Wednesday

Real Life

One of the things that country living means to me is making do, or self suffiency. It all ties in with frugal living, simple living, even preparedess, but it's at heart, a hands-on type of doing for oneself by choice.

It's the difference between making a quilt from leftover fabric and worn out shirts and in buying one ready made. It's the difference in buying yogurt and making your own, in adjusting a thermostat and adjusting a log on the fire, in going to a movie theater and going on a leisurely stroll to watch nature.

What brought this on is watching the changing seasons. We are slowly turning from winter to spring. Leftover winter projects need to be finished now, before warm weather lures us outside.

There is mending to be done, jeans to be hemmed, a pouf footstool to complete and a myriad of other things to get finished and/or put away while watching for daffodils to bloom and seeing the pinkish balls of rhubarb begin to push up from the earth. Seedlings have to be watched, other seeds have to be started.

When you do things for yourself, you create the kind of life that depends on the changing seasons. You're in touch with nature, no matter where you live.

You don't have to give in to the pull of concrete and plastic and blacktop. Shopping malls have their allure for almost everyone, but that's not where real life is.I find that in my back yard, in my pantry still offering with good food from last year's garden, from my sewing basket and my knitting needles.

Where do you find your real life?

Tuesday

The best seeds to have in a long term emergency

There are so many fear mongers out there that are simply selling fear and making a good deal of money at it. This includes doomsday seed packages. Please don't buy them.

I'll tell you why.

1. Seeds don't keep forever, no matter how they are stored. You will find the germination rate of certain seeds to be disappointing after even a couple of years.

2. If you don't grow these foods now, how will you know how to grow them in an emergency situation? Learning to garden is one of the best disaster preparations you can make.

3. If you don't know how to save your own seed from the food you grow, what will you do after the first season in a long term "emergency"? You will use up your seeds and then what? Now is the time to learn and to keep the seeds from year to year. Then you will be prepared.

4. Those seed packets may be good seed, but the best seed is that which is acclimated to your garden. Plants become more acclimated every year you grow from your own saved seed.

5. Not all foods are domesticated. Some of the most important foods will be found in the wild. As a rule, wild foods are more nutritious than those we humans have manipulated for other reasons, such as color, how long it will last and how well it holds up to marketing conditions. Besides the seeds you know how to grow and can save, learn the wild foods in your area.

In an emergency situation, the last thing you need is a plant that needs extra water or that doesn't like a few weeds or that needs precise amounts of sunshine.Wild foods, foods that you have learned to grow and foods that are acclimated to your specific area, will grow with less work and worry and produce more and better food.

So if you're still thinking about preparedness, get your garden going this spring. Plant the food you want to eat, learn how to save the seed from it and how to preserve it, too, so you won't starve in the winter.

Wednesday

Garden in the Winter: Sunflower Sprouts

One of my favorite things to do in the winter when the gardens are only memories and dreams from the seed catalogs and I hunger for fresh vegetables, is to grow sprouts and one of my favorite sprouts (and the easiest to grow) is sunflower sprouts.

All you need is a little dirt, a sunny windowsill and some raw sunflower seeds. Be sure the seeds haven't been treated in any way. Seeds sold for planting often have fungicides or pesticides added to them and you don't want to eat that.

If you want really cheap sunflower sprouts, buy a bag of sunflower seeds intended for the birds. I have looked and looked and not found a place that can honestly claim these seeds are inedible or not safe for humans.

A small bag will make a lot of sunflower sprouts!

Potting soil is best because of its water holding properties, but if you don't have it, don't run out and buy it. If you have nothing but dirt dug from the cracks in the sidewalk, the seeds will grow! If the soil you have is clay or compacts easily, add something to make it more porous. It can be anything from spent tea leaves or coffee grounds to find sand, crumbled weed stalks or coarsely ground eggshells.

Whatever you put in it won't matter much because it's not going to break down in the few days it takes for the sprouts to grow.

So put the soil in a shallow pot or some kind of container with drainage holes, then water it thoroughly and let it set for a half hour or so, until the water has percolated through it.

Sprinkle the sunflower seeds over it and cover with a layer of soil, or if you're a tidy gardener, you can scratch rows and cross rows and put the seeds in them. Plant them closely, about a quarter of an inch apart at the most.

Put the container in a warm place and keep the soil damp but not wet. Within two to three days, you should see the seeds begin to awaken, stretching and yawning, as it were. Tiny green stems will begin to unfurl. Eventually, the sprouts will stand upright and you will see two primary leaves.

When the sprouts are an inch or two and before the secondary leaves form, pinch or cut them with scissors at ground level and there you go.

Use sunflower sprouts on sandwiches or in salads or just snack on them. They have a wonderful, slightly nutty and altogether fresh taste that will satisfy the longing for vegetables fresher than the supermarket!


Friday

5 Reasons Why You Should Have a Garden Next Year

1. The price of vegetables are going up and up and will go even higher in the future. All food prices are going up and vegetables are one of the things that we can grow ourselves, no matter where we are. Container gardens, patio gardens or backyard gardens can produce an amazing amount of food.

2. There are not enough vegetables grown in the US for everyone to have a healthy amount of them. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service via Off The Grid News which goes on to say that "...the supply of vegetables in the United States has been falling since 2000." And much of that goes to french fries and ketchup!

3. Your kids (and you!) will enjoy watching the garden vegetables grow. What better way to teach a child the wonders of life than show them how to plant a seed and how much patience it takes to wait for life to show. Then you can remind them and yourself how tiny that one seed was when you bring in armloads of produce.

4. You can stock your pantry and freezer with canned, dehydrated and frozen food that's healthier to eat than most produce in the store. You don't have to add those unpronounceable chemicals to your own home canned, dehydrated food and frozen food and you know how much salt and/or sugar is in it.

5. It's convenient to step outside and pick a salad or vegetables to cook for dinner. What can I say about that? If you prefer to get the kids ready, drive to the store, resist temptation and children's pleas, find the produce, pick through it, stand in line at the checkout then pay for it, go for it. I'd rather step outside, choose what I want and get back in the kitchen to finish making the meal.

So think about it. If you didn't put out a garden this year or have never put out one or you did put out one but found a few things lacking, decide right now and plan on growing a variety of vegetables and putting them up for next year. You won't have to depend on the grocery store for the healthiest vegetables ever!



Wednesday

Ready for Autumn!

Along about this time of year the whisper of autumn becomes stronger and stronger...  Sunflowers compete with yellow buses along country roads, the sky takes on a certain shade of blue and the deep shadows of the big trees across the alley linger just a little longer every morning.

Changing seasons, changing lives. There's a sense of renewal in autumn, a sort of taking a deep breath and starting out with a sense of purpose to prepare for the winter ahead. Although not all of us have to cut wood and preserve the whole harvest and begin making warm clothing, autumn is nevertheless a time of preparation.

Feeling the need to get ready for cold weather is not a throwback to caveman days or beyond. Our parents or grandparents needed to make autumn preparations. If we're smart, we'll do the same, even if what we do has changed.

What do we need to do in the autumn, before cold weather?

  • Have furnaces checked and change the filter.
  • Clean out coat closets. Check sizes, wear and so on, to see what needs to be replaced before cold weather.
  • Have our cars tuned up and ready for cold weather driving. Make sure our tires are okay for ice and/or snow.
  • Tend the harvest. Can, dehydrate and freeze produce that is cheap right now for frugal winter eating.
  • Take a look at window casings and doors and make any repairs that are needed. Replace caulking, tighten hinges, install weather stripping.
  • Take advantage of sales on garden tools, paper, pens, pencils and fresh root vegetables.
  • Look to nature to provide decorations and inspiration for our homes. Everything from river rock to dramatic "weeds" can be used creatively. 

There's a lot more to it besides the way we feel, although the "feeling in the air" makes us sometimes hurry to get things accomplished before... something or other. It only makes good money sense to preserve what we can, to get ready for the times of (winter) lean in the times of (summer) fat. In other words, the more prepared we are, the less the winter will cost us and that's a frugal fact.

Friday

As Summer Turns to Fall

I found this tucked away on the computer. The seasons are changing again - and as if they never have before, I watch in wonder as everything slowly moves from summer to fall. 
 
And the wheel goes round and around and around.

Summer turns to fall, frost and then a little snow.
Winter turns to spring and on and on it goes

I found a beloved stone and in my mind
It was polished and perfected, then the flaws began to show
The stone began to crumble and seem cold and far away

Shall I put it down and look for another?
Or shall I just put it down?
Or shall I keep holding it, waiting for summer to return...

Should I walk away...
Another stone will appear. Perhaps.

And summer turns to fall... and on it goes. 

Leaving little bits of us behind to turn dry and blow on the wind.

Winter turns to spring and on and on it goes.

Thursday

Ye Olde Kerosene Lamp


Did you know that lamp oil is nothing but refined kerosene? The odor has been removed and further refining removes the natural color.

You can make a lamp out of anything that you can keep burning. Before there were kerosene lamps, there were candles and before that, there were all sorts of oil lamps. Before that, there were torches. They all had the same purpose: To give light.

You can use the same simple, basic principle to make oil lamps out of almost anything. Any kind of vegetable oil, liquid or solid, and any kind of animal based oil, will burn.

A wick is anything that will "wick" or absorb and draw up the oil. Braided cotton or cotton twine is commonly used, but thin pieces of wood, twists of rags or even twisted dry grass will work if properly prepared. To prepare a wick, it has to be soaked in whatever you intend to burn.

A wax (animal and/or vegetable "oil") candle needs a wick that has been soaked in that wax and allowed to harden. To make a wick for a dish of, say, fish oil, soak it in the oil before positioning to burn, and so on.

To keep a wick up out of a container of liquid fuel, you will need a wick holder. A kerosene lamp is an example of how you might make one, but it's very simple to use a piece of wire. Make a flat spiral to set on the bottom of the container, then a piece coming up from the center of the container that is higher than the fuel level will be. At the top of that, make a round "eye" to fit the wick through so it won't fall into the fuel.

Soak the wick then thread it through the eye and let it fall to the bottom of the container. Fill the container with fuel and light it... and there you have it.

A few of these around a room will light it as well as candles. It's a good trick to know when the lights go out and you're not prepared.

A second way to make a light and one that you don't have to mess with much at all, is to use a can of shortening or lard. Insert an ice pick or something similar, into the center of it, then drop a wick (which you've soaked in a liquid version of the solid fat) into the hole and tamp it down into it. This will burn for hours and hours.

A good survival item is a can of tuna in oil. You can eat the tuna, of course, then you can make an oil lamp of what's left, using the label (soaked in the oil) as a wick.