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  • Vegetable Shortage in Great Britain: Time to Get Gardening

    Vegetable shortage

    In a throwback to World War II, many British supermarkets have been rationing lettuce.

    Zucchini and satsuma (Mandarin orange) supplies have also been limited. And now, market experts are predicting a global olive oil shortage.

    It’s all due to poor growing conditions in southern Europe.

    In southern Spain, which supplies half of Europe’s vegetables and a quarter of Britain’s, freezing temperatures and flooding decimated crops. At the same time, unseasonably hot temperatures in Greece and Italy damaged olive groves.

    Your food comes from everywhere. One interest group estimated the average meal in the United States travels 1,500 miles from farms to your plate. A disruption anywhere along the route – poor weather or shipping problems, for example – can cause anything from a price hike to rationing.

    Canned or dried food storage can ensure a long-term supply of many fruits and vegetables. But let’s face it, you can’t can lettuce. And other produce just tastes better fresh.

    So consider growing a garden. This time of year is the best time to plan one. In some places, you can actually start sprouting early season seeds at the end of February.

    Happy man amidst vegetable shortage

    Start by identifying a space. It can even be your porch, if you want to use a garden box or straw bales. Think about using flower beds. I grow garlic chives between my rose bushes. They have a mild garlic flavor that I use in salads and cooking. And the plants may prevent some pests in the roses.

    Consider factors like light, soil, and water. I have a fairly large space for a vegetable garden. But it’s far away from my household water sources. Every year, I have to stretch hoses across my yard to my garden and fight the corresponding loss of water pressure.

    Next, figure out what you want to grow and how much to plant. Think about what your family will eat. Consider what grows best in your area.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture produces hardiness zone maps that tell the average minimum temperature in your area. The American Horticultural Society produces heat zone maps that tell the average of number of days the temperature in your area reaches 86 degrees. You need both of those, plus the frost-free dates for your area, to know what to grow and when to plant.

    If you glance at a seed catalog, you’ll realize there are numerous varieties of each plant. They can be divided into two types of seeds: heirloom and hybrid. Heirloom seeds are nice because if you save the seeds from your plants year after year, they’ll produce the same types of plants. If you collect the seeds from hybrid plants, their genetic traits will be scrambled so they won’t work as well the next year. However, hybrid seeds can be bred for different traits like flavor, disease resistance, and quick growth. So in some areas they’re the better option.

    We sell canned heirloom garden seeds and heirloom herb seeds. Normally, most seeds are good for only a year. These seeds will last longer because they’re packed to keep moisture out. They’re recommended for climates with shorter growing seasons but are adaptable to other temperature hardiness zones. Do your research, however, because there’s a huge difference in soil type and garden pests between, say, a USDA hardiness zone 6 in Utah versus a zone 6 in Virginia.

    To get the best varieties of plants for your area, check your state university’s agriculture extension service. It will give you a few varieties that grow best in your state. (Here’s Utah State University Extension’s vegetable page.) Then, go to a nursery that grows its plants locally. Employees there can help pick the best type for your town or city or yard’s climate.

    This is only a beginning. You can find reams of information online about sprouting seeds, companion planting, and composting and soil preparation, among other topics. To get the best garden, you’ll need to do a lot of research. That’s why now is a good time to start.

    In most places, you don’t have be a great gardener to get some results. I’m a terrible gardener, living in an area where the soil is clay and rock, but last year one of my cherry tomato plants grew to 7 feet tall and produced a pint’s worth every other day for months. (I couldn’t get zucchini to grow, however, unlike about everybody else.)

    Try growing something. Then add something else. Over time, you can develop a great garden that can help tide you over in case a food supply problem elsewhere causes a shortage in your area.


    Disaster_Blog_Banner vegetable shortage

  • Avoiding a Royal Flush: Recent Water Shortages in Areas Just Like Yours

    During the Super Bowl, water conservation efforts in Macomb County, Mich., kept crappers from coming a cropper. (OR helped a broken sewer pipe avoid a royal dump. OR prevented a royal flush that could have further damaged a broken sewer pipe and sinkhole.)

    Sinkhole - via AP water shortage Good news: flushing toilets didn't make the sinkhole worse - via AP

    On February 2, the county public works chief warned that halftime flushing during the Super Bowl could overwhelm a broken 11-foot-wide sewer pipe and send sewage into neighborhood basements. The broken line had already created a 250-foot by 100-foot sinkhole that ate three homes. But she said on February 6 that actions like people flushing less (when they did, would that be a royal flush?) and restaurants serving food on paper plates prevented the disaster.

    At any time, you might have to reduce water use or use bottled water. The same week Macomb County public works officials worried about sewer overflow, water managers in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Chapel Hill, N.C., told residents to boil or avoid tap water.

    In Pittsburgh on January 31, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority issued a boil water advisory for 100,000 customers, including schools, restaurants and hospitals. Tests of the city’s water supply showed there wasn’t enough chlorine in the water at a treatment plant. The advisory ended February 2.

    In Chapel Hill, a broken water main February 2 immediately followed by a water treatment plant shutdown February 3 caused the boil water notice and, later, a water shortage.  Students at the University of North Carolina and businesses around the school were most affected. A basketball game between UNC and Notre Dame had to be postponed and moved. The school canceled classes the afternoon of February 3. Although the boil water notice ended February 5, Orange County, N.C. officials asked people to keep conserving water because the broken pipe caused a water shortage.

    Ready.gov says a person needs an average of a gallon of water per day. Here are three ways to make sure you’ve got clean water handy when you need it.

    First, assume you won’t be able to buy water. The water emergency in Chapel Hill lasted two days. Residents could still use tap water for many things. Trucks could easily resupply stores. Yet stores reported runs on water and empty shelves.

    Ready.gov recommendsMan_Standing_Updated water shortage you store a gallon of water per person per day for three days.  Commercially bottled water is the safest and most reliable water for storage, according to ready.gov. It’s easy to store and lasts longer than home-bottled water. Just don’t open it and be aware of the expiration dates on the bottles. Food-grade water storage containers are also available here. When filling them, if your water comes from a well or if your utility doesn’t treat water with chlorine, add two drops of non-scented liquid chlorine bleach to each gallon of water. Check the water after a half hour. If it doesn’t have a slight bleach smell, re-treat it and wait 15 minutes. Ready.gov recommends you replace home-bottled water every six months.

    Second, think about all the ways you use water – like washing dishes – and plan substitutes.

    In Macomb County, Mich., some restaurants used paper plates on Super Bowl Sunday to reduce their water use.

    Do you have enough disposable dishes on hand that you could minimize dish washing for a few days? Even reusable water bottles should be washed daily.

    Third, be prepared for long-term water shortages. Consider buying a water filter for your home or water taps.

    After three years of lead-laced water in Flint, Mich., the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality finally found that lead concentrations in Flint tap water were below the federal limit. The DEQ didn’t recommend Flint residents start using unfiltered tap water, though. As pipes get replaced and flushed throughout the city, lead concentration could spike in individual homes.

    If you’re considering a home water filter, first think about why you want one, suggests the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The main function of the activated carbon filters found in fridges and pitchers is to change the water’s taste. They may not fully protect against contaminants. If a test to your water system shows organic contaminants, you may want a full-house or point-of-entry filter system so you can use the water for bathing and cleaning as well as cooking and drinking.

    Second, all water filters should be NSF-certified. NSF-certified filters can remove lead. Check the labels on filters, because no water filter removes everything. Consider things like cost of the filter system, how much filtered water you need and how a system might fit into your home.

    Third, maintain your filters. Change them on schedule.

    “Filters that are not well maintained can do more harm than good,” the CDC wrote.


    Disaster_Blog_Banner water shortage

  • Bolting to a Hobbit Hole: Preparing Your Home for the Saurons of Today

    Recently, we talked about millionaires prepping lavish bunkers for Armageddon. Now, we bring you more news about super rich people: Tech billionaires are building Hobbit holes – er, bolt holes, rather – in New Zealand.

    Why? That’s what we’d all like to know.

    New Zealand Hobbit Hole Riding distance to Rohan and a short Eagle flight to Mordor, this bolt hole can be yours for just $10 million!

    Apparently, New Zealand is the place to be during social collapse or nuclear war. The far-off country has the potential to be self-sufficient. It doesn’t have the social tensions that are predominant in Europe and the United States. And it’s far away from North Korea’s less-than-sane approach to nuclear weapons. Also, the view is incredible.

    But you don’t need a multi-million dollar underground castle (moat optional) in the far reaches of Middle Earth in order to be safe and protected from the chaos that comes with Sauron any end-world scenario. In fact, you can find safety and comfort in your very own home. All you need is a little preparation. And really, you don’t need a whole lot all at once, either.

    Take food, for instance. Food is important (as I’m sure you’re well aware). To get started, all you really need to do is make sure you have three days’ worth of food on hand. Canned goods, bread…that kind of stuff. After that, extend it until you have two weeks’ worth of food. Then a month. Then three months.

    Baby steps to preparedness. Of course, once you get into the more long-term storage, foodstuffs like bread won’t be a very good option, as it will go bad well before you need it. That’s why freeze-dried and dehydrated food is an effective option. Not only can you add variety to your menus (trust me, eating the same thing over and over day after day will get really old, really fast), but it will also last you years and years. So instead of replenishing your emergency food every few weeks, you can do one purchase and let it sit for 25 years.

    No matter where your home is, you can still find safety and protection in it. First, gather the gear you need should you be left without power or any other modern conveniences. Blankets, indoor-safe stoves, water barrels or filters, and a backup generator (just to name a few). Without power, the daily things you do won’t be doable. Make sure you can cook without power, stay warm without your central heater, and have water without a working faucet.

    Once you have the gear you need, you can build up your home safety from there, including personal defense items, safes, barricades, or anything else you think you might need. But remember, the essentials are your first priority.

    Sure, New Zealand is nice and all, but it’s not exactly necessary to survive an emergency. Your home can be your very own refuge from the storm if you make it so. Disasters come and go, but home will always be home when you’re prepared. After all, there’s no place like it.

    Written by Steven M.


    Disaster_Blog_Banner Hobbit hole

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