How much land do I need to live off grid or off the land?

So you’ve decided that you want to buy some rural land and live a self sufficient, sustainable lifestyle on your new homestead. Whether your goal is to live off the land, live off grid, live a self sustainable lifestyle, or just get away from the city… With prices per acre rising as fast as they are, you are probably wondering what’s the minimum amount of land that I need to homestead? How much land do I need to farm? How much land do I need for a garden? All these questions have answers – but there are many variables to account for. There is no answer, besides the more the merrier. Here’s what I believe in terms of land ownership and pretty much everything else in the preparedness space: “Two is one; one is none.” That is to say: 2 acres, 1 acre if you can’t afford 2. This matches with calculations made by others.

Remember the variables. While obviously having more land means that you will have more space to raise livestock or plant crops, it also means that you have more land that you’ll have to defend if something bad happens.

For some elucidation on the food variable, I defer to the archives of Prep-Blog to the wisdom of Thoreau.

tldr; .5 acres minimum.

Living off the land: How much land?

Suppose that you can no longer rely on any consistent source of food, other than what you can grow on your own land. Your stored food supplies have been exhausted. Some disaster has wreaked havoc with the commercial food supply. How much land would you need to grow ALL of your own food? For this particular article, I’m setting aside the question of raising your own chickens, fish, goats, cattle, pigs, etc. For the sake of simplicity, let’s consider how much land it would take to grow a complete vegetarian diet, per person. Now I’m not a vegetarian, but I eat a fairly healthy diet, and if the necessity arises, I’d adapt.

Certain assumptions are necessary to this type of calculation. For example, we have to estimate the total calories per day per person, and the percent of calories attributed to protein, fat, and carbohydrates. [Technically, what we call ‘calories’ are kilocalories (kcal).] The USDA nutrition labels assume 1800 kcal per day for an adult woman and 2200 kcal per day for an adult man. So the average is that ubiquitous 2000 kcal diet figure found on so many product labels. I suggest that this figure is ridiculously low for anyone who is growing all of his or her own food, largely by manual labor. My target for kcal per day is 2740, which is one million kcal per year per person — a nice round figure, and plenty of calories for a non-sedentary lifestyle. If you think that my numbers are off by, say, 10 or 20%, you can easily increase or decrease the final tally by 10 or 20% to get a result that you prefer.

As for the percentage of calories from protein, fat, and carbohydrates, I’ll use a simplification of the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations: 15% of kcal from protein, 30% from fat, 55% from carbs. [Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients — PDF] This fat percent might seem a little high at 30%. The average sedentary overweight American would be better off at 15 or 20% of kcal from fat (68% of Americans are overweight). But if you are physically active, and for kids and teens in general, a higher percent of fat is preferable. For someone using manual labor to grow all their own food, they will burn those calories off, no problem.

So we need 1 million kcal per person per year, with 300,000 kcal from fat, 150,000 kcal from protein, and 550,000 kcal from carbs. In addition to considering protein, fat, and carbohydrates in terms of kcal per year, we can also use kilograms per year. The above stated kcal levels for macronutrients work out to some fairly simple numbers in kg of protein, fat, and carbohydrates per person per year, of approximately:

protein: 35 kg per year
fat: 35 kg per year
carbs: 145 kg per year

I’ve already calculated how many kg of protein, fat, and carbohydrates various common and uncommon crops produce per unit area of land. To save you some reading and math, I’ll refer to those numbers without a long explanation. This data is based on the USDA nutrient database, the FAOSTAT database, and various other online sources in agriculture.

All these numbers should work fairly well, to a first approximation. But you are never going to be able to make a precise calculation of calories or of crop yield, in advance. Caloric and nutritional needs vary from person to person and from time to time. Agricultural data will also vary greatly. The same crop planted in the same field in two consecutive years will give different yields. There are no exact numbers in agriculture, so a first approximation is all you can use.

I’m going to assume that the grower is inexperienced, and so I’ll keep the expected yields at a modest level. There are a number of estimates of how much land you need to grow a complete vegetarian diet, from various sources, but they tend to over-idealize the yields. What if there is less rainfall than expected? What if the grower makes a few bad decisions in terms of which varieties to plant, when to plant, how much fertilizer to use? Many factors can reduce yields, and if you are relying on those yields for your survival, you would be better off using very conservative estimates. So that is my approach below. Relatively low expected yields are used, well below what experienced farmers obtain, about one fourth of an optimum yield and about half of a typical commercial yield. Yields were also reduced to account for losses when a crop is dried, cleaned, and milled into grain.

Carbs are relatively easy to grow in a backyard mini-farm: wheat, rice, corn, oats, potato, barley, quinoa, amaranth, etc. The chart that follows has my estimates for the kg of carbs and of protein per 100 square meters for one crop. Numbers have been rounded because, in agriculture, exact numbers are illusory. The values in parentheses are yield per hectare (10,000 sq m); the values below each crop name are per 100 sq m. (1/100th of a hectare). A hectare is 2.471 acres.

Amaranth (1000 kg/ha)
6.50 kg carbs
1.35 kg protein

Barley (1000 kg/ha)
6.25 kg carbs
1.05 kg protein

Corn (1250 kg/ha)
7.70 kg carbs
0.70 kg protein

Oats (1000 kg/ha)
5.00 kg carbs
1.25 kg protein

Potato (7000 kg/ha)
9.15 kg carbs
1.05 kg protein

Quinoa (1000 kg/ha)
6.40 kg carbs
1.40 kg protein

Rice (1000 kg/ha)
6.00 kg carbs
0.50 kg protein

Wheat (at 1000 kg/ha yield)
5.75 kg carbs
1.05 kg protein

All of the above numbers are arguable. With some luck and/or experience, you should do better.

So if you need 145 kg of carbs per year, you will want to plant 2417 sq m of rice, or 2266 sq m of quinoa, or 1585 sq m of potatoes, or 2900 sq m of oats. I would like to simplify those numbers further and say that about 2500 sq m of land will provide enough carbs, from a variety of different staple crops, for one person per year.

If you are growing for 5 persons, you could pick five of these carb crops to grow in one season, and be set for the year. If you have a crop failure or two, you will simply need to try again in the next growing season that same year (assuming you have 6 or more months of frost-free weather per year). So I’m going to consider that all your macronutrients are grown in one season, and that the remaining growing season and any ability to overwinter a crop will be in reserve, in case of initial crop failure.

If all goes well, you can plant a second crop, and have food to give away, to sell, or to barter. This extra food is important. In developing nations, when people live off the land, it is called subsistence farming. But families in that situation are much better off if they are able to grow extra food to sell or trade. It improves their quality of living immensely. So growing only as much food as you need is not a good goal.

Next, let’s consider protein sources. First, you have the protein from the above mentioned carbohydrate crops, which averages about 1 kg of protein per 100 sq m per crop. So with a carb crop of 2500 sq m (50 m by 50 m), you are getting 25 kg of protein, out of the 35 kg that you need. What is the best supplemental source of protein, when your main protein source is grains? — beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, in short: legumes of every kind.

The best legumes for supplemental protein are cowpeas (blackeyes), dried green peas, yardlong beans (the full pods or just the seeds), chickpeas, lentils (sprouted for a better essential amino acid profile) and soybeans. All of the aforementioned legumes are complete proteins, except soybeans, which are a little short on methionine, but otherwise good. Soybeans have the added benefit of being high in dietary fat, with plenty of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Yields for legumes are variable. But given a low reasonable estimate of yields, a 100 square meter plot will give you approximately:

chickpeas (1000 kg/ha)
1.90 kg protein per 100 sq m

cowpeas, dried (1000 kg/ha)
2.35 kg protein

lentils (800 kg/ha)
2.05 kg protein

peas, dried (1200 kg/ha)
2.95 kg protein

soybeans (1000 kg/ha)
3.65 kg protein

yardlong beans (8000 kg/ha, whole pods)
2.25 kg protein

The average of the above examples is about 2.5 kg of protein per 100 sq m of legume crop. To gain the additional 10 kg of yearly protein that we need to add to our previous calculation, we will plant only 400 sq m of legumes, in only one crop per year. This assumes that you are going to dry much of the legume crop, to store for later use.

So now we are at 2500 plus 400 = 2900 sq m of land, one crop per year (3 to 4 months), to grow all the protein and carbs that you need per person for a full year. But the next macronutrient is problematic: dietary fat. It is easy enough to grow carbs and protein in a backyard garden or mini-farm. But dietary fat is more difficult. You basically have two options:

1. grow a high-fat food and consume the whole food (e.g. sunflower seeds, peanuts, soybeans)
2. grow a high-fat food and cold press it for the oil

With the first option, your body efficiently extracts the fat from the seed, but you have no cooking oil. With the second option, your yield from a small home oil press will be modest. Piteba claims percent oil extraction efficiency for their small press in the 70 to 85% range; I suggest that this level is rather optimistic. So you are better off with both options.

The only truly small-scale economical home oil press that I’ve found is the Piteba oil press. If you search on YouTube, you can find many different videos of this press in action example. Canola seeds, safflower seeds, sunflower seeds, camelina sativa seeds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts and more can all be manually pressed to produce vegetable oil for cooking. However, several reviews I’ve read say that the yields are limited, and the device takes some practice and skill to use effectively.

Some high-fat foods that you can consume as a whole food (rather than pressing for oil) include:

peanuts
pumpkin seed
sesame seed
soybeans
sunflower seed

The above foods can all be pressed for oil, except soybeans, which are too low in oil (18%) for a small home press. In addition, a small oil press can be used to extract oil from:

camelina sativa
canola
chia seed
chufa (tigernut)
flax seed
safflower seed

How much dietary fat can you obtain per 100 sq m of land? I set the yields of home-pressed oilseed below fairly low. This takes into account a possible lower yield of the oilseed crop, and the lower extraction efficiency of small home oil presses.

camelina sativa (1000 kg/ha oilseed)
1.70 kg oil per 100 sq m

canola (1000 kg/ha oilseed)
2.10 kg oil

chia seed (1000 kg/ha oilseed)
1.55 kg oil

chufa (2000 kg/ha tuber)
3.00 kg oil

flax seed (1000 kg/ha oilseed)
2.10 kg oil

peanuts (1000 kg/ha shelled)
2.50 kg oil

pumpkin seed (650 kg/ha hulless variety)
1.60 kg oil

safflower seed (1000 kg/ha oilseed)
1.90 kg oil

sesame seed (500 kg/ha oilseed; even commercial yields of sesame seed are low)
1.25 kg oil

soybeans (1000 kg/ha legume)
2.00 kg oil — but only if you eat the whole seed
(cannot be pressed for oil in a home press)

sunflower seed (850 kg/ha)
2.2 kg oil (black oilseed variety only)

The average of the above yields is 2.0 kg of oil per 100 sq m of land. For the sake of simplicity, let’s consider that all the dietary fat that you need, 35 kg per person per year, is met by the above oil sources, neglecting the oil content of your protein and carb crops (which are generally low in fat anyway). You would then need 1750 sq m of land per person to grow 35 kg of oil in one crop per year. At an average specific density for the oil of 0.92, your 35 kg of oil is about 38 liters in volume.

So we’ve provided for the dietary needs of our macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

But what about vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and a variety of fruits and vegetables to make our meals healthier and more enjoyable? For that you will simply need a large backyard garden, not a mini-farm. I suggest that a garden of about 50 sq m (just over 500 sq ft.) per person is more space than you need to grow every kind of fruit or vegetable to add to your main protein, fat, and carbohydrate crops.

Now let’s add the above numbers:
main crops: 2500 sq m
(carbs and protein)

legumes: 400 sq m
(supplemental protein)

oilseed: 1750 sq m
(dietary fat)

fruits and vegetables: 50 sq m
(vitamins, minerals, fiber, and enjoyment)

Total: 4700 sq m of land per person
which is 50590 sq ft., or 1.16 acres per person

Discussion

Most estimates of the amount of land you need per person to grow a complete vegetarian diet are lower than 1 acre per person, many are lower than 1/2 acre per person. I could certainly lower my above estimate by allowing for 2 crops per year, rather than one. This would make the estimate into 2350 sq m of land, or 0.58 acres per person. That extra 0.08 acres is about 324 sq m. So we could round the estimate down to one half acre per person (a little less than one quarter hectare).

My take on the above analysis is that an ideal amount of land is over one acre per person. I would plan on 1.5 acres of growing space per person, taking into account possible crop failures, land that is used for compost crops, maybe a small area for raising and feeding poultry or cattle, a perhaps a small area for some fruit or nut trees. This estimate works for nearly any location, even one with a long winter, since you are only counting on one crop per year. I conclude that 1.5 acres per person is ideal; it adds some additional margin for error and some land for additional food production to the 1.16 acres determined above.

You could certainly do well with only 1 acre per person. This area of land gives you a wide margin for error, and in all likelihood ample additional food to give away, sell, or barter. With two crops per year, and perhaps some over-wintering crops, you would have a surfeit of food.

It also helps if the total number of persons is larger. The more crops you grow and the more land, the more you can off-set one crop failure with another crop success. For example, with 10 acres for 10 persons, a complete failure on one acre would still leave you with enough food for all 10 persons (0.9 acres per person).

But a half acre per person is, in my view, too little land. In such a case, you are banking your survival on the hope that every crop produces optimum yield, no crop ever fails, the weather is optimal every season, you never have any major pest problems, you never plant the wrong variety of crop, and so on. Theoretically, you could live off of a half-acre per person, but practically speaking it is not enough land.

– Thoreau

Going ham on Ham Radio (Amateur Radio Service)

This guide is going to go through how to get your Ham Radio license (in the United States) and some suggested steps for “going ham” with your new license. First off, the etymology of Ham Radio is that “ham” was a term for radio operators and in the last century the term has really taken off.

How do I get my Ham Radio license?

Step 1: Study for your test. Well, I guess step 0 would be choosing which test to study for. I used hamstudy.org but there are other resources. The best resource is going to be going to a local radio group.

The three levels are:

  • Technician
  • General
  • Amateur Extra

Step 2: Take your test. I recommend doing an online session. My test was with GLAARG and it was conducted over Zoom. They really take anti-cheating seriously, as they should. One thing that’s interesting is that people regularly study for multiple exams. I’ve heard of high schoolers studying for then passing all three tests in one day.

Click here for GLAARG’s FAQ on remote test sessions.

Step 3: Here’s where we go ham.

Buying Ham Radio gear

What you need first is a radio to listen in on what’s going on around you. I chose the often-shat-on but even-more-often-bought Baofeng UV-5R handheld radio and more accessories than I care to admit.

To sum it up… Going (baby) ham:

radio: Baofeng UV-5R

upgraded antenna: Nagoya UT-308UV 144/430Mhz 3.0dB SMA-Female Magnet 56cm Antenna w/5m Cable

radio programming cable: Baofeng programming cable

This gear only lets you listen in and maybe make your first contact if you live close enough or within nice line of sight to a repeater.

Learn the Ham Radio lingo

WRARC has a nice guide on what Ham Radio etiquette looks (sounds) like. Great training is just to listen in on local nets and observe how it’s done.

Listen in on a Noon net

The first time I heard someone else’s voice and not a robot reading a weather report, I felt so very accomplished. When you get to this step, you should too. Basically, you’ll need to

  1. Look up what channels are active in your area.
  2. Use that programming cable to program channels onto your radio.

Check out this guide by QRZ now about adding a channel to your Baofeng. This other guide provides a bit more insight on how to find interesting channels to listen in on.

Discover Broadband-Hamnet

Once you have your Ham Radio license, a whole new world opens to you. Think of your access to the airwaves as a magic carpet beckoning you to ride. This website gives me a look into the past and when I discovered it, I was immediately taken with the mission. I bought many Linksys routers and things like marine goop, weatherproof cases, solar panels, batteries, cable glands, and so much more to try and get involved. Then discover it’s dead. Meshnets are the future – both with or without collapse but software moves on. Consider this a nice museum

Resources: http://www.broadband-hamnet.org/

Making your first contact

First contact is the first time you legally speak with someone over the radio. Here’s where my guide tapers off and I start pointing to resources. The ARRL is The National Association for Amateur Radio. Here’s their guide for making your first contact.

Check out AREDN and RACES

AREDN: Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network. Check out their site to see what they’re all about.

RACES: Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services. These are HAM radio operators that have registered their gear.

Look into SDR (Software Defined Radio)

From DC 2 Daylight has a great guide on starting off with SDR. Check out Ham Project’s Raspberry Pi for Ham Radio guide. It’s crazy what’s out there and I can’t hold a candle to this guide, so do check it out.

Going cold turkey with Ham Radio (the end for now)

Your path into HAM radio is not going to look like mine, but I hope I provided enough rabbit holes to make it interesting.

As with too many things, I go 0 to 100 and then lose interest. There is so much more to this.

If any Elmers have tips for where to go from here to rekindle my interest… Please holler in the comments!

Books I want to have on hand in case society collapses

Books are heavy – with knowledge. Do they belong in your prep? Are there certain books that everyone should have a copy of? It might not be a good use of space to keep big books in your bug out bag; however, if you are one of the lucky few to have a designated bug out location, stockpiling certain books could be of value.

Let’s take the Book of Eli as an example. In that fictitious glimpse into a post-apocalyptic world, there’s nothing like a copy of the Bible to keep the faith. Denzel Washington kept it in his bug out bag and it served him well. Lesson learned: There are plenty of pocket books that could be useful in a bugout bag.

Personally, I have a collection of books that I store at my bugout location. They’re mostly hunting, gardening, building, or food related in some way. Here are some of the stars of the collection:

Barbecue’n with Bobby by Bobby Seale

– Cookbooks might just make up the majority of my stash. I have ones that are old enough to have hand drawn illustrations in lieu of pictures of the finish product. This particular one is not that old but it does have a certain unique OG flair because of its author: Bobby Seale. If shit hits the fan, I want to know how to throw a proper, potentially Black Panther approved, BBQ. 

Old Wildfowling Tales Volume II, III, and IV by Worth Mathewson

Some of these baby are actually signed! These are collections of old timey hunting stories from around the world and each story is equal parts educational and entertaining. The vast majority of these stories predate the widespread use of electricity and there are countless tips on hunting, bird habits, how to stay warm, how to set up a blind, and more all entertwined into epic tales of success. They make me yearn for a time of more plentiful wildlife, and provide the motivation to go out and succeed in my own pursuits.

Stalking the Faraway Places by Euell Gibbons

This is an extension of Gibbons’ usual work. Instead of focusing on the ins and outs of a particular species, he regales the tales of entire foraging trips that he has completed in the most obscure of locations. This book reminds me that edible food can be found in even the farthest reaches of our country.

Stalking the Healthful Herbs by Euell Gibbons

A classic Gibbons field guide – and always get the field guide edition of his books. This book goes hrough the medicinal uses of many edible plants that are often overlooked. Gibbons presents his own personal experiences, and also tales that he has heard first or second hand that have not yet been verified. The two are properly differentiated so there is no confusion to the reader.

Honorable Mentions

  • Gourmet Style Road Kill Cooking by Jeff Eberbaugh
  • The Complete Fish Cookbook by Dan & Inez Morris
  • Camouflage Cuisine – Wild Game & Seafood Cookery of the South by Doreas Brown
  • Cy Littlebee’s Guide to Cooking Fish and Game by Werner O’Nagel

PS: This list will be added to over time.

PPS: Stay tuned for an article on how to properly store books. And another one on how to properly bury them as part of a cache.

PPPS: Worst case, it can be used as a fire starter.

Thoughts on rebuilding the seed supply after collapse

Seeds are the source of all the plants we eat, and by extension all of the animals that we eat, that also eat said plants. A large enough disruption aka societal collapse could destroy the existing seed supply chain and therefore the very source of our sustenance. The existing seed supply chain is pretty f*cked up and fragile as it is.

I personally believe that distributed underground seed banks are the answer. After all, the oldest viable seed ever planted was over 2000 years old.

But what seeds should be a staple in ever seed bank? Based on average crop yield, there has to be a common answer (geography and climate permitting). To answer this question, I defer to the wisdom of the giants whom shoulders we stand upon on the eternal quest for preparedness.

As Theoreau originally wrote on prep-blog.com:

Rebuilding the Seed Supply after the SHTF

Few people realize that, if any disaster collapses our current agricultural production system, we will need to rebuild our supply of seeds for planting crops — the main commercial supply and also the seeds for gardens and small local farms. There are lots of small seed companies, catering to backyard gardeners. But the vast majority of the seed supplied for most of our agricultural land comes from just a few large agribusinesses. If some type of natural or man-made disaster collapses the commercial agricultural system, those few companies might not be able to provide seed. So this post looks at ways to rebuild the seed supply, starting with limited resources.

In 2013, the U.S. produced 1.85 million metric tonnes (MT) of wheat for seed. That’s not wheat for human consumption, but only the wheat used to plant the next year’s crop. Suppose we start with a certain modest amount of wheat seed. How do we produce 1.85 million MT of seed to plant a crop of wheat to feed the nation?

The seeding rate is determined by the number of seeds needed per area of land, and the weight of each seed. A large heavy wheat seed, like Kamut, has a high seeding rate, because each seed is larger and heavier. A variety of wheat with smaller seeds has a lower seeding rate, at the same number of seeds/plants per hectare, because each seed is small and light. A typical mid-range seeding rate for wheat would be 100 kg of seed per hectare of land. A hectare (ha) is 2.47 acres of land.

A grow-out is the planting of a crop solely to produce seed for a subsequent planting. How many grow-outs would it take to produce 1.85 million MT of wheat seed? If we start with 1 MT (1000 kg) of wheat seed, we can plant wheat at a seeding rate of 100 kg/ha. This will result in 10 hectares of planting, and a yield of about 3 MT/ha (a modest attainable yield), for a total first crop of only 30 MT. We need 1.85 million MT. The next grow-out gives us another 30 times increase in wheat for 900 MT. Several successive grow-outs are needed:

1: 1 MT plants 10 ha and produces 30 MT of wheat
2: 30 MT plants 300 ha and produces 900 MT of wheat

3: 900 MT plants 9,000 ha and produces 27,000 MT of wheat
4: 27,000 MT plants 270,000 ha and produces 810,000 MT of wheat

5: 810,000 MT plants 8.1 million ha and produces 24.3 million MT of wheat
Then in the sixth planting, only a portion of the seed needs to be used:
6: plant 1.85 million MT of seed to reach usual U.S. wheat production quantity: ~58 million MT of wheat for food

Part of the 5th harvest can be used for food, and the rest for seed. If we grow two crops of wheat per year, not necessarily on the same land, we don’t have food or enough seed for a full harvest until the sixth crop, which is in the third year.

Rebuilding the wheat seed supply takes three years, assuming we have the resources to plant and harvest each crop, and the will power not to use any of the harvest from the first four crops for food. Yikes! Not good news. But is there any crop that we can grow-out quicker? Yes.

A conservative seeding rate for amaranth is only 1 kg per ha, and a conservative estimate of yield is 1 MT (1000 kg) per ha. The increase is 1000-fold per planting, compared to an increase of only 30-fold for wheat. How does amaranth achieve this feat? By having many small seeds in a single kilogram, and by producing many seeds (grains) on each plant.

If we start with one MT (1000 kg) of amaranth for the first planting, we can plant 1000 ha instead of 10 ha for wheat. And with a yield of 1 MT/ha times 1000 ha, we achieve one thousand MT of amaranth (1 million kg) from the first crop.

1: 1 MT plants 1000 ha and produces 1000 MT of amaranth
2: 1000 MT plants 1 million ha and produces 1 million MT of amaranth

3: Then in the third planting, we can’t even use all the amaranth from the second planting for seed — 1 million MT would plant 1 billion ha, but the U.S. only has 400 million ha of agricultural land. So in the third crop, we can plant as much land with amaranth as we like, and produce as much grain amaranth for food as we like, with plenty left over to use as seed for the next year, or to sell to other nations.

Instead of 6 plantings to grow enough wheat, we need only three plantings of amaranth. This cuts the time to rebuild the seed supply from three years to 1.5 years, and we would have some amaranth leftover for use as food when the second harvest in the first year is completed.

The math for quinoa works out nearly as well, although quinoa seeds are larger, and so the seeding rate is higher. A typical seeding rate is 4 kg/ha, and a conservative value for yield is similar to that of amaranth, about 1,000 kg/ha (1 MT/ha). So a grow-out of quinoa would multiply the amount of seed by 250-fold with each crop — not as good as amaranth, but far better than wheat.

1: 1 MT plants 250 ha and produces 250 MT of quinoa
2: 250 MT plants 62,500 ha and produces 62,500 MT of quinoa
3: 62,500 MT plants 15.6 million ha and produces 15.6 million MT of quinoa

4: And then that 15.6 million MT of quinoa is more than you could ever plant for a subsequent grow-out. So part of that harvest would be for food, and the rest for seed. By the fourth crop, you have all the quinoa you can use.

So if we ever have to rebuild the seed supply for growing crops, we should focus our initial efforts on amaranth and quinoa. Of course, we need a wide variety of foods for a healthy diet. So at the same time, we have to apply some resources to rebuild the seed supply for wheat, corn, rice, barley, and many other crops. But for survival purposes, in order to produce as much food as possible in the shortest amount of time, amaranth and quinoa are the king and queen of survival crops.

– Thoreau

“amaranth seeds” by The Weed Forager’s Handbook is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Can you use antacids as a treatment for nuclear fallout exposure?

This isn’t something that most laypeople have ever had to – and hopefully will never have to – test. But the question remains, are antacids useful as a treatment for nuclear fallout exposure? That is to say: Should antacids be part of your prep?

To answer this question, I defer to some old knowledge from Prep-Blog which has hitherto been lost to the internet. It’s worth deferring to your preferred medical professional, too. I for one have prepped antacids, but they’re for my tummy, not nuclear fallout. My nuclear fallout plan is to avoid nuclear fallout like the literal plague that it is.

As Theoreau originally wrote on prep-blog.com:

Antacids as a Treatment for Exposure to Nuclear Fallout

This prepping and survival post contains important information on using simple OTC antacids as a treatment for internal contamination with radioactive isotopes from nuclear fallout. The radioactive fallout might come from a nuclear power plant disaster, or a dirty bomb, or a nuclear bomb explosion. Regardless of the source, at least several different types of radioactive elements are released, and these isotopes can end up in the air, food, and water.

The most prevalent radioactive element in nuclear fallout is likely to be iodine-131 (a radioactive isotope of iodine). The treatment, as most preppers know, is potassium iodide (KI) or potassium iodate (KIO3) tablets. KI tablets are approved by the FDA for treating exposure to radioactive iodine. KIO3 tablets are suggested by the World Health Organization for the same purpose. The pills flood the body with safe non-radioactive iodine, reducing possible uptake of the radioactive iodine by the thyroid.

But what can you do for internal contamination with other radioactive elements? The answer is much less well known. I found only a few websites with information on treatments for exposure to other radioisotopes. The website Radiation Exposure Level and Effects has a good overview as well as links to some authoritative sources. There is a U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS), National Library of Medicine website, called “Radiation Emergency Medical Management”, with a section on Radiation Countermeasures for Treatment of Internal Contamination. Then there is a report, which seems to be the original source for most of these treatments, from the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement (NCRP).

The treatment options are somewhat complicated, so I’ll just summarize them here. See the sources above for details.

For exposure to radioactive strontium-90 or radium, ordinary antacids, available Over-The-Counter, are suggested, in two steps.

1. The first step in the treatment blocks absorption of these two radioactive elements in the GI tract. This involves taking a dose of aluminum hydroxide gel (an OTC antacid) or a dose of Gaviscon, which contains aluminum hydroxide. The use of aluminum hydroxide is the preferred “blocking” treatment.

An alternative is to take calcium phosphate, which is an OTC calcium supplement. A different alternate treatment is to take sodium alginate (alginic acid). This latter compound is one of the “inactive” ingredients in Gaviscon. So if you take the Gaviscon, you’re getting two effective ingredients. Gaviscon is available as tablets or in liquid form.

You take the first step in this treatment as a one-time dose. You take the second step in this treatment on a daily basis.

2. The second step in the treatment for internal contamination with strontium or radium is the antacid/calcium supplement calcium carbonate (e.g. TUMS). Calcium carbonate competes with strontium and radium for bone binding sites. Basically, both strontium and radium are “bone seekers”; they will be taken up by the body (mistaken for calcium) and stored in the bones and teeth. That is not what you want. Strontium and radium remain radioactive for, well, essentially the rest of your life. But if you have enough calcium in your system from the TUMS (or generic calcium carbonate), then the strontium and radium are diluted and are less likely to be stored in your bones and teeth. Your system takes up the ordinary calcium instead of the radioactive strontium or radium.

How prevalent is strontium in nuclear fallout? It is the second most common isotope, after iodine-131. The iodine decays with a half-life of 8.1 days; almost all of it will have decayed after 10 half-lives (81 days). But strontium has a half-life of 29.1 years; almost all of it will have decayed in 291 years. Strontium is a serious problem in nuclear fallout.

What other isotopes are treatable with OTC medications?

There is an OTC treatment for internal contamination with uranium. It involves ordinary sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), dissolved in water, taken by mouth. This antacid has the effect of making the urine alkaline instead of acidic, which then has the beneficial effect of helping to clear uranium from your system. (I don’t know why.)

Now you might say that uranium is one of the less common isotopes in nuclear bomb fallout, and you’d be right. But it is found in nuclear power plant waste in large quantities. And it is possible, but unlikely, that a rogue nation might use uranium in a dirty bomb. So uranium is not beyond the scope of possibility as a radioactive element of concern.

For certain other radioactive elements, you need a prescription medication, such as DTPA (for several of the less-common isotopes) or Prussian blue (for cesium-137). Supposedly, the CDC has a stockpile of these and other important medications, for use in a radiation emergency anywhere in the U.S. But I’m skeptical that it would be distributed promptly and efficiently.

As for the above-mentioned OTC antacid medications, it would be relatively inexpensive to stock up on these items for your radiation emergency kit. See the sources above that I mention above for all the details, including dosing instruction and cautions.

For more details on radiation levels and treatments for exposure, see: Radiation Exposure Level and Effects available in Kindle format or in paperback.

What is freezing fog and how can I prepare for it?

Put simply, freezing fog is fog that is composed of supercooled water droplets that are below freezing temperature but still liquid. Once this freezing fog makes contact with a surface, it will freeze and form ice, thus giving the weather phenomenon its name.

Is freezing fog dangerous?

The super cooled water droplets that make up freezing fog can be as cold as – 40 degrees Fahrenheit (which is also – 40 degrees Celsius). Let’s be honest… Walking into freezing fog isn’t going to kill you if you’re properly covered. In our modern civilization: Freezing fog is most dangerous because it can lead to black ice forming. Driving through freezing fog induced black ice at a high speed could lead to an accident that could kill you. For this reason, local governments regularly issue freezing fog advisories to the general public to warn of such issues. Take heed and drive slower than normal.

How can I prepare for freezing fog?

Depending on where you live in the world, freezing fog is probably a rare occurrence. I know I didn’t first hear about freezing fog, or “ice fog” as it is sometimes called, until I was almost thirty years old. Even rare events are worth preparing for.

One good thing about freezing fog is that it usually only forms in the mornings because conditions for its formation are better in the twilight hours. That means that the best way to prepare for freezing fog is to make sure that you don’t need to go outside during the freezing fog.

You know that scene in The Day After Tomorrow, where the polar vortex comes down in the eye of a land hurricane and instantly freezes everything including the fuel inside fuel lines? Freezing fog is nothing like that. It’s easily managable with a little bit of foresight.

Heat is your friend. Wait for the sun to come out. Maybe consider studded tires if you must commute during the morning hours where freezing fog and black ice are most common during the winter months.

tldr; stay inside if you can; bundle up and drive slow if you need to be out in freezing fog.

What does “prepped” mean?

Everyone thinks they know what a prepper is. But do they know the answer to the only question that matters?

Wait… what does “prepped” even mean? What does it mean to be prepped?

According to Urban Dictionary (the only dictionary online it seems that doesn’t defer the meaning of a past participle to its base word), “prepped” means:

“The state of being prepared.”

Prepped vs. Prepared

Prep and prepare; prepper and preparer; prepped and prepared: These have always been almost identical synonyms in the English language. However, everyone in this day and age knows that a prepper is very different than a preparer. Wikidiff splits out the difference to us exactly by looking at the definition from more official, rural dictionaries:

“As verbs the difference between prepare and prep is that prepare is to make ready for a specific future purpose; to set up; to assemble while prep is (informal) to prepare.”

(A quick grammar aside: Prepped is a past participle which is the third form of a verb, though we’ll always use it as an adjective… its meaning derives from its verb definition.)

A new formal definition for the word “prepped”

You can prepare for something specific, but you can’t be prepared for the unknown. Being prepped, in accordance with existing definitions and the new life that has been given to the word, thus means:

“The state of being prepared for the unknown.”

While the hit TV show Doomsday Preppers may make it seem like preppers are all prepping for one thing, the reality is very very different. Depending on where you live in the world, the unknown can be anything from severe weather to regular outages of the power grid due to overloaded infrastructure.

As always, my goal here is to show you that you are not prepped. Maybe it isn’t even possible to be fully prepped… But realizing that is the first step to becoming more prepped.

So. Tldr; To be prepped means to be prepared for the unknown.

Is it possible to be 100% ready for a SHTF scenario?

As some man has undoubtedly paraphrased better than I before, there are three types of things in this world that are worth trying to up your readiness level for:

  1. known knowns
  2. known unknowns
  3. unknown unknowns

Is it possible to prepare for known knowns and known unknowns? In short… Yes.

Is it possible to prepare for unknown unknowns? Yes – with situational awareness training and similar skills. That isn’t the question posed in the title of this site’s expositionary piece, though.

Is it possible to be 100% ready for an unknown unknown? That answer is unknown – by definition. Mathematically speaking, while the possibility that in hindsight – post SHTF scenario – it turns out that you were ready to deal with the unknown. All that would mean is that you were properly prepped, not that you were 100% ready. Maybe it’s possible to be 99% ready for an unknown unknown, but that readiness level can never reach 100%.

Well if I can’t be ready… Should I prep?

It’s impossible to be ready, but it’s possible to be prepared – or as we call it in prepper parlace: Prepped.

Join me on this journey where we answer the one question that matters:

Am I Prepped?

This is my honest promise to you: My goal will be to convince you that you are not prepped.