Late winter brings seed catalogues and I know a great dealof preppers that joyfully flip through the pages of heirloom vegetables and medicinal herbs. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great fun (for gardening types at least) and gets us in the mood for anew growing season that brings the opportunity to put up some more nutritious foods.
There are a number of considerations we must keep in mind when choosing what to grow in our home gardens and homesteads. Hardiness zones, sun exposure, growing season length all play a part in our choices, but how many of us consider long term storage abilities?
There are any number of ways to preserve harvests employed by preppers these days. Home canning and dehydrating are probably the most popular. Home freeze drying is also gaining popularity. The problem with these methods is that they are at least partly dependant on funtioning power grid or other reliable source of energy…a lot of energy.
Home canning is a great way to preserve food while the grid is up. Of course, a propane cook stove would be handy when the grid goes down, but that is still a limited resource. Eventually, you will run out of fuel. While there are some great wood fired cook stoves onthe market, using these with a pressure canner is a tricky skill to learn, and many simply won’t be able to regulate the cook top temperature well enough to make it safe.
Home canning works best with a very well regulated cook top temperature. Additionally, there are some supply issues when it comes to jar lids. While I have been known to reuse some of my lids, most of them simply can’t be reused. Reusable Tattler lids do help with this problem, but you will still need to replace the rubber rings every few years. Once again, we could stock up on canning lids of either type, but that supply willeventually run out. Even switching to Tattler lids may not be possible. Prices for these lids have at least doubled in the few years since I bought mine, now going for at least $20 per dozen.
Dehydrating is also popular among preppers. Home dehydrators use a fan and a heating element to slowly remove moisture from foods, making them shelf stable. While dehydrated fruits, veggies, and herbs will last quite a while when properly stored, meats don’t fare so well. I once made hamburger nuggets (a popular prepper fad at the time) just to throw it all out just one month later.
Don’t get me wrong. Dehydrating works well while on the grid, but once we become unplugged, the game changes. Using a generator seems out of the question due to the fuel required to run a generator for the 8 to 12 hours it might take to properly dry your food. There is solar, but installing a solar system that can generate and store that much energy is likely out of the realm of affordable for most. If you do want to run an electric dehydrator off grid, you are most likely restricted to a micro hydro generator or straight up solar dehydrating. Micro hydro would be a great way to generate the energy required, but most of us don’t have the running water resource to do it.
Since the average prepper doesn’t have several years worth of stored food (most preppers still struggle to put up a one year supply) we must produce and preserve food on an ongoing basis. Growing, foraging, farming, and hunting will be the main sources of food when SHTF. Here are a few ways to preserve it all without electricity or fossil fuels.
Solar dehydrators do work, but are weather dependant. Not to mention that humidity levels in Canada are quite high just when the harvest is coming in. This will lengthen the dehydrating time, thus lowering your output over time. If you do plan to use solar dehydrators, I recommend getting started now, so you won’t be in a learning curve when you need to have the process down to a science.
Root cellaring is a great option for many foods. This method requires some infrastructure that should be inplace before SHTF, but requires no energy to work. These can be built in your basement if you have one, dug into a hillside, or constructed above ground and covered with several feet of earth. In addition to preserving winter and root vegetables, along with certain varieties of hard fruit, these also make a great place to store any canned goods you might have. A properly installed root cellar can also double as a storm/bomb shelter.
Hoof storage is something most preppers never think about, but provides the freshest meats possible. Keeping small livestock such as foul or rabbit is a great way to provide a constant supply of meat. Small livestock can be harvested as needed and can be self sustaining. In close relation to that is dinner pot hunting. Hunting for smaller game such as duck, turkey, or even those animals usually considered varmits is a great option. Snaring and trapping is independant of ammunition supplies and ahandy skill to posess. Fishing is another option if you have access to a good body of water. When hunting, keep sustainability in mind to ensure a constant supply.
In conclusion, while you sit cozy indoors with a cup of herbal tea, browsing seed catalogues or considering fruit trees for your property, keep preservation in mind. How will you preserve delicate fruits or spring peas without the aid of the electric grid or fossil fuel supply chain?