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Sunday, January 11, 2009


Doing without refrigeration for any length of time is going to be near impossible. For now in normal times we can rely on propane powered machines. Or even blocks of regular or dry ice if you are drydocking in an RV. But this assumes a continuing supply from civilization. In any social breakdown scenario that lasts any length of time we can assume refrigeration is going to be a distant memory. Aside from salt we need to plan for long term replacements of refrigeration. Not that it is vital. It is merely a much better way of doing things. Meat won’t be able to be shipped already slaughtered. Households won’t have a ready means of keeping dairy and vegetables as they do now ( not without a lot more trouble than it is now- although it will be cheaper in the long run ).

Canning is only a long term strategy if you can replace jars and lids. Natural rubber ( there won’t be any synthetic without petroleum ) will need to be shipped overseas or up from South America. Glass manufacturing is ancient but whether an industry springs up to provide the jars is another story. As with lids. We take metal for granted but there is a lot of material that is imported to mix with iron or steel to make the alloys we are used to. Will we be able to duplicate them after a major crash? If not this leaves drying or salting or smoking and root cellars as the main preservative methods. We can easily do these things but make sure that you plan ahead for them.

A root cellar can be built with a minimum of material and might even cost less than a new refrigerator ( assuming no flooding problems ). You can leave a dirt floor in one section for vegetables and cement in another for preserving dairy and meats ( protecting against rodents ). Regular maintenance to it will never run you a bill as expensive as the electric bill for a machine. Let alone a replacement. If you still wanted to can I would save that mostly for meats because of the difficulty of replacement containers. For winter vegetables I would sprout and have a few window grow boxes. Why can veggies if you can grow them year round?

For dairy a root cellar is going to extend the life compared to storing them in the house. Milk can be turned into cheese. Cheese can be wrapped in cheese cloth that has been lightly wetted with vinegar. Butter can be stored in a butter crock. Myself, I had always assumed butter was made as needed. I had never heard of a butter crock until I saw it in Leeman’s catalog. A subscriber from Bison set me straight and was kind enough not to laugh. You can store butter up to two weeks safely at room temperature using a crock. Get one container and fill with butter. Turn it upside down and immerse it in a larger container filled with water. The water keeps air from getting in which keeps the butter from spoiling. Wash both containers well before using again. The catalog items were $10 each and small ( you would need four to store a pound of butter ). I was told to just use a bigger and smaller glass jar to save the money. In times to come without glass you can use a ceramic one.

You might want to look into sausage making. This is an ancient method of preserving meat. I love drying, living in a desert with plenty of sun, but any fatty meats will spoil if dried. This is where sausage making comes into play. Just make sure to research the old ways. If your mail order supplier of edible plastic tubing goes up in a nuclear flash you will need to know how to turn intestines into tubing. The same with spices and seasonings. Make sure you aren’t reliant on soon to be irreplaceable items. Isn’t this the whole point of doing away with the refrigerator? So while it is true you can make your own blocks ( for an old fashion ice box ) of ice with a solar panel, a battery and an old compressor and some salt water in an insulated box, eventually a critical component is going to fail and become unavailable. Well, so will .22 ammo and well made factory shoes and eyeglasses and a depressingly long list of other items. At least with refrigeration you can easily revert back to traditional means. Heck, there might even be an ice business set up where someone stores ice over the summer for customers use. You could even do it yourself if you were so inclined but it seems more of a bother than doing without leftovers and condiments.

Another area to look into would be tin cans. Could they be duplicated easily? Canning itself is easy. They have manual machines that look like big can openers that seal a metal can closed. But could one duplicate the cans? Obviously as a future business, it would be pointless on a household level. One problem with duplicating technology from one hundred to one hundred fifty years ago. It looks easy. But at the time we were at the height of our industrial revolution in this country. There was a fabulous infrastructure set up to supply those wishing to start an industry. Sam Colt didn’t need to mine his own ore and smelt it. He just needed to tell others how to build his new kind of revolver. We won’t be so lucky after our technological society reverts back several hundred years. You need to see past protecting your petty kingdom. Trade is absolutely essential to living above a primitive level.


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