Monday, February 28, 2011

Practical Preparedness - Pharmaceuticals

Every couple of years, we take an inventory of our medical supplies, both pharmaceuticals and wound care, and make major purchases.  This year, we are redoubling our preparedness efforts, so rather than making one major purchase, we are breaking things down into categories and making numerous purchases, otherwise the shear volume would overwhelm us.

A recent buying trip (to our local Costco) yielded pharmaceutical gold.  Here is a sampling of what we bought, and why....

  • Fleet Saline Enemas.  As people age and become less active, a little help in the waste management department is indicated.  Also, a change in diet, from a heavily laden fiber diet to a diet including mostly protein (as in a wild game driven TEOTWAWKI diet) will cause things to "stop up".  If not dealt with quickly and efficiently, constipation could prove to be a life-threatening condition.
  • Stool Softeners.  Basically, they are indicated for the same condition mentioned above, however, they would be a preventative, taken before complete stoppage.
  • Cough Drops.  For soothing relief of itchy throats due to PND and bothersome colds.  Something along the lines of Chloraseptic Throat Lozenges would be in order for sore throats.
  • Ibuprofen.  Fever relief and pain management.  Ibuprofen is good three years past the expiration date (per doctor), then throw it away. 
  • Quick Release Caps Ibuprofen.  For super fast acting pain relief or fever reduction.  Gel caps are more expensive and the shelf life is shorter, but can be worth the extra price.
  • Tylenol.  Fever relief and pain management.  Tylenol has no shelf life (per doctor), so it is an excellent long term storage option.
  • Aspirin.  Fever relief and pain management.  It also works as a blood thinner.  Aspirin lasts forever (per doctor), making it perfect for long term storage.
  • Children's Tylenol.  As indicated previously, but with children's dosage.
  • Children's Ibuprofen.  As indicated previously, but with children's dosage.
  • Tylenol PM.  Use as you would for Tylenol, but with the added benefit of a sleep aid.  In cases of extreme illness or pain, sleeping can be a great healer.
  • Benadryl Allergy.  Benadryl is the first course of action for an anaphylactic reaction.  It can be the difference between life and death.  We keep quite a supply on hand.
  • Children's Benadryl Allergy.  Same as above, but with dosage for children.
  • Neosporin.  An antibiotic ointment to be used on minor scrapes and scratches to prevent infection.  It can keep minor injuries minor.
  • Bag Balm.  Truthfully, we use bag balm in place of Neosporin regularly, with great success.  We do find that the Neosporin tubes are easier to transport in packs and bags.
  • Visine. When allergies come calling or you get something in your eye, there is no better eye wash.  It can bring immediate relief.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide.  The uses for hydrogen peroxide are too numerous to mention!  We use it extensively to remove blood from clothing and linens.  It is also a great gargle and antiseptic.
  • Betadine.  We use Betadine as a topical antiseptic.  You can scrub for minor surgery (or major) with a Betadine solution by mixing 2oz. of dish soap to 1 gallon of betadine.  This is an excellent solution to wash with and sterilize wounds.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol.  Yet another topical antiseptic for use in wound care (ie. sterilization of instruments).

Not only do we stock up on simple medications, we purchase large quantities of vitamins to maintain health.  Our daily regime consists of an Emergen-C packet every morning followed by a high quality multi-vitamin.  Emergen-C is available in bulk at Costco and is packaged in a foil packet (plastic is NOT an oxygen barrier!).  My all-time favorite multi-vitamins are made by a company called Beeyoutiful.  I love them!  I take Super Mom and they have worked so well for both Maid Elizabeth and myself that I just placed an order for Super Dad for Sir Knight!

Preparing for medical emergencies goes hand in hand with food storage, defense and communications when anticipating a grid-down scenario.   It's not just about preparedness - it's about Practical Preparedness.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Imagine my surprise and utter amazement when I received an email notifying me that JWR over at Survival Blog had awarded Paratus Familia with a Stylish Blogger Award!  I am honored.

As with any blog award, there are rules that govern them.  The rules of this award are, 1) I must divulge 7 things about myself and, 2) nominate 15 other blogs for the Stylish Blog Award.

Here are seven things about myself:

1)  My real name is not Enola Gay.
2)  I grew up field stripping M16's rather than playing with Barbies.
3)  Sir Knight and I watch way too many movies.
4)  I know how to jump start a 24 volt battery system with a 12 volt car battery.
5)  "Red Dawn" was the defining movie of my teenage years.
6)  I think they based the character of "Burt Gummer" in the "Tremors" movies on my husband (and my dad always thought I would marry a "bleeding-heart liberal"!)
7)  I am a second generation survivalist/prepper.

Now for the hard part!  I don't read fifteen other blogs, and some of these Blog Awards are going to be redundant, but here goes...

My Stylish Blogger Awards to to.... (in no particular order)

So that is it.  I don't read blogs, with the exception of those listed here, so my list is pretty short.

I do thank Survival Blog for this prestigious honor.  I am humbled.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Perhaps I qualify as a Redneck!?!

Maid Elizabeth and I picked up a book at the thrift store the other day with the express purpose of entertaining ourselves on the drive home.  It was called the "Redneck Extreme Mobile Home Makeover" by Jeff Foxworthy.  Maid Elizabeth read the jokes out loud to us (Master Hand Grenade, Miss Calamity, Princess Dragon Snack and Master Calvin were all enjoying the ride) as we made our way home from town.  We were all laughing uproariously and then, the jokes started hitting a little too close to home.   This is the sad state in which we find ourselves....

You Might Be A Redneck If....

  • Your central heating system consists of leaving the oven door open.
  • Your lawnmower says, Moo".
  • Nothing in your refrigerator was purchased at a store.
  • Your shotgun sees more action than your lawn mower.
  • You've tightened a loose screw with your fingernail.
  • You've ever hollered, "You kids quit playing on that sheet metal!".
  • The curtains in your living room are camouflage.
  • You have to go outside to get something out of the fridge.
  • Anything in your home is running off a forklift battery.
  • You think "prime real estate" is the chair next to the wood cookstove.
  • Going to the bathroom in the middle of the night requires shoes and a flashlight.
  • Any of your wedding gifts came from an Army Navy store.
  • You're saving up to gravel your driveway.
  • Your lawn fertilizer was in your cow about five minutes earlier.
  • You've ever had to have a wrecker pull your car out of a pothole in your driveway.
  • You don't have electricity in every room of your house.
  • You've ever heard "I told you it was loaded" while staring at a hole in your ceiling.
  • Privacy in your bathroom means singing loudly.
  • You've bandaged a wound with duct tape.
  • You've ever moved furniture in a horse trailer.
  • You use your bathroom plunger every day.
  • You've ever been stuck in your own driveway.
  • You stockpile pork and beans.
  • Drying your clothes depends upon the weather.
Are we rednecks?  I'll let you be the judge!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Essential Preparedness Tools of the Trade Part VIII - Otter Sled

I probably should have addressed the usefulness of the "Otter Sled" earlier this winter, but until we had a drifting snow, it didn't occur to me!

We bought an Otter Sled about three years ago, and have used it extensively ever since.  Otter Sleds were designed for ice fishing, but their practicality on the prepared homestead makes them a necessity for any prepper.  They haul huge amounts of cargo, have tall side walls and double as a boat in an emergency.  For our family, the Otter Sled is an all season workhorse.  Obviously, it is a wonder in the winter when we are up to our eyeballs in snow, but it has proved its worth in every other season as well.  We use our sled every day to haul a huge load of wood into the house, the kids use it for sledding down the sled hill.  We have been known to haul groceries, fuel and mail in it when the driveway has been drifted in.  In the spring and fall, the Otter sled is a better choice than any wheeled vehicle for toting heavy cargo around the homestead.  It slides over mud and moves through the grass easily.  And in the summertime, our kids use the Otter sled as a boat in the neighbors pond! They float packs and gear that they don't want to get wet across the creeks on the way to their super-secret hidey holes in the woods.

Hauling wood into the house

Hauling kids
Precious cargo

Hauling the mail up our drifted driveway - really!

As much use and fun as we get out of our sled it is no comparison to its survival value.  The sled is incredibly tough and very suited to hauling behind snowmobiles and other tracked vehicles.  You can haul it while on snowshoes, skis or even horseback.  And Otter makes a zip up cover for the sled to keep cargo dry or cover and insulate a patient you are transporting through the backwoods.

Otter sleds come in many sizes (even one that is Olive Drab - my personal favorite!).  They are available at most feed stores and usually sell out very quickly when snow season hits.  As far as I am concerned, our Otter sled is one of our most valuable winter-time survival assets.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The realities of "One Second After"

I just finished reading the book "One Second After" by William Forstchen.  Avalanche Lily, over at Survival Blog had recommended it as a riveting read, so I thought I had better check it out.

The basic premiss of the book is the realities of life after an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) attack over the continental United States.  Being sufficiently paranoid already, I found this book perfect fodder for my already overactive sense of preparedness.

One of the main themes of the book that haunted me was that of sickness and death.  Throughout history, it has been within the realm of women to care for laboring women, babies, the elderly, the sick and the dying.  Women, by our very nature, care for others.  Men were created to protect and provide for their families. Women were created to nurture and minister to their families.  As I read "One Second After", I realized that in a grid down situation the care for the sick would once again become the realm of women.  When there are no doctors, hospitals or health officials to "save" us from sickness, it will be the mothers, daughters, grandmothers and aunts that take up the mantle laid down by their ancestors and reclaim their place among the legions of women who lived lives of service caring for the sick and dying.

As a wife, a mother, a daughter and an aunt, I want to arm myself with information and the necessary equipment and skills to make me a formidable enemy to sickness and death.  I want to know the potential health dangers of a world without grid-power and readily available bathroom facilities.  I want to re-aquire the medical knowledge required to deal with diseases that have been vanquished by modern medical practices and clean food and water sources.  In that vein, I have been researching (with much help from Maid Elizabeth) ancient diseases like Cholera, Typhoid, and Typhus, along with once common childhood diseases like Mumps and Measles.  My plan is to put together a booklet with vital information - information like signs, symptoms, preventative measures, causes, methods of transmission, proper methods of contamination containment, indicated antibiotics (if any) etc.  I plan to include simple recipes for ORH (oral rehydration therapy) solutions, electrolyte replacement fluids, emergency baby formula recipes and even methods for dealing with such things as lice, without the help of modern medical interventions.

If nothing else, "One Second After" reminded me of the important role of women in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  I plan to go into battle armed with knowledge, skills and the resources I need to see my family through whatever comes our way.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wood Cookstove Tools of the Trade

The longer I have cooked on a wood cookstove the more I have come to realize the importance of a few good cooking utensils.  I find that I turn to the same pans and skillets over and over because of their superior performance both on the stove top and in the oven.  Using my stove has been an education, but the lessons I have learned are invaluable.  It has afforded me the opportunity to refine my techniques while I gather appropriate tools - before I really NEED them.  Here is a partial list of what I have learned.....

Cast Iron is your friend.  The beauty of cast iron is that it durable and perfect for use both on the stovetop and in the oven.  It cooks evenly and holds heat well - and after it has been properly seasoned, withstands the high heat of a wood cookstove remarkably well.  I have a variety of cast iron in many shapes and sizes.  Skillets by themselves are a workhorse, but coupled with a lid, they are indispensable.  I use skillets for all manner of stovetop dishes, but I use them extensively in the oven as well.  They are perfect for cooking a Frittata on the stovetop and finishing in the oven.  When I make pizza in the cookstove, I always cook it on the stovetop first.  Wood cookstoves are notorious for browning or even burning the tops of your baked goods while leaving the bottom white and gooey.  The answer to this problem is cooking on the stovetop first and popping in the oven for the final cooking and browning.  Cast iron is perfect for this.  Not only does it perform well on the top of the stove, but equally well in the oven.  In addition to numerous skillets, I have a cast iron Dutch Oven.  The Sheepherders Bread recipe I have just fits into my Dutch Oven and cooks to golden perfection when covered with the lid.

German Pancakes

Roasting pans.  The wonderful thing about roasting pans is that they have lids.  One thing that I quickly learned was that things brown long before they are cooked through.  You either have to buy truckloads of tin foil, or you have pans that you can cover to slow the browning process.  I generally bake until the top is golden brown and then cover with a lid.  This allows whatever I am baking to cook all of the way through but not become a charred mess on top.

Cake pans with slide on covers.  Just like roasting pans, they have a cover.  One of the biggest challenges in wood cookstove cookery is keeping the tops of your foods from burning.  Covers also keep moisture in casseroles and other dishes.  Wood heat is very dry.  Covering your dishes while they cook slows the evaporation.

Pie Shields.  Just like cast iron lids, roasting pans and cake pans with covers, pie shields will keep your pies from becoming burnt offerings.  It is amazing how a tiny, thin piece of metal protects your crusts from becoming inedible.

Tin Foil.  O.K.  I just had to say it.  Some of your pans just don't come equipped with lids.  As you can tell, my main concern while cooking on my cookstove, is keeping the tops of all my cakes, pies, breads and everything else from becoming blackened soot.  A few rolls of tin foil are worth their weight in gold!

Pear Pie
One final thought regarding cooking on/in a wood cookstove.  Most wood cookstoves have non-standard oven sizes.  My folks have a cookstove with a rather small oven.  Mom has had to search high and low for skillets and pans and cookie sheets that will fit in her oven.  Had she not been diligent in her search now, she may very well have been in for a very big, not-so-pleasant surprise at the End of the World as we Know It.

Wood Cookstove Cookery is an art and a science.  It is a challenge that is well worth the effort.  Having the proper cookware will be the difference between success and sheer frustration.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spot and Rachel

In my last post, I told the tale of King, our country neighbor and Rachel, our bouncy, happy-go-lucky, somewhat fool-hardy Irish Setter.

Rachel was a beautiful, golden-red Irish Setter with the most fantastic tail you've ever seen.   She waved it like a banner that goes before an army.  She was our forward guard.  When we kids would get off the school bus, Rachel would be there to welcome us and show us the way home.  When our family arrived home from any outing, she would meet us at the end of our 1/2 mile driveway and guide our car up the winding road, looking back frequently, to make sure we didn't get lost.

Rachel was my brother and my constant companion.  She never allowed us to explore the woods, creeks or fields without her, just in case she had to defend us, or, of course, there might be a bird, rabbit or ground squirrel to chase.  A dog had to think of such things!  Rachel was sometimes tethered to a knotted piece of baling twine so that my brother could "train" her, and other times she was dressed up in skirts and blouses, so that she could pretend to be the sister I never had.  Rachel was our faithful friend.

When I was about 13, I was riding my horse, Skitter down our driveway.  Horseback riding was my favorite occupation.  I never wanted to do the dishes, sweep the floor or feed the animals, but bring out a horse, and my eyes lit up.  I spent hours on horseback daydreaming of being in the Olympics.  One day I was a Cross-Country champion and the next day is was Stadium Jumping.  As I made my way through the woods, I would cue my horse to side pass, all the while, in my mind, I was in a Dressage arena, flawlessly maneuvering before the judge.  Anyway, on this particular day, I had taken a quick ride down the driveway.  My favorite part was coming home.  I always squeezed my horse into a canter as I passed the creek and sped up a small hill, making sure to be in my best form as I rounded the bend and our homestead came into view.  As I was cantering up the hill, Rachel, having a momentary Irish Setter moment, ran underneath my horses legs.  Hearing a quick yelp but nothing more, I didn't give it another thought.  When I reined my  horse in to dismount, a horrible sight met my eyes.  Rachel's long, beautiful tail was gone.  The feathered hair had been stripped clean and all that remained was a ghostly, white bone.  Our poor, gregarious dog was laid low.  Rachel, who was always the first to greet us with jubilation, was now cowering behind my parents.  She was desperately trying to hide her wounded member from our eyes.  Her pride was gone.

Dad and Mom transported our poor, embarrassed creature to the vet, about an hours drive away. There was nothing to be done but to amputate Rachel's tail.  Rachel came back to us a changed dog.  No longer did she meet us at the end of the driveway.  Now, she timidly wagged her stub when we showered her with praise and love.  Our dear Rachel was ashamed.

Not too long before the tail incident, we had acquired another dog, in a rather round-about way.  One day, on the way to town, we found a hound dog walking down the middle of the road.  It was rare to see a stray dog on our country road, but even more rare was seeing a stray hound.  Hounds are hunting dogs.  People spend a lot of money on a good hound and even more time training them.  Hunting hounds are a commodity, not to be misplaced.  Since this was a hound, we stopped and picked him up, knowing that his owner must be frantic to find him.  We drove to pick up our mail (about two miles from our house, on a little dirt road) and lo and behold, happened to meet up with the hounds owner.  His owner was a logger, who had picked him up on a lonely logging road in Montana, with paws bloodied from walking.  He named him "Snuf" and gave him the seat of honor in his logging truck.  We kids reluctantly relinquished our hold on "Snuf" and headed home.  By the time we made the two mile trip home, Snuf was sitting on our porch, patiently waiting for us to arrive.  He had never been to our house - but he knew just where to find us!  One more trip into town, to deliver this wayward hound once again, and we thought we were done.  It wasn't to be.  Once more, this lonely hound found his way to our doorstep.  After calling his owner (who decided Snuf must not really like him), we were the proud owners of a genuine mutt hound dog.  He was black with huge white spots (or white, with huge black spots?!), so we affectionately name him "Spot".

Spot and Rachel became fast friends.  Where Rachel was hyper and full of energy, spot was laid back and quiet.  Rachel liked to spend time in the house with the family, but Spot preferred an independent outside existence.  Rachel was nothing more than a target for cows, but Spot ruled the cows with a commanding presence.  The cry of "Sic em" had Spot rounding up the range cattle and heading them down the driveway and off the property.  If you said "Sic em" to Rachel, she was likely to jump up on your chest and cover you in sloppy kisses.

Rachel and Spot were opposites, but they were a team.  Rachel was the forward guard, taking the offensive and Spot brought up the rear, keeping an eye on everything from behind.  They were a perfect match.

One sunny, summer day, my mom and dad found Rachel laying still in the front yard, with Spot standing over her, keeping guard.  Mom put her hand on Rachel's chest, but there was no movement.  She tried valiantly to revive our dear pet, but Rachel's time on earth was done.  She had served her people well and her Master had called her home.

We buried Rachel on the hill behind our house.  Spot tried to dig her up, but finally seemed to realize that Rachel was no longer there.  And then, an amazing transformation happened.  Spot took over Rachel's duties.  No longer did Spot wait for us at home, guarding the house, but he met us at the end of the driveway, just as Rachel always had.  Now, Spot spent of "off-time" in the house rather than outside.  When we were out tromping in the woods, Spot ran ahead, no longer content to bring up the rear.  In Rachel's absence, Spot shouldered her duties.  He wore his new position with pride.

Many years have passed since my childhood friends completed their tour of duty.  They are now but memories to be passed on to future generations.  Spot and Rachel embodied all that is good in family pets.  I only hope that you, too, have the joy of sharing your life with some furry friends.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Country Wisdom

When I was a little girl, my family and I lived on an island in Puget Sound, about a 15 minute ferry boat ride from Seattle.  My father was born and raised there (I was a fourth generation Islander) and my mom had spent a good part of her youth on The Island.  When my dad was growing up The Island was rural.  He spent his youth exploring the coves and forests and anxiously anticipating his first hunting trip.  Although rural, The Island was small and charming and soon began attracting a rather affluent city population.  Little by little the woods gave way to housing developments and farms were demolished in favor of ostentatious show homes.  The strawberry fields that bordered our country acreage were swept away by progress and fences cropped up on our favorite riding trails.

My folks, in search of true country living, moved our family to the outback of Idaho.  We weren't city folks by any means.  We had lived on a couple of acres, grown a huge garden, had horses and even a cow.  But, as we quickly learned, we were ill equipped for true country life.

The property that my parents bought was beautiful, unspoiled and completely unimproved.  One of the first orders of business was fencing.  Our remote homestead was smack dab in the middle of open range country.  For those of you uninitiated with real rural living, open range is an area selected for local cattle ranchers to turn their cattle loose to graze during the summer months.  They bring huge cattle trailers (or more often stock trailers) full of cattle, stop in the middle of the road and open the chute.  Bawling cattle push their way out of the trailers and head for the hills - literally.   While open range is wonderful for the cattle ranchers, it is somewhat bothersome to the property owners.  Rather than fencing your property to keep your critters in, you fence your property to keep the range cattle out.  And that, my friend, is no small task!

As I said, when we moved, we were no city slickers, but we did have a lot to learn.  One day, as my parents were busy fencing, my brother and I were off exploring with our faithful pet dog.  We had a wonderful creek that was full of Rainbow trout and crawdads, and brother and I were knee deep, trying catch crawdads to show off to mom and dad.  Our dog, Rachel, ever the faithful companion, was splashing in the creek alongside us (making crawdad catching impossible) until she spotted a herd of range cattle.  As she ran off to make the cattles' acquaintance, my brother and I headed up the hill to join our dad and mom, who were setting fence posts into freshly dug holes.  Suddenly, we heard a thunder of hooves behind us.  We looked around in time to see our beloved pet dog running toward us full speed, with 40 head of cattle hot on her heals.  We started running and our dog ran faster.  The ground shook as the cattle charged.  Our little legs carried us as fast as they could, but the cows were gaining on us.  Suddenly, an old, leathered hand reached out and grabbed the back of my shirt.  I was flung through the air and landed in a hay filled wagon.  My brother was next.  He was catapulted into the wagon with what seemed to be super-human strength.  Red faced, with tears streaming down our cheeks, we were transported to our stunned parents by our weathered, elderly, but somehow ageless neighbor, King.  King had been working on his side of the creek, watching my brother and I play.  He saw our dog, who was a pet, but in no way a cow dog, take out after those range cows.  King, having homesteaded the very property we now owned, knew what was about to happen.  As my brother and I happily skipped up the hill toward our parents, King jumped onto his tractor and put the peddle to the floor.  As those cattle made a beeline for our dog, King made a beeline for us.  He literally plucked us from certain death.  King had country wisdom.  He knew that a dog was either a working dog or he was a pet.  Pets were all good and fine, but you never took them into the cow pasture.  Cows are either herded by dogs, or in the case of a pet, they chase dogs.  Being rural dwellers, but not true country folk, we had made an almost lethal mistake.

My parents endured a rather stern talking to that day, but they learned a basketful of country wisdom.  They learned that King, having lived a lifetime on the land had more to teach than they could ever possibly learn.  He taught them how to identify trees ready to be cut for firewood (not the ones that exploded into sawdust when they hit the ground).  He taught them how to snowshoe (even if he did take great joy in having my mom put her snowshoes on backwards the first time and watching her hit the deck!).  He taught them that cabin fever was real but very easily remedied by evenings spent with dear neighbors.  He taught them about real country living.

As the signs of the times become increasingly alarming, more and more people are seeking refuge in the country.  As we learned, the country is a refuge, but it can also be a stern schoolmaster.  Our family thrived because we listened to the country wisdom of those who had been there for generations.  We learned that everyone has something to teach.  We learned to listen, and we became the wiser for it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What "We the People" truly means....

A friend sent this and I thought I would share it with all of you.  This young woman basically sums up what I believe about gun control.  Hear her story......

Out of Eygpt

Maid Elizabeth found a rather interesting piece on World Net Daily.  I'll leave the interpretation up to you.....

(let the video roll for a minute...)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Simple Survival

Having lived off the grid for over ten years, running the gamut from completely non-electric to a fairly technical hybrid solar system, I have come to understand the complexities of real survivability in an extended grid-down situation.

The more complex our off-grid system has become, the more convinced I am that the simpler your system, the more viable it will be long term.  I have also realized that the more components that make up your system, the more fragile and prone to failure it is.  If any one system ceases to function, or function properly, it will affect the entire system.  Our photovoltaic system is a perfect example.  Our solar panels work wonderfully, however, the first day we installed our charge controller, it malfunctioned.  We installed a new charge controller, which worked perfectly, but about a year later, one of our two inverters quit functioning properly.  Without both inverters, we were no longer able to produce 220 volts, making pumping water from our well impossible, without a generator.  We have had generators fail, batteries lose cells and wind turbines fall out of the sky.  Our system is incredibly vulnerable.  If any one component fails, our entire system fails.  If you look to the power grid to provide your household electrical needs, your vulnerability is increased tenfold.  Our system, however primitive, has only five components capable of failing.  The power grid has hundreds.

Ultimately, you can spends thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on alternative energy, and you will still be quite vulnerable to complete system failure.  Looking to our forefathers for inspiration will yield a much more sustainable lifestyle that will provide our families with not just the ability to survive for the long term, but the tools and knowledge to flourish.  When considering a grid-down lifestyle, you may want to consider old fashioned alternatives versus high-tech options.  Here are some things that Sir Knight and I have discussed:

1.  Water:  Gravity fed is always optimal, of course, but when that is unavailable, low tech options are best.  Hand pumps for your well, water filters for ground water and water catchment systems are low tech, practical options.  When you rely on two inverters (like we do), if one fails, you are out of luck.  If you rely on your generator (like we do), running out of fuel or having your generator break down will really ruin your day.

2.  Food Storage:  Root cellars are great!  They are practical, time tested, reliable methods of storing food for the long term.  Keeping canned goods in a root cellar will increase their shelf life and your root crops will last all winter in their most nutritious state.  You can keep many foods fresh longer in a root cellar.  They require no power and very little maintenance.  Everyone should have one!

3.  Food Storage II:  An ice house would be an incredible, wonderful luxury.  With a little pre-planning, it is very attainable.  Milk, butter and other dairy products will keep well, even in the heat of summer, in a well insulated ice house.  Your lemonade and iced tea would actually have ice in it.  Ice cream wouldn't be an unheard of treat.

4.  Food Storage III:  Creating a "winter refrigerator" is a convenient, do-able idea.  Sir Knight plans on cutting holes in the back of our well insulated refrigerator and plumbing it to the outside, so that, when it is cool in the winter, we have the ability to open the holes in the back of the refrigerator and let the outside air cool our food.  Low tech and non-electric, it is a wonderful food storage option for the cooler winter months.

5.  Hot Water:  Plumbing a hot water tank into your wood cookstove provides free domestic hot water.  It too, is low tech, using only plumbing, not gas or electricity, just natural convection.

6.  Waste Management:  Everyone, and I mean everyone, should have an outhouse!  Very few folks will be able to keep up with a water supply capable of running a toilet.  An outhouse is a very sanitary method for dealing with the call of nature.  It would be by far less expense to build the Taj Mahal of outhouses than it would be to have an alternative energy system capable of running basic plumbing.

7.  Lighting:  Having a number of high quality kerosene lanterns and a supply of fuel, having candles and knowing how to make them, or utilizing a very simple 12 volt solar system (not requiring inverters) are preferable to a solar system like ours, that requires inverters, huge battery banks and charge controllers.

All said and done, we have learned a huge amount in our off-grid adventure.  One of the most valuable lessons has been "the simpler, the better".  We will keep our off-grid system, however, we will make a concerted effort to simplify.  Sir Knight is collecting all of the cables necessary to rewire our system to bypass the charge controller and inverters, if need be.  We are planning our root cellar and ice house.  An outhouse is on the books.  We have been stocking up on wick, fuel and spare parts for our kerosene lamps and lanterns.  Redundancy is good, but simple is better.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Can Sealer

As I mentioned recently, we have a can sealer.   Our thought was that it would be prudent to have foods canned not only in jars, but in cans also.  If an earthquake devastates our jars of food, we will have a back-up of home canned foods in metal cans.  If TEOTWAWKI overcomes us, we will have things canned in disposable cans to give as charity, rather than handing out our supply of glass jars.  Also, we would like to seal things in metal cans for long term storage.  Garden seeds, sprouting seeds, first aid kits, survival kits (both of which would be canned in cans with pop-top lids - not requiring a can opener), bouillon, loose leaf tea and whatever else we can think of.

We bought our can sealer used, from Craigslist.  It was in great condition, and appeared to have all its parts.  After much procrastination, we ordered a case of cans from Wells Cans in British Columbia (where you can also buy the can sealer we have), and attempted our first can sealing project - canning loose tea.  It was a failure.  It turned out that we had the wrong chuck for the cans that we were attempting to seal.  We ordered a new chuck in the correct size, thankful that we had used our equipment before we needed it, otherwise, we would have had cans and a can sealer that were completely useless!

Our first "crunched" can - using the
wrong sized chuck
After changing out the chuck and readjusting the roller spacing, we were ready to can.  Once again, out came the cans, lids and tea.  After a little tweaking (we had to adjust the spacers before the handle would lock correctly), we had a perfectly sealed can of tea.  Now that we have the kinks worked out, we are ready to order sprouting seeds, bulk bouillon and a number of other to seal and add to our long term storage.

The can full of tea
Putting the lid on the can
Adjusting the can in the sealer
Sealing the can
Newly sealed can
Isn't it beautiful!?
Tea, ready for long term storage
(I think I will have to have some pretty labels!)
As with everything else, we have once again found that in order to be truly prepared, you have to use it, use it, use it.

Canning Ham

I've been trying to stock up on canned meat, so every time I see anything on sale, I snatch it up.  My latest endeavour was ham.  Ham is so versatile - it can be used in soup, many bean dishes, with eggs, hash browns and even ham salad.  It is very easy to prepare, just cut it into chunks, put in canning jars, cover with boiling water, add salt and cap off.  I canned pints, so I processed the ham for 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.

Cutting up the ham
Miss Calamity filling jars
Jars of ham lining the shelves

A full larder, a happy wife makes!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Marked by faith

It is easy to become discouraged - to lose faith.  I am certain, with every fiber of my being, that God is directing our family to move.  Although I have missed "home" for a number of years, Sir Knight and I have never felt directed to move there - until a little over a year ago. God had to change both Sir Knight's and my heart and open our eyes to new possibilities for us to even consider this move, but we both are convinced this is the direction God is leading.  I am so certain that we are moving, that I have packed up a majority of our belongings.  But then, I open my eyes and see our failing economy, lackluster real estate market and international unrest and I start to question.  Did I hear you right, Lord?  Is it really you, or just my own desires cloaked as "your will"?  I begin to lose faith.

As I was sweeping my shouse today, thinking about that fact that nobody would ever buy our property and we were "stuck" here forever and generally feeling sorry for myself, I began reflecting on the uprising currently overtaking Egypt.  Our world is experiencing the consequences of one woman's lack of faith.  By encouraging Abraham to produce children with Hagar, Sarah gave birth to the Muslim nation.  God had told Sarah many years before, that she would be the mother of a great nation.  Years went by, hopes faded and Sarah decided to take matters into her own hands.  She decided to "help" God out.  In doing so, she was directly responsible for the greatest enemy of the Hebrew people to ever walk the face of the earth.  Not only did Sarah lose faith, she caused her husband to questions his faith as well.

As usual, God spoke to me through His word.  He showed me my propensity toward a lack of faith.  He showed me that no matter how long it takes, He is faithful in His promises.  It doesn't matter if everything looks hopeless - He has it under control.  He also showed me that one woman's faith (or lack thereof) can affect the entire world.

I will be steadfast.  I will not lose hope.  I will be marked by faith.