Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Show Me the Money!

The economy stinks right now. No two ways about it. Prices up, incomes down. Unemployment sweeping the country like a wildfire. Foreclosures of houses left and right.
Everyone I know is *just* scraping by.

Preps can be expensive. It would be nice if everyone could have gardens, fields and orchards to harvest and store food from, but it is just not so. I have stuff I HAVE to buy. You have stuff you HAVE to buy. No one can be entirely self-sufficient in this day and age, unfortunately.
I know a few folks that are pretty close to it, but even they have to buy certain necessities.

Here's the deal...we all could use a little more money. Most of us spend most of whatever monies we earn to pay for the basics...food, shelter, transportation, etc. Extra money to go to the *Prep* fund is hard to come by after the basics are paid for.

So, you may be able to earn a little extra per week or month to go towards your preps.
Here are some money making ideas...

If you live out in the country with some acreage:

-rabbits as pets, for meat, for furs, for worm food, for fertilizer/compost.
-raise chickens for meat/eggs
-worms for composting, bait, fish farm food/catfish barrel
-goats for milk, soap, ethnic meat market
-pigs for pig roast
-butterflies for weddings, special events, crafts
-exotics, careful of ponzi schemes...
-bees for honey, wax, pollination service, alternative health, bee hive removal service
-get into ethnic meat sales by donating meat to churches and organizations as advertising.

-lumber (sawmill)

Organic Produce Stand/gardening
-sell only high end produce, unless you are marketing something unusual or hard to find you will be competing with corporate farmers who will outprice you and your return will be very small.
-gourds/luffas for the crafters market
-herbs, fresh or dried
-grow nursery plants, bushes, shrubs, vines, trees, etc
-flowers for edible flower salads
-Xmas tree farm
-ornamental shrubs
-potted plants
-trees (fruit, nut, woodlot, etc)
-aquatic/pond plants/flowers

Handy Man Services
-Trash hauling
-Computer Service/Support
-Yard work
-Rototilling/tractor work
-Snow removal/plowing
-Window washing
-Gutter cleaning
-cleaning basements/garages/attics
-build picnic tables, benches, mailboxes, adirondak chairs, gazebos
-fix up old cars and resell them

House sitting/Care taking for vacationing farmers/homesteaders

-Write articles for newspapers/magazines
-Publish your own books
-Publish a quarterly newsletter with articles about what is going on on your homestead and use it to advertise your products.

Sell gift baskets filled with food and crafts all produced on your homestead.

*jewelry and metalwork
*furniture finishing and re-finishing (new pieces, old pieces)
*quilting and sewing
*making stuffed baby toys - sock critters and such
*papercrafts - greeting cards and the like
*growing and selling pumpkins, ornamentals such as gourds and ornamental corn
*house/pet sitting
*other arts and crafts
* organizing yard sales for others
* planning children's birthday parties or other parties for the over worked

If you are talented at a specific thing...such as sewing or watercolors or baking or martial arts, consider giving private lessons.

A BIG thing starting to happen is a *Private Preparedness Consultant* for homes and businesses.
Basically, you go in, and show a family/individual/business the basics they can do in their home/business to prepare for disasters, SHTF, whatever. Show them how to start a home food storage for themselves, etc.
For businesses, you would be showing them how to prepare for extreme storms or urban unrest, storage of needed supplies for employees, basic security for supplies, etc.

Now, maybe you are in an apt, not much money for supplies, few tools and you don't have a *talent* that you think can be translated into cash on the side....
Reassess yourself!
I knew one lady who didn't think she could do anything. She ended up with a bunch of cast off rocks...flat ones, pretty ones, shiny ones, etc. One day she took some Gorilla glue and using a flat rock as a base, she glued rocks and some crystals she had to the flat base creating a *rock garden*. She added a small candle. Just making something cute for herself. A friend saw it and wanted one. Then another friend. A year later she was making 500 bucks at a craft fair in one weekend!

Every little bit counts right now!
If you find a part time money making effort that works for you, do it. Plow that money into paying off bills (such as mortgage/credit cards/car) and for getting preps!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Just a Pause to Reflect

I have read some disturbing things in the past few months---as we all have.
Conflict in the Middle East.
Saber rattling in Korea.
Shootings in Germany.
Shootings in the US.
Near war conditions in Mexico.
The economy crashing.
Violence around the corner.
Everything and everyone everywhere seemingly having a meltdown of epic proportions.

It IS discouraging.
Some days reading the news or watching a newscast is too depressing to contemplate.
It seems no matter where you live, you are or soon will be affected by such events.

People USED to ask me, "What are you preparing FOR?"
They don't ask anymore.
I find that rather sad. And disturbing.
More people are asking "HOW?" than "WHY?".

They want to know how to start a food storage, how to garden, how to sew, how to stock up on needed supplies.
I know a little about such things and I share what I have learned.
But it is the look in their eyes that so disturbs me.
Most have a look of mild desperation, or worse, barely repressed panic.
I can give advice, I cannot give comfort.

All I can advise is to prepare the best you can for the worst case scenario, but hope for the best.
That's what I am doing.

Along the way, I eat well, enjoy my preparing *hobby* and share with others.
I am lucky in that my children are grown, I have no major physical problems and I am able to keep a positive attitude.
I think a positive attitude is extremely important.
If you mope and wail and moan and assume the worst will happen, you will be miserable.
Who wants to survive whatever is to come if you are miserable every minute?

So, take a little time for yourself.
Do something that makes you happy, if only for 10 minutes.
A positive attitude will go a long way.
If it means spending a bit of money to go to a movie or buying yourself some little thing that delights you, go ahead.
Just take a bit of time to shake off the *doom and gloom* mindset you may have fallen into.

Cheer up, ignore the world for a bit.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Skillz...you gotta have them!

I am not Superwoman.
As far as I know, no such person exists.

I DO have a lot of primitive and basic skills.
These skills were acquired through three different reasons.

1) Necessity.
With a houseful of kids, I HAD to learn to cook and house-keep frugally. With little money for new clothes, I had to learn to sew. When I lived in the country when my children were small, I had to learn to slaughter and butcher out livestock and wild game for the table. (and yes, you would be totally justified in feeling sorry for those first few animals that made it to the table)

2) Curiosity. I may have not NEEDED a particular skill, but I was curious as to whether I could become proficient at it. Could I start a fire without matches or a lighter? Could I make a snare to catch a rabbit?

3) The knowledge that I would (or will) need the skills in the future.
Making my own vinegar mother. Making a *starter* for breads. Carding and hand-spinning wool and weaving. First aid.

All of this took time. Years. Decades (Hey, I'm old!)
There are skills I still want to learn.
Some I know a wee bit about already (small engine repair, harness making, using draft animals, knitting and crocheting)
Some I know NOTHING about (turning flax into linen thread, block and tackle lifting of heavy items, grey water (waste-water) systems and water purification and several other things.

I have found the best way to learn a new skill is to work on ONE at a time.
I start by looking online for information. (I used to hang out at the library to do this before computers entered the scene!)
Then I read up on it as much as possible. I will read online, then get a couple of library books and finally, buy a good book on the subject.
For me, there is something so *tangible* about a book in hand. It makes the subject more accessible to me. If I wake up at 2 am and am unable to fall back asleep, I will frequently get out the book and read and re-read various details on the subject.
Youtube is an excellent resource for seeing skill tutorials. Just put in the search bar the particular skill (how to milk a goat, for example) and watch it over and over.

Then I pick a technique or a small detail from what I have mentally learned and try it physically.
I never tackle a whole project first try! That can be so discouraging!
For example, if you want to learn quilting, don't try to make a whole quilt--not even a baby quilt--first time you try. Make a mug coaster. Make several. Then try a tote bag or a purse.
Work your way up to a large project.

Now, a pause here to talk about "physical memory" or "body memory". Not just our brain, but our body remembers.
When you practice a skill, over and over, you are *embedding* that memory and knowledge into your body's memory. You are programming yourself to do a task automatically.
If you engage in any sport or massively physical skill, you already know this.
It's the reason coaches make players practice so many repetitions of the same action over and over.
It's the reason the military is the champion at repetitions! Visit a military firing range some day.
You want certain skills to be automatic.
Even with a creative skill, such as quilting, you want your hands to have the *memory* of doing stitch after stitch. It becomes automatic.
That may sound a bit robotic, but it will actually free you to be MORE creative. Once you don't have to worry about getting every stitch right, your body knows how!---you can introduce more variations and inject more of *you* .

Back to learning a new skill. As I said, pick a small project first and work your way up to a large project. Many of my friends got mug coasters and tote bags until I got confident at my quilting!

Make projects that will be useful to you or to give as gifts, if possible.
Some skills may come without the ability to do this.
Fire starting. Using draft animals. Small engine repair. Stuff like that.
Nevertheless, practice.
When you feel you have *got it*, move on to the next skill, but continue to get practice at the one you just learned. (Gotta nudge that *body memory* every once in a while to keep it fresh!)

I generally try to pick 4 skills per year. Of course, I may pick up something pretty quickly. In that case, I go down to the next one on my list and start on that one. If a skill is taking me an impossibly long time, I will put it aside temporarily and go to the next one on my list, but I WILL come back to it!
There are some skills I have intentionally not tried to gain, due to the expense, time or nature of the skill.
I used to work on cars. My own and others. I let this fall by the wayside years ago when they started putting computers and other high-tech features in. I am pretty confident I can work on a 1967 Ford pick-up, but I am also pretty confident that I cannot work on a 2008 Escalade.

Some skills you have to update at pretty regular intervals, due to technological changes.
If you were taught to sew on an electric sewing machine and move off-grid and then have a treadle sewing machine, you WILL need to learn sewing all over again!
I generally like to learn the most *primitive* technique of doing a skill first.
My first few sewing projects were completely hand done. Tedious, yes, but very instructive as I learned rapidly the *bones* of apparel construction.

So, pick a skill. ONE skill you wish to learn.
Start gradually, but keep plowing on through it.
Eventually, you WILL get it!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Community Gardening

I live in a residential area of a mid-sized city on Texas' Gulf Coast.
My neighborhood has houses on decent sized lots.
We also have vacant lots in the neighborhood.
Recently, our neighborhood association went to the city and asked for permission to take over the care and upkeep of one vacant lot. It had reverted back to city ownership due to taxes and the like and the city crews occasionally came through and mowed it.
The city, happy to be relieved of the burden, agreed.
We (the neighborhood) are in the process of planting a community garden.
It will not be neatly fenced off plots for each neighbor, it will be an attractive, small *pocket park* with flowering trees, pathways and benches.
But, the big difference will be that everything planted will be edible varieties.
Lemon, lime and orange trees. Blueberry bushes. A strawberry patch. Walkways edged with kale and collard greens. A patch of herbs here and there. Tomato plants. Peppers.

An edible garden.

Still attractive, but with a purpose.
Anyone that wishes to can harvest from the garden, whether they contributed to the labor and upkeep or not.
It has been shown that in areas with *edible gardens*, crime went down. Community involvement went up.
Our neighborhood community is doing this in an attempt to encourage other neighborhoods to do the same.
We want to see every vacant lot in town to become gardens where people can raise food and harvest food.
With as much vacant land as there is in most towns, there is ample room for gardens.
Even small patches in urban areas can be changed from useless green spots of grass to USEFUL green spots planted with carrots or Swiss chard. Still attractive, but with a far more practical nature.

Think of the possibilities!
Highway median strips...miles long. Normally planted with grass, they could be planted with grains---which, after all, are simply more *domesticated* grasses.
The landscaping around public buildings, time consuming, water needy, could be planted with fruit trees and shrubs instead.

There are a lot of hungry people out there. Food banks are currently over burdened. Prices continue to rise and there is no end in sight. More and more people are becoming unemployed.
Many of these people are not prepared. Still, that doesn't mean we (who are prepared) should simply shrug our shoulders and say "Must suck to be you". It also doesn't mean we should hand over our food to them.

Community gardens and edible landscaping can be part of the solution to hunger.

Tent cities are springing up around major metropolitan areas, with the unspoken consent of the urban planners and metropolitan governments. There is simply no other place for many of these people to go. Charities do their best to provide the denizens of these make shift housing areas with food and water and other necessities of life. Wouldn't it be sensible to have edible gardens planted adjacent to these tent cities?

Even if you have your own garden and are prepared, look around. Are there places in your community that would benefit from having an edible garden?
Remember, there is a huge benefit to neighbors, even if you, yourself do not harvest from the garden. In every neighborhood this has been tried in, CRIME GOES DOWN.
Prostitutes and drug dealers do not want to stand on a corner where people are apt to be coming and going to work on or harvest from the garden.
Vacant lots breed crime...with a well-tended garden, this is not as likely to happen.
It also gives the neighborhood a *vested interest* in that vacant lot.
If you see a drug dealer going into the bushes of a vacant, overgrown to make a deal, you are apt to turn a blind eye.
If you see a drug dealer going into a garden that you have helped tend...well, I expect most people would either call the police or get a few like-minded neighbors to go over there and let that dealer know his enterprise should be relocated to a different neighborhood, and quickly!

In the old colonial villages they had the Village Green. Animals could be grazed there and crops could be grown there.
I think it is time we returned to this concept.
We can start with common gardens.
Maybe later we can re-introduce the animals!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Quick Recipe for Dinner Tonight...

This is a recipe that was a mainstay at my house when the kids were small and up into their teens. It is the simplest recipe, anyone can make it. Gussied up, it is good enough for snooty guests!

Poor Mans Pasta


Enough Pasta to feed everyone in your house (or Rice if you are out of Pasta)
Sliced Onions (2 should do it, your choice of onions, I like Spanish reds)
Sliced Green, Yellow and/or Red Sweet Pepper (or a mix!) (1 or 2 work nicely)
Minced Garlic (do it yourself or use the stuff in jars with oil, again a couple cloves…to your taste)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (4 Teaspoons or so)
Meat (if you have it!) Italian sausage,sliced smoked sausage, ham or pepperoni chunks are good for this
2 Tablespoons butter (use margarine ONLY if you have to)
Italian seasoning or a mix of finely chopped fresh herbs (however much you want)

Optional…depending on your family’s tastes and how *gussied up* you want it:
a handful of olives, sliced
mushrooms (either fresh or dried…I HATE those canned/jarred slimy things)
Cheese (Parmesan, mozzarella, Fontana, feta…whatever you like)
Tomatoes, cut into chunks (I prefer Roma tomatoes) OR Dried Tomatoes--minced (the ones packed in oil do well)
Toasted Slivered Almonds (my oldest son added this…nice touch if you can afford it)
Pine Nuts
Broccoli or other veggies
Snow Peas


1. Cook Pasta, drain and set aside.

2. Toss onions and meat into good-sized frying pan, skillet or wok and sauté until it meat is done and onions are transparent. Add everything else (except cheese and fresh tomatoes) and sautée about 5 minutes more.

3. Chase cat off of counter.

4. Toss sautéed stuff into large bowl with pasta, throw in cheese and chunked fresh tomatoes

5. Toss well, serve hot in bowls with a good sized chunk of garlic bread, if you have that.

6. Make sure the little ones get their fair share… and put a bit in a bowl for the cat so it won’t jump on the table.

I usually don't measure a darn thing which makes for interesting results. But I did raise seven kids and they all loved this. Remember everything is to your taste, adjust, add or subtract as necessary! This was an end-of-the-month-and-we-are-broke recipe.

Now, for a Fancier dish, toss everything together, put in a casserole dish and top with cheese and Italian bread crumbs and broil just until cheese is melted and bread crumbs are a bit browned.

All my kids can make this dish. Son Daniel has made it with Ramen noodles and added sweet red chili sauce (Asian cooking mainstay) and 3 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter. Nice and spicy and it rocks! Thai noodles!
Son Gregory adds a cup of shredded carrots to the sautée and omits the butter and uses low fat cheese(he is on diet).

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tonight at the Improv...

And I am all happy with my gardening efforts (so far).
My watermelon patch is in the front yard. Spinach is planted on the side of the house in a shady area with the hopes it won't bolt to seed.
Cabbage is similarly in an area that gets plenty of shade and I am going to the nursery to grab some marigold plants this weekend to ward off cabbage moths.
All my plants are in their various beds, scattered about the yard, tucked into corners, a few in containers.
I found more seeds---non-hybrid at that!---at the local Family Dollar store. One dollar for five packs of seeds!

I couldn't afford to buy more chicken wire to put on a fence to support my snow peas (my original plan), but I did have a bunch of nails and some fishing line. So I planted my snow peas and put up a bunch of nails on the fence (in a pattern) and then strung my fishing line on the nails in a sort of lattice pattern. As my snow pea vines grow, they will have plenty of support!

Improvise, people, improvise!

Improv example...my neighbor had a yard sale. Mainly kids clothes and some dust collecting knick-knacks. But she had one big curtain. 100% cotton lined with muslin. Gorgeous print. She had never hung it, as she bought it on sale at J.C.Penny's and it didn't fit her window (always measure, write down the measurements and take said measurements with you when shopping!).
She wanted one dollar for it. I bought it, as I had an idea. That curtain, to me, was fabric. Pure and simple fabric.
I have a stash of patterns as I sew and enjoy sewing.
I took my find home and as I spoke to my darling man online, I ripped out the lining and all the seams and hems on the curtain. 5 minutes work.
Later, as I waited for my laundry to finish washing, I pinned the fabric to a pattern and cut it out. 10 minutes work.
I put my clothes in the dryer, came back in (laundry is in the garage) and while I waited for my laundry to dry, I sewed the dress together. 45 minutes work.

One dollar + One Hour = One Dress! (Sorry about the lousy pic, I use a very inexpensive web cam to take pictures)

I have already worn the dress several times and received many compliments on it. A couple of women wanted to know where I bought it!

My point is...look for other uses for things you may already have or that you can get cheaply.
Fishing line has dozens of uses besides fishing and beside holding plants up!
A curtain can be a curtain...or a dress. (Remember Scarlett O'Hara?)
A flower pot can be a baking dish, a utensil holder, a part of a wind chime...

As they are fond of saying in the corporate world...Think outside the box.

Here's some homework for you:
I know you are at your computer reading this (or perhaps outside on your laptop).
Look around you and pick one item.
A drinking glass, an old vitamin bottle, a pencil, a lap quilt...whatever.
Now, think of three things you can do with that item---besides the usage it is intended for.
Get creative, get silly...just let your imagination run free!