Thursday, April 28, 2011

TWISTER Revisited

I feel as if I have been living the movie TWISTER . . . unless you live in a cave, I’m sure you’ve seen the devastation from the relentless tornadoes throughout the southeast US. We live west of a town called Athens and in our county alone there were 21 confirmed tornadoes, yet, we did not receive any damage. NONE! On my personal blog I wrote more about our experience including the debris was dropped into our yard and my opinion of the looters who think an emergency like this gives them license to help themselves.

How prepared are you? We were without power from before 11 AM until well after 10 PM. We had heard reports that we wouldn’t have power restored for up to 7 days (and that is still the case for most of north Alabama. What would we do all that time without power?

The answer is that we would survive it and quite comfortably, I might add. Fortunately it was not 100° so we didn’t have sweltering heat and humidity to contend with but I wish to share a few of things we DO have and challenge everyone who reads this to ask yourselves what you would do.
First of all, we didn’t panic.  Why not? Because if you are prepared, ye shall not fear. Once we knew our family and friends were okay, we prayed for those who were not so fortunate. Then we evaluated our situation. 

We have plenty of food. Could we heat it up or cook it? You bet. We have more than one tank of propane and a couple of gas hot plates for heating and cooking. We always have at least a half tank of gas in every vehicle since many cannot buy gas without electricity to operate their pumps. We learned to do this living in the north most of our lives but it is prudent to do so year round since you never know when or what may knock out the power source. We also have wood which could be used for heating and cooking.

What about lights? We have plenty of lanterns, flashlights, etc. and lots of extra batteries on hand. We have several that only require hand cranking to generate light. Also, a radio that is battery operated as well as a weather radio that operates on batteries. Since this bizarre storm system just kept coming for nearly 24 hours, it was crucial to be warned despite the continuing blare of the sirens.

Do you have enough clean water readily accessible for you, your family and yours pets? We do. We are even fortunate enough to have a well on our property with a hand pump if we needed it.
I must admit that I missed my internet connection most of all. My laptop battery doesn’t last long so I conserved my usage of it as well as our cell phones.

Our next concern was what about all the frozen and perishable food in our refrigerator and freezer? Not to worry. We have a small RV with a generator AND enough fuel to operate it for at least a week. Though we didn’t need to our plan was to fire it up this morning and plug in the freezer, refrigerator, our cell phone chargers and my laptop and wifi. No problems here. So far so good.
Do you know what a 72 hour kit is? If you don’t, then you need to find and out get yourself prepared. It’s common knowledge that in a major emergency, it generally takes at least 72 hours (three full days and nights) for help to get to you. In a 72 hour kit, you should have enough drinking water, food, clothing and medicine to last you and every member of your household at least that long. . .and don’t forget medications! They are a must!

I will be writing more over the next few posts about a 72 hour kit, emergency planning, first aid, etc. Please leave comments on the items you are most interested in learning about.

How did I learn all this? Experience! We lived in a very rural home in Michigan for most of our married life. It was not uncommon to get snowed in for 7 days or to be without power following severe storms in the summer time. It is practical. It is common sense. As a member of my church I have been taught to be self-reliant. That includes preparing for emergencies and not just trying to store food. It’s not hoarding. It’s sound doctrine and common sense.

If you are totally unprepared, begin by trying to get a workable 72 hour kit together. It should be portable so that you can take it with you in the event you are evacuated for any number of possible reasons. Put some cash in small bills in it too because you may not be able to access a bank or use credit and debit cards – like right now all over our state.

For those of you who survived this horrendous bout of tornadoes, what did you learn? How will you be better prepared for future emergencies? One thing that really bugs me is the fact that people were calling radio stations before the National Weather Service had even issued an all clear wanting to know where they could get something to eat! You have got to be kidding me, right? But no. They were dead serious. Many did not even have enough food accessible for their next meal. For Pete’s sake, at least have a jar of peanut butter and bread in the freezer even if you do eat out all the time!

This is no joke! This is serious stuff. By being prepared, you can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. At the end of this post is a list of basics for a 72 hour kit. You can store it in packbacks (one for each family member) or use a heavy plastic garbage can with a tight fitting lid on WHEELS. You may not be able to drive with a lot of trees in your way. The Boy Scouts have it right! Their motto of ‘be prepared’ applies to each and every one of us!!!
Below is some important information about Emergency Preparedness including a First Aid Kit and a 72 Hour Kit.

Emergency Preparedness: 
     FIRST AID KIT:  Include the following:
First Aid Handbook        Scissors
Petroleum jelly                 Burn cream
Aspirin or Tylenol            Eye Drops
Rubber Gloves                 Matches
Safety pins                        Nail File
Tweezers                           Bandage Tape
Bandages                          Heavy String
Cotton Balls                      Alcohol
Spirits of Ammonia           Syrup of Ipecac
Table Salt                          Baking Soda
Disposable & Cloth Diapers for dressing or Splint padding
Splints:  Paint stirrers, tongue depressors or Popsicle sticks, 40 page newspaper, etc.
Special Medications for Family Members
*Store in a clearly labeled water proof container.
     You may want to prepare smaller versions for each member of the family with simple items such as antiseptic wipes and band aids for younger children.

 * * Do not feel that you must go out and purchase all of these items today.  Most of the items are readily found in your home already.  Simply make it a priority to gather them together.  Remember, it is better to have an incomplete First Aid Kit that to have nothing in the event of disaster.

*Does your family have a designated place to meet in the event of an extreme emergency?     
   Don’t assume that you might all be in the same place when disaster strikes. It is highly
   unlikely.  If one parent, or even both, is at work and the children in school, would you
   know where to begin looking for one another? 

 *What if emergency personnel were to knock on your door and tell you that within five minutes catastrophe would strike your neighborhood? 
   Many say they do not worry because they have everything they need right in their
   homes to last them for three days and even longer, but do you have at least three days
   supply of necessities in a portable container that you can load into your vehicle or carry
   on your way to sustain you and your household for 72 full hours?  If not, then now is time for your family to prepare.

Do not panic.  Do not go to extremes. The blessings are real and the consequences cannot be changed if we fail to follow this wise counsel.

Some claim that they live in an area where disaster is very unlikely to occur, thinking themselves safe in the event of catastrophic weather and the like; however, none of us are exempt from being evacuated from our homes due to chemical spills on roadways and such.    Do NOT procrastinate on this important principle to safeguard your families.

*What should I use to put my kit in?
   First of all, determine the special needs if any of your household.  Some families find that individual backpacks are most beneficial while others may utilize other containers such as plastic garbage cans on wheels.  Some families carry their 72 hour kits in the trunk of the car while others deem them more practical near the front door of their homes.
Remember that in some cases, you may not be able to drive your vehicle so strive for containers that you can carry, tote or pull if necessary to enable you to flee the scene.  Fallen trees can make escape in your car virtually impossible.

You may consider storing it in a large plastic container with a tight fitting lid and placing it in a child’s wagon for easy transport.  There are many options available to us.  The important thing is to DO IT and DO IT NOW!

  What Is a 72-Hour Preparedness Kit?

A 72-hour preparedness kit is a portable evacuation kit that can give you added control over your family’s welfare in the event that an emergency forces a temporary evacuation of your home.
These are as diverse as individual and family needs are.  Some need to insure that medications or specially needed foods are included.  Others may feel that hygiene items are most important.  Water is essential and food is most desirable.  A checklist follows that will help you better determine your individual family needs.
__ Do you have a 72-hour preparedness kit containing:  food, water, clothing and first-aid supplies?
__ Do you know the location for:  water, gas and electrical shutoff valves and switches in your home?
__ Do you have smoke detectors installed in stairways and near sleeping areas?  Do they work?  Do the batteries need replacing?
__ Do you have a family evacuation plan in case of fire or other emergency?  Do you ever practice your plan?
__ Have your established a family meeting place in case of evacuation:  Does every family member know about this location?
__ Do you have a plan to contact extended family in the event of catastrophe?  Is your extended family aware of it?
__ Do you store important legal and family documents in a place safe from flood and fire?
__ Do you have a complete inventory of your belongings?  Is a copy of this personal inventory kept outside of the home?
* Please do not become too comfortable once you obtain this kit unless your also have completed the acquisition of your one year’s supply of food and other items. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What Happens When the Hen Quits Laying?

Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on earth and can be part of a healthy diet. However, they are perishable just like raw meat, poultry, and fish. Today some unbroken, clean, fresh shell eggs may contain Salmonella enteritidis bacteria that can cause food borne illness. While the number of eggs affected is quite small, there have been cases of food borne illness in the last few years. To be safe, eggs must be properly handled, refrigerated, and cooked.

No one should eat foods containing raw eggs. This includes "health food" milk shakes made with raw eggs, Caesar salad, Hollandaise sauce, and any other foods like homemade mayonnaise, ice cream, or eggnog made from recipes in which the egg ingredients are not cooked.

To make a recipe safe that specifies using eggs that aren't cooked, heat the eggs in a liquid from the recipe over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 160 °F. Then combine it with the other ingredients and complete the recipe.

Obviously, it would be next to impossible to store eggs for an entire year . . . so what is a good substitute for eggs? Below are a few that work well in most recipes.
  • Ener-G Egg Replacer - follow directions on box.
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch = 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp arrowroot flour = 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp potato starch = 1 egg
  • 1 heaping tbsp soy powder + 2 tbsp water = 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp soy milk powder + 1 tbsp cornstarch + 2 tbsp water = 1 egg.
  • 1 banana = 1 egg in cakes.
  • 1 tbsp milled flax seed and 3 tbsp water = 1 egg. Light, fluffy cakes!
Homemade egg substitutes are less expensive and just as satisfactory. They also have few calories. Here's a low cholesterol egg substitute recipe:

1 tablespoon of nonfat dry milk powder
2 egg whites from large eggs
4 drops of yellow food color
Sprinkle powdered milk over egg whites, then beat them with fork until smooth. Add food color, and beat until blended. This makes 1/4 cup, which is equal to 1 large egg. If you use this homemade substitute for scrambled eggs, cook it in vegetable oil or margarine so the eggs won't be too dry.

Be sure to add a comment for suggestions for future posts.  I have had a few and plan on getting to them soon . . . 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Save $ with Homemade Laundry Detergent

The above photos are a few I took earlier today as I was whipping up a batch of Homemade Laundry Detergent . . . I will share the recipe near the end of this post but first I wish to do some explaining . . .
This is one of the best money saving ideas I've ever tried and it is also great for those who suffer from allergies.  This recipe will produce about 10 gallons of liquid laundry detergent.  The smell is mild and clean. If you wish, you can add a few drops of essential oils (available at most every health food store) in a fragrance of your choice. I choose to leave that out.

There are many recipes for liquid laundry detergent but this is one of the easiest and most frugal. For a batch of about 10 gallons, you find that you have generated enough for about 320 average loads of laundry for the grand total of under $3.00 and about an hour of your time.  

A few tips before you start include obtaining 5 gallon bucket. The deli/bakery area of most larger supermarkets have them. A few will give them to you but some (including WalMart) will charge you for them.  Check around. Be sure to get one with a lid.  Some of the buckets are only about 4 gallons but you can adjust with another container.

Another tip is to save your liquid laundry detergent containers. You don't even have to wash them out! You may begin with only one, but I use between 8 and 10 on a regular basis. Of course, when I did purchase them, I got them on a sale . . . a friend may save them for you also.

Here is the recipe:
4 cups hot tap water
1 - bar of Fels Naptha soap (10 - 12 ounces)
      (or Ivory, Sunlight, Kirk's Hardwater Castile, Zote bars or Octagon)
     (If you use Octagon - which I did - you will need 2 bars since they are smaller)
     You will need between 10 and 14 ounces of bar soap!!!
1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
   *Baking Soda nor Arm & Hammer Detergent will work - it must be sodium carbonate
3/4 cup Borax (20 Mule Team brand is readily available)
2 Tbs. glycerin (this is optional but will make it smoother) - it is available at any  
   drugstore/WalMart *(Oops! Walmart no longer stocks it!)

Grate or finely chop/shave the bar of soap.  I find that using a big knife on a cutting board works best. The finer you make it the quicker it will dissolve. Add the hot tap water and the grated soap to a pan over medium heat.  Stir occasionally prevent it from sticking or lumping up.  When the soap is completely melted, fill the 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water.  Add the melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until the powder is all dissolved. Stir in the glycerine if desired. If you wish to use essential oil for fragrance, stir that in now as well (20-30 drops).  Fill the bucket with more water, stir and let sit overnight to thicken.

Stir and then fill your laundry container half full with the soap. Fill the rest of the way with water. Shake before each use as it will gel.  You can leave it in the bucket, stirring well before each use and use a measuring cup to transfer it to your washing machine. If you choose this method, you may divide the detergent between two five gallon buckets and fill each with water, stirring well.

When the detergent is fully diluted (making a total of 10 gallons), here are instructions for use:
Top load machine - 1/2 cup per load
Front load machine - 1/4 cup per load
This detergent WILL thicken so be sure to shake or stir well before each use.

It will leave your clothes smelling fresh and clean and just think of all the money you are saving. What will you do with it? It is my hope that you will use it to stock up on food and other necessities for hard times are just around the corner.

Comments are welcome!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Let Me Introduce Myself

The response to my first post has been good and while you are working on trying out the oven method of dry pack canning, I want to take this opportunity to introduce myself to you. . . 

My name is Mary Lou Hill.  My husband and I retired to Alabama in 1995 and we settled in the Athens community about eight years ago.  We LOVE to garden and put up our bounty. He is an avid hunter and fisherman as well. Most of the knowledge I have gained about storing, canning and other methods of preserving food have come from experience gained on my own as well as the teachings of our church. Being self-reliant is very important to us and I'm hoping this blog will help you in your efforts to become more self-reliant too. For a number of years, I had the responsibility of teaching members of our church in 13 congregations about 'food storage'.

Having lived on a budget my entire life and LOVING to cook and entertain, I have developed a reputation as a pretty good cook. Loving to eat hasn't hurt in that endeavor either. I have authored a cookbook titled NEVER Trust a Skinny Cook!  They are currently available through me so if you're interested in getting one, let me know. It contains over 600 recipes that are all tried and true and about half of them are my very own concoctions.  It is still a goal of mine to get it published by a real publisher but for the time being, I have put that on the back burner.

Part of my introduction to you is to explain why I started this blog at this particular time (aside from the urging of my friend). When I was growing up, our government stored food.  They had an enormous cache of wheat, other grains and commodities stored. They freely gave them to poor citizens and seniors. . .they also shipped much of it to other countries who were much less fortunate than we are. At one time, our government had enough food on hand to feed the entire world for about six months. That's a lot of food. Over the years that supply has dwindled for reasons that I won't go into. I was down to about a one month supply but the latest reports indicate that they now have less than a days worth of food to feed the world population.

You can investigate this for yourself . . . however, my point is that if (or should I say when) the bottom falls out of our economy, we cannot count on our government to feed us. We MUST be prepared to take care of ourselves and our families.

All of you have noticed the rising prices of our food. This is going to continue at an escalated rate. It's not only the high fuel prices that are generating this acceleration (though every thing must be trucked and farm equipment doesn't run on water). Throughout the world there have been major crop failures over the past few growing seasons. Droughts and floods here in the US have caused some crop failures. The worldwide rice crop has not been good for a few years running. Natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes also disrupt crops. Ponder for a minute how this affects not only us, but virtually every nation.

Our church sells food in bulk to its members through our canneries and storehouses. They have already notified members that the prices will rise between 11% and 49% during the year 2011. They sell to members at cost! What is really worrisome to me, is that I firmly believe that there WILL be food shortages in the near future. Even if you have money, you may not be able to find available food to purchase.

There is wisdom in storing basic foods . . . job loss or illness can happen to anyone and yet we all still need to eat. 

My intent is not to cry, "the sky is falling. . . " but please consider what happened following WWII in Europe. As economies are collapsing worldwide at an alarming rate, food shortages are happening too. In Germany after WWII, it literally took a wheelbarrow full of money to buy a loaf of bread IF you could find one to buy.

My intent is not to alarm anyone but to help you prepare for the worst case scenario. Y2K prompted many to store food and then everyone seemed to forget about it but we are indeed living in perilous times. Prophecies are being fulfilled at a rapid rate. The signs are all around us but are we heeding them.

I'm not suggesting that you take your life's savings and start hoarding food.  I am however, suggesting that you buy a little more each week and store it properly.  Build yourself a month's supply at a time and be sure to buy and store foods that your family will eat.  Also, let me know how many posts you would like to read each week. I'm thinking that once a week is good but I want to hear from those of you who read this blog and my goal is to meet YOUR needs. As you embark on this journey, keep in mind that there are non-food items which you and your family depend on. A little shampoo, dish and laundry soap, and toilet paper are very nice to have!

Also let me know what you want to learn about or ask questions and I will be happy to try and answer them for you. We live in perilous times and being properly prepared is critical to our well-being! 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Canning Crackers! Say What?

A couple of days ago, a friend dropped by and I was busy canning crackers. Say what? That was exactly her reaction. They had a big sale on Premium Saltines and I stocked up. Before I share with you the easy method for preserving food this way, let me introduce to you how and why I know such things.

As long as I can remember, I have been preserving and raising food. As a child, I spent long hours with my mother and grandmother picking, snapping and canning beans and lots of other things too. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I have been taught that is both frugal and provident to store and preserve food, water and other commodities for times of trial.

All my life, I have been on a budget so I am always on the outlook for a bargain. We have a big freezer that is filled with wild game and other meats, vegetables and fruits we have either raised ourselves or bought at a bargain price and an enormous pantry (well, it's actually a walk-in closet and half of a bedroom) filled with foodstuffs and other necessities.

Over the next weeks, months and years (God willing) I will share some of my techniques and hints. I will also post pictures along the way.

Now back to the story that started this blog. My friend was amazed at my wisdom and knowledge (and that amazed me) and was fascinated by all that I have stockpiled for my family. Dry pack canning is the method I used for the crackers. Living in the Heart of Dixie has it's perks, but heat and humidity are not among them and items like crackers have a very brief shelf life in this climate.

My first experience with dry packing in my oven was when I found oyster crackers on sale a few years ago. We opened up the first jar about a year later and they were as crispy and crunchy as if I had just opened the bag.

You can also preserve any other type of cracker and most cookies using this method. Other food items that dry pack well include: pasta, grits, cereals and other grains, beans (except for pinto beans and I don't know why that is), rice, popcorn, cornmeal, flour, instant potatoes, powdered milk, and many more items. You can also use Macaroni & Cheese, Hamburger Helper, Rice-A-Roni, etc. by putting the pasta or grain in first, placing the seasoning packet on top and also include the directions.

Now here is how easy it is. Fill clean canning jars with the food. Place the lid on top but do NOT tighten it. Place in a cold oven and do NOT let the jars touch. Use the middle rack if possible. Set the oven to 225° F. and use the following time table:
Start timing when the oven reaches the desired temperature.
Pints - 20 minutes
Quarts - 30 minutes
Half Gallons - 45 minutes
Tighten the lid on each jar, being careful not to get burned, and set on a towel to cool. The shelf life of these items is about 10 years if stored in a cool, dry place.

Over the next few weeks, months and maybe years, I will be adding other tips and photos.