Sunday, July 29, 2012

What's the Plan Now?

What's the plan?  That is the the next question we face.  

As much as we would like to think we prepare, this summer confirms that we're not in control.  Until this morning we haven't had a drop of rain in weeks, and today isn't a good soaking rain, just a gentle spot rain here and there.  It isn't enough to save the garden, the bushes or provide nourishing moisture for the failing crops.

What many people don't realize is that the drought is more than a slight inconvenience to summer activities or a hobby garden next to the patio. The impact to our lives can be enormous, outside of grocery store produce.  The farmers here are selling off their beef now because there isn't anything to graze them on.  They are feeding their cattle the same hay that was supposed to sustain them through the winter.  This will cause a glut of cattle to hit the market resulting in lower prices now.  That might sound good on the surface but think of the ramifications.  In another year, beef will be sky high, and anything made from beef byproducts.  

Corn, wheat and soybeans are suffering.  Ears are barely producing and the cost of harvesting these poor ears may exceed their profits.  Some are simply plowing their fields under.  With less corn in the market, prices will rise.  This isn't just your basic canned corn or a few good ears on the bbq or roasted edamames.  This affects your entire supply chain from food to clothing and industrial applications.   

Non Food Uses for Corn
Adhesives, cardboard, charcoal (a binding), plastics, medicines, distillation, cosmetics, pet foods, sweeteners, ethanol, oils, hypoallergenic bedding and even tattoo inks! It's not only about eating the kernels but about the starches, oils and fibers. What does end up in the produce section of your local grocery will likely be affected by transportation costs.  Barge traffic is affected by low river levels with some ports completely closed to commercial traffic.  Now you're looking at potentially rail along with trucks running on diesel which is at a premium.

What about wheat?
Again, paper products, construction materials, fuels, medical supplies, health and beauty products, textiles and other industrial applications.  

Everything.  Think about everything that is soy related from the flour to seeds, hulls and oils.  The list is too numerous to mention but again encompasses food, construction, medical  and textile applications.

Now that we know these crops are used in making plastics, cardboard and adhesives, think about packaging.  Everything you purchase in a package may be affected.  Manufacturers will have to pass on higher costs to consumers - this is already happening so think of what costs packaging will add.

Prices will rise.  Income isn't going up too quickly.  
How much more can you cut back?
So, what's the plan?
I don't have the answers - I'm trying to figure it out.  

Can, dehyrate and vacuum seal where you can.  Watch for sales on canned goods, dried beans and pastas. Put up some shelves in your basement if you have room and store what you can which you find a good price.

Personally I would warn against freezing too much.  It's fine to freeze some of your stock pile but in times of high heat there are also chances of power outages.  For anyone who has not gone for a week or better without power, it's a battle to keep your perishables safe.  One the members of our blogging community discussed the recent outages when powerful storms came through their area shutting down power for an extended time.  People lost food that had to be frozen or kept cool.  Pantry items were consumed, store shelves depleted.  Then how do you restock unless you have ample funds, not to mention the extra costs associated with maintaining your household during these outages.  Their power company is currently sending shut off notices to those that fell behind during this time and can't afford  the payment arrangements the company is demanding.  Some of these are folks that struggle paycheck to paycheck.  Working folk that just need a break.  

Not all dinged and dented cans are bad.  Check the USDA dating charts  to see what is not acceptable, everything else should be ok.  Don't let expiration dates fool you either.  They are generally Best By dates and I know some of the guidelines for food panties allow for a year past expiration on vegetables such as green beans but no allowance on any baby formulas.

I discussed Early Crops  but neglected to look at drought tolerant crops.  From what I have pulled off seed catalogs and the internet:  black eyed peas (cow peas), millet, sorghum, spinach, collards, mustard greens- some of the same early crops I found.  Tomatoes, surprisingly, are drought tolerant.  I found a discussion that speaks about a method where you intentionally do not water them until their leaves start to turn yellow.  It forces the plant to concentrate on fruit production rather than vining.   Beans, if I could keep the darned deer away, tolerate drought well, particularly pole or snap beans with a short growing season.   Also squash, which might explain my success this year even if I did battle the squash bugs.  Deep rooted vegetables reach water where shallow rooted do not.

Using grey water is a good alternative so long as you watch your detergents.  Accumulating additives can damage your crops more than the water is helping.   I have seen some posts where plumbing (from sinks) is disconnected, allowing the water to run into a bucket.  You would need to move this water immediately if humidity is a factor, again being cautious of what you are putting down the sink.  Mulching where advised - not for squash. Drip hoses rather than sprinklers will allow your water to be placed exactly where you need it rather than spreading it over grasses and weeds. 

Shop resale shops, particularly the ones that use proceeds to help the poor and hungry.  There is no shame in purchasing second hand items especially if those purchases allow the organization to collect money for utility bills, food and rent for those in desperate need.  Many sell items for $x.xx per BAG!   One stay at home mom that I knew installed shelving in her basement.  With six kids and very limited income, she knew she had to score some great deals to outfit the kids.  Well, with six children spread over five ages, she purchased whatever was in the resale shop in several sizes.  She folded them and placed them on the appropriate size shelf.  Somewhere along the line Someone will be able to wear those jeans or this T-shirt.  Brilliant.
Seek out fabric sales at your local quilt shops, fabric store or on line sources.  Many are reduced down to $4-6 per yard, far less than the $8-12 for new lines.  Those same fabric were all the rage just a few months ago and will look just a nice made into tops, skirts or home decor.  Many second hand purchases can be repurposed cheaply into wonderful items.  Check Totally Tutorials for some great ideas shared by our blogging friends!  

Conserve what you have--don't waste.  Be cautious with your purchases. If you need a critical product, stock up on it just in case.  What will it hurt?  If everything works out just fine, you got a great deal on something you needed anyway.

For guidance and mercy.  For ourselves and all those in need.
As we have seen, we are not in control. 

What's Your Plan?
I'd like to know, maybe it will be my plan too.


LindaG said...

Definitely prayer.
What soaps would you recommend, if I decide to use grey water for watering? I had read somewhere you should not use it for fruits and vegetables, only trees and bushes.

Thanks so much for this post!

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

I looked at the New Mexico State University site and they say gray water is ok for crops but perhaps not root crops eaten raw. Again, it depends on what is in your water and how fast you use it, etc.

The soap would have to be mild and biodegradable.
There is a discussion here but I am hoping other bloggers will make some recommendations. I believe some have their own recipes that are safe

LindaG said...

Thank you, Kathy.

Angie said...

what a great post!

Candy C. said...

I'm trying to stock up on basic pantry items. I'm also trying to convince hubby that we need to buy hay now to last through the winter for our animals as I fear it is going to go sky high very soon and there may not even be much available.

Lisa said...

Kathy, you and I are kindred spirits! We really think so much alike. I am sorry to hear you are personally suffering in this drought. My area has had a fair amount of rain this summer and haven't been affected as badly as you have. It's just been so hot. I agree with everything you say and am trying also to warn people especially young moms. You are right about the freezer too...after Hurricane Fran I lost everything in my freezer. So my emphasis is on canning and dehydrating now. I think people should think ahead to a very cold winter too. (I know that sounds crazy) but securing extra fire wood now would be a good thing. Thanks for this post ...I learned some new things.
The Way Grandmama Does It

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

Yes, I've noticed that. So many don't see it or choose to hide from it. It can't happen here! We try to start cutting early and then try to keep it dry- no barn or anything but a wood stove has saved us through some winters!

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

They were actually lifting bans on selling hay across state borders (maybe it was a tax or something???) You should get some now. It can't hurt.

Yahoobuckaroo's Blog said...

There was a guy on TV the other day who sells crops at Soulard Market, and he was saying that the heat has actually been very good for his crops. He's not a big farmer, just a huge garden more or less that's easy to water. He said that the heat is good for destroying bacteria and germs, and that as long as he could irrigate, the crops were better than ever. He didn't mention where his water came from though. He must have had a natural spring or well I think; otherwise the water might have cost him more than the crops were worth. His produce did look really good though.

The Southern Peach-Girls said...

This is excellent advice! I was planning on purchasing extra clothing as well since we have 7 children. I would suggest looking on freecycle (we've gotten some amazing clothing off there) and craigslist.

I have been buying extra each time I do my big grocery shopping (two times a month). I also purchase some of the 5 gallon empty paint buckets (they are food grade) to store the extras in. I've only been doing this for the past four months or so. At first it didn't even seem to make a dent! But now, months later I am seeing the "pile" growing. Every little bit really does add up.

I would also advice watching the free video online, "Back to Eden". I am not sure it may help now, but it may be worth looking into.

I've been reading Joel Salatin's most recent book, "Folks This Ain't Normal". I can't say 'amen' enough to the idea of all of us doing our part to be growing edibles in our own yards. I love his ideas of turning the road medians into growing spaces. Again, not something that may make a difference this year, but I think these are some wonderful ideas that we will ALL need to really dwell on. I have been dreaming up ideas of how to spread these ideas to my neighborhood.


Kathy Felsted Usher said...

Heat's not necessarily bad, if you have rain and if your vegetables won't scald. I would have had to rig up a covering for my side garden, the one that gets shade earlier didn't scald. Even the vines burned. I water my hostas every day and they usually thrive- everyone loves them, but the are burnt this year, shriveled edges all papery and brown. Even my hardiest native perennial "weeds" flowers are withering. Watering is a problem for us, enough to counteract the heat. The time alone if you work and then the electric to run our well. Now my squash did well, but it's drought resistant.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

Thank you. We try to get people on board but there is so much resistance to preparing as if everything will always be the same. I hear "Back to Eden" is wonderful. As far as edible landscaping, it's time to make a push for this and fight back against the homeowner associations that don't allow it, or clotheslines, a couple of chickens ( I get the rooster ordinances).

LindaG said...

Which 5 gallon paint buckets are food grade? The ones sold by the big box stores?

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

We have some that our daughter got us from the restaurant she works at. They just throw them away. I see that there are several out there to choose from, maybe Southern Peach Girls will respond. I've seen several sources while browsing the internet and facebook.

LindaG said...

I knew the restaurant buckets were food grade. :o)
I never heard of paint buckets that were food grade. We use the big buckets for lots of things, so if I could use them for that, too, it would be great!

The Southern Peach-Girls said...

I get our 5 gallon buckets in the paint isle at Walmart. I think the bucket runs around $2.50 and the lid is about $1.15. So far I have had no luck sourcing free buckets. I've called around but eveyone wanted at least a dollar or two for their used buckets. On the bottom of the bucket there should be a number within a triangle. If that number is "2" then it is food grade. These paint buckets are all number 2's. I've been able to get a decent price on gamma seal lids from Baytech Containers online. The cheapest I've seen so far.

LindaG said...

Thank you for all the information!