Monday, November 30, 2020

Become a Producer

It's galling, to me, that I frequently reference FB on my blog, but the fact is that it has become an insidious part of our lives.  I actually resisted joining, preferring my blog to what I imagined FB to be.  Eventually, I caved and built a profile as a way to promote my book(s).  It's been a real strange relationship.  I don't love FB.  I don't even like it most of the time.

Some things about FB are okay, I guess.  I do like finding kindred spirits - people whose lifestyle choices are similar to my own.  I'm in a lot of groups, and I follow a lot of people who do the homesteady/frugalista kinds of things.

There is a favorite sort of meme thing on FB - the Never Have I Ever Challenge - where the actual goal is to get a higher number, by having to admit that one HAS done that thing.  I like the Homesteading one with options like: never have I ever had egg in my pocket.  I got a point for that one.  Out of the 23 options, there was only one I couldn't claim a point for - because I haven't ever milked a goat.  Someday ... maybe.  

In the spirit of that challenge, here's a picture.  Let's play, "never have I ever" with this graphic.  You get one point for each of the things you have done, and one point for anything you can add to the list. 

I can claim 14 of the 15, because I don't have room for milk animals.  For the "generate energy," we have solar chargers, a biolite camp stove (that has a phone charger), and we heat with wood, which allows us to cook and heat water.  

I add: 

1.  Butcher an animal.
2.  Tan an animal hide.
3.  Make spoons and bowls from wood (spoons and bowls).
4.  Make baskets.
5.  Make maple syrup (or use sap from other trees to make syrup).
6.  Brew beer or make wine.
7.  Preserve food without canning or freezing.
8.  Make soap.
9.  Learn to play a musical instrument.

What are your producer skills?


Saturday, November 28, 2020

Thanksgiving ... from the Pantry

 I didn't go shopping for Thanksgiving dinner.  

On Veteran's Day, a full two weeks before Thanksgiving, my local grocery store had a special 10% off for Veterans.  So, I went shopping.  I would have gone shopping that week - not that day, but that week, and so it wasn't like I made a special trip, but that day was a little different, because I intended to get what we would need to get us through until after Thanksgiving.

My thoughts were:  the days leading up to Thanksgiving would be a mad-house at the grocery store because of the holiday; the Governor's newest mandates would make people anxious and in survivalist mode, which would make the grocery store a mad-house; and fewer trips to the grocery store saves us money.

With the goal of NOT returning to the grocery store for two weeks, I headed out, list in hand.  

Thing is, I already had most of what we would want for a "traditional" Thanksgiving Turkey dinner, and the only thing I purchased, special, for the meal was a pecan pie with a gluten-free crust from a Maine-based company, and turkey - I bought two turkeys, which ended up being a very good idea. 

I keep butter and cream on hand at all times.  I have a store of things like evaporated milk.  I have pumpkin, both canned and fresh, for pies.  I always have potatoes, onions, and garlic in the pantry.  I had some cabbages and home-grown sprouts for salads/slaw with ingredients for all sorts of dressings (we had standard cole slaw).  I have canned corn, if we'd wanted that.  We roasted butternut squash and acorn squash.  I also made homemade cranberry sauce from the cranberries in the freezer.

I even made "stuffing" - or my version of a savory bread crumb dish that's all as good as that "Stove-Top" stuff from the box.  

I didn't run out of anything.  I didn't have to go to the store for last minute stuff, and I didn't have to substitute anything.  Six of us enjoyed a homecooked meal - most of it from scratch (including the whipped cream made with heavy cream and powdered sugar).

And my youngest adult made beignets - from scratch.  

There was nothing super fancy about any of the food.  But that's not what it's about, is it?  It's about being thankful that we aren't starving; thankful for a successful harvest; thankful that we have enough food to get us through good times and bad.  

What I already knew, but was able to confirm from this Thanksgiving meal, was that we have enough, and for that I am incredibly and eternally thankful.

**My oldest daughter had originally planned to be with us on Thanksgiving, but had to change her plans last minute.  Unfortunately, it was VERY last minute, which meant that she couldn't get to the store.  I was able to give her turkey, potatoes, and cranberries from my pantry without sacrificing anything we wanted to have on our dinner table.


Easy Stuffing - from the Pantry

1/2 stick of butter

1/2 onion, chopped

4 small cloves of garlic minced (optional)

2 tsp of dried sage (or to taste)

1 tsp celery salt (or to taste)

6 to 8 slices of bread - cut into small cubes

1/2 cup water or broth


1.  Melt butter in a sauce pan.  Add onion and garlic.  Cook until aromatic.

2.  Add herbs/seasonings.

3.  Add bread crumbs and mix well to thoroughly coat the bread.

4.  Add broth, just enough to soak bread, but not make it soupy. 

I serve it right away without any extra cooking.  I have also used this same, basic, recipe to stuff acorn squash.  

Friday, November 27, 2020

Using What I Have

I hate wearing a mask.  I have trouble breathing, which makes me pant, and then, my glasses fog up.  

It's a real problem.

There's a lot of advice out there about things I could put on my glasses to keep them from fogging up, but what happens when I clean off my glasses - with my shirt tail, because that's how we do it, right? - and the anti-fogging stuff wipes off?  

One of the problems was that my mask didn't fit tight to my face.  It's a simple, homemade cloth mask.  If I had put wire across the bridge part of the mask, I could cinch it down, or if I had a way to adjust the ear loops, maybe I wouldn't have that problem.

There are little things we could buy - little loop tightener-thingies.  I've also been advised that I can get a frame for the inside of my mask that will keep the mask off my face.

Here's the thing - and frankly I don't care if you agree with me or not - I REFUSE to support this industry that has sprung up around this virus.  I REFUSE to purchase masks (well, except the Halloween one with the big vampire smile, because ... well, it was funny!) or mask associated apparatus.  

Way back, in April, when masks became required attire in public places, I put my mad skills to use and made a bunch of masks.  I used materials I had on hand - elastic from old bed sheets and panties; and fabric from my stash.  The recommendation was two layers of tight-weave cloth, like quilter's fabric.  Flannel was also recommended/preferred.  I had a lot of both.  

Unfortunately, masks really aren't one-size-fits-all, and while Deus Ex Machina had no problem with the masks I made, I found mine were a bit loose.  

But it didn't matter all that much, because I only need to wear it when I'm out shopping - which is rare - and I figured it wouldn't be long before the mask was a bad memory.

Enter: The dreaded SECOND WAVE and the MASK MANDATES.

So, here I am, with ill-fitting masks, foggy glasses, and a bad attitude.

Instead of grinding my teeth to nubs, I decided to do the soldier thing:  suck-it-up and drive on.  In other words come up with a workable solution.

I started thinking about what I had that could fix my problem.

I could pull out my handy-dandy needle and thread and sew a loop in the ear pieces. 

Or I could fashion one of those loop adjuster thingies using materials that I have on hand.

As a homeschooling mom with very crafty kids, I have accumulated a lot of stuff over the years.  We practiced "strewing" in our unschooling household.  "Strewing" is a technique wherein the educational facilitator (i.e. Mom and Dad) leaves items for the kids to find and explore.  

Posters showing cursive handwriting, mathematical orders of operation, and the times table?  Check.

Books about every topic in the world?  Check.

Paint and painting supplies?  Check.

Beads for jewelry making?  YES!

I thought about what I had, on hand, that could work - the beads!  Then, I had to think a bit more about how to get the elastic through the bead.  The bent paperclip was a perfect tool. 

And it works!  The mask fits snugly to my face, without putting pressure on my nose, and keeps my glasses from fogging up.

I am pretty thankful that I never mustered the energy to do a full-on Marie Kondo of my home.  Too many of the things I might have donated or tossed, have come in handy - especially these last few months. 

That's not a recommendation to keep the clutter, but for me, there are definitely some things that I will think twice about simply jettisoning. 

And I love that I can usually find what I need, right here, where I am.  


Friday, November 20, 2020

Not Feeling "Powerless" on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is next week. 

Thirteen years ago on Thanksgiving, we had an all local meal.  We were interviewed by the newspaper, because in those days, the Locavore movement was still pretty new, and eating a whole Thanksgiving meal using ONLY food sourced from Maine was a novelty.  

I was looking through my blog archives for that post, but I didn't find it, or the one where we made Acorn Pie (using a modified pecan pie recipe) and our Thanksgiving dinner was a lot of homegrown and locally foraged foods.  I didn't find that one either.

What I did find was a post from 2014.  That year, we also had a local Thanksgiving dinner, but with a really interesting twist.

But I'll let you read it.  

And then, let me know what you would have done .... :)

Originally posted on Survive the Suburbs November 30, 2014.


On Thanksgiving Eve much of the northeast was pummeled with a huge snowstorm. I say that with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, because only a few days before this, parts of Upstate New York really were pummeled with snow in a storm that put more snow on the ground than most people are tall. They had an emergency. With less than 12" in most places, we had a bit of inconvenience.

What made this snowstorm newsworthy was the fact that it was a very heavy, wet snow - which is actually kind of typical for this time in the season. The first few snowstorms and the last few snowstorms are always that heavy, wet stuff that no one likes to shovel, and it's the best snow for making snowmen and snowballs, because it's the kind of snow that really sticks together.

I heard, once, that the Inuit people had multiple words for snow, which makes sense, because snow has different characteristics depending on the time of year, the temperature, and the humidity in the air. But I digress.

On Wednesday night, our electricity blipped off. No one panicked, because, well, there's nothing to panic about. It's just electricity. It's not like the roof caved in.

We lit some candles, stoked up the woodstove, and pulled out the Scrabble board. No electricity? Family game night! Woot! After an exciting hour of word-smithing, I decided to see if I could get the mobile hotspot on my phone to work and was able to successfully connect my laptop to the Internet. I didn't stay on for very long, because I wanted to save my batteries.

Big Little Sister and Little Fire Faery treated us to some music. What's that commercial? Instruments = $$. Music lessons = X dollars per month. Private concert = priceless. Beautiful voices raised in song accompanied by an acoustic guitar with the fire in the woodstove crackling in the background was perfect. It's exactly what every summer camping trip is all about - getting off the grid and just enjoying the moment.

Thanksgiving morning we woke up, and there was still no electricity. We made coffee and fed the dogs and cats. The girls went out and took care of the animals outside. I turned on my laptop and connected up to the Internet for a couple of minutes.

Then, I cut a squash in half, took out the seeds, put one half in the Dutch oven with a bit of water, and put it on the woodstove to cook. I took the cranberries out of the freezer, put them in a pan with a bit of water and some sugar and put it on the woodstove to cook.

Deus Ex Machina plugged our on-demand propane water heater into the jumpstarter (ours is similar to this one, but not this exact one), and we took hot showers.

Big Little Sister had volunteered to walk dogs at the animal shelter on the holiday, and so Little Fire Faery, Big Little Sister, and I hopped in the car and drove up to the animal shelter. We charged our phones on the drive up and back. While Big Little Sister walked dogs, Little Fire Faery and I sat in the multi-cat room and petted the cats.

While we were gone, Deus Ex Machina prepared the bacon-wrapped rabbit, which we planned to have for dinner. Also on the menu was the wild turkey Deus Ex Machina took with his bow back in October. We decided to spatchcock it and cook it on the grill. He got that ready while the girls and I were at the animal shelter.

The grandbabies showed up around dinner time. We lit the oil-lamp wall sconces in the living room and a table top oil-lamp in the dining room.

Plus, we had some candles, which I've been collecting and purchasing whenever I find them at Goodwill. Another item that I've been collecting, partly for situations just like this one, but also for when we have our family parties, are "glow sticks". I can usually find them on clearance right after Halloween, and I buy as many as I can find. They're a lot of fun for the kids when they're playing nighttime hide-and-seek (also called "Manhunt") during the summer.  When we have power outage, I like to have them for use in the bathrooms rather than leaving an untended candle, and they put off a surprisingly bright light.

We had our Thanksgiving dinner and cleaned up the dishes using water we heated on the woodstove. The girls ate all of the ice cream in the freezer, because it was starting to get soft. The girls played some games and drew some pictures. I did some reading by oil lamp. We all went to bed early. The grandbabies stayed the night and really enjoyed their glow-stick bracelet night lights.

Friday morning we woke up without electricity. We made coffee and fed the dogs and cats. The girls took care of the animals outside. I put the cast iron skillet on the woodstove and made some breakfast sandwiches. We went to music lessons. We stopped by the library. We came home. The girls folded clothes. I swept the floors and cleaned up the kitchen.

The electricity came back on around 2:00 in the afternoon on Friday. We had been electricity-free for about thirty-nine hours.

And nothing, really, about our daily lives changed. There was no emergency, and we didn't sit, fearfully huddling in a cold house and waiting for someone to save us.

We joked with the librarians that, of course, this power outage wasn't an issue ... and since I wrote the book, if it were an issue, they would have to induct me into the Preppers Hall of Shame. The reality is, though, that even if I hadn't written the book (which is, really, just about how we live our lives anyway) that this power outage wouldn't have been any different for us than it was.

The power grid is fragile, and most of us have experienced a power outage at some point in our lives. Most of the time it's a blip and then the lights come right back on, but on more than one occasion, in the seventeen years I've lived here in Maine, the power has been off for more than twenty-four hours. For this reason, we have created a lifestyle that allows us to easily transition when the power goes out.

But it's not about having a 72 hour Bug Out Bag or emergency supplies. These things we have are things we use, and not *just* when the power goes out (except for the oil lamps, and pretty much, we only use those when there's no power). We heat with wood and during the winter, we often cook on the woodstove to save electricity. We use the jump starter battery to inflate our car and bicycle tires. We always use a French press for making coffee.

We have consciously moved away from complete dependence on the electric grid, because we have seen how fragile it is, and we wanted our home to be that safe place we could go to - no matter what.

It snowed on Wednesday, a typical, heavy, wet late fall snow that bowed the power lines and caused them to snap. We lived, our normal, every day lives, without electricity for thirty-nine hours.

And on the other side, with the exception of no longer rationing computer time, not much has changed.

**I linked to several products in this post - not as an advertisement, but to show those who might be curious what the things I mention look like. I am not an affiliate of any of the vendors to which I linked, and I will not get compensated if you choose to buy those products. If you're interested in purchasing any of them, I would recommend that you shop around your local area and find a local source ... barring that, find the best price you can ;).

And if you're interested in supporting this blog, consider donating using the button in the top right corner ;).

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

5 Best TEOTWAWKI Novels for Preppers

 I am a bibliophile.  I often share the quote attributed to Erasmus, "When I get money, I buy books.  If any is left over, I buy food and clothes."  It's not entirely true.  As my shelves have filled and overflowed, I've curbed my book buying - a little - but I still love a good book, and my favorite genre is post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian fiction.

As you can imagine, since it's my favorite genre, I have read quite a few books on the subject, and so I have a pretty good pool from which to choose the best - or at least the best of the ones that I have read.

I don't really like the ones that are pure "prepper" fiction - you know, where there's some guy who always knew something was going to happen, and had a bunker - or whatever - and fights off the hordes of ne'er-do-wells ... with aplomb!  We LOVE that guy, right?  In fact, we preppers are all imagining that we ARE that guy.

I actually don't love that guy, because that guy is the one who shoots first and asks questions later.  I'm not a shoot first kind of gal.  I really need a reason to break out the firearms.  Probably, one doesn't want to give me a reason.  Just sayin'.

Too often those pure prepper novels follow a predictable course.  There's an "event."  The protagonist survives the event.  The protagonist goes on to become the "leader" of the other survivors, because he/she has some previous survival experience (usually from the military), and he/she will pick and choose who is worthy of his/her band of the survivors.  There's an antagonist who attacks the group, but he/she is thwarted, and the "good guys" prevail.

I guess I bristle at the good guys vs. bad guys, because too often we are all a bit of both, and what's good or moral, especially in a survival scenario, can be incredibly subjective.  Defend your family?  Yes!  Of course!  Kill someone else to do it?  Is that good or moral when everyone is just trying to survive?  

Anyway, the following list is my favorites for post-apocalyptic fiction, because these books gave some really good advice on specific things we could do to ensure our survival in a TEOTWAWKI scenario.

1.  Oyrx & Crake, by Margaret Atwood

This book is probably the most disturbing of the the ones in the list.  There are a few scenes in the book that are definitely NOT recommended for young readers.  

This book also isn't one of those that starts in our "normal" world - or at least in the actual, current, reality in which we find ourselves.  

We meet Jimmy, the Snowman.  He is a human, who lives among a group of genetically enhanced humanoids that were created in a laboratory.  Their creator - Crake - is a mad scientist who was attempting to create the perfect human and combined genetic features from various other living organisms (like the ability to heal using a cat purr and the ability to digest rough fibers by ... well, in a rabbit-like way).  

We quickly discover that the world has ended, and the only "people" left are Jimmy, and this tribe of genetic anomalies.  The human race has been destroyed, and all that's left of human-kind are Crake's people.  

Without giving it away, the story is a cautionary tale about believing too much in "science."  It is a caution about trusting big corporations, especially when money is involved.  

As prepper fiction, it warns us to be wary about "drinking the proverbial Koolaid."  

While I'm pretty certain that I was standing on the cliff already, this was probably the novel that pushed me over the conspiracy-theory edge and into those dark waters of distrust and extreme caution.  I don't eat genetically modified food, if I can avoid it; I don't take OTC medication; and I don't trust our corporate-owned government.  

2.  Lucifer's Hammer, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Lucifer's Hammer is an asteroid that is hurtling toward Earth.  Some in the scientific community believe that it will miss us.  Others warn that it's the end.  Since there is not a general consensus in the scientific community, when the asteroid actually DOES hit, too many folks are unprepared.

What I loved about the novel was some of the very creative last minute preps that the authors described.  For example, one of the protagonists, finally deciding, hours before impact, that he believed his astronomer friend, went shopping at the last minute, and like the johnny-come-lately shoppers in March 2020, he found a lot of bare space on the shelves where all of those non-perishables had been.  

Unlike those folks, who left empty handed and angry, he shifted gears and thought, "What CAN I get?"

He bought a couple of huge beef roasts, a lot of pepper and salt, and a butt-load of alcohol.  No, not the kind to make hand-sanitizer.  The kind to drink - rum, vodka, whiskey ....  

Then, he took it all home, sliced the meat thin, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and dehydrated it all.  Beef jerky, man!  

It was genius!  

As prepper fiction, it encourages us to be more creative when it comes to our preps, and to remind us that there's still time to do SOMETHING.  Just start.

3.  One Second After, William Forschen

This is probably my least favorite of the books* on this list, because it's a little too much the formula prepper novel, but since I included, you can be sure that there was something I found intriguing and useful in the story.  

The story is set in the US southeast.  A retired military officer lives in a semi-rural Appalachian community with his children.  At the beginning of the story, the US is attacked by an EMP.  

This story is very similar to Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon.   Frank's story is much better written, and Frank's characters deal with some issues that many preppers may not think about - like the lack of salt and the importance of the mineral for food preservation - but I included the Forschen novel instead, because in the latter novel, the protagonist's daughter is a diabetic.  I don't think that Forschen handles that medical issue very well, but because he does make it a story-line, it prompted ME to look for solutions for insulin-dependent diabetics so that at the end of the world as we know, they wouldn't be facing an automatic death sentence.

Thankfully (even though it really is all theory, and he admits it), Dr. Bones from the website, Doom and Bloom: Survival Medicine, did an entire series on how to deal with and treat diabetes in a powered down world.  We hope we never have to test his theories, but if the SHTF, at least here's something to try.

From a survival standpoint, this book made me look a bit more into survival medicine, and treatments for ailments, I might not have looked into.

*I was really annoyed in the beginning of the book when the grocer started barbequing all of the meat in his cooler after they lost electricity, and it has always bothered me that they didn't try to preserve the meat for the future use rather than having a big gorge-fest at the beginning of the emergency. 


4. Eternity Road, Jack McDevitt

I'm not sure that most preppers would even consider this prepper fiction.  It is post-apocalypse, though, and it is actually really well written.  McDevitt spins a fascinating tale.

The story takes place a few centuries AFTER the human race has been destroyed by plague.   Nature has all-but wiped out most traces of human existence, and those few survivors live in small colonies.  They are illiterate - that is, very few, written documents survived, and then ones that did are incredibly precious.  Like the Monks of the Dark Ages, scribes have been employed to recreate those stories of old.

There's a rumor that a whole library of books was stashed in some bunker on what used to be the East Coast, near the ocean, and this story is the trek back to the Atlantic in search of these old books.

McDevitt's tale is fascinating and beautifully written.  It's a shame this his book isn't more popular, just for the fact of how beautifully woven the story is.  

As a prepper novel, it made me take a really hard look at books, and how important they are, and more importantly, how important they will be for helping to preserve our history, but also, the knowledge we have.  We have forgotten how lovely sitting down with a good book is, because sitting and watching television or playing on our phones is just so much easier.  Eternity Road is a good reminder that if the SHTF, we won't be able to depend on our electronics.  Those old books will be all we have.  

5.  World Made By Hand, James Howard Kunstler

The first book I ever read by JHK wasn't fiction.  It was The Long Emergency - the book he wrote that predicted - or rather WARNED - about just the kinds of things we are currently experiencing.  

In the Prepper world, we like to think that the "end" will come in a big bang, and then, those of us who are smart and prepared will survive to create a new world.  Kunstler does not ascribe to that notion, and in fact, The Long Emergency cautions us to not become frogs in boiling water - complacent to our inevitable demise because we ignore the rising temperature.

While JHK's non-fiction talks about the long-con, his fictional TEOTWAWKI is a little faster.  The story opens 10 years after an "event."  Well, not just one event, but a series of unfortunate events (with a nod to Lemony Snicket for the wording), that include the bombing of DC and a flu pandemic.  Can I say that word?  

It takes place in a small town in upper New York State.  

There are a lot of things to really like about the series.  At a minimum, JHK is a good story-teller, but what I really liked about the story was the community aspect.  Too much of prepper fiction focuses on keeping out the bad guys.  In this story, while there are some pretty bad guys, the reality is ... well, reality.  People are people, and there often isn't a truly clear distinction between really "good" and really "bad."  There is room for a lot of gray in the world.

What makes the big difference in TEOTWAWKI will be our ability to come together as a community and work to support and protect each other - not just those we deem worthy.  I loved that not everyone was perfect.  

Obviously, there are a lot of other really amazing post-apocalyptic stories out there.  What's your favorite?

Monday, November 9, 2020

Good Neighbors

I've been working on this project with the group Real Voices Media.  The goal was to flood social media and the Internet with "good vibes", especially during the election process.   Basically, I am given a list of topics to choose from each week, and I make a 1 to 3 minute video on the topic.

This week the topic was about neighbors.  

In the past I've written a lot about my neighbors.  And, honestly, I do have AMAZING neighbors!  Maybe I'm just lucky.  Maybe it's a two-way street.

Either way, I am very fortunate that I live among some amazing people.

When Deus Ex Machina and I bought our house two decades ago, the first neighbors we met were the ones across the fence.  We bought our house in December, and in the spring, when things had thawed a bit, we were out in the yard.  They made a point of introducing themselves.  I still have their business card for the "Born Again Christian Sanctuary."

We didn't agree philosophically about everything, but they were amazing neighbors, and we were incredibly fortunate to know them.  The Missus didn't drive, and when the Mister started showing signs of age-related brain fog, I was just on the other side of the fence if they needed a ride.  One winter, it snowed ... a LOT ... I mean, it IS Maine.  They were worried about the vents on their heating system getting covered with snow.  Deus Ex Machina went over and shoveled for them.  When they knew they weren't going to can anymore, I inherited all of their canning supplies.  What a bounty!  

And they told amazing stories, too.  They knew the original owner of my house.  He was a close friend, and in fact, they had sold him the land to build this house.  I am eternally grateful to them for their generosity to and friendship with Barney.

The first spring we lived here, we had a two-week stretch of gorgeous, warm weather in mid-April.  So, I took my tomato starts outside and put them in the ground.  The Mister saw me starting that first garden, and he inquired as to what I was doing.  When I told him, he cautioned me that, normally, we didn't plant those tender plants until after Memorial Day, at the end of May.  I scoffed.  It was so warm!  It was time!

That night, there was a killing frost, and I lost all of those plants.  

He never said, "I told you so."  I don't think he even ever mentioned those plants or that first little attempt at gardening in Maine.  They both passed away a couple of years ago.  I miss them.  They were (are) wonderful people and very good neighbors.  

When our neighbors across the street moved into their house in the middle of a February snowstorm, I headed into my kitchen and baked some muffins, which I took over to them and introduced myself - asking if we could help them out with anything.  

They are great folks and have been a huge part of our journey.  Sometimes in the summer, when I would be out in the yard working in my garden, the Mister would be playing his guitar.  He had been a professional musician in the 1960s, and the music was that early folk rock sound.  I'd be tying up tomato plants or making a cage for my potato towers and listening to those electric tunes, and I could imagine myself on a commune in those back-to-the-land days, working the garden with a live music accompaniment.  It was meditative - my hands in the dirt planting something that would feed us or doing the physical work of tending my "land", while his music transported me to someplace higher - such as good music is wont to do.  On those warm days, when I knew he'd be practicing with his windows open, I would find something to do out in the yard.  

I have lots of stories about my awesome neighbors.  We may not share holidays together.  I don't know when their birthdays are.  We don't even get together regularly for summer barbeques, but when we need something, we're there for each other.  

A huge part of preparedness, for me, is that cultivating of kinships with my neighbors.  There is safety in numbers.  Moreover, those who have lived in a place for a long time, know things about that place, that maybe we don't know, and further, those who have lived long, know much.  They may not always be able to share their knowledge in some linear or succinct way, but if we listen to their stories, they will tell us what we need to know.

I have been blessed to live in a place with very good neighbors, and I do know that I am fortunate.  And yes, every day, I am thankful.    

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Food Thrift

Friday, November 6 was "National Nachos Day."  

Usually I don't even pay attention to that sort of thing, but when I heard it on the radio on my way into work, my tummy grumbled, and I decided, we were having Nachos for dinner.  Don't judge.  They were delicious.

In addition to the Nachos, I made Spanish rice and refried beans.

I went a little overboard and forgot that I was only feeding four people.  So, there were leftovers.

For lunch on Saturday, I threw the leftover rice, refried beans, and the seasoned ground beef into a sauce pan, added a bit of water, and heated it up.

Deus Ex Machina was skeptical, but when he'd finished his first serving, he said, "Okay.  It was good."

The phrase, "Waste not.  Want not."  means, if you don't waste stuff, you won't need stuff (be in want of).   

I like that phrase, because it speaks to abundance rather than depletion.  It's a mindset.  Like "poverty" is a mindset.  

A friend told me that when he was in high school studying Maine History, the teacher said they'd be skipping the whole Great Depression.  When asked why, the teacher said, "Maine had already been in an economic depression for YEARS before the 1930s.  The thirties weren't worse for most Mainers than what they had already been living."

What I hear a lot from people who lived in rural states and communities, was how they didn't realize they were "poor" until someone told them, because they had everything they needed, and what they didn't have they couldn't make.

Most of us already have an abundance of whatever.  We just have to remember to be thoughtful in how we use it, and those things that we already have will keep us rich. 

Saturday, November 7, 2020


 I didn't grow up being thrifty or frugal.  Even when we hit some pretty tough times, financially, I don't recall that we were "thrifty", necessarily.  What we did was to just not spend any money.  There was a moratorium on ALL spending that wasn't absolutely necessary. 

So, we didn't get new clothes or shoes that year.  We probably ate a lot of cheap canned food.  When my parents' friend went fishing and caught a lot of fish, we thankfully accepted his gift of fresh fish.  It was delicious.  

But we never went to the Goodwill or the Salvation Army store, or really, very many other Thrift stores ... well, except the used book store, and that was different.

I grew up believing, like the "rich girl", mentioned in this video, that Thrift shopping was something poor people did, and that was sad.  It was sad that they were destitute, desperate ... needy.  It wasn't a character judgment.  It just was what it was.  

Even when my family actually was destitute, desperate, and needy, when going to the Thrift store could have meant that I was well dressed in quality used clothing we'd purchased at a fraction of its SRP for a new garment, instead of wearing out-dated, hand-me-downs from the family in the cul-de-sac just up from my suburban home (and being embarrassed every day, because my polyester pants were "Mom" clothes from the 1960s), we didn't thrift store shop.

In college, as a young mom and poor college student, I still didn't thrift shop.  It was that same mental block.  It was "charity," and I didn't do charity ... accept I did for other things.  Just not clothes.

As the saying goes, I wish I had known then, what I know now.  

I was in my thirties the first time I met someone who had a discount card for Goodwill.  At first, I thought, "Why would someone want a 10% discount on used stuff?"

I've come around to her kind of thinking.

In fact, now, most of my clothes are from the consignment shop.  Like the mom in the above video, I have advised my children that the only new clothes they should buy are shoes and underwear.  Shoes, not because they are inherently unsanitary (I mean ... bowling), but because our natural gait will wear the soles of shoes in ways that may point to an unhealthy gait.

But also, because the kinds of shoes that we're going to wear, and wear a lot, I want to last for a very long time.  

I'm not a fan of yard sales, but I am LOVING the yard sale groups on social media.  I just bought a cabinet for my living room for a quarter of what it would have cost new. 

The video linked above is a spoken poem by Kelly Zimmerman, "Ode To Thrift Stores", and what she says resonated so much with who I am now, and how I feel about consumerism and stuff acquisition.

What's funny is that what she says in much of the poem is exactly the Prepper mantra.  "Make the Thing You Have, the Thing You Need."  

As a prepper, that's exactly what I do, and after many years of spending too much time and too much money trying to buy what I thought I needed, I will take a few extra days to figure out if I already have what I need, or if I have something that could be modified to be what I need.  

It's a good life.  And moreover, the knowledge that I am able to create something that can fit my needs is incredibly empowering.

One of the best things about shopping at a thrift shop is, just as Kelly Zimmerman's mom advised, it changes.  What they have today will be completely different by tomorrow or the next day.  It's a revolving inventory, and so there's always something new, or interesting to see.

If there's some reason why you don't thrift shop, if you think it's for poor people or that it's sad, please visit a thrift store.  You will be incredibly surprised, and maybe you won't find it the treasure trove so many of the rest of us have discovered, but I'll bet you enjoy looking through the books, CDs, or vinyl records!  

Wait.  What?  

Where do you think people send the stuff they don't need or want anymore?  Unless it's a consignment shop dedicated specifically to garments, clothes are just a portion of what can be found at the Thrift store.  Everything you can imagine can be found at the Thrift store - just not always in the color or size that you want, which is why you have to go back.  Go often.