Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Take care of your feet.

     Earlier I used my sweet little daughter in law as an example in a blog post.  The point at that time was, get your shots up to date.  Several times since I posted that blog, the subject of women with some diabetic symptoms has come up in my life.  Foot injuries can be more than an inconvenience.  I have my late dad as an example of killing yourself with bravado.  I use the story when my diabetic friend says something stupid, like, "Oh, that?  It's nothing just a cut on my foot. "  Are you kidding me?  My dad died of a cut on his foot.  

     Actually, my dad died as a result of the culture of manly man attitude.  He was diagnosed a diabetic when the puncture wound on his foot wouldn't heal and he swore the doctor to secrecy.  He told him NOT to tell his wife or family he had diabetes.  He promised to handle his health.  After he was dead, we found out that is why he died.  HE never changed his eating habits.  He never got the exercise he needed and never did what he was told to do to recover.  It killed him a little bit at a time.  First he lost a toe, then half his foot then the rest of the foot then he died. 

     He had symptoms and ignored them.  HE treated his feet like they were eternal.  They were not and he was not.  Good foot wear and foot care and a better diet could have saved his life and given him decades of life.

From http://www.diabetes.org :

Caring for Your Feet

There are many things you can do to keep your feet healthy.
  • Take care of your diabetes. Work with your health care team to keep your blood glucose in your target range.
  • Check your feet every day. Look at your bare feet for red spots, cuts, swelling, and blisters. If you cannot see the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or ask someone for help.
  • Be more active. Plan your physical activity program with your health team.
  • Ask your doctor about Medicare coverage for special shoes.
  • Wash your feet every day. Dry them carefully, especially between the toes.
  • Keep your skin soft and smooth. Rub a thin coat of skin lotion over the tops and bottoms of your feet, but not between your toes. Read more about skin care.
  • If you can see and reach your toenails, trim them when needed. Trim your toenails straight across and file the edges with an emery board or nail file.
  • Wear shoes and socks at all times. Never walk barefoot. Wear comfortable shoes that fit well and protect your feet. Check inside your shoes before wearing them. Make sure the lining is smooth and there are no objects inside.
  • Protect your feet from hot and cold. Wear shoes at the beach or on hot pavement. Don't put your feet into hot water. Test water before putting your feet in it just as you would before bathing a baby. Never use hot water bottles, heating pads, or electric blankets. You can burn your feet without realizing it.
  • Keep the blood flowing to your feet. Put your feet up when sitting. Wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down for 5 minutes, two (2) or three (3) times a day. Don't cross your legs for long periods of time. Don't smoke.
  • Get started now. Begin taking good care of your feet today.  Set a time every day to check your feet.

      Even if you have no cause to consider diabetes, you have feet, take care of them.  Where are you going to go without yours?  How are you going to get there without them?  

   From http://www.armymedicine.army.mil
 by Marcie Birk, Health Systems Specialist
U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine
Foot blisters can cause extreme discomfort and reduce concentration. They can prevent Soldiers from completing marches, lead to days of limited activity or even affect a Soldier’s ability to respond to threats. In the field, poorly managed blisters can lead to more serious health problems such as infection.
A blister is a raised spot on the skin filled with liquid. Foot blisters can occur when slight movements of the foot in a shoe or boot produce friction between the skin and sock. This friction is made worse by the moisture produced by sweating. The best way to avoid blisters is to wear synthetic-blend socks (some synthetics are polyester, acrylic and nylon) versus cotton socks. Synthetic-blend socks help to pull water away from and reduce friction on the skin. These socks also help reduce blisters that can occur during physical training.
For large, painful blisters, take the following self-care steps:
  • Wash your hands and clean the blister area with soap and water.
  • Heat the tip of a clean, sharp pin over a flame until it glows red and allow it to cool, or wipe it with rubbing alcohol.
  • Puncture a small hole at the edge of the blister.
  • Drain fluid with a gentle pressure, but leave the “roof” of the blister intact.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment to the blister and cover with a clean dressing such as a Band-Aid.
  • Apply moleskin over the dressing to keep the dressing in place and protect the blister from further irritation.
  • Clean the area and replace the bandage dressing daily.
Go to sick call if any of the following occur:
  • Fluid or pus oozes out of the blister.
  • There is redness around the blister.
  • Blisters are so bad you can’t wear shoes or boots.
  • Pain is so bad you cannot perform your duties.
  • Blisters are not getting better with self care.


     In a TEOTWAWKI situation, there won't be doctors to warn you of impending doom based on a set of symptoms.  You will have to know the dizziness or the thirst will cause you to adjust your life in some way.  You need to know what your family medical history is and the chances for you to develop those disorders.

Keep clean
Wear good socks (padded socks if your have a diabetic tendency)
Keep feet dry inside the foot wear
Wear good fitting shoes
Wear boots with protection in industrial or construction work
Tend to blisters immediately
Examine feet often

Monday, April 29, 2013

Getting Older

    We are all getting older.  It's inevitable.  We age.   I was born in St. Peters burg, Florida.  I was surrounded by retirees.  I knew many people retired to our town and more than a few could not handle retirement.  They either started drinking out of boredom or because they didn't know how to relax, they just died.  I remember when people died in their sleep.  It was a common remark I heard in my youth.  People don't just die in their sleep as they did in the fifties.  Medicine has come a long way and people live longer now, holding the symptoms of aging at bay for a time.  

     The way we age is a choice.  Yes, I know about Alzheimer's and other geriatric ailments. I have a mom in her eighties.  I work in several homes with  geriatric parents in the home.  I have seen how people choose to age.  

     I don't care if I am not able to earn money, I will not sit and read the newspaper for five hours.  I will find something to do.  I will not reach for the scriptures and study only on the days after I have suffered a medical set back.  I will be faithful or I will not, but I will not be sanctimonious and read scriptures for three or four days after a cold and not again until I mistake indigestion for a heart episode!  I will not wait for someone to tell me it's time to take my pills or time to take a bath.  

     I have one person I am in contact with who just sits.  All day long there is sitting interrupted by sleeping in the chair and sitting.  He is fading away, mentally and physically.  I used to clean for him before a single health issue with a long recovery time.  He is now stuck in that time of not exerting himself.   His family is stuck waiting for him to want to be better, and two years after he was released by his doctor, he sits fading away.  

     There is no reason to go out that way.   I know this person to be well and able to do small tasks.   I am a paid house cleaner.  I am sure I can not be replaced by this particular person, but instead of sitting, make your bed!  Put your laundry in a basket.  Dust something.  Learn a language, read a book, pull weeds, fold laundry, something!  Anything!  Do something!  

     The neighbors are also clients of mine.They are three years older than this gentleman and they only need me once a month.  They have a nice garden.  They have a beautiful flower garden as well.  They cook together, they clean up after themselves and keep themselves clean.  They go for walks.  They read best sellers.  They talk to each other.  They are older and in a better state mentally even though the husband has been battling prostate cancer for decades.  They are a fine example of how to age in their home.  I want to be like that.  

     I want to age with purpose.  When I can no longer earn a living, I will spend my full time planting and sewing and cleaning for myself, then later when I can no longer cover my expenses, I will add to the lives of the child who claims me.   

     This is the way of the times I remember as a child.  The elderly lived on their own and when through widowhood or health issues, they moved to the home of a family member and became an asset to that family.  They cared for the little ones, they helped around the house, they added to the life of the family.  It was this way with my grandmother who was in the middle of crocheting an afghan when a stroke took her to the hospital for the last time. She left behind no mess.  Her rooms were neat and orderly, she worked on her seek a word puzzles at bed time.  She cooked dinner two nights before her stroke.  She got up at the same time every day, she had a purpose.  She had something to do,  she had a sense of humor and was a fine conversationalist to the end.  I want to go out like that! 

     Because we all age, I am prepping for that time as well.  I am preparing myself by breaking down jobs into small tasks and completing them.  I am not laying in bed for five extra hours on my day off.  I get up.  I do something everyday, whether I feel like it or not.  This blog is an example.  I had a good day yesterday, went yard saling, bought an Alice pack with the web gear (new) for $2, went to luncheon with my mother, sister and niece, I took one son to the grocery store to run his errands, called two of the others, just to check in and my day was full.  Then I remembered I had some laundry to do for my grandson who spent the weekend so, why not take a day off from the blog?  Because it is a small task that I am going to do everyday.  It is a habit I wish to cultivate.  I have posted on the blog everyday for 176 posts.  Why get lazy now?  Why sit and waste away?  I don't want to go out like that.


Building on Building Skills

  Yesterday I posted tips on making temporary or emergency shelter.  Today we can build on these basic skills.  

First, preserve what you have.
     In my neighborhood, we lost a neighbor four streets over and three homes were taken out by a single tree in one hurricane.  The lady across the street lost half her roof. It was weeks before her family could get together to fix it.  Meanwhile, a tarp and a couple of furring strips kept her dry.     This use of a tarp to protect a damaged roof is accomplished with a tarp, a strip of wood (1 x 2 or 2 x 2) and nails.  If you don't have the strength to hammer and nail repeatedly, make sure your battery powered screwdriver is charged and you have screws on hand.  But, know this, if you screw the screw to tight, it will spin and rip the tarp. 

     The tarp on my roof was something the FEMA adjuster mentioned.  When you apply for FEMA assistance the website encourages you to take steps to mitigate damage. The adjuster told me some people thought they should just wait for a check before taking steps to protect their possessions.  They were disappointed.  The insurance adjusters I spoke to wouldn't take your information until they warned you to do the same. 

     A tarp as a shelter may be needed when hiking or traveling in the wild, but the skills to protect your property from further damage is also an imperative.  

     You may not always need to erect a lean to or a tepee on the go.  It is good to know how, but since you have these skills, you can build on them and use them when you need.

     One of neighbors lost his shed.  It just blew away leaving the equipment from his roofing business exposed to the elements and thieves.  Without being able to speak Portuguese  I was able to offer several small tarps that he used to cover his property.    Another neighbor donated  some two by fours to make a frame.  It looked like a squared off lean to, but it served its purpose until his shed was found and he bought tie downs to keep it from ever blowing away  again.  

     If you are in dire straits waiting for an insurance check or other assistance, you may need to build on your building skills to provide shelter for yourself and family until help arrives. The basic lean to is good for a night or two but needs to be fortified for longer dwelling.   

     Lashings made from grasses should be made with wet twine or leather strips.  Leather strips could be cut from belts.  If the lashing is wet when applied, it tightens as it dries.  

     Lashings can be made sturdier if you apply wrappings of cloth strips to the joints and pack them with cement.  We are still using grade school skills you learned when you tried decoupage in art class!  You are just now using cement instead of white glue.

    The covering of a temporary lean to is usually branches or brush.  The next step to make a lean to more durable or permanent is to cover the branches.  You can use a tarp or a mud covering. 

     If you are huddling up for an extended period rethink the lean to design a bit.  Re examine your landscape.  If you can find or make a living area and span the space with a lean to, you accomplish several things.  When digging in, you use the earth as insulation and protection.  You raise the roof by lowering the floor.  Take advantage of hillsides but be wary of depressions that may have been caused by wash out from rain or flood.  

Build on your basic building skills.  The Western pioneers lived for years in dug out homes made in the hills.  They also lived in the sod house, cut from the land.  Both of these could be accomplished with lashing skills and very few nails as they were expensive and scarce.



Saturday, April 27, 2013

Simple Shelter Skills

     Think back to the days of making a fort in the dining room with some sheets or turning a closet into home base for you and all your G.I.Joe's.  You had some wicked simple shelter skills.  You still do.  

     Replace the sheets and blankets of your rainy day play shelter with a tarp.  Replace the dining room table as the uprights with poles, or a small tree.  Add in some tent stakes and you have simple shelter skills just as you did when you were a kid.  Get out your tarp, a roll of twine or a hank of 550 cord and play in your yard.  There are many configurations.  Knowing how to make a shelter in different shapes can help you adjust one tarp to the needs of one or several under the same tarp.    
For fun, on a warm summer night, sleep in your tarp.  This too can teach you if you need to adjust your structure design.  I have a son who is always cold.  Tarp sleeping would mean he needs insulation under him.  Another person may be the one who is always hot and throwing off the covers.  You would want a more airy configuration.  Always keep in mind getting in and out in a hurry and your ability to see.

      A lean to is a simple shelter of two uprights supporting a cross beam and struts leaning from the crossbeam to the ground.  Think Triangle closed in on one side.  Please click on the site this sample photo is from.  This is the final product.  There are photos of every step along the way.  It's also a good read.  

     A lean to in the field, made up of material found in the field, is a shelter that blends and disappears into the field.  You can augment the lean to with a tarp if you expect rain, snow or other foul weather, but the first best character of a lean to is it's ability to blend.  

     Don't let the idea that this is a structure or building stop you from trying to learn this skill.  It is still a simple grade school skill set after you cut down or gather up the poles.  Lashing the poles together is merely wrapping around one and across to the other then repeating the wrapping and knotting at the end.

     After you have practiced the lashing of poles at joints for a lean to, you can try lashing three three equal length poles side by side as they lay beside each other.  When the lashing is tight and tied, pull apart the three poles to create a tripod.  You don't have to stretch hide to make a tepee but, you can.  

     Once you have added the intermediate poles, you can lash on branches or stretch a tarp to shelter you from the weather.  

you can make this shelter 
     Having practiced this skill once or twice, myself, it is a temptation to improve if you can.  I did.  I used 1" by 2" furring strips eight feet high.  The hardest part of this was finding six furring strips that were straight and not full of knots.  I drilled holes in the wood strips and laced them together with leather laces.  Between each strip I strung on a wooden bead from the craft store.  So, it was knot, lace through wood, lace through bead, lace through wood strip until done.  I left a length of leather about three feet long hanging at the end.  This way I was able to store the poles as a unit tied together but laying in a neat stack and pull them out to spread the frame.  I used the lacing at the end to lash the poles together before draping the structure with a canvas I cut from an old boat cover.  

     With three coats of exterior latex paint to seal the canvas and make it tanned skin color, my grandson and I painted native designs on it and we used it as his personal shelter at two Powwows, and three summers play in his back yard.  I believe it is still in his mom's garage.  You too can make this shelter for a favored child or grandchild.  You can use canvas boat covering or even sheets if you are staying indoors.  

     If you don't need a little tepee in your life, remember the lashing and lean to skills.  You can build on them and see in the following photos how these basic skills have sheltered humans for eons.

Friday, April 26, 2013

How to Make Fire

     Fire is a chemical reaction, often between different chemical compounds or elements, each which has stored energy.  That is the science of it.  You can study more on how combustion happens in an interactive tutorial from NOVA at  www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/science-fire.html.  

But for the beginner think of it this way:

     To make fire, you need heat, fuel and oxygen.  heat from the friction of two sticks, a match head on a striker, a piece of steel struck against a flint.   Fuel is the stuff that burns.  When you are making fire, you want a wad of dried moss to 'catch' the first sparks.  Blowing on the smoldering sticks or moss causes the hot tinder to burst into flame.   At the moment t begins to glow red, add a gentle breeze of a breathe to feed it the oxygen it needs to burn.  Have more dried moss and leaves on hand to feed the little flames until you can add small sticks and more oxygen either by fanning the flames or blowing on them.That is the basic street explanation that can be argued but not disproven.

    Allow me to share some step by step visuals.

This is the stick method:
You spin the friction making stick back and forth with the dried leaves under the point of friction at the bottom.  There are easier ways but this will work.

The bow drill:
This is a little more complicated, in that you must gather some pieces of wood and twine together in one place, but this bow drill method beats rubbing a stick around and around in your hands. 

How To Build a Matchless Fire
The Fire Plough 
The one stick method allows that you rub a stick into a groove in a dried  branch or board.  surprisingly a palm frond makes a great friction board for this method.  It also provides some very fine hairy fibers that will spark quickly as you rub the pointed stick into the branch.  Have more dried fibers on hand, they burn quickly.  
The magnifying glass method.  
The magnifier is held at an angle to the sun until the light becomes a pinpoint on the dried moss, paper or leaves. 

Flint and Steel
After you have acquired a piece of steel an any number of shapes or sizes and a piece of flint (a rock) you can make your own fire starter kit in an old Altoids can.  Strike the steel against the flint to make sparks over the dried straw or moss, blow and and add fuel.

Magnesium Fire Striker
Don't leave home without one.  These are the greatest thing since the invention of the disposable lighter to have on you when you want to make fire.  They come in many shapes, weigh next to nothing in the bug out bag and can be found in the camping aisle at Wal Mart or online in any sporting goods store or survival store for $5 - $9 depending on the carry case that comes with it.

To bring Fire making to a close I want to share something I have never seen before but will be trying this weekend!

The Coke and chocolate method !!!!?????   Yes, this guy polishes the bottom of a soda can with the chocolate to make a very shiny parabolic mirror.  


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Simple Survival Skills

     As the mother of four boys without a lot of support, I had to do whatever was necessary to make sure my sons had guy type skills.  I realized long before they were of age for Cub Scouting that I was out numbered and out of my depth.  

     There was the poor little eldest who suffered my clumsy attempts to potty train without knowing much about boys at all.  It was a little easier when he helped me to encourage the next and they helped with the next until the job was done.  Seeing a person go like you are supposed to go was easier than explaining it!  

     But, it was in those early days that I knew I would have to get some boy skills if my guys were going to learn what I had been taught was boy stuff.  I learned about sports and got a Boy Scout manual and learned how to make fire.  By the time they were old enough to care about the Barbecue grill, they had watched the fire being made and I was happy to let them give it a go under supervision.  

     They thought I was a cool mom.  They didn't need to know I was a scared girl raised in a different think set.  Girls were supposed to stay quiet in the kitchen.  Well, my sons needed a fire maker and a champion, so I faked it all till they thought I was a natural and they wanted to be independent and adventurous too.

     Earlier in the blog I talked about the hierarchy of survival.  We need food, shelter, clothing.  These are the basic things we gather in preparation for disaster.  But, more basic than this is the knowledge of how to make fire, find food, gather and filter water, make shelter and just keep going.  

      So, now that we have all survived the seventies and eighties, I can state clearly:  Male or female, we all need simple survival skills.  There is no more time left in this life to waste on gender types.  Everyone needs to know how to make fire.  Everyone needs to know how to cook food.  Everyone needs to know some simple basic survival skills.  Everyone needs to know how to make shelter, mend clothing and make it through the night without a lot of support.

     The next few posts will be about basic fire making skills, trapping food, cleaning fresh caught food and cooking over the fire you have made.   

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Edible Flowers and Herbs

     For the city gardener trying to set out a lovely front yard and still keep peace in the gated community, here are some edible plants with lovely flowers or foliage to choose from:

Rose:  The petals of the flowers have long been dredged in the whites of eggs and then dredged in sugar.  When dry they make an aromatic candy.  Fragrant petals rinsed through water make a scented fluid to use in cakes and pastries.    
Rose hips are high in vitamin c.  Make tea with fresh hips for the highest concentration of vitamin for colds.  
Candying flowers also works for other edible flowers like pansies and nasturtium.

Edible Flowers
Other edible flowers are:lavender, thyme, dill, cilantro, day lily, squash blossom, Nasturtiums, chives, and basil, from the website: http://whatscookingamerica.net/EdibleFlowers

Chamomile:  Dried flowers make a nice calming tea.  Known for its uses in treating insomnia and stomach ailments, not for pregnant women as it can cause contractions.

Aloe Vera Blooms
These are my aloe in bloom
Aloe:  For use in treating burns, cuts and scraps.  A skin softener. It comes in many varieties and blooms in many colors.  Aloe Vera growing from the deserts of Arizona through the rainy days in Florida.  These are the ones in my yard.
Pineapple:  If you are growing Aloe in a dry rocky spot, try adding in a pineapple! It looks like the aloe and will give, hmmm, Pineapple!  Please visit the above site for a look at a sweet kitchen garden.  

Look how very colorful your yard could be with a little research and planning!
Garden skills translate into farming skills.  Gardening is a great excuse to get outdoors and smell fresh air!  Get some survival skills and some nature while you're at it.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How to get away with a Country garden in the City

     I live in a restricted community.  I suffer the presence of yard guards in my life.  They take turns riding through the neighborhood in golf carts.  They are supposed to be picking up trash and getting to know the residents.  They have first contact in maintenance issues.  If they determine the problem is beyond the handyman, they call a pro.  They also peak in to the pots that I plant to guess what is in there.  They leave notes on the door from management and generally just irritate me.  I mean seriously, they HAVE to tape the notices to the door with duct tape?  

     I know they are doing their job.  I am at an age when I believe if I am not setting you on fire, selling drugs or beating your dog, you should just smile at me and walk away.  I really don't get all excited by these people, but I don't care for them.  I have read the letter of my lease and there is no section that states I cannot have any fruit bearing plants in my yard so when they make an issue of it I look at it as a waste of my time.  So, I understand if you are living in a strict home owner's association that you may not be able to tear up the front yard and put in a garden that will sustain your family right now.  

Dog Rose showing the bright red hips
from Wikipedia
     Still, there are ways to get in some garden practice even if you are plagued with yard guards or worse, the desperate housewives of the gated community!  

     If you think at some point you will need garden skills and want to give it a try, start out with planting flowers.  Flowers seem to be acceptable to both the desperate housewives and the yard guards!  They do not need to know you are planting flowers with medicinal benefits or flowers that fruit!  

     Try planting roses.  The rose hips (occur after the flower blooms, the petals fall off and the the seeds begin to swell).  They are high in vitamin C and they pickle nicely.  They are also used in jams and jellies.  No one will complain about growing roses, even if you grow a wild variety.    

     Get a strawberry pot or four and plant them with strawberries or cherry tomatoes and place a nice bright foliage plant in the top to throw the yard guards a loop!  You can turn a strawberry pot into a small herb garden.  I recommend over and under planting in the garden to get more yeild and less attention.  If the neighbors get used to you fussing over your flowers, time will pass and they won't notice when your flowers yield zucchini or tomatoes.  

      Under planting is the method I use for potatoes. I plant the potatoes under an awning and then hang a basket of foliage plants from the awning.  As the basket grows down and the potatoes grow up, they blend and become something no one notices any more.  If you plant in neat rows that look like the vegetable gardener's handbook, people see a vegetable garden.  If you under plant an awning, no one notices.  

      Over planting is choosing many varieties of plants to place in a wide top planter.  The planter has enough space to place a trellis in the center upon which you can train an eggplant or squash or cucumbers.  You then surround the centerpiece with foliage, flower and herb plants that give visual variety and confusion.

     Plant your tomato seedlings at least twelve inches apart and plant a colorful Coleus plant in between,  These plants have very colorful foliage and as they fill in the space between tomatoes, they boggle the eye.  No one will see the tomatoes as the ripen because they will be used to the bright colored leaves.  I found this photo to the right of a window box with coleus and dill! 

     The secret to starting a garden in a nosy neighborhood, is to follow the KISS method.  In the beginning, keep it simple, silly!  Start with a large planter on each side of the garage.  They should match.  Maybe you can increase the planters to four if you also place one on each side of the front entry.  Choose pots that fit in the setting and also are simple and easy to find more of in other sizes.  Next, season you could add two pots to each of the first and make groupings of three.  

     If pots are not readily acceptable in your neighborhood, perhaps a raised bed that lines the driveway will work.  This one is made of planter blocks stacked and lined with weed cloth.  It is completely temporary but looks permanent and formidable.  You could literally and completely enclose the perimeter of your home.  As long as you plant the raised bed as if it were any flower garden, it will go unnoticed as a vegetable or herb garden.