EARTHQUAKE!

One of our assignments this week was to envision there had been a massive earthquake that not only shut down local roads and supply lines, but also sent a tsunami down the west coast, cutting off the major ports of Vancouver and LA. What would we do? How would we fare? The electricity, internet, and phone system is off-line. What would we do if we had to shelter in place for a week? What if we had to stay through the summer?

We were told to use the SADIM design process ton think through this scenario. SADIM stands for:

Survey:  Collect Data, Assess/Analyze Data, Design a plan, Decide the stages of Implementation, Management:  what’s the plan for managing the plan and evaluating if it’s working?

The following is my attempt to tackle this issue in one hour’s time.

Survey: What do we have on hand?

Food:

  • About a month or two month’s worth dry goods in the pantry, could be rationed
  • About a week of food in the fridge, needs to get consumed quickly anyways
  • A handful of canned/jarred foods and honey, will probably last around a month
  • A freezer full of meat and frozen veggies/berries. Will last probably 6 months? Maybe less since we have to feed some to the dog.
  • Seedlings started for the garden
  • About 30 eggs, chickens on strike L
  • About a month commercial dog food
  • About a month chicken food
  • Multiple cooking sources, wood powered
  • Seeds for sprouting and microgreens

Water:

  • About 30 gallons in pressure tank
  • About 30 gallons in hot water heater
  • Infinite snow
  • Gutters and Rain barrels on main house
  • Gutter and tank on greenhouse
  • LOTS of storage containers

Shelter:

  • Main house with wood stove
  • ~2 cords wood for wood stove/cooking
  • Vacant lot next door with dead trees for cutting
  • It’s getting warmer outside!
  • Outhouse
  • Lots of blankets!
  • Lots of first aid supplies, enough to last for quite a while, can augment with natural medicines

Assess/Analyze:

  • Probably good in the short term, for about a month
  • Will need to ration food and come up with alternate chicken food source (or eat chickens)
  • Need to collect more water
  • Need to collect more firewood
  • Need to freeze water/cold packs at night to keep freezers frozen
  • In summer, need a cooler box…
  • Need to grow lots of food! And fast!
  • Need to harvest game/wild foods ASAP

Design a Plan

Next week/Short term:

  • Luckily, it’s warming up, and we have about 2 cords of firewood cured and ready for burning. We also just installed a wood stove in the house. We’ll need to move everything into the main structure that needs to stay warm. I think the chickens will be fine unless the temperature drops again.
  • Since the well won’t work if there’s no electric, we’ll need to find a way to get water, without being able to drive to town to get it. There will be some water stored in our pressure tank, and our hot water heater, but without the furnace running, it could freeze. We’ll need to empty this water into any and all containers we have on site to store it for future use. We could use the bathtub, too. The containers can be left outside to freeze (if they’re open so won’t crack), and then chipped off and brought inside to melt when we need them. We also have quite a bit of snow available to melt on the wood stove.
  • We don’t have too much food on hand right now, which is problematic. We have a meager amount of flour, sugar, that kind of stuff, a 20# bag of rice (which should get us a ways), some perishables that will be rationed, but eaten before they go bad, and about 30 eggs, though our chickens are in molt, and not currently laying. We have a LOT of frozen meats and veggies in the inside and outside freezers, plenty to last through the summer, especially once we can augment with fresh veggies. However, these need to stay frozen to be good, so while it is still freezing at night, we can take cold packs and water in jugs and bags and freeze them overnight, to be added into the freezer during the day. One things begin to thaw, if we still don’t have electricity, we can smoke or cure the meats (we have plenty of salt on hand, and have a smoker/wood to smoke with).
  • The chickens are a bit of a problem, as we only have about a couple weeks’ supply of their food on hand. They can eat some of our frozen veggies and some grains, but they might have to become food if we can no longer support them. If they can last until summer, they can free range to supplement their diet, and I can grow chicken crops to feed them (I have quinoa and corn seeds that I can try, though they haven’t really done well in previous attempts…)
  • The dog can eat on our meat supply, and I have about a month left of her commercial food.
  • Cooking will be done on the wood stove, on the fire pit, and on my Kelly Kettle – a small wood-fired camping stove.
  • We already have an outhouse dug and installed out by the cabin that we can use for a long time still.
  • I’ll start microgreens and sprouts to augment our and the chicken’s food

Long term:

  • We have seeds started, and will start more soon. They can stay with us at night, then go into the greenhouse during the day to get the light they need. In a couple of months, they should be able to augment our food supply. We’ll grow more store-able food if possible, and dehydrate tons on a solar dehydrator.
  • Once the snow is gone, we’ll have to rely on rainwater collection. We have gutters and rain barrels on the main house, and one gutter and tank on the greenhouse. We’ll probably have to rig up some more water collection to sustain the people, dog, and chickens. We have plenty of tarps, and can dig a pit and line it with a tarp to act as another large rain collection site. No electric to pump, but we’ve got buckets! It’s a good thing we’re hoarders, and have lots of spare parts around.
  • We also have drip tubing lying around, and could mount a rainwater tank high to provide gravity power to it, allowing us to conserve water in the garden.
  • Our wood will only last so long, so we will need to go collect more and begin to season it. There is a huge lot next to us (over 40 acres of woodland) that no one lives on. We would go out with saws and axes and harvest dead trees, preferably while there’s still snow so we could use our pulks to haul it back. If necessary, we could cut some live trees to put away for next winter, but we couldn’t burn them very well now.
  • The Gilmore Trail “wilderness” exists about 2 miles up the road – easily traveled on foot or bike. We have plenty of guns and ammunition, and there are plenty of grouse and moose that live right up the hill for harvest. There are also lots of berries that grown here later in the summer. Hopefully we’ll be able to harvest something big like a moose to provide extra nutrition for us, and dog food for the coming winter.
  • The chickens will be on their own in the summer, foraging. If they can get enough nutrition, hopefully we’ll get eggs to eat.
  • Cooling will be difficult in the summer, but we’ll try to dig a cooler box in the ground somewhere. Our soil is shallow, but we have rockbars to chip into bedrock, and enough blue foam to make an insulated cap for it.
  • We’ll collect as much natural food as possible around our house, on the vacant lot, and in the “wilderness” up the road. I think I have enough guide books to properly ID food/medicine plants, and how the prepare them. I also have a mushroom log that I inoculated last winter that will hopefully fruit this spring and fall.
  • I will save seeds from my crops, because my stash is getting thin. This will be a gamble, because I don’t know how to properly do this. However, I have lost of cool homesteading books that I haven’t had the time to read yet, which probably contain some information. And now I have time (and a some urgency) to read them!

Stages of Implementation:

  • Water collection changes from snow collection to rain collection once snow melts
  • Food regime changes once plants can grow (Microgreens can be added into the diet soon, so can sprouts)
  • Hunting/wild food collection happens when it can
  • Firewood collection starts NOW, while there is still snow to move wood around on
  • Food preservation must continue all summer as crops mature, same with seed saving. We don’t know if we’ll have to go through another winter!

Management

  • We have to carefully plan out food and water consumption, with every human/animal realistically limiting food and water intake. If we are too weak to perform our collection/maintenance duties, food rations must be increased. If the chickens are consuming more than they are producing, they must be culled. Hens that are not laying will be killed and eaten, and we will let then raise a clutch if we can support that in order to replace hens that are not laying and get more productive egg-layers in. We would like to keep the chickens for egg production and manure production, but if they are not getting enough nutrition foraging, we must control our population/not make them suffer.
  • Water: we need to monitor daily water use and make sure we can sustain it. If we need more, we can install other catchments and lined ponds as needed.
  • We need to calculate out how much food we will need for the winter and make every effort to conserve that much food while it is summer abundance time. We need to try to get a large game animal, if possible. We also need to keep records of how much our garden produces and if we need to plan to plant more next year. Again, we’re not sure when everything will be on-line again.
  • We need to check in about twice a week and discuss where our levels are, what work needs to be done, and how we feel with our current rations. We need to monitor the health of the birds and the dog to make sure they’re getting what they need.

Whew! This exercise was a good one…though the scale of the proposed disaster was much bigger than something we could reasonably expect, it is not a bad idea to prepare for a gap in the supply chain. Alaska has a very short supply of food on-hand in the stores, and a break in even one highway or ship-way leaves our shelves empty in supermarkets. And as we are in a tectonically active area, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions are totally possible at any time.

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I feel like overall, we are pretty prepared. We certainly need to have more dry goods on hand, especially animal food. Weirdly enough, one of the things in this exercise that gave me the most heartburn was how I was going to feed my chickens until green-up. I made me really sad coming up short for them, especially when they would provide such good needed protein if I could just get them through the rough patch. We have so many supplies on hand, and both Grant and I are experienced with what we call “field engineering”, that I am not actually worried about finding solutions for survival problems.

Surviving is one thing, thriving is another. I think if we had some more integrated rain barrel systems in-place it would lessen our workload immensely if things went south. In this scenario, we’d be lugging buckets around to do everything, which would get real old real fast. We would also benefit from having some supplemental electricity generator, if for nothing else than to pump water into the bathtub for storage, or to kick on the radio from time to time and check what’s going on in the world. We have a little hand-crank radio we take on cabin trips, but it’s antenna is lacking.

This scenario actually relaxed me a bit because I wouldn’t have to go to work! I could spend time doing things that directly benefited my and my family’s existence, more time at home, less time in front of a computer. I could finally fine-tune my garden for efficiency and hatch new chicks! And snuggle my puppy all day!

Overall, I feel like we are prepared enough to weather something like this fairly well. However, I will be integrating more bulk food storage, permanent rain barrel installation, and try to figure out a root cellar for the property, which would help with some of the gaps illuminated by this exercise. I will also be stocking up according to this guide, a handy dandy pamphlet published by the State of Alaska about how to prepare a 7-Day Survival Kit. Every Alaskan household should have these supplies on hand, just in case.

Oh yeah, and make sure you have enough beer!

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