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Archive for October, 2012

I was eating supper with my family last evening when the lights flickered, went off, on, off, on, off.  Oh well, I finished eating while someone else retrieved a flashlight.  Next, he lit the lantern.  I got up to find some of the numerous candles that I have in my home.  One for the bathroom.  Two for the living room.  Flashlight for walking outside or down the hall or for use in the bedroom.  No panicking, after all, a power outage in winter was normal for us.  We are at the end of the line.  The power company calls us to ask if we have power yet.  If the answer is “no”, they call back again later to ask again.  It’s nice to know they are thinking of us, and that they care enough to ask.

So, let’s talk about being ready for outages.  As history has taught us, even large cities, like New York City, can and do experience power outages.  Anywhere there is electricity can experience an outage.

One of the first things to do have plenty of water on hand.  Water is not only for drinking.  It is for bathing, washing dishes and hands, pets, and the all important toilet flushing.  We have nine gallons of drinking water on hand at all times.  Drinking water containers can’t just sit around not being used for extended periods.  It is best to replace the water at least twice a month if not more often.  I use it to water plants and pets.  Each jug is refilled in turn.  Water for bathing , washing, and pets must be treated in a similar way.  Use until empty and refill on a regular basis.  Water for the toilet can sit around for long periods without being used and refilled.  Toilet water can be water that was used to bath or wash something.  After all, this water is not for drinking.   It is a good idea to have at least two gallons for each person in your family.  More is better, but two usually will do.

The next thing to have is plenty of food that requires little to no preparation or refrigeration.  Military MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) packets can be a good choice.  Peanut butter, provided no one in your family has allergies to it, is also a good choice.  Canned corn, peas, green beans, and such can be eaten cold, if need be.  If you want hot food, then see to it that you have a means to cook it during an outage.  Our stove runs on propane.  Still, we can’t use the oven.  We use a match to light the surface burners.  This allows us to cook rice, beans, soups, and more.  It also allows us to heat water for cleaning and/or bathing.  Don’t forget to have plenty of food on hand for pets and livestock as well.  We have two bags of dog and cat food at any one time.  We do the same with the chicken’s laying pellets.

When the power goes out in the winter, be sure you have a safe heat source.  I have a woodstove.  My best friends have a nice propane heater.  The woodstove is used throughout the winter.  They only use their propane heater for outages or emergencies.  Make sure you read the directions that come with your heat source.  Some, for example, require more ventilation than others.  Also, make sure you have plenty of appropriate fuel for your heat source.  DO NOT ever mix or substitute fuel.  Doing so can be deadly.

Next, make sure to have plenty of bedding and clothes on hand.  Not just any will do.  Heavy sleeping bags can be opened and spread out to cover an entire queen size bed.  Hats might be needed.  Gloves as well.  Don’t be afraid to put on too much.  It’s easier to remove a layer of clothing or bedding than to discover you don’t have enough.

Refrigeration is sometimes an issue during outages.  When our power goes out in the winter, we take advantage of nature’s refrigeration and place things outside on the rail or in coolers on the porch.  We put some items in unheated buildings.  This keeps them cool so they don’t spoil.  It also keeps them away from raccoons and bears.  In the summer, refrigeration becomes more of a challenge.  Having plenty of coolers and a way to get ice is the best way to meet that challenge.

Other important things to have on hand for outages are games, books, or other forms of entertainment.  One of our favorite games during an outage is dominoes.  We typically play the Mexican Train version of the game.  We’ve also played cards and word games.  We also have a ton of books on a variety of topics.

Oh, one more important thing, if you have a land line, is to have a corded phone.  Cordless phones are useless without electricity.  Corded phones, therefore, can quite literally be a lifesaver.

Being prepared used to be a matter of common sense.  With modern conveniences, being prepared isn’t something that crosses people’s minds until it has to.  If you are prepared in advance, then storms like Hurricane Sandy catch you by surprise.  Also, be certain to check on elderly, ill, or disabled neighbors.  Having a bit extra on hand to help others is always a good idea.

Brightest of Blessings to you and yours.

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Hurricane Sandy was kind enough to bring us our first snow of this winter season.  I awoke at three o’clock in the morning to a chilly house.  I got up and put more wood in the firebox of my woodstove.  I left the draft controls open more than I would if I were in bed, so I stayed up a while to keep an eye on it.  I let it heat up nicely before turning it down and returning to bed.  While lying there, I hear the first of the snow hitting my windows.  Little bits of ice plinking off the window.

So, when my dog, Thor, woke me up at seven thirty o’clock, I wasn’t surprised to find white stuff on the ground.  He went outside for a few minutes, not nearly as long as usual.  And the snow comes down.

Freya, my older dog, was out only long enough to do her business.  For her, this is unusual.  She loves to play in the snow.  Lately, though, she’s been in a bit of pain in her hips.  For the first time, I’ve considered euthanasia.  I really don’t want her to suffer.  And the snow comes down.

Anyway, the cats came in with the dogs after their morning journeys.  Then, they all settled down near the woodstove.  My living room is littered with furry bundles of love!  And the snow comes down.

The coffee has percolated nicely and is hot in my cup.  The woodstove is ticking as it warms up for the day.  Soon, it will be time to wind up my watch and put it on my wrist.  Then, I will settle in to write for a bit.  I think today’s venture will be into short stories.  And the snow comes down.

I’ll send my son down to check on the chickens and collect eggs.  He might have to shovel a path depending on how much snow has fallen.  He won’t be too happy about that.  He hates shoveling snow.  And the snow comes down.

Later, I’ll need to go out to the greenhouse.  This is my first winter with a greenhouse.  It will be interesting to see what happens.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted.  And the snow comes down.

I haven’t seen any deer in the yard this morning.  Maybe they are sleeping in today, although I doubt that.  They will want to eat as much as they can before the snow gets too deep.  Of course, deep snow just means they have to dig down to the tender shoots below.  And the snow comes down.

I hope you all have a wonder, blessed day.  Brightest of Blessings to those in the path of Hurricane Sandy.  Enjoy the snow or whatever weather this day brings you!

 

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This year we planted popcorn.  My son and I just went out to pick, shuck, and bag it.  I went through the rows of corn finding ears and tossed them in the direction of my son.  He shucked them.  Bug eaten and immature ears went to our chickens.  The other ears went into an empty chicken feed bag for winter storage.

Popcorn is not only good for popping.  It is also very good for grinding.  It makes a wonder corn meal.  Cracked corn makes excellent chicken food; however, in some states growing corn or wheat as livestock feed is illegal.  Please check your laws.

Popcorn that is to become corn meal needs to be washed, dried, and stored in a cool, dry place until it is completely dried out.  This may take an entire winter or longer.  Once it is dry, then it can be ground into corn meal.  The easiest way to grind corn is by using an electric grinder.  Ours not only plugs into the wall, but it can also be run by solar panels.  This grinder makes the job faster and easier.

If you plan to use a hand grinder, you need to have many other people there with you so you can take turns.  It can take hours to grind enough corn by hand just to make a skillet of corn bread.  So be patient and be ready for sore muscles.

Either way, growing your own corn for corn meal is very rewarding.  The taste of the corn meal is much better, in my opinion.

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Many people think that once the garden is done that the greenhouse is also done.  This is far from accurate since I have many plants in the greenhouse.  Some will eventually die off.  Most will overwinter there.

In both Fall and Spring, one problem with a greenhouse is overheating during the day.  At night, the temperatures aren’t cold enough to freeze or to frost.  During the day, however, the temperatures can range from 50’s to 80’s.  Today it’s near 80 degrees.

I had to take my son into town this morning.  We were running late, and I forgot to open the windows on the greenhouse.  When I got home, I realized what I’d done.  I went out and opened the windows.  Then I opened the shutters on the fan to facilitate cooling.  Before supper, I’ll go out and close everything.  Tomorrow morning, I’ll need to open them again.

This daily pattern will happen for as long as temperatures demand it.  Patience is a necessary skill for gardeners.

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Today was a sad day in the greenhouse.  We had a frost warning about a week ago.  I noticed the next morning that parts of the huge Cherokee purple tomato were dying.  The taste of the tomatoes changed quickly after that.  I’ve noticed over the years that tomatoes don’t taste as good once the plant starts dying.  The plant still had about thirty or so fruits on it, but bad quality means they aren’t keepers.  They can’t be canned.  They can’t be eaten.

So, today I pulled the tomato plant out of the raised bed.  It was so big that it took about twenty minutes to clear it out of the greenhouse.  That did not include using a small shovel and rake to locate roots.

Once done, I realized just how big that plant was.  It spread about nine feet long and about 8 feet tall.  Amazing!  Then I turned to look were it had been and realized just how barren my greenhouse seems now.  I know that’s not the case.  There are many other plants in there.  That tomato just had such a huge presence.  I loved it!  It was great!

In March, I think I’ll plant another one!

 

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I have a huge Cherokee Purple tomato in my greenhouse.  The photo below shows it at about half of its current height and about a third of it width.  The photo below that still does not do it justice.  The vine at dirt level is about five inches in diameter.  The vine at my eye level is still bigger than most garden tomatoes at maturity.  Huge,…yeah, huge suits this tomato nicely.

The tomato curved to the roof of the greenhouse.  It took up almost one-third of the raised bed.  While I’m still getting tomatoes from it, it has started to die back.  It has lost a fourth of its mass.  Still, the tomatoes are sweet.  They have started to decline in quality as tomatoes are want to do when the vine starts to die back.  I’m tempted to clip a piece from this tomato to over winter in the house.  Maybe I’ll get tomatoes in December.  Fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes would be treat in December, January, and February.  I’ll have to go out, clip a piece, plant it, and bring it in.

*Heads out to the greenhouse.*

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I have been a member of several local freecycle groups for many years.  Mostly I monitor but don’t post.  I decided to offer some plants recently.  My greenhouse was ready for use later in the season, and so some of the plants I started are still young.  They’ve never been in their own beds, so they can’t overwinter outside this year.  I could probably transplant some of them into the field, but I would rather put them in permanent beds once those are ready.  I was hoping to have them ready this year, but that didn’t happen.  I was hoping to have my herb garden complete by now.  Well, there’s always next year for that.

The plants I offered on freecycle were feverfew, common sage, hiciscus, and stevia.  I’ve gotten many responses, including one who told me that I didn’t have to dig them up since they could overwinter outside.  I wrote a polite response explaining the circumstances.  The other respondents were quite interested and agreed to bring their own pots and soil.

I thought about posting this on the plant swap group to which I belong, but the freecycle way is easier.  Easy is good right now.

I hope everyone has a wonderful day.

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