Country Living Series

Monday, September 21, 2020

Dehydrating onions

Boy howdy, did the onions do well this year in the garden.
Now that it's time to harvest, I'm tasked with preserving this abundance. To this end, I decided to dehydrate most of them. Because there are so many onions, I'm harvesting just one bed at a time.
I trimmed off all the greens...
...and weighed out 4.5 lbs., which I knew from previous experience is about all my six-tray dehydrator can handle at a time.
Then I started chopping the onions, a very weepy process.
Spreading the onions on the trays. I made sure to use the mesh screen inserts in the trays so smaller pieces wouldn't fall through.
Then -- and this is no joke -- I put the dehydrator outside. Believe me, the smell of onions would have knocked us out of the house otherwise. As it was, the entire yard smelled of onions during the drying process.
The booklet that came with the dehydrator suggested eight hours of drying at 125F. After some experimentation, I bumped it to 135F for ten hours, rotating the trays at the five-hour mark. But still, the onions felt a bit leathery as I peeled them off the mesh. So I consulted my faithful food preservatin bible...
...which recommended pasteurizing the dried onions at 175F for 10 minutes or so. I upped this to 15 minutes. I was delighted with the results. The pasteurization process took away the leathery texture and made the onions nice and brittle.
Four and a half pounds of onions yields a quart and a half of dried onions.
As I type this, I'm on my third batch of onions and have finished one garden tire's worth of harvest. I'm in for a long haul of drying onions, but when this is all finished, I will have gallons of dehydrated produce. God bless harvest time!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Closed for business?

Here's a staggering headline: "Yelp reveals 60% of business closures are now permanent."
According to the article: "Yelp pointed out an increase of permanent business closures over the past six months, now reaching 97,966, or about 60% of closed businesses will never reopen their doors again.... Yelp notes restaurants, shopping and retail, and beauty and spas have been damaged the most with temporary and permanent closures since March 1. About 32,109 restaurants closed on Yelp, with 19,590 of those permanent, or about 61%. Shopping and retail saw 30,374 business closures, with 58% of those permanent. Beauty and spas saw 16,585 closures, with 42% of which are permanent. ... Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco were three metro areas that saw the most closures and permanent closures."

The article goes into all kinds of details about the fiscal impact, but one thing it doesn't cover is the emotional trauma of hard-working people whose dreams and aspirations have been wiped out.

Has your business closed? Has someone you know been forced out of business? What has been the reaction?

Monday, September 14, 2020

The year "annus horribilis"

So here we are, three-quarters of the way through the year annus horribilis. You might say 2020 has been a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year.

The one theme Don and I (along with many friends and neighbors) keep returning to is how fast things have unraveled. Last Christmas, as we celebrated with our family, not one of us had a clue what lay ahead. It's been wacky on every front.

Here are just some of the things that have happened in 2020:

• Pandemic
• Lockdowns
• School closures
• Small business closures by the hundreds of thousands
• Economic hardship for millions
• Panic prepping
• The rise of domestic terrorism
• Cities under siege
• Loss of law and order
• Mass exodus from urban areas
• Catastrophic wildfires
• Hurricanes
• Dericho winds destroying huge swaths of crops
• The rip-the-mask-off exposure of school indoctrination
• Blatant media bias
• Blatant Big Tech censorship
• Elections (arguably this factor underlays much of the above list)

Have I missed anything? I'm sure I have. Some of these things have been going on for a long, long time and only became obvious at last; others are unprecedented. But it all rolls into one big ball of, well, 2020.

There's an old Chinese curse that says "May you live in interesting times." Well, guess what. We're living in interesting times.

And it all happened so fast. So fast.

Nor it is over. Whatever happens in November, we're in for a long, hard, ugly civil war (definitely figuratively; hopefully not literally).

Hunker down, folks. It's all we can do.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Book review: The Ultimate Prepper's Survival Guide

Oh wow, you have got to see this:

This is the latest masterpiece by James Wesley, Rawles entitled "The Ultimate Prepper's Survival Guide."

Let me tell you, this baby is beefy. (Hmmm. Separate imponderable: Could it be used as a blunt-force weapon in close combat?)

It's laid out in binder form with tabs: Dangers / Mentality / Essentials / Protection / Community / Checklists.

Each chapter has subheadings addressing various components of each subject.

One personal favorite: The Threat Matrix, which helps determine the threat level for a particular threat in your particular circumstances. I've used this concept in preparedness-related workshops.

But for all the valuable information contained in this book, in some ways the most valuable section is at the very back -- Checklists. Maybe it's just me, but I find checklists to be incredibly helpful.

The checklists in this book include:

• Barter and charity
• Books
• Bug-out bags
• Vehicle bug-out-bags
• Food and water
• Financial preparation
• Gardening and outdoors
• House and home
• Hygiene and sanitation
• Personal preparedness
• Security

At the very back there's even a pocket for your own personal checklists.

This is a book for the 2020s. It's completely up-to-date and designed to address the insane challenges the nation has faced during this insane year, everything from wildfire evacuation to societal unrest.

In my opinion, this is a very worthwhile addition to anyone's preparedness library. It's even more valuable if you actually act upon the information it contains.

The book is currently available only in Costco stores. The general market release will be on October 15th. Check it out!

Friday, September 11, 2020

Monday, September 7, 2020

An adventure. That's what it was.

Earlier this week, on a rare cool day, Older Daughter talked me into An Adventure.

Specifically she wanted to hike the Crystal Lake Trail, an unassuming "moderate" 2.8-mile excursion through what promised to be some spectacular scenery.

This trail was near what locals call Mt. Baldy, around 6000+ foot elevation.

So we packed up some water bottles, extra (warm) clothing, loaded up Mr. Darcy, and off we went.

Foolishly, we didn't leave until after noon, and we way way underestimated how long it would take to get to the trailhead. Following the map, we left pavement and embarked on a steep (though well-maintained) logging road through desolate logged BLM land.

We followed this road for mile after bone-crunching mile -- eleven miles, in fact.

Older Daughter said if we'd brought her car, she would have turned around after 100 feet (she has a low-slung two-wheel-drive city car). Our vehicle has high clearance and four-wheel-drive, and is designed for off-road conditions. Even so, I kept a sharp eye on the temperature gauge.

As we climbed, we started seeing scree slopes and realized just why Mt. Baldy was bald.

It certainly felt very ends-of-the-earthish.

But the views down to the valley floor were spectacular.

At one point, the engine started to overheat, so we turned the car off for a bit and let Mr. Darcy out to sniff and explore.

After ten minutes or so, we resumed our travels and soon found ourselves at the trailhead. It was a very wild and remote spot.

The trail was very rocky in parts, and one of those cling-to-the-hillside trails with a sharp drop-off to one side. But wow, the views were spectacular.

We kept Mr. Darcy strictly on his leash. We didn't want to risk him falling down a slope while chasing a chipmunk.

I was astounded to see some summer wildflowers still in bloom, despite it being early September. The season at this elevation is so much shorter that flowers were blooming even as fall colors crept over the landscape.

We saw mountain ash trees everywhere. Believe it or not, I've only ever seen these as handsome landscape trees, never in the wild. They have bright orange berries and scarlet foliage in the fall.

But the trail was rough -- steep in some parts, very rocky in others (you can see Older Daughter's boots and Mr. Darcy's feet at top). We went slowly and carefully, knowing we were far from help if anything were to happen to us.

Here, a previous hiker piled some stones into a formation.

Lots of red willow-like shrubs, but they didn't seem like willows. Anyone know what they are?

And huckleberries! Lots of ripe delicious huckleberries. We snacked all along the trail.

We stopped to rest at one point and admire the scenery.

But then we consulted the map and realized we'd only covered about one mile in one hour. And -- it was by then four o'clock in the afternoon. Reluctantly we realized we weren't going to make it to Crystal Lake before dark fell, so we made the difficult decision to turn back.

It was while hiking back that we became aware the "birds" we heard were, in fact, mammals. We were hearing pikas -- another animal I'd never seen in the wild.

They were very hard to spot. Pikas live in rocks, and there were a lot of rocks.

By the time I zoomed in my camera lens, they were already in another location.

Can you spot the pika?

Here it is, near the top-center, over that large rock.

Here's another photo -- the pika is almost dead-center.

We left the pikas behind and continued to admire the scenery as we made our way back to the trailhead.

Once back in the car, we decided on a more direct route down to the valley floor -- which turned out to be a mistake. The road was a lot rougher, though it was certainly more picturesque. All I can say is, it's a good thing our car is designed for rough off-road conditions.

Definitely nice views, though.

This is what we could see waaaaay below us.

I saw a species of grass I'm unfamiliar with. Anyone know?

How about this? If I didn't know better, I'd say it's the remains of a black-eyed Susan, but I'm not sure.

Steep scree slope, distant valley floor.

We returned to pavement exhausted all out of proportion to the relatively little bit of hiking we did. Even Mr. Darcy spent the whole following day flat on his side, sleeping.

We never made it to Crystal Lake, but we had An Adventure. Yeah, that's it. An Adventure.