What If "IT" Happened Today?

Sometimes during a disaster you will need to shut off your utilities.  It is very important that every family member know how to shut off all of the utilities in case of an emergency. 

Electricity

All family member s should know where the electricity circuit box is in your home.  It is usually located on an interior wall near your meter.

Picture by:James Williams

Teach your family members how to shut off electricity to the entire house.  It is best to shut off all individual circuits before shutting off the main circuit breaker. Also it is a good idea to make sure that all appliances and electrical equipment is off so that when the power is turned back on it doesn't cause an overload on the system.

To turn off the power on a fuse box, you will pull out the two main fuses.

If you have flooding or have to step in water to get the electrical box it is best to call an electrician.

If a disaster damages any walls in your house it is a good idea to turn off the electricity because there could be wiring/electrical damage which could cause a fire. You should have the house inspected before turning the power back on.

Water

Water is probably one of the easiest utilities to turn off.  It is important that all family members know how to turn off the water at the main house valve.

Picture By: Michael Pereckas 

Many things could happen that warrant you turning off your water.  Some would be cracked lines which can cause flooding. The water supply can become polluted during disasters and by shutting off the water it will keep the polluted water from polluting the water supply to your home.  Also, the water in the hot water tank can become a precious commodity during times that there is no water. Gravity will cause the toilets and hot water heater to drain if you do not turn off the main water valve. 

Teach all family members where the main water valve is for your home.  Some of the common places that it could be located is near the garage where the water line enters the house, or by the hot water heater or washing machine. 

It is best to label the water valve so family members can easily identify it.

To turn off the water, all you have to do is turn the valve until it is fully closed.  It is best to check this valve every so often as it can get rusted and not want to turn. 

Gas

Gas leaks after a disaster are responsible for many fires and explosions so it is vital that every member of the family be able to turn off the gas.

If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave.  Turn off the gas at your meter immediately. Don’t use your telephone, cellular phones or any devices that have a battery. They can spark and cause an explosion. Also, I would think it would go without saying, but don’t use matches, lighters or open flame appliances. You also should not turn on or off any electrical switches.  You need to just evacuate immediately.

The gas meter will require a special tool or an adjustable wrench to turn it off.  I do not have gas in my home but if I did I would connect or tie a gas shut off tool next to the meter so I wouldn't have to look for it in an emergency.  In order to turn off the gas turn the knob a quarter of a turn clockwise to where it is in a horizontal position. Once the gas is off go to a neighbor’s house and call 911 and the gas company.

VERY IMPORTANT: Once your gas has been turned off by the meter, you cannot turn it back on.  It has to be turned back on by a professional. 

Evacuations are more common than most people realize.  Hundreds of times each year there are transportation and industrial accidents that release harmful substances, forcing people to leave their homes. Of course there are always weather related evacuations.  Since I live in Florida, hurricane evacuations are always something that we have to consider.

Here is a link that lists all states evacuation routes.

http://www.ibiblio.org/rcip/evacuationroutes.html

It is a good idea for you to know what your evacuation routes are.  Know your evacuation routes from home and from work.  I have my evacuation routes printed and keep them with my bug out bag.  Even if you don’t live in a state that is known for evacuations it is still a good idea to know them and have them printed in case of emergencies.

Helpful Hints to Prepare for an Evacuation:

You should always have at least a ½ tank of gas in your car for emergencies.  For example, if you are awakened in the middle of the night and need to go to the hospital to see a family member, the last thing you want to do is have to put gas in your car.  Another example would be a chemical spill near your house and you need to evacuate immediately, you don’t want to be driving on fumes praying that you have enough gas to get to a safe gas station.

 If you know an evacuation order could be imminent such as in the path of a hurricane, then you should make sure to fill up your gas tank prior to the evacuation order.  Gas stations are sometimes closed during emergencies or they run out of gas during evacuations.  They also don’t work if there is a power outage.

If you don’t have a car you should make arrangement with neighbors or friends to help you evacuate.  You should talk to a couple of neighbors or friends to make sure that there will be someone available to help you evacuate.

Make sure to have a battery-powered radio in your emergency kit/bug out bag so that you can listen to local evacuation instructions.

If you are being evacuated due to severe weather don’t wait until the last-minute.  You don’t want to be trapped in traffic when trying to leave. I’m sure you have seen the news when they show miles and miles of backed up traffic trying to evacuate an area. Having your bug out bag and emergency kit ready at all times will allow you to leave ahead of the crowd.  It is also a good idea to have an evacuation checklist of things that you need to gather in case of an evacuation.  If you have several hours before an evacuation you will be able to grab more things than if it is an immediate threat evacuation.

It is important that you take the instructed evacuation routes.  Even if you think you know a shortcut.  The roads may be blocked or authorities may not let you through.

During severe weather evacuations, be alert for washed out roads or flooding.  Don’t drive in flooded areas and watch out for downed power lines.

If You Have Time Before an Evacuation:

  • Make sure to close and lock all your doors and windows.
  • Unplug all electrical equipment except the refrigerator/freezer.  You should only unplug the refrigerator/freezer if you know there is going to be flooding.
  • Attempt to reach other family member and loved ones to let them know where you are going.
  • Put on sturdy shoes and clothing that provides protection.

Evacuations, Emergencies and School Children

  • Talk to your child’s school and ask how the school will communicate with you during an emergency.
  • Ask about their emergency supplies such as water, food, first aid and other supplies
  • Find out if they will shelter in place or move the children during an emergency.
  • Map out your evacuation route from your child’s school in case you need to pick them up first before evacuating.

Don’t Forget Your Pets:

One of the other things to consider is your pets.  Do you have everything you will need to evacuate them too? Make sure you have food, leashes and pet records in a place that you can grab-and-go. I have a large dog which means his food is in a 50lb bag. I wouldn't want to take that large of a bag of food due to space in my truck, so I have a small bag that is part of his “bug out bag” and it will be easier to manage if I have to evacuate with him.

These are just a few things to consider if you have to evacuate.  What do you have ready in case of evacuation? Would you be able to get out within a short period of time with more than the clothes on your back? The time to think about what you need to take with you during an evacuation is not during the evacuation order.

 

  Picture by: Houstontranstar

Summer is not over yet, but we are not far from the colder months. When winter temperatures drop below normal, staying warm and safe is vital. 

This is the time to start preparing for colder weather and planning ahead. You should have a winter survival kit prepared in advance of winter. Depending on where you live you may have a few different items that you have in your winter survival kit, but listed below are some of the main things to consider:

Picture by Chance Fry

Home Winter Kit

  • Food: Make sure that it requires no cooking or refrigeration in case there is a loss of power. Don’t forget the babies and pets. Also make sure to have a non-electric can opener to open canned goods.
  • Water: At least 5 gallons per person, more if you are in an area prone to have long periods of cold temperatures. 
  • Medicines: Extra medicine for anyone in the house on prescription medication.
  • Heat: Have an alternate way to heat your home during a power failure such as a fireplace, woodstove or a kerosene heater. Store enough wood or kerosene to get through a long term power outage.
  • Blankets
  • Matches
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • First Aid Kit
  • Flashlights or battery powered lanterns (don’t forget extra batteries)
  • Battery powered clock
  • Snow Shovel if you live in an area with lots of snow
  • Rock Salt
  • Special needs items such as diapers

Getting Ready to Travel and Getting Your Car Ready for Winter

Being stranded in your car during a winter storm is something we all hope never happens to us, but it is best to be prepared. Make sure to have your car maintenance up to date such as the radiator system serviced, replace windshield wiper fluid with a winter time mixture and make sure that you have good tires with the right air pressure.

Also during the winter if you keep at least a half a tank of gas in the car it will help avoid ice in the fuel lines. (Although I recommend you ALWAYS have a half a tank of gas in the car no matter the season in cases of emergencies).

During the winter it is always best to pay attention to weather reports before you make any travel arrangements. If you have to travel during bad visibility or snow make sure you have your mobile phone with you. You should let someone know where you are going and when you expect to arrive so they can notify the authorities if needed.

Picture by Jack Newton

Listed below are some things to have in your car during winter.

Winter Car Emergency Kit:

  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Emergency tire sealant such as Fix-A-Flat (I know this is bad for tires, but in an emergency it might make the difference between being stranded and getting home).
  • Water and food such as high energy bars: If you wish to store a few cans of food in your car make sure you have a non-electric can opener.
  • Collapsible shovel
  • Tire chains (for those in really heavy snow areas)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Blankets
  • Windshield scraper (although if you live anywhere it snows you already have this in your car)
  • Booster Cables
  • Road Maps
  • Tool Kit
  • Paper Towels
  • Bag of cat litter or sand for traction if you get stuck
  • Tow rope so if you get stuck someone with a larger vehicle can pull you out
  • Additional warm clothes: You want to be able to stay warm enough if your car breaks down.

Most of the things listed above in the home emergency winter kit and the car winter kit you probably already have on hand or it is already with your emergency supplies. However, it is a good idea to go through this list and make sure everything is in working order or that you (or one of your children) hasn't removed an item from the kit or car.

Preparing in advance for winter and extreme cold weather you are assured of greater wintertime safety for you and your family.

Are there any other items that you would add to your home winter it or auto winter kit? Please share below in the comments.

Mint is one the most versatile herbs to have around .  It is easy to grow indoors or outdoors.  There are over 40 varieties of mint and just as many uses for this fantastic herb. 

Picture by Zach Beauvais

To preserve this herb you can dry for later use or lay the flat dry leaves on a cookie sheet, flash freeze and seal in containers for later use.

Listed below are 27 uses for mint for medicinal purposes, in your kitchen and other uses.

In the Kitchen:

Tea: Steep 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried peppermint leaves in boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes.  Add honey for sweetness. For “iced tea”, just serve this liquid over ice.  Another way to have “mint tea” is to add sprigs of the mint to a pitcher of already brewed tea and let it sit for 30 minutes or more.

Ice Cubes: Freeze whole leaves in ice cubes to add to beverages

Mint Syrup: Boil mint leaves with sugar and water to make a mint syrup to sweeten tea or any type of drink

Garnish: Use as a garnish for vegetables or drinks

Add to Vegetables: Add mint in the water used to steam your vegetables or add fresh or dried chopped mint to vegetables during their last 2 minutes of cooking time.

Mint Butter: Add chopped mint (or process in food processor) to butter and use in recipes or with boiled potatoes

Mint Rice: Add whole mint leaves in cooked rice before serving.

Salad Dressing: Mix mint, vinegar, oil and lemon juice to make a refreshing salad dressing.

Minty Chocolate Chip Cookies: Mix 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh mint to your chocolate chip cookie dough.

Marinade: Mix with olive oil.

Mint Cheese Spread: Mix a few minced mint leaves with cream cheese for a minty spread on crackers.

Other foods that tastes great with added mint:

  • Salads
  • Mint Jelly
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Salsa
  • Homemade Mint Ice Cream
  • Smoothies
  • Cocktails

Household Uses:

Bug Repellent: Repel ants and flies by growing pennyroyal mint outside your doorway. Put mint in cupboards or drawers to repel ants.  Growing mint near your garden (do not grow in your garden, as it is a very invasive plant) helps attract helpful insects such as honeybees and hoverflies.

Mouthwash: Steep 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint leaves in 1 quart of boiling water. After the liquid has cooled, strain the mouthwash and keep in the refrigerator.

Breathe Freshener: Chew on a mint sprig to refresh your breath.

Mint Rinse: Steep a handful of mint leaves in a pint of hot water.  Strain and then cool. Use this in your bath water, as a final rinse after you shampoo your hair, a good foot soak, an after shave splash or just sprinkle on your body for a refreshing lift.

Carpet Refresher: Mix dried, crushed mint leaves with baking soda. Sprinkle this mixture over the carpet and let sit for about an hour and then vacuum.

Medicinal Uses:

Digestive and Stomach Trouble: Peppermint tea helps calm the digestive tract. It can help with nausea, indigestion, gas and cramping

Hiccups: Make a cup of lukewarm water, a couple of squeezes of lemon juice, pinch of salt and few mint leaves and drink.

Sunburn Reliever: Make peppermint tea and refrigerate for a few hours. Rub gently on your sunburn with cotton balls.

Congestion: Some people find that smelling mint leaves helps with congestion, sinus infections, common cold or allergies.

If you do not grow mint, I suggest that you add this wonderful herb to your garden.  It has so many uses and is fairly easy to grow.  I love the smell of fresh mint and use it in many different recipes.  What is your favorite way to use mint?

Can animals really predict the weather or is it all "wives-tales and folklore"? There are many observed characteristics among animals that seem to infer that they can actually predict impending bad weather. If you are not near a TV or radio to hear the upcoming weather predictions such as camping or in a survival situation some of these observations of animals might help you to know if bad weather is approaching.

It is a fact that many animals have escaped natural disasters by running to higher grand or moving themselves away from the danger long before people did.  In the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 it was reported that elephants ran for higher ground, dogs refused to go outside and zoo animals went into their shelters and refused to come out.

It has never been proven that animals can predict the weather, but it does seem that they have a sense of upcoming weather. Listed below is a few of the ways that it has been said that animals can predict the weather.

Some of these are folklore and not proven.  But many of them I have observed and seem to be true. 

Birds:

Picture by: Flicker: StarMama

When a storm is approaching it is believed that birds fly lower in the sky.  This may be true because as the pressure in the air drops it becomes more difficult to fly at higher altitudes. It is also been said that it hurts their ears to fly high during low pressure.

They get really quiet before it rains.

If you live near the coast the sea gulls tend to stop flying.

Insects and Bugs:

Picture by: Flicker: Lee Ruk

Insects swarm and seem more annoyed during low pressure which usually predicts rain or a storm.

Insects and mosquitoes will bite more before a storm. Maybe it is because of the fact that it gets cooler before a storm causing them to be more active.

Bees and butterflies will disappear from flower beds. Bees will stay closer to their hives.

Ants get very busy moving their eggs from place to place, usually to higher ground. Ants will also sometimes build up their mounds for extra protection or to cover the mounds holes.

Spiders will stay in the middle of their web if the weather is good, but will move to a more stable object if the weather is going to get bad.

Cicadas can’t vibrate their wings as easily when humidity is really high.  High humidity can mean rain so when the cicadas get quiet it could mean rain.

Cows and Sheep:

Picture by: Flicker: Peggy

According to legend when cows sense bad weather they become restless and antsy and will swat flies with their tails.  I have also heard all of my life that when cows sense bad weather they will lay down in order to save a dry spot in the grass.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac says that when the bull leads the cow, instead of the cow leading the bull to the pasture that is a prediction of rain.

 “When sheep gather in a huddle, tomorrow will have a puddle” – this seems to be true because animals do crowd together to shield each other during bad weather.

Frogs:

Picture by: Flicker: Vlastimil Koutecky

Frogs croaks are even longer and louder when bad weather is on the way.

There are plenty of theories about animals and weather and it seems that in certain instances they really can predict the weather.

What do you think? How many of these have you observed?  Any others ways that you know of or have heard of that animals predict the weather?

I love home canning. There is huge satisfaction in seeing the beautiful canned goods lined up on the counter after I have finished canning a batch of food.  However, not all of my canning efforts are successful.  Listed below are seven things that can go wrong when canning and what you can do to help prevent some of these failures.

Photo by: Nina Matthews

Foods Darken in Top of Jars
  • The liquid did not cover all the food.  Cover the food fully before capping the jars.  As long as the jars were processed correctly the darkened color does not imply spoilage.
  • The food was not processed long enough to destroy the enzymes.  Always process the food by recommended methods and for the recommended times.
  • Air was sealed in the jars either because the head space was too large or air bubbles were not removed.  To remove air bubbles, run a rubber spatula between the food and the jar before putting the lid on.
Loss of Liquid during Processing
  • If your food is not heated before packing it will cause loss of liquid during processing.
  • Foods packed too tightly.
  • Air bubbles not removed from jars before processing. Run a rubber spatula between food and jar to remove air bubbles.
  • The jars were not covered with water in a boiling water bath canner. Jars should be covered 1 inch above tops in water bath canner throughout the process.
  • During pressure canning, the temperature was allowed to fluctuate.  The temperature during pressure canning must remain constant.
  • Starchy foods will absorb liquid; there is nothing that you can do to prevent this.
Fruit Floats
  • The fruit is lighter than the syrup. Use firm ripe fruit and heat the fruit before packing it.  Use light or medium syrup and pack fruit as close together as possible without crushing it.
Buckled Lids
  • The screw bands were too tight during processing. Make sure to just gently screw the lids on before processing.
  • Food spoilage can cause gases inside the jar to force the lid to buckle or unseal. Always process the foods according to recommended times and methods to prevent spoilage.
Jars Seal and Then Unseal
  • Food spoilage can cause this. Do not eat any foods that you suspect may be spoiled.
  • Food particles left on the sealing surface can cause the jars to come open. Make sure to wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth before sealing.
  • Cracks in the jars will not allow jars to stay sealed. Make sure to carefully inspect all jars before using them.
Green Vegetables Become Brown
  • Vegetables are overcooked or too mature for canning.
Lids Become Rusted or Corroded
  • Lids can become rusted or corroded if the foods are not prepared properly. Always follow recommended guidelines.
  • Incorrect headspace in your jars.
  • Not removing the bands before storing the sealed jars.  When jars are ready to be stored, remove the bands and then clean and dry them before storing for the next use.

The most dangerous thing that can go wrong in canning is spoilage.  Food that is spoiled or that you believe may be spoiled should never be eaten.  Some of the most obvious signs of spoilage include gas bubbles and spurting liquid, soft, mushy, slimy, or moldy food, cloudy liquid, leaking jars, bulging lids and unnatural odors and colors.  It is always best to be safe than sorry.  Dispose of any foods you believe to have spoiled.

The best way to prevent most of the problems listed above is to make sure to follow all directions for the processing of your foods.  I also find that if I try to do “too much” at one time I become tired and tend to make mistakes that cause my jars to not turn out correctly.  It is best to just do a few batches of food at a time and take a break in between.

Although you will always have a few cans that don’t turn out correctly, the more you can food, the less mistakes you will have. So keep canning and enjoying your great fruits and vegetables all year long.