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

Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This helps us offset the cost of the time spent writing articles like these.

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!

 

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”.

A reasonable plan toward residential solar or other renewable energy

Solar Installed

Solar energy is expensive. It currently costs more than grid energy, leaving many people to conclude it isn’t worth it. If your motivation to choose alternative energy is mostly to save money – you won’t get that outcome with this information.

At present – establishing alternate energy at home has not yet reached financial parity with grid power. For most of the general public, an investment in your own private renewable energy infrastructure is going to be more expensive, or at best break even. There are exceptions – like those with exceptional wind or hydro capacity on their property, however, most people won’t be the exception.

So…. is saving money the only reason to pursue renewable energy? No! Here are some other solid reasons for doing so:

  • More energy independence
  • Emergency power
  • Energy reliability or performance
  • Earth stewardship (* this is a nuanced idea)

In our case, we work from home – one of us as a web technology consultant. Lost power = lost work = lost income. Rather than have to pack up and go to town every time the power goes out (which is often not possible due to weather), it made good sense to install solar for backing up the business.

For those just interested in living on the cheap – stop reading this now. Other than some tips that might help you save 10-15% on your current energy bill, you’re not going to find much else below.

Below is a plan for “baby steps” one can take toward obtaining and using renewable energy. This is a plan that requires on-going, incremental changes and investments rather than a large, all-up-front expenditure. This approach delays the more significant costs until they are the only remaining ‘next step’. Doing so helps avoid financing these steps and also allows one to learn along the way and revise the plan as necessary. This should ultimately make renewable energy less expensive to implement in the long run but still allows a family to benefit along the way.

The following steps will allow your household to accomplish energy reliability, security, and sustainability in increasing measures over a period of time. You could compress these steps into months, or stretch them out over years of decades. Anyone can follow this approach in a time-frame that meets their budget.

Step 1: Measure and Monitor Usage ($)

If you don’t know how much energy you consume, you cannot adequately determine what you will need from a renewable energy system.  Likewise, if you cannot adequately size an emergency backup generator system without knowing what you need. You could easily spend an unnecessary $1-2k on too large of a generator sheerly for not knowing the loads you will need to support.

Measuring consumption is uber important! Our first step doing so was to purchase a Kill-a-watt (~$40). This allowed us to see what individual appliances were consuming, find and remove “ghost loads” (things that consume power when not “on” or “in use”) and gain insights into our usage.

Next, we invested in a system called The Energy Detective (TED). TED allows us to measure all our energy use for the entire household, down to the second. We have a large and complex household electrical system, so we got the TED version that monitors up to 4 panels. Our cost was around~$500, but a typical cost would be between $150-$299. Though we’ve not tried it, Neurio, another home energy monitor looks promising.

Some may already be balking at such expenses. Let me encourage you with this: It is typical that when a household starts to monitor usage to see a resulting decrease in use of around 10%.  Awareness of use causes changes to behaviors and patterns. What is 10% of your electric bill and at what point is a $200-299 investment worthwhile to make such an investment?

Step 2: Reduce consumption (FREE to $)

With an awareness of how you are using energy comes an almost-automatic reduction in usage. When you begin to associate dollars and cents with things being on/off, you start to change your behavior. You also start to consider what can be done to reduce your usage.

Get this idea in your mind now… By reducing your consumption immediately, you are ultimately reducing the size (and therefore cost) of a renewable energy system. Make sense?

There are three main ways once reduces consumption:

  1. Changing behavior
  2. Managing use
  3. Replacing offenders

Changing behavior – These are mostly simple changes – like choosing to run your dryer less or at times that are less expensive. Or, even better, get a clothesline – one of the best and cheapest solar appliances ever invented! Changing behavior might also entail turning lights off when you leave a room, turning your computer off when you’re not using it. That sort of stuff. These changes are usually zero cost.

One idea we really like is taking one day a week to have an ‘energy sabbath’ of sorts. Turn off / unplug everything non-critical and focus on togetherness. You could stand to save 15% of your power bill, reduce pollution, and be better off for the time spent together.

Managing use – Similar to changing behavior, managing use includes establishing minimal devices that manage how and when power is consumed. An example might be power strips that turn off peripheral devices  (printer, DVD player, XBOX) when a related main device such as a tv or computer is turned off. These require minimal investment but reduce consumption.  Another great example is the addition of low-cost means of reducing electric energy consumption. This might entail installing (and using!) a clothesline (can you tell we’re fans of clotheslines?) or installing a wood stove to rely less on electric heat.

Replacing Offenders – Though not always necessary, sometimes the best investments one can make in their energy consumption can entail replacing appliances or devices that inefficiently use energy. Still using a fridge or freezer from twenty years ago? Upgrading those appliances to Energy Star, or otherwise, more efficient versions will offer your more payback in the long run than keeping them. The same can be true of water heaters, furnaces, etc. Again… remember that the lower your energy consumption now, the smaller the renewable energy system you will need, and you may potentially have more funds to dedicate to such from paying less for electricity.

Step 3: Isolate critical loads ($$)

You are going to quickly discourage yourself away from backup or renewable energy if you try to size either system based on your total electricity use. Forgeddaboudit! Instead, determine what are your “critical loads” and seek to first back them up (ie. with a generator) and secondly, later on, to run them from renewable energy. You’ll thank us that you took this approach if you do since you’ll have much better understanding of how things work.

This step involves auditing all your electrical circuits to determine which ones are critical or essential. For example, if you live in the country, this might include your well pump, septic pumps, etc. For most people, it will include a refrigerator and/or freezer. It should include some lights. Here’s a great way to determine this… Carefully consider what your “must haves” are in the event of a power outage of seven days and place every circuit in one of three columns: “Don’t need”, “Nice to have”, “Must have”. If you take our “energy sabbath” idea to heart and try this throughout the year, you should already have an idea what things you must have operational.

Once you’ve done this, you should begin to physically isolate those critical loads. This is often done in either a generator panel or a sub-panel that is wired into/alongside your main electric panel. The goal here is two-fold. 1) Separate the circuits and 2) provide switchable backup power to these circuits. This is work best done by professionals or very capable DIYers.

Our critical loads, isolated in their own sub-panel(s)

Our critical loads, isolated in their own sub-panel(s)

In the future, if/when you get to renewable energy, it will be far easier to do when your physical infrastructure has organized these critical loads into one place.

Furthermore, measuring your critical loads (ie. with a TED or other energy monitor) is also easier at this point. This point is worth emphasizing. When your loads are isolated – even if not yet backed-up, you can now measure them independently and begin to do so right away. Measure them for a few months, or a year or even better a full year. You will gain valuable information needed to accurately size a backup power solution and/or an alternative energy solution.

Why? Because you will gain information such as your persistent, average, and peak electrical loads on your critical circuits. With this information in hand, you can determine the exact size of a backup generator, solar panels, wind turbine, batteries, etc. You will also be able to determine what items from your “Nice to haves” might be able to be moved to your “critical loads”.

Take it to the next level: Energy consumption is meausured  (in North America) in kWh (killowatt hours). That is a measurement of “watts hours” (Wh) divided by 1000. A Watt Hour (Wh) is the measurement of watts consumed x the hours used. If you had a 100 w bulb on for 24 hours a day (100 W x 24h = 2400 Wh). To get the kWh, divide this by 1000 (2400 Wh / 1000 = 2.4 kWh). Add up the watt hours of all the appliances you want to support with solar, and you’ll get your total Watt Hours. Just don’t overlook that not all appliances run constantly, but at intervals throughout the day. A simple enery monitor such as a Kill-a-watt does all this work for you.

Watts is a measurement of  Amps x Volts. So if you have an appliance that uses 15 Amps and a voltage of 12oV it will use 1800 Watts. Now… if you then run thata 3 hours a day, what do you suppose the Wh might be? If you guessed 5400, you’re correct. And in kWh? Yes, 5.4 kWh!

These numbers are important for all conversations pertaining to sizing backup or renewable energy.

These steps require the help of a qualified professional and WILL cost money – perhaps several thousand dollars. However, they are a worthwhile investment into your future and will save you potentially thousands of dollars wasted on over-sized solutions later on.

Step 4: Backup Essentials ($$)

When you isolate your critical loads, it is now far easier to back them up. Usually, this is done with a generator, some sort of physical transfer switch, and a generator input receptacle. If you’ve done the steps above, especially monitoring, you will know what your critical/essential loads require and what size generator is necessary to meet those requirements.

Once again (unless combined with the previous step), the services of a qualified professional electrician are required here. The cost is not trivial, but not unbearable either. You will need to purchase a generator, transfer switch, and a means of connecting the generator to the transfer switch. Additionally, you will need to secure the services for connecting all these things together.

When you are done, you will have the means to run your critical electrical circuits on backup/emergency generator. You will also then have much of the infrastructure in place for eventually powering these same loads with renewable energy.

How we did it: When we were at such a phase, we used a simple double pole, double throw (DPDT) switch that had two inputs – one from our main service panel, the other from a generator outlet. When we needed to run the generator, we’d move the switch into the “generator” position, start the generator, and be on our way. When we were finished with the need, we’d shut down the generator, return the switch to the “Utility” power position, and resume normal life. This is not automatic but is also very affordable.

img_0012

Portable Generator outlet - just plug in the generator and flip the switch when needed.

Portable Generator outlet – just plug in the generator and flip the switch when needed.

Step 5: Add Batteries, Inverter, Charge Controller ($$$)

Now it’s time to determine how much energy you want to store. This is done by multiplying your critical loads by the number of hours you want to operate them by batteries, factoring in the percentage of the battery that can be used without reducing their longevity. For example, if your critical loads required 10 kWh/day, and you wanted two days, and you wanted to never draw down more than 20% of your batteries, you would need to have enough batteries so that 20% of their combined stored energy amounted to 10kWh per day for two days (or 20kWh).

In industry terms, the number of days you wish to be able to run without recharging your batteries is referred to as “Days of Autonomy” or “DOA”.

Here again, knowing your real needs/usage (through monitoring) is critically important. Otherwise, the best you can do is guess and your guess is likely to be way too large (expensive) or way too small (inadequate).

This may seem an odd step to some. Why install batteries before any sources are producing power?

Here are some reasons for doing so:

  1. They are the infrastructure for off-grid or grid-interactive solar or wind applications. If you never want to be able to use your renewable energy when the utility power is unavailable, you don’t need this step. However, what sense does it make to have potentially tens of thousands of dollars in renewable energy and not be able to use it when you need it most – in a utility outage? Believe it or not, most home solar installations in our country are what are called “grid-tie” systems and cannot operate, or operate at a greatly reduced capacity during a utility failure.
  2. With batteries and a generator in place, you can operate a generator only long enough to re-charge your batteries during an outage. For example, if it took two hours to charge your batteries but they could support your critical loads for 24 hours, you’d only need to run the generator for two hours every day vs the entire length of an outage. In short, batteries extend generator fuel.
  3. Optionally, using the right equipment, you can program your system to use grid power or battery power based on peaks and lows of cost. This can be done by re-charging batteries using grid power when rates are low and using generator power (in the case of automatic backup generators) when grid power is at peak rates.
Solar batteries can be heavy - this one is 2200lbs

Solar batteries can be heavy – this one is 2200lbs!

Step 6: Add Renewable Collectors ($$-$$$)

With all the above done and with the proper equipment, you can add in renewable energy products such as solar panels, wind turbines, or micro-hydro. It’s important to know how/what you intend to do at this step before purchasing the equipment from Step 5 because you need to ensure everything plays nicely together.

With renewable energy sources, you are probably not going to save a lot of money. In our case, we probably save $15-$20/month. That’s nice and all, but not even close to worth the investment if it were for financial gain. What you will gain is “fuel extension” and additional (redundant) source of energy.

Step 7: Learn, learn, learn

Owning and maintaining equipment such as above is NOT simple, hence one of the reasons we’ve avoided blogging about it 🙂 Nevertheless, it is doable! To get the most out of the experience, invest time into learning everything you can about these subjects.

 

Why your family should own a quality water filter

We’ve blogged plenty of times about water and the need to have access to good, clean, quality drinking water.

Something every family in the world should consider is this… Where and how do we get access to good, clean, healthy drinking water?

Many in the world cannot answer this question because they have nothing but unhealthy, compromised water to drink. That’s why our family supports organizations like World Vision. However, even those in well-developed countries such as the United States can have compromised drinking water. Most Americans and Europeans wrongly assume that they will always have access to good, clean, healthy drinking water. So let’s ask a follow-up question to the the above question.

Is there anything that could happen that would interrupt how and/or where we secure good, clean, healthy drinking water? Or how about this… What dependencies are there for us getting this water? Is a utility company responsible. Must electricity be present? Must we be able to drive to a store to get water?

Water is essential for life. Without it, most people can survive just around 3 days or so. Yet, for something so important, we invest very little thought, time, and resources into making sure we can continue to have access to such a necessary resource!

Most of us are utterly dependent on systems and variables beyond our control for our water and many other needs. Consider this… A utility could encounter a problem and need to shut off water. The power can be turned off. The store could run out of water. Bottled water companies could shut down. Truckers could go ons strike. A water main could break. The weather could prevent you from reaching the store. The well could break.

These are not extreme, apocalyptic scenarios. These are common events. These things WILL  happen – and they do all the time. Just ask anyone who has been without power for several days due to flooding, hurricanes, etc. All the victims of these events have quickly realized how delicate access to clean water and other necessities can be. A few gallons of water squirreled away in the closet is better than nothing, but it’s not good enough!

Our family has developed our own “Preparedness Pyramid” approach for planning for unexpected things like this. This process allows us to determine how we would meet any need for our short term, intermediate, and long term needs. You can read more about our planning strategy here.

It is our belief, that every family should have a water filter on hand. Not the water pitchers with carbon filters found at Stuff Mart, but a quality product built to make undrinkable water potable.  Yes, these will cost you money. However, the costs are very small and would be of no consequence when clean water is necessary for life to continue! Is your life or the life of your loved ones not worth $50, $100, $200?

My past experience consulting with those going on extended outdoor adventures gave me the opportunity to get an education on these matters, and also learn about some great vendors and products in this arena. Further my own experience backpacking, camping, and several extended trips to third-world countries have given me practical experience in with the tools and processes for making water potable (drinkable/useable) and, unfortunately – what happens when you don’t 😦

So it was without doubt or hesitation that we recently purchased the Katadyn TRK Gravidyn Drip Water Filter. Katadyn has been a world leader in water filtration for a looong time. We’ve been following and using their filters for about 20 years. This filter is perfect for a family of group of families looking to provide emergency fresh water. If you can have only one device for making water drinkable – get this one!

We like this filter because:

  1. It can provide for a family or reasonable-size group of people (1-6 people’s full-time needs) – this could be stretched to meet the needs of more in my opinion.
  2. It can be cleaned and used over and over again for an average of 150,000 litres of water. The cleaner you can make the water going in, the longer it will last.
  3. It’s gravity-fed, meaning it’s simple, passive – requires no pumping and has no moving parts
  4. It can serve functions on picnics, camping trips, and emergencies
  5. It’s robust enough to meet your families needs for weeks to months – long enough for normal systems to come online again or more permanent alternatives to be developed.
  6. It’s a Katadyn, duh!
We’d be happy to answer any questions about sustainable, emergency water source planning you might have. Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line!

The shelf-life of money

Money, as we know it, is quite an illusion. Think about it. We place extreme value on very complex pictures printed on special paper. We live, work, and die to accumulate this treasure that is really no treasure at all, but worthless resources. We cannot eat money, it cannot make us healthy. It cannot keep us warm (unless burned) and cannot keep us dry or secure. Does money let us purchase items that will give us those things? Sure. However, that’s based on an assumption that money will always have the value we place on it today. What happens if and when we no longer value dollars as having value?

As we’ve said before, the path to sustainability also prepares one for weathering difficult times. It’s with that understanding that we propose to you that you think long and hard about this thing called money. Many people will think nothing about storing three months of money in their bank accounts, yet won’t have three months of food on hands. They’ll be very proud of their investments, but have no way to secure clean water in an emergency. Money has no value when people collectively experience hardship. At that point, money is the enemy of sustainability. For many, money is the enemy of their sustainability even now. These are perilous ways to view money. Money is a tool that has an expiration date. It must be used in order to have value.

Are we saying doom and gloom is headed our way? No. We don’t know what the future holds. However, we do know, that our understanding of money depends on the combined support and interest of our culture. If that stops due to a change of mind, calamity, disaster, or any other reason, those with money will find themselves empty handed. We’re not saying don’t have money or don’t invest. But be wise! First invest in tangible resources first that will allow you to sustain your lives and others around you. Many do not to this to their potential peril and destruction.

Many who understand the above just go out and buy gold and silver. Are those things bad? No. However, just like money, they have limited value to the beholder. When the essentials to life are hard to come by, no amount of gold and silver is going to be worth trading food, water and shelter. Don’t misunderstand, we do think precious metals have their place in sustainable living  and are far, far better than dollars. However, they too stop short of preparing a family to live sustainably now and in the future.

I our opinion, money is best used to secure useful resources and eliminate debt than it is to secure and store. Kinda like the old fable “a bird in hand is better than two in the bush”. Money in the bank is only good as long as it can be used for what you need. If you’re lacking essential resources to live for several months or more without the need of purchasing supplies, then you might want to consider using your money more effectively. Get out of debt. Get the supplies to take care of you and your family.

Many will see this as unwise. Oh well! We’re hoping that many will consider these words and think about their future. If we can help, drop us a line.

Sprouts – add this tasty super food to your emergency meal planning

Sprouts: Fresh produce all year long – no garden required!

Many people (ourselves included) who value eating healthy, organic, nutritious foods and who also concern themselves with securing a sustainable food supply will eventually ask themselves the question “How will we continue to eat healthy foods when we cannot harvest from the garden?”. There are many natural and disastrous circumstances that could keep one from  growing healthy produce – namely Winter!

We’re big fans of freezing, canning, root cellaring, cold storage, etc. However, those options don’t provide the participants with fresh green produce (typically). Enter sprouts! Sprouts are just what they sound like – sprouted seeds of vegetables, beans, grains, or grasses that are just days old when harvested and consumed. Sprouts are a wonderful addition to a simple, sustainable, healthy, and prepared lifestyle. Sprouts are super-easy to grow, offer superior nutritional and health benefits, require little to no energy to produce, can be eaten fresh, and require little investment.

Getting started with sprouting

Making sprouts is easy and requires little investment. While you can sprout seeds in mason jars, clear plastic or glass containers, etc. we chose to buy a sprouting kit. The kit below was a small $12-$14 investment was well worth it and allows us to sprout up to three kinds of sprouts at once with just a few square inches of counter space, a few cups of water, and a few days. To sprout three trays of sprouts probably requires us about 30 minutes of total time investment.

A great, simple sprouter

This great little sprouter is available for about $12-$14 at Amazon. Click to see.

The sprouting process is simple. You place a small amount of the sprouting seed (more on that in a minute) on the tray, fill the top reservoir with water, and let it trickle down through all the layers of seeds, wetting each layer of seeds. Do this twice a day and in about three to five days, keeping the sprouting container in a well lit area of your home and you’ll have fresh sprouts ready to eat. How’s that for quick and healthy food?

Sprouts as a survival/emergency food

Sprouts should be added to the food strategy of anyone looking to create a secure and sustainable food supply. Firstly, sprout seeds are vegetable seeds so they can serve the dual purposes of sprouting for food, or growing to fully mature plants in the garden. Secondly, seeds are easy to store. As long as they’re clean, dry, cool, and dark, they should hold up in storage for a between 1-10 years! We consider them sustainable because we can plant the seeds, harvest harvest the crops from those seeds, keep seeds from the crop and store them again and again (if using non-GMO, non-hybrid seeds that is). They’re also great because the don’t require much space, require no real “labor” to speak of (compared to gardening), very little water, and tolerate most indoor temperatures. In summary, sprouts are hard to mess up!

Sprouting seeds – a smorgasbord of flavors and variety

If all you know of sprouting is alfalfa sprouts you can buy in the store – it’s time to expand your horizons! There are tons of varieties of sprouts to choose from. Leafy sprouts such as alfalfa, clover, and arugula. There’s “Bean” sprouts such as mung bean, garbanzo (chick pea), pea, lentil and peanut. Then there’s Brasicca sprouts such as broccoli, radish, mustard and more. Perhaps you might like Grasses (wheat, barley), Grains (spelt, quinoa, kamut), Nuts (almonds, sunflower), or Allium sprouts (garlic, leek, onion). There’s not shortage of things to sprout! You cannot sprout everything (ie. never sprout nightshades like tomato, potato, and eggplant).

When we got started, we were not sure what we’d like, so we purchased a 12lb variety pack (seen below). It’s been a great way to add to our emergency food supply as well as discover what we like. So far, the clear winner in our home are lentils!

This is the 12lb organic sprout seed sampler we purchased. It's a good way to get a lot of seeds, and also discover what you like.

Ancient wisdom with modern repercussions

Sprouting seed has been around for a loooong time! Take a look at this scripture verse:

“Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side. – Ezekiel 4:9

I don’t know about you… but if there were a food that I knew could keep me alive for 390 days eating nothing else, I think I’d add it to my emergency food supplies. In the verse above, God instructed the prophet Ezekiel to make a bread from sprouted grains and eat it (exclusively) for just such a duration. It’s no wonder… take a look at the nutritional value of sprouts:

  • Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K
  • Calcium
  • Carbohydrates
  • Chlorophyll
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Niacin
  • Pantothenic Acid
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
  • All Amino Acids
  • Trace Elements
  • Protein: up to 35%

Do we want to eat sprouts/sprouted bread for 390 days? Of course not. However, it’s nice to know that there are simple, healthy, inexpensive, and sustainable foods that can sustain our lives and the lives of those we love. Heh, sprouting was worthwhile enough for God to instruct Ezekiel to give it a shot – maybe you should give them a try too?!

Please post your own thoughts about sprouts in the comments below.