Friday, July 30, 2010

Water, water everywhere

One of the books I have read to my children so many times I have it memorized is "Water, Water Everywhere". Although I have already have two weeks worth of water stored (plus another two weeks if I utilize our water heaters), I can't seem to stop storing water. Soon I'll have water, water everywhere in my house.

I've taken to cleaning out empty apple juice bottles and filling them with water. After labeling the bottle as potable water, I write the date I filled it and store them in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator we have in our garage. We don't have a lot of items in this extra refrigerator and these water bottles will serve dual purpose. Not only are they additional water storage but they also will help our refrigerator maintain its temperature. A full refrigerator requires much less energy to keep cold.

That will save us money in the short term and possibly save our lives in the long term.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

YouTube Preppers

There's a ton of information on the Internet on survival-related topics. Type in "food storage" or "survival" on YouTube and you will find a wide variety of videos. Some are useful, some useless and some are filled with unreliable information.

I'd like to share a couple of YouTube channels that have information you can trust. In some ways they are polar opposites. Both, however, have good information and inspiration for the budding prepper.

The first is AnalyticalSurvival, which you can find here:

GM is ex-Special Forces and his videos cover very hardcore, masculine survival topics. Want to find out the best foods for a bug-out situation, learn how to maintain your shooting gear or create a medical trauma bag? This is your channel. GM has a talent for making complicated topics seem easy. His presentations are well-organized and chock full of info. GM approaches survival from a very military perspective, which for me is a bit intimidating. He also borders on OCD with his organization of his survival gear! You will learn a lot if you watch the videos on this channel.

The second YouTuber I would like to recommend is Michigansnowpony.

Renee describes herself as a homesteading prepper and her videos capture that life well. Her garden videos make me jealous! One day I hope my crops will be as abundant. She also covers small livestock and various prepping related topics. I learned how to can chicken from one of her videos and can't wait to try it out. Her demeanor is that of a knowledgable, friendly neighbor. She makes me feel like I can do what she does, too.

If you have any other favorite YouTube channels or prepping-related blogs and websites, please let me know!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

In a pickle

My cucumber patch is going gangbusters and I'm putting up pickles. Pickles are tasty but do they have any nutritional value?

Yes and No. They are fairly low-cal but high in sodium. That's a big problem if you are low on water. During the Age of Exploration, though, sailors often carried barrels of pickled vegetables with them. Why? They helped to prevent scurvy, a disease caused by Vitamin C deficiency. Scurvy is not something we worry about today but it could potentially be a problem if TSHTF. Better store some vitamins and maybe some pickles!

You're not going to survive TEOTWAWKI on pickles alone, but they can be useful as well as delicious. They might even count as comfort food in a stressful situation. I know they will certainly perk up any taste buds worn down by a diet of survival food.

Here's my favorite pickle recipe. It's from Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda J. Amendt. This is the book I learned to can from and the source of my favorite canning recipes.

Bread and Butter Pickles

Makes about 6 Pint Jars or 3 Quart Jars

15 to 18 1-to 1-1/2 inch diameter firm fresh pickling cucumbers
2 to 3 medium onions
1/2 c. pickling salt or kosher salt
2 to 3 qt. distilled water, chilled
3 c. sugar
2 c. distilled white vinegar
2 c. cider vinegar
2 t. mustard seeds
1 t. celery seeds
1 t. ground turmeric

Using a soft vegetable brush, gently scrub the cucumbers, being careful not to scratch the peel. Rinse the cucumbers 2 to 3 times in cool water, changing the water after each rinsing. Drain well. Cut the cucumbers into 1/4-inch slices, discarding the blossom and stem ends. Measure 2 qt. sliced cucumbers.

Peel the onions and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Cut the slices into quarters. Measure 1 qt. onion slices.

In a large bowl, layer the cucumber and onion slices, sprinkling salt between each layer. Add enough of the cold distilled water to completely cover the vegetables. Let stand for 2 hours.

Drain the salt water from the vegetables. Rinse the vegetables thoroughly with cold water to remove all of the salt. Drain well.

In a 8 qt. stainless steel pan, combine the sugar, vinegars and spices. Over medium-low heat, gradually heat the mixture, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the syrup to a boil. Add the drained vegetables to the syrup and heat for 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Ladle the hot vegetables into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Ladle the syrup into the jars, covering the vegetables and maintaining the 1/2-inch headspace. Cover with hot lids and apply rings. Process both pint and quart jars ina 180 to 185F water bath for 30 minutes.

One batch of B&B pickles done, another one bubbling away in one of my vintage canners.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Free Home Preservation Course!

I heard about this free online course on preserving on the Survival Blog. The National Center for Home Food Preservation, which is associated with the University of Georgia, is the source for information on safe canning and preservation methods. They have put together a course that according to their website covers: introduction to food preservation, general canning, canning acid foods and canning low-acid foods.

If you go here

you can register for the free class. It took them about three days to send me the login information and I'm all set to get started.

I'll post a review of the course once I've completed it.

PS I'm in love with the graphic I added to this post. My pressure canner is about 60 years old and this picture is in the instruction manual. I feel very June Cleaver when I use my canner. :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Month Three Preps

I've spent my money for Month Two so it's time to think about spending next month's money!

1) Get more cash and add it to our Bug Out Bags (BOBs).
2) Buy a box of trash bags.
3) Get a roll of heavy mil plastic sheeting and a roll of duct tape. Use it to prep for possible sheltering-in-place.
4) Buy butane refills for my Zippo lighter.
5) Buy maps for both vehicles + BOB.
6) Buy the remainder of items for my van’s emergency kit.
7) Continue to buy items for food storage.

My original plan for Month Three had me buying a bunch of food storage containers for my pantry and a Brother P-Touch label maker. That's the OCD organizer in me.

I decided that it was probably more important that I store up food. With my luck, TEOTWAWKI would happen and all I'd have to show for it would be a bunch of plastic with nothing in it! And with the threat of hyperinflation looming, food prices are only going to rise. It's best to stock up NOW on the essentials of life. However much Snapware makes my soul sing, it will not sustain me in an emergency. :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Giveaway on "New Life On a Homestead"

I came across a great blog by the way of a fortuitous Google search.

Kendra is the kind of woman I'm aiming to be. Her family is trying to be self-sufficient and her blog chronicles their adventures as they start their homestead. I relate a lot to her posts - other than the fact that her hubby is on-board with the plan!

She's giving away a survival seed pack from Hometown Seeds. It looks great and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment on her blog.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Where I stand in my food storage

I have been accumulating food storage for a few months now. I haven't made any huge purchases but I have been consistently buying a few extras when I go to the grocery store or warehouse club. Here are a few pictures of my major food storage areas.

I am fortunate to have a large kitchen with ample storage room. I cleaned out parts of two cabinets and am currently storing:

A 3/4 gallon of olive oil, 24 lb of salt, 2 jugs of maple syrup and 6 lb of baking soda are among my stored items here. I need to move some of these items to the basement because I intend on this area being a dry storage area. Items like the salt, baking powder and baking soda that absolutely must stay dry will be in this cabinet. Our basement never floods and never should, but it can be a bit humid in our storage room. To protect these items sensitive to moisture, I'm going to store them in the kitchen.

Here's my other storage cabinet in the kitchen:

I have items like different kinds of soup and tomato products here. The Diet Pepsi doesn't count as food storage! I am a total soda addict and have the cavities to prove it.

These pictures don't even show the items I have in my regular pantry. I am storing bottles of apple juice (about 7 weeks worth) along with the every day items that everyone has in their pantry.

Here's my basement storage area:

It's filled in a little bit since I last posted a picture of it. On the top rack I have my canning supplies and two gallons of vinegar. The next rack down has canned fruits, vegetables, and soup. I've only just started storing these types of goods and I don't have very many yet. The next rack has my home-canned items - pickles, tomatoes, dried oregano (not really canned but stored in a Mason jar) and green beans. Hubby Dear and I are slowly increasing our harvest from our garden and I hope to can even more next year. The next rack down has a mish-mash of items like Crisco, applesauce, jelly, 15 lb of peanut butter, salad dressing, and a variety of condiments. The bottom part of the storage rack has a couple of large plastic containers. In one I am storing boxes of baking mixes. Right now all it has are two lonely boxes of brownie mix. The other container has 36 lb of pasta.

When I have filled up this storage unit, I have a couple of shelves on other units cleaned off. I will, however, need to buy some sort of additional storage. I'm thinking about getting one of these from Shelf Reliance:

That would make rotation so easy, but I'm not sure it is the most efficient use of space.

When I look at what we've accumulated so far, I feel like we are getting somewhere.
That is until I watch some of the many YouTube videos where fellow preppers show off their food storage.

Sigh. We have so far to go.

We are making headway, though, and now that Hubby Dear has given me a budget, I'll be able to make consistent purchases. I am considering changing my Month Three Preps in order to make a large leap in our food storage next month.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Water storage and protection from nukes

I finally completed my prepping purchases for this month. They fall into two major headings, water and nuclear preparedness. I'll discuss each in turn.


Why store water?

Water is one of the most important items in preparedness. You can't survive very long without water and yet it is something that we all take for granted. We just expect that clean, safe water will always flow out of our faucets. That is something that you absolutely cannot count on in an emergency. Municipal water supplies could be contaminated or they could be out of order. If you are on well water, a loss of electricity would cut power to your pump. A major local, regional or national power grid outage would then leave you up a creek without a paddle. Bottled water is one of the first items to get sold out in anticipation of a hurricane, snow or ice storm. Be ready ahead of time!

How much water to store?

You should count on at least 1 gallon of water per person per day. That gives you enough water to drink as well as some for basic hygiene and cooking. Most sources that I have read recommend that you store a minimum of two weeks worth of water. For our family that would be:

6 people x 1 gallon per day x 14 days = 84 gallons

How do you store water?

I have decided to accomplish this in a couple of ways. First, I purchased a 55 gallon barrel.

It is important that your water storage containers be made of food-grade materials. You should never store water in something that once held anything you would not put in your body (gas, cleaners, etc.). I chose to buy our water storage containers but you can use clean and empty pop or juice bottles. Some people are able to get barrels that held syrup, etc. for free from restaurants. Be sure to clean your containers thoroughly if you go that route and again, make sure the containers are of food-grade plastic.

You also need a way to open and close your barrel plus drain out the water. The barrel has a valve on top that you need a bung wrench to open.

Water weighs over 8 lb per gallon, so it will be very heavy when the barrel is filled. You do not want to be fooling around should you have to use your water in an emergency. You can buy siphon pumps or siphon hoses. I chose to get a simple hose. You can buy the barrel in a combo with the siphon and wrench from Emergency Essentials. I was pretty pleased at the price point and it was quickly delivered via Fed Ex to my residence.

It is space efficient to store a lot of water in a large container but at approximately 455 pounds when full, it is definitely not portable. What if we need to bug out? I found the basic water storage kit sold by Emergency Essentials to be an easy and economical way to get five 5-gallon storage containers.
The kit consists of heavy duty mylar bags that have a spout. You fill the bags with water and place each one in a cardboard box. The boxes have handles and stack easily. The kit is reuseable and seems like it would be pretty sturdy as long as your basement or other storage area stays dry.

This is what my storage area looked like with my storage containers filled up and ready to go.

I went ahead and placed some cardboard underneath the water barrel. Many people recommend that you have some sort of separation between your plastic water containers and the concrete floor. The thought is that chemicals from the concrete can leach through the plastic into your water. Other folks think that as long as your concrete is not getting heated up (ie. from the sun, outdoors, etc.) you are fine. I chose to put a layer of cardboard underneath my water barrel even though our concrete stays cool all year long. Another solution to this problem is to rest your barrel on top of some 2 x4s.

If you're adding it up, this totals 80 gallons of water and my family needs 84. We do have an additional three days' worth of water stored in our BOBs in the form of Aqua Blox. Should we need even more water, we have two 40 gallon water heaters. You can also use the water in the tank of your toilet (not the bowl!). In all, we have enough water for nearly four weeks.

In the future I plan on buying a large Berkey water filter for more long term solutions. While we do not have a natural source of water on our property, we do live in an area where there are many farm ponds nearby. If TSHTF, we could haul in water from those ponds or a nearby public lake and then filter it. We also have some water treatment tablets and bleach that could be used to disinfect suspect water if necessary. Boiling water once you filter out the big particles is always an option as well.

Do you need to treat your water?

Generally speaking, if you are filling your water containers with water from municipal supplies, you do not need to add any sort of water treatment. You do, however, have to rotate your water, dumping it out and refilling your containers every 6 months to 1 year.

If you add this water preserver sold by The Ready Store, however, you can extend the time water stays fresh in your containers to 5 years. I don't know about you but I don't have the time or inclination to dump out 84 gallons of water every year, so this was a good investment for me.

Another thing you should think about is how you are going to fill your water containers. Most garden hoses are not considered safe for drinking water. They can have lead and other chemicals leach out of them or even harbor mold and mildew. I went ahead and bought a couple of water-safe, mold resistant hoses. You can find these online at emergency preparedness stores or even at your local Wal-Mart in the RV or garden section. In the end, filling our water containers from our regular garden hose probably wouldn't be a big deal, but better safe than sorry in my book. After all, that's why I'm a prepper.


This next purchase may seem kind of random or paranoid.

These are Iosat tablets which consist of potassium iodide. If there is a nuclear incident, it will flood your thyroid with iodine so that it does not absorb radiation. There are dosages on the package for people of all ages and the medicine can be stored for up to seven years before you need to replace them.

People tend to be much less afraid of nuclear radiation than they were decades ago. The Cold War may be over, but the recent arrest and deportation of those Russian spies living in the US should remind you that Russia isn't exactly our best friend. Rogue states like Iran and North Korea certainly have the motivation to launch a nuclear attack on the US. Terrorists of all stripes would definitely like to do so.

I'd like to think that, living as I do in the middle of nowhere, we'd be safe. There is no guarantee, though, particularly when you consider the effect of weather systems. The BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico illustrates how weather, wind, and ocean currents can spread a localized disaster over a huge area. There are also nuclear power plants dotted throughout the country. They, too, could be a source of a nuclear emergency.

Of course there is much more to consider when it comes to nuclear preparedness. Many of the other preps I'm doing would be essential: water storage, food, hygiene, etc. A great resource and one that is available for free is
Cresson H. Kearny's Nuclear War Survival Skills.

That's a long post but one I hope will be helpful to those of you starting out your preparedness journey. My Month Two Preps are complete.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Progress Report on our Month Two Preps

  1. Get $20 in small bills to add to BOBs. IN PROGRESS Whenever I get some cash, I add a little bit to the stash in our BOBs.
  2. Continue to build our three month supply of food and other essentials. IN PROGRESS Every time I went to the grocery store during the month of June, I picked up a few additional items for food storage. That would be why our grocery bill was out of control! Since Hubby Dear and I have agreed upon an amount in the budget for food storage, I have promised I will do much better in July! As a result of my over-spending, however, we have a few additional items in our storage like canned fruits and vegetables, paper products, toiletries like toothpaste and bodywash, salad dressing and pasta, to name a few.

  3. Reorganize our storage room. Clear out junk, donate unnecessary items and consolidate to make room for food and water storage. COMPLETE We have a storage room in our basement that was very organized but filled to the brim. Hubby Dear and I went through the contents of every storage bin and were able to throw out, recycle, or donate enough items to empty 7 large bins. I will use these for food and supply storage. We also have cleared out enough space for the water containers we're buying. If I can convince Hubby Dear to get a vasectomy, we'll be able to donate all of the bins of outgrown baby clothes we have stored and I'll have even more room. Somehow I don't think that will be a very persuasive argument for him. ;) We cleaned out about half of the items that were underneath these stairs. Our water storage is going here. I've started moving some of the items I had stored in my kitchen to these shelves. I haven't quite figured out what I'll store upstairs and what's going to come downstairs. Right now I have some condiments and peanut butter on these shelves along with about 24 pounds of pasta in that clear plastic bin. 24 pounds down, 87 to go! The top part of the shelf has my canning supplies and last year's canned tomatoes and pickles.

  4. I still have a lot of organizing I could do here, but I'm kind of waiting until this summer's canning is complete.

  5. Buy Iosat tablets for the whole family. See #5

  6. Buy items necessary to store 2 weeks worth of water for our family - barrels, siphon, water conditioner, etc. INCOMPLETE After Hubby Dear gets paid this week, I will be able to make these purchases.
  7. Fill water containers. Store appropriately in our cleared out storage room. INCOMPLETE but coming soon!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Breaking News... Hubby Dear gets roped into prepping! Sorta.

Well, after our big talk with Dave Ramsey, Hubby Dear has agreed to allocate $300 a month in the budget towards prepping plus an additional $50 in the grocery budget for food storage. I can get quite a lot accomplished with that kind of budget. I'm happy, he's placated, all is good.

Hubby Dear is making a trip into town today to get preparations for a little July 4th gathering that we're having and I threw a bit of a monkey wrench into the mix.

Here's how the conversation went at the Harried Homemaker's Acres:

"Hubby Dear, you need to get some Product X", I told him, batting my eyes and wearing my most charming smile.

Product X, of course, is a pseudonym for an item that can be decidedly embarrassing for a male to purchase.

"Aw, sweetheart, I don't think I can buy that!", he cringed. It just wasn't a manly sort of purchase. Going to the store to buy strawberries, marshmallows, and Product X??

I replied, "Well, you know, I saw they have some drinking water safe hoses in the RV department at Wal-Mart. That ought to butch-up your shopping cart quite a bit. Why don't you pick up a couple of those as well?"

And so he did. :)