Heat Illness

All over North America, we have been having crazy heat waves. In some places, people have been without power due to bad thunderstorms. Today its only 91 where I am but the other day was 114 and most of my family was sick due to the heat (not to mention sweaty and miserable).

Its important to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat illnesses (hyperthermia), especially in a survival situation where you can’t just pop into the mall with air conditioning.

There are a few levels of heat illnesses which progressively get worse if you don’t take care of yourself.

Heat Cramps: are caused by not having enough water and being too hot. Symptoms include: thirst, sweating, irritability, gastro symptoms (nausea, vomiting) and of course cramps (particularly in the abdomen).

Heat Exhaustion: excessive sweating, dizziness, headaches, confusion, COOL to the touch as well as all the previous symptoms. Treat these people as being in shock (but do not cover with a blanket, instead remove excessive clothing).

Heat Stroke: skin will be hot in heatstroke because the mechanism that makes you sweat to cool you down isn’t working anymore. The person suffering might be in shock, confused, as it gets worse you can start seeing things such as unconsciousness and seizures.

Always try to get the victim out of the heat (indoors or into shade). If they are conscious get them to drink cool water (but do not force them if they vomit). To increase cooling you can sponge them with cool water or cover them with cool wet sheets. Obviously, if available, get your person emergency medical attention as soon as possible.

Lavender Essential Oil, a Prepper’s best friend

Lavender essential oil is indispensable to a prepper.

You can use lavender oil on just about any skin irritation. Burns, scalds, rashes, bug bites (especially spider and mosquitoes I find), cuts, acne, seriously just about anything. All you do is put the lavender oil straight on the area of irritation, you don’t have to mix it with anything and you just need a tiny drop to cover a good area.  It doesn’t sting like some modern medicines, it soothes and reduces scarring. In a household with a chef and kids, we use it a lot and don’t have nearly as many scars as we should!

It can also be used as a bug repellent, an antiseptic, an antidepressant. The scent is used in aromatherapy to relax and calm the client. It makes a good treatment for head lice, sunburns, helps to treat clinical shock and muscle pain.

Its edible and can be used in cooking (although I usually stick to using it in desserts, it apparently goes well with rice or fish).

Basically this is a natural wonder drug that is so much cheaper than buying all the separate medications needed to treat the above issues. If you had enough of the flowers you can make your own essential oil (you’d need a distiller, I’ll blog about that another day). Here is some lavender oil, (make sure you get undiluted). So let’s hear it for lavender!!

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Tips for Keeping Up Morale

Life post-SHTF will be very different than what we are used to. Different, harder, crueler and probably nothing like we expect it to be. We will have to deal with boredom (which can be a killer). People in the same environment for extended periods with a loss of privacy, a lack of hygiene, emotional issues, not to mention food fatigue and the digestive problems this can bring on will definitely need something to keep their minds off of things.

All of this is enough to bring anyone down. It is important to keep morale high. Boredom can lead to depression and depression can lead to a loss of will to live. This obviously is counter productive to our survival plans. So:

Give people a job to do, establish a routine. I’ve said it before, people thrive on routines. When you know what to expect and what your day looks like, it makes it easier to deal with.

Make sure you have entertainment. Books, games, decks of cards, coloring books for the kids, anything. If you don’t have a physical source of entertainment, put on a play, sing some songs or have a talent show.

Learn some skills that are fun and productive. Knitting or crocheting (which can be done with whittled sticks and plant made fibers!) can produce clothing, wash cloths, blankets and even nets for fishing. Wood working can make utensils (for eating and cooking), bows and arrows for hunting and improve your shelter!

Include some goodies in your preps. Candies or chocolates, stored in cool dark locations, can last almost indefinitely. (PLEASE do not throw out chocolate that has gone white! As a former chef I can tell you that it is NOT mold! It is called bloom and it is the fat in the chocolate separating. You can eat it as is or you can melt it down and mix the fats back in.) For the adults: a small bottle of your favorite liquor might be more to your taste. Or add a case of your family’s favorite soda to help ease the transition.

Above all else, never give up hope!

Strawberry Jam – no pectin

Strawberry jam is a yearly occurrence in our house. Everyone loves strawberries (so much in fact that last year when I purchased two flats of strawberries, they were gone in a few days before I could make the jam). I always use local strawberries because the flavor is amazing (so much more so than berries that have ripened on a truck).

This is the recipe my grandmother used, I’m pretty sure it’s the Bernardin recipe, so clearly I don’t own it.

Place 8 250ml size jars (available here) on a rack in a water canner and heat to a simmer (make sure water is covering the jars). Heat snap lids separately. Keep hot until ready for use.

Bring mixture of 8 cups strawberries (crushed), 6 cups sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice to a boil slowly. (make sure sugar is dissolved so it doesn’t stick to the bottom). Boil for about 30 minutes or until the mixture thickens and passes the ‘gelling test’. (Coat a spoon with the jam and move it away from your pot, watch the jam slide off the spoon, if it falls in chunks instead of drips, its ready).

Pour your hot jam into the hot jars leaving a quarter inch of headspace. Keep your rims clean! Place your snap lid on the jar and screw the band on until finger tight. Boil filled jam jars for 10 minutes. Pull out and let sit for 24 hours (do not move them).

Traditionally, items canned like this last for about a year (not exactly long-term food storage) but I’ve used them after the year has come and gone.

Water Ban!

On Tuesday this week, a water main broke at one of the biggest reservoirs serving our area. We were originally on a water restriction that has now been replaced with a ban. Our city still has tap water but a lot of the smaller towns right around us don’t even have that.

According to our local media, our city uses on average 140 million liters of water per day (about 40 million gallons) but yesterday, our city used 200 million liters (about 53 million gallons). People were seen watering their lawns, washing their driveways and running sprinklers for their children.

Most people in my area do not have a water storage and now a lot of grocery stores are low or out of bottled water.  We haven’t had a water ban since 1998.We are surrounded by the Great Lakes so who would think you would need it, I guess is what most people think. BUT:

– this past weekend was Victoria Day, a long weekend that has long been the ‘safe point’ to start your gardening in our area. Many people that participated in the water ban now have dead plants because they don’t have a rain barrel or don’t use their grey water.

– the next town over has no tap water so no showers, no drinking water, no dishwasher and so on. Do you have enough water stored for at least three days of drinking, watering your veggie garden and  giving to your pets?

The weather was 30*C  (86 F ) yesterday and muggy, I can understand people want to cool down. Here’s a few ideas (based on what I saw in my neighborhood and on social media) for water conservation.

Instead of filling the pool or running the sprinkler for the kids, give them a popsicle, they’ll love you for it!

Stay indoors between the hours of 11-3 when the sun is at its hottest.

As a lesser evil, turn on your air conditioning unit rather than leaving water running.

Take a shorter shower (or use the dry shampoo recipe I gave a few posts ago)

Use paper plates or eat out of the pots that you cook in.

When you shower, leave the plug in and collect the water for use in your garden (grey water)

Buy (or make) a rain barrel (this one is similar to the one I own)

Don’t water your lawn, it will make it grow and then you have to cut it!

Moral of the story: you should probably have some cases of bottled water put aside for drinking and a rain barrel or grey water system (or both!) for your veggies.

Dehydrating Onions

Dehydrating Onions

Onions are such a versatile vegetable. They are cheap and add so much flavor, just about any savory recipe is better when onions are added.  Dehydrating onions is quick and easy.

Begin by chopping your onions to the desired size. I usually do large flakes so the pieces don’t fall through the holes on my dehydrator but you could always mince them. Try to remove the thin pieces of skin that clings between the layers. (You can get a dehydrator like mine here)

Dunk your onion pieces into boiling water for about 30 seconds to a minute. They will turn slightly translucent when they are ready and they will be softer. Put them in a strainer and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process.

Pat the pieces dry with some paper towel and remove any extra bits of the skin (which will now be mushy and easy to remove). Arrange the pieces in a single layer on your dehydrator and turn it on.

My dehydrator doesn’t have a temperature control so I just let it run for about 5 hours to have the onions as dry as I need them. They end up paper thin. Now here’s a recipe you can use your onions for:

Dry Onion Soup Mix

1 cup dehydrated onion flakes

1/3 c bouillon

1/4 tsp sugar

1 tsp parsley

Store the ingredients in an airtight jar until ready for use.  I also like to throw in some other dehydrated veggies (carrots, garlic, celery and whatever else catches your fancy.) To make into soup, add 4 c of water, or for dip, add to a tub of sour cream.

Hair in Emergencies

I’d like to thank Sandy for pointing out the hair aspect of a SHTF scenario.

Personally, I plan to either cut my hair very short or shave it to cut down on the possibility of lice, fleas and other parasites that might like to live in it. This might not appeal to you and then, if you do it, what happens when your hair grows back?

Well, you can keep it short or you can try and keep it clean. I have bottles of shampoo put aside just in case but I also keep small sample size bottles in our bug out bags. I can use them or there is always the potential for barter or just giving away to those that might be in need.

An easy way to keep your hair clean (well, cleanER) is to use a dry shampoo. This is great for conserving your precious water supplies as well.

To use a dry or waterless shampoo, put the powder in your hair, let it sit a few minutes and then brush it out.

A simple recipe is just using corn starch or baby powder (I’ve also used arrowroot powder) mixed with a few drops of essential oils – citrus is good for absorbing oils, tea tree is good for deterring bugs and lavender is anti-septic and anti-bacterial.

You can also keep a few hairbrushes and hair ties in your preparations as well as some razors if you decide to shave your head or to barter with.

Commonly Overlooked Preps Part 2

Here’s part two of the list I posted earlier.

Soil – I know people that have tens of thousands of seeds but no soil. What happens if you have to plant inside? Or if the soil where you are is too sandy or too much clay? A couple bags of decent quality potting soil are a good idea to keep around. I recently got 10 20 liter bags of soil for $10.

Pets- please don’t forget your four legged friends! Make sure you have food and water put aside for them. You can put aside a couple of bags of kibble that your animals usually eat but you can also make your own dehydrated pet foods. I have also begun to see dehydrated animal food at the specialty pet stores. Just remember if you’re using dehydrated foods to have enough water to rehydrate. Which brings me to the next point.

Water – Yes, most of us have enough to drink but a lot of preppers have dehydrated foods. You need to consider how much water these things will take to rehydrate. What about gardening? There’s really no way to calculate how much water you would need for gardening but using a rain barrel can offset that. But keep in mind, there could always be a drought and if you’re counting on a garden as a large part of your food you better have a back up plan.

Garbage Bags – most people plan to burn their garbage, which is fine. But how about disposing of a body? You don’t necessarily want to be handling that. Or if you have lice, you can bag your clothing and bedding for a couple weeks to kill the lice. You can also use it for quarantine purposes. Make your ill person strip down, bag the clothes and get them into something clean. How about blacking out windows? Using a heavy duty garbage bag taped over windows can help to hide any light showing through (you may have to double up though)

Commonly Over Looked Preps

As I talk to more and more people about their preparations, I’ve noticed some things that a lot of them seem to have over looked. (This, of course, is no judgment on them). Here’s a bit of a list of the ones that I’ve noticed over and over.

Entertainment – there is no way I can express how important this really is. It doesn’t matter if you have 30 years of food and water in your location, if you have nothing to do, you WILL go stir crazy. Put a book in your back pack and have everyone in your group do the same, or stock up your retreat location with some books you’ve never read. You can get books cheaply at garage sales or for free on websites such as freecycle.org. Get a deck of cards or some board games. If, for whatever reason, these things are not feasible for you, make a routine as soon as possible in the situation you’re facing. People thrive on routine. (example: wake up, make breakfast, check traps, have lunch, tend garden, make tools, etc). The last thing you need to deal with in a SHTF situation is cabin fever.

Oven mitts/Pot holders – almost everyone I’ve spoken to has the plan to cook over fires but none of them have oven mitts or pot holders to protect their hands. While this isn’t necessary and there are tools that you can fashion out of sticks to do the same thing, pot holders will protect your hands from the burns that you ARE going to get. You can get a pot holder at a dollar store or use a bandanna or scrap of fabric.

Burn care- this goes with the pot holders. People will get burned; a lot of people are relying on fire to cook, clean and heat. There will be burns. I see the med kits people have and most of them focus on cuts or illness. While living in a SHTF scenario, yes, there will be a lot of cuts too but burns require care to prevent infection. Get a tube of burn ointment and bandages or whatever your preferred method of burn care is and have lots of it! (I use straight lavender essential oil for burns, more on this in a later post).

Water additives- it is easy to get diet fatigue when you’re drinking nothing but plain, sometimes boiled, tasteless water. I recommend, especially for those of you with kids, that you stock up on some additives such as Kool Aid, Crystal Light or whatever your favorite drink crystals are. These don’t take up much room and can add a sense of normalcy to your situation. (We use these in our bags, the kids love them)

Again these are just some of the things I’ve noticed and I’m sure I’ll add to the list. Make sure you think of how you’re going to survive and all things required if you had to start from scratch. A big part of prepping is planning!

Prepping When You Have No Money

Earlier this week, I realized I haven’t been doing as much prepping as I wanted to. I don’t have as much done this far in the year as I had planned and am far behind my goals. Money has become tight, as I’m sure is the case for a lot of people. I’ll be honest, it got me down for about a day.

But! There’s lots that you can do that takes no money at all. I started out by taking inventory of what I do have and looking again at my list of what I would like to have. Reassess and reevaluate your goals.

Next I spent hours watching videos on everything prepping and survival that I could find. YouTube is great for this, but make sure you take everything with a grain of salt. The people that make these videos could be anyone, just like you or me. So really think about the things that these people do and say but there really is a wealth of information out there, for free. So find the videos and take notes. There is also a lot of information on Facebook groups and hashtags on twitter (check out #preppertalk for one)

After that, I decided I could use to be in a bit better shape. If the S were to HTF, being in good physical condition would definitely make it a bit easier.  So, I revamped my workout routine. Anyone can work out and you don’t need gym equipment and you don’t even need to run. One of the easiest things you can do is sit on the couch and watch an hour long program. Each time there is a commercial, do 20 sit ups or push ups. That should give you close to 100 in an hour! If that’s too much work, cut it down to 10 or 5 or even 1, anywhere is a good starting point. By doing the exercise in small sets, it doesn’t feel like as much of a work out. This is how I started a while ago, now I can just do the 100 sit ups or push ups in a row (which means it’s time to up my numbers or make it harder.)

The last thing I did was mentally prepare. I realized that I may not have thousands of dollars tied up in my preparations but at least I have prepared. That’s more than what most people have done. I thought about what could happen in my area (snowstorms, tornadoes, economic collapse etc) and thought about how my life would be affected. What would I do in _____ situation? What if _____ happened? And make your plans from there. What would it take to get you to bug out? Where would you go? What would you bring? Make your plans and constantly reassess them, always be willing to change them and be flexible!