I was asked yesterday about the skills I thought were necessary for self sufficiency. It is an interesting question. Does one need to know how to tan leather and butcher a deer?Is it a good idea to be able to remove your kid’s appendix with hair clips and hypnosis ala Alas Babylon? I guess my point here is that I am never going to be entirely self sufficient. I doubt many people are. We depend on each other to a greater or lesser degree. My goal is to reduce my dependency, particularly in the area of food, and learn to do as much as possible for myself, knowing that if I need a tooth pulled, I am heading straight to the dentist.

I believe that the journey towards greater self sufficiency is a mind set, a way of looking at the world around you. Start with water. It is not enough to store some bottled water. The water will run out and then what? Do you know where your comes from, how it’s delivered to your home and what the vulnerabilities to that source are? Do you know where else in your neighborhood you can access ground water? Can you carry it? Do ou know how to treat it?

Medical care is so easy for a lot of us but by no means is it easy for everybody. If the medical system broke down, even temporarily, do you know how to treat minor accidents and illnesses and do you have the supplies to do so? Do you know the medical practitioners in your neighborhood? Do they know you? Could you call on one in an emergency? Do you have some cash or barter items on hand to pay for care if necessary?

Do you have a plan to heat your home if the power is out? Can you provide lighting and can you cook? Once the propane runs out, can you cook with wood or a solar oven? Have you actually done it? Do you know how to build a rocket stove?

Do you have the proper clothing for a life that entails more labor in very hot or cold weather? Do you have proper foot wear? Do  you have the means and ability to repair clothing and shoes?

Do you know where your food comes from? Can you grow it? Can you preserve it? Do you have the tools and the techniques down to a science? Can you bake bread and will your family eat what you make? Do you know the basics of putting together a casserole, soup or stew?

Can you entertain yourself and your family without tickets to Six Flags? Do you have books and games and puzzles and does your family use those thing regularly?

Do you have hand tools and the knowledge to make simple repairs? Do you have to run to Home Depot every time you need an adhesive, nails, screws, caulking and such?

Do you know your neighborhood and your neighbors? Who has what skills? Do you feud over every little thing or are you a true community? Do you know what grows where and what is edible? What animals are plentiful?

I know I have forgotten as much as I have put in here. My point is that, while most of us need to depend on each other, we also want to be someone others can depend on. I want to have something to bring to the table when times get tough but I want lots of others at the table with me.


I got a post from Andrea at chick-bit-run this morning that, along with a few others, made my day for a couple of reasons. First, it is nice to know that the good feelings I have about my blog readers are reciprocated and next, because it gave me a blog topic. It’s hard to come up with a new topic every day and now I have one. Finding friends.

There are many scenarios for ways in which the world as we know it may change. H1N1 flu, peak oil, economic collapse, terrorist attack, trucker’s strike, oil embargo, food crisis, climatic disaster, these are things with global ramifications. Then there are local disasters like floods and hurricanes. None of these are things people want to talk about much. Such catastrophes change comfortable paradigms in uncomfortable ways. Now wonder folks would rather watch Michael Jackson’s funeral or worry about Jon and Kate’s kids. It is a lot easier than anticipating the funerals of people you care about and worrying about your own kids. If you bring up the subject of preparedness, you will likely be met with rolled eyes and some gentle derision. Talk too much and the derision will not be gentle. This is too bad because a lot of the things we all do to prep are easier to do with a friend. I love making wine with friends, canning with a group and talking sustainable gardening over the backyard fence. I also love discussing preparedness but it’s a lot harder.

So how do you find a prepping companion? It’s not like you can place an add in the personals. “Looking for friends with benefits like a pressure canner you don’t mind sharing”. You have to make the face to face contact. Full frontal assualt may be met with a pat on the head or an icy stare but a more circumspect tact may get you somewhere.

“Boy, the news about the flu is pretty scary. Have you thought about what your plans are if it gets bad this fall or winter?” “Did you see the buy one get two free sale on canned food? It’s such a good deal. I’m going to get a few things to stick in my preparedness pantry. Is there anything I can get for you?”  “It was such a challenge when the power was out for so long last winter. I am picking up extra lanterns and some bottles of fuel while there are still a lot on the shelf. “I just read the neatest book. It has a lot of tips on preparing for a crisis. With all the worry over Israel and Iran, I think it’s a good idea to be ready for really high oil and food prices. This book could help.”

My brother and sister and I get together with our spouses several times a year. Current events are always a topic of conversation and I use those times to bring up preparedness. It has taken a few years but I am no longer teased for my preps. I am actually getting some good questions and at least I got them thinking. When I have to give a gift I nearly always make it something for preparedness like hand crank flashlights, car safety kits or books like Depletion and Abundance or Peak Everything.

Outside of your family, you will need different strategies. You can make a blanket statement at a church or parent’s group. “There will be a movie showing and group discussion about peak oil on Friday at 7:00pm.” A similar announcement in a small, local paper will often be  successful.  A showing of a mainstream post apocalyptic movie is less effective as the emphasis is on everything but preparedness and most are so corny they make you laugh rather than think.

It’s important not to pull out the big guns (literally in some cases) until a friend or group of friends has become established. If you start talking about the end of the world you will come off sounding like a nut job. What you want is to hook up with other like-minded folks who can be a support during your preparing time and form the basis of a community support group in a crisis.

On another topic (my ADD at work), I picked a pile of raspberries and got them in the freezer yestery morning, then flopped into bed with a high fever. It hurt to comb my hair. I felt wretched until about 3:00AM when the fever broke. I am not 100% but I am a lot better today. Good thing as the peas need picking and I have a ton of greens to pick and use. I am out of  homemade bread and cookies. I have no time to be sick but being down and out makes me appreciate my general good health.

I just made the best supper and it was pretty made from stuff that in another life, I might well have thrown out.

You know how there always seems to be a bit too much pasta? I never need an entire box. Lasagna noodles are a particular problem. I use to cook them, then let the extras sit in the back of the fridge until they went bad. Now I try to cook only what I realy need and save the rest in a plastic bag. This goes for the broken pieces too. We eat a lot of past and it adds up quick. Today, I was trying to come up with something for dinner and I hit on the idea of garbage lasagna. I cooked a bunch of broken noodles and set them aside. Then I sauteed a half an onion and some garlic, both of which were just getting ready to sprout in some olive oil. I added a cup of peppers I found in the freezer. They were a year old and a bit freezer burned but not bad. In went the last of my spinach and some kale. The kale was the base of a vegetable platter from the lunch we served for school spruce up day. Somebody was going to throw the leftovers out but I grabbed them first. I made a fabulous stock out of the vegetables and saved the kale. I also had a handful of dried out shitakes. I also found some I forgotten summer squash in the crisper. All of this simmered while I heated up one of my last two jars of spaghetti sauce with the first of the summer basil and some oregano. I layered the whole thing with three kinds of cheese. It tasted great!

There were some other great things about this dinner. I not only used up some food that was still good but would soon not have been but I had my girls help with cooking. I think they take away some good lessons, not just in how to make lasagna but how to get creative in the kitchen. If we have to cook with our stored food, creativity will spell the difference between good and, well, I guess we have have to eat something.

I put up the last of the asparagus today and 2 more meals of sugar snaps. It is hard to get enough to freeze as the kids love them and munch them like candy.

I am heading to the pool. Bruce was working with the bees and didn’t wear his whole bee suit. He is one hurting puppy with probably twenty stings. Cold water and some benedryl will help but he will have a rough night.

Today’s post is both short and late. I was up all night with a sick kid, then spent all morning at the pediatrician’s office and at the hospital for lab work. I am struck sometimes by how blessed we are. Excellent health care is a given for my kids. I live in a state with universal health care. A lot of blogs talk about how entitlement programs are driving this economy into the ground. On an economic level, I can see what they mean but as the adoptive parent of two kids with significant special needs, I am mighty glad to be able to get my kids what they need. They are both terrific kids, happy and productive and a joy to  live with. Both would be either dead or in long-term care facilities without the care. It is impossible for me to be objective about it.

As I was exhausted by lunch time, I made a preparedness lunch of mac and cheese and 2 of the last 4 jars of our canned peaches. That is another preparedness argument. When time is short or I am not able to cook, it is lovely to be able to pull out something the kids can fix and have a meal on the table in minutes. The mac and cheese is too salty for everyday use but on occasion is acceptable. The canned peaches are simply fabulous. I put a little brandy in some of the jars. This makes an elegant dessert when served over vanilla ice cream.

I put up snap peas last night. I steam them for 3 minutes, chill in ice water, wipe dry and freeze on a cookie sheet. When frozen solid, I packed them in food saver bags. Now I can pour out what I need and put the rest back. I am considering switching entirely to mason jars for freezing. I got the food saver attachment that pulls the air out of the jars. It would mean practically no waste as you can reuse the canning lids. The problem is obvious. This is going to use up a serious amount of space. I need to buy a second freezer this year. If I switch to jars, I will have to get an upright which will use more energy but make getting out the jars a lot easier. I sure wish there were more no-brainer decisions for this sustainability stuff. Every thing has pros and cons. No wonder some people give up and opt for convenience.

We are taking a trip next week. My son’s in laws have invited us to visit at their summer place in Western Virginia. I have not seen my Ben and his dear wife, Maggie since last Christmas. Maggie’s family is Mormon and I am sure a lot of talk will be around food storage. We are not Mormon and while we disagree on many things both theologically and politically, we agree on food storage. These are very nice folks and we are looking forward to spending more time with them.

We had another wild food pot luck last night. Very few people showed up which was disappointing but I understand it. This was not a good wild edibles week. We had some chicken of the woods mushrooms and a couple of dishes made with bishop’s weed but there isn’t a lot else out in proportions large enough to make a meal. I hope that is the only reason so few showed up and not that they have moved on to a new project.

We have a really good core group of folks who are smart and dedicated to living more lightly on the planet as well as being prepared for emergencies. But, as in all groups, there will be those who show up, act all enthusiastic, then drift away, never really contributing new ideas or real work. For them, sustainable living is another form of entertainment. They talk the talk but walking the walk is work and change and sacrifice and not always fun. Sustainability means buying organic when commercial is cheaper. It means eating beans when you prefer steak. It means making mindful decisions about how you allocate resources and some of those decisions will be painful. It means delaying gratification, not for hours or days or weeks but for years. The trees I planted this year will not bear fruit until I am an old lady. I spent a couple of hours this weekend weeding and mulching the raspberries. It was hot, back breaking work but if I want to eat raspberry jam on my toast next year, the weeds must go now.

Now that I have groused for a bit, let me end with some happy talk. For me, happy talk is generally about food. Is wine food? Let’ s call it food for now. My elderberry wine is gorgeous. It is ruby red and clearing up beautifully. It is still working but by next week I should be able to rack it for the first time. Basil is another happy topic. I can stick my nose into a bunch a basil and feel that all is right with the world. And finally asparagus. I make a lunch on many afternoons of asparagus and butter. I won’t tire of it until my first cherry tomatoes ripen.

I watched the news this week and I can only hope you are all up to date on the important stuff going on in the world. In case you missed any of it, here’s the recap.

Madonna can adopt a child from Malawi: What I did not see was any mention of the 600,000 kids sitting in foster care in this country and the huge number of them that need permenant  homes. With the money spent on this fiasco, Madonna could have adopted a US child from the foster care system for free and used the savings to fund a health clinic in Appalachia or a community garden and food preservation center in Detroit.

Chastity Bono is getting a sex change operation: It’s her money but I can’t help but think of the thousands of elderly choosing between food, heat and medication and it seems wrong.

Celebrities were mistreated on the show, “I’m A Celebrity-Get Me Out Of Here”. I am not hearing much about our American journalists being held in a forced labor camp in North Korea. I can only hope that more is going on behind the scenes than we are aware of.

What does all of this have to do with preparedness and sustainability you might ask. Maybe nothing and I am just complaining but maybe a lot. Mental preparedness matters as much as physical preparedness both during a crisis and in long term sustainability. Stored food and supplies will get you only so far down the road, then you have to rely on your wits, work ethic and ingenuity to get by. I so fear that a nation that cares about any of the silly stories that pass for news in this country is in big trouble. I know I am preaching to the choir on this blog; we all have real lives to attend to, but I am thinking about our responsibility to our communities. The reason this is coming up for me at this time is probably because I am doing a September workshop on food preservation. When I called the County Extension Service for more canning information several months ago, I was told they had no one on staff who did that any longer because there was no interest. One of my goals for the coming months is to spread the food preservation word. I have gotten my adult children canning supplies this month. I give canned goods for gifts whenever I can(pun-pun) (alright- a boy graduating from high school might not be impressed with a jar of pickles but a new mother might appreciate a box of home canned food). I will bring preserved food to every pot luck and serve some at every dinner I prepare for friends and family. I will offer free classes to any low income group that will have me. I will do what I can to make canning news. I probably can’t compete with Madonna but I will make headlines in my own little world.

It is a beautiful day. I am going to find the time to sit on my porch swing and listen to the birds, look at my flowers and remember to be grateful for my blessings. It is my way of going to church every day.


PS I want to thank chicky-bit-run for the lovely post on her blog. It made my day.

I am back, although using a very old computer and really disliking it. It is really quite frightening just how quickly we become dependaent on a new technology.

It has been a very busy week around here. A frost kept us busy protecting plants from the cold, then highs in the 90’s the next day kept us busy protecting them from the heat. The temperature swings are hard, especially on the new plants. We have several new fruit and nut trees that need special care. It is one thing to lose a tomato set when I have 4 dozen more but to  lose one of my plum trees would be a tragedy. I think we can finally hope we have had our final frost. I am so anxious to get out my tender crops. The greenhouse needs some cleaning and I can’t do it until the starts are moved.

Our piggies showed up this week. They are still at the adorable stage. I am already hearing from friends who can’t believe we area able to eat an animal we have hand raised. I think it is far more respectful to raise an animal humanely, giving it plenty of food, water, space and attention, then quickly dispatch it and use all of it to nourish my family, use the manure to enrich my soil, then use the surplus vegetables to feed another meat animal than it is to buy factory raised meat that is mired in cruelty from beginning to end, pollutes water and soil rather than replenish it and fills our bodies with questionable additives. That is a closed end system that only enriches agribusiness pockets. The kids are surprisingly accepting of the notion that the pigs are food, not pets. We take good care of them but we keep the end in sight. They have a lot of questions about the process which gives us the opportunity to talk about some important issues.

I cleaned out the two freezers this week. I found some treasures there. Two bags of peas, one of asparagus and several bags of beans. Perfect timing because the asparagus is the only vegetable besides the salad greens producing just yet. I found a huge bag of elderberries I had forgotten about so I spent yesterday getting another batch of wine going. I am expecting an infestation of fruit flies soon. When that happens, the carboys will have to go in the cellar but for now, I like keeping an eye on things.

Our final big project has been the bees. We are up to 7  hives in the enclosure, two of them belonging our neighbor, Tom. They are ready to be split again. We are getting a bit crowded and may need to either enlarge the space or start selling excess bees. We are also getting a lot of beeswax. I am looking for some good recipes for lip balms and salves. I have also started saving any small containers. In addition to our personal use, there is real gift potential for this product. Speaking of gifts-I had a niece get married and our gift to her was a set of glass cookware. I wrapped the gift in brown paper from some bags I had and, instead of a ribbon, I used a sprig of lavender I had dried last summer. The gift looked lovely and I felt good about giving it. Lot’s of people commented on how unique it was. It just illustrates that living lightly on the planet needn’t be about sacrifice as much as the opportunities that abound for a rich, creative life that is not dependent upon great outlays of cash.

Preparedness wise, this is a fun time of the year. I try to follow the one in one out principle for my stores but things invariably get put off and then I have to do a big shop for medical supplies or toiletries or something. In spring, the preps are all about the garden, the orchard and food preservation equipment. There is a happy, abundant feel to those things.

Our big spend this month is a new, double flue chimney. We have a wood furnace in the basement but we don’t use it because we have an old chimney with a single flu. We are updating so we can heat entirely with wood if necessary. Given what is happening with the price of oil, I think this is a good spend. We plan to be energy self-sufficient as well as nearly food self sufficient. There is no better preparedness.