Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mothers Day Gifts - Plants

In my Mothers Day Series I will continue with the suggestion of living green things.

For the non-prepper of course there is the option of buying flowers or a potted plant.
If you're looking to turn the heart perhaps something like an Aloe plant in a nice pot would be just the thing.

With the pots for these plants you can also order a personalized one OR you can do what I did last year and paint the kids hands with outdoor paint and press them onto a terra cotta plant. That way Grandma has the grandkids (or Aunty has the nieces and nephews or Mom has the kids) AND a useful plant!

I also like the idea of a windowsill herb pot or even a larger pot with kitchen herbs for use. Consider what herbs the woman is most likely to use, assuming she cooks, and plant some of those and accompanying herbs. Recently at my local grocery store I saw pots of herbs for Italian cooking that included Basil, Oregano and Sage just to name the ones I remember.

You can also give the special mom in your life a container bush. Certain varieties of blueberry do quite well in peat moss and a pot rather than in the ground. This might be just the thing to get the gears turning about what other kinds of edibles could be grown in pots.

Finally one of my last suggestions is growing an heirloom plant from seed. There is a lot of time and energy that goes into growing heirlooms from seed and when you present the half grown seedling you can explain the reason WHY the heirloom is superior than that of the nursery plant (if you think that it is) or why you chose that particular plant to grow and give to that special "mom".

I personally am toying with the idea of giving my Mother in law one of my Amish Paste tomato babies. I've spent all sorts of time telling her why I prefer to grow them over the "regular" hybrids I can buy at the nursery but perhaps giving her one to complete and taste would bring home what I'm talking about when she thinks I'm crazy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mothers Day Ideas - Building the library

Mothers Day is over a week away and I thought I'd throw out a couple of posts with some gift ideas.

Todays gift ideas are: Books

Whether you are buying for a special "mom" in your life or hinting to your loved ones what you would like I think books are a fantastic gift.

For people who aren't "into" prepping but you're hoping to open their hearts and minds might I suggest:

In a perfect world
by Laura Kasischke.
It's an apocalypse but just barely. Really it's a woman's grace and beauty book and oh by the way the world as we know it ends. It's actually the first "End of the World" book I ever read and I truly feel like it opened by heart to questions about self sufficiency.

Other good ideas for not yet preppers include Just In Case
by Kathy Harrison. After all, it's just for "in case".

For those who do have an eye towards self sufficency might I suggest any of the "standard" TEOTWAWKI fiction such as World Made by Hand by James Kunstler or One Second After by William Forstchen. If that doesn't convert them I don't know what will.

For those who are beginning to open their hearts, in addition to the above fiction might I also suggest The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery or any book about wild edibles for their region of the world.

For those who are already "prepping" I suggest reading Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs by Wendy Brown. Sometimes prepping can be overwhelming but Wendy really lays it out in doable "chunks".

Also good books for those knee deep are any books about gardening (I don't have a favorite, sorry) or meal prep/recipes/cooking from food storage. I have a dutch oven cook book (or two) that I love and find it pretty valuable for today and the possible tomorrow.

What are your Mother's Day library wishes?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Raised beds part 1

Within my family my ability to kill anything resembling plant life has been legendary. It was always sort of a shame I carried. My mother, of course, possessed a ridiculous ability to garden and could make anything grow where ever she wanted. Her daughter, me, on the other hand......not so much.

I think, frankly, most people were amazed I managed to keep my children alive based on how poor my gardening performance was.

So last year when I decided that I wanted to begin producing more of the stuff my family eats I felt the weight of a thousand dead plants on my shoulders. The fact is though, I believe we are headed toward a future where growing what we eat may become more than a "hobby", it may become the difference between eating and starving. So I knew I needed to learn at least how to grow it before the time to "play" with gardening had passed.

To be fair I love many, many aspects of gardening but I don't know that I could say I actively enjoy it. This "hobby" is my prep work to feeding my family. I love seeing something I planted from seed become something I can consume and know that I did all the work for it. But love it? Not so sure.

Anyways....last year I experimented growing food in containers and was surprised at my successes and learned a lot from both success and failure. This year we decided to step it up a little bit.

Having an actual garden in my suburban back yard has many challenges but the biggest ones are my dogs. They dig. And destroy. I don't have grass in most of my back yard because of them. So having a raised bed seemed like a better choice for me.

My father in law is an artist when it comes to construction and he agreed to build me some raised beds. My mother in law had a great idea about having a break in the middle and the actual design because she loves landscaping.

Yesterday we broke ground, as it were, on my raised beds.

That's the view from my kitchen door facing into my backyard. That's my husband working on a tree stump that was refusing to rot like it should and was impeding my raised bed progress.

That's my son and my mother in law supervising the construction in the relative safety of the gazebo.

That's the finished product. You'll notice two raised beds separated by a mini-pergola in between. We will be adding chicken wire to the outside as protection from the dogs getting into the beds and putting stone under the beams to create a pathway. You can also seen one of my dogs and my lack of grass. It's sad.

Raised beds measure 12 ft long by 3 feet wide by 18 inches high. Plenty of space for tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, peas etc. I'm pretty excited to get those beds filled and get started planting but that's probably another 2 weeks off or so.

I'll show you part 2 once I've got everything in.

I feel like this is working towards the big time and while I know not even a garden this size could ever really provide everything my family needed it terms of sustenance I feel like it's a great start.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Baby Needs

Wendy over at Surviving the Suburbs has a post up today about Baby Needs vs Mommy Wants. She says what I think a lot of us "old timers" already know, especially the prepping ones. That a LOT of what you are told you need for your baby is straight commercialism at it's finest.

She goes through a list of things she considers must have vs. what we are told are must have. My list varies slightly because I am a mother working outside the home so things like bottles that she didn't need I did in fact need after about 4 months.

It got to me to thinking though, in a powered down, less cheap energy future what things absolutely MUST a new mom need. I could certainly add those items to my future prep lists since I happen to have three children who might someday choose to grow up and have children of their own.

My must have list:
1. Diapers -
Cloth are probably the best bet in terms of prepping and storage. In an effort for full disclosure I don't at this time do cloth diapers. In a powered down world we wouldn't have a choice.

When my boyfriend (now my ex-husband) was watching my 1 year old a LONG time ago she ran through the diapers I had packed faster than he had anticipated. He found himself with another 4-5 hours left of child care and no diapers. He wrapped a t-shirt around her butt. Twice since she peed in the first one. I believe it was his roommates shirt. No one wants to see that.

So probably a variety of sized cloth diapers and covers would be a good plan. How many is a great question. I suspect my child, at 17 months, goes through at least 5-6 diapers a day. Since laundry will be considerable harder (I'm working on that post) I would suggest having a couple of days worth of cloth diapers available so you can be using, cleaning and drying. You might also consider in the summer going without a diaper if you can manage a few hours. Pee on the plants is good for them I hear.

2. Clothing -
Naked babies are only cute for so long. Then they get all cold and shivery. Mother guilt sets in and it's a downward spiral from there my friends.

Seriously though. Consider your laundry ability/desire.

Small babies need some onsies, some sleepers and socks. Depending on the season. The older they get the more durable your clothing choices need to be. I would also have a hat for a small baby, especially in the winter.

All of my babies have lived in a combo of onsies and sleepers for the first 6 months at least. About the time they could sit up I moved to two piece outfits. My boy currently wears a lot of polo shirts and jeans but I also tend to buy color neutral items if I can help it. Pants that are khaki, gray and black appeal to me more than the blue and green plaids because I can match a whole lot more with the black than the plaid.

3. Blankets-
With my first two babies I received a ridiculous amount of receiving blankets which were GREAT for bundling the baby in for the first week. After that I used them as burp cloths and to wipe various body fluids off me or the furniture. I also put them down on the surface to change the baby but more for his comfort than any actual attempt at sanitation. My last baby I asked for none of them.

For one thing I had plenty but for two, what I needed were blankets that actually provided some kind of warmth and not glorified rags. I received a couple of blankets and a quilt that I have used for everything from putting the baby to sleep to using as an activity area when the baby was learning to roll over and do tummy time. I don't discount that a few receiving blankets are used but I would argue that towels are more effective at clean up and a quilt is better protection against the chill.

4. Feeding -
As I said earlier, I use bottles for my child because I work outside the home. I have breastfed every one of my babies and only moved to formula when they had to begin attending childcare. But I did have to move to a bottle. Even if you are breastfeeding exclusively the time may come when having a bottle or two handy might not be such a bad thing. If you are unavailable to the child for an extended length of time having a bottle will certainly help his caregiver out and might also save a life. Even small livestock farmer tend to have a bottle handy should the mother die or reject the baby or be unable to produce milk for whatever reason.

I don't have a solution for what to put in the bottle however and can only hope that perhaps some stored breast milk might be available to use. Formula isn't a great item to keep because of it's relatively short shelf life so I'm at a loss about that. Anyone have ideas about that?

Small forks, spoons and cups are adorable by the way but certainly not necessary for child rearing or feeding. I find my children have been able to wield regular sized spoons, cups and dishes for a lot longer than I have been ready for them to. Usually it involves them stealing my spoon while I'm trying to feed them something from my plate.

5. Car Seat -
A good quality car seat is a must as long as we use automobiles as transportation. If we don't then disregard this.

6. Baby sling/backpack -
I've never had great luck with slings but I have found my baby backpacks to be invaluable. If I plan to go anywhere that doesn't involve a car seat but does involve carrying the baby around awhile a good quality backpack is the way to go. I like mine sturdy with a base that I can set on the ground and keep the baby upright. Also if I can strap it around my waist it feels better but that might be a personal preference.

So what are your must haves for prepping in case of baby? Or not even prepping, just to have on hand?

Friday, April 15, 2011


One of the unfortunate things about both my husband and I working outside the home and living in suburbia is that neither one of us is very close to where we work. Certainly not within walking distance. Right now schedules, toll roads and of course cheap energy make it so that our commutes are not crazy insane. I spend something like 30 minutes commuting each way but that includes dropping third children at various schools or daycares on my way. My husband spends about 20 minutes on his way to work and 40 on the way home. I work a later schedule and take a toll road so I avoid most traffic whereas he works a later morning schedule but still gets off at 5.


The point of this is to say that one of my "worse case scenarios" has centered around my children being without me in an extreme "SHTF" scenario. If the world as we know it suddenly crashed I'm literally hours from my house walking. My husband too. His mother lives even farther than we work.

One of my comforts has always been the spacing of my children. I have a child that is so much older than the other two that she can of course babysit and I feel like she could adequately handle their needs until I was able to get home. (According to Mapquest that would take me about 4.5 hours)

My eldest has recently decided to move with her dad to Las Vegas. It's not because of me, she and I actually have a pretty decent relationship but she is tired of Here and wants to try There.
That makes me sad for many reasons that have nothing to do with preparedness but it also makes me stress out because I don't believe my 6 year old can currently take of her self OR her little brother for 4.5 hours.

In reality it would be HIGHLY unlikely they would be together alone for 4.5 hours ANYWAY because he is cared for by a home daycare that is not in our neighborhood while she attends the school located directly behind our house. But it's sort of the principal of the thing.

So with my oldest child leaving I'm now having to think of things that a 6 year old can handle on her own that I was always sure I could at least count on a 15 year old for.

Things like first aid. Food. Warmth. Security.

Right now I'm having to re-evaluate her 72 hour kit. It included food that my kit could warm up to make palatable. A 6 year old can't warm anything up and shouldn't so instead of rehydrate, heat and serve meals I'm trying to think of things that she can eat at room temperature.

I'm failing.

So all this is to say, help? Anyone have any ideas on a)what I can change in her 72 hour kit and how I should start preparing her for the chance that she would have to fend for herself in case her parents weren't around?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Self Reliance Expo - Denver Edition

I can not tell you how excited I was when I learned that there was a Self Reliance Expo coming to Denver. I recruited a friend to come with me (who ended up bailing on me because her parents showed up for a surprise visit for her birthday. I can't blame her.) and notified my husband (who declined outright) and got gussied up for the event. Now, I can't tell you exactly what I was expecting. But I was expecting....something else. The expo opened at 9am on Saturday and I was there at 10am. No small feat considering I brought my youngest child with me who requires a stroller, massive quantities of snacks and a great deal of patience when in a confined space. Parking was $8 which I find to be extortion, especially given the size of the expo. Tickets were $7 online or $9 at the door. I forgot to buy it online. I did get INCREDIBLY lucky though and walked through the parking lot with a group of people who offered me their spare ticket. They had purchased online but their 4th person had been unable to attend. I offered to buy the ticket off of them (it still was saving me $2) but they declined. AND they helped me get the stroller up the stairs at the expo. There was an elevator but it was way off to the side and could have made me lose my group if I went that route. That should have been my hint that this was not a child friendly expo. Now honestly, when I think about "Self Reliance" or "Survivalism" in the main stream context I STILL think about guns, ammo and Ruby Ridge. So I was expecting to see a lot of that there. It was actually noticeably absent. There was a handcart upon entering and a booth from Napa Auto Parts. They weren't together. Further down the entry way I began to see booths. Costco had a major booth outside the main expo area and they were promoting their heating and cooling folks. That seems bizarre to me at a self reliance expo when they could have been stockpiles at affordable prices or whatever they wanted their tagline to be. Inside there were probably 4 rows of vendors plus some end caps. There also appeared to be a stage where programs would be held throughout the day. They called them workshops and demonstrations but at least on Saturday in the morning it didn't feel that way. Which, by the way, who has an expo on a Friday and Saturday instead of a Saturday and Sunday? The workshops and demonstrations included things that felt forced to me like "Grant writing" and "Picking stocks". Later in the day there were things like "The Art of cooking with the sun" and "Sprouting Food Storage" which I thought would be valuable but it look less than an hour to get through the vendor booths as best as I could and then what was I supposed to do until the 1:30pm workshop of "Picking the perfect grain mill"? Navigating with a stroller was tough. I've been to some crowded craft fairs in my day and I wouldn't say this was crowded but for some reason this crowd didn't seem particularly child friendly or stroller friendly. I felt like my stroller was constantly in the way or blocking a booth which meant either I couldn't get close to it or others couldn't. Even vendors who had people out in the aisles didn't approach me as a way to minimize that hassle for themselves or their booths. I saw some children there, not a lot but some and I wasn't the only stroller there but honestly wished I either had not brought the child or had not brought the stroller and instead had opted for a backpack or something. There were a LOT of food storage vendors. Thrive had free samples out including fruit and corn of the freeze dried variety. I tried both, both were good. But I had to fight my way in and fight my way out despite a multitude it seemed of reps at that booth. They did not really talk to me. Ready Colorado talked to me and had coloring books for kids as well as a TON of information and a nifty pack to hang on your fridge to put emergency information inside of in case EMTs come to the house or people within the house don't know all of the medical needs others may have. Also they had some information on prepping for pets which I haven't read yet. They talked to me. There were a couple of cars there demonstrating (I think) electric cars. I ignored them. The Sun Oven folks were there and I felt like they had a nice booth and a lot of information. I lusted after a Sun Oven but $250 is still slightly out of my price range. There was one gun vendor which suited me fine but surprised me. I would have expected more. There was a "laundry kit"at one both that I ALMOST bought but couldn't quite stomach the $50 for a 5 gallon bucket, clothes line, clothes pins, some ingredients for soap and a plunger. I have plans to put that together and see what the true cost comes out to. I'll keep you updated. Overall I felt like the expo was Meh. Overpriced parking and if I had paid to get in I would have been more irritated. I'm not sure who they were pitching to, I'm not sure if they knew either. In the future I would have certainly including more child items either from the vendors or within the expo itself (like a place for kids to run around). I'll give it a C. I might go back if it comes back this way but I wont sob if my pillow if it doesn't.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Focus Revisited

You may remember a few months ago when I was so overwhelmed with the thought of food storage I freaked out and decided to focus on medicine instead. I said I would focus on that for the first quarter of the year and I did. Mostly.

The problem with that kind of focus is, well, I still have to focus on other stuff in the interim. Like starting some plants from seeds and daydreaming about what to grow in my window boxes. I have to plan those now because, well, I'm a planner by nature. But also because some stuff has to be started sooner rather than later. Did I mention I grow tomatoes from seed?

In any case I still feel as if I did pretty well on my focused efforts.

I added to my Apocalypse Closet medicine cabinet.

Now granted, it wasn't much. Missing from these photos are my sterile pads and pad holder thingies (mesh type stuff that you cut to fit over the bandage) because my dogs ate them. No really. I don't understand it and I've already rolled my eyes over it (no sense in being more upset about it) but there you have it. I will replace those soon enough.

Do I think what I currently have is enough? Well, that depends. Enough for what? For the rest of my life if the world ended tomorrow? No. To get me through a few months of figuring out what works and doesn't work medicinally? To act as a safety net in the the "worst case"? Yes. Almost. I can always use more band aids.

My oldest child completed a CPR course and is now ready to save lives. She's Red Cross certified folks.

I also spent a lot of time and effort, more than I realized before sitting down to write this blog, on self doctor care.

You'll see in that picture my binder, The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook, Healing Foods and the Carewise Guide. The binder contains recipes taken from my herbal cold and flu class I took in March as well as print outs of self care items I think about as I go along. I think of it as my go to, quick reference source book. I plan to gather, print and store more recipes as I go along.
On my personal library wishlist is When there is no Doctor.

My gift to you today is a link for free downloads! YAY! Seriously. I know, I know, people give away Wonderwash's and freeze dried food and I'm pointing you to something you could find on your own. Sorry folks, times are still tough around here, despite the new job.

I would recommend downloading Hesperian Foundation's Where there is no Doctor and Where there is no Dentist as well as A Book for Midwives. If you go to the main Hesperian Foundation downloads page you'll find a ton of material for your reading and downloading pleasure and I would certainly recommend looking through it all and printing it (or buying the books from them or your online book retailer if you are inclined) for your own personal Illness binder.

So there you are folks. My first quarter focus really did help me focus and feel more prepared for what life can throw at me. I'm thinking for this next quarter I'm going to focus on hygiene both personally and inside the home as well as food hygiene. Ready?