Editor’s Note: Once in a while, my readers surprise me by sending something very personal and yet extremely helpful for others.
One of the e-mails that really made an impression was Susan’s. In it she shares not only her family’s story but a lifetime’s worth of survival experience and knowledge – all very telling for what’s to come.
I strongly believe that true stories as gripping and meaningful as hers do not reach as many people as they should. Here’s what she had to say:
“I will offer what my grandparents, who are my survivalist heroes, taught me. They were homesteaders in northern Manitoba and Alberta in Canada – one of the more inhospitable environments you could find anywhere!
And yet… they brought themselves and their families through some really terrible hardships, and today we are thriving thanks to their courage, faith, and incredible self-sacrificing fortitude.
What I learned from them first and foremost was to have the right attitude: faith and courage – faith that would get them through, no matter what, and the courage to meet any challenge and be strong enough to stand up to it.
Related: 10 Things Not To Do When The Next Great Depression Strikes
They were stoic beyond belief! Never complained about how hard life was. They took care of their families before even themselves, they were frugal and saved every single penny so their families would not only survive, but thrive.
They made sure their children had a good school education as well as many practical skills to provide for themselves and better their lives. They were creative and resilient.
My dad’s grandfather and his wife moved to Northern Manitoba from Ukraine in the early 1900s. They were one of only two settlers in that entire Northern region.
Wintertime temperatures were often -30 to -40 degrees and with the wind-chill could be -100 degrees. The first winter, since they came with almost nothing but a few simple tools, they dug a hole in the ground and lived in that. The earth and snow are an amazing insulator.
They had to clear a minimum of 10 acres of northern bush land covered in birch trees every year in order to maintain their land title. So they worked hard, harder than we can even imagine… Very hard labor but it strengthened their bodies.
They had no medical insurance and no medicine except their food. They foraged for wild berries and mushrooms, grew gardens and hunted. They ate as well as they could, wasted nothing, and stayed healthy.
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There was no room in their hearts or minds for disease to take hold of their bodies. They all lived a long time, well into their 90s.
My mother’s parents who homesteaded in Alberta had 5 years in a row of failed crops. There is only one very short growing season every year thee – just a few months – so for failed crops there are no second chances.
They hunted and fished when they could, but they had four children to feed and some years with the failure of the crops, and poor game resources due to drought.
My mom told me all they had for the entire family was a couple of dried chickens that had to last all winter with the berries they had picked and dried in the summer.
Related: 15 Strange Meals People Ate During The Great Depression
During the fifth year of this hardship, my grandfather committed suicide. According to his friends, this was not because he was sick or depressed, or would abandon his family, but just the opposite: because he knew his family could survive if my grandmother would receive a widower’s pension from the government.
They were self-sacrificing for their families, beyond anything we can imagine. Every winter they had to cut a pile of firewood that was several times the size of their log house in order to fuel their big iron stove for the winter.
Even after children had grown up and moved away, my grandmother continued to work hard growing and tending a 3-acre garden and preserving the produce for the winter.
She never had electricity or running water or plumbing, nor a car or truck, and lived on her homestead alone into her eighties.
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She did not drive and never learned to speak English.
She saved all of her money – every single penny she could – to leave to her children.
She actually had saved $100,000 by 1981 (the time of her passing), which my mom inherited. That was a lot of money even at that time.
My share of it when my mom passed away paid for my 4 years of tuition at acupuncture college, and gave me a debt-free start to my acupuncture practice.
My father’s parents (Gido and Baba, as we called them) moved from their Alberta homestead to the city of Edmonton, and my dad went to university and studied to become a doctor. He had to pay his own way through 5 years of university studies.
When he wasn’t studying or working to pay for his studies, he and his father constructed a beautifully-crafted, and very solid, 2-bedroom house with a garage, from scratch, one that my grandparents lived in until their transition from bodily to spiritual life. There was a huge garden that filled the entire backyard and they ate well from that.
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They paid for the house materials with income my grandfather earned working for the Canadian Pacific railway during the Depression years, and they built two very nice studio suites in the basement of their self-built home that they then rented for income. This also provided an income for my Baba, even after her husband passed away.
They were super talented and resourceful and actually did better through the Depression than most. Pretty good for a couple of homesteaders, one who was orphaned in Ukraine at the age of 12, speaking no English, coming by herself on a ship, and immigrating to Canada at the age of 16.
Though I did not inherit all the multiplicity of talents and skills my survivalist ancestors possessed, I did inherit their attitude: the ability to take on whatever comes, undaunted and courageous, stoic, creative and resourceful, respectful of life, family and nature.
Because of their hard work and many sacrifices, I have a good and successful life. I make everything I do count for something good, just like they taught me. By doing that, I honor their sacrifices and hopefully can inspire others.
I have learned the lessons of hard work, and am not afraid of hard physical labor, even in the heat of a Tucson summer. I have good health even at 63 years of age and do not rely on medicine of any kind, but only good food and the belief that anything can be healed because the body can heal without medicine; my spirit and a good attitude are enough.
Like my father, I am a doctor, but a doctor of Eastern medicine, and I utilize esoteric teachings about the spiritual/metaphysical laws that govern creation. That knowledge is worth its weight in gold. As beautiful as gold is, you cannot eat it or dig a hole with it or heal diseases or pain with it. I have learned to garden and love the plants that nourish me.
I did learn some basic fishing and hunting skills from my dad – from age 3 to 13 he took me with him camping, hunting and canoeing. I can hike a considerable distance with a pack for many days if needed.
Hopefully, I could take these rudimentary skills and, with the right attitude they taught me, hone them to overcome whatever may come, and inspire others to do the same.
I am deeply indebted for all they taught me, and feel concern for the younger generations of people around me, should our infrastructure and support systems collapse suddenly. I mostly worry for them because they do not have a good and respectful attitude towards life.
They cannot discern truth from lies. They are neither innately smart, nor well-educated in using abstract concepts, nor practical skills or even face to face communication, and social skills.
They use borrowed and internet-conditioned unoriginal thought and language, and do not express their own ideas, but ideas that are fed to them through communication and mind-numbing and dumbing internet control technology.
They know nothing about healing and health that is grounded in reality. They cannot discern danger. They seem like robotic automatons compared to the autonomous and independent, vibrant, strong, alive people my grandparents were. This situation does not bode well for their future.”
Thank you for the story about your family. We as preppers so much do appreciate the hard ship that your family and our family’s had to do, for the very reason of survival.
I want to say thank you for this time in your life. Sad but very Beautyful.
Good article; thumbs up for me…
My grandparents were born in South Georgia in the 1880’s. He was a doctor, so his bills were always paid in food. My little grandmother, who was raised as a southern belle, raised pigs and then produced the finest country hams in her smoke shed. They had a big garden and always had enough food. They were the only people in this small community with a refrigerator. Grandmother made all her clothes, and then my mother did as well. She taught my sister and me and we made all our own clothes. I admit that I always wanted store bought clothes as I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, but it was not to be. We were taught to garden and then process all the food, not that we wanted to, but again, no choice. They did a great job teaching us. Daddy was a doctor, but he was the gardener in the family, he grew one until he died in the 90’s. I am ready for whatever comes, can do a lot still in my 70’s, but my main reason is the youngsters, in their late 30’s can’t do anything but teach and nurse. I am doing all this to help them and the little ones. God is most important and guides everything for me.
Great Story… In contrast, born, raised and alive now, during the “Modern Era,” as the majority of us are, and benefitting from ALL that that encompasses… which is vast, we are clueless and unprepared, ill equipped in many respects, to handle, and to survive the forthcoming onslaught of tumultuous challenges we’ll be suddenly faced with. It’s “mind blowing” really… I am slowly, trying my best to get ready from a “natural” realm, if you will, perspective, not having a wealth of financial resources at present, to do ALL that I or any of us must do, to insure our survival. And that’s why, as a born again believer, as a person of deep faith in Almighty God… I, we (myself and my loved ones), will be relying HEAVILY, on the Lord’s divine, supernatural ❤ miraculous, provision and protection. He’s got our backs, he will guide and direct us daily… constantly. In HIM, nothing is impossible. He’s my, our… “doomsday” insurance policy!
You will need it more now than ever.
It’s called CHRISLAM. look this up ASAP.
My parents were raised during the Great Depression as well. Their parents had farms and my grandmothers were able to manage the little money that the farmers earned along with the foods that they grew.Both grandmothers both managed to raise large families on what they produced with less than 20 dairy cows and fifty acres.
Yes, heaven help us. The newer generation are soft and not filled with grit. I believe you do what you have to in order to survive and to live. Stop complaining and whining and get to work. I see each generation getting softer and softer. A lot of my younger neighbors just doordash every meal even- they can’t cook, let alone grow a garden. Some order groceries on Instacart or grocery delivery services and is a stay at home wife with kids grown and gone. The waste of money and waste of foods. No art of conversation anymore as people text each other even though they are sitting across the table-go figure?!
Dad grew up on a farm (Washington) during the depression, while they didn’t have a lot of money, they had enough food that they could sell a bit. Mom always found a bit of work with her mom, she had a gas powered washing machine and did the laundry for the hotel and restaurants in town (Idaho), moms dad worked for the railroad but couldn’t be relied on as he was a worthless drunk. Mom and dad made sure us kids could fix things, hunt, fish, grow a garden, can foods, sew and cook before we ever got to high school.
Thank you for sharing. My paternal grandparents too came from the Ukraine. My Gido worked for the railroad and built their house with old railroad ties. Baba always had a huge garden with flowers and many indoor plants. She crocheted and did needlepoint. My Dad always had a huge garden as well. Made kapusta (sauerkraut) every year, canned tomatoes, canned pepper, pickles, hot ketsup, root veggies in the root cellar in a huge barrel full of sand. Had carrots and potatoes all year. He did the garden by himself. It was a stress reliever from his day job. This was in Minnesota with a short growing season too. Love all the Ukrainian foods and miss the huge family gatherings we had at Baba and Gido’s every holiday.
To answer your question there are so many trolls that get up
early in the morning just so they can ridicule the daily article.
They hate everyone who is smarter than they are and they
really hate anyone who calls them out as idiots.
They change names frequently and apparently no one looks
at IP addresses. Then there is the freedom of speech gang
that say that any comment no matter how crazy or hateful is
Anyone that likes reading insanity without telling the trolls that
they are out of line is encouraging them.
I hate rudeness in a man.I won’t tolerate it.
What a hard, wonder life that family had. As have several who wrote comments. I grew up with a hard working mom and a dad who did as little as possible, especially after we 7 kids got big enough to help mom. Mom raised big gardens with which she filled the cave. Milked cows and sold cream. Raised chickens for eggs and meat. Neighbors often gave us orphan lambs and runt pigs. Pigs were eaten and lambs sold and bought school clothes. A lot of which were made by mom.
When my husband died I sold that farm so I could buy my siblings shares of this one. My son owns part of it as well. It had been rented for years so the fences are in need of replacement.
That takes time, money and bodies we do not have enough of. My son works more than full time and lives 6 hours away. One daughter lives about tge same but neither she nor her husband are in good health for hard work. My other daughter lives here on the farm. She tries to keep cattle in and does most of the animal care while working a more than full time job from home. My body is not in good shape for fence and other hard work. I do milk cows and butcher fowl.
Loved reading bits about my fellow man’s lives.
As I’ve stated in earlier posts, We cannot forget the importance of lessons from history.
I grew up hearing stories from my parents about there growing up during the depression and the Second World War, and I listened intently. That’s probably why I became a Public Historian and Museum Educator.
Excellent story, tragedy and all. Thank you so much for sharing.
Very enriching article indeed, love those stories that can be learned by. I heard stories from my mom & dad back in the 20’s thru the 40’s during WW II. It’s always best to go back to the “basics” of life to live it because you may never know when you will live it for the rest of your life. While everyone is looking towards progressive technology, the people really don’t know what they’re looking for while it is staring them right in their face. The Bible is the oldest book in existence with the Almighty God’s word of years, decades, and centuries to come. He guides us how to be good humans but know evil is there too. A watchful eye and a good ear can tell you which way the wind is blowing. All this convenient technology is good but it will not last forever. Bring back the old ways of farming, gardening, foraging, along with fishing & hunting, should be one of the basics in school. Your children and grandchildren will definitely need those skills.
Good share. Thanks