July 19, 2024

I do not belong to an organized and/or trained Mutual Assistance Group (MAG), but I might have a structure that may be just as good. That is, I have neighbors who are skilled and resilient. These neighbors might not be ready to survive a nuclear apocalypse but their lifestyle gives them an edge over many others when it comes to surviving the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI).

Who are these neighbors? Like any community, our little neighborhood is made up of all types of people. The main thing in common is, the vast majority have some type of ability to grow and/or raise their own food. Some might have a backyard flock of chickens, another may have goats and a garden while others might have a full-fledged dairy farm. My neighbors have many skills, and many make a living off those skills. A while back, I went to an auction at an Amish farm, and out by the mailbox were signs advertising the corn brooms, cider pressing, and maple syrup that the owners offered. You can see many of my neighbors working on repairing tractors or perhaps an old 1990s pick-up truck. Our neighbors are young, old, and everything in between. But all can bring something to the table when SHTF. So how do I prepare with these non-prepper neighbors?

We used to be the newcomers, now we are not. We moved to our Bug Out Location (BOL) in the Summer of 2019 to live full-time. We had owned our BOL for four years before moving. I cannot tell you how blessed we were to have wonderful neighbors who helped us learn new things about raising cows, raising pigs, raising chickens, giving us advice on our orchard, and pointing us in the right direction to various local businesses or people who could otherwise provide goods and services that we needed to get our homestead operating.

Helping us locate local businesses might seem trivial but many of these businesses were Amish and not found by searching the internet. For example, I broke the wood pitman arm on my sickle bar mower. Due to weather, I really needed to get the hay cut. I talked to my neighbor and he gave me the name and address to an Amish farmer about a mile away that had sickle bar mower parts. When I got to the address there was a sign for a green house and Amish made sheds but nothing indicating sickle bar mower parts. I was greeted by an older Amish fellow and told him that my neighbor sent me over — that he might have a pitman arm for my mower.

The Amish man led me over to the barn and opened a door to a room than was about 6 feet wide by about 12 feet deep and filled with sickle bar mower parts on the left and right side plus up on the ceiling where he quickly found the part I needed. Our neighbors also helped us find inexpensive hay-making equipment and even helped make repairs to that equipment. They were also always there when we had a “spontaneous neighborhood rodeo” (cow outside the pasture fence). Sadly, these neighbors recently moved and we got new neighbors.

Although we lost one set of great neighbors we actually gained two sets of great new neighbors since the old neighbors owned two homes. Both the new neighbors are very young couples in their twenties. One couple are Mennonite and the other Amish.

What I have learned is that “young” Amish and Mennonites are very much like non-Amish/Mennonite young, in that they do not necessarily have the knowledge base as an older adult with 50 years or so of life experience. Case in point, the National Weather Service issued a freeze warning the other night, that required us to cover our fruit trees that had blossoms. I saw the Mennonite neighbors had covered a tree in their yard. In the morning we all took down our frost protection coverings only to be surprised by another freeze warning for the next night. As my wife and I were recovering our trees when the young Mennonite neighbor asked if there was another chance for a freeze. We told her “yes” and she said she was not sure if they needed to cover her Apple tree or not. We were not covering our Apple trees since they had not yet blossomed. I asked the neighbor if her Apple tree had blossomed, and she said “no”, so we told her she did not need to. She replied that “we don’t know any of this, we have never owned Apple trees before.”

I was talking with my young Amish neighbor who explained he was moving the garden into the backyard and allowing the old garden area to go back to pasture for his horses. He wanted to know if I had a bottom plow to turn over the grass in his yard (the idea was they would have to use a push mower to mow the large backyard so making it a garden would save time/effort). I do not have a bottom plow so he got a family member to come over and plow the grass under. My Amish neighbor asked if I could rototill that area and I said: “Sure”. My young Mennonite neighbor has just started a business and works repairing tractors at night after his parts store closes. I was over picking up some parts so I could use my new “Quick Hitch” (I really like it too!!) and offered to rototill his garden space as well (I did not think they had a rototiller) he said he didn’t know. I left it at that.

I went over and rototilled my Amish neighbors’ garden and no sooner than I was done when several Amish ladies started planting. I checked my phone and I had a voicemail from my Mennonite neighbor saying that he would appreciate it if I could rototill his garden as well. I started that garden and before I was even done his wife and kids were out planting. The next day I got a call from one of my old neighbor’s brothers asking if I could rototill his garden. No problem, while I was driving over I was flagged down by another neighbor, who I did not know at the time, who asked if I was “for hire”. We talked and I agreed to do his garden plot as well.

I charged none of my neighbors for rototilling. Why? First, I think it is the neighborly thing to do. Second, I want to encourage all of my neighbors to grow some of their own food. Three, the more food grown in and around our neighborhood, the safer my family is since those immediately around us will not be looking towards us for their next meals. Four, I wanted to be an example to the younger neighbors about being neighborly. Five, as I had written in an earlier Survivalblog article, I wanted to get to know more of my neighbors this year, who knew all it took was a rototiller.

As I mentioned earlier, there was an auction at one of the nearby Amish farms. These Amish Farm auctions are multi-faceted events. It is a sale, a fundraiser (the proceeds from the lunch stand and baked goods go to medical bills of local Amish families), it is a social event to talk with old neighbors and even meet new neighbors. I saw my new young Amish neighbors at the auction and I told the husband that it they bought something they could not carry back on their buggies (they took two) they could use my truck, but we might have to make two trips due to my purchase quickly filling the truck up. As it was, there was room left for two items that would not fit on their buggies, a rolling fold-a-way bed frame and a stainless steel tank. We loaded the truck and took off towards home.

I was with a good friend, who is also a prepper, and we stopped at the Amish neighbor’s house and offloaded their bed and tank. We waited to make sure we put the items where they wanted them. My neighbors showed up about five minutes later and we talked and my neighbor asked me what he owed me for hauling the items back. I told him I was a little insulted, I did not go out of my way at all. I told him that if he ever wanted to go with me to town or some other place he and his wife were welcome to go. If they had an emergency let me know. I try to let the neighbors know when and where I’m going into town a few days before I go. I was headed to the hardware store the other day and stopped by to see if my neighbor needed anything and he asked me to pick up a garden hose. No problem. My Amish neighbor told me that if I ever need help with anything to let him know. This relationship is not a formal prepper MAG but works for me and my Amish neighbor.

Also at the auction there were 6 one-gallon glass jars with metal lids. I had been wanting one to make my own sun tea. I figured the jars would go for a dollar or two so I waited as the bids for choice on the table went down. The wife of my new Amish neighbor, was looking at the same jars. To our surprise, someone bid $3 and took all the jars. As this couple is young and recently married they are trying to put together a home. The wife said she really wanted those jars to store things like sugar, salt, and flour. I made a few phone calls and was blessed with finding 6 jars for free. I kept two and gave the other four of them as a housewarming gift to my neighbors who were thrilled with the gift. I said I would try to get more but the glass jars are being replaced by plastic containers now. Again, I want my neighbor to have a well-stocked pantry, so getting these jars helps.

There has been a lot written about how to meet other Preppers. Meeting other Preppers is a worthy pursuit but I think, as Preppers, we need to concentrate on meeting our neighbors first and foremost. A fellow Prepper an hour drives time away is not the same as a neighbor who is a minute away. Disasters are “come as you are” events. That is, when the disaster happens who you are, with all your knowledge, skills, abilities and relationships is what you are going to have to respond to the disaster. What you have is also set once the disaster happens. A neighbor has a vested interest in seeing the community stay safe and secure. Someone bugging out to your area does not necessarily have the same skin in the game.

The other way we prepare as neighbors is by helping take care of each other’s livestock when we are out of town. We don’t charge because it is reciprocal although sometimes a fruit pie might be exchanged. We got some experience milking cows, which we would not have otherwise got.

I had a discussion with my young Amish neighbor about building a structure for my blacksmithing forge, anvil and tools. I took him into my pole barn and his eyes got wide as he looked at the various tools and items inside. I took him back to the workshop to show him some of the blacksmithing hand tools and his eyes got wide again as he looked at everything hanging off the peg-board. “This looks like a hardware store!” he exclaimed. “Yep, if you ever need something in a pinch, come over before you call a driver and go into town. I just ask that you reimburse me when I replace it” I responded.

As we looked through the various blacksmithing tools he asked if I was willing to sell a set of tongs. Since I had several sets I said “Sure”. About two weeks later he came back out and asked if I would be willing to sell him a brace and some auger bits. I told him it depends. We went back to the workshop where I had 3 braces and he picked one out. Then we started to look at auger bits. I still had a few in an old galvanized maple syrup bucket that I had picked up at an auction and he was looking through those I said I had more. He asked if he could look at them and I said “Sure” and pulled down two 4’ long sections of four-inch PVC pipe. I started to unscrew the end cap and he asked if those were full of auger bits. “Yep” I told him and explained that I would soak the rusty bits in white vinegar for a few days and then I would wipe them down and store them in the PVC tubes so they stayed rust free. He asked me if it was okay to tell other Amish that might be looking for older tools. Again, is said: “Sure”.

I recently purchased two calves from a neighbor who runs a dairy that also bottles their own milk. Unfortunately, I lost both. My neighbor felt bad and gave me a break on 2 new calves (who are doing great). When I went to give him the cash for the new calves I remember him saying he was low on .308 ammo that he uses to reduce crop damages from the deer so I took him over a box of shells and he was really happy.

So my neighbors may not be doomsday preppers but they live a rural lifestyle where the vast majority grow some food, with many having huge gardens and many also raising livestock for food. These neighbors repair and even build their own equipment for food production. Having Amish neighbors is a source of great knowledge about surviving day-to-day off-grid. Knowing our neighbors and their skills will be vital to our survival and vice versa. Having a good pre-established trusting relationship with our neighbors will also be vital to surviving our post-SHTF life. Do not stress about finding and vetting others preppers instead spend time investing in getting to know and cultivating relationships with your neighbors.