Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Take a Deep Breath - Face masks and respirators

There is tons of information out there on masks and hundreds of sellers trying to get you to buy their products. How do you figure out which protection is best for your prepping needs? What does N95 mean anyway? Is there a difference between a mask and a respirator? Why do some cost so much more than others? Is it really worth getting all worked up about in the first place? Here are some quick, simple answers, and links for you.
First some basics - There is a difference between a face mask and a respirator. The best analogy I can come up with is the difference between a window and a screen. A face mask is like a screen, it keeps out the big stuff. A respirator is like a window, it will keep out most stuff but not everything... which brings us to the N95 designation. 'N95' simply means that the mask keep out 95% of test particles - it's the best you can expect really unless you move up to something military grade and then you're looking at spending big bucks, and sticking out like a sore thumb.

Which protection is best for your preps? As is generally the case, this is a matter of opinion... and everyone has one. My thinking is this - Ideally, I'd love to have 100 N95 respirators on hand per person but they run about $1 apiece and right now they're hard to find due to the H1N1 virus. 5 per person would be a nice, attainable, affordable goal. If you just can't get your hands on them, or can't afford them, then face masks are an affordable alternative and better than nothing.

In the case of H1N1 - according to the CDC site - face masks/respirators are not necessary in most cases. As they have repeated many times - regular, proper hand washing will do more to protect you than a mask.

Here are a couple of links to the CDC and FDA which will help you make an informed decision about your options.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

An APN freebie!

I love it when my fellow preppers offer something for free. Here's a link to teh latest APN giveaway.


First Aid Preps - the basics

When things get bad you don't want to find out that you're out of antiseptic or band-aids. You should actually expect to suffer MORE injuries during a crisis than you would in your everyday life. Consider this - cleaning up after a storm or fire has wreaked havoc on your property puts you at a much higher risk of coming into contact with sharp metal, broken glass, splinters, etc. A grid crash will have you doing things like chopping wood, starting fires, etc. Access to medical services may be difficult at best, not existent at worst. Be prepared to take care of your own injuries as much as possible.

Here is a short list of items you should have on you at all times - These can be kept in your car, purse, wallet, desk, etc. Redundancy is a good thing when it comes to being prepared.
  • Band-Aids - keep a good variety of sizes and don't skimp and buy the plastic ones, you'll end up changing them more often because they don't stay on well. I keep everything from 'dots' to 4x4 'knee pad' size. I also keep a couple butterfly closures with my bandaids
  • Liquid bandage - works well for most small injuries, fairly cheap at only $1 or 2 for a couple tubes about the size of a superglue bottle. Eliminates the need for most smaller band aids.
  • Individual packets of triple anti-biotic, sting relief, and cortizone cream. I found a great website for these - firstaidmonster.com. Their prices are great, products are effective and service is quick.
  • A pair of nail clippers with a small file
  • Mini bottle of hand sanitizer
It's possible to wrap these items in a face mask and keep them with (or near) you at all times. To keep them sanitary you can use a mint tin, travel soap box, or zipper bag. I would also keep a couple individual doses of Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, etc. (also available from firstaidmontster)

This is a comprehensive list of first aid supplies to keep on hand. I've decided to post Medicines separately though some things like triple antibiotic may be included in both areas. Also - I've decided not to delve into natural/herbal/homeopathics in this post. Hopefully I can cover those at another time.

  • Instant ice packs
  • Peroxide
  • Alcohol
  • Saline
  • Aloe
  • Burn Cream
  • Triple anti-biotic/neosporin
  • Solarcaine spray
  • Medical Scissors
  • hemostats(?) - clamps
  • Tweezers
  • Nail Clippers
  • Elastic
  • Ace Bandages, sm
  • Ace Bandages, lg
  • Safety pins
  • Straight pins
  • Anbesol (can be used as a mild local anesthetic for splinter removal)
  • Thermometer
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • CPR Mask
  • Face Masks
  • Band-Aids, basic
  • Band-Aids, knuckle & tip
  • Band-Aids, small & dots
  • Band-Aids, large
  • Band-Aids, xl
  • Eyedropper
  • Moleskin
  • Medical Tape, narrow
  • Medical Tape, wide
  • liquid bandage
  • Gauze pads 2x2
  • Gauze pads 3x3
  • Gauze pads 4x4
  • Gauze rolls small
  • Gauze rolls large
  • Leukostrips/Butterfly bandages
  • Epsom Salts
Recommended skills -
Red Cross certification in CPR & First Aid
EMT training if feasible

Recommended resources -
PDR: Physicians Desk Reference
The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy by Mark H Beers
US Army Special Forces Medical Handbook - Department of the Army

Recommended reading -
Survivalist Medicine Chest or Do it yourself Medicine by Ragnar Benson
Wilderness Medicine, Beyond First Aid by William Forgey
Where There is No Doctor by David Werner
Where There is No Dentist
by Murray Dickson

Medication preps

IF H1N1 becomes a serious issue this fall you don't want to find yourself standing in a crowd of sick people at the drug store or worse yet staring at an empty shelf where the medicines should be. You should actually expect to suffer MORE illnesses during a crisis than you would in your everyday life. After a long days work (possibly out in the elements) you'll at least need some pain relief, perhaps even cold/cough medication. If a flu pandemic does sweep through your town do you have the basic supplies to treat yourself and your family? A winter storm shuts down your town for several days - do you have adequate supplies of prescription medications to get through until you can get to the pharmacy?

If you rely on prescription medications you should plan on keeping at least 3 months on hand at all times. This is particularly important for physical ailments such as diabetes and heart disease; but for someone suffering from a mental or emotional disorder - a time of crisis is not a good time to find yourself without the medication that keeps your head clear and focused. Additionally, many drugs prescribed for mental/emotional issues are controlled substances which can make stocking up particularly troublesome. In these cases you might want to use the margin at the end of your prescription to get a couple extra pills set aside each month. For example, you have enough pills to get you through till the 20th so you order your refill on the 15th. I know some people suggest asking your doctor for a longer refill by saying you'll be out of the country. I've never tried that so I can't speak to it's effectiveness, legality, or morality in your situation.

This is a good place to remind those of you who rely on eyeglasses/contacts to keep your old pair of glasses in your emergency kit as a back up. You should also have a current copy of your prescription in case you need to replace yours on short notice. There are many websites that sell perfectly good eyeglasses at extremely reasonable prices ($10-20) - all you need is a copy of your prescription from your eye doctor. With this spare pair and prescription you should also keep one or two eyeglass repair kits. These are super cheap and anyone who wears eyeglasses should have several around them at all times.
Here are just a few places we keep repair kits: Purse/Wallet, Car, Desk, Work, Locker, First Aid Kit, 24/72 hour kit, Bug Out Bags.

BIRTH CONTROL - We all have our values/beliefs - prepare yourself as you see fit. Nuff said.

I'm no expert on supplies for people with disabilities but if you have and elderly or invalid member of your family take a few minutes to consider what their needs will be in an emergency situation. If possible, talk with them about it. They may come up with some needs that never crossed your mind. If you have the space and want to be thorough you can get crutches for free quite frequently at yard sales. Once in a while you can find a wheelchair. That's more prepared than I can ever hope to be but one never knows...

So here's a fairly thorough list of medications to keep on hand. I've decided to post First Aid items separately though some things like triple antibiotic may be included in both areas. Also - I've decided not to delve into natural/herbal/homeopathics in this post. Hopefully I can cover those at another time. For today we will just look at basic OTC (over the counter) medications that are readily available at most drug stores, grocery stores, etc.

  • Selection of pain relievers based on your needs and preferences: Aspirin, non-aspirin, acetaminophen, naproxen, ibuprofen, headache relief, migraine relief. Make sure you have infants/children's dosages if you need them. Also remember to keep at least two forms of fever reducer for children as they can be alternated but NOT duplicated (i.e. you can use acetaminophen and ibuprofen alternating - but NEVER use two different brands of just one as it can cause severe damage to the child. Ask your pediatrician NOW if this confuses you. Don't wait til it's 3AM and you have a kid with a 103 fever!)
  • Cold & Cough/Flu medicine - We keep generic Day and Nighttime versions of Nyquil on hand. Again make sure you have infants/children's if needed. With children you may also want to keep 2 or 3 types of 'tussin' as well depending on the symptoms your kids tend to have.
  • Cough drops, vitamin c lozenges, etc.
  • Menthol rub
  • Sinus/Allergy medication - Benadryll, sudafed, etc Don't forget the kids. Might also want to consider a Neti pot but that's getting into natural medicine.
  • Anti-Dihareal - we've found that the pills work better than the pink stuff for this
  • Tums/Maalox/Rolaids/Pepcid, etc.
  • Pink bismuth -does a much better job for nausea than any of the above.
  • Afterbite, Hydrocortizone, Calamine
  • Triple Anti-biotic ointment
  • Anti-fungal cream/ foot powder
  • Hemherroid cream, pads, suppositories
  • Baby rash ointment - works for all sorts of mild to moderate skin irritation - not just for babies
  • Sunblock
  • OTC eye medications including - saline drops, Similasan for pink eye (I can attest to the effectiveness of this - worth every penny and cheaper than a trip to the Dr when you catch it from your kid!)
  • OTC earache relief (again from Similasan)
  • Epi-pen if needed
  • Ipecac - can't imagine this stuff ever goes bad, really - how could it taste worse or not make you puke?
Recommended skills -
Red Cross certification in CPR & First Aid
EMT training if feasible

Recommended resources -
PDR: Physicians Desk Reference
The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy by Mark H Beers
US Army Special Forces Medical Handbook - Department of the Army

Recommended reading -
Survivalist Medicine Chest or Do it yourself Medicine by Ragnar Benson
Wilderness Medicine, Beyond First Aid by William Forgey
Where There is No Doctor by David Werner
Where There is No Dentist
by Murray Dickson

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Prepping on a cup o' joe - week 4 PRODUCE

This weeks cup is Produce. Fruits and veggies. You should plan on at least 2 cups per person per day. The USRDA (for what it's worth) is 2.5 cups of veggies and 1.5 cups of fruit.
There are a number of ways you can achieve produce preps, be sure to include a wide variety as eating dried apples and rasins will get old quickly.

If you have a backyard garden or even a few potted veggies on a balcony you're ahead of most people. I posted last week about garden seeds here Seeds of survival. Though I stick with those recommendations, even cheap hybrid seeds are better than nothing. However I strongly recommend that you read that post and educate yourself before storing cheap seeds.

My first recommendation for new preppers is canned goods. They're simple to store, fairly inexpensive on a per can basis, and easy to inventory. One can provides 3-4 half cup servings so you should plan on one can of fruit and two cans of veggies per person per day. They are pest proof and will last a very long time as long as they are properly stored. If you are concerned about moisture, consider waxing cans before storing them. A can of cheap veggies runs 40-50 cents around here.

In addition you can store dried fruits and veggies which store longer, weigh less, and take up less space. Real fruit leathers, applesauce and raisins are good choices. If you decide to go with some fruit leathers don't buy the 'candy' ones that are made by the snack companies like Betty Crocker - these are mostly sugar and have little nutritional value. Instead check the health food section of your grocery store. My family enjoys Fruit A Boo brand leathers.

You can also store canned soups as part of your produce.

For this weeks 'cup' you should purchase some combination of the following (make sure you get some fruits AND some veggies)
  • 5 packages of quality, non-hybrid garden seeds
  • 10-20 cans of veggies
  • 5-10 cans of fruit
  • 5-10 REAL fruit leathers
  • 1 or 2 jars of applesauce
  • a couple pounds of rasins or other dried fruit
  • 10 cans of soup
Now you have a reasonable variety of food stored. You will need muchmore but next week we will look at medications & first aid.

Prepping on a cup o' joe - week 3 Protein

So we're going to spend one more week on foods just to get started then we're going to skip to another area. Let me say again that you need a well balanced diet to survive but since you can't buy everything at once this seems like the next logical choice.
This category would include things like meats, peanut butter, eggs, nuts, legumes, and hearty soups. A one month supply for one person might include:
10-15 # of meat &/or legumes
1 jar of peanut butter
3 dozen eggs
1 pound of nuts

Some easy, obvious choices for this week 'cup' are a combination of the following:
  • 1-2 jars of peanut butter
  • 1/2 lb nuts or seeds
  • a dozen eggs - or for longer shelf life try frozen egg substitute or dried egg powder
  • 6-10 cans of tuna fish, spam, vienna sausages, etc
  • 6-10# of dried beans
In review you should now have enough water, grains, and protein items to last ONE person 15-30 days or a family of 4 about a week.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Completely off topic post about Michael Jackson

OK - So... I wasn't planning on posting about this. I'm not an MJ fan, never really was; but I AM a child of the 80's and it's just struck me. Seems like this is the first 80's pop star that I can recall dying - and that's what's got my mind going tonight. As the movie says "Death comes to us all" - it's one of the few universals in this amazingly diverse trip - we all end up in the same places. I knew this day would come (when someone famous during my youth would die) but didn't expect it to be someone so young. Like some childish part of me just figured he'd always be around doing crazy stuff. Never occured to me that he'd die, and definitely not so young. Who will they paparazzi chase now? Brittney? Lindsay? At any rate - at least now the poor tortured soul is at rest. Hopefully he's found a peace in the next life that eluded him in this one. RIP MJ.

So there's my crazy schpeil. I promise - no more off topic pop world posts.

Penny Stove

Here's another fascinating freebie thing you can make yourself. I'd love to credit the person who originally posted the link that I followed but I have so many tabs open that I can't seem to track back to the OP!

Penny Stove

Edit: I found it(my original link)! Over at No Nanny State. Here's some additional info he posted.
My last thing to do is to make up 2 more Penny Stoves to give each bag a means for cooking food and sterilizing water. These things are amazingly light and efficient. I have found that the yellow bottles of Heet fuel line anti-freeze to be the best fuel and container. Heet is denatured alcohol, which is actually cheaper when purchased in bulk, but more difficult to carry. I just throw a couple of the Heet bottles in the bag, and that will provide fuel for at least a week.
One thing I really like about him; He's in the banking industry and saw all the financial trouble coming down the pike nearly 18 months ago. He does a great job explaining they 'physics' of finance in a way that's easy to understand. I've been going through all of his back posts since yesterday - it got interesting around the beginning of 2008 (because I have a bad memory not because his old posts were bad).

There are a bunch of great links at the bottom of the Penny Stove page like:
instructions on how to make your own penny stove
where you can buy premade ones
making your own fuel
and more!! Check it out!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nearly free hand washing

Found this fascinating idea on everydayprepper.com. I always love finding ways to use things I already have to replace items I haven't been able to purchase yet. This uses a 5 gallon bucket and a plunger - archaic, labor intesive, but better than nothing!

Washing clothes the Manual Way

Monday, June 22, 2009

Storing bulk dry goods in PETE bottles w/oxygen absorbers

Storing Bulk Dry Foods in PETE Bottles using Oxygen Absorbers - More DIY How To Projects

Seeds of survival

Most preppers are familiar with the link I'm about to add but for anyone new to the concept of prepping these will be useful links.
survival seed vault -
Overview - Heirloom Organics/Survival Seed Vault. This company sells buckets of garden seeds for long term storage. Also included are planting instruction and 'seed resources'.
Cost comparison: I pay roughly $2.75 on average for a packet of non-hybrid, high quality garden seeds. The basic package sold by SSV is $99, has 22 varieties of vegetable seeds and a nice storage bucket. Some quick math says 22x2.75= 60.50 + $5 for the bucket= $65.50. This is operating on the assumption that you are only getting one packets worth of each sort of seed and that all the seeds cost roughly the same price per package. Additionally, SSV has done all the research for you and has collected the very best seeds (which could reasonable be valued at more than the going price for regular non-hybrid seed packets). They've also taken the time to properly package them for storage, and everyone deserves to be paid for their time. Overall I consider this to be a very reasonable price for what you are getting. because A. you are getting the best quality seeds B. someone else has done all the work for you and C. They are processed for long term storage whereas storebought seeds are not. The quote below is directly from their site:
Heirloom Organics Non-Hybrid Seed Packs are processed for long-term storage, increasing the shelf-life of our seeds by many years. We use the methods developed and approved by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) for processing and packaging seeds for long-term storage. Heirloom Organics is the only supplier of seeds that has studied and implemented these methods developed by the USDA. No other seeds available today incorporate these advanced methods for seed packaging and storage. Heirloom Organics Seed Packs are truly the food source of tomorrow, packaged with advanced storage methods today.

If you just can't afford $99 all at once you can create a similar survival seed collection yourself with a small food safe bucket and packets of seeds, after a little research. Your storage methods will probably not produce as good results as SSV's but it's better than not having any seeds stored.
  1. The most important point is that you want to ensure that you are storing foods that will grow in your area. This is of particular importance the farther North you go. Nearly everything that grows in New England will grow elsewhere in the country but many things that grow in Florida and other warmer climates will not grow here.
  2. Second in importance is that they be NON-Hybrid (or open pollinated) seeds. Most seeds sold in the US today are hybrids. This is a crucial point of importance because in tough times you will want to be able to save seeds from one season to use in the next. Hybrid seeds are notoriously unreliable because they are... well hybrids. Most hybrids will not produce viable seeds and, if the do, the plant you get from a saved hybrid seed will most likely be very different from the plant it came from. These are fine and acceptable for a single season of gardening (higher quality ones might be good for even two or three seasons) but for long term security you want to stick with something you can count on.
  3. The final attribute to consider is that you want high quality seeds. Most non-hybrids ARE high quality which is why I put this at the bottom of the list. Higher quality seeds have better germination rates so you need to use fewer seeds to get a good crop. Thus, a single packet of seeds will last much longer. They also store longer (because they have better germination rates). In my limited experience I've been able to get equally good germination the second year I used a package as I had the first year. I've never saved seed packets for three years.
Because I live in Vermont I have chosen High Mowing Seeds for most of my seed storage. They are local, sell mostly open pollinated seed, and are excellent quality so I have a high degree of confidence in them. I also have a couple years experience with their seeds and can attest that any I didn't use last year sprouted this year, which will be an important quality in any seed purchased for storage. They do sell organic hybrid seeds that don't use GMO technology.

Drawbacks: The $99 special from SSV is almost all vegetable seeds (though I know it includes oats, wheat, and melons) and I know there are several varieties that my family doesn't eat. They also suggest that this is adequate for 2 people for one year. In theory this would mean that we would need to purchase three of these vaults for our family of 6 or buy the next higher size - the family pack which has more than twice as much seed but only costs 50% more at $149. I feel that the quantity of seeds in the basic vault would be a great starter pack even for a family as large as mine. They also offer fruit, legume, herb and grain seed packs if you want to add variety to your collection. These packets are reasonably affordable and range in price from $34-59. Concerning varieties you don't use - you can either trade the seeds or the veggies for things you DO need.
Though I have not had the opportunity to test the SSV myself I feel quite comfortable recommending it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Prepping on a cup o' joe - week 2 RICE/PASTA

This was a real toss up choice for me. After water supplies are established you need to move on to food stores. The problem here is that you need to establish a good balance and you can't buy everything at once. The whole concept to 'prepping on a cup o' joe' is to take a small amount of money and make the most impact.
Ultimately I decided on rice and pasta because just about everyone eats some sort of rice or pasta. Produce and nuts can be gleaned in the wild if needed but you're not going to find macaroni growing on a bush. Nutrition-wise I probably should have gone with dried beans but opted not to for two reasons:
1. The price per pound is much higher (rice and pasta run about 50-75 cents per pound - beans are running $1-1.50/lb)
2. Beans by themselves are not particularly versatile.
The reasons I did chose rice and pasta were - they're quick and easy to prepare, fills you up, and (as I said before) costs about half what beans do so you're getting more bang for your buck.
For a years supply you should estimate 60 pounds of pasta and 40 pounds of rice. Brown rice does not store as long as white but it's better for you. If you don't use it at all now consider buying a pound or two and experimenting with it. Otherwise you should stick with the white rice even though it's not as nutrient dense as brown. Don't be afraid of whole rice if you're used to 'quick' or 'minute' rice. The only difference is patience and a little practice. Bulk rice takes alot longer to cook and requires more water, it also won't store as long once it's been cooked. We've only been using it for less than a year and I've been able to perfect my method in the microwave but still haven't mastered stove-top cooking yet.

So here's this weeks 'cup' (remember I'm aiming for about $15-20/week; you may have slightly more or less depending on the habit you're taming)
  • 5 -10 pounds of bulk pasta - if you buy it in one pound packages it's going to cost you $1/lb unless you hit a really good sale. If you buy it in 3-5 lb packages you'll save 25-40%. Right now our local Hannaford's has 5# bags of macaroni, spaghetti, and tri-color rotini for $2.99 each.
  • 10-20# of bulk rice - again, smaller packages will cost more. If memory serves me correctly this is also running 50-75 cents per pound but check your local stores to be sure. Don't forget to check the international foods section as they generally have very large bags of rice at pretty reasonable prices.
So there's your weekly cup. I'm considering a daily cup if anyone's interested. Seems many people do their shopping day by day, particularly those who have no children at home. Feel free to let me know what you think of the series.

Opening doors to discuss preparedness

We had a preliminary conversation with my in-laws and youngest niece last night about preparedness. That can be a tricky door to open. We all want our loved ones to be prepared, but we don't want them to think that we're doing the job for them.
Our discussion started with a question about cabbage. Seems my mother has planted way too much this year and my MIL loves it. She happened to mention that it wouldn't store long and I saw an open door. I said - oh cabbage is a great vegetable to store - you don't even need to refrigerate it. I pulled out my copy of "Root Cellaring" by Mike and Nancy Bubel and read some of the info on cabbage for her. She said it was too bad we didn't have a root cellar, at which point my FIL and I both said that our basement had areas that were perfect for root cellars (dark, cool, damp). She then asked me about the difference between Organic produce and regular - which opened another door for discussion about Hybrid vs non-hybrid seeds.
The whole time we were having this discussion I was in shock. In the 16 years that I've known her I don't think I've ever seen her pick up a trowel to plant a flower, much less veggies. I don't expect that she's going to go out and start digging now but the 'seed' is there for further discussion.
Somehow we flowed rather naturally from the root cellar discussion to one about EMP. What it is, what it does, and how much of a threat it actually is (one of the most likely). We didn't get much further than that but again - the door is open.
What we didn't do -
We didn't jump up and down saying "You've got to get started. There isn't much time left"
We didn't dump a pile of articles and books in their laps and say "You need to read this"
We didn't invite them to tour our preps, nor did we mention what we may or may not have for preps (though they're familiar with the garden).
We didn't volunteer to have them come here if TSHTF
We are all responsible for our own well being and preparedness. Our responsibility to others is to inform them and equip them with the information to prepare themselves; not to bludgeon them or terrify them to the point that they stick their heads back in the sand.
This was a VERY preliminary discussion but one that I hope we can expand on in the days and weeks to come. You should each keep your eyes and ears open for similar opportunities. Even if you think your family is oblivious or hostile towards prepping. You might be surprised by the chances you find to start talking with them.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

First day of summer vacation

All the kids are on vacation and life has 'slowed down' for the summer. We're at that in between point where the garden is in and we're just waiting for stuff to harvest. Spending our time cleaning up the property, perfecting the chicken coop, cleaning the pantry, etc. We're keeping quite busy. I just love the 'feel' of summer vacation, the slowness of it all. No rush, no hurry up, just 'whatever'. We can lay around and read or play in the pool or tinker on a project to our hearts content. I'd nearly forgotten what those days felt like. It's so nice to get back to them.
The little ones are playing in the pool, my 14 YO is burning some brush we trimmed last weekend and my 15 YO is spending the morning with his girlfriend. DH will be home around 3:30 and then we will swing into work mode for the afternoon. But right now I'm just enjoying a lazy summer day.
That relaxed feeling is something we have worked hard to develop. We don't listen to the radio or watch tv most of the time. My teens have their MP3's if they get desperate but I'm trying to develop a taste for peace and quiet in my home. There's no TV blaring the latest grumblings of doom - we know what's going on out there but we have decided not to let it into our home anymore. The change is palpable - and peaceful.
For the first time I can recall I stepped out onto my porch this morning and felt safe and secluded, somewhat sheltered from the craziness going on everywhere around me. I'm not hiding from the world, I just chose to deal with it on my terms, which means keeping it off of our property. We will gladly face any trials set before us but we will not seek them out. Our home is finally the haven it is meant to be, a place of rest and rejuvenation. We are truly blessed!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Prepping on a cup o' joe - week 1 WATER

How much do you pay for your daily... whatever? Whether it's latte, coffee, soda, a newspaper; it costs money. My personal weakness is soda which costs at least $1 per day. I've heard that coffees can cost up to $5 per day. Now multiply that out over a week. For me that's at least $10 just for myself (not counting DH's habit). A quick calculation tells me that we spend about $20-30/ week on just our drinking habits. If you spend $5/day on yours then that's $25-30/week. If you could cut your consumption in half that would give you $10-$15/week to put towards preps.
In this series I hope to show you how you can build your preps weekly by spending a small amount to make a big dent in your preps.
Since water is one of your major preps and can be completed fairly quickly and inexpensively we will start there. It's next to impossible to store a years worth of water but 2 weeks is an attainable goal (that's 14 gallons per person). For those who are mathematically challenged; a case of bottled water is equal to 3 gallons.
This week spend your saved money on one or more of the following:
  • gallons of bleach - for generic they run about $1.50 around here but we'll figure $2 - that will get you at least 5 gallons. Bleach can be used to treat water for storage and is inexpensive. I've been told it has a rather short shelf life though I've not tested that.
  • 5 gallon water container - can be purchased at walmart for just over $10, fill it yourself at home. A gallon per day per person/ quart per day per pet.
  • Empty foodsafe 55 gallon barrel - can be purchased from your local soda bottling plant VERY cheap. I'm told they're under $5 each when purchased direct but check your yellow pages for your local plant.
  • prepackaged water - gallons are running about $1, cases of 16 oz bottles are about $3 on sale around here.
If you start using this plan I'd love to hear how you're progressing. Consider lettimg me know the number of people you're prepping for and what your weekly 'cup' (i.e. prepping budget) is.

Basic bread dough

This is my everyday recipe for bread dough. It will make 2 loaves or 2 dozen dinner rolls. You'll note that this can be prepared from just storage foods. If you prefer you can substitute 2 cups of regular milk for the 2C water and powdered milk.

2 Cups water
1/2 cup powdered milk
2 Tablespoons white sugar or honey
2 Teaspoons Salt
1 Tablespoon lard
1 Tablespoon or 1 packet active dry yeast
1Teaspoon sugar or honey
1/2 Cup warm water
6-7 cups flour

Add milk powder, sugar/honey, salt and lard to water, scald (heat til bubbles form on the side of the pan). Allow to cool to lukewarm (this generally takes 20-30 minutes)
Add sugar/honey to warm water then add yeast; stir to dissolve. You'll want to wait til your milk is cool enough to use or it will kill the yeast.
Gradually add the flour 1/2 cup at a time til the dough leaves the side of the bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes on a lightly floured board. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8-10 minutes). Set aside in a lightly greased, covered bowl. Let rise until doubled. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2-3 hours depending on the weather and your yeast. Punch down and let rise til doubled again. This time will vary from 25 minutes to a couple hours again. Yeast is unpredictable, you just have to be patient with it - most of the time it will rise. I've had to leave bread overnight before but it does rise up eventually. Just keep it covered and keep checking it.
Once the second rise is completed turn the dough out onto your floured board. Shape into two loaves and place in greased pan. Allow it to rise til double again, usually about an hour.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for 35 minutes or until browned. Turn out on a cooling rack. Once cooled seal in zipper bags.

Testing your preps

We decided to cut our grocery budget by 75% for a couple weeks. It was quite an eye opener. My pantry is starting to look a bit depleted and I'm realizing that I didn't have so much down there as I thought.

It's a good idea to do a trial run once in a while to make sure your preps are adequate. All the calculations in the world won't help you once the store shelves are empty. What you 'normally eat' and what you eat in stressful situations are two different things. You're under stress which makes you crave comfort foods. At the same time you also know you have to make adjustments so you're consuming more storage items (i.e. dry milk VS regular)

One thing I've noticed is that stress gives my family the munchies. I thought we had more than adequate 'comfort food' preps but I'm finding that they go through them pretty quickly when they're stressed. We had stacks of candy and chips and have gone through a good deal of them in the past month. I had actually STOPPED buying snacks because I thought we had too many. I had also rationalized that I would make more from scratch. What I'm finding is this: I am making more from scratch but it's basics like bread and meals. I don't have as much leisure time for baking cookies or brownies. I could, if we were desperately craving something, but I'd have to make the time. If I can prepare now by having a few of these items on hand it will make life easier then.

Additionally, many of these items were purchased 6 or more months ago - you should regularly sample stored foods to make sure the taste and consistency haven't changed. We had a box of fig newtons that had been in the pantry since before Christmas. I was worried that they'd be hard or stale - they weren't. So now I know we can store these for at least 6 months if purchased fresh. I left one unopened package in the pantry and we'll test that again at the end of the summer to see if they're still holding up. I've found that Goetz Caramel creams hold up well for 6 months but skittles, starbursts, and twizzlers don't - they start to get hard after about 3 months. A bag of fall themed Reese cups was as good last week as it would be a couple weeks after purchase. Oddly enough, either spaghettios change rapidly or my tastes have changed. They're not inedible but the pasta just seems 'different'.

Another item I'm going through quickly is powdered milk. Now that we're using it for everything but drinking we're going through a 28 qt box every couple weeks. It's quite an eye opener. Imagine that you can't buy the bare necessity perishables (dairy, eggs, fresh produce) and realize how quickly your stores would be depleted. I've found that I can substitute honey for sugar in baked goods with very little appreciable difference. My family won't eat it raw but they love it cooked. It also has a nearly indefinite shelf life - even though it crystalizes quickly.

You know the mantra "store what you eat, eat what you store' but this is taking it a step further - we stopped buying most food for a couple of weeks. As I looked at my pantry yesterday I saw GAPING holes where we had consumed nearly all of certain foods over the course of 2-3 weeks. These were items I thought we had a 3 month supply of. Granted - the family will tire of them and move on to something else - but it's a shock to the system to see a well calcualted, thought out plan vaporize before your eyes. Don't take your stores for granted or they may not be there for you when you need them

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Awesome APN giveaways!

Check out the following links for some great giveaways c/o American Preppers Network and Codename Bullseye!!

Survival Seed Vault Sampler Giveaway

Gun Case Giveaway

Garden update

Somehow I missed posting this before. We got the garden in last weekend! Everything is planted!! I'm glad I did it when I did because this week has turned out hectic with everything going on. I haven't had a chance to weed since I finished it Sunday.
We have planted:
Potatoes (white and red)
Onions (white and red)
Beans (yellow and green)
2 Pumpkin plants
Tomatoes (4 kinds)
Lettuce (2 kinds)
Cucumbers (pickling and slicing)

To our landscaping/perennial edibles we've added this spring -
3 blueberry bushes
2 Pear Trees
1 Cherry Tree
6 raspberry canes (which all seem to have died).

I'm sure I've been overly ambitious. This is only the 3rd or 4th garden we've put in. Every previous year we've lost the battle with the weeds and didn't get great crops as a result. This year we've divided the garden into 3 sections. Hopefully by breaking it up into smaller sections we can tackle a section every day or so rather than trying to week the whole thing at once.

Just for reference sake we also have the following -
4 (pre-existing) raspberry canes
a couple dozen strawberry plants
an apple tree
a beech tree
4 maple trees
well established oregano, and chives
a languishing creeping-thyme
assorted herbs and medicinal plants
ever present dandelion and burdock plants - couldn't get rid of em' if I wanted to! (Lord knows I've tried!)

Lifes little emergencies - do you need an "ER Kit"

Rachel (5YO) closed Noah's (2YO) wrist in the van door this morning as we were leaving the school. So I've spent the whole day at the hospital just to make sure nothing was broken.
I've been meaning to make up another 'kit' called an "ER Bag" - useless to most adults, anyone with kids will appreciate the idea. We keep an emergency kit in the car but it only has... you know... *emergency* stuff in it. I also keep a random book in the car at all times - puzzle book, magazine, something in case I'm stuck in the car waiting. The ER Kit would complement your car kit without taking up as much space as a BOB - which would be overkill in this situation.

The idea of the ER bag is to have a small bag or shoebox size tote near the front door or even in the car if there's room. That box would contain a few snacks, small toys, coloring books, crayons, etc. The thought behind it is that the emergency kit in the car doesn't need to be cluttered with toys but I want to have *something* so I don't need to run around the house collecting things to entertain the other children; and I don't want to dump money into the vending machines at the hospital when someone gets hungry after sitting in the ER for 2 hours. I already keep diapers, water, change, first aid, etc. in the car kit; so this would just be something small to hold the remaining items. If you car kit has the room you could feasibly just add these items to that container.

So, think back to the last time you had to 'grab and go' with your kids. What were you wishing you had brought with you? Here's my list:
  • drinks - juice boxes, kool aid koolers, water bottles... ANYTHING that doesn't cost $1.50 per bottle!
  • Snacks - Those little snack packs they sell in the vending machine for $1 or more can be had 9 for $3-5 at the grocery store. Even if they go unused for 6-12 months they can be used as a 'safety reward' if the kids can go 6-12 months without a trip to the ER (Well worth the investment!!)
  • activities - coloring books/crayons, travel games, matchbox cars, little people, deck of cards
A few other suggestions/ideas - an MP3 player or other portable player, a lightweight blanket (certain areas of the hospital are cold), maybe a travel pillow, a book

None of these things are necessary, but they will all make a difficult trip a bit more comfortable and less frustrating. I wish I had one in my car this morning. It was also a good reminder to give my preps a semi-annual complete overhaul

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lessons from Lice

My eldest child is 15 and this is the first time I've ever had to deal with head lice in my home. I've learned some interesting lessons.

#1 - Being prepared means being prepared for ANYTHING - including ignorant neighbors who allow infested kids to wander the neighborhood!
Fortunately I happened to have tea tree oil and a lice comb. Funny thing was - when I bought the comb I thought "I'm not going to need this, but it's only 49 cents - and you never know"
#2 - Go with your gut. When the kid turned up here an hour before school got out the other day my gut said 'send her home, if she's out of school she doesn't belong here'. Shoulda' listened to my gut. Instead I decided to play nice... dumb idea.
#3 Good neighbors vs bad neighbors. We caught them quickly thanks to our other neighbor who thought we should know since they knew our daughter played with her.
#4 schools suck/privacy rights trump common sense even in a small town- they checked my 14YO but didn't feel compelled to let me know so I could check my 5YO even though they know the kid lives right next door and plays with my daughter.
#5 vigilance and persistence pay off - we caught it quickly, checked the whole family, and followed up every few hours. DD was the only one infected in a house of 6. I've found a few migrants on myself but I think they just escaped while I was cleaning DD. So far so good, but we'll follow up with a few daily washings for her and I using OTC lice shampoo. I'm a firm believer in natural remedies and this one seems to work exceptionally well, but I'm also not a gambler when it comes to infestations. They're too hard to get rid of once they're entrenched and I don't want to have to bomb the whole house (though I may still have to).

Suggestions for anyone interested -

Keep the following in your preps for lice treatment whether you think you're going to have to deal with it or not. Like the flu, when you need it - the store will be sold out because everyone is looking for it at once.
Olive oil (should have this anyway)
Tea Tree oil (also does quite a job on bug bites)
lice combs (plural - they're not very sturdy and we have thick hair, one day of use and the one we have is already getting weak teeth.) They're cheap so keep a few around. You can also use flea combs from the pet store, anything with close-set teeth will work but they need to be very close.
shower caps - so you can allow the hair to soak without having to sit in the tub to keep it contained. Again, they're cheap so have a few around. I didn't before this but you can be sure I will after! Poor kid has spent hours in the tub since yesterday!
OTC lice shampoo - can't find it around here today, everyone's out of stock. I'm going to call and see if I can get a prescription from the pediatrician. I doubt they'll ask to see her.
butterfly hair clips like they use at the hairdressers - dd has long hair and it's a PITA trying to be thorough when I can't pin up what I've already checked. This is something else I don't have in my preps but will be adding.[/list]

Monday, June 8, 2009

Building a preparedness/survival binder

This is far simpler than it might seem at first. The keys are consistency and organization. Basically whenever I find information that would be useful in an off-grid emergency I print it out and add it to my binder. There is tons of information on the web and I've saved many things to my computer and memory stick - but if the power fails I'll be out of luck without hard copies.

This is different from the information you should keep in your 72 hour kit. That would be personal information key to you and your family only. A preparedness binder would contain more general information and could be seen as a "Recipe book for survival". Right now mine consists of basic yet somewhat complex things like:
  • how to make lye
  • how to dry food without electricity
  • oral rehydration solution recipe
  • recipes for basic condiments and sauces
  • recipes for household cleaners
  • a list of local wild edibles with pictures
  • vinegar making instructions
Other things that should be added will be printed and filed in the correct tabbed areas as I find them. I'm just starting this binder and much more will be added over time I'm sure. Ultimately the recipes will have a binder of their own as I tend to collect lots of them but for now those basic ones will stay in the prepping binder. I have books that cover many preparedness topics but it's handy to have all the basic info at my fingertips, in one convenient place.

Exhaustive list of area for prepping

(Disclaimer - making lists in no way implies that the author has the preps listed or advocates such thorough prepping. It's nearly impossible to be prepared for every occasion but it never hurts to think about it) Wink
So being the OC/listmaking type I came up with this:
Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked

Grains - flours, oats, tortilla/taco shells
Sweeteners - sugars, honey, molasses, karo
Adjuncts/misc - (cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, salt, unflavored gelatin)
Pasta & Rice
Dairy & eggs
Legumes & Nuts
Meats & Fish
Fruits & Veggies
soups, broths/boullion
Spices & Flavors
Water & Beverages (Includes coffee & tea, water treatment supplies)
Beer & Liquor
comfort foods (chips, cookies, candy, convenience foods)
Garden plants, seeds, trees
Fishing supplies
Guns & Ammo

Medications, First Aid & Essential Oils
Vitamins & Supplements
Baby needs
Cleaners & Soaps
Hygiene & Personal
Paper goods
Pest control
Lights & Flames (flashlights, lamps, candles, lighters, matches, etc)
Office supplies (paper, pens, etc)

Fabric, yarn
Sewing/Knitting supplies
Shelter (tents, tarps, etc)
Bedding & Towels

Hand tools (hammers, saws, screwdrivers, etc)
Yard/Garden tools (Shovels, hoes, etc)
Kitchen tools
Communication/Time/Direction (radios, clocks, compass, maps, etc)
Ropes, Bungees, & Fasteners (nails, screws, etc)
Adhesives (tape, glue, caulk, etc)
Canning supplies
Gardening equipment
Candlemaking equipment
soapmaking equipment
Buckets, Dishpans, Washboards
Blades (Knives, Axes, etc)

Auto supplies & Parts
Transport (non-auto) Bikes, wagons, etc

"Survival" Binder - wish I could take credit for this idea but read about it elsewhere. I've been doing this general thing for a while. Oh well - another post later...
Books - prepping books, cookbooks, how-to books, etc
Educational (if you have children)

ENTERTAINMENT - books, games, music.



DEBT SERVICE - not that it's my last priority but it does cost money and is imperative to being prepared.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Coping with New England weather and busy schedules

I've been waiting nearly a month for that perfect combination of clear weather without a frost warning and an afternoon where DH is home and not working on other 'priority' projects. I think we may finally have reached that magic date though it's looking overcast I don't think it's going to rain.
One of the hard points to living in VT is not going stir crazy in May and planting too soon. I've talked to/ read posts from sooo many people who planted too soon this year and lost everything to a late frost. Gardening here is a precise dance of patience and perseverance.
The garden's been tilled for weeks and I've been working on weeding the perennials between wet spells. We've got all our new trees and bushes in the ground and the apple tree has had it's first treatment of Captan for the scab that has plagues it since we bought the house. It's always been an annoyance but we never bothered to try to harvest the fruit before so we just left it. This year we're hoping to get some fruit from it so we'll need to treat it weekly for a while to see how it does.
Michael got most of the yard mowed and weedwhacked last night while I weeded around the raspberries. Today we're hoping to get to the interior of the garden. I've spent alot of time these past few weeks pouring over gardening catalogs and "Carrots Love Tomatoes" to figure out the best planting plan. I was pleased with last years plan but, as I understand it, we're supposed to change the layout each year to keep pests from getting established. I'm thinking I may just flip the plan so everything that was in the first row is in the last and vice versa, which will work fine til I get to the middle of the garden.
I think the first of the rhubarb is about ready to be harvested and yesterday I noticed tiny berries forming on my strawberry plants. I've had fresh chives and oregano for weeks now.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Progress - the Catch 22

So I've been gone for several weeks again. I'm really back and forth with this blog. I started it as a way to journal the changes our family is going through, as a reminder to us and as an inspiration to anyone who might come across it sometime down the road. What I find is that the more I 'do' the less I 'write'. It reminds me of the old saying "Those who can-do; those who can't-teach". I'm so busy doing that I don't have time to sit and write about it. On the other hand. my mind sometimes gets so full of ideas that I can't slow down long enough to get it all out in writing, and sometimes, like this afternoon, I just have to write it down to get it out of my head.
The past several weeks have seen many small changes, much like the weeks before; changes so subtle that those who see us regularly won't notice them; but those who haven't seen us in a while notice quickly that 'somethings different' but they just can't put their finger on it.
I keep the TV and radio off most of the day now - I no longer feel the need to have constant noise coming into my life. There's very little of true value to be heard or seen these days over the public airwaves. Quite honestly I wonder now if there ever WAS anything of true value in these places. I love our local Christian radio station but when compared to the direct study of Gods word or singing a well loved hymn - there's no comparison. My senses are freed up to hear the birds singing or the children playing, my own music sweeps into my mind, favorite tunes that are ingrained in my mind.

One thought that people have is "what about the news? - How do you get the important news of the day" My answer is simply another question - "What constitutes important news of the day?" Swine flue? Wall Street? What the 'first dog' is doing? How many kids Brad and Angelina have? I'm more empathetic than most people so what I say next may sound harsh but it's true. It's unreasonable for me to beat myself up about starving orphans in Bangladesh or sex slaves on the other side of the globe when I don't even know my next door neighbors. Think about the hypocrisy of that. I care about people who I'll never meet but don't care about those I see every day?! That is the problem with this modern world. We try to tackle the huge issues rather than dealing with the mundane everyday problems. If we would each deal with the issues around us we wouldn't have global problems. It's a waste of time and resources for reporters from New York to fly to China to cover a natural disaster there - not to mention they are then in the way of the people who are actually trying to do something about it. It's not that I don't care about the plight of these people, but I can only affect so many lives and I can't spend my time wringing my hands over things I can't change - that takes my hands away from effecting change around me.

One aspect that has always frustrated me in my own life was hushing children to hear the TV or radio, etc. - it's what I was raised with though so it came as second nature to me, even though I distincly remember yelling at my dad for doing it to me - I do the same thing to my kids. I feel like I'm overcoming that... finally, now that half of my kids are nearly grown. It's not completely too late though and I see our relationships changing day by day in small ways. Each change is intertwined with another; less stress means less interest in 'relaxing' or 'escaping' into TV or computers or whatever, less time on those things means more time with the kids, more time with the kids means less stress because they aren't fighting for our attention. It just keeps going.

So I'll try to be better about updating here but I just can't do that at the expense of improving my families situation.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Prepared Homeschool

We work on a tight budget and I struggle to pull my materials together from one year to the next. Keep it basic -"reading, writing, and 'rithmetic." You can teach history and science in the process of teaching these subjects. These are the bare basic books I would suggest everyone have on hand to instruct a wide variety of ages.

  • A Bible - as a Christian this is the single most important text you can own. Use for reading, copywork and basic moral instruction. Even if you're not a Christian it should be considered a piece of classic literature
  • Dictionaries - at least two and preferably more - 1 Children's picture dictionary, 1 standard Websters dictionary. A collegiate dictionary and student dictionary would be useful as well. Use for vocabulary, spelling, copywork.
  • The "What your __ Grader Should Know series" by E D Hirsch. - This is a great overview of all the major subject areas. There are enough suggestions in each of these books to build your own curriculum on. I have been able to use the Kindegarten edition to talk with my 5 year old about many topics.
  • A compendium of the founding documents. - These can be printed out from a variety of sources. A bound copy would be nicer but you can get the same information for free on the web. Every American should memorize as much of these documents as possible.
  • If you can find them free or cheap, and have the space to store them, I would add vintage Readers Digests and National Geographic magazines/maps.
If I had a little more money and could locate one I would add an Encyclopedia printed prior to 1960. (That is my arbitrary date but was selected to try to avoid revisionist history).

As long as society doesn't completely crumble you should have ready access to local libraries to supplement you children's reading. If you are concerned with TEOTWAWKI then I would add some classic novels and field guides for birds, trees, plants, etc. (please note that these are ONLY books recommended for homeschooling, my full booklist includes many other titles and subjects)

Materials to have on hand
(as much of each as you can comfortably store in a small area)

BARE MINIMUM - Pens, Pencils, erasers, crayons, paper, scissors, glue, ruler. You can do just about anything with these few items. Additionally there are amazing sales on them every fall. I stock up when I can get them from a penny to a quarter per package, even if it means an extra trip to the store. Staples allows anyone with a teachers reward card to buy up to 25 of each of these items. In my state homeschoolers can get a card by submitting a copy of your enrollment letter to the store with your application (that is the letter from the Dept of Ed. indicating that you are homeschooling). You just need to ask your local store.

A frequent good source of notepads (and sometimes desk calendars) is local printers. Call around and see if they have any. When I used to work in an office and had to run to the printers I'd look to see what they had. Usually there's a table by the receptionist desk with a pile of freebies on it. I've never had anyone question me about it. Also check your local newspaper for end cuts of newsprint. These are the end of the roll that's left after a printing. The paper is excellent for childrens art, banners, wrapping stuff in, etc. Our paper sells them by the pound. I think the last time I bought one it was under $5 and was enough to last a year or more.

THINGS TO KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR - more crayons, markers, colored pencils - ask on Freecycle or check at yard sales. Rubber bands can be had by the handful at the post office here in town. I suspect there are also great sources of free paper clips as well. Even if you have to purchase a small container of each. A dollars worth of each will last you for years.

compass, protractor, stapler, staples, hole punch - handy to have around but used infrequently. Can purchase all of these for under $10 total. I keep them in a small shoebox size tote tucked away on a shelf so I can always find them. If your children reach an age where they're using them on a regular basis purchase an extra set for them. I also keep a few solar calcuators around (all found for free or purchased on clearance).

Penmanship paper is invaluable if you have little ones just learning to write. I pick up partial pads at yard sales every summer for a quarter each. My daughter goes through tons of it.
Index cards - keep a few hundred around. These are great for making your own flash cards and are an invaluable tool for Jr High age kids working on their first research papers and book reports.

Extra bonuses - Paints, paintbrushes, modeling clay - paint brushes can be found at most dollar stores, paints go on sale in the fall with school supplies - they're a bit harder to find but they are out there. I found my pster paints at Rite-Aid on a buy one get two free sale. Walmart carries cheap modeling clay in they crayon aisle - it's been 97 cents a box for the last 3 years. I buy at least 4 boxes.

The most important way to prepared to homeschool on your own is to learn as much as you can. You can only teach your children what you know. Educate yourself on a wide variety of subjects. If you want your kids to learn American History then you need to know it. It's not impossible to teach without the knowledge but it's not enjoyable for any of you. I'm no good at science but even I can manage a field guide to birds, trees, etc. I've been amazed to realize how much I actually do know about basic science. I can identify local wildlife and fauna. I can grow plants and do simple science experiements. Books are handy but use what you already know and learn along with your kids.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dispensing with the roosters

We got rid of our roosters yesterday... the hard way (Warning, some slightly gross description to follow). I love my hens but the roosters have been a nuisance since we realized they WERE roosters. We did not order roosters. The feed store messed up.

A friend had offered to kill them for us. I said "If you can catch them, you can have them." She said "Bring them down and I will". So we were at a bit of an impasse because I can't corner the little buggers. Well her husband came up yesterday to get some eggs and he got to talking with DH. The roosters had started getting slightly aggressive last fall and have gotten a bit worse over the winter. They're not horrible but they can be territorial and they chase the little ones. Well one of them went after the baby yesterday 'for the last time' as DH puts it.

The friend went home and got his son, pistol, and a couple pocket knives and came back. By the time I got home from picking up #1 son they had already dispensed with two of the roosters and were chasing the last one around the yard. Fortunately I had the baby and the dog with me. I didn't know what they were doing, so when I pulled in I let the dog out of the car. DH wanted him him in the house so we dragged him inside and went back to chasing the rooster. Finally the friends son picked up a walking stick while we all circled the rooster. He clubbed it once over the head and it staggered then ran off and hid under a tree. Our friend ended up shooting it.

We've always agreed that the children should see slaughtering meat animals as a normal part of life so we agreed not to hide it from them. My daughter was playing with her new friend in the yard and wasn't the least bit interested in what the guys were doing til after it was all done. The 2 year old was a bit more interested. He laughed when the last one started flopping around the yard, but changed his tune a bit when he realized it was dead. It was his first confrontation with death and you could see a bit of confusion in his eyes. He hung pretty close to me for about 10 minutes and didn't want to go to dad. He also wouldn't take his eyes off that rooster, even when they cut it's head off.

I've never seen a chicken killed before but pretty much knew what to expect. They continue to flap around for a couple minutes after they're dead. I wasn't particularly grossed out til they finished ripping the head off it, something about that step just made my stomach churn a bit. That split second where it went from being a living thing to a dead one. I know it was dead before the head was cut off but in my mind it just didn't click til then.

I think I could now deal with eating my own meat birds. I wanted to get past that first slaughter before I committed to it. We're going to stick with laying hens this year but I think we'll be talking about meat birds next year.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New priorities

DH broke my new laptop last night. It's probably going to cost a couple hundred to fix. I'm so bummed, but oddly enough I'm not angry, nor is it a huge priority to fix it. I have my slow old desktop for now.

The things that used to be important to me just aren't anymore. My first thought after realizing what had happened was. "Well we need to spend that money on XYZ because XYZ is so much more important to our long term survival." Those of you who know me well also know what a radical change of view that is for me. I love my computer. I love my internet. 3 months ago I would have been totally lost without them. Today it's just a minor inconvenience. Less time for blogging, chatting, gaming... yes; and that's the UPSIDE for me. The weather seems to be letting up and I have lots to do. Now I have a good excuse to get away from the screen.
Maybe this is just a natural step in the process of recovering from depression or maybe I'm changing in alot of ways. I just have too many important things to do.

As far as I know, no one's reading this anyway - it's more of a way for me to clear my mind and organize my thoughts and plans. If someone does read it and it helps them then that's great - but I'm not really doing it for others at this point.

So I'm still going to be here, and I'm going to try to do it every day because it's a great outlet for me. But this screen just isn't what it used to be. With everything else going on in the world I have other concerns. Concerns I'd like to share with those I love but that I need to address for my own family first.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Crazy day

So our day started with the announcement that gay marriage had passed. I had barely finished blogging about that when the radio reported that all the schools in our area were being locked down - including the two that my older sons attend. After a frenzied hour that situation was sorted out and the troublemakers were 'apprehended'. I now remember why we started homeschooling and 'preparing' . I also was reminded of one of the big holes in our preparedness planning - the schools. We've touched on this but it's very much out of our hands as was proven today. There are a few things I can control though. Here's what I learned from the experience:

  1. We have relatives that live within eye/ear shot of the school. As of this morning we have an understanding that the kids can go there if there's a crisis.
  2. We're going to get more information from each other than from the schools until the situation is resolved. This has so many pluses and minuses - disinformation, lack of information, frustration, but ultimately the belief that the schools primary concern is the safety of the kids.
  3. Kids with cell phones communicate better than those without. My son forgot his today (of all days) but my niece had hers and ultimately she was the one who let us know what was going on.
  4. We need to have a long talk with #1 son who suddenly thinks he's invincible. He got in the car this afternoon and said, "Well they wouldn't get me cause I can run really fast". I looked him square in the eye and said "Are you STUPID?!". We've taken to calling him superman this afternoon (faster than a speeding bullet). DH took him to help with some yard work. Hopefully they'll have a little chat...
  5. False alarms open doors for communicating about crisis preparedness that aren't usually open. Take advantage and sow a few seeds when one arises.
  6. Probably the most important lesson - the only thing I can control in a crisis is my reaction to it. After the first heart thumping moments, a quick prayer and a call to our pastor for more prayer; I started to 'work the problem'. Who do I call? What do I do? Most importantly I did it calmly and methodically, not in a panicked frenzy. Panic is only going to create more crisis.
So there's my lesson for the day, such that it is. Every day is a new opportunity to learn. What did you learn today?

Beginning canning

So I've NEVER canned before. This will be an adventure for me. Not one single jar of anything. No jam, no pickles, no relish. Nothing that even WOULD be canned. We froze quite a bit of stuff last fall, and I dried a few things also.

I lucked upon a copy of "Putting Food By" by Ruth Hertzberg at our library book sale last summer for $1. I went to a one hour workshop that covered the bare basics of preserving from all angles (canning, drying, freezing)

I have to admit, I find canning intimidating. If it's done incorrectly you can get all sorts of nasty illnesses. If you operate the pressure canner wrong it can blow up. Hot jars can explode. It's unbelievable intimidating.

The start up costs are scary - $50-80 for a pressure canner, $50 for water bath canners and kettles, $7-10 for a case of jars. That's not counting, lids, rings, salt, jar lifters, scales, thermometers, canning racks or basket-thingys that sit in the kettles, sieves, and any other manner of accoutrements.

I'm fortunate to have family, friends and neighbors who know a bit about canning. You can never overemphasize the value of experience. Better than any book.

The rewards of learning will be worth all the effort though. There's nothing that compares to home canned goods. I've had enough of them to know that much. Like every naieve beginner I envision dozens of shelf feet of beautifully canned goods of all kinds. LOL - I'll be lucky to get up a handful of each, but any will be a step above where I'm at now.

Yes, I'm excited... like the idiots that wander into the creepy houses in horror movies. Adrenaline *sigh*.

Homeschooling decision

Well our decision about homeschooling has been made... and not by us. Since the legislature passed gay "marriage" yesterday, I can no longer put my children in the public schools in the state of Vermont; a private Christian school maybe, but not the public schools.

I'm disappointed but not surprised. I hold no animosity towards gays. I wish them all the best. I do not hate them. Marriage is between a man and a woman and every child needs a mother and a father. The Bible says that homosexuality is an abomination to God. Therefore I cannot condone it, nor can I send my children to a school that does.

I can hear my detractors saying "but the Bible says "___" is sin too and I didn't see you pulling your kid out of school for that". My simple answer is this - the schools have never taught that "___" is normal and acceptable. They DO intend to teach that homosexuality is, and I cannot allow my small children to be influenced by that. They'll say "you have no right to pass judgement on gays". I'll say "I'm not, God is." They'll say "there is no God." I'll say "good luck with that plan." They'll call me a bigot and a hater. They'll be wrong - I am neither. Oh... and PS - they're wrong about God too.

Making something legal does not make it moral or right. Just because the law allows you to do something doesn't mean it's good for you. Look at abortion, euthanasia, alcohol, cigarettes, gambling. You can't legislate morality, nor can making something legal make it acceptable.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

G8 report says food crisis may threaten stability

Just found this on Reuters - Hopefully it'll make people think about what we take for granted.

Tue Apr 7, 2009 3:11am BST


LONDON, April 7 (Reuters) - Global food production needs to double by 2050 to avert the risk of scarcity and high prices hurting international stability, says a policy document for a G8 meeting on agriculture, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

"Without immediate interventions in agriculture and agri-marketing systems, the 2007 crisis will become structural in only a few decades," the paper quoted the document as saying.

It said the document was drafted by the G8's Italian presidency ahead of a meeting in Treviso later this month.

The G8 will include agriculture leaders from the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Russia.

Last year the G8 industrial nations met in Japan against the backdrop of spiralling food costs around the world.

The G8 document says a further food crisis will have "serious consequences not merely on business relations but equally on social and international relations, which in turn will impact directly on the security and stability of world politics."

The meeting on April 18-20 was prompted by last year's price surges which triggered riots and social unrest across a number of countries.

"The issue of price volatility remains a crucial element for world food security," the report said.

"There is a need for a fast increase in agricultural production in developing countries," it added. (Reporting by Matthew Jones; Editing by Tim Castle)

STEP 2: WATER - the most basic of basics

With spring flooding well under way it's worth taking a look at water. We take it for granted, we turn on the faucet and there it is; a clean, hot, cold, safe, endless supply... or maybe not.
3 days without fresh water - that's how long you'll survive.
Think about these things if you think I'm being 'extreme':
  • How many power outages have you lived through in you life? Outages that lasted more than let's say arbitrarily, half an hour?
  • How many boil water notices have you had to deal with?
  • Water rationing? Unheard of in the Northeast, this is a fact of life in the Pacific southwest.
  • Ever been stuck in traffic for half an hour or more?
Heard enough? -
QUICK ADVICE: Buy a reusable water bottle and two cases of water per family member.
Costs less than $10 per person, cheapest insurance you'll ever get.

See below for further steps.


Bare minimum for survival is 2 quarts per person per day. This would not be a pleasant survival. At least a gallon for drinking is more in line with actual consumption and needs. Plan on another gallon for cleaning, cooking etc. A reasonable initial goal is 1 weeks supply. From there you can work your way up to whatever amount is comfortable for you.

There are numerous ways you can store water ranging from cattle tanks all the way down to aseptic 'juice box' size. Let's look at the options:

WATER BARRELS & BULK TANKS: can store lots of water directly from your faucet, reusable, barrels can be purchased cheaply from your local pepsi (or coke) bottler, or if you don't want to deal with the hassle you can buy brand-spankin-new ones from places like emergency essentials (beprepared.com). Drawbacks - impossible to move once filled, water needs to be changed a couple times a year. Will require additional supplies to use efficiently (see below).Pricy if purchased new ($50-$85+ shipping depending on source) Used ones can be found for as little as $10.
I've also seen a giant vinyl bag insert that fits in a bathtub and holds water as well. Great idea - here's a link:

BOXED WATER KITS: Another bulk storage option. Comes with several cardboard boxes and mylar bags you fill yourself. Not widely available, expensive compared to other options but slightly less expensive than 5 gallon jugs.

5 GALLON JUGS: Still stores lots of tap water but far more portable, easy to locate (walmart carries them in the camping section). Easier to tuck out of sight. Cost about $10 each. Drawbacks - still fairly heavy (about 50 pounds when full), water needs to be changed a couple times a year.

1 and 2.5 GALLON JUGS: Very portable, widely available, inexpensive to pick up one or two here and there. Jugs can be refilled. Unopened jugs can be stored for years. Average price is about 75 cents per gallon but can be found for as little as 50 cents/gallon.

SINGLE SERVE BOTTLES: Sizes range from 8 oz aqua pods to 32 oz. Portable, good serving size, don't take up much space. Easy to toss a few in your car, desk, backpack. Unopened bottles can be stored for years. Average price is $5 per case for 16 oz bottles, sales can be found for $3 or 4 per case.

ASEPTIC PACKAGING: Sizes range from 4-8 ounces. Handy for emergency packs, car kits, desk, purse, etc. Small size makes them easy to carry. Sturdy packaging. Unopened water stays good at least 5 years. Drawbacks: very costly compared to larger packages, not readily available

Water bottles can be purchased cheaply, camelbaks and filter straws are most portable. Drawbacks - if you haven't already filled them you need to find water. Camelbaks are expensive, need parts occasionally, and have to be kept clean.

My suggestion is to store a variety of sizes. A good per person goal would be (IMHO) two cases of bottled water, 2-5 gallon jugs, 10 gallons mixture of 1 and 2.5 gallon jugs, and 2 quarts to 1 gallon of Aseptic (this would be spread throughout emergency bags, car, etc). Ideally you would also have at least 30 gallons in a bulk barrel per person.


If you choose to store water in bulk you will want to consider purchasing the following:
  • Bung wrench/bucket opener - necessary to get into the barrels these run just under $10 each.
  • Siphon hose - convenient way to get water out of barrels, can be connected to a hose so water can be drawn over a distance. $10-15
  • Siphon hose adapter - so you can attach a hose to the siphon. Under $5
  • Drinking water safe hose - better for water your going to be drinking, made out of food safe material - $15-$30 depending on length.
  • Purifier - prices vary, under $10 per package
  • steel buckets - for collecting surface water from streams, rainwater, etc.

There are several options for purifying water. I'm not going to go into alot of detail here about how to purify water. I'll just list the options I know of.
  • Purifier tablets
  • filters
  • bleach
  • iodine
  • solar still
So there it is, tons of information about your most basic survival tool.