To my dear and faithful readers:

I have been really busy getting the new blog up and running with an attached facebook page. This stuff doesn’t come easily to me and I could not have done without the help of my son, Bruce, and DIL, Maggie. I hope those of you who have followed me here will drop on by for a visit I really want to hear from you and turn this new blog into all it can be.

Peace and blessings,

Kathy

http://www.preservingabundance.com
and on facebook: preserving abundance

Back in 2008 I, along with a lot of the rest of the world, watched in horror as it looked for a bit as though the world’s financial institutions were going to implode, leaving us all a whole lot poorer and uncertain of just what lay ahead. At about the same time I learned about Peak Oil and it’s implications for an energy constrained future. I reacted as did many others. I began to stockpile the things I thought I would need to see my family through a prolonged period of economic dislocation. We bought more land and put in gardens and greenhouses, an orchard and an apiary. We began to think of investment tools as actual tools rather than sketchy business dealings we were not at all sure met our requirement for ethical investment. We enlarged our circle of friends to include people who believed what we did and together we laid the foundation for a new, resilient community.

Well, it’s 2012. The world’s financial institutions have not all imploded although a good number of them are still pretty shaky. A lot of people are a lot poorer and still don’t know exactly what their future holds. But it isn’t Armageddon. At least not in the financial sense. I can still put gas in my car although it costs a good deal more to do so. I am still hearing mumblings that solar or wind or shale or nat gas or off-shore drilling is going to turn us into the next Saudi Arabia. That’s nonsense of course. Anyone with a calculator and a modicum of common sense can tell you that the energy invested over energy returned models point to less fuel to run a road and oil dependent transportation fleet at still higher prices. There is talk about having enough oil under us in America to be energy independent by 2020. But that the oil will belong to international oil companies who will sell it to the highest bidder and not necessarily to us.

Here’s the big change for this evolved prepper. I don’t care about it any more. Don’t get me wrong. I still think we are in big trouble in terms of economics and energy. I just think that worrying about them is like worrying about that scratchy throat while somebody cuts you off at the knees. And that something is climate change.

Because of my firm belief in the science of climate change I am making some changes to my writing and blogging. I will be wrapping up here in the next few months and concentrating my energy on my web site, http://www.preservingabundance.com. The website will give me the ability to post more and better videos, more recipes and even include some serialized novel-writing. It will include some advertising (a girl needs to pay the bills) but I will be totally responsible for what is put up there. I so appreciate Storey for giving me a blogging home here for the last few years. They are the best publishers in the world. If I could have books from only one publisher to see me through the coming hard times they would all be Storey books. I won’t miss them as we will still have a relationship through Just In Case and I may bother them with a manuscript from time to time. But I do think it’s time to move on and put my energy into permaculture education (I’m a learner, not a teacher on this subject), food preservation, seed saving, herbal health care, and community building. I hope you will join me there. I’m looking for lots of input and lots of information. This may be a slow process. I’m taking a workshop on how to make this work in early December and hope to be really cooking right after the first of the year. Far any readers who don’t follow me (come on-you know you want to) I leave you with gratitude for walking down the road with me.

Fondly, Kathy

This is the time of year when many people are culling their chickens. It makes no sense to feed chickens all winter when are not laying eggs. The upside is that the chickens will provide with high-quality, free-range meat for nothing more than the cost of the butcher. Around here that’s $3.00 a bird. The downside is that you have to dispatch of birds that, believe or not, you have become fond of. It’s your duty to any creature you’re responsible for to ensure that they are well-cared for while alive and that their passing is as painless and stress-free as possible.
We had 30 birds to can up. They are old layers and way to tough to roast. I tried to cook one overnight in the crock pot but it was still mighty chewy the next day. The ones I pressure canned were a lot more tender and the many jars of stock were fabulous. I do have some advice for canning up an old bird that may prevent some issues down the road.

I first simmered the birds for about an hour. This made getting the meat off the bone a lot easier. I removed much of the skin from each bird before simmering to reduce the fat in the stock. I added a lot of parsley, onion, leeks, carrots and celery to the broth. This made for a more flavorful product. It’s important to have a system set up to deal with the skin and bones you’re left with. If they sit around they will smell terrible and attract predators. I froze my scraps until DH had time to deal with them. I didn’t bother canning all the meat. I stuck with the breast meat for the most part as the legs and wings were so small. I took the wings, legs, back and breast bones and make a good, meaty stock with them. I ran two canners at a time which was all I could handle alone. I have a vision that, in the apocalypse, I’ll single handily can all the meat in my freeze. Well. Maybe not. This much canning is better done in a group. I am able to can at 10 pounds of pressure at my altitude but I went with 15 pounds for these tough old birds.

I used wide-mouth jars for any meaty stock and narrow-mouth for plain stock. I used some Tattlers and some disposable lids. I find that the Tattlers are pretty fussy about exhausting times. You need a full ten minutes of full steam to get all the air out and end up with a good, tight seal. I wipe each rim with vinegar to make sure no fatty deposit will affect the seal. It’s important to let the canner come to zero pressure before removing the weight. Let the canner sit another 2 minutes, then remove the lid with it pointing away from your face. Remove the jars and place them on a towel to finish cooling a seal. With the Tattlers, you have to tighten the lids right away and you’ll need gloves for this. Don’t let the jars cool in a draft. I find the biggest problem with siphoning (losing liquid) and with failed seals comes from to rapid a change in pressure and temperature. Thanks to my many canning friends (Lisa and Sally- Yes, I mean you) for such good information and support around all this. I rarely have a failed seal.

When all has cooled and you check the seals, label your jars and put them in storage. The don’t forget to eat the dang food. I know so many people who do all the work and then they’re afraid to eat it. Let me repeat. If the food was good and the equipment appropriate, if you follow the directions and get a good seal, if the food looks fine and smells fine and the lid is hard to remove then the food is good. Eat and enjoy. Such food is an act of prayer and revolution.

What is there about an impending storm that makes me want to cook? I just found Pintrest and I was up before dawn looking for recipes that are adaptable to storm cooking. I was particularly interested in crock pot cooking. That may seem silly, You do, after all, need electricity to use a crock pot. But I have found that a cast iron dutch oven can double as a crock pot, no problem. I am making a dutch oven chicken this afternoon. My plan, as I fear we may lose power before we eat, is to get the dutch oven hot, sear the chicken on both sides, reduce the heat to low on my gas stove, cover the chicken with a mixture of Italian dressing and brown sugar and let it simmer. If the power does go out, my stove still works and the chicken will continue to cook. I will serve this with brown rice and kale. I found a recipe for baked apples on Pintrest that calls for cooking in a crock pot. I’ll adapt those to a cast iron skillet version with the apples chopped rather than whole.

Sometimes we get bogged down with recipes. I suppose there are some fussy things that require exact measurements and cooking techniques but most plain cooking is flexible. My mother rarely followed a recipe (bad example-my mother was a dreadful cook)-let’s say my mother-in-law rarely followed a recipe and her food was always delicious. Now is the time to experiment. Everybody needs their own cookbook with their own recipes adapted for available ingredients and cooking options. As the climate becomes more unstable we may all face periods of no electricity or disruptions in food supplies. You need to know how to cook with the food you have stored or preserved. I’ll bet there are families out there right now looking at #10 cans of dehydrated corn and wondering what the heck to do with it. I went through Pintrest looking for recipes I can adapt for use with stored food. Alright. I also found recipes for some decadent drinks and fancy desserts but for the most part I was looking for plain food. Isn’t today the perfect day to spend with your favorite cookbooks or recipe sites and a notebook?

I did want to put a plug in for Sharon Astyk’s new book, Making Home. She sent me a copy a few days ago and it’s a gem. I don’t say this lightly. There are a lot of books out there on adapting to an energy constrained fututure and this is about the best. It’s is quintessential Sharon, elegant and literate, down-home and wise. You won’t get advice on choosing solar panels but you will find a direction for making your house home in good times and bad. I plan to order copies for each of my children and donating one to our Sustainability Library.

Sandy is barreling up the coast and right now we can’t be sure just what, if anything, she has in store for us. With only a few days left before we know for sure, it behooves all of us in the possible path to get ready for heavy rain and winds and the likelihood of power outages. Here’s a checklist for your convenience. Feel free to direct people over to the site if they have questions about how to prepare.

Clean up your yard and secure lawn furniture and yard ornaments. Toys and empty flower pots can become missiles in high winds.
Fill your car with gasoline and make sure to park it away from trees if you can. Park facing out.
Refill any prescription medications, even if you have to pay out-of-pocket for an extra few day’s supply.
Clean up your house. A tidy home will not just feel better but will also be a lot safer to navigate in low light.
Clean out your refrigerator. Get rid of leftovers and soon-to-expire food.
Fill your freezer with jugs of water so there is no empty space. A full freezer will hold the cold longer than a partially empty one.
Bring up a cooler. If the power looks like it will go out, put milk and lunch meat, condiments and juices in the cooler with jugs of ice so you will not need to open the refrigerator door. Put the cooler in the coldest part of the house and cover it with a heavy blanket or quilt.
Wash the globe or glass chimney of any lanterns or candlesticks. A clean chimney is more efficient than a dirty one. Trim the wick and fill the reservoir. Set matches in an accessible spot.
Give each person in the home a flashlight to keep next to their bed.
Review fire safety with your children and review how to use the fire extinguisher
Fill water containers or purchase bottled water.
Make a menu for ten day’s worth of meals. It may seem like overkill but a lot of people were without power for longer than that during Irene. Make sure you have all the ingredients and a way to cook the food. Simple is better. This is one time when it may pay to have individual packets of things like mayonnaise. You can make tuna sandwiches and not have to worry about a big jars of condiments to keep cold.
Make sure you have enough pet supplies.
Check on elderly, single or disabled neighbors.
Charge your cell phone.
Do any chores that require electricity. You will be happier if the laundry is done and there are clean sheets on all the beds.
Get out some games and puzzles and some read-aloud books.
Make sure there are extra blankets on the beds and that everyone has warm sweaters and caps.
Stock up on necessary baby supplies.

Please don’t wait until the storm track is clear. By then everybody will be rushing around looking for candles and batteries and non-perishable food. Preparing ahead will allow you to anticipate the storm with a sense of adventure rather than fear.

My kids moved into their new house this weekend so Karen and I decided to enjoy our rediscovered freedom and combine a doctor’s appointment with some thrift store shopping and a stop at the market to stock up on a few essentials. The thrift store was a productive stop. I came home with a thermos for Phoebe (something I feared I would need to purchase new as she really needed one), a book I had long wanted, a pocket book to replace my summer bag and the sweetest little glass pie plate, just right for a singe serving. I also got the perfect necklace to go with Phoebe’s Halloween costume and a waffle iron to replace the one I just burned out. The trip to the market was far less successful.

I think prices creep up on when you go every week and you don’t notice as much. When you seldom go they hit you like a slap. I found the one brand of chicken I’m willing to plop down money for has gone up to $19.00 for a single small roaster. It would have fed the four of us with maybe enough left for a thin soup. Needless to say, we will be waiting on chicken until my layers get to the butcher next week. Butter and spices were also far more expensive than just a few weeks ago. I looked at the price of poultry seasoning, a staple for thanksgiving stuffing and decided I coud make a pretty good approximation from what’s growing in my herb garden. I did buy the sale butter because the organic brand I prefer was just too much for my budget.

I think this illustrates an important point. People have to make choices and they are hard ones. Do you buy food or fuel? Will you pay the electric bill or get Jenny new shoes? For me, the choice was between getting the ethical brand, the cheaper product or going without? I generally chose option one or three. Today I went with two and I’ve been feeling bad about it ever since I made it home. I do realize that having the choice is a luxury. Americans spend far less on food as a percent of their income than most other people do. Buying the good butter would not have meant my children didn’t get shoes or have access to health care if they got sick. For much of the world and increasingly here in the US, that is not the case. Ethical, clean food is not even on the radar. When prices go up, it naturally hits the ones who can least afford it the hardest. Which leads me to the next part of my shopping trip.

I heard a rumor and I wanted to check it out. I had been told that Wal-Mart was carrying survival food. I knew this was true in other parts of the country but I had never seen it around here. I went in to see and sure enough, there it was. $63.00 and change for a six gallon sealed bucket. The label said that the bucket held 208 servings of food. It listed oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar, chilli and potato soup mix among other things. I believe I saw powdered milk too. I was so annoyed I could have spit.

Now I’m the last person to complain about a family preparing for an emergency with some stored food. I have a couple of number 10 cans myself but a kit like this is about the worst bang for your food buck I can imagine. I highly doubt that the 208 servings is accurate. I expect the serivngs would be mighty small and I’ll also bet the food is full of sodium. Freeze-dried food isn’t some weird thing that you can only find in a survival store. We eat it all the time. Macaroni and cheese is just dried food. You can buy dried soups and chilli right off the shelf. Why the heck would you need to spend money for oatmeal in a pouch? Regular oatmeal is cheap. Add some dried fruit and powdered milk and you have yourself a “just-add-water” meal. I hope you don’t fall for a gimic like this. I know that food preservation equipment is an huge investment. I know your hours are stretched and it’s hard to imagine just where the resources for some stored food will come from. This is where a community comes in. Can you purchase a pressure canner with friends? The shared labor will lighten everyone’s burden. Did you know that you can buy vegetables in a one pound bag and then dry them in a dehydrator? A one pound bag fis one tray of the Excalibur perfectly. I rinse the veges under warm water to thaw them a bit, leave them in the dehydrator over night and in the morning I have 12 pounds of vegetabes ready to seal up in a jar. When I need them I can rehydrate them in hot water for an hour and then add them to the evening meal.

I don’t mean to sound cavelier about this. It has taken me years to amass all the equipment I use for preserving food. I just wish we could make it easier on families. In a perfect world there would be a canning kitchen in every neighborhood. We invest so much in wars and entertainment and in new and better technology. I guess dried apples just can’t compete.

So yesterday I posted a a piece about canning up dried beans and a reader correctly pointed out that USDA and UGeorgia both say that dried beans must be precooked to ensure safe canning as you can’t be sure the dried beans will reach a high enough temperature otherwise. I guess this makes sense and it isn’t that hard to pre cook dried beans so I will stand corrected and move on. I ran into a similar problem with canned chocolate sauce. I found directions for making it and when I went to pull them off the computer the directions had been removed. I did find two other sites with recipes. It turns out that, since chocolate is low acid you need to pressure can it. I have no idea what will happen to chocolate sauce that’s pressure cooked. I can see it tasting burned. I planned to give it a try but then it occurred to me that I was making my life harder for no pay off. I can stock up on all the cocoa and sugar I like I want and make the sauce fresh every few months as it holds fine in the refrigerator. I have plenty to do without making work for myself.

There are directions all over the internet for canned butter and cheese and neither of these low acid foods should be water bathed canned. One of the things I appreciate about doing this blog is that I know I’ll be challenged if I make an error and we all benefit from that. I do wish that the go-to canning books like Ball and So Easy To Preserve would add a page about canning myths in their next editions. It would save a lot of time and searching on-line. Tonight I’m making beans and brats and calling it a day. Next week I’ll can more beans but I’ll cook them first.

I have edited this page to reflect the issue of canning dried beans without pre-cooking them. The USDA says not to do it and I always stand by their research (or lack thereof). I’m leaving the post up so you can see what I did. Read the next post for the reason for changing my precedure. Thanks. Kathy

We eat a lot of beans around here. I am a particular fan of black beans, kidney beans and garbanzo beans but we also like baked navy beans. I often add some pork and barbecue sauce for a quick meal on a cold night. Of course, we all know that baked beans are the perfect food for when the power is out. Canned beans are not all that expensive but the price has been creeping up, especially if you are looking for organic beans. The days of five cans for a dollar are long gone and even the three for two dollar sales are fewer than ever. Dried beans are still bargain though, especially if you buy them in bulk. The problem is that dried beans need time and lots of it. The solution is to purchase the dried beans in bulk and pressure can them yourself. I have done this several times with variable results. One thing I have learned is that old beans don’t cook up very well. I know some people with beans that have been in storage for 10 years. I fear that they will be disappointed when they cook them up. I have also found that most recipes for canning dried beans ask you to presoak them or even pre-cook them which in my mind defeats the purpose. This weekend I fooled around with a few recipes and came up with one that works well for baked beans. The flavor was good and the texture was perfect. I will make some changes to my next batch. Here’s what I did.

I started with organic dried navy beans. I paid $2.09 a pound for them from the bulk bin at our little grocery. I’m sure you could get them cheaper at a larger store of=r from your co-op. I made up a sauce of a quart jar of tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons of molasses and a big squirt of mustard. This simmered while I filled the jars. Next time I will substitute maple syrup for the molasses because I have a lot of syrup. I washed our 8 pint canning jars and put 1/2 cup of dry beans (not soaked) in each jar. I added a few rings of onion and a bit of salt pork to each jar. I would not add the salt pork again. It was bacon last year’s pig and I found the flavor a bit too smoky for us. I would use plain ham in the future. I added a cup of the hot sauce to each jar of beans then filled each jar with boiling water. I put on hot lids and rings and gave each jar a shake to mix the ingredients before putting them in my canner. Here was the big difference. I canned the beans at 15 pounds of pressure for 75 minutes. I don’t need to use that much pressure for my elevation but I found the beans were nice and soft which is not always the case at 10 pounds of pressure. I checked the jars this morning and discovered that one had not sealed so I heated that one up for breakfast. It was a bit smoky but still very good.

I have found when following somebody else’s recipes that there is seldom as much sauce or brine as I want. I made sure there is plenty of sauce for these beans and I’ll write down the recipe in my canning notebook. Today I hope to can up black beans. The pint jars are just right for us but if you double the recipe you can easily do quarts although it will require 90 minutes.

Bruce and I went to a church auction on Saturday night. We won the auction for a cord of firewood and I donated an afternoon in my canning kitchen. I was surprised that the bidders were all men! The fellow who won will be coming by next week. I’m looking forward to doing lessons for one person at a time. I can really concentrate on their particular needs.

The kitchen is just about finished. The water is in (what a pleasure to have running water) and it drains right out to the garden so there is no waste. The counters are in and it all looks wonderful. I need only the on-dmand hot-water heater to be complete. I’ll be posting a video tour of the kitchen next week on my other site, http://www.preservingabundance.com. I have let that site go but I plan to revive it with a serialized story (lots of canning and preparedness tips but no zombies or religion), more videos and lots of recipes. I hope my faithful readers will join me there.

I have been a planting and harvesting fool this week. The garlic and potato onions are all in, although I do want to order more of the onions. They produced well and seem to be storing just fine. I have the number for the Seed Saver’s Exchange and I’ll be able to get them there. I find that my garlic looks better each year as it adapts to the soil in my garden I planted some huge cloves. For the money, garlic, which has so many medicinal and culinary uses can’t be beat. Another big winner is my kale. The plants are gorgeous and this is one nutritional powerhouse. I have dried three Excalibur loads so far. It will keep well in the garden for several more months anyway but I love the convenience of dried kale. Last night I made pizza. While I was simmering the sauce I added a handful of dried Italian spices and then, at the request of my DIL, powdered up a cup of the dried kale. You could not see or taste it but the vitamins were there. Most people can grow kale. It looks great as a border planting so even HOA’s that refuse to let you grow food will probably be none the wiser if you have a few kale plants as ornamentals.

The sink was installed in my summer kitchen last night. Bruce will finish the grey water collection system in the next day or two and then install an on-demand hot water heater. I pine for a solar hot water system but it’s not in the cards right now. The counter looks great. I’ve been canning up a storm out there already but running water will make it so much easier.

I have a new favorite canning book. I picked up a copy of Better Homes and Gardens Can It! yesterday at Lowes. Any book with recipes for jam that calls for port deserves a place on my bookshelf. I went to Lowes to get canning jars for 1/2 price. They had no jars and give no rain checks. If you plan on making a trip for this deal, call first. A friend (thank Michelle) is going to the Lowes in West Springfield to look. I hope she can get a couple of cases for me.

My kids are moving into their new home next week and it goes back to being just the four of us around here. I’ll miss them dreadfully but we all need our own space again. I started the big clean out already. That means spending some time making up my all natural, non-toxic cleaners. I am looking for a product called Lemmi (I think that’s the name). Have any of you ever heard of it. I think it’s a citric acid type of product. I’ll check the ingredient label and maybe I can just substitute plain citric acid for it. Do any of you have any favorite cleaning tips or recipes? I’m looking to expand my cleaning pantry.

The economic and political news continues to look worrisome. I hope that you are all doing what you can to reduce expenses and have some food put aside. If you find yourself out of work, even for a few weeks, a deep pantry will really help you over the hump. It could well be a long winter. Food prices are crazy around here. Learning to make do with less and to cook form scratch are your best inflation hedges.

Bruce and I are getting pretty good at scrounging things. Food, animals, equipment all present as opportunities if you are willing to put in some sweat equity. This week it was bees. We were offered two complete hives if we were willing to go get them. So last night we borrowed out son’s big pick-up truck and drove out into the hinterlands to do the pick up. The two older men managed to get them loaded and secured in the truck, although it wasn’t easy for a couple of guys who will never see 65 again. We were driving home when Bruce brought up what should have been our very first question. How are we going to unload? It was dark and rainy and there was no way I could lift the darn things. It was a bit late to go calling on neighbors so we woke my son up and had him come down. So here’s the deal. These heavy hives had escape boards on them so the bees could not get out. The problem was that everything was wet and slippery and the hive enclosure is pretty tight and we had to get the hives turned in the right direction to have them sit steady on the base. You can see where this is going.

We were just about done. I was standing to the side holding the flashlight when the hive slipped. It fell off the base which knocked off the escape board which let out a few hundred thousand very angry bees. We escaped but not without some damage. Bruce fared the worst with several stings and both Nathan and I got it too. Then we had to deal with the bees that got in the house as hitch hikers. We must have had 20 inside that had to be disposed of before we could go to bed.

Lessons to be learned:
Murphy’s law; If it can go wrong it will go wrong. We have good bee suits and we should have all been suited up.
Planning: We should have had a plan for getting the bees off the truck that involved enough muscle men to lift the hives safely.
Gifts.: ALWAYS look the gift horse in the mouth. It’s no bargain if you need to invest hundreds in vet bills or dispose of a dead horse. In this case, the hives would not have been worth having someone get seriously hurt. I’m glad we did this but the outcome could have been a lot worse.
Saying of the Week: It’s not the odds it’s the risk. The odds of dropping a hive when you aren’t suited up are low but it happened. They could have been .0000012% and we still should have worn the suits.

I think this applies to so much of being prepared. Plan for the worst. Look ahead. Apply due diligence, assess the risks then act accordingly.

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