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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

EMP or Solar Storm, no electricity, What about lighting?

Every day we walk into a room, flip a switch and in an instant there is light. We push a button and are spending a “Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart. We move a little device on our desk and can be sharing news around the world. We place clothes or dishes in a box and a half hour later they are clean. We expect all of these things to be at our fingertips every day but within mili-seconds of an EMP attack or solar storm we can be transported back to 1850 and living like Abraham Lincoln, chopping wood for warmth and reading by candle light. But it may not be an EMP or solar storm that leaves us in the dark, an earthquake, hurricane, blizzard, terrorist attack, or even a wild fire in the right place could propel us back in time.
There are days when that life sounds really good to me. It would be so nice to have the peace and quiet with just the sound of a crackling fire. It would be great to have an excuse to read a book I have been putting off because of a lack of time. It would be wonderful to lay on the lawn and look at the stars. For those in the city you would actually be able to see the stars again. Not everything about the lack of electricity is a bad thing.
There are things I would miss and those are the things I will plan to replace, just like our great grandparents lived without them. In 2008 we spent the year preparing using our Seven Steps program. Every Monday I posted seven things to do that week to be better prepared. We accomplished so much that year. It was amazing. One of the first things we did was to list all of the things we do that require electricity. For those of you who went through the Seven Steps those lists should be in your binder. Let’s consider several over the next few weeks.
First light: Today it is pouring here, really pouring, a real winter storm, I know it’s spring. It hasn’t really been very light all day but now it is actually dark outside, two hours earlier than usual. What did our forefathers do to provide light for their family? There are many solutions to this problem but as we consider an EMP or solar storm as the source of the outage we need to prepare a little differently. These outages could last for weeks or months. It is not just a matter of storing a few candles or a few batteries.
We may want to use kerosene lanterns. These are great and produce plenty of light to read by. They are good for use in common areas where they can be monitored and children can be kept away from them. Lamps can be lit and the wick adjusted so you have a dim or bright light. After a few days or several hours the wick will become hardened at the end and will need to be trimmed. If you should choose to make kerosene lamps the source of your lighting you will need plenty of kerosene and plenty of extra wicks.
Glow sticks are a great addition to your stash as they provide plenty of light to read by if they are yellow or white. Colored sticks will provide plenty of lumination in a hallway or a bathroom as a night light. They are safe around children and can be used in the rain or snow if you need to venture outside at night to collect wood or to use your sanitation facility, more about that later. They will last eight hours. If you know you want one for each bathroom at night it is easy to calculate how many you would need for two weeks or six months. These do have a shelf life but you will be the hit of the neighborhood if you rotate them by passing them out for Halloween. We took some to Disneyland and had the kids where them after dark. It made them very easy to spot and they loved it!
Flashlights are also a consideration for lighting. These are perfect when you are trying to find a lost item at the back of a cupboard or when you are trying to adjust the generator at night. Batteries will last only a few days, three to five, if you are leaving them on for extended periods each day. Develop a plan now and calculate the number of batteries you will need to store.
Solar lighting is an easily renewable lighting source. Garden lighting can be placed outside each morning to recharge and brought in at night to light your home. You can place these in indoor potted plants, in an outdoor umbrella stand or just supported between a couple of stacks of book. These will last a very long time if you have new batteries to replace the old at the beginning of the crisis. Our Solar lamps have been working now for three years on their original batteries. The only drawback to relying on these is the inability to charge them during winter storm seasons when there may be days without sunlight.
I guess we can’t overlook candles. These are my least favorite option but my favorite type of lighting. I love candle light but it is not bright enough to read by and it is dangerous to have an open flame around children. You will need to have a plan for keeping your candles safe. Glass canning jars are great for a candle holder as they can with stand the heat and allow all the light to shine through.
Finally there are crank/solar powered lights. As with outdoor lighting these can be charged when the sun shines or they can be cranked to provide light. A good light will hold a charge for two to three hours without rewinding. They are a great option is you fear you may fall asleep and don’t want to leave a flame burning or run down batteries. With just a few cranks and a few seconds you can have light again when you awaken. You should also consider the light from a fire in the fireplace. This can supplement your other lighting preparations; saving kerosene, batteries, candles and glow sticks for later use.
You may also want to consider natural light in your planning. If you have wooden shutters in your home that cannot be opened you may want to consider replacing or modifying them. I was amazed when I helped a friend move last year that those pretty wooden shutters in the living areas could not be opened. The slats were movable but you could not open the entire unit to clean the windows or sills. It provided a great place for dust and spiders, not a good idea for any family with allergies. Definitely not a great idea for emergency lighting options.
I have not forgotten about generators but that is a topic all of it’s own. This week consider just how long you could provide lighting if your power were to fail this week and leave you in the dark for a month or more.
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4 Simple Ways To Improve Your Garden

When spring comes around, so does the annual planning of the summer garden.  No doubt, there were also fantasies of walking through a robust garden clipping off tomatoes for salad, and pulling off bountiful ears of corn for supper.  The gardening process begins with finding the perfect garden location, waiting for the right temperature, and planting the minuscule seeds that will inevitably become a harvest.  But there is more to gardening than just planting a seed and watching it grow.

Watering the Garden

Even moisture is an essential key to maintaining plant growth.  Plants should have on average about 1-2 inches of water per week.  More water should be provided during hot summer months where there is drought like conditions.  Soaker hoses and other methods, such as the use of rain collection barrels can assist in water conservation and at the same time, providing water during the rainless summer months.  Another method of crop irrigation is the use of ollas, or unglazed clay pots buried in the dirt.  These clay pots get water to the roots, as well as alleviating water evaporation.  This type of irrigation is 50-70% more effective than modern day irrigation systems and it also assists in eliminating disease caused by excessive watering.

Mulching the Garden

Mulching around the base of the plants is another essential method in maintaining healthy plants.  Adding 2-3 inches of natural mulch will assist in retaining more moisture in the soil, discourage unwanted weed growth, prevent soil erosion and help eliminate unwanted pests and insects.  Mulching also helps the soil have an even temperature which will assist is healthy growing roots.  Additionally, natural mulches such as grass clippings and straw will provide added nutrients to the soil in the decomposition process.

Feed Your Garden

Native American Indians planted fish at the base of a garden mound as a gift for the plants.  That gift of fish, when decomposed, provided needed nutreints for the plant to grow and bear it’s fruit.  Using natural fertilizers will condition the soil, or growing environment for the plant.  Plants need certain “foods” to grow and become more productive.  Typically, “foods” that plants need to thrive are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  These elements will promote strong, healthy root systems and healthy fruits.  Natural fertilizers can be purchased at gardening centers, or a person can try and create their homemade version of fertilizer in the form of compost.  Composting is a great way to give back to the garden.  This natural soil amendment is a process that needs to be started before the garden is grown as it takes time for the weather, and nature to break down particles that will become compost.  Depending on the size of a compost heap, compost would be ready for use in the garden after 4-6 months.
Another way of feeding plants is  companion planting.  Companion plants have a symbiotic relationship and equally benefit from being planted near eachother.  Some of the benefits are pest control, higher yield, and added nutrients in the soil.  This fertilizing method, simplifies the gardening process to a minimum.

Pruning Your Garden

Many do not like to take the time to do this essential step, but it truly makes a huge difference in the health of the plant, as well as assist in helping the plant redirect it’s ergy on the growing of fruit.  Taking time to prune dead foliage, branches, non-producing limbs, etc will assist in developing better sized fruit.  Pinching and pruning are two methods of controlling the growth of vegetables.  Plants are very adaptable, and prefer to be pruned or pinched from time to time.
What to Pinch
Pinching is used to remove growth buds, flowers or immature fruit.
  • Pinch branch tips throughout the growing season to grow more bushy and full instead of lanky and tall.  Remove only the last set of two leaves, including the stem, each time you pinch a branch.
  • Continuously remove any dead or faded foliage.  Keep only the growth that is green and healthy.
  • For flowering fruits and vegetables, pinch off 1/3 to 1/2 of the blooms that appear in order for the plant to concentrate on growing larger fruits.
What to Prune
Pruning is used to correct or remove branches or prevent the spread of the plant outside it’s growth area.
  • Prune plants when they are growing too large for their allocated area.  Use sharp, clean shears to prevent the spreading of disease.
  • Remove entire unwanted or non-blooming branches to keep plants contained.  Keep some foliage to shade the developing fruit and prevent sun scald.
  • Continuously remove any dead or faded foliage.  Keep only the growth that is green and healthy.
If practiced, these simple gardening methods will help a person grow healthier plants with higher yields.  Growing fruits and vegetables requires constant practice, and learning from mistakes.  These methods listed above can help a person establish a better understanding of what plants need in order to thrive.  Happy Gardening!

Using Your Food Storage: Lentils

Lentils are an amazing food, and because of two important reasons are a superb item to be stored. The first reason they are so wonderful is the time it takes from dry lentil to tasty meal is less than 30 minutes-so speed of cooking(whereas most beans need to be pre-soaked). The second reason for lentils being a great food storage item is the nutritional value they offer.

In times of crises nutrition should not be overlooked as maintaining ones health is much more critical during crises. One cup of lentils provides about 2/3 of your daily fiber needs, about 40% of your daily iron needs, and over 100% of your A, C, and K vitamins needed.

For women menstruating, pregnant, or lactating lentils provide the boost of iron needed, as they do for children and teens need additional iron too.

Oh and lentils are very inexpensive! You need to do a few things in prep to cooking them. First lay them out on a white or light table or counter top so you can remove any rocks or debris from them. Then you need to rinse the lentils in a colander in cold water. Cooking lentils for me then is filling about 3 cups of water over the one cup of lentils. Bring to a boil, then reduce temp for about 30 minutes. That's it!

Simply pour the lentils out to make sure they are free of debris


I love lentils as is with a bit of salt on them and this makes the storage, the prep, the cooking, and the eating as simple as pie!!



Even a simple serving of lentils can be elegant

1 Cup lentils uncooked
Equals this much cooked lentils!
Here are some lentil recipes for you to look over if you have not used lentils before:
Lentil Burgers
Different recipe Lentil Burgers
Curried Lentils
Mediterranean Lentil Salad
Barbeque Lentils
Pomagranate Lentil Soup
Dry Bean ABC Soup mix
and heres a link to many more

How To Compost

Compost heap on a frosty morning. The rising s...Image via Wikipedia

How to Compost

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Good composting isn't only about building a good bin and correctly mixing the compost. It's also about what you add to the compost. This article will provide a simple outline of what you can and can't compost. Follow the reduce, reuse and recycle way of life to reduce the amount of things you have to end up throwing away.

Steps

  1. Choose or construct a bin for your compost. While you can compost successfully in a pile on the ground, a bin will keep the process a bit neater and help to discourage animals if you are composting food scraps. Depending on the construction of the bin, it can also help to regulate moisture and temperature. A good minimum size for a pile is at least 1 cubic yard or 1 cubic meter, though a pile can go larger than this, and smaller-scale composting can be made to work.
  2. Fill your bin with a balanced mixture for best results:

    • Green stuff (high in nitrogen) to activate the heat process in your compost. Perfect heat-generating materials include: young weeds (before they develop seeds); comfrey leaves; yarrow; chicken, rabbit or pigeon manure; grass cuttings; etc. Other green items that compost well include fruit and vegetables; fruit and vegetable scraps; coffee grounds and tea leaves (including tea bags - remove the staple if you wish); vegetable plant remains; plants.
    • Brown stuff (high in carbon) to serve as the "fiber" for your compost. Brown stuff includes fall (autumn) leaves; dead plants and weeds; sawdust; cardboard & cardboard tubes (from foil wraps etc); old flowers (including dried floral displays, minus plastic/foam attachments); old straw and hay; and small animal bedding.
    • 'Other items that can be composted but you may not have thought of before: paper towels; paper bags; cotton clothing (torn up); egg shells; hair (human, dog, cat etc.) Use all these items in moderation.
    • Air. It is possible to compost without air (anaerobically), but the process employs different bacteria and an anaerobic compost pile will take on a sour smell like vinegar. It may also attract flies or take on a matted, slimy appearance. If you believe your compost pile needs more air, turn it, and try adding more dry or brown stuff to open up the structure.
    • Water. Your pile should be about as damp as a sponge that has been wrung out. Depending on your climate, you can add water directly or rely on the moisture that comes in with "green" items. A lid on the compost bin will help to keep moisture in. If a pile gets too much water in it, it might not get enough air.
    • Soil or starter compost. This is not strictly necessary, but a light sprinkling of garden soil or recently finished compost between layers can help to introduce the correct bacteria to start the compost cycle a little more quickly. If you are pulling weeds, the soil left on the roots may be sufficient to serve this purpose. Compost starters are available, but probably not necessary. [1]
  3. Layer or mix the different materials in your bin so that they come into contact with one another and so that you avoid any large clumps. Especially avoid compacting large quantities of green materials together, since they can rapidly become anaerobic.

    • If possible, start with a layer of lightweight brown material, such as leaves, to help keep enough air near the bottom.
    • Try for a mixture of anywhere from 3 parts brown to 1 part green to half and half, depending on what materials you have on hand.
    • Sprinkle each layer lightly with water as you build the heap, if it requires additional moisture.
  4. Turn your pile regularly, once every week or two. Clear a patch next to the pile. Then use a pitchfork and move the entire pile to the clear spot. When it is time to turn the pile again, move it back to the original spot, or back into the bin. Mixing the pile in this way helps to keep air flowing inside the pile, which encourages aerobic decomposition. Anaerobic decomposition will smell very stinky (generally sour, like vinegar) and they decompose materials more slowly than aerobic bacteria. Turning the pile helps to encourage the growth of the right kind of bacteria and makes for a nice, sweet-smelling pile that will decompose faster.

    • Try to move matter from inside to outside and from top to bottom. Break up anything that is clumpy or matted. Add water or wet, green materials if it seems too dry. Add dry, brown materials if the pile seems too wet. If you are still adding to the pile, take the opportunity while you turn it to introduce the new matter and mix it well with the older matter.
  5. Decide whether to add slow rotting items such as tough branches, twigs and hedge clippings; wood ash; wood shavings and wood pruning. They can be composted, but you may want to compost them separately because they will take longer to break down, especially in a cold climate with a shorter composting season. Shred heavy materials, if you can, for faster decomposition.
  6. Try to avoid composting bread, pasta, nuts, and cooked food. They don't break down very easily, become quite slimy, and can hold up the heating, rotting-down process. (Old nuts left in the garden will disappear quickly if you have squirrels or monkeys around!)
  7. Never compost the following items for reasons of health, hygiene and inability to break down: meat and meat scraps; bones; fish and fish bones; plastic or synthetic fibers; oil or fat; pet or human feces (except for manure of herbivorous creatures such as rabbits and horses); weeds that have gone to seed; diseased plants; disposable diapers (nappies); glossy paper or magazines; coal and coke ash; and cat litter. Place these items in the normal garbage collection.
  8. Harvest your compost. If all goes well, you will eventually find that you have a layer of good compost at the bottom of your bin. Remove this and spread it on or dig it into your garden beds.

    • You may wish to sift it through a coarse mesh screen or use your hands or pitchfork to remove any larger chunks that haven't yet broken down.
    • Very fresh compost can grow plants, but it can also rob the soil of nitrogen as it continues to break down. If you think you are not all the way done, either leave the compost in the bin for a while longer or spread it in your garden and let it sit there for a few weeks before planting anything in it.

Video


Tips

  • Composting works almost magically and FAST if you begin with a cubic yard of proper materials (3 parts "brown" stuff and 1 part "green" stuff), keep it moist, and turn it weekly. It's possible to get two large batches of compost each year if you stick to these points. If you vary, it will just take a bit longer, but it will still compost.
  • The fastest way to get compost is to mix 1 part grass clippings and 3 parts dead leaves (chopped with a mower), place in a three-sided bin with no top or bottom, keep it moist, and turn it with a cultivating fork every 2 weeks.
  • Locate your compost bin somewhere that is easy to access, so that you and family members will be encouraged to use it.
  • Share a composting facility if you live in an apartment complex.
  • Have a mini compost bin indoors that you keep near your meal preparation area. It should be something that is easy to fill up, transport daily to the compost bin, and keep clean. You could consider a small plastic container (there are fun tiny garbage cans with lids) or use something as simple as a glazed terracotta plant saucer - it looks nice, is easy to clean and transports easily.
  • To aid the decomposing, add some red worms, which can be bought online. If you use a compost bin with an open bottom, the worms will probably come into your compost pile on their own.
  • Cut around the top of a plastic milk jug leaving it attached at the handle. Keep it under the kitchen sink to collect your compost.
  • For faster break-down, shred leaves, clippings; and crush egg shells.
  • At some point, you may need to start a new compost pile, and stop adding to the old compost pile to let it "finish up."
  • Layering is very effective if possible - one layer brown stuff, one layer green stuff, one layer composting worms (as long as the temperature of your compost does not exceed 25ÂșC).
  • Contact your local municipality if you can't compost for whatever reason, to see if they will collect garden waste for composting. Many municipalities will collect Christmas trees and chip them for compost in January.
  • In dry weather, fill your bucket with water each time you dump in the compost pile. This will help add needed moisture.
  • If you mow your yard, collect your grass trimmings! It's free, and it's a great way to get more compost, unless you have a mulching mower. A mulching mower will add the grass back to your yard as mulch (not thatch), which will provide your lawn with 40% of its fertilizatin needs. Also, never compost grass that's been mowed within a few days of adding chemical peticides or fertilizers.
  • Bury food scraps under a layer of general yard waste if you wish to include them. It will help to discourage animals and flies. So will having a contained, covered bin.
  • While it's not strictly necessary, a compost pile that's working at its fastest will heat up. If you have created a good mix, you may notice that it's very warm inside, even steaming on a cold morning. This is a good sign.

Warnings

  • Don't add the things to the compost that are marked above as "never compost" - they will absolutely ruin the compost for one reason or another and some are downright unhealthy.
  • While it is slowly becoming possible to compost dog feces, this must only be attempted under very special conditions in municipally sanctioned compost bins; usually these are located in local parks. Do not use this compost in or near vegetable and fruit gardens. Check with your local municipality for more information. Encourage your municipality to supply these bins in parks and on dog-walking routes.
  • If you are going to compost weeds, dry them out before adding them to the pile. If you don't, they might start to grow.

Things You'll Need

  • A location for your compost pile
  • Vegetable scraps, yard waste, and other compost materials
  • A pitchfork or other tool to turn the compost

Related wikiHows


Sources and Citations

  1. http://www.simplegiftsfarm.com/compost-starter.html
Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Compost. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.