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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!
Erica

Friday, July 18, 2014

Chaos Scenario: Power Grid Failure Part 2

If you haven't read Part 1 yet, please click here


The kids and you have been scavenging the house for emergency supplies. One of your kids found several candles in a box and with the candles around the house you have more than plenty or so you think. She also found some lighters and a box or matches. Another found some flashlights, but you only have one package each of C cell and D cell batteries. You have a 2-3 packages of AA and AAA batteries. The third kid found extra blankets to put on beds and to bundle up in.

You get the kerosene heater out and take it to the garage. You find two gallons of kerosene left in a container. You know that is not much, but again you hope this power outage is not going to last much longer. The heater doesn't start at first, but with a good cleaning you get it started. You decide to take into the house, but not to use unless you really have to.

Looking out the window, you notice your neighbors are starting to get together. You walk out to see what is going on. Many of them are talking about pooling resources to make sure everyone has enough food. Nobody has a lot of food or water. You decide to not talk about how much food you have. You don't have a lot, but you have your kids to feed and they need it. Everyone decides to go home and wait a couple more days to make decisions on what to do.

You go home and decide to go out to the backyard. Maybe you will light a fire in the fire pit tonight. Everyone could get warm for a little while before going to sleep. You notice some of the apple trees that you have ignored for years have some apples. You get the kids and everyone picks apples. You have about a bushel basket full. Not a lot, but it is more food that doesn't need to cook.

Time to decide what to do about the water. You wish you would listened more intently to your coworkers when they were talking about getting emergency supplies together and having water stored. You are already down to five buckets of water. Time to talk to the kids about flushing the toilet. Only brown gets flushed down! The kids think it is gross, but understand you mean business. The two boys decide they will go outside and pee to save on the smell and what needs to be flushed. You give everyone a cup of water to keep hydrated, but will be doling out the rest carefully.

You really wish at this point you were not the only adult in the house. Even though the kids are older, you would really like someone to help you decide what to do. You think that 24 hours is a long time to be out of power. You overheard one of the neighbors say this could go on for another week. They were talking about something attacking the power grid and the power company saying it could be a week before customers would have power again. You hope not because you are not sure what to do for even another day, much less another week.

You check the freezer again to check the meat. Everything on top is starting to thaw more, but the bottom stuff is staying frozen. You grab the meat that is starting to thaw more and fire up the grill again. You really don't want to waste the meat. Not sure what to have with the meat, but you warm up some of the vegetables you cooked at lunch on the side burner and open a can of fruit. The kids eat everything without complaining, but you wonder how long that will last. Tonight you dug out paper plates to use instead of dishes. Tomorrow you will have to use some of the precious water.

After supper, you light some candles. One of your neighbors knock on the door. Tomorrow morning, the neighbors want to have a meeting across the road to see what resources everyone has and start to pool resources. You thank him for letting you know and hope to attend. Secretly, you are not sure you want to attend because you don't want to give up what you have. You know a couple of your neighbors are bullies and won't have any trouble taking what is yours. You don't really want to be a target either. You also think they are being a bit crazy trying to act this soon. Some of them must not have anything, not that you have a lot. You need to make a decision.

The kids are bored. You knew they would be, but their cell phone batteries are getting low and you don't want them to run out. One of the kids brings out a few board games and they sit down to play. The temperature outside is getting cooler. You notice that it is starting to rain. When you mention it, one of the kids suggest putting some buckets and tubs outside to catch the rain. You wonder where he got that idea, but you gather some and put them outside. He goes outside with you and takes off the elbow and end of the gutter and puts a tub under there. You ask him where he learned that and he said he saw it at a friend's house. Their parents have a rain barrels to catch runoff from the roof.

You marvel at what this kid knows and what kids in general pick up. But you both are getting wet and cold. Time to get back into the house. You both get back into the house and change into dry clothes. The kids continue to play games while you settle to read a book for awhile. After an hour, every one decided to head to bed.

After a decent night's sleep, you decide to go to the neighborhood meeting to see what is being said. You privately think everyone is overreacting, but you want to hear what is being said and what they decide. You check what the buckets and tubs have caught and, while not too impressed, are happy to see you have a little bit more water on hand. Maybe another gallon or two.

Your kids wake up and you feed them some of the cold cereal. They want milk with their cereal, but after smelling the milk you decide to pour it down the drain. You look at the rest of fridge and toss out what isn't looking or smelling so good. You put everything into a trash bag, but don't know what to really do with it. You put into a garbage can in the garage, but wonder if there will be trash pick-up anytime soon.

You decide to head over to the neighborhood meeting. You see all the neighbors there except your next door neighbor and your snowbird neighbor that already left for Arizona.

Now for you: What would you do? Would you decide to tell them everything you had in order to maybe get more supplies? Would you disclose all you have or keep some of it private?

Thanks for reading!
Erica

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chaos Scenario: Power Grid Failure Part 1

Recently I was talking to a friend about a scenario that we both thought was a little out there, but very plausible. What would you do if the power grid failed?


Some things you need to keep in mind while talking through this scenario:
1. Grocery stores only have 2-3 days worth of food on hand at all times.
2. Most gas stations have electric pumps - no power, no gas.
3. Most people will lose access to water if they have electric water pumps or if city water runs out.
4. A person will only live three days without water and three weeks without food.
5. A lot of people rely heavily on technology to get them to where they need to go and to entertain them.
6. Nothing happens unless you are proactive.

You are driving home from work during a nice fall day. Night is coming earlier now and getting a bit chilly too. The kids have already gotten home from school. One of them calls to tell you the power is out. They aren't able to do their homework. You tell them that the power should be back on soon and their homework will get done.

You arrive at home and start to think about what to make for supper. You don't really want to open the refrigerator or the freezer, but you only have a few options for supper at this point. You can cook on the grill or get out the camp stove, but that would require unthawed meat. You pull out bread, peanut butter, jelly, chips, and fruit for supper.

After supper, you start to load the dishwasher. You start to rinse off dishes and quickly run out of water. You leave the dishes in the sink and find your family in the living room. You think the power must be coming back soon. The kids are getting restless, but the weather is nice outside so you all go outside to burn off some energy. Everyone comes back in sweaty and ready for showers. No water, no showers.

You find some bottled water in the back of the car. You are not sure if it is drinkable, but with a washcloth everyone can rinse off a bit or at least not stink. The kids complain that their homework still can't be done, but you tell them that you will send the teacher a note tomorrow. The house is getting quite dark. Even though the clock only says 8:00 pm, everyone is bored and decides to go to bed.

When you are about to climb into bed after finding a flashlight and batteries, you realize you can not plug your cell phone in to charge. The cell phone has half a battery let so you shut it off and put in on the charger hoping the power will come back on during the night. Time to get some rest.

You wake up to a beeping in the morning and realize your alarm is going off. You think the power is back on only to realize the battery back-up in your alarm is working. You try to figure out what to do: do you get dressed and go to work or stay home? As you finish getting dressed, the kids wake up wondering if they have school. You find a radio and find some batteries that will work it. No radio stations are broadcasting at this time. You power your cell phone back up and find a mass text from the school stating no school. You have heard nothing about work. You are starting to wonder how long the power will be out.

The kids are cold, but with no power you cannot heat up the house. You have a kerosene heater, but hesitate to use it inside due to carbon monoxide testing. You instruct them to put on warmer clothes using layers.

You decide to try to go to work. They may have power. You take six five-gallon buckets with you to get water since you are out. You don't want to leave the kids home alone, but while attempting to call family and friends no one answers. You leave strict instructions with the kids: no opening the refrigerator or freezer unless necessary, don't use cell phones unless extremely important, and don't kill each other.

You arrive at work to find your boss, a few key employees, and limited power due to a few generators running. Your boss tells you that you are not needed since there is no power to do your job. They weren't able to send a message about being closed due to computers that crashed and no radio stations broadcasting. You ask him if they have any water which they do since they have generators. He allows you to fill your buckets giving you about thirty gallons.

You leave work and look for an ATM. No power means no ATMs are working. You only have about $30 cash on you. You have a half tank of gas in your car. You stop at the bank to withdraw some money. The bank is open, but limited in their ability to serve you. Since they have limited access to the vault which is electronically secured, they cannot get all the money out. They allow you to withdrawal $50 since they have that in cash on hand.

With $80 cash on you, you attempt to stop to get gas for your car. The gas station pumps are run electronically and cannot pump out gas. You stop at two other gas stations to find the same thing. You decide to try the grocery store. You walk in the door and are shocked at what you see. Half the grocery store is bare. The freezers are empty. You find a couple loaves of bread, some cereal you hope the kids will eat, some canned fruit, the last two cans of soup, and the last jar of peanut butter. You check out with the cashier using a calculator and limited cash. You spent $35 on groceries and hope they last you a few days.

You head back home hoping the power has come back on. You pull in the driveway and realize it hasn't. The day is still a bit chilly, but not intolerable. The kids are happy to see you as they didn't know what to do. You get home, unload the groceries, bring in the water, flush toliets, and check the freezer and refrigerator. The food is started to get warm and unthaw. You fire up the grill to grill what meat you can and cook some frozen vegetables on a pan on the side.

After lunch, you sit down with the kids and try to come up with a plan. You with the kids start getting emergency supplies together. You are starting to realize that the power may not be coming on anytime soon.

Now for you: What would do at this point? What supplies in this situation would you get together? What do you think this family has on hand?

Part 2 is coming tomorrow or later this week.

Thanks for reading!
Erica

Monday, July 14, 2014

Things in Life Do Not Happen In My Time: Tales From A Frustrated "Homesteader"

Today's post will be funny, a bit frustrating, trying not to be whiny, and wondering what decisions I should have made differently. Just for your own information. I do try to warn people. Sometimes.


I should have gotten more chickens. Before my family attempts to shoot me about that last statement, I mean I should have gotten meat chickens along with the layers. I am a super excited chicken owner who cannot wait to have her chickens start laying! Bring on the eggs! However, I wanted to start small and work my way into this. I now realize I could have handled 25-30 meat chickens in addition to 14 layers. Chickens, so far, have been really easy to raise and give me much amusement some days. Next years plans: 25-30 meat chickens. And maybe a couple of feeder pigs?

I should have also bit the bullet and started a few beehives this year. We love honey. I use it to replace sugar in a lot of things. Producing our own would have saved me much moola as raw honey is starting to creep up the price ladder a bit.

One of the two cars I am trying to get rid of.

I am trying to sell two vehicles right now because we need the money and I want them gone. Neither have sold yet over a 2-3 week span. I have had interest, but nothing solid. I understand that selling anything does not happen in my time, but I am a bit frustrated. We could have used that money yesterday (in a figurative sense). However, the book selling has been taking off again so maybe I need to take comfort in the small blessings instead.

The garden is not producing like I want it too. I have had some small successes such as the onions actually growing and three times more raspberries than last year. The potatoes are nice and tall and green beans are starting to take off. However, it appears I should have really added a lot of nitrogen before the garden was tilled. And too much rain is not helping either. Right now the garden needs heat which is not happening until later this week. The peppers are not growing. The green beans have staged a bit of protest as did the tomatoes. I replanted beets yesterday with the hopes of a late fall harvest. I may replant carrots yet with the goal of a late fall harvest too. Only 5-6 plants came up for each. Not going to feed a family much this winter on that.

When the garden is done producing this fall, I will start laying the soiled chicken bedding in the garden as well as letting the chickens play in the garden. Hopefully that with some well rotted manure from a farmers will help tremendously. I will have to stop about three months before I am ready to till so it will not burn the garden, but the effort will be worth it.

And maybe, just maybe, I will get the compost area built and started.

In my mind, I should always do more. The bugs have been terrible so I haven't been outside as much. I will have to buckle down this week and make some homemade bug repellent and move some citronella candles into the garden so I can work there more. The weeds keep growing! The yard has been sprayed twice and the mosquitoes don't care. They are still out in full force. I have been free ranging the chickens a lot more so they can eat their fair share. However, I am getting a lot of decluttering done on the inside of the house so that is a definite plus.

The goal is to be self-sustainable and self-sufficient. People in my life are learning to appreciate that I want to produce for myself and my motley crew. I enjoy things that I have made myself. I am learning to understand and possibly appreciate that things do not happen in my time. I am impatient a lot and want things done now. I look back at decisions I have made and realize I should have made them differently with a little less fear that I couldn't handle more or this/that. Unfortunately I don't want to look ridiculous either, but anymore I just don't care.

Some days I think it is ridiculous to consider myself a "homesteader" because I only have a garden and laying chickens. Then I remember that I have a "homesteader" attitude and I am closer to my goal every day and every year. Some days I think it takes a lot of money to be a homesteader until I remember that I will save money and be more self-reliant in the end. Getting started might cost some, but the end result will save me money.

I need to quit beating myself up, but I have been a bit frustrated this week. Homesteading is just one of those areas. Hopefully as the week goes on, I can elaborate on the rest.

Thanks for reading!
Erica

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Want To Save Money? Start Gleaning!

Gleaning is one of my favorite ways to save money! Gleaning helps supply our food stores, gives me more to can, and helps food not go to waste. Gleaning is responsible and helps one to be sustainable as well as economical.

But what is gleaning? Gleaning is gathering and collecting food from a field or a garden after someone else has harvested what they wanted. Historically, people would go into the fields after farmers were done harvesting and collect any grain that may have been missed or had fallen to the ground. This would help feed their families and livestock for another year.

For me, gleaning would mean keeping my ears open, listening for people who have extra garden produce, and putting out the word that I will take any extra garden produce. When someone contacts me about having extra produce they cannot use, I gladly pick any leftover produce. I have gotten lots of tomatoes, yellow squash, and cucumbers that way!

Keep your eyes and ears peeled for extra produce. I have seen ads for people looking to get rid of extra produce and I have customers who will mention they have some produce to get rid of. My friends and family might mention they are trying to get rid of produce. I will also put out the word if I am looking for more tomatoes, any kind of fruit, and vegetables that I can put up easily.

Be polite and respectful when picking it. I do offer to pay for what I have picked. No one has ever asked for money and usually refuse payment. I do try to drop off a jar of what I have canned or I will offer homemade goods in exchange. Some people will take it and some will not.

If you have produce you want to get rid, please put the word out. I hate to see good food go to waste! Someone will have need of it. Otherwise, put an ad on Craigslist or a local trading page (both are free in my area)! Someone will come glean it!

Thanks for reading!
Erica


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

July Project-A-Day Challenge: Week 1

This week has been crazy, but got a lot done (in my mind)!

In case you missed last week's post, I am doing a project-a-day challenge in July. While I may not get everything accomplished in one day, I want to be working towards something every day. I want to get as much done in July as I can. July is my "quiet" month in the summer and I need to get the maximum amount of things done that I can.

This last week I have been pushing to do at least one or more things every day. I call this project-a-day challenge, but really it is about getting something done every day. I usually make sure I do something relating to prepping, self-sufficiency, homesteading, home maintenance, gardening, natural living, or food storage. I have binders full of ideas if I run out of things on my to-do lists. I just want to get things done!

However, I have a twist to this for you. My projects this month have to be no cost or very low cost. I have another name for July. I call it "broke" month and with senior pictures and a school trip this month, we will be broke! I am going to use the motto, "Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without!" Another good saying would be "Reduce, reuse, recycle!"

Last week's projects included:
Getting 1/2 of the garden weeded
Cleaned out the chicken coop and put down new bedding
Cleaning up my room and tackling the paper piles in there
Made 2 more batches of DIY Liquid Castile Soap
Cleaning the kitchen - I found my counters again!
Got the carpets vacuumed except the kids' bedrooms
Both bathrooms got cleaned and bath tub scrubbed
Listed several books on Ebay

Yeah! I was happy with the progress especially what got done in the house. I dislike doing housework in the summer and it has a tendency to slide until September.

This week projects include:
Cleaning the fish aquarium
Finish weeding the garden
Pick up hay and mulch the garden
Fix the weed trimmer and trim around the house

Not sure what else I will get into, but some of those projects might be two day projects depending on time!

What did you do last week? Who do you plan to do this week?

Thanks for reading!
Erica


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Please Stop Advertising Your Whereabouts (A Lesson In Safety and Security)!

One of the great pluses and downfalls of social media is the ability to let everyone know what you are doing and where you are at at any given time. I personally think social media is very handy and find enjoyment in it. However, the downfalls of social media make me cringe.

One of those downfalls is the posting of your whereabouts. Many people think the option of "checking in" and "finding their location" is just wonderful so they can attract others that might be there or to draw attention to a great place or to themselves. However, I have a totally different feeling about these options.

I think they are a good way to attract burglars to your home.

Many burglary cases are now traced back to someone posting on a social media site that they have left for work, are at work, on vacation, out for dinner, at a friend's house and so on. Advertising your whereabouts makes you a target. Letting anyone besides your closest friends and family member know that you will be gone is a big mistake. With a public profile, less than honest people can find out all sorts of things about us.

I rarely tell anyone when my kids and/or I will be gone. We have a fairly unpredictable schedule with people coming and going at all times of the day and night, but I still don't tell. All burglars need is a 15-30 minute window to rob you blind. A security system might keep you safe, but with where I live the authorities would not be there for 15-20 minutes. Plenty of time for them to get in and get out.

If you want to post your whereabouts, please understand that unless your profile is private and/or only friends can your posts everyone sees what you are doing. Even so, how people are you friends with or have following you do you know personally or are close with? I know my list and I am guessing not as many as you think.

Please stop posting your whereabouts.

Thanks for reading,
Erica