Monday, February 28, 2011

Planting Greens--In Cold Weather

Last year, when working at our local CSA, I volunteered to be in charge of the greens patch.  In turn, I was to research and learn all I could about growing lettuce, spinach, bok choy, kale, and swiss chard in an organic yet productive way.  I had thirty families to meet the needs of, which meant I had some work to do!!

I am determined to not just sit around wishing I could be more self-sufficient while I am living in this apartment.  There have to be ways...and there are!  My first project this week involves an ice-cream bucket (sadly, yes, an empty one) and some potting soil.  If I lived where I had access to land, I'd just take some dirt in, but then again, I'd also be planting this outside in said dirt.  So, potting soil it is, along with some seeds.  A bit of water, and we're good to go!  Follow the directions on the packet, give it some love...and we'll follow up in about 20 days!  Join me, would you?  For $2 worth of potting soil, a 50 cent packet of seeds and some time, you'll end up with a good $15 worth of greens, if not more...

The Drive To Be Self Sufficient

Hanging out in the "shelter".

During a walk to the park, we decided to detour from the usual playground.  Today's detour  was to check on the status of a fort that my son and his friends had built in the woods surrounding the park a few weeks ago.  We didn't expect to find much but sticks on the ground, but the fort was in pretty good condition, and it seemed other children had continued to build upon and make the fort better.    As I sat and listened to my children, I remembered something about myself.  I remembered that back before I desired a degree in business, before I desired to move into the big city and live on my own, before I thought about getting all political about things--I wanted to take care of myself!  I sat reminiscing about sweeping the sidewalks outside our country home, imagining it was my own home--not my parent's or grandparent's.  I thought of the days I would take my grandmother's old steel pots and fill them with willow leaves, dirt, and grass, pretending to be living off the land.  I remember taking long stalks of wild grass and lying them down to make beds for myself.  I was onto something then, and I pushed it away in favor of what I was being taught that women should want.

Laying down pine-needles for soft bedding.
I was taught (mainly in school) that I should want to get away from those tasks of drudgery, that I could live so much better because I was so intelligent (their words, not mine).  Why waste it on manual labor?  I swore up and down that I'd never marry a farmer.  That I'd work my way up the corporate ladder and take over whatever city I lived in.  I started to fulfull that...I finished my degree in Human Resource Management and Human motivation.  I got married (to a then musician but now statistician).  But then...something happened.

The shelter-top.
While taking care of my family, I joined a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) Farm.  I worked the land, I ate the food, I preserved the food.  I learned about the balance between the bugs, the bacteria and the soil.  I learned that I LOVE dirt.  Not only dirt, but creating life in that dirt.  Then taking home produce, preserving it and putting it upon a shelf.  And then, once my food is stored away, serving it to family, friends and other guests that might be passing through and need a meal.  It's complex, and it uses the intelligence I was told would be squandered.  But it doesn't feel squandered.  It feels nourished.  It feels complete.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Our 72 Hour Kits

Today was windy and yucky, so I figured that a boring shopping trip would be a great way to spend it!

I made a list of the things that we needed to add to our 72 hour kits, after taking out the things that were expired.  Our list is by no means exhaustive, as it fits the needs of our family, but it might give you a few ideas. An asterisk means I had it already and did not need to replace it, but listed it here for your convenience.

  • A crow bar*
  • Leather gloves for each adult*
  • Bottled water.  I also packed two water bottles with built-in carbon filters* that we could fill with contaminated water if needed.
  • High-calorie snacks (a jar of peanut butter, crackers to put it on, energy bars with protein, bouillon cubes)
  • Rope that could hold heavy weight if need be, but also be used for a myriad of uses.*
  • A small cook-stove (propane fueled, with a small bottle of propane included)*
  • Matches (waterproof, preferred)*
  • A pocket knife.*
  • A flash-light that has a wind-up energy source*
  • Head lamps (you know, the kind to strap to your head)*
  • A blanket, wrapped in plastic*
  • A change of clothes for each person in the family (I often put in sweat-suits, as they roll up tightly, but will be warm and dry when needed)
  • Socks for each person.
  • Good shoes for each person (for the adults, we put in our sneakers from the previous year, as we tend to do a lot of running and biking, which requires us to get new sneakers regularly).
  • Diapers and formula for a baby/small child in the family.  Pack powdered formula even if you breast never know if the mother will be able to nurse in an emergency
  • A roll of black, plastic trash bags.  The outdoor bags will serve a wide-range of uses, from being turned into a tent, using the black as a way to heat things with solar power, and water-proofing.*
  • Money.  About $100, in small bills and change.  Packed in plastic and hidden well.
  • Books, toys for the kids.  Something small and novel so they will stay occupied for awhile.  I realized I still had rattles and toy cars in my bag, and need to update this year to something more along the lines of Uno, or a deck of face cards, along with some books that have words.  
  • Toiletries.  
  • Medicines if on a long-term prescription (3 days worth, rotate this frequently).
Keep in mind, this is only what would keep us going for about 72 hours.  If this bag is kept in the car, it doubles as an emergency car kit, and we also keep a first-aid kit with it.   And this list is not at all exhaustive.  We could pack more.   It's not a hard task, to put this together, and it doesn't even need to be expensive.  Using items from the thrift store works well.  Remember, you're planning to have SOMETHING on hand in case of an emergency, to make it a bit more pleasant.  You're not trying to colonize or live high on the hog.  It's an emergency, it's still not going to be as perfectly wonderful as a vacation. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Are YOU Ready?

It was time to re-stock our emergency supplies this week.  You know, give the kids all of the energy bars that are going to expire (or did...) soon, purchase more.  Make sure that the extra sets of clothes in the 72 hour kit actually fit the children we currently have (they don't), check to see that all of the battery operated things and/or wind up things still work (they do!), and make sure there is enough water for each person in our family, especially as each one grows and has different needs.

This time, I checked some preparedness books out from the library, to make sure that we had covered our bases.  They are just duffel bags, packed and ready to go, but I wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything, and preparedness books tend to have great checklists in them.  While reading, I had a thought come to me, and I'm hoping to work out a plan to follow through on this thought.

The thought came that I'd been reading a lot of my friends facebook and blog posts about how they were getting bored being at home, that they didn't feel that they were really doing something necessary.  I sat there wondering how people who are solely responsible for the care and well-being other many other human beings (in my case, 4 others) could be bored.  My answer came while reading the preparedness book...the skills that I am striving to acquire, including being self-sufficient and prepared, are NOT common place.  Somewhere in my brain, I knew this, but given that I'm often working on these skills, I forget that others are not.   I forget that many people do not know how to preserve their own produce--let alone grow it.  I forget that turning a gallon of milk into yogurt or cheese seems foreign to many.  To some, it's a waste of time.  However, I have a question to ask:

If an emergency hit your city today, and your city was shut down for two weeks, would your family be able to thrive?  Not just make it, but thrive?  Often, I hear of those that have emergency rations, but they don't use them on a regular basis.  Do you really think, that if your child is used to purchased, processed foods, that you will be able to convince them to eat a bowl of homemade porridge or beans in a situation that is stressful to them?  Will you be able to handle this added stress when you're already stressed with the situation?  Just a thought...

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting ways to be a bit more self-sufficient, even if you're living in an apartment (as I am).  In all honesty, I plan on moving out of this apartment in June, and moving into a home with a yard where I can garden.  But I've been doing some apartment living for the past year, and I think I have a few things to share.  Some things, I'll be conquering for the first time, but I feel it's worth my time to conquer them if not to just help those who will be living in an apartment for a long time (and will need a little boost, knowing someone else did it too!) but also, each skill I learn here will help me in my homesteading efforts.

Also, if you are conquering these things as well, please give some input.  I think one of the wonderful things about the internet is that we can exchange helpful information.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Menu Plan Monday!

Whew!  This weekend was a blast!  We had our church's Fancy Dance (the youth set up a formal dance for the adults, with three hours of babysitting included--in a well staffed nursery) as a fundraiser for their summer camps.  Also, some of the adults in the ward make desserts to be auctioned off with all proceeds going to the youth camps as well.  It's so great to see a home baked cake sold for $40, knowing that you're paying for a youth to go experience the spirit of God in a wonderful setting, to grow and learn.  At the auction, our family "won" a strawberry cheesecake and a pecan pie.  So, our tummies and tongues have been indulging.   They were delicious! 

Last night, I didn't have to cook our evening meal, either, as it was our church's "It's Great to be Eight" evening.  Our son was introduced to cub scouts, the Faith in God award (a set of goals our youth can set that bring them closer to knowing God, such as service in the community, more disciplined scripture study, and learning family skills.  He was also given the basic overview of the choice to be baptized (because, really, it's the parents' job to prepare their children for that), and given some scripture study tools that will help him make this decision.  It was a touching evening. 

Now, it's my turn to get back on the horse and feed my family real food! Though, I have to admit, the loaded baked potatoes provided at last night's church function were so wonderful!  Thanks, ladies!

Monday:  A seven layer dip, using up some tomatoes, onions, and yogurt in the fridge that needs to be munched.  We'll add refried beans, cheese and tortilla chips.  I love fun dinners that use up my extras!

Tuesday:  Chicken and asparagus.  Mmmm.  With lemon/butter sauce.  On sliced zucchini because there is so much of it already!  I love spring in the South!

Wednesday:  My Sweet Husband's birthday!  He's going mountain biking with friends and having his annual review at work.  Wow.  What a day planned.  So, for breakfast, I'll start him off well with broccoli/onion quiche.  Then that night have a roast ready in the crock-pot.  We have a gift-card to spend at Coldstone Creamery that we purchased via Living Social ($5 for $20 worth of dessert, nice!).

Thursday: Stew using roast and veggie left overs.  Make bread.

Friday:  Clean out the fridge day!  If small amounts of left overs, we'll do it buffet-style.  If we eat everything, I'll toss together some spaghetti.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Simplicity Can Bring Families Together

Breakfast...who has time?  It seems crazy enough to get everyone together for dinner, right?  But what about starting the day together?  Does it really have to be that hard?  I propose it does not.  A little planning ahead makes all the difference in the world.  Above, you see my breakfast table (sans the people, they hadn't come down to eat yet).  A simple bread pudding (eggs, milk, dried bread (purchased, this time...see, it CAN be simple), cinnamon, sugar, 20 min. in the oven--simple food--it's how I roll), and a plate of sliced oranges.  All the food groups sitting right there (OK, no veggie, but if we look at it as the big FOUR, fruits and veggies work together). 

And the flowers?  From Aldi: $3.99.  They've lasted a full week, and have made our meals so pleasant as we wait for the flowers outside to bloom.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Repair, or Not?

Sigh.  If you know me, you know I'd much rather repair things than purchase a brand new one.  Mainly because as it goes out the door I think of it taking up that much more space in a landfill...a place full of castoffs.  A place of waste, where we put things we just don't want to look at anymore.  Someday, those places will get full--some already have.  We can only dig so much.  There has to be a better way.  I'm pondering this due to my newest dilemma.  A few years ago (about 4) we decided that since I was going to homeschool our oldest (and since then, the others as well), and we wanted more children, I needed a way to go running without needing a babysitter.  My husband was in graduate school, and his schedule--while not tight--was such that I wanted him to be able to focus on getting that PhD and moving on (though I do have fond memories of that time!  I loved Notre Dame!!!).  That year, we chose to take a portion of our tax return and buy a good, sturdy treadmill that I could RUN on at home (I trained for a 1/2 marathon on it, so it had to be tough!).

The other day, while digging a crayon out of said treadmill, I knocked my water bottle off the edge and into the motor casing, drenching the motor and circuit boards.  Ug!  So, I've called the fitness place where I live (not the same one I bought from, due to my husband graduating and getting a job; therefore, moving), and they estimated that the cost to repair would be almost (only like $70 short of) purchasing a new one of the same brand due to them being on sale this time of year (all of those broken New Year's resolutions puts treadmills back into the market!).  Sadly, I see that I could get a nice, new treadmill for the same price as the motor on my old one right now.  Why sadly?  Because I look at this thing and think--what on earth will we do with all of the huge pieces of metal?  I suppose we could take it apart and recycle each piece.  That's one idea.  The other sad part is that repairs cost so much!  I had hoped this treadmill would last us a long time, knowing I'd have to repair a few things here and there.  I didn't expect parts to cost so much.  Of course, there is a lifetime warranty--but it's voided if you cause the problem (by, uh, dropping your water bottle into it perhaps?). 

I suppose I could always use the old one to hold laundry...isn't that what most people do with treadmills?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

C'Mon, Get Hapi!

If you read both of my blogs, this will be a repeat.  Sorry, but I'm excited about this!!!

For those of you that don't already know, I'm a HUGE fan of Hannah Keeley's Total Mom book.  I like to recommend it to people and help others figure out how to put things in order.  It's fun to be able to answer people with a concrete answer when they ask, "How on earth do you homeschool, run a home, and take up running (the running part is harder now that my favorite running companion lives 12 hours away)?!?"  I tell them it was definitely a series of baby steps, especially since I went from a Business graduate to a mom...I mean, really--I went from working with adults that listened to me to taking care of a 4 pound newborn who could have really cared less that I was asking him to sleep longer than 45 minutes.

Hannah has just started advertising her Five Minute Mom program, where she sends you emails with tasks in them which take only 5 MINUTES to complete.  Of course, those five minutes usually get you motivated to do more...but doing more isn't the problem, is it?  It's knowing where to start.  So, check it out.  I did sign up as an affiliate--full disclosure here--but only because I'm referring people to this all of the time anyway.  I think the only time it ever went awry was when a guy friend bought it for his wife's birthday...he thought he was helping, but she definitely took it as a "You need help" sort of gesture.  Keep in mind, it wasn't MY idea that it was to be a gift, I figured she should decide on her own if she wanted to do something like that.  Don't worry, they worked it out.

So, check out her program!  At least listen to what she has to say:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

So, it looks as though, even though last week's menu was written, I never actually took the two minutes to post it.  Eh, such is life.  My husband and I bought a new workout series (well, new to us) and have been enjoying spending our evenings exercising together instead of watching movies or playing board games.  Not that those things are bad, it's just that with the colder weather here, we weren't getting as much movement in during the day as we did when it was warm, so we thought we'd make up for it with some other exercise.  The video set was our answer.  It's been working out nicely.  Our kids sometimes try to join us (by jumping around and making noises I'm sure the neighbors below us are not happy about) or they sit there and yell, "Go faster Mommy!  Faster!"  Usually, that is our two year old, cheering me on. Speaking of being cheered on, when it comes to getting motivated as a mother (and remembering to take care of me) I've been popping over to Hannah Keeley's site.  Have you been there? 

Onto the menu!

Sometime this week we will eat the rest of the tabbouleh for lunch. 

Sunday:  Cheddar broccoli soup.  I'm going to attempt to hide multiple carrots and an onion in this recipe with the help of my blender.  With bread (baked Saturday night) muahahaha! 

Monday:   Meat loaf and home made cole-slaw.  The farmer's market box had a purple cabbage in it, so I'm telling the kids it's "purple salad".  We'll see if it wins over our princesses.  Making some meatballs out of the loaf mix and freezing them.  I'll use them later for spaghetti.

Tuesday:  Zucchini, spinach, & onions, sauteed and tossed with egg noodles.  With Parmesan on top, of course!

Wednesday:  A date with my honey! We're celebrating 9.5 years being married, and then counting down to our TEN YEAR anniversary.  So, feeding the kids one of their favorites:  Pizza pasta (noodles tossed with chopped olives, mini-pepperonis, diced bell pepper, mozzarella, and a bit of pizza sauce).  I can prepare it ahead and let the sitter feed them.

Thursday:  Black beans with bell peppers, tomatoes.

Friday:  Left overs & cooking up (or freezing) any vegetables that really need to be from our market basket.

Saturday:  Chicken curry.  My sweetie has been looking forward to something spicy with cashews and chicken in it.  I will oblige!