Friday, October 30, 2009

A little bit is better than none

Of course, when it comes to food storage itself, every little bit that you can get in will be helpful, a can, bottle, bag, or box at a time. In this particular case, though, I'm referring to information.

Yesterday I was ironing near the front door while one of my children was reading out loud. (Kind of an unusual situation, but hey, ironing boards are portable, and in this case it turns out that the emergency was all about location, location, location...) All of the sudden I heard a whooshing sound that sounded really close to the house. I asked one of my children to look out the front window and see what was making that sound. The answer was "the wind". However, when I looked out the window from my vantage point, I saw no movement in the trees. My second thought was that it was a street cleaner, because it sounded more like water.

Then I got smart and actually opened the front door.

Water was spurting everywhere from a water fixture right next to the front porch, and it wasn't pretty. And, though my technical expertise limits my description to calling it a "water fixture", you may recall our experience nearly a year ago when my expertise on water valves increased by necessity, though fortunately gushing water was not a part of the equation. Add to that the fact that a couple of months ago we had a family night where we talked about the water valve by the street and actually taught our children how to turn off the water in an emergency among other emergency information, and things turned out better than they would have otherwise. I sent a child out with the water key to turn it off (glad to see that a lesson learned was a lesson remembered :) and I was relieved to find that the water stopped immediately.

We went back in, and I was soon informed (read: immediately) that there was water leaking into the basement. I was soon outside emptying out a window well with a bucket. It did not turn out to be a big deal, since we were able to deal with it so quickly.

If I had not been in the front room, I would not have heard the water problem, and it would have been more time before we found out about the water in the basement as well. The way it turned out was a real blessing for us. After I was done bailing water, I called my husband and told him what had happened.

Turns out that the "water fixture" has something to do with the sprinkler system, and a line burst because it hadn't been cleared before freezing temperatures had set in. (This is an odd occurrence because my husband is very good at this sort of thing and has even cleared lines on other property for other people, but there it is.) So when he got home, he dealt with the sprinkler system and turned the water back on. That was nice.

If I had had more information, I could have dealt with the sprinkler system as quickly as my husband did. However, even though my information consisted of "water fixture", I did have enough information to deal with the immediate emergency and to tide me over until someone with more information could help me.

This reminds me of food storage as well, in that I don't have all of the knowledge that I need/would like to have when it comes to emergency situations, but when it comes to food, I do have some. I know how to make some "emergency meals" (which I try to work into my regular meal rotation occasionally) and how to do some basic breads, etc. I know how to use my basics to some extent--rice and beans, flour, oil, etc.--but need to learn more. The plan is to be even (much) better prepared before an emergency hits, but I have some information. You have to start somewhere, and sometimes I get worried that people don't start at all on their food storage because there is so much to learn. I hope people get some grains and/or other basics in, even if they don't know how to use them yet, so that they have something to work with before there's a food shortage. It's more ideal to be an expert with your food storage, obviously, but if you know how to make a few basic dishes with foods that can last long-term, you will be much better off than if you don't have anything at all. After all, you and your loved ones may be your only resource when an emergency first hits. Surviving on a few dishes may not be ideal, but it is surviving. And if there are people to help you after an emergency strikes, it will be a better situation if we have our own resources to share and/or learn with.

Oh, and the other thing this reminds me of is the necessity to clear those sprinkler lines before they freeze.... :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Here's a treat

Just not the kind you can hand out on Halloween. But hey, everyone loves a little treat now and then, and it gets better when the ingredients are basic. Oh, and did I mention the recipe is easy? I present to you:

Peanut Butter Fingers

Cream together:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 unbeaten egg
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Blend. Stir in:

1 cup flour
1 cup quick oats

Press into greased 9x13 pan. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden. Sprinkle with 1 6- oz package of chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes. Spread evenly.

1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
2-4 tablespoons evaporated milk
1/4 cup peanut butter
Drizzle over cookies. Cool and cut.

I don't know who came up with this recipe, so it's hard to give credit, but thank you, peanut butter finger inventor. At the risk of shocking someone, we got a little lazy last time we made these at our house, and we skipped the topping and dived in after the chocolate chips were spread evenly. We somehow managed not to feel deprived..... :)

Our pumpkins are probably going to get carved tonight, regardless of their irregular hues. I'm sure some of them will make it into the freezer as puree as well. Those of you who may have missed my great adventure last year in finding pumpkin recipes may be interested in this one for pumpkin bread that I posted then. It's always good to take something that takes up so much room in the garden and make it take up room in the freezer.... :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

The camera is back (plus more about pumpkins)

For wonderful information, for the whole process from growing to preserving pumpkins, check out the comments on my previous post. Thanks to Kristen, Anonymous, and Stephanie--another case of me finding out about things I didn't know I didn't know from my internet friends!

My husband found a cord that works with our camera, (hurray!!) so without further ado, a look at some of this year's pumpkins--

I would put this gem in the "green suits me so I'm not planning on changing anytime soon" category:

Then there is, as there was last year, a candidate for "most likely to be ripe in time for use as a jack-o-lantern" category:

And finally, there is the "we will keep you guessing" category, as in when will these little buddies be ready for harvest (if ever, in the case of the one on the left)... :

Ah, well. We have a few more, but these are the ones that made it into the photo shoot. Just glad the camera can be used with the computer again, and that it is highly likely that we will end up with more pumpkin puree in the freezer eventually....

The sure thing about this post is that there is valuable information in the comments left on my last post. If you have questions about pumpkins, be sure to check them out--you'll be glad you did.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Info, request for info, and links

Well, sometimes you find out what you wanted to know in your own backyard. Or, in my case, in your driveway.

I mentioned the question I had about the uniformity of pumpkin color to one of my friends, and was informed that the way they get pumpkins to ripen is to separate them from the vine. Once the pumpkins are no longer attached to the vine, they will turn orange. Not the exact words of my friend, of course, but that's what I got from it.

Ah, mystery solved.

Now, on my previous post, I also received a comment asking about preserving pumpkin, other than freezing it. I don't know of any other methods, so I'm putting the question to the people who have helped me in numerous ways in the past--the readers. If you have any alternate methods to preserving pumpkins, could you leave it/them in a comment? It would be greatly appreciated.

And, since I am not going at the pace I would like to be in adding information/recipes/tips to my emergency notebook, I am going to go against what I usually do (try something out and then blog about it) and simply give you the links to the blogs/posts where I plan to go next in my food storage adventures, because I think getting the information out there is much more important than having a "surprise" in my blog posts. There is a gold mine of information out on the internet on how to use food storage, but it won't do me/you/us any good if we don't have a copy of it somewhere, and ideally, to have tried it out before an actual emergency. I'm planning on putting the recipes/info in my own notebook within the next couple of days, and probably won't actually try them out until after that. So again, why wait?

---Check out Today While the Sun Shines if you prefer to have a plan laid out week by week for gathering storage. There are also a lot of recipes and helpful information--- a lot of which still needs to find its way into my emergency notebook.....

---Check out this post on the Harried Homemaker. I know which mixes I'm going to try first, but there are 13, so maybe your favorites will differ from mine. I think I actually used the words "gold mine" in a comment I left on this post--hey, if the shoe fits... :)

---And if you are looking for really basic and easy (two of my favorite words when it comes to food storage) you might want to look through the archives of Safely Gathered In. I now need to try out cooking my frozen chicken for other recipes like this, among other recipes and tips. Sometimes you may already have your own methods for doing something, but hey, it never hurts to have a plan B, C, D, etc. Especially if they turn out to be easier/more energy efficient/name the advantage here....

And, from sad experience, I know that what is on the internet today might not be there tomorrow or next week, so it really is necessary to have a copy in good old pen/pencil/computer ink for your own use. You never know when a blog might close down or the electricity might go out, among other things.

Oh, and when I actually make the recipes I find at these sites, you can still act surprised--and not just at how long it has taken me to get to them... :)

Friday, October 9, 2009

I guess I got the "non-uniform" variety...

Now that the corn stalks, etc., are out of the garden, we have a much better view of our pumpkin patch. Some of the pumpkins are quite rotund. Some are rather orange and some are rather green. Some look rather like they will not be ready for Halloween. Or ever.

I would venture to say that none of them look remotely like the pumpkins piled up at the local national chainstore or various other locales in the vicinity. I know the pumpkins stacked up and for sale are all individual, and different sizes, and have their own pecularities. Here's the thing, no matter their size or individual personality quirks, they do have something my pumpkins do not: they are all orange and they are all ready for harvest. At the same time.

So, how do the pumpkin merchants do it? I'm not really worried about it-- I figure we'll be able to get plenty of pumpkin in the freezer and have jack-o-lanterns out for Halloween. I'm just wondering if it's a matter of seed variety, the climate, the location of the pumpkin patch relative to other plants, or if there are specialized pumpkin farms where they keep the pumpkins in specially shaped cages from the time the seeds sprout.....

Just kidding on that last one. :) Hope everyone is having a great pumpkin harvest.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sometimes it's all about the source

When one of our children heard that we were having boiled potatoes as part of our dinner last night, there was not a great deal of enthusiasm expressed. When it was further revealed that they were potatoes from our own garden, there was a mad rush to tell another sibling that we were having potatoes from our garden (!!!!). Yeah, it's hard to put that kind of excitement in writing. And yes, sometimes it's all about the this case our backyard.

We were fortunate and blessed to have had a good harvest from our first-time potato planting. We just used the garden, but it you look at this post over at Preparedness Pro, you'll see how to make the most of 10 lbs of potatoes (the comments are informational as well) using tires. And in this post over at Nova Scotia Preppers, you will see a first-hand account of how successful a tire garden can be, and if you search further back in the blog, the process is given in detail. Ahhh--and those blogs even have pictures....

If you haven't tried growing potatoes, I strongly recommend trying either a garden or tire space--lots of results for a little investment, and they sure are tasty. And anyone who helps will be glad to try the results of their labors. After all, consider the source... :)