Two People, Two Lives, Two Farms . . . .
United Into ONE Healthier, Happy, Self-Sustaining, Homesteading, Recycling, Re-purposing, Natural, Self Reliant, Self Sufficient, Off-Grid Lifestyle. Come follow our journey.
It's New Year's Eve day here in Oklahoma ..... it is nearly 70° and expected to soar above that today ...... we had yet another sizable shake in the early am (funny, we had one on Thanksgiving and on Christmas morning of that size range, also, hmmmm), the sun is shining brightly, and the wind is extremely high. We are even under a fire warning today!
I have been taking full advantage of this very unusual, middle of winter day. I have opened up the windows to air the house out of stale wood smoke and I have been working on laundry all day. This is great! As I hang a load out, it is drying so fast that by the time I get to the end of the load, the first part of the load that I hung out is dry!!! I am especially taking advantage and washing up sheets and blankets to hang them out and freshen them up with sunshine and fresh air before Winter's chills set back in. And I am really enjoying hearing them snap in the wind. This is not something I usually get to enjoy this time of year.
Yes, I suppose it is really over for another year, and in a couple of days the old year will follow. I sincerely hope that it was a really good Christmas for all. Whatever else the holidays have held, they have certainly kept me busy away from the computer, leaving me with much catching up to do.
Christmas this year was likely the best ever, for me at least. Anna and I celebrated Christmas with my family on Christmas eve, then with her family on Christmas day. Nothing elaborate either place, no massive piles of gifts (mainly simple and inexpensive or handcrafted), just plenty of food and conversation, getting acquainted and such.
Anna and I had both waited far too close to the last minute for shopping and preparing handcrafted gifts, which made it a mad rush. Christmas morning was frantic, with Anna finishing gifts while I wrapped, finishing just in time to go to her mother's house. With this in mind, we have vowed to make every effort to handcraft all the gifts for next year, starting immediately if not sooner. We would also like to encourage everyone who can, to do likewise, helping to make Christmas giving an act from the heart rather than from a factory somewhere in the world. For those who can't handcraft, there is the option of buying only handcrafted gifts, with the satisfaction of knowing that it is something not everyone has.
With the celebrations over and full intentions of catching up on email and postings, I was awakened early Tuesday morning by the phone ringing. The local rancher I have done some odd jobs for recently needed fence built. Seems his cows had been out every night for a week and the neighbors were getting angry. As much as I needed to be working at home, some cash is always needed for paying bills and building toward our independent lifestyle, so after two days of hard work, some crucial bills were paid and I am now acquainted with three very fine, hard working Mexicans who I would be proud to have on my crew any time.
With a check in hand and getting ready to leave the ranch, the rancher in question said, "oh by the way, can you work tomorrow? My mechanic needs help on one of the tractors". Still needing money, I agreed and today was another full day. At the end of today, it turns out I am needed tomorrow as well.
Please don't misunderstand, I am truly grateful for the wages. The money is very much needed. It is just a shame that the work for money and the work that requires the money can't balance just a bit better. Seems that all too often it is one or the other instead of a mix. We will have to work on that aspect of balance in the coming year.
With the new year approaching so rapidly, I will take this opportunity (in case I can't get back to the computer for a couple of days) to wish you all a happy, productive and truly blessed new year.
I have lived here for 14+ years and have rarely ever seen any honey bees. The past few years I haven't seen any at all. The lack of them even causes problems with pollination of my veggies. I had to hand pollinate my tiny little bit of Fall garden to get anything to produce this year due to lack of the right kind of insects.
But I think I accidentally found what will bring them rolling in here. I have rarely ever planted Pansies here, maybe a few at my front gate, once. I had planted quite a few of them around my shop when I had it located downtown and even the hummingbirds seemed to love them. Then this year I thought I would plant one pot full here to have a good splash of color amongst the dreariness of winter. I never planted them here because the soil was so rocky, but I grew so many things in containers this year that I thought I would try Pansies, too. After that, they went on sale and I got more. I have one basket hanging out in the middle of my front yard where I can enjoy every time I step outside or look out the window.
Today I stepped outside to an unseasonably bright and warm December day. As I walked over to my hanging pot of Pansies to admire them more closely (I love that they are a bouquet that changes daily), I was totally surprised to see them dancing with honey bees! Now, some people may view that as a bad thing, but it is really a wonderful thing! Honey and honey bees are of an enormous value to our overall good health. And in the end, keeping them naturally fed and happy keeps us healthy.
I did a search and learned that Pansies are way up there on the list of flowers that honey bees love. And, because they are single petaled flowers, they are able to get more pollen from them per trip. (Single petaled flowers produce more pollen than multiple petaled flowers) Now, I knew that Pansies were edible flowers (taste is with a hint if wintergreen) and great for adding to salads, sugaring, and sinking into ice cubes for drinks, but today I learned that they are a great natural source of pollen for us, too.
So I will be keeping a close eye on my pansies this season, and if they continue to attract the bees on these beautiful days, I will continue to plant mounds of them every Fall! And as I type this and my mind wanders, I am wondering where those bees came from .... if they are from a close-by neighbor or from one of my many hollow trees. I am allergic to bees, so I probably won't follow them, but I am curious. I did get a little gutsy today and got right up to these. They flew all around me, thoroughly enjoying their Pansy feast, without any indication of trying to harm me. Guess they were really hungry.
Sad to say, but it is when there are long lapses in writing on here that I actually have the most to write about and just can't seem to stop long enough to get in a post!
I will be doing a several part post about my Christmas this year, as I did for Thanksgiving, but I kind of need to cool off a little get my emotions in control, before I write about it. So before I get to that, I will be making a few other posts, first.
Thanksgiving Day I felt kind of yucky, but just figured I was tired from getting ready for the holiday. Then the next morning I got up with the full-fledged flu! I ran a fever and had the aches for about 10 days, then it turned into bronchitis. I was sick for the whole month before Christmas, so, consequently, a large portion of my gifts never got made (and I couldn't just go out and buy them because I had lost two whole weekends of work while sick). I was just beginning to feel half way decent again, except for a lingering and very annoying cough, then....
A couple of days before Christmas I started feeling puny, and it just seemed to grow each day, especially the chills! Then the gut pains magnified and by Christmas day, all I could think about was going home and going to bed. That is what I did do yesterday.... all.... day .... long. I think I was up only about 3 hours out of 24, sleeping most of the rest. Today I am weak and tired, still a little achy, but not near so bad, we won't talk about what my gut is doing, but I have been able to stay up most of the day.
And now I am eating a small bowl of homemade vanilla pudding with a heaping serving of Diatomaceous Earth stirred in. I usually take it on a regular basis, as it helps with all kinds of things, but, I hate to admit it, I had gotten slack on taking it lately. It is suppose to really help with pulling viruses and all kinds of toxins naturally from your body. So I will let you know if it helps.
'Tis the season to be jolly, so they say. However, 'Tis also the season for last minute shopping (or better yet, handcrafting gifts), baking, frantically trying to co-ordinate celebrations and for spending more money than in the average month. The season for cheerfully working extra hours to make ends meet while looking forward to the final result.
The past week or so has been no less frantic for the two of us. Anna has been frantically trying to finish handcrafted gifts, extending work time far into the night. In the interest of a bit of extra cash, I have spent some of my already limited time building fence for a local rancher. I would have rather used that time for other things but am truly grateful for the wages.
On the really bright side, my lovely Anna and I managed to spend most of the weekend together. Much of the time was spent at a local flea market where Anna sells items and products she makes as well as resale items. I loaded up some cedar trees I had cut from the property (dave's farm) and we tried to sell them as well. We didn't sell much, no tree sales at all, but having the much needed time together was wonderful. Later, on our way back to anna's farm, we managed to give away a tree to someone who couldn't afford one, a young, single mother that has met upon a series of really rough, unexpected hardships. Her eyes that sparkled with disbelief and her grateful smile in return was worth so much more than any dollar value.
Now I'm back home and the air is filled with the smells of baking. Fruitcakes are in the oven as I type (before you say YUCK!, let me assure you they are not standard fruitcakes, more real fruit than cake) and cookie dough yet to mix tonight. I haven't talked to Anna yet this evening but you can bet she is busy trying to finish up those gifts.
Through all this busy confusion, I hope we can all take time to slow down and enjoy the Christmas season for all that it is and represents. Hopefully, we can also find it in our hearts to show tolerance of those celebrating this time of year who are of a variety of other beliefs. You see, 'tis also the season for love and compassion.
May you all have a joyful and truly blessed Christmas season, whatever tradition you celebrate.
No matter what type of energy you choose, no matter how much or how little energy you use, tools are most helpful items. If you have chosen to continue using lots of expensive energy, it is possible to purchase quite a variety of power tools and modern farm equipment. On the other hand, if you have chosen to use more tools powered by people and animals, it is possible to make many of your own tools.
LEVEL VII: Level seven is about making tools and other items that are truly needed and usually purchased. Even for the individual with extreme skill, energy and resources, there are things that can't be readily produced, but it is possible for most items to be made at home.
With a few blacksmith tools, some coal (or charcoal if coal is unavailable), steel and a measure of skill, most metal tools can be produced and repaired on the farm. With metal tools in hand, wooden handles and other much needed items of wood can be produced. The types and variety of tools you can make are endless, including garden tools, wood working tools, cutlery and even horse drawn farm equipment.
Obviously, metal can not be produced on the average farm or by the average individual, nor can coal, thus making metal tools is not truly self-sufficient. There is, however, something very satisfying about working with tools you made with your own hands.
While on the subject of things produced with one's own hands, it bears mentioning that if you raise livestock for meat, there are also skins available for making leather and furs. The main requirements are raw materials and the necessary skills. Depending on the type of tanning and the desired end result, you may or may not need to obtain some products from others. Proper tanning is a smelly process and a lot of hard work, but the end result can be more than worth it.
With some types of animals (sheep, angora goats, alpacas and angora rabbits to name a few) you have the raw materials for making clothing. Yarn for knitting, crocheting, or weaving can be easily made from the hair of such creatures. The process is simple. The tools for making yarn can be an elaborate spinning wheel, a simple drop spindle or anything between. This can be a truly self-sufficient process from start to finish. Even knitting needles and crochet hooks can be easily made by hand.
LEVEL VIII: In level eight, we reach a point of individual self-sufficiency. This level is not for the faint of heart or feeble of body. It is basically known as stone age, and for good reason. To be truly self-sufficient requires being able to find or make everything necessary for life. For water, one only needs to find a clean spring or stream (not easy but possible) and for food, there are wild plants. Shelter, warmth and clothing are another matter. Tools and weapons for hunting and defense, as well as for producing construction material will be needed, however, and the raw materials are plentiful in many areas.
Stone tools are the most ancient known on this planet, and are simple to make. A few properly placed impacts on even a low quality piece of flint or chert can produce a cutting edge sharper than any steel. with such a crude cutting tool, wood can be cut for fire, shelter or other tools (axe handles and spear shafts come to mind). Other plant material can be cut and stripped for cordage. Animals can be skinned for meat, clothing and rawhide for use as cordage and bow strings. Better quality flint or obsidian can be processed into very fine arrow heads and knives. In short, with knowledge and physical ability, one can quickly make the tools and weapons for hunting, planting crops, providing fuel and shelter, clothing and other necessities, using sticks and stones for material. There needs to be enough land to provide wildlife and the right general type of stone is needed, but beyond that, the limits of survival and comfort soon become only those imposed by ourselves and not by resources.
I am not saying anyone should go back to the stone age but to learn and practice these skills a bit can lend a new awareness and appreciation of what is really necessary. As an added bonus, in the unfortunate event that you are stranded in a vast wilderness, you will be prepared to provide for your needs and the needs of others.
Thank you for letting me share the levels of self-sufficiency as I see them. In the next and final installment, I will attempt to pull these five sections together with some, hopefully, valid points. I hope you will join me for part six.
The days are quickly growing more crisp and chilly. And with that, comes the different species of critters here on my little farm, cohabitating and huddling closer together to generate more warmth. As I run through my daily feeding chores, I have to giggle and smile as I watch critters that, through the warmer months passionately detested each other, now snuggle closely together, getting along harmoniously.
As I am going through my daily feeding routine, watching my critters interacting, thoughts of Christmas and lovely, old-fashioned traditions dreamily floating around in my head, a very old TV Christmas special comes to mind. It wasn't around long. Sadly, as with all of the old Christmas specials that depicted the TRUE meaning of Christmas, it disappeared very quickly from National TV broadcasting. It aired in 1970, then was shown once each year over the next three years. In the early 90s, PBS broadcast it a few times. But it is still no longer shown on regular, prime time TV, which I find very sad, and an eye-opening example of the direction our society is going in.
Christmas is exactly that, CHRISTMAS. "Christ" is in the word "Christmas" because that is Who the entire season is about. I find it totally depressing that the entire season has turned into something totally different, with completely different meanings, and "political correctness," has come into play and is pushed to avoid 'offending' people. Even people that are firm believers in Christmas are afraid to discuss it's actual meaning (even afraid to use the word Christmas!) for fear of offending someone. . . using the term 'holiday' instead. People of other religious groups aren't forced into suppressing their wording of their 'holiday' events. They are what they are. . . . . And so is Christmas. . . . . Christmas is what it is... Christmas ..... a holiday where Christians honor the birth of our Christ. Other religions are free to honor their holidays in peace, while attempts are constantly made to 'quiet' us from talking about the real meaning of our Christian holiday and refer to it more as a season of goodwill.
Now, I am certainly not one to push my religious beliefs onto other people. But I DO want to be able to freely discuss mine and converse with others who share my same beliefs, regardless of what form or medium that might utilize. The answer is really quite simple. If Christmas doesn't fit into your belief system, then don't celebrate it, don't discuss it, don't watch TV specials centered around it, just ignore it, do not concern yourselves with it. I try my best to respect other people's belief systems and their holidays that come with it, mostly by leaving them alone to their business during their times of celebration. But I would never imagine asking people of other (harmless) belief systems to censor their discussions of their holidays. It isn't right. And the answer to what is shown on TV is always simple .... if you don't like it or agree with it, push that little button and turn it off!!!! If you don't like reading about it, put the material down. If you don't like hearing a discussion on it. walk away! Christmas is Christmas and should be honored for what it really and truly is. If people want an 'holiday of goodwill.' then another day and season should be set aside for that.
Okay, I better stop my rant for the moment,which I really didn't intend to get off on. You get my drift. Let the people that believe, celebrate uninhibited and uncensored. If you don't agree, ignore it and go do something else. And with all that said, I want to share with you this old, Christmas special that I think was one of the best ever created. It is a little rough and in very old styling. (But how I do love those old, hand drawn cartoons. There is a rough beauty in the art in them) Have a Merry, Merry Blessed Christmas, and I hope you find some heart-warming enjoyment in this old, long-lost Classic of THE NIGHT THE ANIMALS TALKED. Enjoy!!!
If you found part three a little discouraging, take heart. There is still hope for a greater level of self-sufficiency, though it will require leaving some of the trappings of modern life behind. Simply put, modern life, as we know it, runs on electricity and petroleum to a great extent and if we can't produce it in a self-sustaining way, perhaps we should re-examine our use of it.
LEVEL VI: In level six, there is a need for a very large shift in mind-set, and it needs to be shifted gradually so as to not be too overwhelming. Choosing to live without electricity instantly removes many things we take totally for granted, many of which we don't really have to have. It is the same with petroleum products. The things we DO require can be produced without modern energy.
Obviously, without electricity from some source, there isn't tv, movies, stereo, or video games, so entertainment becomes a little harder to get (or at least requires some thought and planning). Also, simple things like alarm clocks can no longer be taken for granted. These things are not among the basic necessities, but trust me when I tell you that you can feel pretty lost without them when they are suddenly not there. It takes a couple of weeks to come to grips with it, and yes, it is experience talking.
Lights, refrigerators, washers, driers, microwaves, mixers and a wide variety of thing we use every day, including warmth, hot water and cooking if you live in a total electric home, also cease to exist. If your water comes from a well with an electric pump, water becomes a problem very quickly.
Elimination of petroleum products obviously changes the face of transportation. Moreover, if you don't live in a total electric home, the moment of relief you may have experienced at the thought of not losing heat, hot water and cooking ability along with the electricity, just evaporated with the petroleum. Also, keep in mind that plastic is petroleum based. Look at everything you use that is plastic, and if there is a gasp of panic, you are not alone. Plastic is hard to replace at this point in time simply because so many things we use are made of plastic and nothing else, but keep in mind that many of these plastic items are not among the necessities.
Don't despair, there are other ways of providing for these needs. Light has been produced with candles made of beeswax or tallow, and lamps designed to burn animal fat or other oils, for many centuries. Food has been kept cool in springs and cellars for thousands of years and there are many preservation methods that don't require refrigeration. Clothes can be washed by hand and dried on a clothes line, water can be pumped with a hand pump or captured from rainfall and carried in buckets. There is also the fact that flush toilets require running water, so outdoor or composting toilets would be needed. Wood can be used as fuel for heating, cooking and hot water, but keep in mind that the wood will have to be cut with hand tools as chainsaws run on petroleum.
Without petroleum, transportation becomes an activity powered by people or animals. Walking is good for getting from point A to point B, but horses or mules (I personally favor mules but that is another story) can carry more than you can, and can also pull wagons and farm equipment. They can't haul the big loads a truck is capable of but they do alright. As for raising crops, draft animals are very effective though you have to produce enough grain and hay to feed them, so more land is required. Farming practices can also be entirely people powered. You can't farm as much land but you don't need to.
The information above is very simplified and I DO NOT recommend that anyone make such an abrupt change. I would, however, like to promote an awareness of all that we take for granted and encourage the gradual shift away from mindless use of modern energy. You may be surprised at how much you will gain in physical fitness, personal satisfaction and awareness (not to mention financial savings) as you lower your dependence on energy.
This doesn't have anything to do with either of our farms, but these videos were so heart-warming, I had to share them. A faithful reader shared a great link in the comments to a very touching video. I tried to update the post and add it, where it was easier for you to access, but, for some odd reason, it isn't working today. But the story was so touching that I had to take a moment to add it into a post, here.
Okay, so if Santa can't manage to find me a hippo for Christmas, if they are all already spoken for, then I would like one of these just as well. Actually, this might even work better. I am sure he would produce loads more fertilizer to enrich my rocky, clay soil with, and he could help me lift the heavy stuff when Dave's not around. I could also put a seat on him and ride him when I needed to go in for supplies, thus saving a lot on gasoline. I bet he could carry an awful lot of supplies back home. As for the puppy dog... I think I ended up with him a little early... and his name is Dusty, lol.
Which do you think would be the better choice for our farm and why?
Yes, I am in a very odd, mood. Must have been something in that herbal tea. Actually, I think the cough syrup is getting to me. Fever is finally gone, so I can't blame that, now.
To listen to more of my favorite, old, classic Christmas songs. look to your left.... (on the left sidebar, silly). They will take you back to a wonderful, heartwarming place in time.
HAVE A HAPPY AND BLESSING FILLED HOLIDAY SEASON, EVERYONE!!!
I absolutely adore this Christmas song! No matter what mood I may be in, it always perks me up and I have to stop what I am doing and sing along with it. Do you think I could find a use for one on the farm? I bet I could. They are pretty cute, too. And Dave does have a pond he could play in. *wink* I would love to hear your ideas as to what wonderful use this beautiful creature would be on a farm. Please, leave your fun ideas in the comments below.
It happened again this afternoon ...... the loud, booming rumble, followed instantly by the ground shaking and vibrating under my feet. I was outside doing my daily feeding and watering when I heard the distinct rumble and had to stop to steady myself against the vibrating ground. It only lastd a few seconds, but there was no mistaking it. And my critters obviously noticed it, too. (Some of them got a little cross and yappy for a few moments at their dinner being disrupted.). I haven't seen anything in the news about it, yet. And, as with most of them of late, it hasn't been registered yet on the Oklahoma Earthquake Information site.
We seem to still be having tremors - earthquakes - aftershocks on a daily basis, often times, many times a day. Strangely enough, there have been many that I was absolutely certain of, yet they have never been posted on the Oklahoma Earthquake site. I find that very odd, and have to wonder why.... The obvious conclusion (my opinion) would be that 'they' are trying to keep the magnitude of the number of tremors we are having from us. And if that is the case, it doesn't make sense. When we feel them, and then don't see them registered, all that does is even further kill our trust in our warning systems, weather people, and other authorities involved.
Even more odd, the news media is picking up and reporting on quakes/tremors that also aren't reported on the Oklahoma Earthquake site. You can see here that last Friday night (Dec. 2nd), two Earthquakes were recorded and reported by the news media (by numerous news stations), yet only ONE of them is registered on the Oklahoma Earthquake site (keep in mind the time frame is figured differently on there and it shows that it happened on 12/3. The size has also been upgraded since it was originally reported.). WHY??! That really doesn't make sense!!
On November 27th, Fox News.com reported, "6th Earthquake in 4 days recorded in Oklahoma." They key word here is, "RECORDED." They aren't all getting recorded! When absolute obvious tremors aren't recorded, it makes it look like 'they' are trying to hide something, but what? My guess would be the documentation of the number of them we are having, but that is just my guess. On the Oklahoma Earthquake site, I have seen lately that there are occasional days where no tremors were recorded. I don't think that is accurate. I don't think we have missed a day in a looooong time, now.AND, I have felt/heard them on some of those days.
Just two nights ago, Dave and I were up late gabbing on the phone when my critters started getting all riled up. They were driving me nuts! .... and making it very difficult to hold a conversation with Dave. Then, finally, I heard the now distinct thunderous rumble (no storms near), followed by my concrete floor vibrating under my feet. This happened 3 times over about 15 minutes or so, agitating my animals even more ..... then everything quieted down and they all settled down for the night. But nothing was ever seen in the news, nor on the Earthquake site about them. So, beginning tomorrow, I plan to get out a fresh, new notebook, pay MUCH CLOSER attention to what my critters are telling me about the Earthquakes (they seem to know much more about the Earthquakes than even the best educated geological person), and begin keeping my own record to look back on. I am sure it will make good reading for my grandkids and their kids in future years, not mention and interesting reference to compare to the Earthquake site.
If you are in Oklahoma (or anywhere else, for that matter) and experience - feel - hear even the slightest tremor, please leave a comment here and let us know about it. I am sure many will find your comments interesting. Maybe we will even consider adding a page on here of Oklahoma Citizen reported tremors. Thank you for taking the time to read my post.
LEVEL V: Energy provides a particularly tenacious set of challenges for self-sufficiency. As a society, a nation and as individuals, we are addicted to energy. Level five is about providing our own energy for heat, appliances, lighting, technology, motor fuel, etc., without dependence on others.
Lets start with electricity. Electricity is easy to produce, as any high school science student will agree. Simply stick two metal spikes of appropriate material in a potato and hook up the wires. A very small electrical charge will be produced. This process was also done in ancient times in the form of what archaeologists refer to as Baghdad Batteries, which consist of large earthenware vessels filled with wine vinegar. Electrodes were then placed through the lid into the vinegar. These apparently produced enough power to electroplate gold. However, neither of these methods efficiently produce enough electricity for practical use with most modern appliances.
Solarandwindare reasonable alternatives, and they are both free and reasonably constant. Add to that the consideration that the main equipment can be assembled by the average do-it-yourself-er in the garage and this seems to be the answer. ONLY ONE PROBLEM! I can not (nor do I know anyone who can) make all the components from scratch. So much for true self-sufficient electricity. I am still looking for a way, though I can't make appliances to run on it either.
Motor fuels are another challenge. Gasoline engines, I am told, can be adjusted to burn pure ethanol, AKA any good 190 proof grain alcohol. Before you break out the old distillation unit, consider how much of your production will have to be used for producing the plant material for ethanol production, and if you don't use a solar still, you will use yet more of your product to cook off the next batch. Also, with most modern engines, ethanol can cause problems, so use an older engine if you choose this alternative.
Bio diesel is great. It is made from cooking oil, treated with chemicals (methanol among others) to make a fuel that can be used in diesel engines. Non-petroleum, environmentally friendly, cheap to produce and can be done at home. Where is the problem with this? Production of methanol and other chemicals at home, in a sustainable way is out of reach for most of us. Also, there is the same problem as with ethanol, you have to use too much fuel to produce the cooking oil in the first place, so still not self-sustainable.
Fuel for cooking and heating is simple enough. Options include nice, clean burning methane, and of course, wood. Though methane is naturally produced by the bacterial breakdown of organic matter, it is difficult to safely produce in sufficient quantities for reliable, continuous use by individuals in a self-sustained way. Not that it can't, or shouldn't be produced. It is a good alternative, but without equipment components manufactured to reasonable standards, safety is a serious issue. Please don't be discouraged if this is something you want to do, just do the research and get good equipment.
That brings us to plain, old fashioned firewood. Certainly one of the oldest (if not the oldest) fuels used by humans on this planet. What could be more simple or sustainable than wood? This is probably the most natural and reasonable of all possible choices of fuel for self-sustained living. There is a problem however, and that is the harvesting of this wonderful fuel. Unless you have a readily available supply of wood that is small enough to be manually broken into short enough lengths for your facilities, or you are prepared to cut it with stone tools you have made, (possible but difficult) you will have to rely on some type of saw. This will at best have been produced in a factory somewhere, and if it is a chainsaw we are back to the question of motor fuel.
Peat, in areas where it is readily available, is a good source of fuel for heat and cooking, as it can be harvested by hand with simple tools in sufficient quantity. Those of us who live too far from the nearest peat bog simply have to make do with less simple fuels.
I almost forgot to mention coal. It is an excellent fuel for heating, cooking, and my favorite, forging metal in the blacksmith shop. It is, unfortunately, not readily available in many areas, though where it can be found naturally without mining, it does lend itself to self-sufficiency.
Please don't get discouraged. I am not saying that any or all of these (and many other) options won't work or shouldn't be pursued. Each has its own merit and validity. I am simply pointing out that none of them are readily adaptable to a self-sustained lifestyle, especially for individuals or very small groups.
I look forward to your input, and hope you will bear with me a bit. Hopefully, level six will be a bit more encouraging.
Some of you may remember the little Fur Ball I rescued from certain death a couple of weeks ago. I still have him and he is doing well. He is getting along amazing well with all of the farm animals, except that he sometimes likes to chase them, simply because he is in the mood for a good run. If they don't run, he just stands there looking at them, all disgusted because they are spoiling their fun, or pokes at them with his nose to try and get them to run so he can chase them. I am trying to break him from it, but it is pretty funny to watch. Now, getting along with my other dogs? That isn't going so well, so they have to stay separated.
The pic you see here is him the first day I got him, showing how bad some of his mats are. I have been cutting and trimming them off, but there are so many, and many are matted so tightly to his skin, that I have basically been cutting the them off about half way down with the intent of letting them grow out so that I can continue to trim them until they are completely off. It is just too cold to give him a real close cut right now. So now he looks like he has dread locks! It is a pretty funny site. I will have to take some new pictures of him soon. He is just a hard one to get to stand still for a camera.
Okay, so what to name him. I sure wish I knew what his name was, because I always hate giving a grown dog a new name. It is so confusing and unfamiliar to them. But I have to call him something. When he decides to take off and give a chicken a chase, I have to able to call him back, lol. So for days, I mulled quite a few names over in my head, calling him by some to see what his response would be. Initially, I had decided upon the name Matt (yes, *groan*, because of all the mats he had). But he wouldn't answer to it at all and I didn't blame him.
Then one day, as I was cleaning his face off and laughing, it hit me. That whole first week he was here, he thoroughly explored my house, especially under and behind places I hadn't been in awhile (shame on me), And after each exploration, he proudly trotted back to me, looking up at me with a face covered in dust bunnies! His face always got the bulk of it, but all over his body, stuck to all of those remaining mats, were globs of dust bunnies that took some work to clean off. He was so proud of himself, like he knew what he was accomplishing .... cleaning my house. I do believe it is time to move that furniture that hasn't been moved lately, and give it a good sweep, or just move it out and let this dog run around it a few times, ha, ha.
Well, I can't name him Bunny, because I already have a dog named Bunny. So ..... DUSTY it is. Amazingly, the first time I called him by the name Dusty, he perked his ears up, cocked his head, and got all excited! And every single time now that I have called him by his new name, he has run to me, or at least stopped and immediately looked at me. Or is it his new name? He is acting like that has always been his name. Wouldn't that be neat! He is mostly black with a little brown edging on his face and back end, with a 'dusting' of gray all down his back. Whatever his name once may have been, DUSTY is a very comfortable fit for him.
Before I begin, I would like to thank all of you who viewed and commented onpart one of this post. I would also like to mention that these levels of self-sufficiency are not intended to be, nor can they be, rigid. The levels mentioned in all parts of this post are intended as a tool to promote awareness of levels beyond where we are, on the path to self-sufficiency. Once on such a path, it is hard (if not impossible) not to prepare and work toward aspects of various levels at once.
LEVEL IV: Level four is where the skills and hard work come into play. Yes, I did say hard work. Lets face it, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
Level four basics include shelter and many things associated with that shelter, such as the cleaning and decoration of that shelter and anything else that makes that shelter a home. Actively providing for such basic needs is the essence of this level of self-sufficiency. By "actively", I mean physically doing the work (construction, maintenance, upgrades, etc.) to provide shelter for yourself, your family and your animals.
Obviously, not all of us are physically able to build houses, barns and fences, or dig cellars to shelter and store our produce. Even for those who are able (and for the less physically demanding aspects) it takes some degree of knowledge and skill, an appropriate mind set and a good measure of awareness.
If you don't have the ability and/or skills, what do you do? Have you thought of barter? Barter is, in my opinion, a form of alchemy. WAIT!!! Before you start envisioning Pagan rituals and evil spells for turning other metals to gold for the sake of greed, here is Webster's second definition of alchemy. "A method or power of transmutation: esp., the seemingly miraculous change of a thing into something better." Turning surplus vegetables, jelly, soap or products from the blacksmith shop into materials and/or labor for fixing the hole in the roof (or vise versa) sounds like pretty much the same thing to me. Granted, getting the roof fixed in exchange for things you CAN do, instead of doing it yourself, is not truly self-sufficient, but it does get the job done and provides a higher degree of personal satisfaction than mindlessly paying whatever price is asked, in the form of cash, card or check. As an added bonus, you get interaction with others which, by the way, is one of the basics of psychological health. Not a bad swap, huh?
I hope to see you here for the next post, where things start to get more difficult, and if anything, less self-sufficient. At least temporarily.
I was sitting here Thursday afternoon yacking with Dave for a few minutes on the phone when all of a sudden I yelled, "Oh, my gosh! A snake! The cat has a big ole snake!" In my frantic excitement, I didn't mention that I was looking out the window..... I hadn't said that the cat and the snake were OUTSIDE. Poor Dave, I hope I didn't worry him too badly.
It was December 1st .... it is sooo unusual to see a snake here this time of year! And this one was really lively. Dave asked me what kind it was, but I had no clue. I still don't. Phone in hand, I ran out the door to check it out, grabbing my old pitch fork on the way. The cat did NOT want me coming near his prize catch! I'm not sure which I was more afraid of, the snake or that cat's growl! But since the snake had a very strong, triangular shaped head, and was still very much alive, I wanted to make sure I disabled its ability to bite my baby. Phone set down and on speaker so Dave could instantly hear if I got bit, cat warning me not to come near his fine catch, and several other cats and chickens quickly approaching for their share, I nervously cringed as I chased the snakes head around in an effort to spear the snake's mouth shut with the pitch fork tong. The cat was not at all happy with my interference!
The cat had created a weak spot in the center of the shake where he had been biting it. Now, as the cat tried to grab it from me, the chickens also ran up and grabbed the end of the snake's tail, pulling against each other and snapping it in two. The chickens hurriedly ran off and gobbled down their stolen, giant worm snack before the cat could retrieve it. As the cat ran after them, other cats moved in for their 'turn'. Even after it absolutely had to be dead, that creepy snake wiggled and squirmed for the longest, giving the cats the most fun Cat Toy they have had in awhile.
I don't like snakes. They scare me and give me the creeps and the willies. But it fascinates me how they continue to move and react, even after you think they have to be dead. One time, my daughter and I killed a really big one that had come after us. We chopped its head off and moved it a few feet over, way away from its body. What was so fascinating was, every time we touched the snake's tail, its mouth started opening and closing. And every time we poked at the head with the shovel, his tail wiggled, yet, the two parts were no longer connected and several feet apart! I have yet to figure out how this works.
This post isn't about recipes, critters, alternative energy, self reliance, farming, canning, or anything of the like, but it was on my mind and I had to take a moment to post it, anyway.
My entire life I have found myself in a continual pattern of bad relationships (with the exception of the last two, of course).... most of them seeming to fall into the category of 'controllers.' For various reasons, people tend to do that .... get stuck in a distinct pattern of falling for the exact same personality type, over, and over, and over. There are many reasons why this happens, and when it does, it can be extremely hard to break that pattern. Often times, the pattern will continue on for years, decades, even an entire lifetime. If you can relate to this paragraph at all, it might be time to consider doing some deep soul searching so that you can break free from your pattern. These patterns are not easy to break, but with time, patience and work, they CAN be broken and the little bit of effort it takes is so very worth it in the end!
After nearly half a century of life, sometime in the past year and a half I managed to break my bad dating pattern and the rewards have been amazing!!! Although they tragically ended abruptly, I had two great relationships after I finally broke free of my bad relationship pattern, and I felt blessed. Then Dave came along. Dave is unlike anyone I have ever dated, and I am glad! Oddly enough, he is more like me than anyone I have ever dated. It was by odd coincidence that our paths crossed, and I will always cherish the day that they did. Only, I don't really think that in situations like this, it is coincidence at all. It is a blessing, a blessing far beyond my expectations.
I love Dave for so many reasons I couldn't possibly list them all in one post, so I will warn you, this post may turn into a little series all it's own. But today, as I was out pulling hay for the goats, one particular reason was running through my head and making me smile. (My mind often drifts to thoughts of Dave as I am doing mundane chores.)
You see, in the past, my relationships have been with men that were intimidated if I knew how to do something they didn't. It's an Inflated Ego and/or a Control Freak thing. Regardless of whether or not I knew a better way to do something, I had to do it 'their way' to keep peace. Their way was best, regardless, because they were the man. I wasn't suppose to be smart enough to know something they didn't. And if 'he' didn't know how to do something at all, I was to fain stupidity to keep peace (and said task was either left undone or a professional hired to get the job done.) And heaven forbid suggest showing one of these men how to do something! To suggest that they didn't know how to do something that I did, wounded their ego beyond comprehension, often resulting in serious consequences for me. So I learned to always fain stupidity. And to ask one of them to show me how to do something they knew how to do was unthinkable! Their attitude on that was, "You are too dumb to learn that." and/or "There is no point in you learning how when I already know how." Such nonsense!
In a good relationship, each person brings to it what they are best at, being supportive of each others abilities and skills. They blend ALL of their skills and abilities together to create an even better, much more enhanced life together as one. And this is one of the things I love so much about Dave! This is how life with Dave is.
Often times, when Dave and I are working on a project together, the project may require multiple skills (as projects usually do). When, on occasion, I have exhibited a skill that Dave lacked, his take on it has been, "Show me how so we can do that together." Oh, I can't tell you what a warm, fuzzy feeling that gives me!! And when he discovers he has a skill I don't possess, he offers, "Would you like for me to teach you how to do that?" Gosh, I love him! And I look so forward to him teaching me a few of his many skills around the farm. It will be such enjoyable quality time together.
I am sharing this because..... I want people that are in bad relationship patterns to know that they aren't alone. Often times, people in bad relationship patterns can't see that they are in a pattern, and I am hoping that by sharing all of this, I can help at least one person see. I want people to know that bad relationship patterns can be broken. Despite the hard work it may take, the bad patterns need to be broken. AND.... The rewards of breaking those old, bad relationship patterns are FANTASTIC and immeasurable! .... well worth the effort it takes to get there.Blessings in love to you all!
Considering it is December 1st, it was such a beautiful day! The sun was out in the afternoon, shining warm and bright. The temperature made it up into the lower 60s. What plants I have that are still struggling to stay alive perked up and basked in the warmth and sunshine. The farm critters were all frisky and flitted around enjoying the day, also.
This evening, just before it got dark, I had to take a moment to stop and properly enjoy the beauty of the day myself. The clouds had begun to roll in and were painting the most beautiful pictures in the sky. I have always loved clouds, and could sit and watch them for hours on end without ever tiring. I have always considered them God's paintings ... one-of-a-kind gifts painted just for us, gifts that are for us to enjoy that very moment, never to be seen again. But I always want to keep looking at them so .... I seem to now have an enormous collection of sky pictures. And tonight, once again, I had to get my camera out and snap a few more. The sky was just so beautiful tonight I wanted to be able to enjoy the view long after the few passing moments it was physically available. Pictures can't even begin to come close to truly giving justice to the actual beauty of the sky tonight, but they are still pretty, and I wanted to share them with you. So enjoy and I hope you have a wonderful night, regardless of what corner of the world you are reading this from.
Input from others with different perspectives often encourages me to look more closely at my own views. A comment to my recent post, "THE NECESSITY OF ALTERNATIVE ENERGY IN A SELF-SUSTAINING LIFESTYLE" did just that. In examining my own views on life and goals of self-sufficiency, I realized two very important considerations: That TRUE self-sufficiency, at least for the individual, is near impossible; and there are many levels of self-sufficiency along the way toward that near impossible end. Some of these levels, I have lived at some point in my life, others I have studied and worked toward, and most (if not all) levels are among my goals for the future. Obviously, we would all like to be as independent as possible, so with your indulgence, I would like to share some thoughts and experiences on those many levels.
LEVEL I: Level one, in my opinion, has to start with a mind set. As infants, unable to do anything for ourselves, we learn to expect others to give us what we need to survive, grow, and be comfortable. As we grow, the desire to move freely and do for ourselves also grows, driving us to walk, communicate and reach for what we need. This develops to the mind set of "I can do it myself", which is the point at which, as a parent, I had my first twinge of having to let go a bit. And that twinge just got worse from there, but that is another story for another time.
As teenagers or young adults, having developed the mind set and entering the work force, we reach level two.
LEVEL II: Level two is what our society has come to expect and strive for to a great extent. As teenagers, we are expected to at least finish high school (and a college degree is preferred) and then to get a good job (or preferably, a career), thus being able to make enough money to pay the bills, buy a home, raise a family etc. This in itself is truly a tangible level of self-sufficiency, as compared to those who choose to rely on others (family, friends, church, government assistance, etc.), for their needs. Please do not consider that I am passing judgement on anyone for their choices, and it is important to note that many people, through no choice of their own, require assistance for their survival and we should all do our best to help.
With that said, this level of self-sufficiency can provide all the requirements of survival and comfort. It does not, however, give the individual any control over many aspects of life. For example, you have no control of the price, quality or availability of food, fuel, utilities, building materials, services or anything that has to be purchased. More money can get better quality, but only if the product is available in the first place. In short, though we work hard for the money to provide what is needed for ourselves, we still depend on, and are at the mercy of, others.
LEVEL III: Level three is about the point where people start talking about "back to basics". I am very happy with that concept but not so much with the wording. The basics haven't changed, so going back to basics is essentially the same as staying here with the basics. In fact, the basic NEEDS of humanity are still simply water, food, clothing, shelter, warmth, tools, weapons for hunting and defense, and for spiritual and/or psychological well being, interaction with others. What HAS changed is how we fulfill those basics. In my opinion, (and remember, it is just my opinion), it is a matter of resources and how they are used. From this point forward, these basic needs and how they are, and can be, used will be incorporated into the levels as appropriate, so bear with me.
The level three basics include food and water. Chances are, you, (like so many others), do not live in walking distance of your water source. If you are fortunate enough to have a well or spring on your property, that is a good head start, and if it is a well or spring with a hand pump or other people powered means of getting the water, so much the better. Far too many people are using water that is pumped in from such a distance that they don't even know where it really came from or what chemicals it has been treated with. A resource to consider is rain water, which can be captured with guttering from roofs of houses and other buildings and used for watering plants and animals, washing or filtered for drinking. The amount of water that can be captured from an inch of rain falling on the roof of an average sized building is surprising. At just over a half gallon, (.623 gal. per sq. ft. per inch of rain, to be more precise), a building the size of my chicken house and tool shed combo will capture about 94 gallons of water from an inch of rain. The calculations are simple, just multiply the number of square feet of roof surface by .623 to find out how many gallons of water you will have from your roof with one inch of rain.
Food is another necessity that many take for granted. It is convenient to just go to the grocery store and buy what you need. With prices rising, quality declining and the now constant threat of various contamination related illnesses, it doesn't seem so convenient as it once did. Growing your own food is becoming more popular and this is a good step toward this level of self-sufficiency. No, not everyone can plant a huge garden, a field of wheat or corn for bread, and raise livestock for all their meat, milk and eggs, (though that would be REALLY NICE). There are ways (even in an apartment in the city) to raise at least some of your own vegetables, and with a back yard or small acreage, there are endless possibilities.
Though being able to produce all of the food on the table would be ideal, anything you can produce for yourself lowers the levels of dependence on others and is a good step toward self-sufficiency. Remember, it all starts with the mind set, the questioning of where your basic needs come from and how to change that source.
I will post other levels soon, as well as related posts involving more information on specifics, as there just isn't room in a single post for all the information. I will also be considering your input to help me give you the information you need to follow your own path toward self-sufficiency, so please use the comments to let me know where you are in the journey and any questions you may have.
Dave and I FINALLY got to spend a day together! YEA!!!! It really hadn't been that long since we had gotten to see each other, but it seemed like it had been forever.
We have both been sick for the last few days. Not sure what Dave had had, a bug of some sort that made him feel bad, and I got up with the Flu last Friday morning. I have been nursing a fever, aches, chills and the croupies for days, then it finally turned into bronchitis. So with us both feeling under the weather, I decided to cook us some Roasted Garlic in my wood stove (my source of winter heat).
Garlic is absolutely WONDERFUL for curing all kinds of ails. I know it is probably best when eaten raw, but roasted just really sounded good last night. So I hunted down my tiny little Dutch Oven that I hadn't used since last winter.
To make Roasted Garlic this way, simply take a full head of garlic, roll it around in your hands and slip the outer 'papery' cover off of it, leaving it fully intact. Just the outer stuff, leave the cloves fully covered. Set the entire garlic head in your little cast iron pot (you can wrap it up in aluminum foil instead, but I am trying to get away from using aluminum.). Then dribble a little of your favorite cooking oil over the head of garlic, making sure it runs down inside, inbetween the individual cloves. You can use most any kind of cooking oil. I have tried several, and I use to mostly use Virgin Olive Oil. But recently I tried it with some Virgin Sunflower Oil and that has most definitely become my favorite for this purpose. The flavor of it just seems to blend so perfectly well with the garlic. Now, put the lid on your Dutch Oven (or wrap your foil up tightly) and set it in the coals (not on the fire). Turn occasionally to keep from burning. Cook time will vary drastically, depending on how hot your fire and coals are.
When the garlic feels soft when you press on it, it is done. Ours took about 30 minutes. But that time can greatly differ either direction. The cloves then easily peel and you can either scoop out the garlic or squeeze it out. Just be careful, it gets extremely hot and stays that way for awhile. It is then easy to simply spread on bread, crackers or use for whatever you want to use it for (or just eat as is). It spreads like butter and becomes sweet, losing its harsh, sharp, hot garlic punch. I especially like to toss it into my spaghetti sauce. It is also great to blend into your favorite spreads. The uses are endless.
And so are the health benefits! Garlic is an extremely powerful antiviral (the flu is a virus) and powerful antibiotic. In fact, its antibiotic properties have been said to be as effective as many modern prescription antibiotics, just without the side affects. We split this head of garlic last night, and by the time I got up this morning, my congestion had drastically improved. I was able to take far less medicine today, and felt so much better! I should have done this days ago. We had planned on eating it on some 'everything' bread we had picked up, but changed our minds and decided to eat it on some thin tortilla chips I had. It was yummy that way! I think we will be eating this often this winter to keep down our ills. If you have any questions about it, please feel free to ask. And yes, you can do this in your regular oven, too.
Every checkout appeared to be open... I think.... you couldn't get close enough to the checkouts to see them. I did take pics with my rinky dink cell phone (digital camera was in the shopping cart) and when I figure how to get them out of my phone, I will post them here. CHECKOUT LINES?? At first glance it just looked like a mass mob of people, no distinguishable lines. But as you visually scanned the mob at the front of the store, and followed it further and further back through the store, you eventually were able to see the end of the lines. The shortest line? Ha, ha, yea, right.
I worked myself through the crowd of shoppers, finally found what appeared to be the end of a line, and parked myself there.... 12:27pm, standing in the center of the shoe department! Front of the store - Checkouts - walkway end to end of the store - clothing department - walkway - shoe department. Yep, this was going to take awhile. But it was okay, I got the main things I came for. I killed a little time talking to Dave a few minutes (via cell phone) but it was so loud, and reception was so bad, it was difficult to hear. But we still got to say our 'good-nites'. As you looked out across the ocean of people slowly flowing in the direction of the checkouts, hundreds of people were standing, cell phone-to-ear. And throughout the store full of shoppers, people were standing, phone to ear, keeping in contact with people back at home discussing purchase options, and/or, using them as walkie talkies to keep in touch with others in the store in their group, or stationed at other stores (same town, different town, different states even). It was a major overload on the cell phone system and reception was the pits!!! But it was Thanksgiving, and I was so very thankful that, at that moment, there was reception at all so that I could say my nightly good-nites to Dave.
A drone of voices hummed across the store. Those that weren't on cell phones engaged in idle conversation to keep down the boredom of standing in slow moving lines for hours on end. Perfect strangers struck up conversations and made new 'friends.' It was better than Facebook, everyone had a physical body! The woman in front of me was also shopping by herself and we had a great conversation as we patiently waited in line. She owned a camera like the one I was purchasing and was able to, first-handedly, answer my questions about it (If you are reading this, thanks again!). We exchanged crockpot cooking tips, natural living ideas, sustainable living ideas, and several other interesting topics. Our conversation was so enjoyable that the wait in line didn't seem long at all. (Thanks for putting up with my nervous chatter. You unknowingly kept me from a claustrophobia attack, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!)
Before I knew it we were at the checkout. The woman in front of me spied a couple of crockpots in the returns area and jumped over to grab me one, bless her heart, but they were the 7-quart ones, darn it! They were tricky on packaging this year. The packaging looked just like the 6-quart ones, except it said 7 instead of 6 and were nearly triple the price. Oh, well.... I paid for my stuff (including a cheap gallon of water for the car) and headed out to find my car. Fortunately, I had made mental note of the Row Number as I went into the store. I got to my car (so glad it was fairly warm and not freezing, raining or snowing this year), loaded my stuff, popped the hood and added water. I got in, started it up, and it still sounded HORRIBLE. Rummaged around and found my last quart of oil (I was NOT going back in there for a quart of oil!), popped the hood again, and poured it in (I had added power steering fluid before I left home, poor old car.) So here I am, woman alone at 1:49am, hood up on my car propped up with my walking cane, masses of people everywhere, and NOT ONE PERSON stopped to see if I needed help!!! I didn't need any, I had it under control, but no one knew that. It spoke volumes for what our world has come to.
Poor old car had had her rest, had her fluids replenished, and drove like she was eager to get out of that mess and get home. We stopped back at Host's house to pick up the Fur Ball. Oh, he was sooo excited to see me! That was the longest I had been away from him since I had taken him home with me. We had a snack of Thanksgiving left-overs and headed HOME. Thanksgiving Day had finally come to an end. What a day!
It was Thanksgiving, the day to give thanks for all of our innumerable blessings we have received throughout the year. Although, financially, I am so far down I am nearly in a pit with no visible way out, I still have so very many things to be thankful for, so many rich blessings. I am thankful for so many things I couldn't possibly name them all, but I will name a few. I am, of course, extremely thankful for all the things people generally give thanks for. But I am also thankful for things that we so often over look. First, I am extremely thankful (I can't possibly give enough thanks here) for all of my friends and family, both in the physical and cyber world. I couldn't imagine life without them. I am thankful for everyone that has read my posts around the net all year long, and for all of the advice, tips, constructive criticisms and comfort they have given me. I am thankful for taste buds, because without them, we wouldn't be able to enjoy such great holiday meals, and, believe it or not, not everyone has working taste buds. I can't imagine how horrible that would be. And I was thankful for the wonderful Thanksgiving meal that I was able to taste with my taste buds, as not everyone in this world was so blessed to be able to eat such a feast. I am thankful for my sense of smell, with which I was able to smell all of the wonderful aromas throughout the day, and all year long. Not everyone has that sense (I personally know people that don't) and we take if for granted far too much. Although I have to wear glasses now to read, I am so very thankful for my eye sight, with which I can see all of God's beautiful blessings. And, though not so good as it once was, I am extremely thankful for my sense of hearing, which allowed me to enjoy the giggles of my grand kids. I am thankful for the trees that clean our air, give us oxygen, and provide us with many of our day to day, constantly used products. I am thankful for my home and the land that gives me food. I am thankful for the plants and animals that clothe me. I am thankful for the rains and sunshine that makes things grow. I am thankful for the fire that heats my home (It took the rain and sunshine to grow the trees that Dave cut, that is now in my wood stove heating my home.) I am thankful for the ability to breathe and a beating heart. I am thankful that, even riddled with arthritis throughout my entire body, I am still able to move about on my own. I am thankful for a sharp mind. I am thankful for every blessing that has been graciously and undeservingly bestowed upon me, large and minute (all blessings are huge), seen and unseen (all are seen, if we just look closely enough). Regardless of how far down that, on the surface it appears that I am, I can feel a blanket of warm blessings thickly and snuggly wrapped around me, I feel so very loved by my Lord!
And the three best blessing of all this year . . . . After a life full of extra bad relationships, I was graciously blessed last Fall with a most loving and caring relationship with Jonathan before tragically, cancer took him from me and our visual world in March. He was a loving, generous man, a rare find in today's world, so wonderful to me, and I miss him dearly.
I had finally had my wonderful, loving relationship and didn't think I could possibly ever be blessed with another, but, very unexpectedly, a man that I had grown up with in my old neighborhood came back into my life and, once again, I was graciously blessed with another very caring, loving, heart-warming relationship with Joe, who was also taken from this visual world this summer by our extreme, record-breaking heat. Losing him not only left yet another emptiness in me, but an empty hole in the world, as he was such a remarkable, loving, giving person in everything he did. I have no doubt, though, but that Jonathan's and Joe's loving blessings continue on in our world and will forever. The blessings of their love will continue on in my heart forever. I give immeasurable thanks for having been the one to have been blessed with their closest, sincerest love.
Broken hearted and lonely, I didn't think it ever possible to be so fortunate as to be so blessed again with such a wonderful, loving relationship and had resigned myself to settle into and live a single's life, planning out my new life accordingly. Then, very unexpectedly, Dave came into my life.... and, although I don't know what I could have ever possibly done that the Good Lord feels that I deserve it, He has again, graciously blessed me with, not only a wonderful, loving relationship, but a generously, loving man that I hope to have a wonderfully long life with! Thank you Lord, for a year of beautiful blessingsfar beyond my imagination!!!!
I get out of the car, take a deep breath, and head for the door, grabbing an abandoned shopping cart as I passed it. I figured that may be the only chance I had to get one (and I was right). All the way to the door my instinct kept telling me to turn around and run, just go back home, but I just kept repeating to myself, "You can do this, you can do this..." Because, you see, I am claustrophobic. But when I did look back, I was reminded that I couldn't leave because my car was still spewing smoke.
Back up just a little... Years ago, when I first began Black Friday shopping, I got as far at Walmart as pulling into the parking lot and my teenage kids went in with my list. And I had a hard time even just being in the crowded parking lot. Then after we left there, I would go in with my kids to the not-quite-so-packed stores. After a couple of years of this, my kids made me start going in with them at Walmart. We would still split up with our lists and meet back at the front, but one or two would always stay with me, ready to distract me if a claustrophobia attack hit (actually, it was when). But I could never go into the Electronics Department. I would panic just looking at the crowd in that department! Then, they finally made me go in at Walmart by myself as they went to other stores, but kept phone contact with me. Then last year, I was completely on my own. The kids had finally weaned mom. I am still claustrophobic, sometimes worse than others, but this process we ended up going through over the years has greatly helped. Thanks kids!!!
And now, I was on my own..... and the one item I needed the most was in .... ELECTRONICS!! Last year I couldn't even make it as far as the DVDs without feeling the panic coming on. But I was going to do this! But first, the 6-quart Crockpot. The small appliance sale began at 10pm, Electronics at midnight. I have pretty much worn my 4-quart out making so many consecutive batches of Pear Butter. I began to move through the store, elbow-to-elbow with the masses of people (more than I had EVER seen in Walmart all at once), trying to drift my mind into another peaceful place, far, far away. I made it to the area where I thought the small appliances would be (I was also suppose to pick up an electric mini chopper for someone) ... nothing. I swam through to the next area... lots of nearly bare pallets, but not what I was looking for. I found a clerk and asked him, he assuredly pointed me to the other side of the store! (we are talking, the largest Walmart in Oklahoma, last I checked) Okay, I really could use that Crockpot and it is only 1/3 of its usual cost, so I head over that way ... very, very slowly, each aisle a one-way flow. On my way past Electronics, I noticed that the lines for the midnight sale were already formed and long! It was only 10:15pm! My heart sank, a panic wave began to cross, and I quickly took my mind back to my dreamy place as I moved to the other side of the store. Once there I found lots of pallets, some with a few items left, many completely empty. I was also looking for the $1.28 Bath Towels in that area but quickly found out that they never got them in..... bummer. Found another clerk, asked for the Crockpots and choppers, was pointed in yet another direction.... back on the original side of the store I started on! Six different places I was sent to! Sheesh!!! I finally found where they had been, but no more Crockpots nor mini choppers. The choppers .... I was told that they only got a few of them in and were gone in about a minute. In years past, even last year, they had several appliances available for this big sale, and LOTS of them in stock. Not this year. All throughout the store there seemed to be only a few items of each thing. But I did get kind of lucky. They had just set out some unadvertised, single cup coffee makers... you know, the kind you just set your coffee cup under. These were really nice, too. They made a really large cup (or small if you wanted), had a permanent filter, and you could use your own grounds or the pods. I had been wanting one of those, but too many necessities were way above it on my list. They weren't in the ad and they had just set them out for $4! Yep, I have one, now. So, on to the Electronics to gulp get in line.
I took a deep breath and plunged into the ocean of smelly people. Let me tell you, whoever had the bright idea of starting the sale-of-the-year immediately after masses of people had just stuffed themselves to overflowing with rich, gaseous foods, with no time to shower after the days events and before the sale, needs to be tossed into the Bog of Eternal Stench and left there for a few hours! There was a loooong stretch of shrink-wrapped pallets and I couldn't see far enough ahead to see where what I was needing was. As long as the lines were, I figured I was out of luck by that point (remember, the lines had started long before 10pm for this stuff), but I was here, so I may as well try. I was there to get a camcorder and a better digital camera (I had been saving gift money and both items were for jaw-dropping prices). I couldn't get close enough to see the plastic wrapped pallets, so I began asking around. I finally found out that the camera I had come for was at the pallet a few feet down (two or three lines down), but the camcorder was over at the other end of electronics! Noooooooooooooo.............. And a clerk said that there were only a few of the camcorders (It, too, was well under half price). I figured that there was now no way I was going to land one, but I was going to try. So I kissed the idea of a better digital camera good-bye and went for the camcorder. Once again, I couldn't figure out which line to get into so I found a clerk and asked, yelling over the people between us. She asked which one I wanted, said there were only a couple left unaccounted for, and told me whom to stand behind in line. She even politely suggested that a few people shift over a little and let me through (I could have hugged her!). It is 11pm, and I am finally in line, surrounded by masses of smelly people, and the excitement of probably finally getting the camcorder that I have been trying to get for 2 years, is far overriding my claustrophobia. A small child not far behind me was wailing in pure terror at the sight and chaos of the crowd. This was NO PLACE FOR A SMALL CHILD! And those parents were trying to corral about 4 of them!
So we are all anxiously waiting in our lines, an hour to go. We converse some amongst ourselves, while focusing on watching out for pushy people trying to get ahead of us. And they did try! A couple of people were, as I use to be, with a group. So one or two would stay in the line with the cart (we had made a barricade with the carts to keep people from cutting into our line) while the rest of the group went to hunt down other things on their list. Around 11:30 they rolled out the tall, shrink-wrapped cart of electronics. Our line immediately looks for the camcorders, counts them, and recounts the number in the line. Good! There's enough! Other people try harder to move in for the 'kill',. we stop chatting and guard our position. 11:45 comes and they decide to go ahead and pass the stuff out. Oh, the anticipation! We had to wait until they got down to ours... but ... I GOT IT!!! WOOOHOOOOO!!! I did it! All by myself! Now, to get back out of this mob.
I figured there wasn't a chance in the world that there would be one of the digital cameras left (Kodak 14 megapixels with all kinds of bells and whistles for $49), nor the Memory cards, but I was going to swim back through to the other side of Electronics and check anyway. Unbelievable!!! There were just a few of what I needed left! At last, it was time to head for the check-out....
***advance soap box warning*** This is a subject I am likely to get adamant about, so if I get on my soap box and rant and rave a bit, please bear with me. The points I will try to bring forward may be of interest.
In a society such as ours, where electricity has been readily available for many years, far too few people can remember not having it readily available. All sorts of appliances and electronic gadgets fill most homes, some very convenient, others merely annoying. Unfortunately, many of these appliances and gadgets have come to be considered a necessity of life.
This brings us to the real point of this post; energy dependence and the power utility companies have over our lives. Anyone on the grid depends on the power company to provide power to run the aforementioned electrical equipment, (thus the energy dependence). The power the utility company has over us is simple, you pay the company or they cut of the power. In most cases the company you get your power from is the only game in town, so you can't shop around; you simply pay what they ask, or do without.
Friday, the mail carrier brought me a strong reminder of just such facts in the form of my electric bill. Finances being what they are, I had paid the last bill a couple of weeks late, but still before receiving the next bill. It seems I had been one day late a couple of other times in the past year, so my bill now includes a new deposit. This deposit amounts to about four average months of electric usage above the regular charges, so my bill this time is five times the normal bill.
When I consider that I have paid my electric bill every month for the past 25 years without once having my power cut off for non-payment, this seems a bit like an insult. It is nothing personal, of course, this is the way they treat anyone who is late, with no consideration of circumstances or how good the customer has been.
The question is; What can we do about it? The answer is simple; give up electricity or get it somewhere else. But wait, they are the only game in town. Or are they? Fact is, I like a hot shower as much as anyone, and a freezer is nice, (especially when there is plenty of meat). I also enjoy having the fridge, lights, well pump and without the computer I would not be getting this information to you. The welding machine and a wide variety of power tools also come into the mix making the lack of electricity more than a minor inconvenience.
Alright, enough of the soap box. The fact is that it doesn't matter if the way things are currently handled is right or wrong, convenient or inconvenient. This is the way it is RIGHT NOW and it is up to each individual to decide how to, (or whether to), change it for themselves.
For some time, I have been looking for information on alternative energy. There is a flood of information on the net and it can get a little confusing, but the search can be worth it. There are also people out there who have put together courses on about anything you could ask for, but be careful to check reviews. There are always those who are just out for a buck mixed in with those who are legitimate. My main focus on alternative energy has been in the areas of passive solar, solar electric and wind. I am hearing some talk of geothermal but haven't checked into it yet. I have also checked into methane production, but it is pretty dangerous if not done properly, so be careful if you take this path.
Of course, there is the alternative of learning the techniques for living without electricity. I have taken this path in the past and am not opposed to doing it again, if need be, but a little preparation would certainly be in order before making such a drastic shift. Heating and cooking with wood heat, pumping water by hand and washing clothes by hand require some work but are not that bad. Preserving all the food one normally puts in the freezer, and keeping things from spoiling that would normally be in the fridge takes some planing and research. Working with manual hand tools instead of power is a whole set of skills unto itself.
Bottom line: Whatever choices we make, our level of self-sufficiency and, to some extent, our freedom depends on the power company and how we choose to deal with them.
The evening is winding down and everyone is saying their good-byes, well, to those they are speaking to, anyway. Overall, it was a pretty nice, enjoyable Thanksgiving and, in the end, I was glad I went: however, I do wish that I could figure out how to get a few of them to give proper Thanks and Honor to the day. All the food was wonderful! The turkey and the pheasant ended up being pretty dry, but they tasted really good. But oh, that ham Son 1 smoked! That ham was absolutely perfect! It had just the right amount of smokey flavor to it, not too much, yet it was still so tender and moist. It is still tender and moist even 4 days later, though there isn't much left, now. Host had special made me a pumpkin pie with unrefined sugar and a pecan pie where she had ground up the nuts finely so that I could still enjoy one, God love her! (most of my bottom teeth, and several of my upper molars are all gone, so chewing nuts is almost impossible) We were blessed with such an array of food that it just wasn't possible to try it all.
Now for the wild part ... early 'Black Friday' shopping, eek! When my kids were all a little younger, we all gathered and went shopping together, then when they were all driving, we divided up amongst stores with our lists in hand, keeping in touch via cell phone. But once again, just as last year, I was on my own. There really wasn't too much this year that I thought was worth going for. Usually I pick up what ever new little appliances I have been needing (I try to keep a list going all year and wait for this sale), but there weren't even very many of those in the ads like there usually are, and of the couple listed, I didn't need. Of course, I am broker than broke this year and can't just shop for the fun of it, but the few things I had been needing, I had been waiting for Black Friday to get so that I could hopefully get a really good price on.
This year was different. It should have been called "Stuffed Thursday" shopping. That main sale that I always go to, the one that had the majority of the things I was needing (Walmart), started at 10pm on Thanksgiving this year, instead of 5am on Friday. Usually, I absolutely refuse to go shopping on Thanksgiving. It just doesn't seem right, but I just couldn't let go of the savings this year on the items I needed. So after the last few guests left, I hung around at Host's house a bit longer, ate some more dessert, made a couple more "Happy Thanksgiving" calls, got the Fur Ball settled in on a blanket (this time, he just wasn't going with me), then left a little after 9:00 for the madness at Walmart. (It was too much driving to drive back home, then back into town for the brief period between everyone leaving and going shopping).
I headed out and my car was acting up from the start. The windows were all foggy, inside and out to the point of dripping on the inside, my poor old car doesn't idle without trying to die, I was having a hard time getting my windows to clear so I could see, and time was ticking. I tried wiping them with a towel, but there was this odd, thin film plastered to the inside of my windshield that just seemed to smear everywhere. I am so afraid my heater core may be going out, but that is another story. I ended up having to pull over, crank up my defrosters and idle the car, which finally mostly cleared the windows, but that car really protested! Poor thing just doesn't have enough power to run so many things all at once (engine, lights, defrosters).
Me and my car chug-a-lugged, coughed and lurched all the way to Walmart, foot on break and gas to keep it running every time we hit a stop sign or stop light, and finally made it right at 10pm. Oh, my gosh!!! I had never seen so many cars at Walmart, including all of my Black Friday shopping days! There was a very slow stream of traffic, bumper to bumper, winding up and down all of the parking rows. People were parked EVERYWHERE! Every single parking spot on the lot was filled. Cars were snugly parked, bumper to bumper, up against every inch of curb on the site (I am including the gas station area, too), and, get this, every inch of grass on the property had cars tightly parked on it! People had even jumped the curbs to park in the medians. I never saw anything like it! And I have been to a lot of BIG sales over the years, ha, ha. But I was determined I was going to find me a spot to park. I followed along with the flow of traffic, riding my break and gas (ouch!), my car loudly protesting the idling speed. At one point it died, but I managed to veer off a little so cars could get around me. I had to let it set a little (people were not happy with me) so I could start it again. I got it started, went a few feet, spied a parking space on my side (someone had just pulled out), but before I could inch a little further, someone from the other lane whipped in front of me and swiped it ... darn it!
I was giving thought to just going on home but there were a couple of items that I really, REALLY needed to get for business purposes, they just hadn't been affordable any other way, I had been waiting for 2 years for a price I could handle while at the same time I had a few dollars in my pocket (a hard combination to come by), and now was THE time to get them. So I continued on, car badly coughing, choking and protesting, finally spied a parking space just as I passed it, and I quickly backed up into it before someone else spied it. I stopped, turned the engine off, and large clouds of smoke billowed out from under the hood (no, it wasn't registering that it was hot). I thought, "Well, looks like I'm here for awhile, now."
Okay, so dinner is finally nearing being ready, and none too soon. A few people had had the bright idea to bring in an array of booze, are using it for appetizers on empty tummies, and unplanned entertainment is about to begin if we don't eat soon. One or two are beginning to feel p-r-e-t-t-y good at this point. Nearly everyone is lending a hand, anxiously trying to get it all on the table. Even one of the young kids is busy away stuffing eggs and celery. The rest of the kids are doing their part sampling the pickles and olives to make sure they are fit for everyone to eat. But wait .... where is SIL?
She doesn't like her hubby's family, feels she is far too good to associate with any of us, and from the moment she had entered the house, she had parked herself in the most recessed corner of the couch, head tightly downward as she closed all of us out, thumbs flying non-stop as she focused on her cell phone (yes, she had kids she as suppose to be watching). And there she sat for the afternoon, never looking at any of us, never joining into any of our conversations, and never uttering a single word to any of us. This is normal for her, she rarely, if ever, speaks to any of us (us women, anyway). Even if they are staying there for a spell.... nope, not a word to us.
Dinner is finally ready (3 pm), everyone races to the kitchen to mound up their plates .... except .... you guessed it ... SIL. She just continues to sit there, hunkered down in her corner of the couch, thumbs twiddling with her phone. Everyone is eating, talking, laughing, enjoying their food and good conversation (course, I could have stood to wear a pair of wadding boots for some of the topics, lol, but I chose to just shake my head a little, laugh to myself, and keep peace) ...... and SIL just continues on with her thumb twiddling, hilarious and sad at the same time.
Everyone finishes eating, continues conversations for awhile, finally has dessert .... but SIL.... no, no dessert, either. She is still twiddling. Her neck had to be getting sore by then from holding her head down so hard in her effort to shut all of us out.
Little did we know, but right after we started fixing our plates, we had another Earthquake (3.7). I guess that was to assist with shaking our food down in our tummies so we could eat more. We have been feeling those quakes that size, but everything was so chaotic, noisy, and attentions focused on finally eating, that no one noticed, nor heard, the Earthquake. We have been having a lot of small ones all month - some quakes, some aftershocks (and for months past), and we don't usually feel most of them, but that size is usually obvious. (Oklahoma's last 30 days of Earthquake activity)
So everyone is sitting around, hanging out, visiting, making an extra effort to get along, having coffee, tea, drinks, reading through the Black Friday ads, and nibbling on a few more bites of the foods we especially liked. Son 2 has to leave, and Mr. & Mrs. Neighbors and one of their kids finally arrives. Suddenly, SIL is standing, alert, energetic, AND found her voice! It was exactly what most of us expected, but how quickly she came to life was still mouth-dropping funny. Guess I better back up a little so you understand. For the past couple of years, Mr. & Mrs. Neighbor lived next door to Host before they moved to another house. Brother and SIL became the best of friends with Neighbors. And it didn't take us women long to realize that SIL has the hots for Mr. Neighbor. For the longest, each of us suspected it, but kept it to ourselves. Then one day someone mentioned it and the rest said, "Okay, so I'm not the only one that noticed that. It is totally obvious, isn't it!" She does everything she can to get close to him .... asking him to drop stuff off to her at work, having to step over to his house while wifey is at work to get something she "accidentally" left over there, repeatedly having him come over to 'help her' with something she just can't do on the computer, conveniently having to use the laptop on the couch where he has to sit close, instead of the desktop, wearing 'sexy' attire when he is going to be around (eewww), and the obvious list goes on, and on, and on. Poor Brother doesn't seem to have a clue .... yet. Mrs. Neighbor may have caught on because this time, she made sure she sat next to her husband and close, between SIL and Mr. Neighbor. And Mr. Neighbor (currently serving a deferred, felony sentence and stays sloshed much of his off-work time), seems to be totally oblivious to what is going on, which makes SIL work even harder at getting his attentions, which gets pretty entertaining at times.
Okay, so Mr. & Mrs. Neighbor just walked in, and SIL found her legs, energy and voice. Mrs. Neighbor stopped in the living room to say her hellos and visit a moment, while Mr. Neighbor went to the kitchen to deposit the dishes they had brought, SIL following closely behind to 'help' him. She eagerly began chatting with him and telling him how good this food and that food was and made a point to tell him which desserts she had made and brought. She grabbed the plates, handed him one, took herself one, then her energy obviously dropped as Mrs. Neighbor walked in and she handed her a plate. Mr. Neighbor asked, "Haven't you all eaten yet?" I couldn't resist, I spoke up and said, "All of us except her have eaten." He looked so darned puzzled! She hadn't even eaten with her own husband and kids, she had waited to eat with Mr. Neighbor!
So everyone is eating, nibbling and chatting, but not quite all together. Half of us or so are trying to visit with everyone. SIL only visited with Brother and the Neighbors, and the Neighbors visited only with Brother, SIL, and Son 1, ignoring the rest of us. I think maybe they did say a couple of words at one point to Host. The air is chilling down, kids are wound up from desserts and over stimulation and keep running in and out and holding the door open to talk to each other, which is typical and expected of kids at this point. But that ended up letting little dogs run in. As three of them darted in and ran down the hallway to check out the excited giggles in the kids' room, Mr. Neighbor finally spoke to me. He glared at me and, words slurred from too much 'sauce', said, "Dogs stink!" I just shrugged my shoulders, smiled, and went on down the hall to make sure the kids weren't eating something the dogs would grab. Although I had been immediately catching the dogs and putting them back out, on that note, Cousin B and I decided it was time to let our Fur Balls stay in for a bit and take a nap in our laps.