Saturday, July 22, 2017

10 Reasons You Should Be Gardening!


One of the most important skills to learn is gardening. The ability to grow your own food and maintain your own sustainability is a key point in homesteading and prepping. While you may not be able to produce all your own food, you have the capability to produce a lot of it. You can also garden just for pleasure. You can also garden for your long term food storage needs by canning, freezing, and drying your produce.

There are many ways to garden. No matter what method of gardening you choose, the results are the same. With a little hard work, weed control, and commitment, you will have produced your own food and gained a skill that, sadly, most people do not have.

10 Reasons You Should Be Gardening:

1. You produce your own food! This is the best thing about gardening. You can walk out to your garden and pick what you want to eat with your supper or as your supper. Eating what you produce is a great feeling. Your hard work produced food to provide for you, your family, and possibly neighbors and friends!

2. Gardening can be therapeutic. When you are feeling a little down, tending to the plants and watching things grow can lift your spirits. When you are feeling a bit frustrated or angry, pulling weeds can be a great outlet. If you are feeling pretty happy, the garden can keep lifting your spirits.

3. Gardening can decrease stress levels. See number #2. However, pulling weeds can be the best therapy and keep you from possibly hurting someone other than the weeds. And trust me, the weeds can handle it!

4. It's a skill that needs to be learned and passed on. Many people do not know how to garden. They will remember that their parents or grandparents gardened, but they had no interest themselves in learning. We need to be teaching and encouraging the next generation to be growing their own in some way or form. Whether it is growing food in containers on an apartment balcony, a community lot, raised beds, or in the ground, gardening skills need to be taught and passed on.


5. You eat healthier. There isn't many doctors, nutritionists, or diet gurus who will tell you not to eat your vegetables and fruits. Adding vegetables and fruits that are homegrown to your meals will help you be healthier and feel better too.

6. You will lose weight and burn calories pulling weeds and tending plants. Gardening has been proven to burn calories and even help lose weight with the exercise you get tending the garden.


7. Family and couples can work together. My kids are often out in the garden working with me. This year they did a lot of planting of seeds, onions, and potatoes. We worked on planting in straight rows, seed spacing, and identifying plants. They help with weeding and harvesting. They also love to eat what comes out of the garden. Watering the garden has become a couples activity with Rob doing a lot of the watering including setting the sprinkler and coming up with new watering set-ups. You can involve your kids and your spouse if you want to. (I also understand wanting some "alone" time in the garden too!)

8. You can have a chemical free, organic garden. We try very hard to not have chemicals in the garden. If you want a chemical free, organic, non-GMO garden, you can have that. You get to control what is planted, what is sprayed, how to control the pests, and other inputs. Basically, it is yours to do with how you want!

9. You can save money at the grocery store. Vegetables and fruits rarely taste or look as good as the ones I grow. Nothing beats a homegrown tomato! Eating fresh vegetables from the garden and preserving the extra bounty will save you a fair amount of money on your grocery bill in the summer and the winter.

Learning a new way to stake tomatoes this year

10. You can experiment and learn new things while gardening. You will learn when you planted way too much zucchini and even your neighbors hide from you to avoid getting one! You will learn that you should only plant vegetables your family will eat and you will freeze/can. You will learn to try something new every year and see how it does. You can experiment with different types of tomatoes, peppers, and squashes. The garden is one big science experiment sometimes and, even though you might depend on what you produce, you can always try new things and change what you want to do.


Gardening is a skill you should be learning. It has many benefits and perks as you can read. I would encourage everyone to do it!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Prepper's Total Grid Failure Handbook: Book Review


One of the topics that come up for discussion at our house is living off-grid or what we will be doing if the grid fails. Our whole house is electric which causes stress and anxiety because we are so dependent on the grid. To alleviate that stress and anxiety, we have been looking at ways to become less dependent on the grid.

When this book came in the mail, I was ready for it. We have needed the information that Prepper's Total Grid Failure Handbook provided.

First of all, I love their focus on renewable energy and using renewable resources. One of the many flaws I see in prepper's off grid plans is that there is a heavy dependence on fuels (gas, diesel, and propane). Those supplies will eventually run out even though you hope to not be without power for that long in those situations. I would rather spend the money on renewable resources that will not increase our dependence on the grid and on the supply.

Second of all, I really, really appreciate the technical information that the Fiebigs provided. Everything was broke down to understand the different off-grid energy power sources. They had recommendations for items and systems they used.

We didn't know what system would fit our future and present needs. We didn't know the technical information behind a solar panel system. We didn't know what could handle the wattage we could be using and what appliances we can not use on a solar panel system. The Fiebigs provided the information in a way that we can understand it.

We were lost on generators too. While we still see generators as a back-up solution and not a permanent one, it was good to know the pros and cons between different types of generators. We didn't know which one was best. Now we have a better idea of what generator would be best for our needs.

Third and last, I liked that they talked about their trials and errors too. They have lived this off-grid life for five years. They started out small with a 15 watt solar panel and kerosene lamps. They have come a long ways from that first day they went off-grid. I liked how they shared this information and what worked best for them.

The Prepper's Total Grid Failure Handbook: Alternative Power, Energy Storage, Low-Voltage Appliances and Other Lifesaving Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living by Alan and Arlene Fiebig has a permanent spot in my reference library. I have a feeling we will be using it often! I hope you take a look at this book and add it to your reference library too!


Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish In July


July is the time of the year that flies by so quickly. There is never enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished. The weather is hot and very humid (at least in Iowa it is!). The garden is growing like crazy. The grass and the weeds are either having a competition to see who can grow the fastest or the grass is burnt up and the weeds still need to be mowed.

For July's prepping accomplishments, I tried to keep the list easy to do since this is a busy time of the year! Some people might find some of these things a challenge and that is good.

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish in July:

1. Make a meal list using only food storage foods. I am including everything in the food storage. However, I am going to make two lists. One list will involve the refrigerator and freezer foods because, in some instances, you will still have access to those foods. If you lose power, those foods need to be eaten first. My second list will only include foods that are shelf stable. Those meals will come from canned food, commercially canned food, food buckets, freeze dried food, and whatever else doesn't involve a refrigerator/freezer. In this list, I will also make a note if the recipe needs additional liquids like water, broth, and juice so I can be sure to have plenty on hand.

2. This month I am focusing on stocking up on breakfast foods for my food storage. I want to make sure I have a good supply of oats (steel cut, rolled, and quick), cereal, granola ingredients, granola bars. oatmeal packets, powdered eggs, pancake/waffle mix, and whatever else we like to eat for breakfast. Your breakfast stock up will depend on what your family likes to eat for breakfast. I am including quick grab and go breakfast foods as well as homemade breakfasts because you do not know what you will need and if you have the means to make a from scratch breakfast.

3. Find three ways to disconnect from the grid this month. Electric bills in July can be horrible because of so many people using air conditioning. This drives up the on-peak demand usage which gives you a higher bill. Nevermind, the additional stress on the grid which can cause blackouts and brown outs. Find a few ways to disconnect from the grid. You can used propane powered items like a smoker or the grill to cook your meals. I have done enchiladas and casseroles on the grill just to keep the heat out of the house. Make your own solar oven to bake bread in. Use your solar chargers to charge your electronics. Dry your clothes outside. Do what you can to use less electricity and practice being off grid however you can.

4. Buy some extra gas cans and stockpile fuel. Buying your gas cans now will save you later when a crisis happens and everyone wants them. I would buy at least 2-3 each for gasoline and diesel. If you don't have anything that runs on diesel, you can skip that. I would fill them with unleaded gasoline if you can find it. We can still get 91 gas as opposed to 87 which contains more ethanol. Gas with ethanol goes stale quicker than unleaded gas does. You can add something like StaBil in the gas to make it last longer.

I would also stock up on propane, butane, and kerosene if you have items that use those fuels. You can buy propane cylinders in 20# and 30# that will work with majority of space heaters and grills. If you are not sure, ask your local propane serviceperson. They will be able to help you. We keep 3-4 20# propane cylinders for our grill and heaters. For kerosene and butane, buy an extra few gallons depending on what you use and your storage capabilities.

5. Time to take a good look at your vehicle. Is it ready for emergencies? Is it well-maintained? Does it need something fixed? How are the tires and brakes? Now is a good time while the weather is nice to give your car a thorough cleaning and restocking. Organize your emergency supplies so you can find what you need without tearing the car apart. Fix the broken lights and make sure all the rest of the car is in good condition.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What Will You Do When Someone Dies During A SHTF?


One of the things we never like to think about and is a very tough topic to discuss is death. However, death is inevitable. It will happen and you need a plan in place for normal circumstances. When SHTF happens though, you really need a plan in place. 

First of all, you need to be up to date on your state laws and codes. You also need to look into county, township, and city codes on burials. Many states also have rules on who can handle the body, where the body can be placed, and who can bury the body. Many states require that someone files a death certificate within three days of the death or discovery of the death. 

In Iowa, you do not have to use a funeral director. You can keep the body at home. You only need to embalm the body if the deceased had a communicable disease or will not be buried within three days. However, if the body is being held in refrigeration, you can wait six days without embalming. There are no laws requiring a casket for burial or cremation, but the cemetery or crematorium may have their own rules about caskets. You can bury the body in cemetery or private property as long as local zoning laws permit it. If you do bury on private property, keep a detailed map of the burial for future property owners. 

I found two excellent resources about this here:
Iowa Home Funeral Laws
Burial & Cremation Laws In Iowa

They cover other states as well. 

I understand that during a SHTF, these laws may not apply. However, during most disasters, state laws will still prevail and still need to be followed. Only during a collapse of the government or WROL will you need not really worry about the laws. 

How you plan to deal with the death in your own family or people in your group? You will need to address a few things:

  • Where will the body be buried? 
  • Will the body be cremated?
  • How will the hole for the burial be dug?
  • How will you cremate the body?
  • Do you need to purchase a body bag, coffin, and/or embalming kit for your preps?
  • Who will handle the body?
  • Who will make the arrangements and file the death certificate?
  • Who will be in charge of making sure the living wills and wills are kept safe and are honored?

There are very few right and wrong answers here. I would ask the family members over 16 what their wishes are for their death and keep a record of their responses. Parents can decide for their minor children. Knowing everyone's wishes will make answering those questions easier. I would designate 1-2 people to handle the body, make the arrangements, and file the death certificate. If you have a person already designated for handling important papers, I would put them in charge of the wills also. This person or you should have a copy of all important papers. 

Whether you have an SHTF or not, I thoroughly believe you need a will and a living will. You will solve a lot of complications with those two documents. If you have any wishes for your funeral or your death, that needs to be wrote down so it can be honored if possible. A living will is very important because you can include end of life decisions like palliative care and a Do Not Resuscitate order. As with all important legal documents, if it is not done by a lawyer, you need to get it signed and notarized to be considered in court. 

If you are planning to bury on the property or create a private cemetary, I would get that spot established now. As suggested before, you should make a detailed map where people are buried or where they will be buried. I would pick a spot that will be easy to dig, but not obvious to everyone who may enter the property for whatever reason. 

Another thing to consider also is what to do with the bodies in the winter. If you live in a fairly climate with no frost in the ground during the winter, this will not really affect you. However, in the Midwest, this will be a problem unless winter is being kind to us. I would pick a sealed spot away from the home that animals cannot get into. You want the body to stay cold and frozen if possible. Then, as soon as the ground permits, bury the body. 

One of the last things you need to consider when someone dies is who is going to fulfill their role. Who will take care of their things, their pets and/or animals, and possibly their family? If they had a specific role in your prepping group, do you have a replacement for that person? I believe in having back up plans, but sometimes you can not plan for everything. 

This is a morbid topic and some very morbid things need to be considered when death happens. Like I said before, this is a prepping and life topic that needs to be addressed. You may not want to think about it, but keeping your head in the sand isn't going to help when a SHTF happens!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, June 19, 2017

Five Ways To Teach Your Kids Situational Awareness


Kids are naturally observant and often notice things we would not expect them to or want them to notice. They often say what is on their minds and ask questions we would never have thought to ask. You can take advantage of this for their safety.

While kids are young is a perfect time to teach them situational awareness. Teaching them to be aware of their surroundings can stop a potential kidnapping or may help someone else in need. Too many kids have their heads down nowadays whether they are playing on their phones or other devices or they are just not paying attention to anything.

Five Ways To Teach Your Kids Situational Awareness:


1. Play games with them. We would play a lot of "I Spy With My Little Eye Something..." passing the time at restaurants, doctor's offices, and ball games. I would start with the game with picking out a color of something. This game has the benefit of teaching kids to look around and notice things that wouldn't normally notice. I would also make up games like "Name 5 Things That Are (Color)" or Name 3 Things That Start With (Letter)".

2. Leave the electronic devices at home. When you are running errands or taking short trips, leave them at home. Instead of looking down at a device, kids will be looking up and around and probably noticing a lot more than you want them to. However, they are looking up and being aware of what is around them and that is a good thing. If they are walking to a friend's house, school, or the park, teach them to stay off the devices too. They need to be looking up, not down.

3. Teach them to be wary of strangers. I know there has been some debate on this, but the truth is that kids need to wary of anyone who they or you do not know. They need to be taught what to do in those situations also. If they are approached by a stranger and you are near by, they should be yelling for you immediately and running towards you. If they are approached by a stranger alone, they need to keep walking or start running for home or the nearest safe place. You should also teach them some basic self-defense in case they are grabbed.


4. Teach them to look for the good people. They should know to look for the good people or the "helpers". Just like they need to be wary of strangers and people who might harm them, they need to know that they can run to a teacher, police officer, pastor, or fireman for help or to get help.

5. Teach them to be confident. If kids are confident and look like they are in control of themselves and their environment, they will less likely become a target. There is a difference in being cocky versus being confident. You should teach them to look everyone in the eye, be assertive in their body language, and be vocal if someone is bothering them in a displeasing way. When they walk into a room, teach them to enter with confidence, looking around at their surroundings, and taking notice of everyone in the room. This will take practice and encouragement from parents. You should practice this at home as well as away from home. You can ask them questions about what they noticed and what problems could have occurred.

In what ways would you teach your kids situational awareness?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, June 9, 2017

Worried About Climate Change? 11 Ways To Make Your Own Changes!


Climate change (aka global warming) is the new "hot" topic due to recent events. All these countries are "worried" about the planet and want changes to be made. They want the United States to fund all these changes without any real say about where the money goes. All the while, the two main offenders of climate change, China and India, have no plans to decrease emissions from their factories and will increase their emissions for at least the next 5-10 years. Yet, they are criticizing the United States even though we have made great strides in reducing emissions and becoming more environmentally friendly.  However, this does not stop the supporters of climate change and those who do not actually read what the United States would have to do in order to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Environmentalism is a popular thing right now and rightfully so. We should all care about the planet we live on, how we treat it. and what we can do to make it a better place. Climate change, though, is not just an international or national problem. It is a personal problem. We all have to make changes at every level to reduce our impact on the planet. Most of that can be done at home!

Climate change is affected by humans on a world wide scale. We have factories that put out emissions in order to keep up with our growing demand of things. We have a demand for oil that is at very high levels and we keep searching for more oil. We rip through forests without replanting. We deforest areas for more farmland and housing developments. We have huge factory farms to feed our growing population. We have huge landfills that are full and we are running out of room for more. And what fuels all of this: demand and consumerism.

If we make choices to reduce demand and consume less products, we would have a better planet.

11 Ways To Make Your Own Changes:

1. Stop littering! You think this is not a problem any more? I live on a county road and I can tell you this is still a big problem. Use a trash can and recycle! If we put trash were it needs to go and recycle all the cans and bottles that people like to throw out of their vehicles, we would make a big impact.

2. Think about what you buy and how it is packaged. Excess packaging leads to more trash and more resources used by manufacturers. Buy products with less packaging. Buy in bulk if you can and it is feasible for you. If your store has bulk bins for food, ask if they will allow to bring in your own containers and save even more on packaging.


3. Use plastic as little as possible. Bring your own shopping and produce bags when you shop. Choose glass instead of plastic. Creating plastic creates a strain on our resources and uses materials that can be better used for other things. If you need to use plastic, look for plastic that can be recycled.

4. Recycle. Recycle. Recycle. It may take a little more effort on your part, but recycling creates less waste going to the landfill. Less waste at the landfill means less natural resources being impacted. I grew up with recycling and it blows my mind how many people do not recycle simply because it "takes too much time". Recycling takes very little time.

5. Stop buying disposable products and reuse. We are such a disposable society and that needs to stop. Look for products that can used multiple times. Carry your own water bottle and coffee mug with you instead of getting convenience store paper or Styrofoam cups. Put a water filter on your tap, refill your own bottles, and stop using plastic bottles.

6. Fix your things. So many things end up in the trash because we don't have the desire or ability to fix them. Again, being a disposable society, we throw it away and buy new. With the Internet and YouTube, we have no excuse for not being able to figure out how to fix things. Fix your things and use them until they absolutely cannot be used or fixed anymore.

7. Buy used. Not everything needs to be bought new. Thrift stores are packed and overloaded with things that need to be bought and can bless another household. Craigslist, Facebook sale sites, Ebay, and local sale groups are abounding with listings of things that people don't use or need anymore. Buy used things and stop the cycle of consumerism.

8. Stop being a consumer. We buy so much stuff that we don't really need. People often have enough clothes to wear without washing for a month. Kids have more toys than they have time to play with them. Garages are stuffed full of things that we did not need. The cycle of consumerism needs to stop! You need to really think about your purchases, how much you will use them, and what benefit they will bring to your life. Most of the time you can live without it.


9. Rent or borrow things. While I do think you need your own tools and similar things, you don't need to have everything. We rent or borrow tools for our bigger projects because we will only use them once and owning those items will not have any long term benefits for us. Many people buy a tool or an item for a project that they will never use again. That item just sits there, collecting dust, and will not be a benefit to anyone.

10. Drive less and smarter. People are on the go all the time. Yet, they will run to town for just one thing. You should combine your errands. You can try to carpool. You need to question whether you need to drive at all or if you really need the things you are running to town for. You need to question the vehicle you are driving. Do you really need a vehicle of that size? Can you survive with a smaller, more efficient car?


11. Plant your own gardens and trees. One of the ways you can help with climate change is to grow things. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. We need more oxygen. Also, by planting your food, you become less of a consumer and more of a producer. By planting edible producing trees and bushes, you create a reusable food source for your family and your neighborhood.

What other suggestions do you have to reduce climate change on a personal level?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, June 5, 2017

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish in June


Summer is here! I find that prepping in the Summer is so much easier than any time of the year. While we do have to worry about storms and the "gentle" breezes that try to blow us down, we have decent weather that makes us want to be outside.

June is a good month to get things done. You can do so much outside! Your time should be more available unless you have kids in a hundred activities. Then you need to do your best to fit this in!

Five Prepping Things to Accomplish in June:

1. Fire starting skills. Most people have access to a fire pit whether it is fancy or just a hole in the ground. Otherwise, you can use a camp site, charcoal grill, or a spot in the yard you don't mind being torched. Now is a good time to work on your fire starting skills. While lighters and matches are awesome at starting fires, it is good to know how to use a striker and a flint and/or a magnesium stick. Research different ways to build a fire and start a fire. Then practice, practice, practice. This is one skill that will not let you down.

2. Freeze dried foods. Freeze dried foods are a great addition to any food storage. If you are unsure about them, many companies have small cans for you to experiment with. I personally think freeze dried fruits are pretty tasty right out of the can. I believe in a diversive food storage and pantry. Freeze dried foods do have a shelf life, but can last a lot longer than some canned foods. You will not be disappointed in having these in your food storage.

3. Get your eyes checked. One of the things that would be absolutely devastating to any prepper is the loss of your vision. Getting our eyes checked is not very high on anyone's list, but I would rather be looking through a good pair of eye glasses than wondering if that was an animal or small child coming at me while holding a gun. I have put this off for a few years too, but this is a definite must on my list this month. I know some of us are vain enough to not want to wear glasses, but your eye doctor might have some other options for you like contacts or corrective laser surgery.

4. Purchase and/or gather your personal safety equipment. We have talked about first aid in the past, but a critical component of first aid is preventing injuries in the first place. Having safety glasses, dust masks, gloves, hearing protection, arm protectors, and more will protect you from a serious injury. In a crisis situation, being protected from injuries can mean the difference between life and death. If you already have this equipment, please put in a clear tote by the tools you need to use it with so you remember to use it!


5. Get your death plan figured out and in place. You might think this is a morbid thing to do, but you need to have a plan for deaths in a crisis situation. Will you bury them in the yard, attempt cremation, or what? If you have a prepping group, what are the final wishes of the members of your group? Will you make coffins or bury in body bags/old sheets and plastic? Does your people want to prolong life if they know they are dying? What kind of end of life care will you provide? This is a lot of mind searching things to think about, but this information is vital to have on hand, printed out, and put in an important place.


Thanks for reading,
Erica


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