Friday, August 29, 2014

Why don't you do what they do?

My son is smart kid. He appeared to be not paying attention to the television at all last night while I was watching Doomsday Preppers. Most of the time, I see a lot of eye rolling and room leaving from my kids when that show comes on. While I pick up a lot of good information on that show, I don't always agree with what everyone does. He doesn't know that though.

He was playing with his Legos with his back to the television. He seemed to be building a super airplane out of three different kits when he looked up at me and asked:

"Why don't you do what they do? Why don't you prep like that?"

A very good question, son of mine. So much for thinking you weren't listening. Kids are more observant than we give them credit for being. I decided to flip the question back on him. I asked him:

"How do you think I should prep? What do you think I should be doing? Should I be doing what they are doing?"

He shrugged and answered that he didn't know for sure, but we weren't doing what they were doing on the telly.

He is right. We aren't doing everything other preppers are doing. We don't have the money for some of those projects. We are still learning some of the skills that many people already have. I wanted to ease myself into some of the major steps I have taken. Some projects take time to develop and implement. While I admire other preppers for what they are doing, I am not sure what they are doing is the right step for us.

I look at some things a little differently in prepping, choosing a self-sufficiency approach. There are many baby steps as well as big steps that need to be taken and have been taken. I am afraid if I just jump all the way in, I will drown myself. I do know I need to do more and try to do all that I can.

However, kids don't have that same approach to life in general. Why? They see no problem in jumping into something without thinking about potential snags to their plans. They dream big and can live bigger. Dane is just getting to the age where he thinks about consequences, but knowing his genetics, it will be awhile before he fully realizes the consequences of his decisions and plans. Poor kid.

Maybe I need to be more like my son and just jump in to get things done. Or maybe I should show him that not everyone will do the same things to get ready for what disasters life has in store for us. Either way, we will be doing what we need do instead of asking why don't we do what they do.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Make Your Own Face and Eye Cream

One of those areas I haven't given up my vanity on is my face. I don't wear a lot of cosmetics, just concealer and mascara. After I get out of the shower, I put on clear lip balm to keep them from chapping. Then I put on eye and face cream.

I ran out one morning and decided to go to the store to buy some more on my lunch break. What I saw just about made me lose my lunch! Eye cream was $12.00 for a little tube and face cream was $14.00 for a small bottle.

Are you kidding me?!?! I don't care how long they last! That is a lot of money!

Then I started reading the ingredients. I couldn't pronounce over half of the ingredients and this was suppose to be their healthy, all-natural line of face products. That is just ridiculous!

I still broke out with acne which has plagued me since I was pregnant with my first child. Nineteen years ago. Ack! I like looking younger, but I have no need to look like a teenager!

Time to start doing some research on how to make my own. I love how some people just had a few ingredients, but I didn't have those ingredients on hand. I didn't love recipes that called for emulsifying and reducing and letting the concoction sit for several days. I needed to find something by the morning or my face, mainly the cheeks, would crack from dryness!

I saw several people on different boards suggesting the use of coconut oil. Coconut oil is the miracle cream/oil of our household. I found out that coconut oil had antibacterial qualities and was great for sensitive skin.

Hot dang!

Then I started wondering if I could combine my face cream with my eye cream.  I am all about a simple morning routine. I like to be able to sleep longer!

After a successful six month trial, I can tell you this works. I haven't had a breakout since the first month. I do still have the occasional blackhead on my chin, but I can deal with that. I do wash my face with an olive oil based face cleanser, but that is all I do. I use this cream afterwards.

Face and Eye Cream

1/4 cup organic coconut oil
4 vitamin E softgels (optional)

Warm the coconut oil enough to make it soft, but not hot and melted. Clip the end of the vitamin E softgels and squeeze them into the coconut oil. Mix together. Put mixture into a small container, preferably glass, but plastic works too. 

I will tell you the vitamin E is optional, but I added it to the mixture to give a boost to my eyes. My skin gets extremely dry around my eyes in the winter and this helps. I hope it helps you too!

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What I Do To Be Organized

I am not a naturally organized person. I don't carry around a planner because I forget to write things down in them or forget them altogether. I am a visual person and need to have my organization in front of my face or somewhere my eyes will see.

I use these tools to see where every one will be, where I need to be, what needs to be remembered, and for papers that cannot be lost.

My calendar and two of my lists

Large Desktop Calendar Hung Up on Office Door
- Everything gets written there so everyone can see it
- Everyone writes down their schedule - no exceptions!
- I use Command strips to keep it up

Google Calendar on my phone
- Reminders set up for bills, blog, and appointments

To Do Lists
- I live off of these things!
- Always one in my pocket or nearby
- I use them at work and at home
- I also leave a to do list for my kids so they know what needs to be done by them every day

Shopping Lists
- I write down what we are out of as well as the sales I am interested in

Bulletin Boards
- I have two in the office. One is for coupons, gift certificates, and the phone list. The second board is for permission slips, reminder papers from school, and any sport/music schedules.

- lists of what items I need/want and what I have on inventory.
- I also use them for holiday shopping, gardening and homesteading to keep track of costs, produce, what worked and what didn't work.
- I use notebooks a lot because that is easier for me than continually updating a spreadsheet.

Pretty easy system for me! What do you like to use for organizing?

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Chaos Scenario: Power Grid Failure Part 4

Please click on Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3 if you have already read the previous installments.

You arrive the safe house with your neighbor and your kids. He has you drive inside the garage area to keep the vehicles hidden. Your kids are so tired. You open some cans of food you brought with and feed them quickly. The neighbor shows you around a bit and helps you get the kids bedded down in the bunk beds in one of the rooms.

You check your cell phone and realize you have no signal. Your neighbor checks his phone and has the same problem. He tells you he isn't surprised. Most cell phone towers have a generator with a propane tank as a back up system. If the propane tank has run dry because of the overburden on the tower, it could be several days before they get more fuel and start running again. Your neighbor suggests that the emergency services may have also shut down cell traffic to everyone but emergency services.You get a little panicked at this point because you have lost contact with your snowbird neighbors and basically the outside world.

Your neighbor doesn't seem to be too worried. You start to ask him about this safe house. You find out he has believed something bad was going to happen for a while. He bought this property to build this house to give him a place to go when the city did not seem safe anymore. You are impressed by his foresight. You are very impressed with his stores of food, water, fuel, and other things, including guns and ammo.

You are getting tired too and decide to bunk down with the kids. Your neighbor asks you to think about staying for a few days and see how this situation will play out. He too hopes that the power will come back on soon. But he does have a wood burning fireplace and a generator with plenty of fuel to get by for several months. He could use the help of manning the safe house and having more eyes for security reasons. He had a few friends he thought would be coming, but he knew there was no guarantee of them coming.

You really wanted to get to Arizona, but you didn't know how you were going to if you couldn't get more fuel somewhere. Your neighbor, now safe house mate, has plenty of gas and diesel stored also. You could ask for some from him if you decide not to stay, but you don't want to take advantage of his generosity. This situation might be the answer for you and your kids' survival. You may decide to stay as long as you can.

After a short night of sleep, you wake up before the kids and start to really get a good look at the safe house. You realize it is more like a bunker. You look outside and see a remarkable fence surrounding the property. The fence is eight feet high with razor wire around the top and woven into the middle of the fence. Otherwise, you see nothing but trees and farmland. The safe house looks like nothing would take it down. It is made of concrete block with steel reinforced doors and bulletproof glass windows. You wonder if this is a safe house or a prison.

The kids are awake now and so is your neighbor. He is making breakfast for everyone which smells delicious. Pancakes, sausages, and canned fruit. You are surprised that he can cook anything, but he explains that he has a propane cook stove and a lot of propane stored in tanks to carry him for a long time. He also explains that he has a supply of freeze-dried, dehydrated, home canned, commercial canned, and shelf stable foods to carry him for several years. You are more than shocked at this supply of food as well as his generosity in sharing this bounty with you.

Your neighbor is talking to you about staying again. He is expecting others to come to the safe house, but has plenty of supplies for you and your kids. He really wants you to stay, but needs you to understand that staying will have implications. You will be required to help work around the house as well as help with security. Your family will have to work hard, but he doesn't expect you or the kids to do anything he will not do. He is in charge and expects to be respected in that manner. He wants you to take a few days and think about it, but thinks it will be the best option for your family.

Honestly, you think so too. Your kids would be taken care and you have no problem doing your share of the work. You don't have many options of where you can go. You don't know how long you would survive if you left here. You do wonder what his motive is in asking you to stay and you will need to ask him those questions.

The kids helped to clean up the breakfast dishes and wash dishes. They are now helping by moving some things around the property. Your neighbor has taken your oldest son outside to help cut firewood for the wood stove. You go outside to join them and haul the wood to the pile. Your son and the neighbor are joking around and having a bit of fun. Your neighbor is also explaining to your son why he started this safe house and why he feared something like this could happen. Your son is impressed with him and wants to know more.

Your two other kids are also keeping busy by picking up sticks for kindling and wandering around the property. Your neighbor has a small garden here and he has the kids pick the remaining few vegetables left in the garden. You offer to cook lunch which he agrees too. The rest of the day and the day after goes on with similar chores being done. Your neighbor has also started teaching your children how to use a bow and how to shoot a gun.

Your neighbor explains to the kids that this late in the fall most of the work is done, but come next spring everyone will be working harder than they may have ever worked. The kids don't seem to be fazed by this. You are not sure the kids understand what he is saying either. Keeping a place like this and being self-sufficient will be a lot of work and boring work. Cutting firewood will get old after a few days.

You wonder about staying here long term and the effect it will have on your family. You lived a pretty comfortable life before. So far, you could be satisfied living like this too. You wonder how long you will be here. What if more people show up? What if the power is restored? What will you do then?

After supper that night, you and the neighbor sit down to talk.

Questions for you: Would you stay or continue to find your way south? Would you find out why he wants you to stay? What would you do?

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Monthly Frugal and Homesteading Update

This month has been a bit busy and my mind has been going in a different direction. July has been a no spend month. I was very unintentional about it, but the budget demanded it. The budget is going to demand it for August also so no spending unless necessary.

The great thing about having a no spend month in the summer is that my garden and everyone else's garden has been exploding with goodness! My garden was being a bit late, but now is producing nicely. I wish the tomatoes were a little more prolific, but I am happy to just have tomatoes turn red this year! My onions are actually growing too!

It's the little things that get me going...

The chickens are all alive and well. I decided to start free ranging them all day. They are usually in their coop by 8:30 pm all on their own. I let them out at 7:00 am to start roaming the yard. I am still feeding them some starter mash with cracked corn added to it, but they are eating less of that and more of the nature provided food. I am working on their nesting boxes and hope to have them up this week. I will do a post about that soon.

My clothes dryer quit. I am not in a hurry to replace it right now since it is summer and I hang clothes out most of the time anyway. I am determined to try to fix the dryer myself. Supposedly, clothes dryers are one of the easiest appliances to fix. Supposedly. I will find out!

I am working on small batch canning in an effort to not waste produce. We had a good raspberry turnout this year, but not enough made it into the house. I had enough, however, to make a small batch of raspberry jam. I made 2 - 8 oz. jars which will taste delightful this winter.

I was given ten pounds of blueberries and ten pounds of sweet cherries. I froze most of the blueberries, but canned four pint jars and one half-pint jar since I had never canned blueberries before. I canned almost all of the cherries and got thirteen pints out of those that I did not eat!

As you tell, I am really trying to cut down on the grocery bill. I am working hard to keep the grocery budget at $200. Some months are not going to be as easy as others, but I am trying. We have been making more from scratch. Paige made five batches of chocolate chip cookies to share on her Washington DC trip. I have been making bread and granola as always. I want to learn how to make good crackers next since I miss munching on those once in a while. I have also been taking vegie salads or leftovers to work every day. I only ate out once in the last month for lunch.

I made a batch of homemade laundry detergent. I had to fix my big wooden spoon before I started since one of my kids broke it trying to stir a batch of chicken feed. I fixed it with black electrical tape wrapped up and down the handle.

I refilled a lot of plastic water bottles and put them into the freezer. They will help keep the freezer running more efficiently since a full freezer runs better. They will also be great to keep school lunches cold when the kids decide they need a cold lunch. They are also great to have on hand if the power goes out and we need additional water or things to stay cold in the freezer.

I made candles with supplies I bought a year ago. I was really surprised at how easy they were. Since I have plenty of wick left over, I will be ordering more wax when space opens up in the budget. I used glasses for the candles that I had around the house and we did not use anymore.

That is the highlights for the month. Of course, we have still been making our own cleaners, mending clothes, and making do as much as possible!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How I Preserve Food: Vegetable Soup

One of the greatest things about preserving your food is making your own food to eat later on! You can control the ingredients, use up what you have on hand, and make delicious food such as this Vegetable Soup. I also like that I can make this recipe in pint jars for work lunches and quart jars for a quick supper.

Vegetable Soup
based from a recipe in Ball Blue Book of Preserving

2 quarts chopped, peeled cored tomatoes (about 12 large)
1.5 quarts cubed and peeled potatoes (about 6 medium)
1.5 quarts 3/4-inch sliced carrots (about 12 medium)
1 quart whole kernal corn, uncooked
2 cups 1-inch sliced celery (about 4 stalks)
2 cups chopped onions (about 2 medium)
1/5 quarts water
Salt and pepper (optional, as you want)

Feel free to play around with the vegetables a bit. I would make sure to keep the tomatoes, but I think the other vegetables can be switched to taste. The original recipe called for 1 quart of lima beans which I did not add because I did not have any on hand. I also added 2 chopped medium-sized zucchini to mine since I had plenty to use up. In the past I have also added bell peppers, green beans, and peas.

I would also caution you on the use of the salt and pepper. I usually never add black pepper when I am canning, but I did the last time I made it. The black pepper made it very peppery and almost too much for my tastes.

1. Combine all vegetables in a large saucepot. Add water; simmer 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

2. Ladle hot soup into hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps.

3. Process pints 55 minutes, quarts 1 hour and 25 minutes, at 10 pounds pressure in a steam-pressure canner.

Yield: about 14 pints or 7 quarts

This post is a part of:

The Prepared Bloggers - How We Preserve Foods

Join us as we share different reasons and methods of how we preserve food to create a long-term storage plan for our families. Click on each link to be taken to a new blog with helpful information and tips.

  Mom with a PREP - How to Dehydrate Ginger and Make Ginger Powder
  Preparedness Mama - Make Jam Without Pectin
  Mama Kautz - Dehydrating
  Busy B Homemaker - Freezer Jam
  Ed That Matters - Anyone Can Do It: Fool Proof Food Storage
  The Apartment Prepper - Easy Marinated Mushrooms
  The Homesteading Hippy - How to Use Your Pressure Canner
  Montana Homesteader - Making and Preserving Cherry Pit Syrup
  Are We Crazy or What - How to Dehydrate Cherries
  Your Thrive Life - How I Preserve Food: Meals in a Jar 
  Melissa K Norris - Re-Usable Canning Tattler Lids-Do They Really Work?
  Real Food Living - Preserve and Store Grains wiith Dry Ice
  Cooke's Frontier - Smoking
  Homestead Dreamer - Water Bath Canning
  Evergrowing Farm - How to Preserve Red Chile
  Survival Sherpa - Modern Mountain Man MRE's
  The Backyard Pioneer - Fermentation
  Trayer Wilderness - How We Preserve Food
  Living Life in Rural Iowa - Vegetable Soup
  The Organic PrepperHow to Make Jam without using added Pectin
  Homesteading Mom - How I Preserve Broccoli and Goat Cheese Soup
  A Matter of Preparedness - How I Preserve Using Mylar Bags


(This post does contain affiliate links. Thanks!)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chaos Scenario: Power Grid Failure Part 3

Please read Part 1 and Part 2 if you have not already!

The neighborhood meeting was interesting. Very obvious some people had nothing. Not that you have much, but to have nothing would be bad. They wanted everyone to give them some food. You indicated you had hardly anything and was thinking about leaving. You did give some apples to the one neighbor, but the other neighbor didn't want anything like that. You think that is just crazy because if you are hungry, you should be grateful for anything you can eat.

Something that really worried you about the meeting was how forceful some of the neighbors were. They wanted to raid houses of people who were gone or had already left. They said they knew preppers and wanted to get their stuff. They actually have you very worried. Yes it is day three of the power being out, but that is really crazy. You aren't sure you want to stay here, but you aren't sure where to go. From what you understand, the power outage is very widespread.

You walk home and the kids let you know that your cell phone rang twice. You shut off last night to save on the battery, but turned it back on this morning. The first message was from your boss letting you know that work would permanently shut down until the power comes back on or they could figure out a way to run without power. The second message got your complete attention. It is from your snowbird neighbors asking you to call back. They know the power is out.

You call them back. They are having intermittent power outages. They encourage you to go into their house and get what food they have to eat if you are getting low. They also encourage you to get out of the area if possible and get somewhere warmer if possible. They aren't sure if they have extra gas in the garage, but you are also welcome to it if you need to use to get out of there. They don't trust some of the neighbors either and think it would be better to leave.

You think that people are really panicking after three days, but you have no idea how long the power outage will go on. You have a decent vehicle that gets very good gas mileage - 30 miles to the gallon -, but with only a half tank of gas you aren't going to get that far, maybe 250 miles. You are really contemplating leaving though. It would make sense.

The rest of the day goes on like the day before. The kids want to play charades tonight and everyone gets a good laugh. You think it feels great to laugh after the few days. When it gets dark, the kids are ready for bed and you follow them after making sure no one has any candles burning. You don't need the house burning down.

After a good night's sleep, you decide to leave that night. You don't know when the power is coming back and the weather is getting decidedly cooler. With what you have, you will get a little ways down the road and you never know what you might find.

You tell the kids to pack a bag with clothes, extra shoes, and anything else they may need including things to entertain them. You aren't sure when you want to leave yet, but good to have everything ready to go. You walk over to your neighbors through the back way. You have a key to their house and open it up. You find their small pantry with 25 cans of soup, fruit, and vegetables. Not much, but much better than nothing. You also find some crackers and a box of cereal. You load everything into a box and check the garage. They have a five gallon container with gas in it for the mower. You call one of your sons on the cell to come over and help you carry things back. The gas might be old, but you will take a chance on it since you see a empty can of fuel stabilizer in the trash.

As your son and you are leaving, you hear some of the neighbors outside. You stop your son and listen. They are talking about breaking into the house tonight and taking what they can find. You call your snowbird neighbors back to let them know what you have heard. They have everything of value locked up or with them. You tell them you took what food you found and the gas in the garage. They thank you for letting them know and encourage to find your way to them in Arizona. From Iowa, that could be a challenge. You and your son lock up the house and take the back way home so not to be seen.

With an extra five gallons of gas you can get about six hours south going normal speed if you don't find any more gas. The kids want to leave. They are scared and worried. You dump the gas into the car and start loading it up with their bags, blankets/sleeping bags/pillows, any car chargers, emergency supplies like candles, matches, flashlights, and batteries. You also grab all the food you have and some pans to cook it with if you can. You grab the paper plates, plastic flatware, and cups as well as a can opener and a few knives. You only have 3.5 gallons of water left, but you load it up too. You pack for yourself and load that up too. You decided at the last minute to grab the empty gas container. You just never know.

The kids want to leave right now, but something tells you that is not a good idea. You decide to wait until dark to leave. You open the garage door now. The car doesn't look packed to go anywhere so hopefully your neighbors won't suspect you will be leaving. You and the kids go outside and start cleaning up the yard. The kids do find a few more apples and take them inside. You pack up a lot of outdoor things and put it away in the small utility shed. You walk around the house and make sure everything is locked, secure, and shut off.

One of the nicer neighbors stops by and asks what you are doing. You joke with them about having nothing better to do than get the house ready for winter. They laugh and said they had been doing the same thing. They tell you they are leaving town tonight and ask if you want to join them. You tell them you are planning to do the same thing and decide to meet them about five miles down the road so the other neighbors won't get suspicious. You privately aren't sure this is the best thing to do, but you think there will be safety in numbers.

The kids are getting hungry and decide to finish the cereal for supper. You aren't hungry due to being nervous about leaving. The kids and you decide to clean up the house the best you all can and see if you have any last minute things to pack. You check with the kids to make sure they have any money with them that they could have, their cell phones, chargers, pocket knives, and flashlights from their bedside tables.

You decide it is dark enough to leave. You get in the car and kill the lights. At the last minute you grab your tool box, car oil, and antifreeze. You get the kids in the car after last minute bathroom trips and start the car. You inch out of the driveway and get out to shut the garage door. You really hope you can come home to the house the way you left it. You get in the car and leave. About a mile ahead of you, you see your neighbor doing the same thing you are - driving without lights and driving slowly.

You meet him at the corner. It is very obvious he is more prepared than you are. When you mention it, he just laughs and tells you not to worry about it. He has always liked you and your family and will be glad to help you if he can. He has a place he knows you all can go and it is time to make it there. You both drive slowly and you are following him. He avoids town and just from what you can see on the edge of town gives you the chills. The grocery store windows are broken out. Cars are abandoned on the edges of the road. People are wandering around. You can see fire in what looks to be downtown.

You get further away from town and it starts to get better. You are both still driving slowly to save on gas. Your neighbor turns on to a gravel road and you wonder why. The neighbor stops and you get out to talk to him. He knows the next town has the roads blocked and lets you know that you all will be taking out of the way roads. He tells you that a safe house is coming up if your family wants to stay there with him for the night. You are tired, the kids are tired, and you agree.

Now for you: Would you continue to stay with the neighbor? Do you feel safe with the neighbor? How far would you drive? What are you willing to do in the next few days and weeks to stay alive?

Thanks for reading!