Knowledge and Skills are the Keys to Survival–Start With Gardening, by Bill K.

The truth of the matter is that most of us with the survival mindset are not rich enough to own all the radios, bunkers, and other fancy stuff we read about. Sure we drool about having the forty acre “gulch” all ready to go when the SHTF, but it’s just not in the reality of the regular working family, just a fantasy.
I’d like to suggest a great survival tool for the rest of us. The very best and the cheapest and the least hyped survival tool is parked right between your ears and can be put to use for your family by education and the little used common sense. Shine up and sharpen up this tool and you can make good progress without much in the way of financial resources.
Let’s use vegetable food as an example;
All the stored seed, fancy heirloom varieties in the world will not feed your people if you’re not educated and experienced in gardening in your area. The spot of your refuge may have a very different microclimate than where you live now.
Use that brain; you must absolutely get “Hands on” experience growing that food in sufficient quality/quantity to do the job now, not later. Later is too late. I promise you that growing beans or tomatoes at sea level here in Olympia, Washington. Is very different than at 3,000 feet of elevation in intermountain Idaho.
Own hardcopy books on this subject stored at the retreat, the Internet will be down and memory may not serve.

Now to the “must know/must have” list for garden food:
Seed; only varieties that your family will eat, that fit your microclimate, degree days, and total growing season. Find out what these terms mean. Opt for open pollinated [“heirloom’], stay away from exotics and hybrids. Learn how to save seed.
Prep; new garden soil will rarely produce well without changing its chemistry, adding organic matter, or adding structure. Gardens need a lot of water. Figure how to gravity feed irrigate unless you can store a lot of fuel for the generator. All this must be done ahead of time before the real need arises. Put back extra Dolomite. Find and store manures and other organic materials. Store extra garden tools.
Start; Many “bug out” areas have climate challenges for gardeners; consider cold frames and other season extenders. Get these in place ahead of time, plastic row covers, fiberglass panels and the like may be hard to find later.
You must get in tune with your local growing season and this takes practice. What would happen to your family if your garden frosted out and you had planted all the seed you had stored? Always hold some seed back. Some areas frost every month so get educated and prepare a defense.
Store; Once you’ve grown it, defended the crop from rabbits, deer, etc. you’re not done yet. Eat all you can yes, process the rest. Family food consumption lists are available or you can estimate what each person will eat per week then add it all up. Add some more for charity or refugees. This represents a lot of quart jars, rings, lids, and other supplies for just a small family for a year. What if the situation lasts longer?
Consider dehydration for some foodstuffs, pickling or salting for others and of course all this needs practice before need too. The root cellar seems to be a forgotten art but works well as does leaving root crops in the ground to be dug when needed. They must be covered to protect against freezing and rot.
Perennials need a mention here also. Berries, rhubarb, sunchokes, and fruit/nut trees can be planted and will just be waiting for you. Plant more than you can use as folk that have been eating groats for the last two months will make amazing trades for fresh fruit.
Food growing augments the bulk grains and beans you own and makes for a better all around diet than all those freeze dried packages in the closet the last 10 years. As with any food program just make sure what you grow and store is what your family will eat.
If all this seems like too much work, it is; what is the plan “B”?
P.S.: We live on the west side of Washington State and just experienced a huge storm, [which resulted in] more than a week without power for many people in the region. Attitudes went downhill fast. Any major disruption would be much worse, so this is a real wake up call. – Bill K.