So we are at the end of week three of our farm stress test. The goal of which to assess how both the farm itself and it’s inhabitants could manage should an LCE (Life Changing Event) require us to sequester ourselves here. I am happy to see that most of it has been positive; however, because this has caused us to look critically at the whole system, it has revealed some issues that need to be addressed.
The Off-Grid Infrastructure:
I see little issue with our off grid systems so far. We are on a well and that will be supplemented with water catchment and diversion systems. We have several water filtration techniques so unless we see both the well dry up and have a massive prolonged drought (which could certainly happen – we live in the western end of what was engulfed by the dust bowl) we are as good as we can get at this point. We need to add some more water tanks, but we already knew that. Our septic system has been checked out and is running as it should. We are contemplating a composting toilet system as well. The solar electric system continues to amaze. Should the grid fail, I don’t see much of a problem. Should the solar system fail, we also have a dual fuel generator to back that up and it is even more powerful than the panels. A weaker point has to do with heat and hot water. We are completely dependent upon propane. While there is no shortage of the stuff, it will not be getting any cheaper. I find it frustrating to no end to have to depend on a guy with a truck who may or may not get to us during an LCE. I would like to see us install a solar hot water system and a wood stove. While this wouldn’t eliminate our propane needs, it would drastically reduce it to the point where we’d be able to manage. We have multiple ways to cook, including solar. We know that if the grid goes down our electric range and oven will not function unless hooked to a generator (which can be done) but other than the oven (which would be replaced by our solar oven), we can do anything the stove can do via alternative means. Transportation would need to be drastically curtailed due to fuel scarcities and costs. I will not be getting a horse and wagon. I do too much already.
Off farm emergencies:
Well folks, you’d be on your own. Ironically, as I posted previously, we had the perfect storm of events that tested this issue. What a fiasco. Our farm hand had surgery, Zina had to leave town and I sprained my hip and could barely walk. It was touch and go as to whether or not the chores could get done. Had it been as serious as my back two years ago, this would have been an epic failure. This turn of events has spurred me on to really get a community together. We have a few folks that we can share tasks with now and I hope to expand that. You feed my goats, I’ll hay your horses, etc. However, in an LCE, if you can get here just don’t show up unannounced, we likely would do anything possible to not have to leave in the first place.
Our food storage and our ability to grow food made this a solid foundation for us. So far this has been a no brainer. Between purchased dry goods, freeze dried and dehydrated food storage, vacuum sealed and bucketed items, canned and jarred preservation and pre-made meals, we could survive for a very long time. That, and knowing how to cook creatively and on a multiple of different sources, is a skill set to be valued. As long as we have our chickens, breakfast is made for us daily, thus taking some of the burden off of our pantry. BUT! That leads us to another discovery that will be leading us to a more in depth plan of action.
Food For Our Food:
If you have only been watching the corporate infotainment channels, you are likely pretty uninformed. Those corporate mind numbing displays of faux news have likely not let you know that we are on the cusp of some pretty serious food shortages and price increases due to the massive flooding this past spring and the freak freezes of the past month. This is likely to continue. If you think food prices have gone up a lot lately, hold on to your shorts. Between grain shortages and a massive swine fever in Asia that has destroyed close to half a billion hogs, this is going to get interesting to say the least.
If we can keep growing our own vegetables and greens, and as long as we can raise our own meat, eggs and dairy, we are in good shape. But that, itself, has a weak link too. We are incapable of growing the feed needed to keep breakfast miraculously appearing every day. While we won’t be fighting the insane citiot crowds at the grocery stores, hay and critter feed are the same sort of weak link as depending on the propane dude to bring us highly pressurized, explosive gas. We don’t have haying equipment and simply can’t afford it. A stout system to hay out our back 30 acres would cost in the neighborhood of $100,000.00. So we need to constantly be on the look out for sources of Alfalfa/Grass bales. Secondly, we can’t grow enough grain in diversified enough quantities to feed our turkeys and chickens year round. There are ways to make or purchase cheaper feed , but currently we feed all organic and that isn’t always easy to find. We are going to be switching to a new breed of pig that can be raised mostly on hay, which will bring down our feed costs, and we do have ways to mix our own chicken feed from bulk purchases, so we do have some alternatives. However, just as we rotate our food pantry to continually cycle the older food and replace it with newer, we need to do that with feed. We also need to fence in an additional pasture so we can take advantage of the grass we do have without having to bale it. We will be spending a tidy sum here to get about 6 months of poultry and hog feed stored and then rotate through it (Grains that have been milled and mixed have about a 6-8 month shelf life). From there, we will simply start at one end and back fill to replenish as we go. Because hay is a local search and we are prone to drought, not only will we keep the barn stocked, as you can see in the photo above, we will be stacking it and tarping it under the barn awning as well. If kept dry, hay can last about 3 years. This should help keep the eggs, meat and cheese flowing. Lastly, I need to do a better job of seed saving. I do some, but I need to be more diligent at it. Plants adapt to their environment over time and that gets passed on to through their seeds. That is important out here given the poor soil quality and hard water. Lastly, we are an hour away by vehicle, to the nearest hospital. We have ample first aid supplies, but I’m thinking that some improved herbal knowledge couldn’t hurt.
So this experiment has been fun. It has let us play the SHTF game, do some thought experiments, experience some of it in real time, and map strategy going forward. I would highly recommend that you give it a try in your own world. It can be an eye opener. I hope this also gives you some ideas as to what we could be facing and help you to develop some sort of plan of action. Don’t work panicked, work smart. The 7 year anniversary of purchasing this place happens in three weeks. It takes time. Do the best with what you have. To quote a friend: “It’s one Step at a time, one Thing at a time one Day at a time (STD), just don’t procrastinate.