Saturday evening I did something I've been meaning to do for quite awhile, but kept putting off. I scrubbed our storage buckets.
Prior to Y2K, we purchased 24 five-gallon food storage buckets and have pretty much kept them full ever since. Some of them we rarely open (we still have five gallons of black beans and five gallons of split peas we rarely touch, for example) but others are opened frequently, most notably rice, popcorn, cornmeal, lentils, navy beans, sugar, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.
Trouble is, we really don't have a convenient place to store these buckets in the house. As you can imagine, two dozen five-gallon buckets take up quite a bit of room. So, somewhat by default, we put them in one of the stalls in the barn.
It really was a stupid place to put them. They regularly got pooped on, knocked over, kicked, and otherwise banged around by cows and the horse. The insides stay clean and dry, of course, but the outsides were filthy.
Plus it was just plain hard to get to them. If I suddenly found myself low on rice for dinner on a winter evening, it required me to put on my rubber boots, coat, scarf, and take a flashlight through the mucky corral into the barn. I'd shoo aside the livestock, try to find (by flashlight) the bucket I needed. The labels faded more often than not, so I frequently had to open several buckets before finding the rice. Then I had to try and keep the dirty top from contaminating the clean insides. I'd fill my rice jar, re-screw the buckets (they have a ratchet-screw arrangement), go back into the house, divest myself of my winter gear, and then start dinner. A lotta hassle.
So, since preparedness has been on my mind lately, I knew it was time to get those buckets out of the barn, clean them, inventory the contents, and find someplace more convenient to store them.
So far I'd gotten to fourteen of them. These are already cleaned and inventoried, though I still don't have a convenient place to put them (right now they're scattered hither and yon around the house, but at least they're properly labeled). But it was drawn-out and boring work, so I kept putting off the remaining ten.
No more. Saturday night I hauled them around and prepared to clean.
Each bucket holds about forty pounds of standard beans or rice, or about 25 pounds of oatmeal (which is lighter). I used the dolly (hand truck) to take two buckets at a time out of the barn.
I put the buckets on a pallet as I scrubbed, otherwise dirt would splash up from the ground and get the bucket dirty again.
As I was scrubbing one particular bucket, I noticed the screw-ratchet top didn't look like it was on properly, so I opened it up. Sure enough, the contents (oatmeal) had gotten wet and contaminated. (Yuck!) I dumped the rotten oatmeal on our burn pile and invited the chickens to pick through what they wanted, then cleaned the bucket.
But this illustrated a couple of things. One, it's important to inventory dried stored foods every so often for damage or spoilage. Two, while oatmeal is fairly cheap (we buy it in 50 lb. bags) and easily replaceable, this may not be the case in the future. Should the time come when food is more costly and/or scarce, losing 25 lbs of oatmeal would be devastating. So check your food stocks, folks, and rotate. If you intend the food to be sealed for long-term storage, you may prefer to use mylar bags and oxygen absorbers so critters don't breed in your wheat or oatmeal.
The cleaned buckets, stacked to dry. Later on I'll bring them in the house, inventory the contents, attach some better labels, and find a place to store them.