Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Thinking back over the hurricanes...sustainability thoughts

When the superstorm Hurricane Sandy hit the East coast it really made a mess, some people still have no homes and no electricity ..months later. So now the subject comes up of sustainability.

Sure we all consume things year around that we wouldn't have if we were hit by a similar tragedy..and we could do without them quite eaisly should tragedy strike, like this computer, my paid t v, cell phones, etc.

But I'm thinking more about actually being able to survive, live, without the government stepping in to do things for us, no FEMA, Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.

I'm thinking that this year I would like to become a little more able to sustain LIFE should something serious happen here. No not preppers or survivalists, but just able to sustain LIFE.

The things we NEED (not want) are shelter, food, heat in Michigan, water and in some cases medical equipment or supplies.

Shelter is a given as long as our home is intact (and we do have good insurance as we did lose a home to a housefire in 2002). We also have camping equipment and tents if we had to use them and live next door to our son so if one of us lost a home the other could provide.

Heat here in Michigan is very important. We have a new outdoor wood boiler and an indoor wood fired fireplace, both have electric fans and outdoor one has electric pump. The indoor wood fireplace would heat the house somewhat without the fan, but much better with the fan. However, we purchased a propane generator a couple years ago and when we had a prolonged power outage last March it was quite useful in running fans, refrigeration, pumps, etc. We have about a year's supply of propane at any time as well as a couple small back up tanks and our propane barbeque grill and propane camp stove. We have a large woodshed and always have about 2 years of firewood put up in the fall ahead, so we could get along for a while with that and have chainsaws so we can cut some as long as there is fuel for them.

I also have durable medical equipment that we use with our generator when we have to, when power goes out.

Water, well as I said we have the generator that will move the pumps, but we also have access to a flowing well in an emergency and creeks within walking distance of our house as well, so water isn't too much of a problem, more an inconvenience if we had to haul it.

Food, this is an area where I'm falling short. I have planted serious food forest gardens, but because we lost most of them in our housefire of 2002 ..many of our fruit trees and nut trees are very young. This year we are hoping to have a lot more of a harvest off of our fruit and nut trees and our berry bushes and grapevines, but last year was a disaster with our frosts and droughts. I really need to work on the food side of sustainability here. I have a canner and a small pressure cooker and water bath canner, and supplies, but I would love to buy a NEW canner this year and a lot more supplies. I also have a dehydrater and drying racks as well, so drying is something I do quite a bit of each year. I have 2 separate freezers from my refrigerator, but keeping those going with the generator would be a tad more difficult if it was prolonged need..but if it was I could remove the food and can it, cook it or dry it before running out of propane.

I have planted a lot of foods that can easily be eaten that are perennial in our area, and we have a lot of forage options that non foragers wouldn't recognize as food, like edible tree leaves and flower garden plant roots and flowers, etc..so this knowledge would save our lives in a food shortage situation.

Meat, well that is another situation that might be a problem as at this time we have no domestice animals other than 2 cats (who would bring us songbirds and mice, yuk)..but we have a lot of wildlife in our area which we do feed and we have ability to hunt and process those. I hope to get myself a flock of chickens in the spring and get a chicken house and run built, and am also thinking of putting a few ducks on my pond. This year we are trying a "bubbler" to keep the pond open in the winter, which is working, but does require electricity to run. This said, we can plant fish in the pond with the bubbler going that would be edible as well..so that is a plan for spring, stocking the pond with fish.

There are a lot of deer and rabbits and squirrels and other wildlife that is edible in our area and even game birds like turkey, pheasant, doves, etc. So as long as we are able to harvest them we will have meat but I do believe this is an area I need to plan better for in the future.

Fuel for vehicles and tractor is one thing that we might fall short of also, but we have bicycles and I enjoy walking, so access to transportation in the nice weather isn't a problem, I don't ski so some snowshoes might be a good investment in the future as well.

I'm sure that additions of some solar cells with batteries or a wind generator would be a good investment, which we have been considering but haven't had the $ to buy the equipment yet, and we are planning on putting in an outside access water well, hopefully will hit a flowing well, in the next two years which we  believe would be a good investment for our future.

I hope this has given you some ideas of what you might need to do if a Hurricane Sandy, or earthquake, or tornado, or housefire, or SHTF episode happens, or even for a zombi apocolypse hits..at least it has gotten me thinking a little more about the future in 2013..Happy New Year


  1. Money is the issue to be sure! I am inspired by your edible food forest and how lucky you are to be living where rainfall is so reliable (aside from last years drought that is!)... I am rethinking my food forest and am planting Mediterranean species predominantly shored up with a few hardy Northern species like chestnuts (that will grow with our lower rainfall). Nuts, a few fruits and lots of duel purpose plantings...I am SO glad that my husband and I both studied horticulture! You never like to think of emergencies but it is important to do so...we are 50km away from the city but we do have small towns 5km away...no bikes here so we might have to rectify that in the near future and we do have a wood burning 4 burner oven that heats our water in winter and gas in summer...it is very difficult to become entirely off grid without money and the ironic thing is that its only we peole without money that really want to go off grid! ;) Thank you for sharing your amazing story with us all and for inspiring me, especially, to really get stuck into that food forest in earnest :)

  2. Great to hear from you, I'm 5 miles from the nearest town which is tiny (no grocery store and 1 gas station). The nearest town with a real grocery store other than a mini mart is nearly 20 miles away by expressway, so that is where I generally shop. I was discussing this thread with my son yesterday when we took a trip to that town. We were talking about things like getting some snare and net material for birds and rabbits and traps for larger animals, the guns and things work well enough for the deer and bear, etc. Our neighbors just put in a bunch of rainbow trout and perch into their pond, and they said the trout won't breed in a pond (didn't know that) so I'm thinking of finding some sort of fish that WILL breed, and of course I'm still wanting those chickens !!