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Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Turn off your tv and other electronic devices then go for a walk, for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week, in your neighborhood. No, you don't have to wave to your neighbors, yet, but if they wave, wave back.
In emergency preparedness, there is a rule. The rule is called the "3 to 5 Rule of Dying." It goes something like this:
3 to 5 seconds without thinking
3 to 5 minutes without breathing
3 to 5 hours without shelter
3 to 5 days without drinking
3 to 5 weeks without eating
technically, a tornado can occur anytime. but texas tornado season is typically from march through june, but, so you'd best be gettin' ready.
so, if you chance to meet a tornado (and according to live science, texas is the tornado champion, with an average of 110 tornadoes per year!):
the best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to be alert to the onset of severe weather. do not ignore the weather because of indifference or over-confidence - pay attention!
Q: how do i know? what is the difference between a warning and a watch?
A: if a watch has been issued for your area, a tornado is possible. if a warning has been issued for your area, then it means that a tornado has been actually spotted, or is strongly indicated on the radar, and you should seek a safe shelter immediately.
Q: where is the safest place to go during a tornado?
A: unless you have a storm shelter specifically designed for this purpose, the best place to go is into a small, windowless room on the first floor, such as a bathroom or closet. if this is not possible, a hall closet is probably your next best bet. if possible, cover yourself with a mattress to keep flying or falling debris from injuring you or take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture.
Q: how should i prepare for a tornado?
A: make sure that you and your family conduct regular emergency drills - so everyone knows where to go and what to do. the last thing you need is to panic! if you are outside your home, make sure that you have all agreed on a "contact person," someone who is outside the area that you can all contact should you be separated from your family.
and of course, a tornado would be a classic example of when you would need your 72-hour kit. stay tuned for an entire post and checklist for your 72-hour kits.
- laundry uses and general household cleaning -- clorox has a list of uses that i never would have thought of
- you can use it to disinfect water and make it potable for drinking - see here for step-by-step instructions on how to do that
- and for the two very best reasons: it can kill and kinds of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other harmful bugs that you really don't want around you or your family (for a list of all that cannot stand up to bleach, click here)
- in the case of a pandemic -- believe it if you'd like, but many say it's only a matter of time -- you would really want some way to keep your home free of germs as best as possible, and bleach is the cheapest and most efficient way to kill germs
and of course, the lawyer in me can't leave out this word of caution: bleach is hazardous if ingested or inhaled, and should be used and stored with care, and out of reach of your children or pets.
Attention to everyone who ordered a WonderMill Electric Mill through our site in the past month … all of the backordered mills should now have been shipped, YAY!
We have had a few readers ask us why we chose to recommend the WonderMill Grain Mills and even become an authorized dealer for them. We decided to give you a break down of the research we did on wheat grinders/grain mills to show you how we determined that they are our favorites.
Types of Wheat Grinders (Grain Mills)
Manual Wheat Grinders (Grain Mills)
- Basic models are inexpensive (good ones are similar in cost to electric mills)
- Can be used with no power source so they are great for emergency situations
- Many models are very small thus requiring little storage space
- Able to grind items such as oily seeds, nuts, herbs, and coffee that would normally ruin an electric mill
- SLOW to grind (can take 5-6 minutes to grind one cup of flour)
- Except for the very high-end models, you cannot grind grain into a fine flour
- Some models are inconvenient (messy and hard to fit a large bowl underneath)
- Less expensive than an electric grinder
- Small to store
- Convenient to use the grinder attachment and then mix bread dough in the same machine
- We have heard from multiple sources that these units will BREAK your KitchenAid mixer
- Must have a generator or battery pack to use with no electricity
- Not as fast at grinding as electric grinders
Electric Wheat Grinders (Grain Mills)
- Grinds VERY quickly thus making it easy to use in your everyday cooking
- Easy to select how coarse or fine to grind your grains
- Large capacity for grinding a lot of grains/legumes at a time
- Fairly expensive, even for the lower-end models
- Must have a generator or battery pack to use with no electricity (unless you buy a high end model that comes with a manual crank)
- Large appliance to store in your kitchen
Prices of Wheat Grinders (Grain Mills)
Manual Wheat Grinders
- Low: $20-30 models will not grind flour, only coarse corn meal, etc. Not very useful.
- Medium: $75-$225 is a good price range. Back to Basics Grain Mill can be found for around $70. It can grind fine enough for bread flour but not for very fine cake flour. The Wonder Junior is higher-priced at $169 but it can grind into cake flour and is higher quality. The Wonder Junior Deluxe is slightly more expensive but includes a counter clamp and burr heads for use in your kitchen.
- High: Up to $400 for the Country Living Grain Mill. It is quicker than other manual grinders and is able to grind a fine cake flour (can also add a small motor to it to make it electric). The Family Grain Mill is $119 for a manual mill, but $259 to include a motorized base. You can also attach it to a Bosch if you don’t want to purchase the base.
- $80-120, some may be used on any stand mixer.
Electric Wheat Grinders
- Low: Under $200 for grinders such as the Blendtec Grain Mill. This model is very noisy and cannot grind at a very coarse setting.
- Medium: $200-$300 can get you a great grinder. The two most popular electric grinders are the WonderMill and the NutriMill. In our tests we found the WonderMill to be faster, quieter, cleaner, and easier to store. And priced at $259 it is slightly cheaper than the NutriMill which is $269.
- High: You can purchase the Country Living Grain Mill for $400 and add a small motor to it to function as an electric mill.
Our Wheat Grinder Recommendations
- If you are planning to use your food storage and wheat grinder only if an emergency situation arises, it is not worth the expense and hassle of buying and storing an electric grinder. At a minimum you should get the Back to Basics Grain Mill which will enable you to at least bake bread. However, we would highly recommend purchasing the Wonder Junior Deluxe as it will do everything an electric grinder does and grind quicker and better than the Back to Basics Grain Mill. The Family Grain Mill might be a good option as well since you could have both the manual AND electric functions, but we haven’t personally tried that one yet.
- If you plan to “store what you eat and eat what you store” we recommend the WonderMill Electric Grain Mill. It is the one that both of us use and we absolutely love it. If you are worried about what to do without power, you can pick up an additional hand grinder at a later time, or work on alternate power sources. We feel that the functionality and ease of use of the WonderMill is the best option for frequent usage.
First, I want to state that the suggestions I make in this post require very little in the way of equipment, installation or, really, intelligence. The main thing to know is that there are different kinds of water: white water (clean, potable water that you can drink), gray water (used water that may have some chemical or particulate matter in it) and black water (water that has fecal matter in it). Because of the high potential for disease, I'm not going to include black water (mainly water flushed from your toilet) in this discussion because processing that kind of water takes more than most people are interested in doing.
So, what kind of household water can you use?
Well, the most obvious is rainwater capture. Roof run-off collected in rain barrels is the easiest way of going about it, but unless you have multiple rain barrels stationed at every downspout, you won't get a tremendous volume, which is probably okay for most of you anyway. Additionally, most of us aren't interested in digging up the yard and burying a cistern, but that certainly is a great way to store your rainwater. So, I'm going to assume that most people will be willing to try a rain barrel or two, just to see what it's like before investing in anything more complicated.
What can you use your collected rainwater for? If you don't mind lugging around a lot of buckets, you can use it for flushing your toilets, washing your windows or any other number of creative uses in addition to watering your lawn and plants (indoor and outdoor). I also have a low-budget idea for using it for shower water (to be explained in a future post). I would suggest it for washing your car, but you should already know that washing your car at home is a bad idea unless you do so on a permeable surface to filter out the grease, dirt and other goop your car collects. We don't want that dirty water draining straight into the local waterways.
There are a number of potential issues that come up when discussing captured rainwater for use on food plants. Because of the dust, dirt, bird poop and chemicals that can leach from roof surfaces, you might want to look into a "first-flush" system where the first five minutes (or equivalent amount of rainwater) of runoff gets diverted away from your rain barrels. Kind of like rinsing off the roof before using the rain that falls afterwards. Of course, using captured water on fruit or nut trees shouldn't pose a problem.
Here I'm referring to the water that comes from your sinks, bathtub or shower that doesn't get used - mostly because you are waiting for the water to heat up. This water can be collected in buckets (shower/bath) or Tupperware (for smaller sinks and the kitchen). Water captured in clean containers specifically for this purpose can be used for drinking or filling the pet's water bowls. Remember, this water is clean and potable, it just wasn't the "right" temperature. Again, the water collected can be used for watering indoor and outdoor plants as well.
Water from the shower can be used for flushing the toilet (just dump it into the toilet bowl until it flushes) or really any number of the uses mentioned in the above section. Since this water is clean you can use it for food plants with no worries. One thing I like to do is to keep a rain barrel just for dumping warm up water since I know it has no contaminants in it (like the aforementioned bird poop and asphalt shingle juice) and can be safely used on food plants when the rain is less prevalent and I actually need to water my food plants (like during the summer versus the rest of the year).
Gray water gets a little more tricky, mostly because of what might be in the water. Used water from the bath, washing machine, and bathroom sink are considered gray water*. It's a little difficult to capture sink water (unless you divert it from the drain), so the easiest gray water to reuse is from a bathtub/shower and washing machine if your machine plumbing drains into a sink or is easy to divert.
Since we are dealing with water that potentially has some contaminants in it, it can safely be used on nonedible landscape plants only. Some plants may be sensitive to the sodium and chloride found in some detergents, but if you are using more natural cleansers this may not be an issue. Gray water may actually be better for your plants since some detergents contain nitrogen or phosphorus which are plant nutrients. Basically, the rule of thumb is to experiment in small quantities with plants and see how it is tolerated and/or use biodegradable soaps.
I would also caution against using diverted washing machine water if you are doing a load of cloth wipes, cloth diapers or the like that may contain fecal matter, since you don't want to be using this water without some extra precautions. In addition, don't keep your gray water sitting around for more than 24 hours, since there is an increased risk of growth, bacterial and otherwise.
Gray water can also be used for watering fruit trees, flushing the toilet or pre-rinsing those poopy cloth diapers. Finally, some areas have laws against using gray water. Since you aren't employing some huge gray water system in the yard, I can't imagine you'd run into any problems, but you should look into it, if you end up diverting all your washing machine water out into the yard or something of the like.
*Water from the kitchen sink drain, garbage disposal and dishwasher usually is considered black water because of high concentrations of organic waste.
What kind of household water do you capture or reuse? If you aren't doing any of the above, which would you be interested in doing?
- Clean-up stuff. Most disasters leave a mess which requires clean-up supplies such as trash bins, trash bags, rubber gloves, boots, gloves, demolition equipment, etc.
- Paperwork stuff. Particularly papers that have to do with insurance, titles/deeds, identification, financial accounts, etc.
- Stuff to set up your home away from home. If you must evacuate during the clean-up phase, you at least want to be comfortable. All of your bug-out supplies should be easily accessible (and not damaged by the disaster). These include clothes, food, camping equipment, etc.
- Back-up stuff. If the crux of your life is housed in your computer, make sure you have an off-site back-up copy of all of your computer files.
- Money. Money is good in most all situations, especially when you will have a number of unexpected expenses.
- Recording stuff. After a disaster you need to document everything so that you will (hopefully) be reimbursed at a later date. Use a pad of paper and pen, a voice recorder, a digital camera, and/or a camcorder to record all pertinent information such as items destroyed, clean up and replacement expenses, etc.
- Contact list. Your friends, acquaintances, and services providers will be more valuable than ever after a disaster. Have a contact list so that you can get a hold of these people to provide moral support, clean up assistance, and repairs to your home.
- Mental health stuff. If you were injured during a disaster, people will make sure you get fixed up at the nearest medical center. If you were psychologically damaged during a disaster, people may not realize this. Make sure you get the mental health care you need if you suffer from post traumatic stress, depression, or other disaster-related conditions.
The recovery phase of a disaster is just as important as the preparation phase. Make sure you put the recovery components in place before you need them.
The problem was I didn't feel like making marmalade. I got marmaladed-out during the summer of 2007. We're still eating that marmalade, all five different kinds of it. Rob mentioned making jelly in the comments from my post earlier this week so I decided to try that instead. I found a recipe online that looked good and was encouraged by the 10 min prep promise.
That prep time was a vicious lie. Granted, I doubled the recipe so there was more labor involved, but it took far longer than 20 minutes of prep time. Perhaps the recipe author has gigantic tangerines that magically peel and chop themselves for the recipe and then drain in a few minutes. I don't. My tree produces puny little fruits. It takes a while to peel and chop them. A long while.
Nevertheless, I finally got my 12 cups of chopped tangerine pulp in the pot with the 2 cups of chopped lemon pulp, cup of thinly sliced tangerine peel, and 2 cups of water. After bringing this to a boil, I was to reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. I was tired by this point and was glad to sit down. I was not happy to hear the pot boil over a couple of minutes later. I moved it to the other burner, left the lid ajar, turned the flame as low as possible, and cleaned up the mess. I got to sit for a total of one more minute before the damn thing overboiled again. You don't want to know what I said, but at that point, I turned off the heat, put the lid on, and just let it sit without heat for a couple more minutes.
The next step was to strain it through a jelly bag. Got that, but don't have a stand. Argh. So, I lined a colander with cheesecloth and poured in the glop. Half an hour later, there were maybe four cups of juice in the bowl. It was supposed to yield 8 cups. Thinking the cheesecloth/colander was the problem, I rigged up the jelly bag to hang from my pot rack with the pulp. It yielded about 2 tablespoons of additional liquid. Great.... So much for something easier than marmalade.
By this time, it was late and I was frustrated so I put the juice in the fridge and went to bed. The only option I had this morning was to juice the remaining tangerines I'd hoped to save for my sweetie to snack on. There is one token tangerine left for him. Did that bring my juice total up to 8 cups? No. I also had to fish out the frozen orange juice concentrate tucked in the back corner of the freezer for the final cup and a half!
I prepared my jars - 5 half-pints (per batch) - and started making the jelly in two separate batches. For each batch, I mixed four cups of the juice (a mix of strained and fresh) with 1 package of dry pectin. When this came to a boil over high heat, I dumped in 5 cups of sugar. At this point, you've really got to be paying attention because the jelly will come to a full rolling boil. This is why a mere 4 cups of juice go into a big ol' pot! The stuff needs to boil hard for 1 minute before the foam is skimmed off and the jelly is ladled into the hot jars. Ten minutes of processing in the hot water bath and it's all done.
- Don't try to cook a double batch of jelly. It may not set.
- Measure all of your sugar out ahead of time so you can add it quickly.
- Use a large pot, even for what seems like a small batch of jelly.
- Get the hot sterilized jars out of the canning pot during the jelly's one minute hard boiling period. That way you can get it into the jars quickly before it starts setting up.
Besides the money you save by preserving your own garden surplus, re-using canning jars over and over, and buying sugar and pectin on sale, there are ways to cut costs while canning.
Frugal canning tips:
- Be organized. Have your ingredients and supplies ready before starting. Jars need to be sterilized in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes before putting the food in them. Time your food preparation to finish at the same time as the sterilization period.
- Sterilize an extra jar in case the recipe makes extra. I often end up with more than the recipe is supposed to yield so I always prepare an extra jar. In a pinch, I use a commercial jar for the excess, put it right in the fridge, and use it up quickly. (This recipe was supposed to yield 5 half-pints. The first batch made 6 half-pints, a 4 oz jar, plus a little more.)
- Scrape every bit of food out of the pot. With jelly, this means there will be lumps in the final jar. I am less concerned with whether my jelly is clear and gorgeous than I am with avoiding food waste. One ugly, but still tasty, jar of jelly is fine with me.
- Taking this one step further this morning, I even saved the foamy stuff I skimmed off the jelly before putting it in the jars. It tasted just fine on my breakfast toast. I also scraped the jelled jelly off the utensils and added it to my little spare jar of jelly I'd already put in the fridge.
- Can several batches of food back to back to take advantage of the boiling canning water. It takes a fair bit of energy to get that mass of water up to a boil, so be ready with another set of jars to sterilize and fill as soon as you get the first batch out of there.
- When done with the canning, take advantage of the hot water. Use it to wash up all the dishes. Wash the sticky floor with it. Let it sit and humidify the house with the steam. Dump it in a bucket to soak really dirty laundry. Unclog a drain by putting some baking soda and vinegar in it for a few minutes and then pour in the very hot water. Let it cool and use it to flush the toilet.
What are you going to can this week?
I watched all the videos over the weekend and, while I probably won't make the recipes, I gleaned some great tips. This information will look somewhat familiar because bloggers, including myself, are picking up ways to decrease our food costs and environmental footprints from many sources. The tips I gleaned from her videos are listed below with my additional comments or links in italics.
- Starches such as potatoes, pasta, and bread are cheap and fill your belly.
Use whole grain, if possible, for more nutrition and fiber. Wheat berries, for example.
- Lentils are a cheap and filling source of protein. Meat was very expensive and rare; the cuts were very thin.
Lentils are the fastest cooking of the legumes, and will therefore use less energy.
- Cut potatoes in small cubes so they cook faster, using less energy.
- Finish cooking foods by covering the pan and turning off the heat.
See Retained Heat Cooking for taking this a step further.
- Trim the bruised parts off fruits and vegetables rather than throwing out the whole item.
Anything to avoid food waste is good!
- One tip I would add is use a rubber spatula to scrape every last bit of food out of the bowl or pot.
- You can survive with salt and pepper as your only seasonings.
Grow some herbs for variety.
- Use lots of olive oil; it's healthy.
I disagree with this one. While oil was an easy source of calories in hard times, its copious use is not a nutritious part of the diet. (See these two articles.)
- Grow your own vegetables for more variety in your diet.
- Save seeds from your food to dry and replant next year.
- Make sure your neighbors know they can't harvest from your garden without permission.
Help them develop their own food security to reduce theft issues.
- Keep chickens for your egg and meat needs.
- Eat smaller portions.
Americans today are used to super-sized meals. Huge portions were not available during the Great Depression.
- If you live in a cold climate, you can bury food in the snow instead of owning a freezer.
I'm assuming they didn't have a dog...
- Turn the heat down and bundle up to stay warm.
See Crunchy Chickens' challenge and read the comments for ideas on how to stay warm.
- Find cheap sources of entertainment. Read a book aloud to the family, for example.
- And, most importantly: Don’t use up everything you have; keep some aside, in case conditions get worse.
It always is helpful to know what you are planning for - and this is particularly an issue when speaking of creating systems to live without fossil fuels. What are you likely to run into? How long could the power be off? Is it really an issue at all?
Now I’m on record as saying the most likely utility scenario is this - you can’t afford to pay your bills, and they shut you off. This happens all the time to poor people, and the number of utility shut-offs is dramatically up. So that’s scenario number 1 - that your gas or phone or electric bill rises up to the point that you can no longer pay it, and eventually, you have to give up that service.
But what about other possibilities. Here’s my take in order of likelihood:
1. Regular blackout/brownouts during hot weather. With increased heat waves, we’re likely to see more and more strained power plants, and poweroutages during high summer. Besides the heavy drains on resources during hot weather, this may happen because of drought - both coal and nuclear plants require copious water for cooling, and in very dry periods, can shut down. One study suggested the Southwest may eventually struggle to produce sufficient electric simply because there won’t be enough water to keep the plants going.
2. More and more extended power outages. Hmmm…this year we had Houston with a Hurricane, Kentucky with an ice storm, large chunks of the Northeast with same, parts of the Midwest with flooding….yeah.
The odds are good that sooner or later, due to some major issue, you’ll find yourself going a couple of weeks without power - maybe longer. It took 3 weeks to get everyone back in Houston, and more in Kentucky. And if you live in ice or hurricane or blizzard or wind or flood or fire prone areas, you can expect it to happen more often.
3. Intermittency - remember Enron and the rolling blackouts? There are a lot of grid and power consumption issues with our electrical system. Some of them may be managed in the coming years with more cyclical intermittency - ie, the power is out a couple of hours every night or every weekend.
4. Major infrastructure failure. Remember the 2004 blackout in the northeast? This would be grid infrastructure failure. So would the gas pressure falling at the end of gas lines, which was threatened several winters ago in the US. While I don’t think massive grid failure is super likely, I do think that we may see plenty of localized - or even not so localized interruptions.
6. Stuff breaks, never gets fixed, particularly in the outer regions. There may come a point at which it simply isn’t economically feasible to really maintain infrastructure for areas outside large population centers. We may see that repair trucks stop coming out, or take a long, long time to do so.
7. Catastrophic constraint in supply. We’ve already seen this with the European gas situation this winter, where geopolitical situations constrained European consumers of natural gas and left them without heat. Canada is in the situation of being obligated to sell their natural gas to the US disproportionately - they may renegotiate if they find themselves with insufficient gas for their own heating needs. We certainly could see geopolitical constraints on access to heating oil.
I think none of these situations is tremendously unlikely, and to me, this means that none of us should be completely complacent that what we hope we’ll get from our utility companies will always keep coming as we’d like it. Everyone needs a backup plan for life without them.
By Joseph Parish
Traditionally a good number of people often judge cats as a municipal nuisance. This perception likely stems from the outward determination towards their free will and their independent nature, however I would like to communicate a brief article here in support of the felines during extended periods of crisis.
Without reservation it can be said that when the balloon finally goes up most people will aspire to be with their family and this is rightfully so. Police and fire protection will be at a scant minimum. The majority of our local utility company personnel will be at home with their wives and children as well. This certainly introduces the proposal of having extended lengths of time without functioning utilities. Most of the cities public servants will either take the day off from work or flat out refuse to go in. Instead we can count on them being at home for the duration of the emergency.
With this said you can imagine the tribulations that we will swiftly begin to face. Trash pickup will draw to an immediate halt. This stand still of a vital community service will rapidly deteriorate into a public clutter on or once clean streets and lawns. Thus, folks who do place the trash receptacles at their curb will quickly come to understand that there simply are no workers to pick it up. We have witnessed a similar scenarios in many of our major cities during the trash workers strikes in the past however, consider for a moment that this diversion will not be over in only a week or two but may last for many months down the road.
As most people will agree when you have a vast accumulation of trash and debris being assembled you establishing an invitation to rodents and in particular to the rat population to feast out on what is readily available for them. Within only a few short weeks the rat population would be tremendous. Disease will quickly spread throughout our communities and deaths may start to occur at an alarming rate.
This scenario is not some far stretch of my imagination. It could and likely would happen when TSHTF. Realizing what is at stake here and the consequences of what could happen I have found that I am more then disposed to encourage both feral and pet cats to inhabit my immediate neighborhood. I have found that I gain a slight feeling of safety from the thought of the potential rodents when viewing the felines residing close by. I encourage everyone to think carefully about the usefulness of these animals and perhaps feed them in the event that they would have to come to our aid during a major time of crisis.
Copyright @ 2009 Joseph Parish
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