Archive for December, 2013

The Shortest Day – Winter Solstice

Friday, December 20, 2013

In ancient times, people were afraid when the days grew shorter and shorter with less and less daylight. As time went by they began to notice that even though the days got shorter there was one day of the year when the sun changed and began to move closer to them again. Tomorrow, December 21st marks the winter solstice, the first day of winter, that moment in time when days grow longer and the nights become shorter. Many cultures have built traditions around the ancient solstice celebrations. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights and parts of our modern Christmas traditions can all trace their roots back to ancient solstice celebrations.

This is a great marker on the calendar for me because it reminds me that spring is just a few months away. Our winter is still in full swing here on the farm though. The storms keep pounding through our area with no relief in sight. Six inches of rain in just 2 days has fallen. It makes me wonder if I should be building an Ark rather than sitting at the kitchen table laying out plans for my spring garden, buying new hens or ordering catalog seeds and plants.

The girls (hens) are none to happy either. Last week they were prowling around the yard in search of worms and other bugs brought to the surface by the cool damp weather, but for the past few days they’ve been hold up in the barn, not brave enough to venture out into the downpour. My plans to bring in an early batch of meat birds have also succumbed to the weather and will be rescheduled for a later time, when the weather won’t threaten so many losses.

It’s still a magical time, though, despite the weather. One year is put to bed and put behind us while another stretches out before us, pushing above the surface like early spring peas.


The Shortest Day
by Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!


Photo Credit: blessed1indeed



37 Pantry Staples for Preparedness

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Be Prepared SignPreparing for a crisis or power outage or storm is an essential task for any homesteader and home-owner alike. It is an every day task and important topic to discuss with family and friends because when disaster strikes food and water will disappear from store shelves at an alarming rate. In fact, most authorities estimate there are 37 essential food items that will become impossible to find less than 2 hours after any disaster strikes.

Take stock of the 37 most important goods to buy from the grocery store while they are still available and save yourself and your family the stress and drama of seeking them out post crisis.

Stock up on these foods before a crisis hits

  1. Distilled water and seltzer water — because we can’t live without it.
  2. Canned liquids — like fruit juice, broth, milk and veggies.
  3. Powered milk — regular or goat’s milk, but not non-dairy creamers.
  4. Hard cheeses encased in wax — they won’t grow mold, retain moisture
  5. Protein bars and protein drinks — Whey Powder or protein concentrate.
  6. Canned & dehydrated meats — jerky, tuna, smoked salmon, sausages.
  7. Coffee, tea and bouillon — for energy, cooking and medicinal use.
  8. Oils — small containers of olive, coconut, Ghee, butter, shortening, lard.
  9. Whole wheat flour — non-GMO flour and whole grains for longer storage.
  10. Wheat germ and Shredded Wheat — for fiber, vitamins and protein.
  11. Potato flour — not potato starch for gluten free cooking, baking and soups.
  12. Corn as a grain (dried) — can be ground into flour, for baking and grits.
  13. Corn as a vegetable — non-GMO canned.
  14. Oats and Oatmeal — good source of fiber, a hearty breakfast.
  15. Bread crumbs & stuffing’s — sealed in plastic, for coating, fish cakes, and casseroles.
  16. Shelf stable, ready to eat meals — like tuna kits, GoPicnic & French Bistro.
  17. Crackers — packed in #10 cans, accompaniment for soups, tuna salad & PB.
  18. Potato Flakes & au gratin potatoes — choose those without hydrogenated oils.
  19. Rice — store instant to save on resources, jasmine, basmati, Arborio, short grain, & brown.
  20. Pastas — filling and versatile for soups, stews, casseroles & main dishes.
  21. Raisins, dried fruits, fruit strips — for protein, fiber, iron, vitamins & cooking.
  22. Jams and jellies — a comfort food along with glazes, marinades and baking.
  23. Canned fruits — provide calories, hydration, vitamins, use in soups and baking.
  24. Canned veggies — think canned with calories like root veggies, yams, sweet potatoes. Also sauerkraut, cabbage and beets, and carrots, peas and potatoes.
  25. Beans, legumes & peanuts — dried and canned for energy and fiber.
  26. Nuts, seeds and nut-butters — raw, roasted & buttered for cooking & eating.
  27. Honey — even if you don’t use it, buy some for flavoring, medicinal & topical.
  28. Iodized salt — needed to preserve and season food; inhibit germ growth and regulate fluid balance.
  29. Sugars and Molasses — granulated sugar, brown sugar and powdered
    sugar wrapped in plastic, to protect from insects.
  30. Spices and herbs — buy more of the spices already in your cupboard.
  31. Condiments — pickle relish, small cans of mayonnaise mustards, Tabasco sauce,
    vinegars (balsamic, cider and rice whine), maple syrup, vanilla and almond extracts, cocoa powder and chocolate syrups.
  32. Chocolates — it’s a morale booster that could prove essential.
  33. Vitamins — multi-vitamins plus Calcium with Vitamin D and magnesium.
  34. Food bars — are compact nutrition complete with protein and energy.
  35. Vodka — you can cook with it, drink it, provide first-aid, bug repellent or barter
  36. Dry yeast — for baking bread even though it has a short shelf life.

More stock-ups…

Along with the 37 essential food items for your Prepper’s Pantry, you also need to consider non-food related items, like hand can openers, firewood, charcoal, lighter fuel, candles, paper plates, plastic utensils and disposable cups. Also, remember feminine hygiene products for every female in your house!
If you have a root cellar, you can store fresh apples, potatoes, onions and garlic, or any other root vegetable, which will last for several months.

Last, but not least, a disaster of any kind can and most likely will be a stressful time, so never feel guilty about stocking a few of your favorite junk food items.

There you have it — 37 essential food items to stock for disaster prepping. With these items on stand-by you will be more prepared than most households in the country, which will make you and your family very happy when the unthinkable strikes.

After months of silence I was awakened this morning by the sound of water dripping off the eves. Not just water, but – RAIN!!!

Finally, our long dry spell is broken. I stayed in bed longer than usual, nestled under layers of quilts and down comforters just listening to the soft – Ping…Ping…Plop…Kerplunk – of a steady rain as it hit whatever was below. It was a joyous sound. I laid there thinking about crockpots simmering hot with pot roasts or stews, the smell of home baked bread fresh from the oven, crackling fires casting a warm glow over our little farmhouse and days filled with much needed indoor chores.

As the sun rose, beaming just over the horizon through gray clouds, Blue (our Cochin rooster) began to sound off the coming dawn. I could hear him as he strutted around the coop. Soon the other boys chimed in and eventually the hens began cackling to be let out in the barn now devoid of lambs. (Did I mention the lambs went to the processor on Monday? No matter, we’ll have them back by weeks end nicely wrapped in freezer paper ready for whatever recipe strikes my fancy.) The farm is awake.

I’m up now, enjoying a steaming hot pot of tea and a piece of warm pumpkin bread smothered in butter. Yummy! It’s still raining – slow and steady – the kind that soaks in rather than runs off. It’s cold outside. The beginning of a cooler fall – I hope. But, the cold sends a message. It’s time to recheck the bedding in our nesting boxes and the level of litter on the coop floor. It’s time to make sure the coop is ready for what is predicted to be a colder than normal winter.

Chickens can handle remarkably cold temperatures. Some say the temperature doesn’t bother them until it gets down to -20 degrees, while others say as long as the coop is not damp or drafty they can handle even lower temps. But, I figure if I’m warm and snug why not them. So, we’ve cleaned out the nesting boxes and refilled them with a thick layer of shavings, then topped  it with a layer of fresh straw. It’s really not necessary to have both kinds of bedding; we use the leftover shavings from the trailer so the hens can scratch in it all winter before it’s used for mulch or compost in the spring. The coop floor will get a nice thick layer of straw after any low spots have been filled in.

Damp or wet conditions in the coop can bring on illness. We’ll check the coop for drafty areas and shore them up; and we’ll minimize the ventilation to 1) lessen the amount of cold air entering the coop, and 2) reduce the openings that might appeal to predators fixed on an easy winter meal. Fox, weasel, raccoon and rodents can be surprisingly cunning if a free meal is to be had. A warming mat is set under the water trough so it won’t freeze over should the temps drop that low. And a few heat lamps will be hung just in case.

I rarely have to be concerned with frostbite, but many who live in really cold areas will. Combs, wattles and feet are susceptible to frostbite in extreme weather. A rooster whose comb freezes is not only in a lot of pain but may also be less fertile. An old-timers trick is to put petroleum jelly or Vaseline on the comb and waddles for protection. And, keeping outside poultry areas free from snow will also help. But, the number one way to keep a coop warm enough to weather most winters is a thick layer of straw because it helps hold the heat in.

On Saturday I’ll swing by the feed store and pick up a bag of corn based scratch. It won’t replace our regular chicken feed; it’s a treat the girls love, plus the added energy used to digest the corn helps keep them warm.

The seasons are a changing, folks! Fall is here. And, there’ll be pot roast and warm homemade bread for dinner tonight, a crackling fire in the fireplace and pumpkin spice candles flickering from every corner. I am one contented farmgirl.

Frugal Living tips

It’s November and many have their eyes set on Christmas; the parties, the outings, the gift giving, the food. With the economy still so uncertain and many still without jobs this season may have the air of being a not so merry holiday.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. With some careful planning and a few creative “outside-of-the-box” ideas you and your family won’t miss the hectic fast paced rush of previous years. In fact, you may come to treasure a slower paced holiday that allows you to reflect and appreciate the true meaning of the season. Check out our 17 ideas and choose a few to incorporate into your celebration this year, and make it through the holidays without breaking the bank or your spirit. Read the rest of the story »