Saturday, April 30, 2011

Surviving 2011

A few miles from my house

Killer tornadoes, flooding, high winds, hail as big as fists... sadly, these are all in the news this week, almost every day, it seems. The other prominent news is the doubling of gasoline and near-doubling food costs. Those combined facts bring survival to the forefront.

Truck Stop 8 miles from my house
Tornadoes are usually not a concern here in the mountains. However, 2 nights ago (Wednesday, April 27) an EF3 touch down about 8 miles south of my house, killing 10 and destroying the town. Closer by 4 miles, an EF2 touched down, thankfully no loss of life reported so far. We had the edge the storms, but not the brunt of them, and only lost one large tree. My heart goes out to those who have died in this recent rage of storms, and to those left behind to mourn loved ones and clean up the incredible debris.

TS Eliot said, "April is the cruelest month." That sure stands true for April, 2011. The national death toll from the recent rage of tornadoes and storms stands at around 300.

For years I have read Survival blogs, basically for tips on being prepared for weather-based situations where preparedness is of the utmost importance. I have not prepared for tornadoes because they are a rare occurrence here; now that has changed and things will never be the same.

Killer storms, coupled with the ongoing economic downturn, makes it a whole different ballgame. The price of gasoline in the US is hovering around and over $4 a gallon as of late April 2011, and some economists think it could rise to as much as $10/gallon.

Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, there is no going back; things will never be the same as they were 2, 5, 10, 20 years ago.

So, what ARE we doing to compensate and prepare, individually? Are we willing to accept we actually might be in the throes of a long downward spiral where things do not get better? (AKA the beginning stages of TEOTWAWKI, the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it.) Or are we still keeping our heads in the sand and renting DVD's for entertainment to accompany our take-out pizza?

As an example of the latter, I share a house with my sister, and her 23 year old daughter. At age 21 the kid got a minimal wage job, and established some credit. First came a $125+/month cell phone with bells and whistles, then a couple of department store cards for the newest fashions. Not much than a year later she was out of work, cannot pay her CC bills nor contribute a penny to the food and household bills. Yet her goal with her $700 income tax refund coming soon is to pay off some bills so she can get her cell phone back. Not money to pay for food, nor housing... just getting her 'status' cell phone back.  (I admit that her attitude is partly her mother's fault because she financially supports her only daughter, requiring nothing in return.)

However, I think the kid's attitude is far more indicative of some typical thinking of many Americans who have their head in the sand. Many people I know just see it as a "belt-tightening time", thinking we will get through it and it will be fat-city again. 

There are NO economic indicators to suggest that is possible. If you want some proof, just search data on the interest the US government owes on the national debt. If the government never spends another dime for defense, social welfare programs, research, or any funding of government agencies and projects, it would take every dime of tax money to make interest only payments... and it still would never pay off the interest, much less the principal.

Look at the many Americans who have lost their homes and filed bankruptcy because the interest payments would never get them out of the hole even WITH a paying job or two, much less being unemployed in a market with no jobs.... and thus paying no taxes to help fund the government debt payments.

So, my original question us, what are we doing on an individual basis? I'd love to hear what YOU are doing. 

Here's what I am doing, or planning:

1. First and foremost, I am making my spring house which is below grade, into a small storm shelter. I didn't think I needed it before this week. It will be damp and cold, but probably a lot safer than this house which is basically a trailer with some stick-built portions built around it. I just need to stock the spring house with a few comforts like chairs, blankets, oil lamps, food, etc.

2. I'm raising a small garden (it will feed just myself... my sis and her kid won't eat green stuff, or peel potatoes when they can buy mashed potatoes in a box). I have worked on winter produce/food storage areas so things keep without freezing (although that project isn't finished). I am growing more storable vegetables like winter squash, potatoes, onions, garlic, parsnips, rutagagas…

3. I'm trying to figure out how to get enough money to fence an area for a few chickens and maybe a milk goat or two, although a cow would be better as it would provide more milk.

4. I'm adding more insulation to our attic to curb heat loss, and looking at ways to augment heat with solar gain. Solar gain will be difficult to achieve because we have long covered porches running on both long sides of the house, making the house several feet from direct sunlight.
5. I’m looking into building a simple and cheap solar batch water heater, even if we just use it 6 months of the year.

6. I have cut down every possible frivolous use of gasoline, including those rare trips to visit friends even though they help save my sanity. I have cut everything from the grocery store that isn't basic food (or an extra pack of TP to stockpile!)

7. I have learned that foods at eye level in the grocery stores are the most expensive, so now I look high up on the shelves, or way down below my comfort zone for bargains and best unit prices. I've learned that often coupons suck you into buying something you really can do without. I've learned to investigate sale items on the end caps... they are not always a bargain. I've learned to check unit prices on larger containers... they used to be the bargains, but now they are sometimes higher per unit than smaller quantities.

8. I am buying open pollinated seeds and not hybrid seeds. That way I can save seeds to replant the following year and they are non-GMO! With Monsanto in control (or indirect control) of so much of the seeds worldwide, OP and heirloom seeds are becoming more scarce and costly.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” — Robert A. Heinlein


  1. Good post - and good thoughts.

    Sue AKA ~Leah's Mom~

  2. Thanks.

    BTW, I have NO idea how the font size got jumbled. Blogger strikes again!

  3. Have you tried Craigs List for fencing yet?
    Or freecycle? Also, think about what you can grow to feed your chickens & goats. I have two small goats that cost very little to feed because I can barter for the hay.

    The chickens free range til growing season but still like their layer, which, like everything else is costing more. We have continually needed to add more fencing to make alternate pastures & to keep livestock out of the garden.
    The tornado damage pics show devastation that the only prep for is having somewhere else to go.
    I am learning to buy more food (& tp) in bulk before prices go even higher. Just ordered 50 # of organic black & navy beans.
    You've got the right idea of how to shop in the grocery store & what to grow. I seem to spend a lot of my time working on the same.

  4. Thanks. I've just watched a video about increasing forage crops as part of a forest garden, which is do-able with time.

    Craig's List around here is possible but very slim choices, if any, although I keep checking. None based within 75-100 miles unfortunately. (I'm in a rural and very poor area.)

    Freecycle here really IS a joke unless you want baby clothes or have lots of stuff available for the "Gimme, gimme" freeloaders.

  5. Is the video on forage crops on-line? If so, could you post a link, please :)

    Sue (AKA ~Leah's Mom~

  6. Actually the video is 5 segments, a great British documentary "A Farm for the Future". The forage info was in part 4 or 5, I forget. All in all one of the best videos I have watched.

    Here's part 1, the rest are listed after it.

  7. We had a couple tornadoes here as well with that big storm front. This is unheard of here. I do have a basement, but I never thought I would need it for such a purpose.

    I've been doing prep type stuff for a while, as you know. I've been putting in small fruits and fruit trees for a couple years now, but I haven't had the best results from that. I'm putting in a bunch more this year that were chosen because they are shade tolerant. If even half of them take, I should be self-sufficient in terms of fruit in a couple years. I had hoped to get an almond to cover protein, but at this point there is nowhere to put it that it would be happy. I would have to do some major shifting. I'll be doing sunflowers, flax, and poppies instead, but those won't make much of a contribution because you need to grow a lot of them to make a serious dent in protein/fat needs and my lot is just normal city size. So that remains a problem. No chickens allowed here, either.

    For the past two years I've been establishing perennial herbs here, and that's going very well. I've been able to harvest them for myself but more importantly to harvest and sell the seeds. I am expanding that quite a bit this year, incorporating the front yard, which is the sole really sunny and tree-free area in my lot. Herbs look more like landscape plants.

    One big project this season is working on the best way to grow traditional annual food plants in shade. I'm doing mostly snap and snow peas, snap beans, and leafy greens, with the plot half legumes so I can flip them next year and get fert that way.

    I've been canning for four years, but this year my project is to do everything possible to can and freeze what I need for a year during the most productive months here for food production, which is June through November. That's going to be a massive amount of work.

    What I would like to try next is mushroom growing. I have a good area at the very far end of my yard which is crowded around with trees. I think it would be perfect for mushroom logs. I'll try that next year. Already have my hands full this year.

  8. Sounds like an ambitious plan, Harold! Can't you put the almond in the sunny front yard?

    I'm expanding my perennial herbs this year, mainly culinary as I don't know enough about medicinal herbs. My plate is too full to take them on this year anyway!

  9. I don't want to put the almond in the front because it's on the north side of the house and the almond would be on the edge of its zone here. It would work well on the sheltered south side, but it is too shady back there. So for now, no almonds.

    Herbs you grow yourself taste so very much better than store-bought, even more so than veggies, IMO.

  10. LOL, I wondered if anyone ever came back to see what I posted about their comments!

    I agree on the almond placement, now that you described more 'conditions'.

  11. Hey Darius, I found your blog about 3 months ago. I met you a few years ago at a roundup for Dave's Gardening(merkat123) I have been preparing for TEOTWAWki for about 2-3 years. We have a garden and can what we grow and what I can find to can. I've been trying to buy grains and beans to store, and learning how to cook them. Bought 25 chicks about 2 weeks ago. I don't know if I can eat them, but I can eat their eggs. I'm thinking about getting a milk goat, and I want to learn how to make different kinds of cheeses. I work fulltime as a nurse, so I don't have a lot of time to do other things, but I try. So glad I found your blog. You are such an interesting person and know how to do so much. Linda

  12. Thanks, Linda... IIRC, we met at one of the GARU's I attended. Has Atlanta grown all the way out to Cave Spring yet?

    Glad you made an early start on self-sufficiency, and are adding to what you can do. I want milk goats... they are fun, and their cheese is great.

  13. Cave Spring is still a little town with one red light. Hope Atlanta never makes it this far.


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