Thursday, 21 July 2011

3 Month Food Storage Supply

3 Month Storage Supply:
We have been using our 3 month storage supply of food in order to limit trips to the grocery store in the intense heat.  We have stored essential items such as flour, jams, canned goods, baking goods along with frozen meats.  We will make a quick trip to the store for fresh fruits if required.
This 3 month storage supply will be replenished once the weather stabilizes and/or cools down, we hope!

Implementing a 3 month Food Supply sounds financially draining.  It doesn't have to be.  We started off by saving $5.00 every week and buying the things that we felt were most important.  Among the first items that we stocked up on we chose Peanut Butter, Oatmeal and Powdered Milk.  In our home, these were the items that everyone enjoyed, were healthy choices and filled a hungry belly.

I used to wonder, why someone would want to have a 3 month storage supply.  After having read many books about independence and self sustaining, keep in mind that this supply is not only for you and your family, it is also for your neighbours who could enter a crisis.

Seldom are we ever able to determine when our lives could enter a fragile situation; whether it is a job loss, illness, Mother Nature's Wrath, or a failure from our own utility companies.  We find comfort in knowing that we have nutritious food tucked away for a "rainy day" or two...perhaps 3 or more.

Among our food storage, we have acquired a wide range of fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils, nuts, canned fish, grains, baking supplies (including powdered milk) and vinegar - most importantly, we have stocked drinking water.
***We have chosen foods in our storage that we would normally eat on a regular basis.  In order to rotate and keep our storage fresh and current, we go to our storage, take the item, then replace it by buying it from the grocery list.  The newly purchased item is then stocked behind the row of the same food and we keep on going.

Easy Peasy???

Well, it can be confusing.  I have a running spreadsheet that keeps track of what we use and what we need.  This sounds challenging, but trust me, a few minutes a day will save a lot of time in the end  instead of having to sort through your food storage if you don't keep track.

At the end of the day ( a stifling hot day for us), you will be feeling secure and comforted knowing that you are prepared to adequately feed your family during challenging times.
In our world, what we are doing is self sustaining and it is priceless to us.

Our Rain Barrels Are Dry

Our rain barrels have been dry for about a week now.  I have been very careful with our water usage around the house.  As we are only partially self sustained, we do rely on our external resources to help us out.
I have been very careful using our gray water for toilet flushing as well.  Saving our laundry water for pouring on the flower beds, reducing toilet flushing and shower times have been very helpful.

Unfortunately, we have had to resort to using the garden hose in the evening to save our garden plants. 
In order to restrict the amount of city water we are using ( I hear those dollar signs accumulating) we water around the base of our plants in the garden.  This promotes a stronger root growth as the roots will grow longer in order to search for water.
I have begun digging small trenches among the rows of our garden plants.  This helps to collect any extra run off and will help the garden retain water.  (This is a task for early morning or very late evening during a heat wave).
With very little rain in the forecast and high temperatures nearing 3 digits with the humidity, we are already practising living in survival mode.

Surviving The Heat Wave

It is 10:30 p.m. and the humidex is 38 degrees Celcius, rather 102.2 Fahrenheit. 
I am pleased to announce that we did not experience any brownouts or power outages today.  We were certainly well prepared in advance!

As we have young children and pets, we did put on our air conditioning 2 days ago.  This allowed the house to cool down in anticipation of today's weather.  Even with the air on, we avoided any strenuous activity in order to ensure that we stayed cool.

For our menu this week, I have selected items that are of a high water content.  Fruits and Vegetables such as Cantaloupe, Watermelon, Cucumber and Tomatoes (all of the common great foods we have growing in our gardens) have been welcomed by all of the children.  We have limited our cooking and baking and have been focusing on foods that are refreshing yet pleasing to even the youngest pallet.
Did you know that by eating proteins in hot weather, it can actually boost an individuals metabolism and increase their body temperature?
We certainly do learn something new every day.  So less protein and more fruits and vegetables for us!

In our home, everyone has regular water breaks, about every 10 minutes.  Even if they take a sip or two, it is a continuous hydration process.  In addition, we have been wiping all of the younger children down with wet washcloths (as they are unable to perspire properly) to ensure that their little bodies stay cool.  Our 7 year old Golden Retriever, Bentley has been enjoying icecubes in his water dish.  We only let him outside for toileting and that is enough for him to begin panting heavily before he wants back inside.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Heatwave and Blackout Preparation

Parts of the United States and Canada have had extremely high temperatures over the last week and a half.  If you combine the humidity with the actual air temperature, we have been dealing with 100 degrees Fahrenheit temps and over.  There is no relief in sight let alone rain.
Thursday's temperatures are expected to break records.  The humidex is expected to reach 48 degrees, which is equivalent to almost 119 F! 
Our soil in the gardens is cracking, the plants are drooping and the dog is panting.  We have a Golden Retriever who is finding this weather to be extremely warm and intolerable.  These days, we are letting him outside for toileting only.  He rushes right to the door and can't wait to get out of the heat.

I don't ever recall in the last 40 years having temperatures this high.  I have spent some time this evening preparing our meals for tomorrow.  Anything that requires cooking has been completed this evening, long after the sun has gone down.  I have done this to keep the heat out of the house and also to be prepared in case of a Blackout.
Due to the high temperatures, I am prepared in the case that there is an Blackout due to the immense strain on our electrical system.  I am aware that there will be an enormous strain on electricity when temperatures reach record breaking values during the afternoon on Thursday.
We have found terrrific ways of keeping cool during this heat wave.  This evening, my daughter and I went to the mall and got some exercise while enjoying a cool environment. 
Here are some helpful ideas on how to stay cool:
  • Don a wet bandana - this will keep your head cool
  • Stay out of the sun. Period! 
  • Frequently mist yourself with water, or use a wet washcloth on your arms, neck, chest and back to cool down - we do this hourly on those hot days
  • Drink a lot of water - around 1 cup every 20 minutes - don't let yourself get thirsty because if you do, you are already on your way to being dehydrated.
  • Wear light colours and loose clothing if you have to go out
  • Don't forget that sunhat and sunblock
  • Limit physical activity - with tomorrow's temperatures, lying around in a hammock under the shade of a tree sounds wonderful
  • Even using a Barbeque is a hot job on a hot day.  Try to have meals that include a lot of juicy fruits and vegetables.  Not only is this healthy and good for you, it is also hydrating.
  • Get into the water!  Find a community pool (many of which have extended hours during a heat wave like this one) and give your body a chance to cool down.
  • If you start feeling nauseated, have a headache, fever or trouble breathing, go to your emergency department immediately - please don't drive, seek help from a neighbour or call 911.
  • Children, the elderly and pets have an especially hard time in the heat and become ill very quickly.  It is important that they stay cool, resting and well hydrated.  Keep indoors!
Now that we have addressed ways to keep cool.  What happens if there is such a strain on our electrical system that we have a Blackout?  There are parts of North America (approximately 12 million people) who experienced a blackout on August 14th, 2003.  All of a sudden, we were faced without hydro which meant that we were completely without portable phones, electrical radios, appliances and lighting.  This also meant that restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, financial institutions and essential services had to rely on their back up generators (if they even had them) to maintain food supplies, generate funds and help those who were sick, etc.  We didn't have any warning whatsoever and people were not prepared.
I remember that evening seeing a lot of homes lit by candlelight and families out walking with their children because there was no t.v.  I stayed at home enjoying peace and tranquility while hearing the children outside playing.  I thought it was wonderful - but that is because I was prepared.
Here are some ways to prepare for an unexpected Blackout:
  • Have extra cash stashed away at home for emergency purchases
  • Fill up your car with gas
  • Have an extra filled propane tank for the BBQ - you can heat water and cook
  • Fans - if it's hot out there, you will need to have some paper handy to make those old fashioned fans!
  • Fill your bathtub with water.  You will need this to flush your toilets if there is an interruption to the water supply.
  • Drinking Water - stock up- ensure that you have at least 1 litre per person per day for a 14 day period.  You never know how long it will take for the power to come back on.
  • Keep your cell phone fully charged
  • Batteries - make sure that you have enough to power the flash lights if needed
  • Candles - dust them off and get them ready.  You don't want to be searching for them in the dark!
  • Comforters, heavy blankets and sleeping bags - These are to cover your deep freeze and refridgerator to help insulate and prevent your food from spoiling
  • Open up your doors to friends, family and neighbours.  You will be able to maximize your resources by bringing everyone together!
***Remember that by planning for the heat wave and the blackout, you are not only readying your own family, you may also need to help out a neighbour or a family who was not prepared and need food and resources. 
We wish everyone the best on Thursday and pray for wellness...
Please remember to check on the elderly and single persons on a regular basis during this immense heat wave.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Homemade Cough Remedy - Bring on the Onions and Honey

Well there has been an unavoidable early summer cold on the loose.  Myself, I have experienced a mild version however my little 3 year old Ava has been hit a bit harder with this bug.

I have always been skeptical about Cough syrup. 
Although I have a Nursing background, I have always been concerned that commercial cough syrups and their ingredients have an "anesthetic" approach to calming the typical cough.  The commercial cough syrups basically "numb" your throat so that you don't cough.  This is why it is not recommended for children under 6 years of age.
Can you imagine even ingesting these chemicals, let alone giving it to a child over the age of 6 years?
We have a different approach and do not believe in the commercial brands whatsoever.

This recipe includes only 2 ingredients which are staples in any home.  You should be able to look into your cupboards and Voila!  Minimal preparation and you have an amazing cough suppressant at your fingertips!

From the minute there is a "Cough" in the house, bring on the onions and the honey.  We use Pasteurized Honey only in our home to ensure wellness.

Here's what to do when the "cough" hits:

Slice one onion and put into a dish
Pour Honey over the onion, enough to cover
Place a piece of saran wrap over the dish
Let ingredients sit for a minimum of 3 hours, preferably 8 if time permits
Strain Honey from the onion (use onion for your next delicious stir fry or your compost)
Give One teaspoon of Honey/Onion infusion for cough as required

This is wonderfully healthy and it works!  You might not ever need to head to the pharmacy in the middle of the night for help supressing a cough when you have all of the ingredients in the comfort of your own home!

Herbed Oil Infusions

We have begun our herb oil infusions!
This is an exciting time of our early harvest as we are preparing oil infusions that will sustain us through the cold winter months.  Living in Canada with snow and ice through the winter months can certainly prove challening, however if you prepare in advance you can rest assure that you are prepared!

One of the many things we love about herbs aside from their amazing medicinal properties is that they are for the most part perrenials and require very little care once rooted. 

Basically, spend about $2.50 on a seedling that will last you for a minimum of 3 years, perhaps many years.  You will reap the benefits of these plants for many years ahead. 
***Just remember to harvest no more than 1/3 of the plant at a time to allow for new growth and even a bigger harvest in the following year.

Today, I have started our oil infusions and will continue to add extra strength to the oils in the coming months.
I prepared both a Spearmint Infusion and an Oregano Infusion.  I can hardly believe as to why people would actually buy these herbs at the grocery store and pay a premium price when they grow in your own garden like controlled weeds.  Mint can be especially invasive to other plants.  It seems to pop up out of nowhere and I have found that even my veggies growing close to my mint plant will have an undertone of mint when eaten.  My oregano plant has been growing for 4 seasons and keeps on going, bigger and bigger every year!

This year I dug around my mint and have inserted 2x4 wood to create a boxed off section in order to keep it under control.  You have to insert wood deep enough to prevent mint from sprouting new shoots from underneath the top soil.  I found that 4 inches of wood buried 3 inches under the soil have worked so far.  Lets keep our fingers crossed!

The infusions will keep us going through the cold Candian months that lay ahead and will help us with preventing and treating cold symptoms and other ailments.  My spearmint infusion is made specifically for our homemade toothpaste.

In order to prepare an herb infusion you will need a carrier oil such as Sweet Almond, Olive or Grapeseed oil.  Cut herbs just after the morning dew had dried off of the plants.
  • Wash herbs in cold water to remove any sand or particles.
  • Dry on papertowel and blot excess water with additional papertowel.
  • Pull leaves off of the stems.  Super easy part-just hold herb stem near top and run your fingers down the stem and the leaves will slide off quickly into a bowl.
  • Slightly bruise the leaves with the end of a Wooden Spoon.
  • Pack leaves as tightly as you can into a Mason Jar.
  • Pour carrier oil of choice over top of the leaves, ensuring that you cover all of the leaves in order to prevent bacterial growth.
Put jar in a cool dark place for a period of 3-6 weeks.  (We are putting ours away for a 4 week intervals before replacing the herbs)
After 3-6 weeks, strain the oil into a new jar, discarding the used herbal contents and replace with new herbs while keeping the same oil.  Keep doing this until you achieve the strength that you desire.
On our homestead, we will be repeating this process for the next several months to ensure that we have the maximum strength of oil required in our salves and balms.
This method of infusion can be done with any type of herbs, Lavender, Oregano, Thyme, Spearmint, Peppermint, Wild Rose, Feverfew,