30 April 2011

Preparedness Challenge: warmth and shelter

A few weeks ago, I posted about the 72 hour kit, or bug out bag, that I am working on.  Since the list of needed items is so long and overwhelming, I am breaking it down section by section.  Last time I looked at the "extra clothing" section and I think we'll be okay as far as that goes.  The next section I want to tackle, is warmth and shelter.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that after 7 years of marriage, we do not own one bit of camping equipment.  Not even sleeping bags.  We do go camping, we just have to borrow things from friends and family when we go.  I've just been too cheap to invest in that stuff.  In my mind, it was not a necessity, so I didn't want to spend money on it.  As I've been thinking from a preparedness standpoint however, these expenses don't seem so frivolous. 

The suggested list of items includes:
waterproof matches and another method of starting a fire
wool-blend blanket or sleeping bag
emergency reflective blanket
lightweight stove and fuel
hand and body warm packs

I have a small pack of matches and a lighter, some emergency blankets, warm packs and ponchos.  If I did  need to leave my home, I don't think I'll really enjoy snuggling down under those emergency blankets for the night, huddled around a lighter and clutching a hand warmer.  I finally decided that it was time to invest in some camping gear.  The plan is to get a good hiking type backpack and fit our camping equipment inside.  We want to buy a small propane camp stove and a small tent that can be easily carried and fit our little family if we all needed to get out of the weather.  In un-emergency times, this tent will be just for the kids to camp in.  At first I thought those tiny hiking sleeping bags would be the way to go, but I changed my mind.  We are going for actual use as well as emergency preparation here.  We bought two sleeping bags that can be zipped together to make a big sleeping bag.  I wanted that so that we could squish the whole family into one sleeping bag if we really need to.  They were delivered this past week and I haven't had any buyers regret.

As money allows, we will add the tent, stove and backpack, but this is a start.  At least we'll be able to keep each other warm at night.  I have to say that this was a great way to get my husband excited about emergency preparedness.  He has been the one researching and finding deals on the web.  Poor guy has been waiting 7 years for the go-ahead to buy camping gear.  I'm finally there.

I'm linking up to Homestead Revival's preparedness challenge.

29 April 2011

If Mother Nature had a mood ring, I think it would explode...

Okay, I realize that this is nothing compared to some parts of the world, but seriously, what is going on with the weather?  We have snow today and while I'm grateful that it's not a snow tornado or anything... it still feels kind of cruel.

Here's how things looked yesterday...

And today...



I'm not crying though.  Even though I transplanted my tomatoes out yesterday.

I knew this day was coming and had originally planned to keep my plants inside until Monday.  That plan changed.  I decided, after the baby managed to pull the tray of plants off the counter and scatter them across the kitchen floor, that they were probably safer and better off outside, in the ground and covered by the trusty old wall 'o water.  I didn't peek while I was outside, so we'll just have to wait and see.  The plants looked a bit worse for wear anyway, what with being bounced off the floor and all.  I bought four of the tomato plants for cheap because they had been frosted a bit.    They were starting to make a comeback... we'll see.

I tried a new recipe yesterday.  Gyros, or as we knew them in Germany, doeners.  Since I had left over lamb from Easter, it seemed like the perfect time to try this one out.  I made pitas for the second time in my life.  I still can't figure out how to make them poof up like they are supposed to.  Two of them did it, the others not.  Then, I made tatsiki, which is an absolute must if one eats a doener in Germany.  It consists mainly of plain yogurt, cucumber and garlic.  I think I went a little crazy with the garlic.  The kids could barely eat the sauce and they really tried.  It sure tasted good though. 

Although, as with most new to me recipes, I made way too much.  Now we have a bowl of tatsiki sauce sitting in the fridge, with no lamb to put it on.  I mixed some into tuna fish and stuffed it into the leftover pitas for lunch.  The girl liked it, the boy not so much.  I thought it was fine with a bit of cheese melted in there.  So now I'm trying to come up with new and fun ways to use up a very garlicy creamy sauce.  I'm thinking I'll bake up some fries to dip? 

26 April 2011

One step closer!

Guess what?  Last week I won a giveaway from Proverbs 31 Woman!  This is the second time I've won something from blogland.  Before I came here, I never won anything.  (except once when I entered a drawing that turned out to be a trick.  They just wanted our contact information.  Everyone that entered "won" that drawing.)  I can't say that anymore.  Monday, I received a package in the mail.  She sent me a huge variety of seeds.  Mostly they are vegetable, but there are a few herbs and some flowers.  I wish I had a great place to plant the sunflower seeds right now, but that will have to wait.  I'm excited to try some dill and I've never grown nasturtiums before.  I hear they're good for the garden, and edible too.  Oh, and there were some greens that I probably never would have actually bought... collards and swiss chard, as well as something I've never tried before: kohlrabi.  Should make for some variety around the patio.

And as if that wasn't enough to keep me smiling all week, my husband found some cull lumber and put together another raised bed for me!  By the time the weather decides to stop snowing now and then, I might just be ready to go.  It doesn't look like today is the day to work outside though.  We've got some nasty weather again.  I might have to make another little trip to the ranch for yet more compost to fill up my new garden bed... it might be cheaper in the long run to just buy some I suppose.  Either way, I'm one step closer!

25 April 2011

Easter feaster

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter.  We did.  There was some egg dying and some cookie making and two very excited kids while we got ready for bed Saturday night.  My kids are used to doing egg hunts inside because it's usually too cold to go outside, but not this year.  We didn't tell them it would be outside though, so they spent the morning searching all over the house and were very worried that the Easter bunny hadn't come.  We finally told them where to look and headed out to the yard. 

Sunday afternoon, we enjoyed a feast, as my son likes to say whenever I remember to fix a side dish.  Leg of lamb, hot potato salad, deviled eggs (since the baby threw a few hard boiled eggs when she found them) and pickled beets.  As I sat whining about how full I was, I couldn't help but think about family holiday traditions.  Growing up, I always knew what to expect for each holiday and good food was always to be expected.

My family generally had lamb for Memorial Day, as we spent it with the grandparents who raised sheep.  Thanksgiving was always at great aunt Allene's house-on my Mom's side of the family.  Christmas Eve with Dad's parents, then Christmas afternoon we went to the other grandparent's.  Easter was always at my mom's mom's house and it was always ham.  I associate ham with Easter because of that.  Now that we've all gotten older, and most of the hostesses have passed on, those traditions have died too.  And since there was no ham to be found in my freezer, we started a new tradition... lamb.  Okay, I don't know if it'll be a tradition, but it sure was good.  Not as good as how my grandma used to fix it, but I think I'm improving.

I was inspired by Resweater to make these little eggs.  I used scraps from my baby slippers project, so the kids thought they were slippers the entire time.  I wanted to make more from another sweater, but I just didn't get to it.  Maybe next year I'll make some more.  They sure are cute.

22 April 2011

Earth Day gardening

Good posture is important.  I slouch too much and when I slouch, this pouch of flab on my middle looks really unattractive, so I am trying hard to remember to sit up straight and stand up straight.  I think it's making a difference because my back is now complaining.  Apparently, I haven't used these muscles in a while.  Or maybe I just slept funny in my mom's spare bed the other night.

I took the opportunity to use my niece as an excuse to make a trip to see my mom and steal some dirt.  My niece was performing in a dance recital, which she did very well at.  At that stage in my life, I could barely walk without falling over my own feet.  The final number was from Mary Poppins - the chimney sweeps on the roof and she was Mary Poppins.  Fun stuff... anyway...  I decided it was too dark and stormy for me to head right home.  Instead, I drove in the other direction to my mom's house where we crashed for the night.  The next morning, I shoveled up a few bags of my very own compost- maybe that's why my back is complaining?-, chatted a bit and then headed back to my house.  The little man had to get back to school.  We ended up being late anyway... the best laid plans...
Now my one garden bed is almost full with dirt.  I'm getting there... slowly.  The husband wants to get a second bed put together and then share my ranch dirt between them, which is a good idea if we ever get that second bed put together.  If it doesn't happen soon, I'm just going to start planting things.  The weather is supposed to finally warm up this next week and I want to get going.  We picked up a free tomato and strawberry plant today, just for going into the store.  I hadn't planned on doing strawberries this year, but I'm certainly not going to turn down a free one.  Now I just have to figure out where to put it.  In a pot?  In the planters?  Still debating that one.  What do you think?  I noticed that the tomato actually has two plants in the pot.  Hopefully I can get them separated without too much difficulty and I'll have two plants for the price of...none!
We did get some things planted for earth day.  The little man picked carrots and the dancing queen picked radishes.  We also planted turnips, beets and peas.  The baby mostly ate dirt and chewed on sticks.  Hopefully, tomorrow I can get more salad stuff planted.  I'm excited to see some green in that dirt!

18 April 2011

Soggy Spring

Well, old man winter apparently heard about my hint comment and is trying to get back at me.  He seems to be throwing an all out tantrum, flailing around, throwing rain, snow and wind every which way.  I recognize the tantrum, because it feels strangely similar to the fits my baby has begun to throw. (The doctor says it's normal and I should be worried if she doesn't throw tantrums.  Easy for her to say.)  We are to expect snow tonight, nothing serious, just annoying.  Old man winter also seems to have some influence over springtime's decisions and has convinced her to not allow us to see the sun for a few weeks.  Seriously, he has got to get over it and move to the other hemisphere already.

It is nice to see that Spring has plans to move on in anyway, snow squalls and cloudy skies not withstanding.  There are blossoms on a few bushes and the leaves on the lilac bushes have made themselves known.  There is a tint of green haloing many of the neighborhood trees; a little foreshadowing of the coming leaves. 

In garden news, I batted my eyes at the wonderful husband and he put my little raised bed garden together, well, the outline anyway.  I moved my winter sowing experiments inside to try to protect them from the tantrum throwing toddler.  It seems to have backfired though.  She now wants at them even more.  We still need to get materials together for the second raised bed.  The dirt is still a bit of a problem, although I did break down and use a home depot gift card to purchase four bags of steer manure (cheap, but still... I'm a rancher for crying out loud!) and some special garden compost stuff, which came with a mail in rebate.  Six dollars back will buy me a few seedlings I think.  We did not buy enough to fill two raised beds, but it's a start I suppose. 

We have some friends that have some top soil that we could use, but the getting it here is difficult.  As of right now, my plan is to use the bags we just bought, once they are empty, to transport some dirt here.  It's going to take a few trips and we'll have to wait until things dry out a bit.  I'm not really anxious to plop a few bags of mud into the back of the van.  Our minivan has  been cussed more than a few times lately for not being a truck.  Sure would be easier to haul all of my garden stuff around if I had a truck.  I realize now that I have been spoiled all those years on the ranch.  There was a never ending supply of compost, trucks to haul it, tractors to load it and space to put it.  This urban gardening thing is tougher than I thought it would be, and I'm not even started!

I'm linking up with the Homestead Revival Barn Hop!

16 April 2011

Preparedness Challenge: 72 hour kit

Amy, at Homestead Revival has been hosting a weekly preparedness challenge at her blog each Saturday.  Since preparedness is a topic near and dear to my heart, I was very excited to take part.  Then life happened and suddenly it's week 5 of the challenge.  Back before my life got hectic, I had planned to go through what is needed for a 72 hour kit.  I feel pretty confident in being prepared for emergencies as long as I can stay in my home, but if I had to evacuate for some reason?  No idea what to take.  That's what a 72 hour kit, or Bug out bag is for. 

The list I have is slightly overwhelming. The items listed include; water, food, warmth and shelter, light sources, tools, first aid, communications, personal sanitation, extra clothing, money, important papers and something to put it all in. It lists all these things, but then tells you not to overload your bag... Prepare for everyone in the family, including pets, but keep it to a minimum.  Honestly, this is why I have avoided this project for so long.  I'm frozen by all the requirements.  So, I think I'll take it one section at a time. 

I'll start with the extra clothes.  It's really not feasible for me to keep winter clothes in the 72 hour kit for the duration of the winter, because we are using those clothes throughout the winter.  We would have to grab all our winter gear on our way out the door.  Now that winter is over, it's time to think about preparing for the hot months.  Hats would probably be a good idea to have on hand, or stuffed into the bag.  However, nights here still get cold, so sweatshirts or jackets need to have a place as well.

As part of our preparedness to leave in a hurry, I decided to let my kids practice packing their own backpacks.  We make weekend trips to Grandmas house often and each child gets their own backpack.  They are responsible for packing their clothing for the weekend.  Since they are already "trained" to pack quickly (some of these trips are spur of the moment things) I think they will be able to quickly pack the needed extra clothing if we were to need to leave in a hurry.  Except for the baby, of course.  I would be in charge of stuffing another bag full of diapers and wipes.  :)  Finish off with a few water bottles and granola bars, sunscreen and mosquito repellent, and I think they'll be packed.

15 April 2011

Dirty thoughts

I got my hands dirty today.  I guess I need to find my old garden gloves.  The dirt in the planters around the patio is now loose and on it's way to being planted with all sorts of greenery.  In my wild hacking with the trowel, I discovered a few living somethings that apparently survived the winter.  Hopefully they'll survive me too.  I'm trying to remember what was there last fall, but I don't really have a clue.
Horrible picture, but there are definitely some shoots coming up

The square foot garden is not yet put together and my husband now plans to make me another one.  Oh, joy!  I think he secretly likes gardening as much as I do.  Too bad he doesn't like tomatoes, because that's basically what he'll be getting.  I've always had to work my tail off just to get a few red tomatoes, but now I'm in a much warmer climate, so I'm going to go crazy.  As crazy as you can get in a 4 foot by 4 foot space anyway.

In my planning and musing, I overlooked one major thing.  Dirt.  I'm going to need dirt.  The square foot gardening guru claims that you must make a mix of compost, peat moss and vermiculite.  I looked up some prices and laughed myself silly.  I can't afford all of that.  Not enough to fill two 4x4x1 foot boxes.  I'm trying to come to grips with buying even the cheapest of compost.  Paying for dirt just feels so wrong to me.  All my life, I've lived within easy distance of all the compost I could want.  We keep young colts and calves in the corral during the winter in order to keep an eye on them and feed them the better stuff.  In return, they create a lovely compost.  I've never had to think too hard about dirt.  I'm really struggling with this -pay for dirt- concept.  My sister has sort of offered to load up some barnyard stuff in her little truck and bring it to me, which I wasn't about to accept.  That's too much work and too far a distance for anyone to come just for dirt.  But now... I think I'll give her a call.  What could she have to do that is better than hauling compost around? 

Well, off to think some more dirty thoughts

14 April 2011

Cold morning

Woowee!  It's a bit chilly out there this morning!  Snow/ice last night and warnings of a hard frost tonight.  My kiddos suddenly have the urge to set up a stand on the sidewalk.  A water stand with the leftover water bottles that we bought for a camping trip.  They were thwarted in their attempts yesterday by mean old mom reminding them that school was more of a priority than selling water bottles for 6 dollars.  So, first thing this morning, they were out sitting on their camp chairs, with the cooler of water.  Who cares that it's barely above freezing and nobody is out?  Surely there should be a line of customers waiting to pay for cold water on a cold day.  They did drop the price to 3 dollars.  Maybe I am a mean mom...  Sure has been peaceful this morning...

I have been wandering around outside at various times of the day.  My landlady probably thinks I'm going nuts.  Walk out onto the patio, look around, nod my head, mutter something to myself, wander back into the house... repeat in an hour or two...

I'm not crazy though.  Since she gave me the go ahead to do whatever I want in the planters surrounding the patio, I've been trying to figure out the best strategy to use them.  The patio does get some sun, but it's also shady a lot of the day, so I'm trying to figure out where the sun shines the most throughout the day, and where it hardly shines at all.  Here's a picture of what I'm working with.
The planters are about a foot across and about 40 feet total in length.  The side on the right seems to get the most sun and the far left never gets any.  The majority gets sun from 10 till late afternoon, but I just don't know if I'll be able to grow anything besides lettuce here.  Guess I'll never know till I try.  I'm seriously considering cutting a few branches off of that pine tree to let in more light, but I don't know that the landlady will be that flexible.  I still need to put together my 4x4 foot garden bed.  She said I can do more... hmmm.  Hopefully I can get things together this weekend.

In other news, today is the last day of wrestling practice for my little man.  Thank goodness.  I know he loves it, but I'm done.  I'm ready to have my Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings back. 

In a stroke of genius, or so I thought, I remembered to throw our aprons into the wash with the kitchen towels and cloth napkins.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  They were very dirty.  Here's what I pulled out of the dryer.
That is four aprons hopelessly tangled.  Yup, I'm a genius.  Such a genius that I was able to get them back apart in (not so) record time.  But as I worked with the knots, I decided to show you our family wall of aprons.  I made all but mine.
Last Christmas, I made aprons for my two kiddos and one for my husband to grill in.  They were a big hit with everyone.  The kids feel official when they help me make cookies.  Mine is a plain red, not very cute, stolen from my mom's house, apron.  I've been planning on making myself one for a long time, but lack of inspiration (or a pattern) has kept me from acting.  Maybe if I had a cutesy apron, I would remember to wear it and save a few of my shirts from my crazy cooking style.  Maybe.

11 April 2011

Checking in

My goodness!  I haven't posted in a while, have I?  Work happened and then spring break happened and then I got hooked into a book.  An audio book, actually, but it doesn't seem to matter.  When I get into a book, I can't think about anything else.  Audio books are good because I can still make dinner and do dishes while "reading".  The book is now over, so here I am.  :)

Spring break was an adventure.  The kids and I traveled to the ranch and were enjoying the beautiful spring weather.  The snow was melting quickly, and there were bare patches in the meadows.  Of course, I forgot the camera.  I did use my  mom's but I forgot to email myself the pictures.  Typical of me.  Then, we woke up one morning to 8 inches of snow.  Eight!  It kept snowing all that day too, but it was harder to measure since the snow was melting at the same time.  Crazy old man winter.  I think he's getting a bit senile.  I understand that he doesn't want to feel like he's not needed anymore, so I tolerate frosts and little skiffs of snow into May, but 8 inches?  He is obviously in denial, so if someone could strongly hint to him that his services aren't needed anymore, I would definitely appreciate it.

I'm trying to get caught up with the blogs on my reading list.  I hope I haven't missed anything too important.  I've missed my blog world while I've been gone.