“So what are these for, again…exactly?” asked The Farm Girl, her voice trailing off in what might have been an effort to conceal her amusement.
“They’re for, uh, you know.”
Her face told me she didn’t know. We were looking at two big square containers, each about three feet across and four feet tall, made of thick white plastic. They were encased in a metal-ish grid structure, kind of a French-fries-basket-meets-livestock-fence affair. The containers, called “IBC totes,” were setting on the back lawn.
“We’ll set them up behind the garage with the other one,” I explained, gesturing. “And we’ll divert rainwater off the roof to fill them. When they’re all three full, we’ll have around nine hundred gallons of water.”
“In case we have a dry summer,” I explained. It was still May then, back when we hadn’t had rain for over a month.
“Or in case we have a dry summer any year,” I added. “Or in case anything happens to our well and we need water in the interim. Or in case there’s a bad storm that knocks out power and we can’t run our well pump. Or in case the you-know-what hits the fan. Or in case we’re ever on the show Doomsday Preppers, we don’t want to get dinged on points because we didn’t have enough water stored.”
She gave me that look that said she wasn’t sure if I was kidding or not. She’s lived with us long enough to know we’re preppers. Well, sort of. We don’t have a stash of assault weapons, and we don’t have a bunker buried out in the Back Sixty. We’re not those kind of preppers.
We’re preppers in the way that everybody was when I was growing up in rural Maine. People back then put food up for winter, and set aside a little something for a rainy day. Always mindful of the possibility of a job loss or illness or hurricane, country folks kept enough food and supplies on hand to tide them over whatever happened.
We’re the kind of preppers that don’t wait until the weatherman says a blizzard is imminent to decide we need to own a snow shovel. We aren’t among the throngs of people emptying store shelves of batteries and canned pasta and bottled water when a tropical storm is bearing down on us.
I don’t rule out the idea of something drastic occurring. Considering the state of global weather, water, economics, and politics, it would be naïve to assume that life as we know it will remain stable forever.
I’m not the only one who thinks that way. It is remarkable how many people are concerned about the future of our planet and of our society—for myriad reasons ranging from environmental ruin to military invasion to natural disasters to economic collapse to the book of Revelation.
Being uneasy about what the future holds is what defines a prepper. In fact, it’s almost the identifying code that helps us ferret out others like ourselves.
I usually toss the code phrase into the conversation when I’m giving a tour of my place, with its IBC totes and vegetables and canned goods and woodpiles and working animals. I like to tell people why I do what I do, and how I like the idea of being independent enough to know that if disaster strikes I won’t be waiting helplessly for some top-heavy entity to bail me out. I like knowing that I’m minimizing my use of fossil fuels and reducing my vulnerability to market whims by burning wood. I embrace the idea of growing my own food so I don’t have to worry about genetically modified organisms or the rising cost of lettuce from the west coast.
And then I say it.
“And you never know what might happen in the future.” Head tilted, voice a little hushed.
The people that nod excitedly and reply, “Oh, I know!” and then go on to tell me the things they’re doing to prepare for uncertain times? Preppers. They’re everywhere. All ages, all socioeconomic backgrounds, all education levels, and a wide range of prepping priorities.
The focus around my place is on being as directly responsible for our own sustenance and shelter as we can. In that effort, we are part prepper and part homesteader, so I put the two words together and started calling myself a “prepsteader.”
I’m pretty sure that if my grandparents were alive today, they could be described as prepsteaders too, and I’m proud to keep such admirable company. And if IBC totes had been around when my grandparents were, I bet they would have had some behind their garage too. Because, you know. You just never know what might happen in the future.