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Forums and Facebook groups are littered with the same fundamental questions asked over and over again, but they often get incomplete, conflicting, or even dangerous answers. Then we’d read a blog where they did some quick googling and cranked out a post just to get some traffic. Or we’d have to dig through crazy propaganda and extreme political opinions in the hopes of finding a right answer. It drove us mad — we just wanted the facts and straightforward answers!
So a nuclear war would be bad, but how likely is it? Well, not as likely as it could be. This isn’t 1983; the Cold War is over. On the other hand, it could come back. Russia is smarting from the treatment we gave them during the Clinton era, and they’re steadily rebuilding their military. Russia’s nuclear forces are the most powerful on Earth, and President Putin probably has the starch to use them if he thinks it’s necessary. Putin is also pushing hard to rebuild Russia’s influence in eastern Europe, and there are several places where a small border skirmish could grow into a confrontation between Russian and NATO troops. If that happens, nuclear war is back on the table.
Bogwalker, a Washington state native with a degree in ecological agriculture who built much of the compound with her own two hands, says she considers herself much more of a homesteader than a prepper. Still, she says she’s seen many women who identify as preppers take her courses. “I think no matter where you are on the spectrum with your definition of prepper, a lot of the people, probably 65 percent of my students, are curious about the future,” Bogwalker says.
Keep in mind that Legacy didn’t necessarily intend to create a product only for vegetarians. It was designed as a base for people to add their own protein, salt, seasonings, and ingredients. Which means Legacy requires more “cooking” than many of the other options we looked at, to the point where some of our testers didn’t think it qualified as “emergency food.”
But mothers like Nygaard, Luther, and Bogwalker probably don’t need to a sociologist to remind them of that: They’re busy taking care of the kids, cooking, cleaning, running their own business, and doing their best to ensure that everyone around them has everything they need. It can be hard to draw the line between being a mom who is a survivalist and simply being a mom who lives her life with an eye to the future, but maybe that’s kind of the point: In giving traditional “women’s work” a name — like prepping or homesteading — they’re simply making that work more visible.
After three days eating very little vegetable matter, I was thrilled to dig into Thrive Life’s Tuscan Quinoa Bowl, which included a ratatouille-like sauté combining asparagus, zucchini, and diced tomatoes. The cooking process felt kind of like a science experiment— you fry dehydrated garlic bits in oil, then pour in the dehydrated vegetables and seasoning along with a cup of water—but the result actually tasted like something I might cook at home, minus the strangely firm consistency of the vegetables. The following night, I prepared a Chicken Cranberry Pot Pie, rolling out the dough for the pastry, cooking the filling in a slow cooker, and carefully sealing the pie with the prongs of a fork.

I think that one reason we focus on the big national disasters is that it’s somehow easier for some people to deal with something impersonal that affects everyone. If you focus on your own personal shtf situation, like your spouse dying and leaving you with a mortgage you can’t pay by yourself, it can be too emotionally difficult to clearly assess your preparedness and your needs. Far pleasanter to contemplate slaying dragons than the bear in your back yard.

One major upside of freeze-dried food is its convenience. Since all its water content has been removed—via a process that involves exposing food to subzero temperatures, while removing the resulting water vapor with a vacuum—it’s easier than canned goods to transport on the fly. To “cook” Wise Company’s six-grain Apple Cinnamon Cereal, you just boil three and a half cups of water, dump in the powdery contents of the bag (minus the oxygen absorber), and cover the pot for 12 to 15 minutes.
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