Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Prepping Is Like Being On A Professional Racing Team...You Have To Do The Right Things To Win!


We watch a fair amount of NASCAR. I am continually impressed by the amount of strategy, teamwork, and hard work that goes into this sport. The drivers work hard to be in good condition so they can endure the 500-600 laps races. The teams have meetings to figure out what they can do better and how to improve their chances at winning. When it all comes together, victory is sweet.

Prepping is or should be like that.

As a prepper, you have should have a plan or a strategy. You should have attainable goals and be seeking to accomplish them. In racing the team wants to win, of course. However, they set their goals to be improving their time, their position, and have a better performing car. You should be looking to improve your skills. You should be continually working towards your goals. You should have a plan for what you are preparing for and how you can be ready. You want to win at prepping too and that is only achieved when a situation hits and you are ready. In the meantime, you should be looking to improve all the time.

Notice I mentioned "team"? Yes, you can prep alone and a fair amount of people do. However, prepping is a lot more effective when you have people who are helping you and prepping alongside of you. Whether you have a prepper community, group, neighbors, or your family, your prepping will go a lot smoother and be better when you have people on your team. Just like these racing teams who have a driver, crew chief, pit crew, and car builders, you should have a team of people who are willing to be part of your prepping success too.

You should be talking your "team" too so that you are all on the same page. On a racing team, everyone has their roles and their jobs. Whether your team is just your family or a group, everyone should know what they are doing in a situation. Everyone should have their roles and their jobs assigned and they should be practicing what they need to do. I also think people should be cross-trained in case a person is down or not able to perform their duties.

In professional racing, the driver and the pit crew are in better condition than a lot of athletes. Sitting in a hot car, racing hard for 3-4 hours, and having to be constantly aware and on alert during the whole race is a lot for a driver. That takes a lot of endurance and endurance is only created by working out intensely. These drivers run marathons, bike 30-60 miles at a time, participate in Ironman competitions, and/or workout intensely every day. Their pit crews are the same way and most of them were college/professional athletes. That does not happen by sitting on the couch, watching YouTube, and wishing to lose weight.

As a prepper, you need to be in that kind of condition. I encourage everyone to start prepping, but I really encourage everyone to start taking care of themselves. I am not in the best shape either, but I am trying to lose weight and workout more too. We need the same endurance that professional racers and pit crews have to get through the race. We need to workout, walk, run, bike, swim, and do whatever we can to be in the best condition possible so we can survive whatever situation we are preparing for.

Preppers also need to make sure they have what they need to survive a situation. You need the right tools to survive just like a racing team needs the right tools to work on the car and make the car the best car on the track. You need a good shelter, food, water, cooking source, heat, and all the other things preppers need to survive and thrive. You need the right tools.

Sometimes you might wonder if you have the right tools, but you never know when you need them so you should always have them. For example, I rarely use my camping stove except to try it once in a while to make sure it is working. However, I don't want to be without it because I can cook with it if we are out of power. When you get a glimpse of the NASCAR haulers, you see a lot of toolboxes and closets. They bring everything with them because they might need it. The same goes with your prepping items. You might need it so you should have it.

Which brings me to another point: you should probably have more than one. Yes, the phrase is 'two is one and one is none' in prepping. The same goes for most professional racing teams. They bring replacement parts, cars, fire suits, and a lot of other things just in case they need it. Your prepping should be similar. Do you have more than one way to cook food, gather water, resupply your food stockpiles, and make a fire? You need to think about having more than one way to do things and having more than one of everything.

You might have thought what can prepping and a professional racing team possibly have in common, but the answers are pretty clear. We can all learn a lot from watching others and sometimes even sports. Prepping takes a plan, strategy, teamwork, endurance, the right tools, and a good supply.

How do you think you can improve your prepping?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Reality of Selling Eggs From Your Homestead


(In December, I wrote an article for the Rootsy Network where I am a guest contributor. I love what they are doing over there! If you are into homesteading, self-reliance, and do-it-yourself, you must check them out!)

When I started homesteading, I did not decide to homestead because I wanted to make money. I homesteaded because I wanted to live a simpler life and provide for myself by producing my own food. After trying to unsuccessfully garden for a few years, I figured out what I was doing wrong. With the garden going strong, I wanted to continue on the homesteading journey.

To me, the next logical step was to get egg-laying chickens. Being a rookie chicken owner, I ordered fifteen brown egg laying chicks in a variety of breeds. They came in the mail, I picked them up as soon as the post office called, and we got them set up in their place. We lost about five of them within a week. I went to the local feed store and purchased six more chicks.

For the rest of this article, head over to The Rootsy Network and check it out! 

Thanks,
Erica



Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Yes, You Can Live Without A Clothes Dryer!


There are some modern conveniences I would not want to live without: running water and a washing machine for starters. There are some modern conveniences that are not really necessary, but they make life easier. I lived without a microwave for over four months until someone took mercy on my children and bought one. I was fine without it.

Another appliance I lived without is a clothes dryer. I lived for over two years without a clothes dryer and I really didn't miss it! The clothes dryer would no longer dry the clothes. I didn't want to hire an appliance repair person to come out to my place. I knew it was a minimum $85 for them to come out, plus parts, and any additional labor. I don't like spending my money like that because sometimes I am cheap (not frugal).

I didn't fix the clothes dryer myself because I was slightly baffled by my clothes dryer. I don't always have faith in myself when it comes to fixing things. So I lived without it while having four kids (two in sports and dance) in the house. How?

1. Get yourself a large clothes drying rack. I know this is an investment and I had mine long before my clothes dryer broke. I hang up a lot of clothes anyway to keep clothes lasting longer. I suggest getting a heavy duty, wooden clothes drying rack. Buying a cheap, small, flimsy clothes drying rack is not going to serve you well. I broke two of them before getting this one. One of these large ones typically hold 1-2 loads of laundry.

2. Find a way to hang clothes outside. You can have a clothesline or an umbrella drying rack. There are so many options for clothes line outside! I have an old-fashioned one that was rebuilt two years. I love it! However, you can get one that pulls out from the house and attaches to a post. You can use a pulley system. Also, invest in some good quality clothespins.


3. Be creative. I strung up lines in my business to hang even more clothes, but I wish I would have known about this pull-out clothes line! I used hanger to hang shirts. I used back of chairs for other items. If you have an outdoor balcony, use that to lay clothes over (clean it first)!

4. Create a system for laundry. I was already in the habit of washing 1-2 loads every day which is perfect for living without a clothes dryer. I could wash and hang a load before I went to work every day or at night before I went to bed. In the summer, hanging clothes outside means they dried very quickly unless the humidity was high. Then I didn't bother. In the winter, clothes dried fairly quickly in the house because the air was dry and sucked away the moisture. Also, I am one of those people who like to wash, dry, and fold the clothes in one day so this system was actually perfect for me.

5. What do you do about crunchy clothes? You can cut back a little on laundry detergent. You do not need as much as the manufacturer says. You can add vinegar to the rinse cycle on the washer to help with this. You can add liquid fabric softener. Or you can just deal with it. Crunchy clothes and towels did not honestly bother me. I would give them a good shake after taking them off the line to loosen them up. In the summer, pick a windy day to hang jeans and towels. They won't be crunchy!

After a little over two years, we decided the clothes dryer needed to be fixed for various reasons. I started doing some research on the internet and YouTube. I found out the two biggest reasons my clothes dryer wasn't probably working. I ordered two parts for a grand total of $13.00. One of those parts was a thermal fuse which solved the problem. Crazy, right?

Fixing the clothes dryer wasn't bad at all. The worst part was getting the dryer moved away from the wall enough to take the back panel off. While we had it off, we cleaned the dryer and replaced the dryer hose and vent.

Still, I enjoyed living without the clothes dryer and never really considered it an inconvenience. The clothes lasted longer, didn't shrink, and didn't fade. The only time I went to the laundromat was when I washed quilts and large comforters. Truth be told, they didn't really fit in my washer or dryer so this was going to happen anyway.

What modern convenience could you live without?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Start Planning and Prepping Your Garden Now For A Successful Garden This Summer (And Years After!)


Gardening is a wondrous thing. You just go to the gardening center and buy whatever looks good. You put seeds in the ground and plant some plants. Voila! You have growing things and eventually some produce to eat. Gardening just seems that easy, doesn't it?

Reality check! You spent all that money on seeds and plants. You watered. But your garden isn't growing very well. Some of your plants have died. Whole rows of seeds didn't come up. Rabbits ate your tomato plants. Your garden is starting to look like a disaster!

Most people have this idea that you can just stick some plants and seeds in the ground and you have a garden. I read about a lot of people who plan to garden after some disaster, but never have gardened before in their life. I read about how they used to garden with their grandma 30-40 years ago and they think they still remember how to do it. Most people do not understand that gardening is more than planting.

You need to start planning and prepping your garden now if you want a successful garden later on. You can do things now that will ensure success this summer and will yield a better producing garden for years to come.

How do you start planning and prepping your garden now? There is still snow on the ground and winter is still here! Trust me, there is a lot you can do now!

1. What planting zone do you live in? You need to figure that out. That will make a difference in when you start plants, when you can put certain plants in the ground, and what you can plant. Not all planting zones are equal. Some plants do great in zones 7-9, but won't even work in zones 3-5 without a greenhouse and a lot of coddling. You may be able to start planting some cooler crops in  April in zone 5, but wouldn't even consider it in zone 3. Check out your planting zone here!

2. What do you want to plant? Look at what you eat. You might want to try all these cool vegetables you find in the gardening centers. However if you or your family won't eat them, then you just wasted time, space, and money. Do you eat a lot of salads? Plant lettuce mixes, spinach, radishes, cherry tomatoes, etc. Do you use pizza sauce, pasta sauce, and salsa? Plant tomatoes, peppers, oregano, onions, etc. Look at what you eat.

However, don't be afraid to try 2-3 new things just to see what they are like - just don't go crazy and plant several rows. A couple of plants each will do just fine for experimentation!

3. When should those plants and seeds go in the ground? Make a schedule of when you should be starting plants in the house and when plants and seeds should be planted outside. If you don't want to start your own plants, that is fine. It is a skill you should learn, but can be intimidating for a beginning gardener. However, make a plan for when you should be planting in your garden. Find out when your frost date is for your planing zone and make a plan from there. Some plants can handle being nipped by the frost, but a lot of plants can not!

4. Plan out your garden on paper. You know what you want to plant, now how do you want to plant them? I would recommend getting the book Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening. Some plants should not be planted beside other plants because they will not grow well together. You also need to research how much room your plants need to grow. Sometimes you can plant closer together, but squash, pumpkin, and cucumber plants will need room to spread out.

5. Are you considering edible perennials? Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, asparagus, and more are great additions to any garden. You might want to consider planting these outside of the garden, but definitely include them in your gardening plans. Any plant that can produce year after year with some minimal maintenance is a great idea.

6. Do you currently have a garden? If you currently have a garden, you need to add to your soil. Compost, manure/used bedding, and peat moss will help get your soil into a growing state of mind. If you are not sure what your soil needs, take a sample of dirt to your local extension office to get it tested. Most soils will need some kind of fertilizer whether it is organic or non-organic. You can add compost or manure to your garden now by just laying it on top. You can always till it in when the ground thaws.

7. Do you need to dig a garden bed? Are you considering raised beds? If you are starting a new garden or building raised beds, map out where you are putting them in your yard. Do some research on your soil and what you may need to add to it. If you are starting raised beds, you will need good black soil, compost or manure, and maybe a little sand to keep the soil from compacting. Make sure your new beds are big enough for what you want to plant or you may need to amend your planting plans.

8. Do you need a tiller or do you need to find one to rent/borrow? I firmly believe in tilling the garden every spring to loosen up the dirt and break up the first weeds trying to grow. I have heavy black clay soil so it needs to be broken up every year. If you don't have a tiller, you need to find one to use. A lot of rental centers have them available for a couple of hours or half days. However, you might be able to find someone to till your garden for you which is great! They might want some compensation, but would be cheaper than buying or renting one.

9. How do you plan to manage weeds in your garden? You do this in a few ways. You can weed the garden yourself which can be great therapy. You can lay mulch down, but research what plants like to have as mulch. You can lay plastic or card board down between the rows to block out weeds. Figure out what works for you and how much time you have on hand to weed the garden.

10. How do you want to water the garden? As much as it would be nice to have a gentle rain soak the garden a few times a week all summer, that is not going to happen. Last year, we had one wet month followed by one and half very dry months. We ran hoses and sprinklers to the garden to water. You need to have a plan for watering the garden. How will you do it? Do you have an outside water source or will you be hauling buckets of water? Can you add an outside water source (faucet, rain barrels, etc.)? Some people use a drip system or soaker hoses to water their garden which would be worth looking into?

This covers the basics of gardening and getting your garden started. The goal of gardening is to produce vegetables and fruits. From someone who has been gardening for awhile and learned the hard way more than once, you will have successes and failures. Your first year garden may not be the best garden, but there are things you can do to ensure good results.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A Disaster is Coming! A 20-Point Checklist to Get You Prepared for the Next Disaster!


We have the potential for so many things to happen right now which means we need to be prepared. We have had very damaging natural disasters in the last year that has woken up a good deal of people. We have the potential for more to happen. A nuclear war could happen and we are now being told to prepare for that possibility. As a country, we have enemies who have biological and chemical weapons to take us out. They could get mad enough to attack us.

In other words, a disaster could be coming! What should you being doing?

There are several things you should be doing. Hopefully, you are not home alone because this is a good time to recruit anyone who is living with you to help. In fact, they shouldn't be given a choice about helping or not. Time is of the essence here.

Also, you have many unknowns. You don't know if the water will be available or safe to drink. You might or might not have power. You might have days or only hours to get ready. You might have a chance to get to the store for last minute supplies or you might not. You don't know.

This checklist is to keep you on track and give you a way to plan for getting ready. This list is not necessarily in order of priority except the first two items. Water and food are non-negotiables and should be your top priority after shelter which hopefully you already have.

20-Point Checklist to Get You Prepared for the Next Disaster!

1. Secure your water storage. You should be filling every container you can with water for storage. You will need drinkable and non-drinkable water. If you have the chance to go to the store, pick up more water. No matter what, water should be your number one priority to have on hand.

2. Take stock of your food storage. Do you have everything you need to not leave home for a week, two weeks, a month, or three months? If you think you have enough food, I would be adding more food to your storage. Make sure you have a good mix of ready to eat, easy to prepare, and ingredients to make meals.

3. Take care of any chores that take water. Throw in a load of laundry. Wash dishes. Clean what needs to be cleaned. The last thing you want to have to worry about is dirty laundry and dishes.

4. Get your auxiliary power sources ready to go. Make sure you have fuel for the generators. Make sure your solar chargers and external batteries are charged. Whatever you need to do for power, get it ready.

5. Gather your supplies to cover windows and doorways. You need heavy clear plastic and duct tape to cover windows and doorways. You can also use plywood and screws to cover windows, but you want to seal up anything on your structure that could leak or be broken. Get ready to cover windows and doors or go ahead and get started.

6. Gather your cold weather clothing. If it is winter and you could lose power, you want to be able to stay warm. Make sure you have stocking caps, gloves, scarves, warm shoes and socks, coats, boots, and lots of layers to stay warm. In case of a nuclear war or an exploding volcano, you might have to worry about the resulting ash cloud which would keep your climate considerably cooler.

7. Be prepared to stay in one room. Ideally, you only want to heat one room when having to use auxiliary heat. Be ready to seal off a room by hanging heavy blankets over open doorways and having emergency supplies in that room. Add extra seating by moving chairs or couches into that room for everyone's comfort.

8. Have your auxiliary heat sources ready to go. If you have a wood stove, get your kindling in the house and your firewood stocked by the house or in the house. If you are using kerosene or propane heaters, be sure you have kerosene or propane filled and ready to go. I would also have battery powered carbon monoxide detectors ready to use with the batteries checked for freshness.

9. Make a plan for your pets. If you need to bring them in, make a plan for that and add extra water to your preps for those pets. You need to have a safe place for them. They are your responsibility and leaving them to fend for themselves is not a good plan. If you have to leave your home, be ready to take them with you with a pet carrier, food, water, and leashes.

10. Do you have gas stored? You should check your gas stores and if the gas is good. You might need that gas for your generator, chainsaw, and/or your vehicle. If you don't have any gas stored, you will want to get some in case gas pumps are not working or have run out of gas. I would get non-oxygenated gas and a gas stabilizer for long-term storage.

11. Check your batteries, flashlights, and radios. Make sure you have plenty of batteries for your flashlights. Some flashlights take AA, AAA, C and D batteries depending on the size of the flashlight. A lot of your LED lanterns take batteries too. You also need a dependable radio to listen to the news and for any emergency alerts. Make sure you have batteries for that too. Also, make sure all your flashlights and radios are currently working.

12. Get your bug out bags ready to go. You might have to leave your home. Even though bugging in is usually your best option, you may have no choice but to leave. Get your bug out bags ready to go by the chosen exit door. You will also want your 72 hour kit and some cases of water ready to go too. If you have time, fill your chosen bug out vehicle with gas and get your vehicle emergency kits in order too. Be ready to leave.

13. Get everyone home if possible. If your spouse or yourself is at work, you should be heading home and doing what you can to get ready. If your kids are at daycare or school, get them home or keep them home. You want everyone at home when a disaster is about to strike. You don't want to worry about everyone and you will need the help getting ready.

14. Make sure you are ready to defend yourself. This is important especially if you live in an urban setting. Looters can and will be coming. Be ready to defend your home and your family. Have a way to block doors and ground level windows. Have your gun ready to use. Be mentally ready to defend yourself by any means necessary.

15. Secure or store everything that is outside inside. Put your cars and bicycles inside if possible. All your lawn/patio/porch furniture should be put away or stored inside. All your outdoor plants should be brought in. Your grill should be put in the garage, but in a spot that it can be used easily. Anything that could be become a projectile outside should be put away. Usually most bad weather can bring high winds that will blow your outdoor things into another building or your home. You want to eliminate as many problems as possible and having a patio chair through your window would definitely cause more problems.

16. Get your entertainment supplies together. Otherwise called boredom busters, have some things to do to entertain yourself and your family. Make a pile of books to read, games to play, knitting or crocheting to do, and anything else that takes no electricity to do or play. You will have down time or will need to distract during a disaster. Plan for this because (1) if you have little ones, they will need to be distracted and (2) we all need to be distracted in times of stress and will need something to do to pass the time.

17. Make that last trip to the store if you have time. As preppers, we would like to think we have everything covered. However, that last minute trip to the store might not hurt. You can grab more water, food, batteries, and any holes you found getting ready for the disaster. If you only have a few hours before the disaster, I would skip the store trip unless it is an absolute emergency. The stores will likely be cleaned out anyway.

18. Get some extra cash for after the disaster. If you have time before the disaster, grab some cash. You don't know if you will need it or not, but you likely don't want to be without it. At least $100 would be ideal to have on hand, but get the amount of money you can afford and be comfortable with.

19. Have a plan for sanitation. What will you do for sanitation? If you are using toilets, you will need to have extra water for flushing. You will need to explain to the others about when to flush and when not to. If you are using a buckets and bags, you will need a way to dispose of the waste. Also, have plenty of toilet paper and flushable wipes on hand. You will also need a plan for trash. If you can compost, you will need a place to do that. If you can burn trash, you will need a way to do that. I would also make sure the trash cans have good tight-fitting lids.

20. Assign everyone a chore or responsibility that they are in charge of. Getting through a disaster is mostly about survival, but one person should not be doing all the work. Everyone can pitch in and make life a little more bearable for everyone during a disaster. There is plenty for everyone to do before, during, and after a disaster. Give everyone something to do.

This is a basic checklist. Some of you will not have to worry about all these things. Some of you will have more to worry about than these things. I would print out this checklist and personalize it for yourself to develop your own plan. While you will be worrying about these things leading up to a disaster, a lot of this checklist can be done long before any disaster hits.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Top Ten Posts for 2017

Monday, January 1, 2018

10 Homesteading Goals You Should Be Setting This Year


Homesteading is one of those things that just does not work if you don't have a plan. Part of that plan is setting goals. What do you want to accomplish on your homestead and what do you envision your homestead to be? The possibilities are endless, but you need goals and a plan!

10 Homesteading Goals You Should Be Setting This Year

1. Expand the garden. While you should always grow what you eat, consider expanding your garden to cover more of your personal food needs. I like making my own sauces so that is what I have been focusing on. However, I need to think of vegetables that will winter well in a root cellar too to provide more food over the winter.

2. Plant more fruit and nut trees. Part of homesteading is providing your own food needs and having more food based trees helps do that. I know we need to add more pear and apple trees to our homestead as well as more elderberry bushes. We already have plenty of walnut trees, but I would like to look at other nut trees.

3. Consider expanding your livestock. If you have chicken layers, the next step might be meat chicks. Turkeys, geese, and ducks would also help add to your meat needs while being fairly low maintenance birds to have on the homestead. Maybe you are ready to take the next step for pigs or goats. Maybe the next step is a feeder steer or a dairy cow. On a homestead, the idea is to raise your meat and eggs. How can you do that?


4.  Raise produce and livestock for profit. While running a homestead is great, cash flow to keep running the homestead helps with the stress. Whether you are selling eggs, selling produce at a farmers market, or raising meat for other people, that cash flow will help cover the cost of feed and other implements needed for the homestead.

5. What part of homesteading do you want to make simpler? Homesteading is about having a simpler life away from the modern consumerism of society. However, homesteading can be anything but simple. You should figure out ways to make your homesteading journey a little simpler and easier for you.

6. Learn new skills. What skills do you want to learn this next year? Butchering animals? Soap making? Canning? Dehydrating? Making lard or tallow? Sewing? The list of skills to learn can be endless, but find three that you want to learn and devote some time to it. Watch videos, read books, and buy the supplies so you can practice and learn. The only way to fail at learning skills is to not start.

7. What would make homesteading easier? Is there a tool or a vehicle you want to purchase to make homesteading easier? Come up with a purchase plan or figure out a way to rent/borrow what you need to make your homesteading life easier. Back breaking work is only fun for so long and then you lose interest. Personally, a four-wheeler with a trailer would be divine for our homestead this Spring!


8. Do you need to relocate? Are you an urban homesteader that wants to be a rural homesteader? Do you want to live in a different area? What would you need to do to make that happen? Some goals are meant for you to dream big and set a plan in action. If you are not happy where you are at, what do you need to do to give yourself  the homestead of your dreams?

9. What projects do you need to tackle this year? Do you need to put up buildings? Build fence? Enlarge or fence in the garden? Fix or maintain buildings? The list of things to do can be endless on a homestead, but guess what? That list is a list of goals for you to attain and cross off!


10. Gather knowledge. While homesteading is a lot of learning by experience, being knowledgeable about what you are doing helps greatly. Whether you are watching videos, reading books, or talking to/working with more experienced homesteaders, you should be constantly learning.

What homesteading goals do you want to set this coming year?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


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