It’s April 8th today and I am sitting with my coffee contemplating so many things. It seems to be that way in Spring as the flowers burst out in radiant colors. It’s as if the dullness of winter lulls me into a sort of slumber then all at once spring colors splash on my face like ice water; waking me up in a sharp and punctuated way. In its own way it stirs me – both amping my energy up and creating an excitement about what to do and what is to come.
But this morning however, the urgency of the moment (aka greenhouse seed starting, new baby duck just hatched needing the brooder, feeding animals, transplanting bulbs, calling the farrier, blah blah blah the list goes on) is sidelined as I research with coffee in hand the reality of commodity markets.
We watch closely the prices of things; many farmers do. Namely, we follow the price of the oil, food, transportation and shipping costs, fertilizer costs, and all the other “inputs” that make ones life affordable. In recent days we’ve received direct feedback from our local suppliers that many things our farm needs will be in short supply. Two big factors for us are hay and grain. In addition to the typical farm inputs, we are also finishing a tiny cabin and placing it onto a different part of our property for our daughter who is soon to have a baby. So, the next thing in order is excavating a basement and cement basement walls, floors and footers for those. Things like fuel and cement costs are glaring in our faces. Then, beyond that – electrical wire, piping, windows, doors, appliances ….. all rattle around in our heads as we plan to do this project without loans or debt. That requires massive fiscal prudence lol which is a challenge for most on a good day.
So what are the major things we are doing to address these supply shocks and also the burgeoning reality of inflation tipping towards hyper inflation on our little homestead farm.
I am going to put this in the order of things we are doing that may be beneficial for you all to consider.
- First, we are leveraging our great farm network to barter much of what we need and need done. For example, we are trading for earth work for the lot clearing where the tiny cabin is going to go. We are potentially trading use of our neighbor’s pasture for our mare in exchange for them using our really awesome equestrian facilities for their trainer and their horses to use since she can ride them right over to our ring. We are trading beef from our cow we butchered for use of another neighbor’s field to stage the work on Chloe’s lot we are clearing and using his deep sink hole to bury literally tons of trees and roots from the clearing. Bottom line: Bartering and having things to trade drastically increases in value in times of shortages and inflation when prices go up and supplies go down.
- Second, we are planning on getting all our year’s square bale hay in first cut versus stagger throughout the summer to fill our barns. And with that, we are buying extra hay in round bale form that we will cover with a tarp in case fuel prices skyrocket into next year. Bottom line: Get the feed you need for your family and animals sooner versus later (that which you can store well, not all things store well like grains that can mold.)
- Third, though we have two cows in the freezer, we also bought a pig that is at the butcher right now. With the escalating costs of meat, it only makes sense. Also, with potential hyper inflation in our future, for many, meat will be a luxury. Bottom line: Build relationships with your local farmers and buy the meat direct. You will have to pay more up front. As an example, we will pay $350 for the pig and then $300 for the butchering and wrapping of that pig. So, you need a chunk of cash to buy that outright and therefore must save for such expenditures. For those who live pay check to pay check, this option really moves out of reach.
- Fourth, I am seed starting major items that can replace grain for our animals. I am raising Cushaw squash for the chickens (they get like 20 pounds a piece and store great over winter) and also TONS of mammoth sunflowers. I have released our rabbits and do NOT let our dogs run in the yard so as not to spook the rabbits. By kenneling the dogs or only having them on a leash, the rabbits free range comfortably inside our fence lines and do not leave the property. This way we don’t have to feed them, they just eat the lawn. Bottom line: Think forward for food for your whole farm and plan accordingly.
- Fifth, in terms of security we have been thinking about this for some time and made the investments we needed. Dogs are great security and so are motion lights on solar power. We have also put lockable garage doors on every outbuilding we have to secure our farm belongings. It took four months last summer to get a garage door for one of our barns due to supply shortages. But that issue is now behind us and we have massive space to store things under lock and key. Additionally, we sold one of our cabins to a family we deeply trust. This assures there are more like minded people on the same farm that have the same ability to defend and protect along with sweat equity available to scale food production on the farm. Petty theft may escalate as things get worse so thinking of security early is key along with like minded folks in close proximity. Bottom line: Assess your property and build a security plan and protocol. Begin investing in these things early while supplies still exist.
- Sixth, we have invested in a great deal of solar power to run our entire farm. Fortunately, Mike has a deep background in solar energy and has therefore installed all the solar himself which has made our install costs MUCH cheaper than the typical experience. He actually stood up all the solar programs for the United States as Asst. Secretary of Energy under Bush Sr. and built the first solar laboratory and solar curriculum in the US. He ran the early major solar company that was sold to the Japanese once solar incentives were removed in the US and has been in solar since. So his solar background started in 1970. We are so blessed to have this wealth of knowledge and experience on our farm. We can therefore power our freezers, lights, wells and tools regardless of any reality before us. With an EMP there would still be a few problems but he knows how to deal with that too so all is well there to the degree it can be. Bottom line: Have an energy back up plan for your primary base needs. Understand the costs and if you cant afford those costs, develop the skills necessary to replace those costs with alternative solutions. For example, if you cant freeze your beef, learn how to smoke/cure/dehydrate it; or can it.
- Seventh, we have a log mill and brought it home from the mountains further away from us to have it right on our property. This is part of a bigger topic of wood. We can now mill all our own lumber at home from our own forest and also make firewood. We also removed all trees near our house that required professionals for two reasons; 1) if it fell in the future in a SHTF situation, there would be no services or resources to fix our house!!! So take it down now, and 2) it creates firewood that has time to cure for a time of need in the future. Bottom line: Have an alternative heat source for your house that involves resources you can get your hands on like firewood. Similarly, build relationships where you can partner with local mills and loggers versus commercial outfits for your lumber needs.
- Eighth, free up your capital so it can be fluid for the things you need now and forward. Simultaneously, sell anything you don’t truly need. We sold our boat as it had a slip fee per month and insurance fee. We sold it for MORE than we paid for it due to inflation and missing parts for boats, cars and RVs due to supply shock. We used this window of inflation and shortages to maximize the sale of items we didn’t need for the times we are going into. We are using this cash to convert to value by building our daughter’s tiny cabin and getting her lot ready. Bottom line: SELL, SELL, SELL and save your cash to convert into future proofed value, projects and assets.
- Ninth, I am not sure anyone has noticed but weather has gotten way worse. We plan ahead a great deal and felt the need to stay alive through the potential shifts in weather patterns. LOL – that was a joke but seriously, what is your family’s plan if the weather in your area is worsening? So, we built a root cellar underground in a spot that is shielded from heavy winds. This serves two purposes, we can store food over the winter in volume and we have a storm shelter for tornados. Bottom line: Study the 200 year history of weather in your area and understand we are moving into solar minimum with climate more like the 1700s and 1800 windows where natural phenomena increased in the forms of extreme weather shifts (from flooding to draught in a given year, earthquakes, volcanoes, high winds, etc.). Then, have a plan to address worsening weather. This may take a year to assess your homestead if it is new. Don’t put a greenhouse at the top of the hill as an example. Or maybe dont even place your house there. If the winds are severe and near trees this could legit be a problem even if the view is nice.
- And last, seed save, seed swap, seed share, seed save!!!!! Bottom line: SAVE YOUR SEEDS.
We are doing other things too, we built a greenhouse to start seeds better, earlier. And, to have greens year round. We are breeding our cow and our horse so that is done. Our goats are in milk and we sold all the goats that we didn’t need to downsize to base minimum. We got new chicks and ducks and are hatching ducklings now. This gives us new young stock for the few years ahead. I bought another incubator so I have two six Eggers now. They can run on our solar system if they need to. But we can regenerate there. The list goes on. But, these are the core things we’ve done on our farm to pray for the best but plan for the worst.
We do not think this is ‘prepping’ so much. This is really everything that the old timers did anyway. It is honestly very awesome to be living in East Tennessee where many still live this way of life. It never changed. This is not ‘extreme’ by any means in these mountains. What is extreme around here, is the way the federal government and some state governments are currently being run. This way of life is NOT extreme around here and I think that is one of the reasons why where we live is one of the fasting growing areas in the country; people want to be around others who have this native wisdom.