Don’t Count on Shellfish as Part of Your Emergency Food Supply

The Japan nuclear melt down is to threaten most of the Pacific Ocean’s sea life.  There is controversy about how much contamination is “safe”.  Predictions about how fast the sea life will be decreased or depleted range from a few months to a few years.  Some species of sea life or plants might not be directly effected by the contamination, but humans may find it not fit for consumption.

Either way, it’s not good.  What species do survive might not be what we want to eat.  Not to mention the upset in the ecological balance of the oceans for the next 100 or so years.  Even if the predictions of U. S. waters and fishes being contaminated don’t come true, it gives one pause to think about what would happen in a world changing event.

Even without the contamination possibilities in the back of our minds, we already have plenty to think about in terms of the current state of the coastal waters and the food supply some people might have in their emergency plans.

Oyster bed on the Cape Fear River, Wilmington, North Carolina

The United States’ east coast Atlantic ocean is already polluted and many fish and shellfish are not edible or are going extinct from the waters.  The loss of oyster beds along both the east and west coasts leaves the only good oyster beds left in the Gulf of Mexico.  Now, most oysters and shellfish consumed in the U.S. and around the world are from Asia.

There are efforts in all areas of coastal waters to increase oyster beds and make better conditions for other coastal shellfish.  If the prepared are planning on those resources it needs to happen quickly.


Seed Experiments Opens Eyes to Requirements

Saving seeds.Over the past three years we have been experimenting with seeds to see which ones are best suited for our long term food supply system.  The results have been quite eye opening.

Theoretically, seeds are supposed to keep indefinitely in a sub-zero freezer.  We decided to to do a three year test to see how such a plan could be implemented in a home situation.  We chose pepper and tomato seeds from reputable companies for this experiment from each of the three year lots.  Some of the packages were placed in the freezer and some were left unopened in the house.  Since they are clearly marked by the manufacturer as to the years of use, it was easy to track how the seeds performed.  So, how did they perform?

First, the three year old seeds, the oldest seed group.  The bell pepper seeds that remained at room temperature did not germinate.  Neither did the seeds stored in the freezer.  However, the room temperature tomato seeds produced three plants out of 50 seeds, that’s a 6% germination rate.  The frozen seeds germinated at a rate of about 50%.  None of the plants were viable.  They did not produce fruit.

In the next seed group, two year old seeds were bell pepper and tomato.  Five of the room temperature bell pepper seeds germinated, but the plants either did not survive or did not produce any peppers.  Almost half of the room temperature tomato seeds germinated, and half of those plants died before maturity.  Two tomato plants are producing fruit.  The tomatoes have a 2% fruit production rate.

The current year seeds produced interesting results.  None of these seeds were frozen.  The pepper plants, of various varieties, but including bell peppers, germinated at a rate of about 50%.  All of the tomato seeds are now producing fruiting plants.

The cause of failure to germinate and produce plants can be any argument about the conditions of the seed quality, soil, temperature, location, water supply and so on.  One also has to consider how many times during the last three years the freezer was opened as it would be by anyone who stores frozen foods.

The take away from this is that if we were going to try to save seeds, either purchased or saved from our own crops, it is important to note that freezing 50 seeds could result in no harvest during a time when the harvest is needed most.  So what is a person to do?

Complete your own experiment!  Each person’s situation is different.  Location, temperature, soil, and any number of other variables come in to play.  If you have old seeds, test them!  How else will you know if they are still viable and will produce food for your family?  If you find a seed lot that does not produce, replace them with new seed.

For us, this means we will need to save many more seeds than the number of plants we need.  If we expect a 3% success rate over time, we will need 100 seeds to get three plants.  If by chance all 100 seeds grow, we will have plants for barter.

Considering the relatively low price of seeds compared to other preparedness items, it makes sense to buy extra seeds in bulk both to use and to save for a world changing event.


Three Day Food Supply or Just In Time Marketing

Consider this statement:

 It’s the public’s trust that’s been broken “and since almost all food safety at retail is faith-based, the faith has been violated.” – USA Today

It’s true, isn’t it?  At least for many people.  There are many products I won’t buy in a “regular” grocery store.  Lettuce is one of them.  Actually, quite a bit of fresh produce.  Sometimes I worry about the meats, and with good reason.  Have you ever seen what passes inspection by the U.S.D.A.?  And the fact that the meat industry asked for an increase in the allowed level of nasties in the meats doesn’t help.   For those of us who live in areas where we can produce our own food, that’s what we do.

Then consider this statement about fear:

 The enemy here is fear, not the food system. In my book, anyone shouting “Run to the stores and buy as much food as you can!” deserves a special place in hell. – Toby Hemenway

Hemenway goes on to talk about how people are basically too stupid to understand the “just-in-time” method of business.  Ok, he didn’t say that.  He said:

 To accept this forecast uncritically, though, means ignoring how complex systems work. We can scare ourselves by selectively focusing on a small piece of a larger picture and behaving as if that tiny bit were the whole story. It’s a natural tendency: Any organism interested in surviving needs to focus on what’s going wrong much more than what’s going right. But in this case, believing the tale of empty shelves may distract us from more urgent problems.

Once you get through the insults of his article, you get to the history part.  He writes about famines that happened prior to 1800.  Seriously?  Doesn’t he know that droughts caused famines and that prior to the “green revolution” all people struggled to produce enough food?  While we still have droughts, we have learned many methods of farming that provide a more reliable source of food to our society and the world.  Sure, droughts can cause prices to rise, but the supply of food did not disappear in the 2012 drought.

Hemenway does recognize the human characteristic of doing what ever is required to survive and says what the prepper choir has been saying all along.

And, more urgently, during a food panic, how many pounds of grain being handed to you by the state would make you calm down? Five? Ten? That’s only a couple of day’s supply for a small family.

Most people would submit that if you have a year or two of foods stored you wouldn’t be worried about the complex system crashing for a couple of weeks or even a few months.  Unlike the those people who thumbed their noses at us and called us crazy.  Those people will be among those panicking and holding out their hands for the government family allotment of food.

In one respect he is right.  Most people might not understand how the complex system of supplies is delivered to the local grocery store.   He says if people understood this system, they would calm and trust the system to deliver food to our stores.  Then he goes on to talk about how to prepare if you still don’t trust the complex system of our food suppliers.  Hemenway wrote:

If you are worried about food shortages, get your own stash and store as much as makes you comfortable. In designing a solution to a problem, it’s critical to intervene at the proper level, and here, the household is a far more effective level than the state.

It seems he is saying not to be afraid, that we can trust the food delivery system.  But on the other hand, he says if you don’t trust it then be prepared for it.  Preparing at home is your best chance of survival if something goes wrong because the government stored goods will quickly run out.

Through out the article he discusses the problems and indeed he says they are real.  Still, in the end, he says people are wrong to worry about the day we wake up and the grocery stores are bare.  Even so, the article is worth the read because it does impart some important information.

Hemenway, the author of the article, and the book Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, surprised me with his thoughts on the food supply given the nature of the book.  The book is great!  Take a peak.

Reference:  “Fear and the Three-Day Food Supply.” Pattern Literacy by Toby Hemenway. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2013.

Food Production Planning – Not Your Grandmother’s Garden

A bountiful garden can provide produce to last all winter.If you are like most of us, you have a day job.  For some people that makes gardening and livestock chores just a little more like work than fun.  After all, the number of days you have are limited and other demands such as family and friends consume your time, too.  Never mind about the unplanned or unexpected events that soak up that last free minute.

For these reasons, and even if you don’t have a job outside the home or farm, the most successful people plan their meat and produce production.  While the process is simple it’s also complicated.  Canning a year’s supply of tomatoes while you hear the noisy chickens in the backyard that need processed could add a little more stress than you need.

The most important things you need for planning your food supply are a good memory, a pencil with a good eraser and a calendar with large spaces for writing.

Keep your calendars from year to year, making notes on the results and what you do differently each year.  Did you run out of your favorite veggies last year? Was the bean yield worth the cost of production?  Did you end up giving away more produce than you wanted?  Could you have sold them instead of giving them all away?  How about chickens?  Did you have more or less than you wanted?  Could you have given to charity or needy people instead of employed people?

Once you have written down how much of each produce you will need, calculate the anticipated yield for each product and plant accordingly.  If you live in a climate that doesn’t allow you to stagger your planting, you might need to do it the old fashioned way and share your bounty with trusted friends who are willing to can for you in their kitchens.

While harvesting, keep track of how much you harvest daily.  When you grocery shop, check and record the grocery store price of the produce or meat. If the produce is not available locally, look up online ads for big chain grocery stores to help price those things.  It might seem like a chore, but do it anyway.

Pricing information is important for a few reasons.  First, it allows you to see the fruits of your labor in terms of dollars and cents.  That is important because you need to know that your efforts pay off.  Second, if you decide to sell your products, you will know how to set your prices.  Be sure to set prices higher than grocery stores because your products are a higher quality product.  Third, you will know the value of losses should a disaster destroy your crops.  This is most important if you register your farm stand business for tax purposes and buy insurance for this purpose.

Is this beginning to sound like a business?  Yep.  You bet it is.  Why?  Because if you look at it from a business perspective, even just a few times a year, you will quickly figure out what you need to change to get the most out of your livestock and garden with the least time and money investment.  People think you need many acres of land to grow produce to sell on the market.  It’s not true.  Both chain and independent grocery stores purchase produce from local growers.  It’s a win-win for them.  They get good will, freshest and highest quality produce and you get money and appreciation for your crops.

In my region, we only have two grocery stores to choose from in a 40 mile radius.  One of them, H.E.B., also has a woman-owned business policy to encourage women to become entrepreneurs.

While most of us know we don’t garden or raise livestock for business purposes, we also know we need to be as efficient with our resources as possible.  It would be nice to know if we could make a living doing what we love.  By running your garden plot and barnyard as a small business, registering it as a D.B.A., and getting a tax number, you can also take advantage of buying some items wholesale which will drive down your costs and increase profit.  Everything from seed to livestock feed may become less expensive. Business expenses are deductible too.  Sure, there are some extra pieces of paper to file here and there, but the benefits could far outweigh the effort.

To make it easier to plan your garden both Johnny Seeds and Veseys provide assistance.


Commercial, Organic or Heirloom Seeds?

Which seeds to purchase?  Commercially produced, organic or heirloom seeds? (Heirloom seeds are also called heritage seeds.)  Many gardeners are concerned with keeping their crops organic.  So much so they purchase organic seeds.  Some people 

think seeds are seeds and are happy with seeds they purchase in the garden shops.  Yet another group of people will purchase garden shop seeds and then raise them in an organic way as possible.  Then there are those who don’t believe modern chemicals are all bad and that the value of their time figures into the equation.  They use them when necessary to ensure a good harvest.  With all that being said, the issue here is not whether to use organic methods or chemicals.

The key is to look at the seed package to check for desired attributes.  As mentioned above, some seeds are organic and others are not.  But don’t make the mistake of thinking heritage seeds are also organic seeds.  If the packaging does not specifically claim they are organic, they are not.

Hybrid seeds are produced after selective breeding various varieties of plants to produce strong, disease resistant plants with a bountiful harvest.  Because the plants theoretically could naturally cross breed if planted next to each other, and are not genetically modified, there is no reason hybrid seeds should not be considered when planning an organic garden for personal use.  Only the best combined plants are chosen for seed.  Hybrid seed production has been the leading cause of the increase in the food supply in the 20th century.  The seed companies claim if you save seeds from the hybrid plants that you will get inferior product.  Without any evidence to counter the claim, there is no comment about that.

Heirloom seeds are seeds from old varieties of produce that have been handed down from generation to generation and grown in the wild maybe for thousands of years.  These seeds have often traveled around the globe to find their way to your garden.  Heirloom seeds should be sought after and cultivated in our gardens because they ensure food diversity and sustainability.

Gardeners who choose to raise heirloom seeds using organic methods will have the best of both worlds.  Practicing sound seed saving  techniques will provide generations of seeds to enjoy for years to come. Organic producers are permitted to use commercially produced seeds if there are no organic seeds available. If you aren’t sure which methods are best for you, consider all the circumstances of your life.  Perhaps try both organic and regular methods.  The answer could lie somewhere in between.

Monsanto, “Villain of Agriculture”? Preppers Grab Your Seed Bags

Heritage or GMO?  Only Monsanto knows for sure.The food supply for  United States citizens, and the global export market, are protected in three ways by the federal government.  First is the Food and Drug Administration.    The FDA requires proper product labeling,  that food sources meet certain health standards and that they are safe for human consumption.  Second is the United States Department of Agriculture.  The USDA inspects meat producers as well as regulates crops.  It is their job to ensure meat and crops are safe before they enter the food supply chain.  In the event that something managed to get past one of these two agencies, both the government and the public had legal recourse options which included criminal as well as civil court options.  That is until last week.

President Obama signed into law a bill that specifically protects Monsanto, a bio-tech company, from court cases.  That means if we get injured in any way by a Monsanto product neither the government nor citizens can take legal action against Monsanto.  Indeed, the bill was drafted with direct input from Monsanto to a former employee, Senator Roy Blunt.  Mr. Blunt (R – Missouri) received more than $64K from Monsanto in the form of campaign contributions.  So, let’s see,  Blunt works for Monsanto as an attorney, he runs for political office with the full support of Monsanto, and in return Blunt sponsors a bill that runs through congress and Obama signed.

Where should one begin when analyzing this event?  Precedent? First amendment rights?  Danger to the public?  Big business in bed with government against little guys?  Government approval of big business bullying little guys to force them out of business? Food safety?  Loss of plant variety?

Considering all these issues, it is certainly important that all preppers gather their heritage seeds now.  Since Monsanto and friends have been given a free pass for eternity, agriculture will become more and more difficult.

Tune in for more on this issue.

Power of the Purse and Sequestering

Obama wants sequestering to hurt.Obama intends to make U. S. Citizens as miserable as possible during the sequestering.  But will he go so far as to affect the food supply?  He understands how effective the power of the purse is when it comes to forcing people to do what you want them to do.  So does all levels of government.    That is why punishments of all kinds almost always include some form of financial punishment to be paid to the punishing entity.  As a matter of fact, the framers of the constitution knew the power of money.  They wrote the constitution carefully to be sure not one entity had enough power to control the money.

Money is the tool of the government to control the citizens.  It started rather benignly with the first government assistance programs during the depression.  Why?  Because someone looked at the government and said, “Why haven’t you done anything about this?”.  That’s the same thing people in Europe said to the church about the plague.  Both entities tried, without success, to change the prevailing condition.  The church eventually reversed some of the edicts about what to do with sick people, but the government kept pretty much all of the “new programs” created during the depression.

Once a program was created, the next members of congress and presidents were loath to remove them because they didn’t want to anger the people who were depending on those programs, even if the current situation no longer warranted the program’s existence.  Then came the day when the government invented the department of education in order to control schools in every state.  It started out with grants to states’ school districts.  After a while the government started attaching strings to the grants.  Once the states were dependent on the money for the annual budget, the hook was set and now the government can tell states what will be done in their public schools.  And so it went also with the highway department and human assistance programs, just to start.

Which brings us to the food supply.  Meat processing plants all have USDA inspectors present to assure the products are safe for human consumption.  Well, sort of, but that is another story.  If the inspectors are not present, no meat can be processed.  This isn’t a big deal to the prepper who is ready for just such an event.  However, if you are not ready and the USDA does decide to pull inspectors for a week or two, things will be different in the store.  It is our belief that the inspectors won’t be pulled and that the USDA will cut in other areas as necessary.

Disrupting the food supply, if only for a couple of weeks, would be a big deal and a no win situation for Obama and his cabinet.  Congress does not determine where the budget cuts are made during a sequester.  The president does.  Rest assured, the president will attempt to say that the cuts are the fault of the Republicans.  Don’t believe it.  The fault will be with whomever decides what to cut within each agency and at whose instruction.


Consider these comments about the sequester and decisions being made:

 It’s the public’s trust that’s been broken “and since almost all food safety at retail is faith-based, the faith has been violated.” – USA Today


. . .  in regards to the government’s plans for sequestration and the meat industry. If you aren’t aware of what’s going on, you should be. After all, it could affect all of us. And to us in the industry, it’s a scary thing. – Jennifer Dewey

It is clear that department leaders are concerned about their particular branch of the government.  So are the people who raise, process and sell meat products.  As a society we can go without meat for a couple of weeks.  But, should the citizens be forced to do it because the people on capitol hill can’t play nice?


The Power of the Purse: A History of American Public Finance, 1776-1790 by Ferguson, E. James published by The University of North Carolina Press Paperback, 1961 – 2011.

“Fear and the Three-Day Food Supply.” Pattern Literacy by Toby Hemenway. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2013.

“Meat Supply In Danger…?” Chico Locker Sausage Co Inc. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2013.

“U.S. Officials: No Horse Meat in Our Beef.” USA Today. Gannett, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2013.

“Obama’s Stealth Takeover of Your Burrito or Food Stamps Obama’s Nationalizing the U.S. Food Industry and You Didn’t See It Coming.” Before It’s News. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2013.

Everyone’s a Prepper at Heart

Who doesn’t want free electricity?  Who doesn’t want to know that their food supply is taken care of?  Everyone wants to be independent, don’t they?  I know we do.  Why should we pay for something we can get for zero cash if we just put forth a little effort now and then?  Why should we continue to put food in our children that is questionable at best?

If you have made any effort at all to tackling those issues, you are a prepper at heart.  Yes, you are.  Don’t shake your head at me.  I know you like more Prepper lifestyle can save in your pocket at the end of the week.  Depending on your location, you can tackle most of these issues.

While it is true that people living in rural or suburban areas have the easier prepping atmosphere, there are still things you can and should do.  Maybe you can’t get free electricity because you live in a high-rise apartment building in NYC, but you can make your apartment as energy efficient as possible.  The acre of garden is out, but you might be able to plant a garden on your balcony, on the roof, and all year long inside your apartment.  Doing both of these things will give you more money in your pocket at the end of the week.  How nice will it be to pick your own beautiful red bell pepper instead of paying $5.00 for one in January?