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Monday, February 21, 2011

Gardening and Firearms

I was browsing my favorite blogs this morning and found this post on Survival Mom (reprinted with permission from Backyard Food Production) and felt it crucial that everyone in the prepping/homesteading community read it. 

The long and short of the article is that a local shopkeeper declared he would never need to grow his own food and slammed a handgun down on the counter to prove it.  In a Schumer-esque situation, he'll just take what he needs from those of us who do grow food. 

Oh that's original. 

I know his line of thinking isn't new or different.  It's no real surprise.  There may even be some among you who think the same way.

What does surprise me is that this shopkeeper hasn't connected the dots and figured out that we gardeners didn't have to trade in our firearms in order to afford a tiller.  I'm surprised that in his compartamentalized little mind he thinks that you can EITHER own a gun OR grow a garden, but you can't do BOTH. 

I mean really.

Does he think that we're going to spend all spring and summer working our fingers to the bone and then stand by and watch this lazy lump raid our garden?

Does he think we only keep our great-granddaddy's Brown Bess around for dispatching rodents?


I have 3 thoughts on this topic: 

-If you think you're going to steal from my garden, you'd better carry something larger than a handgun.

-I know exactly how far it is from the back bedroom window to the edge of the garden...and I know it for a reason.

-That sign in the garden that reads "IF YOU CAN READ THIS, YOU'RE IN RANGE" isn't there for decoration.  Consider it a warning shot.

I'm trying not to get worked up about this article, but it just sickens me.  I don't know if it's just the nature of mankind to take what one wants or if it's a by-product of our entitlement culture....either way, it infuriates me. 

Care to share your thoughts?     

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Preparing for the Family

Posts have been sort of scant and far between lately, and for that, I apologize.  A beloved family member  is in failing health, nearing the end of her journey, and needless to say, I've been distracted.

But as I've said before, anything can be a learning experience; an opportunity to gain wisdom, to unite and love each other the way our Creator intended.  The dying experience is no different.  It's a chance to reflect, reevaluate your situation and your intent, to see where you can make changes, improvements, new goals.

Here's what I've learned.

What has become blatantly obvious to me in the past weeks is how unprepared I am to deal with crowds, especially of the related variety.  I remember once in AP Senior English class, my teacher wrote an evaluation of me that stated:

"Nice girl.  Kind to her mother.  Comes unglued in crowds."

I thought he was joking, but nearly 20 years later, I can see the truth in his words.  I do come unglued in crowds.  I'd like to think that I'm calmer, more secure and more adaptable than the 17 year old girl he wrote that about, but I can't honestly say that's true.  Crowds still unhinge me.  Even if I know them.  Even if I love them. 

Recently, while preparing meals for my father-in-law in a less-than-full, only slighted-crowded house, I could feel my stress levels rising.  In addition to the normal busy-ness of preparing a filling meal, there were people looking over my shoulder, asking what I was doing and what I was making.  In a desire to help, they were behind me, in front of me, next to me, between me and the sink, me and the fridge, me and the prep area.  Bumping into me.  Trying to help with dirty dishes.  As much as I appreciated their offers to help,  it drove me insane.  I was stressed mentally from the onset, and the physical closeness and constant activity around me only added to that stress. 

Mr. "A" was right. 

I am a nice girl, kind to my mother, but I come unglued in crowds. 

As Americans, we like our space.  We need our space.  We feel entitled to our space.  And just the thought of a bunch of people crowded into my house in a post-SHTF situation causes me to break out in hives.  I'm completely unprepared emotionally/mentally to handle a bunch of people invading my space.  That is obviously something I need to work on as the likelihood of the family piling into one home for an extended period of time is great.

I've also come to realize how unprepared I am to handle family and crowds in terms of real estate.  I have a nice home; a modest 1970's ranch with a partial basement that's partially finished.  It's not fancy, but it's comfortable with good bones and updated utilities...and believe it or not, it's worth what we paid for it.  (There's one for the record book!)  I have food socked away, along with water and backup sources of light and heat.  We have enough room to be comfortable yet cozy.  I'm prepared to take care of my husband and children.

But when an out-of-town family member needed a place to stay during a weekend visit, I was sent scrambling to make provisions for him.  I had no extra bedrooms.  No extra beds.  No air-mattresses.  A couple extra blankets, but not much in the way of pillows.  I didn't have a plan for combining rooms.  The prospect of one extra person in our home sent me reeling.  Had this been a true, excrement-hit-the-ventilation situation, in which my brother and his young family or my husband's aging parents needed a safe place to stay, I can't honestly say I would have been prepared to take them in.  In a short-term emergency, a pallet on the living room floor would work.  But in a long-term situation, that would get tiresome and stressfull very quickly.

I know that I'm thinking about these situations, perhaps, in incorrect terms.  I'm thinking about them in comfortable, safe, entitled American terms.  In post-apocalyptic, 'survival-by-any-means' terms, a pallet on the floor and bumping into a cousin while cooking would be nothing.  It would be a very pleasant inconvenience when faced with the alternatives.  But here and now, while times are reasonably good and fairly stable, this is the time to prepare for family members and worst case scenarios.  A little forethought now may save a lot of time, grief and stress later on.

In order to be better prepared for an emergency, I'm giving thought to dealing with crowds of family.  I'm talking to my kids about sharing rooms.  (I know.  Gasp.  Spoiled American kids sharing a room.  Oh the hardship.)  I've discussed with my husband the logistics of bunking our family into one bedroom, both for space and for security.  We've added a queen-size air bed to our preps, which in a pinch could easily sleep 2 adults and a kid or two.  We've talked about alternative sleeping arrangements, such as using the window seat for a child's bed.   The possibility of sleeping and eating in shifts came up.  And I'm also tossing around the addition of a sofa-bed to the basement family room, for both sleeping and waking comfort.  All these plans could help take care of the 'real estate' aspect of family preparedness.

But how does one prep mentally for a family invasion?  What can you do to prepare yourself for the 'new normal' that would involve combining households and giving up your precious elbow room?  Believe it or not, I found only one article on the entire world-wide-web that in some means deals with close-quarter living.  One. Article.

So I ask the pros:  How have you prepared, both mentally and spatially, to deal with crowds, extended family and close living quarters? 

In His Service,



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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Canning Beans

This lull between the seasons is about to kill me.  I think wintertime is absolutely the worst, most difficult time of the year for preppers and homesteaders like me. 

At first it's pleasant.

You spend spring starting seeds and planting plants and getting the yard into shape after a long, cold winter.

You spend summer tilling and weeding and otherwise keeping the yard and garden tidy, awaiting your first fruits of the year.  And there's the lovely family stuff, like summer vacations and homemade ice cream and fire works and fireflies.  Ahhhh summer.

You spend fall pickling and dehydrating and freezing and jellying and canning anything that you can lay hands on, in addition to winterizing the yard and garden in preparation for cold weather.  And then there's the push to get ready for the holidays.

So yeah, those first lazy weeks of winter are pleasant.  A chance to rest mind and body after a busy year.  A chance to hibernate and enjoy the fruit of your labors.  And then the boredom sets in.  The restlessness.  The listlessness.  The never-ending days of snow-ice-thaw-snow-ice-thaw where the only respite for the soul is the occasional seed catalog that lets you daydream about spring.  I feel so very unproductive during the wintertime.  As I said last week, you can only bake so much bread and cook so many casseroles before you want to throw yourself off a bridge...don't worry...I'm not going to throw myself off a bridge.  All the bridges in my area are so slick with ice, they're closed to foot traffic :)

So this week, I've decided I NEED to do something, both for sanity and prepping purposes...and canning beans seems to be the logical choice.  I have lots of beans, I have lots of empty jars and lots of free time on my hands.  Beans it is.

I try to keep a few cans of beans on hand at all times.  A can or two of black beans, a can of baked beans and a few cans of pork and beans are normally enough to sustain us.  Baked beans are a fast side dish or even a filling main dish.  Black beans make for great/quick wraps, burritos, enchiladas.  And pork and beans make a great baked beans and franks dish for cold, winter nights.   But recently the prices have really gone up.  Plain old, off-brand pork and beans are approaching a dollar a can and baked beans can easily run 2 bucks.  That's insane!  Time to can my own! 

The Ball Blue Book I won last fall  from Angela at Food Storage and Survival has a couple great recipes for home-canning beans.  There's a recipe for pork and beans, one for baked beans as well as instructions for canning plain old beans such as black and chickpeas.  The directions seem fairly straight-forward.  You sort your beans.  You soak your beans.  You boil/bake them for a certain amount of time.  You transfer them to a canning jar leaving an inch of head space.  You season them accordingly.  You cap them and  process them: generally 1hour 15 for pints and 1hour 30 for quarts (of course this varies depending on the recipe.  Follow the recipe!)  Yes, that's a long time to run the old pressure canner, but if the canner is full and I can come away with 8-9 quarts of beans, then I'm way ahead and I save a LOT of money in the long run.

What I love about the idea of canning dried beans is the ability to add/substitute the seasonings of my choice.  Garlic, onions and peppers go a long way towards spicing up a rather bland protein like beans.  Plus I don't have to worry about what various companies are adding to the beans, like HFCS, e. coli and mouse droppings.

Another reason to can beans is to encourage rotation of food stores.  While dried beans DO have a long shelf life, from what I read, after a few years the beans won't rehydrate.  So no matter how long you soak 'em, no matter how long you cook 'em, they simply won't soften up.  Canning is a great way to rotate dried beans out of your storage and into your daily meals.  Just replace what you home-can with a fresh supply of dried beans!

And lastly, home-canned beans are a great quick meal option.  If you live out in the boonies, home-canned meals like baked beans are a great 'fast food' option.  Let's face it...40 minutes to an hour for a round-trip to get a take out meal is NOT fast food.  And even with the addition of meats, brown sugar and sauces, home-canned beans are far more healthy than any deli meal you might pick up from the grocery.  But the best reason to can your own beans: it's a quick, filling meal when the power goes out and you can't spend hours cooking those dried, stored beans.  They can be eaten cold straight from the can or warmed over a chaffing dish or a camp stove.   

Pretty compelling reasons to can your own beans, wouldn't you say?  So I reiterate: beans it is!

Have you tried home-canning beans?

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Working Through The Storm

We're on day 2 of the mother of all Ohio ice storms...at least that's what the meteorologist said this morning.  Although today it's not so much the ice as the 30 mph sustained winds and the 50 mph gusts.  Ah sheesh, I love Ohio living.  In true prepper form, we had some quick-fix meals, a full kerosene stove and plenty of clean clothes in case of a power outage, but so far we've managed to stay powered up.  

Keeping occupied has been the most difficult task as our usual quiet routines have been thrown into chaos.  We normally don't make trips into town mid-week, but just knowing that we CAN'T go anywhere because of the near inch-thick coating of ice, that's making me crazy. 

So we're all feeling just a little cabin-feverish today.   To keep hands and minds busy, I've spent the past 2 days making soup, baking bread and sowing seeds.  The kids slept in, played arts and crafts and have enjoyed Wii time whenever possible.  But you can only bake so much bread and play so much Wii.  All this leads me to wonder what would happen if there truly was a SHTF scenario and we were quarantined or under curfew or whatever. 

How would I occupy the kids?

How would I occupy myself? 

How could I keep myself from going stark-raving mad and taking everyone in the house with me~?~

I'm feeling compelled to stock up on more activity books, age appropriate games, puzzles and educational toys that only come out on special occasions, such as blizzards and epidemics.  I've also been giving thought to some beginner-skills activities that would keep the kids engaged during a long winter storm.  My 5 year old daughter wants to learn to sew, so maybe some plastic canvas and yarn, just to learn the general idea?  And my 6 year old son wants to learn how to cook, so possibly a child's cookbook with simple recipes and instructions?

What plans do you have in place to entertain and educate the kids when you're snowbound?

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Don't Miss This Giveaway!

Hey folks!  This will be a quick post as I'm expecting to lose power at any given minute LOL.  Darn ice storms.

Anyway, one of my favorite prepper sites is Adventures in Self-Reliance...Angela covers all the bases, from food storage to firearms and everything in between.  After teasing us faithful followers for a couple of weeks, she unveiled her new site today and is running the most amazing giveaway EVER!  I'm talking Berkey water bottles, Tattler reusable canning lids, parachute cord, seeds,  books...and a few other things that my sleep-deprived mind can't recall. 

Make sure you check it out!  There's lots of great information to be had and prizes to win as well!

Stay safe,

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