Friday, November 19, 2010

An economic collapse can be a good thing

When I was growing up my family lived on a farm. We had cows, horses, chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, geese, rabbits, cats, dogs and other critters we'd raised or dragged home from who knows where. Mom planted a garden each year that took up nearly an acre. There was always plenty of fresh milk for drinking and making butter with. I remember helping pluck lots of chickens and scrape a few hogs at the time too. We didn't have much money but there was always plenty to eat, piles of hand-me-down clothes to wear and we made our own fun.

Each day now we are constantly bombarded with bad economic news and I've learned not to trust anything the media or the president tells me about recovery, recession, depression, booms and busts. I choose not to participate. I choose to take charge of my life and that of my family's health, safety and well being. Sure it may take some know how and cash to accomplish this but I'm not about to sit around waiting for FEMA to arrive if life goes haywire.

You need to start with a plan. Make a cup of tea, sit down with pen and paper, take a deep breath and begin to plan. The basics you need to survive are water, food, shelter and security. Make lists and set goals. One of my goals is to regain some of the skills I learned while living on the family farm. I remember helping my mom make butter 40 years ago so the other day I decided to relearn how it's done. I could recall the ingredients but wasn't sure about the process so I ventured to where I usually go for assistance...Youtube! I'm a big fan of Youtube and love the rawness of those homemade videos with squealing babies in the background, unpredictable animals and the amateurish quality of those performing for the camera. The 10 minute windows into the lives of those wanting to share their knowledge (or stupidity) are a hoot!

Several videos later I decided the best appliance in our kitchen for making butter was my hubby's Kitchen Aid mixer. Mind you my hubby bought this appliance when our first born was very young (she's now 24) and up until now I had never used it myself. I've made two batches of creamy butter in the past week and know that should the grid collapse I can make this staple using many other methods that don't require electricity. Now all I need to do is make nice with a local farmer so I'll have a ready supply of cream.

My second attempt at making homemade butter...not bad!

Another skill I wanted to relearn was the fine art of bread making. Again, the Kitchen Aid proved its value in the kitchen. You need to understand something here. Years ago I gave up cooking. My hubby found cooking to be an enjoyable past time so gradually he took over the kitchen. It was a welcome relief to me and my children thoroughly enjoyed helping dad in the kitchen. I didn't mind shopping for the food or growing it and I was happy enough to clean up after but the cooking part was not a pleasant experience for me. In college my survival tools consisted of a can opener and a lunch card.

Maybe growing up on the farm turned me off to cooking because when we cooked then it was for 20 people, including 10 children, parents, hired hands and stragglers. It was like cooking for an army. When my son was 4 years old he caught me one evening preparing to boil a pan of water to make pasta. As he climbed onto the kitchen stool to watch he innocently chimed, "Mom, you know how to cook?" Yesterday while standing there making the butter my astonished now 19 year old son inquired, "What are you doing in the kitchen?" Still not sure if it was a serious question or he was revealing his rather dry wit.

I not only wanted to make the bread but I wanted to be able to grind the flour for it as well so the hunt was on for a grain mill. Reviewing grain mills online was a little disheartening because most of the better ones sold in the range of $200.00 to $400.00! I knew there had to be a less expensive and simpler way so I went back to my roots once again. I remembered my mom having an old hand crank meat grinder. It was similar to some of the newfangled grain mills online so I decided to do some more research on these old grinders. It was time to visit the antique shops because if you're looking for gadgets that were made to last a life time these are the places to go.

Lo and behold, I found a grinder at an antique mall that had a round blade I didn't recognize. No holes for the meat to pass through so it must be for milling. I was right. After lots of experimenting I was able to mill oats, wheat berries, dry beans and even popcorn! This sweet little mill will also grind up cacao nibs, something none of our electric appliances can do thoroughly. The best part of this discovery is that the antique meat grinder/mill only cost me $20.00!

Antique Keen Kutter meat grinder-food chopper-grain mill.

Some left over rolled oats in the hopper after milling for bread.

There is nothing like making your own butter or bread and feeling the satisfaction it brings knowing you can do these things. It is also gratifying knowing the fruits of your labor and love are much healthier for you and the finished products are thoroughly enjoyed by family members. It's been about 20 years since I last made a loaf of bread but the knack is still there and I was quick to remember many of the basic steps that make the difference between a good loaf of bread and a great loaf of bread. These were great ones!

Homemade wheat and oat bread hot from the oven.

Another of the staples you'll need on your food list is beans. Lots and lots and lots of beans in all shapes, sizes and flavors. Dry beans are best because they'll store longer. You can grow your own and dry them too for eating or next year's planting providing they're heirloom seeds and not hybrid. I wanted to see if I could make a decent pot of bean soup without it tasting like mushy cardboard. This time I cheated a little and used some packaged seasoning but I managed to concoct what I call a depression-hobo soup with 15 different kinds of beans, some limp carrots and wilted celery I found lurking around in the back of the fridge, chicken stock, dried basil, a dollop of my homemade butter, along with some canned turkey and Spam Lite I sent through the antique meat grinder. Actually, it was all very edible. Even my son's friend complimented the soup but a strapping 6 foot tall 19 year old guy may not be a fussy eater to begin with. However, I'll take the compliments where I can get them especially when it is directed at my cooking.

My version of depression-hobo soup...good eatin' if I say so myself.

So you see an economic collapse can be a good thing. It forces you to reach deep into your roots and brings long forgotten skills back to the surface where they just might save your life. I'm relearning and polishing those old skills and plan to learn some new ones as well. A great way to prepare for an economic setback is to research how great-grandma and great-grandpa lived and survived. Where did they get their food? What tools did they use? What skills did they have? Can you learn them too? Of course you can. Being prepared takes away much of the apprehension and fear of uncertainty. It will bring you some much needed peace of mind knowing you can do these things and you have the right tools to do them with. Without that apprehension and fear you'll be better able to help your family, friends and neighbors get through a rough spell too.

These tough economic times are a great opportunity to teach your homeschooled children about what they need to do to be self-reliant, self-motivated and skillful at surviving. Go and learn to bake bread, or learn to fish, or start a wood stove, or stitch a cut, or gather rain water, or raise some chickens, or grow a garden, or do whatever you think you may need to so you won't be waiting for the likes of FEMA or someone else to rescue you. Your life may depend on it.

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Tessa said...

I wish I had some of these skills. I'm just now learning of the real state of the economy. Yep, I've been living under a rock. I was happy in my ignorant state, but that is sure not where I want to stay. I am starting to see the dire need to have these skills. I currently possess none of them. I feel like I don't know where to begin and all the things I will need to have/to learn seem a little overwhelming at times. I try to remember to take things one step at a time and any action towards preparedness is a positive thing. Thanks for blog posts like this. I will be subscribing to your blog asap!

Cindy Wade said...

Thanks, Tessa. A great place to start learning some of these skills is by reading some back to basics books on the subject. If you're in the country start homesteading. Having livestock is a great way to learn because you'll need to take care of them and nature has a way of providing stark lessons in survival. Chickens are great for beginners. I'm just happy more people are waking up from their economic coma and are starting to take charge of their lives. If you are sincerely trying to learn and prepare then others who are further ahead will be more willing to help you if the poop really does hit the fan in this country. Good luck!