Saturday, October 4, 2014

Preparation vs. Paranoia

OK everyone. I feel compelled to get up on my soapbox to talk about Ebola and the hysteria that is beginning to take over Facebook. I follow several homesteading pages on FB, and one thing that is beginning to grate on my nerves is how many are posting articles about Patient Zero and the "looming pandemic" that is going to plague the world.

Let me begin by saying this: there is nothing wrong at all with trying to be prepared. It will serve you much better than NOT being. But, part of being prepared (specifically for viral outbreaks, in this instance) is knowing HOW things are spread, incubation times, warning signs, and how to respond in the event of contraction.

One of the page moderators of a homesteading site (I have since stopped following them, BTW) I spoke with haughtily asked if I REALLY thought we would be told if this virus got out of hand.

Honestly? Hell no - I don't think the CDC, the World Health Organization, or even our own government would ever tell the mass population of a pandemic. Why? Because it would create mass hysteria, which in turn would lead to chaos, which would make a very bad situation MUCH worse. This, again, leads back to the fact that choosing to be knowledgeable and prepared for different situations is never a bad thing.

The paranoia and irrational "sky falling" fear over this virus, in my opinion, is being perpetuated by media who sensationalize and skew facts in order to get more readers. One particular article I read about "Patient Zero" made the bold statement that "additional people who may have been exposed to Ebola includes every person who used the ambulance which the patient was transported in, since the vehicle was still in operation two days after it was used to take the man to a Dallas hospital."

The article calls into question how the CDC could possibly have things "under control" because of the ambulance being used. It sounds compelling and scary. One thing the author did not do, however, was support her statement with any evidence, such as discussing the virus' length of survival outside a host. Nor did she offer any comparative information between Ebola to the mode of transmission / survival rate outside host of other common communicable diseases. Probably because it would have invalidated her stance of negligence or conspiracy in the CDC's efforts.

For instance, we currently have 1 case of Ebola in the US. The virus can be spread through blood, saliva, semen, and other bodily fluids. The virus can survive in dried material for a number of days. (This would mean IF patient zero coughed, sneezed, or bled in the ambulance, and it was NOT cleaned up and was allowed to dry, another person could potentially be exposed to the virus IF they rubbed an open wound against or licked the exact same area as the dried Ebola virus - which is unlikely.)

Last year in the U.S., another much more prevalent - and VERY contagious disease - Mycobaterium Tuberculosis was reported in 9,582 NEW cases. Also, according to the CDC, there were 536 deaths from TB in 2011 (the most recent year this data is available for). TB is highly communicable and can survive MONTHS outside a host. You would be much, much, much likelier to contract TB from an ambulance than you would be to catch Ebola. But, nobody is running around panicking about it.

Or, what about Hepatitis C? There are approximately 3.2 million people in the US alone who have Hep C, with approximately 170,000 new cases being reported EACH YEAR. Like Ebola, Hep C has no cure and can be transmitted by blood. Also, according to the CDC, approximately 26 Americas DIE EACH DAY due to Hep C complications. Hepatitis C can be spread through blood, and the virus can survive in dried blood for several weeks. Similarly to Tuberculosis, you are much more likely to contract Hep C than you are Ebola. But you don't hear much about this, either.

So, is Ebola scary? Absolutely. Is it something that should be taken seriously? Absolutely. Should people be well informed about the virus? Absolutely! But people should also be knowledgeable enough to have some perspective and not panic. If everyone panicked about the possibility they could catch something potentially deadly, nobody would ever leave their homes.

Be prepared. Don't be paranoid. Do your research! Here are some good places to start:

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention :
*World Health Organization :
*Office of Global Affairs :
*Mayo Clinic :

Wood is Good. Wood is Warm. Wood is Happiness.

Autumn is officially upon us, and here in New England, the temperatures are getting cooler. This past winter was our first since relocating from the south, and there were certainly some learning curves we had to navigate. The biggest, for me at least, was learning how to stay warm without jacking the thermostat to 80 degrees. As a housewife, I am home all day long, and to heat a house in the winter, in the north, all day and night........well you might as well start burning paper money for heat. Oil heating and its cost is quite pricy. With keeping the thermostat at about 74 for the first few months of cool weather, we went through an insane amount of oil. (For all of you unfamiliar with the crap-tastic heating ways of the North.......some brilliant person decided burning oil to heat your home was THE way to go.......can you say "sticker shock?!?) After seeing how quickly we had to refill our 275 gallon oil tank (which costs roughly the same as gasoline, per gallon, BTW), I knew I had to find a different way of keeping the house heated. 

I very quickly learned the value of keeping a fire roaring in the fireplace all day. 

The upside to this practice - you have a lovely crackling fire, you get warmth without using an ungodly amount of oil in your furnace, and you have the deep, smokey, childhood smell of happiness that burning wood produces. The downside - you have to keep tending to the fire on a regular basis, you have to haul heavy logs, and you go through a massive of wood.

**As a side note: a wood-burning stove is a much more efficient method of heating, and we are hoping to get one this year, but that is another story.**

On our property, we have stacks upon stacks of cut logs. They were here when we purchased our home. Because of those stacks, we did not see any need to buy wood before winter overtook us last year. What we did not account for, however, was how much precipitation we would get. By mid-winter, the stacks of wood were buried under layers of snow and ice. We couldn't see the stacks, let alone break through the giant, ice-filled snowdrifts to get to most of them. The few we were able to locate, break apart, and then lug back to the house were so wet and decayed that they were of very little use. They either smoldered or burned far to fast. Eventually, we had to bite the bullet and have some wood delivered.

We found several vendors that would have delivered firewood to our home, but one of them stood out. The wood they sold was slightly more expensive per cord than some of the others, but a much better quality. It was guaranteed hardwood, seasoned a minimum of 2 years, de-barked and tumbled (yielding less mess to deal with, and a more efficient, even burn), and the charge included delivery. Plus, they were able to get the wood shipped to us very quickly, which was great since the weather was biting and unpredictable!

We ordered the minimum required - 2 cords. I was expecting a good amount, but when truck dumped the wood in our requested location, I was shocked. The pile was huge. It was wide and tall and deep. I could barely see over it, Bella could do laps around it, and John couldn't even park in his garage space until we were able to get most of it out of the way stacked! 

 It took us close to a full day-and-a-half to get the logs stacked. When it was all said and done, we ended up with closer to 2.5 cords, which was a really nice surprise. Also, rather than throwing away up all the slivers of wood and chunks of bark, I gathered them up in a large 5-gallon bucket. I then used paper raffia to bind the pieces into small bundles to use as wood-starters. Because the wood was smaller and had lots of thin edges, they caught fire very quickly. The bigger chunks of wood I put more towards the center of the bundles so they would burn longer, allowing enough time to catch big logs on fire. They worked really well, and it was nice to put all the parts of the woodpile to use.

The wood we purchased burnt so efficiently, that even finishing out the remainder of last year's winter barely made a dent in the pile. This autumn, we have already started having fires burning again (in fact, I'm sitting by the fireplace right now, typing by it's glorious flickering). The wood has stayed beautiful, and I am still so thankful we made the investment last year.

If you have been watching the weather signs, you will probably agree with me that this year is looking to be a bad winter again. Don't get blind-sided by not being prepared enough. Move your wood supply close to your house, cover it, and make sure you have enough to get you through even a very long winter. And, if you need to purchase wood, I would suggest doing it now - just in case stock gets low or prices raise at the stores. Better safe - AND WARM - than sorry!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tea Time!

     Ever since going to the UK 6 years, I have had a soft spot in my heart for hot teas. While black, oolong and green are all nice in their own respects, I find herbal teas are my go-to. Maybe because they don't need to be decaffeinated (caffeine sends my OCD into overdrive) before I drink them. Maybe because they are so easy to customize blends. Whatever the reason, I love them. One of my absolute FAVORITE blends is this:

•3 whole cloves
•1-1" piece of cinnamon
•2 whole allspice berries
•1 small chunk of candied ginger
•2 whole rose hips
•6-8 hibiscus petals

Steep in hot water and add sugar and/or a splash of lemon juice, to taste. It makes a deep red, highly-fragrant liquid that is gently spiced, warming, and soothing.

Plus, it is chock-full of health benefits!


Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Monday, May 19, 2014

To Mulch or To Munch - That IS the Question!

So, a few days ago, I got a major craving for salad. Just a nice, fresh, herbaceous salad. Our fridge was stocked with Romaine lettuce, celery and cucumber, but I felt the need to liven what would be an otherwise boring  salad.

It has finally decided to settle into springtime here in New England. The weather was nice, and I have been spotting many wild edibles on our property since the warmer weather has come. We live on 5 acres, and about 3/4 acre is cleared; the rest is heavily wooded. It makes for a veritable smorgasbord of greens, flowers, and berries!

**I should note here that I have been studying up on wild edibles, both online and in many various books I have in my library, for a few years now. The things I identify as edible are things I either grew up eating or are things I have confirmed in multiple sources as being edible, and am 100% positive they are safe. DO NOT go out and randomly eat plants you find just because they may look similar to what I post! Do your own research, use multiple sources, and if you have ANY doubts whatsoever - DO NOT EAT IT!!! Your health is worth more than any foraging finds!**

Now, as i was saying, Bella and I went for a leisurely walk around our yard (15 to 20 minutes or so), and brought back a tasty treasure of things to add to the romaine salad:

(T to B, L to R) 
Wild Violet leaves, Partridgeberries, Plantain, unripe Dandelion flower heads, 
Wild Violets, Dandelion leaves, Hen-bit, and Wild Onions. 

The unripe dandelion flower heads did not go into the salad - I found several sources online that say you can brine and use them as capers. I plan on giving that a try and letting you know how it works! Everything else was washed, roughly chopped (except the violets - I candied them), and added to the salad bowl, and tossed with the store bought greens and some shredded cheddar.

It turned out great - even John, who skeptically eyed it and asked if I was SURE everything was safe to eat, enjoyed it and finished every bit of his.


Just a tasty tidbit from Day 2: 

In having the leftover salad for lunch the following day, I discovered that adding feta cheese and a blush wine vinaigrette to this is absolutely phenomenal.

The New Face of Patriotism

I rarely discuss politics on my blog - not because I am not strongly opinionated on the subject (FAR from it) - but rather because I realize that we all tend to have different view points and don't feel the need to mix cooking and DIY household cleaners with heated debates. Those of you who know me personally, however, know that I am an American Patriot who loves my country (albeit, my government scares the hell out of me), it's history, its freedoms and rights afforded to citizens, and am proud to call myself an American. So, that being said, my brother recently sent me a picture I felt compelled to share. I firmly believe, regardless of which "side" you may fall into, we can all agree on one thing:

it is BADASS! 

I mean, what is more patriotic than Ronald Regan with an RPG strapped to his back, riding a flag-waving Velociraptor? Or George Washington, adorned in part period-correct militia uniform / part star-spangled hammer pants, taking out a herd of zombies? Honest Abe, the Emancipator, atop a flag-saddled bear, or Teddy and his "Big Stick" taking down Sasquatch? And, in the center of it all......the majestic eagle sees all and stares back with an approving "HELL YEAH" look.When I opened my email and saw this image, I was so filled with pride, I almost shed a tear. Of course, I was laughing so hard, I almost peed a little, so there is that too! I hope you enjoy(ed) it as much as I do!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

FIRESTARTER - The Not-So-Stephen-King-Edition

Do-It-Yourself Fire Starters. 

Over the last year or so, I have really began to notice a lot of references to these little cylinders of incendiary power. Even television has offered up a few poignant nods to them, such as airing an episode of TLC's Extreme Cheapskates where a man goes to a local laundromat to collect ALL the lint from ALL the commercial laundry machines for his homemade fire starters.

It was a LOT of lint.........

Now I love a cozy fire in the fireplace, but last I checked, I'm not exactly the female version of Mykel 
Hawke or Bear Grylls, so rubbing sticks together anytime I would like to get a fire going is not happening. 

We DO have traditional fire starters. These are some of my favorites. They are small, less messy, but still burn for about 12 minutes. They do have a strike pad on the back, but honestly, its crap. I use a candle lighter to set it ablaze, and it works beautifully. Right now, they are showing to be $8.96 online at

However, I got to thinking about what we would do in an emergency situation. You know - that day your local forecast calls for 1-2 inches of snow and you get 6 feet.............AND you forgot to stock up on firestarters. You know, the "oh, crap!" situations that you hope you never have but still need to be prepared for.

So, I thought today would be as good a day as any (barring any 6 foot snowfalls) to try these suckers out. I have seen many blogs and websites with instructions on how to make fire starters. As a general standard, they all agree on two key elements:  EMPTY TOILET PAPER ROLLS  and  DRYER LINT.

Lucky for me (and you, dear readers.....and you), I have been saving both up for a while, just for this auspicious occasion. I did what pretty much all the instructions said to do. I crammed the dryer lint into the cores of empty TP rolls.     

Since the lint tried to escape out the ends, I folded in the ends somewhat, which helped much more than I actually expected it to. And - Voila!! Five minutes, 2 TP roll cores and a huge handful of dryer lint and my homemade fire starters are ready for testing. Easy as...........well...............shoving dryer lint in an empty toilet paper roll.

I set up my logs with one of my new fire starters nestled between them, just as I would my fancy-schmancy, store-bought type.

I lit one end - it blazed up quickly. A good sign, if I do say so myself. I moved on to the other side and lit it, and then stood back. Unfortunately, after about 15 seconds, both flames went out completely, and they began to smoulder.

I figured they just had not been lit long enough to catch the lint, so I lit them again, holding my lighter on the lint itself long enough to catch it. No luck - within seconds of catching fire, the flame would again die out and smoulder profusely. I could NOT get it to catch. I eventually had to use one of my standard fire starters just to get the fire started.

(A trusty Strike-A-Fire fire starter at work)

 The worst part of the fire starters was discovered after the fire was going. Since the logs caught fire, the DIY fire starter was able to burn. Now, when I put the dryer lint into the tubes, it smelled like the Downy Fabric Softener I use. Even my hands smelled sweet from touching the dryer lint. However, as we have a dog, and our clothing inadvertently collects her fur, her fur is mixed into that dryer lint. As sweet as it smelled going into the fire, as it burned, it emitted a foul odor. Not just an "Eww, what stinks?" kind of smell........ It smells like I'm burning a dead body in my fireplace! My neighbors are going to think I'm running a backwoods crematorium, and as I haven't even had the chance to meet them yet, that doesn't bode well for making a great first impression! 

Has anyone else made their own fire starters? If so, what were your results? Did they work, or were they a bust like mine? I'd love to know if they worked, and if you know where I went wrong. I'm all for giving it another go, but next time sans stench-induced headache.

Thoughts, comments or questions? Leave them below!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Snow Days

...........Or, maybe just a hot chocolate, since it's only 2:30 in the afternoon! Sitting beside a fire, reading a book, sipping hot cocoa - that's my favorite way to spend a snowy day. What's yours?