All Posts by Olivia Bedford

9 Tips to Overcome Prepping Slumps

It’s so easy for the hot, lazy days of summer to just sort of run into each other until the day arrives when it’s time once again to get the kids ready for school, and we ask, where did the summer go?

If your prepping goals have taken a break right along with your pledge to have the kids do daily math drills and read for at least 30 minutes every day, then here are a few prepping activities and tips to avoid the summertime prepping slump.

1.  Get the kids involved in prepping activities

If they’re sitting around the house doing nothing, then they can help you prep! They can fill canning jars, mylar bags, and buckets with dry goods and oxygen absorbers. They can help weed the garden and pick ripe fruits and vegetables. They can wash and prepare produce for canning and dehydration. Kids can go through their closets and drawers and pull out toys they no longer play with and clothing that no longer fits.

Hey, every time they say they’re bored, give them a prepping related task! They’ll have something productive to do and you’ll accomplish your prepping goals more quickly.

2.  Learn something as a family

Check out online calendars for craft stores, REI, Cabela’s, gyms, and your city’s summertime offerings. Many of these are survival and/or prepping related, such as learning how to read a compass, learning how to crochet or sew, etc. and very often these classes are free.

If these resources aren’t readily available to you, then check out a how-to book or watch some how-to YouTube videos on something your family would like to learn and do it yourselves!

Or, ask around and see if there is someone in your circle of friends and acquaintances who has a skill you would like to learn and is a willing teacher.

3.  Turn a family outing or vacation into survival training!

Camping, hiking, fishing — those are all survival related, fun, and everyone can be involved. Check out these articles with more information about enjoying the great outdoors, as a prepper:

And then there are family road trips. As a veteran of some 16,000 highway miles, I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert in this area!

4.  Check into summer day camps related to prepping

Two summers ago my kids learned rifle skills in a 2-day camp at a local gun range. Lots of towns and cities start the summer with directories of these day camps.  If your kids are in a day camp or have gone away to camp, learning some sort of practical skill, then you’ll have time to either take a nap, read a relaxing book (just for fun!), or do anything else you like! Free time for mom is necessary!

5.  Amass produce in quantities and begin canning and dehydrating

Summer is prime produce time. Even if your garden was a flop or you didn’t get certain items planted, there are probably local gardeners and farmers who would love to share their bounty. Some might even be willing to trade a portion of their harvest for a portion of yours.

Bountiful Baskets is a large produce co-op that operates in many states. Do an internet search for “produce co-ops” in your area and you may end up finding a source of delicious, fresh product that you can then preserve for later.

Once you have a good amount of green beans or tomatoes or whatever, make a simple plan for canning, dehydrating, and/or pickling. If your kids are whining about being bored, then you know who your helpers will be! If you haven’t already, be sure to download Daisy’s book, The Organic Canner, for detailed canning instructions.

6.  Get away from the electronics!

Nothing zaps energy faster than sitting in front of a TV or computer screen hour after hour. Not only is time wasted but our minds and bodies become accustomed to inaction and it becomes even hard to get up and start doing something!

Allow yourself and the kids only a certain number of minutes per day in front of a screen.

7.  Take a few minutes to make lists to organize your prepping activities

A lot of time we find ourselves in a slump because we’re unfocused and are not sure what to do next. I’ve found that when I have all my scattered goals written down, it helps immensely. Be sure to read

 

8.  Assess whether or not the emotions that started your prepper journey have changed

If we begin a project or set a goal based mostly on emotion, when that emotion fades, and it will, very often our motivation fades as well. If you began preparing out of fear or panic, it’s likely that you’re not as motivated as you once were.

That’s all perfectly normal, however, if the logical part of your brain is convinced that prepping is important to the well-being of your family. You’ve just entered a new level of motivation based on rational conclusions. This is where lists come in handy: To Do, To Learn, To Buy. They’ll help you stay focused on what is most important regardless of the current state of your emotions.

9.  Start making plans and goals for when the kids are back in school

Summers are wonderful but let’s face it. When the kids return to school, so do routines. Having a predictable schedule once again will help you set priorities, focus on achieving small prepping goals, continue with prepping activities, and become the Super Survival Mom of your dreams!

OpSec Lessons From a Military Wife (and brat)

It only takes putting a few pieces of a puzzle together to start seeing a clear picture when it comes to OpSec and keeping quiet about certain bits of information.

Lessons learned from Wartime

When the Gulf War started, I was 10 years old and living overseas on a military base. Suddenly, OpSec (Operational Security) became the name of the game and more important than ever.

All the building signs that could be seen from outside the fence were covered in black garbage bags. I was just a child, and I pictured the enemy on top of nearby buildings with binoculars watching our every move and trying to gather information on the activity on the base.

All of this gave me an early lesson on the importance of information, and the lessons continued as my father and husband both served during the current conflicts.

Lessons I have Learned

1. Social media is not secure

As a military wife, information became more important for me to keep secure. Social media is not secure and if I were to announce that my husband was going on a work trip and where he was going, that piece of information could be found and become another puzzle piece for the enemy. Privacy settings should be checked often to make sure they are the most secure. Avoid advertising where you are by checking in places on Twitter and Facebook, which also advertises where you are not (at home).

2. Photos give a lot away

Digital photos often have date stamps on them, but if you take them with a smartphone, they can also have location stamps on them. A seemingly innocent family photo on your front porch can let people know where you live and how many people are in your family. You can go into your phone’s setting and disable the location stamp function. Then if you do post a photo to social media, make sure your settings are as secure as they can be.

3. Beware of eavesdroppers

Watch where you are when you talk as well. I knew military wives that were comfortable talking to other military wives no matter where they were, but restaurants and malls can be full of people who don’t need to know details that military wives know. Be aware of where you are when you talk with your friends about your preps. You may not worry about your friends, but what about their’s if and when they begin repeating what you’ve told them?

4. View through a stranger’s eyes

What information do you give out on your vehicles and house? Does your bumper sticker show how many children and pets you have and where you child goes to school or plays soccer? What would someone know about your family by looking through your trash? Remove, and possibly shred, items that give out information you would rather people not have. Then decide what kind of information you do want to present to a stranger. Large size men’s boots (visible on the porch or in your vehicle), a home security sign, a Marine Corps flag, and an NRA sticker might convey a more powerful message to people driving by than just having potted flowers.

5. Have a family code word

There should be a family code word that someone would have to use to pick up your child from an activity if you can’t make it so the child knows that you sent that person.

6. Parents need code, too

Adults should also have code words or signals for situations that may arise. This can be a helpful way for parents to talk about a situation without alarming the children.

7. What is your story?

I’ve learned that you do not need to lie to keep information secure, but you don’t have to tell all the facts. Be general instead of specific in answers to questions – but make sure your family is on the same page. When a store clerk asks why you are buying 10 pounds of rice, it doesn’t help if you say, “We’re having a party,” at the same time your daughter says, “We try to only go grocery shopping once a month.” Answers should have at least some truth to them to also make them easier to sell.

8. Children need reasons

You can’t expect to ask your children to not show their friends the basement and then not have them ask you, “Why can’t they know about it?” You will need to take the time to explain to you children why you are asking them to keep some information private.

It’s important to tell them what they can say – “We like to be prepared for emergencies” – and explain to them that it is a family’s private business how much and what food and supplies they have on hand. You can explain to them that just as we close the blinds when we leave the house so people don’t see the TV and want to break in and steal it, we don’t want to advertise all our supplies to people or they may want to come take those for themselves.

9. Don’t drive yourself crazy

Amidst all this, find someone you can talk to. Make sure your children know whom they can safely talk to. Not talking to anyone about anything about your family could start to drive you crazy. There are like-minded people out there and there is no reason to live your life paranoid about every little detail.

There is a balance to be found between being secretive and being open. We should find ways to encourage our friends and family to be more self-sufficient, but we can be careful about how we do it.

* Volunteer Work: A Super-Smart Frugal Strategy

When we think of preparing for emergencies, conventional wisdom tells us to stockpile food and water, know how to shut off our home utilities, and have a family plan. I can watch videos on the Internet and read books to learn preparedness skills. I have a plan and supplies to take my pets with me if I have to evacuate. So is that it? Am I done?

I would argue that there is a way to take your preparedness to the next level by becoming a volunteer. You can learn prepper skills through volunteer work without having to spend a dime on that training.

My advice on volunteering is mostly selfish as someone who has worked in the emergency response field for many years. I’m suggesting a fair exchange of your valuable personal time for knowledge, skills, and abilities that will increase your level of emergency preparedness and provide much needed help for the multitude of emergency agencies that exist. You would be surprised how much you can learn, how many like-minded people you can meet, and how your confidence can swell with focused, goal-oriented volunteer service.

In many ways, volunteers are in a better position to define their experience with their organization than if they were an employee. In many cases, the employer-employee relationship is coercive, with the money exchanged held over the employee’s head. The special status of the volunteer, sacrificing their time for no reimbursement, can open opportunities that are generally only available to paid staff.

I’ll make the case for learning prepper skills through volunteer work

I first volunteered in high school, through my school’s Key Club. I represented our school in a wheelchair-a-thon for a local charity; people pledged an amount for each lap I could complete around the ¼ mile school track. I surprised myself and others when I was able to push my wheelchair a full 5 miles that day…and I gained the perspective of the limitations of being confined to a wheelchair.

Over the years, other volunteer stints included:

  • Time as a police Explorer Scout, where I learned law enforcement culture, leading to a future job as a city cop
  • Volunteer firefighter, where I learned fire suppression and rescue skills, and gained lifelong friends
  • Disaster Medical Assistance Team member, leading to disaster deployments across the country and a chance to develop leadership skills
  • Currently a member of Team Rubicon where I just spent a weekend learning chainsaw skills and hanging out with patriots.

My investment in these opportunities was the effort spent looking for a good volunteer opportunity, my time, and attention.

Step 1: Road map to success

A first step is making an honest assessment of what you need to learn, as a prepper. Let’s say your weakness is in communications. You never even had a CB radio. Most communities have an Amateur Radio group associated with a police or fire department to provide communications support in emergencies. These groups are known by different acronyms like RACES or ARES, but all provide valuable opportunities to learn about radio communications and an inside view of their hosting agency, in exchange for a few hours of your time here and there.

If you’re going to learn prepper skills through volunteer work, you must first identify what it is you need to learn.

Want to increase your cooking skills on a shoestring budget? Volunteer for a soup kitchen. Don’t know the difference between a ball peen hammer and a cat’s paw? Habitat for Humanity will get you squared away. Building a house piece by piece will give you an extraordinary range of skills. And no outfit will teach you flexibility and give you more front-line experience with victims better than the American Red Cross. Their Disaster Action Teams help people every day in communities across the country. In addition, most communities have a “Volunteer Center” that helps steer prospective volunteers to appropriate volunteer groups that need help.

Step 2: Focus and Commit

You won’t achieve your goals and meet your needs if you approach volunteering in a half-assed manner. Volunteer-based groups go through hundreds of prospects before finding a person that can follow directions, take whatever entry-level training they require, and show up to meetings and events as expected. Believe me, once you are assessed to be a reliable volunteer that can follow rules and directions, opportunities will open up. Every group has an “old guard” that carries the institutional knowledge of the group, and if approached respectfully they love to pass on their knowledge no matter what the subject.

The training or opportunity that is your primary interest may not be immediately available. While you wait, make it a point to show up for as many events or work details as you can. Remember that volunteer organizations know that 80% of the needed work is done by 20% of their people. So be one of the 20% and they will invest in you.

Step 3: Assess your contribution vs. your gain

Volunteer as long as it meets your needs. There may come a time when you feel that it is no longer a good match for you…that’s OK! End your service to the group gracefully and move on, the need for good volunteers always exceeds the number available. On the other hand, if you have organizational or leadership skills, work your way up within a group; your opportunities to learn skills and access training will naturally increase.

Complete the Circle: Share your experience

This is both a suggestion and a challenge: as a volunteer, there area always new volunteers joining your group who need basic information and mentoring. If you are motivated to share information and skills with them, your skill level will increase as well. On the other hand, if that’s not your cup of tea you still need to pass the knowledge you gain as a volunteer to family and friends, increasing their knowledge, skills, and abilities. You invested the time and effort; make sure you can take advantage of what you learned in return.

Author Jim Acosta

* When the Power Goes Out: 10 Low-Tech Things to Keep You Busy

There’s one thing people enjoy doing when the power is out, and if you don’t believe me just show up to the nearest hospital 9 months later. There is often about a 20% increase in babies born, or in Hurricane Sandy’s case, about a 30% increase.

After natural disasters that force many to stay at home, and large metro area power outages that strand millions, about 9 months later there is a mini baby boom. – Florida News Journal

Nothing is wrong with enjoying each other when the power is out, but what do you do with the rest of your time?

After going through our first hurricane and losing power, I quickly realized practically EVERYTHING I do requires electricity. Entertaining kids was difficult (they’re iPad addicts), I couldn’t get any work done without a computer, and even chatting with friends was not an option without cell phones working.

With hurricane season here and the chance of being without power increasing, you might want to have a few ideas up your sleeve so you’re not twiddling your thumbs. It gets real boring – believe me! Every day without electricity felt like 100, especially when your neighbors get power back before you do and you can’t help but stare at them in envy!

10 Things You Can Do When the Power is Out

#1 – Take a Nap

I won’t lie, this is the first thing I did when the power went out, but it’s usually what I do whenever I have some extra time. 😉 Go ahead and let yourself relax and catch-up on sleep. Let’s face it, most of us could use a little more!

#2 – Meet Your Neighbors

Kuddos to you if you know your neighbors already, but if you don’t, get out of your house and meet them. There really isn’t a better time to get to know your neighbors than when the power is out and everyone is forced outside anyways.

#3 – Play Games (the old-fashioned kind)

With Wii’s, iPads, and Play Stations, we sometimes forget that not all games that aren’t hooked to an outlet exist. Find some fun games your family enjoys, or be creative and invent your own!

#4 – Write a Letter

When’s the last time you wrote a letter, with a pen and paper? I”m sure you can think of someone who would appreciate knowing you were thinking of them. You can also take this time to write in (or start) a journal!

#5 – Learn a Foreign Language

Learning a new language requires plenty of quiet, thinking time and lots of time for practicing new words. In the power-free hours following a major storm or some other disruption, why not learn a little Spanish? Or French? Norwegian or German? There are 2 websites that I recommend for this purpose: Mango Languages and DuoLingo. Both also have handy phone apps, and as long as you have a small generator or solar chargers that can keep your computer and/or smartphone charged, you can begin working on becoming multi-lingual!

#6 – Practice Survival Skills

This is a great time to take the kids outside and teach them a thing or two about survival (or even work on a few skills yourself)! Here’s a list of 48 skills you can print out and have ready for when the power goes out.

#7 – Read an Actual Paper Book

With Audible and e-books becoming so popular, not as many people have a library of books in their home. If this is the case for you, make sure you get a few books to read because they will become your best friend! Need some ideas? Here’s a list of books related to survival and prepping and another list of similar books for kids of all ages.

By the way, kids of all ages enjoy being read to. A chapter book, such as The Hobbit or Hatchet are great for family bonding time, since everyone is enjoying the experience together and will have plenty to talk about after each chapter.

#8 – Make a Shopping List

Chances are you’ll start to realize you don’t have everything you need – especially when the stores are closed! This is a great time to take inventory of what you have (or don’t have) and make a shopping list.

#9 – Get Outside

Go on a walk, take a bike ride, work in the garden, or even play flashlight tag once it gets dark. Sometimes we don’t appreciate the outdoors enough – I know I don’t!

#10 – Organize Your Preps

Sometimes getting organized is one of those things that keeps getting pushed down to the bottom of your to-do list! Well…when you don’t have anything else to do, take advantage and finally get it crossed off!

*** REMEMBER***

Don’t forget to make a printed list of all the things you can do when the power is out, because you won’t have the internet when it does! Better yet, put a box together filled with games, books, and this list for the times you’re without power.

* Preparedness for Power Outages When You Live in a Small Space

Going without electricity for a few days can throw off the whole balance of a family. When living in an apartment or condo there are simple ways to keep the family in clean clothes, power electronics and provide decent cooking options. You just have to know a few things about preparedness for power outages.

Power Sources

Most apartments or condos don’t come with an emergency power generator. Not only are most generators are  expensive to buy (portable or not) but they also require fuel. Between the two, that’s a good deal of resources and space used up in your home. Luckily there are other ways around a generator.

Car Battery

I have seen so many things that can be run on a car battery. I have even been able to find an adapter that has electric sockets so items can be plugged in. If you have access to your car battery you can run anything from a shower to a stove. With the above mentioned adapter you could even run an electric fan if you needed to.

When you choose to use a car battery as a power source, you have the ability to use the item you are powering without needing to keep a generator running. This is particularly helpful if you have built your own generator. Best of all, a car battery can be charged and used again.

Solar Power

Solar power can be useful for charging those little things we have trouble living without in our lives. Depending on the size of the solar charger you can power anything from a phone to a laptop. Some solar chargers are also made to be mobile. They come in the form of a pad you can roll up and take with you or are small enough to store in a purse. If you rely on electronic devices to stay in touch with people, organize your schedule, pay bills, or for your livelihood, this is an important part of preparedness for power outages.

Exercise Powered Generator

YoutTube has a large number of creative ways to produce power using treadmills, exercise bikes and mountain bikes. Rather than chemical energy (in the form of fuel) you are using kinetic energy (in the form of body movement) to power a device or to charge a car battery (a car battery is fully charged around 12.6 volts).

Building these generators may require other components such as energy adapters, alternators and serpentine belts depending on which type of generator you choose to build. It’s important to use a video, book, or website that shows very detailed instructions with regard to building your generator.

Doing Laundry

Being without power or stuck in our homes for a while doesn’t suddenly make us happy to wear dirty clothes. There are some options available to help us get our clothes clean.

Hand Cranked Machines

I have seen a couple models of hand cranked washers. They usually cost some where between fifty and one hundred dollars. There are even models that have a built in spin dryer. The Wonderwash is one that we reviewed, and a simple plunger-and-bucket method is described in The Survival Mom:

My recommendation is a child-powered washing system. This can
be as simple as two 5-gallon buckets with lids, two new toilet plungers,
and round holes cut in the center of both lids for the handles of the
plungers. Fill the first bucket with water, a little soap, and a few pieces
of dirty clothing and put that kid to work! You can explain that the
process is the same as for churning butter. Boys, in particular, might
be enticed to work harder if they realize it’s a great exercise for building
their biceps. Either way, in a few minutes you’ll have clothes that are
ready to be rinsed in clean water in the second bucket, wrung out, and hung on a clothesline.

If you don’t have laundry facilities (or don’t want to shell out five dollars per load) these sweet little machines also reduce the amount of laundry that you will need to take to the laundry mat when there isn’t an emergency. If you have a larger family they are great for keeping up with socks and under garments. Smaller families can just keep up with clothes daily.

When using these items it’s important to consider:

  • Upper body strength,
  • The amount of soap you plan to use and
  • Load size

Over loading a hand cranked washer may not break it, but your clothes won’t agitate well and will remain dirty.

In a long-term power  outage, you’ll want to completely re-think the way you and your family dress. There’s a reason why, for many decades, women wore aprons and pinafores. They protected the clothing underneath, which stayed clean-ish for weeks, if necessary. Made of lightweight cotton, aprons were much easier to wash and quicker to dry than heavier pieces of clothing.

Drying Racks

Believe it or not, the type of drying rack you choose matters a great deal. You want to make sure to choose one that has a good solid base or can hang from the ceiling. Also, make sure that you can space your clothes far enough apart to maintain air flow. Without air flow to help your clothing dry they may just mildew on the rack.

Without A Balcony

When your condo or apartment has a balcony, you can get away with a lot when it comes to laundry. You don’t really need a spin dryer because your clothes can drip dry from racks placed on the balcony. This is particularly true in hot, dry areas.

When you don’t have a balcony or you live in a colder or more humid climate, having a spin dryer is the best way to go with an electric free laundry program. Small spin dryers can be powered by a car battery, although it’s possible to make your own hand-powered version. If you don’t have access to a spin dryer have a hanging drying rack over the tub in your bathroom. This will enable your clothes to drip dry without you needing to put down a tarp. Just make sure that the bathroom has plenty of airflow. Open windows and doors or set up portable fans.

Two more important considerations

There are couple of other items that can be easily stored and be useful in a extended power outage. These items make living conditions more comfortable for your household.

Showers

There are battery powered portable showers on the market, and there are some that run off of a car battery. Just plug it into the cigarette lighter. This is ideal for a camping trip, but can get complicated when you’re indoors.

For indoor showering there is a portable shower that pumps water out of a bucket. The one I found can be recharged from a laptop USB, filters water and has a water filtration system.

Cooking

There are many option for cooking without electricity. A simple one is the BBQ grill, and some apartment complexes provide them in the common areas. The very basic models fit well on a balcony. If you don’t have a balcony there is even a mini BBQ grill that is easier to store indoors. It’s perfect for grilling on a porch.

Watch for sales on charcoal around the major outdoor/picnic holidays, such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. One year I was able to stock up on 8 gigantic bags at a huge discount at Lowe’s.

There are a few varieties of camp stove  that are also an option, such as the dual-fuel EcoZoom stove. Kerosene stoves are a tried and true option, and there is also a stove that will run off a car battery.

If your cooking or heating source uses an open flame, whether with wood, kerosene, or some other fuel, it’s absolutely vital to never leave that fire alone, have at least 2 fire extinguishers in the house (and everyone knows where they are and how to use them, have plenty of ventilation, and a carbon monoxide detector/alarm.

Solar cookers are a long-time favorite of those wanting an alternative way to cook food and heat up water for emergencies. They are also a far safer option than anything that requires a flame. You can make your own, but the Sun Oven is considered to be one of the best, and I’ve also learned to love the Solavore.

Whatever you use to cook your food it will need a power source. Determine which fuel or power source works best for your family and with your available storage space and then stock up on that fuel, and lots of it.

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