Friday, December 31, 2010

When life gives you Lemons, make……

Grape Jelly!  Yeah, I know that’s not exactly how the saying goes, but today was an exception.  Paul brought some “fresh” fruit home for Rhiannon yesterday.  He wasn’t really paying attention & just grabbed the first package of grapes he saw.  So basically I had two pounds of squishy grapes, with seeds nonetheless, sitting in a bowl on the kitchen counter.  They tasted sweet, but were just too darned squishy so I figured they’d just go to the chickens.  Then that little light bulb went on in my head & I went to gather jelly-making supplies: pot, fruit masher (really a potato masher, but I’ve used it more for jams / jellies than spuds), pectin, sugar & two small jelly jars.
Instead of throwing away money (i.e. the grapes) I got “free” jelly.  We probably just broke even though as it does cost money for the pectin, sugar & electricity to heat the stove.  I did end up using an old packet of pectin that was past the expiration date.  I hope it sets up.  But if it doesn’t……grape syrup on top of pancakes sound darned good to me!

We also got our first round bale of hay yesterday.  It’s a lot cheaper to buy it that way but it isn’t as easy to store & you just can’t pull off a flake or two.  So we just got one bale of mixed grass.  Got looking at it today and I think it’s going to end up in the horse barn for their hay. 
I would have kept it here for the goats, but my spoiled divas are too picky & I know that half of it would have ended up stomped into the ground.  We’re going to splurge and get them a round bale of Bermuda grass after the holiday.  We don’t have a barn to store the goat bale in so Paul is going to set it on end on a couple of pallets & tarp it. 
That's all for the 2010 Blog!  Hope everyone has a fun (or calm, if that's your preference) New Year's Eve.  If you are one to partake in certain alcoholic libations tonight, please designate a driver.  I want you to make it home so you can continue visiting my blog & thus inflating my ego.
Don't forget to eat your Black Eyed Peas, make your New Year's Resolutions and watch "The Ball" drop. 
And yes, Dad, I'll have a silver coin in my pocket.
See you in 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Great Pantry Challenge

Instead of making a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, exercise more or balance the checkbook – all pretty much no-win-situations for me – I thought that I’d try to go an entire month without going to the grocery store or eating out.  We don’t eat out very often, so that won’t be too hard, but the grocery store part is going to be a tough one.  Not that it should be; our pantry is well stocked and the chickens are still laying a few eggs a day, not to mention that our freezers are full.  But I’ve been really bad lately about just stopping at the grocery to pick up a handful of items if I’m in town or having Paul pick something up on his way home from work.
It’s not like I make a dozen trips to town each month to pick up a loaf of bread, but the grocery runs seem to have increased recently and I’d like to nip my new subconscious habit in the bud.  The only thing I am going to cheat on is that I’ll still have bananas or some other fresh fruit for Rhiannon.  Mom said she’d pick those up for me so I won’t be tempted to just slip something else in my cart.
I was thinking I’d do this for four weeks and each week I would focus on something different.  The first week will be planned around using only shelf-stable items, second week will be vegetarian, the third week I’ll only use our wood burning stove to cook and the fourth week will be any food item we have in the house (meaning shelf-stable AND frozen foods).  They may not be in that exact order though as I’m going to try to get the coldest week for cooking on the wood stove.  I was also thinking about doing a week of how-cheap-can-we-eat week.  Not sure which category I will put that in. 
In anticipation of doing this I went to the store last week & “cheated” by purchasing twice the amount of potatoes, carrots, celery & cabbage than normal.  And I am considering these shelf-stable as they do keep very nicely in our laundry room.  It’s a great place to store items like potatoes & carrots as it’s not heated, but connected to the house so it’s cool, but not freezing.
Technically I have one more day to go out & get groceries but I think I can refrain.  Hmmm…..wonder how much chocolate I have in the pantry.  Better go check!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Done milking :(

Nettie, Ishtar and Annette have been bred this year.  I’m still hoping that Cloud goes into heat one more time this winter and that Pan is still “interested” as I really don’t need another non-productive animal.  I know that sounds mean, but it’s getting expensive to feed everyone.   I think Stormy is still a bit on the small side for breeding so unless someone wants her as a non-bred doe she’ll get bred next year & I’ll sell her with her kid(s) as a first freshener.   
Nettie & Annette were the only ones I milked this year; Ishtar wasn’t bred last year before I got her so she was dry.  Nettie is due the second week in March so it’s about time I started drying her up.   Annette isn’t due until the first week in April but since I was going to stop milking Nettie I figured I’d dry Annette up along with her.  Milk output from the both of them was down to less than a quart a day.  I was tempted to continue milking Annette for another month because I’m really, really going to miss the fresh milk.   
It wasn't much, but I'm still going to miss it!

I’ve been gradually reducing their grain rations in the morning & evening feedings and in a few days I’m going to eliminate the morning feeding.  There will be lots of bawling when that happens.  At least morning barn chores will be a bit less complicated. 
Technically, Annette & Nettie are still getting milked as their doe kids are with them.  They used to stay in the kid pen during the night so I could get milk from the does in the morning, but now that I’ve stopped I figured they may as well all be together at night & snuggle when it gets cold.  Though even that is going to have to stop.  Last year Nettie let Annette nurse from her all the way up to two weeks before her due date.  And I had to separate them to give her those two weeks.  So that means we’re going to have to make another pen to separate Cloud & Stormy from their Moms (Nettie & Annette), at least until after they have their kids.  Once everyone has kidded in the Spring they can go back to being one happy herd. 
And I can get some milk again.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sooo many presents, sooo much ham....

Opened Christmas presents yesterday at home & at Grandma’s.  Rhiannon got a lot of stuff, but I managed to keep most of the toys at Grandma’s house.  I had a flash-back & weak moment a few weeks ago & bought Rhiannon a Sit ‘n Spin.  Grandma got her a miniature shopping cart (with play food items) along with a bunch of other things.  The shopping cart won hands-down.  The Sit ‘n Spin is sitting in the middle of the living room.  What is it they say about living through our children?  Come on, who wouldn’t want a Sit ‘n Spin???  Sigh…….
Rhiannon in her Christmas outfit, about to dismantle Grandma's tree

Paul got me what I had asked for; a recipe box.  Doesn’t sound like anything exciting, but I really needed one.  I have all my recipes in a torn up manila file folder, either on stained & yellowed loose leaf or scribbled on the back of a utility bill, old greeting card or post-it note.
Mommy's recipe box doubles as a head rest

I got Paul a straight razor, strop, badger brush & shaving soap.  He started shaving with it but ended up finishing with a safety razor.  Guess it takes practice, but watching him shave with it gave me the heebie-jeebies.
Anyways……I ate waaaaaay too much Honey Baked ham, broccoli salad & polish potato dumplings (which Wally was nice enough to make).  Diet starts tomorrow.  Ha! 
No.  Really.  I’ve got to stop eating like this.  I seriously need to drop 30 pounds this year.  Maybe if I keep blogging about I can guilt myself into losing some weight.  I could join Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, but I’m not even sure they have such a thing out here.  Maybe I could eat those Lean Cuisine dinners like my sister does (ick, probably not).  Or instead of paying dues to some national weight loss company or forking out dough for crappy frozen dinners I could just hire somebody to follow me around with a baseball bat & whack me upside the head every time I eat a cookie or stuff myself at dinner.
Did somebody have too much candy???
In the meantime I suppose I’ll just have to avoid the refrigerator and all of the leftovers from Mom’s house.  Anyone want to stand guard with a bat for me?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Christine!

Today is my Sister's Birthday.  Yes, it's hard to compete with the birth of Jesus & the gifts from Santa Claus, but you're still the one I think of most today!

Miss you lots & can't wait until you MOVE YOUR BUTT DOWN HERE!

Friday, December 24, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas....

Well, not really.  It rained this morning, but if it were about 10 degrees cooler, it would have been a White Christmas (Eve).
Enough of the “Emergency Preps” for a while; I’ll get back to it after the holidays. 
Have you finished your holiday “Emergency” preparations? We’re going over to my Mom’s house tomorrow for Christmas dinner so she’s the one doing most of the cooking.  If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to sneak a green bean casserole into her house. 
I had finished my shopping earlier this month but it didn’t take very long as our family has taken a “no gifts for Christmas” vow several years back.  And it gets broken every year, but at least we’ve significantly toned the gift-giving extravaganza down.  Not that I want to seem like a scrooge or anything, but I’m trying very hard to keep gifts to Rhiannon at a minimum.  Or at least the toys.  I know it’s hard for a lot of people to NOT buy something for a child, especially those really neat-look’n toys, but she already has two boxes full and honestly, how many toys can you possibly have?  Oh, wait, I know.  A million.  My Dad would heap the gifts under the tree for us when we were kids.  Not that I’m discounting his sincere desire to make us happy with all the packages, but I can’t even recall but one or two really neat toys that stick in my mind (Petster & my StarWars AT-AT being the two).  I have a girlfriend that loves books as much (probably even more) than I do & she is constantly sending Rhiannon books, but I’m fine with that.  I’m hoping that next year Rhiannon will be old enough to go with me to The Ronald McDonald House and do some volunteering during the holidays.  I’m hoping that we’ll make it an annual event.

We’ve been able to do some work in the yard & barns this week thanks to Grandma’s awesome babysitting abilities.  I cleaned out the goat kid pens & chicken coop, got all hay “unsuitable” for the diva-goats out of the manger & cleaned that out.  It drives me insane to no end how much hay they waste.  At least I was able to use it as bedding in the little “mobile” goat huts.  I composted the chicken litter but the shavings/poop from the kid pen went right onto the garden beds – one nice thing about goat poop, it doesn’t have to be composted before you use it.

Fresh bedding in the chicken coop & nest boxes....

.....and fresh bedding in the kid's pen!

Paul also spent time sawing some of the downed trees so I can get back to splitting wood for the stove.  One day I’m going to have to figure out how much firewood we go through.  If I had to take a wild guess, I’d say two cords.  And that’s with me not keeping the house at 80 degrees all winter – I like it nice & toasty inside.  Paul claims that it’s so hot in here sometimes that he’s close to passing out.

I also have our BOB’s (bug-out-bags) to go over.  I haven’t done that in over a year (bad, bad mommy, I know) so maybe I’ll use that as a blog subject next week.  And as a reminder for my other family members whom I’m almost certain have jettisoned the packs I made for their cars.  That’s a BIG hint Christine & Mom!

By the way, I did change out our storage drinking water.  And noticed that we only have three days’ worth – the minimum in my opinion.  I think I’m going to break the bank and buy some of those larger square water jugs from the grocery store since they stack so much nicer & hold more than an empty soda bottle.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas Eve & Christmas Day! 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winter / Emergency Preps, Animals

Regardless if your home includes livestock or the “normal” indoor feline or canine companions, you need to consider their needs during a storm, power outage or other emergency. 
Some emergency items we have on hand for our indoor cats / dog:
Cages or pet carriers for each animal
Extra leashes & collars with ID’s
Extra food & medications

Our livestock consists of a small herd of goats, about two-dozen chickens & two equines.  They require a lot more supplies than do the indoor fuzz balls and most of it is related to keeping them IN their respective areas – and therefore out of danger.
Extra fencing supplies like wire, t-posts, cattle panel & field fencing is a must.  If it weren’t for our supply of “extras”, we would have had a tough time keeping in the goats & mule after the ice storm took out large sections of fence.  Our ¾ acre of electric-fenced area for the goats was down in so many places that we’ve yet to get it back to the original size.  Their fencing now consists of cattle panels held up by t-posts but it is considerably smaller.  Being able to get the electric fence back online in the mule pasture was a high priority.  Ms. Melman will test the electrified top wire once in a while & she would have eventually figured out that it was off & she could start leaning on the field fencing again.
We also have a 4’ x 16’ chain link kennel which is easily moved by two people.  I’m really glad we have it as it gets used several times a year for various critters and would make a nice temporary emergency holding pen for the goats.
Other emergency items we have on hand:  electrolytes, Pro-Bios, blood-stop powder, general antibiotics (and syringes) and a balling and drenching gun.  A book of general animal care is a good idea.  I also keep a pair of heavy-duty gloves, wire snips & extra collars / leads in the barn.  Another item that is on the “to do” list is to buy a suture kit and to practice on some of the already-butchered chickens.
Have you considered how you are going to get water to your livestock if you are dependent on an electric well pump & the power goes out?  If you had to haul water, what kind of containers are you going to use?  And how far are you going to have to carry it?
Having extra feed & water buckets is also handy.  We keep about 400 lbs. of various grains in metal garbage cans during the winter months.  We can’t keep that much in the summer as the humidity causes the metal cans to sweat & it spoiled a lot of the grain this year.  About 3 months’ worth of hay is kept dry, stacked on pallets in a pole barn.
One last often-overlooked item in the animal department; pet sitters.  Do you have someone to watch your animals if you find yourself stranded from home or have a situation where you are unable to care for them?  When Rhiannon was born, I was in the hospital with her for a month & Paul was gone for up to a week at a time.  We were fortunate that our neighbors and my Mom were able to take care of everyone while we were gone.  I can’t imagine what a mess it could have been without their help.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Winter / Emergency Preps, Water

This probably should have been the first thing on the list.  We all know that we’d keel over in just a few days without water.  Regardless of how you normally get your drinking water – municipal water district, well with electric pump, rainwater collected in a cistern or a clear mountain spring – your source or quantity of water may be interrupted.  Yes, even you lucky ones with springs….natural or manmade disasters can disrupt your water source too. 
Do you have enough drinking water to last your family for several days?  It is generally suggested that you have one gallon of drinking water per person per day on hand.  This does not include  specail needs family members (nursing mothers or ones with medical conditions) additional hydration needs for those working in the heat, cooking or washing water, so you also have to take that into consideration.  I would assume that a three day supply would be the minimum you’d like to keep stored.  You can store water in clean, used soda bottles or even go fancy-pants like and buy some of those larger plastic containers at the “Purified Water” kiosks at the grocery store.  Just make sure that you change out your storage water every few months or it will get icky.  Not that you couldn’t drink it, but it will definitely taste “off”. 
Winter brings its own challenges here for obtaining water during a power outage.   Yes, we have a generator capable of running the well pump and even the hot water heater (hot showers are a godsend after several days of grumpy family sans electricity).  But it’s not the easiest thing to hook up.  And we probably wouldn’t even run it until the third or fourth day without electricity / running water. 
If storing enough drinking water for the human family weren’t enough, there is also the livestock to consider.  I’d guesstimate that our livestock drink at least 25 gallons of water a day; more in the summer.  And compared to other farmers that's not even a drop in the bucket - pun intended.  Fortunately for us, we have a relative about a mile up the road who has “city” water.  During the last ice storm we hauled water from there and would probably do the same, assuming the road was passable (it was impassable for almost two days last time). 
If we’re lucky enough to have a heads-up before a potentially nasty storm, here are a few water-related things we do:
Fill the bathtub with water.
Change out the storage water.
Fill extra water buckets for the animals (with the old storage water)
Fill utility buckets with water for flushing, dishwashing, cleaning
Do ALL the laundry & dishes.
Take a shower!
Don’t forget that if the temperature is below freezing outside you’re going to have to heat up water for the animals.  My prissy goats won’t drink really cold water.  Not that I blame them, but it’s a pain to keep warm water in their buckets when the temps don’t get above freezing even during the day.  I’d put one of those heated water buckets out there, but we don’t have electricity out to the barn and the little buggers would end up chewing through the cord & electrocuting themselves.   One year I took two cinder blocks (the hollow center ones) and stood them on their sides (the hollow sides facing up), dumped a bunch of coals inside & then put a metal water tub on top of it.  That worked well until the coals went out & the water froze.  It’s hard to get ice out of a metal container without eventually bending the container so badly that it no longer holds water.  We use the rubber water tubs now so I can just give them a good kick & the ice breaks up.  But I may use the metal tubs with the coals again in addition to the rubber ones.  The mule & mini-horse have electricity to their barn (and city water) so they are pretty well set even during bad weather.
So, what did I do today?  Go over my water storage & change it out?  Nope.  Went out to do some log splitting.  Technically part of the winter preps.  Gott'a keep warm! 
And baked a loaf of apple oatmeal bread.  I had to use up some of the applesauce we canned two years ago, so technically that is also part of prepping - Store what you Eat & Eat what you Store!

But right after I post this to the blog, I AM going to change the water.  Promise!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter / Emergency Preps, Food Prep

Well, so much for blogging every day this week.  I did, however, get a few things done that I’d been procrastinating on.  My tooth had been bothering me and Moonshine has been acting really mopey for the past week.  So I finally rescheduled my dentist appointment (I am terrified of going to the dentist) and got Moonshine into the vet.  Both appointments went well; it looks like I do NOT have to have a root canal (at least not in the immediate future) and Moonshine seems to just have a case of the “sniffles”.
I’m finally back to blogging today so here we go:
Food prep during power outages
Ok, so let’s say the power has been out for 24 hours and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be coming back on for a while longer.  Best case is that you’ve got a generator to keep your fridge / freezers going so the contents keep frozen or cooled.  Worst case is that you’ve just purchased a side of beef & you DON’T have the means to keep it frozen.  If you’re “lucky” enough to live in the frozen tundra of the Northern States and it’s winter, you could keep the meat frozen just by storing it outside (and hopefully away from other hungry critters).  You could also buy ice or dry ice to keep the contents cool, assuming you can get to the store, but even dry ice isn’t going to keep your frozen foods cold enough for an extended period of time…..not to mention it’s going to get expensive. If you’re solely dependent on the grid to keep your frozen foods frozen, then you’ve got a problem.
Do you have canning supplies on hand?  Do you have a pressure canner?  Do you have the means to actually heat up the canner (wood cookstove or propane / gas range)?  And even if you do have all these things, do you know how to properly can?  This isn’t the ideal time to learn.  But you do what you have to do.  Read the instruction booklet from your pressure canner (you DID keep that, didn’t you???) and follow them exactly.  Don’t take any short-cuts; they may end up costing you both time and the food you canned if they didn’t seal properly.  Not to mention that you could get violently ill if you ate improperly canned foods.  
I’m not going to get into the mechanics of canning / preserving food in this blog, but I will soon.  Or not so soon.  But eventually.  Anyhow…..
Ok, let’s pretend that we don’t have to worry about frozen foods spoiling and your most pressing item is getting the family fed.  You can only eat so many PB&J’s (assuming you’ve already made / bought bread) and sardines on crackers.  If you’ve got propane / gas fuel to your stove, lucky you!  Your cooking routine shouldn’t be much different.  BUT make sure that the stove can light without electricity; most modern appliances have an electric ignition.  We don’t have a gas stove (yet!) so we’re dependent on the wood stove, the two-burner Coleman camp stove and the gas grill to warm up or cook our meals.
Now THIS would have come in handy during the Ice Storm.  But as of today, it sits idly in our basement, awaiting the building of the "Outdoor Kitchen".

If you’ve been a good prepper, you’ve got plenty of homemade or store-bought “ready to eat” meals stocked on your pantry shelves that would require only “heat’n & eat’n”.  This would include dry pasta, dry beans, rice, oatmeal & other cereal grains, canned meats (venison, chicken, tuna, etc.), canned veggies & soup.  I also like to keep tofu in those little shelf-stable cartons on hand.   As much as I like to avoid most pre-packaged foods, they are good to have in your preps as they are a quick & easy meal and very helpful when the younger ones want something to eat NOW!!!  
Rhiannon's favorite pantry section.....the PB&J shelf!

Things like Tuna Helper, Spaghetti-O’s (ick, ick, ick!!) and Ramen Noodles (add some canned chicken & veggies to them & they aren’t that bad).  I’m sure there are a dizzying array of other items at the grocery store, although my mind is a blank right now (imagine that).  Miracle Whip in small jars (because you’ll have to keep them cool after opening) would be useful for tuna & chicken salad sandwiches.  Personally, I can’t stand the stuff, but some people actually prefer M.W. over real or store Mayo. 
Oooo……Mayo Story:  A few years ago my sister called asking about a recipe that had M.W. in it.  She didn’t have any & wanted to know if she could use something else.  When I told her that you could actually make mayonayse, there was a dead silence on the other end of the phone.  I don’t recall what she ended up using.  Although I have to admit, if you’ve never made it or didn’t know what the ingredients were (for the homemade stuff), the store product does seem kind’a weird.  Weird as in it could have only been concocted in some distant food laboratory with lots of unpronouncable chemicals and people walking around with clip boards donning white lab coats.
Anyhow.  Assuming you’ve got some shelf-stable, dry or canned vittles around, let’s get back to how we’re going to cook.  At Krazo acres, that would be on the camp stove, the grill or the wood stove.  Seems like an easy task, but I really missed my oven.  No baked goods!   So we had a lot of one-pot meals.  Here are a few of the things I made during our power outages:
Homemade Chicken or Tuna Helper:  Cooked Egg Noodles (or any type of pasta), canned chicken or tuna, Cream of Chicken soup (or mushroom soup if you’re using tuna), milk (powered or fresh from the goats), canned veggies, S&P to taste. 
Chili w/Johnny Cakes:  One can Chili Beans, one can Red Beans (or black, pinto, etc.), one can Diced Tomatoes & Chilies, one can tomato sauce (or tomato paste & 1/3 c. water).  Dump all into pot & heat up.  For the Johnny Cakes, just take a Jiffy Mix & add extra milk to make it like pancake batter & cook on greased pan like thick pancakes.
Chicken & Dumplings:   Canned Chicken.  Dumplings  (1 c. flour, ½ tsp. salt, 1 ½ tsp. baking powder, ½ c. milk, 2 Tbsp. oil.  Mix into soft dough & drop into boiling water or broth until done), Easy Gravy (2 c. chicken broth, add flour/water mixture to broth, heat & stir until thick.  Add pepper to taste).
Chicken & Rice:  Canned chicken, one can Cream of Chicken Soup, one can water or milk, 1 ½ cans instant rice.  Heat up soup & water / milk, add instant rice & cook over low/medium heat.  When rice is tender, add chunks of chicken & heat. 
Spaghetti: Or any type of pasta w/sauce. 
Fried Green Beans.  Not the deep-fried kind, although I suppose you could try with the canned beans.  Two cans green beans, oil, butter or better yet, bacon grease.  Fry up with some garlic & onions (or add powdered garlic or onions), S&P to taste. 
Breakfast & Lunch is pretty easy.  Oatmeal, grits, eggs (if your chickens are laying), pancakes.  Soup with crackers or croutons, Sandwiches & leftovers for Lunches.
We are definitely not picky eaters so our previous power-outage fiasco didn’t leave us hungry by any means.  It may be a little different with Rhiannon around now.  But she would probably be quite happy eating spaghetti or PB&J’s all day.
Hopefully my rambling has made you re-think, remind or prompt you to go over the items in your pantry.  I know I’m going to have a look-see in ours. 
Oh, by the way.  I was able to make cookies AND Pizza during the power outage.  Cookies on top of the wood stove with a cake pan "oven" on top of them and a Pizza on the grill.  Both turned out pretty good.
Next topic.....Water.  Maybe tomorrow.  Maybe later.  But eventually.  Really.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter / Emergency Preps, Heating

We’re fortunate to have a wood stove in the house.  We got a great deal on it from a friend & Paul put it in three winters ago.  And I just LOVE it.  Yes, we (Paul) has to down trees, cut them up, split them and stack them to dry, but we have plenty of trees on the property and it’s not like we don’t have modern equipment to help with the chore (chain saw, log splitter).  And I do help.  I actually just got inside from hauling tonight’s wood to the porch.  We probably could have used a larger one as it does have a hard time keeping up when it gets really, really cold (we’re talking Ozarks cold, not Minnesota cold), but it doesn’t happen that often. 
 Boy, I really need to clean off the glass.....

Technically we also have a fireplace, but it hasn’t seen a flame in over four years & it’s only been used three or four times by me, mainly for the ambiance.  It’s one of those cheapie “inserts”, and not the GOOD kind of inserts; just the crummy, cheapie “I want a fireplace in my house but don’t want to spend a lot of money on it” fireplace.   It's good for hanging Christmas stockings though.
Not only did it not warm anything farther than 6” away, but if you sat in front of it, you could feel the cold air coming from everywhere & getting sucked up the chimney.  Yes, I know that it’s our fault because the house is so leaky, but it still wouldn’t heat much anyhow.  So I have a grouping of candles in there & so it sits, unused & abandoned.  We’ve talked about changing it over to propane or having a REAL insert put in it’s place, but that’s for another day (or more likely, years from now).
We also have a forced-air heat pump & furnace, but we try to limit the use of it as we don’t care to spend any more than we have to on our electricity bills.
Water heating is another biggie during a power outage.  It is the largest power drain we have in the house (minus the stove / oven) and it would take one of the generators to run just that.  I try to turn the water heater off during the day as we normally take showers either very early in the morning or just before bed.  We still haven’t wrapped the tank in insulation or put on one of the automatic timers, but that’s in the works.   If for whatever reason we couldn’t get the water heater going, we’d have the wood stove to heat water with.  Which is what we did during the ice storm.  If it weren’t for having to wash my long hair, I could have survived a long time on just using the stove to heat up bathing water. 
Cooking / reheating food is pretty easy.  Once again, it’s done on the wood stove.  At least in the winter.  I suppose if a power outage happened in the summer months we’d just use the gas grill outside or the smaller two-burner Coleman camping stove.  You do have to mess around with recipes though as it’s not as easy to cook on a wood stove as it is an electric / gas stove or range.
Speaking of food, tomorrow’s planned blog is going to be on Power-Out-Meals.  My mouth is already watering!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter / Emergency Preps, Lighting

I thought it would be fitting to have "Lighting" as the first topic since it's usually the first thing one notices when the power goes off.  Well, at least at night. 
We have one Aladdin table lamp (Genie II), one Kosmo table lamp, two older “garage-sale” finds, and several of the cheapie glass table lamps, most manufactured by Lamplight Farms.  Since Rhiannon is in her “search & destroy” mode most of the time, it’s a chore to keep an eye on her & the lamps.  Technically I haven’t used the Aladdin lamp for years; the mantel has burned out. Aladdin has had a problem with producing the mantels for at least two YEARS now (maybe longer).  This and the fact that the mantels are very delicate (and expensive) makes me want to find another alternative.  Although I will admit that the light output from it is pretty amazing. 
My Kosmo lamp is my favorite right now.  The round wick puts out more light than the flat-wick types.  I use the smaller lamps in the bathrooms as a nightlight. It won’t light the entire room for you, but they are bright enough to keep you from cracking your noggin on the edge of the door if you have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.  Ask me how I know this.  My two garage-sale finds stay in the kitchen / living area & are used if we’re working on supper or want to light a larger area.  There is also a cheapie wall-mounted lamp on the wall between the dining area & kitchen.  I’m hoping to get a couple better wall-mounted lamps with reflectors because I figure Rhiannon can’t get to those (at least not as easily as the table lamps).  Hidden somewhere in storage are several other Lamplight Farms flat-wick lamps and chimneys and another Kosmo ceiling hung lamp that I have yet to refurbish (I had a weak E-bay moment a few years ago & just had to have it).
We also have boxes of candles, but I like the lamps better.  I suppose it would be more dangerous for a lamp to fall, break & spill fuel oil all over the place than to have a candle fall over.  You just have to remember to never leave a flame unattended, even for a minute.
Our stash of lamp oil is pretty well set; probably have enough to last us a month or more even if we had to use them every night, but I have lamp oil on my list of things to buy next shopping trip to town.  As far as I know it doesn’t go bad. 
So, we’ve got our lamps & oil, but do we have matches?  Lots of them. But, uhm, exactly where they were I couldn’t remember.  So I had to do some hunting & finally found a stash.  I put a small box of matches and a lighter next to or very close to the different lamps – out of Rhiannon’s reach of course.  Nothing worse than having a lamp but no spark.
I couldn’t talk lighting without bringing up by far the easiest alternative to flipping on a wall switch; flashlights!  Paul recently purchased several LED flashlights online.  The first one was a Guard Dog (not sure of the mfg., but it was from China).  It seemed like a durable flashlight, and we liked the fact that it was rechargeable (batteries get expensive you know!), but it wasn’t all we had hoped.  It fit in your hand nicely, but we’ve found that we really like the on/off button to be on the end of the flashlight.  We like the end button because it makes it easier to hold / point it at something & be able to turn it on and off with your thumb without moving the beam of light.  It also wasn’t as bright as we would have liked.  And it had an annoying “feature”.  Click the button once & it’s on, click it again & it’s a strobe & click it again & it goes off.  But you can’t go from “On” to “Off” without going through the strobe feature.  Not a biggie, but we just didn’t like it so it was returned & got our money back.
The second light is a Dorcy and I really liked it.  It was a bit larger than the Guard Dog, but the light output was really amazing; it was almost like a mini-spotlight.  This also had the on/off switch on the side, but I overlooked it because of the amount of light it put out.  Unfortunately we had a problem with it.  It came with batteries (cheap, no-name ones) and we noticed they leaked a bit when we changed them.  We carefully cleaned out the inside of the flashlight & put new batteries in it, but it didn’t work correctly after that.  It has a one-year warranty on it so I’m going to send it back sometime this week (hopefully) and get another one.  As long as the replacement one works like the first one, we’ll be happy with it.
Paul got both of us Streamlight Microstream pocket LED lights & we’re happy with these.  They are really bright for their size & also have the on/off button on the butt end.  The only thing I would have liked better is if it had a key fob as I like to keep mine on my keychain as opposed to in my pocket.  Yes, I know I could keep in my pocket, but I already have a pocket knife there & it’s getting kind’a crowded there. 
I’d really like to find one of those flashlights that you recharge by shaking them back & forth.  A good one, that is.  We bought two several years ago & they didn’t put out much light, especially for their size.  But I think we only paid like $10 for them; you get what you pay for.  I usually bring one of the bigger flashlights with me when I milk early in the morning, but I'd also like to get one of those Coleman type hanging lanterns that run on batteries & I'd just keep it in the milk parlor. 
Just another thing to add to "The List".
Tomorrow's post........"Heating"

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.... - Alfred Noyes

It’s been really, really windy since about 5 pm last night & it’s past one in the afternoon now.  It’s died down some, but the blowing & howling last night was terrible!  Anything that was on the front porch had been blown to the next county.  Anybody seen my BBQ cover??
I’ve been meaning to blog about winter storm preps for about two weeks now.  I was given a little “nudge” last night as our power went out while I was downstairs with Rhiannon.  I was at the computer & she was playing with her blocks when it went off.  She didn’t freak out or anything but it was a little difficult “finding” her as she went totally silent and I had to feel my way around furniture & try not to trip over toys on the floor before I could pick her up.   I hollered for Paul to get a flashlight so we could make it up the stairs without incident.  There are flashlights upstairs by the nightstands, junk drawer & front door, but none downstairs.  Yet.  We have several good oil lamps upstairs, matches & lighters close by so we’re pretty well set for lighting.  Rhiannon can get up on the chairs & tables now so we have to be extra careful not to leave any unattended for even a minute. 
So, are YOU ready for winter?  Even if it doesn’t get really cold where you live, are you ready for a power outage?  Some of you may have read “The 2009 Ice Storm” blog I posted before.  Now THAT was a real test for our storm preps.  We did pretty well, but of course we’ve been lax about it now that it’s over.
Starting tomorrow, I’m going to try to do a blog each day focusing on a different aspect of Winter Preparedness.  Until then, I’m going to spend some time cleaning up the yard from all the junk that’s blown around and chuck more wood into the stove as it’s getting a bit chilly upstairs.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I'm Baaaaaaack!

Not that anyone really missed me (well, maybe one of my eight followers did……thanks for inflating my ego a bit).  I was on, dare I say, a VACATION!  Well, not like Margarita & white sandy beaches kind’a vacation, but still.  I got a killer deal on a flight back “home” and couldn’t pass it up.  So I went for a long weekend to visit my Dad, Sister & a few friends. 
My flight was pretty much uneventful.  And when I exited the puddle-jumper at my destination I was greeted with a blast of freezing air and the smell of diesel exhaust.   Just a few of the things I DON’T miss.  Dad picked me up at the airport & drove the eleven miles to his house.  Which took an hour.  And it wasn’t snowing or rush hour.  Another thing I don’t miss.  I’ll have to keep this recent grid-lock event fresh in my mind so the next time I’m at one of the few stoplights in town here, I won’t get so cranky about it.
I spent most of the time at my Sister’s house and we did some shopping.  It snowed the night before our shopping trip & I had flash-backs about driving in the snow and how careless everyone seems to be after the first snow of the year.  We saw two or three near-misses on our short drive to the mall.
Well, we bought Mom’s present, walked around for a while and then treated ourselves to a soft hot pretzel and people watched for a while.  I don’t know why I keep forgetting, but it seems like even though there are a hundred stores in the mall, they are either jewelry stores, shoe stores, crappy toy stores or “hip” clothing stores featuring size 0 mannequins dressed in really raunchy outfits.  How many jewelry stores does one mall need?   Really?

But other than reminding myself exactly why I moved, I did get to see family, a good friend of mine, ate Polish & Mexican food, drooled / window shopped at the Polish grocery and oh yeah, shoveled snow.  At least it didn’t snow on my flight days.
Flight home was also uneventful, although about an hour delayed.  Paul & Rhiannon picked me up at the airport & we went home.  The house wasn’t burned to the ground, the cats, dogs, goats, equines & chickens were all fine.  Not that I doubted Paul’s ability to take care of the house, but it just seems weird when I’m not taking care of things.  The only thing that was different for the animals was that I had Paul keep the goat kids on their dams the entire time so he wouldn’t have to milk in the mornings.  Normally I keep the kids locked up at night so I have milk in the morning.  Yesterday morning I was back to my normal routine and the morning milking was about ¾ of what it usually is, but today it was almost back to normal.  Not sure if it was because Paul wasn’t feeding them as much as I do or if the kids weren’t totally draining them.  Or it could be that they are just nearing the end of their milking cycle. 
Anyhow…’s great to be back home.  I was getting homesick, even after only four days.  Although I DID get the most uninterrupted sleep I’ve had in like two years…..that was nice. 
Miss you Dad & Christine, but there just is "No place like Home”.