« February 2020 | Main | April 2020 »

It's Just How I'm Wired (Preparedness Introduction)


A food storage corner. 

Gentle snow fell earlier in the week, which provided a welcome brightening to the landscape as we near the end of March and mud rivals snow. I am sipping a potent infusion of herbs and I just finished potting up thirty five elderberry cuttings that have been rooting for a couple of months now. Nestled in here at home, in the far reaches of northeastern Vermont, I’d hardly know the world was on fire without messaging from the outside. We are collecting and boiling sap, sowing seeds, cooking up a storm, and going about the tasks of one season giving way to the next. 

But the world is out there. My husband’s work continues as the state deems his profession essential, though his office is notably pared down while still complying with various federal laws and upholding constitutional duties. 

My daughter is home indefinitely, and right now I am trying not to think too much about my perceived injustice of the global senior class of colleges and universities, and how all of the next steps these young adults should be planning for are on hold. Commencements cancelled. Selfishly, I am enjoying having my adult daughter home for a while; all indications pointed toward her never living at home again so this is my silver lining. Whether or not it is hers is up for debate. 

Before the proverbial SHTF, I mentioned embarking on a preparedness series here on this blog. I am still going to do that, but it feels a little tricky seeing as we are now in it and talking about getting prepared in the midst of crisis is the antithesis of being prepared. Still, just as the best time to plant a tree was ten years ago and the second best time to plant a tree is today, we will proceed. 


Cookbooks that I reach for during times of frugality.  

I guess the best place to start is to share how and why I go about being prepared. It is a question one of you recently asked so it will be good to get that answered. First, I must dispel any romantic doomsday prepper notions you may have of me. We are not sitting in a bunker with two years worth of freeze dried food, nor do we own gas masks or have a bug-out location. And while it feels a little unwise to state the exact timeframe we have of supplies, I will share that I have not gone to the store to buy a single roll of toilet paper or bottle of rubbing alcohol during this crisis. We seem to have a better proportionate supply of N95 masks for our little family than the government and most hospitals have prepared for themselves. We carry get-home bags in our vehicles. We grow and wild harvest a substantial amount of our own food, and consider both to be a critical part of our longterm food security plan. As for a bug-out location, after twenty five years of trying to make it happen, we now live at what most would consider a bug-out location. To us it is just home, but it happens to be tucked away pretty far out there, so really, there is no other place in much of the northeast that is more remote than this. It is not fancy and it is woefully lacking in farm infrastructure, but there is plenty of land to sustain our needs and with careful stewardship on our part, the needs of future generations. 

For reasons that aren't always clear to me, this is just what I’m into. Some people like to travel and have gorgeous home interiors or swimming pools or nice cars or weekly restaurant outings. Some of us like to grow food and harvest firewood and stay home and try to be ready for the unknown. In times of plenty people look at me and wonder why the heck we work so dang hard (in the past I’ve been told “you do know the grocery store is two miles down the road”); in times of want we are asked a hundred questions and complimented for our “skills” (I assure you my skillset is nowhere near that of the folks I look up to and admire). 

Our preparedness plan is not perfect. My general approach is to plan for things I've already experienced, plus a bit more (my imagination has no trouble coming up with the "bit more" part). I am familiar with things like extended power outages, unemployment, underemployment, sudden deaths in the family, and medical challenges. Preparing for those sort of things are a no-brainer for me. Like all of you, this time we are currently living through is teaching us where our gaps are. Where we need to improve things. We have a mortgage and would rather not. My husband’s job is four hours away and he is not (yet) able to #stayhome. And, if it comes to that, as a self-employed professional he does not have the option of receiving unemployment benefits should the government decide to shut him down (even though we both heartily pay into unemployment as small business owners). I’d love to have next year’s firewood already split and stacked, and be working on wood for 2022 right now. We lack animal fencing and now with supply chains interrupted, stores closing, and our own resources reprioritized, we are not sure how far we’ll get on that this spring. So many lessons learned! 

We all have areas to grow in our preparedness, depending on our personal situations. Even though my family is in decent shape in many ways, this has been (and will continue to be) a great learning experience and I’m already plotting next level readiness for us. 

Provisionally speaking, I like to feel secure. Not because I think having a stocked pantry is some kind of apocalyptic panacea, but because if I’m prepared to the best of my ability, I feel like I’ve tried. Like I’ve done my part as a human and as a mother. However the chips fall after that is not in my control, but leading up to it, if my actions were prudent, more often than not they produce the desired fruit during hard times. 


Helpful food preservation books.

I think we'll consider this my introductory post on the topic. Some free flowing thoughts that set the groundwork, but maybe do not add up to much of a takeaway. When I was recently asked why I am like this, I didn’t have a clear answer to offer other than I’ve been through various hard times and life experiences that have formed who I am today. I don’t think many of the hardships I’ve lived through are terribly different from those most people experience, so why I have arrived at a place of prioritizing a reasonable degree of preparedness is a bit of a mystery to me. In addition to life experiences, I have always seen our system as one on the brink of disaster, an unsustainable model of consumption that is void of individual sovereignty and truly useful personal skills and abilities. We are a people of deep abiding faith in fragile systems that feel more like smoke and mirrors than impenetrable institutions. It’s always seemed like a ticking time bomb and none of what is currently happening feels surprising. Not so much with the virus itself, but with the lack of overall preparedness at the government level. Two weeks in and many hospitals are out of masks? So, so fragile. I don’t share these thoughts with a tone of pessimism; it’s just me being straightforward and honest about the way things appear to me. 

As for my own role models in putting by for a rainy day, frugality, and making do, like most women I look to my grandmothers. There are such stark differences between my two grandmothers - both raised during the Great Depression - that I think it is worth sharing. 

My paternal grandmother grew up in northern Maine on a homestead of skilled subsistence hunting and fishing, across town from her grandparents' farm. It was a true working family farm that produced all of the family’s meat, vegetables, dairy, eggs, fruit, wheat, cooking fats, maple syrup, mushrooms, water, compost, and heating fuel (firewood). About all they needed to buy in was coffee and salt. As a result, they never went hungry. Sure, everyone practiced restrained and careful rationing back then as a matter of everyday good stewardship, but the food shortages and dire circumstances of the times did not reach their farm in the way my maternal grandmother experienced as a young girl in Brooklyn, New York, during the same time. For her, store shelves were bare, money was scare, bellies were not filled. As a result, my grandmothers were very different women as adults. One would think my paternal grandmother, with all of that rural farm life experience, would be the one practicing great thrift as a grown woman, but in fact her kitchen overflowed with abundance to the point that we deemed Memere’s oven the “magic oven”, producing roasts and potatoes and baked goods in non-stop succession, late into the night at any family gathering. Food just kept coming! There was an air of plenty that I can only imagine existed because she had not known the degree of hardship my city dwelling grandmother had known. In Mema’s kitchen, there was always just enough food prepared. Careful steps were taken. She was generous and loving and would give us anything we asked for, but using it all up and not wasting a bite was understood. She saved bread bags and buttons and empty pill bottles. She walked instead of driving whenever she could. She took pride in her “fake” jewelry that held the same sparkle as the pricier pieces. On paper, I am guessing both sets of grandparents were of the same financial status, perhaps my Brooklyn-born maternal grandparents were even a little better off, but the stark differences in general living can only be attributed to their vastly different upbringings during the Great Depression. 

My parents loved to tell the story of the first time Dad went to Mom’s house for dinner when they were dating. Mema was not the cook that Memere was, but she made up for it by putting everything into pretty serving dishes (no pans or condiment bottles on the table!). There was a dainty serving dish of mashed potatoes and when passed to my father, he took all that was in the dish, assuming there was more in the kitchen, as was always the case in his own home. Not in Mema’s house. Everything had been carefully portioned out with just enough in mind. We laughed every time they told us that story. I always loved hearing it as a kid, and it was a good ice breaker for boys my sister and I brought home to dinner at our house. I think for the rest of the years she was alive, my father knew to eat a sandwich before going to dinner at Mema’s house. As for me, some might think it is my hunting/fishing/farming paternal roots that formed much of the way I approach preparedness, and I suppose by osmosis that is partially true, but it was the lasting effect the Great Depression had on my Brooklyn-raised maternal grandmother that I consciously observed and filed away. 

About fifteen years ago I was in the habit of asking elders in my sphere about their experiences during the Depression. Unequivocally, those that lived in the city during that time told endless stories of the trials their families faced, while those who lived on farms in the country hardly noticed a thing. These divided experiences were consistent and enlightening for me. I’d never given it much thought really, the vastly different experiences people might have based not on financial means, but in geographic location and access to natural resources. In many cases, the folks living in the city had greater income than the “poor” farmers, yet they went without and the farmers did not. At this point in my life it makes sense to me that these two types of people would have such experiences, but at the time I was still forming my view on these things. It should be noted, that all of the people I spoke to were children during that time, I’m sure plenty of adult farmers had their concerns, but it seems dinner still made it to the table.


Well, things certainly went in a direction I had not intended, but these are my random introductory thoughts on preparedness. Practical experience, stories and people that left an impression on me, and a healthy dose of intuition all add up to why I am the way I am. Though my husband would tell you it’s just how I’m wired. Maybe it is as simple as that. In any event, I look forward to sharing what I can with you, in a very non-expert but hopefully helpful way. 

In the meantime, if there is anything specific you would like me to address, please say the word and I will do my best. 

At Home Cold & Flu Kit


A while back I shared a few thoughts on Instagram about what we have in our at-home cold and flu kit. I use the word “kit” because I tend to keep this sort of thing grouped together; this way if a family member falls ill, another family member has easy access to all the goods to care for the infirmed without needing to think much about it. Everything, including instructions, is in one spot. 

This is not the type of kit that contains next level items such as masks, gloves, bleach, etc. We do stock things like that that in our home, but this specific kit is a simple all purpose stockpile for the average cold or flu. 

The truth is, this isn’t something I have a whole lot of experience with as we don’t see full-blown illness in our house every year, and for small bouts of sickness we just push our way through with little intervention. I’ve been with my husband for nearly thirty years and I do not recall him ever having the flu; I’ve had the flu once in my adult life (Swine/H1N1 in 2009), and I believe Emily has had the flu once. We’ve seen long-lasting colds and various flu-like viral infections, but true flu is not common for us. The last time I’ve had a lingering cold was 2013, and Adam had a 36 hour cold last winter that we were able to knock out quickly. Our daughter, like most younger people, has logged more hours in the sickbed than the adults in the household as her developing immune system muscled its way through crud. I remember in her teenage years, like clockwork, she’d pick up something in her social circles every January/February that lasted a couple of weeks. She is twenty-two now and the last few years - even while living at a large university and in urban centers around the world - she has seen very little illness. Those pesky strep throats and colds of her youth finally developed her immunity to the point of better resilience.

All this to say, please take this overview as more of what our family is prepared to do rather than what we have done with great frequency. 


What I am about to share includes over the counter remedies as well as herbal, nutritional, and homeopathic options. My approach is a little unique in that I stock it all. You’re not going to lose your hippie card if you keep NyQuil in the house. Maybe you never reach for it, but knowing it is there in case you need to pull out the big guns makes sense. Especially in times when store shelves might be low or empty. If you think you’re going to need it, stock up now. I’ve taken over the counter meds (beyond ibuprofen) three times in my adult life, and each time had a terrible reaction (they were three different kinds, I was not attempting the same med multiple times). Still, others in my family do not react as sensitively, and even for me, they could still have their place. 

In this post I will not be providing sources or research to support why we use certain things, I am just telling you what we use for particular reasons. Let this be a good starting point for you to do your own research into specific remedies.

Before we continue to the cold and flu kit breakdown, I’ll share briefly about the importance of first line of defense. The words “immune booster” are tossed around a lot these days, but I’m not sure people always understand exactly what is meant by boosting and strengthening your immune system. Strong immunity is touted as a means of prevention, and it is true that robust immunity can prevent an infection from taking hold, but the importance of immunity and overall strong health goes beyond prevention, it is critical for standing a chance at decreasing length and severity if indeed you succumb to illness. Build your physical and emotional health now so that you are better able to withstand any kind of emergency, including illness. I know that can seem harsh, because everyone has challenges that feel beyond our control, but focusing on the health aspects we can control will be of tremendous benefit. 

I’ve always been into having little systems to support wellness. Nothing crazy or even involving money or large amounts of time, just a short recipe of actions that I can take day after day to feel my best. Currently, like many of you, the virus that has everyone’s attention has mine, too. I do not feel panicked, just paying attention and doing what I can on the front end. I guess that would be my greatest point of encouragement to you; there is a lot of anxiety in the air right now and fear does nothing to support good outcomes. Good health and reasonable preparedness however, that is a helpful combination. I’ve always felt an instinctual pull to protect my family in all the tender, nurturing, healing ways, and now is no different. To do that, I need to take really good care of myself, first. 



Current Personal Wellness Recipe

(Please do not critique or judge this vulnerable sharing, I am only doing so to offer an example in case some of you might like to develop your own unique recipe for this current time in your life. This is something I revisit and recreate as needed, a couple times a year at least. It is always evolving which is a good thing.)

  • Good Health - for me that means deep nutrition, low sugar/carbohydrate (including honey and maple syrup), a full night sleep every night, daily exercise (nothing fancy, lately it’s been a 30 minute walk and 15 minutes or so with weights, some yoga). Just looking to get my heart muscle pumping and resistance/stretching on other muscle groups in the body. 
  • Vitamins - I follow a modest vitamin regimen which is new to me. I figure at close to fifty years old, why not. 
  • Intermittent Fasting - this is something I’ve done on and off as inclined for about twenty years; I just learned it had a name and was something other people did within the last few years. It feels amazing for my body, I find it to be incredibly stabilizing for blood sugar, and sharpens my mental clarity remarkably.  
  • Hydration - at least two quarts daily of clean water and nourishing herbal infusions. 
  • Limited Media - reserving any media time for things that make me feel relaxed and hopeful. 
  • Tending Relationships - offering more kindness than is expected. Always a work in progress. 
  • Herbal Studies - a place of joy, intrigue, connection, and mental exercise. I’ve been a student for over thirty years with no plans of stopping. 
  • Tending Home - keeping things tidy, well-stocked, and organized now when things are good, so that it can function well for us in times of need. 

It might not read as one would expect a wellness regimen to read, but there you have it. A practical list of things I can do that are actually helpful to me and my family. 



With all the preventative talk out of the way, let's dig into what we have in place for when someone does fall ill. 


Our Setup for Patient Care

I keep our cold and flu kit in one manageable tote with laminated instruction sheets (can be cleaned). It is helpful to have your family protocol written up and tucked in here so that if the person who created the kit is the one needing care, others can step in and tend to them with ease. 

What do I mean by family protocol? It is the go-to regimen in your home when someone is sick. In my house as a child, if you were sick you always got the recliner. Best seat in the house! Every family has their own sickbed set up. Now that I am the adult in my own household, I like to keep the patient in a central spot so I can keep an eye on them. Of course, you might make arrangements in a more secluded spot if dealing with someone highly contagious or have many family members to protect. Wherever your patient is resting, provide comfort and calm. I like to have multiple clean flat sheets on hand, they can be used to cover the couch and make a comfy bed with added quilts and pillows. Flat sheets are great because they can be changed easily and often, especially when the patient is feverish and sweating a lot. It feels so nice to have fresh bedding at least once a day when sick. 

Beside the sickbed, place a small table that can easily be reached within arm’s length from a prone position. If a table is too far away, a dining chair or a small child's chair scooted up close are great. Keep drinks fresh, tissues plentiful, lozenges stocked, a trash can below, a small bell for them to ring if help is needed, and any other supplies the person might need. Just keep the area fresh and tidy, this truly does a lot for their spirits. Maybe a couple of flowers in summer or a sprig of evergreen in winter. It is also a nice time to surprise a loved one with a couple magazines of their interest. 

When you are healthy is the time to make a batch of garlicky chicken soup to stock the freezer with. I always have hot ginger lemonade supplies on hand (recipe provided), and real ginger ale. 

No matter what your setup looks like, just think about it now so it is not difficult to implement when needed.  Maybe you would like to keep some popsicles in the freezer. Growing up, when my mom was under the weather and recovered enough to feel like eating, her first meal was always rice and peas. I suppose she thought it was filling but gentle, tasty but also a little plain. Discover what foods your family likes when sick and recovering (most people have a short list of go-to things), and try to stock those. 



I am including the printouts that I have laminated in our kits. These are written specifically for our family, and by no means should be considered as instruction for yours. I just wanted to share how I manage this in case it will help as you formulate your own plan. These printouts are among the most important things in our kit, and would recommend you develop something similar for your family. Especially if you have family members with particular medical needs (pharmaceutical contraindications, etc.). It is handy to have a quick-reference guide that is tried and true for your household. One thing that did not make it to my printouts is a thermometer, but we do keep one in the kit. 

And remember, there is no shame in deciding to intervene beyond natural remedies. As mentioned, I've taken over the counter medication three times in my adult life and reacted terribly each time, but I'd take them again if I felt it was the thing that would prevent symptoms from settling in deep, developing into pneumonia.


(Click on the titles below for access.) 


Cold & Flu Care - Guidelines, recipes, and notes to assist the caregiver. 


Remedy Protocol - A full list of what is contained in our kit. This is not a list of what you should have in your kit, just what we choose to stock. There are things we have in house that are not stored in the kit, but always on hand. Those include: mullein leaf (herbal infusions for lung support), other medicinal herbs as symptoms warrant, real ginger ale, ingredients for hot ginger lemonade, chicken soup in the freezer, and I’m sure some other things that I am forgetting. 


That is about it. The kit is always ready to go, stored in our linen closet and taken out for inventory and refreshment once a year. I do not worry much about expiration dates on any of the OTC meds in this kit (other types of meds are more vulnerable to shelf life). The U.S. Military has conducted many studies on the stockpiles of medications our government keeps on hand and has discovered that the majority of medicines do not lose efficacy for several years post expiration. Things like insulin are highly perishable, and powdered antibiotics lose efficacy at a faster rate, but for the most part, there is no reason to toss the majority of meds immediately after expiration, or even a few years post expiration. Again, it's one of those things to do your own research on and come to your own conclusions based on your needs. 

One more note: I made a duplicate kit to send to my daughter as a way to set her up while she is away at college. Something to think about if you have college kids living away from home. 

This feels like a personal thing to share because the internet is filled with opinions, criticism, and “you should” comments. This post is in the spirit of community sharing, and I hope some of you find it to be helpful. I know many folks have a lot on their minds these days regarding symptom management of a particularly dominant virus; maybe this will help someone feel empowered rather than afraid. That would be wonderful.