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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Living Paycheck to Paycheck.... Or Not.

This economy has hit everyone hard. People losing jobs. Retirement funds going negative. Dow Jones hitting the biggest drop in many a year. Grocery prices soaring. Gas prices back on the rise. Foreclosures and walk-aways happening every day. Even so-called wealthy people are forced to make some changes to their lives.

One of the traps we fall into, when times get rough like now, is living paycheck to paycheck. We might have had to dip into savings. Our stored foods for emergencies are now like a grocery store jackpot. And we can't just switch jobs because there are very few open jobs to go around.

We have to... live paycheck to paycheck.

My hubby works. He works long and hard for a little pittance of a paycheck. He takes over when the manager is gone, but doesn't get any of the perks or a matching title. He does special projects when no one else knows how to code the system, without added benefits. If he were to look for a job now, well, we glanced around and there's nothing anywhere near comparable.

I collect a small amount of disability. Some days I can barely move or remember my name, but I (usually) make myself get out of bed. Son and Hubby need me. As do the puppy, the dog, our garden, and you, our wonderful readers. On days I feel better, I write a few days worth of postings on the probability that I might not want or be able to get online.

We live "paycheck to paycheck". Even though we had savings and stockpilings, hard times hit us like everyone else. We've dipped into everything. So I decided to do a little research, to help us but also for those of you who may be in a similar situation:
  1. Consider moving into a cheaper living situation (if we can't afford to pay cash for our next homestead, we'll rent or move in with mom-in-law or do something else);
  2. Take care of your stress (see our earlier posting: "Don't Stress"
  3. Take responsibility for your situation - whether you got laid off by no fault of your own, it was an act of god or you blew your mind and laid into your boss - it doesn't matter. You need to move forward. Accept that it happened, it's in the past, and now you can look to the future as a bright new adventure.
  4. Hold yourself responsible for your financial future. Even if you have a partner, each of you take 100% responsibility on your shoulders and leave it there. Consider it a nice little jacket you can wear, and you'll shed a thread here and there as you work to beyond the "paycheck to paycheck" syndrome.
  5. Take control of the situation. I'm a list person. Here's what I came up with for us:
  • More Income: Yard sale. E-Bay. Moving to a smaller place or renting or whatever. Writing more books. Adding to our Amazon store. Using more coupons when shopping.
  • Less Spending: Our spending is already pretty limited. We don't have extras like cable. We both have old junky PAID-FOR cars so there's no trading for cheaper cars. I only drive once or twice a week. We combine our errands. Our newspaper subscription is about to run out but we're not renewing. We could use more of our stored foods (including the dehydrated produce from our last year's garden). We WILL reduce eating out to only once or twice a week, and set a limit to how much we can spend per meal (for the three of us, we can do ok on $25 - we need to get that lower). Hmm... still thinking of more.

So far so good? Okay - next few steps:

  1. Make the decision that you deserve better. You are a wonderful person, with many gifts and talents, and a good spirit. You are on Earth as a human to enjoy the human experience, so doggone-it... enjoy it! You deserve a terrific life, and by-gum, you're gonna go for it! You have the education and experience and know-how to get that dream job, or to start a business of your own or to sell your favorite hobby/crafts. Remind yourself why you're so special and so wonderful. Then remind yourself that you are worth earning good money - better money! - because of your special gifts and talents.
  2. Here's another opportunity for a list: write down (or journal) this process. Why haven't you earned as much money as you feel your deserve? List all of the excuses, er, reasons. These are just stumbling blocks, nothing more. Limiting beliefs. Are you really convinced that they actually true? Do people who earn more think these things about themselves?

Now... are you ready to change things? To earn what you are worth?

  1. Ok... imagine yourself earning the money you decided you wanted. Does that allow you more time on your homestead? With your loved ones? Do you see your storage space filling up with ammo and dried foods and toilet paper?
  2. Start hanging out with people who see you as the valuable person you are. Your new self-image can definitely match other people's image of themselves. If you have a "friend" who tells you you're stupid for even thinking about looking for a new job in this market, or that you should just shut up and stay put, or that you could never make money selling your cinnamon apple trats, drop them like a bad habit. Along the same vein, do you have "friends" who would say horrible things if you suddenly began earning a good hefty amount of money? Would they be so jealous that they would find any little thing to pick on you about? You need positive people around you. The more positive and encouraging, the better.
  3. Time to get started.... do you have a list yet of what you can do? Carve wooden toys? Grow veggies for sale? Bake homemade bread for a local organic restaurant? Baby-proof a home? Train dogs? Babysit in your home?
  4. Once you've made your list, affix your pricing structure. Whatever numbers you calculate, add on a bit more (because believing you are valuable might be a little too new to you).
  5. Start a personal blog, talking about your personal life but DON'T give out too much personal information. You want prospective employers to see the blog and your resume and examples of your work, and KNOW that you're the perfect person for their company. Strong, steady, personable, committed to doing a great job, etc. And you want potential clients (for self-employment) to see you are not a fly-by-night situation, and that you'll deliver as promised. Stay away from facebook, etc. because while those are social networking sites, they are starting to get the wrong subtext going. Be upstanding.
  6. Are you going to look for a better job? Get help with your resume to update it for today's economy. When you see a want-ad, you need to modify your resume to THAT job, because the person on the receiving end of your resume will be looking for the same key words in your resume that was in their advertisement. Make sure your resume is spell-checked, error-free, and on crisp white resume paper. The cover letter should be well-thought out, again using those same key words that were in the job advertisement, and clean/error-free. The envelope should be the same paper quality as the resume and cover letter, and typed neatly (yes, get out that typewriter if you need to).
  7. Network: use your blog, your friends, your associates, former colleagues, etc. Build up your network of contacts, and your distribution. Tell everyone your situation (looking for a job as a [fill-in-the-blank] or starting to sell your homemade [fill-in-the-blank]. If you make baskets or candles, you HAVE to market them online! Do you do any kind of training? Make a video and sell it as an immediate (auto-response) download. Word of mouth will help you.

To summarize... we're not saying to quit the job you have because that better one is coming. Please don't. Not in this economy.

We're saying with a little hard work and following the steps above, you will be able to change your life without too much disruption. And it's better than sitting and looking at the computer screen, watching your stocks tank and the corporate giants like AIG get even more bailouts! (sorry, had to get that barb in)

YOU are the only person who can change your life. YOU are the only one who truly knows what you are capable of. YOU are the best person in the world to do what YOU can do. Step it up. Do it.

Besides, NOW is the best time to change your income style because if the S*** ever (!) hits the fan, you will need to have an alternate source of income. Right?

Copyright (c) 2009 VPLW

p.s. Word of mouth would help us too! Please link our website (http://www.survival-cooking.com/) from yours! Thanks.

Original: http://www.survival-cooking.com/2009/03/living-paycheck-to-paycheck-or-not.html

Make your own shaving cream

Now is the perfect time to learn to make some of your own personal care products.

1/2 teaspoon of sunflower oil
1/4 cup of unscented glycerin soap
Double boiler
A cup or mug for the cream

In your double boiler, melt chunks of the glycerin soap.
Stir in the sunflower oil.
Move the mixture into a mug as soon as all of the glycerin chunks are melted.

This formula will set quickly. When you need to shave, simply work water against the soap until a lather builds and use it the same way you would regular shaving cream.

Original: http://vermontpreppersnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/03/make-your-own-shaving-cream.html

Can you do it yourself?

As the economy becomes more unstable, the power of our dollar will continue to decrease. What does that mean? It means the dollars in your pocket will buy less tomorrow than they did today. This will probably mean that some of the things we've been paying others to do or make for us will have to be done without or we'll have to learn to do them ourselves.

Think about some things you are paying others to do for you right now. Can you do them yourself if the need arises? Here are a few things you can learn to do yourself right now.

1. Cut your family's hair - Invest in a pair of clippers and it's really not hard at all to cut a simple hair style.

2. Bake your own bread - You don't need a bread machine to do this. There are a number of sites with simple bread recipes but I like the simple artisan bread recipe found in Mother Earth News. They have it available on their site.

3. Simple car repair - Can you change a tire, change the oil, put new wiper blades on, add water, anti-freeze, windshield washer fluid? I admit this is one area I'm sadly lacking.

4. Care for your own lawn and garden - Are you paying someone to come in and care for this for you? Invest in a simple gardening book for the type of garden you have and learn to take care of it yourself.

5. Clothing repair - Do you toss out a sock as soon as it has a hole? Even those of us who are not gifted in sewing can do simple clothing repairs as well as make simple cloth napkins or similar items.

6. Basic home repair / remodelling - Can you paint? Change a fuse? Change the filter in your furnace? Fix a leaky faucet? Re-caulk the bathtub? You'd be surprised what you can learn when you need to.

The first thing I do when I want to try something new is look for information. Right now, the internet is my main source of information but your library may have books as well. Keep your eyes open for second hand books on topics you think you may need to learn about and collect them as you find them.

Start learning new skills now because you never know when you may need them.

Original: http://vermontpreppersnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/02/can-you-do-it-yourself.html

Get out of debt

Getting out of debt is more important now than ever. Our money buys less and less each day. We need to eliminate our debt and not accumulate any new debt. This frees up our money so that we can use it in more useful ways (like prepping).

Start with your credit card or loan with the highest interest rate and put any extra money you have each month into paying that off. Do not charge anything new or take out any new loans. Continue through until each credit card, mortgage, student loan, etc is paid off.

So where do you get the extra money to pay these off?

1. Get free movies or books from the library instead of paying for them.
2. Cut out that morning latte or fast food lunch.
3. Carpool instead of driving solo.
4. Reduce your grocery bill by eliminating pre-made convenience foods.
5. Cancel your newspaper subscription & read it free online.
6. Buy clothes second hand at thrift stores instead of brand new.
7. Sell your excess on eBay.
8. Have a tag sale.
9. Reduce your long distance. Write a letter instead.
10. Eat at home instead of out at a restaurant.
11. Take your lunch to work instead of buying it.
12. Switch to cloth diapers instead of disposables.
13. Turn the thermostat down to 65 degrees.
14. Start using coupons or switch to generics at the grocery store.
15. Eliminate premium channels on your cable or satellite bill.

Once you're getting the most for your money, you can start funelling your extra into stocking up.

Original: http://vermontpreppersnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/02/get-out-of-debt.html

Emergencies on the road

It's a very good idea to keep an emergency bag or box in your car. Here are some things I'd recommend you have on hand just in case.

1. A gallon jug of water. Good for drinking if you need it or in case the car overheats. Be careful during the winter that the jug does not freeze & then crack.

2. Food. Keep some energy bars in the car just in case. I'd keep at least two bars for each person in your family. Try not to choose chocolate which will melt in the hotter months.

3. Blankets. I would keep a solar emergency blanket for each person along with several heavy wool blankets.

4. Clothes. Keep extra hat, gloves, scarf and dry socks for each person. You can also keep a spare change of jogging pants and shirt or a nylon poncho in case of rain.

5. First aid kit. Keep at least a basic first aid kit in the car along with first aid manual depending on your level of knowledge.

6. Road flares and flashlight with extra batteries. In case of a break down, it's a good idea to have these on hand.

7. Extra windshield washer fluid, oil and anti-freeze in case they are needed.

8. A tire gauge, tire jack and a spare tire in case of a flat.

You don't have to go out and buy all this at once. Each week pick one item and in a few months, you'll have a fully stocked car emergency kit.

Original: http://vermontpreppersnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/02/emergencies-on-road.html

Quote of the Day

Bread Machines

It's only right that my first "real" post on a prepper blog be about food, because that is the first thing one needs to think about when beginning to prepare for hard times.
Not just any food, but the "staff of life", bread. We don't live by bread alone, but it is pretty hard to pack more nutrition into a given space, weight, or budget than can be achieved by storing grains. Whole grains also store well, as long as they are protected from insects, other vermin, and moisture. How best to do this will be covered in a future article.

Chris at Johnson Family Farm has written a few posts about bread-making the old-fashioned way, and that is a skill we all, myself included, need to develop. If you have not yet learned this skill, however, that still shouldn't stop you from making your own bread. Bread machines do a wonderful job of making good bread while not requiring (contrary to what I had originally assumed) special ingredients. All the bread machine does is remove the drudgery, allowing you to concentrate on what goes into making good bread.

When I first bought my bread machine, I wrote this article about it. I have reprinted the article here:

I don't know how I ever got along without a bread machine. I just figured, bread is pretty cheap, and making bread really just sounds like an awful lot of work. I can still buy grains, and if I ever go through a(nother) time of extreme low-budgetness to the point that I can't afford to go to the store more than once a month, and only buy staples even then, I can just make porridge and/or sprout the grains. Of course, I have been making cornbread for decades; I guess I could have also added some other grains to the cornbread to further enrich it.
Well, I can still do those things, but now I can make bread, too! I just found a perfectly good bread machine, complete with owner's manual, for the princely sum of 2 bucks at my favorite thrift store. This allows me to make my own bread, without the necessity of spreading out a large area I don't have in my kitchen, beating, rolling and pounding on dough for hours, getting flour all over everything, scientifically regulating the temperature and humidity, and keeping all sorts of special ingredients that deteriorate at roughly the same speed as a loaf of bread.
That's not how it really is, of course, but it's how it seemed to me. I had actually thought about buying a used bread machine before, but the ones I saw at the thrift didn't come with a manual and besides, I kinda expected those machines needed even more specialized ingredients that would cost more than just buying bread, while turning out something barely edible. It was pretty much a case of, it was worth $2 just for the experience. Also, I've made my own beer, which some call "liquid bread"; how much harder can a loaf of bread be?
Boy, was I surprised! What I found out is that you can just throw in a handful of ground grain, some lukewarm water and a teaspoon of plain old yeast that any grocery store carries, and you will get bread. Probably heavy, dry, bland-tasting bread, but quite edible. I actually tried this, after my first loaf. For the first loaf I looked in the manual at the recipe for "basic bread" which called for water, instant milk powder, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, a couple teaspoons of sugar, butter, flour, and yeast. The recipe said to measure carefully and follow instructions exactly for best results. So I started with about a cup of whole milk, poured a small mound of salt in my cupped palm, about twice that of sugar,a splash of canola oil, a couple good handsful of flour, and a little mound of yeast. Pressed two buttons, and went off and did something else for about 3 1/2 hours. When I returned, I had a loaf of the best bread I have ever tasted!
Man, that was easy! Thus bolstered, I studied a little further and conducted an experiment. While boning up on this stuff I read that milk (powdered or otherwise) only enriches the bread with some extra vitamins without really adding much taste, oil or butter makes it moister but the taste is subtle, thus butter doesn't significantly improve the taste compared to plain veg oil (you can also use bacon fat or whatever), salt enhances the flavor slightly but primarily regulates the yeast action, and sugar, honey, molasses or whatever also doesn't really sweeten the bread. I mean, you can add enough to sweeten it but generally you only add a little, as a snack for the yeast. The yeast can get everything it needs from the grain, but it is just generally happier if you give it a little dessert; and as I learned from brewing beer, happy yeast makes a better-tasting product.
OK, the bottom line of all that is that, as noted before, you really only have to have three ingredients to make edible bread. So I sallied forth to make the absolute poorest bread I could muster. This is a survival exercise, now. You're boondocking in Mexico, have been for 2 1/2 months, and you're down to a few pounds each of wheat, dried beans and rice, plus a yeast culture you keep in a little flour, and perhaps a handful of jerky from a rabbit you caught in a trap a few days ago. You have two weeks yet before your dividend check is due to arrive at your P.O. box just across the border, so ya just gotta subsist on this meager fare until then.
OK: humble bread. First I went to my favorite feedstore, and got a 50 lb sack of wheat. Grain prices are 'way up this year, and it cost me $13.50 so that makes a 1 lb loaf of bread 27 cents if I'm growing my own yeast; about double that otherwise. I ground a pound of this wheat in my cast iron hand-cranked mill, running it through twice which took less than 5 minutes, then dumped it into the bread machine along with a cup of water and a little yeast, and 3.5 hours later I had a loaf of heavy, dark, bland bread. Not bad, just not tasty. It was much better with some butter smeared on, and it was fine for eating with soup, which is what I did with most of it. It would do wonders for a meal of bean-and-rabbit soup.
My next loaf of bread consisted of 1/2 lb of this same hand-ground whole wheat flour, 1/2 lb store bought cheap white flour, some bacon grease, water, a spoonful of honey, salt, and yeast. I also threw in a few spices, including crushed cayenne chile. Now THAT was some good bread!
Then I tried the dough cycle, wherein the machine makes the dough which you take out and do your thing with it. This is good for making biscuits, pretzels, pizza crust, etc.

OK, that was the end of the original article. I hope you enjoyed it.

More info:

Ohio State University Factsheet about selecting a bread machine.

I recommend finding a bread machine at a thrift store like I did. Don't worry if it doesn't include the instruction manual; all that info is available for free on the internet. However, if you would really rather buy a new one, here is a good, basic, inexpensive one:

You will also need a grain mill. Here is the one I have, and it is well worth the money:

Original: http://alabamapreppersnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/01/bread-machines.html

Living Off the Land

Living Off the Land

Author: C.L. Hendricks

For some the phrase living off the land brings back an audio memory of a song from the 1970’s; Dog Named Boo by Lobo. For others it means foraging and companionship farming. In the beginning of time all people lived off the land, hunting and gathering food. Eventually people learned how to grow crops and raise animals for food. These agricultural societies were dependent upon the land for their existence.

Living off the land, can mean learning how to grow food plants easily without employing high till, soil eroding methods requires that you give up the idea of neat rows of growing plants with dirt paths between them. A large amount of time is spent pulling weeds from traditional gardens. Weeds that are usually edible and give back nutrients that food plants remove from the soil.

American Indians used a method for producing three staple vegetables that they called the “Three Sisters.” Using primitive stone and bone tools they would prepare the soil in a circle. They would mound up the dirt. In the center would they would plant corn. Close to the corn seed they would plant three bean seeds. Around the edge of the mound they would plant squash. As the corn grew the bean stalks would wind around the stalk of the corn. As the squash grew, the large leaves would help retain the moisture from the rains to keep all three growing strong. Each plant uses different nutrients from the soil and puts back what the other plants need. Each species contributed to the well being of the other.

Planting large leaved food crops such as squash, pumpkin and melons near other smaller leaved plants helps retain moisture in the soil. Planting quick growing plants like leaf lettuce and greens in the rows between longer growing plants such as beets and turnips you harvest food long before the next one is ripe. Planting flowers in between rows has been a common practice for companionship planting. The flowers draw the bees to the garden helping with pollination.

A word of caution: If you’re using heirloom seeds, keep pumpkins away from squash, and allow lots of space between corn varieties. While cross pollination of Blue Corn and Yellow Corn may be pretty it takes many years to return each to their genetic purity. Mounding on different sides of the area solves this problem. Pumpkins take to mound planting as well as squash. Watermelons and other melons also do well when planted with beans and corn. Heirloom varieties require about 100 feet between them to be safe from cross pollination.

Foraging is almost as important as companionship farming when living off the land. Wild fruits such as raspberry, blackberry, cranberries and blueberries grow wild. Gathering these add variety and flavor to the daily meal. Many wild greens, mushrooms and roots gathered when they are ripe also add nutrients to the diet long before garden plants are ready to harvest. Wild Mustard, Lambs Quarters and Amaranth are ready to be eaten when lettuce, spinach and turnip greens are just barely recognizable.

Later in the fall the various nuts gathered and added to the stores of food that the garden produces increases volume and variety. Walnuts, Butternuts, Hazelnuts, Beechnuts and Hickory nuts are just a few of the many nuts that grow on the North American continent. Nutmeats are high in oil that can be extracted for cooking and they are high in protein. They are well worth gathering.

Living off the land requires that you store what you grow and gather. Canning, water bath and pressure canning, through drying or freezing or cold storing the food that you have foraged or grown will feed you through the winter. Almost all the stems and stalks of food crop plants can be dried and then fed to livestock.

Chickens, turkeys, guinea hens, rabbits and goats are all valuable to a family that is living off the land. The birds will eat the left over plant produce as well as the bugs that bite and irritate. Using tractors, a type of small animal cage that is mobile, and the entire yard can be pest free all season long. Additionally using animal tractors keep your yard fertilized and "mowed" without you spreading any fertilizer or running the lawn mower.

The most important aspect of living off the land is the knowledge that you have provided a healthy, balanced diet for you and your family. Watching the fruits of your labor ripen on the vine or stalk, seeing that tiny egg grow into an adult bird with chicks of her own are things that no supermarket or grocery store can provide.

About the Author:

C.L. Hendricks is a "jill-of-all-trades" and an expert in some. She writes on a variety of subjects for several websites, including InvitingSmiles and Survival Homestead, to name a few.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/gardening-articles/living-off-the-land-708239.html

Original: http://alabamapreppersnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/01/living-off-land.html

About The Global Warming Thing...

"Do you believe in global warming?" If you want to make a certain percentage of people wish they could stone you to death, just voice that question in public. I recently saw a forum attempt to discuss this subject in a reasoned manner, and one member who obviously saw himself as a true intellectual, an "enlightened one", attempted unsuccessfully to communicate with the savages by repeating in all caps that there is "NO DEBATE!!!" as to the validity of the theory; anyone who doesn't accept it as proven fact being, in his view, a degenerate not yet evolved from the apes. You know, like people from Alabama (wink, wink). Indeed, even referring to it as theory rather than settled scientific fact is, as far as these people are concerned, heresy. And I use that word advisedly because it is indeed their religion, just as surely as is evolution for many of the same folks.

Note here that I am not claiming that there is no truth to either global warming or evolution; rather that I do not accept that there are only two possible conditions: believing the whole, complete package or being a superstitious fool. I submit that anyone who demands that you accept anything springing from the mind of man as absolute, proven fact is either intentionally misleading you, or is himself a superstitious fool who really has no understanding of the way science, defined as the study by man of the world he inhabits, really works.

So what does all this have to do with survivalism and prepping? Simply this: most preppers and survivalists, wittingly or not, have an idea in their minds as to just what they are prepping for. That includes me. For the record, I think the most likely shtf scenario is a descent into totalitarianism, helped along by overpopulation and monetary collapse. I arrive at that conclusion by observing that it is actually happening now, as well as studying how it has happened many times in history, by many civilizations.
But I try to keep in mind that other things can happen, too. Encroaching totalitarianism would be a moot point if, for example, Yellowstone suffered a major eruption tomorrow, or an asteroid the size of LA hit the earth next year.

My point is that we should all be open-minded and learn all we can about a variety of possible threats, so we don't spend all our resources preparing for only one eventuality.
That includes reading about this global warming thing and learning about both sides of the debate (yes, there is one). If there is any truth to the global warming theory, we need to give it due consideration in our plans and preps. But I wouldn't go so far as to put all my resources into an orange orchard just outside Huntsville, just yet.

Want a good source of information about global warming? Click here to get a free pdf download of the book "A Skeptical Layman's Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming" by Warren Meyer. Otherwise I'll be forced to label you a Global Warming religious fanatic.

Original: http://alabamapreppersnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/03/about-global-warming-thing.html