Know that you are happy.

The rash that had broken out all over my arms finally drove me to the doctor today, who advised me to get rid of our new chicks.  You see, when I had allergy testing done a number of years ago, I reacted to chickens and most other livestock.  I didn’t think touching them would cause me to break out in itchy red welts like this, but it has.  And not only I but also one of our daughters, our little animal lover who has had her hands in the brooder petting and playing with them, feeding them mealworms by hand, everyday…red itchy bumps up and down both her arms, both of us sneezing and uncomfortable. No one else has developed any allergic reactions to them, thankfully.

We moved them to the garage because they aren’t big enough to go outside in a coop yet (and we hadn’t prepared a coop yet, either, though we planned to do it this week).  But my husband talked it through with me, letting me know that this was not going to work because he would not be able to take on the sole care of the grown hens and didn’t think I’d be too happy to have to completely avoid them.   Continue reading

Skills are best learned before you need them, and patience is a skill.

I tapped a maple tree this year because I wanted to practice a skill I had been reading about: how to produce homemade maple syrup.  I tapped when the book said to – late February/early March – and I got…nothing.  A week later I got a few drips.  A week after that I had a little more than a half gallon, which I cooked down but ended up with maple sugar taffy by over-cooking it.  I figured it was all a good learning experience, pulled the spile out of the tree, washed all the equipment and stored it away.

Yesterday afternoon I was walking down past that maple tree and couldn’t believe what I saw:

sap 2sap 1

The entire front of the tree is covered in sap, which is running freely out of the tap hole!  B-b-but…it’s almost April!  Sap isn’t supposed to start running now!  The books said so, and I already washed and stored all my equipment!

The skill I lacked was patience.

And real-world knowledge, as opposed to book knowledge.  Even though the sap was “supposed” to run earlier, it didn’t.  Who knows why – probably because of the extremely cold winter.  But I learned several more lessons, which I’ll share here in hopes of helping someone else avoid the same mistakes:

1. Knowing how to read conditions is vitally important when it comes to producing a yield. Nature doesn’t read books; it produces when the conditions are right, not when the time table in the book says it is supposed to.  I need to learn to read the conditions for maple sap production.

2. Patience is a skill even more than a virtue.  I wanted my sap right now, and when I didn’t get it, I wasn’t willing to wait and see what happened.  Also, I’m struck by the fact that one of my first reactions was that something might be wrong with that tree, that it might be pest-infested and that I’d better get someone out to spray it with pesticide.

Writing for Permaculture News, Leanne Ejack discusses the need for patience:

…permaculture is founded upon patience. Permaculture is about working with nature and allowing time for nature to work herself out. Permaculture can be frustrating for many people, because there are no ‘quick fix’ solutions to problems. Permaculture is about setting the seeds for a permanent system (think: permanent agriculture = permaculture) that will manage and sustain itself for years to come. Our severe impatience drives us to get in with the tractor and chemicals, blast everything out to bare soil, and plant a monoculture of the desired plant we want. We want these plants to grow fast so we can begin harvesting straight away and make more profit. The more the better! This is a ‘trophy hunter’ mentality. But this type of system requires constant management and constant artificial inputs from fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and other manufactured chemicals.

Permaculture, in contrast, is about the maximum amount of output with the minimum amount of work and input. In order to create something that will last and be sustainable, the key is patience, patience, patience! But patience is such a hard quality to cultivate in us ‘instant-gratification’ humans. Therefore, incorporating the practices of permaculture requires a complete change in mindset and attitude. It is not just a method of farming, it is a belief system and lifestyle.

The permaculture method of farming is the wheat we can extract from the chaff of their “belief system”, which tends toward pagan spirituality.

3. Skills are best learned before you have a critical need of them.  My family isn’t counting on that maple syrup for our livelihood or our survival, which makes now the perfect time to learn by trial-and-error and repeated attempts.  Maybe the food supply will never be disrupted and I’ll never “need” this skill – though it’s still a nice one to have – but if I ever do need it, I’d rather already have the skill acquired.

Writing for Molly Green Magazine, Patrice Lewis from Rural Revolution has explained the importance of learning food production skills before you desperately need them:

…it’s important to learn stuff NOW. Remember, preparedness is a three-legged stool: supplies, community, and knowledge. You might have all the supplies in the world, but without the knowledge of how to use those supplies, they’re almost useless.

…This means testing your theories, supplies, and equipment; and it means learning how to do things by alternate means. And this must be done before things hit the fan.

In the face of natural or societal disasters, you are going to be stressed, scared, desperate, panicked, and unfocused. If you think you’ll suddenly have the leisure to learn the intricacies of cooking from scratch, growing a one-acre garden, canning green beans, or plinking at targets, think again. Because make no mistake: all these skills take practice.

…you need to go through trials and errors and the initial failures at a time when those failures won’t mean the difference between life and death. Then you need to learn what works for you. For some things, like a garden, you only have one chance a year. Get it wrong and you have twelve more months to sweat and plan before the next try.

My advice to readers is to make this the year that you grow something – anything – useful, even if it is just a little backyard garden or a window box of herbs.  But in seeking to obtain a yield of the fruit of the land, let us remember together that we need first to seek the fruit of the spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

 

And as we wait patiently for our earthly yield, we also wait patiently for the return of Our Lord:

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

James 5:7

 

“Hello Barbie” bothers me but not because she’s a potential corporate spy.

At this point I just assume wherever I am that I’m being recorded with either audio, video, or both.  Don’t you?  And more and more it seems plausible that the devices we have in our homes can easily be used to record our conversations without our knowledge or permission.  And speaking of recording everything we say…

Barbie has gotten a high-tech make-over, it seems:

“A spokeswoman for the toymaker Mattel said the company has received numerous requests for a Barbie doll that kids can actually talk to. With its latest product, Hello Barbie, kids will be able to tell the doll whatever’s on their mind and even hear Barbie’s response…The tech-enhanced version of the classic toy will be equipped with a microphone so that it can pick up the audio from what kids are saying. The words will then be transmitted back to a cloud server where the speech will be recorded and processed so Barbie can respond.”

Patrice Lewis at Rural Revolution is horrified by this doll and concludes:

The scope of potential abuse of this new toy boggles the mind. Only a stupid fool would have one of these dolls in their homes.

Patrice’s concerns center on the fact that this thing can be used to record everything that’s going on in the home.  But so much of what we have in our homes could already be used for that, and not just our laptops and i-Devices.  Wifi refrigerators and other appliances are already beginning to come onto the market; as IB2 noted, pretty much any product including your TV has the potential to be used to spy on you:

With the NSA, drones, and now wifi barbie, nobody is hiding anywhere. Ever again. If Elf on the Shelf isn’t watching you, that little camera on your laptop can be activated by any unemployed basement dweller with half a brain. There are tracking devices on our license plates, our money, our cell phones […] my TV was made in China and the little green light glows even when the thing is off. I assume the entire Chinese government is probably spying on me.

The most likely reason is for marketing purposes, but that’s small comfort.

The reason Hello Barbie bothers me isn’t because she can record the conversations going on at home. I mean, yes, that does bother me, but when even your kitchen appliances can potentially do that, it makes Hello Barbie nothing special.  What bothers me is the way she is so obviously going to be used to market to children:

Kids might find the technology fascinating, but already some critics have raised privacy concerns.

Angela Campbell of the Georgetown University Center on Privacy and Technology said she’s worried that children’s conversations will be analyzed for commercial purposes. Campbell pointed out that in Mattel’s demo, Barbie asks questions that could prompt a lot of information about a child, her interests and even her family.

I mean she talks back to your kids, for Pete’s sake!  I’m pretty sure she isn’t going to be doling out good advice or helping kids study their times tables.  When Janie pours out her heart about how sad she is now that Mommy and Daddy don’t live in the same house anymore, is Hello Barbie going to be talking about how a new Barbie Dream Home will make Janie feel so much better?

One of the major reasons we choose not to have TV is because of that “marketing to children” aspect.  We have an old TV with no antenna or digital converter box which we hooked up to a DVD player just so we could watch movies without having to see commercials.

Everything in my house can already potentially record me, but not everything in my house can talk back and try to turn my children into Consume-o-Bots.  And that is the reason Hello Barbie will not be welcome in our home.

Prudently Prepared and Un-Panicked

Supposedly we’re in for a winter storm later tonight, so I’ve been thinking about the topic of preparedness again. We’ve moved since last year at this time, and we’re in a much better situation for riding out acts of God, nature, or terrorism. We have propane in a large tank for heat and cooking – currently a 500-gallon tank but we’re thinking of moving up to a 1000-gallon tank – so we aren’t reliant on gas lines. We have a well and a septic field, so no longer are we reliant on city water and sewage. And although we’re still “on the grid” in terms of electricity, we do have a whole-house generator that runs on propane, so power outages due to storms or other problems don’t trouble us much. We have a good-sized kitchen pantry that we keep stocked, plus an extra freezer and refrigerator in the basement.

image

We’re pretty well set to ride out short-duration catastrophes. But as the news media yammers on about tonight’s possible storm, it seems like a good time to repost something I wrote and published elsewhere last year.

From Kill Your Television, Stock Your Pantry:

A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. (Proverbs 27:12, NLT)

One of the downsides – or is it an upside?  I’m not sure. – of not having what Keoni Galt calls tell-a-vision is that you don’t find out when it is time to engage in mass hysteria until everyone else is already in full-on panic mode.

Let me give an example.  We live in Michigan and sometimes the weather here can be bad in the winter.  I grew up in the Grand Rapids area, so I’m used to dealing with heavy snowfall, unlike my compatriots here in the southern part of the state who seem to flip out over five inches.  I noticed yesterday morning when I checked a weather website that we were supposed to get heavy snow today – possibly up to a foot, but I’ve learned to take forecasts like that with a grain of salt because they are often exaggerated and will say things like 6-12 inches possible, which means we might get 4.  Anyway, a possible foot of snow is worth knowing about, but because I don’t have TV, I did not get the Everybody freak the hell out! message.

Coming out of church yesterday evening, my husband left directly to go to work in his car, and I said to our daughters, “We need to stop by the store to pick up some eggs because we’re out and I need one to make dinner.”

Eldest daughter replied, “Oh, didn’t you hear?  There’s a blizzard coming later and there are mobs at the stores and almost no food left.”  Why no, I hadn’t heard, as a matter of fact.  I felt a sense of unease.  “Come on, let’s go.  We need eggs.”  So off we went.

When we arrived at an out-of-the-way grocery store that I thought might not be too crowded, we were greeted by a waiting line of cars to get into the parking lot…at 7:00 p.m. on a Saturday night.  I waited patiently, got a spot, and the girls and I trudged in through the slush.

We needn’t have bothered.  There were no eggs to be had, nor bread, nor fruit, nor vegetables.  All milk other than whole milk was gone – lucky for me, people are still dumb enough to believe that low-fat milk is healthier for them, so at least I was able to get a gallon of milk.  There wasn’t even any toilet paper on the shelves, all because we might get a foot of snow today.  I saw two obese women empty an entire shelf of Little Debbie snack cakes into their shopping cart…because Little Debbie will lead you through the storm safely, ladies, right?  I asked the cashier if it had been like this all day, and the poor, exhausted woman nodded and told me it had been worse earlier, with people arguing over loaves of bread.

Why do people act this way?  There are two reasons.  First, people panic when the TV says to, which kind of makes you stop and wonder a bit about just how much influence we have allowed it to have in our lives.  How much do we unconsciously do and think because that is what the TV tells us to do and think?  Think about how the weather forecast is portrayed on television – it should be a fairly mundane part of the newscast, right?  It used to be that way; when I was a little girl, the meteorologist was always a staid, calm man in a suit explaining something that, to my five-year-old ears, sounded like windshield temperatures, making me wonder why anyone cared what the temperature of their car windshield was.

But forecasts aren’t like that anymore.  There are fast moving graphics, weird sound effects, announcers saying things like Stay with Channel 7!  Storm Team 7 is on the job, tracking the Blizzard of the Century!  and a good twenty minutes of hype, with fluff stories involving interviews with customers buying snowblowers – in fact, the very last snowblower, oh god Bob do we have a snowblower, why didn’t you get a snowblower?! Why did I marry such a terrible, no-snowblower-having man?? – at Home Depot.  What is the point of this?

Well, the more freaked out and emotional people get by the news coverage, the more they watch it; they don’t want to miss any detail.  Why?  Because their emotions are being manipulated – they are being induced into a state of panic in order to get them to continue watching because a large viewership means more advertising dollars.

The second reason people respond this way is that they have not properly prepared for a state of emergency.  Preparedness means getting your ducks in a row before, not during, a crisis.  The reason I did not have to panic and start clearing shelves into my cart at the store yesterday was because I’m already prepared for a short-term emergency.  My husband built a pantry full of shelves for me in the basement, and I keep it well-stocked with canned goods, bottled water, paper products, extra batteries, and the like.  No, we couldn’t live out of our basement for a year, but neither do I have to try to fight my way through a mob to get the last roll of toilet paper on the store shelf with a blizzard on the way.

If you haven’t done so, I highly recommend reading the article The 7 core areas of preparedness by Patrice Lewis.  Patrice runs a preparedness/homesteading blog of her own, Rural Revolution, but this article was originally published in Backwoods Home Magazine.  Here is what Patrice says are the seven core areas and what you need to consider.  She writes:

Food

This is obvious. I don’t mean you should stuff your freezer with TV dinners, either, because if the power goes out, they’re gone. Consider purchasing staples you enjoy eating (rice, beans, oatmeal, etc.) and learn to store and prepare them. These have the added advantage of being dirt cheap. If you want to take the next step, learn to can. Properly canned food lasts years without refrigeration, and canning is a valuable skill as well. Alternately, buy lots of commercially canned food.

Along with storing food, you should have the means to prepare it. Your options will be more limited if you’re in an urban high-rise apartment (where you can’t install a wood cookstove, for example), in which case your food will have to be pre-cooked (such as MREs) or otherwise edible without cooking. Eating unheated soup or beans right out of a can might not be the most pleasant meal, but at least you won’t starve.

Water

Without water to drink and wash, you’ll be miserable (or dead). At all times you should have a minimum of 20 gallons stored in your home. Look for options to secure larger quantities of water (roof runoff? storage tank?) as well as ways to sterilize surface water such as bleach, iodine, or filtration.

If you’re preparing for a minimum of three months, then your storage space for water will be huge and will probably take up far more space than most people have available. That’s why you need the means to purify water. A non-electric water filter (such as Berkey) might be part of your water storage efforts.

Heat

We live in rural north Idaho not far from the Canadian border. Heat is a major concern for us. How can you heat your house if the power goes out? Everyone’s circumstances are different – you probably can’t install a woodstove in a Manhattan apartment – so think through the alternatives that will work for you.

Be careful about ventilation when considering your heat sources. Endless people have been asphyxiated due to carbon monoxide poisoning because they chose the wrong option to heat their living space. Some buildings have windows which will not open, and this must be considered when thinking through your heat sources.

Lights

You don’t want to be in the dark, do you? Everyone can afford an oil lamp or two. Don’t bother with those pricey containers of scented lamp oil, either. A gallon of kerosene is less than $10 and works just fine.

While flashlights and batteries are nice (and necessary), you’ll go through your battery supplies very quickly if you depend on them exclusively for lighting. Remember your Rule of Three: plan to have backups to your backups. You should have candles, oil lamps, perhaps battery-powered LED lamps, or other light sources.

If you’re “bugging in,” consider blackout curtains for your windows that will block light. Alternately, a roll of black plastic and duct tape will work (as well as being useful for other purposes). No sense advertising how prepared you are (OpSec!). But remember, sheeting your windows in plastic will trap carbon monoxide, so be careful.

Sanitation

What happens if you can’t flush your toilets? If you run out of diapers or feminine hygiene products? If you don’t have toilet paper? Think about what kind of reusable alternatives you can substitute for pricey disposable items.

Find reusable versions of disposable sanitary items. Cheap washcloths from the dollar store can act as reusable toilet paper. Use cloth instead of disposable diapers. Try washable feminine napkins instead of disposable. Of course, these reusable versions require a means to wash them, so think through your options. For short-term preparedness, it might be better to stock up on disposables.

If you cannot flush your toilets and an outhouse isn’t possible, a five-gallon bucket lined with heavy-duty trash bags and a toilet seat may be your next best option. Wood shavings, sawdust, or ash can be sprinkled in the bucket after each use to help control odors.

Medical

Can you doctor yourself for minor injuries? Do you have a good stock of your prescription medicines? It doesn’t cost much to pull together a comprehensive first-aid kit. It might be harder to stockpile prescription medications, so this is something worth discussing with your doctor.

Now may be the time to take a refresher course for basic first aid. You might also stock up on medical items you may not otherwise consider — burn dressings, tape closures, compression bandages, and lots of over-the-counter pain killers.

Safety

What happens when too many people suddenly want to be your best friend post-bleep? What should you do if you live in an urban area subject to rioting and unrest? Some people interpret “safety” to mean they should have an arsenal of guns. Others think they need a secret rural bug-out location. However you interpret it, identify prospective dangers for your circumstances and think of how to mitigate them.

Personally, I believe every family member old enough to handle a firearm should be taught safety factors and target practice. Adult members should also have holsters (either concealed or otherwise) for ease of carry during “bleep” situations. I recently purchased a bra holster which will make concealed carry very simple and comfortable (and invisible).

Safety should be more than just firearms. It also includes such things as situational and strategic awareness, home and property security, communications, and local relations (friends, neighbors, community).

Just like nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, so too no one expects a sudden state of emergency; nevertheless, unexpected events do happen, and when they do, people panic because they are being manipulated by mass hysteria cues being screamed at them by their TVs and because they have not prepared.  But if you are prepared, and if you turn off your yammering tell-a-vision, you will not need to panic.

Oh, and how did my trip to the grocery store end?  Well, feminists are certain that careers rather than babies are our salvation, ladies, but in this instance our littlest daughter saved the day.  As I stood fretting at the empty dairy case about not being able to make the dish I had wanted to make for dinner due to the missing eggs, she cried, “Mommy, I see eggs! I see them!”  Sure enough, there they were; she was just the right height to peer into the bottom dairy case shelf and notice a little half-dozen carton of eggs pushed to the very back and unnoticed.  I grabbed them, we checked out, and dinner was just as I had planned it.

image

And so here I sit, cozy and calm, watching the snow fall.  Won’t you now join me in a little sing-a-long, dear readers?

I am gross and perverted
I’m obsessed ‘n deranged
I have existed for years
But very little has changed
I’m the tool of the Government
And industry too
For I am destined to rule
And regulate you

I may be vile and pernicious
But you can’t look away
I make you think I’m delicious
With the stuff that I say
I’m the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I’m the slime oozin’ out
From your TV set

You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don’t need you
Don’t go for help . . . no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold

That’s right, folks . . .
Don’t touch that dial