I had a strange feeling this past New Year. It felt like the twenty teens were somehow the last “normal” decade we were ever going to see. Forces have been arising that seemed to have enough clout to really rock our world through the 2020’s. The markets were too long in the tooth, being held up by rubber bands and paper clips as well as massive amounts of money being fed into the system by the fed and companies doing the same thing that helped cause the Great Depression (Buying back their stock). This, and the fact that over half of this country didn’t participate in the recovery from 2008 and are incapable of handling an emergency that would require them to come up with $400.00. If you have read this blog for any time, I think Climate Change is the ultimate trump card. There is no escaping it and if the IPCC is correct, the talking points say that we only have this decade to turn things around (I am not of that camp. I don’t think it can be turned around at all). So the clock is ticking and the doomsday clock was pushed closer to midnight than it has ever been. I just didn’t think we would see it all happen in the first quarter of the first year of the new decade! I had been calling out warnings for a couple of years now that a life changing event was coming. I just didn’t know the catalyst was going to come from a bat. Welcome to the jungle. And you thought Mother Nature could be controlled and wasn’t in charge. Baaaa, baaaa, says the sheep.
(As an aside, it is remarkable to me that we could mobilize all of these logistics globally to fight a bug because it is killing and maiming people, but human extinction due to climate change? Virtually nothing. Save ourselves from the bat bug, so we can die from accelerated habitat loss. Humanity, if nothing else, is certainly a conundrum. But I digress).
We, like everyone, have been pretty scope locked on this infernal virus. But, because we live the way we live, we have been prepared for just about everything for many years. As I have some pretty hyper-vigilant situational awareness senses, we were out ahead of this thing. We filled in the gaps (Not Toilet Paper – because of where we live, you ALWAYS have extra) and instead of having to freak and scramble for basic daily rations, I went out and filled in the more comfort items: snacks, drinks, chips, etc. For any of the more long-term food storage items we simply add to it as a matter of course. My spidey senses told me that the window was closing fast to get prepared, so I went when all the others still seemed to think all was normal. Friends, relatives, neighbors at the cafe’, as usual, poo poo’d it because that thing we call media, was convincing everyone it was “over there” and it was just a bad case of the “flu” and those bad government doobies were just trying to scare us. We in the prepper and homesteader – verse were not convinced for a minute. Most of those I follow and are friends with were on the same page we were. The mantra was “get prepared now before everyone else suddenly realizes how serious this is.” And, of course, here we are.
It was the week after I did all of this that the hoards descended en-masse like the pictures and videos everyone is now familiar with (maybe you were even featured in them). We have always had some masks and gloves around (we use the masks to clean the chicken coop). We have always had an extensive first-aid supply so all I really did was pick up a bunch of cold, flu, nausea and cough meds for possible first response needs (Oh ya, and a new thermometer and finger mounted Pulse Oximeter). The weekend AFTER the first feeding frenzy was entertaining. I went to Costco to get some meat I needed for some canning I’m doing. I got to joke around with the staff amidst the empty shelves and cardboard boxes. They said that past weekend was worse than Christmas. The photo below is a clerk at our closest grocery store. She is a friend. She and I had gone to physical therapy together. The woman she is checking out had 3 carts loaded to over-flowing, and every check out aisle was similar. All I was after was some whole milk that we make yogurt for our pigs with!
Keep in mind this is a full size grocery store out in the sticks in a town of 2500 people. They did this to the shelves in 2 days:
Because we produce so much of our own food and because we always keep the things we don’t grow stocked up in the pantry or freezers, we were fortunate not to have to go out into the freak show for very much.
Our virus prepping was quite a bit different from the norm. Some of our food walks around and eats grain. In addition to this little pandemic surprise we are now confronting, climate change hasn’t gone away. Last year, for the blissfully unaware, was a terrible year for grain crops. Severe flooding prevented many farmers from planting. Many had their grain stores ruined or washed away and the freak freezes in the mid-west this past fall made harvesting a challenge. As a result, there have been warnings about possible grain shortages (potatoes too). We are expecting an El-Nino this coming summer which, at least here, usually means drought conditions and heat. Should we experience another poor growing season for crops, animal feed will get expensive. So in order to withstand this virus shindig and to get out ahead of potential grain price increases, we prepped for our critters more than we prepped for ourselves. For us, feed means a continuous source of eggs (a re-producing breakfast supply), feed means pork (we have breeding stock now so our pork will beget more pork). Hay means milk, cheese and yogurt from our goats. They all make compost and that means vegetables. We feed a lot of our eggs to our pigs as a protein source, so, in essence, the chicken feed gets used twice! Our goal is to have a year each of chicken and pig feed and a year or more of stacked hay (In a drought, hay gets ridiculously hard to find and, as a result, expensive). So while the citiots were out mobbing Costco, Sams, Walmart and Target, we were just up the road ordering skids of feed. With the eggs, pork, chicken and dairy taken care of, we are well situated, and it will help stretch the stored goods for quite some time.
Other preps have included, butchering 125 lbs. of turkey and grinding it up and putting it in the freezer; making gallons of turkey and chicken soup along with the ingredients to can loads of other meals. Now that the weather is turning for the better, we will be collecting our Jersey Giant meat bird eggs and hatching them out. We have Cornish Cross chicks due in in a month and they will add to the freezer in short order (they grow very fast). We have one goat in milk right now and will be breeding the others. They will kid in the fall and the milk faucet will continue on unabated.
Like so many people who are privileged to be able to, Zina has been ordered to work from home for the foreseeable future. We are very grateful to her company to be out ahead of the problem as well. Aaron came home for spring break and it has turned into a year ending affair. He will be taking the remainder of his classes on line this semester and then he will be home for the summer. It remains to be seen if school starts back up in the fall. Given the blundering way the powers that be are handling this, don’t hold your breath. For those who can’t work from home, we certainly hope for the best. Too bad we can’t count on those living off of our tax dollars to do anything important. Isn’t it ironic that those who have the low “skill”, low wage jobs are now considered indispensable? Quite frankly, I think this bat virus is exposing “capitalism” for the two tiered sociopathic farce that it is.
So after getting hunkered down at the farm (which didn’t change much except that I’m not alone for most of the week now), we started looking to the long term. You see, it is my contention that if we are to survive not only through this virus, or if there are others (which there are sure to be), and the changing living conditions in which we find ourselves, there is going to be a re-ruralization – or at least a massive re-structuring of urban settings. The supply lines will become more localized. Globalism will be seen for the failure that it is (Who’da thunk that a virus from a poor wet market in Asia could get on a plane and kill people all the way around the world. Globalism….. the perfect model.). Knowing this, it makes sense to get out ahead of that curve as well. In World War II they were called “Victory Gardens”. Due to food rationing and military mobilization, people were called upon to farm their yards. It is currently going on in Russia and it is a large part of how Cuba has survived its sanctions and horrendous treatment at our hands. It is a remarkable thing, abundance. If you have the means and some space it is time to start growing a garden. It is great exercise, the taste of the food is without equal, and if you do it with your neighbors, the bartering and sharing (gasp!) creates community. Hey! You are locked up anyway, its something to do instead of shooting zombies on the PS4 and produces an actual result! If the supply lines get disrupted because of this, you will be ever thankful for taking this advice. We do save our seed every year, but for those we can’t we are even getting a supply ordered for 2021 ahead of time (seeds can last for several years in a fridge – we have a little one just for that purpose).
We are calling this year’s garden planting, “re-stocking the produce aisle”. While it hasn’t changed from what we normally do and because the building projects here are largely done, I have been able to give it more attention than years past. This is an aisle restocking for the late summer and fall. The seedlings are up and loving the basement “suns” as they get set to go into their pre-garden grow out pots. Later this week I am expecting 20 tons of planting soil to be delivered so that I can finish my last 2 48 x 6 foot row crop beds. Then the composting and amending begins in earnest for the planting to begin in the next 6-8 weeks.
I have also begun making tinctures. For those who don’t know what these are, they are extracts made by soaking an herb or spice in grain alcohol or vodka for about a month. The resulting filtered liquid can be used for many medicinal situations. For instance, our garlic tincture is great for regulating blood pressure, can act as a blood thinner, and has strong anti-viral properties (hint). Considering that 97% of our antibiotics come from China, learning the old medicinal ways only makes sense. Get ahead of the curve!
So, personally, I think all those that are acting like my eldest Lab when we put her out in her pen and then just stands there staring at the house like we have locked her in prison, lack creativity. This should be used to learn, to experiment, to develop new skills to adapt to a life that is certainly going to be different.
I assert again that the twenty teens were the last “normal” decade. The new normal will be something akin to living like an Amish Hobbit in the 1850’s. You can prepare for it, or you can sit around like baby birds in a nest waiting for momma Robin to come stuff a worm down your gullet. Of course, that makes one dependent upon the same government they claim to hate. Hey, I just call em like I see ’em. As I learned to affirm in therapy, “I wasn’t wrong then, I’m not wrong now.” Given how many people are now contacting me about what to do, I get to feel a little smug. The days of insulting or dismissing homesteaders and preppers are over. We don’t engage in Schadenfreude, but there is some shaking of our heads. A certain amount of “I told you so” is well deserved. We earned it. We in the community do hope that there can be a civilized transition to the new normal and not Mad Max. But rest assured there is preparedness for that too. We are at a crossroads and where it goes from here and how it goes from here is destined to be incredibly entertaining. Keep your wits about you. Don’t believe any rosie short term forecasts, this is going to be with us for a very long time to come.
Hunker down. My favorite meme from this: