Saturday, April 21, 2012

Canada's Tornado Season Is On The Horizon

We have probably all heard about the recent destruction by tornadoes in the US, but how many of us consider this danger at home? One may think that worrying about tornadoes here in Canada is absurd, but let's check some data on the issue. shows tornado activity from BC in the west all the way to NB in the east. Of course, some provinces have a higher risk factor than others, mainly the prairies and a few hot spots in Ontario. On average, Canadians can expect around 10 tornadoes in May, 30 or more in June and July each, and somewhere around 15 in August. That's close to 85 tornadoes per 4 month season, worth considering as a danger if you happen to be in a prone area.

The biggest problem with a tornado is the lack of warning, thus eliminating the pre-storm bug out possibility. Of course, if you have transport, fuel, and a navigable escape route, you could get out of dodge for a few days after the storm, but likely, you will be staying put. Although exact prediction of a tornado is impossible, there are ways to be aware of the possibility. Environment Canada is responsible for Canada's tornado warning system and will issue warnings through radio, television, it's website, and phone lines. An NOAA weather radio should also issue warnings and watches. Here are a few warning signs of possible tornado strikes...

  • Severe thunderstorms, with frequent thunder and lightning
  • An extremely dark sky, sometimes highlighted by green or yellow clouds
  • A rumbling sound or a whistling sound.
  • A funnel cloud at the rear base of a thundercloud, often behind a curtain of heavy rain or hail.
During severe thunderstorms, watch for clouds moving in a circular pattern. If you see any signs of a tornado approaching or have been notified of a tornado in your area, take the folowing precautions...

  • Take shelter in a basement or ground floor interior room. Ideally a room with no exterior walls, windows or doors.
  • If such a room is not available to you, take cover under a solid object such as a heavy table or desk.
  • if you are not at home, always take shelter in an interior room or hallway, on the ground floor, and stay away from windows and doors.
  • When outdoors, your main concern is flying debris. Keep low to the ground or hide out in a ditch. Cover your head and be aware of possible flash flooding. Do not stay in your car or chase the storm if you actually see a tornado, rather, take cover as soon as possible. Try to look for solid structures to take cover in.
As always, your emergency preparations are key. Let's face it, your local grocery store may not even be there anymore let alone being closed or out of supplies. Water and food for three days, as well as alternative cooking, heating, and lighting gear are essential. Kits for the home and car are easy to assemble and need not take up too much room in a closet or car trunk. Don't forget a good supply of first aid supplies and your other basic equipment.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Water: Prepping Steps in the Right Direction

I like the layered approach to prepping - some people call this the one-is-none/two-is-one/three-is-two principle.  If you've never heard the saying before it means that having a backup to the backup is a good way to go because sometimes your first and most obvious choice gets broken, doesn't work out, runs out of gas or you can't find it when you need it so it's on to Plan B or C.  It works for just about anything.

For example: Water.  We all expect that clean and purified water will just pour out of every tap whenever we want it. Most of the time this is true however one camping trip showed me that depending completely on someone else wasn't very wise.  About ten years ago we were camping in a provincial park on a busy Thanksgiving weekend and woke up Monday morning to no water.  This wasn't a simple problem that would soon be fixed - there was absolutely NO water because the beautiful weekend had brought scores of visitors to the park and basically they had run the water reservoir dry.  It wasn't coming back on.  No tea.  No shower.  No way to wash your hands. Not a nice wakeup call.  Anita-The-Calm turned into Anita-the-NOT-VERY-HAPPY-CAMPER!  Of course in hindsight the solution was obvious - fill up the large camping containers as soon as they were empty, have a water filter in the camping equipment and have bottled water on hand.  You can bet THAT situation never happened with the same results again!   Did you notice that was THREE ways to deal with the problem? 

I also remember when we first were married and living in a town-house.  We were informed that because the neighbour needed to do some plumbing the water would be turned off the next morning.  I didn't believe them!  Why wouldn't they have installed individual shut-offs?  I was sure they were mistaken.   I WAS the one mistaken!  Half way through my shower the next morning they shut off the water and being young and foolish I hadn't filled any containers either. 

The other NO-WATER story I've shared in an earlier post.  You can find it here:  Power Outage. The power went out for 2 days soon after we moved to the farm and we found out the hard way that with no electricity we also had no well pump or sump pump which meant too much water in the wrong place - namely my basement floor - and none coming out of the tap!

These are just a few examples from my own life - can you think of any in yours?

My shelf in the basement doesn't have quite as many bottles on it as on the rack in this picture but you can bet we are stocked up on large jugs.

We also have a collection of old juice and water bottles that we refill with tap water.  Those bottles are mostly used for flushing the toilet which of course ALSO doesn't work without water.

The water gets rotated out regularly to water plants or poured through our Berkey filter and used as drinking water.  We use our Berkey daily because we get our water from a well.  It doesn't require electricity and the ceramic filters are washable and do not need replacing for a very long time.  We love our Berkey - it takes all the stress out of wondering if last nights big rain storm overwhelmed the well and contaminated the water with the run-off . has this to say about their water purification system.

Berkey water filters provide the ultimate in water bourne contamination removal. Berkey is used worldwide and sets the international standard for water filters used in clean or hostile filtration environments. Able to utilize almost any outside natural source and transform it to the best tasting, purest drinking water possible, using a natural method without the use of chemicals or complicated processes.
The Berkey water filter system is so powerful it is Classified as a purifier, this classification shows that Berkey far exceeds the abilities of the standard water filter. The portable Berkey can be used to filter non-potable or unhealthy water in situations where electricity and pressure are not available. For normal everyday water filtering applications from your faucet or for challenging filtration environments like wells, rivers and lakes, Berkey is the most flexible and adaptable filtering system available. Berkey water costs just 1.7 cents per gallon to produce, the cleanable replacement cartridge provides an economical, reliable and powerful long term solution to poor water quality issues that cannot be equaled. Our most popular model, the Big Berkey has a long standing reputation for quality and service, this reputation is the reason we are trusted around the world by numerous international relief organizations to provide clean emergency drinking water to workers and citizens during times of crisis or natural disaster.

That's already three ways we deal with water on a daily basis and in an emergency at our home.  We could also use the Berkey with water from a rain barrel or the cistern but it would be a really good idea to pre-filter the water to remove debris by at least using some coffee filters.  Some people go as far as building elaborate sand filters which are pretty cool and would make a great project.  Here's a YouTube video that gives a simple explanation and you can find many more with a Google search.

If you are in a desperate situation boiling the water will kill micro-organisms - to be on the safe side allow the water to boil rapidly for 1 minute - but it won't do anything about chemical residue so be careful where you find your water.  Since I am not a scientist nor  a mathematician I will bow to someone with more mathematical skills than I when it comes to purifying water with bleach and other chemicals.

Other sources of water in a home are the hot water tank and even the toilet tank - if we're drinking water out of the toilet tank we have big problems indeed!

If ONE-IS-NONE what's your two and three?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Canning Dried Beans for Food Storage

Are you putting your food storage and your skills to work?  Most people have dried beans stored because IT-WAS-ON-A-LIST and NEVER eat them.  Here's what to do with those beans.

We love beans in our home but they are not exactly "fast food".  Canning solves that problem and makes a bean taco night or bean soup night easy-peasy and super fast.

I've had some kidney beans in storage for awhile and was in the mood to do some canning so I made Spicy Kidney Beans.  

This recipe works the same for almost all large dry beans - lentils need not apply as they will be really mushy if you soak them this long.   

First wash and sort your beans - pick out the broken ones and the random lima beans that get in there somehow.  Then cover them with water for 15-18 hours.  I rinse them several times and cover with fresh water whenever I walk back into the kitchen and think about it - three times is plenty but you don't HAVE to do it.  

The more soaking and rinsing the less gas-producing the finished product will be. There are recipes on the net that advocate THE EASY WAY to can dried beans is by adding them dry to the canning jar and processing them so they cook in the jar - see sentence above about gas-production!  

One other reason that THE EASY WAY wasn't such a grand idea became abundantly clear when I rinsed some dry white beans this week - I thought they were awfully dirty until I realised that those black specks were dead bugs - probably weevils that came in with the beans.  I'm glad they were stored in mason jars that were vacuumed-sealed with the lid attachment.  I should have frozen the beans for a week before I stored them.   Yuck - not the kind of extra protein I was hoping for!  I let those ones soak and fed a bunch to the chickens but they didn't seem too crazy about them either!

Back to the kidney beans - that DIDN'T have bugs - In a large stock pot cover the beans with fresh water and boil for 30 minutes. 

My faithful Presto 
A 7 quart kettle.

Into each washed clean quart jar add 1tsp. of pickling salt, 1 tsp. of dehydrated garlic chunks or fresh garlic, 1/4 tsp. of black pepper and 1/4 tsp. of chilli powder.  Add hot beans leaving 1 inch of head space.  Cover with boiling water - that's where the kettle comes in!  Cover with hot lids and rings and process in a PRESSURE CANNER for 90 minutes at 10lbs pressure (your pressure may vary if you live at a different altitude - so check first!)

After allowing your canner to de-pressurize remove jars and let cool for 12 hours or more without disturbing them.  I use a large cookie rack with a tea towel on top and put them out of the way on the counter.

We have hard water so adding a little vinegar to the canner will help to alleviate some of the hard water stains on the jars but sometimes they still come out looking cloudy.  After the 12 hours is up I spray the jars with a mixture of vinegar and water, remove the rings and wipe the jars to remove the stains and any bean-gunk.  

I store my jars without the rings and use a large Sharpie marker to write directly on the lids.  I don't re-use my lids for canning but they can be re-used for storing dry items.

Now you know what to do with all those beans.  The spices in this recipe can be adjusted to your taste and used in bean soup, bean tacos, bean salads or anywhere you need protein and a bit of kick.