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.


My daughter, Karen, was home schooled for several years. During that time, she developed a recipe for granola. It gave her an opportunity to use fractions and  multiplication, learn about volume and temperature, work with time and money as well as discuss nutrition and marketing. She designed a label and sold her granola at a local farmer’s market. She developed a customer base who still call her with orders from time to time. She finished a big order last night and it got me thinking about how important a good granola recipe could be in an emergency. Granola contains protein, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and is calorie dense. It’s portable and once cooked, can be eaten out of hand.

Granola is a flexible recipe. If you don’t  have one ingredient, you can generally substitute something else. The only trick is to be sure you don’t burn it. Granola for storage should be drier than the following recipe which is quite moist. That doesn’t matter around here as we can go through a batch a week without a problem. Cooking it longer at a lower temperature would result in a drier, longer keeping cereal.

Mix together in a large bowl:

4 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking or instant)

1 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup walnuts, broken into pieces

1/2 cup wheat germ

1/2 cup brown sugar

Mix this well and set aside. In a two cup measure mix together:

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup honey

Pour this over the dry ingredients and mix well. Bake it a 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Let it cool and add:

1 cup dried cranberries

If you want a drier, cruchier granola, dry it in a dehydrator for 3 hours at 145 degrees.

We like a little vanilla and cinnamon in our granola but Karen doesn’t add that to what she sells because both are really expensive to buy organic. As she sells under the label of Karen’s Organics In The Hilltowns, she can only use organic ingredients in what she sells.

Karen isn’t going to get rich selling granola but that really isn’t the point. Learning a real skill as well as learning the importance of following through with a comittmant and customer service is. As the economy continues to deteriorate, the kinds of jobs kids used to be able to count on may not be there. Developing a home based business can be a good option.

Short post today. Bruce is off to a bee conference and I am going to hit some resale shops when I take Karen to deliver her granola. I am looking for a couple of metal coffee pots to  use in melting beeswax. I hope to learn how to use our wax to make soaps and balms.

Our sustainability group is planning another wild food feast next Wednesday, preceded by a wild food walk on my land. We have several experts in our group and I hope to get a lot of stuff identified as well as find the uses for many things I have located but don’t know how to use.

One of the cool things I have learned from this group is how much real knowledge is out in the world and by real I mean useful. Nearly every time we bring up a subject that one of us wants to know more about, someone in the group steps up with either the knowledge or access to someone with the knowledge. The few times we have hit a wall, there is always someone else who wants to learn with you. A lot like this blog actually.

My next area of interest is soap. I know how to make regular laundry soap but I want to learn how to make bar soap. I am afraid of working with lye but I am hoping it will be like the people afraid of working with a pressure canners. Once I do it a few times with someone who knows what they’re doing it will be fine. I am going to throw out the question at our next meeting and assume the Universe will provide, if not an expert, at least another seeker willing to fumble along with me. I would also like to learn more about using the wax I am harvesting from our hives. I just know I will find someone who can teach me how to make salves and balms and candles.

What this is all leading up to is our responsibility to a younger generation. I do not expect the world to go back to the way it was before this market crash. I believe we will be living smaller and more locally as energy supplies contract. It may not be a world where children have no worries beyond beating their last video game score or acquiring the latest pair of $200.00 dollar sneakers. It may be necessary for kid to contribute to the family economy with labor. I know I expect my girls to help during canning season. On a day to day basis, I expect them to be able to wash a load of clothes, change a diaper and make a simple meal. I expect them to eat what I prepare without grousing about it. We are doing our children no favors if we don’t teach them real skills. Gymnastics is not the kind of skill I am talking about.

I think most homeschoolers do this as a matter of course but the rest of us may need to be more mindful about it. Set aside a few minutes today and think about some important skills you can pass on to your children. I am going to teach my older girls how to make yogurt this week. They have seen me do it but never done the whole process themselves. I also want them to each make a loaf of bread a week. It will take a load off of me and give them a skill they will use for a lifetime.

Saving money is a big part of our ability to refrain from actual, full-time, gainful employment. I get a lot of questions about how we do it so I thought a post on the subject might be useful.

Let’s take coffee. I really like a good cup of coffee in the morning but it is an expensive indulgence. I could do away with it and save the $9.00 a pound I spend. That is strategy #1. I could switch to herbal tea that cost nothing as I grow the herbs and harvest our honey to sweeten it. Strategy #2 is to drink less coffee. Rather than 2 cups a day, I could have one cup of coffee and 1 cup of tea, cutting my expenditure in 1/2. #3 is reduce the amount of coffee I put in the coffee maker. I use to put 10 scoops of coffee in a 10 cup coffee maker. I cut down to 6 scoops of coffee to 8 cups of water. This is actually strategy # 4 as well as I almost always threw out the last cup of coffee left in the pot mid-day and  not wasting coffee saves money. I buy free-trad, organic, shade grown coffee. Strategy #5 would be to buy a cheaper brand but there are environmental and social reasons why that doesn’t work for me so, while I don’t do that with coffee, I would with something that didn’t matter.  

One of the surest ways to save money is to make things from scratch. Now coffee isn’t an option but I am saving considerable money by making my own laundry soap. I needed to clean out a plastic bin this week and tossed in a 1/4 cup of my laundry soap and found it worked just fine. I stated using 1/2 cup of the soap for a load and reduced that to 1/3 a cup for a large load of not-dirty clothes and found there was no real difference. I will reduce to 1/4 cup and see if that works. The goal is to use as little as possible to get the results I want.

There  are nearly always positive social and environmental results to using less, making do, doing without, using things up and thinking about how you spend money. I put less waste in our landfill, my kids learn valuable skills watching me build, grow, concoct and figure out how to do things. My life is more interesting than it would be if I spent my time working a job  in order to earn money in order to buy stuff in order to do stuff that I can do myself because I don’t go off to work every morning.

In a crisis, the best preparedness thing you have is your own skill set. Creativity will be more important in the long run than a lot of what you will spend money on.

It is not a good news day. Between the auto industry and AIG the markets are getting hammered. I had a notion of writing a piece about small pieces of good news like my tomatoes popping up in their little greenhouses and the taste of a just pulled carrot but I just can’t pull it off. These are real people losing jobs and homes and dreams. The feds are going to send in disaster recovery teams to communities that will be decimated by the restructuring of the auto industry but, in spite of their best intentions, you can’t create any job without the demand for that product or service and people who are out of work don’t demand more than the bare essentials.

Most of us are familiar with Kubler/Ross’s work on the stages of grief. Essentially, we all go through a similar series of emotions when we have a major life loss. First there is denial followed by bargaining, then depression, then anger and finally acceptance. I hope that, as a country, we get through these stages very quickly and move on to acceptance. We need to accept that a life of credit funded consumption is over. The feds can make all the promises they like, but ultimately, we are going to have to take care of ourselves. That means prioritizing your needs.

You need shelter. You don’t need fancy shelter. You need a roof over your head, even if you have to share it with family or friends. The best shelter will have space to grow some food and be something you can keep warm. It will be in a place where you have the support of people who care about you.

You need food. When things are desperate, you need to treat the acquisition of food like a job. You will probably need to use multiple food sources rather than simply heading off to the grocery store. That may mean buying clubs, co-ops, farmer’s markets, the woods behind your house and the planter on your deck.

You need to be warm enough. Fleece jackets and wool socks, closing off rooms that don’t absolutely need to be heated, getting used to sleeping under quilts in cold bedrooms could  all be necessary.

You need a reason to get up in the morning, a sense of purpose. Even if you don’t have a job to go to, get up and make a plan. Set up a neighborhood pot luck to discuss how you can work together to grow some food or work with your children. Start a scout troop of set up a 4-H program. It will take some doing to wean your kids from video games and structured programs and teach them to have fun and learn something without spending money.

Take care of you health. Take care of you marriage. Take care of your neighborhood. Take care of yourself.

Nothing is quite as important in a crisis as good information. Books are not a substitute for experience, I would not want to butcher my first chicken with nothing but a book for guidance, but a good library is invaluable for every prepared home.

You should set up a home library in as organized a fashion as possible. You need dedicated space and an easy system so you can lay your hands on what you need without hesitation. Most homes have space for a 4 shelf bookcase which should be plenty for preparedness resources. I keep my books organized by topic.

1. You need at least one good general preparedness book. Naturally, I want you to buy mine but I have to admit that there are other good ones out there with different focuses from short term preparedness as in a weather emergency to books to prepare you for TEOTWAWKI. When I got interested in preparedness, I bought every book I could find on the subject. In retrospect, I should have borrowed them from my library and not mad a purchase until I better knew my needs.

2. You need gardening books that are appropriate for your situation. There is no point in buying books to guide you through greenhouse gardening when you don’t have a greenhouse or one that assumes you have three acres of land in Tennessee when you actually live in a NYC apartment. I would suggest you borrow books like these for inspiration. Maybe you will decide to give up the NYC apartment and head for a smallholding in the country but until then, if your resources are limited,  put them into tangibles that work for you. Having said that, I spend money on books all the time.

3. You need a book or two on wild edibles. Again, a book is no substitute for a good mentor who knows foraging but you will want to own these.

4. Food preservation books are really important. At the very least, you want The Ball Blue Book but I would also suggest a book on dehydrating and one on fermentation.

6. General self-sufficient living books are a must-have. I love John Seymour’s books. They are so beautiful and give a lot of information on most subjects. My first book on self-sufficiency was Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living. My ratty copy is held together with duct tape. When I read that she had died, I wept. In my mind she was still a young mother with a pile of kids, selling books at county fairs. I could not believe she was in her seventies.

7. Storey’s Country Bulletins are dandy little 36 page booklets dedicated to one subject like growing raspberries or home-made cold remedies. They are inexpensive and perfect for beginners. There are so many to chose from. I have dozens and use them all the time.

8. I have lots of cookbooks.  Make sure you have some that guide you through cooking with stored food and cooking from scratch. Cookin’ With Home Storage by Peggy Layton is a good book for this.

9. Everybody needs a couple of good references for first aid. Where There Is No Doctor and Where There Is No Dentist are inexpensive and could save your life.

I would also suggest some books that will work as teaching tools if your kids are out of school for a while.

I have a lot of books. I forage wild mushrooms so I have several good guides. I also save seeds and have books on that. I have dozens of gardening books and books dedicated to subjects like beekeeping and raising poultry. I do buy new books but I get a lot a library and church sales.  Tag sales are terrific places to find books. If you tell your librarian what you are interested in, he or she will get them through interlibrary loan. I am part of a sustainability group and we started a lending library that allows us to trade and share books.

In the coming dark days, I fear we are going to have a glut of folks who can’t do anything useful. I am thinking about the abundance of graduates with MBAs, philosophy degrees, BA in liberal arts, woman’s studies, art history, and comparative literature. How many advertising executives, life coaches and motivational speakers are we going to need? I am not concerned that we have so many now (well I am actually but it isn’t relevant) but I wonder how many of them know how to do other things when following their bliss no longer keeps them fed. I think we need a new college system that teaches some useful things that will likely come in handy.

Do you know a cobbler? I am thinking that knowing how to make or repair shoes is a pretty rare talent and we will need at least one in every community. We will need barbers. We will not need hair stylists but actual barbers with the tools to provide shaves and haircuts when we might not be inclined to use disposable razors. Do you know  a winemaker, beer brewer, cheese maker, bread baker, or miller. Even if someone does some of these things as a hobby, would they have the tools and equipment to do it on a small commercial scale. I know we will need butchers. Weavers and seamstresses, basket makers and soap makers will all be in demand.

Random thoughts here. I know people who are looking at job loss and have had careers as furniture salesmen, social workers, and interior decorators. I sure hope they got some other skills along the way because those jobs might be gone for good.

If you have kids, start teaching now how to do things. Being the best on the block at some video game will not get them very far down the road.