April 15, 2015: Growing Concerns
We’re all trying to get past D.J.’s kidnapping and get on with life here on the farm.
We’ve been plowing the fields in preparation for planting. The alfalfa has greened up. There was plenty of moisture over the course of the winter but not so much that the fields are a muddy mess … yet. April showers could easily change that.
We have seed corn and soybeans set aside from last year’s harvest. We’ll plant those in a few weeks. We have about a 130-140 day growing season in our part of the state. Ideally, we want to harvest sometime during the month of October. Our farm is a dry-land farm (no irrigation) so we’re a bit more reliant on rainfall than a lot of the farms in the state. Although, I suspect that there will be very few center-pivots running this summer. Grain production in the dryer portions of the state will be severely stunted … if there is any at all.
Incidentally, we switched to heirloom, non-hybrid, non-genetically modified organism (GMO) feed corn and soybean seed two seasons ago. We’ve been planting heirloom garden seeds for nearly five years. Hybrid seeds do not reproduce consistently. A hybrid corn seed, for example, may reproduce, but you can’t be certain of what strain of corn will be produced. The new plant may have a longer growing season or grow smaller ears or smaller kernels on the ear. It may be less drought resistant. The average grower simply doesn’t know.
When you can order hybrid seed from the seed dealer and have it delivered by truck to your farm each spring, that’s not a problem. The seed company has carefully cross-bred the seed to produce a plant with specific characteristics. However, if you want to harvest your own seed to plant the following season … or if the world as you know it comes to a screeching halt … heirloom seed is the most sure-fire way to yield seed that will consistently reproduce the following season.
The garden plants that I mentioned a few weeks ago are coming along nicely. As it stands, we have plenty of food to make it until harvest. We’ll need to grow enough excess this summer to keep us through the coming winter and then through next year’s growing season.
Time for some calculations.
Also, time to take stock of our canning supplies. Not sure what we’ll do if we don’t have enough. We stocked up on the rubber-lipped lids before the crash but that may become our next supply crisis now that we’ve lived through the Great Toilet Paper Outage.
We’ve settled on a variety of methods for toilet paper replacement, by the way. Most of us use corn cobs as a first line of defense, typically followed by a soft cotton cloth. The cloths are discarded into a bucket and carefully washed two or three times a week. Washing them is not a pleasant job, that’s for sure. But, it’s become a part of the new normal. After the initial gut-wrenching reaction, pretty much everyone has taken the absence of toilet paper into stride.
On a related note, facial tissue is another one of the items that we used to take for granted that is now missing from our daily lives. We’ve gone back to using handkerchiefs just like our ancestors did before Kleenex came along.
I realized this morning that yesterday was Miriam’s birthday. We celebrated, I guess, with the return of our son. Lots of hugs and kisses and more than a few tears. No cake or candles in the new normal. No sparkly jewelry or gift cards. Not even a highly prized roll of toilet paper or box of facial tissues. Just the return of your son from his kidnapper who probably only took the kid as leverage to try to survive himself. That sort of puts everything in perspective. I’m pretty sure Miriam understands why I didn’t get around to hand-making a birthday card for her yesterday. If not, we can always seek out a marriage counselor … or not.
As far as I can tell, the guy that took D.J. had no intentions of harming him. D.J. said the guy kept calling him his bargaining chip or “the key”. My guess is that the S.O.B. was just looking for a way to get at some of our supplies to stay alive himself.
As Dr. Phil would have said, “How’s that working for ya?”
I have to ask myself what we would have done if the guy had just walked down the lane and asked for a handout. It’s bound to happen sooner or later. Someone, other than our neighbors, will wander in hoping for a handout. The Gunters did. Fortunately for them, we had enough excess at that point in time to give them a handout. Now, they’re planting their own garden (with some of our seeds). I’m sure we’ll all work together canning for the non-growing season.
Someone will show up on our doorstep asking politely instead of trying to get leverage by kidnapping someone or trying to take supplies from us by force. Unfortunately, now, we don’t have the excess to share without running short ourselves. It would be heart-wrenching to turn away a family with starving children, but we’re not running a care center here. This isn’t a food pantry.
Even if we were able to spare enough to give something to one family, what about the next … and the one after that …?
I wish we had more time to think about tomorrow but we’re just too busy worrying about today.
That’s not entirely true.
We’re thinking about planting a crop that we’ll harvest in several months. We’re thinking about how we will utilize that crop. We’re thinking about how and what we’ll eat during the winter months. We are thinking about tomorrow. Our thinking, though, is limited to our own concerns and not those of others.
Survival is selfish.
How did our ancestors get beyond their baser instincts … beyond survival to … living … to giving and to caring about those beyond their immediate circle of family and friends?
A thousand years ago or more, communities were isolated. Travel, outside of a relatively small region, was almost unheard of. That’s not the case today. Today, travel is more limited than before the crash but possible, nonetheless. We can still climb in our trucks and drive to the city. People surviving in the city can drive in our direction. So, we face a problem unlike our ancient ancestors. We’ve blended the self-sufficient society with the mobile society. Unlike the resolution to our toilet paper problem, there is no historical solution. We can’t look back over the history of civilization to see how those who preceded us resolved this issue.
Additionally, some are more mobile than others. The most desperate will likely be the least mobile. On the other hand, the more mobile may be more demanding. The starving family will, in all likelihood, be on foot – perhaps pulling a cart or pushing bicycles at best. It would take them weeks to reach our location from either Omaha or Lincoln. That timeline assumes that they are aware of our location and headed directly toward us.
On the other hand, the guy that kidnapped D.J. probably drove here in a matter of days or hours. There were six twenty-pound propane tanks in the bed of his pickup. Two tanks were completely empty. A third was about half empty. The remaining tanks were mostly full. A twenty-pound propane tank holds just under five gallons of LP. We don’t know if the two empty tanks were full, but my best guess is that they were roughly as full as the three unused tanks. If the guy was getting twenty miles per gallon of LP, he traveled somewhere between 100 and 150 miles. The truck had no plates or registration information. The fuel calculations put his point of origin in a pretty big region that includes several metropolitan areas. Alternatively, his point of origin might have been relatively close but he had been wandering … scavenging … looting … perhaps looking for a prime target like us.
He was relatively well-supplied. I found two handguns, two rifles – an AK-47 and Remington bolt-action – a sawed off shotgun and several rounds of ammunition for every firearm. He had a nice backpack packed like a bug-out bag. He had food and water and medical supplies. There was a pretty nice tent in the back of the truck, a couple tarps …. This was not a guy out for a short drive.
I have this uncomfortable feeling that he had some knowledge of our location before his arrival. We’re pretty far off the beaten path. A local wanderer might stumble across us, but there are several other places between us and any of the main roads. None of them reported any contact – actual or apparent – with this guy during our radio check. Anyone wandering in from one of the highways would almost assuredly have bumped into one of our neighbors before they arrived at our location.
Arguably, we are one of the best-supplied groups in the area. Has that information leaked out somehow? Have we been compromised? Is there an exodus of people on a direct line path to our location?
Looks like we have yet another reason to improve upon our watchfulness and security.
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