Thursday 21 July 2016

Being Prepared Part IIIa !

Hello All
How are you doing folks?  Are you depressed enough yet!? My daughter  reckons that the posts are a bit strong but she has read nothing yet!
Yes things can get worse, you don't have to believe in global warming to admit to the increased energy in the weather (whatever the reason!) As gardeners and smallholders we are "obsessed" by the weather as it informs our decisions and preparations (will it be dry and warm enough for us to collect  the honey today? Will it be dry enough for long enough to cut, dry and collect hay? Will there be enough rain to fill the water buts? etc) . We have noted changes over the years and have made changes to how we plan and garden . Another issue that is ever present in people's minds, even in good old Britain, is civil unrest and other disturbances. Let's face it, as the population grows, so does the likelihood of Civil unrest, food  and oil shortages and the like.

In this post I was also going to discuss how to prepare for the unexpected turn of events in our finances and domestic life, such as unemployment, illness etc. However this doesn't really flow after the focus of last two posts, so I will address these subjects later and press on with practical preparedness .....
Before I press on, thanks to Tricky Wolf at Fast SOS for the quote, nay mantra..
The rule of 3; 3 mins without of air, 3 days without  water,  3 weeks without food. Easy to remember eh? This can help you prioritise what you might need for a few days to a couple of weeks should you need to leave your home and survive. Obviously you will need to calculate for how many you will be and if you intend to take your animal friends with you

So far, I think you will agree, much of that I have suggested is really good old common sense and can be practiced by anyone whatever their circumstances, be they living in a high rise flat in the city or a farm. In this post you will need a little more space and to spend some money.
Let's start with  a "Grab Bag"  If you live in a small space you will need to find room for a bag measuring say 24" x 14" x 20" Look around your space and see if you can jiggle stuff around to make room for this bag, which you will need to be able to reach in minutes - no point in it being in the loft that is reached by a ladder you have to fetch. On top of the wardrobe or under the stairs is good for example. If you travel a lot you might want to increase the contents of your Car Kit to transform it into an Emergency Bag to ensure that if you break down in a remote place or at a time of severe weather you can be as comfortable as possible and safe.
 The Grab Bag will enable you to leave your house efficiently and quickly and give a modicum of comfort if something like flooding, high winds, lightening strike, civil unrest etc leave your house suddenly uninhabitable. The contents of this bag will vary somewhat depending on your topography, but will contain some essential items. The basic list below can (and will I am sure) be challenged by other Preppers.. No problem, none knows it all (especially me!)
As a minimum-
Three days supply of non-perishable food. (includes animal food if you are taking pets with you.)
Battery-powered or hand crank radio.
Flashlight and extra batteries
First aid kit
Whistle to signal for help
Dust mask to help filter contaminated air.
Plastic sheeting and duct tape to make a shelter.
"Wet wipes", rubbish bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
Multi-tool -Including can opening facility
Lightweight waterproofs
Lightweight change of clothes.
Local maps
Paper and pencil/pen
Mobile phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
Water - As a minimum you should have a 2 litres of water per day for at least three days. This will be purely for drinking.

Tell everyone in the household where the bag is and when it should be used.

I hope that you notice that these preparations are achievable by "Townies" as well as those is rural areas who are likely to have more space.

So the Grab Bag gives you a bit of a safety net if you have to leave your home for a little while. What if the situation lasts longer or is more life threatening?  Cue the "Bug out Bag"! This an American name and I suppose "Disaster Bag" would be more British , though even that sounds a little emotive for us! 
The contents of  the Bug Out Bag is more comprehensive than the Grab bag and is often one of two - one as a Grab Bag at home or in the car and the other hidden at a given place away from home.  I shan't pretend to have assembled a Bug Out bag so I have copied and pasted one of the many UK entries that I Googled when looking for information. ---
A splitting axe
Survival Hatchet Compact High Quality axe for cutting smaller logs and banging in
Bug Out Bag – 50 lt capacity or above
Enough food and water to last for 72 hours.
Water for washing, drinking and cooking. Minimum of 2 litres per person per day for drinking plus an additional 2 litres per person per day for cleaning and hygiene
Toothbrush – this is an essential item
Non-perishable food –MRE’s
Water purification and filtering equipment
Anti diarrhea tablets, insect repellent and insect bite/sting cream
Cooking supplies – drinking/cooking canteen
Cooking stove – an essential alternative to a basic camp-fire is essential
Fire starting tool – water repellant matches
Cotton wool tinder – a few ladies tampax are ideal.!
A disaster plan including location of emergency centers, rallying points, possible evacuation routes, etc.
A survival handbook – pre studied, but with full survival information
Map of your area
550 Paracord
Camping equipment, this must include sanitation supplies
Clothing suitable for your climate – include spare boots/shoes [waterproof]
Sleeping bag – Mylar emergency blankets
Medication – allow for much more than the standard 72 hrs
First Aid – Emergency First Aid survival Kit
Your personal medical records and information on your personal medical requirements
Radio – either solar powered or crank-operated
Torch or glow sticks [torch, battery operated, solar powered or cranked operated]
Weapons – suitable for personal protection
Cash [credit cards etc may not be usable in a lot of situations]
Positive identification, such as drivers license
Birth certificate and/or passport
Fixed-blade survival knife and a pocket / multi-purpose tool
Rope/String – paracord – duct tape
Plastic sheeting – different sizes
pellet gun, catapult or other hunting equipment
Wire for binding and snares
Compass – especially if going though woodlands etc.
Radio – Solar powered or Wind Up Type Preferred
Fishing line and equipment
Resealable, waterproof freezer bags [to keep documents, money etc dry]
Gorilla Tape – ideally camo print, this has a 1001 survival uses
The above is an overview of essential survival supplies – it is not the definitive list by any means and you must adapt and change it to suit your personal requirements.

 This post is long enough, so I will close and continue with part II of part III  (part IIIa ?) - practical things to do and learn, in my next post. I guess that as smallholder with an interest and some skills in self reliance  I will feel more comfortable with this. Hope you will join me and keep those ideas coming.
PS Any beekeepers having a good honey year too? Honey from two hives collected, spun and strained into buckets last night yielded 56 pounds of honey and one of those colonies was a swarm in May.  Nine more hives to go!
PSS I wonder why 450 people from Russia decided to visit my one day last week?!

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Being Prepared Part II

Hello Again,
I must apologise for taking so long with this second Be Prepared post. David has been ill with a severe chest infection for the last two weeks, so I have been nursemaid to the poorly man. He is now well on the mend after some antibiotics that were so big, I was unsure how to administer them!

In this post the scenarios for preparedness (is that a word?) are a little less petty.
Are you prepared for a power cut that last a little longer than it takes to change a fuse or re-set a clock after a little surge trips out the power for few minutes, or that means that you miss an hours television?
What is the weather like where you live? Do you often have snow and below zero temperatures? Is flooding a common problem in your area or are you used to temperatures in the 90s for days on end (as if!) Different weather scenarios call for different  needs and plans, but there are commonalities - you might be stuck in your home and you may lose power.
Much of that I wrote in my last post holds as a start. You need to build on this, expanding your preparedness in a sensible way. In the last  post I didn't mention food as I assumed you had enough in for an hour or two! However, being without food for a few days up to a week when all the panic buying has taken place leaving the supermarket shelves empty (was that you?!) or you cannot get out to the shops anyway because you are snowed in, for example, can be a reality.
Wherever you live there is a minimum amount of food you should keep in to last you for a few days.
A well-thought out food cupboard would feed you for a few days if you got rid of any junk that might be lurking there, or re-thought your storage jars/tins.
Each person eats differently so I will share the staples that I keep in at all times and will serve to feed us several days without going to the shops and you can adjust to suit your tastes. I have just gone to the food cupboard to write down all I see and realise I could improve a little on the ingredients that provide protein and vitamins.
 Dry goods - plain, and bread flour; baking powder; yeast; sugar; rice; pasta; lentils; dried peas; soya mince; polenta; milk powder. stock cubes; cocoa powder; oil. oats; cornflakes; dried fruit (dates, apricots, raisins) nuts; tea; coffee; salt; sealed pitta bread.
Tinned and jar food - Jam and honey; yeast extract; tinned potatoes, sweet corn; evaporated milk; uht milk; feta in oil; corned beef; various pickles; pickled eggs; tomatoes; beans - baked, kidney, butter and flagolet; vinegar; tinned fish in oil; cartons fruit juice; mandarin oranges; sliced peaches.

Firstly prepare for the most common scenario.. power loss. At a time like this, it might well be that you have no cooking facilities so you will need to consider foods that need no cooking. As a minimum I would store - UHT milk; sugar; cartons of fruit juice, tins of milk puddings, cereals; tins of corned beef; tins of fish ( I would suggest in oil which adds food value) dried fruit and nuts; vacuum sealed crackers and pitta breads and the like; olive and sunflower oil. Tins of potatoes, various beans and sweet corn (make good cold salads). I would love it if readers could add to this and offer suggestions for no-cook meals
This is a good time to suggest a small camping stove. Used sparingly this could help to lift your mood with a hot drink or tin of soup (it also adds a little heat to the room) My daughter and granddaughter who work for the Fire and Rescue service, will not forgive me if I don't add a word of caution about the use of camping stoves inside, so I must add that the room should be ventilated when this is in use and it should stand on a level metal surface (tea tray?) which should stand on something like a thick chopping board and never left unattended. Don't be tempted to use those charcoal BBQs in a tin. people have died when using those inside tents.
 So you won't starve, but are you warm? If all your heating is electric (this could include an electric pump for another fuel source ) a few days without power can be a long time to shiver at best and life threatening at worst, especially for some vulnerable people.
 When driving at night in the winter and looking through people's windows (don't you?!) I see laminate floors, minimal furniture, flimsy curtaining ( not closed obviously) and folk walking around in teashirts and shorts and probably in bare feet too. I can only assume that the heating is on pretty high and I can't help but think about the cost both financial and environmental. Oh yes, and light floods from every room and every unoccupied corner and kick board is spotlighted for dramatic effect.
When the power goes out you will need to abandon style and go survival.
You will need to build up warmth and exclude cold. Firstly close the curtains if it is cold,  add a layer by hanging a blanket or another pair of curtains up at the windows. Don't forget that if you have doors with glass in these they should also be treated as windows too. Exclude draughts with "sausages" of paper or fabric, those old jeans you saved the zip from can be filled with crumpled paper or old towels or just roll up the towels. These sausages can be laid at (closed) doors - I note that the concept of a closed inner door can be a little new to some young people! If you are a family cosy up in the same room. As the children have no working  television or computer in their rooms they might as well sit with you and borrow some warmth! If you have any spare blankets, quilts or throws you can use them to cover yourselves and them carry them upstairs to put on the beds. If you have limited space You can store this spare linen over chairs, sofas and the end of beds or in one of those plastic bags that you vacuum the air out of, under the bed. Now get some layers on. not so that your clothes feel tight, allow space for air to be trapped between each layer. Put on some socks and slippers if you have them and maybe a loose fitting woolly hat  and then snuggle down under your blanket. you may not be a fashion god but who cares!
 We have already discussed the power outage box in your kitchen drawer. If you are unsure how much battery you have left or will need or how long your candles will last, discuss how to stretch it out and what you might use it for. If you have the room, a tin of extra batteries and candles under the bed prepares you for a bad winter. Go to bed early and rise as it gets light to save power ( it's how it used to be done back in the day!) If you are lucky enough to have the facility to boil water (gas hobs?) half fill lemonade bottles with hot water, wrap them in a towel and take them to bed with you.
 Hopefully you will add to this... I do hope so.
So here you are wrapped up as snug as bugs in rugs looking at each other - No TV, no computer,  and very little light. What to do? You will probably be surprised to hear that those teens who you recognise from the top of their head and the tone of reply grunts can actually adapt very well if they have to. Most teens and all children I know enjoy a board game or a game of cards. Pencils and paper serve many a game or quiz and can also be used for lists, plans and ideas. Perhaps now is a good time to engage the family in your preparedness and plan for the future with them. Now might be the time to talk about what you might do as a family. etc  You get the idea.. you have a captive audience.
At this point I'm going to suggest a little outlay. If you can afford it buy a good quality wind up/solar radio. Apart from the entertainment it enables you to keep in touch with what is going on outside.

 I bet some of you are jumping up and down saying "what about water?" and yes, this is ESSENTIAL. You can go for some time without food, but not clean drinking water and there are several scenarios that could see you without water in your taps. I would suggest you buy a few items each week until you are happy with your stash. While you should buy large containers, say 3 x 10ltrs. if you have the space, you should also have in your stores smaller bottles to keep in the car, your disaster bag (more next post on this) and for a mashing of tea or the like. This ensures that the water keeps wholesome, as once opened it becomes less so. You should store this water away from daylight.

I shall close for now as this post is getting far too large. I shall probably think of all sorts of things I should have included in this part but hopefully you might comment with ideas. In the next part I will continue to write for those who live in built up areas with limited space, but will also start to include suggestions that could only really be for those in more rural areas.

Hope you can join me!

PS A very warm welcome to Anne Morrison and Lee Anne Dezera on the follower bar and Thelma ilcox and Julie Royston Ford on Bloglovin. Please join in with comments.  xx
PPS Has David Cameron only got 48 hrs to pack all his belongings into a removal van and Teresa May the same amount of time to pack up and move into No 10 ?! Now that would take some organisation. Good News tho'... the cat is staying with Teresa!

Friday 1 July 2016

Be Prepared part I

Here we go!
I meant to say that in the spirit of this blog I will not be advocating the spending of large amounts of money and will always strive to help you spend as little as possible.
We can often be surprised and wrong-footed by the simplest difficulties. Those of us of a certain age have probably experienced many of these and learnt from them. Those setting out to live a more independent life might usefully take some time to assess if they are prepared for the niggly things that life can throw at you so that they can throw them right back!
In this part I am going to assume that you don't have a large house with lots of storage so that the ideas are achievable by all.
Let us start with "The Drawer" This is your go-to place to equip you to solve those little problems. Every living space should be able to give up a drawer, probably in the kitchen, for this and should contain -
1) A First Aid box - An ice cream carton will do for this with First Aid clearly written on the lid. As a basic list I would have plasters and plaster strip. pain killers, scissors, tweezers, safety pins, bandages and something that serves as a sling. I might add to this wound cleanser and anti-histamine cream (for stings) I also have some old clean tea towels and pillow slips in a clean plastic bag for mopping up or to be used a tourniquet . I rarely use creams on injuries and never on burns, but I do have an Aloe plant on both the kitchen and bathroom windowsills, which is excellent  - just cut through a leaf and squeeze the jelly onto the sore area
Skill to learn. Basic First Aid.
Snuggling next to your first aid box in your drawer should be your..
2) Mending Box ( empty biscuit tin ?) - In this, as a minimum I would have - Super Glue, PVA Glue, gaffer tape, safety pins, drawing pins, panel pins, heavy duty scissors, a craft knife, pliers, a hammer, screw drivers - cross and Philips. Save any string that comes your way and keep this in a polybag so that it doesn't get a life of it's own and spread all over the drawer.
In this box or possibly in a box of its own are the "power outage" items - Candles or night lights which dont fall over and lighters are a must. When we had a 6 day power cut some years ago my neighbour called to see if she could borrow a candle or two. This woman was all electric  for goodness sake! Not all outages are about power cuts. Learn how to check if your power has been tripped out by a faulty piece of equipment. It pays to look at all your electrical equipment to ascertain a) if it requires a battery and if so what power and 2) what fuse is needed in the plug. A selection of batteries and fuses will take little room, as would two small screwdrivers.
 I would recommend you have 2 torches. one in this tin or on a working surface easily to hand and one where you sleep.
Skill to learn - changing a fuse, wiring a plug, how a trip switch works
3) Sewing box (another biscuit tin or ice cream carton) I know people who throw out a shirt because it has lost a button or a hem has come down. I saw in the news a couple of days ago that 72% of young people questioned could not sew a button on!
In your sewing box you should have pins, a  card of mixed needles, these are to found in many pound and cheap shops. A minimum of three spools of thread - white, back and grey. A pair of scissors ( you could also use those from the first aid box, but you MUST put them back) It is important that these scissors are only used for fabric as using them for paper will spoil them. You might also add an unpicker, a tape measure and some iron-on hemming tape if you really want to push the boat out!
When old clothes really are past being worn even in the garden, cut off the buttons and thread them onto a piece of thread, this keeps matching buttons together for when you start making your own clothes (whoops jumping the gun here!) If you have a pair of jeans/ trousers beyond repair but with a working zip, remove the zip with your unpicker and put this into your box. I usually cut a few squares out of the legs of jeans for patches too. In time you will collect quite a selection of mending materials. Don't forget to recycle the remaining material into floor or dishcloths, patchwork or draught excluders.
Skill to learn - sewing a button, setting a zip, sewing a hem.

 When away from home
This will depend on your individual lifestyle, you may travel a lot or rarely, you may use a car or a bike. I will share what I do and you can adjust accordingly
Bag/briefcase -
Unless I'm just popping out for a short while I always check my bag for a few things that weigh little, take up little space and prepare me for those little hiccups that can spoil a day.
 I have a shopping bag made of that sort of parachute material. It takes up very little room, fitting easily into my handbag or the side pocket of my laptop case. So far, apart from shopping I have used it for carrying foraged wild fruits, pine cones for the fire, discarded outer clothes, library books etc. such a bag is a useful addition for your be-prepared bag (alternatively, a strong carrier bag folded will do as well)
.Have you ever had one of those little mending kits in a Christmas cracker? They are perfect for putting in your bag or briefcase. You can assemble one for yourself in a matchbox or something similar. I keep such a kit in the zipped pocket of my bag along with sachets of sugar, a strip of plaster, a strip of paracetamol, a spectacle cleaning cloth, a thin plastic "poncho" and a small pack of cleansing wipes. In the main body of my bag I carry a small notebook and pen, a little keyring torch,(yes I know I could use my mobile, but I need light to see what I need to do with the thing) said mobile, my purse and my keys ( the heaviest item)
In the car - We have a green box in the boot of the car. In this we carry our comprehensive first aid kit, high viz jackets, a foldable red triangle, bottles of water, waterproof jackets, foil blanket, those little gloves that stretch to fit anyone, a craft knife and a small box with salt vinegar and sugar. In the front of the car we always have a map book, even if using a sat-nav (we don't) you still need to be aware of where you are, what is around you and available alternative routes. We also keep a small pot of change for parking/tolls etc, some fuses for some stuff I don't understand (come on! cut me some slack!) and in the well under the seats we have jump leads, foot pump and the tools for changing a tyre. I'm sure you can add to this as a minimum.
Skills to learn - map reading, changing a tyre for a car or bike if you use one (and what those fuses are for!!)

I am sure there is much you can add to this and I will happily adjust this post accordingly.
You will see that I have suggested, in italics, skills to learn. Google and particularly u-tube is excellent for this. I have used tube for tutorials for all sorts of things from making mead to fitting a walking foot to my sewing machine. If you are looking to be prepared now is the time to start collecting books that you can learn from and refer to.The library is a good way to help you choose which books to invest in.
I think that is more than enough for now... a large post on "common sense"really.
Part II gets a little more "preppy" and builds on today's preparations and skills.
Welcome Sol to the follower bar, great to see you here