Supplies will last one year; long-term outlook uncertain

This is another top story from the May 20, 2019 edition; some of the conclusions are rather grim.

Based on an inventory of supplies and skills, it looks like the Gilead will be able to maintain itself as a self-contained community for at least one year, depending largely on the weather: the severity of the winter, and the adequate mix of rain and sun for gardens, and for growing and harvesting hay and corn for the Chambers Dairy.

Biomass

Without electricity, most households have to put up hay by hand, instead of using a hay elevator. Above, Jason Nash is put to work on a 200-bale wagon full of first-cut.

 

Hay: The hay situation is good for at least a year at the dairy. Sam and Diane Chambers say they typically like to have a year and-a-half of hay and silage on-hand so that a bad haying year won’t set them back. Also, noted Diane, they had to remove 40 of their 50 cows from production because the trucks stopped coming to pick up the milk a couple months ago, leaving only local consumers to take up the slack. “So we won’t need as much hay and silage as we have in the past,” Diane said.

This means Gilead’s small collection of 10 horses should have no trouble getting their hay from the fields the Chamberses won’t be using. “The fields we won’t need this summer could be hayed for the horses,” suggested Sam.

Firewood: The heating situation is not quite as rosy as the hay outlook. Most people have at least some firewood left from this past winter, and unused firewood from homes of those who didn’t survive the Pandemic will help pad out the supplies. However, most households will need at least three more cords of wood, which will need to be cut and split immediately if it’s going to be dry enough to burn by October/November. Most families started this process last month, but distribution of gasoline and two-cycle oil for chainsaws is uneven, so progress is also uneven.

Food

Milk: The Gilead area is in great shape when it comes to milk and its derivatives. Chambers notes that he is almost out of the grain concentrate he typically feeds his cows twice a day, but that shouldn’t be an issue. “They’ll keep producing on a diet of just hay and silage,” he said. “It’s just that their production won’t be as high.”

Sam and Diane Chambers' dairy cows eat the last of their grain concentrate. They'll still produce milk without it, but not as much as before.

Given that Gilead residents have had more than enough milk for their needs during the past two months, the reduction in production shouldn’t be a problem. The challenge now seems to be establishing a system that uses all the produced milk with minimal waste. Gilead residents have already started (and some cases, have been for years) producing their own cheese, butter and yogurt from raw milk.

Gardens: Every Gilead household has planted a garden each spring, so this year should be no different in that regard, although the scale will be greater for each one, and the stakes higher. “You can bet I’m going to be a hell of a lot more diligent about weeding and keeping the woodchucks out,” said teacher Liz Larsen. “This year we can’t just say, ‘Oh well, we didn’t get much out of the garden this year.’ We have to make it work, or this winter could be very bad.”

Similarly, those with blueberry bushes, apple trees and other fruit crops will be working to keep bugs, birds and other competitors from getting to the food before it can be harvested.

Livestock: Aside from the milkers at the Chambers Dairy, which are a primary source of protein, Gilead residents are generally well off when it comes to livestock. Ten of the Survivor households have anywhere from five to 50 chickens each, which means eggs will be forthcoming all summer, as well as new chicks.

“They can find their own food throughout the summer,” said Jim Nash, who has about 45 chickens roaming his property. “But winter is another story. We’re going to have to have grain for them all winter, as well as for the horses, goats, cows, and pigs. We’re probably okay for this coming winter, but after that, we have some hard issues to address.”

Three Gilead households have beef cattle that are scheduled for slaughter this Fall, and one household has goats, although the latter are for their wool rather than food. “At least, that’s our intention,” said Emily Villiers, owner of the goats. “But if we get hungry and they start looking less like sweaters and more like food, we’ll just do what has to be done.”

Another four households have one or more pigs, adding up to six of the animals. “The same discussion about grain supplies will have to take place regarding the pigs,” said Chuck

The Gilead's apple trees are tended carefully, as every calorie of food is going to be needed in winter now that grocery stores look to be a thing of the past.

Calhoun, who owns two pigs. “They’re a relatively inefficient protein source compared to beef, because they don’t convert grass to protein, like beef or goats do, and they don’t eat bugs, like chickens. They’re grain-intensive, which can be a problem.”

Energy/fuel

Electricity: All but six households have solar power for at least part of their homes’ electric needs, so many households can maintain a semblance of 21st century life, using their computers and printers, running a few household appliances, and charging rechargeable items.

Homes without solar panels typically have generators, but almost all are gasoline-powered, which means they’re all but useless, since virtually all gasoline will have to be saved for chainsaws to use for cutting firewood. Eric Quinton, a mechanic who converts gasoline and diesel engines to run on vegetable oil, says he can convert generators, but he has limited supplies of parts and says it would probably serve Gilead better if he reserved them for vehicle engines.

“I’m perfectly content without electricity for now,” said Chester Knight, a retired construction worker. “I’m sure if we had a really serious need crop up, Karl [Larsen] or Dave [Childers] wouldn’t mind letting me drop by to charge my screw gun or use his blender or something.”

Fuel: As noted in the first edition of The Gilead Informer, a supply run that procured vegetable oil and diesel from several area restaurants and businesses was successful. The run yielded a total of about 200 gallons of vegetable oil and 500 gallons of diesel. Sam Chambers says his family’s dairy should be able to get through the summer with that amount of fuel, but it will be close. Quinton, who filters and stores the vegetable oil, says he would be able to fix the Chambers’ diesel equipment to run on vegetable oil once the diesel runs out, if that looks like it would be the best way to go.

Other supplies

Although most Gilead residents have supplies of clothes, shoes, candles, soap and other necessities that will last for at least a year, if not quite a bit longer, it’s still worthwhile to consider where long-term supplies of such goods will come from. The know-how for producing some of these goods does exist, although primarily in books owned by residents, rather than as first-hand experience. Difficult-to-produce goods, and some which are likely impossible, includes the below list of items. Possible methods of replacing them as we run out have been noted, but there is currently no approved plan for doing so:

Salt: Only choice is to procure from surrounding stores; not available in any other way.

Candles and matches: Need to figure out how to make tallow for candles. Might be better to replace candles with lanterns, as fueling them is easier. No viable alternative for matches.

String, yarn and rope: Fleece animals (goats and sheep) can yield string and yarn, if the few folks who know how to spin and knit are willing and able. Flax could be grown for rope and possibly clothing, although amount of land needed for flax cultivation might be prohibitive, and processing into fiber could be difficult.

Cloth/fabric: As per above paragraph, fleece animals may be the only option; not such a great outlook for summer clothing, since cotton isn’t available and doesn’t grow locally.

Soap: Need to find out how to make it. Basic ingredients are lye and fat, and lye can be produced with ashes, of which the Gilead has plenty.

Borax and other cleaning aids: Likely will have to be replaced with home-made soap.

Leavening (Baking soda/baking powder): Yeast and yeast-like substitutes will have to be used, in particular by maintaining cultured doughs.

Any metal implements or tools: Preservation of existing supplies is critical; no capabilities or knowledge for metal-working exists among Survivor families.

Other supplies will be considered as they become apparent.

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