In QLD we’ve been lucky that lockdown fatigue is minimal. In 2021, we’ve been locked down twice. Compared to somewhere like Victoria, we’ve been very lucky.
But considering we are on lockdown now, for the second time, its timely to think about preparedness in the face of a potential longer stint in lockdown. The delta variant is quickly spreading, and currently, as of this particular moment, there are 12 million Australians across 5 states and territories that are locked down due to this variant.
When you’re a homesteader, you need to have some type of plan for longer term storage of food and supplies. It’s inevitable. You often live further away from major supermarkets and stores and will need to have this level of organisation anyway. It’s not OTT to be prepared…. but you need to do it wisely and ensure you have a good system to rotate foodstuffs through.
It’s never late to start planning, even if you haven’t got the immediate means or availability to have this stuff on hand and ready for the next lockdown.
To survive this pandemic and any future inability to move around freely in the future, you’ll need to act smart, use your resources wisely, in order to ensure you have enough for you and your family to make it through the other end. So here I’ve compiled a bit of a list of useful tips you’ll need to survive lockdown, and if you don’t already have these in place, plans and ideas about how you can implement them for the future.
1. Consume food efficiently
I remember when my husband and I started living together and he was struggling through dinner one day. I could see he was forcing it down and I asked him why he was eating if he was so full. He said, “so it doesn’t get thrown away’. And I distinctly remember saying to him, “it’s Australia. We’re the lucky country. Land of plenty”. And he laughed, got up, and threw the rest of the plate in the trash.
Now I don’t advocate for waste at all, but what I am trying to say is its easy for all of us to remove excess food in this way without thinking of it. Instead of, for example, making a big batch of food and immediately freezing half so it lasts, we often get into the habit of making a large dish of food and then the excess is wasted.
I must preface this example by saying, that was from 17 years ago when we were young and lived in a townhouse by the beach, so we also didn’t have the same mindset we do now.
When news of the pandemic first broke in the media, I remember reading an article that said Australia had enough food for its citizens 3x times over. So seeing people freak out and go and panic buy is absolutely hilarious. Because not only are all the supermarkets open, but they offer click and collect and delivery for either free, or a very low $ amount.
Being mindful about food consumption is also important. You don’t need to prescribe to the ‘eat 3 meals a day’ rhetoric if that doesn’t suit you. There is any number of diets and ideas and ways of nourishing your body, and you have to find out what works best for you. I’ve always been a proponent of eating whole foods. Doesn’t matter if its sweets, or main meals, or snacks – if you eat a meal with the wholest ingredients possible, then you should be ok. Also, eating only when you are hungry is just as important. If you have spent an entire day outside, do you really need to eat your 3 meals plus 3 snacks? No. You haven’t expended any energy, so why overconsume calories? But had you been working outside and ate minimally on that day, but the next day felt absolutely famished, then that is a sign your body is telling you it needs energy replenishment, and you are fine to eat in moderation and until full. This is what mindful eating is.
Consuming food efficiently also means this:
- use fresh food as best as possible. This can be in stirfry or casserole as the entire meal can be frozen for reheat at a later date.
- anything that can be parboiled and frozen like carrots, broccoli and cauliflower should be so it can be frozen.
- vegetables like sweet potato and pumpkin do well steamed, pureed and frozen. If you have this in excess, do that.
- If you are making a meal fresh, make a bit more so it can be frozen
- Try not to throw food away, and freeze excess as quickly as possible.
2. Experiment with different food preservation techniques
Because of the panic buying, people have been buying up excessive canned goods for no logical reason. And because this is the case, I implore you to consider my post on building a grocery stockpile, or preserving garlic, canning and pickling sauerkraut and jalapenos, 20 best vegetables for canning and pickling, making mandarin jam preserving herbs, what to do with extra vegetables and storing pumpkins. Many of these posts talk about technique – and that’s what you need. Yes, fancy canning jars and pressure pots for canning are always a bonus, but you might not have them at your disposal at this current moment.
In the meantime, if you’re truly turning your mind to homesteading, then you’re already thinking of all the glass jars you are NOT going to throw away and how you can use them to start preserving food.
You don’t need a fancy dehydrator or fancy tools, though they do make preserving food easier. Experiment with what you can do, with what you have and if you think it is something you may continue, then consider investing in the fancy kitchen tool.
Some of my most frequently used kitchen tools are listed in a recent post called 5 of the best kitchen tools for homesteaders and I encourage you to read this and consider the implications in your own homesteading kitchen.
3. Start a small chicken farm
Chickens are a great investment. Chickens come as layers or meat hens, and whilst I haven’t yet owned or raised meat hens, I’ve got lots of experience with layers. Generally, its argued that layers aren’t really for eating, as they simply don’t have enough meat on them. It’s not to say you can’t if an emergency arose and you really had no choice, but compared to a meat hen, they might be a little less meaty.
Chooks are also the most affordable option to have compared to other livestock options and are much cheaper to feed and fatten. From baby to cull I believe it’s something like 16 weeks, so the amount of meat you can produce, raise and put in the freezer will have a quicker turn around than a sheep or cow.
Chicken food is not expensive, but I have never spent a huge amount on food either. I have always had a sprouting area for them to eat constantly regenerating sprouts. I’ve let them out into the yard to eat bugs, flies and spiders, and don’t even get me started on the earth worms they fight tooth and nail for! I’ve always given them back their own crushed egg shells for calcium and organic vegetable scraps
During their lifespan, you can eat and sell the eggs they make. Once they can no longer lay eggs, you can opt to eat the chicken itself.
4. Grow your own fruits and veggies
Under home quarantine? Use this time to build your own homesteading garden. If you play your cards right, you’ll have your own self-sustaining source of fruits and veggies. No longer will you need to go to the market or trudge your way to the store. Also, you have complete control over what gets sprayed and how your patch is managed. As someone who started gardening with my homesteading journey, I have never enjoyed anything more. The work can be tough – physically tough – but there is no greater joy than being able to go out into your garden and pick some fresh herbs for breakfast, and use your own tomatoes and cucs in a salad.
5. Source your own meat
If you have some nearby farms that you can source an entire cow or pig from, then I highly recommend befriending that farmer and paying for an entire beast. It won’t be an entirely cheap enterprise, but the entire beast will feed you, give you lots of bones for marrow, stock, bone broth etc, and also offcuts for your pets.
If you don’t have the space, or are maybe only on a couple of acres and cannot fit a cow or goat or pig, then this is a fantastic option. If that is not an option, speaking to your local butcher or if you aren’t in a country area, go to your country butcher to see what they can do for you.
Alternately, growing your own meat hens or turkeys is a sure-fire way to raise your own meat without as much space or expense.
6. Make your own sweets
Nothing tastes or smells better than fresh baked goods. A day spent with your kitchenaid is never wasted, though always messy and pretty tasty.
Having basic mixes of your favourite flour blends helps a ton in whipping up quick batches of muffins, cupcakes, loaves, cakes or pastry crusts for any number of pies and flans, and most importantly, cheesecake.
But it doesn’t end there! Remember that orchard you started and the excess of fruit you have? You can whip up your own jams and preserves, can whole fruit or mix it into any number of amazing cakes.
Just because you homestead doesn’t mean you miss out on the fun stuff. In fact, the fun stuff tastes way better and you can control what’s in it, especially if you have food allergies.
7. Invest in homesteading tools
Having a good set of tools is paramount to maintaining a homestead and fixing what needs fixing. Learning how to use them safely is paramount. Because no doubt there will be a situation where something goes wrong and its either too expensive, or you’re too far, for someone to come out and fix it for you. So having some good quality tools is important.
Don’t buy these new though. Try and find good second hand tools whenever you can. Having duplicates will be a thing – sometimes you’ll need more than one to finish the job, and other times you will need extras to swap it out when one stops working and you can’t fix it immediately.
Regardless – if you have no tools and are new to the homesteading journey, make sure you have the basics. Shovel, pick, axe, hammer, mallet, drill, saw, pliers, screw drivers etc. That will tie you over until you get more comfortable doing projects or quickly upgrade to intermediate homesteader! (which happens sooner than you think!)
8. Learn a new skill
Set yourself apart from the rest. While the majority of the country is wasting their time binge-watching Netflix shows, eating junk food, and scrolling through social media sites, use this time to learn something new.
That way, when the quarantine ends, you’ll be a smarter, more resourceful individual that’s equipped with a new, useful life skill.
9. Have basic first aid knowledge, and all else
Especially if you live in Australia but really this is applicable wherever you live. If you’re out in the bush and come across an Eastern Brown, Red Belly or any other array of wildlife that could harm you, you’ll need to know what to do to help yourself in such an emergency, because the Ambo’s may not be close by.
In such a time as we are in now, you absolutely never know what turn of events could transpire and how you may be left to fend for yourself. It might be wise to learn about natural remedies, healing tinctures and how you can support and heal yourself from your homestead.
10. Learn to protect yourself
This really can go in multiple ways. Does it mean you need to be a karate zen master? Not entirely. Does it mean you need to have an arsenal? Nope.
I think this relates to a much bigger picture. Looking after yourself is not just your physical property, from pests or intruders. But it also means your mental and physical health. Don’t apply typical stock standard applications of wellness to yourself because it may not fit.
You know your body and your mind the best. If you can’t do meditation, do some grounding work instead. If you can’t draw, then just sit and doddle, or write, or read. Tailor the wellness options to suit you best so you can deal with any situation. Because being a homesteader will lead to isolation, being far away from people, being challenged at many intervals, and even if you are as best removed as possible from social constructs, still subjected to them, sometimes.
Recently we had a 3-day snap lockdown in QLD. We are in a rural council area. The first snap lockdown we had earlier in the year had us listed as ‘Greater Brisbane’ and we were subject to all requirements including mask wearing in public, physical distancing etc. This second snap lockdown also included two more rural council areas beside us on either side. Somehow that became ‘Greater Brisbane’ when it’s never been considered that before in any capacity. I’m not opposed to doing what is right in the face of a massive public health crisis. I’m opposed to moving the goal posts to suit politicians when they are not necessary. Should we wear masks in Brisbane? Yes. The movement of people is much greater and more prone to transmission of a virus. But should we do that in an area where the closest living thing to you other than your family is a cow or a horse? No.
That said, I am also not entirely opposed to having any other means necessary to protect yourself. Interpret that how you will.
11. Control pest activity
Ditch the commercial pesticides and insecticides. Not only are they filled with harmful chemicals, but you’ll also be putting yourself at risk when you go to the store to buy these products. Instead, opt for natural, DIY pest control techniques.
Invest in good quality essential oils, or learn how to distill them yourself. Citronella, eucalyptus, and tea tree are commonly found in the Australian bush and if not, grow really well. Having these items close to hand will ensure you can apply them to an array of things, including animal bedding and housing, in converted plastic bottles around doorways and window frames, or in soaked towel/cloth in outdoor areas.
Another important thing is to learn about your local eco-system. For example, my area is full of paperbark trees. While they are considered a pest almost everywhere else in the world, they are protected in my council area unless you need to create a fire break. So often the council won’t support removing them, but having an excess of them on your farm will lead to a lot of pests, mosquitos specifically, and some strange looking caterpillars that are dangerous for horses. They provide a lot of ground cover too, due to their expansive branch and fluff (the top part of the tree) which makes it difficult to manage when you have rain. We can wait anywhere from 1-2 weeks for the ground to dry in an area we have a lot of paperbarks due to this problem. Removing them where possible really is your best bet. If you can, invest in or plant trees that are going to better support your farm and not do any detriment to local wildlife.
12. Practice soil and water conservation techniques
If you’re new to homestead gardening or looking for better ways to manage your soil and garden, then learn about the best ways to practice soil and water conservation. Read up on the different soil and water conservation techniques first. You need to do what you can to function as efficiently as possible and use your resources properly. Plus, any time you invest in bettering your knowledge on this will only extend to your actual gardening skill, where you will grow better quality and nutrient dense food, have better soil that will work for you for many years
13. Reuse, reduce and recycle/upcycle items on your homestead
In order to conserve you’ll need to learn to reuse, reduce, recycle or upcycle items on your homestead. Leftover foods can be turned into new meals. Food waste can be turned into compost for your garden. There are many household items that you can recycle or upcycle, you just have to be creative.
One thing we learnt very early on is that nothing is thrown away on a homestead. Just recently, I changed all my storage containers to glass ones, something I have been wanting to do for some time. I have been gradually changing pantry items over, from saved and reused glass jars from mayo and the like, and so I have an array of glass jars of different sizes and shapes. But food storage I still had those red Sistema ones that you often get on special at Coles and I just hated them.
But what to do with those left over plastic tubs? Well, I probably could’ve given them away to someone or sold them for pittance on FB marketplace, but you always need something to hold and store knick knacks in the shed, or for anything else. Currently, I am using some of them in my greenhouse to help kick off some seedlings.
And old clothing and bed linen is something to be super flexible with. Just because its ripped in one spot doesn’t mean you still can’t use it. Cut out squares to make reusable wash cloths, or make masks, or even get creative and make a quilt from it. I save all my old pillow cases for reusable bags and laundry bags for larger items. Horse rugs particularly.
14. Learn to save seeds
Spring has always been a favorite among homesteaders. It’s during this season that you can go on picnics, long walks, and other outdoor activities. It’s the season that is often attributed to new growth, new starts, and babies.
It is also the time to think about your ability to plan a garden, and grow your food. It’s never too late to start, and you don’t need to be amazing at it first go. Try planting tomatoes from sliced tomato. Surprisingly, I have many plants and lots of fruit from this method. Or try seeding potato and sweet potato that has started to release vine.
Saving seeds, and learning how to generate vegetables and grow plants this way is incredibly useful. You may have access to some amazing heirloom or organic fruit and veg. There is absolutely a way you can save those seeds and start your own harvest. Things like pumpkin, tomato, cantaloupe – all of these can be grown from seed.
Saving things grown in your local area will also ensure the seed will be robust enough for you to replant in your own garden as it is developed and accustomed to the local area.
15. Take care of your mental health
Feeling under the weather because of the coronavirus scare? You’re not alone. It’s normal to feel anxious, depressed, and nervous during these trying times.
Whenever there is uncertainty, there is anxiety. With this current era, the globalized and connected world through the internet has proven positive and negative. Positive because we get information that we need quickly. Negative, because its allowed a whole host of charlatans and blatant idiots a platform to post misinformation.
Being critical with the information you ingest is just as important to your mental health as anything else. Misinformation is intended to inspire paranoia and fear about ‘the other’, some scary group of elite individuals who can somehow control the entire world….an entire globe of over 7 billion people is up for grabs….I think not.
If you find that too much news and too much of trying to keep on top of what is happening around you is causing anxiety creep, limit your TV and news time. Find a reputable source of information that can be trusted and check in with that source once a week, or whatever feels most comfortable to you. Don’t fall for the stories and narratives. If that means disconnected yourself from the news entirely, then do so. You’d be surprised how spending time outside just doing your own thing instead of ready incessantly about the world will actually make you feel better.
16. Overhaul your diet
Managing your diet is important not only for overall health, but in your ability to respond to illnesses and situations out of your control. Make sure you are eating the freshest, cleanest produce where possible, and have begun canning and preserving your own foods where possible. While it is good to start a grocery stockpile with what you can buy, eventually you will want to replace that with vegetables you have grown directly. Eating less preservatives and food with preserving agents also means less waste, as you are more than likely going to be reusing glass jars you’ve been saving, and not throwing tins into landfill.
17. Have the right medicine and supplies
Reviewing your medicine cabinet is incredibly important. The last thing anyone would want is to come down with an illness or need emergency supplies, only to see they’ve gone out of date.
Make sure you have a kit stocked with non-perishable items like gauze, bandaids, sterilizing agent, etc. You will always need this stuff. Other items, like Panadol, Ventolin, throat lozenges and cough syrup do have an expiry date, but are still useful to have. Just make sure you don’t use them after the used by date to ensure the best impact on you if you are unwell.
18. Prepare your finances
Living in the bush means you may already naturally have more cash than normal. Even though we are in a digital world, a lot of farm things need cash. You won’t pay for a bale of hay with your credit card unless buying from a produce store, but who does that anyway?
A lot of things you pay for, whether it’s a bale of hay, some manure, a delivery of soil, your neighbour helping you out with some tree lopping or fencing, will need cash. You will likely be paying someone to deliver something or have sold something on FB marketplace or gumtree, in cash. So you’re going to have more of it lying around, and it’s a good idea to have it as your ‘farm money’ anyway.
If the worst-case scenario were to occur, or if something like the banking system was hacked or went offline for any reason, you will not be able to log on to your internet banking for anything. And the worst thing is needing to pay for something and not having the money to do so.
In addition to this, make sure you are regularly reviewing the safety and integrity of any money you have in the bank. Make sure there are deposit guarantees, that your home loan if you have one is locked in if rates are fluctuating, that sort of thing. If you have investments, consider broadening them. If you only have investment properties, consider shares, or bullion. And vice versa. Having investments in a few places ensures if something goes wrong somewhere, you are not left entirely without.
19. Learn ways to earn money while homesteading
If you’re already homesteading, you need to be thinking about ways you can make money doing so. I have a soap business, which I am looking to expand once we get onto the bigger farm. But there are heaps of ways you can sell the excess you make, either online, at local markets or an honesty box at the front of your property, to make a bit of extra cash.
Ever cut down trees? Well, letting them sit for a year if you’re not going to use them means you can let them dry and cure and sell them for firewood the next year. We often have a few piles drying that we can sell off for a few hundred bucks a year. If nothing, it helps pay for the extra air conditioning we use in the summer!
All those extra vegies can be sold as is, made into jams or preserves, made into frozen meals and sold…I mean, you get the drift. How you make money from your homestead is really up to you. But if you can make it so that you break even at a minimum, then your homesteading journey is going the right way. One of the tenets of homesteading is being able to support yourself with as little outgoing money as possible. Simple living is really about making do with what you have, but that doesn’t mean scrimping and saving and going without.
20. Relax, and enjoy
After all is said and done, when there is something like a pandemic or lockdown happening, there is no point getting all bent out of shape. There is nothing you can do about the world around you. But your direct world, your homestead, you can do everything about. If that means spending a few days doing nothing, and just recovering from all the anxiety, then so be it. If that means catching up on a project you’ve been delaying, great!
Productivity doesn’t always need to mean active work. Because active work is only supported when your mind and body are at its best, which cannot be achieved if you burn the candle at both ends. So I think productivity in doing nothing is just as important as doing something.
Focus on the things you have direct control over. Don’t get caught up in the politics and nonsense of society and what is happening more broadly. If you have to go out to the store, and you’re opposed to wearing a mask or checking in, then click and collect or get it delivered. Don’t create anxiety for yourself for no reason. I personally have no issue donning a mask. If it means wearing something on my face that could protect someone else, someone who is vulnerable like me, then I will do that. It’s called being a decent human being and if you can’t be one for those around you, then that speaks volumes.
During these trying times, the ones who can adapt quickly and make the best of the situation will come out on top.
How have you managed your time and space during the coronavirus pandemic? Share your pandemic survival tips and techniques in the comments section below!
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