Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Flashback - I'm a Prepper

The following is an essay that appeared on Surviving the Suburbs blog (my original blog) in 2017.  Given the current COVID-19 pandemic with the shortages in so many surprising and not surprising resources, I felt that highlighting those of us who've been doing this for a long time was appropriate.

Enjoy the flashback ... and feel free to comment ... and invite your friends to comment ;).

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I'm a Prepper.

I'm accustomed to that suspicious, sideways glance from people who learn that I'm a Prepper.  I'm accustomed to being judged for writing about the very real possibility that some catastrophic, life-changing event will happen in my lifetime - what we preppers like to call TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) or when the SHTF (shit hits the fan).

What I haven't gotten used to, however, is being openly ridiculed, called names like "mouth breather", labeled a luddite, or accused of having only a 5th grade education, simply because of my certainty that our way of life is neither sustainable nor non-negotiable, and because I refuse to become a victim, but rather choose to be proactive, and yes, prepared.  

In 2015, Canadian writer, Leslie Anthony, who clearly believes himself to be of a superior stock, wrote exactly those things about the Prepper community.  In what was little more than a insult-laced, lazily researched essay full of nothing more than degrading epithets meant to characterize anyone who believes that things might be going to shit, Mr. Anthony derided an entire group of people - people who run the gamut from, as he calls them "meth-fueled, neo-Christian, anarchist bow-hunters" to professionals in all fields from accountants and teachers to doctors and engineers.  I'd also like to point out that some of the folks in the latter group are also bow-hunters ... and some in the former are also college-educated professionals.  

Former President G.W. Bush owns an off-grid ranch in Texas that includes a 25,000 gallon cistern for storing water.  I'd call him a prepper.  

Yours truly is just shy of a graduate degree (significantly more than a 5th grade education) and is married to an engineer with a degree from an Ivy League college.  I feel like Mr. Anthony doesn't really know what a prepper is, in spite of his insistence that he has a full understanding of what that term means and the kinds of people who wear the label. 

So, let's discuss who preppers really are, and why more people should strive to be like us. 

First let's start with the definition from the Oxford English Dictionary, which Mr. Anthony refers to as "that most authoritative tome."  The definition of a prepper, as published by Mr. Anthony, from the OED is:  "a person who believes a catastrophic disaster or emergency [edited to add: *cough* COVID-19 *cough] is likely to occur in the future and makes active preparations for it, typically by stockpiling food, ammunition, and other supplies." 

I don't disagree with that definition, and I would also like to point out that no where, in that definition, is a prepper defined as someone with no education who hopes for disaster.  Rather, by definition, a prepper is someone who is pretty sure that something bad is going to happen, and strives to be ready for it ... whatever the *it* is. 

So, let's talk about some of the "its" that have occurred recently.

Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas causing severe flooding and massive damage, and Hurricane Irma, after thoroughly thrashing all of the islands in that area of the world where the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean meet, descended on southern Florida with a fury only matched by a little league parent who is certain the referee has slighted his little star.

Both of those events could be described as "catastrophic disasters."  Prepping in the sense of stockpiling goods might not have done many people in the path of those hurricanes a lot of good, but Mr. Anthony also pokes fun at the "Bug-Out Bag", which is, usually a backpack filled with provisions and ready to be grabbed as one runs out the door.  

There were many areas in Florida that were under mandatory evacuation.  So, you tell me, when is it better to plan for an evacuation - when you're being shouted at by the police to leave the area, or now, when you're sitting, calmly, in your living room reading this article?  When are you more likely to be able to think, rationally, about what you might need in the event of an emergency?

When I was in college, the university provided low-cost housing to students who were married and/or had children.  It was a trailer park, and I lived there.  One evening when I was home alone with my two children, the police rolled through my neighborhood telling all of us that we needed to get out ... now!  A tornado had touched down nearby.  We were being evacuated.   I grabbed my kids, shoved a couple of diapers and a quick snack in my purse, and snatched up a ball - as something for my kids to play with.  It was a warm late spring day when we evacuated to the basement of a nearby building. Inside the bowels of that building, sitting on the marble floors, it was cold.  My children and I weren't dressed for the chill of the cold floor in the air conditioned building.  I didn't have a blanket.  I didn't have extra clothes for any of us.  Heck, my daughter didn't even have on shoes or socks (she was still a baby).  I didn't have water.  I didn't have any money.  

The list of what I didn't have was pretty long, and thankfully, after two hours, we were sent back to our homes.  Nothing happened.  We were fine.  The house was still intact.  I hadn't lost anything except two hours of study time.  

It could have been worse, though.  It could have been a lot worse.  That tornado could have destroyed my home, and I and my children could have been left with nothing more than the clothes on our backs, and the few silly things I hastily grabbed on my way out the door.  I didn't even have any identification for them, and I certainly didn't have any of my important papers.  

If back then, I'd had a bug-out bag, we would have had everything we needed, plus a lot more, and those other people who were stuck in that cold basement would have been really grateful when I pulled out blankets and snacks.    

Later in my life, I experienced other SHTF events.  These, like the tornado evacuation, were always short-lived, but the fact that I was prepared those times made my life a heck of a lot easier.

In 2008, much of the northeast was hit with a significant ice storm.  It was the second such storm I'd experienced since I'd moved to Maine a decade earlier.  The worst part of this storm, for my family, was that we were without electricity for a few days.  So, imagine.  It's the middle of winter.  There is no electricity in your house.  Quick!  What do you do?

Can you heat your house?  Can you cook meals?  Do you have candles, flashlights, or oil lamps? Would you even be able to stay in your house for the duration of the event?  Would your pipes freeze? Would you be able to care for your pets or, like too many people did during the recent hurricane emergencies, would you be forced to abandon them?

Some folks ended up in a hotel or a motel ... if they could find one that still had power and vacancies.

We stayed home.

We played games.

We read books.

We even rigged up the FM transmitter that we keep in our car (and is usually powered by the car lighter) so that we could listen to an audiobook through the solar-powered radio.

On day two of our power outage, Deus Ex Machina's nephew came over to our house to spend the day, because there was no school.  He asked us what we did all day with no television, and so my daughters showed him.  They played some games.  They made origami animals.  They colored.  They danced and sang.  

I made lunch on the wood stove.

In the mornings, I heated water on the wood stove.  We had hot baths.  We had coffee.  We were able to wash dishes.

In the evenings, we had plenty of light with my stockpile of candles, oil lamps, and flashlights.  Dinner, including fresh baked bread, was cooked on the wood stove.

On day three of our power outage, Deus Ex Machina went to work in the morning, just like usual, and I hooked my computer and transcriber up to the car jump-starter and did my job, too.

The day the power company crew came to my neighborhood to restore our electric service, I was hanging my freshly laundered clothes on the line outside.

Not much about our lives changed significantly ... because we are prepared.  We don't have a generator, but we know for a fact that we can survive without electricity without any hardship at all.

And without scrambling to buy a generator or running to the store for supplies, because, thanks to our prepper mind-set, we usually have most of what we need.

There are some Prepper-fantasy scenarios that are a little far-fetched - more likely to occur in fiction than in real life.  All sorts of novels cover the possibility of a solar flare or an EMP attack that completely destroys all electronics, or a viral plague that wipes out 90% of the human race. Mostly those events are fiction, but both of them can happen, and have-ish.

To wit:  a solar storm (coronal mass ejection or CME) known as the Carrington Event knocked out telegraph transmissions in 1859.  If a similar event occurred in the US today, it could destroy significant parts of the electrical grid, and knock out power in some parts of the country for months ... maybe longer.  Such an event could happen and would be catastrophic.  It probably won't, though.  And, while an EMP, which would have a similar effect, can be accomplished by detonating a nuclear bomb up in the stratosphere (or, you know, up in the clouds, up there someplace), it probably won't happen, either.  You know, it's not like North Korea has nuclear bombs or anything, or that they don't like us.  Oh ... wait.

As for plagues, those have also happened.  In the Middle Ages, the Bubonic Plague wiped out much of Europe (although some research is also suggesting that it wasn't just the Black Plague, but a combination of pestilence, including bacillus anthracis, or Anthrax).  Of course, that was a very long time ago, and we have a vaccinations these days.  But ...

Ebola is pretty awful.  There's no vaccine.  It probably won't spread to the rest of the world, but from 2014 to 2016, several West African countries fought to keep the disease from spreading. People were ordered to quarantine themselves in their homes.  So, imagine that you can't leave your house.  Can you feed yourself?  Do you have water?  Can you cook your food?  Can you heat your home?  Ebola probably won't happen HERE, where I live, but it did happen somewhere.  The Preppers in West Africa were living well in their quarantined, well-stocked homes.

Let's talk about some other possibilities that are not just crazy, "out there" ideas that are just never going to happen here, but rather some real scenarios that really could happen, over which we would have absolutely NO control, but for which we could be somewhat prepared.

In the 1990s, the USSR collapsed.  The USSR, or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was a massive entity in Eurasia that was formed just after World War I.   Land wise, it was huge.  We collectively referred to them as the Soviet Union, and most of us here in America thought they were all "Russians", but the USSR was actually made up of 15 different countries with several more countries, sort of, being controlled by the government in Moscow.

So, when the USSR collapsed, it was pretty catastrophic for a lot of people.  The Russians retreated back to Russia where there were shortages of everything.  Dmitry Orlov, who grew up in the US, but visited family in Russia, tells great stories about what he saw during his visits behind the curtain of how the people were dealing with the financial collapse.

Argentina, Cuba, Greece, and Venezuela have all recently experienced their own financial collapses, and lest you think it can't happen here, please note that Venezuela is one of the top oil producing countries in this world.  They should have plenty of money to sustain their economy.  Unlike Venezuela, the US does not have its own supply of oil.  If, by some crazy happenstance (oh, I don't know, like the 1970s OPEC-led oil embargo against the US), we lose our oil suppliers, things would be very bad.

If you want a very small glimpse of how it might look to have less oil available, and at a much higher price, do some research on what happened to Cuba when Russia stopped supplying the Cubans with oil.  

Or, perhaps, just harken back to 2008, right here in the good ole US of A, when the price of gasoline skyrocketed, almost overnight, and everyone freaked out.  Truckers went on strike in protest of the high prices.  Goods weren't delivered.  It wasn't too bad, but it could have been.

Shit happens all of the time, and being prepared for the "it" is not a bad thing.

One of the most popular lists for preppers is the 100 items list.  It was originally compiled by a survivor of the Sarajevo siege.  I'm sure you're thinking, why should I care about Sarajevo?

In 1992, Sarajevo was a beautiful, modern city.  It is the capital of Bosnia and hosted the 1984 Olympics.  That year (1992) opposing military factions laid siege to the city, trapping civilians inside the urban confines. The Siege has the distinction of being the longest in the history of modern warfare and lasted almost four years.

Thirteen years ago, I found this graphic novel, Fax from Sarajevo, at my library.  I had no idea what I was borrowing.   The story was horrifying in its harrowing details.  The civilians who lived in the city were constantly being shot at.  These were just regular people.  A man and his wife and their children, struggling not to get killed as these two opposing armies fought each other.  If that wasn't bad enough, they also needed stuff to stay alive, like food and clean water.  No supplies came in.  No one got out. Those cartoon images have stayed with me.

It is unlikely that southern Maine will end up in a siege.  But ... I'm almost positive that if I found Doc Emmett Brown and bartered a ride in his Delorean back to 1984, and I was able to buy a ticket to the Olympics and visit Sarajevo, and talk to the people who lived there, not one of them would express the belief that their beautiful city would be torn asunder by war in eight years.  They'd probably laugh at me.  Loudly.  And point and jeer.

Kind of like Mr. Anthony did in 2015 in his nasty little anti-prepper diatribe.

But the reality - for a lot of people in this world - is that the shit hits the fan all of the time.  War happens, and usually, it happens in places and to people who aren't thinking it could ever happen to them, like most of us living in the US.  War doesn't happen here, right?  In 1991, that is exactly what they were saying in Sarajevo.

I'm also pretty sure that in 2014 no one in Sierra Leone expected that their country would be home to more than 14,000 cases of a deadly and virulent hemorrhagic fever.

And if I could go back to a 4th of July party in Houston, not one of my fellow party-goers would believe me if I tried to warn them that they would be under a three-day siege from a Hurricane with the same name as some actor from the Carol Burnett comedy show.

Our mantra as humans is "It won't happen to me."

The difference between the Mr. Anthonys of this world and the Preppers he derides is that we, Preppers, DO believe it can (and probably will) happen to us, and instead of throwing up our hands in defeat, we decide to do something about it.

He can laugh, if he wants, but come winter, if Maine experiences another electricity stealing ice storm, I'll be living life, pretty much, as usual.

A final word:

There are a lot of SHTF scenarios.  Some are huge events that are devastating to a lot of people, like most of the ones I mentioned.  All of the ones I mentioned HAVE happened, and millions of people were adversely affected by them.  With the exception of the catastrophic CME, all of them have happened somewhere in the world in MY lifetime.  I've been a witness, peripherally, to most of the catastrophic events that we, preppers, are hedging against.

But there's one more, and every one of us is likely to experience that SHTF scenario.  The last one is a job loss or some significant financially devastating event (like an illness).

Deus Ex Machina and I went through the job loss event this summer.  It wasn't bad for us, because we have a prepper mindset, because we are always aware that this modern way of life is not sustainable and not non-negotiable, and because we know that things can change on a whim, and do.

Deus Ex Machina found a job.   We didn't lose our home.  No one starved.  We didn't have to sell our kidneys ... or our children.   We didn't sell our cars or our furniture or our clothes to make ends meet. We didn't have to rehome our pets because we couldn't feed them.  We didn't have to take out loans or end up with credit card debt.  We're still happily married and happily together.

In fact, with the exception of having an awesome summer together with no one having to get up early every day to go to work, our lives didn't change all that much.

Honestly, the whole tone of Leslie Anthony's article was condescending, and yes, as a Prepper, I was deeply insulted.  I guess, I just think, as a highly educated "scientist" kind of guy, we should expect  more from him than just a nine paragraph rant about a demographic he clearly doesn't care to understand.

Maybe, instead of just trolling through a couple of Prepper websites, Mr. Anthony should have done some real research ... you know, like an actual scientist or journalist should be doing ... and gone out and actually met some of the real people in the Prepper world.  If he had done his due diligence, I'm certain his article would have had a very different tone.

But then, if he'd met some real preppers, he would have had to hop down off his soap box and admit that real-life Preppers are more than a reality show caricature.

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[edited to add]

And now that the world is in the midst of one of those "catastrophic" events, now that billions have been locked down and/or quarantined, millions have lost their jobs, and hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost to this disease, I wonder what naysayers, like Mr. Anthony are saying.

To be clear, this isn't my "I told you so" moment, because we aren't done with this.  COVID-19 and its aftermath will be with us for a while.  We still don't know what the overall economic impact will be.  Things are still scarce.  People are still afraid.  At a minimum, we'll have to keep wearing that god-awful mask, and my job, as an office manager at a community theater, is in jeopardy, since we can't have folks congregating in enclosed spaces and theaters are, as a result, closed.  I don't feel "I told you so."  This is not a laughing time.  

It is a time for us to take stock of where we go from here.

For those of you who were preppers before all of this began:  how do you feel about your preparations?   

For those of you who weren't preppers:  what's your plan for the future?

Here at Chez Brown, we were well prepped.  In fact, because I had to come home to work, but Deus Ex Machina was considered an "essential worker" and still went to his job, our lives actually went back to what they were pre-2018, when I owned a home-based business.  It was nice. 

I had more time - and energy - to tend to my space: housekeeping, garden, cooking - all thrived during my lockdown.

We discovered new ways to get what we needed (curbside pick-up for the win!!).  We discovered new businesses (hooray!  Locally caught fish!).  We found a couple of really cool home delivery services for products we would never have considered having home delivered (there's a wine service that home delivers - I didn't subscribe, but how cool is that!). 

We returned to doing things we'd done before, staying home, spending time, doing things. 

For us, it was nice to be reminded of what is important and to return to those activities. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Haircut or Hugs?

On FB today a friend posed the question - at this point in our "social distancing", would you prefer a haircut or a hug?

When I was in high school, I learned to cut my own hair using a book my mother had purchased.  I have no idea why she bought that book, but it was like a lot of things we had - a very eclectic mix of "why do we have that?"  "Hey, look what we have!!!" that has framed how I live my own life.  I have a lot of both, and usually (like the elastics I mentioned in my previous post), I find out why I thought I needed that thing sometime later, and I get to pause and give thanks for the foresight that prompted me to keep whatever it is. 

Several years ago, in an effort to become more self-sufficient, which (for us) translated to "save money", I started cutting Deus Ex Machina's hair.   We have a pair of clippers, which I use to cut the sides, and then, I trim the top with scissors. 

The other day, I gave Deus Ex Machina a haircut.  When I was done, I said, "You could start a juicy rumor that you're sleeping with your hairdresser." 

The longer we stay home, and the more stuff I read on social media about other people's experiences, the more I realize how capable we have become at this whole DIY thing.  Fact is, we really have learned a lot over the years, and I guess we kind of take it all for granted, because we don't need to go out for a haircut.  We don't need to commission someone else to make us masks.  We don't need to pay for take-out.

What skills are you thankful for having learned that have helped you get through this quarantine?

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Mad Skills

When I was in high school, Home Ec. was a graduation requirement for all students.  Most kids took the general Home Ec. class, usually as a freshman or sophomore to get it out of the way.

I, being a sophisticated young woman with career aspirations beyond being a housewife (oh, Fate!  You are so very, very funny!), I put off taking Home Ec.  I think my actual goal was to find a way to get out of having to take it at all. 

That goal didn't quite work out for me, thankfully, and as it turns out, taking Home Ec. proved to be incredibly beneficial to me.

I didn't take the basic home ec. course.  It's a very long story that revolves around my having been an Army Brat and moving into a new community as a high school freshman, but having earned some high school credits in junior high school, and discovering that those credits would not transfer to my new high school, and then, attempting to retake those high school level classes - for the credits I had already earned - but discovering that my school would not allow me to retake a class that I was very much too advanced for.  Like I said, long story.

The short of it is, basically, I had a open slot in my schedule.  I needed Home Ec., but the only option for me at that time of day was to take an advanced Home Ec. sewing class. 

And that's what I did. 

I didn't, particularly, want to learn to sew, but it ended up being one of the most valuable classes that I had in my entire four year high school career.

When I started college, my great-aunt gifted me her sewing machine.  I put it to good use sewing my own maternity clothes. 

Later, I used the machine to sew Christmas gifts and make clothes for my kids. 

After a few moves and some life-altering events, the machine got lost in time, but then, Deus Ex Machina's grandmother gave me her old machine.  It felt like being reacquainted with an old friend.

I've made a lot of things on that machine, including costumes for the Theater, where I am now employed. 

My most recent project is making face masks for friends and family as a layer of protection against this COVID-19 outbreak when we are out in public.




Prepping is not just about food and "survival" supplies.  At its core, prepping is a little like fortune telling - and the ability to look at something for its potential.  The result, for me, is that I have not had to purchase any materials for our masks, because, as a prepper, I have kept old clothes and bed sheets over the years, because those things are fabric, and fabric has dozens of uses:  rags (instead of paper towels); rag rugs; feminine hygiene products; quilts; other clothes.  In the future, those old tee-shirts  are very likely to become "family cloth" (to take the place of toilet paper).

As I mentioned in a previous post, 1/4" elastic is hard to find.  One of the things that I've kept over the years is elastic - from worn out pairs of panties. 


I kept the elastic, because it's elastic, and because over the years I've used a lot of elastic in the clothes I've made for my children (in particular, pajama pants).   It seemed wasteful to be throwing away this perfectly good elastic, and then, purchasing more of it so that I could make things for my kids.

I have also kept old flannel bed sheets.  The fabric is great for all sorts of projects, and as it turns out, flannel is one of the preferred fabrics for making the face masks. 

After I started making masks, I realized an additional benefit of having saved all of those flannel sheets - elastic!  The fitted sheets have 1/4" elastic!




I've used at least a yard (one yard = three feet) of elastic in the past week on the masks I've made, and not only am I incredibly thankful to the Fates who pushed me into that sewing class, but also that I somehow had the foresight to hang on to all of those old clothes, flannel sheets, fabric remnants, and sewing notions.  It's come in handy - even if it looks a lot like clutter. 

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Elephant in the Room

It's the only thing that anyone is talking about these days, but it's also the only topic no one wants to discuss.  It's that proverbial elephant - COVID-19.

We're quarantined, mostly, although there are those individuals who are "essential" and still have to go to work everyday, and so, while, as a prepper, I have spent much of the last decade reading all about things just like this and what to do, the actual "on the ground" experience looks a LOT different than what we imagined back in the day. 

First off, there are no zombies.  There are no blood or pus spewing contagious folks infecting all of us at the grocery store.  In fact, it's a little anti-climatic.  I mean that in a positive way.  What we preppers imagined was a lot MORE than what we are currently experiencing.  People seem to be walking around in a daze.  The reality is a lot quieter.

I think that's always the case, though.  When we are living it, the *it* always looks different in the moment than it does in hindsight.  In a few years, we'll look back on this time and do some great analysis.  Books - both fiction and non-fiction - will be written about our individual COVID-19 experiences.  There will be dozens of "front-line" first person accounts from doctors and nurses. 

I'm looking forward to the grocery store clerk diaries, personally.  I've been shopping at the same grocery store for the past two decades, and I know many of the cashiers and stock-people by name, and they know me by sight.  In the past few weeks, when I've gone to the store, we've chatted, briefly.  When we're on the other side, I want to take a few of them out for coffee or dinner, and talk.

I'm looking forward - to the end.  And by "looking forward" I don't mean, "in anticipation", but rather I am imagining what our future might look like based on what I am seeing in the news right now.  It's April.  It's the beginning of growing season for most of us here in the United States. 

I am seeing way too many reports of vegetables left to rot, of milk being dumped, of farms going under, because they don't have the personnel to harvest, process, or transport the food from farm to customer - many of whom are restaurants that are currently doing only an nth of their usual business.  The food industry is in trouble. 

It's possible that the media is over-blowing things - like they do - but it's also possible that they are under reporting.  We won't know until we're in that hind-sight.  Next week.  Next month.  Next year. 

The thing is, it doesn't really matter whether the reports are optimistic or pessimistic, because we have plenty of material to show us what we could/should be doing right now.  We have plenty of examples of times when things got bad and what people did to make them not quite so bad, or failed to do and ended up suffering. 

We don't have to suffer.  We can be proactive.

As a prepper, that's what I preached for over a decade.  Be prepared. 

That doesn't mean a bunker in the back yard.  It doesn't mean keeping the bug-out bag in the back of your armored SUV and planning to high-tail it to Mt. Katahdin and live off the land.  It doesn't mean buying up 60 acres in the Alaskan wilderness and setting up your off-grid oasis.

What it means is taking Teddy Roosevelt's sage advice: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." 

And that means, if, like me, you live in the suburbs, you find out what YOU can do, where you are, to make sure that this disaster isn't ... a disaster.

The time to start is NOW.

Like, RIGHT NOW! 

Back in the day when I was first starting my prepper journey, I happened upon this list.  It was compiled by folks who survived the Siege of Sarajevo in 1993.  These people lived in the city.  They ended up being surrounded by enemy troops, which limited their movements.  Scrounging for food and basic supplies became the norm, and for most of them, the only hope was to get out alive.

Obviously, we aren't at that point of desperation.  At least most of us aren't being shot at from snipers in the next house, but we are at a point where some things are starting to get scarce.  I mean, toilet paper?  Really?

This is the toilet paper aisle at my local grocery store.
It's looked like this for over a month.

In a few months, we may look back and laugh about the run on toilet paper, because it will be funny that we were more worried about wiping our asses than we were about feeding our faces.

Of course, there are also shortages in that area, too.  If you've been to the grocery store, you will have noticed that the soup and pasta aisles are particularly bare. 

I went to the store two weeks before the lock down truly happened here where I live in southern Maine, kind of in the beginning of the panic.  There was no toilet paper.  There hadn't been hand sanitizer in a week or more (which was no big deal, for me, because I never used the stuff). 

But I was gobsmacked by the barren soup aisle, the empty shelves where the pasta and pasta sauce should have been, and the dearth of flour and yeast.  Since when did those items become so popular? 

Here we are - a month later, with limits placed on the number of items each person can purchase at a time, and a cap on the number of people who can be in the store at a time, and those aisles are still bare, which actually does surprise me.  I wonder.  I just wonder.  Are people still, really, stockpiling those things? 

I mean, it's probably not a bad idea, given that come August, we may be experiencing food shortages, like real food shortages, in that, there is no food, because food wasn't grown and harvested and processed.

What also surprises me, though, is the well-stocked produce section.  The other day, when the tomato sauce aisle was empty, a few aisles over in the produce section, the store had tomatoes for 25 cents a pound.  I can't even get that price, in season, from my local farmer!  I'm not certain I can even grow tomatoes that cheaply.  I bought as many as I thought they would allow without looking at me like I was a hoarder.

I guess what I'm saying is that WE should be reaching further up into the trees for that higher up fruit. 

We should be buying the fresh produce and preserving it - rather than having stores dump it and farmers compost it. 

Canning, dehydrating, freezing, fermenting, cold storing - there are a lot of ways to keep fresh food for later.  I mean, what did people do before Campbell's existed to make that Chicken Noodle soup in a can?

I alluded to this list a few paragraphs up, and here it is: 100 Items That Disappear First (in an emergency).  I've put an asterisks beside the one's that are already in short supply - in just a month's time.

One more note, before the list:  we are a month into this "emergency" here in the US.  Some predictions say that we will be open for business by May 1.  Most are saying the social distancing measures could last well into the summer.  Either way, nothing is going to go "back to normal" - at least not for a while.  The impacts on the food industry and supply chains will be felt for some time. 

Most of the hand soap and all of the hand sanitizer was sold out.  The bar soap was mostly gone, too. 
Those who usually purchase the organic and/or specialty soaps were in luck,
as those more expensive products were still available.



100 Items to Disappear First
1. Generators (Good ones cost dearly. Gas storage, risky. Noisy...target of thieves; maintenance etc.)
2. Water Filters/Purifiers
3. Portable Toilets (ALT – 5 gal bucket with some saw dust or cat litter)
4. Seasoned Firewood. Wood takes about 6 - 12 months to become dried, for home uses.
5. Lamp Oil, Wicks, Lamps (First Choice: Buy CLEAR oil. If scarce, stockpile ANY!)
6. Coleman Fuel. Impossible to stockpile too much.
*7. Guns, Ammunition, Pepper Spray, Knives, Clubs, Bats & Slingshots. (My note:  Gun sales are up here in the US, and some calibers of ammunition are getting harder to find).
8. Hand-can openers, & hand egg beaters, whisks.
9. Honey/Syrups/white, brown sugar
10. Rice - Beans – Wheat (and grow as much as possible!)
11. Vegetable Oil (for cooking) Without it food burns/must be boiled etc.,)
12. Charcoal, Lighter Fluid (Will become scarce suddenly)
13. Water Containers (Urgent Item to obtain.) Any size. Small: HARD CLEAR PLASTIC ONLY - note - food grade if for drinking.
14. Mini Heater head (Propane) (Without this item, propane won't heat a room.)
15. Grain Grinder (Non-electric)
16. Propane Cylinders (Urgent: Definite shortages will occur.
17. Survival Guide Book (this is a link to my book Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs: the Thrivalist's Guide to Life Without Oil).
18. Mantles: Aladdin, Coleman, etc. (Without this item, longer-term lighting is difficult.)
19. Baby Supplies: Diapers/formula. ointments/aspirin, etc.
20. Washboards, Mop Bucket w/wringer (for Laundry)
21. Cookstoves (Propane, Coleman & Kerosene)
22. Vitamins
23. Propane Cylinder Handle-Holder (Urgent: Small canister use is dangerous without this item)
*24. Feminine Hygiene/Haircare/Skin products (my note:  there are fewer choices, for sure, and soap is scarce)
25. Thermal underwear (Tops & Bottoms)
26. Bow saws, axes and hatchets, Wedges (also, honing oil)
27. Aluminum Foil Reg. & Heavy Duty (Great Cooking and Barter Item)
28. Gasoline Containers (Plastic & Metal)
29. Garbage Bags (Impossible To Have Too Many).
*30. Toilet Paper, Kleenex, Paper Towels (my note:  stores are having a hard time keeping this in stock.  Ordering online takes a week or more for delivery.)
31. Milk - Powdered & Condensed (Shake Liquid every 3 to 4 months) (my note:  I actually stocked up a little on condensed milk, to make sure I had milk for my coffee :))
32. Garden Seeds (Non-Hybrid) (A MUST)
33. Clothes pins/line/hangers (A MUST)
34. Coleman's Pump Repair Kit
*35. Tuna Fish (in oil)
36. Fire Extinguishers (or..large box of Baking Soda in every room)
37. First aid kits
38. Batteries (all sizes...buy furthest-out for Expiration Dates)
39. Garlic, spices & vinegar, baking supplies
40. Big Dogs (and plenty of dog food)
41. Flour, yeast & salt (my note:  We can still find salt, but flour and yeast are hard to find).
42. Matches. {"Strike Anywhere" preferred.) Boxed, wooden matches will go first
43. Writing paper/pads/pencils, solar calculators
44. Insulated ice chests (good for keeping items from freezing in Wintertime.)
45. Workboots, belts, Levis & durable shirts
46. Flashlights/LIGHTSTICKS & torches, "No. 76 Dietz" Lanterns
47. Journals, Diaries & Scrapbooks (jot down ideas, feelings, experience; Historic Times)
48. Garbage cans Plastic (great for storage, water, transporting - if with wheels)
*49. Men's Hygiene: Shampoo, Toothbrush/paste, Mouthwash/floss, nail clippers, etc. (see #24 above.  Soap is definitely harder to find).
50. Cast iron cookware (sturdy, efficient)
51. Fishing supplies/tools
52. Mosquito coils/repellent, sprays/creams
53. Duct Tape
54. Tarps/stakes/twine/nails/rope/spikes
55. Candles
56. Laundry Detergent (liquid)
57. Backpacks, Duffel Bags
58. Garden tools & supplies
*59. Scissors, fabrics & sewing supplies (my note:  since there are so many people making face masks, 1/4" elastic is really hard to find)
*60. Canned Fruits, Veggies, Soups, stews, etc. (my note:  the aisles with these items are mostly empty - even with limiting of store patrons AND number of items)
61. Bleach (plain, NOT scented: 4 to 6% sodium hypochlorite)
**62. Canning supplies, (Jars/lids/wax) (my note:  these are seasonal anyway.  By the time the "season" is here, my guess is that no one will be able to find them, except those lucky first folks into the store)
63. Knives & Sharpening tools: files, stones, steel
64. Bicycles...Tires/tubes/pumps/chains, etc
65. Sleeping Bags & blankets/pillows/mats
66. Carbon Monoxide Alarm (battery powered)
67. Board Games, Cards, Dice
68. d-con Rat poison, MOUSE PRUFE II, Roach Killer
69. Mousetraps, Ant traps & cockroach magnets
70. Paper plates/cups/utensils (stock up, folks)
*71. Baby wipes, oils, waterless & Antibacterial soap (saves a lot of water) (my note:  these items have been in short supply for more than a month)
72. Rain gear, rubberized boots, etc.
73. Shaving supplies (razors & creams, talc, after shave)
74. Hand pumps & siphons (for water and for fuels)
75. Soysauce, vinegar, bullions/gravy/soupbase
76. Reading glasses
77. Chocolate/Cocoa/Tang/Punch (water enhancers)
78. "Survival-in-a-Can"
79. Woolen clothing, scarves/ear-muffs/mittens
80. Boy Scout Handbook, / also Leaders Catalog
81. Roll-on Window Insulation Kit (MANCO)
82. Graham crackers, saltines, pretzels, Trail mix/Jerky
83. Popcorn, Peanut Butter, Nuts
84. Socks, Underwear, T-shirts, etc. (extras)
85. Lumber (all types)
86. Wagons & carts (for transport to and from)
87. Cots & Inflatable mattress's
88. Gloves: Work/warming/gardening, etc.
89. Lantern Hangers
90. Screen Patches, glue, nails, screws,, nuts & bolts
91. Teas
92. Coffee
93. Cigarettes
94. Wine/Liquors (for bribes, medicinal, etc,)
95. Paraffin wax
96. Glue, nails, nuts, bolts, screws, etc.
97. Chewing gum/candies
98. Atomizers (for cooling/bathing)
99. Hats & cotton neckerchiefs
*100. Goats/chickens (My note:  A local farm that sold chicks sold out, interestingly.  Seems like a lot of people in my community are suddenly interested in raising chickens.  And eggs are on that list of things that the grocery store is occasionally out of, too).

Today, we're having a wind storm here in southern Maine with potential power outages, and it's "spring" weather for the rest of the US, too, which means tornadoes and hurricanes. 

Where we are on the availability of the rest of the items on the list in a few weeks will be interesting to see, as folks are hunkering down at home, and realizing that they are poorly equipped to a combat a fully locked and loaded Mother Nature.

Welcome Post and Intro

I have a long history of both blogging, working from home, and prepping. 

In 2005, I started my first blog.  I called the blog "Happily Home."  At the time, I was interested in promoting and "at home" lifestyle - home-based work, homeschooling, homesteading (in the suburbs).  That was the impetus behind the blog name, and for fourteen years, that was my blog. 

The blog address stayed the same, but over the years the blog title changed to:  Surviving the Suburbs.

There were a couple of books.  There was a lot of growing and maturing.

Eventually, I felt like I'd run out of things to say.  I'd said them all before, you know?  Anyone who looked back through the blog archives could find the message they needed.

For personal reasons, I took down Happily Home. 

But I think in my heart-of-hearts I am a blogger. 

So, here I am.  Milking Squirrels.

If you remember me from http://happilyhome.blogspot.com, please join me on this new/old adventure, because I'm still doing what I was doing ... and more ... and less. 

If I can figure out how to upload all of my old Happily Home posts, this blog will get really big, really fast :).


Sunday, February 2, 2020

Prepper 101

Deus Ex Machina and I watched this film the other night called Prepper (the link is to the trailer on You Tube).  Deus Ex Machina's favorite thing to say when we load a movie to watch that might be of questionable quality is "How bad can it be?"

Very bad is often the answer.

We've turned off more than a few films.

And to be honest, Deus Ex Machina wanted to turn this one off, but I needed to watch it. 

The gist of it is that a high school geography teacher starts to pay attention to what's happening in the world, and what he sees worries him.  He recognizes how fragile our way of life is, and understands that if one of those events (war in the Middle East, contagious virii - which in the movie is Ebola -, resource depletion, climate change, etc.) goes awry, the whole thing could collapse like the proverbial house of cards. 

Rather than ignore what he sees happening, or get bogged down by fear, he takes action.  He and his wife (also a teacher) start doing things to prepare for the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it (TEOTWAWKI). 

I love the premise of the movie.  I love that Joe Suburbanite decides to take a proactive approach to what he sees happening in the world.  Rather than marching on Washington holding a sign and complaining about the state of the world, he recognizes that world is going in a bad direction, and he decides to get prepared for when the thing happens.

In fact, the movie could have been based on my book Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs: the Thrivalist's Guide to Life Without Oil, because the protagonist in the movie has the same feelings that I have about being prepared rather than scared.  My mantra is:  Don't just survive, Thrive!  And Don't focus on limitations.  Imagine possibilities!

The problem I had with the movie was that I felt like their preps were too short-sighted.  The film really only focused on five areas of prepping:  food, water, cooking, self-defense, and shelter. 

So, while I will not critique the film, I will discuss what they did, and what I think those who are really looking to be prepared should do instead.

FOOD

There was a lot of emphasis on storing food.  While I don't disagree that one should have six months to a year's worth of stored food, my concern is with so much emphasis on storing prepared foods. 

What I would recommend instead is that new preppers learn to really see where the food is, which is not just the grocery store.  Instead of buying a bunch of food in cans and boxes, how about figuring out how to grow, raise, and forage food.
 
Growing

The best start is to purchase seeds, but (at least where I live) seeds are a seasonal commodity, unless one orders the seeds, and ordering seeds, at least for a beginner gardener, can be tricky.  I have spent thousands of dollars on seeds I never used, because the description and picture in the catalog was so appealing.  It's taken me years to figure out what I can grow best, but as the movie depicted, we may not have years to get ready.

Instead, what I recommend is purchasing organic produce from the grocery store or a local farmer.  Buy only those things you know you and your family normally eat, and then save the seeds.  Many vegetables have plenty of seeds, and usually those seeds end up in the garbage or compost.  Save them. 

Some vegetables are the seeds.  Who hasn't had an onion, potato, or garlic clove sprout in the pantry?  Those things can be planted.  I plant sprouted potatoes and for every "seed", I end up with between 3 and 5 lbs of potatoes.  Not bad for something I might have discarded.

Some vegetables can also be regrown.  Lettuce and celery are good examples of vegetables that can be regrown from scraps. 

And don't forget sprouts.  Sprouts are, after all, just baby plants.  Buy some sprouts and put them in some soil.  After a few weeks, you'll have a plant.

I emphasized organic, because sometimes the inorganic produce has been treated with chemicals to inhibit their growth in storage, or they are GMOs, which are patented, and sometimes bred to be infertile.  So, the seeds won't grow anyway.

Dried beans and peas can also be grown into bean plants.  Just soak them, and then plant them ... and wait. 

I haven't tried regrowing grocery store popcorn, but I have grown popcorn.  The seeds look the same.  Could be worth a try for someone who has nothing to lose, i.e. us Preppers who just need to see what's possible.

This video details 14 different produce items that can be regrown. 

So, instead of spending a bunch of money on canned food, consider investing in some garden supplies, potting soil, containers, etc. 

Raising

For those who have a little extra space and a little more of an adventurous spirit, raising animals for food can be done. 

We have raised chickens for eggs and for meat.  The only problem with chickens, for my family, is that it is not long-term.  We only have female chickens, and so if the SHTF, we will only have eggs until our chickens get too old to lay, and since we purchase our meat birds as chicks every year, we won't have chicken meat once we run out of what's stored in the freezer.

An alternative to chickens are quail, which are perhaps the perfect suburban poultry.  Quail take up very little space.  They are quiet - both the males and the females.  They are easily bred.  The biggest issue with quail is that their eggs are tiny.  One chicken egg is about six quail eggs.  When it comes to quail, one literally has to break a LOT of eggs to make an omelet.

Rabbits are one of the best suburban livestock animals.  They don't provide eggs, but they are easy to breed for meat, they are quiet, they don't need a lot of room, and their nutrition requirements would be easier to satisfy in TEOTWAWKI when commercial feed is not available.  Plus, rabbit meat is one of the best, nutritionally. 

Foraging

Probably one of the best solutions to the food issue is to know where to find food that's just out there.  Deus Ex Machina and I have spent a lot of time looking for wild foods. 

Our favorite annual wild food is maple syrup.  We have 20 or so buckets with taps, and we get between one and three gallons of maple syrup per year.  Imagine, if we do end up in an end of the world scenario, and suddenly everyone has to give up sugar.  That maple syrup will be wonderful to have. 

We also forage wild greens, berries, acorns, and feral apples.  We've learned to identify dozens of edible plants (including some mushrooms) within a 5 mile radius of where we live, and we've found many of those plants just growing wild outside our front door.  So, our suburban quarter acre lot has both cultivated annuals and consciously planted perennials, and a variety of wild edibles. 

Having a bunch of canned foods and staples (like flour, salt, spices, rice, etc.) is not a bad thing, and I don't mean to say that one should not buy those things, but at some point, if the emergency is truly an emergency, those things will run out ... and then, what?  Having the ability to make one's own food by having a garden, raising some livestock, and/or learning to forage will only make one more empowered ... and prepared.

WATER

The go-to for water storage in the prepper community seems to always be purchasing bottled water in plastic containers, which is exactly what the teacher and his wife did in the movie.  I do have to give props to the writer, however, for the grocery store clerk, who advised the couple that if they planned long-term storage of the bottled water, they might want to consider also purchasing water purification supplies (in aisle 5), because bottled water doesn't stay safe in the long-term.

The grocery store clerk tells them that bacteria in the water will render it unsafe in the long-term.  So, sure, okay. 

The real issue is that the plastic degrades over time, which leaches the chemicals in the plastic into the water AND over time, as the plastic degrades, the containers, themselves, become unsound.  That is, they will start to leak. 

The other part of buying bottled water that gets my hackles up, is that MOST of us have perfectly drinkable water at home. 

I have a friend who lives in Houston, and for those who know anything about US geography, Houston is on the Gulf of Mexico, which means that my friend has survived many hurricanes.  A few years ago, as a hurricane headed toward them, she lamented the fact that her neighbors (that is, other folks who live in Houston - not necessarily those in her neighborhood) bought out all of the bottled water in every store in the city.   Her comment was that they had water in their homes.  She said, rather than buy bottled water, how about buying containers that can be filled with water from the tap?

I completely agree with her logic, but I wouldn't, necessarily, purchase a bunch of gallon-sized plastic containers.  Instead, I would have rain barrels.  I actually do have rain barrels, and we use them all summer long to water the gardens and our animals.  Problem is, where I live, rain barrels are seasonal, because the water tends to freeze during our wicked cold winters here in the northeast.

As such, we have a couple of different solutions.

1.  I often can in small batches, i.e. I might be canning 5 quarts of tomato sauce, which means that I have room in my canner for more jars.  I will fill jars with water and can those along with whatever food I'm preserving.  Glass jars don't degrade like plastic does.  The canning process kills any bacteria that might be in the water.  So, the water in my glass jars will be longer lasting than bottled water from the grocery store.

2.  As hikers, we have water filters and in a pinch know how to make a filter out of easily found materials.

If I had been the writer of that screenplay, I would have had my characters purchase a water filtration system like this one and a couple of rain barrels, rather than purchasing bottled water. 

The absolute best solution would be to have our preppers digging a well, but that's not something that most people who live in the suburbs would be able to get away with - even in fiction.

COOKING
 
Again, I have to give credit to the writer for thinking about the fact that, if the electricity goes out, most folks won't be able to cook a meal.  Where I live in the northeast, long-term power outages (more than 24 hours) during the winter are frequent enough that we decided not to be dependent on the grid for things like cooking and heating.  We have a woodstove, which allows us to heat our home, cook our food, and heat up water for cleaning.  It's the best investment we've ever made.

In the movie, they discuss how they will cook their food, if the power goes out.  At first, they say they'll cook over a fire, but then, nix that idea in favor of a camp stove. 

Camp stoves use propane, which is non-renewable and not sustainable. 

There are a lot of options, and I'm sad that they didn't more fully explore them, although I'm sure it was a time constraint kind of thing. 

I shared how to make a hobo stove, which can be made from materials many folks have lying around - like a popcorn tin or an old coffee can. 

A home-made grill is another option.  Right after I graduated from college, I found a job, which meant I had to relocate.  Unfortunately, my new employer didn't help with moving costs, and so, while I was able to pay my first month's rent, I didn't have enough saved to turn on the gas for the cook stove and the water heater, and I wouldn't have my first pay check for at least a month.  Cold showers were bad, but spaghetti in a crockpot was the worst.

I had no grill, no fire place, no fire pit.  What I had were the shelves inside the oven, a concrete patio, a few bricks, and some charcoal.  Using the bricks, I made a frame to hold the rack from the oven and lit a fire with the charcoal.  Voila!  Instant grill.  Using a cardboard box, I was able to make an oven in which I managed to bake cornbread. 

Had I been a little more knowledgeable back then, I might have built myself a rocket stove using the bricks, and then, instead of needing charcoal for my fire, I could have used twigs.

Since the implication in the film was that the teachers didn't really have any survival skills, they wouldn't have been building hobo stoves or rockets stoves.  If I had been writing the screenplay, I would have had them purchase a Biolite camp stove rather than a propane stove or grill.  The biolite stove uses twigs as fuel, and while it is cooking one's food, it is also generating electricity for charging phones, laptops, and USB headlamps.  Biolite camp stoves and a number of other low-energy cooking options are available in camp stores.  I'm not sure why so many people end up at an Army Surplus store when they're looking for survival gear.  Frankly, I've met some hikers who are a lot more hardcore than many of the folks I served with.  So, there's that.

Of course, my little make shift grill worked well and was, essentially, free with the exception of the charcoal, but did you know that you can make your own charcoal?  Yeah, I didn't know that, back in those days.  Charcoal is made from wood

Which is why I would actually encourage new preppers to consider stocking up a small supply of wood.  It could be as simple as saving the branches from pruning one's trees or finding some free pallets, but having some wood is not a bad idea. 

And I would also encourage the acquisition of a dutch oven.  As the name implies, it can be used as an oven, when placed in hot coals.  The temperature inside the oven gets hot enough to bake bread.  And it's another of those items one might find in a camping store, but not in an Army Surplus store. 

SELF-DEFENSE

As with most prepper authors, the screenplay author had his protagonists buying guns.  I don't have a problem with owning guns, and when it comes to prepping, I don't have an alternative suggestion for self-defense, but I do have a caution.  If one owns a gun for "protection", one must be prepared to shoot a person, and kill that person.  Most people get queasy thinking about killing their own food.  Killing a person, I imagine would be much harder, even if that person was being threatening.

SHELTER

The protagonists decide to go in search of a bug out location.  When they fail to find some land that they can afford and that is also useful (i.e. flat and buildable), they start looking at bunkers for their backyard.

Ultimately, they realize that what they have is what will have to do.  I agree that our actual goal should be to bug-in rather than bug-out, and that's why I recommend living (and working) in a place where one can imagine surviving long-term, should the SHTF. 

I also happen to think that the suburbs can be the perfect TEOTWAWKI location, especially if one knows and likes one's neighbors. 

There were a lot of things that impressed me about the film, and I am not sorry that I encouraged Deus Ex Machina to stick it out with me.  He'll never agree that it was a good film, and that's fine, but a couple of things were actually incredibly thrilling to me.

First, the fact that the protagonist was a middle class, high school teacher who lived in the suburbs, and realized that our culture, our way-of-life, is unsustainable, and he started making changes, gives me hope for the world.  I loved the fact that he wasn't a paramilitary commando.  He was actually not a gun buff, and only bought a gun, because some guy at the Army surplus store recommended it.  I also liked the fact that he had some trepidation about sharing that he was prepping - not because he was worried someone would steal his shit, but because he wasn't sure how other people would react, and he didn't want to seem crazy, although he KNEW that IT was going to happen - and soon - and he needed to be proactive to keep himself sane.

Second, he doesn't hide himself away. He builds a community. 

I read a lot of prepper fiction, and I read this book a while ago about an EMP event.  EMP stands for electromagnetic pulse, and the fear is that if a nuclear warhead is detonated up in the atmosphere, it can destroy anything electronic.  In this book, one of the main characters lives in a suburban home.  His neighbor is a single-professional woman with a high-powered office job.  In a collapse scenario, the main character decides she is useless. 

I disagree, and feel like the folks in that novel passed up a great opportunity to build a community where they were, rather than embarking on a dangerous, long-distance bug-out venture on riding lawn mowers.

The main character in the movie Prepper did not assume that his neighbors, even the ones he didn't really like, had nothing of value to offer to the community to ensure that they could all survive.  I was excited to see, for the first time in Prepper fiction, a story line in which the preppers embraced their non-prepper neighbors and discovered that everyone had something to offer.


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Seeds and Junk Mail - Some Things Were Meant to Be Saved

I've reached that magical age at which I am the recipient of a lot of unwanted mail from organizations that cater to people of a certain age.

At the moment, AARP is very interested in my being a member.  I am not as interested in joining as they seem to be to have me.  Every few weeks, I receive another solicitation from them. 

It's a lot of wasted paper, and we all know how I feel about waste.

So, I thought, there must be something I can do to make less waste - other than throwing it in my wood stove.

On a related note (it's related ... I swear!) ...

We don't buy a lot of fresh vegetables during the winter.  My goal is to grow my own and/or purchase local, in season produce, and preserve it.  There are a lot of vegetables that are eaten from a can (well, a jar) in my house during the winter.  Tomato sauce, pickles, and corn are jarred up and on my pantry shelves.  I also make sauerkraut, and some things are put into the freezer, like broccoli and peppers.

Occasionally, however, we purchase some fresh produce, for a specific meal - like steak sandwiches with peppers and onions.

And for this treat, I will purchase an organic green pepper from the grocery store.

Thing is, those peppers are just full of seeds, and as organic produce, those seeds are likely to be viable. 

So, I like to save them.  Even if I don't end up using them this spring, knowing that I have them means I won't purchase a packet of seeds.  I've saved $2 from keeping something that might have ended up in the compost pile - not that compost is a bad thing.

Back to all that AARP mail ... and you can probably guess where this is going.

Good ole AARP includes a return envelope with their mailing.  They want to make as easy as possible for me to join their club.

And those lovely little envelopes are just perfect for storing those organic pepper seeds.




I particularly like the request in the bottom corner to "please recycle."  

Of course, we all know that reusing is much better than "recycling", especially these days, when we don't know if our recycling is actually being "recycled."  

Do what you can with what you have where you are.  

Pepper seeds from organic peppers saved in envelopes from junk mail.  That seems like a good use of time and resources.

What did you save today?