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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Nine Meals From Anarchy?

zombie-gallery_28_blog by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin.

Back in the year 2000, a fuel protest bought London, the capital of the United Kingdom, to within three days of running out of food.  The then Blair government commissioned Lord Cameron of the Countryside Agency to investigate, who came back with a chilling report: "The nation is just nine meals from anarchy."

Lets just think about that for a few minutes.  Only 9 meals between order and chaos.  What did Lord Cameron mean by this?  Will there be zombies knocking on our doors? 

I am only exaggerating to make a point, but a pertinent one at that.   Once again friends, it is all about the supply and demand of crude oil and that simple fact that 'Oil = Food'.   Let me explain.  The majority of our food distribution is what is known as "just in time" distribution.  Your local supermarket only has small stock out the back, and most of the stock on the shelves.  It is transported from large distribution centres by trucks to each supermarket, each day.  These transportation systems use oil which is a finite resource.
So when the transportation flow stops, or in other words, the oil supply gets disrupted, so does our food security.  A recent example were last years floods in Far North Queensland.  Within a few days all of the supermarket shelves were bare, partly because of stockpiling by townsfolk, but mainly because there were no food deliveries via rail or truck for over a week.. Other natural disasters have posed a similar threat.  What if there were no food deliveries for two, three or even four weeks in your area? 

Sounds a bit apocalyptic doesn't it?  I am not trying to scare people, just attempting to make people think about where their next meal or few will come from.  

So what can we do about this?  Well, of course the scouts motto comes to mind, "Be prepared".  Here are a few tips that have kept us going in troubled times.  They are just suggestions and may not suit everyone but they are possible on a small suburban block;
Grow your own fruit & vegetables.  By growing your own, you poses the skills to be able to overcome food shortages.  If you can convince your neighbours to grow their own food, then you can swap excess produce.

Get a few chickens.  Chickens are easy to keep, with most councils allowing you to keep a few birds in your back yard.  If you have a large enough backyard, you will also be able to grow feed crops for the hens.  Not only are the eggs a great source of protein, but the manure is just gold for your fruit and vegetables.

Stockpile essentials.  We stockpile essentials, mainly because Kim and I dislike frequent shopping, and feel more secure having a cupboard full of food and personal needs.  Don't forget to practice good stock management, older stuff to the front and newer stuff to the back.  We have had to draw upon the stockpile once so far, when I was laid up for a month in August last year.  We still count our blessings to this day that we thought ahead.  The other good thing about stockpiling is that it gives you room to prepare a backup plan in the event of a prolonged food shortage.  We have about three months of supplies on hand, which would give us ample time to increase our vegetable production.  Don't forget about water either.  Water butts are a handy item to have, and rainwater harvesting will get you out of a pickle if the mains fail.

Preserve excess produce.  If you have more than you need and loath feeding it to the worm farm, learn how to preserve your own food.  I love eating plums in the winter that I have preserved in February.  You can even buy bulk fruit or vegetables from farmers markets and preserve those if you can't grow it yourself.

Menu plan your meals.  During a crisis you are going to have to plan your meals, because the last thing you need is wasted food.  This way you can feel secure in the knowledge that you have the ingredients that you require for the next few weeks.  

Share your skills with others.  As I mentioned above, share your food growing skills with others around you now!  Not only do you help your fellow man (or woman), make good friends, but you build resilience into the community around you.  What is the point of securing your own food supply, when the zombies are knocking at your door trying to get the neighbourhoods only food source?  Share your knowledge in the good times, and you will reap the rewards in the difficult times.  No zombies will visit your neighbourhood because everyone knows how to grow their own!

Read a few good books about all these subjects.  Who knows if the Internet will be available during the crisis you may face, or electricity for that matter.  A good book always beats any other source of information (besides experience) hands down when it comes to crunch time.  Learn now, but keep the information so that you can share with others if the need arises.
As I have said above, this post is not meant to shock you into a stupor of inaction, but just give you food for thought (pardon the pun), and give you some ideas how you can provide your own food security.  I hope I never have to use these skills that I have learned over the last few years, but it is best to be prepared.

To finish off the post, I give you two gems of wisdom:

"By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail."
-- Benjamin Franklin

"People only see what they are prepared to see."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Anonymous said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, especially sharing your skills with others. I have found that many people do want to do more on their own to be more self-sufficient but just do not know how to get started. Thanks for sharing!

Tree Huggin Momma said...

If there was a fuel or other shortage in my area I would be shy dairy and eggs, but could make do with the protein supply in my freezer and cupboards. It is my intent to stock my cupboards with more dried produce (as I like this method better than canning when its 90 degrees out), can and freeze as necessary. We currently have powdered milk in the pantry and in an attempt to not let it go past its life I purchased a new box and attempted to use of the old box. I made hot cocoa mix (it was just okay - had to add extra sugar for the girls), I made pudding with it, and the girls think the pudding is ok, but DH and I don't like it. I will try baking with it (orange cranberry bread) but in an emergency I would use it as we would have no other choice, although I am thinking evaporated milk or SCM might be a better option.

Penny said...

I would add that you should make sure you have the necessary skills for cooking from scratch. In the throes of an emergency is NOT the time to learn how to properly make a loaf of bread or bake biscuits.

Penny said...

Also, I would practice cooking from your emergency supplies. Once again, a time of emergency is not the time to figure out how to use powdered milk properly.

Molly said...

We have at least a 2 month supply of food but it would get lean towards the end(mostly dried beans would get really old for the kids).

Don't forget your pets too! We can store about 2 weeks worth of dog food, maybe a month's worth of cat food. The guinea pigs can eat grass if need be. I wish we could store more but we have a bad rat problem in our area.


viggie said...

Oh good post, I do all of these things. I hate going shopping so I've always kept a good stock of everything I normally used. A lot of the food I need to supplement my garden produce is bought in bulk anyway. Since I can't have chickens or goats, I simply get powdered eggs and milk. That way I never run out, save money compared to fresh, and avoid all the waste I used to get shopping for one.

utahlawyer said...

I grew up Mormon; a religion that counsels its members to have a two year food supply and other emergency supplies on had at all times. Because of that, I grew up learning how to garden, can, and build up a food storage. I don't practice the religion anymore, but the skills I learned are very useful. I currently have a lot of food stock piled; including home canned and dried produce from my own garden. When money is tight, we can skip buying food and eat what we have at home.

For people starting a food storage systems, here are some helpful tips:
1. Store dried beans, legumes, flour, sugar, etc in glass jars. We keep and reuse food jars (although they are becoming more scarce now). The glass will keep out moisture and insects without leaching toxins into your food.
2. Rotate your food storage, eating the older stuff.
3. Stock up on food staples when you see them on a really good sale. It is not unusual for my family to buy 50 can of the same veggies at a time.
4. Buy a couple of extra food items every time you go to the store. That way you can build up food storage without breaking the budget.

I am also building a solar oven this spring. Not only would it be great for energy free cooking, but a great emergency option to cook when the power is out.

Jennifer said...

I couldn't agree with you more. My parents live in Colorado and a couple of winters ago, they were hit with snowstorm after snowstorm. My mom couldn't believe that in this day and age, the stores were running out of food. Entirely empty shelves, strict limitations on milk and bread, no fruits and veggies to speak of, etc. The trucks just couldn't get there. It is essential to be prepared for anything. Great post.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Great post Gavin - I will add don't fall for the survival seed canisters or pallets of food for survival offered at Costco or other warehouses. Stock up on what your family actually eats, and if you stock up on purchased seeds follow the same rule, in addition to what varieties will actually grow in your area.

Many people lay in a supply of food that they would never eat, especially in a stressful time. Which brings up the difficult topic of gastric distress - if you don't know how to cook grains and pulses properly you may be in for some discomfort.

melissa sews said...

Very good advice. We actually have about a year's food supply stockpiled. Seriously. Better to be prepared for the worst, IMHO.

Hathor's Bath said...

Being rather poor without a whole lot of space, and chickens are right out, I've opted for making very good friends with various butchers and sheep/chicken farmers nearby, with a view to say hello to the goat's cheese farmer who is also local. My hope is to get a chest freezer to buy meat in bulk, but that won't do me a load of good if power goes out. My kingdom for a wood-fuel cooker like a Rayburn, but I doubt my landlord would be so very keen.

Honestly, the best thing I could do in the area I live is have a bag packed and a game plan for getting OUT of the area I live; the people here don't think further than their next can of lager and their lotto ticket, and if food ever got scarce, I imagine they'd riot and raid whatever food they could. Trying to get them interested in taking care of themselves by starting allotments is useless. So I'm trying to touch base with several communities which are already established and put some shares in so I can join them if things go pearshaped.

Simple in France said...

I like it. I also like the idea of trying out your reserves and cooking in a 'dry run' as in a food supply problem, electrical out etc. I'm in the midst of moving and so instead of buying new food, am looking at interesting ways of eating down my own 'stockpile.' It's been a good learning experience seeing what you can still make when you no longer have certain ingredients . . .and what you can't.

I haven't even tested out what I'd do if, say, I had to cook with the electricity out--goodbye freezer food. Or if my propane tanks ran out (goodbye cooked lentils and rice!). Some of these things occur to me in advance, but I bet I'm still not thinking of things that would leave me slapping my head and saying 'doh!' in an emergency.

I like the idea of growing your own food AND having good ties to the neighbors. Neighbors you know and neighborhoods with a sense of 'looking out for' one another, probably would result in fewer zombies.

PS--the zombie analogy is hilarious.

Myrnie said...

@UtahLawyer- I'm a CURRENT Mormon, and I've never heard the 2 year food supply! We have one year though, but now I'm wondering if I should stockpile more wheat ;o)

Seriously though, I think the religion is very good about this- we learn skills from other ladies at church, we're counseled to stay out of debt, have emergency storage (food, clothes, household supplies, cash, savings.) It doesn't take a grocery store shut-down to be grateful for a little extra in the pantry and bank.

Great post!!

Ria said...

I plan to spend this year increasing my food stores and stocking up. Having been unemployed for 4 months has made me realise just how much the burden could be lifted if we didn't have to buy as many groceries, if we had enough in storage to last us through some hard times. So this year is definitely going to be my "stocking up" year, and I expect to be better for it.

dixiebelle said...

Great post! Here is a great blog too!

Annette said...

great post and thank you for including some tips to hold off the zombies. =)

We grocery shop about once - twice/month; last night was one of those trips. many of the shelves were bare.


Linda Woodrow said...

We spent most of a year in Cuba in 1998 teaching permaculture. During what they call the "Special Period" Cubans ran exactly this experiment - Urban people used to catching the bus to work, shopping in the supermarket, turning on the tap and water comes out, within the space of a few months needed to adapt to a world without fuel or foreign trade, where the supermarket shelves were bare, buses didn't run, tools seeds and stock were unobtainable, and the water and power came on irregularly and usually in the middle of the night. Cuba wasn't a peasant culture - most people lived in one big city - so they had to do a crash course in survival. If you asked Cubans what, in retrospect, they wish they had done to prepare, it was all things like install water tanks, make a garden and learn how to save seeds, have some animals to breed from, get a good bicycle, make friends with the neighbours and have mutual aid networks set up, buy and treasure quality tools that will last, etc etc. I don't know that we Australians would cope nearly as well.

msbetterhome said...

This is a really important topic, and I used to hve my head totally in the sand! In the last year or so, I've learned a lot from bloggers like Sharon Astyk & Kathy Harrison, particularly in regard to storing what we eat, and eating what we store. We also have 2 alternative means of cooking & boiling water, and some water purifying tablets.

I've also put together a much more comprehensive first aid kit than I previously kept - if I need immodium, for example, I want to know I have it without relying on a shop being open/accessable and in stock.

Gavin said...

Thanks everyone for your great comments. I remember watching a documentary about Cuba when it went through the "Special Period". They certainly went through a tough time until they developed the skills required to cope, like permaculture, and alternative transportation means. They made it through the transition, even though they were ill prepared. However, it probably helped with their form of government to break through the bureaucracy that we have in the west.