September is National Preparedness Month

After Katrina, the US government got on board with the preparedness “movement.” I put that in quotes because it’s not really a Movement. There have always been people who strive for self-reliance, which is really what “being prepared” means – having the skills and supplies to take care of yourself and your family.  It’s just that the some bureacrat finally realized the government couldn’t do it all during a major disaster and that perhaps having people be able to take care of themselves, at least for awhile, wasn’t such a bad idea.  Duh.

National Preparedness Month is an effort to educate and get more people involved with the idea of ensuring their families can make it through an emergency.  There are all sorts of disasters and emergencies – Mother Nature emergencies (weather, earthquakes, volcanoes), personal emergencies (health, fire, economic), and man-made emergencies (insert a potentially unbounded list of cruelty and depravity here).

Being Prepared should not be equated with being paranoid.  You don’t think up all the bad things that can happen in life and then proceed to safeguard yourself and your family against every one of those events.  You just quietly make sure that if the electricity goes out, you can provide light and food; if you lose your job, you are out of debt and have financial reserves to ensure you can stay in your home and feed your family; or that your vehicle is kept in good condition, to limit the number of times you have to walk home. Actually, I find that being prepared brings peace, not fear.

As you get interested in becoming better prepared, you will discover an overwhelming amount of stuff, information, and opinion out on the internet.  Don’t let this crush you, or cause fear.  Find *your* focus and proceed along at your own pace.  Start by addressing the basics of shelter, water, food, fuel, communications.

“September is National Preparedness Month” doesn’t mean that you have to do it all in one month, nor that September is the only month to pay attention to this topic.  Preparedness – aka self-reliance – is not a Once is Done event.  It is a continuous effort.  September is just a good month to re-focus, re-direct, and re-assess your preparedness efforts.  Or, if you are new to the concept:  to get started!

Every year, I like to see what others are doing for National Preparedness Month.  This year, let me direct your attention to  This site has a daily article throughout the month from other blogs and websites covering different aspects of the vast world of “preparedness.”  Check it out.  Follow through with some or all of the suggestions and get yourself a little more ready for what life can throw at you.


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Girls’ Night Out (and Preparedness Journal Update)

Tonight J & I had a girls’ night out and I was introduced to the world of Tractor Pulling.

I had a good time because, well, I have always been oddly attracted to tractors.  I must admit, however, that I was at a bit of a loss at this event, because I kept seeing the same tractors pulling in different “classes” and didn’t understand the classes.  I could hardly wait to get home to look up the rules.  There’s 52 pages of them:  TMI (too much information)! After further internet searching I managed to come up with this bit of a blurb for others who may also be uninitiated into the Tractor Pulling experience:

Tractor pulling is a competitive motor sport in which farm tractors (some stock, some modified, some souped up, some antique) drag a metal sled along a dirt track. The sled is two or three times longer than the tractors and contains a heavy load of metal plates that are hydraulically winched forward as the sled progresses along the course. The tractors, pulling an ever-increasing load, eventually lose forward momentum.  At that point, the distance the sled is moved is measured and the tractor that pulls the sled the farthest is declared the winner.

I’d never heard of tractor pulling before moving to North Carolina (it appears to be an “east of the Mississippi” thing) but I love how people make fun with what is available in their area … activities like snowshoe softball in Alaska and mutton busting in Wyoming come to mind.

Here’s a picture of a Farmall tractor pulling the sled:

Silk Hope Tractor Pull 2014

Silk Hope Tractor Pull 2014

Farmalls just might be my favorite tractor.

Once a tractor starts popping wheelies, you know their run is about over:

A wheelie signals the end of the pull is near!

A wheelie signals the end of the pull is near!

That’s an Allis-Chalmers tractor.  They’re okay, too.

Preparedness Journal – August Update

I got more peaches.

I got 36 pounds of the Contender variety from Millstone Creek Orchards, which is not terribly far from here.  I canned 12 pints (#51).  I actually processed 15 pints but the seals failed on three jars so they ended up in the freezer.  I also dehydrated two batches.  The Contender is much smaller and softer than the Winblos.  The first batch for the dehydrator, I cut the peaches in eighths, like I usually do, but that was too small once dehydrated.  The second batch, I just cut the peaches in fourths.  Fourths are more awkward to peel than eighths but, when dehydrated, the size and texture was just right. That’s something I need to remember for future reference.

I also dehydrated two loads of basil and other herbs.  I had a lot to dry and thought it would be nice to compare drying basil in the dehydrator with my experience last month of drying basil in the microwave.  I do like the microwave drying better, but only for small batches.

More watermelon is in the dehydrator at this time.  The first batch was shared with so many people that we ran out!  There are lots of new converts to the dehydrated-watermelon-lovers camp.

I continue to build my Scratch Cooking skills (#24).  My most noteworthy effort  was the Chocolate Sorbet.  Heaven on a spoon.

I find it interesting that, as I have continued to eat more homemade meals, the convenience foods and fast foods that used to be my mainstay do not taste good.  In fact, “yucky” is the more accurate term.  (I had the the opportunity to test that concept a couple of times this month.)

I actually did #33 of my 101 Provident Things in 1001 Days list:  I painted the ceiling of the front bedroom!   If you’ve never used Kilz, here’s a tip:  it’s paint with glue (I don’t know that for a fact but it sure acts like it).  Because of that, it doesn’t wash off.  Of anything.  I was smart enough to put a cover on my hair this time, so that wasn’t a problem.  However, it took nearly three weeks to get the spatters off my arms (but only one week to wear off my face!).  I am not a tidy ceiling painter.  Also, when I did the other ceilings in this house, the dogs weren’t here.  So, while *I* avoided Kilz in the hair, they –  ever underfoot – did not.


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“Alas, our technology has marched ahead of our spiritual and social evolution, making us, frankly, a dangerous people.”   —  Steven M. Greer

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Changes in Canning Lid Procedures

Did you know Jarden, (the company that manufactures Ball and Kerr canning jars and lids), has completely changed the recommendations for using their canning jar lids?

Neither did I, until I read the following article from  (This sure explains why I’ve had more lid failures than usual this season!).

Get the scoop here:

New Changes in Canning Lid Procedures?

New Changes in Canning Lid Procedures?



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“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”  –  J.R.R Tolkien

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“We patronize the animals for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they are more finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time.”   –  Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod

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Chocolate as Medicine

“Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine.” – Geronimo Piperni, quoted by Antonio Lavedán, Spanish army surgeon,1796

I Like Chocolate.  A lot.

In fact, it was seeing chocolate chips vacuum packed in mason jars to extend their shelf life by years that convinced me that buying a jar attachment for my Food Saver was absolutely a wise use of my food storage budget.  After all, what’s the point of having a food storage that doesn’t include a boatload of chocolate?

Obviously, as much as I’d like to base my menu planning on the premise, “There are four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate truffles,” (Anonymous) I am now old enough to know that I have to eat vegetables at least once a week.

Imagine my delight, then, to find out that Chocolate is actually Good For You!

Did you know that Chocolate can be great for:

  • 1. Fighting oxidative stress
  • 2. Combating inflammation
  • 3. Lowering cholesterol
  • 4. Reducing blood pressure
  • 5. Warding off cognitive decline
  • 6. Improving cardiovascular health
  • 7. Reducing the risk of stroke

(Read more Here, Here, and Here)

Since I am at risk for each one of these medical issues, I obviously am in need of a daily dose of Chocolate.  Kind of like vitamins pills.  Or, an herbal elixir.  Only tastier.  Don’t you agree?  Just nod your head and say “Yes.”

Why, all this research into the health benefits of Chocolate?  Well, I found a recipe for Dark Chocolate Sorbet and tried it this week.  I liked it so much that I wanted to qualify it for regular consumption.

Changes I made to the original recipe are that I did not include the espresso or the alcohol. Neither coffee nor (drinking) alcohol are commodities in my family’s pantry.  The espresso might make a difference in the flavor but I am satisfied with the flavor without it. The alcohol was included in the original recipe simply to keep the sorbet from getting too hard. My sorbet was easily scooped straight out of the freezer so I don’t see a need for the alcohol.

Chocolate Sorbet

Chocolate Sorbet

This sorbet is Very rich and one small scoop is actually completely satisfying.  This (“one small scoop”) is Not a statement I have ever before used in relation to Chocolate.


Combine the following in a medium-sized saucepan:

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup baking cocoa (I used Hershey’s)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup semisweet (I used Nestle)
2 1/4 cups water

Stir mixture over medium heat until the chips and sugar are dissolved and it comes to a boil.  Remove pan from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Transfer the mixture to a heatproof bowl and refrigerate overnight or until thoroughly cold.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the freezer bowl of the ice cream maker and run for 25 minutes. The sorbet will be very soft.

Transfer to a storage container, and freeze for several hours to firm up.


One final statement:

“Other things are just food. But chocolate’s chocolate.” – Patrick Skene Catling

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The Things That Count

Not what we have, but what we use;
Not what we see, but what we choose-
These are the things that mar or bless
The sum of human happiness.

The things near by, not things afar;
Not what we seem, but what we are-
These are the things that make or break,
That give the heart its joy or ache.

Not what seems fair, but what is true;
Not what we dream, but good we do-
These are the things that shine like gems,
Like stars, in fortunes diadems.

Not as we take, but as we give;
Not as we pray, but as we live-
These are the things that make for peace,
Both now and after Time shall cease.

Clarence Urmy
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It Doesn’t Get Sweeter Than This!

My first, and only, experience with dehydrated watermelon happened about 15 years ago.  I remember being shocked to learn you could dehydrate watermelon and then amazed at how good it tasted.

With that experience in mind + the fact that J had a big ol’ watermelon in her refrigerator + an empty dehydrator sitting on my kitchen counter = Let’s try this next!

I found instructions that advised to cut the watermelon in large, thin slices and others that said to cut the watermelon in chunks.  So, I tried chunks.

Watermelon chunks ready for the dehydrator

Watermelon chunks ready for the dehydrator

And slices.

Thin slices of watermelon ready dehydrating

Thin slices of watermelon ready dehydrating

J did the cutting.  Then my eight-year-old grandson and I did a thorough seed removal as we loaded the trays.  The prep work really didn’t take too long – I’m sure that’s partly because the work was shared!

After 24 hours in the dehydrator, each piece was flipped over for another 24 hours (per instructions) of drying.  However, they were actually done after only another 18 hours.

Dehydrated watermelon!

Dehydrated watermelon!

It worked out that my son-in-law (A) was at my house when I deemed them ready-to-eat so he and I got to do the taste test.

WOW.  Amazing!

The watermelon’s flavor and sugar are concentrated into one sweet morsel and each piece produces an explosion of flavor in your mouth.  Even A was impressed.

I need another watermelon.

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Preparedness Journal – July update

I am much more satisfied with July’s events than with June’s disasters.

100 Provident Things in 1001 Days:

I added to my supply of home canned foods (#51).  Considering that I am also eating from that supply, having 365 jars on the shelf at one time is challenging (I doubt I even have 100 jars at this point).  Nevertheless, I added 4 pints of pickles (1 already used), 6 pints of pickle relish (1 already used), 23 quarts of peaches, and 10 jars of peach jam.

I acquired a dehydrator (#67) and immediately began using it.  I have two pints of dehydrated peaches vacuum packed and in the freezer.  There is watermelon currently in the dehydrator.  That will take a couple of days to dry.  I have wanted to try to dehydrate watermelon since I first tasted it more than 15 years ago.

Building my make-it-don’t-buy-it cooking skills (#24) is an on-going process. My most obvious experience this month has been with using fresh basil from my garden.  In addition to making Chicken with Peaches and Basil (J’s is much better than mine), I also dehydrated some basil using the microwave oven.  That was a fun experiment!  Now that I have the dehydrator, I could use it to dehydrate basil and other herbs; however, I was really impressed with the outcome of using the microwave.  It is best suited to processing small batches of herbs (I would never have more than a small batch to do) and it took less time (an hour or so) than the dehydrator would have needed (20-24 hours!).

It is so encouraging to be able to look back over the month and see that I have actually accomplished something worthwhile!

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