My preparedness journey began when my mother in law was dying, and we had to get out of the house for a while. At a flea market, on the bottom shelf, was a book titled “Making the Best of Basics”. The cover caught my attention, and before we went home that night, I had read and re-read the book. I am a union electrician, subject to layoffs, and my husband is a self-employed painter. The idea that I needed to prepare came easy for me. I thought I had done well, always buying extra for the pantry. But water? Oops. I hadn’t thought about that one. So, I started doing the things in the book, and my mind was always going, and the lists got longer.
When I started to realize that I had a lot to do, I shared my thoughts with my best friend. Instead of laughing, she got on board. We discussed my home as the retreat. Although it doesn’t fit every need, it has a lot to offer. We are on a gravel, lightly populated road, about 20 minutes from a medium city. We have a well, and two acres. Our home has a basement, where we are working to get things organized. We know most of our neighbors, and have a community here. One neighbor plows our drive when it snows, and has for two years now. We treat him to his favorite brew on occasion to thank him, and I have even taken him a bowl of hot soup when he arrives.
Worst case scenario, we could have as many as 30 family members here, with varied skills, but it is a momentous task to try to prepare for that many people.
Last spring, my friend and I built raised garden beds that are still producing. We used recycled bleachers for the boxes, old shelving and other “trash” for the trellises. An old hog waterer with the waterer cut out, set in the ground at the proper angle, with a double pane window on it, became a cold frame. We also have the supplies to expand the garden next year. It is actually a very pretty garden!
I have dried tomatoes, onions, cabbage, apples, mushrooms, eggs, plums; canned anything that I had time to, and jellied, with new recipes for dandelion jelly, zucchini jam, and cantaloupe jam. My three garage sale dehydrators run most of the time. I have studied new and old methods of drying. I keep sodium metabisulfite, but also use the older method of using salt and vinegar rinses to preserve color. I have learned a lot, and my family is scrounging for jars for me. The supply is dried up here, mostly due to the awakening of some of the sheeple.
After consideration of a generator, it was decided that the best route for us was to just ready ourselves to be off grid. Second-hand shops have provided hank crank blenders, food processors, meat grinders, and other kitchen helpers. A friend helped build an Amish [summer canning] kitchen from some table legs, wood, and a Freecycled propane cooktop. One plus to this that we didn’t consider—the stove is lower in height, which is helpful when working with canners. One thing that we did consider—a hundred gallons of propane will work this stove, or the propane stove in the kitchen, for a year and a half. A couple of extra tanks are on the list to obtain! By putting the cooktop outside, we don’t heat the house up, which now helps the air conditioning bill, and will definitely help later, when it is just hot, and there is no air conditioning. We can also use it in the barn or basement if the weather necessitates. We also have propane heaters, and for emergencies, canned heat. (The latter is a 1-quart steel paint can, with a roll of toilet paper with cardboard liner removed, 16 ounces of alcohol. Directions for making these can be found on the LDS preparedness sites [such as www.ProvidentLiving.org.].)
We have been learning to save our own seeds, and I have been studying some animal husbandry, expecting to get some small livestock. We also have laid in a supply of sprouting seeds, and use them.
I now store water, and using the PACE system means that we have several means of getting more. For now the well is primary, the hand pump is alternate, the stored water is contingent, and the rain water, pond water, etc. would be the emergency. However, we also have our eyes on a pump that would be inline, and pressurize the tank. This will happen soon if things hold out a while! Although I store drinking water, I also started saving detergent bottles for non-potable water. I don’t even rinse them. When we are without water, and have dishes or laundry to do, those bottles will work perfectly, even offering up the remnants of the soaps in them.
Solar and human generated power are ideas that I am investigating, and if time permits, we should have minimal power, with minimal outlay. I hope that my electrical abilities will help here! Several years ago I installed some solar powered flood lights on my parents’ home, and now plan to put some both on and in my home. I do understand that during the probable turmoil, their use would be limited to avoid the target on our backs. However, eventually things will settle, and they would be of great use. By eliminating the motion sensor and photo-eye, and direct-wiring a switch, these lights could work in the house as well, and would need only a path for the solar cell wire, i.e. through a window. This would be fine as a temporary fix until more permanent work could be done.
I was able to find a supplier locally for wheat, where I am the only customer. Not only do I grind flour, making our own breads when time permits, but we sprout it for both us and our dogs. Incidentally, our older dog was having some health issues, and I started adding sprouts to the dog food. Within a couple of weeks, he was acting like a puppy, and his chronic halitosis had vanished.
I also found a neighbor who grows corn, who took my order for about 10 bushel, when the moisture content is down and we can store it. Guess some cornbread with all those beans would be a welcome thought.
I found an article for a vacuum pump, which is worth sharing. I had seen build-it-yourself pumps, but with all the preps, building one was not in the time allotment. However, you can go to your local auto store, and get a brake bleeder, with a gauge and several attachments, very reasonably. I obtained the mason jar sealers, and now seal all my dehydrated foods with vacuum on them. Just put the conical end on the bleeder, press it into the jar attachment, and pump away. When you remove the pump, the jar seals. A mason jar will hold 20 inches (Hg) of vacuum, which, by the way, will collapse a five gallon bucket. Don’t ask me how I know. Seal your buckets with a little less vacuum!
My friend and her mom got on board early, and are both also prepping. We are in the process of getting a community inventory, so we know what we all need to work on. My mother was supportive, but not overly helpful until this month. Along with jars, tins, and the usual things on my list from garage sales, she has started getting winter clothes, socks, etc. She also gave me a nice check to help with whatever we need, and pledged to give more. My husband has become more supportive as the economy teeters, and is also now actively engaged in the OPSEC end of our needs.
Our children are like most kids, struggling to survive. However, they also pick up an extra bag of rice or can of beans when they can, and send it. I have given them ideas on putting things away when you can barely afford to eat. Every week, get at least one item. Even on a bad week, you can afford a box of salt, rice, beans, pudding, or a can of milk. They also know (thanks to SurvivalBlog) what they need to look for, and when to get headed home.
If you had told me 10 months ago how very many hours I could find in a day, week, or month, to do all these things, I would have laughed. Now I look at the garden, and see not only hours spent with my best friend, laughing as she learned to use a drill, but the many meals we ate, and will still eat, from our bleacher boxes. I walk to the basement, and see the supplies there. I see the full jars of home processed foods, and enjoy just looking at the fruits of my labor. I see the first aid box, and the many other medical supplies, and feel some peace. I look in the closet in my office, and find sleeping bags, blankets, and other items to help out family when they are forced here.
I don’t throw anything out any more, without asking myself if it has another purpose. My family has lists of things that they are to watch for, and I often come home from visits with the car full of goodies.
Remember, having all your supplies means nothing if you don’t know how to use them. Eat wheat, sprout seeds, grow a garden, learn to use the canners, and lay in a supply of jars and lids. Learn to cook with your essentials, stay warm with less heat, and amuse yourself without television.
Are we ready? Not by a long shot! The more I know, the more I know that I don’t know! But knowledge is power, and I do know that when things happen, I am much more prepared that most, and we have a plan. Your blog site has been invaluable, and as times become more unpredictable, you are the first thing I check when I log on. Although I struggle with the fears of not having enough done, I know that we will not panic. What we have begun is a new way of life that takes what we have today, and builds on it for tomorrow. Lists will be filled, and peace grows. God is good, and gives us much. It is our responsibility to use it wisely. He can only guide our steps if we start walking. Then we have to count on Him to take care of the things we can’t. Thanks again for what you do! Sparky