Friday, May 26, 2017

We forget to live life


Today is my kids' last day of school. They will be out at 11:30 am today and will have the whole summer to do what they want without the restrictions of school (for the most part). Yes, they will have daily and weekly chores to do. They will also have camps to go to, swimming to do, life guarding to do, 4-H fair to be apart of, and so much more.

Life is always a little crazy during the summer too, but life during the summer for a kid is mostly about living life. They don't have a strict schedule with many commitments on their plates. They aren't worrying about grades and papers. They can relax with their friends and do nothing if they want to until school starts again on August 23rd.

As adults, I think we forget that. We forget that life is about living. We get caught up in the work at a job, work at home, sleep, eat, and repeat. We forget to experience life and just live life. We don't go for a hike or go camping due to "time restraints". We don't go to a concert of a band from our high school days because we just don't think we have time. We don't go on dates with our significant other because of time and expense.

You want to know something? We do have the time, but we just don't take the time to do those things. Not having time is a pretty rare thing. We often have a million and one excuses about why we can't do things that would help us relax and enjoy life for awhile. We usually do have the time. Sometimes money and babysitting can be a legitimate problems, but there is so much else to do too.

We forget to live life.

It is so easy to caught up with prepping, homesteading, gardening, taking care of the animals, taking care of the kids, saving money, and a myriad of other things. Our to-do lists are mammoth on a normal day and some days are not normal. We work away from home and come home to work more. We can't see the light at the end of the tunnel and we keep working harder and harder to do so.

We forget to have fun.

No, life is not all about having fun. I have understood that for a very long time. However, life is not all about working either. We are meant to relax and have fun once in a while. To have a day that is not structured and filled by the never-ending to-do list. A day to be lazy, watch movies, and hang out with the family. A night to invite friends over for a picnic and a camp fire.

We need to remember what summer vacation time was like for us as kids. Yes, it was busy for some. Most of us though remember what it was like to be kids in the summer. We swam, rode bikes, explored, looked at the sky, looked at the stars, and just enjoyed life as a kid. We slept in tents in the back yard, hung out at the lake for the day, read books in a makeshift fort, and went on adventures. Sometimes we were with our family and sometimes we were with our friends. Sometimes we explored on our own. No matter which way you look at it, we have had fun.

Just because we are adults now doesn't mean we can't keep experiencing this and more. We forget to live life and have fun. Maybe if we started doing more to relax, our lives and health would be better too.

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Monday, May 22, 2017

10 Prepping Activities To Do With Your Kids This Summer!


Summer is coming! The kids will be out of school very soon and will need ideas to keep them out of trouble and off your nerves. Teaching kids prepping should be at the top of your list of things for them to do. We put a lot of emphasis on adults knowing how to prep, but we really should be teaching the next generation how to prep too.

Remember: our goal in raising kids is that they are self-sufficient when they leave home. While we should expect phone calls on how to do things, we want them to know the basics and be able to care for themselves.

I am gearing this list towards first grade age kids and older. You obviously know your kids better than I do. You can be the judge about whether they are ready and responsible enough to learn these prepping skills. However, always teach your kids about how to be responsible while doing these activities.

10 Prepping Activities To Do With Your Kids This Summer!:

1. Camping. Even you can only camp out in your yard or at the county park five miles from your house, teach your kids to camp. You should be teaching them that the outside isn't scary at night. You can be teaching them how to cook without electricity. You can teach them to explore, forage, identify markings/plants/tracks, and pay attention to their surroundings. You should not allow any devices to come except for a cell phone and that is only used for emergencies.

2. Building and making a fire. You can teach them to how to gather kindling, sticks, and logs to build a fire. You can teach them how to light the fire without using a lighter or a match (although those methods are not bad to know either). You can teach them about fire safety. You can teach them about maintaining the fire.

3. Build a solar oven. There is several plans online to do this. I think it is a really neat idea and totally doable. If you have kids who are in 4-H and need a fair project or need a science fair project for the next school year, this is a great idea. After building it, you can experiment with cooking different things in it like brownies or chicken.

4. How to cook on a grill, camp stove, and other non-electric methods. While I always teach my kids to cook using the stove top first, I like to start teaching them alternative methods when they are older. Teaching them to grill is a good skill to learn so they can feed themselves if the power is out. If you have a rocket stove or something similar, they should learn that too.

5. Gardening. Kids are naturally curious so gardening is a great activity to do with them. You can teach them how to plant different vegetables, how to recognize the plant when it is growing, how to weed, and how to care for the plants when they are growing. You can also teach them how and when to harvest the fruits and vegetables. You may want to give them their own garden plot, but I don't do this. I have my kids work alongside of me in the garden and explain to them that is everyone's responsibility to provide food for our home.

6. Hiking. Like camping, you can teach them to explore, forage, identify markings/plants/tracks, and pay attention to their surroundings. You are also working on physical fitness for you and them. You are also teaching them endurance and stamina for when you might have to walk a long distance or work for longer than normal hours.

7. First aid. We are very fortunate that first aid is taught in most of our high schools in Iowa, but I think it should be taught when they are younger. I think kids should know how to treat a cut, a burn, and a skin reaction (itching, sun burns, bug bites, and allergic reactions) while still in elementary school. I think they should know to the basics of CPR. They should know how to treat someone who is choking. They should know how to call 911 - not just the number, but knowing their address or location, being calm while calling, and how to state what is happening to the victim. You can role play a lot of first aid situations and make it a fun game while emphasizing the seriousness of what they are learning.

8. Fishing. Teaching your kids to fish is a lifetime skill. They can learn fish identification, what is edible or good to eat, and how to catch them with hooks and lures. Not sure how to fish yourself? Find someone who is willing to teach you and your kids. There is usually plenty of fishermen who are willing to show someone else how to fish. Also, be aware of your state laws. In Iowa, residents and nonresidents over 16 years of age need to purchase a fishing license. If you are fishing trout, you will need to purchase or pay a trout fee.

9. Archery and gun shooting. Shooting and target practice is a great way to build skills and learn responsible gun and bow handling. Kids are young as 7 can learn to shoot. I would purchase a bow and arrow set in their age and size range for comfortable handling and less learning frustration. Also, get a lot of arrows. You are bound to lose a few.

A BB gun is a great way to start a kid shooting. With a BB gun, they can learn to sight in and target practice with a gun and ammo that is way cheaper than .22 ammo would be. When they show they can responsibly handle a gun, you can move them up to a .20 or .22 gauge rifle or shotgun. This is the process we have decided on at our home, but you can decide differently for your kid.

10. Reading. I am a very, very strong believer in reading. I think it gives you a solid foundation for every area of your life. Just because school is out doesn't mean they should not be reading. If your kids are younger or willing to listen, please read to them also. Find some good fiction and non-fiction books on survival and preparedness to read.

Some of my favorites are:


I know there is a lot more to do with your kids in the summer that would expand their preparedness and survival skills. Let me know in the comments what you like to do with your kids in the summer to help with their skills!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, May 15, 2017

Have You Trained Your Kids To Work? What Will They Do When A SHTF Happens?


Kids are natural helpers. Especially when they are younger and they want to "help" with everything. Many parents take advantage of that help and let the kids help them. That is the start of training your kids to be good helpers and workers around the house and the yard.

Doing chores and being expected to help inside and outside the house helps develop skills. Kids become contributing members of the household which helps lighten the load for the parents. Kids who are expected to help and do chores learn a better work ethic and become valuable members of the workforce and society after they leave home. They also learn responsibility and manage their home and work lives better.

However, there are parents who believe "that kids should be kids". They have no chores, no responsibilities beyond school, and no expectations besides getting good grades and being a good person. They are coddled and spoiled. They do not learn responsibility beyond school. They do not learn skills or accountability. The parents do everything for them.

What is going to happen to those households when the SHTF happens?

They are going to self-implode. The parents will be doing everything they can to survive and their dependent children will not know what to do. Instead of pitching in and helping to clean the mess or secure food and water, they will want to know why they can't eat right now! Instead of working to make the situation better or at least tolerable, they will be in a tizzy because their cellphones and smart devices are not entertaining them!

We would all like to believe that kids will naturally just step in and help because the need has arose. We would like to believe that they will just instinctively know that they are needed and will rise to the occasion. Some kids will do this, I am sure. However, in this day and age, I do not believe that most will do anything. That would be work and they know nothing of work.

We are seeing a rise in an entitled, selfish culture that is being fostered by parents who believe that their precious darlings should have and do whatever they want. They are overly involved at school, not involved at all, or they are considered special because they are really smart. They go to college and think they are special because they are enlightened with their college education. They get degrees in areas that will not really transfer into a career that will actually support them. And, for some reason, they get some really crazy ideas about life while they are in college.

Can you imagine what will happen when a SHTF happens to them?

I am not saying all kids and young adults are like this, but I am seeing a really disturbing trend. This trend that says this kids do not know any life skills, were taught very little responsibility, and would not survive at all when a SHTF happens. They will expect and demand that someone else takes care of them and this situation. They will be crazy when they find out no help may be coming.

That is why kids need to be trained to work. This training starts early when they want to "help". You are teaching them early that their help is a valuable contribution to the household. When they get a little older, daily and weekly chores teaches them responsibility and accountability. When they are preteens, they should be expected to help whenever asked in addition to their regular chores. By the time they are teenagers, they know what needs to be done inside and outside the home.

You are teaching your kids to work. You are teaching them to be valuable, contributing members of the family. Kids are not perfect. They may need reminders and lists about what needs to be done. You will have to teach them what to do and how to do it. There is always going to be a right way and a wrong way to do things. You will have to teach them safety. You will have to teach them the skills they need to know like cooking, gardening, keeping a home, and taking care of animals.

However, when a SHTF happens, the kids will know that they are expected to help you. They may not know exactly what to do, but they know to listen to you and to take your direction. When you ask them to grab a broom or shovel to clean up the mess, they will do it. When you tell them to cook supper, they will do it. 

Should kids still have fun? You bet, but you are teaching them that life is about getting the necessary things done so they can have fun. Parents should not be shouldering the burden by themselves. Kids need to learn that they are living under the roof provided by the parents and can help to take care of the house. Sometimes they will argue and whine, but you as parents need to be firm, insist on the chore being done right, and not to be afraid to give consequences if not done.

You are raising adults. They may be kids now, but they will be adults that the rest of the world will have to deal with later. Just like they need to be trained to work now, they will be ready to work later as an adult because they know that is expected of them. So whether they are living at home or on their own, when a SHTF hits, they will be ready to help in anyway they can and they can take care of themselves.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, May 8, 2017

Ten Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas for the Prepping and Homesteading Moms In Your Life!


Mother's Day is coming up soon! I know some of you may have had your gift picked out weeks ago, but some of us have not! Some of you may not exchange gifts and that is totally cool and wise too!

I was surfing Amazon today wondering what they recommend for Mother's Day. Usually, I get a pretty good laugh at some of their suggestions. However, I like some of what I am seeing this year. I thought I would make a list for you to find something practical and perfect for that special mom in your life!

(Yes, this article contains affiliate links. You are under no obligation to buy, but the commission I earn helps my family and homestead out! Thanks!)

Here are ten great ideas for that prepping and homesteading mom in your life:

1. A Good Garden Hose. There is definitely a difference between a regular garden hose and a GOOD garden hose. A GOOD Garden Hose is one that doesn't kink, is at least 100 feet long, stays soft and flexible, and has good ends that don't smash easily. I really like what I am reading about this hose!

2. Cast Iron Skillet. I am huge believer in using cast iron skillets. I like that they can be used on the cooktop, on the grill, and over the campfire. I think every household needs one, especially mom! While you are it, get one of these hot handle holders! They will save your hands!

3. Garden Tool Kit. I love a good garden tool kit. Every 3-4 years, I buy myself a new set because the handles get worn out or the tools get cracked or bent. This set would be a good present for your favorite gardener!

4. A Set of Mixing Bowls. I like a good set of mixing bowls especially if they are stainless steel and one of the bowls can hold at least 12 cups for canning recipes. I have a good set of stainless steel mixing bowls, but I think these bowls would be a great gift for any mom.

5. A Battery Powered Drill. Every woman and household should have a drill with drill bits and screw driving bits. I have a Black and Decker drill that works great. This drill also comes with a project kit which would be great around the house and homestead!

6. A Stepladder. Most of us women are not usually tall enough to fix the things that need to be fixed. I have found a stepladder to be indispensable! I am only 5'5" so I always need a step stool or chair to reach what I need. This stepladder would be much safer than a chair for that special mom in your life!

7. Work and Garden Gloves. I was not a gloves type of person until a few years ago. I got really tired of cleaning up cuts and picking thorns out of my hands. I do not use the same gloves for work projects and for gardening. My favorite work gloves are these Ansell gloves that Rob turned me onto. I love these gardening gloves from G & F. They are nitrile coated on the inside to get a good grip on those weeds!

8. Canning Set. I love my Ball canning set that I got a few years ago. It makes my canning go so much easier! Even if that mom in your life is an experienced canner, she might appreciate a new set. Sometimes we have problems letting go of our old, overused things! Also, be a good one. Give her some new jars too!

9. Aprons. Seriously. I get so tired of getting stains out of my clothes that an apron would have prevented, especially during canning season! Having extra pockets are handy too when collecting eggs, seeing what is ready in the garden, and/or holding screws and tools. Aprons are awesome!

10. Sewing machine. Every good homesteader and prepper knows that eventually they will have to fix something that will take more than a few quick stitches. Also being able to make your own things is pretty cool. That is why I recommend a sewing machine. I think everyone needs to learn to sew by hand and by machine.

What would you add to this list? What would you like to get for Mother's Day or Father's Day?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Are You Ready For The Next Influenza Epidemic? How Will You Survive The Next Pandemic?


In doing some research about influenza, I came across the great Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919. This happened during World War I and affected everyone on both sides of the ocean as well as across the world. It affected soldiers as well as citizens. It is estimated that 50 million people died during this epidemic. That is compared to the 16 million people who died during World War I.

One of the things that was missing from this epidemic was antibiotics. They simply did not exist as a medicine during this time. Antibiotics in an usable form was discovered in 1928 by Sir Alexander Fleming. However, antibiotics are rarely used for any influenza viruses. We do have some medications now that will treat influenza.

It is unlikely though that antibiotics would have been effective anyway during the epidemic of 1918. The influenza epidemic came in two phases. The first phase was less severe and most people recovered from it. It came in back a few months later and killed people within hours to a few days. Most people died from the fever and fluid filling their lungs which suffocated them. The disease affected people ages 20-40 the most.

Doctors and scientists were at a loss at how to treat this influenza. They could not control or stop the disease. Remember, there was no Center for Disease Control at the time. That was not established until 1946.

Don't remember learning this in history class? I didn't remember learning it either. However, what can we take away from this?

1. It was not treatable. They believe the strain during this epidemic was the H1N1. Influenza strains can be mild or develop a variant that can make them deadly. Since very little was known about influenza then, it was almost impossible to treat. Today's influenza strains are proving harder to treat. Flu shots do not cover all strains of influenza. A strain or a variant in the strain of influenza could be strong enough to not be treatable or controllable.

2. It affected strong, healthy adults the most. The age group that was affected the most was 20-40 years old. This is a group of people who are at the peak of life in terms of health and vitality. The problem with that is this is also the group of people who would be the most social group especially in 1918. Even today, people in that age range rarely stay home. The disease would be able to spread very quickly because people are constantly going. They go to work, kids' activities, social gatherings, and college.

3. It was not controllable. This influenza strain spread very, very quickly. People were given poor advice on how to not catch the disease and how to treat the disease. We now have the Center for Disease Control who would hopefully be on top of the disease. We also now know the best way to treat the symptoms of influenza. We also know that we need rest and to stay home to keep influenza from other people.

Do you think this could happen again? Many people do. Are you ready for the next influenza epidemic? An influenza epidemic of the proportions that occurred in 1918 would be considered a pandemic now.  We hear threats of pandemics now that could happen. How would you survive the next pandemic? What do you need to do to get ready?

1. Get a sick room ready. You should have a room, preferably a bedroom, ready to be a sick room. You should have some medical supplies ready in that room like a thermometer, ibuprofen, hot water bottle, instant cold packs, face tissues, disinfectant spray cleaner, trash bags, face masks, and disposable gloves. You may also want a pandemic flu kit in that room for the people treating the sick.

2. Have white towels, wash cloths, and white bedding ready to use. You want linens you can wash in very hot water or even put in boiling water to disinfect. You can also use bleach on white linens without issues. You want to have extra linens so you can change the sick beds quickly and wash the infected bodies without worry.

3. Have rolls of heavy plastic to cover surfaces like the bed, the floor, the windows,and the doorways. You have to think about disease control going in and out of the house. You are trying just as hard to keep the disease out as well as keeping it controlled in your home.


4. Keep some chem suits on hand. You may want to completely cover up to deal with a sick patient or having to go into infected areas. A chem suit with boots and gloves would be the ideal solution. You will also want a face mask and eye protection to keep safe.

5. Have one person who would be dedicated to taking care of the sick. The less people exposed to the sick person, the better the chances for everyone to stay healthy. Having one person designated to taking of the sick will keep everyone healthier. Having a designated respite person for the caretaker would be a good idea too.

6. Have a plan in place for death. In a pandemic, death is inevitable. What will you do if someone dies? As morbid as it seems, you may want to have a body bag on hand. You also want to have a plan for disposal of the body. Where will it be buried? Will you bury the body? Those are your decisions alone, but having a plan will make those decisions easier.

7. Do not go anywhere if you don't have to. During a pandemic, being a homebody is your best bet for not catching the disease. Having a good food storage, water storage, and a disinfected home will be wise.


No one wants to think about getting sick much less think about a lot of people getting sick. We like to think with all the technological and medical advances we have now, another influenza pandemic will not happen again. However, new strains of diseases are being developed all the time in nature and in labs. We can not be sure this will not happen again. In fact, it is likely to happen again.

What will you do to protect yourself during a pandemic? Do you think we could have another influenza pandemic?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, May 1, 2017

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish In May


When May comes around every year, I get excited. I like warmer weather. Nicer weather motivates me to get more done. I can usually start planting my garden in May because the ground has warmed up enough to not kill the plants or seeds. I can clean up the yard, give the house a good cleaning, open the windows for a good airing out, and generally be excited to get projects done.

While this list does not have a lot to do with being outside (except for planting new things!), you always need to work on your prepping plans, your skills, and your food storage. I even encourage you to gather more information. Have fun and let me know what you got accomplished in May.

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish in May:

1. Plant edible perennials in your garden or create a separate place for them. By planting perennials, you have created a continuous food source for yourself and your family. Most edible perennials require little care once they are established. Blueberries, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, blackberries, and asparagus are all good examples of perennials that can yield you a lot of food to eat and preserve.

2. Take stock of your seasonings and spices in your pantry and food storage. How is your salt supply? What seasonings and spices do you use the most? How is your stockpile of them? At our house, we simply cannot overstock on garlic salt. We use it more than regular salt. This would be a good month to take inventory of seasonings and spices. You can add more of what you need and use. I suggest adding a 3-4 containers of salt, 2-3 containers of black pepper, and several containers of the seasonings/spices you normally use.

3. Add to your reference library. Back in January, I suggested reading some good books on prepping. I also believe that you should have a good reference library in your own home. You might not have access to the local library or the internet when you need information on how to make something or fix something. I would suggest books on first-aid/medical, canning, gardening, off-grid living, reference manuals, how-to-fix manuals, and anything else you think you might need information for to live day to day and solve problems. Thrift stores and garage sales are good places to pick up books cheaply.

4. Learn how to mend clothing and other fabric items by hand. A needle, thread, and scissors are all you generally need to sew a button back on, fix a ripped seam, or close up a small hole. This is not just a frugality thing. In a case of SHTF, you will need clothes to last longer than usual. Mending a small problem by hand now will save the item from a bigger repair. If you already know how to do this, expand your skills to neatly patching clothes and learning how to darn a sock.

5. Have a plan in place to deal with sanitation in the case of a disaster or crisis. In case of a SHTF, sanitation will be a huge issue. Some of that issue may depend on whether you have electricity or not. If you are able to flush toilets, great! Otherwise, you need to have a plan in place to deal with bodily waste like a makeshift toilet or an outhouse. You will also need a plan in place if you have no garbage service due to a SHTF. What will you do with the garbage from your home? You can burn it, bury it, compost it, and/or reuse it if possible. Some of this will depend on where you live as to what you can do, but you still need to have a plan in place.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, April 28, 2017

Monthly Update From The Homestead - April Edition


How has your April been for you? Fairly cool and rainy with rare times of sunny and warm? That is what we had, have, and are currently experiencing. They are talking some snow on Sunday at the time of this writing. What the ?!?!?!

I am ready for May and much warmer temperatures to come. I want to get my garden planted and put some pretty flowers in the planters. I want to sit outside with a cold drink and enjoy the evenings on the porch. However, Mother Nature needs to get over herself and soon.

Speaking of the garden, what have you planted or are planting? As of right now, I have nothing planted. The ground temperatures have been a little chilly for me to be comfortable planting much. Last month I said I wanted to get the potatoes planted, but I am glad I didn't. I have a feeling we would be dealing with them rotting in the ground due to all the rain we have had. I have had that happen a few years and that doesn't sit well with me. I hate wasting that effort.

I also did not get the tomatoes or peppers started. This month was pretty busy with some illness and has been slipping right past me. I have a feeling I wouldn't have had a good grow rate anyway unless I purchased artificial lighting.

I do know what I am planting in the garden this year though: tomatoes, bell peppers, anaheim peppers, potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic (may wait until fall?), green beans, peas, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, and possibly carrots. I might add to that list, but those are the main things being planted. I also hope to transplant the strawberries soon and add 50 more strawberry plants. We want a good size patch of those.

I am learning a few new gardening things. Wherever I plant onions, I will need to plan on that being a two year spot. All the onions that did not come up last summer are coming up now. I do enjoy having green onions at my disposal. I also learned that some kale varieties are biennial and I could get seed this year. Since I didn't pull all the plants last year, I have kale already growing in my garden this Spring.

The rhubarb is up and ready for its first picking. I will be making a cake and a batch of jam out of this first picking. I can't wait! Our jam coffers are starting to run a little low.

I hope to order and pick up the new chicks in the next week or two. We have decided on 25 layers and 25 meat birds. The coop hasn't been built yet, but Rob has put in some very hard work prepping the cement pad that the coop will be built on. We have decided how we are building it and how the inside will look. It will be nothing fancy, but will be quite serviceable.

I really would like to get some ducks and a few turkeys too. Somehow, I am not sure that will happen this year. I really want to grow more of our own meat, but I am learning that baby steps are a good thing. Meat birds this year and maybe more next year? I wouldn't mind a couple of pigs either!

Otherwise, I have been doing the same things as I have been all winter. Fixing what I can, decluttering and selling what I can, and getting ready for whatever comes. Selling books and other things has been really slow lately. Spring is not usually a good selling time for me, but I usually have hope it will be better next month.

We did do our first mowing of the year. This is not my favorite job, but the grass needed to be leveled off. We also picked up a lot of branches and sticks this year. The winter was not kind to our trees. A good deal of them need to be cut down and hauled away. Of course, I will try to plant new ones or let a sucker continue to grow in its place. The yard clean up seems to be more a job every year.

What have you been up to this April? I hope it was more productive than mine!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


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