I have just one message for you now: it is not too late to prepare to feed yourself, those you love, and maybe even your community. We need to produce local food, and food in your yard or balcony, right now. Buy seeds. I will explain basic steps and possibilities in this whirl-wind of days. Then we go to my classic interview with the original urban homesteader, Jules Dervaes, and my chat with Marjory Wildcraft, founder of Grow Your Own Groceries. She tells us how to survive a crisis, even in a dark apartment!
So here we are. The greatest pandemic in 100 years is upon us. An unstable economy has crashed, major cities and whole countries on lock-down. All we know is disintegrating. Those who survive will speak of BEFORE and AFTER 2020.
Our time together is rushed and precious. I will not pretend to be a medical expert, although I talk with them. My interview with Britain’s Dr. John Campbell on Corona was heavily downloaded. I have researched and studied climate change for years, and we may get a slap of extreme heat coming soon, as skies clear above every industrial country. We’ll get to that. But I have just one message for you now: it is not too late to prepare to feed yourself, those you love, and maybe even your community. We will get an update from John Campbell next week.
But first, let’s try to understand the four phases of food stress I expect. These stages are based on early medical studies of how COVID-19, as the disease is officially called. For your comfort and survival, timing is everything. You need to know when the risk is very, very high; when you might get sick; how long sickness and quarantine may last; when government experts expect another wave of illness. We urgently need to know short-term priorities and the prognosis for the food supply next winter. If we grasp the timetable of possibilities, we have a better chance.
I’m Alex Smith. Thank you for joining me again for Radio Ecoshock. By the way, the 100 non-profit radio stations carrying Radio Ecoshock every week are also under pressure. Resonance FM in London asks hosts to create their programs from home. All stations are posting stringent safety precautions and cleaning studio equipment. It is possible some stations may close down during the emergency. If you don’t hear Radio Ecoshock in our regular time slot, please come to my web site. You can listen to the latest program, posted every Wednesday afternoon, Pacific Time – or you can download it, all for free of course. I plan to stay online and producing unless the virus gets me too.
Alex Smith, by his winter garden (tucked in with leaves as ground cover). Note 7 foot deer fence and home made garden shed.
STAGE ONE: FOOD FOR RIGHT NOW
So what are these stages of food? You are probably living the first stage right now, or you will be soon. In some parts of North America and the world you can still shop for advance supplies before the big wave of sickness, hospitalization and deaths arrive. No matter what the government says, you should do that. Forget about toilet paper. You can wipe your butt and wash that hand, as a few billion humans do every day. So the first stage is: immediate food, let’s say for two weeks.
Millions of people have moved from home cooking to restaurant meals and frozen dinners. Cooking with what you have is almost a lost art. You may need to start watching YouTube videos to learn how to cook again, or to cook with whatever you can find in your cupboards. In fact, I recommend you do what I do: set aside at least an hour a day to learn about food, – growing it, storing it, and preparing healthy meals. News is coming in so fast, you can sit in front of the TV, computer or phone with every free hour. But you cannot eat that news. So please, turn aside, go online, and learn what grows best, stores best, and tastes best in the region where you live. Maybe take some side trips into foraging wild food.
Long-term health is not the goal of real-time emergency food. You need enough to carry you and yours for a couple of weeks. Do that.
I know that too many people were already short of food and money even before this Corona Crisis began. Others have way too much of the worst kinds of fats and sugars, leading to obesity in over a third of Americans, and high rates of weight problems around the world. So I guess part of State One is to remember: like cats, dogs and other mammals, humans can live up to a month without any food at all. People willfully fast that long and live. Sometimes they come out better than when they began. Don’t panic about the first few weeks of Stage One.
STAGE TWO: CRISIS FOOD
Extreme food stress can come to a city, a country, or just to you personally. It begins with the perception that there may not be enough food soon, or in the near future. That perception alone has led to revolutions in many countries, in many times. Strangely, a single city might lose its food connections as it becomes a hot spot. Truckers don’t want to go there, and get shunned or quarantined if they do. Most food is brought into cities by truck these days, with a smaller amount arriving by ship or train. Yes the trains and ships bring bulk grains and big loads, but the real link to your supermarket is by truck.
The other food crisis could come if you get serious symptoms of COVID-19. You have the disease. After the five or six days when you may not even know you have the virus. You most likely would develop a fever. The body designed by nature does not usually want to eat then. The old expression is: “Feed a cold, starve a fever”. It seems probably that you would have to care for yourself. Even if you have a spouse or family, it is best not to expose them. Yet you will be more tired than at any time in your life.
That is when you need to have prepared meals suitable for the illness. Water and liquids with electrolytes come first. Dehydration can lead directly to death. Electrolytes begin with simple salt, a good dose of salt. Calcium, magnesium, and potassium are also important, and they can be taken as supplements. Make sure you have those mineral supplements on hand for everyone in your household. Another way is to drink those foul-tasting sport-drinks like Gatorade. Athletes drink them to keep their electrolytes up during stressful exercise. Hospitals drip electrolytes into your system through those bags. If the hospital is overloaded and dangerous, you may need your own electrolytes during your illness.
Then we have very easy to digest foods like soups. If you do not know how to cook, or your time to buy anything at all is short, canned soup will do. Campbell’s soup has added extra shifts trying to keep up with demand. Read the labels, but this is one time when salty soups are OK, unless your doctor has advised against it.
For listeners already stuck in quarantine or complete lock-down, the Stage Two food crisis should still be manageable in most countries. I see that in Northern Italy, where the novel Corona Virus has been most horrible, the food stores are still well-stocked. People are allowed out to food shop, as they were in Wuhan City China during the peak of their outbreak. Most industrial countries already had a surplus of food when this disease struck in the winter of 2019/2020. I don’t expect famine in the next few months.
However, access to food may be tricky or irregular, especially outside the major cities. Historically, the big cities emerge as local rulers during a pandemic or other crisis. When Soviet Moscow was starving in 1932 and 1933, the army sent truck out from the city to plunder any food they could find in the countryside. They went to the bread-basket, the Ukraine, and took all the grain, even the seed stock. With nothing left to eat, and no seeds to plant, Ukrainians starved by the millions. It is called the Holodomor. Look it up on Wiki here. The greatest book about that time is “Harvest of Sorrow” by Robert Conquest. Every student of collapse and food security should read that.
I don’t expect anything like that – this year. But our local village food store was almost wiped clean on Monday March 16, with strangers driving over an hour to find food in rural places. Payment machines stalled or went down under a heavy load across Canada. American food shelves were wiped clean. Then the resupply truck for our supermarket did not come. They did not have food to re-stock. Now it is better, but that is a reminder. Food workers, and particularly checkout people, are front-line first responders now. With just a few cases of the virus, that food store may close down for a while. Can we count on anything really?
During periods of panic buying, more aware folks steer for very different products. We don’t care about toilet paper. We look for rice, or course, but bags of potatoes, onions, and canned goods that keep. Because at State Two Crisis, most of us realize we may not feel safe to go out again for a while. How long? Try to picture what you might eat for three months. That seems like a reasonable guess. Even the denier-in-chief in Washington has said this outbreak could go into July or August. It looks like the Italy-level peak of hospital overload will hit North America and likely Europe from the middle of May to middle of June. You may not want to go out then. You may not feel well enough to go out then. You may not be allowed out then. So do what you can to get in basic foods to keep going for about three months.
That is an impossible order for those folks who had little food in the house before this crisis. I know some listeners don’t have enough money to get three months worth of food. Of course we are talking about food to survive this crisis, not to duplicate a former diet that just made us fat. We need flour, and most of us need to watch videos to learn how to bake it. Don’t forget you will need yeast, which is cheap enough. Give us this day our daily bread, or veggies if you are off bread. Again, our ideas of what to eat might have to change. Keto doesn’t make much sense if bread is all you have. Vegetarians might have to accept a meat soup if that is all the government offers. Think about it.
The 114,000 kids who depend on New York schools for food don’t have a lot of options for diet or stocking up. We should have stocked up for them, and set up a safety net, but did not in America. It’s a bit better in other countries.
During previous famines in history, Western-style governments did provide basic food one way or another. There were soup kitchens and bread lines. During the 1930’s Depression, my mother-in-law’s family in Manitoba Canada got a big bag of wheat on their door-step every month. Wheat was what they had a lot of on the prairies. Eventually, your government may provide some food, if you live in large cities. I hope charities and communities will rally to provide food for those who need it – even though that is made much harder by our inability to gather in any groups. We can’t have bread-lines, unless people can stand many feet or meters apart. Collecting and organizing food is harder during a pandemic, but it will likely happen, at least for the first year.
We have all sorts of greens planted in trays, sitting in our south-facing windows. Anybody can do that for less than $20, if you have windows with sun. Use old containers or cans. Add some green to your days. It can even help your mental health.
STAGE THREE: THE PAUSE
Studies and reports I review suggest we may see a pause in the number of new cases by August, in the northern hemisphere. Hotter, drier weather might help, so the hope goes, despite signs of COVID-19 in hot dry places like Saudi Arabia, and hot humid places like Singapore. Experts in epidemiology, those who track diseases, also suggest this infection might reach a peak before summer. Then there would be many survivors, millions and millions who lived despite this illness. That creates a partial wall of immunity which slows down the spread. Wuhan China is experiencing something like this near the middle of March, just over two months after the main wave of sickness.
But the latest studies suggest that relief is not the end, but a pause. Specifically, a study coming from 30 scientists, led by Imperial College London, shows a second big wave on infection and illness rising in October. In fact, their study suggests that the success of “flattening the curve” of infection actually increases the probability of more waves of infection. For example, their study showed closing school and shutting down cities protects a lot of people, thus saving lives in an over-loaded hospital system. But it also leaves more people with no immunity. So when weather is most favorable to the virus, it comes back in a second wave.
That could mean factories and business will try to restart late this summer. People will feel reassured and come out. They need to come out, to visit one another, to hold funerals and weddings. That passes the remains of the virus around again. This disease can slink around unseen, with just a few cases reported, for a month or more, before exploding exponentially.
You may need to use any pause, or looser restrictions as a time for dedicated preparation for a long and difficult winter to come. Maybe the experts are wrong. Maybe a vaccine will be found and shot into millions or billions of arms before winter. Maybe the vaccine will mutate and die away. Or maybe you need to start thinking about long-term food, at least a year’s worth, as soon as you get through the short-term Stage Two crisis.
STAGE FOUR: THE LONG-TERM
I will tell you what I am doing right now. Our onions are drying in the greenhouse – fifty pounds in a 9 drawer food drier. They will need overnight. We did not want the house to reek of onions all night, so we moved the dehydrator to an outbuilding. Even without a dehydrator, you can dry onions more slowly (like a week or two) in any hot, dry location, including hung near (but not too near) a wood stove, or a sunny window. Fifty pounds of onions fills about five one quart, or one liter jars. Onions are mostly water, they dry down nicely, and all the flavor is there for soups or stews. Dried onions packed in canning jars in a cool dark place should keep up to two years. The raw onions in a bag would not have lasted two months. We would have no onions even during Stage Two.
EMERGENCY CANNING IF YOUR POWER GOES OFF, AND THE FREEZER STOPS WORKING
Just one hour ago, we realized our second emergency freezer, an old ice cream freezer we got for free and used for years when we lived in a Vancouver condo. stopped working. It was full of frozen vegetables, again to take us through until we can get some garden veggies in a few months. So I hauled out a giant stock pot, poured all the veggies in with some stock, corn, carrots, and more onions (first fried on the stove). I got 11 one quart bottles of veggies in broth. They can be eaten as is, or we can bring them out and add meat, if we have any, if we decide to eat meat.
The irony is I expected this freezer failure to come, but with the warning that all the power was out. Nope. It was just equipment failure. Luckily we caught it just in time, as most veggies were still frozen but defrosting. By the way, those were the last frozen veggies seen at our local store, and as I said, the supply truck never came. Even with the right equipment, preparing for long term food while isolating is hard.
WHEN A DEPRESSION IS THE BEST CASE SCENARIO…
A freezer problem is minor compared to the shocking news every night. Disease is raging through Italy and all Europe. It is ramping up in the United States, with a crippling blow to the economy now, and a wave of deaths approaching in as little as a week or two. Millions of Americans are now unemployed, and compared to Europe, Canada or Australia, the harsh American system is hard to grasp. Millions of people do not have medical care. There are millions in prisons, with no thought of releasing non-violent offenders before the plague strikes them defenseless in their cells. Even Iran, thought to be repressive, released over 50,000 people from prisons as they saw the onslaught of COVID-19. The clock is ticking in America. Millions will die if the government and people cannot come together to battle this down.
A mere Depression like the 1930’s now looks like a best case scenario. The global economy is shutting down, and we were too careless to build another. All the calls for localism failed. So the long term for many of us is: big governments cannot save us and perhaps cannot save themselves. In a further irony, the Mayor of Chicago just released his book about the growing power of cities in a phase of weakness of the central government. Any student of history can hear the shadows of city states and feudalism trying to return.
Last week I urged listeners to rip out their lawns and plant food. Even apartments and condo owners often have some green space. Where there were Victory gardens everywhere during World War Two, we need survival gardens. We have the timing of the seasons on our side. If you and your community start now, a mass spring planting is still possible. Havana Cuba did it when their Russian support dried up along with any oil supplies. They mobilized to feed themselves. We must do the same, but this time using social media to organize, and planning to work not directly together, but in shifts where we maintain a safe distance apart. No human has had to do that before, except perhaps during the Black Death in the mid-1300’s. At least this time we know what the disease is and how it spreads. They did not know any of that.
When masses of people died, the whole social order changed. Cities, as Foucault documented, created the modern order of authority. Part of the way cities operate was dictated by the need to survive disease:
“The following, according to an order published at the end of the seventeenth century, were the measures to be taken when the plague appeared in a town.
First, a strict spatial partitioning: the closing of the town and its outlying districts, a prohibition to leave the town on pain of death, the killing of all stray animals; the division of the town into distinct quarters, each governed by an intendant. Each street is placed under the authority of a syndic, who keeps it under surveillance; if he leaves the street, he will be condemned to death. On the appointed day, everyone is ordered to stay indoors: it is forbidden to leave on pain of death. The syndic himself comes to lock the door of each house from the outside; he takes the key with him and hands it over to the intendant of the quarter; the intendant keeps it until the end of the quarantine.
Each family will have made its own provisions; but, for bread and wine, small wooden canals are set up between the street and the interior of the houses, thus allowing each person to receive his ration without communicating with the suppliers and other residents; meat, ﬁsh and herbs will be hoisted up into the houses with pulleys and baskets. If it is absolutely necessary to leave the house, it will be done in turn, avoiding any meeting. Only the intendants, syndics and guards will move about the streets and also, between the infected houses, from one corpse to another, the “crows”, who can be left to die: these are “people of little substance who carry the sick, bury the dead, clean and do many vile and abject ofﬁces”. It is a segmented, immobile, frozen space. Each individual is ﬁxed in his place. And, if he moves, he does so at the risk of his life, contagion or punishment.”
Our future, and most people will survive into a new future, will be vastly different than the past. But for you to get there, you need access to food, water and shelter as you know. My role here today, is to pass on a few tips about how to grow that food. The long-term in my four stage vision is not really very long-term. The goal is to survive until the summer of 2021. In that summer we can again get more vegetables from local growers, and by then I believe a vaccine will be available and distributed widely enough to form a safety curtain around this new disease. That’s the hope, and any plan has to include hope, or why try at all?
I have to go do some late night canning. Good luck to us all, and please, try to be a positive force as the big wheel of fortune turns.
JULES DERVAIS THE URBAN HOMESTEADER
Our first interview is with Jules Dervais, more or less the founder of the new urban homesteading movement. The Dervais family, where children provided a vital role, managed to feed themselves entirely on a simple city lot. Then they entered the economy, on a small scale, by selling to local up-scale restaurants. That part won’t work for us in the near future, but we may be able to trade veggies for other food, like eggs or milk. Who knows. But I chose this interview from 2011 because we need this now.
Posted on September 7, 2011
GROWING YOUR FOOD ON A CITY LOT
Jules Dervaes and his family started growing food on their standard city lot (1/10th of an acre) in Pasadena, California – because they needed the food. That was about 10 years ago.Now they produce record “crops” from their home garden, over 7 tons of produce in 2010. They did it even with the usual asphalt driveway, and even a bunch of cement in the back yard.
You will hear how container gardening can be mixed with in-ground to find just the right conditions for each plant. How to save water and weeding by the way you plant. Some tips on keeping the garden alive during high heat waves. That is surely necessary knowledge as global warming develops, and now during a pandemic which threatens our economy and food distribution system.
When I did the interview in 2011, it was a real challenge for Jules and his three adult children. There was a long period of heat and poor growing conditions in California, and even experienced gardeners are struggling. The Dervaes family will still feed itself handsomely, but they may not have the extra income they hoped for selling the extras to organic restaurants. Nature is always teaching us how to adapt.
The Dervais family, urban homesteaders
Jules has a wealth of knowledge, which the family freely shares on their various web sites. Start out with their main page at: urbanhomestead.org
Lots to chew on there! Everybody should hear this interview with Jules, to know your prospects for feeding yourself or family, should the need arise. Self-sufficiency is coming to the city.
MARJORY WILDCRAFT Feed Yourself
Posted on April 8, 2015
Solutions? You want solutions? Here’s a prime Radio Ecoshock interview with answers. It’s what I listen to, and what I’m doing to prepare for the new future.
MARJORY WILDCRAFT – GROW YOUR OWN GROCERIES
Every time there’s a hurricane or a snow storm, we see news footage of grocery store shelves going bare in a few hours of panicked buying. Our whole food system, from giant corporate farms to just-in-time truck deliveries is shaky, very shaky. So is the economy. Toss in GMO food, sugared-up with corn syrup and pesticides, and its a public health mess. Then comes the drought, flood, heat waves and freaky weather from climate change.
All this yells at us: we should grow at least some of our groceries! And Marjory Wildcraft is the person to show us how. Her course DVD course “Grow Your Own Groceries” sold over 300,000 copies. Her You tube videos how-to get tons of hits.
In the beginning, Marjory’s husband and son were not interested in her home food production. Now her backyard is a whole experiment, including aquaponics. Then husband and son got involved, liking the pumps and mechanics of aquaponics, to produce tomatoes, lettuce and fish. You need to find the technique you resonate with most.
Marjory says: start small! If people take on too much right at the beginning, they may give up. A 50 square foot garden (4.6 square meters) may be all you need to start. Now with the pandemic, you may want to plant in any space you can find. Where there is concrete, try container gardening. Even old milk cartons or yogurt tubs can support lettuce for example. Bucket gardening is famous on YouTube.
Marjory says our current food production is a big mistake. It leads to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more. The food industry is over $1 trillion business in the U.S. alone. Really, Marjory tells us, most of those products in the supermarket, from baked goods to meat, are mostly twelve crops, reworked with sugar, fat, and chemicals.
It looks like there is an abundance of food in grocery stores. Over 90% is imported from hundreds or thousands of miles away, depending on a just-in-time trucking and air system. People who can grow their own food have more resilience, making themselves and their community stronger.
If you would like to know more about Marjory, and learn from her, try some of her many excellent You tube videos. Like this one: “How to Grow Half Your Food in your Backyard in Less than an Hour Per day.” Marjory works through the numbers of what it would take to grow half of your food needs in a common backyard, spending less than an hour per day!
What about the time it takes to operate all this? Marjory says it takes about an hour per day, occasionally more for special projects. Some systems can be automated for 2 to 3 days absence. She is developing 5 different systems, including aquaponics, with fish, veggies and quail. She has another vegetarian system, based on root crops. She’s also experimenting with a backyard food forest, and polyculture.
In less than 2 generations we have lost the ability to feed ourselves, turning it over to big corporations. Now we can rediscover ways to grow food and medicine. Get lots of help online from web sites and You tube videos. Learn what works and what doesn’t.
Marjory also offers a full DVD video course called “Grow your own groceries” in 2 DVD’s. It includes rainwater collection, gardening, rabbits (how to breed and butcher too), food forests, and more. There is a bonus CD with pdf documents, on rabbits, companion gardens, permaculture, and more. That’s at a pretty decent price of $37 plus shipping, at the time of this writing.
Here are some of my other favorite Marjory Wildcraft videos:
“Highly Nutritous Food In Only 4 Sq. Ft. For Hungry Urbanites“
“How to Grow Your Own Groceries in a Dark Apartment“
“Economic Collapse Survivor – Marjory Wildcraft Interviews Rita Ojeda” (in Cuba)
And of course my favorite, the video that led me to discover Marjory: “Survival Gardening In The Heat with Marjory Wildcraft”. That had 77,000 views in 2015. The thing is: as global warming ramps up, we need to adapt what we can grow, being ready for heat waves. There are some good tips here.
If you want to Tweet or Facebook this interview, use this tiny url, which leads to the Lo-Fi version. http://tinyurl.com/qf87wwm
Keep well, keep sane, keep to yourself.
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