Saturday, September 25, 2010

Trying to Work Smart

Today we decided to invest some sweat equity in the place, cleaning up the downed pine trees along the driveway.  Ten 60-foot pines topped at about 20 feet off the ground makes for a lot of brush and logs.  Yeoldfurt used the tow chain and the tractor to move the big logs and I used the little truck to carry the cut logs and smaller limbs.  We each carried several loads out to the big burn pile at the back pasture.   When I was on my way out with my third load, I noticed Yeoldfurt was in the process of loading up a big round bale.  I know the drill, so I put my truck in park and went to open gates for him to get the fresh bale out for the horses.  These bales are at least 1100 pounds and you have to baby the tractor on the incline to keep it from rearing under the weight.  After he dropped it where he wanted it, he suggested I go drop my second load and then come back to the patio for a well-earned break.  We had been at the log-moving exercise for a little over an hour and were about halfway finished with the job. There was a time when we could both work all day at a job like this.  But we're not spring chickens anymore.  These days we try to pace ourselves a little.  Physically, we still work harder than a lot of folks, simply because of our chosen lifestyle.  But we like to think we work smarter these days.

I never judge whether I succeeded in 'working smart' that day until after the job is done and I have only two basic criteria for making that decision.  The first thing I ask myself is did anyone get hurt?  Little bandaid boo-boos don't count ...but if you hurt yourself bad enough to make you stop working for the day, or if you need to seek medical attention for the injury, or if you have physical limitations for a day or longer after the injury failed.  Case in point... I tore ligaments in my ankle about ten years ago because I got in a hurry and didn't watch what I was doing.  I've paid the price for that injury nearly daily ever since, some days worse than others.  Dumb, really dumb, on my part but what's done is done.  The second thing I ask myself is did any tools or equipment get damaged or destroyed?  Hand tools, power tools, tractors and vehicles ...even straps and chains have thresholds of weight and torque too.  As much as you'd like to get the job done and over with, it never pays in the long run to overload and damage (or destroy) your equipment in the process.

If I have to say 'yes' to either of those two questions, I did not work smart.  If my injury or my equipment issues are minor, I count myself lucky and resolve to be smarter with the next project.  If my injury or equipment issues are serious, I have no one to blame but myself.  I really hate when that happens!

Today, I am happy to say we both worked smart.  Neither of us got hurt and none of the tools or equipment were damaged.   We cleared enough of the logs to regain full use of our driveway and what's still left is small enough to be moved with just the little truck.  I'll accomplish that in one or two loads a day over the next week or so.  It's coming to the time of year when we need to fertilize and seed the pasture with winter rye but before we do that, the pasture needs to be mowed one last time.  So Yeoldfurt put the shredder on the tractor and we'll tackle the mowing over the next week or ten days also. We just need to get it done before the next round bale goes out because that would mean unhitching the shredder and putting the hay spear back on so we can move a bale.  Hitching and unhitching that shredder is a major pain, so we need to shred as soon as possible now that it's hitched up. 

While I was moving the brush and reflecting on how much quicker I wear out on physical labor these days, this song from Toby Keith was running through my head.  I can honestly say I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm still as good once as I ever was. 

By noon, we had moved half the brush and logs, put out a new round bale, got the shredder hitched to the tractor and gotten a good start on the weekend laundry.  Not bad for half a day's work.  So now we're heading into town to run some errands.  Yeoldfurt wants to treat me to dinner tonight and I'm hoping he'll let me treat him to a movie if there's anything worthwhile playing at the theater. 


The Never Done Farm: Up to our elbows in....

Kelle at The Never Done Farm posted a great recipe today for making jams, jellies and fruit butters with no added pectin.  Fruit is the source of pectin but some fruits have more than others.  Apples are particularly high in pectin and are the most common source of commercially prepared pectin.  The recipe works best with fruits that are naturally high in pectin and the only thing added is honey.  How simple is that?!?  Since honey is also much better for you than refined sugar, I think this is a great recipe.

Check out Kelle's post below.   

The Never Done Farm: Up to our elbows in....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What I Hope I've Learned

We've all seen and shared sentiments that say we should always kiss our loved ones goodbye because we never know if we will see them again.  The basic philosophy being that we will not have to regret not making sure the people who are important to us know how we feel about them.  I agree with the philosophy but I've always only thought of it from the perspective of the person who is left behind ...I've never considered it from the perspective of the person that's passed on. 

When our friend, Tony Cassise, of Did It My Way passed away recently, the outpouring of sadness and loss felt by his friends made me realize that Tony not only did it his way ...he did it extremely well.  He lived his life in a way that should be an example to all of us.  He was not afraid to get righteously angry when the circumstances called for it.  But he was just as quick to be kind and helpful when he saw an opportunity.  A good example of both aspects of his character can be found in his April 2009 post, A Friend in Need.  He did followup posts on the subject and, in each case, he went over and above what most of us would do for one another in similar circumstances.  That was what kind of man he was. 

Judging from the memorial website that his family did for him, I would say Tony imparted his values and strength of character to his children.   That's his legacy.  Most people won't remember their loved ones for what things they accumulated or what accomplishments they had.  They will remember them for who they were ...for how they were with other people, in both happy circumstances and not so happy circumstances.

We all have bad days.  We all fall short of even our own expectations some days.  But if we can remember that every day might be our last day, maybe we would be kinder to each other, quicker to offer encouragement or assistance, less prone to judge and condemn.  That's the lesson I hope I've learned from Tony Cassise.   

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Unsolicited Blessings

From the outside looking in, the last year and a half has had more downs than ups for us.  We seemed  to have had one personal tragedy or crisis after another for about three months in a row.  We finally got to the point we were afraid to look up to see what might happen next.  But looking back on it now, I can more clearly see the blessings scattered throughout the hardest times.  Some of the blessings were small ...a smile, a kind word, a bounty from the garden, our first eggs from the hens.  Some of the blessings were huge, not necessarily in size but in timing ...saving us at the last minute from yet another major setback.  At the time, it felt like a roller coaster ride gone out of control.  In retrospect though, all of the blessings were perfectly timed, perfectly spaced for our needs ...not necessarily our wants, but our needs.  God does not promise us a smooth ride or no hard times in this life.  He just promises to be with us while we go through them.

Now that times are finally getting better for us, our primary focus is to repay the kindnesses that were extended to us.  As Yeoldfurt mentioned in his post this morning, we will be using APN's  "Pay It Forward Bucks" to accomplish that.  Our gratitude toward those who helped us when we were so down is heartfelt and we hope that those we pass the 'bucks' on to will be equally blessed with our gift.  I believe though that their greatest blessing will come when their own situation allows them to pay it forward themselves.  It truly is better to give than to receive.   

Money is easy to repay because it's measurable and tangible.  But there were other kindnesses, intangible things that were equally valued and appreciated when we were struggling.  Gifts as simple as a few kind words left in a comment, encouraging words in comments or email, bits of knowledge and wisdom that were relevant to our struggles at the time, even long distance tech support in the wee hours of the morning know who you are!  All of those things were equally responsible for helping us through the hard times and were so appreciated.  Those will be paid forward as well at every opportunity.  I hope to repay them with interest because I believe we all need to look for ways to help and encourage each other ...don't wait for a need to be mentioned before you do what you can to help someone.  Your efforts won't always be appreciated or acknowledged.  Sometimes, your efforts might even be completely misunderstood and unappreciated.  But that's not the point, is it?  Your blessing is in the giving so it doesn't matter if the recipient has the reaction you expect or desire.  

Go scatter some unsolicited blessings of your own today and see if it doesn't bless you many times over in return.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

What I've Been Up To

I've been absent for a few days 
but with a very good reason.  
I had to rush over to San Antonio last Saturday 
for the birth of my new granddaughter, 
Isabelle Mckayla.

The drive is a little over two hours from where we live 
to my daughter's house, but it took me
three hours on Saturday because I had to find 
the hospital and then find a parking space.

I made it in plenty of time though.  
My daughter was in early labor when I got there.
Her sweet husband was by her side and his parents 
and I were close by in an adjacent waiting area.

 The nurses checked my daughter 
about 10:30pm and said she still
had a ways to go but they would start 
preparations to make her more comfortable.  
Five minutes later, us parents were rushed out 
of the room and the doctor and nurses took over. 
Isabelle McKayla was born
less than ten minutes later.

Great things come in small packages.
She weighed only 5 lbs 1 oz when she was born.
She had came into this world almost before 
the delivery team was ready.  
There was no time for any of the usual steps 
taken for the comfort of the mother.
But my daughter and my little granddaughter 
are both fine and that's all that matters.  

I was able to spend five wonderful days 
with them before coming back home.
A grandma's delight!
Yeoldfurt had only been at his new job
for a few weeks, so he wasn't
able to go with me when Isabelle was born.
But we'll be going back in two weeks
so Isabelle can meet her Grampa.
He is already on the prowl for a pink cricket for her 
and she's not even out of preemie clothes yet!

This is my daughter and son-in-law's 
first child but you would never know it 
by the way they are handling everything.
They are wonderful with the baby 
and with each other.
They're a beautiful little family! 

I'll have little Isabelle to myself for a whole week 
in October when my daughter goes back to work.
Until then, I'll have to make do with photographs
and phone conversations with my daughter. 

Now I know we all think our babies
and grandbabies are the cutest!
A friend of mine tactfully pointed out to me that
"Grandmothers are never biased, 
and any sane person knows to agree with them 
for at least the first week or so."
But agree with me or not, this is the 
cutest thing I've seen in a very long time!


Monday, September 6, 2010

My Labor Day

I was off today and Yeoldfurt was not, so I just hung out with the critters.  First things first, I had a saddle date with my horse.  Possibly more fun for me than for her, though she likes the attention.  But for her, it's really all about the treats she knows are coming AFTER the ride.

"Enough with the camera already ...go get my cookies!"

I couldn't play the whole day, so after my ride, I got cleaned up and went into town to look for bargains.  I found a few at the dollar store and a few more at Wally World.  It was a worthwhile run.  The only thing I came home with that was NOT on the prep list was this cute bib for $2 at the dollar store.  

My new little granddaughter is due any day.  This will be her first Halloween and might be the only Halloween that she's young enough for a bib this small I just couldn't resist.  It's a grandma thing!  

Realizing that in some circles shopping falls under the category of play rather than work, I decided to do some yard clean up after I got home.  We lost several big trees in the drought last year.  This one is in the backyard and is slowly shedding it's bark and smaller limbs.  I'm hoping when it finally comes down, it at least misses the house.   
I've been trying to help it along by pulling the lower branches down, using the thicker ones to whack the ones I can't reach to encourage them to come on down.  It's worked but now I can't reach any more.   So Mother Nature or Yeoldfurt's chainsaw will have to finish the job.

I did gather a good wheelbarrow load for the burn pile though.

These tall pine trees along the driveway succumbed to the drought too.  There are ten of them altogether, probably 60 to 70 feet tall and dead as doornails. 
The power company is making it's rounds over the next couple of weeks to trim trees that threaten the powerlines.  We are hoping to convince them to at least top these trees.  If they fall, they will take out the powerline ...and the fence ...and possibly the garage or a vehicle.  *sigh

People always say cats are curious but I'm tellin' you, I can't go anywhere without these little feather butts underfoot. 
Left to right, they are Reba, Red and Dora.  As you can see, one of them seems a little distracted.  That's Dora the Explorer, always looking for the next adventure.

 Reba and Red are seldom distracted by adventure.  
They are more interested in food, usually each other's. 

While I was out, I did a walk around of the house and rescued these poor bulbs.  They were laying on top of the dirt, unearthed no doubt by the hens who are always in search of crawly things to eat. 
I know from the years we lived here before we had hens, that these bulbs will produce beautiful flowers in the spring.  So I rescued them, will keep them safe until late fall and then replant them in such a way they will be safe from the hens.  

I tried talking to the hensitter but she says her job description only says to keep the hens safe.  
She does that.

She insists that if I also expect her to control them, we need to renegotiate her contract. 

After all the chores were done and the animals bedded down, I took this picture of the western sky.  This is the view from our patio where Yeoldfurt and I like to spend a few minutes at the end of the day.  
What better way to wrap up a great day than to spend a few minutes appreciating a gorgeous sunset?  The only thing that would have made this day better would be if Yeoldfurt had been home to enjoy it with me.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Balanced Prepping

You can have years of food stored up and die within a few days if you don't also have clean, drinkable water.  If you have access to good water, you will ultimately starve to death without food ...but it will take much longer.  So which is more important, food or water?  They both are.  One is just a band-aid without the other.

The initial obvious challenge to prepping is finding the financial resources to accumulate more than you actually need right now.  Definitely a challenge in this depressed economy.  The next obvious challenge is working out a storage and rotation system for your stored goods so you don't waste anything.  But possibly the biggest challenge is finding a balance in the things that you store.  Obviously, we need food to survive.  Most of us want/need firearms and ammunition both for hunting and self-defense and quite a few other tools such as mills, dehydrators and hand tools that would allow us to be self-sufficient in a shtf situation.  One thing many people recognize but neglect to store, however, is water.  Water is essential to all life ...plant or animal.  It doesn't take a shtf situation to drive that point home either.  A few days of  interrupted power and essential services will convince you pretty quickly of the value of good, clean water. 

In spite of personal challenges, we have made some serious headway in our food storage.  Our personal situation is improving so we will, hopefully, be able to do a lot more in that regard.  But now I want to give some serious thought to long-term water storage as well.

We are fortunate to live out in the country and have two stock tanks on our land.  The larger one is a catch pond, meaning it is not spring-fed but is situated so that it catches run-off when it rains.  Except during prolonged drought situations like last year, it always has some water in it.  The smaller pond ...really small ...maybe 30 x 40-foot surface area when it's full ...seems to be spring-fed as it has never gone completely dry.  Our neighbor whose family has lived here for generations says his dad had a shallow well for watering his garden just across the fence from that smaller pond.  It is possible that the water from that old well is feeding the pond.

We are members of a rural water company here that provides our household water.  It's cheap, usually less than $30/month, though it's always smart to have a backup water resource.  But it would take a lot to make either of our ponds a safe source of drinking water.  The water in those ponds would best be described as green slime-aid.  That quality must somehow enhance it's appeal to the horses because, although we keep a 100-gallon trough of clean water available for the horses 24/7, they seem to prefer drinking from the ponds.

I have started researching water storage and find it a little frustrating that the recommended amount per person per year varies so much.  Most sites claim that a person needs a minimum of one-half to one gallon of water per day just to stay hydrated.  Let's err on the side of abundance and say one gallon per person per day for drinking. More than that will be needed though because some water is required for cooking and cleaning up after we cook and, even in a shtf situation, we will want to take care of at least minimal personal hygiene needs.  So, for simplicity sake, I will use a goal of 1000 gallons per person per year ...just under three gallons per person per day.   Of course, in a shtf situation, water conservation will be taken to a whole new standard.  Or maybe it would be more accurate to say an 'old standard' the water conservation practices of a few centuries ago would put even the most frugal among us to shame. 

The old saying 'don't throw out the baby with the bath water' has historical roots.  Centuries before indoor plumbing was the norm, the concept of bathing on a regular basis was slightly different than it is today.  Most of us think nothing of bathing daily and even more than once in a day if the need arises.  But in the olden days, baths were a luxury reserved for warmer weather and special occasions.  It is why weddings in June were so popular, because it was almost always warm enough by June for everyone to have a bath!  But even aside from less frequent bathing, bathwater was shared.  It had to be hauled from it's source ...river, well, pond, whatever the source was ...and in large enough quantities to fill a small tub.  Once indoors, it had to be heated and since it would cool down quickly, being the first one in the tub was a privilege usually reserved for the man of the house.  I think generally the mother followed her husband in the bath line and then the children with the oldest going first.  When the last member of the family had bathed, the baby being the youngest ...the tub of water had to be hauled outside and dumped.  By the time several had bathed in succession, the water was presumably a bit murky with soap and whatever had been washed off the previous bathers ...hence the saying 'don't throw out the baby with the bath water!'  All of this to make a point that if we are in a situation that requires us to live off of our stores, we would be wise to ration them very carefully. 

The way I look at it, water supply is a three-sided problem.  We need a source, preferably several sources and a way to safely store what we have and a yardstick with which to determine proper rationing.  The sources will vary for everyone, depending on their geographical and societal location.  But nearly everyone in this country these days has access to municipal water or a private well.  So start thinking about ways to store up for tomorrow what you have such ready access to today.  Depending on climate, all of us have access to a significant amount of rainwater as well.  Start looking at rainwater collection and purification methods.  They don't have to be fancy or be a high dollar investment to be functional.  Think outside of the box.  As far as guidelines for how much to store and how much to allot per person in a shtf situation, I think the Mormons are ahead of us.  They are generally very willing to share what they know, even offering workshops and seminars in some areas on this and similar subjects.  Sure, they would be happy to share their beliefs and convictions with you too.  But, in my experience, they don't push anything except the information you came to them to learn.  So look around your area and learn what you can from them. 

Back to my current premise that 1000 gallons per year per person is a reasonable assumption, how many month's supply is a reasonable amount to store?  Most of the websites I've researched so far recommend a three to six month supply.  How much you decide to store will depend on several factors, one of the most important of which is the probability of your being able to replenish what you use in a shtf situation.  If you live in a remote area of the desert, you might want/need to store more than if you live in a rural area with access to lakes, ponds or streams.  Evaluate your situation and plan accordingly.

For us, I think a three month supply ...approximately 500 gallons is both feasible and reasonable.  We are blessed to have a secure cool storage area in the form of a concrete slab, well-insulated, air-conditioned shed.  This is the same shed we are revamping for our food storage.  It just makes practical sense to store the water in the same area.  Another recent development in our favor is that Yeoldfurt's new employer is a commercial bakery that literally discards 55-gallon drums on a regular basis.  These drums are food-grade plastic with two-inch fill drains in one end and they are free for the asking to the employees.  What a perk!  To store 500 gallons, we would need ten drums.  The plan at this point is to set the drums on their sides on a low workbench in the shop.  Setting them up on the bench makes them easier to access to draw from or fill.  I have an idea for 'plumbing' them together in sequence too so that we would fill from the drum on one end and draw from the drum at the other end.  Not having measured anything yet, I'm estimating the bench will hold at least six drums and we would have four additional drums stacked upright along the wall for additional storage.  These ten drums, for as long as we could keep them full, would be our sole source for drinking and cooking water and a supplemental source for wash water. 

Rainwater will hopefully supply our pets and gardening needs and, hopefully, our washing needs as well.  This area has been in some stage of drought for the past five years at least, last year being the worst of the five.  But in a 'normal' rainfall year, a good collection system should be sufficient to take care of the vegetable garden and the pets.  We have one dog which, especially in a shtf situation, will be pretty important to our preps and security so we need to plan for her needs.  There are two outside cats that do a decent job of keeping the small vermin in check so we will keep them watered if we can too.  Rainwater should be sufficient for all that.   If we are able to accumulate and store enough rainwater, it will be our primary source for wash water ...selves and laundry.  The horses though are a whole 'nother problem.

Our six horses are confined to a small paddock about 12 hours out of the day with free access to hay and water.  In the winter, they only drink about 25 gallons from the trough in a 12-hour period.  In the hotter months, they drink 50-75 gallons in the same time period.  In a shtf situation, we may have to amend our routine so they are confined to the paddock with the small pond overnight ...all the green slime-aid they can drink but filling a 100-gallon trough on a daily basis would be a practical impossibility and downright foolhardy if we were filling it from our stores.

What's your water situation?   

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