Bad news concerning the supply chain just keeps coming. The Organic Prepper published an article on the Russian fertilizer export ban not too long ago. We also covered the fires engulfing major food distributors in the U.S. Shanghai, the world’s busiest port, has been locked down, with no end in sight. And, inexplicably, Union Pacific has mandated a 20% volume reduction for its freight cars that should be moving fertilizer around the country this time of year.
Add to this the apocalyptic drought in the Western U.S. and rampant inflation, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed at the thought of what will happen this growing season. However, it’s still early in the growing season, and it’s still too soon to despair.
But we should be planning for a rough couple of years ahead.
Bartering will come back with a vengeance. The dollar may not be the world’s reserve currency that much longer. Between pumping trillions of dollars into the system over the past two years and trying to use the dollar to isolate the Russians, even CNN admits the dollar is in trouble. Our government is far too interested in centralized digital currencies for my personal comfort.
We need other options, and sooner rather than later.
Some of us have been fortunate enough to have lived in the same place for more than a couple of years. Networks of trustworthy friends and neighbors are invaluable. Some people (like myself) have a small amount of acreage, which means that I have a variety of homesteading endeavors to choose from. I’ve been bartering with neighbors for years. Right now, one of my neighbors is running an extra freezer for me in exchange for my daughter helping to take care of his horses. If you live in one area for a long time, these kinds of arrangements often just sort of fall into place.
We also live close enough to the edge of suburbia that we have farmer friends. Labor laws in my state have changed recently, making it far more expensive to hire seasonal workers. (Does it ever feel like someone is trying to destroy agriculture?) Some friends and I are tentatively planning bartering arrangements for the fall when it’s harvesting and processing time. Twenty years ago, I would never have promoted working off the books. These days, it seems like you have to.
If you have the option to develop some kind of a working relationship with a farmer, that’s great. But other bartering options exist as well for people living deep within the concrete jungle.
Urban and suburban dwellers can do the same sort of thing, albeit on a smaller scale.
If you have a suburban yard, you may be able to grow quite a bit of your own vegetables to get you through the year. And you may be able to grow all the ingredients for certain specialty items, such as pasta sauce. When I lived in the suburbs, that’s what I did. You may be able to swap extra pasta sauce in exchange for eggs with a neighbor who uses their yard for chickens. Or you may have another neighbor that grows everything for pesto or another neighbor with berry bushes or fruit trees.
I’m always astounded at the amount of fruit that falls to the ground and gets wasted because people don’t know what to do with it. If you have a fruit tree, use it!
If you don’t have a canner or freezer space, most fruit (other than citrus) dries well. I have a neighbor with apple trees. This year, I ran out of canning lids, so I couldn’t preserve them as apple sauce. Instead, I sliced them thinly, put them in a dehydrator, and then vacuum-sealed them. I’m keeping most of them, but I’ve tried a few, and they came out wonderfully.
What about all the half-rotten stuff on the ground? Chickens love it if anyone in your circle of friends has chickens. It can also go into the compost heap and become fertilizer for next year’s vegetable garden.
You need to pay attention to the current world.
I don’t want to wind up like North Korea, where they have a government-mandated “poop quota” for each household. No joke. North Koreans have been starving for years. Even in the good years, they could not afford much fertilizer. When they closed their borders due to Covid, they also stopped importing fertilizer. Now, if North Koreans don’t turn in enough household feces, they cannot enter markets. Many countries have implemented Covid passes; the North Koreans have poo passes. The fertilizer shortage is real, and this is what will happen farther down the line if we don’t pay attention now.
I would much rather grab a shovel and pick up rotten fruit than poop in a bucket and turn it into my local government official. The United States is rich in natural resources. We’re all being affected by inflation and supply chain woes, and I don’t know if any of us will be able to avoid some serious lifestyle changes. However, reducing waste and developing frugal habits may soften the blow. If you are even remotely interested in growing some of your own food, now is the time to start.
But of course, many people don’t have a yard, and many people also don’t have a green thumb.
It doesn’t mean you’re lost.
Clothes may have to start lasting a lot longer. If you’re handy at mending, you will become valuable.
I speak from the heart here—I love all things relating to gardening and raising animals, but I’m hopeless at the crafty stuff. I look at a sewing machine, and it breaks. I have to get my kids to do knots for me. It’s absurd. I’m also ridiculously short and need dress clothes altered to fit properly. But I have food! I know I’d be willing to trade food for help keeping clothes mended.
This isn’t just about looking nice. Proper clothing will become a more pressing need as time goes on for those of us living in colder climates. Look at your clothes labels. They overwhelmingly come from Asia. It takes a lot of fuel to ship things from Asia, and fuel prices are skyrocketing.
High fuel prices will also make it more expensive to heat our homes. I live in wool-long undies for 6+ months a year because my polar bear children love having the house at 65. That’s a choice we make, but that choice may disappear within the year. A lot of people may have to keep their houses much colder simply because they cannot afford the fuel. This means more layers of clothing, which means more of a need for people who can keep clothes patched and wearable.
The ability to fix things, in general, will become more valuable.
We live in a landfill economy. That has to change. Supply chain issues are already making life difficult, and it will only get worse. I go to the same garage regularly because my son has a 20-year-old car that is difficult. The shop mechanic was telling me he’s had a hard time finding parts for vehicles less than ten years old. He’s got one vehicle with only 40,000 miles on it that is currently unusable because of parts shortages. Skillful vehicle maintenance will become more and more vital.
Your life is changing, whether you want it to or not.
A lot of people still spend their days doing their one job and then going home and streaming videos all evening, assuming that the inflation is transitory and peaking and that if everyone just complies hard enough, things will go back to 2019. It won’t happen.
Think about what you’re already good at.
Most of us have fun things we do on the side. My hobby farm (which is quite productive) started off as a little garden back in my suburban mom days, something mostly to entertain myself and my children when they were infants and toddlers. Then I realized how much money I was saving.
I don’t know how much time we’ll have before things get really bad. Maybe there’ll be one cataclysmic event. Maybe we’ll just keep on Fabian’s Third-Worldization pathway. Either way, we should soberly assess our abilities and assets.
We should not act out of fear.
When I got started with the hobby farm, I would jokingly tell people that I wanted my own food supply in case of a zombie apocalypse. And it’s come in handy the past couple of years! But I have heard a lot of, “Well, that’s fine for you, but I refuse to live in fear.”
Prepping isn’t living in fear.
It’s the sober realization that modern life has been based on a complex network of supply chains and support systems that have not received necessary maintenance and are now approaching a collapse. Nothing lasts forever. The Roman Empire didn’t last forever, and the American one won’t either. But we have the choice between waiting for the Visigoths to sack our homes and lead us all into slavery or proactively developing our own systems of creating and obtaining necessities while we still can.
And bartering will become more and more a part of that.
(Make sure you check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to home canning so that you have something to barter with.)
To barter, you need something to barter with.
Some people with money set aside have been stocking up on commodities such as gold and ammo. I have also met people stockpiling more unusual things, such as first edition signed books, spices, and fine art. If that works, good for them.
Personally, I don’t have enough money lying around for that kind of thing, and I’m willing to bet most of our readers don’t either. But most of us have skills that we can continue to refine. The modern Visigoths waiting in the wings to turn us all into slaves may be able to sack our homes, but they cannot take what’s in our heads.
Most of us by now are familiar with Klaus Schwab’s prediction that “By 2030, you will own nothing, and you will be happy.” There are some spectacularly powerful and arrogant people that see the masses as little more than fodder for experimentation. However, intense central planning has a bad track record. For reference, read up on Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and keep in mind that Hitler only controlled Germany for 12 years. Whatever evil they have planned, it won’t last forever.
Life will be harder for a while, and we need to move forward in that knowledge.
I don’t live in fear because I know that I’m doing everything possible at this phase of my life to give myself and my children a variety of options. That’s all any of us can do, whether we’ve got a farm out in the country or a garage in the city. Work on your skills and maintain your friendships. Find out who will deal honestly and in good faith with you. Surround yourself with people that are good for your mental and spiritual health. Know that you’re doing the best you can.
About Marie Hawthorne
A lover of novels and cultivator of superb apple pie recipes, Marie spends her free time writing about the world around her.