Thursday, November 8, 2012

Preparing For Winter

I love summer. However, I live in a climate that is not warm all year. The winters are cold. Time to get ready!

There is a big storm predicted for tomorrow, and the high temperature predicted for this weekend is in the mid-thirties. Brrrrrrr!!!

I harvested the last of the cabbages tonight, and they'll be made into some kind of traditionally fermented sauerkraut, loaded with probiotics & keeping the vitamin C intact. (It also tastes delicious!)

I have also started preparing for winter by buying a little yarn & fabric. I love to be creative in the winter, which is to say that creative projects help keep me from going stark raving mad in the cold & dark winter months. Well, creative projects and a good vitamin D3 supplement (or plenty of pork fat - lard & bacon grease are good sources of vitamin D3). Fermented cod liver oil is another small source of D3. I have a few  bottles of that, and I bought a vitamin D3 supplement to go with the two quart jars of bacon grease I have in the fridge.

Bring on the winter! Just let me buy some good gloves first. ;)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Time to Prepare...For Real!

We got three emergencies in a week. Two were picked out of our jar, and one was real. We've learned a lot. I have new ideas. Not being able to go to the grocery store for a week wasn't a big problem as far as having enough to eat. I knew we would be fine. I put my kefir grains into the fridge to rest on the first day so they wouldn't die if we ran out of milk. There were a couple of things we like to eat that we were low on, which made me determined to have more of certain things on hand all the time. The kiddo loved being bedridden for three days because he got fed & got to basically vacation while I tried to do his chores and mine along with my regular job. We both actually got sick for a day, which was more of a glitch than a disaster. The real problem is this: what if a real emergency happens while we're busy staying in bed sick, avoiding shopping, living without electricity, etc.? I have decided to end or indefinitely stall the preparedness game because it's hard to buy storage food when you "can't" go to the grocery store, it's hard to get caught up on laundry or prepare meals to store in the freezer when you're staying in bed "sick," etc. I think I'll just keep preparing for real life. Let me know if you're interested in continuing to read about things I do to be prepared. :)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Harvest & Winter Food

When I was a child, I read the "Little House on the Prairie" series. It was fun. Now, I read those books to learn from the experiences of those wonderful, hard-working, self-reliant people. One of my favorite things to read about was how the Ingalls family prepared to have food through the winter. I remember how wonderful it sounded, even when I was young, to read about their little house being stuffed with good food for the winter. The attic was full of pumpkins & other squashes, braided onions, dried red peppers...the pantry had cheeses and barrels of salted fish...they stored the grain that they grew...they had pork & smoked sounded delicious!

I am far from that kind of preparedness or self-reliance. I've lived my whole life in close proximity to a grocery store and with no knowledge of how to make salted fish, hunt, grow grain, make headcheese...

I WAS raised, however, with a better start toward self-reliance than a lot of people my age. We always had a garden, and a storage area that usually contained at least one extra of whatever shelf-stable food items our family ate. I was taught how to cook and how to preserve the harvest by making jam & bottling fruit & vegetables. I learned how to take care of chickens & milk goats. I learned how to fish, and I learned how to clean the fish. My dad kept bees part of the time, although I was never involved in caring for them.

I started my own garden for the first time four or five years ago. I was scared. I'm not sure why I was scared of it, but I remember staring at the dirt & staring at the little tomato plants I had bought at the local nursery...and I had no idea what to do. Questions flooded my mind: How deep should I plant them, how careful did I need to be with the fragile little roots & stems, and what else did I not know about gardening? Fortunately for me (and for the tomato plants), I was using my dad's garden. He saw me sitting there staring, and when I told him I didn't know what to do, he came over & saved me. He scooped out some dirt with a hand trowel, plopped the tomato plant in the hole, and shoved the dirt around the stem. No careful measuring, no gentle handling of those roots that had seemed so fragile just moments before...he just stuck the plant in the ground & went on to the next one. By the third tomato plant, I laughed at myself for being so afraid of the garden. I happily took over planting, filled with a sudden freeing realization that I could just plant things.

That early experience with gardening led to a love for the soil, the plants, and the miracle of life & growth. I absolutely LOVE being a part of the growing of our food. I have chickens now, too, and it is a true joy to go out to the back yard & find dinner.

I haven't bottled fruit or vegetables for years because it didn't seem worth the effort when I figured the pressure cooking process was destroying the nutrients I had worked so hard for. The past few years, my gardening efforts have been focused on things I can use during the spring, summer & early fall. The exception is potatoes, because they grow & store easily. This year, I set a goal to become more self-reliant by gardening with winter in mind. I didn't decide to start bottling vegetables again; I decided to grow more of the things that didn't need to be bottled. I grew butternut squash & potatoes to store for the winter. We have an added-on room that isn't heated, so it functions as a root cellar if the food is covered to keep the light out. The squash & potatoes will be there for months...unless we eat them all before that. ;) I also grew cabbages to make traditionally fermented sauerkraut. Traditional sauerkraut doesn't need to be cooked. It's full of probiotics. I even read somewhere that fermenting the cabbage actually INCREASES its vitamin C content. I made Mexican Sauerkraut with a friend, using the recipe in Nourishing Traditions. It is delicious! I put some on my scrambled eggs & felt happily satisfied eating a delicious meal that came from the back yard.

Friday, October 5, 2012

What Am I Doing Here?

I want to be prepared for anything.

You know, really prepared. I want to be prepared to be just fine in case of things like earthquakes, broken cars, well as fun unexpected things like spontaneous camping trips or company coming from out of town. I'm not there yet (I'm not even close, I'm sure!), but I decided that one way to make better preparations is to start by finding out exactly how I'm NOT prepared. would I know if I am prepared when I haven't actually experienced a house fire, days-long power outages, stolen credit cards, earthquakes, etc.?

Learning is easiest if it's fun...I think...well, at least it's fun! :) So...I decided to play a game.

I posted this to my family & friends on facebook:

"I want to play an emergency preparedness practice game, and I want you to help me. :) I'm going to make a list of possible emergencies or unexpected events, and I'll put them in a jar. I want my family & friends to help me find out how ready I'd be for the real thing. Starting this Friday (Oct. 5th), I want you to call me randomly (Friday, next week, next month, five years from doesn't matter) and tell me to draw a paper from my emergency jar, and I will live as though it really happened, except that I will still go to work even if it says there is no electricity, etc. Thanks in advance for playing!"

Afterward, I realized that waiting two days would just give me artificial time to prepare in ways I hadn't previously considered, and I really just needed time to get the jar ready. I told people to start immediately.

My son (10 years old) & I came up with various emergencies or unexpected circumstances, and each one is now on a slip of paper, rolled up & put into a jar.

I'll write about each "emergency" after we have gone through it. That way, you won't know if we're already experiencing a crisis when you decide to call & tell me to pick out a new one. Life doesn't always come one emergency at a time, you know. :)

I'll write here about preparations I've made in the past, new preparations I decide to make along the journey, and some of our thoughts & feelings as we learn by doing.

Come along! It's good to travel with friends. :)