Friday, September 28, 2012

Scale of the universe

Here's a fascinating website sent by a reader that depicts the scale of the universe. Takes a little while to load, but wow does it put things in perspective.

Makes me feel rather puny, in fact.

But how big is God?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pear peeling party

The last fruit I wanted to can up this season was pears. A local fruit stand in town gave me a good price per box, so I ordered five boxes.

The day I picked them up -- the very day -- a dear friend said, "I have two boxes of pears for you." Then two days later (I'm not kidding) yet another friend said, "I've been picking pears from my tree -- would you like some?"

Let's just say I've been very generous in distributing pears to our neighbors.

But while the fruit was beautiful, I was faced with a daunting task. Unlike peaches which can be dipped in hot water then easily peeled, pears must be hand-peeled. One by one. One hundred and twenty-five pounds' worth of them. Ug.

So my dear parents (who are up visiting for a couple of months) bravely volunteered to join us for a pear peeling party. The fools.

They came armed (with peelers) and dangerous.

Prior to their arrival, I set up "stations." This is the clean-jar station. I was estimating we'd get about 60 quarts, so I washed what I had room for...

...and also hauled out some old jars given to us over the years and prepared to clean them as well.

This is the syrup station.

I like using a light syrup when canning fruit, which is a 2:1 ratio of water:sugar.

I also decided to do something I hadn't done in a long time: since we would be processing the pears as quickly as possible, and since stove space was at a premium and I didn't have room to pre-heat my Tattler lids, I decided to use disposable lids. I haven't used disposables in two years.

My parents arrived, and we all dived into the pears.

The piles grew, of peels as well as peeled fruit. At first I quartered and cored and packed jars while everyone else peeled. Then soon my mom and I both packed jars and my dad quartered and cored, while the girls continued to peel. We got into a rhythm and waded through those 125 pounds in about four hours of hard work.

Filling packed jars with hot syrup.

I had two canners going simultaneously (the pots held twelve quarts between them)...

...with a timer on each canner so I could keep track.

Soon full jars started replacing empty jars. (There's a roast in the crockpot in the center of the photo -- had to feed this hungry crew when we were finished!)

Pretty soon we were all getting a little punch-drunk from the repetitious work and started getting a little silly.

And, well, let's just say that Younger Daughter had to take a shower later on to wash some pear pulp out of her hair.

Meanwhile I kept washing jars and my mom kept filling them, and soon the full jars were overflowing onto the floor, waiting to be processed.

Overflow even spilled into the living room.

But finally, after a lot of hard work, we neared the end.

Needless to say there was a lot of cleanup. The floor was sticky (I mopped it the next day) and the table was slimy with pear juice. But with the help of many hands, the tired crew got everything cleaned up and we all sat down for a well-deserved dinner. None of us wanted to see another pear for a long, long time. My parents even declined to bring any of the extra fruit home with them, the cowards.

Nonetheless, by the end of the evening we had 62 quarts of pears. Nice reward!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


My Google followers just exceed 800! I was going to take a snapshot of the even 800 when it happened (I was at 799 last night) but I gained two more followers during the night (greetings to Faith and Sandra).

Thank you, dear readers, for your faithfulness in following our humble lives.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Both on Board

A reader I'll call "Sarah" sent an email posing a question which I thought deserved its own blog post. Sarah kindly gave permission to post her email as follows:

I have been a reader for awhile, but have stayed in the shadows. I admire you, and always look forward to reading what you wrote through the week. I wanted to mention an idea to you, and I will be quick because I know how incredibly busy you are.

I am remarried. I was married to my first husband for 17 years, and together we learned so much about prepping. I enjoyed every minute of it. Sadly, we took different paths, and he no longer preps for anything! I mean anything! I remarried my highschool sweetheart after 20 years apart. He is employed by the state, and loves it. Me? eeek! He doesn't prep, thinks I am silly, but it doesn't bother me in the slightest.

I had to leave the old house in the country, my ex and his wife reside there, with ALL my prepping. I now live in a small city, and have encouraged my husband to consider country life. He said "Okay, next spring." So I will be back in my element.

My idea for your blog is....Do you think you can write a series of stories relating to people who have a spouse who doesn't prep...has faith in the government? I would really like to read what other people deal with in this situation. Look for a little encouragement. I am sure my husband will appreciate all the prepping I do, and what I do know, when the time comes. Thank you so much for your blog, I truly enjoy every bit of it...even the ridiculous comments by people!

Sarah's email caught my attention for two reasons. One, I think her situation is shared by a great many other people. And two, I had posted this very question some time ago on my blog, seeking reader input. (I can't seem to locate the link to that post, but will include it if I find it.) Of the replies and suggestions I received from readers, I coalesced everything into the following, which is now an excerpt from my manuscript on preparedness.

(Incidentally, I saw this very topic addressed on SurvivalBlog earlier this year, and saved the link.)

One of the most frequent laments I hear is when a family is getting prepared but their friends and extended family won’t heed the call. The refusal to prepare can range from true ignorance (“Economy? What’s wrong with the economy? Everything’s fine!”) to deliberate denial and ridicule (“Hey, I like your tinfoil hat!”).

And of course it all concludes with the ultimate contingency plan: “Well if times get tough, I’ll just move in with you.”

But a tragic variation on this theme is when one spouse wants to be prepared, and the other does not. It’s one thing to face the ridicule or hostility of friends or extended relatives. It’s a whole different ballgame if that ridicule or hostility is coming from your spouse, the person you took vows with. What then?

I had such a difficult time coming up with possible solutions to this issue that I posed the question on my blog; namely how does one convince one’s spouse about the benefits of preparedness? Needless to say there was no clear-cut “Here’s the answer!” solution, but following are some ideas that might influence a reluctant spouse to embrace a more prepared lifestyle.

• Security. Emphasize the benefits of the physical security that comes with being prepared. Women often have an instinctive need for security, whether it means food in the pantry or a healthy savings account. Most men are hard-wired to want to protect their family. Both these instincts are correct; and both can be seen from a preparedness angle.

• Play on strengths. If the unconvinced spouse has an existing “prepper” interest that can be useful in a preparedness lifestyle, encourage it. Perhaps the unbelieving spouse loves firearms, or gardening, or the thought of rural life, or canning, or sewing, or mechanics, some other aspect which can be played up.

• Learn the objections. Why isn’t the other spouse interested? Is it because they don’t believe something could ever happen to them? Is it because it’s too much work? Is it because they’re afraid of the unknown, such as moving to the country? If the other person’s concerns are verbalized and respectfully addressed, he or she may start to come around.

• Don’t nag or push. I know we all want to be prepared NOW, but if your spouse isn’t on board, then nagging or pushing will only make them resist and pull back. Gentle persuasion is more powerful and effective in the long run than banging someone upside the head.

• Don't be secretive. While I would never suggest you keep secrets from your spouse, nothing prevents you from quietly preparing as best you can alone. Shrug and say it’s your little idiosyncrasy to buy extra food and stash it in buckets in the basement. Begin to accumulate a reference library and various non-electric options. Don’t make a big deal out of it, but don’t be secretive either.

• Let experience be the teacher. If a short-term emergency (such as a power outage) should happen, gently point out either (a) you can weather the emergency quite easily because of your preparations, or (b) wouldn’t it have been nice if you’d had preparations in place to handle the emergency? Nothing teaches like experience, and that experience in handling a short-term emergency can be either good or bad.

• Play on the love. I don’t like marital manipulation, i.e. “If you loved me, you’d do xyz.” However, you might gently point out that putting aside some supplies would make you a very happy spouse, and happy spouses do nice things to each other (in bed, in the kitchen, whatever). In other words, make it worth their while.

• Make it fun. Nothing says preparedness must be grim! Instead, find all the fun stuff you can do together – go target shooting, go camping, go to antique stores or farm sales, do some workouts with each and get into shape… find the “togetherness” aspect and enjoy yourselves!

• Compromise. Maybe you can’t convince your spouse to move to a rural farm, but perhaps he or she might be interested in a little piece of property on the edge of town where you can get chickens and grow a garden. And while the saying goes, “A good compromises pleases nobody,” keep in mind that you must be respectful of your spouse’s viewpoints and opinions… even if you feel differently.

• Emphasize frugality. Perhaps your spouse is concerned about the costs of prepping. If money is tight, emphasize how much you’ll save by cooking from scratch and buying in bulk. It’s a start!

• Try a vacation. If you can afford it, consider buying a rural bugout and using it as a vacation property. Again, treat it as a fun “together” thing.

• Keep some literature handy. Perhaps your spouse might end up picking up a book or two (either fiction or nonfiction) on preparedness and come away convinced. Dinner-time discussions about domestic and international financial woes can work their way into the other person’s mind and begin to change their views.

• Educate yourself. Even if you can’t purchase all the food and supplies you’d like, nothing keeps you from educating yourself about various matters that interest you. You could teach yourself food preservation, firearm safety, sewing, welding, cooking from scratch, and other useful skills.

• What’s more important? If your spouse remains downright hostile to the idea of prepping, in the end you may have to make a decision. Which is more important: your spouse, or preparedness? If it comes down to brass tacks, pick your spouse. You took vows with this person. You stood before God and promised eternal devotion. You had children with him or her. It’s not fair for you to change direction mid-stream and demand your spouse comply with your vision of preparedness at the expense of marital unity. It is far more essential to keep the family intact than it is to drive someone away in order to prepare for something which may or may not happen. In other words, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Congratulations to James Rawles!

It's been exciting to watch the Amazon stats for James Rawles' new release, Founders.

Not too shabby! Congratulations!

"The largest sea evacuation in history"

On the morning of 9/11 when the towers came down, millions of people were trapped on Manhattan Island.

Bridges, subways, roads, and tunnels were closed. Hundreds of thousands of people ran south to the water's edge, only to realize that Manhattan is, indeed, an island. The only way off was by boat.

Whatever boats were present immediately began taking on as many people as they could hold. Not how many they were legally allowed; they took as many people as they could possible hold.

It quickly became apparent that more help was needed. The Coast Guard put out the call for "all available boats" to descend on lower Manhattan to help with the evacuation. Within minutes, hundreds of boats of all sizes, shapes, and functions were on the way.

On that horrible day, some incredible things happened.

Among them was the courage and impulse to help that ordinary folks discovered within themselves.

Here's an extraordinary and moving video on what is titled "The great boatlift of 9/11" which became the largest sea evacuation in history.  Ordinary people -- hundreds of unsung heroes -- rescued 500,000 civilians in less than nine hours.

As one of the rescuers put it, "Never go through life saying, 'You should have.'"

Monday, September 24, 2012

Canning bacon bits

I've been canning a lot lately. Not only is it the season of abundance, but I feel a sense of urgency to get my pantry as full as it can possibly be. In fact, I've been canning so much that I'm getting dangerously low on jars. While I have a sufficient quantity of quart jars, I'm down to only three dozen pint jars.

Nonetheless when I came across three-pound packs of bacon ends for a good price, I cleaned out the store. We'd just finished using up our stash of bacon bits I'd canned last year, and bacon bits are excellent in so many dishes that having a nice supply is a bonus.

Besides, with the horrible drought plaguing the midwest, pork prices are on the rise. Best to can bacon bits while I can still afford it.

Cutting up the bacon ends.

I wished I'd stopped to count how many three-pound packages I started with, but I forgot to. I cup up and cooked the bacon ends over a period of days, so I lost track. But it was lots of bacon ends.

Two packages (six pounds) of bacon ends filled up my pot.

Then I cooked it down. This took a long time -- again, I did it over a period of days -- because I prefer to cook it slowly.

I drained it about half-way through, and of course drained it when it was completely cooked.

When all the bacon was cooked down, I started canning. I re-heated the bacon bits, then filled pint jars dry (meaning, I added no other liquid).

Scalding lids and rings.

I came away with a total of 18 pints of bacon bits.

All meat gets canned in a pressure canner, 75 minutes for pints or 90 minutes for quarts.

Because of our elevation, I keep the pressure between 12 and 13 lbs.

Because I like having lots of bacon bits in the pantry, I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for additional bacon ends on sale. The more the merrier!