Many years ago, the young and adventurous me, discovered a 40 acre parcel of heavily forested property which none of the locals even knew was for sale, smack dab in the middle of a state forest. Deep in the middle of this secluded 40 acre parcel in the wild’s of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula stood a 20’X20′ tar papered shanty I was about to call home. It took every penny I had to buy the property that had unknowingly been up for sale for more than 15 years. I was beside myself with excitement! I was 43.
The cabin/now shanty was built as a hunting camp in 1963 using real saw milled 2X4’s. Sturdy, well built, no electricity or water as there were no power lines out there in the early days. It was dirty, run down and ghost like from all the years of no human intervention. However, a local population of mice and raccoons had made a claim to it over the years, moving in their own families. And really large, gray wart covered wolf spiders inhabited every crack and corner of the tiny, lovable little cabin nestled in amongst the over growth of trees and flora. These guys were the biggest, most horrifying eight legged creatures I had ever witnessed!
I was anxious to get started and arrived early on the day after I had taken procession of my new home. There were no keys handed to me at the time of signing at the bank. Even the realtor was unaware of the shack on the property. Gus, my yellow lab took off to explore his new environment and was no help what so ever helping to unload the boxes of cleaning supplies, hammer, nails, crowbar and a shovel I figured it would take to make this place near as livable as possible. It took me most of that summer to fix up what was to be the most memorable 20 year adventure of my life.
By now it is late fall. My first night alone out here in the woods, in my now cleaned one room shanty found me laying in my bed with my blanket pulled up to my chin with one hand and a flashlight gripped tightly in the other. Listening to the night time parade of mice playing tag in the ceiling and walls, my thoughts turned to; “What the hell am I doing out here 30 miles from town, in the middle of this 1000’s of acres of woods? All alone! Was I nuts?”
“OMG! What’s that noise? Listen, there it is again!”
It sounded like something was actually chewing on my cabin. Sometime during the night I did doze off but only briefly. A thunderstorm demanded that I not get too comfortable. Loud claps and bright lightening fueled my anxiety of this precarious first night in the woods. Then suddenly as a lightening bolt lit up the room, there on the ceiling was a monstrous, wart covered wolf spider the size of my hand, hurriedly making his way in my direction. . .
To make a long story short and the purpose of this post, when the power is out it is quiet! I will be the first to tell you that the constant buzz of human activity, electronic gadgets, cell phones and all sorts of technology along with traffic noise and streetlights are so natural to the every day guy and gal that we just don’t notice the noise, that is, until it is gone. When the electrical plug has been pulled and the power goes out the first sense is that of ahhhhhhh. It actually feels good. (Personally, I miss my days and nights living unattached to the power grid and even today, going into town seems so loud.)It doesn’t take long, however, before you begin to feel withdrawal symptoms, much like that of a cigarette withdrawal. Then night comes, the stillness of the true lightless night becomes the monster in the closet of our childhood.
My first long winter night played games with the stillness of my snow covered wilderness. I suddenly became acutely aware that the moon light uses shadows as an accomplice; it tricks the imagination into seeing beasts stalking the darkness. A wise older man I knew called them hide-behinds. Elusive mystical creatures without true form, created purely from ones own imagination, hiding behind leafless hardwoods, he liked to say. I remembered his words one night as I sat reading quietly by oil lamp, the muted flickering of the yellow flame demanded entrance into the playful party of dancing shadows. At that moment, as I look up from my reading, the icy stillness crept up and stole away with my struggling confidence. A mythical hide-behind ran an icy finger up my spine.
Twenty years have now come and gone since my first night time encounter with the night time hide-behinds deep in my forest. My tiny cabin has given way to a fit a proper homestead and a husband. The moral of this story you may have guessed is that when the lights go out, and they will, it is the quiet people will surrender to. More often that not, even before the lack of food sets in. Humans have adapted to noise, to the hustle of activity and having every desirable electronic device at their finger tips. You can and should prepare for as many physical aspects of the coming take down of the U.S. as possible. But will you be able to survive the quiet? It is truly a possibility that needs to be understood.
History has recorded that silence created a debilitating madness in the unprepared pioneer women during the 1800’s westward movement. Women whose husband had settled them in the prairies of the western U.S. and were left alone for a long periods time often went mad due to the silence. Their only companion was the never ending wind, the mournful song of the elusive wolf and the fear of an Indian raid. Returning husbands sometimes found their wives, if the were lucky, wandering the open prairie looking for another human neighbor.
Grumpy Grandpa Gets a New Toy–Disclaimer; If you think all your food comes from the grocery store and eating what you grow is distasteful, click off this blog right now because it could get gruesome for you.
I write the above disclaimer because a few years ago Grumpy Grandpa and I felt that we would like to do some traveling. In order to leave our backwoods homestead for any length of time we would be forced to sell our animals. It was quite the effort, to be sure. We searched and searched, in the end we just couldn’t find any willing, able bodied, humans that would live out here and care for them in our absence, so we sold them all. Even to pay someone a good wage, the amount of work around here was more energy than interviewees were willing to give. Also, we are a bit isolated. Between the amount of work and the isolation, well, there were just no takers.
It was February when we made the decision we would like to do some traveling. That meant we needed to start selling our critters now if we wanted to be ready by spring to hit the road. Chickens were first to be posted on Craig’s list, 20 beautiful, one year old laying hens with pictures went up online. We really didn’t think anyone would be interested at this time of year. Our area was elbow deep in snow. Boy, were we wrong!
The e-mails and phone calls came in like a troubled 747. The phone and computer were smokin’, but not to buy the hens. People were pleading with us to make sure our chickens had a good home and that no harm would come to them. Please, please make sure the new owner isn’t going to eat them, one lady begged. Another lady wanted me to contact her after I had sold the girls to reassure her that they went to a good home. E-mail after e-mail and one phone call after another for days. I’m absolutely not making this stuff up, it really happened. Perfect strangers demanding that I do the right thing! It was crazy.
Just to put everyone at ease, however, we ended up selling them to a guy about our age who wanted younger hens to add to his flock because his hens were 4 years old and not laying any more. Yeah, I know.
So, if you are someone who thinks your food mysteriously appears at the grocery store wrapped in nice packages, then read no further. We kill animals out here in the backwoods and eat them! Chickens, ducks, deer, rabbits, fish, turkeys, partridge, etc. I do, however, draw the line at road kill. I’m not Granny Clampet. And vegetarian on the label of a carton of eggs cracks me up, what a gimmick! Chickens love road kill and fish and worms and bugs. Hell, they even eat each other. Someone hit a snowshoe hare out on the road, tossed it into the chicken pen and boom, half an hour later all that is left are some fur and bones. But I digress.
This spring we went nuts in the head and purchased 100 baby chicks and 8 ducklings. For those of you unfamiliar with the process; at the feed store you can order what is called a straight run, which is a mixture of hens and roosters. You don’t know what you got until they start to mature. This year we ended up with about 50/50, 50 hens and 50 roosters. (Usually, it is about 80/20, 80% roosters, 20% hens per order.) This year 50+ of our chickens will go into the freezer. (No hate mail, please.)
It’s a ton of work putting up that many critters, so Grumpy Grandpa made the decision to purchase some mechanical help.When we were younger, living off the land and doing everything by hand was fun and challenged our creativeness, but we had strong, healthy backs back then. At the tender age of 63, I can still toss a 50 pound bag of chicken scratch over my shoulder and carry it around but oh do I pay for it the next day. We did forego some other needed items to be able to purchase this back saving appliance. We are so glad we did.
Video may be disturbing, watch at your own digression. I pulled this off youtube to give you an idea of how this cool machine works.
In a matter of seconds you can have two chickens, or two ducks, or one turkey cleaned and ready to go. Awesome device, I’d like to kiss the guy who invented this thing.
Today the waking hours of waning day light here in Michigans Upper Peninsula was depressingly dark and gloomy. Old man winter has begun his ritual ceremonial dance for the seasons dominance with heavy gray clouds, cold brisk winds and a pissy drizzle from above. His signature warning is a prelude to a 6 months serving of cold, wet, white stuff. It was a day where you just wanted to eat, sleep and hibernate in front of a fire in the woodstove with a hot cup of tea. I say, wanted to. I was not that lucky, I had to go out into the world and briefly leave my woodland sanctuary and little cabin.
As I reached town, I merged with all the other zombie drivers who couldn’t decide which lane they wanted to drive in. The brain seems to disengage in chaotic traffic. 90% of the zombie drivers had a small, black, rectangle shaped piece of plastic held…
“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”
This is going to be a long one, probably a good idea to grab a cup of tea and a note pad before diving in.
A Little FYI about how I know what I know, first.
Years ago, long before moving out to the backwoods of Upper Michigan, we lived in north central Indiana. In that part of the state you will find several groups of Amish communities. About a century and a half ago the Amish found the soil in this area to be rich and thick, perfect for the Amish self-reliant way of life. They began to built houses and barns and settled in. Keeping to tradition of maintaining small, workable communities the original settlement of Amish grew too large, consequently dividing into two self-sustaining sections each run basically by it’s own bishop. When those groups got too large they again divided, keeping each unit within a specific number of members close to the newly chosen bishop. Each break away process of expansion takes much effort and about a generation to accomplish. Today there are quite a few Amish communities or groups peacefully living and farming in the northern counties of Indiana.
This article is not a treatise on the Amish faith or culture, however, when the really hard core SHTF these folks will have a leg up on many of us. If left alone they probably won’t feel the crumbling or even notice that America has expired.
I lived and worked many years amongst these God fearing people. Listen up! Hollywood producers would have you believe the Amish are some weird cult group who mistreat their children and farm animals. That is not true, pure and simple. However, they do take their bible, and simple way of life very seriously. Spare the rod spoil the child, sort of thing. Boys have been known to get a trip to the woodshed by the father of the household for serious transgressions. Teen boys are teen boys in about every culture, it seems.
In the community we were familiar with the girl children rarely felt a fast hand to the butt. Mother usually handled their childhood misdeeds. Girl children were generally given extra kitchen duty or other chores such as hand grinding wheat berries for bread, even as young as 3 years old. Hand cranking a grinding mill of wheat for bread is a chore that takes many tedious hours. A chore in which everyone meticulously tries to avoid. Strong family ties and strict adherence to the rules that govern their collective, keep most everyone walking the straight and narrow. Don’t believe that crap they feed you on TV, those are most likely actors. The Amish, as a rule, resent their picture taken because they believe your soul or your life force is captured in that photograph, as I was told by an Amish elder.
When my youngest child was 5, I dropped her off daily to an Amish lady for daycare while I was at work. Wednesday is generally the day for Weddings, so my Amish sitter asked if she could dress my 5 year old daughter in Amish clothes and take her to the wedding. Of course I gave my permission and to celebrate my daughters costume, Katy ran next door and borrowed a camera from her English neighbor to take my daughters picture. Back then we still used polaroid cameras so Katy had the photos ready for me upon my arrival. My baby girl was adorable all dressed up in plain Amish finest. No other people were in the photo, just the oil stove Katy used to heat her house in the back ground.
Besides being massively religious and self-reliant the Amish know how much effort it takes to make a buck. They also know how to make that buck squeal. Unmarried older children (16 to 21) living in the household and working outside of the farm turn over a portion of their paycheck every payday to the head of household, their father. The theory is, as I was told, if children handle their own money at a young age they tend to get into trouble. Never a wiser word spoken, in my opinion.
Each and every household must contribute to the church an unspecified amount (the details were off limits to this English outsider) of their yearly income. The Bishop and Elder council hold this money in trust. When a barn burns down, someone is injured or whatever the crisis or need, the church/community pays for it. It is the Amish equivalent of collective insurance against mishaps. Stuff happens and they are primed and prepared to pitch in and get ‘er done.
The years we lived in Amish country were a wonderful, educational experience. My Amish lady friends weren’t shy about sharing their kitchen secrets, either. Their generous allotment of old world wisdom was the impetus for my survival during the early years out here in the backwoods. There is nothing so welcomingly tasty as their traditional Dutch/German cuisine. Everything about it says family. Add to the off-grid lessons I learned from my Amish friends, my own grandmothers loving command of everything domestic.
My dear grandmother was born a Mennonite, a break away branch of Amish. Mennonites retain the simple life style and teachings of the Amish, but they do allow some of the more modern things such as driving a car and electricity in the home. Grams was born January of 1900 and didn’t own her own pair of shoes until she met my grandfather in 1918. Grams shared her hand-me-downs from an older half-sister and cousins. Her fathers first wife died at an early age, as I seem to recall. My grandmother left the Mennonite community to marry my grandfather in 1919. My dear grandmother lived during a era of many changes in the 96 years on this planet. Over the course of her lifetime she developed a command of everything domestic and taught me so much about life and living. You can see why I feel blessed and very happy to share with you the secrets of all these wonderful people.
Here we go. . .
If you have established your household previous to the coming crisis, hopefully you will be able to hunker down and safely stay in your home when it hits. The kitchen will be the primary gathering place in most households, when there is no electricity it will be the hub that makes the wheel go round.
Since the kitchen is the activities headquarters. With the probability of extra people in the household, we will need to assign sections or quadrants to allow the flow of these activities to move with ease. On a piece of paper draw out your kitchen, labeling the stove, sink, refrigerator etc. Now divide your kitchen into four equal parts, horizontal through the center of the kitchen and a vertical line through the center of the horizontal line. Assign each quarter a title such as, cooking, cleaning section. That section would have the stove and sink in it, for example. Backdoor and table section, storage section, refrigerator and prep section. (This is my kitchen lay out, yours may be of your own design. Use this only as an example.)
My kitchen flow chart begins at the entrance door area and people center;
I noticed how people took off their coat and boots just inside the entrance and generally headed for the kitchen table. I made sure that route stays open, placed coat hooks and boot trays in this area out of the way of traffic. (A rifle/ shot gun rack on the wall under the coats during the day? It could be out of eyesight from the door but easily accessible to keep predators at away. Just a thought.) Keep this area free from debris and sleeping dogs at all times. The kitchen table should have the usual salt and pepper shaker and a light source such as an l.e.d light, solar lamp, an oil lamp or candles. For us older folks, the kitchen table is where you will find our daily supplements or prescriptions and reading glasses.
To the seasoned prepper this information may be a bit redundant, but even in our world of constant and ever changing sabre rattling by various governments and this really scary political season, you may (or may not) be surprised how many young folks never give a thought about life without electricity, the possibility of war, civil unrest, no snap payments or simple food scarcity due to weather anomalies and politics. (This is the target group, 20 to 40 something with children for “How to Survive and Thrive When the Power is Out ” .)
What else would make this section more comfortable or workable?
Battery operated shortwave radio, ham receiver, scanner
Pencils and note paper
Coloring books and crayons, games and books for the kids
Berkey water filtration system standing on a pedestal in the corner
Extra charged car battery, or a marine battery
A schedule of daily tasks and chores for each member
A jar of raw honey. (Manuka is the best) Honey was always on the table in the Amish home and at my grandmothers dinner table. The daily use of honey is the reason, in part, that my grandparents lived mostly illness free into very old age. Honey is an antibiotic and has many beneficial properties. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100630111037.htm
The next section, food prep section;
This will be a flat surface such as a counter or kitchen island strictly for preparing food meat and fish products.(May be a food prep station set up outdoors, also.) You would be wise to keep this area off limits to other activities for fear of contamination. It will be ten times harder when there is no electricity and running water to keep this area free from insects, rodents, germs and bacteria. My grandmother used an oil cloth over her work area when not in use. Plastic or some other barrier would keep this area free from cross contamination.
In this food prep area you should find;
Sharp knives– paring knives, vegetable peelers, large cutting knives, (serrated and non-serrated), chopping knife or clever and bone cutting saw. And a knife sharpener or three.
Cutting boards, large bowls and pots and pans, manual can opener, trash can and a compost bucket, another bucket here could be useful too for chicken food.
Contrary to that stupid “vegetarian” label on the carton of eggs at the grocery store, chickens are meat eaters. Chickens will eat chopped meat scraps, fish heads and stuff that would be normally thrown away. They will even eat captured and dispatched mice, other rodents, road kill and each other if one of their coop mates should become ill or lame. Oh, how they love that stuff and the extra protein does them good. The last thing you want is to have meat scraps sitting outside in a trash can for every neighborhood dog, raccoon, or worse, finding it. Hey, there’s even the benefit of barter if you don’t have chickens when your neighbor does. Meat scraps and egg shells would make a very good trade for a few eggs. A bowl or pan of clean bleach water to rinse hands and utensils in this area at all times during food prep will help keep down insects and bacteria.
If you have rigged up your coffee pot to some sort of power device, it would fit well off to the side in this area. Once fresh coffee has been brewed put it into a thermos to keep it warm and save your battery. The coffee will keep warm for many hours in the thermos.
As an aside; If you come across this coffee maker at Good Will or some other thrift shop grab it up. I think the Lehman’s catalog ( http://www.lehmans.com ) still offers them too. It makes wonderful coffee when the power is out or during a camping trip and it is surprisingly simple to use.
If your refrigerator is in this area it will make an excellent storage place for flour, rice and other things mice and bugs like to burrow into. Without electricity insects and rodents will be very hard to control. After the power has been out for awhile and you have used up everything that was in the refrigerator, clean it well and use it for storage. Might as well get some use out of it. In the winter months, after the lake has frozen, bring in some large chunks of ice chopped from the lake or put out bottles of water to freeze over night. Put the ice chunks or frozen water bottles in a pan or bowl and place into the cleaned freezer section of the refrigerator. Now you have a cold spot for food items needing cold place to hang out. The melting ice will fill the freezer with lots of cold air for couple of days.
Since we will be unable to run to the store for paper towels a stash of clean rags stored in this area will be very beneficial. Cut up old towels, T-shirts and baby diapers, they make excellent cleaning rags . Reduce, recycle, reuse.
A light source in this area, a battery operated l.e.d is nicer than a kerosene lamp would be, but by all means use what you have.
Other handy items might be salt and seasonings for making jerky, a drying rack and cheese cloth for covering your drying meat. Do you have an outdoor meat and fish smoker? An old or discarded refrigerator makes an excellent smoker. (Check now with youtube for instructions.) For a whole lot more information and jerky recipes check out “How to Survive and Thrive When the Power is Out” on this website. Large stoneware crock for fermenting vegetables, manual food mill, and lots of canning jars. Don’t forget hot water bottles for winter warmth and sick room use.
What other handy items would you suggest for this area?
Next we move over to the cooking and cleaning area;
You have an electric stove you say? There are a few things you can do if you planned ahead. There are tons of great camp stoves on the market today, take your pick, however, you do know that your fuel will run out sooner or later, right? Now what? An old 1970’s fondue pot with a tea light candle will almost boil water. They will warm liquids such as soup but there is not enough heat to cook your steak. For that you could bust up the kitchen chairs and set them on fire in the back yard, if you have a back yard. After that, I hope you have a plan B.
Now those of us with a gas kitchen stove will fare better a little longer at least. You will need a light source here too. Those cheap solar lights you buy at Wal-mart are fantastic in this area when fully charged. Sometimes it’s hard to get a full charge in the winter up here in the U.P., though. Then the l.e.d. light will come in handy as next in line. I try and stay away from flammable lighting around the stove for obvious reasons.
Several years ago I took on a job of in-home-healthcare of elderly people. I love old people! They are so full of information if you take the time to listen.
During this time I had a 98 year old woman as my charge. What a delight she was! Melvina told me a story of her birth as told to her by her mother. Melvina was a preemie, born at about 41/2 pounds, at home. Back in the year she was born there were no such things as infant incubators. The mid-wife that attended the birth took Melvina after a couples hours of snuggling with the new Mom and wrapped her tightly in a blanket and put her in a basket. Next the mid-wife opened the wood cook stove oven door and placed the basket and baby on the oven door. Melvinas’ mother needed rest and tiny infant needed warmth. They kept the fire going in the wood cook stove until Melvina put on some weight and got a little stronger. That was one tough lady, that Melvina!
Back to the kitchen, around the stove area we should find salt, pepper, cooking oil or spray, a timer, bouillon in the various flavors, wooden spoons, hand cranked egg beater, pot holders, a cutting board strictly for vegetables, cast iron skillet and Dutch oven, meat thermometer, measuring cups, mesh herb ball or muslin spice bag, measuring cups and spoons, small containers each of flour, cornstarch, baking soda, spices and herbs, spatulas, tongs, potato masher, rolling pin, sprouting jar, strainers, compost bucket, and popcorn. This isn’t a complete list by any means, add your own handy items and favorites.
On to the cleaning area, namely the sink;
Here you should find– clean, filtered water, dish soap if available, laundry soap if available, baby soap and shampoo if available, dish towels, baby towels, cleaning rags, soap pads and scrapers, dish drying rack, clothes drying rack or clothes line rope and clothes pins, scrub board, large tub or pan for heating water, scrub pan for other household cleaning projects and sick room. You didn’t think living without power was going to be easy did you? Lots of lifting in this area. In the winter, clothes dry better inside. If hung outside in subzero air temperatures, your jeans will break and you will immediately have made shorts.
Last but not least, food storage area;
These will be cupboards, closets or pantries that are designated strictly as storage. Food grade buckets, totes and other plastic or metal containers will be most helpful for storing and organizing your food supplies. Rodents and insects will be a problem when the house goes dark. Most often too, if you have many people at your house you may consider some sort of locking system in this area. With the availability or lack thereof, food will need to be protected from midnight 2, 4 and 8 legged raiders.
Be advised that your groups behavior will dramatically change when hungry tummies and addiction issues become problematic. Arguments over food will be very real as people adjust to junk food, cigarette, alcohol, electronics and drug withdrawal.
Junk food withdrawal is as real as dealing with any other substance abuse withdrawals.
Case in point—Our daughter, her husband and their two dear children had been living in another state far away from us for several years due to his job. Daughters hubby wished to move back to our area to be near family after he had been laid off. They packed up what they could, traveled back to the U.P. and moved in with us for a time while they secured new jobs and a place of their own. They had been here for about two weeks when their behavior seemed uncomfortably different. Almost like they had a burr under their saddle, so to speak. One evening, a couple of hours after dinner, dearest son-in-law jumped up and ran off to the kitchen. When I found him buzzing around the kitchen, he was making a cake. When the cake was done he mixed up a pan of brownies and put them in the oven, too. Dear son-in-law used the excuse he just felt like baking something. Of course, the cake and brownies disappeared very quickly. The next afternoon he loaded up his family and drove them thirty miles into town for a McDonalds meal. Processed junk food is not on the menu out here in the backwoods because we mostly eat what we grow. So before they returned home here, they stopped at Wal-Mart for soft drinks, Twinkies and other nasty’s such as corndogs, tatter tots and frozen pizza to fill our pantry and freezer with. Seems our home cooked real food created four guest monsters. One caveat to this story; our three year old granddaughter had seemed much calmer off the junk food. An average day for this child will find her basically bouncing off the walls, but on real food she had the normal temperament of an average three year old again. The stuff she has been eating is loaded with food dyes and additives she is allergic to. After two weeks most of the nasty junk food toxins were pretty much out of her system. However, that reprieve was most temporary. All it took was one trip to McDonalds and our baby girl was back bouncing off the walls, to the point she was unable to settle down for bed.
I can’t stress enough that junk food withdrawals are as real as any cigarette, alcohol or drug addition withdrawal. Sometimes taking months to overcome. So, when I say your food stores could become an issue, believe me and take precautions now. A lock or two on the pantry door today could mean a fuller belly tomorrow, which could also save dear son-in-law a swift kick in the pants.
I would personally recommend these books and internet links;
“Country Wisdom & Know-How” series put out by the editors of Storey Books.
“Cooking with Home Storage” by Vickie Tate
And of course my book,
“How to Survive and Thrive When the Power is Out” this website.
Check youtube for instructions on making your own portable rock stove mass heater.
Look guys, we can’t know when the next 9-11 will strike. For me, this election has my hair standing on end. I haven’t found the “None of the above” box on the voting ballot, yet. Governments kill people to hold on to power, plain and simple. 2016 has me really worried. October surprise maybe?.
And if this election season weren’t terrifying enough, prophesy, predictions and physics are all pointing to 2020 as the year all hell is unleased on the world, or at least the U.S. Personally, I can’t say with any accuracy but I will predict that it is much better to be prepared for something than to wait for a secretive, corrupt government to take care of me and my family during a (crisis?). Think FEMA camp, eh?
If left alone, many communities will survive. Humans are creative and giving by nature. We can overcome adversity within the confines of family or tribal group due to our diverse labor force, and by handing down or passing on our expertise to the next generation. It is how the little people have made to cut up until now.
James Wesley Rawles Now that Hillary (“Hitlery”) Rodham Clinton (HRC) has received the Democratic Party nomination for president, there is a strong likelihood that she will win the election in November and then be enthroned as president in January of 2017. I predict that she will waste no time in launching an onslaught of punitive new […]
August is time to get serious about stocking up. Winter comes quick when you live between two great lakes.
I seriously wouldn’t recommend anyone cleaning the chicken coop in sandals, but hey, I got ‘er done. While I was mesmerized and ankle deep in chicken shit, I had a thought or four. Would you be interested in what we do during the dog days of summer.
The idea of Old Man Winter staring us in the face isn’t on most people front burner right now. But it is the perfect opportunity for us to start gathering that which will make surviving the winter out here a little more survivable.
Also, watching those mind numbing conventions reminds me; corruptissima re publica plurimae leges, which translates to; “when the republic is at it’s most corrupt, the laws are most numerous.” Said Cornelius Tacitus (A.D 56 -A.D. 120) Roman Historian. “It is the rare man of these days that a man may think what he likes and say what he thinks.” Exactly! You’d think that we would have developed some sort of governmental discipline by now, eh? Like a government with transparency, honesty and “of the people, for the people.” The human race just keeps going in circles, and this government situation we are currently facing is really scary. My step-Dad used to say, “don’t hold your hand over your butt waiting for it, life is but a cherr-a-bowlies,” but I digress.
August has been earmarked at our backwoods homestead as the start of getting serious about winter preps for the year. It’s not so much what you may think about prepping but a way of life for us out here. We stock up in late summer, use what we have during the winter months, eat garden produce during the growing season and start stocking up again the following August. Much like that of our great grandparents.
Y2K computer hysteria gave us the perfect learning opportunity and a timeframe in which to test our knowledge. August of 1999 we started collecting supplies in a big way and by April of 2000 we still had plenty of stuff left after the long, cold winter. I can’t tell you how glad we were to have those supplies and food too, because dear Hubby had a bad accident in May of 2000 and couldn’t work for 5 months. When he was finally able to get out about the Doctor allowed light duty only for another several months. So you see, Y2K taught us well, we have been keeping our system going ever since. If we are lucky, we may go with a two-year rotation starting this year.
Your Mileage May Vary.
The process takes a few months to complete because we collect as time and money allow. The very first step is to take a basic inventory of what you have on hand, what you would need, and items that will make you happy when snowed in for a few days (with or without electricity). I also make a wish list, things that would be great to have on hand but are not absolutely necessary at this time. Items such as that second or third gallon of bar and chain oil for the chainsaw, and a second or third gallon of hydraulic oil for the wood splitter, a new table cloth, stuff like that.
During this time I feel kind of like a little squirrely running around gathering life-sustaining supplies for the winter months or in the case our nations political situation, over zealous bureaucrats. But then again, nothing beats the feeling of self-reliance and a full pantry living through any crisis, snow storm or nutcase running the white house with his finger hovering over the that little red button. But again, I digress.
Let Us Begin
Now is the perfect time when I hit the back room at the feed co-op for their overstock of this years seed order. Lettuce, spinach, kale, anything that seems to trip my vegetable trigger. That’s where I dig though their bulk and packaged seeds on discount. Most seeds will last 3 to 5 years when stored properly. Plus shopping for seed late in the season helps the co-op with excess inventory and we are guaranteed to have seed on hand if the trucks should stop running or delivering. We are on the very end of the truck lines up here and will be one of the first places they quit delivering to. Most importantly, however, we will now have lots of fresh seed for window gardening during the winter and the start of next years greenhouse starts. Extra seeds make wonderful barter items too, especially when you need something and you don’t have cash.
Our small rural towns’ gas stations start taking delivery of 50 lb. bags of deer apples, carrots and sugar beets, on October 1st gearing up for hunting season. Pallets of farmer seconds strategically positioned between the gas pumps. As a rule, most of the apples are not sprayed or waxed and can be a bit wormy at times. Look over the bags early, before the weather freezes them sitting out in the open. We have been paying around $9.00 to $12.00 a bag for these apples. Hell with feeding the deer! We can put up a ton of applesauce and dried cinnamon and sugar apple treats for winter with a couple of those bags.
We have discontinued using the deer carrots due to nasty dark spots when they are canned. Farmers sometimes grow carrots and potatoes to absorb toxic crap from their fields, thus cleaning up the soil. If you know a local farmer and his farming practices, and has carrots that are too big or broken for market, snatch them up for him before he feeds them to the hogs. See, that’s why it is important to make friends with your local grower. The rewards can be many.
Next we dive into the socks and underwear drawers. Gotta have decent woolies and long johns, ya know. Boots, shoes, jackets, gloves and hats- check.
Hot water bottles for when the power is out- check (And you thought it was just beans, bullets and Band-Aids, eh?)
A case of toilet paper-check Shower and bath supplies-check
Hair and beard trimmers sharpened and cleaned-check
First aid kit fresh and restocked-check
Dish soap, trash bags, extra canning supplies, dehydrator and freezer bags, freezer paper for hunting season and chickens-check
Extra bottled drinking water-check
Herbs gathered and dried, baking supplies, oils and sugar etc.-check
Livestock supplies and food, house pets supplies and food-check
50 lb. bag of sunflower seed for the wild birds-check
EXTRA COFFEE!-double check
Books, movies, cards games, candles and extra kerosene (or lamp oil)- check
Plow truck maintenance, winter tires on, oil change etc. -check
Get er’ home bag for the car updated and fresh, kitty litter in the back, shovel-check We can get our first snowfall as early as late September. Usually the big stuff is later, thou.
Oh, and did I mention coffee?! -check Oh, and some chocolate. Cake, candy, brownie mix, hot cocoa, whatever, anything chocolate -check and double check and check mate.
That covers most of it anyway.
As a side note; We have had plenty of visitors stop by our homestead and tell us; “Oh how I wish I could live like this! Look at your gardens, awe, look at all those cute chickens.” I once had a guy stop by to buy eggs. I had not encountered this man before, I figured he must be new to the area.
After he had purchased some eggs, he asks; “You know how to tell if your chicken is laying?”
“No,” I said. “How? ” (Ok, I’ll play your game.)
The stranger look me square in the eye and with a straight face said, “You hold the hen upside down and stick two fingers in her poop shoot. If you can get your two fingers in there she is laying.”
The guy was an idiot! Who in their right mind would do such a thing?
I told him, “Wouldn’t it be easier to just look at her leg color? You can tell if she is laying because in most hens their legs skin will turn from yellow to white once they start laying regularly.” He took his eggs and left without as much as a thank you. People are funny sometimes.
Several couples, young couples, bought places out here. When they do, on average they last about two years and their place goes up for sale again. Kids, I’m here to tell you it’s a lot of work, this being self-reliant stuff. I was young when I moved out here and have been living and working this place for 25 years. When the pillow stuffin’s hits that cheap plastic Wal-Mart fan and you head out to your bug out location, just be prepared for a lot of hard heavy work. Winter is even tougher than summer most years, and I hope you packed lots of bug spray. And not only for the hard work and sore back, the silence will get to you if you are used to radio, TV or internet. Not trying to scare y’all, but it will take some getting used to achy, stiff mornings and the thought of doing it all over again today. Life is about as glamorous out here in the boonies as cleaning the chicken shit off your shoes and throwing them out into the yard before you enter the house. You can make it stick if ya have a mind to.