Thursday, October 23, 2014

Prepping For Disasters

My step-dad texted me an interesting question this morning, and it's had my mind reeling all day.  He simply wrote (after a conversation with my brother-in-law), "What would it take to feed 20 people for 5 years?"

Here was my initial response, "A lot of food, and/or the ability to obtain/produce more."

And then my mind took off on what that would look like.  Here.  On the farm.  With my family and our resources.  I think I may have sent several text messages back before I realized that he probably needed to get to work and I really should finish cleaning up the barn.

But just because our text conversation ended doesn't mean my thinking did.  And this post might be kind of rambly--because my brain just thinks like that!

Are my thoughts complete?  Nope--not even close.  I'm sure I'm missing some vital components.  These are just the first ones swirling around in this head.


It's recommended that you store food for your family (obviously).  The problem in this scenario?  Do you have any idea how much space canned/dry goods for 20 people would take up?  Yes we have a large house, but no, I don't want it filled to the brim with cans and cans of food (especially because we really DON'T eat canned foods any more. )

No, storing just random cans isn't going to cut it.  We need a better plan.

We need to stock up on the things we won't be able to produce easily.  Things like flour, sugar, olive oil, salt and rice.  The things that you read about families in the old days stocking up on before winter.  Staples.

Yes, we could grow wheat and harvest our own grain, but that would take some prep work that wouldn't happen right away.  Flour (or wheat berries if we have a reliable wheat grinder) need to be stored for the meantime.

Fruits and veggies also need to be stored with more of a short term goal in mind.  The ground around here produces abundantly, and new fruits and veggies could be grown within a year of any disaster that would strike.  Thus, we don't need five years worth of those.

Meat (canned variety if we're assuming no power) is also needed, especially for the summer months.  We can easily butcher a pig or a cow or something in the late fall/winter and store it without it going bad, but with our current knowledge, I don't know how to make it last through summer.  This is an area I should learn more about (I hope to have the knowledge and equipment necessary to can chicken before next July's butcher date...).

Dairy (for providing vital nutrients) would be another area easily taken care of in our current situation.  We have three cows bred currently, and two are currently milking (though they'll be drying up soon).  If the situation were different, we'd just stagger the next breeding to ensure that we always had at least one cow in milk instead of drying them all up at once.  The milk could be chilled in the creek, and then used to create butter (with supplies we already have), and perhaps some cheeses to add variety to the diet.


Once again, just thinking about the recommended number of 55-gallon drums we'd need to keep on hand for 20 people is mind boggling!  

Thankfully, we have access to a creek.  All livestock water would be hauled from there (can you imagine the muscle power we'll build?) 

That means we need a reliable way to filter and boil water.  And since that's probably not something we'd like to do every day, getting a couple of 55-gallon drums to keep refilling is probably a good idea.

Our goal to learn to create our own charcoal to filter seems to be perfect here.  We have LOTS of trees around, and charcoal can keep.  Then it'd be a matter of boiling, which would likely be done on the top of one of the wood stoves.  Good thing we have some large pots that can go up there!


As I mentioned earlier, fruits and veggies don't need to be stored for years around here.  But seeds?  That's another story.  We should probably make it a point to 1.  plant more plants that don't require replanting (fruit and nut trees, berries, etc.) 2. stock up on good quality seeds that will last and 3. learn to save seeds from year-year. 

Thankfully my mom is an expert at starting seeds in her greenhouse.  So someone in the family knows how to do that--a key--we don't ALL need to know EVERYTHING! Community is important in survival situations, so you can break up the work and knowledge loads.  

We have land for growing, and livestock to produce manure for composting and building the soil and thus the yield.  Yeah! 


Stinging nettles are nutritious! (And apparently a good spot to hide eggs under...)

When talking about this with Jayme this morning, this was an important aspect for her. There are a ton of edible plants that grow on our property.  There are also plants (like mullein and arnica) that are great for medicinal purposes.  We need to make sure we learn how to use all of these useful things.  That leads me to my next point...

Survival Books

Yes, I've learned a TON of information on the Internet. a disaster situation, that won't likely be available, especially way out here.  So Bryan and I have been making it a priority to build a library of actual books.  Here's a sample of what we currently own; please excuse the missing covers on some, Owen ate them...

I'm buying a butchering book soon, and have many others, including an edible plants guide and a basic medical book on my to-buy soon list. My parents and I have also discussed that we don't need double copies, so we've been careful to obtain different selections that when combined give us a pretty solid skill-set in the written word.  


We currently have six cows.  The two steers could be butchered any time (though the yield would be low) to help save on hay.  The bull I'd like to keep at least to breed once more this next summer, and of the three milk cows, I'd probably hang onto only two of them. 

Here's the start of my longer term planning.  

We won't be able to rely on electric fence to keep the cows in, so I'd have to only keep cows who could be tethered.  Two of the milking cows (Maggie and Annie--who is still a heifer but due in March/April) are excellent on the tether.  My older milk cow, Epie, is not.  She almost strangles herself everytime she's on one.  So we don't tether her.  

If tethering became a necessity (we could even let the cows mow the lawn since there wouldn't be extra gas for the lawn mower...), I would need to get rid of Epie.  

The bull...I've been too scared to try him on tether before, just because we got him as a two-year old.  A little big for my liking to try and move around on a rope.So...I need to keep a bull calf from Epie and plan on that cow remaining a bull.  I need to get him tether trained from a young age.  Then, by getting rid of Epie, he'd be able to breed the other cows for a long period of time, and would work on the tether.  See my thinking?  

I also need to ensure that my rabbits are used to eating greens and hay (we're working on that now) since pellets might not be obtainable.  

Same with the chickens--they have to be able to free-range effectively since grain would be harder to produce.  Mine are great at this--hardly go through any grain in the spring, summer and fall, and I could keep them alive (though not top producing) on kitchen scraps through the winter.


Pigs could definitely work as well--they could have dropped fruit, hay and other scraps and leftover dairy products.  

So my focus is on self-sustaining livestock.  We can produce about five ton of hay based on current production land, and could expand that in a year or two if necessary. We would extend our grass season by going to only tethering since we could use more land than we have currently fenced.  It could work. 


A good first aid kit and lots of bandaid/ace wraps/etc. should be stocked up on, as with basic medicine (over the counter type).  Unfortunately due to insurance regulations, I can't stockpile Owen's seizure meds.  Thus one of my first actions would be to wean off of his drugs (since withdrawal can be a problem we'd do it gradually based on how many we had left) and implement a minor version of the keto diet again.  We hated the diet, but it kept his seizures at bay.  I think by going more of an Atkins style, we'd get the benefits without the drawbacks.  At least I hope we would! 


I know there's a lot more, but this post has rambled on long enough.  I know that life would be much harder than it is now if we were to rely on these techniques, but I think they'd keep the family alive. 

What are your thoughts for long-term prepping?  What will your plans be as your stockpiles begin to run out?  What did I miss?  I'd love some feedback on this! 


  1. I wish I could see your library! The picture doesn't show up.

    I think your thinking is spot on, and the only thing I'd add is that in addition to medical supplies, makes sure you have medical training too. I went through a Wilderness First Aid class several years ago and am going to get re-certified next year (might actually upgrade to Wilderness First Responder.) I can't recommend it highly enough. It teaches you how to care for things like broken bones, shock, allergic reactions, pain, and so on when you know for sure that you won't get to a medical facility right away. I could see that being useful in general out on the farm anyway.

    1. Thanks for letting me know about the picture Drew, I've updated the post and you should be able to see it now.

      Medical training is a great idea, we might have to look into a class like the one you took, as all we've done is the standard CPR/First Aid, and while very necessary information, it wasn't nearly as in depth as what you describe.


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