If you think carving out a sustainable homestead on only a few acres while raising your own groceries is impossible, you would be terribly wrong. Rick Austin, also known as the Survivalist Gardener, has done just that in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.
Rick Austin Shares His Wisdom
Rick Austin and his wife, best known as Survivor Jane, are not just surviving off their land, they’re thriving. Several years ago, the couple became keenly aware of the many potential disasters looming. They realized just how unsafe they would be if SHTF while they were still city dwellers.
Rick and Jane left their highly successful careers in the city and moved to a beautiful — and sustainable — patch of land in North Carolina. There, they began utilizing their gardening expertise to fully embrace the preparedness lifestyle.
Since then, the Survivalist Gardener Rick Austin has become a nationally renowned off grid living, homesteading, and preparedness expert.
Rick Austin: A Prolific Survivalist
Austin’s first book, Secret Garden of Survival-How to Grow a Camouflaged Food Forest, is now the #1 Best Selling book in Garden Design. His newest book, Secret Livestock of Survival – How to Raise the Very Best Choices for Retreat and Homestead Livestock, is destined to become a top-selling homesteading and prepping resource manual as well.
All of the Rick Austin books belong in your survival library. Each one offers an easy-to-read and highly detailed explanation on the focused topic. Both newbies and seasoned preppers will close the cover knowing they’ve learned important lessons they can put into practice to help their family survive a disaster and live a more natural and sustainable life on a daily basis.
The newest book from Rick Austin offers a complete livestock guide that preppers on a budget or living on only a small homestead can easily put into practice. That being said, survivalists living on a sizable plot of land will also greatly benefit from Austin’s words of wisdom and detailed steps.
Secret Livestock book excerpt:
“When most people think of raising homestead livestock, they invariably think that they must have chickens and a cow. But truth be told, when it comes to raising livestock, there are a lot of reasons to avoid raising chickens altogether, and almost every reason not to own a cow. The Secret Livestock of Survival, will show you how to grow your own sources of food (in this case — protein) with a much better return on your investment of time, money, feed, housing and real estate, than with traditional homestead thinking. And these livestock animals are discrete, so most people won’t even know you are raising them.”
What got you interested in prepping?
I have always been a Boy Scout and been always prepared. I grew up in New Hampshire, so I grew up with that New England Puritan work ethic where you are expected to take care of yourself. Growing up in New Hampshire, you learned to cook and heat with wood, because you could lose power for a week at a time in the winter due to snow and ice storms. At the same time, we would store our refrigerated food outside in the snow when we lost electricity for days at a time.
As an adult, I moved to Florida — the hurricane and lightning capital of the world. There you always had to be prepared for a storm, losing power — even losing your home. Nobody was going to save you — you had to save yourself.
What tips would you give to newbie preppers?
Stop being a consumer and start being a producer. Do something, grow something, raise something! Try something. Try DOING. Don’t just stock pile and buy food storage like so many preppers do. The time to learn to produce your own food is not when it is a matter of life or death for your family.
Even if you don’t have a homestead or property yet, you can start raising rabbits in an apartment or your garage. Should the SHTF, they can easily bug out with you.
Make the leap. The longer you wait, and the more you are stuck on the industrial food grid, the less money you will have later. Grocery food packaging is getting smaller, prices are getting higher, and the food is getting more poisonous with more and more toxic chemicals.
You need to stop being a slave to the system. If they control your food, then they control you. Being independent of the food grid will set you free.
How did your loved ones react to your desire to work in the survival field and become Rick Austin: Survival Gardener?
I have always been a “survivalist” before it was fashionable to be one — before they coined the term. My wife appreciated that I knew how to take care of the family in any disaster. When the housing market and stock market took a dive 10 years ago, crime became rampant. Orlando became the 6th most dangerous city in the country. We both retired early and left our corporate jobs to live off grid. We learned a lot the hard way. Unlike people 100 years ago, we didn’t grow up with living off grid.
Today, we teach other people how to live a sustainable lifestyle like we do through books, social media, podcasts, radio, television, and public speaking appearances. Today, we run the largest annual outdoor preparedness and homesteading event in the country, Prepper Camp.
Why did you become passionate about sharing your knowledge?
We look at it as our ministry to give back and to teach others. We get joy out of helping others become self-sufficient. It also helps the country and helps these people grow as individuals.
And of course, selfishly- the more people we teach to feed themselves now, the less unprepared people I will have to kill later after The End Of The World As We Know It – TEOTWAWKI.
What factors should a family consider when choosing where to live factor and put their preparedness plan into action?
I can’t get over how many people ask me how they can grow my camouflaged food forest in a place like Arizona. I have to ask, “Who can honestly consider themselves a ‘prepper’ and choose to live in a place without rainfall?”
Water is #1 most valuable resource. Without water, humans die in three days. Without water, you can’t grow crops. People who live in the desert import their water. If that gets shut off, you and your family are dead.
When we chose our last retreat — our final homestead destination, we could have moved anywhere in the world. Yet we chose the Appalachian Mountain region of the United States for lots of reasons.
In terms of specific attributes for choosing a homestead, south facing property for our solar home and growing a garden was important. South facing provides the most sunshine for energy, heat and growing food. We live on a mountain top for the view and security. High ground is always the best. It was important to find a location where there was adequate rainfall, climate, and a long distance from big population centers, to be out of the path of civil unrest.
What was also very important was the basic quality of the people who already lived in the area. The people here are basically good people. And they are for the most part self-sufficient.
I recommend that other people be strategic in their thinking — this is your life. Don’t be constrained by where you grew up or where your family/in-laws chose to live. Do what is right for you and your family as a survivalist.
What was your biggest prepping fail and what did you learn from it?
The garden growth has been incredible, more than I could have ever anticipated. The only thing I might do, if I had to do it over, would be to give more room to my perennial plants. You don’t realize that they will grow up and out to the point where they can shade out other plants.
Building on a mountain top has had its challenges. We sit on a slab of granite, which is fine for the home. But trying to put in a root cellar underground was difficult to do. We broke three backhoes trying to dig a hole 15-feet-deep and 12-feet-square to put our small underground little food storage area in.
What was the motivation for the Secret Livestock of Survival book?
After my Secret Garden of Survival book about my sustainable perennial food forest and my Secret Greenhouse of Survival book about my insulated sustainable attached greenhouse, protein production was the third leg of my food stool. Having sustainable sources of protein makes the whole sustainable/symbiotic homesteading food production come full circle. Not only do my sustainable livestock choices provide my family with protein — meat, eggs, milk, cheese, etc. — but my animals also give back to the garden and greenhouse from which they eat by providing the plants in my garden and greenhouse with natural fertilizer — poop!
What breed of goat do you and Survivor Jane have, and why?
We have Nigerian Dwarf Diary goats — not meat goats. They produce 1.5 gallons of milk per day from three small girls. They take little space, consume little food, and produce a lot of milk. And like my garden, greenhouse and my other livestock, they are discrete. They can hide in plain sight. Raising meat is best left for rabbits. I also raise meat from ducks and chickens, to some degree.
Basically, when you eat a small animal it is one meal and done, as opposed to big game or big livestock. With those, there is much more work to process and preserve the meat. Once you process a large animal, you have to store it. So, without refrigeration and a freezer, it could all go to waste. The last thing you want to consume is botulism in a grid down situation.
If you could go back and add one more bit of information to the book, what would it be?
In Secret Garden of Survival, I would show pictures as to what it looks like today. After six or seven years of growth, the trees are huge. They now produce huge amounts of food. Last year, we got over 1,000 peaches off of one tree — and I have several peach trees. But, I do show current day growth on my YouTube channel. That way, people can see the change and the volume of harvest on a very small piece of land.
What has changed since your last books?
Secret Livestock of Survival was released four years after my Secret Garden of Survival book. I had a lot more to share, and lots of tips and tricks that I would not have known without a lot of mistakes. In fact, it was hard to keep the livestock book short, because I had so much to tell.
My livestock book is my best book yet. I have included not only which animals are best to have on a sustainable homestead, but also how to care for them. I give people the most important information about each animal in the book. Therefore, I have kept people from having to buy about eight other books on each specific type of livestock. Plus, I put all my animal recommendations in order of ROI- Return on Investment, getting the most return for the least amount of input. So, if you only had to choose to raise one or two types of animals to start with, you could do so without having to use resources you may not have including time and money. That’s why I started my book with raising rabbits.
Have you heard of Rick Austin and his books? Let us know in the comments below!
Ready to take some of the advice from Rick Austin? Learn how to start with Planting for Preppers 101!
Storing the meat is pretty easy. I’m sure there are folks around him that still have a smokehouse and without smoke all you really need is salt and lower temps. That’s why traditionally we slaughter and kill in the fall. Once the meat has begun to age you just hang it somewhere and don’t have to worry so much about temp after that.