Disaster preparedness is not something to be ashamed of. It’s just good thinking.
When I read comments about being prepared for a natural disaster, I often see traces of embarrassment or defensiveness inherent in the message. I think this happens because it is so easy to be labeled an “extremist” or a “radical fringe element” or a “prepper” or a “survivalist.”
Shouldn’t we all be “survivalists?” That is, shouldn’t we all be focused on survival? Independent of rogue government elements, market collapse, alien invasion, rogue six legged GMO cows from the secret Monsanto corn mazes, or whatever, there are still the age old concerns of famine, fire, and flood. It’s only smart to have some stored food, some medical supplies, some survival skills, and some tools. It’s really, really naive to just assume that the mechanism of modern society will keep ticking on, despite all ravages of earthquake, blackout, tornado, ice storm, blocked road, or vicissitude of human stupidity.
It doesn’t have to take much. Some sealed gallons of water. Some cans of tuna or the ever popular beans. An extra month of medications. Pet food. Rechargeable LED flashlights. A few extra blankets. A sturdy knife. A first aid kit and a little basic training. You can work up from there, but even a little bit of preparation could mean the difference between life and death, comfort and hardship. It pays to know how to build a fire, clean a wound, cook over an open flame, where it is safe to use fire and where it is not, how to purify water, how to keep warm without heat, how to change a tire, how to light your way at night.
Training such as this has quite literally saved my life and it wasn’t hard to acquire. You never know when you may have to boil a pot of beans or know how to keep your water clean!
The knife is one of our oldest and most useful tools. The only tool older is the hammer, which originally became the knife when the rock being used as a hammer split into a sharp edge. With a knife and the right skills, you can rebuild society.
I’d be naked without my knife. It’s a very useful tool for daily life. However, there are some pretty strange ideas out there about knives. I’ve talked to people who seem to think I run a terrible risk of cutting myself because I have a knife. It reminds me of the mythical pistol that jumps out of the holster and shoots people on its own. However, this doesn’t happen. A good knife in a proper sheath is no danger when used properly.
As for those who fear knives instinctively, I think they are thinking symbolically. To them, knife = weapon and weapon = danger, with no thought of how a person might be using the knife, or what they might use it for. However, a good knife is a tool, and a very useful one at that! It’s a great feeling to be able to help someone or do something for yourself because you already have the proper tool for the job. There are even times when having something to cut with could save your life.
What kind of knife?
There are nearly as many kinds of knives as there are knife users. If you are a city dwelling person who likes to dress sharp, a bone or pearl handled penknife would be a classic choice. If you love the outdoors, a sturdy lockback or maybe a sheath knife with a staghorn grip could be good for you. If you’re of a more tactical mindset, there are many varieties of self defense knife out there, including ones that can be carried in wallets or as part of belt buckles. For people who are handy, the venerable Swiss Army knife or Leatherman l might be best. The possibilities are endless. I, myself, wear a neck knife. It hangs on a length of paracord and friction fits into a sheath. It’s unobtrusive but I can slip it inside my shirt if going to a place that doesn’t welcome knives. It’s my best friend when it comes to getting things done around the house, from opening packages to trimming an overgrown shrub.
When picking out a good knife, simplicity is supreme. When starting out, l look for simple designs. Don’t fall for the multi edged fantasy designs, for example – they may look cool but aren’t really good for much, and are often made with poor quality steel. Also, keep in mind that stainless steel can be a lot harder to resharpen. Carbon steel needs a bit more oiling and care, but it’s much better when you want to keep an edge on it. Keep your needs and goals in mind, and let that guide your decision on what kind of a knife to carry.
Below is a great article on choosing a pocket knife.
It’s easy to stay safe while using a knife, by following just a few simple rules. Because I’ve followed these rules, I’ve only cut myself once in thirty years! When I did, it was because I broke rule number four.
1. Maintain your Grip.
Make sure your hands and the knife are not slippery. Only use knives with good, solid grips. Don’t use a broken knife or one with a loose grip.
2. Watch your direction.
Cut away from your body. Keep your strokes careful and controlled.
3. Keep it sharp.
A sharp knife is a safe knife. It cuts better and doesn’t slip as much.
4. Use the right knife.
Different knives do different jobs. If you use a flimsy knife to chop wood, you might break yourself or the knife. The time I cut myself, I was trying to use a kitchen knife to carve a name into wood. If I’d used a jackknife or penknife with a strong, sharp point, I would have been fine.
5. Know your laws.
Knife carry laws vary widely state by state and country by country. Know the laws where you are, as well as where you travel to. If you are questioned about a knife you may happen to have, whether by police or private citizen, refer to it as a “tool” or “utility blade” to emphasize the useful qualities and reduce fear.
Once you have your knife, you want to keep it around for a long time. Like most quality things in life, a good knife needs care and maintenance. The following articles will help you keep your knife sharp and useful for many years.
Soy Milk and Soy Yogurt
I recently found that I could do exactly the same thing with soy milk. I don’t like soy yogurt as well as I like cow or goat yogurt but I’m choosing at this time to stay away from dairy products so here is how I make soy milk. Ingredients needed: 4 ounces (around a half cup) of raw soy beans.
Look for them at an health food store, co-op or ask a local feed store if they can provide them. Blender Sauce pan Nylon stocking, knee length
You can get them at your grocer’s in boxes of five pairs or something and they’re useful for lots of things. You can even wear them if you want!
Place a half cup of beans into a large bowl or pan and fill with cold tap water. Let stand for at least 8 hours. After this time, drain water off of beans and let that go down the drain or into the flower bed. I use a colander.
Place soaked, drained beans into your blender, fill to near the lip with cold water, put on the lid and process until you have something smooth and relatively thick. Sometimes it takes a while and you may want to use a spatula from time to time (with blender turned off) to move unprocessed chunks toward the bottom of the blender jar.
When you judge it’s done, move your bean slurry off the blender stand, take your magic knee sock and stretch it over the open mouth of the jar. Holding with one hand, tip the jar over your sauce pan. With the other, shake the jar a bit, try to coax all of the slurry down into the stocking.
Remove the sock from the jar and hold the stocking shut, twisting it is good. From here on it’s a process of kneading, gently squeezing the mash within the stocking to get the bean juice out of the pulp. This takes a little while but is sort of transcendental and even a little bit sexy so it can stand in for yoga or meditation or something.
When you have the pulp inside the stocking at a consistency about like homemade salt clay, put the sauce pan on about medium heat and cover. Turn the stocking inside out and dump the bean leavings into a bowl. Now run, go feed that to your chickens. (I did tell you to buy chickens did I not?)
Bring the virgin soy milk to a gentle boil and continue cooking for ten minutes. This will kill off some unwanted organisms and lessen the amount of gas you might experience on drinking the stuff. When done you can pour the now “experienced” soy milk into a jar or pitcher and refrigerate. It’s funny how foamy it is at first.
Should you want to make soy yogurt, cool it to body temperature and follow the yogurt recipe above including the starter. Soy yogurt is good in veggie stroganoff, or mixed with dry onion soup mix as a dip for baked corn chips. A caveat:
Soy is controversial. It does contain phyto or plant estrogens, chemicals which mimmic the female hormone that some of us manufacture independently. Like regular estrogen, the plant type has been accused of causing certain kinds of cancer and it may contribute to infertility in males. I tell women to use soy or flax seed meal in their bread because it will cause their husbands to talk with them more freely but I’m joking—-mostly. As with everything else, it’s probably best to use soy in moderation. A serving or two per day perhaps.
Making your own soy milk, and both standard and soy yogurts
I want to talk about three things in this little article. These are all things that have been known about by lots of people, but not by most people, and generally not all found in the same place. I’ll start by telling you how milk yogurt is made by me at least; and I’m lazy and like to do as little work as possible. In part 2 I’ll tell you how to make soy yogurt, and the milk it’s made from.
Moo Yogurt (Or Baa)
Ingredients needed Thermos bottle
(vacuum flask) as wide a mouth as you can find
Milk, cow or goat, preferably not that low-fat stuff.
Powdered milk if you wish a thicker yogurt.
A yogurt starter
(just plain unflavored, not vanilla yogurt from the store. I usually use Greek culture because I admire Socrates.)
pour a pint or more of milk into a sauce pan, place over low heat. Stirr frequently till it heats to about body temperature. If you have a thermometer, 95 F or 35 C is good, but you can use your sense of touch to test that it’s not really not nor cold. Think tepid bathtub, or baby bottle.
When desired temperature has been achieved, fill your thermos with hot water from the tap to preheat.
Stir a couple of table spoons of your starter yogurt into your warm milk. This is harder to do than one expects. A bit of spoon work is wanted.
Now pour the water out of the thermos and the milk and yogurt mixture in. Screw the lid on tightly. I like to wrap the thermos in a bath towel for further insulation. Put it on a counter or in some other warm place and leave it alone! Overnight or even 24 hours if you wish. If you live in a cold climate, you can set it on top of the water heater or on top of your fridge. Let it sit overnight.
(Note If you want thicker yogurt, a few tablespoons of powdered milk can be stirred into the whole milk prior to heating.)
That should be all. By morning, the yogurt should be a smooth, fairly solid mass.
You need no special thermostatic yogurt maker or mail order starters. Slice in a peach or throw in some raspberries and you’ll have something just as good and a lot cheaper than those syrupy 5-ounce tubs they sell in the store.
This was a guest post by Glynda Shaw. over at Creative Fancy. She’s an author and alternative energy expert who also does a lot of homebrewing, creative cooking, building, and homesteading related projects.
Did you know you can use a tree stump to make leather?
You can if it’s an oak stump.
You hollow out the top of the oak stump to make a deep cavity. Let it fill with rain water. While that’s soaking, take your hide and clean and scrape it as well you can. Then soak the hide in the water in the top of the stump.
The tannins from the oak wood will help cure the hide for you, just the same as if you’d mashed up acorns. Speaking of which, if you want to increase the tannins in the stump water, you can add mashed up acorns to your stump.
After you’ve soaked the hide for a while (several days), you take it out and scrape it again while stretching it on a frame, nailing it to a large board, or side of a building.
There you have it. Leather from a stump.
(This is only the briefest overview. If you really want to try this, check out a natural tanning forum for more ideas and advice.)
What if you never gave up on anything? What if giving up was not an option? How much could we achieve?
When I was young, I wasn’t taught perseverance. I was taught, unwittingly, that it was okay to give up. Nobody make me finish certain things or taught me how to overcome my fears. I didn’t learn deep down that I could make myself succeed if I just – gave up on giving up.
Countless unfinished projects litter my history, coupled with neat little stacks of regret. This craft project, that puzzle, this video game, that story, that class project, that fear…
I find myself tempted to self castigate. As if that helped anyone achieve anything! So I try to resist that temptation. Instead, I remind myself that being persistent isn’t so hard – if you take it one step at a time, one more try, one more little wiggle forward. If you fall down, get back up. It’s okay to fail. Learn from every failure and eventually you fill find success.
Winston Churchill famously said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” He should know, he had a lot of struggle in his life on his way to success and he never stopped trying – even though he wasn’t always dealt the best hand.
Here are some other great quotes about perseverance!
“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”
– Amelia Earhart
“Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”
– Jacob A. Riis
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
– Albert Einstein
“A failure is not always a mistake. It may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.”
– B. F. Skinner
“Let me tell you the secret that has led to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.”
Or, “How to Fix a water flooded engine with paper towels and elbow grease.”
If you’ll recall my post yesterday about being flooded out and having my car stall, and having to be rescued by firefighters and police, I was left in doubt that my poor little car, who has been through so much, would ever start again.
This morning we started trying to get the water out of the cylinders. We did this by taking out all four spark plugs, then using a socket wrench and cheater bar to turn the flywheel. We got a couple big squirts out of the first cylinder and found that luckily the others were dry. Apparently, a safety feature stopped the engine before water could get into all cylinders. And the water had gotten in, most likely, from an improperly secured air filter cover.
The holes into the engine block were so deep we were at a loss as to how to get the rest of the water out. There was about a soda can’s worth in there. I recalled what I’d read yesterday on the internet, and said “we can use paper towels, roll them up and stick them down in there to wick the moisture out.”
We did that for a good while and got a bunch of water out. Then we went back to the auto parts store to turn in my old battery for the core credit, and at the same time I picked up new platinum plugs – the old ones were from the factory and going strong at 160,000 miles but I figured I should put new ones in anyway since we had it open. (You read that right, Hyundai builds quality.) We got back and shone a light in and found more water.
Then I said “Maybe if we shove the towel in with a thin stick…” so we did that, and stuck and pulled wet paper towels for what seemed like forever. A metal shish kebab skewer worked great. Finally we had everything out. Then we tried her. The starter was strong, and so was the battery, and she tried to crank. The whole engine shook as the car tried to start.
Out comes the partner with a suggestion of starter fluid. My neighbor rummaged around and found a can – a few more tries with that and she started! Things were rough at first but she settled down after that and now sounds better than she did before the flood, because of the new plugs. I drove her around the block to make sure nothing was fouled. Tried the brakes, lights, signals, radio, everything works. So now, I have wheels again!
This faithful little Hyundai is a little more scratched and dented, but she runs, and I’m so unbelievably happy right now. What strikes me about this whole experience is that between myself, my neighbor, and my partner, each of us had a critical part to play – with one of us missing, this whole thing wouldn’t have worked. I researched and figured out what the problem probably was and how to fix it, my neighbor Charlie provided the tools and some of the know-how, and my partner provided support, some truly excellent suggestions, and more know-how. Oh, and I also handed over many power towels to my hard working neighbor.
I was prompted to write this post because the symptoms I had were more those of a seized engine or a broken starter than anything. The first time we tried to crank the engine with a fully charged battery, the engine made a big lurch and we heard a loud clunk. So it sounded like something was fatally wrong with the engine. Meanwhile all that was required was removal of the spark plugs, much careful hand cranking of the engine, many, many, many power towels rolled up to fit in the cylinder and a light to look for water, and eventually a can of starter fluid.