It’s a long Journey
Since recent events, like the opening of the Shanghai Gold Exchange, Deutsch Bank paying 5% interest for a limited time, the rise of bankruptcies and other crazy shi… stuff that Jim Willie explains so well, it really might be different this time... maybe… at least getting closer.
Good thing we still have time. So, I thought that yet another prepping perspective might be in order… Gotta stay on the cutting edge, you know.
Back in 2011, when I began stacking and figured that I’d be very wealthy very soon, my wife’s sister came to stay for a week. She was an uber-prepper. We had begun to stock up on a few items, but she kicked us into high gear upon her arrival. She and my wife canned, dehydrated, sealed and stored away a year’s worth of food that week. Her urgency was palpable. And she said we were just getting started. At Christmas, she sent a gift box complete with survival tools, gas masks and camp-cooking utensils. We were prepped… or so we thought.
A year later, her husband—a policeman in a large US city who thought his wife was crazy for prepping, was selected for crowd control training about the time the police were becoming militarized. (I think that might be him ln the left.) He changed his tune and told her to keep prepping and bought her a pink handgun for Christmas.
As the fury of prepping subsided, we settled back to normal life to wait for the end, and waited, and waited. We recognized, after some thought, that things may unfold differently than we thought. The collapse might happen slowly. And these growing kids of ours would need to be fed for more than just a few months… in fact, if the unthinkable occurred, we would have to feed the whole family indefinitely.
Well, that part was easy, we bought about a hundred dollars of Heirloom seeds sow we could grow all our own food if needed. Now we were ready. Just go out back and plant those seeds and we would be eating well forever.
But the para-military police never came knocking and we decided to move from Ohio to Arizona to be close to immediate family. After the moving process, we had to be sure we were prepped all over again. And then, a good friend, who had also been prepping and owned a 160 acre farm, was robbed! They stole all his guns, some cash, and took his wife’s jewelry. And he lived 7 miles out of town! The incident made me feel very vulnerable…
Well, Arizona is in the arid zone. Farming is hard here. Gardening is hard here. Preppers abound, which is comforting, but in vitro zombies also abound. And what is worse, we could only afford to buy a small townhouse in this college town and the volcanic cinder, pine needle laden dirt is terrible for gardens. That is quite a step down from our 5 acres, pond, fresh water spring, chicken coops and unlimited garden space in Ohio. So we have re-started our prepping odyssey… sort of…
In our efforts to re-ready ourselves, we connected with a nearby member here on this blog (he goes by "Geofarmer"—his real name is Qui-Gon Jinn) who lives nearby and we stopped by to visit and see his self-sustainable farm/business/family estate/dream property that we totally drooled over. We learned a few things that day.
Aaaahhh, the life of a farmer … filled with healthy food, baby animals, fun for the kids, beautiful land, lying back in a field, hands folded behind my head, watching clouds while chewing on an grass stem
…a whole lot of hard work, government meddling, spring storms that kill blossoms, pests, drought, skunks running amok in the garden, zombies, and did I mention hard work?
I need to go home and rethink my life!
And as I have been rethinking for the past few months since our wonderful visit to his family farm, I wanted to share some of his wisdom that sunk in (probably the wrong things from his view) and how that wisdom is causing us to reformulate our plan.
As Qui-Gon said, “It is a long, hard journey from a bucket of heirloom seeds to a self-sustainable farm.”
But do not despair. I am convinced that one can make it there—especially when eating hangs in the balance. And knowledge can pave that road and even make it shorter.
Apprentice farmer lesson 1: Ground—where.?
Land that has never been cultivated is bereft of nutrients in the soil—the kind you may not have time to develop in a difficult situation. Do not reinvent the wheel. The best ground, according to Qui -Gon, is an old farmhouse where they have been cultivating that dirt around the house for generations. In the US Midwest, most old farms have been split up, with the old homestead selling cheap with 2-4 acres of ground. But that is the real prize, if you don’t mind an old house in need of renovation. Good, fertile, gardened, ground with fruit trees and a steady well. The 67 acres that used to be the main plot? Let the farmer next door buy it and farm it. Then make friends with all the neighbors! And either renovate the home or build a new one right on that site. It’s not the house on that 2 acre lot, it’s the dirt! Actually, I was really surprised at how little ground Qui-Gon has set aside for serious farming-gardening. Only about an acre? His other ground is for commercial-type crops like Halloween pumpkins. (Note: this is not Qui-gon's farm. He warned that I should not reveal its location or anything about it or my training would suddenly end, badly.)
Apprentice farmer lesson 2: Water—yuck !
I always though you just drill a well and you got water. But in my area the ground water can be good or it can be bad. In fact, the place we purchased for our bug-out home has bad water below it, coming up from an old lake bed 300 feet down, filled with minerals and even arsenic. Qui-Gon says that if you water your garden regularly with that water, you will concentrate those minerals in your topsoil, eventually decreasing yields and ruing it. The answer? Collect your rain water! Even in my area, where there is only 14 inches of rain per year, I can store enough to keep a solid garden going strong.
Apprentice farmer lesson 3: Plants that give instead of take
You know, some plants just prefer to grow in your area. They take little care—just sun and water and a bit of mulching and they will give you more of their produce than you can handle. Enjoy it and recognize that this plant is a giver. Do not despise teh gift through familiarity. Grow more of it! Meanwhile, your favored tomatoes are a pain in the arse, with fat green tomato worms attacking it (don’t eat those). Why fight nature. Find the plants that grow well in your environment. Plan the right thing! In fact, a "Master Gardener" colleague at the school is bring me some pinto beans that used to be the staple in this area, but are no longer grown due to housing developments taking over all the tillable farmland nearby. There is only one farm left that grows these drought resistant, high elevation loving beans. And I hope to have a sack of them soon.
Apprentice farmer lesson 4: Two growth cycles instead of one.
This was a simple one. Grow plants that go through their cycle quickly instead of slowly. Plant an early crop in the spring—something that doesn’t mind a late frost too much. And then plant another crop later in the summer—one that will mature before winter sets in. In my area, I can find two types of beans that will do this.
Apprentice farmer lesson 5: Keep the future in mind.
Make your decisions on a longer time-table. What will you eat this winter? What will you eat next summer. What about next year? Your choice of what to plant and grow require some foresight and common sense. Those two-week radishes and cherry tomatoes will not keep you fed next May while when you are waiting for your spring crop to mature.
Apprentice farmer lesson 6: Hard work
Did I mention that farming requires work—lots of it. It’s not the kind that injures your joints from too much lifting or twisting with a heavy load in your arms, but simply the consistent daily grind of taking care of your dirt and plants. Storing your product. There will always be something to do. Frankly, it is a full time job.
Apprentice farmer lesson 7: Innovation
While you should not reinvent the wheel and we should all hang out with people like Qui-Gon or even take master gardening classes, don’t forget to apply your creativity to solving your own unique problems. Sleep on it. a creative solution will pop into your mind as you open your eyes in the morning. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Experiment. Start new projects. See what works for you.
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Apprentice farmer lesson 8: Ability to do without.
There are some things we may all just have to do without, like my Sugar Frosted Chocolate Bomb cereal each morning with 1% low fat milk and two spoon fulls of white refined sugar.. Goat’s milk may have to suffice. And I’ll have to switch to oatmeal with some strawberries and honey (yuck). But sacrifices will have to be made.
Qui-Gon also warned about Zombies. I hope somebody can dedicate a whole post to this issue. But if food really gets scarce, the place where there will be the least is in the cities. In some areas, (and mine is one) we may be faced with hungry people looking for pizzas invading the town and sneaking through your property each night. Wadayagonnado? Just food for thought here… Like the realtors say… “Location, location, location!”
Did I mention that farming a is whole lot of hard work? We sort of knew that from trying to raise chickens. Building a coon/coyote-proof coop is tough. You don’t just pound in a few green steel fence posts and string the chicken wire. Actually, the coop is probably most important: needs to be safe, secure, and easy to get the eggs. But most of all, you have to remember to close it every night—cause that’s when the predators come. And really, chickens need to free-range and feed themselves mostly, or you will spend as much on feed as you would on eggs. While my inner health nut sees no problem with that, my inner survivalist does. So we have determined to spare no expense on a coop, but trust natural selection to weed out the dumb chickens, leaving the stay-at-home egg layers to us.
My final naive thought here is that … we will make it. And that will be in no small part to other members here like Geofarmer who have good answers to difficult and complicated questions.
I plan to work very, very hard on our garden-farm to grow whatever kind of food my region will yield. We may get sick of eating the same things every day, but that will be balanced by our love of eating. Without a doubt, working hard and steadily from sun-up until sun-down will provide sufficient food to stay alive. (I am appreciating my grandparents more every year). But the continuous work will need to become what I enjoy doing—I certainly may not get to do much else…
And I’ll need to continuously educate myself in gardening—knowing what to grow and how to best grow it, how to store it, and how to guarantee that we will have a crop next year. The experts say that it takes 8000-10000 hours (4-5 years) to become an expert at something.
Youth versus age. The young have boundless energy—they can afford to do things over, to make mistakes, to survive on little if need be, and enjoy each other’s physical presence to make up for the hardship and still enjoy life. But us old farts only have limited energy— I need to do things the right way, the first time. We can survive on little but prefer not to, and look less to physical comforts for enjoyment, but cherish time with kids, grandkids and one another in meaningful conversation. We desire to know that our children will make it, and will pass on life skills to our grandchildren.
I will also need to learn to hedge my bets, so to speak, growing food I may not necessarily like, but has a better chance of survival in a dry year… as well as another crop that has a better chance in a wet one. There is no end to what I must learn, perhaps just to keep my family alive.
And finally, we will have to learn to have fun in different ways. Dining out, movies, theater may be a thing of the past. But family dinners, baby animals, and GEP (Grandkid Entertainment Productions) will have to do. And I suspect that I will enjoy these more deeply than I ever enjoyed having my mind dumbed down watching TV and reading the Wall Street Journal.
I have no doubt that any and every skill for surviving in a different world will at least come in handy, and at worst, such skills will be essential to life. Nothing we learn will be wasted. So I welcome my 69 year old aunt who is great with making plants grow, as well as my 27 year old nephew with military skills. We all need one another if we want a life better than the hunter-gatherers of a past age—an age where game and vegetation were bountiful. We will need to create a community of relatives and friends… but that is fodder for a later post.