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small piece of land

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A Weird Spring

Spring in this part of North Carolina usually unfolds in a nice orderly progression over 2-3 months.  It starts in February with the blooming of the daffodils and then forsythia.  In March the white and pink flowering trees start blossoming while a variety of lovely wildflowers fill the pastures and lawns with swaths of color.  The frogs throw in their froggy choirs.  Then come the blooming of the red buds, followed by azaleas, wisteria, and dogwood, all in a nice methodical succession.  A typical Spring presents one pleasant surprise after another, lifting the heart.

After the wild winter weather here, the usual spring “schedule” is off.  The daffodils did their thing on schedule, as did the frogs, but everything else hit with a BAM!  Instead of working through its delights from February through May, most of Spring arrived in a 2-3 WEEK period.  Everything else happened all at once – including the pine pollen.

If you’ve never experienced pine pollen, you should be very, very grateful.  Pine trees pollinate Everything, not just other pine trees.  They pollinate the cars, the grass, the houses, the roads, the lakes and ponds … everything.  Every morning you are greeted with another layer of yellow pollen on your car  (the only color of car in the state is Yellow).  When you use the windshield washers to clear the mess off enough to see, you end up with yellow mud.  As you drive down the road, you create swirls of yellow dust – reminiscent of a movie scene in a Wild West town.  The air is so full of pine pollen that it looks like smoke from a fire.

One of the values of the slower unfolding of Spring is that allergy medicine can kind of keep up with the steady, but lower, levels of pollen.  But when you throw everything out there at once, PLUS the pine pollen, life in North Carolina becomes a bit of a strain.  Not only is everyone snuffling and coughing, functioning effectively as a human being is not as successful under these circumstances.  I was sick for a couple of weeks but apparently got off easy as a friend related her experience with allergy-brain:

At Target Saturday, after a death match battle with another customer for the last 5-tablet box of Mucinex Allergy that I had a $5 off coupon for, I left the store in triumph, strode with purpose to the car, and got in the passenger seat. Then I buckled in securely, because I’m all about safety first.

So I was sitting there contemplating taking one of my hard won allergy pills, not noticing that my (20-year old) son had not gotten into the car, when I realized that the car smelled a little….off.

Like diapers.

I glanced casually in the back seat and saw a battered blue car seat, covered in what looked like a year’s worth of gummed Cheerios.

Even though it’s been about 17 years since I’ve used a car seat, the reality of my situation was slow to sink in. And then, suddenly, there it was:  I was sitting in someone else’s car.

I quickly unbuckled and climbed out, closed the car door as softly as possible, and tried to look like I had only been loitering in the parking lot, not breaking into cars.

I would have gotten away undetected, except that my son was standing outside the car (which I saw now was not even the same kind of car), shaking his head in disbelief. As we walked to our real car, parked clear across the parking lot, he whispered, “Mom, the door handles weren’t even the same! That’s so sad.”

hahahaha

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“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.”  –  Unknown

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The Power of Preparedness

I really appreciate the words of wisdom shared in this recent post by someone who had to test his readiness to evacuate.  It’s always encouraging to see that having a emergency preparedness plan provides not just physical security but a peace and calmness that will get you through when those plans actually need to be put to use.  Here’s the link:

WHEN YOU REALLY NEED TO BUG OUT

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“Blessed are we who can laugh at ourselves for we shall never cease to be amused.”  – Unknown

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Preparedness Journal – March update

The last day of the month has been warm and lovely.  Unlike the weekend, which was rainy, cold, and foggy.  The weather was certainly a roller coaster this month.

One good thing that came from the ice storm earlier this month was that I sussed out a source of free firewood and brought home a truckbed full to begin replenishing my supply. Another benefit was a heightened sense of gratitude for modern conveniences – electricity, indoor plumbing, and high-speed Internet.  Really, I am grateful everyday for these things, I just am always Extra-Grateful when our little trials of off-grid living are over!  Sigh – I’m such a wimp.

GARDEN:

I finished building the first permanent raised bed!  It was been a work in progress for a couple of months.  My grandson and/or I would occasionally drag a couple or a few concrete blocks from the old well house to the garden site (on the other side of the property of course).  Then we realigned the first row of blocks from GS#1′s idea of a straight line to my idea of a straight line and finalized it’s shape.  Finally, the weekend before last, I asked J to help with the last 12 blocks.  I wanted this darn project done!  And, as it turns out, I was willing to play dirty to do it.  In my defense, she did agreed to come over that morning; however, when I texted her at 8:42 am to see if she was ready to start, a flurry of texts came back: child is sick … I didn’t sleep well … I don’t feel well … other child is sick…. None of my rebuttals was working so I played the guilt card.  My final text: “Starting without you … are you sure you want your aged mother doing this all alone?” Yep, she arrived about 15 minutes later.  It’s a lovely garden bed, with sides tall enough to grow root vegetables and wide enough to sit my aged backside upon while I work.

FOOD:

I repackaged some #10 cans of food into canning jars with my Food Saver.  I like doing this because the product is in smaller quantities (without having to buy the more expensive smaller containers) yet the remainder of the can keeps fresh.  Before I started doing this, I hesitated to open my #10 cans and learn how to use some of the freeze-dried and dehydrated products because I didn’t want to risk wasting it.

I also finally tested the concept that oxygen absorber packets are a great way to seal powdery food items (powdered eggs, tomato powder, etc.) into canning jars.  I am very pleased that it worked so well.  I can now proceed to learn how to use some of the less familiar items from my Extended food storage.

My first trial was using the Tomato Powder to make spaghetti sauce, instead of buying jarred sauce which has become too pricey.  It wasn’t a great success flavor-wise: I obviously need to find a good sauce recipe.  It was, however, almost as easy to make the Tomato Powder into tomato sauce as it is to open a can or jar.

WHY PREPARE?

March 27th was the 50th anniversary of The Great Alaska Earthquake and reviewing my experiences with that event reinforced my understanding of the importance of Preparedness.

Maybe one of the most important lessons from that time is that you can be doing the most normal, most mundane chore on the most normal, everyday-type day and in a FLASH, *that* normal is gone.

It is Being Prepared that makes such sudden shifts in reality bearable.

Another important lesson I have continued to see when Stuff Happens is that there will always be a period of time when you are on your own.  You have to be able to take care of yourself and your family.

Modern life makes us forget how to take care of ourselves.  Food Storage, a family emergency plan, a source of clean water, a communication plan, a financial plan (including controlling debt, having life insurance if there are family members you support, emergency cash), and the other things that we try to include in our Preparedness efforts are what make it possible to take care of ourselves and our families despite what happens in our lives.

 

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The Great Alaska Earthquake – 50th Anniversary

Today is the 50th Anniversary of The Great Alaska Earthquake, which occurred in 1964. This was probably the most profound event of my life and has had lifelong effects.  One, of course, is my absolute knowledge that we must be as prepared and self-reliant as possible.

Click this picture to watch a short video for a glimpse of this event.  (By the way, the pieces in this picture used to be one building.)

govt hill

 

I was a child in Alaska when the 1964 Alaska Earthquake hit.  I was mixing up some pancake batter to cook up a quick dinner, after which my brother and I were going to the movies.  The initial 9.1 earthquake lasted for about 4 minutes.

Our house was not badly damaged so we could shelter-in-place afterward.  There were other houses, however, that weren’t just damaged (my piano teacher’s house just a block away was snapped in two), that weren’t just completely destroyed, they were Gone (the ground under one particular neighborhood in Anchorage – Turnagain Heights – collapsed into Cook Inlet).

Only one hospital was left functioning and, naturally, it and first responders were immediately overwhelmed.  Most of the time the first responders were whoever was nearby a need for help – like the people who rescued a woman from her car after a concrete slab from the JC Penney building crushed it.

Many roads were impassable.  Though my brother and I were home at the time, my Mom was at work (I think about 10? miles away).  It took her hours to get home.  I don’t know how long it took for my sister to get home from her dorm at Alaska Methodist University, across town.  My dad was out of the state on business when the earthquake hit. Communications were down and he didn’t know if we were even alive for three days (days– can you imagine how frantic he would have been?).

Help from Outside (in Alaska, we call the rest of the world “Outside”) was not easily obtained – not just because of the distance from the rest of the United States but because roads, airports, and seaports were damaged or destroyed.  There were towns in Alaska that did not have their single road in and out of town repaired for months.  It was a year before we could drive down the Seward Highway all the way from Anchorage through to the city of Seward where you could still see ships from the harbor and train cars from the railroad thrown across the town.  In many areas on that particular trip, the road was gravel – they just poured it in on top of where the road used to be.

Groceries?  New supplies weren’t coming in a hurry.  Bills due?  My mom couldn’t go back to work for weeks because of the damage to her office.  Less than a month later, my father had been killed in a plane crash after taking the governor and a survey team to Valdez – one of the towns that had been completely wiped out.

turnagain

This event happened a long time ago but the lessons live on.

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“Do the best you can until you know better.  Then, when you know better, do better.”  –  Maya Angelou

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Tomato Powder Experiment #1

Earlier this month, I repackaged some Tomato Powder into mason jars so it is in more usable quantities than a #10 can.  Today, I made my first attempt to use it.

The History

For a couple of decades, my spaghetti dinners have been based around a jar of Ragu.  It’s a go-to for quick-and-easy, needing only some pasta, a package of Meat Mix (hamburger cooked with onion and garlic and frozen in small packages for quick use), and a jar of sauce to get dinner on the table in 15 or so minutes.  Yes, I’ve made sauce from scratch now and then but I just never felt the time and expense of homemade spaghetti sauce was a worthwhile exchange for a $1.25 jar of Ragu.  Well, now it’s $1.75 per jar and that, along with my efforts to cook more from scratch and to learn to use more of my Expanded Food Storage supplies, means it’s time to re-think that position!

The Experiment

Making tomato sauce from Tomato Powder is very easy.

First, boil a cup of water.  You have to boil the water first for the powder to properly thicken.

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil

Then, dump 1/4 cup of tomato powder in all at once and whisk vigorously.

Whisk 1/4 cup tomato powder all at once into water.

Whisk 1/4 cup tomato powder all at once into water.

It thickens right up and, yes, it looks, smells, and tastes just like a can of tomato sauce. These measurements will yield 1 cup of sauce.

I added the following seasonings: 1/8 t basil, 1/8 t oregano, 1/4 t garlic powder, 1/8 t salt, and 1/8 t pepper.  Then I put a package of Meat Mix into the pan of sauce and it heated on low while I cooked the pasta.

The Result

20140324_192908

Well, I ate it but I didn’t love it.  It’s not the fault of the Tomato Powder sauce, though; I need to work on the seasonings.  The seasonings used need to be at least doubled, and there’s something else missing.  But what?  More work is needed!

The good news:  if I can get the flavor right, it was almost as quick to make this spaghetti dinner using the Tomato Powder as it is to heat up a jar of Ragu spaghetti sauce.

Has anyone else used Tomato Powder successfully?

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What a Difference a Day (or two) Makes

Tuesday morning, while thawing my car windshield after an overnight ice storm, I took these pictures:

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Today (Saturday), instead of buds covered in ice, we have a tree covered in white blossoms

Blossoms, blossoms everywhere!

Blossoms, blossoms everywhere!

and pink buds instead of icicles!

Soon to be pink blossoms

Soon to be pink blossoms

One of the things I love about Spring is there is something new to enjoy nearly everyday.  So, even though Mother Nature did not get the memo that March 2oth was the beginning of Spring – we have more snow expected this week – I am thrilled with whatever niceties she sends our way!

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