By the author of Be Ready for Anything and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted
I have always been a big fan of Martha Stewart. I know, sometimes she does stuff like gluing moss on lampshades which causes you to wonder if she ever uses that lamp and why it doesn’t catch fire, and rolling grapes in goose liver pate sounds like it won’t be on my bucket list, but let’s put those things aside for a moment and talk about how Martha is better prepared than just about anyone to survive the Zombie Apocalypse. And it’s not just because she’s rich.
Please note that, as always, I use the Zombie Apocalypse as a metaphor for any type of civil unrest, long-term disaster in which the unprepared are going to want what you’ve carefully stored, and events during which people eagerly await the government’s handouts to rescue them from their Darwinian fates.
But, let’s talk about Martha. I’ve always seen her as a mentor, even though I’ve never had the privilege of meeting her.
She understands the value of a home-cooked meal with every detail from scratch. She grows her own veggies and herbs, maintains orchards, and raises chickens. She can sew, bake, garden, and run a multi-billion dollar business. She’s survived some things that would have driven a lesser woman to her knees. Remember how a few weeks back when I talked about prepper friends, I said that some of them weren’t exactly preppers but would be fantastic neighbors and allies? One word for you: MARTHA.
Here are just a few of the reasons why I’m quite certain that Martha Stewart will survive anything the Zombie Apocalypse could throw at her.
She can cook anything, anywhere.
First of all, let me state that Martha Stewart taught me to cook. When I was a new bride, I seriously couldn’t cook at all except for homemade tomato soup and homemade marinara sauce. Anything beyond that was beyond my ability because I’d spent my single young adulthood traveling around, staying in extra rooms, and renting hotels by the week while I explored America and Canada.
One of my wedding gifts was a subscription to Martha Stewart Living magazine, and at the time, she had this recurring segment called Cooking 101. (By the way, you can get a year’s subscription to that magazine for only $5 – and it’s still AWESOME.)
Every month, I grimly set out to tackle the 101. I learned to make a perfect lemon roasted chicken, mouthwatering potato salad, pot roast with vegetables, Caesar salad, and the be all and end all of mashed potatoes. I learned how to easily peel a winter squash, make a perfect boiled egg, how to cook pasta al dente, how to care for and use my prized cast iron skillet, and how to make a crisp, fresh vegetable platter. All these things sound really easy, but if you don’t know how to do them, trust me, a step-by-step is required.
Of course, back in those flat-broke days of my early marriage, I wasn’t getting saffron strands to season my rice or capers and morels for a tasty spring meal, but I learned the basics and produced many perfect, simple meals with Martha’s help.
But it isn’t just in the kitchen where Martha is adept. She can host an outdoor crab dinner, make skillet bread, and cook over an open fire. Even Martha’s camping hot dogs are better than those of mere mortals. (Her website has a host of recipes to be made in your prized cast iron skillet over a campfire.) And if Martha’s stuck out in the woods without gourmet ingredients, don’t worry, she knows how to forage. Heck, even when she was in prison, she foraged greens outside to make her stay more pleasantly nourished.
She’s a top-notch homesteader.
Martha has many homes, but her favorite seems to be her farm in Bedford, New York. Okay, most of us would call it an estate, but to-may-to, to-mah-to.
On that farm, she raises an abundance of her own food. From a berry orchard and apple orchard to a vegetable garden and herb garden to an area that houses more than 200 chickens, Martha raises enough food to be very self-sufficient.
She stays pretty busy with her business enterprises and most of the day-to-day chores are done by people she has hired, but everything is completed to her exacting standards and she possesses the skills and knowledge to do it all.
However, when she wrote her best-selling book, Martha Stewart Gardening, back in the early 1990s, rumor has it she spent 12 hours a day outside researching and gardening hands-on so she could provide the best possible information.
Martha built an empire knowing a lot of stuff about a lot of topics.
Martha Stewart has written dozens of books, and they’re not all everyone’s cup of tea, but many of them are actually useful for the prepper or homesteader. Besides the aforementioned gardening book, she also has books she personally researched on sewing, homekeeping, baking, making handmade gifts and crafts, starting seeds, celebrating holidays, living a healthy life, organizing your home, hitting up yard sales, and a cooking school one that I could have really used back in my 20s. Heck, she’s even a sorceress who can actually fold fitted sheets and make them look as tidy as flat sheets do, instead of just stuffing them into a pillowcase like I do.
She even has a book on the rules of business, which leads me to believe she’d be one heck of a barterer in a post-collapse economy. My goal in life is to have a complete Martha library because I’m pretty sure I could do anything once I have it.
Before Martha built an empire being herself, she worked as a model, a stockbroker, a caterer with a million-dollar company, and was the food and entertainment editor for the New York Times. She’s a renaissance woman in every sense of the phrase. Seriously, you want Martha on your Zombie Apocalypse Survival Team.
Her business empire is worth several hundred million dollars now, but at its peak, the value exceeded 2 billion dollars. One thing is sure, Martha knows how to do business.
Martha’s a survivor.
She’s been through a lot. Some of it is typical stuff that happens to many of us, like her divorce in 1990. But she pulled up her socks and created an empire, publishing her beloved magazine, having a syndicated television show, creating a web presence, and developing a syndicated newspaper column.
In 2004, she hit some hard times that most of us will never experience. After a legal battle, she was sentenced to prison due to a stock trading scandal. She spent 5 months in federal prison, then 5 months monitored with an ankle bracelet, and 2 years under supervised release. During this time she estimates that she lost nearly one BILLION dollars. (See? Even rich people can have a financial disaster.)
It was hellish, and she doesn’t sugarcoat it, but she survived.
Stewart herself offered up details about her time in jail, candidly saying, “I did fall in one deep hole, for a period of about 10 months.”
Stewart, 73, had the audience laughing when she continued, “That deep hole was not a pleasant hole. And everybody tells you, ‘Oh, whatever happens to you, it will make you stronger, f*** them.”
“It’s so mean, that is the stupidest thing. It doesn’t make you better at all. It could ruin you,” she said of her stint a decade ago in West Virginia’s Alderson prison…
“Luckily, I have an extremely strong, healthy constitution, so my health never suffered,” she continued. “Health, optimism and that curiosity to see what shouldn’t happen, what you can overcome. So, I overcame a very difficult, nasty situation.”
…Stewart explained how she stayed optimistic during this time.
“Well, I wasn’t dying,” she added. “So, I couldn’t have fancy food for a while. That was fine. I was sent far away, but my friends came to visit me regularly and it was just a peculiar moment in time. It cannot define you. You cannot let something like that define a good person’s life. I am a good person and I am a creative person.” (source)
Lots of folks thought she went to “Camp Cupcake” and spent 6 months in secluded luxury under house arrest, but Martha has been very honest about how difficult it was. She told Katie Couric:
“It was horrifying and no one, no one, should have to go through that kind of indignity really except for murderers, and there are a few other categories, but no one should have to go through that. It’s a very, very awful thing…
…[Did I feel] that ‘you can make lemons out of lemonade’ and ‘what hurts you makes you stronger’? No. None of those adages fit at all. It’s a horrible experience, nothing is good about it, nothing…
…There are lots and lots of disturbing things that go on in an incarceration like that. In minimum security, you still couldn’t walk out the gate or cross the river. There’s still guards and it’s still nasty…
…It’s not a good experience and it doesn’t make you stronger. I was a strong person to start with and thank heavens I was and I can still hold my head up high and know that I’m fine.” (source)
You can check out the podcast here.
But when she was in prison, she made the best of things. It’s reported that she never complained about the labor she was forced to do.
“She hasn’t complained once about being in jail. The afternoon I was there, she was going to get a job cleaning the floor waxing machine. Imagine that job. But Martha didn’t complain. She said, `Gimme some paraffin, turpentine and a wire brush and I’ll get right to it.'” (source)
She spent her off time participating in a Christmas decorating contest, making a ceramic nativity scene, crocheting, walking the grounds, creating meals out of commissary and vending machine goods. She has spoken of the lessons she learned during this time:
While in prison, Martha says she learned she could live without any luxury whatsoever. “I think many of us have an inner strength that you do not know until you are tested,” she says. “This was a test. I kept my head up. I kept my friends intact, most of them. I kept my spirit high, and I moved on.” (source)
That particularly reminds me of some of the things Selco said when he talked about who survived and who died when the SHTF in Bosnia. Martha clearly has what it takes to be a survivor.
After she got out, she became a vocal spokesperson for prison reform.
The celebrity homemaker also showed a softer side, writing about the plight of some of the 1,100 other inmates. “Many of them have been here for years — devoid of care, devoid of love, devoid of family,” she said, urging people to press for reforms in the sentencing guidelines for nonviolent first-time offenders. (source)
Martha is clearly nothing if not adaptable, and every prepper knows that adaptability is the key to survival.
She learned that even people you consider your best friends might not be the best additions to your survival community.
During her trial, one of the most heartbreaking stories was the one about Martha’s former “best friend,” Mariana Pasternak. Pasternak testified against Martha during her trial, then wrote a poorly received book about their “friendship” that was meant to be unflattering to Martha, but really served to show Pasternak’s true colors.
She discussed betrayals that led to the dissolution of the 20-year friendship in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Oprah: What was that like?
Martha: Disheartening, to say in the mildest possible terms.
Oprah: Was she always a best friend? Because I always think a best friend couldn’t do that.
Martha: Well, I thought so. Best friends are sometimes not, and it’s too bad.
Oprah: And [she] wrote an unflattering book.
Martha: Yeah, it’s a sad thing. I did not read the book, and I have nothing to do with her and I’m sorry about that.
Oprah: You’re sorry about that.
Martha: Yeah, of course. You would be. You would be horrified. Well, you can’t let it be the end of your world, because people change. People are odd. People do strange things for different reasons. Sometimes you don’t know the reasons. You don’t know what kind of pressure they’re under. You know, all kinds of things go on in that kind of episode. (source)
Martha bounced back, more relatable than ever.
This nearly collapsed her business empire but she came back, Martha-style.
While things were rough for a while, she rebuilt and did it in a big way. She has now published a prolific 71 books. Her line of products is more than 7000 items strong. And she has four – count ’em – FOUR – television shows.
Martha is BACK.
But out of all of her endeavors, my very favorite is The Martha Blog. It’s not fancy and glossy like the rest of her empire. It could be a blog that your next-door neighbor started to document her progress with gardening and raising a menagerie of animals on her plot of land, aside from the grand scale and the gardeners. But it’s a personal glimpse of the day-to-day goings-on at her farm. It’s the real deal that talks about the things she learns as she travels and runs her home and runs her business and plays with her grandchildren.
Martha’s practical advice and warm demeanor have taught me a lot over the years and so much of it has spilled over into my efforts to be more self-reliant, to provide delicious healthy meals for my family, to polish all sorts of skills, and to constantly be learning about a broad array of topics.
Some folks who could survive just about anything aren’t survivalists at all. They just have a survival mentality. In light of that, really, is there any better role model for an everyday, ordinary mom who wants to be prepared than Martha Stewart? She may not be a prepper in the classic sense, but she’s a very well-prepared and multi-talented woman.