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.

Necessary Work Made Fun

Every now and then we need to do certain chores as we prep and store that can be boring or time consuming or just plain not fun. I hate anything that makes me more stressed so I’m always on the lookout for ways to avoid more stress. Because I hate stress and how it makes me feel, I’m sure most of you look for ways to avoid it too. After all the whole point of being prepared is to be able to face most trouble stress free! Just like an insurance policy should make you feel a bit less stressed, I like to think of my food storage as food insurance!

Anyway back to the point here – one of those horribly not fun jobs is to take inventory of the food supplies or to sort things into logical order in the pantry. So as I was taking count today, I decided why not label things. I keep sharing jars of food here and there and I hate to always be explaining the contents, use by date, and most important to remind everyone to return my jars and rings!

I happened across some great labels online at the pickyourown.org – and then went searching for some more.

label 1        label 2      I also ended up designing a few more of my own. The labels were made to fit some of the commercial labels you can purchase and print but I tend to be frugal (color that cheap 😉 ) so I simply printed mine out gray scale and used wide tape to put on each jar. Now I have no more questions about expiration dates – and these look cuter than indelible marker on the lids! So have fun with your preps – if worried about no electric some day, print out s few batches and store away! But have fun – don’t stress!

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!

Dehydrating Eggplants

DSC_3812               When Val was a young boy in Italy, his mama would have to save foods to make it through the winter months when not everything grew in abundance like the rest of the year. She was fortunate that their area of Italy was less humid than ours in Florida. She was able to sun dry many of her vegetables such as tomatoes and eggplants  by laying them on sheets out in the sun. Once dried she would string them together and hang them in her shed to use later on. When she wanted to cook some, she would simply cut a few off the string to have enough for a meal for the family! Up to now I have been mostly dehydrating herbs for cooking but we recently begun also dehydrating eggplants and other food items.

I was fortunate to find a great dehydrator through Craigslist recently that allows me to adjust the temperatures for the food items dehydrating which makes it much easier to control! Best part was the price — a fraction of the SRP new!

It is important to choose fully ripened but firm eggplants — too soft or leathery and they will not dehydrate evenly and you will not have best quality. Once dehydrated it is possible to store in jars or bags for short term usage but we wanted to be sure for the longer term also. So we cut the eggplants into fairly even strips and placed on the dehydrator trays leaving room for the air to circulate evenly. Then it was simply a matter of waiting 7 – 8 hours for the dehydrator to do its magic! How simple and stress free is that? Nothing else to do for this — merely wash and then slice the eggplants before popping into the dehydrator! After everything was dried, we put in FoodSaver™ bags with a couple O2 absorbers and vacuum sealed the bags — these will keep indefinitely in our pantry!

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Of course the very last step is the enjoyable one for any cook — we opened one of the bags already and added the dried eggplants to a bottle of the canned roma tomato marinara I had made the week before. I left everything to simmer a couple hours and then — oh yum! Pure heaven! The marinara had enough liquid to allow the eggplants to rehydrate and yet not be mushy – one of the biggest complaints for those who do not like eggplant normally.

This is just one more way to save what your family enjoys eating instead of depending on MREs later — and one more way to avoid stress while preparing your family!   DSC_3812

Mama DiCrocco Cans 250 Pounds Roma Tomatoes!

DSC_3711       This is not something I would recommend for everyone but I managed to cook up 250 lbs. of gorgeous Roma tomatoes and then can the marinara sauce all within a 24 hour period. This marathon event came about because a friend fell in love with a jar of my sauce I gifted her with! She recently went through some pretty extensive (read that horrifically painful) back surgery so I was willing to do anything to bring her some joy – and relieve a bit of stress for her. At the same time it was a blessing for me to be able to accomplish adding to our own food pantry! But I promise you as you can tell from the photos, I was one very tired mama at the end!        DSC_3740

DSC_3761           Her kitchen is a beautiful large one with a professional 6 burner gas stove top and vented that made cooking a pleasure. Dear Val and she and her mom chopped tomatoes for me coring them first and then chopping into smaller pieces. We prefer our marinara with the tomato skins and in small chunks however if you want, you can at this point run them through a blender to eliminate chunks for a smoother sauce. You can also run the sauce through a blender later when you go to use a jar. Val also chopped about 20-25 pounds of large onions. Then I was ready to begin cooking. I started cooking the first 50 pounds of tomatoes the night before in order to have some sauce ready to start canning right off the bat in the morning. That’s because we like the sauce cooked on slow for about 4 hours before actually canning it.           DSC_3787              DSC_3803
In a large pan I sautéed about 6 large ladle full of chopped onion. Naturally I use a good olive oil (but not the extra virgin – that is for salads). As they reached the translucent stage I added about 4 large cooking spoons (the big stainless ones used for cooking) of minced garlic. We are on a low salt regimen so I plan on about ¼ teaspoon of sea salt per quart jar. Each 50 lbs to tomatoes yields between 26 and 30 quarts of sauce depending on how long I allow it to cook down. Next step is to add several tablespoons of oregano and basil with one or two of parsley to this mixture. The tomatoes should be cooking in a larger pot at this point – it is important to stir them almost constantly to avoid sticking and burning. All of this is then added to the tomatoes and allowed to cook for a few hours!     DSC_3778        DSC_3716            Next step is to have all the canning jars sterilized by boiling in hot water. Lids and rings should also be in hot water.

DSC_3734         Using a wide mouth funnel, ladle the hot sauce into the jars bringing the level to just at the edge of the jar neck. Be careful to not over fill or the jars will not seal correctly later. Next comes a very important point to remember. When our grandmothers canned, the tomatoes were more likely to be more acidic than now. Americans especially wanted ours bred down to having less acid. Therefore either use a tspn. of lemon juice or a ¼ tsp. of citric acid. This is important to prevent spoilage after using a hot water bath canning method. If foods aren’t acidic they must be pressured canned for safety’s sake. Ball Canning Company sells a nifty little plastic tool made to push into the jars to be sure there is not trapped air. The little saw tooth steps are also used to measure the fill height of the jars when canning. Pretty neat tool that will not chip or scratch the jars like a knife might. At this stage I use a clean towel dipped in boiling water – not dripping – to wash edges of jars, the neck of them, and any drips on outside of the jars. The food on the top edges would prevent sealing and lead to spoiling. One last step is to then go over each jar edge again with a towel dampened with white vinegar – again to be sure edges are clean. Then place the jar lids out of the hot water onto tops of each jar, then finger tighten the jar rings on – don’t over tighten these. The put the jars into the boiling hot water being sure that they are fully submersed because water does boil off and they must stay covered under the boiling water for 45 minutes.
DSC_3792         I have empty counter space covered with terry towels to protect the jars and counter and lift each jar out carefully. Leave a bit of room around each jar so that they have air circulating around them evenly – do not place directly in front of a fan or under air vents or the jars may explode from such a sudden air temperature change. You will begin to hear the wonderful pings or pops of each jar as they seal! Val and I enjoy this step feeling very proud that each one seals so completely!        DSC_3791
Towards the end of our marathon I stopped long enough to feed our granddaughter and my friends two children and our husbands some great pasta and marinara sauce – to the bravos and complements of course! Because it was a school night, we packed our car back up with all our big pans, canners, and the last sixty pounds of chopped tomatoes. Back home I finished cooking sauce that evening and then canned it all in the morning. Our final count was 125 quarts of marinara! We did discover one big problem in all this. Even though my friend and I split this bounty, it is not nearly enough for our pantry – everyone has been eating it already and I suspect we will be running out way too fast!     20130429_145400

Being Stress-Free and United

Today I want to talk about a topic that many want to discuss, often think they are discussing … but usually end up avoiding or changing the subject.  I personally happen to be a Christian – I have a strong personal belief and personal commitment but do not want to use this blog to convert anyone per se. Do I think everyone should have a personal relationship with the Lord? Yes, of course! Am I willing to discuss my personal beliefs? Also a big yes – and for anyone who has questions, email me and we can open a dialogue – BUT – I am aware that many folks have their own personal beliefs and doctrines they hold true to. Some of you may also be agnostic or atheists.  That’s fine too. However being prepared is more than simply buying lots of weapons or buying lots of camping supplies or food. More important than all of this is to be prepared spiritually and psychologically for what will be happening. Therefore it is important to know that you are doing your best to be preparing spiritually. If in fact this will be TEOTWAWKI, then it is reality that not all of us will survive either due to starvation or to war or to disease. Are you ready to die physically if you have not prepared spiritually? In my opinion the spiritual aspect is too important to be ignored. But it is not the only angle to be concerned about. We also need to address any phobias or psychological issues with prepping too.

It has been said that man is a social creature, that no one can survive alone. We all seem to seek out that someone special or at least a good companion. Not all relationships are sexual in nature. Having someone you know personally to share with, to laugh or cry with, to talk about deepest feelings and fears as well as joys with, is an important part of our nature. When one is left adrift with no one else, some of those emotions can begin to tip off kilter into dangerous emotions. We begin to see those folks writing manifestos or acting strangely or perhaps breaking mentally completely. Most of our known psychological conditions involve how we relate to others.  Talking to likeminded folks on the internet is not enough. In certain scenarios, there won’t be an internet access later. Life won’t go on if there are no couples and families later. It takes two is a truism here! It means we need to give serious thought and time to those relationships around us. For those of us who prep or want to be more self-sustainable in our own lives, we know that having a relationship with another person takes work and time. Lust is a wonderful thing but long term relationships need to be based on many areas of mutual attraction and agreements. I realize those relationships change over time and we all hope and pray that they mature into a more loving and self-satisfying one. This sadly is often not the case so when one begins to prep, one had best be at a point of understanding those important people in your life. If a husband decides that for whatever reason he wants to move to outer where ever and his wife is a downtown city gal, this may not work! That means the two of you need to reach a comfortable point of agreement and compromise or the relationship will probably not survive!

On many forums we often read that one of the couple wants to prep, wants to store food or learn weapons, or buy more of everything – but the other half of that partnership is totally opposed. It amazes me how many couples are not on the same page. They seem to be at the point of not being able to even compromise on any of it. That makes me worry about how they approach many other issues in their relationship as a whole but I am not a marriage counselor by any means. Having a firm spiritual base is helpful for any couple. Having mutual beliefs and being able to then find areas of compromise will make all the difference in the world in any catastrophe. During a bad storm, it is not helpful for one half a couple to be frozen in place screaming or terrified while the other is attempting to save each other, other family members, and possessions. When the water is rising, it helps to have someone to hand things or children to who is standing on slightly higher ground. This holds true for mental preparedness. Couples should be able to share weaknesses and strengths. No one can do all the “heavy lifting” all of the time and feel at peace. The point of prepping or being self-sustaining is to find a place of peace in our lives, a place where we know that we are doing our best to care for ourselves and those closest to us.  It is not supposed to cause us more stress and more fear. It certainly shouldn’t be causing us personal wars or battlefields in our own home. Deciding to ignore what the other half of our relationship doesn’t agree to and instead look to outsiders in the form of prepping or survivalist forums or groups is not a recipe for peace and contentment. For this reason I want to impress the importance of any couple to find that common ground they can agree on while prepping. If your wife is not on board, it may be that she is trying to be a voice of reason. The same is also true if the husband is telling the wife no. One of the biggest areas of discontent or dissension is in the realm of finances and budget. Trying to prep on a limited budget can be extremely challenging in the best of times so adding the stress of over shopping for prepping is not the wisest decision. Neither is buying that cute goat or those rabbits when you can afford the feed and the hutches or anything else needed to take care of them. Let’s not even get into which of you is going to get stuck with the care of them!

Most religions emphasize to be in agreement with your partner in all spiritual matters. If you can pray together, you can usually manage to find that place of agreement and compromise in other areas of your relationship. It should be the same for prepping and being self-sustaining. Find a comfortable place for both of you – be united in your efforts, not arguing. If it causes that much dissension, dial it back until the two of you are again at peace with one another. Being prepared, being self-sustaining is all about eliminating stress.

Frugal Gardening Tips

There was a time when to buy seeds to have a garden was out of reach for our family financially. Hard to believe? Living paycheck to paycheck for many means even a $5 or $10 splurge can hurt the family budget. During that time we had an acquaintance who lived in a company trailer at their job location. She was an individual who did not pay attention to her home or yard. One day I noticed a huge tomato plant growing near her steps into the trailer. It had lots of leaves and small yellow blooms. Her explanation? Her kids didn’t like to eat seeds in tomatoes so she picked them out and tossed them out the door into the hard scrabble dirt! Thanks to plenty of Florida rains this plant managed to grow. Now I don’t advocate simply throwing trash out the door but it did teach me a lesson. No matter what fresh food we bought, if there were any seeds I saved them and tried growing them. Some worked, some didn’t. But I had more luck than not. One problem with this was/is that many times they are not heirloom but some form of a hybrid plant so no telling what you will end up with. But a few tomato or eggplants or bell peppers and hot peppers started this way or even a zucchini will give a family a few cents in savings towards buying seeds or starts at a garden center.

This next tip is not an original one by any means but it sure is a handy one. Those little seed pots that garden centers sell are pricey when one’s dealing with a tight budget. However everyone uses toilet paper. Paper towels and aluminum foils are also common items in many households.

DSC_3678            So I tucked a cute basket in each bathroom. As a roll is finished, I ask everyone to simply toss the cardboard tubes in the basket. If you’re friends and family already think you’re kinda crazy anyway, ask them to save for you too. It’s pretty surprising how fast they add up.

So we’re going to use these pieces of landfill fillers and instead re-purpose them into something handy for your budget garden! The longer rolls from foil or paper towels can be cut into 3 smaller tubes. Then at one end of the roll, you will cut it into four flaps. They don’t have to be measured out to even pieces.

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Cut and then fold each flap over to form a little cup.

DSC_3679             Then fill each one with some good dirt such as Miracle Grow Seed Starter or other store brand. When it’s time to plant your seedlings, simply dig a small hole, open the bottom of the roll by unfolding the flaps. No need to remove the seedlings. Rather the open bottom now allows the roots of your seedling to grow down into your garden soil. The roll itself will help keep insects such as worms from having easy access to your new little plants! All around it’s a win-win choice!

Remember trying to begin this walk we want to be self-sufficient and take care of our stress by not adding to it! Have fun!!!!