Nov 302011

Continuing our discussion of inexpensive but useful items to stockpile, starting with a couple of recs made in the comments.

1. Canning jars and lids. These could prove to be quite valuable both for home use and for trade. The jars, of course, are reusable as long as there are no chips in the lids. Manufacturers recommend that the lids be used only once. I have a friend, an experienced canner, who reuses these lids two to three times. The trick is not to nick the lid when you remove it from the jar. If you use a can opener to pry it off you will make a small nick that will keep the jar from sealing. Try pulling the lid up using four fingernails to break the seal.  There is the risk of having an unsealed jar. Better to buy lots and lots of lids which are $2-3 a dozen. Yeagers normally has a good supply. The Co-op and Walmart are other locations that seem to stock jars and lids. Jars are normally $10-12 a case (dozen).

I discovered the hard way that I use more pint and half pint jars than quarts. But it depends on what you are putting by. I’ve found also that it’s a good idea to have different sized canning pots—a big one and a small one. It takes a lot less energy to heat up water in a small pot to can pints and half pints.

Another canning item to stockpile is Pomona pectin. This kind of pectin keeps indefinitely and is pretty much foolproof when it comes to making jams, jellies and chutneys.

2. Bleach. Lots of applications such as water purification and as a cleaning agent.

3. Vinegar (white and cider). A virtual necessity for preserving food. White vinegar is also useful as a cleaning agent with a myriad of applications. Apple cider vinegar is a classic folk remedy, almost a panacea for some home-remedies.html. If you are using it as a tonic a high quality organic like Bragg is a good choice. Read some of the 111 customer reviews on if you have doubts about apple cider vinegar. If 25% of the claims are valid, Bragg apple cider vinegar is a cheap medicine to have in the pantry.

4. Zip lock bags in various sizes. A variety of uses including freezing of food and storing leftovers.

5. Rope, twine, string. I find I’m using twine in the garden all the time. I save baling twine and hang it from the fence and use it to tie up or stake up plants that want to topple or blow over. My collection of rebar and cedar stakes also comes in handy. Harbor Freight has lots of cheap rope. Made in China, of course.

6. Toilet paper. No discussion necessary.

There’s more we can add to future lists. All the above are relatively inexpensive. What else should we have on hand in good supply?

Nov 282011

My guess is that everyone has some pretty good ideas of items to stockpile that would be particularly useful and helpful in an era of shortages. I’m going to nominate baking soda which is a miraculous substance with many uses. Costco sells baking soda in 13 lb bags for less than a dollar a pound. For a few bucks it’s pretty easy to accumulate a significant amount of this useful natural substance.

Let’s start with the most controversial use of baking soda—the cancer treatment of Italian doctor Dr. Tullio Simoncini. You may be interested in reading more about Dr. Simoncini but, briefly, he believes that cancer is caused by a fungus and that baking soda can alkalize the blood creating an environment unfavorable to fungal growth.

This website lists many uses for baking soda which is effective for types of cleaning chores, first aid, acid neutralization and even fire fighting. I use it for toothpaste, as an antacid, to alkalize when I feel a cold coming on and in the bath.

Dr. Mark Sircus has written extensively about baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) and has an ebook available which details the medical uses of this inexpensive substance.

Baking soda is almost a miracle substance. It’s cheap. Right now it’s available. Keeping fifty to one hundred pounds of it on hand is not unreasonable.

What do you recommend?

Nov 252011

In Seattle’s “…earliest days cows roamed the streets freely; their right to graze on anyone’s front lawn was protected by law, a law modeled on rural rights granting cattle access to public range land. As late as 1900…backyard cows still produced a third of Seattle’s milk…As rail lines were completed…it became possible for suburban dairies to replace the backyard cow.” Thus, in the city, people lost sight of the utilitarian value of the city living cow which soon became labeled a nuisance.” Seattle began excluding cows from its downtown core, and the cow free zone crept slowly outward from there.”

Food production was banished from the city. Suburbs were built with covenants that forbade chickens and front yard veggie gardens. Our food system became industrialized and controlled by the same people who control the fuel system and the medical system. Is it possible that this trend is reversing; that more people are inclined to take charge of what they eat? The Urban Farm Handbook may be evidence of such a trend.

There are lots of gardening books but only a few that I’d be willing to recommend: Steve Solomon’s books, Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener and this new one—The Urban Farm Handbook. It’s a bit more than a book about gardening though the author’s provide lots of information on how to make food in a small space. More precisely, The Urban Farm Handbook is a book about food. It’s clear, concise, practical and covers lots of territory. The authors teach you how to run an urban farm operation. That is, how to make a small space extremely productive. The subtitle is “City Slicker Resources for Growing, Raising, Sourcing, Trading, and Preparing What You Eat”. Their approach is a bit different and the book is very readable with much good information all specific to our region.

There are chapters on grains, chickens, dairying with goats, small meat animals, locavoring (to coin a new word), preserving food, building food communities and various aspects of gardening, interspersed with recipes and profiles of people who leaders in alternative food systems. And, it’s all in the context of getting the job done on small city lots.

The authors have done what they are describing and their personal stories and experiences make the book accessible on an emotional level. You will marvel at what each of them has accomplished.

Gardening in small spaces is a particular problem which all gardeners face to one extent or the other. Even large plots of rural land often only provide a small area suitable for gardening and raising animals. The Urban Farm Handbook is full of useful and stimulating ideas. WCLS has a copy.

Nov 232011

Polly Hanson was famous for warning us that the seas will rise. Klayton Curtis has commented on this blog that the Rez could become an island.

If you are inclined to see how this would actually look you can buy and use an inexpensive application (for PCs only at this point) to depict how a flood would affect the island and our transportation networks. You can create depictions of a number of scenarios for a variety of disasters and events.

The following video (narration by islanders Isaac and Bremhyr Colgan) explains how it works.

(Full disclosure. We have invested in this company).

Nov 212011

Time to review what we’ve been writing about for the last couple years.

The Transition Town movement started from a believe that Peak Oil and Climate Change would significantly affect the way we live forcing us to a more localized, self-reliant, sustainable lifestyle. During the years since the Transition Town movement started a bigger threat to everyone’s way of life raised its ugly head (and I’m not talking about the ferry lease). The world economy, its back broken with debt, is on it’s way to almost certain collapse. This has reached a critical point with the situation in Europe as world “leaders”, and I use the term loosely, struggle for ways to stave off disaster. Unfortunately, most of the public still believes we are just in a down cycle—that the economy will right itself and begin to grow again.

Yet, there is growing unrest. The Occupy Movement is gaining traction and scaring the PTB to military-type action against protesters even to the point of using military weapons against them. The “leaders” are worried to the point of regurgitating failed legislation like this to provide a legal framework for controlling dissent. Civil disobedience has a long tradition in the USA. Legitimate civil disobedience can morphed quickly by labeling dissent as “terrorism.” “Not possible” you might say. But we now have the theme of the Unitary Executive started by Mr. Bush and continued and expanded enthusiastically by former community organizer, Mr. Obama, who believes it’s within his authority to designate American citizens as subjects for assassination without due process. Anything is now possible.

Financial advisor Richard Maybury recently notified his readers that he felt a bank holiday was a possibility and suggested strongly that some cash be kept at home to tide one over until the government could print additional dollars and get the banks open again. This may be a good starting point for reviewing steps a prepper may have already taken or should consider to prepare for the future.

Continue reading »

Nov 182011

Back in June I wrote about the collapse of my new hive of bees.  This traumatic event caused me to obsess about the welfare of the remaining bees in the hive.

From the day we had the big die off at the end of May to the present time I have fed the bees with the goal of keeping the survivors alive and hoping that the queen and her little mates could build up the population enough to be able to survive winter. And, in a twist right out of Opposite Day I fed them honey. They loved it. And why not? It was a lot easier than making it. I took an ice cube tray and lined it with sponges which I had filleted and cut to fit. The bees lined up at this trough of sweetness like cows at a feed lot.

The queen was active. She laid eggs. The worker bees fussed and fed and cleaned the comb. The population slowly increased. In mid-afternoon of summer one could watch the newbies do their practice flights in front of the hive. I could see that the foragers were bringing pollen back into the hive and nectar too, I supposed. These were the raw materials for making their own food. But, could they ever suck up that honey.

I started to feel like they waited for me to show up with my plastic jar of Aunt Sue’s Raw Honey and after reading an article about bogus honey in Natural News worried that Aunt Sue might be one of those Chinese fakes. It seemed like I was  being a bit too attentive to these girls. Sort of an enabler who took the edge off their natural instinct to survive. After all, this was supposed to be natural beekeeping and what I was doing was beyond natural. I found some consolation reading about other beekeepers as in The Beekeeper’s Lament who often feel that they are more like undertakers with the myriad of problems that bees have experienced.

Actually, I was starting to feel more like a pet owner whose delicate insects required lots of attention. I did a bunch of other stuff like using some homeopathic/biodynamic sprays to maintain and improve the health of the hive. You’ll have to read about that on your own.

There are several races of bees: Italians, Caucasians, Russians, Carniolans. My bees were supposed to be Italians but I began to think they might be a mutated race of bees—Kardashians. They were needy, had a sense of entitlement, craved my attention, were a bit fickle, loved sweets, relished having their photos taken and had cute, though rather large butts.

In late August, yellow jackets attacked the Kardashians who shreeked and screamed and demanded that I do something. I discovered that my thick goatskin beekeeper gloves were perfect for squishing yellow jackets. The Kardashians purred (or rather buzzed) with pleasure. They even deigned to kill a couple themselves and haul their sorry-assed striped carcasses out of the hive. They showed off for me by flying off with yellow jacket bodies.

It was nice to see some activity from the Kardashians. They even began to make some honey of their own just to prove, I suppose, that they had it in them. But then the complaints about the weather. It was getting cold; it was windy. There were drafts. They wanted to go to Hawaii or someplace for the winter. I realized that winter was problematic. The bees would form a ball in the hive and like penguins constantly change places with each other to maintain a constant temperature. I worried that there weren’t enough Kardashians to maintain this heat. So, I got the truck and hauled in ten bales of straw and stacked them up between the hive and any potential Nor’Easter to create a windbreak. The girls were pleased but not satisfied. They still complained of drafts. I bought a sheet of hard foam insulation and cut it to fit under the roof and across the front of the hive. I built an eight cup feeder so there could be a constant source of sugar water. I bought ten pounds of pollen patties and keep one in the hive for them to snack on. I do and do and do for them.

I hope we are prepared to make it through winter. They have some honey they made and some pollen saved up but not nearly enough. I’ll have to keep feeding them and hope they will be warm enough. But, I’ve about had it with the Kardashians. They just learned that bees rarely poop during winter. They mostly hold it then take a big cleansing flight in the spring. This is grossing the girls out. They will just have to deal with it.

Nov 162011

Reading Dmitri Orlov on the subject of Collapse makes one begin to speculate about a number of different issues. One of these is medical. What happens if we don’t have access to the huge hospitals that have sprung up in every major population areas including Bellingham. How will we take care of ourselves? Clearly, we will have to become more familiar with preventive methods and self-treatment: herbs, aromatherapy, diet, cleansing and more esoteric modalities such as energy healing.

What’s energy healing? It is a vast area of practice often labeled “quackery” by the powers that be but which is often extremely effective. Aspects of energy diagnosis and healing have worked well for our family (you can Google it—Randy Smith/Diagnosis Unknown).  An example of an energy modality is the flower remedy popularized by Bach (Edward Bach, not the composer). We are fortunate on Lummi Island that we have a Bach-style practitioner (Diana Pepper at Tree Frog Farm) who makes flower essences from local plants. I encourage you to read her website and consider experimenting with her methods.

Another well-known practitioner in alternative medical circles was Royal Rife. Rife developed a frequency machine back in the thirties which he claimed could cure many diseases. He might have been effective as the PTB drummed him out of business. However, his work lives on and can be accessed by joining private associations such as this one. I’ve talked to Dr. Lloyd who runs this association and I read the daily news digests from his group where I found the reference to the radio and film documentary that I want to bring to your attention.

The point of this discussion is that circumstance may require that we look for alternatives in all phases of our lives. Cancer is a huge concern. It is a fear word like “terrorism” and the fear of both has generated huge industries which seem self-perpetuating. Neither the cancer industry or the terrorism industry has accomplished very much.

So, when a music professor at a small college decided to pick up on Royal Rife’s frequency experiments and had some success destroying cancer cells with those harmonics and had a chance to test his theories at a first class medical lab, it’s something to pay attention to. Interestingly, the story has been followed from it’s beginning by Ira Glass of This American Life, one of my favorite shows. Glass was friends with a medical researcher who had been a student of the professor. When the student returned to his alma mater to give a speech on keeping an open mind the professor approached him with an interesting idea—to determine if his frequency generator (a la Rife) could destroy cancer cells. Mr. Glass did a 36 minute audio story which like all of his radio programs is fascinating. You can listen to it here beginning at about the 7 minute mark (if you wish to skip the intro). If you get that far you will also be interested in seeing the actual people in some video clips from this website where filmmaker Gabriel Rhodes is developing a documentary on the story.

Professor Holland’s story is on-going. There is no question, in the alternative medical community however, that Rife technology works. It’s easy to label it “quackery” if you wish. I’m inclined to wonder why more people don’t label the following “quackery.”

You can follow the links to this data in the chart on the left here

Click on image to enlarge it.

Nov 142011

CERT exercise at the Grange 11/12/11

About a dozen of us completed CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training this past weekend.

Whatcom County Emergency Management was kind enough to come to the island and cram the course into two weekends totaling 24 hours of class and practice time. Normally, the course is given over an eight week period so those of us who wanted to take the training were lucky not to have to go to town for eight weeks in a row.

“The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.”

This training was organized by the Disaster Preparedness Committee on the island. CERT trained personnel will be available to assist the Fire Department, law enforcement and public works in the event of a disaster.

The Disaster Preparedness program is moving ahead on Lummi Island. I think it’s easy for everyone to see the value of Disaster Preparedness. From short term preparation we need to extend our thinking into long-term planning for whatever the future might bring. We need to have long term plans for all the same areas that are of concerned to Disaster Preparedness: Community organization and support, food, water, shelter, power, sanitation.

The CERT training was quite generalized and I expect the CERT trained people will get together occasionally to come up with plans that are specific to Lummi Island.

The weekend ended with a fairly realistic exercise at the Grange Hall. The CERT team arrived to find that some type of disaster had occurred and the building was full of people with various simulated injuries. Instructors had used graphic makeup to give us the feeling of a real emergency. The team had to organize, search the building, do triage, set up a medical area, locate supplies then rescue, move and give first aid to the victims until the professionals arrived. It was an effective exercise that put to use most of the stuff we had learned in the course.

If there is enough interest we could probably talk Emergency Management to putting on the course for another group of islanders.

Nov 122011

We can sit around an complain about “the banksters” or we can actually do something about it. Step # 1 is to move your money from a big bank to a local institution. A credit union is an obvious choice because they are non profit organizations owned by their members (account holders). Credit unions are chartered to use their deposits to the benefit of local communities.

Charles Hugh Smith made these important points in a recent essay:

“There are only three things–and only these three–that will cripple Wall Street’s democracy-killing concentration of wealth and power:

1. Transfer the 99%’s money out of Wall Street and the Too Big To Fail Banks

2. Remove campaign contributions from our democracy in a way that the corporate legalist lackeys in the Supreme Court cannot overturn, i.e. entirely publicly financed elections

3. Abolish Wall Street’s dealer, pusher and protector, the Federal Reserve.

My reasoning is very simple:

Everything else people want to see happen cannot happen if:

1) Wall Street and the SDI (systemically dangerous institutions) a.k.a. too big to fail banks, control most Americans’ financial assets and debts

2) The Federal Reserve exists to enable and protect the SDI’s wealth and power via Primary Dealers, the discount window and other pusher/dealer mechanisms

3) Wall Street and the other SDIs can use the billions of dollars they skim from our accounts, IRAs, 401Ks and pensions to buy political influence and protection from regulation and competition.

Therefore these are the necessary foundations of any real change.

As long as Wall Street and the other SDIs control much of the nation’s financial markets, assets and debts, and the Federal Reserve exists to protect and enable their predation and parasitic skimming, they will have the means to reap billions in profits which can then be funneled into our cash-corrupted political system of for-sale toadies and apparatchiks.”

I realize it is a gigantic hassle to change bank accounts particular in the age of internet banking. But it can be done. Since Sept. 29 650,000 people have moved $4.5 billions to credit unions.

If you think the too-big-to-fail institutions are part of the problem, then vote with your checkbook and move your money to any locally owned bank or credit union. It’s the first step toward localization. And, while we are thinking “local” read this.

Nov 102011

A Modern Walled Kitchen Garden

I don’t think I was very clear in what I was trying to get across in my previous post on Victorian Walled Gardens. Clearly, we aren’t going to build twelve foot high walls, vast heated glass houses, huge banks of cold frames or hire a bunch of workers to tend our gardens. At least not in the near future.

This is what I was trying to say: before cheap energy, before the development of the supermarket and a world-wide importation of food in all seasons the head gardeners at the stately mansions in the Victorian era were able to provide a modern supermarket experience for their employers. Using a variety of ingenious techniques and the technology of the day, head gardeners and their crew of pot boys, apprentices and foremen provided a dazzling array of food throughout the year.

They developed techniques to force early growth (peas in May) and retard ripening (grapes in winter). My conclusion from this is that using some of the same ingenuity I should be able to significantly extend my growing and eating season which would allow me to become more self-sufficient. For example, I do have a south facing wall which is now home to a group over over-grown eighties-vintage shrubs. I could pull these out and use the heat sink created by the wall to grow some heat-loving trees (maybe a fig—my favorite fruit) and even espalier some apples or soft fruit.

I can build a greenhouse and maybe even heat it to grow and start plants out of season. Likewise, I could add a few cold frames and use the Victorian techniques of filling them with horse manure and some top soil. (The horse manure provided additional heat to the soil). Lots of gardeners are already doing these things effectively. I’m not. But, reading about the Victorians has inspired me to move ahead.

A second point about reading about the old head gardeners (who on a social scale were equal to or above the butler) is to recognize that they knew a tremendous amount about gardening.

The Victorian Kitchen Garden by Jennifer Davies is the companion piece to the BBC TV series. She provides a lot more detail on the restoration of the garden in the TV series, offers details on a number of head gardeners and gives background on her research. One fact that jumps out is that a tremendous amount of diversity has been lost to us since the nineteenth century. For example, in an 1867 seed catalogue, sixty-seven varieties of peas were offered. Many of these varieties of lost veggies were bred to produce early or late because the head gardener was expected to provide an enormous variety of fresh food year around. In the same way, in the twenty-first century we expect to be able to buy a fresh pineapple or mango if we feel the urge for one.

Today, our food arrives from Mexico, China, and S. America. One hundred plus years ago the Victorian gardener provided the same variety growing it in place in cool, rainy England. Cheap energy (and rising tax rates in Great Britain) put the Victorian gardener out of business. However, if he was able to provide a remarkably diverse diet growing in place then we have the potential to do the same thing if necessity requires.

Many of these historic gardens are being rebuilt. Take a look:

Audley Gardens

Winsford Walled Gardens

Saumarez Park

Tyntesfield Kitchen Gardens

A Modern Take on the Walled Kitchen Garden

Nov 082011

Next Door is a social network that a few islanders are experimenting with. With Facebook getting lots of bad publicity, a local only network might have some appeal although the jury is still out on whether or not Next Door is doing the same kind of intrusive stuff that Facebook does.

This short video gives and overview of what Next Door is supposed to do.

Last year when our transition team met one of the recommendations was to get a local network going to exchange information on for sale items, local questions and concerns. Next Door seems to have that potential.

So far only a few people have signed on but some have already gotten good results.

Take a look and see if you think it would be of value. Building strong community connections is the number one preparedness step to get yourself ready for hard times.

Nov 072011

While we are talking about everything it might as well be noted that I may have reached “Peak Blog”, the point at which half of what I have to say about self-reliance, resilience, preparation for the future, and overt suggestions that island people start to pay attention to what is really going on, has been said.

This is post # 300 and, according to Hubbert’s Curve the rate of production of interesting new blog posts will start to decrease and the cost of producing them will doubtlessly increase. This is clearly a case of resource depletion as an aging mind and stiffening fingers will find the mining and extraction of material to attract and challenge readers more and more difficult.

On the other hand, it should be noted that Peak Blog doesn’t mean I am out of blog posts. In fact, Hubbert’s Theory suggests that there may be as many left as have been used up. What this does mean is that all the easy posts have been expended and in the future consideration will have to be given to Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI). As with my use of oil, I’ll have to practice conservation of ideas and save some of the good stuff for later.

The ability to produce somewhat interesting material will itself be an exercise in resilience and will depend on the participation of choir members to keep the thing going. In a continuing effort to conserve, we will entertain alternative sources of energy and encourage guest posts on pertinent subjects. This will provide additional fuel for the vehicle and allow us to drive a bit further.