I’m Building Infrastructure to Support My Future Food Supply

farming in the 1800s
We could be back to farming by horse in a TEOTWAWKI situation.

There is a three-piece article on building prepper infrastructure by 3AD Scout that is appearing this week on SurvivalBlog.com. It struck a cord with me and is well worth reading.

3AD Scout makes many good points, some of which should be familiar to our readers, including:

  • The complexity of our modern society and how one interruption can cause a domino effect;
  • The need to be a generalist after a TEOWAWKI event, competent in many areas, rather than a specialist who can do only one thing; and
  • That our stockpiles will run out and we will need to supply water, food and medical care for ourselves, even after we have eaten the last can of food or used the last antibiotic.

Food, Water, and Shelter

We have shelter: A log house with a wood stove and a fireplace.

We have water: A gravity-fed system (and we hope we’ve ironed the bugs out of it). This means the water will run when the electricity is off. Even though it will be cold water, it will be better than nothing.

Right now, food is the biggest challenge on my list. As 3AD Scout states, our canned food will run out. We will eventually consume our dehydrated and freeze-dried food.

Nature provides water in our part of the country. Nature is far more picky about putting food on your table. You have to really work at it. That is the reason I am building a chicken coop and restarting my beekeeping hobby. The chicken coop, the bee yard, the fenced garden and the raised beds are examples of my planned prepper infrastructure.

Food is difficult to provide for yourself. Gardening is hard work, takes skill and experience as well as land, equipment, and seed stock. Berry bushes and orchards take time to mature. Livestock sounds easy, but that is with our modern systems to support us. Your chickens can be wiped out in a single night, and it will be much harder to replace them in a survival situation.

Livestock the Old Fashioned Way

I posted recently about a beekeeper who lost all his hives but one over the winter. Unfortunately, this is not unheard of. There’s no way I can stock enough sugar to feed ten hives for a year or more. I can’t stockpile that much pollen replacement. The products that help control mites have a shelf life of only one to two years. So in a year or two after a societal collapse, beekeepers will have to manage their hives in a completely different manner. That translates to less honey available for consumption or barter as the bees will need to keep it for themselves.

Chickens also can die or be killed, often by predators. We can store only a limited amount of chicken feed, and I expect we will save it for the bitterly cold winter months when there is little for chickens to eat in the wild. The rest of the year, our chickens will have to free range to feed themselves. We have enough room for the flock to do that, but we may need to have someone watch over them. Coyotes, dogs, foxes, bobcats, and hawks prey on chickens. At night in their coop, a weasel could kill them all if it gets in. Other predators include raccoons, skunks, and even possums. Cold weather or disease could kill them or weaken the flock. (For example, chickens can get frostbite.)

It won’t be much easier for people who raise cattle or other large animals. There will be no deworming medications, no antibiotics, no commercial feed, and the day may come when all your hay and silage must be harvested by hand or possibly horse-drawn equipment. With the possible exception of the Amish, no one is ready for that scenario.

What does a farmer with 500 head do when there are no trucks to haul the herd to the slaughter house and he has no means to preserve the meat if he butchers one himself? A smart man will trade most of them to local families with a few acres.

Go Back 150 Years

I’ve often compared a post-collapse world to that of the late 1800s, but most people won’t have the skills our great-great grandparents grew up with, nor will there be the infrastructure they had then. There will be no iceman to bring you a block of ice for your ice box, and no farrier to shoe your horse should you are lucky enough to have one. Don’t expect the local dairy to deliver your milk and cream or the butcher to have the meat you want. The infrastructure that used to exist outside towns and cities is no longer within wagon distance; in many cases it is not even within the same state. When the 18-wheelers cease to roll, the shelves will empty quicker than you can say, “The end of the world as we know it.”

And it is not only food that will be scarce, but water from utilities when the chlorine runs out, fire and police service, EMS and hospitals. Dentist and doctors will have skills, but won’t be able to access the modern infrastructure on which they rely. Medications will dry up and something like high cholesterol or hypertension, which are easily controllable today, could lead to a heart attack or stroke even in someone who appears healthy. People with serious diseases won’t be able to get treatment or medications.

The only hope for many city residents will be to escape the urban area and find a farmer who will give you room and board in return for hard labor. Without gasoline, diesel and electricity, the labor will be hard indeed, and the people who have no usable skills may be little better than serfs.

An Example from Fiction

Earlier this month, I reviewed the book World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler, a novel that takes place a decade or so after the collapse of the United States. The characters refer to the pre-collapse society as “The old times.” I am currently reading the sequel, The Witch of Hebron. In chapter 26, two characters spend the night in an abandoned home built “At the height of the real estate ‘bubble.’” This is how the author describes it:

In the old times, people of means built their houses anywhere they pleased. It was not necessary to live close to a town. It was not necessary to follow any rural way of life. In the old times, even the few farmers who remained did not put in kitchen gardens. It was not necessary when the supermarkets overflowed with food from all over the world, and a dizzying extravaganza of foodlike products poured out of American’s own factory labs, and the back roads were full of cars taking people effortlessly to indoor jobs that were also effortless, if tedious, and paid princely cash-money subsidies. Houses the like one on Goose Island Road were the first to be abandoned when the times rolled over.

That sounds right on target to me.

Today’s complex systems support our way of life, and when those systems collapse, we’re going to have to adapt or die. I think many will fall into the latter category. Those preppers without infrastructure or a plan to build it will just die later when their food buckets are empty. Those with prepper infrastructure in place before a disaster will be better able to adapt.