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
Snow blower ready-check Shovels, ice fishing equipment, snowshoes, 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.