Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's all about the numbers

--Or, maybe 90% about the numbers, and 10% about bragging rights--when it comes to the whole issue of which state has the safest drivers. Or the "least worst" if you can say that.... The article, Where the Worst Drivers Live, indicates that Idaho (with a nod to my internet friend Carl out in Wisconsin, the state which duplicated the highest test score) tied for the highest test average (80.6%) on a test which "measures basic knowledge of driving laws", according to the article. Hey, I'll take all the good news I can get...and avoiding an automobile emergency because you know what you're doing is really good news....

--Numbers, of course, are the heart of polls, and when it comes to having a garden in your front yard, here's how the numbers played out according to those who responded: (Thanks everyone!)

Do you have a garden in your front yard?

Yes 25%
No, but I would if I had to 50%
No, and I would never choose to 16%
Not applicable--I don't have a yard 8%

I just think that it's good to think about all our options, however many options we may happen to have....

--Five is the number of people still left in the experience in "Out of the Wild", which I posted about on May 14th. Some of them are understandably getting pretty discouraged, seeing as how winter has settled in, and one day there was game to be had, and the next day there was nothing. They don't know the number of days they have left if they continue to make it out of the wild, but they do each have their own emergency button to press that they can use any time that they want to get them out of their situation. That one button is what I see as the biggest difference in what they're doing and an actual emergency--in an actual emergency you can't push any number of buttons and have things go back to normal, or go back to your old life immediately. I do have to say I admire their fortitude and willingness to stick with the task at hand, perhaps especially because it would be so easy (and I imagine really tempting) to simply push a button and get out of the obvious misery they're going through...

Well, that's some numbers, anyway...I'm still pretty excited that Idaho came out number one, in a good way, on the driver list. Didn't expect it, with so many in the running, but it's nice to see.... :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Have you heard about the Fisherman's Breakfast?

Sorry, all out of clever titles at the moment, but thought that if you weren't already aware of it, you might like to know that there will be a fisherman's breakfast tomorrow, 6 am-1pm in St. Anthony, and the details about it can be found here. Also included, according to the article:

"Breakfast visitors also will get to hear a presentation by the Idaho Fish and Game about prospects for fishing as Idaho's general fishing season starts Saturday. And Smokey Bear will be at the event to shake hands with kids and promote fire safety."

Thought you might want to go and support it---being able to fish would be an awfully useful skill to have in the case of an emergency. Knowing how to avoid a fire emergency is vitally important as well. And to have breakfast thrown in? Kind of hard to turn down....

If you go, I hope you enjoy--it's a long-standing tradition.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

You might want to consider storing more...

Seeds, that is. I was thinking about just having enough to plant one year's garden/crops until I found out what a person who is basically an expert on emergency preparedness in our area thought about it:

"If purchasing seeds, consider only those plants that can mature in our local zone (high altitude and ~90 day growing season). Purchase enough organically grown, open-pollinated garden seeds for 2 years of planting in the event the 1st planting is ruined by frost/hail, or seeds become scarce or unavailable the following year."

Basically, I see this as preparing for an emergency that could happen during an emergency. And situations unfortunately do occur where emergencies don't happen one at a time and few and far between. For example, there is what is going on in Uganda, which you can read about in this article. If I have my facts straight, in 2007 the regions written about had damage by floods. The floods were followed by drought. There have been delays in planting. In 2008 disease hit an important crop. Available food has become more and more expensive. And there is more--low crop yield, stolen food--it's a dire situation. I recommend reading the article in its entirety, because it is sobering, thought-provoking, and may give you more ideas on how you should prepare. It's certainly given me some.

Some may think such conditions would never happen here, wherever here may be when you are talking about a worldwide web. I think that it wouldn't matter where you were sitting, standing, working, or living if you didn't have food to eat. It's something that we all have in common--the need to eat-- and while our climates, viewpoints, material wealth, etc., may differ, we also all have the personal responsibility to do the best we can to prepare for difficult situations that may come. You/I/we all need to do what we can within our means to prepare, and sometimes there may be multiple emergencies that hit at once or one after the other--hopefully you/I/we will think as far ahead as we may need to in order to make it through such situations in the best way possible.

Oh, and about the seeds---if you end up not needing them, it's better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them... Just think, you may be providing yourself a second chance at a garden ahead of time if you get enough seeds in storage before there's a problem. And in addition to that, it gives you options. I love options.... :)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Got land?

If your answer is no, you might be interested in the article, "Urban farmers make the most of tiny Boise plots". In Boise, people who don't have land work other people's land-- in return, for the most part, for labor or part of the produce. It sounds like a good plan if it works well for all parties involved, although there are a couple of downsides also included in the article.

I was interested to find this after a recent conversation I had with someone who is basically an expert in emergency preparedness. During that conversation, this person pointed out that the people who are "stuck" in the city with no way to garden will be in real trouble in the case of a food emergency because they don't have land to grow food. Perhaps if there were more programs like this around, there would be fewer problems if there were a disruption in transportation of food goods, less produce available from bigger farms, etc.

The thing is, it doesn't seem like this is a "program" per se--one of the people mentioned actually put fliers around just to find the landowners when he was first starting and wanted to use the land for food production. These people are just going out and finding a way to have land they can use, and perhaps make a profit as well. And how much land do you have at your disposal, really? Some of the people in the article use a front yard as a garden.

I recommend reading the entire article. It's amazing what people come up with when they try to come up with a solution, and are willing to help each other...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It takes more than food (water, and shelter) to survive well...

TV can be educational, or at the very least, it can make you think. Has anyone else been following the show "Out of the Wild" on the Discovery Channel? Nine people volunteered to go out into the Alaskan wilderness, with no idea as to how long they would be there, with directions to go from shelter to shelter to shelter until they make it "out of the wild." They have to endure the cold, hunt, endure the cold, manage the conditions while ill, endure the cold, get along with each other, endure the cold, go hungry, endure the cold....well, you get the idea. As of this writing, four people have used the GPS locator each one of them has been given, which when activated immediately results in a helicopter ride back to civilization. That leaves 5 who have already endured more than two weeks in harsh conditions, and who, at the end of the last episode, were setting off on yet another trek, not knowing that they had farther to go than they thought, seeing as how they had misread their map... There is no prize for anyone, unless you count the satisfaction of knowing that they can survive the experience, so it's not a matter of money or luxury items as motivation.

What have I been thinking? Some of the reasons that people went home were really a surprise to me. Let me preface my thoughts with the statement that I really admire everyone who was willing to undergo this experience, and anything I say here is not meant as a criticism or negative judgment. It just made me rethink what may be necessary in an emergency situation, and with the acknowledgement that I may remember some things wrong, here's what I've been learning (I apologize that I don't remember everyone's name--I will just use no one's name instead):

--The person who decided to "push the button" on the GPS locator first was actually the person with the best hunting skills. At first I thought this person was the oldest in the group (I don't think I saw the first episode in its entirety) but as far as I can figure, she was the second oldest. I was really rooting for her, because in an emergency situation you hope everyone will make it, and her attitude at first was that she was going to stick with it. She then decided that she didn't want to do it anymore, and if memory serves, said that she was "too old" to finish the experience. She pushed the button pretty early on. (Easy for me to say, I wasn't there...)

The thing that saddens me about this, especially as I have seen further episodes, is what an asset she would have been to the team with her hunting skills. There have been many days where the remaining individuals have gone with little to no food in part due to their limited hunting skills. She was and would have continued to be a valuable contributor to the team if she would have been able to continue. My point? Age is something you can't change--everyone gets older, and it certainly beats the alternative. Many times with age comes greater knowledge and experience--knowledge and experience that would be gravely missed were it not there to benefit the group going through difficult circumstances.

--The second and third people to leave left together, but for different reasons. One was the actual oldest person in the group, again, as far as I could gather, and he had great difficulty keeping up with the strenuous requirements of traveling and enduring the conditions. He tried, but he was slowing down the group, and he finally decided to go home. I don't know that anyone would be ready for hiking the Alaskan wilderness, but being in the best possible physical condition that we can be will help us in any type of emergency situation. Hey, it can't hurt....

The other person that left that day was the other member of the team that was experienced in outdoor activities and skills. He didn't leave because of physical duress (although I'm sure there was physical duress for everyone involved)--he left because he didn't like being part of a group in this type of situation. From what I could gather, he was used to making decisions on his own, and he didn't like the group dynamic, and having to consult with/wait for/depend on/ others in a situation that he recognized was dangerous, such as when there was a slower member of the group, and he was anxious to get to shelter for survival purposes. He elected to go home because he was used to doing things by himself, and he no longer wanted to participate in the experience.

What did I learn from this? We need to prepare for situations in such a way that we can have minimum stress--and respect other people's differences. Not everyone will want to be part of a big group, but their knowledge and skills can be a benefit to everyone if they are allowed to contribute in ways that they are comfortable with. Because this person didn't like the constant interaction, the group as a whole lost the valuable skills he had in dealing with the outdoor conditions....

--I would have to say that the last person to date that decided to "push the button" was the biggest surprise to me. He was the strongest of the group, and one of, if not the, youngest member. He was also probably the largest, and when there was little to no food to sustain the group, he suffered greatly, to the point where he passed out in one of the shelters. Too many calories used, with too few calories consumed, is not a good combination for anyone, and it resulted in his decision to leave the experience. It makes sense that a bigger person would need more calories to maintain the strength needed in any kind of emergency situation--it just didn't occur to me that in the kind of situation where there are fewer calories available per person that the smaller individuals might last longer because they need fewer calories...but that's what happened here, and the person I thought would be among the last to get a helicopter ride has already boarded and gone...

So it takes a lot more than just food, water and shelter (although some of the shelters featured on this show looked pretty insubstantial) to survive in emergency conditions. There is attitude, physical fitness level, and a number of other factors that will affect the outcome when you/I /we find ourselves in harsh conditions. Watching them skin and prepare and eat the wild animals they were able to hunt successfully shows me how much I have to learn in that area--and it also shows me that you do what you have to do. Having the knowledge ahead of time so that you can get every last bit of nourishment out of whatever you are lucky enough to get your hands on will help a great deal if it's all you have to eat. It may also be good for nourishment and morale if you have food stashed in different places (as they find in the various shelters) that you can pull out as a last resort when you are truly in difficult straits...

Well, my thanks goes out to Discovery Channel for airing Out of the Wild The Alaska Experiment. I just went to find the website for it to link it here, so I will probably check that out some more, but the program times are there. (I don't know anyone who works for this channel, I just like what I'm learning on this program.) If they air repeats, I would recommend watching them.

How would you/I/we do if we found ourselves in harsh circumstances working with a group of people who had the same goals to survive? What are our attitudes? What can we contribute towards the group's survival? Hopefully we are/are getting prepared enough so that we can supplement our diet/supplies with some meat from local wildlife, rather than depending solely on their occasional appearance to have anything to eat at all. After all, wildlife wants to survive as well. Just watching the beavers on this show was evidence of that.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

If you give a person a carrot...

Well, first, the mail carriers' food collection (which I am under the impression is a national collection) was on Saturday. I don't know about anyone else, but it was a little harder this year to part with my Spam, since I use it so much more often now. :) I did send some away, though, because it's my understanding that protein items are always in demand. For those who don't read my other blog, and tend to like Spam as well, you might look at this recipe, which I found over at Preparedness Pro, and which I already posted about on my other blog. Can't have too many good Spam recipes on hand....

Just looking at the news around Idaho, the good news is that as a state we are getting better at making sure children don't go hungry, according to this article. Going up from sixth worse in the nation up to 27th worse is definitely a good thing, but still leaves a lot of room for improvement. I hope that the food collection by the mail carriers will help those with or without children who already find themselves in an emergency situation...

And in other Idaho news, from Post Falls comes this article, which contains this opening line: " A community garden will teach students about growing vegetables while helping them cultivate better lives, school officials in this north Idaho town believe." While the students won't get the immediate benefit of the food grown, (according to the article, "Food produced at the garden will be donated to area seniors who are no longer able to garden for themselves") they will be learning valuable skills--a fact that is summed up nicely in the article's last line: ""I think this is absolutely the most wonderful thing," said Barb Tilton, a local gardener. "This is so good for the kids. This is something they can take with them for the rest of their lives."

So good things are happening here in Idaho. Mail carriers collecting food for people already in need of assistance. Improving on how well we are dealing with children who are hungry. And another generation being given the chance to learn how to grow their own food. What's that saying about giving a man a fish and he eats for a day, but teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime? Something like that. Well, giving a person a carrot is good, but teaching him how to garden is even better....

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Case in point: Comments can make a blog better

*Note*: If you have not yet read my last post, you may want to do so before reading this one so that you can compare and contrast. Or, just read this one. It's better.... :)

I maintain that useful, helpful comments left on blogs benefit everyone, and in my case often end up leaving more information in the comment section than I originally put out in a post. Let me show you what my previous post, "If Monday is washing day..." could roughly have looked like (minus some of what I would have also still included if this was the original post) if I had had the comments people left before I wrote it:

(As Gen-IL Homesteader's reminds me) In the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Ma's daily chores were:

Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.

I read and read and did I mention read these books when I was younger, so what better excuse do I have to wait until at least next Monday to use this:

Yeah, it's a plunger, but it's a plunger for washing clothes. My dad came up on Friday from out of state and brought a bunch of emergency preparedness stuff (thanks Dad!!) which will probably be mentioned here and elsewhere, but today the plunger gets the place of honor.

And this is no ordinary black rubber plunger. Not only is it blue, :) but is made of what appears to me to be hard plastic, and has a slightly different shape and a really different bottom which you can see in (you can thank Sondra from over at Clean Frugal Living for prompting me to be a better blogger by including) these pictures:

I am very glad to have the plunger, and the plan at the moment is to use it in a food storage bucket when the power goes out. You could use it in a tin tub, I suppose, but seeing as how we don't currently have one of those in our possession, a food storage bucket will have to do.

(Thanks to Kymber over at Canadian Preppers Network, I have learned about) This post over at Yukon Territory Preppers Network is a great source if you are thinking about the importance of clean clothes in an emergency situation. Written by Jennifer of New Mexico Preppers Network , it details her methods on washing clothes without electricity. I highly recommend reading it--lots of wonderful ideas, and she has more (and better) pictures... :)

And finally, you might even be able to get even more convenient accessories for washing without electricity as most of us know it if you keep your eyes open for a deal, and it will definitely be easier to keep clothes clean in an emergency if you have thought things out ahead of time. A good example of this (thanks to Carl, who leaves great and informative comments) can be found here:

"I bought a gavanized metal version of the Laundry Plunger over Lehmans for somrthing like $12.00. I had my Better half test it and she says it works fine for small loads.

I also bought a couple of metal bushel and a Half buckets to heat wash and rince water in over an open fire if required.

In the middle between our 25 speed automatic washer and dryer, I bought a 50's style Hotpoint wringer washer at a garage sale for $50.00

The advantage of this thing is that it has two speeds, fast and slow, the motor draws about 300 watts, which my solar system can handle. The wringer is a bit to learn to use, but I am sure the average 3rd grader can figure it out."

So, you could just hand wash, which was my original plan until I got my new little blue plunger "washing machine". You could use some of the ideas in Jennifer's post that I linked, and/or look around before there's a problem and find some really good options for reasonable prices or think about ways to heat water like Carl did. Whatever the case, it is going to ease stress if you know what you will do with dirty clothes before you find out that you have run out of clean ones, and the methods you employ now are no longer an option....

Ok, wasn't that better in terms of just plain old wonderful and useful information? Just an example of how much you miss if you don't read the comments. And how much others miss if you don't leave yours.... Thanks to Gen, Sondra, Kymber, Jennifer, and Carl--your comments and sharing of knowledge are much appreciated!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

If Monday is washing day...

Isn't there a poem, or saying or something, where the chores are all assigned a day of the week so we can all have harmony in housework completion? Seems to me that there is, and that washing the clothes was on Monday...if anyone knows how it goes, I'd love to be reminded. If it's just something that I made up in my head, work with me anyway, because if there is a world where Monday is washing day, I have less than a week until I hypothetically, and in sync with everyone else who lives according to aforementioned poem/saying, get to use this:

Yeah, it's a plunger, but it's a plunger for washing clothes. My dad came up on Friday from out of state and brought a bunch of emergency preparedness stuff (thanks Dad!!) which will probably be mentioned here and elsewhere, but today the plunger gets the place of honor.

Wasn't really expecting the plunger--but that's what happens when your parents are also into emergency preparedness and are really good at it and have thought about things that are needed ahead of time and are generous and are willing to take the time to drive all the way here to deliver things that you hadn't thought of only to drive all the way back home almost immediately. The original plan was to just have my dad bring up some water containers that fit into his vehicle and don't fit into ours, but when my dad's trip coincided with things that my mom found that would make life easier in an emergency, their teamwork resulted in more goodies for us....

I am very glad to have the plunger, and the plan at the moment is to use it in a food storage bucket when the power goes out. You could use it in a tin tub, I suppose, but seeing as how we don't currently have one of those in our possession, a food storage bucket will have to do. One of the things I like about the plunger is that it will spare our hands at least a little by reducing the time we have to have them immersed in soap and water. And if the power was out, and it was cold outside, (isn't there also a saying about winter being nine months long in Idaho ? :) being able to have clean clothes and dry hands would be a big plus...

I don't really plan to use the plunger next Monday, but since one never knows when an emergency will occur, it's good to have it in the supplies. Hope I don't need it before next Monday...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Not much to see here

For those who haven't had a chance to check it out yet, Tom, founder of the American Preppers Network, along with other contributors, has put together the Swine Flu Pandemic website, with a lot of videos, viewpoints, and advice on the news of the day--all in one spot...

As to Idaho, my understanding according to this (extremely) brief article is that we now have had our first case of the swine flu. Good news is that no hospitalization was needed. Hope that there will be no more cases, but hopefully everyone is prepared if there are....

I did go and invest in some hand sanitizer the other day. I went to Wal-Mart to make said purchases, and was told that they were out except for the trial/travel/incredibly small size, so I got a few. Thing is, when I went to actually purchase everything, there were larger bottles in the check-out line, so I got one, along with the tiny ones. My point---if you go and think they are out of hand sanitizer, check the temptation shelves that stare at you as you wait in line, and make sure that they don't have some there....I personally am keeping the hand sanitizer in storage in case someone gets sick, and using good old soap and water for regular handwashing.

Yeah, I don't have much to write about the swine flu--I'm leaving that to those who know more about it. Hoping for the best, and preparing for the worst....