Sunday, August 12, 2018

This Kind of Life Is Not Cute or Kitschy...It's A Lot of Work


This weekend has been busy. I am getting ready to post several pictures on Instagram about what I got done this week and I am still struck by how much work gets done around here every weekend. What strikes me, even more, is how much work there is to do everyday and weekend.

I choose this life. I wasn't delusional about what it would entail. Being a prepper is work. Being a homesteader is work. Being self-reliant is work. Being frugal is more work. All four of those together means the work never lets up. I know people who can't handle it and I don't blame them. There are days I can barely handle it.

Some of you probably think that all I do is run a blog and hang out here at home. That couldn't be further from the truth. I work as an office manager Monday through Friday, 7:30 am - 4:30 pm. I run an eBay store that I have been adding more and more inventory too. I have two very active teenagers at home and two young adults who live with their husband or boyfriend. I have two grandchildren. And I blog and write for other sites.

I am not asking or seeking sympathy. Like I said before, I choose this life.

What gets me though is the people who think this kind of life is cute or kitschy. What we do to thrive or survive is trendy. Like raising chickens is adorable. Like raising a garden is so good for my health and the environment. Like everything I do to save money in a day is so consumer conscious.

Spare me the trendy terms and the idealistic attitude. That is not why I do it.

I raise my own food because, quite frankly, I save myself a lot of money and I know where some of my food comes from. I enjoy raising my own food, but some days it is a lot of work. The weeding never ends. Sometimes I have more food to preserve than I have time to do. There are times I take a vacation day or two from work just to can tomatoes. I get frustrated because my chickens and the other wildlife ate my berries before I got to pick them. I wish the chickens would figure out that I really don't want them on the front porch.

I raise my own laying chickens because the eggs are really that much better than store-bought eggs. They help fertilize the yard which means I (meaning mostly the teenagers) get to mow more often. They like to eat bugs which is why they get to free range. Besides that, free-ranging chickens eat less feed which means I save money and get better tasting eggs.  However, reference the front porch comment and berry comment again.

I prepare because I truly believe everyone should. I think you should be prepared because that is the responsible thing to do. I prepare because I don't want to be in a situation of begging for handouts if I can help it. I want to have plenty of food and water on hand so my kids do not go thirsty or hungry. I want to be able to survive a power outage and more. I want to be prepared for natural disasters and economic downturns. However, preparedness can be work. I garden and raise my own food in order to be better prepared and less reliant on the system. I can and preserve to have more food on hand. I buy the supplies and learn the skills so I know how to take care of my family and myself.

I can and preserve my own food because, again, I like knowing where my food comes and I take a great satisfaction in knowing I produce it. I like being less reliant on a food system that takes pleasure in hiding chemicals and harmful additives to food. I make a lot of my own food and make a lot of food from scratch because I know what is in the food. I have a daughter who is lactose-intolerant and there is a lot of dairy hidden in food using names that I cannot pronounce and are not even natural. By preserving our own food, we can all be healthier and more conscious of what is in our food.

I like saving money and making money. I will not even be ashamed of either of those things. I am a borderline workaholic which makes this life even remotely possible. I juggle a lot of balls every day. I think a lot of people who are in my shoes would say that. There is a lot of people who do this without an outside income to rely on. There is a lot of people who barely scrape by every day and would think I am wasteful when I have a lot of weeks where I barely scrape by. There is a lot of people who live this life and do not think this life is cute or kitschy either.

I hear a lot of people who "crave" the simple life. I might have that phrase in my byline, but I would not be sure that I could accurately say that I live it either. Simple is not running from one place to another and trying to get more accomplished in a day than there are hours in a day. Simple is not trying to balance kids with work, with home life, with keeping a house, with keeping animals, and with trying to raise my own food. Some of that is simple, but not all combined together. While most people live in the rat race, chasing the "American Dream", and being in debt to their ears, this life I live is not always simple. It just looks better than those people.

Again, I choose this life and everything in it. If you wish you could do all the things I do, then do more than wish for it. That is what I did. Wishing does not make things happen. Wishing does not do anything, but make you keep wishing. If you want to be a homesteader or a prepper, then do what you can to make that happen. Just be aware that this life is a lot of work, but the results are rewarding.

I won't delude you either. I would not be where I am at without some help. I have a guy in my life who does what he can every day to get stuff done. My kids do chores, clean the chicken coop, and mow. I live on an acreage rent-free, but I pay all the bills except property taxes and pay for almost all of the upkeep. I have a lot of people who support me and live this life as well so they can commiserate with me. I do get out of the house and have fun periodically because I need to relax.

Another thing about this life - it comes with great disappointment sometimes. Your garden doesn't turn out well or your cucumber plants become victims of the wildlife. Your entire flock of laying hens is killed by a mink. Your only vehicle has to go into the shop for very expensive repairs. Your kids or you become ill resulting in unexpected medical bills. You lose your job and have to rely on your food storage to get you through.

This life is a learning experience. You will witness some great miracles and some devastating losses. You will feel as though you are walking alone in it or, worse yet, feeling like you let your loved ones down. You will feel a great joy every time you bring home a flock of baby chickens or watch a calf or a piglet being born. You will go to bed bone tired but satisfied that you put in a full day's worth of work. You will be awake at night wondering how you are going to fix a car or a tractor or how you are going to pay that bill. You will watch your kids grow up learning these skills and you will know that they will be able to survive on their own.

Does this life get any easier? Yes and no. Yes, because you learn what to do, you learn skills, and you start to have systems in place. No, because you will always have more work than time, you will be short of money when you need it most, and you will be thrown curveballs when you never expected them.

Like I said before, I choose this life. I want this life. I want more for myself and my family. I can't see the appeal of a consumer-driven life with keeping up appearances and being in debt. I truly think everyone should live the life I am living. Honest labor never hurt anyone and you become more appreciative of what you have.

However, it is not cute or kitschy. It is not trendy. It is and always will be a lot of work.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Best Way To Freeze Zucchini (And What To Do With It Afterwards!)


Zucchini is one of those rare garden plants. Almost anyone can grow it! Zucchini is also (normally) very prolific meaning that it will produce very well for weeks if not months. We love here at Living Life in Rural Iowa so I like to put it up for use in the winter.

You can use zucchini in place of cucumber in relishes and pickles to preserve and use up the bounty. We like to eat it straight from the garden on the grill. However, we eat a good deal of it in baked goods with the idea that the end result might be healthier!

In order to use it over the winter, I have learned how to freeze it. I went through many trials and errors trying to find the best way to do this. One of the things I had learned right away is that you can easily freezer burn zucchini. The second thing I learned is that the texture of the zucchini changes considerably when frozen and thawed.

With that in mind, I had to find a way to do this so that I could use it again in the winter. The best way to freeze and preserve zucchini is to shred and then freeze it.

The Best Way To Freeze Zucchini

1. Pick zucchini from the garden that is medium size. The medium size zucchini is easier to handle, to shred, and don't have a lot of seeds in them. If you do happen to find a large or extra large zucchini that you inadvertently missed, cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, and cut them into manageable pieces. They are still edible and completely usable.


2. Wash the zucchini thoroughly and cut off the ends. Most of the zucchini I find in my garden is on the ground. They always need to be washed. You can choose to cut them into more manageable pieces for shredding. I think they are easier to handle when broken down into 2-3 pieces.

3. At this point, you can decide to peel them or not. I choose not to peel them because my family doesn't care if they see green specks in their food and they all like zucchini. However, if you have young ones (or old ones) who are picky eaters, you can choose to peel them. You will be able to hide the zucchini in sauces and baked easier if they are peeled.


4. Grab a big bowl and start shredding. By using a big bowl, you will not end up with shredded zucchini everywhere. If you don't use a big bowl, I suggest using a lipped baking sheet for holding all the goodness in. As for shredding the zucchini, I prefer to use a mandoline with a shredding attachment that sits on top of the bowl. You can also use a handheld shredder, a box shredded (grater), or a food processor with the shredding blade.


5. Portion out into bags and freeze. You can use zip-top freezer bags for this. I portion the shredded zucchini into two cup portions and put into the bag. If you are using freezer bags, push as much air out as possible, and seal the bag. Flatten the contents inside the bag and label them. You can then put them in the freezer. You could use a baking sheet under the bags to ensure they stay flat until they are frozen. You can then store them how you like in the freezer.

However, I love using my Food Saver. It is a rock star in my house! I put the two cup portions on zucchini in quart-size Food Saver bags. I flatten the bags the best I can, lay them on a baking sheet, and let them freeze. Then I vacuum seal the bags. With zucchini, if you try to seal them while the zucchini is fresh, the Food Saver will try to suck up the zucchini juices and will never seal. If you freeze them first, the Food Saver can suck all the air out and seal the bags just fine. Remember to label and date them!


Now that you have all this frozen zucchini, what can you do with it?

You can add it to sauces, one pot meals, and baked good. I also know people that add it to smoothies. However, you will find out quickly that thawed zucchini is far different than fresh zucchini. You will need to drain the excess liquid off first (or use the liquid in a soup or add to a vegetable broth). The best way to do this is to line a fine mesh strainer with a double layer of paper towels or cheesecloth. You will put the thawed zucchini in the strainer and let the excess liquid pour out. The paper towels or cheesecloth will hold the zucchini in. You can then squeeze more excess liquid out if you wish. If you are using the thawed zucchini in baked goods, you will want to squeeze more liquid out or it will affect your final baked goods.

What do you like to do with zucchini?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
Preserving The Bounty: How To Freeze Sweet Corn
Fajita Vegetable Packets: A Great Way To Use Up The Garden Bounty! 



Sunday, July 29, 2018

10 Ways to Battle The Biting Insects and Mosquitoes No Matter Where You Live


Insects can be so beneficial and so annoying. They can help with insect control and eat mites. They can also bite you in places you never thought they could get to. Where I live we deal with the biting flies, the no see ums (sandflies), and mosquitoes. Usually, we need to have unusually wet weather to see a lot of bugs, but not always. When they decide to hatch and feed, they become atrocious!

How should you deal with biting insects? You should deal with them with everything you have and then some. They can make working on the homestead very difficult. They can make having a picnic almost impossible. Even though you are moving along a decent speed on a mower or a tractor, they still manage to land and bite you! What a nuisance!

So what measures should you take to fight the biting insect fight? You can do this one of two ways: naturally and chemically. The choice is yours. We are usually driven to the chemicals because they cover a wider area.

1. Bug Repellent. You can use a repellent with DEET or a repellent with no DEET. Some people find they have a sensitivity or an allergy to DEET. You can buy store brand or make your own bug repellent.

Here are some links to some homemade bug repellent:

All-Natural Homemade Bug Spray Recipes That Work! by Wellness Mama
Natural Homemade Mosquito/Insect/Bug Spray by DIY Natural
5 Homemade Mosquito Repellents by Survival at Home

I am not saying that making your own repellent is the best thing, but if you have the ingredients, I would definitely try it. However, there is no shame in buying some bug repellent either!

2. Fly Strips. These are so simple and so effective. I used them in the chicken coop for the first time this year and one was full before the day was over. Just crazy! I have had to use them over the sink in the kitchen too when I had a fruit fly problem. They are easy to use and will definitely attract the biting flies.

3. Bug Bombs (Total Release Foggers). These are again are pretty effective in a shop or a garage. You can use them in a house, but make sure all the food is put away and you clean the surfaces again before using them. You also need to set them off away from ignition sources. You set off the bug bombs and leave the area for at least four hours. You need to make sure they are for killing the insects you want to be killed. These are very chemically laden and most have neurotoxins in them. You should only use them for extreme infestations.

4. Citronella candles and torches. These are good for keeping insects away from areas when you are outside. You can use them in or on picnic tables, around fire pits, on outdoor decks, and other areas where you may gather. You can also make your own citronella candles if you wish, but they are usually pretty cheap to purchase.

5. Mosquito Repellent Bracelets. They are pretty effective for repelling mosquitoes and would be kid friendly to use (as long as they understood not to chew on them). Most brands of these bracelets sold do not contain DEET making them a good substitute for those sensitive to DEET. These are also eco-friendly which would be another great reason to use them.

6. Bug Zappers. These can be a good addition to your porches and decks to kill bugs and mosquitoes. They may be a little noisy, but they can be an effective way to kill bugs without having to use chemicals. Most of them also have a light which attracts the bugs and can be another source of light outdoors. Most can be used indoors too. You usually have to plug them, but there are solar options on the market for bug zappers. 

7. Ultrasonic Bug Repellent. These are useful in the house to keep the mosquitoes and biting flies at bay. They do need to plug in which is why they would go in the house or in a shop. However, they would be a good idea to have when you don't want to use chemicals. There are portable outdoor versions of the ultrasonic bug repellent, but they would need to be charged by solar power or USB.

8. Outdoor Foggers. These are good in a small outdoor area to repel flies and mosquitoes. You could use this in a picnic area, on a porch or deck, or a patio. You need to read the instructions on the can before spraying. This should only be sprayed on a still day and only once a day. It will kill mosquitoes on contact.

9. Yard Insecticide. If you are just infested with mosquitoes and biting flies, you may need to use a whole yard insecticide such as Demon, Tempo, Permethrin or Malathion. You can find yard insecticides that need to be mixed with water in a sprayer or you can attach to your garden hose to spray. You will need to put away any animals or pets until this has dried on the grass. Most of these yard insecticides only last 21-30 days which is better than spraying a fogger or yourself all the time. This is what we usually need to use on our acreage because the mosquitoes and biting flies are so bad in June and July.

10. Mosquitopaq Pouch. These are really neat as they can be used inside or outside, last 30 days, and use no chemicals. You simply hang them twenty feet away from where you want them to work and they will start repelling mosquitoes right away. You just have to follow the instructions to activate the ingredients inside the pouch and you are ready to go!

The bonus to most of these methods is that they will take care of the sandflies and ticks also. Ticks are a big worry due to their bites and Lyme disease. If you are worried about ticks, I would look for products that will take care of both ticks, mosquitoes, and biting flies.

I know there are other methods of repelling mosquitoes and bugs such as special soaps, Avon's Skin So Soft baby oil, and Vick's Vapor Rub. What are your favorite ways to repel those mean biting insects?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, July 23, 2018

10 Ways To Prep When Real Life Gets In The Way


Life just gets crazy sometimes. You have places to be, people to see, kids in activities, work to do, and the never-ending to-do list to conquer. Summer always seems to be particularly busy even though school is (usually) on a break and you have more freedom to do what you want.

However, in all of life's busyness, prepping can sometimes get put on the back burner. We want to prep, but we have so much on our plates that we don't think we have time right now to prep. Even though hardcore preppers will cringe when I say this, sometimes that is okay to put prepping to the side for a little bit. We all have times in our lives that we are just plain overwhelmed with priorities and responsibilities. We need to cut ourselves some slack.

Now maybe you are getting a little antsy knowing you need to pay attention to your preps and need to practice those skills. You are just not sure when you are going to have time.

How can you prep with when real life gets in the way? As always, I have some suggestions.

1. Read some great prepping books and magazines. We all have downtime in the car, at night before bed, and/or during lunch at work. Bring a book or download a book on your e-reader and start reading! If you can't actively prep like you want to, the next best thing to do is to be learning about prepping in some form. Maybe you need to learn emergency communications or water storage tips. Maybe you need a fresh perspective on prepping or just some lists on what you could be doing. There are a lot of great prepping books out there! Just pick one and start reading!

2. Pick some items for the food storage while grocery shopping. This one might seem like a no-brainer, but we sometimes just rush through the grocery store without thinking about it. If you have to buy a container of Parmesan cheese, pick up two or three. If you need canned fruit or applesauce, grab a few extra. Just make a conscious effort to buy a little extra food while at the grocery store.

3. Take $5 or $10 out of your wallet right now and put it into your emergency cash stash. There! You just did something to prep without any real effort what so ever.

4. Play a scenario game with your husband and/or kids while driving. This is a very easy game that I would do sometimes with my own kids. You start out with a question, "What would you do if...?" You can ask what would they do if the power went out, if there was a fire in the house, if a friend was physically hurt, if there was a stranger in the house, and so on. I would keep the questions age appropriate as younger kids might not understand what to do yet. With older kids or other adults, you can be specific in the scenarios as well as a little more serious and far-reaching. The point of this game to discuss what to do in specific scenarios, generate good discussion and remind others about what to do and what is the plan. All that points to prepping!

5. Realize that many of your daily activities are prepping. Are you spending a lot of time in the garden? You are prepping. Are you canning a lot? You are prepping. Did you remember to take a full water bottle and snacks with you today? You are prepping. Did you remember to do laundry and wash dishes today? You won't have to worry so much if you don't have running water tomorrow. Did you take a walk, hike, bike, or run today? You are working on your physical health which is important in prepping. It might seem like life is getting in the way of prepping, but we do a lot in our daily lives that is preparing us for another possible crisis.

6. Go fill three empty containers with water right now. There! Again, you just prepped and you might have spent fifteen minutes doing it. Whether you choose to do drinking water or non-potable water, the choice is yours!

7. Do you have emergency contact numbers set up on your phone? Do you have your list of personal emergency contacts set up on your phone and written down on paper? Take 15-20 minutes and do that now. You just prepped again. Already did that once? Double check them now - you know there is always someone you might want to take off the list! Bonus - you can do this in the car waiting on your kids or over a lunch break.

8. Shift your priorities and make some time for prepping. Sometimes our priorities get screwed up and we just lose sight of what is important. Take a look at your priorities and see what can be moved around. You may be spending too much time online, binge-watching a television show, playing games, or wasting time otherwise. Too much of that stuff is bad for you and should not be a priority over prepping and your family's welfare. Your kids may be involved in way too much stuff and could benefit from being home and helping you. You just need to take a hard look at your priorities and think about what you can do to make prepping higher on the list.

9. Add toilet paper, ibuprofen, band-aids, and dish soap to your shopping list. Don't use those four things? (I don't really want to know if you don't use toilet paper - too much information!) Add four things you use daily that you don't want to be without to your shopping list. The next time you are shopping, be sure to buy them. You just did something for your preps!

10. Clean out your vehicle. While you are pumping gas, waiting for kids to get done, waiting for your lunch break to be over, or just got home, clean out your vehicle. Our vehicles have a tendency to become cluttered and messy very quickly. What if you had to bug out or evacuate quickly? You would want your vehicle clean and ready to go. Take 15-30 minutes to clean out the trash, organize, and remove anything not necessary from the vehicle. If you have another 10-15 minutes, vacuum out the vehicle too. You will be a happier person with a clean vehicle and you will be ready to load and leave a moment's notice!

You can prep when real life gets in the way! You might not realize you are prepping, but you really are. Most of us just think we are too busy to get things done, but in reality, we have time. We just need to shift our perspective. Do what you can every day to prepare even if you only spend fifteen minutes doing so.

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Related Posts:
What Is Motivating Me To Prep Now? A Story of Losing Interest and Getting My Prepping Mojo Back!

20 Common Sense Things You Can Do TODAY To Prepare For Tomorrow




Monday, June 18, 2018

30 Ways To Deal With Stress in Real Life and in a Crisis


One of the few areas that are rarely addressed in real life and in bad times is stress. People can handle a lot of stress, but it isn't healthy for them. Your mind, body, and spirit are all affected by stress. Stress can bring on a multitude of symptoms including brain fog, stress eating, weight gain or loss, insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, increased illness, fatigue, headaches, stomach issues, and more. While a little stress can be good for you, high and prolonged levels of stress are not good for you.

In a crisis or a situation, you will be under high levels of stress. It will be unavoidable. You will be worried about what is going to happen, what has happened, and how you will take care of it all. You need to find ways now to cope with stress so you better manage it when a situation happens.

Some of the ways to deal with stress listed below will help you to focus and redirect the mind. Some of them are just escapism for an hour or two. Neither is wrong as both ways can help you relax and give your mind a break. While all of these methods will work in daily life stress, some will work better when a crisis happens. You might not be able to do some of these when a crisis happens, but having practiced several of these will give you to the tools you need to cope.

30 Ways To Deal With Stress in Real Life and in a Crisis

1. Meditation. Just focusing on the quiet and another voice is a great way to de-stress. You can find several apps for your phone and YouTube videos all focusing on meditation. The way meditation calms and clears your mind can give your situation new clarity and your body some much-needed relaxation.

2. Prayer. If you have a belief in a higher faith, prayer can be a powerful tool. A focused time to give your worries away to a higher power can bring relief to your mind. Having faith that everything will work out and you will be fine is a powerful thing. Prayer helps to accomplish that.

3. Yoga. Yoga is unique in that it is a form of exercise that helps you focus on movement and breathing. You are focused on a voice, getting the movement right, and your breathing at the right times. It is very beneficial for dealing with stress as well as being a good exercise program for gentle stretching.

4. Tai Chi. Tai Chi is similar to yoga. You doing a precise series of movements and focusing on your breathing. Tai Chi is done standing up and is very gentle on the body. You are encouraged to clear your mind and focus on the movement when is very good for de-stressing.

5. Exercise. Working out is a good way to deal with stress. The physical nature of working out gets the muscles moving, helps to deal with the frustration, and focuses your mind on what you are doing. Working out also can help with your attitude when you get done with a good workout.

6. Journaling. Getting your thoughts and feelings out on paper can be a very good stress reliever. They aren't rolling around in your head and causing you more stress. You have them out on paper which can very mind relieving as well as help you gain some focus over your situation.

7. Drawing. Drawing can have the same effect as journaling. Making a drawing on what you are feeling or what you wish to be feeling can help relieve your mind and re-focus.

8. Reading Fiction. Reading, in general, can help you cope with stress. However, reading fiction is a form of escapism which can give you some relief from the stress. Reading a good story can help you relax.

9. Sewing and other needlework. The act of sewing and needlework can help relax you which helps with stress. In order to sew and do needlework, you have to concentrate on what you are doing which helps you clear the mind of your problems. Beyond that, sewing is productive which helps us feel better.

10. Crafts. Crafts are the same as sewing and needlework. It has been said that doing fifteen minutes of crafts will help your mind relax. Whether you like to put together ornaments, use coloring books, paint, and more, find something to do with your hands to de-stress.

11. Hobbies that help you relax. If you have a hobby that helps you relax and take your mind off things for awhile, you should do it when you are stressed. Many people like to fish, golf, build things,

12. Take a nap. Some people would argue that taking naps can be counterintuitive, but when trying to de-stress, a nap may be just what you need. We tend to stress out quicker when we are tired. A 15-60 minute nap can change our whole attitude and outlook when we wake up.

13. Watch a television show or a movie. The same as reading a fiction book, you are trying a little escapism which can do wonders for your mental health.

14. Go for a walk or a run. This is the same idea as exercising. A good walk or run can really help clear your mind. You also get a chance to remove yourself from the situation for a little while which can help you reassess your situation.

15. Get a massage, pedicure, manicure, or a facial. This is a good way to really help you relax and de-stress. Getting pampered can make you feel a lot better which can definitely help you handle the stress better.

16. Declutter and organize. Nothing like purging things to help with stress. Often, our things can create a lot of clutter in the house which affects our stress levels. After purging and organizing, you will be able to find your things easier, know what you have, and have less to clean. All are good things when it comes to your stress levels.

17. Clean house. A clean house just makes us feel better. Everything is clean, put away, and easy to find again. The act of cleaning house can be a great release for the frustration that is fueling your stress levels.

18. Write down everything you need to do. Brain dump. Then prioritize. Just like journaling, just getting everything down on paper helps your mind. You aren't trying to remember everything in your head. You have it down on paper which means you can really focus on what needs to be done. You can also prioritize when your list is on paper. You have a clear idea about what needs to be done first!

19. Focus on one thing at a time. When you are really stressed out, your mind is going in a hundred different directions. Focus on doing just one thing and finish it to the end of the task. You will feel better having completed one thing. Then move onto the next thing.

20. Make bread from scratch. Something about making bread is relaxing. Kneading bread can get a lot of frustration out which is great when you are stressed.

21. Hang out with friends and family. Hanging out with people who care about you can make all the difference. In talking with them, you might get a new perspective on your situation and what is stressing you out. Just talking about can help you relieve a little stress.

22. Go away for the day. Spending the day away from home helps with stress. Find something fun to do and just relax for the day.

23. Spend the day relaxing at home. Just do nothing for the day. Indulge in one or more of the above activities. Just take the day to reset if you can afford the time to do so.

24. Go camping. For some reason, getting back to nature can help reset your mind and give you some much-needed stress relief. For some, camping can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be. Keep it simple and fun!

25. Go for a drive. Sometimes you just need to get away from the stress for a little while. Listen to your favorite tunes and find a good route to help you relax for an hour or two. If you decide to stop at a lake or a river, no one will blame you for it!

26. Listen to music (and maybe dance to it). Listening to your favorite music can help with your mood and even help you remember some great memories. If you dance to your favorite music, you will be helping reduce your stress even more!

27. Cooking or baking. For many people, cooking and baking help them to relax. You are focused on one thing and usually, have delicious results. You could make a favorite dish or some comfort food to help you relax further.

28. Spend time with pets. There is nothing like spending time with pets to relax. Usually, they have unconditional love for you and love having your time and attention. They are happy to see you, can definitely brighten your day, and reduce your stress rather quickly.

29. Volunteer or help someone else. Volunteering and helping someone else is a big mood lifter which is great when you are stressed. You take the focus off your own problems and situation for a while. You may also realize someone has it worse than you which can put your own stress in perspective.

30. Celebrate the big and small victories. A small celebration can help you relax when you are in a stressful situation. If you accomplished a goal or something big, have a party for one (or more)! You will realize how far you have come and how you have accomplished. That is always worth celebrating!

I did not include activities like shopping or drinking to relax. Both activities are fine when done in moderation, but can be abused quickly. Such forms of escapism can become habits which can be abused. I also did not include sex or anything like that. Sex can make a person feel very good and can definitely help with stress, but it doesn't work for everyone.

What do you like to do to relax and deal with stress?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

20 Must-Have Items For Vehicle Maintenance and Repairs


Learning how to maintain and perform simple repairs is a critical skill to learn. Most people at this time do not know how to do this. Unless you take a shop class in a high school geared towards vehicle care and repair, it is not a skill that is taught. Fathers used to teach it to their sons and daughters in order for them to know what to do, but that is becoming a lost skill too.

Now, you need to teach yourselves. Lucky for us, there is a plethora of videos and websites that show us how to do this. If you are fortunate enough to find someone who knows how to maintain and repair a vehicle, please ask them to teach you. While I used to be able to do a lot of my own repairs and maintenance, I find that my skills are getting rusty. I need to learn how to do this again too.

Some of you have new or newer vehicles that you may not be able to work on due to the computer or how much has changed in cars and trucks. I would look for a Haynes Repair Manual specific to your vehicle. I would recommend you pick one up no matter what year your vehicle is. However, newer vehicles can be difficult to repair, but you should still learn to maintain them to the best of your abilities.

This list of must-have items can look different for everyone. It can be difficult to have and keep all these things, but I have learned from others that they are very important to have on hand. Once you acquire these things, please learn how to use them. They can save you a lot of money in labor costs from the mechanic. You may also need to repair your car on the road and will need to know how to use these things.

20 Must-Have Items For Vehicle Maintenance and Repairs

1. Oil Filter Wrench

2. Oil and Filters

3. Antifreeze

4. Air Filter

5. Power Steering Fluid and Transmission Fluid

6. Wipers

7. Wiper Fluid

8. Tools like a screwdriver set and a metric and standard socket set

9. Fuses

10. Battery tester and charger

11. Tire Pressure Gauge

12. Tire Repair Kit

13. Brake Fluid

14. Oil Drain Pan to catch oil and other fluids

15. Code Reader (make sure it works for your year of vehicle)

16. Full-Size Spare Tire

17. Tire Iron and Jack (usually comes with most vehicles)

18. Air Compressor and Chuck

19. Replacement Bulbs for Headlights, Taillights, and Blinkers

20. Battery Jumper Cables

Another thing I would recommend getting is a Vehicle Emergency Kit. If you are broken down on the side of the road, these kits can be invaluable. There are two different kinds of kits - one is for roadside emergencies and the other is for when you are stuck in your vehicle. Both are good things to have in your vehicle.

What else would you add to the list? What items do you find crucial to have for your vehicles?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

What Are You Prepared To Live Without?


One of the things about prepping is that we tend to accumulate a lot of stuff. Granted, we all believe in food storage and having things on hand to survive a disaster or a power outage. However, I think sometimes the emphasis on accumulating things gets out of hand. We focus on stuff instead of skills. We don't think about the idea that we could be living without a lot of things.

If you are preparing for a long-term event, you can only accumulate and use things until you run out of them or have a plan to replace them eventually. You can keep a lot of food on hand, but you need a way to replenish the food. Most people will garden or raise livestock. You can only keep so much potable water on hand before you have to come up with a way to replenish that water. The list goes on, but eventually, we will have to find ways to replenish what we have or live without them. Our priorities will shift in a hurry to important things like food, water, and shelter.

As Americans, we like to accumulate a lot of stuff that doesn't really have a meaning to us. We think we need a lot of things that we really don't need. We are subject to a culture that wants us to buy more and more without consequence. We are encouraged to buy new whenever possible and throw away the old. We are bombarded with processed food and gadgets to make life much easier.

The problem is that in terms of a cataclysmic event, we would probably not have those things available to us at all or would run out shortly. In a short-term disaster or power outage, we would probably not have those things to rely on. So the question begs, "What are you prepared to live without?"

I have been feeling convicted lately as I place orders online for things I am not sure we need. There are definitely things we have been buying that I don't want to live without. I finally broke down and bought a grain grinder for flour and feed. I have purchased some books on cooking with more garden produce than meat. We have been buying a lot of materials for repairs and maintenance that been badly needed at our place. However, I even struggle with impulse purchases at the store or a cold drink at the convenience. That money would be better served in savings than on a temporary pleasure. While I believe you don't live forever and we should live a little, that doesn't mean we should live foolishly.

I think we, as preppers, are called to a simpler life. We should be learning to live without processed food. We should be living simply. We should be saving money instead of spending it foolishly. We should be living experiences and not be buying stuff that may have no meaning later. We don't want our stuff weighing us down if we need to leave quickly or move in a hurry. We should be learning skills to make, fix, or replace our things and get out of the habit of buying new. We should be learning to live with less.

I watch a lot of YouTube videos and documentaries on decluttering, living simpler, living with less, and similar subjects. For some reason, it has been really hitting home lately. I know I have too much stuff and I don't have as much as some. What hits home for me though is that these people live without a lot of stuff that we think is a necessity and are completely happy without it. They don't have anything that isn't a necessity or serves a purpose.

As preppers, I think we need to look at our preps that way. I keep a lot of emergency preps on hand, but I keep a lot of stuff for 'just in case'. I might need it. I somehow doubt I will need those things. I think I will need to learn to live without a lot of stuff. I think we could all learn to live without a lot of stuff. There are things you need to have for prepping. Don't get me wrong. I know that. In that case, "Two is one and one is none" philosophy still has its place.

Here the thing about SHTF: You will probably be learning to live without stuff because it might not be available to you anymore. Your things could be destroyed or you could lose some of your possessions. You might run out of certain items that cannot be easily replaced. You will be forced to live without and, for some, that can be a rough lesson to learn. Most people will be learning that way which can cause an undue burden on those around them. This is not a good thing and can be easily remedied now.

What do you think you could live without?

Thanks for reading,
Erica



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