Monday, November 23, 2020

A Discussion of Aging Disaster Room Supplies




              I don't think that even a custom conventional canning storage system would have helped.


        I anticipated a number of the challenges we are experiencing as a nation now, and so, when we built our latest farm in about 2006, we took the time to design and have built a new disaster supply room in our newly constructed farm home.  We had the builder leave the large basement room sheetrocked, painted, but unfinished, so that we could take the time to plan, decorate, and stock the fairly large room, for its purpose, as we wanted.  Within a few weeks of having moved in, my husband placed lighting fixtures that better met our liking. He constructed solid wooden shelving systems around the room, built a locking closet for medications, placed a locking metal cabinet, etc.  This room was to be for medical supplies, long term food storage, emergency items such as sleeping bags, tents, go bags, medical evacuation kits, etcetera.   Weaponry would not be stored in this location.  For a time it had a safe which contained documents, also for evacuation.  We were well satisfied when the room was complete. Over six more months, I stocked it with all manner of emergency supplies including food. Most of it was conventional canned goods, although I did begin to stock some #10 cans of long term food supplies. The room was heated, cooled, and was an excellent quick way of locating anything from dressing materials for injuries to Apinol to steri-strips.  I maintained it with the occasional dusting, vacuuming, and we did use some of the food periodically, and then rotating such stock.  It also had a radio and communication and entertainment devices.

              In a sense, a disaster supply room is living working location. During periodic emergencies, such as hurricanes, I gave flat absorbent pads (chux), packages of gauze, gatorade and pedialyte packages to friends and neighbors, when needed. This working room did require both funding and maintenance. We realized that we were lucky to have a finished room in the house for this purpose.

              When the main barn here was built, a tack room went in, and most veterinary medications were moved to a shelving system in the tack room which was well insulated, finished, and heated in winter. This left space in the disaster supply room and it quickly filled with other supplies.  When the barn was complete, and the water was tied in from the house, my husband chose to plumb it to the house, rather than to hire a plumber.  One night, I heard the sound that is heard sometimes when someone is filling horse buckets in the barn, yet no one was. I got up to see what was going on. There were several inches of water in the finished basement of our home !   My husband had married a brass fixture with a plastic one, and at midnight, the connection in the basement had popped and fulled our tall basement with water.  Both of us and two of our sons spent the entire night, moving items from the water, sucking up water with two industrial vacuum cleaners that were wet/dry industrial vacs. We called Servpro, and asked for some guidance and they said they would be there in the morning. We lost about a thousand dollars worth of medical supplies that night. Once wet, sterile supplies must be thrown away. In the morning, Servpro arrived and removed the baseboards in the entire basement, poked holes in all the sheet rock below the baseboards, and then placed hoses that ran for hours drying the insides of walls in order to avoid mold.  Although we did speak with our homeowners carrier, we did not make a claim. Our homeowners insurance is high enough, and so we chose to pay the repairs ourselves rather than seeing a rise in our premiums.  A fifty pound bag of rice which had just been purchased to repack in buckets, had sucked up a lot of the water.  It took a considerable amount of time to repair this damage, although it was, and it was done so, immediately and attentively.  A plumber repaired the burst pipe issue.

           In 2011, our area endured a 5.8 earthquake.  We were very lucky. A neighboring county lost the high school and an elementary school. Our builder's home lost its foundation. A number of high end homes broke in half. Relatives of ours lost their home. Many area wells were destroyed. Many brick chimneys were destroyed and fell onto roofs damaging them also. There was damage to the University of Virginia, and to original buildings from Thomas Jefferson's time. There was damage to the National Cathedral and to the Lincoln Memorial in DC. Buildings were seen swaying as far away as Toronto, in Canada.  

    As I mentioned, we were lucky. An antique piece of cloisonne fell from the mantle to the hearth and was impressively dented on one side. A square plastic can of ketchup from Sam's Club, that I use to add sauce to meatloaf before cooking which had been sitting atop the frij, fell and ruptured, making the kitchen look like a crime scene. The water from the well was slightly muddy and so we had a well contractor out to survey the damage to it.  Within the kitchen pantry and the disaster supply room, it was as if cans had been thrown everywhere. Some glass containers of wine and sparkling cider had broken, and damaged other boxed food stored in the disaster supply room itself.  This time, we weren't so quick to clean it. We were busy and it was such a terrible mess. We cleaned up the wet messes, but did not reorganize as we had in the past.

      We also began to think that we needed to decentralize some of our emergency supplies. What would have happened had the house been damaged and we had not been able to gain entry for a time to our disaster supply room ?     Our focus then shifted to building another exterior building for emergency supplies that could be accessed after an emergency. We decided to have three abbreviated caches of supplies, rather than one very complete, but vulnerable, disaster supply room.  It took time, but we did this. Now, the time we have to spend, clean and rotate stock in the disaster supply room is fragmented.

       In the winter of 2015, I shrieked while in the disaster supply room. A mouse ran over my foot as I went to check for a six pack box of mandarin oranges from a shelf.  I hate mice !   My husband set traps immediately, and we believed we had averted a disaster.  Later that Spring, we found they had taken an entire package of cotton balls and used them for nesting. By 2016, the mice were gone, but we were about to find out why.......     I encountered a snake in the disaster supply room !   I ran from the room and didn't enter it for another month.  Cleaning and rotating supplies were left to my husband, as was the removal of the snake.

     By 2018, the small refrigerator we keep in the disaster supply room stopped working. We lost some prescription animal mediation,  and some insulin we were storing for emergencies for a family member.

We replaced it, and noticed that the floor in the room was curling as a probable result of our flood. 

      In 2019,  I went into the disaster supply room to get a shoulder splint for a friend, and I noticed that a couple of cans of pineapple had exploded !  What a terrible mess!  I generally don't buy Chinese canned goods, but these cans had seemed more solid than usual, and so I took the chance. About twelve cans squirted with juice, now black, had to be thrown away.  The wooden shelving was badly stained, and I was unsure as to how to completely clean it. Bleach and water did not clean it to its original condition.

    In 2020, it is time for a complete clean out and organization of the disaster supply room.  A great deal is expired, or hasn't aged as well as we'd hoped, even in a heated and cooled area.  It has been a terrible and protracted set of tasks.

      Here are some things I have learned that might help you.

1.    Unless you are regularly using them, limit the use of conventional canned foods. Although my parents used to keep many canned foods for ten years without any difficulties, the cans of today and much thinner, and are canned with less care. No less that seven to ten of our cans have leaked or exploded, making a terrible mess on the shelf or the cabinet in which they had been stored.  Keep canned foods in your regular pantry, and use them promptly.  For longer term storage, consider #10 freeze dried or some dehydrated cans. Store them in heated and cooled areas to ensure their lifespan.

2. I know that some faiths and families store seven years worth of food, and I think that inadvertently, I may have.  I am rethinking this amount.  I no longer have a large family living within our home. Half of our kids have left home, and two have their own homes and their own food storage. Be sure to adjust downward your stock as your family situation changes.

3. Make a schedule and maintain your disaster supply room.  It can't help you if you don't remember what is contained there.  It also might be wise to have mouse traps or devices to repel mice all the time, not just when you think there could be a problem.  Rotate your stock.

4. Consider rather than having one very large disaster supply room, placing medical supplies in one place, and long term food storage in another. Separating your stores might help to ensure that if one area is damaged or contaminated for some reason, that your other supplies remain pristine.

5. Emergencies will happen of one type or another as you move throughout life. Be flexible. Understand that some of your food may well be wasted due to one circumstance or another.

6. Interestingly, our medical supplies aged as expected.  Perhaps I was more attentive to rotation and discarding such supplies when needed.

#DisasterSupplyRoom    #DisasterSupplyRoomChallenges    #EmergencyFoodStores




Saturday, November 7, 2020

On Broad Failings and on Electoral Dysfunction

                I am declining from making any specific comments with regard to the recent and as yet incomplete attempts at a US election, and the egregious role the media has played in it.  Instead, I would like to direct your attention to the comments of my friend, an attorney, Michael Snyder.  I believe he can express most of my feelings in a reasoned manner.

May God help us all.

In addition, this is official information:


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Value of Assessing Animal Feed and Nutrition Periodically


Walter, sheered and happy.



                 In 1999, after our young family moved to a rural area where we built a farm, we bought a starter herd of alpacas from the Pacific Northwest.  Our foundational herd had individuals who hailed from Bolivia and Chile. Since we were the first in our county to have alpacas, we had some challenges in terms of finding a farm vet who felt comfortable and qualified in their care.  Initially, we received some guidance from a farm vet who had a background in veterinary care at zoos.  Her initial recommendation for feed included using the Mazuri Zoo Line, which is formulated for many different types of animals. We purchased the Mazuri Zoo Feed formulated for alpacas and other camelids. We also supplemented zinc, particularly since ours were being bred.

               Twenty years have now passed. Alpacas in the wild may not live as long as fifteen years, but in captivity and with nutrition carefully considered, they may live longer. Many of ours lived to 24 or 25.  Most died of extreme old age. One died of astrocytoma. Over all, our animals had long and happy lives. A few still remain here, that are children of individuals of that original unrelated herd.  A couple of years ago, our animal feed purveyor went out of business, and we could no longer find anyone who would provide the few bags of alpaca Mazuri Zoo line that we used as a supplement to the grass they graze upon.  We still needed an alpaca specific pelleted supplement.  We found that another animal feed provider had an alpaca/llama supplement and that they were pleased to sell us as little as a bag a month. I noticed as I read the analysis, that some of the trace elements and some of the vitamin amounts per pound were less than the Mazuri product, but I also realized that since we were no longer breeding, that we likely didn't need amounts as high.

               Just recently, during the pandemic, we found we were unable to get quality hay for our horses, alpacas and sheep from our original supplier, and so we found another.  They mentioned that they also sold animal feed. When I asked about alpaca pelleted supplement, they were pleased to provide the small amount that we now use. She provided the Nutritional Analysis information so that I could compare her food with the feed we had been providing. This is also helpful so that I may decide how slowly to introduce the new feed to the old, and then gradually decrease the old feed in order to avoid gastrointestinal difficulties, which is a good idea when making changes the food of any animal.  I noticed immediately that there were significantly higher amounts of certain vitamins in the new food than the old. I also noticed that there were also some vitamins that weren't supplemented at all in our last feed.  Interestingly, in the past twenty years, a lot has been learned about alpacas, and one of the things that has changed are the recommendations for the amount of supplementation of certain vitamins and minerals. We actually had been very lucky to have our animals live so long without the up to date supplement.

               My point is that when you care for horses, sheep, goats, alpacas or anything else, once you find strategies that work well, you tend to stick with them. However, lots of veterinary research takes place all the time, and recommendation with regard to drugs, and also with regard to food does change. Each time you see a farm veterinarian, please tell them what variety of feed you are using, and show them the nutritional analysis.  Your providing this information could result in a change the vet makes, that they might  not have otherwise made had you not called the issue to their attention. Remember that a clean and loving environment, coupled with clean water and appropriate feed and forage is the most important thing you can do for your animals in terms of ensuring their optimal long term health.

              Weeks into the feed change, I cannot say that the alpacas look much different. I can say that they are calmer on the larger dose of Vitamin D3, Vitamin A, niacin and thiamine.

                Of course, the points I have raised here apply to all animals you might choose to raise.



Sunday, September 13, 2020

A Word About Chiggers


                          Chiggers are a family of mites who are a member of the Trombiculidae Family, which is part of the Arachnid or spider family. They can afflict human beings, and can afflict birds, rodents, dogs, and horses.  In the US, these are most often found in the Southeast, the South and sometimes in the Mid-West. Canada used not to have chiggers, but the latest literature says that Southern Ontario now does. One reference says that they can now be found worldwide.  Most often they are unseen, but occasionally they can be seen as extremely tiny black or red dots. 

                             Human beings don't generally feel their bites, but once a chigger larva bites and burrows, he extends a tiny tube or a stylostome in order to extract body fluids for nutrition. Often we are bitten by more than one at a time. They like folded and damp areas of skin like the groin, the ankles, the axillae, behind the knees, and under the belt region. The chigger's saliva causes a reaction for us, and even after the chigger has fallen off, we are troubled by significant and intense itching in the area. The itching can be so intense that we may not be able to sleep. Although the issue is ultimately self limiting, it can be very annoying.

This is a very typical appearance of chigger bites.

                                      This is a rather typical appearance of chigger bites.

                             A few years ago, a physician friend of ours got chiggers from her husband who had been golfing, and then even after a shower, brought the chiggers home to his wife where they both suffered for a few days.

                          There is a commercial preparation called Chigger-rid which is available in the American South. What I usually do for chiggers is take a 2x2 gauze pad and wet it with Hydrogen Peroxide 3% and then scrub the regions of obvious chigger damage. The centers will fizz and usually this will help the small wound to resolve more quickly. It also seems to help with the itching. Some lesions will need a second or a third cleansing.   Others find Calamine or ice to be helpful.

                           We used to believe that chiggers were simply a summer annoyance and that it was a sign that we hadn't been as careful as we should have been in very deep grass or woodland areas. However, since we had a mild winter here, it has been a banner year for chiggers for almost everyone. Chiggers can also afflict your horses and dogs, and they can lead to enough scratching that a local infection can occur. One of my horses was afflicted this year and this was such a discomfort to him that it adversely impacted his eating and required treatment.  The literature also discusses a dog who developed serious neurologic problems following a chigger infestation.  We also know that some types of chiggers can spread scrub typhus. (I have placed a link below on scrub typhus) The antibiotic doxycyline is sometimes used for humans or animals who have been infected by chiggers and ticks and who are now febrile.  It is possible that chiggers can spread other tick borne varieties of illness and that this is simply not yet known.  So it would be wise to see a physician if you have a bothersome cluster of chigger bites and then develop a fever.


                          Chiggers may also look like this. Some people have particularly sensitive skin in which the area of induration may be much broader than in the earlier pictures. (Picture courtesy of

Thursday, August 27, 2020

A Primer on Human Metapneumovirus or HMPV


                I do a huge amount of continuing medical education, in part to continue to be licensed as a registered nurse in a number of states, some of which have different educational requirements than others, for continued licensure, and in part because I have a personal interest. In the past couple of years, for the purpose of being able to compound medication for both humans and veterinary uses, I also obtained a credential as a pharmacy technician. I hold certification in every state, and a license to practice in my home state. Of course, there is a fair chunk of continuing education involved in that too.  This is why it is surprising that I had absolutely not completed any continuing education which mentioned this.

                HMPV or Human Metapneumovirus was first discovered in 2001. It is a leading cause of respiratory infection within the world.  It is a relative of RSV or respiratory syncytial virus, which is a virus that can leave a premature child or young child with asthma for a lifetime, if he or she is to contract it as a youngster.  Both of my youngest sons had RSV in the 1990s and were therefore afflicted, thankfully only with mild asthma.  Both RSV and HMPV are members of the paramyxovirus family.

                HMPV can afflict people of absolutely any age and can impact both the upper respiratory and lower respiratory tree. It's incubation period after exposure is between 3-6 days and degree of illness is variable. Although it is a significant respiratory infection, sufferers may also have conjunctivitis.   In the US, winter and spring are the times of year that are most likely times to contract it.   One can contract it from coughs, sneezes, shaking hands, or from objects one might touch that were also touched by infected persons. Prevention is therefore important.  As yet, we have no specific treatment or immunization for it.

                 Prevention is therefore focused on:

1. Diligent handwashing for at least 20 seconds with soap.

2. Avoiding those who are sick. Staying home if you are.

3. Avoiding kissing. Avoiding the use of utensils and cups which belong to others.

4. Covering your nose and mouth while sneezing.

5. Avoiding those who are sick and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, mouth or face.

6. Daily cleaning of your counters, sinks, doorknobs etc. can help to prevent spread throughout your home.

             We do have specific lab tests which can ascertain whether or not you have HMPV.      This is a common respiratory infection, and could easily be confused with COVID-19.   Although an infection with HMPV can produce a pneumonia and can conceivably kill infants, the elderly or those with a concurrent medical problem, most of the time, patients overcome this infection.  It's important to mention this because this infection can "muddy the waters" with COVID-19 concerns.  Those who reside in nursing homes, prisons etc., in close proximity may be at most risk for spread and for potential complications.

             Autumn and then winter are on their way. It is important to know that a persistent respiratory infection should be seen by your physician so that it can be differentiated between other infections. COVID-19 for example may require different treatment than the supportive care necessary in HMPV.

Authoritative information on HMPV

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

A Reminder About Comments That Contain Advertisements


          In the last few months I have received a number of comments for posting on this blog, which also advertise a product or a service.   Because I cannot appear to endorse a product or service that I know nothing about, I set a policy document regarding the posting of products or services in the form of a comment, back in 2014.  The link to our Advertising and Commentary Policy document appears within the black rectangle at the near top of the page, with other pages which concern my books and other blogs. These pages appear as links and the lettering is blue.  Since this particular page hasn't been noticed in the last several months, I have decided to post the page now as an actual post.

            Please contact me should you have any questions.  I do occasionally post and review a specific product or service, but a prior arrangement needs to be made. It took me time to research The Simple Pump, and some of the other products I have recommended.  Thank you for your understanding.

Advertising and Commentary Policy

        Effective May 1. 2014,  I will no longer be posting commentaries or responses to the posts here, when they includes or contain a link to a webpage for the purpose of advertising, unless there is a prior arrangement to do so. 

       Of late, a huge number of comments received do not relate at all to the post I have written.    Refrigerators on sale this weekend in India do not relate to a post on hand pumps for wells !    

        I am also being asked by others to remove comments or ads, and this is creating liability issues for me.  

     I  feel an obligation to provide information about products I actually use and can truly tell readers about, and not about products of which I know nothing.   

              My focus has always been to bring important preparedness information on varietal topics which only includes advertising when I personally know something about the product, and then I provide my own perspective and reactions.    My purpose has never been to log large numbers of followers, although we do have a fair number of unique users who although they have not signed up to become followers, but who do visit the site, and do participate.  We are a reference for reasonable family preparedness information and I do pay attention to issues of frugality here.

 I am also unable to allow posts here that have been placed anonymously or by "opaque users", due to issues of liability.   

I am also not available to the blogs on a daily basis, and so many comments, will simply not be reviewed or posted in a timely manner.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated understanding and cooperation.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

A Reprise of the Benefits of Raising Chickens

These are Silky chickens.

      I wrote this first post in June of 2013.   Since I have spent a big portion of this Summer raising and caring for new chickens, and many others have as well as a source of eggs during our COVID-19 lockdown, I thought I would repost it.  Enjoy.

     There is a trend in the United States permitting those in quasi urban and suburban neighborhoods to own chickens.  Most of them have restrictions sufficient to prevent all night cackling, and I have read that many cities outlaw roosters, but I see the change in zoning to allow at least some chickens,   as a good thing.  Chickens allow families to have eggs, often in abundance, and that alone, can make them very worthwhile. Chicken manure when composted can be some of the best fertilizer.
          Chickens can also be incredible pets.  We have raised several injured chicks by hand who were simply thrown away by the feedstore, and each of them grew to be intelligent, cooperative and loving creatures, and one of them was a congenial rooster.   At our maximum here we had one hundred chickens. We presently have about fifty and they are either Rhode Island Reds or Bantams.  Many mornings I eat a large hard boiled brown egg fresh from one of the hens.    Linda from the blog  Practical Parsimony can vouch for what fantastic companions chickens can be. 


I love this one.  It looks like it has a screen door.

This one has a greens tray for growing greens for them, or for you.

This coop can be moved around your yard, permitting your grass to recover, and allowing your hens weekly fresh grass.

              Many of the pictures above which have appeared on this particular blog post were taken by, and were constructed by

     Laughing Chickens.     

   They are custom built, but are available to be constructed and sent via UPS in modular fashion, so that they can be easily assembled all over the country.    They are also constructed of reclaimed wood.

You can e-mail the owner at:

 You can call Duck at     (415) 295-4696

You may see additional and larger pictures at the Williams-Sonoma catalog online.


         Or, you can use all of this as inspiration, and build your very own

    We have so many eggs at the moment , but they decrease in Winter.

This is what we do with them:

*Have eggs for breakfast.   (We all have low total cholesterol)

 * Make a variety of different quiches, and freeze them in the freezer as quick dinners or lunches.
    (We make Quiche Lorraine, Broccoli and Cheddar, Chive and Cheese, Veggie and Herb)

* We cook them and add them to dog, and sometimes cat food.  Our animals are long lived and have great coats.

* Eggnog when the season is right.

* Give or trade some to friends.

*Make your own egg custard.

Egg custard recipe
(Although we use white sugar instead of brown in this, and we use less.)

This allows you to walk inside and collect eggs without a lot of bending or squatting.

The original post is configured slightly differently and has some additional information. It appears at: