Country Living Series

Friday, January 20, 2017

Back to Basics Bundle (going fast)

This year I tried something new: I participated in a really really neat thing called the Back to Basics Bundle.

The idea behind this concept is to gather all kinds of nifty information from many different people into one big, affordable, convenient e-package. This year there are over 70 ebooks, online courses, and other miscellaneous offerings. Yowza, it’s cool.

So what kind of information is contained in this bundle? It has stuff for anyone interested in homesteading, rural living, etc.:
  • Cooking from scratch
  • Do-it-yourself
  • Food storage
  • Frugal living
  • Gardening
  • Homesteading
  • Natural parenting
  • Natural remedies
  • Preparedness
  • Simple living
Each of these categories contains an astounding amount of information. (Ahem. Yours truly contributed to the canning section.) The bundle also includes a one-year subscription to Molly Green, a homeschooling planner, a gardening coloring book, a three-month membership to the SchoolHouse Teachers website (300 online courses!), a 52-week preparedness guide, and – this is way cool – the newest book from Lisa Bedford (the Survival Mom) called “One Second After the Lights Go Out.”

The nice thing about this bundle is the writers are all hands-on experts in cooking or building or gardening or homeschooling. Most if not all have well-known websites (the Survival Mom, the Organic Prepper, etc.).

Frankly, for $29.97, you could do a lot worse, especially since you essentially get a whole self-reliance library in one fell swoop. You even have 30 days to review the material and get a refund if you aren’t happy.

For those who prefer to download things directly to their Kindle, instructions are here.

If your internet speed is slow, for an additional $25, Back 2 Basics can send you a flash drive loaded with everything. (This also means not only can you download the ebooks onto multiple computers, but you can reuse the flash drive.)

But I did something stupid on my end. This bundle is only sold for seven days, and five of those days are already gone. In other words, this bundle is only available through Sunday, January 22. My bad, I got caught up on lots of stuff this week and simply forgot to announce it.

So – if you’re interested in what I believe is an amazing deal with an impressive amount of information, click here. Download your info. Then let me know what you think. And happy reading!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Snow pix

We've had several days of sub-zero weather which, thankfully, is easing. Here are some snow pictures from the last week or so:

Don stuck some icicles in a snowbank and called it Icehenge.

Icicles have been something of a mainstay for the past week.

It's been very pretty. Cold, but pretty. Clear days equal really cold nights.

The sun backlighting some snowdrifts.

On some mornings we had hoarfrost. This website defines it as follows: "First, to produce any frost, you need water vapor (gaseous form of water) in the air over cold ground with a surface dew point at least as cold as 32 degrees. When these water vapor molecules contact a subfreezing surface, such as a blade of grass, they jump directly from the gas state to solid state, a process known as 'deposition,' leading to a coating of tiny ice crystals."

Whatever the cause, hoarfrost is spectacularly beautiful. It's like every surface is coated with diamonds. It has to be seen to be believed. Photos can't do it justice.

Early dawn:

Full daylight:

For obvious reasons, I call these Days of Diamonds.

Even the snow itself forms hoarfrost ice crystals:

Here's some hay in the barn:


Alpenglow on the distant peaks:

Yep, if we have to have bitterly cold temperatures, at least the scenery is gorgeous.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Who IS this Marie Kondo, anyway?

Since I've been "spring" (winter) cleaning the house and eradicating the unnecessary, I stumbled across someone named Marie Kondo, a tiny and exquisitely beautiful Japanese woman who apparently has become some sort of de-cluttering guru.

She's written some books which have become international sensations, such as The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up -- and yet I'd never heard of her before.

The New York Times had a fairly comprehensive article on her from last year, and endless other information is available.

Who IS this lady? Has anyone read her books or utilized her methods? In other words, what makes her different?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Boo hoo, cry me a river

Here's my WND column for this weekend, originally titled "Boo hoo, cry me a river" (now retitled; I guess my editor decided it was a bit too biting).

I was, ahem, a bit steamed when I wrote it.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Re-introducing Friday Roundups

A dear friend recently told me preparedness is declining in the wake of Trump's election. We both agreed The Donald taking office may stave off an economic decline for awhile, but not forever. It does, however, buy us more time. America is still staggering under a massive and unpayable debt level, and for this reason alone I urge people not to let their guard down.

Almost two years ago, I instigated a weekly blog event called a "Friday Roundup." The idea was to post whatever we did during the week, big or small, that inched us toward increased self-sufficiency or self-reliance. It lasted about two months, then faded away (turns out Fridays are actually pretty durned busy for us).

But I thought the idea was kinda cool: namely, since everyone's circumstances and situations are different and we can all learn from each other, I invited everyone to pitch in and explain to other readers what steps they took during the week -- remember, big or small -- toward preparedness.

So I'd like to re-introduce the Friday Roundups. Ahem -- you'll notice this blog post is appearing on a Thursday, but "Thursday Roundup" doesn't have quite the same ring. I can't guarantee a Friday Roundup will appear every week on the same day like clockwork -- it may drift around a bit -- but the date isn't as important as the content.

So let's get started. Since it's winter and we're waist-deep in snow, outdoor work is limited; but we've done a few things this week:

• I ordered two sweet cherry bushes from Burgess. Last summer we got our first small crop from our two tart cherry bushes; and while they puréed beautifully, we also wanted sweet cherries for fresh eating. (We also wanted bushes instead of trees.) After some research, we found these sweet cherry bushes which hopefully will fill the niche. When ordering, I confirmed with the company they wouldn't be shipped until later in the spring, since I can't even get through the garden gate due to snow. We do, however, have a place to plant the tiny bushes when they arrive.

• I'm purging. Forget spring cleaning -- spring is usually too busy -- but snowy weather is an incomparable time to dig down in the corners and eradicate the unnecessary. Don and I started with our bedroom, which – being upstairs away from the vacuum cleaner – tends to accumulate dust. (Dust is something of a mainstay around here, between the farm and the woodshop.) Don’s allergies finally demanded we do something about it, so we gave our room a thorough cleaning and purged clothes and shoes we no longer needed. We ransacked the dark recesses of closets and found two old dog toys Lydia had stashed there ages ago. The bedroom is now bright and airy and dust-free (for the time being).

Buoyed by this success, I started tackling other neglected corners. We are a book-heavy household, and over the years began accumulating books we read once and no longer wanted to keep. Same with magazines. The books, being heavy things, probably jettisoned hundreds of pounds of weight all by themselves. This is an ongoing process I'll continue through the winter.

• We've been strengthening our neighborhood ties. Preparedness is a three-legged stool, and "community" is one of those legs. Don and some other neighbors got together (as they do about once a month) to discuss increased neighborhood cohesion and assistance.

This time of year, part of this cohesion and assistance involves snow removal. Here a neighbor is using a tractor-mounted snowblower to clear our driveway:

Here we're getting another neighbor's truck unstuck in the week after Christmas.

• We held our weekly potluck -- which also contributes to neighborhood cohesion and assistance.

So, with the understanding we're in the middle of winter and projects are limited ... what's your Friday Roundup?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Dig down and find those shopping genes

As a Christmas bonus, Older Daughter's employers gave her a prepaid debit card in a generous amount to be spent on whatever she wants. (No, this isn't a photo of her actual card.)

Since she didn't have a package under the tree for her sister, Older Daughter decided to take Younger Daughter shopping after Christmas. I thought this was very sweet.

So one day, off went both girls with plans to paint the town red ("town" being Coeur d'Alene, an hour's drive away). They came back smiling, many hours later, having looped through Spokane as well.

I expected to see two young women staggering in laden with packages and bags. But no, they were virtually empty-handed.

"So where did you go?" I asked.

Older Daughter started ticking off stops on her fingers. "First, we went to All Things Irish."

(This is a favorite store to walk through, but it's fairly expensive so we never buy anything. The week before, Older Daughter and I had stepped inside and she'd tried on a darling but pricey capelet.)

"Did you buy the capelet?" I asked.

"No. It's pretty, but not that pretty -- for the price. But I bought a Christmas ornament on sale, and some tea."

After this, Older Daughter related, they poked through a number of favored thrift stores and Older Daughter purchased Younger Daughter a second-hand purse and some trendy "army" boots.

Then they drove into Spokane because Older Daughter wanted to treat Younger Daughter to a brand-new outfit from an establishment called Forever 21, which evidently has become one of Older Daughter's favorite clothing stores (apparently it specializes in stylish but inexpensive garments). Younger Daughter was outfitted in a brand-new blouse, skirt, and warm leggings. (We realized later this was one of a handful of new clothing Younger Daughter has ever worn, sock and underwear excluded. The other new outfits were also gifts from relatives.)

"And then where did you go?" I asked.

"Nowhere. We came home."

I gave a snort of laughter. "I definitely raised a couple of girls who aren’t into shopping."

"But I am, really," Older Daughter contradicted.

"But a lot of girls could have spent that entire debit card in, oh, ten minutes."

"Well, I’m into cheap shopping," Older Daughter amended.

And there you have it. Despite having a debit card with a generous amount of money burning a hole in her pocket, Older Daughter spent a total of about $50 on their grand day out.

This is what happens when you raise kids exclusively on thrift stores.

Ahem. They may also have inherited my shopping genes.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cold snap

It's been clear and bitterly cold the last couple of days.

This morning it dropped to -8F.


The rising sun made shafts of light through the woods...

...and shone gold on the silvery-blue snow.

I tried to photograph the frost on this little boy's whiskers, but he kept moving and my camera was sluggish with the cold and wouldn't focus.

It's important to feed cows abundantly during extreme cold. Digestion is a significant factor in keeping ruminants warm.

On such clear, cold days, the livestock bask sideways to the sun, absorbing what heat they can. This is actually surprisingly effective.

Needless to say, the chicken waterers were frozen solid. I took them in the house, ran them under hot water until they were de-iced, and filled them with lukewarm water. We'll repeat this at least twice more during the day.

We recently got one heated chicken waterer. Just one. Why one? Because the rest were sold out.

The chickens do surprisingly well in these temps (there's no heat in their coop). We keep hay on the floor of their coop to keep their tootsies warm. Tough little birdies.

There were four eggs in the coop, frozen solid.

Frozen eggs burst their shells, sometimes with weird freaky results.

I give you the irony of a dog with four-inch fur who loves nothing more than to park herself by the cookstove.

The one advantage of such clear, cold days is sunset can be pretty...

...and dusk can be glorious.

If we just hang in there, we're supposed to get above freezing by Sunday. Go figure.