I have regular conversations with people preparing for all sorts of disasters - economic, nuclear, weather changes.... Even the media seem to be preparing us for some sort of catastrophe with all of the recent zombie and apocalypse related movies and television programs.
In the case of a major incident, what would be your main vulnerabilities? In the northern United States, our biggest concerns would be warmth and food. We have an almost endless supply of water (snow all around, lakes and rivers galore, many deciduous trees constantly respiring.) As long as we can make fire (to purify water) and protect ourselves from others (marauders, soldiers, new governments), our biggest issue will be staying warm and securing food.
Today, I am going to focus on the aspect of acquiring food. I have previously mentioned and highly recommend you familiarize yourself with the local wild foods in your area. You should always carry a knife, bandana, and a source of fire (at a minimum) so you can make use of those resources no matter where you find yourself. If possible, you should grow your some of your own food - outdoors or in windowsills. You should keep a well stocked pantry and collect seeds (for sprouting and growing.)
All of that is well and good, but eventually your pantry will empty. In the north, we have winter for almost 8 months, and at least 1 month of cold/wet spring. That leaves only 3 months of potential growing season. So what happens when your pantry runs dry and it's the middle of winter?
How do you procure high quality food? You can and will most likely need to hunt. Unfortunately, this is not a consistent source of food for an urban or even suburban dweller. Plus, you won't be the only one hunting these scare resources.
What if you could raise your own livestock? Most municipalities limit the ability to raise traditional livestock - including small animals like rabbits, bees, and chickens.
After watching a documentary about life in Peru, I may have come across the answer. Guinea Pigs. The mountain people of Peru, have free-range guinea pigs living and breeding in their homes. They feed them hay and produce. The pigs run wild and free throughout their dirt bottom homes. Every evening, they kill one pig for each family member.
Maybe you are thinking it's gross or wrong to eat something so cute and fuzzy as a guinea pig?
In Peru, guinea pigs (called Cuy) are a traditional food. They eat them in restaurants and eat them at home. They are larger than a rat, but smaller than a rabbit, so one pig is the perfect size for a human meal. Plus, like rats and rabbits (also rodents) they multiply readily and subsist on easy to grow vegetation.
Now, in American, the majority of us do not have dirt bottom houses and the idea of hundreds of Guinea pigs roaming the house is quite horrible. But in a disaster situation, this would be a sustainable source of meat.
My initial thought was to buy one guinea pig for each of my children and have them raise it. The idea was that none of the pigs would meet each other unless we were in the midst of a catastrophe, and then their role would be to mate and reproduce. We would then "farm" them and create a supplementary food supply in our own home.
After further reading, I learned that a sow can give birth to 1-5 babies at a time and have multiple litters each year. I learned that they can eat almost all leafy greens and fruits, and sparingly eat vegetables. Great, because those are all easy to grow or forage. I also learned that Guinea pigs can live as along as household cats or dogs. It all sounded great....until I learned that if a Guinea pig sow has not had a baby before the age of 8 months, parts of her reproductive system seal themselves together and birth becomes very dangerous and likely fatal.
So in a sense, you need to find a female that has been bred before or you need to begin breeding before she reaches 8 months old. This obviously creates problems as nobody in a "non-emergency" wants to have a gazillion Guinea pigs.
The solution? At the first sign of an emergency, when everyone else is buying the grocery stores out of bread and peanut butter, I will head to the local pet store and buy every single Guinea pig, all of their aquatic antibiotics, and as much timothy hay as I can squeeze into my car. Plus cat food (for our cat, lol.)
My children were disappointed in this revelation as they have always dreamed of Guinea pigs (and I have not) but this may give you something to think about if you are in or considering preparing for a catastrophic event.