How Many Bandages Are Enough?

Hurt lady      This past week I have been organizing and taking inventory of personal hygiene and medical preps. One of the big problems here is that in this end of Florida we don’t have attics and basements to store goodies – even the storage sheds are not great places because they are not climate controlled usually in our yards! Needless to say that means being creative and organized or else we will never find what we need if and when we need it!! For us it means several large totes stored under beds in addition to drawers that are set aside for items. Each tote and each drawer holds a different type of item – shampoo, soap, toothpaste, etc in one tote, meds in another for example. Totes need to be labeled to help those helping you find the right items. Small first aid kits are good enough for a car but our home supplies are a bit more plentiful obviously. This weekend I learned how much more would be needed if in any bad situation.

Untitled            Did you ever happen to take a count of how many bandaids you go through when someone manages to hurt themselves? Working folks – especially those with messier jobs –  tend to change those bandages more often and many of the cheaper ones really don’t stick all that well anyway. That means more frequent changes and using more. Well if and when there is any sort of disaster or SHTF situation, cleanliness and being sterile is not going to be an easier task than now! That means more disinfectant and more towels or cloths to clean as well as water.My DH uses a blood thinner – so this weekend when he cut a finger, what should have been no big deal turned into a bit more of a complication for him. He was helping me with our animals as in rearranging hutches and animals when a small knife (very small one matter of fact!) decided to not lock in place but wrap itself around his finger! Sigh…. Now for myself or anyone else normally it would have meant pressure packing it and lots of tape after antibiotic ointment but not so easy for him. We had a trip to the ER for stitches and a tetanus booster.

The trip was actually not a bad one in that we had a chance to meet someone else who is “into” being self-sustaining too. We enjoyed our conversations and actually learned a lot. I received an impromptu lesson in suturing too! But then we went home where I suddenly was confronted with how different this seemingly minor incident could be in a SHTF situation. Now I am not really into warfare and preparing to do battlefield surgery after the zombies are defeated – but I am certain that even though I have a lot of stuff put up, it’s not nearly enough!     bandage guy

Cleaning up blood when someone is hurt is a mess in itself! Out comes the rags or paper towels and bleach or other disinfectant cleaners. Then let’s talk bandaids again! Oh my! The need for gloves also is an obvious one – can’t even do dishes with stitches or cuts on the hand! Having those animal chores is also going to be a problem to keep the cut clean! And rubber (or latex) gloves makes the hand sweaty meaning more bandage changes and cleaning to avoid infections! The need for plenty of antibiotic ointment is also evident based on what I have used up this week alone! Good old fashioned soap and water is the best germ and bacteria deterrent out there. Cleanup also means more trash bags too – or burning your waste later if safe to have a fire.

hurt dog      Hydrogen peroxide is one of those wonder products with so many uses, it’s crazy. Just do an internet search for the list – but it will remove blood stains in a fast minute in addition to cleaning a wound. The same day we had our finger cut situation, the dog managed to cut the pad of his foot. He also walked all over the white cement deck out back and dripped a continuous trail of blood in the process. One large bottle of hydrogen peroxide later, the white cement was clean. So was my t-shirt where he jumped on me to complain!

Keep your eyes open for great sales and coupons to shop at chain stores and the “everything for a dollar” type places are a great source for bandaids and gauze pads as well as medical tapes. I personally am not a fan of off label or unknown brand medicines because so many are not made to standards now. Things that get used and tossed like bandages are not as bad. I will warn you that cheaper ones are not as good at sticking as some of the fancier cloth ones but they can be useful! Trash bags are also cheaper there. Read labels to know where your medical supplies were manufactured. You may want to avoid certain countries of origin if at all possible – not all are as strict about sterile conditions and bandages and gauze should be sterile. Stores such as Aldi or Big Lots will often have great deals available on name brand items.

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Work Work Work – In Other Words, No Fun at the Homestead

kitchen        One of the things no one talks about is how much work it is to be self-sustaining. Maybe that’s because somewhere along the way we have lost our work ethic. Or maybe it is because this new life style of being prepared is supposed to be so superior, so glamorous. After all some of the biggest names in the “prepping” world run big splashy blogs and sell branded items with their logos and write books too. They have Face book pages devoted to their lives and thousands follow every word faithfully. How many TV shows are now devoted to the movement? And it’s not only an American phenomenon! You can read blogs from around the world now talking about the same things.

The reality is that running a self sustaining homestead of any size is hard work and lots of it. There is nothing glamorous about it either! Chicken coops need to be cleaned out – and chicken poop smells! When it rains (like it seems to do constantly lately   in many parts of the land), the poop smells horrible. Yes, do not waste your time telling me a clean coop does not smell. I know that and I clean constantly – more often than most probably because I do not want neighbors upset with us. I use herbs to freshen their nest boxes and I use coop compost deodorizers too.

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Rain helps to breed flies and that is another issue few folks talk about. The chickens enjoy eating bugs but even they cannot keep up with bug patrol without my help. Whether it rains or not, the animals need to be fed. And winter months it snows. They still eat.

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Now let’s talk about the rabbit hutches. There’s another smelly messy yucky job! The manure makes great fertilizer just like chicken manure does. But most of us do not live on huge farms or homesteads where we can have piles of this stuff sitting waiting to be used. We have gardens to use it in but can only use so much at a time. I share with everyone I know but not everyone wants any. For some reason many folks think buying their fertilizer in neat little bags that have less smell and muss is a better choice?

So then I have to raise the next messy smelly and not fun issue. We raise our rabbits for a food source. That means butchering and cleaning up afterwards. Someone has to do this job too! It is not a clean job and it is time consuming to boot. Again living in a neighborhood, I am not going to be leaving this around for animals and flies and smell to take over. That means more work to dispose of the leftovers properly. How that is done depends on where you live and those local ordinances too.

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Having a garden that yields enough food to feed your family takes a lot of back-breaking work. The gardens you see on those web sites are beautiful and it is exciting to break ground to start a garden. There are lots of tips and hints out there to encourage you on the journey. Planting a seed and watching it grow is a wonderful experience for the children. But how many of you were made to help weed gardens (even a flower garden) when young? Rain makes plants grow but it makes weeds flourish and outgrow the veggies! Trying to fight those squash beetles without using nasty chemicals is a challenge and takes work. That home grown fertilizer is now going to smell at that end of your yard too! Weeding is a never ending task no matter how much you mulch.

Does all this mean it isn’t worth it? Does it mean it’s a waste of time? Several of you would rather buy convenient no fuss MREs. They can have a place in some prepper situations but one important point to remember is that sooner or later that food source may not be available. Why exactly do you want to prep, to store food, and/or be self-sustaining? Are you preparing for the apocalypse or simply want to control what your family eats? Are you an environalist or simply wanting a more simple lifestyle? I personally am a little bit of all of the above. That however also brings challenges of its own to the plate.

I am not well to do. I don’t have enough money to buy the huge plot of land far from the rest of the civilization. It’s doubtful to say the least that I could afford to live way out there anyway. I certainly can’t afford a separate “bug out” location secondary to my home.  I have to work a full time job to support my family. That means the homestead has to fit around other obligations in my life. Most of the work falls to me. Yes, I do have some help in the form of feeding the animals or penning them up at night away from predators. But the more physical aspects are usually my job. Occasionally I can afford to pay for additional help to work in the garden but that is not the norm for us either. My days off from my full time work are not days of rest. Lazy days are few and far between. And this was reality for most folks only fifty or sixty years ago. Women worked from sun up to sun down on the farms. They took care of kitchen gardens and small animals as well as cooked, cleaned, did laundry, made soap, sewed clothes, and so on. That list went on and on! It was second nature to most of them and few thought twice about it. There were harvest festivals to celebrate the end of one season of work before starting the next. Barn raisings and slaughter days were social events built around helping each other accomplish some of those necessary chores everyone had to accomplish!

If (and I accept it is a big IF) any of the scenarios we fear do come true, our young folks will have a shock adjusting. I suspect many of us will have a shock, even those who thought they were prepping and prepared. Back in the Great Depression stories abounded about those who could not accept what happened and committed suicide or lost it emotionally and mentally. We have a lot more population to contend with who will not have a clue how to survive or where to even begin. Does this mean that we shouldn’t bother with any of this? Does it mean that we not enjoy life and the conveniences or perks we have now? I enjoy having my nails done and wearing my high heels and going out to eat, being waited on too. I like my silks as well as my jeans. I enjoy shopping at Publix (such a clean store with beautiful produce and fresh meat) as well as eating a tomato from my garden! I love shopping the deli as well as opening one of jars of home canned foods. There is pleasure in both and there is no sin in admitting it. Just as it is not an unspeakable sin to speak the truth about the yuck factors of being a prepper or homesteader! Surviving is more than just stock piling food and weapons. It means being prepared in body, mind, and soul for all of the challenges that we face! Be honest in sharing the reality with others because not knowing and suddenly being thrust into it will be stressful – too stressful for most. Having to face the realities shouldn’t scare anyone away. It means rather that we are honest with ourselves about the work and less and worse involved and that we face those challenges honestly. There is pleasure and sense of accomplishment and pride in a job well done. Those eggs taste better for many reasons! The pantry is pretty because of the colors but also because of the work that went into filling it. The peace of a good night’s sleep from the work is a sweet sleep indeed. Sitting out on the patio in the wee hours of the morning watching the sun rise while sipping coffee and listening to the sounds of the chickens is great feeling… no matter how much work it takes, this is the mornings I live for.

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Managing Time and Money For Less Stress

20130605_094051     I have been a bit quiet for awhile due to some time needed elsewhere. That made me realize that I should take a few moments to talk about the stress levels we are all facing here. Many of us have been experiencing an overload factor thanks to news, political fiascoes, and world events such as reading about food restrictions along with toilet paper limits in Venezuela. All of these combine for those into prepping as one big red flag telling us to prepare! Take that along with a healthy dose of weather calamities such as the OK. tornadoes and impending hurricane season here and we feel a “perfect storm” brewing – that watched pot is going to boil over soon if we cannot find a way to safely lower the temperature! For many the desire to garden is being replaced by frustration as snow in May with freezing temperatures or constant rain elsewhere is wrecking havoc with the gardens and seedlings struggling to survive. Then let’s all read about honey bees being decimated and we add another level of stress and tension! Sooooo….

       Take a deep breath, brew that cup of calming tea (no liquor – it will not calm you right now… hehehe!) and we can chat. Prepping is like insurance. When that bill comes in yearly and you realize what a chunk of change it takes to have homeowners or renters insurance and car insurance, the blood pressure usually goes up a notch or two. The we remember we take care of this in smaller bites along with the mortgage or rent payment (no gulping here) or in monthly or quarterly payments. That may not make it totally better but it is more manageable for most folks – few of us write that one big check to the insurance agent once a year! This is how we need to approach our prepping, how to make it fit in without causing us more grief. Very few of us can honestly believe we are prepared to face every and any threat we may face. That should not translate to a do nothing attitude but rather to realize if we put a bit by to help alleviate a bit of an unexpected bill, we can usually manage better than having nothing set aside.

20130605_093925       20130605_093956       This is true of our time as well as money and preps. There are times to focus on yourself and realize that no one can do 100% by themselves and go at a full out pace 100% of the time. It is important to take time to step back every now and then, to let yourself recharge. Maybe not listen to the news for a few days – or maybe like myself you have a need to do some additional research and reorganizing in order to be better prepared.  I was fortunate enough to be gifted with a copy of a great old book that has a wealth of information on more stuff in one book than anyone can believe. In addition I worked on adding lots more information to my notebooks that I had reorganized into more easily navigated sections. My ultimate goal with my notebooks will be to develop a table of contents that helps with that process. One of the other projects was canning more food items. Let me discuss this in terms of time management. Actually this will also apply to managing expenses too!

It can be difficult to find time to spend a whole day or two or three to can foods for your pantry. We often need to do that as harvest time comes along and we have bumper crops of food that may or may not be available all year long. But often we have a lot less time free to spend in a kitchen all day. I have found that like this week it is better to find two or three hours available to do smaller projects instead. So this week I spent a couple hours making pickles. I didn’t go out and  buy 200 lbs. of cukes. Instead I took 15 pounds of cukes and made a couple smaller batches. No fuss and easy clean up while they were processing. I harvested a small batch of jalapeno peppers and made 2 pints of pickled peppers. In less tah a half hour I added to my food pantry. Jar by jar, pound by pound the shelves get filled and we have a sense of calm knowing we are adding to our “insurance”. All of this was done after work each day, taking only a small bite of time so that I was not overtired or overworked. While bread was baking one afternoon, we roasted a sheet pan of garlic at the same time. Ten minutes later we used a one cup food processor/blender to grind them and then added them to a cup of butter, stirred it all by hand a few moments and had a jar of roasted garlic butter at a fraction of the cost of buying a specialty butter. Butter is too dense to safely can so this jar is kept in the refrigerator to have handy to make garlic bread whenever the craving hits! We didn’t make 50 pounds of butter, just one that took less than 20 minutes from start to finish while cooking bread. Again a stress free project instead of creating more stress!

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Remember all of this is to lessen stress, not increase it or overwhelm ourselves! Pick and choose what needs to be a priority versus what can be cut back on to manage time better. If it means stepping back and then stepping forward as I do with my writing, choose to do what works best in your life. Prepping should fit into your life as part of your habit, but not to the point of consuming you so that everything else gets ignored. If you end up with high blood pressure from stress, you won’t survive to need those preps. Have fun with what you do. If you don’t like to can, find other foods to put up. No one says you have to be the master at everything so find someone to share those tasks with. Maybe barter your sewing skills for some home canned foods if need be. Or perhaps you’re a mechanic who can barter for food storage. Be creative in ways to manage time and stress!

Thoughts on Prepping, Food Storage, and Being Self Sustaining

I have been more quiet the last few weeks while we adjusted to new routines and life style here at home. I have been busy though working on projects and taking notes (including photographs) so that I can share with all of you as we glean results and master some learning curves! Events unfolding around the world have certainly been leading our family to see the importance of being prepared, being able to take care of ourselves without expecting government or any charity or volunteer groups to be able to pick up the slack in caring for the huge numbers of people who will be impacted by any one crisis.  I was in shock at the sheer numbers of folks who were not able to last 24 hours in their homes without needing milk for babies or diapers or medicine for older folks. It was nice to see photos of policemen who were willing to help bring milk to some of those impacted but it was shocking to know that even in “nice” neighborhoods there were some who could not take care of themselves. With the war on terror coming home so obviously now, it is a reminder to many of us that we cannot become lazy in learning to care for ourselves. So with this in mind, I have been doing more research, more reading, more printing out of ideas, lessons, recipes to add to our notebooks. For those of you who prep for an EMP, I have not yet built a Faraday Cage of any type for any of our electronics. Economic hardship could also influence power supply as well as weather conditions. Therefore it makes sense to have hard copies to refer to when it’s not possible to access the internet.

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Our family has gotten quite ambitious with many projects all at one time. We decided to rearrange the rabbit pack a bit. We had 6 breeding pairs but decided to limit ourselves to only four of the more healthy rabbits for two breeding pairs. That will provide plenty of meat but be more manageable for us. We purchased a new male who is not related to the two females so that we could introduce a new strong bloodline to the mix. We will then be able to cross breed the next two litters. Interestingly we discovered by accident that a neighbor of one of our sons is a “closet prepper” as he and his wife adopted six of our rabbits from the previous litters to have a meat stock! Although they have not spoken about anything specifically, my son was encouraged that this was a positive! They happen to have a new unused chicken coop so the rabbits have a comfy home. However they seem to also have plans for chickens. My son has also started to hear a rooster crowing nearby every morning letting him know someone has managed to sneak a flock into the neighborhood. That particular town is not a chicken friendly one and roosters are a definite no-no! We added to our mini-flock this past week also. We took a ride south of us to a farm and were able to purchase some pullets almost ready to start laying. I kept them in a smaller cage within the pen for about 4 days to allow our girls to be used to the appearance and smell of the new gals. Naturally the bigger girls are still playing boss hen but they tolerate the new additions pretty well and everyone sleeps together fine each night now! One of the pullets is a rooster so we will see how he does. Our neighbors are aware and seem to have no objections so far. They actually all requested we find one so that the flock will be self sustaining if need be. If he becomes too aggressive with our family later or too annoying to the neighbors, we can return him to the farm or cull him for chicken soup! One bigger decision for us is that we want to increase the pen for our chickens to be a fully enclosed one. We like having them free range but we are becoming aware of outside predators such as hawks and raccoons hanging around. We have the chickens to an area where overhanging trees and shrubs offer a great natural barrier to the hawks but the raccoons are a different story. One would not think a city neighborhood would be plagued by raccoons but we have quite a few. Growing up in the woods of Connecticut I used to love to watch raccoon antics – and had a friend who had pet raccoons. However his parents made sure the coons were vaccinated to avoid any serious issues! Not so here in Florida unfortunately where the raccoons seem to be fighting rabies too frequently. We don’t want to restrict the chickens from having more than only a minimal pen so we will enlarge this one but also give it a wire roof to keep out all predators!

This has also been  great weather for working in the garden This past week we planted a new grape vine so that we now have an arbor with Muscadine as well as a beautiful Concord on another arbor. The wisteria has been blooming giving off such a pretty soft aroma while we work outside! I also planted a banana tree so that we can eventually have some bananas for our food supply. We strung jute for the bean vines – made trellises for the vines to grow along to get best yield. Everything is sprouting flower buds and the tomatoes are already starting to ripen. There are about twenty more San Marzano seedlings sprouted so hopefully we have lots of tomatoes this year! We need to get lots more seedlings going for continuing harvesting on everything though. This year the plan is to watch the counts so that we can determine how many of each we actually need to have enough to store in addition to enjoying fresh from the garden. Our potato vines have been growing – we set some seed potatoes in tires and filled with dirt. Now we need to build them taller but are going to use straw instead of dirt – supposedly this allows potatoes to grow but makes it easier to harvest them later so we’re experimenting.

This week I taught someone how to can. She had major surgery recently so could not do most of the work but she helped my husband to chop the Roma tomatoes into small chucks. Then I made a marinara sauce that cooked for 4 hours each batch. I say each batch because we purchased 250 pounds of tomatoes! Along with that we also purchased 50 pounds of big onions of which we used about 20 pounds for the marinara. All told at the end I cooked and canned over 120 quarts of marinara sauce. I was one very tired cook! I also managed to take lots of photographs so we will have a few posts on the progress of making sauce and canning. We also dehydrated several onions making a form of onion powder to put up in jars. I have a few hints I will be sharing later with you all about onions too!

Think Healthy Now!

DSC_2015     One issue we have not discussed in any depth is health. I have been silent the last few weeks while we dealt with some of those issues within our family. So now I am going to use this opportunity to admonish many of you in as gentle and loving a way possible! If indeed things conspire to bring about a SHTF situation due to any number of reasons, your health and that of your loved ones and friends will be paramount in how all of you survive – how you live! Rice and beans are survival food but in no way can they be considered perfect nutrition without a more full diet. Contrary to popular belief, starvation will come in many forms later on. Let’s consider a few of those scenarios.

If in fact the electric goes down or war happens or “merely” economic collapse, we can all rest assured we won’t be indulging all of those sugary or salty or fattening treats that keep us all on the bit overweight or challenging weight side! We will probably all conquer our personal weight loss wars at that point in obvious way. Most preppers will tell you that it will be important to “blend in”, to not stand out as robust or super healthy in a crowd of emaciated people! But there is another side to this reality.

Our bodies are going to be pushed, taxed to their limits. Even if jobs still exist as we know them, you will be forcing yourselves under more stressful lifestyles then. There will be rougher choices to make, more emotional stressors to deal with then you are used to now. That type of stress takes a physical as well as emotional and mental toll on a person. In addition there will be more physical tasks to be taken care of. There are plenty of articles written by bloggers who believe we will be forced into physical combat or at minimum, security tasks to protect family and home. I am not going to be discussing those particular issues but rather that you think in terms of what it will take to survive otherwise. For example, you may need to consider supplying wood for heat and cooking. It will not be easy to chop and split those larger amounts of logs. Working the soil and then planting and weeding a garden is a physically exhausting work. If you have not been able to store water and make a close source for water, hauling it will be difficult as well. Perhaps you will be forced to bike or even walk everywhere instead of using a car.  Calories in against calories needed will be much different from now. None of this will be possible if you are not physically fit and able.

So for those of you still young enough to bring about healthy changes to your lifestyle now, please consider doing so. I am not referring to becoming a gym fanatic or going on restrictive diets that never allow for that piece of cake or extra coffee. But I am strongly advising you to pay attention to your health. The costs of seeing doctors or worse hospital treatments will continue to rise, Obamacare not withstanding. The best option is to not need to have any continuing medical needs now such as high blood pressure or heart conditions or diabetes. You should be doing everything within your power to avoid fat mass but rather to build the strongest healthiest muscle mass possible now. Try to learn to eat without added salt – sodium is not healthy in larger doses. We have been learning to eat with low to almost no sodium in order to combat certain health issues our family faces. This is in addition to already paying attention to sugar and to low fat, low cholesterol choices. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to avoid as many if not all convenience foods – prepackaged items usually loaded with salt and or hydrogenated fats or sugars.

One of the biggest rules most preppers will encourage others to remember is to only stock what your family likes to eat. That translates to teaching everyone in the family to learning to eat healthier now. An added bonus to  all of this is to start reading those labels. Aside from the shock of those content percentages and amounts to a single serving, you will also learn just how many of our food products are not only admittedly full of chemicals but also just how many are packaged if not also grown in China! I am not sure how it is that we Americans have allowed the shipping of American grown products to China to be canned or frozen or prepared into something else but it is even more inconceivable that we accept that it is cheaper to do this than to package them here! Read the fine print and the print on the back of labels – Pacific salmon does not guarantee that it is also prepared here! The horrors of tainted food products for our pets and then the poisoned baby formula should have all of us thinking twice about how that happened! China is among those countries that allow fields to be fertilized with human excrement. Yet we know that many salad growers have in turn dealt with salmonella contamination.

Perhaps the only way to avoid this is to grow one’s own! Learning to can, dehydrate, and even freeze properly makes this an even better   bet for most families. Have the children help – teach   them to grow their favorites. Most children enjoy the process when involved. What better way to instill pride and self esteem than to let them be responsible for those radishes or sweet strawberries! Nothing tastes better than a fresh picked watermelon on a hot sultry summer’s day! My grandchildren get a kick out of helping to can tomatoes or make pickles. They love the jam making process too. Eating warm applesauce on a chilly afternoon is another of their fun moments! They may not think about healthy eating but grandma does!

Think in terms of what your family eats now. Is it healthy? Are your children or grandchildren fussy eaters? It is possible to store treat foods and favorite comfort foods but try to teach more healthy habits now before a crisis situation occurs. Use vitamins wisely and stock them. Coupons will help bring the cost down. Make exercise a part of your lives. That doesn’t mean just gym workouts. Take the children bike riding. Take hikes. Invent contests like who can swim more laps or who can carry heavy bundles. Working in the garden will help burn some of those extra calories but nothing has to be only work. More important is to also use those times for boding relationships. Talk together and listen to each other – even those silly stories that little ones spin can mean a lot that mom or dad took the time to listen. Remember too that church and prayer time along with bible study also helps to build a stronger more united family. Share together during those times. I am not suggesting any particular dogma nor do I want you to live under such rigid religious rules that the children resent this time. Rather I want you to realize that spiritual preparedness is an important part of the emotional and mental health part of being prepared. Use whatever your religion or spiritual belief system tells you as a means to ready for whatever comes! All of this will make your stress levels go down – do not fear what may or may not happen. If your prepare now, it is like having a special insurance policy that not everyone else has considered!