The Self-Reliant Woman – Deborah in the UP of MI

Deborah : June 20, 2014 7:36 pm : The Self-Reliant Woman
 I had a power outage today for almost 3 hours, someone took down a pole.  I thought, no biggie, I just started up the generator.  Generator battery was dead, but two yanks on the cord, started up, another no biggie.  I plugged in … nothing to the house.  checked all the circuit breakers, nada.  I even plugged a 110 cord into the right outlet.. still nothing.  Called my handyman son.  We ended up dragging the gennie into the house so he could pull the housing off out of the rain and skeeters.
I haven’t needed the gennie in over a year, but I’ve started it up every six weeks or so, just never plugged it into the house – didn’t need to.  The motor to start it is fine, but the generator itself isn’t delivering power to the outlets.  Something has frozen/ seized/ rusted… inside the motor that generates power (even though it’s always covered from the elements).  The unit cost me $1200 many years ago; a Honda, a good engine and very reliable.  Looks like some intense repairs will be needed to the tune of several hundred dollars.  A smaller unit might suffice for the same several hundred dollars brand new, or do I repair this seldom used larger unit for the same price?  either way, for now, I can’t afford it.
Lesson learned:  keep everything CHARGED (I couldn’t even use my Tablet for Kindle reading!)
Lesson learned:  use things!!  perhaps if I had plugged in and used the generator portion of the gennie I would have kept it from seizing up.
Lesson learned:  the right equipment isn’t any good if you don’t use it regularly.
Lesson learned:  I was fine.  I started a lantern, found a paperback book and read until I needed to start dinner, which I did with a match to the gas stove.  No biggie.
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Does the Reason You Prep Matter?

JimCobb : June 11, 2014 10:26 pm : The Self-Reliant Woman

I like to spend just a bit of time each week surfing through different prepper/survival message boards and other forums. It helps me decide what topics are of interest for my writing, of course, and it also serves to give me an idea of how the whole “prepper movement” is progressing. I saw something posted the other day that gave me pause.

What disasters do you prep for, since disasters are prep-specific?

See, here’s the thing. If you think about it for more than, say, 3 seconds, you’ll realize that we are rarely ever prepping for any specific disaster. Instead, we are prepping for the aftermath of said disasters. I mean, sure, there are disaster-specific things, such as installing shutters or covering your windows with plywood in advance of a hurricane. But, by and large, prepping involves making plans to meet our basic needs (food, water, security, etc.) in the event that our normal everyday methods of meeting those needs are interrupted. It doesn’t matter if the reason you can’t buy food is because the economy collapsed and money is worthless or that you can’t buy food because a pandemic has resulted in massive business closures and the grocery store isn’t operating any more. The relevant issue is that you can’t buy more food and need to have prepared ahead of time for that possibility.

It doesn’t matter if your personal bugaboo is EMP, pandemic, the New Madrid fault giving way, the Yellowstone caldera finally blowing, or aliens from Alpha Centauri deciding they like the taste of human brains. Any of those scenarios, as well as tons of others, both realistic and far-fetched, will likely result in:

–The power grid going down.
–Running water and sewer systems no longer operating.
–Grocery stores and other retailers no longer options.
–Police, fire, and rescue overwhelmed, if still operating at all.
–Massive civil unrest, particularly in urban areas.

The reason you prep, your own private theory about what is most likely to happen down the road, is a secondary concern. First and foremost is recognizing the need for being better prepared for whatever might be coming down the proverbial pike.

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January 27 – so much for global warming!

Deborah : January 27, 2014 8:55 am : The Self-Reliant Woman
 I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, even to me.  I do know there are others that are a lot worse off than I am.
 At least I’m reasonable warm, although the wood stove is having a hard time keeping up with the bitter winds that just suck the heat out of the house.  It’s January 27 and I’m already half way through the row of wood meant for February.  Since I always have wood left over come May, I’m not concerned, and I do have more that I could – literally- dig out.  I’m going to snowshoe out to the propane tank today and check the level.  Last time it was down to 55%, low for me, but acceptable.
At least I have plenty of food and do not HAVE to get to a grocery store, though I may have to ration myself on the remaining lettuce I have… I do love my salads (often 50% of my dinner!).  Maybe I’ll splurge and make a pizza for dinner tonight .. a bit of comfort food :).
The bonus is, since I’m not going anywhere, I have plenty of time to write, and I’m almost 50% done with Moose Creek, the sequel to The Journal.
Temp this morning was -6, and now it’s -8.5, the high for today is -5, the low is -16.  75 miles down the coastline is under a Blizzard Warning, here it’s a Wind Chill warning of -45.  Likely the schools are closed.  In some areas, the schools have closed so often this winter due to the weather, they’re considering Saturday classes so the kids won’t have to make up the days in July!  The bitter temps have kept the snow from melting/settling/evaporating and it’s really piling up, even though we’re down almost a foot from average: we’ve just crested 100″
My usual attire for the day is hunting socks (thick and cushy), sweat pants, turtleneck shirt and a down vest, and I still get cold.
I’m making bread twice a week (half goes to my son) so the oven helps heat the kitchen, and I’m staying on top the laundry so the dryer heats the bathroom.
Last Fall I predicted this would be a harsh winter.  I hate being right.

Deborah

in the UP of MI

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Lifestyle changes

Deborah : January 9, 2014 1:02 pm : The Self-Reliant Woman

When I moved to the UP, the first thing I noticed was how CLEAN the air was.  There are no industries where I am to add any kind of obvious pollutants into the air or the water.  Having come from the Detroit area I knew nothing else, but once I was removed from those conditions, I started to feel better.

The next was the drinking water.  It was from my own 90 foot well, unfiltered, unprocessed, and unfluoridated.

Then there were the sights and sounds.  No longer was I listening to the constant drum of traffic.  No longer could I walk from one end of the house to the other without a flashlight because there was so much ambient light from outside 24 hours a day.  In the woods when it gets dark it gets REALLY dark and the sounds are of the leaves rustling.

I was amazed at how I felt and looked after a year of living in the woods.  Then I started doing some research.  What I have found out about the pollutants our government allows into our lives is staggering.  And what’s worse, is most of it we are unaware of, or unaware of the consequences.

Take for instance our dental fillings.  Everyone has them, right? Silver amalgam is probably the most widely known filling material. Amalgam is made up of a mixture of silver, tin, zinc, copper, and mercury, with mercury being nearly 50% of the mixture.  MERCURY, one of the most toxic materials we can be exposed to.  Remember the mercury fish scare? We were told not to eat fish from certain areas because they were so heavily contaminated.  And now mercury is widely used in vaccines to ‘stabilize’ the material, even though it’s known to be toxic, but also might be the cause in the upswing in cases of autism in our children.  This material in our fillings seeps into our blood and tissue over time.  What damage is it doing?  When I found this out, I had ALL of my fillings replaced with composite.  Plus I started using only baking soda to brush my teeth, eliminating fluorides completely.  It didn’t take long when I felt like my brain was clearing and I was thinking clearer.  Of course my dentist says fluoride is good and mercury isn’t harmful.

How about our deodorant? The first ingredient listed on every commercial antiperspirant I checked is aluminum.  ALUMINUM has been linked to Alzheimer’s and certain cancers, and we are willingly putting it on our skin, our largest organ, to be absorbed.  I now use a deodorant stone.  I’ve also gone to locally produced natural lotions for my skin, like goat’s milk and honey, instead of the creams that have a petroleum base.

Other brain fog inducing chemicals are Aspartame and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).  My favorite mixed drink is a rum and cola, but because of the calories I would drink diet cola.  Double whammy!  Now I drink spiced rum and club soda (no calories, no sweeteners) and I avoid anything with either of these as an ingredient.

Now let me mention food. Fast food is by far the worse thing we can ingest, with the fats and questionable ingredients. There are so many chemical in our foods it’s scary.  Many are to enhance the flavor, or make the food more shelf stable, or add color.  Most of the foods on the shelves these days aren’t food at all, just chemicals packed to resemble food.  No wonder we have a society of sick and over-weight people who can’t think.  Even fresh fruit and vegetables are sprayed with toxins to preserve their freshness or brighten their appeal.  My solution has been to grow my own, and to prevent the next contamination with GMO’s, I grow only heirloom or heritage plants.  I also have my own chickens for eggs and my sons hunt deer for my meat.  If I can’t be confident of the naturalness, I do without.

With all the changes I’ve made in my diet and my life, I feel healthier than ever.  Why did I do all this, instead of going with the flow?  Because I want to give myself the best possible chance to survive what is coming.

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Thank you

Deborah : March 22, 2013 6:55 am : The Self-Reliant Woman

I’d like to thank everyone that has followed me on this fictional journey.  There are disaster outs there, waiting to happen, some not nearly as bad as what happened here, some worse.  Will they happen? We don’t know, that’s why it’s called being prepared …for the unexpected, or even the expected.  I do hope you, the reader, have learned something, taken a bit of information and made it your own.  That’s why I wrote this.

 

Deborah

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EPILOGUE

Deborah : March 22, 2013 6:49 am : The Self-Reliant Woman

 

She sat in the old rocker by the cold cook-stove, reading. A warm September breeze drifted in thru an open window, bringing with it the fragrant scent of the wild honeysuckle that now grew by the sliding glass door.  She closed the old, well-worn Journal and set it down, the tears pooling in her dark hazel eyes.  Oh, how sad Deborah had been, she thought, searching her pocket for a hanky; cloth of course, there’d been no paper tissues in a very long time, but she did remember them.

Emilee, now 25, lovingly stroked the smooth cover of the brown leather book her Nahna had faithfully kept for many years.  There would be time to continue reading, she thought, knowing there was more written, much more beyond the five months she had just finished.  She wiped her tears, shed in sympathy for the heart ache her grandmother had felt at the time, but also knowing that Grandpa John had come back to Nahna, not a month later, unable to stay away from the woman he loved so deeply.

 

Emi stood and stretched the kinks out of her back; she’d been sitting in one place too long, especially after hours of working in the garden.  It would be a good crop this year, she thought, Nahna would be pleased.  Her heart clenched.  Nahna passed away three weeks ago; pined away is more accurate, died from a broken heart, Emi thought.  Grandpa John had a heart attack and died two weeks before that, and Nahna just didn’t want to go on without him.

She glanced once more at The Journal.  Yes, there would be time to read more of Nahna’s life later.  And what a life it was! She knew, since she, Emilee Ashton Rush, was there.

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March 21 – Finale

Deborah : March 21, 2013 7:28 am : The Self-Reliant Woman

Power has been back on fully for a week now.  It’s been very easy to get used to again:  water when we want it; lights in any room; the refrigerator making ice; coffee ready before we get up; and clothes washed and dried in the same day.  The internet was back on too, and I spent way too much time catching up on the Groups, reading news, and sending emails, but it sure felt good.  Watching TV at night feels surreal and mystical.  But in reality, my life will never be the same ever again, no matter how free the power is or how much is now stocked in the grocery stores; our lives have been changed, damaged; for some, beyond repair: we’ve starved, we’ve killed, some have been killed.  No, we will never be the same.

 

I woke during the night, heart pounding, gasping for breath, the result of a bad dream.  I snuggled closer to John for comfort.  He wasn’t there.  I stretched my hand out across his side of the bed: the sheets were cold; he’d been up for some time.  Still use to moving around in the dark, I found my robe and tied it closed while I wandered silently toward a softly glowing light in the other room.  There he was, standing by the deck-door, staring out into the darkness.  I leaned against the door way to watch him:  sweat pants slung low on his hips, barefoot, shirtless.

“I can feel when you come near me, you know.  I don’t have to see you to know where you are,” he kept looking out the window, the small battery lantern cast a soft glow; his shadow bounced off the opposite wall.  I waited until he turned around.

“Are you ok, John?” I asked as softly and as evenly as I could.

“I couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to disturb you,” I noted he didn’t answer me.  “Why don’t you go back to bed, I’ll be there in a minute,” he promised.

I turned and went back to bed.  A few minutes later I felt him shift under the covers and he curled himself around me, holding me snug against him.  We both finally fell asleep.

 

We made love that morning.  It was sweet and gentle and ….. sad.  Then John slipped out of bed; I could hear the shower start.  I turned over and wept.  All I could think of were all the unexplained hours away from home; all the quickly hung up phone calls when I came near. Before the water went off, I used the second bath to rinse my face and use eye-drops hoping to conceal the redness from my tears. I slipped on my usual morning sweatpants and t-shirt, both now too baggy on me.

I was already pouring a cup of coffee, when he came out, dressed in jeans and a deep green hoodie. I turned to him.  “You’re leaving, aren’t you?” It was more of a statement than a question. My hands were shaking, the coffee sloshed; I set it down on the table.

“I got a message from Green Path.  They’re starting up operations again, and I have to report back.”  He crossed the room to me.  I backed up.  “Deb………,” his voice caught, pleading; that sweet, charming South Carolina drawl that I’ve gotten so use to, clawing at my heart.

“Why can’t you stay here and still work for them?”

“They just don’t work that way,” he ran his hands over his bald head in that oh so familiar way, and I lost it.  The tears just streamed down my face.

“If you have to go, John, then just go,” I was surprised the words came out.  I hadn’t seen his duffle already packed by the door. I wanted to reach out, to hold him; keep him from leaving me.  But I can’t force him to stay; I can’t make him love me.  My hands hung limp at my sides, twitching, aching to touch him, to hold him here, I wanted to beg him to stay.  I stood silent.  Pride stopped me. He picked up the duffle and walked out.

I stood at the door, hidden by the curtain and watched him walk down the road, the duffle slung across his shoulder; a sob escaping from my throat with every step he took away from me.  He turned into the drive of the other Green Path house, likely to catch a ride back to Eagle Beach.  How could he do this to me, to us? Did the past four months mean nothing to him?

On uncertain legs I went into the bathroom, hoping to find some relief under a hot shower.  There on the dryer, all neatly folded, were the clothes I had given him that first day: sweat pants, t-shirts, socks.  The 9mm Beretta sitting on top.  He wasn’t coming back.

My world shattered.  My life shattered. Then my heart shattered.  My legs collapsed and I slid to the floor, as everything around me went dark.

 

**** EPILOGUE TO FOLLOW****

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March 20

Deborah : March 20, 2013 7:17 am : The Self-Reliant Woman

The chilly nights gave way quickly to a more moderate fifty degrees, and that meant open windows to me, and fresh air sleeping.  Listening to the woods wake up in the Spring is very special: the night birds coming back, the animals rustling around in the leaves looking for food.  I was very excited to hear geese honking high above us, and I almost wept with joy to hear the very distinctive call of the Hermit Thrush looking for his mate.

This morning’s 52* grew to 65* by noon and I knew how I wanted to spend the day: washing curtains and hanging them in the sunshine!  John helped me sort thru the coils of rope stacked on a shelf.  After the blizzard was over, we retrieved all the ropes, carefully rewinding them, tying them individually and hoping we wouldn’t need them for a long time.  The shorter coils I knew were my clotheslines from last Fall.

I was giddy.  “You don’t know how this makes me feel!  I love the way things smell that have dried outside.”   There is only room for four fifteen foot lines, but it’s enough.

“Since you’ll be spending the afternoon washing curtains, you don’t mind if I take the four-wheeler out for a ride, do you?” John asked, pulling the last clothesline tight.

“No, of course not,” I replied, when actually I was disappointed I wouldn’t have the extra set of hands for some of the other work I had in mind.

 

I took down all the curtains in the kitchen and dining room, setting them to wash.  Then I started washing the windows they came off of.  Yikes!  Months’ worth of wood smoke was evident as I sprayed on the window cleaner, watching it drip in dirty streaks.  I had to wash each one twice, but now they sparkle.  When I got to the glass door-wall, I also had to clean the track that was full of mud and bird seed; no wonder it was getting hard to move; tooth picks and a tooth brush were needed to dig under the metal rod that guided the door.

When the first load of curtains was waving gently on the clothesline, I put the next load in: the bedroom and hallway.  Since this room was the furthest from the wood stove, the windows weren’t quite as dirty, but still needed cleaning.  As each window was cleaned, I left it open to help air the house out.

Trying to be systematic, I then moved the dining table, swept and mopped under it, moved it back and did the same to the rest of the room in preparation of hanging the clean window coverings back up.  For some reason I felt an urgency to clean, or maybe it was just the warm breezes that was stirring me on.  With the power readily available now, I vacuumed the bedroom and as a last thought, stripped the bed and washed those sheets too.  We might even get fresh pillowcases tonight!

When the sheets finally went on the line, and all the curtains were back on the windows, I started cleaning up the yard from the winter; a very harsh winter in more ways than one.  I stopped, leaned on the rake, getting my cloth hanky out of a pocket, to wipe the tears as memories bombarded me.  I tamped down the emotions and lifted my face into the sun, welcoming its heat.

 

With all the curtains cleaned and back up, windows washed, floors cleaned, even freshly sun-dried sheets back on the bed, I sat down in my rocker with a sigh of satisfaction.  It was then I realized it was almost 6:00 ….. And John was still not home.

The kids would be over soon for dinner.  It was our Wednesday spaghetti night, and I had yet to put it together.  I found a jar of pork shreds that would do for the meat, and two jars of sauce I made last summer; a pound of linguini instead of my usual angel-hair was next; then a package of ramen for Jacob.  My arms were full as I walked out of the pantry, almost bumping into John.  My heart leaped; I was so glad to see him.

“Did you have a good ride?” I asked, though I really wanted to tell him I was getting worried.

“Yes, I did.  It was a beautiful day.  Let me help with that,” and he took two of the jars from me.  As we set everything down on the work island, he turned back to me.  “The house looks great; nothing like fresh air.”  Small talk.  Inane, stupid, small talk.  I wanted to scream. It was burning in me to know where he had been all this time, but just then the kids came in and the moment was lost.

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March 19

Deborah : March 19, 2013 8:06 am : The Self-Reliant Woman

The sap has been running really good, a constant flow instead of a fast drip; the weather is just perfect for collecting sap.  From each of the six taps, we’ve collected almost two gallons twice a day; these are big, mature trees.  In just two days of constant boiling we have enough for a gallon of fresh syrup.  The work has been tedious and continuous, but certainly not hard.

I had just set a loaf of cheesy bread to its final rise, when John came in.

“You want to check this batch?  I’m thinking it’s getting close to being ready.”  He really has been pleased with having something to do and learning something new at the same time.  We walked back out to the barn, steam rolling out of the big doors in fragrant clouds.

I stirred the dark golden liquid with the big spoon and let it run off the edge.  “Yes, very close; you’re getting a good eye for this.  Keep it cooking while I get the jars prepped and the canner heating.  It shouldn’t take too long; I’ll let you know when that’s ready.”

A half hour later, we were ladling hot, deep gold syrup into pint jars, fixing them with a sterilized lid and ring.  Five jars were submerged into the boiling water bath, and timed for ten minutes.  I lifted them out and John set them on a folded towel to cool, and we started on the next five jars.

 

“Now that’s a beautiful day’s work!” I hooked my arm into his as we admired the ten pint jars of deep amber liquid, all perfectly sealed and lined up on the counter.  I rested my head comfortably against his shoulder.

“Do we need to do more?” he questioned.

“Not really, not unless you want to.  This should last us a while.  Jason is doing his own, so we don’t need to provide for theirs.”  I heard something tired in his voice.  “We could pull the taps, now.”  He just nodded.

I got the small wagon from the garden, and armed with a hammer and a near empty can of pruning seal, (another hole in my preps) we started at the furthest tree;  First removing the tent, then the bucket, emptying any sap into the five gallon pail for tomorrow’s final coffee, and putting everything in the wagon.  Next came pulling the tap out, which John did while I searched for just the right stick to plug the hole.  I jammed the stick as far as I could and broke it off; John used the hammed to drive it in.  A quick spray of sealant and we moved to the next one.  The last bucket to come down reinforced John’s desire to stop syruping:  the bucket had 2” of milky fluid in the bottom proving this tree at least, was done.  I dumped it on the ground.  It really didn’t surprise me though, the temperature had climbed back into the high 50’s.  The removal process took less than a half hour, but I still had to wash everything so it could be stored for next year.

 

I told John I wanted to make something special with that first small batch he had made: the one we had used to dip Emilee’s bread into.  There was about a cup left.

I melted two sticks of precious butter, plus a ½ cup of evaporated milk in a pot.  I now had only four pounds of butter left from the ten I had in the freezer back in October; a sobering thought.  Then I added the one cup of maple syrup to the pot, ½ cup of brown sugar, and two cups of graham cracker crumbs I found in the back of the cupboard, sealed in a glass jar.  I cooked that at a boil for five minutes.  Next I open one of the jars I had of canned crackers, using the club crackers.  I lined a 9×13” pan with the crackers, then poured 1/3 the cooked mixture over them; then another layer of crackers, another 1/3 of the mixture; one more layer of crackers, using all that one jar.  I took a chocolate bar I’d been hiding, and grated it into a bowl.  I made sure the final 1/3 of the mixture was hot, spread it over the top, and sprinkled the chocolate over the surface.  The heat softened the chocolate just right. Then I set the pan in the pantry to chill.

John watched, fascinated.  “What did you just make?”

I grinned, “Maple Kit Kat bars! You are going to be amazed how good they are!”

“But you used a whole jar of crackers,” he reminded me.

I looked at him and smiled.  “Yes, but, John, this is the reason I stored up what I did.  All the canning I did, all the work I went thru, has been to provide things for myself and my family:  things that might not be available when the time came to need them.”  I got serious.  “That’s what prepping is all about, Hon.  Having what you need, when you need it.  It might be tomatoes and ready-made soup; it might be aspirin and band aides; or it might be rope and crackers.  It might even be something I forgot.”

“I doubt you’ve forgotten anything,” he put his arms around me for one of those special hugs I just love.

 

Later that evening everyone enjoyed the sugary treat, and none of it was going to the school!

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March 18

Deborah : March 18, 2013 11:22 am : The Self-Reliant Woman

I made my usual Monday run into the office, but the conversation I had with Darlene was anything but usual.

“I’m taking some time off, Darlene.  With the power back on, everyone is happy, and things are getting back to normal.  You don’t need me anymore.”  I leaned back in my chair.  “I’ll file a final report today; you can send it to Don or do whatever you want with it.  I’m also officially resigning as your deputy.”  I’m sure she conveniently forgot I was still sworn in from when she was down with the flu.

“Are you sure you want to do this, Deborah?  I understand this has been very stressful for you; it has for all of us.  You’ve been a tremendous asset to the town and we won’t forget all you’ve done.”  She was quiet for a minute, as if trying to formulate the right words in her head for what she wanted to say.  “You will be compensated, Deborah, I assure you.”

“I don’t care about that.”

“I know you don’t, but I do!”

“I just have other things I need to do now, Darlene.” This was hard to explain, and it wasn’t coming out the way I wanted. I needed to not worry about everyone in Moose Creek; I needed to talk to my sister and my friends; I needed to plant flowers and tomatoes;  I needed to get my life back.

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me.  I will accept your resignation for being my deputy, but don’t you dare try to resign from being Emergency Manager, that one I will not accept.” She had that fierceness in her eyes that makes her a good Supervisor.

“Deal.”  And I turned back to my computer to do a final report.  I wanted to go home.

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