(2005; Contributed by Oilman2)
To this point, we’ve covered preserving food on-hand and keeping cool in the Sunbelt heat. But what of that all important driver, your empty stomach?
Let’s be honest here. Estimates put the majority of the US population as overweight, if not obese. I am overweight, and you probably are too. We could all use letting go of McMuffins, Whoppers and Big Montanas. But we need to consider that children need their food as they are growing. Adults also need food, for when the body is deprived of food entirely, it begins to eat not just fat but muscle tissue. Thinking becomes more difficult on an empty stomach, while emotions tend to run high as we are subconsciously anxious.
Where does one get food in a suburban environment?? Well, the first thing I would recommend, as a prophylactic measure, is that everyone grows a small raised bed garden at a minimum. There is a wealth of information on this technology, and it has been proven extremely effective by our neighbors in Cuba, who have already gone through their own “peak oil” problem.
Obviously, this worked for them with a lot of support from their government. We will have no support from ours in the event of a sudden weeks-long power outage. In a longer emergency, there will likewise be a shortage of communication as the ubiquitous TV becomes mute, and probably no help from the Powers That Be. So what can a man do to be sure he can always feed his family no matter what?
The answer is organic raised bed gardening. There are literally hundreds of internet sites to help you down this path, but to simplify things: you build a container of available materials of a size where you can readily work around all 4 sides and reach the center. You combine your native soil with organic compost and make it very nice food for plants. You plant and tend this patch regularly so that it is tremendously abundant in terms of production. Some starting links:
Obviously for this to be effective as a buffer against temporary food shortage, you will need to combine it into your lifestyle as a “hobby”. And if you keep it small, it can supplement your daily food intake. However, you should be forewarned; most people, after actually growing and eating their own vegetables, will find that they taste significantly better than store bought produce. And they are guaranteed fresh and 100% organic too. The typical result is that the family begins to expand their garden patch until they are actually only buying things that cannot be grown locally, or during the winter.
If you combine canning of your own, home-grown produce, then the winter problem is solved. You can grow many things during the Sunbelt winter in a very simple lean-to greenhouse as well….. As an example for you to think about, we grow green beans on two arched, walk-through trellises in our backyard. They provide shade, lots of green appeal, and when we want some, we pick them all during the summer – fresh. Both of my neighbors have followed our example. We also grow squash in the small strip between our garage and our neighbors’ fence. It blooms, and can be trained so that it looks attractive as well as producing nice yellow squash during the summer. When you look at the flower and shrub beds around your house, how many COULD BE converted to something that lowers your food bill, reduces your exposure to food shortages, and is inherently healthier for you?
WARNING: if you are a member of PETA, do not read any farther. Simply make your garden a LOT bigger.
Now, what about getting some basic meat on the table? Wildlife is more abundant in a suburban setting than most people realize. But the first thing you must do is to forget about beef – there is no room. Goats eat too much for typical suburbia, and chickens make for irritated neighbors in most cities. So what is left as a source of meat?
Let’s look to our former enemies, the Russians. They have a penchant for rabbit, which it would behoove us to emulate. Rabbits are considered farm pests, and yet the Russkies eat them with relish. They are very tasty, take little room, and will eat your left-over fresh vegetables with relish. They do not smell, their poop doesn’t smell (and can be used as fertilizer), their fur can be used to make very nice coats and they taste good. You can raise them in small pens above the ground and they will thrive. Small kids, especially girls, love them as pets too. Google the word “rabbitry” for a look.
Starter link: http://www.grandviewrabbitry.com/index2.html
Another urban source for meat is the ever-present squirrel. Many of us in the south were raised eating squirrel. This animal is found wherever there are oak trees, which encompasses most of the southern and eastern US. The accepted method for killing squirrels is using a small shotgun. I have found I do NOT enjoy eating meat with shot in it. I broke a tooth when I was a kid, and so I just don’t enjoy it that much. In suburbia, you normally cannot discharge firearms, and squirrels are VERY smart – they are hard to trap. So what can you do?
I have found that in suburbia, where discharging firearms is verboten, that a pellet rifle with a small scope is a heavenly thing to have. I recommend either a high-velocity pump type or else the breach loading, spring driven models designed for target shooting. These are quiet, will kill small game, and the scope will let you deliver a nice head shot and maximize your meat per animal. Buy one – they range from $100 for a decent one to over $300 for a competition model. If you don’t use them to hunt with right now, they are great for running off possums and killing those Norwegian Tree rats that have overrun many cities. A few squirrel links for you:
Another very common but under-rated source of edible suburban meat is found in birds. Doves are very common in many suburban locations. You can entice them in with sunflower seeds or other edibles and knock them off with your air rifle easily. Quail are often found in greenbelt areas of suburbia, and you can obtain them the same way with a little patience.
The easiest to put on your table is the robin. It eats like a dove, and actually has a much heftier breast portion, although the meat is darker. Use your favorite dove recipes for preparation. The best time to get them is after a quick summer rain, usually in open fields, parks, baseball fields, pastures, etc. They dearly love worms, and worms come near the surface after a summer rain, attracting them in reasonable numbers. Ducks are reasonably common in many greenbelt ponds and streams, and you can obtain them with ease using you air rifle and a head shot.
If you are a hunter, then I recommend the following as something you can easily do. Search out the local greenbelt areas, especially those with a creek or stream. Look for signs of feral hogs. These animals are literally rooting up gardens in many Sunbelt suburban areas, and they are an easy kill with a compound bow. But before you kill a feral hog, please know how to clean and utilize it. At a minimum, you can have a nice barbecue with your neighbors. There is no season on them, and they are considered dangerous pests by suburbanites as a whole.
You can feed them with grain supplements prior to taking them, and they will taste reasonably close to what you are used to. Wild hog tastes very different from what you get in the store, and the primary reason is their food. So if you have a squeamish wife or just dislike the taste initially, try fattening them up for a few weeks with grain from your local feed lot. I recommend doing this with neighbors, as the grain isn’t that cheap and you will be feeding from 5 to 20 hogs as a rule. But if you cooperate with your neighbors for the feeding and the kill, everybody wins.
Here’s a link I like: http://www.texasboars.com
Similarly, the reduction in habitat by encroaching suburban development has left many deer available, especially those stranded by surrounding development. In Houston, they seem to be heading for suburbia, where there is no hunting allowed. I see them every day grazing the greenbelts on my way home from work. These can be taken with a bow very easily. If the electrical system is down, you need not worry about the game warden – he will be busy doing something else. And I have NEVER seen a game warden anywhere near a suburban area anyway – there is no hunting with firearms, and so there are few easy-to-catch hunters violating their laws. If you are worried, buy yourself a pair of night vision goggles and do it after dark.
And finally, there are always fish available. If you are a fisherman already, take your kids and go catch dinner. If you aren’t, it is a skill that is easy to learn and fun to do. Start with a common cane pole and catch perch or catfish and then you can work up to using artificial lures and a spinning rod. For those who want to know, here is perhaps the easiest way to catch fish in a suburban setting:
Please be aware that golf course ponds are often reservoirs for the chemicals they use to fertilize the golf course. While you can get away with eating a meal or two from these ponds, making them a staple has health risks associated with it. Similarly, if you are fishing a suburban stream, take the time to go UPSTREAM of the suburban sprawl – that way there is little runoff contaminating the fish you catch. Those fish caught downstream of the sprawl can possibly be contaminated with runoff chemicals from yard fertilizers, parking lots and commercial businesses.
Bear in mind that to take advantage of these readily available food sources you will need to adapt a little. Becoming a vegetable rather than a shrub and flower gardener is simply not that difficult, and yet the results will be something your whole family enjoys and is the better for. Teaching your kids to actually use what they have on-hand instead of buying from the store is always a valuable skill. You may have to develop your own recipes for these new animals on your table if you simply cannot palate their new taste. You will have to buy an air rifle, and probably a pressure cooker and some jars.
These are VERY small changes to make to prevent your family from being hungry and anxious about where the next meal is coming from if the local supermarket is empty. Make it fun, make it a family thing, and teach your children and neighbors well.