Saturday, March 31, 2012

Urbanized areas

Here's a fascinating map I found through SurvivalBlog which details urbanized areas and urban clusters from 2010 census data.

I confess I found myself staring at this map for minutes on end, marveling at the population distribution.

On the radio

I'm going to be on the radio this morning -- as in, four hours after I post this -- sorry for the short notice! It's Backwoods Home Magazine's "Self-Reliance Expozed" via BlogTalkRadio, so it should be available on podcast at some point.

Here's the link to the radio show.

I'll be on around 8:30 am Pacific time. Hope you can tune in!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Prom night

So it seems certain high schools are putting some rules in effect about prom dresses... specifically, trying to curtail skanky clothes.

"Schools from Connecticut to Arizona are responding to risqué prom dresses with elaborate dress codes," notes a Wall Street Journal article. "Prom fashion in some stores goes way beyond plunging necklines and hiked-up hems to include low-slung backs, thigh-high slits and midriff-bearing cutouts."

Interestingly, a not-uncommon criticism of homeschooling is the argument of "Awww, but they'll miss the prom!" (An example of what they're missing can be seen here.) Now it seems public schools are belatedly recognizing the prom trend has gotten uglier and uglier in recent years.

Some schools are pro-actively trying to forestall skanky prom fashions by giving Power-Point presentations, posting photos in school hallways, and printing up brochures about what constitutes unacceptable styles. In some schools, "students have to sign a document acknowledging they will abide by the dress code or be turned away at the door."

So what are some of the unacceptable prom fashions schools are trying to discourage? Take a gander:

(Notice the zipper down the butt...)

It may not work, but I applaud the schools for trying to uphold some sort of standards.

Now, here's another minor thing I happen to notice in this article on the same issue, in discussing the types of prom dresses which are considered acceptable:

"It seems kind of petty," Cindi Lee, an Algebra teacher at Southmore High School outside Oklahoma City, told the Journal, "but we really do want them to understand we are holding them to a high standard." Administrators at the school have put together a twelve-page power-point presentation with close-cropped images to show students exactly what the rules are. "Words don't mean much to them," says Lee. Other schools are using posters and illustrated handouts.

Words don't mean much to them...

Let's hear it for the high academic standards in our nation.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Welcome, Survival Mom!

You may noticed that Lisa Bedford's new book, Survival Mom, is now listed with our advertisers. If there's one thing I absolutely love to do on this blog, it's to support people or businesses with incredible products. Lisa falls smack into the middle of that category.

If you haven't seen Lisa's book yet, please get it! It's as wonderfully practical, funny, and realistic an outline on preparedness as you'll ever see.

And if the book isn't enough for you, Lisa also runs an awesome website by the same name.

Welcome Lisa!

Where there is a niche...

The most important piece of advice for anyone who's ever started a business is, "Find a niche and fill it."

A few years ago I remember hearing about an online dating service specific to farmers and ranchers, which I thought was a nifty idea (don't remember the name, sorry). After all, why not cater to a specialized group of people who have a hard time connecting?

And now someone else has taken a vacant niche and filled it. A reader just sent me a link to an article about another online dating service, this one catering to Preppers and Survivalists, called Survivalist Singles. The slogan is, "Don't face the future alone."

The article is written with just the barest hint of disbelief -- as in, who in their right mind could possibly think anything could ever go wrong? -- and takes the obligatory extreme examples (humanure) to demonstrate the mindset of preppers. But coming from the mainstream media as it does, it's otherwise a reasonably fair examination of this void in the dating world, though links interspersed throughout the article still poke fun at the tinfoil-hat wearing subculture ("My doomsday tab: $130K on bunkers, guns and more," "9 signs the world will end in 2012," etc.). The mainstream media, it seems, is simply incapable of separating the loonytoons from those with serious concerns about our future.

But no matter. It's kind of a nifty concept, the idea of linking Preppers together. Fill that niche!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Older Daughter isn't with us this week because she was asked to house-sit in a nearby town for a family from our church. Her duties will be light and mostly involve taking care of their two beautiful cats. No hardship for Older Daughter, who loves cats!

And what a beautiful house it is! Much nicer than ours.

These folks generously stuffed their freezer and pantry with everything they thought a teenage girl would enjoy...

...with specific instructions to eat it all!

To top it off, they even left her $50 in spending money! And they're paying her to boot!

Even better, this house is literally next door to some of our friends, so Older Daughter has someone to hang with if she gets bored. Altogether, a pretty sweet gig -- she's in heaven!

Update on canning booklets

I've received several inquiries about the status of the canning booklets, so I thought now would be a good time to post an update.

The booklets are done. They're fully written. I have three so far: one on water-bath canning, one on pressure canning, and a booklet on 100 FAQs (I was originally thinking it would be 50 FAQs, but you folks had so many excellent questions that the number kept going up and up). Because of the amount of work involved in researching the FAQs, I will offer it at a slightly higher price than the other two booklets.

What I'm doing now is laying the booklets out in InDesign, a desktop publishing program. The FAQ booklet is fairly straightforward -- not many illustrations -- but the water-bath and pressure canning booklets are fairly heavily illustrated with photos and take a bit of work to lay out.

I realized I had no photos illustrating the making and canning of applesauce nor the canning of chicken breasts (both of which I cover in the booklets), so I bought those items yesterday and will do some canning today in order to take pictures.

Please note, there is some cross-over between the FAQ booklet and the canning booklets, but only in areas where I thought something critical should be emphasized in case someone buys one booklet but not all of them. In other words, if someone is trying their hand at pressure canning and bought the pressure canning booklet but not the FAQ booklet, I needed to include critical info in both booklets.

The cover design for the booklets is similar among all three. Here's the rough for the pressure-canning booklet:

As an added note: after some thought, I've decided NOT to offer the booklets through a Kindle download. The process of offering them through Amazon means Amazon gets an astounding 70% of the selling price. If I sell these booklets for a low price as planned, it means I'll hardly get anything if I sell them through Amazon. The rules of selling something through Amazon means I cannot sell the same booklets through my blog. In other words, it's one or the other -- Amazon or the blog. Yes I know Amazon has a much wider market, so eventually I may put them up for sale through them; but for the time being I'll just sell them through the blog.

This means the booklets will be available as a pdf download. This has two advantages: one, you don't have to have a Kindle (or Kindle software) to read them; and two, it means I can have a lot more color photos to illustrate the procedures (Kindle would naturally translate the photos into black-and-white).

It's been a whole lot more work than I anticipated to write, illustrate, and lay out these babies -- but boy howdy have I gotten an education in the process! I have to thank all of you, my lovely readers, for your enthusiasm AND all the wonderful questions you pitched at me when this project began!

By the way, these booklets will be the first of a series I plan to write on general self-sufficiency skills. I have booklets planned on such things as moving to the country, homesteading specifics such as dehorning calves, making dairy products, etc. If anyone has more ideas they want to pitch at me, by all means do so! I can't guarantee your idea will get turned into a booklet, but at this point I'm all ears for new ideas.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fruit salad

Here's a delightful dish for any time of year, though it's especially welcome during the dark days of winter: fruit salad.

As with anything of this nature, fruit salad can include whatever fruits you particularly like. For us this means: peaches, pears, apples, bananas, strawberries, and blueberries.

The quantities I like are:

• 2 quarts (or two large cans) peaches
• 2 quarts (or two large cans) pears
• 3 or 4 bananas
• 1 apple (the photo shows two, we only used one)
• strawberries and blueberries to taste, maybe a quart each

Younger Daughter started by slicing the bananas.

While she did that, I peeled and cut an apple into "bits." When we lived in Oregon and had mature apple trees, I canned apple "bits" specifically for use in fruit salad, and they turned out beautifully. I like apple bits for a little bit of crunch. By the way, only use firm apples. Red or Yellow Delicious are so mushy that they taste terrible in a fruit salad.

Drain the peaches and cut up into chunks.

Drain only one jar (or can) of pears, and cut into chunks.

Everything should just get tossed into a big bowl.

Blueberries are just added as is, of course. But we sliced the strawberries.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't care for citrus in fruit salad, much as I love oranges. Somehow the consistency doesn't seem compatible. But hey, that's just me.

Looking good so far!

Now mix everything up. Looks pretty, in my opinion.

And now for the secret ingredient which makes for an outstanding fruit salad: pears. I already added one jar of cut-up pears into the salad. But I take the other jar...

...pour both the fruit and the syrup into a blender...

...and blend it into a pear "sauce."

Now pour the pear sauce over the salad...

...and mix thoroughly.

While it's wonderful in its just-made state, it's even better after a day or two in the fridge, when the flavors blend... IF it lasts that long. Enjoy!

Prayer request

Yesterday I received a rather frantic email from a reader: "Dear Patrice, I was over at the Feral Irishman's blog and he linked to Duke's blog that Stephen from the "Standing on the Outside Looking In" [blog] had a heart attack. As a blogger can you verify if this is true? Stephen is such a darling man and has been going through so much lately. I did not want to bother you with an e-mail, but Stephen has been so sweet to me and to so many other people. Thank you for any information you can provide."

Concerned, I jumped onto the blogs she mentioned and found there was indeed a rumor that Stephen from Standing Outside Looking In was in "blogger down" status.

I sent an email to Stephen: "Hello Stephen: Rumor has it you've suffered a heart attack. A reader sent me a rather frantic email asking if this was true, and I've been trying to track down your email so I could ask. I hope to God you'll laugh this off as just that -- a rumor. Please let me know...? If it IS true, I'll post a prayer request on my blog. Either way, my friend, be healthy!"

I was both grateful and disturbed to receive a quick response which confirmed the worst: "Hello, Lovely Patrice. Yes it's true. Out of nowhere, two hours before my birthday, a heart attack. I type this from my room at Baptist Medical Center. I should be home in a couple of days. Prayer is always welcomed. God bless you. All my best to Don and the girls."

It's typical of what I know about Stephen to humbly give his best to my family as he lies on his sick bed in a hospital.

Please, folks, keep Stephen in your prayers. Please pray for a speedy and complete recovery. Prayer is, indeed, always welcome.

And happy birthday, Stephen. May you have many many more.

NOTE: For an update, see this link.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pond update

Some of you may have noticed a photo of a full pond in yesterday's post. Here's the photo:

Note that operative word: full. Yes, our pond is full!

For those new to the blog, we had a stock pond dug last January. It's been the one critical thing we've needed on our farm, since water is a constant concern for us. We have abundant and delicious water, but it's over 600 feet below ground, and our pump is electric. When we lose power, we lose water. We've researched endless options for deep-well extraction (solar, wind, etc.) but they were all far too expensive for our budget.

So last January, a friend of my husband's came and dug us a stock pond for a budget price (photos of the whole procedure are here).

At first it provided some sledding opportunities for our kids and friends:

But then the pond started accumulating water. This photo was taken January 30:

February 8:

March 9:

March 21:

And yesterday, March 25:

Right now the pond is about as brimful as it can get. All this water was accumulated merely by ground runoff -- surface water falling into the hole, so to speak.

But technically it can't be called a pond, at least not yet. It's more accurately called "a big hole in the ground full of water." To make it into a proper pond, it needs an inflow -- eventually roof runoff from our barn -- and an outflow -- a pipe for drainage that will feed into a channel that drains into a pond on a neighbor's property. We also have to have those huge honkin' piles of dirt removed. (A neighbor wants the dirt, but he can't fetch it until the ground dries out, so that probably won't happen until June or so.) The pond needs to "settle," where all the dirt and clay moves out of suspension and drops to the bottom (making for clearer water) -- that process should take about a year. We also need to aerate the pond, so we're looking into solar-powered aerators. We also plan to stock the pond with fish (after the pond has settled) -- not so much for food (although that's a consideration) as for weed and mosquito control.

But nonetheless, this pond -- er, hole in the ground -- is a critical lynchpin for our continued efforts at self-sufficiency on our homestead. Without a reliable source of water, we would be lost if the power went out. We specifically designed the pond to be deep enough not to freeze all the way down in very cold winter weather. We already have a handpump, so we will install it with a pipe at the deepest end, which will provide water for the livestock in winter if necessary.

We also placed the pond next to the garden, so if necessary water can be hand-pumped to water the vegetables and fruit trees.

And besides, it's purty.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Isn't Polly's pen purty?

Today was an absolutely glorious spring day, the first real warm day we've had. It got up to a dazzling 60 degrees!

We let the woodstove die out and opened almost all the windows and just reveled in the milky-warm air.

The animals reveled as well. Doesn't this chicken look deathly ill? In fact all she was doing was basking in the sunlight.

It was a day NOT to be cooped up inside, so I decided to clean out a section of the barn, a long-overdue task. That task somehow segued into cleaning out Polly's pen, which was an even longer-over due task.

Polly's pen was piled with detritus, so I set myself the task of cleaning it out thoroughly.

This entailed trundling endless wheelbarrows full of packed-down hay and manure to the compost pile. Here are the tracks from the wheelbarrow, back and forth and back and forth.

The chickens kept me company as they lounged outside the pen, grooming and lazing around.

Older Daughter decided to walk the dogs. First Major...


...then Lydia.


It took several hours, but I finally got to the bottom of the detritus.

Next step: clean fresh straw.

I climbed on a ladder to remove some old twine that was hanging from the rafters (remnants of some early swings the girls had made years ago). This was the view from above. Outside the pen...

...and inside the pen.

It was a lot of work to get Polly's pen so purty, but what a nice feeling of accomplishment! And a purty sunset to boot.

Unfortunately this lovely spell of weather won't last. Cooler temperatures and rain (even snow) are moving in tonight.

Typical north Idaho spring. We'll enjoy the gift of gorgeous days as we get them.