In this day and age of being able to go to a store and get practically anything you would ever need or want, the concept of preparing for a disaster escapes some individuals. The time of “Victory Gardens” and canning your surplus vegetables and fruits have fallen by the way side in our current culture. Our society sees people storing vast amounts of food and supplies as paranoid because they are simply not accustomed with the practice, nor do they see the need. Most people cannot conceive the idea that they can be left without food or water, or that they may need to leave their homes in an emergency for a prolonged time. The need for preparations extends to living day to day so you will be prepared for any situation that may arise. Below I will share two separate instances during my childhood where my family being prepared either saved our lives or made life a lot easier to live.
When I was a teenager, myself, my parents, and two of my three brothers lived in rural Oklahoma. One summer we had a massive barn fire which not only destroyed the majority of our cherished belongings but also burned our well pump house to the ground. With the well pump buried under charred wood and sheet metal we were effectively cut off from our fresh water supply. Luckily we are an avid outdoors family and had several water containers for fresh water, and a camp toilet. We were able to simply go to the nearest State Park to get free drinking water for whatever we needed it for. Seeing that we were stuck waiting for the insurance company to provide a settlement to replace the well pump for several weeks, we saved quite a bit of money not having to buy water to survive. Since the barn was so far away from our house this was not a life or death situation but being prepared definitely made life a lot easier for the time being.
Several years later we had a massive ice storm. Several inches of ice covered completely everything, effectively causing the power lines to break under the weight of the ice knocking out power to a large portion of the state. The roads were so iced over that when they sent out a repair truck it promptly got stuck in our hilly region. For approximately one week our region was out of power. Seeing that we only had two wheel drive vehicles and no snow chains we were effectively stranded from the outside world.
Luckily my parents loved to buy things that in my adolescence I thought were simply not needed, such as a wood burning stove. Not only did it lower our heating cost but it had a substantial cooking surface. We also spent several summers at our grandparents’ ranch clearing trees and picking pecans to sell for extra money (being a kid I thought that those pecan trees were like a gold mine). We either hauled the trees to saw mills so we could use the wood to build our own furniture or we chopped them up for firewood (our wood pile would have made Paul Bunyan proud).
Furthermore since I was a child we always kept some form of livestock (mainly pigs or cattle) which we raised and butchered. I learned how to care for the livestock and was responsible for their feeding and upkeep (as well as their far too often escapes from their pastures or pens). We also always kept a large garden. Being a teenager you can imagine how much a teenager loved to spend his afternoon picking vegetables, followed by a green bean snapping session. The majority of teenage summertime bliss was spent pulling weeds, tilling, watering, and fertilizing the garden. More than half of these vegetables were then canned and put away for whenever we needed them. Over the years we accumulated quite a bit of surplus canned items and frozen beef and pork. I also learned the extremely valuable art of canning.
During that ice storm we were able to put that woodstove to work and not only survived on our stored food, but we thrived. Due to not having electricity we turned our wood box into our new freezer, keeping all of our frozen food frozen. Turns out that all of those summers chopping wood and keeping up the garden paid off and being prepared saved us. Also we saw the writing on the walls for the electricity going out and used our water containers to store more than enough water before the power went out. The living room where the woodstove was located became everyone’s bedroom. Since we were prepared, even though at the time we didn’t really see ourselves as “preppers”, it wasn’t a horrible experience. Cooking on the woodstove and spending a lot of time reading and listening to my parents stories of their life experiences and the experiences of my grandparents living through the dust bowl, it was actually kind of fun, living like our ancestors without electricity for a week.
In those real life experiences I learned very valuable lessons, which are always be prepared for whatever may come your way and learn everything you can to prepare yourself. Luckily I always listened and learned from my parents.
No one knows what will happen or when, take for example of the current wildfires in Texas (Summer of 2011) or the all too often hurricanes or tornados that devastate towns or entire states. You never know when a natural or manmade disaster might displace you from your home, take out your utilities until god knows when, or strand you from the rest of the world. Also it is possible that you might need to utilize your preparations for smaller emergencies. In a time in which our nation’s unemployment rate seems to grow by the minute having the knowledge to grow your own food and having your previously stored home grown food can get you out of a hopefully temporary loss of wages.
Nothing says that you have to go out and spend a small fortune on freeze dried foods or MREs. I am sure that there are some people that say that they don’t want to prepare because of the price of the food, but canning is a good alternative. You also don’t need a garden to can food. Some grocery stores and a lot of farmers markets sell un-snapped green beans for a reasonable price, which cuts out the growing and picking aspect. Although your canned food will not last as long as freeze dried food you will just have to rotate it more often meaning you will need to eat it and nothing tastes better than food you produced with your own two hands. Keeping a garden not only reduces your grocery bill but if a disaster occurs in which the food supply is disrupted or non-existent you will already have the knowledge on growing your own food and the experience of knowing what grows best in your region. Also using heirloom seeds you can learn to harvest seeds from your current crop to use the next year. Another option is the use of five or six gallon buckets in conjunction with heat-sealed mylar bags and oxygen absorbers can enable you to store grains and beans for an extended amount of time (over 20 years for white rice, dried beans, and wheat). Pinto beans may not sound great to some to eat for an extended amount of time but they are high in protein and will keep you alive in an extended time line emergency. Keeping long term storage food in buckets also gives you the ability to be mobile if the need arises. There may come a time in which your home may become compromised and you have to leave, or bug out to a safer location. If you have your items in buckets they will be easier to transport to your secondary location.
Keeping drinking water grade containers around the house also helps a lot. Most people that don’t prepare just flock to the store when a massive storm is heading their way and clean out the shelves of bottled water and canned goods. Due to the current stocking practices at major retailers (what is on the shelves is what they have, they only order more when that particular item is bought), if you wait little or no supplies will be left. But if you have containers handy you only have to go as far as your kitchen sink to fill your containers.
The preparations I have talked about should only be your first stepping stones to a well rounded plan. The need for medical supplies, self-defense equipment, communications equipment, etc. and the know how to use all the items is still needed.
I make frequent trips to our local Atwood’s Farm and Home Store, where they carry everything you will need for canning at great prices. The last time I went I was able to obtain a case of quart jars with lids and rings for approximately $8. (One of their frequent sales). Canning requires a canning pot, a jar rack, a jar funnel, and a jar lifter all of which Lehman’s carries for a decent price and they even have a starter kit including a canning book. There are multiple books available to learn how to garden and can food but unless you get out and do it and use trial and error when there is not an emergency you will not know what works the way you want it to and what just simply doesn’t work at all.