Saturday, October 31, 2009

Emergency Water Sources In Your Home

In an emergency situation, clean, drinkable water is often the most important factor to consider. Our bodies are 60% to 70% water. The water content of our brains is over 80%. Each day, through natural elimination, breathing and evaporation through the skin, we lose 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of water. That's without hard work, excessive heat or anything else that would cause extra water loss. A person can die from lack of water in as little as 2 days in extreme heat conditions.

Any number of emergencies can cut off our water supply. Flooding, even if it does not affect your home, contaminates the water tables and supplies where your water may come from. Tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, biological contamination, earthquakes and power outages can all stop or damage the water supply you depend on.

The best thing we can do is to prepare ahead of time. Every home should have emergency water containers filled and properly stored. The average rule of thumb is to store 1 gallon of water per person per day and have a 2 week supply - so 14 gallons for each person. On the average we should drink about 2 quarts a day, but also need to allow for cooking or other food preparation and very basic hygiene. The more you can store, the better.

2 liter bottles are good storage containers. Glass containers have the lowest danger of contamination but are heavier if you have to carry them and have the danger of breaking. You can get large water storage barrels through many on-line sources or sometimes from local canneries, or other food handling companies. Take extra care to make sure your containers are very clean before filling them. We keep four 30-gallon barrels and many smaller containers in our basement and have used them many times when our power has gone out. Since we have a well and rely on power for the pump to run, we have no water to our home when there is no electricity. If you have very little room, get creative, but don't be unprepared and go without. Put water containers under the bed, on high shelves or next to the wall behind the couch!

If you know that your water source will be gone for some reason, like flood waters rising, or have been informed that the municipal water facility has been damaged or contaminated, take immediate action to collect as much water as possible. The bathtub holds about 30 gallons of water. Fill it up. Fill every bottle, pitcher, bucket and container you can find.

Once your water supply has been cut off, you also have access to other water that is naturally stored in your home. First you should shut off the main water intake to your home to keep contaminated water from coming in. Then you can safely access the water in your home plumbing system. Your water heater is a great source. Turn off the pilot light so the water won't heat up and open the drain valve at the bottom to collect water as you need it. If you have a multiple level home, open a faucet on the top level to allow air flow, then go to the bottom level and turn on a faucet to collect the water that is in your pipes. You can also scoop the water out of your toilet tank - not the bowl! If you have tablets or some other cleaning product in the tank, you will not be able to use that water. Don't forget your ice cubes in the freezer, and any canned foods you have can contain a lot of liquid, too.

Think ahead, do what you can do now, know what to do when an emergency comes, and be prepared. It can mean your comfort, or your life!

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Few Money-Saving Tips

Saving money doesn't always have to mean going without or going through exhausting extra effort. There are so many simple things you can do at home to cut costs that will add up to significant savings.

Have a clothesline - I love my clothesline. It's a nostalgic thing for me, as much as a money saver. My mother hung our clothes on the line in the summer since before I was born. I loved the fresh air smell on them. I've traveled Europe several times and always loved the lines of clothes hanging across the narrow streets and between buildings. Even if you are in an apartment and don't have a yard, you can still have a clothesline. If your apartment has two windows on one wall, it's pretty easy to attach a short rod next to each one on the outside wall. A couple of simple pulleys from the hardware store with your line strung through them in a loop - just reach out the window and clothespin the clothes on one at a time, pulling the rope through the pulley each time to put the next one on. If you only have one window, you can go outside with a ladder to attach the other rod, or string it out to a tree, fence, or another building. Get creative and you can have a clothesline just about anywhere. There's nothing like fresh linens blowing in the breeze. For inside, you can buy retractable clotheslines that easily install over a bathtub or in your laundry room, like the kind you sometimes see in hotel rooms. In the winter, I hang coats, blankets and other bulky items that take longer to dry, on a drying rack next to the wood stove. It saves a a very significant amount on our electric bill!

Watch the refrigerator door - Your clothes dryer and refrigerator are the two most expensive appliances to run. If you can cut down on how many times the door gets open and shut, you will cut down on how often the motor has to kick on. When I come home with groceries, I set all the items that go in the fridge, next to it, and then open the door once to put them all in. It's better to have the door open for a longer time, than to open and shut it several times in the same time frame, because of the seal on the door. Every time you pull it open and break the seal, it sucks air in quickly which circulates the air in the fridge, exchanging the cold air with the air from the room.

Have a tasty house plant - Even in a small apartment you can find room for a house plant or two. Tomato plants can be just as decorative as a common green house plant. If you attach a small hook to the ceiling above it and run a cord from it to the plant, you can keep tying your tomato plant to the cord and it will continue to climb toward the ceiling, bearing fruit all the way. Many herbs are easy to grow and make a perfect window box or potted plant. Unless you buy herbs in bulk quantities, they are pretty pricey in those little bottles they come in. You can grow them for a fraction of the same cost, enjoy the beauty, and eat them fresh!

Recycle candle scraps - If you love candles, like I do, you know they can sometimes be expensive - especially the higher quality ones. If it's a free-standing candle, they often drip and puddle. Jar candles almost always have at least a little wax left over in the jar, but sometimes it's a lot. Some wicks aren't very sturdy and they fall over in the melted wax and disappear. I keep all those unused wax portions, and when I get enough, I melt them down and pour new candles. Just save a tin can, wash out the beans or whatever was in it and remove the label. Set it in a pan of water and heat the water up until the wax melts. You can buy nice sturdy wicking by the yard, and those little anchors to put on the bottom at any craft store. Tie the top of the wick to a pencil and set the pencil over the opening of your candle jar so the wick hangs down in the center and reaches the bottom. Pour in the melted wax and trim the wick when it's cool. Or you can make hand-dipped candles by just dipping your wick in the can of melted wax. Dip it quickly, pull it out and let it cool for a few seconds and dip it again. You have to dip quickly so you don't melt off the wax you already have on. As you can see in the picture, my kids got creative with some of their candles! I've made a lot of candles over the years out of what would have been wasted. Most of them I pour in jars, but dipping is always fun. Although candles add a wonderful ambiance, you should always have them on hand for emergency lighting, too.

Save nice bows and wrapping paper - My husband and I were just discussing, and decided that in the 21 years we've been married, we've probably only bought new bows 4 or 5 times! I don't like "tacky", so if they get a little crushed or crumpled and don't look new, I toss them. They just seem to last forever. When we unwrap a present and pull the bow off and it still looks brand new, I just don't have it in me to throw it away! I put it in the "bow box". Wrapping paper certainly doesn't last nearly as long, but most of our paper gets used at least several times. After it's used for a present, if there is still a nice big center that looks unused, I cut off the edges and put the now smaller piece in the "paper box". I'm sure we've saved a small fortune over 21 years of birthdays and Christmases!

Well, that's just a few of my ideas. There are plenty more and I'll share more on later posts. If you have any great ideas to share, please leave them in the comments.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Self-Reliant Health –Lungs and Bronchials

About 12 years ago, I got Bronchitis for the first time. I was miserable enough that I decided to go straight for the medicine. I didn't feel like I'd survive if I had to wait for the herbs to "assist" my body in healing. I took stuff for the cough, stuff for the congestion and any other stuff I could find. My misery was quickly "curbed" enough to give me the illusion of relief, but I ended up battling with it for two full weeks! Once you get Bronchitis, you seem to be more prone to it - like pneumonia. A year later I had it again. I went through the same routine, for two weeks. The third year, same thing again. Maybe I'm a slow learner, but the fourth year I finally wized up. I decided I would only use my herbs. My symptoms subsided faster than they had with medications and in 3 days flat I had nothing left but the last little bit of a very mild common cold. I've never gone for the medications again! And I've only had Bronchitis twice since then.

I have come to understand that herbs ARE medications. They just aren't synthetic or toxic. They are both effective and nourishing, which strengthens your body while it heals, instead of weakening it. I have a few favorites I keep on hand for sicknesses we get that go into the chest. They work every time.

Fenugreek - Known as "the Lung herb". They are little seeds which are used heavily in some parts of the Orient because of the "sweet" smell they cause in a body when a lot is consumed. They are pretty inexpensive and easy to find in a health store. Fenugreek is excellent for lungs, coughs, sore throat, allergies, expelling mucous, ulcers, lubricating the intestines, headaches and migranes.

Mullein - This hearty plant grows along the roads, in the woods and especially anywhere the ground has been disturbed. It's easy to find and one that I harvest myself, but you can find it inexpensively in the health stores. Use the leaves. Mullein is excellent for all respiratory problems and expels mucous from the lungs and body. It's a natural pain killer and is high in iron, magnesium, potassium and sulphur.

Myrrh - Yes, the same precious herb brought to Christ from the Wisemen. It comes in powdered form. It's not very expensive anymore. I buy it in 1 lb. bags and encapsulate it myself. Myrrh is an excellent antibiotic and has been found to increase white corpuscles. Besides being very effective with the lungs and coughs, it cleans and heals the stomach and colon and helps to eliminate waste. It's very helpful for sinus problems, any infection or sore, asthma and emphysema. You can buy it in powder or capsules.

Echinacea - I add echinacea to almost all my herbal remedies because there are few sicknesses that don't involve mucous. Echinecea breaks up and expels mucous, helps to drain and clean the lymph glands, tonsilitis, throat and strep infections and is a blood purifier. It's an excellent infection fighter and a powerful antibiotic. If you have hypoglycemia, echinacea is a good alternative to Golden Seal, which is another powerful infection-fighting antibiotic.

Myrrh is very bitter so we always swallow it in capsule form. The others I prefer in a tea. When you swallow an herbal capsule, you are swallowing a small amount of a dried, crushed plant. Your body will extract the healing properties out and disgard the bulk. In all our years of using herbs, I've found that for infection type sicknesses, nothing works better than a nice warm cup of tea. The healing properties are extracted for you, you get a lot more benefit and don't have to process the bulk. And besides being comforting, that nice warm tea just seems to absorb faster.

Making an herbal tea is very simple. Tough parts of plants like seeds or woody pieces of bark or root can be simmered gently for 5 minutes or so. Don't boil them hard. Just a light simmer because too much heat will destroy the healing benefits. Then pull your tea off the heat and add the tender plant parts like leaves and flowers. Put the lid on and let it steep. The longer it steeps, the stronger the tea will be. There is no exact science to how much herb to use and how long to let it steep. You can use less herb and let it steep a little longer and get a nice strong and effective tea. I use maybe a tablespoon or so of each herb for 4 to 6 cups of water. When one of us is sick, I make a good sized pot of tea so we can drink it throughout the day. Pour it in your cup through a strainer and add a little honey.

Mucous, believe it or not, is a good thing! Unless it pools and collects in your body and isn't flushed out. It is the body's method of washing its cells. Taking an antihistamine to dry up mucous membranes takes away the body's opportunity to flush the junk out. Mucous can collect throughout your body in the intestines, organs and even your brain. It can pool like a swamp. Just like alligators like swamps, infection likes pools of mucous. The "modern" method is to throw some poison in the swamp (medication) to kill the alligators. But if you just drain the swamp, the alligators will go with it. Try taking some cayenne in hot honey and vinegar water, or enjoy an extra helping of your favorite hot salsa! Let your nose run! The faster you flush out the infection, the sooner it's gone and the running stops. When a good strong herbal tea sends you to the bathroom frequently to both urinate and blow your nose, you know your body is flushing well and you'll be feeling great in no time.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pumpkin Soup and Seeds

The first time I heard of Pumpkin Soup, I thought "Ewwww"! It just didn't sound like a good idea to me, but then I had the opportunity to have some and was I ever surprised. I loved it! Good thing I have an open mind. If you've never had Pumpkin Soup before, this is the perfect time of year to try it out.

Pumpkin Soup

Chop your fresh pumpkin into small cubes, remove the rind, and simmer in salted water for 30 minutes. Then follow the recipe:

1 finely chopped onion
2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl flour
2 lbs. pumpkin (abt. 2 c.)
5 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. white vermouth (optional)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 egg yolks
1 c. whipping cream

Saute the onion in butter until it's soft, then stir in the flour. Mash the pumpkin into a puree and add it. Then add the chicken broth, salt and vermouth (if you're using it - there was none in the soup I had). Cover it and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the ginger and nutmeg. Mix the egg yolks and cream together and add to soup. Heat it until hot but not boiling. This serves 6.

Serve the soup in a hollowed out pumpkin. It'll be big hit!

Don't throw the seeds away. Any time we carve pumpkins, or use them for baking goodies, I roast the seeds. They are one of my favorite fall treats.

Pumpkin Seeds

Wash the seeds off. Then mix 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce, 3 Tbl melted butter, and salt to taste. Stir that over 2 c. of pumpkin seeds, spread out on a cookie sheet and bake at 225 for 2 hours. They make a great substitute for some of the candy through the holidays!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Three Month Supply

Being prepared is a hot topic of conversation these days! And it's no wonder, if you are watching the global political scene, Mother Nature's fury and our national and world economies. I think things are going to get much worse before they get better. But we can be prepared. We don't have to live in fear if we are prepared. Preparedness is peace of mind.

For over 50 years now, the leaders of our church have urged people to have a supply of food and other necessities on hand. Since I was young, my parents have kept and maintained about a 1-year food storage supply, and I've continued that in my own home since I've been married. At times when the income is low, we have food, toilet paper, cotton balls, tooth paste or whatever we might need. Even when there isn't an urgent situation, we are buying things in quantity when a good deal is available and are living a year ahead of inflation, and that adds up to a lot of saved dollars!

A good place to start, is with a 3 month supply of everything you normally use. A few considerations will need to be made, like fresh produce will have to be substituted for canned or dried, and milk may have to be powdered. Just keep track of everything you use each day, week or month. Whenever you go to the store, buy an extra item here and there until you have enough food and supplies to last you and your family for 3 months.

Both the federal and state governments, and many medical emergency preparedness organizations, have web sites concerning pandemic preparations. A recent government article I read said that "not if, but WHEN a pandemic hits" we should be prepared to self-quarantine for about 3 months. That means we stay in our homes and don't leave. No one comes in and no one goes out. A self-quarantine means we have the option to protect ourselves that way, but there are no police or military enforcing it. People who are living hand-to-mouth and have to go to work or to the store will be doing so at their own risk. If you have everything you need in such a situation, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you can keep from exposing your self and family to the dangers outside.

I have always been passionate about preparedness and am very often approached by others wanting help. They say they just don't know how to get started because it seems so over-whelming, or they are stocking up on things but don't know the best way to store it so it will last longer and be safe from bugs and moisture. Keeping track of it all - rotated and inventoried - can be confusing and they want to know how to manage that. It is my intent to help as many people as possible to become as prepared as possible for whatever may happen down the road. As each of us becomes more prepared, we can then help others.

Write down a menu for one week and list all the ingredients that would be needed. Then multiply it by 4 and you know just what you need for a month's worth of meals. When you have one month, double it and then triple it. Each time you are at the store, grab an extra item or two, like another tube of toothpaste or roll of paper towels or bottle of aspirin. Watch for sales and bulk items. Before you know it, you'll be feeling less worry and enjoying life a little bit more! You'll have greater peace of mind.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Ultimate Kid's Toy

We had the ultimate toy when we were kids! It cost little or nothing, didn't consume batteries and provided the most fun I could imagine (at the time) all year long. It was the fantastic, amazingly versatile INNER TUBE! No kidding! You probably have no idea what kind of things a kid can do with an inner tube. Well let me tell ya...

In the summer, our inner tubes were my almost daily entertainment. The big truck tubes were the ultimate choice. I have a big brother who could talk me into almost anything back in my gullible-little-sister years, and he'd somehow convince me to curl up inside the tube so he could roll me down the hill that sloped down beyond the edges of our yard. Being unreliable in their ability to stay on the same course you launched it in, the tube would often veer off in an unpredicted direction as it bounced down the hill. As the passenger, it's really difficult to remain coherent of your location and direction when you are in a state of constant somersault. He would aim me toward the swamp, where I'd be guaranteed a soft landing, even if it were wet. But if the tube hit a bump and decided to bounce a little to the left, I'd make a brutal connection with the side of Dad's shop. But hey, the element of danger added to the thrill.

Laying flat on the grass, inner tubes are great bouncers. My sister and I would bounce opposite of each other holding hands across the tube. We'd bounce around and around it. My little goats, who love to climb and play on anything they can (like Grampa's pickup), would join in the fun and jump on the tube with us.

We had a very large Douglas Fir tree in the front yard, and tied a rope up on a thick branch that hung down and was tied around the inner tube. I'd sit in that tube with my feet against the tree and swing around and around it like a tether ball.

My favorite summer fun was down at the lake. Of course, you can lay on a tube to sunbathe, or you can climb on it, jump off in the water or pull it behind a boat. Maybe the manufacturers who sell those expensive "water tubes" got the idea from us! My favorite thing to do was sit across from a friend, lock hands, and get the tube rocking up and down like a teeter-totter, plunging us up and down in the water until we rocked it far enough that when one person went up in the air, the tube would just keep going and flip clear over.

If you decide to skinny-dip, you can go out away from shore where no one can see and the tube makes a nice place to drape your suit while you enjoy the swim. Unless of course a boat goes by and the waves knock your suit off the tube and it sinks to the bottom of the lake, like my friend's did once! OK, at least she thought it did until she was in sufficient hysterics and I was laughing too hard to stay above the surface any more. For fear of drowning, I gave her suit back.

In the winter, there's nothing better on the snow than an inner tube. We lived in the woods on a gentle sloped mountain side. When the snow was just right for packing, we would make a chute starting from way up above the house that came down through the trees, across the driveway, down the hill below the house, past the barn and on down into the woods on the other side. It was a great ride! We just had to make sure the sides of the chute were high enough on the corners to keep from flying over the edge of the track and into a tree. Carrying a tube back up the hill is easy if you hang it on your head and over your back.

We'd often tie it behind the snowcat (our term for snowmobile) on a long rope. One day my brother was driving the snowcat, pulling me and Mark, our friend. We went about a mile up in the woods on an old logging road to a large meadow my family had cleared. Being the crazy brother he is, he wanted to make sure we had the best time possible, so he headed across the meadow at full throttle. When he had the machine going as fast as it could possibly go - I'd guess 70 or 80 mph - he leaned hard and spun the cat around. That of course, sent us spinning around like a yo-yo on the end of a string. I think our speed tripled, the world was a blur as my eyes were sucked back into my head and I could feel my face stretched back like a cartoon from the g-forces. It was a long rope! We spun around him so fast that the pull of the rope flipped the cat over him. I saw him jump up and the snowcat flip over him again. He'd jump up again and it would flip and he'd jump up. Through the blur, I think that happened about 4 times before we slowed down enough to just wrap around the snowcat and not flip it. I didn't fly off the tube with all that centripetal force because as I was holding onto the rope where it was tied around the tube, my hand just wedged down between the tube and the rope. My fingers would have come off before I could have flown off that tube!

We shortened the rope to head back down the mountain. The logging road is winding and there's very little room to swing around the corners. I told my brother the rope was still too long but he said, no, it would be fine - as long as he didn't go too fast. If you knew him like I do, you would know that he can't ever pass up a chance for a thrill - even if it is someone else's! He went flying down the logging road with Mark and I in tow. As if we hadn't had enough excitement for one day, we didn't go far before he flung us around a corner, the tube slammed into a tree, burst, and the two of us flew off in random directions into the woods. Don't worry, we had plenty more tubes stashed in the barn to continue our idea of fun with!

My grandpa's ranch, adjacent to our farm, had a meadow on either side of the ranch house. They both have a good slope to them and make for a great ride on a tube. Especially when the snow gets crusty on top. The smaller meadow is steeper and has no "landing" before the barbed wire fence across the bottom. You had to be able to bale off before the fence, which my brother failed to do one day and took out one of the wires, with himself.

One of my best memories is during the Christmas holiday when all the Aunts and Uncles and cousins were together at the ranch. We had a big tubing party out in the big meadow with 8 inner tubes. They were all placed next to each other and about 6 men - my dad and uncles - laid on the tubes and wrapped their arms around them to hold them together. Then my mom and all the aunts laid down on the men's backs and about 10 of us cousins piled on top of the moms. We roared down the meadow like Niagra Falls. My grampa's dog raced along side of us yapping and biting at the tubes. I suppose he thought we were crazy and was trying to stop it and save our lives. His tooth sunk in one of the tubes and when it popped about 5 or 6 bodies flew off across the meadow while the rest of the pile thundered away.

Now, who said you have to go out and spend hard earned money on plastic toys that break and never last long anyway when we have the best toys a kid could ever ask for laying around in shops and garages for cheap or free? Maybe we played with inner tubes because "necessity is the mother of invention", but I thought we had the ultimate kid's toys!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Self-Reliant Health – Sore Throat

There's no need to go out and buy throat sprays and drops. They don't fix your sore throat anyway. They might numb it or temporarily soothe it in some way, but that's just a cover-up, not a cure. And they are medications, which add more load for your system to try to process and your liver to filter. Here are some of our most successful methods of either soothing a sore throat, or killing the problem that causes it:

Gargle with Hydrogen Peroxide -
Gargle really well with a small amount, getting it as far back as you can. Allow it to fizz and do it's job as long as you can before you rinse. Although there is food grade Hydrogen Peroxide that you can ingest, I don't. I swallowed a mouthful unintentionally once and it came right back up, along with everything else that was in my stomach.

Gargle with and swallow Colloidal Silver –
Silver kills bacteria. It also kills viruses, indirectly, by collapsing the host bacteria cell it invades and suffocating it. Since the silver is absorbed by the small intestine, it doesn't harm the needed bacteria in the colon. I've read about a lot of people who drink colloidal silver or take silver supplements on a regular basis for an extended period of time, but too much of a good thing is too much. I use it only short term when I have a specific need and it works great!

Apple Cider Vinegar, Honey, Lemon, Cayenne –
The acidity in the cider vinegar will kill bacteria when it contacts it. It is also high in Potassium. Honey has been used to soothe a sore throat for many generations. It also helps to alleviate a cough. Lemon is a fantastic cleanser, very nourishing and helps kill bacteria. Cayenne increases circulation which aids the body in attacking and flushing unwanted infections. It is also an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent. These 4 substances can each be used separately or in any number of combinations. Mix the honey and vinegar in warm water and drink, or mix ¼ cup each without diluting and take a tablespoon every couple of hours, letting it slowly run down your throat. We like hot lemon and honey tea. Just add a Tablespoon (or 2 if you like it stronger) of each to a cup of hot water and sip it slowly. Adding ¼ tsp. cayenne to either of those combinations enhances their effect.

Warm Salt Water Gargle –
Salt inhibits bacteria growth and is a good cleanser. It also makes a great soother for sore throats but is often only a temporary solution.

Garlic –
Garlic is a natural antibiotic. It effectively kills bacteria, viruses, molds, fungus, yeast and parasites. The healing property in it, a substance called allicin, is released when the garlic is chewed or chopped or crushed. To avoid “garlic breath”, I put a piece of a garlic clove on a spoon and chop it up with the tip of a knife. Then we swallow it down with water without chewing it. If it doesn't mix with your saliva, you won't have it on your breath. However, it's most effective in healing a throat infection if you let the juices of the garlic clove bathe your throat. I used to keep a clove in my cheek and suck on it during cold season when I was younger and I would rarely catch what was going around.

Myrrh –
Years ago we went through a spell for months when it seemed like there was always someone in the family who was sick. We got pretty tired of garlic and in my search for an alternative, I discovered Myrrh. Myrrh is an excellent natural antibiotic and, according to one of my herbal remedy books, it has been found in tests to raise the white blood cell count, as much as 4 times! We take a couple of capsules when we feel something coming on and more often than not, it will stop the oncoming infection in its tracks. A very strong tea of Myrrh is an excellent mouth wash or gargle to kill sores or infections in those areas.

Slippery Elm Bark –
I love Slippery Elm. I buy it in bags in powder form. It is highly nutritious and has a mildly nutty taste. I'll often add a couple of tablespoons to a fruit shake. Two Tablespoons stirred into a cup of hot water will coat the throat and help alleviate both soreness and cough.

Ginger –
Fresh ginger, peeled and steeped in hot water with a little honey added, is a soothing tea for any occasion. Sip it slowly and you'll notice a prickly sort of tingle in your throat. Ginger also aids in digestion, and ginger tea is a good remedy to help get your voice back when it's been hoarse.

Oregon Grape Root –
Taking capsules or, preferably, drinking a tea made by steeping Oregon Grape Root in hot water, will kill Strep Throat. This is the only remedy I'm listing here that I haven't actually used myself. After reading this in several of my herbal books, I've suggested it to 3 different people who had been to the doctor and found that they, or in one case - several members of their family, had Strep but didn't want to use antibiotics. All 3 people reported back that the Oregon Grape effectively and quickly killed the Strep.

Those are the remedies we use most in our family. The Oregon Grape Root (I keep on hand just in case), Slippery Elm and Myrrh I buy 1 lb. at a time from a bulk source, or you can get them in capsules, tinctures or bulk from a Natural Foods store. The rest of the ingredients mentioned, are commonly used and in most of our homes anyway. They are good inexpensive alternatives to purchasing medicinal remedies and are much better for your body!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Zuchinni Mania!

Today was a Zucchini Bread day. In the fall, during "zucchini season" we have a sort of joke around here - always keep your car doors locked while you're in church. If you don't, your car will be stuffed full of zucchini when you come out! I never could figure out why every fall people have so many zucchinis from their garden, they practically offer to pay you to take them away. You'd think they would plant less the next year. But I'm sure not complaining because I have been the fortunate recipient of the abundance and generosity of over-exuberant zucchini growers!

Zucchini is a very versatile vegetable. It's mild flavor makes it adaptable to a wide variety of recipes, whether they are spicey, salty or sweet. It goes well with other vegetables and with meats, or in cakes and breads. I've come across a lot of recipes for chocolate zucchini cakes, cookies and brownies. You can bake it like squash or add it to a soup. My husband loves some chopped up in his chunky spaghetti sauce. Here are a few of my favorite things to do with zucchini:

Fried Zucchini
I dip the slices in raw egg and then in bread crumbs mixed with Parmesan cheese and whatever seasonings sound good to me that day - usually a little seasoned salt, or sea salt with a dash of garlic powder and some Parsley flakes. Then I fry them up with olive oil.

Veggie Cakes
These are so good! My Mother-in-law invented this great idea. I shred any combination of fresh veggies that I have in my refrigerator at the time; like potatoes, jicama, carrots, turnips, bell peppers, finely chopped broccoli, celery and of course, zucchini. Add enough eggs to make the mixture very wet and sloppy. Be generous with the eggs because they hold the rest together when it cooks. Depending on what veggies you used, select salt and other seasonings to taste. Put about 3/4 c. of mixture on a griddle or in a skillet and spread it out like a thick pancake. I use my electric griddle so I can make 8 or 10 at a time. Let it fry until golden brown, flip over and repeat. When I turn them, I also sprinkle grated cheese on top. It melts while the cake finishes cooking. These are so good and maybe a good healthy way to get fresh veggies down your kids that aren't vegetable fans.

Almost everyone with a garden has a good Zucchini Bread recipe. I certainly haven't tried them all, but of those I have, I've got a favorite. It's a little more flavorful than some and always moist. It came from my Great Aunt Evelyn who won a blue ribbon at the Umatilla County Fair with it!

Zucchini Bread

3 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1 c. oil or melted butter
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. raw shredded zucchini, unpeeled
1 c. nuts (optional)

Mix all the dry ingredients together, then add the eggs, oil or butter, vanilla and zucchini. Mix well. Pour into 2 greased and lightly floured 4 1/2 x 8 1/2 inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 60 minutes. Cool and slice.

You can only eat so many zucchini entrées at once, so the rest you can shred and put in the freezer. I freeze it in 2 cup quantities in Freezer Ziplocks. Then you can enjoy your zucchini all winter long!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lessons From the Scriptures

Genesis 41: And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharoah, and went throughout all the land of Egypt. And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls. And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities: the food of the fields, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same.

And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number... And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.

And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread... and Joseph opened all the storehouses.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wood Heat

I love wood heat! It feels different than gas or electric heat. I grew up in a home with a wood furnace that blew hot air out vents in each room. My sister and I liked to stand over the heat vents in our night gowns when we got up. The hot air would puff them up like balloons and we'd soak it in as long as we could until we had to get ready for school.

There are pros and cons to wood heat, just like every other kind of heat source. We had to cut, haul and stack about 10 cord of wood every fall. Then all winter long we'd go outside, brush off the snow, fill the wheelbarrow and haul it into the basement by the furnace. It was definitely more work than other kinds of heat! But I love the feel of it. It's a "warmer" heat than other types. I've lived in homes with natural gas and electric heat also. All 3 of those heating methods require a forced air system to blow the heat into the home, which makes the air very dry in the winter, and they all require electricity to work.

In-floor heating is a comfortable, clean and consistent heat, and becoming more widely used in newer construction. There is no air blowing, so there is not the dust or dryness that you get with forced-air blowers, but it also requires electricity. Some people love it, but for me it lacks that "cozy" place you can curl up by like a glowing fire.

The house we are in now has a wood stove on the lowest of 3 levels, in our family room. We have no blower, no forced air. It's just a radiant heat that rises and circulates naturally with the draft it creates. I've always been amazed at how well, and how evenly, it heats all 3 floors. I think it's mainly because our home has 2 stairways - a regular stairway in the original part of the house, and a spiral stairway in an addition. The previous owners also cut a hole in a corner of the dining room floor, above the stove, and built a nice Oak grate in the opening that we can walk on. Those 3 openings between the first 2 floors allow for a nice current of air that flows naturally as the lower air heats and rises. There is just one stairway in the middle of the house to the top floor and all the doors to those upper rooms are close to the top of the stairs. They all remain consistently warm. We burn about 7 or 8 cord of wood each winter depending on the type of winter and what kind of wood we have. That's pretty good considering it is the exclusive heat source in a 3 story, 3,800 sq. ft. home!

Last fall we thinned out the trees on the hillside behind our house to let more sun in. We cut the logs into 4 foot lengths and piled them by our woodshed. Little-by-little we've worked at getting them cut up and stacked in the shed. We cut them into 3 lengths of 16 inches to burn in our stove. Today my dad brought his log-splitter over to split up all the big pieces. We worked for 6 hours - cutting, carrying, splitting and stacking, and processed between 5 and 6 cord of wood. I could hardly move by the time we were done! But it always feels so good to see all that wood in the shed every fall. I actually enjoy the work!

With all that work, why would anyone want a wood stove? Well, besides having a nice fire to sit by when it's snowing outside! It is a renewable, self-reliant heat source. It's the only fuel safe to burn inside that doesn't require electricity. Propane and other gas heaters give off fumes that can be deadly and have to be used in a well vented area. That defeats the purpose of keeping the heat in. I know more and more people who are installing a small wood stove in the corner of a family room or other central location of their house. Even if they rarely use it now, they know they can stay warm if power is lost in a severe winter. In a larger home, you can shut doors to rooms and block off hallways if you have to in order to keep one area warm enough to exist in. And, if the stove is built with a large enough flat area on top, it can provide a great cooking surface.

It's not very difficult to install a wood stove. Most of them come with false walls on the sides and back, like ours, which provides a pocket of air space between it and the side of the stove. You can put your hand on the outer wall of the stove and not be burned. The top and front of the stove are where the main heat radiates from. This allows for much smaller clearance requirements between the stove and surrounding walls, furniture, etc. The chimney pipe goes up and angles out through the outer wall. This picture is of a Lopi brand stove. You can see how close it is to surrounding walls and other things. There are specific requirements concerning the type and size of pipe and how high the outside chimney pipe has to go, etc. All those details can be obtained accurately for your home and the size and type of stove you are interested in, from a stove dealer. I found a great web site loaded with information on types of wood to burn, chimneys, safety, maintenance, planning your hearth and location and just about anything else you can think of! Here's a link:

Being self-reliant sometimes means a little more work, but you gain new valuable skills and have that peace of mind knowing you will be OK no matter what comes!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Self-Reliant Health - Ear Infections

I have 3 teenage boys who have NEVER been to a doctor! Seriously! Well, there's one incident that I don't count because I ended up taking care of it myself . My second son had an ear infection when he was a baby - the only son I weaned early and put on formula (I still regret that). Ear infections are common for formula fed babies since formula is half sugar and half chemicals - I don't care what the label says. There's no substitute for the mother's milk that God engineered. After 4 trips to the doctor for 4 different antibiotics and a severe tongue-lashing from him when I suggested I use a homemade remedy, the terrible gut feeling I had finally over-powered my fear of the doctor. I cringed every time I gave my son another antibiotic. He had a terrible diaper rash since the first dose of Amoxicillin.

It was actually the doctor's rampage about me having no right to make decisions for my child and who did I think I was (uh... his mother?), that gave me the courage to throw the last prescription away. I pulled out a little book I had, called The ABC Herbal by Steven H. Horne. It's all about mild herbal and natural remedies for children. It said to get a "Garlic in Oil" capsule, the kind you can buy in any grocery store, warm it in my hand, poke a hole in one end and squeeze the oil into the ear canal. I laid the baby down for a nap, infected ear up, and squeezed the warm oil in. Then I put a little piece of cotton in the opening to keep it warmer inside and to catch the oil from running out on the bed if he rolled over. I repeated it that night and the next day took him into a different doctor to have his ear checked. The doctor said he could see it had been badly infected but looked like it was about cleared up and recommended no treatment or prescription. That was the one and only time I took any of my kids to a doctor.

Please don't think I'm sour on doctors. They've saved both my brother's and my father's lives. I have great respect for them, well, most of them. We need the knowledge they've worked hard to gain. With modern science, you can get scraped up off a road and put back together, but when it comes to the common cold, I am absolutely convinced that their medications do far more harm than good. For the past 20+ years, I have studied herbs and other natural remedies extensively. I've used them. Put them to the test. Just like everyone else, we've dealt with flus, colds, Strepp, headaches, intestinal/digestive problems, Pink Eye, burns, cuts, sprains and every other common ache and pain. They can all be taken care of in a natural, healthy way for very little cost. The good Lord has surrounded us with a generous pharmacy. We just need to learn to use it. I harvest a lot of the herbs we use and make my own tinctures and healing salves.

Natural "medicines" are nourishing. Plants are food, loaded with health-building nutrients. They feed and strengthen our bodies while they help them to heal. On the other hand, allopathic medicines are mostly synthetic. They are materials that our bodies cannot assimilate. Instead of assisting the body in healing itself, they override our natural functions, weaken the organs and plug up the liver. I have a friend who's struggled with a multiplicity of health issues. At one point his doctors had him on 53 daily meds! The next doctor cut them down to half, but today, he's dying of cirrhosis of the liver from the medications, not any of his other health issues.

With all that said, I want to make it clear that I do not consider myself any kind of an expert. I do not have a medical license. I do not recommend you throw away your medications or never see another doctor. It's up to each of us individually to get to know our bodies, follow our instincts, learn to rely on inspiration from prayer and make decisions for ourselves. The more I learn, the more I realize how much there is to know. But I have learned a great deal that has been a blessing, and very useful to my family and others. I don't want to be left helpless and dependent when a day of crisis comes. I will be sharing a lot of simple and inexpensive ways to be more self-reliant with your health. If you have any specific topics you'd like to know about, please leave a comment and I'll share whatever knowledge or experience I have.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sourdough Bread

Sourdough bread is big in Alaska. I learned to really like it when I lived up there for a few years. It's a simple bread, easy to make, using basic ingredients that you usually have on hand. Making your own bread can add up to savings in the hundreds over a year's time. Just one $3 loaf of bread a week will cost $156 a year! You have to start with a sourdough starter:

Sourdough Starter
2 c. warm water
1 pkg dry yeast
2 c. flour
1 Tbs. sugar

Put the warm water into a covered, non-metal container and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir it with a wooden or plastic spoon until the yeast is dissolved. Then add the flour and sugar and stir again until it's smooth. Cover and let it stand for 1 1/2 - 2 days. Give it a stir whenever you are in the kitchen. Use 1 1/2 cups of the starter in each batch of bread.

To store the remainder, add 2 more cups each of warm water and flour and beat. Let it stand for about 5 or 6 hours in a warm place. Then cover and keep it in the fridge. When ever you make more bread, use room temperature water. When your starter is running low, add only the flour and warm water again.

Sourdough Bread
1 c. warm water
1 pkg dry yeast
1 1/2 c. sourdough starter
3 1/2 - 4 c. flour
2 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 egg

Mix the warm water, dry yeast and sourdough starter. Let mixture stand until the yeast is dissolved. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the egg, adding the flour just until the dough leaves the side of the bowel. Let it rise. Punch it down and form into loaves. The traditional Sourdough loaves are round, but you can put them in a bread pan or shape them however you'd like. Cover and let them rise until double in size. Beat the egg and brush it over the unbaked loaves. Bake them for 30-35 minutes at 400 degrees.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Hey everyone!
I've got a friend with a coupon-lover's blogging site. If you live in my local area, and you know who you are, she lists the weekly sales from all our local stores. Some of those sales are applicable in other states as well because they're chain stores. Her site also has links to several great sources where you can print coupons from your computer. Check it out! Here's the link:

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cleaning Without Chemicals

Over the years, I've learned more and more about how toxic most of our household cleaning supplies are. While we're shining up the sink or shower, we're polluting our lungs and livers! Breathing fumes and absorbing chemicals through our skin, dumps a load into our bloodstream, and then organs. Here's a few ideas of how to disinfect and shine things up, a healthy way - and save money while you're at it!:

Dishes - Adding a few tablespoons of vinegar to the dishwasher will help even the cheapest brands of soap cut the grease and leave the dishes sparkling. Saves time and money. To remove coffee or tea stains from china, rub it with a little Baking Soda on a damp cloth.

Appliances - Rubbing alcohol will create a shine instead of commercial waxes. Club Soda will both clean and polish at the same time. To get rid of the yellowing on white appliances, mix about 1/4 c. baking soda and 1/2 c. bleach in about a quart of warm water. Spray it down and let it set for 10 or 15 minutes before rinsing and wiping dry.

Clogged drain - If the kitchen drain is clogged with grease, pour a cup of baking soda and a cup of salt down it, then slowly pour in a pan of boiling water.

Cleaning Copper - Use a lemon wedge dipped in salt, or mix 3 Tbls of salt into a spray bottle of vinegar. Spray it on, let set for a little while, and simply rub clean. Worcestershire Sauce also does the trick.

Cutting Boards - Rubbing with a wedge of lemon or lime will take away onion, garlic or fish smell. A paste of baking soda and water will do the trick also.

Pans, Enamel Ware, Casserole Dishes - When food is burnt or scorched on, or just cooked on hard and you don't want to scrub the finish off trying to clean them, sprinkle them with baking soda. Then add some water, the hotter it is the faster it works. Let is stand before washing out. Burned or scorched portions will lift right out but may need to stand for several hours first.

Oven - Sprinkle it with dishwasher soap and cover it for a few hours with a wet cloth or paper towels. Soak the removable parts in water and dishwasher soap.

Crayon - When crayon gets on the Formica counter top, erase it by rubbing with knitting yarn.

Ink - Hair spray is great for removing pen ink, or the purple ink stain from food containers like meat cartons.

Blood - I've never found anything that works better for lifting blood out of fabrics, than Hydrogen Peroxide. Put it on, let it fizz and rinse.

Candle Wax - If it's in fabric, first scrape off all you can, then put a paper towel, brown paper bag, tissue, or some other blotter on either side of the fabric and press it with a hot iron. Be sure the heat is not more than the fabric can handle.

Chewing gum -Freeze it. Put the item in the freezer and then chip the gum off. If it's in someone's hair, you can't very well put their head in the freezer, so get a couple of ice cubes and hold them on the gum until it's frozen and can be crumbled off.

Sweat Stains - Vinegar usually takes out an old stain, ammonia a fresh stain. If it's yellowed, use bleach, or sprinkle it with meat tenderizer or pepsin. Let it stand about an hour, brush and wash.

Glue - Saturate with vinegar. Soak and rinse.

Greasy Garage Floor - Cover the grease with several layers of newspaper. Pour enough water on the paper to get it thoroughly wet. Press it against the floor and let the newspaper dry. When you move the paper the oil will be gone.

Water Rings on Wood Furniture - Rub the rings with mayonnaise or mentholatum and let set for eight hours, or do the same with white toothpaste. Lightly sand with a Scotch pad or something like it, and then re-polish it with oil.

Hard Water Stains - Would you believe it? Tang! Get the surface wet, sprinkle with Tang and let it set for about an hour. Sprinkle Tang in a wet dishwasher one hour before you run it, or add a sprinkle to each washing load to keep water spots off dishes.

Piano Keys - I'm told that plain yogurt is the best cleaner for piano keys. Rub it on and wipe it dry.

Teeth - When you don't have any toothpaste, mix 1 part salt to 4 parts baking soda. I add a few drops of Peppermint oil to improve the taste and give that minty feeling we've grown accustomed to. The salt kills bacteria and the soda is a very gentle cleaner.

Some of these tips I've discovered on my own or picked up here and there from others. Some I took from a great little resource book called "Jumbo Jack's - Helpful Hints Almanac", published by Audubon Media Corporation. Amazon carries them "new and used" from $5.98 and up, spiral bound. It's chock full of great ideas on cooking, cleaning, canning, measurement conversions, food facts, feeding large groups, house plants, gardening, first aid helps, and more. My Mother gave it to me for Christmas. There are a million more ways to clean without spending a lot or using harmful chemicals. If you have some favorite cleaning tips you'd like to share, please leave a comment.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Pseudo Root Cellar

We have a clay bed for a garden plot. Not a lot has grown there yet, but this year my husband has begun taking an interest in working the soil. We've had wonderfully productive gardens at previous residences, and the garden I was raised with was very big and always full of amazing produce. We tilled, planted and harvested as a family, but keeping it weeded was mostly my sister's and my job. Self-reliance means producing as much of your own food as you can. We're going to need things to grow if we want to be able to feed ourselves, and are planning to have a greenhouse. It's amazing how much you can grow in a very small plot of dirt, or a very small greenhouse. I'll have more information on those things in future posts.

This year, we have a friend who planted us a row of potatoes in his garden. Some red and some Yukon Golds. We dug up a wheel-barrow full and wondered how to best keep them through the winter before we can get them all eaten. He shared a great idea with us. An old freezer or refrigerator, buried in the ground, makes a perfect root cellar. Since it's insulated, it will maintain a near-ground temperature. We went to the "green boxes" where county residents dump their garbage. People often set old appliances and furniture by the dumpsters. As luck would have it, there was a small freezer sitting there, waiting to be hauled away to the landfill. It's only 16" x 38" on the inside - 15" deep, but is more than big enough for our potatoes. Even if you have a tiny plot of dirt behind an apartment, you can store a very good quantity of produce.

We sunk it barely below ground level and mounded the displaced soil around it. We'll cover that with a piece of plywood and then plastic to keep the plywood dry. When it snows, we can scoop the snow off the board, lift it up and open the freezer. The ground keeps cool in the summer and above freezing in the winter. With a full-sized freezer or two, a lot of produce can be stored up. The freezer, or fridge, has to be vented. The vegetables give off gasses and moisture collects inside. You can drill a hole through the door and insert a pipe, or cut out a small section of the rubber seal, big enough for a small piece of PVC. A gap can just be cut into the rubber seal and left empty, as long as the freezer is situated, or covered, so that insects and rodents cannot get inside.

We are each other's greatest resource. Each of us knows something and has something to share. Co-opping information and resources also creates a spirit of working together and taking care of each other. When a crisis comes, we rely on each other for support and unity instead of being afraid of each other. Start talking to others in your neighborhood and planning together what to do in a crisis, or just how to save money. One may have room for a nice garden plot. Another may have a woodstove that will provide a warm place to stay. You can share together in both the work and the benefits. When there's a will - there's always a way!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Brainstorming with Perspective

The Old Farmer's Almanac, and a lot of other weather sources, are predicting a BIG winter. At least for most Northern areas in the U.S. Lots of snow. Every time we have an extra big snow here, the stores run out of snow shovels. A little thinking and planning ahead can make life much less stressful and more enjoyable. Preparedness really is peace of mind.

Today can be a brainstorming day. Start with just 10 minutes. Sit down with paper and pencil, ask yourself "What might I need to be prepared for?" and let the thoughts just flow. Write down whatever comes to you. Here are some ideas:
  • Weather - Do you have to worry about heat waves, snow, flooding, tornadoes?
  • Income - What big financial needs could come up that you aren't prepared for, like medical emergencies, vehicle repairs, home repairs or maintenance, college for kids, elderly parents... How long would your resources hold out if you lost your job?
  • Food - If there were a shortage, or you were out of money for a period of time, what would you need to get by? If a big pandemic ever does come and you had to self-quarantine, what should you be stocked up on?
  • Shelter and Fuel - If the power were out for an extended time, could you stay warm? Would you be left in the dark? Could you prepare food?
Just choose one topic for today and explore it a little. What tools might you need? What can you prepare while the weather is accommodating? Keep it simple. I used to sit down and write exhaustive lists of every detail of possibilities, look at it, and want to collapse. I've learned that if I can only do what I can do, then I may as well just do that, and be joyful that I can do it! One tiny preparation is better than no preparation at all. So just start there. Look at one small thing and feel the peace it brings to have that small thing taken care of, rather than the stress of a huge picture that you can't tackle all at once. It's really all about perspective, isn't it!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cinnamon Pears

I canned some more pears today. I did some several days ago and one more batch today. They're not my favorite fruit to can because they turn brown so easily and are very time consuming to peel and core. Besides, these pears are a small variety so it took 10 or so to fill a quart jar, but my uncle asked us to please pick and take what was left after the deer and bear had already been pilfering his tress. They're really sweet and juicy and I didn't want them to go to waste. I didn't have any citric acid or anything to keep them from browning so I worked fast. Also, I decided to add cinnamon and cloves to this batch. The ones on the left have the spices. The ones on the right are just canned with a light honey syrup. They're going to be really good this winter when the fresh fruit is gone.

Canning is a great way to be more self-reliant, and save money. When the food is available you can it. Then you've got something good to eat when there might not be anything available later, or when money is tight. If you live in a rural area where there are fruit trees and gardens, there is almost always someone with more of something than they can use. Neighborhoods often have homes with fruit trees hiding in the backyards and fruit falling to the ground. You may be surprised at what you'll find if you start asking around. My sister has noticed fruit falling off trees in someone's yard and stopped to inquire. The homeowners have been thrilled and asked her to PLEASE come and get the fruit. They feel terrible about it going to waste and are unable to take care of it themselves, or have more than they can use. Putting a $5 ad in the classifieds asking if anyone has more fruit or garden produce than they can use, could put a lot of jars of good food in your pantry to eat throughout the next year.

Water bath canning is not difficult, it just takes some time, but a skill well worth having. The canners are not real expensive and if you like garage saleing, just keep an eye out and you'll probably come across one sooner or later. I save all our jars that can be used to can in. If the lid and ring fit it, you can probably can in it. Fruit jars from the store, Mayonnaise and Miracle Whip jars, some salsa jars, and whatever will work. It's pretty easy to stay stocked up since the jars can be used indefinately - as long as they don't get any chips on the rim. The rings can be used over and over and kept from rusting if you clean them right when you are done and dry them off. The only thing you have to replace is the lids. They go on sale at the grocery stores every fall and you can stock up with extras. They're usually between $2 - $4 a dozen and come in both narrow mouth and wide mouth. It's also a great help to pick up a Canning Kit in the fall when the stores are carrying canning supplies. It has a jar lifter, a funnel, a magnetic lid grabber and a couple of other handy items. Get yourself a basic canning book, and you're on your way!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Grampa's Hat

I'm excited to share ideas on how to live a more self-sufficient life-style. I guess you could say that being self-reliant and finding deals is as much a hobby for me as it is a life-style. It gives me a thrill, a sense of peace and satisfaction, and it's in my bloodline!

My grandpa was the epitome of frugality. He saved every useful scrap and part and nut and screw. They were all neatly organized in shops and sheds on his ranch. His garage walls are a museum piece. Anything he needed, he could put together or build. My dad is the very same. He and my brother can build, fix or figure out just about anything you can imagine!

Grandpa had a favorite hat. It was a basic gray felt farmer hat. He wore it just about every day, whether he was welding, haying, running his sawmill or just puttering. As it got older, it started to wear thin where the brim and crown meet. A hole finally wore through and he got needle and thread and sewed it shut. It just kept wearing out and he kept sewing it shut. After a while, he took the stapler to it! I remember seeing it hanging on the hat hooks behind the ranch house kitchen door. It was stained with sweat and dirt and had staples scattered around the brim holding it together. Funny thing is, Grampa had plenty of money and could have afforded a new felt hat any time he wanted one. But there ain't no sense in throwing away a hat that's still perfectly functional! So he didn't. He really didn't care what the hat looked like. He just wanted to keep the rain and snow off his head and the sun out of his eyes, and that hat certainly did the job!

One day Grampa was in a jean store, wearing his favorite hat. The store owner spotted it on his head and recognizing what a tale it had to tell, made Grampa an offer. He had never intended to part with it, but what the heck, it had certainly had a lot of good use, and he wasn't one to pass up an opportunity. The owner bought it right off his head and displayed it on his wall where it could represent a richly lived life to all those savvy enough to appreciate it. It was a true American classic! A priceless representation of the self-reliant, hard-working, American heritage I was fortunate enough to come from.

My brother spotted the hat in there some time later, and after Grampa passed away, my sister-in-law coaxed the store owner into selling it to her. She wrapped it up and gave it to my brother, who worked with Grandpa his whole life, as a Birthday present. I consider it a true family treasure.


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