Saturday, December 27, 2008

....And we're back

Phew, I think I've been run over by the Christmas truck. No, not necessarily by the consumerism because Christmas was a bit smaller this year, but more by church and obligations. I've had a full two services a week from Advent through Christmas - one more pageant play to direct and I believe we can put that season behind. Lots more work to come but work is perennial, thank goodness.

We got the wood stove all installed just after Thanksgiving. I'm glad to have it as the nights are below 0 and the days don't get above freezing. I've got beans cooking on the cook top right now as I type.

The chickens are starting to lay eggs - yea!!!. We get a few more each day. It started out as one egg every other day and this morning I'm up to 6 from 4 the previous couple of mornings. This is good as Nee is home from school and as a vegetarian, eats a lot of eggs.

We lost one hen to a visiting dog. The dog was part of a rescue we were holding for a few days. She got put out back to potty before bed, five minutes later she had ignored the entire nice yard and gone through the hole in the fence into the coop and snagged a sleeping hen off the roost. Thankfully the dog then brought it into the yard to eat and didn't rip the whole coop full apart. The loss stung, but I feel lucky to have averted disaster.

I'll be visiting around the blogs to see how everyone is doing.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back to the routine

In addition to the cooking last weekend, we also filled shoe boxes with little things for presents to be sent as presents to kids around the world. This meant shopping and buying all sorts of little new things like pens and pencils, notebooks, hairbrushes and hair ties,toothbrushes and toothpaste, flashlights and extra batteries, and teddy bears... All that consumer spending felt out of place.

I'm glad to be back home today, baking bread, making jerky, cleaning the chicken coop. I even just sat on the back step in the sun and clucked with my chickens.

Having the birds in the yard with the dogs is working out fine. Mr. Greenjeans made a Bernese Mountain Dog sized hole in the fence so the dogs and cats now check out the chicken coop as well. They'd never been in there before. Of course the dogs think the chickens leave snacks around for them...ewww.

As others have posted, it is time to begin to do Christmas shopping. I feel we need to scale waaay back, but I see Mr. Greenjeans perusing catalogues and thinking about buying stuff. I think we're going to have to have a talk about 'stuff'.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I look like Every Woman

Preparing for dinner by shopping, cooking, and set up all in one day was a bit of an undertaking. In managing my time, I didn't want to take up too many days for one event because I'm stingy with my quiet time that way. However readying in one day meant starting early and moving quickly and taking my chances that everything would fall into place. I guess that's called risk taking (for the 40's crowd).

I started early (before my shower) because I only wanted to shower once before greeting Important Person. I was moving fast in my shopping making decisions such as finally purchasing matching place mats for 20 (18 were actually invited though 16 showed), shopping for fresh ingredients, making substitutions as needed, noting prices, thinking of forgotten details, mentally checking off what I'd need from a different store, and shopping at a couple of stores... that sort of thing.

However beginning early in the day I kept noticing women smiling at me and saying "hello". Now I emphasize, I put a brush through my hair, made sure there was no smeared make-up from the day before (and did not put on any makeup), dressed in my thrift store jeans (rolled up at the bottom and baggy enough to come off without unsnapping) a sweat shirt, and my hair cut appointment is next week - and would have been 2 weeks ago if I weren't trying to be frugal. I'm over 40 and out of shape. This is no pretty picture - I assure you!

At first I thought to myself, have I met that person? [smiling back] Then I thought, these people have been to some workshop and think I was the presenter (poor person). In the midst of my hurrying and worrying and fretting about dinner and all, I was surprised by the people who smiled and said "Hi".

In the end I didn't know one person who greeted me - I just figured I looked like Every Woman. I figured that in some Sci Fi way, I became the projection of what what these women were recognizing. I smiled and said "hello", and sort of wished I'd showered.

Dinner and the following lunch went well. It was tense at first - dinner cooked more slowly than at home and was late and Important Person was hungry and a little grouchy, but in the end ate every crumb in sight and complimented the meal and at the end of the evening everyone relaxed and remained relaxed through today as well. We had music and wine and candle light and set tables and I couldn't have done it without the help of Mr. Greenjeans and Chibi, and the lovely ladies of the church.

Do you ever get confused for someone else? Do you smile and greet strangers you don't know?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sit down Dinner for 16

Many obligations come with my vocation and one of those is hosting Important Persons coming to town to visit the church. This is one such occasion. Last year I was new here and did it all myself, but this year people have volunteered to bring a dish or two so I'm setting up (cleaning up) and hosting and cooking the main dish(es).

Last year when this happened we had moved here 3 weeks earlier and I hosted at my house as that was what my predecessor had done. Not this year. For one thing, I don't have a dining room set for 16 and when I strung tables together I filled the living room too and it was just awkward and ugly. Besides, cleaning to the point of hosting a dignitary - ain't gonna happen. I've been to a dinner at the French House at the University where they did sit down for upwards of 36 where the tables went through the living/dining areas but they had more style than I'm able to pull off and were much more relaxed about it. But that's another story.

This year I'm having dinner at the church. Now, we don't have a typical church basement but rather a beautiful old parish house on the historic register that was remodeled about 5 years ago. One parishioner has a good sense of style and keeps it decorated, seasonally. There are square tables in a sun room that can get pushed together for gracious seating of 16. Edit

I had considered doing an all local meal and in the summer I would have done a garden meal, but I find that some folks are not happy to find that their milk products are raw and came from a cow named Pretzel. They don't want to know that someone knew the cow on their plate, or that we raised the chicken, and they don't want to eat home canned foods. So, tonight's dinner comes from the grocery store.

In some of my first blog posts I gushed about loving the Cooking Light magazine. I will be making two pork tenderloin dishes one with blue cheese and the other with figs. I'll serve it sliced on a bed of wild rice mix. The side dish will be a roasted cauliflower casserole from this month's issue (I made the pie on the front cover and took it to dinner but it wasn't great). I will serve my dilly beans. Others are bringing salad, rolls, dessert, and wine. We have pot-luck for the whole church on Sunday and for that I'll make clam chowder.

I'm off to shop, set the table, set up serving, cook, set up music and candles, and finish things for the morning (like straighten and spruce up my office). I half enjoy this but I'd enjoy it more if it weren't tied so closely to my livelihood.

How about you, do you enjoy doing dinner parties? Do you host regularly as a part of your (or partner's) work? How many do you usually serve and do you still do a sit down dinner or a more relaxed affair?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Bumpersticker seen at a payday loan place.

Walking of course affords all sorts of sights you don't see otherwise. On my way to the office I saw a bumper sticker on a shiny pick-up truck parked at a payday loan shark office. It read:

I saw it.
I wanted it
I threw a fit to get it

Sort of made me stop in my tracks.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What being a Pioneer means to me

Yesterday was cold and rainy. The laundry is still out on the line. However I was busy in the kitchen. It was time to take care of the tomatoes that were beginning to rot in their baskets, time for fresh bread, time for fresh yogurt made from the fresh milk from the cow.

I made spaghetti sauce from the last of the season's fresh tomatoes that ripened in the kitchen, you can see the last of the onions frying in the pan before going into the sauce.

I made meatballs from a combination of an elk shot "up on ta mount'n", and my neighbor's friend's cow we bought together. I mixed them with herbs from the garden, bread crumbs from stale bread, and egg (store bought because my hens aren't laying) and the moisture was the chicken (foot) stock I made earlier.

I had bought fresh milk last night and skimmed the cream off this morning and made yogurt. Mr. Greenjeans was home and DD14 wasn't feeling well so he did her job of grinding the grain for the bread.

I eventually got the sauce down to one pot which required us to eat some for dinner(I could really use a large stainless stock pot). This picture shows the yogurt maker and the fresh bread as well.

I canned the sauce at 13 lbs for 25 minutes and lovely Mr. Greenjeans cleaned the kitchen.

During the day he also made a hole in the chain link fence so that the chickens now have access to the yard from their rather small run. The trick will be to keep the dogs from harming them, but we can close the fence again too. Now that it's cold the dogs are inside a lot.

In some ways I didn't do so well with the pioneer challenge - I didn't always walk to my office, Mr Greenjeans and I went out to dinner at a new Mexican food restaurant that has just opened. But then again I think I'm living the pioneer challenge. We go out to dinner so very rairly that it was a real treat for all of us to go celebrate - and the food was good. Driving? Well, sometimes I'm just lazy and that has to get addressed at some point.

Even though these things are just the day to day for us, I love this challenge because as things go to hell in a hand basket, we are going to have to remember our pioneering spirit. People may have lost skills, but some still remember and others will figure out new and innovative ways to get things done. The new frontier is not clean and open land they way it once was, but rather how we begin new lives once the card house of our economy and oil experience has come down. It is the pioneering spirit that lies dormant in people of all nations and races that will once again come alive when needed.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pioneer Days: The Cockerel killing

The cockerel's were growing big enough to be making quite a ruckus here where we live down town. They were also growing so large that the coop space allocated to them was getting too small. On Monday Pa and I both had a day off, it was a nice day before the first snow storm and so we planned for Cockerel butchering. At first we planned on only doing 4 but reasoned that it was going to be a long time before we got to the job again and worked from dark to dark butchering 11 chickens. I only took one picture, a clean one.

We started in the dark of the morning gathering supplies, there had been rain the night before and the standing puddles were icy. That would mean no flies and a cool day for the meat. It took a while to round up all the roosters, as I carefully chose who would be left behind and handled the birds gently and quietly. The last choices were difficult and they were the most difficult birds to kill as well. We put the birds in large dog crates and put them in a dim garage away from sights and smells of the action.

Pa had never killed anything before. My processing experience was limited to an one animal or two many years ago and there was someone around who had a clue. If anyone else is in this situation, we found a few sights helpful, mostly this site. I have just a few extra suggestions that aren't on the site. We worked in batches of 5 and 3 so that the meat could get chilled and not sit around.

At first we procrastinated starting but then reasoned we were in for a long day and better get on with it. The lives of the birds I had carefully tended and protected passed quietly and easily and I said a blessing for each one. Pa and I quickly found a division of labor based on having different jobs that each of us really, really, didn't want to do. I really, really didn't want to kill my birds and so Pa cut the juggler vein and bled out the bird, and we both plucked (not a bad job when the water is 147 degrees). When the cleaning part came it turned out that Pa got squeamish and hated it and so I volunteered to gut all the birds since he was doing the job I didn't want to do. It took me about 8 birds to really figure out what I was doing. I hadn't found any good instruction on this - just live and learn. I saved the livers for eating and a few hearts for the dogs.

No one part of the day was particularly difficult but the length of job and the shear numbers of birds processed took its toll as we were finishing in the dark under a flood light with freezing temperatures descending into the muscles of my shoulders and across my back, 10 hours after starting. You can bet I did those last three more quickly than the first 5.

We had saved the feet and neck of the birds. They are a delicacy the world over and have long been used for soup by people who raised backyard birds. When we came in and cleaned up I looked up soup stock made from chicken feet. (The feet had already been a minute in the scalding water as the birds were feather footed, but of coure they got washed again in the kitchen.) The recipe called for chopping of the toe nail which I couldn't do with the kitchen shears and when I called in Pa to do the chopping with his cleaver, his reaction wasn't fit to print and left DD14, exclaiming, Dad! He's a good sport and so did it anyway. I assured him I'd do the skinning after the initial 5 minute boil and he sputtered about skinning chicken feet and went to the shower. Only a modern people can eat a dish called "chicken fingers" and not think about it.

After his shower, I thought it best not to remind Pa that we were doing a pioneer days challenge and not to veg in front of the TV.

The I simmered the feet and necks with onion and herbs all night long. The recipe had called for thyme and I took a lantern - sorry a torch - and went into the yard looking for the thyme I'd planted last spring but it had been killed off by the aggressive mint. I grabbed a handful of Rosemary while I was there.

Pa didn't sleep well knowing the large stock pot was on the stove and got up several times to stir it. At dawn I got up and strained it and pressure canned 7 quarts with an 8th in the ice box (er the 'fridge).

Maybe one day this all will be a necessity. I think its important that the old skills don't get lost. If the economy gets turned around and we find a cure for our energy problems and the climate heals itself then this all will be for naught, but somehow I'm not betting on an easy future, but rather one where we will know how to feed and care for our families better.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes, We Did it

I have pioneer things to blog, but I can't put anything here for a moment. This is too wonderful. People have to have hope. Today we have hope.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Reflection

This is a nice piece I picked this up at The Brewer's Wife". It was written by her friend's husband or something - No, its not one of those "pass it all over the internet things". Tonight I hope to be out staring up at the stars giving thanks.

I've been meaning to ask, just haven't gotten around to it, plus I'm
worried that the question is premature. But you know, I think I'm finally at the
point where I believe it will happen. Now there's less than a month to go. Now
it's just a matter of days. Days until America does something which, I'll be
honest, I would have bet America would never do. At least not any time soon.
Just days until in one swift moment, the entire world will do a double-take.
Days until Americans of all stripes will come together to reaffirm America's
promise to its own people. Days until MLK's dream, and the dreams of all people
who love this country's founding PRINCIPLES more than life itself, finally come
true. I want to know: Where's the party? On the evening of November 4th, when
this moment is finally announced, where do I go to celebrate? Where can I be to
experience this historical moment with my brothers and sisters in humanity, with
those who truly understand what it may mean for us all? I'm not going to be at
some Democratic party balloon fest. I am not going to be at a bar. I am not
going to be in a gym. I am going to be at home, watching the TV with the volume
turned down so I don't wake my kids. And when the time comes, when the moment is
announced, I will walk out my front door into the street, and I will look up at
the sky and shed tears of joy. That'll be my victory party. To look up at the
stars and hope that this means a better future for my little ones. If I'm lucky,
some of you reading this will come outside right then too, and maybe we can
smile at each other in silence. Either way, when you finally hear it announced,
on the evening of November 4th, that Americans came together and took their
country back, and you're sitting at home celebrating the moment quietly alone or
as a family, spare a second would you and join me out in the street, and look up
at the sky and feel the smiles, hopes and joy of millions of people like you and
me reflecting down from the stars."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pioneer Week November 3-10, excluding the election coverage

I used to say I was going to grow up and live at my Grandparents fishing cabin. I'm still waiting to grow up so I can move there. However for the week I'm participating in Crunchy's Pioneer Week!

Day one of Pioneer week. The roosters are costing us money in feed and 9 of them are making a ruckus (we live right downtown). So today is butchering day for 4 of them. We don't have room to store any more than four.

I went to a neighbors (about 30 miles down the road) to borrow a 15 gallon pot for feather plucking and learned they had had a fire in their farm shop. 50 years worth of tools, welding equip, shovels and files and rasps, chain saw, and all manner of hand tool and garden and farm implement, 4 saddles and tack are gone. Good thing the new tractor was still parked in the driveway and not in the shop for the winter.

They had been working in the shop and gotten tired and went to bed early (must have left a spark) and a neighbor saw the flames and woke them. They had firemen from two towns and they went in to the fire and removed the welding equip to prevent and explosion.

They say they don't need any help and they are just grateful no one got hurt.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Independence Days 20th Update

Tracy, over at Ramping up the Garden noticed this is the 6 months anniversary of doing the Independence Days Challenge. I think my personal anniversary is next week but close enough to jump on the anniversary celebration wagon. Tracy's updates are always so amazing that I find I'm encouraged to do more. Happy Anniversary, Tracy!

No Planting right now.

Harvest Something: Onions, potatoes (not many in the barrels), the tomatoes are still ripening on the window seals and kitchen table. I'll go out and get Brussel's Sprouts today, and I picked the corn left on the stalks (now brown and frozen) and took it to the chickens (and they were happy to see the corn again after a break from it). It got too cold for the Brocholli. Oh, the cow is producing like crazy with lots of cream - she's happy out in pasture and the calf is weaned. Today's payday so I'm going to order cheese making supplies.

Turns our neighbor's son had an out of state tag for an elk hunt, took days, off flew in, and then thought the shipping was too expense to take back so their family who didn't really want game. The family took 1/4 of the meat and the neighbors and I split the rest. Several folks stopped by (including folks delivering some freecycle aquarium fish) as I was packing it in and they all left with packages. I'm not sure how much there was, roughly 60 lbs for us. I am just about out of freezer space and have roosters to harvest. This is going to be a juggle. Maybe I'll try jerky again.

Perserve Something: Made 5 Qts of really flavorful spagetting sauce from the tomatoes picked green and ripened inside, 7 1/2 pints of grape jelly. Not so much canning as it had been, the dark evenings seem to slow my productivity.

Prep Something: When I was in the city I went to the thrift stores and found nice wool material in winter white. Now, this material was hiding in the form of skirts and blazers but next it will appear in a quilt for cold winter nights.

I took a sick dog to the vet in the next town over (unnecessary as the diagnosis was wrong and he got better anyway) and bought 25 lbs potatoes dug that day for $6.00.

Manage Reserves: I've been trying to keep up with the tomatoes ripening in the kitchen. They seem about done.

Now is time that I'm trying to juggle the freezer space: get out those short ribs that are a bunch of fat and bone taking up freezer space and baked and trimed and boiled and skimed and what not until I had beef soup (lot of vegies too). The whole thing only yielded a couple of gallons so I didn't bother with pressure canning and will just eat it through the week.

Another dog got sick with whatever gave them such bad belly aches they could hardly stand (actually big Berner couldn't get to his feet). I cautiously waited 24 hours and it passed and no vet bill this time.

Got in replacement globe and have been successful using the oil lamp correctly.

Cook Something New: My new things all fall into the failed category - which means - well expensive learning. I tried to smoke some marinated venison (old veneson from another year) for jerky, but it didn't work out so well - we didn't like the heavy smoke.

I tried to juice the grapes in my juicer but it is more for hard fruits and vegitables and ground up the seeds so finely that it was an aweful mess getting the juice seperated from the seed shards. The seeds particles suspent - neither floating or sinking and have taken hours to seperate.

Made butter in the antique butter churn. Made a big mess, with flecks of paint and old stuff that flecked off fell into the butter (yes I washed it and scrubbed before using). I think I get a denser, creamier, more yellow butter when I use the kitchen aid (it's still messy but maybe not so much so). I think the old daisy churn is going back on 'display' until the electricity goes out.

Learn Something New: I was a guest speaker at a training for advocates, and police. My hour spot was faith perspectives on sexual assault and rape, and I tried to include sources from several major faith perspectives. Its true that the person doing the training probably learns the most. It was an eye opener for me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reflections from the city

In the past, when I have been to the city I have felt sort of a disconnect between the excesses and fast living and my own life. I have wondered who was out of step - me or them. But this weekend was different - and the change was startling. We had annual meeting of our church and finances were the topic of the day. The church has been mostly living on money in investments and of course we all know what has happened there.

There was faithful conversation about how to support ourselves when we are dependent on the giving of people who are being pinched and the interest from investments. How do you respond to people sinking financially while asking for money to continue the church? Of course there were no easy answers. At one point a hospital chaplain had to leave because a (formally) well to do man in town felt he had no more options left and was going to leap off a building.

We try and be green and so there were not fancy printed material as in the past. I found it a little difficult to respond to resolutions with just a projected screen and memory. An adjustment for sure but a far cry better than the cases of paper used in the past.

They did give each congregation a book called, "Three Simple Rules: A practical manual guaranteed to improve your finances" by Theo Boers. I haven't started it yet my Mr. Greenjeans has and says it is good - and simple. It looks as if it is written where most people live - not for those with a lot of money.

I stopped by a clothing sale at my favorite store and found it to be very quiet even with the sale. Of course it also seemed that prices had been jacked up.

In this community of bloggers, financial concerns and future scenarios have been the norm for a while. We are used to the conversation. Watching a bunch of main steam folks come to this place en masse was a little disconcerting. People are waking up to the notion that this might not be a market gyration but part of a longer term problem, and they don't know what to do about it. It is perhaps a little overdue, but I suspect those of us who have been thinking about this for a while may need to have in person conversations to those who have just looked up from the feed trough.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Surprise!

While I went to meetings, Mr. Greenjeans had to stay behind and take care of critters. He cleaned house (we had a high ranking guest returning with me), made a stove pad and Brought The Wood stove inside! We still have to get the stove pipe installed but I couldn't imagine how he was going to get it inside. (He fed pizza to some big guys at work)
This is my birthday/Christmas/ everything present and more! I am so happy with it!

Because it is a stove inside a stove, it can be placed closer to things in the room and has these warming wings for keeping food warm or cooking on.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gone Until Monday

Hello all, I have to be out of town at a meetings this weekend. I'll probably be able to check in on the blog conversation but won't be posting.

I'm also taking Chibi (DD14) so she can attend a anamation convention down the street from my meetings as well.

Mr. Greenjeans is staying home and taking care of critters and working on getting the stove installed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Early and Often!

Checking in

We had a wonderful weekend with Nee (our daughter who has to attend high school in the city to take advanced classes). We didn't do anything special. The girls hung out together, we made 2 batches of apple butter and bread, and I managed to get her to clean the mess she'd left behind in her room.

It is so difficult to have to take her back and forth to school. It's a three hour drive, expensive, and with the shortening days part of the drive is always in the dark with animals on the road. I always give thanks when we make it safely.

An interesting note is the mom where she is living was sick and had been to a gastric specialist. One of the possible theories of why she was sick (besides overseas travel) is that she is sick from eating "backyard produce". You see the Dr. said that the food we are used to eating is to highly treated that she may then have encountered a bug (not killed by pesticides) in the garden produce. I am equally horrified that my produce may have harmed her and the thought the people's digestion is so changing as to not be able to deal with eating natural food! The girls and I agreed that this is yet another reason to produce your own food.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Independence days 19th update

This is the 19th update of the Independence Days Challenge but not the 19th week - some just don't get blogged.

Plant something: Nope - I've thought about planting garlic - does it count?

Harvest Something: In addition to the tomatoes, apples, onions, and beans I posted pictures of a few days ago, I also had an offer for grapes from Mrs. Neighbor's father. They are wine grapes and also make a nice juice and jelly. So now I have grapes waiting to be processed. We're getting another round of raspberries that just are just about a handful at a time....mmmmm. Ohh my (now) friend's cow is producing milk again - oh yea!

Preserve Something: Lets see, last night Mrs. N. and I canned 14 quarts of tomato juice, and I dehydrated a round of Romas. I've gotten the family to help with the bean shelling and so have a couple of pints of shelled, blanched, and frozen green bean shell-outs. I don't find just too much information on them out there on the 'net. I finished my goal of a bucket of dried corn.

Prep Something: Well Nee made more canning labels (I'll put them up soon) and I bought more color ink for them. I put together my oil lamps and after breaking the chimney on the second lighting realized I had more to learn on using lantern light. Leahman's has a video on using an Aladdin lamp and I think that may solve my problems. I am concerned that they are not really advertising this lamp too much so I hope there aren't real problems with it. It was

We've been trying to really cut back on all spending and living on what we've stocked up, though I've begun picking up a few Christmas presents.

Manage Something: I find that I have to move the tomatoes around several times a day. I've had nearly an entire bushel ripen in the window seal and in boxes in the sun, but they have to be rotated around, and I pull out the ones that look as if they'll be bad and feed them to the chickens before they really rot.

I got the bottles labeled and off the kitchen table into the pantry:

Cook Something (new): I've looked all over for how people use shelly beans but in the end I've added them to tomato soup, and I've boiled them and served them with butter and salt. I also made my first successful batch of cheese. I went back to the beginning and made squeaky cheese and ricotta from the whey. I plan on working my way through the cheese book.

I've been pretty good about making weekly bread and yogurt.

Learn Something new: Learned about the oil lamps by trying them out and making mistakes. Have learned more about the requirements for installing a wood stove (that's going to be a big job). Got the canning sessions going with two pressure canners at once. Learned to make and enjoy tomato soup- a life time first but I've never had it with garden fresh tomatoes before.

Local: Have started a hand craft night at church with people knitting, cross stitch, beading, and me quilting (or taking apart last year's mistake to start over again).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rob's Challenge

I love this banner! I also love the idea too. Great challenge Rob - though I'll bet we'll be at it longer than two months. I wonder does this cover no new store bought Christmas presents too?

We have had this colander since before we were married though we can't remember whose it was or where it came from. This summer I wore one of the legs off.

yesterday Mr. Greenjeans fixed it using the leg we'd saved

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Winter on the way

Well, I'm sitting here with my socks on my summertime feet, a shawl over my shoulders, and a cat on my lap as I wonder how long we'll hold off turning on the furnace. Maybe we can make it through this cool spell and on to another week of warmer weather. I know the neighbors already have their furnaces but as I've mentioned so often before, my garden neighbors are elderly and the others have newborn baby so they all need to shelter more.

Now that the nights are below 30 degrees, we've closed windows and will have to go through and get all the storm windows closed for the season.

I'm getting kind of anxious to get done with the preserving season. I've hauled in as much as I can from the garden ahead of the killing frosts and now have to actually do something with it.

Here are some photos from my mess to commiserate with Sharon

Some of the tomatoes

A bucket of dried corn

Jars waiting for me to get color ink and label them. Yes those are clothes on a rack in the background

And a fresh look at the chickens.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Day 1, and we're done

Looking back over the last 21 days of the challenge, I hope that this exercise has better prepared you for any hard times that we might see. Just looking back at how much the economy has changed, during the time of the challenge, the food alone can be a hedge against inflation or, God forbid, another economic depression.

There are some who are saying that this looks like the beginning of the Greater Depression. And if times don't seem bad where you are, consider that the Depression didn't take hold of regular folks until about a year after the stock crash. I guess that's the good news because it gives us a chance to simplify, reduce consumption, and learn to do without. Bloggers like Crunchy Chicken and OTHERS have been hosting challenges like the cloth TP, Buy nothing, keep yer cool....that have been whipping us into shape better than a masochistic aerobics instructor. That's a good thing. If we combine increasing our personal preparedness and self-sufficiency and sustainability, we are taking the necessary steps to insulate ourselves, as much as possible, from hardship while taking positive measures to reduce our carbon footprint. Hey austerity and frugal are IN! This is something I am genetically programmed for - I just have to unplug from consumption to do it.

Unplugging from conspicuous consumption is different than doing on a debt diet or a budget (though budget is good), unplugging means making the perspective shift to not need to be a constant consuming machine. It means seeing advertising hype as hype and not buying into it. It means that as a society we have to accept that in a finite world, the economy can not expand indefinitely and the expectation that it should defies physics and history.

When you see flashy advertising that says: "World Record holder", "Biggest Blowout Event Ever", "Prices Slashed", and billboards aimed at our most primitive urges know that you are being manipulated. We have been conditioned to think the biggest variation is the best, and while some variety is nice, the kind that society is offering is plain unhealthy. For one thing it numbs us to recognizing seriously big threats.

While we're conditioned to hype and hyperbole, we lose perspective of the warnings we are receiving in increasing volatility in the markets. In the last few weeks we've seen the record largest one day jump in oil prices, the largest DOW point drop (not percentage drop), the most number of days of a declining market, the lowest price of oil (edit this year) following the highest prices of oil ever. A couple of weeks ago one could say that the country is spending 2 billion dollars a day more than it's taking in, and yet now that figure has changed so radically, I can't keep track of it. - It's as if our national debt has been put on on steroids.

What I'm getting at here is that these daily increases in volatility in our systems bodes of a bad storm ahead. I figure if nature were doing this we would be looking at an enormous building storm, dark clouds, increasing winds and waves. What I wrote on day 14 and didn't publish was: what I fear (and hopefully I am wrong in which case I'll crawl back under my rock and start posting cookie recipes again) is that a storm of global proportions, created by the forces of human beings, is brewing.

What does one do in a storm? At sea, one would batten down the hatches, and locate the life boats and make sure they are set to provide (gotta have potable water). In an electrical storm you get down low and hug the earth to avoid a lightening strike. In a flood, seek higher ground, in tornado seek In snow seek shelter and stay put, In an earthquake, find an archway or a small room... and in a storm of human making, one needs to have self-sufficiency skills, and the support of community. That's of course what we've been working on.

Humans are remarkably adaptable beings - just look at how a soft skinned creature without hide fur (well most of us ;~})have so sculpted the planet and affected every other life form on the planet because we have a larger brain and opposable thumbs. We adapt to altitude, cold, hot, dry, humid, and we develop sea legs in a matter of days. We've adapted to outlandish living such as never been seen before and we'll adapt on the downside as well. At least those of us who are paying attention will.

So the final skill of the challenge is frugality, unplugging from consumption, reusing, repurposing, and just plain doing without. That is where the community of bloggers encourages, and supports one another. I'm headed over to Crunchy's to sign up for the Little House on the Prairie challenge! Thanks for playing!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Day 2, more to do

Last night I was experimenting with shelling and eating the seeds out of my green beans gone to see. Yes, I will save seed, but there is more than enough of that. I cooked the green bean seeds in salted water and added a touch of butter and it was really good. Mrs. Neighbor stopped by in time to comment that next we'll be finding a use for tomato leaves.

As challenge winds down, I thought a good topic would be food foraging. This is not my strongest area, and so much is location dependent that I hope you all will chime in on the subject.

Picture that the time has come when you have eaten and shared or lost all your stored food. You have made the switch to being committed to a truly simple lifestyle or perhaps TS really has HTF. Either way, you are looking to supply some of your calorie needs without spending any money.

Currently one can ask the produce manager if you can take the vegetable trimmings to feed to chickens or pigs. Often what you get is a lot of usable produce that you can sort out and use yourself before headed out to the animals. Some stores now have rules against such a thing, but often times employees set discarded produce by the dumpsters. Yesterday's MSNBC had an updated article on frugalists or regular employed persons who are stretching their dollars by eating out of the garbage cans. I'm not thinking I'll go there anytime soon but I have been known to happily pick things up from the curb with a 'free' sign - the precursor to freecycle.

In order to get my liberal arts degree in social sciences in college, I had to pass a certain amount of hard sciences. One way I got the credits was to take a really weird biology class called 'survival biology'. In this class we had to show proficiency in foraging, shelter making, orienteering and other things. We learned that bugs like grasshoppers are edible and nutritious but that they have to be cooked because they carry parasites. The test was then to eat baked grasshoppers - I suggest removing their scratchy legs first. Vermin are also quite nutritious - there's a lot of meat on a rat, and pigeons are all dark meat. Yes, we had to kill, cook and eat lab rats. (Luckily we were allowed a partner and my partner was a hunter - phew). Unfortunately city pigeons can also carry up to 65 diseases harmful to the human as well as toxins from pollution - so handle them carefully and don't eat them from a really dirty area. I'm thinking the pigeons who litter my rural church are pretty clean, and there are actual recipes for squab. Dog is still on the menu of many people in different cultures.

If that's too hard core for you, as you get out on foot and bicycle more, you will notice that down many a neighborhood alley way are fruit trees that grow over the fences, as well as herbs and perhaps strawberries that have left their yards. Few will object to your picking the fruit that grows into public space. You may even notice trees that are going unpicked and may ask to pick or to pick for the owner in trade for some of the crop. The same for the end of season gardens. If you have seen a large lovely garden, the owners may be done and would let you glean the last vegetables from the garden before winter. I mentioned in the comments of Shasha's blog that I had people gleaning in my garden this last week (and this is not the first time) but that while I have plenty to share, I would have liked to have been asked first.

I know a young man who grew up quite poor whose childhood play included gleefully gathering honey from a wild comb and picking edibles with his mother. And when I was a child I would get up very early in the morning with my cousins and my Uncle would send us out into Denver neighborhoods picking mushrooms. My Uncle was however thepresident of the mycological society at the time and so knew his shrooms.

The gathering of wild plants is so individual to your area. I have grown up knowing little by litte about the edible plants in my area: wild turnips, garlic, sego Lilly roots, tiger lilly roots, apples, currents, pinyon nuts, walnuts, paintbrush, lambsquarters, nasturtium, dandelion, Acorn (flour), prickly pear fruit, rose hips, purslane and cattail hearts to name a few available in the southwest. I lived for a short time in Tennessee and while I LOVED the green growth everywhere, I just didn't know it.

The plants I've mentioned are all pretty easy to spot - you probably can picture them in your mind and they don't have close poisonous look alikes - and so could use them in a pinch. However, if you are going to start in on wild harvesting, learn about all your plants - that way you will know the poisonous ones when you meet them, too. If a bit of jimsome weed were to accidentally get mixed in with edibles it would really wreak havoc with your health and mind. Avoid gathering beside busy roads as traffic pollution will gather in the plant, and know if the yard where you gather has been sprayed!

Do you have foraging stories? Do you have a favorite food that you forage? Could you identify enough plants to get a meal in good season where you live?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Day 3, nearlly there

As a springboard from yesterday's post about developing post-peak skills by way of learning from hobbies, today I'd like to have conversation about depression era careers, post peak work, and general low energy living. Yes, I know that we've moved a little away from imminent preparedness, but you see everyone has been such a good sport that we're either out of money or done.

There is something that has really caught my eye in my Internet reading the last two days and that is the widespread use of the word "depression", meaning economic depression. Yesterday's MSNBC business page used the word in conjunction with several stories (though they are missing from today's headlines), and other blogs I read, such as Sharon Astyk's, Shasha's Seeking Simplicity, Wendy's Home is..., to this worthwhile Opinion piece at the LA Times all are talking about an economic Depression. The Great Depression and our current situation even came up in the presidential debates last evening.

If these economic times are the beginning of The Decline, the Long Slide into a post-peak world - its beginning marked by economic crisis - then how might we think now about what employment will look like in the the future? As we can't see the future clearly, many are looking back at the Last Depression and remembering how things were and bringing the ideas forward. People worked hard, they just didn't earn a lot or have a lot of expectations for grand things. Sometimes, it seems as though people think that they'll just not have a job - and that may be true but you will always have work. Work isn't about getting a job done for someone else but rather about putting a roof over our heads and food on the table and maybe getting a little coffee.

If I were young and preparing for a future career, I'd look into medicine or engineering - but wait, I don't have much aptitude for mathematical things even with a do-over. Still if you are creative and technical, there will be a great need to rethink how we do things...starting now. No, there isn't a great technology that is going to suddenly replace our dependence on oil, but there is a world of creative ideas that can help us adapt to the world as we have it.

Other work that is emerging and will continue in the future is the local foods movement. Yes, it can get a little groovy and chic in places, but at it foundation is a sustainable, community oriented way of life. If you didn't grow a garden this year, you might be thinking of all the ways you can grow food next year. In the informal economy - one that is increasing in value with every day the formal one decreases, friendly trade and barter with either homegrown food or homemade useful items stretches the household budget and tightens community. My family's story from the Last Depression was that no one in the family went hungry because the women always grew a garden even if the men had to travel to the city to work for days at a time. Growing food translates into a career when individuals sell produce locally or make specialty items: local cheese, wine, meats, meals, bread...

Repurposing can be a career: what one is able to scavenge (and the rules get relaxed when the formal society crumbles) and make into a new useful item is a worthwhile career. Those who have started dismantling the McMansions for the salvage are probably at the cutting edge of that line of work.

A while back I read an article by Matt Simmons (OK it was probably last week but in my fuzzy brain it feel longer) in which he talked about the great need to bring the infrastructure to the consumers, the community. Those of you who have replied that you don't have particular talents other than being bossy - this one's for you. It takes tremendous organization, and push, and thick skin to rewire society. What your community will use in the future needs to be produced where you live - now there is a wide open field.

Construction will once again be a viable field. When we lived in a community that had undergone years of economic hardship and geographic isolation, there were a lot of folks who, because of lack of paying work, would help each other with projects on each other's houses. One friend needed help patching his roof, we needed help installing a stove pipe out the roof (need that help again but here everyone is busily employed), someone else needed booths made for a restaurant starting on a shoestring, someone else wanted to begin the process of building a (first) was all informal - no tit for tat. In the future, there may be a call for alternative building techniques. This same community did a lot with straw bale building.

In this same town I could point to babies and toddlers I knew to be born at home with the help of a local midwife. After I had had a child of my own, I went to one such delivery as an attendant to the mother. These same midwives treated heart conditions, spider bites, infections... herbally and homeopathically. I knew to expect trouble with my own deliveries and had to drive (in labor) to the nearest hospital that would take deliveries - 120 miles between phones or even ranches (no cell towers in the area then) in the adjacent state. Because there was a functioning outside economy at the time, there were also many artists who made a living there.

I found that people who could butcher animals where in strong demand as well. I for one was content to midwife for my small flock of sheep. I would deliver lambs (with vigilance to my flock I lost only one), dock tails, vaccinate, sheer, trim hooves, put up hay... but after all that, I gave myself permission not to have to butcher. The guy who did this was really hard to book as he had a lot of work in an area where that had to be done under the radar.

I saw on the news the other night that mechanic's shops are booming. People who would ordinarily buy a new car are now fixing the one they have. I thought to myself, funny when we needed a repair all the bays were empty. Just then the newscaster said, only a month ago, business was down - perhaps as people waited to see what would happen with jobs and economy but now delayed repairs have to be completed.

I would guess that solar energy - always a great option - will be taken more seriously as those who have to save up a significant amount of money to hook up utilities that have been shut off for non-payment may save a while longer and begin to invest saved money into off-grid technologies. One couple in my very small church is looking at buying unimproved land and not putting in the standard electricity and natural gas but instead focusing on the technology available for methane gas and solar. Did I have any influence on this decision... perhaps. ;-)

Perhaps an interesting activity would be to visit an historic farm with an eye to skills that may once again be in demand - with a 21st century twist. Our world won't ever again look like the world before modern technology, unless you head out on a piece of land and make it that way. For the majority of people who have to survive, the future world will take that spirit of ingenuity, some old time skills, some technology, and add in some of the local movements that are happening so far and turn it into a new world. The success of which will depend on creativity and innovation.

Old time careers that could see a resurgence: hat making, shoe repair, glove maker toy maker, textiles and tailor, brewer, cook, local grocer, farmer, smith, boat making, herbalist and mid-wife, veterinarian, tobacconist, communications, transportation (alternative), security, building repairs...

So, are you doing the job that you would ideally be doing? What would you like to do? If you have to reinvent yourself in a simpler economy, what calls to you? How can your work be retrofit?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Day 4

Yesterday was a review day and today's post is sort of a fun alternative to market watching. I'm thinking about play and the role of play in both animals and people to increase skills needed in life. What kinds of skills can we expect to need in either a post peak world, or perhaps a Greater Depression world? What sorts of hobbies build these skills?

I know that I started canning some jam years ago as a fun activity in the kitchen. This year that hobby has expanded into full-scale work on food preservation until mid-night and get up in the morning and can before work, as was the case today. (Mrs. Neighbor and I picked tomatoes and onions and used our frozen blanched corn to make a really nice soup - mmmm).

In my family, each of us is taking an area of some interest and moving it to the next level. For instance, in the past my sister (who is great at gift giving) gave the girls soap making and candle making kits. Now, these are the sorts of kits that come out of craft stores and arn't really about taking over the needs of a household, but I did ask DD14 to begin to look into soap making. She made our last laundry detergent - the the next batch will need some adjustments.

DD17 is a serious academic with intentions on medical school (oncology). I have asked her to begin to learn more about herbal remedies and natural cures. If things crash before she can get all the loans she needs to get through medical school, she can use her desire for the medical arts and her exacting nature to learn about alternative cures.

I have been quilting for a few years, producing a handful of quilts with fine detail. However I suspect this winter will turn to larger quilt squares, and faster turn out of work to increase the number of warm quilts in the household. I have what my family has Always called, Grandma's Depression Quilts. When the yard dries out I'll set them out to air and take a picture of them. They are made of all sorts of pieces of old wool clothing. I imagine the center layer is an old blanket and the backing is a wool Army blanket. My Grandmother was nothing if not frugal. Sleeping under these heavy quilts in the cool, thin, mountain air, I can remember concentrating on breathing in and out as I felt crushed.

Mr. Greenjeans is an all around handy fix-it man who has years of honing his ability to fix, and build all manner of things.

Some other hobbies that I know people have that can be honed to be useful in a power-down world are: knife making, re-loading, smithing or metal working, making oil lamps, wood working and furnature making, gardening, sewing and needle work such as knitting and felting, raising livestock, hunting and fishing, basket making, throwing and firing pottery, spinninng and weaving...

What kinds of hobbies do you pursue? Can you add ideas to this list?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Day 5 - review

I did not post a day 6 as following my community notes I put on a baby shower for Mrs. Neighbor. Sometimes you have to put this stuff aside and have some fun. Besides things like showers are traditional ways we take care of one another, honor one another and pull together to see people off to a good start.

This has not been a class, but the way the economy is going at the moment, there may be a final exam. Personally, I'm topping off the gas tanks today and buying a gal of fresh milk and vegies I didn't grow. So, let's review for a moment:

Are you prepared to stay put and ride out anything that may come? If not, have you talked with people where you may be headed? If there were to be a disaster right where you are, do you have an alternative location? (My family is pretty much in a few hundred miles so my answer is, not really). Can you heat your home with alternative means - no, not to to 72 degrees but enough to keep from freezing? If you lose electricity, can you cook food? Do you know how to safely take care of human waste without water? Take a look at the first aid kit, what do you need to beef it up?

Do you know how to get drinking water out of your hot water tank? Do you know where a natural source of water is? Do you have a filtration system? Do you have stored water - a bare minimum of 1 gal. per person per day. (Note this is not much for drinking, cooking dry food and basic hygiene. It doesn't cover things like washing pots and pans).

How about food? If you have any money at all, this is the easiest one to fix, right now. If you were to wait until there was a shortage, maybe not so much. Besides, if you are reading these things, there's no point in being part of the problem, should anything untoward occur. There will be plenty of ostridges needing to be fed. Personally, I'd go for your favorite carbs, canned fruits and vegies, and some canned protein, in that order.

How about garden seed? While I'm out and about today, I'll be looking for garden seed on sale. Yes, I prefer to order heirloom seed, and thanks to a my birthday present from DD17, I have fresh seed, but all seed is important if you get to next spring and need to garden for food. Now might be a time to find garden tools on sale - particularly if there is something you need.

I'd get a little money out of the bank - enough so that if there were a sudden bank holiday, you'd have case in different sizes. Barter items aren't a bad idea either.
Now, on my errands for the day, I'll also be stopping by the thrift store just to see if there is anything good(we don't have a very good one) as well as the antique store to see if there is an analog tool that I don't have.

I'll continue to post on other skills, but right now it seems as though a review of the basic stuff is in order. Remember, should TSHTF, don't isolate. Reach out, make community, be level headed and ask how everyone can pull together.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Day 7

I had to get my Independence Days Blog out of my system before I could concentrate on posting for my own challenge. I'm just too trained.

I have always felt strongly about community. I would even say it is one of the key cornerstones of preparedness. The bunker type survivalists have been with us for many years, and we can lear something from them, but the kind of people finding each other in cyberspace, encouraging one another, supporting each other giving ideas to one another are those who are not only picking up on the real need for preparedness but are willing to form community in real life as well.

Being a part of a community - say 5 to 40 (with 40 maybe too high) families has been the rule of thumb for the success of people since before we stood upright out on the savannas. The current model of city and suburban living is a formulation of the Industrial Age, and by the rates of people who feel disconnected and incomplete, it doesn't seems to be meeting the needs of a communal species.

I want to dip into the Industrial Revolution for a moment longer because I think that that time represents a critical turning point in the structure of people's living arrangements and sense of community (range 1760's to 1850's) from what it was from human origins. During the industrial revolution, the birth rate increased dramatically as child mortality decreased, and people moved from an an analog agrarian based economy to, well, an industrial based society. Trains moved people easily and they moved moved from their roots to the cities, from the land to the factory and got mixed up. Machines became the new rulers (Ludd, anyone?). During these 100 years, we see the rise of religious fundamentalism, a knee jerk response to the rule of science and technology including Darwin.

Move forward again another 100 years and find ourselves post WW II, the 1950's were times of great industrial 'advancements'. However, religion still ruled as the center of the social world until then. Looking back to a time I didn't know, it seems as if expansion would go forever. Add another decade to the time sequence and we have a restructuring of society, leaving the structures of organized religion, the questioning of social boundaries. I think everything we've been doing over the last 40 years has been a response to this. Social systems were disrupted and never quite put into place. Youth, who used to have an important role in the family are now treated as little emperors while the parent's work is disjointed from home life. And as spoiled as our kids are, their now long and extended childhood is not regarded as having too much contribution toward larger society. There aren't many real rights of passage left except getting a driver's licence. I really see gang activity as the need for youth to have structure, social expectation and to make an impact in the world. Hell, even a dog will get destructive left alone.

What does this have to do with the coming age? Well, people are not wired to be disconnected from families and the land. We don't get to have unlimited expansion in a finite world - the basic math doesn't add up. Whether the Great Change comes at the end of this challenge ;-} or after we're headed down the slippery slope of peak oil, we may just get the opportunity to rework some of those missing connections.

We who connect through these blogs, CSA, permaculture, and all the good work that's going on out there are the ones who are able to lay some foundations for the age to come. It sure won't be those who have laid themselves up in lonely bunkers or those who won't let go of life as we've already known it until it's long gone.

Building community takes risk. It always does. We risk being rejected. We risk getting in with a bunch of nut-cases or hurtful people, we risk being ripped-off. I find that it's easy to find like-minded people here, on the Internet but we're pretty spread out. Depending on your community, it might not be so easy elsewhere. Where I am is an oil boom town and, I feel as if I'm preparing for a hurricane during Marti Gras. I have to find a fine line between self-disclosure and what others are prepared to hear. For those who have a wider base of willing folks are to build community, then provide the platform. What skills to you have to share? What neighbors would be receptive to outreach? What needs do you have? Can you have a dinner cooking group, a bike shop, a took lending group....(keep in mind you too have to be open to receive, else the scales aren't balanced). My garden owners and I had better not talk religion, politics, economics, or ecology, but we know this and have formed a wonderful bond of real concern and regard for the other.

I kind of like where I am but I'd rather not be trying to make community here. I'd rather be living in the community Eric Brende outlined in his book, "Better Off". I'd rather be living with you all as neighbors, separated by little farms. But we likely won't move, we have work and a house and have been building community for a year now. We'll just have to adapt, and build community right here, down town Smalltown, right wing, USA.

The thing is, that building community is every bit as important as building a food store. We humans don't do well without community. One person can't cover every eventuality. At some point we need one another. When resources are limited everyone is better off working together. We're all in this together.

Independence Days Update

I do update my Independence Days Challenge on Fridays. On that vein, I'll post a modified check in and post my challenge seperately.

In yesterday's mail I received 2 oil lamps from Lemans. Interestingly, they are out of stock on a lot of the lamps - esp. the cheap ones. I havn't been ordering enough to know if this is unusual. I picked up lamp oil at the local True Valu hardware store so as to not pay shipping on such heavy things.

We also got 1/4 of a beef yesterday. Mrs. Neighbor and I went in on a side of beef grown by a friend of hers. As I made dinner last night, I realized everything but the oil in the bottom of the dutch oven was local - and everyting but the beef we'd grown and processed ourselves. That was a fun aha moment. We ate by lamp light.

I was talking with Mrs. Garden about the shock Mrs. Neighbor and I had gotten walking back to the garden and coming across the head of a very large bull elk - big even for an elk - lots of points on the rack. I thought Mrs. neighbor was going to climb me like a tree when she came around the corner and was surprised by that! I don't make much of a hunter, I feel sad when I see the beautiful creatures dead - I don't feel the same about an animal I've raised for it's meat. It turns out the Garden's son got the elk and isn't going to take much home on the plane and they don't want much and so I think we'll recieve a good amount of elk as well! We're a year plus on the meat front and two weeks ago I thought we'd be going without meat (except our chickens) in even of a crisis.

I am drying corn most days a week though I need help with the shucking. Turns out I think I sliced a nerve in my finger when I got the deep cut doing apples and it is still really tender to bumping and pressure and numb in one spot. I'm aiming for a bucket of dried corn and am nearly there. I am putting it in the bucket in storage baggies incase the dehydrating is bad in one batch, it won't spoil all the batches.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Day 8 - a little late

I didn't like what I'd written for day 8 - it may make a better day 1 so I started over. I guess it's sort of like the House who are going to have to look at that *(&^ bailout again. Maybe I'm glad I don't have a crystal ball - just enjoy today.

Mrs. Neighbor and I made a FINE salsa last night. We also made a pact to sit down with families and Mexican food and margaritas before winter sets in for the next half of the year - we've been spending a lot of time standing beside the sink and in front of the stove this latter summer.

I've had some requests for a garden post and must admit, I'm not sure which end to pick that baby up. There is so much information on gardening all around - including in talking with older folks puttering in their yards nearby. Yes, garden. Please garden. A couple of years ago we had some very lean times and put up a raised bed in a sunny corner of our lawn. We built it with scrap lumber and hauled in manure and dirt. I gardened that 8" x 16" spot in a passionate way, succession planting and intensive planting and we ate from it nearly everyday for 4 months and had a few things lasting longer. A garden saved many a family in the Last Depression. Garden because it connects you to the food that sustains you and roots you to the land that supports you.

I'm hauling the food out of my garden literally by the bucket load. However, the land, the seeds, and the water weren't mine - they belong to a neighbor who is too elderly to do the garden he's always grown and I showed up in time to plant. They want some fresh food for the two of them - we have enough for the entire block grown on that 1/2 acre, and indeed we are feeding many people. I can only hope to be able to garden that ground another year.

You don't have to have a big spot. By now I imagine that everyone is familiar with the Dervaes Family and their inspiring bouny on a regular urban lot. People have also been doing a great deal with container gardening in buckets from bakeries, old tires and raised beds.

I can assume my feeling overwhelmed even talking about gardening is what some folks are feeling about starting gardening. After all there are wonderful materials about forest gardening, permaculture, lasagna, cold frames, no dig, double dig....and guerrilla gardening. I'd say, look at your space: you need sunshine, soil, water, and nutrients.

If you have any question about contaminants in your soil, have it tested. There is a great picture in this month's Mother Earth News about gardens that have been planted year after year in bags of garden soil sliced down the middle. Plant what grows in your area and what you will eat first and store second. Jump in. Start somewhere. Don't be easily discouraged. Talk to old folks puttering in their yards. Only then will you begin to know about your land and ability to grow. You can always get more complicated later, but if you don't start you don't get anywhere.

I have the book Gardening when it counts: gardening in hard times but immediately came on two major road blocks: 1. the fertilizer he recommends has been flat impossible for me to obtain the ingredients - even extending my search area by 150 miles. 2. During the time I was looking for the soil amendments, I realized that the author was giving advice that was contrary to my soil type here and adding what he suggested would have been disastrous. As a beginning gardener, I didn't realize this for a while.

I'll move on to using the book, Four Season Harvest once storing the produce from my current garden is done.

Edit Something I had forgotten in this post is the necessity of storing seed. If we are indeed preparing for an unknown disaster or long-term disruption, it is important to have next year's garden seed in. Order Heirloom seeds for you area and store them as you would store food. We favor the Seed Trust company for seeds.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Day 9 and still counting

Well, yesterday's stock market dip has got our attention, yes? Things are going to be starting to get a little rough for some folks. While we were in the city, the local radio was saying that the homeless shelter has had a 121% increase in families seeking shelter in July & August.

As important as the economic current events are, I'm still focused on preparing for an event that will significantly impact us where we live. Thank you all for your suggestions for topics including: first aid, gardening, books, and security. My ideas have also included food foraging, games that teach, and old time skills.

With these things in mind, today's topic is First Aid.

Let me start by saying I have no particular expertise in first aid, I'm writing about my life experiences, what my family does to prepare and ideas I've picked up on the internet. I encourage anyone and everyone to take first aid classes and learn about herbal and back-woods alternatives. This is the stuff of volumes of books and can't be covered in a blog post.

I've found that quantity really counts for a lot in home storage of first aid. When you have a serious injury, you don't just need the contents of your first aid kid, you need boxes of stuff to see the process through. For instance DD17 was injured this summer and had 4 incisions that reached into the center of her bone. We were conservative in our use of bandages while keeping everything as clean as possible, we used 5 boxes of 3x3 gauze pads (125 pads), 2 bottles of hydrogen peroxide, and 4 ace type bandages (to keep the hand washing and line drying going). This is the amount used for one injury for one month. That's expensive and the need didn't coincide with our financial ability to buy those things. Of course we bought them anyway and scrimped elsewhere.

Mr. Greenjeans was put in charge of updating the first aid kit recently. He is the one who has been a back country guide and has had advanced first aid. He is not through packing the kit - just out of money. Notice that there are no band-aids in our kit. Building the kit on a budget he says those are just convenience items and we make our own. However last week after a day of picking, hauling, and slicing apples, I cut two fingers very deeply with a sharp knife. I wanted band-aids and didn't want to fiddle with making them. They are on the grocery list.

Mr. Greenjean's First Aid kit beginnings in a little tote box:

A basic first aid book,
waterless hand sanitizer
box of safe skin exam gloves,
bottle of spray hydrogen peroxide
bottle of spray benadryl
aloe vera jell
iodine packets
non-stick pads
gauze pads
roll bandage that sticks to itself
medical tape
Artificial tears
medicated tooth ache swabs
tooth repair kit
eye glasses repair kit
paint stir sticks (for supporting breaks or sprains)

He wants one of those portable defibrillators that are out now that anyone can buy.

What we will add to this kit:

spray sanitizer
Lysol wipes
tweezers of various lengths and shapes
instant chemical cold pack
"..." hot pack
dry electrolyte packets
pill benadryl
more alcohol or iodine prep pads
finger size splints
large size splints
clean rags
safety pins
neosporin lip ointment
aspirin, Advil, Motrin
hydrocortozone cream
butterfly closures
wound closure bandages
gauze eye patch
large trauma pad
roll gauze
sun screen
crack open bright stick
emergency blanket
dedicated fresh water jug
knuckle band aids
a Sawyer Extractor (venom removal)
suture kit
eye protection
draw string plastic bags
mouth and nose mask
plastic sheeting to set up quarantine area

Naturally there is a lot more that can be added (back boards?)

On my end of the family, I have been stocking up on aspirin and alternatives when I do food stores. Also, on occasion I've seen a Dr. and been given an Rx for antibiotics that I had no intention of taking because I (rightly) thought them unnecessary. I did fill the Rx and stored the full series. Likewise, we never use all the pain killers in an Rx so that we can save some for when we might need them when no Dr. is available. DD17's orthopedic surgeon thought that she was too nervous and flighty and wrote out an Rx for Valium without asking if we wanted it - yup it got filled and stored. I have some Rx strength salve that numbs the skin. I got this when I was in an office appointment and the rural Doctor (read only doctor in the area) was called out of the office on an emergency. On his way out, he told me the stuff was expensive, scooped some out of his big jug and put it into a little tube and sent me on my way. Medicines can get weird if stored too long or out of temperature range so they have to be managed. You have to be willing to throw them out when they get old. Note that these activities are not recommended by the experts.

I think as important as industrialized medicine is a knowledge of herbs and homeopathy. Years ago we didn't have medical insurance and I took classes in homeopathy from a local midwife. At that time I bought supplies and books and we still use the remedies. In fact DD17 has been left with nerve damage from the wound which we are home treating homeopathically.

I know very little about herbal medicine, but would love to learn. I find it hard to learn on the Internet as I'm such a hands on person, but it can be done. Edit I just noticed that Hen and Harvest has an article on growing medicinal plants. Please go there and read and I will do likewise.

I would also recommend that people learn what the indigenous remedies of the area were as well as food as medicine (limes used liberally over food help prevent food borne illness...)

Naturally, all this takes time to learn and master and there is always more to know. Books are important. I've learned some veterinary skills on the fly in a barn, at night with a lantern and a vet book and a ewe in trouble. I'm looking for first aid classes in my area as well as learning about herbal medicines.

Books on my next to order list are:
Wilderness Medicine, beyond first aid by William Forgey

Where there is no Doctor, by Jane Maxwell

Where there is no dentist
Where there is no veterinarian

OK, long post. Are you still there? What else can you think of for a first aid kit? Do you have a favorite first aid book? What's in your kit?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Day 10 home...

Well, we have been to 3 of 6 of the corners of our state, and went through two neighboring western states in the process. The trees are in full color - better than they've been in over a decade. That's probably not what you are here to read, but it's important in all times, and maybe especially in hard times to look up and notice the beauty of green trees blushing pink at their tips, or shudders of gold coursing through an aspen grove flanked by the stalwart evergreen of the pines. They smell good too.

Well yes, wow, that was a jaw dropper of a stock drop today. We were actually standing in a vehicle repair shop when we caught the news. We have an old truck and the shocks were spent and we were about to load a 450 lb stove and pipe and bags of stuff from costco and... well there aren't enough hours to do everything yourself. As we drove around getting estimates for repairs at brand name places, I was interested to find that every single tire/repair shop could work on our truck and had plenty of inventory with no waiting.

The reason we had time was that we had left early to get Nee back to school before noon (they are doing a simulation on totalitarian government and she had to show loyalty to the state - she took them home canned food and reported in on her whereabouts on our trip). That meant we had to leave before confirming that our stove had actually arrived for pick-up.

You see we are trying to do business with regular folk and not big business, when we can. So I gave my credit card over the phone to have the stove shipped and the person on the other end. The woman was obviously elderly and mentioned told me her husband had Alzheimer's - which explained a few things from dealing with him on the phone. She and I never arrived anywhere in a conversation in a linear manner (sort of like this post) and such as it was, I never actually got an address as to where I was to pick this stove up.

I called as we were nearing the city and they told me the stove wasn't in yet. Sorry to say, I went into a "deal or no deal - figure this out and make me happy" mode. They said they'd call back but after a few hours,I didn't heard back - nor did they answer the phone. Here they have my credit card number but I didn't have an address, they didn't list an address in the phone book, and after stopping by the public library, their web site really didn't list a physical address either.

Mr. Greenjeans and I began to have one of those moments that couples have when one is thinking the other one just got them ripped off and the one bearing that brunt thinking, "that it's easy to pick when you haven't been doing the research" ... well if you are married, you've been, maybe.

The phone rang.... and our dealers said they'd been at a funeral - and no the stove wasn't in yet. I asked where they were and she instructed men to pick up our own stove pipe from one end of town at a wholesale place and then to come back to them. I asked in my deep and authoritative voice, for the address of their business to which I got a round about answer that the show room was in one place but the warehouse in at... yes I got a physical address.

We found the wholesalers but when we tried to find the business we drove in circles of seedy locations, incurring some looks from people we passed by several times. We went down a side road to a storage locker place - no, they didn't say they were in a storage locker - but they did give a gate code - ans so when I saw a gate and entered the gate code the doors opened (I'm now feeling like I'm living in a computer game). Next we traveled up and down isles until we found a semi-truck unloading stoves. There was our elderly couple with their "home" business out of a storage locker in dress-up funeral clothes. This couple had been in business 50 years - or he had been and she had to take over after he got Alzheimer's . Did I mentioned he had Alzheimer's? She had been running the entire business, except being the folk lifter operator.

Mr Greenjeans took one look at the stove in its crate, measured the crate with a tape and declared that it wasn't going to fit under the shell of the truck -- too tall. Our dealers thought they just needed to load the longer arms on the fork lift. So in the midst of our own marital discussion we find ourselves down in this maze of storage units with Mrs. Owner who ordering her husband, MR. Alsheimers to put on the long forks on the fork lift (yes, he's still the fork lift operator) and I'm lobbying hard to Mr. Greenjeans to not allow them to load the forks that would load our stove through the window of the cab... except that it wouldn't make it through the opening of the gate.

Mr. Greenjeans works a field job and is calmly telling Mrs. Owner to watch her toes as her husband drops the forks and we all watch our heads as Mr. Alzheimer's tools around in his machine with the forks raised. (He doesn't get the drive the car).

Meanwhile we have to figure out how to load stove too heavy to lift sans its crate. Eventually we take the crate apart and strip it down to the last supporting beam and work very closely with our tie-wearing twinkly eyed fork lift operator who gets bored with the operation. But in the end Mr. Alzheimer's picks up the stove and places it light as a feather on the tail gate - though he begins to become confused that the forks wouldn't drop. In the end, Mr. Greenjeans holds the stove in place, instructs us to back off and has the forklift operator back up. The forks clear the tailgate and drop dramatically. We all ask the operator to keep the machine in reverse and breathe a sigh of relief as he goes on his way.

The other people in the area are those who live in the storage units with their remaining material possessions - a car - a basketball hoop, a refrigerator... that brings us around to the broader day's events and our continuing challenge to which I will return to tomorrow but tonight I'm tired.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Days 12, 11, and 10

On these days I have to be out of town for work and I don't think I'll have internet connection. No, that's not true, on days 12 and 11 I'm working out of town but on day 10 I'm headed for a round trip to the city to pick up our woodstove (Alderlea T-5) and double wall pipes.

Please comment on what you find at yard sales, how your preperations are going and what you would like to see covered in the remaining days.

Think of this as a mid-challenge catch-up but the clock still ticks though we are busy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Day 13

Thank you all so much for contributing to the discussions - the contributions are really helpful. Sorry to have skipped a day. Doom will have to wait a day!

I'd like to discuss tools today. I'm covering the kinds of tools that live in the shop, not in the house. Of course tools are expensive and are things that people buy over a life time - not in 15 days and counting. Some are quite specialized and others are just good things that people have for a household. All that said, tools can often be picked up at moving sales and those old junk shops that buy up what folks are selling so if you are out scouring the yard sales of the uninformed, keep an eye out for useful tools.

There will be differing opinions, but I consider guns to be tools. I know how to handle, load, shoot, and clean a wide variety of guns. There is a world of debate about hand guns and assault rifles, and my simple opinion is that those things are for killing people and I'm simply not interested in going there. I think that if need be a person can defend home and property with a hunting rifle or shotgun. Guns as tools put meat on the table, and can put down livestock that is suffering with no vet available, and can be used to defend family and property when all other measures break down. There is a skunk roaming around the back of my chicken coop for the last couple of days and if I wasn't in the city, I wouldn't hesitate to shoot.....from a distance ;-)

As far as other tool go, over the years Mr. Greenjeans has saved us tremendous money, made money in tough times, and helped extended family and friends by having good tools, and the know-how to use them.

Lately I have been buying only hand tools for a power down society(with the exception of a power drill for smaller hands). I know that the tools we have used the most over the last 20 years have been the kind of things in a well stocked tool box: hammers of various sized, various pliers, socket sets, wire cutters, saws as well as a big bag of nails and screws. Other useful tools a long handled ax for splitting logs, shovels (flat and sharp pointed ones), saw horses, a hoe, a 15 lb mallet for breaking up wood, different sizes of ladders, a tamping pole, a crow bar, a clamp, and a fencing tool (to string wire).
One needs specialized tools for livestock, woodworking, gardening, mechanic work... In a power down society, we're going to have to fix things to keep them going. It doesn't mean that everyone has to be an expert in everything, but rather that we ought to be looking to have a backup skill as well as team up with someone who has specialized tools and know-how in an area that isn't our specialty. I can hardly change the tire on my car but I'm quite good at animal husbandry. It is likely that we will all become better at knowing how to fix and maintain things...if you have tools

As a kid I was fascinated with those little hand drills. So fascinated that once while the adults were downstairs having a cocktail party, I was busy drilling holes in the hardwood flooring upstairs of the host's house with one of these hand drills. In spite of the guilt I feel every time I see one of these, I still love this tool. Later my parents said that explained why they'd never heard from that family again...but I digress.

Some of the most beautiful hand tools I've seen lately were in the hardware store in Japan Center of San Francisco. They too were specialized building tools. I do always like the tool options in Leman's catalog

In addition to the hard tools, I'd recommend having on hand lots and lots of tape and glue, paint brushes and scrapers, rope and string of various kinds. I've used Duct tape for as many things as you can imagine, including holding medicated packing into the bottom of a hoof of an extroverted gelding that was as much of a pest as any goat ever thought of being.... and it held. Don't forget a spool of wire, gloves and safety masks. And remember sooner or later everything becomes a hammer.

So, what are your favorite hand tools? What gets a workout and what's on the wish list?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Day 14

I love Gracie's comments (she has a new blog) in closing yesterday: "I'm sure we've forgotten a whole lot. But we'll get by, we always have." Really, that is the mentality that we must have. Today Gracie has posted about her Grandparents. I think the preparations may be as simple as looking toward how others have done it before us. We don't need the highest tech survival gear (OK, so maybe there is some good stuff out there) but going into a world of lower energy and fewer resources, we perhaps need to consider how our Grands and Great-Grands have done things. Talk to the oldest person you know about the ins and outs of the way things used to be, the frugality, the make do attitude, the ability to repurpose. In the 1970's you couldn't get my Grandparents to take an unnecessary trip in the car. When you went it was with a list and a (mental) map of everything that could be done along the way.

The topic of discussion today is sanitation. In some ways were are overly concerned with cleanliness in our society. Our anti-bacterial handsoaps don't help us out in the long run, and I've never really achieved the kind of focus you seen in ads where you should be able to to eat off the kitchen floor. However there are some things to know if services stop, or if due to hardship you lose your utilities.

Toileting: Mr. Greenjeans used to be a western river guide. In National Parks and permited back country areas one has to pack all human waste. That means making a toilet out of a bucket or an ammo can lined with a black plastic bag with a toilet seat on top. One only uses such a toilet for bowel movements. This must be dumped somewhere such as an RV dump or septic system and is a short term solution that has to be handled. Remember, urine is sterile and is full of plant nitrogen when diluted so that can go around your property. It is bowel movements that cause diseases such as cholera.

Growing up I lived with my Grandparents at a cabin high in the Rocky Mountains (over 10,000 altitude). edit: to clarify we stayed there in the summer but I lived with my parents. We had a wood cook stove like the one that Sharon described so beautifully yesterday. We also had an outhouse. The cabin and outhouse was situatied on top of a hill. The outhouse was a big hole in the ground with two 55 gal drum placed deeply inside and a two seater log outhouse built over the top (I never understood two seaters but that' beside the point). I always checked for spiders sitting down and certainly didn't linger. Grandma fiercly taught me never to walk too closely behind an outhouse incase the earth gave way over the pit. On cool nights they put a bucket with a toilet seat on the porch or even by the wood stove. Periodically they'd put lime or sawdust in the toilet and in theory they had it pumped but I was never there for that.

If one is investing in green technology and long term solutions, there are composting toilets which turns potentially harmful human waste into safe compost. These toilets can be purchased a variety of locations for a pretty good amount of money. However, I was surprised to find a very good article, including DIY composting toilets at Wikipedia. The most indepth discussion of human waste and safely converting it to something inocuous can be found in the book,The Humanure Handbook.

While we are on toilet talk, there is a blog challenge getting underway at Crunchy Chicken's for using cloth TP. The discussion is pretty detailed - I encourage you to go and learn. I switched to the Diva cup for menstration this summer and like it much better than any other product, commercial or otherwise. The girls arn't going there, but I may get a couple for them just incase purchasing power for disposables get severely curtailed. I'll be making cloth TP and setting up smaller buckets as part of my preparations. Really, for those who had had kids in cloth diapers, it's not so much of a stretch. I'm not pushing my family as they are ready to mutany over hitting the 3 month mark on the homemade laundry soap.

I bought the laundry soap suplies and used the recipe from the company, Soaps Gone Buy. I ordered bulk supplies and think I'm good for a year or more. We've made the powdered soap and the problem we are having is that the Fels Naptha was so hard to grate that we ended up using a cheese grater (one bought from a yard sale and dedicated to the purpose). The shreads are too large and don't disolve all the way but Chibi wasn't strong enough for the smaller grate. The family also thinks that things aren't getting clean enough and I've started adding oxyclean to the loads. Next we'll try making the liquid laundry soap and have saved our last bottle from Tide for putting the homemade stuff in. A good discussion on older to ancient soap making can be found here.

As far as garbage is concerned, if you are not buying many things and you are recycling, composting, and reusing things, your garbage is lessened. Paper and gets burned in the wood stove, cardboard composts or can be used in the garden, plastics get eliminated as purchacing goes down. I surely don't throw away my canning jars after opening the food!

I recently stocked up on toothbrushes. I didn't stock up on toothpaste as one can always make toothpowder from baking soda. Yes, toothbrushes can be invented too, but let's allow some time for that.

Remember that Grandparents used to take illness and injury more seriously. They lived in pre-antibiotic days where infection was a serious thing. If you don't want to seek medical care, take care of rashes and simple cuts, wash your hands and take care if you get sick.

It is getting popular to make and use green cleaning products with vinigar and lemon. Look at a few recipees and gather together the ingredients.