Thursday, October 30, 2008

Who says you can't have fun with your food storage?

Long before I considered using the pumpkins in our garden as a food source, my husband planted them, like he has for years, to be jack-o-lanterns for our children. Our pumpkins this year turned out to be our most successful crop, and before I start trying to harvest them for food, they are serving their original purpose. Last night the kids drew the pictures they wanted on their pumpkins, and my husband carved them up.

Turns out I was pretty much accurate when I dubbed one of the pumpkins "gargantua" in a previous post. My husband weighed "gargantua", and it weighed 62 lbs! Here is "gargantua" in its "fun" form:

I had a special request from one of my children to specifically include a picture of this pumpkin, called (I hope I get this right, or I'll have to change it later) "Teen":

So, just a couple of our examples of "food storage fun." As you probably noticed in at least one of these photos, some of our pumpkins are still at least a little green. That doesn't bother the children when they are decorating, but I'm going to have to figure out how much you can salvage from the green parts of a carved-up pumpkin. There were also a few hungry somethings underneath the pumpkins that left little marks of their passing, but I have not yet seen how far they got in or how much damage was done beyond the immediate outer skin. I figure I have time to do that after tomorrow night. I hope everything's salvageable--62 lbs is a lot of pumpkin, and besides the multiple pumpkins carved, there are some still in the garden. I figure a garden is an extremely valuable example of continual food storage--having fun with the harvest is just an added benefit... :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuna--another canned meat

Ok, true confessions. I have never really cared for the taste of tuna fish. However, the practical side of me likes tuna fish. It's cheaper than canned chicken. It has wonderfully far-off expiration dates on the bottoms of its little cans. It comes out of said little cans fully edible. In terms of food storage, what's not to like? So I've had some cans of tuna in my storage room for awhile. Not a lot--after all, there is that whole not-liking-the-taste thing. However, today I figured that there was no time like the present, and we had tuna fish sandwiches for dinner.

First, I found this recipe online, and amassed all three (tuna fish, cream of mushroom soup, and potato chips) ingredients needed. Granted, I don't think I'll have potato chips immediately available in an emergency, but there were a couple of key things that I wanted to succeed at with this recipe, and those were a) actually use tuna fish in a meal, and b) have it not taste like tuna fish. The recipe linked here is called "mock chicken sandwiches," it required tuna, it was easy, and it promised a different flavor. So I mixed it up, baked it, toasted some bread, and served it up.

The verdict: Those who tried it liked it. (That includes me.) My husband gave it a 6 (not a resounding score, but respectable) and said it was a keeper. So I have one recipe in my win column.

It did taste a little like chicken--point is, it tasted good. There's a bug going around our house so we didn't force the issue with those who aren't feeling well, and they got a more familiar meal. I think that the next time we have it, and they actually try it, they'll probably like it. Ahh, it's nice to have children who aren't usually overly picky about food... :)

So, do you have any recipes that use canned tuna combined with other food storage items? I really just need to have a few easy alternative recipes for using this handy little canned meat, and maybe I'll learn to like it more... :)

Monday, October 27, 2008

What about a personal food drive?

Well, the annual Scout Drive for food was this past weekend. The scouts sent out notices saying that they would come around on Saturday morning to collect bags of canned food for the cause. My husband brought something to my attention that was different this year, however-- when they put the reminder in the paper, there was an additional bit of information. In past years, they would indicate what time they would start collecting the food, and you were expected to have it out, and that was it. If you forgot that the food drive was going on, and didn't leave it out in time, you would find yourself taking it back in, or trying to get it to whatever organization could use it. This year, there was a statement to the effect that if you didn't leave anything out, a scout would be at your door asking for a donation. While I guess you could look at this as an effort to be more efficient in their food collection efforts, that's not the first thing that comes to my mind. The first thing that comes to my mind is that they added this step of personally asking for donations because times are getting harder and harder for so many people, and as I have read in so many articles, there is an increase in the number of people needing those donations, and a decrease in the number of people making them.

Another thing that I noticed, that is along the same lines, is that there is a huge box set up to receive canned food donations as you walk between the double doors of our local national chainstore. Written on the side is the information that their goal is to collect something like 50,000 cans. Unless I'm mistaken, or have simply been highly unobservant in the past, it's a little early in the year to start with the food drives. I always thought they started with the boxes like that around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Again, it makes me worry about the degree of need in the community...

I know that it is not just around here that the need is great--I have read about food bank shortages in many places in the U.S. My hope is just the following: that those who have the means will do a "personal food drive"--collecting food for their own shelves, and stocking up before prices get higher, or more things are unavailable. You can read here about the fact that many Americans are losing their jobs--last week alone there were 15,000 new unemployment claims. There are so many ways that we can find ourselves having a financial emergency--job loss, medical emergencies, etc.--but we will always have to eat. What we store will come in handy whether we have an emergency or not. And if we do not need it ourselves, someone else will probably be glad to have it. Having food stored will always be a plus--feeding us through emergencies, allowing us to help others, or freeing up cash for other necessities--so as I see it, the more we have stored, the better.

As for the food drive on Saturday, we loaded up some soup that mostly had expiration dates in January and February 2009 (hey, like I said in the last post-- I guard my soups jealously :) and threw in some other items. Then I went out and replaced my soup with those at a good price at the local national chainstore. Yes, it's my same old song--food storage is important, please get in as much as you can, learn to use what you have, get ready for an emergency, whatever form that emergency may take...I know it goes on, but it's important. Right now, if you have the means to stock up, you probably have more choices. With jobs being cut, it's quite possible that soon our options for storage will also be cut as companies go out of business. It's also possible that as prices rise due to the economy, some of the things that we could store now may be out of our price range later.

I'm still working on my personal food drive--stocking up the shelves so that I will have food when we need it. What's on your shelves/in your freezer/in your garden? A little at a time, as you can afford it, adds up quickly. Just this past week, my husband said that we needed more peanut butter. I said that there was some downstairs, and that I'd rather use that and wait for a sale on peanut butter. I bought the stuff in the storage room at $1.50 for 18 oz., if memory serves, and the peanut butter at the store was between $3 and $4 for 28 oz. Ahh, another benefit of the personal food drive--if your shelves aren't empty, you may be able to wait for better prices on sale. Gotta love options.... :)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sometimes the brand does matter...

Yeah, the title of this post almost makes me want to say, "Shallow. That is so shallow...", but in terms of canned food, sometimes the brand does matter. I was reminded of this last night, when I went about trying to add a "food storage meal" to my meal rotation. I have done ok adding in the rice and beans, but sometime last week, I thought about the fact that I am adding food slowly but surely to my food storage, but if I had only food storage to rely on, how would I really use it? So I made out a week's worth of meals that would use only food storage items, and some of the meals we have never tried before. They won't be eaten every day, but they will be eaten before we go long-term shopping again.

I have stored lots of soup--what I term "meal soups," that would stand on their own, or which could be easily supplemented with my one successful roll recipe (yeah, I have to work on the variety in that area) and many cans of the "cream of" soups, that in a rough spot could be eaten on their own, but ideally would be mixed in with rice or pasta at least. Tuesday was the last day of a sale that had Hormel items on sale for a good price, at least around here, so I picked up some Dinty Moore Stew. I had picked up some Dinty Moore Stew at a previous sale at the same store months ago, but we hadn't eaten any of it--it's a "meal" type that is easy to heat up, and I tend to guard those jealously--but they were on the menu plan for this rotation.

I had planned to use the stew in a little concoction that I labeled on the menu as "stew on potatoes." We have quite a bit of mashed potatoes in storage, so add water, stew, and heat, and everything should be wonderful. I was a little worried about this particular meal when it came to my husband, because I had tried "stew over potatoes" when we were first married, and it wasn't a big hit. In fact, my husband hated it. When he reads this he will say that he didn't hate it, but I knew enough to not make it more than once or twice. Thing is, we shopped at a grocery outlet type store at the time, which has since gone out of business, and we got our stew there. It was not Dinty Moore--it was another brand, and the "stew over potatoes" did not go over well.

When I got the recently acquired Dinty Moore Beef Stew home from the store, I saw that it had a recipe for shepherd's pie similar to this one. I decided to make it with a few alterations, and left off the cheese, which I found to be an unlikely addition in times of emergency. I also threw in a couple of baked potatoes that would be ready at the same time, a) because my husband likes baked potatoes b)I didn't know how filling the shepherd's pie would be, and wanted extra food if needed and c) I didn't know if my kids would like the shepherd's pie, and this would be something else to offer in the case things didn't go well.

Well, the food wasn't exactly pretty when it emerged from the oven, and my children weren't wild about that. I told them to just try it, and only one only "kind of" liked it. The others really liked it. My husband--drum roll please--said it was a "keeper" and gave it an 8 or 9 on a 1-10 scale. The baked potatoes weren't really needed, but they tasted good. So...sweet success.

My husband would have eaten it anyway, but the brand did make a difference in this case. Hence, my poll this time. I hope no one thinks that I'm terribly shallow, but little things in an emergency can mean a lot, and if you can get something that suits everyone tastes, why not? I only got the original cans of Dinty Moore because they were on sale. I only got the larger cans with the shepherd's pie recipe on them because they were on sale. (Now I wish that I had bought more...) Soups don't seem to make that big of a difference at my house, but with items like canned ravioli and spaghetti I will only buy one brand--the others seem too sweet to me. So I wait for a sale, and then I stock up. Canned items are handy in an emergency (remember to store a manual can opener with them) and can be used more easily if there is a loss of power, or as a comfort food. So my answer to my own poll question would be "sometimes." Well the cat's out of the bag for me--for the rest of you it's still anonymous... :)

If it came to the point where there were no sales, I would stock up on what I could afford, because we still have to eat. But knowing what tastes suit you and your family could make for less of a struggle when you need to use your food storage. No one here, and actually no one that I know of, works for Hormel or Dinty Moore. We sure do like their recipe for shepherd's pie, though... :)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Yeah, Sticky's Not Usually a Good Thing....

Sticky fingers. Sticky floors. But "sticky" prices? They apparently aren't as easy to clean up.

I saw this article today, which points out the good news about the price of oil going down, but mainly talks about the bad news--the food prices won't be coming down as quickly, if they come down at all. According to the article, "You can blame "sticky" prices. That's what analysts call it when companies slap higher prices on products and keep them there even though the rationale for the price hikes - such as soaring oil prices - is gone."

If you read the article in its entirety, there is interesting information about how one of the only ways that prices go down is when companies compete with each other, which it would seem hasn't been happening lately. Deflation, also mentioned, apparently occurs when the economy gets worse and demand falls, so that wouldn't be a cheerful way to "unstick" the prices--I think I'll root for good old-fashioned price wars.

In terms of food storage, I'm just going to go on slow and steady and then zoom in on the occasional price break--they do happen, but sometimes if you blink you will miss them.

Hey, this post may be short and (not so) sweet, but at least it's not sticky... :)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Odds and Ends

Well, I guess I'll start with the odds--down in our basement we have 20-odd 6-gallon buckets (I actually went down there to count them, and there may be more) that my parents brought to us when they were visiting earlier this year. My best source (Mom) found them on sale for $4.00/apiece, if memory serves, and bought a bunch for us. Where we live, these kind of food storage buckets cost $8-8.50 each, last time I was shopping for them, so when I was asked if I wanted any while the sale lasted, I said yes. It's just been awhile, so I have forgotten exactly how many I purchased. I do pass them on the way to do the laundry, however. :) Sooooo.....buckets, buckets, everywhere--now we just have to purchase the food to fill them with. A little odd to put the buckets before the food, but in this case, oh, so much less expensive. I would also add that the more people that you have looking for deals with and/or for you , the more likely you are to be able to get more for your food storage buck. They don't even have the kind of store where my mom bought these where we live, so we were fortunate indeed...that plus my parents were willing to transport them for us... you gotta love the parents... :)

Also odd? We have not yet received our cords of wood that we ordered and that were supposed to be delivered on Tuesday. That day my husband called the gentleman up and asked about arrival time, and was informed that the gentleman was in the middle of a crisis with his truck. My husband talked to him the following day, and there was some sort of family situation, which I sincerely hope had a happy outcome. However, we have yet to hear from said gentleman since that time...odd indeed, considering the price for a cord of wood around here. If we don't hear from/are not able to contact him soon, perhaps we will have to call another gentleman who cuts cords of pine wood.....

As for the ends, since we did not receive aspen wood to use, we decided to use the "ends" of our poor little tree in the backyard, which my husband cut down recently. It was some variety of maple tree, I think, and was quite fun for the children to climb in (and handy for almost giving their mother a heart attack because of various antics) while it was healthy, but some time last year it became quite evident that it was dying. Whatever kind of problem it had, it shared with a tree with one of our over-the-fence neighbors, and when they had their tree treated they called us and the tree doctor gentleman sprayed our tree as well. It helped a little, but not enough, and as it died, my husband pruned it, but there was really nothing to be done. So it had been there awhile looking like a tree but turning into firewood, and even though we waited to cut it down, and it was obvious that it needed to go, it was sad to see it finally gone. Even sadder when you think how long it takes a tree to mature into something that can provide shade and that children can climb and play in...

Let's hope that the same problem doesn't strike Bartholomew's peach tree. As for the other neighbor whose tree was ailing, their tree is still standing, so time will tell. I hope they have happier results.

And the garden is coming to an end--the carrots and some radishes have been left to go to seed, and the pumpkins are still working on obtaining a more orange hue (I hope :). This is probably the end of the pictures of the pumpkins while still in the garden:

Recognize "baby"? Sometimes it's hard to keep track, but to the best of my knowledge, this is the pumpkin I've been documenting for awhile now. I hope that "baby" doesn't turn juvenile delinquent and refuse to turn orange... :)

Then there is "most likely"--as in most likely to turn orange by Halloween, and I think that we were pretty lucky to pick out that this one is probably going to turn entirely orange first ...

And even if we were lucky with "most likely," don't ask me how I overlooked the tremendous growth of the following pumpkin-- I present to you..."gargantua"!

The next pictures of the pumpkins likely to appear on this blog are of pumpkins in the form of jack-o-lanterns, or in the form of pumpkin soup. (Mmmmmm...pumpkin soup!!) The latter is highly dependent on my ability to actually turn pumpkins into a food source, which I have never attempted to do before. (I've eaten pumpkin seeds before, but don't recall (and highly doubt) that I was actually in charge of making them edible, so yet another adventure awaits...) I hope we can use them well, because we have had quite a good crop this year.

I never mentioned the corn--we ended up getting six ears total this year, which is still more than we would have had if we had not planted them because of the cold weather earlier in the season. Ah, well. The corn was kind of chewy, but it was from our own garden... :)

Before I forget, be sure to check out Riverwalker's great post on salt--much more informative than my last post, and very useful to know for storage. I do still like the story-- and the reminder that salt can be valuable indeed.... :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don't Forget the Salt

I find that a lot of the time when I am planning/buying my food storage, I concentrate on what could be considered the "big ticket items"--things like the wheat, rice, oats, etc., that are a large part of a meal. (No one wants to be hungry, right? :) I was reminded the other day that I need to concentrate on the "little things" as well--and one "little thing" that is a very important part of food storage is salt. If you look at my earlier posts on food storage amounts, you need 8 lbs of salt per person if you are trying to get enough food storage for a year.

What reminded me of this important part of our diet? I heard the following information about the saying "he's not worth his salt.":

Apparently, in the olden days, salt was a very valuable, rare, and expensive commodity--to the extent that when people were invited to banquets, their importance was shown by how much salt they were allowed at the table. The salt was kept at the top of the table, so those who sat closer to the top of the table were considered to be more valuable. Thus, if someone was allowed to sit and enjoy the salt, and then turned out to be a not-so-valuable commodity, he was considered to be "not worth his salt."

In an emergency situation, you don't want to be caught without salt. Right now, it is relatively easy to get your hands on a good supply of it, and it costs considerably less than large amounts of the "big ticket " items. I have some salt, but need more to finish my supply. I'm going to try to get some in before it becomes an extremely rare and expensive commodity again--and so I have some when someone wants me to pass the salt... :)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wood Stove: The details

The installers came on Thursday morning. My understanding was that it would only take 2-3 hours to install. They were actually here for about 7 hours.

First, a little background. The original owners had a wood stove insert that was here when we considered buying the house from them. You may remember, however, that we did not do so, and the second owners had a gas stove insert installed during the time that they lived here. We never used it.

Because we are averse to spending a lot of money, we looked at our options, one of which was to locate the original wood stove insert. My husband contacted the second owners, and learned that the original wood stove insert was in a barn about an hour and a half away from where we live. My husband went in search of it, but it was nowhere to be found. That ceased to be an option.

We did our research on the wood stove inserts available in our area, some of which has been documented here. One salesman came by but never came back with an estimate. Needless to say, he did not get our business. The gentleman who did get our business came by and was very professional, and told us our options. His company had a used wood stove that we could purchase at a discount--it had been used for only a few months by someone who was waiting for the product she had ordered to come in. Used is not a big deal to us--if we had still had the original insert, it would have been used when we bought the house, and we liked the discount. Our main problem was the cooking space on the lip of the stove--the salesman told us about another stove that had more room, but which was more expensive.

While the salesman was here, he talked about whether we wanted a liner or not when we had the wood stove installed. He looked at the chimney, and said that he didn't think that a liner would make that big a difference because of the chimney's size. It is not required where we live to have a liner in the chimney, so that was one of the options that we had to consider.

Well, as we did our research, someone else purchased the used stove, so that was no longer an option. We needed to buy something that had a cooking surface, and yet left us enough money to feed the stove, (yes, we think it looks smart, but we want it to be useful as well :) so we decided to buy the new version of the used model, and do without the liner, which would have added $600 to the overall price. It was a relief to have decided and to have an installment date in place.
So, Thursday arrived. They took out the gas insert. And the fun began.

Apparently, an inspector from the city comes by and checks the work of the installers. When he did, we found out that our chimney needed to be extended by about 5 inches. This was completed, but as you can imagine, it took some time.

My husband found out that the installers had put in a liner. I have to admit that I was glad about this, and now that it was done, I did not want them to remove it. I was not excited about the additional cost ($600) that we would have to come up with (you may recall that we paid for it in full up front) as a result of the error. However, you do what you have to do, and my husband said he would make sure that everything was paid for correctly.

So the installation was completed close to 6:00 that evening, and we took off for one of the children's activities. Thanks to information left in my comments (thanks Carl from Wisconsin!) and at least one question from my best source, (Mom) I was able to come up with a lot of inquiries for the stove salesman before my husband got a chance to call him. One of the things he said was that we should run the stove on hot for 60 hours to burn off paint residue. The other thing he said, (and we know that this is a blessing) was that there was no charge for the liner, because it was his fault, and he should have known that it was necessary in the first place. My husband offered three times to make it right, but there was no extra charge. Wow.

So, as you saw from the photo, we did not hesitate to fire the thing up. It does burn hot--it melted a candy bar in the next room. It makes excellent s'mores. Now we just have to find cookware that fits on the lip...

Now, taking a tip from our friends over at Johnson Family Farm, who wrote an informative and helpful post about their woodstove, I present a picture of the lip:

Not quite the 5 inches of flat surface that we were expecting, but there is room to warm up a can of soup, and we will figure out the rest.
Thanks to all for your information and advice that you have left in the comments. We are expecting to have at least 2 cords of aspen wood delivered next week, so the work has just begun... :)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wood Stove: Check

Our wood stove was installed today (well, Thursday). Couldn't wait to post a picture--more details to come.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Be careful with that gas pedal...

When I was out driving yesterday, a squirrel ran out in front of my car. I gasped, and, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, hit the gas pedal briefly before hitting the brake pedal. The squirrel got away, but it was close. I was relieved, but also reminded that when I get in a tough situation, sometimes my first reaction is to panic. Panicking is not good. Panicking is what sometimes ends up speeding up what you don't want to happen, or at least makes it closer to happening, (just ask that squirrel) so panicking is not helpful. A natural reaction? Yes. A means to the end that you want? Probably not.

In my last poll, I made a list of various ways that you could prepare, and asked people how they have better prepared themselves for emergency situations in the past year. The results (thanks to everyone who answers my polls!) are as follows:

Increasing my water storage 35%
Increasing my food storage 85%
Rotating my water/food storage so that it would be usable in an emergency 20%
Learning new skills (gardening, canning, etc.) 75%
Increasing my non-food supplies (tents, tools, etc.) 60%
Increasing my "living storage" (livestock, chickens, etc.) 20%
Increasing possible barter items (skills, supplies, etc.) 35%
Increasing defense skills/items 20%
Figuring out a plan to deal with different kinds of emergencies 45%
Decreasing personal/family debt 45%
Helping others with their food storage, thus decreasing likelihood of them needing mine 20%
Other 5% (ahh, the ever-elusive "other"... always leaves me wondering... :)

Quite frankly, I was impressed with how much so many people were doing/have done. Thing is, when I went to write down the results, I looked at how daunting the list could look to someone who has not yet begun to prepare for emergencies. It's still daunting to me. There is just so much to do when you think about what could possibly happen. And I thought of various ways that a person could make his/her situation worse by panicking about what he/she still needed to do, thus hitting the proverbial gas pedal, and making an unfavorable income that much more likely when an emergency situation arose. In my opinion, here are some ways that you should not react when you find out that you have a lot to do to get prepared:

--Don't panic and try to get everything at once--if you run up a huge debt trying to get prepared, you actually might hasten a financial emergency. Be careful with that proverbial gas pedal, and get ready for emergencies in the most financially sound way possible.

--Don't panic and then decide that since there is so much to do, you might as well do nothing at all. What would have happened if I had panicked, hit the gas pedal, and then decided that I wouldn't hit the brake pedal, because all that mattered was my previous action of hitting that gas pedal? Squirrel souffle? I don't actually know, but I do know that everything you put away will be a benefit to you and/or someone else eventually, and you may be able to "squeak by" in an emergency if you have managed to do what you could to be prepared. The importance of "squeaking by"? Hey, I missed the squirrel. Maybe what could have been an emergency will merely be a little scare if you have acted instead of remaining trapped by the thought that you should have started earlier, so now you won't start at all.

--Don't panic and hit the proverbial gas pedal harder, thus basically ensuring an emergency situation. There are so many ways that you can find yourself in an emergency, (including the elephant in the room--the economy) but if you hit the proverbial brakes and sit down and try to figure out your options, you may find that you can find a way to avoid an emergency altogether. Getting panicked about your situation may be a totally normal response, but hopefully that will only be an immediate and (very) short-lived reaction. Ideally, even if you cannot avoid an emergency entirely, you will be able to lessen the impact it has on you if you have done what you can ahead of time.

Just my thoughts on the matter, but in conjunction with my reaction to writing down the last poll's results, ( a little while before I almost made mush of Mr. Squirrel) this week's poll asks what you would most like to improve. Just take it a step at a time, and the more steps that you can take, the more benefits you will have in dealing with emergency situations. I still have a lot to do. And obviously, sometimes I panic (ask the rodent)--but if I use my fear (such as not having enough food to eat) in a positive way and become motivated to consider my options (such as finding out what I can do to store food to avoid that problem) then it will work for me instead of against me.

Yeah, I realize that this analogy of the brakes and the bushy tailed escapee from a horrible demise could be used in different ways. For example, I can almost hear someone thinking about how the squirrel could become food storage, thus solving part of the problem. Whatever makes you more prepared, or helps you realize some of the preparation skills (hunting/meat preservation anyone?) that you already have works for me. I'm just glad you're still reading... :)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Those who don't remember history...

...are doomed to repeat it. That's the way I remembered the quote, anyway, but turns out I was a little off. According to this page, it actually goes like this: " Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it," and it is attributed to one George Santayana (about whom I know very little, but about whom you can read here-- an article where it gives yet another version of the saying. In any case, you get the idea. :) I thought of this quote after thinking about something that I heard on the radio this weekend.

We went out of town this past weekend, and had some time to listen to talk radio while traveling. When I got home, I tried to find at least some of the information that Glenn Beck mentioned on his program, and found something that he said on his website that was somewhat similar. Apparently, I kind of remembered what happened concerning the Great Depression incorrectly. If you look here, about the 9th paragraph down, you will see what I mean. I thought that when the stock market crashed, in 1929, that it was all over and done. That the crash was immediate and devastating, and that the bread lines and everything associated with the Great Depression started in 1929. According to this information, however, the situation went up and down, with people thinking things were changing for the better at times, but then the Great Depression really started in 1933, and lasted for 10 years.

I looked for further information on Wikipedia. In this article, under the second section entitled, "The snowball spiral," it pretty much confirms what I heard on the radio. I give the source from Glenn Beck, with its approximate location in the article, because that is where I first learned that I either misunderstood history, or remembered it incorrectly. I give the second from Wikipedia, because even though it is unknown who contributed to the article, it confirms the first information that I heard. Please look up your own sources, (and share them if you'd like) but my point is this: just because it looks like it is going to get better, it may not be so. If the problems in the economy do not immediately cause hardship like that found in the Great Depression, it does not mean that it will not eventually happen.

And, of course, it does not mean that it will happen, either. But if we decide that we want to learn from history, and this portrayal of history is correct, what can we learn from it that we can use to our advantage? The way that I look at it is this: get your food storage in while you can. Not a big surprise, considering the fact that this blog is based on emergency preparedness. But if you prepare, and things such as food costs do turn out to be better at the moment than they will be in the very near future, you will not have fallen into the category of those who didn't prepare because of their expectation that if there were going to be problems they would have happened already, what with the economy and all. The stock market is experiencing difficulties, (an understatement from someone who is again not qualified to comment that much on it) but the prices of food at the time that I write this have not yet escalated in a sudden fashion. Things were already becoming more and more expensive, but I have not seen a huge raising of prices in conjunction with recent market fluctuations. If you have the means, please put aside something now, because every little bit that you store will help you in the long run, whether the prices go up or not. By using stored food later, you will free up money for other needs you will have then. As I see it, storing food puts you in a win-win situation, and in my recollection, there hasn't been anything mentioned about prices going down when the problems in the current economy have been discussed.

What else can we take from the very limited information I present here? Perhaps one thing is that if you can't store food right now, you may get another chance to do so if things take a turn for the better. There is always hope, and as no one knows what will happen in the future, including whether upcoming economic conditions will mirror the Great Depression or not, it can't hurt to be optimistic and have a good attitude while preparing ourselves for possible emergencies. As has been said many times, "Hope for the best and prepare for the worst." Action in preparing ourselves for hard times can improve our lives and our attitudes...our action gives us something that we can control in uncertain times. Yeah, I'm not proud about the fact that I misunderstood what happened in the Great Depression--but I can learn from it now and do my best to prepare for the possibilities of the future. 10 years. All the more reason to increase my storage, and learn what I need to do to perpetuate that storage--it will help in good times, and be downright indispensible should history repeat itself...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Experience is the hardest teacher...

I heard a quote the other day that I really liked: "Experience is the hardest teacher: first comes the test, then the lesson." Just because I like the quote, however, doesn't mean that I like learning from experience when the lessons are difficult--in fact, in those cases I would prefer to learn things "secondhand" so to speak, and learn from other peoples' experience instead. That doesn't necessarily mean that other peoples' experiences had to be bad--I just mean, if someone has more knowledge and experience than I do, it would be wise of me to listen to what they have to say and factor it into my own plans to hopefully have a less difficult lesson myself. This can apply for lessons that are life-saving, as well as those that just make our lives easier.

Before I had children that were old enough to get out of the door by themselves, I heard what happened to a family in our area. One day, while the father was changing a diaper on the baby, an older child, who was not that much older, walked out the door and into the street, which happens to be one of the busiest streets around here. A bus driver saw the child and picked him/her up. When authorities returned the child to the parents, they told them that they needed to get a chain on the door to avoid a repeat performance of the incident.

I may have forgotten some of the exact details of this story, but I remembered the lesson involved, and there was some kind of lock on the upper part of our doors (and there still is, except for a door we recently replaced... gotta get that fixed) before this kind of thing could ever become an issue. Having seen the street mentioned, it still horrifies me that the child was out on it, and I can only imagine the feelings of the parent, when, after the short amount of time it takes to change a diaper, the toddler was nowhere to be found until the authorities showed up. I don't know if my own children would ever do that--but I don't want to find out. The thing is, I think that it's human nature to read about something or see it on TV and think that the kind of emergency that we're reading/hearing about will never happen to us. That may be so--maybe it never will. Then again, maybe it will. Are we willing to take the chance that it won't, and not do all that we can to be prepared?

There is (ahh, you knew this was coming) the long-term preparation for disaster that we can make by getting our houses in order by storing food/water/other necessities. Then there are things that we can learn and pick up from other peoples' experiences if we are looking to learn and are paying attention. I like a recent post over at iPrepared, where it cites stories of people who in one case were brilliant and bought enough water to line their dining room, and in another case were brilliant and filled up every container they could with water so that they would have enough to make waiting out and cleaning up after Hurricane Ike easier. I love that idea--I have some water stored, but I don't usually sit around with every possible container in my house filled with water. If I had to stay in place in a situation where water would be cut off and/or undrinkable, and I had a little advance warning, I would now think to fill up everything I could with water. If you have small children, you would have to take that into account, so you wouldn't make your house a dangerous place to be with water sitting around where it could be a hazard, but if you are thinking ahead, a well thought-out plan could eliminate problems with that as well. There is so much to learn from the experiences of other people, if we are paying attention.

Then there are some people who are kind enough to share their experience and knowledge without us having to go looking. In my last post I pointed out that soon we will have a wood stove insert in our house. I was amazed by the comments that people left, full of detailed and helpful information that I needed to know. Quite frankly, it made me a little nervous to find out how much I have to learn, and gave me a lot more questions to ask the stove representative before I start using it. I am very grateful that people took the time to write in and share their knowledge and experience, from how much wood they have needed, (now I hope that we can afford to feed the thing :) and ways that they have stored it, to advice on how to keep it from being hazardous to the family (read: avoiding a chimney fire) by making sure that you keep it properly maintained. Check out the comments on that post. There is a lot of useful information.

Then there are people who are willing to share their experiences/knowledge in blogs. On a recent poll that I put up, one issue that people had was finding space in which to put their food storage. In looking around at blogs that I read, I found an example of storing in plain sight over at Stealth Survival, and an example of some things to do to add food storage space at Safely Gathered In. The information is out there, and even in cases where relying solely on your own experience to be your "teacher" wouldn't be that painful, why reinvent the wheel when there are others willing to share what they've learned?

I, for one, am grateful that a lot of people don't sit by and figure that because they had the "hardest teacher" everyone else should have to go through the same things as well. Learning from other people is a great way to get more prepared for emergencies, to avoid emergencies, and to survive emergencies. I hope to keep learning, and better yet, apply what I've learned, should it be necessary. In this case, you gotta love "hand-me-downs".... :)