Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Extra Income Ideas

Our country is facing a massive unemployment problem.  Thousands of people are being laid off, and there are precious few new jobs available.  To drive this point home, I know of a local company that posted a single advertisement for bus drivers and monitors in our local paper.  The ad ran for one day.  They received over 370 applications for only 7 positions. 

To compound the problem, many folks have exhausted their unemployment benefits, and do not qualify for any further benefit extensions.  Some are considering themselves lucky to find minimum-wage, part-time work.  I say, we can do better.

We do not have to wait for the government to stimulate the economy.  We can create our own economies.  We do not have to wait for the government to create jobs.  We can create our own jobs.  Everyone has talents, skills, resources, abilities, and knowledge that someone else wants.  You may not think you do, but yes, you do. 

What are your hobbies?  What do you like to read about?  Can you cook?  Do you enjoy writing?  Do you like fixing things?  Can you plant a seed in a pot?  Can you tell a story?  Maybe you even know something obscure, like how to reads cards or the stars?  Any of these can lead to your own business.

Here is a list of potential homegrown jobs to get you thinking.  Some may be seasonal, some may be part-time.  But, if you get creative, you will be able to find something in your skill set, that can supplement your current income that can eventually become your primary income.

  • Produce/ornamental grower (can sell at farmers markets)
  • Handyman
  • Keep chickens and sell the extra eggs
  • Keep sheep, goats, alpacas, or rabbits, and sell their hair/fiber to knitting or fiber clubs and associations
  • Baker (get your kitchen certified in your state and sell in small specialty shops or farmers markets)
  • Sell home-canned goods, anything from jellies to soups (sell in same places as above)
  • Babysitting (find out how many children you can watch without becoming a day care, then work towards getting those qualifications)
  • Beekeeping (honey & wax sales, pollination services)
  • Computer Servicing (check into certification courses)
  • Crafting- soap making, candle making, knitting, etc.
  • Become an herbalist (some training is necessary, much of which can be done from home)
Do you know a lot about something, or even a moderate amount that you could teach to a beginner?  Then you can hold classes and offer lessons.  Here are some ideas.
  • Music
  • Knitting
  • Crocheting
  • Weaving
  • Sewing
  • Food Preservation- canning, dehydrating, smoking
  • Gardening
  • Beekeeping (help the newbies with their new bees- sorry, I know that was bad)
  • Lead a mediation group (everyone is stressed out these days!)
  • Write a book, doesn't matter- fiction, non-fiction, an instruction book, and inspirational book, anything.  You can get picked up by a publisher or self-publish, either way you work once, but payment is on-going
  • Write articles- many magazines and web sites will compensate those who contribute to their subscription issues.
  • Write a blog- there are some bloggers who get paid to write blogs.  I don't know how much a person would actually have to write in order to get paid for blog entries, but it is something to look into if you have the talent.
Next blog entry: Big Announcement

Live better, a little everyday.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Three Budget Friendly Recipies

One of the best foods to stock up on is the bean.  Any bean- kidney, chick peas, black, cannellini, pinto, whatever your pleasure.  Beans are cheap, easy to store, and have tons of fiber and protein.  Plus, they are easy to grow.  All this makes them a great addition to your pantry.  Here are three great, cheap, tasty, bean-based recipes.

Note: Using canned beans is convenient, and relatively inexpensive.  However, there is a lot of unnecessary sodium in commercially prepared canned beans.  Dry beans are even cheaper and are easy to prepare, but they do require some time.  Dry beans need to be soaked overnight before using.

Black Bean Soup (serves 4)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh ginger root, shredded
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 bag (appox 15 oz) of black beans, previously soaked overnight
  • 6 cups of water
  • 3 large sweet potatoes, pealed and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon  salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup yogurt (I use Stoneyfield Farms full fat, cream on top, french vanilla) or sour cream with each serving (optional)
  • fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
In a large pot, saute the onion in the oil until translucent.  Add peppers, garlic, ginger, and allspice and saute until the peppers are soft.  Add water sweet potatoes, and beans and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and cooked through.  Add the salt and black pepper.  Take 1-2 cups of the soup and blend in a blender, then replace to the pot.  Add yogurt and cilantro leaves to each individual bowl.

White Bean and Carrot Soup
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced*
  • 1 Tablesoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3-4 scallions/green onions chopped
  • 1 quart broth (veggie or chicken)
  • 2 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into 2-3 inch sections
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 bags (approx 30 ounces) cannellini beans (or any white bean), soaked overnight
  • Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, saute the onion in the olive oil until translucent.  Add the garlic, scallions, and saute 3-4 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the broth, carrots, oregano, thyme, sage, pre-soaked cannellini beans, salt, and pepper.  Simmer 30-45 minutes.  In batches, run the soup through a blender.

*To add another level of flavor, try roasting the garlic first.  Roast the entire garlic bulb and use the extra garlic in other recipes, flavor bread, etc.  Preheat the oven to 400*.  Leaving the garlic in its paper, cut the top off the bulb, and brush the top of the bulb with olive oil.  Roast in the oven  for 20 minutes, or until soft.  Squeeze out the garlic cloves.  They will be soft, sweet, and take the soup to a whole new level.

Refried Beans
  • 1 bag (appox. 15 oz) pinto beans, soaked overnight
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 5-6 garlic cloves (you could use the left-over roasted cloves from the above recipe)
  • 2 teaspons cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
Soak beans overnight.  In the morning, drain the water and rinse beans. Add beans to a large pot and add fresh water (enough water to cover the beans with at least two inches of water over the beans).  Cook beans for 1 and 1/2 hours, or until soft.  Drain beans.  In a skillet, saute the onion in the olive oil for 5 minutes, then add garlic and cumin and cook for another 4 minutes, being careful not to let the garlic burn.  Using a potato masher, mash the beans in a large bowl.  Stir in the onion mixture.  Stir in the cayenne or hot sauce, salt, and pepper.  Serve as a side dish, with rice (complete protein combo), in burritos, with guacamole and sour cream, and so on.

Next blog entry: Extra Income Ideas

Live better, a little every day

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Frugal and Natural Homemade Cleaning Supplies

With so many people trying to cut back on expenses, it's a good time for a blog entry about making your own cleaning supplies.  With some very simple ingredients, you can create your own cleaning supplies for pennies per use. 

Making your own cleaning supplies does three things: First, it saves money.  Second, it reduces exposure to toxic chemicals.  And, third, it increases self-sufficiency.  Who can argue with that?

Four items that you can get cheaply from the grocery store or your wholesale club that will handle most cleaning tasks are: baking soda, vinegar, lemons, and salt.  (I buy all these at the wholesale club to save as much money as possible.)  With the addition of a few essential oils, lavender, tea tree, lemon, and sweet orange oil, you can tackle a wide variety of cleaning chores. 

Glass Cleaner
Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle.  Use newspapers to wipe if streaking is a problem.  Use this mix as a base for other cleaning needs.

Disinfectant Spray
To the basic Glass Cleaner spray mix, add 5 drops of lavender and 10 drops of tea tree essential oils.  Use on door knobs, counter tops, sinks, mist into the air, mist lightly over a bed while airing out the mattress, etc.

Kitchen/Bath Multi-Purpose Spray
To the Disinfectant spray mix, add 5 drops of lavender and 5 drops of lemon essential oils.  Use on counter tops, toilet lids, and anywhere germs are a concern.

Grease Cutter Spray
To the basic Glass Cleaner spray mix, add 5 drops of lemon and 10 drops sweet orange essential oils.  If you have a really tough, greasy mess, reduce the amount of water/vinegar portion by half, and increase the sweet orange oil to 20 drops.

To Clean a Cutting Board
Spray with 50% water and 50% vinegar mix.  While damp, sprinkle some salt on the board.  Cut a lemon in half, and use the cut lemon surface to rub the salt into the board.  Rinse with water and let dry.

To Clean a Toilet Bowl
Add two cups of baking soda to the bowl, and let sit for an hour.  (Go enjoy a nice cup of tea and maybe a slice of pumpkin bread!)  Add a cup of vinegar to the bowl, and scrub clean with a toilet brush. 

To Clean Soap Scum
Sprinkle the surface to be cleaned with baking soda.  Spray straight vinegar onto the baking soda.  Using a little elbow grease, use the foaming soft scrub made by the baking soda/vinegar combo to clean the tub. 

*A note for those who want to be as self-sufficient as possible...Most of us would never be able to produce their own baking soda.  Most of us would not be able to produce our own salt.  Although, those near the coast could potentially collect sea salt, though I would probably not waste sea salt on cleaning products.  In those two cases, most people would still be reliant on a grocery store or wholesale club. 

Every other item I mentioned is potentially capable of being produced an a homestead.  Vinegar can be made at home, as part of one's home brewing efforts.  Even folks in colder climates or with limited space can grow miniature lemon and orange trees by moving them inside a green house or indoors in the winter, and back outdoors on a balcony or porch in the summer.  If in a cold climate, tea trees (Melaleuca Alternifolia) could be grown with green house protection in the winter.  If you have the space, then you could conceivably grow enough of these plus lavender to distill your own essential oils. 

Next blog entry: Three Budget Friendly Recipes

Live better, a little every day.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Herbal Remedies to Fight the Cold and Flu

Here are my favorite herbal and aromatherapy-based remedies for the cold and flu.

Lavender essential oil is is my #1 favorite remedy.  It has the most uses of almost any essential oil.  Lavender essential oil has natural antiviral and antibiotic properties.  It is an effective decongestant when inhaled, alieviates  body aches when added to a bath, warm compress, or body oil or lotion and applied to the body.  I have put a few drops on cotton balls and placed the cotton ball in my ears (like ear buds) to cope with ear ache pain.  Many warm mist vaporizers have a way to medications or aromatherapy oils to the steam. 

You can add some lavender oil and water to a spray bottle and use the mist to naturally disinfect your home.  Natural cleaning is essential to stop the spread of germs, and lavender does a great job of disinfecting.  By disinfecting commonly-touched areas, like door knobs, telephones, countertops, etc., you help prevent the spread of disease.  Bonus- lavender smells great. 

Please note, these healing properties are attributed only to the actual plant-based essential oil.  Synthetic fragrance oils have none of the chemical compounds of the real thing, and are worthless for aromatherapy.  NEVER ingest essential oils.

Herbal Tea
Any member of the mint family (peppermint, spearmint, etc.) will help thin mucus.  Add some lemon for some extra Vitamin C.  You can add mullein to help with chest congestion, anise for sinus congestion, and Slippery Elm for a sore throat.

However, here is what I drink when I feel a cold or flu coming on:
  • Ginger root, a piece about the size of your thumb, peeled (aches and fever relief)
  • Garlic cloves, at least three, peeled and cut in half (boost immune function)
  • 9 whole cloves- the kind you stick in a ham (pain relief)
  • 3-4 cinamon sticks, broken (sore throat relief)
  • 1 Tablespoon of thyme (antibiotic)
  • 5 cups of water, cool
  • Honey to taste (enzymes, anti-bacterial, anti-viral properties)
Add all ingredients to a pot filled with 4 cups of cool water.  Bring the water up to a boil.  Allow to boil for 10 minutes and reduce to simmer for another 20 minutes or until the water has reduced by half.  While this is simmering, in another pot, heat the remaining cup of water to steaming.  Remove from heat, add the thyme, and inhale while waiting for the first mixture to reduce.  When the first mixture is ready, add one tablespoon of the thyme liquid to the ginger-based liquid, and pass through a mesh strainer.  Ginger and garlic are both strong tastes.  When tea is cool enough to drink, add honey to taste.  Do not add honey to boiling liquid.  It will destroy the enzyemes that give honey its healing properties.

It is recommended to begin drinking this tea at the onset of symptoms for greatest relief.  Of course, if you have an allergy to any ingredient, leave it out.

(Technically, this is called a decoction, not a tea, because it uses roots and barks which must be added to cool water and brought to a boil  A tea uses leaf or flower parts of the plant and are added to hot, but not boiling water.)

Herbal Tinctures (Extracts)
Tinctures offer concentrated herbal properties in a standardized dosage.  Some of the tinctures reputed to help fight the flu include elderberry and golden seal.  Reports on echinacea are conflicting.  There are many studies (as well as lengthy, historical usage) to suggest that echinacea is effective if begun at the onset of symptoms.  There are, however, many studies that show echinacea to be ineffective on the flu.

Where to Buy Herbal and Aromatherapy Supplies
I have had good experiences ordering from the following companies:
Next blog entry: Frugal and Natural Homemade Cleaning Supplies

Live better, a little every day.

How To Fight The Flu At Home

Many Americans are out of work due to the economic crisis and cannot afford the COBRA payments to keep their insurance.  This means a lot of folks will not be able to afford to go to the doctor for minor health issues and will be looking for less expensive ways to cope with matters like the cold of flu.

About six years ago, I found a much better paying job. Due to some administrative issue regarding cut off dates, however, it meant I would be without health coverage for almost a year. I was young, relatively healthy, and took the gamble that nothing serious would happen to me that would require serious medical attention. Thankfully, nothing did. However, it forced me to be resourceful and learn alternate ways of coping with the symptoms of minor health issues, especially the cold and flu.

Flu symptoms for either seasonal or swine flu are the same and include: fever, body aches, fatigue, headache, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffed nose, and possibly intestinal issues.  In both types of flu, symptoms can range from mild to severe, and in some cases also be fatal.  Those most at risk are those with compromised immune systems, children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with pre-existing health complications.  However, the percentage of individuals who suffer serious and/or life threatening influenza infections are overwhelminging low.  See my earlier blog entry, Should I Be Worried About Swine Flu, for the statistics on both seasonal and swine flu.

Here is an overview of home remedies for the flu.

Steam Inhalation
Take a hot shower
Use a warm mist humidifier
Fill sink or bath with steaming water

Herbs and Aromatherapy (do not use any ingredient you may be allergic to)
Add an herb or essential oil to steam inhalation
Apply a product like Vick's Vaporub, which contains eucalyptus oil and menthol

Stay Hydrated
Drink additional water
Warm drinks, like herbal teas, are comforting

Saline Nasal Sprays
Helps to thin mucus and keep nasal passages moist and comfortable

Chicken Soup
Spicy foods, like wasabi and chili peppers

Cold- may help bring down a fever
Hot- may help relieve sinus pressure (be careful not to use too hot of a compress)

These remedies should provide some comfort while your immune system fights off the flu.  Of course, if you experience any serious flu symptoms, you should seek professional medical attention.

Next blog entry: Herbal Remedies to Fight Cold and Flu (recipe included)

Live better, a little every day.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Should I Be Worried About Swine Flu?

The H1N1 virus, also known as "Swine Flu", has a lot of folks concerned this flu season.  Heated controversy exists over how dangerous the H1N1 virus is, the media attention it is receiving, and what treatment is safe and appropriate. 

Flu Facts
According to the Center for Disease Control, seasonal influenza virus (the "flu") infects between 5-20% of the American population each year.  This results in approximately 200,000 hospitalizations related to the flu, and approximately 36,000 flu related deaths each year. 

To put those figures in perspective, I'll use the 5% infection rate and the CDC's figures for recognized hospitalizations and deaths to provide the most grim results for the average flu season.  Using a US Census report from 2008 listing the US population at 304,059,724, five percent would be 15,202,986 people who contract the flu.  This would mean that the 200,000 people who require hospitalization for the flu represents only 1.32% of the total infected cases.  The total number of deaths from the flu then represents only 0.24%, less than a quarter of a percent of the total number of infections. 

Of course, using the higher percentages in the 5-20% range would make the final figures for hospitalization and fatalities much less.  The actual numbers are probably even less than that, considering many people never bother to contact a doctor when they come down with the flu.

Enter swine flu onto the flu season stage.  The swine flu does not infect humans every year.  It is an additional strain of influenza that occasionally mutates and becomes infectious to people.  Depending on the news source, some claim it is more deadly than the regular flu, while others vehemently assert just the opposite is true.  A quick google for "death rates of swine flu" produced figures varying from 10% to a mere 1 in 10,000.  However, there seems to be a link between death from verified H1N1 cases and secondary infections or other existing health problems.  In other words, the vast majority of people who have died from confirmed swine flu also had something else wrong with them.

Is H1N1 something to be concerned about? 
There doesn't seem to be a clear answer.  It has been declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, but pandemic does not automatically equal "deadly pandemic."  Interestingly, doctors' offices and hospitals are no longer even testing for H1N1 unless the patient requests one and is administered at the patient's expense.  This is why I made it a point to notate "confirmed" cases in the above section.  Patients are still tested to determine if a flu strain is either an "Influenza A" or Influenza B".  Both the regular flu and H1N1 are type A.  But, routine testing ends there.

Mainstream media networks have latched on to each incident of suspected swine flu cases.  It makes for dramatic, "stay-tuned" broadcasting.  They have no way to verify if such cases were the seasonal or swine flu, and spend a great deal of time promoting the swine flu vaccine. 

This lack of thorough testing, when compared to the media hype over swine flu danger, sends a mixed message.  One would assume that obtaining a proper diagnosis would be the first step in determining the proper treatment and associated risk.  If the health risk presented by H1N1 is as great as the media and government agencies claim, then wouldn't it be imperative that health care providers also collect proper data on H1N1 infection rates?

A hastily prepared vaccine has been rushed to the market, and special priveleges granted to protect drug companies from any litigation stemming from injury from the vaccine.  Many people are concerned over drastic measures to encourage taking the vaccine when there is still so much debate over how serious, or not, the H1N1 virus actually is.  Some states are trying to make the vaccine mandatory for certain groups, such as health care workers in New York, threatening, "take the vaccine or lose your job."  Other states, Like Massachusetts, are considering sweeping legislation (MA Senate Bill 2028) that would permit government agents to enter a person's home without a warrant, accompanied by armed police, seize personal property and real property, as long as the health agent claims it is necessary to prevent disease.  While the bill does not "technically" make vaccinations madatory, those who do not receive it are subject to isolation or quarantine and a $1000 per day fine.

Back in the 1970's, there had been another outbreak of swine flu.  A vaccine was also cranked out in record time that the government highly recommended everyone receive.  Many people had a severe reaction to the vaccine, Guillaine-Barre syndrome.  This condition paralyzes the body, including the lungs.  While some have recovered, many others have been left permanently paralized, and unfortunately, some died.  The new vaccine is made similarly to the one from the 1970's.

I am not a doctor, but from the research I have done, I will not get either the seasonal or swine flu shot.  I do not think that there has been enough research on either vaccine to prove it is safe, and I do not wish to expose my unborn child to the heavy metals used as preservatives in the vaccines.  If MA Senate Bill 2028 passes, we will leave the state until the declared emergency is over rather than have an untested medication forced on us.  I would prefer to limit my risk of catching either flu, and handling any symptoms at home naturally.

Next Blog Entry: How To Fight The Flu At Home

Live better, a little every day.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Progress Update #4, Cabin Building

Back in August, my husband and his two older boys went up to Maine to work on our little cabin. I was too sick with morning sickness to go with them, but I did have my youngest stepson to help me keep little Karl entertained.
The Ellis men were able to get the roof rafters and roof sheeting installed. Three of the four windows went in. While there was no time for interior work or to put shingles on the roof, the roof has been temporarily waterproofed by stretching and securing a blue tarp over the roof sheeting. As you can see, there is a very steep pitch to the roof. The cabin kind of reminds me of an IHOP restaurant with their steep, blue metal roofs! They boarded up the cabin and came home.

We're not sure if we're going to be able to make another trip this late in the season. Next on our list for building the cabin is to get the insulation and interior walls in, and shingles on the roof. If this has to wait until next spring, then we'll be dividing our time between cabin building and planting fruit trees.

Live better, a little every day.

Fall/Winter Blog Entries

For those of you who have been following the blog for a while, or have read some of the archived blog entries, you know that we have an on-going project up in Maine- our cabin. I do have one more, and much overdue, Progress Report to enter to update the status of our cabin-building efforts for 2009. As the colder months settle in, however, the likelihood that we will get many more opportunities to head north diminishes. There is a possibility we can make one more trip (weather permitting), but in all likelihood, cabin-related Progress Reports will resume in the spring.

For the remainder of the autumn and throughout the winter, blog entries may be about anything related to preparedness, independence, homesteading, book reviews, herbal remedies, or any self-sufficiency related topic.

Is there is anything that you would like to learn more about? Leave a comment here on the blog with your topic idea. I'll be happy to do the research and dedicate a blog entry to your topic.

Live better, a little everyday.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Recipe- Hamburger Stroganoff

Since my blog entry yesterday was about canning, today I thought I'd post a recipe that can be easily doubled, and the extra servings canned for later using a pressure canner. It freezes well too. The recipe comes from one of the most useful books I have on my shelf, Stocking Up III, by Carol Hupping of the Rodale Food Center.

The book covers a wide range of food storage options. There are recipes, instructions to make your own butter and yogurt, and walks you through the specific steps of canning, freezing, and dehydrating just about anything. (It does not cover smoking or salt curing.) In my opinion, it is the best bang for your buck in food preservation books.

This recipe is simple, uses inexpensive ingredients, stores well, tastes great, and is a perfect cold-weather meal. If you do not have a pressure canner, this freezes well too. Just remember that your freezer is vulnerable to power outages.

Hamburger Stroganoff

1 and 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium-sized onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons soy sauce (more if desired)
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 and 1/2 cups sour cream

In a medium skillet, cook beef for 10 minutes, or until done. Drain off fat. Add garlic, onions, pepper, and 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and cook until onions are tender. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon soy sauce and, if serving now and not canning or freezing, the sour cream. Let sauce just heat through, 5-7 minutes.

Can or freeze. To can, pack hot into hot, scalded pint or quart jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Adjust seals and process in a pressure canner, 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts. Remember to add sour cream to canned or frozen stroganoff when heating.

Live better, a little everyday.