Dear Mr. Rawles,
The picture provided by N.N.R. just doesn’t seem sustainable. He or she does realise that most Americans get whatever they want whenever they want it, and that this is a problem, but seems unwilling to do anything about it in his or her own family as a means of preparedness. Most of us – as preppers – should understand that our lifestyles are going to change in the scenarios we all talk about. As a society, we are far too focused on dietary meat as a right and necessity. We don’t need meat for every meal, every day, every week or even every month, for that matter. It simply isn’t required. I’d like to share some alternative thought on surviving with – and enjoying – the food you can grow yourselves.
In June of 2008, as a result of a medically supervised 18-day health program my wife attended, she and I made the commitment to continue eating the vegan – or plant based – diet she learned in the program “for at least a year”. That same month, we moved on to 24 acres of bare land in the hills, and proceeded to establish a new off-grid homestead from scratch. Here it is, almost 3 years passed, and we are still eating essentially the same diet. And doing just fine.
Since the plant based diet we eat was chosen for health reasons, we weren’t ethically bound to it. We have never been what we would call strict or “militant” vegans. However, we both did notice a sense of spiritual relief at not “having” to eat animals. We each grew up on farms and have raised and slaughtered our own meat animals (beef, sheep, pigs, rabbits, and poultry), both as kids and as adults, so we know what is involved. But, (surprise! surprise!) as a middle aged couple building a homestead, it has been no trouble at all to stay well fed by sticking to a plant based diet at least 95 percent of the time (maybe 5% occasional baked goods containing a little egg or dairy we chose to eat rather than avoid). We only in the last month or two started to add an occasional whole egg back in to our regular diet, a bit of butter, and or putting a little milk in some of our tea as well. Most of us eat what we want merely from habit, not what we need nutritionally. No, I don’t mean “if it tastes good, spit it out”. Food from the garden and orchard tastes great and with a little care will provide most if not all of the protein we need. This is from personal experience, not hearsay.
We entered this project accompanied by several horses and a small mob of wethered goats for brush clearing, and have been diligently working on plans for how to provide enough feed for them from our own land, knowing it may become necessary in the near future. But an early realization was that – in time – we could grow everything we needed for our own diets on our property, without having to worry about how to also feed, house and protect meat animals, either now or in a TEOTWAWKI situation. The raising and subsequent processing of meat livestock takes a lot of human energy, resources and time that we now can instead use on growing most of the fruits, nuts, vegetables and seeds that have made up our diets since June of ’08. We will also be a less obvious target for the “Golden Horde”, should they come our way.
We Americans also need far less energy than we consume. If you live an unsustainable lifestyle, all the preparation you can muster will not be enough. Make the changes gradually now, not all at once and you will be much better off. I urge everyone to get into the garden and off the grid as best you can. Even if it’s a little at a time, it’s a means to an end and well worth the journey. – Dan the Mountain Man
“The Struggle for Meat After TEOTWAWKI” was an excellent article and the author highlights a serious security issue of protecting your livestock after a crisis. I believe one answer was developed by the Spanish Missions built in early California. They designed their mission around very large courtyards with high adobe walls and buildings protecting this central area. One surviving mission in central California is called Saint Antonio de Paula and has a central water well and a courtyard approaching a full acre.
They planted their orchards and gardens in the courtyard and still had the room for pens to protect their livestock at night. This required having shepherds to move the stock to pasture each day. Small stock such as chickens and turkeys were allowed to scratch amongst the orchard trees for weeds and bugs. Outside the walls they grew pastures, field crops, and harvested nuts and firewood. When necessary they sent large armed parties into the surrounding hills and valleys, but they protected their vital herds, gardens, and stores of food within their walls.
Since I am interested in building a Mission style homestead in a high precipitation area, adobe is not a viable material. Instead I will string high tensile woven fencing between 10 ft high posts made from used drill stem pipes. The bottom of the fence will be secured by a foot or so of concrete. CONEX shipping containers and a large pole barn facing the central area will provide storage and serve as the end walls. I calling this simply a farm yard, since I don’t want to make it look like an armed compound. I would encourage folks to design it big enough to support multiple family groups, perhaps 2-3 acres of yard and surround it with several 4-5 acre pasture areas. – Connie H.
Just a brief anonymous note about storing eggs. Blue Water sailors have stored eggs in their original carton for three to six months simply by keeping them dry and coating each egg with cooking oil. Coconut oil has worked for me in the tropics, but I probably would not try it in cooler climates. The eggs should not be broken together. Break each egg into a small glass and observe and smell it before adding to a batch. I have heard shelf life can be increased to nine months by flipping each egg over biweekly with oil on your fingers to redistribute the coating. It sounded tricky to me so I never tried it. – Southsider
In regards to to the poultry, I’d like to set a few things straight about chicken eggs. They don’t need to be refrigerated or pickled. If you don’t wash the eggs, they have a shelf life of 30+ days. Maybe more. I’m not against pickled eggs. But eggs have a natural coating, that preservers them if not washed. There are several sites to look at. A great key word to help is “don’t wash those eggs” Many of my chicken friends across the pond, have told me they never wash eggs, and go 90+ days with no problem.
We incubate eggs as well, I’ve waited as long at 20 days, without washing, and have had success rate in the 95 percent range.
From experience, the right breed of chicken will go broody. What breed that is? That’s every chicken lovers dream question.
I’m putting my money on Silkie Bantams this year. – K.F.
JWR Replies: Thanks for those tips. OBTW, I’ve had several recent letters from readers recommending waterglass for preserving eggs. However, the folks at The Mother Earth News did some extensive tests a few years back and found that there is no good substitute for refrigeration for long term storage. Waterglass only provides a five month storage life. That is a lot of work for an extra 45 to 60 days of storage life (above an beyond a simple vegetable oil or vaseline coat.
Inverting eggs once evey week or so does extend their shelf life. To avoid cracking eggs, this is best done by storing them in cartons, rather than in open trays. Gently flip the entire carton.
From a practical standpoint, the best options for continuous egg availability in “grid-down” situations seem to be: 1.) Refrigeration (via a propane refrigerator, an efficient electric refrigerator powered by photovoltaics or micro hydro, or a deep-dug root cellar in northern latitudes), 2.) Dehydrating eggs, or 3.) Mastering the art of wintering over your hens and keeping a few broody hens for flock replenishment. Of course to keep hens laying through the winter, you will need artificial lighting. And storing their feed is also an issue.