Those Who Care

If you really care for your friends and family, you will prepare yourself to care for your own needs and have a little extra for those less fortunate.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Alternate Routes

            This week we took a long anticipated excursion and, like Winner the Pooh, we took a little smackerel on our Great Explore.  There were three reasons for this trip:
1.     Alternate routes if we should need to leave the area in the event of natural disasters
2.     Research for a book I’m writing
3.     A break from life

Concerning number 1; we live in an area where wildfires abound, trains carrying chemicals come thru multiple times a day, snow and rock and mudslides take out roads every year and no matter which direction we go, there are very old bridges of suspect design.  These conditions are standard in any mountain town.  So we like to have choices and we like to know the pros and cons of all the various ways to leave the area.

Number 2: I’m working on a novel that uses parts of the Beckwourth Trail and we are slowly following all of it so I can get a feel of what it was like for those early pioneers.  Jim Beckwourth (or Beckwith) discovered the lowest elevation pass in the Sierra Nevadas.

               That white stuff in the background is snow!

Number 3: When you both live and work at the same place you really have to leave in order to have a break.  Someone is always intruding on our together time.  Besides, who doesn’t want to spend a day meandering through the mountains?  And meander we did.  It was wonderful. We saw very few people and enjoyed the peace and quiet enormously.  

          Become aware of the reasons you may need to leave your home and find all the routes that you can.  Hopefully you will never need to use that knowledge in an emergency.  However you may use that knowledge for a day out!  Have fun and remember to carry a some food, water and first aid supplies at the least.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On Thing Leads to Another

Have you ever started a simple project and found yourself knee deep in something larger?  Well, that was us.  It started simple enough, we just wanted to steam clean the carpets.  As anyone who has lived in an RV knows, carpets are a bug-a-boo.  No matter what precautions you take, the carpets soon look dirty, ratty and worn.  So we rented a fantastic (the best we've ever used: The Carpet Butler) steam cleaner.  We figured just a few hours, since there is so little carpet.  Of course there was the initial moving of furniture and items that spend their lives on the floor, and then vacuuming the carpet and then, oh dear, maybe a little more spot cleaning than we'd figured on and whoops there are some repairs we need to make and then, by golly, since everything is out of the way we might as well clean the woodwork.  After that, of course, the windows and then the inside of the cupboards and might as well just do the fall cleaning now as it feels like fall anyway (38 degrees this morning).  So what was a morning's work is still being finished.

Every few months we routinely go thru what we have and attempted to elimate the clutter and excess.  We enjoy garage sales and thrift stores because we can often find wonderful buys for our prepping but, things can get a bit cluttered.  Our rule is: if something comes in, then something has to go out!  However, at times we get a little behind on the getting out part.  Especially in the clothes department.  Good buys are good buys and clothes do wear out but we only have so much room.  The clothes wear out a bit faster because we can't have too many.  Of necessity we have to wear and wash them more often which, of course, wears them out faster.  We are closer to being done now however and are glad we did it while it was still hot enough to dry the carpets quickly.

Yesterday I made a meatloaf in the sun oven.  It was great, not at all dry and since I let the oven get up to 375 F before I added the meat, it never got below the 350F needed to cook the meatloaf.  So it was done in only an hour and very moist.  I may never cook a meatloaf in a regular oven again.

Have a great day!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rocket Stove

          Since there are times when the sun doesn’t shine and since there are times when I want to make a dish for the sun oven that requires browning meat or something first, I asked my husband to make a rocket stove.  A rocket stove uses a small amount of fuel, wood, that can even be sticks or other trimmings from your yard.  We live in a National Forest area with lots of downed wood available so it seemed like a good fit for us.  

          There are a lot of rocket stove plans and instructions out there on the internet but most are confusing so my husband just took a general look at them and built his own.  Many call for the use of #10 cans and smaller fruit and vegetable cans but these are only good for a few uses.  Some people build larger ones and encase them in clay for both heating and baking.  We decided to go with a 5 gallon metal can and 3” used metal stove piping.  My husband feels that 4" would be better.  He also put a used stove grate on top and even painted it.  It looks good, but even better, it cooks fine. 
          The first time we tried it out the fire was too hot and I had bacon and eggs in about 2 minutes.  Since then we’ve learned a few tricks. 

Trick #1: have all ingredients ready and at your side.

Trick #2: learn how to manage the fire by pushing and pulling the wood in and out

Trick #3: use cast iron and be prepared to clean the soot off the bottom.  It will be a mess.

          For the 4th of July we cooked Sloppy Joes.  Food takes on that campfire taste because of floating ashes etc.  Be prepared for that.  It is easier to cook on than an open campfire, takes less wood, is cooler, and since we set it on a stump, is easier on the back.  When I cook on the open campfire I have to bend over a lot more, get more smoke in my face and use a lot more wood.  The rocket stove is far nicer.

          Since it was so hot here on the 4th, I appreciated not having to heat up the RV by cooking inside it.  I do consider the Rocket Stove and the Camp Ring to be mostly for emergencies although I am using them a lot this summer because of the heat and wanting to be comfortable cooking with them.  In a real crisis it would be too stressful to be learning to cook with a new and difficult method on top of everything else.  Our visitors, including some grandsons, really loved the way we were cooking.  It kept everyone entertained!  Bon a’ petit!  

I'm an Author!

Yesterday I became a published author!  I went the e-publishing route as it seems it is the future of publishing and after spending a few years trying to figure out how to find an agent who wasn't a crook, it just seemed the better way to go.  It is not the Great American Novel but it's what I call a good beach read.  Fun and not too demanding.  I read a lot, in fact I worked as a library clerk when in grad school and it remains one of my favorite jobs, even though I'm a music teacher.  So a few years ago, with my family's encouragement (especially my husband's) I began writing and am finding that I'm slowly turning into a writer, something I wanted to do when younger but figured I had too much time and money involved in my music training.  It is really wonderful to fulfill a lifetime dream, especially at my age!  If you are interested, it can be found at Amazon's Kindle Store:  Lauren's Run by Cheryl Nielsen.  Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Alternate Cooking Methods

          One of our goals this past year has been to learn alternate cooking methods.  Sure, we have a propane cook stove in the RV and a propane camp stove but both rely on propane.  This is a concern as we live in an area that is prone to being cut off.  Avalanches, roads sliding off the mountain, wild fire, bridge failures (we have very old bridges and a lot of them) etc, all can disrupt propane deliveries.  Hence our concern as we like to be able to eat on a regular basis.  Storing food isn’t enough, we need to be able to prepare it as well. 

          Last year we purchased a solar oven.  Originally we intended to make one but then we attended a presentation by the owner of Sun Oven.  They can be found at  This company is great and their product is wonderful.  My husband carefully looked it all over and decided that this was far better than any of the designs we’d looked at because of the rubber seal.  The guarantee is fantastic: 3 meals a day, every day for 15 years.  Can’t beat that!  So we purchased one and have enjoyed learning to use it.  The only caveat is Don’t use it in the wind!  We lost a good beef stew that way and had a little cleaning up to perform.  We are working on a tie-down system of some kind that isn’t too hard and makes sense. 

          There are different ways of using it.  You can track the sun and keep the temperature close to or at regular oven temp or you can position it where the sun will be generally within a time frame and let it go like a slow cooker.  Either way has produced great results for us.  It is also the best herb dryer that I’ve found.  It is fast (so don’t leave it too long) and the herbs retain their color (and their vitality) better. 

          For the 4th of July we cooked an apple pie.  This was a first for us.  My brother and sister-in-law had canned the apple pie filling and we were waiting for the perfect day and reason and by golly, the 4th was it.  I left it for two hours and rode to town and came back to a beautiful apple pie!  And it was good!!  Can’t get better than that and the best part was: no heat in the RV and no monetary outlay for fuel.  Free fuel!!!!  Yeah, gotta love that!

          For cloudy days, we have a Rocket Stove that my husband made.  We made Sloppy Joes for dinner that night and that came out great as well.  I’ll detail that adventure another time.  We also do open fire cooking in a fire ring; sort of Dutch Oven type cooking. I’ll write more about that later.  In the meantime, start thinking about what alternative cooking methods you need. 

                                                                   Baking beautifully

                                                                       Proud result!

Monday, July 11, 2011

What's Next?

          After a month of keeping track of everything you use, you will have a rather frighteningly large list.  The next step is to organize it and then have the whole family look it over again.  No matter how diligent you are, you will leave something out.  Don’t worry, this is a process and there are no grades.  Next month or next year when you remember an item, just add it on.  The purpose of the list is reference.  You will refer to this list over and over again when making your weekly (or monthly or even quarterly) shopping list.  It will jog your memory and keep you on track. 

          Now, how do you afford all this stuff?  Some people use their savings or take on another job.  Realistically speaking though, most of us just plug away at it.  I look for sales on a weekly basis.  Then I also look for sales (including free or cheap shipping) on a monthly basis for the items that I purchase in bulk over the internet.  Then, once a quarter, we make a trip to a larger town and buy in bulk at restaurant supply stores.  Others may go to places like Costco and bulk buy.  Still others join buying clubs.  I like to purchase some items from a dollar store.  Recently we’ve been getting some great batteries that last longer than a certain well-known bunny’s brand. This is also a wonderful place to stock up on pencils! All these are good options that pay off if, you only buy what you will use in a reasonable time.  A gallon of mayonnaise for a couple who only has a small RV fridge is not a good idea!

          And that brings me to storage.  Food especially needs to be stored in a fairly cool stable environment.  How to do that in an RV?  When we first began RV living full time we rented a storage shed.  Many will criticize that plan as not cost effective and will thus do nothing.  Trust me; doing something is always better than doing nothing!  We only did this for a short period of time.  Now we have an extra trailer that we insulated and can take with us wherever we go.  Be creative and you will find somewhere that you can store a little bit of food that will, at the least, help out in a storm when the stores are closed.  Just think outside of the box!


Friday, July 8, 2011

Easier To Start Than You Think

          Beginning preppers are often overwhelmed.  Even though I grew up with this mindset, I find much of the advice given to be overwhelming, which is frightening because I’ve lived this prepping lifestyle my whole life. 

          So what can you do to get started without all the frustration?  Well, chances are that you have already begun without even knowing it.  Do you have an extra can of soup or anything really, that you will not use this week?  Well then, you’ve already started.  Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?  That is the kind of thinking you need to move towards.  A bite at a time, do not, repeat DO NOT allocated more money than you can afford.  Using your resources wisely is an important prepping mindset.

          Now, what should you store?  Here is a little exercise that I like to do every few years.  During the course of one month, write down absolutely everything you use.  Dental floss, car oil, hand lotion, veggies etc.  Don’t forget to include the paper and pencil you use to make the list.  At the end of the month you will have a better idea of what your family uses and what you purchase on a regular basis.  Why do we do this every 4 years or so?  Because our life changes, diets change etc.  I begin to notice that we are no longer using a product and have too much but I’m running to the store for something new we now need.  And by the way, include medications, both prescription and over the counter or any herbs or other complimentary remedies you may use.  Also include first aid supplies and look ahead to different times of the year.  For instance, if you use sun block and you do this activity in the winter, you may forget that come summer you’ll need sun block. 
          Organize this master list and keep it handy.  You never know when a great sale on an item will happen.  Taking charge of your life and finances is an important part of taking care of you. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Every Little Bit Helps

          Prepping can be overwhelming.  The trick is to find what approach works best for you and your circumstances.  For us, just a little bit at a time is best right now.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done the ‘I’m canning ten lugs of peaches in the next 24 hours because I got such a great deal and they are really beautiful and delicious’ thing (and I will never do it again).  But that was how I was raised.  My Mom was always doing that and I continued the practice while raising my own family.  But it is just my husband and I now and wisdom does come with the years.  It also helps that since we live in an RV I have to be very careful of what we store and how we store it.

          One of my favorite preservation methods is dehydrating.  I can do a little at a time, as I find it on sale or raise it, and the final product is lightweight and easily used.  I’m comfortable with using dried food as my Mom had a dried food business for years.  I still love to nibble on dried fruit.  Scent memory is very strong and one of my favorite memories is the way Dad’s briefcase smelled, like dried apples, because he always carried some in case he got stuck in a Church meeting too long. 

          We are on our second Excalibur Food Dehydrator.  My Mom purchased a fairly large one in the late ‘70’s and she and I really used it hard.  After she passed away I continued to use it until finally, in 2002, it gave up the ghost.  We now have a small 4 tray version that fits beside the sink.  I know of no other dehydrator that does the job like this brand.  My little one does not have a timer, we have to pull the plug to turn it off, but that is not a bad thing.  So many variables come into play when drying food that I usually didn’t use the timer anyway!  The company runs sales and we got a great deal on ours.  Their web address is  Check them out, I highly recommend their product.

          Last Thursday I found some beautiful strawberries.  The cost was high but I figured that these were about the last local berries of the season and were cheaper than my driving down to the valley to purchase them.  They are delicious dried.  If you’ve never tried drying strawberries you are in for a treat.  Find some really sweet large berries, slice them about ¼”, lay the berries on the trays, set the temp (about 130° F) and leave them until dry.  I don’t usually dry mine until crisp because I like a little chewiness.  We thrown them into trail mix or muffins or you can even make jam or syrup with them later.  The point is to put a little away at a time.  It all adds up!

                                             Don't they look beautiful?