Monday, September 22, 2014

Navigating Life's Milestones

(Photo Copyright 2014  Krehbiel Fotographie ) This is my daughter and the subject of the post at the link below..

        I will be away from the computer for a little while.

Please see:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

In Praise of Attics

This is used as a multii-purpose attic, mostly for guests.

In the interest of calm and balance, I try to do some interesting posts that are interspersed with the more serious ones, but that encourage readers, along with providing some ideas as to how we all might better utilize what we have.   A lot of us have attics that are partially finished or simply used as storage.  Sometimes, a great deal of work would need to be done to make an attic quasi-liveable space.  Other times, it wouldn't take much to turn an attic, or even part of your attic into a great guest room, fairly temperature stable storage space, or even a bathroom.

              I have been collecting some of these pictures for quite a time. Some of them have inspired me, and I hope they will do the same for you.

Warning:  This post is picture heavy.

This was finished as an entire guest suite.

Guest rooms don't have to be very large.

An extra attic bathroom can be quite charming.
Even the end of a fairly small attic can be fashioned to be an excellent office or study.

Attics can also be fashioned for off season or hidden storage.

       Most of us have hidden unused space in our homes.  Sometimes it's grand and sometimes it's modest.  Now is the time to assess and ready the spaces you already have.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland Chooses, For Now, to Remain Part of the United Kingdom

                I am pleased to announce that the results of yesterdays referendum for Scottish independence has resulted in an overwhelming number of Scots choosing to remain within the United Kingdom.  However, this is a loud wake up call to England.  England must allow more autonomy to Scotland.  Regulations written for London don't necessarily apply well to Highland Scotland.

                 It is my hope that both England and Scotland find ways to allow each other sufficient autonomy to allow the governance that suits both places, both in terms of equity and in terms of finance.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

On Scottish Independence


              Although I am American, most of my ancestry hails from Scotland and England by way of Nova Scotia.  My mother was born in England, and my father, though born in the US, kept ties to Scotland and England  .He went to college in England.  For a time, my parents lived in Scotland. I visited many times, and went to school in England in my early teens.

                Although it is romantic and brings a sense of peculiar justice, I am not sure that pure Scottish independence is a good idea.  Just now, an awful lot of Scots receive some type of public assistance from the United Kingdom.  There are a limited number of jobs in Scotland, and the oil  everyone talks about is limited.   England indeed has changed vastly from the place that was so dear to me in the 1970s and 80s, and although I wouldn't want to be subject to some of the asinine laws and rules that come out of England for use in the United Kingdom proper, severing Scotland from the United Kingdom could be a very dangerous financial move for both.

                First, what currency would Scotland use ?  What happens to those who would be receiving pensions from the United Kingdom, and would now receive them from Scotland ?   The Euro doesn't seem the brightest move in the world. Keeping the pound Sterling doesn't seem as if Scotland becomes independent.  Secondly, who would be the Central Bank ?  What happens when the investors from all over the world who were investing readily in Scotland, because it was a stable environment, start to see the New Scotland as a shaky venture and pull out their capital ?   What happens when Scotland pulls cash out of English banks, creating a Depression ? Many economists feel that the potential Scottish independence which is being voted on on September 18th by anyone sixteen and older in Scotland, has the potential to being a financial depression to both Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.  What happens when BP and Shell are no longer subject to the arrangements they had with the UK and must renegotiate oil contracts with a new Scotland ?  Perhaps there is not as much oil left in the North Sea as is thought.

              I don't question this lightly.  I have friends who are part of the Scottish independence movement and I don't enjoy offending them.    Already Standard Life plans to transfer its funds and its businesses out of Scotland, should Scotland choose to embrace its independence.

              Perhaps an arrangement can be reached in which Scotland can enjoy more autonomy than it does now, and can still remain a valued member of the United Kingdom.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Reprise of Planning a Farm Evacuation or Sheltering in Place with Animals

             This post first aired in January, 2012.    We have seen an increase in our numbers recently, particularly from France, Turkey, Russia, Belgium, Ukraine and Canada.   Several of the readers asked for information concerning sheltering in place with animals and evacuating with animals.  I am therefore reposting this earlier work.  Thank you for your interest and for your encouragement.

A solid barn for anywhere that endures a real winter is a good idea.  This barn is almost as solid as most housing for human beings.           Picture: Copyright Crow Hill Farm

This is a barn in which human beings live upstairs, and the animals live downstairs.    
    Picture: Copyright Louisa Barns and Buildings.

This is a kennel for dogs for both winter and hot summers. A structure such as this could be used for goats or chickens.  Keep in mind that most of the time, different species of animals should not be housed together, with some notable exceptions.       Picture: Copyright Crow Hill Farm


I mentioned in a prior post the need to formulate a more complex disaster plan for a small or a larger farm. Since a few of you have farms, this is something we should cover. Every farm needs a disaster plan. Planning for disasters at a farm follows the same basic steps as preparing for disasters with a family.  Many emergencies dictate that one should shelter in place with animals, and some emergencies dictate that you and your family should evacuate with them.   The plan you formulate should be personalized and  should be typed up using your computer. You should have clearly defined plans, first for how you would shelter in place, (Move dogs to Point A, and ducks to point B etc.) and secondly for how you would evacuate. (Move horses to horse trailer and move to Bob A's, while J. moves cats in the truck)  First, place your attention on customizing a good plan for sheltering in place with your animals, as would be necessary for a severe winter storm, perhaps an ice storm, torrential rain, etc. Every farms animals, geography, and resources will be different, as will the most common hazards encountered there. Each plan will therefore need to be a bit different. This written plan, will need to be updated annually, and placed in a notebook, and then reviewed with you and anyone else who works or lives on your farm. Once you have an animal plan for sheltering in place, you must construct one for farm emergency evacuation. On our farm for example, this is exceedingly difficult. Large animals often require multiple people and multiple transport vehicles in order to be evacuated. They need food, water, hay, and sometimes medicines. Males and females may need to be transported separately, mothers along with babies, and some males must be transported separately from others. For the first couple of years we were on this particular farm we had no real way of evacuating all of them. Now, we have the right vehicles and the right trucks, but we would need absolutely all hands on deck, and some good luck too. Evacuation could be triggered in many places that house animals by anything from a small plane crash, to a wildfire, to flooding. We have evacuated twice as a drill, and it's an exceedingly difficult and expensive undertaking here. Still, it is essential to do this for our animals, and much learning will take place. Annually, update both your farm sheltering in place plans, and your farm evacuation plans.

The following is a very basic farm disaster check-list from Gateway Alpacas in Oregon. They were discussing farm evacuation and farm disaster preparedness before anyone else, except perhaps myself.

From Gateway Farms

An emergency and disaster planning checklist is a good way to insure that all the bases have been covered in emergency planning. What follows should not be considered to be complete or authoritative, but rather as a starting point for sound farm emergency planning.
The following documents should be prepared as part of disaster planning. Copies should be kept where they are easily accessible in the case of evacuation, or by other people that may respond to the emergency in the owners stead.

Farm Owner-Emergency Responsibilities - Who will be responsible for what in the case of an emergency?
Farm Asset Information - A complete list of assets, useful for insurance and during disaster recovery , At a minimum it should include:
Basic Farm Information
Site Plan of Farm
Inventory of Assets
Business Records
Personal Papers (Identification, banking, wills, etc.)
Emergency Contact Information

Emergency Communications

Emergency Contact List
Alternate Emergency Communication Devices
Pre-arranged Emergency Family Meeting Place

Health, Safety and Food for the Farm Family

Emergency Home Food Supplies
Emergency Home Water Supplies
First Aid Kit
Camping Supplies and Tools for Emergency Use
Standby Power System - Home
Minimum Power Equipment for the Home
Backup Standby Power Arrangements

Health, Safety, Water and Feed Supplies for Livestock/Poultry

Adequate emergency water supplies for animals/livestock
Adequate emergency feed supplies for animals/livestock
Livestock Inventory
Prioritized list of livestock for evacuation
Emergency Arrangements for Ensuring Water Supplies
Emergency Arrangements for Ensuring Feed Supplies
Essential Barn Equipment - plans to remove and/or protect
Emergency Arrangements for Ensuring Operation of Barn Equipment
Livestock Evacuation Plan


This is an additional guide book to farm evacuation planning from the University of Florida.

More information on animal evacuation:

A vehicle such as this, and the truck which is capable of pulling it, is necessary on many farms.       Picture by

We use this air conditioned Tailgator hauler for evacuations of alpacas, and trucks for our dogs, cats and poultry. The rear of this unit drops down allowing animals or small vehicles to walk or drive up into the larger area.

This is the interior of the unit set to receive animals.

This is the interior of the unit when people are going to use it.  It can be readied for animals in about eight minutes.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Notes on Preparing to Be the "Gray Woman"

The "Gray Woman" is the woman who came in, did what she needed, and went home.  No one noticed her, and certainly no one knows where she is, or where she lives.  In emergencies, being the Gray Woman benefits you, and your family.

                 There are many times in life, and most especially in local emergencies in which being unnoticed is very desirable.  This can be difficult especially for women, because so much of our time and our socialization as a collective sex, is spent on looking good enough to be noticed or even hired, and like it or not, how we look factors into whether we are remembered long enough to be hired for the jobs we would like to have.  It is decidedly switching gears for us to be considering dolling up to be nearly invisible.  Why would I want to be nearly invisible ?  Well, one of the examples I most often give, is illustrated best during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  In my region, electricity was out for everyone for two weeks.  This meant to those in rural areas, water could not be pumped either. Essential infrastructure was damaged enough or flooded sufficiently that restoration would require rebuilding, in advance of simple restoration.   We were fine as we had made provisions, but we had a pre-existing appointment in one of the cities within a days drive, in a suburban area.  We also read that our power company would be giving out packages of bottled water, and dry ice at a location just a block from our appointment.  We didn't have to have this, but I will take a package of 48 bottled Deer Park waters, and an insulated package of dry ice, if you wish to give this to me.   We arrived in our truck with a couple of family members.   Of course, our power company had not anticipated how many soccer moms with kids would appear for the limited supply of water and dry ice.  We were early enough to be fairly lucky, but just after us, the supplies were quickly gone.  We left to see women in that years new Land Rover fighting with women from the large subdivisions in western Richmond in Mercedes SUVs.    Not looking distinctive or being recognized by anyone allowed us to get in, get out, and not be pursued by anyone looking for bottled water when the Super Wal-Mart was completely out.  It was shocking to see how otherwise civilized soccer moms became desperate within only a two week period of a disruption of supplies.  Hurricane Katrina was an entirely anticipated event in this area.  Plenty of time existed to prepare well, and yet even the wealthiest people of the region, for some reason declined to do so.

Plain jeans may be appropriate if this is what women of your size and age are wearing in your area.  Wearing riding chaps however, would be unwise in most places, because it tells them you have horses, and that you might be wealthy, if you are not renting those horses.  Remember that everything from your shoes to your bag give some information about you.

               In emergencies, it makes sense to blend in.  Wear plain shoes, boots or sneakers that allow you to run, if needed.  Lock up your purse, and place a wallet in your pocket.  Wear plain jeans or plain sweats depending upon the time of year.  Look non-descript and indistinctive.  If your hair is long, tie it up. Skip the make up.  You might wish to use a ballcap, but find one which advertises absolutely nothing.  During an emergency is not the time to advertise the NRA, even if you are a life member.  If you carry a concealed weapon, then make sure it is concealed. You don't wish to be targeted during looting by someone who wants a weapon and doesn't qualify normally. Keep in mind that the trend will likely be that weapons may be becoming harder to obtain, especially for those with a domestic dispute or two, or anger or road rage issues.  They might be angry enough to want to take yours !  Dress in a seasonally appropriate fashion.  This means that if its Summer, and you have a lot of clothing on, you may be noticed more that if you are seasonally appropriately dressed, but dressed down.  On the other hand, a woman dressed in total camouflage might not play well either.   At the gun show, I could dress in camouflage and no one would care.  During hunting season in a rural area, it might fly.  If I stop at an upscale mall, it might attract some undesirable attention.  Dressing in camouflage while flying through a Connecticut airport is probably not too smart.  Just consider carefully how you are dressed.  You want to go in, complete your mission of getting batteries, food, picking up your child, or getting snow tires.   You don't want to attract the attention of police, store security, looters, robbers, or the men who come and go at the liquor store.
               Good luck out there.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lets Talk About Stones in the Common Bile Duct

  This drawing shows that even when the gallbladder is gone, bile can exit the liver and form stones which become stuck in the common bile duct which must remain following cholecystectomy. The pain of such a stone is often perceived to be in the stomach.    (  Rendering found at: )


          Many, many people, especially those of us with very fair skin, had our gallbladders removed fairly early in life.  Mine was removed during emergency surgery when it was discovered that I had a gangrenous gallbladder at only twenty-eight. I was somewhat incredulous because I had been under the impression that one needed to be overweight to be troubled by serious gallbladder disease, and this is not at all true. The people for whom gallbladder disease is most common are those who are fair, fat, female, fertile, or forty.  However, I know plenty of male physicians who have had theirs removed in a hurry also.  Pregnancy, or pregnancies in rapid succession may also contribute to gallbladder disease, as can some gastrointestinal viral illnesses.  Some patients who have recently been diagnosed with hypothyroidism may also have difficulty resolving a gastrointestinal illness which in turn creates gallbladder irritation and gallbladder disease. Some people or some families simply lean toward the production of gallstones which are simply stones which form from bile, and are either made of bile salts or cholesterol.

             Most of us believed that once our gallbladder was gone, that gallstones and the excruciating colicky pain they can bring, were a thing of the past.  Although this is true for most, it is not true for everyone.  Even when the gallbladder has been removed, it is still possible for the bile produced by the liver, to occasionally produce a stone which can deposit itself in the remaining common bile duct.  If it does, the pain can be very similar to the pain experienced in a gall bladder attack. One of the medical research articles I read, said that "a considerable number of people after cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal surgery), experience a common bile duct stone (CBD stone) afterward.   This of course, explains one patient I had who insisted that "her gallbladder must have grown back" because she was experiencing the same colicky pain, cool clammy skin, and profuse diaphoresis (sweating) that she had with gall bladder attacks  (cholecystitis)

This is a picture of a patient with a gallbladder intact, which is filling with stones, and likely needs to come out.

 What can be done to avoid this ?   Well first, if your gallbladder was removed in 1976 and your abdomen is quiet, then absolutely nothing at all.   However, if you are troubled by episodic colicky pain in the epigastric (in the region of your stomach, the organ, just below your breast bone) then see your doctor and ask about the possibility of a stone which might be occurring periodically in your common bile duct.  Don't allow yourself to become dehydrated, as this may contribute to thickened bile and more of a tendency toward stone production.  Your physician may wish to get some bloodwork, and may check your liver enzymes, as a blockage in the common bile duct can result in reflux of bile from the liver, back into the liver where it not only can damage tissue, but can produce absolutely excruciating pain, and other complications. It is also possible for a common bile duct stone to result in damage to the pancreas, so this issue can truly become a medical emergency.  Jaundice, in which the patient develops and yellow skin and sclerae (whites of the eyes) can also occur and this can be exceedingly dangerous.  Additional testing, including some scans will  be necessary.

        As a person interested in preparedness, there is not a great deal one can do to avoid such stones if your family is one of those who has the predilection for their formation.  Things you could do in an attempt to prevent them could be to avoid dehydration.  Drink mostly water as it will tend to thin bile, and sugared or fatty drinks will tend to increase bile formation.  Avoid excess weight around the waistline because this places pressure on all your abdominal organs (as well as increases your chances for Type II diabetes.)  Avoid extremely rapid weight loss as it tends to create bile sludge and can possibly result in stone formation, just as it can in those who still have their gallbladder.

          Should you or a family member experience gall bladder like pains even following cholecystectomy (the removal of the gallbladder), it is exceedingly important that this be assessed and treated if necessary, before a national emergency of some type where both transport and care could be hard to come by.

My prior posts concerning the gallbladder:

These are some references you, or your physician might like to read:

 Another time, we may speak about some other post cholecystectomy syndromes.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Realignment of Rational Preparedness


  About a month ago, I committed to return to work.  It's a rare opportunity, and frankly, I have watched as more and more of our expenses have risen.  I need to make a regular paycheck again.  Of course, everything on the farm has gone sideways since I made this commitment.  I spent one day using dermabond to close a flesh injury one of my largest dogs sustained when he was apparently frightened during an overnight thunderstorm.  An obviously rabid fox needed to be shot, bleached and buried yesterday.   Also in the past week, I had my own full  CT scan with contrast.  Quite a trip.   I need to pull back, do less, and as I begin my new job, spend less time on the internet.  Because this blog can be an adjunct to some of the classes I teach, I will be continuing to blog the occasional post which relates to the confines of this blog, but I will be disabling commentaries, and realigning the blog more clearly to its stated purpose.  Perhaps in the future, I can allow comments again, but for now, the blog must realign for student reference, once again.
      A special Thank You to those who came to it in the very beginning,  when it was an accompaniment to the radio program "Rational Preparedness" and who asked that the blog continue.

                      This is the first post of the new format.

This is Cabela's urinal

  Cabela's urinal

                     This week I was on a long trip out of state with one of my adult kids.  It involved being on the interstate highway for hours.  Then, at one point, one of those flashing signs along the interstate indicated that there was a serious accident four miles ahead and to expect delays.  I wanted to get off the interstate and calculate a back roads route with the GPS, through the area, but strangely, we were told about the accident when we had already passed the last exit before the back up.  Within a minute, we slowed on a 70 mph multiple lane highway to a standstill with cars ahead as far as the eyes could see. 
                  Being a "legend in my own mind" preparedness guru, I say with maximum jest, I wasn't worried. We had plenty of fuel, a car that wouldn't overheat, bottled water, and lots of interesting food, some of which I frankly can't wait to taste, so I will know whether to accept the option of buying more or not.  I have a great first aid kit, blankets, and all the things that should be in a car kit, or so I had thought.

                   We sat in the car for about 35 minutes before I decided to switch the ignition off.  People in the other lanes had done that a while ago and were milling about up and down the road, trying to talk to one another to get information about the problem up ahead.    People walking up and down close to my car while bumper to bumper on an interstate which is normally high speed always makes me nervous.  There is nowhere to run when this happens. We also called where we were going to explain why we would be late.  After another half hour, both my daughter and I needed to use the bathroom.  Normally, I would have told her to leave the car, enter the woods on the side of the interstate, go and get back here.  However, this was not an option here.  Just beyond the roadway were guardrails.  Just beyond the guardrails was a steep drop off into a ravine on both sides of the three lane highway.  We discussed going inside the car.  Unfortunately, the trucker stopped next to us sat above our car and had full view of everything that went on there.   It dawned on me that with all the preps, other than an empty water bottle that might be adequate for a man to use in such circumstances, that I did not have any provision for women !   We thought about how we might go into something while shielded with a blanket, but in my new car this didn't seem very easy.

                I called one of my sons who is at college, as I knew he was not in class that morning.  Coincidentally,  he was also stuck in the same mammoth stoppage, about three miles ahead of us, and had been there longer than we had.   He was close enough to the problem to know that the road was in the process of being cleared and that we all could begin to move within about twenty more minutes.

              Twenty minutes passed and cars began to move again, though slowly.   When we reached the next exit, we both headed for the ladies room.   My son made it where he had been going, and my daughter and I made it to our appointment more than an hour late.

              This morning, as I contemplate what type of female urinal needs to be in each car, these are some of the alternatives.

Please see the Cabela's urinal above.    
This is quite leak resistant

This is the least expensive unisex car urinal 

This is the portable kid urinal 

     If you travel with toddlers, children, pregnant women, women in general, please make a provision for urination within a car.  It's quite difficult for women to go in a freezer bag, under a blanket and this was looking like our best alternative had we had to remain longer, especially while wearing slacks !
     Just as most of us have a deficiency or two in our car prep kits, I found that this was certainly a deficiency in mine !

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Keeping Dogs Safe and Calm During Your Farm's Target Practice

Animals should be inside before target practice takes place.

                Most people who know me, my veterinarian friends included, know that I am truly devoted to my dogs. Dogs are very insightful and intelligent creatures.  Many of them know very early who to trust, and who to fear.  Our dogs work hard here, and they play hard. They are also extremely loyal creatures. Whenever I can I want them to enjoy their lives as much as possible.

                Our farm currently has seven dogs licensed to me or other family members who live here.   Most of them are rescues from animal pounds, local and from far and wide.  One is a dog who needs daily injections but is able to live her life comfortably otherwise, and the rest are animals who have been trained for a specific herding, patrol, or sentry task here.   Dogs love to have a job, but they do also appreciate a break, a swim,  and a rotation to another area, another task, or another building here. They also love being part of our group, and they appreciate the love and devotion given to them.   When they age beyond being able to work, we make a fuss of them, and care for them well throughout their "retirement".   Of all the dogs I have had in my lifetime, two were ultimately euthanized by a vet,because they were experiencing pain that could not be well managed, but the remainder passed quietly and comfortably with our being tearful, yet present.

                Dogs are also one of our best investments in security.   Although the dogs now ignore the black bears who wander to the pond on a regular basis, they will make a great deal of noise alerting us to an unauthorized human trespasser,  a car at our gates, or a coyote, or a rabid fox.    There are expenses in addition to food though. There are the costs of licensure, at least an annual physical by a veterinarian, heartworm preventive, annual preventive immunizations, rabies vaccines mandated by law, preventive worming, and for some breeds, clippers for grooming or actual professional grooming at times. As dogs age, they should ideally have an assessment physical every six months and sometimes bloodwork. In addition, as they age, even if they are fed and cared for properly, the chance of the development of a medical problem which will require expensive intervention does rise.  I do most of the preventive immunizations on the farm, but my state, like many others requires a veterinarian to administer rabies vaccine to both dogs and cats.   I am able to give the rabies vaccines to the horses and alpacas though.  Dog food is not always expensive, even for seven dogs of different sizes. However, as dogs age, they often need less corn or more expensive sources of protein in their feed, and the more specialized the food, the more expensive it is, and the more challenging it could be to get on a regular basis.

              One of our vets once told me that a fair number of dogs run away each year following July 4th.  Dogs, whose hearing is so much more sensitive than our own, are often bewildered and frightened by loud noises which sound to them like a war zone.  This brings me to my concern today.

             Here on the farm we practice with firearms fairly often.  It is not enough to own a weapon, or even to carry one when licensed to do so.  One must regularly practice with both rifles and handguns, in order to ensure that the rounds we shoot go exactly where we direct them, and not anywhere else.  It took me several years to develop into a really good shot, but it is an extremely important skill.   I thought that today I might talk about the precautions we have taken to ensure that our dogs stay safe and comfortable while we practice.

              Dogs have much more sensitive hearing than you and I and as a result, fireworks and gunshots are potentially very concerning to them.  Dogs who knew a life of loss before your acquisition of them might also have a shade of some post traumatic stress as well, and may be doubly fearful of gunfire.  A few of them may actually recognize that after gunfire, they no longer saw dogs they knew before.   For this reason,  even if we are shooting weekly with family members, we take time in advance to contain and protect our animals in advance of target practicing.

              Our horses and dogs enter the barn as soon as we start firing in another area of the farm.  They come out after we are finished and they seem to understand that this disruption to their lives passes soon.
Some of the dogs however do become upset, knocking over their houses at one of their patrol stations, and knocking over water buckets.  Now, we gather the cats and the dogs and place them inside one of the outbuildings.  They have fresh water there, and I have a radio with soft music on,  which is on a fairly high shelf, to avoid anyone even considering chewing the cord.  (The battery operated variety just haven't worked as well out here.)

               We also chose a place on the farm which has a natural hill backstop, which is as far from the dogs, horses and other animals as is reasonably possible.  People need not only consider target practice where people and animals can't be injured by stray rounds, they need to consider their dogs and other animals comfort and safety while target practicing is going on.  You and I can wear ear protection, but they do not.

                By taking a few minutes to contain the pets, and protect everyones hearing by putting them inside outbuilding, this can make a positive difference in their health and comfort level.   Please do whatever you can for your animals if you live in a place where target practice occurs.

They deserve to feel safe and calm.