Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wood Stove Insert: Ordered

It would have been nice to have been able to put "Wood Stove Insert: Check" as the title for this post, but it would have been inaccurate. We are now, however, the proud owners of a wood stove insert that we ordered today, but which will be officially ordered by the salesman on Monday. We, however, have done our part of the ordering: we saved up the money and chose the one we felt that we could best afford and still be able to feed the thing, (we already checked out the prices for cords of wood) and we paid for it in full. Currently, we have a gas stove insert. A free-standing stove would have been nice, but impossible without a lot more expense.

As necessary as we felt that this purchase was, it was still a difficult decision to make because of the expense involved. Then, when I looked at the brochure that the wood stove salesman left behind, I started wondering if the wood stove that we were considering really had any cooking surface at all, because in the picture, the top of the stove looked curved. The salesman had assured us that there was a five-inch lip on the model that we were considering, but I wanted to see it and be sure. We loaded up the children and took off to the store. He showed me on a different model of stove how the top really is, and it turns out that the stove has a flat ledge that didn't show up (at least I couldn't see it) that would work nicely to heat things up in a small pan in an emergency. It would be nice to have more room on the lip of the stove to cook, but we will just have to make sure that we have multiple pans that will fit on the surface, so that we can make the most of the heat if necessary.

We could have ordered a more expensive model that puts out more heat, and is a little more efficient, but there would have been little advantage to it because of the way that our house is configured. Fortunately, the gentleman we were dealing with had originally come out to our house, and pointed out that both models would basically heat the same amount of area. So, while we plan to start using the stove as soon as necessary once we get it, in an emergency, when it would be our only source of heat, we would probably limit ourselves to that space and do all right. It's a large space, but definitely not the entire house. It could, if necessary, be blocked off with blankets in the doorways to keep the heat confined more efficiently. This is all new to me, so we'll have to see how it works out. Of course, you always hope that you won't find yourself in an emergency in the first place...

So we soon will be the owners of an alternative energy source. This is good, because winter was particularly brutal in our area last year, and hopefully this will also decrease our energy costs in the long run if we have a repeat of that kind of weather. We saw an ad in the paper about aspen firewood, and we saw a lot where they were selling firewood today, at the same price/cord as in the paper, although I don't know what kind of wood that it was. If anyone has any advice/ knowledge about the best kind of firewood, feel free to share--it would be appreciated. One of the best things about the wood stove insert? We now have more options. You gotta love choices... :)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Progress despite Uncertainty

Important addition later 9/26/2008--I just found this page at Provident Living. It provides amounts in a chart for what an adult would need to store for a one-year period. I can't recommend Provident Living enough.

If you are just starting on your food storage, I hope that you have made progress on it, or have made plans to make progress on it. I really hope that more and more people are putting some food away--even if it is only a little bit, it will be a little bit more than nothing. In my opinion, it is best to start out with the staple foods. If you don't have any idea where to start, you might want to consider the following:

--Some of my earliest posts on this blog, (in May) where I point out amounts for one year for one person for the grain, legume, fats and oils, milk, and sugars groups. You will see that there are also amounts for the miscellaneous group found in the sugars post, and the explanation for how I arrived at these amounts can be found in the grain group post, repeated here for your convenience:

We went to a while ago now, (to give credit where credit is due) and found out what we would need for 12 months to feed our family. It has been so long now that I can't remember if we counted our children as adults or not, but dividing the amount they told us for the various foods by the number of people listed, (and rounding up--wouldn't you always like to have more than less in an emergency situation?) at least what's below will give people an idea of what one person would need to have to survive for a year.

You can take the amounts listed on these posts and store them for one person at a time, or multiply them to arrive at an estimate for how much you would need for the number of people you think that you would be responsible for in an emergency situation. If you want even smaller amounts you could use for survival, you may want to consider the information found in a more recent post (September 20th) where the "bang for your buck" is spelled out in terms of beans and rice. The amounts listed there and above would be just for survival, but if you don't have them now, and you go out and get them, you will have made progress. Also from the September 20th post are these words of wisdom: We can all do this for our families a step at a time, not going into debt to do it. (Italics added.) I am not advising you to go into debt. I am just hoping that more and more people will get prepared. One of the reasons I started this blog was that I don't want my children to go hungry in an emergency situation. Another reason is that I don't want your children to go hungry in an emergency situation. I just hope that we all can continue to make progress to meet the goal of being as prepared as we can be.

I need more staples, and continue to work on that area, but I do keep my eye out for things that would enhance those staples, and try to get them at the cheapest possible price. Last week they had a special at a local grocery store where you could buy the "cream of" soups (the national brand kind) for 20 for $10. Quite frankly, I didn't really think I would ever see them at that price again. Even at the local national chainstore, this particular kind of soup (at least the cream of chicken variety) costs $.94/can. So we stocked up on some of the mushroom and chicken flavors. I figure it will go over well mixed with rice or pasta, and hey, throw in a can of vegetables and it's almost a casserole. I do need more staples, but I like to get some canned food on hand in case of power outages, or if we are low on fuel to cook, so I feel like getting some more of that kind of thing (at a good price) is progress. There are times when I buy things at a more expensive price, if I feel that it is needed, and I have the means. If you can wait, look carefully for deals. I'm just not sure that you can always wait.

I am worried (and still as qualified as the last time I mentioned it :) about the American economy. You may have noticed that I worry about food storage, and this is because, as one of my friends was fond of saying, "A girl's gotta eat." I bring up the basic amounts now, because if things get worse, and supplies get limited or nonexistent because of what's going on in our country, now may be the best time to get the basics in. No one knows. You can only do the best you can with what you know now. But if you are doing the best you can, I don't think that you will ever be sorry about it. A couple of examples:

--The other night, after oil jumped to like $130/barrel, I asked my husband to go fill up the car because I worried that the prices would go up overnight. My husband went out and put some gas in the car, and left me a message the next day that the gas had gone down 9 cents/gallon that morning. The peace of mind that comes from having more gas in the tank outweighs the 9 cents/gallon, but of course it would have been nice to get it at the lower price.

--A while ago now, a grocery store in the area had packages of toilet paper at 10 for $10, so I stocked up on some. I made a special trip on the last night of the sale to make sure that I would get some in my storage. The next day they had a bigger sale: 20 for $10. I was not happy. I shared that unhappiness with as many people as I could find so that they could take advantage of the better sale--I figured that that somehow made up for the fact that I had to pay twice as much for the same thing. Aggravating, yes. But also a learning experience. I found out later that the product that I bought is of inferior quality and did not last as long as other brands. I won't be buying that brand again if I can help it, even at 20 for $10. I need things that will last in my storage.

--Then there is the fact that the jeans that I bought for my children, that they haven't grown into yet, were bought at a bargain price. Having to replace a pair that was played into oblivion (read: really messed up hole in the knee inflicted during recreation involving much exuberance and youthful enthusiasm) with the size that one of them currently wears allowed me to realize how much the prices of clothes are going up just from last spring. Glad I have the next size up already purchased and waiting.

So you live, you learn, and sometimes things don't work out perfectly. However, things won't work out at all if you do nothing, when you could be doing something. Even if you end up paying a little more (as seen above), you will still have those items in your possession, and that is something that is a certainty in a time when there is a lot of uncertainty. Don't wait if you don't have to. Sometimes, as I have mentioned before, you are in situations where you don't have a choice, and you can't do what you would like to do because of finances, etc. Hopefully that is always temporary, and when you can make progress on your food storage, you will. The economy is scaring me, and even as I write this, aspects of it might be changing. Any progress you and I make in food storage will only benefit us and those around us, whether it be sooner or later. I hope it's not needed sooner--and I hope that everyone (myself included) will continue to make progress on food storage, despite any other uncertainties, economical or otherwise.

One part of my food storage that currently has nothing to do with the economic arena is my garden. For those who are interested, I present an update on my planting adventures:

Yes, if you look carefully, in the land of the pumpkins you will find some carrot plants!! Those little lacey leaves make me very happy. This officially makes 2 for 5 for me in terms of late season planting success, but I really don't think that they will have enough time to make it to eating stage this time, so I will most likely leave them to go to seed. Still, they are there... :)

And, as far as I can tell, here is an updated photo of "baby": (They grow up so fast... :)

And "most likely" is progressing pretty well...: (orange on pumpkins--it's all the rage :)

And here's just a random, rather large pumpkin, which is pretty indicative of the specimens that are found hither and yon around our garden. If you look closely, you will see more carrot plants amongst the vegetation:

So, the pumpkins, and happily, the carrots are making progress. I can't help but think, when I look at my current poll, that a lot of people are making progress on their food storage as well. If you are, keep it up. If you haven't started yet, please start on your food storage. The preparations that we make, and the food storage that we put away, provide us with certainties even in uncertain times. Every bit of progress is a success...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Are you mental (ly prepared)?

You may recall that back in July I went shoe shopping, and one of my goals was to get shoes in the next size up for my children so that I could put them away for the future. I reasoned that because my children are still growing, and I am not a cobbler by trade, that this would be a reasonable item to include in my emergency preparation plans. I was disappointed (freaked out would probably be a more accurate description) to find out that although everything looked normal, they had nothing that I asked for in my child's shoe size, and if memory serves, I sent the salesgirl back for three different styles (and there were only four styles available.) I was worried because I thought everything was disappearing in terms of availability, and I was worried that I would be the last one to find out.

Not worried enough that I didn't try to warn other people through this blog, and not worried enough that I didn't try to warn my dad about possible shortages when we went to visit my parents for a family reunion later that month. My dad let me tell the whole shoe story, and express my concerns that there would be fewer and fewer things available, and that there hadn't been a rush on the shoes that I knew of, and yet there were none, and that there was almost no one in the store at the time, and what the lack of shoes might indicate about the economy--and when I said, "What if there are no shoes available when my kids outgrow the ones that they have?," my dad said "So what?"

Well, this took the wind out of my sails a little bit, (and you might have noticed I can be a little long-winded :) but my dad went on from there, and what he said made sense. He said, "You would make do. What do you think, there wasn't someone sometime that came up with the idea of shoes? You would find something to use, and you would make do. Don't worry about it so much. You would use your brain just like people throughout history have used their brains, and you would come up with something. You would be all right."

And he's right. People are smart. We tend to come up with what we need to come up with (reminds me of the necessity-invention connection) when we need it. A lot of preparation is mental. And I'm not talking about the mental implied in the post title if you left off the "ly prepared." I'm talking about the attitude, like my dad has, that we can and will be able to do what we have to do when we have to do it. That's probably a huge percentage of mental preparation.

I think another percentage of mental preparation is thinking ahead for what will be needed in a time of emergency. This ranges from basic necessities that everyone needs, like how much food and water will be needed for the people you would be responsible for, to more personal preparation that is specific to those people--like medications, allergies, etc., that you have to work into the equation. It is hard to think of everything, but if we plan it out, we can get closer to being totally prepared than if we just sit and worry, or just sit and hope that everything will work out. There are so many ways that we can use our minds, but we get more done when we combine our mental activity with physical action.

Another way to mentally prepare is to learn the things that would help us out in an emergency situation. There is also a wide range of possibilities when it comes to this category of mental preparation--practical skills like sewing, cooking, gardening--that could be used for ourselves, or even as bartering tools. You could argue that these are physical skills, and they are, but we have to gain the mental knowledge necessary to do them efficiently. We also have to take into consideration the fact that we might have to defend ourselves during emergency situations, and that basic emergency medical skills might be needed. If we prepare ourselves in the best ways that we can, we and others will be the better for it.

In the animated show, "Max and Ruby," (you can tell that I have small children), there is one episode where Ruby is working on her hospitality badge, and she and her Bunny Scout friends say that the most important rule is "A good hostess always stays calm when things go wrong." I've thought about that rule around the house, (for example, when I'm trying to clean up after a mess that I wish would never have happened) but I think that it particularly applies when I think about food storage and emergency preparedness. It is hard to think of everything that you may need in an emergency situation. It is hard to afford everything that you may need in an emergency situation. But this is what I think: if you have done your best with what you have available, then you are probably better prepared than you feel that you are. And whatever comes up in the future, you will be able to handle as it comes. You will be able to "stay calm when things go wrong" because you have done your best to prepare yourself for the worst.

I haven't yet "stocked up" on those shoes. Not because my dad convinced me that I am a cobbler, but because other expenses, etc. have come up, and they have fallen lower on the list of priorities. I hope to one day get some shoes in storage, but if it doesn't happen, and there are no shoes in the stores, he's right, I would find a way to make do. That might mean that I have to barter goods or skills with someone who is a cobbler. Or it might mean that I will have to construct makeshift shoes made out of whatever I have available. You might not be able to think of everything that will be needed in whatever emergency situation arises, but trying to, and then preparing in the ways that you can, will help. This, combined with the attitude that you will be able to handle whatever else arises, is a big step in the right or not.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Worth repeating

In some of my polls, I often include the choice of "not applicable because I have not yet started on my food storage," where that would be a reasonable option. I am actually encouraged to find that some people check that, because it indicates that some people who have not started food storage are at least looking into it and/or are considering starting on it and /or haven't realized how much food storage that they already have.

Just in case anyone is just now getting interested in food storage, I thought that I would include the following e-mail from my best source (Mom) that addresses that issue. She deals with food storage and helping people with their food storage on a church level and on a neighborhood level, so this e-mail ended up in about 300 homes (and mine). So I guess this is, in effect, a guest column from her. (Hey, I've always thought she should be writing a blog on it herself.) If you are just starting, you are not alone. Following is the e-mail, originally titled, "Emergency Prep Food Storage: Getting started if you haven't already. Finishing if you have.":

This is for everyone, but especially for the 8-9 people who have talked to me in the last couple of weeks about their lack of quantity in their storage.

----- Are you wavering on what to do about food storage? Does it seem overwhelming? I'm sorry, but it won't likely get better any year soon so let's have a plan to make sure the kids don't go hungry. Start with enough to survive for a year... at the lowest possible cost. The following will make things easier for you no matter what your budget is. I hope some of the other things I mention will take away some of your other doubts about your capability of doing this.

If you have to go out every day to Costco, Sam's, etc, to get a few bags each of beans and rice until you have enough for your family, so be it. Household of 10? In a short time even you can have enough to SURVIVE for a year. Think of how much peace of mind that will give you! No matter what, you can feed your family enough to keep them alive!

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.)

This is low calorie but is complete protein and will keep a person alive better than dirt cookies.

Add the following basics as much as you can because you will use them when you start to cook from scratch. You will need all of them. Oil, flour, milk, sugar, pasta of every type that your family likes, peanut butter, canned meat or tuna, and cases of vegetables and fruit that your family prefers. Don't forget that potatoes are reasonably priced still, and they fill a person up and are familiar eating to all of us. Split peas, barley, lentils and dried onions and garlic will literally spice up any soup you make. This might take a while to aquire. So what?

Wheat is very costly right now but if you can afford it get a lot. Beans, rice, wheat and sugar store indefinitely.

Oh yes, you already have a lot of these in your home so you are farther along than you may have thought and you can eat something beside beans and rice!

Check out the buckets of staples sold at the local stores and food storage sites like Walton Feed. The hardest part of storing is getting started!

Be sure you have cooking oil. It doesn't store for very many years, 2-4+ depending on how cool you keep it. On the other hand it isn't that expensive so you can donate to the food bank and replace it when needed. After WWII the thing people in Europe needed and craved the most was some type of fat.

Don't forget your favorite spices! You can get a years supply of salt in one big bag at Costco for less than $3.00.

Yes, YOU CAN bake bread, and now is a good time to learn if you haven't tried to before! You can also get by with muffins, pancakes, tortillas etc if you are afraid to try using yeast.

If you are still feeling inadequate for this challenge take it to the Lord and refresh your courage. We can all do this for our families a step at a time, not going into debt to do it.

I hope this helps all of those who have expressed concern to me about not being as well prepared as you know you should be. JUST DO IT starting tomorrow with a baby step at a time.

End of e-mail. I hope that this will help out. I made minor changes, (examples: changing some of the locations you can buy your items, because she listed stores that may not be all over the country, deleting the information about gardening because it no longer applies this year, etc.) but that's it. Just as a matter of interest:
---The dirt cookies she mentions can be read about here.
---The 3/4 cup servings of rice are the result of cooking 1/4 cup of rice. I mentioned that before, but still useful to remember.

Wow, that was easy. (You gotta love the cut/copy and paste feature of the old computer.) Thanks to the guest columnist. Thanks to those who answer my polls. Hope this helps and encourages you, whatever stage you are at in your food storage. Step by step, little by little, it can be done....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

1 for 5--So far

You may recall that at the end of July (the very end) we planted our first late season crop. The seeds that I was able to get my eager little hands on were of the lettuce, onion, radish, pea, and carrot varieties. I was not expecting too much, because we did plant at the end of the season even for some of these varieties, and for some reason, I forget the cause, soon after we planted them I got the idea that they had probably all been washed away. Since we had started so late, and because we had used nearly all of the seeds, we figured we would try again next year.So imagine my surprise when I went out to the garden earlier this week and saw something of interest besides the pumpkin and rhubarb leaves:

Of course, you can see far more in this picture than I could originally see--I just saw the leaves, but I was thinking, "Is that radishes?" And said as much to my husband. By now I was very excited, but did not know if they were ready for harvest, so I waited a few more days, and took this picture before actually pulling one out:

And then, of course, I had to try one, so check it out:

Of course, I washed it off before I ate it, and it was delicious. We will have to do more harvesting soon. Maybe I'll find something else thriving in the kingdom of the pumpkins (aka my garden) but even if I don't, I'll consider this a success in my quest for being better at food storage. If I learn how/when to grow my food, and become more and more proficient at it, I will be effectively perpetuating my food storage--finding room to store seeds is often a lot easier than finding room to store the final product (though I recommend storing both if you have the means. :)

Why should you care about my radishes? It makes me think of this:

You don't have to know everything to try something.

If you have been reading my blog for very long, than you will notice that I have a lot of skills to work on. But I am trying to work on them. Some of these skills (like canning) require more equipment and knowledge than I currently possess, and those are on the wish list. I'm working on other ones, though, and gardening is an example. 1 for 5 is not a fantastic ratio (I'm still hoping for the onions, especially), but it's 1 more than I would have had had I not tried at all. Try gardening--you might like it. You may be really proficient at gardening and/or canning and/ or cooking with staples and/or name a skill, but if there is something that would improve your food storage that you would like to learn, go ahead and try it. Even if you have a miserable success ratio (oh, say like 1 for 5) you will still have more than what you started out with. And if you only end up with knowledge of how to do something better the next time, you still end up with something in the gain column.

Now, I really hope that my children will like radishes... :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Being neighborly

Well, first a word about the economy problems that escalated yesterday--and a word is about all that I'm qualified to say on the subject--if the economy causes some/all of us/only me/only you to have a personal emergency in the near or far future, anything that we are able to put aside now will help us then. It may mean that at least we have something to eat. Or it may mean that because we have that food stored, we will be able to meet other expenses. If you are already facing your emergency, please do what you can, and I hope that it turns out well quickly for you. There are so many ways that people can find themselves in need of food storage, that it's scary, but the more that we are able to do, the better off we will be. That's why I'm working on it. It's not easy, but in the long run it will be worth it.

Something that has made our lives easier lately is being neighborly. That old adage of what goes around comes around is true at times, and lately what has been happening is that what goes around in a trickle comes around in a flood. (I guess that means that I better be sure that the things that I am doing are good things... :) I'll give you a couple of examples. For purposes of this example, I am going to call my neighbors Bartholomew, Wenceslas, Theodore, and Chad. Yeah, we have to maintain privacy around here. Anyway, here it goes....

Not too long ago my husband took some raspberries over to Bartholomew's house, and at the time explained (this will be in my words, not his, since I wasn't there) that because his peach tree, that hangs over our shared fence, is not immune to gravity, nor to a small child's hands messing around, some of his peaches were lost to him, for which we were very sorry. Bartholomew graciously said that we could help ourselves to his peaches. As evidence of Bartholomew's generosity, I present to you his peach tree, as seen from our backyard:

Bartholomew's generosity did not end there, however. When he returned the dish that my husband had delivered the raspberries in, he also handed me a large bag of apples. So we got back a lot more than we gave him--but I think just the increase of good will trumps the fruit by a long shot, and as you can see, the potential fruit harvest was quite large.

Then there were Wenceslas and Theodore, who came by unasked to help my husband remove a rather unsightly bush from our front yard. I guess they noticed what was going on, and showed up with a truck and the equipment to yank that stump right out of the ground. Our family vehicle is not really built for that kind of activity, so it is much appreciated. Before I talked to my husband and found out how helpful Wenceslas and Theodore had been, I encountered Wenceslas myself.

I was calling my children in for dinner while simultaneously chasing them down the street, when Wenceslas came up to me with about 1/2 a box of apples. Here is the gist and not exact content of the conversation that took place:

W: Hey, do you want these apples? We've been doing everything we can with apples, and we just had too many, could you use them?

Me: Well, um....I don't know if we could use all of them.

W: Well, we just have too many of them, maybe if you could just use some of them...

Me: Well, ok, but if we can't use all of them, we just won't tell you.

W: Hey, that's fine. My next stop for these was the dumpster. (Hands over box)

Me: Ok, thanks! (Resumes chasing children)

Now, you may remember that we already had a big bag of apples that we had from Bartholomew. And these apples, though I did not examine them closely, were rescued from a dumpster run. I thought that at the very least, I could make it easier on him (isn't it easier to throw other people's things away than your own? :) and just dispose of them myself. I don't know how to can, and I don't have a juicer, and I already had a big bag of apples to use before they were fit for a dumpster run. What to do?

It was here that something that I've learned from my blogging neighbors came to mind. In an effort to build up suspense about what happened with the apples, (yes, I am totally kidding, but if you want it to be suspenseful...) let me tell you about some of the things that I have gained by being a neighbor in the blogosphere:

-- a ton of useful information from people who are willing to comment. Just a couple of examples: Thanks to gl and Bustednuckles, who left comments on my tenting post explaining why there was so much mesh on the thing, and options and possible problems concerning air mattresses and camping pads. Thanks to Stephanie and Nancy, who left comments on my post about using canned beans--suggesting canning your own beans, or drying them, and even left instructions and a recipe.

-- a ton of useful information from people who write blogs themselves. Posts by people like Riverwalker over at Stealth Survival, who has included posts on food tips, among many other useful emergency preparation topics. You can find out about what other people are doing to get better prepared in general, that would end up improving your situation in an emergency, like a wood stove purchase over at Woody's Rocky Ridge, or canning over at Johnson Family Farm (these people have almost convinced me that a pressure canner does not have to be a scary thing). Not to scare you away from my recipes, but check out Safely Gathered In for more food storage recipes--they have pictures with theirs. There are people that are literally living off the beaten path, and are willing to share their knowledge and experiences with others, found at blogs like Wretha's Adventures Living 100% Off Grid, or Homesteading Hickory Hills.

The list could really go on and on, and just like with our neighbors that live down the street, we may (and probably will) not agree with everything they do/say/blog about. But the benefits that come from sharing and learning from each other in the blogging neighborhood are huge. I am trying to help other people by recording what I learn and by writing about my own experiences. What I gain from other people blogging is like that flood return on a trickle. So my appreciation goes out to those mentioned, as well as those not mentioned--the list would be too long. But I'll probably mention more in later posts... :)

So whatever happened to those apples? Even before I went inside, I (having read about what happens over at Homesteading Hickory Hills, where they never waste anything) had thought about yet another neighbor, Chad, who owns horses. I do not know where they are, but I know that he owns them, and since I do not have pets of the apple-eating variety, I thought the apples, so close to dumpster status, may have been of use to him. Later, when my husband and I talked about the apples and he said maybe Chad would want them, I did say," Yeah, I was wondering about that myself...", but everyone knows that the credit goes to the person who says it out loud first... :)

The apples were delivered to Chad. I assume he was happy. Wenceslas was happy to be done with the apples. Bartholomew liked the raspberries, and we like peaches and apples. We also like having that stump out of our front yard. So what does this have to do with food storage? Quite a bit, actually:

--Having good will between neighbors can only help should an emergency situation arise where you need to help each other. If you don't know your neighbors, they may still help you, but it is easier to ask for help or offer help when you are dealing with people you already know.

--The apple incident was a good example of how, if we don't improve our skills while we can, we may have missed opportunities. I hate (actually more than you know) to hold myself up as a bad example, but just think of what I could have done with those apples had I known how to can, or at least been proficient at and had equipment for juicing. I didn't entirely waste the apples, but I could have put them to a greater use for my family had I had the skills. Just some more things for me to work on, and an example of a missed opportunity.

--If you end up with something you can't use, chances are good that someone else might be able to use it. This is true of those apples, and it is true of many things. Then, there are other types of resources that you "give," like Theodore and Wenceslas gave their time, and the use of their equipment without being asked. Some things, like the apples, needn't be wasted, even if they are, in your mind, "ready for the dumpster." And sometimes, the things that you give are not actually things that you will lose, except for a little of your time, but your neighbors will really appreciate it.

Whew, a little long-winded. This is one of those times that I am glad that I don't employ those gadgets on my blog that would show me how quickly people stop reading :) (if those even exist). In any case, being neighborly and having neighbors can bring big returns--in your neighborhood or in the blogosphere. I am glad that I have both.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Roughing it" the backyard

Well, we now, at long last, own a tent. If I were to do my poll from awhile ago, I would now be able to mark something besides, "we have a vehicle that would provide us shelter" in the case of an evacuation. Ah, sweet progress... :)
My husband and older children broke the tent in last night, while I stayed with the youngest in the house. Once the youngest stopped crying and standing at the door wanting to go out with everyone, my night was relatively peaceful. I heard this morning that one of the children was up approximately every hour and a half making the rounds of the tent. I asked my husband why he didn't just relocate that child to the inside of the house, and apparently pacing the inside of a brand-new tent is just much more desirable than getting to sleep longer periods in the not-so-new house. Oh well.
What I learned recently about tents/sheltering in tents:
--It is a little hard to tell everything about a tent just by looking at a picture. This might seem glaringly obvious, but before you stop reading, let me explain. This tent was ordered on-line, at a price we could afford, so we didn't have the box in our hot little hands during the purchase process. I have since looked at the box, and I'm not sure that it would have made a difference anyway. The picture shows the tent with the "rain fly" (thanks to my husband for the technical term) in place, so it was quite a surprise to us when, as he was setting up the tent, most of the tent roof appeared to be nothing but mesh. This may be why the tent was in our price range. This may be standard so that the tent can be used anywhere, including a hot climate. Whatever the reason, it was still an unexpected feature for us. The only way you can have privacy is to install the rain fly.
--Having the rain fly installed is fine. Until it gets windy. Wind+ rain fly = noise. All in all, a small price to pay for more room than is available in our vehicle. So if noise is an issue for you, and you're in the market for a tent with privacy, you might want to look for one made of a different material than netting. I personally didn't hear how noisy the wind/rain fly combination was, but I will take my husband's word for it. :)
--A well-placed phone call to my best source (Mom) last night led to a few extra purchases at the local national chainstore. According to her source, who has particpated in survival activities, if you don't have something between your sleeping bag and the ground in an outdoor activity such as the one that my husband and children were about to participate in, you will get a lot colder than you want to and /or should be. Apparently, the contact with the ground takes a toll on your body temperature. So I bought some camping pads for them to put their sleeping bags on. It was probably a wise choice, because my husband said that when they came in this morning, the temperature outside was somewhere in the 40s. (Special thanks to my husband, who, having participated in the scouting program, has done outdoor activities without such luxuries as camping pads. Personal experience notwithstanding, he was still willing to say to me, "Just get what you think is best." Expensive words for him--but oh, so useful ones for me. :)
--At the local national chainstore, there were two types of camping pads available that I saw, and one ran close to $6.00, and the other ran close to $12.00. So there are options available. While I was in the camping section, I saw a lot of things that I thought would be useful in an emergency situation. Priorities, priorities... :)
Well, I'm glad that we have a tent, have been able to set it up and use it before winter sets in, and that we have more information than we used to have. Our emergency preparation is a work in progress--glad to have moved another step forward.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Questions, answers, a canned bean recipe, and September 11

For those who are interested, here are the results of the last two polls that were on my blog: (as always, thanks so much to those who answer my polls!):

If an emergency situation were to occur, and we had to rely solely on food storage, the person/people I would worry about not eating what I have stored would be:

No one--we use our food storage all the time, so it wouldn't be a problem 33%
My spouse 11%
My child/children 44%
Older relatives who would depend on me 11%
Younger relatives who would depend on me 11%

On the surface, this might look like an odd question, because you could look at this question, and perhaps think one of the following things (among others):

--If they are hungry, they will eat it, and they should be glad to have it.
--Whoo-hoo, that means more beans/rice/wheat/stored staple for me!
--If they are going to come to me asking to use my supplies, when they haven't stored any of their own, just how rude is it that they turn up their nose at my beans/rice/wheat/stored staple special recipe when I am being nice enough to share?

(As an aside, those who know how to rotate their food storage so well that they use it all the time are at the point that I am striving to get to--you have my sincere admiration. Also, yes, I try to put a little humor into my posts, (hopefully no one would actually be doing the happy dance and shouting "whoo-hoo" in a time of crisis) but sometimes, you have to laugh a little--it helps if you're talking about a hard situation, and hopefully when you're in a hard situation. And to those who are planning to help others with your own supplies, should the need arise, my hat is off to you as well. If you are thinking ahead to plan for needs of those who might need your help, to prevent possible problems for the people you care about, in my opinion, you are ahead of the game. You know what they say about an ounce of prevention. Now, if only I knew if a whole paragraph can be considered an aside... :)

I understand the 3 reactions listed above--especially the thinking that if they are hungry enough, people will eat, and in a situation where food is hard to come by, it would be logical to think that people would be grateful for it. Problem is, people aren't always logical, emergency or no, and stress can create even more problems. You may have noticed that I would worry about my children the most in this case, and I consider my children to be pretty good eaters. There are few things that they don't like, so I consider myself extremely fortunate, having encountered other children who have few things that they do like to eat. My husband will eat mostly anything, and say he would eat it again, so I have very little to worry about in that department. However, I do worry about appetite fatigue. My understanding is that yes, people eventually overcome appetite fatigue when they get hungry enough. So my actual worry is that my children will refuse to eat, weaken their immune systems, and become ill in an emergency situation, even if the "not eating" phase doesn't last very long. This could happen to anyone, (though my understanding is that appetite fatigue is more common among younger and older people) and it would be more ideal that no one go through this particular problem at all. You know who the picky eaters are in your family circle, (whether related by blood or not) and if those of us who are "in charge" of the food storage for our circle take these things into consideration, we might be able to prevent possible problems in a crisis situation through making food storage meals a regular part of our diet, and storing some "comfort foods" for situations that might arise.

The next poll results were as follows:

How did your garden do this summer?

I got about the same amount of produce that I usually do 16%
I got less produce than I usually do 33%
I got more produce than I usually do 33%
It was the first time that I had a garden, and I am pleased with the results 16%

In hindsight, I should have made "I don't have a garden," an option, but hindsight is always 20/20. Congratulations to the first time gardener(s)!

We fell into the "got less" category this year, unfortunately. It was just too cold for too long--I think I may have mentioned in a previous post that it snowed in June, and we were late getting our seeds in. Our pumpkins will probably be our most productive crop, if the weather cooperates. I just like to see what is going on with other people in terms of gardening, so I guess I am not alone in getting less this year. I am happy for those who got better crops.

On the food storage preparation front, I now have prepared a recipe with canned beans. I made this recipe as a side dish this week. Aside from the usual differences in what is considered "too hot," it went pretty well. By which I mean that it was eaten, and will in all likelihood be prepared again, with possible adjustments concerning the chili/cayenne powder. (I of course used powdered and or dried everything so that I was using food storage supplies.) Pros: The preparation time was soooooooooooo much shorter than recipes that are made starting with dry beans, and hence there was less energy expended to make this recipe. Cons: I have read about people saying how making your own beans makes a difference in the quality of the beans. With my limited experience with canned bean recipes, (yeah, this is my first one) I would have to agree that I prefer the beans that I cook myself. I don't know if it's the flavor or texture or both, but I thought the ones I cooked from the dry stage were superior. It's not like I choose hard recipes--the preparation time that I am referring to is the long time it takes to actually let the beans cook all by themselves, rather than any elaborate chopping, slicing, dicing and/or spicing--it's just that I liked the slow-cooked- from- dry beans better. How's that for subjective? :) Anyway, thanks to the writer of the article for an easy and helpful dish--I just thought I would link to it in case anyone else wanted to try it. As always, I would love to hear about recipes involving food storage that work for you.

Yesterday was September 11th. I thought about writing a post, but I didn't know what to say. I saw on one of the channels that they were replaying the actual coverage from 2001--that's what it looked like to me, but I couldn't watch it for very long, because it's too painful for me to watch it again. My children will likely never remember and/ or understand what it was like before that awful day, but I remember. I remember that day. I remember the people who have fought and died to make this country what it is, and I remember those who are fighting for our freedoms now, and the sacrifices their families are making. This is not a political blog, but it is an American one. I appreciate the bounty, and the freedoms that we have here, and I am grateful to be an American. Any preparations we make now will help us and strengthen us should we be attacked in the future.
I liked the picture and the message found on The Barber Bunch website yesterday, with the phrase now associated with 9/11:
Never Forget.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Can't vs.Won't

In my current poll, right now finding a place to put food storage, and convincing those around us that food storage is necessary are tied for the highest percentage on my list of food storage challenges that people deal with. Here's another reason for those who may need a little more encouragement to get going when it comes to food storage: Why don't you do it just because you can?

There are some legitimate can'ts when it comes to emergency preparation and food storage. Among those that come to my mind are the following:

--Finances. If you are in a situation where you cannot afford to put any supplies aside, etc. then you can't. I would imagine that it has happened to everyone, at one time or another, that there simply weren't funds available to them to buy any (or extra) items. If the funds aren't there, you have a true (though hopefully temporary) case of can't.

--Space, as in space for supplies, or space for a garden. If you can't find space for storage, or you have no land for a garden so that you can perpetuate your storage by growing your own, then to my way of thinking, that is a can't. For example, in this article about a location in Britain, some people have no land for a garden, and they simply can't grow one because there is little or no place to do so. They can't grow a garden until they can find someone to give them an allotment of land, so their ability (can factor) is dependent on someone else's decision. Personally, I hope that someone with authority helps them out with that.

--Governmental restrictions would cause a can't factor. In the Family Home Storage Pamphlet, it is mentioned in the opening message that in some locations, you may not be able to legally store large amounts of food. As always, if you can't you can't. Although this is not currently the case in the U.S., since I don't know who reads my blog, if you are outside the U.S., and governmental restrictions apply to you, you are in a can't situation.

There are probably other scenarios that other people can think of, but these are the ones that I immediately thought of. There is can't. And then there is won't.

I'll come clean with a won't of my own, that I should turn into a will. Back in the day, when I was in 4-H, I learned how to sew. I did ok with my projects at the fair, but I disliked sewing. Not merely disliked it, but really, really, really disliked it. Hence, I have let my sewing skills lapse to the point where I would not be surprised if they were now non-existent. That almost sounds like a can't now, doesn't it? Here's why it's not:
--I have access to people who could help me learn how to sew again.
--I have a sewing machine that I received as a gift after I got married that I have never used. I have never given it away, either, because I know that there may be a day that I will need it. It is a pre-owned machine, used by someone who has worked in the past as a professional seamstress, so I am sure that it is a good machine. I could even ask her how to use it if I were motivated enough to actually open the thing up.
Yeah. Pretty much a poster case for won't. Yeah. Not a good thing.

So, what does that have to do with emergency preparation? Well, for one thing, if I decide that I simply won't change my mind and learn/renew sewing skills, I have lost the chance to develop a valuable skill that could be a big benefit in an emergency situation. What if transportation is interrupted for products such as clothes, and my children outgrow what they have? What if I need to know how to sew for other people so that I can use it as a bartering tool? What if prices rise to the point that it would be more cost-efficient to make our own clothes/bedding/dishclothes/needed items, and I need to sew those things out of pure economic necessity? How much good is " I could have learned how to sew" going to do me then?

When applied to food storage, how much good is " I could have stored food then," or "I should have listened to (name of personal "food storage enthusiast" here) when we could afford food/food was available", going to do then? There are times when you can't do much about the can'ts in life. Won'ts are only a problem until you decide to turn them into wills.

And sometimes you may not be able to drastically change the can'ts, but you might be able to improve your situation a little. For your consideration:

--This article gives some pretty good ideas about how to stretch your food budget. Hey, where I shop, beans went up $.10, but you can still buy them for $.88 a bag. If you can save even a dollar and can spare it for food storage, you might want to start there.

--You might have to get creative in terms of space when you are looking for places to put all that food storage. Speaking from personal experience, food storage doesn't make a bad base for a bed--I remember that a lot of the time when I was growing up, my mattress was placed on boxes of food storage that were covered with a dust ruffle. (Still wondering why Mom is my best source? :) I've seen other ideas out there--boxes of food storage made into a table, for example--sometimes creativity is the key.
--Another idea from my best source--if you have limited gardening space, consider buying a bag of potting soil, poking holes in the top, planting some seeds, poking some holes for drainage, and letting them grow. Sometimes, it may not be ideal, but you can work your way around some of the can'ts.

Mark Twain said, "A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read." I think the same holds true for people who may be on the fence or against emergency preparation or food storage for whatever reason: those who won't prepare will have no advantage over those who can't. Why not prepare because you can? What won't you do to help prepare yourself and your family to survive and/or do well during or after an emergency situation? These are personal questions, and as I have indicated, I have work to do myself. But sometimes just thinking about what we should do leads us to do what we can...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Preparation increases our choices

When we get prepared for emergencies, whatever flavor of emergencies they may be, we increase our choices. In fact, we may be able to increase our choices to the point that, in some cases, we won't have to choose at all. In a good way, of course.

If your children, or children that you have known, are like my children, you may have noticed something that happens when you offer them a choice when they are particularly young. The other day I had a couple of pieces of candy available that I was offering to my youngest child. I held one candy in one hand and one in the other, expecting a choice to be made. The child promptly grabbed both pieces and walked away. The same phenomenon occurs (at least in my family) if you hold out a handful of oh, say, M&Ms, to a child of similar age, expecting to share a few candies---you end up with a happy child and an empty palm. This latest experience got me thinking about how this applies to food storage.

Obviously, the more supplies you have, the more choices you have in terms of what to eat, wear, inhabit, etc. Then there are the not so obvious areas when you move beyond basic needs--what spices do you have so that you have choices in flavors? What recipes do you have (on hand, in ink, the old-fashioned way, that you won't have to look up on the computer, which won't be available if there are outages) so that you have choices in how you prepare your rice/beans/wheat/name your favorite staple? What seeds do you have stored, so that you have choices in fresh produce when you grow a garden? What skills have you acquired so that you have choices and options when it comes to bartering skills, should that be necessary? Where will you go if an emergency requires an evacuation, and what preparations have you made so that you have the most options available to you? What are your first, second, third, options when it comes to fuel for cooking and heating? I could go on--it's hard to mention everything, much less prepare for everything. But the fact remains that the more preparation that we do, the more options we will have.

Perhaps you have continued reading because of the statement in the first paragraph, where I mentioned that if we increase our choices enough, maybe we won't have to choose at all. There is the easier application of this principle: if we store both rice and beans, we don't have to choose between rice and beans, we can eat both, and figuratively walk away with both hands full, as my child did. Then there is a more sobering example, found in this article. The article is about a person in Ethiopia, whose brother's family is starving because of the conditions there. Her brother has nine children. She could only choose one to help, because her circumstances are also difficult. She may not be able to even help that one for much longer. It is a truly heartbreaking situation. There is discussion in the article about how the government is dealing with the situation in terms of choices as well, but I am thinking more about our preparation on a personal level, rather than a governmental one.

We are fortunate in the United States that conditions are much better than they are in some other areas of the world. We still have time to prepare, in many cases. I realize that not everyone has the means to prepare, and that there are many facing their own personal emergencies even as I write. However, in many cases, there is something that we can do, even if we are facing hard times right now. We can store seeds (hopefully non-hybrid, which will give us future seeds, and spare us future expense) and learn about gardening in preparation for next summer, or even learn about winter crops and act accordingly now. We can pick up an extra can of soup/bag of rice/bag of beans/name your needed storage item each shopping trip and put it on the shelf for a rainy day, instead of waiting for the time when we can afford to buy huge amounts in bulk. It will add up--and if the time comes when you can afford to buy a 6-gallon bucket for all of those bags, do so, fill it up, prepare it properly for storage, and start saving up again. The same principles for gradually saving up can be applied in many areas.

So how does this apply to the unfortunate family in Ethiopia? Well, if circumstances arise in our own families or communities that make it necessary for us to provide for other people, wouldn't it be better to have enough supplies stored that you could help as many people as possible? Whether it be one or two people, or even nine or ten, wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to help whoever needed assistance, and not have to choose at all?