How To Keep Your Chickens Legal (And Safe) In The Big City

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How To Keep Your Chickens Legal (And Safe) In The Big City

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Raising chickens, once considered a staple of country living, has made its way into suburbia, where wannabe homesteaders are finding creative ways to bring rural life to their neighborhoods.

Caring for chickens (and their eggs) is not all it’s cracked up to be, however. Even in the relative calm of suburbia, there are dangers that threaten suburban flocks. Ready to enhance your homesteading journey with chickens? Be aware of these potential perils.

1. Zoning laws

Despite the growing popularity of backyard flocks, many cities haven’t kept pace and have zoning laws that prohibit the keeping of chickens within city limits. Check with your city’s ordinance codes to find out what (if any) limitations there may be before you order chickens and set up your coop. In some anti-chicken cities, officials are willing to “overlook” small flocks, provided they are well-behaved and don’t upset the neighbors. Many chicken owners find that paying off their surrounding neighbors with fresh eggs will smooth over any “ruffled feathers” about a few sweet chickens living in the backyard. Be a good neighbor: Keep your coop clean (and odor-free), skip the rooster (they make too much noise) and offer to bring deviled eggs to neighborhood cookouts. Be prepared, however. If you have an illegal flock, you may be forced to rehome them should city officials enforce zoning laws.

2. Neighborhood predators

You’d expect there to be danger to a flock of chickens out on a farm. Suburbia, however, has perils of its own that can be deadly for your brood.

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One night, I forgot to close my chicken coop door. About midnight, I heard a clattering sound at my fence, followed by an uproar from inside the coop. By the time I made it outside, whatever had infiltrated the backyard was gone. My chickens were beside themselves, but all were present. A neighbor later told me she saw a coyote racing out of my yard while letting her dog out that same night. In my neighborhood, a new housing development had displaced a band of coyotes, sending them prowling through the streets in search of food and shelter. Fortunately for my girls, he left hungry that night.

Other neighborhood predators include the obvious: cats, as well as dogs. A hungry neighborhood cat can (and will) scale fences in search of young chicks happily rooting in the yard. Dogs break through fences, dig under coops, and chase errant chickens who may have escaped the safety of your yard. They also can include some surprising additions. As cities expand and develop forested areas, wildlife such as coyotes are trying to share space with the humans that just moved in. They’re looking for food and are willing to sneak into your yard to get it. Possums and raccoons may stealthily find their way into laying boxes in search of their morning eggs. Hawks can swoop down on unsuspecting chicks, carrying them off to feed their hungry young. Rats and mice invade coops and feed supplies.

How To Keep Your Chickens Legal (And Safe) In The Big City

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How can you protect your flock? Provide your chickens with a coop. Their coop not only acts as a laying station for their eggs, but it gives them a place to escape the clutches of predators. With a chicken-sized entrance, large dogs and coyotes will be unable to enter the structure. A door that can be closed will provide extra protection from nocturnal visitors such as possums, raccoons and cats. Chicken wire (or poultry netting), buried at least six inches around the base of the coop, will discourage predators from digging in, and help keep your chickens from trying to tunnel out. (Have you seen the movie Chicken Run? I’m convinced it was based on the antics of my chickens!)

3. Free-range dangers

You may not have acres of land to allow your chickens to free-range. Even with an average-sized yard, however, your small flock can happily spend the days rooting through the grass and bushes in search of snacks, a warm dirt spot to burrow down in, or a shady area to rest. Trouble happens, though, when your chickens notice that the grass on the other side of the fence is actually greener, and then fly over the fence to explore. Not only will the rest of the flock follow, but they’ll luxuriate in their new-found freedom and head down the street, checking out what plants and bugs your neighbors have available. Your neighbors may not appreciate having visitors who scratch their way through their yard, and may chase them off or call the city to complain. Secure your neighbor’s goodwill by offering eggs, and offer to let your girls help turn over their garden plot in the spring. Keep your brood grounded by regularly trimming their wings.

4. Poisonous plants

Many decorative plants that look beautiful in landscaping beds are poisonous to chickens. Hydrangeas, tulips, azaleas and other beautiful flowers that gardeners like to grow can be toxic to free-ranging chickens. Look for chicken-friendly plants that can provide snacking opportunities for your brood, while beautifying your yard. Add nasturtiums, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and sunflowers for variety (and safety) in your garden.

Raising chickens in suburbia is an adventure. However, the benefits of fresh eggs and a flock of happy chickens in the backyard are worth the challenges. If you’ve been considering adding chickens to your family, there’s never been a better time.

What advice would you give to someone raising chickens in the city? Share your tips in the section below:

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Emergency Preparedness in the Big City

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Emergency Preparedness in the Big City It always pays to be prepared for an emergency situation, but sometimes being prepared for an emergency in the city can be different than being prepared for an emergency in more rural areas. Terrain is a huge factor with big cities, let alone the fact that you are in … Continue reading Emergency Preparedness in the Big City

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7 Overlooked Forms Of Shelters When Society Collapses

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7 Overlooked Forms Of Shelters When Society Collapses

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Most of us are planning on “bugging in” when a disaster strikes. Generally speaking, that’s a much more practical solution for people who don’t have a survival retreat off in the woods somewhere. Not only does your home provide you with shelter, but it has all of your survival equipment and supplies, as well as your other possessions. But what do you do if something happens to your home?

There is always a risk of your home taking a hit during a natural or man-made disaster. Some disasters, like earthquakes and tornadoes, are known for destroying houses. If that should happen to you, then you will need an instant replacement. If you haven’t thought about it beforehand, then you might not have an idea of where to go or what to do.

To start with, evaluate the condition of your home. If part of it is still standing, then you might be able to take shelter there, at least on a temporary basis. You only want to do this if the part that is standing is structurally sound, though. If it is likely to fall, you don’t want to be trapped inside.

If you find that you have to abandon your home during a societal collapse, there are a number of places around you, many of which may very well be excellent shelters to use. While they may not be as nice to stay in as your home, neither is a makeshift shelter or a tent off in the woods somewhere.

1. Outbuildings

If you have outbuildings on your property, that might be a good starting point. Surprisingly, a shed or detached garage might survive a situation in which the house is destroyed. While that building may not be as well constructed as the home was, it might have been sheltered by the home itself.

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7 Overlooked Forms Of Shelters When Society Collapses

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Granted, a shed or garage isn’t a very comfortable or even nice place to lay your head to rest, but it has the advantage of being close to your home. That means you can stay close to your possessions. If you are going to begin salvage operations — to get what you can out of your damaged home — then it helps to stay close. Besides, those salvaged items can be used to make your temporary shelter more comfortable.

2. Your place of business

If you own a business, then you probably have an alternate shelter that you have legal title to, even if it is rented. Your office or store may very well survive something that damages your home, simply because commercial buildings are often stronger than residences. Their simpler construction, lack of windows and need to support more weight on the floor leads to a more robust building design.

If you have such a place, it would be good to stock some emergency supplies and equipment there, so that in the case of a disaster, it’s easy to move your family to the workplace. While you probably won’t want to abandon the equipment and supplies you have at home, what you keep at your business will help your family to survive while you are salvaging whatever you can.

3. Abandoned homes

Whatever makes your home uninhabitable may make it so that many other people flee. If that happens, then there will probably be a good assortment of abandoned homes available in the neighborhood. (Note: Use this option only as a last resort in a societal collapse.) The problem with this is that you would technically be trespassing and if the person came back, the situation could become a bit sticky. For this reason, I wouldn’t be too quick to move into someone else’s home.

If forced to move into someone else’s home, it is wise always to treat it as if it were theirs and not mine. In other words, I would take care of their home, leaving their possessions alone as much as possible. While I would use their furniture and kitchenware, I wouldn’t remove anything from their home or rearrange things any more than absolutely necessary. That way, if they were to come back, I could at least show that I’ve cared for their home.

Having said that, moving into an abandoned home is probably the most comfortable option you have for an urban survival shelter in an emergency situation. While it wouldn’t be your home, it would be a home, with all the comforts to be expected.

4. An abandoned business

There are always abandoned buildings around that were once stores, warehouses and other businesses. Any of these provide the basics necessary for a shelter. They can keep the weather out and protect your family. At the same time, businesses usually have a lot of open space, which you can configure as you need for your family. They also often have bathrooms, which might still work if there is water service.

While I wouldn’t hesitate to use an abandoned business as a survival shelter, I wouldn’t expect much more of it than it to be something to help protect me from the weather. I would operate under the assumption that anything I need would have to be brought in.

7 Overlooked Forms Of Shelters When Society Collapses

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One nice thing about abandoned businesses is that you can pre-plan. Just by keeping your eyes open for businesses that close in your area, you can know which businesses would be available in the case you need an emergency shelter. A little further investigation could show how you can get into those buildings if you have to use them as a shelter.

5. A vehicle

This may sound a bit unusual, but survival situations are unusual. A vehicle can actually be a fairly good, although small shelter, in times of need. I lived in a motorhome for a number of years, traveling the country. Although the space was limited, I had everything I needed. In a pinch, I could have lived in a much smaller vehicle if needed.

A prepared vehicle is easier to live in. But even if your vehicle isn’t prepared ahead of time, there are things you can do to make it work. Adding a shell to the back of a pickup or removing the back seats from a van creates a living space. A mattress in that area makes a comfortable sleeping area. Camping equipment, such as a camp stove, can quickly turn that makeshift vehicle shelter into something rather comfortable and workable.

6. An abandoned basement

Basements are the part of any structure that are most likely to survive. As such, they can be used as a place of refuge, even when the rest of the building has been destroyed. Often, the floor above the basement will remain intact even when the rest of the building is destroyed. That can turn the basement into an underground home.

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During World War II, much of Europe was destroyed. As the various armies battled across the landscape, defenders would take refuge in buildings, using them as makeshift pillboxes. The attackers then had to destroy those buildings, clearing out the soldiers. The residents of those buildings often took refuge in the basement.

While a basement isn’t a very comfortable shelter, it worked for the Europeans. At a minimum, it protected many of them from being killed by shrapnel and gunfire. Once the fighting moved on, many stayed in the basements because the houses and apartments above were destroyed. While it wasn’t as comfortable as home, it was shelter.

7. The underground

Speaking of basements, underground structures of many types have been used as shelters at one time or another. The catacombs of France are probably the most famous of these. But those aren’t the only underground shelters that have been used. Governments often build underground bunkers to hide activities, simply because they are well hidden.

Of course, you won’t be able to get into an underground bunker that the government is using, but many cities nevertheless have some sort of underground. This could be a storm sewer system (like the catacombs) or a subway system. Some cities even have commercial areas that are underground. Regardless of why the structure is underground, it is much more likely to survive many a calamity than anything above ground is. That makes it possible to use as an emergency shelter.

What type of shelter would you use? Share your tips in the section below:

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9 Things Newbie Homesteaders Just Don’t Think About

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9 Things Newbie Homesteaders Just Don't Think About

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The “back-to-the-land” movement continues to grow in America, and if you’re one of those who’ve made the big leap from city to country, or are planning to do so soon, here are a few things you’ll want to remember.

The more knowledgeable and prepared you are, the easier the adjustment will be.

1. Get ready for some big culture shock. Country folks are easygoing people who may come across as peculiar to many city folks. You may not see them hustling, bustling and stressing over things city people normally do. Rural residents view things and do things differently. They may talk to you as if you were a life-long friend.

They’ll be curious why you moved into their area, what your business is, what you and your family are all about. They’re just being friendly and welcoming. They might even go out of their way to say hello and share some fresh produce or canned preserve.

9 Things Newbie Homesteaders Just Don't Think About

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2. Don’t expect to save money from homesteading at first. The initial outlay can come as a big shock. Animals, a barn, fencing, farm equipment … the list goes on and one. You’ll find that no matter how much budgeting and belt-tightening you do, something will always come up that needs building, fixing, adding or improving. Be patient. Developing a homestead is a long, complex process, and it’ll take years before you see some regularity in your spending.

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If you break even in your fourth or fifth year, you could consider that an accomplishment. But remember, the returns on your investment won’t all come in the form of money but in intangibles: fresh produce, savings from grocery purchases, bartered stuff (or service) from neighbors. Further rewards can be expected in the long run — better health and hopefully fewer medical bills.

3. Start small and slow. Try to do only one project at a time, at a pace you can handle. Whether it be gardening, poultry raising, carpentry or canning, remember that each skill will take time for you to learn and perfect, and some effort to overcome challenges that come along. It’s easy to get carried away acquiring a couple of more hens, or getting another pair of cute pygmy goats. But be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. (Tip: It’s better to fail in a garden that on livestock. Dying animals can cause a lot of grief, especially if there are kids around.) Then, when you feel comfortable with that first project, feel free to launch into something else.

9 Things Newbie Homesteaders Just Don't Think About

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4. Start low-tech. Don’t buy modern equipment just because you saw an advertisement for it, read some good reviews, or observed your neighbor using it frequently. Start with basic hand tools that are practical and versatile, and work your way from there. You’ll find out soon enough what pieces of motorized equipment you’ll need in your particular set-up, and you’ll be more knowledgeable as to what features to get if you put off that big purchase at a later time. Plus, you won’t have a shed full of expensive machinery that you only used once.

5. Learn to DIY. If you live dozens of miles from the nearest town, or if roads can become impassable due to bad weather, you’ll have to have a well-stocked pantry and medicine chest. Always have essentials on hand, or learn how to make them. Try bottling your own healing oils, tinctures and natural remedies. Learn first-aid treatment and emergency care. Your and your family’s survival could one day depend on it.

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Likewise, brush up on some handyman skills. Get familiar with the basics of plumbing, electrical, automotive, computer and refrigeration repair. There are lots of practical skills you can learn, and as you acquire them, you’ll be surprised at how fast you’ve become more self-reliant.

9 Things Newbie Homesteaders Just Don't Think About

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6. Expect long, 12-hour workdays. The garden needs to be tended, the goats milked, the muck raked, the produce canned … and so on with many other chores. Of course, there will be slow seasons like fall and winter, but if you have livestock, there will always be animals to feed and milk. Year-round.

7. Learn to deal not only with garden pests but also with wildlife. Snakes, coyotes, foxes, deer, mites and all kinds of critters and predators will be your life-long enemies.

8. Know the local laws. Learn about what and up to how many animals you can keep, what kind of additional structures you can build, and all other pertinent regulations in your local area. You don’t want to run into problems after you’ve built that treehouse in your yard or dug a hole for a pond.

9. Expect setbacks and failures. Despite your best efforts, you’re bound to experience setbacks. Life happens. Crops fail, animals get sick or die, a well or creek dries up. There will be things that just won’t go as you had hoped or planned. But flops are only failures if you don’t recover and learn from them. There’s always a new alternative to try, another variety to grow, another breed to raise … and another time and season to do it all over again. Just learn from your mistakes and move on. Stay positive and don’t quit.

What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

References:

4 Tips for Starting Out Homesteading, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9DCH1lAKoE

My Top 5 Best Tips for the Beginning Homesteader April 2015,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APwcBjHprAc

Tips for New Homesteaders, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRX3zP5Ce4c

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The City, EDC, and Preparedness!

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The City, EDC, and Preparedness! Josh “7 P’s of survival” This show in player below! This week on the 7 P’s of Survival Radio Show we discuss various aspects concerning EDC, Preparedness and Self-reliance in a major city environment. Throughout the show I discuss a variety of major metropolitan areas, their laws regarding EDC, Preparedness … Continue reading The City, EDC, and Preparedness!

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Get Out Of Dodge: 10 Tips For Escaping Any City When Society Collapses

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Get Out Of Dodge: 10 Tips For Escaping Any City When Society Collapses

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There’s a reason why big cities come to mind when we think of terrorist attacks or natural disasters. Any kind of a large-scale attack will always inflict more damage and tragedy on a city because of the massive increase in population. It will affect more people, creates more chaos, and deal the largest economic blow.

But you can survive a major disaster in a city — whether it is natural or man-made — even if you’re in the middle of it. That’s not to say that evacuating a city won’t be dangerous, but it is to say that your chances of survival increase dramatically if you simply know what you’re doing.

Here are 10 tips for escaping a city when a crisis strikes:

Tip No. 1 – Know every evacuation route possible.

Many people have an evacuation route planned from their home to a destination outside of the city, but most also fail to have a backup evacuation route, and even a backup route to the backup route, and so on.

The truth is that you need to know every single evacuation route possible from your house to your predetermined rendezvous point (which we’ll get to a minute). This way, when one route fails, you still have backup options so you aren’t stuck.

Tip No. 2 – Have a predetermined rendezvous point.

Your destination or rendezvous point is where you will meet up with your other friends and family members. This destination can be anything from a bug-out location, to a family member’s house, to a secret hideaway that only you know about (such as a natural landmark).

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What’s important is that there be multiple routes from your home to this destination and that it be within driving distance.

Tip No. 3 – Practice driving to your rendezvous point.

Get Out Of Dodge: 10 Tips For Escaping Any City When Society Collapses

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Not only should you be aware of all of the possible routes to your rendezvous point to your house, but you should practice driving them, as well. Pretend that one route fails and you now have to detour to the other route. You should get to the point where you know each route by heart and without having to read a map or GPS.

Tip No. 4 – Plan out different scenarios.

You never know when disaster will strike, meaning you don’t know if you will be at home, at work or elsewhere. You could be at work, one child could be at school, another could be at piano lessons, your spouse or significant other could be visiting with friends on the other side of town, and so on.

The point is that you need to have a plan for every scenario. You’ll likely need to come up with new routes and backup routes in order to accommodate these scenarios. What’s important is that you get everybody out of the city safely and quickly, so make sure your plans reflect that.

Tip No. 5 – Have a bug-out vehicle.

Your bug-out vehicle needs to be a real bug-out vehicle. It can’t just be any ordinary car. It needs to be an AWD vehicle that is capable of driving over rough terrain, it needs to be well-maintained, and it needs to be big enough to carry each family member and your bug-out supplies. Trucks and SUVs are commonly favored.

Tip No. 6 – Make sure each family member has a bug-out bag.

Most homesteaders and survivalists are fully aware of the importance of having a bug-out bag/survival kit, but far fewer recognize the need for each family member to have a personalized one.

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Make sure each bag is ready to go and easily accessible so you can grab them in a jiffy. Going as far as to keep your bug-out bags actually stored in your bug-out vehicle isn’t a bad idea, either.

Tip No. 7 – Have at least 20 gallons of gasoline and 20 gallons of clean water ready to go.

Get Out Of Dodge: 10 Tips For Escaping Any City When Society Collapses

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You’re going to need plenty of gasoline and water to get out of Dodge. You need the gasoline so that your bug-out vehicle can run, and you need the water so that your family can stay hydrated when water sanitation standards are going to drop significantly. Twenty gallons of gasoline and water each is a good amount to have in your bug-out vehicle, ready to go.

Tip No. 8 – Keep up to date on weather and disaster alerts.

Make it a daily habit to check up on the weather and news, but go a step further and get breaking weather and news alerts sent to your phone and email.

Tip No. 9 – Look for warning signs.

In addition to keeping up to date on what the authorities are saying, you would always be wise to look for warning signs yourself so that you can get the sense if an evacuation will be necessary.  If the authorities announce that an evacuation is necessary, your entire city will instantly be thrown into chaos. Entire roads will be closed off — instantly blocking off some of your escape routes — and more roads will be clogged with traffic, which will make your escape far more difficult.

But if you identify the warning signs and begin your evacuation BEFORE the authorities call for one, you’ll be able to escape your city much more quickly (and safely) because it’s likely some sections of the city won’t be closed off yet and not everyone will be in a frenzy to escape.

Tip No. 10 – Be armed.

Being on the open road makes you vulnerable, especially if you’re bogged down in traffic and can’t drive away in a hurry if needed. Don’t think that you and your family are safe within the walls and windows of your car. Mobs and raiders will be a significant threat in any urban disaster scenario. For this reason, always be adequately armed when bugging out, and keep your weapons close by you, being prepared to use them if necessary.

What advice would you add to this story? Share your survival tips in the section below:

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How To Build An Off-Grid Home Without ANY Construction Skills

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Off-Grid Life In a $4,500 Converted School Bus
Each year, millions of Americans flee the cities — and the traffic and stress — for a more enjoyable rural life.

This week’s guests on Off The Grid Radio did that, too, and then went a step further by building their own homestead — even though they had no experience in construction. They have no electricity or refrigerator and they even ride a horse and buggy … but they’re not Amish.

They go simply by “Doug and Stacy,” and they have gained quite a large following on their YouTube channel, where they explain how they do everything they do.

Doug and Stacy tell us:

  • How they get water despite not having a well.
  • Why they abandoned a city life with well-paying jobs for an off-grid life.
  • How they built an 800-square-foot house without construction skills.
  • Why Doug chose to ride a horse and buggy, even though he formerly had ridden a Harley.
  • How they keep their food cold without the modern convenience of a fridge.
  • How they get Internet and charge up their computer and cell phones even though they don’t have electricity.

If you have always wanted to escape city life, of you are simply someone who enjoys stories about fascinating people, then this week’s show is for you!

Conserving Water When You Don’t Have To

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Conserving Water When You Don’t Have To

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If you live in a city or geographical region where water is scarce or expensive, you probably already do your best to use it wisely.

There is plenty of water where I live. Freshwater lakes and streams abound, and we generally get all the rain and snow we need.

We did have one particularly dry summer about five years ago which really made the gardeners in my area begin to worry about crops. Good wells that rarely run dry were beginning to turn out water with an off color and odor, and nobody dared to use what limited water might be left on gardens. People began to consider creative alternatives. One of my neighbors used a small gas-powered pump to fill barrels of water at the nearby lake and haul it home in his pickup truck. Others scooped up water out of the river by hand, using five-gallon buckets and pouring it over into larger containers. Some folks set up rainwater collection barrels, but rain didn’t come.

I made it through that season unscathed, as did most of my neighbors, but it changed my way of thinking about the abundance of water. The very next spring, I leapt at the opportunity to purchase a large food grade IBC tote, and used a flexible plastic hose to hook it up to the house gutter and collect roof runoff for garden water.

I have changed other practices with respect to water, as well. I try to collect, use and conserve water as if it is the most precious resource on the planet.

During seasons of adequate precipitation, like most are in my area, it can be difficult to be proactive about saving water. Wasteful habits are so ingrained in most of us today that conservation needs to be an intentional act.

But Why?

Why should I worry about it at all?

Water is a finite commodity. While it’s true there is roughly the same amount of water on the planet as there has always been—what little amount of water vapor that escapes into space every year notwithstanding—the quality of the water remaining may not be the same. Fresh water becomes salinized when glaciers melt into the oceans, and water can become irredeemably contaminated when exposed to fracking or pollutants.

While the supply of arable water dwindles, the demands upon it are increasing exponentially. Not only are there more humans in need of water today than ever before, but the amount of water used by people in developed countries exceeds that of our predecessors. We shower more, wash our cars more, change our clothes more, and consume manufactured products which entail excess water during production.

The bottom line is this: Sooner or later, most people are going to have to conserve water. Homesteads relocate, and conditions change and needs fluctuate. If not on a wide scale or long term, then at least for a season or two.

The time to develop good water-saving habits is now, before it becomes imperative. If you are on “city water,” there’s a great bonus: You will save money!

Easy Ways to Do it

As with any habit, it is easier to cling to old ones than develop new. Here are suggestions of painless ways to start conserving water ahead of time in your home, lawn and garden, and farmyard.

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There are a lot of changes that can be made in the house, and none of them are drastic measures. But doing simple things now might help mitigate the chances of dramatic changes later.

For example, it is wise to limit time in baths and showers—take them to get clean and only as needed, rather than as a routine. Wash full loads in the clothes washer and dishwasher. Run water from the faucets only as needed; shut it off while brushing teeth, between dish rinsing, and other times during which you are not actively using it. And when cleaning house, wash only that which is dirty and needs cleaning—clean clothes can be hung back up, and try spot-cleaning first on rugs and furniture.

Little things like emptying the dog dish into a house plant instead of down the drain before refilling, or pouring the teakettle water into the humidifier, can add up to make real differences in consumption.

The bottom line here is to use water intentionally. Before you open a faucet, ask yourself if doing so is the best option.

There are things you can do outdoors, as well.

If you find you are having to water your lawn a lot to keep it green, consider a smaller lawn. It may be that your particular region’s rainfall amount does not support the idea of a massive expanse of lawn. A smaller, lush lawn for playing and relaxing might be just enough, and the rest could be converted to native wildflowers or shade trees.

Drought-tolerate vegetable choices make more sense in arid areas than do water-hungry plants like lettuces, celery and fruits. For these types of vegetables, consider keeping their numbers to a minimum so that they can be well-watered and worth your time and space to grow.

Use other practices to minimize garden water use, as well. Mulches of any kind—grass clippings, garden waste, cardboard or plastic—help retain groundwater. Techniques such as hugelkultur are water-savers as well. In addition, soaker hoses are generally better options than hand-watering.

Washing cars at home is often not as good an idea as using a commercial car wash. Recycled water and higher pressure sprayers can reduce water volume while maintaining effectiveness. If feasible where you live, try collecting rainwater. Just a few inches of rain runoff from the roof of an ordinary size house can fill two or three 50-gallon barrels. My 325-gallon IBC tote fills up in as few as two good rainstorms and is easy to use for garden watering.

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By using only what is needed in the yard and avoiding waste now, it will be easy to adopt water-saving practices if necessary in the future.

Farmyard water conservation is also important.

Conserving Water When You Don’t Have To

Image source: Pixabay.com

Change animals’ water only as needed. And when you do dump buckets, use them for dual duty when possible. Pour them onto vegetable beds or over top of something that needs to be rinsed—like calf milk pails or soiled walkways and fences—instead of into a patch of weeds or mud.

Adequate shade for animals can help reduce their water consumption, and placing waterers in areas where they will get soiled and spilled less often can reduce the frequency of changing them out.

Certain animals love to waste water, and pigs are some of the worst offenders. One way to work around that is to teach free-range swine to drink out of a spicket attachment—pigs are smart enough to learn quickly that biting down will yield them a drink.

By conserving water before it is truly necessary, we can do two things. First, we can help avoid water overuse that can contribute to its eventual scarcity.  And second, when the time comes to take conservation seriously, it will already be second nature. Although many in our culture are unaccustomed to being careful about water use, it is a good practice to begin using less as soon as possible and be ready for whatever happens.

What water-saving tips would you add? Share your advice in the section below:

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The Frightening History Of Blackouts And Civil Unrest

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The Frightening History Of Power Outages And Civil Unrest

 

Failure of the electrical grid can lead to far more than just inconvenience and a loss of the lights. History has proven that loss of electricity and the amenities it provides can lead to civil unrest, including riots.

Attacks on the infrastructure that provides our homes and businesses with electricity are far more common and sometimes more effective than we might imagine. News articles indicate that the grid is under constant siege from attackers, ranging from sophisticated cybercriminals to disgruntled employees. Even though the motives of these saboteurs vary widely, their purpose is a simple one: to wreak havoc by shutting off the electricity.

Such attacks can occur in conjunction with civil unrest or they might be carried out with the intention of triggering civil unrest. One reason why the saboteurs go after the grid is that it is highly vulnerable to attack. Such assaults are likely to cause a major electrical outage in the future because the grid is under constant attack.

The United States power grid suffers some sort of attack every four days, a March 2015 investigation by reporters from USA Today and 10 other Gannett media outlets revealed. The attacks occur both in cyberspace and in the real world, with a major attempt to breach computer security at an electrical facility occurring about once a week.

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There were more than 300 physical attacks on electrical infrastructure between 2011 and 2015, Gannett discovered. Authorities have not been able to identify suspects or make arrests in most of those attacks.

‘We Are Without God Now’ — The 1977 New York Blackout

The worst example of civil unrest caused by a power outage was the New York City Blackout of 1977. That grid failure led to widespread looting, rioting and arson. A series of lightning strikes on the evening of July 13, 1977, blew out circuit breakers, which caused power lines to overload with electricity and blow out the system.

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The loss of power led to chaos and widespread looting in parts of the city. More than 3,700 people were arrested, 1,600-plus stores looted, and 550 police officers injured.

“The looters were looting other looters, and the fists and the knives were coming out,” neurologist Carl St. Martin recalled in an interview with The New York Times. St. Martin witnessed the violence first-hand as a medical student at Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Brooklyn.

Some observers used apocalyptical language to describe the situation.

“We are without God now,” Father Gabriel Santacruz, a Catholic Priest at St. Barbara’s Church in Bushwick, Brooklyn, told his congregation after the violence had ended.

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Many observers blamed the violence during the 1977 New York blackout on economic conditions. The worst looting occurred in poorer neighborhoods where people were desperate and angry.

It’s Not Just NYC

In June 2014, angry mobs stormed several electrical substations in Northern India after a heatwave caused blackouts and power cuts, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported. In one incident, a mob set an electrical substation in the city of Gonda on fire. In Lucknow, a crowd ransacked power company offices and took employees hostage.

Temperatures as high as 117 degrees caused the grid to fail, the CBC reported. Civil unrest was made worse by popular anger at utilities, which started rationing utilities as high temperatures created a high demand for electricity.

Power outages can also create riots at colleges. On April 6, 2010, a blackout caused a melee at the University of Washington’s fraternity row in Seattle, United Press reported. A mob blocked streets, set couches on fire and threw bottles and bear cans at police.

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A similar incident occurred at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, on September 16, 2008. Around 3,000 students poured into the streets and began throwing objects at police after school officials decided to keep classes going during a power outage. Nearly 70 police officers from 10 different departments had to be called in.

There are several ways to stay safe from blackout-induced civil unrest:

  • Move. Living in a home that is as far away from the city center and business areas is the best way to keep your family safe. Moving out to the country. or at least the edge of the city, is a good first move.
  • Keep as low a profile as possible. Hunker down and keep safe until order is restored. One reason for this is that it will usually take several days for the regular military or the National Guard to mobilize and deploy to a trouble spot. Another delay is that troops cannot usually be deployed to an area until state or local authorities request their presence.
  • Stay home and off the streets. Do not drive or take long walks or bicycle rides unless absolutely necessary. You should also stay off public transportation systems, such as subways or light rail, because they run on electricity and often shut down during power outages. Stay off of major highways and freeways as well, because they become gridlocked with traffic in emergencies.
  • Examine maps of your area closely and find alternative routes to use during an emergency. Try to avoid major streets and highways.
  • Keep all of your valuables such as electronics, jewelry, gold, coins, silver, cash, guns etc., out of sight. If you have a safe, make sure it is hidden. Moving your vehicles to a location where they cannot be seen from the road or street is also a good idea.
  • Keep an emergency source of electricity, such as a solar generator, on hand. This can help you enjoy a modern lifestyle while your neighbors are blacked out.
  • Stockpile food, medicine and other supplies, and have a bug-out plan.

Civil unrest and power outages are like any other emergencies. You and your family can get through them safely and securely with a little preparation, awareness, knowledge and common sense.

What would you add? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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7 Things ‘City Slickers’ Gotta Know Before Moving To The Country

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7 Things ‘City Slickers’ Gotta Know Before Moving To The Country

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At long last, you are there. You have been planning, saving and working for this event for years, and it is finally becoming a reality. The beautiful home in the countryside is yours, and you couldn’t be happier.

As the giant moving van backs up to the front porch, your mind is abuzz with excitement. You can hardly wait to remodel the kitchen, have the hardwood floors refinished and hire a landscaper to tidy up the far edges of the lawn.

You notice the collection of junk cars just over the property line that must have been hidden in greenery when you first visited the place. Your spouse voices some concern, but you dismiss it. Surely the municipality will insist that they clean up the yard once you bring the problem to the attention of authorities.

At lunchtime, you check in at the local store and introduce yourself while you grab some drinks and sandwich supplies.

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The scene at the general store is not quite what you had anticipated. There are a couple of elderly men seated in worn chairs outside the front door, smoking cigarettes, laughing together at an off-color joke.   Indoors, a shirtless man and his unleashed dog are waiting in line at the cash register. There is only one brand of bread on the shelf, and you can’t find any of the kind of sandwich meat you like.

While paying for your purchases, you tell the lady behind the counter that you are moving in that day, and tell her the address. She looks confused until a bystander fills her in. It’s the old Haywood place – even though you didn’t buy it from anyone named Haywood. Nor did the sellers. It’s known by the name of a family that owned it three generations ago.

“Where did you move here from?” the lady asks politely.

You are eager to tell her all about yourself. About how you previously lived in a very upscale neighborhood next door to a famous artist, in a big city that is faraway.

She shrugs, seemingly unimpressed.

7 Things ‘City Slickers’ Gotta Know Before Moving To The CountryYou go on to tell her all about the fabulous things you plan to do to fix up the house and it occurs to you to mention the junk cars and ask her who to talk to about them.

She gives you a sour look. That’s her sister’s place, she says. And those are her brother-in-law’s cars.  And you can complain to the town’s elected officials, but she doubts they care.

“Well,” you bluster, “where I came from, there are laws against such things. And you can’t smoke in the doorway or go in a store without a shirt back home.”

“You are not back home,” she replies, her voice noticeably cool.

As you exit the store, you realize the lady was right. You are truly not in Kansas anymore, and it occurs to you that the culture here is very different from that which you left. You have been so busy seeking out the kind of place that would meet your expectations that you haven’t given any thought to how you might meet theirs.

The good news is you absolutely can fit in, make friends, and become part of the community. Eventually. And the even better news is I can give you a few tips to help that happen more quickly and less painfully.

1. Don’t try to turn your new community into your old one. If your comments at the town meeting  always begin with, “Back home we did it a better way,” the locals will be tempted to retort that you should go back there if you loved it so much. Remember, you moved here for a reason. You wanted to live in a different kind of place than you lived before. Accept the fact that they have their own way of doing things here.

2. Avoid being ostentatious. Nobody here cares that a movie star frequented the coffee shop in your old neighborhood. If country folks were impressed by Hollywood, they’d move there. And your plans to glam up the old farmstead you bought by installing a garish steel roof and some glitzy fake gas pumps on the lawn will make people wonder why you bought an old farmhouse in the first place.

7 Things ‘City Slickers’ Gotta Know Before Moving To The Country3. Remember that you won’t have the same services that you had in the city. The local store is not going to carry 13 flavors of artisan mustard, and there is no way that firefighters or law enforcement can possibly show up at your door three minutes after you dial 911. The shopkeeper is likely to try to keep your favorite products on hand if you ask, though. And as for services, rest assured that as you get to know the townspeople you’ll soon learn that you are better off calling on some of them in an emergency anyway.

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4. Do the natives sound funny to you? Don’t bother pointing it out to them. You probably sound funny to them, too. They’ve heard commentary on their particular regionalisms since before you knew their town existed. And whatever you do, don’t try to imitate it. Unless you make your living recording audiobooks with characters from all over the world, you can’t pull it off.

5. With all those don’ts on the list, you might be wondering if there’s anything you can do. Take heart – there are plenty of positive things about your new country place. Don’t be afraid to be who you are, not who you think they want you to be. They’ll get used to you.

6. You don’t need to alter your goals or question your own values. If you came here to grow your own organic food, homeschool your kids or prepare for the apocalypse, you can. Just remember that others in town might have different ideals. You can do your thing, but respect them enough to let them do theirs.

7. Definitely join in on local projects. Be part of what’s already happening. And don’t just throw money at them – show up carrying a hammer or a casserole.

In the end, don’t worry about the junk cars. The next-door neighbors might well turn out to be the kind of people who will show up with a bushel of fresh tomatoes after you lose yours to blight, teach your kid how to knit, or run out and grab your dog when they see it following a snapping turtle. And someday it could happen that you gaze out the kitchen window at the beautiful homey vista that includes the neighbors’ junk cars, and wonder why you ever even cared that they were there.

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No-Frills Container Gardening For The Urban Homestead

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No-Frills Container Gardening For The Urban Homestead

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Container gardening has exploded in recent years. People everywhere want to have access to fresh produce and save money on groceries, but not everyone has the yard space to put in a garden. Even if you only have a small patio or deck, you can still grow plenty of fresh, organic herbs, fruits, and vegetables in that small space.

Herbs are the easiest plants to grow in pots, and you will have year-round access to those fresh, vibrant flavors because you can move the small pots of herbs from your patio or deck to the kitchen windowsill. You will find that freshly grown herbs have much better flavor than those supposedly fresh herbs you can purchase at the grocery store. The same goes for the fruits and vegetables you can grow in containers. And since you will know exactly what goes into growing them, you control what is put on your plants.

There are a few things you will need to think of when deciding whether to put in a container garden, though. First, does your deck or patio get enough sunlight? As long as it is not situated facing north (in the Northern Hemisphere), then it should get enough sunlight for your plants to grow. Of course, south-facing exposure is ideal. Second, what plants are you wanting to grow? This will affect the third consideration, which is: How much space do you have with which to work? The type of plants and the space you have to work with will determine the types and number of containers you will use for your garden.

Many websites will encourage you to use a specific container to grow a specific type of plant but, truthfully, I’ve used everything from empty butter tubs to high-end pots, and they all work the same. As long as they hold soil so that the plant can grow and you add a couple of holes in the bottom so you don’t end up over-watering, you’re pretty much good to go.

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Any plant that grows in the ground can be grown in containers, and you don’t even have to use the “dwarf” plants that have been developed for limited-space gardening. You might want to steer away from pumpkins or corn, since they’ll not give you the harvest you want in containers, but nearly all other fruits and vegetables can be grown in your container garden.

Common Herbs Grown in Containers

  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Tarragon
  • Marjoram
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme
No-Frills Container Gardening For The Urban Homestead

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Containers for these herbs will need to have between 6 and 12 inches of soil depth. Many of these herbs can be grown together so long as the container is large enough. If you do plant different herbs together, remember you’ll need equal space inside so that you can move the container there during the cold months.

Common Vegetables Grown in Containers

  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplants
  • Lettuce
  • Mesclun
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes

Containers for vegetables will need to have between 6 and 18 inches of soil depth. Leaf plants like lettuce and spinach don’t need very deep soil, while tomatoes will need the larger soil depth. Root vegetables, with the exception of potatoes, need between 12 and 14 inches soil depth. Your plants will get root-bound if the container isn’t large enough and they won’t grow the produce you are wanting to harvest.

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Remember that cucumbers and squash are vine plants; they will need a little room to sprawl so that they can properly grow. You will also need to invest in tomato cages for your tomato plants to keep the vine from bending and breaking with the weight of the fruit.

Common Fruits Grown in Containers

  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
No-Frills Container Gardening For The Urban Homestead

Image source: Pixabay.com

Containers for these plants should be about the same size as the container from which you are transplanting. Many websites say not to grow blackberries in containers, but there are thorn-less varieties available, so grow those blackberries!

Some fruit plants may need some form of support, although you won’t want to use a tomato cage; a trellis or something similar will work for the bushes and vines to grow on. There are special pots developed for growing strawberries in containers, and I have to admit that those are the best I’ve found. Strawberries have the added advantage of growing best in hanging baskets. If you don’t have anywhere to hang your strawberries, though, you need to remember that they are invasive and will send out runners anywhere they can reach soil. This could have the effect of strangling other plants you are trying to grow. But this also means that you have ready-made starters for a new pot of strawberries. Just carefully remove the runner, prune it off the main plant and gently transplant it to a new pot for a new plant.

Once you’ve decided on the plants you want to grow in your container garden, purchase your seeds or plants as well as the containers you will be using and plant! In just a matter of weeks you may be enjoying a bountiful harvest!

Have you ever gardened in the city? Share your tips in the section below: 

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Empty Lots, Grand Visions

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So what’s more important? 75 units of housing for people that are going to make more than $150,000 a year, or a park that will benefit AIDS sufferers, the elderly that may never see wild spaces again and youngsters.
It’s a conundrum. Housing, or a green space that helps people in ways difficult to quantify? The units won’t even serve as many middle income families as the city needs because the rules for affordable housing there are far removed from what folks need.
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