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.


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. 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 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, 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 :).