Thursday, December 31, 2009

A day of hunting and thinking

Yesterday for the first time in probably 15 years or more, I went rabbit hunting with an old friend. We grew up together and did almost everything together. He got his first rabbit with my dad and I. He got his first bass with us too. He was a part of nearly everything we and I did for many years. As we got older though, we grew apart. He got married, then I did. I focused more on my job at the gun shop and all things outdoors, while he continued to drink like we did when we were 21. We both divorced and remarried, but while I was off to a new life with Lisa, he lost another wife and got his 4th DUI. He lost his house, job, and was living with his sister, making just enough money for beer and cigarettes.I got him a job where I was working, only to find out he was making me look bad by telling the owner things that never happened. He lied, stabbed an old friend in the back, and ended up getting fired himself for something simple and stupid. I cut off all ties with him, I had no choice.

He called me earlier this week out of the blue and started talking about rabbit hunting. I missed my old friend, and had heard he quit drinking some time ago. I figured I would just give him one last try. We talked for not quite an hour, and set up yesterday to go out to the area by our parents to try rabbit hunting. I was happy to go, but still reluctant to trust him.But, something told me I *had* to.

We got there around 8:30, got ready and headed out. First we tried behing his folks place, and not even as much as a single rabbit track. There were plenty of coyote and cat tracks, which explains the lack of any from rabbits. After stomping the back 5 acres of his folks, we walked across the road and set off behind my parents place.

While we walked and stomped brush, it not only reminded me how much I hate rabbit hunting without a dog, it reminded me of all the good times in those woods. Memories of him and I, our dads, my uncle Glen, certain dogs, and cther people all came back to me. I remembered certain areas where we always got rabbits. I remembered spots where I shot this one and that one. I remembered places the dogs always got into. I remembered the spot where my uncles beagle pee'd down my friends dad's boot. I remembered it all.

While everything looked the same, it all looked different. The old paths once kept clean by land owners brush hogs are gone. The spot we always stopped to shoot a few squirrels has been timbered out. The open area around the small 1/4 acre dump we used to get great open shots is now full of green briar and crabapples. It's all different, but I can see through the trees and brush that have grown, and see me and my dad 20 years ago standing and listening to the beagles run. For a while, I was that wide-eyed 12 year old boy with the 20 guage double barrel, but soon after, I was the 44 year old who hasn't walked 5 miles in 3 layers of clothes through brush and snow for 15 years or more. While my mind was racing and telling me to go here and go there, my legs were screaming at me to go home, lol.

We jumped ONE rabbit the entire time we were up there. We did see rabbit tracks here and there, but the fox, coyote, and cat tracks far outnumbered them. I plan on calling a few of the people and getting permission to hunt coyote there soon. The one we jumped was of course in the ONE area of all of that land that I always hated the most, behind my grandparents place which now belongs to my cousin. It's 2 acres of nothing but vines and green briar, making quick shots almost impossible. My friend undershot the rabbit, and of course, I over shot it. After getting tangled in green briar looking like something right out of a Steven King book, we decided to head home.

It was a good day, even if my legs are sore today. I spent the day with an old friend, doing what we did every chance we could in the winter when we were younger. I got to see the areas that hold so many memories. Even if they look totally different, I know the spot and can see back through time there. I don't know if we'll try going out again, or for that matter, if he'll call again since it's been 3 years since the last call. HAS he finally grown up? CAN we be friends again? IS my old friend and hunting buddy finally back? I don't know, I just don't know. All I can do is take the day for what it was. A great time out of the house, walking familiar woods and fields, and remembering as far back as I could....it was a great day.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Killing time

So there is still no end in sight for this layoff, and not a company in the trade hiring. There is little to do at home other than household stuff, so I sit and read a lot, online and in books. Many I have read over and over, which I enjoy doing, but none I have found ever seem to totally fit us, or what we do on this scale. This got me to thinking.
I like to write. I like writing in this blog. I like writing in online forums. So, I figured out what to do with my time. I started writing a book. It will be a story of what we have done here at home on our one acre. It shouldn't be hard, afterall, I have 10 years of home resarch and all my blog posts to fall back on. I just finally thought, no one that i have seen has written anything from their perspective on a "suburban homestead", so it might as well be me.
I'm only in the first chapter, and let me tell ya, it's harder than I thought. Writing things out and forming them to FILL a chapter is difficult. It can't be just-we bought the house, we put in a garden, the garden got bigger, we got some chickens....I need to write out every last detail, discussion, decesion, and outcome. I'm slowly getting the hang of it, but I keep wanting to write in blog form, short and sweet. I'm hoping by the end of the week to get at least this first chapter done.
I haven't looked for a publisher or anything yet. I want to make sure I can do this first and have someone proof read it before I approach anyone. I really don't have any doubts about it's ability to sell, I'm more worried about it looking like it was written in 3 days. I'll post more as it starts to fall together.
I did manage to come up with a title today, somehow while I was doing dishes and listening to Survival Podcast. 'Less to mow-more to eat. The story of a suburban homestead' Let me know what you think of the name, and if you have any other suggestions!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Helping



This year through Lisa's work, we "adopted" four low income families for Christmas. Two are couples with children, one is a single dad with three, and another is a grandmother raising two. We've had quite a bit of donations of clothes and toys, and also just over $600 cash! We spent 4 hours on Friday night shopping with this money, and managed to get almost everyone a few gifts each. Yesterday we had friends over to help us wrap. (baiting with dinner of course lol) Today I'll be going out for the last few things, wrap them, and we'll drop everything off tomorrow.
It's been a rough year for us at home, and our gift piles are pretty small. But we have a roof over our heads, plenty to eat, and will be just happy for all of us to spend christmas day together. We're all grown adults here, and we know it's been a hard hear for all of us, but getting things for these families helps to bring happiness to us. Thinking that some kid wasn't going to have anything to open on Christmas morning was just too sad. I wish we could somehow be there to see their faces..but we know, and thats enough.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The things I read...

I've spent a lot of time lately poking around "survival" websites and forums lately. Not because I want to fall into that category, but simply because I want to see how others do some of the things we do, plus I'm just curious about some of their ways. I really have to say that a lot I read makes me laugh. I've read of people burying guns in their backyard. I've read of people buying land out of the country to run to. I've read of people stocking their basements full of MRE's and dehydrated foods. But what really makes me laugh are the ones that are putting new terms on old things we all know. My favorite so far is "permaculture". Without even realizing what I've been doing, I have been practicing this new trendy cityboy based way of thinking and planting edibles that grow back year after year. What a concept eh? I'm glad that someone with a degree in horticulture was able to figure out this new way of planting things so they grow back and give you produce/crops year after year....cause yanno, grandma never would have figured out that those blackberries she planted along the fence would spread, grow, and give her fruit every year. Lets see, I've planted strawberries, grapes, 2 varieties of blackberries, apple trees, and Lisa's herbs, all on this one acre here outside the suburbs...holy crap I should write a book. "Permiculture for the semi-urban survivalist'!!! I could make my fortune selling books to those who are too clueless to understand this is how us regular gardeners do things. Hmmm.........................I just may start writing that today.

I know that Lisa and I have chosen to live a bit differently than most around here and most anywhere, but sometimes the people on these kinds of forums just make me shake my head and wonder. I constantly read of people buying generators, talking about solar power and backup systems, and what they need them for. I can't for the life of me figure out why people simply can't loosen the grip that electricity has on us. They talk about emergency power in the same way that an alcoholic has their hidden bottle somewhere in the house.I read one about someone who had a solar system WITH his on-grd electricity, with a backup generator in case both fail and to charge the solar batteries....wow. Rather then lose part of the dependancy on electricity, they constantly worry about what they will do if they are suddenly without it. They have to have that backup power for their lights, microwave, dvd player, and all those things that just simply AREN'T necessities. Now, we're far from living in a cabin in the mountains and doing everything over a wood fire, but as many regular readers know, we've slowly weaned ourselves from the addiction and dependancy of the handy-dandy plug-it-in-to-use gadgets that so many people just can't seem to go without. I can't imagine in the instance of a power outage, worrying about how I'll be able to work my microwave, coffeemaker, or cable tv, I just can't. I just suppose that I have learned to live without certain things by choice that I can't imagine them being a priority anymore. As I look across the kitchen where I am sitting, I see the perculator on the stove that we use every day and realize that someone, somewhere, has that same pot tucked away on a shelf "just in case". People have things for an emergency situation that we use every day, I just can't help but find humor in that.

I don't intend to make fun of people, I really don't. I just can't help but to wonder what some of these people are thinking, and how far they are from some bit of common sense living in cities and suburbia.Some of these "crucial survival skills" are things we (lisa and I ) deal with every day, and most are things I have known since I was very young. As a kid, I spent most of my time in the woods behind my parents house. Sometimes I just sat under a tree with a book, sometimes I just walked around to see what I could see, sometimes I hunted, sometimes I went searching for berries. Where I grew up was no great wilderness, but we did pretty much have the run of a few thousand acres. I knew where there was water. I knew where the best place was for squirrels, rabbits, fox, pheasant, or a few small ponds for fish and waterfowl. I could leave the house early in the morning and not come back until early evening and never be hungry or thirsty. There were quite a few times that I would set off with a backpack, tent, knives, sleeping bag, matches, and a 22 rifle. I never had a problem feeding myself. I knew to boil water that I got from the pond, though at times I would drink right out of the creek. There was even one year when my camping gear was hidden away in some trees the whole summer because I constantly ended up there. How old was I? Twelve. I was doing things every weekend at age 12 that I see/hear/read of grown men doing now in their 30's and 40's. It just amazes me at times how far our society as a whole has not only walked away from simple things in life, but they've walked away from skills that our ancestors used day to day just to survive life year round. Not just outdoor skills, but everyday household skills. I've read posts of people talking about making bread for the first time like it was some amazing feat of mankind comparable to setting foot on the moon. I've read about people planting tomatos in a pot on their porch/.patio like it was the *craziest* thing to grow some of your own food. These kinds of people dominate these survival and preparadness boards. At times it scares me, but normally it just makes me laugh.

I know I've said I will be getting back to the old regular homesteading stuff I've had on this blog, but there really isn't much going on this time of year worth writing about. We've been busy trying to do what we can for Christmas, get some bills payed off or consolodated, and still search for a job. It's been a tough year for sure,last Tuesday made 10 months I have been layed off. We're just doing what we can, same as always. Hopefully I'm not losing some old readers from the way this blog has turned lately, but there is more to me than just the gardening and chickens.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I have enough chickens....oh wait...maybe not

Just when I thought we were done with chickens other than the 12 layers, I got the call from the neighbor. After I took the fencing and posts a few months ago, he decided to keep his birds with a small 4x8 pen area and let them free range most of the time. Well....as I expected, he got tired of taking care of them, and his wife got even too ****ing lazy to get off the couch long enough to search for eggs. As we were rounding up the birds, we found 18 in a cooler that was laying on it's side, 11 in a truck cap, and 3 in the henhouse I made for him this spring. None had birds on or near them, none were warm telling us they were fresh laid, so......not having a clue how long any of these eggs had been out there, all of them went straight to his trash. 32 eggs, what a waste of time. As much as I was disgusted by that, it really didn't surprise me. This is the same guy who refuses to buy any kind of chicken feed and tosses them the same "Ole Roy" that he feeds his dogs. That stuff is absolute garbage, horrible food that I wouldn't feed our dogs if it was free. *SIGH* can you tell I have no patieice with this guy anymore? Geez. Anyway.....he decides to keep the three mixed breed game hens and the one rooster for some reason, so I came home with 8 more free laying hens. All of them are young birds born this year, so they're still laying strong even with the onset of cold weather. I put them in the smaller half of the chicken run where the roosters were before they went to the freezer, and took straight for the feed & waterer. I figured they may have been upset over being caught, wrestled into a cage, drug across a field, and tossed into a house and run they weren't familiar with, but they've given 4 eggs already today (sunday) and seem relaxed and at home. Yea....I imagine readily available food and water would be a nice thing to have, even to a chicken. Yanno...I like the guy but I really hope he doesn't get any other animals next year.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Continuing.....food stoarage how and why

Several times since I started writing in this blog, I have mentioned food storage. It's something that's discussed or checked here at home almost daily as we use things to make meals, snack, or get the occasional pantry raid from the kids. Storing food is very imporant to us, and we watch our stores carefully. In the comments here as well as online forums, and also day to day life, we get a lot of questions. Today I'll go over as much as I can.

As I've said several times, we store for emergencies and disasters, but we store for one main reason-we cook. We never buy any boxed, frozen,or pre-packaged n' ready foods; we cook from scratch. We rarely go out to dinner at a resturant, and I can't rememeber the last time we had dinner at a friends. Everything we store here, or for that matter grow here or raise here, we eat.Sure, we occasionally buy canned spaghetti sauce and some fruits, but most is made here when we have the produce. Our tomato crop didn't do well this year, so we're buying more tomato sauces and juices than we would if we had been able to can more on our own. It was the same with our corn. We did get a lot of ears, but they were all very small. We did freeze the majority of it, but we make up the difference with buying already canned. It's all very simple really, like I said in my last entry, we eat what we store and store what we eat. What be don't buy in cans or jars, we buy in bulk. Lisa does a lot of baking, so we buy flour, bread flour, sugar, and brown sugar in 25 or 50 lb bags. These bulk items are stored in 5 gallon food grade buckets, and we keep a smaller container in the kitchen, just so she isn't lugging around a heavy bucket every time she wants to make bread. Buying in bulk saves money as well. The price of a 50lb bag broken down by the pound is always a lot less expensive than buying the small 5lb bags. It's just a win-win situation. We save money, and it's always there when we need it. When the bucket gets to half-full, we get a fresh bag.

The other items are even easier. For example, I am a peanut butter addict, I generally eat some every day. So, every time we go to the grocery store, we get 2 or 3 jars and put them behind what we already have. There are a few other things we buy this way, but the majority of the others, we stock up when they are on sale. Getting a few items each week, or a few of each when there is a sale, will fill your pantry FAST. If you, for example, eat a lot of mayonnaise, when you go to the store, get 2. The next time you are out, get 2 more. It won't take long to have everything you need on hand, and it saves a lot of time. What I mean by time are those times when you have to run out to the store for something silly that you should have. As the perfect example, lets say toilet paper. It's 8pm, you're tired, and head to the thundermug (my new favorite word lol), you realize that you have 4 sheets on the roll, reach for another one, and ooooops, there isn't any. So, after the awkward 4 sheet potty dance, you head to the store to spend a dollar or two on toilet paper. You've wasted your time, wasted gasoline, and ventured out when you shouldn't have to, to spend 2 bucks. If you don't want to look at all of this from a preparadness standpoint, look at it as convienence. If the last time you went out to the store and they had a good sale on tp, you had bought a case, you wouldn't have to make that trip. Again, it's just common sense. Sure, we don't live out as far as some other people, and there is a store 5 minutes away, but it's just easier to open that case and have it right there. Even worse, you run to the local convienence store or gas station and pay $5 for a $2 roll of toilet paper. It's exactly the same for me. I don't want to run out of peanut butter, so I keep it stored. It's so simple to think about, but I know more people who will make that trip rather than keep things on hand.

Food is so simple to store. Keep it cool, keep it dry, it's that easy. I can sit here and spew off everything I have learned or read in books and online, but it's very easy. Don't store your flour in the room that gets really humid. Don't store your canned goods in a room that gets warmer than the rest of the house. It's just common sense. I shouldn't have to tell anyone reading this where and how to store food.

Now to go on to the "other" foodstuffs that most people don't store, including us. I mean freeze dried, dehydrated, or MRE style foods. There are some dehydrated foods that we plan to get from one of the usual websites, but we just haven't had the money. I have no plans at all on storing MRE's. I know most of the people in the preparadness/survival world keep cases of these things around, but thats not me. They're somewhat sensative to temperature change, and quite frankly, they are, for the most part, awful. Maybe they've changed since the last I tried swallowing one, but at that time I had to mix the meal with the enclosed hot sauce, salt and pepper to even get it to my nose. Yes, I know, it's for emergencies and our troops eat them all the time, but i'm no soldier, and I have plenty of other things to eat. Those things are at the very bottom of my list.

There are a lot of websites and catalogs that sell a years worth of dehydrated food out there; prepackaged and delivered to your house on a pallet. I won't toally discourage these things, but anyone looking at them has to carefully examine what is in those big packages. Are there things you or your family don't or won't eat? Do you really have a use for 5 pounds of dehydrated sour cream or pea soup? Would you want to rely on just these items to get you through an emergency? I will say they are very convienent and easy to buy with just the click of a mouse and your credit card, but look at them carefully. Lisa and I know someone who purchased one of these one year supply packages. The items consist of a lot of things he doesn't like at all, but he insists he can eat them if/when he does. He's just happy to have them there. Oh...where is "there"? In the basement of his father's business 15-20 minutes away from where he lives. He bought this giant $3000 package knowing full well that he didn't have room to store it at home. Sure, it's a nice building with a very dry basement, but it's not where he is. Will he be able to get there during an emergency situation? What if that situation is a storm that hits the area of the business before it hits his place? The building is flooded or inacessable. He may as well have taken that $3000 and flushed it down the thundermug. (see, I used it again!!) Think long and hard before you make any purchase like that. Will you and your family eat it? Do you have space for it? In my opinion, that $3000 will buy a helluva lot of groceries that I can store just as easily, and it will all be things that we normally eat.

Last week, I printed off a really good book on food storage, actually put out by the Morman church. It breaks things down very easily, and even includes a shopping guide for each month to get you to a years supply quickly. Use this book as a guideline, not a guidebook. There are things in thier list that we simply don't eat. Those items are easily substituted with things that we do eat. There is a lot of religion in the beginning, which was much expeceted, but the book makes sense overall. While they make comments about storing for the end of times, they also talk about many of the things I have mentioned....job loss, layoff, weather related, etc. The church even talks about preparadness and food storage in the church! What a concept. The book can be found here: http://www.abysmal.com/LDS/Preparedness/Preparedness.pdf

To a lot of my regular readers that have stuck around since i started this blog, I promise I won't be staying on this subject for long, lol. I'll get back to canning and chicken-killin' really soon,LOL.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving adventures

Early this morning I kept up a long family tradition of hunting for our annual Thanksgiving turkey. It's a long held tradition that goes back 3 generations in my family, and I hold that same tradition very near to my heart and will continue it as long as I am able to get out.

I woke early today, several hours before the sun. I sat down with a cup of coffee before I left, thinking about the hunt and thinking about the meal that will follow. I checked my boot laces, my knife, ammo, swallowed the last sip of coffee, and headed out the door in full camoflage from head to toe.

I soon got to the regular spot, and scanned the area before getting out of the car. "not too bad", I thought to myself, "I've only seen a few other vehicles, I should do just fine." I reached behind the seat, quietly loaded the 12 guage, and walked off in the darkness, walking carefully so I wouldn't be detected. Walking slowly, I looked around my surroundings, seeing familiar landmarks to mark my way in my head...I know exactly where I am going this morning....I know where they are.

I soon found a spot to sit, and hunkered down quietly, waiting to hear something off in the distance. After about 10 minutes or so, I hit the trusty slate call, hoping to hear that big tom off in the distance and call him toward me.....squak...squak....squak....nothing...dead silence. I waited another 10 minutes or so and tried it again...nothing. I was getting pretty frustrated when I saw something out of the corner of my eye....turkeys! There must be 50 of them over there to my right! Oooooo, out front! Look! That one's gotta be 20 pounds! I hit the slate call again and got no response at all, not even so much as a movement from them. I decided they were close enough, and slowly raised the shotgun to my shoulder, putting the bright orange front sight bead in the center of the larger one out front. I was pretty excited about the size of this bird, and had to take several deep breaths to steady my aim. Ever so quietly, I clicked off the safety and put my finger in the trigger....easy now....steady........ I squeezed the trigger and the roar of the 3" 12 guage magnum filled the air, rolling off into the distance like a mid-summer thunder.............................

I've never seen to many people in the meat department scatter before.



Haha, Happy Thanksgiving to one and all, I hope it's a great one for everyone, and thanks to Riverwalker over at Stealth Survival...I kinda borrowed your Thanksgiving post and ran with it, lol.
Chris

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thinking...

In the past few weeks, I have spent more and more time thinking about our preps. (I still despise that term but nothing else really fits) Why? I can't name just one reason.

Our current economy scares me. While I know and hear of more and more people losing their jobs or being layed off, I hear our government tell us that employment is on the rise. Unfortunately, these figures are highly exaddurated or even totally made up. It's hard to believe them at all when the give you employment figures for areas or districts that don't even exist. They know how bad it is, they just won't admit it.

I get scared to death when I think about how long I have been layed off. I have NEVER seen or heard of it being this bad in my lifetime. What if I'm not back to work in the middle of January, my unemployment runs out, and I don't qualify for another extension? Sure, there are jobs out there somewhere, but the payscale is rediculous. I often wonder how anyone survives on $10 an hour. I've seen warehouse jobs or physical labor that pays $8. In my eyes, thats slavery. Taking a $10 an hour job would leave me with LESS than I currently bring home in unemployment benefits by roughly $60 a week, how could we survive on that? Will I have to work two jobs and give up everything we do here just to get by? Yes folks, I'm scared.

What if we can't pay the electric bill and it gets shut off? What about the gas? Phone? ...all possible. Sure, no one wants to live without the slightest minimal electric gadget or without ready hot water or heat at the touch of a thermostat, but I want to be sure we can make it IF one of these things were to happen with little to no interruption in our daily lives.

Now I've said many, many times in this blog that I an not one to worry about any of the "SHTF" scenerio's that many people talk about, but that doesn't mean it doesn't cross my mind from time to time. Am I worried about an outright attack on our town? Of course not. But taking out power plants has been a threat since the cold war era, and it's no different now with our threats of terrorism. With everyone in this nation being so reliant on electricity, losing it for an extended period of time would cause panic everywhere affected. Not just no tv or video games, but your food would spoil, you would have no heat, no lights, no a/c, no communication, nothing. Imagine NYC or L.A. without power for a month, it would be total chaos. (Yes I know, none of us live there, but it was just an example.) There's also always been a threat of nuclear attack, but I don't think about that at all, there really is no point. If one would ever hit nearby, we're gone, plain and simple. No matter how much you prep, no matter how many iodine capsules you swallow, it's not gonna be Mad Max, and I'm not going to run Bartertown. (though the car would be pretty fun to have lol)

I'm sure that what I am about to say, I have said many times over and over since I started this little blog. I think more of acts of nature far more than I think about all the things others do. This is Ohio. We aren't in earthquake flood, or tornado/hurricane territory, but once again, thats not saying it can't ever happen. I remember a few VERY small earthquakes, and a handfull of tornado touchdowns here in my life., though they are very very rare. Flooding isn't a big issue from any nearby rivers, not to mention our county is a higher elevation. (it was named SUMMIT for a reason!) But it is possible that our basement can flood with heavy rain. We are 100 yards downhill from the main road, and with the way the road falls, we get more water down our drive than the ditch beside our house. (gotta love county engineers) Twice since we have been here, our basement has flooded. Granted, it was only an inch or 2 of water, but still enough to cause damage. A stronger than normal storm could easily do more. Also, our septic system is behind the house where the yard levels out. It would be easy for a heavy storm to send water down the drive, past the house, and flood out the system, backing it up into the house.

These are the kinds of things I think of when I look at our preps. Rainstorms, lightning,ice, snow, wind, and ice. We've had 3+ foot snowdrifts across the driveway. We've had ice storms that take down tree's and powerlines. We've had strong winds to the same. (see post sept16th 2008) We had a 2 day outage and never skipped a beat thanks to things we had on hand.

Once again, as I always stress, I don't "prep" for WW3. I have no plans on living in a basement bunker eating MRE's and clutching an AR15 waiting for the "enemy" to come. We try to use a little more common sense, and base it all on things we know. We stock nothing we don't use on a daily basis other than camping, fishing, and hunting gear. We use what we store, and we store what we use. It's pretty simple, just the things we need to get by.

For anyone reading this who has no idea what I am talking about, think about this: You are awakened by a loud storm and turn around to check your clock, the screen is black, your power is out. There are trees down across your drive and/or the road. Your phone is out too. You can't get out, no one can get in. What are you going to do? What if this turns from a simple hour or two that we've all dealt with to a tri-state outage like NY, Pa, and NE Ohio had several years ago? What if it lasts a few days? A few weeks?

I've asked this question to many people, and though general answers vary, most say that they would find a way to leave and head to a friend or family member that wasn't affected. OK....How far away are these people? You have 1/4 tank of gas. Your ATM card is worthless, and since gas pumps are all electric and digital, you can't GET gas. Yes, you're stuck. Are you going to be able to survive?

This is the part that sometimes makes me shake my head, and other times want to laugh. I know people that barely have enough food to last them two days. I know people that don't have such simple things as a flashlight or small first aid kit. Some of the people that HAVE some food have nothing but frozen meals or canned soup. Well, you dont have an oven or microwave, and you never thought of a hand crank canopener,oops. It amazes me sometimes how so many people have so little, if not nothing, to get them through even the smallest emergency situation.

Many of the people we talk to about all of this think we're crazy, stupid, or just plain paranoid. Let them think what they want. I've made it through things in the past just fine. Ice storms, power outages, snowstorms, been there-done that. I can in no way compare myself to someone who has dealt with tornado's, earthquakes, flooding, or hurricanes. I commend those who live in the areas prone to such things and prepare for them in the same way I prepare for things I am fimilar with. I can't imagine boarding up my house for a pending hurricane any more than those people can imagine shoveling snow for 2 hours just to get out of the driveway. We all prepare for things we know and have dealt with.

I'm writing this long post today for a few reasong. One is being able to express my view and opinions on preparadness. ( it IS my blog lol), and two being to hopefully make even just one person reading this to think and prepare themselves. I don't want anyone to think they immediately need to run out and buy a years worth of groceries, buy out the local army surplus store, and get a generator and 100 gallons of gas, but I want people to at least think about what they would do in an emergency BEFORE it happens, not during or after.

I'll end this much-longer-than-I-intended post with just a few simple questions:
Are you prepared?
Why not?
What's stopping you?

Chris has left the building...err bunker lol

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ode to stuffed pantries and a freezer

As I'm sitting here,I was thinking about doing some squirrel hunting this week or weekend, then realized I have no idea where I am going to put them if I make it out. Our freezer is VERY full. Last week I butchered the last 3 rabbits and 4 of the roosters, then finished the other 3 on Sunday when Farmergeek brought over his flock of chickens and ducks to butcher. He offered a full duck, which I gladly accepted and is now in the freezer as well.
We have two turkeys in there that we got over the weekend. We origionally planned to order and buy a "free range organic" turkey from a local market, but changed our mind after we ordered it and thought about it. At first, the $2.30lb didn't seem bad until we realized that a 20+ pound bird would end up costing us somewhere in the vacinity of $50. I'm all for buying local and organic when we can, but neither of us could wrap our heads around paying 50 bucks for a bird, it just didn't register. We ended up seeing birds at the grocery store we went to for .59lb, and got 2. They aren't "organic free range", but damn, I can get 4-5 birds for the price of the one we would have gotten at the market. If I can make room by shifting around a few things, later this week we'll head back for a third. Just like most of the chicken, we'll make 1 or 2 into soup and can it. Lisa made a batch of soup on Sunday while Farmergeek and I were outside, and I canned it yesterday. It was only 5 quarts, but still, its 5 quarts we didn't have. Later this week I plan to make more, which will open up room in the freezer by using the broth we have frozen in containers and one of the birds.
The rest of the freezer is full of various things. Strawberries and blackberries are waiting for one big batch of jam, which Lisa will do soon so we can put them in our usualy Christmas goody baskets for friends and family. The door is full of bags of chopped peppers and whole corn on the cob. There is quite a bit of pork in there, thanks to a generous friend that was clearing out some room in his freezer. Everything else is mainly things we buy when it's on sale. When we see sausage or kielbasa buy1/get1, we usually buy 3-4 so we're freezing 6-8. We've saved a lot of money this way, and it always ensures a full freezer for us. We plan to start saving money soon to buy bulk beef from a local farm/butcher. The prices are a bit more than grocery store beef, but the quality is worth the money. I'd like to have a 2nd freezer to buy basically a half steer, but as with everything else, the budget won't allow it.
Just the same as the freezer, we're out of pantry space. We have two large closets converted to pantry space, as well as a 3x6 foot freestanding cabinet....all 3 are stuffed. Eventually I want to make more shelves downstairs for some of the bulk items, and for a lot of canned goods, but again, that budget thing gets in the way. For now I'll just keep my eyes open at Goodwill, freecycle, cheapcycle, and craigslist for another freestanding unit and/or shelf units. Neither of us have plans to stop our food storage just because we don't have a clear space. We have the room, just not the shelves. I can always resort to 5 gallon buckets or boxes until we can get shelves or a cabinet. Our goal is for a one years supply, so needless to say, we won't stop.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Two post Thursday

Since Debbie over at HappyDays asked about our storage and prep areas, I decided to make this a two-entry day.

Our basement is divided up rather strange. Origionally in the 1930's, our house was built as a basement home, not so different from what I grew up in, but a LOT smaller. The larger 16x22 foot room was the kitchen/dining/eating area and I can only assume also where they slept. The room next to it was laundry and storage, and the full bathroom was always there.(haf bath now since the tub wasn't re-plumbed with the rest of the house, I removed it in 2000) Sometime in the 40's, they added on another area, what is now the furnace room and our prep room. Neither of these rooms had doors on them when we moved in, and the prep room didn't even have a dividing wall, it was just open. I added a wall, built in desk & shelves, and put doors on both. For a short while it was Lisa's sewing room till she outgrew it, then it was our bedroom till the kids moved back home, then it was Adams room, and now its for prep and my own little space. I cut a door from inside that room into the rear of the furnace room and added another door and wall, this is more storage for prep items. The old living area is now Lisa's sewing & craft room.

The room is not really as organized as I would like it, but it does it's job. I have all my hunting and fishing gear in there, as well as camping gear and supplies. (I dont like taking chances of mice in the garage tearing at my tents or sleeping bags) My large 12 man tent is in an old navy footlocker, safe from critters or anything else. My 2 smaller dome tents are in sacks stored above it. Sleeping bags, pillows, and misc bedding items are in a large plastic tote right beside them. Inside the closet area are my lanterns, camp cookware, campstoves, heaters, white fuel, propane, oil lamps & lanterns, and lamp oil. In the same room, under the stairs are footlockers of misc camping/emergency gear and a closet bar of hunting and other camo clothing. This area stays dark and cool, so we also store our potatos and onions there.

Four desk shelves are lined with all of our books on survival, self sufficiency, gardening, hunting, fishing, map books, and almost every subject imaginable. The others are full of misc hunting and fishing gear. I have a tall metal cabinet along one wall that contains all of my knives, 1 good camp hatchet, knife sharpening tools/stones, batteries, rope, and larger first aid items that dont fit in my jammed-full industrial kit that hangs on the wall. Beside that is a simple 4 drawer filing cabinet full of notes, things copied from online, instruction manuals, and copies of magazines we get or have gotten in the past. Grit, Small Farm Journal, Mother Earth News, Backyard Poultry, Shooting Times, Countryside, and others that I can't remember at the moment, all full of great information that I refuse to throw away. I have a metal office desk in there too. It used to be where I had the old desktop computer, but now it's for me to sit and read or draw up plans for something or another.

In the center along one wall is a small fold up table. Its where I sit to clean guns or work on things too big for the desk, but it's also our wintertime hangout. We've spent many an evening there reading, talking, playing board games, planning next years garden, looking through wishbooks, or just enjoying the peace and quiet. Above this table is an oil cottage lamp hanging from the ceiling in case of power outage. We keep the house temp as low as possible to save on the gas bill, so we turn on a small electric heater, close the door, and enjoy a nice toasty warm place to get away. I keep the 2 camp cots open along the other wall for the dogs to have somewhere to lay, and also for me to crash on if I happen to stay up too late when I get into something.

I spend a lot of time in my little room, more so soon when the weather keeps me from doing things outside. I'll be re-organizing a lot of it soon, trying to utilize what little space I have left. My prep list and wish list never seem to end, so I have to do the best I can with what space I have and as our budget allows. Though the thought of it makes me feel somewhat silly, I want to have a BOB ready and hanging for each of us. Again, if I need it, it's there, and if I never do, it's not a big deal at all. Better safe than sorry, right??

The general plan for this room is actually beyond just my own space and a place for storage. I'm having this room together in case of emergency as a place to go. No, it's not one of the cold war era bomb shelters by far, or a "safe room" by any means, but merely a place to go. If we have a power outage in winter, I can fire up the generator, run a cord to the small heater, and have a place to keep warm. OR with use of well kept CO2 detectors, a camp heater. Even with using oil lamps or cookstoves in enclosed spaces, CO2 detectors are a must, as is a good fire extinquisher.

A few people we know think we're insane to prep for such things, some think it's laughable and look at us like "crazy survivalists", but we're far from it. Like I've said many times, neither of us are those SHTF scenerio kind of people, we're not preparing for WW3 or for the Cubans to drop in like Red Dawn, we're just preparing ourselves for emergencies. I like being prepared for the occasional storm or power outage, and going another direction, this economy scares me at times. IS it possible to see us in another depression? It's very possible. But...rather than dwell on that, I'll just say I like being prepared for a power outage or other emergency. (at least thats what I tell them) lol

I almost closed this entry at that, but decided to add just a little more. (if its possible for me to write a little)
Everything I store in that basement room is on a list. It took a lot of thinking and research to make my list, but I feel that it's fairly complete. At each area of storage, whether its at each food pantry or each prep storage area, I have a clipboard of graph paper. Each item is listed individually on a single line, and quantities are marked in the graph boxes with a /. As an item is used, the / is turned to a X.
Example:
10 packs of AA batteries would list like this-
aa batteries 4 pack //////////

Using 2 packs would show
aa batteries 4 pack ////////XX

If I use an entire line, (all of the squares across), I cross off the item and line with a highlighter and start a new line for it on another page or line. This method makes inventory and shopping lists extremely easy. I know I wrote about this method before, but it's been quite a while, and seemed fitting to add to this post.

OK I'm done now......maybe......I think so........I'm pretty sure.........yea........I am.....finally
Things around here have been a little dull lately. Lisa came down with a nasty cold last Sunday after the party, and of course I ended up with it. I fully admit it, I'm a big baby when I get a bad cold. I just want to sit around. I've kept up with what needed done and caught up on a bunch of reading, but thats been about it. Finally 2 days ago, I started feeling good enough to get some things done.

I finally decided to get out of the rabbit business until next year. While my buck fathered a few litters for my friend tammie, my does have had ONE litter in the year I've had them. With winter just around the corner, and the thought of frozen water bottles and feeding something that wasn't paying back, I figured it was time. All three are now in the freezer, along with 4 of the 7 roosters I got a few months ago. I planned to get to all 7, but I made my cleaning station a bit too low, and after 3 rabbits and 4 birds, my back was killing me from stooping over. I'll get to the other 3 either today or tomorrow, depending on weather. (yesterday was just too cold and horribly windy) The plan for all of them is 2-3 giant batches of chicken soup in the canner, though it's all pieced and in the freezer for now.

Tomorrow we are going out for groceries. Some will be for stock/storage, and others will be to make meals and things to freeze and can. A while back we tried canning meatloaf. Neither of us had ever canned meatloaf before, let alone ate any home-canned. It was delicious! So, we plan to make a good sized batch to can this weekend as well. Other plans are for casseroles to put together and freeze, along with some meatballs. It's nice having some things pre-prepared and ready for those days when neither of us really feel like cooking.

Already we're working on plans for next years garden. Since we grew so many onions and potato's, we've been eating more of each. Well.....thanks to that, we won't have enough to get us through till spring, which was the plan the whole time. Next year, I'll double each so this won't happen again. The same will go for carrots. I planted some just for the hell of it, we don't eat many carrots, but now that we've decided to can more soup to store, yea, we need more carrots, lol. Ah well, live and learn right?? We'll work on more of next years list this weekend while we're in the kitchen, then start picking through the seed catalogs soon after.

Every year our garden gets bigger, and next year will be no exception. Every year we make mistakes, major and minor, but we learn from them and re-plan for the following season. Again, next year will be no exception. We'll base more planting on more than just the basic things we usually can. (peppers, tomatos, beans, etc) and plan more on things for soups and such. (celery, carrots, etc) Each year as our garden and knowledge grows, so does our list of things we make for ourselves. As a perfect example, I'm EXTREMELY happy to say that we haven't had any store-bought canned soup in a very very long time. Between Lisa's chicken soup and my chili, we haven't had to. Yep, the garden '10 notebook will be chock full of new things and new items. (we also seriously plan on more meat birds next year, though where they will be is still up in the air)

Later today, I'll be working on cleaning and re-organizing my room downstairs. I need to rearrange all of my camping gear, and go through my checklist of things to keep on hand. More and more as I hear and read of things to come, I think about the things I keep there and want to make sure I have all that I need. No, I'm not one to prepare for WW3/SHTF or some other things that so many conspiracy people continuiosuly think about, but I do think of other things. Snowstorms, power outages, etc are my main concerns. A few days ago we had electrical problems at the main pole connection. The power was off not quite an hour while the worker re-wired and changed the connections. Some people I know would have been in a tissy, but we lit a couple oil lamps and grabbed a book. No big deal at all. We've dealt with an hour, we've dealt with a few hours, and a year ago we made it through a few days without a worry. I want to make sure we STAY that way.

There are a few things I want to work on in this small preparadness list though, mainly things we didn't think about before. We need water storage for sure. In case of emergency, we'll need water for cooking and for toilet flushing. (unless I get the camp toilet that I want) I'd love to have some 55 gallon drums of drinking water on hand, but we simply can't afford any right now. I think what I will end up doing is cutting the power line to the well pump and putting plugs at either end. This way in case of power outage, I can run a cord from the generator to the pump and we'll have water. I'll still want some sort of storage on hand though, maybe just 5 gallon "camp" containers for now. Hmm....I see my xmas list being mostly "survival" stuff, lol.

Other things I need to concentrate on checking stock are basic items I should be checking more regularly-first aid, meds, TP, batteries, lamp oil, gasoline, propane, spare flashlight bulbs, generator plugs, etc. My plan is to at first base the entire storage on a possible month-long power outage, then continue from there. Crazy? maybe. But I'll tell ya, I'd rather have these things and never use them, then need them and not have it. I know people that don't have something as simple as a basic flashlight in their homes. I don't want to be them.

As I've said, I don't sit around and worry about what *might* happen. I don't think of many things that I see on the internet. I don't want to be one of these people that constantly talk of the government taking over and forcing martial law. I don't want to be one of these people that talk about invasions and possible wars. And I'm surely not one of those guys with a basement full of guns and ammo waiting patiently for WW3 to break out or the police to knock on my door to take everything I own. (where do the get this stuff???) I just want to be prepared. I think about storms, power outages, and everything else I have said over and over. I refuse to be one of those people who packs up and leaves just because they can't watch television or turn on a light. I'll start the generator, light a few oil lamps, make some coffee on the campstove, and watch the people run like ants.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Party overview and back to normal

The party was a HUGE sucess. We checked the guest list the day of the party, and figured on around 30. Some we knew would show for a while and leave, others we knew would probably not come at all, and some we knew just wouldn't dress up. Well........we had 40 people here! The majority of them came in costume, but the few that we didn't expect to of course did not.
Lisa spent most of Friday and Saturday cooking and baking, and no one went hungry. We didn't supply any alcohol, and everyone that wanted any brought their own. Some brought a single bottle of something to contribute, some brought beer, and my wonderful friend Ben brought several mixed drinks, a few bottles, and a deadly little jar of cherries soaked in shine for 2 weeks. Everyone ate well, drank well, and we only had one person get a little too much to drink. Sadly, by 12:30, everyone was gone except for us, the kids, Ben, and one of the kids friends. LAME!!!!! But....everyone had a great time and all were amazed at the decorations. We both thought we needed more, but everyone that came fussed over how much we had done. hehe wait till next year folks, you haven't seen anything yet.
I wish I could say that I had a bunch of pictures to post, but I don't. After 15 or so jello-shots, a few zombies, and other concoctions I shouldn't have had, I lost my camera. After everyone left, and we were sitting around sipping coffee, I decided to take off my costume. Oh yea.......found the camera.......in my right shirt pocket.....oops. hahahaha We had a few guests take a lot of pictures, and when I get them all e-mailed to me, I'll post them here. Yesterday I got up early, made coffee, and while Lisa was at work, I took down and boxed up every single decoration and got it all downstairs. By the time she got home at 7:30, it was all done. I heated up some chicken soup and we spent the evening watching old horror movies. Other than the cold we're both fighting, it was a great end to our Halloween season.

Now that this is all over and we can actually concentrate on things at hand, we'll be returning to our food storage and other things. While the garden is completely done, we'll continue canning more chicken soup and probably more of my chili. I'll be finishing the rest of the roosters hopefully tomorrow so they'll go straight into soup and chicken stock. I'll butcher the last 3 rabbits as well and put them in the freezer too. They haven't bred all summer, so I'm not keeping and feeding something that isn't returning my efforts. I'll butcher them, clean out the hutch, and start over in the spring with fresh ones. I'll be running a cord to the henhouse for a heat lamp soon, just so I don't have to mess with their waterer freezing inside. Fall came on so fast that the aricaunas quit laying all together, but I'm still getting 3 brown eggs a day from the barred rocks, and about 2 a week from the bantam. They won't be as productive as they were last year since they're outside now. Last year they had heat lamps, atomatic timed lights, and never really knew it was winter. They all layed heavy all winter long, but they won't this year.

Sometime this week, I'll be going through all of the food storage and see what we are short on and hopefully replace it. We managed to get 50lbs each a few weeks ago of flour, bread flour and sugar, so those will be ok until the Christmas baking season starts. The rest is looking ok, but I want to make sure we don't run out of anything. The forecast calls for a bitter cold winter this year, and I dont want to have to make runs to the store for something silly, I want it all here before hand. Because of the forecast, we're also going to be putting that shrink wrap window covering on every window and probably heavy drapes. I hate how it makes the house so dark, but with the forecast calling for bitter temperatures, gas prices being high,and me still being layed off, we're better off dealing with a dark house than with an outrageous gas bill that we'll have to struggle to pay.
HOPEFULLY this weekend I'll get the last mowing done, take off the belly mower and put the snowblade on the Loboy. I have to fix the starter first though, ugh. The nut that holds the pulley on worked loose, let the pulley spin, and rounded off the keyway in the shaft. I'll get it out, but I may have to drill & tap it and put in a set screw along with a new keyway...just have to see how it goes.
All for now, I'm off to put the living room furniture back where it belongs....yay me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Again, I've spent a majority of my time working on the things for the Halloween party. I'm nearly done with the bathroom (FINALLY), and will be starting the final stages of the "torture chamber" this weekend. Last weekend, our friends who handed us the party this year came for dinner and brought 5 boxes of their decorations/props to use. I gotta say, I was like a kid in a candy store digging through all that. A lot we could use, and some we can't or just won't. C'mon...I have a guy in a woodchipper and a real wooden 7 foot coffin, I'm NOT using those silly smiley face pumpkins or cute little grinning ghosts. That would be my equivelant of turning off my Slayer cd, putting in The Carpenters, getting a minivan, wearing sandals and taking up golf..................................NOT GONNA HAPPEN!!!! lol. Today we went to the big Halloween store and decided to go ahead and spend the $15 on a timer for the fog machine that our friends let us borrow. That thing works great, but it has a switch that has to be pressed every time you want fog. This timer lets me set how often it goes off, and for how long it fogs. I hooked it up and of course HAD to give it a test run. See the pics below and you'll see it gives a whole new eerie look to the "graveyard". I want to build a "chiller" for it, so the fog lays on the ground rather than rise, but that's going to depend upon spare time and materials I have on hand. (the liquid sprays across heated coils to make the fog, so it's hot, lighter than air and rises. A chiller cools the fog after the coils and it lays low to the ground) I'm sure I have pipe fittings to use, but it's made from a cooler and I really don't want to cut holes in one. (I know I know, I really don't need SEVEN coolers lol)


Normally at this time of year, we go on "haunted" walks or tours, but this year we have decided not to, since they're $20-$40 each trip, plus gas and usually food on the way home. Instead we have decided to take up our own sort-of similar hobby and just visit old local cemetaries during the day. The artwork is sometimes fascinating. The history of some is incredible. The stories of some are strong, and some very sad. In the past week or so, we've visited six local cemetaries, and taken LOTS of pictures. Our plan is to open another blog, but we'll work on that after Halloween. So far we've seen GIANT monuments, tiny unmarked stones, old ones back to the early 1800's, and today found not only 5 WWI vets, but a Revolutionary War vet, my grandfather, (died when my dad was 3) and my great grandparents. (maybe a kinda creepy side note-I found my grandfathers grave today, 10-21-09 and he was buried on 10-21-41!) I know this may seem like an odd hobby to a lot of people, but during these "haunted" walks, we've both been more fascinated with the stones and history than with the actual ghost stories. I'll post more as we progress in this, and eventually post a link when we open a blog and/or a website.


I still keep somewhat in touch with an old girlfriend from long ago. We dated from when I was about 22 till around age 27. We broke up really rough, but it's been years. I have since apologised for what I did to her, and we remain friends. Her parents were wonderful people, and were always quite fond of me. Last year she told me her dad was sick, and I made it a point to go visit them. Yea....15 years or so after I dumped their daughter for who was not only my first wife, but her best friend, they welcomed me into their house with open arms. That short "hi how are ya" visit ended up being over 3 hours. I left happy to know that they still thought highly of me, and left planning to visit them again soon. Well...that visit didn't happen. She called me last week to know that he was in the hospital, and I planned to visit within a day or 2. She called yet again on Monday, crying and telling me that the doctors gave him days to live. I planned on going first thing the next morning, but she called me at 9:30 that night, telling me that he was gone. I felt awful for her and her mother, and sad that I didn't get that last chance to talk and shake his hand. I went to their house last night, and during what turned out to be a 4 hour visit, they asked me to be a pallbearer. I'm somewhat shocked about being asked, but I'm also honored. The funeral will be this Friday, and a military one since he was a WW2 Navy veteran. Sadly, the forecast calls for heavy rain, but lets hope that will change. I know it's a strange situation, and strange for me to write about here, but I can't help it, I really liked that guy. He was one of those nearly rare people that was always in a good mood, always smiling, and always joking. He was a bit of a drinker on occasion, but he was a funny drunk. No, let me correct that, he was a hilarious drunk. One night (I'm chuckling even as I type this) he came home drunk from the VFW with a case of butter. Yes you read that right, a CASE of butter...somewhere around 40 of those 4 packs of sweet cream butter...hahahaha. Turns out that one of the guys at the bar was a dairy driver and ran out of beer money. He went to his route truck and returned with a case of butter, offering it to the first person to give him $20 for beer. Well.....yea.....he bought the butter and came home with it, smiling like he had just made the best purchase of his life. Needless to say, his wife was NOT all to happy that A-he came home drunk, B-he spent $20 on something foolish, and C-she hated butter. Yep......he slept on the couch for a few nights, lol. Adrian "Sonny" Marko, I'll really miss you.














Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More Halloween pics

OK so I have gotten really really addicted to making props for Halloween, lol. Since the last post, I've added a gallows with a man on it, rewired a rediculous mat that said "trick or treat", (it now screams really loud) and rewired the swith under a halloween rug on the front porch. Thanks to the loan of friends, I have 2 strobe lights and a fog machine mounted under the awning at the front of the house, and finished my evil birdbath. I took apart the rotating head Jason, and it's toast. It got so hot that it melted the plastic gears that drive the mechanism, grrrrrr, I thought I could fix it and mount him outside.....ah well. I brought the wood chipper to the front corner of the house, made legs sticking out of it, and even fake "guts" with expanda-foam. (what a PITA to paint, but well worth it) I'm still toying with the idea of a flying ghost or ghoul, but that one is still on the "not sure" list. The "torture chamber" in the spare bedroom is nearly complete, though I need 2 more dummies and I think I am out of clothes that don't fit anymore hahaha. I'm sure that in the 2 1/2 weeks till the party, I'll come up with more........

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Still alive........but working with the dead

Well it's been a few weeks since I posted anything, so I figured it was about time. The garden is dead, done, gone, over. We got a LOT of rain for several days, and then an unexpected frost, which finished things completely. The tomato's died quickly, as did most of the peppers, though 5 somehow survived. I'll make yet another batch of chili to can with the ones that are left, maybe on Monday. That's really all that's been going on here as far as the homesteading stuff, but that doesn't mean I haven't kept busy....I have....which brings me to the main reason for this post-HALLOWEEN!!!
As (I think) I've said before, we were handed the responsibility of the Halloween party this year that our friends normally host. Though we really can't afford it, we gladly accepted and plan to bury them in the "contest". I think we're gonna do that and then some!

I got the bug to start early 2 weeks ago, and started building dummies. I made two last year from ridgid fencing, and used the same technique this year. I made a full sized one for the front yard, which I turned into a gravedigger, another half one, which is a werewolf jumping out of the bushes, and another one that is a 7 foot Grim Reaper holding a lantern and pointing to the entrance. I dove into the scrap lumber pile with jigsaw in hand, and turned out 11 headstones, which are painted white and misted with black for that old stone look. (they still need epitaphs) There is a decapitaded stuffed dummy with a head on a pole, which is rather funny since it's torso is thrown over the same log I use for lopping chicken heads, lol. I used the old beat up chain link fence from the neighbor to run from the porch, to along the graveyard, to an antrance that I built from old gates. I even made a creepy looking old cemetary sign with our own official name on it, "Dark Gardens". There is a sign reading "Condemned-Keep Out", on one of the gates, and another on posts next to my Reaper that reads "Hell awaits (and candy)"...I just had to toss in a little Chris humor there, LOL. Along the fence are lighted skulls, and old farm impliments with fake blood. (crosscut saw, straw bale hook, hand sythe, bucksaw, and a broken axe. I have two ghosts on nearly invisible fishing line on either side, and am working on a mechanism to make the half buried coffin appear to be jumping back and forth.......I love making this stuff. I almost forgot the real cow skeleton under the awning, and the ghoul hanging from it. (whew!) I have cords ran across the roof to spotlights attached to the gutters, which light the whole thing up at night....it looks incredible.
The living room has a 7 foot solid wood coffin standing in the corner with a green strobe light behind it. Next to it are my giant speakers, which will be covered in black dyed sheers, topped with some awesome old candleabra's, and will be putting out some really creepy organ music. On the table by the window are 4 small fake stone pillars, a skeleton that flickers while it's heart beats and pulses red, a caped skull who's eyes flicker different colors, and a couple small headstones. We dyed some old curtains grey, and covered the iron flowerpot holder with spiderwebs. On the wall by the door is an 8 foot monster, which I hung to appear that he is chained to the wall. Above him is a shelf with a couple cow bones. (can you tell it's a quilt hanger?LOL) The wall opposite that (by the coffin) just has grey curtains, and we put a few skulls and other creepy things in the china cabinet with the black lights where Lisa displays her uraniumware/vaseline glass. The last wall behind the couch has a few of those creepy pictures that change, and some REALLY creepy old pictures of kids with glowing eyes. Lisa ran them off at work and we just cut them to fit inside the frames that were already there. In between the living room and kitchen, I used a heavy duty cardboard tube as a makeshift curtainrod, and hung some pieces of lace on it to seperate the two rooms........which leads me to the kitchen.

Lisa made this AWESOME spider victim from a doll I found at goodwill, and her wrapped webs run to the cupboard and across the room to a shelf. There is a flying witch that is hanging over the freezer, floating above a cauldron with the freakiest looking baby zombie I have ever seen. (another Lisa creation) The usual plant shelf in the window now holds various jars of "specimons" and "witchy stuff", and below it is another cauldron with a glowing/fogging crystal ball. There is a single headstone on the one wall, and a sort of vampire/ghoul/phantom of the opera guy over the walkway to the hall that leads to the bath and bedroom. We have a fake bloody tablecloth, but we haven't putten it on the table yet. Down the hall to the bathroom are various headstones on the walls, a few on the floor, a white strobe light, and soon-a fog machine.

The bathroom is barely started, though it is a good start. We have a shower curtain that has fake blood and the sillouette of a man wielding a big knife. (it has a motion decector that plays the Psycho theme) We're making a paper mache zombie, that will appear to be breaking in the window, and I have another one of my creations on top of the toilet. I took an old tabletop osculating fan, took off the guard and fan, cut off the shaft, formed a head shape with newspaper and tape, fitted it with a Jason mask and wig, made shoulders from pieces of round duct, put on a t-shirt and flannel shirt, and mounted it on top of the toilet. Now, Jason's head turns slowly from side to side, the same motion as the fan did. I *REALLY* want to continue him, making legs that come down and bend at the knees to surround the toilet, but we'll see how that goes. Right on the wall as you walk in is a skull inside a cage. It's motion detected as well, and pops out of the cage yelling "surprise!!".....hehe it's right above the light switch at head level.

We have more planned, and I'll post those as they are completed. I really can't wait for this party, and to hear my friend admit that I kicked his ass in the Halloween challenge. The best part about all of this is that we have spent very little. A lot of this we bought last year after Halloween at 75% off or more. Some was loaned by my friend Ben, who also built the coffin. Some was loaned by one of Lisa's co-workers, and a lot given to us by a few more or them. We'll probably spend more on food for everyone than we have on decorations or props. WOOHOO for awesome Halloween on a budget!!! Below I'll post a bunch of pictures, but I'm not gonna sit here and label each one...you can figure it out. hahaha






























Friday, September 25, 2009

It's been a "blah" week

It's been a terribly blah week for me around here, I really haven't done much of anything. There are a hundred things that need done, but I haven't touched a single one. I do dishes, make dinner, and thats about it. I'm just in another mood thanks to this layoff, it happens, and it will pass again. I hate being this way, but honestly most of this week I could have just stayed in bed. I'm up now at 1am just because I forgot to wash jeans and Lisa needs some for work tomorrow.....I'm such a bad house-hubby, lol.
I did get motivated today to spend some time in the garage. The past few nights we have been talking about the Halloween party and looking at some home-made decorations and props. I decided that we needed more headstones for the front yard, so I hit the garage with my jigsaw in hand, attacking the pile of scrap plywood. I managed to make 9 total, mostly smaller 24 incher's or so, but I did make one nice 8 footer just to stand out a bit. I'm thinking of starting to do the front yard next week. It's a lot of work and I hate to just do all of it for a week or 2. I even made a fake cemetary sign that I'll be putting on a couple of posts for people to enter into. Our little graveyard is now officially named "Dark Gardens". I'll put it on posts, and use one of the gates from the neighbors pile with it. Of course it will be off-hinge and look like it's falling apart. I plan on using some other fencing to put in front of the "graveyard", and to mark the path to the front door. I'll have a couple shepards hooks with oil lanterns burning for a bit more effect. Next week (after the next check), I'll paint the headstones and let Lisa come up with some eptiaphs for them. I REALLY wanna get a can of blacklight hair spray for them too, and have a couple lights laying out in front of them. That's all of course going to depend on the budget. I did get Lisa's old sound machine that we had in the bedroom and modify it a bit. I disconnected the tiny 2" speaker and wired it to a 6" from an old bookshelf stereo. It sounds awesome with this creepy heartbeat going through it! I'll hide that out there somewhere too. I *might* work on a mannequin design I saw that used duct tape to mold someone and drywall mud for plaster....still thinkin on that one. Our friend Ben built a full 6 1/2 foot casket for our living room turned funeral parlor, and he's delivering that on Wednsday.


Quick side note: Does anyone know why we call the room the living room???????? In victorian times, there were no funeral homes. People set up the bodies in the "parlor" for all to see and to have the traditional wake. The people of the times thought this was an awful tradition, and started the funeral homes we now know, though at the time they were called Funeral Parlors. The name of the home's parlor was changed to "living room", thus a room for the living. Neat little tidbit, eh? LOL Just think, if that hadn't changed, you could be sitting with a casket in front of that big 'ole flatscreen! Sure would add a whole new creepy level to some of those video games, wouldn't it??


This weekend I'm going to try to can more tomato's, then start on salsa, which is always last for us. We have no set recipe for salsa, it's just made with what's left in the garden. Tomatos, green peppers, jalepenos, wax peppers, onions........all go in the mix in whatever combination we have. (though we can't make it very spicy for the wimps lol) I may let the plants go till we get the first frost, just to milk everything we can out of them, and maybe get a few more things canned up, but that again is going to depend on weather. It's getting colder and colder at night, and it seems like the days got shorter almost overnight. I do love fall, but I sware sometimes it just jumps right in with no warning.


But.....fall brings me into hunting season. I'm really excited about getting out this year, I haven't done much in the past few. It's hard to think about when all of my hunting buddies are gone. Some quit, some I don't speak to anymore, and my oldest hunting buddy just plain refuses to grow up. (not a lotta details, but he's a bad drinker-4 DUI's and 2 wives hasn't taught him a thing) My favorite old squirrel hunting woods have been logged out, and the newer people in the area call the police every time they hear a gunshot. The neighbor tells me he has an excellent place to squirrel hunt, but going out with them makes me kinda nervous. Remember the weddin'?? Yea, those guys. I may venture out and look into some public hunting areas, but they still make me a bit nervous too. Working on the other side of a gun counter will definitly make you think twice about public hunting lands, trust me! Either way though, I plan to get out more this year. I'm still not sure about deer hunting, but only time will tell on that one. I'd be happy for a freezer full of rabbit and squirrel. I guess I should just bite the bullet and research those public places, ughhhhh.


I *SHOULD* be up in Michigan landing more of these babies, but alas, money stops me and my old fishin buddy/roommate grew into a real jackass. Ah well, they sure were fun to catch!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Another kitchen day

Today I decided to go ahead and make some chili to can. I didn't follow any recipe, so it was just made on the fly. I used some hot chili peppers, lots of jalepenos, a few green peppers, plenty of fresh tomatos, 3 onions, lots of seasonings, and LOTS of black beans. I love black beans, so I decided that this first batch would be nothing but them. I just tasted a bit and I gotta say its pretty good! This batch isn't very big, so I don't expect to get but 3 or 4 quarts out of it, (less what I eat of course), but I'm ok with that. It will be 3 or 4 more than none! LOL the smell is so strong in here right now....all those peppers and spices in the chili, plus the pot of roma's cooking down. Mmmmm.....strong but heavenly.






Yesterday's canning went well..... The kraut looks funny since I mixed half and half green and red cabbage. The pumpkin on the right is out of the garden too. We kept looking and looking at that big thing and finally decided to pick it. It's 33 1/2 pounder!!! There are 5 or 6 more out there still, but nowhere nearly as big. Last night we did an actual count on empty canning jars, WOW. This spring we had a 6x8x2ft shelf stacked completly full, and almost half of another one the same size. Last night we counted 13 wide mouth pints, 8 widemouth quarts, and 32 regular quarts. Those will get burned up fast when we start soup.

We're taking this weeking off of all homestead duties. Tomorrow Lisa is working a half day, and after she gets home we're going to a Mabon festival not far away and having a bonfire later that night. I'll more than likely clean the chicken house in the morning before she gets home, it's definitly overdue. Sunday is her neice's 18th birthday, so she'll go there. I'll drop her off and I'll go visit my folks since they're only 10 minutes away. I've been going over during the week, but decided to wait to save on gas in the car. Besides, always being the only guy at her family functions isn't always fun, lol. Even when there are guys there, there's always a game on tv, and me being the lone guy that hates sports ends up sitting with the women anyway. Those people still can't figure me out. I *HATE* sports, I've never watched a game in my life. I don't sit around and swill beer. I don't golf. I don't wear pretty little matching shorts and gym shoes. I talk about getting rid of electric gadgets while they go on about their new $4000 plasma tv. I help around the house. I enjoy gardening and being outside. I'd rather spend my money on a new shotgun than a gym membership. *sigh* I'll never fit in with those kinda people lol ah well......I kinda like being a hermit!!!!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

At the moment, I'm sitting down for a few minutes while there are 6 more quarts of whole tomato's in the canner. I have 3 more jars to do after that, then the canning is done for today. I already canned the first batch of kraut that was fermenting, yay! I picked more peppers yesterday afternoon, and I'll have to do those soon. After dinner tonight, I'll cut up the last 4 heads of cabbage for one last batch of kraut, then start cooking down another 5 gallon bucket of roma tomato's that I picked yesterday before dinner. I'm not going to pick anymore peppers now until I have enough hanging to do one good batch of jalepeno jelly. I thought I had one jar left last night, but I didn't.........grrrr how disappointing.

This is the first year I have been so involved in doing the canning itself. Usually Lisa does all of the work, and I just pick and carry. But since I'm home anyway, I've taken on the responsibility of doing it all myself. I'm actually enjoying it quite a bit, which surprised me. Normally I'll find ANYTHING to do outside so I'm not stuck in the house, but canning gives me a great feeling of accomplishmant. It's a great feeling to know that we can grow enough here to feed ourselves throughout the summer and fall, but can and store enough to last until next season or more. Knowing that trips to the grocery store are monthly or less, and normally just for basics like coffee, milk, and flour. Knowing that we aren't eating canned vegetables full of preservatives, pesticides, herbicides, and packed in a can with a lining that leaches into the food. Knowing that we have done the work ourselves, and that the food we eat wasn't produced in Mexico, Peru, or god knows where else. This is a goal we set for ourselves years ago, and are finally reaching it.

Now if I could just find an apron thats camoflage with some of my favorite bands on it.............oh Lissssaaaaaaaaaaaaa...wanna do some sewing? LOL

Monday, September 14, 2009

Harvest season

I'm sitting here taking a 5 minute break while some tomatos cool that just came out of the canner. I did 12 quarts whole tomato's, and will more than likely have 12 more to go tomorrow, though I'm thinking of some kind of preserves added in the mix. I was looking at the other 2 buckets of tomatos and bucket of apples, and started wondering what our total count was so far this year. I dug through notes and got it all figured out. Keep in mind, this isn't counting greens, onions, peppers, squash, etc that was just eaten fresh and not put up. Also remember that weight totals don't include what was canned, so some may appear more than they are.

9qts potatos
6pts dill pickle slices
6pts dill pickled green beans
9pts dill pickle spears
12pts bread & butter pickle slices
10pts jalepeno slices
14pts hot wax peppers
60qts green beans
15qts sauerkraut
12qts whole tomatos
6qts spaghetti sauce
60 ears sweet corn (frozen)
8-1gallon freezer bags broccoli
12 qt freezer bags sliced green peppers
28lbs strawberries
11lbs blackberries
60lbs potatos (basement)
26 1/2lbs onions (basement)
30 1/2lbs roma tomatos
40 1/2 lbs other tomatos
52 1/2 lbs cabbage
8 qt freezer bags sliced yellow squash

We'll still have more tomatos, applejuice, applesauce, apple pie filling, more peppers, and a few other odds and ends to go..it's not over yet!!! Ooooooo I gotta do chili yet sometime too...and chicken soup lol

Even now as I sit here and look at this list, I'm amazed at how much food we can get off of one acre, even just out of a 45x65 foot garden. Add in the eggs, rabbit meat, and chicken from all the freebie roosters and it's been an awfully impressive year.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Still kickin'

I just realized I haven't written here in a while, oops!

We've been canning a lot lately, it's keeping us busy for sure. Last week we canned 5qts and 6pts tomato juice, 5pts hot wax peppers, 4pts jalepenos, 1qt mixed hot peppers, 8qts sauerkraut,3qts meatloaf, and 9 qts potatos. Today Lisa canned 4qts spaghetti sauce from the roma's we've been cooking down, and I got up another 9qts kraut from the 28lbs of cabbage I picked this morning. I may do more tomorrow since I have 4 heads left. (we're using an older KERR recipe that makes the kraut in jars rather than in a crock) Now that the tomato's are finally producing, I picked a ****load this morning, 68lbs worth! Tomorrow I'll start canning them whole in quart jars so we can make whatever we want with them later. There will be more to pick in a few days, so we'll be getting to those as well. We're down to 19 empty regular quart jars, and around 25 wide mouth quarts. We'll have to get more pints soon, since we always use the last good week's picking to make salsa. I'd like to make up another big batch of chili soon, and can that in quarts as well. Lisa doesn't like chili, so this will be just for me, usually eaten for lunches. We're definitly going to need more jars!!!!!

We did take 2 days off of everything this week though. Wednsday was our 9th wedding anniversary, and luckily Lisa's half-day at work. We went out to dinner thanks to some gift cards from her work, of course after a quick Home Depot start. The pressure switch on the well pump went out, grrrrr. I managed to rig it with a stick just to fill a few jugs, buckets, and pots so I didnt have to worry about it that night, LOL. All was fine, we had a great dinner and survived the waterless evening when we got home. It was an easy 10 minute job the next morning, so there's one more thing conquered, yayyy. Of course, I had to call Lisa at work just so she could hear the kitchen faucet running, lol.

We have friends who have a big Halloween party every year, and they have passed it onto us this year. It's going to be tough to pull off, but we'll manage. Both of us LOVE Halloween, and love the challenge of out-doing Mike & Kris on their decorations. They always do a wonderful job, so we have our work cut out for us! We have pretty good ideas on themes for each room, so that's handled. We've been to 3 or 4 shops looking at costumes, and most of them are just plain stupid. Plus....not many are made for someone who's 6'3", so I left each one pretty disgruntled. I was sitting here at the computer, looking at costumes online when I saw something that triggered my warped sense of humor. I was kicking around the idea of being the Grim Reaper, and was even planning to make 6" platform boots, (cause ya know I'm not tall enough already lol) and Lisa told me that it would be awfully hot in a black robe all night....so that idea got shot down. I kicked around the idea of being some kind of barbarian or viking, but wasn't thrilled with the whole idea. Well........then I saw it......and it hit me like a brick. I saw a fake amish beard. My warped mind said "Yodarr"..................."Yodarr the Barbarian". Thats it!!!!!!!! Yodarr, the amish barbarian!!! Twisted and funny, just how I like it!!! I'll be dressed in simple clothes with suspenders, but with fur shoulderpads and leg wraps. I'll be wearing the black amish hat....with viking horns attached to the sides. I'll be carrying a chrome/silver painted pitchfork rather than a sword. I'll even have a shield!! The shield will have it's own custom Yodarr coat of arms, designed by myself, lol. The crest has a milk jug, bonnet, horse & buggy, and butter churn on a red cross and silver background, surrounded by a single round buggy wheel. Oh yea, it's all drawn on paper to the tiniest detail, hahahaha. I know.....I'm warped.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Yay FINALLY some produce!

Last afternoon and most of today was spent in the garden now that there is FINALLY something going on out there. This has been such a horrible year for the garden, I was really beginning to wonder if the tomatos were going to be a total bust......but, 3 days of sunshine and they proved me wrong. I forget the large variety that we planted, but I got the first real good picking from them, today's total being 38-1/2 lbs. The roma's were EVERYWHERE, and I ended up picking a total of 40-1/2 lbs of them. There are some reallllllllly close to ripe, so I'll have more to pick tomorrow morning or on Monday. (family picnic tomorrow afternoon). Lisa has the steam juicer loaded, and she'll just can pure juice to use later in other things.

I started to dig more potato's today too, and found more that had been chewed/eaten from underground. I decided to pull them all, and was really shocked to see that we lost at least 40% or more to whatever small hungry critter invaded them. Not counting the ones we have already picked, I got 60 lbs worth. Thats just sad from a total of 90 feet planted. I pulled potato after potato the size of my fist, and found them to be half eaten or more. Some were down to nothing but skins. I have no idea what kind of diggin' critter we have, but he sure ruined our potato crop for this year. I'm pretty disgusted by this mess......

I managed another 5 gallon bucket of hot wax peppers, and about another half one of jalepenos. Hopefully we can get those canned on Monday as well. With all the canning going on, we've came to the conclusion that we need more pantry space! We have a 4x8x2 and a 3x6x18 closet, both jammed. The 6x3x18" unit from Lisa's work is jammed full as well. We'll have the tomatos and the rest of the peppers with nowhere to put them, plus the strawberry and blackberry jam when we decided to get them out of the freezer and do one big batch of each. Not to mention our habit of buying lots of pasta when the store has it 10/$10, other boxed goods we buy in quantity when on sale, and the 5 gallon buckets of flour, sugar, bread flour, brown sugar, rice, and oats that stay upstairs. Luckily we never get guests for more than a weekend, cause that closet is gonna be another pantry by next weekend.

Today I got a call from the neighbor, asking I wanted any fencing. Rather than talk on the phone, I walked that 200 yards across the field. (shakin' head) He was tearing down his dog kennels, goat fence, and the chicken run I helped him build 2 months ago. Apparantly the old bitchy couple behind him (keep in mind "behind" is 150 yards or more) called the police, zoning, and his landlord non stop for a week. They complained about the hounds, the puppies,the rooster, and the "unsightly" chicken house. The police warned him about noise, zoning couldnt do squat since they have enough land, but the landlord had a fit. He told them he wanted it all gone by tomorrow, but the chickens and small house were ok. I came back for the tractor and trailer, helped him tear down everything, and loaded it up to bring home. I'll have no use for all of it, but I'll offer what I don't use to the local "urban homesteading" group that I run. He was actually more depressed about it than mad, knowing that old suburban people tend to get their way, and with him they did. Their only real reasoning behind all of the hassle they caused was "we moved here for peace and quiet". Poor old b****rds, sorry but this isn't beverly hills. They even called about the guy next to him that had 4 bags of aluminum cans behind his garage, saying that he was stacking garbage. They even cut the old fence behind the 2 houses to snoop. My neighbor fixed the fence, but declined my idea of making it electric....woos.

It makes me sick sometimes to know that people like that exist. They live to do nothing but bitch and complain about everything they don't like or agree with. D's dogs didn't hurt anyone, they just barked a bit. The puppies yapped a lot, but hey, they're puppies. The rooster crows, but it's not like its microphoned through giant speakers for gods sake. They're just old cranky people that want to make everyone as miserable as they are. Of course no one will do anything about them either,afraid of lawsuits like the whole damn country is. We had someone like this in our area when I was about 18. He called the police every time we took the dirt bikes on the road. He called the police every time we shot. One day he went too far and shot at my beagles when they ran a rabbit through a 20 foot corner of his property during a cool September day warm up run. Well........the next day he had his 1/4 acre of tomato plants somehow all appear in a pile on his porch in the middle of the night, and his "prize" ducks all somehow missing. I never did find out what happened to those ducks. *burp* :-)

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