25 January 2015

A Sister Blog for A View From The Cottage

http://publicphoto.org/pics/2010/11/27/100-EUROS_Banknotes_72891-150x150.jpgSince the 2008 economic downturn, many people in the USA have struggled with financial hardship, unemployment and under employment. On the world stage, the global economy is in turbulent waters, the E.U. Euro troubles, an election in Greece that could lead to Greece exiting the E.U., the Death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, oil selling at under $50 a barrel, (countries like Russia and Iran are suffering great financial strain since the health of their economies is dependent on $100 a barrel crude prices)... are just a few of the elements that could lead to global financial duress in 2015. For now, gas in the US is selling at amazingly low prices. For the short term that is great, but over the long haul, it will exact a high price on a global level, which in the end will be bad for the U.S. We do not stand alone, we are inextricably connected to a global economy. I am no financial analyst, but it looks to me like there could be dark days ahead for everyone.

I am not trying to be a harbinger of doom, as a matter of fact I am here to say that for a brief period of time the people of the U.S. are getting a reprieve from a long running financial crush. Now is a good time to put aside a little cash and make some decisions and plans for the future, while gas prices are low and most everyone has a little extra jingle in their pockets. It is a good time to look past the end of our noses, and realize that the reprieve won't last forever and there is much to indicate that things will be worse instead of better in the near future.

 It seems like this is a great time to talk about what can be done to be better prepared for an emergency.  It is suggested by the US government that each family have an emergency preparedness plan, (read more at http://www.ready.gov/,  http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters, https://www.fema.gov/plan, http://www.community.fema.gov/connect.ti/cfghome/grouphome ), the fact that the government is sticking its neck out and telling people they need to be prepared, should be reason for concern. Because they know that in the case of a large scale emergency, at least for awhile, each family in the U.S. that is affected, will be on their own... remember Hurricane Katrina....?

Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be PreparedPrepare for what? You ask... Well according to the Ready.gov, we should be ready for natural hazards, like storms and earthquakes, but also for pandemic, technological and accidental hazards, and terrorist attacks. CDC.gov. wants you to prepare for a zombie apocalypse... I kid you not... check out the link above, (the blog post is done quasi "tongue in cheek", but then again it never denies the possibility of a zombie apocalypse, it uses the term more often than is necessary to really be considered humorous... Do I worry about a zombie apocalypse...? No, unless you consider the masses of unprepared people swarming the grocery stores before a storm to be zombies... It can get pretty ugly when the word snow is mentioned and in a matter of second all the bread  and milk in the store is gone ... those left with money in their hands and no food to take home to their empty larder to feed their kids, could resemble zombies...running through the parking lot to try and get to the next store before everything is gone. But I don't worry about joining the zombie horde to get food when a storm is coming, or when the power is out for weeks after big winter storm, because my larder is always full.

So, if I am not worried about a zombie apocalypse, what am I preparing for? My husband and I are preparing our family, home and land to be able to carry on with life, no matter what the circumstance. We are not preparing for a particular scenario, for Sh-t to hit the fan or the world as we know it to come to an end, although those possibilities always exist... we are just making sure that whatever storm is on the horizon we are as well equipped to weather it as we can be in hopes that our lives can go on as normally as possible.

So, since we presently seem to be having a calm, and there are no inidcations of an eminent storm... I am taking the opportunity to launch a new blog,  www.aprepperspantryjournal.blogspot.com.  A sister blog to A View From the Cottage. This blog is being written to assist people in making their own preparations, not so much for a zombie apocalypse, but for "life" to happen. While the Cottage blog is all about life on our little homestead, stories, recipes and tutorials on homesteading, self-sufficiency, organic gardening, health ,wellness, and our kosher/vegan lifestyle,  Preppers Pantry Journal will be focused on Preparedness. There will be tutorials on many aspects of Preparedness; long term food storage, food preservation, emergency preparedness, survival craft, herbal medicine and first aid,  and much more. There will also be tips and tricks for frugal prepping. Please come and check it out and see what you can do to be prepared!

20 January 2015

Raised Beds

Late Spring garden beds
Many years ago, when I was first learning about organic gardening and self-sufficiency, I discovered a book by John Seymour, titled, The Self-Sufficient Gardener. This book was a goldmine of information and practical advice on everything from garden layout and preparing garden beds to a comprehensive guide to fruits and vegetables, and everything in between. I learned how to create a double dug, raised bed and prepared my first raised bed garden, using his book as a guide. I am, 34 years later, still using his book as a reference, (but not for making compost). He later wrote another book on the subject, The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it, which covers in more detail what he discussed in the first book, but then expands into the broader subject of a self-sufficient life. It is a wonderful book. I have checked it out of the library so many times that I sometimes forget I don't own it! It is on my wish list, and one day I will find a copy on Amazon at the right price, and it will be mine!

I started out using John Seymour's technique for making raised beds, but over the years my husband and I have developed our own technique, one suited to our climate and environmental issues.We have 3 foot wide beds, that vary in length from 15 to 25 feet long. The beds are deep dug and loamy with 25 years of compost. Many years ago my husband decided to dig out the pathways, turn that soil out the beds and fill the pathways 18 inches deep with wood mulch. The wood mulch keeps us from having to weed the paths, but it also composts over time and after 3 years is turned onto the beds as compost and we repeat the process. We also have a large compost pile where we compost leaves, lawn trimmings, and kitchen waste. It gives us ample compost to top dress our beds at the beginning of each planting season, (which is for us 3-4 times a year).  My husband always jokes that we grow as much dirt as we do food... it is really not too far from the truth.

Early Fall. The Beets are ready for harvest.
Our raise beds feed us 365 days a year. They are practically weed  free, well perennial weeds anyway... we started with hard red clay, that swamped in the rain and turned to bricks in the summer sun. Today you can bury a pitch fork to the hilt just by dropping it in the soil. It is dark, loamy, fertile soil almost 2 feet down, full of earth worms, and a healthy network of mycelium to break down organic matter and detoxify the soil. If we continue to care for it, rotate crops to prevent disease, and let the whole garden go fallow for a year every seen years, then it will continue to feed us for the rest of our lives.

Do you use raised beds? If not, what kind of garden do you have? I am always interested in hearing how other people do things... why don't you leave me a comment and tell me about your garden?

17 January 2015

Looking Back

2014 was a big year for my family.There have been lots of really good things happening and a few not so good, but all in all it has been a great year. I am grateful and exhausted. Before we dive headlong into 2015, here is a quick look at what went on at Heart's Ease Cottage this past year.

Early in 2014 I had a several month bout with pneumonia, which put me behind on many of my garden tasks. The fact that we had a very long winter and late spring gave me a chance to play catch up once I was feeling some better... So we managed to have a nice spring garden in spite of sickness. Our summer garden suffered when our normally dry hot summer, was wet and cool instead. The tomatoes and peppers drowned in the months or so of non-stop rain, but I planted a second round of both peppers and tomatoes after then rains stopped. Other plantings seemed to cope better with the wet weather, so we still managed to have lots of beautiful fruits and veggies to eat, preserve and share.
We have waited 5 years for a harvest of Hardy Kiwi. There weren't many this year but next year we should have more.

Our Currant Tomatoes never fail to provide us with an abundance of tiny bursts of tomato goodness.They are larger than a pea and smaller than a grape tomato, but are packed with intense tomato flavor. They also provide plenty of volunteers tomato plants to share.
Some of the heirloom tomato varieties we grew.

We added some really nice elements to our homestead this year, and subtracted a few as well. Da's work kept him hopping this year, but he still managed to run several large projects at home. I got a lot of planning and designing done while I was recovering from being sick, so that in May we could proceed to put the plans into action. We are very excited about how things turned out!
The veranda and the gardens were both projects that were finished in May of 2014

I designed the deck rail to reflect the theme of Heart's Ease Cottage

I have finally gotten the bathroom walls finished. This painting is a depiction of a happy memory...maybe I'll tell the story some day if you are interested in hearing it...

A close up of the dragonfly.

In September my husband and I made a 2 week road trip to Hamilton Ontario. On the Trip to Hamilton, we stopped in Niagara Falls, Ontario, stayed in some very unique AirBnB  locations along the way, stopped in Pennsylvania to visit friends and saw a lot of countryside as we drove, both in the USA and Canada. We haven't taken a vacation in years, so this was a highlight for 2014. We had a lot of fun and put a lot of miles on my odometer. Niagara Falls was of course breath taking, but I really enjoyed the beauty and variety of the falls in Hamilton, Ontario.
The Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls 2014

Da and I at one of the many waterfalls in Hamilton. Photo by Monique Campbell. 

Webster Falls, Hamilton Ontario

We also had a couple of land mark life changes this year. Our youngest son married his sweetheart and the company that both my husband and one of our sons works for was sold and now they are working for a new company. The marriage was reason for much joy, but the business being sold lead to some scary times wondering if the new owners would be laying off current staff. As the dust settled and the shock wore off things stabilized and in the end, the entire staff was kept on the payroll. Whew!

December was full of taking care of medical things, three family members had some kind of surgery. Everyone is doing well and on the slow road to recovery. We have much to be grateful for! Now I just need to get caught up on all my winter garden chores and spend some time perusing the seed catalogs that are coming in daily, so that I will have some seed for my next round of plantings.

I hope that this finds you all well and happy and that you also had a good year. If you want to share some highlights of your 2014, feel free to leave a comment, I would love to hear from you!  Until next time!

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