Category Archives: Preparedness

Autumn Chores for a Cozy Winter

Ah fall!

It’s my favorite time of year. The colors, the crisp air, bonfires, warm soups and, even the ever present autumn cliche: Pumpkin. Spice. EVERYTHING!

It’s also a busy time on the ol’ farm.

Not only is there a lot that just didn’t get done with the crazy summer schedule, and getting our homeschool legs under us,  but there’s a lot that needs done every year to prepare for a smooth and restful winter.

With frost the past two nights, and a forecast for snow at 3000 ft, winter is definitely knocking on our door!

Here’s a basic list of the things we do to get our 100 year old farm house, and grounds ready for winter.

1. Clean And Mend Chicken Coop.  

We clean our chicken coop every spring and fall, by shoveling out the bedding and droppings into a compost pile where they can “cool” for use in the garden next year.  We replace it with several inches of clean pine shavings.  This is also time to replace light bulbs, cover windows with plastic, make sure water heaters are in good order, and in our case, secure the big blue tarp on the roof.  We’re just so classy.

We planned a new roof for the coop this year, but had some very expensive and unexpected repairs to the actual home, so the chickens get to be the trashiest neighbors on the block for one more winter.

We’re also using this time to enlarge the chicken run, and fix our rookie mistake of fencing the run with chicken wire.  Real fencing, folks.  Free Range chickens can be charming right up until they scratch up your spring plantings and poop on your front porch, and picnic table, playhouse, lawn mower seat. . .you get the idea.  They’re sort of gross.

2. Winterize the Rabbit Hutch

Rabbits are generally much happier with winter than summer, so they don’t need much.  We’ll give them a good deep bedding to burrow in, and make sure we have extra water bottles on hand for when they freeze.  During freezing weather we only fill the bottles half full.  Twice a day we take out a fresh bottle and bring the frozen ones back into the house to thaw.

3. Cover Windows With Plastic

We still have (possibly original, definitely old) single pane windows in our house.  We use clear shrink film on the downstairs windows, and  6 mil “clear” (it’s NOT clear) plastic in the upstairs bedrooms to help reduce heat loss.  It’s not the most elegant solution out there, but it does make a significant difference.

4. Drain and Store Hoses

It’s hard to believe we were still watering the lawn just a little over a week ago!  And the hoses are still strung all over the property.  Time to drain, roll and stash them in the shed.

5. Stock Fire Wood

We have electric heat, unlike a lot of the older homes in our area, so we’re lucky to not be entirely reliant on wood heat.  But is there really anything lovelier on a cold winter evening than snuggling up next to a crackling fire?  I also like to have enough wood on hand to see us through a power outage.  We were without power for five days once, before we lived in a home with wood heat, and we had to find friends to stay with.  I like the thought of being able to stay home and welcome friends next time.

6. Run the Mower Out Of Gas  

We could also use an additive to stabilize the gas, but we generally use the mower to clean up the last round of leaves (if the snow doesn’t get ahead of us), so we’re usually able to time it right to just go ahead and run the gas out.  And speaking of leaves…

7. Rake Rake Rake 

Shade trees are awesome.  They really do improve the quality of life in summer.  To the point that we usually don’t even need to use the AC.  In fact we didn’t ever use one until the crazy hot summer of 2015, and only a few times last summer, largely because we have huge shade trees on the sunny side of our house.  Huge shade trees full of leaves.  Which will fall over the course of six weeks or so, and need to be raked or otherwise removed several times.  We’ll use some of the leaves to mulch garden beds, some for jumping in, and the rest will get mowed into the grass.  Good times.

8. Put the Garden to Bed

The garden.  Let’s just not talk about how that went this year.  Suffice it to say there is a lot of clean up to be done.  Weeds and spent plants need to be pulled and burned, rabbit manure spread, fence mended, and perennials need pruned and mulched.

9. Clean and Store Garden Tools

After the garden is put to bed it’s time to clean and store garden tools.  I’ll admit I suck at this.  I usually run around the yard picking up shovels and rakes after the first dusting of snow, and hastily toss them in the shed.  This year I mean to actually clean, oil, and properly store my yard and garden implements, before I have to find them under the snow.  This is also a good time to stage snow shovels, ice-melt and sleds near the front door.

10.  Snow Gear

While it’s not exactly a “farm” chore, I also like to take this time to pull out all of the winter coats, boots, etc. to see what we need to replace.  Outgrown items can be cleaned up and sold, donated or stored for a younger child.  We did some of each this year.  Can you believe we somehow accumulated three pairs of size 4/5 snow bibs over the years?  I gave away two, and stored one for the toddler to grow into.  We shifted some gear from oldest to middle kid, and know what we need to replace before snow.  If you’re down with used gear, this is a good time to find stuff on craigslist of facebook selling groups.  We just snagged a good pair of boots this morning. It’s also a good time to hit discount stores for the best variety.  We waited a little too long on Costco coats last year, and the girls didn’t get the colors they wanted.  Horrors.

11.  Finally we have to make a dump run.  

We accumulate trash.  It seems like every spring and fall we’ve managed to accumulate a bigger-than-the-weekly-can heap of broken outdoor toys, ragged tarps, and other bulky refuse.  I try to have it hauled off before it’s buried under snow to grow mold all winter.

I’m sure there’s something I’m forgetting to list here, but these are the most relevant to our household, and top priority.  Everything else will either wait, or be forgotten and we’ll mitigate in the spring.  Life does go on.

Happy Autumn!

My Four Favorite Fixes For Sick Kids

With so many opinions out there as to what one can do when the kids get sick, I’m sure you aren’t hurting for advice.  And since I’m just a Mom, not a Doctor, I wouldn’t be qualified to give advice even if you did want it.  You should contact your healthcare provider for that.  But I’m an over-sharer, so I’m going to tell you how we handle sickness on the Half Acre anyway.

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We’re pretty laid back about sickness here. We’ve had the benefit of a Pediatrician with a soothing voice, and air of calm, who walked me through the first few colds/fevers with our oldest.  As a result I’m now the one with the soothing voice and air of calm.

So here are my four favorite ways to treat sick kids.

1) Do nothing.   I usually don’t treat anything, even fever, unless the kid is miserable to the point of being unable to rest, unable or unwilling to hydrate, or not improving for several days.

2) Snuggle.  Okay, I guess the above really can’t count as doing nothing because I will, and do, leap on any opportunity to snuggle.  I can usually gauge how ill the kid is by her willingness to snuggle.

3) Push fluids.  I usually stick with water, unless there is a reason to suspect dehydration, such as vomiting.  In that case I try to replace electrolytes by offering broth, ginger tea, or sometimes electrolyte replacing drink mixes.  When my oldest was around a year old, she had a miserable flu, and wouldn’t drink anything for me, so I used an oral syringe to carefully and slowly drizzle an ounce of Pedialyte in her cheek pocket once every hour until she would drink willingly. She was MAD!  But she didn’t get dehydrated.

4) On Guard.  With especially nasty bugs I use doTerra’s On Guard protective blend.  I usually use a few drops rubbed on the bottom of the feet.  For a sore throat, I mix it with raw honey and a little water and use as a cough syrup. We grownups have been known to take it in veggie caps, or in our tea.  In my experience it will fix up a sore throat in about a day when sipped in tea.  I’m not making claims here, just sharing my experience.  Also, I don’t sell doTerra, I’m just a really happy customer.  (If you’d like to learn more, visit my friend, Eve here)

Although we’ve been blessed with generally healthy kiddos, I haven’t always treated illness the way I do now.  It’s taken me seven years to cultivate my current attitude regarding what is or isn’t a serious medical issue, and I expect experience will change my views many more times over the course of motherhood.  We do not hesitate to avail ourselves of modern medicine when we feel it’s warranted.  We even keep a few “real” OTC meds around, but thankfully we rarely need to use them.

Obviously, we love our children, and don’t want them to suffer any more than they have to. We also don’t want to deprive them of an opportunity to develop a stronger immune system on their own.  Is this the only way to approach children’s health?  Nope.  It’s just our way.

What do you do when your babies are ailing?

 

 

 

It WILL Rain, You Need A Freakin’ Umbrella!

Our area has been overtaken by wildfires for the last week, and the air quality has been so bad that anyone with underlying medical or resperatory issues has been advised to leave the area if possible.  It’s cleared up at my house today, but many areas are still listed as unhealthy and hazardous. 

I belong to a few groups on Facebook, and SO MANY folks can’t believe that stores ran out of N95 masks, and the hospital, and clinics were only handing them out to patients.  A few groups and individuals were able to get some from out of area, and were handing them out for free.  I commend these folks for taking the time and expense to help neighbors.  But we can’t count on these folks over and over.  This time they were able to get out or have supplies sent in.  Next time the roads may be closed.  Many people seemed to be realizing the importance of preparedness.  That’s wonderful!  I just wish no one had to get into a potentially dangerous situation for that to happen.  My heart goes out to all the people who were stuck in the situation of having a need unmet, and I hope I don’t sound harsh, but let’s plan ahead for next time. 

We live in an area where we have had: flooding, mudslides, ice storms, wind storms, snow storms, earthquakes, and wildfires. (off the top of my head)  Most happen every year, some more than once a season, and most of them have the potential to cause widespread and sometimes extended power outages. 

The point I’m trying to make is that these things DO happen.  We need to be prepared for them.  Now is as good a time as any to get started.  I’m not saying we should all go “Doomsday Preppers”.  Just take a look at the things that happen where you live, and get ready for them. 

To paraphrase Dave Ramsey, (although he’s talking about money)  IT WILL RAIN, YOU NEED A FREAKIN’ UMBRELLA! 

Need a place to get started?  Want to take it a little further? 

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Water Storage

With a heat wave hitting many areas, a lot of us have water on the mind. And with recent power outages, and a weekend camping trip, I find myself refilling our water storage today. It works out since the two containers I used up were due for rotating anyway.

You may be wondering why we store water. Stored water is part of our preparedness plan. We try to follow the “Rule of Three” which basically means having three sources for everything you need. Our first source for water is our well. We store water because when our power goes out so does the well pump. And the power goes out pretty regularly around here. It’s usually up and running again within a few hours, but we’ve had it out for five days before. So we store at least three days worth for our family and pets. If the outage were to outlast our stored supply, our third source would be a nearby river. We would either filter, boil or chemically treat the river water to make it safe for drinking. Notice a trend?

We store the bulk of our water in seven gallon Aqua-tainers. I like these because the capacity is enough to seem “worth it” and small enough that I can carry one up the basement stairs myself. They also have a convenient tap which turns inside out for storage. We have several of these which would technically meet the gallon per person, per day recommendation for our family of four. But we also clean out and fill our empty two liter soda bottles with water. I recently started freezing some of these, after reading about a few good uses for the frozen bottles at The Survival Mom’s blog.

We store our water for six months and then use it up either by taking it camping, or watering plants, then replace it with fresh.  We treat the stored water with 1/8 tsp of common household bleach per gallon, and store it in our cool, dark basement, where it gets little exposure to light or heat.

Being prepared for these little inconveniences as well as larger crises allows us to live more independently. This approach works well for us, and thankfully, since we started practicing preparedness we’ve never had to rely on our stored water for more than a few hours.

How do you approach preparedness?

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Homemade Laundry Detergent and Fabric Softener

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time now.  I feel like I’m a little mentally foggy after work, but it’s worth the extra effort to keep the blog updated.  I’m still trying to find time and energy to balance it all.  Seriously, if any of you work-outside mamas are also “keeping it all together” at home please tell me how you do it. 

Last time I told you about my love of the Homestead Drying Rack.  Today I’d like to share my recipes for laundry detergent and fabric softener.   Both of these recipes are simple and inexpensive.  My kids love to help me make them both.  Since the ingredients are all fairly mild, my biggest concern with letting children help is the heat from the stove when melting the ingredients for the detergent. 

The detergent is easy to make, economical, and seems comparable to the commerically available brands I’ve purchased in the past.  It is low to no suds and is generally considered appropriate for use in HE machines. I still occasionally have stubborn stains, but that happened with the name brand products I’ve used too.  It would probably help if I treated stains promptly and washed clothes regularly instead of letting them pile up during the week.   The fabric softener works as well as any I’ve used without the heavy perfume smell.  Clothes smell fresh coming out of the wash, but I can’t really discern a particular scent after drying.  I like this since many of the commercial brands make me sneeze.

Detergent

Shred 1/2 a bar of Fels Naptha into six cups of warm water over medium heat.  When the soap shreds have all melted add 1 C washing soda (not baking soda) and 1C borax.  Continue to stir until the ingredients have all dissolved.  Allow the mixture to cool then put it into a larger container.  I use an old 1.5 gallon dispenser from the laundry detergent I used to buy.  Then just top it up with cool water and stir to incorporate the ingredients well.  Use 1/8 cup for a medium load, a bit more for a large or heavily soiled load.  You may need to re-stir or shake the jug before each use as the solids tend to glob up.

Fabric Softener

Start with a gallon jug of white vinegar.  Store brand is fine.   After it is about half used up add one whole bottle of cheap conditioner like White Rain or Suave.  Stir gently, do not shake as it will foam.  Then, again, top up with plain water.  Use as you would store bought liquid fabric softener.  To make your own dryer sheets dilute the solution to 1/2 strength with more water and soak pieces of a ratty old tee shirt in the mixture.  I keep some solution and tee shirt squares in a lidded “tupperware” type dish.  Ring out a tee shirt piece and toss it into the dryer with wet clothes. 

Both of these are eco friendly, and economical solutions for your laundry needs.  The ingredients for either can be found at the grocery or big box store and should cost less than ten dollars.  Each batch of detergent lasts me 4-6 months, and each batch of softener lasts me about one month.  It would last longer if I used it solely for making dryer sheets, but I like to hang clothes out to dry so I mostly use it in the rinse cycle. 

Does any one have a good recipe for a spray on type stain pre treater? I’m thinking of filling a spray bottle with diluted dish soap and spraying it onto stains before clothes go into the hamper,(Ok, honesty check.  They usually go into a pile on the mudroom floor.  Shame.) but I would love to know what has worked for you. 

Happy Homemaking!

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Pantry Cooking Series, Whole Wheat Pancake Mix

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? But so easy to skip if you get out of bed at the last possible minute, like I do.  I find having “instant” options on hand makes breakfast more of a sure thing, for my whole family. 

After you try these whole wheat pancakes, you’ll find the mix you’ve been getting at the grocery store bland and disappointing.  When you first make the mix, it seems like too much.  You’ll think it looks like a year’s supply, but you might find you’re eating pancakes more often than you used to.  They’re really that yummy.  I can’t wait for the Huckleberries to come on. 

Thoroughly mix the following ingredients in a large bowl, and store the mix in an airtight container. 

  • 12 C whole wheat flour
  • 4 C powdered milk
  • 1 C dehydrated whole egg powder
  • 1 C dehydrated butter powder (yep, it exists and it’s a miracle)
  • 1 C baking powder
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 T salt
  • 2 C wheat bran, optional, I usually don’t add it to the mix, but rather to individual batches when I feel we need it.

Mix with enough water to make a pourable batter, and cook as you would store bought pancake mix.

I found my dehydrated ingredients at my local Walmart, but they are also usually available at restaurant supply stores.  If you can’t find the dehydrated ingredients locally, a google search will yield about a zillion results. 

Enjoy!

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Sixteen Brick Rocket Stove

I’m always trying to find new ways of cooking in the event of a power outage.  Outages are fairly common in my neighborhood, so we’re pretty well able to cope by using the gas grill, or camp stove.  The issue of purchasing fuel, however, has been nagging at the back of my mind for a few years, so I’ve been looking into other options.

I’ve tried solar cooking with marginal success.  While it would be a good option during summer months our lattitude doesn’t have a great angle for capturing the sun’s rays during the winter.  Haunting the internet one evening I stumbled on something called a rocket stove.  A rocket stove has a ventilated combustion chamber under a chimney area over which you place your pan.  If I understand the concept correctly, venitlation in the combustion chamber causes the stove to burn ultra efficiently, consuming not only the wood, but the gases which result from the burning of that wood. That efficiency makes it possible to cook with small fuels such as yard waste, twigs, and pinecones.  There are many versions available for purchase, at a range of prices.  They appear to be durable and get good reviews.  Too bad I’m cheap.

 I opted to make mine from 16 bricks which cost .24 each at the home and garden store.  Ideally it should have been made from adobe or another insulative material, but we use what is readily available.  I mostly followed a video I found on You Tube.  I omitted the middle, bottom brick and instead used a crushed can with some holes cut in for ventilation.  Since I built mine on a large flat rock I didn’t need the center brick to keep my fire out of the surrounding material, which would  be a concern if it were set up on a table or on the ground near combustibles, which would be foolish anyway.

To test the stove I gathered a handful of wood chips and bark from around the bottom of our woodpile and some newspaper.  I crumpled the newspaper in the bottom of the stove and dropped some of the wood on top.  There was initially some smoke when I lit the paper, but once the wood caught and was burning well, I added more sticks through the bottom opening and soon the smoke stopped.  I placed a grill from an old hibachi on top of the stove and put a small sauce pan with some chili on that.

Steam started rising from the chili at six minutes and it reached a boil at 16 minutes.  It’s not as quick as an LP stove, but the fuel source is readily available and costs me nothing so, it works for me!  What alternative cooking methods have you tried?

 

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Prepping – Call Me Crazy

Well folks here it is. I secretly love the idea of The End Of The World As We Know It. Truth be known I’d probably love the actual scenario a lot less than the idea.  However I’ve spent the last couple years trying to boost my supplies and skill set just in case.  The thing is, being prepared isn’t just for weirdos. You don’t have to be concerned about meteors, solar flares, EMPs or Armageddon.  There are plain old natural disasters, job losses, and rising prices every day.  I’m not saying everyone needs to be as prepared as I’d like to someday be, (you totally should) but you should at least think about last time the power was out. What would you like to have had on hand for comfort?  Were you able to use your water? If it had gone on for several days could you afford to replace all the food in your fridge and freezer?

Now lets think about something we see in the news every day.  What would you do if you lost your primary source of income?  How long could you last on savings and supplies on hand?  Really take a look and figure it out. I’m not talking about cowering in a bunker with a year’s supply of TP and iodide tablets here.  It’s not about fear.  It’s about going to bed at night and sleeping well because you know you can provide for your family through most anything. Our great grandparents didn’t have a special name for “preppers”.  They wouldn’t even bat an eye at having a years supply of canned goods. That was just called putting up the harvest.  I’m not against grocery stores and modern living mind you.  I love having my hot showers.  I would much rather spend 20 minutes driving to town than a day walking.  I just feel like it might be a good idea to have a back up plan.  Here’s some of ours:

We have a 72 hour kit and a plan as to how and when to use it.  We hope we never have to evacuate our home…again.  The fact is it has happened twice.  Once we were able to return after 5 days, the second we came back the next day to a pile of smoldering ashes.

We have started long term food and water storage.  My main concern here is extended power outages which would render our well pump useless, and hedging against future prices.  Doesn’t seem like anything is getting cheaper so why not get non-perishables at today’s lower price?  If you decide to stockpile, remember to include the value of your preps in your homeowner’s policy.

I’ve made a big effort to learn how to cook from scratch using staples.  It does no good to store flour, salt and oil if all you can make with them is play dough.  As it turns out play dough (though it’s tons of fun) is most unpalatable. Homemade biscuits use nearly the same ingredients in different proportions and are delicious.

We’re learning skills like gardening, canning and keeping small farm animals. Eventually those grocery store canned goods would run out if we had to rely on them heavily. I want to be able to re-supply without paying the higher price. Plus by putting up our own food we know exactly what we’re eating. Enter farming and canning.

We use credit very sparingly and try very hard to keep debt to a minimum.  This way if we lose our income we can use our savings to pay for the mortgage and things we can’t produce.  Cars, homes, and college are okay debt in our book, as long as we have a good rate and pay off as soon as possible.  We do not use credit for things like new furniture, clothes, Christmas or vacations.  It’s tempting, and new stuff and vacations are important to quality of life, we just don’t want to pay interest, so we do it backwards from how the credit card companies want us to and pay first.

Finally, we’re working on having three sources for everything we need.  Three sources of water, three sources and types of food storage, three streams of income, three ways to start a fire, three ways to stay warm etc.

I’ll share more ideas on these topics in future posts. 

How do you feel about preparedness and how do you approach it?

Woodstove Baking, Take One

woodstove bread

Folks who know me will tell you I’m always learning to do something new.  In this case I tried something old.

I’ve been making my own whole wheat bread for a few years now, and if I may toot my own horn, it is delicious. But I’ve never tried making it without using my electric oven before. So I decided to try baking it in our woodstove. This is a wood burning fireplace insert, not a wood cook stove. Naturally my first step was to Google it. There is a serious lack of information out there on baking in a wood stove. But I adapted the things I found on hearth cooking and wood burning ovens, and got to work.

First I made a medium sized fire and let it burn down until I had what looked like enough coals. Then I pushed the larger coals to the back of the stove and made a thin, even layer of coals on the bottom of the stove near the front. Next I filled a dutch oven with about an inch of water, and placed my bread pan in the dutch oven hovering over the water. I was worried that if I put the bread pan directly in the coals the bottom would burn. I placed the dutch oven and bread pan combo on the thin layer of coals and closed up the stove.

I chose the worst possible night for my experiment as it was crazy windy. Wind kept coming down the chimney and blowing ashes up onto my loaf. It couldn’t have helped that I kept opening the doors to check on progress.

After 20 minutes I rotated the loaf so that the other side would face the larger coals at the back of the oven. After another 20 minutes I removed the loaf. While it was still in the pan it looked a little paler than when I use the electric oven, but I turned it out onto a cooling rack anyway. I could see immediately that the bottom was sinking in, indicating that the center was not done.

Since my coals were weakening, and every time I opened the woodstove I got a face full of ash from the wind, I decided to give it a few minutes in the electric oven to finish. Ten minutes later I had a slightly ashy, and not quite as lofty as usual loaf of bread. It was a little smoky, but definitely edible.

Next time I will choose a less windy night for my baking. I will also clean out the ashes, and build a bigger bed of coals to work with. Also I’ll probably be looking for a camp grill to put under my bread pan instead of the dutch oven. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Have any of you tried alternative cooking methods?

Building A 72 Hour Kit

It has been an unreasonably pleasant winter here in our corner of the world.  But it seems we’ll be paying the piper over the next few days, as we are in for a massive winter storm.(hee hee!)  News reports are urging folks to stock up on groceries, keep flashlights handy and stay home to wait it out.  I can’t wait!  I hope we get snowed in!  I hope the power goes out so I’ll have a chance to test my 72 hour kit.

A 72 hour kit is intended to provide whatever you might need to Shelter-In-Place for three days.  There are a ton of lists out there as to what you should include in your kit, but they all need to be tweaked to meet your individual needs.  I am NOT any kind of expert on this stuff, but I thought I’d share a little about what we have done.

My husband and I have seen ready made kits handily packaged in 5 gallon buckets at Costco and Walmart, but we never bought one because we already had all the stuff that came in them…somewhere.  A few weeks ago I put my mind to gathering all the supplies that were spread throughout backpacks, cars, junk drawers (yes, we have more than one junk drawer) lost in the laundry room of doom, or buried in the basement, into one easy to find kit.  I also made a smaller version to keep in the trunk of my car, although I don’t plan to do any traveling in remote areas.

First, our 72 Hour Shelter-In-Place Kit, is also part of a larger evacuation kit which I’ll post about later, so it includes some items which you won’t need if you stay home.  A traditional 72 hour kit is mostly about hunkering down to ride out a storm or disruption in normal services.  This list is what our family uses, and intended to get you thinking.  Your kit will look a little different according to your situation.

  • Water: The recommended amount is minimal and includes one gallon per day, per person.  For our family of four that would be 24 gallons. I store more because I just like to have a bigger cushion plus we have pets to think of.  Our power HAS gone out for more than three days before, and being on a well, when we don’t have power we don’t have water.  I store it in seven-gallon jugs designed specifically for water storage, and in sanitized two-liter soda bottles. I treat my water with plain household bleach, diluted at 1/8 tsp per gallon.  I store it in the basement away from light and rotate it every six months.  Water stored this way gets flat tasting, so I plan to run it through a filter pitcher to remove the bleach taste and aerate it.
  •  Food: Aside from our normal pantry, which includes lots of non-perishable items, much more than three days worth, I’ve packed 3 days food into our 72 Hour Kit. I’ve included a box of cereal, dry milk, vanilla flavor to make the dry milk palatable, 3 cans of chili, 4 packages of ramen noodles, several instant rice packages, three backpacking dinners, a small jar of peanut butter, instant coffee, cream and sugar packets, tea, spiced cider, hot cocoa, fruit juice, canned tuna, trail mix, granola bars and an assortment of condiment packets.  The spiced cider, cocoa and “treat” type foods are mainly for comfort and morale which is especially important when you have little people to think of.
  • Light: I have an LED lantern and two extra sets of batteries, 3 glow sticks, a few candles, plus two lighters and a box of strike-anywhere matches in the kit.  Also each member of the family keeps a headlamp in reach of their bed. I let the little ones use their headlamps to look at books when they have trouble sleeping, this way they know how to use them, however I do have to be more vigilant about keeping good batteries in them.
  • Sanitation:  I keep a pack of baby wipes, feminine items, a roll of paper towels, toilet paper, disinfecting surface wipes, and hand sanitizer. Some of these won’t be necessary if you stay home, but again, our 72 Hour kit is part of our evacuation kit. We are on gravity septic, so we can use the toilet during an outage, but we would have to haul water from the river, or melt snow to flush it, so we’d be on the “yellow is mellow” plan.  Not fun, but better than pooping in a bucket.
  • Cooking:  When power is out, we can use our wood stove to heat water and canned foods such as we keep in our kit.  We also keep a non-electric can opener in the kit and a couple in the kitchen.  Actually I’ve never been able to get the hang of the electric can openers so we don’t even have one.  If, for some reason, the wood stove wasn’t a good option, we have a camp stove and propane barbecue which can be used outdoors, as well as plenty of fuel.  It’s also a good idea to include some disposable dishes and utensils as you won’t want to use  your stored water to wash dishes.
  • Heat:  The wood stove can provide enough heat to keep us operational during an outage, but it doesn’t travel well, so we actually need to address space heat for the evacuation portion of the plan. We keep plenty of wood on hand as well as hand and foot warmers for personal use.  Also we have blankets pretty much everywhere.
  • Communication: We have a hand cranked, NOAA weather band radio, but reception is really crummy where we live, so we’d probably only tune in once or twice a day for weather updates through the static.  It’s also a good idea to keep an old fashioned phone that plugs directly into the phone jack, and doesn’t require an electrical outlet. Cordless phones will not work during an outage.  Phone lines will be pretty clogged up during any major event, but if you keep your cell phone charged in advance, you can probably send and receive text messages as they don’t require quite as strong a signal.  Actually, where we live, our signal is only good enough for texting anyway, so nothing new there.
  • Entertainment:  Books, magazines and board games are handy when you can’t catch the latest episode of Real American Desperate Simpsons of The Alaskan Shore.  We also always have plenty of crayons, paper, glue and scissors around for the kiddos and some packed to-go in case of an evacuation.  Again, these are mostly for morale. You might want to go ahead and turn off the tube a few hours each week, so that your family can get used to alternative forms of entertainment.  If your family doesn’t already gather ’round to listen to Mom read aloud, they won’t likely find it a suitable substitute for video games or television.  My husband, for one, just might die without his X-Box, and I have been known to suffer internet withdrawals.  It’s a symptom of the times, but one worth addressing.

Some other things you may want to consider keeping on hand are extra medications, a well stocked first aid kit, extra contact lenses or glasses, a way to filter or treat water in case you need to use surface water, extra pet food, and extra ammo for any firearms you have and are properly trained to use.  Also keep up on laundry and dishes, you don’t want to lose power in the middle of the night and wake, wearing your last underwear, to a sink full of pots and pans which you’ll have to use stored water to wash before you can heat water for oatmeal.  Mostly preaching to myself on that one.

Below are some resources you might find helpful in preparing your family for anything from a two-hour power outage to the Zombie Apocalypse.

 

 

Has this post given you food for thought?  What would you add?