Time – from foodgrower

That most precious of commodities – Time

I’m sorry, I’ve kind of dropped the ball in respect to keeping up with all of you on the food growing articles. We’ve been working more than can see to can’t see seven days a week harvesting, putting up our harvest, butchering (beef and pork, mmm bacon), say on this topic have you ever rendered lard? What are you going to cook and bake with once you can’t buy Crisco at the store? We’ve also been building a new hay and feeder barn and to put it bluntly our asses are draggin’ out our tracks. This survival stuff is tough and that’s with having all the modern conveniences available. Give some thought to what it’s going to be like if the grid ever goes down.

I going to pull a fast one on you (because I just don’t have the time to finish the seed storing article right now) and share something I previously wrote but it has to do with this whole survival “thought process” and each of you really needs to start thinking this way.

Ask different people what survival means and you’ll most likely get similar but entirely different responses. Most of them will revolve around something like “growing more of my own food” or “getting back to nature” or “being self sufficient” or “prepping for tshtf”, or “getting trained in SUT” all good and noble objectives.

I want to toss out an entirely different perspective on survival for you to chew on, – time, and then after that weights, measures and volumes because that’s what it really boils down to.

To me the definition of survival is having enough time to meet all of my needs year in and year out. Secondary to time is the amount of things I need to meet my needs, but these are actually just further splits of time.

It takes time to grow and raise food. It takes time to preserve it for later use. It takes time to preserve seed for next years garden. It takes time to kill and butcher a beef steer. It takes time to preserve the meat. It takes time to process the hide. It takes time to milk the cow, it takes time to wash the clothes, it takes time to prepare meals, it takes time to clean up, it takes time to fabricate things, it takes time to get and purify water, it takes time to maintain security. Even if you’re just going to the wood pile to get a stick of firewood it’s time, and the list goes on forever and I mean forever in an almost literal sense because when you move to a survival environment and all your fancy preps run out you’ll be spending that most precious of commodities, time.

Here is a little thought exercise,

I’ve stated previously our family grows in excess of one hundred percent of several of our primary garden foods on around a half acre of ground (26,000 sq/ft). I have an old Troybilt horse tiller. It’s been re-powered with a cheap Harbor Freight Honda clone engine. To till around 8,000 sq/ft of soil, double pass, once over, already tilled ground uses right at one gallon of gas and takes nearly four and a half man hours. How many of you keep track of how much fuel you use to do things? The time? You should.

Once I decided to see what would happen if I didn’t have the gas to run the tiller. My kids and I, which I’ll limit the total body count to four because the youngest could barely lift the shovel at the time, went out to spade up a section of this same area of garden. We are a lazy bunch so we only worked an area forty feet wide by one hundred ten feet long (just a touch over 4,000 sq/ft) Our method was to open a furrow across the forty foot end and then continue working down the garden dumping the shovel full we just dug into the empty furrow right behind it. We then went back and raked everything out and finished breaking up any clods.

Total time over three days, twenty seven hours and we weren’t just leaning on our shovel handles either. I converted that to around 90 man hours because the girls, due to age and size, couldn’t pull as much weight as I and my oldest boy could. If we normalize the square footage, it took twenty times (20X) longer to spade the garden as to till it — TIME. And remember, this was previously worked soil. I don’t even want to take a guess at how long it would have taken us if we were breaking sod and soil.

Moving over to weights, measures and volumes, how much corn (pick your crop) do you need to meet your needs. Obviously this will vary depending on size of family or group, age of individuals and so on. We plant forty one, fifty foot rows of corn. That works out to 4,100 corn plants meaning we need 4,100+ seeds (plus because you never get 100% germination). But how much is 4100 seeds. According to our records, Bodacious, a hybrid yellow sweet corn averages 980 seeds per 8oz. Ambrosia, a hybrid bi-color sweet corn averages 960 seeds per 8oz. This makes it easy for us to know how much seed we need to order to meet our needs. (Note: we don’t store our hybrid corn seed, this is just an example.)

We have counted seeds per unit size over the years for virtually everything we grow. We now use those figures for calculating how much seed we need to store from our own harvest to meet our planting needs and then some.

How much time does it take to cut, split and stack a cord of firewood, without a chainsaw? This is a fuel that will heat you more than once, that’s for sure.

Picking on our milk cows and beef cattle, how much time is it going to take you to cut a ton of hay using a scythe? How about move it from the hay field to the barn and stack it. (For that matter what are you going to use for a draft animal?) You do know how many tons of feed per animal you need to get you through the winter don’t you.

Way off the topic but in a similar vein, your little butane/propane pressurized canisters of fuel for your ultralight stove, have you ever weighed one of those new and then started it, brought a cup of water to boil. Shut it down, started it, brought a cup of water to boil and repeated this sequence five or ten times and then weighed the canister again to calculate how much actual use you’ll get from the canister. You can’t just light it up and let it burn until it runs out of fuel because that doesn’t match the way you use it in real life. How about your white gas stoves and lanterns and even a double A battery in your mini-mag light? It all resolves down to time, how long they run, how much work you get out of them in a given time period. How long does that 20 pound (approx 5 gal) propane cylinder last when running your gas oven? And then what are you going to do once that resource is gone or depleted? What are you going to replace it with?

Ok, it really doesn’t matter what it is that you are going to do or are doing, if we ever get to the point we don’t have readily available energy, time is going to become a very precious thing for you and I believe it would be in your best interest to start evaluating your survival from a time perspective. Your life may depend on it.

I’ll get back to the food growing articles as fast as I can.


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6 Responses to Time – from foodgrower

  1. Exile1981 says:

    My experience on 20lb propane cylinders running the larger group camp stoves is you cook enough food for 150 people for 4 meals. We used to run a large camp kitchen and our experience has been to budget for 1 cylinder per day for group cooking. We had two of the big stoves and cooked for 150 with each stove getting swapped out every other day. That means you have to be very fastidious about shutting off burners as soon as your done with that burner.
    If the line up for french toast has dropped off, shut down one stove and cut the other to one burner. It’s better to have to re-heat the grill than waste fuel.

    On the subject of flashlights – I have switched the majority of our battery lighting to ones that use 18650 batteries. I’m a bit of a collector of flashlights. I use flashlights as one of the most important tools I have for work. Years ago I used to use a flashlight with 8 of the D cells in it, a headlamp run with 2 of the AA’s, and as a back up a flashlight clipped to the harness that used two AA batteries. Now all of these used to have standard bulbs not LED.

    The big flashlight ran for no more than 2 hours on a single set of 8 batteries and D’s are not cheap. Eventually I bought the conversion kit that switched it to LED bulb. Life increased to 3-4 hours. Eventually I switched to a light that uses 4 of the 18650 batteries. It weighs about a quarter of the old one, has an LED bulb and gets 7-8 hours off a charge and produces 4 times the illumination of the old one with the LED bulb.

    The head lamp was eventually switched out to a dual battery 18650 type set up and it gets 4 hours on a charge before it starts to dim enough I need to switch batteries.

    The nice thing about the 18650 batteries is they recharge thousands of times and I have a solar charger for them and because of work I keep two boxes of 50 of the batteries on hand and they get used often enough that 80% are charged at any given day. The other nice thing is you can order them in different mA ratings and they now make ones with twice the storage capacity of the ones I normally use. I just bought a case of 50 of those high capacity ones and I’ll let everyone know how they work once I’ve finished charging them and taken them to the field.

    As a side point the laser sight and flashlight on my rifles rails also use the 18650 type batteries. Which makes it convenient.

  2. Lisa says:

    It is overwhelming when you realistically look at it. I’m still learning proper harvest and storage of what I’ve grown. There are little, but very important details to learn. I’m working on my root veggies now.
    As always, appreciate your contributions.

  3. DanG says:

    You speak of how to cope if the grid goes down, long term. Most gasoline engines can be modified to run on the gas from burning wood or charcoal. It isn’t that hard for those with mechanical skills. I would encourage those who have the skill to research this and collect the necessary materials. You can run trucks, tractors, generators etc. with nary a visit to the gas station. ;)

    • Larry says:

      Yup. Most civilian vehicles (and quite a few military trucks) in Occupied Europe were converted to this because of the fuel shortages in the war.

  4. somedude says:

    yup, I hear all the time, self sustainable but do not grow thier own grasses and grains. hell how many horses were on craigslist when a square bail was just shy of 20.00. not to mention bucking wood with a cross cut or two man saw, you got a have the saws and know how to sharpen one. cut cords and cords of firewood now, have 10-15 cords bucked or split now. like you said, got to have a quality scythe or 10, with the nibs and blade tang set for your stance, height and swing. once you get all those, you have to use them. that will determine your time frames and fitness level for harvest. then once you harvest, the production will dictate the amount of livestock you can raise/support.

  5. czechsix says:

    Terrific post, foodgrower. Lots of folks out there have no clue about how hard it is – there’s a reason lots of folks that grew up ranching and farming haul butt to get away from it ASAP. It’s a very hard lifestyle, but also extremely rewarding…for some.

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