In times like these, one never knows when disaster will strike. The riots in the United Kingdom and Europe came as a complete surprise.

Over the last 30 years, Europe has created a welfare class that has free or subsidized housing and food. Welfare recipients live well, buy cigarettes and alcohol and even go to football matches while on the dole.

In Britain, it seems that the unemployed cannot be expected to give up their drunken binges at the pub. When funding for the entitlement class was cut, riots ensued. Buildings were burned, stores were plundered, and police were pelted with rocks and even Molotov cocktails.

I saw one despondent senior citizen being interviewed on television. She was in tears because she had no food at home and her grocer's store was destroyed. She, like many other Britons, only buy enough food for one or two days.

Seniors are particularly hard hit as many live in single rooms without a refrigerator. The elderly and disabled were prisoners in their own homes as the fires ravaged small businesses and looters pillaged in front of television cameras and even the police.

Here in America, there could be riots this fall. Unemployment is the scourge of our nation. When our politicians returned to Washington in September, there will be two opposing forces. One, primarily the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats, will seek to cut the size of government, restrict food stamps and unemployment benefits and cut the welfare rolls. President Obama and the main stream Democrats are committed to expanding welfare benefits and increasing entitlements as part of the failed stimulus package.

Large corporations are leaving the United States as our government continues to pass legislation that kills businesses and creates economic uncertainty. Corporate executives now believe that the United States does not deserve new investments in plants and jobs. There are other countries that are screaming for corporate investments, offering incentives to relocate their factories and easing restrictions and regulations that prohibit growth.

This week, Boston Scientific announced greater profits than expected. To further improve profits going forward, they are sacking 1,400 people here in the United States and hiring 1,000 new employees in China. This company can greatly reduce their costs yet still has access to the American consumer, who buys most of their products. Boston Scientific is uniquely placed because people who by their goods are not price sensitive. Medical devices and scientific instrumentation is sold based on the quality of the product and new innovations rather than lowest price.

There is no need for this company to move jobs overseas other than the unstable business environment caused by the inability to manage our economy and our spending. It is following the lead of hundreds of other companies that have forsaken the American worker, yet depend on the American consumer. For a list of other companies exporting jobs, view this link: (http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/lou.dobbs.tonight/popups/exporting.ameri... [1])

As I see it, we are facing civil unrest that could disrupt our society and higher unemployment as more companies export our jobs. In this uncertain environment, people must take measures to ensure that they can survive this downturn by preparing for hard times. As I have mentioned in past articles, every family should have a stockpile of food and water in case of a disaster or civil disruption.

Just this week, officials in Reading Pennsylvania warned people not to drink the city water as it was contaminated withmanganese (http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=325899 [2]). This caught most of the residents unprepared. Clearly, everyone should have some bottled water on hand in case of situation similar to this one.

Now for some fun stuff! I get a big kick out of farmers markets this time a year. My wife and I like to go just before closing to see what is on sale. Last week, it was cucumbers and tomatoes. This week it was peaches and strawberries. Over the last two weeks, I canned chili sauce, made dill pickles from our own cucumbers, packed peaches in syrup and made peach and strawberry jam.

We also dehydrated our homegrown tomatoes and zucchini, which were prolific this year, so that I can use them in winter soups and stews. We have stockpiled grains and beans and other foods that are cheap this time of year.

As for recipes, my chili sauce came from my grandmother. All the rest came from the Internet. It is amazing how simple it is to find recipes and canning instructions that even a novice like me can follow.

With the right equipment, meats and most vegetables can be preserved for one or 2 years. You can even can your own chili con carne from red or pinto beans and minced beef. Canned meat products do not require refrigeration. This is important, should there be a natural disaster or a long-term power outage.

While infrequent, we have had several major power disruptions in the last few years including the 2003 North East blackout, and the 2007 blackout. The latter incident left millions of people without power. It lasted for 12 days in some areas and stretched from Texas to Atlantic Canada. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_power_outages [3]).

There is also the convenience factor for storing your own food. On a cold or snowing winter day when you can't get to the store, you have your own stockpile of delicious and tasty foods. For long-term disruptions that may occur after a major blizzard, hurricane or other disaster, you can buy grain, rice and beans in 10 and 20-pound bags. Rice and beans are very nutritious and when supplemented with homemade canned goods, can provide a very good emergency food source for your family.

As fall approaches, it will soon be time to ready our garden for the spring. If you were planning a victory garden for next year, this would be a good time to start. Pick the location and stake out the garden. My wife planned ours so that we would have four foot wide raised gardens with walking space between each bed.

This worked out well, as it is easier to tend, weed and harvest the crops. She also removed a lot of our bushes and flowers.

Her motto was "If we can't eat it, we are not growing it." She planted blueberry and raspberry bushes around the house. They actually look good and we will have our own berries next year.

Don't forget other important items such as medications, vitamins, bandages, rope, tools, two-way radios and other survival gear. It is important that these are stored in a safe yet accessible place. Banding together with several friends or neighbors can also be useful. In the event of a crisis, we will need many skills to survive until help arrives or the unrest ceases.

When I started my preparations, I thought most people would laugh at me, call me paranoid or just plain nuts. Instead, I am fielding questions on how they can prepare themselves and their families to survive a downturn.

I conclude from this that many Americans are very concerned about the state of our country. They are looking for ways to protect their families in these hard times. Some have even asked to help me with my canning so they can learn how to do it.

This week, as I stood over the stove for hours on end, I wish I had invited them over. This weekend, I'm planning on going to the farmers market near closing time to see what deals I can get.

Monday and Tuesday, you will find me again standing over the stove "putting down" my preserves for the winter.

© 2011 Gordon Smith All Rights Reserved