Monday, January 31, 2011

My Thrivalist Binder

This is a topic I've been meaning to post about for some time.  As is the way of things, events have conspired to reveal the good advice I've been meaning to share with all of you as something I should have heeded better myself.  I've been having serious computer trouble lately, and there's the possibility that I may permanently lose a great deal of information and photos saved on my hard drive.  Physician heal thyself.  I've never been too diligent about regular backups.  The last backup performed on my computer was months ago, if not a year ago.  It's a hard lesson to learn, but it brings home what I had intended to write about.  What follows is the post I've been working on incrementally for a few months...

Plenty of peak oil doomers, preppers, and thrivalist types have blogged about their shelf full of reference books for Camp Teotwawki, including me.  But there are an awful lot of loose, unbound, but important bits of information floating around my life that aren't in books.  A great deal of it is on my computer hard drive, here on my own blog, or resides at websites that are as familiar to me as old friends.  From a prepping perspective, this is a bit problematic.  If something suddenly takes out my electrical supply, or the network of datafarms that stores the content of the internet, that information is gone.  And that's probably when I'd most need this information.

This has been nagging me for a while and I finally started printing out important bits of information as they came to my attention.  I put these pages together in a three-ring binder similar to one I keep for recipes I use over and over again.  Each page is placed in a plastic sleeve and then in the binder.  This has always been really handy for the recipes, since the sleeve protects the page from batter, splattering oil, wet hands, etc.  It has saved me having to reprint a given recipe many times over.

So what sorts of things have made it into my thrivalist binder so far?  Here's a sampling:
  • Our yearly harvest records and notes from the garden
  • A planting schedule specific to my hardiness zone, our local first and last frost dates, and the dates when we lose and gain ten hours of daylight
  • Some guidelines on biodynamic beekeeping
  • General principles of curing meat
  • Worksheets for each of my curing batches and a supply of blank curing worksheets 
  • Instructions on making soap the old-fashioned way
  • Where There Is No Doctor - available as a free download
  • Instructions for caring for fig trees grown in containers in my zone
  • Guidelines for disinfecting water through exposure to sunlight
  • Homemade rooting hormone recipe, and a few guidelines on growing plants from cuttings
  • Sharon Astyk's recommendations for 25 plants we should all consider growing
  • Detailed information on growing a few specific medicinal herbs and their various uses
  • Planting instructions for garlic
  • Basic information on seed saving
  • A few working notes on meals cooked in the solar oven
  • A printout of Rocket Mass Heaters
  • All of our soil test results from year to year and bed to bed
  • Guidelines for processing raw wool
  • Guidelines for preparing natural dyes from plants, and a list of which plants produce various shades
Mostly this is information that's either self-generated and therefore not available in any book, or specific pieces of information taken from books that I don't feel the need to own as a whole.  Some of it I may not ever need, but much of it is information I'm already using regularly, if infrequently.  None of it is information I want to trust to memory alone.  There are plenty of things I haven't yet remembered to print out and add to the binder.  But at least having started it there's now a ready repository of information that fits the bill.  I'm more likely to bother to print out the pages since the binder is there and stocked with a supply of empty plastic sleeves. And even if disaster never occurs, having the hard copy means I don't need to use any energy to access the information.

Incidentally, Kathy Harrison not long ago posted about an emergency binder of a different sort.  She has assembled various pieces of critical information and legal documents for her family in case one of the adults is incapacitated, or in case of the need to evacuate her home on very short notice.   This is a binder of a very different sort, but well worth putting in place, in my opinion.  You don't have to be a doomer to benefit from the sorts of preparations Kathy writes about.  After all, we can pretty much count on being incapacitated or dying at some point.  The information she advises assembling would benefit any family trying to deal with the serious illness or death of an adult member of the family.  You don't even have to live in an area prone to natural disaster to use her advice; house fires can happen to anyone at any time. 

So what about you?  Have you printed out information you think is valuable and put it in an easily accessible place?  Care to share what bits of knowledge have made the cut?


meemsnyc said...

This is a great idea, since computers are prone to break done, get a virus etc. Thanks for the tip! Speaking of,I think I'll do a backup of my data right now.

becky3086 said...

I have a whole binder full of information and I need another one.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

And here I thought I was being all responsible by paying cold, hard cash for a service that backs up my files, online, every day.

Still, I'm guess that the odds my house will burn down are higher than the odds that the Internet will be taken out, so maybe it's not such a bad bet.

I'd think the smartest way would be both versions, but I've just never been known to take the smartest way.

I think there's a whole cohort of people too lazy or ill-informed to make their own binders (yes, that would be me) who would be willing to pay good money for a copy of yours.

Hazel said...

As usual you're ahead of me.

This is on my to-do list, and I keep mulling over what information I need to include in it. Every time we have a power cut or the computer plays up I think that I really should have done it already, and then when everything's back to normal it drops back down the priority list.

I think my contents would be similar to yours-
Water purification
First Aid/medical information for us and the menagerie
Recipes and gardening info I have online
Humanure download in case of water shortage
Herbal remedies etc
Wood as fuel chart like this one

I had the beginnings of a contents list somewhere; more 'how-tos' on it, definitely. Maybe I'll find it during the great declutter...

Anonymous said...

Excellent Idea! I have printed out several things I keep on hand and now thanks to your idea I will make a binder for such.
Thank you

Laryssa Herbert said...

This is such an important point. I have so much info on my computer. I really appreciate you linking to the free book downloads. Most of them were on my Amazon wish list!

Julie said...

Oh gosh, I'm so guilty of not having all my info backed up or easily accessible. I've been working on sorting out my stockpile again now I'm feeling better and have just started assessing my reference book collection, but haven't begun to start on my compter. I've had a nagging feeling about those hundreds of internet pages I have bookmarked for a while so thanks for the inspiration to get them all organised & stored appropriately Kate :-)

louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife said...

Great idea.

(*clicks to run a data backup right now!*)

I've got a lot of reference books but only in certain subject areas - I very much like the idea of having a binder with everything in there just in case.

On a related subject, I'm loving The Greening of Gavin's current Be Prepared project at the moment - especially the skills spreadsheet idea.

Kate said...

meemsnyc, glad to be a goad for your backup diligence.

Becky, care to share what's in that binder, or heading for the new one?

Tamar, you're undoubtedly right about both methods being the smart option. How much does your automated service cost? And do you worry about security of sensitive information? As for what's in my binder, after eliminating what is either copyright protected or pertinent only to my immediate region (or even my particular backyard,) there would be very little left to offer to others. Thus the description of what's included in my binder. But I'm very interested to hear what information others have considered tucking away for a rainy day.

Hazel, this project got some attention (though obviously not enough) only in the winter downtime. Over the growing season there were too many other things to pay attention to. I *love* the link on firewood qualities. Thank you! If you have any others to recommend, please do!

Barbara, thanks. Hope your binder shapes up well.

Laryssa, you're welcome. I think only one of the books mentioned in this post is a free download though. The one on rocket stoves requires a payment, if I'm not mistaken. But yes, there's at least one more on my Bookshelf page.

Hey, Julie! You're in the thick of things with summer down there. If you get it done now, I'll be powerfully impressed. I would love to hear about what pages you plan to print out. Maybe a post of your own? Or maybe I could do another post here if enough ideas show up in the comments section.

Louisa, thanks. I'll check out Gavin's project. I think I've been running a skills worksheet informally through my mind for the last few years. At least it feels like that sometimes...

Anonymous said...

Hi Kate: You are so right on backups. A few suggestions: Check out the following site: We have this list printed out and in a binder. Some reference books: Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living; Reader's Digest Back to Basics; Books published by Storey Publications & Garden Way. The Foxfire Series. I collect cookbooks - especially historical ones and they have a ton of info on how things were done before we became complacent with all of our new technology. One thing I have been doing re food storage is using a black marker to put the best buy date in large easy to ready numbers on the packages/cans. Some of these dates offered by processors are hard to read. Marion

Michelle said...

Great topic & Great ideas!
My only binders currently are business, food recipes & herbal recipes...and they are both unorganized, or rather organized messes as I do know where to find things.
The emergency binder with household info seems essential, especially when one person is doing all the book keeping/ bill paying.
Good project to work on binders while it's still winter.

Rural Revival said...

No I haven't but this is an excellent idea. Both types of binders I think are important. Imagine the world of computers stopping one day;(I just read World Made by Hand so my view of a different future has been altered forever!) putting all of our trust into our computers is no doubt not the wisest decision.
Great post!

Vera said...

Excellent idea, this binder one of yours. Also have bits of paper everywhere, and over the years have tried numerous systems, including the computer, of keeping them in order, all of which have failed. But this is so simple and logical that I am kicking myself for not having thought of it before.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Kate -- My backup is $6. a month. I balked even at that, but then I swallowed hard and slept easy.
As for sensitive information, I don't really have much, but I wouldn't worry anyway. Maybe I'm whistling past the graveyard, but I figure anyone who's in the business of backing up information makes it a point to be careful with it -- otherwise he's out of business.

When you read that 17 Mozy (my service) personnel go to jail for selling confidential information, you'll definitely have the last laugh!

Kate said...

Marion, hi. Yes, I've seen that list before. Might be a good thing to add to a binder. As in your case, a lot of the information I think will be valuable is already in books I own. So I don't bother printing it out for the binder.

Michelle, that's exactly the situation Kathy wanted to prepare for with her binder. She has kids at home, so it's even more important for her. We don't have kids, but it only makes sense for anyone single or married to have a go-to place for critical pieces of information. Hope you can get your info squared away before spring starts.

Rural revival, I agree that both make sense. I haven't begun to put together the sort of short term emergency binder Kathy describes, but I'm going to try to get it done this year.

Hi, Vera. Glad you like the idea, and I hope it works for you. I'd love to hear about any bits of information that you think are worth having a hard copy of.

Tamar, I suppose I don't have any particularly sensitive info either. But I also suppose I'm a wee bit paranoid. For instance, I taped over the camera lens on my laptop, just on the off chance that my computer could be hacked. I don't want the boogie man watching me! Still $6/month seems mighty reasonable at the moment, as I contemplate what it might cost to have someone try to salvage the contents of my dead hard drive. Thanks for the reference to Mozy. I take it you've been happy with their service?

agwh said...

I have a binder like this. The first pages I put in it were from the Humanure Handbook (available online). I figured that a composting toilet would be high on the list of things we would need in a real emergency.

Jennie said...

I have multiple folders. Right now they are just the 50c 2-pocket folders, but eventually I'll upgrade to binders.

I have a folder full of sewing patterns that I've printed out. (Diapers, skirts, bags, etc.)
I have one that has "farming" info, everything from soil to bees, chickens to carrots.
I have one that's full of emergency information, (what to do if nuclear fallout is headed my way, water filtration guides, rocket stove plans, composting toilet plans)
Then lastly I have a kitchen folder that gets all the meal recipes and DIY cleaners/meds/beauty printouts.