SYSTEMIC RISKS

The More Complex Our Society The More Vulnerable For Catastrophe

At a bare minimum we have become more vulnerable for ‘disruption’ as our society has become more complex. But it doesn’t stop there. Perhaps more accurately we might say that ‘catastrophe’ or ‘meltdown’ are better words to describe our vulnerability from the systemic risks that are built-in to our modern way of life.

Things, life, our way of life, used to be much simpler. There was a time when we as a society and we as individuals had more tangible control of the things that affect our survivability. Today however ‘things’ are much more complex and complicated. Our survivability is very much reliant upon very complex technologies, and without them most of us would surely perish.

Is the populace at large aware of these dangerous systemic risks?
Answer: No.

Would they even care about it if someone explained to them?
Answer: No.

Why not?
Answer: Normalcy bias. ‘Too busy’ for that nonsense…

For the rest, is their rationale to proactively offset these risks?
Answer: Absolutely, yes!

 
Systemic Risk. This is a category that I have written about from time to time, and is something that I have been very much aware of. It’s one of those things that once you see it, you can’t un-see it. In fact you will find more and more of it as you ‘look’ around…

It is in nearly all aspects of our modern lives. Most of it is invisible to the unknowing.

Food just ends up at the grocery stores (somehow).

Gasoline just ends up at the pumps (somehow).

Electricity just ends up in our homes (somehow).

We can order just about anything we want online and have it delivered to us (somehow).

Millions of people can coexist and survive in areas comprising just square miles or tens of square miles (somehow).

Clean drinking water consistently comes out of our faucets (somehow).

Nuclear power plants inject countless megawatts of electricity into the grid without a meltdown (somehow).

Only 2 percent of Americans live on a Farm, but we have plenty of food to eat (somehow).

We can easily borrow thousands of dollars to buy just about whatever we want on credit (somehow).

We can buy inexpensive cheap products made in China and elsewhere by ‘slave labor’ and feel good about it (somehow).

The trash is always picked up at the curb and just ‘goes away’ (somehow).

The ATM machines always spit out cash when we need it (somehow).

Things always seem to be available, just in time (somehow).

 
I could go on. However I challenge you to research the technologies and dependencies (inter-dependencies) that exist in order to seamlessly provide us our wants and needs in today’s modern society. The more complex these systems become, the more vulnerable we are to disruption or even catastrophe.

Do not take it for granted that these systems ‘work’. I’m telling you, eventually a cog in the wheel will break… and the system which that cog is integrated will stop. Will there be chain reactions when one system breaks? Maybe yes. Perhaps other systems which are dependent upon that system will themselves stop ‘working’. And so on.

Today’s technologies are remarkable in what they can achieve. But don’t get overly confident that they’ll always ‘work’.

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77 Comments

  1. My DW and I were just talking yesterday about how a bad flu epidemic could totally screw up the no back stock/next day delivery system. Even if some percentage of truckers were just uncomfortable with showing up for work for a few days.

    1. Any illnesses that threaten to rise to an epidemic level are harder and harder to react to because of the centralization of production of drugs or serums. It appears that fewer companies are prepared to expose their companies to litigation should a drug not be effective enough or if it caused adverse reactions in some people. The years of testing for each drug is making the production too expensive for the companies and the consumer.

      This just one thin slice of one industry – multiply this be millions and you will see how one small failure could impact all of us and even take down our whole society if these slices are linked as Ken’s diagram illustrates.

      1. @homebody

        I was just reading an article from naturalblaze about how they can spray crops with virus, bacteria spun into nanofibers. Makes ya think twice doesn’t it.

  2. The day after the snow storm ended over the weekend I went to the store to get milk for my neighbor and the case was already just about empty. People who didn’t race out before the storm went after, so the store didn’t even have enough on hand for two days worth of shoppers. I figured that for two days no one went to the store, and the minute they could get out there just wasn’t enough for everyone. I know that some stores now get daily shipments, so if two days worth of shoppers go on one day they run out. It’s a sobering thought.

    1. Costco here gets 10-20 40′ containers a week to keep stocked, any disruption in that supply chain and they run out of stuff, all it takes is for one container ship to not sail and the weekly supply fails, whoever the new stock manager is has been cutting their orders back, that makes stocks even closer to being gone, and thats just one store that relies on a constant resupply, ive seen it happen before, shipping strike and everything starts disappearing and people fighting over TP and canned goods, its not if it fails but when it fails,,,, i may be a sick puppy but i can hardly wait!

      1. @ Nailbanger

        “its not if it fails but when it fails,,,,”

        I believe you are soooo correct, just that good old gut feeling that somewhere somehow someone is going to “get into” the system (probably the Grid) and one day, one second… poof, back to the 18 century.

        NRP

      2. Nailbanger

        I’m guessing that Costco like the other big stores has a JIT delivery system. There are quantities set in the system for every item and when it hits that mark it signals the computer to order. Where I used to work all the dept. managers could and actually had to look at ‘outs’ every day (a printed report was generated) and see what the problem was (ad item, out at the warehouse, sitting in the backroom, etc) and could adjust the quantities in the computer.

  3. One link, transportation, is dependent upon another link, gas supplies (gas stations), which is dependent on the internet (signs and payment), which is dependent on electricity, which is dependent on the gas supplies (power plants), which is dependent on the internet (control), which is dependent on electricity (power plants), which is dependent on transportation (tankers)…

    Either we need a math genius to trace all the interconnections or I can just call it chaos and go back in my corner.

  4. Well, sitting here on our third day of generator back up because of power grid failure, I can testify that no one knows anything! We call each morning to our power company to remind them we are without and they can’t even answer which substation our power comes from or when it might be repaired, or whether they even have checked the lines into our community! LOL
    One must be prepared to take care of oneself! AND, KNOW where your supplies are going to come from.

    1. Hi pioneer woman

      Sorry to hear about the outage. We also got hit by a storm but luckily missed losing our power.

      I have worked in a power utility call center. I’m assuming that the companies work along the same lines. The front line staff you speak to don’t have access to the databases showing substations and the areas each one covers. All they get is info that power is out and maybe an estimated restoration time. They also don’t get access to the reason why power went out. Only certain internal groups have the access to those databases. Also, asking to speak to a supervisor won’t give you any more info than the person you originally spoke to. The supervisor also doesn’t have access to that info either.

      If your local utility has an outage app for your cellphone, I’d suggest downloading it. I swear by my company’s app as it shows area covered, number of households affected, whether or not crews have been dispatched, possible cause of failure, and estimated restoration time.

      kk

        1. Hi MT

          Thanks for asking. I know it’s off topic. Went to surgeon’s office to review problem. Scheduled for Feb. 2. Waiting for hospital to call and set up pre-op blood work and EKG.

          kik

      1. Thanks KK,
        Turns out, they thought we were back in action when they did the neighboring community. DH road the roads and lines and found the problem and called it in. They came out last night to fix it. Had power by 8 pm. finally.
        Meantime it was a great practice run. We found a few holes in our cross training, and determined a bit better measures to put into place. The biggest deal is making sure the poultry and livestock get water without having to herd them back into the valley for the creek!
        All good here. thanks.

  5. All the more reason for the individual to realize that he/she is responsible for their own sustenance, self -sustained and self -reliant. At least to the degree possible according to the circumstances and abilities of the person and /or their family, and /or community allows them to attain. But all of the preparation in the world won’t amount to much more than a hill of beans if we don’t have the legislation that stands behind it.

  6. Its called ENTROPY. Learn to embrace it before you succumb to it.

    Second Law of Thermodyamics

    1. To put in language even I can understand – The system is like a lizard eating it’s own tail to stay alive. We may be running out of time :) bet you thought I was going to say something else NRP.

      1. @ homebody

        WHAT!!!???? Please remember I do concentrate on other things besides TP, like flushing the toilet and is the septic tank full…. HAHAHAHA

        I do believe I have a bad reputation around here… BUT, as my Father always said “Neal, it don’t matter if they are talking good about you or talking bad about you, as long as they are talking about you” Figured that was a fairly good saying. My thinking is at least I have people talking about TP and preparing….. That my friends is my goal.

        So if I can use humor to get people thinking and talking, my work is not in vain. :-) :-) :-)

        NRP

        PS; it drives Ken crazy…. HAHAHAHA

  7. good points/article..

    it is sort of like this with everything in life/everything we use/live etc..

    If you have a whisk, you can whip cream, and so forth…Not much to break down.

    If you have an electric mix master….lots of parts/lots to break down. (we have had one break every two yrs…mostly we now manage with a whisk)

  8. Here is some food for thought: if you can not totally provide for yourself now without the various support systems in place then when the overall support systems do go down (such as the grid )then you will NOT be able to provide for yourself when these systems do go down. Try providing completely for yourself for a month then you will see how vulnerable you really are, I have tried to provide for myself completely and failed badly. I thought I had all bases covered. Anything less and it is all talk.

    1. Texas boy I failed miserably too up to this month but this month is looking very good to be totally independent of the grid. If there is one maybe two non-smokers drug free people willing to work then there is a place here for you if you are interested send me an email thanks God bless.

  9. Sincerely I wish all of you could find a way to stop worrying about the 99 percent that will not prep… somehow.

    1. @ Hondo

      I for one, sure as hell do NOT worry about those that don’t prepare, until the time someone wants to invade my Pantry, THEN we will have a rather HUGE problem that me and Mr. Springfield will solve very quickly to be sure…. And yes I do own a Backhoe.

      NO if/and/or-But about it.

      NRP

      1. I was thinking along the same lines NRP. You don’t have to worry about unprepared people until they want what you have. And I like that you are a fairly peaceful fellow, yet would use the back hoe if needed. I like complex people.

    2. @Hondo,

      I believe that most preparedness-minded people do not ‘worry’ about others who are unprepared. Rather, if and when those people become ‘an issue’, I believe that most preparedness-minded folks have a pretty good idea for a number of ways to potentially deal with that issue or those issues.

      Also, knowing that most others are unprepared and clueless of the systemic risks that surround them (and the subsequent ‘disruptions’ that would occur if any of these systems break) – helps the rest of us to prepare accordingly. That is to hypothesize and ‘war game’ scenarios in order to come up with potential solutions or ‘work arounds’…

      I’m just pointing out that ‘worry’ is the wrong word in this context.

      1. I had an interesting incident happen once while I was on vacation. Evidently because of a storm our power went out and was supposed to be out for 2 days. I received a call from a neighbor (we are about 1 mile from each other but still neighbors)who was watering my plants. She was frantic and said another neighbor was without water – we all have wells, and could she give her some of the bottles of water I had stored. Later I found out it was her who needed the water and she lied. What will happen when the real big stuff hits. We are very rural and 70 miles from the nearest grocery store. It has given me a whole new outlook on neighbors who don’t prepare. And she still doesn’t!

        1. @old lady, When the ‘big stuff’ hits, it’s going to get very ‘real’. Best to think about it now, rather wait until when it happens…

        2. She will demand you giver her some of your stores,,,,
          A 45 cal slug to the forehead and NRPs backhoe would be appropriate

  10. Was interesting to be in a merchandise store, in this case toys, thunderstorm rolls through, power does a 5 second “I’m gone” glitch, lights back on. But the “cash registers” don’t function `cause the server went down.

    Eight to ten people deep line with stuff (always only one line open) and the poor checkout person has the deer in the headlights look going on. Can’t: scan bar codes, keypad punch numbers, find product information (database is gonzo) or process plastic cards. Can’t take cash since no idea how to accept cash, write and add the receipt or make change. Felt like being in the elevator (no music this time) in Smokin Aces waiting for the door to open and mayhem to begin.

    After about a lifetime on the instant gratification clock (5+ minutes), folks started leaving stuff and walking out the door. Manager makes an appearance and systems will come back but don’t know when. No people driven backup process, no imaginative solutions, no authority, no nothing but silence.

    When the electrical system “thingy” stops working it’s a dead halt. Eerie feeling as people are just stock still waiting and containing themselves. It took the DW and I about 5 minutes (about 3 minutes too long) to not like the situation and bail out. Minor impact, but an example.

    1. Grey
      Your story was a reminder of our last major driving trip coming back from the Special Forces convention held at Fort Bragg(2010).

      We stopped on the outskirts of Salt Lake City for coffee on the west side of town…lost power. NO gas for the truckers, or anyone else, IF you had cash they would take it for store items. They had over ridden the cash registers.

      When the customers were grumbling about no back up power so they could eat in the restaurant & gas up. I walked up laid the cash on the counter said this is for the coffee, keep the change & walked out.

      Rude, maybe but I did not wish to stay in a place that was about to go ballistic, and we needed coffee. Climbed into the SUV and told dh we needed to leave, that the customers were not in the best of mood. My first lesson in restless brain dead public and my last after that, I was more observant where we were.

    2. Power disrupted the registers at Dollar Tree and the cashiers wouldn’t count the items and take cash. After all, all items cost $1.
      1) the items needed to be registered for inventory
      2) the cashiers were too lazy to later find those items listed and register the sale in the register for inventory
      3) the cashiers probably didn’t know how to make and count back change

    3. We had a new gas station go up by us about a year ago and I don’t know how many times I have walked in there for this or that and saw that they were only taking cash. The registers worked, the pumps worked but no electronic payment. You should see the look on the people’s faces when the clerks tell them they have to walk into the store to pay cash for gas. You would have thought it was a mile walk. Or they can’t get there super sized slurpee unless they pay in cash. Plus most people didn’t have any cash on hand.

      It boggles my mind seeing people that don’t carry any cash. What if they were on empty and had another 50 or 100 miles to travel home. We have a rule that we carry a minimum of $100 cash on us at all times and if we travel further away from home that amout increases the further we travel. We went to TN for thanksgiving and had enough cash for the trip there and back plus some.

      If another country really wanted to throw a wrench in our lives all they would have to do is hit the Internet or banking system.

      Adapt and Overcome.

  11. Here’s another example of our complex society: On your next visit to the doctor, look around. Who and what are involved with your private meeting with your doctor? How many people make money off that private transaction? Girls in the office, insurance companies, drug companies, magazine publishers, professional organizations,…. THAT is complication

  12. Hondo,
    My whole family is non smokeing – drug free. We are well established preppers and I am always looking for real serious prepper friends, not arm chair preppers. I do not know how to email anyone using this web site, I have tried emailing before.
    Best wishes.

    1. @ Texas Boy and Hondo

      Ken has a very strict policy, absolutely no email exchange. OPSEC is taken very seriously here.

      Heck, I heard Ken don’t even remember his own Email…. And his MRS. checks his ID/DNA/blood-type/fingerprints and security clearance every time he comes into the house…. hehehehe

      NRP

      PS, there are other net places you can find to exchange info, but you might want to be very VERY careful….

  13. I stay away as much as possible from complex systems as most do here, but sometimes you can’t shake them all off.

    I liked it much better when I could open the hood of a car, change the plugs and points, and I was ready to go.

    I live in a simple area. No global warming here. Either it is very cold, or very cold. We have 2 seasons– July and winter…. But one time in July it snowed.

    I use cash at stores which many checkouts are relieved to see. It takes less time to hand them cash than write a check or a card transaction and rejections to swipe it again. Many of our backwards stores can operate accepting cash with the grid down because it often goes down.

    I like simple solutions to complicated problems…like a simple threat, messing up their public web page with angry reactions to their bad service and public complaints and shame to that furnace company. They came out that same day to finish the work I paid for after waiting 54 days. I should have thought of “Simple” earlier.

    I like simple in my preparedness. Simple hand tools, simple food storage, simple garden, simple guns, simple candles, flashlights, a wall phone, and simple wood stove for heating and cooking.

    What makes the economy work in this time is complex. It used to be simple, and I have lived that life, however, it is a lot more work.

    What our forefathers intended for their descendants was an easier life than what they had, but with the modern complexities involved to work less, what was created was a very dependent society and a multifarious economy. Many crashes have come and gone, and back in the old days they could still live independent, but not in this modern society.

    I’m sure dependency has been woven into the DNA of today’s culture of normalcy bias, although most people have not looked into it deeply enough give it any thought to be “somehow” thrown into complete darkness without these complex conveniences.

    Keep it simple!

  14. Leaving tomorrow for San Francisco. (could be worse, it could be L.A.) Sunday we get on the big iron bird and land in Honolulu. Of course I worry that it will all go to hell while we are gone and we’ll be refugees away from our preps. But whatever, NRP did go to Thailand and the world did not end. Pray for me and I’ll try not to drink too many cocktails with umbrellas on top while I think about most of you. Except nailbanger as I believe he is already there.

    1. @ me

      Yeah, but you should have seen what Thailand looked like after I left…. HAHAHAHA

      FYI, do some Scuba Diving when there, Kealakekua Bay or Honaunau Bay on the Big-I are a good place to start.

      NRP

    2. @me, Sounds like a vacation… Enjoy Life! Have an extra umbrella drink for me please ;)

      Don’t worry about ‘Murphy’, if the world ends while you’re gone, we’re all in the same boat anyway… and at least you’ll be on a tropical island ;)

  15. I’ve been thinking about this article and have made a lot of comments to what others have been saying (probably too much, again).

    I want to say my 2¢ on the article directly for a change…

    My biggest concern for this country/world/myself is a Grid-Down-Occurrence. Be it from a CME, an EMP, Cyber, an Accident, or just all out “old equipment going poof”; the reasoning would be irrelevant for the loss of electrical “power”; the consequences ARE/Would-be absolutely devastating to say the least. I personally have done a little more than usual research on the temperament of the Grid, it’s absolutely frightening how fragile the Grid really is, with no true effort to further protect this so vital part of our lives.

    The “Grid”, including the generation, distribution, equipment, transmission, On-and-On is probably the most complex system there is in the Country if not the World. Everything in our current society/lives sooner or later depends on electricity. Take a look around you, at some time everything you see has been touched by the use of electricity, with Very Very few exceptions. If you’re not looking at a stick of wood or a rock, chances are it’s been touched by something that used electrical energy.

    JIT Inventory, Communications, Heating/Cooling/Refrigeration, Vehicles, Hospitals/Medical, Banking, Food-Production, EVERYTHING in our “modern Society” runs on electricity, and if permanently disrupted that will be the destruction of the greater majority of the world as we know it.

    Remember, the more complex the system, the more likely just one little flaw will bring the entire system to a stop. It’s a fact that within the US, on the 3 major grid systems, if one removes 8-9 major transformer facilities, the entire thing comes to a permanent stop for many years, yes YEARS (remember that some of these transformers are decades old). Of course there may be small facilities that still are capable of producing limited power, but guess who will take those over in a heartbeat.

    My point being is what are you doing if you lose electricity permanently? Please do not say a “Generator” or some “Solar” for the Gen will run out of gas, and that Solar may/will break someday (years maybe, but it will), or be confiscated by the .gov or others. What can you do to assure your existence as they lived back 200 years? What steps are we all making to revert to the 18th century, yet live a “good” life here and now?

    Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not hollering Wolf by any means. I’m just tossing out some thinking points. Do you have “all the right stuff” to live as if 200 years ago, and yet live in this very VERY complex “modern” society?

    NRP

    1. I agree NRP. Everything we use we think about how we would survive if we can’t replace it. We have a wood stove for heat. We can cut and collect our own wood. Had a family member farther north that used wood pellets. Well wouldn’t you know it, when the oil skyrocketed, they couldn’t find pellets to save their lives. There was a shortage the rest of the winter that year. Even those are manufactured using machinery.

      Then for light we have several sources like candle, oil, and yes flashlights. All of those would be impossible to find in a grid down scenario. Unless you also raise bees so that you would have wax. We would go to sleep when the sun went down like our ancestors did in a long term event.

      I have cast iron pans that were my Grandmothers and Mothers. They will outlive me with proper care.

      I’m not even going to go into food as that is a topic all by itself. As long as we have warmth, light, and a way to cook, we will survive. Everything else is nice to have, but I know eventually we will all be living the way of our ancestors if we live long enough.

    2. Excellent points, NRP. My biggest concern is a grid-down EMP scenario, too. This concern gives me the reason to prepare specifically for life in the 1800s. A life without electricity will require a great deal more physical labor and a specific skill set to succeed. So grid-down pushes us into a specific style of prepping because will will be transformed from our current ‘modern’ ways to a pre-Industrial lifestyle.

      Having the ability and means to secure renewable resources will be a huge advantage to anyone in a grid-down situation. Food, fuel, water are the 3 necessary items to continue on. Personal security and medical care are the other necessities and that is achieved through planning.

      We are prepped for almost a full year with food storage for 10 people. To continue past that point, our livestock and gardens (and gardening & foraging efforts) would need to be increased. Of course, we would have an increased ‘labor force’ but half of them would need to be guided until they developed gardening skills.

      We have an unlimited wood supply so our home-heating is covered via our woodstove and the hardwood trees from our wooded acreage. We have cooking covered with our wood cookstove, volcano stove, cast ironware (outdoor tripod cooking).

      Will the lights go out? Without electricity, the lights can only burn with some type of fuel — and we have very little solar lighting. However, we have lighting to last for about 1 year, too (not just candles but many lanterns), but lantern fuel will run out at some point. Candles only last so long and without bees for the wax, we would have no renewable light resource except for primitive sticks wrapped w/ rags dipped in fats/oils.

      For transitional horsepower, we have 2 gennys which require fuel and with a limited supply of fuel, the gennys will only run as long as we have fuels. Ours will run to keep the freezer going so that foods can be processed via pressure-canning using our propane stovetop. At some point, even our propane supply would be exhausted. It is what it is… We have planned for this and the genny’s and stovetop will then only serve as a temporary means to cross from ‘modern’ ways to life in the 1800s.

      We have both modern skills and many of the skills from our forefathers. We can work with our hands easily, we’re strong and still fit, aren’t afraid of hard-work, already live in the DIY world, and live lower than our ‘means’. Between us we can repair/replace/install electrical wiring, plumbing, build a barn/home/shelter, weld, make weapons, and more. We also know that systems, even simple systems, can break down or go awry — we have experienced these things, and we try to plan for those ‘upsets’.

      When raising livestock, something as simple as the birthing process can cause commotion if the birth does not proceed normally. The bigger the livestock animal, the more difficult the issue. Raising goats, the kidding season can interrupt the work schedule by as much as 10-20 hours, depending upon the difficulty and the outcome.

      A farm-accident can cause pain, injury, suffering, and loss — of course, we all try to avoid accident-prone situations, but accidents do happen. When accidents do occur, the day’s (or week’s, or month’s) schedule becomes interrupted. Is there a back-up person, or plan when a worker is down due to injury? Even simple systems break down so it helps to be able to adapt to those situations.

      If a person hasn’t lived a self-sufficient or homestead-style life, the chance of survival is low. Those who are living in crowded cities and suburbs, completely dependent upon multiple systems, will be unable to cope or adapt to the rigors of an alternate lifestyle if America suffers a long-term grid-down EMP strike. There will be suffering, rioting, injuries, diseases, and death. The majority will be forced to undertake a lifestyle they don’t know and can’t adapt to. They will perish.

      But the EBT cards, Starbucks’ swill, and TV-nonsense provides the ignorant with a lifestyle free-from-worry. All that matters to the masses is frivolity. I don’t, and won’t worry about them — they’ll never make it out alive.

      1. @ Modern Throwback

        Excellent comment and I could not agree more, you bring forward even more of the concerns I have. It does seem a LOT of the patrons here on MSB are of the same thinking, this is good to see such a diverse group willing to share and communicate thoughts and ideas……

        Thank you
        NRP

        PS, as Peanut Gallery also said, Food is a whole topic of in-itself.

      2. Modern Throwback,

        You are truly a modern throwback just as your name says…
        thank you so much for sharing your perspective
        it is on point….
        I agree with you whole heartedly…..

        DH and I are constantly talking and planning and moving towards (even if sometimes a very small step, sometimes a big step) our homestead lifestyle goals….amazing how you get to one place and then 10 others ideas or new goals come to mind….

        That is one reason why we just got into raising rabbits….
        We raise sheep, breed, etc…but we put them on a trailer when its time and take them to our friend (an hour away) to process…
        This is not going to work in a grid down scenario at all…
        Though we do have a friend closer who is a very skilled hunter/meat preparer who already told us if we ever need help he would,
        sill there a lot involved there

        And as a woman I am learning the whole rabbit process so I can provide food for my family now and in a crisis situation
        (We raise chickens too, but processing rabbits is much easier than chickens imo)

        Last night a friend said to me how could you do that? (process a rabbit)

        I just politely smiled and walked away…

        You friends know I love animals more than I can say…

        BUT there are just some things we need to get over and get real about…

        Wisdom, skills, and resources, and remaining thankful

        Good Shepherd bless you…

        1. I am sure your rabbits will lead a healthy, good life, until that quick last moment. When my sister heard we processed rabbits, she said, “I just don’t think I could eat a rabbit,” which made me think she hasn’t considered situations where she would be glad to eat anything!

        2. Morning, Shepherdess.
          Yes, you and your family are living the good life and following along with many of the old ways. I really like your assessment of learning/discovering how one pursuit (or task) can lead to others. It’s so true! Sometimes, all we have to do is just think about a process and it can further our thinking to additional ideas and pursuits. For me, solitude enables that and I relish the quiet and peaceful times to gather thoughts, meditate, and pray. Living in a rural area provides that solitude so freely and that quiet I love is free for the taking.

          Personally, the processing of butchering is easy — some animals are easier than others. The most difficult task for me is when it is time to dispatch an animal for butcher-time (or a needed cull). When raising livestock, we are tending to, and nurturing, the animals from birth to death. We celebrate and appreciate the birth and we always mourn their death — it is how most people view the life cycle. What works for us here is the reminder that the livestock is serving a specific purpose while here. We love them all and tend to them as best as we can. And when it is time to butcher, we remember their purpose — this gives us a point of reference and it keeps our emotions in check. Since you and your husband have not yet butchered a lamb/sheep, it might be smart to prepare yourselves this year with the help of that friend.

          We’re currently looking into pigs to raise and breed so that we have a sustainable small herd here. Previously, we’ve only bought pigs as feeders and that process isn’t totally reliable. Butchering a hog takes most of the day for us and the sausage-making takes hours the following day.

          Rabbits are exceptionally easy and you can do one at a time or several. I know that you will find that rabbits are a great meat source and they are such nice creatures to work with. We have New Zealands and Californian (meat breeds) and one Silver Fox I bought to add a bit of variety into the lines. The meat breeds will grow out quickly and even if you are going to go the route of ‘tractor feeding’ (foraging grasses) you will see a higher growth rate with those breeds. I have a friend who has been breeding/selecting his NZs on ‘tractor feeding’ to eliminate buying pellets. He’s about 6 years into his program and is successful. Another Virginian doing this with rabbits is Joel Salatin of Polyface.

          Funny how many city people will often travel out of their hustle-bustle life to pay money for a few hours on a farm or a homestead so that they can feel the rhythm and lifestyle of folks like us. And then other city people will blow us off and say we’re ‘crazy’…

          lol

          1. Good morning, Modern Throwback,

            You write from your heart and your quote here:

            “For me, solitude enables that and I relish the quiet and peaceful times to gather thoughts, meditate, and pray. Living in a rural area provides that solitude so freely and that quiet I love is free for the taking.”

            This is my heart too! There is such a beautiful resonance in our spirits as we live amongst the animals and land…that we can admire and experience our Creator’s handiwork…
            Even if it is mucking out a stall or filling feeders it is good
            My best reward is after the chore part is to squat down in the yard or pasture and be swarmed by sheep faces all greeting me and breathing in my face…to me that is heaven on earth….
            We love our birds, o so many, and our new bunnies…
            Herbie the sweet and Parsley the royal…
            I like to admire the trees and touch the rough bark and smell the pine needles…
            Yesterday I broke a couple small fragrant applewood branches for Herbie and Parlsey to chew, and I saw the new buds eagerly waiting to bloom….

            We’ve been on this little almost 7 acre homestead with our 110+ yr old house for 12 yrs now…it’s not a showpiece and in fact from the outside
            it looks like a little old house, but we are privy to know the secrets and treasures that live and abide here…

            To all be it a good for you! :)

          2. Shepherdess,

            Sounds like you have a bucolic place: “home is where the heart is”.

            When we had our dairy goats, we would sit in the chairs we kept out in their pasture area and commune with them. They’re very social creatures and will always be right there with you…they will always walk along with you, even pester you at times. When they are content and laying, they would often chew their cud and hum. The note they hummed was usually “G”…

            The kids would win me over the moment they were born and I cleaned their sacs off. Since we bottle-fed them, I was their mother — you can’t help but have a very strong bond with the babies you feed from their birth! I always had very tame kids that were easy to lead-train because of that bond and the trust that they had for me as their mother-goat. I miss them terribly but the homeschooling demands takes a great deal of time and dairy goats do, too. At least I can visit — the entire herd was sold to an organic dairy farm and the owner is wonderful. She was a goat-lady, too, and understood the bond thing.

            I have never had sheep but came very close one year…at the 4H sale. Her name was “Annie” and she was the boy’s pet lamb so she was very tame and was taught a few tricks. Some day, I may venture into raising a few, but the shearing is a real chore (like trimming goat hooves every month)!

          3. Modern Throwback

            had to smile at your comment about almost bought a sheep at the fair..

            One year, I was about to buy a ticket on a 4H Steer…nice gentle fellow…

            My husband says”Oh no. You will win and insist on keeping it in our backyard….all full growth of him. We will never be able to eat him”…

            Sigh, he was probably correct, so no ticket.

  16. Electricity loss or extended disruption would send our country back well over 100 years. Generators are only a temporary stop gap measure.Solar use is something that may eventually need replacement parts or maintenance.

    As NRP said everything we do and have today is touched by electricity. It’s loss will be devastating to all who are without it and have no way to cope without it..

    All we do and plan for is based around electricity loss. We do not want freezers full of food, we would rather can it or dry it. We focus on hand powered tools. We try to grow as much of our own food as possible. In short, we try to be as self-reliant as possible with out relying on the JIT grocery store for our subsistence.

    Normalcy bias is alive and well throughout the land we live in. I am very frustrated when talking about future concerns to people and their idiotic responses. “That would never happen here “and ” congress will fix it” and “the power is never out for too long” and “let’s not talk about all this unpleasantness”.

    Our electronic grid is fragile and is a very easy target for whoever wishes to disrupt it. We pray it does not happen.. 3 years ago in San Jose, California there was a successful assault on a substation and fiber optic cables were cut. That only affected a few thousand people but it can happen on a very large scale. In our area 1 1/2 years ago a contractor dug up a fiber optic cable that was 50 miles away and that affected thousands of folks with sporadic cell service and no CC transactions. Stuff happens, be prepared.

  17. We talk about life without electricity and all it facilitates, BUT I believe that only 10% of the American population would survive. Some agriculturally linked people in third world countries may do better because they do not rely on our modern conveniences. A good book that portrays the hardships as a result of the loss of power is Alas Babylon.

  18. We use a lot of wood for heating during the winter, we sometimes cook in the fireplace mostly using cast iron Dutch ovens, this is part of old type cooking from over 100 years ago. During the summers we have cooked over outside fires using same pots, we have at times in summer just opened the windows and use cross breezes for cooling, not too cool but not totally uncomfortable. It does show you what to expect when the grid is gone. Be prepared and ready. Keep your powder dry.

  19. Grid down, no big deal. We have been off grid most part of forty years. We can cut almost as much fire wood with our 5 foot two man saw as the chainsaw only thing is you sweat a little more. In a grid down I don’t see major problem here at the ranch. We can grow the oil seed we need for fuel for the tractors and generators. We tend to live as our forefathers did as much as we can, more steps back for us is doable, would I miss this computer?? Not a lot, yep, nice to play with, just another trade off, after all every thing we do is a trade off I’m not so sure modern life is all that much better.

    I would miss good tea and chocolate, ya and TP!

    1. @ 0ldhomesteader

      I have to say, I’m jealous, you and the Ms. Are living a lifestyle I strive more and more for but am far from it, maybe someday, but.

      One question, ya already have 14,000 rolls of TP, 300 pounds of Tea, and enough chocolate to keep me happy for about 6 days….. how much is enough? HAHAHA

      NRP

        1. @ 0ldhomesteader

          Honestly I did try a Bidet, ONCE
          Took me an hour to dry my butt… HAHAHAHA
          Ahhhh youth, and the fun of being 3/4 crazy.

          NRP

          1. @ homebody

            HAHAHA, there is NO WAY I’m going to have a “come back” comment to that… NO WAY IN HECK!!!!…

            Talk about “The More Complex Our Society The More Vulnerable For Catastrophe” that COULD be a HUGE Catastrophe….. OMG I can NOT believe this article has come to this… HAHAHAHA Ken is going to skin us all alive…. LOL

            NRP

            As Dory would say…. “keep on swimming, keep on swimming”.

    2. How would you grow oil seed for fuel for tractors and generators? What kind of seed is it? How do you process it? That is an intriguing idea!

      1. R -R we have run the ranch equipment on straight canola oil for years ,there are some limits on its use,,one acre of canola will produce about 200 gallons of oil with a good crop , we don’t do biodiesel,, raw oil needs to be kept warm (80deg) to use it in engines ,and 150deg to start up ,, and you need a special press to press the oil seed , also waste oil from deep friers can be made to work ,,,canola oil can also some times be used in hyd systems ,,use of veg oil in diesel engines dates back to the very first engines,,

        Ask on the Saturday blog may be I can do more

        Tea and cranberry apple tapioca (still out of chocolate)

        1. @ 0ldhomesteader

          I have to say I’m extremely shocked at your preps. Knowing that ya live 500 miles out in the boonies and knowing the state of the world, I have a question.
          How is it you have 1600+ rolls of TP, and ZERO chocolate stocked up????? I mean, knowing the effects of a Chocolate-holic and the withdraw symptoms I’m extremely shocked… LOLOL

          See’s Candies and Amazon do deliver… HAHAHA

          NRP

  20. I still work in a hospital and like most other hospitals, they are getting more high tech devices and computor programmed things.

    Me, being the old guy, still has a binder with phone numbers and bits of info written down to run the unit in event of… You name it. Having worked in healthcare and emergency services for over 30 years now. I have had to: evacuate a Nursing facility in the face of an oncoming wildland fire, receive patients from other facilities due to an oncoming wildfire, go to work in the aftermath of the San Simeon earthquake and relocate friends of my family in the aftermath of a flood. Lastly, I was a sworn officer that was sent to the Rodney King Riots part 2. (The aquittal of the 4 officers )

    Some of us prepare at home and within our workplaces for bad things to happen because we have seen it.

  21. the hard cold fact is this the more complex something is the more likely it will FAIL its that simple like it or not

  22. To Modern Throwback and Shepherdess:

    As related above, I have a job in town and live in the suburbs. I have been buying and selling for home grown fruits vegies and meats since moving here. Case in point, I have not had much luck with growing tomatoes yet I am surrounded by neighbors that have surpluses. (so much so that the boys use the rotten tomatoes as ammunition to throw at each other and the occasional car driving by)

    I also enjoy purchasing meat from small growers and have processed much of my protein from hoof to table. Folks like me will be around and we will be happy to help with processing your livestock when that time comes. I choose not to raise livestock because I get attached to them and I would have to have somebody else process and consume the animals I raise. Dependent on the economy, this service is usually done for a small fee or a portion of the meat. At times, payment is simply a plate of food at the table as the butchering of a hog is a celebration in some small communities.

    Look for a hunter within your small community to process your animals into meat. I learned from a high school friend who became a butcher after winning FFA meat judging contests. He had a bad back so I helped him with grunt labor in exchange for knowledge about aging and hanging meat,

    In addition to a freezer, I always have butcher paper and Sharpie permanent markers and string on hand to write the following on packages: Date and contents of package. Try to consume quickly to avoid freezer burn. I carry a small collection of knives, meat saw cleavers and sharpening stones inside a large ice chest when I am going to a processing job. It is a task that is made easier with more knowledgable hands working toward a common goal.

    I used to buy meat from the County Fair each year. It was the best quality meat I have ever consumed. Judging by your posts, the animals you raise would rival the quality of what I used to purchase. Rabbits were a target of opportunity frequently found at the edges of large berry patches. Check the liver for spots as this is a bad sign (Tularemia- rabbit fever) A healthy liver from a healthy animal will be a uniform dark, meaty red color.

    I used to trim back the runners so the plant would produce more berries and create a walking path through the patch. A week later, you will see berries showing up on the branches and bunnies at the new edges you created. I did not raise them so I had no trouble pulling the trigger on them. This was a small example of what I called habitat improvement.

    Thank you for your posts as your places sound very nice to be in. Your advice on herbal remedies are helpful too.

    1. CaliRefugee,

      Thank you for sharing your insightful post from your unique perspective….

      The theme I hear in your post is respect and integrity in how you procure food whether raised yourself or purchased from someone else who cares…

      And I agree very much with you….

      We do sell to close friends and fam….
      Also to a lovely Chinese family….

      Thank you for the valuable life experiences you shared too…

      Peace~

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