Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Taking Stock

I'm taking a little time today to look over where I stand as far as food security goes. If I got snowed in today by the blizzard to end all blizzards and couldn't get to the store for weeks, how would I fare? And beyond that, if something equally catastrophic but more slowly unfolding were to happen, such as total economic collapse, how well would I be positioned to ride something like that out?

The short answer is that for a brief emergency I'd be in good shape. For anything lasting longer than a few weeks or months I'd come up short, but probably be in much better shape than most people.

From last year's garden I've still got pesto, chard, chard stalks, zucchini, green beans, tomato paste, butternut squash soup, butternut squash puree, pickles, zucchini pickles, beet preserves, hot sauce, tomato sauce, tomato juice, ketchup, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, sauerkraut, spinach pasta, dried oregano, and fresh rosemary. I've also got tons of dried beans and legumes. I haven't started buying those in bulk yet, but I've got two pounds of this, two pounds of that. Altogether probably about 12-15 pounds of beany things, and then 7 or 8 pounds of rice. I buy refined flour by the twenty-five pound sack and I've got perhaps 15 pounds of the current sack left. And then various smaller bags of other flours: whole wheat, graham, rye, teff, and cornmeal (I'm all out of semolina). I've got plenty of salt: sea salt, iodized salt, pickling salt, and coarse kosher salt. And a whole arsenal of dried herbs and spices. And plenty of seeds for sprouts. I've got a large can of olive oil and several tubs of lard, both of which keep fairly well (and lots of butter which is obviously more perishable). With all of that I could eat well for quite some time. I could make soups, pastas, beans, rice, all sorts of bread products, stir-fries and more. Where I'm weak is with meat and dairy and also, this time of year, fresh fruits and veggies. We'd run out fast. Especially of eggs, milk, and butter.

I also took stock of where I stand with seeds and plants for this year's garden--and that's actually looking really good. I've got seeds here for nearly fifty different types of fruits, veggies, beans, grains, seeds, and herbs (combined). Some of those are seeds leftover from previous years, so they're of questionable viability (although I typically have great luck with old seeds). All in all though it represents a huge variety of foods and a nice range of nutritional qualities. I still need to buy my seed potatoes for this year and I have a list of other seeds I still need or want. I ran out of seeds for some of my most favorite veggies, so I'll at least be getting those: beets, chard, spinach, peas, green beans, and butternut squash. But some items on the wish list will probably end up waiting for another year.

If a disaster were to strike today and be ongoing I think I could get through the rest of the winter with what I've got. Springtime would be rough, before the garden was in full swing, but from summertime on I'd be okay.

Doing this thought exercise reminds me just how desperately I'd love to start raising my own hens and meat rabbits. Maybe I need to focus on those priorities a little better. And also I realized that I'm extremely vulnerable if there were a sustained power outage, since electricity powers everything in my house: heat, lights, stove, etc. For cooking I'd just need to get a camping stove and lots of fuel. For heat I'd be up a creek. Fortunately I can always go to a friend's house where there's a wood stove for cooking and heating.

This year I want to make a concerted effort to start a food storage plan. Ideally I'd like to accumulate a two year supply. It just seems smart to be prepared for anything. I read an author the other day who said that the western home was like a person on life support, utterly dependent on things outside itself for survival. We have everything we need piped in from somewhere else (electricity, natural gas, water, food, etc.) and all of our wastes carried off for us (trash, recyclables, black water, gray water). That leaves us incredibly vulnerable. I think it's in every family's best interest to take back responsibility for all of these critical needs, or as many of them as possible.

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