Category Archives: Prep

Weekly Prep Round-Up

I’ve decided to change up my Saturday blog-topic routine. Yes, I will still be posting prep advice. It just won’t be all mine anymore. Consider it a weekly prepper’s round-up of all the great things I’ve discovered in the blogosphere. And because it’s the holidays, today’s post is holiday-themed.

Good Advice for Holiday Travel

Stocking Stuffers

Did I miss any other great posts? Share them in the comments.

Prepping for Protest

In the wake of the verdicts in the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner and the deaths of a number of other young black men, protests continue across the country.

Non-violent protest is one of the cornerstones of the fight against injustice. Unfortunately, what starts as non-violence doesn’t always end that way.

Luckily The Art of Urban Survival has a fantastic and detailed article on how to prep for protest.

Protester's Emergency Kit
Stefan Verstappen The Art of Urban Survival – protest emergency kit

Wondering how you can get involved? Visit the Ferguson National Response Network.

Pace Yourself

Yesterday I promised to tell you more about some of the great books I got yesterday, but instead, I want to talk about the importance of pacing ourselves.

When it comes to prepping there is a lot at stake–our homes, our families, our very lives. Because of that there can be an urgency to the work. A need to get it all done as quickly as we can so we can finally feel safe enough to relax. But it doesn’t really work like that. Finish the bug-out bag? It’s time to move on to the car kit. Finish the car kit and it’s time to tackle the workplace emergency kit. Keep that up at full speed and you’ll find yourself broke, exhausted, and not much closer to that ever-elusive feeling of safety.

The same is true in life. There’s always something important that needs doing, and before we know it, our lives are passing us by. Better to do a little at a time, leaving room to build a life worth fighting for.

Gathering Resources

Some days, especially days when you’re trying desperately hard not to come down with the full-blown bronchitis that is knocking at the doors of your lungs, the only prep you can manage is getting to the pharmacy or grocery store to pick up cough syrup or chicken broth. But maybe, just maybe, if you go before you get too tired you can also swing by the library on your way there and pick up a couple of books at the Friends of the Library bag day sale. Which brings me to some actual prep advice for the day:

Library sales, thrift stores, and garage sales are great places to find low cost books and videos–prep or otherwise.

Library Book Sale Finds

In this case, I basically paid 13¢ per book, which for any book would be a steal. But given that the survival book alone retails for $24.95, I’d say it was an especially good deal. Bonus: I also picked up a couple of Le Guins, plus a few others I’ll write more about tomorrow.

Practice Gratitude

On this last day of the long Thanksgiving weekend, it seems only appropriate for today’s spiritual prep to be gratitude.

With the big meal behind us, it’s likely that most of us have already put the giving of thanks on hold until next November and slipped easily back into our regularly scheduled program of plowing through our days, especially with the insanity of holiday planning, shopping, preparing, the making of reservations and appointments, and everything else that has to be done looming large ahead. Which is why now, more than ever, it’s important to hold onto the spirit of Thanksgiving just a little bit longer. And then a little more. Until you no longer have to hold on because it’s become a part of you.

Why? Because gratitude practice–the habit of counting our blessings–can change our attitudes, our health, and our lives for the better. Just a few of the benefits, according to researchers Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, include:

  • Feeling better about our lives as a whole
  • Being more optimistic
  • Making more progress toward goals
  • Getting more regular exercise
  • Getting sick less

And there’s nothing quite like being healthy, optimistic, and goal-oriented to help you weather just about any storm.

Probably the simplest way to cultivate gratitude is to take a few minutes at the beginning or end of a day, grab a notebook, and write down 3 things you’re grateful for–be it sunny skies, hanging out with your friends, getting an A on a test, or a raise at work. You can chooe anything that made your life happier, more comfortable, or made you feel more inspired.

Personally I like to write down my three things at night before bed because focusing on the good things from my day helps dissipate the stress of everything I didn’t get done. But writing them in the morning works just as well and helps you start your day on a positive note.

Learn more about the benefits of gratitude and additional ways to practice.

Monday Musings

Today it snowed out of the blue. When I went to work in the morning it was cold, but sunny. Somewhere before sundown the wind started whipping up. Off to the north, the clouds grew dark, though those to the south remained white and fluffy, with patches of blue still visible between.

As the sun began to set the light grew golden. The wind tossed brown leaves around like boats on a choppy sea. That’s when the snow began–corn snow, pellet snow, vermiculite snow, depending on what part of the US you come from. The part I came from had no snow except for one day when I was in sixth grade and they closed the school. Before the next day it was gone.

I wish I had taken a picture of that sky–the gold sky, shimmering beneath brooding dark. It looked like magic, all thick and sparkling, as though walking out the door I would wind up in Bonnydoon. It looked apocalyptic, as though some terrible something had blotted out the sun. My boss said, back home, her original home in Minnesota, that sky would mean tornadoes. Perhaps it really was the work that kept her late, but perhaps she was just reluctant to leave the shop without a cellar to run to.

At the end of my shift I found the sidewalks and doorways filled with snow and my car covered from head to toe, while the streets were uncovered, damp and dark as the sky. I pulled my trusty scraper/brush combo from the trunk of my hatchback and cleared the windshields, letting the engine warm as I did.

I drove slow all the way home. I could see the ice beginning to crystalize on the pavement and knew my tires where pushing bald.

Today’s prepping wins:

  • Having an extra set of gloves in the car to wear when I couldn’t find my good ones
  • Having that multi-use scraper in the trunk so I didn’t have to beg or borrow from the woman one store down
  • Having an extra scarf and other warm clothes in the car, just in case

Today’s prepping fails:

  • Losing my good gloves in the first place
  • Not buying new tires before the snow hit
  • Ignoring for weeks the recall notice on my car because I haven’t had time to get over to the dealership (or even figure out where the dealership is) to get it taken care of

Sometimes the snow sneaks up on you, but given that our first light dusting hit over a week ago, it was well past time to get the car, and especially the tires checked out. As for the wins? Sometimes procrastination is a good thing and I’m happy to have wasted the trunk space for the last 7 months so I could have what I needed today.

Unplug

Several weeks ago I talked about how turning off your monitor/TV/ tablet/smartphone at least an hour before bed can dramatically improve the quality of your sleep. If just one hour can make that big of a difference for your sleep cycles, imagine what an entire screen-free day could do. Imagine getting back not only the mini-breaks that we so often fill with checking our phones, but long breaks as well. Imagine the sound of silence, unfettered by soundtracks, special effects, videos. Imagine looking around or talking to people while you wait in line.

I have to admit, the first time I tried it, I pretty much failed. I missed the noise, the constant connection. I missed the habit of it. I made it until about 9:30 am before flipping on the computer for 30 minutes of emergency email checking. When I turned it off, I hardly knew what to do with myself. Suddenly I had a lot more time on my hands that was usually filled with Hulu and YouTube and Facebook and all the randomness that Facebook spawns. I did the dishes and the laundry. I reorganized my overflowing bookshelves. I worked on a quilt.

The best part was that the longer it went, the calmer I felt. There was no urgency to keep on top of every post or email, no inundation by endless irrelevant information, no buzzing of screens. By the end of the day, I could hardly stand the idea of having to turn the computer on the next morning for work.

And while this may not be the case for everyone–it will probably be easier for people who log less daily screen time and harder for those who log more–an increased sense of calm and better night’s sleep isn’t the only reason to give this exercise a try. It’s also great conditioning for times when networks go down or power goes out. Imagine the cold-turkey misery of a days-long power failure. Practice filling screen-free time means that when the outage occurs, you won’t find yourself staring blankly at a black screen trying to will the power back on. Or at least not for quite as long.

Know Your Neighbors

A quick perusal of crime prevention safety tips reveals something interesting. One item almost all of them have in common (aside from “don’t broadcast your vacation on Facebook) is to get to know your neighbors. While it might feel counter-intuitive in a worst-case prepping scenario–the more people you know the less far your stash will go–it really does makes good sense. It is, after all, the premise Neighborhood Watch was founded on.

For preppers, though, it can be even better to take it beyond the standard “you look out for me, I look out for you.” The best case scenario, is to turn your neighborhood into a community.

Being part of a community goes way beyond knowing someone’s name, phone number, and general work schedule. Community is about building connections, relationships, bonds. It’s about becoming invested in each other’s well-being, about knowing that we are stronger together than we are apart, about having someone to bring you soup when you’re sick, or pick up your kids if you have to work late, or even just go to a movie with. It can also mean an increased ability to lay-in supplies, grow a food garden, share expenses of big ticket items like generators.

In the town of Totnes, England, it goes even further than that. It means creating a community independent of reliance on fossil fuels through a movement called Transition. Originally a response to Peak Oil, Transition is a viable response to many catastrophic possibilities. Power failures of any kind. Loss of transportation or communication between towns. Breakdown of mechanized farming. Skynet.

How? “By engaging…communities in home-grown, citizen-led education, action, and multi-stakeholder planning to increase local self reliance and resilience.” Those actions can include community gardens, re-skilling, creating a local clean power co-op, training and education, and more.

Rob Hoskins, the father of Transition, explains more about Peak Oil and the Transition movement in this 2009 TED Talk.

Bob Hoskins has also authored two books on the movement: The Transition Handbook, and The Transition Companion

The Transition Handbook

The Transition Companion

It’s true that the lone wolf surviving on his strength and wits can be an appealing path. But what happens when you get your leg caught in a trap? With community, there’s someone to get you out.

The Calming Effect of Cleaning House

The last couple of weeks I have been insanely busy–work, events, project deadlines… As a result, this morning my place looked like it has experienced its own apocalypse. So when I sat down this afternoon to try and sort out my schedule and projects for the coming week, I became instantly overwhelmed. If I couldn’t even find my planner under the mountain of mess on my desk how was I supposed to get any planning done? The solution is obvious: clean the desk. But when you’re already feeling over-committed and behind schedule, taking time away from pressing projects can feel like a luxury you can’t afford. So forward we plow, not realizing that the 10, 15, 20 minutes it would have taken us to do a quick clean and organize would have been more than made up in saved time and enhanced focus.

The same can be true of prepping, especially for those of us who live in small spaces. The thought of trying to find space for gallons of water can just be too much when you barely have room for your shoes. Luckily the same steps that can clear your brain for the next important project can help make prepping easier, too:

  1. Stop thinking about prepping, or whatever your most pressing project/s may be.
  2. Look around your room, paying attention to which areas are most contributing to your stress levels.
  3. Choose one area that: is making you crazy, is manageable in size, and will not take a ton of brain power to complete–dishes are especially good for this, so are folding laundry and cleaning the bathroom. Cleaning your desk can work, too, if you focus on sorting and filing and don’t get caught up in everything that has to be done.
  4. Clear, clean, wash, dust, file or whatever your chosen spot requires your hands to do, while keeping your mind gently focused only on the specific task before you and your emotions detached from the action. If you chose dishes, for example, focus on the warmth of the water, the swirl of the sponge, and the methodical spread of open counter space.

As you work, a couple of things happen:

  1. The mess begins to disappear, taking at least one part of your stress with it.
  2. Your mind begins to relax and calm from the repetitive, meditative action of moving your body while giving your brain a break.
  3. Your pressing projects and problems are allowed to percolate just below your consciousness, making connections with possible solutions–like noticing a more space-efficient way to organize your kitchen cupboard as you put the dishes away, or realizing that you have two copies of a book that you don’t even need one of, which gives you more room on the shelf for a few of the books stacked on the floor.
  4. Cleaning and clearing can be contagious, and what starts at the kitchen sink can easily spread to the bedroom, office, family room, and beyond.

One last note: If you have time constraints due to other commitments, try setting a timer for 15 minutes and do as much as you can in that amount of time. While it does amp up the stress initially by adding the pressure of time, once you see how much can be accomplished in a short time span, it will actually decrease your stress over the long term.

Chop Wood, Carry WaterRecommended resources:

 

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Fresh Fish and Veggies

A few years back I attended a local community meeting that talked about aquaponics–a method of growing fish and vegetables in tandem so the plants purify the water and the fish waste feeds the plants.

It’s a great idea, but back then most of the systems took up a lot of real estate. Lately, though, people have started to come up with more compact options, taking aquaponics from farm to yard to house to apartment. Which is great, because one of the most important items to prep is food, and for the best quality, fresher is better. Even enough greens for a salad can make a difference when you’re living on canned goods.

Here are some of my favorites: