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Sifoddling Along

By Marilyn Carnell

The New Normal

With the introduction of COVID 19 into our lives this year, I am thinking of how to cope with all the changes it brings. Staying at home as much as possible is easy for me as I am retired. My family and Amazon deliver anything I need, but I can’t help worrying about the possibility of a complete breakdown of our way of life.

What if the basic services we take for granted, water, sewer and power stops. Do we have the skills to survive? For most, probably not, but I think I am of the last generation that remembers the ways needed to survive in a more basic way.

Following are things I remember about living off the grid:

    First you would need some land like the small piece of property I own on Big Sugar Creek in the Ozark Mountains. It is about 7 acres with a good three acres of rich bottom land for a garden and allowing space for chickens, a cow for milk and butter, a steer and/or some pigs to butcher and preserve. The creek has not been fished much in recent years, so that is another diet option. There is timber for fire wood, fruit and nut trees and good water in the well. An outdoor toilet would have to be constructed far from the creek. Paper was once supplied by the Sears catalog, so a substitute would have to be found.
    Sadly, I am not physically able to farm myself, so I would have to have other family members live with me. I would be the “senior advisor”.
    As I recall when I was young there were three things a young woman needed to know to be a good wife: 1) milk a cow 2) clean a fish and 3) skin a squirrel. Now for my disclaimer. I never was very good at milking, and I never had to clean a fish or skin a squirrel. That said, I have seen these things done and know the necessary steps.
    I have even been to a hog killing and once took a meat cutting class. A few hogs will provide both fresh and cured meat – bacon and hams. Sausage can be canned and lard is key to great piecrusts and frying food. Chickens are essential for eggs and meat.
    I know how to kill and dress a chicken. The freshly killed bird in dipped in boiling water to help remove the feathers and held over a fire to remove the pin feathers. They are smelly and messy tasks but doable. I was never much of a gardener, but my Mom was and I did have to help with planting, weeding and harvest. I even remember what to plant to eat fresh or preserve.
    Vegetables: Spring lettuce, green onions and radishes for that best early salad of wilted lettuce. Potatoes, peas, onions, squash, green beans, tomatoes, okra, corn (sweet and field), cabbage, peppers, pumpkins and asparagus will help provide a balanced diet.
    Fruits: If you are lucky there are trees to provide apples, pears and peaches to dry, can or pickle; you can pick wild grapes for juice and jelly.
    There are many wild plants that are edible – poke salad, lamb’s quarter and other greens, wild garlic and onions. Other delicious items are black walnuts, butter nuts, paw paws and mushrooms. Blackberries, huckleberries and strawberries will provide special treats and if you plant early even melons are possible.

Let us hope we don’t have to face returning to these basics but many older people will know how to survive these trying times.

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