I actually do find myself singing that Beatles song when the sun peaks through now. But it is mostly to remind me that this season does indeed pass and to make the best of it and actually enJOY it while it lasts. We’ve looked out our window from the breakfast table to swirling flakes and four foot icicles that hang from the roof and enjoyed the quietness that falls over the land. It just appears that it’s happened far more often than we thought it would this winter.
Does anyone else think that this winter has been unusually long?
Our first snow fall in Western North Carolina hit the end of October. That was one of the earliest snow falls for the area. Snow and ice have seemed more frequent this year than in recent years past. Often we sit on our fifth day under about 8 inches of snow. Unless the vehicle is a four wheel drive – it’s not leaving our land. The roads are icy and dangerous until this stuff thaws.
Winter specific lessons and alterations to this new mountain life
There have been many ‘ah-ha’ moments during the winter that I’ve found quite interesting to realize. Of course since we’ve moved – much of life has not been ‘typical suburbia’ – which is FINE by me, however; the winter weather and snow does add it’s own twist to the lessons I’m learning along the way. Please do keep in mind, part of our life is to learn to ‘make do’ rather than ‘go get’ so some of these things may seem a bit unorthodox.
A few winter lessons I’ve learned since moving to our once ‘bug-out cabin’ turned homestead home:
- Uh. Duh. Always have plenty of food and clean water on hand. Not a new lesson, but one that is worth repeating.
- Low ceilings are AWESOME! They allow whatever heating you are using (wood fireplace, oil heaters, gas logs, etc) to bring a room (or rooms) to a comfortable ambient temperature within virtually minutes!
- The thin plastic window covering sold in home improvement stores really does work to keep cold drafts from coming through old windows. Mind you, I’ve been told that ‘bubble wrap’ works better because it traps any heat from the sun inside the bubbles but – 1) there’s not been much sun anyway and 2) if I don’t see OUTSIDE…someone’s gonna have to peel me out from under the carpet…I’ll just ooze into it and rot there if I can’t see outside.
- No galoshes? No problem! Plastic grocery bags tie over the shoes to make the morning trek to the chicken coupe, jeep or mailbox. They easily untie and store by the door for the next jaunt in the snow.
- Washing clothing by hand. The laundry mat is far away. Not only is ‘wash day’ hindered when one relies upon getting to the nearest coin laundry but cannot get out of the drive way but trudging through the snow to load the car makes this chore a little more annoying. Thus enter hand washing in the sink! (: It’s actually fun! See my Video
- Clothes dry inside just fine! They may be a little slower or a little more ‘crunchy’ due to the cold – but they do dry. We strung a zig-zag of hooks which we string a retractable line across for those hand washed items to dry. Zig-zagging it gives more linear footage than a straight line, thus we can dry more items.
- Radiator-type heaters are a multipurpose item. Is a hand washed item not dry in time or a pair of shows not warm enough? Put the shoes or the not quite dry item over your radiator type heat for a SHORT while. This does dry small items fast and heat the bottom of shoes that may have sat on the porch. WARNING…you MUST keep an eye on this and not forget. Put a timer on your body if you tend to ‘walk off’ or get busy and forget things.
I know there are more little winter lessons I’ve learned. These just tend to top the more frequently used and oddity list (o: I’m not complaining mind you, I’m just hoping for a season change so that this session of lessons can be over and we can move into some warmer weather lessons.
Until then, I hum the following in hopeful anticipation…..
It seems like we’ve been on the journey of Preparedness for a lot longer than it’s been ‘popular’ (Is it actually popular or just a new niche/fad? Hmmm)…but the truth of it all is that this journey is just that – a journey, an adventure – not a prize to be won or a finished accomplishment to be achieved.
Years ago when we started looking at how we hoped to develop this more self-sustaining lifestyle, we had no idea of the myriad of areas of life it would touch. We found aspects of life that preparedness affects and is affected by that are far beyond food storage or living off grid.
A new chapter has opened for us as we continue our preparedness adventure. It’s now an adventure even more than just a journey for us. We have an empty nest now and have moved to a home much smaller and simpler (it was originally a bug out location) and are adjusting to a prepared life in a new environment. What worked in one living space, doesn’t work in this new one. Amenities are at a minimal and peace and quiet are in abundance.
Join me for a visit as I ‘bring you up to speed’ this episode of my regular Saturday radio show: Your Preparation Station
I have nothing but the utmost of respect for the FEMA agents who are sincerely attempting to do their very best in the face of disaster. Let me be quick to clarify that my statements have NO reflection upon individuals who have attempted to work within the systems that are currently in place. The character shown by the individuals who continue to put themselves in harms way to serve others who are in dire straights have proven again and again that they are worthy of our respect.
My point of this is not to bash the systems, as flawed or effective as they be, but to put a proper perspective upon our reliance upon them. Deep breath folks. This may offend. But FEMA as with most ‘systems’ is destined to fall short and disappoint the masses. Especially when the masses solely depend upon a system as their only ‘hope’.
The loss of power and water has placed many along the North Eastern Coastal States into a state of panic. Folks are dumpster-diving for food and necessities. There are reports of extreme anger at the systems such as FEMA because they appear to not be responding fast enough. A system will never respond as fast as local support. That anger should be focused into self-sustaining efforts and planning ahead prior to the storm rather than a reactionary response afterwards.
My heart goes out to the families and folks who were seriously caught off-guard, much as we were with the snow that made our home exit impossible for three days. But if crime and looting could be planned in advance of the storm, so could some personal preventative measures. At least some. This is not the 1800’s . We have advanced warning. But the systems still have to work through a system.
The best I can suggest for those who are disappointed in the speed, quality, care and ‘fairness’ of FEMA in the face of an emergency is that they realize these folks are working within a system. Relying upon a system will always disappoint someone due to the sheer masses of people that the system is trying to assist. They have criteria. If you don’t match their criteria at that time, they have to move on to those who do.
The first hurricane waring in the U.S. was issued in 1873 by the US Army Signal Corps. So for hundreds of years prior- people coped. FEMA was not founded until 1979.
Perhaps a lesson can be learned from those in the 1800’s. Sadly many did loose their lives because there was no early warning system, but the ones who made it through disasters, did so because they relied upon their smaller community and themselves to pull through.
On a positive note, and to back up my hypothesis of a more localized effort of support are the folks who were among the first to receive power in NJ after Sandy had it’s way with the coast. They ran a power-strip cord outside and welcomed others to charge their cell phones.
We can support best as communities and individual families vs. relying upon systems alone. Becoming more self and community sustaining can be far less disappointing than being system-reliant.
If you get the opportunity to read this article and are in the path of the storm named Sandy (I suggest you do so quickly) then be sure to take a look at the hash-tags in the twitter feeds planning to gather and do looting. #Sandy. There is no mistaking that this is a recent use of the internet to organized crimes against businesses, individuals and personal possession that has been earned by others.
It is a sad state of affairs that this is actually going on. Yet it is a sign of the state of not only the economy but the social morals of society.
While we prepare for inclement weather or the down turn of the economy, there is another area we are even less in control of on our journey toward preparedness: Society.
I don’t say this to scare people, because I don’t believe we are to live in nor react out of fear. I do say this to impress upon you and all those who may be thinking you can ‘go this road alone’ to gather more like minded folks together with you and plan and prepare with as many forces available to your community as possible.
Although we are not the Joneses, we’re the Millers, the old adage mentioned in the subject line came to mind as I was lamenting having not updated you lately about the recent radio shows and our preparedness journey. So, after this brief side-note about that saying, I do promise to truly update you where I have unintentionally slacked.
Important Side note:
The idiom or phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” has the meaning of trying to strive to match one’s neighbors in spending and social standing. In and of itself we know this may not be the wisest of approaches during these economic times, yet the phrase struck me as oddly appropriate when I began to think of the Preparedness Movement at large.
There has been a pressure, a panic, a paranoia of sorts that has held those of us who wish to be more basic and simplify into self-sustainable living to still somewhat keep up with the prepping Joneses. This is not only a paradox, but an unhealthy approach to becoming prepared.
Don’t let anyone put undo pressure upon you to prepare ‘like them’ – even us!! As we update you, we don’t want to say: “Hey, we’ve got it all together come copy us!” Yikes…by no means. It is just our desire to encourage you – that if we can make these steps, learn these skills and show our trials and triumphs along the way – well, you may just feel like you have a comrad in arms as you move along your Preparedness Path as well.
So, no keeping up with the Joneses, or Millers or anything….
Just Prepare YOUR way, learn ALONG they way and also, know THE WAY and you’ll be fine. (o:
Now Quick Updates:
We are back to getting more videos up on our YouTube Channel about our Preparedness Journey. We hope you’ll come join us: Our Preparedness Video Journal – http://www.youtube.com/PreparationStation
So here they are:
OCT 6, 2012 – “Why do civilizations collapse, and what happens in the aftermath.”
OCT 13, 2012 – “Making the Permanent Move to an RV. ”
OCT 20, 2012 – “The BEST Manual Grain Mill. ” (And to prove it, we give you a $10 Savings Code just for listening!)
Okay, hopefully the next update will be a little more bite-sized than this one. But I do hope you join us, subscribe to the YouTube Channel and allow us to encourage you (and yes please you can and DO encourage us!) along the way.
What term suits your family’s preparedness plan better? Bugging Out (high tailing it out of Dodge to a safe haven) or Bugging In (hunkering down with what you have on hand and making the best of it while fortified where you are).
What about bugging out and bugging in? What would that look like?
For us it means heading to the place we would have once used to escape to and turning it into our more permanent option. Some things we will be doing may seem far fetched, but to us it will mean when things take a drastic turn, we will barely have a speed bump.
Here are some things we will be doing as we bug out to bug in:
- Simplifying now, voluntarily.
- Selling off 90% of our ‘belongings’.
- Finding more livestock.
- Building alternative power options.
- Readying the soil for a year round garden.
- Practicing intentionally frugal choices.
- Learning skills and trades vs. hiring others (when we can).
- Drastically cutting our dependance on gasoline.
- Many more…
We hope you’ll join our journey as we post most of it up on our YouTube Channel.
We’d love to have you join us in the journey!
Yesterday we had a class that was facilitated by Millers Grain House with a Guest instructor: Carolyn Counts. This class also reached into the Preparedness arena. Many of the classes from MGH are designed to serve both the healthy food enthusiast and the preparedness minded. It is our way of bringing the message of Preparation to those who may not have thought of it before. But I won’t go on that philosophical journey just now, I want to show you some pictures of the Outdoor Dutch Oven Cooking Class we had!
Some of the important skills to learn are alternate ways to cook food. Since Carolyn had been a participant in other classes that I (Donna Miller – writer of this blog post) had taught, we had the opportunity to learn more of the gifts/skills she possesses. Carolyn spent two weeks in snow covered Montana cooking for a Ranch Camp in the middle of the wilderness! The goods had to be brought in to the cook-tent by horseback. Talk about your ‘off-grid’ situation! Modern conveniences were no where around!
She shared with us just how to use the Cast Iron Dutch Oven and hot coals to cook a FANTASTIC meal for 24 in a little less than an hour and half! Take a look at some of these pictures to see what fun we had:
Carolyn lit the charcoal and just before it was completely white she began to build the base on this sturdy metal trivet.
Here is the beginning stack and the small grill she started the coals in. No big fires, not a huge wood pile. Simple and easy to keep – just hot coals.
We learned that each coal is approximately 25 degrees F. So this helps you know how hot each pot is getting. Thus you can plan the length of time each dish should cook.
Things that take longer go on the bottom. Avoid peaking!
Then each dish was put in the appropriate sized Cast Iron Dutch Oven and stacked with just the right number of coals on the bottom then top. The tower built held:
- Potatoes & Onions on the Bottom
- Ginger Carrots
- Enough Meatloaf for a Crowd
- (Bread was added later)
- Apple Cobbler
In a little less than an hour and a half we had a meal for 24 people! Another participant mentioned using this at Thanksgiving. Great idea!
Cast iron can be found used at many flea markets and estate sales. Carolyn shared with us instructions for cleaning up and seasoning your old cast iron finds.
Much Thanks to our guest instructor for sharing with us. We had a great time, learned great skills in alternative cooking methods, spent time with good folks, made more friends AND enjoyed a fantastic meal!
There are so many more photos to share of thisclass and a video of portions of the instructions. Go to Millers Grain House Facebook Page and “LIKE” it to see more.
Best Blessings and enJOY the Journey!
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The painful phrase “I told you so” is one I hate to use. Unless it is being said to someone who has already heeded some other advice we gave out early this year (January to be precise) which was “Stock up on food NOW because after the first half of the year, we suspect staples will reach a record high.”
Well, if you heeded that advice, then you’re not bothered by the “told you so” statement and it is not offensive. In fact, if you acted upon your ability to stock up you probably told people it would be this way as well.
The unfortunate part is many people have not done so.
The current agricultural climate, due to the worst drought since 1956, has pushed many commodities such as corn, wheat, soybeans and the like to record high prices. And there is no cap in sight as yet.
Don’t take our word for it. Seriously do your own research to see how this will affect the food prices in the later half of the year.
Rather than focus on all that is wrong, if you act fast – we would like to offer some solutions:
- BULK FOODS – HURRY before prices rise again – Deadline is July 21, 2012
The prices are currently still low. The agricultural hike has not yet hit as of THIS order, but will the next.
Use the code: THXMGH to get 5% off AND Free Shipping.
Use the code: JULY CLEARANCE and get an additional 15% off your entire order
- GROW FOOD NOW
Even if it’s in a pail or pot on the front porch or balcony of an apartment, start learning these skills to grow SOMETHING.
Remember, we are here to help, to train and encourage, to uplift and share what we’ve learned and found. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Seriously are you always ready? For anything? For everything? Completely?
I think in a real world scenario, this is more of a percentage question than a yes or no question.
We are often faced with a sense of ‘never quite done’ when living the preparedness lifestyle. I mean if this were 200 years ago, we would likely BE more ready and ALWAYS be more accustomed to adapting because the dependance upon conveniences and comforts, systems and set-ups would be far less than it is today. That would make each household far more independently ready for what may come their way. Are you always ready?
Admittedly, I am not.
Although more ‘ready’ than most for some things that may affect our way of life, I cannot say that I have reached a pinnacle of perfection and thus could claim to be ‘always ready’. In my humble opinion anyone who IS at that point is just asking for it. Once the arrogance sets in, so does complacency and the desire for others to test you. This is a trap I don’t want to fall into. So feeling always slightly LESS ready can help keep us on our toes!
We have to look at areas in which we would like to Always be Ready and build them each up to 100 percent, then we can feel more accomplished and perhaps focus on other ares that may lack, such as skill building or networking for survival. Those area areas in which you cannot just purchase an item, shelve it and await pending changes or doom.
Areas in which you may want to take stock and give a percentage mark to include, but are not limited to:
- Emergency Kits
- Fire & Lighting
- Food & Cooking
- Medical & First Aid
- Radios & Signaling
- Shelter & Warmth
- Water Treatment
The links above have a savings code to assist you with becoming more ready until July 28, 2012 Type in JULYCLEARANCE and save 15% on any and all of those items.
I may be well prepared and feel always ready in some areas, but given even this incomplete list, I know I am not always totally ready. It is a journey; a work in progress; an adventure. I actually hope I never think I am, always ready.
Blessings and enJOY the journey!
Through-out this journey of learning to be more self-sustaining, responsible for what we own and frugal we have been labeled many things. Some of them have been more favorable labels than others. Some, which were intended as insults I now embrace with a smile.
Although given the twenty five years along this journey, I doubt I could recall them all, but I do have my favorites. Of all the labels we’ve hat tagged on us the ones of Hippie and Homesteader (as well as Gypsy, Prepper and Alarmist) are among some of my favorite labels – that did not start out as compliments.
When we started this journey so long ago – much of what we thought of ourselves as were ‘homesteaders.’ We soon found that in the semi-suburban area in which we lived, this was somewhat of a snide label given to those who did not quite fit the normal suburbia status-quot. We had a garden and chickens and I taught myself how to can foods and cook from scratch. We often went without electricity for fun and used our home-made candles. We were pretty weird for being a block from one of the busiest streets connecting two highways – but we soon embraced the homesteader label and have worn it with delight ever since.
I always identified with the generation that was actually before my own and it wasn’t long until we were labeled ‘hippies.’ To which I will testify – because while blogging I am listening to a play list loaded with Credence Clear-water Revival, John Denver and Cat Stevens. One day, our oldest daughter was asked if she were a hippie by a family member, due to the style of the purse she was carrying. She hadn’t heard that term before so she asked for a definition. The explanation she got was that a ‘hippie was someone who rebels against the establishment.’ To which she replied…”If the establishment is wrong, yep – I guess I am!” In agreement, if that is indeed the definition – I too am a ‘hippie’ minus the special herbs and illicit activities. The fact remains that much of the ‘establishment’ acts as if they do not have to answer to THE Higher Authority. I will buck the establishment to answer with Peace to His Authority any day.
To avoid this post getting too long – I’ll share more on the other labels in a subsequent post. To all insults intended – let me quickly say a hearty Thank You! Embracing the unique ability to different than the typical sheeple is one thing that has empowered this journey for so long! Bless those of you who insult others – for they are spurring on much needed change!