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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bloom Where You're Planted, by Gertrude

I write this to encourage everyone to begin preparing right now, whatever your financial situation and physical location in life. We are one of the many families that don’t live in a sparsely populated western state and don’t have a retreat that is fully stocked, off-grid and off-the beaten path. But we are very aware of the precarious situation that our country is in and we are trying as best we can to be prepared. Doing a little bit consistently every day will add up very quickly and you will be better prepared every day as you go along. Doing this will also do wonders for your mental outlook.

To give a little background: our household consists of my mother and myself, along with four cats, three dogs and a flock of chickens. My mother is 79 years old and I’m
a retired 57-year old woman. My sister and brother-in-law live about a half-mile away and our niece and her husband live next door. Both of my parents grew up on farms and we always had a big garden and plenty of fruit trees when I was a child. We live in a semi-rural area about three miles from a small town. There are no interstate highways nearby.

The people here in our community are pretty self-reliant. People still hunt, fish, and grow and preserve their own vegetables and fruits (although not as much as in the past). We have about five acres of land with a small fruit orchard and garden area. We don’t have any mortgages or car payments to worry about, but we also don’t have the financial resources to retreat to another location. Are we fully prepared? Of course not. I don’t think anyone is ever fully prepared, but we are much better prepared than we were last year and we were better prepared last year than we were the year before that. This is because of consistently doing something every day to prepare.

As I sit here typing this, our supper is cooking on the wood stove while my mother is in the living room quilting and our alarm systems--our three dogs--are outside keeping an eye on things. The coffee pot is ready to go on the stove for supper later. The chickens are happily occupied in their area. Our pantry is stocked with wheat, rice, beans, store-canned goods as well as home-canned vegetables, fruits, and meats and various other food and non-food items. We have another separate storage area for paper products, medical supplies, batteries, cleaning supplies, etc.

We didn’t have the wood stove, chickens or bigger-than-average pantry storage a few years ago. Back then I would have said we were above-average in “preparation mentality” but my eyes were opened when I began doing research on the subject of preparedness. It began when I wanted to be prepared to survive a possible flu pandemic. I quickly learned of other things, such as the possibility of EMP strikes, electric grid going down in general, Peak Oil problems, you name it. My first reaction was one of panic, but that subsided as my mother and I began “putting feet on our prayers.” We started small, buying more food each week when grocery shopping. Then we decided to go “whole hog.”

The first thing we did was buy a wood stove. We now have three heating systems: [a heating] oil furnace, gas logs operated on propane and the wood stove. We use the wood stove most of the time in the winter now. Although it’s not a [broad-top] cook stove, we do very well cooking meals on it. We perk the coffee for supper most nights even if we don’t cook the main meal on it. We have lots of wood on our land, but aren’t physically able to cut the wood ourselves so we buy it locally, and my brother-in-law has supplied us with wood (my sister and he have a wood stove too). We have three able-bodied men in the family (brother-in-law, nephew-in-law and nephew) who can and will cut wood if need be.

The next thing we did was install a manual well pump. We’re on well water but we needed a way to get the water if the grid goes down. I began researching manual well pumps and my brother-in-law installed one for us. Last summer, we worked on what has probably been the biggest project of them all: building a chicken house and fenced-in chicken yard. Our chickens are what I suppose you’d call semi-free range. They have a 24x24 foot yard to roam in. My mother was the chief architect. She designed the chicken house herself. We first had to clear the land, then we prepared the foundation for the house. After that came the actual building of the chicken house.

Although we have a pick-up truck, my nephew was using it at the time, so I would go to the local Big Box building center and buy as much wood as I could fit into the car and bring it back. We’re proof that you can pretty much do what you set your mind to do if you’re determined enough. We worked steadily every day except Sundays at building the chicken house and got it done. Then we had to clear the land for the chicken yard, and after doing that we began digging the holes for the fence posts. The only thing we had any outside help with was installing the poultry wire for the fence. We needed my niece and her husband to help us get that pulled tight enough. We finished the entire operation by putting netting over the entire chicken yard to keep out hawks. We now have a great flock of chickens. As I write this, we have about eight dozen eggs in the refrigerator. We share [the eggs] with my sister and husband, my niece and her husband and my nephew and his wife. The dogs also get a scrambled egg dinner about once a week. We haven’t bartered any eggs yet, but we know that’s a possibility down the road if economic conditions warrant it.

Somewhere in the midst of all this preparation, we bought a Country Living grain mill (the manual kind). Mother has done most of the grinding so far. She’s baked whole-wheat rolls and loaves of bread with the wheat we bought and ground ourselves – yummy!

Our garden suffered last summer, because we were so busy getting the chicken flock project set up. Our goal for this summer is to have as big a garden as we can manage. We do have a stock of garden seed laid back. We’ve already stocked up on lots of canning jar lids. We already had a good supply of canning jars and rings but I plan on stocking up on those, as well.

One of the big things we need to do next is prepare in the area of self-defense. We have a rifle and recently bought a S&W 9 mm handgun. We also have my late father’s 38 Special revolver. We have magazines and ammo and plan on stocking more ammo. My brother-in-law (a former Marine) is going to train me on the handguns and rifle. If there is one thing I
regret in life it is that I didn’t take advantage of the fact that my late father, who was a police officer, wanted to train me in the use of firearms, but I was a wimp. I’ve always believed in the right to bear arms, but was actually a little afraid of using guns, mainly because I’m so nearsighted. But I’ve gotten over that now. After one very short session with my brother-in-law going over firearm basics with me, I’m excited about getting proficient in their use because I can actually understand how the darn things work now!

I believe we’re doing pretty good at blooming where we’re planted. We can garden, sew, quilt, cook (don’t laugh – a lot of people don’t know how to do that!), crochet, can and preserve food, and we’ve don pretty well at carpentry. In addition to my retirement pension, I also have a second stream of income doing manuscript typing at home.

To summarize, I encourage anyone who feels paralyzed by current events to get up and get going. Start small: buy a few extra groceries each time you shop; stock up on non-perishables; prepare a first aid kit; and take a first aid course. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. And, most importantly of all, never stop learning. Before you know it,
you’ll be a lot more prepared than you ever knew you could be. - Gertrude


1 comment:

  1. Excellent. I'm sending it to my dil who lives in a subdivision - because you never know.