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helwen: (MacGyver)
For the most part I don't worry about this stuff, but for those interested in having some just-add-water foods in case of power loss or whatever, this site looks promising:


This site might be okay, but with the chosen background for the page....well, I don't know if it's ironic or something but it did kind of amuse me:

helwen: (MacGyver)
Some widely varied reasons folks have been glad to have stores of food and water:

Last fall after the Halloween storm, people were coming up to Ashfield because we had power and gas -- fortunately for these folks, the gas station had just gotten a delivery on Friday, just ahead of the storm. A day or two after, we were up at Elmer's and I got to chatting with a woman from Haydenville. She told me her sister had told her repeatedly that she should have some food and water stored but "we'd never lost power before". And even after they lost power, she'd figured that since the local power station was just down the road from her house, that power would be restored within hours. But the damage was so extensive because of all the downed trees that it would be days before they got power back.

On a less dramatic note, my mother always has plenty of canned, dried, and frozen goods and water as well. The water is a newer addition, something she started doing in California, but I grew up with a well-stocked pantry. She has always taken advantage of sales whenever possible, and this has ensured that her dollar goes further and she always has something to available to her. It was important when she was raising three children and it continues to be important as her mobility has decreased in more recent years.
helwen: (MacGyver)
The bugout kit continues to be useful. They've been revamped for winter of course, and even include sets of Thermasilk winter underwear (super stuff, folds up small and weighs almost nothing). We keep them in the car, since if the house were on fire they just wouldn't be the first thing we'd be after moving out of the house, and we know that. Besides, on-the-road is usually where they've been handy.

I keep some travel food in them, for one, and sometimes we don't have time to eat or stop to get something even, say on the way to kung fu class. I re-supply after class, when there's more time. We've used the changes of clothing on the way home from War of the Roses, when we spontaneously decided to stop at Hancock Shaker Village and hadn't planned enough modern clothing for the trip.

The first aid kits have come in handy too -- yes, even though I also keep a kit in the car as well... I'm not always on top of inventory for things, so if we run out of something in the house, the kits from the packs are more portable than the car one is. BTW, I also keep a basic first aid kit down in the barn, because the temptation to let something go for a bit until the job at hand is done is strong, and that really isn't a good idea in the barn. Hm.... I should probably make a couple more for the barn, actually.... one is on the lower level but ones on the middle and upper would be good to have.

If you search online for bugout kits you'll see a fair bit of variety in what people think you should have in a kit, but there will be overlaps. Some of it folks might not see much sense in, like rope for instance. I'm not a mountain climber! But overnight camping might need it for hanging food high up in a tree away from critters, or you may stop at a tag sale and buy something that you need to secure onto the top of your car.

I think it's also a good idea to think about what sorts of things you tend to forget to bring with you sometimes, and add those in. You might want to put a little cash in your bag, stowed well out of sight of course. Sometimes out-of-the-way places don't take checks or cards, so then you might be in a tough spot.

BTW, we throw a blanket over our packs -- makes them less desirable to a casual thieves and protects them from the sun, too. Many materials, in particular modern tents, are sensitive to UV and will age faster, so protect your investment. If you have a trunk in your vehicle, this might be a good use of that space. If you don't have a car, consider if you have a shed where you could store some things (in case of fire or flood) -- make sure to wrap up/store whatever you put out there, as animals are really good at smelling food, even through a ziploc bag. If you don't have that option, try to make a space for your bugout kit/go-bag right near the entrance/exit you use most at your home. The hall closet, by the umbrella stand, maybe you could put a nice little side table or chest in the hall by the door and keep it under/in there. When you don't have a lot of time, whether because of emergency or running late to class/work, your best chance of success at bringing all you need with you is to make things as easy as possible.
helwen: (Default)
Tried a couple of on-the-go snacks by a company called Enjoy Life. They have three types of something called Chewy on-the-go Bars. We've tried two of them, and three of us like them so far: L, me, and my MIL. The texture/consistency reminds me a bit of Fig Newtons. One little bar is 120 - 140 calories.

We tried the Cocoa Loco (1 g of fiber) and the Sunbutter Crunch (3g of fiber).

NO: Wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, fish, shellfish. These two are also made without casein, potato, sesame or sulfites. We'll have to try the third one out the next time we are near the Big Y in Hadley.

Enjoy Life's business is making gluten-free foods that are free of the 8 most common allergens.
It is not cheap, but if you need some safe travel food, then here's an option. Nutritionally, I figure it is also a step-up from eating Fritos.

Some of these will definitely be making it into my bugout kit!

On another note -- are there any non-wheat beers or ales that are decent? I'm not known for my expertise or vast experience with alcohol, so I'm curious about this. The BBC ales don't seem to bother me too much, but someone's homemade stuff set off my asthma last spring, so I'm a bit more cautious now. Thanks for any info on this.
helwen: (Default)
Looks like the storms system that's been k-o-ing places in the Midwest and South are coming toward the Northeast.

Sharon Astyk's posted this fairly useful Power Outage Post

I agree with her on bathtubs leaking, _if they're new_. The old-fashioned ones that use an actual rubber stopper plug are still pretty decent. We have plenty of water here of course, but I'm considering doing some experimenting with the tub (the upstairs one is a typical fiberglass tub) to see if I can find something that works. Meantime, storing containers of water in the tub isn't a bad idea, if a storm becomes imminent -- even non-food-safe containers are all right, since you need water for washing clothing or doing sponge/washcloth bathing in the case of loss of water/power.

Sharon had the idea of experimenting with no-power weekends during the different seasons of the year -- some folks may get that chance....

Years ago I lived in an apartment and the refrigerator started cooking the food in the freezer. At least I still had electricity (now I have other options too), so since the fridge was dead I spent the day cooking all the perishables. If the fridge part had still been cool I probably could have just moved the eggs over to the pantry closet for a bit, but since everything was compromised I made hardboiled eggs -- and then put _those_ in the pantry :D

I didn't have a lot of meat to cook, so that and some of the veggies became stew. Since I still had power I could just keep that on low for a few days. Nowadays I'd probably cook some meat for immediate eating purposes, dehydrate some of it -- jerky's good traveling food after all, and then maybe have a little party if I needed to ;)

If you have a way to keep things kind of cool, cooked meat will be good for a few days. In the case of chicken or other bird meat, my Scarborough Fair recipe works well for keeping it from spoiling -- a week or more in the fridge, less in less constant circumstances. I've taken chicken cooked this way in a picnic basket to events for lunch or dinner, so it's pretty effective.

The primary 'saviors' in the recipe are probably the rosemary and sage. They're both good at helping to preserve things, and work even better in combination.

Chicken Scarborough

Sprinkle some parsley, sage and thyme on the pan first. If using butter, lay a few bits of butter all over the pan bottom as well. How much of the spices? Just enough that there's a bit of each everywhere. We're adding flavor, not making astroturf (I've seen some spiced blackened foods that looked like burnt astroturf...)

Lay chicken pieces in pan. Put a little pat of butter on each piece (I really do mean little, like 1/4 to 1/3 of one of those commercial butter pats). Sprinkle with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. If you can, grind the rosemary a bit first. Don't put too much sage on or it may taste slightly 'musty' instead of blending in.

I also like to sprinkle a little bit of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves (yeah, eggnog spices ;) )

If you're using olive or some other oil, brush/wipe oil on all surfaces of chicken, then put pieces in pan and then sprinkle as above.

Cover pan and put in oven. I think 350F is the usual for chicken. About 20 minutes in, take pan out and rotate all the pieces. This helps spread the spices around more evenly and bastes the pieces more. If cooking skinless meat, re-cover for another 10 minutes before removing to do a little browning. If cooking with skins on, just put back in without the cover.

Total time for a pan of chicken is about 40 minutes, depending on your oven.

Now, if I had to do this on a grill, I don't know what the times would be since I've never done it. But I expect you could still do something similar. Coat piece with oil, maybe mix up the spices in a bowl and then brush it on? Then wrap in foil and put on the grill for half the cooking time and then open foil for 2nd half? Or if you can cook it a little higher off the heat so that it doesn't get burnt, then maybe the foil wouldn't be needed.
helwen: (MacGyver)
An interesting thought came up in the comments to my previous post; it made more sense for L and I to be prepared for emergencies because we live in a isolated area. Now while it's true that we don't have a supermarket, movie theatre, or hospital, I don't really think of us as being isolated, at least not in terms of power outages or fire. And having had the ambulance here a couple of times last year, that service also seems to work well.

Our community came together and provided things like old phones that would work with the power they could get from the phone lines. Our house had heat and water. And although we enjoyed our shower at our friends' place in Sunderland and their company as well, we could have done what my FIL did and heat up water on one of the stoves and filled up the tub that way.

As soon as the business district had power (sometime Saturday), people were congregating at Country Pie Pizza, the hardware store, and probably over at Elmer's as well. They weren't there just for food or supplies but also to check on how other parts of town were doing, how folks were doing, even getting news on neighboring towns. Some of the cheeriest conversations I'd seen all year happened during the power outage.

For those who couldn't manage on their own the Sanderson Academy was set up as a shelter. Some folks went there to stay, others to pick up some basic supplies, others to help, and still others just to share meals and company with those who were staying there. All of the emergency services were available and busily at work. So, all the services one might expect in a bigger town or in a city.

If this had happened last year in Holyoke, L and I probably could have closed up most of the house and stayed in the living/dining room for a few days. We would have had to drain the radiator pipes (which would have given us plenty of flushing water at least). If it had gone on for longer than that we would have had to find somewhere else for us and our cats to stay.

If it had happened this year, we might have had a wood stove by then, as we'd been talking about getting one and installing it in the living/dining room. But as it stood when we left, our house wasn't ready for a prolonged winter power outage. It didn't even have a fireplace, inefficient as those are.

Every year people freeze to death in winter or die during heat waves in the summer. They do it in the countryside and in the city. And of course unemployment doesn't care where people live either (another reason for having some extra food on the shelves).

So, we do what we can in the places we live.

That might be seeing to our own personal preparedness so we don't have to tax the local emergency shelter's limits.

Or we might be able to put someone else up for a night or two because we have some extra blankets and enough food and water for them as well as ourselves.

Or if we are the ones who need help, we know ahead of time where those places are that we can get help.

What comes around goes around. Being prepared isn't just serving ourselves, but serving our community.
helwen: (MacGyver)
I know I'm just preaching to the choir here, but I'm feeling just a wee ranty. Was just reading some comments on someone else's blog about being prepared for potential disasters -- natural ones like the recent ice storm or economic ones like losing one's job. One person commented on all the various names she's been called, and "pessimist" was probably the strangest one. It's her favorite "You are such a pessimist! All gloom and doom! Never any hope!" -- as if, she said, being prepared were a disease.

How silly is that, that being prepared should make folks like her or me considered to be a bit touched in the head. Keeping more than a week's worth of food (assuming one has the space) was commonsense when I was a kid. My in-laws buy some things regularly (perishables like milk), but have a freezer full of food just like my mom did. Having the freezer full meant that when we lost power for a few days that most everything stayed frozen, thank you. She even has food that she can't eat herself because for health reasons. Why? Because she likes to be able to entertain unexpected guests. So she keeps some tasty quickbreads like zucchini, carrot, and pumpkin breads in the freezer just in case. We defrosted one on Sunday of the power outage in fact, as part of a rather tasty lunch together, enjoying each other's company.

Just read a news article this afternoon about how all the police in Atlanta are now on furlough. They got a 10% pay cut as of the day after Christmas, so everyone will be taking one day off every other week. So even the most "recession-proof" jobs aren't completely proof. Now there's some doom and gloom for you, if you aren't prepared, have your cards maxed out or maybe a big mortgage or an equity loan on the house.

And yesterday I went through Yang-style Tai Chi 24-form three times in a row. It's a relatively gentle exercise but between that and some yoga exercises I discovered just how tight some muscles are and also that I need to wear a knee brace for Tai Chi, at least for now.

I talk about being prepared here on my LJ now and again, and for sure we found out what worked a few weeks ago. One thing I hadn't really thought about was how much more work physically it was than I thought it would be. And thank goodness I didn't have to do the heaviest stuff! But on the good side of things, it's gotten me back into practicing Tai Chi, and that's a good thing.

If I want to live longer than my dad did, I need get in better shape -- something I've been doing right along, but the ice storm and reading about what's happening to other folks has definitely boosted that desire to a higher level. And also the desire to buy less, which I guess is too bad for the retailers (estimate is 148,000 stores closing in the U.S. in 2008), but I like having manageable debt thanks.

Still, I like my internet and my electricity, yes I do. I may use less than a lot of other people, but I do like having it and intend to keep it, thank you very much. But modern 'conveniences' make it easy to get lazy about some things, for sure.

There are many good things about being "prepared" that I don't consider to be at all negative -- more exercise = better health. And because I'm doing more stuff around the farm, I get to do it without going to a gym, saving money. Although if I had no idea what I was doing, I'd probably go to the gym to learn some things first -- all the weight training I do are things I was trained in first. Same with the Tai Chi -- and I'm happy to say that in repeating the form I could tell I was improving each time, even with the knee giving me grief.

Actually, even knowing what the current limits are on my activities is a positive for mePreparedness aside, being in better shape means being able to do more fun stuff! It means not running out of energy as quickly, whether for getting some more wood or water, hiking Mount Sugarloaf for a picnic, checking out the latest museum exhibit, walking to classes at Pennsic, or staying up partying on New Year's Eve.

Other positives to prepping -- food, shelter, and power security. CDC recommends having 12 weeks' worth of food on-hand, and plenty of water and/or a good filtration system (seriously, who could fit 12 weeks' worth of water in their home?). That's a worst-case scenario for a pandemic, but look at something like a large-scale disaster like Hurricane Katrina? Or how about Gustav this past summer? Mind you, if your home is completely washed out to sea those food supplies won't do much good -- hence the bugout kits some folks recommend, which should have 3-days of supplies. We've already seen that FEMA, although they did a lot better this summer, can't get food and water to everyone who's in trouble.

Of course it would be pretty hard to fit 12 week's worth of food into a lot of people's homes, but I think a month's worth should be quite do-able. Might have to get creative, and it probably won't all fit in the kitchen and pantry, at least not if you lived in a place like one house I rented with some folks many years ago. Three of us, not sharing any supplies, had a third of the fridge and freezer and about 4 shelves in the rather small pantry. I was a starving student in those days, but I did manage to keep the shelves and fridge filled. Whole chickens were .49/lb that year, and boy did I learn how to cut them up and use every bit, including using the bones and scraps to make a very tasty soup. None of us stored water though -- in part because bottled water wasn't as much of a thing back in the 80s. If we'd gotten a serious storm warning while I was living there I just would have done what my mom always did -- fill the biggest pots and the pitchers with water, as well as the bath tub (you need a good plug or rubber cover seal).

Unemployment benefits have a limited lifespan if you lose your job or are given fewer hours. Some extra vittles are nice then, too.

Preparedness, whether it's getting in better shape or having some extra lighting, blankets, food and water set aside, paying down one's debts, putting money in the bank, or whatever, is all about having a positive and sane attitude. And you know, having the candles and oil lamps makes it easier to set up a romantic dinner or two as well ;)
helwen: (Tower)
Decent article by Sharon Astyk here:
Inconceivable! Or, why failure is normal and should be part of the plan but isn't

I was doing a radio interview as we were making these preparations, and I mentioned them to the interviewer, saying that we’re pretty ready for power outages, so that it isn’t that big a deal here. And she asked me whether other people should do this, and when I said I thought they should prepare for interruptions in power, argued, ”but think about all the time and money you use up getting ready to be able to operate without power - and most of the time you don’t need those preparations - after all, extended power outages for most people happen only once every few years - is it really worth the effort for most of us? Plus, you have to be thinking “what if something goes wrong all the time” - isn’t that depressing?”

Depressing? No, not at all. Being prepared means feeling more secure in case an emergency arises. I'll admit it can be a bit stressful at times trying to find all the things I think it would be good to have in an emergency, but sometimes also fun (there's some cool stuff out there, and you pick up new skills and knowledge).

And some of the stuff you really need all the time, like having a decent first aid kit for instance.

Extra blankets and comforters in case you lose heat are also good to have when guests are staying over, and make good extra insulation for the home even when everything is working as it should.

Extra foodstuffs, if you can manage it, is good not only if you're stuck in the house for a while but also if prices aren't great on some things and you're hoping to wait for a sale on them. Last year many folks in the Midwest were stuck in their homes with no power for 10 days -- the strangest thing to me about all that was that a number of them suffered a lot of food spoilage. Why? They had snow all around them, surely they could have used a snow bank for helping to keep the food cool for longer. It's harder in warmer weather, for sure -- years ago my freezer went on the blink and started cooking the food. While I waited for the apartment complex's management to fix and/or replace the fridge, I simply continued the process and cooked anything that might spoil. I extended the useful lifespan of all the more sensitive foodstuffs by days, which was all I needed at the time.

But what if I hadn't had any power, and no way to cook those foods? Suppose none of my neighbors did either? Say a huge summer storm instead of a huge winter storm? I guess I'd have had to hope one of my neighbors was into barbecueing (we have a grill now but I didn't have one then). Suppose you don't want to have a backup cooking system or don't have the space for it? That's when having other types of food, a few weeks' worth at least, would be a Good Thing.

Or suppose instead of a natural disaster or fire, you end up suffering from a more personal 'disaster', like losing your job? In this economy, things can change rather more quickly than is comfortable for most folks.

*** Planning for Failure is Part of the Job ***

There are people who think about failure all the time, because it is a part of their jobs -- they're trying to anticipate, as best they can, what sorts of things might happen, so that it can be prevented. And if it can't be prevented, how best to deal with it. Firemen, EMTs and other medical professionals, engineers, programmers, construction workers, truckers, are just a few obvious ones -- plus the folks who try to teach them how to this sort of thinking. If you really think about it, almost every occupation requires some thought about failure, planning for it, trying to prevent it -- this is how accidents at work are reduced, how deliveries are made in a timely manner, how disease is prevented, how people are fed, and more.

Of course as we all know, some things are not attended to as they should be, and sometimes bad things are unavoidable. But in the area of our own homes and lives, we do have some control over what preventative measures can be taken. We have multiple first aid kits, not just for home or hiking but also in the car. Mind you, they're still incomplete, but it's better than nothing, and we keep working at it. Plus of course, things get used from time to time, so then you have to re-supply them.

So, if professionals have disaster-planning/prevention as part of their jobs, shouldn't we have it in all aspects of our lives?

An interesting thing from this current situation -- with the power turned off for the entire town, nobody could get gas or diesel. Most pumps are electrically-powered. Only one hand-powered pump here that I know of, and so a few of one of the emergency crew used it to make sure they could get to the places they needed to, to repair damage and/or remove trees. Fortunately most folks either had enough fuel or came from out of the area from places that had operating stations.

*** Personal Note on Recent Local Events ***

Personally, while I wouldn't wish a disaster on anyone, and I hope the hundreds of thousands of people dealing with the current problems in the Northeast are able to manage (only one fatality I've heard about so far), it's been a good experience for us. Yes, we're tired and we had difficulties and there's still more work to do in the coming weeks (what do you want to bet that some branches came down on the pipelines that L had just finished clearing?) -- it gave us a good idea of what worked, what could have worked better, and where some of the weak spots were in our planning. We did lose one chicken, but that could have happened anyway, as sometimes does. Nobody went hungry, everyone had shelter. The town set up a shelter for those who couldn't keep their homes warm enough (or possibly were flooded out, since we had alternating ice and flood watches).

Some towns plan better than others, and also some people are wiser than others -- either in their preparations or in knowing when it's time to bug out to a safer place. I hope anyone reading this is among the wiser folks, or is venturing in that direction. We may not be able to plan for everything, but something is much better than nothing. I prefer knowing and security to ignorance and fear anytime -- even if the knowing includes that I can't be ready for everything. The more skills and tools for adapting one has, the better chance one has of doing well, whether a situation is desperate or just planning a party.

I know one thing I definitely need to work on improving, and that's getting in better shape. I've been working on it, but boy, I don't like being so tired just from keeping moving more than usual. And I'd like to have the energy to help out more with some of the chores, like carrying wood up from the basement. Maybe I'll start with just bringing up one or two pieces of wood at a time...
helwen: (Default)
Ordered a Big Berkey Water Filter today. Back up for if something happened to our water supply. We have a well and a spring, so less likely than in a city, but you never know. If some large factory had a bad fire and the smoke got up here (probably via rain clouds), trucking accident, bacterial outbreak (like e. coli, which happens in the valley every so often), or we lost power (pump for the well) during the driest part of the year, we now have backup.

The guy who runs Sustainable Choice, Tom Reichel, is a really nice guy. You can check out the goods he has at his web site, but to order/get info, you need to call him or email him. He doesn't believe in having an automated ordering process because he thinks the best way to make sure his customers are getting what they want and/or need is to talk to them. This might not work for all businesses, but it seems to work well for him, and I appreciated getting to learn more about the filter and chatting about various things with him. He recommended a few discussion lists/groups to check out, which I expect I will -- might not join them, but I'll check them out... the one on rural living has possibilities, for instance.

Had been planning on removing some of the clods of grass from the newly turned field today, but the ground's too wet. I don't mind so much the getting wet as that it's bad for the health of the soil -- compacts more, messes with the bio matter more (I forget the details, but remember that it should be avoided).

Tomorrow's the town meeting, so we have to get as much done as we can around here early. I should probably cut out and partly sew some stuff today, so I have something to do while at the meeting. As near as I can tell, Ashfield has one big meeting each year (and then smaller meetings of the elected folks the rest of the year).

Have to make a run to the transfer point tomorrow with trash and recycling.

Have to go down to the valley for shopping this weekend (cat supplies) -- Sunday maybe? Choir practice on Sunday, so that might make sense. Although that means not going to Goldthread Apothecary, because they're closed on Sundays. Well, maybe I can make it there later in the week, if I have some other errands to run. Bergental's business meeting's on Monday, but that isn't until 7pm and the apothecary closes at 5:30. Details to work out, for sure.
helwen: (Default)
Conference and some thoughts )

Glad we went, but glad to be home again. What a pleasure seeing the stars and the Milky Way when we got home last night, in all their brilliant glory!

And the air is noticeably better here than at lower elevations.

The kitties were happy to see us too, and vice versa :)

Today, more emptying of boxes and trying to make space. Our grain and container supply came in this past Friday. One of the things I ordered was rolled oats (organic even), because we often have oatmeal for breakfast, so I thought storing larger amounts in re-usable containers would be better in the long run -- yes the containers are plastic but have great durability, and now we won't have to keep buying it in smaller containers... although I may save some of the cardboard containers we still have for storing non-food stuffs. Looking forward to trying out grinding wheat to make our own flour too -- I've heard that the bread is quite different made from fresh flour. And there was something else I ordered in a small quantity to try... can't remember what it was at the moment. Guess I'll find out later, when there's space up here for unpacking the shipment :D

Oil is around $98/barrel now.... glad we don't live at the house in Holyoke anymore! And I'm sure the new owners are glad they were able to get a nearly full tank of oil at the lower price we paid earlier in the year! The farm's heat is primarily a wood furnace, with oil backup. It's a good furnace, not one of those nasty short stack things. Burns cleanly, works well, and vents high up. Still going to insulate more though -- don't want to use any more wood than we have to.


helwen: (Default)

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