Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Being neighborly

Well, first a word about the economy problems that escalated yesterday--and a word is about all that I'm qualified to say on the subject--if the economy causes some/all of us/only me/only you to have a personal emergency in the near or far future, anything that we are able to put aside now will help us then. It may mean that at least we have something to eat. Or it may mean that because we have that food stored, we will be able to meet other expenses. If you are already facing your emergency, please do what you can, and I hope that it turns out well quickly for you. There are so many ways that people can find themselves in need of food storage, that it's scary, but the more that we are able to do, the better off we will be. That's why I'm working on it. It's not easy, but in the long run it will be worth it.

Something that has made our lives easier lately is being neighborly. That old adage of what goes around comes around is true at times, and lately what has been happening is that what goes around in a trickle comes around in a flood. (I guess that means that I better be sure that the things that I am doing are good things... :) I'll give you a couple of examples. For purposes of this example, I am going to call my neighbors Bartholomew, Wenceslas, Theodore, and Chad. Yeah, we have to maintain privacy around here. Anyway, here it goes....

Not too long ago my husband took some raspberries over to Bartholomew's house, and at the time explained (this will be in my words, not his, since I wasn't there) that because his peach tree, that hangs over our shared fence, is not immune to gravity, nor to a small child's hands messing around, some of his peaches were lost to him, for which we were very sorry. Bartholomew graciously said that we could help ourselves to his peaches. As evidence of Bartholomew's generosity, I present to you his peach tree, as seen from our backyard:

Bartholomew's generosity did not end there, however. When he returned the dish that my husband had delivered the raspberries in, he also handed me a large bag of apples. So we got back a lot more than we gave him--but I think just the increase of good will trumps the fruit by a long shot, and as you can see, the potential fruit harvest was quite large.

Then there were Wenceslas and Theodore, who came by unasked to help my husband remove a rather unsightly bush from our front yard. I guess they noticed what was going on, and showed up with a truck and the equipment to yank that stump right out of the ground. Our family vehicle is not really built for that kind of activity, so it is much appreciated. Before I talked to my husband and found out how helpful Wenceslas and Theodore had been, I encountered Wenceslas myself.

I was calling my children in for dinner while simultaneously chasing them down the street, when Wenceslas came up to me with about 1/2 a box of apples. Here is the gist and not exact content of the conversation that took place:

W: Hey, do you want these apples? We've been doing everything we can with apples, and we just had too many, could you use them?

Me: Well, um....I don't know if we could use all of them.

W: Well, we just have too many of them, maybe if you could just use some of them...

Me: Well, ok, but if we can't use all of them, we just won't tell you.

W: Hey, that's fine. My next stop for these was the dumpster. (Hands over box)

Me: Ok, thanks! (Resumes chasing children)

Now, you may remember that we already had a big bag of apples that we had from Bartholomew. And these apples, though I did not examine them closely, were rescued from a dumpster run. I thought that at the very least, I could make it easier on him (isn't it easier to throw other people's things away than your own? :) and just dispose of them myself. I don't know how to can, and I don't have a juicer, and I already had a big bag of apples to use before they were fit for a dumpster run. What to do?

It was here that something that I've learned from my blogging neighbors came to mind. In an effort to build up suspense about what happened with the apples, (yes, I am totally kidding, but if you want it to be suspenseful...) let me tell you about some of the things that I have gained by being a neighbor in the blogosphere:

-- a ton of useful information from people who are willing to comment. Just a couple of examples: Thanks to gl and Bustednuckles, who left comments on my tenting post explaining why there was so much mesh on the thing, and options and possible problems concerning air mattresses and camping pads. Thanks to Stephanie and Nancy, who left comments on my post about using canned beans--suggesting canning your own beans, or drying them, and even left instructions and a recipe.

-- a ton of useful information from people who write blogs themselves. Posts by people like Riverwalker over at Stealth Survival, who has included posts on food tips, among many other useful emergency preparation topics. You can find out about what other people are doing to get better prepared in general, that would end up improving your situation in an emergency, like a wood stove purchase over at Woody's Rocky Ridge, or canning over at Johnson Family Farm (these people have almost convinced me that a pressure canner does not have to be a scary thing). Not to scare you away from my recipes, but check out Safely Gathered In for more food storage recipes--they have pictures with theirs. There are people that are literally living off the beaten path, and are willing to share their knowledge and experiences with others, found at blogs like Wretha's Adventures Living 100% Off Grid, or Homesteading Hickory Hills.

The list could really go on and on, and just like with our neighbors that live down the street, we may (and probably will) not agree with everything they do/say/blog about. But the benefits that come from sharing and learning from each other in the blogging neighborhood are huge. I am trying to help other people by recording what I learn and by writing about my own experiences. What I gain from other people blogging is like that flood return on a trickle. So my appreciation goes out to those mentioned, as well as those not mentioned--the list would be too long. But I'll probably mention more in later posts... :)

So whatever happened to those apples? Even before I went inside, I (having read about what happens over at Homesteading Hickory Hills, where they never waste anything) had thought about yet another neighbor, Chad, who owns horses. I do not know where they are, but I know that he owns them, and since I do not have pets of the apple-eating variety, I thought the apples, so close to dumpster status, may have been of use to him. Later, when my husband and I talked about the apples and he said maybe Chad would want them, I did say," Yeah, I was wondering about that myself...", but everyone knows that the credit goes to the person who says it out loud first... :)

The apples were delivered to Chad. I assume he was happy. Wenceslas was happy to be done with the apples. Bartholomew liked the raspberries, and we like peaches and apples. We also like having that stump out of our front yard. So what does this have to do with food storage? Quite a bit, actually:

--Having good will between neighbors can only help should an emergency situation arise where you need to help each other. If you don't know your neighbors, they may still help you, but it is easier to ask for help or offer help when you are dealing with people you already know.

--The apple incident was a good example of how, if we don't improve our skills while we can, we may have missed opportunities. I hate (actually more than you know) to hold myself up as a bad example, but just think of what I could have done with those apples had I known how to can, or at least been proficient at and had equipment for juicing. I didn't entirely waste the apples, but I could have put them to a greater use for my family had I had the skills. Just some more things for me to work on, and an example of a missed opportunity.

--If you end up with something you can't use, chances are good that someone else might be able to use it. This is true of those apples, and it is true of many things. Then, there are other types of resources that you "give," like Theodore and Wenceslas gave their time, and the use of their equipment without being asked. Some things, like the apples, needn't be wasted, even if they are, in your mind, "ready for the dumpster." And sometimes, the things that you give are not actually things that you will lose, except for a little of your time, but your neighbors will really appreciate it.

Whew, a little long-winded. This is one of those times that I am glad that I don't employ those gadgets on my blog that would show me how quickly people stop reading :) (if those even exist). In any case, being neighborly and having neighbors can bring big returns--in your neighborhood or in the blogosphere. I am glad that I have both.


Wendy said...

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Marie said...

Wendy--thanks for your comment. And thank you for letting me know about your blog--it looks great! I just read some of your posts, and they are very detailed and useful--I'm looking forward to reading more!

Stephanie in AR said...

You could try making freezer apple pie filling next time. Fruits, 'sweet things', and nearly all pickles can be water bath canned. If you don't have a canner you could use a big spaghetti pot with a folded bath towel on the bottom (for the rack part). That way you can try some canning recipes until the canner gets bought. The towel is not as tidy as a regular set up but does the job in a pinch. My friends and I do the trading extras & driving to the fruit orchards. It saves money and time plus we get fruit we wouldn't have bothered with otherwise.

Marie said...

Stephanie--These are all excellent ideas--I'll have to keep the freezer apple pie filling in mind especially, because we do have room for it in our freezer. I also need to learn more about water bath cannning...
I like the community effort for obtaining the fruit--it seems like that would save money in a lot of different ways. Thanks for your comment!

Stephanie in AR said...

You may want to poke around the Georgia Extention Service site, they are the experts in home canning & most other state offices use their stuff. Here is the page for beginning -the site is not as easy to use as it could be.

The sister of a very good friend is a home economist with the Tennessee extention & said that they are not supposed to encourage homecanning any more as the powers that be don't think it is safe (people are too stupid to be careful). So don't be surprised if you do come across something that is not recommended. Your own state should have info either at the local office or on line. It should also be free. It is not a bad idea to go for a visit as there is a wealth of info on just about any topic you can think of. You may also be interested in your state's gardening info. Some states offer free or low cost soil testing and is worth the effort.

Marie said...

Stephanie--Thanks for the great suggestions and detailed information. I had not thought about having my soil tested, but maybe I should look into that...thanks again!