Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Be Prepared

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," in the waning days of winter! I'm going to cross my fingers and hope we don't get a late-season snowstorm.

When I think about my grandparents, I recall how they devoted the months of August and September to canning. Even when they got old, they still canned up a storm. In fact, I took it as a sign of ill health when I started hearing them grouse at each other and make mistakes in the process.

By October, my grandmother would have rows and rows of home-canned goods lining her pantry shelf. This food would not have been enough in and of itself to get my grandparents through the winter ... or maybe it would have been, if they conserved. And shot squirrels, which taste just like chicken.

I think of this because, if I were told to stay in my house for a week and not come out, I'd be hard-pressed to feed the three mouths living in there based on the contents of my cupboards. The only creature at Chateau Johnson who is prepared for a siege is Decibel the parrot, whose big bags of bird food typically last about three weeks in the wintertime.

Mr. J and I sometimes argue about being prepared for dire contingencies. He says I'm an alarmist, that I shouldn't worry my daughters with the prospect of a solar storm knocking out the power grid, or a meltdown at one of the many nuclear power plants to the west of our house.

With all due respect, husband, I'm going to get some cans. No, I'm going to get lots of cans and watch the expiration dates on them. Whatever is on sale at the grocery store this week, I'm going to buy.

I have pantry shelves in my basement. Right now they're being used to store holiday decorations for every season. I look at those shelves and think of Grandma. She would have had 30 cans of green beans there instead of a light-up jack-o-lantern.

It may be foolish optimism that would make me hoard food, but what's the harm in having disaster food supplies? What do you think about water, reader? Should I stockpile that too? Our local water comes from an aquifer.

In the event of a prolonged power outage, I believe we could keep at least one room warm with our existing supply of firewood, furniture, and books. We have lots of books. Call me Savonarola if you will, but I'll need something to keep off the chill.

What do you think? Stockpile candles too? I'm serious.


Erik said...

Some candles, definitely, along with safety matches. I also keep a couple of wind-up LED flashlights, and a combo solar/wind-up LED lantern would be a nice addition. The biggest thing I wish we could have for a long emergency is an outdoor composting toilet, but there's no way on .2 acres in a covenanted neighborhood...

Nettle said...

Sharon Astyk has a page full of good links about food storage and preservation:

She's an entertaining writer and a great resource for those of us prepping for the zombie apocalypse.

Josh said...

The average household in north America is about 72 hours away from hunger. Stock up for emergencies. Stock up for snow storms. Stock up for job loss. A buffer of even a week can make a huge difference.

Erik said...

Nettle, how *are* you?! Haven't seen you around in ages. Drop me a line sometime - you can still get to me through the contact link on Executivepagan...

Maebius said...

I'll second Sharon Astyk's blog. There's some great info there.

We have about 3 weeks of supplies stored for emergencies, which I realize is not enough but may be a good bit better than most of our neighbors.

Definitely candles, and safety matches. Spare batteries for flashlights, and those fancy wind-up LED lights are great as a backup (we have those in the car for emergencies and they are fainter and don't hold a charge as long, but definitely useful for a minute or three of quick searching around at night)
Powdered Milk is a very cheap nutrition-boost if you are stuck with just tap water and canned goods. May not taste as good as real milk, but stores easily and lasts almsot forever, and makes a huge difference in taste when compared to "pond water" alone. (tested during "survival campout weekend" once by me)

As for water, I've read a few places that storing it with a few drops of purifier (chlorine tablets, iodine) is quite handy.

A good "dry" solution is the stuff you get for pools. Since chlorine leeches out of water naturally over time, (which is why they say to leave a fishbowl of tap water out overnight before adding fish), it can help sterilize water supplies quickly in a pinch. Just be aware that filtering water may become a concern as well, depending on the nature of the emergency.

I've thought too much about this topic myself lately, before the recent earth-shakes and such. It's a scary thought!

Alex (the optomistic pessimist) Pendragon said...

I have become of the mind lately that if things get bad enough (other than a regularly scheduled monster hurricane here in the South) that obese rednecks are playing bumper-cars in the aisle of Walmart with their electric carts trying to grab the last case of Raman Noodles and diet coke, then things really HAVE fallen apart and once those three weeks worth of food have run out, well, that's all she wrote anyway. Only those living out in the country who still know the old ways of gardening and animal husbandry (sans help from Monsanto and Bayer Chemicals) will have a hope of feeding themselves for the hard times to come, and they will have to fend off the rest of us with a well-stocked arsenal.

But, if nothing else, it will ease your anxiety in the meantime.


I do that without even thinking about it..west food mart will have canned goods on sale 2@$1.00..I will buy 12 cans each of corn, green beans and beets..(I buy frozen peas)
and greens..if things are over .50 cents off I'll buy 2-3 of them..I was a girl prepared.

Kate said...

We keep canned food (some home canned, most store bought) and dehydrated "camping" food. I note the expiration dates on my Google calendar so it reminds me when I need to use and replace what we've been saving. We have several gallons of water, and I also got one of these water purifiers after watching the inventor's TED talk:

I'd say the ability to make clean water is most important. There's food to be found even in a city, but clean water is critical. Just my $0.02.

A Wild Celtic Rose said...

I spent most of my adult life living in National Parks and Forests where avalanches, flash floods, rockslides, blizzards and other natural events would make it impossible for us to go anywhere for a period of time.

Even now, in the city, I have created a small, self sustaining farm. I have backup heat/cooking/light sources, water stored and plenty of food on hands.

I have a small hand crank radio and flashlight and of course, a ton of backpacking gear.

I think of it less as being "paranoid" and more of being able to be self sufficient off the grid if needed.

Lavanah said...

I've had a "storm pantry" ever since I moved out of the city. Rain barrels collect water from the roof (and keep it out of the septic system) can be used for washing and the toilets. (No composting toilet for me either, alas). And because even now, priot to the zombie apocalypse, our electric service can be erratic in bad weather, we have a pair of Aladdin oil lamps and a stockpile of lamp oil. Each one burns as brightly as a 60 watt bulb, so you can read your books before burning them for heat. The lamps put out a nice bit of heat, too.

Oh-and canning is a far better idea than freezing fresh produce!

Hecate said...


Well, you can always come stay with me! I buy a can or two of whatever's on sale at the grocery store. Have a few boxes of powdered milk, as well. Few day's worth of bottled H2O, although I hate that it's in plastic. Boxes of plastic trash bags and rolls of TP. A 1st aid kit, batteries and flashlight and transistor. Week's supply of prescription meds. When I was snowbound for almost 2 weeks last year, I wound up dipping into the cans a bit.

CousinLinda said...

Just remember to "Eat what you store, and store what you eat." :)

anita said...

Also cat/dog food, and cat litter . . . and, in our case, chicken feed, corn and hay, plus birdseed (birdwatching is cheap entertainment).

Our insurance requires buying meds by mail, which is a major pain, but it means we have a 3 months' supply on hand.

And a sizable stash of yarn for when reading palls . . .

It won't save us if things really go south, but it will give us some breathing room and time to figure out what to do next.

Mm said...

I concur about water. The recommendation is 1 gallon of water per day per person, half for drinking/cooking and half for sanitation. And water for the pets as well. And apparently you're supposed to change it out every six months. I recently bought enough for three days for two people. I bought two different kinds of containers so I will only have to rotate out the drinking water. I think it will be ok to wash with stale water. :) The stores seem to have water on sale right now, cashing in on the fear, no doubt. Here in the Pacific NW the shelves are definitely light.

kimc said...

In a couple of years, our solar electric generator will be available, and you won't need to go without electricity.
I wish I liked the taste of canned goods more. They taste like tin. My father liked that taste, but I don't. And canning at home is a heck of a lot of work.