Author Archives: S
Tis the season of the pumpkin!
A couple days after Halloween, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted some pumpkins left over from landscaping. They were large and hadn’t been carved so I said sure! I hate to see them go to waste.
Two I opened up, gutted and saved the seeds then cut up and roasted the flesh for puree (more in a sec). The third made for great machete practice!
To make the pumpkin purée, I cut the flesh (after scraping etc) into manageable sized chunks and put them on a cookie sheet with skins up. I baked them at 350 F for about 2 hours (they had super thick flesh, start at 45 minutes, it’s ready when a knife passes easily through). Let them cool a bit then scrape all the good stuff off the skins with a spoon and let cool further. The skins then went into my compost.
If you’re freezing it, get as much air out as possible and freeze flat. You can also dehydrate the pumpkin purée, if you don’t have the fruit leather tray covers, use parchment paper to line your trays.
Half the seeds I roasted for a snack for my family and the other half will be planted come spring.
Pumpkins are cheap and plentiful this time of year, with many grocery stores putting them on clearance after Halloween or thanksgiving. Don’t pass up your chance for a whole lot of food for little money!
As you know, I’ve been absent for a while and I’d like to share with you a bit of what happened and how it would play out in an emergency scenario.
In January 2014, after having tried unsuccessfully for years and being told it was impossible, I became pregnant. Almost right away there were issues. I started bleeding heavily and was told I had miscarried. We ran some blood tests and my hormone levels weren’t going down so the doctor scheduled an emergency ultrasound to be followed by a dilation and cutterage (d&c) to remove the failed pregnancy. The tech at the ultrasound place asked if I was dating the pregnancy and sadly I replied that no, we were confirming my miscarriage. To our surprise, the baby was still there, heart beating and jumping around. The problem was not the baby, it was a huge sac of blood between my uterus and the placenta. This is called a subchorionic hemorrhage and can be very dangerous, so I was sent to the top high risk obstetrician in the city. The blood, it turns out, could do a few things; it could grow and disconnect the placenta thus ending the pregnancy. It could stay as is and not allow the baby room to grow. It could bleed out or it could re absorb. In any case, I wasn’t allowed to lift more than 5-10 lbs, raise my heart beat or sweat or do anything strenuous. I continued to bleed until I was 17 weeks pregnant.
At my 13 week tri-scan, I screened positive for neural tube issues. The baby could be missing its head and/or part of the brain, could have an open spinal cord such as spina bifida or could end up having Down syndrome. The doctors encouraged me to think of my options because there was the chance of miscarriage, stillborn or no quality of life. I chose to keep on and get more tests. After rigorous testing, it was determined that baby was healthy and I had screened positive due to the extra blood protein from the hemorraging.
At 23 weeks (1 week before viability here), the baby had stopped growing. At this point I was at the high risk clinic about once a week so we listened to the heart beat and booked yet another ultrasound for the baby. If he still wasn’t growing, we’d need to get him out of there and into the NICU. Thankfully, he put on an oz between visits.
Then, as if this wasn’t enough fun, I developed gestational diabetes at 30 weeks. I was expecting this as I had it with my previous pregnancies but it showed up late this time. This meant a huge diet change, multiple blood tests a day and 4 shots of insulin into my abdomen a day. My doses kept changing because the way the baby was reacting to the sugars and insulin.
Because of how high risk I was, the doctors encouraged labor as much as possible. I endured 3 painful membrane sweeps, ate ridiculous food and tried every old wives tale. Nothing worked and the little guy stayed where he was. Turns out he was transverse (so across my belly instead of head down). I then, very hugely pregnant in the middle of August with no a/c, had to do all sorts of crazy yoga poses etc to get baby head down. I wasn’t allowed to go past my due date and my OB booked an induction for the day of. I could be called in anywhere from 6 am to 10 pm but if not by noon, it probably wouldn’t be happening. I of course couldn’t sleep so was wide awake by 6. No call. Took my big kid to school for 9. No call. Finally had early dinner at 4, with still no call. At 5:30 I was rushing to the hospital with bad cramps and broken waters. Around 5 hours later I had my boy. He was healthy but with low blood sugars so the NICU was still an option. Finally they let me go home after two nights and then it was just me and a newborn and my big kid.
I was supposed to take things “easy” after child birth. Yeah right. Landed myself back in with the Dr because I was hemorrhaging from too much strenuous activity (aka taking care of the household). Finally, everything got sorted and I thought life was back on track.
Fast forward to February. Baby H was now 5 months old and the rest of us had adjusted to the new addition fairly well. Around the 21st I had a stomach ache but attributed it to the crappy dinner we had eaten to celebrate a birthday. But it didn’t go away all night. By morning I was fine but anytime I ate, it hurt within an hour again. So I thought I had a stomach flu, which was going around anyways. By the 24th I called the Dr because maybe I had something viral? It was a yucky stomach bug but I didn’t think much of it. Saw the Dr on the 26, she palpates my stomach but I had no pain response etc so she prescribed me pills for acid reflux but ran some blood tests just in case. February 28 I got a call before the Dr office even opened telling me I needed to go to the emergency room.
In the emergency room they told me my pancreas had shut down, my liver was almost pooched and my gallbladder was definitely shot. I had several blood tests, ultrasounds, an MRI etc. Turns out I had a gallstone stuck in my common bile duct. I should have been in excruciating pain but I have a high pain tolerance (which the Drs have said before). The other patients with the same problems were taking morphine. I only took anti nauseants because I wasn’t allowed food for 6 days. On the 5th day I had an endoscopy where they stuck a camera and tube down my throat, through my stomach and cut a hole in my bile duct to push the stone into my intestines so I could pass it that way. Well the stupid stone got stuck on the camera and I have it to this day (it has been named Herman by one of the nurses). I immediately felt better and my toxic blood levels dropped significantly. I stopped looking like Mr. Burns. On day 6, I had 4 incisions made into my abdomen and they pulled out my gallbladder and repaired a hernia that I had no idea was there (turns out the hernia was of their own making and is quite common with abdominal surgeries). It was around a 5 hour surgery. Finally, I was allowed to go home and have my kids again!! This emergency room visit that my Dr had said would take a couple hours had turned into the hardest week of my life. The Drs then dropped the bombshell on me that I couldn’t lift 10+ lbs for a month or I could pop the hernia right back out or rip my stitches. They expected me to somehow be a mum and basically not move. My mother showed up twice a day to move the baby from the bedroom to the living room and back. I could barely nurse since I was able to lift him (or be on my sides). I lasted two weeks before I started lifting him (which out of 4 wasn’t too bad for stubborn old me).
My most recent medical adventure (besides of course the regular sort of flus, colds, childhood illnesses and mastitis) has been a breast cancer scare. So far the results have been negative (ultrasound, antibiotics etc) but we also have no answers. (update march 2020, it wasn’t breast cancer, but now have a new breast cancer scare in the middle of a pandemic. Mammogram/ultrasound/biopsy scheduled for next week)
Sorry for the long explanation, the point is: if the SHTF, I probably wouldn’t have survived most of this. I have medical training but I certainly not a doctor. Even my surgeons were stumped, I had a 4 mm stone blocking my duct and I felt fine. I was literally dying and had no clue. After my gallbladder went through pathology, I was told there had been a 9 cm stone in there as well. So think like a grapefruit or just shy of a softball. My gallbladder could have easily ruptured. How do we prepare for this? I might have been able to (poorly) perform the surgery on someone else but there’s no way I would have a diagnosis without blood tests and imaging.
My best answer I suppose is to make sure yourself or someone in your group is medically trained in some form and to keep everyone at peak health through diet, exercise, proper sleep and regular doctor visits.
Tis the season for gardening and any prepper can tell you that the more food you can grow on your own, the better.
I have a huge clump of chives in my back yard. They come back every year and spread from their roots so I had no idea they had seeds or that I could harvest the seeds to share.
To start, you need to find a clump of chives that has flowered. Select flowers that have mostly dried out.
The tips of the flowers should be white and thin like tissue paper. The next thing I do is separate the flower blooms from the stem, to make them easier to sort.
The dry flowers I set aside for processing and the not so dry flowers I either let air dry for a few days or compost if they are not even close to being ready.
When you pull apart the flower, inside you will find a dark green to black ball, this is where you will find the seeds. Cut this apart, it should divide into three parts, leaving you with some sacks covered in a thin green film.
In each of these sacks is two chive seeds, gently remove the green film to reveal two small black seeds. Set the seeds aside to dry (I put mine on a paper plate away from any breeze) and then store. Chive seeds can be finicky and may only last a year even under optimal storage, so be sure to share with your friends.
Here is a link for some chive seeds if there are none local to you : https://amzn.to/2UcXfyR
I believe it was Albert Einstein who said that without bees, the human species would go extinct within four years.
Honeybees are so essential to our entire food supply and they’re dying off in scary numbers. Between colony collapse and sheer lack of food, our honeybees are disappearing. In my city, we can’t own bees without a whole lot of paper work and fees and inspections etc, etc, so I decided to dedicate part of my garden to bee friendly plants.
Since I live in Canada, I can be somewhat limited to what plants will live here. This year the weather has been especially all over the place (to the point where several people I know had their furnaces on last night, almost a full week into June) and I’ve only seen two honeybees in my yard. But here’s a quick list of what I’ve planted that my local bees seem to love.
Lavender – I have several lavender plants that I used to use for my soap business but even when I harvest, I leave several stalks that are constantly visited by our bees.
Bee balm – (monarda) produces amazing spiky flowers and is always surrounded by bees.
Strawberries – although I don’t grow these specifically for the bees, the flowers bloom fairly early and give the bees something to pollinate before the other plants show up.
Clover – I have a small piece of the property that isn’t maintained and it is crawling with clover. Anytime I pull up clover from any other part of the lawn, I throw it there to help seed it. I’m sure we’ve all heard of clover honey?
Lilac – although this plant belongs to one of the neighbors and not me, I stay away from it because its surrounded by bees while in bloom.
Most of these plants are fairly hardy regardless of where you are in North America, so consider placing some of them on your land. We all need bees. Please try to avoid commercial insecticides as well and try a natural alternative such as companion planting, soapy water or manual pest removal.
Check out this book:100 Plants to Feed the Bees
This is one of the most popular questions I get. How to make money from home so you can homestead or prep more or just feel safer in general. There are several ways, some of which I use myself, some that make minimal money and some that can make exponentially more. Let’s get started.
-Start a home business. In this day in age, just about anyone can start an online business from selling products like I do, to providing consulting, making websites or writing. Find something you like to do!
-Sell on ebay, etsy or craigslist. Many people have things laying around that they no longer need but don’t necessarily want to get rid of. Why not make a little bit of extra money for your clutter? I have a friend that sells her children’s outgrown clothes by the bag online and she makes a killing.
-Maintenance. Mow lawns, shovel snow, paint houses, whatever you can. This may seem juvenile but you can really make quite a bit of money helping out elderly neighbors or people with young kids that don’t have the time themselves.
-Pet sitting. Like animals? You can offer your services as a pet sitter on websites such as craigslist but it will look much more professional to design a website. Put up signs in pet stores, at your vet and in grocery stores in your area.
-Metal scrapping. In my city, several people drive around on garbage days, taking metal objects out of the trash, this may or may not be legal where you are so be careful, and please don’t steal, but scrap metal can pull in quite a bit of extra funds. Don’t want to drive around? Place a free ad online or in your local paper for free junk metal removal
-Online surveys. This is something I’ve been doing for years. You do have to be careful as some survey companies are pretty shifty but once you find the good ones, stick with them and build up your points. Most survey companies pay out via cheque or PayPal. I generally make a couple hundred dollars a year and cash out around the winter holidays. Not much, I know, but if you’re online anyways, its not a bad way to kill some time.
Have something that works for you? Be sure to share it in the comments!
I use newsprint for a lot of projects around the house. We get two sets of advertisements and local news once a week and it adds up to a lot of paper. Over the summer I use this paper to start fires but here are three things I do with it in the other seasons.
1.) Shred: I save my flyers for about a month and then spend an hour shredding them (by hand). I keep my shreds in a tupper bin until the summer time when I make them into paper bricks for the fire. I got my paper brick maker from Lehmans (www.lehmans.com) This is an easy and free way to have heat and cooking material.
2.) Spread: Once spring comes and I re-dig my garden beds, I spread newsprint on the bottom. This keeps the weeds to a minimum by suffocating them. By the time the papers disintegrate, the weeds have been killed. I usually do a layer about 3 sheets of newsprint thick.
3.) Seed: I use newsprint to make little pots for starting my seeds. There are little gadgets you can get to help you do this (check here). They stand up fairly easy in my mini greenhouse and the roots have no trouble pushing their way through the wet paper. You can take the whole pot and put it in the ground as is.
My food storage is mostly on shelves. But I do have the typical 5 gallon buckets full of food as well. The buckets stay with my food storage and are filled with pasta, rice, beans, and a variety of foods all mixed in separate bags. This way, if I need to move my food storage, I can grab the buckets and not be stuck eating 100 lbs of flour.
But, if I need to bug out in a hurry and can’t get to my food storage, I keep a heavy duty Rubbermaid bin with my bug out bags. It weighs about 30 lbs and is easily grabbed to throw into the car and go. We all have various food items and MREs in our bags, but this is just something a little extra.
It contains rice, pasta, sugar, tea (can’t live without tea!), fruit, granola bars, fruit snacks for the kids, a variety of spices, water purification tablets, and anything else I wanted to add. Again, this is separate from my bug out bags and wouldn’t do me any good to grab on its own and contains mostly doubles of my bug out bag and food storage.
Its a good idea to keep a little bit of your food storage separate like this, just in case. Your basement could flood, you could be cut off from the rest of your house, you might have one minute to grab the kids and get out or, if your food storage was raided, most people aren’t going to check a storage bin that’s kept completely away from the rest of the food. Give it some thought and see if it works for you.
Turnips, along with most other root vegetables, are fairly cheap and easy to dehydrate. This time of year, they are very easy to find and usually on sale.
Wash and peel your turnips
Slice into thin pieces, the easiest way to do this is to use a mandolin slicer.
You can then blanch them (I don’t blanch my turnips) and then place them on your trays.
I leave them on overnight at 125′ F to make turnip chips. You can eat these as is. They are great with dips as well. Or you can rehydrate them and use them as you would fresh turnips.
We all have people we know that don’t prep, won’t prep, haven’t heard of prepping or you just can’t bring it up.
No worries, here’s some sneaky gifts to prepare them without their knowing.
-flashlights (children especially like these)
-preassembled emergency kits, because you care!
-meals in jars, this is a cheap easy way to make sure they have some food in the house, look for recipes on google (try mixes, soups etc)
-knives or weapons for the manly men out there
-candles… so easy! most women love them and you can decorate a box of matches to go with it!
-books books books!! try food preservation for those who love cooking, homesteading for the gardeners, manuals for crafty people
-gift cards for stores such as bass pro or cabelas
-jars of jams and jellies, be sure to include the recipe so they can make some too!
you can even get them board games, card etc to help with boredom if they were to encounter an emergency.
This obviously is just a short list, but hopefully it will give you some ideas to secretly help your loved ones be a little more prepared.
Its that time of year again and several people are hitting the roads to visit friends and family for the holidays.
While the holidays can be hectic, this is also the time the weather can get nasty. Its no time to forget about emergency preparedness. About two years ago, several cars were stuck on a local highway here for about three days due to the excessive snow. The people were cold, hungry and unfortunately some people did pass away.
I recommend keeping a kit in the car just in case. Some simple items can save your life.
In the kit I have:
basic first aid supplies (gloves, bandages, alcohol swabs, etc)
a wind up radio with extra batteries so I don’t kill the car battery
some easy foods(granola bars, tuna, fruit salad for the kids)
manual can opener
hand warmers (these can be put in your sweater if needed)
a survival blanket (easy, compact way to keep warm, can also be used to signal for help due to shine)
a mini camp stove to cook with (please don’t use inside the car!!)
hand sanitizer (both for hygiene and as a de-icer)
light sticks (comfort item for children, can be used to signal)
book for entertainment
garbage bags (hygiene… when there’s no toilet…. )
a zip bag of cat litter – for a few reasons. Cat litter can help your tires to gain traction if stuck on ice, but I keep my car kit in a cat litter bucket. This is because my car keeps getting broken into and everything gets stolen. No one has stolen my “cat litter”. They did once open the lid and this is what they saw:
a bucket of cat litter… not really worth stealing. But underneath that sneaky cat litter, lays the real prize.
This kit is light weight (about 7 lbs) so can be carried if you have to leave your vehicle.
Some additional things to keep in your car at all times are: basic tools (tire iron, jack and jumper cables and KNOW HOW TO USE THEM!), a case of bottled water (do not eat snow, it will lower your body temperature, let it melt first if you have no water) and a weapon that you are comfortable using.
All that aside, please take your time going where you need to go, don’t drink and drive and be safe!!