Food For Our Food

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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.

Human food:

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.

 

 

More Successful Off Grid Testing

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I did a solar and battery back up total grid shut down test yesterday. Passed with flying colors. The panels generated all of our power all day. The batteries switched over to the critical loads at night. It powered the well pump, furnace, 3 freezers, refrigerator, a sleep machine, Internet and about 800 watts of lights. They hit 50% of capacity draw down around 5:15 this morning before the controllers shut them down (this is a pretty size-able load). By 11:00 am this morning the panels already had them recharged to 95 %. I’ll take it.

As the biggest power draw was the blower on the furnace, that can be alleviated and allow for more power usage from the battery bank.  Potential improvements:  Install either a wood burning stove or cook stove in the basement or a pellet stove.  This would keep the batteries from having to power the furnace.  That, coupled with a solar hot water heater would make us almost completely energy self-sufficient……. sort of.  It would certainly trim back the load on the batteries in power down situations.

It’s Amazing What Has Transpired

 

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What an amazing week this has been.  I guess I should be grateful to it for exposing what I had suspected in our system, but wow did this whole week go from an experiment to reality in the blink of an eye!  The neighbor to our south, who also owns our local wine store and raises angus beef cattle, said she completely feels our pain. One does not simply up and leave a farm on a moment’s notice.

We were simply going to check our ability to survive off-grid for a month and all hell broke loose.  1.  Our farm hand had surgery (we knew that was going to happen).  2.  Zina’s father had a stroke and is in the hospital for the foreseeable future.  3.  Zina is now not at the farm as a result and if he passes,  I have to now call my mother here because evidently one layer of farm hands as a back up is insufficient.  4.  Of all the damned luck.  I am seeing yet another therapist.  All I did was take ONE step down from his office and sprained my hip (It felt like a paper towel being ripped off the roll).  Of course, this set off a cascade of panic as I had to literally crawl to the house from the car when I got home because my hip couldn’t take any weight.  That set off all sorts of worry as to whether or not I’d be able to take care of the creatures in the morning.  Fortunately, by using dual hiking poles, like one would do cross country skiing, I was able to get it all done.  The last couple of days have pretty much been lying about, icing my hip, and cursing the universe.  It is mind blowing just how much could go unexpectedly bad in such a short period of time (Oh ya, our youngest Lab had a diarrhea episode last night in our bathroom.  Try cleaning that disgusting mess up while not being able to bend down!).   I’m pretty convinced that the universe is sadistic and it costs too much to live here on this rock because of our “civilization”.  We have a lot to consider going forward.  Please spare me the God and all things happen for a reason BS.

So, obviously, not much got done here the past couple of days.  BUT!  I have made goat milk soap in the past week or so, and just made my own CBD oil from Colorado Catnip grown right here on the farm.

That’s the important take away I think.  So many of us are completely tied to the grid and to corporations to supply us with our needs.  Instead of working towards self-sufficiency, our society has worked to tie us to a dependency system.  This is a Catch-22 in my opinion.  You get educated to get a good job.  Once you have said job, you have to pay for your own transportation, work clothes, housing, food, and insurance, all so you can earn money at a job to pay for all of those costs.  In financial planning jargon we call those “fixed expenses”.  You wake up in your dorm or fancy suburban prison cell, dress, go to your job, do your job and then come home and shelf yourself back into your housing unit to store yourself until the next day – all on your dime.   Essentially, it is the percentage of your earnings that are required of you to keep earning.  The rest is retirement savings (that you can’t use for decades), taxes to pay for military conquests abroad, extortion level medical insurance premiums and then “discretionary cash” – the money used to have a “lifestyle” so you don’t go insane from the treadmill job you spent precious time, money and life to get and keep.  In that venue, under the illusion of convenience, you either go out to eat, or go to the grocery store to acquire your necessary and, in many cases, unnecessary calories, of which you have no control over and which gets more expensive every year.  Because of this frustration, you end up spending more of your discretionary income in therapy trying to figure out how to survive in a world that is completely, and non-hyperbolically,  insane.

What we have discovered on the homestead/farm is just what usury levels of costs are built into the system for this convenience.  Canning, dehydrating and freezing food you grow yourself, reveals just how much of your earnings are being sucked from you because you let someone do it for you – because your slavery doesn’t afford you the time.  Can some food and compare that cost to the cans on the shelf.  Grow some broccoli and compare that to the produce department.  Shoot, even buy the ingredients for bread and compare that to a loaf of bread-like-substance at your so called grocery store.  If that doesn’t show you the stark madness of being dependent on our industrial ag system, not much else will.  Then, if you still remain unconvinced, compare the taste and nutrient quality of your tomatoes to a factory produced can of diced “tomatoes”.  The differences are stark.

Now.  For today’s lesson.  My cannabis plants are heirloom.  Which means that you can breed them and the seeds remain genetically true to the parent plant as opposed to crosses which do not.  I planted eight plants and kept the three females.  Those plants created close to 10 lbs of buds and dried down to just under 2.  That is more than I could use in a couple of years.  Cost……. 0.  The expense of infusing the oils was only the cost of the oils.  In a dispensary, a couple of ounces would run 50-100 bucks.  How long do you have to work to earn that kind of money?  If I could, for all of my physical pain, I would bathe in the stuff. This way, by doing it myself,  I don’t have to pay extortion level prices for something so easy to grow and create.  Why do you think they call it weed?  It grows like one.  Mine reached 7 feet in height……… just like virtually anything on a grocery store shelf, it is stupid simple to make yourself-  Most bread and pastas: 4 ingredients.  Mayonnaise: three.  Canned tomatoes: one…. and that goes for most vegetables, maybe a little salt.  Pre-made meals if canned or frozen yourself:  no preservatives and have a shelf life of years.   What price for convenience?  Pretty much your life.   What do you have to do that is more important?  Video games? Golf?  Movies? Shopping for shit to spend your money on but don’t really need? Hell, gardening could even save you a gym membership fee.

So perhaps we have been sold a bill of goods for iPhones, fancy clothes, and status.  After all, the best way to keep a prisoner from escaping, is to never let them know they are actually IN prison in the first place.

Use your job to plan your escape, not keep you enslaved to a version of reality that has no more depth to it than your flat screen tv.  We did it, and as Robert Frost said, “And that has made all the difference”.

Peace and freedom ya’ll.  This is what it looks like.  Live like a Hobbit.  Re-learn the old ways.  They work better.

 

First SHTF Check-In

So as I figured, the food portion of our emergency homestead experiment is a no brainer.  A month?  Shooooooooot.  We have enough prepared canned meals put up to last 4 – not to mention the 2 years of dried and freeze dried foods, plus chickens that make us breakfast everyday.  So this isn’t such a big deal.  However, it does give one time to think though.  My next test is going to be seeing how it goes with all the alternative cooking methods.  Again, shouldn’t be a big deal.  Also, as we had planned for, the proper circuits are hooked up to the critical load breaker panel for the solar and all is working just fine.  As I type, I am in the basement on one of the wired up circuits and the internet is simply plugged into the master bedroom outlets.  Both of these are set up to work should the grid go down.  We’ve already had a lot of experience in this as the power goes out out here if a mouse farts in the wrong direction.

As I had mentioned in the initial introduction to this experiment, the cheat here was knowing when it was going to start.  For animal feed, I simply stocked up a bit more than normal and we already had hay enough to last a year and a half.  So the animals won’t be much affected.  Now we did say that we were going to act as though we couldn’t get fuel.  That would pose a problem with the pigs that I’m not going to address this time around.  They were supposed to go to freezer camp last week, and the weather did indeed change plans.  It got down to -2F for 3 days and we had over a foot of snow, making it impossible to 1. Get the pigs on the trailer and 2. Get the trailer out so we could drive them to the processor (About 10 miles from here).  The only way to remedy that problem if everything did fall apart would be to butcher them ourselves.  We already process our own poultry and I have experience dressing out big game from hunting, but processing two 350 pound hogs on the premises is something we will either have to remedy, or just accept the fact that no person is an island.

The next gap in the works has to do with how we inhabit this country.  Most of our relatives live in Michigan (Another in way the hell away Canada).  The week we had decided to try this off – grid experiment out, we found out that Zina’s dad had had a stroke.  Fortunately the airplanes still fly and I just got pinged via text message that she just landed.  But it gives one pause.  “What ifs” abound.  It would have to be assumed that others would simply be able to take care of themselves.  However, with some temperaments, the not knowing part would be crazy making.  Trying to get 1500 miles from here on a horse would be a challenge not worth attempting.  The crazy part of this is that we had a plan in place to take care of the farm in case we had to jump suddenly and hit the road should the worst happen in this situation.  We have a part time farm helper that gives me a break once in awhile and adds a second set of hands when having to deal with animal doctoring issues.  We knew she was going to be out for several weeks and we didn’t really think much of it.  No sooner did her issue transpire that we got the call about dad (I mean within a day or so of each other).  Now what do we do?  Now MY mother is on stand by to fly out here on a moments notice to take care of the animals while we leave here together for the first time since we bought the place.  Bottom line:  This place is well suited for bugging in during emergencies.  It gets kind of dicey should we have to leave.  Not sure how to remedy that but, as I said, this endeavor will reveal the gaps we should consider.

So over all, nothing to report on the domestic front.  All is going as it should, even if we did start out in a snow storm (that almost collapsed the turkey coop from the weight of the snow).  Now I’ll be working toward using the alternative cooking methods. Now that Zina is well on her way. It’s just me now for while.  What a hardship this is!  LOL.  What a tough life.

So what have I been doing to fill the “screen” time up?  Well, a little screen time – my hyper-vigilance doesn’t allow for complete blackouts, but mostly going to a Monet exhibit (That we’d had tickets for for the last year – his nature paintings are my all time favorites) weaving a blanket and making goat’s milk soap of course – doesn’t everyone?

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This Is A Test, This Is Only A Test…..

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We have spent the better part of a decade building our farm and learning the lost skills our ancestors would have considered par for the course.  We try to live a simpler, more old fashioned lifestyle, deliberately.  As we think this society is in collapse, we intentionally separate ourselves from the majority of what urbanites would consider “normal”.  We are about as self-sufficient as two old duffs can be in this day and age so the time has come to put it all to the test.  For mental health reasons, I dropped out of the world for a few months at the beginning of the year.  I pretty much tuned out from society, ignored the news and learned that the emotional well being of others is not my responsibility.  I have three people to worry about in this world and I am one of them. To further this endeavor, it is time to put the farm through its paces.  So the second “drop out” this year is going to last through the month of November; but this time it is more physical than cerebral.  This homestead behemoth needs to be put through its paces.

As I have said many times, I think the biggest threat we need to contend with is economic collapse.  As we speak, the Fed is pumping BILLIONS of dollars a day into the “REPO” system – the overnight lending system  (too much to go into).  We are now in a covert QE4.  If this system freezes up like it did in 2008, It will make that collapse look like a happy ride at Disney Land. If liquidity is not maintained, people will not get paid, food and fuel will not get shipped and those “too big to fail” institutions may actually fail – or make everything else fail (In short, Great Depression mark 2.0).  This country is carrying a debt load, individually, governmentally and corporate that is, in numbers, like the stars in the Milky Way.  We will crash from a much higher height than 2008.  Don’t get fooled.  This whole thing is held together with rubber-bands and paperclips.  We are all whistling past the graveyard.  While the news says the economy looks good, the underlying systems keeping it afloat are collapsing.  Even if I’m wrong (I’m not) with all the other collapse issues happening in the world: fires, impeachment issues, fraud, civil unrest around the world, flooding and grain shortages, corruption, political and racial division, US concentration camps on our southern border, income inequality of biblical proportion, an administration based on nothing but verifiable lies and deceit, Fukushima, swine fever in Asia and a partridge in a pear tree, as well as the military admitting that it could be completely overwhelmed because of climate change in 20 years, we have decided to simulate a SHTF scenario (When the excrement hits the high speed oscillator). We are going to shift our solar system to critical load mode only and then live for the month of November on nothing but what we already have here. We will be pulling out all the non-electric cooking gear, live only off the solar for electricity, use our oil lamps for light, assume there is no gas for vehicles, no trips to the grocery store, and – as importantly – no news (like if the com sats were knocked out). Of course, Zina can’t just take November off from work, so I guess I should be saying “I” will be doing this (although she is only going to eat food from the farm and not go out or shop).  She also carries a “get home bag” in her car.   Simulations aren’t pure or perfect.  We are getting as close as we can.  The number one impurity?  I know when it’s going to start.  Reality would dictate otherwise.  The unknown and the surprise are the issues that will cause people to freak.

We are extremely prepared and this likely won’t be a big deal, but it will expose any holes in the system. Some of the weaknesses I already know about, some might be a surprise.  It’s all about being able to say that not only do we know how to do it, but that we’ve actually done it.

As you know, we have lots of livestock and they get to play along too. We will need to ration feed and not just run to the feed store should we run out. It just snowed a foot here yesterday and it went down to -2 F last night. I’ve already been contending with frozen waterers and those infernal GFCI outlets that kick off when you need them the most (2 am).  As I can’t get to a few of my smaller propane tanks and a couple of them need to be filled, I’d best get at it tomorrow. We are starting November 1st and are going all the way through Thanksgiving (We raise turkeys and we may try to do the holiday bird without the electric oven –  or use the generator to power it.  The oven range isn’t on the solar panel load – too much draw for the batteries).

I am actually looking forward to doing this. It is as much of a detachment from the world as we can simulate. Virtually all of the food will have been grown and stored right here on the farm. Realistically, we could go 2 years on our existing stored food (if you include two growing seasons) so this is more of a real time assessment than a thought process. I’m looking forward to being a hermit for awhile. After all, if it all falls apart, it’s going to do it whether or not I know about it through the propaganda we call media.  We have a couple of appointments already scheduled for the month that we can’t escape, so it won’t be perfect but………

How long could you go if you couldn’t get to the grocery store?  Do you have water should the municipal system shut down?  If you are on a well, can you purify your water should it become contaminated? Could you survive 2 weeks?  A weekend? FEMA says you can’t.  What about power?  Heat?  Should you be working on it?  Do you have medical supplies beyond simple first aid and know how to use it?  No? Our nearest hospital is over an hour from here.   What about simple showering and clothes washing?  Hmmmmm.

Stay tuned.  I will blog the progress as we go.  Tomorrow:  Get the propane tanks filled.  Get the rocket stove and Silver Fire stove and the Sun Oven out.  Make sure the water filters are cleaned.  Shut down the news apps.  Center.  Live like it has already happened.