Stress-testing your cabin supplies

Hardly stress – I’m pretty sure I have food squirreled away for a year or more, certainly enough for several months. So this is no hardship or anything. But a storm of weird coincidences is pushing me on to my own resources, and whenever I think there’s going to be a lull something else happens. Haven’t seen anything but the Gulch for weeks, and that has now been bumped out at least another week.

I normally go to town once a week, catching a ride with D&L in their truck. That takes care of my drinking water, grocery and hardware needs. D&L have houseguests, which disrupted that. I was warned in advance of the situation, but didn’t know it was scheduled to go on for the better part of a month. Should have bought more onions, I guess.

No problem, I had some stuff – including the axle bracket I need to fix the Jeep – scheduled to come up with Landlady. But then Landlady got the flu less than a week before the scheduled care package drop. Now I won’t see her till month’s end soonest – though I will see the care packages earlier than that if things go well. Saturday night I arranged to get my empty water bottles filled – though I’ll have to hoof them to the Lair because I don’t dare bring the Jeep here – and not even that is really an urgent need yet. I have plenty of drinking water, but letting empty water bottles stack up is just generally a bad idea.

Truth is I have plenty of everything except fresh root veggies and … well, granola bars. Keep telling myself I should stock dried onions, but then never get around to it. But in fact this groceryless interval is showing that I’m in fine shape. Lack of granola snackies only counts as an emergency on the left coast. I have not yet told Laddie that we’re nearly out of his favorite rawhide sticks – but I still have 12 pounds of biscuits so he probably won’t riot.

I like to sit and admire the irony: I’m every bit as poor, in money, as I present myself as being. I basically live off blog contributions, charity from BB, and an occasional paying gig. But I’m already off-grid for water and electricity and neurotic about squirreling away long-term food, and so I’d almost be willing to bet that I’m better positioned to wait out a period when the food trucks stop rolling than almost anybody within the sound of my keyboard.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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16 Responses to Stress-testing your cabin supplies

  1. Kentucky says:

    Out of curiosity . . . with all your bottles full, what’s your realistic drinking water supply outlook?

  2. Joel says:

    3-4 weeks with mild rationing in summer, 4-5 weeks easily in winter.

  3. coloradohermit says:

    As you’re stress testing your supplies, perhaps it’d be a good time to update your Amazon wish list. And, as a reader in a prior thread mentioned, the holidays are coming up.

  4. Norman says:

    What is the possibility of growing some of your own consumables? I suspect your climate, and type of “soil” may increase the degree of difficulty; there are the opposite extremes, one where no matter the difficulty and effort required it’s a required task, or the other, in which time and labor is more profitably devoted to tasks which support very much easier financial procurement of the necessities.

    RE: drinking water – it’s been mentioned before, and if you’ve answered it I apologize for being redundant, but is there any feasibility at all of rainwater capture for that?

  5. Joel says:

    I have covered the whole matter of rainwater capture, having studied what a neighbor does with it last summer. My conclusion was that I would fear to use it for drinking and have no need to save it for any other purpose. In my own case I consider it an unnecessary complication but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea in general.

    I have tried gardening and found it nearly impossible outdoors. The above-mentioned neighbor has some success but strictly with arid-climate food plants like peppers and melons that I don’t want. These plants also seem to be largely resistant or not attractive to rodents for reasons I don’t pretend to understand. He has had his best successes inside a greenhouse, leading me to believe that that’s the way to go for someone determined to garden.

  6. Mike says:

    I see the only serious weakness in your setup is potable water. i still think the way around that is with a stove top Water Distiller. In the winter it could be used as you heat the house. In the summer you could use this over an open fire outside.

    You could use one of these to distill the well water so the mineral content would be manageable . Considering all the money spent on filling up water containers in town plus the fuel cost of getting there and back, something like this would pay for itself.

  7. Zelda says:

    In raised beds, with soil you create and/or amend, keeper onions (several varieties) grown from onion sets and watered with captured rainwater, mulched with some spare hay, would be one excellent crop for you. Garlic too, if you use it. My keeper onions are kept under much less than ideal conditions and last until late spring. Then you won’t run out of onions. Onion sets are a no-brainer to plant (fall) – poke a hole about an inch deep, drop in the onion set, fill in the hole, do again until all are planted. Water well, then mulch about 6-8 inches deep. Dry down and harvest Jul-August-Sept, keep in a cool, dry place.
    Creamed mouse on toast with home grown onions would be a tasty meal.

  8. Zelda says:

    Love to eat them mousies
    Mousies what I love to eat
    Bite they little heads off
    Nibble on they tiny feet

  9. Joel says:

    I agree that would be the best solution seen so far. In fact I’m so impressed that I put one on the wishlist – not that I would ever ask anybody to spend that much money on the wishlist. 🙂

  10. Jim Price says:

    Gardening ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. I live on the high desert in Oregon, and the growing season is pretty short. It’s not uncommon to see high 20s at night in August. But the biggest problem is the deer. There is almost nothing a deer won’t eat. Between the deer and elk, they would decimate your garden, unless you have a lot of money to build about an 8 foot fence around your garden. I’ve given up on gardening.

  11. Mark Matis says:

    And if that ain’t bad enough, Jim Price, Joel has them bovines which can roam freely and munch merrily. Although Torso Boy could provide entertainment with same…

  12. B says:

    Have you considered a Berkey water filter to go with rainwater collection?

  13. Ben says:

    Unless l’ve misunderstood something really important, Joel lives in the high desert. Yes there is a rainy season, but beyond that rainwater collection would at best be a sometimes thing.

  14. Joel says:

    Yeah, it’s the same thing here. Elk are one reason Ian’s fruit trees didn’t work. I have scrounged 6′ stock fencing around my little experimental raised garden plots and it kept the ungulates at bay but couldn’t do anything about the rodents.

    Then there was the small matter that I don’t really know how to make soil with sand and organic stuff and a bunch of manure. I know it can be done, but I don’t have any specific knowledge of how to do it. I might have really screwed up the soil pH and I don’t know that I’d detect it.

    Then of course there’s the climate, of which no self-respecting plant seems to approve. But that can’t be the main factor. There’s a town less than 10 miles away as the crow flies. It’s not the same terrain as here: It’s right on the edge of miles of prairie. But the climate is no different. And there are some beautiful food gardens in that town, which has been ass-deep in Mormons since Brigham Young could grow a beard. That last bit might be relevant, because rural Mormons do love their gardens. I know all this because I used to service basically all the town’s Rototillers, which of course everybody left unserviced over the winter and then I was supposed to stay all excited about the serial emergencies in the Spring. A part of this was picking up broken and delivering repaired Rototillers to whole bunch of townie gardens, all of which sure were nicer than anything I ever saw even the most dedicated and deluded gardener accomplish in the desert. I have to assume that several generations of soil amenders has something to do with the difference. 🙂

  15. Mark Matis says:

    You might ask some of those rototiller owners what their secret is. Remind them that you were their “mechanic” first, of course. They might be willing to give you directions for their “mix”.

  16. ZtZ says:

    Joel and others – if you will use “making gardens in the desert (or high desert)”, “gardening in the high desert”, making compost in the high desert”, “using compost in the high desert”, “how to grow vegetables in the desert”, “how to prepare desert soil for gardening”, “making a garden bed in the high desert”, “extreme heat gardening”, growing food in the high desert”, “Native Seeds/SEARCH” as search terms and also go to the Lowe’s web site, they have videos on high desert gardening. Contact or go to the web site of your county Extension Service for local advice, contact your local Fish and Game office for large animal control advice. Deer are difficult. Critter control takes a bit more thought and usually involves screening and persistence. My problem is mostly birds because I’ve killed off the rodent type things. There’s set up work and some money involved but once it’s done, you have control and things just run themselves. You can set up linked rainwater collection barrels so the full one overflows into the empty one and you siphon the water out or install taps, and you put screen on the tops to keep bugs out. You can garden in basins which collect rainwater as the original high desert inhabitants did. If you think you can’t garden in the high desert remember the folks who did it for many thousands of years and some of whom are still doing it. There are hundreds of books about ancient desert gardening technology for sale new and used cheap on ABEbooks. Food crops have been and can be done in the high desert. Happy eating to you!!

To the stake with the heretic!