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Old 10-09-2013, 04:52 PM   #1
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Food for Thought

We talk quite a bit amongst ourselves here on subjects ranging from spot prices to ammunition storage, but I have yet to see any discussion about sustainability within a significant and protracted downturn. One supposes that those of us who are preparing or who have already prepared, have done or are doing enough, and that we are doing the right things. In recent conversations with some like minded folks, the subject of sustainability arose. In the context of depth and duration, we began to discuss the idea of a multi-year total collapse, with the complete failure of just-in-time business models, crop failure, world-wide civil unrest and protracted power failures due to terrorism [domestic or otherwise] or just plain neglect. None of us had considered the possibility that widespread failures of significant duration [2+ months] could occur with internet connectivity, telephone and cell service and power distribution. Nearly all of us presumed that at some point relatively quickly, some entity or another would work out [at least minimally] some sort of food distribution scheme and at least rudimentary communications capabilities.

But what if that doesn’t happen? What if the disruption is so widespread and the mistrust between countries, businesses and people becomes so deep that the system fails: can it be “re-booted”? The conversation became extremely animated, with many dark possibilities being propounded. At some point, it was suggested that we make a list of items we deemed to be of greatest importance, so we could discuss them intelligently and explore options. Many items were merely extensions of plans already being implemented, but others were preparations we had not even thought of. The following list identifies what I feel are the most important issues regarding sustainability through a severe economic/energy/ food depression, and while the likelihood of complete breakdown is remote it remains a possibility, and I think therefore that it is worthy of discussion.

1. Communications. We have grown so completely accustomed to the availability of cell phones, that most of us don’t give it a second thought. Many of us in fact, do not even have the “old style” land lines any more. As a boy, I remember an old man down the way a bit had a ham radio and the ever present 65 foot antenna in the back yard. He explained to us boys that no matter what happened, he would be able to communicate to any other ham operator just about anywhere in the states. In fact, under the right conditions [a “skip” I think he called it] he could talk to folks in other countries. A small network of these could provide news from other areas and possibly communication with loved ones. Walkie-talkies could be used, but have limited range, and are open frequencies, in other words you lose all privacy [such as we have it now anyway] There should be more discussion on communication because the failure of our current systems would mean a failure of commerce as we know it. ATM cards wouldn’t work, and credit cards would be useless. On a more basic level, communication with far flung family and friends would no longer be possible.

2. Fuel. Think about this for a minute if you will. Without regular deliveries of fuel, many industries just stop. Gas stations cease to function, power plants are idled, trains are side-tracked and interstate trucking goes nowhere. This is the absolute nightmare for a government. Without fuel, many of the most basic functions performed by municipalities such as, sewage treatment, water delivery and road maintenance become impossible. We would see an instantaneous uprising in society without available services. Even with a minimum supply to provide the absolute basic services, folks who cannot get to their jobs or to the store, cannot sustain themselves any longer. This is when it gets really, really ugly. If fuel was to be rationed to power plants, electricity would necessarily be rationed as well, meaning frequent rolling black-outs and a great deal of discomfort for those without solar back-up systems. Hospitals would be required to ration care for all but the sickest of patients, and it becomes likely at this point that those who it is decided are no longer a contributing part of society [i.e. the elderly, infirm or retarded] would no longer get the extraordinary measures they now receive.

3. Food. Straightforward and basic: food.
Without it we die. If the just in time delivery mechanism fails, or we experience widespread crop failures, severe or prolonged drought or complications from genetically engineered crops, millions will starve. There is no way around it. The safety net of food on the planet is only about sixty days. That is correct folks….sixty days. Presuming that this food could be distributed in the first place, that is not nearly enough time to permit the people to put in a vegetable garden and grow some of their own food. Those that had the foresight, those who planned and grew a garden and stored up food, will become immediate targets. The hungry will find your food, and do everything they can to take it from you. If starvation becomes the new paradigm, society will have fallen off a cliff, and we revert to dog eat dog. If gardens were encouraged, or even [I hate to say it] subsidized, we could forestall much of the effects that agricultural failure would bring. Folks could use grey water from the sink and bathtub to water the plants, and community gardens like they have in England would be encouraged

4. Nuke Plants. There are hundreds of nuclear plants around the world, reacting away and generating gigawatts of power. These plants require huge amounts of fossil fuel to support their existence. Without trucks, cars and rail, these plants will have a hard time maintaining safe production of electricity. A Nuke plant cannot simply be turned off, as there are a number of steps required to disable a reaction safely. In a chaotic situation, it would be paramount for governments to secure these facilities, and enough fossil fuel to support taking them off line until order is restored, or to insure their safe closure. Imagine France, 80% of their electricity is generated by nuke plants, so if TSHTF, and the people are rioting and pillaging, what is their plan?? While I am certain the government[s] have made provisions for this, the question still has to be asked.

5. Transportation. Picture the chaos that fuel rationing will bring. All of the people who depend on cheap and widely available fuel will be forced to change their ways. No more going to the store solo, no more “cruising”, no more teenagers rolling around with no particular destination. Over the road trucking will become problematic at best. Our food distribution absolutely depends on fuel. If prices escalate too much, or fuel becomes unavailable then the system breaks down. We have ignored our rail system in most of the country for far too long. Without immediate investment into the installation of electric lines over our train tracks to support the use of rail as an alternative to cars, we will be going back to bicycles very quickly. Even bikes require fossil fuels to manufacture the rubber tires, inner tubes, brake cable sheaths, seats and brake pads. It will be important for folks to have a plan when it comes to getting around; a plan that does not include gasoline.

I am interested in a conversation about the finer points of what is a real and very possible situation within which we may all find ourselves [at least on some level] and what solutions we might be able to come up with to insulate ourselves a bit better against some of the hardship and pain that comes along for the ride.

Discussion.
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Old 10-09-2013, 06:07 PM   #2
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I want to be optimistic and say we will revert to life as it is in the Philippines (at least a place where I am familiar) with a near starvation existence and almost zero employment, but for us in the United States I am convinced that it will be much, much worse. The sense of entitlement is so endemic that even if you have made extensive preparations, the government and starving populace will take them straightforward. At least in the Philippines, families help one another (granted this is by necessity) but after day in and day out of watching an endless parade of walruses at the grocery store here in the good old US I'm convinced that folks will literally throw grandma under the bus. Example, my co-worker, who is morbidly obese (as is his wife (a nurse)) put a couple of cases of diet drink in the back for his wife to pick up later for his mom (who weighs about five or six hundred pounds, literally). When his wife came in to pick up the drinks, I said you shouldn't drink those, they have aspartame in them. She said, it's OK, we want her to die. She was serious. I see crap like this every day.

disclosure: I expressed shock at a couple of shoppers fighting over the last of an item we had on sale in the grocery store, and my wife was nonplussed. I said "have you seen people fight like that in the Philippines?" and she said they will kill each other for food. Anecdotal. good topic.
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Old 10-09-2013, 07:03 PM   #3
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You make some very good points, and the scenarios you describe are possible. In fact I just watched World War Z last night with Brad Pitt and I think that movie gives you a pretty good idea of what happens if people get pissed off and start biting each other.

Here's my problem. I lack the skills to take care of myself if the internet goes down (who would I talk to?) so I have to be realistic about my chances. I was trying to think what I would do about your 5 really big paragraphs filled with scenarios that scared the crap out me. Keep in mind I have a short attention span (my teachers will verify this), but here are the solutions I see:

1. Communications: Restart the Pony Express. Get Kevin Costner a postal uniform.
2. Fuel: Burn your neighbors house first (the ones who don't have guns)
3. Food: Get used to the idea of Soylent Green. Read up on the Donner party.
4. Nuke Plants: If you live near one the good news is that nobody is going to steal your Soylent Green.
5. Transportation: Pulling a Rickshaw is good for the heart and the chinese tourists will have a good laugh and maybe tip more.

Anyway, I am going to hide under my bed now.
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Old 10-09-2013, 07:32 PM   #4
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The long duration collapse is what really worries me. I find intensly bad things for short periods of time to be, in the long run, less damaging than fairly bad things for long periods of time. The long duration situations really eat away at your hope, which I think is worse.

Fuel/transportation - I purposely live close to the places I need to go. Work, friends, and the grocery store (there's food there now at least) are within a 3-4 mile radius of home. I travel by bike as much as possible already for the money saved, exercised gained, and enjoyment of it. I could ride everywhere all the time if needed, but it won't be fun in the summer.

Food - this is what scares me the most (and water). Storing a few years' worth is quite a lot, and providing your own takes resources and skill.
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Old 10-09-2013, 11:59 PM   #5
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...

Long-term sustainability after a SHTF is a complicated subject, I have learned that through my own research and from many of you here at pmbug. The chips could fall in so many ways, so many directions, that it is hard to even know what things to plan for and think about.

If we discard the short-term hard landing scenarios, I too agree that the longer-term ones would be the scariest. If a long-term TEOTWAWKI caem along after a long decline, the alert among us could just keep preparing -- even though that would be very hard to pull off.

A book (fiction, but written by a military historian) called One Second After (William Forstchen, 2009) explores life after an EMP in a rural, mountain town in NC. It has it all: no electricity, starvation, horrific diseases, marauding Mutant Zombie Bikers. What I (seemed to?) learn from the book: if the grid goes down, most of us will die! The period of time from EMP until the Army shows up is about a year, and most of the town is already gone... Note that the community in the book comes together rather well.

***

The Bearing household (condo-dwellers, who barely know our neighbors -- Colombians!) has completed only two steps re preparation: adequate precious metals and adequate guns & ammo. The tiniest bit of food & water storage. But as I analyzed the small little piles of food & water, I realized that there was no way I/we could "stack" enough food & water...

ancona hit this part correctly re food & water. Gardening is better than nothing, but would it be enough and could you keep it safe? Gardening, after all, is food production. And each of us would need water production capability as well. OK, if you have a good well, you're all set! If you do not own a well, um, hmm...

The twin problems of food production and water production are the ones that have me thinking (despairing?)...

And community / neighbors? Well, not here in our town, no ag, no one knows anything about "survival" -- they could care less.

Jay brought up The Philippines. It might be that Third World countries might be somewhat better adapted to deal with a catastrophe. In Peru, there is a lot of slack in the system, that is, food always makes it into Lima, the vehicles are old, hardly any J.I.T. inventories, etc. The system there is inefficient, and so "loose", not all wound-up and taut like here. And we have my wife's family there too, two of them even own agricultural land.

So, if we DO get one of the "hard landings", our (the two of us) chances might be (probably would be) better off in Peru than fighting it out here in the USA.
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Old 10-10-2013, 04:39 AM   #6
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I read a horror story from a guy who survived a real SHTF scenario in a city/suburb in Bosnia. He said if he had to do it all over again, he would stock up on lighters. They had a tank they could refuel lighters with which they used to trade for food, ammo, money etc. But he said it would've been easier if he had 1,000 lighters instead.

I think I might've gotten the link to the article from this forum, actually. Does it ring a bell for anyone?
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Old 10-10-2013, 06:36 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by mike View Post:
I read a horror story from a guy who survived a real SHTF scenario in a city/suburb in Bosnia. He said if he had to do it all over again, he would stock up on lighters. They had a tank they could refuel lighters with which they used to trade for food, ammo, money etc. But he said it would've been easier if he had 1,000 lighters instead.

I think I might've gotten the link to the article from this forum, actually. Does it ring a bell for anyone?
yeah, thats Selco. He turned it into a pretty big survival business.

http://www.tacticalintelligence.net/...nd-account.htm
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Old 10-10-2013, 06:49 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Aubuy View Post:
...
Anyway, I am going to hide under my bed now.

Originally Posted by mike View Post:
I read a horror story from a guy who survived a real SHTF scenario in a city/suburb in Bosnia. He said if he had to do it all over again, he would stock up on lighters. They had a tank they could refuel lighters with which they used to trade for food, ammo, money etc. But he said it would've been easier if he had 1,000 lighters instead.

I think I might've gotten the link to the article from this forum, actually. Does it ring a bell for anyone?
DCF posted it here:
http://www.pmbug.com/forum/f6/shtf-a...vor-story-342/

~~~

I mentioned it in this older prepping thread, but I've been trying to accumulate manual tools (ie. tools that don't require electricity to work) and trying to imagine life without a power grid. I'm nowhere near positioned to survive a protracted (year+) return to the middle ages. Even if I had an earth sheltered home and self sustaining aquaponic greenhouse, chickens, etc., I doubt I could defend such a property from zombies over the long term.

Long term sustainability is only practical with the help of a community.
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Old 10-10-2013, 06:55 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by DoChenRollingBearing View Post:
...

Long-term sustainability after a SHTF is a complicated subject, I have learned that through my own research and from many of you here at pmbug. The chips could fall in so many ways, so many directions, that it is hard to even know what things to plan for and think about.

If we discard the short-term hard landing scenarios, I too agree that the longer-term ones would be the scariest. If a long-term TEOTWAWKI caem along after a long decline, the alert among us could just keep preparing -- even though that would be very hard to pull off.

A book (fiction, but written by a military historian) called One Second After (William Forstchen, 2009) explores life after an EMP in a rural, mountain town in NC. It has it all: no electricity, starvation, horrific diseases, marauding Mutant Zombie Bikers. What I (seemed to?) learn from the book: if the grid goes down, most of us will die! The period of time from EMP until the Army shows up is about a year, and most of the town is already gone... Note that the community in the book comes together rather well.

***

The Bearing household (condo-dwellers, who barely know our neighbors -- Colombians!) has completed only two steps re preparation: adequate precious metals and adequate guns & ammo. The tiniest bit of food & water storage. But as I analyzed the small little piles of food & water, I realized that there was no way I/we could "stack" enough food & water...

ancona hit this part correctly re food & water. Gardening is better than nothing, but would it be enough and could you keep it safe? Gardening, after all, is food production. And each of us would need water production capability as well. OK, if you have a good well, you're all set! If you do not own a well, um, hmm...

The twin problems of food production and water production are the ones that have me thinking (despairing?)...

And community / neighbors? Well, not here in our town, no ag, no one knows anything about "survival" -- they could care less.

Jay brought up The Philippines. It might be that Third World countries might be somewhat better adapted to deal with a catastrophe. In Peru, there is a lot of slack in the system, that is, food always makes it into Lima, the vehicles are old, hardly any J.I.T. inventories, etc. The system there is inefficient, and so "loose", not all wound-up and taut like here. And we have my wife's family there too, two of them even own agricultural land.

So, if we DO get one of the "hard landings", our (the two of us) chances might be (probably would be) better off in Peru than fighting it out here in the USA.
DCRB, I've been gardening here for 19 years now. Don't plan on lasting long with what you grow in your garden. The only thing that would sustain you for a while that we grow are sweet potatoes and canna lilies (OK, beans also but we only grow a handful of long beans). I can only imagine driving fence posts all day after eating a plate of tomatoes and cucumbers. And we are in the same position in the Philippines as you are in Peru, except a: I'm white and can't even go some places now because of the war and b: it's really bad there now, my wifes extended family is really struggling. I lived on "the streets" till I was 27; I have NO ILLUSIONS as to what it will be like. It would be a nightmare with a family.
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Old 10-10-2013, 07:42 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by DoChenRollingBearing View Post:
... But as I analyzed the small little piles of food & water, I realized that there was no way I/we could "stack" enough food & water...

ancona hit this part correctly re food & water. Gardening is better than nothing, but would it be enough and could you keep it safe? Gardening, after all, is food production. And each of us would need water production capability as well. OK, if you have a good well, you're all set! If you do not own a well, um, hmm...
...
Potable water does not need to be stored if you can produce it on demand from non-potable water sources.

You can easily store a year's worth of food or more if you are willing to eat beans and make your own bread from scratch.
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Old 10-10-2013, 08:00 AM   #11
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PMBug is correct here. our garden easily produces far more than we can consume, and while it's not the sweetest water in the world, we do have a well. although it has some salt, it's not enough to even taste and perfectly potable. One pass through the Berkey and we're golden. It has a small head on it so no pump is required. Can we keep those secure? Time will tell that story.
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Old 10-10-2013, 08:06 AM   #12
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Self production > buying and storing a supply

It is a great advantage to own a multi acre property.

Gardening:
Don't feel you have to do this all at once. Add something new once a month.
Start with growing herbs
Expand to easier vegetables.
Plant various fruit/nut bearing trees and bushes around your property
Replace existing plants, trees, bushes with plants that produce something you can use or eat.

Water:
Is it possible to add a "pond" or "swimming pool" to your property?
Is it possible to add a well? Make sure said well can be pumped in a power outage.
Most buildings, houses, sheds, barns have drain spouts to divert water away when there is percipitation. Slowly add rain barrels to all 4 corners of every building. I have a neighbor that is big into organic gardening and only uses rain water for her plants. She must have at least 50 gallons of water at any one time stored in rain barrels such as I described.

Support system:
Make friends with the neighbors now. Get to know the local cops, firemen, veterans group, cub scouts, ect. If a long term problem arises, having a strong local network is key.

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Old 10-10-2013, 08:22 AM   #13
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Benjamen,
Lots of families in the Caribbean use "cisterns" as their only source of water. Indeed, while stationed for a year on Antigua Auxiliary Air Field I observed fairly complex water gathering being done as well as simple barrel placement at downspouts. Many homes had an extra bit of tin riveted to the top lip of their gutters so as not to lose any water in a hard downpour to overflow. Often, there is a large [2k or better] collection tank. I have seen homes with a barrel at each downspout as well. Many communities have a neighborhood water point provided by the government, but this is usually only used for drinking, while the barrel or cistern water is used frugally for washing up and cleaning.

In addition, the tropical climate allows for year-round gardening, and most if not all homes have a small vegetable garden. I also saw chickens ranging everywhere. Cows can be seen foraging everywhere you look as well.
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Old 10-10-2013, 09:07 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by PMBug View Post:
Potable water does not need to be stored if you can produce it on demand from non-potable water sources.

You can easily store a year's worth of food or more if you are willing to eat beans and make your own bread from scratch.
you won't believe how much flour a bucket of wheat berries makes!
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Old 10-10-2013, 09:09 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by ancona View Post:
PMBug is correct here. our garden easily produces far more than we can consume, and while it's not the sweetest water in the world, we do have a well. although it has some salt, it's not enough to even taste and perfectly potable. One pass through the Berkey and we're golden. It has a small head on it so no pump is required. Can we keep those secure? Time will tell that story.
Ancona, my thoughts on this is that we could always trade the excessive produce for more nutritious food. Ate free last night at the local Chinese restaurant 'cause Bing is always giving him vegetables (we grow bitter melon, opo squash, long beans, lemon grass etc.)
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Old 10-10-2013, 09:45 AM   #16
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Jay,
Trading is going to be the rule of the day in most locations. Here in Florida, there are literally too many lakes and ponds to count, so fishing will likely become a staple. A lot of lakes are quite overpopulated with fish at this point, so I don't see overfishing as being a problem. Between lakes, the lagoon and the ocean, there is plenty of protein to be had for someone with even just a tiny bit of motivation. Feral hogs are too numerous to count, and they can be hunted legally all year around.

As it has already been pointed out, the problem will come when i try to barbeque a hog. The smell of a nice fat hog cooking in the smoker for a day and a half will draw in half the county, so security might be a real problem. I would like to figure a way to smoke a hog, but do it in a way that traps the smoke, or cools it to the point where it cannot be smelled.
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Old 10-10-2013, 09:54 AM   #17
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It seems like some out of the box thinking is going to be required if many of us are going to survive. Instead of trying to protect a vegetable garden (and having to stay up all night watching over it) maybe a better strategy would be to create a fake garden with plastic plants and then have some really cleaver "traps" so when people enter you've got dinner?

OK, I know this is a serious topic, and I am trying to wrap my mind around gunshots, screaming, and summary executions becoming a nightly occurrence (like in the Middle East), but I have a serious humor control problem.
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Old 10-10-2013, 09:59 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Aubuy View Post:
... some really cleaver "traps" ...


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Old 10-10-2013, 11:34 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Aubuy View Post:
It seems like some out of the box thinking is going to be required if many of us are going to survive. Instead of trying to protect a vegetable garden (and having to stay up all night watching over it) maybe a better strategy would be to create a fake garden with plastic plants and then have some really cleaver "traps" so when people enter you've got dinner?

OK, I know this is a serious topic, and I am trying to wrap my mind around gunshots, screaming, and summary executions becoming a nightly occurrence (like in the Middle East), but I have a serious humor control problem.
no, you're really funny....

seriously, canna lilies are eaten over most of the world (the root is more nutritious than a potato). Noone in the US knows what they are (oh look a pretty flower) and they are highly invasive, we have them in big clumps all over our yard.
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Old 10-10-2013, 11:41 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by ancona View Post:
Jay,
Trading is going to be the rule of the day in most locations. Here in Florida, there are literally too many lakes and ponds to count, so fishing will likely become a staple. A lot of lakes are quite overpopulated with fish at this point, so I don't see overfishing as being a problem. Between lakes, the lagoon and the ocean, there is plenty of protein to be had for someone with even just a tiny bit of motivation. Feral hogs are too numerous to count, and they can be hunted legally all year around.

As it has already been pointed out, the problem will come when i try to barbeque a hog. The smell of a nice fat hog cooking in the smoker for a day and a half will draw in half the county, so security might be a real problem. I would like to figure a way to smoke a hog, but do it in a way that traps the smoke, or cools it to the point where it cannot be smelled.
I lived in St. Pete ten years, caught some crazy big plecostamous in the golf ponds there. I think the aquarium people released them and they thrived....
shot three hogs here a few months ago, Bing made adobo out of some of the meat. Cooked one ham, the rest is in the freezer. Had to cook it way longer than usual....other than that tasted normal to me. My friend won't eat it, nor will some other folks I know (of course they aren't HUNGRY yet...)

which reminds me, two old men were talking in produce. One said to the other, "dog food shure has gotten expensive". The other said "you outta do what I do, feed your dog turnips..." "Turnips?" "Yeah, they're easy to grow and in three weeks you have all you'll ever need"

They ran into each other a few months later:

"Hey, I tried that turnip thing. My dog don't like them" "Yeah, mine didn't for the first few weeks either..."
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