How to Read a Map- Map Reading Is a Vital Skill

mapUntil recently, the roles in my world were fairly clear…. he drove, I navigated. Because of recent changes, I am now the driver, and my teenager gets to navigate.

This was an eye opening experience for me. I’m old school… I LOVE and still use paper maps. I like tracing routes with my finger, so I get an image in my head where I am going. I use the GPS as a back-up.

Because Maps confound her, my daughter uses her GPS exclusively.

Now, I like the GPS technology, and I do use it, but batteries fail, mistakes in programming are made, the shortest distance according to the computer may not always be the best or safest route, and satellites can fail.

Our vacation was a great learning experience for both of us.

mapHer GPS kept sending us the wrong way down one way streets…. and she ran out of batteries a few times.

The maps worked every time.

Every Survival and Prepper site worth its salt will tell you to put maps in your BOB. I want to emphasize this. Maps; a state map for perspective, a street map to figure out alternate routes, maps of neighboring states or counties in case you have to evacuate, and topographical maps to gauge altitude.

But the map alone won’t help; you need to learn to read a map.

legendLegend/ Key– The legend/key is a box at the bottom or side of the map with all sorts of symbols.  You will see lines of different widths, each with a description (is it a border? is it a freeway? is it a dirt road?). The symbols indicate schools, railroads or important buildings. You could also find clues about topographic features like mountains.

Scale– The scale is a measurement to give you distance. An inch on the map could equal a mile in the real world, or 100 miles.

scaleOrientation– There will generally be an arrow pointing to north. A compass (or familiarity with the area) will tell you where north is to you.

Make a game of it if you want… give the kids a map and send them off on a treasure hunt. Practice navigating and giving good directions. Here is a good website for practicing

Remember, you can’t get there, unless you know where you are going. Learn to read and use a map!




“King’s Mountain” by Sharyn McCrumb – Book Review

kings mountain1I spent some time hiking this weekend. In my pack was an apple, some cheese, water, and this book….

“King’s Mountain” by Sharyn McCrumb

In history class at school the Revolutionary war was Paul Revere riding, and George Washington crossing the Delaware. The British are abstract characters wearing Red Jackets, and the Colonists are a bunch of guys who throw tea in the Boston Harbor. No wonder kids don’t like history it’s too vague and distant. The novel “King’s Mountain” brings the people of America to life.

Sharyn McCrumb’s latest novel, “King’s Mountain”, tells the story of how the Overmountain Men defeated the British Army at the Battle of King’s Mountain, turning the tide on the Revolutionary war. It’s more than just a story of a battle. This is the story of John Sevier, an ancestor of Sharyn McCrumb, who lived on the frontier of the colonies. A homesteader in the Carolina mountains, he spends his time worried about Indian attack, not the Revolutionary War. McCrumb takes us deep into the life of people living in the mountains, and the dangers they face every day. It’s clear she understands the strong independent spirit that runs through these people. She knows them.

In the mountains, the distant Revolutionary war is abstract, and has nothing to do with them. However, when a British Major Patrick Ferguson begins to make threats against these homesteaders, they decide it’s time to get in the fight. What does it take to assemble a militia, to outfit them with food and supplies? This is a group of men, not an organized army. They are farmers and hunters; homesteaders not trained military. The leaders of the Overmountain Men are able to bring them together. Imagine what it takes to convince a man to march hundreds of miles in heat and cold. He’s not getting paid, the food is what he can carry or forage, and the risk of death is high.

How bad do you want your land? How important is your independence.

The other side of the story is also presented. Sharyn McCrumb uses the voice of Virginia Sal, a washerwoman, to describe life in the British Camp. As a camp follower, she’s privy to conversations and events that make the Tories more than paper cut outs of Red Coats.

The battle itself is the smallest part of the novel. “King’s Mountain” is not the story the fight; it’s the story of the struggles to forge independence. This is about standing up against a distant government that has no connection with the people it oversees.

“King’s Mountain” is the tenth book of Sharyn McCrumb’s Ballad series, and with each book she writes, her writing gets deeper and richer. Reading McCrumb’s stories is the closest you will ever come to being there.

Your Essential Seed Vault Review

Essential Seed VAULT

Back40 Your Essential Seed Vault

Back40 recently began selling their Essential Seed Vault, and I was more than happy to take a look at them, and give an honest review. Food is essential for survival, and if all other avenues are cut off, it’s good to know I can grow my own.

I think I was most surprised how substantial the Seed Vault is. You get a #10 can PACKED full of 16 varieties. Altogether there are 22,000 seeds! Reading the list, it looks like a great cross section of varieties was chosen to maximize nutrition, while still giving a delicious variety to the diet. I also love that some of the veggies are quick growing for immediate (within 30 days) harvesting, while others can be harvested later, or continually over the season.

The can contains a great selection of vegetables. Vegetables like beans and tomatoes that can be eaten fresh or canned, versatile squash and carrots that can be cooked into a number of delicious dishes, and Swiss Chard which is LOADED with vitamins! You also get seeds for onions, spinach, beets, and peas… and more!

If you’ve never gardened before, or you just want to check out the quality of the product, spring is the best time to “test” your survival seeds. The Back40 Seed Vault packs the seeds in well labeled re-sealable Mylar Baggies, so you can plant a few to get familiar with them. The growing guide is very helpful for newbie gardeners, or anyone who just needs a quick reminder….

The seeds look great, not wrinkled and old, and I’m confident that this container could keep them safe for at least 4 years. Including a can or three of the Essential Seed Vault in your stockpile could only be a good idea… to grow your own food AND to use as a barter item!

I’ve done some test planting in our garden, so we will update as things grow!


What Can I Do To Keep My Kids Safe?

keeping kids safeI’ve lost a lot of sleep these past few days. It’s my own fault.

What brought it on? Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about kids and survival lately. What can I do to make sure my kids survive? Not only survive, but thrive, live on with hope? What happens in an emergency situation if we are separated? All of the bug out bags and paracord in the world won’t help my daughters find their way to a safe place if I’m gone. And, even if I am here, how long can you endure a world that has changed completely?

What brought this on? The Movies… the News… Books… Family experience.

Think about it. In times of crisis, who do you care for? Your own people, of course. But, what about the other kids… the ones who lost their families? Do you view them as an intrusion? Another mouth to feed? Or do you help them?

Where do you draw the line?

How far will your humanity allow you to go?

In the Miyazaki film “Grave of the Fireflies”, a boy and his sister lose their mother during an air raid in Japan during World War 2. They make their way to a distant aunt, but instead of caring for them, she treats them like a burden. They end up leaving and trying to make it on their own… but they fail.

The Empire of the Son by JG Ballard is based on the life of the author, and the time he spent in a POW camp as a child in Asia. He learned to take care of himself. The adult POWs seem to consider him a pest, a burden, and not really their problem.

My father was a refugee as a child. He was lucky because someone helped him find his family. How can I be sure my kids will be safe too?

Consider the Road by Cormac MaCarthy. After finding a Prepper haven loaded with food, soap, and even cigarettes, a cleaned up Vigo Mortenson looks at his son and says, “you think I’m from another world, don’t you”? His child only knows hunger and grey skies… cold and fear. What kind of a world is that for a child? And what happens when the father dies?

So now, with all of this swirling through my head, I wonder. What can I do to protect my kids? They have basic emergency training… but what if it becomes permanent? What can I give them or teach them that will insure their safety, even if I’m not around? Who can I trust? And can I still trust that person if the SHTF? Will I be strong enough to deal with the aftermath of catastrophe armed with a can opener and some water?

Any help? Suggestions?  Is there anyone who can give me some peace?



Stockpiling at the Dollar Store?

Dollar StoreIs the Dollar Store a worthwhile place to stock your pantry? Over the past few weeks I’ve started working on my stockpile with more organized intent. Sure, I’ve always bought extra cereal when it was on sale, but now I’m looking at foods and goods that are helpful in an emergency situation.  I’ve read several articles lately on stocking your pantry or go-bag at the Dollar Store, so yesterday, I checked it out.

The Dollar Store in our area is not a true dollar store. Items are around a dollar… many are more $1.29, $1.47, $2.99, and up. That’s understandable, this is the Bay Area of California, and everything here seems to be more expensive than it is in other places. My next out-of-state road trip should give me a better perspective on prices.

So, is the Dollar Store worth your time? Well, yes and no….

I will start with the canned goods, since most everyone seems to want loads of them. The cans all started at $1.00, and went up from there. Now, a can of beans can be bought at Target for 84 cents, and if I have a coupon, or bump into a sale at my local grocery store, I can get them as low as 50 cents. The same is true for canned spaghetti /beefaroni or stew. To me, the DS isn’t a bargain for those items.

Dollar storeMy DS was stocked with LOADS of ethnic foods. Thai, Indian, Mexican and Chinese sauces and spices loaded the shelves. Because I like to cook a wide variety of foods, I checked the prices. They are lower in the DS than at the grocery store (in the specialty aisle), but the price isn’t much better than going to a local ethnic store. In fact, I shop for most of my spices at a local Indian store in bulk. Then I re-bag at home.

There are a number of items that are a worthwhile purchase. Sewing Needles and Upholstery needles are a bargain at $1.00 for a packet of 30. Safety pins are also a must get. The craft store sells them for much more.  You can get clothesline at a reasonable price. I bought one, and put it in the back of the car straight away. There were loads of storage containers, and the prices seemed alright.

My other purchases were tea (I’m a tea drinker) at $1.00 a box (great price), tropical dried fruits and some Vanilla Wafers (I use them for pie crust). Since I’m a baker, I grabbed up baking soda and baking powder. Because I want to check on the quality of these products, I only bought one of each.

Dollar storeSchool supplies like pens, spiral notebooks, paper and crayons seemed reasonable… but Target, Walmart and most office stores have incredible discounts in August, and I stock up then.

Finally, I bought hard candy. I love having hard candy in my bag or car to quell the hungries when I need something sweet. Having candy or gum in an emergency situation can be a calming thing. They had loads of different kinds. I am a bit skeptical about some of the no-name brands, but I’d give them a try.

Now, I looked at the tools and kitchen supplies. The cleaning products looked like they were reasonably priced, and I just purchased a load with coupons last week, so the prices were still familiar. Vinegar, ammonia, and bleach were more than a dollar, but still reasonable. The tools made me feel uncomfortable. Maybe it’s an old bias, but my daddy taught me to buy GOOD tools so they don’t fall apart on you when you need them. Of course, in a pinch I’d take a second rate hammer over nothing at all. The same holds true for the kitchen gear. Some looked shoddy. Other things looked fine.

My analysis, for what it’s worth, the Dollar Store can be a good place to buy certain things, but not everything. Go in knowing what you want/need… and go in knowing what the appropriate price should be. Don’t go in like a kid in a candy store thinking “oh, it’s only a dollar”… those dollars do add up. Check expiration dates, look for dings in the cans, feel the materials. Remember, you are shopping for items that you may need to count on; cutting corners on important things is a bad idea.


Prepper Mom/ Sports Mom…. Same Skill Set?

SKill SetI was rolling an idea around in my head today about how similar Prepping is to being a Sports Mom. Think about it… my kids are soccer players, but I’ve heard similar experiences from the mothers of Hockey, Baseball and Basketball players (and, of course, the supreme Sports moms have swimmers; all day meets, or Volleyball players; all day tournaments). If you can handle those grueling days… prepping should be a snap.


Take a look at this~                            

Sports Moms Prepper Moms

Sports bags are packed with all necessary equipment! Shin guards, water bottle, uniform, snack, shoes, tape, and towel.


Bug Out bags are packed with all necessary equipment! Food, Water, Clothing, tools, matches and first aid kit.


Sports moms can feed a hungry crowd of 15 teens and their parents on a soccer field at a moment’s notice.


Prepper Moms can feed their family of 4 for 6 months under emergency conditions at a moment’s notice.

Feeding (part2)

Always has some sort of high energy snack food somewhere close by… either in her car or in her purse… for hungry kids.

 Feeding (part2)

Always has some sort of high energy snack food somewhere close by… either in her car or in her bug out bag… for hungry people.


Has a vehicle that can carry several teens and their gear… as well as extra food…


Big enough vehicle to bug out with family and gear…


No way to spiked heels… ever try walking across a field in them? And you’d be kicked out of a gym for marring the floor.


When the SHTF, we are leaving those prissy girls in spiked heels in our dust…


Finding a field, gym, pool, in the middle of nowhere, hours from home, even in the dark is child’s play!


Has no problems using a compass and a map, or GPS to find any location or meeting place.


3 kids have to be on different fields in different cities at the same time? No problem.


Getting 3 kids from 3 different places in different cities to one safe location? No problem.

I guess what I’m saying is…. don’t be daunted by the idea of prepping… if you have active kids, you probably already have the skill set.            

Just take what you know, and adjust it to suit prepping needs.

Prepping My Car for Emergency (Bug Out in a Mini)

Who needs a Hummer?My car bug-out bag was much easier to assemble than I expected. Truly, my dad instilled such a fear of being helpless into me, that I already had a lot of the stuff on the list. Now, I drive a Mini Clubman… not exactly the poster child for prepper mobiles, but it can hold an alarming amount of stuff (there is a secret space in the back, below the floor of the “trunk”… perfect for storing survival gear out of sight).

Like I said, the fear of being caught away from home without supplies has always been drummed into my head, so I always had stuff tucked away: walking shoes, warm socks, sweatshirt, granola bars, water bottle, first aid, parka, and plastic bags (ok, and a Frisbie) were already there….

Now, I’ve organized it all, and my car emergency bug-out bag contains-

Walking shoes– My old hiking boots still had a lot of wear in them, so they live in the car. Don’t want to be caught in a SHTF situation wearing flip flops.

First Aid Kit– A complete kit… not just a box with a few Dora the Explorer band aids.

Duct Tape– Give me a roll of duct tape, and I will repair the world.

Food– I always have food (being a mom), but now I make sure there is a box of energy bars in the car, as well as dried fruit.

Water– A few full plastic bottles filled with water (I will rotate these regularly).

Blanket– I keep a picnic type blanket that has plastic on one side and flannel on the other folded in a special bag. I also have a small down throw that smooshes down to nothing.

Flashlight (and extra batteries)- The worst things always seem to happen after dark.

Flares– Flares work to warn others away, or for signaling for help.

Tools– I have this little tool box that has the basics… hammer, screwdriver, and pliers).

Fire Extinguisher– Small one, but it will do the trick.

Shovel– A camping shovel, the kind that folds down.

Solar Charger– I understand that I can’t jumpstart a generator with it, but a solar charger will keep my cell phone working.

Map– I keep a driving atlas of California in the car…. it’s hard to trust the GPS on my phone after it told me I had arrived while I was still driving down the Freeway.

Paper Towels/Toilet Paper– For obvious reasons.

Zip Lock Bags– Because they are so darn useful.

Wet Wipes– I learned when I had babies, that they are perfect for a quick clean up.

In addition…. I always carry (and not for emergencies, just for everyday existence)

Parka– Because I live in the Bay Area where it’s never really warm.

Sunhat– When the sun does come out, I burn.

Sun Screen– Again… sunburn

Hard Candy– because it’s yummy.

Some of you may notice that I don’t have jack… that’s because my car doesn’t have a spare tire. The mini uses run-flats…. I can drive across glass or nails and keep on going! (Guess a Mini is a Prepper car after all…)

So, Step One! Car Bug Out Bag/Emergency Equipment- DONE!

Next stop….. cleaning and organizing my pantry.

PS… I took this photo to prove what a mighty mini I have… It contains~a chair, an end table, two book cases, some paper goods, a lamp and a pumpkin. And I still had room for myself and my daughter…

Time to Put Pen to Paper

NotebookFor those of you just joining me… welcome to the log of my journey to self-sufficiency…

I couldn’t sleep last night, overwhelmed by the task I set for myself. How does a person become self-sufficient? Where do I even begin? How many canned goods would I need? How often do containers of water need to be replaced? What if I never get the hang of knitting socks?  This project seems so impossibly vast. What are the priorities?

To get my head sorted out, and to put the project into perspective, I decided to write it all down. Everyone is different…. I thrive on lists and organization. To me there is something so satisfying about writing down a task… and then checking it off when it’s done. (I’ve even been known to write things down that I’ve already done, just so I can cross them off the list… shhh).

Of course, a new project deserves a new spiral notebook (purple, my favorite color), and a cup of tea (PG tips, strong and sweet), and a pen (nothing special about the pen, expect that it works.) The notebook has five sections with pockets. My plan is to assign each section to a different part of the journey….

  1. Emergency Preparedness- what do I need to get through the magical 72 hours?…. What should I keep in the car? What should I keep in the house?
  2. Shelter in Place- A disaster or SHTF event keeps us locked in our homes… What do I need? Is a plastic tarp and duct tape vital?
  3. Long Term Evacuation- Time to bug out… Where do we go? What do we need?
  4. Prepper- Can I take care of myself and family for a year or more… without government help?
  5. Off the Grid Self-Sufficient- Land, a home, a farm, a life away from everything… a safe place.

Now, certainly, these categories overlap…. but I think that by organizing myself this way, I can get it all in order. Each section will have lists of necessary foodstuffs, tools, and other supplies.  All I need goes into the notebook where I can easily find it again. AND I get to feel the satisfaction of drawing a giant checkmarks next to completed tasks. (oh man… I sound like the card-catalog loving geek that I am. )

One final list; and perhaps this deserves its own notebook… the list of things I don’t want to forget. The good, the bad, the goofy…. a memory list. Now, this isn’t an original idea. In “The Stand” by Stephen King, a woman keeps a list of things that may be forgotten, things that she plans to tell her unborn child. (I remember she liked Sara Lee cakes). I want to remember as much as I can, everything from my favorite movies, to my grandmothers address, to great vacation trips, to that fabulous chocolate cake that they used to sell in the freezer section at Trader Joes. (My friends and I would go out of our way to buy one, then we’d set a frozen cake on the dashboard of the car so that it would thaw enough to devour by the time we got home…. rich, chocolatey…. and a road trip! the perfect mini-adventure.)

Time to get started.


Starting Out- How Far Do I Want to Go? Prepper, Homesteader, Self-Sufficient…. or Just Ready for Anything!

In the last few years my life has changed in ways I never expected. Suddenly, I found myself a single mom to 3. (Granted, one is out of the house, and another is a teenager … but the last one is still young). We used to live in a house with a yard, but now we are in the top floor a duplex with less space…. and no real garden.

Now, this is not a tale of woe is me. I certainly don’t expect violins. This is a tale of new beginnings. I’m ready to start a new life…. not just the life of the suburban soccer mom.

Over the last year I learned that I can take care of myself. I don’t NEED a husband to get things done, in fact, judging by my marriage, I never did. (I can get rid of spiders without any help, and I know how to change the oil in my car!)

But now I want to take it one step further.

I want to become truly self-sufficient. Not just “oh look I can pay for things on one paycheck” self-sufficient…. I want to know that I can live through anything that the world throws at me. I want to be able to unplug from the crazy world and know that I have all the tools and supplies to survive. Real survival, whether it’s for a disaster (this is Earthquake prone California) or for the long term. In case of total social breakdown SHTF event, I want to be READY!

Naturally, my first stop on the road to self-sufficiency was online. (Isn’t everything online?) The internet is loaded with websites filled with information on how-to unplug. Sifting through it all, I’ve only become more confused. Not to mention overwhelmed!!! Do I have the pioneer spirit to be a homesteader? Are my political views in line with today’s Preppers? Or do I let my “I can do it myself” nature take over and become self-sufficient. Do I really want to remove myself from the world entirely? Can I unplug… and survive?

This year will be an experiment to see how far I am willing to go. Baby steps first… disaster preparedness… and then moving on to a deeper commitment of stockpiling supplies to last a year. Eventually, I hope to have to money to buy land where I can start growing my own food.

Why am I sharing this information with you? Well… part of me wants to show someone that I have what it takes. Part of me is looking for ideas (and I’d love to hear your input) and then there is the teacher in me that wants to show other women and families what can work (and what doesn’t).

I hope you will join me.