Sunday, November 25, 2012

Day 36- chimney trouble

Sometime in the night the chimney started leaking into the basement.  I woke up to the strangest beep-beep noise.  Strange, because without the constant hum of electronics, it was so out of place.  It took me a bit to figure out it was the carbon monoxide detector.  I ran down and checked the fire, it was nearly out anyway, so I left it to die on it's own.  I opened the basement window to let in some fresh air, and let out the smoke. 

This morning it's frigid in here.  The carbon monoxide detector has stopped beeping.  I can't believe the boys and Husband slept through that.  But I'm not lighting a fire, not even in the sunroom.  We'll be cleaning chimneys today, and for that we'll need them cold.

Too bad we didn't think of it while the weather was still nice.   Oh well.  It needs to be done a few times a year anyway.

I have a sore throat this morning.  I think it's from the smoke last night, but I don't want to wait and see.  I dig out the little propane camp stove and make a pot of green tea with yarrow.  It's the first time I've used the little stove in years, and I almost don't remember how.

When the tea is ready I grab a book, wrap myself up in a blanket, read and drink tea while I wait for daylight or everyone else to wake up.

Daylight comes first.  They're probably awake, but unwilling to get out of bed and face the cold.  I yell from the bottom of the stairs.  "Wakey-wakey, boys".

They slowly join me in the kitchen, rubbing their hands and arms.  I tell them what they slept through last night.  #3 says he heard it, but he thought he was dreaming.  Then he tells us about a wonderful video game he invented in his sleep.  He's going to have a bad day.

Husband and the boys drink their coffee and then get started on the sunroom chimney.  It's pretty simple, straight down and empties into the firebox.  I empty out the ashes and soot, then start a fire.  We warm up and make breakfast before they get started on the basement furnace.

The basement chimney itself isn't too bad.  It's the pipes from the back of the furnace to the chimney that clog all the time.  They're on an odd angle with two elbows.  They all have to be unscrewed, taken outside, and beaten out with a stick and a brush.  It takes a couple of hours before they finish, and they're all filthy afterward.

I melt and boil snow in the sunroom so they can wash up.  I tell them to leave their clothes in the tub for me to wash.

After lunch they go out to work the horses.  I use their dirty water to wash their clothes, then boil clean water for a second wash.  Soot is very messy, so I use real laundry detergent.  Eventually I have the worst of it beat out and I take their clothes out to hang on the line.  My fingers are froze by the time I finish.  It's hard to believe I was outside in a t-shirt just a few days ago.

Supper is roast beef, but I'm late peeling potatoes for it.  Husband and the Bigs are done with the horses and figure that's enough for today, so they're in early.  Everyone's a little cranky.  We eat supper without saying much.  I really don't want to say it, but we really should do Brother's, Dad's and Diego's chimneys, too.  The weather should only get worse from this point forward, so the sooner the better.  I think they're all easier than the basement though.  Ah, I'll surprise them in the morning.

We play cards for a bit, but the Bigs are squabbling.  I've had enough.  I take my book and go to bed.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Day 35- Winter?

We enjoyed a couple of beautiful spring like days again, though I was worried that the freezers wouldn't keep, before waking this morning to three inches of snow.  The temperature dropped overnight and the wind is howling.  I have both fires burning trying to take the chill off.  Three inches of snow doesn't provide much insulation against the wind, and with no blower on the furnace it takes a lot for the heat to spread.  We may need to move the boys beds downstairs and seal off the upstairs.  We've had a pretty mild fall so far, but winter may finally be here.  At least with the snow I won't have to wait all day for water.  I'm really behind on the dishes and laundry again.

Husband and the boys tested the new hay wagon/school bus out by going back in the woods for firewood.  The basement is full, and the woodshed just one row shy.  Samson managed the wagon on his own on the way out, but was really struggling with it loaded.  They hitched Knightmare up to team with him, and she did ok.  She tried to break away a few times, but the weight of the wagon prevented her.  They still wouldn't trust her on the small cart on her own, but she'll learn.

I made my last potato packet with lemon pepper last night.  The jar is empty.  I do have a fair bit of the spices I use all the time stored, but I think I had best start an indoor herb garden and experiment with what I can grow before I run out of everything.  I'm glad I dug out the thyme, marjoram, oregano, and lady's mantle from the perennial bed in September.  That'll give me a bit of a head start.  I think a large planter of kale might be a nice addition for winter too.

I'm starting to worry about yeast.  It looks like my flour supply is going to outlast my yeast supply, and the yeast I have is a bit aged, so I'm having to use a bit more of it to get the same effect.  I was sure I had another vacuum sealed package, but I've triple checked the cupboards and can't find it.  I started some sourdough experiments, but I've never had good luck with them before.  I hope I'm not just wasting flour and potatoes.  I've opened another bag of flour now, leaving 5 bags in the basement.  That's about 1 bag a month, so we should be ok until spring. 

Honey is getting low again.  Husband wants to wait for a bit more snow so he can take the sleigh to the Hutterite village, or a melt to take the horse cart.  The cart would be ok right here, right now, but we'd run the risk of hitting deeper snow or none at all within a few miles.  And you never know when a winter storm is going to dump a foot or two on top of you.  For now we'll stay put, and go without, since it's just not worth the risk of getting stranded.

Dad and Brother  spent the nice days fishing and hunting, doing well with both.  They got a dozen fish in one afternoon, several partridge, and a moose calf.  The smoker is down at Brother's camp so Sil can keep an eye on it.  They're making jerky.  Sil has the moose fat rendering on their woodstove, though there wasn't a lot of it.  Sil and the girls have collected a lot of cattails and weeds, boosting their winter stores as well. 

Niece1 has taken to driving the horse cart pretty well.  Niece2 seems to think they're going to crash.  I'm not sure if she's afraid of horses or her sister's driving.

Diego and Nira have asked for more potatoes.  I really don't want to part with them, even though I said we'd share when we brought them home.  They just seem to have gone through the first bag awfully fast.  They didn't even offer to trade any of the jars of pickles that they don't like.  I guess they've decided to eat them after all.  I know Diego helped dig them, but it was our meat that we traded for them, and more of our people that did the digging.  We'll stop and see the potato man again, but I don't think the odds are in our favour.

I spend the afternoon making more tallow candles.  I don't know if they'll make a good trade for honey, since the apiary would have beeswax, but maybe that won't matter at the village.  The demand for candles must be pretty high by now.  Although we find we're burning fewer candles by just going to bed earlier.  It means we're up before the sun, but everyone gathers in the kitchen in the mornings, so one candle is plenty.

I'll need to gather more jars to make more candles.  #2 is having a shoe problem.  He has the biggest feet, size ten, and no spares.  He'll be ok for winter, with his boots, and his rubber boots and steal toes are ok, but we'll have to keep our eyes open for shoes for him for next spring.  I could make slippers from the cow hides, but I don't think they'd hold up real well without soles.  Maybe we'll get lucky.  Thankfully everyone else has at least two pairs of spares, so they'll be ok for awhile.

Roast beef for dinner, soup for lunch, and pancakes for breakfast.  We're still doing well with food.






Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day 32- Hay Wagon

This morning over breakfast we discuss how to build a horse cart big enough to haul all of the kids back and forth to school.  We have an old truck frame that Husband had planned to turn into a hay wagon.  It's been sitting at the edge of the pasture rusting for the last 5 years.  A proper hay wagon would work much better to haul hay than our current horse cart as well.

Unfortunately though, it would be big and heavy.  Our horses aren't that big.  Husband decides to just take the axles off the frame.  The boys and I cut small trees and build a platform somewhat resembling a raft.  It's thinner than the axles, just wide enough to hold a bale of hay, but long enough to hold 5 bales.  We cut more trees and notch them out to create a fence type of side that we can lift off in three pieces.  We build a bench from logs for the driver.  The kids will have to sit on the platform.  We cut and trim logs for skis- winter is coming.

Husband uses his torches to cut the axles loose.  The tires are garbage though, so we debate what to use.  We decide to use the tires from the Yukon.  It means we won't be able to drive the Yukon again without replacing the tires and rims, but who knows if we're ever going to be able to drive it again anyway.

Husband and the Bigs build a yoke from logs.

At the end of the day it looks pretty good.  Tomorrow we'll test it out and see if the horses can handle it.

Meatloaf for supper, followed by an evening of cards.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Day 31- Village and Rivertown

We're going to town today.  First our village, then Rivertown.  We're hoping we can make some kind of deal with our old hay man.  It's a bit of a jaunt, but we can use the horses to haul the hay back to the house.

Pancakes for breakfast, stew on the stove for lunch.

We stop at Mom and Dad's and drop off bread.  We take their empty jerry cans, along with our own. 

We stop at Diego and Nira's to see how they're doing.  The injured pony is all healed up, so they decide to join us.  The boys stay there with the kids.

In our village we go to the library to exchange books.  I pick through the selection and fill a box with books I've already read.  I look up at the wall and see someone has added to my weed list.  More than one person, there's three different sets of handwriting.  I read over it quickly.  I'll have to bring a pencil and paper with me next time so I can copy these new finds.

We go to the store, mostly just to chat.  There isn't much news.  Someone made the trip to Southern City and back.  Supplies are running low everywhere.  More people have left and headed south.  They think there will be some kind of government relief closer to the cities.  Someone brought back potatoes from the potato man.  Most of the fields have been dug now.  Others brought a load of wheat and a load of turnips from another farmer.  There are more pumpkins lined on the shelves as well.

The community center has been opened up and left open.  There's a collection of library books there, some board games and cards, and toys for the kids.  They're using the community kitchen to feed the townsfolk who can't feed themselves.  Everyone has to bring in something to add to the pot, but everyone gets fed and boredom gets alleviated.  Some of the parents are teaching classes there as well.

We go to check out the community center.  There are kids of all ages playing, reading, doing school work.  A lady greets us and gives us a tour.  Nira would like to send the kids to school, but she's not sure how she'd get them there everyday.  The lady says to just bring them whenever they can.  It's all very informal.

We find a few cars with fuel on the way to Rivertown.  We go into the library, where the librarian is actually working.  She says she doesn't have much else to do anyway.  I trade the box of books for a new selection.  She gets me a second box full as well.  Rivertown used to run our village library, but it was closed due to budget cuts.  They still have boxes of books in the basement that were never sorted or put away. 

We go downtown, and see people milling about everywhere.  The grocery store and hardware store are both open, running bartering type business.  The grocery store shelves are nearly empty of non-perishables, though there is one shelf filled with mostly home canned goods and the meat cooler is filled with assorted home butchered meats.  Like the store in our village, the shelves have filled with pots, utensils, clothing, furnishings and such.

At the hardware store we see more of the same.  That's the real reason everyone should shop local.  I doubt Walmart's store managers are even showing up, let alone running a barter business to help people survive.

The school is open in town, all ages, all religions, bilingual.  There are parents teaching classes, as well as two of the actual teachers who live in town. 

The hospital is open, though the doctors are gone.  The nurses who live in town are taking turns treating patients. 

The community center is open.  A community kitchen is set up, with the same rules of everyone contributing getting fed.  Tables set up with board games, puzzles and cards.  There's a sign on the door advertising a dance for Saturday night.  That would be fun, but it's a long way to travel in the night.

We go to see the hay man.  He would be willing to trade hay for diesel.  Right now he has no way to load the hay and has had to fence his cattle in around it to feed them.  We'll have to look for transports that still have diesel in them.

On the way back we stop at a house that used to have refurbished horse pulled equipment for sale.  The man there already has enough orders for hay cutters to keep him busy until spring.  He doesn't have enough parts to build everything people are asking for, but if we can take the side cutter off the tractor, the seat, find some decent wheels and lumber, he might be able to make it work- for half a cow.

When we leave there we decide we'll take a trip to see the Hutterites before we make a decision on that.

Back in our village we unload the books at the library, then go back to the community center.  I tell the lady who gave us the tour about the dance in Rivertown.  She writes up a sign and puts it on the door.  I ask her to put up another sign, asking local musicians if they'd be interested in playing at a dance here.  She thinks that's a great idea.

We leave Diego and Nira at their place, pick up the boys and leave.  We drop fuel off to Mom and Dad.  Brother, Sil, and the girls are there.  We share the news from town with them. 

The girls are interested in going to school- not as students, but as teachers.  We'd need to build another horse cart and teach them how to drive, but they could pick up the Littles and all the kids and take them all to school everyday.

Everyone is interested in the dance.  It would give us all a chance to get out and do something.  I hope people volunteer to play in our village.  It would be so much easier!

Back at home the boys put Samson and the cart away and do chores.  It's well past lunch already, so we decide to eat the stew for supper and call it a day.  We play monopoly until bedtime.




Monday, November 19, 2012

Day 30- A Month Without Power

The weather has been beautifully mild for this time of year.  It's rather unexpected.  We've been spending a fair amount of time each day gathering firewood.  While it may look like a mild winter ahead right now, it could turn into a late spring, and we don't want to be caught unprepared.

I finally finished with the bear lard, for a total of 13 quarts, not counting the ones I gave to Sil and Nira.  The dogs and birds ate cracklings for several days, mixed in with their feed.  I've started feeding the birds a scoop of doggy stew along with their grains and weeds.  I don't know how much longer the grains will last, but I do know I can't buy any more right now.

The banana bread is gone, so we're back to pancakes for breakfast for now.  We could have had eggs one day, the new chickens are really pulling their weight, but I decided to bake instead.  Cookies are a pain on the woodstove, with only room for one tray at a time in the oven.  I made a double batch of dough and was cursing them by the time I finished.  I hope the boys appreciate the effort.  I baked a cake and two pumpkin pies.  The pies were surprisingly the easiest, requiring the least amount of flour and dirty dishes.  I guess the boys will be spoiled this winter.

Husband and the Bigs are still working the horses for a couple of hours every morning.  Knightmare is an old hat at the stone boat now.  Husband doesn't trust her enough to try the cart yet though.  They're going to try to fix up the sleigh today.  I bought it at the auction a couple of years ago.  The wood was rotten, but the frame was solid.  The plan is to reinforce the sides and make a bench with thin trees, and use some 1X3s for the floor.  The lumber pile isn't in too bad of shape yet, but the more we conserve the longer it will last.

They built a lean-to on the cabin by the creek for the horses to get out of the weather.  We moved them back there semi-permanently, in part because we don't want anyone trying to steal them, but mostly because there just isn't enough grass in the pasture.  We can't waste hay.

Everyone is over their colds, and we did ok with cloth hankies.  Washing them isn't even all that bad.  I put them in a bucket, rather than the bathtub, and pounded them with the plunger.  We sure went through a pile of them though.  I took an old sheet and cut it into hanky size squares, and still had to wash them everyday.

We've been picking more weeds, digging more cattails, I even found another patch of rosehips that were in ok shape.


We're on our last roll of toilet paper.  I had really hoped it wouldn't come to this.  I've given everyone their own cloth to wipe with, and their own hook in the outhouse.  They're all responsible for cleaning it themselves. 

There hasn't been any rain, so Husband and the boys got water from Sanya and Roam again.  No baths, for the time being.  Everyone is getting kind of stinky too.  Oh well.  Snow will come eventually.

Lunches have been mostly soups and stews, with bread.  Suppers are mostly beef.   I'm trying to make room in the freezer for Mindy.  On the one hand, she may be bred and it would make sense to keep her.  On the other hand, we just don't have the hay to last the winter. 

We play board games almost every night, and read.  #4's reading has really improved.  The Littles do their school work in the mornings without even being told now.  Without the distraction of the tv and computers, they're much more agreeable. 

We keep busy, and try not to think too much about what might happen in the coming months.




Friday, November 16, 2012

Day 27-

My cold is somewhat better this morning, but I enjoy my tea with goat's milk and rosehip syrop anyway.  I give the boys theirs the same way.

When I got dressed this morning I realized I forgot about the laundry.  Oops.  Need to get some underthings washed.  The boys probably have a ton of stuff that needs wahing in their rooms as well.

Last night in bed I decided to skip the menu for today, and make balogna rolls for supper tonight.  I wasn't thinking about milk when I made the menu plan, so I had best take advantage of the opportunity.  I get the balogna, cheese and yellow beans out of the freezer.

I clean the bear fat out of the bowl and put it in the coffee pot to melt.  I drain the fat from the pot into the bowl and take it back to the fridge.  I've got 10 quarts of 'lard' from the two bears so far.  The doggy stew gets more cracklings added.

Banana bread for breakfast, bear stew for lunch, no need to make bread.  I only need to worry about getting supper on today.

Husband wants to go and see how Diego and Nira are doing today, and go into town to the library.  I want to stop at the flea market and see if they have any little glasses I can use to make candles.  We decide to give the horses the day off, and take them all back to the creek to graze while we do laundry.

Husband and the Bigs get Samson hitched and everyone loads their laundry onto the cart.  The boys walk with the other horses and let them all loose in the pen.

The water is frigid in the creek and we're all half drenched by the time the laundry is washed.  We hitch Samson back to the cart and take the laundry to the clothesline at the house.  We get it all hung up and then settle in by the fire to warm up.  We change into dry clothes and eat lunch.

The boys help me roll balogna rolls.  I put them in a roasting pan on the stove, rather than the usual glass pans.

We all go to Diego and Nira's together.  The boys can stay and visit with them while we go to town.  We take them a loaf of bread, a jar of bear lard, a dozen eggs, a bag of potatoes, and their sharpened knives.

Diego and Nira are happy to see us.  One of the ponies has injured his leg, so they haven't been able to go anywhere or do much the past few days.  He should be better in another day or two.  They have been working hard on firewood, and probably have enough cut for winter now, but it's all along the edge of the woods.

Nira's weed collection is doing well, and they're learning to like the variety of pickles.  She's not baking as often now, rationing some of the boxed mixes and supplies.  She never believed the blackout would last this long, but she's working on surviving the winter now.

Diego got really lucky and shot a deer a few days ago.  They butchered it and froze it, and even kept the bones and scraps for Tank.  He hung the hide on the side of the shed.  They saved the fat in a bucket outside, but aren't sure what to do with it.  Nira wants to try rendering it this time.

We take it in the house and she gets a big pot out to put it in.  I explain it's not hard, it just takes some time.  I explain the process to her.  I tell her to look for some cotton string to make candle wicks, and small jars or glasses to make them in.

We tell them about the people with the chickens and goat's milk.  They want to go with us next time.

Diego gets really quiet and serious.  He tells us he shot someone.  There was someone trying to steal the ponies in the night a few days ago, and even with Tank barking and Diego yelling, they wouldn't leave.  Diego took his cross bow out to scare the man off, but the man had a gun.  Diego shot him straight through the heart before the man had a chance to fire.  The pony spooked and that's when it hurt it's leg.  They buried the man by the woods.

Everything has been so peaceful and civilized up to this point, it's hard to believe people are getting desperate now, especially with all of the meat available at the flea market.  I think they must have wanted the ponies for travel, not food.

We take their library books, a few jars of pickles, and head to town.  They'd like a different veggie if there's anything available.

Town is pretty quiet, except at the store where a few people are chatting outside.  We go to the library first.  I hang one of my weed lists on the wall, so everyone can see it.  I exchange all of our books.  There's a much better selection today.  Either people are done with them, or are feeling more generous.  Either way, the library is growing with books filling several shelves.

At the store we learn that some people have gotten boxes of books from the bigger library in Rivertown.  They've started their own book exchange, and anyone who plans to travel to any of the other towns is being asked to take a box of books to exchange with them.  We have no plans to travel that far right now, but we'll keep it in mind in the future.

There are a couple of pumpkins available, some potatoes, and a jar of mustard.  That strikes me as funny for some reason, but I'm not sure why.  There's lots of meet available, hanging in the old beer cooler.  That also strikes me as funny.  I trade two jars of pickles for a pumpkin.  It seems a little steep, but I can only imagine things are likely to get more expensive.

We go to the flea market and I trade one candle and one jar of pickles for a box of small glasses.  I know Marsha gave me a deal, but she can see future candles in the works. 

We drop the pumpkin, a few glasses, and some books off at Diego and Nira's and pick up the boys. 

Back at home it's time for chores, supper, and some reading before bed.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 26- A Quiet Day

The headache is gone this morning, but my nose is running like crazy.  I add some yarrow leaves to my tea pot to help combat the cold.  A good dose of vitamin C would help too.  Instead of honey I use rosehip syrop to sweeten my tea.  It's wonderful to have milk in it again!  There's a bit of cream on top that I skim off for butter.  The boys get up, two with runny noses and two with stuffy heads.  I give them each the same treatment.  Husband gets up, not sick, and cheery.  Weirdo.  The boys take turns shaking the jar of cream and passing it around the table.

What to do today?  More bear fat to clean, drain, cool, reheat, jar.  More cracklings for the dogs and birds.  The boys go out and collect snow after breakfast.  It hasn't melted, but there isn't any fresh either.  We need to get water.  They do chores. 

Husband decides to try hitching Knightmare to the stone boat.  She starts out planning to take him for a wild ride, but soon discovers that's too much work.  She settles down and starts following his cues. 

I cut the leftover roast for hash, peel a large pot of potatoes and put them on to cook.  I chop some garlic and onion, and add it to the chopped roast in a skillet.  I start a batch of bread.  I get the soup pot from the fridge and put it on the stove for lunch today.

The Littles do their school work while I tidy the kitchen.  More banana bread for breakfast tomorrow, and the soup should be good for a couple more days, so there's not much to work on in the assembly line.

With the turkeys butchered and the geese and ducks moved into the chicken pen, it should be safe for me to plant some garlic and a few potatoes.  I'll check to see if the birds left any of the beets, carrots, and mangel roots in tact for seed as well. 

Planting garlic in the snow is chilly on the fingers!  I put most of it in the hugelkultur bed, and one bunch at the back of greenhouse #1.  I can't see any signs of the root crops, but then it could be just that they're well beneath the soil.  I decide to leave them and plant more in the spring if they don't come back.

Husband and the Bigs have Samson hitched to the cart and are loading buckets and barrels when I come around the house.  They go to Sanya and Roam's for water.  Roam's taping up a window when they arrive.  They had some prowlers around in the night.  They didn't go outside, and nothing seemed to have been touched on the property, except a rock was thrown through the window.  It seems an awful long way for kids to come causing mischief, but if it had been looters they would have done more damage.    Their dogs started barking though, so perhaps that scared the prowlers off.

Husband and the Bigs drop the water off at home, then go to Mom and Dad's to pick up their barrels and buckets.  They take them to get filled as well.  One final trip, they get water for brother and Sil.  As a thank you gift I send over a small roast and a jar of beets.

We have the bear soup for lunch, which is ok, but a tad strange.  I decide to thicken it tomorrow and turn it into stew.  I add a few more potatoes to it after lunch, along with some flour.  I roll out the bread, mix the potatoes into the skillet with the roast beef, and add some bear fat to it.

We cut and pile firewood in the afternoon for awhile.  The weather's warming and the snow is melting.  I hope winter holds off a bit longer.

Supper is served, soup is put in the fridge, the oven goes on the stove for bread.  When the first batch is done I cut a loaf open and smother it with the goat butter.  It's still somewhat milky, and I never worked the buttermilk out of it, but it tastes delicious!  The second batch goes in the oven while we tidy up. 

The boys and Husband play Battleship and chess after supper.  Once the bread is done I go to bed to read.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 25- Chicken Trade

I wake up with a headache this morning.  I think it's my sinuses, definitely pressure.  It snowed last night, just a couple of inches, and it's cold again.  The boys are tired of their endless pancake diet but make a batch anyway.  I get the fat bowl and clean the hardened tallow.  I drain more fat from the pot into it and take it back outside.  The hardened tallow goes into the coffee pot to melt.  I scoop cracklings out to add to the doggy stew and chicken feed.

I dig some bananas out of the freezer to bake banana bread.  I add half a jar of jam to each batch, leaving out the sugar.  I have to open a new box each of baking soda and baking powder.  I have one more box of baking soda, but this is the last powder.  I have no idea how long they should last for.  I don't remember needing to replace them often, but I never needed to worry about how to replace them before.  I write them on the list on the fridge.  You never know- I might be able to find some somewhere.  The first batch of banana bread goes in to bake.

There's enough chili left over for lunch today.  The turkey soup is mostly water, so I dump the remnants into the doggy stew and wash the pot.  We're getting low on water again.  I send the Littles out to do chores and brush clean snow off the cars, tables, lawn chairs, etc.  It's not deep enough to take off the ground.  They fill two big pots and set them beside the stove to melt. 

The Littles do their work books.  Husband and the Bigs go out to work the horses.  I ask them to leave Samson until after lunch.  I want to go see about getting more chickens today.  They give Knightmare an extra long work out today, and she's starting to get it.

I set the clean pot on the counter to plan for lunch tomorrow. I take a package of stewing bear out to defrost in it.  I check my calendar for supper tonight.  I'm off schedule already, after the beans and chili.  Last night was supposed to be roast beef, and hash tonight.  Tonight will be roast beef instead.  Not a big deal.  I get a roast out of the freezer and put it in a roasting pan.  We've got enough bread for today, and banana bread for breakfast tomorrow.  I put the second batch in the oven.

I peel potatoes for supper and tomorrows soup, adding water to both pots.  I add squash, weeds, chives, and a carrot to the soup pot. 

The last batch of banana bread goes in the oven to bake.  I go to the basement and get two small boxes.  I put about 2 pounds of potatoes in each, a jar of dried weeds, a couple of onions.  I debate about other canned goods, but don't want to lose the jars.  I add a couple of carrots and onions instead.  Upstairs I take the banana bread out, remove the oven, and put the roast and chili on the stove.  I pour the melted fat into clean pasta jars.  That gives me an idea.

I add a small candle to each of the boxes.  I'll have to make more candles for trading.  I add 'small jars' to the list on the fridge.  I bag two loaves of banana bread and put one in each box.  I bag another and set it on the side.  I put a copy of the weed list in each box.

Husband and the Bigs come in for lunch.  The boys load my boxes and two empty cages on the cart after lunch.  They go with us to Mom and Dad's. 

Dad has a couple of empty jerry cans he'd like filled if we happen across a car that hasn't been drained.  I give Mom a loaf of banana bread.  She peaks inside one of the boxes.  They'd like a couple of chickens themselves.  Mom packs a small box with odds and ends- catsup and sauce packets from restaurants, a box of kraft dinner, a can of soup, a can of carrots, and a couple packets of microwave popcorn. 

We leave the boys with them to visit, and go to the flea market.  Husband doesn't trust my directions, so he stops in to check with Marsha.

At the closest house that had advertised chickens we find out they've already traded or butchered all they want to part with.  At the second house the people want all three boxes for one bird.  We go to the third house, which is much further away.  We get lucky there.

It's a small farm with an assortment of goats, chickens, ducks and cows.  They don't have horses, so their travels are very limited.  They haven't had many people come to trade for chickens, and they have a lot of them.  With no feed available for sale, and winter setting in, they have to butcher them or get rid of them.  They happily trade us 16 hens for the three boxes of food.  They probably would have given us more, but that's all the cages will hold.

The lady looks through the boxes and looks at the jar of dried weeds.  They're running low on veggies.  I show her the weed list and we go for a quick walk around her yard so I can point out the ones she's not sure of. 

We have a long, friendly chat.  They don't get many visitors and don't have any family around.  We talk about the goats.  They have dairy goats.  Ours are meat.  They have two that are due to kid soon.  I ask what they would want to trade for one of the soon to be moms.  They aren't interested in trading them at this time, but they offer us some milk.  They'll trade milk any time we want to come back, and maybe a pregnant goat in the spring.

We find a car on the highway that has just enough fuel to fill the jerry cans.  We go back to Mom and Dad's.

Dad and the boys have built a small chicken pen out of logs.  It looks like the cutest little log cabin dog house.  They've built a little fence around it, weaving together thin trees and branches.  The boys trim the wings off of 4 hens and put them in the pen.  Dad figures that's enough for them.

We drop 8 hens off at our house, trimming their wings but keeping them inside for today.  We put the goat's milk in the outside fridge.

We load up half of the remaining bear meat on the cart, grab another loaf of banana bread, and take it to Brother and Sil's.  They're a little surprised to be receiving chickens, and at first suggest that we just keep them at our place.  Our chicken pen isn't mobile though, so we already have to supplement their feed with grass and weeds.  It'll be easier if they keep their own chickens and move them every day to graze.  I won't be responsible for providing everyone with eggs if they have their own birds either.

We help them build a little log cabin chicken house to keep them in over night.  The boys explain how they built Grandpa's pen, so they can work on that tomorrow.

We go home.  The boys put Samson and the cart away and do chores.  I check the roast and put the potatoes on to cook.  The snow is still covering the ground, so no weeds to pick today.  Beets for supper veg.

I still have a headache, so I decide to try some pine needle tea.  A friend told me once that pine needles are like aspirin.

After supper I go to bed with a book.  Husband has read through all of #1's James Patterson books.  He needs to make a trip to the library.  The boys play cards.






Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 24- Another Butcher Day

Everyone is up early this morning.  It's cold in the house.  The temperature must have really dropped last night.  #2 makes pancakes, coffee and tea.  #1 lights a fire in the basement.

I get the bowl of fat from the fridge outside.  After lifting it from the bowl and dusting off the crumbs, it goes in the old coffee pot on the stove to melt.  I wipe the bowl out and drain more fat from the rendering pot.  A lot of the cracklings are dry and crispy, ready to be taken out.  I offer some to the boys to try, but don't find any fans.  I put them in an ice cream bucket to go in the doggy stew pot later. 

I take the bowl of rendered fat back outside and grab the pan of baked beans.  I scoop some into a stock pot and start adding onions, peppers, chili powder, garlic, and tomato sauce.  A nice pot of chili for supper tonight.  I was going to reheat and can the rest of the beans, but I think it'll be just as simple to make it all into chili, and then can the excess.   I pour the rest of the beans into the pot, add more onions, peppers and spices, and put the whole thing on the stove.  I get a baggy of squash from the freezer and put it in as well.  It won't be noticeable once cooked in.

I clean out the cast iron pan and start cooking two packages of ground beef- about 4 pounds.  #1 already has his nose in the chili pot, sampling and adding more spices.  I shoo him away before he makes it burn your face off hot. 

Husband and the Bigs go out to do chores and work the horses.  The Littles get started on their work books.

I boil water, wash dishes, tidy the kitchen, and start a batch of bread.  The cooked ground beef is strained and added to the chili pot.  I add water to the soup pot, more weeds, and a handful of noodles.  It goes back on the stove for lunch.  I clean the cast iron pan, bowl and utensils for breakfast tomorrow and put them in their place on the counter.  I go out and pick more weeds, add a bunch to the doggy stew pot, along with the cracklings, rice and flour.


It's too late in the season to leave the bear hanging for long, the outer edges are nearly frozen already.  I start trimming off all of the visible fat.  Dad arrives and sees what's left of his bear.  He's not too happy with me giving half of it away yesterday without asking.  Not that he hadn't planned to share it with Brother and Sil, but still, I should have asked.  I ask Mom if she wants to render the fat, and she says no, I can have it.  Dad and I get busy butchering while Mom puts the Littles to work tidying the yard and putting things away.

Dad takes all of the steaks, the tenderloins, some stew meat and a few roasts.  He tells me to split the rest with Brother and Sil.  I tuck it away in the freezer for now.  I take the fat in the house and add it to the rendering pot.

Mom and Dad join us for a late lunch, soup and turkey salad sandwiches, then head back to their place.

The chili has been simmering on the stove all morning, so it's ready to can.  I sterilize 6 quart jars and put the canner on to boil. 

The boys and Husband are not too ambitious this afternoon, so we set up a game of Risk.

When the canner's ready, I fill 6 jars of chili and pop them in to process.  I roll out the bread when it's not my turn. 

We enjoy a quiet afternoon at home, break for supper and chores, then play another round while the bread bakes.  We go to bed late, after I take over the world, mwahahaha!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Day 23- Bear and Market

Everyone's up early this morning.  I'm sure I heard something, but I'm not sure what.  Smitty was growling softly when I woke.  Maybe he heard it too.  Nobody else remembers hearing anything.  They're just awake early.  It's still dark out, but the dogs have been out and they didn't seem to have noticed anything out of place out there.

Pancakes, coffee, and tea for breakfast.  #2 is my resident pancake chef.  He's a morning person.  I drain the bear fat into the metal bowl and take it out to sit on the freezer.  I grab the bowl of chopped turkey, take out a handful, and toss it in the soup pot for lunch.  I drain the beans, reserving the water.  I pour some of it into the soup pot and put it on the stove.

I put the beans in a roasting pan, add catsup, onions, garlic, molasses and a bit of bear fat.  They go back on the stove to bake.

After the boys do chores and feed the dogs I add a couple cups of rice and some weeds to the doggy stew pot.  They grab a bone package and I toss it in.  It'll sit on the counter until tonight.

Husband and the Bigs go out to work the horses.

The Littles get out their work books and do a couple of pages while I tidy the kitchen.  I clean out the breakfast pan, bowl, and utensils and set them in their place on the counter.  Organization makes things easier.

Husband and the Bigs have Samson hooked to the cart when the Littles and I come out to pick weeds.  We decide to go visit Mom and Dad, and take them some bread.

We find a dead bear just off the deck when we get there.  I knew I heard something this morning.  The bear had come looking for food around their grill.  Dad shot him.  Now he'll be food.  Excellent.  Dad tells us to take it home and hang it in the garage.  He'll come over to help butcher tomorrow. 

We visit for a bit, Samson trims their lawn, we load the bear and head home.  We stop and gut it on the side of the road.

Samson refuses to back the cart up to the garage so we can hang the bear.  It's too big to carry, so we use the quad to move it inside and hook it to the come-a-long.  #2 and I start skinning.  Husband and #1 take Samson to practice backing up for a bit, then put him away.

When the bear is skinned we hang it on the wall of the garage.  We're developing quite a collection there.  I give the beef hide and the first bear hide a quick scrape, then salt all three.

Soup for lunch with turkey salad sandwiches.  I even open a jar of mayo.  It's cold enough now that we can just set it outside.  The freezer is getting kind of crowded though, with the assortment of things to keep cool.

Husband and the Bigs hook Tori to the cart.  Her leg is better now.  They use the cart to move our old fridge, which has been sitting beside the work shop, up to the house.  I had planned to use it for storage, but there wasn't much in it.  They set it beside the entrance way door outside.  Right now it will be perfect as a fridge, just a bigger cooler with shelves and no ice required.  In another month everything in it will freeze.  It'll keep the dogs out of things though, and take the clutter off the freezer.

#2 saws the bear carcass in half and we cut a hind quarter down.  I wrap it in a garbage bag and he loads it on the cart.  We grab some bread and a jar of cattail flour and go to Brother and Sil's.

Brother heard the gunshot this morning too.  They're happy for the meat and bread.  I tell them to try the flour.  If they like it they still have time to dig more cattails. 

Their cabin is quite cozy now, with the closet and shelves up, and walls framed in around the girls' room.  They don't plan to put in solid walls, but continue with the sheets hanging instead so the heat will move through freely.  They've built a bench for more seating around the table, and another small table for crafts and cards. 

Sil and the girls have gathered and dried an impressive collection of weeds.  They want to go to the flea market/feed store to see if Marsha has any jars for sale.  I have boxes of old pickle/pasta sauce/cheese whiz jars stored, so they can take some of those, but they'll need more jars for canning next summer. 

Husband figures #1 will be fine to drive, so Sil and I head out with him in the cart.  We stop at home and cut a shoulder off of the bear to trade with.  I grab a handful of change as well, just in case.

The market seems to be doing a bustling business these days, and much like the store in town, has an odd selection of things to trade.  Animal feed is long gone, but the trailers it had been kept in are now loaded with clothing, blankets, assorted building supplies and other odds and ends.  There's a shelf on one wall with food.  I'm surprised by the amount of meat- bear, moose, beef, chicken, partridge and rabbit.  It seems that everyone can hunt and butcher, but vegetables are in short supply. 

There's a list on the wall of people hoping to trade animals they can no longer feed- mostly horses, dogs and cats- but also goats, cattle, rabbits, chickens, ducks and geese.  I get directions from Marsha to a couple of the people who've listed chickens.

Sil finds a couple boxes of jars, some extra dishes, utensils, blankets, and clothing.  I ask Marsha what the bear shoulder is worth to her.  She says we can take all of that and a bit more.  I add all of the jeans I can find and a couple of blankets.  We both figure it's a pretty good deal.  I ask if she's still taking cash and she says no.  I ask about coins.  She hesitates, but still says no.  I expected coins to hold some value over paper, easier to carry than household goods, and they can always be melted down for the metal.  Not yet, it seems.

We drop off my blankets and jeans at our house, load a couple of boxes of jars onto the cart, then go back to Brother and Sil's camp to unload.

The girls get busy jarring up the dried weeds while Sil and I put away the other supplies and cut up the bear.  Husband and Brother load the cart with barrels and buckets.  They go to Sanya and Roam's for water.

By the time they come back and get the water unloaded it's already dark.  We go home, do chores, have baked beans for supper, drain more fat from the rendering pot, and put the doggy stew on to cook overnight.  The fat bowl and baked beans go in the fridge outside overnight.

The boys look through the pile of jeans that I got from the flea market.  They take what will fit, but a lot of them are women's jeans and won't fit any of us.  I'm thinking ahead, of alterations to be made, or reusing the material.  What we have won't last forever.  The blankets get folded and put away in the chest upstairs.  Again, we don't really need them right now, but the time will come.

The boys start playing cards.  Husband reads.  I start writing out three lists of edible weeds- what to look for, which parts to use, how to eat them.  When finished I head to bed.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Day 22- Kitchen Organization

Either I'm up really early, or everyone else is really sleeping in this morning.  It's still dark out, but that doesn't mean much at this time of year.  The wall clock is stuck at 3:45.  When the battery starts to die it can't seem to push the hands up and over the twelve.  I have more batteries, but I don't know what time it is.  I'm sure I've been up for over an hour already though.

I drink my tea and read a bit.  I can't seem to get into this book though.  Nothing else in my pile has grabbed my interest either.  I suppose I could make another trip to the library today, but I don't really think that would help.  I'm pretty sure it's me, not the books.

I give up on the book and go in the living room.  I start clearing off my desk.  Might as well sort through that pile of unopened mail, file and put away the bills, and whatever else has taken up residence there.  I sort, file, toss, tidy and declutter for awhile before Husband gets up.  My desk is clean for the second time in five years.  Tidying it up usually makes me forget where I put things.  Husband gets his coffee and watches me for a bit.  I shove my computer, printer, keyboard and monitor as far as I can to the back of the desk.

"What are you going to do with the desk?", he asks. 

"I don't know.  It gave me something to do this morning though."  I start sorting through stacks of old disks.  There's a bunch the boys haven't used in years.  I've been meaning to put some of them on the fence posts around the turkey and chicken pens.  They supposedly ward off some sort of predators.  I suppose I could still use them for that.  I stack the rest of the disks neatly on the shelf.  Usually when I tidy disks they're scattered all over the place again within a couple of days.  This time they might stay tidy for awhile.

The boys get up.  I decide to make bannock for breakfast.  I found the recipe scribbled on a piece of paper while I was cleaning.  I had meant to try it awhile ago.  I need lard to fry it in.  I put the pot of bear fat back on the stove.  In the excitement of the rain and butchering the turkeys I haven't finished rendering it.  Once warmed up I should be able to strain off enough for breakfast though.  The rest of the fat will take a day or two of constant cooking to render all of the lard.

I mix up the bannock ingredients and let them rest.  I get the turkey off the freezer from yesterday.  I put it on one of the side grills just slightly overlapping the stove.  A pot of potatoes and a vegetable would be nice for supper, too.  #1 gets potatoes from the basement and helps me peel.  #2 goes out to the garage freezer and comes back with a bag of beans.  He puts them in a pot on the counter.  Then he drains the liquid fat from the pot into a metal bowl.  It's more than enough for the bannock, so after pouring some into a cast iron pan, the rest is left to harden on the counter.

Once hot, I fry the bannock up, and we top it with jam.  It's not too much of a change from pancakes, but any bit of a change seems good at this point.

After breakfast Husband and the Bigs go out to work the horses.  Today they want to hook Samson to the cart and see how he does.  Knightmare is finally getting the hang of the reins.  Shiloh is lead broke, so #2 gets a feed bag with some sand to start adding weight to her back.  Just a couple of pounds, so she can get used to it.  Husband and #1 give Samson a quick work out with the reins and the stone boat, then hitch him to the cart.  He's bigger than Tori and the cart actually fits him better than her.  He takes to it eagerly- a little too eagerly.  Wheels move much faster than skis.  Overall he does well, but he'll need to work on taking it easy. 

They drive him up to Sanya and Roam's place.  We haven't checked on them in a while anyway, and Husband wants to know if he was broke to pull before.  Sanya greets them as they pull in.  She's in the ring working with one of her horses.  Roam comes out to chat.  They traded all but 10 of their horses to the Hutterites for hay.  They kept their expensive stud, two brood mares, four well broke horses, and three yearlings.  Sanya plans to trade the yearlings as well, but knows they'll be worth more after training. 

They're doing fairly well.  They have an artesian well, so getting fresh, clean water is easy for them.  They offer to let us fill our barrels there, rather than having to filter water from the creek.  Their food supplies are holding out ok.  They don't have enough to last through the winter, but they're planning to visit the Hutterites once one of the yearlings is ready to trade.

Sanya had been working with Samson, but had just started him on the stone boat, so she's surprised to see that he's already pulling the cart.  She's impressed with how well he's doing.

While Husband and the Bigs are busy, the Littles and I walk to Mom and Dad's.  I bring the clock with me so I can reset it.  They're surprisingly not squabbling so much now.  I think they're out of denial, and have accepted that this is how things are going to be.  They've cleared out a lot of electric appliances, making room for their non-electric counterparts.  Between their camping equipment and things they've just always kept, they seem to be doing ok.  I give them a couple loaves of bread and tell them to come over when they run out instead of waiting for us to bring them some.

Dad has built an outdoor shower off the end of the deck.  Basically a camping shower bag in a little shelter.  They have to heat the water for it on the stove still, but it works.  Their food supplies are holding out ok, but I notice they've got a list started on the counter.  Eggs, sugar, peanut butter.  I need more chickens.  Four hens are not enough to supply every one with eggs.

We walk back home, where Husband and the Bigs are waiting for lunch- which of course I haven't planned.  We've ate sandwiches for lunch almost every day for years, with an occasional pot of soup, or bowl of potato salad for a change.  Feeding people three meals a day without any convenience foods is simply exhausting.

I decide to open a couple of jars of soup and heat them.  The freezer food should be used first, in case of a thaw, but I just can't keep up.  At least supper's planned for tonight.

Husband asks what I want to do for the afternoon.  We still need firewood.  There are dishes stacked all over the kitchen- again.  The Littles haven't had any lessons in weeks.  I want to curl up and have a nap.

Husband takes the boys out to cut and pile firewood.  He leaves me in the kitchen to deal with the food and the mess.

I start a pot of water to boil for dishes.  I slide the turkey over a little further onto the stove.  I  drain more fat out of the pot into the bowl.  It hasn't started to harden yet, so I set it outside on the freezer.  I grab a couple more stock pots from the shelf above while I'm out there.  I clear all the dishes off the counter, and put the pots in their place. 

I start an assembly line for the stove.  Potatoes and beans are already waiting to cook for supper.  Doggy Stew pot to cook overnight, as it's become the routine to put it on before bed.  I clean the cast iron pan for breakfast, set a bowl inside of it, a spatula, wash the hand mixer, and put it in as well. 

Lunch tomorrow.  I place an empty stock pot next to the pan.  Soup.  I go downstairs to get more potatoes, and notice one of my squash has a soft spot.  It'll need to be cooked.  I'm not ready to start baking pies, so it will be cut and chopped into soups and stews.  Maybe I'll freeze some. 

Back upstairs, I cut it up and put about a third into the stock pot for lunch tomorrow.  A couple of chunks in the doggy stew pot.  The rest goes into the small roasting pan to cook for later.  Between the squash and the beans, that's two winter veggies that won't be saved for winter.  I've been slipping on picking weeds too. 

I take the dried weeds off the plant stands and stuff them into jars.  Then I go out to pick more.  I add some to the doggy stew pot and the soup pot for tomorrow.  Supper tomorrow will be turkey rice casserole.  I get out another roasting pan, chop up a couple handfuls of weeds and toss them in.  Ok, everything is planned for tomorrow.  Except bread.  There won't be any room to put the oven on the stove to bake tomorrow.  I start two batches of bread.  They can bake after supper.  Problem solved.

The dish water is boiling, so I clean out the sink and pour it in.  After a marathon dishwashing session, things are starting to look better in the kitchen.  I roll out the bread.  This isn't so bad.  I just need to get organized like this every day.  Ha.

I grab some paper and an old calendar and start planning meals.  Supper's are easy.  I divide the beef yield by 250 days- about 8 months.  49 roasts, 1 every 5 days.  12 stews- 1 every 20 days.  11 meals of steaks- 1 every 22 days.  I work my way through the list.  I add in the turkeys, balogna rolls, partridge, etc.  I soon have nearly every supper planned until June. 

Now for lunches.  Lunches are harder.  Soup of course, it's easy and filling, but we tire of it so quickly.  Turkey salad sandwiches for a few days after cooking turkey.  Leftovers of any type, really.  It's hard to plan for leftovers with most things though.  Macaroni salad for a while, until we run out of pasta and cheese.  Chili.  Sloppy Joes.  It might not be too bad.  I only write in a couple of months worth of lunches.  If I start a 'new' pot of soup every 4 days, and add more water, leftovers, weeds, and veggies to it, there should always be something ready for lunch. 

I decide to cook and can some beans.  They'll be easier and quicker to work with that way.  I get out another stock pot and start dumping beans into it.  It's a combination of white northern beans, black turtle beans, and kidney beans.  I fill the pot with water to soak overnight. 

It's about time to get supper ready, so I slide the turkey further onto the stove, and put the potatoes and beans on to cook.  I give the floors a quick sweep.  Things are looking much better, and I feel much less stressed. 

I check on the rendered fat, and it's hard.  I lift it out of the bowl and dust the crumbs off of it.  I break it up and put it in an old coffee pot on the stove to melt.  I wash the bowl out, then drain the fat from the pot into it and put it back on the freezer to cool.  I go to the basement for old pasta jars to put the rendered fat into.

Husband and the boys come in.  They help with the turkey, mash the potatoes, and make gravy.  I pour the fat into jars and set them on the counter to cool.  I put the oven on top of the stove and pop in the first batch of bread.

We eat supper, then switch the bread.  I divide the leftover turkey and chop it up for tomorrow's turkey rice casserole and a bowl of turkey salad.  I put them in the entrance way on the freezer.  They'll be cool enough there.  The boys go in the living room to play monopoly.  I put the doggy stew on to cook overnight, and then decide to put the beans on as well.  They'll just simmer, but it should work.  Once the kitchen is tidied back up I head to bed with a book.




Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Day 21- Turkeys

My foot is tender this morning, still red and blotchy, but no longer throbbing.  I get up, make coffee and tea, stir the cattail starch.  It's dry now, and somewhat fluffy.  I decide to put it in it's own jars rather than mixing it into the flour bin.  I get 5 quarts.  Not exactly a great yield.

It's been three weeks without power.  There's been no news of if or when the power will be restored.  Of course, where we live, we'll probably have power before we'll have news.  Who knows if the radios will even work when the power comes back on.  Or anything else for that matter.

I sit and drink my tea, looking around the kitchen at all of the now useless appliances and gadgets.  Packing up the microwave and some of the small appliances would give me more counter space, more room to work.  I'd have space to let the bread rise, set up the doggy stew pot, and things to cook without cluttering up the table.

Husband and the boys get up.  They drink coffee.  Nobody's really saying anything, but there's a grumpy vibe in the room.  I ask what they want to do today.  They aren't very committed to any plans.  I suggest we butcher turkeys, before we lose any more.  They don't look impressed with that idea, but they know it needs to be done.  It won't take long, with only 7 birds left.

I ask the Littles to get me some boxes from the basement and I start clearing things off the counter;  the electric bread knife, electric can opener, crockpot, deep fryer, doggy stew burner.  I get the Bigs to take the boxes and the microwave to the basement.  It can all sit down there for now.  The kitchen seems much roomier.

The boys eat their breakfast.  The Littles start fighting with each other.  Poor #3 is suffering major computer withdrawals.  He's been a pretty good sport so far, but three weeks is a long time.  Of course it doesn't help to be walking past the computers every time we walk through the living room.  If we cleared the laptops off the desk it would give the boys more room to set up and play board games.  I look around the living room and decide to clear off the top of one of the book shelves.  The lap tops can sit up there for now.  The desk tops can stay on the desk against the wall.  Not that they're any less depressing, I'm just not feeling that ambitious.

With the counters cleared off, the desks cleared off, breakfast eaten, and dishes washed, we decide to get started on the turkeys.  We build a big fire in the fire pit outside, then put a large wash tub over it to heat.  It takes a lot of water to fill the wash tub.  Too bad I didn't think of getting it out and filling it with water the other day when it was raining.  Husband gets the machete, the boys start catching the turkeys, and then it's off with their heads.  Everyone gets a turkey to pluck, with one to spare.  By the time they're all cleaned and gutted, it's well past lunch.

We put one bird in a roasting pan on the stove.  It won't be ready for supper tonight, but the fire's not too hot now, so it shouldn't burn.  I'll let it cook for the afternoon, then set it outside overnight and put it back on tomorrow.  The rest of the turkeys are tucked into the freezers, hopefully to freeze.  Everything else seems to be frozen solid, so we must be dropping below freezing at night.

I pull out a package of sausage for supper tonight.  It's the last one.  I should have done a better job planning meals, spreading out the few things there's some variety of.  The quick and easy meals are pretty much gone.  I have to remember to start things earlier in the day.

Husband and the Bigs go out to work the horses again, and get another load of logs with Samson.  That keeps them busy until supper is ready.  The Littles play Battleship on the desks for the rest of the afternoon.  They're getting along better now.

After supper we play cards for a couple of hours before calling it a day.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Day 20- Burns, Books, and Wildlife

Oh my god.  I can't fricken believe it.  Yesterday I moved pot after pot of boiling hot water- filtering, cleaning, filling the bathtub- no problem.  This morning I make a coffee and tea like usual, and then dump the tea pot all over my foot!

I ran to the bathroom and jumped in the tub.  Thankfully I filled the tub back up yesterday, so there was cool water in it, but honestly when it happened I was running for the tap.  Autopilot.  The only ice we have is in the pop bottles I set outside to switch in the cooler every day.  It's pretty much impossible to wrap that around my foot.  Husband takes several wet cloths outside to cool while I hold the pop bottle on it.  It's red and blotchy, but luckily not blistered- at least not yet.  The boys clean up the spill and make me a new pot of tea.  What a crappy way to start the day.

The boys make breakfast- back to the pancake routine.  Eggs need to be saved for baking.

The boys go out to do chores and find a dead turkey.  Two more are missing.  There are large paw prints in the garden.  Large fox or small wolf- hard to say which.  Either way, we are down three more birds.  They check the chickens, which are fine.

It's cool but sunny, so Husband and the Bigs decide to do firewood again after they work the horses.  Knightmare is finally starting to understand the reins.  They give Samson a quick work out with the reins, and then hitch him to the stone boat.  He does really well pulling it.  Husband is certain he's been trained to pull before now.  They decide to go to the back for firewood and use Samson to pull logs.  The Littles tag along.  There won't be much for them to do, other than moving small branches out of the way, until the logs are back at the house, cut, and ready to stack.

I'm left at home with my aching foot.  I switch the cloths on it, but I'm bored out of my mind just sitting here.  I decide to package up my seed.  Some of the sunflower seeds that spilled did sprout, but there's no mold.  I pick out the sprouted ones and toss them in the bird bucket.  I pack the rest in old jars.  It's not a great selection- sunflowers, tomatoes, peppers, parsnip, beans, asparagus, crab apples.  With what I have left from this year, next year's garden should be ok.  Still, I'll have to be much more diligent about saving seed in the future.

Husband has Samson pull up six logs in two trips.  #1 walks him up on the third trip.  He's done extremely well.  They break for lunch and put him back in the pasture.  They make a pot of chicken noodle soup for lunch- nothing fancy, just the package and powder type.  They use the last of the crackers.  I have a couple of recipes for crackers, but we didn't really care for them.  While they might go over better now, with that secret ingredient added in (hunger), I don't think I want to 'waste' the flour to try it.

After lunch Husband puts the oven on the stove top for me.  I'm hobbling better now, but can only handle a couple of minutes without a cold cloth on my foot.  Still, the cattail starch is not drying very well, so I want to put it on cookie sheets in the oven.

Nira and Diego come after lunch.  They had a crazy mad dash for water yesterday as well- baths, laundry and drinking water.  They take my library books, our empty jerry cans, and siphoning hoses and head to town.

Husband and the Bigs cut up the logs and the Littles stack them in the wood shed.  Then they cut more wood from the lot across the road.  I read a book.

Nira and Diego return just before supper.  Things in town seem better than our last visit.  They traded a few jars of pickles for a pumpkin, two turnips, and a cabbage.  The store would have taken more, but there wasn't much selection, so they decided to keep what they had.  They had to go a ways out of town to find cars that still had gas, but they managed to refill all of the jerry cans.  The library has grown, but the selection isn't great.  Nira has picked a bunch of harlequins for me.  Better than nothing, I suppose.  They head back to their place.

Husband takes the oven off the stove.  #4 makes hot dogs for supper.  The temperature is dropping outside, and the cloths are nearly frozen when I switch them for my foot.  It doesn't look like it's going to blister, but still hurts.  The Bigs do chores and double check that the turkey shack is secure.  We're going to leave the dogs outside loose overnight.

The Bigs bring in the heavy blankets that were hung on the clothesline in the rain yesterday.  They're not quite dry yet, so we hang them over door frames and chairs for tonight.

We spend the evening playing clue, and then head off to bed.  My foot aggravates me repeatedly throughout the night, waking me up. 


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day 19- Bath Day

It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring!!

It is pissing down buckets, and it looks like it started in the middle of the night.  I am so happy!  I run outside and make sure there are buckets under all of the rain gutters.  Two buckets are already overflowing, but a third was knocked over.  I carry one in the house.

I stoke the stove and fill it with wood.  I want a really hot fire today- partly because I'm now soaked through and cold, but mostly because I'll be boiling water all day.  I start straining some of the water through my filter, then fill a big pot with straight rain water and put it on the stove. 

I yell upstairs for the boys to get up.  It's been weeks since I yelled up the stairs in the morning and the Bigs come running down thinking the house is on fire or something.  I send them back upstairs to get dressed, and hurry.  It's raining!  They probably think I've lost my mind.

When they return I send them out to make sure all of the rain barrels around the barn and chicken coop are upright in their proper places.  The critters tend to knock them over when they get low.  I tell them to bring in the full buckets from around the house when they're done.

I start a pot of coffee and tea just as Husband stumbles into the kitchen wondering what all the fuss is about.  I am so happy I am dancing around.  I clean out the kitchen sink, take the pot off the stove and fill it.  It's not boiling yet, but hot enough for dishes.

I strain the water off the cattail starch, which seems to have settled fairly well, then dump the pot into a big bowl.  I want this pot boiling water on the stove!  I get it washed and ready just as the Bigs come in with buckets of water.  They fill it and top up the first pot.  My other big pot is full of bear fat so I grab my canner, wash and fill it too.  I strain more water, then take the little bit that's left and pour it in the bathtub.  The Bigs take the buckets outside and switch them with the other two under the gutters.  This also goes in the bathtub and the buckets go back outside.

I wash out all of the pop bottles and juice jugs that are sitting empty, then start on the dishes.  Once the first pot boils #1 pours it in the tub, and #3 gets the first bath.  He's the cleanest of the filthy.  The water is pretty dirty when he's done, but #4 has to share. 

I wash out the empty pot, fill it with filtered water, and put it on the stove.  The Bigs go out and switch the buckets again.  The rain is slowing down, but the barrel is nearly full, so they top off the buckets from the barrel.  They strain more water through the filter.  I wash out the cattail and meat buckets from yesterday, then drain the sink.  #1 refills it for me with unfiltered boiled water, then tops up the pot on the stove.

#4 gets out of the tub and the water is disgusting.  After it's drained #2 gives the tub a quick wash, then starts refilling it.  The Bigs bring in more water from outside and start filling the tub again.  #2 gets to bathe next.  We wash dishes, filter water, fill buckets to cool, and take turns bathing over the next few hours.  Everyone looks and feels so much better than they have in weeks.

The Bigs go outside to do chores, and fill the chicken coop with all the buckets and dishes they can find.  They fill them with water from the rain barrels, then cover them with feed bags to keep dirt out.  The Littles take all of the heavy blankets outside and hang them on the clothesline for a rinse.

I go last in the tub, and take my time just soaking.  It's such a luxury now!

The rain has picked up again when I get out of the tub.  I tell the Bigs to go see if Brother, Sil and the girls would like to borrow the tub.  I keep filtering, boiling, and cleaning.  It's so hard to keep things clean while trying to use minimal water.  Even the floors get mopped for the first time in weeks.

The Bigs come back with the girls.  Brother and Sil will be over in a while.  They're trying to store as much water as possible too, and of course cleaning everything they can.  The Bigs fill the tub for the girls, and Niece1 goes for a bath.

The boiled, filtered water in buckets has cooled sufficiently to start filling the pop and juice bottles.  We keep the cycle going, taking out buckets, bringing in buckets, filtering, boiling, cooling, filling bottles.

Niece2 gets her turn in the tub.  Brother and Sil arrive.  They need more buckets- and a bath tub.  They take their turns in the tub as well.  Who knew we'd ever be so happy for a downpour?  The snow is long gone, the yard is filled with puddles, the critters are drenched, and we hope the rain continues!


Late in the afternoon we finally clear enough space on the stove to make brunch.  Brother, Sil, and the Bigs go over to Mom and Dads to see if they need help gathering and carrying water.  The girls go back to their camp to keep filling and boiling water there.

I've filled every pop bottle and juice bottle I could find with clean, filtered, boiled water.  The Littles even dug through all of the recycling bags looking for extras.  I start filling canning jars, my wine carboy, refilling the tub, even the mop bucket.  Anything that will hold water. 

Finally the rain stops after supper- cabbage rolls cooked in a pot on the stove.  They aren't great, but I didn't want to put the oven on and lose the boiling space while it was raining. 

It's been a great, though exhausting day, racing against the weather.  I look at my stinky sheets and decide to change them before crawling into bed.  Laundry day at the creek tomorrow.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Day 18- Cattails


Husband gets up and makes his own coffee.  It's cold again this morning, but no more snow. 

I hurt this morning.  At first I think it's from the firewood yesterday, but the more I think about it, the sooner I realize it's just that time.  My period should start in the next couple of days.  I add a bit of dried yarrow to my tea pot today.  Hopefully that will help with the cramping, which is already starting to spread.  At least I don't have to worry about pads.  I've been using rags instead of commercial products for a couple of years already.  But then I think of Nira, Sil and the girls.  They're probably going to need some supplies.

Husband asks what I want to do today.  "As little as possible," I answer.   "I hurt.  Cramps.  Bloated.  Miserable."

"Do you still want to go and see Diego and Nira today?"

"Sure.  But I'm not butchering if they haven't finished yet."

The boys get up and make pancakes.  I start three batches of bread.  #1 gets me another bag of flour from the cold room.  I count back in my head.  At our current rate of consumption we have enough flour for about 140 days, less than five months.  I'll have to start rationing it a bit.  I can't think of anything to use in place of flour, so we'll just have to ration the end products, use less bread each day.  We still need to dig the cattails too.  I know part of them can be used for flour, but I don't remember which part, or at what point in the year.  I'll have to look that up.  I pull out my binder of weeds and herbs and old fashioned stuff and flip through to a couple of articles I saved about cattails.  It seems the starch I was after is the flour as well.  The pollen can also be used for flour in the spring.  I guess we'll dig them up and see how much we yield.  I wanted the starch to replace corn starch, which I'm already low on, but I guess I could just add it to the flour bin and use flour for gravy.

Since there are cattails in the ditches on the way to northern neighbour's, today's as good a day as any to dig them out.  I get my potato peeler, a couple of buckets, give my pocket knife a quick sharpening, and dig out my rubber boots.  Wet feet would not be welcome.  The boys get their rubber boots as well, and #1 gets a garden fork.

The Bigs do chores and check on Tori.  She still seems stiff and sore, so she won't be pulling the horse cart.  They give Knightmare, Samson and Shiloh each another workout.  Samson is responding really well.  They think he's ready to try pulling the stone boat, but we'll wait until tomorrow to try it.

We decide to take my quad and trailer today.  It means we'll be using fuel, but with any luck the cattails will be too heavy to carry.  We take a chainsaw as well, in case there's room in the trailer for firewood.  More buckets and another fork are added to the load, along with the roast I picked out yesterday.

We eat lunch- beef stew leftovers, before we head out.  I roll out the bread.  The Bigs ride Samson and Knightmare, the Littles climb in the trailer, and Husband and I ride on my quad.  We check in at Mom and Dad's as we go past, but they aren't home.  The small boat is gone, so I wish them luck with the fishing.

We stop and dig cattails in the ditches several times, filling four buckets.  We decide to dig more on the way back so the Littles still have room to ride.

Diego and Nira come out to greet us when Tank starts barking.  Yesterday afternoon they had 'visitors' from town looking for beef.  They told them no one on this road had any cows.  Northern neighbour used to have cows but sold them last year.  Since they weren't in the field I guess the visitors believed them.  Thankfully the visitors didn't come our way.  Yet, anyway.

They ask what"s up with the cattails, so I tell them my plan.  They laugh about the beef, and say they had planned to give us a bear roast.  They've finished butchering, though they seem to have dulled every knife they could find to use.  We load the knives on the trailer- we'll sharpen them at home.


"Do you want any of the bones or fat for the dogs?", Diego asks.  They figure they have more than enough for Tank.

"Sure, I'll take anything you aren't going to use!", I answer.  I can't believe they're willing to part with the fat.  We go into the shed where they did their butchering and find a pile of bones, fat and the hide.  It still amazes me how wasteful they are.  Maybe I over react and plan for the end of the world, but it's been 18 days, and it still seems like they still think the power will be back on any minute now.  #2 pulls my quad up beside the shed and we start filling the remaining buckets with all of the parts.  We spread the hide out over top of them.

"How are you going to tan that hide?", Diego asks.

"I'm not.  I'm going to hang it on the garage, salt it and scrape it.  It's easier and quicker."

There's a small freezer in the shed that they're using for the meat.  There were a few things in it when they first arrived, but not enough to keep it cold, so most of it had spoiled.  Apparently Tank had gotten into it when they dumped it and then got sick.  That's why they don't want all of the bones and scraps laying around.  The freezer still isn't full, but with the cooler weather the meat has frozen.  I tell them to find some pop bottles or something to fill with water and fill the freezer.  It'll help keep the meat frozen if the weather warms up again.

The boys run off with the kids to see the ponies and put our horses in the pasture for now.  It's a big pasture with just two small ponies in it, so our horses are happily munching on grass.  The kids and the Littles take turns riding the ponies around bareback.

In the house I see Nira has a growing collection of edible weeds on shelves in the windows.  It turns out that the pantry was mostly assorted pickles and the kids don't like them.  She's gone back to gathering weeds and they're gradually getting used to them.  They plan to go to town tomorrow to see if they can trade them for other veggies.  It's worth a shot, although they'd probably have better luck trading some of the bear.  She offers us a jar of each to try.  I'm happy to take them.

I start feeling a little guilty about taking all of the bear fat.  I ask Nira what she's using for grease, lard and candles.  She says there's lots of cooking oil in the pantry, though she could use some lard for pies, and butter would be great.  I tell her bear fat is supposed to be a lot like pig fat, though I've never tried it, and ask if she wants some of it back to render.  She's never rendered lard before, so she says she'll pass this time, but would like to try some after I make it.  I suppose that's fair enough.

So far they're doing ok with flour, sugar, and other staples.  Nira's been doing a lot of baking, as it seems the neighbour's were well stocked with cake mixes and such.  She asks if we can spare any eggs.  I tell her not yet, but I'll see what I can do in the future.

She has a collection of buckets spread around the kitchen as well.  I notice one of them is full of rocks and sand, so I ask if that's her water filter.  She lifts it up to show me the large hole cut in the bottom, covered by window screen.  She pours a bucket of water through to show me how fast it works.  I think that would work well for laundry, but I'll stick to the pipe for drinking water.

They need firewood, and lots of it.  The neighbours used to use their tractor to drag trees up all winter long as they needed it.  They need fuel as well.  Diego found a chainsaw, and several empty jerry cans.  He's hoping to find a car on the way to town to siphon fuel from.  There's a jug of 2-cycle oil to mix for the chainsaw, so they should be fine as long as they can get gas.  I wonder how many other people are siphoning gas from abandoned cars?  How long will we have this fuel source?

Nira has unburied an old foot treadle sewing machine in the basement and has been using it to make clothes for the kids from clothes the neighbours left behind.  I hope the neighbours don't hurry home.  They're in for a shock when they do arrive.   It's great that she knows how to use the machine though.  Maybe she can teach me in the winter.  I'm sure by then the boys will be needing some new clothes as well.

I ask Nira how they're doing for toilet paper, and if she's thought of her monthlies.  They ran out of toilet paper a few days ago, and have started using cloth.  She hadn't thought about her period, so I tell her that I just use old towels cut into appropriate sizes, and wash them out afterward.  I tell her some people sew their own reusable pads as well, but I've never bothered.

We spend most of the afternoon visiting.  Husband and Diego spend most of it outside in the shop fiddling with things.  They're going to come to our house in the morning to take my library books to town for me.

Even though the buckets are all full, we stop several times to dig more cattails, piling them on top of the bear hide.

Mom and Dad are back when we go by, so we stop in to see how the fishing went.  They caught three fish, and left the boat behind.  They tell us where it is so if we want to try our luck we don't have to drag a boat to the lake.  That works out well for us, because then we can ride the horses and let them graze while we fish instead of taking the quads and wasting fuel.

Back at home it's supper time and I haven't got anything ready.  I put the oven on the stove top and put the bread in to bake while the boys bring in the cattails and buckets.  I look in the freezer and wish I had planned ahead and put a roast on this morning.  Quick cooking meals are getting fewer and farther between.  I pull out a package of chicken legs for tonight. 

I get out one of my big canning pots and start sorting through the bones and fat in the buckets.  I drop the fat into the pot, trimming as I go, and toss the bones and trimmings back in the buckets.  The boys will saw through them to make them more manageable sizes for doggy stew.  With this lot I should have enough doggy stew meat to last the winter.  Unfortunately, I don't have the rice and veggies to match it.

The Littles do chores and the Bigs cut the bones.  I start filling the doggy stew pot.  Two cups of rice, 1/2 cup flour.  I add some dried weeds, some of the stems from the cattails, and lots of bones, then cover it all with water.  I switch the bread in the oven.

I lay out the chicken in a cast iron pan and add some seasoning.  I make up a pan of potatoes.  Everything is waiting for the bread to be done in the oven.  The second batch finishes and I put in the third.

I start peeling the cattails.  Husband joins me.  The boys come in with what little snow we've managed to collect.  We'll have to make another trip to the creek tomorrow.  They start peeling cattails as well.

I start supper when the bread finishes.  We all peel cattails while it cooks.  We finish peeling just as supper is done.  I put them in a big pot and pour water over them.  I hope it won't hurt to leave it sit overnight.  I am exhausted. 

After supper Husband and the Bigs sit around the table taking turns sharpening knives.  I set the doggy stew pot on the stove to cook overnight, along with the bear fat.  I pull out a few rhizomes at a time and beat them with my kitchen mallet, then toss them back in the pot.  I don't know if I got all of them or not, but that's enough for today.    It's time for bed. 


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Day 17- Firewood & Friends

Frosty, with a touch of snow this morning.  I open the freezer when I let the dogs out, and everything is feeling much more solid.  I think it's going to be ok after all.  I run out to check the smoker.  It's stone cold, and the meat is partially frozen when I open it up.  I guess that's done well enough then.  I take the roasts in the house and drop them on the table.  After starting coffee and tea, I bag them and tuck them into the freezer.  It's still pretty chilly, so I go downstairs to light a fire in the furnace.

When I come back upstairs everyone is up.  #4 has a goofy grin on his face.  "What's up?", I ask.

"I went and checked the chickens.  We have enough eggs for breakfast!", he says.

"Well then you'd better find a package of bacon in the freezer", I laugh.  He rushes out to look.  It feels like a normal morning, despite cooking on the woodstove and living by oil lamp light.

After breakfast I look at #4, "So you want to get firewood today, do you?"  Bacon and eggs for breakfast has always meant it was a firewood day around here.  He laughs and says he doesn't care.  The other boys all groan, which makes me laugh too.  It feels like a good day.

I pull a package of stew meat out of the freezer, along with a package of doggy stew meat, and start both pots on the stove.  I go out and pick fresh dandelions, chives, and plantain for both.  The dogs get two cups of rice added to theirs, and I add potatoes and carrots to ours.  A bit of flour goes in each to thicken the gravy.

Husband and the Bigs go out and get the horse cart ready.  When they go out to get Tori they find her limping.  She has an old injury that flares up from time to time, probably arthritis.  So that plan is out.  I mix her up some grain and aspirin.  The Bigs figure we should try to break Knightmare and Samson to pull the cart.  Shiloh is still too young, but #2 catches her and gives her a good work out.  After a couple of hours of lead training they figure the horses have had enough.  Samson is a quick learner, or he's been lead trained before.  Knightmare is going to require a lot of work.

Since I have the morning 'off', I melt and strain the tallow several times, then make a few wicks from cotton string, tying one end through old nuts, and dip them in tallow.  I reuse empty candle jars, along with some juice glasses I bought to make candles with.  Really, any jar or glass that can handle the heat will work, I just find the thinner ones require less to fill while providing the same amount of light.  The candles use much less tallow than I was expecting, so I fill three additional quart jars with tallow to use later.  I'm pretty sure we should have enough tallow for candles for most of the winter.

We decide to cut wood from the lot across the road again so it's closer to haul into the yard.  #4 gets his wagon and the Bigs get the wheelbarrows to carry it in.  There's a lot of deadfall in these woods already, so it doesn't take long to get several cords cut and stacked.  The wood shed is about half full now.  A few more days like this and we should be set for winter.  We decide to knock off early and go visiting.  I pack three nice roasts to give away into the saddle bags.  The Bigs will ride over on Knightmare and Samson while the rest of us walk.  It's funny how that used to seem to far to walk, and now it's just about right.  I don't pick very many weeds, as the snow hides most of them and freezes my fingers.

Knightmare and Samson are happy to graze on the long grass in the trail as we visit.  Brother, Sil and the girls have built bunk beds out of logs and put the mattresses from the trailer on them.  They've hung a blanket like a curtain from the ceiling so the girls have their own 'room'.  The girls seem much happier now.  Sil has decided to use the little bedroom/bunk at the back of the trailer as her pantry.  They cut some of the old floor boards for shelving and she has all of her canned goods lined up neatly.  They're working on building a closet, so after a short visit we leave them with a roast and head to Mom and Dad's.

The horses are happy to munch on the grass there as well.  We should really spend a couple of days fencing the far side of their property- it was always on the to do list anyway, but next summer we'll really need the grass.

Mom and Dad are taking it easy today.  They had their winter wood cut and stacked months ago, and without hydro they seem to be spending a lot of time just waiting. Dad's gone hunting a lot, and Mom's done a few crafts, but they're starting to get on each other's nerves.  They've decided to go fishing out back tomorrow.  Dad's had the generator running a lot, and they're low on fuel.  We decide to go for a drive once Tori's leg is healed, and see how much fuel we can siphon from nearby cars.  Otherwise their supplies are holding up quite well.  They're out of bread of course, and Mom offers me a bag of flour to bake her some with.  I don't take it, but I will have to make more of an effort to supply everyone with bread.  We visit quite a while and decide to head back home instead of going to see Diego and Nira tonight.  I know they got the bear, so they don't really need the roast tonight.

I put the third roast back in the freezer.  We eat our stew for supper, the boys do chores, and then enjoy an evening of cards before bed.