Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Blog, MY Rules

Those words were directed at me recently and while I admit, I was a little put off by it at first ...I'm starting to warm up to the idea. 

It all began when I decided to read down the list on Yeoldfurt's blogroll.  When I read posts, I like to read the comments too because sometimes other people see a different angle that I might have missed.  I read the lady's post and then moved on to the comments.  The post was about some recent hardships in her family such as her stepdad getting laid off recently.  That's a tough break.  Since Yeoldfurt has been out of work for nearly 10 months, I can certainly relate.

The first comment was sympathetic and encouraging. 

The second comment began the same way but then launched into "It just seems like you were so hoping that 2010 would bring relief and here we are so soon into and you are again back in it. Things will look up - it can't keep going downhill from the backlash of the Bush years - it has to improve eventually and I would like to think sooner than later."

There was much more to the second comment.  The words quoted above were neatly tucked into the middle of several less caustic paragraphs.  But boy did they stick in my craw.  I decided to leave a comment of my own ...first a word of encouragement to the lady whose stepdad was laid off and second to address the 'backlash from the Bush years' comment already posted. 

In my comment, I said to the blog owner, "I'm sorry things are rough and getting rougher. Are your folks of a prepper mindset as well?

And, directed at the previous commentor, I added "I just have to ask about your 'backlash from the Bush years' comment. Surely you don't blame this crash and burn economy all on Bush??? Surely not. Bush did some things I didn't like but at what point does Obama get to own the (sad) state of affairs in this country? The man has been in office for a year already. Forgive me if I misinterpreted your 'backlash' comment."  

Now I thought at the time that I was being pretty darn polite and diplomatic.  If I had said what I was thinking, the fur would have been flying.  But I guess both of us got put in our place when the blog owner said "Now now, let's stay away from the politics please. Unless I bring it up, my blog, my rules. I have a bunch of readers from all different walks of life. Thank you for understanding."

I think the tone set by starting off with 'Now, now...' is what rubbed me wrong if we were in grade school and caught arguing on the playground.  But after mulling it over for a bit, I decided that 'my blog, my rules' must certainly be universal.  So from now on I'll keep my opinions (especially the political ones) on my own blog and limit my comments (and probably my reading) to like-minded bloggers.   But I don't mind if my readers choose to disagree with me or even with each other on my blog.  I don't want to have my opinions censored and I don't want my readers to feel like they can't say what they think.  So keep it clean,  keep it polite, but for heaven's sake KEEP IT REAL ...say what you think!

With that in mind, I'd just like to ask ... at what point does Obama get to own the (sad) state of affairs in this country? The man has been in office for a year already!!

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Defining "Real"

How often do you hear someone say, "A real woman would never do that!"  Or, "A real woman would never say that!"  That's what feminazism has done for us, ladies.  Do you want to be defined, or worse limited, by a standard set by someone else?   

I was one of three girls in family, and I was the only tomboy in the bunch. While my two sisters, one older and one younger, were all about dolls and playing house, I was playing with Legos and Erector sets and Tonka toys. For my third birthday I requested a red dragline. How in the world I knew about draglines at the age, I don't know. But I knew and I wanted one ...a red one. My mother did her best to talk to me into a nice 'dolly' or maybe a tea set of my own, but I wanted a red dragline. To my mother's credit she got me one.

We moved a lot when I was growing up and it always seemed to be that there were other little girls in the neighborhood who were my sisters' ages but only boys that were my age. While my sisters went to sleep overs and did girly things, I was playing backyard baseball and wrestling with the boys. I would even scrap with the boys from time to time because one of them would get out of line and call me Rocky. My given name was Roxanna and though I chose to play boy games with boys, I took offense to being called what I considered a BOY name. It never took more than one good scrap to set all the boys straight on that subject. I don't know if I came out on top because I was really capable of holding my own with the boys or because they held back from actually hitting a girl. But I won myself a reputation of one not to mess with among the neighborhood boys.

When I got to junior high, things changed. Other girls gave me a lot of grief for not being all dainty and interested in girly-girl things like they were. I ignored them for the most part and went through school on my own agenda. I joined the Ag class in high school, became a member of FFA (Future Farmers of America) which required me to ride a bus at noon from my own school to one out in the country that offered the Ag classes. Some of the other girls on the bus were riding because they were in office work or marketing co-ops which were also only offered at the other school. The first week of school that year, several of the girls starting chiding me about my choice to be in Ag. "Why would you do THAT" they'd ask, giggling with each other. "Only BOYS take Ag classes." Well, my only motivation was a love for livestock and agronomics, but in a rare moment of inspiration, I promptly replied, "Well, DUH!" The flash of lightbulbs going off in those girls minds was almost visible. By the beginning of the next semester, there were six more girls from my school riding the bus to Ag classes.

I stayed in Ag all through high school but did not get to enjoy a rural lifestyle until I married Yeoldfurt in 1999. A lot of the knowledge I gained in Ag is put to use on a daily basis now. But the values I learned in those classes have been just as important in my life. One of the biggest things those classes did for me is remove my inhibitions and doubts about what I can and cannot do. I am not afraid to tinker with a tractor or repair a fence. I can palpate a cow, assist in birthing most anything, and doctor most any wound. I have never had to, but I also know how to shoot an animal to put it out of it's misery if the situation arises. The classes taught me to have confidence in myself and that is probably more valuable than anything else I could have learned.

To me, a 'real' woman is one who is not bound by anything but her own goals and aspirations.  She follows her own heart and shouldn't have to apologize to anyone if  her interests lie outside of the stereotypical.   I do not believe, however, that being a 'real' woman requires you to verbally trample men who treat you with common courtesy and etiquette.  I think Yeoldfurt appreciates the fact that I can help him with the tractoring or wrangling the horses.  And I appreciate that he always opens the door for me and carries the heaviest packages and just generally treats me like a lady.  I'm all for equal opportunity for women and equal wages for the same job.  But I think the feminist movement does women a disservice when they belittle men for simply being GENTLEMEN.  I have even seen women criticized for allowing a man to hold the door open or pull out her chair when comes to the table.  I think that's ridiculous.  And sad. 

Men and women should have equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal privileges.  But they should respect and celebrate their differences as well.   My interest and aptitude for typically male venues does not make me less feminine, and it certainly does not make me less of a lady.  As a society, we do our sons and daughters a terrible disservice if we stop teaching them how to be ladies and gentlemen.  I, for one, am glad I'm married to a gentleman!

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Soaps for All Purposes

Cleaning supplies and soaps are some of the most expensive products people consume on a regular basis.  With that in mind, I'm determined to begin making my own soaps and detergents.  In preparation, I have been saving the containers from the store bought versions for several months now and will refill them with my homemade products.

Laundry soap will be my first project.  I prefer liquid laundry products because I think they disperse more thoroughly in the washing process which makes them flush away more easily in the rinse cycle.  I have been buying the generic brands in the big 64 oz jugs for years.  These jugs have a spigot opening and a screw top opening.  The inevitable last few drops of soap from the spigot tended to create a mess after just a few loads.  So I always refill a smaller quart-size jug and use that to measure my soap into the washer.  That allowed me to realize the savings of the 64 oz economy jug but keep the mess to a minimum.  When I make my own soap for the first time, I will attempt to make enough to fill one 64 oz jug.  When I'm sure I have the formula correct, I will double or triple or quadruple the batch to fill as many of the 64 oz jugs as I have available ...economizing on the time required to make the soap.  From what I've read, the cost savings should be significant and homemade products produce great results. 

When I've mastered laundry soap, I will attempt liquid dishwashing liquid.  Yes, I still use a dishwasher.  With only the two of us these days, we only run it once or twice a week ...usually only once.  I wash all pots and pans by hand but I think the dishwasher does a very good job and is an efficient use of our resources ...including my time.  If I were to stop using the dishwasher, I would have to spend an hour or so per day washing and drying the dishes.  I don't know about you, but I don't have a extra hour every day that I've been wondering what to do with.  The dishwasher that we have now has a delayed start option on it and I typically have it run between midnight and 3:00am hours for electricity consumption.  Power companies charge lower rates during off-peak hours so I'm being as frugal as possible with our resources.  I currently buy generic liquid dishwasher soap from Walmart for less than $3 for a quart-sized jug.  A jug lasts me at least 3 months so it's not like I spend a great deal on dishwashing liquid as it is.   When I find a recipe I like, I will plan to make a gallon and store it in the quart-sized containers I have been saving.   I believe I will be able to make a gallon of homemade for approximately $3 which would be great.  I would have gone from $12 annual expense to $3 ...wooo-WHOO!  The $9 savings can go toward any number of things on our wish list.

I will save my attempts at making shampoo and body wash until I have built my confidence on the laundry and dish soaps.  Shampoo is a big deal for me since my hair is long and thick and I'm tender-headed.  I have a higher tolerance for pain than most people in almost any other area ...but combing out my hair when it's tangled makes me whimper.  So you can bet I'll be doing some research before I attempt shampoo.  Body soap shouldn't be too hard.  Very basic ingredients and the only real criteria is a soap that lathers easily and rinses well.  Yeoldfurt doesn't like to scented soaps that smell too sweet flowers or fruits.  But when I find a good recipe for body wash, I can always put some in a small bottle just for me and add few drops of scented oil. It's a Venus thing.  : )

When I find the recipes for each of these products that work well for me, I'll post the recipes and welcome comments.  In the meantime, if you have a recipe you like for any of these cleaning products, please leave me a comment with the recipe or a link to the recipe.  I'd love to try what works for you.  


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Nothing Like Two Days Away make you appreciate home!  I left work Friday and drove straight to San Antonio to spend two days with my kids.  It was my daughter's birthday and they just found out they are expecting their first child in September, so the plan was to have a weekend to celebrate.   But my daughter is having quite a time with morning sickness, so I mostly just kept her company.  I assured her it's all part of the package and will be worth it in the end.  When she's a little further along and feeling better, I'll go back for some intense shopping trips. 

I loved being able to spend time with the kids, but I missed being home with Yeoldfurt too.  He was getting over a cold when I left last week and it seems to have settled in his chest now.  I'm off work tomorrow (MLK Day) so I can take care of him all day.  I'm off Wednesday too (John Gault Day) so he'll get plenty tired of being doted on this week! 

With so much time off this week, I'm hoping to start organizing some of my spring projects too.  It's too early to start seeds for the garden but I could start my lemon tree seeds this week since I will keep them in pots for the first year or two.  The variety I have is a Ponderosa lemon which bears a huge (grapefruit-sized) fruit.  It's not as tart as some of the smaller lemons but has good flavor and should do well here.  By growing them in pots until they are two or three years old, I will be able to protect them in cold weather until they are mature enough to withstand our mild Texas winters. 

I have decided to start an indoor pantry for our food stores as well.  Right now, we keep normal amounts on hand in the kitchen and our stores are out in the shop.  Sometimes it isn't convenient to trek down to the shop though so I want to have an indoor pantry as well.  The formal dining room in this house serves as my office and includes a good-sized walk-in closet with four deep shelves on all three walls.  There are already some prepping items in the closet pressure canner, canning jars, the Foodsaver and a dozen or so empty two-liter bottles that will be used to store dry goods or drinking water.  But it also has my craft and sewing projects, several crates of who-knows-what, some board games and miscellaneous office supplies.  The crates of who-knows-what will be the first to be purged.  The rest of it can surely be organized to better utilize the space.  My goal is to use one wall of the shelves for food stores, one wall for equipment and fit everything else on the remaining wall. 

We have several projects on the agenda outside too.  We will be planting our peach trees next month and I've been looking into some berry bushes  as well.  Dewberries and blackberries do well in this area.  They like full sun and we have some long stretches of chain link fence along the driveway that might be a good place to start them. 

I love this time of year.  It's not springtime yet, by any means.  But spring comes early in Texas and there is much preparation that can and should be done in these last weeks of  winter.  Maybe I'm just giddy about the prospect of a new grandchild, but I feel more optimistic in general than I have in a long time.  I am grateful for my family and my friends and grateful for my husband and the life we share together.  It feels good to be smile again. 

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

A New Lease on Life

I have done quite a bit of complaining lately about the condition of my ankle and the fact that the doctors I had seen were disinterested in doing anything about it.  If I'm going to subject you who read my blog to whining when things go wrong in my life, I think it's only fair to let you know when things go right once in a while too. 

Other than the fact that I'm starting to fall apart physically, the root of this problem is that my insurance is an HMO.  Unfortunately, they are very prone to watching their bottom line when making determinations for 'appropriate' medical care.  Buying me a $2500 brace every five years for the rest of my life was much more economical than footing the bill for a $20,000 ankle surgery that might have to be redone a second time before I leave this earth.  Had I been willing to accept their decision without argument, my life as I now know it would have been pretty much over.  I could not do many of the things I enjoy and be the helpmate Yeoldfurt needs in maintaining this property.  He's already had to do 95 percent of the work for the past four months because I've been in the moonboot.  The thought of having my activities restricted like that on a permanent basis was devastating to me.

It took some persuasive argument on my part to get my primary physician to refer me to a new surgeon for another opinion.  But because I have an HMO, I had to have a referral.  I finally convinced my primary and saw the new surgeon on January 5th.  I am so glad I argued.  The new surgeon does not concur with the diagnosis of the other surgeon that I have necrosis.  He sees osteo-arthritis in the foot and ankle and thinks that physical therapy to strengthen the muscles of the ankle will help.  I saw the physical therapist the next day and was just as pleased with his attitude.  The physical therapist measured my range of motion in both feet and determined that I have lost about 20 percent on the bad foot.  He feels that I can regain back at least half of what I've lost over the next six weeks.   I'm so encouraged.  I go to PT every week for the next five weeks and have flexing exercises to do at home as well.  I'm doing the exercise with both feet because stronger is better and maybe I can forestall a similar problem with the other ankle.  I was able to wear matching footwear to work on Friday for the first time in four months.  It felt so good to walk level! 

I've learned a lot from this experience.  I've learned to be proactive with the doctors.  It's MY life and who better to be my advocate than me, myself?  I've learned to appreciate the little things walking and doing chores.  Having spent four frustrating months just 'watching life' from the sidelines and then spending nearly two weeks believing my active life was over forever, I am so eager to get back into the fray.  I feel like I have a new lease on life.  I'm motivated with my PT exercises and optimistic about the final outcome.  I am realistic though.  My feet hurt when I'm on them too much and that will likely get worse as I age.  There will come a time ...maybe when I'm 80 or 90 years old ... that I can't walk around anymore.  But, until then, pain or no pain, I'm so very grateful for every step I take.  


No Laundry Chores Today

I happened to be the first one up this morning.  I went outside to let the horses out and found a layer of ice almost an inch thick on their water trough.  No surprise there.  Yeoldfurt had to break and remove ice from the trough twice yesterday. 

When I let the horses out, I decided to walk to the pond and see how frozen it might be.  I expected ice around the edges but it's over 10 feet deep in the middle, so I didn't expect it to be completely frozen over.  Wrong.  It looked to be frozen all the way across.  There was a chunk of wood the size of a small fireplace log laying at my feet, so I picked it up and lobbed it out toward the center of the pond.  The log had to weigh at least 5 or 6 pounds and it dropped from a height of about 6 feet when it hit the pond...  kerTHUNK!  Didn't even crack the surface ice.  I'm sure the ice is not thick enough to bear my weight so don't suggest ice skating ...but it was a good deal more solid than I was expecting. 

On my way back to the house, I stopped to let the chickens out.  I was worried they might have frozen feet from something MMPaints told me in chat last night.  But they were okay.  They had each left me an egg and were walking around like normal, anxious to be let out.  Their water was frozen though.  Not in the reservoir, but in the trough ring around the bottom where they should be able to drink.  I broke and removed the ice from the ring and moved the waterer closer to the heat lamp in the coop.  Tonight will only be in the 20's (versus last night in the teens) so maybe their water will not freeze tonight. 

When I got back up to the house, I took the eggs inside and was going to fill a bucket of water to carry outside for the dog, cats and chickens in the yard.  That's when I discovered OUR water was frozen the house.  Uh-oh.  I've never had frozen pipes before and Yeoldfurt was still asleep.  Didn't want to wake him with bad news, so I went online to do some research.  Every site I read suggested checking all the taps to determine if water was frozen at some juncture in the house ...or outside between the main and the house.  None of the taps would even drip so, according to the online information, that meant water was probably frozen somewhere outside.  This house is very well insulated, even in the attic so it would have surprised me if the house pipes had frozen.  The online sites said to open the coldwater taps halfway so I did. 

Thank goodness for Yeoldfurt's prepper mentality.  He had about a dozen old clorox bottles labeled drinking water stored down in the shop.  I took the wheelbarrow down and brought six of them up to the house.  Two for each of the bathrooms for that all-important flush water.  And the other three so I could make sure all the little critters had water until things thawed out.  We also have several cases of store-bought bottled water down in the shop.  So we're fine. 

Yeoldfurt was up and drinking coffee by the time I finished all that and I got to give him the exciting news ...frozen pipe adventure.  Hopefully it will not morph into a busted pipe adventure.  He did some investigating of his own and he agrees, the the problem is most likely close to the water main up by the road.  That makes sense because the hole around the water main is about 2 feet by 2 feet, with about 12 inches of pipe exposed to the air inside that hole.  The hole is covered over by a piece of steel plate.  Steel is an excellent conductor of cold and so is open air.  The pipe coming to the house is buried at least 18 inches in the ground so it is probably the exposed pipe at the main that froze. 

The temperatures should be close to 40 degrees by noon today and 45 degrees for a high around 3:00pm.  Hopefully, that will be enough to thaw the pipes.  In the meantime, we'll be grateful for a warm house, stored water and plenty of food stores.  No worries. 


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Are You Sure??

AKA Angrywhiteman commented on my last post (Some Advice for the New Year) that I had neglected to back up my claims with any factual references.  He was absolutely right to call me out on the matter since the post before was about the ripple effect of perpetuating false or unverified information.   His comment was well-meaning and had a humorous tone but his point was well taken.   I spent a good while typing a response to his comment only to find that Blogger limits how much we can put in the comment box.  So this post was born.  I can't cite any references other than my own intellect and intuition but I will do my best to argue the validity of each of the points made in my previous post.

"The past year has sped by. Sometimes, we could barely keep up. "
The year did go by very quickly and was a very hard race to run in many respects least for me.  I think that's true for the country as well.  Our rights and freedoms are being eroded on every front ...the government wants to control every facet of our lives.   The issue of gun control has escalated to the real possibility of outright confiscation.  Census workers are being taught to tell citizens that the authority for the questions they ask are granted by the U.S. Constitution.  The census workers themselves (the two I talked to) were ignorant enough about the Constitution to believe it!  (I gave them each a pocket-sized copy to read.)  The government has long been involved in regulating big business including large agricultural concerns.  But now they want to regulate backyard gardens and Farmers Markets.  And when law-abiding citizens rally to make their objections heard, they are belittled by the likes of Nancy Pelosi.  What did she say ...that we need to 'shut up and pay our taxes?'   Excuse me??   The rate of spending by this administration makes the two Bush administrations look downright frugal in comparison.  Already our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren will be paying the hefty price for this administration's first year in office.  How many more of our future generations will be weighed down by overwhelming debt over the next three years?? 

"Now we need to be ready to face whatever lies ahead."
We stockpile the things we need because we see lean times ahead. Limitations of storage space force us to constantly weigh the difference between 'want' and 'need' and choose between the two.  With every hike in the cost of fuel and food and utilities, we are again forced to choose carefully how we spend our dwindling resources.  But  being prepared to face what lies ahead is our fundamental philosophy on life as preppers, right?  So 'nough said on that one.

"There are bound to risks and surprises."
We shouldn't expect all of them to be pleasant but we can't let them dissuade us either.  Just fluff yourself up, bare your teeth and face the threat ...whatever it is.  

"But we must press onward and upward."
YES, we absolutely SHOULD press onward and upward.  If that itty bitty kitty can aspire to climb that great big tree, who are we to wimp out on our own life challenges?

"Always alert, always at the ready."
Alert and ready is, again, what we preach as preppers.  You can't prepare for what you don't see coming.  We have to pay careful attention to what goes on around us in our own towns as well as what goes on in Washington DC ...especially what goes on in DC! I believe in destiny but I'm not a fatalist.  We can affect our own future in this world, but only if we are cognizant of opportunities as they present themselves and alert to dangers along the way.  

"The Buddy System is still a good idea."
Didn't most of us first learn about the Buddy System in Kindergarten?  Some of the best things are taught in kindergarten....someone did a poster on that once.  Having someone who will watch your back is such a comfort in troubled times.  The extremes of life, the best and the worst times, are best when shared with a true friend.

"Charge over obstacles."
Perhaps I should have labeled that picture 'Leap of Faith.'   If we didn't have to make a bit of a leap from time to time, where would our faith be?  We need to believe in our God-given abilities and charge ahead!

"Know where your feet are at all times."
Do you know why why mules are better than horses in treacherous terrain?  Because a mule can actually SEE where each of his feet are and will never willingly put himself in real danger.  If the mule you're riding is careful not to get hurt, chances are he won't get you hurt either.  That is why a mule has the reputation for being surefooted.  But that is also why a mule has the reputation for being stubborn.  A horse's eyes are placed differently, creating a blind spot directly in front of the horse for a distance of several feet.  Yet a well-trained horse has such trust and confidence in their rider that they'll willing charge full speed ahead or turn on a dime at the slightest cue from the rider.  The horse is an example of the kind of faith WE ought to have in our Master.

"Ever cautious."
It is important to be cautious if we are to overcome obstacles.  But we can't let caution make us afraid to get our feet wet.  We can't succeed if we don't try.  

"Face your Goliaths."
We each have our own Goliaths, some of us have several.  It might be  an outside influence (or person or circumstance) that would control our destiny or limit our joy ...if we let it.  The toughest Goliaths though are the ones that dwell within us ...the fears and self-doubts that dampen our enthusiasm for all life has to offer and rob us of our fullness of joy.  These Goliaths are the hardest to fight but they are also the most rewarding to overcome.  

"But remember to laugh often."
Wasn't it the late Art Linkletter who said 'Laughter is the Best Medicine' ...he wrote a book by that title, I believe.  He was absolutely and profoundly right.  A good belly laugh exercises every muscle in the trunk of your body, including your heart and lungs. It does wonders for your outlook as well.  Learning to laugh at yourself is an art worth acquiring.

"Stick together through thick and thin."
Ahh, sticking together.  That seems to be a lost concept these days.  People seem ready to throw it all away every time they hit a a few snags.  They have stress at work and they want to look for another job.  Their vehicle that they paid off two years ago needs a costly repair and they would rather trade it in for a new one. Divide that costly repair estimate by the average monthly car payment and it won't seem so bad.  But in with the old, out with the new has been the trend for decades now.  When did we learn as a society that the most valid response to a problem is to run away?  That's exactly what we teach countless others when we do that with our own problems.  Every action we take (or don't take) sends a message to those around us about what's 'normal' ...what's acceptable and appropriate.  I think we owe it to ourselves to work at our problems and we owe it to the younger generation (who IS watching) to set an example of courage, tenacity and perseverance.  

"And most of all, take good care of each other."
This one really speaks for itself, doesn't it?  A relationship ...whether it's friendship or  marriage or a co-worker ...should NOT be just a 50-50 proposition.  It should be 100-100....if you BOTH commit 100 percent of yourself to taking care of the other party, everybody is happy, everybody is secure.  That's how it ought to be, don't you agree?

I guess now you can see why this didn't quite fit in the little comment box!  I realize that I have not cited any but myself as a reference on these matters.  But I do believe I made some pretty convincing arguments.  : )

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Some Advice for the New Year

The past year has sped by.
Sometimes, we could barely keep up.

Now we need to be ready to face whatever lies ahead.

There are bound to risks and surprises.

But we must press onward and upward.

Always alert, always at the ready.

The Buddy System is still a good idea.

Charge over obstacles.

But keep your balance.

Ever cautious.

Face your Goliaths.

But remember to laugh often.

Stick together through thick and thin.

And most of all, take good care of each other.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Hazards of Going Off Half-Cocked

We're all guilty of misstating the facts from time to time. Most of the time, it's unintentional and the damage is negligible. But sometimes it's blatant and motivated simply by a desire to fit in, to be part of the crowd or at least the conversation. It's a dangerous practice though. Some people make life-changing decisions based on information they hear from what they consider trusted sources and without bothering to research or confirm the information themselves. The ripple effect of false or unverified information can have devastating results.

These are serious times and I think when serious subjects are being bantered about, we should take extra care to do our research and get our facts straight before we state them as such. If you want to reference an event in order to make a point, make sure you know what you're talking about. Having someone tell you such-and-such happened does not necessarily mean it did. The person who told you may have been told by someone else ...who was told by someone else ...we all know how the old game of Post Office went.

Part of the prepper mentality is to always be mining information from a variety of sources. We love to find and share new information. That's one of the things I love most about the prepper movement. I'm just suggesting that we should all take very seriously our responsibility in gathering and sharing information. If you discover something new, check it out before you share it on your blog or in one of the chat forums. Research the information itself, research the source of the information. Make it your mission to prove or disprove the information. Only when you are completely satisfied should you share it.

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Getting on with My Life

Two weeks ago, I stepped out of my moonboot and back into my life. The splint in my riding boot works well whether I'm afoot or on horseback. I rode my horse for an hour or so on Saturday and could sure feel it when I got up this morning. The next day, I decided all my 'hinges' must have been rusty ...I sure was stiff until I had been moving around for a little while. My ankle was fine, thanks to the splint, but my knees and hips were complaining a little until I got limbered up. Such is life after 50, right? No big deal.

Yeoldfurt and I rode our horses that afternoon and we both rode his older retired mare for a few minutes that evening. She had been acting a little colicky at feeding time so we took her to the round pen to move her around a little. That was what she needed to get things moving in her gut again. We took turns riding her. She normally adamantly objects to being saddled since she takes her retirement status very seriously ...but she actually seemed to enjoy herself. She got over acting colicky so that was the important thing.

I went to see my regular doctor the next day to ask him to help me find a surgeon who would be willing to actually DO something about my problem. I sure was disappointed in his response. He didn't want to even refer me, saying I had already had two opinions ...his and the doctor in Temple who wanted me to live the rest of my life in brace and walk with a cane. He said the insurance company would never approve another referral. He finally agreed to try though and I have an appointment on January 5th with a surgeon in College Station. I've got my fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying my weekends without the moonboot. I'm careful and wear my splint if I am going to be doing anything strenuous. Yesterday, was an indoor day, spent mostly making bread. But today we're going to work outside all day. First on the list is the garden. I have one 4x8 section with onion sets in it. The other seven section are empty except for a few weeds. We'll take care of the weeds, turn all the soil, work in some compost, then cover them with a tarp until the next time we compost or it's time for planting. Yeoldfurt is going to bring up a few wheelbarrows of well aged manure from the paddock and we'll mix in the big bucket of coffee grounds we've been saving for this purpose. We plan to do this at least one more time before we plant. We brought in good soil when we built the raised bed but even the best soil benefits from good compost material every year.

After the garden is done, there are three trees downed from the windstorms the past couple of weeks and lots of brush to be cut and hauled. One of the trees is a huge oak that has been dead for a couple of years. The whole tree isn't down (yet) but it lost some huge branches and we will salvage some of that wood for the fireplace. The other two trees are an Arizona ash and a pine tree. The pine tree will be too sappy for the fireplace, so it will just get hauled to the burn pile. The ash might be okay for the fireplace. We'll see.

I am hopeful that the surgeon I see next week will have some better options for me. Maybe someday I won't have a choice about the brace and a cane, but I darn sure have a choice now and I say NO.


Friday, January 1, 2010

Plans for 2010

In our first (official) year of Prepping, we've trimmed every line item on the budget, added chickens (for meat and eggs) to our livestock and put in a 16 x 16 raised bed vegetable garden. I've learned to pressure can and have been making my own bread with the help of my $15 bread machine from the Goodwill store. Considering we didn't start this venture until mid-spring and that Yeoldfurt ran out of contract work in mid-April, I think we've accomplished a lot. We hope to add to our stores this year but maybe more importantly, we hope to increase our set of skills and knowledge.

A primary goal is to better utilize the garden area this year. Because of some setbacks in our personal life, we planted about six weeks later than we should have and financial setbacks kept us from really doing much in the way of a winter garden. But this year will be different. The garden is set up and we will spend the next four to six weeks working good compost material into the beds. I will probably start some seeds indoors but will have seeds and seedlings out in the garden by the first weekend in April.

We also plan to put in at least two peach trees. We can buy mature trees from the local co-op for $25 each. If we get them in the ground in February, we should have some fruit this year and good crops beginning next year. I will be canning and freezing the fruit and making jellies and peach butter as well.

Our three hens are giving us 18-20 eggs per week. We use less than a dozen per week ourselves, but sell the rest for $3/dozen which more than covers the cost of chicken feed. Actually an $11 bag of chicken feed lasts us at least two months and we average $12 to $16 per month selling eggs. Can't quit the day job, but definitely a profitable use of our time and resources. So we would like to add 2-3 hens to the flock this year. The hens we have are Rhode Island Red crosses and lay brown eggs. We may try a different variety this year. I can't remember the name right now, but heard of one breed that is known for winter egg production and slacks off in the heat of summer. The hens we have now tend to slack off in the winter so that would give us more balanced production.

Our most ambitious plan for this coming year is the possibility of raising meat rabbits. If we do, I'll be tanning the pelts as well for a possible cash sideline. I raised rabbits for FFA when I was in high school and learned some ways to tan the pelts when a couple of my rabbits died. It's not difficult and they come out soft as kid gloves. Rabbit pelts are small and light weight enough to be easily sewn together on a regular sewing machine. There seems to be a market with crafters on ebay. Average sized pelts are going for $5 - $10 each. Larger pelts are going for up to $30 each. Lightweight bubble envelope mailers would make shipping cheap and easy.

Other possibilities we are considering are the addition of a good quality dehydrator. We go back and forth on this subject. I like the long term food preservation aspects but we don't know use much in the way 'dried' products now can we justify the cost of a (good quality) dehydrator? Yeoldfurt has made his own jerky in the past so maybe it would be worth the expense. We'll see.

Except for the garden and the fruit trees, all of the plans are predicated on a little good fortune befalling us in the coming months. Yeoldfurt is still looking for work and unemployment ...even the extended benefits he's on now ...won't last forever. But we already have the seeds, the garden is there waiting to be planted and we have the money set aside for the fruit trees. I am optimistic and eager to see what we can do in the coming year.

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Adventures in Bread Making

It started with a need to trim the grocery budget. I had made my own bread before and knew it was healthier and cheaper than buying bread. But in those days I was a stay at home mom and it was fairly simple to work an afternoon of making bread into my routine once a week. These days I work full time and, with the commute of 40 miles one way, my discretionary time is even more scarce than my discretionary funds. A bread machine seemed to be the answer, but the retail price on even the cheaper models was prohibitive. Then a friend suggested I check out the local Goodwill Store on my lunch hour one day and I lucked into a Breadman Plus bread machine for only $14.99 ...what a deal! There was no manual with it, but I was pretty sure I would be able to go online and download one. The store offered a 15 day no-questions return policy so I forked over the money and took it home.

Finding the manual online was easy, just as I expected and I downloaded it as a pdf to my desktop. I have printed a few pages but mainly reference it from my computer when necessary. The manual included some basic recipes and I tried those first. They were good ...especially the Two Cheese Bread but I wanted to more variety. So I went online again in search of bread recipes with a little pizazz.

My first real find was a recipe for basic white bread with two tablespoons of dry Ranch dressing mix in it for flavor. This is a great supper bread to serve with soups or stews. A few weeks ago, I decided to experiment with making a sweet bread for things like French Toast and came up with this... I substituted brown sugar for the honey and maple syrup for the oil. Instead of dry Ranch dressing mix, I added cinnamon. I adjusted the quantities of the brown sugar and syrup slightly until the dough looked to be the right consistency. It came out great! It is only slightly sweet, a great bread for making French Toast or to spread with butter and your favorite jam.

Today I started to make a batch of the Sweet Breakfast Bread and decided at the last minute to try a new variation own version of Pepper Bread. I followed the recipe for the Ranch Bread but substituted two tablespoons of Crush Red Peppers for the Ranch dressing. This will also be a good bread for soups and stews, or buttered with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and placed under the broiler as a side with spaghetti or lasagna.

It costs approximately 50-75 cents to make a 2 pound loaf of these breads, slightly more to make the Two Cheese Bread because cheese is always expensive. But even the cheap sandwich bread in the stores is over $1/loaf. Not only does it cost less per loaf for homemade bread, but I have found that we are satisfied with less. I think the fresh natural ingredients are the reason. I'm posting a few of the recipes below. If you don't have a breadmachine, just make them old fashioned way. By the same token, if you acquire a bread machine, any bread recipe can be made in the machine ...just add the wet ingredients first, the flour and any other dry ingredients second and the yeast last. And don't be afraid to tweak!

For all of these recipes, add the ingredients to the bread machine in the order given. I prefer to use the dough setting and bake the loaves in the oven. If you use the bread machine to bake, choose large (2 lb loaf) and select the desired darkness for your crust.

Two Cheese Bread (from my Breadman Plus manual)
1 c warm water
1-1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil (or butter)
1 egg
1 Tbsp honey (or sugar)
3/4 c whole wheat flour
2-3/4 c bread flour
1/3 c dry milk powder
1-1/3 c grated cheddar cheese (or your favorite cheese)
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast

Ranch Bread
1-1/8 c warm water
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c vegetable oil
3-1/4 c bread flour
1/3 c dry milk powder
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp Ranch dressing powder
2-1/4 tsp yeast

Sweet Breakfast Bread
1-1/8 c warm water
1 egg, beaten
1/3 c maple syrup
3-1/4 c bread flour
1/3 c dry milk powder
4 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp cinnamon
2-1/4 tsp yeast

Pepper Bread
1-1/8 c warm water
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c vegetable oil
3-1/4 c bread flour
1/3 c dry milk powder
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp crushed red peppers
2-1/4 tsp yeast