A Storm Is Coming

That’s what we realized at 2am on Sunday morning.

Andy awoke first to the sound of crunching metal.

Oh no! he exclaimed as he bolted out of bed and hurriedly got dressed.

The wind had been pounding the house incessantly during the night, but it had suddenly escalated and we both knew we needed to get up and check things out.

Did the barn roof come off? Did a grain bin tip over? Did something collapse?

Andy rushed outside to investigate the sounds he had heard while I watched from the bathroom window. It was raining and blowing, but the darkness made it hard to make out much of anything outside.

Faith came downstairs. The wind had awakened her as well so she tiptoed down to make sure everything was alright. We commiserated about the fierceness of the storm for a few minutes, and then I sent her back to bed with full assurance that all would be well.

But I wasn’t yet sure it was going to be okay. 

When storms like this come through, we are automatically thinking about our livestock out in the fields or barn, the meat in our freezers, and our various pieces of equipment sitting out in the elements. That’s a lot of assets in potential peril.

Outside, Andy discovered that a huge, metal grain bin that had been lying on its side, awaiting repair, had rolled all the way across our yard. He found it wedged up against the last tree on our property that could have kept it from rolling across the road and into neighboring fields and houses.

Rolling it back across the yard in the wind and rain, he managed to tie it up in its former resting place. Then he headed for the barn to check on the sheep, particularly the pregnant ewes that were due to deliver in the next few weeks.

Oftentimes, when Andy goes out during storms to check sheep in the night, he finds them much less concerned about the weather than he is. They’ll be lying down, chewing their cud with eyes closed, barely stirring as the wind howls outside and blows snow or rain through the cracks in the weather-worn wood paneling.

That was not what he discovered tonight.

As he lifted the overhead door, he saw immediately that all was not well. The ewes were bellowing and pacing nervously around. He made his way into the first pen and found the source of the problem: the wind had blown one of the glass windows in. It was now lying shattered in tiny pieces on the straw in the middle of the pen where the expectant mothers were housed.

His first concern was for the sheep, obviously. Had anyone cut themselves? What if they ingested some of the glass? How was he going to get every tiny piece of glass picked up out of the straw?

He worked to calm the sheep, talking to them and petting their backs and necks as he looked around and evaluated the scope of the damage. Then he put up some makeshift boards to cover the opening in the wall, and got to work picking up the broken glass. It took a while.

Back in the house, after watching and waiting for a while, I had fallen back asleep. (I know bad wife! Very bad!) 😉

But moving on

When Andy finally came back inside an hour later, we debriefed about the events of the night. The wind had abated some, and we eventually went back to sleep.

This relatively minor storm is being dwarfed by a much bigger storm developing across the ocean, which we are all watching with shock and grief and also waiting to see if it will move west. We’re starting to see escalating effects both abroad and at home (I almost choked as I spent sixty-eight dollars to fill up my gas tank this morning).

And there are likely more to come, particularly when it comes to the food supply a system which has yet to recover from the events of the past two years.

You might not know that Ukraine and Russia are a major source of global agricultural exports. Here are some facts that should startle you:

  • The two countries together provide for nearly 30% of global wheat exports, as part of the top seven wheat producers in the world.
  • Ukraine is the fourth-ranked exporter of corn (15%) and Russia is sixth (2.3%).
  • Russia and Ukraine account for 19% of world barley production and 32% of barley exports.
  • The two countries are the leading producers and exporters of vegetable oil. Sixty percent of world sunflower oil production occurs there, accounting for over 75% of world exports.
  • The timing of the invasion will impact spring planting in Ukraine, which will make an obvious impact on production and availability of these and other agricultural commodities worldwide in 2022 and beyond.

As trade flow gets disrupted and economic sanctions take their toll, it doesn’t seem farfetched to assume that food production and the livestock industry in the states will suffer. How will that impact your ability to provide food for your family?

This is a question we haven’t had to ask (or answer) for many generations. But then 2020 arrived, and here we are staring at our supply chain’s precarious vulnerabilities.

There is a food crisis looming.

I’d like to suggest that some proactive planning would be in our best interests. Planning for the unexpected doesn’t make you a fanatic or a prepper  it makes you a wise guardian of your family’s well being.

So here are three practical action steps to take this spring

1) Plant a Victory Garden

During WWII, when food was being rationed to supply our troops abroad, the government sponsored a national campaign urging families and communities to grow their own local produce. Across the country, over 20 million Americans joined the movement to plant backyard and community gardens to boost the food supply from schoolyards to the White House.

The impact was staggering.

By 1944, Victory Gardens were responsible for producing 40 percent of all vegetables grown in the United States. More than one million tons of vegetables were grown in Victory Gardens during the war.

In 2020, the idea of Victory Gardens was revived and families (maybe you?) wiped out whole sections at farm supply stores, buying up seeds, shovels, tillers, water hoses, and small gardening tools.

And, apparently, wheel barrels. I went searching for a new one as a Father’s Day gift that year (yes, these are the kinds of things on Andy’s wish list), and there were none to be found. We’re still borrowing his dad’s wheel barrel, actually. Hopefully he isn’t reading this and hasn’t noticed that it’s missing. 😉

Your garden doesn’t have to look like the featured backyards in Better Homes & Gardens, y’all. It doesn’t have to be Pinterest-worthy to be productive. Our gardens thanks to my ever-eager lover of all things living and growing tend to be a bit over-ambitious, and thus, a mixture of beauty and weedy.

But the chickens love to eat the weeds and we still harvest potatoes, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, squash, cabbage, strawberries, and whatever heirloom variety of something new that Andy wants to try (times eight).

2) Begin to embrace seasonality

I’m not talking about trying to enjoy winter (though I know there are some of you out there). Rather, choosing to live inside the boundaries of what the ground produces through the natural cycle of seasons.

It’s not actually normal to eat strawberries in January.

Joel Salatin, in Folks, This Ain’t Normal, suggests that instead of expending fossil fuels to truck produce from South America, we could use that fuel to make plastic for hoop houses that would extend the growing season in northern climates, which would bring food production under local control.

We are so dependent on imports to sustain our appetites and preferences that a kink in the global supply chain creates much more than inconvenience it creates a food crisis and makes us (and our children) angry when we can’t get what we think we need.

And then we realize that our emotions actually rule over us. (Ask me how I know.) How many good decisions do we make when we’re angry or overwhelmed or afraid?

This war may make bread suddenly very expensive. How are we going to respond? If we take control over our appetites by choice, we’re less likely to face crisis and emotional instability and their consequences when our appetites are checked by forces outside our control.

So eat seasonally. Start to try new things. Select foods that are available in your local area. Our next tip will help you get started.

3) Seek out local farms and businesses and start shopping there

The next wise action plan is to start seeking out local farms who can supply your basic needs. If the big box grocery store can’t stock it (a common occurrence these days, and perhaps increasingly common in the days to come), there is likely a local small business who can.

If we don’t support these local farms and businesses now,  they will not survive to help you survive later. Consider that for a minute.

I know a very good source of local meat (wink wink), and there are plenty of other local farmers and businesses that can supply almost every other resource your family needs. Find a wide variety of local farms through Local Harvest, a searchable database of real food providers in your local community.

We keep insurance on our barn because a storm in the night could suddenly take it out. You do the same for your important valuables.

A storm is growing on the horizon and not just in Ukraine. The weather vane on the top of the barn is spinning as we wait to see which direction the wind will blow.

There is more work to be done than just preparing our bellies.

 

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