Sunday, February 19, 2012

Water, Water, Everywhere? Options for a secondary water source

This was my entry for the Safecastle Freedom Award. 

You don’t need to be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to know that clean water is a basic necessity for healthy human life.

Many of us depend on our municipality or rural water district to provide water to our homes. Where these are not available, each home may have its own water well.

But what if municipal service was interrupted? What if the electricity to run the pump in your well was suddenly cut off? How would you meet your basic water needs if your primary water source was eliminated?

The oft-repeated rule of thumb is that each person needs one gallon of water per day to survive. Most people adhere to this rule when preparing a 72-hour kit or stocking a storm shelter for their families. But what if water service was disrupted for longer? There’s no way to store enough water to sustain a typical family for an indefinite amount of time. And that one-gallon-per-day rule only accounts for drinking water. If a real, large-scale emergency happened (think national) and basic services such as water and power were offline, you would need a backup water source.

If you live near a lake, river, or even a small creek or stream, that is one option. The water will need to be filtered before drinking, cooking, or washing dishes. Depending on what you suspect might be in the water (for instance, chemicals from an industrial facility upstream), you may even want to filter water before use in a garden. There are many options for filtering water, and I leave it to the reader to do his own research. 

If you live in a highly populated area, consider that most of the people near you will utilize that same lake, river or creek. How long will that water source last? Are there people farther upstream (or downstream) that will be counting on that water, too? And without services like sewer and garbage pickup, what will get thrown into that water?

If you’re confident that you can adequately filter any water collected from a surface source, you can also augment it with captured rainwater (filtered for consumption, of course). Cut off the bottom portion of your gutter and set a barrel or other collection container underneath it. You’ll be surprised at how much water a roof sheds during a good thunderstorm. And you’ll be happy for the reprieve from hauling water up from the creek!

If you live in an area where groundwater is accessible, another option is a well with an electricity-free pump.  Both hand-operated pumps and solar pumps are available. Solar pumps are the more expensive option, of course. Dedicated solar panels can be set up for the pump, or in some cases, you may be able to wire the pump to solar panels on your house. However, most solar-operated pump packages do not include a battery, which means you’ll only be able to operate the pump when the sun is shining or the solar panels have not yet lost their charge. Furthermore, solar panels must be kept clean (and in good repair) in order to maintain high performance.

Hand pumps are more economically priced, for obvious reasons. But they are not necessarily the lesser of the two options. Water is available from a hand-pumped well any time, day or night. Some pumps have the option to adjust the “stroke,” or how much pressure is needed to operate the pump. A smaller stroke means less physical force is necessary, so children or elderly people would be able to operate it. A larger stroke means more force is needed, but it also produces more water per stroke. Hand pumps typically come in two sizes: shallow-well and deep-well. If the depth to groundwater from the surface is less than 25 feet, you may be able to use a shallow-well pump, at a significant cost savings compared to a deep-well pump.

In many areas, a permit is necessary to drill a well. You will need to make inquiries with municipal as well as state authorities where you live to see what is required. Typically, though, less regulation is placed on wells designated for landscape, cattle or irrigation use than on wells designated as a primary drinking water source.

Groundwater may appear to be “clean” at first glance. But contaminants at the surface can leach through the soil and enter the groundwater. Additionally, some naturally occurring minerals and metals—arsenic, for example—can be harmful to humans as well. A good idea, after installing a well, is to collect a water sample and take it to a certified lab for testing. Before doing this, you might want to do some research on the geology in your area. Pay attention to what elements are naturally occurring. Also, look for scientific research conducted locally by the USGS or area colleges and universities. You may find information on naturally occurring contaminants, as well as any man-made debacle that might have affected the groundwater where you live. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about what to have the lab test for. 

As you might expect, it’s not cheap to have a well drilled. (It’s possible to drill your own well, but not easy). Depending on the local geology and the depth to groundwater, expect to spend $4,000 or more. Also, consider if there is access to your property for the drilling equipment (is your back yard surrounded on all sides by other homes?), as well as whether you want a drilling rig driving across your manicured yard. Even the concrete in your driveway is probably not rated to support a 20-ton (or heavier) truck. But then, yards can be repaired or re-landscaped. Even concrete driveways can be replaced. In a world without basic infrastructure services, a secondary water source is better than money in the bank.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Two Great Blogs, One Great Giveaway

Angela of Food Storage and Survival is giving away a copy of the Food Storage Made Easy Binder. If you haven't checked out either of these blogs yet, you should. I happened to notice today that Food Storage and Survival is ranked #51 on the Survival Top 50 Blogs (where they actually are currently showing the top 119 blogs). She has a lot of great information about homesteading and emergency preparedness on her blog. The Food Storage Made Easy girls also do a great job covering (what else) food storage and preparation. Both blogs are on my go-to list for informative articles.

So go check out the blogs and sign up for the giveaway. If I don't win, I'd be thrilled if one of my followers did!

Dehydrator Update

I promised to give an update on the dehydrator I bought in December. Here’s the update: I still love it!
At this point I’m still very glad that I didn’t spend a lot of money on an Excalibur. My little store brand dehydrator does a fine job. If I had to pick one thing that I don’t like about it, it’s that the holes in the trays are a little too large, making it difficult to dehydrate small things like herbs without lining the trays with plastic wrap first. But that’s a small inconvenience, as far as I’m concerned. And I’ve been able to just leave the plastic wrap on the trays and reuse it multiple times without any problems. Since the fan is at the back of the unit instead of on the bottom, the plastic wrap doesn’t stop the heat/air from circulating around whatever I'm drying.
Of all the stuff I’ve dried so far, we use the mushrooms the most. It’s so easy to add mushrooms to a variety of dishes. I’ll be buying more mushrooms to dehydrate when they go on sale again.
We’re just using everything I’ve dried so far, but I’ve got some oxygen absorbers ready, and plan to start putting up some stuff for long-term storage, either in mylar or in canning jars.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New Year, New Resolutions part 3

The final installment in my NYRs updates.

7.     Save more water, electricity, gas. Not that we’re big wasters, anyway. But there’s always room for improvement.
--> How’m I doing? I have the hubster “helping” me with electricity. You  know that commercial where the dad goes around turning off lights on everyone in the house in order to save electricity? That’s my husband.
Okay, not really. He’s not that bad. But if I leave a room without turning off the light (or sometimes when I’m still in the room but, say, watching tv), he’ll say, “Are you through with this light? It’s burning XX watts of power right now. “(Yes, he knows the wattage of every light bulb in our house). Or if I walk out onto the back patio, planning to set something down and come right back in, but don’t shut the door behind me, he has something to say about that, too. So, I’m trying to make sure he doesn’t “catch” me wasting electricity. I’m also doing more things like choosing the light in the room that uses the least electricity (for example, a one-bulb lamp over a ceiling fixture that has three bulbs). Kitchen appliances like the coffee maker or blender or can opener are left unplugged when not in use. I try to remember to always turn off the printer but I’m sort of bad about that one. We also leave our computer on all the time. Maybe we could start turning it off, at least when no one’s home.
I’m doing all the normal stuff with water: turn it off while standing at the faucet brushing teeth; only run the dishwasher when full; wash clothes once per week instead of several smaller loads throughout the week. We have a drip hose system for the garden. I try to reuse water when I can. If I’m going to give the dog fresh water, I’ll pour the old water on some plants.  I admit I’m bad about turning the water off in the shower while soaping down or shaving, etc. I hate to just stand there and shiver.
When I say gas, I mean both natural gas and gasoline. There’s not a lot to do about the natural gas, except we keep the thermostat on 69 in the winter and just wear a jacket or sweater if we need to. I guess here again with the shower, I could save gas if I turned the water off while scrubbing.
I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it on here before, but the hubster and I have a pair of Suzuki Burgmans. We bought them back in 2008 when the gas prices started spiking more heavily. Originally, we both had 400cc bikes, but the hubster upgraded to a 650. They’re fun and they’re gas sippers. Mine gets around 60 mpg in the city and his gets 50 mpg or so. We’ve gotten pretty efficient at using all available space in and on them, so it’s possible to grab some groceries on a bike or even stack some bags of dog food on the back and bungie them down.
The hubster will ride his in cooler temps than I will ride mine. I have about a 30-minute commute to work. If I ride when it’s any cooler than about 40 degrees, by the time I get to work my fingers, toes, ankles and anything exposed to the air hurt. On those days I take the car (27 mpg). To that end, I have been trying to get the best gas mileage out of the car that I can. I’ve dropped my traveling speed from 70 or 75 mph to 60 mph on the interstate (no, I don’t ride in the left lane) and the speed limit or slightly under the speed limit on city streets, where I used to average about 5 mph over. I try to time it so I can avoid coming to a complete stop at red lights. Although I’ve occasionally been known to turn the car off while sitting at a long light, I’m not quite into hypermiling. Seems like the wear and tear (by leading to additional maintenance) of turning your car off and on would outweigh the costs of just idling at a stoplight when you can’t avoid it. With these changes, the gas mileage on the car is creeping up – I averaged 28.9 mpg last week.

And that's it for my New Year's Resolutions, which really are more like goals this year. How're you doing on yours?

Monday, February 6, 2012

My first ever blog award

The Liebster Blog Award is being passed around lately and I am very happy to receive Matt’s recommendation. Thank you, Matt! 

Here are the rules:
1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

2. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award.

3. Pick your favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.

4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs.

Many of the blogs I would have nominated have already been nominated by others. I will try not to repeat any. 

Here are five blogs I enjoy reading:

The Apartment Prepper may have over 200 followers: I don’t know how to tell since she’s not on Blogger. But I enjoy her blog because she has a slightly different perspective than most other prepping-related blogs, being short on space and living in an apartment setting. I read some really great homesteading-type blogs but sometimes I have trouble relating, since I don’t have 40 acres and a farm (maybe someday!). I’m sort of in the middle of the two since I live in a house in a suburb with something like 1/16th of an acre, including what land is under the house.  
Mystic Mud is fairly new to the blogging scene. I’ve gone back and read her whole blog from the beginning just because it’s so entertaining hearing about how she lives with her husband and ten kids in a 600-square-foot trailer. And they’re all happy as clams. 

Rambling Anne has not posted lately but I am sure she’ll be back before long. If you read through some of her posts, you’ll see that she and her husband have quite a few irons in the fire so that may be keeping her from any quality computer time. I’m endeared to Anne for all of her gardening expertise and her funny stories about their guineas and chickens. She tells a good story. 

As of this moment I don’t think anyone has awarded ModernDay Redneck, so I’ll try to be first. I enjoy reading about all of his projects and the way he models self-sufficiency for his daughters, as well as for the rest of us. Plus, he’s funny. 

Lastly, The Orange Jeep Dad gives still another perspective on preparedness. Currently living in a large city with his wife and six daughters, he relates their exploits at home, and imparts knowledge learned mostly the hard way about gardening, finances and being a parent, among other things.
I could easily nominate five or ten more but I’ll leave some for others to mention. There’s my five: go check them out if you haven’t already!

New Year, New Resolutions part 2

Continuing with my NYRs update...

4.     Get to know our neighbors. I’ve an idea about some of our neighbors, but many of them we don’t know at all, and our neighborhood keeps expanding. Some I already know would be asset in a SHTF situation. And I can think of at least two households that would be liabilities. But truthfully, we’ve only spent any real time with our next-door neighbors to the east.
--> How’m I doing? Well, I have a plan for a spring get-together/potluck cookout- type situation. There is (currently) a field at the end of our cul-de-sac, and even using the cul-de-sac itself would not (currently) block anyone’s driveway. Otherwise, they just completed the asphalt work on a new cul-de-sac that has no houses on it—we’d just have to transport the grill. And the tent-thingy. And chairs. And whatever else we need. I also want to get together with the hubster and talk about what kinds of questions it would be good to ask people, in order to get a better sense of what they’d have to offer if things really go south.

Also, at some point we are supposed to start a homeowner's association. Our builder told us they typically get started once the neighborhood signs and landscaping are put in place. We noticed this last week that they have been doing a lot of work on the landscaping, so I imagine the HOA is not far off. That will be another chance to meet and assess the neighbors. 
5.     Can more, dehydrate more. I really want to get more proficient at canning. At this point I only have a water bath canner. I’m keeping an eye on craigslist for a pressure canner and for canning jars, but I’m not having much luck. May have to break down and buy new, if it gets to reaping time and I still don’t have a pressure canner.
--> How’m I doing? Well, good with the dehydrator. Time will tell with the canning.

6.     More gun proficiency. ‘Nuff said.
--> How’m I doing? Not so good. I’m a little at a loss as to how to make this happen. I’d need to handle a gun every day for a long time in order to start to really feel comfortable with one, and to know I wouldn’t just panic in a situation where I needed to wield one. As it is, we go shooting maybe once or twice a year. The hubster and I talked yesterday about me at least getting more comfortable loading and unloading, and just getting used to how to hold them, etc. That's something we could work on in the living room, even.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Has Anyone Heard from Arsenius?

Just wanting to do a morale and welfare check on a fellow blogger. I know a few of you followed Arsenius the Hermit. I've been wondering when he would start posting again, but when I clicked on the link for his blog the other day, I found that the whole blog had been removed. I tried to send an email thru his Blogger ID but I didn't hear back. Does anyone keep in contact with him? I'd just like to know whether he's doing okay or not. Thank you.

Friday, February 3, 2012

New Year, New Resolutions part 1

How’s everyone doing on their New Year’s resolutions? I’ve yet to post mine, so I’ll be posting them (7 in all) over the next couple of days with a little progress update as well. These are my prepping-related goals/resolutions for 2012:

1.     Plan and plant a garden on time.  Last year I was slow to get started; hence, many of my plants got stifled by the heat before they could grow and produce anything.

--> How’m I doing? So far, so good. I’ve got a plan for the layout of the garden, being certain to not plant the same types of plants in the same place as last year, and also to not plant them where something else was planted that they don’t get along with, and also keeping in mind what things do well growing next to each other and what don’t, and also trying to keep in mind a plan for succession planting.  Yeah. Wish me luck.

One thing I’d like to do some more research on is heat shielding. I’ve never tried it before and I don’t know if I have the room to try it now. But I’m going to do some reading about it.

2.     Plan and plant an herb garden (cooking and medicinal). I’d like to learn more about how to use herbs for medicinal purposes, in case the day comes that regular medicines are unavailable or are just too damn expensive. Besides that, they’re probably better for you and will have less side effects.

--> How’m I doing? Erm…I haven’t done anything on this front yet. Part of the problem is that I don’t have space for an herb garden. I can add a few plants to the flowerbeds out front, and maybe I can grow a few in pots or something. But I doubt anything I plant in the back yard will evade an attack from the dog, and anything I plant on the side of the house, outside the back yard, will probably be either pillaged or destroyed by the neighbor’s unsupervised kid. I may just have to start small this year, with a few plants in the flowerbed, until I can figure out a better plan.

3.     Plant a fruit tree. Or two, depending on what I decide. I have been looking into fruit cocktail trees, of the stone fruit variety. I just can’t decide if these are a gimmick or not. I have seen photos of full-grown citrus fruit cocktail trees, but none of the stone fruit ones. Do they all fail? Also, some of the stone fruits will grow well where I live and others won’t.  I’ll have to think about this some more. If I don’t get one tree with several grafts that will enable the tree to be self-pollinating, then I’ll have to get two fruit trees, so they can pollinate each other. There again, I run into space and dog issues.

--> How’m I doing? Well, considering that last year I had a goal to plant a fruit cocktail tree, not so good, I guess. But then, maybe I’ve made the right choice about not going that route. In any case, the best time to plant bare-root trees (which is what I’ll most likely purchase) is during the winter, so this goal may have to wait until the end of this year/beginning of next.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Catching Up

Finally! Time to write. The hubster is actually working a late shift this week, so it’s just me and the cats and the dog – nice, quiet house.

We’ve been busy. The hubster switched jobs, and then switched back again. I’ve had some big projects at work. We had family visiting from out of state around the holidays. We helped move an aunt up from Texas. My step-mother-in-law had a scare with chest pains, and then my mother-in-law did, too. My sister-in-law had some health issues as well. Everyone’s doing better now, though, except my sister, who’s had a rough pregnancy, and is about to pop, and can’t wait for her fifth son to get here.

We’ve knocked out a couple of projects around the house, including hanging some framed posters and filling and hanging some photo frames. I cleaned out some closets (to make more room for prepping, of course) and got rid of some junk in the garage.

Preppingwise, we’ve accomplished a few things. We’ve stored about 100 gallons of water. We purchased some more rice and beans, and put it up in one-gallon mylar bags. We store the bags in totes, rather than 5-gallon buckets; it just works better for us that way. We were using the typical Sterlite-type, rectangular totes, but the hubster decided to spend a little extra on some nicer ones. These are square instead of rectangular and are made of a thicker, sturdier plastic. I thought the new totes were a little extravagant and unnecessary. His reasoning was a) we put all this time and money into purchasing and storing this food, and it would be a shame to lose it after the SHTF because we bought cheap containers that rodents could get into; and b) he had no worries about stacking these 3 or 4 high if we wanted, where he didn’t think the Sterlites could handle that. It’s good reasoning, so I’m on board with it now.  

We’ve added to the non-perishables such as canned goods and hygiene stuff. I also buy OTC meds on sale for cheap by playing the drugstore game. I’ve added significantly to our survival notebooks, including a lot of information I learned from the blogs I follow.

I’ve also been getting more proficient with the dehydrator. I’ve dehydrated mushrooms, oregano, celery, pineapple, and even made some fruit leather, to name a few. I love the dehydrator. Now I’m keeping an eye out for good store deals on anything I can dehydrate.

I’ve got a few seedlings started indoors for the garden this spring. I’ve mapped out how the garden will lay, and I’ve made a schedule for starting seeds so I won’t get a late start like I did last year. There are some very helpful charts in the back of the square foot gardening book that I used to help me determine how far in advance of the last frost date I need to start the seeds of various plants. Then I marked the dates on my calendar with what seeds need to be planted, from now through the coming fall.

So that’s some of what we’ve been up to. I’m hoping things will start to slow down a little now, and maybe I can get back to regular postings.