Monday, August 29, 2011

Bird Flu

I just read an article indicating another potential Bird Flu threat is in the making.  With the media hyping one disaster after another, it is difficult to determine what is real and what is just another false alarm.  Every year we hear of another "pandemic" threatening our population.  Health organizations begin massive immunization campaigns and people respond with typical knee-jerk reactions.

The whole point of being a prepper is, well....being prepared.  Rather than reacting to the latest hysterical reports, we need to have considered potential threats and have made preparations to control and contain those threats.  When I wrote The Prepared Family Guide to Uncommon Diseases, I was preparing for medical crises.  Going through the process of researching uncommon diseases and learning how to treat and contain those diseases was my way of preparing.  The shopping lists were written for me and my family.  The treatments, containments and recipes were compiled so that I would know what to do in an emergency.

As I hear of yet another potential medical threat, I rest easy knowing that the Bird Flu was covered in a special Influenza section of my book.  I know that I have everything on hand to treat Bird Flu in my home.  I know what to look out for, what to prepare for and when to seek outside help.

I can't stop illness or disease.  Just like I can't stop war, famine or pestilence.  But I can prepare.  I can arm myself with knowledge and tools.  I can definitely increase my families chance of survival.  I can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.  Are you prepared?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Our Life in Pictures

Master Calvin working on the driveway
Charlie Company being supervised
by Bravo Company
Princess Dragon Snack
swollen from a bee sting
Miss Calamity
Cheese and Quackers
Redneck air conditioning
(a sprinkler on top of the sunroom roof)
A nice cool sunroom
(yes, that is camo netting providing shade)
Princess Dragon Snack with a toothless grin
Kids heading to their haybale forts
to engage in an airsoft battle
A farmer/neighbor bailing our "hay"
Princess Dragon Snack and Master Calvin
having a spot of tea.  Notice their
bouquet is thistles!
A car in our neighbors front yard
We do things a little differently
out West!
And this is a day in our life....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shelter Me

A song for our turbulent times, especially those facing the hurricane on the East Coast (but only if you like the Blues)....

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Weck Jars - Revisited

Quite some time ago, I wrote a post about Weck canning jars and my love/hate relationship with them.  We bought a pallet (literally) of Weck jars in 1998 and used them exclusively until 2010.  I loved many features that the Weck jars had to offer, such as reusable rubber gaskets and shapes that lent themselves to easy cleaning and filling.  Although I loved a lot of things about the Weck jars, two complaints made me reconsider using them.  The first was not a deal breaker, but definitely a consideration.  They are larger in diameter than standard American canning jars, which limited me to canning 8 liters at a time in my pressure canner rather than 14 quarts.  This may not seem like a deal breaker, but when you are in full-on production canning at the end of a long, hot summer, it can be enough to make one wish for the tried and true Ball and Kerr jars of our Grandmothers.  But, by far, my biggest complaint was the Weck sealing failure rate.  On average, when pressure canning, I would have a sealing failure rate of 40%!  Water bath canning faired better, with only about 20% of my jars failing to seal.  Even this was unacceptably high, especially compared with a near zero percent failure rate in Ball and Kerr canning jars.

Over the past year, I have accumulated a number of American canning jars, and have invested in Tattler reusable canning lids.  I have been perfectly content with my return to old fashioned American canning - only briefly sighing in disappointment when gazing upon my beautiful Weck jars.  While eminently practical, the Ball and Kerr jars leave something to be desired in their aesthetic appeal.  The Weck jars are just so beautiful!  They feed this romantic soul of mine.

Yesterday, a friend blessed me with two large boxes of green beans ready to be prepared and preserved in jars.  I love to can my beans whole, so I sent the kids out to get as many wide mouth jars as they could find.  Much to my chagrin, they came back into the shouse with about 9 wide mouth jars.  Knowing that would never do, I sent them back to search out more jars.  The report was desperate - we had no more wide mouth jars!  You just can't can whole green beans in a regular jar - if you got them in, you would never get them out - and I couldn't bear the thought of cutting up all of my lovely beans.  In desperation, Master Hand Grenade suggested the Weck 1 liter Tulip jars.  "We have a ton of these Mom - would they work?"  There is no better jar to can whole green beans than the 1 liter Tulip.  The mouth is positively huge and they are just the right height.  Remembering that a reader had suggested using the clamps differently than I had previously, I thought to throw all caution to the wind and pressure can the beans in my beautiful Weck jars.

Filling jars
Everybody helps
We snipped ends, washed and packed green beans.  Everybody worked together and we quickly filled 28 liter (or quart) jars to the brim with fresh green beans.  After capping off the Ball jars, I turned my attentions to the Weck jars.  I sandwiched the gasket between the lid and the jar and carefully placed three clamps on each jar.  Rather than seating the clamps hard against the surface of the jar, I eased each clamp down over the rim but not tight to the jar.  The idea in this is the clamp will allow the air to be expelled from the jar rather  than spitting the gasket out, ending in a failed seal.  First, I processed the Ball jars, and of course, they came out perfectly.  Next, the Weck jars filled my canner.  After the processing was complete and the canner had cooled, I cautiously lifted the lid and inspected the jars.  All four jars on the top rack had sealed.  Lifting the rack off the other jars revealed another four perfectly sealed jars!  Eureka!  It worked.  Every jar had sealed.  I put another batch of jars on to process and they, too, sealed wonderfully.

Properly clamped
Weck jars full of beans and jam
Jam is in the Deco jars (belly pots)
Twelve years - lost to ignorance!  I cannot believe that I missed something so obvious and caused a huge amount of loss of our canned goods in the process.  And, if that wasn't bad enough, I mistakenly blamed the jars when it was, in fact, user error.  Sir Knight always says that you have to be 10% smarter than any tool to use it.  I guess I failed that one!  I am so thankful that one of you wonderful folks took the time to set me straight.

Anyway, I wholeheartedly recommend Weck canning jars.  They are beautiful, they are tremendously easy to wash (you can fit your hand in them to scrub them out) and they stack very nicely.  The rubber gaskets are reusable (I used mine for 12 years) and they have convenient plastic lids that snap tightly on the jars once you have opened them.  Weck jars come in a variety of shapes.  I love the Tulip jars for beans, veggies and meat.  The Deco jars (I call them "belly pots") are perfect for jam, jellies and lemon curd.  They also have juice jars (both 1 liter and 1/2 liter) which are lovely on the table and the plastic lid makes them nice to put in the fridge with your leftover juice in them.  We bought our jars from Glashaus (you get a price break when you buy a pallet load) and they also carry extra gaskets, clamps and plastic lids.  For our friends in Canada, your Weck jar souce is WeckCanada.  Glashaus carries an electric canner specifically made for Weck jars, if you are inclined to use electricity.

Ball and Kerr jars are an American institution.  They are reliable and easily obtained.  With the advent of Tattler lids, Ball and Kerr are an economical canning choice.  If you have a little extra money to spend and want a jar with a glass lid rather than metal or plastic, then Weck is the way to go.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Long Term Food Storage - Baking with 25 Year Old Wheat

There are a lot of methods for the long term storage of wheat touted in survival guides and on the internet but, most people, being fairly new to preparedness, have never had the opportunity to test the validity of any long term storage techniques.  Although Sir Knight and I have been storing food for 15 years, we regularly use and rotate our supply, ensuring that our stored foods are never more than about 5 years old.

A month or so ago, my best friend from high school helped her mother prepare to sell their family home.  They sorted through years of family memories and accumulations, kept a few precious memento's and prepared the rest for a huge estate sale.  As they sifted, they came upon the remnants of their stored foods.  Deciding they couldn't sell 25 to 35 year old stored foods, they forwarded them to us.

The foods that we inherited consisted of a number of 5 gallon buckets full of hard red wheat, about 20 quart jars of honey (harvest from their own bees!) and 25 pounds of pinto beans.  What a treasure trove!

Knowing that wheat was recovered from a Pharaoh's tomb, and, after 2000 years was sown and successfully germinated, we thought we would we would attempt breadmaking with our very young 25 (to 35) year old wheat.  The wheat was stored very simply.  It was poured into 5 gallon buckets, a piece of dry ice thrown on top, and stored in an non-temperature controlled shop (having grown up in that area, I know that temperatures in the winter can get as low at 40 below zero and as high at 95 in the summer).

This wheat hasn't seen the light
of day in over 25 years!
After opening a rather dusty bucket, I dug my hands into perfectly beautiful, plump wheat berries.  Absolutely no bugs, eaten wheat or husks.  Nothing but perfect wheat.  Now for the real test - making bread.  I ground the wheat, put on a Sheepherders bread sponge, added the fresh flour and commenced kneading.  The dough looked perfect - elastic and supple.  After allowing the dough to rise twice, I formed two loaves, a few rolls and a small loaf of cinnamon bread and let everything rise one more time.  The bread rose and baked wonderfully (other than I got the two loaves a little dark).  The finished product was out of this world!  My "old" wheat had stood the test of time.

In the grinder
Freshly ground flour
Bread sponge
Adding flour
Dough in a bowl, lightly oiled
In a warm place, rising
After first rising
Everything ready to go into the oven
(after final rising)
Two wheat loaves and a small
cinnamon loaf
Rolls for dinner
Cinnamon loaf to go with tea
Long term food storage is not just a theory, but a practical reality.  With nothing more than high quality food, a little knowledge and proper storage containers, your food storage could provide sustenance for you and your family for years to come.

Ready for tea -
Toasted Cinnamon bread slathered in butter
with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled
on top!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Almost Home!

Animatedly visiting with another midwife
Maid Elizabeth has been in the Philippines for over 2 1/2 months.  She has learned more than either she or I expected!  Not only has she learned about mamas and babies, she has been stretched in her understanding of people.  She has been in difficult situations and has learned to deal with challenges with grace.  She has seen problems that are rarely, if ever, encountered in the United States.  She has found new strengths and discovered new weaknesses.  She has grown and changed.

And she is coming home!!!!  In less than two weeks, we will have our dear Maid Elizabeth home.  To say that we are all excited is an understatement.  She has already been going through her things, giving surplus away and trying to get organized for her trip home.  We have readied her room and are anxiously awaiting a drive to the airport to pick up our treasure.

Unfortunately, Maid Elizabeth has not been able to keep up with her blog the way she had intended.  The electronic equipment she took with her, has not responded well to either the humid Philippine climate or her lack of ability to update it with our home computer.  She hasn't been able to download photos to her blog for about a month and a half and even writing can be a little dodgy.  She was able to forward some photos to me, so I thought that I would share them with you.

Playing with some little boys
Taking vitals

Going over the chart
(Aren't the Filipino women beautiful!)
Living in the Philippines has been quite an experience for her.  She recently told Sir Knight that it has brought out the "inner prepper" in her!  She has seen many people who live in a constant state of want.  Poor nutrition is the norm, and the majority of her patients have hemorrhaged after giving birth.  However, she has seen a true faith in the people.  Having no personal possessions has made Christ very real to them.  They rely on Him rather than things.

Our girl is coming home.  She is changed.  She has direction.  She is ready for the life God has given her to lead.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Savior of our Youth - Education

I have often found it interesting that, as a country, we prize education more highly than almost any pursuit.  If only we could properly educate the masses, we will have peace on earth.  Through education (some might call it indoctrination) people will learn to be "tolerant" and "non-judgemental".  Education will save our planet and provide every person with a job.  Education is our Messiah, our Savior.

Look where education has gotten us.  We are a nation without a moral compass.  You cannot educate a person without giving them moral truth.  One does not exist without the other.  Our education system has attempted to do just that.  It has put education in a vacuum outside the confines of morality.  We have highly "educated" people running our country into the ground.

Our education system has failed.  It was destined to fail.  It was built on a faulty foundation.  The more "modern" our education systems becomes, the less effective it is.  Rather than teaching academics and expecting excellence, our schools have become the breeding place for social experiments.  Moral relativity, an inflated sense of self-esteem and a population incapable of self-government is what our schools are currently producing.  Our experiment has failed.  Or, perhaps, it has been very successful.  Only in a nation that is populated with rudderless individuals, can a government become the Savior.  Only when our schools churn out students with no discipline, no self-control and no personal responsibility can the government enslave a nation.  I'm not a conspiracy theory nut - all of this is being done right in the open, right under our noses, and we are allowing it.

Some are beginning to see that education, by itself, is not the answer.  I read an article by a physician who commented on the recent N.Y. requirement that all middle school aged children be graphically schooled in sex education.  She noted that they already seemed very well schooled to her.   They knew what to do and how to do it.  She also questioned the wisdom of telling kids to "just say no" to drugs and "no" to smoking, but when it came to sex, we educate them about doing it "safely".  Can you imagine a class teaching a kids how to shoot up safely?  Or how to drive when you are drunk and not get in a wreck?  Of course not.  That would be ludicrous.  How much more ridiculous is it to expect a kid, in the middle of a moment of passion, to stop, take a minute to think clearly, make sure someone puts "something" on and then hazards to question their partner on their sexually transmitted disease status?  How much better if your kid has the moral compass not to get into that situation in the first place.  "But if the schools don't teach them, who will" you ask?  You, of course!  You will teach your own child that sex is a wonderful thing, to be enjoyed and anticipated, within the confines of marriage.  You will, gasp, be your own child's teacher.  And then you will make sure that they aren't put into a situation where the temptation will be too  much for them to bear.  Your daughters boyfriend could actually come over to your house for dinner with the family!  You could invite your son's girlfriend to spend an evening at the movies, with your whole family.  You could make popcorn balls together, go skating, take a hike, let the young lovers get to know each other without hopping into bed.  You could model a healthy relationship and have a blast at the same time.

Education by itself leads to corruption.  Only when education is paired with moral direction can we hope dig ourselves out of the mess we are in.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Adults in Diapers

When Master Hand Grenade was little, he became deathly ill.  When he was 8 days old, he was airlifted to our local trauma hospital with a dire prognosis.  After telling Sir Knight and I to say our goodbyes, the neonatal trauma team went to work in an attempt to save our son, whom they had labeled a "rag doll".  Two terrifying days later, the doctors told us that Master Hand Grenade would live - maybe, but he would be terribly "compromised".  After walking into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to see my son's body racked in seizures, I knew we were in for a long haul.

Hand Grenade's prognosis was dim.  He would "down-look" for the rest of his life.  He would never hear, never walk and be mentally retarded.  He would suffer from seizures and his neurological system had been compromised to the point that his movements would never be "normal".  Many hours were spent in prayer and petition.  I thanked God for saving our son's life and begged him for the strength to bear the burden of raising a disabled child.  I knew that life would never be "normal" again.  Our family had a new normal.

After we brought our precious bundle home, we learned a whole new way of life.  Now, rather than happily picking my son up from a nap, I entered his room with fear and trepidation.  I was terrified to find a cold, blue baby in place of my downy, sweet son.  Trips, even to the grocery store, were punctuated by continual screaming.  I would drive with tears streaming down my face.

In charge of operation
"Gravel Driveway"
As my little son grew, it became evident that we was not developing as other children did.  He couldn't sit up, feed himself or even roll over.  He regularly had seizures, turning his lips blue and practically stopping his mothers heart.  He didn't respond when we called his name, unless he happened to be looking at us at that moment.  The doctors couldn't tell us anything.  They shrugged their shoulders and said "you're on your own".  They did, however, repeatedly direct us to social services so that we could get State Aid for our "disabled" son.  But the truth was, God gave Master Hand Grenade to us, not to the State. He would provide a way for us to take care of him.

After much study and research, we chose to take Master Hand Grenade off the anti-seizure medication he was on.  It was a long haul (they never told us it was addictive) watching our little boy go through withdrawals, wondering the whole time if we were doing the right thing.  Amazingly, one week after we administered his final dose, Master Hand Grenade fed himself.  Within two weeks he was rolling over and a month later, he sat up for the first time!  And the best part - he never had another seizure - ever!

Being bandaged by a buddy (they
were filming a video)
It took longer for Master Hand Grenade to walk than a "normal" child.  We knew he didn't hear well (although he did hear).  He had no sight problems, and, as far as we could tell, he didn't have any problems with intelligence.  We were completely on our own.  Nobody could tell us what he was capable of or if he was limited in certain areas.  We kind of made it up as we went along.  As he became more stable, I took him to "Mommy and Me" gymnastics to help him with his balance.  We taught him how to play close attention to us so that he could hear us when we spoke to him.

In his early years, I was never sure what I could expect him to be able to do.  Sir Knight and I talked into many a night discussing how to best ensure a productive future for our son.  Finally, we decided, we had to make him normal.  We would treat him like the other kids, expect the same things from him and, when things were especially difficult, teach him a new way to accomplish his goal.  He had to be a productive member of society and it was our job to make sure he was.

Finally, it came time to potty train young Master Hand Grenade.  Could he do it?  Would he be able to tell when he had to go?  Should I just let it go until he decided to do it on his own?  What was a mother to do?  But in the end I knew.  He had to be potty trained.  It was a matter of health (disease can be spread through fecal material), psychological well-being (it would be embarrassing and psychologically damaging to still be in a diaper when your friends used the bathroom) and familial harmony had to be maintained (without him being potty trained, someone would always have to clean up his mess).  In that vein, potty training commenced and Master Hand Grenade scored yet another victory.

It has come to my attention that the world is full of adults in diapers.  Babies are cute and sweet and we willingly attend to their every need.  But as they grow in awareness and they become physically larger we no longer think their poopy pants are cute.  We realize that we had better take the time to train them so we are not stuck cleaning up their messes forever.  Our country is full of people who never had to learn to use the toilet, so they just go wherever they are and we clean up the mess. They have all kinds of excuses, "I was in too big a hurry", "I forgot", "I was too busy playing", but the result is the same, they make a mess and we clean it up.  Of course, there are people, just like children, that require special help, but by and large, the people making the messes are more than able to control themselves, they just choose not to.  And the messes they are making are causing massive societal illness.  Rage, antipathy and dependence is spreading from one person to another wreaking havoc on our society.  The people who are cleaning up the messes are getting tired of it.  They want to know why the other people aren't required to poop in the toilet, or at the very least clean up their own messes.  The answer is that our government, acting as overindulgent parents, aren't requiring people to clean up their own messes.  The mess is growing and has spilled out onto the street.  There doesn't seem to be enough grownups to take care of it anymore.

Do we want to be a
nation of this?
You can forgive folly in a child, but the mess that has become our nation is unforgivable.  We need to be productive members of society and not disabled children.  I have known many "disabled" people who take more responsibility for themselves than the  majority of able-bodied people on the welfare rolls.  It is time for us to quit messing ourselves, clean up our act and be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

By the way, Master Hand Grenade is a wholesome, handsome, God-fearing young man that is capable of anything.  He never lets his "disabilities" slow him down (in fact, you would never convince him that he has any disabilities).  He is all that is good in our country.  He will never join the ranks of adults in diapers.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Civility and Decent Behaviour

George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation....

6th.  Sleep not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when you should hold your peace, walk not on when others stop.

7th.  Put not off your clothes in the presence of others, nor go out your chamber half dressed.

8th.  At play and at fire it is good manners to give place to the last comer, and affect not to speak louder than ordinary.

9th.  Spit not in the fire, nor stoop low before it.  Neither put your hands into the flames to warm them, nor set y our feet upon the fire, especially if there be meat before it.

10th.  When you sit down, keep your feet firm and even, without putting one on the other or crossing them.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dirty Windows

John and Mary, a young couple, had just moved into a new neighborhood.  One morning while they were eating breakfast, Mary sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside to dry.

"That laundry is not very clean" Mary scoffed.  "She doesn't know how to wash correctly.   Perhaps she needs better laundry soap".

John looked on, but remained silent.

Every time Mary's neighbor would hang her wash out to dry, Mary would make the same comments.

About a month later, Mary was surprised to see nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband, "Look, she has learned how to wash correctly.  I wonder who taught her?"

John replied, "I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows."

And so it is with life.  What we see when watching others depends on the purity of the window through which we look.

                                  Author Unknown

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Product Review - VTac Sling

V-Tac Sling, by Viking Tactical
Over the years, Sir Knight has used many different sling systems.  Some were simple, but not very effective, others were so complicated they were rendered almost useless.  A few years ago, he was introduced to the V-Tac sling by a member of the law enforcement community.  At once, simple, effective and versatile, Sir Knight was sold.  Since then, he has acquired V-Tac slings for most of our rifles and shotguns.  They come in a padded version, perfect for shotguns and larger battle rifles and also an unpadded version for light rifles.

Padded V-Tac Sling
The premise behind the V-Tac is simple.  They are designed to allow the rifle to hang in a "safe/ready" condition.  Once you have adjusted the sling properly, when you raise your rifle to a shooting position, you simply drop your elbow, creating a supported off-hand shooting position.  There are only two "controls" on the sling, one to tighten and one loosen.  It is also possible, simply by pulling the sling tight against your chest, to free your hands for other necessary tasks (in law enforcement, officers will use this feature while handcuffing a suspect or rendering first aid, while maintaining control of their weapon).

Padded sling with braided toggle that
Maid Elizabeth fashioned
Padded Sling from the back
And from the front, sucked in
Dropped elbow to create stable off-hand
shooting platform
Loosening the sling
And tightening it
The original non-padded sling
Very steady shooting
Loading a shotgun with the rifle sucked
in tight
Here is the training video from the Viking Tactical website:

The V-Tac sling is reasonably priced, at $40.95 for the padded sling and $34.95 for the original, unpadded version.  Oh, and by the way, the Olive Drab sling is a MUCH nicer color in person than it looks in the picture!

Realizing that slings are a very personal piece of equipment, we give the V-Tac sling 5 out of 5 stars.  This is the sling to have!