February 2010


Just kidding. You can have soup. In fact you should have soup. It’s cheap, easy and it uses up all of the odds and ends that will otherwise end up in the compost. I store some canned soups for those days when the girls have to heat up a quick lunch but it is really not much of a food. Canned soup has too much salt and lots of the GMOs that we are trying to avoid.

Making your own soup is really a breeze if you have stock on hand. Making stock takes some time but the stove does most of the work. Begin with your biggest pan. I like leek tops, onions with the skins (go light on the onions) mushroom stems, parsley, carrot tops, celery and maybe a bay leaf and some salt. Things to avoid are the Brassicas, potatoes and too much garlic. That’s it for vegetable stock. Adding a carcass from a turkey or chicken will give you a lovely stock too. If you want beef stock look for some short ribs or another boney piece and brown it well before you add it to the stock. A tablespoon of vinegar to the water is supposed to help release the nutrition from the bones. I ry to crack bones to get some of the marrow into the stock. That jelly stuff that sits under the fat when you cook meat is great stuff. You can freeze it until you are making stock but toss out the fat unless you have a use for it. I simmer my stock for a good hour and sometimes more. Then strain it through a colander and press the leavings to get ou all of the flavor. If you stock has meat in it, let it cool so the fat will rise to the top. It will peel right off. Now you can freezer the stock or can it. It must be pressure canned, no matter what anybody tells you. This is a low acid food.

I freeze stock in amounts from 1 cup to 1 quart. I cook rice and savory grains in stock rather than plain water. It adds a depth of flavor, trace nutrients and color to otherwise bland foods.

As I cook, I put the bits and pieces I need for stock in a plastic bag in the freezer. When I have enough I put them in the stock pot while still frozen. If you are trying to save on space, the stock can be strained and simmered longer to concentrate it. Just add more water when you use it.

We were prepared for the worst here at Barefoot Farm with the heavy snow that was dumped on us but that didn’t happen. Although the power stayed on and we didn’t need the preps I am glad to have had a chance to do the dry run.

We expected to be housebound for a few days so here are the steps we took.

We topped off all of the gas cans and cars. Bruce got out the snow blower and made sure it was ready to go. We recharged all of the small electricals like the cell phones and Phoebe’s feeding pump. I did a run to the pharmacy and refilled the necessary prescriptions. We made sure the dishwasher was empty and the laundry was caught up. I cooked a couple of meals and got them in the refrigerator. It is easier to heat up a casserole than to start from scratch. We had just had a propane delivery so that wasn’t a problem. That was pretty much it.

One of the things about being prepared is that so much of it should be a part of every day life. The cell phone should always be charged. The flashlights should always have good batteries. You should never get behind in every day chores. It feels good to know that there is food ready to eat and that you can be warm and comfortable. I did need to make a quick run to the hardware store and buy a couple of snow shovels as we needed the girls to help with moving all that snow. We live only a couple of doors from a terrific little hardware store so it was easy enough to grab them but I should have seen to it the day before.

We are expecting a bit more snow this week. In Western Mass, a bit is something between to little to measure and 24 inches. I think I am rooting for the dusting this time.

This will be quick as I am waiting for my power to go out. We have a good foot or so of heavy, wet snow on the ground and it’s still coming down. It is a good feeling to know that the systems are all in place.

Water: enough for 10 days of regular use from the town supply and not electricity dependent. After that we can haul it.

Food: plenty of good stuff to eat

Heat: non-electricty dependent heat for several weeks if we keep the temp low (60). Then we could switch to wood.

Cooking: lots of redundant systems

Entertainment: not a problem although the teenagers might get on my nerves

Medical: good for three weeks but then I would be in trouble. I have a daughter who is medication dependent and her meds are not something that I can purchase. It is heavily regulated.

This is just a dry run for us. It feels good to be so well prepared, especially as we are expecting a lot more snow this week. The only terrible thing for me was missing my permaculture guild meeting last night. I need me a seed fix.

So the credit card companies now have to comply with some new rules, designed to protect the consumer and some of them are a long time coming. College kids are no longer going to be able to mortgage their futures while they are still building one. They will need parental permission to get cards if they are under 21 and will need proof of income as well. This is good news but don’t be fooled by it. No credit card company has your best interests at heart. They are here to make money and  make money they will. One of the good things they now have to do is show you what you will pay and for how long on your balance. I can only hope they when you see that $10,00.00  paid of at the minimum will take 43 years to pay off and cost some ridiculous amount of money that the hot tub or the vacation put on plastic won’t look so appealing. Financial preparedness matters as much as physical preparedness.

In my own never-ending quest to save money, I take every chance I can to buy used. We are just approaching the time when tag sales will be popping up and the tag sale presents a wonderful opportunity to pick up things you need without paying retail.

The time to start prepping for the tag sale season is right now. Over the next few weeks, keep notes on things you need. I broke the crock from my crockpot a few weeks ago but the unit itself works just fine. I didn’t find one at the thrift shops I frequent so I will be on the lookout for one of those. I have jotted down the dimensions of the one I broke. I find these pretty often for under a dollar. I know that Phoebe is going into size 7/8 so I will keep my eyes peeled for that size, paying particular attention to the big-ticket items like winter coats and boots. I don’t think I have ever bought her a new coat or boots. I always look for hand tools, kitchen ware and gift quality toys, books and puzzles. I often find camping equipment for pennies on the dollar, once even getting a good down sleeping bag for $5.00.

I do some prepping before I hit the tag sale trail. I make sure I have a lot of small bills and change but never flash a wad of cash. It will put you in a bad bargaining position. I always offer a bit less money for any item unless the price is already exceptional or if the family looks like they are raising money out of need rather than just cleaning out junk. If you are thinking you might buy something that requires batteries, bring along fresh ones when you shop. You don’t want to come home with some electronic gizmo that doesn’t work. If I am looking for furniture I take the seats out of the van so I will have lots of room. I have learned to travel without kids and with snacks and drinks. I have also learned to go to the bathroom before I leave home and have spot picked out to make a pit stop on the road. Ahhh. the joys of aging.

The best sales are moving sales and estate sales. These are the best for the good stuff; cast iron cookware, linens, tools and good quality used furniture. I avoid CDS and DVDS as they often skip. I also remind myself of my own weakness. Books are a problem for me.  I can’t resist a book that looks interesting, especially a cookbook or gardening book. Most become clutter 5 minutes after they get in the door. 10 books I don’t need  is $5.00 wasted and more stuff I need to find a home for.

I mentioned in a previous post that when my son and daughter-in-law came to stay a couple of weeks ago, my daughter-in-law  remarked on my egg beater and said she remembered her grandmother having one. Now I consider an egg beater to be about as unusual as a toothbrush so, of course, I went looking for one to give her as a thank you gift. I didn’t find one locally (thanks for the suggestions) but I had friends going to Lehman’s while on a visit to Ohio and they offered to pick one up for me. I got it yesterday and I am a bit disappointed. They had two options. A fabulous, made-in-American model was $60.00 and a made-in-China beater was $20.00. As they were spending my money and I had not given them a price range, they went for the less expensive one. It’s just okay. It’s very shiny and feels nice in my hand but it’s a bit clattery. It doesn’t have the smooth gear work that I like in my old beater. The thing is, in their shoes, I would have probably gotten the same one. $60.00 is a LOT of money and who knows how much use it will get. But it seems there should be a middle ground. It should be possible to support our economy and still get a decent tool at a price most people can afford to pay. An egg beater isn’t a luxury. It’s not as though you have to pay for the research and development of new technology. It’s the same basic design of something that has been around for over a hundred years. I will be keeping my eyes peeled at tag sales this spring for a couple of good egg beaters, just in case something happens to the one I have now. I don’t ever want to be without an essential kitchen tool.

Bruce and I joined our favorite couples for dinner last night. It was so much fun. The  meal was really simple. We had two kinds of rice balls, a fabulous carrot salad and some breads and pickles. I brought our dandelion wine which has aged up very nicely and for dessert, we had the most outrageously delicious home-made cream puffs. Bruce ate three of them and he typically goes very easy on sweets. What made the dinner so lovely was the good conversation and the shared laughter.

I want to reciprocate ASAP as I took another cooking class and want to try making tyropitas and butternut squash turnovers. I came away with a recipe for pear crepes too and I am making those for my family this week.  The teacher of this class is a vegetarian and perhaps the most valuable thing I come away with is another bunch of ideas for meatless main deals that still feel indulgent.

My DH did a wonderful job on our library. He painted it a lovely, warm deep gold and is now adding a gorgeous trim and corner medallions to the bookcase front. He built the bookcases several years ago but the plain fronts really didn’t go well in our 1860′s house. This project cost very little money but made a big difference in the look of our home. I wanted to make Bruce something special for breakfast and decided on popovers.

We love popovers. They are inexpensive and delicious and so easy, my kids can make them.

I start by putting a greased, cast iron skillet in the oven and preheating it to 450 degrees. Then I mix up a cup of milk, a cup of flour, a shake of salt and two eggs into a thin batter. When the oven and the pan are hot I pour in the batter. I don’t let the kids do this as this pan is really hot and a wrong move will give you a nasty burn. The batter cooks at 450 for 15 minutes then I drop the temperature to 350 and cook for another 15 minutes. The popover should be golden brown on the outside and moist on the inside. We like ours served with some butter and fruit jam. This can be cooked in muffin tins if you prefer. One caveat is that these are fabulous and one pan is never enough for four adults. We always have to make a double batch.

This is one recipe that is not suited for fat-free milk. I use whole milk and really fresh eggs. I suppose there is not much that is not improved by using real food.

My potting soil is inside warming up so I can get some seeds started today. My greens in the green house have really perked up in the past two days and I am cutting some for a pizza topping for dinner this evening.

I found the story coming out of Austin just heartbreaking. I am so glad to be part of a community that is taking positive steps to decouple from an economic system that doesn’t work for so many. I try to stay away from politics on this site but I do want to speak to this. When I do posts on saving money it is not because I want to put a high value on the money but rather on the time that you own by working less in the outside economy. We all need money. We need food and cars and roofs over our heads. I save money in small ways so I can have those things without having to leave my home to go to work every day. In truth, I would probably work less if I just got an actual job but it comes down to what you consider work. I can spend 8 hours putting in  20 rows of potatoes.  It’s hot work and May Flies are out and my back hurts and my nails are broken and dirty but I don’t consider this work. If I had to put on a suit and stockings, get in my car to drive to an office where I spent 8 hours sitting at a desk with a phone in my ear and a computer screen glaring in front of me, I would consider that work. My nails would be clean but my soul would be wounded. I would be depleted at the end of the day in a very different way than I am after a day in the garden. I value my time but I put very little value on stuff. My favorite quote is “It is not he who has little but he who wants more who is poor”.

One of the downsides to writing a book is that you then have to talk about it to media types so you can sell it, at least you do if you plan to make a living. Now I must say that nearly every reporter I speak with seems bright and interested and does a fair job representing my philosophy on preparedness but every once in a while…..

The main point I have to argue is this. Since I prepare I must live in  a state of constant fear and worry. I must be depressed and anxious and my kids must pick up on this and be worryiers as well. This could not be further from the truth. I think I need a new word for what I am because survivalist, prepper, doomer and EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS EXPERT just don’t really seem to fit who I am at all.

Here is what I am.

Frugal: I would rather buy in bulk and save my money for things that matter to me. What matters is time. If I spent more I would have to work more and that would mean time away from home and family and garden and books and cross stitch.

Lazy: I like to keep things neat and organized because I hate to waste time looking for stuff. I’d rather nap. I dislike the ordeal of shopping. I love just reaching into a  cupboard and pulling the makings of a delicious dinner. It gives me great pleasure to have one of kids yell, “Hey, Mom. Do we have any more molasses?”  and for me to answer, “Look in the upstairs pantry” knowing that there are 6 bottles up there.

Confident: Being prepared doesn’t make me anxious. Just the opposite. I can watch the news of an impending storm and not have to think about a trip to town, where I put the flashlights and how I’m going to cook that 9-year-old can of stew. I don’t need to go to town, I know exactly where the flashlights are and they all have fresh batteries and I would never have a nine-year can of anything. I made the stew myself the summer before. I know it’s great because we eat it often and I can cook it any one of 5 ways.

Lat night we were still in the mess of painting when supper time arrived. It had jar of mixed vegetables in the basement, a chicken carcass that I had boiled for stock and a can of chicken as well. I thickened the stock with some  corn starch and tossed everything together in a pastry crust. A chicken pot pie in no time and with no racking my brain for what to make. It was really good and meaty and the pressure canned vegetables had held up really well. Even the potatoes still had just the right tooth to them. The pastry dough was in the freezer, ready to go so there was hardly any mess either. The girls helped with the whole meal. They don’t feel anxious. They feel competent. It was a good night. I love preparedness.

I am going to take one post to answer some questions that have been posed to me. First about sewing. One dear reader offered to give me sewing advice if I needed it. Apparently, she has a spy somewhere around here and has seen some of my home-made creations and knows just how much help I could use. I am a so, so sewer. I can mend and repair and I can pull off a simple pattern if I’m not fussy about the results. I have a sister with three machines, a dedicated sewing room and scissors that cost as much a my first car. She makes men’s suit and bridal dresses. I think the intimidation started early and never let up. I will never be a good seamstress so advice might just come in handy. Thank you.

As for interfacing the pattern. When I open up a pattern, I lay it on a sheet of fusible interfacing and iron it in place before I cut the pattern pieces out. This adds considerably to the cost of the pattern but it also makes it indestructible. This is a real plus if the pattern is one I plan to use over and over like the one I got to make Phoebe’s summer clothes.

I had a question about potato storage. I wish I could help. I really know nothing about storing root crops in hot climates. Maybe it can’t be done and you will just have to suffer along, eating fresh tomatoes and garden lettuce, green beans and eggplant. Every climate has its plusses and minuses. I always think it’s best to go with what works rather than kill yourself trying to achieve the impossible. I tried to grow broccoli in my green house this winter. I have some very nice plants but of course, it set no flower heads. I have to eat it frozen or do without. Now that’s an idea. I know it’s not the same but potatoes can be dried and the results are supposed to be good. I have not done it as I have no trouble storing mine but it’s worth a shot.

I have been having trouble with spam. I keep getting what look like regular comments but turn out to be nothing but advertisements. I delete all of them but an occasional one could slip through. Let me know if you find one so I can edit it out.

So many of you have wonderful sites of your own. I don’t have as much time as I would like to visit each of them every day but I do take the time to catch up when I can. This is the most talented bunch of people. I wish we were in charge of things. We would be amazing.

I am headed out early today. I want to get to the thrift shop and look for picture frames. Bruce finished painting the woodwork yesterday and will paint the rest of the library today. I have a lot of pictures to hang and I need some new frames and mats. A lot of the pieces are counted cross stitch and quilted wall hangings that I did or paintings from friends. I never have enough frames. I hate the plain ones I can pick up at discount stores and I’m way to cheap to buy expensive, new ones so the thrift store works. I have a square needle point piece I just finished and I want to give it a frame that will show off the stitches.

I want to add a warm welcome to newcomers and a thank you to my faithful readers. I begin each morning with a cup of tea and this site. There are worse ways to begin my day.

Believe it or not, I think spring might be coming. Although it’s snowing today (finally!) there is a feel in the air that is a little different. Just a hint, but it’s not so raw and there is so much more light. I don’t think I can make it to town but tomorrow for sure, I will head in a pick up a couple of bags of potting soil so I can get my Asian greens and some spinach started. I think I can harvest from the greenhouse now and I want to have some started greens to take the place of any I take. I always have soil on hand but I checked the shed and I can’t find the bag. So much for being prepared.

We had a busy weekend around here. DH and I decided to paint the library. This involved pulling all of the books and knickknacks off the shelves and washing the wood work as well as picking out a paint color. We have been married for 37 years. We have endured job loss, 5 teenagers at home at the same time, moving, serious illness and deaths in the family with stoic resolve and unwavering support for each other but picking out a paint color nearly lands us in divorce court every time. Life would be easier with fewer choices.

I made Phoebe a dress this weekend. It came out all right but the fabric is too stiff and doesn’t drape well. Thank goodness I used a cheap remnant and stiffened the pattern with interfacing. I will make her another this week with better fabric. It won’t take more than an hour as the tedious work with prepping the pattern is done.

Lat night, at 5:00 it occurred to me tha Bruce had Men’s group and I had not thought about dinner.  I had some leftover mashed potatoes so I added a couple of eggs, some salt and pepper, grated cheese and a 1/2 cup of flour to them and fried them up. With some of our bacon (more like ham really) fried with a bunch of onions and some pickles and applesauce, I had dinner on the table in 20 minutes. It tasted really good and was filling, nutritious and cheap. I won’t say healthy as the bacon is a bit fattier than is probably good for us but certainly better than a fast food alternative. I say that like fast food is an option. I’m a solid 35 minute drive to the closest drive-through. Not so fast and with 2 teenage girls ar home, certainly not cheap either.

This felt like a weekend where I did a lot of thinking about preparedness. A simple thing like soil is vital for me if I want to get my plants started yet I let it slip. A meal that can be prepared with what’s on hand matters. How many times do you need to eat but can’t even think about what to prepare much less have the ingredients on hand. That’s why the notebooks are so important. I am definitely putting the potato pancake recipe in my emergency food folder. I have everything on hand and it can be prepared on the stove top. I am thinking that without the bacon, they would be good with fried eggs too.

I am, as you know, a big fan of muffins. They are the ultimate convenience food. Hot, they make a good breakfast and one can always be tucked in a backpack (good use for a cottage cheese tub) for a quick snack away from home. I also like than I can often plop in a tablespoon of leftover this or that for added nutrition or just as a way to use up something I have a small bit of. In coming hard times, I think we will be less likely to throw away food and recipes like this are good to have on hand.

I went to the market last week. I must say that I rarely purchase cold cereal. The price for a box has gone way up and the ingredient list nearly always contains high fructose corn syrup. But I have had a hankering for bran muffins so I decided to buy a box of raisin bran. The name brand kind was $4.99 a box, way more than I wanted to spend. I found several less expensive varieties but all were loaded with ingredients I couldn’t pronounce. Then I found a brand called Full Circle Organics. It was only $2.15 a box and had not one loathsome thing in it. Now I am certain that if I looked deeper, I would find out something about that would not be good (the reason I usually only eat oatmeal) but for my purposes, this worked. They do have website that I plan to visit today.

2 cups raisin bran cereal

2 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup applesauce

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups sugar ( I often cut this back to 1 cup but the texture is compromised. I will try this recipe with half honey this time and let you know how they come out)

1 1/4 teas baking soda

1 teas baking powder

1 /2 teaspoon salt

Let the cereal and buttermilk sit together in a large bowl for about 5 minutes. Add the oil, eggs and applesauce and stir well. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix but don’t over mix or the muffins will get tough. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 18-20 minutes. Make sure you grease the muffin tins or they will stick dreadfully.

As long as you have everything out and the oven is hot anyway, you might just as well make a double batch. They freeze well if you can get them put away before your family eats them. One note-I almost always add more raisins. These muffins can be made with any bran cereal and I have been known to throw in different kinds of cereal that has gotten stale as long as it isn’t something with a strong flavor like Sugar Frosted Chocolate Marshmallow and Gumdop Delight.

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