Some of you might know that I’m like what I like to call a wannabe homesteader which also means I’m a lowkey prepper. If you aren’t familiar with homesteading, it’s basically working toward self-sufficiency in many areas of your life. It can be done to any degree in a country or an urban setting. While I don’t have a degree on the subject (do they even offer that? They should!) because of my informal studies, experiments, and successes over the last 10 years I figure I have at least a Masters in Grandma Studies. I put this together a few days ago and I hope you will find it helpful, comforting, and maybe a little inspiring in the face of what will ultimately be a terrible tragedy.
Your attitude is important. I usually use the blog to talk about relationship skills and I’m not going to do that now except to say that this is huge excerise in relinquishing control. We cannot control this virus. We cannot control others. All we can do is protect ourselves and those around us as much as possible. I invite you to take some time to reflect on how the fear from this is pressing our buttons and making our urge to control stronger. This weekend has been absolutely lovely for me and my family and I give the Skills and my perchant for sustainability all the credit. Please let me know if you’d like coaching for this strange time. I always do phone calls 🙂
Some of my friends on Facebook aren’t taking this pandemic seriously and calling people who are preparing “stupid.” I don’t think I need to tell you how unattractive this is. You’re smart, you get it. 😉 This is serious. It’s smart to prepare. It will continue to get more and more difficult as each day passes. Get things done now while you still have the chance.
The impact of this worldwide pandemic is far reaching, and will leave none of us unaffected. Our events are already being cancelled, our travel restricted, and our looming mortality is in full relief. If you are young healthy person, you probably aren’t too worried about contracting Coronavirus, but here are two reasons why you should be.
It’s not fun to be sick. I’ve read a few first-hand accounts of having this illness and it does not sound fun. Mild or not, it’s better not to be sick than it is to be sick. To what lengths are you willing to go to avoid getting sick? This will vary from person to person. I encourage you to stretch yourself to think of all the ways you can minimize your exposure and your role in transmission.
More importantly, you have moral responsibility to not become a disease vector. We must protect our elders and our more vulnerable friends. Personally, I would have a very hard time living with myself if someone I inadvertently exposed to coronavirus died. I would feel responsible if I didn’t do everything in my power to prevent that from happening. This IS a matter of life and death. Please feel comforted that if you decide to stay home instead of going to an important meeting or whatever people want you to do, I am in your corner yelling, “IT’S NOT WORTH IT.” Your life and the lives of others is the best thing we have, it’s the only thing we have. It’s the way we raise the next generations, it’s all the joy you experience, it’s all the knowledge and love and support that you give to the world and that’s important. It’s more important that you preserve yourself and others than it is that you continue to do all of your external every day “duties.”
Of course there are many, many people, particularly in the United States that don’t have sick leave, that have to work with public, or that don’t have stable places to live without wages. If that’s you, first of all, thank you for continuing to do your job. I absolutely want to express that some people will have to continue working and the rest of us should be very thankful for the measures that they will have to take to keep themselves healthy. It is a risk that may not have an alternative. Please join me in prayer for our federal government to provide financial assistance to those who rely on every day of wages to survive, so that they may take time off and isolate.
It has been recommended by most experts and media outlet that we self-isolate as much as possible, which means limiting your outings to the essentials while we still have the freedom to do so. If we all participate in self-isolating, this will pass in a matter of weeks and will do minimal damage. We cannot afford to continue go on as “business as usual.” It’s is not safe and it’s morally wrong. Please limit your exposure and your potential transmission by preparing yourself and your home to accommodate your needs and wants for a few weeks of isolation.
Preparing now if you haven’t already
Wherever you live, consider the following options to make your isolation feel a whole lot nicer than it might seem. Some of these things are survival strategies but most of them will just make your life more comfortable. Homesteading values comfort. It should not be an excessive burden to provide for yourself and your family. Given some knowledge and preparation you can live a comfortable life.
There are now shortages in some stores and in some areas. Do not panic. There is no reason to. Your grandparents and great grandparents survived on much less than you probably have in your home today. If they could do it, so can you. And guess what? You have access to all of humanities knowledge! So lay back and learn to do some things the old way. There are some really fun videos on YouTube that can help. Always feel free to ask in the comments or in a PM. I’d love to hear from you.
A global pandemic, while totally terrifying, is a great opportunity for us to practice sustainability in our homes.
Wherever you live, consider the following options to make your isolation feel a whole lot nicer than it might seem right now. Some of these things are survival strategies but most of them will just make your life more comfortable. Homesteading values comfort. It should not be an excessive burden to provide for yourself and your family. Given some knowledge, a thirst for joy and a healthy dose of preparation, you can live a comfortable life while you are staying at home.
There will be some things that you will probably need to obtain, either from Amazon or another delivery service or at a local store. If you do go to the store, please limit your outings and practice social distancing inside the store, and carry hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes with you. Please don’t take children in if you can avoid it. If you have to, carry babies and toddlers and teach older children not to touch surfaces by keeping their hands in their pockets and follow up with an incentive if they are successful.
Here are some areas of life to consider. Buy now if you can, things are only going to get more expensive and more scarce. Don’t wait to depend on relief efforts, be self sufficient if you can. If you can’t, ask and receive help. I’m happy to provide any more info and resources. Need help cooking something or sewing something? Just ask 🙂
Disinfectants and Cleaning Products
You probably already have what you need, a bottle of bleach, Clorox wipes, isopropyl alcohol, hand sanitizer, soap. You have soap right? Now is the time to use it. If you are truly isolating, then you don’t need to be disinfecting all the time because you are controlling your exposure already. However when you do go out or have people over, practice hand washing, sanitizing, and disinfecting. Be careful with the bleach and observe proper dilution to use, the internet can help you find out how to disinfect with bleach safely. Also obviously, please don’t drink isopropyl alcohol (we’re not that desperate yet, right?) Isopropyl is a fundamentally different alcohol than drinking alcohol and will harm you if you drink it. Ethanol, however, is fine to drink in small quantities, it’s the alcohol found in spirits, wine, and beer BUT it doesn’t hold the same disinfecting power as isopropyl because it’s diluted for human drinking comfort. Do some research on the disinfecting power of both of these options and how Coronavirus responds to each. The science is evolving daily as researchers learn more and more about this virus. Keep reading reputable sources. This brings me to a side note:
You also have a responsibility to pass on vital, accurate information, cite your sources, and only indulge in news that is credible. Facebook is not a news source. Reading a headline does not qualify as learning something. This is a great opportunity to become a critical thinker. If you are sharing information, share the source too. If you don’t have a source, just say, that’s something I’ve heard, I haven’t confirmed its validity. In other words, if you don’t know the details or the source, say, “That’s what I’ve heard, we should probably confirm that.” This intellectual practice will serve you well. You will learn things as you confirm facts and you will be doing your due diligence against the harmful miseducation that has plagued the internet since Facebook became a thing. Okay, back to prepping:
Stock up on laundry detergent, cleaning supplies for your home, yourself and your family. Grab an extra tube of toothpaste or be okay with using baking soda. You do have baking soda right? Definitely get some… or a lot. It will come in handy. Love a certain shampoo? Order an extra, or be okay with using Dr. Bronners (a soap with 18 uses! I don’t know what they all area but I read that on the bottle once.) Have laundry detergent or know how to make it. I haven’t learned yet because a Costco bottle of detergent lasts me at least 6 months. Long term I do plan on making my own, but these things take a bit of time. I invite you to look into DIY products using everyday items you already have in your home. My husband makes deodorant from witch hazel and essential oils. Works for him doesn’t work for me. I need stronger stuff. Experiment, have fun, do research, try new things!
Medications, First Aid, and Safety
There is a chance that our hospital and medical system may become overwhelmed when we start to see the influx of cases. Get your prescriptions filled now, stock up on commonly used over the counter medicines, and I feel like I have to say this: When I say stock up, I don’t mean buy the whole shelf. Alternatively, know what your usage is and purchase accordingly. If you use one bottle of ibuprofen a year, grab an extra bottle. If you never use it, skip it. Also, make sure you have birth control if that’s something you need. Whether its pills or condoms or both; get as much as you think you could use. Condoms are available online for much less money than a brick and mortar store. Pharmacies will often give you extra packs of pills if you ask in advance. There are mail order options as well.
Consider getting a nice first aid kit. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you have to go to a hospital because you can’t self-treat. We have a tendency to say “Go to the doctor, just to be safe.” And while that is a fine attitude to have most of the time, this is not a time for relying on that thinking. Do you have band-aids? Do you have medical disinfectants, tweezers, braces, bandages, etc.? Use your brain. Make good decisions. I believe in you. Avoid going to the doctor if you can. Practice good dental hygiene to avoid a trip to the dentist. Heck, practice good hygiene, in general, to stay healthy! Don’t take risks that might land you in the hospital. Be careful with yourself, people are depending on you.
It is extremely unlikely that our water system will cease to function. Personally, I don’t have a stash of bottled water. I think bottled water is kind of gross on multiple levels. I live in an area with a lot of water access and I have a well that could be rehabilitated in my backyard. I could get water if I needed to. How will you do it? Do you know how to sanitize water? I have a couple of water filters for backpacking and fuel to boil. That feels good enough for me. A rain barrel would also be a good idea. I’d like to have one of those for extra security. What will make you feel secure?
Disposable Everyday Products
Here we are talking about things you buy to use and throw away. Toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, tissues, pads and tampons, diapers are the big ones. Every single one of those has a totally reasonable and comfortable alternative, all of which I’ve used with great success. They are not as convenient but they do work. Reusable diapers are expensive, but if you were considering using them, this is a great way to get started. There is a wealth of information on the internet about the different options available. Menstrual cups and washable pads are readily available now. I make my own pads out of scrap fabric. It’s not easy, but it can be done with time and patience. Kitchen towels and rags can easily replace paper towels. I went for about 9 years on one roll of paper towels without much trouble at all. If you are still using paper napkins at home, please just stop. Use cloth napkins. Get some at a thrift store, Target, make your own, whatever. Throw them in a laundry bag when they are used with your kitchen rags and launder. I know you are dying to know what I think about the toilet paper shortages so here it is:
Toilet paper is a non-essential item. This is an American problem. The rest of the world uses washing and reusable options. Personally, I have a handheld bidet hooked up to my toilet. Also called a “diaper sprayer,” it’s basically a kitchen sprayer but mounted on your toilet tank, it was about $30 on Amazon. It’s relatively easy to install if you follow the instructions. Is the water cold? Yes, very much so. Does it leave me feeling way cleaner than TP? Also yes. Once you get off all the gross, pat dry with a nice clean cloth. Fabric scraps will do for this. Put them in a bag and launder with hot water. You will feel clean, pampered, and way less gross. Honestly, the reason we still use TP in our home is that it weirds people out not to have it. Come on, America, we can do better.
So there you have it, a bunch of ways to replace disposable products with easy to use, readily available, and are cheap or free to use. If we are hunkering down for more than a few months, I would recommend trying some of these strategies. I don’t use cloth diapers with my youngest because it was too much work to add on top of my other duties and I gave my stash away. She’s two so I figure worse comes to worst and we can just spend some time potty training which we’ve been meaning to do anyway. If all of these seem like too much, that’s fine too! Just get a few extra packs of what you usually buy so you don’t have to run to the store during isolation.
This is where most of my thinking has been focused. Now is not a good time to eat at restaurants. When you eat out, you are counting on the people working there observing very strict hygiene protocols, so strict it would be hard to meet them myself! So that’s why I’m urging you to make as much of your own food as possible. If you don’t know how to cook, this a great time to learn. You will have a lot of time to learn on YouTube. Do your researches, gather your tools, and start making things you like to eat.
It might be tempting to buy a 50 lb bag of beans and another bag of rice, but you must know how to cook these things to use them! And in an emergency, I know that you would definitely figure that out, because anyone alive today is descended from many smart humans that have overcome food shortages and famines many times. I just want you to be comfortable while we face the possibility of that potential.
I lived off of variations of rice and beans for lots of years so I’ve got my game down pat. I always use a slow cooker or instant pot for cooking beans. Beans must be soaked for hours before they are cooked. Pinto beans are great, black beans are great for nutrition, mayo coba is a favorite of mine that we prep like pintos and I really like chickpeas to make hummus or channa masala, they are a great bean to have in stock at your house. At this point, it might be a matter of just grabbing what’s left at stores and figuring out a good way to cook it. We get into a bean cycle where we start soaking the next batch while we are eating the one before. It’s a good system.
I always use the same pot to cook rice which ensures my success. One cup of white rice in the pot first, add 1.5x water, heat till boiling, put a lid on, lower heat as low as it will go and still be on, and leave for 20 min, don’t open the lid. There are different kinds of rice, brown vs white, long-grain vs short-grain. You can look into it and learn all about it if you want to. Most commonly people use short-grain white rice and if you buy a bulk bag, that’s probably what you will get.
Here are some things to add to your shopping list that will make eating rice and beans more enjoyable: cooking oil, onions, broth, canned tomatoes, hot sauce, soy sauce, lime juice or another acid (vinegar will do in a pinch.) Make sure you’re all stocked up on spices and other things you use in the kitchen often.
Learn how to make your own staples with cheap, non-perishable ingredients. If you have flour, sugar, salt, yeast, baking soda you can make a whole lot of different baked goods. Add butter and you have the ingredients to make pie crusts as well which would be a great way to eat canned fruit if the pickings get slim in a few months.
Winter squash can be stored on your counter for 2 to 3 months.
Oats and other bulk bin items make easy baked granola, however at the moment, bulk bins don’t seem to be the best idea. But it’s easy to make a snacking or cereal granola out of random things you might already have. I can post a recipe if you want.
Learn simple recipes of the foods you enjoy, making bread in a bread maker is very easy, casseroles and quiches are a great calorie dense way to feed a family and have leftovers. Eggs have a great shelf life and are very versatile. Eggrolls are a great way to eat cabbage and stuff like that. Making your own tortillas is extremely delicious and fun as well.
When I want to learn to make something new, I always use search terms that include the words easy, simple and/or best and I only make things with good reviews like “easy best white bread breadmaker” or “easy simple pie crust.” You get the picture. Dutch oven camping cooking also has a lovely community with simple, easy, foolproof recipes that use nonperishables. The recipes could be made in an ordinary casserole dish in a home oven or get yourself a dutch oven and start cooking outside. Hey, that actually sounds fun!
Additionally, you can stock your freezer full of things you like to eat. Everything from frozen pizza to eggs and cheese can stay in your freezer for a few months. Just search how to freeze things and figure it out! You can do it. All of humanity’s wisdom is at your fingertips!
Also, at the risk of sounding like your mother, eat your leftovers. Now is a great time to cut down on waste. Eat those leftovers before they become science experiments and you are on your way to waste not, want not.
Oh and stock up on pet food. Make sure you can feed all the mouths. Don’t take on another liability. Don’t take on new animals if you don’t have a plan for feeding them (says the lady with pregnant goats. T-minus 3 weeks to goat milk!)
Part 2 will be coming soon. Keep calm, prepare a little today and stay in touch.