September 2012


I’ll bet I’m not the only one who feels the crisp autumn air and gets all energized to begin outdoor projects and clean out the basement. The summer heat just drags the juice right out of me but I feel 25 today. All right. So I don’t feel 25 but I feel a lot more frisky than I have for a while.

This weekend saw my first foraging trip in way too long. I came home from a woods walk with a basket of Black Trumpets and Golden Chanterelles. They were amazing sauteed in butter, wine and cream. It was clear though that the mushroom harvest was very low. The combination of heat and drought has seriously affected it. Even with the recent rain the woods were very dry.

I spent a good deal of yesterday cleaning up the strawberry patch. It is still not finished but age dictates getting this particular job done in stages. My goal for the next week is to finish the strawberries and get to that basement. I have a lot of food that I bought for one reason or another and found out that it’s just not anything we really like. I have too much creamed corn and canned peas plus some other odd vegetables that will feed the pigs. I think I bought it a good 5 years ago, before we were growing so much and before we were well-educated on the industrial food system. It’s time to let it go and free up the space for the things I really need like canning jars and, well, more canning jars. I just scored an opportunity to help with the butchering of about 80 chickens in exchange for the meat. I need the jars and the room for sure.

If any of you are in the area, Bruce and I will be at the Farmer’s Market in West Stockbridge on Thursday. I’m making up candles right now as I sold out at the Franklin County Fair.

Have any of you caught Revolution on Monday night television. It’s a post-apocalyptic show so of course it was a must-see for me. I can be pretty critical. As a person who makes candles a lot, the idea of burning a couple of dozen each evening is jut plain silly. And that beautiful, flowing hair looks good but it would take a hairdresser with lots of styling products for most of us to get those results. Still, I won’t miss it tonight. Maybe they’ll show something useful or at least no ridiculous.

This post was written after digesting yesterday’s sermon.

We all have a Plan A. It’s based on our unique history and generally on the assumption that what has always been true will always be true. In Plan A we usually end up healthy, wealthy and wise. But change defines our history and it will define our future. Often the change is radical and unexpected. It can be personal or it can be global. It can affect one person, one family, one community or an entire world. An unexpected change of direction is usually disruptive and often terrifying. But if there is a silver lining to the change cloud it’s that embedded in all great change is great opportunity.

Most of you know that I have a big family with children ranging in age from 9 to 37. Most of my kids come home for a visit every week. Often, Sunday dinner is more like Sunday chaos with babies and little kids, adult children and their friends all scattered around the house and deck or sitting around a fire and talking about all manner of things from politics to philosophy to religion. With a slew of 20 and 30 somethings, the talk is also full of plans for the future.

It can be a bit hard to sit on the sidelines and eavesdrop on the conversations. This weekend I heard about plans to become a motivational speaker, talk about travel for kids’ future sports teams, discussion about trips and vacations and lots of talk about technology and what’s on the horizon for I phones. All of these things are possible I suppose. These young adults are smart and hard-working, motivated and accomplished. Are they likely? I’m not so sure. Even if they are possible the question is whether we should also maybe have a Plan B.

In Plan B I think we should be considering that heating fuel is going to cost a lot more so before we buy the latest phone we should perhaps have a wood stove and a means for supplying it with fuel that doesn’t come from the Middle East. We can anticipate that food could be harder to pay for. Before we update the computer I think it would be wise to have a few months of meals put away. I know the patio set is beautiful but a small garden can provide you with twenty jars of tomato sauce in very little space. Improving your golf swing is fun but having some food growing skills takes time too. The latest best-seller is really good but a couple of how-to books on your shelves might come in mighty handy. Heated leather seats are lovely but a car that gets excellent mileage will be a much better investment in an energy constrained future. A walkable community is even better.

Plan B. It sounds like I’m talking austerity and deprivation but it really doesn’t have to be that. Plan B can be empowering and good for you. Plan B should be good for you and good for the planet. Plan B will mean eating less meat and eating only the good stuff. It means staying home rather than going out. It means buying less and asking some questions before you plop down your life energy (that’s what money is-life energy)on that whatever. Do I really need this? Can I get it second hand? Can I borrow it or rent it? Can I buy it in bulk with less packaging? Can I share it with a friend? Can I get it made locally or from a local vendor? If I really need it should I have a couple of spares, just in case? Can I learn to do it myself? Plan B may need all of those strategies to make your dollars stretch far enough.

The stock market is way up but many people feel poorer. The geo-political news is not anything to make us feel good. We have problems with soil and water and energy. We are hitting flu season and I read of plague and hanta virus and resistant super bugs. Still, the sun is shining and all things seem possible. Have a cup of tea and think about your Plan B. If you have one, think about how to share your plan with people who may need to know. Pass this along on Facebook or suggest a good book for your book club. Bring it up at church or at your parents group. You may be surprised to find that you are not alone with your concerns. Plan B needs a support group and the time is now. Life can shift on a dime.

My hiatus lasted longer than expected. My DIL’s surgery, my son’s wedding, two of my children purchasing new homes and all of the kids home for said events coupled with a garden that exploded has made every minute precious. But tomorrow is the first day of school, my teaching obligations are complete and I think my mind may just find the necessary space to get some writing done.
So beside family doings, what else has been going on?

I attended a wheat workshop today. It was presented by a woman who has spent decades globe-trotting to find land races of wheat. I learned a bit about the history of wheat, how to plant it (I have the sore back to prove I did that!), how to select for vigor and how to store it. I came home with a sack of Emmer, an ancient variety and the mother of all wheat. I haven’t quite decided what to do with it. I want to plant a 10X10 plot but I have no experience with wheat. Not that lack of experience is likely to stop me. The presenter’s husband does seed trials for Fedco so we got to do a tomato taste test. That alone would have been worth the trip. It was a perfect day.

I returned home and remembered that I had not picked up my CSA milk. that meant a quick trip to Taproot to do the pick-up and to drop off honey. While there I did a visit with my turkeys. These are the bourbon reds I co-own with Pepper, the young lady who owns my the dairy. The birds look great. We will butcher all but one tom and four hens. Pepper wants 4-5 birds and the rest will find a home here in either the canner or the freezer.

I started to pull potatoes this week. They look fair but the size and number has certainly been affected by the drought. I talked to some friends who attended today’s workshop with me and it looks like we will be putting in a large group order for winter vegetables. The winter squash is a huge disappointment and the beets and carrots only fair. It does go to point out how important a deep pantry is. What if I could not get my hands on what I need? I would be mighty hungry come February.

My son and his wife bought a house so they will be moving in 6 weeks. It’s time to get serious about how I can use my space better. Before we do anything, we have some updates to complete. The windows downstairs have to get put in and we need some more insulation. Then we have to repair a roof and get in the winter wood supply. The hurrier I go the behinder I get. I need to get some more blankets and some winter gear. I’ll hit the thrift shops first and tag sales too.

Speaking of tag sales. Labor Day is always the best tag sale day of the year. I got some great deals. I found a very cool, hand-painted candle box that’s perfect for showing off my candles at farmer’s markets. I also found some amazing kitchen things. I loved the glass pie and bread pans and some 60’s era covered glass refrigerator dishes.

Work is progressing on the summer kitchen. Part of the problem is that we are in it so much we have little time or space to finish. Bruce is extracting honey and I’m canning up a storm but I know it will be a lot easier when the water is running. Hauling water sucks.

Do any of you belong to permies.com? I love that site. It has great videos. There was one today about a compost heated outdoor shower. I keep information like that tucked in the back of mind in a file labeled “Just In Case”.

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