Monday, February 28, 2011


This weekend my family drove 6+ hours to visit my closest relatives in Wyoming. I hadn't seen them in almost a year and it was a good visit. My own mother passed away over 5 years ago so it's nice for my Aunt to play Grandma to my kids.

My Aunt lives outside of a small town called Buffalo. Population is around 3900. She grows her own garden and my uncle hunts so that they are able to provide a large majority of their own food every year. She bakes her own bread. All of it.

She has a large wood fireplace that heats the whole house (which is three levels if you include the basement) and a cold room that I covet.

She isn't "prepping". She isn't preparing for a coming Apocalypse. She's just providing for her family and friends. I spent a good hour just lingering in her cold room, admiring her shelves, her work.

It's large enough to have a spot for her husband to make his own ammo. She has potatoes and large bags of flour. She has MASSIVE shelves that I can only dream of.

It was the food on these shelves that I admired too though. All of it is her own canned items. Hers and a few gifts she's received. She had apple butter. Applesauce. Peach jams. Raspberry jam. Pickles both small and sliced. She had beets. She had peppers. Tomato sauce. Green chili sauce (I think).

She also had dried herbs. Thyme, basil, oregano. And dried orange peel and lemon zest. It was impressive. I found myself with massive cold room envy. House envy even since her home is built in such a way (it's a backsplit I think) that not very much wood energy is required to heat it, even with 3 floors. She has a large southern facing window and it's well insulated. She has a pump that supplies the majority of their water. Did I mention the envy?

It certainly gives me something to strive for though. I like seeing it being done and having goals.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Retail therapy

I got laid off. Again. For the second time in 3 months. It stings.

As a general rule I think a LOT of people probably shop to make themselves feel better. I've read all sorts of studies that suggest that shopping is a lot like foraging and so for both genders we feel like we're doing "something" which makes us feel better.

I like to shop just as much as the next person although rarely is it for me. I don't care about shoes or purses and I have a limited professional wardrobe.

But this morning I was feeling oh so low. Lost the job yesterday so of course there is the worry about money but there is also just the feeling bad about myself. I knew I needed to make myself feel better.

I did the dishes. Not feeling better. I did laundry. Oh did I do laundry. Still not feeling better. I ran errands that cost zero dollars. Not feeling better.

So I decided I would sink to my lowest and buy something.

It only made sense to buy for my Apocalypse closet. Since this quarter I'm focusing on first aid and medical supplies I went online to my local pharmacy and checked out the weekly ad. Asprin (generic) on sale. Good. Excedrin also on sale. Excellent. (I have migraines from time to time and Excedrin is my second line of defense against them) I searched for coupons, printed some and off I went.

I bought:
2 100 ct asprins for $1.99. Total. (They were discounted and it was buy one get one.)
1 50 ct Excedrin Extra Strength for $2.99 total (discounted to $3.99 and then $1.00 coupon)
1 50 ct Excedrin Migrain for $2.99 (see above)
and 2 bottles of hydrogen peroxide for $1.98 total. (They were .99 each).

With tax I spent $10. Not too shabby. Not great, I KNOW there are coupon mavens who can do WAY better. I read their blogs. I'm just not that good yet.

These items join my mini first aid kit with generic band aids, some old burn cream and rubbing alcohol. Oh and oddly enough some Quik Clot. I would like more of that for sure but it seems to cost a bunch so it's one of those save up type of things.

I will continue to hunt for first aid supplies on the cheap and hope to have a decent looking first aid kit for not very much money by the end of March.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Anyone have any suggestions for starting a compos bin/area etc? I feel so overwhelmed and would like to get one up and going this spring.


I struggle to find a happy medium in my preparations mostly because I'm not sure what me "scenario" is.

There is the short term emergency which is what I tell everyone I'm preparing for when it comes up. "Why do you have 10 bags of spaghetti noodles?" "Blizzard."

Then there is the longer term emergency which I think is what most "preppers" are prepping for. But even in there I find wildly different views.

For example, in a true long term immediate emergency ala "One Second After" (Which, if anyone ever wants to discuss that book with me I would LOVE to.) having lots of food storage would be helpful. For awhile. Canned soups and fruit will only go so long and then you have real issues once that begins to run out. Assuming you get to keep it all to begin with. (I'm going to be optimistic and assume that no one will take my food. Probably because we have guns. And ammo.)

Which is where/why I begin to lose focus. Should I buy lots and lots of canned goods or should I focus more on the ingredients themselves. For example instead of buying split pea soup should I work on having the split peas, carrots, spices, etc. instead? Will that take up more space? Will my family even EAT split pea soup?

There is no harm in learning to cook from scratch, I get that. Which is probably why I tend to buy more of the raw ingredients than the prepackaged stuff BUT since I can't cook everything from scratch yet (it takes time) where should I focus?

You can see I get a little ADD/OCD about this.

So for the rest of the first quarter of this year I'm going to focus on medical supplies.

I have three children. There will never be a day where I will wonder about the kinds of band-aids I have. My only question will be "Do I have enough?"

Anyone have any suggestions about what your medical supply closet has? Aside from band-aids?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Christmas Gifts

I neglected to mention (because I didn't post at all in December) that for Christmas this year we gave canned food as gifts. Home canned food that is.

The inspiration hit me in the summer while I was going over my list of "to can" items. I thought it might be fun to can something that represented each of the members of the family and give the collection of items as gifts to family and friends.

My canned gifts were:

Lace's White Chocolate Raspberry Sauce
M's Caramel Apple Butter
K's Frog Swamp Cinnamon Apple Sauce
L's Vanilla Strawberry Jam
W's Fuzzy Butt Peach Butter
Bad Dog Peach Salsa

All of the main ingredients are Colorado grown and where I could I supplied additional items from my garden like jalapenos and onions for the salsa.

Dearest husband made labels that reflected each of us. For example L's had hearts on it, while K's had Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas. W's had a pacifier that looked like a peach at the end.

We got plastic baskets from our local dollar store and wrapped them up. They were HUGE hits with all friends and family and a great ego boost for me. It's one thing to think my jam tastes good, it 's another to hear that some families ate it up before Christmas break was over.

When people asked about it (and they almost always did) I had an opportunity to share with people about eating local (since all the ingredients were as local as I could get them except of course the chocolate) and preserving our own. I got to talk about the environment, useful skills, local economics, avoiding preservatives and chemicals and health. It just LOOKED like a jar of Peach Salsa instead of charts and grafts etc.

We have already received some jars back from family with winks to "not forget them next year".

Which leaves me some creativity to think about next year.

Help me readers? You're my only hope?

Does the idea of our Canned Family sound like a winner and something I could do next year with different canned items? Ideas include:

Pears - pear chutney, pear salsa, pear butter
Peaches - spiced peaches, peach ketchup, vanilla peach sauce, peach rum sauce
Strawberries - ......after strawberry jam I'm not sure what else to do
Tomatoes - Tomato salsa, tomato sauce, marinara sauce, spaghetti sauce, whole tomatoes
Cherries - Cherry jam, Cherry pie filling

You get the idea...

The OTHER idea I had was to make "gift packs". For example:

Home canned tomato sauce, homemade (and dried) noodles, homemade bread and dried garden herbs

Home canned salsa with homemade chips and seasonings

You get the idea. Right?

So if it was you, which would you receive better? The Canned Family or the Gift Packs?

Monday, February 7, 2011


I'm such a doomer....

One half of my brain tells me to master skills, like making bread by hand. In a post SHTF/TEOTWAWKI situation I wont be buying bread at a store, I'll be making it for my hungry family. So I made bread this weekend. Sure, I'd done it before, years and years ago but it was more of a "Oh can I do that" novelty thing and not so much "Master this skill so your family doesn't starve" thing. I made two types of bread, both successful in that they were bread but one was certainly better than the other.

The other half of my brain says that while there is wheat growing in Colorado right now and even if there was what are the chances that I would be able to get my hands on it. Sure, I can store some wheat and get a grinder (and I probably will at some point) but being in the suburbs means that I don't have a LOT of space, certainly not enough to grow enough wheat for my small family of 5 let alone the people I assume will be moving this way to be with us in an extended emergency. So why bother learning to make bread if I truly don't think I'll have access to wheat in the future?

That's part of the "rub" with TEOTWAWKI - how bad does it get in your mind and what will you have access to the the future if you're right?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Winter brings on different planning

It's winter here (as with just about everywhere else in the US) and it's cold. And snowy. But mostly cold.

I almost didn't think winter was going to happen for us. Christmas found us with balmy weather as high as in the 50's. Just a couple of weeks ago we had a day in the 60's. It's insane.

And now it's REALLY cold. REALLY.

This kind of cold really helps me to focus on what kinds of preparations I need for cold weather days. The obvious, everyday things are hats, mittens and scarfs but I also think about food, movement of the house and entertainment.

We have been fortunate not to experience any kind of power outages associated with the cold weather but I imagine what my life would look like should society collapse suddenly and I needed to protect my family in the middle of winter.

To that end January saw me storing more food and also gathering experimenting with cooking for cold weather.

Christmas gifted me with a cast iron dutch oven (does my husband know me or what?) and I received as another gift a larger cast iron oven and skillet this month. I've been working on my chili recipe and hope to have a few other recipes perfected enough to try them outside. Well, outside when it's a little warmer.

As for food storage I ordered some more basics from Emergency Essentials. I have been using the food storage analyzer as a tool to help me keep track of what I already have and helping me order what’s missing. My next step is to actually start cooking with those items but it's intimidating to look at #10 cans and realize that once you open it you better start consuming because the clock is ticking.

My food storage is mostly basics like whole egg powder, milk, and rice, just to name a few. Basically things that I think I wont be able to grow or acquire quickly but that will certainly aid my family in times of hunger.

Another concern has been heat and this is where my mind tends to wander in terms of suburban survival. Hear me out.

I have a ranch house with a finished basement. It has a fireplace but its' downstairs, in the basement, and the chimney is currently not operational. The last time someone came out to look at it they quoted me $3000 to fix it and sadly I didn't have that kind of money laying around. That was 4 years ago.

The house is heated with a gas furnace and we are comfortable.

Now I could certainly save my pennies and do a couple of different things. I could a) fix the fireplace, b) rip the fireplace out and replace it with a wood stove, c) something else regarding wood heat and the house.

But I don't love this house. I don't plan to stay in this house forever, only another 4-5 years or so. So my motivation is not to upgrade this house until it's complete survival/non-grid ready but rather just get by until the dream house is acquired. And there is my dilemma. How much do I "prep" at this house, a house I dont plan to live in?

I'm still considering it.