Homesteading – Emergency Preparedness

I am not an alarmist when it comes to some impending crisis. We are already in a crisis Рnot enough food, fuel, water available where it is needed; it will get worse. But I am not expecting a Mad Max scenario tomorrow or later this year. I could be wrong. Still, here in Canada in government suggests that every household keep 72 hours worth of emergency supplies on hand for the routine crises Рbad weather, power outages. There are government sites and publications to help you plan that.

Our emergencies, in the country, are more likely to be longer term. How do we cope with that?

1. Food for a month. I keep basic food ingredients – flour, yeast, sugar, beans, potatoes, squash and home canned food.

2. Heat and fuel. This will be easier once our woodstove is installed and we get a delivery of wood. In the meantime, I would have to rely on an oil lamp to keep one room warm, and cook outdoors. I suggested to a friend that even though they can’t afford the woodburning stove right now, they at least find plans and materials to build one in an extended emergency. Yeah, it won’t meet code, but no one is going to care if there is a complete breakdown of services.

3. Water. We live on a river, and I suspect that there are a number of springs within a short distance of the house. The river isn’t too good an option – we are way up a steep bank. We have metal roofs on the house and garage, so we could easily collect rain water. A camping type filter (such as Katadyn) can supply drinking water from collected rain.

4. Seeds and tools. Even the 20,000 year old sharp stick is a farming implement. Save seeds from non-hybrid tomatoes, squash and other vegetables. Sprouty potatoes could be next year’s crop. (I don’t recommend that unless you have no other choice – saving over sprouted table potatoes can endanger other crops if they harbor fungus.)

5. Money. Paper money would be useless if the government collapsed. And so will gold and silver. Why? You can’t eat them. Precious metals depend on a market to move them – and those markets depend on governments. The precious metals are terribly overpriced right now. Convert non-earning investments into real goods or debt repayment. “Invest” in life skills such as gardening, woodworking, sewing. What you will have to barter are your abilities and goods people need.

6. Neighbours. Get to know your neighbours and be on good terms with them. Help each other with home projects and maybe start a community garden. You will need the people closest to you if there is ever an extended crisis.


18 thoughts on “Homesteading – Emergency Preparedness

  1. I agree with you Magdalena. I am not an alarmist either but it is a good idea to store food for emergencies. Here in the mountains, my bulk is always the dry goods. Wheat berries, sugar, beans, rice, etc. I know that even if milk is needed…dry milk can be used as a substitute.

    Thank you for sharing.


  2. I don’t understand something, so maybe you can explain it to me.

    What exactly are people preparing for?

    Right now we have more food than ever in human history, enough to feed the whole world. Population is near peak and, where we live, on the way down. So we have huge yields and fewer people.

    Oil and food may cost more. But we would need enormous inflation to even get back to the relative price of food circa 1950 (when food made up a third of the average budget). So even if food soared in cost (and current inflation predictions are less than 5%, on the high end, over the next 5-10 years in food specifically) we would be back to 1950.

    Why would services go down? And _all_ services? All at once? Are you anticipating a general strike?

    You think the government is going to collapse? The Canadian government? The American government? The Canadian government is a minority, but really? Government collapse? What’s the precedent for this?

    • I don’t expect the government to collapse, but I expect food and oil prices to go up a lot faster than income, for many people. Everything I have seen from credible sources points to poor crops this year worldwide, and that cushion of food reserve is smaller than it has been in the past. And if you have ever lost a job, run through your employment insurance before finding work, and then spent all your savings before you could find more than part-time work, well – you won’t really care if the rest of the world is snug and happy. Being prepared for a personal emergency is also a good idea. A general strike in a major European country could also drive up prices overall.

      With weather increasingly volatile, many of us have to anticipate that we could be cut off from supplies for at least a week, maybe longer. I have seen stores in Northern areas sell out of many basic products during and after winter storms because of trucking delays. And because the east does not produce much of the food we consume, our prices are significantly higher than the west. It is the main reason we will be growing most of our own. That means we will have to conserve it to get through a year. This is becoming necessary for many people throughout North America, Europe and Australia.

      • Where do you have evidence that people are, out of necessity, gardening more — even to the point of self-sufficiency? I know there are people who do this because they think it is good or will be necessary, but I’m not aware of anyone _having_ to do it.

        Delays because of storms or a marginal increase in the price of food and oil seems a long way away from a collapses of the government and the demise of the global currency market.

    • Look up Peak Oil. Then discount whatever you find by say…50%. I would also suggest you do some reading of Dmitry Orlov’s blog. Discount it by less since he actually observed the collapse of the USSR. It’s pretty sobering, and may inspire you to do your own disaster preparations.

      • Margret, I’m familiar with the theory of peak oil (though I don’t find it convincing, for my own reasons). I’ve taken a look at Mr. Orlov’s blog, but I don’t see how witnessing the engineered collapse of a communist dictatorship endows him with a particular ability to foresee a spontaneous collapse of some of the most stable democracies.

  3. What you picture looks to me like an old silk reel that was used to reel the silk fibers from the soaked cocoons, A silk industry was attempted in the southern United States for a while but fell through due to an epidemic disease of the silkworm larvae. The legacy of the failed attempt is the prevalence of mulberry trees whose leaves were the only foodstuff of the silkworm larvae and some silk reels like the one you have.
    An umbrella swift, like its namesake, the umbrella, extends and collapses to save space. I have one. Handspun wool is usually reeled off the spindle onto a niddy-noddy, an I shaped piece of turned wood where the cross pieces have upturned ‘serif’s, as it were and are at 90 degrees to each other. The device makes a nodding-rocking motion as you skein the yarn on to it. When skein is full, you tie a short piece of yarn around each of the four lengths and take it off and twist it until it wants to double back on itself, which you let it do and then poke one end through the middle of the other.
    This is how a lot of yarn from small lot producers is still sold and it has to be put on a swift to wind into a ball. I have a nostpinde (winding stick) turned by wood craftsman that lets me make center pull balls without having to keep two fingers stuck into the center of the ball.
    Sometimes a tightly spun yarn can be coaxed into relaxing a bit by hanging the skein off the noddy on an S hook with another S hook on the bottom with a weight and misting the yarn with water until it’s quite damp and letting it dry. This is also how I take the kinks out of yarn recycled from a project that didn’t work out.

    • No, this is a skein winder, made locally maybe 80-100 years ago. No silk worms or mulberry trees here. Acadian women here spun large amounts of wool for blankets and clothing. Their production wheels often have fixed bobbins, and the thread was reeled off either on the skeiner pictured or direcftly onto shuttle bobbin winders for weaving. I’ve had niddy-noddies, and when I sold 100+ skeins a year, it was too slow and painful for skeining. (I have broken both my wrists.) The use of the nostepinne hadn’t been lost in the Swedish and Danish colonies here, either. I used to use a tapered candle stub – works just fine.

      I ply from my skeiner, as well. The large diameter Quebec wheel spins faster than my Ashford hobbby wheel, so I can turn out a plied skein of yarn of about 4 oz. in less than an hour. The larger diameter wheel doesn’t spin overly tight, either, as the tension is easily fine-tuned. If I want to spin something very fine – a silk blend, for instance – I just use a drop spindle.

  4. People who have been in rural areas have always “put by” for times of emergency. We lost our electricity for 11 days in an ice storm a couple of years ago. Fortunately, we had a generator which allowed us to keep our freezer, ice box and my computer running. I work from home so this was very nice, even though I don’t know if it was a very good idea to be operating a computer from a generator. We have had a record snow fall lately which is unusual for our area but we are blessed with beef in our freezer and canned goods that I buy when on sale. If anything, buying in bulk when items go on sale, saves money. Food prices already are increasing. We have recently made a purchase of a Big Berkey purifier. We have a well and the water is rusty and we had a reverse osmosis system for drinking water but the filters are expensive. The filters for the Berkey are reasonably priced and last a long time. About 8 years. It also is supposed to filter water from ponds, etc during an emergency. We prepare so we can provide for our family, extended family and help neighbors when in need. Because grocery stores keep their inventory limited. any delay in the trucking deliveries and the shelves will soon be empty. It has already happened here. I agree with you that it is a good investment to buy necessary items in bulk to help offset future price increases.

  5. I agree with point 6 for sure. To many people don’t even know the people living right next to them. They are the people we may have to turn to and connect with during any time of emergency.

  6. I know several families who homestead and garden almost to self-sufficency because they must. I have known people like that all my life. My family was one of them, in a way. I also believe that currency markets stand a high probability of collapsing within five years. The US dollar is no longer the currency of choice in the world, and the Canadian dollar is pegged to it. I would expect that inflation due to speculation and government borrowing will erode the value significantly.

    I can expect that my rent will not go up over the next two years or more; that I will be able to buy firewood cheaper and more easily than oil; that we can grow a significant amount of food on a couple of acres of good soil that will support us and our neighbours. It makes little sense to watch good farmland grow up in bush and weeds simply because it is possible to buy lettuce in the store. Micro-producers can provide enough on a local level to free up food stocks for those who do not have that advantage. Theoretically, on a couple of acres, we could produce more than 10,000 pounds of food in our growing season. In a better climate – such as the west coast, this could be doubled or tripled. There are many fallow farms here in New Brunswick. If even 200 acres of farmland were put back into production of diversified food stock,we could feed many people in the province.

    • Magdalena, actually, the Canadian dollar is not pegged to the US dollar. “Pegged” means that no matter what the US dollar is, the Canadian dollar would be the same. The Hong Kong dollar has been pegged to the US dollar; I don’t know if that’s still the case. The Canadian dollar floats.

      The Canadian dollar actually moves in opposition to the American dollar depending on how the Americans are faring. When the American economy is weak, the Canadian dollar rises in relation to the American dollar. This makes American exports less expensive and stimulates demand. It also stimulates tourism. Thus, a floating currency acts as a hedge against bad economic times.

      The government can control what a currency is set at. The risk right now is not that the value of the American dollar will collapse, but that the American government will deliberately reduce the value of the dollar by increasing the money supply (quantitative easing).

      I trust you on your rent. A mortgage is generally locked in for several years as well. While you may save money on a wood stove, that doesn’t mean that buying a wood stove is good advice. Most people would need to factor in the cost of the stove itself. It also varies depending on the type of power supplied in your area.

      In Vancouver, heating is about $35 a month for an apartment or townhouse. Factoring in a wood stove at $2000, that means I’d be almost five years out before I even broke even on the price of installing the stove, assuming a zero cost for firewood. There’s also the problem of other people doing as I do. If we all switch to wood burning, the price of firewood will go up. Our forests will be ravaged. The air will turn vile. In short, what I disagree with here is not your decision to get a wood stove, but the assumption that it’s a good thing for other people to get a wood stove.

      There is a huge gap between the theoretical production of food and the actual production of food. The yield will vary and you cannot guarantee that you will be successful farming that area — especially since you’re working alone. Non-local food production cushions us from these shocks, as do GMO plants and hybrids.

      As for putting farm land into production on the west coast — a great deal of it already is in production. It is just generally in the crops most suited to our soil and climate (berries, lettuce, that kind of thing) and not grain or feed. Land here is at a premium though, and to put more farmland into production would worsen the problem that we haven’t got room to put everyone.

      • Yeah, I was a bit glib on the use of the word “pegged” – I did mean what you said about currencies being interrelated. I don’t think everyone can switch to a woodstove. I have to because our electricity rates and oil prices are very high. New Brunswick and Quebec have surplus wood. It is cheap and even free here. A well-regulated stove won’t pollute. (Much – but it will be better than out 20+ year old oil furnace.)

        We live in a very fertile area. I don’t expect crop failure. One or two things might do poorly, but we will be planting a diverse range of crops, and my estimate was actually low. GNO threatens overall fertility and certainly the way Monsanto is handling its distribution we are risking food security. I do use some hybrids, but mainly prefer to use heirlooms as I can save the seed just as my ancestors did for generations. We are a low density population, with lots of empty farmland. Maybe westies should start thinking about the wide open spaces back east.

    • Yes, that kind but in New Brunswick, where there is no work, and you might wait two years to get landed immigrant status after application. Google New Brunswick real estate farms and see what you get. The trade-off for us is the low cost of living, in exchange for some hard work.

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