Friday, August 11, 2017

How To Plan For A Life Turned Upside Down

"Do your best to change the world, Do your best to be ready for changes in the world"
~Chinese proverb~

When was the last time you had a power outage that lasted for more than three hours? Has your neighborhood ever flooded or come through a landslide? Have you ever been laid off and unsure where grocery money was going to come from? Has wildfire ever threatened your home? Have you ever been suddenly thrust into an unsafe situation?

The world as we know it is different for everyone. The many ways our world can, and is, changing is staggering. So a radical change to our world as we know it can be anything to suddenly being without power for days (which happens to more people than you may realize), to a massive flood (been there, done that), to an unforeseen job loss, nearby chemical spill (which yours truly has lived through) ... you get the idea. Even in a minor power outage, we cannot pump gas, pay for anything electronically, and eating out if there's no power at home is not an option either. You will not be able to cool your home by either A/C or fan in a power outage, you won't want to be looking in the fridge every 15 min, and what about flushing the toilet? Let's not forget food shortages brought on by a massive snowstorm or being cut off without transportation after a flood or snowstorm (been there, done that too). So, the number of ways our world can change radically is staggering. But we don't have to wring our hands and moan, we can do something, lots in fact.

I am well known for having backup plans on top of backup plans. Once, it was only for childcare, but as the kids grew, having a Plan B, and Plan C, and so on, spread throughout my life. In these challenging times, we can plan for many life surprises, and not only end up in control of our lives but also change our mindset. Think about it, if you can plan for a sudden layoff, your attitude changes. Let's say one day, you and 150 of your co-workers are informed your factory is closing next month. This has happened to so many people, I can't count that high. So, how do you plan for this BEFORE it actually happens to you? Times are hard financially and you're only living two paychecks ahead of panic, so investing $200 in stocks isn't going to happen anytime soon. But let's set aside the investing, money security for a minute. Let's think about something more basic. Food.

If you're laid off and you have some food put by, your attitude towards this crisis will be different than the outlook of someone who has not planned for just such an occasion. It will still be a huge upset, but you won't have to wonder how you'll feed the spouse, two kids and the family dog. I've been there, and I can tell you that visiting a pawn shop to trade in jewelry so I can feed the kids isn't fun. So, when you go grocery shopping, make a list. If your grocery list calls for three cans of kernel corn, buy four cans. If you were going to get two pounds of ground beef, and you can afford it, get three. I know you might not be able to do this all the time, very few people can. Every time you go shopping, look realistically at your list. One week get a couple extra cans of vegetables, the next shopping trip, get a bit of extra meat. The next shopping trip, consider getting a home first-aid kit, or improving on one you may already have.

The next thing you need to do is keep track of these extras. I used to work in retail, and we had a system of rotation that is summarized by FIFO.
"First In, First Out".
If it's easier for your family, get a permanent black magic marker and write on the can or box the date you bought it. Meat can be wrapped and sealed in a freezer bag. Be sure and write the date purchased on the bag before the meat goes in. If someone in your house bakes, consider buying an extra bag of flour. (TIP: if you can freeze it for a few days before putting it in a storage container. That way you won't be unpleasantly surprised by small, black, wriggling things. We found this out the hard way)

Using this method of buying a few extras as we could, we've been able to set aside large tubs of coffee, drink crystals, peanut butter, meats of all kinds, yeast for baked goods, pasta, a variety of sauces, and the list goes on. I remember having to visit the pawn shop before the grocery store. I recall all too well that feeling of fear, depression, and hopelessness. I also remember living in Northern Ontario and being snowed in with my spouse-at-the-time being gone already for a few days. I didn't drive, but I had a toddler to feed. Again, having food stores made all the difference in my attitude and outlook.

The wisdom of food storage cannot be overstated. Everyone, regardless of income level, tax bracket, location or age should consider doing what they can to put some food by. The more, the better. Give careful thought to storage, record keeping and how all that can be achieved cheaply.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

What Do Wasps And Hot Peppers Have In Common?

Welcome back!

I hope you've had a productive and peaceful couple of weeks. It's hard to believe that we're already zipping through the first week of August. Pretty soon my youngest will be getting back on the school bus and the day-to-day focus will change. But for now, we enjoy the nights we can stay up a little later.

There's been a lot of activity around our house lately, most of it can't be witnessed in the normal way. I go out back to the garden every morning to check on things, and I might notice a large cucumber that didn't seem to be there the day before. Or the tomato that has quite suddenly turned red. This past week, while taking out one of the rare weeds in my garden, I glanced up at the back of the house to notice a grey paper wasp nest under the eaves.

I was not impressed.
Because it hangs over the stairs to the basement (my only access to the basement where we do laundry), I was even less impressed than you'd expect.
After a couple of days, a can of wasp spray was located, and I waited until full-on dark to spray the nest as best I could from the ground. It was quite nerve-wracking, but for two days, I was relieved to not see any waspish activity. Until yesterday.

So another can was purchased, and this time the woman I rent the house from climbed up on a step ladder for a better shot and sprayed the hell out of the nest. Also at full dark. Let me just add in here that I think RAID wasp spray might be my favorite wasp killer on the market right now. Normally, I try and have a live and let live attitude, except for rodents. And wasps. Neither has any place in or on my home.

The garden seems to be settling into the maturation phase. The tomatoes are all in various stages of girth-building and reddening.

I'm confident we'll have lots to can, although I think we'll be doing them all up in small batches. More on that later. My two blueberry plants started to fruit before I could plant them back in the spring, so they've been living in the containers they came home in. I'm happy to report we got about twenty fat, tasty, dark blue berries from them! The last three were snacked on just yesterday. I think it's safe to plant them into their containers now. They're not headed for the garden because I want to be able to control how they over-winter and how their soil is managed. So for this year, and next, they'll live in planters.

The two hot pepper plants have exploded with peppers.

I didn't expect much from them initially, so it's safe to say I'm quite pleased with them. The bell peppers...nothing. They have the beginnings of flowers, wonderful leaves, but nothing else. The kale has been eaten down to the stem by something that has proven to be elusive, although I know there's no slugs in the garden. Out of the five plants I put in, only one looks like it might possibly live to mature. Disappointing for obvious reasons, but I was really looking forward to making my own kale chips this fall. The cucumbers are in various stages of maturation as well. There is one that I really should harvest it's getting rather large.

 The rest of the cucumber and the zucchini are all following the large one's example. My compost bin is coming along nicely too. I worried I was overloading it with scraps and peelings, but I've also added (mostly) dry grass clippings and leaves last fall. I haven't had to stir the things yet, the layers seem to be doing pretty well so far. There's no obnoxious smell, and as I understand it, that's a good sign.

Harley (our German Shepherd cross) and I saw a yearling black bear just the other morning not more than 50 feet from our house. He was coming up from the pond, and seemed as startled to see us as we were to see him. He took off and we headed rather briskly back to the house in case he was younger than I assumed and still hanging out with his mother. We haven't seen him before, so I think he was just traveling through and got thirsty. I've kept a close eye on the compost bin and my garden. Neither has been touched. an acquaintance down the road reports his compost bin was turned over, and I wonder if it's the same bear looking to fatten up as our days get shorter. The white-tailed deer I saw before with her then brand new fawn hasn't made an appearance lately and I can't help but wonder if they were only resting in the area until the fawn grew strong enough to relocate to a less populated area. I haven't seen the rabbits lately either. I got used to watching them watch us every time I took the dog out. I'd love to see an increased owl and hawk population, but not at their expense.

My "little" update has grown a fair bit longer than I intended. I'll set this aside for now and go see if the fog has burned off enough for me to get a few photos out in the garden.

Do you have a garden? Do you have a collection of herbs on the windowsill?