Friday, September 20, 2013

Letting Go

Imagine it's the end of the world as we know it. SHTF (The S&*t's done hit the fan), everything you have come to know about the world we live in has been turned upside down. You always knew things were going to get bad... Hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst. Well now it's the worst! The shelves at the local grocery store are empty, and eerily quiet. The pumps at the local convenience mart are no longer working.  You've seen your neighbors do things you thought they weren't capable of, just trying to keep their children fed.  Hell, you've done things you aren't proud of yourself trying to protect the well being of your own family.

 You tried to be prepared... Before all this happened, but you couldn't have imagined just how hard it would be.  Every day from the time the Sun peeks it's golden crescent over the Eastern Horizon till the moment you can no longer see what you are doing at night, you toil and work just trying to survive.  You wake up each morning almost dreading the day ahead, seven days a week your muscles ache.  Even when you are sick and not feeling well, you must get up and do it again, and again, day after day.  You spend your time stumbling through an effort to grow food for your family, caring for your animals, milking, collecting eggs, cutting chopping and hauling firewood to stay warm, trudging through the woods in search of over hunted deer to shoot.  It seems like the list gets longer each day, smoking meat, making soap, mending fence, fixing the roof. 

Day in and day out.... Sun up, Sun down, on and on, and on into the future.  You almost wish the Grim Reaper will come for you, and end your suffering. 

Where I live here in Iowa, there's a very interesting view from the picture window in my living room.  It's a commanding view of a "Yin and Yang" situation.  You see there's a farm right across the street from me. Right now it waves gently in the breeze, with acre after acre of corn ripening in the Sun.  Each year the Farmer can be seen perched high atop that big green John Deere Tractor, tilling, fertilizing, planting.  It's a miracle of modern conventional farming.  For me, this unfolding melodrama has come to epitomize everything that's gone wrong in our world.  Giant Corporations, manipulation, corrupting, shaping our political landscape in order to make a buck.  Everything from the GMO seeds that the Farmer plants, to the diesel fuel in his tractor, reflects a world gone crazy.  I see topsoil blowing away in the wind, and along with it our future survival. I also have a view from that window of something else.  Something almost magical to me.  Right across the fence from those neatly plowed rows of corn and cancerous soybeans, is an area of native forest.  It's one of the reasons we moved here in the first place.  It wraps around the back of that farm field, and connects to a thousand acres of State game preserve... A thousand acres of firewood for the taking in that future SHTF world.  I've done some hiking in those woods.  I've marveled at how dense they are. Teeming with wildlife, every plant, animal, fungus, and insect living in Mother Nature's harmony.  No one plows it, no one fertilizes it, no tractors are needed.... It just grows, putting that corn field to shame in it's abundance.

Everywhere mankind has gone, we have asserted our "Mastery" over Nature.  We burn the forests, and plow them up, bending Nature to our will.  In the process we create destruction in our wake.  The Great Dust  Bowl of the 1930's is a great example of this.  We tried to bend Nature to our will, and in the process created over fifteen million acres of dust.  Even the Bible tells us the tale of our hubris.  Exodus talks of the Jewish People finding "The Land of Milk and Honey".  How could the Bible refer to such abundance, while if you visit the Middle East today all that you find is sand, and desert?  We Humans did that.  Overgrazing, the Plow, and our mis-management destroyed the land.  We're just now learning how ingenious Native Americans were at "Cultivating" Mother Nature's abundance.  These "Heathens" had thousands of miles of trails carved through the wilderness, and along every path they had nurtured food and medicinal plants to provide a Garden of Eden for themselves.  They observed how Nature worked and simply copied it's interactions to provide for themselves.

I recently ran across a posting here on the Internet, where someone had posted pictures of how He had constructed a bunch of Grape Trellises.  Being the outspoken person that I am, I commented on the posting... "Why not just let those grapes climb up a fruit tree, like Nature had designed them to do?"  WOW... OMFG.
You would have thought I had suggesting painting your Butt purple with pink polka dots, and wearing a thong to the Mall!!!!  I was quickly reminded by a number of "Experts" that a grape vine is capable of tearing limbs off of the mightiest oak.  That they would kill a tree in time.  These were so called "Preppers" by the way.  People who are supposed to be thinking outside the box when it comes to the future.

About a year ago I began to discover that there are people doing serious work, rediscovering what the Native Americans knew.  They were observing the Forest, like the one near my home, and studying it's ways.  Figuring out how to use Nature's wisdom to provide for their families in a crisis.  They had invented something called a "Food Forest Garden".  Using the layers and interactions they found in a natural forest, they were mimicking the abundant growth in the forest to create a massively productive food growing system with at least seven layers of plants growing in relative harmony to make food and medicine.  It didn't LOOK like a garden (A good thing when considering Zombie Hoards coming to take your food)... It flew in the face of everything I ever knew about gardening.  Once planted, it was supposed to be left alone to do it's own thing, like a natural forest.  You didn't till the ground, fertilize, plant, or tend to it.  You just harvested.  How could this be?  The process of running a tiller, making straight rows, thinning, weeding (Oh how I hate weeding) were extensions of the word garden right?  I had to let go of my predispositions.  I had to understand  that it didn't matter if a grape vine breaks a limb off of a tree.  That's just free firewood.  I had to realize that grapes were designed to climb a tree in the forest.  I learned that there are wild grapes that do just that... Yet as a whole the forest keeps thriving.  That there were hundreds of perennial veggies, with names like "Sea Kale" and "Mashua" that could grow, and produce year after year in these systems. Without adding to my post SHTF drudgery!  WOW!  Imagine planting a garden now, and once the world collapses not having to do anything to it for the rest of your life, but pick your food.  A carefully designed ecosystem of it's own.  Trees growing, propagating new baby trees, (And yes dying).  Plants growing food for my family without my interference.  And not a grape trellis in sight!

Some resources for further studying "Food Forest Gardens";

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How much food storage?

I've been "Preparing" for an uncertain future for a pretty long time, and over the years it's always been a puzzle to me why some people spend a whole lot of time carefully packing their beans and rice away in Mylar bags.  They dutifully add oxygen absorbers and seal everything away in buckets ready and waiting for the SHTF (S&^t to hit the fan).  Whenever I see someone who's just starting out... Asking on Facebook or somewhere for advice on what to do, the first thing people tell them is to start stockpiling food.

There seems to be a prevailing theory among "Preppers" that this is the thing to do.  The National Geographic TV show (Doomsday Preppers) tells us that we MUST have at least a years supply of freeze dried rice cakes hidden away, in a buried shipping container somewhere!  At the end of each segment on the TV show, they do an "Evaluation" of the people's "Preps".  While there is some mention of a "Re supply plan", these people (And the public) are told that without this mountain of beans, rice, and  "MRE's" that they only have a few months to live.

What strikes me as so odd.... Is that folks will go to great lengths to make sure that these supplies have the "Shelf life" of a Twinkie soaking in formaldehyde.  The last time I looked, the grocery stores were still open, and seed companies were still shipping packets of Mother Nature's little miracles, so why go to so much trouble with "Shelf life"?

Like most folks, my Wife and I started out quite some time ago, buying a few extra canned goods here and there.  We made a list of what we normally eat, emptied out the spare bedroom, built shelves, and filled them with a six months supply of stuff to shove down our Pie Holes.  Now We're not independently wealthy, and I actually had to sell my prized motorcycle to be able to get six months worth of food put away (Yes I cried).  Since then, we simply have been keeping track of how many cans of green beans we ate, and replacing (attempting to rotate) them as we went along.

If you go to the online website of a very popular food storage company, you'll find that they are selling a package with enough of their freeze dried food to feed a family of four, for a year.  The price of this epicurean bounty is $7000.00........ Holy Dollar signs Batman!!!!  Most of us are just trying to get by until our next Payday, and can't usually rub two Nickles together.   This bothered me quite a bit.  Here the so called "TV Experts" are telling us that if we don't have all this food hidden away like a Squirrel in a hollow tree, that we are DOOMED!  If we could find a way to squeeze thousands of Dollars out of the budget, we'd only have enough food to last us a year anyway.  What if the end of the World as we know it lasts longer than a couple of years?  The rest of our natural lives?  Forever????

Well, I started burning up brain cells over this problem faster than a Wino that suddenly got his hands on a case of Tequila.  I started to develop my own strategy.  I realized that the only way to provide for my family over the long term, ten, twenty years, was to place my emphasis on food production, rather than storage.  Sure it's a good idea, to have some food put away especially if there's a Natural Disaster, or say you get "Laid off" from your job for a while.  I'm not really putting down the food storage companies either, I've purchased some of their products as I could afford them, and will continue to do so.  I've developed a different strategy for my family though, that concentrates on self sustainability.  If we spend more of our time, figuring out how to be self sustaining, we'll be a lot better off fifteen years down the road.... Long after our stored food is consumed.  Unless you own a warehouse, you couldn't store up twenty years worth of food anyway.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is don't put "All your eggs in the food storage basket".  Don't put your long term survival in the hands of "TV Experts" either.  If you could come up with seven grand to spend on "Preps", would it be wise to put away six months worth of food (Not coincidentally enough to get you through a Winter), and spend your other $3500 on long term production???

I've spent an awful lot of my time, as a result thinking about how I can achieve self sustainability as a result of my deranged musings.  I've studied alternative methods of gardening, trying to reduce the amount of time food production would consume (SHTF seems like Sun up to Sun down drudgery just to stay alive and warm to me).  How to store the foods that I produce as well.  Here's a short list of concepts that you could start with. Google up (Or whatever search engine you use), some of these topics, and decide if any of them make sense in your long term future planning.
  1. Square Foot Gardening.
  2. Back to Eden Gardening.
  3. Permaculture techniques.
  4. Food Forest Gardening.
  5. Home Canning.
  6. Solar Dehydrators.
  7. Root Cellar.
  8. A Greenhouse.
  9. Cold Frames.
  10. Rain Gutter Grow Systems.
  11. Polycultures.
  12. Ovo - Lacto Vegetarianism.
  13. Reusable canning lids.
  14. An Ice House.
  15. Building a Smoker.
  16. Salt Curing.
  17. Hydroponics.
  18. Aquaponics.
  19. No till gardening.
  20. Lasagna Gardening.
  21. Hugelculture.
  22. Mittleider garden.
  23. Raising Chickens, Goats, a Milk Cow.
  24. Composting.
  25. Vermiculture.
  26. Black Soldier Flies.
  27. Heirloom Seeds.
That should be enough to get you started.  If our world goes to heck on us, twenty years down the road, you might be pretty happy that you had considered some of these food production topics, and even experimented with them.  They might just be the ticket, to keep your family fed in troubling times even long after your stored food is long gone.  As always keep your chin up and remember.... We'll get through this!