Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Monkey See...Monkey Do?

Well, in my morning surf through my FB lists I came across an interesting video. Since I tend to prefer focusing on skills and general knowledge type stuff, initially I didn't really think too much of it. Perhaps its a little more of a "cry wolf" thing, maybe the gent in the video is a little more of a flag waver than most.

But as I puttered through my morning routine I was mulling over the information that this man had presented in his video. As much as I dearly love my American cousins and best friends, I do believe that Americans in general can be rather excitable. They get all up in arms and in a twist over things that Canadians tend to ignore. For instance, the pepper-spray incident to get at a good deal on Black Friday. I can't really see a Canadian shopper doing something along that line. It has been said that Canadians are like Vichyssoise...cold, half french and hard to stir.

This can be a good thing...or a bad thing. In this particular case, I'm going to say that our politeness and lack of excitability is going to prove a downfall. As many of us are aware, our illustrious government is more or less UP the *@! of the US government. What goes on in the south, does tend to spill over by way of convenient legislation into our backyards whether we like it or not.

Based on the definitions used in the current piece of legislation noted in the video, every farmer that's ever lost a finger to an auger is a potential threat. Every housewife with an impressive storage room - potential threat. Every hunter smart enough to weather protect his ammunition - potential threat. All of which could be arrested and detained without cause, trial or due process.

Take a few minutes (nine, to be exact), watch the video and then post your thoughts...I would dearly love to hear everyone's take on this little bit of news that is quietly avoiding the mainstream media.

Terrorist Preppers, Total Police State, All of America Declared a Battlefield

Thoughts would be appreciated!

Rational, Positive, Creative

Monday, November 28, 2011

No man is an island...

I was considering what a typical prepper family might look like and I couldn't really come up with an answer.  I suppose if there was one we-wouldn't-be-it.  All I know is that I have no illusions about being an independent survivalist happily living in the back woods eating squirrels and sleeping in a lean-to.  I'm not even preparing for that and I LIKE camping.

We're here for better or for worse and so we're going to make the best of it. 

My DH has Muscular Dystrophy.  He's mobile but hindered by his condition.  I live with diabetes.  My son has a learning disability.  We've all learned to adapt to our collective situation.  My DH cuts down trees sitting in a lawn chair.  He has a most awesome cane made out of shovel handle that he uses for wandering the back paddock and getting around the farm.  My son and I have learned to rely on each other to handle everything from lugging heavy bags of feed  (which I could hardly do last year - this year=muscles!) or chasing wayward animals back into their pens. That means the big lifting jobs and chores are left to my son and I and any extra kids I can rope into coming over to stay for awhile and help out (thanks to Jacquie, Sarah, Danny and Courtney who helped out in the past few weeks!) Some of my own kids are married and moved out, some are away at school so even though I am prepping for a crowd most of the time it's-just-the-three-or-four-of-us. 

I am preparing to live in community.  I know that regardless of what happens in the future the answer is to be part of a community.  I have a relationship with Rebecca the sheep shearer, Lew our handyman, Karen the donkey farrier, Dale the electric fence guy, my mail carriers Cathy and Dolly, my many and assorted country neighbours, farming cousins, church members, city friends, friends online and my immediate family.  I will never be an island.  I would be bored silly and I'd have to start talking to myself (oh- I already do that!). 

I wonder sometimes if life would be simpler without all this community fuss.  It means learning to communicate and have boundaries.  It means accommodating people and dealing with problems when things don't go as planned.  It means putting up with extra laundry, more mouths to feed, different sleep schedules, different personalities...and dirty socks on the living room floor.  Deep down I know it's worth the effort but when I'm texting SHUT UP AND GO TO BED  at 1am to my teenage house guests I have a few doubts - smile.  In reality this IS life and it's exactly the one I want. 

I don't know how to do everything but almost certainly one of my friends does.  They aren't even necessarily preppers...yet. We help each other.  I can be a listening ear or a answer to a canning question for a friend.  They rewire my barn, help move heavy animal feeders or take my extra pumpkins (those are extra good friends!) 

Who do you lean on?  Are you in danger of becoming an island?  No one can do it all even in the best of health. Reach out and start building community today.  It will enrich your life now and most definitely be a blessing in the future whatever it brings.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Canadian Preppers Wanted For Documentary

I have met with some people who want to make a documentary about preppers. Their idea seems to be more of one that will focus on teaching and less "radicalism" than some of the other shows that have been produced. Opsec can be addressed as they are very aware of preppers' concerns.
If you may be interested, or know of someone who may be, please let me know using the email link below, and I can give you their contact details.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mistakes I've made...

Before our big move to the country I did a lot of reading. I read every book I could get my hands on that had anything to do with homesteading, hobby farming, livestock animals, self sufficiency etc. because I wanted to learn as much as I could to avoid the painful learning curve I knew was coming when we finally got here. I have shelves of books, stacks of books and piles of books falling off my desk. Well- it helped - a little bit…but none of it completely prepared me for our very own reality.

I had read many times that book learnin' and actual real life 'perience were two different things. Now I know it to be truth by my own hard-won experience. 
I did so many things wrong. Some things went wrong despite my best intentions and sometimes I just didn't think things all the way through. Thankfully no animals were harmed in the making of this farmer. 
Chickens got left outside the coop at night.
The sheep and the donkey got loose more times than I can count.
I fed the ducks chicken-feed because I was told it was almost the same - one duck got crook neck but later recovered.

We closed up the chicken coop nice and tight so the girls would be warm and nearly killed them with kindness from the ammonia.
We lugged water from the basement for 33 hours in the rainy springtime because we didn't buy a generator as soon as we should have.

My blooper list goes on and on.

I've also had to get over the fact that I can't control everything - well that was a surprise! Animals died from unknown causes. Raccoons broke into the feed room and ate us out of house and barn. The eavestrough 30 feet above our heads sprung a major leak right above the main entrance to the barn creating our very own outdoor shower. I asked a neighbour to find me a few heritage breed chicks and he came home with thirty - that was my mistake because I shoulda clarified "a couple".

But I have had more successes than I deserve for only being at this for a year and a half. My garden didn't do too badly but I have my first List-of-things-I-will-do-differently-next-year. I learned how to install electric fence to keep in the escapees. I learned how not to wrestle sheep and donkeys - they follow the shepherd just like the Bible says. I learned to count the chickens before I shut up the coop for the night. I've learned the different sounds of contented animals and the ones that make me drop everything and run to see what the problem is. I've learned how to deal with pressure tanks, sump pumps, water softeners, wells and lots and lots of chicken poop.

There is no book on earth that can teach you everything I've learned in the past year and a half and I am no where near done learning. You just have to dive into your own experience - whatever it brings - and learn to live with the fact that you're human and you will make mistakes.

Don't wait till the last minute - till things really count. Make your mistakes now when it's not the end of the world. Figure out how the kerosene heater works now. Get backyard chickens. Start gardening and canning now. Store food.

...and hurry up and make some mistakes before I cover them all by myself!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Skillz.....who's up for a challenge??

I suppose to a certain degree, knowledge really is one thing you really can't have TOO much of.

Preppers, survivalists, nut-jobs, call us what you will...there really is much to be said on the topic of knowledge, skills, tips and tricks and so forth. However, this all having been said, and having spent too many hours surfing around here and there looking for unique ideas on what to write about it all comes down to one thing. Can you DO it? This in turn brought me to the notion of "oh hell, I have no clue".

I was reading through an article this morning on cob ovens. Wow, I thought, what a cool idea! Then I glanced out the window at our rapidly settling (and world famous) Saskatchewan winter and thought - wow! That would really SUCK! I would really hate to try baking bread outdoors at -40.

Some of the cob ovens that I looked at were simply amazing works of art! Some were sculpted into fantastical creatures, others were simple bake ovens. This particular one caught my attention! Untold hours of tile setting went into this one. It's quite beautiful.

Items such as these would only really be applicable if your SHTF plans happen to include bugging out to a predetermined location with supplies and shelter waiting. To my mind, having the "location B" in place is simply logical. Having an oven such as this on-site would be a really good idea, for at least three seasons anyway.

Back to the original problem of winter. Winter survival is rather an issue in climates such as ours. Temperatures can hit -40 in the blink of an eye and the Girl Guides will still go door to door selling cookies. If one had to get by in a slightly more remote (or rural) location, then combining the notion of cooking as well as central heat may just be a REALLY good idea.

So, alternatives, anyone?

I surfed and dug and could NOT find anything that looked even remotely suitable. I found a few photos of cob-style ovens installed in houses, but for the most part they were small and yuppie-like devices.

Does anyone know where we could find a more practical option??

Ideally, the device would have a cooking grill or flat iron surface on which to use pots and other standard cooking items as well as the oven itself.

I found a number of large "outdoor kitchen" type of installations. Wildwood Ovens has a nifty selection of kit-like ovens. But they appear to be more of an outdoor installation or a smaller novelty type of oven. I doubt they would really suffice for a heating/cooking option during the LONG winters around here.

I would be VERY interested to see if anyone out there: 1) actually reads some of my silly ramblings or 2) knows of, or knows who, uses a cob style of oven for heat AND cooking.

I think it would be a really good idea to add a little of this type of building to my skillz portfolio!

Rational, positive, creative - pizza is no exception!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

No Yeast? No Problem...Try Sourdough

So what happens when SHTF and you run out of yeast? Well there is yeast in the air we breathe all around us as well as in the flour we use to bake bread. All you need to do is set out a bowl of food to capture and grow it. This is called sourdough. To make sourdough bread, you need a sourdough starter.

Here is what you will need...



A glass bowl to keep it in...clear glass with a lid will be best as you can use this to keep your starter in.

Yup, that’s it.

In your bowl, mix

· ½ cup flour

· ½ cup water

Day 1

Combine the flour and water in the container until all the flour has been absorbed and there are no more dry particles. It will look like a sticky, thick dough. Scrape down the sides and cover. Put the container somewhere with a consistent room temperature (like the top of the refrigerator) and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 2

· ½ cup flour

· ½ cup water

Your starter should be fairly thick and soupy. You may see a few small bubbles here and there. This is good! The bubbles mean that wild yeast from the air and the flour itself have started making themselves at home in your starter. They will eat the sugars in the the flour and release carbon dioxide (the bubbles) and alcohol. They will also increase the acidity of the mixture, preventing other "bad" microbes from growing.

Add the fresh water and flour. Stir vigorously to combine everything and incorporate more oxygen into the mixture. Scrape down the sides, cover, and let it sit for 24 hours.

Day 3

· ½ cup flour

· ½ cup water

By day three, your starter should be getting nice and bubbly (see below), be the consistency of pancake batter, and have roughly doubled in size. If you taste a little (Go on! Try it!), the mixture should make your mouth pucker with sour and vinegar flavors. It will also smell musty and fermented, a bit like grain alcohol.

Go ahead and mix in the fresh ingredients as with Day 2, cover, and let sit for 24-hours.

Day 4

Repeat day 3.

Day 5

By day 5 (or even day 4) your starter will be ripe and ready to use. The surface will look frothy and fermented (see below), and if you've been using a clear container, you can see an intricate network of bubbles when you hold it up. It will smell and taste very pungent and tangy like, well, concentrated sourdough!

At this point, your sourdough is ready to be used, or you can cover and store it in the fridge for up to one week. After a week, you'll need to refresh the starter by taking out a cup or so of starter (to use or discard) and then "feeding" it with 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of filtered water. Likewise, after using some of your starter in a recipe, you can replenish what's left with equal parts flour and water.

Starter will keep indefinitely as long as you feed it every week or so. Treat it like a household plant that needs to be watered and fertilized regularly. It's very hardy and will even perk back up with a few daily feedings if you've neglected it too long. If a clear liquid forms on the top, just stir it in (this is actually alcohol from the wild yeast). The only time you should throw away the starter completely is if that liquid has a pinkish hue, which indicates that the starter has spoiled.

To use your starter, simply replace ½ cup flour and ½ cup water in your favorite recipe for 1 cup of starter and forget about the yeast. Then, replace the used starter with ½ cup four and ½ cup water to keep it up.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hello from Ontario

I live on a farm.  When I read those words a few years ago I would be awash with a longing that almost hurt.  I wanted to be able to say that!  Now I can. 

Self-discipline is remembering what you really want.  That was the mindset that got us from the city to the country - we had a goal in mind and we kept working towards it - little by little every day.  We have been preppers for 8 or 9 years now - slowly coming to the conclusion that life as we knew it was perhaps not even the life we wanted.  It sure didn't have much in the way of security.  If the power went out I figured we had about 6 hours in the winter and we'd be forced to leave our home.  Never mind the lack of lights and the freezer defrosting.  We came up with ways to avoid most of those issues temporarily but the longing remained to have a place to call our own where we could live more self sufficiently.  It was many small decisions and steps that got us from that place to this place and there's many steps to go before this place is all that we dream it can be.

I live with my family on a small farm surrounded by conservation lands.  We raise chickens, ducks for meat and eggs and sheep.  We also have a donkey, 6 barn cats and a spoiled city dog. 

Life here is an amazing adventure of FINALLYS.  We finally had room for a huge garden - that had lots of weeds in it this summer but actually produced quite well.  We could finally have more animals than the 6 urban chickens of our city life.  We could finally sit in our "backyard" and hear - silence...  We could finally run out of the house in our pjs to feed the cats or get the mail!  Well - it doesn't take much to make me happy!

I hope to share some of my adventures with you in the coming weeks.  From food storage and canning to backyard chickens and beyond.  I'm not an expert  - just someone who loves to learn and happily lives on a farm.