Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It's been almost a year since my last post.  We are still living on the reservation.  It has been quite an interesting situation.  We moved out here for a job.  Who knew it would be such a huge learning experience for all of us!  On the rez, we are amongst people who live in survival mode most of the time.  I can't help but be astonished each time I meet someone who has no home either by choice or by circumstance.  Running water is not common to many of the homes.  They have to collect their water either at a water station or by carrying buckets.  Clothes are washed by hand as a way of living out here.  I'm sure many laughed at us as we talked about this when we first got here.

Many of my students haul water daily.  They feed, care for, and even butcher their animals.  They chop wood, build fires, and know how to stay warm in houses that have no electricity.  Many are learning how to weave, sew, and make jewelry.   They work with their parents/relatives to sell at markets.  They know how to ride horses.  Often my students provide the care for their younger siblings.  The most frustrating part of seeing all of these fantastic skills they have gained, most of their families are unable to sustain themselves financially.

So, what has our family been doing to keep learning and helping ourselves to be more self reliant?  Well, first we had to learn to live in the cold unlike anywhere we had lived before.  My husband and son have learned to chop wood.  We have learned to build fires and use a wood stove to heat our home.  Last winter, we struggled to get the stove to heat very much.  Either it was burning up in our living room and freezing cold on the other side of the house, or we had struggled to get a real fire up and going.  This winter has been much better, which is a good thing as it has been colder and snowier.  We learned from our Canadian friends that we could put our box fan in the door of our bedroom pointing out and it would pull the cold air out of the bedroom and the hot air would rise over the fan and heat the bedroom.  We doubted it could be that easy, but decided to try it.  We are so glad we did!  The heater in our home does not heat our bedroom, so last winter we froze unless we had our portable heater plugged in.  This year we have not had to use our portable heater yet.  And the temperatures have gotten as low as -2 outside.  We are so grateful to our Canadian friends for this great piece of knowledge.

Our family also had to survive the summer here.  Fortunately, this was not nearly as bad as we thought it was going to be when we realized that we had no air conditioning!  I don't think I had ever lived anywhere without air conditioning.  I was in shock and could not believe this was something that they failed to mention when telling me about housing.  But it turns out that air conditioning is not an absolute necessity when the temperatures only get up to about 90 degrees.  Fans in the windows help cool air to move through the house.  Closing blinds where the sun is shining helps reduce the heat entering the home.  Spending time outside sitting in the shade is great for the hottest parts of the day.

We have also learned a lot about sustaining our family financially.  We have learned that what we are doing is not working out very well.  So we have worked to increase our education over the last year.  I have been working on a Master's Degree so I can not only get the type of job that I want, but also one that will pay more.  We continue to read and study preparedness topics.

So, are we where we want to be as far as preparedness?  No. Unfortunately, we lost most of our food storage moving out here.  However, we have gained a lot of knowledge and skills living here.  Everyday we have a new learning experience and are finding that we are getting good at taking what we know and applying it to the situation we are in.  Our family continues to learn and work together.  We are seeing leadership qualities growing in our children as they take charge in many situations involving children and even with adults.  We have much to learn, but isn't that what life is for?  It is a continual learning experience.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Making Do

Lots of open land on the Rez.
Since I last wrote, our family moved to Arizona and we are now living on the Navajo Indian Reservation. It is the most secluded place we have ever lived and quite different from Las Vegas where we were living before. On the reservation there are few stores or other businesses. There are no Walmart stores. We have to drive 45 minutes to get to our bank. The little "town" we live in has a grocery store, Subway, pizza place, gas station, and chicken place inside the gas station. Oh, and there was a laundromat and car wash, but right now they are closed because of water issues. We live in teacher housing and I teach the Navajo children at the middle school. Our house is actually pretty nice. From what I understand the teacher housing here is the nicest on the "Rez" (reservation). Our house has a wood stove, which is great! The other two appliances we were given are a stove and refrigerator. There's a place for a washer and dryer, but we did not have one. We will have to rent a trailer to get one here. There also is no dishwasher.

We were unable to bring all of our stuff in the truck that we could afford to get here. So we left half of our things in a storage unit. Well, probably more than half. So when we got here, we unpacked as much as we could right away. We managed to get dishes, pots and pans, and some of our food storage here. With that said, there are some things that we realized we did NOT have. Or at least did not find right away.

The first thing that we were really missing was towels. Now mind you, we could not run to Walmart and buy a few towels and we did not know anyone here so we couldn't borrow any. So we had to make due with what we did have. I did bring fabric left over from Christmas projects and my mom had given me a couple of large pieces of felt. Felt is a good replacement for towels. The kids also had their warm fleece "snuggies" and those were great after a shower or bath too. The grocery store had some kitchen towels that we bought for doing dishes. About 5 days later, we found towels in one of the boxes we didn't get unpacked right away. We were grateful, but often keep in mind that the flannel and fleece are much warmer than towels and still use them from time to time when it is really cold.

Missing towels made it difficult to do dishes too. But we made due with the little hand towels we found at the grocery store. We laid them down on the counter and let the dishes dry on top of them instead of trying to hand dry each dish. This worked pretty well. Doing dishes without a dishwasher has been probably the easiest thing to learn. Quite honestly, we tended to do that before sticking dishes in the dishwasher anyway. We just liked that the dishwasher cleaned everything a bit more and sanitized the dishes.

The hardest adjustment has been learning to live without a washer and dryer. The laundromat was expensive when it was working. So even before it stopped working, Lee started washing clothes in the kitchen sink. He filled the sink with clothes, add a little detergent and filled the sink with water. He'd then "massage" the clothes for a few minutes to clean them. Then he would let out the water and let in new water to rinse the clothes. He would ring out the clothes as much as possible in the other sink.  We had some rope 

that he strung up in each of the bathrooms to hang up clothes on. It was not really very hard, but definitely time consuming. Now we are waiting for some 5 gallon buckets and plungers to show up to try another technique we learned online to wash clothes. We will put them in the bathtub, fill them with clothes, soap and water and then use the plungers which will stick up through a hole in the lid to agitate the clothes. We will hang the clothes up to dry after ringing them as dry as we can.

What else have we had to live without that we are used to having? Tables and chairs. We lost our kitchen table when we moved away from Alabama and could not take everything with us because the truck was too small. We also didn't get to bring our computer and sewing room tables. We couldn't fit night stands into our truck from storage either. We did make it here with lamps and plastic tubs and lots of boxes. So
we are using the plastic tubs as night stands and as a little table in the living room. The advantage to this is extra storage.  We also have a box that we keep our computer on. We've covered them with a sheet or blanket so it isn't so obvious that they aren't tables. We have one little couch and a rocking chair that made it. For additional chairs, we have a few camp chairs. We also brought in one of the seats from our van which gave us more room in the van and gave us more seating in our living room. I guarantee our living room will never be featured in a magazine article showing style and class, but we are cozy and it works.

Water was an interesting adventure for us as well.  The water here is VERY soft.  We are used to hard water.  Here it feels like you never get the soap off when you wash.  Also, it has a filmy look to it.  We were warned by several people when we got here NOT to drink it.  We had brought some water with us, but not enough to sustain us for long.  We were buying bottles of water every couple of days so we would have water to drink.  After about a week, one of the ladies from church was very generous and bought us a water filter.  This is something one should definitely keep on hand.  The water was definitely potable once we had the filter.  Before that....  EWWWW!

When we first arrived we had less than $300 to live on until our first paycheck which would come 3 weeks later. This had to cover any food that we needed and any startup fees. Fortunately, we brought food storage with us. We had already been working to learn how to use food storage and been occasionally using it in our meals so we knew things we already liked and knew recipes and how to use everything we brought with us. We had plenty of food for those 3 weeks and ate pretty well.

With all of this, we have considered ourselves very blessed. We had all of the necessities for living and the know how to make do for the things that we did not have. Part of being "prepared" is being able to improvise and make do with what you have to take care of needs for your family. We are grateful for all Heavenly Father has given us and provided for us.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Canning Candy and Other Yummy Things

My kids met me after church and excitedly told me that I had to go to the Relief Society meeting on Thursday.  I asked them why and quickly learned that we were going to be canning CANDY!  I had heard of being able to do this, but had no idea how to do it and hadn't researched it yet.  So, I had to go to the meeting.  I bought M&Ms ahead of time because they were on sale and headed to the meeting.  Sure enough, you can can candy.

So, what do you need to can candy?

This is like my Foodsaver.

First, you need a Foodsaver with the accessory hose.  Here's a picture of the one I have.  If you look in the list of what the Foodsaver you want to buy has, you should see it listed.  It seems that they start at about $150.  I found a coupon online for last year when they had these on sale for $80.  So deals do come along if you are willing to wait.

Foodsaver Jar Sealer (comes in wide or regular width)

Next, you need the Foodsaver Jar Sealers.  There are two different Jar Sealers.  One is for regular mouth jars and the other is for wide mouth jars.  It would probably be a good idea to have both. Watch your pricing on these.  I found all sorts of prices on these.  They are $9.99 on Foodsaver's website.  I found them for less on  Just watch shipping charges from wherever you choose.

Here is the setup they had at our meeting.

Whole and Snack Size Candy
M&Ms not in the package.

Don't forget the candy!  You can can pretty much any type of candy you choose.  If you choose to can packaged candy, then you need to poke it several times with a pin so the wrapper won't fill up with air.  If you open the package and just dump the candy in, then there is no need to worry about the pin.  You can use the small snack size bars or whole candy bars.  

Vacuum sealing the jar.

Now you're not going to believe how easy this is.  Seriously.  It is so simple you will wonder why you never learned this before.  You put your candy in the jar.  Put the metal lid on, but leave the metal ring off.  Then put the jar sealer attachment on and twist it.  Attach the hose to your machine and then to the attachment.  And then press the "canister" or "accessory" button.  You will hear it sucking the air out.  When the machine stops, it is sealed.  Take the Jar Sealer attachment off.   I like to have the metal rings on my jars, so I put the metal ring.  But from what I understand this is not necessary.  You can test the lid to make sure it is stuck.  It will be.  And you are done.

A variety of different things to can

Candy isn't the only thing you can do either.  The presenter also showed pickles that he had bought at Costco in an extra large jar and had separated into smaller jars then vacuum sealed.  He also had granola that they had made a year ago and the dehydrated fruit inside was still soft and the granola was crunchy.  You can do anything that doesn't need to be cooked this way and you can have some great treats in your food storage.

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Purely Water

As I began learning about water storage, I realized that there was little way of being able to carry as much water as I would need in a 72-hour kit.  Can you imagine carrying 3 gallons of water?  How about your child?  Water is heavy!  I was in Alabama at the time.  One of the things that I could not help but notice was how much water there was EVERYWHERE!  You notice things like that after living in the desert for a good part of your life.  With water everywhere, it didn’t seem that water storage would be as necessary as it was in Las Vegas.  But what I learned as I studied about water was that even if it is in plentiful supply, it has to be purified. 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 90% of the world’s water is contaminated in some way.  There are a variety of microscopic organisms that can contaminate our water and can cause potentially serious, if not fatal, illnesses.  Right now we depend on the filters that our cities have set up.  They add chlorine and other chemicals to kill off the bacteria and organisms that are in our water.  They filter out what they can.  Unfortunately because all of our water goes to one place to be filtered, we are exposed to anything that has gone into our water supply including waste, medications, and cleaning chemicals.  Much of it is filtered out, but often we depend on further filters in our homes.  Some we add to our faucets or refrigerators.  Others we buy and keep separately in containers such as water filter containers like Brita. 

So, in an emergency what do we do to purify our water so that it is safe to drink and use in our food?  There are many different options and types of water filtration and purification.

There are different types of contamination.  Biologically contaminated water is water that contains microorganisms such as Giardia (a common microorganism that, if not killed, leads to intestinal disorders), bacteria, or viruses that can lead to infections.  Toxic water sources contain chemical contamination from pesticide runoffs, mine tailings, and so on. Boiling, filtering, or chemically treating water can remove or kill microorganisms, but it will not remove chemical toxins. This is also the case when using a solar still.   Do not even mess with water that contains pesticides, mine tailings, or any other toxic substance.  

Boiling is the most certain way of killing all microorganisms.  According to the Wilderness Medical Society, water temperatures above 160° F kill all pathogens within 30 minutes and above 185° F within a few minutes. So in the time it takes for the water to reach the boiling point, all pathogens will be killed, even at high altitude.  To be extra safe, let the water boil rapidly for one minute, especially at higher altitudes since water boils at a lower temperature. Keep in mind with boiling, you must have a good heat source.  You also lose important minerals that your body needs.

There are two types of chemical treatment: those using iodine and those using chlorine.  There are a variety of products on the market, so follow the directions on the bottle. Many of the tablets have an expiration date and become ineffective after that point. Also, once the bottle has been opened, the tablets must be used within a certain period. When in doubt, buy a new bottle.  Remember that chemical purification methods may only be partially effective, depending on the water temperature.    

When using chemical treatment procedures, there are some important things to remember:
o   Cloudy water often requires higher concentrations of chemical to disinfect.
  • If the water is cloudy or filled with large particles, strain it, using a cloth, before treatment. Large particles, if swallowed, may be purified only "on the outside."
  • Add the chemical to the water and swish it around to aid in dissolving. Splash some of the water with the chemical onto the lid and the threads of the water bottle so that all water areas are treated.
  • The water should sit for at least 30 minutes after adding the chemical to allow purification to occur. If using tablets, let the water sit for 30 minutes after the tablet has dissolved.
  • The colder the water, the less effective the chemical is as a purifying agent. Research has shown that at 50° F only 90 percent of Giardia cysts was inactivated after 30 minutes of exposure. If the water temperature is below 40° F double the treatment time before drinking. It is best if water is at least 60° F before treating. You can place the water in the sun to warm it before treating.
  • Chemically treated water can be made to taste better by pouring it back and forth between containers, after it has been adequately treated. Other methods include adding a pinch of salt per quart or adding flavorings (e.g., lemonade mix, etc.) after the chemical treatment period.

Iodine is light sensitive and must always be stored in a dark bottle. It works best if the water is over 68° F. Iodine has been shown to be more effect than chlorine-based treatments in inactivating Giardia cysts.  Be aware that some people are allergic to iodine and cannot use it as a form of water purification.  Persons with thyroid problems or on lithium, women over fifty, and pregnant women should consult their physician prior to using iodine for purification.  Also, some people who are allergic to shellfish are also allergic to iodine. If someone cannot use iodine, use either a chlorine-based product or a non-iodine-based filter, such as the PUR Hiker Microfilter, MSR WaterWorks, or the Katadyn Water Filter.

Chlorine can be used for persons with iodine allergies or restrictions. Remember that water temperature, sediment level, and contact time are all elements in killing microorganisms in the water. Halazone is an example of a chlorine tablet product.

Bleach is often recommended as one of the best ways to treat water if you are unable to boil your water. Do not use bleach with other things in it such as scents, boosters, etc…  You just want regular bleach.  Bleach breaks down fairly quickly.  It has a 6 month shelf life.

1.     Add two drops of bleach per quart or liter of water.
2.     Stir it well.
3.     Let the mixture stand for a half hour before drinking.
If the water is cloudy with suspended particles:
1.     Filter the water as best you can.
2.     Double the amount of bleach you add to the water.

Instead of storing bleach, you can store calcium hypochlorite.  It has a longer shelf life than bleach.  1 lb disinfects 10,000 gallons of water and is enough for a family of 4 for 6-7 years.

To make a stock of chlorine solution (do not drink this!):
1.     Dissolve 1 heaping teaspoon (about one-quarter of an ounce) of high-test (78%) granular calcium hypochlorite for each two gallons (eight liters) of water.
To disinfect water do this or follow instructions for bleach:
1.     Add one part of the chlorine solution to 100 parts water to be treated.
2.     Let the mixture sit for at least one-half hour before drinking.

There are a number of devices on the market that filter out microorganisms as well.  A water filter pumps water through a microscopic filter that is rated for a certain-size organism. The standard size rating is the micron (the period at the end of this sentence is about 600 microns).  Filter the cleanest water you can find. Dirty water or water with large suspended particles will clog your filter more quickly.  Prefilter the water either through a prefilter on the pump or strain it through a bandanna.  If you must filter dirty water, let it stand overnight for particles to settle out.

You can find water filter pumps for filtering large quantities of water.  These are great to have for your large storage containers.  You can also use them in lakes, pools, etc…  There are also water filter bottles.  These are perfect for 72 hour kits as they are light to carry, but filters all of the bad things out of your water making it safe to drink.  The prices of these range from $10 - $200 each.  You want something that says it removes virus and bacteria up to 6 logs (99.9999%) and removes/reduces organics and inorganics such as DDT, PCBs, THMs, Lead, Copper, Mercury, arsenic, and Chromium 6, as well as pathogens such as Guardia, Cryptosporidium, and E-Coli Bacteria.  When purchasing check out the cost of replacement filters.  Read instructions carefully on how to store these as well.  In certain climates, they dry out or wear out sooner. 

One of the coolest items I saw when learning about water purification was ultraviolet rays.  Yep.  The sun’s rays help purify water.  But if you don’t want to sit the water in the sun forever, there are cool pens that you can buy that you press a button and a UV light comes on and you agitate the water with it as you stir.  They are pricey, but effective.  You don’t have to worry about pumping, chemicals, test strips, filters, and there is no aftertaste.  It sterilizes clear water by destroying 99.99% of protozoa (including Giardia and Cryptosporidium), bacteria and even viruses.  It protects you from risks that cause botulism, cholera, dysentery, and typhoid.  It purifies 16 fl. Oz. of water in less than a minute or 32 fl. Oz in 1 ½ minutes.  It is small and fits into most containers.  It turns off once the treatment is complete.  It can be used up to 8,000 times.  It will not cause any damage to you. 

Water purification is something that everyone needs to know about.  Often boil alerts are put out after major disasters.   I read on one news article about people asking how on earth they were going to boil water if they had no electricity or heat source.  If they had known about water purification, they would have been more prepared.  They would have had many different options of what to do.