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My e-mail has been interesting this past month. Many want advice about Y2K. After receiving several particularly urgent "E's" from individuals who are about to spend their hard- earned savings on Y2K survival gear, I have capitulated and am authoring a public response.
My first advice comes from a ninety-five year old "maturity-challenged" senior citizen who has some words of wisdom to pass along. This man has been through several world wars, hurricanes, tornadoes, the dirty thirties, the cold war, 27 "ends of the world" (his last count). "Have we gotten so far from our roots," he asked, "that we cannot survive without computers and electricity?. I have never seen a manmade object yet that cannot be fixed with the flip of a switch, the turn of a knob or the striking of a key. Many so called pending "disasters" are engineered in advance by those who have something to sell to those who have little money to buy. No doubt there will be odd things that will happen around January lst. If so, people must rise to the challenge. During my lifetime I found the worst that happens brings out the best in people." He then added, "Why are people worrying about 11:59.59 on December 31? They will know more than fifteen hours in advance what odd occurrences might happen - when the first celebrations for the new millennium begin on islands to the far east of North America. They will definitely have an idea what might not work by the time millennium celebrations begin in Europe." How true!
My second bit of information comes from a sixty-five year old back-to-the-lander. "Have these "sky is falling" people stopped to consider that two-thirds of the world's population are not concerned about Y2K. Most have not heard of Y2K. They have no computers. They live in countries where every day it is a struggle to survive, where potable water and an abundant food source is a dream. It is only in the "techno world" that people worry themselves to death about a perceived problem - Y2K - just as they worried about the nuclear threat during the 1950's. Civilized people always have something to worry about. Most of the world haven't time to worry for trying to survive."
I am not a "doomsday" person. Common sense rules. Personally, having lived through fire, flood, tornado and extensive power outages, this household is always prepared for emergencies, as should yours. It is prudent planning to be prepared for unexpected occurrences, regardless of where one lives. All households should have a two week supply of food on hand, not counting frozen foods - or those that must be kept cold. Be prepared to lower meal standards. During emergencies, you are not going to eat gourmet food. As a matter of fact, you're not going to eat the sort of meals you are accustomed to at all. As an individual who has relied on a fireplace for heat, and who has cooked her fair share of meals over its hot coals, I can tell you what suddenly becomes unimportant when keeping warm is top priority.
I can give you some great do's and don'ts that I've learned from more than forty years of experience. Don't spend money on foods that you will never eat, equipment you might never use. If dried foods have never been in your diet, don't invest in quantities of the product. If you've never baked bread on an alternate cooking source, don't buy 100 lbs of flour. Have prepared pancake mix in your pantry + large jars of peanut butter, jam and honey. Olive oil makes a good butter substitute. Stock instant coffee, rice, pasta & sauce, your favourite canned foods, instant milk powder, (chocolate and regular) dried fruits for quick snacks. Don't forget a and - operated can opener. Keep large boxes of prepared cereal on hand. Even without milk, cereal makes a good fast meal. Popcorn is a good filler and is easy to pop. Packets of instant oatmeal are great as a hot food. You'll be surprised what you cannot cook utilizing a fireplace.
A barbeque makes a good alternative OUTSIDE cooking source. Have a set of old pots on hand, an large cast iron frying pan with lid, and a large heavy cooking pot with a tight fitting lid. Do use one-pot recipes - the fastest way to make a hearty meal - my children call them "open three cans and stir" recipes. A clean bathtub can be used for water storage. A big supply of candles, oil lamps (with wick and oil), battery operated radio, small battery operated TV if you have one (do not rush out to buy one), supply of extra batteries, flashlights, supply of fuel augmented by firelogs if your emergency heat source is a fireplace. Clean snow can be used as a water source if it is boiled first. In colder climates, a wooden, lidded box on the back porch can be used as an icebox.
If on prescription medication, do not let your supply dwindle to less than three weeks at any time. Also, we try to keep our gas tank topped up - just a habit of ours. One other thing - this from an individual who endured a month of power outage in Quebec 1998. During any emergency, never put yourself or your family in jeopardy by trying to stay in your own home if you are not properly prepared with a good alternate source of heat and an adequate food supply. Go to the nearest community shelter and assist where you can to make life easier for everyone.
Here's an interesting exercise in which families should participate. We did this several times when our children were young, for several reasons. It gave them a taste for "pioneer life" and it gave us the opportunity to see what we needed to prepare for emergencies. Our children thought it great fun to live pioneers during the 1800's. Choose a three day period for your "experiment." The rules: Electricity cannot be used at any time. Water cannot be drawn from taps. It must be gotten from jug source for drinking (rain barrel for washing up). All water must be boiled. There is NO television, NO computer, NO radio, NO telephone. If one has to use the facility, he/she must go outside and walk around the house once before going into the bathroom (as though going to an outdoor privy). The toilet was flushed only twice a day - and that will several jugs of water thrown down it. Get the picture? You sure will after you've survived three days without modern amenities!
To end this column: I always keep good financial records. I will not have huge amounts of cash on my person or in my house. There is more to life then Y2K and I am looking forward to the END of all the hype!
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