October 22, 2015

The Most Neglected Part of Prepping

As I was pondering our present circumstances, (personal SHTFsituation), and looking ahead to the foreseeable future, I realized something that I had forgotten from our last SHTF fiasco. It is very easy to get so entrenched in the high adrenalin, fight or flight mode, that when things begin to settle down, it is hard to get out of that mode. It becomes almost addictive. It begins to feel like things aren't right, if something isn't going wrong...

We are still in a total mess, nothing is in its proper place, there is sawdust coating every surface, even though most surfaces were tarped or covered with plastic, saw dust is insidious, it found its way under or through the coverings. We have to cook and eat our meals outside. But thank God we are able to sleep in the house now that the weather is cooling off. I realized yesterday that even though we are living in a "disaster area", we are on our way up, the bottom has been found and we are making progress... so why do I feel so depressed and exhausted? Adrenaline fatigue...

 We have been working on the house non stop, day and night for more than a month, as well as living outside for most of that, without a break or an end in sight. I am tired, out of sorts and I have lost perspective.
Cabinets in this part of the kitchen are taped and ready for sanding. The floor has been replaced, and the stove is in place but won't be hooked up until the kitchen cabinets are done since gas stove and construction don't mix.
Everything is covered and inaccessible until we are finished sanding and painting.

So last night I decided to make a margarita, (made by flashlight in our outdoor kitchen :D ), and began to work on the art for our newly sanded kitchen cabinets. I got lost in the project and worked really late, but I felt like a new person this morning.

What does all this have to do with prepping??? A lot. As Preppers, we spend a large portion of our financial resources, time and effort on making sure we have the essentials, which is appropriate, but it is important to think about our mental health as well. Unfortunately, this area of prepping is seldom considered, or planned for. Whatever scenario you find yourself in, there will come a time when things need to normalize, and "life" to go on. The whole point in surviving is to make it through to a point where LIFE can begin again. But if "the plan" does not consider how to begin to have a life again, and to provide for it, then eventually everyone will burn out.

In all but the most dire of situations, there should be some down time factored in for each person, some time to recharge the mental and physical batteries. What preps have been done for that? Are there any unread books, paper, pens, crayons, paints, non electric wood working tools, or whatever supplies you need to feed the inner child? Have the needs of the adults been considered as well as for the children? And what about those surly teens, who only get more surly when under stress, what preps have been made for them to blow off steam?

You have extra batteries for necessary equipment, but how about for the hand held game devise everyone will be missing? Are there decks of cards and travel size games in your preps, what about a frisbee or a ball? Do you have an artistic person in your group? Have good drawing pencils and notebooks of blank paper, a tin of water paints and some brushes for them. A book worm in your midst? Have some good unread books for them and have them read out loud to provide everyone with some entertainment, A putterer, builder, mechanic? Have non electric tools, wood and other supplies at you long term locale, and a few magazines stowed away for a rainy day or bug out. Crayons and colored pencils, and some children's and adult type coloring books can be a real pick me up for everyone. Yarn, crochet hooks and knitting needles can make socks, and other needed apparel, but will also have some de-stressing value. It is very easy to put all these things in on 5 gallon bucket and store it away until needed. These should be updated and rotated as time passes and ages and interests change.

A compact digital camera and extra chips to document the experience for posterity, will prove invaluable. You may not be able to view them immediately, but some day there will probably be access to modern devices again. Do you really want to miss the opportunity to document your life and challenges for the future? What if not everyone makes it through... having a camera and taking photos may give you one last look at a loved on or friend. Morose I know but give it some thought.
A camera is definitely part of my long term storage plan.

Although I have many interests and a lot of them I would need to put into practice in a practical way during SHTF, like non-electric cooking and baking, gardening, sewing, herbal medicine, etc., but I try to keep the supplies in stock and rotated for some of my less practical interests, strictly for escapism/ mental health time. For me, if I have a clean dry surface and some paints, I can escape into a world all my own. And just for fun, here are a few pics of what I did during my margarita/ mental health time.
Top section of one of the pantry cabinet doors. I am going with a botanical theme for the paintings on my cabinet doors. This one is dill. There will also be mint, oregano, and lavender on the three other doors. Then a smaller less elaborate motif on each of the other 14 cabinet doors.
Close up of part of the bottom of the same door.

Detail of the butterfly on the bottom section of the same door.

What makes your heart sing and what plans have you made for your mental health time in your prepping? Please feel free to leave a comment and tell me about you de-stressing plans.

October 2, 2015

Things I Have Learned While Living in My Garden

For those of you who don't know the whole story go to this post on my other blog to get up to speed. In short we were driven out of our house into life in our garden by mold caused by undetected water damage in our kitchen. We are now in our 4th week outside and I have learned many things. Having been through this kind or situation in the past, (Hurricane Hugo 1989 was a 6 year ordeal for us), we have made prepping a part of our every day life. It is a very good thing we are accustomed to roughing it, and even as prepared as we are, there are some things I see we need to address more thoroughly.

Plan A
 When we started this whole adventure I implemented Plan A: quickly set up an outdoor kitchen. I had to prepare food for our Sabbath and for a friend who had lost a family member. The outdoor kitchen was set up in no time so I could take care of the food requirements for a couple of days. Fortunately I had set up our kitchen fly over the outdoor kitchen, so when a pop up thunderstorm and torrential rains blew through I was under cover. Well kind of... water ran over my feet while I was cooking. Since the spot I chose was level at the 4 corners but had a slight depression in the ground in the middle, so it was a perfect place for rain run off to go. Also the wind blew the rain in through the screened Kitchen fly and threatened to dilute my soup.

When my husband came home that evening we went on to Plan B. We moved everything to the
Plan B
deck way above the ground which gave us good drainage and some shelter from wind driven rain. We also set up our tent on my yoga platform so it would be up off the ground and hopefully dry. So life went on as usual, there was no more rain for the better part of a week. The sun was shining and the northern exposure of our deck gave us shade from the heat of the day. I enjoyed preparing meals and doing some food preservation while watching the butterflies flit from flower to flower just beyond the deck rail. Our Corinthian Bells caught the breeze and called out resonantly from the vegetable garden. Ah... life was good.

We had company come to visit and help us celebrate Yom Teruah, It was a lovely evening. I had prepared a number of tasty things to eat and we watched for the new moon and then ate on the veranda in the warm evening air. It was such pleasant evening, Da and I both settled into the tent on our inflatable mattress feeling very satisfied with our well executed contingencies. The "honeymoon" phase lasted for almost another week and by then we felt like we had a pretty good handle on things, and would be fine for the duration. Ha! Just when you think you have it all figured out...

It started raining, which was no real biggie at first. We were up off the ground and I pulled the tables in some so that the mist from the screened kitchen fly didn't affect my work. I was running the smoker in the yard smoking first, marinated portabello mushrooms, and then a couple of batches of habanero, seranno, and jalapeno chiles. The back yard smelled wonderful and my pot of habanero peach salsa was smelling pretty good too. But as the day progressed, the rains got harder and the wind picked up, all of my food prep area was soaked and the wind kept blowing out the flame on my propane camp stove. I had to stop working and put everything under cover until the rain passed, which took 3 days... I refrigerated the salsa to be canned up another day, and just did the bare minimum necessary to put something hot on the table. That night we went to bed dry and snug, but sometime during the night the bottom of the tent started to take on water. In the morning we were surrounded by a moat. The goose down comforter and sheets were wet and had to be dried out by draping them over furniture in the house. The canopy over the outdoor kitchen on the deck had given way to water and everything inside was soaked. It was of course still raining.

Plan C
So-o... on to Plan C, move everything from the outdoor kitchen on the deck, (including emptying and moving our fridge and having to get it down off the deck in the pouring rain), and relocating it to the covered veranda, where we had been taking our meals and hanging out until bedtime. Then we moved into our 1957 camper, which is great and I love being in it, but we haven't renovated it yet so it has a few quirks... actually more than a few, but it is under a cover and dry so it will serve.

Now we are into our 4th week outside. It looks like we may have the mold issues under control soon, I hope... But for now, Hurricane Joaquin is threatening to dump upwards of 11 inches of rain on this area and the weather has turned cold. Fortunately, I have lots of food made up so my time outside cooking will be in short stints, just to warm things up. But we will be pretty much trapped at the little table in our 13 foot camper, until the storms pass on Monday. Hopefully we will not have to resort to Plan D, which involves packing up and moving to a hotel until it stops raining. I despise hotels and we have a kitten that is really not self sufficient enough to stay on her own that long. So it would be much better to stay here where we can keep an eye on our property and critters. We shall see... Last night the winds brought down a large limb which struck the corner of the pergola cover where we keep our camper and scared the ba-geezes out of me... it sounded like the whole tree came down on top of us. No damage done, but I did get a wake up call to move my car to the other drive where there are no trees!

Here are some things I have learned from this adventure:

1) I really do like living outside, I may place our plan for a covered outdoor kitchen further up on the priority list.

2) Rain changes everything. What is tolerable, maybe even fun when dry, becomes far more difficult and depressing when everything you own is soggy and there is little escape from all the wet. Rain makes even simple tasks difficult. It ruins things. My towels all mildewed, the totes containing my staples and seasonings somehow took on water, the labels came off, things in jars caked up due to the saturated conditions, the staples turned to mush. My feet have been soggy for so long I am staring to worry about jungle rot, (not literally, but foot care is very important when living outside in the wet). Cooking in the wet sucks, sleeping wet sucks more.

3) Outside is dirty. I am constantly wiping down surfaces and having to wash dishes, pots and pans before and after use. Which is no picnic when you don't have a sink and are standing outside with a pan of water, in the pouring rain, with mud squishing under foot, trying to get the dishes clean enough to be safe to eat from. Clothes get dirty quickly, hands and nails get really dirty. No amount of foot wiping will keep you from dragging leaves and dirt into bed with you.

4) Insects are a pain, both literally and figuratively. My biggest fear in living outdoors is my bee allergy. I had hornets buzzing my head because they were trapped in the kitchen fly and couldn't find a way out. Trying to help them out was, literally, taking my life in my hands... Swatting hornets just makes them mad, they are not forgiving and like elephants, they never forget... if you offend one they will wait for you and come after you when you least expect it. Yellow jackets wanted my fruit and to drown themselves in my beverages or disappear down my straws, (swallowing a yellow jacket that was in your drink is not recommended, I didn't actually do that but have witnessed what happens when one does...), ants invaded everything that wasn't sealed in a jar or tote. I spent at least 1/2 hour of every day getting butterflies out of my kitchen tent... I know... you're going to complain about butterflies in your kitchen?? Well after awhile them beating themselves against the screened walls and flapping in you face and on your head does begin to wear on one's temperament. I have been bitten by ants, threatened by hornets and flogged by winged creature enough in the last 4 weeks to last a lifetime.

5) Personal hygiene requires a lot more work, teeth brushing, potty breaks, bathing, keeping clothes clean enough to wear. Fortunately we have a bathroom that is a short distance from the back deck. It is isolated from the mold in the rest of the house. We have power and hot water, so we can still bathe inside and use the bathroom indoors, but now we are living in the camper instead of the back yard so it is a trek all the way around the house to the back door if I need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain. Then I track mud and wet back to the camper and try not to get it in the bedding.

6) If you have a personal SHTF situation instead of a community SHTF, or Global SHTF, then the rest of the world goes happily along while you are trying to figure out where the hell you left the flashlight so you can find your way to relieve yourself, have to be work clean when you're living outside dirty, having to be on time when everything takes at least twice as long to do, and eventually when you have been at it long enough you just start to disconnect from the rest of the world. Surrounded by your reality, the rest of reality becomes decidedly unreal. People start to shake their heads at you and you have little patience for their condescension. You start becoming isolated, lose track of time, don't differentiate one day from the next, stop going out. You begin to think that this is life now and hunker down for the long haul.

7) My biggest discovery during this adventure has been that we actually have a lot of the big things under control. Equipment, supplies, skills, are all pretty much as good as we would hope for. Most of the new issues that we are running into are different than those we discovered during Hugo, (which went much later in the year so we were dealing with cold weather, had no power, no water, and had to rebuild our home while trying to survive with small children in the mix,). Most things have been of less consequence, and have to do with smaller details like bugs and everything being dirty all the time. But it is good to know how much those things can affect your ability to cope. I am glad that we have had this opportunity to test what we know and live out our plans in a time where, if all else fails, we could just go stay in a hotel. It is much better to work out the kinks now, instead of finding things out when there are so many big issues to consider and get a handle on, as would definitely be the case in a real crisis.

So, in closing, I will state that being prepped with food, water, defense and medical supplies is important, but you won't know what your most important issues and preps are without practice and experience. Turn off the power for a week. Live in the back yard, camp, cook, do laundry and practice your practical skills, while making note of things that need work, supplies you wish you had, issues that came up, and then fill in the holes and try it again, until you are certain that you have the basics of living under control. You won't be sorry you did.

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