by New Ordnance
The data does not lie and climate scientists agree that we are in a period of minimum sunspot activity which corresponds with lower earth temperatures. These cycles have been thoroughly identified through the historical record. We are entering a natural cycle of global cooling and very likely a “Grand” cycle which is driven by the coincidence of a number of large long-term cycles that have resulted in mini-ice ages in the ancient and near past.
The Rocky Mountains and a good part of the northern US were covered by glaciers not so long ago as measured in geologic epochs.
Remember the old wood-cuts of Londoners ice skating on the Thames back in Dickens's time?
I grew up with anecdotal tales of mule-skinners driving wagons across frozen lower tributaries of the Mississippi River in certain years back in the 19th century.
Not wanting to get too friendly with cloned and resurrected woolly mammoths all over again, I think it would be prudent to focus on practical matters this spring.
Looking out the window I see 18 inches of snow on the ground which is highly unusual to say the least. The last two years, the snow at these lower elevations has gone out in the third week of February. Night-time temperatures are still in the single digits.
If there is an extended power outage most folks in the yuppified cities will probably die of hypothermia and exposure before they die of starvation – even up here in Montana. The survivors could be faced with eating their storage food through a number of growing seasons while they scramble to keep their houses warm. Even if they heat their ranch houses with wood, most people don’t live up in the timber (that burns up every summer). They make excursions into the mountains to cut and bring the firewood down.
Under these conditions energy efficiency is all important.
Far better to have a passive solar house that uses the latent heat stored in the earth as a great diurnal heat source and heat sink to change the temperature profile of the earth surrounding the house.
Far better to have a simple Montana pit garden that uses these passive principles to double your growing season and produce all the vegetables that you could ever want under adverse growing conditions including epic wind, hail and low temperatures. Automatic drip irrigation from your underground off-grid water cistern is a natural compliment.
Far better to have the Alpine Varietal of Painted Mountain Corn (click here to learn more) in your regular garden. Painted Mountain was already cold-hardy before we developed the Alpine Varietal. It grows at elevations with short growing seasons where no other grain will grow, even barley. It became our high-protein, staple grain that could be hand grown and harvested without dependence on machinery.
In retrospect, I can say that our Montana homestead was built utilizing anti-fragile principles.
I could leave the house unattended in the middle of the winter with no heat source other than the sun and earth. The water system inside would never freeze, even at thirty to forty below.
What we are talking about here is true sustainability that relies on subtle, usually unrecognized principles and low-tech natural systems.
Look at the word sustainable in it’s original definition – not the globalist propaganda cliché with it’s attendant sociopolitical baggage.
Sustainable… being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.
– Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition.
I have been there before and know how to thrive under those conditions and you can too.
To become truly antifragile, rely on Gabe Brown’s system of sustainable food production going forward under these or any other conditions. That means you will use the correct livestock in your new agricultural paradigm that relies on the natural symbiotic relationships between plant and animals that evolved for eons on this planet.
Going forward into The Grand Solar Minimum I will rely on three animals.
Saanens are a milk breed from Switzerland that are extremely cold hardy in my experience. When the children were young we had two Saanens that yielded copious quantities of excellent milk as long as their minimal requirements were met. They are a large breed yet gentle, to the point where children can tend them, and not ornery and stubborn as other goats can be. The goats had their own small shed that was well ventilated and a small yard surrounded by four to five foot high snow fence. They were quite happy in their own domain as long as they were milked twice a day and good food and water was provided. They never jumped the fence. Of course if the gate was left open they would go out and forage like all goats, eating the bark off the newly planted Siberian Elms.
Saanen milk is very rich and mild, not having the “goaty” taste that most people associate with other breeds. Of course that can change if the goats free-range out into the sagebrush. Free range feed can be exploited and controlled to a certain extent by staking them out in good grass with a long rope. They can wear bells or not, depending on your operational security requirements.
One winter the temperature was routinely plunging to thirty-five degrees F. below zero at night. With good alfalfa hay, the Saanens produced a lot of body heat. On going out to the breezy goat shed for the morning milking, we would find the animals all in a pile. The two goats were at the bottom, bedded happily in the fresh straw renewed every day. Several cats that normally lived in the woodpile would be in the heap seeking the warmth of the heat-producing goats. The bantam chickens that someone had given us were scattered on and around the heap. Inevitably, several “bantys” would be frozen solid. They were small and not well adapted to the cold – a tragic but necessary object lesson for the children on the way of the natural world.
The animals would welcome the first rays of the sun through the large south facing window that illuminated the interior of their winter home as the milking got underway. The cats and the children were underfoot, greedily awaiting a squirt of warm milk in their direction.
Going forward, I am determined to try Tibetan Yaks as the necessary animal component of the new/old agricultural paradigm as elucidated and demonstrated by Gabe Brown and others in the no-till, mob-grazing natural production operation that easily scales up or down. (Click here to learn more.)
Yaks are reputedly easy to handle with a mild disposition but I will follow my own rule of thumb and never turn my back on large beasts in close proximity, particularly bulls. Some of you ranchers out there can school me on this. I need advice here. From what I have read Yaks are twice as efficient in converting feed to weight as ordinary cattle. Put another way, they can put on an equivalent amount of weight with 50% less feed, the epitome of a guiding principle that maximizes Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI).
Scottish Highlands Cattle
I have observed this breed here in Montana and they seem to maximize the cold-hardy requirement but are not popular with the current ranching production model because they take longer to bring to market.
I see more Black Angus here than anything else. Ranchers like Black Angus for their hardiness and short feed to weight production characteristics that are necessary to maintain their annual bottom line to finance all the machinery, chemicals and irrigation equipment required for the current farm-ranch paradigm. This terribly flawed model could well prove to be quite ephemeral as we get deeper into the Grand Solar Minimum.
Use these suggestions freely to build your own self-reliant life for tribe and family. In a fractured and frozen society, foster interdependence at the local level in your own communities and eliminate dependence on centralized command and control from afar.
The Atomic Trekker
You can learn these lessons and many more from my successes and mistakes of a similar nature that I wrote about in The Atomic Trekker (click here to order) which is now ready for publication.
With The Atomic Trekker you will discover how to build a blast and radiation home shelter that also functions as an excellent Grand Solar Minimum Shelter.
From my experience, a properly designed shelter will sustain you through those cold nights with no heat sources required other than healthy bodies and the latent heat stored in the earth.
Until then, stay warm my brothers and sisters. Come out of the cities and avoid crowds. (Hat Tip to Old Remus)