Doomsday Preppers: New TV Show

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Last Tuesday, February 7, 2012, a new show premiered on the National Geographic channel. It’s called Doomsday Preppers. A pilot episode was filmed in 2011 and received good reviews so they decided to run the show.

In the pilot episode they looked at 4 families of preppers.  Preppers are people who are preparing for an upcoming major disaster, economic meltdown, war or other event that might possibly change the way we live and cause resources to be scarce.

They show the efforts each family is taking and at the end give analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. The efforts of each family lines up with their belief in the likelihood of a potential event. In this episode the featured families were concerned about a coronal mass ejection, hyperinflation/economic meltdown, or nuclear threat.

There were some pretty innovative ideas in the pilot episode. One guy in the Phoenix suburbs had turned his pool into an aquaponic greenhouse combined with a chicken coop on the shallow end and a tilapia fish pond in the deep end. Another had created a wood gasification system to run his truck and act as a back-up generator.

Most families wouldn’t go to these extremes, but we all could learn a few lessons from the prepper world. In the real world, unforeseen events do occur. We’ve seen enough of earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis in the last few years to know that we need to have some level of preparedness and some basic planning. History teaches us  that we’ve had it pretty darn easy in the good ol’ US of A. I think we’ve been lulled into a place of complacency.

I remember watching one of those shows where two families switch wives for two weeks. A trendy west coast city couple switched with a homeschool family in remote Iowa who homesteaded and practiced preparedness. The city wife said something to the effect that she lives in the city. She will always have food. How naive. Cities will be the first place food runs out. I think most of us would say that she is mistaken, but our actions show that we don’t really believe it. So, I guess it’s not just complacency, but really denial.

I think the new show is interesting although I disagree with a couple of things. The preppers are putting themselves at risk by revealing their locations and resources on national television.  If something does happen then their security will be at risk. The other thing I’ve noticed is how every time they weigh the odds, the show says that all of the scenarios are unlikely to happen. I think some of them are very likely–particularly a financial meltdown.

If you have an interest in learning more check out Doomsday Preppers on Tuesdays 9pm ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel. I don’t have cable and they don’t appear to have full episodes of this series on the National Geographic site, so I watched on YouTube. Below are some videos of the show.

I’d love to hear what you think.

Deborah

The pilot episode from YouTube user Offline922

Bullets, Lots of Bullets Feb 7, 2012. Video and audio could be better, but this is the only one I could find at the time of this posting.

Another episode, I Hope I am Crazy, aired on Feb 7, 2012. This has David Sarti, a very funny prepper I have followed on YouTube for a few years.

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100% Whole Wheat Buns

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In the last few years I’ve been trying to make lifestyle changes that help my family be more healthy and more self-sufficient. One of those has been making our own whole wheat bread. It is definitely an art. My first stage was to get my basic recipes using the bread machine. Future goals are doing it without the bread machine and learning how to use sourdough starter.

One of the basic recipes that I have found is for hamburger and hot dog buns.  We really like them.  If you aren’t quite ready to go 100% whole grain, then you can substitute all purpose flour for one or two cups of the whole wheat flour.

100% Whole Wheat Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns
Bread Machine Recipe

Ingredients:Hot Dog Buns

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup sugar, honey, or other sweetener (do not use artificial sweeteners)
  • 3 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten (optional, but will help the bread to rise)

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in bread machine pan in the order listed and run it through your bread machine on the dough setting.
  2. When dough cycle has finished. Place the dough onto a floured counter and shape into a roll.
  3. Divide dough and shape according to your needs. A good rule of thumb is 8 pieces for hamburger buns and 12 for hot dogs.
  4. Place on greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise in warm oven 10 to 15 minutes until almost doubled.
  5. Turn oven to 400°F  and bake 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown. Cool on racks.

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Homemade Laundry Detergent

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I showed up at the church craft night a couple of weeks ago with boxes of old-timey cleaning stuff and a grater. Invariably, someone asked me what project I was working on. When I said I’m making my own laundry detergent there were some puzzled looks and the hesitant “Oh, OK.”

For me, there were several reasons to seek out this kind of project–cost, allergies, and because I like making stuff. There are a ton of recipes online. I used the one from the video below.

The results have been great. Gary is a real believer. I put two wet towels in the dryer and forgot to turn it on. Sadly, I do things like this a lot. In the past he would re-wash in the major name brand and the smell wouldn’t come out. This time it came out completely. Plus, it doesn’t have all of those smells we are always reacting to in detergents.

Here are the recipes. We have only used the dry version.

Laundry Detergent

Ingredients
2 cups of Borax
2 cups of Washing Soda
1 bar of a pure soap, grated  (Ivory, Fels Naphtha, Castille, etc.)

For Dry

  • Mix the ingredients together in a container. 
  • Use 1 tablespoon in a front loading washer or 2 tablespoons for a top loader.
  • You may need to make adjustments based on your type of water. 

For Liquid

  • Put grated soap in a pot. Cover with water and melt over low heat.
  • Put washing soda and borax in a 5 gallon bucket.
  • Add some hot water and mix to dissolve.
  • Add the melted soap and stir until mixed.
  • Top off the bucket with water. 
  • Use 1/2 cup for a front loader and 1 cup for a top loader.
  • Adjust according to your type of water.

I used the Fels Naphtha as the bar soap. This is a laundry bar that I heard about online. It is larger than the other bars, so I didn’t use the whole bar.

I was able to find everything at the grocery store. All of the Wal-Mart stores I’ve been to lately have all three ingredients, but are often sold out. I’ve been to several stores in St. Louis and Alabams. They are in the laundry section usually on a bottom shelf. ACE hardware has everything online and lets you order online and have it delivered free to one of their stores.

Credit goes to Kim at www.homestead-acres.com for her video on making dry and liquid laundry detergent.

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“How to Raise a Musical Child” Resources

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Saturday, March 26, 2011 I will speak at the Greater St. Louis Area Home Educators Expo. The title of my presentation is “How to Raise a Musical Child When You Don’t Feel Very Musical”.

One thing I want to communicate is that music applies to all of life, music is part of being human, and we can find ways to create a musical home. I’ve written much about this on another blog www.ourmusicalhome.

It saddens me how music has become so passive and how family musical life–which was so vibrant in the past–has largely been lost.  The advent of recorded music has changed us. We can now listen to symphony orchestras on demand. We can hear music from across the ages on our cell phones. We have gained greater access, but the down side is that our relationship to music has become passive and it often times nothing more than filler.

In many ways there is too much music.  I am in a restaurant as I write this. There is music in the background. In some ways it is a distraction. In other ways it is being taken for granted.

Many people only experience music as passive listeners. They never know the joys of making music. So many people don’t realize the role music plays in history and in life or that music is a skill that can be developed.  These are things I will touch on in my presentation.

Below are the resources from my presentation. It is just an overview of some basic ideas I’ve been pondering.  I would love to get feedback from those at the seminar and those who read the material. Just add your thoughts in the comment section.

How to Raise a Musical Child When You Don’t Feel Very Musical 
Seminar Materials  

PowerPoint Slides  

Article Handouts

Books Mentioned

Freebies

Video: Mike Huckabee Art and Music Education

Deborah

P.S. We are considering creating a curriculum or other resources to help homeschooling families build musical knowledge and understanding.  We would love to hear your ideas. Please post them in the comments section.

P.P.S. If you would like to get updates as more homeschool music information becomes available please subscribe here. You must respond to a confirmation email for the updates to become active.


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What Would Ma Ingalls Do?

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The real Pa and Ma Ingalls -- Charles and Caroline.

If your experience with Laura Ingalls and her family is limited to the 1970’s TV show, then you might miss the meaning of my title. The TV show focused on relationships and people, but left out a lot of the richness and difficulties the real Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her life on the frontier.

In the books Laura writes about what their family does to survive. It chronicles how they live, get their food, worship, deal with hardships and more. In the books Ma is making bread, doing laundry by hand, making cheese from rennet made fresh from a slaughtered calf, sewing by hand, making do with what she has because the closest store is an overnight trip, and so much more.

The more I think about how we get things and even how we do things to gain a simpler life, the more I realize how dependent we are on manufactured goods. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing. Manufacturing is productivity and it is what keeps our economy strong. I like having the convenience of tools and ingredients that make life easier and more interesting.

I also see things from another perspective. In July 2006, St. Louis had a weather event that spawned many low level cyclonic winds called gustnadoes. A large part of St. Louis was without power. Many areas were without power for several weeks. For us it was 3 days with the heat index around 115 degrees each day.

Those three days taught me a lot. I realized that it was relaxing to shut off the electronics for a while. I ended up getting a lot done around the house. I was even canning watermelon rind pickles. I had them soaking prior to the outage and needed to get them canned. I used  a flash light to see if they had reached transparency.

I also learned that freezing produce from your garden makes it more vulnerable. We had lots of fruit and vegetables in the deep freezer and eventually they started to thaw.  It was at that point I decided to switch from freezing to canning.

A few years later I started to think about canning. Canning requires you to buy lids. What if lids become unavailable?  How will I preserve my food. Because of this realization I started exploring other food preservation methods such as fermenting and dehydrating. I still haven’t really incorporated these techniques. I’ve just been reading up. I plan to dehydrate a lot of food this year. I’m going to experiment with the electric dehydrator, in the oven and sun drying.

When I think about what Ma Ingalls would do, I think of what I would do if some breakdown in our system prevented me from getting what I needed. This can be a manufactured item or a food item that is not available locally. 

For example, what if I can’t get yeast to make my bread. Commercial yeast is a fairly new invention, after all. How did people do it before? They either used a starter or they didn’t make that type of bread. Thinking on these things colors my decisions. I’m not going to quit using store bought yeast, and I’m not going to ditch my bread machine. I’m just going to make sure I have the knowledge, skills, and enough experience to make a change if necessary.

I think most Americans take for granted as necessities things that most people didn’t have access to 100 years ago–electricity, hot water, air conditioning, bananas, citrus fruits, individual communion cups, refrigerators, washing machines, fresh vegetables during the winter, olive oil, shampoo, toilet paper or even indoor toilets. The list can go on and on.

Thinking about these types of things has made me see other vulnerabilities like the fact that the Wal-Mart store near our house sells 65% of its inventory everyday and that we live near a major fault line-the New Madrid fault. Our city had laws requiring buildings made of brick because of devastating fires in the 19th century.  It’s the completely wrong building material to if you are going to be hit by earthquakes.  I’m not being a Chicken Little, it is just realistic to look at the fact that people go through hard things and they can happen suddenly.

It’s not just the vulnerabilities, but the desire to have more simplicity and to find creative ways to use what I have around me. It is more work, but it is the kind of work that energizes me.

I’m not giving up the world of modern conveniences, I’m just looking at things differently with an eye toward the past. When I think of what Ma Ingalls would do, I also think of how my grandparents lived. They didn’t have a lot of these things either.  As I ponder these things I am finding a richness in remembering them and in finding a slower way of living.

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Book Review: Possum Living

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He's cuter than the ones I've seen in my yard.

There’s a great little book I just readPossum Living: How to Live Well without a Job and with (Almost) No Money. It was written back in the late 70’s by a then 18-year-old going by the pseudonym of Dolly Freed. 

It tells a story and gives instruction on how she lived with her father in a Pennsylvania suburb in an almost completely self sufficient lifestyle. They would often do odd jobs to bring in a little extra cash if needed, but almost everything they provided for themselves through gardening, keeping animals, hunting, foraging, making things, bartering, etc.

It was a fun and easy read partly because there was a lively, yet snarky humor about it and partly because it was a picture into the real lives of people. Here is a defining quote from her introduction:

Why is it that people assume one must be a hippie, or live in some dreary wilderness, or be a folksy, hard working, back-to-nature soybean-and-yogurt freak in order to largely by-pass the money economy? My father and I have a house on a half-acre lot 40 miles north of Philadelphia, PA (hardly a pioneer homestead), maintain a middle-class facade, and live well without a job or a regular income–and without working hard, either. (Of course, the term “live well” is open to various interpretations. We think we do–others may disagree.)

In the book she gives some practical instructions on how they live–including raising rabbits in the basement, preserving food, building a wood stove out of a steel drum, and making a still. Most of the instructions are very simple and can fall into two categories: 1)simple because it is really that simple or 2) simply an introduction.

Most people really don’t want to go this far unless forced to. Even so, it is a great read even if you just want to move toward a simpler lifestyle. It is not the one and only book you will have in your library on more self sufficient living, but it is a handy resource.

This book was just reprinted in 2010 with an afterward by the author. It is interesting to hear how her life progressed as an adult. Her dad pulled her out of school in 7th grade telling the school that they were moving to California. They didn’t, and she became an early homeschooler in the days before it was legal. She ended up becoming an aerospace engineer, entrepreneur, and college professor, among other things. 

Here is a little documentary filmed at the time. This is in 3 parts.

It’s interesting to hear how her dad talks about Dolly educating herself. I guess they are accidental homeschoolers. Actually, they would be classified as radical unschoolers. It is also interesting how his observations mirror homeschooling lingo today.

All in all I find Dolly very refreshing.

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Projects for 2011–In My Dreams

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Bees are industrious and communal, I like that about them. I choose to ignore the aspects of their society that mirror serfdom. Deborah means bee. It's roots are Hebrew and Aramaic.

I’ve been thinking about projects that I want to accomplish this year. One of my problems with doing projects is that I spend way too much time learning about things, quite a bit of time accumulating supplies, and not enough time actually doing the project. I’m really working to change that.

There are always a ton of ideas floating around my head. Usually they just overwhelm me. Sometimes I’ll get smart and start writing things down. Once I get the list down I’ll create a Frankin-Covey style A, B, C heirarchy. A’s are first priority, B’s can get done if all the A’s are done, and C’s can wait longer. 

As a matter of fact, I don’t usually even get through with the A-list and I will often reprioritize my list–gotta love spreadsheets. This is more of a dream list than a reality list. 

Now that I have been trying to simplify my life and do less outside the home, I’m hopeful that I can get more of it done. I’ve wasted so much time in the past with quick trips to the store, library, meetings or homeschool activities.  Not that those things aren’t good and necessary, it’s just they need to be planned in a way so they don’t mess up your whole day. I’m still learning. Having only one car is helping me with that, too.

Here is my dream list of 2011 projects: 

A Start a worm business with Adam
A Build modular chicken fencing
A Build a portable chicken coop
A Build supports for tomatoes and pole beans
A Learn to make bread without the bread machine
A Get some new chicks for the flock and learn how to brood them
A Teach Adam how to ride a bike
A Find a better way to organize canning supplies and work area
B Study and implement more vertical gardening methods
B Do meal canning – soup and chili
B Reorganize dining room so Gary and Adam can set up an aquarium again
B Plant a medicinal herb garden
B Go camping at least once
C Can ground beef
C Learn to dehydrate food
C Find more ways to cook beans
C Can butter
C Learn how to better use the big BBQ grill my dad made me
C Learn to make another type of cheese
C Start writing music again
C Read “To Kill a Mockingbird”
C Learn about making sourdough bread
C Learn how to fish
C Build a top-bar bee hive

I don’t expect to get them all done, that would put the wrong kind of pressure on me and I would give up on doing any of them. I’m looking at the joy of seeing a project to completion more than seeing the list completed. There will always be something new to tickle my fancy  and make the list longer.

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Thinking on Chickens

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We have had four Barred Plymouth Rock chickens since right after Thanksgiving. It has been a fun experience for us. It is surprising to me how easy they are to care for and how much I really enjoy them.

I am not much of a pet person. My friends’ full size poodle, Rags, used to come up and put his head on my lap. I would just look at him and say “I can’t meet your emotional needs.”

Chickens on the other hand don’t have so many emotional needs. It’s a symbiotic relationship–I feed and care for them and they give me eggs or meat–if we ever get meat birds.  I like that they earn their keep. I know you pet lovers out there think I’m heartless, but I just don’t get the pets as best friends thing.

I do get the value of the life of an animal and its special place in God’s creation.  I like the way natural farmer Joel Salatin talks about raising animals. He talks about honoring the “pigness of the pig”  and respecting the design of creation.

I do get a lot of joy watching the chickens. They are humorous and calming. For some reason even cleaning their poop out of the roost can put me in a prayerful state. Maybe it’s just the slowing down of life and connection with the natural order. Maybe there is just more in doing and having less.

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“What Led You To Decide To Homeschool?”

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Holding down all of the white keys of the water piano at The Magic House.

 

This was the question a parent at Adam’s music class asked me tonight. I was set a little off guard by it because I didn’t just sit down and decide. It’s almost like it has been part of me always. Of course, it hasn’t been.

My first introduction to homeschooling was in college. I noticed there were some kids walking around the music department in the middle of the day. I wondered why they weren’t in school.  Later I met their mom and found out they homeschooled. This was in the mid to late 80’s when homeschooling was still illegal in many states. Interestingly,  I think that was the last time I ever wondered why kids were out of school in the daytime.

A few weeks later the kids in the music preparatory program gave a concert the same night as the college choirs. I saw that these homeschooled kids were leaders in their group. They were confident and mature. They made an impression.

I didn’t get married until I was 33. Through my years of singleness I spent time watching families and taking mental notes about what worked and what didn’t. Some of these families were homeschoolers. I guess during that time the homeschooling seeds were planted. By the time I met my husband homeschooling was an assumption, not an option. The same was true for my husband who observed his brother’s children being homeschooled.  

Our son is 6 and we have thought about it more in depth the last few years. There’s a lot to think about. I probably won’t be able to recall all of my reasons for homeschooling, but here are the ones my mind thinks are important right now.

  • Efficiency
    A lot of time is wasted in school. It has to be wasted because of the nature of dealing with large groups of people. It’s just common sense. So much more can be accomplished in a smaller amount of time if you don’t have to work in a system designed to maintain order in the group.
  • I Have a Boy
    It just doesn’t seem like the best idea to sit my physically active little boy in a desk and tell him to be quiet. I just feel boys–especially young ones–are supposed to jump,  play, build things and learn with their bodies.
  • Educational Philosophy of Schools
    Generally speaking, I think most of the focus of the American education system is on kids spurting out facts and passing tests. They don’t teach kids how to think for themselves and to use those facts to draw conclusions.
  • Too Busy, Too Young
    I think there is a fallacy in our society that if we put kids in school earlier they will do better. I believe that just puts them on a treadmill that very often leads to burnout and squelches the desire to learn. Many studies show that kids have an advantage at first, but by 3rd or 4th grade they are even with their peers who started later.
  • Natural Learning
    Kids start out as natural learners. They soak everything in. I think this continues as they grow and I think homeschooling nurtures that curiosity the best.In homeschooling kids can learn things in the context of a real life scenario. For example, learning to use the scissors to work toward a goal or project is so much better than cutting on a dotted line of a worksheet. The driving motivation for each of those scenarios are completely different. One sparks internal motivation and the other is just checking a task off a list.  
  • Academic Advantages
    An in-depth study was released recently that showed homeschoolers tested 37 percentage points higher on in testing than public school students.  This was looking at a wide variety of criteria and utilized 15 different testing services. It’s an interesting read http://www.hslda.org/docs/study/ray2009/default.asp

That’s the start of an answer anyway. It’s always growing and changing just like a kid, just like a family. God gave us lives in families and in communities. That’s his design and I want to live it the best I can. I think homeschooling provides that. Maybe that’s the real reason behind it all–living life to its fullest.

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Blessed Are The Cheese Makers

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This is the final cheese. I usually let most of the moisture drain out. Not because I think it is better, more because I'm an extremist.

Making cheese is my latest kitchen experiment. As usual, I looked for the simplest recipe I could find. I didn’t want any unknown or unavailable ingredients. This one has only two–milk and vinegar. It’s a soft cheese. I think it is most like ricotta or cottage cheese. It’s great in lasagna.

Simple Soft Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts of milk
  • 1/4 cup of white vinegar

Equipment:

  • Thermometer
  • Large bowl
  • Colander or strainer to sit on the bowl
  • Cloth to line the strainer (muslin, cheesecloth, dishtowel, etc.)

Instructions:

  • Heat to around 203 degrees stirring constantly. 
  • Pour vinegar into heated milk. You will see the whey separate from the curd. (Homeschoolers, insert Little Miss Muffet lesson plan here)
  • Pour into cloth lined strainer to drain. You can judge how much liquid to drain based on how soft you want your cheese.
  • Now it’s ready to use, except for maybe adding some salt.

Behold the mysterious whey. The stuff of fairy tales, uh, well at least nursery rhymes.

Using the Whey:

We usually use the whey to water plants or put it in the compost. It can also be used in place of buttermilk in recipes. Next I am going to try it as a replacement for liquid in bread making.  You can use it as a replacement for liquid in soups or other recipes, too.  There are a bunch of other ideas online.

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