Farming in the age of COVID-19

The past couple of months has been a strange time here at Innisfree, as I know it has been for everyone during this time of social isolation and pandemic outbreak.

What’s been strangest for us is how relatively little our day-to-day lives have changed in the face of these challenges even as we see the world struggling around us. That’s not to say we don’t face challenges, but years ago, my wife and I decided to follow the path of making our farm a smallhold homestead and making that decision has changed our relationship with the greater world.

I am a hermit by nature, so I have been long content not to go out much, and my full-time jobs have been here on the farm since 2008. Since last fall, my wife has been employed full-time by the farm as well, and we have had a long-standing dedication to readiness owing to our relatively rural location and personal experience.

So, when the social distancing came, what ended was the incidental trips we tended to make because we could. Otherwise, the farm carries on as normal. I know one of the challenges so many people face right now is being out of work, but since our money comes in clumps at predictable times of the year, we’re no better or worse off than we might otherwise be.

I’m not saying any of this to boast but rather to observe that we’re realizing that our farm-life choices have proved to be even more robust than we imagined them to be when we made them. It’s not an easy life, and it has required some difficult choices and sacrifices to make happen, but we’re realizing it now more than ever they were actions worth taking.

If anything, I want to put this out there for others to consider. This is a viable life choice if you’re willing to do what it takes to make it happen.


We need to be thinking about how to GTFH too

I’ve been thinking about readiness a lot more recently. It’s easy to get complacent, especially when you “feel” ready, but the fact is even the best prepared among us are never as ready as we think we are.

One of the themes that play out in the readiness world is an obsessive focus on “getting out of dodge” when things go south, but the fact is that’s only a limited part of the story. Sure, in the case of some disasters, bugging out may be the only option, and if you have a plan and a destination, that is an important part of planning. What many people don’t think about, though, is how to get home when something goes south and that’s where you need to be.

For me, there are a limited number of unlikely circumstances that would force me to leave home. In fact, while thinking about it, I’ve realized there are a far larger number of circumstances where my necessary goal would be to get home rather than away from it. While getting home in a disaster situation looks a lot like getting out, there are some critical differences.

Often, when I am away from home, I am also not following my usual routine. That means I’m not wearing my usual readiness friendly clothing, especially footwear, and I’m often not near my readiness gear. Realizing that, I’ve also realized I need to rethink how I do things when I’m away from home so I have a better chance of getting back in one piece.

I’m just at the very beginnings of thinking about how all that works, but I will share my insights here once I have them.

In the meantime, what’s your get home plan for yourself and your family. Think on it.


Get ready now

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve gotten comfortable recently and slacked of my own readiness plans, but we had multiple tornadoes touch down in our area last night, and it reminded me that disaster can strike anyone at any time. Being ready is a must.

This isn’t a statement of paranoia. It’s an acknowledgement that that having a kit in my closet or my car can mean the difference between needing help and being able to help. If I choose, I can buy a premade kit, or I can put one together for  not a lot of money. The internet is full of good resources, and I have a few of them listed on this site.

The moral of the story is this: be ready.


Web roundup

Want to know what I’m reading about agriculture, food, and sustainability? Well this periodic post is the place to find out:

  1. Kajabi on the old wise farmer
  2. Treehugger on exploding pig barns
  3. The New York times on the rise of the artisanal food producer
  4. Scientific American on the impracticality of the cheeseburger
  5. Foreign Policy Magazine on commodity induced food price inflation
  6. Popular Science on how feeding antibiotics to pigs is helping to create superbugs
  7. The Guardian on Monsanto being found guilty of poisoning by a French court
  8. Gene Logsdon at The Contrary Farmer on the need for secret crying places
  9. Wake Up World on bus roof gardens
  10. Treehugger on Seattle’s attempt to create the world’s first public food forest

You can also get these kind of links in real time by following me on Facebook or Twitter.


December 31st, 2012

Have you been putting of getting yourself and those you care about ready? Have you been looking for evidence or incentive to start? Well, look no further.

On December 31st, 2012, most of the nation’s current tax benefits are scheduled to expire. Overnight, every American who pays taxes could see a significant increase in what the federal government takes from his or her paycheck, to the tune of hundreds to thousands of extra dollars a year.

Further, capital gains taxes and estate taxes will skyrocket, crippling the income of retirees and the ability to small business owners to pass their hard work on to future generations.

The result could very well be an unprecedented collapse in the US and, therefore, global economies.

You don’t think it could happen? You think the government will do the right thing before then? Have you been paying attention to what the government has been doing up until now?

Take this potential as a warning. Get ready. Now.


Farming: MENF 2011: It takes a village

While it is possible to do, there are very few people who manage to establish complete self-sufficiency, and it is my belief that such an effort is counter-productive and, in many ways, wrong. Perhaps a better term for the effort I advocate is “local-sufficiency” because I believe that it really does take a village to make things work the way they should.

In our efforts to establish things like sustainability, resource sovereignty, and long-term readiness, we have to realize we cannot do everything. Part of what we must do is build communities of people all working toward those common goals; communities that build on individual strengths and buttress individual weaknesses.

Unfortunately, Americans are a stubbornly independent lot, and we tend to think the pinnacle of success is “going it alone.” It is my experience that such thoughts are often a recipe for failure at the best and for disaster at the worst.

Instead of trying to make ourselves independent from everyone, we should be working to pick who we are dependent on and to develop relationships that can sustain us regardless of circumstances. In order to do so, however, such an idea requires us to rethink how we approach almost everything we do.

We have to identify the things we are good at, the things we do well enough to help others, and the things we won’t or can’t do ourselves. We have to identify that there are things we do right now that don’t work and find ways to do them better.

Once we do, we will realize how much of the way we approach life right now is inefficient, wasteful, and just plain wrong. It is at that point that we can look around us at our relationships and communities and start building the kinds of networks necessary for sustainable, sovereign, ready lives.

And once we do so, we will discover that we will have freed ourselves from so many of the problems that have dominated the last half of the 20th and first part of the 21st centuries. Such liberation should be something we all strive for.


Read more at my Farming weblog…

Some thoughts on Irene

Hurricane Irene has come and gone, leaving a swath of destruction in her wake. The latest reports indicate 21 people died, millions are without power, and the high winds and flooding have probably caused hundreds of millions if not billions in damages on the densely populated East Coast. Yet, it was not as bad as it could have been.

What strikes me about this event is the combination of media and government hype versus the backlash by many people because this event was not as bad as it could have been. Both the hype and the backlash prove that virtually everyone involved failed to get the real point: you should have already been ready before the hurricane came and you should still be ready now that it is gone.

Readiness is not piles of canned food and bottled water collected in advance of a known emergency. Readiness is not panicked preparations just before a disaster. Readiness is not falling for the hype then returning to apathy after it has passed.

No, readiness is being ready for whatever comes next both when things are calm and when things are in chaos. Readiness is a way of life, one that is so different than what most Americans live in 2011 that the mere suggestion of this kind of readiness seems alien and apocalyptic.

Nevertheless, the kind of readiness I describe is the only way to be ready. It means establishing a certain kind of autonomy from the very society that encourages us to be unready then panic when something bad seems about to happen. It means doing hard work for yourself and establishing local networks for what you can’t do yourself. It means being ready to feed, clothe, shelter, and defend yourself when no one else is able to do so. It means being ready to be a leader when all the so-called leaders have abandoned everyone.

My hope is that people will see Irene as a warning instead of an arbitrary occurrence. Be ready because you never know what will happen next.


Be ready now: 3 things you can start doing this week to be ready for whatever comes next: Bugging out

Be ready now is a weekly post about things you can do right now to get ready for whatever might come next courtesy of Dennis L Hitzeman’s Readiness Weblog. You can find other posts in this series in the “Be ready now” category.

This week’s theme: Bugging out

  • Immediate: The main part of being ready to bug out is to know where you are headed. Develop a plan around the kinds of emergencies that might occur in your area and consider everyone involved in your backup plan. Be sure to have secondary and even tertiary rendezvous points in case the primary location becomes inaccessible. Also, be sure that everyone involved in your plan has the proper gear available in the case of a bug out. Such kits should contain at least a three day supply of food and water as well as appropriate foot and weather gear.
  • Intermediate: Consider what you will do if a bug out lasts more than a few days. Where will you go? Why will you go there? If you are headed toward a particular place, is anyone there expecting you? How will you get there? For every answer, you should also develop alternatives.
  • Long-term: Plan how not to be a refugee. Refugees are people fleeing an emergency but who do not have the capacity to care for themselves in any appreciable way. The best way not to become a refugee is to accumulate the necessary gear and skills to be able to survive even if every other part of your plan falls apart. For instance, learn how to hunt with simple tools like bows or spears and learn how to properly prepare and preserve meat. Learn how to start fires without matches, and so on.


Do you find this information informative and helpful? Feel free to contact me and let me know. You can also contact me about ways you can support this effort.



Readiness: Readiness Watch for the Week of 2 May 2011

Readiness Watch is a weekly publication intended to provide current, relevant, and actionable readiness information to people determined to be ready for whatever comes next, and especially for those people who are just starting their journey down the road to readiness. Readiness Watch will include observations, commentary, advice, links to resources, and related news.

I always welcome input from my readers, especially tips on information or ways to make this publication better. Feel free to contact me with information, advice, or tips or for ways you can support this effort.

Readiness Watch for the week of 2 May 2011

Previous Readiness Watch posts.


Read more at my Readiness weblog…

Readiness: Be ready now: 3 things you can start doing this week to be ready for whatever comes next: Sanitation

Be ready now is a weekly post about things you can do right now to get ready for whatever might come next courtesy of Dennis L Hitzeman’s Readiness Weblog. You can find other posts in this series in the “Be ready now” category.

This week’s theme: Sanitation

  • Immediate: The best rule of thumb for proper sanitation is to keep waste products away from people. Consider storing non-potable water for the purpose of flushing toilets, and designate a place to dispose of trash and other waste at least 50 yards downwind and down-water from people. Do not dispose of waste near well heads or open water. Make sure you have sanitation supplies, such as toilet paper and trash bags, on hand. Consider purchasing a sanitation kit to allow for safe storage and removal of waste.
  • Intermediate: Consider purchasing a self-composting toilet or self-composting waste system for the number of people involved in your readiness plan. Locate sites for compost piles and trash pits that are at least 50 yards away from water supplies and are downwind from human habitation areas.
  • Long-term: Long-term sanitation involves finding ways to permanently dispose of waste products and will generally involve three components: disposing of human waste, disposing food waste, and disposing of or recycling non-food waste.
    • Human waste can be safely buried at least 50 yards away from potable water sources, and functioning septic systems (that is ones that have access to water) will continue to function if cared for. Otherwise, an outhouse with a leach bed or a self-composting toilet can also be used. At worst, a pit that is periodically buried or burned can be used.
    • Food waste (yes, even meat and bones) can be composted, although compost sites should be located away from water areas. Composting can be accelerated by adding animal feces to the compost, by the regular addition of soil, and by turning the compost periodically.
    • Non-food waste should be handled based on what it might be. In a long-term readiness situation, most waste will need to be recycled for its raw material value.


Do you find this information informative and helpful? Feel free to contact me and let me know. You can also contact me about ways you can support this effort.


Read more at my Readiness weblog…