The Tail End of the Jam…

or, another year of Hand crafting begins anew!

last of Mel's raspberry freezer jam

last of Mel’s raspberry freezer jam

As the stores of the previous year come to their end, it is time to begin looking ahead to the new year of Handcrafting! I am taking this time, before the first seed is planted to outline my goals for this year’s Creations.

  • greenhouse and raised bed gardening, growing 90% of our fresh fruits and veg, including various forms of tomatoes, onions, broccoli, peas, summer squash, salad crops and spinach
  • canning, pickling, drying and preserving our own grown food as well as produce from local farms and orchards, including stewed tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, dill sandwich pickles, saurkraut, dried cherries and plums, canned peaches and various jams and jellies
  • starting a new flock of laying chickens
  • obtaining a local source of beeswax and honey
  • obtaining a local source of milk for my dairy projects
  • eliminating reliance on any boxed food in 2014
  • replacing all store-bought laundry products with natural alternatives, as well as replacing all household cleaners, except bleach. (I will cling to my bleach well beyond the Zombie Apocalypse)
  • To become proficient in cheesemaking and reduce our reliance on Tillamook medium cheddar.
  • And, of course, to Stick-It-To-Monsanto and BigFood, wherever possible, spreading the Word of Real Food on any budget.

My ambitions are great this year. And I have a plan for each aspect of improvement. It is such an exciting time, as the Earth awakens from her Winter slumber. I intend to take full advantage of the abundant energy of Renewal in the air to motivate and connect me to my purpose of returning to Nature for my food and products.

What will you be handcrafting this year???



Happy High Winds-day!

This afternoon, my area of the country is under a high wind warning, with accompanying heavy rains. Because we live at the beach, this happens all the time. But it got me thinking…how do folks prepare for the forecast of inclement weather, nearly certain to disrupt power?

I don’t even think about it, anymore. Twice a year, I stock up on lamp oil and I am always buying candles. My house has well-placed lamps and candles in every room. We have a generator and spare gas can in the garage, for when we have to save the frozen food, and keep the heat going (I still don’t have a wood stove 😦 ). We live in an area which expects the power to go out as a rule, not the exception, so we never let ourselves run out of canned food or bottled water.

But I am curious, how do you prepare for a big storm? If you haven’t thought much about it (and I hardly know how this could be possible, after this Winter, no matter where you live) I am happy to share some of the many, many tips I have developed for making our lives comfortable, when the worst happens. And it happens all the time.

1. Water. I keep 30 gallons of water in plastic bottles available at all times. It isn’t enough for a very extended disaster, but it is enough for a few days of washing, drinking and animals.

2. Coffee. I know this doesn’t sound like a serious necessity, but that is only because you don’t know me very well! I keep a mason jar of ground coffee in the freezer at all times, to use with my french press, which, of course, requires no electricity to operate. A tea kettle and a gas stove (or propane one) make fresh coffee possible no matter what the weather or situation.

3. Canned and non-perishable food. Things you can heat and eat are very important when you can’t get out. Always keep your favorite things in stock. Even buying a few cans of each thing, extra, each shopping trip can afford you a good selection of staples in an emergency situation. Items which require only water to prepare can be a lifesaver when the chips are down. While it is wise to stock up, it is also wise to rotate items into and out of your stock often. Don’t just buy it and store it. Eat it, and replace it! Make sure the items that stand between you and hunger are fresh and ready when you need them. Don’t forget the pets!

4. Alternate heat source. In my case this is a generator. But there are options for people who don’t have one. There are indoor propane heaters available at sporting goods stores that are often used inside tents. I believe there to be kerosene versions, but the idea of the fumes kinda freaks me out. The propane burns cleanly and isn’t the fire risk of kerosene. Just the same, always use caution when operating heaters inside. In a disaster, burning your house down is not going to make life easier.

5. Lights. Know where your flashlights are, and check your batteries and battery supply often. I have many oil lamps and keep spare bottles of lamp oil for an extended outage. Keep emergency candles handy, and make sure your holders are stable. Again with the fire warning! Be careful! Open flame always brings a risk of fire. Jar candles are easy, last a long time, often have multiple wicks (thus providing more ambient light), smell nice and are less “tippy” than taper candles in holders.

6. Something to do! It can be really boring, sitting around with no power. Make sure you have plenty of books to read, games to play and activities to keep all family members occupied. Keeping everyone’s spirits up is really important, especially in an extended disaster.

7. A corded phone When the power goes out, cordless phones don’t work, so it might seem obvious, but don’t forget to keep a corded phone around the house. Cell phones (and other electronics) have to be charged and it doesn’t take long for that charge to run down. You will feel much more secure if you have the option to communicate with the outside world.

I’m sure this isn’t news to anyone, but it’s what’s on my mind, today, so I thought I’d share. I hope everybody out there is warm and dry, and their lights are on!