Country Living Series

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Honestly, who needs cattle?

I've mentioned over and over again how many deer we have around us here in our new place. Several times I've glanced out the window and my first thought is, "Cows." As in, livestock are grazing in the pasture. Which, in a way, they are.

We'll have whole herds just hang around, lounging in the field, resting or grazing.

They seem very much at ease, and in fact are quite fearless.

Many times they'll be right outside our windows.

I like deer, and since at the moment we have nothing they can destroy (such as a garden), I don't get annoyed with them. Really, it's like having a herd of tiny cattle all over the place. Pity they can't be milked.

Until such time as we have cattle competing with them, we'll just enjoy the sights.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Potting peaches

Since we're starting out fresh here in our new home with the goal of turning the property into a self-sufficient homestead, one of our priorities is getting fruit trees established since they take a long time to become productive.

Apparently (and we can't quite tell yet since things still aren't quite blooming) we already have apples and pears somewhere on the property so we're hoping that's the case.

But my all-time, hands-down favorite fruit is peaches, so we wanted to get some trees established right away.


An advantage to purchasing fruit trees from local nurseries is they focus on varieties that thrive under local conditions. At the tail end of some other errands (which meant the car was full), we hit a nearby nursery and selected four very young peach trees that are resistant to peach-leaf curl. Since we couldn't take them with us at that moment, we paid for them and returned later to pick them up.

The trees were heeled into the ground and for some reason I thought the nursery was going to pot them for us. Instead, we got bare-root trees with the roots wrapped in plastic bags. (To be honest, this didn't impress me.)

By lucky coincidence I had just picked up some potting soil the day before... well as some 10-gallon pots. Phew. This meant we could at least get the trees potted quickly until such time as we can get them in the ground.

The four varieties we got are Oregon Curl-Free:


We also got an Avalon Pride and a Frost (no tags to photograph, sorry).

We got some potting soil poured into the pots, and placed the young trees in them.

Then we straightened the trees, filled the rest of the pot with soil, packed it down, and gave everything a good watering.

Obviously this is just a temporary arrangement. But we can't just dig a hole and plop these young trees in the ground. We have so many deer around here that the tender young buds would be munched down instantly.

Instead we're planning the first of what we're calling "nuclear fencing" to keep deer and elk away from these valuable plantings. This also means we have to weigh our budget and the lumber shortage against  various fencing options, Right now we're looking to build a "tent" of heavy-duty netting over salvaged poles to keep deer out of the trees until they're older.

I'll keep you posted on how this works out. But at least for now, the peaches are potted on the porch and safe from deer.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Canning oopsie

I picked up a couple of gallon jugs of barbecue sauce last time I was in the city, specifically for purposes of re-canning into pint jars.

We don't go through a whole lot of BBQ sauce, but we like it in meatloaf or on a hamburger. Having some canned up in the pantry would be convenient.

And re-canning BBQ sauce is easy-peasy. Pour it into clean jars, pop on the lids and rings, water-bath it for 15 to 20 minutes, and voilĂ .

So that's what I did. I got the jars filled.

I scalded the Tattler lids and gaskets.

I got the pots and racks ready.

And then I realized..........I had no rings.

Seriously, I must have hundreds of canning rings (they reproduce during the wee hours of the night, I'm sure of it), but I remembered they're all packed away in a storage unit in our old town. I'm so used to having all my canning supplies at my fingertips that it didn't occur to me to look for rings until all the jars were already filled. Crud.

You should have seen me after that, tearing apart the pantry for any stray or random ring I could find. I stripped rings from spice jars, honey jars, and dehydrated foods.

In the end I had to re-pour some of the sauce into wide-mouth jars because I found more wide-mouth rings than regular rings, but at least I had enough to cap all the jars.

Those two gallon jugs of BBQ sauce filled 17 pint jars, certainly enough to last us a long time.

I have some other things I want to put in jars in the future, but you can bet I'll check my rings first. 

It will be nice when we finish moving. Having our household goods scattered in distant locations gets awkward at times.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Prepper conventions – status?

This morning I was musing on the subject of preparedness conventions/expos, and thinking to myself that any such events held this year could potentially be huge.

I mean honestly attendance would be through the roof, wouldn't it? There is an enormous interest out there by people wanting to learn more about preparedness.

Yet ironically, at the time when they're most needed, many such venues are either closed or postponed, or simply went out of existence. I clicked on a number of websites for big events, only to find they haven't been updated since 2021 (or in one case, since 2018). Others have gone "virtual," holding webinars and such. But in-person events? Not so easy to find.

So if anyone knows of a prepper expo that is up and running in 2021 (I'm talking about in-person venues, not "virtual" events), please let us know by providing the name, dates, location, and website.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Supply chain shortages

Don went to our local hardware store last week. While there, he fell into conversation with another customer who happened to be an electrical contractor. The contractor mentioned how he was unable to obtain the plastic switch, plug, and junction boxes that are essential to modern home wiring – and which, incidentally, are required by code.

This meant the contractor was delayed in fulfilling his own contractual obligations, which as you can imagine was as frustrating for him as it was for his customers. This is just one example of supply chain shortages that have been cropping up everywhere.

There's an organization called ISM® (Institute for Supply Management) that has a fascinating report on what's going on at the ground level for the supply chain. (I am reprinting some of their data with written permission from their Research & Analytics Manager.)

In the category of "Electrical Equipment, Appliances, and Components" (meaning, for such items as the junction box shown above), respondents are desperate: "Things are now out of control. Everything is a mess, and we are seeing wide-scale shortages."

For the category of "Wood Products," respondents are saying, "Prices are rising so rapidly that many are wondering if [the situation] is sustainable. Shortages have the industry concerned for supply going forward, at least deep into the second quarter."

This February ISM® report has many informative breakdowns in the supply chain. It has a long list of commodities going up in price (which includes, well, pretty much everything), commodities going down in price (which listed one item: dairy), and commodities in short supply: "Acetone; Aluminum; Computer Displays/Monitors; Corrugate; Corrugated Boxes; Electrical Components; Electronic Components; Freight – Ocean; Isocyanates; Methacrylate; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – Gloves); Plastic Products; Polypropylene; Propylene; Semiconductors; Steel; Steel – Cold Rolled; Steel – Hot Rolled (4); Steel – Specialty; and Steel Products."

A ZeroHedge piece entitled "There Is A Shortage Of Everything And Prices Are Soaring: What Happens Next" discusses many aspects of the supply chain and includes useful charts. Referencing one chart put out by Goldman Sachs, they state: "One striking feature of these reports is that supply chain disruptions are 'very widespread' and although the semiconductor shortage and its drag on auto production has garnered significant attention, Goldman economist Jan Hatzius notes that many other consumer goods – from headphones to sofas to roller skates – have also faced supply challenges this year."

They give two reasons for the disruptions:

  • "First, manufacturers were caught off guard by a faster-than-anticipated recovery in demand and hadn’t ordered enough inputs in advance to meet production needs.
  • Second, the increase in goods demand while transportation services are limited by the virus has led to an undersupply of shipping containers and congestion problems at West Coast ports, resulting in lengthy shipping delays."

Right now the semiconductor shortage is getting the most press – it impacts a tremendous number of industries – but make no mistake, lumber and junction boxes and steel are just as important. So, for that matter, are canning supplies.

Even more alarming, there appears to be a one-year delay on network router orders as the chip shortages worsen. This means internet service providers could be directly impacted. Think how much business is done via the internet, and you'll start to grasp the scope of the problem ... a problem that has been exacerbated by the millions of people now engaged in remote work.

Some think the supply chain is being manipulated to create artificial shortages. Others maintain it's just a natural fallout of pandemic closures, disruptions, and transportation issues. Most authorities believe it's a bottleneck situation that will ease with time.

But whatever the source or the reason, the effects are very real; so much so that Biden (a man without the slightest modicum of business experience) recently signed an executive order calling for a review of the global supply chain.

Here in our new home, we're in the planning (and in some cases, early construction) stages of a vast number of projects to turn this property into a self-sufficient homestead. We find ourselves having to get very creative when it comes to supplies and materials, and are in the process of scrounging or purchasing second-hand or "freecycling" various components. Clearly this is good for our budget and it encourages us to think outside the box; however it's also helpful that nothing we're building has to be up to "code."

We've been trying to purchase a unit of both OSB (oriented strand board) and 2x4 lumber, and – here's the thing – we can't. Our local hardware store simply cannot get lumber in any quantity. This morning Don was quoted a price of $60 for a single sheet of OSB. So, unless and until some creative alternatives come available, many of our projects will have to be put on hold.

So what I want to know is how all of you, dear readers, are dealing with supply chain issues. What shortages have you experienced? What work-arounds have you come up with? What creative alternatives have you tried? Your experiences will help everyone.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The secret of Sleeping Beauty's castle

In the original Grimm version of Sleeping Beauty, the castle in which the princess slept was gradually overgrown with thorns "until at last the whole castle was hidden from view, and nothing of it could be seen but the vane on the roof."

The story continues: "And a rumor went abroad in all that country of the beautiful sleeping princess; and from time to time many kings' sons came and tried to force their way through the hedge; but it was impossible for them to do so, for the thorns held fast together like strong hands, and the young men were caught by them, and not being able to get free, there died a lamentable death."

Sounds, well, "grimm," doesn't it? All those poor young men stuck in the hedge of thorns.

I've decided I know what kind of thorns were surrounding the castle. It was wild roses.

Seriously, we have tons of wild rose bushes around us here in our new home, and let me tell you they are dangerous and not to be trifled with.

The thorns are huge and vicious.

Can't you just see some poor young prince getting caught within these things?

I expect nesting birds, everything from songbirds to pheasant, will take advantage of the natural barrier against predators to build nests and lay eggs.

The rest of us just have to put up with them.

I've seen neighbors pull in heavy equipment and do their best to rip out the roses, to little avail. They'll just grow back.

Right now the rose bushes have no flowers (too early in the season), but I expect the hillsides will be a blaze of pink by June. Despite the thorns, I'm sure they'll be beautiful.

After all, even Sleeping Beauty's castle must have been gorgeous in the early summer.

From a safe distance, of course.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Remember, tankards are available

Our tankard business is mostly shut down thanks to COVID restrictions (all our wholesale venues are closed), but as a reminder we have some pieces available on Etsy.

Just so everyone knows, these tankards are suitable for either hot or cold beverages. We do NOT recommend they be placed in the dishwasher (hand-washing only), and never ever put them in a microwave. Otherwise they're tough as nails and will last for years (decades in some cases) with good care.

The fun thing is the current inventory was made by Older Daughter, who hopes (once the pandemic eases up) to take over most or all of the business in upcoming years. She spent last summer apprenticing with Don, learning the tools, and this batch is her creation.

Everything we have is on the Etsy page. Once they're gone, they're gone. Check it out!

Friday, April 9, 2021

Rest in peace, Prince Phillip

Today we heard Prince Phillip, consort for 74 years to Queen Elizabeth, passed away at the venerable age of 99.

For all the foibles of the royal family over the last few decades, my understanding is Phillip was a rock of stability. What a blow to the queen to lose her husband after nearly three-quarters of a century together.

Rest in peace, Prince Phillip.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

What kind of mushrooms are you canning?

Almost ten years ago, I posted a piece on canning mushrooms.

Just the other day, I got a comment from someone named "Zohaib malik" on that post as follows: "We request you to definitely the actual web page where one can study along with fascinating home elevators comparable subjects. [Buy psychedelics online]"

(The bracketed part, obviously, was a hotlink to where readers could buy psychedelics online.)

"Home elevators"? "To definitely the actual web page"? I don't know what kind of mushrooms Mr. Malik was canning to create such a word salad, but I recommend he lay off of them right away.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Modern appliances, grrrr

We live in a very musical house.

That's because every appliance that came with the house sings to us. The washing machine sings. The dryer sings. The microwave sings. The refrigerator sings. The dishwasher sings.

Modern appliances, grrrr.

Seriously, this is the first time we've lived in a place with modern appliances, and I tell ya, I can't wait to replace (nearly) all of them.

The washing machine works great ... until it doesn't. Loads of laundry can take up to two hours (!!) to wash. And I've never seen a washer that gives so many error messages. Whenever there's an error, it holds the laundry hostage (because the door locks), which then requires a frantic scrambling through the user's manual (which usually reveals nothing), then a massive pushing and shoving to get the washer far enough away from the wall to unplug it (to reset it), and then we have to jiggle the controls again until the washer deigns to unlock itself (usually by running it on spin cycle or something). I did a load of whites last week that, I kid you not, took a total of about twelve hours to get finished.

Give me an old-fashioned washing machine where you lift the lid, add the clothes and detergent, and push the button. No singing, no error messages, just clean clothes.

As for the dryer, I've literally never used it. After the first few wrestling matches with the washing machine when we first moved in, Don looked wearily at the dryer and said, "Go with the technology you know." So I did.

This is the dishwasher. It, too, sings. I've opened the door once or twice to peer inside, but I've never used it. I've managed to get through the last 40 years without a dishwasher and don't see a need to start now.

This is our refrigerator. It's a fancy dancy model with a pull-out freezer on the bottom, and a cold water and ice dispenser in the door. The interior actually has less room than our old el-cheapo model in our last house, and it sings to us if we don't properly close the door or commit some other misdemeanor.

You can probably guess where this is going. We woke up this morning and saw this:


We pulled the fridge out and saw, no surprise, the water line was leaking. I tell ya, refrigerators shouldn't have water lines into them. End of sentence.

Until he has a chance to remove a side panel and crawl under the house to disconnect the water line, Don tapped into his Inner MacGyver and crimped the water line with wire.

He then found the switch to the ice maker, and shut it off.

I took the opportunity to clean the floor...

...and then we shoved the fridge back against the wall. Problem solved.

As Don put it, the ice maker was fun. It was a novelty. But the old ways (ice cube trays) work just fine, and we get nice cold water from the sink tap.

In every other respect this house is wonderful, but I could boot the appliances out the door tomorrow and be happy as a clam.