Friday, September 13, 2013

Lovely Links: 'National Preparedness Month' Edition

My blog is certainly not an emergency preparedness blog; there are a ton of other blogs that cover that topic extensively. I'm definitely not an expert at prepping, either -- I just barely started putting our 72-hour kits together a few months ago. I find it interesting and somewhat amusing, however, that my most popular post to date on this blog is about emergency preparedness. A lot of people really wanted to know how to make an emergency heater, I guess. (Really, you should make one -- it only costs five bucks.)

For the Lovely Links post this month, I thought it'd be appropriate to have an emergency preparedness theme since September just happens to be National Preparedness Month. What does emergency preparedness have to do with frugality? Plenty, in my opinion. I believe that emergency preparedness goes hand-in-hand with self-reliance and frugality. 

I'm certainly not as gung-ho about emergency preparedness as some people I've met (as in, the types of people I think secretly want a natural disaster/zombie apocalypse to happen so they can use all their supplies), but I try to be smart about it. Like I mentioned, I've been working on putting together a 72-hour kits in backpacks for each member of my family. We've got a good amount water and food stored. We've got those emergency blankets and sleeping bags that look like aluminum foil, 100-hour candles and glowsticks, a battery/hand/solar-powered radio, and, of course, plenty of vinegar. I do need to work on our first-aid kit, though.

Oh, I do have those emergency heaters on hand, in case we ever need them.

Thing is, emergency preparedness can get overwhelming. There's so much you can do and it's hard to know when you've done enough (at least, I worry about that). It'd be easy to get carried away and just buy everything at once. Going into debt is definitely not the way to get prepared for an emergency -- in my opinion, debt is just another kind of emergency. The best way to go about it, really, is to do what you can little by a little, with the resources you have.

Here are a few links I've found in my efforts to get my family a little more prepared, should disaster strike. You can find more ideas on my emergency preparedness board on Pinterest.

How to Store Water :: Family Survival Planning
Storing water is probably the most important thing you can do in terms of emergency preparedness. You can live three weeks without food, but you can only live three days without water. Plus, it's also necessary for hygiene and sanitation. This link is great because it tells you how to store water, as well as dispel some myths about water storage (it's not so hard as some people think). There are also helpful links within this link (you got that?) about where to find water in an emergency and one about how to purify water.

Evacuate Your Home - 9 Checklists to Help :: A Pinch of Joy
If you've been following the news, you'll know that a lot of people in Colorado have had to evacuate over the last couple days due to severe flooding. An evacuation can be necessary for so many reasons -- last year, my brother-in-law had to be evacuated from his home because of a wildfire. This link is great because it's so organized -- I am not an organized person, so I appreciate people who like to come up with systems and checklists. This link will help you get all organized and ready to make dealing with an evacuation a lot less stressful.

36 Lessons Learned from Testing a 72-Hour Kit :: Survival Mom
This post is great because there are plenty posts about putting together a 72-hour kit but not so many about actually using one. I like the good, practical advice given here. Plus, I always enjoy a good list.

The Tackle-Box First-Aid and Wellness Kit :: Abide With Me
Remember how I mentioned I need to work on my family's first-aid kit? I love the idea of using a fishing tackle box - it really makes so much sense. The only thing that would be comparable would be one of those Caboodles from the 1990s. I'm sure my mom didn't save the one I used back in sixth grade, so I'm thinking I'll go pick up a tackle-box soon.

Lessons in the Aftermath of a Disaster :: Homestead Revival
It's almost unavoidable to read or watch the news and not see some kind of coverage of a disaster somewhere. This post is helpful because it shows what lessons we can learn from others and it's a good basic review of the essentials of preparedness. I like it because it helps me evaluate how prepared my family is. Definitely worth a read.

Every time I think about emergency preparedness, I can't help but think of a verse from one my church's books of scripture: "If ye are prepared ye shall not fear."  So, yeah, it can be kind of unsettling, scary, and even depressing to consider the worst-case scenarios as you prepare for an emergency, but being prepared gives you a sort of power. It's amazing what having the right supplies on hand, organized, and ready can do for one's peace of mind.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sweet Success: Our Very First Honey Harvest

I'm just going to put it out there: nothing tastes quite as deliciously sweet as honey from your very own hives. Seriously. The honey we harvested a few days ago is better than any other honey I've ever tried. It might be even sweeter because we had to wait extra long for it. We started beekeeping last spring, but we got no honey harvest (due to the drought conditions in my state -- just about every beekeeper here suffered last year).

This isn't going to be the most informative of posts -- I am certainly no expert on honey extraction. As the title indicates, this was my first go with the whole process. Mostly, it's my way of saying "Yay! Our beekeeping efforts finally paid off!" and to give a quick overview of the process to the bee-curious.

(You'll have to excuse the quality of the pictures in this post -- I only had the ones from my phone and Instagram feed; my toddler took the memory card out of my regular camera and lost it. Also, I took the pictures quickly; as you can imagine, extracting honey is a pretty sticky process.)

Once we knew early this year that our bees had survived the winter (hooray!), we had our fingers crossed that they would have a much more productive year than the last one. With each inspection, we saw more and more frames gradually get filled. By mid-summer, we started adding the honey supers to our hives with excitement and hope. Sure enough, by Labor Day weekend, we knew for sure we were getting a honey harvest.

Getting the bees out of the honey supers was definitely interesting for my husband and me. We had a general idea how to do it, but we were also kind of winging it.  We used a homemade fume board (basically fabric stretched over a wooden frame) sprayed with mix of oils that bees don't particularly like the smell of. On our first hive, the bees moved right out of the honey supers down into the brood boxes below. The second hive was a little more stubborn. Eventually, we had to get my dad's leaf blower and blow the poor little bees out of the honey super. 

Another problem we encountered was that the bees had built some bridges between the frames. When we pulled the frames apart, huge sections of honey were exposed. This sent the bees into a sort of feeding frenzy. Things were really sticky by then, with little bees gathering everywhere in clusters around us, on the hives, the frames, our tools, everywhere trying to lick up the honey. Lucky for us, they were too busy gorging on honey to sting us.

We ended up putting some of the loose and exposed honeycomb into jars. We were going to mash them up and get the honey out, but it's been too much fun just opening the jar and breaking off a chunk of honeycomb to eat. It's kind of like honey gum: once you get all the honey out, you just spit out the mashed beeswax into the trash. Oh my goodness, it's good. It also kind of makes you feel like Winnie the Pooh.

The good news was that we eventually got all the frames out and ready to extract.

For about a week before our harvest, I was struggling trying to get an extractor rented (since manual honey extractors can cost around $400 to buy), but then soon found out one of our neighbors had rented one for Labor Day. He said were welcome to use it, so we split the rental cost. Even better, he let us extract in his garage, where everything was already set up.

We had a few frames that were completely full -- every inch of it covered in capped honey. Most of our frames, though, looked more like the one pictured above. I can't help but be completely fascinated by the way these frames look with all those perfectly formed hexagons.  Anyway, that section that's white is where you'll find the honey!

The first step of extraction is to uncap the honey. You do this with a tool that looks sort of like like a hair pick. You drag the metal tines of the tool across the top of the capped honey, exposing the sweet stuff underneath. The cool part is that you can save all the cappings (see how it fell into the container on that rack?) for other stuff; I have yet to figure out what to do with them, but I'll let you know when I do. 

Once the honey has been uncapped, the frames are put into the extractor.  One the three frames are put in, the lid is shut and the crank on the top of it is turned quickly. The honey is flung out of the comb using centrifugal force. The nice thing about this method of extraction is that the honeycomb is left in tact so that the bees can reuse it next season (read: less time building foundation, more time filling it with honey!).

The honey settles at the bottom of the extractor and comes out through a valve at the bottom. We used two strainers over a plastic food-grade bucket. This bucket also had a valve at the bottom (with another filter), which we used to fill the Mason jars we brought. My husband, my mom, and I oohed and ahhed as the dark, golden honey flowed into the jars.

Our final haul: three gallons (approximately 35 pounds) of the most delicious honey I've ever tasted! Even better, I did a little math. I can get local honey at the health food store for about $4 a pound; at that rate, I've got around $140 worth of honey. Another year of this much honey and our start-up costs (the hives, the bees, the equipment), will be more than covered.

I still have the jars out on my kitchen table and I get a little giddy when I see them. Not only giddy, but full of gratitude for the tens of thousands of honeybees we've tended to since April 2012. It's really a miracle how those bees work to make such a perfect product. Who would have thought I'd grow to love a little insect as much as I love those bees!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I Took a Month Off...and the Blog Had a Birthday!

Hey, everyone! I'm back!

August was a busy month for my family. Not only was it the last month of summer vacation (which means squeezing in all the things we didn't do enough --or at all -- in June and July), but we also dealt with a broken arm (my oldest fell off the monkey bars) and a case of strep throat (same kid, three days before school started) in August.  Then there was the back-to-school hustle and bustle; I only have one child in school, but it's an adjustment for the whole family to get back into a set routine. Like I said, August was a pretty busy month!


During my August hiatus, this blog celebrated a birthday. The Parsimonious Princess has been going for four years now! It's been fun to chronicle my experiences and experiments here during that time. I've tried a lot of things I never thought I would in these four years: cloth diapering, raising chickens, beekeeping, and a bunch of other things. Of course, there has also been the expected things on here too: a lot of cooking from scratch, gardening, canning, and declarations of love for vinegar.

Thanks for stopping by little space here, whether you started reading back in 2009 or if you just barely found me via Pinterest. Writing and posting on this blog keeps me motivated in my efforts to live frugally and simply, making me always eager to learn more. I hope reading it does the same for you.
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