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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ready For: Cloth TP?

We used cloth diapers for our youngest daughter and were using wash cloths and warm water many times a day for her wipes already. Back in June of 2007, after reading a few blogs from households using cloth wipes, I decided it just made sense to make the switch. We were already washing cloth diapers and wipes, what are a few more wipes? It really doesn't add to the laundry as much as you might think.

In a household full of girls (3 age 8 and under at the time we switched), this makes economical sense. Teaching little girls not to use too much toilet paper has been an ongoing issue in our house. There would be days that it seemed like I was replacing a roll a day in one bathroom or the other. Not to mention how much better it is for your septic system not to have all that paper flushed into it. Paper products like toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, and tissues just seemed to fly out the door at our house. Such a waste - something only used for a few seconds - so we switched all of them to their cloth alternatives. The girls love the switch and I have to say that it is way more comfortable to use the cloth wipes than the paper.

And read this from today's news: Toilet Paper Worse on the Environment than Hummers.

So here's how we do it. We have 2.5 baths in our house (3 toilets). I purchased enough of the flannel wipes to have about 15 or so in each bathroom. Yes, you can make your own from old flannel sheets or flannel shirts for even more frugality, but with my husband gone on active duty at the time and 3 youngsters I just didn't have the time at that moment for sewing. The cost of those I purchased was in no way excessive. In the future, I'll be delving into my husbands worn flannel shirts, old T-shirts and our flannel sheets for sure - recycling at its finest!

You could even use washcloths, which is what we did for a week before our wipes came in the mail. If you are squeamish about using washcloths that might later be used to wash your face, just pick a different color or style and designate them as your cloth wipes. The washcloths aren't as soft as the flannel wipes though.

We ordered 2 different cloth wipes. From Green Mountain Diapers, I ordered their economy flannel wipes. These are 8x8 white or unbleached flannel wipes with serged edges in pink, blue or yellow. They shrank to about 6x6 after washing which is a perfect size. These are the ones we use the most for day to day general wiping for #1 jobs. A great value. These have held up exceptionally well - I have yet to have any fray to the point of discard since starting to use them in June. You can also check these at SoftClothBunz which are very similar.

I also ordered some of the wipes from Wallypop. Hers are flannel on one side and terry cloth on the other and come in great fabric patterns. We ordered the "fun and funky" for the girls and the "understated and neutral variety pack" for me. These are thicker then the economy flannel wipes and the ones I use most for the baby and for the girls for #2 jobs. Another great value from a working at home mom. These have held up very well with constant use.

Instead of using a diaper pail liner, which I found was way too big for holding the wipes, I purchased the draw-string lingerie-style washing bags. I found these little gems at Walgreens and there are 4 of the bags for less than $4. I put one bag on each toilet paper roll holder. We just drop the cloth wipe into the little bag after use.

For #1 we just dab and then put the wipe into the bag. For #2, I decided instead of keeping a wipes warmer going all the time, to invest in the Kissaluvs Diaper Lotion Potion Concentrate. I also purchased this from Green Mountain Diapers (check link and scroll down the page a little). I have a spray bottle of this mixed up that can be lightly sprayed onto the wipe as needed. The recipe is 1-2 teaspoons to 1/2 cup of witch hazel. Easy as pie. The Diaper Lotion Concentrate is made of jojoba oil, chamomile, lavender and tea tree oil. It smells heavenly and the tea tree oil is antiseptic - for anyone worried about smell or germs before getting the wipes into the wash.

I can then toss the whole little bag into the wash, or I can empty the bag into the wash as needed. I usually keep a soak in the washing machine during the day for the diapers. Right now I use a little of the oxy-wash and a little of our Shaklee laundry detergent in the soak load. At the end of each day or each morning, whichever works out, I just run the load through on my extra-small cycle in warm water. I find that by doing this very small load daily or every other day, I can quickly wash the wipes without having to fill the whole machine. I have an electric hot water heater, so we try to eliminate as much hot water washing as possible, because this is what seems to really run up our electric bill. By selecting the extra small load cycle on my washer, I use just the minimum amount of water needed to get the wipes clean and sanitary. We dry them on the economy dry setting in my dryer or on the drying rack.

So, what are you waiting for? Step outside your comfort zone a little and give it a try. You'll be glad you did! I initially told the girls we'd give it a try for a week and then make a decision. There's no looking back on this one now! Oh, and I do still keep a few rolls of regular toilet paper for guests to use!

From a prepping standpoint, keeping some flannel wipes on hand or in your 72-hour kit is much easier to store than a whole warehouse full of toilet paper!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tire Gardening

We have TERRIBLE soil in West Tennessee - hard, dry and not very hospitable to growing your garden veggies without a lot of prep work. Because of this, many people have turned to raised bed gardening or square foot gardening. These methods are great, but there can be quite an expense involved if you decide to make your raised beds out of wood (which will eventually rot) or out of concrete block / stone.

This year we are going to embark on a new technique - Tire Gardening. Similar to container gardening, but hospitable to a greater variety of vegetable plants because you can increase the depth of your tire garden spot just by adding an additional tire. This method is also great for those who have little gardening space, because you can tire garden on your patio if you want - no large expanses of yard are required.

This method involves no digging, is weed resistant, bug resistant, holds heat, is easy to water and employs the methods of square foot gardening that we are very familiar with.

Not to mention, used tires by the truckload are usually available free of charge - the tire change businesses actually have to PAY to have the used tires removed. Most places now even charge a tire disposal fee for discarding your old tires whenever you buy new ones.

We are getting our first tires this weekend and will get them in place so that we can put out our potato plants next week. We'll keep you updated here along the way - sharing our triumphs and any failures.

In the meantime, here are some great places you can look to read more about this method of gardening:

Backwoods Home: A New Use For Old Tires

How To Recycle Old Tires Into Garden Planters - you can use your tires as they are when you receive them, or you can turn them into works of art. This site even has links for many more things you can make with recycled tires.

Here are some FLICKR photos of tire gardening you might want to review: Tire Gardening Photos

Let me know what you think! Are you going to try this? Have you gardened using tires before? Share your thoughts - we'd love to know how it has worked for you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

GOA Flash: Take Action!

Two pro-gun amendments are being offered in the Senate - addressing the "microstamping" issue and national conceal-carry reciprocity. Harry Reid is working hard to shut them completely down using a "cloture" motion to say they are out of order, cut off debate and shut the amendments down.

Voting on this "cloture" motion could come today, but most definitely by tomorrow (27Feb09).

TIME TO get thyself to the Gun Owners of America website by clicking the link in blue, read all about it and take action calling, email and faxing your representatives.

Yes, those standard form letters we seem to get in response are annoying and can be discouraging. But it is our right and DUTY as Americans to let our chosen leaders know where we stand on the issues that are important to us.

Get busy!

Hay Box Cooking

If that solar oven of your dreams isn't in your budget, here is a how to about Hay Box Cooking you might want to check out:

Instructables: Hay Box Cooker

Here's another option: The Green Pail Retained Heat Cooker on a YouTube video

I'd be interested in hearing any comments from those of you out there who might have tried either of these methods before!

Low Income Prepping

Taking a moment to share this post from SurvivalBlog.com - about how they started preparing while living on a very low income.

Perspectives on Prepping On A Very Low Income

Let me know your thoughts about this or share your similar experience!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Handgun Bills Advance

A House subcommittee approved a bill today with several ramifications for handgun owners. This bill will now advance for a full review by the House Judiciary Committee, possibly as soon as next week. What the Subcommittee decided:

Approved:

~ Allowing those with carry permits to take their guns into state parks, but delayed for one week a measure allowing carry in city and county-owned parks and ball fields.
~ Allowing those with carry permits to take their guns into establishments that serve alcohol until 11 PM and only if they are not drinking alcohol.
~ Making permit records of individuals confidential.
~ Criminalizing public reporting of the records by making disclosure a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2500.
~ Removed the requirement that gun dealers take a thumbprint of firearms purchasers

TN Reaffirms Sovereignty

Introducted 18 February 2009, Tennessee joins other states that have reaffirmed their sovereignty.

Here is the link to the TN Sovereignty Resolution

Here is the link to a listing of states that have reaffirmed Sovereignty so far: Tenth Amendment Center

Video Resources

There are some great video resources on YouTube about preparedness planning and that encompass a wide range of skill sets - from gardening to hunting to water purification and even actual disaster experiences the author has lived through. You can check out a complete index of the videos here:

YouTube - SurvivalistBoard's Channel - over 300 videos full of great skill information.

Checking Facts

One thing that many people seem to fail to do these days is think for themselves about the "big picture". We don't do the research. We don't connect the dots. We don't understand or try to learn how all the global economies are intertwined and how it can impact our recovery.

We are busy. Pursuing our own agendas - trying to get ahead and have more. It's confusing sometimes - complicated. So, we tend to skim the headlines, listen to the local or national news in the background and let the little snippets infiltrate us, thinking we then have as much of the story as we need to know.

With economic times such as they are right now, it would pay for more of us to try to understand how the systems interact. To re-visit what our country is supposed to be about - to stand for. To look at our history and know that we are on a slippery-slope right now by supporting such a "victim" mentality throughout our society; by assuming that "someone" will come to our rescue.

So I encourage you today to do your homework. Make an effort to understand how things interact across the globe. Draw your own conclusions, not the conclusions the mainstream media wants you to believe. Check the facts through your own resources and don't take everything on face value. Read and get the facts - something the House and Congress didn't even do before passing the stimulus bill.

Here's one opinion on the facts as they were presented last night from the President. Again, read, do your own checking and form your own opinions.

Fact Check: Obama's Words On Home Aid Ring Hollow

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Misleading

It is headlines like these:

"Bernanke: Recession May End This Year"

that truly deceive people and are a detriment to our ability to reach out and show people the need to be prepared for emergencies of any sort. This article is full of double-talk and speculation and does nothing except try to encourage the average American to continue on with their day-to-day without any thought for the future. Most people who read the headlines and skim the news are left with a false sense of security at a time when we can least afford for this to happen.

Read and draw your own conclusions. I for one will continue with my preparedness efforts. Whatever emergency may befall - big or small - I would like to be prepared - it is another way of securing the future of my family.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Trillion Dollar Analogy

What does a TRILLION dollars look like? It is a number too large for most people to even understand - so they just don't try to.

From the great state of Texas, I give you a link to a Trillion dollar analogy. No need to try to re-write something good that is already written - take a read for yourself, then come back and let me know what you think. Did it make anything clearer for you? Do you understand more or less? Do you think it makes a difference in your day to day life?

The Hijacking of America

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Federal Reserve Minutes from 2/18

Policymakers project high unemployment through 2011, vow aggressive action:

Federal Open Market Committee Minutes
- January 2009

Scroll about half way down to start reading the staff reviews, staff projections, meeting participants views and policy action to get sense of how they are all looking at our economic recovery - it is not at all comforting to realize that those supposed to be "in the know" seem relatively unsure about most things and between the lines it appears to me that they themselves are relatively uncertain that the stimulus will really be a stimulus at all:

An excerpt: "Participants were, however, quite uncertain about the outlook. All but a few saw the risks to growth as tilted to the downside; in light of financial stresses and tight credit conditions, they saw a significant risk that the economic recovery would be both delayed and initially quite weak. In particular, most participants saw the renewed deterioration in the banking sector's financial condition as posing a significant downside risk to the economic outlook absent additional initiatives to stabilize the banking system. . ."

Another excerpt: "Participants indicated they had been surprised by the speed and magnitude of the slowdown in economic growth abroad and the resulting drop in demand for U.S. exports. . ."

Another excerpt - something we all know to be true:

"Staff Review of the Economic and Financial Situation
The information reviewed at the meeting indicated a continued sharp contraction in real economic activity. Sales and starts of new homes remained on a steep downward trend, consumer spending continued its significant decline, the deterioration in business equipment investment intensified, and foreign demand weakened. Conditions in the labor market continued to deteriorate rapidly in December: Private payroll employment fell sharply, and the unemployment rate rose. Industrial production dropped more severely than in earlier months. Headline consumer prices fell in November and December, reflecting declines in consumer energy prices; core consumer prices were about flat in those months. While conditions in some financial markets showed limited improvement, extraordinary financial stresses remained apparent and credit conditions became still tighter for households and businesses. . . ."

Summary of Economic Projections
- January 2009

An excerpt:

"Participants anticipated that labor market conditions would deteriorate substantially further over the course of this year, and nearly all expected that unemployment would still be well above its longer-run sustainable rate at the end of 2011. Participants' projections for the average unemployment rate during the fourth quarter of 2009 had a central tendency of 8.5 to 8.8 percent (emphasis added), markedly higher than last December's actual unemployment rate of 7.2 percent the latest available figure at the time of the January FOMC meeting."

Another excerpt:
"In addition, some participants noted that a substantial degree of uncertainty was associated with gauging the stimulative effects of nontraditional monetary policy tools that are now being employed given that conventional policy easing was limited by the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates. Others referred to uncertainties regarding the size, composition, and effectiveness of the fiscal stimulus package--which was still under consideration at the time of the FOMC meeting--and of further measures to stabilize the banking system. . ."

HOMEWORK: Are you prepping yet????

Saturday, February 21, 2009

First Aid and Trauma Kits

We keep a well-stocked first aid kit in both of our vehicles and a small one in each bathroom of our home. These little kits have bandages, gauze, antiseptics, medical tape - the things we are all familiar with for fixing little injuries and skinned knees.

In addition to those little kits, we keep a very large first aid bag and a "trauma" kit in the house. Why do we keep these larger kits? For several reasons ~ 1) We live in an area of the country that is very prone to tornadoes in the spring, summer and fall. 2) We live very near the New Madrid fault line. 3) Every few years we have a winter ice storm that knocks out power for several days, sometimes a week or more.

We like to have these well stocked kits on hand for any of these emergency situations that might arise when it could take an extended period of time for emergency services to arrive to help us.

We look at our first aid bag as a "boo-boo" bag - one that has all the helps we might need for minor injuries that are not life threatening. All of these items are stored in a large duffel bag and kept in a bedroom closet where we could access it immediately if needed.

Our "trauma" kit has items that are needed to save a life and nothing else. We keep these items in a backpack in the same place as our large first aid bag. We keep the trauma items separate from the first aid items so that we can find them quickly without having to sort through various and sundry items that aren't critical. We also keep smaller, portable trauma kits in our cars. More about this below.

Here's how we put ours together.

FIRST AID BAG:

When we were initially putting together our large first aid bag, we had a small budget and couldn't afford to just go out and buy tons of medical supplies in one shopping trip. We made it a habit starting out to buy 2 of anything we keep around our house for general first aid or over the counter medications that we might rely on. For example, if I buy a box of bandages to put in one of our little kits, I automatically buy an extra box and it goes into the large first aid bag. If I buy a box of sudafed for our allergies, I buy an extra box and put it in our large first aid bag. This way, we don't have to try to buy everything for a bag at one time and over the course of several weeks we still end up with a great first aid bag.

Over the years, we have ended up with a fantastic bag. Our bag now has everything in it that our family could need for non-life threatening emergencies. We keep it sorted into sections of like items and we rotate items to make sure they don't expire. Now, when we buy a new box of sudafed, we take the one out of the first aid bag to use and put the new one in its place. This ensures we always have the newest items in our first aid bag just in case we need them.

We keep these items in a duffel bag so it is portable. If something like a tornado or earthquake were to happen, we could hopefully take this bag with us if we had to relocate to temporary housing.


TRAUMA BAG:

We keep our trauma bag in a backpack instead of a duffel, because it doesn't have as many items in it as our large first aid bag. It only has those items that could be essential to save a life and nothing more. This bag we didn't put together entirely ourselves, as there is an excellent one available for purchase at a very inexpensive cost - $35 - from Tactical Response located here in TN. They put their kit together to address three primary areas that are life threatening - critical blood loss, obstructed airway and tension pneumothorax. The guys who put this kit together have been to both Iraq and Afghanistan and have actually used everything in this kit to save many lives.

While many of these kits are sold for those in harms way on the battlefield or in a local police or SWAT department, we determined that they are excellent kits to have on hand in our car and in our trauma bag for a variety of possible uses from car accidents onward.

I look at it this way - if I'm involved in something like a car accident, I'd like to know that should a first responder show up to help me out, I have some great tools on hand to help them provide top-notch assistance to me. And even better, the Tactical Response kit is set up so that many of the items could be used by yourself, on yourself, if no other assistance was immediately available. No, this is not a paid advertisement, but just a product that we feel very strongly about and use ourselves. You cannot go wrong having a few of these on hand.

Friday, February 20, 2009

FLASH - Take Action

Forwarding another Take Action email from Tennessee Firearms Association.
~~~~~~~~~~start~~~~~~~~

Tennessee Firearms Association, Inc.
Legislative Action Committee

CALL YOUR PERSONAL LEGISLATOR AND URGE THEM TO SPEAK WITH THE MEMBERS OF THIS SUBCOMMITTEE

http://www.capitol.tn.gov/house/members/


STATE OF TENNESSEE

106th General Assembly

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Criminal Practice and Procedure of JUD

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 - HHR31 - 12:00 PM

Watson, Chair; Sontany, Vice-Chair;

Bass, Camper, Faulkner, Matheny


1. HB 0082 by *Shaw (*SB 0019 by *Gresham, Ford, O.)

Firearms and Ammunition - As introduced, authorizes current and retired judges who possess a handgun carry permit to carry a firearm under same circumstances and conditions as law enforcement officers and correctional officers. - Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 13.

Fiscal Summary: MINIMAL

TFA OPPOSES THIS LEGISLATION. TFA OPPOSES any legislation which has the effect of granting special privileges to civilians depending on work related criteria and/or prior service (e.g., retired officers, former military). If “current and retired” judges need to carry when they are not working as a judge, then they need to obtain a civilian permit.

2. *HB 0411 by *Pitts (SB 0383 by *Barnes)

Firearms and Ammunition - As introduced, creates Class A misdemeanor offense of attempting to buy firearm when prohibited by law from possessing firearm and attempting or selling firearm to person known to be prohibited by law from possessing firearm. - Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 13.

Fiscal Summary: Increase Local Revenue - Not Significant

Increase Local Expenditures - Not Significant

Increase State Revenue - Not Significant

Increase State Expenditures - Not Significant

TFA OPPOSES THIS LEGISLATION. It proposes to create a new crime which, according to the fiscal summary, has no apparent costs related to enforcement which means that it would not be applied. Federal law already adequately deals with purchases and attempted purchases by prohibited persons.

3. *HB 0959 by *McCord (SB 1126 by *Norris)

Handgun Permits - As introduced, makes information contained in handgun carry permit applications and renewals, information provided to agencies to investigate applicant, and records maintained relative to the permit application confidential and creates Class A fine only misdemeanor of unauthorized publication of permit information or records. - Amends TCA Section 10-7-504 and Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 13.

Fiscal Summary: Not Available

TFA SUPPORTS THIS BILL.

4. *HB 0960 by *McCord (SB 1518 by *Burchett)

Firearms and Ammunition - As introduced, authorizes person with handgun carry permit to possess firearm in local, state, or federal parks. - Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 13 and Title 70.

Fiscal Summary: Not Available

TFA SUPPORTS THIS LEGISLATION – No Restricting Amendments!

5. *HB 0961 by *McCord (SB 1519 by *Burchett)

Firearms and Ammunition - As introduced, authorizes person with handgun carry permit to possess firearm in a refuge, public hunting area, wildlife management area, or on national forest land. - Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 13 and Title 70.

Fiscal Summary: Not Available

TFA SUPPORTS THIS LEGISLATION – No Restricting Amendments!

6. *HB 0962 by *McCord (SB 1127 by *Jackson, Norris)

Firearms and Ammunition - As introduced, allows person with handgun carry permit to carry in restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages as long as such person is not consuming alcoholic beverages and such restaurant is not an age-restricted venue. - Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 17.

Fiscal Summary: Not Available

TFA SUPPORTS BILLS TO ALLOW PERMIT HOLDERS TO CARRY IN RESTAURANTS. This bill has a pending amendment, however, which will defeat this purpose by adding a “curfew” of from 9pm to 11pm on permit holders only relative to eating in such an establishment. The proposed amendment also has a restriction on “age restricted” locations such that permit holders would not be allowed in those establishments no matter what the time may be.


7. *HB 0716 by *Niceley (SB 0976 by *Faulk)

Handgun Permits - As introduced, allows any resident who has a valid handgun carry permit to possess a handgun while within the boundaries of any state park. - Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 13 and Title 70.

Fiscal Summary: Not Available

TFA HB 0960 and 0961 as having better language on a similar topic.

8. *HB 0414 by *Windle (SB 0565 by *Yager)

Correction, Dept. of - As introduced, authorizes inmate relations coordinators to carry firearms to same extent as correctional officers. - Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 13.

Fiscal Summary: Not Available

TFA neutral so long as is “on the job” only.

9. *HB 0254 by *Casada (SB 0554 by *Norris)

Firearms and Ammunition - As introduced, deletes requirement that the purchaser of a firearm give a thumbprint as part of background check process and that the TBI furnish thumbprint cards and pads to firearm dealers. - Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 13.

Fiscal Summary: Not Available

TFA SUPPORTS THIS LEGISLATION!

11. *HB 0070 by *Fincher (SB 0474 by *Berke)

Criminal Procedure - As introduced, deletes subsection in self-defense law providing that a person not justified in use of deadly force to prevent or terminate trespass on real property or unlawful interference with personal property. - Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 11, Part 6.

Fiscal Summary: Decrease State Revenue - Not Significant

Decrease State Expenditures - Not Significant

Decrease Local Revenue - Not Significant

Decrease Local Expenditures - Not Significant

TFA SUPPORTS THIS LEGISLATION

12. HB 0615 by *Todd (*SB 0170 by *Ketron)

Public Records - As introduced, makes confidential all information furnished by a witness during the course of certain investigations. - Amends TCA Title 10.

Fiscal Summary: Not Available

TFA SUPPORTS THIS LEGISLATION

13. *HJR 0032 by *West

General Assembly, Studies - Creates special joint committee to study Tennessee's gun laws. -

Fiscal Summary: Not Available

TFA SUPPORTS THIS LEGISLATION

~~~~~end email alert~~~~

The Chicago Tea Party

Here's the website where all the details will unfold about the Chicago Tea Party - as well as for other major locations across the United States!

Rick Santelli's Chicago Tea Party

Great Idea

I originally read this over at Coffee With The Hermit and thought it was such a great idea I asked for permission to share it here. Enjoy and let me know what you think!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
When a company falls on difficult times, one of the things that seems to happen is they reduce their staff and workers The remaining workers need to find ways to continue to do a good job or risk that their job would be eliminated as well. Wall street, and the media normally congratulate the CEO for making this type of "tough decision", and his board of directors gives him a big bonus.

Our government should not be immune from similar risks.

Therefore: Reduce the House of Representatives from the current 435 members to 218 members and Senate members from 100 to 50(one per State). Also reduce remaining staff by
25%.

Accomplish this over the next 8 years,(two steps / two elections) and of course this would require some redistricting.

Some Yearly Monetary Gains Include:

$44,108,400 for elimination of base pay for congress. (267 members X $165,200 pay / member / yr.)

$97,175,000 for elimination of the above people's staff. (estimate $1.3 Million in staff per each member of the House, and $3 Million in staff per each member of the Senate every year)

$240,294 for the reduction in remaining staff by 25%.

$7,500,000,000 reduction in pork barrel ear-marks each year. (those members whose jobs are gone. Current estimates for total government pork earmarks are at $15 Billion / yr)

The remaining representatives would need to work smarter and would need to prove efficiencies.It might even be in their best interests to work together for the good of our
country.

We may also expect that smaller committees might lead to a more efficient resolution of issues as well. It might even be easier to keep track of what your representative is doing.

Congress has more tools available to do their jobs than it had back in 1911 when the current number of representatives was established. (telephone, computers, cell phones to name a few)

Note: Congress did not hesitate to head home when it was a holiday, when the nation needed a real fix to the economic problems. Also, we have 3 senators that have not been doing their jobs for the past 18+ months (on the campaign trail) and still they all have been accepting full pay. These facts alone support a reduction in senators & congress.

Summary of opportunity:

$ 44,108,400 reduction of congress members.

$282,100, 000 for elimination of the reduced house member staff.

$150,000,000 for elimination of reduced senate member staff.

$59,675,000 for 25% reduction of staff for remaining house members.

$37,500,000 for 25% reduction of staff for remaining senate members.

$7,500,000,000 reduction in pork added to bills by 0ther reduction of congress members.

$8,073,383,400 per year, estimated total savings. (that's 8 BILLION just to start!)

Big business does these types of cuts all the time.

If Congresspersons were required to serve 20, 25 or 30 years (like everyone else) in order to collect retirement benefits there is no telling how much we would save.Now they get full retirement after serving only ONE term.

FLASH - Take Action!

Just received this email alert from Attorney John Harris with Tennessee Firearms Association and I'm sharing it here. This requires our action immediately! See "red" paragraph below and read on!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tennessee Firearms Association, Inc.
Legislative Action Committee

Apparently without notice ascertainable from the State's web site, the House Judiciary had a "Handgun Study Committee" meeting on Thursday February 19, 2009. Rep. McCord, during the meeting which was video taped, stated that this study committee had been in existence for approximately 11 years and that it has been studying these bill issues and generating reports. I have yet to see any of these reports.

One aspect of this that is troubling is the fact that there is no notice or agenda for the meeting. For example, if you pull up the legislative web page for HB0962 (restaurant carry) at http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/default.aspx?BillNumber=HB0962 there is no mention of the bill being assigned to a study committee, there is no evidence that the bill was considered in a study committee on February 19, there is no evidence of the printed "amendment" that they discussed, nor is there is evidence of a report or recommendation on the bill itself. In addition, it is clear from comparing the video to the version of the bill that is on the state's web site that they are not discussing the same language.

The committee video is obtained at this link: http://tnga.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=88&clip_id=314

The committee was chaired by Rep. Joe McCord (R. Maryville) Other members included Rep. Curry Todd (R. Collierville), Rep. Mike Stewart (D. Nashville), Rep. Harry Tindell (D. Knoxville), and Rep. Ulysses Jones (D. Shelby).

The purpose of the committee was to generate a "committee report".

They focused on 4 bills. These were restaurant carry, confidentiality list, wildlife management carry and state parks carry.

Restaurant Carry. HB0962 Much discussion on this issue and the problem in the minds of some of these legislators is again "what is a bar?" The issue they want to focus on is either how to define a bar or how to impose limits that would preclude people from being in restaurants during times that they think are indicative of "bar" and "tavern" problems.

Rep. McCord proposed 2 routes to be used in combination to address the "bar" issue. TFA opposes both by the way.

First, Rep. McCord discusses an outright ban after a certain time in the evening (proposed from 9pm to 11pm). The second part of the bill would ban possession if the establishment is "age restricted" - that is whether the place requires proof of age to enter the establishment.

Rep. Todd stated that he wanted no frame but that an 11pm time frame would be better if there has to be a time frame. Rep. McCord added in to clarify that if the restaurant started carding prior to the time cutoff, then it would automatically become a restricted property which means people would have to get up and leave. Rep. Stewart said that he felt the 11pm deadline was too late and he recommended 9pm (that shows a lot of trust in gun owners now doesn't it?). Finally, Rep. Todd moved to make the cutoff 11pm which carried on a voice vote.

They also discussed what the law should be relative to a hotels (e.g., Opryland) that have restaurants. Rep. Todd expressed the belief that any such hotel is completely off limits, presumably even in the private rooms, but Rep. McCord suggested that this issue be deferred to the full committee.

Confidentiality of Records HB0959 The "Commercial Appeal" poster child. Recommended without debate.

Parks HB0960 Rep. McCord notes that the federal government change encourages this change in the law. Rep. Jones asked about city parks. Recommended without debate.

Wildlife Management Areas HB0961 Similar to the parks bill. Recommended without debate.

Although we have been unable to locate a calendar for the week of February 23, it was announced at the close of the committee meeting that all the "gun bills" would be in the House Judiciary Criminal Practices committee meeting on Wednesday, February 25.

NOW IS THE TIME TO CALL PARTICULARLY ON THE RESTAURANT ISSUE.

Call YOUR House Members. You can look them up at this link: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/house/members/

The principal issue of concern on this list is that this study committee is recommending restrictions on the restaurant bill which we have historically opposed. It is obvious that some House members are in favor of severe restrictions through time limits (e.g., 9pm to 5am) on the restaurants if they support the legislation. They also want to impose restrictions based on whether the restaurant is "age restricted".

TFA historically opposes any such restrictions because the permit holder remains subject to the no consumption rule. For example, what would be the consequence at a New Year's Eve party - are permit holders going to be required to leave by 9pm, 10pm etc.?

Also, what happens if its a busy night - say Valentines - and you get to the restaurant early but there is an hour wait, and then there are delays in the food delivery. Do you have to get up and leave to disarm yourself if the time runs out? Well, based on the comment by Rep. McCord that "carding" would trigger an immediate status change (even if you were unaware) then presumably Rep. McCord would also state that if your meal was delayed past the 9, 10 or 11pm cutoff that you would have to leave the premises or at least leave long enough to disarm and secure your weapon in your vehicle (if you drove).

These types of restrictions are clear evidence that there are still many members of the Tennessee General Assembly who just simply do not want to trust handgun permit holders to behave. We don't need curfews and restrictions and we need to make sure they know that!
~~~~~end of email alert~~~~~

GovTrack

A nice way to track what's going on , being introduced and the status of bills before Congress. You can also check on the statistics of your Representatives or Senators:

GovTrack - Home

GovTrack TENNESSEE Page

Stimulus Watch

See what your state is hoping for:

http://www.stimuluswatch.org/project/by_state

What's In The Pantry?

I thought it would be nice to take a peek at some of the items that we have stored in our home pantry - most of this was put in place in the past 6 months to one year, as we rotate our items regularly. We make it a habit to try to stay 1+1 or more on almost everything. Each time we go to the store, in addition to buying what we need, we try to buy 1+ of each item and then put it in our reserve pantry. This is a quick and relatively inexpensive way to steadily increase your storage supplies.

Our 2009 Storage Pantry:

FOOD PRESERVATION (things I canned)

Apple Butter = 11.5 pints
Brandied Pears = 4 pints
Bread and Butter Pickles = 6.5 pints
Cucumber Relish = 5.5 pints
Fig Preserves = 3.25 pints
Hot Pickled Veggie Mix = 13.5 pints
Peach Cobbler Preserves = 20.5 pints
Pear Butter = 9.5 pints
Pears In Syrup = 7.5 pints
Pear Pickles = 9.5 pints
Pickled Okra = 10 pints
Squash Pickles = 9.5 quarts
Squash Relish = 15.5 pints
Stew Meat = 7 quarts
Sweet Pickle Relish = 11 pints
Sweet Pickle Spears = 6.5 pints
Tomato Preserves = 4.5 pints
Seasoned Ground Beef

FREEZER STORES

Apple Slices = 10 pounds
Bell Pepper Slices = 4 pints
Blueberries = 10 gallons
Green Beans = 4 quarts
Peach Puree = 4 gallons
Peach Slices = 4 gallons
Peas, Various = 2 gallons
Yellow Squash = 2 quarts
Home Canned Pesto
Coffee Beans
Butter
Cornmeal
Cheese
Nuts
Extra Ice Packs
Pizza
Meatloaf (homemade)
Lasagna (homemade)
Soup Stock

In the Freezer From our Pasture-fed Ranch:

Beef = 1 whole
Lamb = 1 side
Pork = 1 whole

Grain and Other Stores in our Overflow Pantry:

Kamut = 25 pounds
Millet = 10 pounds
Spelt = 25 pounds
Wheat = 300 pounds
Rice = 200 pounds
Pasta = 40 pounds
Pumpkin Seeds = 5 pounds
Unbleached All-Purpose Flour = 50 pounds
Sugar = 30 pounds
Oats = 20 pounds
Cornmeal = 15 pounds
Wheat Germ
Flax Seeds
Sprouting Seeds
Heirloom Vegetable Seeds
Popcorn
Baking Soda
Baking Powder
Yeast
Spices
Powdered Milk
Peanut Butter
Oils
Vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Borax
Canning Jars and Lids
Spaghetti Sauce
Ketchup and other condiments
Coffee Beans
Tea
Walnuts, Pecans - vacuum sealed
Dehydrated Apples
Dried / Dehydrated Fruits
Various canned goods from the store, such as pineapple rings, mandarin oranges, whole corn, green peas, carrots, broths, whole tomatoes and the like.
Feminine Hygiene Items
Toothbrushes
Toothpaste
Rubbing Alcohol
Various Over-the-counter medicines

I'm sure I'm forgetting a few items in my overflow pantry, as I don't have my list handy right now, but you get a good idea of what we're keeping on hand at the moment.

It is comforting to know that we have plenty of food on hand for many reasons. One is that I'm not pressured to go to the grocery every week and pay whatever the going prices are. I usually grocery shop only once a month. By preserving my own food or buying in bulk on occasion, I stay away from the grocery and weekly spending. Also, the food that I've preserved is fresher, free of artificial colors and preservatives and, in our opinion anyway, tastes much better.

From an Emergency Preparedness standpoint, you never know when these food stores might come in handy due to job loss, economic downturn, bad winter weather or the like.

Please feel free to share what's in your pantry!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Skill Sets

Part of preparedness planning, in addition to ensuring enough food, water, heat, light, communications, etc. are in place for whatever level of disturbance you are preparing for is to identify your Skill Sets and how they could be of help to you.

In today's world, it is not very realistic to think that we can all be totally self-sufficient like the days of Little House On The Prairie. While there are some out there with this level of skill - most people today would not find that level of self-sufficiency appealing. Our society has become too accustomed to our "things" that get us through the day and make life easy. This is one reason why I believe it is so hard to even get some people to prepare for anything at all - they don't really want to face the facts about what it would take to survive if they couldn't get their Starbuck's on the corner every morning or walk into the halls of wa*mart or mc d's for their dinner every night.

When we look at our preparedness plans - what we are preparing for and why - we also look at what our Skill Sets are, how they could be used for us or bartered with others for things we might need.

An important part of preparedness planning requires you to sit down and be honest about what your abilities are and where you are lacking. In the areas where you are lacking - are these areas where you simply have no interest? Have you tried before and were unsuccessful? Could you take a class to improve your skills? Or is it an area where you'll just need to find someone who could help you make up for your lack of skill? Do you know others with skills that you don't have?

My husband and I practice preparedness on a daily basis. Some things we excel at, some things we are pretty good at, some things we could get by on and there are things where we'd be lacking. We try to keep tabs on where we are in our skill levels at all times.

Here are some examples of skill sets that we know we have in differing degrees of expertise:

Home Canning, Preserving, Dehydrating
Food Storage
Water Storage
Vegetable Gardening
Herb Gardening
Composting
Sewing
Embroidery
Quilting
Cooking, Baking
Making basic cleaning products
Making skin creams, lotions, lip balms
Homeopathics
First Aid
Homebirth
Breastfeeding
Homeschooling
Beekeeping
Raising Beef Cattle
Raising Poultry
Raising Rabbits
Raising Sheep
Raising Hogs
Reloading
Archery
Handguns
Rifles / Shotguns
Finance
Foreign Language

This is not an all-inclusive list - there are many day-to-day skills not mentioned here. I'm focusing on skill sets that not everyone might have that would be useful to know or have available.

Some areas where I know we are lacking:

Woodworking
Sawmill
Carpentry
Welding
Machine Work
Engine / Small Motor Repair
Blacksmithing

If we needed something done in one of these areas - we'd have to pay for it, trade for it or learn how to do it ourselves.

We're reading in the news every day about the rising numbers of unemployed. If you lost your job tomorrow, what skills do you have that you could use to trade for things you and your family might need that you might not otherwise be able to pay money for? I think this is a realistic question we could all ask ourselves.

Please feel free to comment and let us know what skills you might be looking for!

HOMEWORK:
Take some time the rest of this week to think about what your skill sets are, how they can be used to your advantage, where you are lacking in skills and how you could make up for the areas where you are lacking.

Preparing For: ICE - Part Two

Part 2 of yesterday's post - from a first-hand survivor of the severe Kentucky ice storm a few weeks ago. A reminder of why it pays to be prepared.

Part 2 - by Invar
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Day 2 - Wednesday.

At some point in the wee hours of the morning amidst the sound of collapsing trees, I managed to fall into what can only be described as a rest. As a natural light sleeper, the audio war zone outside prohibited me from being able to sleep fitfully. I had thought about shoving my shooting earplugs into my ears at one point during the night, but I was afraid if I did shut out all the sound - that I might not hear if the tree out front came down and hit the house, probably taking the power lines with it. The rest of my family were deep sleepers, and if indeed the lines hit my house - I wanted to make sure that any electrical current or fire was dealt with quickly. I had our kitchen extinguisher set by the bottom office stairs in case of need. I was aware that with the sound of all those trees coming down, the roads were most likely blocked at numerous points and any fire truck might not get to my house before it burned down if a live line set my roof afire. (As it turns out, such things did in fact happen during the storm. Live lines coming down set many homes ablaze and they simply burned to the ground as no fire equipment could get through to many areas).

The dogs where whining downstairs and I heard the wife get up to let them outside. As a night owl I am almost always the last to bed, and my wife is the exact opposite. She is to bed with the chickens and up with the roosters. My wife is a chipper morning person, while I am decidedly - not.

Today was different.

I rose, feeling totally exhausted. I glanced at the alarm clock, and it was dark - so we still had no power.

The room was a gloomy gray, but no longer pitch so I knew daybreak had come. It was very muffled sounding outside. I could still hear the air split with the sound of another tree coming down, but it was not as frequent as it had been overnight. Something was different and at first I was not sure what it was.

Apart from the now familiar sound of toppling tree limbs and shattering ice and branches, something was missing. I could not place it at first, but then I remembered that the local radio broadcast last night said that the rain would change to sleet then snow, from North to South in the early morning hours..

It was no longer raining.

It was probably snowing, which accounted for some of the muffled sound and the lack of the constant drips and rain hitting the roof for the last two days.

I rose to take a look, but I still could not see out the windows due to fog and frost on the inside. I put on my warm robe and headed to the bathroom. While inside, I was not sure that what I heard was correct, but it sounded like knocking. It had to be another tree coming down, but then the knock was louder and more distinct. I heard my wife through the walls asking the knockee to hold on a moment while she unlocked the door.

I sighed a small sigh, figuring that Glen and Carol had come over to get warm or borrow something. While I could only hear muffled voices through the walls, it became clear that the male voice was not Glen's. This was a voice I did not recognize. For a brief second, I thought about whether my wife had her sidearm near her or not. Once, when we first moved into this house in 2003, we were visited by three men at two in the morning with apparent mischief on the mind. I answered the door with my own sidearm tucked in my back waistband, while my wife was further back, shotgun in hand. The men had begged my wife and I to give them a ride for gas, but my gut was screaming alarms and I offered to call the Law to lend them a hand upon which time they quickly declined and left. We had watched them walk down the road until we no longer saw them. We learned later that these same fellas came back and ended up stealing my neighbor's truck across the street that night.

After a few moments I could tell by the tone in my wife's voice, that she had no such concerns about the person she was talking to. As I was getting dressed I could hear that the fellow was a student from Murray University heading home to his folks, as the campus had lost power and heat the previous day. He had navigated through an obstacle course of fallen trees and power poles to make it as far as our house before he had run out of gas. He said nothing was open, and asked if we had any gas to spare. My wife assumed the only gas we had was in the tractor mower, which she knew I had Winterized. While I was stumbling over myself getting my legs into pants, she had sent him across the street to our neighbor Gary, whom she knew probably had some fuel.

After I heard the door close, my urgency of getting dressed slowed somewhat as I thought about whether or not I did have any extra gas in the shed out back. I remembered that during the Summer, when gas was going up to near $4 a gallon, I had filled up a few five gallon containers with $3.50 a gallon gas, in anticipation of $7 a gallon gas as some were predicting. I sat on the bed and thought about the situation. The news last night has stated that 90% of the area was without power. Without power, there was no way to pump gasoline. I thought that perhaps we might need that fuel for ourselves at some point, for whatever reason. I decided I was not going to chase down the lad that had run out of gas, but that if he came back - I would go and grab one of the containers out of the shed and get him at least enough gas for him to make it the eight miles he needed to go to get back to his folks.

I sauntered out into the living room to check on the Kerosene heater's fuel level - and took a gander out those windows.

A very light snow was falling, and we had what looked to be perhaps two inches of the white stuff on top of all the ice. The view just out front was surreal to say the least, as white now covered distorted shapes or arching limbs, branches and shattered stubs that pointed skyward. Snow had set another layer of resounding whiteness upon the already frozen landscape and I assumed most of it fell in the wee hours of the morning.

After I had filled the heater with kerosene, I set into the kitchen to take care of the coffee priority. My wife was already at the camp stove frying up yummy pancakes that she had tossed some tollhouse chocolate chips into for the kids. I asked about the fella who came to the door and my wife clarified what I thought I had deciphered from the bathroom. She said she saw Gary leave in his truck with the lad to drive towards Paducah, apparently on a search for gas. I mentioned the gas I might have had in the shed, and she said the same thing I told myself - that if he came back, I would go and fetch it for him.

I asked if she had slept at all, and she noted that she was having breathing problems and did not sleep very well. I hadn't thought about her breathing treatments at all since the power went out. My wife had several bouts with pneumonia over the past three Winters, and she was keeping her weakened lungs up and running this season with daily nebulizer treatments. With the power out, we had no way for her to use her nebulizer. Thankfully, I married a Hillbilly that always has a back-up of one sort or another to suffice in a pinch. She had stocked up with Advair and inhalers, as a back-up, and while Advair was no substitute for a nebulizer treatment - she was happy she did have something to fall back on.

I began to relay to her why I did not get any sleep. "It sounded like a military bombardment out there last night" I said.

"I know!" she replied. 'I am worried that tree came down on those lines and the house."

"One way to find out" I replied, and stepped out the side door to have a look at the tree we prayed God would spare the house and our lines from.

Two of the giant limbs had broken cleanly off and were on the ground on the driveway. I looked up and could see that the large main limb that we worried about was still leaning far over, but a section of it had broken off and was entangled in the lines, hanging from them suspended like a macabre skeletal hand. The lines themselves were still up - but the amount of ice on them sagged them much closer to our rooftop than I found comfortable.

Glen's large tree had two major limbs down, with one of them resting on the backside of his office shed. I breathed a small sigh of thanks to God that thus far, the tree we were worried about had not taken down our lines, or the house as we feared - but the largest drooping limb did not make me feel confident that our prayer was going to be answered in the way I wanted. Gravity is a pretty straightforward thing. God's Will be done I said to myself.

As I quickly surveyed our side yard and the front yard of our elderly neighbors. Everything was shattered and crumpled, entombed in ice and snow. I noted Glen and Carol's trailer home and a twinge of unease hit me as I worried for them in the very frigid morning air. Nanna's insistence that they were fine last night did not belay the fact that temperatures this cold could kill while one slept. I told myself that Carol had to be mistaken. Glen HAD to have rigged up something to keep them warm, considering the amount of old appliances and cars he would always buy at auction and fix up to sell. "Pessimist" I thought to myself, which is the usual criticism I get from my family. They would insist that they were fine, and that positive thinking was healthier than thinking negatively all the time. I made a promise to myself to get bundled up and check on them a little later, or send one of my daughters to peek in on them.

The sharp cold suddenly hit me hard, as I was in nothing but stocking feet and a flannel shirt and sweatpants. As I turned back towards the side door to head in and make coffee, I caught a glimpse of my flagpole and was struck by the odd sight. The two flags I had flying; the Confederate flag and the Gadsden flag, were encased in a sheet of 1" thick ice, and looked flash frozen during a mild breeze. I smiled at the thought of flags being frozen in mid-flutter as I headed into the warm house.

"Part of the tree came down" I reported to my wife as I got back into the kitchen. "Most of it is in the driveway, but that large top limb over the line is not looking good. There's also a big limb hanging from the line and it's entangled in it real good."

"We'll probably need to find a way to get it off the line" she said in her usual matter-of-fact tone.

"I'm not messing with power lines" I retorted. "The branches look to be caught in there real good. We will need someone with a bucket truck to pull that off the line".

"After we eat, I'll go out there and look at it" she shot back, which was her way of telling me that until she assessed it herself, she was going to ignore my usual pessimism in favor of her eternal optimism. I decided that this morning was not the time to make a mountain argument out of a molehill issue, so I returned to the needful task of making the hot drink that awakens brain cells from slumber.

When I gotten to the sink to fill up a pot to boil water, I happened to look out the kitchen window over our deck at the woods out back as I normally do without thinking.

I gasped at what I saw, and shook my head not comprehending what I was looking at.

The normal treeline that had filled my view for the last six years of my life was gone. Ten to twenty feet of every treetop was simply sheared or snapped off. The entire wood was bowed low or bent over kissing the ground, encased in ice and shattered as if a giant madman with a baseball bat had come swinging in fury at every living tree.

"Oh my God." I flatly exclaimed. "Look at the woods out back!" My mind was still trying to register the changed landscape. It wasn't that trees had lost limbs, they were shattered, broken and split.. The familiar was now gone and a huge space now existed where once treetops swayed in the breezes. I wondered if the shock I was feeling was similar to what New Yorkers felt like when looking at the lower Manhattan skyline after 9-11.

"Oh that's nothing" my wife replied without looking up from turning her pancakes, "you should take a look out front and across the street".

Addiction overrode the curiosity of seeing what she meant, and I got the pot onto the camp stove and the coffee into the filter apparatus before I permitted myself to go and take a hard look from the front porch.

The low hanging gray sky was lightening in pockets that were moving quickly Southeast. The lambent light began to glisten off of large and long icicles that hung like stalactites off the sagging power lines. The next door neighbor's huge maple trees were a tangled mass of large limbs encased in ice and snow. The main trunks stood up to about 15 feet from their former 25-30 foot height, while every limb and branch that once reached skyward was broken off and hung towards the ground in a mirror reversal of what the trees should normally look like.

The road out front was covered in snow and ice. A single pair of tire tracks from the East led to the car with the empty gas tank that sat silent in the middle of the right hand lane in front of our house. There were no other tracks on the road, which indicated no one was out traveling anywhere except this young student from Murray.

Across the street the scene was one of devastation. The vacant brick home to our left was buried in the limbs and trees that had kept the house in near shadow most of the year. For the first time I could actually see the yellow bricks of the house. The lady in the trailer across the way had lost every tree and shrub in her yard. One of them was literally snapped in half. One giant tree limb blocked half of her drive. To our right, Gary's homes and property looked to receive great wrath from old man Winter. His many trees were simply destroyed. Two of them were split and crushed all the way to the ground. His power lines were hanging into the ditch, solidly caked in ice. Smaller trees and bushes were arced over with the weight of ice and snow, like a fountain that was frozen. Branches and twigs were everywhere, spot frozen to the ground where they fell.

In my own yard, I noted the crazy and unusual looking 'alien' things poking up out of the snow. A closer look revealed that they were blades of grass or fallen twigs that were encased in a glass tube of ice, making my yard look like a kind of coral reef. As I scanned the horizon, like my back yard and woods, the landscape had totally changed. The row of 70 ft pine trees bordering Glen's property from his neighbor were almost all broken down to the ground. They were half the height they were. Glen's own large tree had all its three major limbs crack off and hang down to the ground. The wood swing set for his grandkids was 'crying' with hundreds of icicles reaching like daggers for the ground.

The sound of yet another collapsing tree could be heard to my far right, somewhere down the side road. Almost as if in answer, a fruit tree in Gary's yard across the street gave up its valiant fight to resist the weight of the ice, and gravity claimed another tree whose crack signaled death for yet another tree.

My gaze scanned the power poles and lines that were sagging under the weight of the ice. The multiple line levels were hanging low in the middle, covered in thousands of icicle teeth that looked to me as if the power lines were like a smiling shark. As my eyes scanned the lines down the road, the scene was similar. Huge trees squashed and entombed, bent low over homes or onto barns. The cascade of branches still breaking and falling around us, filled the chill morning air. Not even the shrubs and bushes escaped the loving embrace and weight of the ice as they were either crushed to the ground, or so laden with weight, they simply collapsed in on themselves.

As I shook my head in disbelief, I heard my wife shout that breakfast was ready to my two girls and their friend. I decided to head back inside to check on the water heating on the Coleman stove for my coffee.

The great thing about chocolate chip pancakes, is that you do not need syrup - or even a plate for that matter. After giving thanks, being the slob that I felt like - I was grabbing a cake at a time and happily munching them while watching and waiting for my coffee water to boil. A half hour and a sore arm later, I had my hot cup of joe and washed down those especially delicious pancakes.

I headed on down to my cold office to again turn on the radio to see if I could get any news. The local AM news talk station came in, but the signal was very weak and it required me to hold the radio while standing in a specific direction in order to hear it. It did not take very long to comprehend that we were dealing with something massive. The host was relaying information based on what he was personally hearing or experiencing. Power was out for most of the city of Paducah, and he assumed that was the case for all the rural areas like ours. Both Walmart and the mall area in the city was closed. Most roads were blocked by fallen trees and power poles. Most land-line phones were out. There was no cell phone service.

In essence, we were a dead area. Closed off, in the dark and isolated from the rest of the world. How bad was this? I wondered to myself straining to listen through the static.

I tired quickly of standing as a human antennae. I scanned the other AM and FM channels. Most of the local stations were not broadcasting a signal, and the ones that were, were playing rotation music or were from an outside area on the East coast. At this point I wanted information, and I remember many discussions with local victims when we went down to Mississippi in 2005 to assist with the Katrina cleanup, that not having any information beyond hearsay was the toughest problem to overcome at first. Not knowing, not hearing and only having speculation tended to breed more uncertainty and fear. As time wore on, they said that timely information was as valuable as clean water and food.

I began to understand their point.

The information I did hear, and the lack of local radio was telling me that this was a huge disaster, and not just a disruption or an inconvenience. My mind began to run a scenario of what if's.

What if we indeed were isolated and cut off for more than several days?

What if there is no power in our area for more than a few days with temperatures this cold? No power, no electric heat. No power, no forced air heat. Kerosene and propane heaters, woodstoves, fireplaces and so on would be the only sources for staying warm. I thought about all the folks that thought an extra loaf of bread and a gallon of milk was all anyone needed and what they would attempt to do if they had no way to endure an extended outage with no way to warm themselves. I knew there would be a mad dash at some point to the gas stations for propane, kerosene and gas.

Gas.

We had watched the gas shortage in the Nashville Tennessee area after Ike blew through, and how the locals, desperate for gas spread outward to outlying areas not directly affected by the shortage.

In thinking about limited supplies of gas, I suddenly thought about water..

It was a given that anyone with a private well had no running water unless they had a generator back-up or a hand-pump. I figured the local water commission had generators fired up to keep our water running. If the roads were as impassable as the radio had said, and gas stations were closed due to lack of power to run the pumps - the generators could run low and perhaps no longer operate. This meant we could run out of running water.

I had two 55 gallon food-grade water drums out back - half full from the Summer. They were solid blocks of ice now, and probably heavier than I could muster by myself to get into the house. If needed, I could use the dolly with everyone's help to get the drum into the downstairs office, but before we reached that point - I thought we should get some back-up while our water was still running.

I put the radio down and headed upstairs to mention my thought process to the wife. She happened to be on her cell phone with her mother who lived across the Ohio River in Metropolis Illinois. From what I could gather listening to one end of the conversation, they were also in the dark. They had natural gas, so they simply lit the oven and the stovetop burners and used that to keep warm.

"Make sure Dad cracks a window" I said, "so they don't get carbon monoxide poisoning".

When she concluded her conversation, she relayed the news that her family was in pretty much the same situation we were in. Roads were blocked, poles and trees were down everywhere. Nothing was open due to lack of power.

I told her what I had heard on the radio, and that we might need to think about filling up pots and pans and the bathtubs up with water, because if the power outage lasted more than another day - the three day supply of fuel to keep the generators running at the water district would run low and we might lose our water. I did not think she heard or comprehended what I said, because she waved that notion off to explain the situation with her sister-in-law and my single-mom niece, all whom live in Metropolis. Apparently, the neighbors who live in government-housing, dumped their kids off with my niece, who has four kids of her own, while they left for other places to stay. I was not sure if that was noble or foolhardy. It is one thing to offer help, and another to have burdens dropped off on you in a disaster situation.

But being neighborly, and outgoing by seeing to the needs of your neighbors far outweighs being dependent on someone else, and especially the government.

I recalled the aftermath of Katrina, and how some emergency officials mishandled that disaster with gross ineptitude. The mass chaos of the Superdome; the dependence of an entire population on government assistance. I had seen Youtube videos of looters and gangbangers running around rampant in New Orleans, while the police were busy punching old ladies to the ground in their homes and confiscating their pistols. I remember local stories from Martha, a saint of a lady who runs a food mission for the elderly in Paducah, who went down to the Gulf Coast to cook and serve the people left homeless by Katrina, and the horror stories of how FEMA and the Red Cross attempted to shut her down and commandeer her mobile kitchen for their own use. I remembered the stories from my nephew who lived in the next town over from Greeburg Kansas after the devastating tornado of last year, and the atrocities of police kicking some people from their damaged homes in forced evacuations and the missing household items and firearms residents discovered when they returned.

I had no allusions about the incompetence and the brashness of government officials and bureaucrats ordering disaster victims around and making a bad situation worse. I had witnessed firsthand the almost military precision of the churches and religious charities that aided the disaster after Katrina and Ike, contrasted with the absolute stupidity and indifference of so-called government aid. I had resolved of myself a long time ago, that I would remain self-sufficient in the event of a disaster. I would NOT be removed from my home, or end up in a community shelter. I was resolved to care for myself and family as far and as long as I was able to.

That is why I am a Prepper. And I was prepped for the near term as I ran an inventory in my mind.

I simply had no idea how long it would last.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Preparing For: ICE - Part One

Those of us who live here in Tennessee know all too well the power that ice and freezing rain have to bring our cities and our lives to a stand-still. We seen it first-hand, we've experienced it - we should learn from it and be better prepared for the Next Time it comes our way.

Following is a story we've been given permission to re-print - a first-hand experience from a prepper that lived the severe ice storm that hit Kentucky just a few short weeks ago. Read it. Digest it. Learn from it. And know why it pays to prepare for Mother Nature's realities. Are you really ready for Mother Nature's next move?

This is a long read, but well worth the time. I'm going to break it into small parts over the coming days for ease of viewing.

Part I
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

by INVAR

This is part 1 of my recollection of the last week and a half of going through what has turned out to be the largest single disaster to ever strike the state of Kentucky.

At this writing, there are still entire counties in the dark and tens of thousands without power, water or heat. Shelters are at capacity, with the cold temps tonight and tomorrow, those toughing it out without the conveniences of hitting a thermostat are in jeopardy and hardship.

When I began this essay, I was simply listing my recollections of how we got through the disaster and it's aftermath and it began to take more of a story flow. So I thought it better to do it as a story narrative rather than just note key points of prep advice, neighborliness and how stupid government is.

I will state that the most important thing to know is that you have to trust God and yourself. Do not rely on others and ESPECIALLY do not wait for or rely on government for ANYTHING.

You and your community are on your own after a disaster, and given what I have seen and heard - you are much better off, IF you are prepared.

Like the Titanic, it is amazing what a little water and ice can do to bring down your entire world.


Survival Mode: Ground Zero When It All Goes Away

By INVAR

Modern life has a way of getting very routine. Many and much of the conveniences of our technological and internet world are taken for granted because much of it 'runs in the background'. Few of us consider how it works, how interconnected it is, and how it not only maintains our comforts and entertainments, but how much of it keeps us alive. We simply always expect it to be there, making life simple and convenient as it has for most of our lives. People live without a thought of how our modern system of power, light, heat, air conditioning, food, gasoline, and every other aspect of life in America exists. Only that it is always there.

But our modern system is not a constant.

That point was made clear to me and just about everyone that lives in America's Heartland over the last week. For some, it will continue for many weeks, and perhaps months ahead. A true catastrophe borne by something as seemingly harmless and benign as a steady gentle rain for three days. Three days during which time the air temperature hovered at or below freezing. It would result in the most devastating ice storm in modern memory. Millions without power, heat, food or fuel. Many trapped by a forest of falling limbs, and many lives lost to either freezing to death, or asphyxiation as they attempted to stay warm.

I am a bit perplexed that in a largely rural area such as West Kentucky, where tobacco farmers and cattle ranchers still dot the hilly landscape, that so many folks are not as self-sufficient as I assumed hearty rural folks would be. Only five months after the remnants of Hurricane Ike blew through our area with four hours of 60-110 MPH winds and knocked out power for three days and damaged many trees and homes, our area was struck by the force of nature again. This time however, the devastation was far worse and far deadlier than we could have ever imagined.

The Storm Approaches.

Few had any real alarm before the storm arrived. In our area, most of the time snow or sleet is forecast - the forecasts come up short and many locals have gotten into a 'cry wolf' weariness over the years. Generally speaking, our area does not get much snow in the Wintertime. In the 11 years we have lived here, we have seen only four big snow events that melted within a day or two of falling. Ice seems to be about the only sure Winter precip we can expect. So if sleet and ice are forecast - the locals invade the local Walmart and Krogers and empty the shelves of staples and perishables to hunker down for a day off of work and school.

The forecast the week and days before January 26th was suggestive of some possible 'Wintery precipitation'. As a Severe Storm Spotter for the area, I have a custom to check the NOAA forecast discussions when any Hazardous Weather Outlooks are issued for our region. The forecast for the week of January 25th fluctuated between sleet and snow to an all-rain event in our area possibly beginning Monday the 26th. The models and the predictions were uncertain as to where the sleet/snow/rain line would be and there was differing consensus among the local forecasters whether or not there would be anything but light accumulations of sleet or ice for our area by Saturday the 24th morning forecast. Some Winter sleet or ice was coming, but how much and where was not certain. Snow was probable north of the Ohio river while sleet and some ice was possible in our area with rain along the TN/KY border being discussed.

That began to change on Sunday morning as the forecast began to solidify that our area could expect a 'significant Winter storm', and put us under a Winter Storm Watch. The forecasters began to see that we would have Winter precipitation beginning Monday night and running into Tuesday night. This was enough to ignite the usual crushing hordes to invade the grocery stores to 'prep' for the storm by buying all the bread, milk, pork rinds and snow sleds on the shelves.

Having originally heralded from the Chicagoland area where Winters and road construction are the only two seasons of the year, I can say that while I have mastered the art of driving in ice and snow in Chicago, ice and snow in Kentucky is not in the same universe. Hills and gravity make a considerable, and sometimes deadly difference as I nearly found out our first Winter down here. When ice or snow is forecast, I am content to sit tight and stay home, just like the wise locals that learned that lesson when they were toddlers.

Having a Prepper mindset and living in both Tornado Alley and Earthquake territory, I am prepared for disaster at nearly all times. I am set to weather at least two weeks of apocalyptic calamity and have enough chow stored to last us three months. Therefore, when I read the forecast on Sunday morning, I was almost indifferent. However, since temps were going to go down to the low teens, and most folks out here are on electric heat or electric-run forced air gas furnaces, I decided to check my kerosene levels. Just to be safe and before the hordes of 'preppers' hit the stores, I topped off three of the 5 gallon kerosene jugs I have and picked up an extra gallon of milk to observe for my own amusement, the ritual insanity that happens every single time they call for a snowflake in the area.

I was set as well as I could be for a few days with no power or internet, or so I thought.

By Monday morning the forecast became more dire, and they put our area under a Winter Storm Warning, with an Ice Storm Warning for the counties just to our South. The storm was now going to contain two rounds of Winter precip. Round one was going to start Monday night and run until Tuesday afternoon. The next round was scheduled to start Tuesday evening into Wednesday late morning with more sleet and snow as a cold front pushed through the area dropping our temps into the teens. The mesoscale discussions were talking about the possibility of a half-to-one inch ice and sleet accumulations.

Now I had been in a bad ice storm in 1979 in Texas when I was a teen, and I saw what a half inch of ice did. Now they were talking about an INCH of ice?
By Monday night, I was checking the discussion and hourly forecasts and I began to wonder to myself if they were simply wrong. After all, there was STILL disagreement as to where the snow/sleet/ice and rain line was going to be, and it was right cold outside for most of Monday.

The local news and weather began to talk out loud about 'significant power outages' with the amount of ice and sleet forecast. This sent those that thought an extra loaf of bread and gallon of milk was sufficient to go into a panic, and fly back to Walmart and Home Depot and grab any flashlights, batteries and non-electric heaters they could find. The news showed the crushing crowds at the stores as the usual 'prep before the storm' coverage followed it's usual boring and tired script. Schools were closing in anticipation of the storm and my youngest was giddy and asked if one of her friends could stay the night so they would not be 'bored'.

I made mention in the Officers Quarters that our forecast was looking bad and we may end up in the dark, but I had no idea at the time how long that would end up becoming.

During the late afternoon on Monday the shallow pool of cold air from a weekend cold front was being overridden by warmer air above it. I was watching the radar returns out of Oklahoma and Arkansas during the day, and they had some light icing spreading East and North during the afternoon hours of Monday. Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico began to stream up into our area, above the cold pool of air at the surface. The temps were slowly warming from the mid-20's to the low 30's.

By Monday night around 8 local time, the storm arrived. It started to rain.

A good steady rain, that intensified and subsided in regular intervals until around midnight, when it simply became a steady cadence.

My last look out the door before I turned in, was a light glaze covering everything. The rain was steady, and I could see my breath hit the cold and damp air as rivulets of raindrops cascaded down from my gutterless roof and the tree limbs. The temperature gauge read 31 degrees. My last thought as I closed the door was that this was another overblown forecast, and that rain was again our lot with some icing on the trees and mailboxes. I did one last check of the forecast discussion. Now it was becoming certain that the Tuesday night into Wednesday segment of the storm would bring us a bigger chance of sleet and snow.

I tucked myself under the quilts, the sound of the drips hitting the bushes outside my window sending me into deep sleep.

I would awaken to a different world.

Day 1 - Tuesday 1-27

I awoke to the sound of a whump followed by my wife shouting "You have to be kidding me!"

An eerily dim and gray light enveloped my bedroom. I sat up and glanced back to check the time. The alarm clock was dark, the power had gone out.

The sound outside was the same as it was when I went to bed.

Rain.

I could hear the wife complaining about her luck. She had mixed batter for waffles and had just poured some onto the electric waffle iron when the power went out.

So much for breakfast.

I looked out the window and blinked a few times. Ice had covered everything and the lighter branches of the elm tree up top were leaning over. I could see icicles hanging off the power lines out front and the grass was a combination of standing puddles surrounded by sticks of ice.

I got dressed and stumbled into the kitchen. I looked up at the battery operated kitchen clock and it was shortly after 9 AM.

My first concern of utmost importance, above and beyond anything else that could occupy my mind with the exception of prayer, was COFFEE. As I began to contemplate how to caffeinate my brain sans the Mr. Coffee machine, a sound I do not hear often grabbed my attention. My battery backup for my computer systems that are the tools I use to provide an income, was beeping to let me know I had about ten minutes to back-up and shut my systems down. Once I did so, I unplugged everything from the wall sockets, and went upstairs to unplug the TVs and surround sound system.

Once I had gotten those pressing tasks completed, my mind once again was consumed with getting coffee into my system. I had not set any of our preps out the night before, so I had to undertake the odyssey of digging out the never-before used camp stove and propane from the downstairs closet, which had been buried under board games used throughout the year. I made a mental note to clean out the closet later on so the emergency supplies were as easily accessible as other 'tools' in the house are.

I soon realized I had a major problem because I could not find the camp stove coffee percolator that I knew I had somewhere. The dark dawn struck me that it was probably packed with all the tents and non-essential camping gear, up in the carport attic. With the cold and rain, I decided that I would be inventive and practical rather than trudge out in the elements and scurry about a dark, cold attic hunting for a coffee percolator.

So I did what any thinking coffee addict would do; I filled up a pot of water, set the campstove on the electric stove, hooked up the propane canister and fired up the water for coffee. I took the glass carafe from the coffee maker, unhooked the plastic basket, set a filter in it and dug out a can of pre-ground Columbian coffee and set the grounds in the filter. Once the water was boiling on the camp stove, I poured it into a pitcher with a spout so I could become a human Mr. Coffee maker and slow pour the water into the basket which was now sitting precariously over the carafe. You'd think this would be simple, and I'd have a piping hot cup of aromatic caffeinated goodness, right?

Wrong.

You see, there is a reason there are percolators and drip coffee makers. Humans make lousy drip coffee makers. For when pouring the water into the plastic basket, I expected it would filter through the grounds and drip down the little hole at the bottom of the basket like I had observed so many times before when doing the watchpot thing - or the drip pot thing; when I would curse the little machine for not brewing fast enough on rough mornings. I assumed I could emulate the action. My bad. The water filled up the basket and took the grounds with it as they floated up to the top of the water and proceeded to spill out and run down the outside of the filter and the basket in what looked like a sandy-muddy mess. So unless I wanted to chew my coffee, it was back to square one.

I ingeniously decided to put ANOTHER filter on TOP of the grounds and then slowly trickle water onto the filters and through the basket into the carafe. Took a half hour of pouring and picking up the filter as it seemed to clog up when I poured too much water in at a time. The wife tells me that the coffee maker 'sprays' hot water onto the grounds to 'seep' through the grounds and drip out. What I was doing was what one does to purify water through a sock and sand. Oh well. A half hour of cramping arm and warm coffee was good enough for me.

With my lukewarm cup of joe, I went down into my now cold office to fire up the battery operated radio to see if I could get the latest news, forecast and talk radio buzz. Since I was only able to feed one addiction today, Talk Radio would have to substitute for TOL. A sad one at that, but desperate times call for settling for what one was able to get.

The forecast was more dismal than it was the night before. It had said that round one of the freezing rain would taper down in the early afternoon, but pick up again with greater intensity near sunset. They said another half inch of ice was possible before the precip would switch to sleet and then snow sometime near midnight with accumulations of up to four inches. Of course the kids loved to hear this news, but as I looked outside - the prospect of another half inch of ice on top of what I estimated to be about a half to three-quarters inch of ice already began to concern me.

The tree tops began to bend downward and the power lines were sagging with the ice already weighing them down. The rain had begun to taper off a tad around noon but still fell without abatement, at a level that would have been perfect for a drip coffeemaker. The temp outside was reading 28.

At around ten minutes after one PM, right when Limbaugh was beginning his second hour, the power popped back on. The lights down in my office grew bright, then dimmed, them became steady....for about thirty seconds.

A loud WHAM! followed by a WHUMP! shook the house. My AM radio was suddenly static and the power went out. This time, for good. I assumed a transformer blew around me somewhere, and I could not get the AM station to come back in. The FM stations were also static, except for the Country station and the Hip-hop station. The talk and news station was nothing but static. The kids battery boom box also went out from whatever blew outside.

So we were in the dark, with rain still lightly falling and an air temp of 29. No power, and no phones (our phone lines are through our cable internet company), but the miracle of technology allowed the kids to keep texting with their cell phones. I had mentioned our elderly neighbors next door, and wondered aloud about them, and asked the wife and kids if they knew whether or not they had gas heat. They were unsure, but figured they probably had back up sources like we did.

While we still had daylight, I broke out the lanterns, flashlights and candles. At this point I began to think we may be without power for a day or two like we were back in September when Ike blew through. My thoughts began to formulate a list of things we needed to do if we were going to be without power for awhile. Unlike the situation in September, we did not run the risk of losing what we had in our fridge. I emptied all the perishable contents into a cooler and set it outside. I made sure that the freezers were not opened. Back in September, we only lost the things in our small freezer above the fridge, the large deep freezer lasted for three days with no power, we assumed the same results for this outage.

I had a chicken that was sitting in the refrigerator for a greek lemon soup recipe we intended to make on Wednesday, and decided that today was as good a day as any to make soup. So I set a big pot of water on the campstove, and began to boil the chicken for soup.

Around 4 it began to get dark inside even though we were more than an hour from sunset, so we fired up one kerosene and one oil lamp. Right after we got them lit, my dogs barked outside, so I went to see what the commotion was and it was then I noticed that the rain had picked up in intensity. The poochies wanted inside, and I normally let them in only when the temps get below 20, but with the soaking rain - my long haired mutt had icicles hanging off his underside. As I looked out the back deck, the treeline of the woods out back was changing. Many limbs and treetops were bent over, some arching downward, some simply drooping from the ice that I could now see was becoming more noticeable. Earlier in the day, trees at a distance simply looked wet. Now they began to shimmer as the ice coating began to build and whiten the landscape.

Sometime around 6, as the wife was deboning the chicken while I was cutting up veggies for the soup, we heard a loud crack and bang. We were not sure what the sound was at first, and wondered whether or not our big tree next to the house lost a limb or not. Stepping out on the carport to check it out, it was noticeably colder and the rain was coming down heavier than it was earlier. A steady drenching-type of rain. It was eerily dark but the growing ice was leaving a weird refraction of illumination on the ground while the sky was dark. A flashlight revealed that the big tree next to my office and above the power lines from the main road to our house was encased in ice. I could hear it crack in the branches as a breeze blew the sagging limbs into a sway. Already my driveway was littered with small branches and twigs that had broken and fallen from the tree. The big limbs up top were sagging over the power lines to the house and I calculated that if they broke off, both the lines the limbs would end up on top of or through the carport and office roof.

I called the wife to look, and lamented that we did not try to find some way to trim the tree earlier in the year. Surveying the branches already on the ground she agreed that the tree looked to fall on the lines and then the house. Almost as if to put an exclamation point on her deduction, a loud CRACK! and booming shatter pierced the sound of rain and gently cracking ice. The sound was loud enough to startle us both. Using the flashlight to peer through the gloom in the direction of the sound, a large limb from the neighbor's tree next door had come down. Ice shards were still falling as the light from the flashlight revealed the tree. The size of the limb was massive, and not too much larger than the limb hanging over our power lines and house.

It was time for prayer. So we prayed to the Lord, that if time, circumstance and gravity must take down the limbs or the tree itself, we prayed that it would somehow defy the angle it was leaning, and fall in the opposite direction, or that He would bear-up the power lines and the roof so that they would withstand the fall.

Another crack and crash, this time across the dark and desolate street that normally has intermittent traffic. The maple tree across the road had lost a limb. The wife and I looked at one another with unease and shrugged our shoulders. This was not looking or feeling like the kind of ice storms we had been in before. In the few minutes we had been outside, we were soaking wet and the wife's hands were icy from holding the flashlight. We decided some hot soup was just the tonic to take the chill out of our bones, so we headed back in to finish making the perfect answer to an otherwise miserable, raw day.

After a great hot meal, we fired up the kerosene heater and lit the rest of the lanterns and candles. The house had a dim but warm orange glow to it. Around 8 PM, everyone began to notice the increasing frequency of the sound of cracks and booms. The wife and my two younger daughters and their friend were astonished by the amount of ice on the deck, the grill and the trees and began taking pictures with their cell phones of the ice. The rain continued steady, and the sound of cracks and booms and shattering limbs and ice were occurring every few minutes.

My thoughts turned again to my elderly neighbors, Glen and Carol. They were like an extended family to us, and my girls always referred to them as Nanna and Grandad. I had seen Glen leave in his red pickup earlier in the day and upon peeking my head out to look in his drive, there was no truck and saw no glow of any candle or lantern light in any of their windows. I assumed perhaps they went to stay at one of their kids' after the power went out.

Around 9, my wife called me back out to the carport and driveway. As I stepped out, the sound of collapsing limbs from the woods out back was almost every minute or so. The air smelled of pine. A large crack to my left and a shower of ice shards as one of the large row of pine trees that separated Glen's property from his neighbor's was coming down. The tree over our lines and house was now so laden with ice, that we were certain it was coming down sometime soon. My wife was showing me with the flashlight, what both the neighbor to our West and the neighbor across the street's trees were doing. The biggest limbs were cracking and falling now, leaving shunted stubs pointing skyward. The fruit trees across the road were losing their tops. We decided to move one of our cars away from under the power pole and lines, and while moving it, we noticed that our crepe myrtle trees were so heavy with ice, that they were kissing the ground.

I was moved again about Glen and Carol, and suggested that even though they did not look to be home, that we knock anyway to check on them. With the sound of limbs and trees cracking and crashing every minute or so, navigating around to their front door became a challenge. I made sure to steer clear of the trees, as I remember stories of people getting killed by falling limbs. Since the road was dark and deserted, we decided to take that route and go up their drive to avoid the big trees across the front of our yards. Walking up their drive however, put us next to the row of pines that towered sixty some feet into the air. Dodging puddles on an icy gravel drive, the sound of one of the tops of a pine tree coming down through icy needles quickened my wife and I to dash for their front porch.

After knocking, I had assumed Glen and Carol must have left with their house so dark, and was startled to see the door open and Carol standing in the dark wrapped in a quilt.

"We did not know if you were home. Are you guys okay?" I asked.

"Yes", she replied. "We went to bed".

"Do you have heat?" I asked

"No" she said flatly. "We're just bundled up. We are fine."

I invited them both to stay with us, but she insisted that they were fine and that they were already in bed all covered up. I told them to come over and see us if they needed anything. She thanked us and shut the door, leaving my wife and I to wonder aloud whether their trailer would stay warm enough for them..

"You can't force them to leave" my wife said. "We will just need to check on them in the morning".

We once again had to race back across the gravel drive dodging the sound of falling limbs and our own imaginations as to where the next branch would come down. Making it back to our own porch, after sighing in relief, my wife grabbed my arm and said "Just listen to that!" Every minute or so, the sound of crashing limbs and ice would echo through the wetness. Noticing that both of us were shivering and wet, I said that we need to get in and get settled.

Around ten, I once again tried the multi-band battery radio I have to see if I could get any news. Most of the stations we would regularly get, were only static. I was getting stations on the East coast but nothing closer than Ohio. I flipped the switch to FM TV, and remembered that the local NBC station also simulcast on an FM station. We were blessed that they indeed were on the air even though they were broadcasting on generator power. The signal was very weak and would come and go. But from what I could ascertain at the time, most of the entire area was without power. The focus was on the weather of course - and the forecast was for yet more ice accumulation with a changeover to two to four inches of sleet and snow after midnight from North to South. The only bright spot in the countenance of the broadcasters, was that it was estimated that by noon on Wednesday, most of the precipitation would be exiting the area. Early reports from police phone calls stated that 80 to 90% of electric customers were without power. Walmart and Home Depot in the city of Paducah had lost power and had to close, along with the entire mall area - which for many, is a central hub of supplies for most of the region from Southern Illinois, East Missouri, West KY and NW TN. Much of the newscast was announcing school and business closings for Wednesday. Even then, most of us figured that after a day or two, life would be back to normal.

Cleaning up from supper took longer than the fifteen minute rinse and dishwasher chore we were used to, but we were full, we were warm and I knew that even with the temperature drop, we were going to handle this crisis like a piece of cake. The only think I did miss, was not being able to be 'plugged into the world'. I already felt a sense of disconnection as I was trying to get news off of a radio, from media that I had little respect for.

The wife and kids entertained themselves with some card games like SPIT and SPOONS, which was quite raucous and loud with laughter. The mirth and levity drowned out the sound from outside and we soon forgot about the conditions outside as the warmth of family and fun consumed our attention.

There is something about candle and lantern light that aids in the heaviness of eyelids. Without the big TV, iPods and other electronic distractions to force our attentions, everyone began to turn in earlier than normal. I finished my own chores of filling up the heater with kerosene for the night and getting blankets and quilts for everyone who was going to sleep in the living room, including my wife who wanted to be with the kids.

I planned to tough it out in our bedroom in the far end of our home. I had figured I set enough quilts and blankets to insulate me from chill, and since the kerosene heater was in the exact middle of the house, I assured myself that while it would be cooler than normal in my bedroom, it would not be unbearable. I turned down all the lanterns and blew out the candles. Already the deep breathing of sleep had captured everyone in the house but me.

I held the last lit oil lantern and walked into my bedroom. The normal ritual before sleep would have to be cut down to just brushing teeth for the night.. However, the ice water out of the faucet onto my brush seemed to alert my senses and wake me up to the sound occurring outside. As I turned down the last light in the house, I could see the glow from the kerosene heater flicker gently off the hallway wall and I tucked myself under the cold sheets hoping sleep would take me like it had the rest of my family.

But I hoped in vain.

There would be no sleep for me this night.

As I tried to settle into snoozeland, I was startled wide awake by an almost continuous barrage of what sounded like exploding mortar fire. Every ten to twenty seconds loud cracks and bangs and snaps and crashes rattled my ears. The shattering sounds of ice like glass would be followed by loud crumps of heavy limbs hitting the ground or the road.

It was the sound of destruction.

I wondered aloud as the trees nearest me would explode in noise to the point my heart would jump in my chest at the loudness - if this is what it sounded like for the 82nd Airborne dug into foxholes during the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest in WWII. It was the closest analogy I could think of as I began to play a game with myself to see if I could guess where the next limb or tree coming down was from. I eventually tired of the game as my nerves were getting shot. The sound of trees collapsing and falling, lines going down was growing in frequency and intensity as the night wore on.

I got up to look out the window at one point, and it was fogged and frosted over to where I could not see outside into the darkness.

Only the sound was reaching me. It was beginning to both annoy and terrify me in the darkness of the night. I prayed silently for protection from the Almighty, and for His Will to be done. Was this part of the punishments prepared for a wayward nation, or simply time and circumstance? This is not the first ice storm in the Wintertime. But I had never heard anything like this before.

Crack! Shatter! Crump! Slam!

At the rate of the sound of destruction outside, I began to wonder if there could possibly be any trees left standing by the time daylight arrived.

As bad as I imagined it was outside, I had no idea of the scope and scale of the disaster that was taking place. Nor had I any idea that for us and many hundreds of thousands - the ordeal had not yet even begun.

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