We’re having another of those moments where the sky is blue, the sun blinding, and the air so mild that fleece sweatpants and a turtleneck under the tee-shirt are almost too much.
So the guy who helps with my yardwork turned up to do some long-discussed brush clearing, trash hauling, and felling of small trees. (Totally blowing my January “minimalist” budget, but that’s another story.) Twice this week he and a couple of grubby kids (one of whom is his daughter-in-law, a tough bundle of charm) have crawled down the slope across the road and dug in. They’ve attacked noxious giant weeds (which my beekeeping neighbors won’t let me poison if I want to keep peace in the valley). They’ve taken down and heaped up small, malformed trees. They’ve hauled out every sort of trash, from microwaves and broken toilets to dozens of bags of cat poop.
If you haven’t visited Earthineer in a while, you might want to take a new look.
Dan Adams has recently added the long-awaited marketplace and barter sections where members can trade with each other. Though they’re still new and smallish, he’s got something quite promising there both for “rural engineers” and for foodies. Earthineer is a labor of love for Dan and it shows in the quality of the presentation.
Among other things, he’s planning to build privacy into the trades, so only the parties involved will have long-term records of their transactions.
Also, Dave Duffy has assigned me an article on Earthineer and I’d love to hear some opinions and questions other than my own.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t describe where the political world stands (no surprise). But it does describe a cool new website and a beautifully laid-out and informative digital magazine.
Brink of Freedom is a great place. It combines a freedomista attitude, high energy, and useful self-sufficiency how-tos.
Michael W. Dean of Freedom Feens turned me on to the site and introduced me to its founder, Josiah Wallingford. (Don’t you love that name?)
Go check it out for yourself. It’s the kind of place you could spend hours. But while you’re here, here’s a little background Q&A with Josiah, as well as links to pdfs of BoF’s January and February editions:
I’m lucky enough to have several friends who keep bees. At one apiary, they strive each year to come up with a clever label.
In 2012 (which, as you recall, was the year the world ended), they had the Bee of Doom descending:
But this year they outdid themselves. Their most productive hive was also the most protective hive. Although the humans eventually “won” and took the honey, the bees put up a battle worthy of … well, see for yourself:
Note the extra “stingers” on those bees.
I’ve blurred the name and location of their apiary for privacy (I hope without too much botching of their wonderful designs), even though they assured me they’re probably already on so many lists that it really doesn’t matter.
For crass commercial purposesTo encourage you to support this blog Because people have been buying some interestingly useful stuff via my Amazon links,* I thought I’d start a semi-regular feature on what’s hot at Amazon for preppers, self-sufficient types, rebels, Freedom Outlaws, libertarians, free-market anarchists, and general hellraisers.
I’ll kick it off by featuring a theme: preparedness items. If you just happen to see something you can’t live without, you’ll be contributing to this blog (and me!) by using these links. (Even if you don’t buy a featured item, everything you do buy at Amazon after entering via one of these links will send a little money winging this way.) The following are all items blog readers have bought recently.
Bungee cords. Seriously. You never see these on preparedness lists, but has there ever been a greater invention? I keep coils of them in every vehicle and toolbox — and I can cite a dozen ways they’ve saved my backside.
Prefer to make your own jerky? (Always a very good prep idea.) Don’t forget Hi Mountain seasoning kits. The lovely Wyoming couple behind Hi Mountain are supporters of this blog and dedicated animal rescuers, to boot. They not only make a delicious, easy-to-use product, but they’re the kind of people you want to be neighbors with.
And yes — more seeds. People have really been buying a lot lately. Many are buying heirloom seeds packed for storage, like these 20 Easy-to-grow heirloom varieties, which supposedly can grow up to an acre of veggies.
And don’t you just have to have an EcoQue Portable Stainless Steel Grill? Well, I have to have one, anyhow. And it seems a few readers agree. It’s my very favorite alternative cooking method, which not only cooks on just nine pieces of charcoal — or darned near any other burnable you stick into it, but makes everything delicious and folds flat for carrying and storage.
And surely a CCTV security camera is just the thing for spotting feds zombies before they knock down your door.
Well, mostly nothin’. I did use up the rest of last year’s amazing apple crop making two kinds of chutney and lots of applesauce (some of which will turn into apple butter). But I’m done with that phase of my life now.
The dogs are glad it’s over. Boiling chutney makes them sneeze. The tang of fruit cooked in vinegar with pungent spices makes the house smell really nice for days (IMO; NSM in the dogs’ O).
Other than that, nothin’.
I did start re-reading Atlas Shrugged, which I got last Christmas. Hadn’t visited it in maybe 10 years and my first thought was, “Wow, I like this story as much as ever, but everything anybody ever said about Rand being a leaden writer was absolutely true. How did I ever get through this — let alone be awestruck by it — when I was 19?”
Then the story and its meaning caught me up. Pretty soon, I was reading it while stirring chutney because I didn’t want to put the book down.
Rand got so much right (even foresaw sloppy loan-to-anybody practices like those that helped trigger the 2008 crash) and got so much wrong (totally missed the consumer culture and innovations in technology that would sustain the U.S. for years after its industrial base collapsed).
Above all, Atlas gives comfort and inspiration for any individualist living in a collapsing, collectivist world.
Though Rand barely mentions guns, reading Atlas has helped me get my mind & spirit out from the shadow that’s loomed over them since the Newtown shootings.
Commentariat — pat yourselves on the back! I’m not at all surprised, but gratified nonetheless, that … well, erm … you don’t actually need me.
In fact, that worked so well I think I’m going to make a freedom question a regular Friday feature so people can keep coming here over the weekend for the discussion even when I’m laying low.
Laying low was good, too. Actually, it took about four days for me to quit being restless. It took time — and a 1200-page dead-tree book — to detach myself from news, politics, and other less-savory aspects of ‘Netly reality.
Laying low. Reading books on paper. Hitting the kitchen — or the home-improvement routine. Does wonders for one’s sanity.
Also one afternoon I had to drive a friend to the Medium-Big City where her car broke down and she needed to pick it up from the shop. This is not the little market town I jokingly call The Big City. Nor is it the genuinely Big City. But this is one big enough to have Real Stores. Not cool stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. But good enough.
While there I grocery shopped at a Safeway. Now, you who live in Civilization may wonder why anybody would bother to mention anything so mundane. But for me it was like a trip to Disneyland.
Wow. A store whose Greek yogurt section is bigger than the every, single kind of yogurt section in the local stores. I stood there amazed and took 15 minutes just to choose. Imagine that — choose! (I still make my own yogurt, but not in winter when my house never gets warm enough to enable the yogurt maker to produce anything beyond a sort of yogurt-flavored soup.)
Wow. A store with strange veggies I’ve never seen in actual person before.
Back when I lived in Civilization, I took stores like Safeway for granted. Mostly I didn’t even like them (for their obnoxious “club cards” and the like). But somehow that hour I spent wandering those clean, beautiful, abundantly stocked, and softly lighted aisles lifted my spirits. In fact, that hour in Safeway was the thing that set me on the path to a better mood and, finally, a feeling of renewal.
Almost made me think I could handle living in a town again.
… Nawwwwww, not gonna happen. Nice to visit, though.
Then there came the bounty of California sunshine — in the form of dried fruits — that two Great Gentlemen blessed me with this week. Some of that sunshine went into those chutneys where it’ll keep on giving.
Thanks again to K, P, H, A, M, and anon, whose gifts, past and recent, helped make this week more fruitful.
Don’t know how long this will last, but the Kindle edition of Jackie Clay-Atkinson’s Ask Jackie: Canning Basics book is free right now on Amazon. Can be downloaded to any Kindle device, including free Kindle readers for the PC. (Thanks to B for the tip!) (Ooops. Sorry. Apparently the free offer ended just hours after I set up these links.)
Speaking of books, anybody read Two Cheers for Anarchism? If so, what did you think of it? Here’s a review. And an Amazon link. It’s by the James C. Scott, same guy who wrote The Art of Not Being Governed (which documents how near-anarchism actually works in some parts of Asia) and Seeing Like a State (which documents why so much authoritarian do-gooding doesn’t work).
I knew the FCPA “Africa sting” case had blown up in the FBI’s face earlier this year. But I didn’t know that piece of human pond scum, Richard Bistrong, the snitch-provocateur who masterminded the arrests of 22 innocent people in the firearms (and related) business, had gotten a mere 18 months in prison.
We had a whomp of a storm blow through here yesterday. Oh, no Sandy or Katrina. Not even a Great Gale of Ought Seven. But a pretty good sample of winter weather.
Real estate signs and garbage cans cartwheeled through the streets. The smaller rivers all overflowed, leaving farmhouses sitting on grassy islands. Lots of limbs went flying. And two big pieces of sheet metal blew off my neighbor’s wood pile and into my yard while I was gathering the last of the apples, which the winds had kindly harvested for me.
Those airborne guillotine blades didn’t even come close to me, luckily. But the tremendous clatter and bang definitely made me jump.
The storm delivered another 20 or 25 pounds of apples (all the ones that had been too high or too awkwardly placed for me to get last month). These are all damaged — bird-pecked and cracked or bruised from smacking the earth. But I figure even after cutting away the bad stuff, I’ve got at least 16 pounds of seriously ripe apples.
And that’s enough for more cider!
I don’t have a press. And though both a Victorio food strainer and a Norpro peeler-slicer-corer are on their way from Amazon (thanks to a pair of lovely, so far unknown, people who visited my wish list), if they don’t arrive today this is going to be a hand-processing job. Those apples aren’t in good enough shape to last long. (And yes, I do know you don’t need to peel cider apples; advice varies on coring.)
So I looked up how to make cider without a press. Naturally the ‘Net is full of advice. And naturally all of it’s either contradictory or at least all over the place.
And that’s even before you get to the actual squeezing-the-juice-out part. Ugh. It all sounds like a terrible mess — though I admit I rather like the picture of whaling away at ripe apples with a piece of structural lumber — as long as I’m wearing a space suit.
So … I’m asking the Living Freedom Commentariat. You’ve done this before. What works best for you?
In much more serious storm news, new commentor “art w,” another who just emerged from Sandy’s darkness, left this comment yesterday. I thought it needed to be brought forward since it contains serious food for thought on the matter of preps vs flooding (bolded by me). (I did some very “lite” editing.)
Just emerging from the effects of Sandy on the flooded south shore of Long Island, NY. Approximately 13 days — no electric, no cable for internet, no heat. Here the tidal surge and the wind effect on trees with leaves and evergreens further enhanced the damages to homes and power.
Thankfully there was no loss of life in my area but really extensive damage and losses in the nearby Rockaway peninsula. The storm surge was unprecedented in the area and ran through the streets invading homes through driveways and garages, flooding low areas of homes and basements, many of which had never been flooded before.
Imagine 4 to 5 feet of water in the streets. I believe cable and electric were turned off at the start of storm. Most cars left in the street were totaled by the salt water surge.
Some conclusions: Nothing could have prevented the ocean surge or protected from it. Items of preparation helped to survive in the 1800′s atmosphere. Campstoves, kerosene lamps, and wood fires for cooking helped keep morale up. Frozen 2-litre bottles of water kept food ok in coolers. But after nearly two weeks most fuel supplies were nearly gone. One might suggest a wood stove, but one gent lost 10 cords of wood — washed away in the surge. Gas generators were a mixed blessing, since people could run pumps and refrigerators, but the need for constant refueling a was a pain and the gas a safety hazard. Also I believe in certain areas gas hot water heaters tore loose, with fire and burn downs as a result.
Food on hand was great, as was stored water since the [emergency responders] were slow in coming as all had emergencies to deal with. The more you learned and prepared in advance the better you fared and the sooner you were able to help others around you who were in worse shape. Also cell phones don’t work if the power to the cell tower is interrupted.
Hope this helps others. Prepare so you are not helpless.
Community cider pressing pot-luck last weekend! I wasn’t there, but furrydoc took along a box of apples from my tree and took these pictures:
First the apples were washed, either in a dilute bleach bath or a vinegar bath (for those who didn’t like the idea of bleach on their apples). Then into the grinder and the press.
The juice went into buckets. The pulp was caught in cheesecloth and taken to the host family’s animals.
The juice …
… is incredible. And I’m not just saying that because it has my very own backyard apples in it.
My apples are tart, so furrydoc found another attendee who brought super-sweet golden delicious and they mixed them. The juice is slightly more tart than I’ve ever had — which to my mind is just right. And oh heavens, the burst of pure apple flavor! It’s like no juice I’ve had before.
Furrydoc brought home about three gallons (not all from these apples, but people brought so many apples that many didn’t want to take home all the juice). I had asked only for a quart, partly because I’m not normally a fan of juice and partly because furrydoc has voracious teenage apple-devouring machines at home who need more of everything than I do. She ended up offering me a full gallon. I took two quarts. But now I’m looking at the 50 or so pounds of apples I’ve stashed in the basement and wondering whether there’s apple pressing in their future.
So far from this tree …
* Furrydoc and I have both dehydrated batches of apples
* I canned seven pints of tomato-apple chutney (recipe courtesy of furrydoc and her husband)
* As soon as my magical Norpro Apple Mate 3 arrives from Amazon, I’ll make curried apple chutney, too. (Yes, when the zombie apocalypse arrives, I’ll be well supplied with chutney.) I borrowed that model of peeler-corer-slicer from — who else? — furrydoc and quickly discovered it’s essential equipment for processing a lot of apples.
* Today, using a bit of that fresh juice, I’m going to mix up some of Pat’s Apple Barbecue Sauce. I’ll substitute Mae Ploy Thai sweet chili sauce (known around the Desert Hermitage as “crack sauce” for its addictive properties) for the regular chili sauce and see how that goes.
There’ll be at least one more baking of that scrumptious apple crumble. Probably at Thanksgiving. And well … after that there are still three boxes of washed, wrapped, carefully stashed apples down in the basement. I’ve put this Victorio Food Strainer and Sauce Maker on my Amazon wish list & we’ll see how the winter goes.
So far, so very, very good. And there are still more apples falling from the top of the tree. All I have to do is get them before Nadja does. Unfortunately, she’s fast.
Thanks once again, guys, for all your sage advice about apples and apple trees. This is delicious fun.
About 90 pounds of fruit. I have no idea whether that’s great or mediocre as apple trees go, but it’s fabulous for a tree that produced only one apple in the last two years.
I got a fat lip when a rogue apple crashed down on my face. And there are still a few left at the top of the tree or in difficult-to-reach spots. But I’m pretty happy about this.
Now what to do with all this bounty? Some I’ll store in boxes in the basement. Some I’ve promised to friends (furrydoc, how many pounds d’you want?). But … well, that’s a lot of applesauce or dried apples.
Ooooh, wait. Chutney. Yes! My apple-apricot chutney. Aaaaaaand, I just happen to have some California dried apricots left from a recent care package (thank you, AG).
It’s also canned-food sale time:
This time of year lots of grocery stores have case-lot canned-goods sales. Despite the freaking soaring prices, these are are still a pretty good deal.
I regard these once-a-year buys as my first-line food preparedness. Generally I don’t eat a lot of canned or boxed foods, so I keep the cases intact, put them in my emergency closet upstairs, and rotate them once a year.
While they’re mostly foods I don’t eat every day, they’re foods I could eat with little preparation and scant disruption. Even better, they’re comfort foods that I would eat — happily — if the power were out for two weeks or the downstairs was hip-deep in water.
The main courses here are turkey chili (24 cans), mac & cheese (24 boxes), and refried beans (24 cans). The adjuncts are mandarin oranges (24 cans), diced tomatoes with chile peppers (12 cans) and beets (24 cans). (I wouldn’t really recommend beets as the main veggie, but I can’t stand canned peas or green beans, and canned corn — the only other veggie in the local sale — doesn’t really count.)
I figure that’s about 72 very filling meals, probably more for somebody with my “lite” appetite — total cost under $100. So if you’re one of those folks who puts off preparedness because you can’t afford to buy a year’s worth of DeLuxe-Sooper-Duper Freeze-Dried Mormon-Approved $$$ Entrees, think on that.
One person could get by for most of a month on $100. And face it; we’re more likely to have short-duration emergencies (hurricanes, ice storms, power outages) than SHTF zombie attacks.
Of course I also have water, powdered butter, powdered milk, and a cookstove stashed (mac & cheese wouldn’t be worth much without them). Plus dehydrated veggies, eggs, soup bases and so on — bargain priced at the local Walmart. Dog and cat food, too. And don’t forget the can opener!
But those grocery store canned foods, monotonous though they are, are the first line of emergency eatin’.
I think back to the monumental storm that destroyed my yurt and left the whole region dark and cold in 2007. I was too numb to want to eat much for the duration, and all I wanted was something predictable and easy.
Monotony? Bring it on.
And now … when it’s time for monotony to end, there are apples!