Sunday, November 18, 2012

How to Keep Warm

In the house we used to live in, there was a doorway between the kitchen and the living room where I hung a piece of muslin as a temporary 'door'. Believe it or not, that piece of fabric kept the main part of the house at least five degrees warmer.  All it took was stopping the flow of air - the mini 'air chill factor' to keep the house from feeling like a freezer.

So how do you zone a house, or create a warm room?  First of all, you want a room that has the following characteristics:  a window, carpeting (an accent rug that covers a good amount of space is fine), a door you can close, and proximity to both kitchen and bathroom.

You want the window for light and ventilation; the carpeting because a bare floor can feel very cold; the door because it helps keep the warmth in, and the location - well, you won't be heating the kitchen unless your kitchen is the warm room, so you might as well pick a room that isn't at the opposite end or a different floor unless you have to.

If you have one, you can put up a tent in the room.  Sleeping bags will keep you warm, especially if you take blankets off your bed and put them underneath and over the top of the sleeping bags.  If you don't have a tent, you can use a warm blanket like a Snuggie and wrap it around you, making sure to add a warm hat to your ensemble. 

Cover any heating ducts; they are pathways for cold air as well as hot.  If you need to, create a draft dodger for the bottom of the door from a rolled up bath towel.

You can use a Mr. Heater for warmth (best not to use continuously, just to take the chill off every once in a while), or just rely on your body heat.  If the latter, make sure you have the means of heating water for soup or other warm drinks/food. 

You will be going in and out periodically to the kitchen and bathroom, so air exchange shouldn't be a problem.  If it starts feeling stuffy, open the window or door briefly for some fresh air.

If you need to hang something over an opening, try to pick something with a fairly dense weave, like a cotton sheet.  It doesn't have to be thick, just densely woven.

Gather items to keep yourself entertained, keep your cell phone handy, and don't forget to keep hydrated, and you should be good to go!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How to Start Prepping, Part 3: Food Storage Tips

I’ve seen people post things online saying ‘OMG, where am I going to put this stuff???’ with regard to stocking up, and I guess they think they are going to have to set aside a ton of room for food storage and supplies.  I don’t think it’s impossible in an apartment; it’s actually more crucial in an apartment to have supplies for emergencies. 

Why?  Because electricity, gas and water are so much more likely to be cut off in an apartment.

So…storage tips.  First of all, Google ‘where to put food storage’ and see what pops up.  There are a lot of suggestions out there to tell you where to put it. 

Second, first in, first out.  Rotate your food storage supplies (and anything else that has a shelf life).  Do look for items with the farthest expiration date, unless you have alternate storage methods like freezing ‘manager’s special’ meat that is on sale because it’s near the pull date, and make sure your ‘alternate storage’ (freezer) has a backup power source. 

Don’t get lazy and put new in front of old.  If you purchased three cans of beans just a couple of weeks ago and some more today, no problem.  If you have year old beans in back of brand new beans, problem. 

If you have shelves of canned goods, jars, etc., pieces of cardboard between a stack of X and a stack of Y help keep the stacks in place and upright; a lot of cans have bottoms made to stack, but some don’t (you know the difference when you stack them).  Also, pieces of cardboard between layers of cans are great for those cans that don’t have stackable bottoms, or for a layer of X with a layer of Y on top.

Make sure you have a spare flashlight where your food storage is.  With batteries.  Fresh batteries.  Dedicate that flashlight to that space and leave it there.

Make sure that an earthquake or a tree falling on your house won’t cause things to fall off your food storage shelves.  That includes making sure that glass jars won’t bang together.

Have can openers that are easy to use in with your food supplies, as well as outside of your food supplies, like in the kitchen drawer and in the camping gear.  Try them out first so you know you will be able to open cans with them easily and quickly.

Put the taller things at the back.  I know this is common sense, but sometimes it's easy to get kind of disorganized and forget this.

Write on the top of a can what it is (abbreviations are fine as long as you know what they mean) and the date you bought it if the can will be where you can see the top but not the label.  Make sure that labels don't fall off by spot checking them when you do your inventory.

Plan on a regular (semi-annual or more often) check of your supplies to see if there’s anything else you need, or if you are running low on something (because your food supplies aren’t static, to be drawn upon only in an emergency, but rather sort of a ‘super pantry’; this helps with rotation and you should be storing what you eat anyway), or if a can or jar has gone bad.  That doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.  Also, see if there's something you need to use up faster, or donate to a food bank.  Make sure if you do donate, the pull date is still in the future so the food bank can take it.  If you've researched food storage times, you know that they are shorter, in most cases, than the date by which the food will have neither taste nor nutritive value, but you eating four year old beans is not the issue here, the food bank's policies are.

If you use a vacuum sealer, check your sealed bags for leaks regularly.  They do happen…reseal, and check again 48 hours later, and if the bag still leaks, toss it and repack. The leaks tend to be small enough not to be easily found, and it is frustrating to go through the process yet again only to find that resealing has not worked.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How to Start Prepping, Part 2

When I started stocking up for emergencies, the first thing I did was to look at a lot of lists of food I found online, but 400 pounds of wheat berries doesn't do someone with gluten intolerance much good. 

So I deleted the lists.  I thought about what I actually like to eat and made a list of *that*.  I found a series of videos on Youtube about food storage as taught by an LDS woman that made a lot of sense; she really pushes the ‘store what you eat’ method, and I think it’s wiser than a generic list unless that generic list actually consists of things you eat.  I took a good hard look at the pittance I'd prepped, and started over.

I started small and tried to think in terms of ingredients and not ready-made things, or a year's supply of XYZ canned foods, because the former oftentimes is not any better from a prepping standpoint than raw ingredients - brownie mix still asks for eggs and oil so you might as well stock the ingredients because you're not actually saving much time with a mix anyway, and the latter costs body parts I need right now. So, canned or jarred spaghetti sauce - a few jars; cans of chopped tomatoes, paste and sauce, lots.  Stuff goes into chili, too, y'know.

I also started small in terms of time, too, trying to figure out what I'd eat in a week's time, and gradually worked my way up from there.  When I had about a week’s worth of meals figured out, I started in on adding other ingredients and canned goods.  And water.

Then I got to thinking about friends and/or relatives.  I haven't figured out entirely what to do about them yet or even know if they would show up on the front step, but I am thinking about what to feed them in the event that happens.  The wheat pasta and the wheat flour I stocked up on before DH found out he is gluten intolerant ought to be usable toward that end, so the purchases aren't a total waste, and if they eat funny at least they’ll be able to complain about it later.

Next, food storage tools and tips

Friday, November 2, 2012

How to Start Prepping

You have already taken the first step to becoming prepared for emergencies by starting to look for information and thinking about becoming prepared.  That, believe it or not, is the biggest hurdle; that's a first step that many people can't or won't make.

Now what?

Put down the list of the 100 things to run out in the stores first.  Close the spreadsheet of foods to store.  Take a deep breath....

...and write down what you typically eat in a week.  Don't get too much into detail, but if you have oatmeal for breakfast, and coffee, and a piece or two of bacon, write that down.  What do you eat for lunch?  Snacks?  How about dinner?  What is your favorite treat or dessert?  What do you like to drink?  What are your favorite comfort foods?  

This is the list you need to work from, not somebody else's list of wheat, dried milk, beans, etc.  This is your list.  Sure, you can put that stuff on your list of what to stock up on, but first, start with what you eat.  

You might find that what you usually eat is going to be kind of hard to stock up on or store.  That's the case with what I eat for breakfast, for example; I have some deli meat and cheese on bread.  The mustard and mayo's not a problem, but unless I freeze a bunch of deli goods, I'm out of luck for breakfast as normal.  In that case, what else would I want to eat for breakfast?  Well, I can make biscuits, and I have butter and jam.  For protein (because breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, y'know), I have some bacon bits, or canned meats, or blocks of cheese I've frozen (did you know you can freeze cheeze?  Gets a little more crumbly than usual, but it tastes the same) that I could cut a hunk off of...

Nobody would want to come over to eat at my house for lunch in an emergency because people get hungry, but not hungry enough for sardines on rye crackers.  That, to most people, is too hard-core even on a good day...but that is what I have in my pantry because it's what I eat.  I've even had that for breakfast a time or two, along with coffee. 

For dinner, the menu's a bit better; I've got tons of things I could cook up:  split pea or lentil soup, or canned beef and canned veg plus biscuits either from scratch or Bisquick (marvelous stuff, Bisquick), or chili or spaghetti or I could use up the frozen seafood and make cioppino and make some herbed biscuits, plus canned pears or peaches for dessert.  I suppose some of those things would be good for lunch, too.

So what have you put on your list?  Take a look and see if you can make meals out of any of the items you've listed.  Don't worry if the meals might not make 'sense'; right now, you're looking at eating, not watching your girlish figure or 'is this paleo?'.  This is the food you eat, not a nutritional analysis.

Next, expanding on the basics.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Arlington Road, deja vu all over again...

[From an Aug. 8, 2012 posting] "Two national security experts said in a Wednesday analysis on the CNN website that information collected since Sept. 11, 2011, suggests that home-grown U.S. militants pose a greater threat to acquire and use WMD materials than foreign terrorists (see GSN, June 22).
"After 9/11, there was great concern that al-Qaida or an allied group would launch a terrorist attack involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) weapons. But in the past decade, there is no evidence that jihadist extremists in the United States have acquired or attempted to acquire material to construct CBRN weapons," according to Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland, both of the Washington-based New America Foundation.
"By contrast, 11 right-wing and left-wing extremists have managed to acquire CBRN material that they planned to use against the public, government employees or both," they added in the piece that cited figures from database established by their organization." [emphasis added]

Great.  And I thought the neighbors were such nice people...

The rest is here.

10 skills every backpacker must know...and you should, too

Some might sound kind of dorky, but check them out.  One of them could save your life.

Smart Grid for a more robust electrical grid

July 31 saw 1 out of every 10 people in the world lose their electrical power all in one country at one time:  India.  It was the biggest blackout in history and came on the heels of Washington, D.C.'s loss of power in June.

The number of people in India affected by the power loss:  600,000,000.  That's twice the number of people that live in the U.S.

But what if we could foster "a degree of customer energy self-management ... [getting] consumers (interested) in the various energy displays, time-of-use rates, smart meters and other tools"?

It would mean that you'd charge your electric car at night and sell any excess power back to the grid for a profit.  It would mean your dishwasher might have a timer built in (or you'd need to stay/wake up to set it to run at night).  It might mean cheaper rates for some times and things, but higher rates for some, too.

But it could make the electrical grid more robust.  And that's the biggest benefit of all; right now, the grid is fragile, waaay past duct-taping, and a major event such as a massive solar eruption like the one that happened in 1859 and caused aurora displays bright enough people could read newspapers by the light and caused telegraph systems around the world to fail, "in some cases shocking telegraph operators" [and] catching telegraph paper on fire spontaneously.  "Some telegraph systems continued to send and receive messages despite having [no power]" according to the Wikipedia article on the event.   

The huge transformers that are an integral part of the power grid are expensive and hard to get, and the National Academy of Sciences calculates that a major solar storm could take out 300 or more of them, effectively downing the country's electrical grid.

2013 is calculated to be a year of solar maximum when the sun is at its most active.  Even though the chance of a massive solar storm is low, there's a seven times greater chance of one than the Earth being hit by a meteor.

Are you ready to live off the grid?   Might not be a choice if the sun acts up...

Gardeners beware: your zone may have changed

From article on how rising temperatures have made the USDA's zone map obsolete:

Gardeners and landscapers may want to rethink their fall tree plantings. Warming temperatures have already made the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new cold-weather planting guidelines obsolete, according to Dr. Nir Krakauer, assistant professor of civil engineering in The City College of New York’s Grove School of Engineering.Professor Krakauer developed a new method to map cold-weather zones in the United States that takes rapidly rising temperatures into account. Analyzing recent weather data, he overhauled the Department of Agriculture’s latest plant zone map released in January.

The new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which predicts which trees and perennials can survive the winter in a given region, was a long time coming. Temperature boundaries shown in the latest version have shifted northward since the last one appeared in 1990. But the true zones have moved even further, according to Professor Krakauer’s calculations.
Over one-third of the country has already shifted half-zones compared to the current release, and over one-fifth has shifted full zones,” Professor Krakauer wrote this summer in the journal “Advances in Meteorology.”

More here.

As goes Detroit, goes the nation....or world?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Run. Hide. Fight.

Pay attention to the order of suggested actions.  Fighting is the last one on the list.  Run.  If you can't run, hide.  If you can't run or hide, only then resort to fighting.

Know your options, know your escape routes.  Don't get foolhardy and think you can take down a person with a weapon and a bad attitude!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Taping windows in an emergency

Costco has a sale on heavy duty shipping packaging tape.  Great, I think, I'll buy some and what I don't use for sending packages for my home business, I can use to tape windows.

Except that you aren't supposed to tape windows in a possible hurricane or other extreme weather situation.


It turns out that taping windows is not the best protection for the glass.  Break-resistant materials, such as plexiglass or tempered glass (not actually break resistant, but won't react like untempered glass) or shutters, protect better.  

Taping your windows can actually make them more dangerous as larger shards of glass are tossed around, making it easier to get seriously hurt.

And who told me this?

The National Hurricane Center.  I reckon they just know what they are talking about.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Interesting stuff....

Time constraints being what they are for us all, here are some links and my $.02 on the articles/information they connect to, sort of a digest, if you will, of prep-related stuff:

Three levels of instruction, including commonly made mistakes at beginner and higher levels, which I thought was very valuable.  Site also looks like a good source of general outdoors information...

15 tips for food storage shopping - just what it says, includes reminder about menu fatigue.  Speaking of which, I pondered on alternatives to tomato sauce-based pasta dishes; might be useful to look at Alfredo and other herb and white sauce based versions to avoid relying totally on tomato sauce and thus the dreaded menu fatigue daemon.

Is 8 Hours of Electricity a Day in Your Future?  What we refer to as 'third world' countries often deal with this or even less electricity.  Could we?  Your fridge won't run well and food might spoil, but your freezer would be ok.  What would you focus on if you had only a limited amount of electricity each day?

Makedo Um...what is Makedo, you ask?  Well, this isn't strictly prep related, but it looks like a great toy for kids, one that fosters creativity and stimulates imagination and the ability to 'make do' (hence the website's name).  I wantz it!

When the trucks stop, it's over  A sobering reminder of our over-reliance on being waited on by grocery and big-box stores.  Yeah, I know we have to drive to them, but if we aren't growing our own (within reason) we are paying for our dependance and grocery stores, after all, are the classic example of just-in-time manufacturing's process of not keeping a backstock of supplies and parts.

New Plan: Fewer Safety Drills Near US Nuke Plants - Sleep soundly, America Wonderful!  Fukushima, here we come...

Speaking of things nuclear:  Even Our Nuclear Commanders Don’t Like Our Posture  And they would know, don'tcha think?

That's all for now, folks!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Safety wristbands for emergencies

Organizing mailing list I'm on had a giveaway I missed (not that what was being given away was anything I wanted, but I was curious).  The thing being given away was some freezer labels from Oliver's Labels in Canada.  I checked the site and kept looking for plain labels, no color, no printing, but no luck.

I did find something that parents especially might want to check out:  safety wristbands for kids.  They're customizable with contact information for parents, and while intended for theme parks and kids getting lost in the mall, they just might work in an emergency; slap one on each kid and in case they get separated from you, contact info is right there.  Check them out here .

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Stocking up on flavor

World Market flyers come with the grocery ads, and periodically they have a $10 of $30 purchase coupons. I got to thinking...they do have food in their stores, albeit mostly imported things.  What might they have that could be used for food storage?

What I noticed had the best prices was, of all things, spices.  Significantly cheaper than grocery store prices, plus a pretty good selection.

That reminded me of the Mexican spices one often sees in the grocery store.  You can often find hot peppers for Mexican or Thai cooking, and cheaper than in the flour/sugar/spice aisle.  True, they don't come in fancy jars, but if you save glass jars other things come in, you have an inexpensive storage source.

One thing I've found in the spice aisle at the grocery store is lemon powder and lime powder.  I tossed a packet of lime powder into some salsa I made for a little added flavor and it got two thumbs up at our house; the price for a box of the stuff is pretty inexpensive and a great way to keep lemon and lime on hand for when you can't get the fresh fruit (and can't grow it due to your climate).

There are about a dozen spices and herbs I buy in bulk because I use them regularly.  I've found that some are useable in more than one cuisine; oregano, for example, is good in Italian-style food, and is also part of home-made taco seasoning. My own list of must-have spices includes: cinnamon, ground allspice, ground cloves, ground ginger, oregano, ground cumin, garlic bits (not salt), bay leaves (for putting in vacuumed-packed foodstuffs  as well as seasoning dishes), rosemary, chili powder, and dried onion bits.  I've found that having a bouillon-like substance around gives a bit of extra flavor to a dish, but unless it is dry cubes or granules, it will require refrigeration after opening.

Sesame oil and hot chili oil are two more flavorings that are must-haves.  Other flavored oils are useful as well; some recipes just taste better with the addition of a flavored oil.  Sesame oil, for example, tastes food more like Asian cuisine than would olive or canola oil.

Take a look at the spices and herbs you use regularly; you'll want to stock up on them until your own herb garden is growing strong (and your herb garden should include well-marked medicinal as well as culinary herbs, or keep them separate for ease of use.  Believe it or not, you can store spices if you are careful; heat and light are enemies of flavor and storage life.  You might have use a bit extra of older items, but I've never noticed that the standard line of replacing spices and herbs every six months holds much water

The one place people seem to like shopping for food-related items is one I'd never try:  dollar stores.  I'm afraid after all the bad publicity about adulterated foodstuffs from overseas, dollar stores might get some of my craft supply dollars, but never anything edible.  Even something that looks like the real thing, brand-name wise, is suspect.

Food's boring without seasoning, so don't forget to add these sorts of things to your food storage.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


There's a saying that 'God never closes a door without opening a window' but I like my version better:  the universe never shuts your fingers in a door without leaving a box of bandaids on the sill of the window it shoves your butt out of'.

Change is not easy.  Change of attitude, change of circumstances, change of...whatever.  Change is what the list of the most stressful events is all about; ironically it has been called the only constant.  

Sometimes, however, after you've bandaged your fingers so you can brush off your ass after diving through that window, and the sting wears off a bit, you notice that it's not as bad as it seemed at first.  Skin not broken; a few bruises, but no broken bones, and any landing you can walk away from is, as they say, a good one.  Moving twice, living in cramped quarters between move out and in, was only the start of my 'door-and-window',  but now that I've brushed off my ass, y'know, I'm still in one piece.  Not to be all Martha S. about it, but that is a good thing.  

I'm workin' on my calm and carrying on...