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A Reminder – IF

March 15, 2011

The recent events in Japan are sobering.  Especially when you rely on the experts who tell you this earthquake shouldn’t have happened in this exact place.  How does anyone really know how to expect the unexpected.  Add a little radiation in the mix, and wooee this is not good.

Our power was out for a good part of the last few days, just from a fleeting windstorm that blew through here.   Food for thought, and a minor inconvenience compared to what many people face when catastrophic events change their lives forever.  I’m such a big baby, perturbed because I had to bake a cake in the woodstove, boo hoo.  You see I started the cake, added the soda and was going out to do chores while the cake baked in the electric oven.  No power, cold stove, already leavened cake, what to do?  I seriously considered throwing out the cake batter, in the form of making it into dog food.  The dogs liked that plan, but I felt guilty.  Butter, sugar, flour, pear sauce and expensive spices.  What a waste.  With the lights out and the realization that I had to cook dinner anyway on the cookstove, (it was a warm day and I really wanted a day off from building that fire) I rummaged around for some baking wood and built my fire, threw in the cake, and went out to do evening chores.   I realize how silly this makes me sound – anxiety ridden over a possible burned or flat cake?  I think my concern was more about feeling somewhat helpless due to the earthquake in Japan, than a simple cake.

I don’t think prepper or survivalist really describes how we live and what we do to make sure we are comfortable.  We don’t have the Costco 6-month food supply pallet hidden somewhere like our neighbors, who expect to whip out their go-bags or go- pallet when “The End” comes, we just do what we do and do it every day for the most part.  Asking ourselves do we need this, or do we want this?  Or maybe I should do this task by hand rather than by machine.  Or can I duplicate this model without modern trappings?  For instance, when I start plants I know I can duplicate heat with my constant supply of livestock manure, but I can’t generate light – so I wait until I have enough natural light to start my plants.  I do use a heat mat, but I don’t use lights.  Or we have enough hay stocked up to feed our cows throughout the winter, but I may not have enough bedding, with the reasoning I can turn the cows out, they don’t need bedding but they do need food.  We practice the same in our food supply, we make sure we are perfecting our dryland gardening methods rather than depending on irrigation.   Our water supply may become more precious, and even though we have a gravity water supply, an earthquake could easily wreak havoc with the delivery lines – so being frugal with water ahead of time so it is a normal daily routine is much easier to take.  The less surprises the better.

This is just a few things that have been on my mind of late.  I think I need more personal water storage, and I need to become less dependent on my freezers… 😦  Are you happy with your preparation plans for a disaster?

37 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2011 3:40 pm

    Oh, heavens no. I’m not even close, but at least I think about it 😉

    Someone posted a snarky comment on a group I belong to, about how surprised she was that not everyone has one month’s worth of food in the house at all times. I didn’t reply, but I should have – something about how my food supply depends on the time of the year (in the fall, I have a LOT more than one month’s worth!), and the biggest food supply in the world doesn’t help when your house floats away in the tsunami.

    We can only do what we can do, prepare for what we *think* may happen, and in the meantime, enjoy life.

    • March 15, 2011 5:53 pm

      K.B., I think I am kidding myself thinking we might be totally prepared. We would do all right, but it wouldn’t be easy. I couldn’t agree more on the food supply, a friend of ours thinks he would trade for food or ride his horse to town to get food. Which seems like an unlikely plan to me.

      Oh my gosh, I would hate not to enjoy life – I’m lucky I like growing food!

  2. March 15, 2011 3:57 pm

    I wish I could do more. I wish we were on our retirement property. I don’t know how to become less dependent on a freezer. I wish I could afford solar power to power some things in case of an electrical outage.

    I am sure I need a lot more water storage, but I don’t know where to start with that; and as I told someone on one of the other blogs I read, I have no idea how to calculate a 6 month supply of anything as I often don’t know what I’m eating from day to day, though I am trying to get better with that.

    But then again, it relies a lot on a freezer for meat storage.

    I imagine you are very well prepared, all things considered. ♥

    • March 15, 2011 5:49 pm

      LindaG, you just have to do the best that you can, and go from there. My only advice to anyone on food stocking up, is make sure you stock up on things you and your family will actually eat. Five gallon buckets of lentils and soybeans would be pretty bleak food not to mention inviting gastric distress when you need it the least.

      We’re prepared somewhat I guess, heating with wood, and having gravity water makes a huge difference. As for the freezers I would be canning my meat supply in a hurry I guess or letting it go. Just depends on what time of year it is and if there was truly a disaster.

      • March 16, 2011 2:25 am

        Something I meant to add to my comment before I got sidetracked, haha. When I was without an oven for almost a year, I found there are lots of things that work well on a grill, especially if you can keep the dish away from direct heat.

        So if its warm the next time you need to bake, and you have a grill, give that a try. 🙂

        I did chuckle about the gastric distress, even though you’re absolutely right! A case of Mushroom soup would go farther with my hubby than a case of soybeans any day. 🙂

        • March 16, 2011 4:22 am

          LindaG, you’ll laugh, we have all this meat and no grill! That’s a good idea though, and I have baked stuff in a campfire in a dutch oven 🙂

  3. Peggy permalink
    March 15, 2011 5:06 pm

    No, not happy at all. You live along the Ring of Fire, I live entirely too near the New Madrid fault for comfort. I’m thinking this through on my blog as well.

    • March 15, 2011 5:45 pm

      Peggy, we get earthquakes here often enough to keep it in the back of our minds for sure, and the volcanoes are pretty close. I think our biggest worry is always forest fire. But we try to be prepared as much as possible, although it probably would never be enough.

  4. March 15, 2011 6:33 pm

    Sometimes I freak out and think maybe I should go get that Costco food pallet, but for the most part, I’m just chugging along, doing what I do, enjoying myself, and keeping a gentle eye on the future. I’m well prepared for “little disasters” – a stocked first aid cabinet, some stored canned food, plenty of candles for if the lights go out a couple of days, and propane to cook with. I know that I can’t really be prepared for a big disaster, but I try to think about how I would do things if certain conveniences are gone and I hope that as I pick up skills and tools, I’ll be a little more ready if something happens.

    • March 15, 2011 7:23 pm

      Issa, I am curious about that pallet, everyone at my husbands work has one or two. I am just glad I am a serial canner 😉 It’s hard too to have a one size fits all plan, just because of geography – we don’t have to prepare for flooding, but there are other problems that could arise. I would feel better if my milk cow in training was a little older…

  5. March 15, 2011 6:33 pm

    We’re the 6 month food supply, go-bag grabbing neighbors. It wouldn’t be fun, but we could make it for a year or more with food and water. We have a “bomb shelter”-ish place to hunker down and enough to protect ourselves. It has taken over 3 years, but preparing is a monthly endeavor at our house. However, (unlike my husband) I don’t feel we are all that prepared when you really look at it. We have nothing for radiation like situations in Japan. We have nothing for a flood or tsunami. We have nothing for a major fire. In the end, all the prepping you do is a bit of a false sense of control. It doesn’t matter if I have a stack of food, a personal fire arm, and arsenal of bullets if an airplane crashes into our house (we live in the flight path of an international airport). You never know, you just keep on going. I don’t think we would be anywhere near as prepped as we are if we didn’t have our son. Something about having to protect another little person makes you begin planning for the worst.

    • March 15, 2011 7:20 pm

      GG, yeah nothing here for radiation either. We changed a lot too, when our child was born. Funny how having to start buckling down and thinking of someone besides yourself makes such a paranoid freak! Meaning us not you 🙂

      • March 16, 2011 5:28 pm

        No Worries! We have enough post-traumatic stress in our household that we proudly wear the name Paranoid Freak. Heck, if both my husband and I didn’t grow up in completely messed up families I doubt we would work as well as we do! Perhaps I should come out with some T-Shirts “Paranoid Freaks Unite!” We could make millions.

  6. stacy permalink
    March 15, 2011 6:37 pm

    I’m curious about dryland gardening. I’ve never heard of that before.

    • March 15, 2011 7:16 pm

      Stacy, Steve Solomon has several good books outlining the methods – Water-wise Vegetables & Gardening When It Counts, Growing Food in Hard Times. It’s a common farming technique from the days before irrigation and is still used here by truck farmers. Peak water is a reality, and this works well for gardening here in the PNW, where we have virtually no rain for the summer months. Basically a bio-extensive gardening method, with wide row spacing and wide in-row spacing so there ample room for root development for each plant.

      Water-wise Vegetables is available online at Solomon’s Soil and Health library

  7. claudia w permalink
    March 15, 2011 7:02 pm

    Well, I am prepared if all I have to do is make a list. Of course, along with 99% of the population, the quake in Japan reminded me I need to get serious about my preparedness plan. I have the list, now all I have to do is get a pay check or five to start collecting everything.

    • March 15, 2011 7:08 pm

      Claudia, I try to pick up extras as I go, and as for the list LOL, I have lost my list! I’m thinking of adding some Tattler reusable canning lids to my stash…that of course, means I would have to be able to can. Just depends on the disaster or conditions, I guess.

  8. March 15, 2011 7:46 pm

    No, but for once I’m actively working on it. The day after the earthquake in Japan we went to home depot and bought a bunch of five gallon buckets and a toilet seat, with the intention of building a composting toilet. The extra buckets are for rainwater harvesting, and whatever else I need them for. I bought four, but think I could actually use a couple more. Then we bought eight gallons of water on the way home. My husband bought another four yesterday, and we’ll get some more on the next trip. I do have a lot of stores set by, but there are other things I need to deal with, like we still haven’t strapped down the water heater. That’s forty gallons of clean water if necessary, and I don’t want to lose it, or have the gas hose all screwed up. I grew up in California, so I know better than to light a match right after an earthquake, but it occurs to me that I don’t know where the gas cut off is and I don’t think we have the right wrench for it. Dealing with the gas and the water heater are priorities for this coming weekend. I already have a solar shower, which is frankly not going to do us much good in this rain, but I’ve got one. It’s left over from being prepared for hurricanes when I lived in Florida.

    There’s a lot to think about, huh?

    • March 15, 2011 7:48 pm

      Paula, yes there is a lot to think about – we have it so easy. I can’t imagine an earthquake of that magnitude.

  9. March 15, 2011 9:03 pm

    Natural disasters are a worry. Australia has had its fair share recently with extreme flooding which took many lives in Queensland, Cyclone Yasi in the same region a few days later and flooding through out New South Wales and Victoria and bushfires in Western Australia. I think February should best be forgotten this year. No amount of preparedness could help the people who were flood ravaged. Of course you can bunker down for a cyclone in a safe shelter with food and water supplies but eventually even this will run out. The situation in Japan is so dire and sad, the devastation is just so hard to believe.

    By the way, did the cake turn out??

    • March 15, 2011 10:08 pm

      Joolz, I agree forgetting February in many places would be a welcome thought. And yes actually the cake did fine – which surprised me a little. 🙂

  10. March 15, 2011 9:15 pm

    Hi, I found your blog when searching for “Jim the Jar Guy”. I read your entry on 8/21/09. It was almost verbatim of the experience my friend and I had just TODAY! I can laugh now that I am home safe and sound, but I’m pretty sure my husband has forbidden me to ever go back unless accompanied by an armed police officer.

    • March 16, 2011 4:32 am

      Sarah, that guy is unbelievable, I would truly love more jars but they won’t be coming from him! Unfortunately he is in cahoots now with all the estate professionals in PDX and they call him first so they don’t get stuck with the jars at the end of their sales. 😦 Very strange man, indeed. The last time my husband went he was told his truck was “too white” and hurting people’s eyes. My truck was too old and got poor mileage! No pleasing him – although I did notice that the time I was going there (close to 2 years) he didn’t license his cars in Oregon, until the California tags expired. Tsk, tsk. Apparently the jar police don’t have to follow DMV rules!

      Glad you got out of there with your jars and safely to boot!

  11. March 16, 2011 3:02 am

    No, not feeling great about our Be Prepared plans, because I am so busy ‘doing’ the everyday stuff (growing, processing, preserving, decluttering, avoiding breakdown from trying to be an urban homesteader/ regular working parent), I have not had time to ‘finish’ the 4 Step Be Prepared Guide (short term situations), let alone actually get on with some of the suggestions I made in the Be Prepared Challenge I held on my blog in January/ February. I don’t like to feel like a hypocrite, but more so, I don’t like to feel underprepared!

    • March 16, 2011 4:26 am

      Dixiebelle, it is hard to prepare and do the day to day, when you’re doing everything from scratch. I really need to add more household water to my list for sure. It’s a quarter of a mile of rough terrain to our spring – a long walk to get water in short time or if you were injured.

  12. March 16, 2011 3:22 am

    We’ve been planning, sort of, for several years. We even had the “pallet” sort of thing. But keeping up with the rotation did not happen, and it’s a thing of the past.

    But I do have wood stoves (no cook stove, a dream of mine), kerosene lanterns and kerosene, and an on demand hot water heater that uses propane. We’d have hot water until the tank ran out, maybe 2 months worth. Oh, the cookstove is propane too, no electric needed.

    We are dependent on freezers also. But I have a couple pressure cookers, hundreds of lids and canning jars, a lot of kosher salt, and if I had to, I could can or salt a good deal of the freezer contents.

    For water, someone once suggested hooking an 80 gallon non functioning hot water heater into the cold line. You’d have that much stored and constantly refreshed. We found the heater on Freecycle, just need to get DH to do the simple plumbing.

    Matron and I both use electric fencing. When the power has gone off for periods of time, we hooked it into the generator. But for long term, that won’t work. Not sorted that one out…

    Our water is town water, but an earthquake could fix that. We also have many tremblers here in Western Mass. We’d even bought a hand pump to go on an artisian well. But that’s another project yet to be done. We most probably could not drink the water as we are surrounded with non organic agriculture and I’d bet the water table is contaminated. It is in the town north of us.

    This whole thing is never far from my mind. I have a lot of non perishables stored: needles, wicks, glass chimneys, toilet paper, matches, flint and steel, etc. As I go about life, I think how would I do this if…

    As was pointed out, depending on the emergency, one may, or may not, be prepared. A fire would do us in a flash. I think banding together with others in your neighborhood would be one way of getting through.

    I have a lot of info stored on the computer, but I also have printed it out, as the computer would be useless, in some situations.

    • March 16, 2011 4:43 am

      Pam, good plans! Our immediate neighbors are not prepared and say they want to come live with us if something happens! Lots of different skill sets though and only one Costco pallet 😉

      We don’t have a generator and no plans to get one – for us it would be just one more thing that needed fuel. As for the water in the house we have a thermal siphon hot water heating system (wood/electric) so we have two tanks of water there. And as far as electric fence, I would just turn out the cows, we have permanent fence – I figure I wouldn’t have time to rotationally graze anyway. So my electric fence is on my luxury list.

  13. Brittany P. permalink
    March 16, 2011 8:03 am

    I am just this year starting my preping and preparing but a question I have is this..could you possibly do a post on what plants can be grown in different areas without irrigation. In other words, plants that would thrive in the different zones naturally with the normal amount of expected rainfall and NO irrigation? Or maybe you have a link you could share that would point me in the right direction? Long ago people grew only what grew well where they live but now many people try to grow everything they like and irrigate like crazy if they have to. I want to grow the crops that naturally thrive in Georgia.

  14. March 16, 2011 9:55 am

    We’re working on storing more food .. but it does take quite an effort when made from scratch and home grown. Water storage is a priority .. which we haven’t taken seriously yet .. I think our family is going to put together personal backpacks with emergency (3 days supply) of long term storage supplies (freeze dried foods .. high calorie granola bars, water, first aid, thermal blanket, t.p., pain relievers, water) .. should we ever have to pack and go from a forest fire or other disaster where we’d have to leave home.

  15. susan permalink
    March 16, 2011 12:13 pm

    I am trying to can/preserve/dry more than I used to. Although I love my freezer, with no power it’s just a cabinet. Of course, my dehydrator is electric, so that defeats some of the purpose, but I am experimenting with non-electric drying as well. I don’t really know how I’d do, but I am confident that I’d do better than most of my neighbors. Being aware is at least a step in the right direction.

  16. Rich permalink
    March 16, 2011 1:29 pm

    In my mind, you need to prepare mentally for natural and/or man-made disasters and you need a plan for simple “disasters” and major disasters.

    I’ve went through (directly and indirectly) two events that I think are similar to what is being discussed here.

    Straight line winds came threw and blew down powerlines, power poles, trees, and houses. At the house, we lost electrical service for about 10 days, the roof was damaged in a few spots, and a lot of trees were blown down. A small generator to keep the freezers cold and the well working along with a chainsaw to clean up the trees covered the basics until electricity and normalcy came back.

    Another time, a mile-wide tornado hit my grandmother’s house and farm and I was involved in cleaning up the mess. The house was completely leveled, a hay barn with all the hay inside was demolished, three machine sheds disappeared and the contents were scattered, most of the fences were damaged, about 30 round bales of hay simply disappeared, but the cattle were unharmed. My grandmother escaped with her life and little more.

    If something like that had happened without a support system to immediately help, it would have been game over for anybody living on that farm. There is no way to physically prepare for something like a large tornado, a hurricane, a wildfire, tsunami, mudslide, etc.

    You have to prepare yourself mentally to deal with massive destruction. When something catastrophic happens, you can’t dwell on what you have lost, you need to immediately pick yourself up and start to “fight” your way out (which is easy to say but is always hard to do).
    My grandmother survived the tornado, but I think she was never able to let go of what she had lost and it shortened her life.

    So, my best advice and philosophy is to prepare for the minor events with physical supplies and to prepare for major catastrophes by trying to develop a certain mental toughness and the set of skills needed to rebuild.

  17. Matriarchy permalink
    March 16, 2011 2:47 pm

    While I know we could be impacted by a natural or human disaster – and we live within 20 miles of a nuclear power plant – I tend to prep because I *have* suffered economic disasters regularly throughout my life. My pantry gets us through unemployment. My car kits gets us through flat tires and an unexpected long wait in the car. Our stored water got us through two days of suddenly losing our municipal water supply, just this week. I had enough drinkable water for 5 of us to cook, stay reasonably clean, brush teeth, and make tea. I had enough nonpotable water (some with a little dirt in it) for us to bucket flush the toilet. I plan to expand our rainwater storage this summer, but I am glad I didn’t wait until then to start filling jugs and buckets. I don’t think we can ever be prepared for everything, but you just do what you can, as you can, and it adds up. We live a “pantry-enabled” life whether there is an earthquake or not.

  18. March 16, 2011 3:31 pm

    We have become so complacent in North America! It would be good for us to voluntarily go a week with power, just to prepare us for that eventuality should “The End” come. The Montreal Quebec area was without power due to severe ice storms for an entire winter, within the past decade. It is possible, even here.

  19. Jill B permalink
    March 18, 2011 8:59 pm

    Well I am glad to see that many have ‘stored’ up a bit but having lived through two giant fires in So. Cal I can tell you that it
    doesn’t matter what you have stored up if you have to evacuate or it all burns up! You have to be prepared for small emergencies. None of us are prepared for giant ones. Even in such a small country that is highly technology oriented Japan can’t even supply food or water to the hardest hit areas. Look at the horrid aftermath of Katrina. We
    are at the whim of nature/government/situations beyond our control.
    Live the best each day and save a bit for the unknown.

  20. Teri Pittman permalink
    March 20, 2011 7:43 am

    I think we can only prepare to a certain point. Large food storage won’t help if a fire burns it up. The Japanese nuke plants were designed to deal with a 7.0 earthquake and a 6.1 meter tsunami (I think I have that right). There’s always something out there that could be a bit worse.

    I think I will be doing more dehydrating and making fermented foods in the future. It’s one of those things I don’t have a lot of practice with. I’ve lived without refrigeration for long periods, so I’m good with that. I really want to boost my gardening skills too. Our place is next to the river, so water’s not an issue (although I’d like some fresh water storage). I’m looking into aquaponics too, since that would be a good fit for our place. I believe learning skills will stand you in better stead than large stockpiles.

  21. A.A. permalink
    March 21, 2011 6:07 am

    The sad thing about the nuclear disaster in Japan is no government is going to shut down their reactors over it. Unlike Japan, there’re no geological fault lines here where I live, so nuclear will continue to be absolutely safe. The engineers and the policy makers here are also more competent and responsible than those in Japan–and even the Japanese are not planning to shut down their fleet of reactors, just the bad–sorry–the damaged ones. Only an idiot would think of doing it to all reactors as a precautionary measure. After all, everyone knows the future will be just like the present, but only better, so everything will be perfectly manageable. And besides, my part of the globalized, high-tech, oil-dependent economy is so much more stable anyway. Clearly, there is no problem and this is not the time to address any of it.

    To be serious, it would take a lot of time and effort to manage a shutdown of the nuclear power industry and to isolate the waste somewhat, and the whole process would probably crash the economy that’s supposed to do the managing. When the time finally comes, there won’t be the resources or the organization to do anything about it.

    To quote Dmitry Orlov,

    “I’m particularly concerned about all the radioactive and toxic installations, stockpiles and dumps. Future generations are unlikely to be able to control them, especially if global warming puts them underwater. There is enough of this muck sitting around to kill off most of us.”

    I’m sure retired race horses will haul the nuclear waste and the water to keep it cool, and maintain those settling ponds and toxic dumps out there. And if worse comes to worst, I can always learn to ride our bull if I have to!

    I have no idea how (m)any humans will survive, or for how long, if all the food you can grow and the milk you can milk will have poisonous radioactive substances in it, and that’s likely to be the case in my lifetime. I don’t think it’s that I’m being pessimistic. I’m certainly not giving up, and I’m not losing my taste for life. But these nuclear events and other toxic releases are simply due to happen in my lifetime, and humans as a species are not at all well positioned to live through them. Apart from an odd mention here and there, like this comment right here, there isn’t really much point in discussing any of this, because the mental adjustments people will have to make are simply so big you can’t talk anyone into it, and especially not expect them to retain their sense of humor.

    Orlov also writes that the sort of survivalism where you get “holed up in the hills with a bomb shelter, a fantastic number of tins of Spam and an assortment of guns and plentiful ammunition with which to fight off neighbors from further downhill, or perhaps just to shoot beer cans when the neighbors come over for beer and spamwiches … is about as good as burying yourself alive, I suppose.” I agree. With a fairly resilient farm now in the making, possibly the biggest challenge will be to be able to see when and if circumstances call that I should leave it all behind and migrate. I read that even in times of disaster most people will stay put and endure what comes their way. That may be a very humane and sensible thing to do considering the future everyone’s facing and how things will be pretty difficult all around, but it may also be a poor decision based on poor situational awareness. And it’s not that I desire to be the last person standing and to get myself some however I can. I simply want to do my best to live a good life, be helpful, and not get bogged down by something silly like village politics if I can go somewhere else at least for a while and avoid it. Life’s still fairly normal here, but even now a fair part of the neighbors are pretty edgy and show some signs or cabin fever. Conflict resolution skills tend to be pretty low, and it seems many people feel uneasy about those “unresolved” conflicts where somebody doesn’t obviously win and gain status and someone else just as obviously lose. On a positive note, about a third of the neighbors are a real joy to be with. But their mood just doesn’t seem to have the same tenacity or contagiousness as the grumps’. To me, that’s a serious worry and something I’m much more concerned about than the coming crop or the availability of electricity or water storage.

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