE's, guns and ammo. He is convinced that the economy is going to crash and there will be looting and violence. On the other hand, I am enjoying gardening, canning and baking bread. I am learning as many old-time skills as I can. I just want to be more self-sufficient and prepared. Prepared for the worse but with hope and faith in humanity.
By: Brigitte Farmgirl with a heart
On: 02/21/2011 12:23:05
I too almost burst out of my shell in 1999...I had water, money, but I knew that I wasn't ready for the worst...Just fews weeks ago, words on the internet sayed that a big store will vanish in a matter of weeks from Quebec, even big chances it will vanish from Canada! So I put away some important bills and run like a furry to buy what ever I know no other store like this one have on there shelves...How fool I felt...The store won't suppose to close before 2015! I think I have a lots to do before growing more mature and more reasonnable...Dont stop your good work Cathi...Many loves you, even in Canada!
By: Grace
On: 02/21/2011 13:20:09
I love your article. A friend of mine gave me the book you mentioned for Christmas and i just started reading it. I am working on becoming more self sufficient and teaching my kids to "not panic" (or at least know where their towel is) Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
By: Nan Roberts
On: 02/21/2011 13:40:28
This is nice. Very sensible. My Y2K prep was to be sure I had plenty of herbs in the garden, such as lavender and thyme (and a lot of others) to use medicinally, if necessary. But I also got the bright idea of planting soapwort in one of my raised beds. Though the flowers are pretty, double pink with a lovely scent, don't do it. They are more invasive than mint, at least in my coastal climate. I'd like to grow it again, but in pots. On concrete.
For these troubled times I'm planning a vegetable and herb garden in my new place on the Central Oregon Coast. A gardening challenge.
By: Catherine
On: 02/21/2011 14:26:45
Trusting in the Lord in all things is the best way to get through any crisis.
During Y2K, I kept asking people, even the pastor, if the Lord told them to prepare for a disaster. They said they hadn't but the church went ahead and prepared with barrels of beans and other stuff.
We never felt compelled to do anything about the situation. I am glad we listened to the Lord on this. He was silent and never gave us the go ahead with anything.
There were a lot of people left with tons of beans to eat. I think they are still eating on them!
Thank you for your great insights on life. You are my favorite farm girl to read. I feel such a bond with you.
By: nameTammy
On: 02/21/2011 15:37:19
I too was worried about Y2K so I began to stockpile food stuff, medicines, got 25 laying hens, a water well bucket to reach safe water,installed a wood stove and started cutting / burning wood, ect. So now so many years later I am thankful that I did do some research and learned to prepare for disasters. That said I have kept up with so many of those things I learned to do out of fear. And I am glad I did. We are more self sufficient and thankful. Great Article
By: Marsha Salzman
On: 02/21/2011 18:48:31
Thank you for your panic comments. I am glad I am not the only one who sees trouble out there. So many of us do not live on land that would sustain our families, that preparing for unhappy situations is really the only rational course to follow. So, I am reminded of a sign I saw recently, from England during WW II that simply said, "Remain calm, carry on." God bless us every one, and remember that even boy scouts know to be prepared.
By: MaryShannon
On: 02/21/2011 19:15:49
Wonderful words to scare away Fear. Thank all for writing these good words for us to carry on with.
By: KimberlyD
On: 02/21/2011 20:06:49
I been taught to have a 3 day emergency pack, for mostly it takes the government to get to you that long. And to have a 1 year supply of food, water, medicine (if possible). For you could be laid off and this will help or medical reason puts you out of work, or the price of food going up. Hence gardening and canning is a good idea if you can. But I agree I don't panic at today's headlines but I don't bury my head in the sand either.
I enjoy your blogs, thanks for writing them.
By: Elaine/TinkerVerve
On: 02/22/2011 16:00:15
I appreciate your encouragement in the area of preparedness. My husband and I are also trying to prepare for a difficult time ahead in a rational way...
By: Susan
On: 02/23/2011 16:48:43
I too have become more self reliant. Four years ago my husband, 4 children and I decided to start raising chickens for eggs and meat. It a has been a great learning experience for all of us. One evening as we were sitting down for dinner my husband and I realized that the entire dinner came from our property. It has open our eyes. Since then we are raising our own turkey and pig, planted fruit trees and fruit bushes. My garden has grown in size and in variety because I now think what I can dry and can food for the winter months. I am making more and more from scratch so we do not have to depend on grocery stores. My kids taste the difference and are requesting not to buy from the store. I agree that panic does not get you anywhere but being prepared is the way to be. Thank you for a wonderful submission.
By: Debbie
On: 02/24/2011 19:31:40
This is so important to remember not to panic. If we panic we will take all the joy out of living and learning how to be more self sufficient. It's a wonderful journey and I pray there is no need for " real" panic... but then again I do love to keep my rose colored glasses near by!
thanks for your wise words here Cathi!
Beach Blessings,
By: barb miller
On: 02/25/2011 05:05:11
Cathi, I appreciate this subject blog. After having just read an article about the mideast and the beginning of the end, my husband was laid off yesterday after 30 years at a company, and the world was looking pretty scary. Thank you so much for the reminder that fears often never come true.
By: Annie
On: 03/03/2011 12:05:11
I agree. I'm among those who expect civilization to collapse over the next decade, or at least head into a long decline from which we will not "recover". But unlike my husband, who is daily checking the prices of gold, silver and oil and following the news from the Mideast, I really pay little attention to that kind of thing, nor get excited by it. We have done what we can to prepare by moving to a ranch with a water supply and have been trying to raise our own food for a couple of years now. All we can do is keep on this path and hope for the best. Our focus now should be on creating joy in our lives, rather than hunkering down fearfully.

I'd love more articles on preparedness and self-sufficiency. Even when it's stuff I've already heard it's good to have a reminder. And I had not thought about sprouts as a source of nutrition - that's a good one to remember and plan for when we are stocking up on beans again. Nuts don't last long around here but I am reminded again that I really need to STORE more of these.
By: Marji
On: 03/07/2011 17:00:04
Thank you for your words of wisdom and humor. Self-sufficiency is something we should all strive for without the man-made perpetuated fears like the "end of the world" or the "collapse of society". I must admit I was a little concerned over Y2K only because I didn't want my car's computer to stop while I was driving to work at -20. But alas my fears were for not. I figure if we can just live each day with love, humility, charity and good hard work there won't be anytime left for the great deceiver of "fear of the unknown". I think that's what all farm girls strive for everyday as we put up our summer harvest, re-purpose an item for new life and keep our pantries stocked. Blessings to you and yours.
By: Ruth
On: 03/15/2011 18:58:23
Cathi, Like you, I too, prepared for Y2K with my sister in law. The one thing that I really remember from that was to only buy things YOU like, because I had stuff that I didn't particulary care for. I really enjoyed your article and agree that letting fear control you gets you nowhere positive. Keep your trust in God. He promises to take care of us, and also do what we can to prepare but not to go overboard. I learned some wonderful things from my grandmother when I was little about gathering fruits and canning, etc. Special memories but not realizing she was teaching me to take care of myself from the land. We also raise a garden and I can food. My husband is a hunter and we can deer meat also. Thank you for an informative and well written article. I look forward to more on this subject.
By: PJ
On: 07/04/2011 07:47:08
So many great comments from all ~ I'm glad that so many people are preparing for an economic downturn (even worse than the one in 2008, so I've heard). We don't have a lot of money saved but we have a big garden, lots of chickens and an alternate water supply (should the electricity fail to supply us). We recently downsized to a much smaller more affordable house on an 8 acre lot (lots of garden space) and we have a barn for animals as well as chicken coops so, hopefully, we can be more self-sufficient. My advice is to buy a few extra canned goods when you go grocery shopping. If you see a good sale on nonperishable items, get a few extra & put them in a box under your bed. You'll thank yourself if your grocery store closes down and you have to travel 25 miles to the nearest store. Use coupons and put the money that you saved in a safe place so it's there should someone lose their job or should you need it to fall back on ~ it mounts up quickly. Best of luck to all ~ enjoy this beautiful summer compliments of Mother Nature.

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

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“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir

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