December 2010


Nope. I’m not talking firearms. I’m talking cheesecloth. We go through a lot of cheesecloth around here. Bruce uses it to strain honey and I use it for lots of things, including cheese making. The little packages are long on plastic and short on cloth while the quality is so poor that it takes 3-4 layers to get a good filter. So I was delighted when my dear friend, Barbara, found a deal on 10 boxes, each holding 80 yards for about $40.00 a box, of excellent, unbleached cheese cloth. I think it is actually butter muslin, sort of cheesecloth on steroids. I bought 2 of the boxes. I know. This seems like overkill, even for me. But I now have a lifetime supply in two neat packages. Who could resist?

This got me to thinking. I’ll want to pick up get a few other fabric bolts to add to my supplies. I’ll bet that chambry, real flannel (not the cheap, polyester junk), terrycloth, cotton broadcloth and denim can be bought a lot cheaper by the bolt. There is a factory outlet near us that sells polar fleece in bags. The price is right but it’s too bulky to store and mice love to nest in the bags. The bolts however, are compact and one will slip under a bed or on a closet shelf. I’ll start a web search today.

I am hoping for a joyous New Year for all of you. I feel so blessed to having this online family. I have learned much, shared much and still look forward to my thrice weekly check in. If this next year proves to be as interesting as I expect, we will need as much support and information as we can muster.

Fondly,

Kathy

I really want to talk just a bit more about the notebook as it has space for a few things I had not considered. Page one is a place for “what” and “where’. For example, hand-crank radio-in the upper, left hand kitchen cabinet; wooden matches, cabinet over the refrigerator; alternative cooking tools, den closet.

Emergency Contact Page
Instruction Sheets (for things like disinfecting water)
Pockets for birth certificates, SS cards, driver’s license and so on-make copies of each and note location of original.
Pocket for pictures of each family member
List of internet passwords
Pocket for cash
Credit card info plus customer service numbers
Pocket for local maps (this is a GREAT addition)
Pocket for copies of prescriptions including eyeglasses
Pocket for flash drives of important information
Funeral wishes (we all die and this would make things easier for a surviving spouse

All of the expected lists are also included.

I saw something on TV yesterday that really struck me. It was an interview with some NYC folks who were furious that their streets were still not cleared up from the storm. The dislocation from the reality of the natural world is astounding. Nature bats lasts folks and just because you want or need something does not mean it can magically appear. What on earth will people like this do if things shut down for longer than a few days???? If a blocked road leads you to a temper tantrum then you need an attitude adjustment and the opportunity to spend a few shifts with a road crew.

I have been hit with my New Year, must clean and reorganize the house, Webb-fit crazies today. The clutter from the holiday and the visitors is getting to me and I must rearrange something.

My dear DIL had to help me with this and I think I have a double posting of the pictures. This technology stuff is not my strong suit but I’m determined to learn it. I want to be able to add pictures of my garden and greenhouse, canning procesess and cooking demos. I really like the notebook. It is rather like your life in a neat package. I have ordered one for myself. If they become available to a larger audience I will be sure to add the ordering details.
I have good news. My SIL has found a new job. It’s actually a good job with decent pay and benefits. We are so happy for them.

I have been cooking from my storage food quite a bit this week and I learned a few things. The biggest is that my stores will not last as long as I anticipated. I see it in flour for sure. I need to grind wheat again already, the white flour has had to be refilled and I am running low on baking powder. I thought I had plenty but the expiration dates got away from me and baking powder really does lose its punch after a while. Time to shop and reconsider amounts.
I may repost in the morning but I had to do this while I had help.

I am sitting in my living room, writing this by the light of the fire, feeling quite snug and pleased with myself. I like to be snowed in on occasion and today seems like an especially good day to be able to stay put. My kids are sleeping, the pantry is well stocked and I have a pile of books that Santa, blesses his jolly little soul, brought me for Christmas. I also have dozens of comments to go through and respond to. All in all, a good way to spend a day.

The first book on my list is Joel Salatin’s The Sheer Ecstasy Of Being A Lunatic Farmer. I LOVE this book! It makes me want to go out and buy a cow or two. He makes such a compelling case for the addition of livestock to a homestead. I also have the Resilient Gardner waiting for me and The Homebrewer’s Garden. So many books, so little time.

In addition to the books, Ben and Maggie have arrived. They had a nightmare of a trip with a two-day delay in a Chicago train station. Maggie lost the stone out of her engagement ring and picked up a nasty cold. But they have the ability to turn such things into funny stories and all of it pales in the pleasure of having them home. We are enjoying our time together. There is a lot of good conversation and music, board games and old movies.

Maggie has promised to show me how to post pictures to my blog. I have long wanted to do that. I really want to post a picture of the gift she received from her aunt. It’s an emergency preparededness notebook that is about the coolest and most organized system I have ever come across. She designed it herself and I plan to ask her if I can order one myself.

I hope all of you had a blessed holiday season. I will have some wonderful recipes to share and some guest post coming up. My best to you all.

Kathy

I presented a workshop last night on ways to feed your family better food for less money. It was pretty well-attended but I think the message went largely unheard. People could acknowledge that food prices were up but had no interest in why. They did admit to a lot of waste in their kitchens, much coming from kids who were fussy eaters, and they also admitted to a lack of organization leading to even more waste but I don’t anybody there is likely to change their ways. The thing is, for most of us, old habits are hard to break. As food gets more expensive, I wonder if the incentive will be there to make changes in spite of that.

One of my suggestions is to keep leftovers in glass jars rather than opaque containers. For me, out of sight is out of mind. If I see it, I’ll eat it or add it to a casserole or something. If it’s invisible, it becomes a science project. Have you ever smelled three-week-old rice? Yuck! Still, I don’t think anybody is going to toss the Tupperware any time soon. I also suggest that people check multiple sources for food. Food co-ops have great prices on bulk staples but it requires a certain committment of time and energy to participate.

I save a lot of money when I use menus, buy in season and keep my kitchen organized but again, it takes some extra time and energy to do that. Part of the problem is the hangover we still struggle with from the days of being told that there was no value in the homemaking. The woman’s movement did a lot of good stuff but it ca
me with a high pricetag for families and for woman who wanted to stay home. Things are swinging back out of necessity.

We were supposed to pick my son and DIL up from the train station tonight but they got held up by the big storms out in Utah. They missed their Chicago connection so they are cooling their heals there until tonight. We won’t see them now until tomorrow night. I can’t help but wish we had invested some money in high-speed rail many years ago. One train a day from Chicago to points East is just not efficient.

I watched the CNBC piece on student loan debt last night. I was terrifying. I think it should be mandatory viewing for every family contemplating sending a kid off to school. To begin life with that kind of debt is crazy.

We had dinner with friends last week and one of the dishes was a wonderful casserole of dried eggplant with a walnut sauce. I asked the cook about the origins and he said that he came across the recipe in an old Armenian cookbook. He got the cookbook as he realized that Armenia had a climate similar to ours and grew many of the staples that do well around here. I have read a Polish cookbook and found the same thing. The Poles grew turnips, cabbage, beets and potatoes and raised a lot of pork. We do the same. It seems like having a couple of good, old time cooking guides from those Eastern European countries with long, cold winters and temperate summers might be a good plan. The recipes don’t call for anything not local except for a few spices and none require picky techniques. Martha Stewart would not be impressed maybe but I am.

I also had a long conversation with a photagrapher on Friday about recreating beers, breads and pickles from recipes from long ago and far away. I had no idea that beers were flavored with all kinds of herbs like rosemary and sweet woodruff. He’s also the only person I know besides my good friend, Leni, who uses his must from wines and beers to make unique sourdough breads. Although he was taking pictures outdoors and I was only wearing a sweater and vest (I was freezing) the converstion was so warm I hated to go inside. This gentleman is writing a book on the Shakers which is how we got started talking about old food. He’s also a big fan of really old cookbooks form the Easterm European countries.

We have so much to learn from our elders. I never really knew my grandparents; one set had died before I was born and the other lived in Texas and we seldom visisted with them. I do however, know a lot of very old people right here in my neighborhood. Maybe it’s time to start picking their brains (and recipe files!) Whenever I hear someone say that we can’t live without the inputs from a technology based culture, I remeber that families lived in my house during the civil war. They didn’t have indoor plumbing, electricity, central heat or a municipal water system. Somehow they managed to eat and dance and write and enjoy their lives. We can too.

Let’s try this again

I got a lovely comment on a previous post asking if I was not a bit fatalistic in expecting coming hard times. Here is my response.

I’m not an economist or a politician or an energy expert or currency trader or stock analyst or any other thing that might give me some insight into how the wide world operates. I am, however, a woman who has to run a household and feed a family on a limited income. Certain things are a given around here and I think they apply to the bigger picture.

If each and every week I spent more than I earned I would soon be in big trouble. If I tried to get out of that trouble by borrowing money or putting my bills on credit cards, I would soon be bankrupt.

If I had promised to support several elderly relatives and pay for the health care for them as well, then found  they all needed care at once, I would be in trouble.

If I needed a job but all the jobs had been outsourced, I would be in trouble.

If I had only one tank of oil and it needed to last me the rest of my life and I found myself with a near empty tank and I had not done anything about getting alternative energy or finding more oil, it would be a problem. If the only people who had the oil I needed didn’t like me much. I would be getting mighty concerned right about now.

If my neighbors were heavily armed and hated each other and were always threatening to kill each other or me I would be thinking that I had a problem.

If I knew that lots of times power outages or snow storms kept me from getting groceries, I would not feel safe with only a three-day supply of food.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the 1811 New Madrid earthquake. It was and 8.5. Only a minimal population density kept the fatalities low. The same quake today could well kill many thousands. Things happen.

I don’t consider myself a fatalist. I’m actually a pretty happy, optimistic person. I don’t think the world as we know will disappear but I do think it will change. I think it will be smaller and slower and we will all be poorer in stuff but richer in time and relationships. I think we might be healthier and happier when we get used to the idea of living with less. Does that make me a fatalist or a realist with a good attitude?

My son and DIL will be home next week and posting might be a bit sporadic. I usually post early in the morning and if we stay up playing music and yakking half the night I might sleep until 6;30 AM!!!!!!  How decadent!

The computer ate my post and I don’t have time to rewrite until later.

We  have a new bunch of new readers I want to welcome. I also want to thank everyone for their lovely and thoughtful comments. Now I want to get some tea and go back to bed. I have a cold and my body is telling me to spend the day sleeping. Unfortunately, my appointment book has other ideas. I have Phoebe’s team meeting this  morning and I’m supposed to meet a photographer to have my picture taken for an article on preparedness a bit later. Then I have a friend who is going to court to get a divorce today and a bunch of her friends (including me) have plans to spend the evening with her. I had said I would drive as she is not sure she will be in any shape. Divorce is a terrible thing, way worse than a cold, and I can’t bail on her. I also can’t reschedule Phoebe’s meeting and I don’t know how to reach the photographer so I guess I just have to soldier on.

DH and I went to dinner at a friend’s home last night. The conversation was all about alternative living arrangements for coming hard times. It was really interesting to hear the ideas floating around. When my brain starts to function again, I’ll have to think on what I heard. Right now, I’m heading for a hot shower and that cup of tea.

First an update: My daughter and family have decided to stick it out in Florida for the time being. I wish them well and hope it works but we always have here as a plan B. Thank you so much for all of the good thoughts and ideas. I sent her a big box of meat and I’m on the lookout for cloth diapers. I also sent her a book on growing food in small spaces.

I need to go shopping. Not for gifts but for some of “gotta have it” preps that have  been getting used up. Here’s the list.

wooden matches, steel wool, flashlights (the cheap ones have not held up), batteries, soap (laundry and dish), razors, OTC medications, toothpaste, shampoo, sanitary supplies, vitamins and socks

I need some food items as well

mustard, mayonnaise, taco sauce, salsa (I forgot to make any this year!!!), peanut butter, cinnamon, pasta, pineapple, dried cranberries, raisins, juice

It is always a surprise how quickly I go through some things. I use a lot of spices and cinnamon goes especially fast. I don’t think you have too much pasta or peanut butter. I lost a lot of my canned pineapple and I need to replace that as it’s one of the only commercially canned fruits my kids will eat. I’m sure this list will get a lot longer as I check my pantry today.

I have not mentioned my new pantry much. I repurposed a very small bedroom to be my food storage room. It isn’t big enough to  hold everything but it did make a big difference. I now have an actual bedroom for my son and DIL. Up until now, they have had to share a room with all of the six gallon buckets, toiletries and the things like pasta that can not be stored in the basement. I covet some of those shelf-reliant shelves that feed from the back. Of course I will never purchase them but I have put them on DH’s “to do” list.

We have had a major rain event here. My basement has standing water in it. That rarely happens and makes me really glad that is Bruce built raised platforms for everything from the freezer to his power tools. More and more, the need for another building is apparent.  I realize that we are not good at making big decisions like this. We are very aware that we have to stretch our resources and would rather be slow than sorry.

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