Being part of a prepper community like ours has been an amazing experience, and I hope that never ends. Part of the perks of being involved is hearing from/about so many diverse people and how they prepare for possible disasters and scenarios. Watching videos and hearing stories of people who utilize everything they own in their preps is, each and every time, mesmerizing. I’ve learned so much, gotten to know many amazing people, and hope to continue doing so on both counts.
I first became aware of Fred and his family when I started doing some more serious prepping and joined Prep Club, a community on Facebook that Fred is also involved in. At that time I became fascinated with how often Fred cooked outside on an open fire. The photos he shared of his meals and set up were so delightful and tugged on my dreams. Part of my ‘ultimate dream’ has always been to cook outside on an open fire anytime I want, and the thought of being able to just seems to make the inconveniences of doing it (like bugs and heat in the summer, or cold\icy rain in the winter) moot. It didn’t seem like long before Fred was started making videos. I was drinking in the information as quickly as I could.
Recently, I was granted the opportunity to chat with and interview Fred and his wife Charlotte, and I knew the first question I wanted to ask; What made them start cooking outdoors? Being a city gal, born and bred, cooking outside was only done on a grill, and then only on certain days or holidays. I was thrilled to see a whole new way of cooking and living.
Before I share some of their secrets though, let me just say that these two appear to be some of the most down to earth people I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to. Celebrating their 22nd Wedding Anniversary in 2020, (those numbers sound like fate), they are smart, thoughtful, considerate, yet no-nonsense, hard-working people. It really was a pleasure to speak with them. They live “up north”, as us southern folk might say, with their kids, simply trying to survive and prepare the way the rest of us are.
But Fred and Charlotte aren’t just prepping; they’re also sharing their experiences and techniques with others, hoping to impart some bits of knowledge to help the rest of us along the way. “Modern Refugee” is Fred’s ‘brainchild’; a YouTube channel showcasing over a hundred videos (and growing), showing how to do everything from making Masa out of feed corn, to dry canning, to weapons, to harvesting heirloom seeds, and more.
Me: “So, Fred, first and foremost; what made you start your outdoor cooking, (which is phenomenal!), your outdoor everything actually; what captured you into this lifestyle?”
Fred: “Hi Sandy. Outdoor cooking is just an extension of my love of cooking in general. I look at cooking as a common thread in humanity. We all cook, feed our families and friends, and everyone has a favorite food or meal. It crosses cultures and bridges barriers in my mind.
There was a time when I was ordering some food from a food shop. The lady couldn’t speak a word of English, but we had a great conversation anyway because food was our translator. Cooking in a primitive style brings me closer to the world around me. It also gives me a great respect for those who came before me.”
Me: “So did you just decide to try the things you do on a whim? Did cooking over the fire, hunting, and hiking just pop into your head as something you wanted to try?”
Fred: “My outdoor lifestyle comes from how I grew up. I was very poor and lived in a very rural setting. I learned to plant, shoot, take care of animals at a very early age. I was probably about 12 when I started to realize I lived different from everyone else. I started hunting around ten and by 16 I was good at it. I will also mention that the time I spent in the woods taught me about plants, trees, animals, and weather. Hiking came later in life. I was very confined when I grew up, just a couple miles from home.”
Me: “What about building? You have a nice cooking station set up which you built yourself, and appear to try new things quite often, like the video showing your potato storage window box – almost as an experiment.”
Fred: “Building was a necessity growing up because I had to fix and improvise everything because of our financial status. Many things that today are called prepping was just day to day life. That is why I made the video “A Day in the Life of a Prepper” on my channel. It is just the way I grew up and continue to live today.
When it comes to what I have learned it comes from many different things. I have always liked to read. I also am a sponge and soak up information from my environment very easily. I also have always had a knack for being able to recognize good info when I see it and its application. I’m also very creative, ideas are constantly popping up in my mind.”
Me: “Charlotte, what are your feelings on all this?”
Charlotte: “I’m not into prepping as much as Fred; he’s trying to get me to, I’m just not as much as an outdoors person as he is. I just simply support him and film him when he needs me to. My thoughts on prepping is one day I know it will be a benefit to our family when SHTF. Fred enjoys doing his Modern Refugee page and it takes his mind off things, gives his knowledge to others that he has learned throughout his life, and helps them benefit from his knowledge. And I love his gardening skills. I love the fresh produce from the garden so much better than store-bought produce.”
Fred: “My wife’s family are great outdoorsmen in their own right. After Charlotte and I were married they took me to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This is where I grew into the outdoorsman I am today. The UP is wild and the locals are some of the most self-sufficient people I have ever met. This is where I learned to hike, navigate, put together packs, fish the old ways, and drive a boat. I also learned what worked and what didn’t. The 20 years and countless trips to the UP made me into a mini Lewis & Clark constantly exploring and learning always looking for the next waterfall, trail, hunting spot, etc. This has actually come full circle as now I’m taking others to the UP to show them the things I have learned. This is also part of the reason I started my YouTube channel. I wanted a way to put out there what I know for others to use. Those simple ways to live need to be out there. I also believe that if it’s on the internet it will be there forever.”
Me: “Did you ever have a particular mentor to attribute all this knowledge to, Fred?”
Fred: “I didn’t really have just one mentor; I’ve had many over the years. I’m like a crazy quilt. Many different patches, stitched together to make a whole. My mother taught me gardening and plants. My father taught me to keep going no matter what. My parents were older than most other parents so that gave me a more old fashioned up-bringing. My grandmother lived with us and didn’t pass away until she was almost 100 years old. So, I had a window into the past. I learned so much from her. Things that happened during the depression, the World Wars, farming before machinery and life in general.
There was a man who taught me carpentry. There was another that took me hunting outside of my area, which continued my knowledge of the outdoors and hunting and fishing. I am also friends with a Native American woman and her family. She has shared with me much of their customs and traditions. What I have learned from her has put a spiritual aspect to the outdoor knowledge I already know.
My mom & grandma were my primary mentors. They were older and were deep wells of memory into days past and ways of living. One story my mother told was when she went to grade school. Rural schools were one-room schoolhouses in the neighborhood of local farms. The winters in the late 1940’s were very violent. Deep snow, strong winds and bitter cold is what she spoke of. One storm was particularly bad and the teacher was afraid that the students and her would be stranded at the school, snowed in. Gas powered vehicles couldn’t get through the deep snow. My grandfather still had teams of horses and sleighs. Our family was never one to latch on to new technology quickly. Grandfather brought the team of horses to the schoolhouse and took everyone including the teacher home. No one else could make the two mile trip to the school.
My grandma told another story that stuck with me. She was a teenager at home helping her father. When she heard the church bells ringing wildly. Her father said that was strange because it was during the week. My grandma said maybe the war was over. She was right it was the end of the Great War, Armistice day of World War One. These are an example of the memories they shared with me.”
Me: “Ok, so let’s say you guys decided to take a good little hike up the Upper Peninsula. How do the kids react? Were they excited?”
Charlotte: “When the kids were old enough and we started hiking in the U.P. We started them out young I guess you would say with MREs. The kids always thought it was fun to take them backpacking when we went and guess what was inside them and what “extras” they would get. Of course, they loved the M&Ms when they came in them but they also loved the peanut butter and crackers and cheese spread and crackers. Our family has always enjoyed hiking and the kids have always enjoyed the “surprises” they get in the MRE’s when we take them hiking. I do enjoy hiking with Fred even though I gripe a lot on the long hikes. Fred has shown me many beautiful waterfalls in the state of Michigan and we have seen much beautiful scenery also. I have even seen a lot of wildlife on our hikes also.”
Me: “Of all the delicious food he seems to cook, what is your favorite?”
Charlotte: “My certain favorite food he has cooked so far is the peanut butter Thai noodles (even though I’m not supposed to have gluten) lol. This is a quick easy dish that we can take hiking when we go.”
Me: “And your least favorite?”
Charlotte: “I could totally do without sloppy joes <big grin>; not a fan – had them too many times growing up.”
Me: “For the record, I did too. ???? Not my favorite food no matter who cooks them. So, I’m curious – who has to wash the dishes when Fred cooks?”
Charlotte: “Unfortunately, I am the one to clean up after The Modern Refugee (Fred) after his fabulous meals he makes, so I guess it’s worth it lol. I am honestly not really into prepping as Fred is, so Fred incorporates the prepping into our lives.”
Me: And, to our readers, understandably I don’t want to involve the kids too much in the interview for their own privacy, but Fred and Charlotte have definitely (and rightly so in my opinion) involved them into the reality of prepping and being prepared. Charlotte explained that “Fred also wanted to make the channel as a reference and time capsule. The kids may not be interested now, but in the future, they may and it will be there for them.
As well, even though we talked about them, I decided to keep the family’s weapons out of the final interview cut just because nobody can be too careful anymore. I did have a few more questions though before I left them alone. For a while anyway. ????
Me: “Out of all your videos Fred, which one is your favorite?”
Fred: “My favorite video would have to be my “Get Home Bag” video. I go into detail of why I carry the items I do. I was going through some older videos of hunting trips. In one video was my GHB. The video was four years old on a bear hunting trip. So, my bag has served me well and stood the test of time. When I made that video, I wanted to share what I learned and knew about my gear. My bag is always changing, but there are some fundamental things I have always carried.”
Me: “And the favorite type video you like to make?”
Fred: “My travel videos. One part of my Modern Refugee Theory is everyone should strive to learn every tree and rock in their state. So, showcasing my state is very important to me.”
Me: “And of course, you agree with me when I say Cast Iron rules, right?” <smile>
Fred: “Cast iron cookware is by far my favorite. Good for any day in the modern world or if SHTF. Everyone should have a good CI pan and Dutch oven. That way you can do everything from making dry beans, stew, roast, or bake bread.”
Me: “On a more serious note, what do you see as being the culprit of the disaster that puts us all on even footing; the cause that validates our prepping?”
Fred: “I think it is obvious that humanity is in for a rough time. I have seen things that make me believe we are on the brink as a species. I prep to a certain extent like I was raised, growing and putting up food for the winter. The main thing I prepare for is a catastrophic disruption of the supply lines. Nothing is made local anymore. I always work on resources I can get within walking distance of my house. The catastrophic supply line failure covers the greatest amount of things that could happen. The economy collapses and trucks stop running; that’s a supply line problem. Earthquake on the west coast or New Madrid, and supplies can’t move. War or EMP – things will be rationed or unavailable. Epidemic and can’t go out in public… So, I feel having supplies on hand is of utmost importance.
As far as what is most likely, I believe at some point the economy will collapse. Whether it is because of war, natural disasters, or just the overwhelming amount of debt. Things just can’t continue the way they are. Then you have automation. What will people do for work when computers do it all? This all breeds social unrest and violence. Shifting weather patterns, the ever-increasing strain on our food supply, natural resources and our electric grid… These are all possible in my mind. I also believe it could be something no one has even thought of – some kind of wild card collapse. These are all reasons I continue to prep and improve my skills and teach all I can what I know to help us all as a whole.”
Me: Thank you guys – you’re awesome. ????
While that concludes the interview with Fred and Charlotte, this wonderful family is continuing to prep, plan, and prepare, and they’re taking steps to make sure generations after them have a guide so they can do the same should time draw out that long. I, for one, will continue watching their videos on “Modern Refugee” on YouTube, and attempt to learn as much as I can, while I can.
You can find Fred and Charlotte’s videos on “Modern Refugee”, which is located both on YouTube and Facebook. You certainly won’t be wasting your time! Here’s where you can find Fred.
- Modern Refugee on Facebook
- Modern Refugee on YouTube
- Daisy has posted his Crisco Candle video here on The Organic Prepper.
My personal absolute favorite out of all their videos? (It’s almost impossible to choose.) It would have to be his SHTF video. It really gets the gears turning in your head and makes you think.
Sandra is a published artist, photographer, fellow prepper, and animal advocate.