I’ve read numerous internet reports in recent days of people around the world hoarding food, particularly rice. My family doesn’t eat much rice. But if we did, I’d have hoarded a supply of it before now. That’s because I’ve been a food hoarder for years.
We hoard all kinds of food. We hoard wheat in plastic pails. We hoard crates of potatoes and net bags of onions. We hoard canning jars of applesauce, green beans, and dried beans. We hoard a freezer full of chickens and beef. If we eat much of something, we probably hoard it to some degree.
But we don’t call it hoarding. And we don’t condider it hoarding. We call it stocking up. It’s nothing new. It’s what rural folk have done for centuries. Traditionally speaking, stocking up just makes sense.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. It has occurred to me that I may be a food “hoarder” because of a childhood experience. When I was maybe eleven years old, my stepfather went into the hospital for surgery. He was in his middle 30s. The industrial laundromat where he had worked for several years, promptly fired him when he got sick. He came home from the hospital after a week and I was shocked to see how feeble he was. He recuperated at home and was out of work for a long time. My mother did not work outside the home. Finances were tight.
During that time, my parents came home one day with rice, powdered milk, cheese, and some other foods that thay had gotten for free from the government. They did this several times until my father got healthy and found work.
I didn’t like the government food. I didn’t like it that we were poor and needed “welfare.” I worried about it then. I worried about my parents finances for years after that.
Later, when I was in high school and had a part time job, I actually bought a supply of canned foods and stored the hoard in boxes under my bed, just in case. I guess I was traumatized for life when I was eleven years old. Maybe I should see a psychiatrist. :-)
When Marlene and I were married, we got involved in a co-op group. Bulk foods would be delivered to a local church and everyone in the co-op got together to divide it up. It was a “community thing” and a fun time. We bought all kinds of food in bulk and stored it in our two-room apartment in town. Some of it we stored in freezers at our parent’s homes. Buying in bulk was cheaper, and it was a good feeling to know we were stocked up, just in case.
When I started a chimney cleaning business, I remember cleaning the chimney of an older man who was a Mormon. He had a small home business making and selling electric grain grinders. I was fascinated. He explained to me that Mormons store grain and other food, just in case. This resonated with me. I knew enough about Mormonism that I felt it was unbiblical and wrong. But the food storage thing struck me as a very practical and wise thing to do.
And so it is that Marlene and I have always stocked up to some degree or another over the years.
Then came Y2k. Do you think we stocked up extra for Y2k? You better believe it! We got real serious about stocking up back then. A lot of people did. It was a practical and wise thing to do, just in case.
One of the things we really stocked up on back then was hard red winter wheat. I think we had over half a ton of it packed away in 5-gallon pails. The pails were stacked to the ceiling in our basement. We did that in 1998.
What does a family do with that much red wheat in the basement? Well, if you have a grain grinder, you can grind the grain into flour and make bread. That’s what Marlene has done for the past ten years. The stack of buckets has dwindled substantially. It is now more than 3/4 gone. Of course, if you have a little home bread baking business (as my wife does) that can use a lot of wheat too.
We haul the wheat, a bucket at a time, up from the basement and Marlene grinds it in an old, electric, Marathon grain mill. The mill was given to my mother by a friend and eventually handed on to us. The Marathon mill looks a lot like the grain mills that old Mormon guy made in his home. It employs stone burrs to do the grinding. The appliance gets a lot of use, has never given any problem, and does a great job. We have a hand-operated grinder for backup.
I’ve been saying to Marlene for over a year that I think we should restock some wheat in the basement. Now we’re finally getting to it. If I had restocked a year ago, I could have saved a lot of money. The current price for a 50 lb bag of “certified chemical free” hard wheat “berries” is $37. Six weeks ago, the same wheat was $26. I don’t recall how much a bag of wheat was in 1989. Probably around $13.
You might wonder about the quality of 10-year-old wheat that has been stored in my basement. Well, we took some pains to properly store the grain, and it is perfectly preserved.
What we did (and what we plan to do again very shortly) is utilize used plastic buckets (with lids) that we bought for a dollar each from a local dairy (they held ingredients for ice cream). We put a large mylar bag (20” by 30”) in each bucket, filled the bag with wheat, put in an oxygen absorber packet (500cc size), sealed the bag with a household iron, tucked it in, and put the lid on. Nothing could be easier. The oxygen absorber packet will remove the oxygen inside the bag, creating a vacuum. Stored thusly, wheat (and other grains) will keep very well for decades.
Pictures and more detail about the procedure I just explained can be found at this link: Walton Feed Mylar Food Storage Tutorial.
You can purchase mylar bags and oxygen absorbers from Walton Feed in Idaho. But, sorry to say, they have a terrible procedure for ordering. I recently tried ordering some mylar bags and O2 absorbers from them and it was frustrating.
I think Walton Feed might be a Mormon-owned company and Marlene suggested to me that maybe they don’t give good service unless you are a Mormon. I told her that they don’t know if I’m a Mormon or not. All they know is my name and address. But then it occurred to me that maybe they can tap into the massive, underground, nuclear-bomb-proof, Mormon genealogical database, and they actually did find out I’m not one of them...... Nah, on second thought, they probably have a lousy ordering system for everybody. Too bad.
Whatever the case, I’ve found another company. Sorbent Systems looks like it has everything needed and their online ordering system looks like it should be a lot faster and easier (I’ll know for sure very shortly). If someone reading this knows of another source for these items, please post a response here with the information.
Well, there you have the Confessions of a Wheat “Hoarder.” I know I'm not the only one doing this. Like I said, it's something all Mormons do and it's something that most rural people traditionally do. I'll bet most people reading this are food "hoarders."
But maybe you aren't a hoarder. And maybe what I've written here is resonating with you right now. If so, I sure do hope you will stock up, just in case. Aside from going to the store and buying extra food, I hope you’ll put a garden in. Most of what we stock up here is actually food we’ve raised in the growing season. Potatoes, squash, and onions are easy to grow, easy to store, and good food for winter eating. Marlene makes a LOT of meals around potatoes.
A further thought.....
I had some reservations about publishing this essay. I wondered if it was wise to tell the whole world that we have buckets of wheat in our basement. But, in the end, I concluded that writing this may encourage others to stock up. And if that happens, that's a good thing. At least I think it is. (Then again,, as you all know now, I was mentally "damaged" in my youth.)
Besides that, 99% of those who read this blog do not live anywhere near me. Those that do, and that I know of, are country folks who I suspect are stocked up themselves. And regardless, I’m more than willing to share what I have, as I can, with my neighbors if they are ever in need.
Beyond that, there are, of course, the worst case scenarios. You can read those on some survivalist web sites. I’m not going to entertain such hypotheticals here. That would not be productive.
And speaking of productive things, in an upcoming essay I will tell you about a couple of easy, tasty ways to prepare and eat stored whole grains (without grinding them into flour). Stay tuned.....
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