How I got into prepping – Deborah’s Bio

Posted on: August 2, 2015

I have a hard time talking about myself and what I have done with my life.  I feel I had a rather normal childhood growing up in Detroit with a brother and three sisters; my father worked two jobs and mom stayed home until I was ten.  School was always easy for me, I learned easily and quickly.  I recall most of my outdoor play time was spent alone, riding my bike, playing hopscotch, roller skating or going to the library to read.

By the time I was 12, I was 5’4” and reaching my full height early made me the tallest person in the class for years.  I was awkward and embarrassed, slouching to hide my height, isolating myself even more.  Then everyone grew up around me.

The very first time I thought ahead far enough to consider it prepping, was when I was 14.  I gathered bundles of spearmint that grew wild in the alley behind our house in Detroit.  I tied the bundles with string and hung them in the garage during the summer.  That winter I retrieved some to burn in the fireplace for the wonderful scent.  My father was astounded that I thought about that winter activity months before.

I started writing short stories when I was 13 as a way to do and be something exciting and have friends that I didn’t really have, and of course I felt I was the main character in any story, and did things I didn’t really know how to do.  When I was 14 I wrote a story called “G Stands for Goldsby” in which the main character, an 18 year old aspiring detective, traveled to the Florida Keys to investigate a possible insurance fraud.  To get to the bottom of the claim, she had to go scuba diving and do some shipwreck exploring.  In truth, I didn’t take up diving until I was in my 40’s and I’m much too claustrophobic to go into wrecks, but she/I had quite the adventure.

I wrote my first, full length novel, The Reef Roamer, in my mid-40’s as a means to have an exciting romantic encounter during the failure of my second marriage.


I was a Prepper, long before the term had any meaning.  At the tender age of 19, and a new bride living and working in Detroit, the area was to be hit with a late spring blizzard.  As the child of a police officer, I was very law-abiding and fully intended to heed the warnings to stay off the streets once the snow fell, so the work crews could clear the snow.  To do that though, I needed more than the two cans of soup in the cupboard.  I ventured to the grocery store and got caught up in the mob of shoppers who were also preparing to weather in.  It took longer to check out than it did for me to shop.  I vowed to never be caught that short of food ever again.

With the arrival of my first son two years later, I was suddenly responsible for this tiny person, and I took that job very seriously.  I never ran out of diapers or formula, never.  I had learned my lesson. Many people have heard of a Go-Bag or a Bug Out Bag, but the very first one for me was a diaper-bag.  It contained not only diapers and formula but also a change of clothes, toys, blankets, snacks, water and a book for me to read. Two and a half years after later, my second son was born.  Concerned for our well-being we moved out of Detroit to the country.  I was able to have chickens and a huge garden.  It was a new experience to have so much food growing fresh.  I got a book on canning and taught myself the basics.  The very first thing I made was  jam with strawberries fresh from the garden, and as I was ladling that first scoop into a jar, it spilled over the side and burned my thumb – badly.  I wrapped an ice cube around that throbbing digit and kept going.  The blister was the size of my thumb nail, and it was the last time I burned myself while canning.  I learn quickly. I canned, froze and sold quite a bit of produce that year, and we never again went hungry.


The following summer my parents came to visit and my mother was appalled at my living situation.  The house was an old farm house, but it was in good repair, freshly painted and clean, and I made sure the garden was freshly weeded. We lacked for nothing and were happy. Still, she commented that she raised me so I “wouldn’t have to do this” as she swept her arm around my pride and joy.  Initially I was crushed because I was doing “this” out of love for my family.  Mother always had a small garden, and I had a large one.  What I didn’t know at the time, was she was forced to tend the dozens of chickens her father raised, and she hated it.  I loved it.  I reveled in the knowledge that I was providing healthy food for my children with my own two hands.  In the five years we lived there, my parents never came back.

Fast forward many years to a time when those young tykes were now young teens and I had remarried.  We now lived in the center of the small town we had been on the outskirts of.  Although I had a garden, it was not nearly as big as the one on the farm, and there were no chickens allowed, but I still provided healthy food for the four of us, and I expanded my knowledge of canning.  My preparedness never faltered; I never had less than two months of food available for us.

I neglected most of my own personal needs and desires in favor of raising my sons well, and being a good wife.  After the boys left home to be on their own, as all children are meant to do, I once again took up writing as a way to fulfill some of my emptiness, and only partially succeeded.  I grew restless.  New horizons and a new life called to me.

I moved to the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to start over.  A new, efficient house set in the center of one hundred and sixty acres of land, powered only by four large solar panels, a wood burning furnace in the walk out basement, a new wood burning cookstove in the kitchen and a real icebox, totally off-grid: I had found home.

All that land gave me the room to do anything.  My garden grew to 100’ x 150’, protected only by a solar charged electric fence.  I had a few mishaps, though it produced enough to keep us fed.  After the first very harsh winter that I was mentally unprepared for, I realized that chickens would not fare well in my new setting.  They would have to wait.

That first summer we worked long hours to finish the house that had only been closed in the previous fall.  A bare stud interior delighted the cats though that didn’t last long. We wired, did plumbing, and hung drywall.  He taped and mudded the drywall seams and I sanded.  Then I did the trim work and laid the tile carpeting.  By November we had moved in all of the furniture we had in storage.  We took days off from the house to cut fire wood.  Lots and lots of fire wood.  I still have no idea how I knew to do some of the things I did, but by the end of October, I had stored enough kindling to supply both the wood stove and the wood furnace.  Winter was coming.

The first winter was a true learning experience.  Although we had shelves in the basement for food storage, and a month or so of food, I had not considered that I wouldn’t be able to resupply easily.  When the snow hit, we parked one vehicle out at the main road.  We were over a mile into the woods and it would be impossible to plow that distance.  We had one, old snowmobile that I didn’t know how to drive, so I would snow shoe out to the car, pulling a sled.  I learned that a full sled was very heavy to pull over a mile.  From that time on, my pantry was full by November, with enough to last us eight months, while I could still drive the supplies in.  Grocery shopping after that was simple fresh vegetables or meat, or just a reason to get out of the woods.

Cooking on the wood stove came easily to me, as I love to cook.  I had to adjust my timing a great deal and nothing was instant.  I will go into detail later, but suffice to say I reveled in the new method.  One of the activities I clung to during the winter, was writing magazine articles on off grid living, cooking and storage.  It quickly became a satisfying refuge for me.  Not only writing though, I also sewed on my treadle sewing machine, did embroidery, along with basic knitting and crocheting, and … I cooked.  I set up menus for weeks in advance, trying new recipes cut from culinary periodicals.  I would try something new, change it, adjust it to our taste until it became my own. I experimented with baking, creating new and unusual breads.  I kept a notebook on everything I tried and rated it.  Somethings became favorites, others were never made again.

The second summer I took a weekend class on mushroom foraging, which I still whenever the season is right.  I bought books on wild edibles, and to this day, supplement my food with wild cattail flowers, ramps, fiddle-heads and of course, a variety of mushrooms.  I even dabbled in growing mushrooms on logs; what fun that was.

Having paid cash for everything, the land, the house and everything it took to finish it, so we could remain debt-free, the money ran out a year later and I went back to work.  The work was summer seasonal and trying to keep up with work, the garden and the canning exhausted me.  I would physically and mentally recover over the winter, but after several years it became increasingly difficult:  it’s impossible to have a goal that takes two when only one is committed to it.

When Y2K happened, I doubled the stock in the pantry.  He was furious that I would even think something would happen and I was just as angry that he didn’t.

We lasted seven years.


After selling the house in the woods, I reinvested my share in a smaller house, on ten wooded acres, outside of the same small town. He left, I stayed, his loss.

I kept my wood cookstove and it heats my house all winter, providing me with a ready cooking surface and a hot oven to bake.  I still have to store just as much wood, about fourteen face cord and I do it by myself in the spring so it can cure and dry all summer.  I also don’t want to worry about my winter wood supply while I’m busy working, gardening and canning.  Priorities have to be set and abided by.  If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  Having a plan without a goal is senseless; having a goal without a plan is worthless.

My garden is now 25’x85’ and is protected with a high fence topped with a grid electric charger.  It’s easy to maintain, even with my busy summer work schedule, and provides me with enough food to eat fresh, can for storage and to share with my family.  My pantry is still filled by November first and has increased over the years.  A good Prepper never admits to how much they have stored, but I could last a very long time without shopping. It’s actually a relief to be able to stock up on what I feel is necessary without someone questioning or criticizing my every move.

Attached to the big barn I had built is the chicken coop, with a dozen well fed and happy chickens. Finally.  They provide eggs daily, and meat occasionally.  The rooster insures I have fertile eggs to incubate to perpetuate the flock.

I lived the life and I still do.

I have reconnected with my artistic side and do water color painting now.  And with five new novels, my writing has become a dream come true.


6 thoughts on “How I got into prepping – Deborah’s Bio

  1. Your life and mine are mirrors of each other…except I live off-grid on the side of a in North East Tennessee. I have been living about 90% self-sufficient for several years. I grow a large garden, have milk goats, chickens, ducks (although the hawks like them as much as I do), pigs, rabbits and a donkey. And like you, I am a one person homestead…at least as far as the work goes. My daughter helps as much as she can even though she is in a wheelchair. For the next year I will continue to drive 1.5 hours each way from home to work full time. I am planning on retiring at 60 to live full time on the homestead. Thank you for the great advice in your books. A lot of the stuff I already knew since I live the lifestyle…but, little things like storing seeds in water bottles are invaluable information and could literally save someones life. If you are ever in Tennessee, come on by, sit for awhile on the front porch, enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery and enjoy a glass of sweet tea at my homestead.

  2. I finished Cracked Earth and almost finished Ash Fall in one day! Amazing, story, love Allexa! Such a strong, smart resourceful woman. I am wondering why you haven’t written a book on prepping? It’s something I have not ever really considered, living in the suburbs of Toronto, but now I want to learn more. It’s just me in a small 2 bedroom apartment, on a fixed income, so I wouldn’t even know where to start. I do know I should have more food on hand as I have a disability and can’t always get out. Could you point me to a resource for my situation? Preppers for dummies or beginners, lol.

  3. Deborah,
    I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying reading your books. I have just discovered you and have spent many late, late nights reading. What an inspiration you are and the wealth of knowledge you have to share is amazing. Thank you for sharing your talent and experience with the world.

  4. thank you for the compliment, Ronald. I’m sure she will come around in time. And there’s nothing wrong with being a girly girl! I like that too!

  5. My new wife is a prepper to an extent. She wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth but likes being a girly girl just fine. I wish I could have met someone like you to share my life with. My fiancée is teachable, I just need patience. She is overall a wonderful person and we will make it work. Great information in your life’s story.

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