Tag Archives: preparedness

Five Helpful Hints For The Newbie “Prepper”

As recent events continue to show us, one never knows when either a man-made or natural disaster can strike. Normal, routine, everyday life can change in the twinkling of an eye. Part of being a responsible adult (especially if one has a family to protect and care for) is to be mentally and physically prepared to face a wide variety of crisis and scenarios. SHTF scenarios unfold everyday across the world and have claimed the lives of countless millions. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the increasing complexity and fragility of our modern technological society and financial systems, increased concentration of governmental power, and deepening ideological divides are a cause for concern.  While we are blessed to live the relatively comfortable and secure lives that we do, there is no guarantee that cannot change overnight. It is far better to be prepared for a serious crisis that never happens, than be unprepared for the one that does. There are many useful hints, tips, and ideas you can easily implement to not only survive, but perhaps even thrive, in a moment of crisis. Here are just a few ideas for your consideration.

Use solar-powered lawn lights instead of candles

solar_lights_01This is a ‘trick’ I just recently heard about and I can only wonder why I hadn’t actually thought of such a simple but effective idea before. Pick up a dozen or so at your local big box store and stick them in the plants in your windowsill and you’ll have all the light you’ll ever need if you lose your electric power. At that time you can spread them around the house in other potted plants or even in vases giving you lots of long-lasting and comforting light without having to dip into your all important and limited stash of candles. Plus, you are actually a little less likely to burn down your humble abode by following this advice. These are cheap, found nearly everywhere, and can be purchased for as little as 99 cents a piece. There is no reason any home should be without them. Such simple, easy to use, and inexpensive technology is your friend. Take advantage of it.

Use bleach or natural sunlight to purify water

sodismethodA clean and safe water supply or stockpile is underrated and often not spoken about. Whether it’s kept in the back of the guest closet, in the crawl space, or under the bed, you need to be storing water. But if not, you still need to be able to purify any water you may have to collect from local lakes, streams, or rain runoff in an extended emergency situation.

If you are using water from a stream or lake pour the water through two coffee filters and into a clean, airtight container. The coffee filters will remove large particles of impurities. Let the water stand for 15 minutes so it can settle. Fill a liquid dropper with bleach and then add eight drops of bleach to the water. Mix well. Wait 30 minutes, then smell the water. The water should have a very faint bleach odor that is present but barely noticeable. If you cannot smell the bleach, add two more drops and mix it again. Do not exceed 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water. If you purifying water that came from a safe well or municipal water system you can skip the first and last steps.

I believe it is better to add the bleach just prior to drinking versus adding the bleach before storing it. Some sources say that is perfectly acceptable to skip the bleach step if the stored water came from an already chlorinated source. Either way, definitely keep a gallon of new and unopened bleach around ‘just in case.’ The active ingredients do start to break down over time so rotate your emergency water purification bleach bottle once a year or so. For just a couple of dollars you can reliably purify thousands of gallons of water in a SHTF scenario. And that simple fact may save your life someday.

The SODIS method of water purification, on the other hand, uses the natural UV rays from the sun to purify water stored in clear water or soda bottles. Used effectively around the world, this method does not seem to be as well-known in the U.S. but would be a good trick in a pinch and when other water purification methods may not be available. I do not rotate my water storage (though it is kept in a cool, dry place) and will just line even several year old water up along the roof gutter for a days worth of sunning before deeming them good and safe to drink if I need to. Obviously, the cleaner the water source you are starting out with the better off you’ll be. Just remember, it only works with clear bottles.

Keep the extent of your preparations and supplies a secret

This is a hard tquiething for most people to do, especially in the age of Facebook, blogging, and the Internet. Perhaps it is a bit hypocritical of me to say so in a publicly posted article, but the truth is that Operational Security must be exercised if you store or stockpile extra weapons, ammunition, food, or supplies. Human nature is such that it is in fact very hard to not be tempted to ‘show off’ your preps and hard work to those around you. But the opposite must be practiced. Do not advertise the fact to random people, your neighbors, and friends who do not share your viewpoint when it comes to preparedness. By doing so you only make yourself a serious target if, God forbid, any serious WROL or SHTF scenario was to unfold. Networking with like-minded individuals is advisable but showing off your “stash” to all the neighbors and everyone who ever stops by the house may be very tempting, but it is extremely unwise.

If you are making the necessary preparations to keep your family and yourself safe, secure, and supplied in a crisis then do not, under any circumstances, let a careless (or purposeful) word, FB post, or YouTube video compromise all the hard work and financial outlay you have already committed to that cause. The veneer of civilization and civil behavior is a thin one at best and it is in your best interest to remember that. A bunch of unexpected mouths showing up at your door expecting you to feed or supply them in a crisis situation because of your past “indiscretions” can only end badly for all involved. Remember to lay low, keep calm, keep quiet, and be smart if you are suddenly thrust into a serious man-made or natural disaster. Advertising your preps before hand is foolish, and advertising them during such a time can potentially have deadly results. Loose lips will indeed sink your ship, endanger your loved ones, and sabotage your own efforts to be prepared in a world of surprises.

Plan on bugging in, not bugging out

buginThere is a huge amount of talk in Prepper circles about the need to ‘bug out.’ Everyone’s secret fantasy seems to be to go play “Wolverines” in the nearest forest or hole up at some secret survival retreat in the wilderness at the first sign of serious trouble. The truth is not one out of a thousand people would survive a month in the wilderness (let alone in the middle of winter) and most do not have the financial resources to purchase the type of Bug Out location that would be of any true benefit in a major emergency. The average modern man doesn’t really have the knowledge anymore to survive as Jeremiah Johnson if he were just thrust into the wilderness. And those woods would get crowded pretty darn fast as undoubtedly a great many people share the same half-baked scheme if worse comes to worse.

The reality is that one should plan to hunker down and bug in except in the most dire of extreme emergencies. And there are numerous ways one can strengthen and fortify ones own home to make it less of a target and more defensible if necessary. I was forced from my home and played refugee for four days following a massive tornado that ripped through my hometown a few years ago. I was given fifteen minutes to get out by the local police so I know the value of being prepared to leave if one has too and the importance of having a place in mind to go (in this case to my brothers home a few miles up the road). But I also know that leaving your home base of supplies, comforts, and frankly all ‘your stuff’ simply sucks and the minute you hit the road without a very well stocked and friendly place to go you are really simply becoming a refugee. And refugees quickly become hungry, desperate, and victimized in a serious crisis and have since the beginning of time. Ask the stinking, desperate hordes that got stuck in the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina about how having to rely on government help during an emergency can work out.

The other thing that no one seems to think about that if you tried to get out of dodge along with the rest of the lemmings you will get hopelessly stuck on some clogged roads with a bunch of increasingly desperate, panicky, and potentially dangerous other people. Unless your life or humble abode is in immediate danger or you were smart enough to perhaps decipher some early warning signs of a disaster and hit the roads before the Golden Horde, you will probably simply not be able to reach your perceived sanctuary at Grandma’s house in the country. Think about how bad it is during rush hour if there is even a single accident. Multiply that by a thousand fold during a true SHTF crisis. Now take the time to rethink that bug out plan again. You either have to get out extremely early, or hunker down.

If you can, it is best to hunker down, fortify your home as best you can, lie low, and try to ride out the first wave of panic and violence. Stay inside, wisely use your stockpiled supplies, have your defensive arms at the ready, and avoid drawing any attention to yourself whatsoever from anyone including LEO’s (law enforcement officers) who can often get both trigger happy and extremely gun grabby in a SHTF scenarios. If you absolutely must leave your home, then do have a very specific place in mind to go that is safe, dry, stocked, and with reasonable accommodations that is as close as possible to your current location. The closer it is the more reasonable chance of you actually being able to reach it in a serious and scary situation. Generically “heading for the hills” on the other hand is not a plan, but merely an act of desperation and thinking that you can easily flee to Aunt Betty’s country farmhouse 300 miles away is probably little more than a pipe dream.

Get to know your neighbors

mr-rogers-neighbor-hello-welcome

This is far more important than most people realize. You do not need to fully blab all your secrets and reveal all your preparations to everyone on the block or be an annoying idiot, but it is a very good idea to be on a cordial and first name basis with all your neighbors in case you may ever have to turn to them for help or assistance. In a crisis scenario they will undoubtedly have ideas, skills, resources, and tools that you do not. The ability to quickly band together can be imperative for safety when needed and even possibly save your life or property. You should not live in just a sea of strangers on your block but at minimum have a decent, friendly relationship of some sort if possible with those around you. You do not need to be everyone’s best buddy on the block, but you should be able to easily show up on their front door without them seeing you as a stranger or even as potential prey or danger instead of a friendly neighbor if things ‘go south’ quickly. Friendly relations before a SHTF fan event can quickly turn into an important ‘we need to stick together’ alliance afterwards.

I live on a cul-de-sac where everyone knows everyone to one degree or another and some of us know each other quite well. I regularly share fresh eggs from my backyard chickens and extra harvest from my garden with all my neighbors. And the casual wave as one drives by or the friendly greeting at the mailbox can pay handsome dividends in the end. Such gestures costs you absolutely nothing more than the most minimal of effort. My neighborhood banded together magnificently when it was hit hard by the tornado that I referenced earlier and the lessons I learned from that experience have stuck with me to this day.

In conclusion, let me state that reasonable “prepping” is not paranoia but merely insurance to help you get through an unexpected, potential crisis in the future. It is wise to prepare for the unexpected and be ready to respond effectively to “disagreeable” future events that may unfold without warning. Planning ahead dramatically decreases your chances of being a frightened refugee or merely another desperate person in a sea of others if disaster strikes. It buys you valuable time to adapt to a fluid and potentially dangerous situation and will help you keep a clear head when possible panic rears its ugly head. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst should be your motto and adapted into your everyday life.

Are you growing mutant seeds? Try Heirloom Seeds!

Think Wal-mart is the answer for all your garden needs? Do you know what you are buying? Do you realize the lack of sustainability in Wal-Mart mutant seeds? Have you considered the mutigenic qualities (or lack thereof) of the produce that is grown from mutant seeds?

GMO Mutant Produce

GMO Mutant Produce

What is a mutant seed you ask? One that is genetically modified from the original. How many of us yearn for that juicy ripe red tomato from the supermarket? No one?!?! Oh, because you generally don’t find that kind of produce, but in your own garden. Those that are found in your supermarket are those strains of genetically modified beasts, I call mutants, tasteless and little to no nutritional value. Genetically modified seeds (GMO) have been spliced with genes from bacteria or viruses, or genes that make plants resistant to chemicals like herbicides (like Roundup).

These genes were not apart of the human diet until the first GMO plant was made in 1996. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) says about GMOs is they “have not been properly tested and pose a serious health risk”.

Why do they spend millions modifying our food from their already delicious and nutritious state? Money. What do they say about money? The root (pun intended) of all evil? They modify the seeds to be more disease resistant, modified to be repel the insects that normally prey on our precious fruits and vegetables.

Sounds wonderful, does it not? Sure, but there are great sacrifices to be made. Usually in taste or the nutrient level. Do we know the long lasting affects? Have we yet to understand the ramifications it has on our Eco system and our own bodies?

This is why we seldom salivate for veggies from the supermarket. All this goes to increasing the corporate farmers bottom line.

Corporate Farming

Corporate Farming

In 30 countries around the world there are restrictions and bans on the production of GMOs as they are not proven safe. So why are they so openly accepted in the US, who can say!?!?

If you can’t or won’t grow your own fruits and vegetables, then I implore you to buy them from your local farm market. Where you can buy quality, mouth watering, nutritious produce at equal or less price than from your supermarket.

If, I think you are as I suspect, growing your own food, then please, do yourself, your taste buds and your body a favor and start growing wholesome and nutritious, God designed fruits and vegetables.

Heirloom Tomatoes Varieties

Heirloom Tomatoes Varieties

Here are some things you need to know about seeds…

There are three main types of seeds on the market currently:

Genetically Modified (GMO) Seeds, designed to be disease and pest resistant, but lacks in flavor and nutrition. You will not be able to reproduce the same plant from the seed of the parent plant.

Hybrid Seeds, a cross between two plants. Produces a unique plant with favorable characteristics, but lacks reproduction of the same plant from seed, as with GMO.

Open Pollinated Seeds, true to form, au naturel seeds. They produce fruit that is delicious and nutritious and when you plant a seed from the parent plant you get an identical plant. This is the ideal seed for lifelong sustainability.

You can find Open Pollinated Seeds at Wal-mart, but you will usually find it under the title of “Heirloom” seeds.

Heirloom Vegetables

Heirloom Vegetables

The definition of an Heirloom Seed by author Cassandra Truax of A Worm Tea Primer and blog writer of www.organic-raised-bed-gardening.com is:

Seed varieties collected for generations by everyday people. Such varieties are usually hardy, pest resistant and have other desirable qualities, as well as being open pollinated. Heirloom seeds are important store houses of genetic diversity.

Heirloom seed varieties are typically 100 to 150 years old. To be considered heirloom, typically, a seed cultivar has to be at least 50 (some say 100) years old. And it must be open pollinated. Last but not least is quality. For a seed to be passed on, it obviously had a good quality or qualities.

What draws most gardeners to using heirlooms seeds, is the flavor of the fruit. One has yet to experience a good tomato (for instance) if one has not tasted the bountiful flavor of an heirloom tomato.

Purple Cherokee Heirloom Tomato

Purple Cherokee Heirloom Tomato

Don’t expect heirloom plants to look like their GMO or Hybrid counterparts. There are black heirloom tomatoes called Black Krim which is rich and earthy, and has almost a smoky flavor. There are many tastes and varieties that will not disappoint in the heirloom family of seeds.

Black Krim Heirloom Tomato

Black Krim Heirloom Tomato

As natural, unaltered state, heirloom seeds have all the good qualities we need without modifying the flavor and nutrients out of them AND reproduce the same plant over and over again, thus being open pollinated.

There are many places to purchase heirloom, open pollinated seeds. Yes, Wal-mart usually has a few, but I would urge you to buy from seed companies that specialize in these sustainable and prolific seeds.

Such places are:

Baker Creek Seeds – www.rareseeds.com
Orchard House Heirlooms – www.orchardhouseheirlooms.com
Victory Seeds – www.victoryseeds.com
Seeds of Change – www.seedsofchange.com

There are many more out there, but these are just a few, what I would call reliable companies that I have worked with.

If you are looking for Medicinal or Tea Herb seeds, I have found My Patriot Supply (www.mypatriotsupply.com) a good source for these types of seeds.

I have yet to find any studies on the health ramifications of eating GMO foods. Not only does GMO help the corporate farmers bottom line, but it also helps companies like Monsanto control our future food supply by controlling the seeds ability to reproduce, thus controlling where and when we can purchase our seeds.

Genetically Modified Corn

Genetically Modified Corn

Keep the genetic diversity of Heirloom seeds going by growing nothing but heirloom, open pollinated seeds. Not only will they keep your garden going from year to year, but provide healthy and tasty food to put on your table.

If you are growing your own food in your garden, you may as well grow the right kind of seed. A seed that reproduces, provides a superior and proven plant, year after year. You will without question, notice the difference in taste and nutrition over GMO produce.

Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden

Heirloom Seeds that have been passed from generation to generation are far more hardier and as some studies show, have more nutritional value than GMO.

With companies like Monsanto out to capitalize on sterile seeds and pushing them into our homes and gardens, it is important to think of our food security using open pollinated seeds.

Stop the mutant! Grow hardy open pollinated heirloom seeds, for sustainability of life.

Taste the difference!

Raising Chickens, your first step to self sufficiency

You ask, why do I recommend to start with chickens? The answer is simple. Chickens are the quickest in return, the easiest to maintain, and gives you a sense of fulfillment that will inspire you to continue down the journey of self sufficiency. No other farm creature is so quick to produce, so easy to raise, and very inexpensive to purchase.

Barred Rock flock

Barred Rock flock

We have been on our farm for over 5 years now (not our first farm mind you) and we have probably started the wrong way to many times and have, a time or two become discouraged in our dream of our farm. You need to know the best and the most rewarding place to start.

You may think to just order a batch of chicks and your brooder, and that is all you need to know… Nothing can be the furthest from the truth. There is a good deal to know before you start.

So allow me to take the guess work out of starting your own flock of chickens.

chicks

chicks

Timing, you need to know when to start. You can buy chicks and other varieties of poultry throughout the year. The best time to purchase your chicks will be in the spring. Chicks grow very, very fast. And if you start them too soon, you might not have a warm place for them when they outgrow the brooder.

brooder kit

brooder kit

There are many online hatcheries to purchase your chicks from. I strongly recommend buying from your local farm feed/tractor store if this is your first time. They will start carrying them at the right time of the spring and will carry the correct breeds for your climate. At the same time you can purchase all your chick supplies.

Breeds? Yes, there are many breeds of chicks to choose from. To cover the basics there are strictly egg layer breeds, meat breeds and what is called dual purpose breeds, which provides both eggs and meat. Egg breeds (like the Isa Brown) will be smaller, eat less feed and produce large eggs. The meat breeds are very large breeds like the Cornish Rock breed, but eat much more feed.

Dual purpose breeds like the Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks will be medium sized and will eat a medium amount of feed in comparison to the other types.

Rhode Island Reds

Rhode Island Reds

What is the right breed for you? That is determined on which chicken product you are after, meat, eggs, or both.

I prefer dual breeds, as you can get both. I have yet to use both, just eggs, but the potential is still there for meat.

Once you determine which type of bird you want, you have to take into consideration your climate. For our farm, located in Michigan, we chose a breed that was cold hardy and would still lay in the winter months. That breed for us was the Barred Rock.

The Barred Rock breed is a northern breed and does well in the cold and snow. Ours lay year round and produce well. The main key for us are not requiring us to use a heat lamp in the winter, unless it gets below zero. So we have a hardy breed that needs little pampering and produces year round. This was an ideal breed for us here in the north.

A good source of information on breeds (and reviews) is the Murray McMurray Hatchery out of Iowa. (http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/bar_baby_chicks.html)

Another good source of information is chicken forums like www.backyardchickens.com and www.chickenchatter.org

Barred Rock Chicks

Barred Rock Chicks

To fence or not to fence? That is a question one must answer. If you live in the country and have the room to free range your chickens, I would still recommend keeping them fenced in until a month after they start laying. This will allow them to know where their home is, their feed, and where they are to lay. Yes, you will still get the occasional offender and find an egg under a bush somewhere, for the most part they will use their nest box to lay.

Nest Boxes

Nest Boxes

In the winter months use you will want to supplement their lighting with a 60 watt bulb, on a timer. You want your chickens to have light 12-14 hours per day, otherwise their laying will reduce.

Typically, we have found that we can get almost an egg a day per chicken. However, breeds, climate and lighting will cause variations in the quantity produced.

When you finally choose the type and breed of chicken to raise, you will need a Brooder Starter Kit. The kits includes (or buy them separately), heating lamb and bulb, waterer, feeders, brooder guard (to keep them in) and ideally a brooder thermometer.

However, your chicks will tell you if they are to hot or cold.

Correct Brooder Temp

Correct Brooder Temp

When we received our first chicks, I was not only anxious but afraid I would not be able to raise them properly without sickness or fatalities.

Those fears were quickly laid to rest after our first batch of chicks. Keep them with water, feed and adjust your temperature and they do all the work. The only intervention was we had to dip their beaks gently into the waterer so they knew where to find their water.

We were amazed at how fast they grow, they will double and triple in size in just a couple weeks.

Our chickens are our yard pets and come when called, and are such a joy to watch.

When you purchase your chicks, you have three options, males, females or a straight run, which includes about 50/50 of each. Sexing a chick is no easy task, so even when ordering females, you might get one or two males and visa versa.

Another question, do you need a rooster to produce eggs? No, you do not. Rooster are required to fertilize the eggs to incubate and hatch chicks. Roosters do add character to your homestead, they are almost always more colorful and you get your morning chime.

Roosters

Roosters

Whether you realize it or not, chickens have personalities, and they know who feeds them. They will follow their caregiver all over the farm, let you pet them and hold them. They give a certain charm to your yard, and are like yard ornaments when looking out your favorite window.

You will find that chickens give back to your farm in many ways. They provide eggs, meat, when free ranged provide pest control against grasshoppers, fleas, ticks, ants and more…

Now to mention the health benefits of free range chicken eggs vs store bought eggs. Mother Earth News (www.motherearthnews.com) completed a study in 2007 and compared to U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) study on caged chickens, that free range produced eggs are healthier.

The reports shows, that hens raised on pasture (free ranged) are:

1/3 less cholesterol
¼ less saturated fat
2/3 more vitamin A
2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
3 times more vitamin E
7 times more beta carotene

I think that logic would stand, to say caged chickens themselves are less healthy than well exercised, well fed free range chickens.

Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens

Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens

Chickens are the first choice when homesteading or raising on your hobby farm. They produce quickly, constantly and require little maintenance, and keeps the pests under control. Of the years we have been raising chickens, we have found no downside to raising chickens on our farm.

A word to the wise, don’t get a previously owned flock, start from scratch. People that want to get rid of their flocks are the ones usually not to care for them. So you do not know what you are getting yourself into. Trust me, this is how we started. Remember, I said that I have started out the wrong way a few times? This was one of them. We got an adult flock, we soon realized they were unhealthy, uncared for and were caged raised, so they did not produce well. We soon culled this flock and started over. This is always the preferred way of starting a flock, herd, passel, team and etc…

In the morning when you are sitting out on your patio, enjoying your favorite cup of java, listening to the roosters chime and see the chickens peck for food, you realize in yourself the serenity it brings, and say job well done.

For additional information on raising chickens check out the books by author Gale Damerow titled “Your Chickens” and “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens“.

Also, Mother Earth News released a “Pickin Chicken” app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch that helps you choose the right chicken breed to suit your needs. This app released through iTunes.