Preparedness files back online

When I closed down the old blog, I saved the files, but didn’t expect to ever post them online again. I’ve reconsidered that decision and made some of them available once more. The files are not complete,  and I don’t have time to update them as I would like to, but they are at least out there. The url is Disaster Preparedness. Comments and suggestions welcome.

Life, and death

My grandson and I “processed” (in other words, slaughtered and butchered) seven chickens on Friday. It wasn’t a pleasant experience for any of us, least of all for the first chicken, the Rhode Island Red rooster. Nick didn’t cut deep enough for him to bleed out quickly, and I ddn’tnotice until after the rooster had hung upside down in the killing cone for much longer than should have been necessary.  The others went quickly, but it’s never something you enjoy. I’ll do it again–I have 50 Red Ranger chicks that will be ready for processing the first week in November. Butt I’ll never take it for granted.

Nick said he thought he might become a vegetarian. I’m glad he reacted that way, though I don’t think he’ll stick with it. But I’m much happier for him to be distressed by it than to not be affected. Whether killing animals for food is morally right or not, I can’t judge. All I know is that it has to be done as mercifully and humanely and quickly as possible.

I don’t miss the rooster–he was extremely aggressive and had injured all of us at one point or another.  But  he was beautiful, and I’ll miss him crowing in the mornings.

One of the cockerels is stewing with carrots, onions and garlic right now, and the flavor is unbelievably good.  I can’t eat it without thinking of the living chicken, though. I don’t know whether I’ll get over that or not.

Winding down the summer

My grandson came to get some computer help this morning, and while he was here, I prevailed on him to help me get the parsnips planted. I think I’m planting them at the wrong time of year, but I planted them anyway. I’m going to put another bed of beets in as well. Spinach and cabbage are in the ground already, and this afternoon, I’ll be picking up the garlic I ordered from Seven Springs. I have more lettuce planters to get ready, and herbs to plant. In spite of the flea beetles and squash bugs, this is the most productive garden I’ve ever had. I have one more section to expand into, and that will do it, I think. If I grew any more than I’m growing now, I’d never be able to handle the harvest–I’m having enough trouble as it is.

The meat chicks are just about four weeks old today, and growing like crazy. In another week, I’ll let them out of the hoop house during the day. They already know that when I come inside the fencing, it means they’re going to get fed–they crowd the door when I try to get in. So I think it will be safe to let them free-range inside the large fenced area and be confident that they’ll come in at night.

Dymble is clearly ready to start having fun with the girls–his musk glands have developed to the point where odor is apparent. It’s not really that unpleasant, but it is noticeable. Willie, the new younger buckling, shows no interest yet whatsoever. I hope he’s going to be ready to breed at all by October.

I also am praying that what looks like pregnant goats is all in my imagination. But Charlotte and Tabby really do look pregnant, and Dymble had the opportunity. It won’t be a disaster if that should be the case, because I was going to breed him to Charlotte anyway. I just did not want kids in December! And I didn’t want him anywhere near his mother or half-sister. Cupid doesn’t look pregnant, but Tink is suddenly looking considerably more round than she did. The other concern is that Charlotte and Tabby should be getting more calories if they’re pregnant. I would be giving them a couple of pounds a day each of grain if I knew for sure, and probably oats as well as sunflower seeds in the evenings. I may start doing that anyway, just to build them up a bit before they go into heat, if they aren’t pregnant.

Finally, the solar system has turned out to be inadequate to run the well pump. It’s handling everything else just fine, but between the lack of sun this summer and the heavy demands of the pump, the batteries were getting discharged too much too often. The long-term answer is more solar panels, but I can’t afford enough more of them right now to make a big difference. I considered a generator, but the solar installer pointed out that I do have grid power here, and that my alternator has the capability of charging the batteries from an AC source. So I’m going to have Bill and Junior come back and dig a trench from the shed up to the trailer, lay 10/2 Romex in it in conduit, and then the solar installer will come back and hook that up to the inverter. The pump will be off the solar altogether for now, and the AC can assist in charging the batteries. It’s not the solution I would have liked to have, but it’s the least expensive one right now. The one thing I did right with this system was to buy the best alternator and charge controllers on the market, so even though I didn’t buy enough panels, I have options for dealing with problems that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And having to cope with the problems has taught me a lot more about living without utilities than I would have known otherwise. So in the long run, I’m not unhappy about the situation.

Tomatoes must be canned soon–I’m losing too many to rot because I haven’t had time to pick them. I did can beets, and made a batch of jam with the aronia berries. The autumn olives are ripening, so I must start picking them soon. It never ends 🙂

New fencing, new goat

It has become obvious, in the last few weeks, that Mr. Dymble, this year’s little gray buckling, would have to be separated soon from his mother and sisters. From all the girls, in fact, unless I wanted to have kids born in December. So the buck enclosure that my son built in June was put into use, even though it’s not quite finished and doesn’t have the fencing it will eventually have. Dymble was not amused.

I had planned to buy a wether as a companion for him anyway, but when I called the person I hoped to buy it from, she had only another buckling. I thought about that for a while and decided it wasn’t a bad idea to have another completely unrelated buck here. So I drove out to Bristol and picked him up. He’s a pretty little red boy with a splash of white on his side, so like a little painted pony that I think I’m going to name him “Li’l Paint.” Unofficially, he’s Willie.

He’s much smaller than Dymble, though only nine days younger. His breeder separates the kids from the dams at birth and bottle feeds them, and believes in weaning them at three months. I had not realized what a difference that could make in a kid’s growth, and I’m particularly glad now that I chose not to do things that way.

My helpers came the day I brought him home and built another strip of fencing across the pasture, so there is now a 30-foot buffer strip separating the boys from the girls, and just in time too, I think. Willie is not sexually mature yet, but Dymble definitely is, and it’s not unheard of for a buck to get a doe pregnant right through a fence, especially the 4″ welded wire fencing I’m using.

So here is Willie, still in the back of the truck.willie

And the two of them, sniffing noses for the first time. The difference in size isn’t obvious from this angle and at this distance, but it’s quite noticeable when they’re standing in front of you.




Two of the big projects are finished, or at least the major part of them is done. The electric netting is up around the hoop house for the meat chickens, and the second goat pasture is set up. It’s only 32′ x 48′ at the moment, but will be added to on a regular basis. It will eventually fill the whole area on the opposite side of the driveway from the first pasture. At this point, I don’t know whether I’ll fence it all with regular stock panels, or do some of it with hog panels. I’d like to add pigs next year, but that’s going to depend on a lot of variables, including, of course, money.

Those two projects were the last bits of planned infrastructure here, so it was a great relief to have them mostly done. There is a long list of other things to do, of course! But everything else is an improvement on, or an expansion of, what’s already in place. Pictures forthcoming.

Rain roof

I don’t have pressurized water in the garden, so I’ve been looking for some way to irrigate that doesn’t involve carrying sprinkler can after sprinkler can of water from the nearest rain barrel. In Asia, rain is often captured with small roofs that have bamboo gutters going to some kind of holding tank. I’ve wanted to do something like that but didn’t quite know where to get started. Last month, my son came out here for a week to do some work on the farm, and brought with him two dozen Topsy-Turvy tomato planters. He’d built supports for them in his own back yard, and his wife had sent me the extra ones she didn’t have room for. A light bulb came on. Why not put a roof on the Topsy-Turvy supports and use that to capture rain for the garden? The obvious place to put the supports was at the top of the slope that the garden is on, and with a big tank sited there, I’d also have good water pressure for the rest of the garden. As it happens, I already had a 275-gallon IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container), which used to hold non-potable water, perfectly fine for the garden.

This isn’t a great picture of it, but you get the idea. The roof is roughly 30 feet long, six feet high at the bottom and eight feet high at the top. I haven’t hung the Topsy-Turvy planters yet. The 275-gallon tank is at the right, with an elbow running from the gutter on the bottom of the roof. The roof itself is ordinary tin, the same sort of roofing you see on farm outbuildings all over the south. It’s raining right now, so it will be interesting to see how much water I get in the tank for the amount of precipitation in the rain gauge.

The next project will be to run drip pipe to all the garden beds, with a timer on the hose bibb at the bottom of the tank. I’ll also need to put a tarp back over it, both to protect the plastic from UV radiation and to keep algae from growing in it.


I’ve just had my first experience–or rather my first two experiences–with WWOOF-ing. The first was a disappointment, the second was amazing. The first young lady who arrived seemed very enthusiastic at first, but left within 24 hours. The second stayed almost a week and I’d have been happy to keep her the rest of the summer. She had traveled widely in Asia, taught for three years in Korea, kept her own goats and chickens as a young teenager, and shared so many of the same interests as me that it was almost like having another daughter. She may be back in August, and will be very welcome.

Among the things we accomplished while she was here was to clean out the barn and the chicken coop. The barn was much much worse than I had thought. It took both of us working for three mornings to finish it, and the result is an enormous pile of urine and dropping soaked straw in one corner of the garden. It’s going to rot down into a fantastic compost and will go on the garden next spring, or possibly even before then. The coop was much easier, and I’m determined not to let the barn ever get that bad again. One problem is that the center of the barn floor is much lower than the surrounding areas, so that will need to get filled in. It was much more level when I cleaned it the last time, so I’m not sure why such a depression had formed.

The garden is going well–we’ve been eating snap peas until I’m almost tired of them. The squash is beginning to come in, the tomatoes will be ripening in no more than another week, and we’ve been snacking on blueberries for a couple of weeks. The blackberries are beginning to ripen too, so canning season is upon me. In one way, it’s my favorite time of year, and in another my nemesis. Canning is hot, laborious, tiring work, and while I love to see the results, sometimes I get tired of the process. In fact, I have eight half-gallon jugs of sauerkraut that must be canned before they get way beyond their prime, and I’ve been putting off doing it. They need to be put up in pint jars, because I can’t eat more than that in a couple of meals, and my refrigerator space is so restricted that I can’t have much in the way of leftovers. But that’s 32 pints, and I don’t know where the heck I’m going to put that many.

In addition to canning, it’s cheese-making time again. While my helper was here, we made a gallon batch of feta, but I’ve got another two gallons in the milk refrigerator that must be used for something quickly. So tomorrow do I can sauerkraut? Make cheese? Pick blackberries? There isn’t enough time for everything, and I can’t work into the evening day after day as I used to do. By the time the critters are fed and put up, I’m ready to crash.

I think the kraut has to come first.

Fun with chickens

Every time I go out of town, something happens. This time I thought I had everything under control. Three pages of detailed checklists for my grandson to follow. Practice runs, where he did all the chores and I just watched and reminded him when he missed something. Phone calls around the time when he would be at my house. Putting off separating the kids from their mother until after I get back (putting off milking, in other words). And then came the call from him: “Uh, grandma, there’s a chick running around in the incubator.”

Oops. When I began putting eggs in the incubator, I calculated the number of days not just to hatching but to when they would need to be moved to a different incubator with just heat, no fan and no egg turner. And then I added another day to give me time to acquire the second incubator after I got back home. Somewhere in there my arithmetic was off by at least four days. Thank God, I have a friend with an incubator that I can  borrow.  I walked my grandson through setting up the small brooder, lining it with paper towels, and putting in the feed and water dishes. Last night there was a second chick, and I’m sure there will be at least several more before I get home late tonight. He’s getting a crash course in animal husbandry, lol.

Living consciously

Living “consciously” or “intentionally” seems to be the new buzz phrase. All well and good, but I wonder how many people actually internalize the concept and are able to fulfill it. Living consciously doesn’t mean buying your produce from the farmer’s market and then running a completely unknown amount of water down the drain to wash it off–just for example. Pushing the thermostat up two degrees for the a/c or down two degrees for the heat is laudable, but you still don’t know how much gas or electricity you used until the bill comes, and how many people look beyond the cost to the actual consumption numbers? Kilowatt-hours is a meaningless term to most people. Please understand–I’m not saying that everyone ought to know what it means. The problem is that our way of life is so divorced from the fundamentals of survival that it’s really difficult for most people to see the relationship between their routine tasks and the resources used by those tasks.

All that changes when the power goes out and water has to be brought in (and sometimes disposed of as well). When heat has to be provided with a fireplace or wood stove, assuming you’re lucky enough to have one. When cooking is done over coals, on the gas or charcoal grill–or you just open cans and eat the contents cold. What does everyone want during those hours? For the electricity to come back on, so life can go back to “normal.” Back to where their use of energy and other resources is unconscious again, significant only if they get an unpleasant surprise when the bill arrivsd. And even then, the emphasis is on the immediate personal cost, not on the long term societal consequences.

I’ve chosen not to live that way, though there are some energy inputs in my life that I have no personal control over. That is always going to be true if you live in any kind of community, and it is probably not possible nowadays to live completely outside of one. Try going out into the wilderness (assuming you can find one) barefoot, naked and bare-handed and see how long you survive. The simplest clothing and hand tools were made by someone else from raw materials made by others, and transported and sold by yet others. An individual has little control over the resource consumption of those processes. Yes, we can choose to boycott some companies, based on their practices, and we can buy our food as locally as possible. But we don’t have many options. And many people have few choices at all to move away from their unconscious lifestyle, much as they might want to.

So why am I posting this bit of a rant? Only to get people thinking. I don’t want to see “living consciously” go the way of many other trends. Even though most of us cannot control all our resource consumption, we can certainly control some of it. We can start looking at how we use the resources available from us, and begin to think about how to reduce that consumption.

Solar finally, yes!

Not actually in service yet, but finished. The electric company won’t be coming out until next week to turn the grid power off. But I’ve seen it working. At the moment, I’m devouring the owner’s manual for each piece of equipment to make sure I understand how to use it, and to make a list of questions to ask the installer when he comes back. One concern has been addressed–most of our usual electric loads were running, including the water pump coming on, during the test period, and even though it was dusk, the panels were still generating more than we were using. The only things that weren’t on were my computer and my guest’s computer. The tv and satellite box were running, lights were on in almost every room, and the weather station, its little associated netbook, the modem and the internet switch were all on. I’ll probably still make sure the tv is unplugged when I run the toaster or iron, and turn other things off when the crockpot is in use. But I’m not worried that I’ll have to be paranoid about disconnecting one load before I can connect another one, or that I won’t be able to watch baseball games in the evening unless everything else is unplugged.

More when I’ve had a chance to live with the system for a while.