Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Don't forget the pet

What are your potential emergencies? Have you made a plan for your pets for each of the possible scenarios? If you shelter in place, do you have a few weeks of their special food or other needs on hand? Great to have an indoor cat, but not so pleasant after a few days if you have no litter for their inside box.

What if you need to GO! due to flood or gas leak? Will your pets fit in your escape vehicle? Do you have room for Fido, his food, the kids and your stuff? Do you need a special carrier to keep the iguana from being crushed under the accelerator as you get out of Dodge? Do you have a place to land that will welcome your 12 foot Boa constrictor with open arms?

If you plan is to leave them behind and let them fend for themselves, you are either naive or cruel. If you do this, their future is between short and bleak because they have no skills or are not native to your area. Small pets will probably be eaten alive by larger predators. Tropical reptiles may freeze to death or find others and multiply, like the brown snakes of Guam. Larger dogs may find one another and form packs to attack and eat the smaller animals or attack people when they return. For that, Fido will probably be shot if he doesn't starve to death first.

If you haven't included these trusting creatures in your plans, and thought about the least-cost way to manage them, start now. If you do not have pets now, be sure to think though these issues before you get a special friend.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Another Great Giveaway!!

Check out the great giveaway, and other informative postings, at Preparedness Pantry : http://preparednesspantry.blogspot.com/ or to get right to the giveaway page, use the button on this blog!

Their great new Mexican Food combo is the featured item-- a full case of fiesta goodness, including rice, refritos, beans, onion, corn and a delicious TVP taco filling! Even if you don't win, this high-protein combo is a bargain for long-term storage at this price.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cache O'Le

The recent scenes of tornado devastation reminded me of a past post at survivalblog. There are other posts on the web as well that provide information about packaging preparedness supplies and burying them in a location that allows you to find them when you need them. In tornado country, that could be as simple as your back yard.

You need to be a bit inventive about how to find them again if all the local landmarks, including trees, are blown away. In addition to a waterproof and vermin-proof container, you will probably need to have them in a shallow spot in some sort of non-degradable mesh bag (like a big bag from oranges or a large nylon mesh laundrybag) that will allow you to find the mesh with only hand digging, then pull the bag, with the container inside, up to the surface. Hey, it's your yard so put a couple of stepping stones over it to hide the disturbed soil and call it done!

Imagine if you find yourself with absolutely nothing but the concrete foundation of your home (Oohh!! landmark!). Many people in the southeast and mid-west US have had this experience in the last month or two. Wouldn't it be lovely to have easy access to your recycled bakery 5-gallon bucket (with the water-tight screw-on Gamma seal lid) containing a change of clothes and shoes, toiletries, freeze dried food, a water filter and collapsible container, and $200 in cash! It doesn't need to be quite as fancy as the one described in the post, and the contents could be enough to give you the strength you need to persevere.

Institutional food, Yes or No?

We don't have the big warehouse stores around here, like Costco or Sam's, but one of the local chains has an aisle with #10 cans of 'institutional' food, like beans, fruit, spaghetti sauce, strawberry gelatin mix, beef chunks -- you get the idea. Depending on your situation, a few of these may be a reasonable option for your preparedness stores.
These provide several benefits. They are usually ready to eat, provided you don't mind them at room temp. There is usually no need to re-hydrate or cook unless it is a dessert or gravy mix. Two immediate downsides arise: 1. they are heavy and 2. You will probably need to eat the contents of a #10 can of ready-to-eat food -- possibly as much as 6 pounds -- within a few hours, as refrigeration may not be an option.

If you anticipate that 'shelter-in place' is a likely scenario, and you have a large family or a neighborhood preparation group that would share the meal, ready-to-use institutional canned food may be a good low-cost option.

Another great item I've found on the institutional aisle: 1 lb yeast bricks. These are compressed and vacuum-packed. They cost about $4. I can cross the street and buy a 4 ounce jar of the same stuff for $7 or more at the unnamed chain grocery. The brick store well at room temp for a year or more if the vacuum is in tact. Once I open a brick, I empty the package into a glass or plastic container, label it, and stick it in the fridge. It will last a long time in there-- again, probably up to a year. Every couple of months, proof it in warm water with a sprinkle of white sugar or flour. If it bubbles up in a few minutes, it's still good for bread.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What did you do to prepare this week?

Hmmm... What did I do to prepare this week??

My preparations this week were at work. I had a sudden realization that I spend 8+ hours every day away from home and had not reviewed my desk kit in at least a year. In that year, my work group grew from 3 to 6 people. Sure, I have some supplies in my car, but what if we are confined to the building due to some emergency? What if none of the others have a desk kit?

I went through the proper procedures to have my employer pay for enough bottled water (in 5 gallon bottles) for each employee in the building to have 2 gallons of water available. These were placed in a secure area with a sign on them that they were for emergencies only. I took enough space blankets in so that each of my employees could have one if needed. I got these as inexpensive 4-packs from Sierra Trading Post. I also took in a box of freeze-dried food, also from STP on clearance, that would provide at least one meal for each of the 13 of us in the building.

I will put in a plug for Sierra Trading Post here. They carry good stuff and send out e-mails with additional discounts once you purchase from them. I get everything from Austin Reed business suits (at about a 70% discount) to bug-out bag necessities from them. Their inventory changes often, and their clearance prices are impressive. They also have brick and mortar stores, primarily in the northwestern US. Whether you use STP, Wal-Mart or get free stuff at home and garden shows (I got a free mini-flashlight at my employer's safety fair this week!), try not to pay full retail for your preparedness supplies and never go into debt for your basic 72-hour kit.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Re-purposing what you have

If you are preparing on a shoestring, and you have a 'shelter-in-place" plan in addition to your GO! plan, then re-purposing what you have may accelerate your feelings of being ready for an emergency. I'll share some of mine-- most are no-brainers, like using an old gymbag or craft-supply box for your first aid kit. Others a little more subtle and took me a while to have the light bulb come on.

The easiest of all is your hot water heater. If you are without power or water and have a tank-style water heater, there's 40 to 50 gallons of ready water storage. Most tanks have a spigot near the bottom, so just fill your pitcher or kettle from there. I advise that you save this for drinking and potable use. There are some other sources for your non-potable.

Things to carry your water in half to several gallons abound. The 2-liter soda pop bottles are great. If you have room in your freezer, put a couple in there with the top on loosely (upright at first) and freeze them. Screw the tops on tightly once the water inside is frozen. If the power goes out, you will have a few extra hours to decide what to do with your freezer contents! Back to water storage -- Well-rinsed Clorox bottles work. My Dad's hobby was fishing. As long as I can remember, the water bottles he carried in the boat were always rinsed Clorox bottles. Despite the scary stories we hear every day about chlorine, he died at 88 after a brief period of ill health, so I don't think that's what got him!

Of course your BBQ grill, even an inexpensive hibachi, can be your outdoor cook stove in an emergency, just keep some dead wood or charcoal around in an area where it won't get wet. You can probably boil water or cook things in pans over junk mail and newspapers. The trick there is to roll them tightly and wrap with a wire -- even if you save the little twist ties from bread bags and string a few together. By rolling them, you help them burn more slowly. You can make some other fire starters or primary fire sources from re-purposed things like cardboard egg cartons, shredded newspaper, dryer lint and candle ends. Fill the empty cups of the egg carton with dryer lint and shredded or finely torn newspaper. Melt the candle ends in a metal bowl over a pan of hot water and pour over the egg cups of the carton, trying to saturate all that absorbent paper and lint. Leave several of the tips of the paper or lint sticking up out of the wax so you have at least 2 wicks in each. Use kitchen scissors to cut them apart after the wax has cooled and store them in a Tupperware or plastic bag.

If you do it right, you can boil a small pan of water over two of the egg cups. To help, re-purpose a tomato can, preferably the 28 ounce size. After using the contents, rinse the can and remove the label. Using an old-fashioned can opener (the type that leaves a triangular hole), open three or four holes on the side of the can near the bottom. DO NOT OPEN THE HOLES ON THE BOTTOM OR REMOVE THE BOTTOM OF THE CAN!! Then open three or four similar holes on the side of the can near the opened top. Now you have a little stove that will concentrate their heat. Put a couple of the wax cups in the bottom of the can and place it in your BBQ grill. Light the lint cups and let them get started. Put your small to medium sauce pan with about 16 ounces of water on top of the can. It should be boiling before the wax cups are burned out!

What are some of your preparedness re-purposing favorites?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Denial, not just a river in Africa

After my recent planning post, I really thought about what would prevent someone with a week's notice from getting ready to GO. What came to me is the mental roadblock called DENIAL. Getting out of denial requires some work , but luckily it costs very little because your plan should be based on your available resources.

What is denial and how do we win our own mental battle against it? Denial is the voice in our heads that wants desperately to keep the status quo. Our society rewards denial -- you are an odd ball if you think about and plan for emergencies or "let the government handle it, they'll take care of us," etc..

Starting to prepare is the first step out of waking from denial. Planning how to evacuate is another step. There are more things you must do, however, to break through the heavy layer of denial that could get you and your family killed.

Next, you should start to identify the 'triggers' that tell you to put the plan into effect. Example plan with triggers: the news is covered with reports of record flooding 200 miles north of you and you live in the floodplain of the same river. Your plan indicates that this is a trigger to start packing the car and PRACTICE your emergency communications plan because your area will be flooded within the next 36 hours. When the flooding reaches 100 miles north of you, according to plan, you LEAVE and go to your emergency location outside the flood area. Why so soon? Because your research indicated that as soon as the flooding is 50 miles away, the roads you need to travel will be jammed and flooded and you will be STUCK.

You are still not at a point that your denial is manageable. To get there, you must PRACTICE your plan. Make it serious but fun. We pack the car in 2 hours and head for a mini-vacation weekend at our alternate location. We use the routes on the plan, and divert for 'unexpected road outages' along the way. We teach the children how to look out and talk about what they see. By doing this twice or more a year, denial is replaced by preparedness. Fear is replaced with routine. There can be fringe benefits, such as when grandma's is the alternative location, she will be thrilled to see you more often and you may get your favorite home-cooked meal!

The only down side is that you won't get your 5 minutes of fame on Fox news as another one of the victims!

Do you have a plan?

Last night, there was a clip on TV from a resident in the area of the Mississippi spillway that was just opened for the first time in 40 years. The point made by the 'victim' was that there was no notice that the Corps of Engineers was actually going to (and did) open the spillway, so they had no time to prepare. The statement is really telling: record flooding has been moving down the river for more than a week. Someone who has lived in the flood plain for years was surprised and considers himself a victim. Likely, he is a victim only of his own failure to plan and pay attention -- even way out west, I heard about the fact that the Corps was considering opening the spillway 12 hours before they did. Given the week's notice of record flooding moving down the Mississippi, the resident could have had the car packed and a communication plan in effect so his family could rapidly evacuate together.

What is your plan to communicate, regroup and (if necessary) evacuate in case of emergency? If emergency or disaster strike when you and your family are at work and school, where are your rally points? Rally points are where you meet when you can't get home. You should have multiple, which should include at least two physical locations and two call-in locations. Of course, part of your plan is to select speople for call-ins who live outside your immediate area and you have prepared them to knows to be available by phone if the news features an emergency in your area. You may even want to include a free e-mail box that all share, like gmail or yahoo.

Why multiples -- isn't that confusing? What if your only rally point is now in the middle of a flood? If your cell phone or electronic devices works, if you don't have a system, you are still chasing your tail. What if the electronic devices don't work either? Sure would be nice to have an alternate rally point, or two more with some priority order attached.

Don't make it too complicated -- If we can't get to rally point #1, go to #2. Call grandma at 510-555-1313 if both are blocked. If you can get to a library, go to the yahoo account and check the DRAFT e-mails AND leave a draft with your location.

If you have a plan, review and update it. It will be difficult to move out --possibly until it is too late -- if you are worried because you can't contact your loved ones. If you don't have a plan, NOW is a good time to make one -- even involve all affected by the plan, as they may have skills or info that will make it SIMPLE!!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Major milestone for a great blog

For those of you who want to take your preparedness to a higher level than a few weeks of readiness, THE website for you is http://www.survivalblog.com/

I follow regularly because of the depth and breadth of the issues covered. The site also offers a vast archive of information on virtually all aspects of preparing for a wide variety of age groups, locations and types of emergencies. He posts EVERY day which means it is easy to make it part of your daily routine.

Seems that a lot of other readers share my sentiment, as the site is about to celebrate its 30,000,000 unique visitor. Yup, almost 30 MILLION people have spent time on the site. The main reason is because the site hosts a variety of well-written posts with a strong emphasis on the contributors' experiences.

So why should you be the next one -- possibly THE 30 millionth? My site is for the baby steps to short-term preparedness. If you find that your situation calls for more, or you just want to learn about a more holistic approach to preparedness, I urge you to visit the site. Check the counter on the right side of the blog.

If you are THE 30 millionth visitor, take a screen shot and send it in. You will receive a great book in exchange!

HURRY -- You may have time!

TODAY is the US Post Office's canned food drive. This is one of the largest food bank-fillers nation-wide.

To participate, just put your donations next to your mailbox and they will pick them up!!

How does this relate to preparedness??? You MUST rotate your preparedness food supplies to ensure that your foods have not been expired for YEARS when you need them. Go through your storage and pantry now to donate any food that will expire in the next 3 to 6 months (unless you are in the path of the floods --you may need it before then!) If you are comfortable enough in your food storage, throw in a few cans that are farther out, especially protein items like beans and canned fish.

PLEASE do not donate food with a 'best by:" date that has passed.

Now go do it!!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bacon bit bonanza

We love bacon, but the kind we really like runs about $6 per lb these days. When I saw the ends and pieces of the good stuff at Safeway, I could not resist. In this post I will illustrate one way to preserve bacon for short term storage (probably less than 1 year) while making it available for immediate use in case of emergency.

I am not yet a canner. I did put up preserves years ago when I had the time and wild fruit was available for the picking, but not lately. I make jams using the recipes that could be canned, but instead I use the Ball freezer containers and thaw when I am ready to use. This bacon preparation will yield a similar product. It will be cooked and ready to use or to add to other food you are cooking. There is a great post on http://paratusfamilia.blogspot.com/ about canning bacon and other things if you want to go that route.

This time, I used the Wright's ends and pieces, 3 lb package, which cost me $4.49 at Safeway. The product is carefully packed so that you see some real bacon slices on the outside. There were about 8 of these in this package, along with another 10 or 12 thinly sliced pieces with a nice mix of lean and fat. These are the sacrificial slices. I cook them first so that my husband and I will not be tortured by the smell of bacon cooking. We eat them within a day or two of this extravaganza.
While the first bacon slices cook, the hard work starts. Separate the lean chunks from the bacon-like pieces from the fatty chunks. You should have three 'piles.' As mentioned, I cook the pieces that are similar to regular bacon first. This will generate enough fat to cook the lean pieces. I experimented with cooking the lean stuff as large pieces. Bad idea. They end up like shoe leather. The flavor is great, but they are tough and string because it takes so long to cook them through. So, I strongly recommend cutting them into bits about half an inch on the longest dimension so they can be cooked yet stay moist. Kitchen shears work great for cutting into this size. The fatty pieces can be about twice that size, as they will be tender and will also lose much of their size and weight in cooking. I strongly recommend keeping and cooking the fatty materials. When rendered, they have a reasonable protein content and bring a lot of flavor to whatever you are cooking.

I cook the lean pieces over medium heat in batches of about 3/4 cup per. In the 10 inch pan I used, this makes one layer with room to stir. When they are looking cooked, I use a slotted spoon to help corral the bits on a spatula and then put them right into the plastic container. Make sure you remove all the bits in each batch. If they burn, subsequent bits will taste burned. I do not drain the cooked bits on a paper towel, for reasons that will make sense later.
When all the bacon-like strips and the lean are cooked, I strain what is in the pan to remove the tiny flakes and bits that will burn. Now I cook the fatty parts, but on lower temp. These will give up lots of bacon fat, which gets hotter over time. Low heat prevents a sudden burning of the product. You will still see the bits suddenly turn golden brown -- seems like they are barely simmering for about 5 minutes and then in about a minute they are all golden brown. Remove them shortly after, using the same method as the other bits. I segregate the lean from the fatty because of the different cooking times. The lean will be too dry of cooked with the fatty bits. Once cooked, you can mix or segragate as you please. This time, I kept one container of just lean and one of the mixed bits. Mixed will be great for salads or vegies, lean ould be better for mac and cheese or a pasta use.

When all are cooked and in the containers, I strain the oil into a glass container -- coffee mugs are great for this. Let the fat cool for about half an hour. For a container that you want to freeze, pack the bits in and then cover with the fat. If you plan to refrigerate some and use within 10 days, covering with fat will not be needed.

Why cover with fat? Two reasons: 1. makes the product more versatile. You can take a spoonful and use it to saute onions for you favorite greens or beans. If you want to use the bacon for a fettuccine carbonara, warm the byproduct and pour the bacon fat back into the container, put it on the dog's kibble (they will love you for that!!) or toss it. Your choice. 2. The real reason for the fat is to reduce the potential for freezer burn. For years, I just repackaged the raw bacon. About half of it was lost due to freezer burn. This will retard that process. If the fat on top looks questionable when you take from the freezer, scrape it off and toss it. The rest will be fine.

Why is this a preparedness item? If the power goes out, much of what is in your freezer will be unusable if you do not have an alternative way to cook it. Your bacon will be available to either use as is, add to freeze-dried eggs or mac and cheese for variety, or to top the salad greens you are trying to wolf down before they spoil. If you have an alternative cooking method (which you should!) you can use them to cook some of those fridge goods before they go south -- again, eggs or add a smidgen to oil or butter for a rib-sticking grill on a cheese sandwich.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Precious metals

One school of preparedness advocates that in addition to having US paper dollars in your preparedness stash, you should have some 'junk silver.' 'Junk Silver' isn't junk at all, but consists of older coins that have no numismatic value to a coin collector. Their entire value rests in the 90% or 40% silver content. In today's market these are worth MUCH MORE than the face value of the coin. For US coins, these include pre-1965 dimes, quarters and half-dollars. There was also a brief period during WWII (approx 1942 through 1945)when nickels had silver in lieu of copper. These 'War Nickels' would also qualify as junk silver.

There's a good list at this website:

You can also check the approximate value of the silver in your 'junk' by looking at the far right column of the table and adjusting it for the current value of silver, found here:

For example, if you have a 1944 mercury dime, the table says that if silver is $10/ounce, a 1944 dime in good condition is worth 72 cents. If silver is now $35 an ounce, then multiply the 72 cents by 3.5 ($35/ounce divided by $10 per ounce) and the dime now has $2.52 worth of silver at current price -- not the $0.10 face value of the coin. A well worn coin would have slightly less value because some of the silver has worn away, so the weight of the coin and its silver are less.

For most of us, buying one ounce silver coins at $30 to $50 each is not in our budgets. Junk silver may be within our means. You may be able to pick up three to four dimes for $10 at a local pawn or coin store. This could give you a few silver coins to tuck into your preparedness supplies in case you need something and the seller doesn't want to take bills (remember the pen to check for counterfeiters?) or your bills are somehow ruined or you run out.

Again, don't go into any debt. You will also need to check the price of silver occasionally so you have a general idea what it is worth before your local emergency so you don't overpay!

Disclaimers: 1. I do not represent or receive any compensation for any aspect of this blog. 2. I absolutely do not recommend going into debt, including credit card debt, to have cash or precious metals in your preparedness supplies.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Great give-away opportunity!!

The Preparedness Pantry Blog has a give-away of six #10 cans of food storage -- three of which are freeze-dried fruit! You can use the button on this site to get there. Two entries are easy for most of us. The first is to send an e-mail, the other is to post a comment. GO FOR IT!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Apologies and What have you done??

I am officially over the mononucleosis that has had me down since February!! My apologies for not posting, but I've been pooped and haven't had a cogent thought in 2 months!

I have, however, done a few things for my preparedness. If the earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and tornadoes haven't caused you to ask "AM I PREPARED???" then what will?? Do you need a mack truck to join you in your livingroom?

I reorganized my food storage and labelled the boxes by type of meal. Example: if the box contains dry beans, dry rice, freeze dried fruit, and wheat to make flour for biscuits, then it is labelled "SLOW LUNCH," based on the most likely type of meal and how long it would take to fix it. A box with ready-made granola, pilot crackers, peanut butter, dry milk and orange drink mix may be labelled "QUICK BREAKFAST."

WHY THIS SYSTEM? If we are in a situation that requires rapid relocation and we just have time to grab two boxes, I will go for the QUICK ones. I'll probably grab a breakfast and a dinner. If we are sheltering in place, and for example, have gas but no electric, I may open the 'slow lunch' and make split pea soup to serve over rice, especially if I don't want to open my fridge and let the cold out.

The point is, just think through whatever organization will work for you, based on how you think, where you live and what the likely emergencies may be. Being able to manage with a system that reflects how you think, so you can react appropriately and quickly, is part of your preparedness.