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Hoarding for the apocalypse. October 22, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I saw a headline on the Yahoo! home page yesterday about the 36 items you need to hoard against an economic breakdown, or some such thing. Admittedly, since it was one of those one-by-one slideshows rather than a simple list, and I didn’t have time to spare, I didn’t read it. But this is a topic our friend Ben and I think about a lot. So of course last night I was lying in bed thinking about the most essential items to have on hand in case you couldn’t get to the store for a while, or if you did, the shelves would be stripped bare. Here’s what I came up with:

1. Toilet paper. This always heads our list of necessities. Our ancestors used dishcloths instead of paper towels, handkerchiefs instead of Kleenex, and cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. If we had to, we could, too, which is why OFB and I keep a supply of each of these on hand. But toilet paper? What would you use instead of toilet paper?! Wrapped in its original packaging, toilet paper will keep practically forever (as long as it’s kept dry). The issue here is space; toilet paper takes up a lot of it. 

2. Soap. Our ancestors used soap to bathe, as shampoo, as laundry detergent, and as dishwashing liquid. Their hair might not have been as glossy or their clothes as fresh as ours, but simple bar soap did the trick. Bar soap keeps forever and takes up remarkably little space. Investing in an assortment of laundry soaps (like Fels-Naptha), bathing/deodorant soaps (like Dial), kitchen soaps (try a French-milled dish soap), and all-purpose soaps (such as a glycerine or olive-oil-based soap) could pay off if you were abruptly cut off from access to our usual array of specialty products.

3. Toiletries. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, mouthwash. Nail scissors, emory boards, nail clippers, orangewood sticks, tweezers. Q-Tips and cotton balls. Deodorant and lotion. Hair ties. Vitamins. Aspirin. Bandages. If all the stores shut down, would you have enough to survive for a month? For a year? OFB and I believe that all of us should keep a year’s supply of these necessities on hand, along with a comprehensive first-aid kit that contains sting and dental kits along with allergy relief like Benadryl. And if you wear glasses or contacts, extra pairs, contacts, saline solution, and the like are a must.

4. Backups. We’re firm believers in everything from extra pillows and blankets to extra pillowcases and sheets, towels and washrags, tee-shirts, socks, jackets, shoes, jeans, sweaters, gloves, boots, earmuffs, hats, you name it. If you use it or wear it, you should have more of it. What if you can’t get more and yours wears out? What if it’s really cold inside and an extra blanket or comforter or two would mean that you could still get a good night’s sleep? Solar technology has transformed devices from calculators to radios and flashlights to smartphone and computer chargers. Wouldn’t it pay to invest in a few? Seems like cheap insurance to us. 

5. Meds. OFB and I are lucky: Vitamins and aspirin pretty much do it for us, and we can buy those in unlimited quantities if we need to stock up. But what if you need a prescription drug to survive? We don’t really have an answer here, since it seems to us that doctors are very reluctant to prescribe on a more than month-to-month basis, for whatever reason. If anybody out there’s had luck getting a longterm prescription, please share your secrets of success!

6. Heat and cooking. In much of the U.S., staying tolerably warm in winter would become a major challenge  if conventional sources of heating, such as electricity, fuel oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy broke down. The same would be true of cooking. Getting an efficient woodburning stove and an ample supply of cut and cured wood might mean the difference between staying marginally warm and freezing. On a sunny property, solar energy could heat a house and its water supply. Solar stoves can be as simple as an aluminum-foil-lined box or as complex as a high-end array, but they allow people to cook without a heat source other than the sun.  

7. Water. City dwellers may only think of water in terms of their monthly water bill. Water and sewer are one of those things that happen, and will always happen, automatically no matter what. Not so for those of us who depend on wells and septic systems. The second the electricity fails, we have no light, no internet, no water, no plumbing, no heat, no cooking, no nothing. If the electricity were to go down for an extended period, we would be driven to using the chamber pots of the 18th century and hauling water from the nearest creek or pond. Those who can afford non-electric composting toilets or whose communities still allow outhouses, go for it! Those of us who are fortunate enough to have propane (gas) stoves know that a match will give us hot food even when our electric stove starters fail (as will a woodstove, even if it’s a simple heating unit, as long as you have plenty of dry wood stored), but the same is not true of water. Storing water for drinking, water for flushing, and water for washing is essential for emergency survival.

8. Food supplies. If you have a reliable source of heat for cooking and water for hydrating, storing dry staples like beans, peas, lentils, pasta, popcorn, grits, cornmeal, and flour is a very smart idea. (Unfortunately, denatured flours and etc. like unbleached white flour will keep longer than whole-grain flours, so stock up on those vitamins.) Include lots of foods that add flavor and pleasure, not to mention concentrated nutrition. You can find dehydrated butter and cheese in powder form along with powdered milk. Don’t forget nuts and cooking oils, vinegars, condiments like mustard and ketchup, and a wide array of dried herbs and spices, as well as plenty of pepper and salt. We like RealSalt, Herbamare (herbed salt), and Trocamare (hot herbed salt).

Our friend Ben’s parents had a bomb shelter when he was a very young child, and he and his siblings loved to play pioneer in its alien confines, surrounded by bags of dried peas and jars of peanut butter. Having never eaten a pea, much less a dried pea, in his life, OFB was fascinated by this futuristic food, which brings up another important point: Learn to make good food with staples before you have to, and make sure your family will enjoy what you make. It will be hard enough to endure the inevitable deprivations of a crisis without being subjected to bizarre, tasteless foods you all hate. 

If, like us, you might find yourself without the means to reliably heat food, canned food can be an excellent storage option. You can open and eat canned beans, baked beans, corn, and the like straight from the can. Add some jarred salsa and a handful of tortilla chips, and you have a meal. (Shredded cheese and sour cream, plus hot sauce and/or pickled jalapenos, certainly wouldn’t hurt, either.) Those jars of peanut butter from OFB’s youth are a great source of calories and protein; pair them with your favorite crackers and keep those crackers in a sealed container to keep them fresh as long as possible. Dried pasta and cans or jars of crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, puree, and the like can quickly make a spaghetti supper, and onions, garlic, mushrooms, cheese, herbs, and spices can make it a family favorite. 

Apples, pears, potatoes, and sweet potatoes all keep well in cold storage; so do winter squash, onions, garlic, cabbages, and Brussels sprouts. Turnips, broccoli, kale, and winter radishes are also reliable cold-weather crops. Dried fruit and high-protein, high-cal snacks like roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds are excellent additions to salads and cheese and fruit plates. 

In short, learn which foods keep well, how to use them to make food your family will enjoy, and how to combine them to balance your nutritional needs. You don’t need to build a bunker full of military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) to survive a shortfall. But it will help if you have a pantry or larder stocked with long-lasting foods you can rely on, a couple of cookbooks devoted to cooking with storage foods, and a few reliable field guides to wildcrafting, aka supplementing your storage staples with locally available fresh greens and foods like wild mushrooms, poke greens, lamb’s-quarters, chickweed, amaranth, watercress, sorrel, purslane, ramps, even kudzu. 

9. Grow your own. You don’t need a farm to supply your family with food. A small raised bed or two, a few containers, some tomato cages, and you’re set!  You might choose to build a greenhouse for year-round food production rather than investing in a pool and hot tub, or pass up the latest prestigious landscaping trend in favor of a grape arbor, strawberry bed, raspberry trellis, chicken coop, blueberry bushes, or fruit trees. The important thing here is to know that raising your own food is work, time-consuming work, and it’s important to learn how to grow the crops you want, how to harvest them, and how to preserve them by canning, pickling, and drying (the three low-tech preserving techniques that will hold up if the electricity goes out).

10. Don’t forget Fido. Hard times aren’t just hard for you, they’re hard for your pets. Make sure you have plenty of pet food, treats, and toys on hand for your dogs, cats, birds and etc. Stock up on flea and heartworm preventives. And if your dog or cat is suffering from an illness, make sure you stockpile meds for them just as you would for any family member.

Last, but by no means least:

11. Make lots of local friends. This tip should probably be first, since it could save your life. By befriending your neighbors, you’re investing in priceless life insurance. You give eggs, fresh veggies, and home-canned goods to your neighbors. In return, they keep an eye on your property, drop in with home-baked treats, recommend reliable folks who can do specialized chores that are beyond your abilities (cheap), and make sure you know if anything unusual is happening in the neighborhood. This is how people have always survived. This is how we can survive now.

What are your best tips for being prepared?

           ‘Til next time,

                      Silence

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The S word. October 28, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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S as in snow. We’re still in October, in case someone hasn’t noticed, and should be enjoying the golden days of autumn here in our part of scenic PA. It’s rare that we have snow before Thanksgiving, and usually we enjoy a slow, delicious harvest season and revel in the crisp air, blue skies, and brilliant colors.

Apparently, this year it’s not to be. The front-page story in our local paper announced that tomorrow there’d be rain followed by between 1 and 6 inches of snow, depending on your elevation, followed by a low of 31 degrees F.

Grrrrrr!!! So much for a long, leisurely fall. Fortunately, most of our winterizing was done, but we still had a busy morning here at Hawk’s Haven. We took the last two plants into the greenhouse and turned the thermostat on for the first time (to 55, the lowest the plants can bear). (Many of our greenhouse plants spend the growing season on our deck, and trust me, hauling 50-odd plants across half an acre twice a year is no picnic.) We stored the garden hose and put the Styrofoam faucet protector over the faucet. We put the a/c cover over the outside of the one window air conditioner we possess; we’d already taped bubble wrap over the part of the a/c that’s inside.

Indoors, we stretched bubble-wrap “curtains” across the tops of  our draftier windows, and added extra bubble wrap behind the always-closed half-curtains in the bathroom window and the now-closed half-shutters over the window with the a/c. We have insulated curtains on the windows we don’t bubble-wrap, which also all happen to be double-glazed so cold is an issue but drafts aren’t.

We’d already hauled out our draft excluders and placed them against the bottoms of our outside doors, the mudroom door, and the door of an especially drafty closet. It always amazes us how much cold air those simple fabric draft excluders keep out! We’ve amassed quite an assortment over the years, but for those who would rather not shell out good money for the stuffed fabric versions, here’s a tip: A rolled cylinder of bubble wrap rubber-banded on each end works every bit as well.

Flannel sheets, a down comforter, bedspread, and heavy Pendleton wool blanket keep us toasty at night, even when the bedroom itself is frigid. (Our fleece-lined mocassins keep our feet from freezing when we get up.) And a tiny portable heater in the bathroom makes showers bearable without having to crank up our oil furnace. (We keep the thermostat dialed down to 55 through the cold months, given heating oil prices, so every bit of additional warmth we can squeeze out is well worth it.)

As for the snow itself, our friend Ben has huge Canadian snow boots, and Silence Dogood has her trusty Muck Boots fitted with Yaktrax Pros, steel coils that grip ice and prevent slipping, even when taking out our rambunctious black German shepherd, Shiloh.  One of our snow shovels broke last year, leaving us with a wide, shallow shovel but no deep-shoveled model, so getting a replacement is on our to-do list today.

And should the power go out, we can light our gas stove with matches and cook our meals by the light of Coleman battery-powered lanterns, fire up our woodstove for warmth, and call for repairs from our landline, which won’t go out in a power failure like cellphones. We can check the weather via our battery-powered weather radio, and we have another battery-powered radio for music, news, etc., plus several solar and wind-up radio/flashlights, a wind-up clock, and plenty of books, magazines, games, and the like to occupy us during daylight hours. Once it gets dark, sleeping works for us.

Stocking up is Silence’s byword for bad weather, and she’ll be out today getting a few more staples just in case. We make a point of having plenty of dry, covered wood for the stove, plus kindling and firestarters. We have a portable propane heater and lots of propane canisters to heat the greenhouse if the power fails. We have cases of bottled water for drinking and cooking, and plenty of filled gallon plastic water bottles for flushing and watering plants. (We’re on a well, so a power failure means no water for plumbing or drinking.) We stock up on food for all the critters—cats, dog, chickens, parrot, parakeets, and fish—plus litter for the cats and seed for the wild birds who visit our feeders. For our own use, Silence stocks up on onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and other produce that is best stored at room temperature and requires no special treatment.

Silence is a big believer in cooking up satisfying comfort foods for times like this: cornbread, lentil stew, black bean soup, spaghetti sauce, mac’n’cheese, chili, creamy pasta, roasted veggies, baked potatoes, baked beans, baked apples. All can be easily reheated for delicious, filling, warming meals. She has a whole larder of canned goods, boxed and bagged staples, herbs and spices, and the like, and replenishes them weekly to make sure everything she needs is close at hand. Should we be trapped for however long by snow, we’ll still eat great meals thanks to Silence’s foresight and ingenuity.

Here’s a last tip: Know your neighbors. How comforting to think that they’re there for you if you need a generator or to bunk down for the night or just a warm meal and good company. How relieving to think you could be there for them if they needed you. Community, connection, is what it’s all about, and never more than in an emergency.

Snow. Oh, no. But if it happens, are you ready?

Ready for the storm. December 26, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in chickens, homesteading, pets, wit and wisdom.
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The Christmas tree is ablaze, frankincense and Christmas carols fill the air, and our heads are still full of treats and presents here at Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home our friend Ben and Silence Dogood share in the precise middle of nowehere, Pennsylvania. But trouble is brewing—a heavy snowstorm dumping its load of snow all up the East Coast, accompanied by high winds and bitter cold.

We’re not talking about a White Christmas—we’re talking about 12 to 18 inches of snow, possible power outages, and traffic disruptions. We—and everyone on the East Coast—could be facing days trapped at home without power. Fortunately, our friend Ben and Silence are prepared. Are you? If not, look over our checklist and start getting ready for the next big storm.

Power up. Lots of folks count on generators to get them through power outages. We’d love to have a backup generator, too, if we could afford it. But we worry about gasoline availability, especially in a serious storm that disrupts power for more than a few days. So we installed a highly efficient woodstove in our living-room fireplace, bought a cord of wood, and stacked and tarped it to keep it safe and dry. People always ask us, don’t you keep a fire going in the living room for good cheer? Hell, no. We’re saving that wood for an emergency. If we want a cheerful fire, we light one in our outdoor firepit with downed branches and scrap paper. But when a storm’s predicted, we bring a carrier of dry, seasoned wood in and set it beside our woodstove, just in case. We have a fan on the woodstove that turns by itself as the stove heats up to blow hot air into the room, and a kettle for humid air and tea or coffee.

Add warmth. A source of heat isn’t the only warmth you’ll need in a power outage. Make sure you have plenty of warm blankets, comforters, flannel sheets, and clothing on hand. Will you look ridiculous sitting in your house in silk long johns, fleece socks and fleece-lined slippers, legwarmers, flannel-lined jeans, a fleece vest, a sweatshirt and hoodie, a fleece jacket, a scarf, and fingerless wool gloves? You betcha. Will you be warm? Damn right you will.

Wrap it up. Make sure your house is as insulated and chill-proof as you can make it. Add insulation and seal drafts anyway you can. If you can afford it, replace windows and doors with more weatherproof models, seal every crack, add insulation. If, like us, you can’t afford it, use draft excluders at every door, add bubble-wrap “curtains” and insulation, buy insulating curtains or request them as birthday and Christmas presents. Every bit adds up. Can’t afford commercial draft excluders? Roll up bubble wrap, put a rubber band on each end, and push the roll against your door. Voila! No more draft. You may have gotten packages with bubble wrap this very Christmas; use it rather than tossing it!

Water and plumbing. Here in the scenic middle of nowhere, we’re on a well and septic system. Perhaps city folk have access to running water and flushing toilets even when their power goes out. Unfortunately, wells are electronically powered, so if the power fails, we have no running water, which means no drinking water, bathing water, or flushing toilets. So we keep cases of spring water on hand at all times for drinking and cooking, and gallon jugs of tap water stashed in the greenhouse (for watering plants) and the laundry room (for flushing toilets) at all times. We also have low-tech “waterless toilets” (available from outdoor outfitters like Cabela’s) on hand should our water supply dry up. We’d love to have an outhouse and composting toilets, but until we win the lottery, these makeshift options will work when we need them to.

Let there be light. A power failure that plunges you and yours into pitch blackness is scary, especially once the sun sets. We keep a store of long-burning candles and matches, a cache of flashlights, and two battery-operated Coleman lanterns on hand to help us light our way. We have a number of hand-cranked and solar-powered radios and flashlights. We’ve bought a number of tin candleholders with reflectors to up the light factor should need arrive. And we remind ourselves that crawling under the covers and getting plenty of extra sleep beats trying to read, knit, or play by candlelight anytime.

Can you cook? Here at Hawk’s Haven, we have a gas (propane) stove. But it’s electronically lit, so when the power fails, you turn the dial and nothing happens. Fortunately, you can do as our ancestors of old and light the burners or oven with a match, so you can cook even during a power failure. Hot food on a cold, dark, blizzardy night is hard to beat. And we have our woodstove and two solar ovens as backup.

Stock up. Keeping the pantry, larder, and fridge stocked makes super-good sense in winter, when a storm could strike and strand you far from a source of groceries for who knows how long. Here at Hawk’s Haven, we garden and put up our own food every year. But Silence also keeps an eye out for opportunities to stock up. Each time she shops for groceries, she tries to add several canned and frozen staples and other herbs, spices and necessities to the larder, along with onions, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbages, winter squash, and radishes. She makes sure there’s always enough cheese, butter, olive oil, yogurt, and seasonings to carry us through even a prolonged emergency. Don’t forget dry goods! Silence stocks up on several months’ worth of flour, pasta, rice, oats, cornmeal, light bulbs, paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, and napkins, as well as dish soap, liquid soap, bar soap, shampoo, toothpaste, detergent, and laundry detergent. She also stocks other necessities like Q-tips, emery boards, hand lotion, toothbrushes and dental floss, aspirin, cough drops, decongestants, medicinal teas, and vitamins.

Treat time. Normally, Silence Dogood is a food Nazi. Well, okay, she makes sure our friend Ben has tortilla chips, salsas, and pepper jack cheese, plus Triscuits, assorted cheeses, veggies and dips, hummus and pita, and fresh fruit. But in winter, she adds assorted dried fruits, nuts, and chocolate to the mix, plus special treats like garlic-jalapeno pistachios and wasabi peanuts, pretzels, oatmeal and peanut butter cookies, and even our friend Ben’s favorite, Cheetohs, plus various potato chips, popcorns, sunflower and pumpkinseeds, and—gasp!—the occasional doughnut, cruller, or cupcake. As she says, these high-cal foods can be lifesavers when the temperatures drop and the power goes off.

Think ahead. If you’re anticipating a big storm and power outage, think ahead. Do you have plenty of light sources? Do you have several sources of warmth? Have you made bread, soup, stew, and other staples ready to heat up over an alternative source of warmth like a woodstove or Sterno burner? Do you have plenty of food, like cheese, crudities, breads, dips, deli meats, and canned tuna that you can eat without having to heat them? Do you have adequate beverages? When foul weather threatens, have you done your laundry, taken a shower, and done your baking and cooking right away, before there’s a corncern about power failures? 

What about your pets and plants? Every winter, Silence insists that we stock extra cat litter and extra food, treats, toys, and meds for all our creatures. We have a propane heater and mini-propane tanks to kick in if power fails in the greenhouse. With a dog, three indoor cats and one outdoor cat, a parrot, three parakeets, two fishtanks, five chickens, and numerous plants, we can no more afford to leave our critters to starve than we could leave ourselves. Make sure you’ve provided shelter, warmth, water, and adequate nutrition to your pets this Christmas season. Then, no matter what happens outside, you’ll know your beloved pets are provided for.

Be a good neighbor. As it happens, our next-to-next-door neighbors are 87 and 90 years old.  And this year, husband Carl has a bad chest cold. So we volunteered to rush out and get them groceries and other necessities before the storm hit. Driving back to their home with two stuffed grocery bags, we were surprised but delighted to receive a loaf of homemade pumpkin bread and a tin of cookies. Love thy neighbor as thyself, and God willing, thy neighbors will do the same for thee!

Think entertainment. DVDs, the internet, CDs, TV, books, magazines, newspapers. Eating out, going to movies or shows, shopping. Well, ahem: What if the power fails and/or you can’t leave your home? What if you’re trapped for days or even weeks? Board games like Monopoly, cards, puzzles, crosswords, solitaire, Mah Jong, Chinese checkers, chess, checkers, ping-pong, and billiards are options when the power fails. All you need is a deck or board and a source of illumination. During the day, a collection of books and a bright window will provide hours of entertainment. Yes, you really can live without TV, texting, and the internet, at least for a few days.  

What else? Keep you car’s gas tank full so water won’t build up in the line. Make sure you have a good snow shovel in your garage and a smaller version in your trunk. Join AAA, and keep your cell phone with you and charged at all times. Lock de-icer is essential.

We’d never join the ranks of those morons who cheerfully chirp “Let it snow!” while assuming someone else will take care of all their problems. But with plenty of advance preparation, lots of good friends, neighbors, and family, and a loving, well stocked home, we think you’ll do all right.

Be prepared. September 19, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Does anybody out there in the blogosphere still remember Y2K, the widespread panic that pervaded 1999 as the new millennium approached? Everyone was terrified that the century’s turn would cause computers to freeze, paralyzing society and causing deprivation and disaster on a scale that would make Katrina look like a mild afternoon rain.

The dire predictions of Y2K never, fortunately, came to pass. Life went on, and everyone who’d been stockpiling food and medicine against the impending breakdown breathed a collective sigh of relief and got back to business as usual. Or maybe not.

Our friend Ben thought Y2K was actually a great thing, since it made many people in America consider their preparedness potential for the first time ever. Could they survive being cut off from the grid, cut off from everything, for a week? Two weeks? A month? What a great opportunity to upgrade your staples and self-sufficiency skills!

Here at Hawk’s Haven, we’d had a wakeup call long before Y2K. When we bought our little cottage, Silence Dogood and I were naive enough to think that we were in relatively good shape. We had a well, a gas stove, and oil heat. If the power failed, we’d still have everything but light, right? And we’d stocked up on candles and matches. We were set!

Then, during a February ice storm, the power went off. We had a dear friend staying with us at the time. And it was then that we learned the bitter truth of our situation: That all our apparently self-maintaining amenities were actually electronically operated. If the electricity failed, every damned thing shut down. We had no running water, no plumbing, no heat, no cooking, no light. We were totally, royally screwed.

Yes, our friend Ben and Silence took this as a wake-up call, bigtime. Once the ice storm had subsided enough for us to drive, we rushed out and bought a marvelously efficient used catalytic woodburning stove and had it installed in the living room fireplace. We bought a heat-activated fan to sit on the woodstove and blow hot air into the room (the hotter the stove, the faster the blades spun round). We got a cord of hardwood cut to the size that would fit our woodstove (16 inches). We got many bottles of water so we could flush the toilets, at least occasionally, if the electricity went off and the plumbing stopped working. And we continued to get spring water delivered—we have 8 cases in our mudroom—in case the well is shut off and we need drinking water.

Sure enough, some of our friends started referring to us as survivalists, with our emergency solar cookers, hand-cranked clothes washer, and first-aid kits. We have solar and hand-cranked flashlights and radios, battery-operated lanterns, and propane heaters. Not to mention the stocked-up dried and canned produce, dehydrated cheese, milk, and butter, and first-aid and dental kits. Our cars have emergency rations and water, space blankets and fleece jackets, umbrellas, first-aid kits, and an assortment of tools in them at all times. 

But we know we’re not really prepared. We still have water issues, and long for a second well that’s windmill-powered. Without water, we can’t sustain life. It’s that simple. We try to keep plenty of supplies on hand for our pets, livestock, and wild birds, but we know how quickly they go through them. And a cord of wood is nothing if you have to depend on wood heat to get you through the winter.

Aagghhh! We know we’re not alone in our concern. Alan of Roberts Roost (www.robertsroost.com) recently posted “24 hours withour electricity.” Becca at BrightHaven Times (http://brighthaven.wordpress.com/) recently observed that she, spouse James, and her family were re-evaluating their current lifestyle with an eye to more frugal living. Our friends and fellow bloggers Aunt Debbi of Aunt Debbi’s Garden  (http://auntdebbisgarden.blogspot.com/) and Cindy of Cinj’s Chat Room (http://cbmvwag.blogspot.com/) have both noted here on Poor Richard’s Almanac that they’ve come up with ways to avoid the ubiquitous ATMs and their push towards mindless spending. And bloggers like Sean of Bamboo Geek and TrashWatch (http://bamboogeek.blogspot.com/ and http://trashwatch.blogspot.com/) and Genie of The Inadvertent Gardener (http://inadvertentgardener.wordpress.com/) are inspiring us all with their efforts to live green.

Maybe Y2K has faded into memory. But what about 9/11, Katrina, and Ike, not to mention soaring food and fuel prices and an unstable economy? Do you remember our government’s instructions to stock up on plastic and duct tape?! (Yeah, right.) Did you grow up in the height of the Cold War with a bomb shelter in your basement, full of dried peas and other weird staples your family would never have dreamed of eating?

Our friend Ben thinks it’s high time to think about your family’s needs and try to be prepared. Check our blogroll for links to Backwoods Home Magazine and The Mother Earth News, both of which provide tons of useful information about self-sufficient living. Learn a new skill like canning or drying food, wiring or plumbing, or emergency health or veterinary care. Make sure you have enough warm clothing and bedding for your family, even if you have to buy it at Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Get a weather radio or another way to find out what’s happening in a national emergency. Contact your local master gardeners’ program and learn how to grow a Victory Garden. Build a root cellar and/or pantry and stock up.  

At the end of the day, our friend Ben and Silence think that only by sticking together, supporting our neighbors and our communities, can we hope to survive an economic disaster. None of us can do it alone. But taking precautions and learning essential skills will help. Can you start a fire, cook on a fire, keep your family warm and dry? Do you have enough stores to share with your neighbors? What will you do if your electricity and water supplies shut off, maybe for weeks?

If you haven’t prepared for the Apocalypse, don’t despair and don’t feel overwhelmed. Buy stuff you could possibly need little by little when you shop for groceries. Get a pack of matches, extra toilet paper, dried milk, vitamins. Every week, add a few things to your stash, like rice and canned beans, cooking oil and water. Take a tip from people like the Mennonites and Mormons, who practice preparedness as a religious tenet, and stick to foods your family will actually eat, and then eat it and rotate your food supplies so your food in storage is always fresh. Cookin’ with Home Storage by Vicki Tate is a solid introduction to actually using your stash of food supplies.

Goodness knows, our friend Ben and Silence would rather be mocked by our friends as survivalists than go hungry, thirsty, or cold in an emergency. Wouldn’t you?