August 2011


Fourteen jars of tomato sauce, a crock of kraut and a load of canned dried pinto beans and, all I can say is, I’m done, at least for today. I do want to share how I did my beans as I found it easy and it used up something I often have no other use for. I did up a batch of tomatoes in my steam juicer yesterday. The pulp went into the Squeezo and became sauce. The tomato water was really hot. I poured it into a pan of dried beans, covered it and today I canned up the soaked beans at 15 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes. The results look good although I expected the beans to absorb more tomato water than they did. The downstairs pantry is beginning to look quite satisfying although there is still a long way to go.

I got a new book today. Karen picked up a copy of How To Grow Winter Vegetables by Charles Dowding for me. The timing is perfect as I’m going shopping for a few (yeah, right. A few. Who am I trying to kid?) packets of seed this week. I have a wish list going. I want multiplying onions, Claytonia and more Asian greens. I have a goal of eating a lot more fresh greens this year by both using my greenhouse to better advantage and growing a few things indoors. He refers to the “hungry gap”, that time from April to June when the root cellar and pantry get mighty thin and the spring greens are not yet ready. I know we suffer from a “green gap”. We have food but really crave something fresh and crunchy.

I was interviewed by the New Jersey Ledger today. It was focused on storm preparation, something that would be funny if it weren’t so tragic since the ship for preparing for this particular disaster has obviously sailed. I hope that more people will put preparedness on their list of things to do now although there isn’t much you can do when a river takes your house out. Grabbing a bug out bag is about it in that case.

The water has receded around here but it left a trail of destruction and you are still wise to check with the state police before heading out as many of the roads are still impassable. One thing for sure. I am going to update my car kit. Many people got stuck in high water, not able to return home for hours.

I was very glad to hear from so many of you. Congratulations to Gardengirl. She cleaned up at the same fair I go to.

Thank you all so much for the hurricane updates. All is well here. We had almost no wind but just buckets of rain. The flooding was severe enough to cause some evacuations but we are high enough to avoid that. We did lose the lower gardens I think. The corn and the squash may not be complete losses but they spent some time under water and we won’t know until later today just what we can salvage.

My daughter is leaving to return home today so this will be a short post. I do want to mention something. I am hearing a fair bit of criticism about the storms being less intense than forecast. Weather is not an exact science and I don’t believe this is some conspiracy to make us all crazy. As I put away all of the stuff I had carefully stored out of the path of wind that never arrived I will do so with a grateful heart. It is better to over-prepare for an event that doesn’t happen than to under-prepare and face the consequences.

One final note. I got a first place ribbon at the fair for my jelly and a third for my bread. The bread is actually a bigger deal as the competition is stiff. Karen got a first place for candy, Bruce a second for honey and Maggie got a third for her photograph. Again, the photo competition is stiff so this is quite an accomplishment.

Please send us any hurricane updates. We all want to know how our little cyber community fared.

Best,

Kathy

I live right in the path of Irene and even though it will likely be only a tropical storm by the time it reaches here, we are getting ready for torrential rain and strong winds. I will share what we are doing and hope you pass this along to all your friends.

First, heed the evacuation warnings. If authorities tell you to leave, do it quickly. Secure important paperwork and valuables in a place as high and dry as possible. Get some cash, preferably small bills and change, make arrangements for pets, secure your property and leave. Don’t wait to see what developes.

If you are staying put, think in terms of safety first and then systems.

Safety: Clean up your yard. Everything from lawn chairs to children’s toys to gas grills has the potential to be a missile. Put whatever possible in a garage or basement or secure it with strapping. We have two yard swings. Bruce is removing the awnings and laying the swings flat. We have already done a clean sweep of toys and chairs, planters and lawn ornaments.

Check out your windows. Do any need to be covered with plywood or taped? If using plywood, consider marking each piece so it can be used again for the same window.

Do you have any spots where water is a problem? We often get leaks into the basement during a heavy rain. Bruce just laid a long piece of plastic to route the water away from the foundation. We are getting a new drainage system but this will do in a pinch. Do you need to make sandbags to protect your property from flooding? Do any roofs need the protection of a secure tarp?

If you have elderly or infirm neighbors, check to see if they could use a hand with this heavy work.

Fill your car with gas. Park facing out and away from trees if possible. If you have a chainsaw, get it gassed up too.

Now for the systems. Do all the chores you can today. The laundry should be done, the refrigerator cleaned and the house picked up. We are doing a big clean as I don’t want to be tripping over clutter.

Secure ice. We’ve been at this for days. I want a full freezer and lots of ice so I can move perishables to the coolers if the power goes out. I will tape the door of the freezer shut to remind people not to open it. We are waiting for a pig to return from the butcher and had more empty freezer space than usual. That space is now full of jugs of water and loaves of bread.

Secure water. We have a ten-day supply but many neighbors don’t. I have been filling containers with tap water for several days so we have water to hand out if necessary.

Secure food. Canned food, fresh fruit, cheese, bottled juice, eggs and bread are good choices. Peanut butter and jelly will get boring. My daughter is making a double batch of pumpkin muffins as we speak. I am making some pasta salad and I put all of the fixings for a tossed salad in individual bags. Don’t plan on leftovers. Use up things so you don’t have to store them. I cleaned out the fridge and Bruce is making a trip to the dump. I don’t want a lot of older food that I can’t keep cold hanging around.

Secure lighting. Kerosene lamps and lamp oil are better choices than candles. If you must use candles, use a glass chimney and place it in front of a mirror for the best light. Never leave any flame unattended. Make sure you have matches and extra wicks. The power could be out for a while. Give each child their own flashlight and be sure the batteries are fresh.

What about cooking? Camp stoves, sterno stoves and backpacking stoves will all work. Our propane stove works without electricity but I pulled out the camp stove for a neighbor anyway. Plan meals that don’t require a lot of cooking.

Sleeping arrangements should be flexible. I keep my kids downstairs with us if the power is out. I don’t want anybody falling down the stairs in the dark.

Flushing is problem if you don’t have water. Keep a couple of buckets of water handy and don’t flush until you have to. You can gather rain for flushing too. Don’t forget the swimming pool water. I wouldn’t drink it but I would definitely flush with it.

If water is a real problem get paper plates and napkins. I know. It’s evil but this is an emergency.

Pet food, kitty litter, medications, sanitary supplies, diapers, toilet paper; What are the things you really don’t want to be without?

Charge your cell phone.

We are bringing the bunny inside for the duration. The chickens will be penned with extra food and water. Bruce is caring for 9 horses this week (naturally!) We will feed them before the brunt of the storm and go back as soon as possible to check on them. He has already filled the water tanks with enough water for many days. They could manage on pasture if we really couldn’t get to them but he will get there on foot if there is any possible way.

Now get out the games and puzzles and some good books. Enjoy the forced vacation. If you are safe, this can be a time of excitement. If you are scared, you will pass that anxiety on to your children. Let this be a challenge, not a catastrophe.

Be well and let me know how you all fared.

First it was a tornado watch, then yesterday I felt the earthquake and today it looks as though we are possibly going to get some effects from Hurricane Irene. So much for living in the safest place on earth. Actually, none of these weather events had, or is likely to have, much effect on us but there are certainly good for getting us to refine our preps and update our plans.

Thank you all for the good ideas. We are putting many of them into place, including the seating in the basement, preplacing supplies in vacuum sealed bags and making a list of the things to grab and keeping on the basement door. The shoes are such a small thing but they really matter. We are people who spend a lot of time barefoot, hence the name of our little farm, and who wants to be shoeless in a crisis. Knowing where one’s footwear is should just not be that hard for otherwise intelligent people.

It is pretty busy around here. My grandkids are here for a visit so, naturally, all of the other kids and grandkids are coming by to see them. We are feeding 10 to fifteen nearly every night. Can I just say that this takes a lot of food. I think that most people underestimate just how many calories it takes to get through a day of even medium work. Maggie has been working on our food inventory. She created a spreadsheet for the first of the three places we keep our food storage and, when finished with the rest of the food, will then tackle the non-food items. Our web site work has come to a halt as we spend time with family and get the canning down.

We sustained a lot of damage from the last two storms. I think we will get no corn at all. The squash was pretty severly damaged as were the cucumbers. I will end up buying corn for freezing although, time running short. I may just look for a good brand of organic frozen corn, buy a case and call it a day. Corn is hard on the soil and I may just buy it from now on. I have also decided that I will no longer grow peas. I get so much more bang for my buck with beans and cukes. As I get older, I have to garden smarter. We love pickled beans. I need at least one hundred jars to be happy. That sounds crazy, even to me.

Today is the final class in my food preservation series. I am going to teach root cellaring. I had such a good time teaching. I love the opportunity to connect with other like-minded folks and teaching is always good for me. It makes me pay attention and it keeps me from getting sloppy.

I know I have been terribly negligent about getting to all of your questions. I can’t promise to catch up until after my family leaves and the garden is out to bed. Until then, as the hurricane approaches and the earth stretches, I hope all of you remain safe.

WE went out last night to learn the ins and outs of caring for a large group of horses while their owners are out of town. We returned home just as a light rain was starting to fall. My sister called just as we got inside and told us that a tornado warning was posted for our town and that we should make our way to the basement.

First bad thing: For some reason our reverse 911 did not happen. This is a huge problem as many people around here don’t have television. We do but days go by without us turning it on for more than a check of the market action. I realize that I should have a list of people to call with this kind of warning.

Second bad thing: Tornadoes are an entirely new phenomenon around here but after decades without a warning, we’ve had three this year. I am just plain not ready to shelter in my basement. We spent a frantic few minutes collecting the emergency radio and flashlights as well as a few blankets, shoes and jackets. A lot of this should be pre-placed although my cellar’s dampness makes storing much down there impossible.

Bad thing number three. I couldn’t find my shoes. At least I couldn’t find my muck boots which would have been my footwear of choice.

Bad thing number four. I forgot to grab my daughter’s medication box.

Bad thing number five. I couldn’t get the weather channel on the radio to come in. I have used that radio exactly once and I am nowhere near proficient with it.er six. No one thought to grab the money or the paperwork from the safe.

Bad thing number six: Nobody grabbed the cat.

The list, unfortunately, goes on. Car keys and my address book, some bottled water and the raingear, there are so many things that might really matter and we just weren’t pulled together on this. I have always claimed that I didn’t need to prepare to bug out as we live in such a safe place. Guess what? WRONG!!!! Stuff happens. We dodged a bullet again but someday we might not be so lucky. I am working with Maggie today to pull together a basement plan. I can pick up some of those vacuum bags and position a few things in the basement. I also need to put a list on the door of what to grab. If this had been the middle of the night, who would we have managed? I am more than a bit red faced. Prepared my foot.

I never get back to the computer yesterday and today looks just a busy. I’m heading to Amherst to pic up 200 pounds of wheat. Then it’s off to the thrift for a drop off of stuff and look over winter clothing. Then it home to the canner. We have been going through double the number of jars of pickles and fruit. In fact, I may actually buy (YIKES!) more green beans just for making pickles. My cabbage is ready to harvest and so are the early beets. I’m hoping to get another crop in the ground this week. With a row cover, I’m certain I can do it.

There is some very interesting commentary on CNBC this morning. The question was how much a cow cost in relation to the price of a bar of gold. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything quite like it. There is some real fear over what our economy will look like in another year or two. Nutella is one of our little luxuries and it’s on sale today. I’m getting ten jars. It’s not gold but it has real value and, in the end, that’s the real question. What can you acquire that will hold value? For me, it’s perennial food plants and seeds, good boots, books and canning jars.

Posting may be sparse for a bit. My daughter and grandbabies are coming up from Florida for a visit and I plan to spend as much time as possible with them. It is a pure pleasure to get up in the morning and sit on the swing with one of my grandkids. I hope they will carry the memory of snuggling in an old quilt and watching the sun come up with Grammy with them. I never really knew my grandparents and felt that loss deeply.

I had a wonderful offer yesterday. A woman who came to my NOFA workshop asked me to teach a class at our local community college. They are planning a certificate program on reskilling for the future and they were looking for someone to teach food preservation. It will be a ton of work and the money is terrible but I’m looking at it as a community service.

Bruce is heading off to get a root canal (what fun!) and the chimney man had some time and is on his way to repair our aging chimnys so we can return to heating with wood. I can’t do a full post right now but I will try to do one this afternoon where I will answer the questions that have been piling up.

I had a really busy Sunday, beginning with the NOFA conference at UMass at 8:00 AM. My good friend, Dan, came along to help with the toting of all my preservation equipment. I was mighty glad he was there. The room I was assigned to was on the 8th floor and I had a lot of stuff. even with a wagon there was no way I could have done it alone. I also rather underestimated my audience. I thought I would have maybe 10-15 people at that time of the morning. It was more like 80 although I didn’t count. I thought it went pretty well although Dan had to go searching for a copy machine as I had nowhere near enough handouts. I enjoy the training but next time I think I’ll request a later time.

When I got home I tackled the greenhouse. I find this happens a lot. I think I don’t have the time or energy to finish a big project but once I take that first step, the rest just happens. I figured I might just pull out some of the seedy greens to give to the chickens but I ended up pulling out everything, fertilizing and planting the bed with our fall and winter greens selection. We like a mixture of braising greens, small, leaf lettuces and spinach. I put in a cut and come broccoli as an experiment. The point of the greenhouse is not to provide us with a daily salad but rather to give us some fresh green stuff when our bodies are craving it. I would rather one nice salad or braised greens each week than a pitiful bagged salad each day. I have found that I can also get some good greens by planting beets or turnips for their tops. If I had the space I would make a self-watering container filled with turnips and keep it in the kitchen.

Supper was one of those meals that started out as “let’s toss everything together see what we get” meals and turned out fabulous. I had a big bag of tomatoes left over from the day before. They were such lovely colors. I had purple, yellow, red and orange with some cheese and basil mixed in. I boiled up a pound of spaghetti and sauteed the tomatoes with olive oil, white wine, black olives, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, more basil and a huge bulb of garlic. We had a green salad and a loaf of homemade bread. I’m glad I used a pound of pasta as there are leftovers for lunch today.

The salad was wonderful thanks to Maggie’s dressing. She tossed sugar, vinegar, olive oil and salt in the blender and whizzed it around for a minute. What a difference fresh dressing makes. No GMO’s, no emulsifiers, no corn syrup and no plastic bottle.

I love this time of the year. I needed a sweatshirt last night and, this morning, it’s downright chilly. I have more energy, more enthusiasm, more get up and go which is a good thing as I was offered a bushel of peaches today as well as extra milk for cheese making. I’m out of bread and the cukes and beans need pickling. I have eggplant to dry and carrots that I want to lactoferment. Some old bean plants should be pulled and peas planted. I need to get more lettuce starts going for the greenhouse and the list goes on. The lazy days of summer heat are past and it’s time to be the ant.

Bruce came home with a surprise yesterday. he was helping a friend pick up a milk cooler and came home with a stainless steel table for the summer kitchen. It was a deal and just the right size. He has the wood framing and got a sink off of Freecycle so we’re good to go. The stove really needs a trip to the Stove Company for a refurbish and cleaning so I should do that today too.

We have the chimney people coming to repair both chimneys and make sure they are safe for heating with wood. I worry that there will be house fires as people try to use old infrastructure to burn wood. The markets may have recovered and the price of oil is down but it won’t stay down for long. I just read that most people don’t have $1000.00 in savings to cover the cost of an emergency. That’s pretty scary. Times are tight and likely to get tighter. I made a trip to the market last week. All I can say is that I’m glad I don’t have to do that often.

The great kitchen clean-out is well under way. I have a big box of stuff headed for the thrift store but it’s funny how much is getting picked up by visitors. I had friends over for a wine making session yesterday and my friend, Dan, took home all of my 50′s era aprons. I was so pleased as they took up a lot of space in my drawer and were too frilly to actually wear. I looked pretty silly in them as I’m not a ruffle kind of girl. My mother made several of them and she was the worst seamstress ever. I kept one for memories sake but the rest will be well loved in their new home.

Last night we had pork chops, apple sauce, potatoes and onions, dilly beans and winter squash for dinner. I was a 100 foot diet as all of the food came from right here. Some was older (the pork and squash were in the freezer from last year) but it tasted wonderful. It makes those grocery store prices seem unreal and disant. After dinner I realized I had a cup or two of green beans that I never got put up. I had the jar of juice from the dilly beans so I cooked the beans for a couple of minutes and then stuck them in the brine. I will serve them up in a couple of days. The waste in this country is atrocious and one of my goals is to fight it at home as much as I can. One cup of beans is not a lot but it represents like energy, earth energy and the gifts of the soil. It seems a sin to waste it.

Yeah! The wood is here for my summer kitchen. Plans have been in the works for a few months but we’ve kept changing our minds about location and size. We have finally decided to go back to Plan A (isn’t that always the way?). I hope it’s up in time to get some use this year. As I type this, I can hear the geese honking as they fly in formation. One day, the heat is rendering us nearly comatose, the next, I can feel fall in the air.

I have a further sign of approaching winter. The urge to hunker down and feather my nest has hit in a big way. Well, either it approaching winter or I’m pregnant. As I just had my 59th birthday, I definitely going with winter. Yesterday, I decided that I really needed more space. I actually went so far as to order some cabinets but cancelled the order when I realized I had, not just a lack of space, but an overflow of stuff. I spent the day cleaning and reorganizing the kitchen. I looks so nice. I was able to get a lot of clutter off the counters and out of drawers and cabinets. I used some small, plastic bins I had hanging around to organize the baking drawer and now I just have to keep it tidy. It will be easier as I got rid of a ton of little gadgets I never use. I had extras of things like rolling pins and egg separators and citrus reamers. They are now all sitting in a box, waiting to go the thrift store where someone else will give them a good home. I also found some truly outdated food. The chickens liked the old, canned brown bread but, as the apocalypse appears to have been pushed back for a few weeks, I figured we could live without.

It’s canning time. What got me started on the great kitchen clean out was trying to make bread and butter pickles and not being able to find my measuring spoons in my cluttered drawer. The pickles are now finished as are the dilly beans. The beans are coming along like crazy as are the squash. We just finished the last of the winter squash that I dried last year. After a lot of internal (and eternal) debate, I’m thinking I may dehydrate all of it this year. It takes up no space compared to the room full of butternuts I had last year, preparing it is a simple as covering it with boiling water and letting it sit for a few minutes and I like knowing I can have squash on the spur of the moment for a meal or to add to soup or muffins. I also lost a lot of squash last year. It can rot very quickly if you don’t keep on top of it. I can cook up an oven full when I have it hot for baking bread and do a full Excalibur load several times a week and be done with it in short order. There. I’ve talked myself into it. Dried it is.

In checking out the blog of a new subscriber I found that she is pickling hot banana peppers. I received a flat of pepper seedings and thought they were red peppers. It was a disappointment to find they were hot as we aren’t really fans of too much heat. I’m going to try pickling some and see if the heat dissipates some.

I have to get to the garden. It rained yesterday and I expect the squash and beans have exploded. I’m teaching a pickling class in Stockbridge this afternoon and then I have my foster and adoption support group picnic here tonight. I’m expecting a house full and I need to get a lot done this morning. Top of the list is getting the beans dilled and the squash dried. The sun is shining now and it looks to be a spectacular morning. Life is good and blessing are abundant.

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