Category Archives for Articles – Week 6

Speaker: Cat Ellis

About Cat Ellis

Cat Ellis writes:

I’m an herbalist, author, and urban homesteader. My love of herbs began in my teens when I was fascinated with making perfumes, incense, drawer sachets, other lovely aromatic things. But after herbs helped me recover from a serious respiratory infection in the late 1990’s, my focus shifted decidedly towards herbal medicine.

My husband and I threw ourselves into urban homesteading when we both lost our incomes in 2008. We knew there had to be a better, more frugal and sustainable way to live. We were already interested in camping, gardening, beekeeping, and other self-reliant hobbies. The failing economy, however, kicked our interests in preparedness, survivalism, and homesteading into high gear.

I am the author of two books, teach herbal and prepper courses, and homeschool my two children. Our family plans to ultimately relocate to our rural homestead site in Maine, where I can live out my dream of having a flock of sheep to support my knitting addiction.

Books by Cat Ellis

Click on the title to learn more or to order:

Cat’s websites

Cat’s Herbalism Courses

Cat is offering Preppers University students a discount on her Herbal Skills Intensive until Friday, June 23, 2017. Take $20 off with the code preppersu

Where to find Cat Ellis on Social Media

Cat’s Recommendations

Base oils at

Susan Weed’s pregnancy book: Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year

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What’s Bugging You? Dealing With Parasites In Humans

There are many different types of parasites that can affect us in the aftermath of a man-made or natural disaster. If we have a scenario of a large scale disaster or the grid goes down, we will encounter things, yucky things, that we normally wouldn’t, including parasites in humans. Crowded living conditions, shared clothing or personal items, and poor hand hygiene are a recipe for trouble that makes me want to stay home and not be forced (by necessity) to live in a FEMA camp.

I have been researching what types of parasites are most common in my area (Northwest Indiana).  Your area may be different, so it is wise to do a little research, but most of these are widespread and highly communicable even without a disaster. Have some medical preps to deal with them is just being smart.

In this article, I will tell you the things that the CDC and medical professionals recommend for treating various parasites, and some alternatives if you don’t have access to (or want to use) those treatments. Please remember that alternative medicine is still medicine and use it with care, especially if you are already taking other medications. There is a shopping list for the essential oils and other alternative therapies mentioned at the end of this article. (Many are multi-purpose.)

The two basic types of the common parasites we may encounter are internal and external.

Common Internal Parasites: Their symptoms and treatment suggestions


Symptoms: Vague abdominal pain, weight loss, distended abdomen, or vomiting. While larvae migrate through the lungs, there may be fever, cough, wheezing, sub-sternal discomfort and breathing difficulty.

Roundworms are found in soil, then get on your hands, and can be ingested. They’re also found in food contaminated with human waste. Children are more likely to get these. Cover sandboxes when not in use and have your kids tell you if they see anything weird in their poop.

Treatment: Maintain good personal hygiene. Wash hands frequently and with good technique. Trim and clean nails. Use safe drinking water, sanitize it first if you must, and be sure to wash fruits and veggies in potable water. Avoid raw vegetables that you aren’t certain have been well cleaned. Cooked food is safe.

Medications recommended by the CDC: Corticosteroids, Albendazole, & Mebendazole.


Symptoms: Initial rash at site of infection, coughing, diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramps, fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath (SOB), anemia, and nausea.

Because it is in the soil, walking barefoot in contaminated soil allows it to enter through the skin. It is spread where infected human feces is used as fertilizer. It enters the bloodstream, then the lungs, where it’s coughed up into the mouth, swallowed, and sent to the GI tract.

Treatment: Medications recommended by the CDC are Anthelmintic meds such as Albendazole & Mebendazole.


Symptoms: Can be asymptomatic, or itching around rectum (worse at night), severe scratching can result in a secondary infection.It may be seen with the naked eye a few hours after bedtime, by shining a light or pressing a wide piece of tape against the site.  Upon examination, they look like fine threads, less than an inch long.

Pinworm is spread human to human in crowded living conditions. Animals do not carry pinworms.

Treatment: Good handwashing, launder all bedding, clothing, and toys every other day for 3 weeks. Medications recommended by the CDC are Albendazole (Albenza), Mebendazole (Vermox), and Pyrantel Pamoate. A single tab kills the worms. A second dose is required a few weeks later to kill any newly hatched eggs.


Symptoms: Sometimes asymptomatic, but may include nausea, weakness, diarrhea, abdominal pain, worm segments in a bowel movement, hunger or loss of appetite, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

WebMD states: “Tapeworms are flat segmented worms that live in animals that have become infected while grazing or drinking contaminated water. Eating under cooked meat is the MAIN cause of infection in humans.”

There are 6 major types of tapeworms, which come from beef, pork, and fish. The larvae live in the muscles of their host and infection occurs when you ingest raw or under cooked meat. You can get pork tapeworms from an infected PERSON who prepares food with dirty hands. Usually tapeworms aren’t life threatening, but on rare occasions may be.

Treatment: A blood test can identify the particular worm by the antibodies you produce. Type and length of treatment depends on the type of worm. The most common med prescribed is praziquantel (Biltricide). A stool sample is checked at one and three months for signs of eggs or worms.

The CDC recommends that you avoid raw or under cooked meat, and not just in an emergency situation.

Cook whole cuts of meat to at least 145 degrees and poultry to at least 165 degrees. Allow it to “rest” for 3 minutes before carving.Ground meat and wild game should be cooked to at least 160 degrees. The University of Minnesota Extension office recommends freezing meat to -4 degrees for 4 days to kill eggs.

TIP: A meat/candy thermometer might be a good addition to your preps, since it’s impossible, otherwise, to know for sure the temperature of cooked food and heated water.

Cook fruits and vegetables or wash raw produce thoroughly. (I personally think an apple cider vinegar wash for several minutes would work well.)

Trichinellosis (Trichinosis)

Symptoms: According to, symptoms begin with abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and nausea. A few days later, muscle ache begins, along with itching, fever, and chills. Two to eight weeks after ingestion, joint pain develops. There may be “splinter-like” hemorrhages under the fingernails. Eye inflammation occurs, too.

Trichinosis is a worm picked up by eating raw or under cooked pork from an infected animal. This parasite can pass through the intestinal wall and lodge in muscle tissue.

Treatment: Generally not needed, as most people recover without problems. Occasionally, with more severe symptoms, Thiabendazole , Albendazole, Mebendazole, and Prednisone will be prescribed.

Giardia Intestinalis

Symptoms: Bloating, bad breath and gas, dehydration, diarrhea, greasy floating stools, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, stomachache, weakness, and weight loss.

Giardia is a protozoa released by an infected person in a bowel movement. The feces contaminate food, water, or surfaces. You get infected by ingesting the microscopic cysts. They thrive in the small intestine where they feed and multiply. Many animals can be infected too: birds, cows, sheep, deer, dogs, and cats.

Treatment: The CDC recommends taking antimicrobial drugs such as Metronidazole, nitazoxanide (for kids), tinidazole, Nitazoxanide, paromomycin, quinacrine, & furazolidone.

Common External Parasites in Humans


Symptoms: Intense itching, especially at night, and a pimple-like rash. It can cover the whole body but common sites include the wrist, elbows, armpits webbing between fingers, belt line, and “below the belt” – in short, areas where there are natural folds in your skin. Sometimes tiny “burrows” are visible under the skin.

Scabies is usually spread by direct, prolonged contact with an infected person. It spreads easily in crowded conditions and by sharing towels, bedding, or clothing. Scabies can be spread even before you have symptoms.


Treatment: Normally it is diagnosed with viewing a skin scraping under a microscope, but is usually based on appearance. A scabicide is prescribed by a doctor. There are no OTC meds at this time.

The NIH website recommends a “Permethrin” cream be applied from the neck down and left on for 8-14 hours, then washed off. A lotion is applied to freshly washed hair. Don’t use conditioner. (Do this over a sink, so none of the lotion gets on your body). Leave it on for ten minutes.

Wash all clothing, bedding, and personal items in the hottest water possible. Repeat as recommended. All members of any household with even one person with scabies should be treated to prevent further infestations.

The CDC website states never to use a scabicide for veterinary use to be used on humans because there haven’t been clinical tests on humans for veterinary meds. At least as importantly, animals don’t spread scabies and the type of scabies mite that causes “mange” is different from the one that spreads among humans. The “mange” mite can’t survive or reproduce on humans. But, in a true emergency,…Tractor Supply isn’t far.

Scabies can’t live longer than 2-3 days away from human skin.Wash contaminated clothing and bedding under hottest wash and drying cycles. Bag any item that can’t be washed securely and remove it from body contact for at least 72 hours.

Vacuum carefully, and get rid of the bag outside. You don’t need to fumigate the whole house.


Head Lice

Symptoms: Sometimes you can just see them and they can be itchy. Spread by direct contact or sharing scarves, hats, etc. Lice can only crawl, and can’t hop, jump, or fly.

Treatment: OTC medication include: Pyrethrins that kill lice but not nits; Permethrins that may kill eggs for several days, but often need repeat treatment; Dimethicone silicone oil that smothers the bug; and Lindane shampoo (Kwell) that works well, but can be toxic to the brain and nervous system. I wouldn’t want to use this on a young child.

There is a prescription drug called Ovide that is made from tea tree oil and alcohol. Why not make it yourself? Tea tree oil can be put into coconut oil and spread through the hair. Other oils that help are thyme, lavender, anise, ylang-ylang and geranium. I have heard of good results with NEEM oil (undiluted), and I would also “powder” my head with diatomaceous earth.

After all the lice are killed, you still have to go through all the hair under a good light and pick the nits out, otherwise they will hatch. Check every few days to see if any new nits have hatched. As with scabies, wash all bedding in hot water and use the hot dryer cycle.

Body Lice

Symptoms: Larger than head lice. Spread the same way as head lice. There are intensely itchy, red bumps on the skin that can become red or darkened, especially near the waist or groin. This lice has the ability to spread disease. The bug is the size of a sesame seed and can be seen with the naked eye.

Treatment: Body lice medications called “Pediculicides” can be used, but are generally not necessary. Just use good hygiene, laundering, and drying of clothes and bedding.

Pubic Lice

Symptoms: Pubic lice live in other areas that have coarse hair, too. They can be in beards, armpit hair, even eyebrows! It can be transmitted sexually, but can also be spread by infected towels or bedding. Itching is the main symptom.

Treatment: The OTC treatment is the same as for head lice. If items can’t be laundered, place them a plastic bag for 2 weeks.

Or shave everything off.

Bed Bugs

Symptoms: Small oval bugs that feed off human blood, especially at night. Bed bugs cause a rash that is small, flat (or raised) bump on the skin. There is redness, swelling, and itching.

Bed bugs have made a resurgence due to immigration and travel.They can be found anywhere in the world, and may hitch a ride home in your suitcase. Crowded living quarters, including simply living in an apartment building, can spread the infestation.

Treatment: First, find the bugs. They love to hide in the seams of your mattress, box springs, bed frames, edges of carpet, corners of dresser drawers, curtains, cracks in wallpaper, and in wicker furniture. You may see blood from their droppings where they congregate.

Pest control companies are usually called in to eliminate them.Many times you have to throw out the mattress because nobody can guarantee they have been totally eliminated.

There are over the counter insecticides to use, but once again, I’d recommend diatomaceous earth.  You can sprinkle it in every crack, corner, and drawer, and on carpets and curtains. YouTube has a video on how to make a bed bug trap. It was awesome. I made some with my friends.

You can buy a special mattress “bag” that prevents bed bugs from getting in. Also wash and dry all the bedding and clothing. Vacuum and get rid of the bag! If you are carpet free, it’s much easier to clean up an infestation.

There isn’t a treatment for bedbug bites. Just shower and try not to scratch, which will prevent a secondary infection. An anti-histamine or Benadryl may help.


They are actually arthropods (spider-like). Ticks are most common from April to September in low, brushy areas, but can be found year-round. Their population greatly increases after a mild winter. The bites can look as minor as a pink spot, or they can be red, inflamed, have a dark center, or have a bull’s-eye appearance.

There are 2 types of ticks: hard and soft. You usually don’t notice if a hard tick bites you, but the soft tick bite is extremely painful. Both can spread disease, but it typically takes at least 36-48 hours for ticks to transmit diseases to their human hosts, although it can happen during removal if their body is squeezed, causing them to vomit into the host.

Use the highest amount of DEET in a repellent spray or try some essential oil blends. Most essential oil brands sell a bug repellent blend including oils such as citronella.

Occasionally, people get reactions from the tick’s saliva. It can cause the redness or swelling that is associated with the bite. Sometimes, a toxin is excreted along with the saliva. The one that catches everyone’s attention is the toxin that causes Lyme disease (a bacterial infection). Lyme is contracted from deer ticks, which can be as tiny as the head of a pin, making it extremely easy to not see when they are attached.

Common symptoms of Lyme include a bull’s-eye shaped rash, followed by flu-like symptoms, numbness, confusion, weakness, joint pain and swelling, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, headaches…. Unfortunately, the simple, short fact is that the symptoms can mimic many other diseases and the one (bulls-eye rash) that is distinctive isn’t always present and may be missed, particularly if it is somewhere hidden like on your scalp, under your hair.

If you are in an area with high incidence of Lyme, be diligent about wearing tick-repelling products and protective clothing. Do regular tick checks if you go anywhere they might be, and keep tick-removal tools on hand. Make sure you know how to remove ticks safely. Then, if you start showing symptoms, go to the doctor promptly and tell them your concerns. The current test for Lyme’s disease is highly unreliable (many false positives and many false negatives), so they will probably give you the antibiotics even without a positive test.

Treatment: Oral antibiotics. The type prescribed depends on the stage of disease. Early stage meds are Doxycycline (vibramycin), Amoxycillin, or Cefuroxime axetil (Ceftin). Doxycycline shouldn’t be used in pregnant women or kids under 8 years old. Later stage meds include Ceftriaxone (Rocephin) and Penecillin G. Even when the bacteria are gone, there are long term effects that can last a lifetime.


Symptoms: Hives, itching, and rash. The rash has small bumps (often in sets of 3) that are intensely itchy, turn white when pressed, and may be located in skin folds.

Fleas live outdoors and come in with our pets (or maybe ourselves).

Treatment: For Bites: 1% Hydrocortisone cream, an antihistamine (Benadryl), anything cool, like an ice pack, calamine lotion, eating garlic!!!, and vinegar in a compress. Tea tree oil, lemon oil, lavender, cedarwood, and eucalyptus oils all seem to be hated by fleas. (Reminder: Links to essential oils are at the end of this article.)

There’s also food grade diatomaceous earth. Sprinkle that everywhere your pet sleeps or plays. You can rub it into their coats too! You can put it in their water bowl for internal bugs, read directions for amounts to use. There are all kinds of flea sprays, flea collars, and topical medications available as well as pest control companies, too.


Not really a worm, but a fungus (Tinea). Highly contagious.

Symptoms: The classic sign is a patchy, crusty, circular ring, sometimes more clear in the middle. It can be on any part of the body. Depending on the body part, you can have discolored nails, and lesions on the head with bald spots.

It is spread by touching or coming into contact with an infected person or animal. Cats are common carriers. To prevent athletes foot (a form of Tinea), don’t walk barefoot through shared floors at gyms or pools. Wash recently purchased clothes before wearing, and don’t share brushes or combs.

Treatments: Over the counter antifungal meds like clotrimazole (Lotrimin), Miconazole, or Tolnaftate (Tinactin). There are creams, lotions, and powders. Apply twice daily for 4 weeks. Essential oils to treat ringworm include oregano, rosemary, and thyme in sweet almond carrier oil. Cedarwood oil and lemon oil have been reported to have good results. Tea tree oil can also be used to fight athletes foot.

Alternative Therapies for Internal Parasites

Essential oils that some people believe are effective in reducing or eliminating parasites include:

Oregano, Thyme, Fennel, Roman Chamomile, Clove, Melaleuca (Tea Tree), Lavender, Bergamot, and Peppermint. Take in a capsule or with a beverage. (When I occasionally ingest an EO, I just put a drop or two in a large glass of water.)

Try a warm compress of a washcloth, dampened with hot water, and a few drops of your choice of essential oil. Another option is to apply oil directly to abdomen or bottoms of the feet. This information is from pages 285-286, “Modern Essentials”. (A DoTerra Oils Guide)

Dr. Josh Axe recommends a blend of black walnut, olive leaf, wormwood, and garlic to fight parasites. This combination comes in a bottle with all the above ingredients. Take daily for two weeks, stop for a week, start again for two weeks. This allows for the eggs that hatch to be killed.

Pumpkin Seeds: Blend 200 grams of raw pumpkin seeds in a blender with a cup of yogurt (with live cultures) into a smooth paste. Eat it in the morning on an empty stomach. The chemical compound in the seeds is called “cucurbitins” and it will paralyze the worms. An hour later, take a laxative. The worms can’t hold onto the intestinal walls and are eliminated outside the body. Drink water to help flush out the worms.

Essential oils for eliminating ringworm include: Melaleuca (Tea Tree), Oregano, Thyme, Cinnamon, Clove, Arborvitae, “Protective Blend”, Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary, Lemon, “Cleansing Blend”, Patchouli, Lemongrass, Juniper berry, and Geranium. Cypress was mentioned specifically for athletes foot, as is Tea Tree.

For yeast infections of the mouth (thrush): Eat Yogurt and take acidophilus pills.

Colloidal silver has been claimed to kill parasites.

Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth: Take a teaspoon mixed in water and drink it. It is made from the skeletons of tiny Diatoms. It’s perfectly safe for us, but it’s like ground glass to parasites. It slices and dices its exoskeleton. This is an effective therapy for external parasites, as well.

Alternative Therapies: Resources

Many of these are essential oils (EO), most of which are not regulated as medicine by the FDA. Before using any EO, read the instructions carefully. Some can be ingested with no problems, a small number may be poisonous if taken internally and are strictlyfor external use. Most are only used in tiny amounts, often not more than a literal drop or two.

When you buy any EO, please check to ensure the quality and don’t just buy the cheapest (or necessarily, the most expensive) one available.

ylang-ylang oil

thyme oil

tea tree oil

rosemary oil

pest defy blend

peppermint oil

oregano oil

lemon oil

lavender oil

geranium oil

fennel oil

eucalyptus oil

diatomaceous earth (food grade)

colloidal silver

clove oil

chamomile (Roman) oil

cedarwood oil

bergamot oil

anise oil

almond carrier oil

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Homecare Nursing: The Missing Piece In Survival Medicine

Medical planning and training is a huge subject among preppers, and with good reason. In a large-scale disaster or worst case scenario, medical treatment may be impossible to access. Preppers, as a group, know more than the average person, but there is one area that very few preppers even seem to notice: Homecare Nursing.

I am a Licensed Practical Nurse, EMT, Wilderness EMT, phlebotomist, and CPR/ First Aid instructor. I also instruct disaster medicine with a well known firm and am currently working on my RN. I work full-time as well and have done this over the last several years. In addition to this training, I have had the opportunity to care for two relatives on hospice.

I have noticed that many preppers want to know how to suture a wound or remove “the bullet” or some other “glamorous” task. But the more training I receive and practice in the field, the more I realize how much I do not know, in spite of all my training and experience. That concept really scares me but it’s a healthy fear. Preppers will benefit from that realization as well. Learn the basics. Have the proper supplies ready. And then take the next step to learn how to suture a wound or remove a bullet.

Homecare nursing

The most ignored area in medical training that I have seen in survival circles is homecare nursing. I know it may be a boring subject, but it’s an absolute necessity to keep your patient alive and viable. It is sad when I deal with a person (young or older) who has contractures, bed sores, develops pneumonia, or just fights to maintain some level of independence because no one in their life provides basic homecare nursing skills.

A basic overview of the skill set necessary

Good basic patient care can be learned and mastered by becoming a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant). The job of CNAs is to take temperatures and blood pressures, give bed baths, turn, and feed patients. They help monitor for bed sores, pressure areas, changing incontinent patients, and providing basic necessary care. It may not have the glamour or prestige of removing a bullet, but basic patient care is actually more necessary.

Not everyone understands that a person cannot lie in bed for hours, days, or even weeks without someone really involved in their care. An immobile patient must be turned and checked every two hours. If you turn them and see a red mark on their side, butt, or back, you are probably looking at a bedsore very soon. Bedsores can kill patients!! I have seen Stage 4 pressure ulcers that go to the bone. Do not let that happen. Patients need to be clean, dry and intact – always!

Bed-bound patients need to be exercised daily to help prevent contractures, a shortening or distortion of muscle or connective tissue. Contractures ultimately have the patient going into a fetal position. In nursing school we have worked with patients that required four adults to just change them and get them out of bed. Very, very sad.

This exercise involves having the patient move all their joints through their full range of motion. One or more caregivers may have to help with this. Start with the head by going side to side and rotations, move to the neck, shoulders, arms, fingers, knees and toes.

I also use incentive spirometers for lung exercises. This can help prevent pneumonia. If that is not available, try chest physiotherapy. Try cupping your hands and have the patients on their side. Use your cupped hands and tap on the patients back to loosen anything in the lungs. Do not use too much pressure but tap several times a day.

Necessary materials

  • Gloves – No latex. I prefer Nitrile for durability (available at Costco). It is impossible to have too many. I personally have 10 –12 cases. Each case has 10 boxes of 100 gloves. (Latex allergies are fairly common; there are nitrile allergies but they are far more unusual.)
  • Bed pan
  • Urinal – Male and female.
  • Wash basin
  • Emesis basin
  • Bed pads for incontinence – Reusable or disposable. The reusables are strong and can be used to help turn/ reposition your patient
  • Incontinence briefs (diapers) and pull-ups
  • Baby wipes – You can never have enough.
  • Thicken – Makes liquids thick for people with swallowing difficulties.
  • Nosey cups – Plastic cups with the nose section cut out to help with liquids for patients with limited mobility
  • Incentive spirometers – Lung exercisers.
  • Walkers
  • Crutches
  • Cane – Carbon Fiber is far lighter than other options.
  • Bedside commode
  • Gait belt – Assistive belt to help a patient ambulate.
  • Thermometer
  • Blood pressure cuff and stethoscope
  • Manual wheelchair
  • Hand Cleaner
  • Clorox and sprayer

I designed a “raised platform bed” for homecare nursing because I could not justify a hospital bed with hand cranks. The raised bed allows me to care for the patient without killing my back.

This is just a starting point to help you begin to think about skills and supplies you may want to add to your repertoire. It is far from complete but should give you an idea about needs for your patients. The American Red Cross may offer classes in your area to provide more training.

Remember, everyone in your family or group will need training and practice. Someday, the patient may be you, and these simple procedures may save a life, including your own. Also and most important, many of these tasks are not fun. Many are done for infants and young children without any thought. Please be kind and offer privacy and dignity to your patients. Treat them as you would want to be treated.

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* Can You Run for Your Life? A prepper’s plan for getting physically fit

Three mornings a week I meet with a few friends to walk in the wooded area around our neighborhood. We typically walk about four miles, enjoying each other’s company and getting some exercise. Thankfully, it’s finally warming up and coats and wool caps are no longer required. But warmer weather also means the bees are back.

For most people it’s not an issue, but I’m highly allergic. One day when the bees were flying around, I mentioned that I really should start carrying my Epi-pens on our walks again.

This prompted a discussion about what we would do if I was stung right then. Someone would have to run to my house, get my medication, and run back to me. It got me thinking.

If one of my friends, or my husband or children, needed me to run to save their life, could I do it?

Could I run for my life? Can you run for your life?

In an emergency situation

I’m not the skinny teenager I used to be. At size 14, I’m not “too big” either. The real problem is that I’m not as fit as I once was. In my busy day-to-day life I can function perfectly well and accomplish what I need to without trouble. What happens, though, when there’s an emergency?

Most of us have felt an adrenaline rush before, and we’ve all heard the story about the mom who lifted a car off her child to save him from being crushed. My first response to the question about running to save my child was, “If I had to do it for real, I could. The adrenaline and the will to do it would push me.”

That might be true, but it’s also an excuse.

I shouldn’t be hoping that adrenaline gets me through. I should be improving myself to guarantee success.

Too many preppers, myself included, dismiss the fitness issue, assuming that we will simply do what we must in an emergency. What if the situation requires bugging out and walking for a dozen or more miles a day for several days?

I know what you’re thinking, because it’s the same thing I thought… “Oh, well, I might not be able to do it today, but if I was forced to, I could manage.”

The problem is, we might not be able to “manage.” At best, it would result in some very uncomfortable days and nights with hurting bodies. At worst, it could mean failing to achieve an objective that could quite literally be the difference between life and death. 

As a prepper, I’ve stored food, supplies, gadgets, and tools. I’ve learned new skills like building a fire, suturing a laceration, cooking with a solar oven, purifying water, and so much more. I’ve even made a specific effort to increase my resiliency by improving my mental and spiritual preparedness.

But what have I done to improve myself physically? Unless you count my brisk, but social, walk in the woods three times a week… nothing. That’s about to change.

Physical Preparedness

I decided to jot down a few things I felt I needed to accomplish in order to call myself “physically prepared.” This list is unique to me, but I hope you’ll find some inspiration to make your own.

Start Running

Problem: I can’t run to save my life.

I’ve completed several 5K races and multiple triathlons but I’ve never considered myself a “runner.” I’ve always finished miserable and in

pain and at the back of the pack after a lot of walking.

But really, whether I’m running to get help or running away from the bad guys, is the back of the pack in a survival situation where I want to be?

Solution: Three days a week, in addition to the walk with my girls, I will be training with the “Zombies, Run!” app on my phone. It combines the traditional “Couch to 5K”  training plan with an immersive zombie story where the runner plays a main character. It tells you when to walk and run, and when to speed up because the zombies are about to catch you! It tracks your time and distance, and connects to an online game if you choose. Plus you can use your own music.

Gain Flexibility

Problem: The best marksmen are flexible. I’m not

I’ve embarked on a quest to improve my rifle marksmanship by attending weekend long clinics that teach me to shoot from prone, standing, and sitting positions. I’m at the threshold of achieving an expert “Rifleman” score but one of the things holding me back is a lack of flexibility to get my body into a stable sitting position. I’m close, but instead of being relaxed and focused on the target, my body is fighting me.

Solution: Complete a general stretching and flexibility routine several times a week. Also, since there is a specific sitting position I want to be in to shoot my rifle… I need to sit in that exact position every day. My body will begin to learn what I want it to do, muscles will form a memory, and it will become easier and easier.

Increase Strength

Problem: Strong of mind, weak of body

During our family’s first camping trip this spring, I had to walk about a third of a mile carrying a 12-inch Lodge dutch oven that weighs about 20 pounds. As I struggled, I told myself it was hot, the path was uneven, and the thin handle was awkward. All of those things were true of course, but the reality was… it was heavy and I wasn’t strong enough.

I did it because I had to at the moment, but it was proof that just because I could, didn’t mean it was in any way easy. And my arms paid for it for a couple days. I imagined other times I might need strength in an emergency. Carrying a bug-out bag or my child long distances (or both – see image above).  Moving debris. Wielding an axe to chop firewood.

Solution: Add strength training to my workouts. My husband regularly uses the equipment in our garage. I have no excuse not to join him.

Weight Loss

Problem: A 30 pound cushion

Losing weight may be the very best thing we can do for ourselves physically. There are medical reasons, of course, (heart and joint health, improve or even reverse medical conditions like high blood pressure, some forms of diabetes, etc.), but here’s why we should lighten up from a preparedness perspective.

  • Some preppers announce that if times get really tough, they’ll just live off of their body fat. Hello, that’s called starvation! They’ll just end up feeling miserable and not be of much use to anybody. Don’t look at a TEOTWAWKI event as a viable weight loss option!
  • Most survival educators recommend that a bug-out bag be no more than about 30 pounds. An extra 30 pounds is just like carrying a heavy bug-out bag around all the time, but without being useful.
  • The next time you’re at the grocery store, head down the pet food aisle. Hoist a twenty pound bag of dog food onto your shoulder and really feel what twenty pounds feels like. Put it back on the shelf. See how much lighter you feel? Imagine taking twenty pounds (or more!) off your body and not having to carry it around anymore!
  • The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to need medication. Some of these medications become unnecessary once the weight comes off. Dependence on medication during a TEOTWAWKI situation is its own disaster waiting to happen.

Solution: Practice a great deal more moderation in my eating. Add more fresh foods and remove more processed foods. Increase water consumption. This, combined with the above fitness goals will help me drop the pounds.

How will you fare? Can you run for your life?

We’ve all met preppers who seem to have it all together… Food and water storage, finely tuned  skills, tactical plans for every scenario, and books and books worth of knowledge.

And they are in terrible physical condition.

Are you that prepper? I am. But now I have specific steps to remedy this deficiency in my preparedness plan.

If TEOTWAWKI happened tomorrow, how would you cope physically? Can you run for your life? What can you do today that will help you be physically ready for an emergency?

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Herbal First Aid for the Family: Every day and Post-Disaster

As the founder and director of a survival and herbalism school, I combine the two worlds very often into practical plant medicine for households in the case of disaster. Much like my own entry into the world of medicine as a U.S. Special Forces (aka Green Beret) medic, I have always felt that if you can learn to take care of the worst-case scenarios first, the rest is a piece of cake.

For this reason, my “niche” in herbalism has been largely focused on dealing with medical situations that would be largely encountered after a disaster or social breakdown.  This is herbalism that is highly practical and works very well at home in everyday situations as well – for the home or even neighborhood clinic.

This attitude applies for the family that is serious about being prepared for disaster, in the sense that medicine (much like food and water) is one of the first luxuries of the 1st world society we live in, that will likely vanish as a resource following a major disaster of local (e.g. Hurricane Katrina) or certainly any disaster event of regional, national or global proportions.  Looking at the history both in the USA and around the world, during any extended disaster, we see that hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices and even veterinarian clinics become open-season supply sources for people to loot and raid.  Hospitals often become killing zones in fact, in more ways than one.

No matter how much you store orthodox, pharmaceutical medicine (antibiotics, steroids, etc.) you will still be in “ration mode” any time you want to use these types of medicine.  Should you break open a vial of antibiotics or not?  Is this someone you planned on having to help medically when you were storing these medications?  Are they expired?  If so, do you know how much to use or are you going to potentiate a super-infection? Were they stored in the correct temperature?

Do you have the proper medical training to use these pharmaceuticals and more importantly recognize if an illness or infection is not responding the way it should to the use of this kind of medicine? Do you know how to deal with a severe allergic reaction and how to differentiate between that and the severity of the illness or infection you are trying to treat? These are just a few of the issues and questions you have to face with pharmaceutical medicine in a post-disaster situation.

So in a nutshell, not only are you forced to ration and affect every medical decision you make (assuming you have the training and experience to use it), but you also are using tools that you don’t have the training and experience to use competently, unless you are a doctor, PA, nurse practitioner, nurse, etc.  Medical professionals in our current orthodox, pharmaceutical medical world spend 1000’s of hours working, studying, interning and learning about the conditions they are faced with and the proper use of the pharmaceuticals they are using.

Add to this the massive increase of infection and illness from lack of sanitation, open sewage, corpses, water borne diseases, vector-borne diseases, etc. and you have an environment that even trained medical professionals are going to have difficulty coping with, using the tools and drugs they are used to – assuming they have enough of either, and they never will.  There are rarely enough pharmaceuticals available for everyone in a post-disaster situation.

So what are the reasons to turn toward plant medicine for yourself, your family and even your neighborhood or community?  There are many.  Here are a few:

  • Plant medicine works, and works quite well when used correctly.  While more difficult to work with severe bacterial infections than the correct dosage of the correct antibiotic (assuming it is on hand and you are aware of what that is), herbal medicine is still highly (and completely) effective in most cases of chronic and acute illness, to include parasitic infections (e.g. flatworm, roundworm), protozoal infections (e.g. giardia, cryptosporidium), many bacterial infections – especially of the gut, viral infections (e.g. dengue fever, influenza) and other acute conditions that could be common in a post-disaster situation.
  • Plant medicine is something that you can begin learning and working with immediately in your own home.  You do not have to be a medical professional.  You have to only be willing to learn, study and understand your limitations as you slowly expand beyond them.
  • Plant medicine is generally speaking more gentle in its effect, yet is every bit as effective because it assists your body at doing what it does best:  Healing and finding balance.  Every plant contains thousands of constituent as opposed to a single constituent in a pharmaceutical.  These constituents have combined effects and work in a different manner than we are accustomed to with the single-constituent or single-chemical model of modern pharmaceuticals.
  • Plant medicine is a sustainable resource – potentially never-ending.  There is no need to ration – at least not to the same extent as you must ration pharmaceuticals post-disaster.  You can grow very effective medicinal herbs (and should grow it) in your garden, your greenhouse, your kitchen and more.  You can wildcraft medicinal herbs from your local ecosystem.  For now (although not in a post-disaster) you can buy medicinal herbs online and then prepare and store them.
  • Plant medicine can store for longer than most pharmaceutical medicines if prepared correctly.
  • Learning plant medicine is a skill.  Unlike a resources, once you have started learning herbalism, you can’t lose it, and the resources for it are all around you.  There is no limitation to how much you can learn (believe me, you will never even come close to learning all there is to know even if you did nothing else for an entire lifetime), and your skill lives and grows everywhere you live and breathe as well.

Bear in mind that this is a skill you must continue to learn and practice.  This isn’t something you can read one time and think you have all that you need.  You must learn to identify, prepare and use a specific plant, and along with that, you must change (slightly) how you think about medicine.  You can’t just substitute a plant for a pharmaceutical.  It is necessary to change the way in which you understand how our physiology responds to disease and health – as represented by the bio-medicine that a plant offers.

By Sam Coffman 

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* 5 Ways to Build Endurance Before SHTF

As we prepare for emergencies of all levels, many of us stockpile water, food, first aid supplies and more.  What happens should those supplies run out?  What happens if the garden needs tilling and access to fuel machinery is limited or completely gone?

As Amy said in her post about running for our lives, many of us think we’ll do it what needs to be done, because, well, it now suddenly needs to be done. I believe that’s true, but I also believe many of us underestimate just how difficult that will be.

Building endurance now will make handling potential future emergencies in the future so much easier, and is so much healthier for our bodies anyway.

Endurance is more than just physical. We need to build up our mental toughness as well.  Many of us, myself included, are spoiled, and maybe a little soft, because of all our modern conveniences.

Here are 5 ways to build endurance before SHTF.  None of these will take tons of time from your busy schedule but all might be more than a little helpful in the long run.

1. Do Hard Labor

Use a rake and a wheelbarrow to haul leaves to the compost pile. Don’t ride the lawn tractor or use the leaf blower.  Split wood with a maul instead of a gas-powered wood-splitter. Walk to the grocery store and carry your groceries home in a backpack or haul them home in a wagon. Mend clothing by hand or with a treadle machine instead of your electric one.

We all think we can do things if we have too, but they’re generally harder than we think. Building muscle, and muscle memory, now will help later and keep us healthier now. It’s much easier to stay healthy and fit than it is to become fit. Hard labor is just that, hard. However, it gets us out of our comfort zone which is important, not only for our physical endurance but our mental endurance as well.

2. Get Uncomfortable

Turn the air-conditioning off. Feel the heat and find ways to deal with it. Don’t burn a fire on a borderline chilly day. Let’s feel, really feel, like we need to preserve our precious resources more and put on an extra layer of clothes until the sun naturally warms up the house. Skip that extra cookie.  I’m not for total deprivation, but remember that the extra cookie is a bonus, not a right.

It’s one thing to think we can handle any situation, it’s a completely different thing to experience it. Often, this particular step will help build our mental toughness as us much as our physical endurance. Take some time and get uncomfortable. And while you’re there…

3. Push Yourself

“Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up.  It is always tired morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired. When you were younger the mind could make you dance all night, and the body was never tired. You’ve always got to make the mind take over and keep going.”  – George Patton

Pull another row of weeds. Walk or run the extra quarter mile. Put on an extra layer of clothing and go for a short walk on the extra cold, windy day. Make your body do it. 

Don’t push until the point of injury but do realize your body is capable of a lot and that we just need to make our brains say so. There’s a giant sense of accomplishment that comes from doing this, from making our bodies do something that feels impossible or, at the very least, difficult. That sense of accomplishment builds upon itself and leads to all kinds of new ways in which we can physically and mentally handle hard labor and difficult times.

4. Rest Well

Truly rest at the end of the day. Most of us don’t do this. We’re all trying to fit in one more thing in all of our modern busy schedules. We’re racing to sports or trying to catch up on work or putting the final touches on homework.

However, rest is important for building endurance. No matter what an athlete is training for, they understand the importance of rest days, and I maintain, that’s just as important for those of us prepping.

We need to not only give our bodies rest but our minds as well. We should use time to rest our bodies and rejuvenate with our families in the evenings. Time spent reading, playing games, working on crafts, or simply just being together instead of working more. This rests the body and the mind, and helps us…

5. Find Gratitude

Many of us confuse hard work with drudgery. It’s hard to be grateful for drudgery. However, we can almost find gratitude in a job well done. We can find gratitude for the fact that our bodies can rake leaves and those leaves will turn into amazing compost that will feed our families.

Take time to cultivate this attitude of gratitude. Keep a journal (The Gratitude Habit: A 365 Day Journal), talk about gratitude over dinner with family, make it a part of every day and before you know it, thinking any other way will be hard to fathom.

By no means is this an exhaustive or all-inclusive way to build endurance but it is a good start for many of us.  Do you have a preferred method for building endurance?  If not, are you going to start now?

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Be a Lean, Mean Survival Mom Machine

Picture this.  You’re with your kids or grand-kids in a COSTCO or Wal-Mart, when you hear gunshots and screams coming from across the store.  From the terrifying sounds you know you only have a few seconds to get to safety, and an EXIT door is about thirty yards away.

Do you have the physical conditioning, stamina, otherwise known as survival fitness, to grab the kids, pick them up if necessary, and run fast enough to escape with your lives?  Or, would those extra pounds and flabby muscles slow you down to make a quick escape impossible? Are you a lean, mean Survival Mom machine?

I’m the first to admit that a quick sprint across the store would be pretty difficult for me.  I could do it, but it sure wouldn’t be impressive in terms of speed or style.  I’ve missed way too many work-outs at the gym and have enjoyed far too many meals at the drive-through lately.  I’m typical of millions of Americans, yet as someone who has preparedness as a top goal, I know that someday my survival may depend on being physically fit.

The necessity of getting shape and building up my physical strength has been a big pill for me to swallow.  I can’t tell you how much I hate exercising and every minute on the treadmill is torment.  Even so, I’ve been working on improving my physical fitness.  I’m not a runner, far from it, but I’ve been making a point of walking or bicyling as many days of the week as I can and doing a series of strength-building calisthenics (floor exercises).

Simple lean, mean Survival Mom machine tips!

When I feel like turning on the TV or plopping down with the latest Daniel Silva book, here’s what I tell myself.

  • Upper body strength will help improve my target shooting.
  • I’m setting a good example for the kids.  They love physical activity, and I want them to keep that attitude.
  • Stronger leg muscles are more attractive and much better for running from a dangerous situation.  And also for kicking bad guys in the groin.
  • As I build up my cardio-vascular system, my overall health improves, hopefully keeping me healthy for many, many years to come.  Who knows what our health care system will look like in a few years, and I’d just as soon stay healthy and limit my dependence on the medical system.
  • I am so vain it’s embarrassing.  Heck, I just want to look cuter in my jeans!

How about you?  Could you depend on your fitness level to run fast and far if your life, and the lives of your children, depended on it?  Building up our bodies to be as strong as possible and losing some of the pounds that slow us down is a survival and preparedness must.  No, it’s not an easy step, and there are hundreds of excuses to procrastinate, most of them printed on restaurant menus!  However, there’s a very powerful reason for Survival Moms to start today:  our children.

If you’re already in shape, let us know how you do it.  If you’re on the journey toward physical fitness and being a lean, mean survival machine, hey, we’re on it together!  I’d love to hear about  your plans for becoming the leanest and strongest Survival Mom you possibly can be!

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Prepping with Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes — also called Juvenile Diabetes — shook our prepping plans to their foundations. While I was stockpiling food, learning to make cheese, and writing the occasional post for the Survival Mom, my 9 year-old daughter’s body was attacking itself and she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Just a short time later I found myself trying to find answers for prepping with Type 1 Diabetes.

A T1D diagnosis is a life sentence of finger pokes and insulin administration. And because it’s genetic, we now know our other children are at risk.

What’s a survival mom to do? I didn’t even wait for the shock to wear off before I took to the internet seeking advice from the preparedness community…and was extremely disappointed with the meager information available. (I’ve included the links to those I found even a little bit helpful to save you time.) Even expert Mormon preppers who have so much information and resources had little to offer.

NOTE: This post is specific to Type 1 Diabetes, NOT Type 2. Please keep the differences in mind when you post comments and suggestions. Finding ways to prepare for a serious disease like this is scary. Suggestions that simple adjustments, like changing the food we have stored, as if we wouldn’t have already done that if it would resolve the issue, are more hurtful than helpful.

*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, attorney, engineer, moralist, spiritual adviser, survivalist, or millionaire. Use the attached links and their information at your own risk. I’ve simply put together what’s on the internet and what I’ve personally experienced. The rest is up to you.

Some Background

For clarity’s sake, please understand that T1D is very different from Type 2 Diabetes. The bodies of Type 2 patients still make insulin, but their bodies have trouble using it to get carbohydrate energy from the blood into the cells for use. Diet, exercise, and some drugs can help them do that.


The body of a Type 1 patient makes no insulin, the vehicle that unlocks cells so that energy can enter and be metabolized. The immune system has attacked the pancreas and shut down the good guys that make insulin. No diet, exercise, or drugs on the market will turn those cells on again. And that was my initial frustration.

Lots of good-hearted folks had tips for keeping blood sugar down, but those suggestions will lead to starvation and/or death for a kid who can’t get energy from any type of food. Remember Atkins and low-carb diets? It’s the same idea. When the body can’t get energy from carbohydrates, it burns the body’s fat reserves. When that’s depleted, the body uses muscle for energy. A kid who eats bowls and bowls of pasta but can’t use any of its energy will still burn fat and muscles until there’s nothing left. Having supplies and insulin at all times is essential to survival.

Getting Started: Short-term Emergency Preparedness

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in 2013 advised diabetics to keep a filled medical bag after Superstorm Sandy hit in October 2012. Doctors were concerned that, gasp!, some of their diabetic patients weren’t prepared to go a couple of weeks without visiting a regular pharmacy! One woman didn’t have a regular pharmacy for 5 months following Sandy.

Put together a supply bag

A bag that holds basic supplies for the diabetic is a smart first-step. The JDRF checklist might be helpful in packing that first bag. After some experimentation, I keep a tiny first aid box filled with pen needles in our everyday carry bag. And while you’re in the travel aisle, grab a tiny pill holder with a screw-on lid for sharps disposal. Mine can hold 3 used pen needles, enough to dose for each meal without worrying where to put used needles.

Carry snacks for emergencies

We keep a high-sugar snack for emergencies, as well as no-carb snacks that can curb hunger in the everyday carry bag. A case of water bottles in the trunk makes sense, too, as diabetics need to drink continuously. We keep even more snacks in a lunch bag in the car, along with 5 more days’ of supplies in case we wind up stranded somewhere.

Stocking up on Insulin and supplies

The problem with stocking up on diabetic supplies  is that they are expensive and insurance companies make it difficult to buy more than is needed for a short period of time. As with most prescriptions, many insurance companies will only pay for 1-3 months of refills at a time, and will only allow refills once supplies dwindle to a few days’ worth of reserves. That’s cutting it way too close for this prepared mama. If you’re new to diabetes or to prepping and have been worried about this, take heart. I’ve done some of the legwork for you.

If you are getting prescriptions one month at a time at a local pharmacy, you may be able to get a few extra days of supplies every month by going on the first day you can get a refill. That will leave you with  about six days of supplies at home. Over time, that can add up. However, many insurance companies are now requiring patients with “chronic conditions” to order their supplies through the mail after the first three months. Mail ordered supplies are sent automatically and make it virtually impossible to stock up in this way.

Most states require a prescription to purchase insulin, making stockpiling trickier for Americans. It may be possible to buy insulin from other countries, and you may have wondered about the legality of buying insulin from Canada if you are an American. Since there is recent legislation on the table to make it legal for US citizens, this is good information to keep in mind if it does become legal in the future.

Another way to add to your stash of insulin may work if your loved one uses a pump but is very active. With a doctor’s approval, they might consider switching to a pen for at least part of the year. Some high school wrestlers with T1D are on a pump most of the year but switch to insulin injection pens during wrestling season for safety. Because there’s some overlap in refills, they will end up with a few extra pens tucked away as backup. Switching to pens for the summer might make sense if your self-conscious preteen is swimming, boating, canoeing, and cruising the pool. It might even be necessary if their pump can’t be immersed and they will be around water for longer than they can go without it.

How much insulin should you store? From my experience with food storage, I recommend you use the same guidelines as you would for food. If your canned tomatoes keep for a year, store a year’s worth and rotate. Refrigerated insulin will keep for up to two years, or 30 days once opened and kept at room temperature.

While it is prudent to follow the “store what you use and use what you store” philosophy, pump users might want to skip down to the “Grid-down” section before putting all their insulin “eggs” in the “pump supplies” basket. Either way, request that all your prescription supplies automatically refill as soon as your insurance company will allow. If you can choose a couple of days a week to reduce carb intake and thus reduce insulin use, autofill can eventually get you a little bit of cushion.

Stocking up on Testing Supplies

Stocking up on diabetes testing supplies is easy, compared to stockpiling insulin.

It is simple to buy diabetes test strips, pen needles, etc. from Canada at a fraction of the cost. Price check all your options to get the lowest combined price, and be sure to take shipping into consideration. Remember to check eBay and Amazon as well. We found both to be only slightly less expensive than the pharmacy, but you can luck into great deals on eBay.

Diabetic specialty websites like Glucomart carry hit-or-miss supplies and run daily updates. You have to check back pretty often, or use your email address to request notification when the products you need are in stock.

Testing on-the-go is much easier with alcohol swabs. I pick up a 2-pack (400 total) for less than $4 every time I go to the store. Even in bulk, I can’t find them cheaper than at Walmart. At home, we use a giant bottle of alcohol and cotton balls, available at dollar stores everywhere.

While I personally haven’t tried it, you may also be able to find unopened testing supplies at an estate sale, just as you might find other non-prescription medical supplies such bed pans, surgical gloves, or dressings. In estate sales, you might even find a new or lightly-used testing machine to go along with the supplies.

With second-hand supplies in particular (estate sales and eBay), be certain to check the expiration date, and (obviously) that they are compatible with your machine. They may be cheap because they are close to their expiration date. Use those right away and save the ones with later expiration dates.

I’ve created a spreadsheet to help me keep track of our supplies, their expiration dates, and how much of each I need to stock up on in order to be prepared for 3 months, 6 months, and one year.

Stocking up on Other Essentials


Immune support is crucial for T1D patients. In fact, contracting a common cold or flu virus is often what pushes an overactive immune system into overdrive and coincides with T1D onset. Endocrine changes due to illness wreak havoc on blood glucose levels. Avoid sickness and support immunity whenever possible.

Vitamin D is also shown to assist with glucose control. It’s equally important for our other children to get vitamin D, as a deficiency is linked to increased risk of developing the disease for those with family history.

Low-carb alternatives

In an emergency, you may want to reduce carbohydrate intake to make insulin stockpiles last longer. Our medical team says kids need a MINIMUM of 130 carbs per day for growth and development. Basing insulin stockpiles on current needs should give you some wiggle room.

Maybe now is the time to learn to cook with almond flour or develop a taste for coconut milk. (Both are shelf-stable, by the way!) We already had a HUGE stockpile of beans, rice, noodles, and other starchy foods that could be a nightmare for glucose control. Energy rich, but nutrient sparse.

We still have and use those foods, but we’re replacing some of them with alternatives that make sugar control a little easier. Brown rice has a shorter shelf life, but more nutrients and the complex carbs are much slower to enter the blood. Similarly, a packet of Splenda or Stevia might make lots of ho-hum dishes more palatable, the way sugar does for the rest of us.

As a replacement for milk, Peak powdered milk  has 8 carbs per cup, versus 12 for regular powdered milk and fresh 2% milk. LC milk powder has only 1 carb per cup, but it requires mixing with water and heavy cream. Canned coconut cream doesn’t work, as the consistency is too solid. Table cream yields a better result.

Rationing diabetic supplies


I’ve read comments from diabetics who still change a lancet after every finger prick, and from those who guesstimate it gets changed every couple of months. I was not able to find a link to specific guidelines, but the American Association of Diabetes Educators acknowledges that reusable lancets for a single patient are completely safe. The recommendation at the time of your initial diagnosis may have changed. Our medical team insisted a once-a-day change had been studied and was proven safe, provided the skin is cleansed with alcohol before each finger prick (as of December of 2014).

Pen needles or syringes

This scares the heck out of me. The Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that it would be okay to reuse syringes or pen needles without complications. I don’t think I’d do it in normal times, but in dire circumstances it’s nice to know about the AMA’s approval. The article specifically talks about 3-4 uses per needle, which would equal a once-a-day change.

Off-Grid Considerations

Loss of electricity could prevent recharging your meter. Any number of solar phone chargers with USB plugs can be used as a backup option. Plus, you’ll have it to charge your phone!

When stockpiling, strongly consider the possibility that electronic equipment may fail due to a natural or man-made EMP event. Pump users should consider stocking insulin pens for backup, as an EMP could fry the pump’s circuitry. Pens are not vulnerable to EMP. We purchased an identical meter (half price on eBay!) and stashed it, unopened, in a Faraday cage as a backup.

If monitors are inoperable despite all these preparations, another backup option exists, urine test strips for glucose. They are less accurate than blood glucose meters since it takes much more sugar to register on a urine strip. These were used in the U.S. through the 1970s and 1980s, we just don’t have much of a market for them here anymore.

However, patients in third world countries without electricity use them, so they could be a viable alternative in a grid-down emergency. We plan to periodically compare the urine test results to the meter reading just to see how they compare.

Refrigerating insulin is key to prolonging its shelf life. Consider a solar refrigerator, or build a solar panel strong enough to run a small, dorm-room-size refrigerator.

The Frio Insulin Cooling Case is a water activated product designed to keep insulin cool during travel that has been getting some attention on the web. I haven’t tried it yet, but may post an update. With exposure to air, the bag keeps insulin room temperature, which is much better than hot, but it doesn’t even come close to refrigeration temperature.

Another option is a refrigerator that runs on 12 volt (as well as 110), apparently designed for campers and long-haul truckers. Since they can run off of car batteries, you just need to add a few extra car batteries to your preps – hardly an exotic item! If you make sure they are the kind your family cars need, you are even prepared for one more every-day disaster. If you have other ideas, I hope you’ll add a comment below.

In a grid-down scenario, Dr. Bones of “Doom and Bloom” fame gives some options for preventing ketoacidosis here.  If you’ve stockpiled enough supplies, you shouldn’t have to worry about that for a long while.

First Steps

If you’re new to prepping or T1D, I know this is really overwhelming. Take some deep breaths and then some baby steps. Figure out what your child or grandchild needs to get through a single day, calculate, and start. Just, start. Don’t worry that you are starting with “the wrong thing.” You will need it all, eventually.

A good initial goal is to have a 3-month supply of EVERYTHING, but if that is overwhelming, you can start even smaller. Get the testing supplies since they are relatively easy, or one extra week or month of insulin. Research some backup options and get those next. But start…somewhere. Anywhere! Don’t let yourself get paralyzed to the point that you do nothing.

Once you have a 3 month supply, move on to a 6-month supply. When that is done, consider how you’ll maximize your insulin without electricity. Then keep adding to your supply. And don’t forget to rotate!

Final Thoughts

I KNOW prepping for Type 1 Diabetes is expensive because I share your pain in paying for it. I know building a stockpile probably means buying supplies outright without help from your insurance company—probably while you’re still paying off that hospital bill from the initial diagnosis. Trust me, I know it’s overwhelming.

Normally I would say to do what you can as you are able to do it. But for your diabetic loved one, this is truly a life-or-death proposition. A 5-year supply of food does your loved one no good when his 4-week insulin supply runs out. So in this situation, I say do what you have to do. Tap into your savings account. Sell some of your silver stash. If I had to, I’d consider allowing myself a little credit card debt.

I can’t think of any earthly consideration more important than the welfare of my children. They rely on me, and now I have a T1D kiddo who relies on insulin, meters, lancets, and test strips for SURVIVAL. I refuse to let her down.

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Foot Care, or You’ll Never Escape the Zombies With Blisters on Your Feet

OW. Just, seriously…OW. I spent last week at Scout Camp with my son, which was fun, except for my feet.

I know good quality, properly fit shoes are important. I know new or poor fitting shoes can cause blisters and other problems. I know wet shoes / feet are Very Bad, and summer camp can be both rainy and hot. I planned for all of this.

Before camping, I wore my hiking sneakers and sandals, both good brands, enough to be certain they wouldn’t cause blisters. I bought athletic sandals, the kind with closed, protected toes, for when it was really hot. I had a combination of good quality athletic socks and wool socks.

So why OW?

I didn’t notice my new sandals lacked built in arch support. And while the hiking sneakers were fine for a day, they were not comfortable enough for an entire week. After all, I did plan on alternating them with my sandals (the ones with no arch support). And it’s a universally known fact that something will be left by the front door when anyone leaves for a trip. In this case, it was my hiking boots.

The very first day, I injured one foot. I wasn’t carrying much weight in my backpack – little beyond water, sunscreen, and bug spray – and we were just walking on packed-dirt roads. No running, no extreme sports. After a week, I’m pretty sure I need to see a podiatrist and it will probably be weeks or even months until it is fully healed.

Can you imagine the damage that being unprepared, walking long distances, and carrying a heavy pack in a SHTF situation could inflict?

Basic Foot Care – SHTF or normal life

In a SHTF situation, you will almost certainly be hiking long distances carrying a heavy backpack. The guidelines for backpacking foot care are more stringent than for every day life since the distances walked and amount carried are so much greater, but following the basics of these guidelines every day definitely can’t hurt.

Backpacking foot care isn’t rocket science. Feet need to be warm, dry, and supported. Your shoes (and socks) need to fit and be appropriate for the task.

Prepare your feet for activity. If you wear dress shoes to work every day and flip flops or sandals on the weekend, don’t expect to just slip a pair of hiking boots on over your dress socks / nylons and start walking. At the very least, you must make sure your toe nails are clipped (but don’t risk an ingrown toenail) and pack a small foot first aid kit in a waterproof container such as a Ziploc baggie.

Foot First Aid Kit

  • Moleskin and tiny scissors, or duct tape (wrapped around a pencil)
  • Alcohol pads
  • Safety pin
  • Lubricant (such as Bag Balm) or powder
  • Benzoin swabs
  • Corn pads
  • Gauze pads and tape

Choosing good socks

Good socks are easy to overlook. It seems kind of weird, but there really are special purpose socks. Clearly, some are thicker than others. Liner socks are thin like dress socks and are worn under thicker socks to help prevent blisters. Some hiking socks are designed so they function like a sock and sock liner combined.

Athletic socks of today are not the tube socks of yore. They have wicking fibers, areas designed to provide more (or less) support and breathability, and more. In addition to cotton (not the best hiking choice) and wool, there are nylon, hybrid, and high tech fibers. They also come in a variety of heights from low cut to knee socks. Make sure your socks are higher than the top edge of your shoes to prevent chaffing and rubbing.

Once you choose good socks, make sure to wear them when you try on your new hiking shoes. Socks really do affect the way they fit.

Choosing good shoes

One site I looked at said “properly fitted shoes don’t need to be broken in.” Well, yeah, sure…but. Depending on what you normally wear, a “properly fitted” pair of trail shoes may feel entirely wrongIt can take a little time to adjust to how they are meant to feel.

My hiking boots are considerably more snug than the slip on shoes I normally wear running errands, for example. I bought one pair of athletic sandals that were very comfortable in the store, but I later realized were too loose for their intended use. (They stretched out to much for continued use within two days of camping / hiking.)

But don’t – do not – buy a pair that hurts or doesn’t fit quite right thinking that will improve with time and wear. It won’t. Think about the last pair of shoes you bought that “almost” fit. Did that ever change? No? They still hurt or you got rid of them? Do you really think the result will be any different with hiking shoes? So, save the pain and money and take the time to find a pair that truly fit.

Then take the time to break them in. Think about any good boots or shoes you have owned. As you wear them, creases develop where your body bends, such as the balls of your feet and your ankles. Other areas stretch to fit your feet. When you wear the shoes for a little while, they are simply more comfortable.

Note: Many people can use low cut trail sneakers or shoes instead of hiking boots that provide ankle support, but ankle support is good for beginners, for longer trails / heavier packs, and for anyone with weak ankles.

On the trail

Dirty, wet feet are not happy feet. Sometimes conditions conspire so you end up with wet feet, and dirty feet are almost impossible to avoid. But that doesn’t mean your feet have to stay wet, or filthy.

Simple steps to fight wet feet on the trail include having a change of socks and letting wet ones dry on the outside of  your backpack. Wearing “camp shoes” instead of “trail shoes” when you stop for a break or the night is another way to let your shoes, socks, and feet all air dry a bit. (Camp shoes can also come in handy for crossing creeks and similar water hazards.)

Note: Going barefoot in camp or wading in a creek is appealing, but hidden rocks, roots, and other hazards can easily lead to cuts, scrapes, and infections.

In addition, any time you stop, even for just a few minutes, take the chance to empty rocks, sand, etc. out of your boots before the rubbing causes damage. If you can feel something in your shoe, take the time to stop and fix it before it gets worse. Unless there is actually a zombie on your heels, it’s better to spend two minutes removing, emptying, and relacing your boots instead of having an injury slow you down for hours or days later.

If you start to have trouble and can get out to a store to buy supplies to fix it, take the time to do so. I took an hour out of camp to buy a cheap pair of sneakers and a set of gel arch supports. Without them, I probably would have had to leave camp for medical reasons by the end of the second day.

Every Day

I think it’s fairly easy to see how this could be as helpful for a day shopping at a mega-outlet-mall or chaperoning a school field trip as it is for an SHTF situation. So do your feet a favor. Take a few minutes to pamper them. They support you every day.

By Liz Long

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Stomach “Bugs”: An Herbal Back-Up Plan


So perhaps it’s that time of year, and stomach “bugs” are starting to make the rounds at school and work. Or, perhaps you’ve had a run in with a mild bout of food poisoning. There are plenty of OTC drugs available (Imodium, Pepto and the like), but let’s take a look at some alternatives in the event that OTC meds aren’t available for whatever reason.

Basic Care for Stomach Bugs

There are many other herbs with a history of use for digestive support, but these five are especially easy to grow and identify, so I think they are particularly well suited for emergency preparedness scenarios where OTCs might be in short supply or unavailable. Combined with a commonsense care approach focusing on food and fluid intake, they should provide a decent family or community back-up plan.

First, regardless of what else is available, food and fluid are going to be key in keeping the situation from getting out of hand. Fluid loss from diarrhea and vomiting are especially dangerous for children and the elderly, so pay close attention to what is going in, not just what’s coming out.

Bland, soft foods are important so that the digestive system isn’t stressed further, so stay away from offering spicy or greasy foods. Make sure the foods still have nutritional value. Sugary gelatin and pudding really aren’t the best idea here. Some nutrient dense but bland foods include oatmeal and other whole grain porridge, meat and veggie broths, yogurt, and plain fruit and vegetables that are cooked until soft.

Maintaining electrolyte and fluid balance is even more important.  Make sure they drink plenty of water, diluted fruit juice, and herbal teas. Stay away from sugary drinks and anything with caffeine. An electrolyte formula can be used if the fluid loss is especially severe, and is a good idea for children and the elderly.

If you don’t have access to Pedialyte, the World Health Organization recommends ORS (Oral Rehydrating Solution) which is 5 liters of water, 6 level teaspoons of sugar, and ½ level tsp of salt. The solution is good for 24hrs, after that you will need to make a fresh batch. It can be used by alternating with other fluids.

Beyond that, these five herbs have a tradition of use for digestive upset. I’ve included some information on the growth habits of the plants as well as how they are used, and hope that will be useful for my readers interested in growing their own herbs and being less reliant on outsourcing their dried herbs.

Herbs for Vomiting

Marshmallow (Althea officinalis)

This plant is soothing for the stomach and the throat when there is a lot of vomiting and the stomach acid leaves the throat feeling raw. Marshmallow has a high level of mucilage, which makes the tea take on a distinctive “slippery” texture.

The best way to use marshmallow as a tea is actually by allowing the dried root to soak in room temperature or cool water- not brewing it with hot water as is common with most herbs. Leave it overnight for best results, but it can be used anytime after it has soaked for thirty minutes.

Marshmallow is traditionally understood to coat and soothe inflamed tissues of the digestive tract. It is one of my go-to herbs for the aftermath of food poisoning. Marshmallow is native to Africa but it is not a fussy plant and is usually happy to grow in rich garden soil as long as it gets enough water. It is a perennial that is hardy across most zones and prefers consistently moist soil.

Ginger (zingiber oficinale)

The root of this herb can help settle a stomach, and is traditionally used for nausea and improving digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Tea from fresh ginger root is best, but dried will also help. Some health food stores carry candied ginger root, which is convenient and palatable to most people. I enjoy adding it to trail mix, too, so I usually keep plenty on hand.

Ginger is a tropical plant, so for most parts of the US it will do best if grown in pots that can be brought inside during winter and placed in a sunny window.

Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)

The bark of slippery elm is traditionally used as a thin porridge – a gruel – or added to porridge such as oatmeal. Like marshmallow, slippery elm is helpful for coating the stomach. The main difference between the two is that slippery elm is considered to be more nutritive and was used during convalescence as a food. It was often turned to when the sick person couldn’t seem to keep any food down.

Some good flavorings for a gruel that uses slippery elm are ginger or cinnamon, for an extra boost of stomach settling goodness, and honey as a sweetener. To make a slippery elm porridge, start with a bowl of oatmeal or other whole grains, and stir in a tablespoon of slippery elm powder.

To make a slippery elm gruel, place a tablespoon of slippery elm powder into a bowl, and add one cup of hot water. Add cinnamon or ginger, if desired, and allow to cool to a safe temperature for drinking.  It will thicken as it stands, so if it becomes thicker than you want, add more water.

Sometimes, herbalists mix honey and slippery elm powder to form a dough, and then roll the dough into bite sized pieces This can be eaten a few pieces at a time, rather than making a gruel.

Native to central, eastern and southern US and parts of Canada, this tree is an excellent addition to the landscape as a shade tree. Harvesting is a little trickier for trees than for other herbs. It is usually done in the spring, when the rising sap makes the bark easier to peel from the tree. It’s best to learn how to do this from someone who has had experience. “Girdling”, or stripping the bark all the way around the tree, can kill it.

These herbs are especially good if there is vomiting. But what if the problem is at the, ahem, other end?


Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)

Blackberry is the old-timey standby for diarrhea. The leaves were favored by traditional European herbalists, while the Native tribes in the US favored the roots. In the US, blackberry plants are grown domestically and it is also a common wild plant.

The leaf is easier to harvest, and usually easier to find commercially than the root.  Leaves from raspberry (a close relative of blackberry) can be used as well, and both are best prepared as a hot tea. If you are making use of blackberry leaves from your own plants, harvest them as the plant is beginning to bloom and arrange them on screens or hang in bunches to dry until you need them.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

The go to herb for end-of-meal digestive support, peppermint is also excellent for stomach bugs that leave you feeling gassy and bloated. Try hot peppermint tea with a little honey for best results.

In the garden, I always recommend planting peppermint in containers; if you plant it directly in the ground be aware that it spreads by runners and rootlets and is vigorous enough to kill other, more mild mannered, plants by crowding them out. I have also commonly found peppermint growing wild around old home sites and damp fields. It’s quite hardy and spreads freely.

As always, be aware that although many herbs have a long record of safe use, they can interact with prescription and OTC medications, so be sure to check with your doctor for potential problems before you use an herb for the first time.

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