Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A New Year - A New Life

It's been a little over a year since I started this blog. I have posted here sporadically, unsure of the direction I should take. My natural inclination is to talk about the things that I love - my family, the farm, the gardens. I did post about some of that, but I also made hesitant, self-conscious moves toward the political arena, an area that has always been foreign to me. Like many "farm-wives", I did not concern myself with politics, nor did the topic interest me in any way. I had children to raise, animals and gardens to tend and a family to care for. I just did not have time to "fool around" with politics.

Then about a year and a half ago, politics became a part of my life as I watched my country fall into an economic slump unlike anything we'd ever seen before. After much study, it finally became obvious to me - this country - and her people - is in big trouble, and not too many people are even really interested.

There is a huge percentage of our population that just does not want to think about how bad the economy really is, and thinking about what to do about it is even worse.

There is a term used on the internet - "sheeple". This is a derisive term used for people who just blindly plod along, following the leader (shepherd) without really having any idea of where they are being led. The implication is that "sheeple" are just too stupid to do anything different. Too stupid to ask questions, too stupid to consider change, too stupid to stop following the leader as he steers us toward a cliff from which we cannot retreat.

I would like to suggest that the majority of people in this country are neither stupid nor cowardly, but rather complacent. We have been taught for many years that we live in the best country in the world, that our leaders are good and honest people with the best intentions for our best, over all good.

Most of us know better than that now.

Yet, we still like to believe the news when it says that the economy is on an upswing, the recession is in recovery and things are going to be just peachy, right around the next quarter. I can't say with 100% certainty that this is not the case, but it really does not seem likely. My Bible does not tell me that the world will end in 2012, but it does tell me that there will come a time that sounds very much like the time in which we now live.

So how do we cope with this? How to we learn what is really coming and when? How can we prepare for a "time such as this"?

Many of us do not have the luxury of living in the country as we do, where a garden and everyday food production are just a part of every day life. Many of us just can't do the physical work we need to do to be self-sufficient the way we could in our younger years. How about us? Do we just stand by and wait for the country to fall to rack & ruin, the economy to swirl madly in a downward spiral, taking us with it?

So this blog will begin to change from a quaint little blog about country things into somewhat of a diary as one country woman, one grandmother, begins her journey toward understanding how to survive and thrive in the current and future economy, to try to learn which political pitfalls are present or presenting and to get through these next few years in comfort and prosperity - not just existing, but doing very nicely, thank you.

I hope you join me on this journey - it should certainly be interesting.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Brrrr! It's Getting Cold Outside!

Winter is coming, and here on the farm we are just starting to "winterize". We are very late in doing this - most of these things should have been done back in the late fall, about the time of the first real frost. Time and work gets away from us all sometimes, and we are just now starting to do the things that are critical.

A little over a year ago, we installed water lines from the house to the barn. Then last spring, we put in water lines from the house to the gardens, and while we did get most of them covered, there was still a hydrant and a little line left that was not completed. With the weather getting really cold in the last few days, we were reminded that we'd better get that done!

Cliff laying out water lines to the barn in November 2009
The new hydrant finally
 finished in November 2010!

Another thing we intend to look into is buying a vent free propane heater. These are great for when the electricity goes out during a storm. Even if you heat with a wood furnace, as we do, the fan that circulates the het through the house depends on electricity. So while the area where the stove sits will be warm with or without power, the rest of the hose stays cold. A vent free gas heater would solve that problem. It would also be nice to have one in the workshop and one in the pantry, where the water pipes come into the house - an area that has been known to freeze on really, really cold days.

What do you need to do to prepare for winter? Do you need a cover for your strawberries? Mulch on the garden? Insulation in some of the animal housing? Drain pipes or hoses? How about antifreeze in your vehicles? Oh, yes, and don't forget to store a few jugs of drinking water, candles and alternative forms of poers for the winter storms!

It's not to late to get settled in for the winter, but don't wait too much longer! You don't want to be one of those poor souls looking for water or heat during a blizzard! In Virginia, we started getting snow in early December last year, so be prepared!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Comfort Foods

On a trip to town this morning, I had time to wander around and casually look at the magazines on the racks. To me, magazines are indicative of what we are thinking – collectively – as a nation.

Better Homes & Gardens has no less that three special publications with the title “Comfort Foods” and even more that highlight “comfort foods”, slow cooking & casseroles. But the main theme is “comfort foods”. Same thing for Southern Living, Taste of Home and even those little Bisquick cookbooks on the racks b the checkouts.

Most of us know what comfort foods are. They are the foods we cuddle up with in a nice soft chair, wrapped in our blankies, preferably in from of the fire when we are fending off….yes, that’s the key – fending off. Fending off the flu, fending off exhaustion, fending off being stood up, fending off a spouse producing a pink slip. Comfort foods are the foods we enjoy because our lives have for some reason become miserable, we are sure no one really loves us, so we turn to the “friend” who is there day and night – the fridge.

According to the North American Center for the Study of Obesity, 65% of Americans are overweight or obese, 26% are actually clinically obese. Should current trends continue, 75% of adults in the United States are projected to be overweight and 41% obese by 2015. Approximately nine million children over six years of age are considered obese. And if that’s not bad enough, today I received an email from Royal Canin, stating that even our dogs are over-weight. 20% to 40% of dogs in the general population are obese, and nearly 50% of dogs between 5 and 10 years of age are either overweight or obese.

We are scared, alienated, and uncertain of our futures, of the future of our children, our society, our nation, our world. We desperately seek comfort, and many of us find that comfort in the familiarity of the foods we ate as children. Macaroni and cheese, chicken soup, Hershey’s bars – well, you get the picture.

What if we sought comfort from other sources? From our families? Our friends? Our God? How much stronger would we be as individuals, as families, as communities and as a nation if we sough solace and comfort from one another? Would the percentage of obesity drop? Would people start to learn to get along and look out for each other, instead of relying on the government to care for us? Would families become stronger, communities more safer and pleasant places to live?

Here's my plan...How 'bout we try to love each other, or at least be nice! We can build our pantries at the same time we are re-building our relationships with each other. Because face it, folks, we need the pantry to live, but we need each other, too. You know the phrase, "No man is an island." If you're here on this site, you likely have family of some kind that is important to you. Let them know that today.
Give them a hug. Tell them you love them.

It’s something to think about tonight over our macaroni and cheese, isn’t it?

More on Keeping A Pantry - Survival Mom

In the last post, I talked to you a little about keeping a pantry. Now, y'all know that we live in a very rural area...back in the holler, as we say. But not every one concerned with being prepared lives in the country. In the video below, I'd like to intriduce you to a wonderful suburban mom, Lisa, owner of a blog called "The Survival Mom" ( I think you'll enjoy Lisa's perspective and down-to-earth manner.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Organizing A Long-Term Storage Pantry, Part 1

There is hardly any sense in talking about caring for your family, gardening or having a small farm if you don't seriously plan to keep a pantry. It's not enough to put up a few jars of tomatoes in the autumn. You have to give thought to what you might need to get through several weeks or several months of living off the food you and your family have stored in your pantry and freezer. It's not about TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it), it's about looking to uncertanity of the future. Income can be lost by sickess or injury, natural disasters may come your way - Lord only knows what might happen.

Nobody wants to survive on MREs (meals ready to eat). We need to find ways to prepare to feed ourselves and our families using food and supplies that are already familiar to us. And we need to find ways to accomplish this in a fairly easy, economic manner.

One thing we found that works well for us are the big, plastic buckets that contain kitty litter. These white plastic buckets have handle, a snap on, tight lid and are square or rectangular, which makes for easy storage. Once you have them, you can store all kinds of items. They are great for holding small, easy to carry amounts of rabbit food, grain, dog foods and very handy to store small tools, fence parts, etc that we may otherwise loose around the farm. They also make great watering buckets for taller animals such as goats and big dogs. 

Now we do buy kitty litter, but we'd never be able to get enough buckets to use for storage at the rate we buy the stuff - it's very expensive! HOWEVER - we have friends who save their buckets for us and you can get them all the time FOR FREE at the county recycle center. They are, in fact, so plentiful that you shouldn't even think about getting one that is beat up or dirty. Get nice, clean ones that will stack neatly with their flat, snap on lids.

 We also use them in great quantity for dried goods. Bags of rice, flour, boxes of spaghetti - anything that needs to be stored in a dry place can be stored in these buckets. One bucket holds four 5# bags of flour, two 10# bags of sugar, etc. This not only makes it easy to store these items, but easy to buy for storage, too. It is much less daunting to pick up an extra bag of flour or sugar to add to your stash than to even think about needing 100# of flour for a year. Buy two 10# bags of sugar, put them in your clean bucket, make a label, put it on your inventory list, carry it out to the pantry and you're done. 

There will be many more posts along this line and eventually, I'll compile them into an ebook which I'll make available through this blog. But right now, I just want to stress the urgency
of starting a pantry. It's not as hard as you might think and you'll be glad that you did.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday! You wouldn't believe what my sweet husband did! He managed to round up not only all the kids, but a cake and my favorite ice cream and pull it all together for a surprise party! I am so impressed!

What a wonderful surprise! No other gift could be as precious! I am so blessed! Thank you, Cliff - thank you, Family! Love you all! 

From left to right: Daughter Laura, Daughter-In-Love Christy, Son Will, Me, Daughter Meredith, Grand-daughter Sarah (in the pink boots), Daughter Becca and Grand-Daughter Abrianna

Thursday, January 7, 2010

There's nothing like a nice, cozy fire!

Yes, indeed, we are having winter. It has been years since we have had so much snow in the Shenandoah Valley. The kids here actually only wear hats and mittens once or twice a winter, so when the first real blizzard came, everyone was in a panic for hats, mittens & boots! Everyone seems outfitted now, since this is the 3rd storm we've had since Dec. 18th, 2009. We are starting to call them "weekend storms", since they seem to come on Thursday and Friday!

A friend is coming from Richmond to visit us in the mountains tomorrow and I wanted to be sure to remind him to prepare for mountain weather. And you, too, should be prepared for bad weather, wherever you are. Pack a couple of warm blankets, a first aid kit, drinks, food & a warm change of clothes in your car and keep it in the passenger area - not the trunk - if you possible can. (What if you couldn't get in the trunk for some reason?) Think about where you are going, what you may encounter between here and there and plan for it. You absolutely cannot depend on someone rescuing you if there is an emergency. Oh, yes, probably someone will come along eventually, but you can get very cold and hungry waiting.  Don't take any chances with your health or safety - be prepared!