Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
We can never base our lives off of the "what-ifs," but when the threat of the "what-ifs" become a reality, you should never be caught off guard, especially on your homestead with animals that depend on you for their care.
Preparing for disaster isn't something I thought I would have to do when my husband and I first got married. Farm animals weren't even something we saw in our future, as we laid peacefully in our small one-bedroom town apartment. Now, living out here, it's something that we have to think about. We have livestock that depend on us, a child that depends on us, a river in the back, and a basement that could flood at any moment.
Prepare Your Household
Before all other things, you need to make sure that your family and household are in order. Animals and barns are replaceable, the people you love are not. Your family should have a routine. Who does what when threats of storms and natural disasters loom? Each person should have a job that they know how to do and do it well. Yes, this might mean you have to practice, but it's well worth it.
If you have small children, this might be even more of a job for you. You are solely responsible for the safety and well being of those little ones.
Make sure you have the following things on hand at all times in case a disaster takes you off guard:
A generator. If you have the funds, it's well worth the investment. You can even find them inexpensively on social media yard sale sites, farm barter sites, and craigslist. If you have freezers full of meat, this is especially necessary.
Canned and non-perishable food items. Those Summer veggies come in handy in the Winter time if you lose power during a snow storm. Otherwise, stock up on organic items, such as veggies and broth. No need to go all "end of the world", but it's good to be prepared.
A wood stove and air conditioning unit. This isn't possible for everyone, but if it is, I highly suggest investing in heating with wood. This comes in extra handy during the winter months if you lose power or have a large snow storm come through. It's even great during those fall hurricane days. Wood stoves can heat your home as little or as much as you'd like, but it's also a necessary heat element for cooking. We always say that we would rather lose power in the cold months rather than the hot months. It's extremely easy to cook on a wood stove. As far as an air-conditioning unit, it's not necessary, but if you have a generator, you'll thank yourself!
Cell phones charged and good service. Your home phone is bound to go, make sure you have your cell phones charged and ready. If you don't have good service, invest in a cell phone booster or know a good spot where you can get service.
Weapons and ammo. You might have to protect yourself, but chances are, you'll need it more for hunting your own food should you run out or need it in a pinch.
Prepare for flooding. This is something we do every single time the threat of hurricanes or heavy rains come. If you have a basement or area of your property that is prone to flooding, get this under control before the rain comes. Ask me how we know --insert eye roll--. If you do not prepare, you will regret it. Create ditches around your home to direct water away from it. Put in french drains if necessary (before the threats come). Whatever you do, make sure your house doesn't flood in the middle of a disaster. Sandbags might be necessary if you live in a low country area. And ultimately, you just might have to make the decision to leave your home after everything is battened down. Your life is worth far more.
Have plenty of flash lights, candles, batteries, and oil lamps. These are things you can prepare for well in advance. Make sure you have a good source of light, and more than one.
Blankets, hats, coats, extra clothes. Enough said.
Medicine & first aid kit. Make sure your herbal remedies, medicines, and first aid items are easily at hand. Make sure you are never on the verge of needing a refill -- always have it on hand.
Games and entertainment. Especially if you have children. Have a "game crate" around so it's easy to find.
An escape route. Sometimes, you can do everything possible and it's still not enough. Make sure you have a plan of escape. We have rivers on all sides of us, we can only get so far before we hit flooded roads should that type of disaster happen. Make sure you have a plan in place, not only for your family together, but for your family apart. Sometimes a disaster may hit when someone isn't home. How will you get to them? Where is your meeting point?
Prepare Your Homestead
There are also things you need to think about when it comes to ensuring the safety of your homestead and animals.
Water source. You need to know where their water is going to come from at all times. If it's winter time and you lose power or the ability to get water from the hose, what will you do? A manual well pump is something you should highly consider.
Feed and treats. These are things you should never be on the verge of running out of. Always make sure you have enough for a weeks supply.
What if your homestead floods? Where will your animals go? This is probably one of the hardest things to think about. Many people won't have to think about it, but for those of us who live near a water source, it's a necessity. For small livestock, move them as close to the house or furthest away from the water source as possible. Yes, this means you need to plan in the heat of the moment. For larger livestock, that's something that will depend on your property. Make proper plans ahead of time so that you don't have to "think" about it when disaster strikes.
Wind and Rain. Wrap those hutches up (and any open areas) with plastic. Make sure that any animals in open spaces have ample shelter and security. A wet animal isn't always a happy animal. Make sure all animals have a "higher shelter" that they can get to if necessary that is easily accessible.
Snow and Winter. Winter time is the worst for homesteaders, in my opinion. I have seen too many homesteaders lose animals because of extremely cold conditions or Winter storms, simply because they did not prepare for them. Have plenty of straw on hand. Make sure all animals are in a draft free shelter. Hutches should be wrapped and stuffed full of straw. Stalls should be warm too. Please do not use a heat lamp, it is not necessary and it is extremely dangerous. The one year we used a heat lamp, it did more harm than good. Also, if you lose power, you don't want your animals to be accustomed to heat and then suddenly have to adjust to extremely cold temps. Make sure you have a "plowing" plan. Have the tractor or ATV ready to plow everyone out, but keep on top of it while it's snowing. Don't think you can be a hero and tackle it when it's all over with. It's not easy plowing 18 inches of snow.
Have the necessities. An animal first aid kit. Halters and leads. Extra mending tools and fencing for fences and anything else that might go wrong. Gloves, extra boots, and your vets number on hand.
Prepare Yourself, Physically and Spiritually
Most of these things mentioned above are just common sense. We all know how to take care of our animals and families. Though, some of us suck at preparing in advance. This isn't a blog promoting freeze dried foods and doomsday prepping. It's a blog to help you prepare with common sense tactics. Learn what's around you and how to use it or overcome it, because doomsday prepping could certainly not work in your benefit at times. People and things can take your food, but they cannot take your knowledge and strength.
The final thing, and one that is least prepared in advance — prepare yourself. Physically, mentally and spiritually.
You must be able to keep your family together in a disaster. You can lose your mind after it's all over with, but in the moment, it's not an option.
Get in shape and know your body. You need to understand that your health is important, not just for your sake, but for other peoples sake should something happen on your homestead. This isn't something you can go out to the store and buy the day before a disaster. This is something that you should work on constantly. What are you limits? Could you pull yourself out of rushing water if you got caught in it? Could you pick your child up and run for your life if necessary? It's not something we like to think about, but it's something we have to think about.
Hide His word in your heart. Because that Bible might not be close by in a freak situation.
Learn how to completely rely on Him. And understand that every single thing in this world happens for a reason. It might not be directly "God" all of the time, but He certainly makes all things work for His good and for the good of those who love Him.(Romans 8:28)
Encourage yourself so that you can encourage your family. This might look different to you than it does to me. But you must be mentally able to keep your family going through it all. If you start flailing about in a tantrum or stress or fear, so will they. This also goes along with relying on God, because there's absolutely no way you can do it alone. Keeping calm and peaceful in a situation that is anything but -- it's a pretty big deal.
There are so many things that we, as individuals, would do differently and must prepare differently. We are all different and have unique characteristics and homesteads. Whatever it may be, make sure you are prepared, whether you know the disaster is coming, or whether you're completely taken off guard. It's not a fear tactic, it's your responsibility. Our ancestors and people in the Bible were prepared for these things most of the time (Ecclesiastes 11; Proverbs 6; Proverbs 13:16; and more) . Why shouldn't we be?
Amy Fewell is a work-at-home mom, homesteader, blogger and writer. She and her family live on a mini-homestead in Virginia where they raise heritage breed chickens, standard Rex rabbits, ducks and more! For more information about their homestead, visit them online at The Fewell Homestead.