Family Resilience Essentials – Food Storage

This is Part 2 of a series discussing a few simple things each of us can do to increase our family’s chance of surviving, and more importantly thriving, during hard times… no matter how minor or serious those times may be.

In our last installment we talked about the importance of having a little extra water on hand.  This time we’re talking food.

I don’t know about you, but I like to eat.  I will eat at least a couple times today.  I ate yesterday.  I hope to eat tomorrow.  If for some reason we couldn’t make it to Kroger, or if we just want to take a little strain off our food budget every now and then, I’m thankful we’ve planned ahead with these easy and relatively inexpensive steps .

Before we get into the thick of it… and just as a reminder, deciding to take care of your loved ones by keeping spare food, water, and some supplies socked away for emergencies doesn’t mean you’re a crazy person and your family should be the featured idiots on the next over-hyped reality TV show.  Sure a major Hurricane Katrina type event can happen and throw things into chaos for a few weeks almost anywhere and anytime, but thankfully that is unlikely for most of us.  More probable is a snow storm or heat wave knocking out the power for awhile, which usually leads to a panicked emptying of the local grocery store. More probable than a civilization-ending EMP attack is one of the bread winners in your family losing their job.  More probable than the Ebola Zombie Apocalypse is your decision to move to a new Gentlemanly Homestead outside town and thus needing to float two mortgages for a few months until the old one sells. 

For all of these possibilities, ranging from Smaller Inconveniences to Mad Max’s Thunderdome, it is a great idea to have a little extra set aside.

Just in case.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I find it ridiculous that most people have thirty days of dog food in their basement and only a couple days of people food in their pantry.  And they think that’s OK.  Our grandparents would not be pleased.

What are our basic physical needs again? (After skipping a pretty important one we can’t do too much about – Oxygen.)

  1. Water
  2. Food
  3. Security
  4. Energy
  5. Shelter

So let’s talk food.

Step 1

Store what you eat.  Eat what you store.

Pantry

Carefully track the groceries your family uses on a regular basis.  Then the next time you’re pushing a wobbly cart with a squirming toddler in the seat to replace what you’ve gobbled in the last week… instead of buying one box of pasta or can of chili, buy two.  When grubby little hands reach for the Mac N Cheese, grab an extra.  This is an easy and inexpensive way to put something aside for a rainy day a little at a time and before you know it, you’ll have a nice little store built up in your pantry.

Food2

In addition to the peace of mind in knowing you have food on hand, just in case… there are other benefits to storing what you eat and eating what you store.  You can now wait to buy when items are on sale.  Maybe spaghetti sauce is on your shopping list, but they just increased the price of your favorite kind.  If a few extra jars are sitting at home, you can wait for a future sale and shop on your terms and not the store’s.  Additionally, ever had one of those evenings where you’re running home late, are dead tired, your beautiful kiddos (and maybe your spouse) are screaming for dinner NOW NOW NOW and the last thing you want to do is stop off at the store?  Well, now you can head to your pantry instead.

Step 2

Storage Foods.  All those bags of quinoa and cans of soup can not sit on the shelf indefinitely.  Even with rotating out the older goods, it’s difficult to use everything you’re Storing to Eat if you follow the recommended expiration dates.  That’s when it’s time to introduce yourself to a few other long term storage options, starting with our good friend the MRE (Meal Ready to Eat).

MRE

MREs may not be the finest cuisine you’ve ever had, and you probably don’t want to drag it out along with a tripod for an artistic photo shoot atop the backyard wood pile… but they are complete meals and some are really quite tasty.  They will be fine for five years, and if kept in a cool place, probably even longer.  They’re great for throwing in a backpack or trunk for that weekend camping trip and require no outside energy (stove, fire) for preparation.  A case or two doesn’t take up much space and makes a lot of sense as another tier of food storage.

MRE2

Next, you want to stock up on some pouches of freeze dried foods.  These will easily keep for seven years minimum and so long as you have the means to boil a little water you’ll be dining on some absolutely delicious meals.

MountainHouse

This is also the step where Joanna and I got a little more serious about learning to can what we grow in our vegetable garden and can’t use right away.  Add canning supplies and a dehydrator and you’ll be able to do a lot yourself here in Step 2.  This includes some very easy work with food grade five gallon buckets, some mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and tons of pasta, wheat, beans, and other staples.  Just make sure you know how to cook with what you’re storing if you’re putting that away for a rainy day.

Step 3

Long Term Storage Foods.  Freeze dried foods are again your friend and there are offerings that last as long as thirty years sitting on a shelf!  These can be a little pricey, but in addition to the security of knowing your family has a lot of easy meals available, it’s interesting to think of how much food prices have increased over the past few years.  You may be paying about the same for a box of cereal, but have you noticed the box got smaller?  Hmmm.

Honeyville

Storing away these #10 cans might just turn out to be a pretty safe investment for many reasons.

MountainHouseCan

Of course, throughout these steps we’ve only been talking about storage. Another way to keep a little extra food on the table when the grocery isn’t an option or the budget is being pinched is to grow your own.  If you’ve never dug your hands in the dirt, you’d be really surprised how much you can harvest with a little hard work and a little luck.  Our goal is to someday use our gardens and small livestock to provide as much of our food as possible.  That’s an incredibly tall order.  So until we get there, Joanna and I sleep a little more soundly each night knowing that if a mini crisis occurs to pinch the budget… or the Walking Dead start roaming our neighborhood… our kids’ tummies will still be full.

Canning

 – Mike

Question of the Day: If your grocery store closed up shop tomorrow, how many meals do you have in your house right now?

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Posted in Emergency Preparedness

How to Acclimate an Adopted Outdoor Cat

Last time, you met our cute and relentless mouse terminators – Gray & Abel – and I shared a little about why I fired our exterminator service.  Here you’ll read about the best way to acclimate an adopted stray or feral cat so they can be happy, healthy, and not run away as soon as they get home.

AbelAbel at his Royal Rescue foster home

I’ve never had pet cats before, but my wife grew up with several that lived strictly indoors.  As I researched more and more over several months about their characteristics, nature, and the huge benefit cats can provide in helping to reduce a rodent population around barns or outbuildings, I decided it was time to move out of research mode and into action mode.

GrayGray at her Royal Rescue foster home

After a ton of reading, there were a few things I knew for certain:

Read more ›

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Posted in Pest Control

Why You Should Adopt Cats for Mouse Control

As a student of Permaculture, I detest the primary and ever present role harmful chemicals play in our modern lives.  Monocultured lawns are sprayed with this one. Sidewalk cracks are sprayed with that one. The veggies on your family’s plates have been drenched multiple times in another.  The porous shells of the industrial eggs you buy at the grocery are irradiated and sprayed with something else.

We try to live as free from as many toxins as possible and always seek more natural and healthy solutions.  However, sometimes convenience and marketing wins the day and even us at the ol’ Gentleman Homestead give in.

Our first winter here, when we heard some scratching in the walls and caught a couple mice inside our kitchen sink’s cabinet…  I declared war and implemented lots of improvements to mouse-proof the house, including building my (awesomely effective) Five Gallon Bucket Redneck Mouse Trap.  That stuff helped… and even though our problem was far from an all-out infestation, and every neighbor chuckled while advising us to “Get used to it”… we still weren’t happy.

So, it’s confession time.

We hired an exterminator service and paid a hefty upfront cost plus about $30 per month (!!!) for them to stop by every quarter and refill doggie-proof bait houses with anticoagulant poison.

That was last year.  Now that we’ve added a few more animals, all of whom would not think twice about feasting on a poisoned mouse that happened to keel over near their coop, and our Toddler is much more mobile and ornery than he used to be (hard to believe), I stopped filling those bait houses in early spring, boxed them all up, and am going to try a different, more natural route.  Besides, I always felt dirty walking past those mouse hotels since they go against the Permaculture ethics by which I strive to live.

I fired our local A Abel Exterminator service.  I adopted Gray and Abel as exterminators. (But I’m still calling them by their original names Gracie and Oliver while we all get acclimated.)

Kennel

“Just cuz you bring me tuna doesn’t mean I trust you yet.”

We’re very happy to have Gray and Abel with us and are slowly but surely getting used to each other.  I hope they’ll live long and happy lives out in my workshop… regularly patrolling the house perimeter… and hating mice as much as we do.

I performed a lot of research into the proper way to adopt, acclimate, and care for indoor/outdoor “working” cats.  I have an upcoming post on that process.  Thankfully, my research led me to Royal Rescue, a local organization that specializes in socializing and finding homes for stray or feral cats.  Many Humane Societies have a similar program for felines who are unlikely to be adopted as indoor lap kitties for various reasons.  Unfortunately, I learned some “unadoptable” cats in those types of programs are either released to a life on the street, or destroyed. I’m very happy to give our two loveable furballs a new home and a second chance at life.

Will this be an effective solution to all the mice living in our fields and woods who get too close to the house?  Time will tell.  For now we’re still working on accepting treats and petting without darting for cover.

Will this be a cost effective solution compared to a $30/month exterminator service?  Probably not.  But that’s not my main motivation.  I take very good care of the animals I’m entrusted with, including these cute little guys who will be “barn cats” and have a job to do.  Gray and Abel will always have shelter, food, clean water, monthly flea/tick medication, vaccines, and a (free!) scratch behind the ear multiple times a day.

So let’s take a look at our Big Board of Animals, shall we?  This brings our count up to:

2 Dogs

12 Chickens

6 Ducks

2 Cats

And hopefully a dwindling number of mice.

–Mike

Question of the Day: Have you swapped out a toxin for a more natural solution?  Let’s hear about it.

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Posted in Pest Control

Adding Muscovy Ducks to the Homestead

Nothing worse than opening the mailbox and being greeted by a bunch of bills.

Nothing better than opening the garage’s brooder and being greeted by a bunch of bills.

Bills1

That’s right.  We are now are the proud caretakers of six baby ducklings.

Muscovy Ducklings.

Gentlemanly Muscovy Ducklings.

Group

I’d been considering adding ducks to the Homestead for some time, so when our good friends at Shady Coop Farm mentioned they had a broody ducky mama, I quickly called “Dibs” while making a mental note to ask for spousal permission later.

Here are a few reasons why I sought out Muscovy (Cairina moschata) for our specific situation and goals.  I will write a follow-up post all about where these guys will call home and how I’m integrating them into my overall Permaculture design… and you’ll see then why some of these are very important to me.

Read more ›

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Posted in Ducks

An Important Independence Day Tradition

Tomorrow is Independence Day.  A national holiday.  A day of celebration.

More importantly, I believe it is a day for reverence, reflection, and respect.  A day I spend extremely thankful for many reasons, one of which is a tradition I hold dear.  A Family Tradition you are now formally invited to join.

Before you and your loved ones dig in to your BBQ feast, beverages, and fireworks… after your prayer (if you’re so inclined)… I invite you to join us in reading the Declaration of Independence.  Yes, the whole thing.  If you’ll be blessed to be surrounded by friends and family, have everyone take a turn reading a small section aloud… even the little ones.  If you’ll be blessed to celebrate by yourself, I still recommend reading it out loud. (I have!).

Read those words and give some thought to their meaning.  In case you don’t want to Google up a copy, I’ve included it below so it’s easy to print out.

It’s easy to forget their reasons and rationale for declaring Independence from their own government and King.  Do any news articles over the last few years, even over the last few decades… and more importantly – issues you rarely see in the news… relate to their list of grievances our Founders listed for us?

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I'm Mike, I'm new to this blogging thing, and I'm glad you're here. My goal for this space is an informative companion to my primary passions - the Seminars and Workshops I facilitate on various topics and the private consultations I give to clients as a Permaculture Design Consultant.

Recently, our young family moved out of the cul-de-sac where society says we're supposed to live, and onto five acres outside town. If you stick around, you'll see our successes and failures in real time as we start from scratch and transform our land. Read a lot more about us Here.

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