Monday, March 10, 2014

Thoughts about my food storage. I just don't know how much or what is right.

Question number one.  How much food do I really need to store?  I suppose I need to ask the larger question. How much food will Boy and Girl raid from the cabinet during the middle of the night?  OK, not really the larger question…  How long do I think no food will be available or that I won’t have time or opportunity to grow my own food?  What’s the worst case scenario compared to the best?  What type of diet should I expect to keep in either of these scenarios?  Do I want to store food for the future (disaster times) that I’m not really rotating or do I want to rotate everything?  Money does come into effect here with some of my decisions.  Oh, and getting my food storage attacked by moths makes me rethink things too – how did they get into sealed containers that were frozen for weeks prior to packing?
 Let’s say I had as much money to spend as I wanted.  Then my solution would be easy.  I would buy a 10 year supply of freeze dried food.  Yes, 10 year supply for at least 3 people.  That would cost a hundred thousand.  Then I would go to the grocery store and purchase everything canned and packaged item that I would use for three years, maybe four.  Supplement this with fresh and frozen foods purchased on a biweekly basis and we’d be good to go.  And every six months I’d restock the house with new freeze dried and canned and packaged items that were used in the past six months.  Yes, we’d be set.  But that is not my reality and it is not my goal.    So then I have to define a realistic goal.  Am I still interested in having a 10 year stockpile of food?  Maybe.  OK, yes, doesn’t everyone wish for this?  Goals… Don’t forget to set realistic goals.  Measure, benchmark, improve, repeat – that gets pounded into us at work, how about if I use some of that training at home?  How about if I split up the food storage goals.  What do I really want in a 10 year, 5 year, 2 year, and 6 month plan?    Needs change.  For instance, right now one of our favorite things to eat is anything with cheese.  Cheese baked in crackers, cheese on tortillas, cheese on bread, cheese in noodles, cheese and eggs, and cheese with cheese!  Therefore I purchased six cans of freeze dried cheese.  That’s about 250 servings.  Not too many considering we use at least one 5 pound bag of shredded cheese every month, which is 80 servings. My six cans would last about 3 months if we used cheese the same way we use it now.  But would we?  See that’s the big question that I have to answer.  And it’s almost impossible to answer correctly because it’s all guessing and estimating.  Sure I want to believe that in a SHTF new lifestyle that we would eat exactly how we do now.  But that’s not really the case.  Circumstances change.  If TSHTF and I really needed to dig into my 5 or 10 year…or even my 2 year…food supply would I really need to buy that much cheese?  If things were that bad, I’m thinking that I wouldn’t be working an hour away from home five days a week.  I’d probably be home.  Gee, if I were home for the 55 hours a week that I’m either commuting or at the office I probably could be more self-supporting at home.  Would I be milking our animals and making my own cheese?  Probably.  I usually keep about 15-20 pounds of the shredded cheese at home between the fridge and freezer.  So do I really need more than the 250 servings of cheese in freeze dried form?  With the way my brain is, always wanting to be on the conservative side, I’d probably want to get another 6 pack.  But no more than that.   Cheese was an easy item to figure out.    What about tuna fish?  Or the canned beef and chicken that I buy rather than all meat being grown and butchered from home?  One year’s worth in the pantry should do it because then I would have the time to increase my livestock from what we have now.  OK, then I want two years to be conservative.  How much is two years worth really?  I don’t know.  Since we eat maybe three or four cans of meat or fish each month how much would that increase if I wasn’t buying it fresh from the grocery store?  700 cans?  Now one chicken lasts for two meals.  Would I really be butchering three chickens per week?  Would we butcher one chicken per week, and have fish or lamb or goat the other days? How much meat would we really eat?  How many cans of cubed freeze dried meat should I have in storage?  Right now I don’t have any.  Should I?  Or will our 35 chickens, 4 sheep (no spring lambs yet), or 1 goat be enough? Yes I know I need a second goat!    I kept a list of everything that we ate in a week.  Things sure are different on days I’m working and the grandkids fend for themselves compared to days I am responsible for all the food on the table.  The kids were very heavy into yogurt, sugary cereal, pop-tarts, cookies, crackers, Dinty Moore beef stew, and top ramen.  Throw in carrots, celery, and Koolaid and they are set.  I suppose it’s a good thing that I actually give them a good dinner and good meals on the weekends.  But their food is easy to store if I wanted to put up 150 cans of beef stew and 300 packages of top ramen.  I could buy that much and then they’d decide they don’t like that anymore and would pick something else to eat every day!  Wheat?  One pound per day per person.  1000 pounds for one year for our house.  Really?  In 5 gallon buckets this means 40 buckets.  That’s about one 55 gallon drum filled with wheat per person.  That will feed one person for a year with little or no additional food to supplement.  Well, if I really can grow it then I wouldn’t need to store as much.  But growing and gathering and threshing is a lot of work, especially if I am thinking about the worst case scenario.  Storing some 55 gallon barrels is an easy enough thing for me to do, and cheap enough too.  Plus, I have the space for something that size.    I haven’t really answered my first question of how much, have I?  I do know that I have about 400 canning jars.  That’s enough for one jar of food every day for a year, plus a little more.   But there are three of us.  Would 1 can of food be enough? Would there be refrigeration so we don’t have to eat everything in one jar and we could have a variety? We also have about 50 fruit trees.  On a good year, if I put up every single piece of fruit produced, we would have more than 1000 pounds of fruit.  The olives could produce all the oil we need.  How much would that be?  I have no idea.    I have about 40 cans of spaghetti sauce.  I was so happy to get them on sale for .88 each.  But if I had spent the time in the garden, I could have canned the tomatoes into spaghetti sauce and saved some money. Or is it easier right now to spend the $40 on spaghetti sauce? Obviously last year I chose the purchase from the store route.  I may do the same this year.  I don’t know.    Let’s go back to the wheat.  One acre of wheat will grow somewhere between forty and fifty bushels. That’s 2400-3000 pounds of wheat or 6-8 pounds per day.  That’s enough to cover the three of us if we ate 1 pound per person per day.    Sugar and salt for preservation.  I have about 150 pounds of sugar on hand.  I have about 30 pounds of salt.  Sure, I can use honey instead of the sugar.  We have hive.  All we have to do is get hit with a hive disease that kills them all.  Then what?  So we keep the sugar in the pantry.  Besides Koolaid with honey? I haven’t tried lemonade with honey.  I’m sure that will be good.  I could get more salt since I can imagine putting up a lot of pickled products if things go south.  If not, salt is cheap and lasts forever, so it’s not a total waste of money to keep it on hand.    Cookies and crackers and other wheat based junk food… The kids love eating their junky food.  I don’t really care if they do.  I know they eat well when I’m giving them the food.  I also know that the school provides free salad bar and they will actually eat salad every day, and not just for the dressing…along with their pop-tarts and cookies.  I bought a ton of crackers and cookies for them.  Then they didn’t like those and liked something else.  So those just sat in the pantry.  Then the oil or fat in them goes rancid or the moths attack and they all go to the chickens.  What a waste of money.  So I’m not doing it that way anymore.  I don’t have lots of time to bake cookies or crackers.  If TSHTF and I am home I will be able to bake those types of goods so I’m not really worried about having them on hand in super storage mode.  I usually buy three or four boxes of pop-tarts at the dollar store.  I also buy a box or two of crackers I like (mega-jumbo box of fishy crackers, plus Ritz).  If the kids don’t eat them then I will but I won’t buy more until those are gone.  So there’s never a real stockpile of crackers.  
My pantry has over 100 linear feet of shelving.  It’s also usually pretty full.  Plus I have food storage in the mud room, plus more in the kitchen.  Total over 150 linear feet.  That’s a lot of food, jars, and cans that can be stored.  But it’s also a large area for storing the wrong things.  How much is too much?  How much is not enough? I still don’t know.  I’m still working on it.    

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Shanty

I haven’t written in such a long time! I guess I was going through a combination of rethinking my survival preparation plans, dealing with work, not having great internet access, and also lacking time. I suppose the only good excuse of the four is not having great internet access. It’s hard to post when you can’t. Well, that’s not quite true. I can get onto my blog from the work computer and post whenever I want. The problem with that is work has a very intrusive email and internet system. We can’t get onto personal email, youtube, ebay, and the like but yes to blogs? Doesn’t make sense to me. Everything we send and receive through their system is documented as ours. I do not wish for them to document my blog.

Work has been interesting. I made it through my first year and didn’t get fired or laid off. About 10% of our division is now gone…most laid off or retired. My supervisor? Outright fired. It’s really ugly at the office. On the other hand, (and isn’t there always one when I write?) I do really like the group of people I work with. But I trust the executives in this company so much less than I trust the executives in this government… So I do my work, I cause minor amounts of irritation, and hopefully I will keep the position for another 3 years and 10 months until I am fully vested and can leave. Of course, I can leave before then (first goal is 18 months from now) but I will be leaving quite a bit of money on the table from the 401k. We will see…

I have done quite a lot of thinking and rethinking about my survival plans. You hear so much about needing to relocate to less populated places, and I agree that the middle of a big city during a total meltdown would be terrible, but I don’t think the less populated places are all that great either. I am not going to pack up and move out of state…probably. (You never know what twists and turns life brings.) I read stories about other states that are so much better for survivalists and those states have some totally crazy rules and regulations that I don’t wish to abide by either! And many of those states are getting worse by the year. So I’m settled here, I will plan for here.

What brings moving up? I had the opportunity to purchase my friend’s property. I like the place. It’s over 80 acres, with ponds, some fruit trees, a nice house, etc. But the political landscape of that state is as crazy as here. I also have the Bug-out property. Son is living there with his family. I was going to put time and money into that place. Then the drug dealers moved into the neighborhood. That area has always had some crime…amazing that a population of 250 people or so in a 10 mile area can spend their life “borrowing” things from their neighbors. But now it’s ugly. High fences going up. Guard dogs that get out and eat neighbor livestock. Hope it changes, but it’s not really going to be my go-to place anymore.

I may still purchase some other go-to Bug-out place. I have been spending more time in the wilderness and know where many backwoods camps are. They are great in years like now, with little snow. Put 10 feet or so of snow on the ground and I’m not wanting to be there either. So, for now, it’s my five acres of paradise in the Great Central Valley of California. Oh yes, I do have water unlike many of the farmers that are desperately in need.

So then what am I rethinking? Am I doing it right? While I love this property, as long as I have to work full-time somewhere else I just don’t have time to do everything that I want or need to do. So instead I decided to rethink the way I am prepping. Do I need the monster garden to grow all of our food? Do I need to can 600 cans of fruits, vegetables, and meats each year? Do I need to store 20 boxes of crackers only to have to feed them to the chickens when they get stale? Do I need 30 or 40 chickens? What changes to the house should I be making? What changes to the yard should I be making? Do I need more fruit trees? Should I be making olive oil now? Can anything be just for fun or does it all have to do with prepping? How should I balance contributing to a 401k compared to paying off the house compared to stocking up preps? Do we dare go on a vacation away from home? How far away is not too far? How do I really predict a collapse of society or is it just happening in front of us everyday and we as a whole can’t see that the flame is just being turned up underneath the dancing chicken?

I’m not going to go into all of my decisions today. Then what would I have to write about? Girl and Boy? They are growing up. Girl is in jr. hi. At least it’s a K-8 school so while there are jr. hi issues, it’s not the same as a real jr. hi. Still drama. Just got a text from one of her girlfriends…”If you are killed I won’t be at your funeral…I’ll be in jail for killing the person who killed you because I love you. Pass this email along so you will have good luck with everyone who loves you.” No, Girl won’t be passing that email along.

About a month or two ago girl decided to build her own house. She keeps asking for me to buy her a shed that she can move into. No, I’m not spending the money on a house for you. Earn or build your own. So she did. At the back of the property, under the fig trees, she built what I call “the shanty”. It’s a little homeless shelter looking thing built out of scrap she found in our scrap pile and in the neighbor’s scrap pile. The neighbors had a lounge chair frame which she fixed and covered with seat cushions. She built a table out of scraps of wood. She has a bookshelf, sealed boxes for food, and a container for clothes. She brought matches and a candle out there. I promptly brought it back into the house and told her no fires. She hasn’t though about taking one of the solar walkway lights to use for lighting. They would work just fine until about midnight or so when they would go out. If she put a good backup battery into it the thing would be able to stay lit all night.

Unfortunately for her, she is afraid of the dark so she won’t sleep in it. She does go out there on weekends during the day. The other day she left the phone in it so I told her she had to go get it. Unfortunately it had just gotten dark. Even with my best flashlight, she was not going to walk the ¼ mile on a moonless night. So I made her sit out on the back patio for about an hour until I was done with what I was doing. Then we walked together to the back. She got the phone and we started walking back to the house. I told her to close her eyes. She did. Then I turned the flashlight off. It took her about a minute to get her bearings but then we walked back to the house without the flashlight. The stars can light your way if you let them. If you adjust your eyes you can see quite well. The problem is when you have lights on or near the ground, these interfere with the light from the sky. When we were getting closer to the house the neighbor’s bright light really did make it more difficult to see right in front of us. Blinded by the light!

So am I. There is so much information being thrown at us that we are blinded. So stepping back and then figuring out how to look forward has been made a little easier. I will write about my changes. Just not today! I plan on making time to post at least once a week. I sure do miss writing daily but this new job does not allow me the free time.