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Getting the Jump on a Possible Food Shortage

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(Expanding on a commentary aired here earlier in the week, my wife Marilyn has written below about her own experience in preparing for possible food shortages. The essay contains tips and links for do-it-yourselfers as well as for those who don’t have time to gather the necessary resources themselves.  RA)

A recent commentary here regarding the possibility of food shortages in the U.S. elicited quite a response, especially from those who are hunkering down in anticipation of a full-blown cataclysm. There is certainly evidence that even if  a total disaster doesn’t strike, there will be food shortages, and what food does make it to the store shelves will be more expensive – possibly much more expensive. Rather than honing my gun skills and digging a bunker in the back yard, I’ve decided to take my summer gardening from a few pots on the deck to a full-fledged vegetable garden; to exhume my grandmother’s “putting up” recipes; and to learn the basics for storing food in our home. I know how to grow vegetables, and I’m a moderately-confident canner, but when it comes to food storage, I don’t have a clue. But I know who does. Chances are, you know someone too, if you have a Mormon friend.

Many people have basement pantries and shelves of peaches, pickles, jellies and dilly beans, but I needed the information from the people who know how to survive off their food storage – for three months, six months or even a year. The go-to group for this are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). I have two LDS friends and they have directed me to the clearest easy-to-follow instructions for starting out as a food-storer.

Eating from Storage

You need a room with a consistent climate (garages aren’t great; cool, dry basements are better), some sturdy racks, an extra refrigerator/freezer or deep-freeze, and large containers (five-gallon drums – often given away free by candy factories and chocolate shops). I heard more than once in my research tales of families who were faced with having to eat from their storage, and wishing they’d had less wheat, rice and dried beans, and more canned meat, vegetables and fruits. For a list of items, and the numbers of each, that you would need for these three-, six-, and twelve-month supplies, the best resource by far can be found by clicking here.

This site, run by Tammy Hulce, state coordinator of Utah Homemakers for America, not only gives you step-by-step instructions for figuring out how much you or your family will need of any given food item, but also great tips for using the proper preparation of your stored food. She explains the difference between water bath- and pressure canning, and the benefits of vacuum sealing, freezing and dehydrating certain foods for maximum shelf life. She also gives templates for calculating your family food requirements, shelf inventory and rotation guides. This last one is key because the money you spend to stock your storage is wasted if the food spoils or goes out of date. Tiffany M. Hess, education director for Utah Homemakers of America, says the best tip she ever got was from her dad. “Even if the food is weeks to expiration but you know you can’t use it and someone around you can’t use it, your local food bank CAN. Put that food in their hands and help someone else.”

The #1 Question

What question is asked most often of food-storage wizards? Answer: What about water?  While having adequate food is crucial, having plenty of clean, drinkable water has been the challenge for people the world over in times of catastrophe.  Janice Holmstead Johnson, who knows people who have faced such emergencies, sometimes with little or no warning, stresses how important water is and what you can do to insure you have enough. Johnson suggests you “add a second water heater to your house to give you more water that is ‘stored’ and refreshed regularly, rather than using huge storage containers that you have to empty and refill.”

And, what about the huge, pre-packaged food “kits” advertised on urban survival sites? None of the storage experts I consulted suggest going that route — unless, of course, you simply have no other options. One site that offers such kits – in addition to a multitude of truly valuable resources (books, articles, recipes and water storage devices) is Emergency Essentials, which can be found by clicking here.

So, with spring just around the corner (unless you live where we do, then it’s around several corners) get your seeds now. As was pointed out in Monday’s commentary, a big rise in oil prices would raise the price of everything, including the plants from which the seeds are taken. Don’t wait for prices to go up. Get your garden in and get ready to can when harvest is upon you. And, “never buy canning jars at full price,” says Johnson. “You can probably pick them up at your local Goodwill for next to nothing.”  Plan on spending time canning in the kitchen this summer so that when winter comes and prices have gone up dramatically, or the items simply aren’t there to buy, you’ll know that your family will eat, and eat well.

(If you’d like to have Rick’s Picks commentary delivered free each day to your e-mail box, click here.)

Please do not ask trading questions!

  • linden March 8, 2011, 9:15 am

    Hi,
    Really important to buy heirloom seeds as you can take the seeds from these plants to grow new plants. I got mine from http://www.realseeds.co.uk but i’m sure there are places in USA too. Avoids Monsanto seeds or GM which don’t provide new fertile seeds…remember ‘terminators’?

  • warren March 5, 2011, 8:14 pm

    What is this? A cooking show? Enough already.

  • Robert March 4, 2011, 7:01 pm

    Interesting article out today from the Longwave group:

    http://www.theaureport.com/pub/na/8782

    As I said in my post above- I still struggle to wrap my brain around all this long cycle timing stuff, but it is still fascinating.

  • Steve March 4, 2011, 5:37 pm

    Marilyn, Good work. The issue of knowing about dried and salted foods is very important. It does no good to have a freezer full of venison when the powers goes out.

    The greatest fear being created in me is by the sheer mass of people who don’t believe a near total collapse is possible. If the great minds of trading in this thread would turn to the possibility/odds of an occurence, based in financial trading, what would the odds be of a social collapse that nobody believes will happen? Is being sure one can take care of themselves a good trade mathmatically?

    It seems that the theme is always that the majority are on the wrong side of the trade.

    • Tiffany March 4, 2011, 7:55 pm

      There are many situations where a food storage might not have value, but many many more situations where it has great value.
      For instance, last Christmas my husband was laid off from his job. But, we had a storage full of food and some savings and we knew that we could be OK for quite some time before we really had to worry.
      We didn’t have to rely on others to take care of us. We didn’t stand in line for welfare or foodstamps. We were prepared to care for ourselves.
      That is provident living.

  • A. Rand Fan March 4, 2011, 5:35 pm

    Behind every great man there’s a great woman.

  • bozzy March 4, 2011, 10:42 am

    Mariliyn – should read “Taste the water for salinity”.

  • bozzy March 4, 2011, 10:36 am

    Marilyn

    Fresh salt cod fillets – place in a pan of water cold or otherwise does not matter, bring to boil, does not have to be vigorous, turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan and leave until cooled a little. Remove, flake, pinbone etc and use – just as you would for a gratin of smoked haddock cream and cheese, or in a kedgeree.

    Dried fish – soak in cold water until about right – probably 2 or even 3 days, changing the water from time to time. Taste the water, or a small for salinity – it should remain salt but not strongly or unpleasantly so. Don’t worry about bones and rough bits – all are much easier to deal with once soaked and cooked. Then work as before for fresh fish.

    Full recipes en route via email.

  • ricecake March 4, 2011, 4:47 am

    Ops, I mean “In fact China’s central bank has been printing much more RMB than Bernanke.”

  • ricecake March 4, 2011, 4:45 am

    Food is not precious metals. Food can be grown and regrown each season.

    In the old days( 60s – 70s) in China there was no food. A family of 5 had only 5 eggs a month. Now they have all the eggs they want but of course for a price. However, most people can afford to buy egg, even the poorest.

    In the 60s and 70s, the average Chinese made 18-50 yuan a month. Things were very cheap but you couldn’t buy much at all even if you had lots of money. So you can say that lots of money at that time wasn’t doing you any good. Now it’s a different world. You have much more money and you can buy lots of stuff. Yes, the prices are much higher. But so what? People are living much better lives in general. Just look at the the increase of fat Chinese each year. lol. They are catching up with the Americans on obesity.

    The food crisis in the Middle East is not really because of the dollar printing problem. it’s because of their own political/governmental/social problems. They should be able to grow their own food. Of course, it’s easy to blame the Americans for everything. Just like China blames the Americans for their inflation. In fact, China’s central bank has been printing many more RMB than Bernanke has been printing dollars.

  • bozzy March 4, 2011, 4:25 am

    Marilyn – I think there is another word – stockfisk – bacalao, baccala, morue – all the same idea from different nations – salt fish.

    Personally, although the smell is a little strong, after soaking to desalinate, I make brandade de morue. All the time, and sometimes I salt the cod myself – you don’t need to dry it if you are about to cook it anyway.

    It is stunning, very simple – a potato, some cod, milk and or cream, garlic and olive oil – the best you can find – all whizzed for a second or two after the fish has lightly cooked. Seasoned, and presented on toasts with some olives scattered round and some parsley. Much more than a snack, this is an absolute favourite. There has in my recollection never been any left over.

    • Marilyn March 4, 2011, 6:03 am

      How do you cook the fish before “whizzing” it with the other ingredients? Same as Mario’s instructions (simmer in tomato sauce for ….hours)? The combination of ingredients sounds really good. It seems that salt cod (or salt fish) is just a real winner in the food storage department.

  • F. Beard March 4, 2011, 3:30 am

    I think we should all head to the supermarket and stock up before the hoarders get there.

    Yep, its an old joke.

  • Robert March 4, 2011, 3:17 am

    If I was married to Rick I would tease him relentlessly about those corny headphones he wears whenever he appears on Max Keiser’s web show….

    🙂

    • Marilyn March 4, 2011, 6:07 am

      Robert – Or the goofy photo on the homepage? I keep asking him why he doesn’t want everyone to know how handsome he is. Until Max Keiser asks me to be on his show, I’ll reserve comment on the headset. 🙂

    • Rick Ackerman March 4, 2011, 3:39 pm

      Max’s interviews with those who cannot get to his Paris studio are on Skype, hence the headset.

    • Robert March 4, 2011, 6:44 pm

      Rick, I know… I like the headphones- they make you look like an airline pilot.

      I’d fly with you.

  • bozzy March 4, 2011, 1:42 am

    Well, hell, Steve, glad your local infrastructure has worked flawlessly, giving no cause for any concern for as long as you can remember. Just teasing.

    Inconvenient though it may be, that is not the case for most, and even if the gun toting rioters are not actually at the front door, until you have actually taken your last breath it seems like a reasonable sports plan to provide a little “in salt”. Hell, it even looks prettier than matt grey paint.

    We live in the land of “snowed in” and it takes very little imagination to see that these disconnection intervals could get considerably longer, and even less to understand what bare3 shop counters look like if you have worked in the Eastern European block around the time of the iron curtain and the Berlin Wall. God, I feel old.

    • Marilyn March 4, 2011, 3:01 am

      Well, you’re right Bozzy. All we need do is look to the Eastern Bloc to see how bad things can get, to know we don’t want to go there. I’d rather go the route Cam suggests and live mindfully and be prepared – to take care of my family and friends, to the extent I am able, even if nothing bad ever happens. The reduction in waste, in that case, would just be gravy.

      I was born and raised in Boulder, so am used to being called all sorts of names (nut, commie, tree-hugger, Birkenstock-wearing, wheat-grass -juice drinker). Let me just say that I’ve hunted and fished a bit with my dad, gutted many fish, wrapped many deer, elk, duck and pheasant parts for deep freeze, bit into my share of buckshot, and………..I’m married to Rick. How much of a “veggie burger” could I possibly be?
      Namaste.

  • steve March 4, 2011, 12:29 am

    really ?? c’mon man,, vegetable garden in the back yard,, you guys in Boulder are known to be little nuts,, but this takes the “let them eat cake” buddy. and canning a couple of green beans, peas or corn ?? ,, SUPER idea,, that’ll last ya a meal or 2 ehh ??. this ain’t the first time i’ve read about “urban gardening” and canning the proceeds,, how’s rocky soil in Boulder,, and i thought you guys were concerned about water usage and zera-scaping over there,, course all that tree hugger, birkenstock stuff changes you get a little hungry for something other than humus or a veggie burger i suppose. growing a garden is a fun idea,, ecclectic to be sure,,, but in the armegeddon-esque world that some of you folks are musing about,, your veggie garden is gonna get trampled by hungry marauders in the midnite hour.

    • Steve March 4, 2011, 5:21 pm

      Just so others know. I’m red Steve. Negativity without purpose serves no good black Steve. Victory Gardens were a very big part of WWII. The article by Marilyn is positive and supportive of a good for all people even if there is no grand fall into the pit. Grow your own as clean as you can. There are many things that come into play in the worst of times. To ignore what the government has already planned is a grave error. Tell the story of displacement in governmental enforcement terms, OKay! Tell the story of the need to be prepared from one season of planting until the next, OKay! Provide a summary of what would be necessary in Boulder to survive, OKay. Provide a story of how the Native American’s and early settlers survived in Boulder prior to gasoline, and diesel, OKay.

  • Tiffany March 4, 2011, 12:00 am

    Love the article Marilyn! Fantastic job!

  • mario cavolo March 3, 2011, 11:39 pm

    On a related note, I will suggest that citizens of China are ultimately more likely to be shielded from a disastrous rise in food costs. I say this because I know that all kinds of policy decisions (such as lifting or imposing taxes, fees, city or national ordinances, credits, price freezes, etc. ) are made at whim by Beijing on a daily basis based on what’s happening at the moment. We’re used to this. Go build that bridge, done. Cancel the property sales tax, done. It ain’t a discussion in Congress.

    And so, it is much more likely here that the Beijing gov’t would announce price freezes on key food and other commodities, something we’d never see in the U.S. They would enact such measures to maintain stability, to avoid protest uprisings, which can get a lot farther out of hand here with almost a billion pissed off farmers at your doorstep. We’ll see.

    Cheers, Mario

  • mario cavolo March 3, 2011, 11:18 pm

    Hi Marilyn!

    Great to find you here and especially to share such great information as I watch corn hit 736 on the chart. I only have one word to add which brings memories of Italian seaside culture;

    BACALA!

    Ah yes, that’s dried salt cod and I think I spelled it right. I can easily picture my father in the kitchen preparing it every Christmas Eve when my family sticks to the Italian tradition of a seafood dinner. Bacala is the dried salt cod that get soaked in water for at least 2 days then simmered for hours in tomato sauce. Of course this reminds us that dried and salted fishes and meats have been around for a long time to enable long storage and preservation.

    Thanks again Marilyn!

    Cheers, Mario

    • Marilyn March 4, 2011, 2:46 am

      Bacala sounds like the Italian version of the Norwegian Lutefisk – (we have lots of Swedes and Norwegians here in Colorado – they like the cold and the mountains!). Do you know if the soaking preparation includes lye? The Nordic version certainly does, and requires lots and lots of soaking/rinsing as a result. But, you’re absolutely right, when properly processed, that stuff will last forever, with no refrigeration necessary! Thanks for sharing those memories!

  • bozzy March 3, 2011, 9:39 pm

    Cam – great piece too. Seems this topic strikes a resounding chord with many of the persuasion.

    Once again – great piece. Awestruck.

  • redwilldanaher March 3, 2011, 9:04 pm

    Nicely done Marilyn. Thanks for your valuable contribution and information resources.

  • Agent P March 3, 2011, 7:58 pm

    If food (prices, supply disruption, shortages, etc.) indeed become an issue, ‘hoarding’ of anything will be of primary concern for the ‘authorities’ – as in Authoritarianism.

    This is where the suburban or remote area living provides a benefit. It will not necessarily be the ability or space to grow your own food, it will be that you are sparse, distant and of no immediate threat to the Neo-KGB. They will focus their attention on bringing dense population centers under command & control first.

    Since dense population centers generally tend to be more agreeable to government control, casualty concerns are minimized – on both sides, allowing a more peaceful submission to Authoritarian rule.

    Of course, those who tend to vote Authoritarian (no need to insert party identifiers – they’re both guilty as Hell), will have their dream come true – that is of course, until it is at their doorstep.

  • Emergency Essentials March 3, 2011, 7:56 pm

    Thanks for mentioning Emergency Essentials in the article. Here is a better link to our website: http://beprepared.com

    • Marilyn March 3, 2011, 8:28 pm

      That’s the link I submitted. Not sure how it got changed. Thanks for providing that. It is a great resource for people just starting out and, for those who do not have space for an extended “pantry” -(no basement) the kits are a good small-space alternative to home-preserving, and a way to be sure you/your family gets proper nutrition during a setback or emergency.

  • wyz March 3, 2011, 7:04 pm

    Here’s a youtube on chickens in Denver.:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRsrG4s5IHA
    Bertini is trying to get Denver laws changed to allow chickens, his proposal is 6 without permit. He also runs an indoor urban farmers market here in Denver.
    Fun to here him talk about getting the video of the chicken going up the city building steps.

    Chickens are also an easy way to have food, primarily eggs, from the backyard. Of course when times get tough they get eaten, but till then…

  • Robert March 3, 2011, 6:36 pm

    Very nice article Marilyn. Totally agree on the advantage of Mormon friends and neighbors- I’ve never “gone long” on their belief system or theology, but overall they do tend to be people of good character.

    It is interesting that this is the topic of the week- I just received my annual corporate bonus (call me evil if you must) and instead of calling my coin dealer, I told my wife that this year we are buying a dehydrator, canning jars, and vacuum sealer bags.

    Most years I give the excess from my garden (and my fishing trips) to my neighbors, but this year I think we are going to store the excess.

    The biggest financially related brain twister that I face is how to forecast the long term inflection point when Real estate will be a logical trade for bullion. I hear Jim Sinclair and others declare their beliefs that by the time this commodity cycle runs it’s course, really nice estate caliber properties will be pricing in the 10-15 ounce of Gold range, but my brain just doesn’t stretch that far (yet).

    Like many, I currently live in a mortgaged McMansion that has negative loan to value. Fortunately, we have sufficient alternate assets to fully collateralize our existing debt (our mortgage is all the debt we carry), so walking away from the mortgage would require little more than a consensual decision between the “Master of the House” and myself (the humble servant) to pack up and go.

    I would love a larger piece of property in an area with no HOA so I could grow my own protein as well, and where the Queen and Princesses could keep their horses… the annual savings in boarding fees alone would be a windfall, and I must admit that property prices (in dollar terms) in my neck-o-the woods are looking pretty appetizing lately, and yet I still harbor an internal reluctance to kick off the trade out of PM’s just yet…

    I have to do some serious contrarian meditation on this.

    • bob March 3, 2011, 8:08 pm

      Robert, have some patience, the time is not yet near to purchase real estate with your pms. You will however know when that time arrives.

  • John Jay March 3, 2011, 4:19 pm

    I keep a couple of months worth of food and water at a lifeboat ration level, more for earthquake survival than financial armaggedon.
    If the Dollar collapses, I do not think the Federal government will collapse completely, I think the military will get whatever resources are available to continue to function to quell any peoples uprising or looting by the criminal element.
    I think departments like Education, Energy, HUD, etc will get slashed first.
    I think the big corporate factory farms will get what they need to operate, as well as the needed transportation for food.
    Government will use food instead of Dollars to control the mob.
    They will replace the Dollar with something, and they will need to make it credible.
    I think they will of course declare a National Emergency and some level of Martial Law.
    I think the plans for this, and appropriate legislation are already in palce.
    I think they will declare gold, silver, platinum, palladium etc. “Strategic Metals” vital to the national survival.
    I think they will order citizens to sell it to the Federal Government within 90 days at an artificially low price or face prosecution as an economic “Terrorist”.
    I think the Government will reward informers with rewards to turn in PM “hoarders”.
    I think the “Patriot Act” already gives the Government the power to pilfer safe deposit boxes at will with the bank forbidden to even notify you if it happens.
    There will be no one to speak for the few with PM wealth, the Courts will fall in line to keep their paychecks, and the average penniless citizen will be in favor of anything to strip the “rich bastards” of their wealth.
    There will be different rules for Government officials and the true elite of course, they get to quietly keep their hoards of PMs. Of course.
    I have some PMs in the form of jewelry, which I hope there will be some sort of small exemption for.
    I myself hope the European Unio and the Euro fall apart before the dollar to buy us some more time, but the clock is ticking on the entire fiat money/debt/big government system.

    • Steve March 4, 2011, 5:07 pm

      Hey John Jay, did you miss the part where the U.S. is already in a declared emergency?

    • Rich March 4, 2011, 11:37 pm

      Many sound points JJ.
      Remember when a loaf of bread was a buck?
      May happen again…

  • Ray March 3, 2011, 4:17 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful commentary on preserving food for emergencies. However, I think you’re wrong about expiration dates. Canned foods can be eaten years after their “best if used by:” dates have passed.

    • Marilyn March 3, 2011, 8:10 pm

      Depends upon what’s inside the can. The more acid the contents (tomato-based items are particularly vulnerable) the less long you should keep them. I’ve also had pineapple, artichoke hearts and hearts of palm that “leaked” all over my pantry – just slightly out of date. Clear-bottled items also don’t last forever. Keeping in the dark helps, but hot sauces, tapenades and ghee will all “turn” soon after expiration.
      The templates on the site I mention, as well as the plot design for rotating the food, makes it easier to avoid that problem.

  • Nitram March 3, 2011, 3:18 pm
  • Tom UK March 3, 2011, 11:20 am

    Thanks Marilyn – and Cam. A couple of links to places people might find interesting:

    Chris Martenson’s site is a great resource for food storage tips and sensible survival advice (without the apocalypic overtones that pervades so much of the blogosphere) – http://www.chrismartenson.com.

    And J M Greer’s blog (http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/) is also worth stopping by for well-written articles on everything preparation-related.

    • Cam Fitzgerald March 3, 2011, 6:09 pm

      Thanks Tom.

      Glad to hear I didn’t put you to sleep. This topic of Marilyn’s is one that is really very close to my heart.

  • bozzy March 3, 2011, 10:41 am

    Marilyn – great piece. Amused by the reference to the Mormons – we discovered their “preserving” culture around the time my wife started researching the family tree – an increasingly popular study here in Europe. They are of course a mine of information on that subject too – believing as they do that all persons names and family details must be written down and archived or those unfortunate souls will not get to heaven.

    Seems they are to enjoy rising popularity in these difficult times.

    Loved your relaxed, clear writing. Elizabeth David, or from your side of the Atlantic Julia Childs could not have improved on that piece.

    • Marilyn March 3, 2011, 8:47 pm

      They’ve been at this survival thing for a long time. Even though I grew up in a town with two congregations, it wasn’t really until I led 21-day, 7-National Park tours of the West, and had to keep a busload of passengers from declaring mutiny in the long, long stretches of sagebrush and sandstone, that I read up on the Mormons (Salt Lake City, Bryce, Zion, and the Kennecott Copper Mine were all on the itinerary). I soon learned that “Providential Living” is a big part of their doctrine. Gardening, preserving, storing, and sharing are at the heart of PL.

    • Rich March 4, 2011, 11:34 pm

      Small world Marilyn:
      Good friends used to lead the Park bus euro tours also.
      Loved it and paid well..

  • Dave March 3, 2011, 10:21 am

    Any ideas for those of us living in NYC high rises with little sun exposure? Wheat grass and herbs under the sun lamp? Just have to stock up on dried fruits/nuts, cheese puffs from Trader Joes, lots of cans, beef jerky and bottled water. When SHTF, good time to do a brown rice detox.

    • Marilyn March 3, 2011, 8:21 pm

      Dried fruits and nuts are a great strategy. Also, canned tuna, beans, vegetables and fruit and bagged rice, wheat (lasts longer than flour, and you can grind it with a Kithenaid Mixer attachment), dried milk and egg whites. Also, and no small thing, see about joining a coop – a group that will sell you “shares” of a garden or farm. Each week you either go to the site (or, for an extra fee, they will deliver to you) whatever is “ripe” that week. Needless to say, you’ll get a whole lot of greens and beets on one trip, you’ll get zucchinis galore on another, but if you’re willing to freeze or can, you can get together quite a store during the summer months. Many of these coops also offer eggs, milk and cheese.

  • Marilyn March 3, 2011, 5:26 am

    Rick’s just lucky to have a wife who knows how to hunt and fish. 🙂

  • TKO March 3, 2011, 3:51 am

    I won’t panic until one of our spies sights Rick Ackerman outside Costco loading sacks of sugar, flour and crates of Hot Ramen into his suburban. If this occurs, it will most certainly indicate that “The jig is up.” and it is time to head for the hills. Perhaps a hobby farm in the Alleghenies or the foothills of the Rockies near fish and game—remote enough to be easily defensible and not subject to early collectivization!

    • Cam Fitzgerald March 3, 2011, 8:05 am

      Don’t count on wild game in a real long lasting crisis TKO. One of the less noted observations coming out of the Great Depression was that the deer population on the Canadian prairies, for example, was almost driven to extinction by the end of the Thirties.

      Then as now, people needed meat and most just had no cash available. Farms were still producing of course and some even had a surplus to offer but transportation became so prohibitive that ranchers selling herds for slaughter often got an invoice instead of a paycheque after sending live animals to market.

      Hunting became the popular means to put good protein on the table. All the more so for the many in rural areas who simply stopped raising animals for sale.

      In the book, “Ten Lost Years” by Barry Broadfoot there is a reference to a family that turned to catching and eating prairie gophers when other meat could not be found or afforded anymore (they are delicious incidentally and very tender).

      This then exposes one of the myths that suggests that escaping to the country is the sure-fire way to survive a societal meltdown, even social collapse. Unless you are prepared to eat and live in a very unorthodox manner your chances will be no greater than anyone elses.

      They may in fact be worse as only larger cities located on rail lines or major highways will benefit from continuous deliveries of fuel, food and other supplies during a major emergency while those smaller far flung communities will be pretty much left to fend for themselves. This is where true preparation comes into play for those who believe rural life is the better option.

      We need to wonder then how severe a currency collapse and the the hyperinflation that follows might actually be. In the Thirties, which was a time of severe deflation, fuel itself became an absolute luxury for many. There were few jobs and very little cash.

      It was not uncommon for prairie folk to gut their cars, remove all the windows, seats and the engine in order to lighten them up and convert the vehicle to a horse drawn cart. We called them Bennett Buggies up here.

      Of course, that was in a different day and age. There were still horses available for anyone who wanted or needed one and the horse itself had not yet been ruled out as a viable form of transportation. There was still plenty of gear then too for harnessing and hitching a horse to a buggy. Only rodeo guys and cowboys have that kind of gear these days though and it does not come cheap anymore.

      Would a hyperinflation that results from a collapse of the dollar bring on similar dire circumstances of poverty and deprive most people of the ability to afford to operate a vehicle? Absolutely. Only it will be much, much worse because this next time around almost none of us is really prepared on any level for the experience of real deprivation and need.

      Marilyn has mentioned gardening, food storage, keeping seeds and learning food preparation techniques now while times are good so that you can be prepared if and when economic circumstances change. I wholeheartedly agree and in fact do lead my own life this way.

      My great uncle who emmigrated to Canada from Europe brought with him a host of skills and knowledge that is virtually forgotten by most today. I was never able to gather his knowledge first-hand while he lived but have still managed to acquire many of the old world skills over time through my own hard efforts.

      He kept bees for example, made his own sausage and cured hams, knew how to salt pork, can fish, make his own vinegar for preserving foods and a whole host of other food crafts that are almost unknown by consumers today.

      He made cheese, wine, preserves, tomatoe paste and herb mixtures with confidence. But it was normal then. He was born into a time before modern preservatives were used, before everything we ate came from an aisle in a supermarket.

      He grew up in a village in Europe where it was not uncommon for neighbors to have a few goats, chickens and a milking cow on their property. A time when sugar, salt and vinegar were still the primary means of preparing and preserving foods at the end of each gardening season.

      Food was a big deal then, it meant survival. Knowing how to properly prepare raw foods straight from the garden to shelf storage is actually an incredibly rewarding pastime and hobby too. My great uncle had a treasure trove of that knowledge that I never appreciated when he was around.

      Skills like that are invaluable should we ever enter another protracted period similar to the Depression or be faced with a monetary crisis that is brought on by a currency failure. There will be no time available to start learning, shopping for the books and practising old-world skills once a real crisis actually arrives.

      It will be too late then.

      Too late to buy the materials, equipment and supplies you need. Too late to take the needed courses to improve your own knowledge and skills and too late to implement your ideas and actually integrate them fully into your day to day life.

      You really need to live the lifestyle full time now and make it a part of each day long before being overtaken by unfortunate economic cirumstances.

      It seems obvious to me that it is essential to be familiar with a different regimen well before a crisis actually arises if you are to withstand the incredible stresses that will certainly play out on that bad day in the future.

      Many for example, will not even be able to afford to heat their homes adequately in such a environment.

      Critical energy shortages will result not so much from a lack of supplies but rather from an inability to afford the resource as the buying power of money itself plummets. What will we do then?

      This of course reminds us just how vulnerable we really are as a society to a catastrophic currency event. Most won’t have a chance. Not just because they don’t believe it can occur but because they have distanced themselves so far from the knowledge of their grandparents that there is not a hope in a hundred they will adapt in time to avoid being the victims of that kind of crisis.

      I do not doubt that many people might actually freeze to death in their own homes for lack of funds. And who would be surprised? Our homes are not designed to preserve life itself anymore. They are too big, do not include cool rooms in basements for serious wintering food storage and have too many windows which leaves them exposed to both too much heat in summer and too much cold in winter.

      We have substituted mechanical means for distributing warmth and cooling in place of sensible old world architectural designs. Everything is wrong about how homes are built now.

      And we are certainly not equipped with the many alternatives our grandparents had either. Back then there was almost certainly a wood or coal fired stove in the house that could be relied upon to keep you warm and cook your meals. No matter what else transpired in your life, as long as you could swing an axe you could always keep the home fires alive.

      Furthermore, homes were small by design back then and built around a central kitchen that kept the whole home evenly warmed through the novel device of good fitting interior doors that could be opened or closed to manage the environment.

      There was of course no central heating then, no forced air furnaces and no ducts piping heat throughout homes. More than likely there was merely a large ceiling grate directly above the kitchen stove that allowed excess cooking heat to accumulate in the attic area and thus warmed the family sleeping quarters in the winter.

      Basements were naturally adapted as serious food storage areas and places to keep your wood or coal and often had one or two large cisterns that could supply water at a tolerable temperature all winter long.

      This, in the days before running water (not that long ago in many places) was just standard practice in most homes and efforts were always made to collect enough roof run-off during the rainy times to keep the cistern filled in time for winter when well water might not be available due to frozen hand pumps.

      Few homes are designed or equipped this way anymore. Nobody has a hand pump, a well or a cistern anymore (well almost nobody). Most people, without even knowing it, live at the very mercy of the good times never ending. They do not even have the bare makings of the infrastructure required to survive even a single winter if the gas ever got cut off or if the lights went out.

      The Great Depression taught us a lot about our real values. When things got desperate enough on the prairies and even coal became unaffordable for some, then antiques, yard fences, boardwalks, miscellaneous furniture and floorboards all went into the fire to keep homes warm and keep everyone alive. Most people still had wood stoves then though. Not the case anymore.

      So this brings me around to one of Marilyns most important points and that is of course, cold storage. A basement pantry (root cellar) and one of the most essential ingredients in the steps one must take to keep garden foods edible and fresh throughout the winter. Without proper cold storage you are not even a contender in the real game of food survival.

      My own store-room held pretty constant at about 43 degrees throughout the last winter, rarely falling below that temperature and only occassionally going above it. It was the perfect environment to keep the mountains of root vegetables I had harvested in the fall from turning bad before spring arrived.

      It was ideal for curing cheese too which I learned how to make a few years back and for the proper storage of the seeds collected from my own garden and from the neighbors. A cat incidentally is essential for keeping mice at bay. Wherever food is stored there are pests and the last thing you want is contamination of your produce or damage to your seeds.

      The topic is just so important that I could not let todays post go by without commenting on it. For most people though, having a cool room would mean doing the near unthinkable.

      They would have to tear out the ducting and stop heating their basments. A conversion from the typical basement used as an extended living space (or rumpus room) with televisions and sofas to one that was musty, cool and dry is pretty dramatic stuff.

      Too many people use the extra space as a rental suite or for storage of all the trappings of our consumer lives without ever really giving consideration to the real needs they might have in crisis environment.

      It is all about priorities though and your confidence in the economy of the future now isn’t it?

      (PS: Sorry for blithering so long, it is just my nature)

    • Rick Ackerman March 3, 2011, 11:08 pm

      Been good to go since the early 1960s, TKO, when I excavated a bomb shelter just after the Cuban missile crisis. It’s equipped with a tickertape in case the world survives.

    • Rich March 4, 2011, 11:32 pm

      This beekeeper with a Country Woodstove in a forest near a lake with delicious fish very much appreciates Marilyn and Cam’s practical observations…

    • Cam Fitzgerald March 5, 2011, 5:28 pm

      You might just be a lot like me Rich. The lifestyle is a good one and the independance gained builds a confidence that is difficult to easily explain.

      I have taken to cheese lately and would encourage any like minded people like yourself to give it a try.

      The first time you put a home-made feta on the plate of guest as you tell them you produced it yourself is just amazing. They look so surpised. Just like you are a magician or something!

      It is not so difficult though. Most of the soft cheeses and curds like cottage, ricotta, creams, feta and mozzarella are fairly easy to make. I have been experimenting with the cheddars and aged cheeses lately though. This is where the really rewarding efforts pay off if you have proper cold storage facilities (a cheese cave).

      Cheddars can age for years at a time without degrading. It is not unusual to have rounds in cold storage for three, five or even seven years that are delicious and always ready to eat. They are an excellent meat alternative and can act as a trade good should the system ever actually run into trouble.

      Pick up a book and the few bits of essential equipment if you have the extra time and inclination. You will never regret learning the skills of rendering milk into a quality food that can be stored for many, many years on end and prepare you for the worst situations the economy may one day send our way.

      In my own small world of milk and honey, we have bees, natural candles, plenty of good cheeses and lots of friends to enjoy the products nature provides that we refine with our own efforts and spare time.


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