Monday, May 31, 2010

Preparedness 101 - #8 - "NOT your 1930's depression"

"My concern is that this isn't 1930. People aren't interested in trading work for food. They aren't interested in trading one commodity for another. The people of the 2000's are interested in being given something for nothing. In 1930, a down-on-his-luck fella from the city would have knocked on their door looking to exchange a little fencing for a bowl of soup. In 2010, the punks knocking on their door won't be interested in either their fences or their bowl of soup. They will want it all... We have a nation full of angry, indolent people just looking for a reason kill and destroy."

Here's a serious post by a friend on the subject of preparing to deal with unwelcome visitors during hard times. It's well worth reading.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Making yogurt

A reader asked how to make yogurt. It just so happened I had some pictures of the process but never got around to posting them. goes.

Start with two quarts of milk. I like to use skim milk.

Add 1/4 cup of nonfat dry milk. This will add to the creaminess of the yogurt. Mix thoroughly and slowly heat the milk to 180F.

Don't stir during this time, just let the milk gently heat. When it hits 180F, turn the heat off and let it cool to between 105F and 115F. Again, don't stir. When the milk is cooled, there will be a thick nasty skin on top. Scoop this off and discard.

I like to use Bulgarian yogurt starter. I order mine from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. The reason I use Bulgarian starter is because it can recultured indefinitely.

Whatever you do, do NOT add the yogurt culture to the milk when it's hotter than 115F because it will kill the culture (been there, done that). Stir gently until the culture is thoroughly mixed.

Now the milk has to be incubated for a minimum of 5 to 6 hours (I usually incubate mine about 12 hours because I like a tarter yogurt). Anything can be used as long as the milk stays warm. Several years ago I bit the bullet and bought a Yogotherm Yogurt Maker. The reason I like this is it's nonelectric - it's literally just a plastic bucket that nestles inside a Styrofoam sleeve. You could probably put the milk behind the woodstove in order to stay warm; or inside a gas oven with a pilot light; or wrapped in towels and tucked inside a small ice chest. Use your creativity to come up with some way to keep the milk warm.

After the yogurt has incubated for several hours, remove the plastic bucket from the incubator and refrigerate overnight (or about 12 hours).

Before flavoring the yogurt, scoop out a few ounces and put it in a small container. Keep this in the fridge. This is your starter for the next batch.

To sweeten the yogurt, I use one cup of sugar or Splenda, then either add 1/4 cup vanilla (for vanilla yogurt) or some peach purree (peaches are my favorite fruit). Obviously you can flavor it however you like and to your taste.

Preparedness 101 - #7 - Preparing on a budget

A reader named Rose posted a comment that is important enough to address on its own; namely, how do you prepare on a budget?

Here's her words:

"We've been trying to stock up on some basics as well. Our biggest obstacle is money. We just filled a 100 gallon diesel tank for $310. We are trying to build our supplies, but it is hard to do when you have very little left over every month to even buy 2-3 extra items. Our fuel bill will strap us this month. We could have filled the tank a little at a time to save money, but then if we needed it, we wouldn't have it. What are your secrets to building up supplies without going broke?"

Rose, the answer is the same as the answer to the question of how do you eat an elephant: one bite at a time. Believe me, I understand how difficult it is because we're low income as well.

Whatever happens, I don't recommend going into debt to make preparations. You don't need the extra stress of debt in addition to the stress of preparing for hard times.

When I posted this list, it didn't mean I'm going to go out and buy everything on it in one fell swoop. No possible way! Instead, the list is in my purse so whenever I find myself (a) in town and (b) with a few extra dollars, I can purchase one or two of the items in accordance with whatever extra money I have.

For example, we're planning on going into the city this week to run some errands. Along with the errands, I'll look for a couple items on my preparedness list. Since we're stopping at a couple of thrift stores I'll look for canning jars, glass globes, and sheets. I have to stop at Costco as well, so if we have any extra money I'll buy, say, some throat lozenges or razers. See how it works?

Remember, you have about five core areas you need to prepare for: food, water, heat, light, and sanitation. When money is tight, your preparedness efforts should focus around those.

For the vast majority of us who are on extremely limited budgets, the only thing we can do is what we can do. That sounds trite, so let me explain.

We can't do everything. That's a fact. Don't fight it. Don't whip yourself into despair because you're not ready for TEOTWAWKI. Don't compare your preparations to anyone else's. (That's because we're all in different circumstances and have different needs, not to mention different incomes.)

But here's the nifty little secret: DO SOMETHING. Anything. Anything is better than nothing. Sure, it would be nice to live in a hurricane-proof bunker with ten years' worth of food on hand, but it ain't gonna happen.

And whatever you do, don't adopt that attitude that, since you can't do everything, you aren't going to do anything. With that attitude, you become a leech when the SHTF, and we don't want that, now do we?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Finally! The last calf!

Considering the fact that it's almost June, the weather has been hideous. I guess it's making up the mild winter we had by being a nasty spring. Today is cold, windy, some rain, and we have the woodstove going full blast.

So, naturally, Jet chose this day to have her calf.

We've been waiting for weeks. Poor Jet's been looking misshapen and uncomfortable for so long that I was starting to get concerned.

When I went to get Matilda this morning to milk, I noticed the calf and saw that he was already dried and on his feet. That means he was born squarely in the middle of the night. Brrr, poor thing. What a chilly entrance to the world.

And yes, as far as I can tell it's a bull calf. Whoo-hoo! This means fresh meat in two years! And no wonder Jet was uncomfortable - this little boy was big! For a Dexter, that is.

Earlier today I tried to scoop up the calf and carry him into the barn (so we can castrate him in a few days as well as keep him warm) while Don warded off Jet with a pole, but it didn't work - the calf was too heavy and I was too close to being gored. Jet is actually a very sweet cow, but never underestimate a mother's protective instinct... especially if the mother has horns!

That's why these photos are rather distant - I didn't want to stress Jet out any more than I already have. You'll also notice she's moving away from me in the photos...

Assuming we have the gender correct, his name will be Nebuchadnezzar. Don't ask me why, but that's what Younger Daughter wants to name him.

Preparedness 101 - #6

I'm working on a "master list" of items I want to stock up with regards to our preparedness efforts (see additional preparedness posts here, here, here, here and here).

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it's something to keep in my purse and consult when I'm in the city. It's fluid as well. Some items are a one- or two-time purchase (I need some more clothes pins, for example), while others are things I'll just keep stocking up on whenever I find them or whenever I have spare money.

Throat lozenges
Bag balm
Reading glasses (over the counter)
Nasal decongestant

Cash 'n Carry (a regional wholesale grocery)
Baking powder
Votive candles
Aluminum foil (heavy duty)
Waxed paper
Washing soda (together with borax, ingredients for laundry detergent)
Salsa (in gallon jugs, to re-can)
Pizza sauce (ditto)
Vinegar (in gallon jugs)
Soy sauce (ditto)
Brown sugar

Value Village (a regional chain of huge thrift stores)
Glass globes for kerosene lamps
Bread pans (mine are old)
Canning jars (of course!)
Flannel sheets (we live in Idaho, brrrr)
Sheets for sewing - flannel for warmer clothes, cotton for cooler

Winnco, Albertson's, or other large retail grocery
Gallon jugs of Ivory dish soap
Matches (strike anywhere)
Canning lids
Ivory soap (bars)

Dollar Store
Workman's gloves
Cheap washcloths (for substitute toilet paper)

Hardware store
Kerosene (gallon jugs) for oil lamps

Department store or online sources
Socks for everyone
Underwear for everyone

Next I'm off to inventory my spices....

How to tell if you're mom's favorite

Kudos to whoever photographed this!

Eerie cartoon

Hard to believe this cartoon was made in 1948. Watch it and weep.

"When anybody preaches disunity – tries to pit one of us against the other through class warfare, race hatred, or religious intolerance – you know that person seeks to ROB us of our freedom and destroy our very lives."

Remember - this was made in 1948!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Odds 'n ends

My new laptop is here! I've managed to do the setup and even play a game or two of solitaire, but when it comes to loading anything onto it, I leave that in the very capable hands of my husband. He'll get to it when he has a moment.

Lydia likes to snuggle with Younger Daughter in the morning...

Figuring out which seeds to plant today...

First up are pinto beans, which I planted next to the potatoes because potatoes and beans are compatible.

I was curious how much of a row one package (two ounces) of beans would plant.

After planting one entire row, I had this many beans left over... enough, it turns out, for half of another row. So two ounces of beans planted 1 1/2 rows. Not bad!

Here's Younger Daughter helping plant pinto beans.

We got four rows of pintos planted. (The strings delineate the 3rd and 4th rows.)

I'm trying an experiment. We eat a fair amount of navy beans, but I couldn't find any seed beans. So - can I plant dried beans I buy at the grocery store? A neighbor suggested sprouting them to see if they're viable, so that's what I'll try. I'm soaking some beans in water in a small jar. If they sprout, I'll plant the sprouts.

Back to the garden, this time to plant peas. Three ounces of peas plant two full rows.

Older Daughter helping to plant peas...

I've been thinking about something. Much of what I'm planting in the garden this year duplicates what we already have stored in decent quantities - corn, beans (several dried as well as green), broccoli, tomatoes, etc. I think what I'll do is funnel most of the harvest into seed, rather than eating it. Some plants can do both - watermelon and cantaloupe can provide fresh fruit as well as all the seeds we could want - for the corn and beans and much of the broccoli, etc., I'll just save for seed. One big concern I have, if the bleep hits the fan, is a shortage of nonhybrid garden seeds. By saving most of what I plant this year for seed, I'm assured of a large supply as well as enough to share.

The strawberries have arrived! The strawberry bed isn't ready to plant yet (no dirt), but I can put some in the strawberry boat.

Bareroot strawberries sure don't look like much, do they?

It's hard to see, but there's 75 strawberry plants in this boat.

A good watering, and I'm done for the evening. Good thing too, as it's cold out!

Younger Daughter has a friend spending the night. They spent the afternoon building a fort out of pallets, an elaborate two-room mansion complete with furnishings.

The day was mostly chilly and windy, with dark scudding clouds...

...but in the late afternoon, the sun broke through for a few minutes before sunset.

Here's a neat blog I found

A new reader has a spiffy blog called Lilac Cottage Goats.

I loved the wedding pictures of her daughter. I'm attracted to the "plain" lifestyles and so these photos intrigued me.

It's small but beautiful

A few weeks ago at the Moscow Renaissance Faire, I purchased a small print by the artist Andy Sewell. Isn't it gorgeous?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


A friend sent this.

Lambs to the Slaughter

Come see my latest article at entitled "Lambs to the Slaughter."

Twenty years ago today

Twenty years ago today I did the best thing of my life: I married my husband.

Yes it's true: today is our 20th anniversary.

As is not unusual on our anniversary, we're not together. We're doing stuff that keeps us apart for the day. We have no plans to do anything special. In general, we're not "celebrating" people.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t cherish every day with this wonderful man I married, and I thank God for bringing him into my life.

I remember getting teased (in a good-natured way) by friends and coworkers when we first married because we were so incredibly joined at the hip. It’s astounding how much our interests dovetailed back then. People assumed the glow would fade, that we would drift apart and pursue our own interests to the detriment of our marriage. Perhaps children or monetary stresses would pull us apart, as it does with so many couples.

But it hasn't. It's pulled us closer together. Our interests continue to dovetail. By "dovetail" I don't mean we're both interested in exactly the same things. What I mean is, our interests complement each other. We support each other. We offer comfort when something goes wrong and praise when something goes right.

Since of course no one knows what the future may bring or for how many years we will be blessed, I will offer here my love and gratitude for my dear and wonderful husband, Don. I love you, honey!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spring chores on the homestead

Both kids are on the mend from yesterday's stomach flu, though Older Daughter is still weak as water and not up to much (she got it worse than Younger Daughter). Schoolwork was out of the question, so Don and I got some outdoor work done.

With the weather holding for another day or two (before more rain moves in), Don decided to get some fence holes augered to rebuild our garden/orchard fence.

Moving the auger into position...

Augering a hole...

Lydia wonders what's going on...

You can see the tangled, hog-tied, ridiculous excuse of a fence we have around the yard and garden. Is it any wonder last year's vegetables were devoured by the deer? I doubt these fences would keep out a possum.

I ordered 200 bare root strawberry plants, which have been shipped and are on their way. They should be here any day. This means we had to get at least one berry bed completed and ready to fill with dirt to plant the strawberries.

Cutting a 2x10 to fit across the ends of the beds.

Fitting the end piece.

A five-foot long 2x10 across one end will give me a four-foot wide berry bed.

The beams were not the same length, plus one beam had a rotten end.

Trimming the rotten end with a saws-all.

These beams came from an old barn we took down for some folks in our church. Despite their age (about 50 years) and the one rotten end, they're solid and clean through and through.

Measuring the other beam to trim it and square up the bed.

Trimming the other beam to fit.

I think men in overalls are SO sexy...

Here's Ruby and her calf Smokey. It turns out Smokey is a dun color. Who'da thunk? A dun calf means she got one dun allele from each parent. I had no idea they were carriers. Either which way, she's such a pretty calf.

Late in the afternoon, our neighbor Dallas came back and took another crack around our proto wheat field with his ginormous tractor and borrowed mega-disker.

Before he re-disked, you can see how lumpy the newly-broken sod is.

Re-disking helped a lot. Now for the rest of the summer, we can re-disk it ourselves using our smaller disker to keep the weeds from coming back. Come fall, we'll try planting wheat.

Younger Daughter carved herself out a little patch of garden where she planted some flowers.

The cut sides of the seed potatoes are cured and ready to plant.

I strung baling twine along the length of the garden to make a straight row.

I dug a shallow trench along the string using a broken-off hoe. (A new hoe is on my wish list.)

I used the black bucket to transport the potatoes. Easier than carting that heavy box around.

I stopped at four rows. I could have planted six or seven more rows, but that would have taken up half the garden.

As it was, I had lots of potatoes left. I'll give these to a neighbor who is planting her garden this weekend.

But since these potatoes are merely lying on the surface, they need to be covered with a thick bed of hay to be officially "planted."

A wheelbarrow full of hay. It's a tiresome job to trundle dozens of barrows of hay to cover the potatoes, but they're not really planted until they're covered.

Raven wonders what I'm doing...

Turn my back for one minute and the chickens are all over the hay...

I got about half the bed covered with hay before I quit for the day. I'm pooped!