Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Yeah, but warm fuzzies and knowledge is better...

Ok, you may have noticed that my poll this week is about New Year's resolutions. My answer is yes, I have resolutions pertaining to emergency preparation, and I will share one with you that was prompted by my internet friend, Carl in Wisconsin. (If you are not in the habit of reading comments on blogs, I would highly recommend doing so. They can be an absolute treasure trove of ideas and information.) I hope that he does not mind my reproducing part of his comment (found under my post about timing) here:

If I may suggest a topic for you, if you haven't covered this already,. Inventory Records, how does every one keep them if at all, what do they keep and where do they keep them. I start a physical inventory in December every year ( since there is little else to do here in the Winter). It takes me until February to do it. I do a lttle every day.

It's a great idea for a post, but... insert uncomfortable, awkward clearing of the throat here...I don't really keep inventory. One of my main goals has been to amass what I could when I could afford it, and to be honest, the basic thought process has been, "I think we need more...more...yeah, a little more...oh, what if family member/friend/neighbor/someone else needs something...better get a little more..." --I think that you get the idea. Soooo, I've been stacking food on shelves as we have obtained it to store in suitable amounts in the bargain-priced buckets we were able to purchase, and occasionally paying visits to the store room to make a withdrawal, and (true confessions) to get the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with seeing that yes, we have made progress. All well and good, until my husband was able to use some of those bargain-price buckets as part of his gift to me, (yeah, he's pretty great) and suddenly it doesn't look like we have that much in storage anymore. Bags piled on a shelf look a lot more impressive than a single white five or six gallon bucket.

I know that the same amount is still there, but I realize that I don't know how much is there, really, and what would be the best thing to put on the storage list next. So, one of my resolutions is to figure out the inventory that we have so that we can better maximize our efficiency when it comes to food storage supplies. So, to borrow phrasing from Chris over at Johnson Family Farm, I am going to make this declaration:

I declare that I am going to figure out how to do an efficient inventory and make an inventory of what I have so that we can better manage our food storage.

Thanks, Carl, for the idea, and thanks, Chris, for the idea of declarations. After all, warm fuzzies and information is much better than warm fuzzies alone.... Happy New Year, everyone!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Well, here's trying...etc.

The Idaho Preppers Network website now exists and there is a link to the right--we'll see how it turns out. If you are in Idaho and would like to have your website linked on the Idaho Preppers Network site, let me know. I know there are people out here in Idaho who are more qualified in emergency preparedness than I am--if you are willing to share your expertise, we would love to learn from you.

I hope that everyone had a marvelous Christmas. We had tons upon tons of snow, and that really feels like only a slight exaggeration from where I sit. (Inside, where it's warm, of course... :) I'm glad that we didn't travel, for various reasons. In terms of preparation, however, we are a little bit better prepared for emergencies than we were last week, and here's why:

a)My husband asked for, and got, an emergency flashlight for Christmas. We started out all right in the emergency lighting area after we moved in, but our levels had gone down through the years to the point that the flashlights that we could still find were not in working order. I read and/or heard somewhere that you should have emergency lighting available in every room, so that is our goal. We have non-battery sources of lighting down in our store room, but realistically they would be a lot more difficult to find and/or deal with in the direct aftermath of a power outage--i.e. it would be a lot easier to find the candles downstairs if we had a flashlight to guide us to their location in the first place. Working on the lighting situation, but it has improved.

b)More of my emergency food supplies have found a new home in appropriate food storage containers--yay for buckets! However, now that we have more food in buckets, it is easier to see that we need more food-filled buckets to meet our goals for emergency preparedness. Slow but sure.... :)

So it's all good. A step at a time, and it gets better and better. Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The "neighbor plates"--the easy (food storage supply) way

I don't know if the same thing happens where you live, but around this time of year, the doorbell will ring occasionally and when you open the door you are given a plate of scrumptious goodness that you get to enjoy compliments of your neighbors' hard work and good will. Well, we delivered our plates around the neighborhood last night. Thing is, we used food storage recipes that we found compliments of our internet neighbors. To give credit where credit is due, my husband made the treats with the kids (hey, I found the recipes) and great fun was had by all.

We actually gave treats made from two recipes--the Chocolate Cereal Snack Mix over at Safely Gathered In, and the Extremely Easy Peanut Butter Fudge Recipe over at the Jacobus Family Blog Site. Yeah, you sure gotta hope that our neighbors like peanut butter--we do, and we just wanted to share the joy. We didn't have any of those nifty little bags like we have seen out and about and one of which we received this year--you know the kind, clear and shiny and filled with wonderful treats and tied with a bow. I didn't know where to find them, and sandwich bags didn't quite seem festive enough. So when we were out shopping, we got the holiday themed plates, and I saw cupcake papers, also with a holiday theme. We filled about 4 of those cupcake papers per plate with the cereal mix, (and we added the green and red M&Ms--probably wouldn't have those in storage, but they looked and tasted really good :) placed them on the plates, and put the pieces of peanut butter fudge in the remaining space. The plates were covered in plastic wrap and delivered promptly. We overestimated on the cereal mix, so have plenty to munch on for ourselves, but we didn't have enough for family consumption (except for taste-testing, naturally :) of the peanut butter fudge, so I wouldn't be surprised if another batch of that were forthcoming... I was very happy with the outcome of the whole venture, and am very grateful to my internet neighbors for supplying such wonderful ideas for gift-giving cheer--thank you!

Yes, you can make yummy goodies with food storage supplies. If you look on Safely Gathered In, they have their recipes available if you hit the link near the top of the page. On the Jacobus Family Blog Spot, (truly one of the best sources of food storage recipes I have found) you can link to the Friday's Food Fancy posts by clicking on the beautiful button to the right with that label. I highly recommend that you check those recipes out. I'm glad I did.

Oh, and even though I haven't asked my neighbors, I don't think in a million years that they would look at the plates we gave them and think "food storage". However, I do think there's a very good chance that the plates just screamed out, "festive". Either way, I do have a wish for my neighborhood neighbors and my internet neighbors: Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

That's usually a call to some sort of action

Not too long ago we were at a sports activity for one of our children. Sometime in the middle of said activity, the door in the back of the gym was opened, setting off an alarm that sounded to me like a fire alarm. Once the door was closed, the ringing stopped.

Now the gym was small enough that it was easy to see that there was no immediate need to grab your children and trample other people on your way out to sweet freedom. In fact, though I initially thought that the alarm was set off by a small child messing around in small child fashion, my husband later told me that someone did actually exit the building to activate the alarm. Thing is, everyone heard the alarm, everyone looked around to see that they wouldn't be personally affected, and everything went on as usual. No one did anything out of the ordinary, unless you want to count whoever tripped the alarm in the first place. Thing is, no one did anything at all. What's the problem, you say? After all, there was no actual emergency. And hey, nobody panicked, causing unnecessary pandemonium and havoc. In this situation, you would be right--it didn't hurt anyone to ignore the alarm bells. But (and I know you knew this was coming :) there are "alarm bells" sounding out in many ways that should usually be a call to action to us all to improve our emergency preparation and food storage. If we are not personally affected at the moment that they are ringing, we may be tempted to figuratively glance up, do nothing, and go back to what we were doing. Which alarms are you/I/we ignoring?

One of the things that has been bothering me is the closure of stores, a subject that I put into a poll not long ago. The poll and poll results were as follows:

How do you feel about the number of stores closing in the U.S.?

I think that it is good that people are becoming more frugal 47%
I'm worried about what it means for the economy 47%
I'm worried about what it means in terms of unemployment 47%
I'm already very frugal, so the stores closing will not really affect me 41%
I think that in the long run it will help the economy 17%
I don't like that it will restrict my choices 0%
Other 11%

I was pretty amazed at how evenly the percentages came out, and you can tell that I didn't vote on this particular poll, because no one chose that they don't like that it will restrict their choices, and I will explain why that particular poll choice is troubling to me in a bit. First, though, the fact that stores are closing is a huge red flag to me, even though at first glance that doesn't really personally affect me. I don't work in a store, and I don't shop all that much, so why don't I just go back to my non-retail, non-shopping activities? Well, when the stores close, people lose their jobs, leaving larger unemployment, and less money to spend in the stores where they get their items, which will affect those stores, who may have to cut the number of their employees, and/or close down--are you seeing the domino effect here? And the only way I can see of getting out of the tumble down line is to have my food storage and emergency preparation items so that I can remain standing and perhaps help others to remain standing as well. If I am not totally reliant on a store for the basic necessities, it does not have to affect me as hard if said store goes down. Make no mistake, however--it will affect me in some way. The bells that are ringing out an emergency for those who have lost their jobs or have fewer hours should be a warning for us as well--to get as prepared as possible while we still can, so we will be in the best possible situation we can be in when the bells get closer. Because they probably will. And if they don't? We'll be better able to help someone else up.

It may seem that I'm awfully self-absorbed when I say that I don't like the fact that the stores closing limit my choices, but the way that I think about it is actually something that would affect everyone. When you have fewer and fewer choices, you could end up with a monopoly situation, where one supplier has all the power, and therefore the option to make the prices what they want them to be--which I would think off the top of my head would not be an ideal situation for the rest of us. There is something to be said for "price wars", where stores actually compete for business, and where people still have options. I'm not talking about missing rampant consumerism--just thinking about some basic components of human nature that appear when those who have power exploit situations in ways that reap the highest benefits for them. Hopefully, monopolies won't happen, and if they do, those in charge won't exhibit such unfortunate human tendencies. Either way, the fact that stores are closing should set off alarm bells even if we aren't immediately personally affected, and if nothing else, we can improve our preparedness situations so that we will be better off when we are personally affected. We may not be able to stop a store from closing, but we can stop procrastinating our preparation.

Recently, we went out to dinner with a gift certificate we received. We went to a fairly popular family restaurant that is usually (at least when we have gone) packed with people. I was amazed, given the night of the week that it was, and the time that we arrived, at the ratio of customers/employees. Suffice it to say, business traffic did not look optimal. Same good food, same good service, just fewer people to enjoy it. At the end of the meal, my husband asked what the deal was with the slow traffic, and the server started talking about the economy. When you consider how much hourly a server makes, (my understanding is that it is very little) and how much tips figure into their wages, people not being able to afford to eat out becomes one of those dominoes. Again, going back to those alarm bells--if you take the attitude that you aren't personally affected because you don't go out to eat, and people eat out too much anyway, you may be missing the point--when the alarm bells ring, and scream out the necessity to get some food in storage, they are not only ringing for those in the food service industry. They are not only ringing for those in the retail industry. They are ringing out, just like they did in that gymnasium, for everyone present. You may not see how it concerns you just now, but believe me, it concerns you, and it concerns me, and it concerns anyone else you can think of, because we are all in this together. If you/I/we are among the fortunate who aren't in the midst of a crisis right now, you/I/we need to heed the alarms and get ready. To those who are reading this and are already having a crisis, I truly hope that things get better for you soon.

The closing of stores is one alarm bell going off that I can think of. A few others may be the continual rise of food prices, the foreclosure on farms, the seemingly shrinking availability of non-hybrid seeds, the state of the economy in general--how many alarm bells do we need? There are probably some that I am missing, but hopefully there is an alarm bell that will ring for each of us before it is too late to prepare. We won't all be able to prepare on the same scale, because we all have different economic means, but each of us can do something, even if it is only to put aside a very tiny bit at a time. We need to do the best we can when we hear the alarms ringing, and not just ignore what is going on---what was/will be your call to action?

And a second question--is there anyone out there that would be interested in an Idaho preppers network? Like I have mentioned before, there are more qualified people around, so it won't hurt my feelings if someone wants to start one up themselves. However, if there is interest, I could set up a page. Let me know.

Friday, December 19, 2008

In the small world category...

Imagine my surprise when I looked over at Utah Preppers Website today and saw information from an e-mail the poster had received that was the same e-mail I had also received from my best source (Mom). I checked with my best source, and even though I know that I have mentioned this at least one other place on the internet, she doesn't care if everyone knows that she's from Utah, so the proverbial cat is out of the bag--my best source lives in Utah. Thing is, she belongs to a food storage group, and I get their e-mails through her. Then, when I see something that I need, she adds my order to hers, keeps it at her house until either we visit my parents or they visit us, and everyone wins. (OK, let's be honest, in this case, we, the out-of-staters, are clearly the winners in this scenario.) Since we only buy the really long-term storage items this way, our order can sit at their house indefinitely, hypothetically, but usually that's not the case, though sometimes it does take awhile. Keeping our unwieldy food storage at their house for extended periods of's good that way. :)

The food storage group mentioned is a great resource for those who want to stock up on food storage--because they order in bulk, the prices are lower, and since so many people are ordering, there are more people in their area that are prepared in case of an emergency. What if you don't have family, as I do, that belongs to such a group, or don't live in Utah? Did you know that there are other state prepper's networks on the internet that could help you with emergency preparedness? The ones that I am aware of are:

The Texas Prepper's Network

The Kentucky Preppers Network

Some of the information may be general, and not specific to these particular geographical areas, and that information is helpful to everyone. Some of the information may be specifically helpful for residents of said states, and may help you and/or your family if you live there, and may be especially helpful if you think that you're alone in your emergency preparedness activities. You're not. And some of the information might not apply to you, or may include activities that you are not interested in--find the things that you are interested in, and use them to better your preparation and supplies. Not everyone eats/drinks the same things, but everyone eats and drinks, and you have to have supplies to do so if you have an emergency situation arise.

Do you live in Texas, Kentucky, or Utah? If not, perhaps you can start a network of your own for your state. I have considered (oh so verrrry briefly, and it was more of a fleeting thought, really) starting one for my state, but if you haven't read my disclaimer on not being an expert lately, look to the right....and down.... I really don't think that I am the best representative for my state, and I know there are other bloggers out there from my state. I do hope that eventually there will be more and more state blogs out there so that people in the same area can help and strengthen each other before and/or in case they have an emergency. One of the things that I love about the internet is that now I feel like I have friends from all over the country, and the world, who are also trying to get prepared for any situation that might happen, and I learn from reading their blogs and the information and techniques they are willing to share. Everybody wins.

After all, there is strength in numbers. United we stand.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How's that water shut-off valve working for you? How about that other one?

If you had asked me this oh, say, day before yesterday, I wouldn't have thought about it--after all, I had at least had the forethought to ask my husband where it was and and how to turn it off in case I had to use it in an emergency. Yesterday, we needed to turn it off. Nothing happened.

For reasons that are unnecessary to my point, and also thankfully, not reasons that would be considered an emergency, we needed to have the water off for work in the kitchen. Thankfully, also, my husband was the one that made the discovery that the valve no longer wanted to be useful in any discernible way. When turning the valve failed to yield any results, efforts were made to reach people that might know how to resolve the problem, to no avail. I had company over at the time, and the suggestion was made that we might have to ask the city to turn it off. At that point of the day, city aid would not have been available. My husband went outside and tried to turn off the valve that led to city access. This secondary valve also offered no remedy to the situation. The water was still on. The work in the kitchen still needed to be completed. The clock was still ticking, and it reached that hour where the person here to do the work in the kitchen called it a day on our project. We were effectively stymied, and left with not an emergency, but a rather large and irritating problem in our kitchen, and an appointment to finish what should have been a quick procedure later today.

We literally did not know what to do next. I mean, who do you call, besides the city, to fix a problem of this nature? Fortunately, my husband has a relative who is really savvy when it comes to house maintenance, and is actually in the process of building his own house. And when I say building his own house, I mean literally. So my husband gave him a call. The two of them went downstairs, and after a few minutes the water stopped flowing. Apparently, the valve just hadn't been turned enough, and this relative told me something to the effect that there is an art to knowing just how far to turn a valve like that and knowing when to stop before you broke it, and having passed that point in the past, he knew where it was. I thanked him for sharing his expertise. One valve down.

They then went out to the outside valve in the front yard with--get this--a jackhammer. It was quite a show for the children, who gathered at the front window to watch as the valve was dealt with. It was quick--apparently the valve had not only been concreted over by a previous homeowner, but the cap rusted somewhat as well. Our relative is knowledgeable about how to deal with said cap so we won't have a repeat performance, and it will be dealt with. But now, thankfully, we have the two ways that we should have had in the first place to turn off our water. Hopefully we won't need them--but having them and not needing them sure beats the other way around.

We are very grateful for said family member who took time out to help us deal with our water valve situation--as my husband says, he saved the day. I doubt that he even knows I have a blog, much less that this particular blog is mine, but if he ever recognizes himself in the situation as he peruses the internet, I say thanks. One other positive that came out of this whole experience is that the person who came to do the work in the first place told us about a better, cheaper option for what we are doing, and he will be doing that today instead when he comes back. So, the positives far outweigh the negatives. I am very very very grateful that I/we were not running around trying to turn these valves off while our house was flooding for some reason. I am very grateful that I/we didn't turn it so far that it broke, causing even more problems. There is a lot to be grateful for.... and believe me, I am.

So I ask you again, how's that shut-off valve working for you? How about that other one? Do you know where they are? Do you know how they work? (I actually wouldn't have had a clue as to how to locate the outside one, but I'm wondering if jackhammer tracks would lead me to it this morning if I tried to find it... :) Please find out before you have an emergency, as we were so blessed to do. Just don't turn that valve too far....

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sometimes, it's all in the timing

Well, we couldn't have been more fortunate if we had tried to time it this way:

--A couple of days after we got our wood, it snowed, and then turned brutally cold. I realize that some people's definition of "brutally cold" may differ, but when that wind chill kicks in with considerable numbers below zero, I don't think anyone will hold my definition against me.

--Checked the paper yesterday to see if aspen wood gentleman was still advertising his wood, and his ad wasn't there. Just checked this morning's paper to make sure I wasn't making this all up, or was mistaken about which ad was his, and with extra information from my husband can confirm that his ad is not included in the classifieds. (Can you blame him, really? Who wants to cut/haul/sell wood in -0 degree temperatures?) I think there are 3 ads for pine wood and a mystery wood, (too lazy to check the paper again, sorry) but no aspen wood gentleman. Guess we got our order in just in time. Now that we're using that aspen wood, guess we'll see how long it lasts.... :)

We feel very blessed that it worked out for us this way. We also feel blessed that at this point we are not in the middle of an emergency of any nature, so that we can prepare.

Our wood purchase is one example of timing working out to our advantage. Timing isn't always connected to weather or forces outside of ourselves, though. We can use timing to our advantage, and I love this quote that I saw recently:

"Nine-tenths of wisdom is being wise in time." –Theodore Roosevelt

What I take from this quote is that we look/are pretty smart if we do things "in time," which means to me while we still can, and before it's too late. I have a tendency to look at things in terms of preparation, (hey, I have a blog to write... :) and specifically in terms of emergency preparation. I gather information and read other blogs, but I also need to do what I can to prepare--just knowing I should/need to/ought to will not be enough--it's like being a grasshopper and watching the ants store up and thinking that it's a wonderful idea to try tomorrow. If it's a matter of truly not having time to learn new things because of multiple jobs/responsibilities/insert your situation here, or the finances are not there for emergency preparation activities/expenses/insert your emergency preparedness issue here, at this time, that is a different story entirely. However, if we have the time and means to do more for emergency preparation right now, it would probably be wise to do as much as we can before an emergency strikes. I'm nine-tenths certain that I do better with new recipes when I'm not under stress than I do in the middle of an emergency...and cooking new recipes is something that I find it quite easy to put off. That's an area I need to work on--I have gathered some recipes that I should try soon, rather than always putting it off until tomorrow.

What are some preparedness issues that are particular to your situation? Wood, obviously, is an issue for us, not only for the heating issue that we are facing at the moment, but for cooking if it became necessary. If you live in Florida or somewhere that it doesn't get extremely cold, your preparation activities could take a different direction entirely. One thing that we would all agree on, however, (taking the tiniest of leaps here) is that we will all need to eat, regardless of location. We are also not all in the same financial situation, so we have to be wise with our means--do what we can when we can without going into debt over it. Every little bit we can put aside helps, a bag or box or can at a time. We never know when an emergency of whatever nature is going to find its way to our door, so we need to be "wise in time" and get some/more in while we still can....

Friday, December 12, 2008

So what's in your emergency preparedness files?

Awhile back now, one of my poll questions dealt keeping track of your emergency preparedness information. Quite a bit of the information I have gained has come from the internet, but the problem is that in an emergency situation, the internet or other sources of information might not be available. So I put the question out about storing information, and here are the results:

How do you keep track of your emergency preparedness information?

Emergency preparedness is a way of life for me, so it is all in my head 42%
I collect recipes, pointers for emergencies, etc., in a folder or notebook 64%
I have a list of blogs that have the information I need so that I can refer to them if necessary 42%
I have emergency preparedness manuals that I can use in an emergency 42%
I know people that I can call and ask for information in case of an emergency 28%
I have a backup of emergency information in a file on my computer 50%
I don't yet have a system for storing emergency information 7%
Other 21%

And now, (drumroll, please :) for a quick commentary on the results:

There is something to be said (and it's all good) for having practiced/learned a skill to the point that you have it in your head--it would be great to not even have to think about how to deal with food preparation, or look in a manual for directions, because you know how to deal with a situation already, and you're with you 24/7. I am honestly impressed with those who are at this point of emergency preparation. Alas, that is not me--you may have noticed my disclaimer about not being a professional posted handily and prominently on this very blog. But I and others like me need not despair, if we think ahead, and use perhaps....

A folder or notebook in which we keep a collection of written reminders of what we have learned. This question actually prompted me to start my notebook, a project which I had been planning on and procrastinating for quite awhile. I have printed out the recipes I use most frequently, but there is a lot of information out there that would come in handy when I am nowhere near internet access or people more knowledgeable than I am, if said information could easily be found gathered in one place. I can gather some of said information more easily if...

I have a list of blogs readily available from which to glean information. You can see a blog list on my blog of blogs that I read regularly, but I have also found other blogs that provide useful emergency preparedness information that I will likely share in the future. Some much information, so many blogs, and so little time...

That sometimes it may be easier to buy your emergency preparation pre-packaged, as it were, in an emergency manual. When we talked to the emergency expert in our area recently, he suggested some manuals to us--and some that he mentioned to me before I have already checked out at the library and perused. We will probably end up purchasing some, and should probably plan on it now. People who have read my blog for awhile, will know, however, that....

My best source is my mom, who I call when I have an emergency. This can be helpful, but seeing as how some emergencies can cause loss of power, phone connections, etc., it would probably be best to converse with your best sources before an emergency situation. Since my best source lives in another state, I'm just hoping that she will never have an emergency situation at the same time as we do....

And that the electricity won't be out forever, but there are no guarantees. I don't have a backup in computer form, but for those who do, please make sure that you can access the information you need in an emergency situation. And those of you who marked that you don't yet have a system for storing emergency information...

You are not that far behind me. Like I said, I finally started a notebook because of this question, even though I knew I should have started before. (Amazing what looming feelings of guilt and hypocrisy will do for your motivation... :) So I will let you know how I have started.

One, I have started to practice. I am pretty sure that the process for harvesting pumpkins is now firmly entrenched in my head. Yay! For other situations, ones that I have never come up against (and hope that I never will) I have started a notebook collection. It could be better organized, but the beginnings are there. I will probably share some of the info I have collected on different types of emergency information occasionally in the hopes that it will help other people , because the sources I am going to cite have certainly helped me. One example of great information is.....

The Stealth Survival Site, written by Riverwalker. He has information on his site about a multitude of subjects, and here are a few recently added entries to my own personal notebook:

--On the main page, there is a recipe for making your own electrolyte beverage in an emergency.

---If you search for Tuesday Tips, you will find a vast amount of information on many different posts. I appreciated his tips on salvaging burnt rice and prolonging the usefulness of tomato sauce/paste here, and his tips for dealing with wounded fingers and navigating by the moon here.

Those tips have found a home in my notebook, but I am far from done gleaning information from his site. I would recommend checking it out and seeing what you might want to add to your own information system.

Those of you who mark "other" should start a blog....I would love to know the information you have in your head.... or you could just leave a comment to satisfy my curiosity... :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fuel for the fire: We have our aspen firewood

Have I mentioned how great it can be to get information from other people on the internet? Well, along with recommendations from my best source (Mom) and comments and information from other people (thanks, my internet friends), I have gained the following information:

1) Pine wood is a soft wood and will not last as long as aspen wood will.

2) Pine wood creates more creosote that likes to live in your chimney. Your chimney doesn't like said arrangement as much.

3) Since we only have 2 cords (not complaining--that's two more than we had day before yesterday) we probably don't have as much as we would like to have in terms of duration. Look at other prepared people's blogs and two cords looks like a drop in the bucket, and some people I know through the internet have vast, and I really mean vast supplies of firewood, some stacked in massive and properly-maintained woodpiles, and others with excellent structures in which to house them. We have the corner of the garage closest to the back door in which to store ours, and we are happy with that--but those other people give me a lot of information and a higher goal to shoot for.... :)

Anyway, you may recall that back in October we had ordered aspen from this gentleman, but what with various scenarios, the wood was never delivered. We considered ordering pine, which looked like the only other readily visible option in our area, but we were warned in time (see above list) of certain features of pine wood that were not ideal for our situation. (Rest assured, we have nothing personal against pine wood. :) As I'm sure you know, life gets busy, and as a result, further wood-ordering was put on hold. We decided to give the aspen wood gentleman another try, and even though I was getting a little nervous when he didn't show up on time, he did call, we got our wood, he got his money, and everybody's satisfied.

Gotta love a happy ending when you're talking about emergency heating.... :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Have you seen a 1/4 cup lately?

When we were down at my parents' for Thanksgiving, one of my children was messing around with a little plastic scoop. You probably have seen the type--it looked like it came out of a drink mix container of some kind. Not very big. As I was talking to the child about it, my mom said something to the effect of, "I have a scoop like that in the storage room with some plastic sandwich bags, and if things get bad, when someone needs food I will give them one scoop of rice and one scoop of beans and send them on their way."

All of the sudden the scoop was worth looking at more closely. I use 1/4 cup measuring cups when I cook/bake, but when I thought about how many beans would fit in that scoop, it didn't seem like much. You may recall that in earlier posts I have talked/quoted about survival amounts of food--the absolutely bare basics, which are 3/4 cup of rice and 3/4 cup of beans daily. Thing is---the 3/4 cup serving results from cooking 1/4 cup rice, and the 3/4 cup of beans results from cooking 1/4 cup of beans. What you start out with looks like a lot more after you cook it--always a good thing when you're hungry.

This little reminder could be looked at two ways. I was thinking how I would feel if I needed food and someone handed me those scoops worth of food. I'm thinking off the top of my head that it wouldn't look like very much, and frankly, I'm not sure I would be that happy about it. But what if you looked at it like this, especially if you have little to no food storage in place: I could get a survival amount of food by buying an amount of rice and beans that would give everyone that I would be responsible for 1/4 cup of rice and 1/4 cup of beans daily, and move on from there. Repeating some statistics found in previous posts--here, and then here-- this is basically how to figure out how much you would need:

Well, using my best source (aka Mom), if you have no food storage in your house today, and decide to get a 25 lb. bag of beans and a 25 lb. bag of rice tomorrow, you will have approximately:

Beans 325 3/4 cup servings of beans (13 servings per pound)

Rice 300 3/4 cup servings of rice (12 servings per pound)

If you want to buy in even larger proportions, the results would be thus:

50 lbs of rice will give you will give you a 3/4 cup serving for 600 days.

50 lbs of beans give you a 3/4 cup serving for 650 days. (Cost today is less than $30.)

Is this the most fun menu ever? No. But it is something, and having a few bags of rice and beans on the shelf might help motivate you to put other stuff up there with it. Over at Johnson Family Farm, there is a list of sale items that are a lot easier to prepare than rice and beans, and which also are low-priced. The list is useful not because those particular prices and items are available to everyone, but because it is a good example of easy things to store, and shows that many times things go on sale that are inexpensive, easy to store and to prepare, and then all you have to do is get them and walk away until you need them. Maybe you just need the supply of rice and beans to remind you that if you have nothing else, rice and beans will be all that you are eating in small quantities. Of course, in the end, you could alternate the easier items with the rice and beans, or if you run out of the easier items, you would still have a survival amount of food. Whether you get the rice and beans as a survival back-up, or get them to motivate yourself to buy other items, it is a win-win situation--either way, you'll have more food in storage.

In my last post I mentioned having mentally put aside some of my storage to share. There are some excellent points made in the comments that I hope you will read, about how to urge other people to prepare, and about how we can share only so far. My purpose in starting this blog was in large part to help/encourage other people to prepare, because I don't want them or their children to go hungry, whatever the emergency scenario might be--economic, weather-related, personal, etc. I hope that everyone who has the means will get more in storage, and that the situation improves quickly for those who don't have the means. And I hope that anyone who goes looking for food and receives a sandwich bag with 1/4 cup of rice and 1/4 cup of beans per person realizes that it is actually a lot of food when there is nothing/little else to be had--enough to survive another day, for either the giver or the receiver...

Monday, December 8, 2008

What if everything gets scrambled?

No, I'm not talking about eggs, though it's a good idea to have a source for your food storage--dried or fresh. I'm talking about the whole system as we know it--having food on the shelves wherever you shop, being able to pay with money that is worth something, or having enough money to buy basic necessities for yourself and/or your family. The way that the economy is going, it would not surprise me at all if everything in the food chain part of our system got "scrambled". The question is, do each of us have enough resources in reserve, that we would be able to survive until we figured out how the new system worked?

One of the things that brings this to mind is the fact that not long ago my husband and I found out that a couple who we would very much hate to see go hungry had no food storage. I had wondered about it, but ( I don't know whether you will agree with me on this or not) it is very difficult to just come right out and ask people whether they have food storage or not. This is especially true when it comes to people who know and/or ought to know that they need to get a supply of food storage, which is definitely the case with the couple in question. The statement was made that they had no food storage, and the conversation went on. I'm not sure at what point the question was asked, (yeah, it was probably me who asked it) but a question was asked along the lines of, "What will you do, then, if everything goes south?" There was little to no worry on the part of the other party, who claimed (again, this is according to my memory) that they would simply go to the grocery store--they didn't eat that much, and they could afford it. I don't recall pointing this out, but my two main concerns with this scenario, I would say, are thus:

1) What if there is no food in the grocery store to buy? I don't think that it is a far stretch of my imagination when I say that there are multiple reasons why this could turn out to be the case. One is that the economy is so bad that people are losing jobs and businesses are suffering every day. What people get in the grocery store has to get there somehow, and what if trucking companies go bankrupt and/or close due to the credit crisis? Potatoes may have eyes, but I have yet to see a vegetable with legs... Point being, that if there is no way to supply the grocery store with needed items, the items simply won't be there.

A second reason could be that when everyone finds themselves in the same situation that this couple would be in, and there is any kind of manmade or other type of crisis, there could be a run on the store's supplies, and there simply wouldn't be anything left to buy unless they had the good fortune to get there first. I have news for this couple that I really don't dare say to them, but which applies to everyone (if you have the means at all, and this couple does have the means): the time to get there first is now, if not yesterday. They, however, are very unconcerned about it, or at least that appeared to be the case to me. Hard to say, since I am very worried about food supply in the future, and I'm sure that I don't always see things objectively.... :)

2) What if the monetary system as we know it changes, and is, in effect, scrambled? What if the food is available, but not for any price that you can afford, or is only available through people who have had the wisdom to put some aside, but don't want your money? What if they are bartering in tangibles or skills? Wouldn't it put you in a better situation to have some resources stored on your own, so that you would be able to eat while trying to navigate a changed system?

Do I know if/when these things will happen? No, of course not. But I can easily see how they could happen, and the more people that are prepared, the less people I have to worry about. And believe me, I do worry.... That's why I try to prepare for the worst while I hope for the best.

This couple would in all likelihood come to us or some of the people we know if they found themselves in a situation where they didn't have any food. My husband was talking to someone about the above conversation more recently, someone whom the couple would also likely approach if/when they were in need. The response from the other party, from what I understand from my husband, was that the couple obviously had what they wanted, and if they wanted help they would ask for it. My response to that is, will there be anything available for them if/when they finally ask, if no one has made preparations for it? Everyone wants to feed their children first, and if food is hard to come by, it wouldn't be surprising that it would be harder than ever to give what you have stored to someone who "obviously had what they wanted" and knew about the importance of food storage when food was still available.

My husband and I already put some food in our storage that we consider "extra", even if it's only "extra" in the sense that we won't necessarily feel that we are taking it from our own family if we end up giving it to someone else when things get harder. It's just a mentality, thing, obviously, because it's the same kind of food that we are trying to store for ourselves. But like my husband says, if we save it intentionally for them, if they don't end up needing it, it's just more for us. We're still working on our amount of food storage, and how to use it. There's just no question that there is a high probability to certainty that we will at one point or another be asked to share.

How do you talk about food storage with the people that you know? That (surprise, surprise :) is the poll question this week. I hope you don't have to--that they are already working on it. Oh, and my thanks goes out not only to those who answer my poll questions, but those who put out information about food storage, in whatever form it may be---blogs, books, groups, magazines, etc. I heard someone quote William Arthur Ward recently:

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."

So if you are preparing and/or are helping others to prepare, I say--thank you!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Food storage can provide a "way out"

Today my children were building a "castle" out of some interlocking foam blocks that we have. Perhaps you have seen the type--multi-colored, with the shapes of the different alphabet letters in the middle. (The alphabet letters that fit in the middle are probably around here somewhere, but because they have been used by multiple children, it's a hard call... :) Over the past couple of days, the older children have taken turns constructing part of the castle, and then prior to completion, the youngest would come in and the construction would be completed by building up the walls around the child inside. All great and fine and happy times until said child wanted to exit the castle premises. There was no roof involved, so the quickest and easiest way to get out was to get over the wall, which was torn down in the process, demolishing the structure. This resulted in multiple unhappy children. Until today, when one of the children built the castle, but left room for a door. The architect was rightfully happy about the solution. The youngest was understandably happy about the increased independence that such an addition made possible, (what's not to like about being able to come and go as you please?) and I was glad that they were all so happy. Of course, the castle is in ruins right now-- (although it will probably be reconstructed another day) it was only made of foam blocks. Still and all, when my child presented the solution to the construction problem, one of the things that occurred to me was that it's always nice to have at least one way out of a hard situation--and food storage can sometimes provide such a "way out".

Sometimes the expenses that come with providing for ourselves and/or our families result in financial responsibilities that can get higher, just like the castle walls rose around the sibling inside. Sometimes they are expected, and sometimes not. Take, for example, the fact that we had to replace our car recently. (Some may argue that this is expense was not "unexpected" per se, since the car was 18 years old, but our expectations were very optimistic... :) All of the sudden, the car started to get into the danger hot zone after only a few minutes of driving. Not a good sign. My husband took it to be repaired, and originally they said it was only a thermostat, and the repair cost was minimal, as far as car repair costs go. Then came a second call, wherein my husband was informed that if the car did start to heat up again, it was likely a gasket problem. A gasket problem is considerably more expensive when it comes to car repair costs. My husband retrieved the vehicle, and we hoped for the best. It did not take long to figure out that there was definitely still a problem as the car repeated the heating up quickly routine, and after my husband got multiple estimates, we figured that the best option would be able to replace the vehicle. We started looking, narrowed down our options, and finally got a new (to us) car.

The new vehicle got great customer reviews, is made by a reliable company, and is less than half the age of our other car. We made a down payment, but it also comes with an outstanding balance. Not the best time of year to gain a new expense,(but let's be real, is an increased expense ever really welcome? :) but we are pretty happy that we were able to get a good deal on a vehicle with under 50,000 miles. (We did check as much as we could, because we doubted that a car of it's maturity could really have an odometer reading such as this, but it is true.) Here's the thing: we were spelling out what we needed and we were talking about what we could afford recently. I suggested something, and my husband looked at me, and said, "Do you think that we can get by on groceries for less than X amount of money?" I don't think I really said anything, but I made out a menu plan today for the time allotted, and I will be using a lot of food storage items and recipes before the time is out. The result? A very small list for the grocery store. I think that it will be considerably less than X amount of money if we stick to the list and the prices don't go up in an outrageous way before we do our purchasing.

Do I like using my food storage? Not particularly, because I like to have as much as possible squirreled away. However, in this case, it provides us a "way out" in terms of freeing up some money that we would normally spend on food, and enables us to take care of other necessities. The walls are a little higher, but we won't have to create chaos on our financial resources trying to tear down the debt. It is by no means a perfect analogy, but it makes sense to me that if we allow ourselves a little leeway, while we will still have the responsibilities, we won't have to feel as closed in and trapped by them.

So, I will be using more of my food storage, and I'm glad that we had that "door" in place before we had to buy the car. I hope that everyone will take the opportunity to store some food, because it's a big relief to be able to juggle finances-- which you can, if you have some supplies in storage. I'm also glad that a lot of my storage is food that we already eat at least occasionally. I haven't made rice and beans for awhile, but at least I already know that my children will eat them.... :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Of polls and answers

I asked my husband if he thought the current poll (found to your right) sounded like a weird question, the question being: Do you think that the media reports accurately on food availability and food prices in the U.S.? The reason that I came up with this question is quite sobering, and the answer that I have is probably even weirder than the question. (Either that, or I think too much. :)

The reason this question came to mind is because it seems like there has been at least one article on "need" almost every day in the paper since we returned from our Thanksgiving trip. This may have stuck out to me because we had more than one paper to look at when we came home, so we didn't have a day in between to forget that the headlines dealt with similar themes. Granted, there are projects every year where people try to help the less fortunate with holiday meals, etc. It just seems like there are so many needs this year. To give you an example, and this is from memory, so subject to some error: greater need by some horrendous percentage for the food bank, children asking Santa for basic necessities, like shelter and warm clothing, people in need due to unfortunate personal circumstances, at least one company making layoffs in the early part of next year, but announcing it now so that people don't go out and spend money now that they won't be able to pay off later--and the list could be longer. My answer to the poll question? I guess I should have put an "other" choice, because here is what I think, according to the choices given:

--I figure that the food prices and availablity are probably as accurate as they can make them, but even as it is, the news is bad enough. I truly hope that people have at least some food storage in their homes, because just getting some more food in my own home to keep the rotation going is getting more and more expensive. Scary expensive.

--I also figure that there might be some motivation to not report accurately on the true situation if it is worse than it is, because what good would it do to have people panic? If there is a true food shortage, combined with high prices (like corn in the tug-of-war between use for food and use for fuel) people making a run on the available food will only make the situation worse.

--I also figure that there would be motivation to make things sound worse than they are, because it sells more papers/attracts more readers, etc. It seems like bad news (unfortunately)garners more attention than good news, so could it be possible that they leave out good angles and concentrate on the bad when it comes to the food situation?

--I also figure that it simply isn't possible to be totally accurate about the food situation, even if the intentions to do so are there. There is always the weather, and there is always the fact that something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it, if the product in question is, in fact, for sale. There are the financial situations of the farmers (by the way, I have great respect for, and my hat is off to farmers, who do so much for other people, and who have a really tough job) and the possibility of natural disasters, or other things that could affect crops.

So, I'm not much help, am I? :) I don't know about the media coverage, but I do know one thing: it will never hurt to have food storage, and the sooner you get some (or more) the better your situation will be. I am sincerely interested in what you think about the media coverage, because I simply don't know. I just know that the news that I see about food availability and prices is generally sad/not good and the need that is being portrayed is downright scary. Get some food storage if you are able. Share if you are able. And if you are one of the people in need, I hope that things get better for you soon.

Speaking of food prices, one of my former polls was asked and answered like this:

In the last few months, I have noticed an increase in price for the food I normally buy:

In the meat department 45%
In the canned food section 50%
In the dairy section 40%
When shopping for staple foods (beans, rice, wheat, etc.) 50%
In the baking supplies section (oil, flour, spices, etc.) 77%
In the frozen food section 31%
In the fresh produce section 40%
Other 13%

Ah, the ever-elusive "other"..... :)

As always, thanks to those who participate in my polls. The questions usually just come from things I have been noticing/thinking about, and I appreciate your input. I hope that everyone's food storage is increasing--we're working on ours little by little, and fortunately, every little bit counts....

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Oh, yeah--why I bought that allspice

Remember how after Chris over at Johnson Family Farm was kind enough to explain with clear explanations and pictures how to get the food out of the pumpkins (here), we went at pumpkin harvesting with a vengeance and ended up with a bunch of bags of pumpkin puree? Well, the next step was to do find ways to use that puree, and true to form, sometimes you don't have to look very far to get the information you need, if you think about it. I asked my grandmother if I could put her recipe for pumpkin bread here, so I will share it with you:

1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin
1 and 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/3 cup water (cold)
1/2 cup nuts
1/2 cup raisins or dates

Mix together and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour in a greased loaf pan.

3 things I would add:

1) I made this before the week of Thanksgiving, and did not realize until after my little baking project was in the oven that I needed to grease the pan. That is a mistake that experienced bakers do not make, but I am only in the process of trying to become experienced in this kind of baking, (hey, cookies I do fine :) so please learn from my mistake. The bread turned out fine anyway, it was just a little hard to get out of the pan. That, and it was not as beautiful as some loaves I have seen. Good thing it wasn't a beauty contest.... :)

2) It took my loaf considerably longer than an hour to finish baking. I wish I had kept better track of the time that it did take, but I don't know at this point. At the hour mark, I checked it and it was not done. I kept checking it periodically, and when a knife came out clean I knew it was done. The timing difference may be because of the difference in altitude between where I am baking the bread, and where my grandmother has mostly made it, so it may differ where you live as well, if you try to make it. Checking it wasn't that big of a deal, and in the end the bread tasted great.

3) A tip from my best source (Mom) about using the raisins that I put into practice here: pour boiling water over them and let them set for a little while to soften them up before you add them. I did this and everything tasted great.

Well, just wanted to share. Thanks to Grandma for sharing the recipe. If I can make pumpkin bread, anyone can--and if you have bags/cans/whatever of pumpkin to use, you might want to give this one a try...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Spicing it up

I went out of town (out of state, actually) to visit my parents over the holiday--hence the lack of posts. I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Since both my husband and I have birthdays that fall between now and Christmas, when we visit for Thanksgiving, we often head home with our birthday presents in hand, and this year it was no different. Earlier this year, my best source (Mom) put in an order at a spice company, where you can buy spices in bulk for a lot cheaper than you can even at the local national chainstore, (I don't know if it's cheaper than some of the stuff that you can get for $.50/bottle--like onion powder/garlic powder--but for spices like cinnamon, etc., it's better quality for better prices, and I bought some onion and garlic powder in my part of the order, because what I heard about the quality impressed me) the key being that you buy in large quantities. I bought some of the stuff that I know I will use regularly --it might surprise you, but curry is a regular thing for me, it's probably my favorite spice--and we picked up our order during our visit to save shipping costs. When my parents brought out the spices, they showed us our birthday present--a bunch of quality spices in great very large plastic bottles (complete with lids that have alternate openings so that you can sprinkle or pour) and labeled clearly so that I won't mess it up. We are very excited! On the list:

Cayenne Pepper--40 heat
Poultry Seasoning
Cayenne--90 heat
Chili blend
Pizza Mix/blend

Having just bought a small bottle of allspice recently, I know that it is costly. To have all these spices in the amount in the gift bottles is wonderful.

I think (what a surprise! :) that food storage gifts would be a wonderful idea for Christmas. Wendy, over at iPrepared, has a whole list of ideas in her home storage Christmas gifts post that has a lot of fantastic ideas for gift-giving. It's hard to get everything you need into storage, but when you give gifts that help people with their preparedness needs, everyone gets closer to that goal...

Well, I know that I have mentioned spices in the past, but I love how getting these spices into my storage supplies both a want and a need. I probably need the spices in order to make food more appealing and edible for everyone eating. But if it came down to choosing between say, rice, and cinnamon, I would probably consider the rice a need and the cinnamon a want. Great that--thanks to the parents--- I don't have to choose when it comes to these particular spices now.... :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Emergency Preparation: Beyond the food

Well, for this post, I am going to be liberally cutting, pasting, and linking. I will start out with a large portion of an e-mail that my best source (Mom) sent out recently, that underlines the importance of having the tools you need to work with the food and other items that you store. After all, food doesn't cook itself, and clothes don't come with self-mending mechanisms... :) The following is an excerpt from said e-mail:

"I know most of you will have most of these. However a large number of you may never have cooked EVERYTHING from scratch so may be missing some of them or not know where they are among the wedding and shower gifts that have never been unpacked! :) This is just a check list to get you thinking of what you need...ESPECIALLY THE NONELECTRIC ITEMS.
Anyone who can add to this list of "indispensible items" please let me know and I will update it!

Please make certain you have GOOD QUALITY basic tools for preparing food:

Two or three pots/pans with lids
At least one skillet, preferably two, one small and one large
Large soup pot with lid
Dutch oven
Baking/roasting pan
Bread pans
Cookie sheets and cake pans
Two or three mixing bowls of graduated sizes

Measuring spoons
Measuring cups
Egg beater for use if there is no electricity
Potato masher (Yes they still exist!)
Wire whip
Sturdy spoons for mixing heavy dough (wood or stainless steel)
Rolling pin

Sharp knives of several sizes Make at least one a serrated one for slicing soft veggies
Cutting board that can be easily cleaned and sanitized
Some type of chopper/ shredder and grater that is nonelectric (think nonelectric food processor)
Vegetable peeler ( I always have two so I can get help to make a tedious job go faster!)

Sewing/Mending Items These can be acquired very inexpensively a few at a time with the sales and/or discount coupons at the fabric stores (Be sure to use a coupon for the scissors)

At least a dozen assorted needles ...both sharps and ballpoints
100-300 pins Choose some sharps and some ball point
One or two large spools each of thread in black, navy, white, brown and cream colors (watch for sales)
One or more regular sized spools of favorite colors for family's clothing
Seam ripper (As ye sew, so shall ye rip) This will save a LOT of time
GOOD cloth scissors....hide them in your sewing supplies so no one will ever cut paper or plastic with them
Pin cushion.... so you don't lose the pins and needles
Sewing ruler with slider to make hemming easier You may have to shorten or lengthen pant legs or skirts.
A few buttons, snaps and /or hooks and eyes and maybe some velcro
Lots of safety pins in several sizes (my favorite emergency tool)
A few zippers in favorite colors to replace broken ones
Several packages of "universal fit" sewing machine needles...for yourself if you have a machine or for whomever you ask to help if you don't have your own machine.

Most experienced seamstresses will be happy to help or show you how to do something, especially if you have your own tools.

Thank you for preparing. "

End of e-mail excerpt.

I would welcome any suggestions in the comments--and hey, I'm pretty sure my best source reads my blog :), so if you have any input on basics like this, it will probably be shared far and wide.

My first priority is to get the food supplies in stock, and then I try to figure out ways to use them. If you have read my blog in the past, you will likely have noticed that I have had varying success with how these little projects turn out. However, having good tools to do the job makes it easier, and practice can only improve my skills. My latest purchase? A new wire whisk has been ordered, and will hopefully be a little more sturdy than previous utensils of that nature that I have owned.

Riverwalker, over at Stealth Survival, recently had a post on food peelers, and pointed out that if you have a good peeler, you eliminate a lot of food waste. I also appreciated his post, Eating--A Necessary Adventure, where he asks crucial questions about what we will do if our food supply is cut off for whatever reason. Things to think about and prepare for--hopefully these things won't happen, but it's always good to have a plan B. Or to reconfigure and/or supplement our plan A...

Finally, I like this idea, found over at Today While the Sun Shines, taken from the "Weekly Wisdom #8" section:

" Timely Tuesday – Today is a day to think and make a list. What I am going to do today is write a list of all of the skills I believe my children will need in the future. And then attempt to check off that list as I teach them. I believe that our days of "normal" education are no longer adequate for the lives our children will live. They need to have real life skills, survival skills, back to basic type skills, as well as education, high tech skills, and low tech skills. Skills to deal with economic trials, and leadership skills. I do not like to knock the public school systems, but the reality is, they don't teach all of these kinds of things to our children, and we as parents have that responsibility to do so. So today make that list, think into the future of your kids / grandchildren and try to imagine what they may need to know, (I know that is a tough one) and then get to work teaching. Make use of those family home evenings, and any teaching moment. Teaching something is also the best way to really learn it."

I love this idea, because you have to know what you're doing with and/or how to supplement your supplies, (at least you should know :) and why not enlist your children to help you by teaching them ? And if you are just learning, (in many cases, like me) why not have more people learning at the same time? I definitely need to make a list of this nature--and then work on it.

Food storage will be better used if we try to use efficiency in our efforts. We can have more efficiency if we use the appropriate tools. We will be more efficient in taking care of our needs food-wise if we learn the necessary skills. And we can be more efficient if we work together. Food storage goes beyond just stockpiling the food, and I need to work on my efficiency. It'll likely be a lot of work, but in the end, if our food supply is better for us, lasts longer, and can be perpetuated, what's not to like?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sometimes it's what they don't tell you--back to the labels

Yes, I already posted about labels this week. That was before I saw this article, in which are detailed some things that don't show up on the labels of your food, but do show up in the food itself. There is even a slide show, should you choose to click on it at the conclusion of the article, to further enhance your learning experience. I have to warn you, it's not exactly good news.

The two aspects that really stood out to me, and which might help you decide whether you want to read the entire article or not (believe me, there's more), were the following quotations taken directly from it:

--"When you dig into a strawberry Yoplait yogurt, take a moment to contemplate where the beautiful pink color comes from. Strawberries? Think again. It comes from crushed bugs. Specifically, from the female cochineal beetles and their eggs."

--"A walk down the grocery aisle for processed food is an eye opener—the bacon and ham get their red tint from sodium ascorbate, an antioxidant and color stabilizer, and the Betty Crocker icing gets its bright white color not from natural cream and egg whites but from titanium dioxide, a mineral that is also used in house paints."

It could be argued that the bugs are extra protein, but I see little benefit in the mineral used in house paints. Sometimes it is hard to know what we are eating when we eat processed food. I eat my fair share of it, but the more I learn, the more I would like to be more self-sufficient in terms of the food that I eat. If I grow/raise it I know exactly where it's been and what has or has not been added before it reaches the table. Why am I posting about this? Well, I've heard something to the effect that education is finding out what you didn't know you didn't know. Now I know a little more, and wonder what else I have no idea about. I also just figure that even if a little extra insect in your food doesn't bother you, you at least have the right to know that it's there...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It can be scary when a door gets closed...

It can be scary when a door gets closed. It can be even scarier when multiple doors of opportunity get closed, as is happening in the business world as stores shut down due to the economy. Isn't there a saying about when a door closes, open a window? That's why I think that it's important that we have a window to open, even (and maybe especially) if it's in our own home in the form of the things we have stored in the way of emergency preparedness supplies. If we already own what we need and have it available in our storage space, we have a lot less to worry about in terms of which stores stay open, and which are forced to close.

I have heard about stores closing, but I have thought more about it since reading this post on the Cordite Country website while I was blog-hopping. When I saw on their list that JC Penney was closing some stores after January, I went out searching to find out more about what was going on with other specific companies as a result of everything that is going on with the economy. The article that I found here didn't mention JC Penney, but there are still a few names of companies that are having problems that are familiar to me on it. There is a link to the full article on that page, and the news isn't good (and I found the accompanying photos to be rather depressing as well).

None of the companies mentioned here probably have as great as an impact on my shopping habits as does JC Penney, but it does bother me that Safeway is having problems--it's a food chain. That and the newspaper group mentioned--I know that we have the internet, but it would be scary to have limited access to the press because of economics, especially if a non-biased source runs out of money, and a press source with a biased agenda is the only one available. With limited sources, I would think that it would be difficult to determine which was which.

So that's the bad news. The good news is that at the time that I am writing this, the companies mentioned are only struggling, not completely gone. If I find out that the JC Penney closures extend to my community, I will probably stock up on children's clothes before my location closes, if I have the means and opportunity. If you find that one of the companies listed has things that you need to have in stock, it would probably be wise to stock up before it's too late. My opinion? I bet you can't guess :), but I say get some food in before it becomes less available. Eating never goes out of style, and if we plan wisely, we can get what we need while we still have so many choices. You may have noticed a theme that runs through my blog-- I love to have choices. That holds true for food. It holds true for clothes and other basic needs. I plan to exercise my choices while I still have some, and I hope that you will as well.

We are pretty frugal around here--to give you an example, we are currently looking for a vehicle to replace our 18-year-old car, that we bought used, and which recently demonstrated attributes that will be too expensive for us to repair and still be able to justify keeping it. We usually try to "wear things out." I doubt that that many stores depend on our constant patronage to raise their revenue. But we do need the basics plus we like to have some non-essentials, and hopefully we will be able to get ourselves well-prepared before even harder times come. You may have noticed that my current poll is centered on the problem of store closures, and I will tell you what I think, at least in part. The stores closing bother me--yes, because of the restriction of choices, but more because it means that more people will find themselves unemployed and struggling. To those who have found themselves more directly involved in the problems of the "doors closing", whether due to employment or lack of resources in your area, I hope that things get better for you soon, and that you have enough of a window in terms of preparedness to make your life easier. For those of us who can help, I certainly hope that we will where we can. The more we prepare ourselves, the bigger the window we create, and hopefully, the greater the opportunity to share...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's worth it to read the label...

One of my children is involved with a group that is putting together Thanksgiving boxes, and was asked to bring cans of fruit cocktail to include in said boxes. When I was shopping I picked up the requested donation, but what was available differed considerably in content and price.

Seems like an easy thing, right? Just pick up the cans and throw them in the cart. Since I wasn't thinking about blogging about it, I didn't take copious notes, but I will say what I saw by memory, which is hopefully mostly accurate. :) Here is what I remember:

1) The prices were strikingly different. The less expensive of the brands that I seriously considered was, I think, $.72, while the more expensive brand was $1.28. I didn't check the ounces, but the cans looked about the same size. (Perhaps this should teach me to look at everything as a potential blogging post... :)

2) Some of the cans (not necessarily the brands mentioned above) had labels that indicated that the fruit was sweetened with artificial sweetener. The more expensive brand mentioned above (I'll cut the suspense and note here that this is the one I ended up buying, hence I have more details on it) is labeled, "mixed fruit in 100% real fruit juice from concentrate", with an additional proclamation of "same nutrients as fresh".

3) The thing that I think finalized my purchasing choice (since I don't think the artificial sweetener was in the less expensive product mentioned above) was the fact that one of the brands, in reading the ingredient label, said that it had "pineapple sectors". Yeah, I'm pretty sure that that is correct, because I think I read the label at least twice and was trying to figure out exactly what that meant. In an effort to make sure that I did not appear totally foolish in writing this post, I looked up this definition at to make sure "sectors" wasn't something commonly used in connection with pineapple that I just happened to never have heard of. Nope. I was thinking maybe it was a typo and they meant "sections", but who knows? Since I didn't, it did not find its way into my basket.

Sure, I thought about the fact that the two brands under consideration were drastically different in price. I thought about the fact that whoever is going to receive the boxes wouldn't know about the more expensive alternative. But what I thought about most was what I would be willing to eat myself. So I got what looks like the better quality product. (Watch, someone will leave me a comment about how the pineapple "sectors" are actually the best part of the fruit, and I will be mistaken once again...)

Reading labels (and worrying about the quality of the food) is not something I reserve only for Thanksgiving boxes. I actually read the labels on almost (if not) everything, that I buy, and what I have found is that sometimes you find things that you would never expect in the food that you're buying. Many times that has caused me to rethink the purchase--read: I don't end up buying it. That has happened to me with canned soup, frozen foods, etc., and most recently with the cans of fruit cocktail.

If you have someone in the group that you are responsible for that is allergic to certain foods, you probably do this regularly, anyway, but it can never hurt to know exactly what you are feeding/storing/giving when you are buying processed food. For instance, when I update my 72-hour kits (which I was planning to do last month) I will probably include fruit snacks in the mix. I will probably also check to see how much vitamin C there is per serving, because it can vary greatly. If I get more vitamin C in the fruit snacks, it helps me to feel better about the artificial flavors/colors/whatever that are part of the whole package. Yeah, I know they're in there. The thing is, emergency situation food is not always ideal, but hopefully you can include healthier things if you plan ahead, and are not trying to get whatever is available at the last minute.

The real bummer is that I know that we are due to buy more fruit for our storage, and I find that the stuff that I like in terms of fruit cocktail is pretty expensive, at least comparatively speaking. We may have to go with other varieties of canned fruit to get the most food for our food storage dollar, but hopefully there won't be anything in the chosen products that makes me think, "What's that, again?" It may not "pay" to read the label, but in my opinion, it certainly is worth it...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Don't forget those lentils...

You may recall that lentils is one of the basics listed for a year supply of survival food--you can see in this post that the amount listed for one person is 2 lbs. I decided that I needed to find out how to use lentils, so when I saw this recipe over at The Barber Bunch, I decided to give it a try. The night we had the lentil stew I also made the tuna fish sandwich recipe mentioned in an earlier post.

The biggest difference that I made in this recipe is that I used a can of tomatoes that already had garlic and onions in it. I didn't use the optional basil. That made the main ingredients the partial bag of lentils I used and the can of tomatoes, so pretty easy, with very few ingredients. It was received with different levels of enthusiasm--one child really liked it and called for a vote by "thumbs up." We didn't get any "thumbs down," but among the family members who voted there were "sideways thumbs" and only "one thumb up" reactions. I can work with that--the rice and beans took a little getting used to as well. There was a hefty snack of frozen pizza later that evening--we'll see what happens next time we have it. Personally, I liked it. I would maybe add more garlic and onions if I use the same kind of tomatoes the next time, but the fewer things added, the more I like it as a food storage item.

On the pumpkin front, turns out that we ended up with 10 cups total of pumpkin puree from our first pumpkin--the cup we used in the pumpkin soup plus the 9 cups we now have in the freezer. Good times. :) Now to try another recipe with it....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The importance of perpetuation

I don't think there would be much that I would like better in terms of food storage than a year's supply worth of basically ready-to-eat meals in the form of boxes, cans, and mres with far-off expiration dates and directions that included little more than to add water and heat. Don't get me wrong--I do have some canned food, some boxed food, and some mres, but not enough to last for a year. And even if I did have that much, I would see some things wrong with the equation, such as:

1) When/if I have to rely solely on my food storage, if I have decided to store only food with the above description, the only thing that I will be able to do is to watch my food storage supply go down, down, down. That would be fine if the emergency situation that dictated such use was guaranteed to last for only a year, followed by the guarantee that I would then be able to replenish my supplies again. In life there are no such guarantees--so watching my food storage go down without the ability to build it up again would cause me major stress. (Perhaps you have gathered by reading my blog that I can be a bit of a worrier.... :)

2)Eating only processed foods can't be the healthiest thing in the world for you anyway. I'm no nutritionist, but from what I understand, fresh fruit and vegetables and food made from scratch using your staples would most likely lead to better health in the long run. So convenience is nice, but good health trumps convenience by a mile.

So, I've been trying to learn/do things that will allow me to perpetuate my storage, because I would like it to last and last and last.... and one of those things is to grow things in my garden. You can't always rely on the weather, however, and the cold weather in our area this year caused some real damage to our crops. Combine that with my "worry" factor, and you'll see why I was unable to use my pumpkins this year for food. (Oh, I hated to write that--you have noooo idea how much I have not looked forward to writing that.) I've only used them for decoration before, and this year, really only "most likely", pictured in previous posts, got to be a somewhat regular hue of orange, with relatively little other damage. I was afraid to use the pumpkins that had green rinds, so those were out. Then there were some bug marks (I assume) that marred some of the others, and I didn't know what was safe and what was not. So I went to plan B.

On Saturday I went to the local national chainstore and purchased 3 pumpkins at $1.00/apiece, guesstimated by my husband to weigh 10-15 lbs. each. Then last night, I went back to this post on Johnson Family Farm, (I hope they don't mind that I keep linking to them--their step-by-step directions with pictures was what motivated me to go buy the pumpkins in the first place) and followed the directions for pumpkin puree. I was so excited to get started that I didn't reread it before we started, and I forgot to put water in with the pumpkin, so after we started doing that it went much smoother. What I didn't expect was how much time it took --it was easy, just time-consuming. We had the children help clean out the seeds, etc., (except for one, who apparently cannot stand the smell of raw pumpkin) and then started the rounds in the microwave. My husband actually did most of it, as it cut into bedtime and everything else, but in the end we did a quick pumpkin soup with a cup of the puree and have a large bag of pumpkin puree in the refrigerator. We didn't want to freeze it until we figured out a couple of recipes that we could use it with, and then freeze it in appropriate amounts to use later. So, if you have easy recipes that you're willing to share, please do... :) The pumpkin soup we made was ok, but kind of sweet, and we didn't think it would be a winner with the kids, so we probably won't repeat that one.

Ok, so my attempt to perpetuate my food storage by growing my own food was kind of stymied this year. If it had been a real emergency, I would have found out just how much of those pumpkins I really would use. So what is my (somewhat rambling) point? I need to be able to renew and perpetuate my food storage, not just use it up. I have non-hybrid seeds in storage, and I plan to increase the size of my garden next year. Canned food, boxed food, and mres are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, but they are one-time-use products. Emergency situations can be of unforeseen duration, so we all need a plan B when it comes to making sure that our food storage will last. Gardening is one way to supplement/perpetuate our food storage so that it will go on and on and on.... Growing, harvesting, and preparing it is a lot more work than the other types of food storage, but the effort is worth it.

One pumpkin down, two to go. Special thanks to the folks at Johnson Family Farm for directions even I wouldn't worry about.... :)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Opinion and some polls

I received a comment on my last post concerning canned butter from EJ, who sent this link, which links to information against canning butter. I have only read and/or heard positive things about canning butter besides this, so I leave it to you and your opinion, as always, to decide what is best for you and your family. Thanks to EJ for the comment and link.

Thanks to everyone who answers my poll questions, as always. Thought you might find the following to be of interest:

When it comes to canned foods like soup, pasta, etc. is your family picky about the brand that they will eat, so that you have to be picky about what you store?

Yes 39%
No 30%
Sometimes 30%

This leaves me thinking that if your family members are picky now, (which mine sometimes are) it will only be intensified if they are unhappy and in the middle of an emergency situation. Something is better than nothing, but if you can get your choice at an affordable price now, there will be less to worry about later... :)

Then there was this poll:

Did you plant anything in your garden that you will use for food storage for the first time (like I will try with my pumpkins) this year?

Yes 87%
No 12%

After I posted the poll I realized that some people might take marking no as a negative, but I know some people have been using everything in their garden in the most efficient way possible for years, so for them to mark no just shows that they are miles ahead of me, in a good way.... :)

Sometimes my poll questions might seem odd, but lots of times they are generated by something I have been thinking about for awhile. Like this week's question about rising prices in the various food departments--we don't eat all that much meat, but we do like to buy ground turkey at the local national chainstore. We buy it in 3 lb packages, brown it, and freeze it to use as needed. It has been $6.54 for a long time now, but even when I am not buying it, I will check it, so I can gauge what's going on with the economy. I also buy ham slices that are $2.98/package now, and they have gone up $.10 since I started checking, as have some of the dried beans I buy, which are now $.88/package. Not a big change there. The places I feel most squeezed are probably the cereal aisle and the toilet paper aisle in the store. I have mentioned before that cheese gives me sticker shock. I appreciate your input, because even though I don't know exactly where you are, I like to know if it's the same all over...

I always appreciate your poll participation and your comments. I think a lot of times I learn more information in the comments than I put out in the posts..... :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's about the basics

I got a link to this article the other day, in an e-mail entitled, "how sad." It talks about "Mother's Cookies", which are, if you remember, those little circus animal cookies that were frosted in either pink or white frosting (usually) and covered with fun little sprinkles. We have (very) occasionally eaten these cookies as a special treat, (our rarity of purchase probably didn't do much for their sales numbers) and they were good. It is a little sad on that level. What bothered me more was why they won't be on the shelves anymore.

Apparently, the company went out of business in October, and in a paragraph detailing the reasons for the closure, you can find this statement:

"They blamed a variety of economic factors, including the rising costs of fuel, flour, butter and sugar."

"Mother's Cookies" may not be a staple in your dietary menu. However, flour, butter, and sugar are needed for a lot of basic food items, and their prices appear to be going nowhere but up. You can make your own food, even if you can't make items as fancy as said cookies, if you have the basics. The more you have in storage now, the more you can avoid higher prices later. Fortunately, the price of fuel has gone down (yay!) but remember what they say about "sticky prices" in the food markets.

Ok, so you decide that you are going to get the basics, if you haven't already. Flour is good, and will last awhile, but not as long as wheat will. If you want even longer term storage and the ability to make your own flour, get some wheat and a grinder into your food storage supplies. I have hand grinders that I need to get using, but they are there when I need them, and that is the first step. It seems like almost every time I write something in this blog, I remember something that I should already be doing... :)

Third on their list of reasons for closing in the cited quote is butter. Over at Johnson Family Farm they have recently canned butter, and have a link to another site for directions on how to do it yourself. That. is. cool. Who would have thought of canned butter? Storing your butter without need for refrigeration will come in handy, and it will apparently last for quite awhile. An added plus for me at this point is there is not a huge amount of equipment needed (I still need to get a pressure cooker one of these times--but one is not needed to do this), so it looks pretty straightforward. Check it out if it interests you--I'm pretty excited to know that this method is so simple and efficient.

And this reminded me personally that I haven't done so well in the storing of sugar department. I do have some honey, however, which to my understanding pretty much will last forever. Sugar is found in a lot of recipes, and hey, let's be honest, some of the things that make people the happiest in terms of food are sweet. Who doesn't want a little more happiness when you have to deal with emergency conditions?

I do find it sad that "Mother's Cookies" had to close down. No one really "needs" the cookies per se, but they were fun and tasty. I'm sure that some people lost employment as a result of this business decision. The fact that they name the cost of such basics as flour, butter, and sugar as an important factor in their decision to close should probably send off warning bells to us all. Please get the basics into your food storage as soon as you can do so in a financially responsible way. You don't have to go into debt to get prepared, but if you do what you can little by little, it will add up. To borrow the title of the e-mail, "how sad" it will be if we find ourselves without the basics, and nothing to feed ourselves and our families in an emergency situation, when we have the opportunity to prepare ourselves now. It's a continual process for me, and I keep reminding myself that every little bit counts...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Getting prepared in more ways than one

When my husband carved the pumpkins, I was not at home to salvage the seeds, so roasting them will have to come when we cut open our next pumpkin. However, I saw this great story entitled, "How to Start a House Fire" , over at Ramblings and Randomness about a little adventure that LJ had when cooking their pumpkin seeds. She has very kindly allowed me to reprint it here:

1. Carve a pumpkin.
2. Wash and drain the pumpkin seeds.
3. Spread the seeds out on a cookie sheet.
4. Salt/pepper the seeds.
5. Stick the cookie sheet in the oven, set the timer for 15 minutes, set the heat on Broil, and walk away.
6. Return after 15 minutes. Smell smoke.
7. Open the oven. Briefly admire the flames licking the stove top. Close the oven.
8. Look for baking powder. (You won't find any handy.)
9. Try to sound nonchalant as you yell, "Honey?" into the other room. "I accidentally started a fire in the oven."
10. Admire how fast your husband runs from the bedroom into the kitchen. When he appears confused as to where the fire is, exactly, remind him that you shut it up in the oven (so it wouldn't get out).
11. Scurry to find your husband some baking powder, but come back 45 seconds later to see that he put another cookie sheet on top of the burning inferno and smothered it.
12. Suddenly recall all your kitchen fire training, at your husband's reminding. Feel sheepish.
13. Watch your husband guffaw until he's wiping tears of mirth from his eyes.
14. Join in the laugh. At least the house got a good airing.

I love this story for a multitude of reasons:

1. It's well-written.
2. These people are making good use of their produce.
3. It reminds everyone about kitchen safety. Personally, I have a fire extinguisher, but a) I don't know how old it is, and b)having never used it, I should really look at it and figure it out before I need to. Panic mode is not my best time for learning new concepts.
4. I think that the ultimate solution to put out the fire was brilliant--wouldn't have thought about it myself, but I would now, if necessary.
5. Finding humor in a situation sure beats crying about it.

So, in terms of being prepared in more ways than one, I guess my conclusion is that you need to prepare to use what you have in the best ways possible, but also be prepared for emergencies that arise when something goes wrong. Do you know how to take care of emergency situations in the kitchen? Just something to think about.

Special thanks to LJ and her husband, Jimmy, for sharing their story. You will notice that they had different options for dealing with an emergency situation, and when one didn't work out, the other did. The more you plan and prepare ahead, the more options you have, and I, for one, love having choices.... :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Think ahead, plan ahead

I got a list of "funny sayings" in my e-mail inbox the other day, and one of them read like this:


It's funny in a way, but really, it makes more sense than it promotes humor. For example, (and I heard about an example like this the other day, so the idea is not original to me) if in the future, the rich are taxed more heavily, it might seem to make sense that the mess is landing mostly on them--hey, they are the ones pulling more out of their pockets, right? However, if one of the "rich" is your landlord/landlady, do you really think that he/she will pull that money out of his/her own pocket? He/she will make up for it by raising your rent. It will be a lot easier for him or her to get money by raising your rent than it will be for you to ask for the same amount monthly from your employer. Your employer, who may also be considered one of "the rich", may have to cut your hours so that the money taken from higher taxes, that is supposedly coming out of your employer's pocket, is actually coming out of yours. So you may have a higher rent and shorter hours, and then if you can't make the rent you may have to move somewhere else, with all the costs that moving incurs--- new deposit, first and last month, etc. Thus, the saying above rings true, but at whose expense? Things may not always be like they originally appear.

No, I am not trying to be political, I am just pointing out another way that being prepared with food storage may prove vital in the future. As my dad reminded me, there's that old saying, something like, nothing's sure but death and taxes. If you can make do on what you store today (and I know that it may be harder to store food if you are renting due to space, or other reasons) and use what would have been grocery money to pay the rent, you may be able to ride out a situation like the one above without having to move. If you own your home and your hours or position get cut due to the same kind of scenario, food storage may also help you get by until you find more employment. Life is not always fair, but if you prepare, it may be easier.

Think ahead, plan ahead. Whatever your situation is, there is still time to prepare. Every little bit counts...