Practical steps to developing food security during uncertain times

Not much is more sobering about the fragility of human life than a pandemic.

Beyond the consideration of our own mortality, for many, COVID-19 has been their first experience of even a remote possibility that goods and services we all take for granted might not always be so readily available.

This initial thought can cause a lot of fear and anxiety. This is easily observed in the “great toilet paper rush” in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. Large swathes of the population suddenly feel very insecure about their long-term prospects for wiping their arse and have gone to great efforts and expense to ensure the best possible outcome for their derriere.

Unfortunately, toilet paper is likely to be only the beginning.

When these same fearful and panicked hordes have similar thinking about some other commonly available item – soup, beans, cash, bandaids, or god-forbid coffee!!!… the result tends to be a run on those things. This causes mayhem and deprives others in the community access to those same items, in turn, furthering panic.

See… most people are reactive instead of proactive – responding to events instead of anticipating them. Many get away with this only because of the capacity of large infrastructures to endure such things. However, those systems cannot do so indefinitely, and for those accustomed to depending on reacting always working for them, this can produce very uncomfortable and perhaps even fatal outcomes when the breaking point of those systems draws near.

Panic, like most fear, undermines good decision making. It is rooted in our mid-brains where our fight or flight responses come from. When we panic, we are not using our strong, thinking, pre-frontal cortex brains. Therefore, it becomes imperative that our first step in any practical steps to think about long term food security that we start from a place of calm, panic-free thinking.

Calm yet? Good! Keep reading!

Like other areas we’ve written about preparedness, following a strategy is important. Food security is no exception.

The first practical step one should take when considering their food security is to identify a reasonable and achievable goal. This goal needs to be rational. The reality is… there is really no such thing as total food security. We can’t ever be 100% certain of our ability to feed ourselves any more than we can any other area. We must come to grips with that truth in order to make effective decisions.

What is a good goal for food security? If you’re uncertain of a specific goal, start with this: aim to multiply your current supply by three. Have a week’s supply? Great – aim for three week’s supply. Have a month? Aim for three months. Have three months? Aim for nine months. Keep doing this until you and your family believe your on-hand supplies provide the level of resiliency to best equip you for uncertain times and to help others in your community to do likewise.

Next, if at all possible, don’t rush to reach this goal. You’ll make fewer mistakes, waste less, and avoid causing others to go without if you build up slowly. Instead, increase your supply buying by 10% per shopping trip until you’ve met your first goal. Continue to do this until you’ve met your second goal, third goal, etc.

Once you start to build your supplies, purchase shelf-stable or freeable foods that you already consume. Food that you and your family do not eat will go to waste if there is no occasion to need it otherwise. Develop a  “FIFO” (“first-in, first-out”) system where you eat from your pantry the oldest food first and continue to do so as you add new supplies.  Organize the good so that the closest food in reach is the oldest food in your storehouse. In this way, the food is always fulfilling a practical every-day use in family meals instead of rotting on a shelf.

Remember, the goal is resiliency, not to become a doomsday prepper fearfully anticipating loss and demise.

Following the above steps will lead most individuals and families to a reliable supply of food to meet their anticipated needs within a relatively short period of time and without blowing out most budgets. Having a hard time finding the funds? Let us know and we’ll show you some ways we’ve found to squeeze more out of almost any budget.

This plan also allows one to slowly, calmly adapt and scale to their own needs over time and proactively add more pantry, shelves, or freezer space as needed instead of creating yet another situation to need to react by making hasty, unnecessary, and costly decisions.

For those interested in going further

Food security for most will be tied to the supply chains in place in their community. Any supply chain has vulnerabilities and there is no way to entirely mitigate against those risks. What should a calm, rational and resilient person do? Shorten the supply chains.

Whether food comes from a far-off country or one’s own backyard, it comes from a supply chain. The grocery store, the garden… those are both supply chains. The shorter the supply chain, the more resilient it is. Most North Americans rely on very long supply chains for their food. Resiliency is found in finding and using shorter supply chains.

The simplest supply chains are those that are self-managed:

  • Home gardens
  • Backyard chickens or other small animals (ducks, rabbits, other fowl)
  • Hunting, fishing, and foraging

The second-simplest are supply chains within the community:

  • Food co-ops
  • CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture)
  • Local farms
  • Farmers markets
  • Produce auctions

The most complex supply chains

  • Large grocery stores
  • Big box retailers
  • Online vendors (Amazon, Walmart, etc)

Our family has found the best workable strategy for us to be a combination of all of the above, not placing all of our eggs in any one basket – including those supply chains right here on the homestead. Those also are not without risk. Animals die, gardens fail, fruit trees fail to grow fruit. That is just an inescapable reality.

We happily purchase from the cornucopia of delightful foods available to us in North America in combination with our own self-produced and other locally produced foods. We will continue to do so as long as we are able.

Conclusion

Resiliency is a journey and as with all journeys – the hardest parts are often in the getting started and the patience to enjoy the journey without rushing through it.

Take your time, think about your goals, plan your food security journey, then get started.

In doing so, you’ll produce in yourself more resiliency and in doing so, a more stable family, community, and nation.

Did this article strike a chord with you? If so, we’d love for you to share it.

 

Our cold and flu anti-viral toolbox in good times and bad

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Hello friends. Long time no write.

We wanted to take this opportunity of the panic and pandamonium of the COVID-19 virus to share a bit about how we manage sickness and malaise in general and how you and your family might fortify yourselves in times when medical treatment may not be possible.

An ounce of prevention…

Our family values wellness. Therefore, we have a different approach than many when it comes to health. One of our core values around wellness as a family and a frequent motto mentioned is “we make our healthcare decisions at the grocery store and we make our sick care decisions at the doctor’s office or hospital”.

It’s true… We are what we eat at a cellular level. If we eat poorly we cannot hope to have wellness in our bodies.

Therefore, we have an astronomically high food budget and astronomically low health care expenses compared to most families. We’d much rather experience high spending on the investment into wellness vs the investment in medicine. It seems to be one way or the other. Good food or good pills. We choose good food. Whole, natural, minimal processing.

Part of our regiment also includes supplements. These have been recommended to us multiple integrative medicine physicians of the bonafide “MD” variety.

These include:

We take these supplements regularly to keep our bodies as healthy as possible. We use brands (Ortho Molecular and Thorne primarily) that are pharmaceutical grade at the recommendation of our physician and find them to be consistent and of good quality. Cheaper alternatives are out there – use at your own discretion.

*Note: We don’t take merely any vitamin C because it is usually combined with magnesium stearate which makes it hard to take in quantity without digestive consequences. Pure Ascorbic Acid (we prefer Thorne brand) allows for higher doses without tummy trouble.

Additionally, we have several other wellness habits we see as essential to staying well and handling illness once we have it.

  • Living without anger and resentment, and keeping things humorous – “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Pro 17:22
  • Good sleep and rest habits  – 6.5 hours per night or more.
  • Weekly observation of traditional sabbath rest. From sundown Friday through sundown Saturday we don’t do anything that feels like high pressure, urgent, “must get done”, We just chill out and relax.
  • Regular exercise three to five times a week
  • Lots of sunshine – weather permitting
  • Regular relaxation, mindfulness, massage, and chiropractic care.
  • Cold showers (google Wim Hoff Method)
  • Limited sugar

A pound of cure

Despite eating well, taking supplements, and our pro-health habits, like every family, we still experience times of malaise and sickness. We do, however, average about .5 (yes, point five) sick visits per year to doctors or emergency clinics – across a family of eight.

How do we do it? First, we see ourselves as our own best health and wellness advocates. No one is likely to be a more strong and diligent advocate for our wellness than us!

We certainly trust professionals to perform their craft with excellence, but in keeping with our general worldview of “self-ownership”, we see ourselves as the primary persons responsible for our health and well-being. It’s not our doctors’ or the governments’ job to make or keep us healthy. It’s ours.

With that in mind, when sickness visits our domain, we first turn to our in-house apothecary. This is most often sufficient for our needs.

Here are some of our go-to items.

Fire Cider

We started making fire cider eons ago. We mince up garlic, onion, horseradish and add turmeric, cayenne pepper, and sometimes a little bit of ginger and add it to a 2-quart mason jar – about 3/4 of the way full. We then top this off with apple cider vinegar and let sit for at least one month. After a month, we strain the vinegar off and sweeten with a touch of raw honey.

At the first sign of a scratchy throat or runny nose, we consume it as we would a cough medicine – a couple teaspoons at a time. We gargle with it a touch, then swallow it. It is potent and has a punch, but is also pleasantly delicious to most of us.

Schweitzer Formula

Our local health food stores sell this and for years we’ve sprayed our mouths and throats with it at the first sign of feeling poorly.

Extra Liposomal Vitamin C

Liposomal Vitamin C is Vitamin C that is optimized for making it further into the cells of the body by being delivered in a liposomal “envelope” that allows it to survive the digestive tract and not be eliminated. We’ve found it tremendously helpful anecdotally for increasing our health and wellness. We take high doses during times of sickness until feeling better, which is often very brief (1-2 days in most cases).

Olive Leaf Extract

Our physician instructed us to add olive leaf extract to our sickness regiment due to containing Oleuropein which is purported to have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Sambucus Nigra (Elderberry)

Elderberry has been used for centuries as a folk remedy for cold and flu symptoms. We often add several drops to other health tonics (ie fire cider above), tea, or oftentimes – a “hot toddy” before bed (for those over 21 in our house). For some of us, it creates a feeling similar to caffeine and can cause a bit of restlessness, but it also appears to help alleviate the symptoms of cold and flu. Often this is after a night sweat the same night as taking this.

Oregano Oil

This is a new item we’re just starting to add to our wellness toolbox. Look here in the future for updates on the success of this item

Other things we find helpful once sick

Epsom Salt Baths

These feel terrific on an achy feverish body.

“Hot Toddy” nightcaps (for those over 21)

We squeeze half a lemon into a coffee cup and add an ounce or two of brandy, a few drops of Sambucus Nigra syrup and a large spoonful of honey, then top off with hot water and enjoy – just before bed.

Neti Pot

Sometimes the ole’ sinuses just feel like they need to be unclogged. For this, we turn to a netty pot. We follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and sometimes double the dose of “salts” to make the mixture “hypertonic” which aids in extracting irritants. We also sometimes add a few additional drops colloidal silver.

What have we missed?

What are some habits and tools that you and your family use to combat cold and flu viruses? Share them with us below!

 

Get a clothesline or please shut your mouth about climate change

clothespins

We’re living in times that are undeniably permeated with hotly-fueled, often polarized debates about many topics. One such topic that certainly has a large share of the opinionated conversation market is “climate change”.

We aren’t here to offer support to either side of that debate. To the denying side, we say that care of the environment is an essential duty given to us by our creator regardless if one believes the climate is truly changing or not. We aren’t doing a good job with this task and need to be honest about such!

To those on the other side, furiously and vigorously raising the climate change alarms we also have an admonishment – buy and use a clothesline immediately or please shut your mouth!

If you have one, good! Now go get your neighbors on board with using them.

We’ve participated in many conversations with people of all stripes, many of which are very concerned about climate change. Many of these have notions of how extreme measures must be taken to curtail the use of fossil fuels and how renewables will solve all our problems. Often the suggested solutions are mind-numbingly complex and the outcomes somewhat minimal or worse, undefinable.

One question we often immediately ask such people is “do you have a clothesline?” To which the majority respond with “no”!

Many of these fiercely chanting about climate change would  probably put a single item through a dryer cycle, go make some toaster treats, microwave some popcorn, and watch their 90″ tv (while texting on their smartphone), then perhaps take a nice long hot shower, iron their clothes, get in their cars and drive two miles to get a cup of coffee – single-origin and fair trade of course, before returning home to peruse facebook for several hours before retiring to bed where they might turn on the tv (for white noise of course) while they sleep.

Folks, sometimes there are simple answers to complex problems. Most of us needn’t look further than the mirror to find the source of most environmental issues.

We aren’t suggesting that clotheslines will solve all the large environmental issues of our planet. Changing our consumption patterns would be a good start tho!

Regardless, the difference that would be made by clothesline use alone offers perhaps the highest return on investment that can be found in the area of consumption changes.  They can cost as little as zero. They require no special knowledge or skills. They require no appreciable learning curve and almost every household can participate in their use.

It’s hard to pin down exact numbers, but most data we have found places clothes dryer energy consumption between 12% and 20% of energy consumption in an average household in The United States. In most households, particularly those with electric clothes dryers, only electric-based heat, and hot water consume more household energy.

Imagine for a moment if all households that used a clothes dryer invested in a clothesline? With nearly 126 million households in the US alone, the possible beneficial impact to the environment (not to mention, family finances!) are not trivial, offering a reduction in energy usage of up to 20%! Those with gas dryers also reduce fossil fuels and still benefit similarly. There isn’t a household that wouldn’t benefit from such with the exception of a few nudists here and there 😉

There is NO simpler solar device, nor one more accessible to the masses than the clothesline.

Folks, if you’re unwilling to do the simple things to contribute toward solutions to global issues, in our book you’ve lost all credibility and with it, your rights to complain about these problems.

Honestly, what basis do you have telling others how their lifestyles should change to address climate change if you yourself can’t make such a simple and meaningful change? Such a change requires no expensive renewables installation, no rebates, no governmental agency or legislation to address.

Ah, but you have an HOA that prevents clotheslines! As the old saying goes – “think globally, act locally”. Start your political efforts with your HOA to allow these climate-saving changes. If you can’t get one neighborhood to change, you think we can get entire nations to do so?

The world belongs to all of us, and if we are to care for it properly, we all must be responsible for such. All should be equally responsible for taking personal steps such as these to reduce consumption. If you can’t do that much, kindly remove yourself from debating such things because you might be a hypocrite.

Anyone can homestead – today!

We get it.. we’ve been there… longing for better days ahead when we might have more land, more time, more space, more dollars… The future is always so elusive and discouraging at times! Hope often seems to disappoint us, doesn’t it?

One of the worst mindsets to fall into for someone striving for hoped-upon future – whether that being grid-independence, homesteading, self-employment, or anything – is thinking it all has to happen right now. Impatience can prevent you from taking any steps towards your goals.

Regardless of your situation today, there are things you can do TODAY to prepare you for your future homestead:

Develop your library

You’re going to need to know a lot to live a homestead lifestyle, especially if off-grid or off-grid capable (“OGC”). Sure, you can learn a lot on YouTube, but do you really want to rely on a service that could be there one day and gone the next? Invest in real, paper-based, low-tech books about subjects you want and need to know about. Energy, plumbing, building, gardening,

Learn skills that you can put into practice now

Some skills that you’ll need can be pursued in almost any environment.

  • Food preservation is one such skill.
    • Learn to home can food
    • Learn to dehydrate food
    • Learn to make preserves
    • Learn to pickle
    • Learn to make fermented food and drinks
  • Learn to knit
  • Learn to sew
  • Learn about electricity
  • Learn about plumbing
  • Learn first-aid and CPR (hopefully, you’ll not need the latter!)

Get to know others around you who are homesteading and, off-grid or off-grid-capable

Ask around to find out who in your area or community is already living these kinds of lives. Who is it that raises their own food, produces their own energy, etc? Make an effort to get to know these people and learn how they live. Most, after getting over the initial awkwardness of wondering who you are, will probably be inclined to share their knowledge and insights with you. Bring cookies  – it will help! Or canning jars 😀

Volunteer to help those already doing it

Once you find people living the lifestyle you hope to live, offer your time to help – even if it’s not much. Firstly, if you don’t have time to help now, you definitely won’t have time to live this lifestyle! Secondly, there is a lot of hard-work and time involved in living a homestead or off-grid/capable life. Helping those already doing it would be appreciated and you’ll gain first-hand knowledge and experience that could serve you well for decades. Consider it mentoring! You’ll also see first-hand what it is really like and know for yourself what you might be getting into. Many could save themselves great expense and hardship doing a “try before you buy” run at homesteading.

Look for classes about related subjects

Many municipalities offer classes to their citizens. The land-grant university system resulted in most counties having an Extension Office. These Extension Offices often teach many useful classes on gardening, composting, and other useful skills. They’ll also put you in touch with like-minded people. Learn how to garden. Learn how to weld. Learn how to shoot a firearm.

Get to know senior citizens

Most senior citizens alive today grew up in a time when many of the skills necessary for living these lifestyles were commonplace. Get to know them, ask questions. They’ll likely be delighted to share their stories and knowledge with you and you’ll be honoring their experience and life by providing them the company.

Consider your energy consumption, then lower it

Many people are absolutely in the dark (pun not intended) about the ability to maintain their energy consumption habits in an off-grid or off-grid-capable context. For example,  the solar power necessary to support a home of several thousand square feet with all the modern amenities could cost $100k.

Living off-grid full-time or part-time requires changes to consumption habits, usage patterns, and also realistic expectations. No need to wait until later to start these. Begin today to set goals for reducing your energy consumption by a percentage. Once you achieve that, go to the next level and so forth. Doing so will be good training and also allow one to understand how much energy would be required to live off-grid.

 

Eight Essential attributes of an off-grid-capable ‘homesteader’

Homesteader? What is this about homesteading and off-grid-capable?

Living an off-grid-capable life, in many ways, could be fairly said to be a form of homesteading. For some, that word might conjure up images of venturing out west on a covered-wagon train, eating meals of cornbread and beans, and hand-clearing a hundred acres of raw wilderness with an ax and saw. While that is indeed a form of homesteading, that isn’t what most are looking to do.

Dictionary.com defines homestead (in its verb form) as:

to acquire or settle on (land) as a homestead:

On the other hand, Mother Earth News (a magazine that is essentially the “Sports Illustrated” of self-sufficient living) defines homesteading as:

Today the word homesteading is more apt to refer to a lifestyle that promotes greater self sufficiency.

More: http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/what-is-the-happy-homesteader.aspx

There are as many definitions of homesteading as there are homesteaders. From our experience, seeking to live an OGC life puts one mostly in the same boat as homesteaders – or makes you similar enough that it is easier to refer to those that do as such. Besides, “Off-grid-capable..ers” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

There are a few attributes found among homesteaders and those seeking to live the OGC lifestyle worth noting as essential:

1. Free thinking

For us, this journey began first by taking ownership of our thoughts, challenging our ideas, the ideas of others, and rejecting group-think. Rather than merely accepting the status quo, we set out to learn and decide for ourselves what we believe (or don’t believe) to be true. We’re generally ‘told’ that food comes from the grocery store, power from the electric company, and approval comes from our peers. One cannot begin to disconnect their dependency on systems without first challenging such dependencies in their thinking.

2. Self-reliance

Free-thinking can and should lead to new forms of self-reliance. At its core, self-reliance is self-responsibility. It is allowing the ownership of your mind to begin to move you toward taking ownership of specific areas of your life. As with thinking freely, this is an intentional decision to take ownership of aspects of your life rather than willfully or ignorantly delegating them to another party.

Self-reliance begins first with the conclusion that you are responsible for you. Certainly, there are times to make exceptions to this idea. For example, it wouldn’t be recommended to perform self-reliant open-heart surgery. They key is being self-reliant where possible, rational, and reasonable to do so. It is not someone else’s responsibility to feed, clothe, provide and protect you – unless you are a minor, or mentally incapacitated in which case that responsibility resides with your parents or guardian.

As the one responsible for you and your family, you’ll be required to learn, understand, and execute many things that will be essential to you and your family. This entails much learning, much hard work, and a considerable investment of your resources.

3. Community-reliance

Community-reliance is not often talked about in homesteading circles but should be. Some may choose to try to do everything one’s self, but we feel this is a recipe for failure, if not fatigue and sadness.

Part of self-reliance is knowing when you’re not adequately able to handle some aspects of life on your own, and when it is in your own best interest to work together with others to that end.

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.  For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.  Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm?   And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken. – Ecc. 4:9-12

4. Determination

Becoming responsible for yourself can be a daunting task. You may learn first-hand many hard lessons. You will be fatigued, discouraged, and disheartened. You will want to quit or go back to an easier life.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” – Calvin Coolidge

5. Courage

Heading in a different direction that most are not is daunting. Taking ownership and responsibility for areas of your life that have always belonged to someone else is equally daunting! Courage is a necessary attribute for those wishing to sever their dependence on the grid.

Courage is a necessary attribute for those wishing to sever their dependence on “the grid” because now, that weight is on your own shoulders! “Is this the right thing to do?”, “Have I made a wise decision?”, “Will this work when I need it to?”, “Have I prepared this food in a way that won’t poison my children?”, “Are these solar panels wired properly so I won’t burn my home to the ground?”… the OGC life is filled with opportunities to doubt that will require courage to overcome.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

6. Optimism

I once heard that an optimist knows there’s always a light at the end of a tunnel, and just prays it isn’t a train!

Seriously… optimism is the willful choice (free thinking!) to keep hoping and believing in a good outcome. An optimist isn’t ignorant of the risks and challenges before them but decides to steer their mind toward belief in a positive outcome despite these.

7. Desire to learn

An OGC lifestyle requires a lot of learning. Fortunately, learning is a lot of fun! When one decides to break their dependence on “the grid”, even if not going “off-grid”, they are agreeing to take responsibility of what would otherwise be handled by a much larger institution. One must become a subject matter expert, or at least proficient, in many areas: electricity, plumbing, heating, cooling, refrigeration and/or food preservation, gardening, farming, animal husbandry, weather, communications, security, et al. There is never an end to the learning involved in leaving the grid!

8. Hard work

When one is responsible for more of their life, more work results. Families who rely on the grocery store will spend little time obtaining their food. Being off-grid-capable and growing a portion of your own food requires a lot of hard work! Turning on a light switch is easy… monthly battery maintenance, cleaning solar panels, changing the oil in a generator, and tweaking your electric usage to stay within the capabilities of your energy – that is work!

TIO&OIN – it’s not just for Navy Seals

2is1

This expression has come to be a mantra in our family. In fact, recently one of my youngsters was snacking on some freshly made cookies and asked me for another…

“After all”, she said, “two is one and one is none!”  

Of course, she knew what we really mean when we say that, but her clever use of this common phrase gave me a smile. A real proud father moment!  She got the cookie for her efforts and – because I’m a sucker.

The real concept this term represents is about redundancy, and in my view, specifically redundant capability.

What’s the difference?

If you were to buy two cheap kitchen knives that turn out to have the same defective design flaw – congratulations – you’ll soon have two broken defective knives! You’re not in a better place for having two because of the common weakness the knives share. Had you bought two different kitchen knives, your chances of having a working kitchen knife would have been much greater.

TIO&OIN is about much more than having duplicates, it’s about having multiple means to accomplish the same thing, but in different ways and often with different resources.

On a homestead that can look like a lot of things…

  • Raising multiple kinds of animals for food.
  • Raising multiple varieties of chickens so that their strengths and weaknesses don’t result in any period of lack.
  • Raising ducks and chickens for eggs in order to get more consistent eggs supply.
  • Keeping more than one generator, and/or more than one fuel source.
  • Planting vegetables and fruits in different spots and different plantings.
  • Having a backup heat source for your home.
  • Having mozzarella and parmesan cheese 😉

The reality is… things go wrong in life. Plan on it! Tailor your life and resources to have multiple, diverse redundancies in place. This mindset, when permitted to permeate your life, adds good things to your life. Imagine adding these concepts to your finances, health, knowledge and more?

Careful though… one area this doesn’t work well is romantic relationships. In that case, the abbreviated cousin expression applies here:

“two is none”.