June 2011

I need to post a question. What are the parameters for harvesting wild edibles on land that you don’t own? I ask because there is a back road that I often travel. I can’t help but notice that there a scores of elderberries on this stretch. The land is nowhere near any houses. It never appears to be used, mowed, trimmed or otherwise cared for. I have never seen anyone harvest any of the food there. The mushrooms stay on the trees, the elderberries don’t appear to get picked. The raspberries and blackberries stay put and the apples fall off the trees to rot on the ground. None of this lack of harvest is without merit. This forage provides winter food for birds, small animals, bear and deer. I’m not suggesting that anybody strip trees or vines but given the abundance, it’s unlikely that my harvest will affect anything. I am wondering if you feel comfortable harvesting on land with no clear ownership and without “No Trespassing” signs.

I really want those Elderflowers. I want to make some fritters and some wine and my trees don’t produce enough flowers yet. I also want some Yarrow. I found some on a hill on a very lightly traveled road. I have no idea who owns that little hill but I’m not comfortable just digging up a plant, even though Yarrow is one of the herbs that self-seeds and is not at any risk of over harvest.

It’s a small moral issue in a world with so many larger moral issues to be concerned with. But it is just not possible for me to have any impact on the debt ceiling, Greece bailout, wars on multiple fronts, Monsanto and nuclear power plants. I can only manage my small sphere and I want to do the right thing. I now how annoyed I get when people harvest my fiddleheads without asking first.

A small aside. I’m having trouble posting replies here. The computer is not recognizing me and won’t let me post. On my own site. It’s crazy. I can post but I come up with a silly name and the wrong URL. Have patience. I’m working on it.


We finally had a break from the unrelenting rain on Friday so Bruce joined a bunch of friends for a trip to Hudson to pick cherries. There are usually places closer to home that offer good picking but the rain has wreaked havoc with the crop. Bruce brought home a couple of big bags of cherries and a new pitter. I was a bit annoyed about the pitter as it cost $15.00 and I already had two pitters. Once we got busy with getting the cherries ready to can, I had to take back any critism. This is one cool pitter, easily doing 4 cherries at a time, way faster than my single pitter. With Bruce, our two girls and I working together, we had 14 quarts of cherries pitted and canned in under three hours. The mess was minimal and the cherries delicious. I mad a breakfast cobbler with a quart that didn’t seal. I got a pint dried as well. We all love dried cherries in granola.

I had some good news about the boy we found after his motorcycle crashed last week. He’s at a trauma center in New York, off the ventilator and doing pretty well. He’ll need to spend several months in a rehab facility as his legs were badly damaged but he had no head or spinal injuries so things could have certainly been a lot worse.

The garden is cooking along. I had to replant the corn as the germination rate was poor, probably doe to rain and cold. Fortunately, I had a package of a short season so I planted that. The peas love this weather and I’ll be harvesting later this week. The herbs are happy too. The tomatoes, not so much. I gave them a trim and some fish emulsion and can only hope they perk up in the sun today.

I’ve been buying seeds to fill in my inventory. For the first time, I have seeds that I need but can’t find. I’m heading off to Hadley on Thursday and plan to stop by the big greenhouse there to get some seeds that I’m missing. They have a huge selection and it should ben o problem.

One thing I have been thinking about a lot lately is nuts. My hazles are not producing yet. My beechnuts are still just saplings and my butternuts, not much of anything. I was with a friend, picking up her little girl for church on Sunday when the child mentioned that her grandfather’s of farm, empty and in foreclosure, is overrun with black walnut trees. I got permission to go dig up as many little trees as I like. I know they won’t produce in my lifetime but my grandkids may thank me someday. I hope they will know that I loved them even before they were born.

National Geographic is doing a show on preppers tonight at 8:00. I was asked to participate in this several months ago but decided to give it a miss. I did watch a trailer and it looked okay. I plan to watch it. We can all do the Monday morning quarterback (Tuesday in this case). It will be interesting to hear what you all think.

Bruce and I went to Aunt Marge’s to pick up the small gas stove that we plan to use in the summer kitchen. This assumes that it will stop raining someday and the kitchen will actually get built. The house is huge; four floors from cellar to attic, with 14 foot ceilings and nooks and closets galore. Each nook and each closet, each flat surface was covered with stuff. Few people who grew up during the depression ever throw anything away and Aun Marge is no exception. She has boxes of boxes. We found a box filled with the wooden sticks that come in floral arrangements. Saddest to me were the wedding gifts, carefully stored away for a “special occasion”.

I empathize with Aunt Marge. I can get caught up in the “you never know” syndrome. I have more fabric, more kitchen gadgets and more bedding tha I will probably ever use. The solution of stockpiling to address future needs becomes today’s problem of too much clutter choking your life energy. Too often, the solution to the too much stuff problem is to buy more stuff. Storage units, plastic bins, sheds, additions and even new houses are bought to find homes for the excess in our lives. It may be neatly stacked and inventoried but it’s still clutter.

Every year or two I get serious about getting rid of the stuff that I have no need of. I do a good job in the beginning but my interest and enthusiasm fades over the course of weeks and the job is never quite complete. Did I hear a gasp? Did you perchance think that I lived some charmed life where all was neat and perfect.” Think again. My life is just as messy as many and probably far messier than many of my readers. But ever the optimist, I live to try again.

The Great Clean Out begins today. I am starting in what should be the spare room/sewing room. In reality, it’s the catch-all overflow space with all manner of junk clogging up the works. The basement will follow. I might even get to the attic where I can unload the boxes I packed away when we moved in, 22 years ago. Who knows. Maybe I’ll even find some of those wedding gifts I was saving for special occasion. Perhaps today, with its rain and gloom is special enough.

A friend of ours stopped by on Saturday to show off their new car. It was notable for what it didn’t have. No air conditioning, no cup holders, no security system and no windshield wipers. The other thing it didn’t have was a dealer logo because this car was home-made. It was pretty cool; a sleek little two-seater that only needed a flux capacitor to look like it was headed “back to the future”. Now I don’t plan to build a car but it makes me happy to know that engineering minds are busy in garages and basements trying to solve some of our problems without grants or research teams or government loans. They are using everyday tools and everyday ingenuity, things that are not subject to peak anything or political whims.

This got me to thinking about some of the other home-made things I have run across lately. Season extenders for instance. Hot boxes, cold frames and small green houses can all be purchased but I love the ones put together from scraps. With so many people switching to high-efficiency windows, there are hundreds of old storm windows and doors available. The glass is heavy and tempered so the worry about breakage is reduced and using them to grow food is way better than clogging up the landfill or your cellar with.

Every now and then I peruse the Instructables website. I can get lost looking at the plans for duct tape hammocks and tiny cook stoves. Some of the stuff is silly and impractical but there are some gems in there. If nothing else, I get inspired. My mind doesn’t really work in that creative way but I do think that creativity is a muscle and we have to exercise it to make it stronger. I want to challenge myself to get better at this. The next time I’m tempted to throw some money at a problem I will put charge up my creative juices and see what I can come up with.

This is it for today. We are heading off to Connecticut to help Aunt Marge clean out here house. She has two gas stoves with potential to be the centerpiece of my summer kitchen. I suspect that the stoves won’t be the only things that come home with us. I hope to pick up some family history along with old kitchen gadgets and tools. I’ll try to get some pictures posted on Friday.

On Saturday night, a group of friends car-pooled to a local community college to watch a friend perform in a play. We began the evening with an elderly lady falling right in front of us. It was pretty clear that she had broken a hip. It’s so hard to watch someone helpless and in pain but soon enough the paramedics arrived and whisked her off to the hospital. We watched the play and headed for home. We had nearly arrived when my DH noticed a motorcycle lying on its side on the edge of the road. We pulled u-turn and went back to investigate. Another car coming from the opposite direction did the same. Now this stretch of road is pretty deserted at this time of the night and the odds of two cars meeting and illuminating a particular piece of road are pretty slim. We jumped out of the van to investigate. It was a motorcycle but there was no operator. I grabbed a flashlight ane we started a search. In a few minutes we found the boy, seriously injured, way over the guard rail in the deep grass. I won’t describe his injuries here. Let me just say they were clearly life-threatening. My first-aid kit is meant for minor injuries, not the kind of thing we were looking at. The boy needed a trauma surgeon, not some bandages and aspirin. We called 911 and waited for the ambulance crew to arrive. They did and the boy was air-lifted to the nearest trauma center.

The whole thing left me shaken. We could do so little for him. We held his hand and talked to him and put a towel over the worst injury, to protect ourselves as much as to stop the bleeding. This has got me to pondering our role in the bigger picture.

I write about prepping and I do believe that we all have a responsibility to take care of ourselves and to prepare for a world of resource depletion and economic instability. But I think we also have a responsibility to the wider village. I think we all need a place to put some energy, whether it be your library, your hospital, your school or your fire and police departments. In rural locations, a lot of these things are volunteer organizations and they need all the bodies they can muster. As people spend more time away from home or “being entertained” in front of tvs and computers, it’s getting harder all the time to find people willing to commit. I am urging every reader to find a place to be useful. Now I realize that some people really don’t have the time or the health or the ability to do much but if possible, do something.

On a prepping note, I plan to go to the LDS cannery in Worcester next Saturday. I’m making up a list now. The wish list is heavy with grains and flours as I’m low on those. I also want to stock up on baking supplies, especially sugar and baking soda. Bruce got a nail gun and air compressor for Father’s Day so work can begin on the summer kitchen. I got several bales of mulch hay yesterday and I need to spend some time getting it spread in the squash patch and between the potatoes. We have a spell of good weather predicted and I need to literally make hay.

The sun is shining and I’ve had a busy day. I’m posting early as I have an invitation to visit a friend with a cob oven who has asked me to stop by to bake in the morning. She fires up very early on Fridays and I need to be out the door at the crack of dawn.

The first picture here is of the press I got from Aunt Marge. I need to get at it with some lubricant and a wire brush then play with it a bit so I can figure out how it works.

The second picture is of my seed box. I had such a hodge-podge after spring planting. Maggie and I took an hour and got them all organized by type. I really need to commit to using some of the older seed up and replacing the seed in my long term storage. I’m flat out of brassicas.

The third picture is of my beautiful Honey Locust wine. I got it racked today. I decided not to feed the leavings to the chickens. I didn’t think intoxicated birds were a good idea.

I want to leave you with a recipe. The vegetables are just coming in from the valley and I wanted a summer salad. I chopped up a cucumber, an onion, a yellow pepper and an orange pepper. I added some garbanzo beans and feta cheese and a bit of vinegrette and had a light, delicious side dish.
Add in a lot of weeding and harvesting strawberries and now back out to plant a few more seeds and it’s been a really productive day.

Look for an upcoming post on preparing your family to take over.

Bruce’s aunt is getting ready to move into a small apartment and is cleaning out her 4 story Victorian. My S/BIL have been going down to help out. They stopped by yesterday with a treasure for me. I am now the proud owner of Bruce’s Grandmother’s quilting frame and her cast iron fruit/cheese press. I have no room for the quilt frame but I plan to make room for the press. Picking that thing up certainly points out the difference between things made on the cheap and those made with planned obsolescence in mind. My cheese press is nice enough but it clearly has a life span. The cast iron will outlive me by a few lifetimes. It’s meant to be bolted to a solid floor. I’m thinking I could add a space for it in my planned summer kitchen.

It’s tag sale season and I’m on the hunt for a few things. I need another couple of tall wooden cabinets to hold canned food. I also need kitchen supplies for the summer kitchen. I don’t want to be running in and out every time I need a measuring cup or a wooden spoon. My plan is to have a cabinet that under the table (my fantasy stainless steel table) with bins to hold my equipment. I also need to find a wagon to haul jars back to the house. It has to be small enough to fit in the walkways. We didn’t think about the width when we bought the garden cart and it doesn’t fit. I need a small hamper to hold rags (I go through a lot of rags when I can), a bunch of big pot holders, a compost bucket and a big ice chest. I have been offered some large stainless steel panels. I am thinking of using them along the back wall, gettting some of those magnetic hooks and strips and hanging my knives and tools.

On a different note. I pre-pay my fuel bill each year. It saves a considerable amount of money. Last year I paid $3,500 for the fuel to heat my house and hot water and to run our stove. I just got this year’s estimate. It’s gone up to over $5,000 dallars!!! I’m mighty glad I bought that wood stove and have contracted to get my chimney rebuilt. I’m afraid that people will be forced to choose between food and heat, gas for their cars or new shoes for their kids. I also fear that they will take unsafe shortcuts for heating and use improper chimneys or stoves. If you do use alternative heat sources, don’t wait until fall to get them checked for safety. People die of carbon monoxide poisoning every year. I think most fire departments offer CO2 detectors if you can’t afford one. It’s a must-have item IMO.

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