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,

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, 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.