Showing posts with label Life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Life. Show all posts

Friday, November 17, 2017

Plan Your Retirement Now and Secure Your Future!


Plan Your Retirement Now and Secure Your Future!

This is an unpaid sponsored post. I believe strongly in saving for retirement as social security will not likely be enough to cover your expenses in retirement. Please check out this website and the cool tools they have to help you save for retirement!
As we grow closer to the end of yet another year many begin to take stock of our financial situations. It is tough being pulled in so many directions - children’s college funds, vacation and family outings, home ownership and more. But it’s important not to neglect long-term savings for your retirement years. I didn’t really take retirement savings seriously until I turned 40. Now I feel like I am having to catch up on my contributions to my retirement fund.  

Understanding retirement needs can be confusing sometimes and may feel like an overwhelming and impossible task. That’s why I am sharing these simple tips for helping you get started with easy-to-understand resources at AceYourRetirement.org. Here are seven things to consider to help you maximize your retirement savings.

  1. Minimize debt - but not at the expense of paying into your 401k or other retirement accounts. The less debt-load you have during your retirement, the more you’ll be able to make your retirement dollars stretch.
  2. Don’t rely solely on Social Security - in fact people are often recommended to wait until up to age 70 to collect Social Security to allow benefits to grow more.
  3. Consider whether downsizing your living quarters makes sense once children are grown and out of the house.
  4. Make sure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date and talk to your spouse/partner to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  5. If you’ve been divorced but not remarried you may be eligible to Social Security benefits from your ex-spouse.
  6. Enroll in a retirement savings plan. Even a little bit held out from each paycheck can really add up.
  7. Never contribute less to your 401k account than your employer matches if they offer a matching program. Save more if possible and increase your savings by 1% per year whenever possible.


As we approach a new year it’s important to take stock of your current situation, and make adjustments where needed. Pop over to AceYourRetirement.org and get personalized, simple tips on how to jumpstart your retirement savings. It was so helpful to me to see a couple areas that I could adjust to help improve the financial situation of our family. I need to increase my contributions to my 401K that is offered at my work. I currently contribute 2% and will be increasing it to 3-5% in January. I also need to get my student loans paid off to so I can put that money in savings.
I wasn’t surprised to find out that I was the only one struggling with what to do with our finances. I double-checked to make sure that we were maxing out what my employer will match and we found out we needed to adjust our contributions slightly. Today, many Americans households have virtually no retirement savings. This shortfall is especially critical for people in their late 40s and older, who are only years away from retirement.  Americans know they should be focused on the long-term, with nearly 6 in 10 (58%) preferring to save for retirement over something more short-term, a vacation (40%).  But approximately 2 in 5 households headed by people age 55-64—over 9 million households—have no retirement assets saved at all. Among workers with access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, more than 7 million don’t participate. 28% of people with access to an employer-sponsored plan do not contribute enough money to reach their company match, meaning they are essentially leaving free money on the table.
Taking steps to take control of your retirement planning could have a positive impact in many areas of your life. More than half of people in their 40s and 50s say that feeling more confident about saving for retirement would help them feel less stressed (54%). And 46% would be happier knowing they are taking care of their family’s future. I know I feel better after working through the AARP website AceYourRetirement.org. We’ve been savvy with our money - paid off car loans ahead of schedule, lived almost debt free for awhile...I know we are capable of achieving large financial goals. But I just wasn’t sure where to start. Now I feel much more confident and you can too.

Where will you start with your retirement planning? What’s your biggest challenge today?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Friday, November 10, 2017

What happens when it is all gone tomorrow?


In your lifetime, something will probably happen to you that will make you wonder what you are going to do next. You could lose your job. You could be in a car accident and not be able to work or pay bills. You could have a tornado or hurricane wipe out your home and everything you have worked for. You could get divorced and be left with nothing. A loved one could be taken from you and you have to figure out life without them.

So much can happen that begs me to think about this. I have been through at least two of those scenarios. I have had to ask myself "What happens when it is all gone tomorrow?"

The worst thing about this question and these scenarios is that you have very little to no warning. You rarely get to pick when something bad and life-changing gets to happen to you. Very few people know they have cancer before they are diagnosed. Many people have shown up to work only to find the doors locked and find out they are unemployed. The weather service is pretty accurate, but you may only have days to a week to find out how devastating a storm can be. Bad things will happen that will completely change your life tomorrow.

We can prepare for just about anything. We can have supplies built up, plans in place, emergency funds and savings on hand, and another place to go to. We can take care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. We can draw up wills and living trusts to take care of our loved ones. We have insurance for health, vehicles, and life to take care of any contingencies. By our very natures, we like to plan ahead to be prepared for any event that could alter our lives.

But we can't prepare for everything. Something may happen that will wipe away everything we have worked, prepared for, and lived for. In all seriousness, that is the most devastating thing to have to go through. You don't know where to start or how to start building your life again. You don't know where to go. You don't know what the next step is. You are in shock. Disbelief and fear will take over.

You have to move on. That will be tough to do for a lot of people, but you have to. There are things you can do, however, to help you process this major life change and start to create a new life for you.

1. It will take some time to process what happened. Your mind will need time to process, recover, and make a plan. Give yourself that time, but don't dwell on the negative for too long. You probably have other people relying on you and you need to get on with things for their sake.

2. While these are bad circumstances, you need to stay positive and hope for the best while being realistic. You probably have others depending on you to take care of them and they need your best. Being bitter and angry will not serve you in any way and it will not make the circumstances any better.

3. Take care of the basics. If you are a prepper or survivalist, you know you need shelter, water, and food first and foremost if you are in this kind of situation. You need to find shelter, water, and food to stay alive. Next you need to stay warm if you are in that kind of climate. You need to take care of the basics so those depending on you will be taken care of and you will feel better too.

4. Take the next step. When your mind is under stress, you may not know what to do next. You will feel numb. Write down everything you need to do and what needs to be taken care of. Write down even the smallest things to do that you think you will remember. You are under stress so you may not remember those things. Pick one thing on that list and do that thing.

5. Prioritize what you need to do. What is the most important thing that needs to get done? If you have the basics covered, you need to pick the next thing to get done. Whether it is making legal or medical decisions, applying for unemployment benefits, shutting off services to save money, finding another job, calling insurance, or finding a new home, you need to get those things done. Figure out what is most important and do it.

6. Accept the kindness of others. There are people who will want to help you if they know you are in need. Please accept their help whether it is a place to stay, a meal, a shoulder to cry on, good advice, or a voice of reason. Sometimes the price of the help can be high so you need to decide that, but do not turn down help if you can use it. The help offered will make the burden lighter.

7. Do not make any "snap" decisions unless it is an emergency. In times like this, snap decisions can lead to regret. You may be under stress, but you need to use reason and common sense to make the next decision. You have yourself to consider as well as probably family to consider. If you are struggling to make a decision, ask your family and friends for their advice and knowledge. However, because I believe in this, do not ignore your gut reaction. If you know, deep down, what you should do and you know that is not from paranoia or fear, go with your gut and do it.

8. Seek information and good advice. As I said in #7, you should make informed decisions. You are in a situation that may seem like life or death or you may not have a lot of options, but you need to be informed. What are your options? What is the best treatment? What can I do to support my family? Where would be the best place to move to? These are all questions (and there are definitely more) that deserve well-researched, well-informed answers.

9. Don't be afraid of other people and their reactions. You have to do what is best for you and your family. You may make people sad or angry about your decisions and/or your plan of action. They may try to make you feel guilty or feel stupid about the decisions you make. Don't let these people have that power. It is one thing to feel like you need to take care of your parents (or something similar), but it is another thing if people make you feel like you can't leave or you have to accept your circumstances. You have to take care of you and make the best decisions for you and your family.

These ideas and things to do are not a complete plan. These are things you can do to start moving on with your life when it seems like hope is lost and/or you have lost everything. Taking the next step and moving on with your life may seem like the hardest thing to do, but for your sake you have to do it.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - November 5

Happy Sunday Everyone!

Let's see if I can keep this post more upbeat than last week's post. It shouldn't be hard since I feel like I am in a better place today.

People have this idea that preppers and homesteaders are tough and resilient people that have their lives together. I can testify otherwise. Life is messy and throws a lot of curve balls.

The weather is one of those curve balls. Winter is showing up early this year. We have been spoiled the last few years with nice weather in October and November. This year we are scrambling to get outside projects finished. The temps have not been bad enough to freeze the ground, just bad enough to make working outside unpleasant.

And daylight savings time? Bah. You have to love the fact that the government controls when our clocks should turn back and skip ahead. I would like my hour or two back of sunlight when I get home to get more stuff done. I don't need sunlight to go to work and my kids don't need it to go to school!

Today I got the garden cleaned up somewhat. I would still like to do more, but I have a feeling Rob will be needing my help to get outside projects done this week. We shall see what happens. I took up the stakes and string that I used to trellis the tomatoes this year. I pulled up more plants that I keep throwing into one long row.

Last week, when the kids cleaned out the chicken coop, they dumped the bedding in the garden. Doing this the last few years has been tremendous boost to my garden. I need to spread it out a little better, but I will be a believer in having this as a part of my garden.

I planted 44 bulbs of garlic today and staked off that area so it doesn't get accidentally tilled next spring. I wish there was more I could plant this time of year for the next year, but being in this zone and in Iowa doesn't leave much for planting in late fall.

And no, the potatoes are still not dug up. Can you tell what my least favorite harvest task is?

The boat got put away this week too. I'm a little sad about that because I really like boating. I find it very relaxing!

This week is sort of busy. Dane has 7th grade basketball practice this week. Paige has an honor choir performance on Monday and a cross country banquet on Thursday. She is also finally getting her wisdom teeth out on Wednesday. For those people who don't believe getting wisdom teeth is necessary, her surgery is. Her bottom two wisdom teeth are impacted and bone on bone making chewing and life a little difficult for her right now.

I don't have a lot planned for the week. Just get done what I can outside and be a helper to Rob. I want to list more things for sale on Facebook and eBay this week. I am trying to branch out a bit and sell some things that I wouldn't normally consider. I sold two things on Facebook Marketplace this last week that were listed five months ago! I couldn't believe it!

I also wrote a post about 20 Ideas for Raising Kids Frugally. There are a lot of tips and tricks that worked for me. Check it out!

Paladin Press will closing their doors on November 29, 2017. They are an excellent source of survival and preparedness books. Many of their books are marked down 65% and more. I placed an order for four books last week. I encourage you to check them out! (Not an affiliate, just a fan!)

What have you done this last week? What are your plans for the upcoming week?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - October 29

Happy Sunday everyone!

To start, I apologize for missing last week. While I realize this weekly post is not everyone's cup of tea, it serves as a place for me to get my thoughts straight. It also helps me keep track of what I have done and not done. Let's put more emphasis on what is not done because that is how I am feeling.

Actually, let's back up a little more. I struggle to stay focused on the best of days. If I didn't know better, I would probably have the adult version of ADD. However, I am not going to pursue finding out because I already know I have a problem. I survive off of to-do lists and mini self-challenges. I keep a never-ending to-do list in a journal that I carry in my purse. I also write down anything and everything I want and need to remember. Hopefully, I remember to write it down. I also heavily use my Google calendar on my phone to remember appointments and anything that I have to do that day that I don't trust myself to remember.

Yes, I have a problem. I feel sorry for anyone who has to live with me!

Now, add anxiety and stress to my already struggling focus and I am toast. I have barely gotten anything done this last week. If I had any commitments to anyone, I remembered to do those. So I remembered to pick the last of my green tomatoes and green peppers and gave them to a friend. Rob and I sold a lot of eggs last week and I remembered to get those to the right people. I remembered to make food for the week today. We have a loaf of fresh bread for sandwiches, baked oatmeal muffins, egg muffins, and granola bars for breakfasts and lunches this week.

On a whim, I decided to steam my farm fresh eggs instead of boiling them to make hard boiled eggs. They turned out great and they peel so much easier!

We will take the victories where we can!

I need to finish putting the garden to rest and get the garlic planted. The weather has been wet and rainy with the appearance of snow. We did get our first frost. I am hoping to get a warm up in November so I can finish. I still need to dig potatoes too. The strawberries have been mulched by the pine needles nearby, but I want to get more pine needles on them. The weather was nice for a few days this last week, but I was busy at work with harvest and pretty dang tired by the time I got home.

I realize that was just an excuse. I have been feeling guilty for not getting more done at home. I admire the people who can get so much done in a day. Every time I sit down for a rest, I feel like I should be doing more. I hate feeling convicted about an area of my life, but it is better to have this happening now. If something happens where I have to be working harder, I don't want to be dealing with these feeling then.

Other than that, I have been trying to figure out ways to make more money. Yes, I know I should be content with what I make already. However, I have medical bills, dental bills, and an upcoming wisdom teeth surgery (Paige) to pay for. Nevermind, I still need to put tires on the van and replace the front tie rods. Also nevermind, Christmas and a birthday (Paige) is coming up too! Ugh. I am not good about being behind on my bills. It makes me cranky and think about money all the time. It really, really stresses me out.

Since I am not willing to practice the world's oldest profession, I have been trying to find things to sell and to flip. I have been cleaning a house for a friend once a month. I am working on taking pictures of my kids' discarded things to sell. I have been playing on Swagbucks again to earn points for Amazon cards. We have been selling eggs. Basically, however I can make a dollar, I will be trying. I can always get part-time job, but I still need to be a mama too.

So this has been me in a nutshell this last two weeks. I know a lot more has been going on, but this is what has been on my mind. I am not perfect, I will never be perfect, but I strive every day to do my best.

What have you been up to lately? What is on your mind?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - October 15

Happy Sunday, everyone!

What has been going on around here? We have been dodging more raindrops which hasn't been very good for getting things done again this week. The garden and the chicken coop are a muddy messes. We have some good weather coming this week and hopefully the ground dries up a bit.

We are still harvesting from the garden which is awesome. The grape tomatoes, a scant few tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, and bell peppers are all that is left. I pulled the peas along with the weeds today. I was a little disappointed with the second planting of peas, but the weather conditions have not been ideal. I did get a small bowlful that will work with a meal this week. I pulled one of the two grape tomato plants which was done. I also pulled the cucumber plants because they were done producing too.

The chickens are doing great. They are still eating their way through our yard and the feed. We are getting 14-16 large eggs a day. I do have a few new regular egg customers which is great. Now I am doing some research on meat layers and which breed I want to have. We will probably start with 25 meat chickens unless my coworker wants to have some too. Then we will be doing at least 50 birds.

Now, more than ever, am I glad we are learning these skills. I am very happy to have a well producing garden and chickens for eggs. I am thrilled that we are talking about expanding next Spring with meat birds and possibly a couple of feeder pigs to raise for the freezer. Even though homesteading and self-sufficiency is gaining popularity, I want to be ahead of the trend. I want these skills because you never know what is coming down the tracks.

Yes, my Spidey senses are tingling. We live in a very uncertain world which is getting more uncertain by the day.While there are some very good people out there, there are some people who aren't good. They are people who are willing to make the best out of a bad situation. And then there are people who would rather steal your hard work rather than do their own work. These are the people that worry me.

I am worried about a lot of things right now. World events, our bickering government, and more potential threats is making me want to close up the holes in our prepping. Homesteading and self-sufficiency is part of my prepping. I have been adding to our food storage, Rob has been searching the sale sites for things we need, and we are just trying to get organized and get stuff done. I hope you all are too.

Thank you for the emails after last week's post! I plan on getting back to each of you, but my online time was fairly limited this last week. It seemed like if I wanted to return emails or messages, I got interrupted!

In case you missed it, I posted one of my family's favorite meals last week. We eat this Easy Skillet Spaghetti almost every other week.

Please keep the people in California in your prayers. Losing your home to a fire is devastating and I can't even imagine trying to put your life back together after that.

What have you been up to this week? What is worrying you?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - October 8, 2017

Sunday greetings, everyone!

What happened this week? Rain. It rained, drizzled, and poured everyday except Wednesday this last week. Really, it was depressing. We have so much to do and that rain put a serious stop to it all.

I have a garden that needs to be weeded and cleared for next Spring. I want to get garlic planted pretty soon. I think I have almost all the tomatoes picked. Any tomatoes that are left will be for eating or fresh marinara. We still have zucchini and summer squash growing. The bell peppers are finally turning and I have been picking them for supper. I will probably freeze some peppers too. The potatoes are still not dug, but when the ground dries up a bit I will get those dug.

I am canning the last of the tomatoes as we speak. I have canned mild salsa, pizza sauce, chopped tomatoes, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and (today) pasta sauce. That is pretty good and should get us through most of the year except for the pasta sauce. We go through a lot of pasta sauce!

We are also getting 15-16 eggs a day. We have too many eggs, but I feel that is a good problem. I have been trying to sell the excess without a lot of luck. I was trying to sell a dozen eggs for $2.00 and 18 count for $2.50. Do you think that is too much for free range eggs? What would you pay for them?

We also still have a rooster to get rid of. Any takers?

We have been working on the kids' bedrooms in the meantime. We have purged a lot of clothes and sent a bag to Thred Up for consignment. We also have been making regular trips to the thrift store to get rid of more. We are working on cleaning and organizing now. Unfortunately, their rooms have gotten out of hand and this has been a long road. Frankly, they have too much stuff and we are working on that too.

Healthwise, I am feeling pretty good. My nose is healing and is still a little sore. I am starting to smell again which is weird. I have been working on developing some healthier habits like increasing my water intake and being more active. As of right now, I have lost 16 pounds. My clothes are starting to feel loose which I love!

What happened in Las Vegas this week has been weighing heavily on my mind. While I am concerned about the investigation and the actual facts, there is something that bothers me more. How can someone do that? Shoot into a crowd of people who were having a great time and just terrorize them like that? I don't get what twists someone's mind into thinking that shooting people like that is justifiable.

The blame game from this tragedy also bothers me. Instead of holding the individuals responsible for this shooting, people in general want to blame all gun owners or a political party or conservatives. Whatever. The problem with our country and society is the lack of personal responsibility. Granted, it is easier to blame a group of people rather than the individual. However, it is not right.

What have you been up to this last week? What are you planning for this week?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - October 1, 2017

Sunday greetings, everyone!

In talking to some of my readers and good friends, I found out that while they liked my blog posts (thanks!) they wanted me to go back to doing something of a regular update about what we do around here. They also liked when I talked about what I thought of things and what I am interested in. I was a little surprised to tell you the truth. I was pretty sure no one really wanted to know what goes on inside my brain!

Well, this last week was more than just unproductive. I didn't get hardly anything done except run some errands on Friday, ship books, and go to some of the kids things Friday and Saturday. I finally had nose surgery on Monday morning and that knocked me out for a few days. Quite frankly, I am still not sure what I am going to get done to today because I don't want to jeopardize the surgery. I had bilateral inferior turbinate reduction surgery so I could breath through my nose again for the first time in 20+ years. The surgeon took a fair amount of tissue and membranes out so I have two clear nasal passages.

Let me tell you this, healing is not fun. I had the best care from Rob who has been wanting me to get this surgery done for a while. I am not a good patient because I am too used to doing stuff. I constantly got told "no, you aren't doing that". However, I got caught up on a few documentaries, some reading, a lot of sleep, and my DVR. I was allowed to put supper in the slow cooker two nights and to make bread because I used the bread maker to do the mixing and kneading.

This all goes back to something I have talked about before. Now is the time to take care of your health and any issues you may have. Tomorrow may be too late. I am working at losing weight (lost 15 pounds so far!), getting healthier, and having a better quality of life. Not being able to breath well or right was significantly impacting it. I am sleeping so much better now. I don't run out of breath because I can breath through my nose. I wasn't a natural mouth breather so this has been huge!

I will be canning tomatoes today and starting to wrap up the garden. Fall is definitely here in Iowa. While I expect we will have a warm-up again, the tomatoes are done. I have been letting them just ripen in the garden since I couldn't do anything with them. The potatoes need to be dug, but I need to get a new pitchfork. I broke the last one beyond repair. The peppers are still ripening and I will leave them alone a little while longer. The garden needs a good weeding and then putting to rest.

I doubt that will all happen this week, but the canning of tomatoes will happen this week if not today. I will probably turn them into crushed tomatoes because I can turn crushed tomatoes into chili or another sauce if I want to. Otherwise I can chunk them up and can them that way too. I try to keep the canning simple most of the time.

Chickens were moved to their new coop about six weeks ago and they are doing great. We have been letting them free range when we are home on the weekends and after work. We lost two hens to coyotes and I am not very happy about that. We have a young pack of coyotes around us right now, but I think they must be moving southward. I don't hear them at night as much. We still have a rooster though and I am looking for a home for him. I might have one for him, but if you are interested, please let me know!

We also have eggs taking over the fridge and back-up fridge so it is time to start selling! Additional income is always good!

I have been trying to find new ways to save money and have been going back to some of my old ways to save money. I have been trying to be more cognizant of the way money is being spent, but it is just being spent. I have gone back to couponing a little and using money savings I already possess in terms of value cards I have bought through the school. Some days, it seems like we live as frugal as we can, but it will never be enough. I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but I am some bigger purchases I have to make.

I really need to buy two sets of tires this fall and have been looking for a good deal on barely used or new tires. Tires are just expensive though! So are car parts since Paige got into an accident last month. Most of that damage is cosmetic, but the whole drivers side panels and doors need to be replaced. Hopefully, the other driver's insurance will pay for it, but there is no guarantee since the claim is now in arbitration. (Long story for another day).

We are trying to get stuff done before winter comes or when we can't do anything after work because there is no daylight left. We really need to address the well room and get the top of that sealed. Our well room is attached to the basement of our house and has its own cement ceiling and cover. They are both cracked and water is leaking in. I have had a tarp over it for years, but the tarp is no longer doing the job. I just need to borrow the pressure washer from work, clean it, and get it sealed so the cracks are no longer a problem. I want to be able to store potatoes and other vegetables in the well room again without them spoiling.

You might notice the lack of discussion on prepping, but to me this is all prepping. Gardening, chickens, vehicles, health, and property maintenance/projects are all prepping. Almost everything we do is prepping. Every day, we just do what we can do and put the rest on tomorrow's list.

How has your week been going? What have you been up to? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, September 18, 2017

Ten Prepping Habits You Should Be Working On!


Habits can be good or bad. They can be a wonderful thing or a curse. However, I believe in having good habits as a prepper. We need to be diligent in our personal growth as preppers and habits do this for us. Habits keep us accountable and help us to become better preppers.

Some of these habits may seem a little different, but I see prepping as a personal thing to improve us as well as make us better people in general.

Ten Prepping Habits You Should Be Working On!

1. Organization. Being organized is only for your advantage in prepping. In an emergency or crisis, you will know where everything is. That is key for good emergency management, good response time, and good decisions. You will be able to see what you have and what you need to replace. You won't have to guess where everything is. You can tell someone where to find a key item and get the item quickly. I can not stress being organized enough.

2. Being Proactive. You want to be a proactive prepper. You want to see problems before they occur. You want to take care of problems before they happen. Need more water in your storage? Buy it now instead of waiting until a crisis is looming. A window needs to be fixed? Take care of it now before a storm blows it out or a thief finds a way in. You can scale this down to simple everyday things. Dishes need to be done? Do them now before the power may go out or the well pump quits. Laundry piling up? Put a load in the washer every day so you don't have to worry about it later. Taking care of things now will save you a major headache later.


3. Good Health. Your health is key in prepping. If you are too unwell to respond to a crisis or emergency, you might end up dead. Every prepper should be working on good eating habits, being in good physical condition, living in moderation, and working on/quitting bad habits like smoking and chewing.

4. Skill Building. Always Be Learning. You are never done learning as a prepper. There are new skills to learn and to hone. There is always new information to learn, process, and/or implement. As a prepper, you need to keep up to date on the current news, new trends, new information, and new threats that may be on the horizon. You may need to learn new skills to adjust to the new information you have learned. As a tip, I know preppers that learn a new skill every month. They learn about that skill and start practicing the skill. This is something we all should be doing.

5. Good Communication. Being able to effectively communicate is key. You don't want to have misunderstandings in times of crisis. You need to be able to listen well and talk clearly.

6. Becoming Debt Free. Life is better when you are debt free. There are times in life where debt is unavoidable, but trying not to accrue more debts is key. If you are in debt, try to find ways to get out of debt. I personally like Dave Ramsey's system, but that may not be for everyone. However, you should be finding new ways to make extra money and putting in the overtime now so you can have financial peace later.


7. Establishing Routines. Do you have good routines? Do you check the house every night to make sure the doors are locked and windows are secured? Do you have your clothes laid out the night before so you can get dressed quickly in the morning or during the night if you need to? Doing the same thing every day and every night is good for you. You established routines so you stay proactive about what needs to be done, what gets done everyday, and what problems need to be addressed. Routines keep your mind calm and reassured that everything was done and checked. Establish routines now to keep the chaos in check later.


8. Practice. Always keep practicing. Whether that includes your skills, your routines, your talents, etc. Most things you learn should not be learned once and thought to be done with them. You should always make time to practice what you need to know.

9. Conservation and Sustainability. Recycling. Reusing. Live somewhat minimally. Reduce our wants and focus on our needs. We really need to learn to quit being wasteful. When times of crisis come, we need to learn to reuse what we have and focus on just what we need to survive.


10. Learning To Live Without. This may be the hardest habit for anyone, not just preppers. We rely on our comforts so much and can get really cranky without them. We expect instant access to information instead of having to look it up in a book. We expect to be entertained when we want to be entertained. We expect to have air conditioning at our fingertips. We really need to learn to live without. If you learn this now, that habit will serve you later when the power is out or you are stranded somewhere for any length of time.


I consider these the top ten prepping habits that every good prepper should be working on! I am curious, however. What habits would you add to the list?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"If You Haven't Got Your Health, You Haven't Got Anything"


Yes, that is a direct quote from "The Princess Bride". It is one of my favorite movies of all time. I could quote most of that movie easily, but it has been that quote that has been on mind lately.

We really do take our health for granted. We live in this bubble for a long time and believe that we are invincible until one day we aren't. It seems like, all of a sudden, we can't walk as much as we used to. We get tired a lot more easily. We can't breath as well as we used to. An extra 30-100 pounds have creeped onto our bodies. We are wiped out after a half day of work.

I decided some time, with some encouragement, to want better for myself. I wasn't the only one. I had one friend get a wake-up call about her health. I have had more than one friend and relative find out they had Type 2 Diabetes and/or have significant thyroid issues. We have all talked about how hard it is to lose the weight now, eat healthier, and get the right treatment.

I finally decided to get my breathing fixed and get my allergies under control. I have been complaining for years to the doctor that I cannot breath through my nose. I have been told it was congestion, allergies, swelling from both those things, and possibly a deviated septum. I have been taking allergy medicine year round for almost six years and seasonally before that.

My regular doctor did not want to pursue this. I find that very disturbing since this has been impacting my life. I don't sleep well. I am out of breath a lot because I am not a natural mouth breather. I always have a lot of sinus pressure. I believe it has had an effect on my weight gain/loss. However, since the allergy medicine was working on some of the symptoms, they were fine with that. I even pursued a sleep study, but I passed the preliminary test (a pulse oxygen machine overnight) with flying colors.

I finally called in May to get into an allergy/ear, nose and throat doctor. I couldn't get into testing until yesterday. I self-referred to a doctor. I haven't done that except one other time for one of my children. I wanted answers and thank goodness I did!

You know what I found out? I don't have allergies. Not one allergy. I went through the allergy testing and found out I was unnecessarily taking these medicines for years! This doctor listened to me and he knew right away what was probably wrong with me. All he had to do was look in my nose to know. He also gave the very uncomfortable experience of having a camera up my nose to make sure nothing else was wrong.

What was wrong? The turbinates in my nose are enlarged and swollen blocking off airflow. I haven't been able to breath through my nose for over ten years (at least) because of this. This can be fixed and rather easily! I am using a combination of two nose sprays and, if that doesn't work, a simple ten minute in-office procedure will fix it.

This is minor compared to what a lot of people have wrong with them. I realize that, but it was starting to really impact my quality of life. I have a few more health issues I would like to pursue, but this one seemed to me the most important. I have wanted to work out, sleep better, and lose weight. Not being able to breath through my nose was impacting all of that!

The point of all of this is to get your health taken care of. Do not be afraid to ask for a specialist. If your regular doctor doesn't seem to be listening to you, ask for another doctor. Otherwise, self-refer yourself to a specialist who can give you answers. Most people are not hypochondriacs. They know something is wrong with them and it needs to be fixed. It is just a matter of finding that doctor who will listen to them.

I have several things to say about the health industry, but this is the most important. There are good, mediocre, and bad doctors. Their hands are tied by a lot of things like policies and insurance. The good doctors will continue to find solutions and do the best they can by you. The mediocre doctors will just look at your symptoms and give blanket treatments/responses. The bad doctors will just not care because they are being paid by more than the hospital. The good doctors will be hard to see because they are well-liked and their schedule is full. However, a good doctor for you may not be a good doctor for someone else.

I still believe in home remedies, natural cures, and a holistic approach to medicine. I will probably never stray from that. However, sometimes you do need a conventional doctor. This is one of those times.

It is easy to put your health off until tomorrow. We often put ourselves last and we can pay the consequences for it. If some major crisis happens and we can't get access to medical care, we are too late and we will probably pay for that. If you find yourself without help, can you do all the work or are you too unhealthy to do that?

I know what my answer would be which is why I am trying to lose weight now, eat healthier now, and getting any health issues addressed now. We don't know what tomorrow may bring, but we need to be ready to face it.

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


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


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

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


Friday, March 31, 2017

Monthly Update From The Homestead - March Edition (It's Spring!)


Why not write the March Update From The Homestead on the last day of the month? At least it is in March! That has been how fast this month has gone and I really haven't had a lot to talk about. 

I put off the writing of this because almost nothing has happened in the month of March on the homestead. The weather has been snow, wet, rain, wet, a few days of sun, and more days of clouds. And that is what I can remember...

I am looking at plans for the chicken coop. We are probably getting twenty layers this Spring. I think I have it narrowed down to what I want to built and still stay simple, but we do have to built it first. We will use what we have on hand, but I know we will have to buy materials. I know the coop will have to be more practical than cute which suits me fine. Do you have a coop design you love? Share a picture or a link to what coop you like!

I have been planning my garden too. I will probably put the garlic in a long planters or along the very edge of the garden next week. I haven't used up all the garlic from last year so I will probably use that to start the new batch. I am also going to start at least my tomatoes next week and bring them to work to grow. Yes, where I work is that relaxed and they have much, much better southern facing windows to grow things. I think I am going to start 30 tomato plants and see how they do. I know not all of them will live, but I kind of hope they do.

I also need to move the strawberries. I don't want to do it right now, but they really need to be moved to the edge of the garden. They were on the edge before we expanded. I know now is not a good time, but they really have to be moved!

I also have my potatoes ready to go to be planted. They are from last year and have sprouted already. They are sitting on the front porch to slow their growing. And maybe, just maybe, I will get them planted on Good Friday. Around here, a lot of people plant their potatoes on Good Friday. You can find a good explanation on why that written a year ago here. I don't usually plant on this date when it is in March, but by the middle of April, hopefully we are past most of the dangers of frost.

I sit on the line of 4B/5A planting zone so I generally use caution and plant according to Zone 4. Most of my garden will not go until May sometime. I am going to try to plant radishes, spinach, and lettuce early. I really want the garden tilled first so we need to wait until that is suitable for tilling first. Rob may have found a tiller for his older lawn tractor. If he can get that working, that will be groovy. Otherwise, we can rent a tiller too.

I know this sounds like a lot of planning and nothing happening, but that is the reality of life right now. I don't really even feel like a homesteader right now. I won't have an active garden for at least a month, don't have chickens or other livestock right now, and anything else that makes a person a homesteader. It just feels weird because I want to be more self-sufficient, but I am not actively doing anything right now except for planning.

On other projects, the bedroom is almost done. We just need to paint and put quarter round along the edges in the room. We also need to rewire a new light switch, switch out the ceiling fan, put new vent covers on, and put on covers for the outlets and light switch. I would like to paint the closets yet, but that is not a high priority job.

With the bedroom almost done upstairs, we moved the bed upstairs that was sitting in my food storage and emergency area taking up a lot of room! My food storage and emergency area is a disaster area right now. I really need to clean and organize it. I would love to add another set of shelves, but we are also moving the deep freeze over there. I also need to move the shelves away from the wall and clean. Fun, fun.

Paige in the white shirt playing in the saxophone quartet

That has been about it. Dane finished up with basketball. Paige is just her usual whirlwind of activity: track, helping with musical, solo/small group ensemble contest, and studying. Rob and I were both down with a cold and a virus. We didn't have them at the same time, but they really killed our energy levels for a few days.

The older two girls are staying busy in their lives. Shali moved to Sioux Falls in January. She moved in with her fiance and is expecting a little girl in June. She transferred from UNI to University of Sioux Falls. Jordan is still at UNI and studying. She works for the Y-Pals program and works a lot of before and after school shifts for them in the local schools.

What have you been up to this March? Let me know below!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


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