The Survival Mom » Preparedness http://thesurvivalmom.com Helping moms worry less & enjoy life! Thu, 26 Mar 2015 17:54:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Is a Storage Unit a Viable Survival Cache? http://thesurvivalmom.com/storage-unit-survival-cache/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/storage-unit-survival-cache/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 07:10:15 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=21925 For quite some time now, caches have been rather popular amongst the prepper/survivalist crowd. Most commonly, this involves filling a large diameter PVC tube with gear and supplies, sealing it up, then burying it. Often, these caches are hidden somewhere Read More

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Is a storage unit a viable survival cache?For quite some time now, caches have been rather popular amongst the prepper/survivalist crowd. Most commonly, this involves filling a large diameter PVC tube with gear and supplies, sealing it up, then burying it. Often, these caches are hidden somewhere along a bug out route, thus allowing for resupply during the journey.

One major problem, though, is finding an appropriate location for the cache. To avoid any legal issues, it should always be placed on land you own or that is publicly owned. Several times I’ve heard a recommendation of using cemeteries for cache locations. This is an extremely bad idea. Think about it. Just as you get the hole dug, along comes Officer Friendly, who is very curious to hear your reasoning for being in the cemetery in the middle of the night with a shovel.

Another issue with this type of DIY cache is inaccessibility for rotation and inspection. Remember, these PVC tubes are generally meant to be buried. The idea is to fill them with supplies that will last quite a long time. You’re not going to be digging these up every six months to rotate out canned goods and such. Once buried, it is there to stay until you truly need it. That’s usually how caches work. Because of this, most people don’t store their “good” stuff in a cache.

Might a storage unit survival cache be a viable option?

One option worth considering is to utilize a storage unit as a cache location. Once, these self-storage facilities were most often found in the seedier parts of the city but today they are everywhere. Here in the upper Midwest, I find them out in the sticks as well as in urban areas. There are usually different size units available, from the size of a closet to as big as a two-car garage. For our survival cache purposes, the smallest will usually suffice.

Quite often you’ll find these facilities are climate controlled, so you don’t have to worry about your stuff freezing or going bad in the heat of summer. While there is a cost involved, these units could serve a dual purpose. Not only could you stash some emergency gear there, you could clean out some of the clutter in your home and store it here as well. You know, the stuff you don’t really need on hand but you don’t want to throw away – kids memorabilia, household goods you’re saving for your child’s first apartment, old clothes that you keep promising to yourself you’re going to fit into again.

I’d be willing to bet that if you examined your bug out routes, you’ll find at least one or two of these storage unit businesses along the way. Look for one that is at the outskirts of town or, even better, out in the country. If you can find one that is family owned and operated, you might have a bit of room to haggle on the price, especially if you’re willing and able to pay for several months in advance.

The bonus with one of these storage units is you might be able to use it as an impromptu shelter as you’re bugging out. Not just a resupply point but a place where you can hunker down for a day to catch your breath and plan your next move.

While I would fully expect these places to get looted eventually, should the disaster go on long enough, I think it would take weeks before that starts to happen. There are just too many more appealing targets, such as supermarkets, drug stores, big box retailers, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants. My guess is that people will flock to those before making it to the storage businesses.

As with anything else related to survival and disaster planning, you need to take into account your own individual circumstances and determine whether this option would work for you. If it does, great! If not, just keep researching the different options available until you find the perfect fit.

Helpful resources

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Three Thrifty Ways To Increase Your Yarn Stash http://thesurvivalmom.com/thrifty-yarn-stash-ideas/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/thrifty-yarn-stash-ideas/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 07:00:50 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20743 Within the community of knitters and crocheters, “yarn stash,” or sometimes just “stash,” is an actual term. It refers to the amount of yarn one has hiding in the closet or under the bed, likely in an attempt to keep Read More

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Thrifty yarn stash ideas. Within the community of knitters and crocheters, “yarn stash,” or sometimes just “stash,” is an actual term. It refers to the amount of yarn one has hiding in the closet or under the bed, likely in an attempt to keep one’s significant other from knowing exactly how much yarn you have (or from knowing how much you spent on yarn that month). If you knit, crochet, or do anything that that requires the use of yarn, then you probably have a yarn stash.

Knitting is perceived by many to be a thrifty sort of craft. Instead of dropping $50 on a designer sweater, you can just make one yourself, right? Sadly, this is not an accurate picture of what knitting entails. Many non-knitters may not realize that the yarn is often the most expensive part of any knitting project.

When I bring this up with people who are new to knitting, they almost always cite a particular brand of cheap acrylic yarn that can always be found at big box stores. That brand is inexpensive, but it is also like sandpaper next to your skin. There is a place for this variety of acrylic yarn, but that place is not in hand-knit clothing. Why would you want to put all the effort into knitting something beautiful if you can’t actually stand to wear it? Life is too short to knit with cheap yarn.

Don’t despair! It is possible to source higher-quality materials without having to pay exorbitant amounts of money, although sometimes doing so requires even more creativity than the actual knitting.

Thrifty yarn stash ideas

Method One: Recycling old sweaters

reclaimedyarn

This yarn will have a second life as something I would actually want to wear.

How to do it: Take a trip down to your local second-hand store and browse their sweater section. Look for something kind of bulky. We’re going to be unravelling it later, so make sure the yarn out of which it is made is a weight that you are comfortable knitting. It is possible in this way to obtain really gorgeous yarn, yarn that is made out of cashmere, angora, and merino wool. Stuff that would ordinarily set you back about $50 per skein.

When you get your sweater home, you need to unpick the seams. It is important to unpick, and not just cut the pieces apart. When that is done, find the bind-off edge. This is the “end” of the knitting. Most sweaters are knitted starting with the bottom and going up, so the bind-off edge is likely to be near the top of the sleeves or at the shoulders. Once you get the end unbound, it’s just a matter of unraveling the sweater and rolling the yarn up into a ball. It can be knit as is, or, if you’d prefer to block it to get the tell-tale curls out of the yarn, this is the time to do it.

While that sounds pretty simple, depending on the quality of the sweater, it might be horribly difficult to unpick. However, if the yarn is nice enough, it will be worth it. Once at a local clothing exchange I obtained a really ugly, but free, Ralph Lauren short-sleeved turtleneck sweater. The yarn was a blend of cashmere, angora, and merino. Heaven! But, it being a Ralph Lauren, it took me ages to unpick that darn thing. The mittens I intend to knit with the reclaimed yarn will be worth every second I spent wrestling with the parent sweater.

Method Two: The Yard Sale, and its Maiden Aunt, the Estate Sale

I will come clean and say that I have had some success with this method, but not a lot. If you go to a yard sale with the express purpose of looking for yarn, prepare to be disappointed. It’s hard to tell ahead of time whether the person having the yard sale is a former yarn addict. But if you already browse a lot of yard sales anyway, definitely keep your eye out for yarn. (Or, more old sweaters). There will always be someone who is getting rid of her stuff and doesn’t fully appreciate the value of what she has. That includes not only yarn or sweaters made from high quality material but also other knitting and crochet supplies.

Once I came away from a yard sale with a whole grocery sack of nice acrylic/wool blend yarn which cost me $3.75 altogether. The same yarn would have cost upwards of $40 at the store. However, I have been to many other yard sales without having quite so much luck.

Method Three: Make Your Own Yarn

I’m talking about spinning. This could be its own 50-part series of blog posts, and indeed, there is even a quarterly magazine devoted solely to this topic. I include it here under false pretenses, because people don’t take up spinning to save money. But what embodies a provident, thrifty, self-sufficient mentality better than the ability to make a cute hat out of fluff?

I won’t turn your hair white with horror stories about the high cost of a decent spinning wheel (spoiler: it’s high.), but if you are interested in dabbling in the art of spinning but don’t want to spend your life savings, you can get a simple drop spindle and some spinning fiber for less than $20. Many online retailers cater to handspinners. Etsy is also a good place to look.

Spinning yarn instead of buying it allows you full control over every aspect of the finished product. I like to begin with a specific project in mind, and I can choose the fiber content, the weight, and the color. If I am working from a fleece, I can even choose the wool from a specific sheep, because every fleece has its own unique characteristics.

I taught a Survival Mom webinar on the subject of spinning, “Learn How to Spin Your Own Yarn.” Watch that for a good, overall introduction to both spindle and spinning wheel yarn spinning.

If you have ever thought of taking up spinning, I encourage you go for it. You might find that you’ll never go back to purchasing mere yarn.

Have any of you ever found yarn in unlikely places? What do you find is the most frustrating thing about finding good yarn?

Helpful resources:

 

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How to Can Green Beans in a Pressure Canner http://thesurvivalmom.com/try-today-can-green-beans-pressure-canner/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/try-today-can-green-beans-pressure-canner/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 18:10:52 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=16012 Green beans are a great candidate for a first-time gardener and for someone new to canning. They grow well in lots of different gardening zones. They grow and produce rather quickly, and the more you pick them, the more they Read More

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How to can green beans in a pressure canner.Green beans are a great candidate for a first-time gardener and for someone new to canning. They grow well in lots of different gardening zones. They grow and produce rather quickly, and the more you pick them, the more they produce.

They are easy to can and will provide your family with a green vegetable throughout the winter, making them a great choice for food storage. We love green beans in our house. It’s the only green vegetable my whole family likes, so we eat them about twice a week, with lots of bacon grease. You can find our favorite recipe here.

Equipment Required

  • Clean canning jars with lids and rings
  • Pressure canner with gauge and rack (you cannot use a water bath canner)
  • Canning funnel
  • Ladle or large spoon
  • Jar lifter
  • Magnetic lid wand
  • Non-metallic small spatula (I use a chopstick)
  • Large pot to heat jars
  • Large pot to heat beans
  • Colander

To Can Green Beans

Break ends off beans and then break into smaller, 1 – 1 ½ inch, pieces. I normally break beans at night while watching TV and can them the next day. It takes awhile to get them all broken. Rinse well in several changes of water.

How to can green beans.Gather your equipment and wash with hot soapy water.

Place clean jars in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer. Place the lids in a smaller pot and bring to a simmer as well. Do not boil the lids.

Add water to your pressure canner to the appropriate level (check the directions for your specific canner model) and turn the burner to medium. You want to warm the water to about 180 degrees, not boil it. Tip: Add a splash of vinegar to your water to help keep your jars free from residue while processing.

Bring another large pot of water to a boil and add the broken, washed green beans. Boil for 5 minutes and remove beans from cooking liquid. Reserve cooking liquid to cover beans in jars.

How to can green beans.Working one jar at a time, use your jar lifter to remove the jar from simmering water, dumping the water back into the pot.

Put the canning funnel on your jar and fill hot jar with hot beans, to 1 inch of headspace.

Add canning salt (optional), ½ tsp for pints, 1 tsp for quarts.

Ladle the hot cooking liquid over the beans, leaving 1-inch headspace.

How to can green beans.Slide your spatula – or any non-metallic utensil – between the green beans and jar; press back gently on the beans to release any trapped air bubbles. Do this a couple times, then add more cooking liquid if necessary to the correct headspace.

Into the pressure canner!

It’s now time to place each jar in your pressure canner. Your canner probably came with instructions for the amount of pressure and time for your particular location, but if you’re still unsure, refer to the Blue Ball Book Guide to Preserving or your local extension office.

Once your green beans have been processed, remove bands and check to make sure your jars have sealed by pressing down in the center of the lid. If the lid pops back up, your jar hasn’t sealed correctly and should be refrigerated and consumed within one week. Store your canned goods in a cool, dry, dark place.

Now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor! You can enjoy the flavor of green beans all year long!

Want more information about canning? I recommend these resources:

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Learn to Crochet With Free, Online Resources http://thesurvivalmom.com/learn-crochet/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/learn-crochet/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 07:00:20 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=22246 When I was pregnant with my son more than 16 years ago, I wanted to learn to knit. He was my first baby and I figured all good moms should know how to make baby blankets and booties. I tried Read More

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Learn to crochet with free, online resources.When I was pregnant with my son more than 16 years ago, I wanted to learn to knit. He was my first baby and I figured all good moms should know how to make baby blankets and booties. I tried to teach myself… what a disaster! I prayed my lack of knitting skills didn’t predict my mothering ability. A few years later I asked my husband’s grandmother – likely one of the greatest knitters of all time – to teach me. Though she could whip up the most gorgeous blankets and sweaters you’ve ever seen, she had no success in transferring that skill to me. A few years later when I recounted these past failures to a friend, she suggested I try to crochet instead and told me about some YouTube tutorials that might help.

That’s how I discovered Michael “Mikey” Sellick. Mikey is from Canada and, at that time, created crochet tutorial videos as his time allowed. Now, crocheting, running “The Crochet Crowd” website and Facebook page, and being the spokesman for several brands is his full time job. If you want to learn to crochet, learning online with Mikey is absolutely the best way to do it. With his guidance and some practice, I was able to go from brand new beginner to intermediate-advanced crocheter in a matter of months.

Why Learning Online is Great

1. Lessons can happen at any time of day on your schedule. I watched tutorials in the middle of the night on a regular basis!

2. Learn at your own pace! Live classes can be fun, but moving at group pace can be frustrating if the class moves faster or slower than you need.

3. Your teacher will never get frustrated with you! You can rewind as many times as you like to see the same instruction over and over again if you need.

Why Crochet Skills Should Be in Your Prepper “Arsenal”

1. The ability to make socks, hats, gloves, scarves, clothes, blankets, and more is not only beneficial for your own family, but it’s a barterable skill as well.

2. It’s a skill that can be easily taught to children.

3. You can save money buy making your own items instead of buying, or giving hand made items as gifts to others. The money saved can be used for stocking up on other preparedness items.

4. You can earn money selling your creations. Money earned can be used to reduce your family debt or used to become more prepared.

5. Knowing how to crochet will allow you to create new items of clothing or other items when times are tough. When your child outgrows a sweater it can be carefully unraveled and remade into hats, scarves, dish towels, etc. Did your husband stain his sweater? Turn it into a sweater, booties and hat for a baby!

Join The Crochet Crowd

There’s no better way to learn to crochet than this 24 video tutorial series that will walk you from the very beginning of crochet into completed projects in no time! (Actually, after Lesson #9 you will be able to complete 90% of the patterns out there!) And best of all… It is 100% free!

The Crochet Crowd website is chock full of patterns, inspiration, and guidance for the beginner to expert crocheter.

If you want to enter the social media world of crochet, join the Facebook Crowd! With more than HALF A MILLION followers, there is plenty of help and inspiration for the crochet community.

Another great online resource is Ravelry. It’s a forum, a source of patterns and products, and so much more. There is also a Ravelry phone app, Stash2Go.

Some of My Favorite Patterns

Never Ending Granny Square Afghan

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/never-ending-granny

Arches Cowl by Mary Beth Temple

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/arches-cowl

Any dishrag! (They are easy, useful, and make great gifts and 100% cotton yarn is very affordable.)

http://www.allfreecrochet.com/Dishcloths/15-Free-Crochet-Dishcloth-Patterns

Broomstick Scarf

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oIOR-uuyEU

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Learn to Tap Your Maple Trees http://thesurvivalmom.com/how-to-tap-maple-trees/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/how-to-tap-maple-trees/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 17:15:42 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=22168 Just before spring arrives, the snow melts, ice disappears, and we start getting multiple days over 32 degrees. You know what that means??? At my house that means it’s Maple Syrup Time, and I’m so glad I learned how to Read More

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How to tap maple trees.Just before spring arrives, the snow melts, ice disappears, and we start getting multiple days over 32 degrees. You know what that means??? At my house that means it’s Maple Syrup Time, and I’m so glad I learned how to tap maple trees!

After living on my current property about 18 years, I realized I had untapped resources right out in my own yard. Really. My maple trees. I could have kicked myself, thinking, “Why didn’t I ever take advantage of this”? So, last year, my friend, Bill, showed me how to do this.

One of the first things you should know is which trees are maples, because in the winter, they all look alike. I happen to have one Red Maple, and the rest are Silver Maples. The Sugar Maple is the most desired because of its higher sugar content. Its’ sap ranges from about 3-4% sugar. The Red Maple is about 2-3%, and my Silver Maples are only a measly 1-2%.

If you are lucky enough to have a Sugar Maple, it takes roughly 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. So, I need a whole lot more sap from my Red Maple and Silver Maples to do the job. My first year (last year) I made 19 pints, and 2 quarts. I like the pint size jars, so I could give those as gifts. I used my Mason jars, so I didn’t have to order fancy bottles online.

Get your supplies together

Being the good friend he is, Bill supplied me with everything I needed, except the trees!

Several 6 gallon plastic buckets with lids

3/8″ plastic tubing in 2-3 foot lengths

Several “spiles” or taps

Cheesecloth or a fine plastic mesh “sleeve” to filter sap before boiling

Wire for attaching buckets to the trees

3/8″ drill bit-for drilling a hole in the lid to thread the tubing in

7/16 or 1/2″ drill bit for drilling the tree

Blue tape to mark your drill bit. Wrap the tape at the 2 1/2″ mark on the drill bit, and don’t drill past that mark.

Rechargeable drill. I only had an electric drill, and as I found out later, it would have been a much better idea to get a drill with rechargeable batteries. I had to connect several extension cords across my lawn to get my drill to the trees.

Getting started

I had to measure the diameter of the trees because they need to be a minimum of 12″, but I only drilled trees 14″ in diameter to be on the safe side. For every increase of 2″ in diameter, you can add another tap. The maximum is 4 taps per tree because you don’t want to stress the tree too much. The tree needs some of that sap to produce buds and leaves.

Tap the SOUTH side of the tree. That is where the sap is going to start to flow first because that side of the tree warms up first. Do not reuse the same tap next year. Move the next one over 4-6 inches up, down, or sideways. A good spot to tap is just above a large root or just below a large branch. In my area, tapping can begin in latter February to mid March and could go on for a month! Daytime temperatures need to be above freezing for about 5 days, and night time temperatures need to be below freezing for the same time period.

I began this operation in the garage. I snapped the lids on the buckets, and using the 3/8″ bit , drilled a hole in the lid. I threaded the tubing a few inches into the bucket. Then I added the spile to the other end of the tubing. I brought out the buckets for one tree at a time. My husband helped me wire the handles of the buckets around the trees. I just put the buckets directly on the ground, but sometimes it was uneven, so we put stones or shims underneath to level it off. Once everything was “staged”, it was time to drill.

Drilling and inserting the spiles

Bill drilled the first tap, the rest was up to me. (As a nurse, the saying goes: See one, do one, teach one.)

He angled the drill slightly upward, so that the sap would  flow downwards. The bark was drilled away first, followed by lighter colored wood shavings. He stopped drilling when the tape mark on the bit reached the tree. We cleaned out the shavings and immediately, the sap began to drip.

Then, he gently tapped in the spile, just enough to be snug, but not too tight because you can split the wood. I could see the sap going down the tubing, and hear each drip hitting the empty bottom of the bucket. Then, it was my turn. Bill had his own trees to tap. I ended up tapping 6 or 7 trees, but each had multiple taps in them. I actually had more maples available, but not enough supplies to do any more, so I doubled my capacity this year.

Collecting and cooking the sap

Once the trees were all tapped, every other day, I emptied the buckets and placed empty ones in their place. I couldn’t let them fill all the way to the top, because the sap would slosh out of the hole in the bucket. These buckets can be very heavy when full, especially when you are walking across snow and any icy driveway. If my husband hadn’t helped lug these buckets up from the yard, I don’t think I could have done it. I would have needed smaller buckets that didn’t hold as much sap. That would have meant daily trips in and out of the cold.

Once the sap was indoors, we poured it from the bucket into another bucket lined with the plastic mesh. It caught any little bits of bark or debris that I didn’t want in my cooking pots. Then the sap went into the large stainless pots on the stove.

Every day for 3 weeks I boiled sap in my kitchen in my giant cooking pots, which, thankfully, I had found at a garage sale. The pots are 15 inches in diameter and 14 inches tall. Most people do this cooking process outdoors, but I wasn’t set up for that. However, I have a 6-burner cooktop with a heavy duty hood to vent all that humidity.

It took an hour for the sap to boil down one inch in the pot. When it was boiled down part way, I added more sap. Since I was adding sap as it boiled down, I can’t really say how much sap it took to make a pint or quart. I just did this day in and day out for about 3 weeks, about 12-13 hours a day. If I had to go to work, the sap had to go back in the garage and be kept cold, otherwise it loses its sugar content.

Once it starts reducing , you can see the sap change from clear, to pale beige, honey colored, amber, & then deep amber. I eventually went to smaller cooking pots as it reduced, and at that point I could use a candy thermometer. The condensed syrup should reach 180 degrees before final storing in jars or other containers.

Resources mentioned in this article

 

 

 

 

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Quilting: Wrap Your Family in Love http://thesurvivalmom.com/skill-of-the-month-quilting-wrap-your-family-in-love/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/skill-of-the-month-quilting-wrap-your-family-in-love/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 16:28:42 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=10120 When my 14 year-old was a newborn, I chose to resign my teaching position and become a stay-at-home mom.   After three months I found myself in need of a hobby.  My husband suggested I learn how to quilt. It has become Read More

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Learn to quiltWhen my 14 year-old was a newborn, I chose to resign my teaching position and become a stay-at-home mom.   After three months I found myself in need of a hobby.  My husband suggested I learn how to quilt. It has become a beloved and favorite pastime ever since.

Quilted pillows by RightWingMom

The process of quilting is basic and straightforward.  Using a few basic rules, you’re only limited by your creativity and imagination.

Quilts come in all sizes: baby, lap, twin, queen, king, or any custom size.  You can even quilt other items, like pillows, wall hangings, Christmas ornaments, pot holders and clothing, like a lady’s vest. Quilts can be made from almost any fabric, from high-end and expensive to cut up denim jeans and scraps from other projects.  The possibilities are endless.

Imagine giving a new mom a baby quilt or making simple quilted pot holders to give to a newly married couple.  It’s also a good skill to keep your hands and fingers nimble and a hobby that can be done even if the grid goes down.

Stockpiling a few of the basic supplies ensures that you can create wonderful gifts for family and friends even during hard times.

Learn how to quilt with these basic steps

The basic quilting steps are:

Fabric Prep 

Wash, dry, and lightly starch all fabric before cutting. Even if your fabric claims to be pre-shrunk and pre-washed, there’s nothing more disheartening than finishing a quilt, washing it, and finding major puckers or bleeding in your finished project.

Cutting your fabric pieces

The size and shape of your fabric pieces will depend on the quilt design you choose. There are some very, very easy quilt patterns out there that consist only of squares and/or rectangles, making the actual stitching quite easy. If you’re picturing yourself slaving away with a pair of scissors, cutting each piece by hand, never fear! An inexpensive rotary cutter makes this job much easier by cutting through several layers of fabric at once.

Piecing your top

This involves sewing, by machine or hand, cut shapes of fabric together to make blocks and then sewing those blocks together into your quilt top. Many quilters use rotary cutting supplies to make this job easier. You will learn the ¼-inch rule that applies to all patterns.  It is a universal measurement allowance that keeps quilting patterns consistent.

Marking your top

Use different stencils, designs, and patterns to mark your top piece. The blue ink pen (for quilters) will remain visible until you wash your quilt. The purple ink pen is temporary and will disappear after 24 – 48 hours, as I found out the hard way! There are also chalk and gray pencil options.

Backing

The back of a quilt is usually only a few large strips of plain fabric sewn together. It can be a solid color or a coordinating print. I prefer mine to be just a little wider and longer than the top piece and batting.

Batting 

Most quilters prefer cotton batting over polyester. It wears better, feels softer, and doesn’t rub the fabric and break through like synthetics. Never pre-wash batting!

Sandwiching 

Once your top piece and backing are complete, lay them out in order: backing wrong side up, batting, then top piece right side up. Make sure you pull each piece taunt and smooth out as many wrinkles and puckers as possible.

Basting

This is a critical step that will temporarily hold your project together while you quilt.  Many quilters, including myself, pin our layers then use general purpose thread to run large stitches in a grid or clock face pattern. Make sure your thread is a color very different than the one you’re using for quilting. Other basting techniques include quilters safety pins, spray adhesive, and basting tape. Find what works best for you.

Quilting!

For me this is the fun part! There is a debate about which is best, hand quilting or machine quilting. My personal preference is to hand quilt.  The fundamentals of hand quilting are to use quilting needles called “betweens” and quilting thread which is thicker than general purpose thread.

There are excellent books and videos that will teach you all about the basics, and more advanced skills, of quilting, but this is the general procedure I follow when I hand quilt.

Thread your needle so that you use a single thread and knot it at the end. Your quilt should be secured in a hoop or frame. Put on your thimble, insert your needle from the back or front of the fabric. Pull the thread firmly but gently until it “pops” between the fabric and batting. Now that you’ve secured your thread, begin stitching in and out of all three layers. When you reach the end of your thread, tie a knot approximately ¼ inch from your last stitch. Insert your needle between the layers, pull gently but firmly until the knot pops through.

The fabric and batting will secure the knot. Continue following your blue or purple pattern lines with another thread. It is true that most quilters try to have tiny stitches, approximately 10 per inch. The best advice I received was to not worry about the length of my stitches but focus on making them even. Tiny stitches will come along with time and practice.

Binding

Once you’ve quilted the entire work, remove all basting thread. Sew a binding around the edges and you’re finished.  Toss it in the washing machine on gentle cycle and delicate dry.  Don’t forget to write your name and date on the back bottom corner of your piece and take a picture of it.  No matter how good or bad you feel you’ve done, your family will appreciate your effort and you can take pride in creating something that will (literally) cover them with love for generations!

You’ll need some basic supplies to get started

This list is supplies is basic and most everything is quite inexpensive. I’ve included Amazon links to give you an idea of prices.

Basic Supply List

There’s a vast resource of information on quilting.  If you have a quilting store near you, the ladies are always eager to share their wealth of knowledge and love of sewing with anyone who asks.  Trust me.  There CANNOT be enough quilters in the world!

Helpful Resources

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Worst Case Scenario: Taking Back Your Home From Intruders, Part 2 http://thesurvivalmom.com/worst-case-scenario-taking-back-home-intruders-part-2/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/worst-case-scenario-taking-back-home-intruders-part-2/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 07:00:26 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=22258 In Part 1 of “Taking Back Your Home From Intruders” I introduced the possibility that your home or other property could be taken over by other people in a scenario such as this one: A catastrophic disaster has occurred, one Read More

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Home intruders and keeping your home base safe.In Part 1 of “Taking Back Your Home From Intruders” I introduced the possibility that your home or other property could be taken over by other people in a scenario such as this one:

A catastrophic disaster has occurred, one that destroyed hundreds or thousands of homes and businesses, and destroyed a community’s way of life. After a long journey home you notice an unfamiliar car parked in your driveway. You know your wife and kids aren’t home yet.

One or more intruders have taken over your home in your absence. Due to the disaster your cell phone can’t make a successful call, so you can’t call 9-1-1 for help. Your family’s survival is dependent on the preps stored in your home and the shelter it provides.

I’m a Certified Emergency Manager and have given a lot of thought to these types of scenarios. While your first instinct might be to drive up immediately and confront the intruders, I would recommend driving on by like nothing happened. If you were targeted in advance, chances are the intruders know what you drive, and could ambush you as you approach the house. Instead, go around the block to formulate your plan. If you can, summon law enforcement help. Do not try to resolve the situation yourself. Be a good witness and let the professionals do their thing, if there are any professionals to provide help.

Gather Intelligence

If you are on your own and law enforcement help isn’t an option, realize that the intruders are there to either grab your supplies and go or to squat in your home and comfortably live off your supplies. Time is of the essence. The longer you wait before acting, the more likely they will be able to escape with your lifeline or fortify your house for their protection. If your neighbors saw the intruder(s), get as much information from them as you can about them.

Decision Time

Now you have a choice to make: how badly do you want them to leave? This is an important personal and moral decision. If you forcefully try to take your home and preps back, you may have to hurt or kill one or more of them. If you don’t have the moral clarity to be able to do that, walk away. Don’t unnecessarily put yourself in jeopardy if you can’t pull the trigger to defend yourself.

You’ll also have to take into consideration that you or one or more of your loved ones will be injured or, perhaps, killed. This may be a quick operation in which the intruders put up a fuss and then move on, or it could become quite deadly.

Be Smart, Be Careful

For liability’s sake, I’m going to describe what I would do, based on my own experience and training. I’m not recommending anyone else do anything described here. I’m presenting this only as a thought exercise, a “what if?” scenario.

A conventional SWAT-style assault on your home is one option, but the squatters have the advantage. You are not likely to prevail if they have guns and are willing to use them. The best solution is to make the bad guys want to come out. SWAT teams use tear gas or pepper spray to temporarily create an atmosphere in which the bad guys are unable to breathe or see. I’m going to use a similar technique using items that can be improvised in a disaster. I’m also going to use other principles used by professional SWAT teams:

• Distraction
• Disorientation
• Overwhelm the senses

Remember, this game plan is just a thought exercise for a what-if? scenario. In no way am I recommending you take these actions, but instead, use these ideas as a launching pad for your own answers to, “What if invaders took over my home following a worst case scenario event?”

Assembling the Team and Supplies

The plan that I have come up with can be executed with as few as 3 (highly-capable) people, but of course the more people I can assemble to help, the better. Along with available family, friends, and any other volunteers, I will also need:

• Rope, wire or garden hose to entangle the feet of escaping bad guys
• For self-protection, as many firearms as possible, bats, axes, and other improvised weapons
• Rope, wire or other materials to secure the wrists of detained bad guys
• Motor oil or other oily material and rags
• Fire extinguishers and buckets of sand or dirt
• Flashlights
• Cigarette lighters
• Candles or other wick material

The Plan to Remove Home Intruders

The key to the plan is to create a large volume of smoke inside the house without burning it down. I want to create a temporarily unlivable environment that forces the bad guys out. I’m going to use a smoke pot, which is a metal can stuffed with cotton rags soaked in some type of oil, with a candle inserted for ease of lighting. Oily materials, particularly petroleum products create huge volumes of smoke but a relatively small amount of fire.

(Knowing how to make a smoke pot is helpful as a survival strategy if you are ever lost and need to signal for help.)

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES USE GASOLINE FOR THE SMOKE POT.

My plan is to insert a smoke pot into first floor bathrooms and the kitchen through their windows. These are rooms that usually have a less-combustible floor than carpet-covered areas, and bathrooms often have the extra benefit of having a tub or shower pan directly below the window opening. The smoke pots can burn with less chance of fire spreading while they churn out their smoke in the dark, with smoke detectors screaming. With heavy smoke in multiple areas of the house, the bad guys are forced to escape.

For out home intruders with a smoke pot. It produces a lot of smoke with relatatively less fire.

A smoke pot improvised with an almond can, cotton t-shirt, and motor oil.

Blinded and choking in the smoke, the escaping bad guys will easily become entangled in obstacles placed at exit doors, reducing their ability to fight back. The home intruders are disarmed and detained.

Why detain them and, hopefully, turn them over to law enforcement? It will be one, or more, fewer bad guys on the streets, thus, possibly, saving others from harm and eliminates those who targeted you and your home from coming back any time soon.

Plan Execution

We start between 3-5 AM, when the human mind is least alert.

• A Team Member (TM) takes a final look inside to try to see persons inside.
• Looped garden hoses, rope, or wire are placed at the front and back doors.
• A TM shuts off power to the house (breaker/fuse box or generator).
• TM’s break bedroom and living room windows from a distance with big rocks, then blind anyone inside with flashlights from behind cover.
• Bathrooms and kitchen: TM’s break the window, light the smoke pot, and toss it in.
• All TM’s make noise to seem like a larger force. Barking dogs are even better.
• TM’s at the front and back door capture/disarm bad guys coming out.
• TM’s put out fires with extinguishers or buckets of sand.
• Once the fires are out, TM’s ventilate smoke from the house.
• Deliver any prisoners to law enforcement and help anyone needing medical assistance.

Assume that not everything will go according to plan — it never does! However, thinking through a plan like this, step by step, and then considering how the plan might go awry, for good or bad, will lead you to consider other options. You’ll end up with a Plan B, a Plan C, and so on.

A Last Thought

This was an interesting mental exercise, but the issues are real. Too often, the strong take from the weak. If you are into preparedness, you are already strong in many ways. Keep your preparations safe. Plan, practice, and improve!

Have you given any thought as to what you would do if your home or other property were taken over by others in the aftermath of a worst case scenario? Would you walk away and try to survive elsewhere? What would be your back-up plan?

By the way, this very scenario happens in the excellent book, Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. The Survival Mom reviewed the book in this video:

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4 Things To Consider When Choosing a Dojo http://thesurvivalmom.com/how-to-choose-a-dojo/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/how-to-choose-a-dojo/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 17:11:26 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=20945 My husband and I have been taking Karate from the same instructor since 2008. We started training together before we had children and would attend Karate-related events as romantic dates. We learned a lot, including how to choose a dojo. Read More

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How to choose a good dojo.My husband and I have been taking Karate from the same instructor since 2008. We started training together before we had children and would attend Karate-related events as romantic dates. We learned a lot, including how to choose a dojo.

Now that we have three kids, it’s difficult for us to train together, but we take turns attending classes at our dojo, or Karate school. We both have black belts.

In addition to it being a wholeso me activity we can do together, it is an important aspect of our overall preparedness strategy. We feel confident that, in an emergency, we would have the training and the presence of mind to come out on top.

The key word here is training. Martial arts is not something you can learn from YouTube instructional videos or helpful internet tutorials. You need a flesh and blood teacher to watch you and correct poor technique. And then you need to practice good technique over, and over, and over again.

In the heat of the moment, when your life is genuinely on the line, the only way you can be assured that you will execute a self defense technique effectively is if you have done it so many times it has become ingrained in your muscle memory.

How to find a good dojo

There are oodles of Martial Arts schools out there, and not all of them are that great. How can you know which one to choose? What should you look for? Here are four points to consider while performing your your search.

1) First, you need to do a little introspection. What is your primary motivation for taking Martial Arts classes? 

Knowing what you want will affect what you should look for. If you just want to get into shape but aren’t terribly concerned about actual self defense, it probably doesn’t matter which style you study. Some Martial Arts styles are considered more of a sport, and others are wholly practical.

2) Even though this is listed second, the most important thing to look for in any Martial Arts school is the instructor.

Your ideal Martial Arts instructor is someone with whom you will be able to form a close student/teacher relationship. Is he (or she!) knowledgeable about The Art? Does he make you feel comfortable enough to ask questions? Above all, is this a person from whom you feel you can learn? Notice the use of the word “feel.” It’s kind of like choosing your college major, or who will become your best friend in high school. You’ll know “your” instructor when you meet him, or her.

3) Critically assess any school that requires a contract.

Some schools require that you lock yourself into a contract before you begin classes – often without having so much as a single trial lesson beforehand. At times (but to be fair, not all the time) it is an indicator that the school recognizes that it offers an inferior level of instruction, and that this is the only way they can retain students for more than a week. A school that allows you to pay month-to-month is more confident that their instruction can stand up to scrutiny. Avoid ten-week programs.

4) Finally, the Martial Arts is all about excellence in body, mind, and skill. Whether you are just there for the workout, or want to learn how to actually defend yourself against an attacker, your ideal Martial Arts school will demand excellence from you, and will help you to achieve it.

A school that claims to award you a black belt within two years, regardless of skill or effort required, is not a school that will help you gain excellence. If you consistently see higher ranks punch or kick incorrectly, then you know the rank doesn’t mean anything because it required no work to attain it.

A good Martial Arts school will occasionally fail people when they test for their next rank, and will have rigorous standards for earning a black belt. (I did not earn mine until I had been studying for six years.) A good school will also typically be more expensive; it’s a case of getting what you pay for.

I know these are rather stringent guidelines; it’s just because I am picky. I spent about twelve years trying to find my “dream dojo.” On one hand, I’m glad I didn’t waste my time and money with an inferior product. On the other hand, I did waste a lot of time not doing Karate. In retrospect, it’s probably better to attend a Tae Kwon Do school that’s “just ok,” than to hold out for Wing Chun Kung Fu that is not even offered in your town.

Often when I’ve spoken to friends and acquaintances about the martial arts, they assume it’s not for them, that they are not strong enough or fast enough to be effective against a physical attack. I say, all the more reason to study karate! Karate is for everyone. My instructor has said on multiple occasions that women make the best martial artists, because our smaller body size and slighter builds force us to use superior technique. Good technique will win over brute strength every time. I’m only 5’4″ and I have been known to throw guys twice my size. Children, too, can be effective martial artists.

This short list is by no means all-inclusive. Are any of you currently training? How did you choose where to study, and which style do you practice? What criteria did you use to choose your school?

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Shedding some light on flashlights http://thesurvivalmom.com/shedding-light-flashlights/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/shedding-light-flashlights/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 07:00:26 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=21923 One of the first things we usually lose in a disaster is electricity. Sometimes the power outage IS the crisis, of course, but it is almost always a side effect of other emergencies as well. While the loss of power Read More

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Different types of flashlights. One of the first things we usually lose in a disaster is electricity. Sometimes the power outage IS the crisis, of course, but it is almost always a side effect of other emergencies as well. While the loss of power is inconvenient at any time, not having ready access to lamps and such at night can be rather troublesome. It can get REALLY dark at night when you don’t even have the ambient light from digital clocks and other electronic devices we often take for granted.

Having accessible light at night is a safety issue. We all think we know the layout of our homes exceptionally well. And, compared to outsiders, we do. Try this, though. Have a family member blindfold you and then try to get from your bedroom to the front door of your home. Make sure that same family member is close by to keep you from tripping and falling. If you really want to make things interesting, toss a few random Legos on the floor here and there and do the drill in bare feet.

On top of helping you to avoid trip and fall hazards, a flashlight will also be very useful in helping you to investigate strange noises and such. Plus, there’s the ever-present boogeyman danger, right?

I recommend storing one flashlight in every room of the home. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, you never know where you might be when an emergency hits and having a light within arms reach will make things easier. Two, what are the odds every flashlight you stash is still going to be in that spot when you need it? If you have kids, you know the answer to that question. This way, with a flashlight in each room, they might have grabbed the light from the bathroom but you’ll still have the one in your bedroom to use.

Add a flashlight to each emergency kit, each glove box, and then one out in the garage and basement, and you should be all set. A handy, very bright LED flashlight can run less than ten dollars.

There is little need to go out and buy a bunch of expensive “tactical” flashlights. However, the selections offered at your local dollar store might not be your best option, either. Personally, I’ve had bad luck with many of those, with them falling apart after minimal use.

One great option to consider is investing in a few dynamo flashlights. Sometimes called crank-powered flashlights, they don’t require batteries and instead work off of a kinetic system. You turn the crank for a few minutes and that powers the light. These are particularly great for homes with children as you know they are going to play with whatever flashlights you buy. This way, you don’t have to worry about the kids running down the batteries.

LED flashlights come in all sizes and with different capabilities. Some have more than one brightness, while others add laser beams and even programmable modes.

Another type of light to keep in mind is the popular UVPaqlite. This type of light uses non-toxic, natural luminescent elements and comes in several sizes and forms.

Flashlights are rated in terms of lumens, which is a measurement of light. Leaving all the physics aside, suffice to say the higher the lumens, the brighter the light. In broad terms, a flashlight in the 20-40 lumen range will likely suffice for most household applications. When you get up to around 100 lumens, you’re entering into tactical application range. Personally, I’m kind of a flashlight junkie and I have a couple of lights that exceed 1,200 lumens, which I’ll admit is overkill but, well, I like casting shadows on the lunar surface!

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Build your Food Storage from Scratch: Canning Chicken Breast http://thesurvivalmom.com/build-food-storage-scratch-canning-chicken-breast/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/build-food-storage-scratch-canning-chicken-breast/#comments Sun, 15 Mar 2015 07:00:15 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=21912 It makes me a bit nervous having a freezer full of meats… the grid goes down and we’re up a creek. There’s no way I could can it all fast enough to save it. So, while we’re in a grid Read More

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Canning chicken breastIt makes me a bit nervous having a freezer full of meats… the grid goes down and we’re up a creek. There’s no way I could can it all fast enough to save it. So, while we’re in a grid UP situation, I try to can a batch of SOMETHING at least once a week, if not more. We try to buy only when there is a really killer deal and buy in bulk at that time. Recently we found a reallllllllly killer deal on locally grown chicken breast, so I loaded up. Canning chicken breast was now on my schedule!

Canning meats is not only handy, pop the seal and VOILA you have prepared food, but it’s also a “stocking the pantry thing”. I like having my food in a state that does not require any ‘grid’ resources. The fact that it is safe and healthy is a win–win.

Canning Chicken Breast is a very simple endeavour, that reaps nice rewards!

My steps for canning chicken breast

First, I get out my Dutch Oven, my chicken breast, my meat scissors, an onion and a quart of chicken broth. Plain water will work in place of the chicken broth.

I like to get all my onion cut up first in fairly small pieces, get my chicken breast cut up in nice bite size-ish pieces and then heat up the Dutch Oven on my stove. Toss in the onion and chicken, add a dash of salt and a big dash of pepper (we like pepper!).

This mixture is going to cook until the chicken is almost cooked through. You may want to pour in a bit of the chicken broth after the onions have cooked up a little bit. Then, I get two pots of hot water going to sanitize my jar lids and another to ladle hot water into my jars to cover my chicken mixture for the actual canning process. Once my chicken is almost cooked, I dump in the rest of my broth, and let it finish cooking until all the chicken, onion, and broth is nice and hot.

Sanitizing and filling the jars

At this point I prep my jars. Some folks warm them in an oven, some folks warm them in a dishwasher, some folks don’t warm them at all. I don’t own a dishwasher, and don’t like to put them in the oven, so I’ve opted to fill them with pretty hot water to temper them that way. I’ve had too many crack and break when I did nothing to pre-warm them, and I do not want to waste my food or a perfectly good jar. Also, a jar breaking in a pressure canner can be a problem.

Once I have my lids hot, my ‘filler water’ hot, my Dutch Oven is done cooking and off to the side, my jars are tempered and I have all my supplies at the ready– it’s time to get started canning chicken breast!

IMPORTANT! Meats must be canned in a PRESSURE CANNER! You cannot use a water bath canner. (A pressure canner is not the same as a pressure cooker.)

I get my pressure canner on the stove and turn up the fire.

Chicken Breast Canning

I take my first jar and empty that hot water I was using to temper it, into my canner (why waste it!?). Then, I fill my canning jar with chicken. If my chicken is not covered with liquid, that’s fine. That’s why we put on an extra pot of hot water or ‘filler water’ to finish filling up the jars to the thread line.

NOTE: The chicken broth/water used to cook up the chicken breast will not be enough to fill your jars and cover your chicken. This is why I have that extra pot of very hot water standing by.

Once I have my jar filled properly to the thread, or leaving 1 inch head space, I lightly tap my jar down on a surface covered with towels to get any little air bubbles out. You can also use a wooden spoon or a chopstick to poke around in your jar as a method for releasing those air bubbles. At this point, it’s helpful to have a set of canning tools on hand.

Next, I take a clean washcloth and dip a corner of it in hot water and wipe the rim of my jar, where the lid is going to rest and SEAL the jar. For a proper seal, that rim MUST be completely clean — not a speck of food or liquid left or you won’t get a seal between your jar and lid. Once I have wiped down the rim of the jar, I put on my lid and ring and put the jar in the canner.

Into the pressure canner!

I can at 15 pounds pressure for my elevation and  90 minutes for quarts, 75 minutes for pints. It’s very important to refer to your BALL BLUE BOOK or County Extension Office for specifics on canning for your location.

I love canning chicken breast because it can easily be made into a ton of meals! Soups, casseroles, stir frys, drain the liquid and make chicken salad, chicken tacos, etc. The first jar I opened from this batch, I dumped into a hot cast iron skillet, with some minced garlic and made chicken fettucini– quick and easy. It’s a very nice convenience food to have on hand, and in a grid down situation, I can easily make all types of meals with this chicken already prepared! This is a wonderful way to preserve meat and stock the pantry at the same time!

Helpful resources

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