What Happens When the Unexpected Happens?

As we prepare and plan for the future, we always remember to live for today.  We enjoy our time together and with our family as much as possible.  For us, it just so happens we enjoy camping, hunting and fishing.  We don’t mind being away from the amenities of city life.  Redfish likes to spend time with the birds and enjoys watching their antics.  We both enjoy the garden and picking fresh things to eat.  Yesterday we pulled fresh carrots and cut some nice broccoli.

But, for us the unexpected happened, which is why there has been a decreasing amount of activity on this site.  For many years Redfish has had unexplained health issues.  Most doctors told her it was depression or arthritis.  None took her seriously.  When she told them about this symptom or that, they either said it was imaginary or ignored it as something not worth note.  Then after some years, things would get better and she would be her old self again.  This cycle has gone on for about 35 years.

Last fall she entered another one of these cycles, which we both thought was another bout of depression.  That’s what we’ve been told so many times before, even though we didn’t believe it.  She got shingles, then cervical cancer, and skin cancer in a three month period of time.  None of these were fatal nor even cause for great alarm because they could be taken care of, removed, or would go away.  But they did get her to thinking about her mortality.

But, even when things were supposed to be getting better, they were not.  In fact, they were getting worse.  Swelling, fatigue from hell, and pain everywhere.  Asthma was flaring more than usual. Headaches a near constant companion.  Finally, eight doctors and 35 years later, someone knew what was wrong.  Lupus.  It was a devastating diagnosis.

How could that many doctors miss this for so long?  What now?  What are the damages of being untreated for 35 years?  What is the life expectancy after diagnosis?  All of these questions and more came bubbling up through the whole family.

Mostly, Redfish was relieved.  She cried tears of relief because she finally knows why she gets tired, sore and achy.  There are answers for the myriad of other symptoms that came and went over the years.  Finally someone took her serious and investigated her symptoms.  She no longer feels guilty for needing a nap or wanting to take pain meds for her headaches and joint pain.  She understands why sometimes she can’t remember what day it is for more than 30 minutes.

Now what?  We have to choose what to do next and re-evaluate our priorities.  She’s going to keep her garden and birds, for now.  We will still be prepared for any emergency that may arise, but we are also working on ways to reduce stress in her life to slow the progress of Lupus as much as possible.  This web site will have to take a back seat.   Posts will be less often, but they will be meaningful.  

 

In a Post WCE, Where to get the Best Quality Seeds?

The simple answer is “from yourself”.  The only way this can happen is if you are already practicing the skills you need to secure the best possible seeds for next year’s crops.  Sure, many gardeners will tell you to choose the best plants to get the best seeds, but what they don’t tell you is how to consistently improve, over time, your ability to harvest the best produce possible.  As a matter of fact, you could produce a new variety of seeds through your efforts.

Start with the best quality seed you can get.  Seeds are expensive, so do your research.  Just because you have bought this or that brand for year after year does not mean you are in fact buying the best.

One of the most important things you can do is to keep a proper journal about your garden exploits.  Write down everything, every year.  Date every page.  Did it rain today?  How much?  Was it hotter or colder than normal today than last year on this day? Note it and log it.  What did you plant today?  Remember to log the germination rate each day.  There is no detail too small to consider adding to the journal about your garden or fields.  Why?  Because you will need that information after a WCE.  Then it will be too late to start gathering useful information for your region.  It takes years to gather what you need.  Some of it you can get from local garden experts, but your own experiences are more valuable than anyone else’s.

Test the germination rate for the seeds you plant every year.  You will know the rates for each company from which you buy seeds.  In this way you will better choose products that meet your needs best.  It is with these seeds that you will start your seed saving practices as well as your venture into creating a better and stronger variety of your favorite produce.

Since accuracy is important, keeping a separate journal for various produce so as not to get grape writings mixed up with apple writings might be a good idea.  Now for the good stuff.

When your plants are growing in the garden, continually watch them to see which are the best and worst.  When it comes time to harvest seed, choose only to harvest from the single best plant that has the best qualities you desire.  For the next planting season complete the steps over again.  Be sure to plant these seeds away from the possibility of pollination by any other source.

Each careful harvest gains seeds that are best suited to your environment and most resistant to the pests and diseases of your region.  In this manner you will create your own variety of plants and seeds.  Those, and your reputation for seed production will be valuable after a WCE.

Three Years After WCE, Will Your Garden Seeds Fail?

You did everything right.  You saved money, coins, what ever you needed to be able to trade.  You saved seeds for the Victory Garden and used them.  The world changing event happened, a WCE.  During the first three years you relied on the stash you had in the freezer, but you noticed each year the germination rate was down.  Every year you saved seeds from your garden, but still your garden got smaller and less productive each year.  Sometimes your garden produced weird plants because of cross pollination.  Some seeds failed to germinate producing no plant at all, or produced plants that produced no fruit.  If you don’t watch out, not only will you have nothing to trade, but you might not have any produce for your own needs.

Now you need to find a way to replenish your stash with good seeds.  You know some people trade them.  But in this new era seeds are highly prized and traders likely are not reliable to offer quality products.  They aren’t always “just seeds” any more.  They are the difference between life and death for many people.

In the future, after a WCE, you can expect the same things to happen as did during the 1800s.  Traders were less than honest.  They would knowingly sell seeds with a large amount of weed seed mixed into the lot.  How could they do it?  Simple.  They just bet on purchasers not being able to tell the difference between seeds that look very similar.

Lobelia Seeds
Click to view product details.

 

Since dodder weed seed looks remarkably like clover seed, the buyer could be fooled.  Cheat looks like oat seed.  There are other weed seeds that can be passed to the untrained eye as crop seeds.  As reported in the 1860’s, some sellers knowingly sold impurities as much as 30% weed seeds.  This means that the farmer purchased 738,000 seeds per pound which he thought was for crops.  Instead, he planted 288,000 weeds.  Consider how much time, garden space, and money were wasted in this manner.  If one third of the seeds you purchase are no good, and worse, they grow weeds it will be a waste and possibly the difference between life or death for your family.  You will have at least one third less harvest under the best of circumstances.

Another way people would trick farmers is by bleaching old discolored seeds so they would not look old.  Then they mixed some good seeds in with them. Buyers would end up with old seed that couldn’t germinate.  They might get two or three crop plants for every 100 seeds planted.  The weed crop is doing fine.  The farmer might think it was something he was doing wrong.

Yet another way bad seed is sold is when they are not stored well, or are left to freeze before they are dry and are ruined.  The purchaser can’t always tell just by looking if the seeds have been improperly stored.  But the seller knows what he did if he grew them.  It will pay to know the seller very well.  It will be better if the seller is fully dependent on you for something he needs badly.

This could be why so many people gave up gardening between 1900 and 1950.  The amount of work involved far out weighed the benefit of the produce.  Farmers had to use more land to have a yield big enough to bring to market.  It was not until the U.S.D.A. stepped in and regulated production and sales that seeds and sellers were cleaned up.

Now, seed labels must specify the year for planting, and the expiration date.  Most states require the germination rate to be printed on the labels as well.  If it is not specified, it would be reasonable to assume not more than 70% germination rate.  So, if you need 100 plants, purchase enough seeds to cover the 30% reduction in germination.  You might be happy if it is a better rate, but will be sadly disappointed if the rate is less.

Which brings us to the last way seed sellers might sell old and improperly stored seeds.  Their packaging may be worn and tattered.  If so, don’t buy them, or only offer a small amount of trade for them.  Seeds exposed to light and heat are always less vital than well stored seeds.  Most seeds only store for three to five years under normal conditions, not frozen, and the germination rate is reduced by about 15% to 30% or more per year.

Click to view product details.

After a WCE, how are you going to protect yourself from ruthless traders who would bring you bad seeds when you most need good ones?  Well, unless you have a microscope, pre-labeled seed slides, and some books to smarten you up, you can’t.

Click to view product details.

 


Some seeds are so small you wouldn’t be able to see what you need to know with the naked eye. The slides need to be made by you so you know exactly what you are looking at, and you need to inspect the slides often to see how the seeds have degraded over time so you can gauge the age of the seeds being sold.  The books give you the valuable information that you can use for the rest of your life.  With repeated study you can learn to protect your seed supply both now and in the event of a WCE.

Click to view product details.


Armed with these three things, a seed seller who is not trading fairly will not want to subject his product to your tests of quality.  Who knows, your ability to discern good from bad seeds might enable you to trade your skills and knowledge for seeds and other items you need.

Mapping the Water Supply

Securing a safe water supply is important to every entity in the world.  With changing weather patterns bringing droughts to regions normally the best farmlands, it is getting more frustrating for cities and states as they try to find water sources and negotiate prices and methods to transport water.

Coastal states have the ability to build desalinization plants, but landlocked states must rely on rivers, lakes and aquifers.  To this end there have been many man-made lakes and rivers dammed up for both water and electricity. 

Even after some rains, aquifers remain at levels below 50% or less in some areas of the United States, and around the world.  It takes many days of rain to replenish the water supply both above and below ground.

Because of this, it is important to know where water can be accessed and to keep up with the status of those locations on a weekly basis.  Aquifers serve not just one well but instead wells for entire cities, your wells may have water this week, but not have water next week under severe drought conditions.

One thing you can do is pay attention to EPA, state, and local water authority reports which list where contaminated ground water is already found.  Knowing water is already contaminated and what the contaminants are is a step in the right direction when choosing which places to eliminate as possible sources of fresh water in the future.

Mapping safe and unsafe water is an important part of being prepared.  Keep your map Map of the states of Mississippi, Louisiana, and the Arkansas Territory.up to date since water wells that are clean today may be contaminated next week; and contaminated wells today may be safe next year.  Similarly, it is important to realize that if your well is contaminated, it is possible that those adjacent to yours is contaminated too.  Generally, water wells within cities are likely contaminated with any number of lawn and garden, industrial or other chemicals and not fit for human or animal consumption.

Another thing important is to recognize what a water well looks like.  They are not all like the picturesque open top well, nor are they marked with rustic hand-pump wells.  Some have signs on them that read “city of $%^ pumping station” or “city of $%^ well”.  Some wells, particularly those in colder regions use submersible pumps and therefore may not have a cap visible from a distance.  Instead they are  capped with a slab of concrete or some other structure to keep people from falling inside.  In warmer climates, often there is a tank visible next to the well.  Many people decorate these with cute fake wells. Taking note of where these wells are could be important.  

One easy way to keep your map up to date is to laminate a map and use dry erase markers to make notations and changes.  Label the wells with the notations about the type of of contamination and what is required to make the water potable.  When the time comes that you need to take your water map with you, simply snap a picture of it with your tablet or cell phone, then when time permits, can use your photo to transfer it to a permanent map.  

Here are two links to get you started:

http://watersgeo.epa.gov/mwm/

http://www.epa.gov/region6/water/npdes/

Urban Preppers Consider Several Garden Produce Options

Window Herb GardenUrban life often limits the amount of garden space to the number of pots you can fit on a balcony or window sill.  With these kinds of restrictions, growing everything you want to put in your food stores is impossible.  For those reasons, any people purchase prepacked foods in cans, boxes, and foil packets.  But that does little to soothe the minds of those who would prefer to put up fresh grown produce, free of chemicals.

Organic foods purchased in grocery stores or markets are expensive compared to other commercially pre-packaged foods.  When you spend that kind of money on organic foods, the tendency is to want to eat it right away, not can or freeze it.

There are things you can do to get the quality produce you want without breaking the bank.  It will take a bit of research and networking, but it can be done.  Prepare to contact growers in January or before planting season starts to strike up a deal.   Now is a good time to start.  The earlier you contact growers, the better your chance of getting what you need.

Who or what is a grower?  A grower is anyone who uses their land to produce food. Blooming Hill Farm Anyone.  That means it could be a homeowner with 1/8 acre to 5 acres of land or someone out in the country on hundreds or thousands of acres.  The keys are knowing who the growers are and what you want.

Start by getting a “what is in season” list within the region you are willing to travel.  You can get these from county agriculture extension offices, garden clubs, and some local nurseries may have information to share.

DollarPlan your budget according to what you wish to put up for a one year supply.  If money is tight (and when isn’t it?) try to skim off a few percent of the dollars to spend on produce and canning or freezing it.  As the price of everything continues to rise, it will be difficult to budget exactly what you need.  Over time, you will find your food bill goes down as the amount of stored goods increases.

The first year you might spend a little more on jars if you just starting out.  To justify this, buy cases of jars instead of eating dinner out.  Skip the movies this week and buy two more cases of jars.  Before you know it, you will have enough jars to line your shelves.

Find growers who may be willing to grow what you order.  These producers often sell Vegetable Farmanimal as well as fruits and vegetables.  Perhaps you will need to pay them half up front and the other half when you take delivery.  Take the time to get to know them to get the best possible price.  Get a receipt that explains exactly what you are exchanging.

Some growers may allow you a share of the produce in exchange for your labor.   You apply for a part time non-cash paid job.  Get it in writing.  Be sure to spell out how many hours you will work per week, how much each hour is worth, and how many pounds of each produce you will get in return.  This requires you to do pricing research well in advance.  Take into account the wholesale price and the retail price of the products you want.  If you are lucky enough to get such a deal, make certain you work hard on the farm, work every hour you agree, don’t complain, and are always on time.  You will want to be invited back year after year.

Small Garden PlotIf by chance you and your friends have yards of any size, get together and form a co-op of your own.  Even the tiniest sliver of dirt next to a house or sidewalk can make excellent gardens.  Take out the grass and put in fruits and vegetables appropriate to your region and available sunlight.  By devoting the yards to specific produce, using bio-intense methods, and sharing, everyone in the co-op will get a variety produce.

Orchards Often Offer You Pick Opportunities

 

Lastly, “You Pick” farms offer great prices on perfectly ripe fruit.  Bring your bushel baskets, boxes and bags to pick all the produce you want at reduced prices over markets and stores.  Usually you pay “per pound”.  These are also good places to offer your labor in exchange of produce.  If you are going on a weekend trip, perhaps adding a you-pick farm to your sight-seeing might be a welcome alternative to tourist traps.

By combining all these resources, preppers should be able to find enough produce at reasonable prices, the cost of time, or nearly free.  Most importantly, it takes planning many months in advance.  The rewards are worth it.

Here are a few links to get you started.

Illinois “What’s in Season” Chart

Texas Produce Availability Chart

 Pick Your Own Farm Directory (Incomplete)

Will 2014 Bring Another Drought?

Halloween is barely passed, Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner.  You’ve got a lot to do between now and January 1, 2014.  Some where in all the business of the holiday season, gardeners need to plan for their 2014 garden.  2014 is going to be different than “normal” years.  At least, that is what the weather forecasters say.  Why?  Climate change.

The droughts of the past few years are not predicted to go away.  Last summer, record temperatures of 129°F were reported in Arizona.  In fact, there are some areas in which droughts will form, or reform as 2014 weather develops.  Starting the new year with a drought is not what farmers and gardeners want to hear.

season_drought

No one wants to spend valuable resources putting in a garden only to have it whither and die.  Most people water their gardens as needed if rainfall is in short supply.  However with the drought history of the past few years, those persons who use public water sources to water their garden, a drought is a game changer.  As a matter of fact, in some regions of the 

Now we are planning the garden plot for next season. According to this forecast map, we need to plan to water the garden.  In our region, when the year starts out with below normal precipitation, it generally does not get better until the rainy season in the fall.  We have had years where it didn’t rain on our back yard for 10 or 12 months.  Those years we container gardened or didn’t garden at all.country last year people were not allowed to spill any water outside.  Drought was so severe in some areas that wells went dry and citizens were not allowed to use water for anything other than drinking and hygiene. Farmers could water livestock, but not their crops. Houseplants were not allowed water.

Like many people, according to the map, we’re right near the edge between persistent drought and drought relief.  Planning for another drought, though possibly not as severe, is a must.  One thing is for sure, scientists say that most of North America is going to experience more droughts and when rain does come, storms will be more intense.  Making use of quarterly precipitation forecast maps helps to plan not only for the next week, but several months.

There are N.O.A.A. maps to predict temperatures and precipitation through the end of 2014, but they are less user friendly and reliability decreases further in the future.  However they do give an idea as to what may happen, so in that they are valuable educated guesses.

 

Reference:

N.O.A.A. Climate Prediction Center

 

Feed the Beef!

For the first several millennium, cattle lived off grass or whatever forage was around.  Cattle were leaner and typically had a lower weight than they do now.  Then some time after 1875, farmers started to wonder why pork was preferred over beef.  As it turned out, pork had more fat.  Fat was a valuable resource.  It was used for everything from making soap to preserving and cooking foods.  Besides all that, fat in foods gives it a silky feel and makes things taste yummy.

Cattle farmers decided they needed to see what they could do to increase fat content in beef.  With trial and error, farmers discovered feeding cattle a diet of strictly corn for the better part of the year yields a fatter, heavier, and tastier beef.  This spurred farmers to grow corn to meet the demand, and eventually cattle farms were relocated to regions where corn is produced to save on transportation costs of the grain.

Corn is a high energy food, if fed to any animal weight gain is going to happen.  Eventually farmers realized they could reduce the amount of corn fed to the animals if they confined them smaller lots.  This revelation reduced the time on expensive corn from eight or nine months to three months.  Finally, some farmers rationalize that by further restricting the amount of movement, beef would be more tender on just thirty days on corn feed.

Of course, restricting movement, keeping animals in extreme close quarters, and little or no variety of feed, leads to less healthy animals.  Those cattle require all sorts of veterinarian services from antibiotics to treatments for flies and other maladies.  Some farmers also give their beef cattle steroids to produce more beef.  Every pound of beef is money.  Then cattle are taken to butcher or market, depending on the cattle producer’s choices.  The cattle on the right are awaiting auction.  However, the small pen is about the size of many enclosures prior to market or slaughter.  Feedlot cattle stand around in muck twenty-four hours a day.

Many of you are aware of these facts.  Some people think it’s just how business is done and it isn’t any big deal.  Other people think conditions need to be changed for greater health of the animal to provide a healthier protein for humans.

In contrast, until recently, most countries in Central and South America were grass fed.  They were pastured until they were wanted for slaughter.  People accustomed to corn fed beef usually find grass fed beef less appealing in texture and flavor.  For this reason, farmers in many countries have switched to corn feeding so they could enter into the global beef market.

What is interesting is the lack of discussion about cattle feed prior to 1875.  This is where it gets interesting.  Since cattle were mostly domesticated in Europe, those methods were brought along with the cattle as people migrated to the Americas.

beetsFarmers grew crops not only for their own consumption and sale, but also to feed their cattle, pigs and chickens.  Beets, cabbages and carrots are all perfect for cattle, just to start.  Cattle will eat just about any fruit or vegetable except nightshade products like potatoes and peppers.

Considering that these crops can be grown in large scale on just a few acres, it is obvious that people have it within their power to raise their own beef cattle as well as feed a dairy cow or a gestating cow.  Enough food can be grown for an entire year’s supply of cattle feed for the price of seeds.  You can produce more beets and carrots per acre than corn by weight.

If you feed garden produce to your dairy cow, remember what a dairy cow eats effects the flavor of the milk.  Cabbage is good food for bovine, but not so good for the flavor of milk. That is only Cabbagesimportant if you are consuming the milk yourself and it is not “homogenized” by a dairy company.

This is how it was done for centuries upon centuries.  People more often than not raised their own beef using their own produce.  This is proof that it isn’t too expensive to raise your own cattle.  People have bought into the lie about the difficulties of cattle production.  So much so that over time, almost 150 years, most people don’t know it can be done any other way.  For most people, the skyrocketing price of beef means they purchase less beef.  With this information, a little bit of land almost everyone can afford beef.  Those who don’t have enough land to raise beef can partner with others by producing vegetables in exchange for a quarter or side of beef.

 

 

Garden to Market

Farmers' MarketAre you one of those gardeners who grow a large garden and end up giving away a large portion of your harvest so it won’t go to waste?  If so, that’s money down the drain, and money in the pockets of those who reap the benefits of your labor and expense.

Or have you considered selling your products but didn’t know where to begin or how to market them?  Help is at hand, from the people at the agricultural extension office nearest you.  They will help you learn everything growing produce to selling it.  They will provide all the information you need to stay within the laws of your state.

Agricultural extension offices provide all the information you need to process your produce and market it as canned goods, dried, or other packaging.  Imagine growing cucumbers, using great grandma’s pickle recipe, and selling them at the farmers market.  Anything you can grow, you can also turn into another product and sell it.

Cottage industry such as home canned goods is making a huge come back in local economies.  There’s no reason you and your garden can’t be a part of that.  If your garden is certified organic, you can add that extra punch to your product labels.  “Suzy’s Organic Pickles” might just be a hit, not only locally, but regionally, and if you work at it, you might land a distributor to go national.

To help you on your way, contact your local extension office or master gardener club.  They will provide you valuable information about available services and publications.  Some garden clubs have published books specific to their own regions.  They contain information and instructions not available in books written for the national market.  If a regional garden club book is available, grab it before it is sold out.  Usually, when they are sold out, that’s the end of them and they probably won’t be available at online stores.

With your garden in the ground and your produce growing, set about finding where you wish to market your produce and when.  Farmer’s markets are great, but also consider venues other than farmers markets such as flea markets and mini-malls.  Some local businesses might carry your products. Make friends with the people who own the stores you frequent.

When looking for information to help you market your products, don’t limit yourself to only the state you live in.  For instance, people in every state can get some useful information from this Wisconsin publication  New Directions in Marketing for Farmer’s.  It is free as a PDF file and available in print form for a price.

 

 

Fall Garden Plans

By cindy

Three weeks ago we started our vegetable garden seeds in the house so they would be ready for the fall garden.  Great plan, right?  You would think it was a great plan anyway. For some unknown reason the seeds sprouted in less than half the time on the package.  Then …read more

Source: 2pairfarms.com

Travel Scenery as How-To Garden Instructions

When you travel, or are just out and about, pay attention to other people’s stuff.  Sounds kind of nosy doesn’t it?  Not so.  If it’s out in plain view, then you should be looking at it.  By looking at what other people are doing, you gain precious information about what you are doing right, or wrong.  Maybe you gain an idea about how to create something similar for your own home.  Or maybe you find a new way to use something that otherwise would be tossed out.  This is especially true for a garden.  Knowledge gained for free is free prepping.

Shutter box planter box for annual vegetable garden.For example, while traveling this week, we noticed this unique garden box.  Clearly it was not a flower garden.  We had to know more about it, but since we didn’t live in the community we didn’t’ know how well received we would be if we knocked on the door.  As luck would have it, the owner of the flower box just happened to stop by our host’s home to borrow a screw driver.

AHA!  The perfect opportunity to ask about the garden box.  As it turned out, Rachael was in the process of moving and had taken the rest of her garden to her new home.  She couldn’t take the box.

Rachael and Jerry used old window shutters that were going to be discarded to form the sides of the box.  They filled it with 100 fifty pound bags of compost dirt they got from the county landfill.  The first year they planted flowers, and every year after that they planted vegetable seeds staged for various harvest times.

Rachael was careful to plant according to space and time to harvest so that some plants would be harvesting while others were still growing.  This is important because they live in zone 6a as defined by the USDA plant hardiness map.  She harvested fast growing vegetables like peas, green  beans, and radishes while the slow growing vegetables like acorn squash, eggplant, and cucumbers were taking their time.  She did all of this in the same planting box at the same time.  As each vegetable was ready to harvest, they enjoyed them fresh and canned or froze the remaining produce.

Because they enjoyed the produce so much, Rachael and Jerry took their gardening another step further.  They decided You can grow almost anything in a bucket garden.to container garden using five gallon buckets and old wooden barrels.  In those containers they have several varieties of tomatoes, peppers, yellow corn and multi-color corn,  green and yellow watermelon varieties.

In the end, their garden is successful and has brought them happiness to see their labor return their favorite foods to eat for several years and will for many years to come.  To see more images of Rachael and Jerry’s garden go to the gallery.