My container gardening effort

I’ve written a lot about urging people to calm down, but I don’t want anyone thinking I am not encouraging people to stock up however they can – from the store, growing your own food and using and preserving food as much as you possibly can. Eliminating waste wherever you can will stretch your food. Cutting down on waste is something I keep working on, because I realized years ago that I waste a lot of food.

Alarming economic and shortage news will continue, like this one: “Traders were caught by surprise by Jokowi’s announcement that Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, was halting exports of the edible oil to ensure domestic food product availability.” Just saw that this evening.

I’ve worked on container gardening this spring. I started seeds with that winter sowing method, but it was really pointless, since I live in zone 8b. However, in the gallon jug I had 5 cabbage plants started. I planted them in Dollar Tree shopping bags (purchased when it was still a dollar) rather than toss them. So far they’re doing fine in these bags:

I put cardboard down and bags of wood mulch to spread out my containers, because my patio was getting too crowded with containers and I’m still working on that. I ran out of cardboard and have used weed-block fabric too. I used grow bags I ordered from amazon, various cheap plastic containers and things like these Dollar Tree bags. The most expensive part of this has been buying potting soil.

I apologize for my terrible photography, but here are some pictures of my container garden effort:

I did stupid stuff like I planted the entire pack of patio tomato seeds and pepper seeds, expecting about half to germinate and then when almost every seed sprouted, well, I didn’t thin them out. Now I have a lot, probably too many, patio tomato plants and peppers. I also gave away several patio tomato plants and peppers. Along my fence in cheap 10 gallon totes I’ve got seed potatoes planted, pots of hot peppers and grow bags of zucchinis. I have three blueberry bushes I planted in pots along the fence.

I probably only need one zucchini, but I planted 4 grow bags:

I’ve got grow bags of green beans, cucumbers, okra, yellow squash, scalloped edge pattypan squash, kale, cantaloupe, radishes are going to seed, lettuce, green onions, herbs and flowers too. Oh, and I decided I wanted to try some larger tomatoes, so I planted some Abe Lincoln tomato seeds late (photo below) and transplanted them into grow bags today:

I have herbs and some flowers started in square food containers from Dollar Tree:

The grow bags drain through the fabric, but I poked holes in all the plastic containers and bags from Dollar Tree. Drainage holes are vital.

What I don’t have, yet, are any raised beds, so I just moved ahead with the containers for right now. I planted everything from seed, except I bought the blueberry bushes, obviously and I bought seed potatoes and onion sets. I also have a rosemary plant I bought at Walmart. For potting up seedlings, I put holes in red Solo cups and I washed all of them, so I can use them again. I intend to reuse all these grow bags and cheap Dollar Tree containers. My backyard stays very muddy and kind of swampy after it rains, so I am hoping this wood mulch helps keep things manageable. I heard some gardener guy talking about wood mulch attracts slugs and snails, so I’ll watch and see.

I also started pressure canning chicken and ground beef, even though it’s just me. I already had quite a bit of canned chicken from the store and I have a lot of frozen chicken, but I decided to start pressure canning some too. I pressure canned 16 pints of chicken breasts cut into pieces this past weekend and I also pressure canned 8 pints of ground beef. I’m brand new to pressure canning, but there are loads of excellent how-to videos online and I bought a Ball canning book and the USDA food preservation guide. I followed the steps and didn’t have any problems with this.

I remember helping my mother and great-grandmother can vegetables and pickles as a kid, but that was just doing what they told me to do. On my own, I was a tad wary, but took it step-by-step. I’m 61 and if I can learn how to do this, anyone can.

Any ways people can stock up on food and basics are a good thing. It’s actually been fun working on this container gardening project and learning to pressure can meat. Just try to do a little bit each day and you’ll be surprised how quickly you make progress.

Decided to add that I purchased a pressure canner a few years ago, while my husband was still alive, but with the caregiver demands, I never got started. Now seems like a good time to learn. I’m sure I’ll make some blunders with home canning, but pressure canning chicken and ground beef was much easier than I expected.

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We have the power to control fear

Many people understandably express concern about the worsening economic situation and wonder how bad things will get. I don’t have a crystal ball to consult, but all the economic indicators are trending poorly. The economic situation isn’t really what this blog post is going to be about. I recently started giving people a head’s up what my blog posts are going to be about in the beginning, so they can easily decide to skip reading further or venture on. So, this blog post is going to be about buying into rumors and bad news that fits your personal views on politics, world events, the worsening economic situation. Yes, this is another warning about information and news sources.

Almost daily now there’s more bad news on the economic front, from projected wheat shortages, rice shortages, drought in the US Mid-West, more shipping problems, war and the list goes on and on. We could have hyperinflation and major economic collapses, but let’s look at some Great Depression facts.

Most of us have heard stories of hardship and struggle from old people who grew up during the Great Depression (1929-1933). Loads of novels and movies have been set during that time period too. However, some interesting facts about The Great Depression get lost, because it’s easier to focus on people going hungry, soup kitchens, bared down recipes to struggle by on, and widespread unemployment – all things that happened.

Unemployment in the US rose to 25% during the Great Depression. The US is below 4% unemployment presently, but inflation is rising rapidly.

What’s interesting is that despite the economic crisis, plenty of very successful businesses, like Publix Super Markets and Pendleton Grain Growers started during the Great Depression. The same thing will likely happen during our current economic woes, even if it gets much worse.

With the fertilizer situation, this year many farmers might not plant as much, but I’d expect a big opportunity for organic and plain old manure-based fertilizers to develop quickly. Big agri-business might not adapt rapidly, but plenty of smaller farmers, might see opportunity in this situation. Along with all the hardships and bad things, this current economic crisis will also fuel some new, successful businesses, new opportunities and a lot of innovation as Americans figure out ways to survive and thrive, because that’s what Americans do.

We are still a country with plenty of people who seek opportunity. Millions of people from other countries still flock to America for that very reason. America remains a country with vast material resources. Beyond that, we still remain a country of incalculable human resources and potential. No matter what bad things happen, I believe it’s important to keep this in mind.

With all the economic bad news and worries, a lot of people rush into believing any conspiracy theory that gets passed around online, with no real evidence that events are even connected. For instance, five days ago, the headquarters of Azure Standard, a popular distributor of organic and health food, used and promoted by many YouTube homesteading and prepper channels, burned down. Within hours there were people on YouTube and other social media running wild with a conspiracy theory linking the Azure Standard fire to other food company fires. It was all innuendo about “a lot of fires with food places happening” and rumors run amok.

It seems there are lots of people who want to buy into grand conspiracy theories without any evidence or waiting for an investigation.

That happens a lot online.

If you’re watching a video or TV personality or reading information and it gets you feeling panic or alarm, chances are it’s deliberate, politically-motivated agitation propaganda or clickbait to get people watching or reading or someone reacting out of fear. I’ve read Gavin DeBecker’s, book The Gift of Fear, like millions of other people, and fear or gut instincts can be important to listen to, but when you’re making long-term plans, I still believe it’s wiser to calmly make big spending decisions, plan a budget, and make important financial decisions. In economic crises, being on as stable of personal financial ground as possible improves your chances of faring better than being in a lot of debt and having no money saved.

Along with slowing down on reacting to news, it’s important to slow down about jumping to conclusions about things we see around us too. Ask questions and take your time before getting worked up or rushing to assume the worst.

Ask five eyewitnesses to an event what happened and it’s likely you’ll get five different versions of events. That’s why I’m actively putting the brakes on reacting to alarming news, because many people keep assuming the worst possible economic calamities will befall us. I also am trying not to buy into the “OMG” type social media reactions, where people rush to talk about this “crisis” or that “crisis,” or as in the case of the Azure Standard fire, connect other fires within the food chain as part of some grand conspiracy without a shred of evidence to connect these events or even time for investigators to determine the cause of the Azure Standard fire.

Under-consumption was a problem in the Great Depression, because people couldn’t afford to buy things. Under-consumption also led to massive job losses, as businesses folded.

Mass panic led to bank runs, which forced bank to liquidate loans, which in turn led to bank failures. About 9,000 banks failed between 1930 to 1933.

Mass panic exacerbates and even creates many of the dire events that happen in crises. And mass panic is fueled by rumors, media hysteria and people buying into reacting out of fear. That’s why I keep mentioning it’s important to be calm and try to think through situations, rather than get on a soapbox every day with “the sky is falling” opining.

I don’t have a plan for all the worst-case what-ifs in my life, let alone worrying about what everyone else is going to do, but I do know that getting worked up has never helped anyone make sound decisions, become better prepared, or handle any crisis better. I’ve dealt with lots of crises in my life, just like most people. I’ve had two types of cancer and am thankful to be alive. During that journey, I determined not to let fear control my life. Since then, I look at each day as a bonus and try to be grateful for every moment I am alive. Each crisis you weather makes you a little bit stronger to weather the next one.

You don’t need to solve all the problems of a crisis before the crisis impacts, just try to position yourself to be a little bit better prepared and able to manage than the day before. Set some goals and then each day tackle a little bit more.

Of course, the worst case might happen. People who run around in a panic will probably fare worse in every situation and that goes for developing sound situational awareness, making good decisions, and reacting in ways that will help them or their loved ones survive, especially in the worst case.

Keeping a positive attitude and trying to quell anxiety and fear are as important preparedness skills to work on as stockpiling food, I think. During the pandemic, I saw a lot of Covid hysterics, who inflicted a lot of unnecessary fear and anxiety on their kids and I see signs of that happening with some people concerned about the economic crises unfolding now. There is no need to fill your kids with anxiety and worries every day about shortages. Sure, just like with Covid, it was important to talk to kids about what was happening, but there was no need to allow Covid to consume their daily lives, which many people did.

Interestingly, at the link I mentioned of successful businesses started during the Great Depression, at the beginning of this post, Yellow Book USA, was on that list and introduced yellow pages to help customers compare prices. People had to think about purchases and often had to wait to pull together enough money for basic purchases and compare prices.

My late mother was a child during the Great Depression. She said they didn’t wear shoes in the summertime and got new shoes when school started in the fall. She also said she worked picking potatoes and other vegetables for some nearby farm and handed her pay to her parents, who pooled all the family’s resources including money she, her sister and brothers earned, to buy necessities. She said they had to work as a family to get by.

Mass panic is very contagious and it likely spreads faster than Covid, but luckily we all have the ability to prevent it from taking hold in our lives. I’d hate to see a whole other segment of society go off the deep-end about economic crises, like the segment that went bonkers with fear about Covid.

We have the power to control fear.


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Take some time to enjoy the sunshine

Here’s the first YouTube video that caught my attention today:

Prepper Potpourri offers an important reminder that we live in an aggressive media influencer environment, especially online. Everyone online is influenced by what things pop up on their screens when we click on sites, from the content, to the order of the results in a search engine, to the ubiquitous ads that litter our screens. On TV, the commercial breaks were more obvious, but product placement in movies and in TV shows became a merchandising battlefield. This transcends to sports too, where athletes don certain brands, and ads surround everything from race tracks to ice-skating rinks.

The debate over algorithms has taken on partisan political overtones in recent years. Beyond the marketing aspect, we are all influenced by what we see and hear, but it’s very easy to seek out and gravitate to consuming information that feeds our own beliefs, opinions, concerns and yes, even fears. A lot of people want their fears validated and will seek out ways to prove their fears are reasonable and rational. Funny thing though, if you wander down more and more fearmongering/alarmist information rabbit holes, you could end up living in Alice in Wonderland.. or worse.

With the “shapeshifters” online, well, I have to work constantly to rein in my online shopping impulses, especially since I became more concerned about shortages. I also have to guard against getting alarmed, with so much content geared toward inciting anger and fear. There are endless videos and comments warning about shortages and people offering advice on what to buy and where to buy things, trying to stock up before the mass panic-buying starts. Here’s the thing, I think there are plenty of preppers, who live in panic-buying mode every day and at the first rumor of an item becoming in short-supply, they’re racing to beat the crowd. I’ve been thinking about this shopping behavior for myself, because I can’t possibly make prudent spending decisions, if I react every day to new warnings about items (and lists) of shortages, then rush out to buy those items. Sure, stocking up on those items isn’t a bad thing, but my budget doesn’t allow for me to shop like that. And I don’t want to live like that.

I am trying to cut back on my screen time and enjoy the sunshine and real life, away from the TMI online culture and algorithms.

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Some “on the bright side” videos

Lecturing or trying to scare people into emergency preparedness (or anything else, for that matter) doesn’t really motivate people to make long-term changes. A few people might get alarmed, jump into action, and go out and buy some prepper supplies, but I suspect most of those people might do some shopping, then say they “prepped” and are done or lose interest.

On the bright side, there are lots of people who are well-prepared, who have experience gardening, canning, know how to improvise, know how to make food stretch, etc. and these people could easily become beacons of hope and leaders within their own families, circle of friends, and community in a crisis.

Many of these people are already online, in the homesteading and prepper communities, or you can go on Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube and there are still plenty of cooking, gardening and preparedness blogs & sites around. Just type into a search engine what you want to learn and you’ll find loads of useful information, tips, advice and many excellent how-to (step-by-step) videos, blog posts, articles, etc. I’m constantly learning new things and better ways to make things, grow things, stock up, store things, and organize by watching videos, reading information online and in books – even in some of my old cookbooks.

In the past week or so, I’ve come across several videos I want to share in this blog post. First, I recently came across this homestead channel, The Hollar Homestead, that I had never seen before. In the video the man was fabricating his own contraption to pull logs and his making stuff with junk appealed to my “trash to treasure” nature. I watched some of their other videos. Here’s one I’d like to share:

I believe everyone should be learning new skills and stocking up on food and basic supplies and working to become better prepared for emergencies. I’ve always believed that. I also believe working hard to get your personal finances in order, cut expenses and eliminate as much personal debt are not only important preparedness tasks, but can relieve a lot of stress in your life and open the door to opportunity. Dave Ramsey’s approach to getting out of debt works and while I didn’t follow it to the letter, I did stick pretty close to it to pay off all my personal debt, put money in savings and pay off my house. I read his Financial Peace book many years ago, when I found it at a yard sale, but it took me many years to really get serious about eliminating personal debt and I’m still working to change my spending habits and develop better saving/frugal-living habits.

For a glimmer of hope on building community, here’s a video by a nice lady, Jess, at Roots and Refuge Farm. I’ve enjoyed her gardening videos over the past few years:

A lot of videos are lists and I saw this list video yesterday at Homestead Corner and agree with this lady’s 10 things, although I haven’t invested in precious metals and probably won’t (just a personal view). I want to mention though that in many countries with currency instability, people invest their money in items that have value, which they can use to trade or pay for items. That approach of owning things with intrinsic value, besides piles of money, that may become worthless in a currency crisis, has merit. I just have always had a lot of faith in the US dollar, but these days not nearly as much as I used to. I still cling to hope America is not Argentina, Venezuela, Zimbabwe or Russia. In Russia it’s common for people to invest their money in items of value they can trade when there’s a currency crisis. Here’s her video:

Instead of getting angry or upset with people who aren’t preparing for emergencies or doing it how I think they should, I’m trying to stay positive each day.

An economic collapse inflicts long-term pain and the actual situations people face can change over time, but it can also vary regionally and especially differing impacts on rural people vs. urban dwellers. There isn’t any perfect preparedness plan, because there assuredly will be all sorts of other emergencies and crises that could (and likely would) impact us, beyond food shortages. If you’re a “what if” type person like me, the alarming scenarios that cross your mind can make you want to bury your head under your pillow and that’s definitely not a good way to prepare or face adversities.

To buckle down for the long-haul takes a long-term approach – not rushing around in a panic, trying to buy this or buy that every day, in hopes of beating the panic-buying or collapse many people predict is coming soon. People who try to do too many things at once, out of fear, often burn themselves out quickly (and make a lot of poor decisions). It’s important to pace yourself for the long-haul. And yes, both panic-buying, which could clear out grocery store shelves quickly and an economic collapse are very real possibilities in the very near future.

Before 2020, lockdowns and massive civil unrest didn’t seem probable to me, but since then I’ve worked continuously on stocking up more, trying to learn new skills, plus brush up on old ones. During that Covid craziness of 2020, I focused on having all the things I needed for my husband’s care while he was on home hospice care and it was much harder for me to get out to the store. I had to arrange for one of my sons to be here with my husband, to go anywhere, so I made lists and did a lot of shopping online.

Now, we’re facing worsening financial chaos and I’m prepping for one person, but I think about my kids, grandkids, other family and friends when I’m stocking up on food and supplies. I am sure they likely have items or skills that I lack and will help me too, even though some of them aren’t stocking up on as much food as I think is prudent.

It’s important to not only work to figure out ways to boost your survivability chances in an emergency, but to preserve as much of your quality of life as possible too. We should all want to strive for long-term sustainability, not just focus on crisis-planning everyday.

There have been people mentioning their grocery stores being out of saltine crackers and I noticed that a few times where I live, so I printed out several homemade cracker recipes and they’re going into a three-ring binder I started for recipes and information I print out or write down. In case the internet goes down in an emergency, I want to have paper copies of stuff, so the binder was an easy, cheap solution. Here’s Miss Lori, a wonder of down-home cooking, at Whippoorwill Holler, with a homemade cracker video:

I absolutely love Miss Lori’s YouTube channel and have been watching a long time. She makes me feel like I’m sitting right there in her cozy kitchen watching her cook.

All across America, and beyond, there are good and kind people, many of them online, sharing ideas, finding solutions to problems and offering up heaps of good cheer… and good cooking too.

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Happy Easter!

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

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Goodwill and charity still exist

I posted a YouTube video by a nice prepper lady, AlaskaGranny, who I’ve watched for a couple years. She mentioned active listening and that’s going to be sort of a stepping off point for this blog post.

I have lots of opinions – many of them about politics, foreign policy and the culture war stuff going on in America, but none of that stuff really matters when it comes to if there’s an emergency situation. What’s going to matter is taking care of my family, friends, neighbors and the people around me in my community and I think that’s how it is for most people.

Often in YouTube communities, regardless which community, there’s a lot of copycat stuff or a topic that one person does that gets a lot of attention, then other YouTubers in that community will jump on the bandwagon and do a video about the same thing. I’ve seen this happen in crafting and needlework communities too, not just preppers and homesteaders. I suppose it’s just human nature and how trends work.

Some common themes I’ve heard mentioned on prepper channels are Argentina’s collapse, Venezuela’s lawlessness, planning for marauding bands of thieves, and warnings about how dangerous the unprepared, starving people will be. None of these outcomes is preordained if America has some major economic turmoil, serious shortages or other financial upheavals.

No one (especially the Russians) was expecting the Ukrainians to put up this much of a fight when Russia launched a full-scale invasion over a month ago. Zelensky was not a popular leader at home and no one ever expected him to rise to the occasion like he has. That’s the thing, people can often surprise you and all these experts or studies saying “this group of people will behave this way or that way during a crisis,” often don’t turn out that way.

I’ve read interesting accounts about WWII Londoners and how they survived the German bombing raids, which started in the fall of 1940 and didn’t ease up until May of 1941. Sebastian Junger, in his book, Tribe, explained how British experts and authorities expected mass hysteria in the run-up to the German aerial bombardment. The Churchill government expected economic production to plummet and people to fall apart

Exactly the opposite happened. Junger writes, “Not only did these experiences fail to produce mass hysteria, they didn’t even trigger much individual psychosis. Before the war, projections for psychiatric breakdowns in England, ran as high as four million people, but as the Blitz progressed, psychiatric hospitals saw admissions go down.”(p. 47) He explains that psychiatrists were puzzled as long-standing patients saw their symptoms subside during the intense air raids. Junger mentions one doctor during the Blitz commented that chronic neurotics of peacetime now drive ambulances. (p. 48).

Junger goes on, “Psychiatric wards in Paris were strangely empty during both world wars and that remained true even as the German army rolled into the city in 1940.”(p. 48)

Many ordinary Londoners during the Blitz went to work during the day, trudged to the bomb shelters at night, then emerged in the morning and headed back to work. All sorts of people with no training self-organized and worked to help clear rubble, assist the wounded, and help in whatever way they could. I’ve read numerous books on the French Resistance and they’re filled with stories of unlikely heroism by ordinary French citizens, many of them women.

Here’s something else I’ve been thinking about and that’s how we often expect other people to view things the same way we do and to take the same actions we’re taking This goes from lifestyle choices, child-rearing (oh, boy do people have strong opinions on that topic), how to manage money, and it goes on and on. In the past two years there’s even definite strong opinions on how we should interact in public since Covid arrived.

It’s hard sometimes not to be alarmed if you follow the news or gravitate to social media content that incites, inflames, or that’s fearmongering for clicks, or listen to people all worked up or angry at some particular type of person or groups of people constantly.

The whole point of emergency preparedness is not just so you can survive a crisis, but also so that you can preserve your quality of life as much as possible. British people during those WWII air raids were still having their tea – even in the air raid shelters and then going to work the next day. They did laundry, cooked meals, took care of their children and all the other normal tasks of living. The same is happening in Ukraine right now. There are even farmers still trying to plant their crops, families caring for their children and elderly family members, doctors and nurses caring for the sick, truck drivers showing up for work, and the list goes on.

Something I’ve been thinking about is, while severe shortages do sound very alarming and could cause a whole lot of disruptions and hardships, America is a very large country with vast natural and human resources. We are a country with a great deal of creative energy and innovators. I suspect that rather than sit around and starve or wait for Washington to figure something out, there will be plenty of Americans, who will jump into action and start creating their own small-scale systems to manage, if the global and national systems fail to meet the challenge.

During several floods, I’ve seen news stories of men coming with their own boats and launching rescue operations to help emergency officials. I’ve seen civilians get in their own vehicles and head to the next town or county to help out in an emergency situation. It’s very common for concerned citizens to join in search efforts when there’s a missing child or travel to assist other firefighters.

While it’s easy to see a lot of disturbing online social media behaviors, there’s also a wealth of goodwill and charity too, especially during emergencies. I’ve seen fundraisers set-up within online communities. A year or so ago a YouTube homesteader family was in a terrible car accident. The man died and his wife was seriously injured. Other online homesteaders immediately started raising money to help that family. I’ve seen people on Twitter and facebook do the same thing.

People often spontaneously organize and figure out solutions, especially in a crisis. And the thing is these types of local leaders and community action don’t come from policy experts, local government, and certainly not from Washington politicians. They come from ordinary people, who got concerned about a problem and decided to take action.

It’s amazing how quickly goodwill and charity can spread and there’s still an abundance of that in America, no matter what other shortages we might face. Volunteerism and civic action in crises really are part of the American DNA and that’s why I remain hopeful for our future.

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Some good advice:

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Finding small flickers of hope in hard times

Throughout this blogging journey a constant drumbeat of mine has been talking about my belief in learning self-reliance and emergency preparedness, which now seems more important than any of the partisan politics or culture war turmoil. While being aware of those things is important, in our everyday lives getting angry, alarmed or worried isn’t going to change a thing and it’s certainly not going to help us be better prepared, develop useful skills or navigate through difficult times.

One of my favorite YouTube channels is Townsends, which is devoted to cooking and culture in 18th century early America. There’s never any politics on Townsends, just early American history presented in a very engaging format. I learn something new in every episode and yesterday’s was perfect for the times we’re facing with rising food prices:

What’s fascinating with many of the recipes in the very old cookbooks Townsends refer to is many lack precise measurements and give sparse cooking instruction, but he does a lot of research and often compares similar recipes from the time period and then he sets off and experiments making these foods. The Townsends team sets off on bigger adventures too, like making an earthen oven or even building an actual functional cabin using only tools available in the time period. The Townsends cabin-building adventure covered several episodes focused on different aspects of the project, like making their own tools, selecting and chopping down trees, and dealing with problems, including weather.

Few of us posses the type of rugged individualism to set off into the wilds to start a new life or even to learn how to construct a building on our own, but I’ve been following a YouTube channel, My Self Reliance, produced by Shawn James, a Canadian man, who built a log cabin by himself, from chopping down the trees, to building the entire cabin by himself, on his remote property. His videos are fascinating, because in most of them there’s no talking, just him working and going about his daily tasks. He later added some outbuildings, but then decided to move to an even more remote property and has been working on constructing a bigger cabin project by himself. James started another channel where he explains the challenges and his views on various topics, including why he chose to move into the wilderness:

My late husband was one of those rugged individual type people – he just set out and tackled hard tasks and he was forever using that saying, “How do you eat an elephant?” – one bite at a time, which means that often monumental tasks seem overwhelming, but if you start tackling it “one bite at a time,” each day you will see progress and the more you accomplish, the more you’ll believe you can do more and more… and more. I, on the other hand, doubt myself a lot, second-guess myself too much and often waste too much time overthinking things rather than just getting busy doing things. I’ve never regretted trying something and failing, but many times I’ve regretted not attempting to do new things.

You don’t have to move off into the wilderness or take on building a log cabin with your own two hands to get motivated to learn new skills and learn to become more self-reliant.

I’ve said this many times and I don’t want to be taken the wrong way here, but you can’t just shop your way to emergency preparedness or becoming more self-reliant. That doesn’t mean I am suggesting people not stock up on food and other items, because stocking up is a good thing, especially with the chaotic political and economic crises escalating almost daily now. By all means stock up, but here’s the thing, stocking up and being able to utilize all those items you bought are two different things entirely. A long time ago I saw a crafting meme that captures this sentiment: “I’ve decided that buying craft supplies and using them are two separate hobbies.”

I mentioned Townsends and My Self Reliance, because they show the days, weeks, months and yes, even years of hard work that goes into living without modern conveniences and they’re constantly learning more and developing more skills.

Most of us aren’t going to set off into the wilderness or build a log cabin, but developing the type of grit and determination to learn new skills, fail, then pick yourself up and start over is crucial to not just surviving, but thriving in bad times. Each day strive to learn something new.

As a child I got only one real Mattel brand Barbie doll and it was Midge, that I received as a Christmas gift. My mother bought me other cheaper brand Barbie size dolls and other dolls and she bought my sisters and me a few sets of plastic doll furniture. I yearned for a fancy doll house and doll furniture, like the kind I saw in toy catalogs. I made a doll house out of a cardboard box and I began using small empty boxes and plastic containers to make my own doll furniture to augment the plastic doll furniture. My great-grandmother was a quilter and she had boxes of fabric scraps she had collected when she worked in a blouse factory and was allowed to take home the fabric scraps that would have been thrown away. She let me use whatever fabric from her fabric boxes that I wanted for my crafting projects. I was around 8 years old when I began gluing fabric to cover little boxes and my great-grandmother showed me how to thread a needle and gather fabric together with long running stitches, so I could create ruffled edges on some of my cardboard furniture creations. My sisters and I got a small round plastic loom in some Christmas craft gift that we used yarn scraps to knit umpteen Barbie dresses too.

I still like to figure out how to use things I already have for projects. Sometimes they work, but often they don’t. My oldest sister, who is eight years older than me, has always been a very talented crafter, gourmet type cook, talented cake decorator and the list goes on. She’s very creative. Something I learned from her is to think in terms of creating a prototype, then working out the glitches and problems in the next ones. Most new things we try won’t turn out perfect the first time and whatever project or skill you’re learning, it’s much more likely there will be some problems or failures and it will be back to the drawing board. Rather than get frustrated by failures, try to use your failures as opportunities to learn more.

I rarely watch TV these days and the odd thing was I completely disliked the “reality TV” stuff from the beginning, but now I watch a lot of YouTube, which is real reality TV, without professional producers. I started watching YouTube looking for information for various needlework and crafting projects, then it moved to cooking and from there gardening and now I watch some homesteading and prepping channels too. I realized that I could learn some needlework and crafting techniques easier watching videos, where I could pause, rewind and replay, as I attempted it myself. I learned how to make Amish knot rugs that way:

An Amish knot rug I made a few years ago.

I’ve made 4 or 5 Amish knot rugs and plan to make some more. For my first rug I didn’t have the actual Amish knot rug needle, but I watched a video where a lady showed how to make your own tool with wire, so I used a large paperclip and bent it into the shape she showed. Yes, my first bending up a paperclip for recreational use was to make an Amish knot rug needle, lol.

There are so many excellent how-to videos on YouTube, so just look around. There’s also a lot of contradictory and bad advice, so take some time to browse around before you begin a new project.

I randomly came across a Canadian lady, Jessica Wanders, YouTube channel as she embarked on a No Spend Pantry Challenge, cooking meals with only food in your pantry for a month, that I was interested in. This young lady cans a lot, but she also has a lot of store bought items too. She makes her own yogurt using a very low tech method, which got me wondering about how you could make yogurt if you didn’t have store bought yogurt with live cultures. The creative ways she uses what she’s got and tries new dishes was very interesting.

Recently I’ve been thinking about making some simple soft cheeses and learning to make yogurt. Almost every yogurt how-to begins with using some yogurt culture from store-bought yogurt and with the current shortage problems I wondered how people made yogurt before they had store-bought yogurt. People have been eating yogurt for millennia. Voila, I found a process on a YouTube cooking channel I really love, Sweet Adjeley. This lady offers clear and precise instructions, in addition she has a lovely lilting accent, so it’s a pleasure to watch her channel. She has a video on how to make your own yogurt starter using chilies in milk and she says a cut lemon can also be used. So, I’ll be attempting making my own yogurt starter in the near future.

I’ve also been trying various keto bread and low-carb bread recipes I found on Pinterest and YouTube, which might be more diabetic-friendly. I recently stumbled across some bread recipes using bean flour, which would be a great use of some of these dried beans I’ve stocked up on and also a red lentil bread, I’d like to try. Beans aren’t low carb, but the carbs in beans are slower to digest and might work better for my blood sugar levels than regular wheat bread. Most keto bread recipes have too many eggs in them for my taste. I also ordered a used cookbook (very good condition,) Country Beans for $5.33 from amazon and it’s filled with all sorts of ways to use dried beans that were new to me. Sara Lee makes a low carb bread, that I like and it’s way cheaper than the keto breads, but I want to have some alternatives, in case I can’t find the Sara Lee bread.

YouTube is filled with channels on various types of gardening and homesteading, so you can find tons of advice, how-to videos and inspiration. You can also find how-to videos on almost any type of home repair, making and using tools, doing just about anything, but you can also find a lot of bad advice, political commentary of every stripe, end-of-the world prognostications and every type of crazy imaginable. I have also found some very thoughtful motivational videos, ranging from religious to secular themed. I urge you to listen to people who motivate you to feel like you can do more things and who inspire you to keep a positive attitude, then take a deep breath and get busy working to learn new skills and get things done.

There’s plenty to be worried and fearful about with the chaotic times we’re living in, but each day I try to remember to thank God “For Lovely Things,” which are all-around us. It’s a prayer I read as a child, from a little book of prayers I received for Christmas in 1964 and still have. I rarely part with books that matter to me. I wrote about this in a 2017 blog post:

How an individual responds to challenges really does depend on that person alone, but most of us turn to other people for encouragement, support and often guidance or advice and that’s where community comes in.

America doesn’t have to end up like other countries that fall apart, unless we let it. A lot of people in online communities are talking about building community these days and that’s a very positive sign. All across America ordinary people can create small flickers of hope, whether it’s an entire community effort, one church group or even just a small group of 2 or 3 people working together. Some Americans already are doing just that, which I’ll write about soon. We don’t have to turn out like Venezuela or Argentina falling apart, which I hear about constantly among online preppers.

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Filed under American History, Food for Thought, General Interest

Some thoughts on China’s latest lockdown

Many times a lot of Americans take a “who cares what happens in some far off country” attitude. The Chinese full lockdown story is important to everyone, not just the Chinese people and I’m going to give a few reasons why. This post is some current news on that situation and some review of Covid social mitigation policies and news reporting (more like mass media social conditioning efforts) since 2020. I’ll follow this post with some positive posts on things we all have the power to do, not just to survive tumultuous times, but to learn to thrive in not only the best of times, but in the worst of times too.

The Chinese government’s total lockdown of Shanghai has been getting a great deal of attention in the news media and generating some viral videos in the past few days:

Here’s analysis by Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, on the medical side of information coming from Chinese officials one word – “implausible” referring to China reporting only one severe case and no deaths from this outbreak:

Here’s what everyone should know about Shanghai:

Shanghai is the largest city in China, with almost 25 million people, according to Wikipedia..

Shanghai is China’s center of commerce, trade and transportation, but also a global financial hub.

Shanghai is also the world’s busiest container port.

Here’s a report, China Port Congestion Leaves Everything From Grains to Metals Stranded, from Bloomberg today. This report states there are 477 bulk container ships waiting to dock and unload their cargo of everything from metal ore to grain.

The lockdown in Shanghai has created a ripple effect, as some ships have been diverted to other Chinese ports. A few paragraphs into this story it’s clear China’s lockdown isn’t only causing a problem with unloading and loading ships:

“A shortage of port workers at Shanghai is slowing the delivery of documentation needed for ships to unload cargoes, according to ship owners and traders. Meanwhile, vessels carrying metals like copper and iron ore are left stranded offshore as trucks are unable to send goods from the port to processing mills, they said.”

On a cable news report yesterday I heard mention that the lockdown in Shanghai has also created massive panic-buying across China, as people have become fearful of food shortages spreading.

This all brings me back to the weeks before Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and our news media went all-in on Ukraine reporting and completely dropped the coverage of the Trudeau government in Canada imposing vaccine mandates on truckers crossing the US-Canada border, the Trudeau government crackdown on a trucker’s protest, and President Biden also imposing a vaccine mandate on truckers crossing the US-Canada border and the US-Mexico border.

I think all of these extreme Covid mitigation policies world-wide, that hamper free movement of people and goods, have proven both ineffective at “stopping the spread” of Covid and even worse have turbo-charged economic chaos, globally, for the foreseeable future. Once the Ukraine situation attracts less media focus, I suspect we’ll be back to dealing with our own US government creating more of the same Covid policies and programs that inflicted economic hardship on millions of Americans since 2020.

The news media hype seems to play on our emotions and push us to become invested in the emotional aspect of these videos, by dramatizing the “little people vs. the evil, big Chinese government (and yes, it’s an evil regime without question). The human rights abuse aspect does matter. Chinese people yelling from being locked inside their apartment buildings for two weeks looks horrifying, but it’s important to remember that the same Dems and liberal mouthpieces who bought into these draconian Chinese-inspired Covid policies in 2020 were still pushing them just a few months ago in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK, and in America. Dr. Fauci hailed the extreme Australian lockdowns. The liberal American news media were still pushing these policies, but now want to sensationalize the horror of Chinese people in Shanghai dealing with a full two-week Covid lockdown, so far.

The situation in these Chinese videos doesn’t look any different than Australia’s lockdowns, which lasted 107 days. That’s the truth. Here’s a BBC report from October 11, 2021, Covid Australia: Sydney celebrates end of 107-day lockdown. The liberal American news media (which is most of the American news media) didn’t all rush to Australia to cover the lockdown protests there and in fact, it seemed they were downplaying the protests and avoiding covering them much. There were videos that emerged on social media and in the news, like this story: EXCLUSIVE: WARNING – DISTRESSING CONTENT: Elderly man collapses to the ground after being arrested for ‘failing to wear a face mask’ while walking in a park – as his desperate partner screams for help, from September 2021. When things happening in the free world of the west look indistinguishable from policies being carried out in China, that’s like a glaring red warning light to me. Two weeks into China’s latest lockdown and the media is hysterically hyperventilating about people starving to death and 107 days of Australia’s lockdown insanity and the American news media barely talked about it at all. The real question remains why on earth liberal democracies in the free world ever bought into the Chinese Covid lockdown policy in the first place???

This reminded me of how the American liberal news media in the beginning of the Covid lockdown social mitigation experiments tried to con us into docilely accepting government Covid lockdowns as an exercise in good citizenship and a show of virtue demonstrating we care about other people. I was very worried about Covid in March of 2020, because I believed my husband had Covid in late January 2020 when he got sick and had acute respiratory failure. I fell in line with social mitigation effort for about a month, but kept wondering what the follow-on plan was. I quickly came to believe all of these social mitigation efforts were political power grabs, not science and that is what I believe to this day. Here’s Italy in March 2020 – remember all the singing:

Funny juxtaposition between their news angle in Italy 2020 and China 2022, but I feel certain the Covid craziness isn’t over anywhere in the world. The economic fall-out from these disastrous social mitigation policies will continue to impact and grow. When you add in the war in Ukraine with the uncertainty with what happens there and the global economic fall-out that will have on agriculture and global commerce, well, the world seems to be pushing full-steam ahead toward some Titanic-level hitting an iceberg events.

If you follow the news and pay attention to what’s happened since Covid social mitigation policies took hold, well, nothing has really returned to the pre-Covid days, even if you took off your mask long ago. The shortage situations never resolved to pre-Covid, the economic fall-out from those policies is still reverberating around the world. Even in many red states remnants of those policies remain – like wearing a mask in some school districts, wearing a mask in the doctor’s office or hospitals, with airlines, etc. Not a single state in America is an all-red or an all-blue state, so there are plenty of people within every state with opposing views, especially on Covid policies. The Covid turmoil is not behind us and many people who opposed masks and/or vaccine mandates and/or vaccines are still fuming about the the social mitigation policies and angry at the liberals who pushed those programs. On the other side, there are liberals, especially in the news media, who are still true-believers in all of the Covid social mitigation policies, would support and promote them again in a heartbeat and who loathe Americans who don’t believe in all of those mitigation policies and rituals like masking between eating bites of a meal on a plane and total lockdowns.

This divide in America won’t be easily bridged and it’s important to remember it goes way deeper than just the Covid mitigation policies. These divides speak to not only differing political beliefs in America, but to an array of cultural issues where Americans break down into two hostile camps. It seems like people in the middle or who aren’t ideologically invested are disliked by both sides, but pulling more people away from the partisan extremes is our only hope to weather the coming storms. We need more people who will work together, not more people ready to fight over everything.

Finding any ways to unite us will be hard, but I remain hopeful it’s not an impossible quest to find some common ground and then build upon that. Unfortunately, it seems like the people with the largest megaphones focus on getting people riled up or spreading a whole lot of fear. America desperately needs some calm, positive leaders. In my next post I’ll talk about that more.

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Filed under COVID-19, Culture Wars, General Interest, Politics

Let’s not forget Covid social mitigation extremes

Do you ever see news stories where you feel like there’s a gaping hole in the information presented? When the Covid-19 pandemic started our health and government officials and a compliant news media propelled many news stories that stoked fear among people and that led to a great deal of complacency among the American people. Most Americans, according to polls, initially bought into into an array of social mitigation efforts and went along with them without demanding more information.

For most of America, people have moved past Covid-19 and it’s not even on their radar as a concern, being replaced with rising gas prices, talk of war, and warnings of looming food shortages, but we should think about all those social mitigation efforts, which pushed actions that we were told were based on “science.” The scientific research does not support them, but many of our political leaders still will use that “unprecedented” pandemic emergency as a model for future emergencies.

The Canadian truckers protest and the Trudeau government’s extreme reaction, citing a national emergency as the justification to begin freezing Canadian citizens bank accounts, fell to the wayside as a major international news story when Russia invaded Ukraine.

Here’s another timeline to think about:

February 21, 2022 – Putin ordered troops to Ukraine and western countries began issuing sanctions.

February 23, 2022 – Canada lifted the freeze on truck protester bank accounts.

February 24, 2022 – Russia invades Ukraine

February 26, 2022 – Some countries remove Russia from SWIFT and begin targeting Russia’s Central Bank.

It seems certain the the international crisis with Russia invading Ukraine and the need for a response from the West to that crisis superseded draconian domestic measures intended to intimidate Canadians opposed to Trudeau’s new COVID vaccine mandate pertaining to truckers crossing the US-Canadian border – which was the reason those Canadian truckers were protesting.

While the news media here in America has become all about Ukraine 24/7, Covid-19 and the social mitigation craziness aren’t gone. Even more concerning is too many Americans seem happy to just forget all about the government actions and even corporations acting as a surrogate White House enforcement force to impose social mitigation rules on millions of Americans. No one seems to want to look back, study what worked, what didn’t work, and more importantly why these policies were imposed on Americans.

Certainly it’s understandable that Russia invading Ukraine raised the specter of world war and even nuclear war, when Russia ventured into nuclear saber-rattling, but the pandemic craziness isn’t gone and it’s important to start seriously thinking about what happened, to prevent media-generated mass panic disarming our ability to resist government overreach again.

I bring this up because the lockdown idea was touted in 2020 by many prominent US health officials as an effective social mitigation strategy based on hyping that China was doing it and it was working. Let’s look back to 2020:

As COVID-19 spread rapidly across China, authorities took an aggressive stance to fight the coronavirus. They were slow to respond to the outbreak—at first suppressing information and denying that it could spread between humans even as it did just that. But, as case numbers skyrocketed, Beijing went to extraordinary lengths to fight the virus, identified at COVID-19, in a campaign Chinese President Xi Jinping has described as a “people’s war.”

The most dramatic, and controversial, of the measures was the lockdown of of tens of millions of people in what is believed to be the largest quasi-quarantine in human history.

Less than two months after the lockdown went into effect, it appears to be working, at least according to Chinese health officials, who announced on Thursday that the country had passed the peak of the coronavirus epidemic. They reported just eight new cases of the virus the same day, the lowest number since they began publicly releasing numbers. At the same time, cases of COVID-19 across the world are skyrocketing.

Let’s move from China’s 2020 lockdown/Covid Zero approach to right now in China:

From the 2020 Time story I quoted the most important line is: “Less than two months after the lockdown went into effect, it appears to be working, at least according to Chinese health officials, who announced on Thursday that the country had passed the peak of the coronavirus epidemic.”

What’s not known is how many people in China really died from the initial COVID-19 outbreak and how many have died since then. That’s been one of those gaping holes in the reporting since the beginning. The larger question now is why on earth did our government and health officials embrace a social mitigation policy trusting in “according to Chinese health officials” in the first place? Can it happen again in America?

With the war in Ukraine, it may move from a 24/7 news story that galvanizes new media time and resources to a regional conflict, as Americans lose interest in the story and other domestic news attracts more attention, plus as we move closer to fall, national elections, with control of Congress in the balance, partisan political news will dominate in our news media. Covid, showing every sign of being a virus that spreads in waves, will likely hit again and there will be American government and health officials clamoring for more social mitigation efforts and assuredly our American news media can shift on a dime to inciting Covid-panic once more.

Instead of just going along with this politically expedient “time to move on” effort to put Covid out of our minds, I feel certain, the same officials, pundits and media who pushed the Covid hysteria since 2020 will reemerge when another Covid wave hits in the US and they’ll be repackaging all of their made in China social mitigation lockdown ideas again.

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Filed under COVID-19, General Interest