Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Month Four Prep: Me

She awakens early in the morning to the frantic cries of her offspring. Her babies are hungry and whine at their mother to feed them. To judge from the amount of blubber on her frame, winter must be swiftly approaching. Her hide bears the marks of having born numerous children. She lurches to her feet and waddles away to get breakfast for her babies.
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.
.
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No, that's not a transcript from a nature program. That's a description of an average morning at the Harried Homemaker Acres.

Needless to say, one of my preps this month is to start exercising three times a week.

Five years ago, I was nine months pregnant with Mini Me and even so, I was able complete a rigorous aerobics class. Four years ago, I was extremely fit and the lightest I have ever been in my adult life. Since then, life has been hard on my body.

All the survival gear in the world is useless if you don't have the capability to use it. In my current state of fitness, a SHTF or even minor emergency situation could severely test me.

I have a dedicated exercise room that has been gathering dust. I'm going to hit the treadmill, do an exercise video or lift some weights at least three times a week. I'll increase my cardiovascular capacity, regain some of my lost strength and improve my overall health.

This is one prep I know won't go to waste.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Take the SurvivalMom's Report Card Challenge

One of the blogs I read reguarly is The SurvivalMom. A few days ago, she wrote this post, a report card on her current state of preparedness. It inspired me to rate our ability to survive during a crisis here at the Harried Homemaker Acres.

1) Water - C. I have 2 weeks of water stored for my family, four weeks if we use what is in our reverse-osmosis system, water heaters and random bottles stored here and there.

To turn this into an A: I need to buy a water filter and materials like bleach to sanitize additional water we would collect during a long-term emergency.



2) Sanitation - B. I've got about two months of toilet paper, a big bottle of hand sanitizer and a gallon of soap stored. I also have a large box of trash bags and a few 5-gallon buckets we could fashion into toilets if need be. 

To turn this into an A: More toilet paper! My goal is to have a year's worth on hand plus a large supply of paper towels. I would also like to have several more boxes of trash bags and perhaps a toilet seat we could affix to the aforementioned 5-gallon buckets. We used to have a burn barrel before we bribed convinced a mom and pop trash collection operation from a town 40 miles away to come and get our trash each week. We may need to get another barrel to use WSHTF or borrow our neighbor's barrel. (I live in a place without trash collection. I told you we live in the sticks!)



3) Laundry - D-. I have a bit of extra homemade laundry detergent and a large laundry room with a deep sink and racks that I could hang our clothes to dry in.

To turn this into an A: More laundry detergent, at least 6 months worth. I am also considering getting one of these or something similar that would make washing laundry by hand easier.


 
I wish this was my food storage! From UtahPreppers.com
4) Food Storage - D. If we ate some strange meals (peanut butter and green beans on pasta, anyone?), we could survive for at least a month, probably more. We would certainly be unhappy and probably constipated, though.

To turn this into an A: I need to keep storing a wide variety of foods. This needs to include all the food groups, plus some comfort foods to keep morale up. My goal is to have a minimum of 1 year of food stored. I'm working at it in 3 month increments (ie. get 3 months worth of all kinds of food before I store more of any one particular group). I need to have a selection of foods that are easy prep for those very busy days or if Hubby Dear has to make something on his own.


 
5) Knowledge and Skills - C. I'm continuing to read and research, buy items, and then test them out. In the past few months I've learned how to use a pressure canner and got some hands-on experience with wheat kernels. Our whole family is working toward becoming self-reliant through gardening. I've even bribed Hubby Dear to read Rawles' How to Survive TEOTWAWKI. Don't ask how I managed to accomplish that feat.

To turn this into an A: I need to continue what I'm doing but branch out into other areas far from my comfort zone. A major area we are lacking in is self-defense. We have always been against having firearms in our house but I'm beginning to see that this is an important part of preparedness. I need to get a ton of education and practice in this area before I make such a major commitment.


Compared to where we need to be, we score four raspberries on a five raspberry scale. Compared to where we were six months ago, however, we're definitely on the right track.

How do you rate?

Friday, August 27, 2010

What I've learned from those Chilean miners

If you don't know about the 33 men trapped in a mine in Chile, read this first:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1305894/So-Chilean-miners-survive-months-half-mile-underground.html



Now, what I've learned:
  1. Miracles can happen. I sometimes need to be reminded of this. Who would have thought that all 33 men would still be alive after 17 days?
  2. Prior planning and training makes a huge difference. Miners train for these kind of accidents. This enabled them to make it to their prearranged and supplied Safe Room. Once they made it there, the two days' worth of rations were carefully managed.  As preppers, we need to practice various emergency scenarios and have our supplies in place before we need them.
  3. Leadership matters. The miners apparently have selected 54-year old Luis Urzua as a leader. In a leadership vacuum, chaos reigns. You need to have someone who take the reins. Urzua was someone all the miners knew and trusted ahead of time.
  4. Sanitation is key. Prior to their discovery, the miners used an area outside of their safe room as a bathroom. The experts above ground are now instructing the miners on how to divide their safe room into different areas - for sanitation, eating, sleeping, etc. In order to survive the next few months, they've got to devise some solution to the sanitation problem. This is one area in which my prepping falls far short.
  5. You'd better be fit. The miners' waists cannot measure over 35" to fit through the rescue tunnel they are drilling. Survival is very physically taxing. You better be in shape before a crisis starts.
  6. You've got to keep your head in the game. The miners didn't give up hope during those 17 days when  rescue was slow in coming. Now they have been found but it may be Christmas before they can get out. Can you even imagine? You've got to be both physically and mentally tough to survive that. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few months.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Financial Preparedness, Part II

Previously, I discussed the first Baby Step towards financial freedom: a starter emergency fund of $1,000. Today I'll pick up with Baby Step Two: Paying off all your debt except your mortgage.
-----------------------------------------------------------

Debt will drown you.

In America we have this idea that debt is OK and a natural part of life. This attitude has only been around for the last 60 years or so. Credit cards as we know them did not exist until 1950 when Diners Club was introduced.

Credit cards may be convenient, but I think having real money in my pocket is even better! Some people try and play the system. They will charge up a low interest rate card and use OPM (Other People's Money) to invest and hopefully turn a profit. Others use credit cards for frequent flyer miles or rewards points and promise they will pay off their card faithfully every month.

I was one of those people, too. That was until I realized that until you are debt free, you cannot truly have financial freedom. Dave Ramsey often quotes Proverbs 22:7: "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave of the lender." This is very true and the more debt you have, the more true it will become for you.

What if you lost your job? What if that monthly payment got lost in the mail and all of a sudden your cushy interest rate gets jacked up sky high? What if you decide to have a mid-life career change and you have to go back to school? What if you get tempted at Pottery Barn and charge up way too many useless knick-knacks? Debt puts far too many "what ifs" in your life. Preparedness is about getting rid of as many "what ifs" as you can and debt has no place in the equation.

So what is the best way to pay down your debt? There are several schools of thought about this, but I subscribe to Dave Ramsey's plan. Baby Step Two is paying off all your debts, in order, from smallest to largest. Once you have paid off your smallest debt, you add the amount you were paying for the first debt to the minimum payment of your next highest debt. This is called building a debt snowball. Over time, the amount of money you will have available to attack each successive debt will grow, enabling you to pay off those big debts like vehicles and student loans.

Some people object to this plan and say you should pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first, regardless of how much it is. This does make sense in that you will save money in interest if you follow that plan all the way through. The problem with that isn't the math, it is you (and me and every other person out there who thinks it's more fun to spend money than pay down debt). If you pay off your debts smallest to largest, you will build momentum. You get quick gratification as you swiftly move through your debt snowball. If you start with the debt at the highest interest rate, you may stagnate if it happens to be one of your larger bills. It's like going on a diet and not seeing any change in the scale for 2 months. I'm much more likely to stick to my diet if I'm consistently losing a little bit every week rather than losing a big chunk all at once at the end of the two months.

This is the Baby Step Hubby Dear and I are currently on. We've been working our debt snowball for the last 18 months and we'll be done by the end of this year, having paid off nearly $80,000. Gulp. Momma knows how to shop.

Although we are not yet done with this Baby Step, we are already starting to have a greater sense of peace and control over our income. We have gotten rid of all of our credit cards and only use cash and debt cards.

Get rid of your debt! Pay off those bills permanently and don't get back into debt again.

Read much more about the Baby Steps in The Total Money Makeover. You can buy it on amazon.com or daveramsey.com. You may also be able to listen to Dave on his syndicated radio show. Dave's the man!


Coming Soon: Financial Preparedness, Part III: The Dreaded "B" word.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Month Four Preps

I keep going back and forth on what I want to buy in the next month. All the economic indicators point to a very long road before we get to real recovery. I'm worried about inflation, which means that I want to buy as much food as I can. It's almost feeling like a Sophie's Choice deciding which items to buy! (Yes, I can be overly dramatic. Why do you ask?)

These are the preps I have lined up for month four of my prepping plan:
  1. More $ for BOBs. Add $ to our vehicle kits.
  2. The items I postponed buying from Month Three: butane refills for my Zippo lighter, the remainder of the items for my van's vehicle kit.
  3. Buckets, mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, etc. so that I can package bulk amounts of flour, beans and rice.
And something a bit different:

   4.   Exercise at least 3 times per week.

This last one may be the toughest one of all. Ack!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Does Prepping = Homeschooling? And vice versa?


I was a homeschooler long before I was a prepper. Our family chooses to homeschool our children mainly for academic reasons. We seek to provide our children with an excellent, individualized education. Our desire for family togetherness and flexibility follows in close second. We also seek to develop our children's relationship with the Lord. I've never seen a formal poll, but it seems to me that a lot of preppers/survivalists homeschool their children. I know at least three of the blogs that I read regularly are headed up by homeschoolin' mamas.

If you prep, does that automatically mean you should homeschool?

Reasons to homeschool if you're a prepper:

  1. Preppers are independent by nature. 
Preppers know that they cannot rely on others for the essentials of life. They have found that anything the government is involved in is going to get messed up. Most parents can do a much better job teaching their children than any brick and mortar school. Keep in mind that I used to teach at one of the top high schools in the country, so I'm not slamming those educators out there that are doing their best with a tough job. It is honestly a lot easier to teach your own children, catering to their own abilities and learning styles than it is to pound education into the heads of a class of 39 hormonal teenagers. Or so I've found.

   2.  You can design your family's curriculum to teach your children the skills
        you deem essential.

The SurvivalMom takes advantage of her flexible homeschooling schedule to fit in   target practice with her youngsters. Organized Prepper's family engages in "Family Fun" activities like building a box oven. My own darling offspring are learning how to cook and garden. These are not only essential survival and life skills but they also have the side benefit of teaching math and science. As our lifestyle becomes more self-reliant, our children will learn many new skills at our side. If you are always at the beck and call of the school schedule, you may find your children's lives are more filled with homework than homesteading.

  3.   Your children more likely to be near you during an emergency.

This is probably not a super important reason to homeschool, but it is a benefit. As a preparedness-minded person, you are much more likely to be able to keep your children safe in an emergency than some poor overworked soul in a run-down school building. Contrary to popular opinion, homeschooled children aren't cloistered at home with mom all day, every day, but you do have a higher likelihood with being with your children than most parents of school-age children.

Reasons to NOT homeschool:

 
1. You need two incomes to support your family.

Some people manage to both work full time and homeschool. All it takes is a little ingenuity and flexibility. Others think the sacrifice of one income is well worth the benefits of homeschooling. But perhaps you are barely making ends meet. Or maybe you're a single parent already spread too thin. Those are cases where it would be most challenging to introduce homeschooling into the mix.

2. You don't want to spend time with your children.

OK, so I could have worded that better. The truth is that homeschooling parents are no better or worse than other parents. We all have days when we fantasize about putting our children on the big yellow bus and merrily waving goodbye. I often lack every single one of the nine fruits of the spirit, particularly patience and self-control. I always manage to pull it back together some how, though. When it comes down to it, I am always glad I homeschool.

And if you do homeschool, how should prepping affect it?

Things to think about:
  • Consider buying your curriculum ahead of time. If TEOTWAWKI  happens, obtaining curriculum will be the least of your worries, but if you already have it on hand your children will be able to get an education. An education will always be worthwhile.
  • You might also think about the kind of curriculum you invest in. We use Sonlight for our primary curriculum needs. The vast majority of it is non-consumable, which means it can be used for multiple children. We have shelves of wonderful literature that all of my children will get to enjoy as they go through their education.
  • A lot of homeschoolers use computerized curriculums. If you have no power, you will be unable to do school. That's something to think about. The Thinker's math curriculum is computerized and if we were without power for a long time, we'd have to come up with an alternative.
  • Approach electives with preparedness in mind. We encourage our children to pursue things that are of special interest to them. In addition to the sports and music they are already involved in, we are going to join 4-H. This will give them valuable skills in many preparedness-related areas.
  • Think about life insurance. The current recommendation is that you have 10x your annual salary in life insurance. Would you have enough money to continue homeschooling and maintain your current standard of living if your spouse should pass away? 
Obviously, homeschooling, like prepping, is not "normal" or "average". Both, however, are getting to be a bit more mainstream. For our family, both are part of our way of life.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Adventures in Whole Wheat: Cracked Wheat Cereal

Since my waffle experiment went swimmingly, I was eager to try out another application for whole wheat sans grain mill. I opened up Emergency Food Storage and Survival Handbook and found a recipe for Cracked Wheat Cereal and gave it a try.


First I measured out 1 cup of whole wheat kernels. Then I attempted to crack the kernels by pulsing them in my blender. They did not crack well at all. Some kernels remained whole, others cracked a bit while still more was turned completely into flour.



This is what it looked like when I gave up and decided to proceed with the recipe. After I was finished, I went back and read
the instructions for cracking wheat in a blender and you are supposed to only crack 1/4 to 1/3 c. at a time. Oops. Maybe that was the problem...



I added water, salt and a pat of butter to my improperly cracked wheat and cooked it for the 20 minutes it calls for in the recipe. When the time was up, it was still soupy and the wheat was extremely chewy.



I then increased the heat and stirred the mixture until the water had evaporated and the kernels were tender-ish.





The recipe made two large servings. Following the suggestions in the recipe, I added some milk to each bowl. Hubby Dear requested that I top his with cinnamon and brown sugar. I put honey and cinnamon on mine.

We dug in and chewed. And chewed some more. By cracky, that cracked wheat was chewy! The overall taste was okay, but the texture made it hard to enjoy. Neither of us finished our bowls.

The Verdict: This tastes like you expect "survival food" to taste. I'll pass on this one unless we're truly in a survival situation.

If you give this recipe a shot, let me know if you get it to come out better than I did.

Cracked Whole Wheat Cereal, from Emergency Food Storage and Survival Handbook by Peggy Layton

1 c. freshly cracked wheat
3 c. water
1/2 t. salt
1 T butter (or 1 T butter powder reconstituted with a few drops water)

Combine all ingredients in a pan. Bring to a full boil and reduce the heat. Simmer 20 minutes. Serve with honey, raisins, and milk. This cereal is also delicious with chopped apples, berries, nuts such as almonds or cashews, sunflower seeds, or cinnamon. Makes 2 servings.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Review: Emergency Food Storage and Survival Handbook by Peggy Layton

I’ve never been dissatisfied with living in the Midwest until I started getting into prepping. Materials for prepping are so much more easily available in the West. I’ve heard that regular ol’ Wal-Mart carries #10 cans of dehydrated foods and big buckets of wheat in certain areas! I’m sure many libraries in the West also carry a variety of food storage and preparedness books. I’ve not had much luck finding any at our local libraries.

I did, however, stumble upon a copy of Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook by Peggy Layton at a big city library. I was so excited I did the moonwalk down the aisle. The reason I embarrassed my darling children with my dance moves is that Peggy Layton is one of the big names in food storage literature. She has written about eight different food storage cookbooks that are highly recommended.

The subtitle of this book is “Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Family Safe in a Crisis”. I tend to disagree with that since this book really doesn’t touch many of the key survivalist topics in detail. It does, however, cover food storage extensively as well as 72-hour kits and water storage to a lesser extent.

The chapters of the book are entitled:

Preparing for Short-Term Emergencies
Storing Water for Emergency Use
The Economics of Long-Term Emergency Storage
The Logistics of Long-Term Emergency Storage
Building Your Stockpile of Food and Other Necessities
Obtaining Food for Storage
Implementing Your Food Storage Plan
Recipes Using Stored Foods

One of the strengths of this book is the many checklists Layton includes. Want to know what should be in your car kit or canning equipment? She’s got a checklist for that. She also includes many pages of inventory planning charts that you could photocopy and use for your own family.

There are many different types of recipes included in this book. They use commonly stored items like beans, dried eggs, powdered milk, etc. I have only tried one of them - Cracked Whole Wheat Cereal - and it turned out to be a failure. That may be more my fault than the recipe's fault, though, and I'll discuss that next week. The recipes do seem a little basic, but they would be a good starting place to design a meal that caters to your family’s taste. I’m kind of scared to try the “pinto bean punch”, though. I don’t think beans combined with 7-Up would ever agree with my family’s palate!

This book was obviously written with a wide audience in mind. She has taken this notion as far as not even bringing up the LDS food storage guidelines (ie. 150 lb of wheat per adult per year, etc.). These guidelines are accepted by preppers far and wide, so I’m not entirely sure why she omitted them in her book.

In fact Layton never gives you an idea of how much of anything you should be storing. She suggests listing some recipes and then figuring out how much it would take to make three months of those meals. Multiply by 2, 3, or 4 and you will know how much to purchase for 6, 9 or 12 months of meals. That’s all well and good, but I think it’s important to give food storage newbies an idea of just how much this will be. This is not to overwhelm anyone, but it is important to be realistic. The 202 lb of wheat I just ordered sounds huge, but because I have an idea of the amounts you are supposed to store I know that is only about 3 months worth of wheat for my family.

I’m being nitpicky. Overall, this is a great book that you can learn a lot from. I do not feel compelled to buy my own copy of the book because I a) have a lot of this information from other sources, namely Food Storage Made Easy and b) I’m going to photocopy the relevant pages to add to my food storage recipe or preparedness binders.

You can buy Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook at amazon.com or www.peggylayton.com.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Adventures in Whole Wheat: Blender Waffles

Today I opened one of the #10 cans of wheat that I recently bought and cooked with whole wheat kernels for the first time.

Since I don't have a grain mill, I am limited in what I can do with wheat. The first recipe I selected was Blender Waffles, which is a recipe I downloaded from Everydayfoodstorage.net.

Here are the ingredients. You'll notice that I'm using fresh milk and eggs. I don't have any powdered milk or eggs yet, but if you do, feel free to use them in this recipe.

This could be a completely shelf-stable recipe other than the bananas. Unless you live in Costa Rica on a banana plantation, you'd have to adapt the recipe in an emergency situation. Just leave out the bananas and subtract one tablespoon of wheat from the recipe below, and you're golden.


I opened the can of wheat and took a gander at the contents. Here's a small amount of it in Mini-Me's hand. I was surprised at how dry and unoily the kernels were. I guess that's what makes their shelf life so long.

Being the homeschooling mommy that I am, I proceeded to ruthlessly quiz the children about whether wheat is a monocot or dicot. We covered that in The Thinker's science lesson today. I told the children that I wouldn't give them any waffles unless they got the answer right.

The Thinker said, "Yeah right, Mom", rolled her eyes and left the kitchen. I've lost her to tweenage cynicism already. Mini-Me just looked up at me sweetly. She knows the power her brown eyes have to get her out of many a situation. Not to mention the fact that no one in my house is anything less than well-fed. So much for my threat.  

Anyway, the first step of the recipe is to blend the wheat with the milk for 4-5 minutes on high speed.

I was afraid my blender would either combust or do a lousy job, but it actually came out OK. The texture was kind of like a thick oatmeal when it was finished.

After the wheat and milk was blended, it was very easy to add the other ingredients, mix briefly, and then make the waffles.




 





As the waffles cooked, they smelled faintly like banana bread. I also made the caramel sauce to go along with the waffles.

When they were done, the family dug in with gusto. The Thinker, who is the pickiest eater I know, happily ate two of them. The caramel sauce tasted lovely with the waffles.

The whole wheat in the waffles made them extremely filling. The recipe made nine waffles, which ordinarily wouldn't go very far since my husband does a remarkable vacuum-cleaner imitation. We ended up having two waffles left over, which will make a fine breakfast for someone tomorrow.   

The Verdict: DELICIOUS! I'll definitely make these again.

Up next: Cracked Wheat Cereal


Blender Waffles, recipe from Everyday Food Storage

1 Cup Milk (3 T. Powdered Milk and 1 C. Water)
1 Cup + 2 Tbs Wheat Kernels, whole & uncooked
2 bananas
2 Eggs (2 T. Powdered Eggs and 1/4 C. Water)
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 Cup Oil
2 Tbs. Sugar

Put milk and wheat kernels in blender. Blend on highest speed for 4 or 5 minutes or until batter is smooth.

Add bananas, eggs, oil, baking powder, salt and honey or sugar to above batter. Blend on low.

Pour batter into hot prepared waffle iron from the actual blender jar (only one thing to wash!). Cook and serve.


Hot Caramel Sauce - makes enough sauce for 2 recipes of waffles–good on many desserts too!

1/2 Cup buttermilk or 1/2 Cup milk with 1/2 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice
2 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup Butter
2 Tbs. Corn Syrup (not essential but it will help your syrup keep longer with out going grainy)
2 t. baking soda
1 tsp. Vanilla

Mix ingredients in a pot and boil for 3 minutes, the sauce will turn to the carmel color towards the end of boiling. Stir in vanilla when syrup is finished cooking.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Month Three in Review

The third month of my prepping plan is complete.

What I accomplished:
What didn't happen:
  • I have my duct tape and sheeting, but I haven't cut it to size. Having pre-cut pieces could save so much valuable time.
  • I didn't get bottles of butane to refill my favorite Zippo MPL or the rest of my van's vehicle kit either. I decided to hedge against rising prices and bought 200 lb of wheat instead.
I'm still trying to prioritize my purchases for Month Four. So much to buy, so little money!

Monday, August 16, 2010

I've got my wheat so now what?

A grain mill is not in my budget for a couple of months. What can I do to play around with my 200+ pounds of wheat in the meantime?

First of all, I found that it is possible to crack your wheat in a blender. According to the gals at Food Storage Made Easy, you put a small amount of wheat (1/4-1/3 c.) in your blender and pulse it. When it looks cracked, it's done and you can use it in recipes that call for cracked wheat.

You can also use your blender to make pancakes or waffles with your whole, uncooked wheat kernels. The mixing time is somewhere around 5 minutes to grind all the wheat kernels. Ay Chihuahua! I have doubts about the ability of my blender to handle that.

What if my decrepit blender decides to die or the power goes off? In Emergency Preparedness the Right Way, the author describes another way to grind wheat. Basically, you take three pipes, bind them together, and use them to beat on wheat kernels you place inside a can. If you have ever seen how many tribes in Africa grind grain, you have the general idea.

I did a google search for "improvised grain mill" and lo and behold, I found the original source of this idea.  Improvised Grain Mill pdf   

That is one labor intensive way to grind grain!

Here are some recipes to use wheat without a grinder. I'm going to be experimenting with pancakes and one of the cereal recipes sometime during the next week and will report in on how it goes!


Blender Wheat Pancakes

1 Cup Milk (translation for powdered milk is 3 T. Milk and 1 C. Water)
1 Cup Wheat Kernels, whole & uncooked
2 Eggs (2 T. powdered eggs 1/4 C. Water)
2 tsp Baking Powder
1-1/2 tsp Salt
2 Tbs. Oil
2 Tbs. Honey or Sugar

Put milk and wheat kernels in blender. Blend on highest speed for 4 or 5 minutes or until batter is smooth. Add eggs, oil, baking powder, salt and honey or sugar to above batter. Blend on low. Pour out batter into pancakes from the actual blender jar (only one thing to wash!) onto a hot greased or Pam prepared griddle or large frying pan. Cook; flipping pancakes when bubbles pop and create holes.

ROASTED WHEAT KERNELS

1⁄4 cup wheat berries (whole kernels of wheat)
1⁄2 tablespoon oil
1⁄8 teaspoon salt

Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet. Add wheat berries and pop like popcorn. They don’t expand as much as popcorn, but they will pop. Swirl around in the pan to prevent burning. Sprinkle with salt while hot. Makes 1⁄3 cup.
 
CREAMY CRACKED WHEAT CEREAL

1 cup uncooked cracked wheat
3 cups water
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup powdered milk
4 tablespoons sugar

Prepare cracked wheat by using a wheat grinder or a blender. Add dry milk to water, whisk, and bring to a boil at medium high temperature. Add wheat, sugar, and salt; cover and reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until water is absorbed. Makes 3 cups cereal.
 
 
THERMOS WHEAT

1 cup wheat
2 cups boiling water
1⁄2 teaspoon salt

Preheat a thermos by filling it with hot tap water. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add salt. Empty the tap water from the thermos. Place the wheat in the thermos and add the boiling water. Screw the lid tightly onto the thermos and allow the wheat to cook for about 8 hours or overnight. Drain off any water that has not been absorbed. Serve.
 
The previous three recipes are from a pamphlet entitled All is Safely Gathered In: Family Home Storage Basic Recipes by the LDS Church

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Financial Preparedness, Part I

The American people are feeling pretty light in the pocketbook at the moment. I don't have any solutions for our national economic problem, but I do know a way you can build a strong financial future for your family. Dave Ramsey has come up with a common-sense plan you can use to become financially prepared. Over the next few weeks I will be discussing Dave Ramsey's Seven Baby Steps and applying them to preparedness.

Baby Step One: Create an $1,000 emergency fund

The first step towards achieving financial freedom is saving money for an emergency. Dave says you should start with the amount of $1,000. You are not to touch this money unless it is a true emergency.


Your furnace dies in the dead of winter = EMERGENCY
Your car needs a serious repair = EMERGENCY
You lose your job = EMERGENCY
You run out of Diet Coke Zero and you have spent all the money you budgeted for soda = NOT AN EMERGENCY

That is something I have to repeat to myself regularly.

The reason you should start with this step instead of immediately tackling your debt is that the unexpected WILL happen. We have had a ton of medical expenses in my family this year. Some were expected (the birth of Baby Dear), some were not (two family members needing an MRI). If you don't have any money on hand to deal with life's little (and big) emergencies, chances are you will add to your debt. You'll never climb out of the pit of financial insecurity if you don't build an emergency fund. Keep in mind that this is only a starter emergency fund and you will need to save even more money after you become debt free.

Now for the prepping aspect of Baby Step #1. Having cash on hand is essential for preparedness. Consider this:
  • During the Great Depression, FDR declared a bank holiday. All banks throughout the country were closed for several days. If that was to happen today, you would definitely want to have cash at your fingertips.
  • If the grid goes down in a short or long-term emergency, cash or barter will be the only way you can buy goods. ATMs won't work and neither will your debit or credit cards.
I do keep the bulk of my emergency fund in the bank, but I am starting to keep a stash of cash at home. Some of it will be in our BOBs and in our vehicle kits. The rest of it will be kept in a fireproof safe hidden in my home. You should make sure that the bulk of your cash is in small denominations unless you relish the prospect of paying for a $7 pack of batteries with a $50 bill! There may not be change available when you need to use your cash in an emergency.

In his book, The Total Money Makeover, Dave relates the story of one of his listeners who put her $1,000 emergency fund in a cheap glass picture frame. She wrote "Break in case of emergency" on the paper she displayed in the frame. The frame was then hung on the wall behind the coats in her coat closet.

Many survivalists and preppers think that precious metals are an emergency fund essential. That is not a priority for me at all. I have way too many other things I need to spend my prepping money on at the moment and I'm not sure gold will end up being a quality investment outside of preparedness over the long haul. Read more about why you may or may not need to buy gold here. Dave Ramsey doesn't think gold is a great investment, but then again he thought I was a nut for storing food.

Saving money for an emergency is key, whether that emergency is TEOTWAWKI or simply everyday life.

Read much more about the Baby Steps in The Total Money Makeover. You may also be able to listen to Dave on his syndicated radio show. Dave's the man!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Why the Fed-Ex man hates my guts

My order of wheat from Emergency Essentials came yesterday.

My herd of children are usually the ones who let me know when someone pulls into the driveway. Who needs a dog when you have four kids?  This time they were busy wreaking havoc elsewhere so I was the one who saw the Fed-Ex man arrive.

Under normal circumstances, I engage in polite chit-chat with the delivery person and sign for my deliveries. This time, however, I was a bit nervous and remained out of sight while the delivery guy brought up the boxes.

Why did I skulk around in my own house? Because I knew the delivery man would soon be hurting. Indeed, by the time he had gotten all of my boxes off his truck and onto the porch, his face was beet red and he was limping. I think my delivery weighed over 225 pounds and the temperature of 105 degrees didn't help matters either.

I'm pretty sure the Fed Ex guy will remember me and he probably noticed the very prominent lettering on these boxes as he cursed their weight. It may also have reminded him of the many other similar deliveries he's brought over the past few months.

That adds up to a breach in OPSEC. OPSEC stands for operational security, which basically means prevention of leaks of information that could be used by others to harm you. The Fed-Ex man is aware that The Harried Homemaker Acres has had several large deliveries from preparedness companies. This is not ideal since I'm trying to keep our preps on the down-low.

I have many more prepping purchases I need to get over the next few months. What should I do to both maintain OPSEC and keep the Fed-Ex man from needing to apply for worker's comp? Ideally, I would purchase things in small amounts with cash from several local stores, transport them myself, and discreetly bring them into my home. That's not easy for a person who lives in a preparedness wasteland. I'm just going to have to continue to do what I've been doing and hope for the best.

I implore companies that specialize in preparedness supplies to remove the prominent lettering from their packaging. Help your customers gather their preparedness materials discreetly. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Whole Tooth and Nothing but the Tooth

Not The Harried Homemaker's Mouth. I wasn't that calm.
I spent an intense three hours in the chair at the dentist's office today. Apparently when you reach your thirties, cavity germs decide to cluster bomb your molars. That's what happened to me, anyway. I had my first cavity when I was fixin' to turn 31. And I didn't just have one cavity that first time, I had four! It might have something to do with a wicked Hot Tamale addiction during my last pregnancy. It might also be related to my crazy ridiculous consumption of carbonated beverages. That's just a theory.

As the drill was bearing down on me, I fought back the urge to run away by meditating on how important it is to maintain your dental health. The laughing gas helped, too.

Why you should get your dental work done now:
  1. Dentists don't work during TEOTWAWKI. That's the rumor, anyway.
  2. Cavities and gum disease are linked to all sorts of nasty things: heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and preterm births of low birth weight children, among others.
  3. A toothache is a big bummer. As if you need something else to make you miserable when TSHTF. Dental health could have an impact on your psychological health. 
  4. If you don't have teeth, you can't eat. Better hope your wheat grinder works well cause you could be gumming all that wheat you should be storing.
  5. In a worst case scenario, your little cavity could turn into something more. It could get infected and require antibiotics. The infection could spread to the rest of your body without treatment. I don't know about you, but I think a cavity is a pitiful way to die. If I'm going to go out post-SHTF, it better be for something I couldn't prevent.   

Schedule an appointment with your local dentist if you haven't been in a while and stock up on toothpaste, toothbrushes and floss while you're at it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Month Three Food Storage

Some of my plunder
Sam's Club is a very dangerous place for me. I walk in with a sensible list and one grocery cart and I manage to come out with two carts filled to the brim. I'm sure I could get things cheaper if I lived somewhere with more than one small town grocery store. I'm working on couponing, but I am still a rank novice. So a big monthly trip to the "big city" it is for many of my food storage needs.

My food storage area
Here's what my main food storage area looks like now. The top rack has my canning supplies. I've used up quite a bit of vinegar by canning pickles and I need to restock that. One day soon I'm going to do a post on the virtues of storing vinegar.

The next rack down is canned fruits and vegetables. I tried to pick ones I thought my family would eat.

The middle rack has my home-canned pickles and green beans as well as kidney beans, Spaghettios, soup and chili. I have never bought Spaghettios or canned chili before. You're supposed to "Store what you eat and eat what you store", but that is a challenge when you don't normally eat many canned foods. I'll figure out something to do with them.

We've been rotating through the next rack down pretty quickly. I have 20 lb of peanut butter now so I think we're done with that for the time being. At least that's one item I can check off my list!

I have pasta, boxed mixes and the large box of quick oats in plastic storage bins on the bottom. When you live in the middle of a cow pasture, you can't help but get mice running through your house from time to time. We manage to catch them quickly but I'm trying to make things as difficult for them as possible by storing them in the bins.  The goal is to rotate through these items before they have a chance to deteriorate in nutrition or taste.  

Chicken-n-fats. I'm woefully low on fats besides peanut butter
I have a few cans of chicken now. I've never used canned chicken before so this will be another new adventure for us. One of these days I'll try canning my own meats and see how that compares.






Here's what I bought for food storage this month:
  • 6 lb macaroni
  • 6 lb spaghetti
  • 12 cans of chili with beans
  • 5 cans of chicken
  • 4 lb of yeast (I've frozen this and it will last indefinitely in the freezer)
  • 16 cans of Spaghettios
  • 12 boxes of macaroni and cheese
  • 3.75 lb of baking powder
  • 9 lb of quick oats
  • 2-2.5 lb jars of peanut butter
  • 8 cans of corn
  • 8 cans of peaches
  • 12 cans of green beans (Next year I hope we will be able to can enough green beans to be self-sufficient.)
  • 5 cans of kidney beans
  • 36 applesauce cups

Not to mention the 4-6 gallon buckets and 4-#10 cans of wheat that are on their way.

Our homeschooling year began this week and during The Thinker's history lesson, we read the following quote from Lao Tzu:

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

It feels like I've spent a lot of money and have very little to show for it, but I am at least three steps closer to my goal of 1 year's worth of food storage.

What steps have you taken this month to insure that your family will have food in a crisis?

Friday, August 6, 2010

To wheat or not to wheat?

I was all prepared to make my final Month Three Prep purchases this morning when I was made aware of the craziness in the world wheat market. I was watching HLN, which I refer to as the junkfood of the TV news biz. You know, full of fluff, light on substance. They reported that the Russian government is halting wheat exports, which set off a giant price increase in wheat prices. They are predicting wheat to continue it's upward trend. Famine could be a possibility in third-world countries like Egypt that depend on cheap wheat to survive.

Then I got on The Survival Blog and JWR said: "I predict this will start a chain reaction, around the globe. Other nations are sure to follow suit with export restrictions, and futures prices will soar. We can expect food riots in the future. There is also some likely inflation in other grain prices, as cattle feed is shifted slightly, to compensate. Get your wheat orders in with a trustworthy vendor pronto, before the inevitable prices increases hit the retail level! Wheat prices could double again, before December."

I about choked on my Cheerios when I read that.

My prepping plan went out the window and I decided to spend the remainder of my budget this month on wheat. Unfortunately I had already spent half of my money on sheltering-in-place supplies and a trip to Sam's Club.  I envy the people who live close to LDS canneries. You can get wheat very cheaply there if you are Mormon, have a Mormon friend who will go with you, or they let you in. 

The best buy that I have found for me is to order through Emergency Essentials. I had enough money remaining to buy 4-6 gallon "SuperPails" and 4-#10 cans of hard white wheat. If I had food grade plastic buckets and mylar bags on hand, it would have been cheaper to just order bags of wheat from Honeyville Grains. When I need to refill these buckets, that is what I'll probably do. Yes, I do plan on using my wheat regularly. Once I get it and get a grain mill, that is!

I hate deviating from my plan. Knee-jerk reactions are often not my best decisions. In this case, however, I was planning on buy some wheat in the next few months. This may save me some money and insure that the product I want is available.

Now I have to decide whether to get back on my prepping plan next month or to go ahead and buy more wheat. I need to buy 473 more pounds in order to have a year's supply for my family. I refuse to be at the mercy of inflation, food shortages and a world gone crazy.

Here are some links I got from the Survival Blog for further reading on the subject of the wheat market:

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6742QQ20100805

http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/higher-food-prices-russian-heatwave-wallet/19581230/

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Review: Emergency Preparedness the Right Way, by Howard Godfrey

The first prepping book I bought was Emergency Preparedness the Right Way by Howard Godfrey. I’m not exactly sure why I decided to purchase this one over the many other books on this topic available. I was just browsing on amazon.com and somehow this book ended up in my cart. I think it was the cute little girl on the cover that did it.

This is a small book – only 143 pages including the index and references. Small though it may be, it does cover the major survival topics. Chapters include:

-Planning and other random thoughts

-Water

                                       -Food

                                       -Storage Tips

                                     -Cooking, lights and fuel

                                     -Medical and sanitation

                                     -72-hour kits

                                     -Miscellaneous recipes (HH says: These are truly
                                      miscellaneous. Don’t buy this book for food storage recipes)

                                     -Improvised equipment

                                     -Some Last Thoughts

One thing I appreciated about this book is that it makes survival topics very accessible for the novice prepper. It’s not full of jargon or highly technical discussions. I got a good basis and it inspired me to do further research.

One weakness of this book is that it has a bit of filler. The author includes long (the one on pinto beans is 1+ pages) quotations from scholarly studies done at BYU. While the information may be relevant, the author could have simply summarized the findings of the studies. It felt like the author was trying to beef up the page count of his book, much like my students would do when I was a teacher back in the day. Add a bit of filler, make the margins 2 inches, jack up the font size and PRESTO you have a 5-7 page research paper, teacher! This book is self-published. This kind of stuff, plus the random nature of the first and last chapters, wouldn’t have made it past the editing process of most publishing houses.

Since some people are put off by heavily Mormon content, I will make note of it when I do reviews. Personally it doesn’t bother me. Some of the nicest people I have met are Mormons. I also have read enough Mormon preparedness documents to be able to quote their scriptures by now! The Mormons are on their game when it comes to prepping. The author does say "Remember, if you are prepared you shall not fear", which is a Mormon scriptural reference. That is about it.

This wasn’t a bad start to my prepping library. It covers the most important topics, albeit not in great depth. There is some filler included, but it is an adequate primer for the beginning prepper. I’ll keep this for reference and it has whetted my appetite for more.

Emergency Preparedness the Right Way is available at Amazon.com

Sheltering In Place

The government has been telling us to stock plastic sheeting and duct tape and be prepared seal a safe room since 9/11. Maybe they recommended it before and I was oblivious, but it really entered the public's consciousness after the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Yes, I've known I should do this.

No, I didn't take any steps to do it until this month.

Technically, there are two kinds of sheltering-in-place. The first is the one those of us in Tornado Alley are familiar with. If severe weather approaches, you grab your kids and hunker down in the basement or other safe area to avoid being blown into Oz. I've never looked good in blue gingham, so I've got this maneuver mastered.

The sheltering-in-place I am going to address today is the second variety and it is different from the first in some very important ways. If there is a chemical, biological, or terrorist attack, you may need to stay indoors and seal a room to keep your family safe.

In contrast to a severe weather situation, you do NOT want to shelter-in-place in the basement for a chemical or biological attack. Some chemical agents are actually heavier than air and can sink below ground level. You should select a room on the highest level of your house. Ideally that room would be interior and windowless and yet spacious (approx. 10 square feet per person) and with a source of water. I don't know about you, but that doesn't describe any room in my house!

I selected our master bathroom. It does have a window and door, but I should be able to seal them up quickly. Obviously it also has a water supply. If I had a lot of notice I could also seal up the adjoining master bedroom. We would be considerably more comfortable and have access to a TV to keep abreast of the news. I'm not counting on having a lot of warning, so we're probably going to be stuck in the bathroom. Thankfully, I store our BOBs in the bathroom closet so we'll have an emergency radio and other supplies.

The following diagram from ready.gov illustrates how you're supposed to seal up your room.



You should pre-cut all of your pieces of sheeting ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is be fooling around with that stuff when time is of the essence. Store the pre-cut sheeting with a roll of duct tape and a pair of scissors in the room you'll be sheltering in.

Don't forget to make sure the sheeting you buy is at least 2 mils thick. I bought a 250 meter roll of 3.5 mil plastic for $7.27. The duct tape was a little under $4. Pretty cheap preps that have a multitude of other uses. The leftover plastic sheeting could be used to make an evaporation still, a tarp, or sleeves to wear when you butcher rotting pig carcasses to create biodiesel. You know, vital survival activities in a SHTF scenario.

This kind of shelter-in-place is designed to last for a few hours, not days. You can't seal yourself in for very long or you'll suffocate! I've read that if the room you're sheltering in has at least 10 square feet per person, you will have enough oxygen for at least 5 hours. My bathroom is only 50 sq ft and I have six people in my family, so I guess we'll have to all breathe shallowly. I have read that most chemical agents should dissipate by 2 hours, though, so we should be fine. I hope.

Just to muddy the waters further, if there is a nuclear attack, you should shelter in place in the lowest level of your house or an interior room. Having earth and concrete surrounding you will help protect your family from radiation. You should prepare your basement shelter in much the same way as your upper level shelter. Read this for more information http://www.bt.cdc.gov/radiation/shelter.asp

Don't forget that before you seal yourself in for a chemical, biological or nuclear attack, you need to turn off your heat or A/C!

I live in a rural area and I'm pretty sure the farmer next door isn't a secret agent for Al Qaeda, but even our family could potentially need to shelter in place. No matter who you are or where you live, take the time to buy some plastic sheeting and duct tape and get ready. Don't be a slacker like me!

There are two websites I recommend for further reading:


http://www.bt.cdc.gov/planning/shelteringfacts.pdf


and

http://www.ready.gov/business/plan/shelterplan.html