Monday, January 28, 2013

Trio of Helpful Books

When this study of Permaculture, Urban Gardening, small homes, emergency Preparedness started, for me, I had not read much about these subjects and had no reference books. Now, we have DVD's, web resources and many books (hard copy and digital format) that we often refer to. So I thought it might be useful to share some of the resources that have been helpful.

The three books that I have turned to repeatedly are Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen,  Preparedness Now! by Aton Edwards and When there is no Doctor by Gerard S. Doyle, MD. The Urban Homestead book is a great reference for practical skills in an urban garden environment. It covers basics - garden beds, to rainwater to raising small livestock, etc.  The emergency preparedness book breaks down all of the possible crisis that could happen and what would be needed for each to keep your family safe and out of harm's way. The third book goes into taking care of general injuries and ailments should there be a situation (whether hiking, camping or war) where a doctor may not be readily available. One of the things that you have to take into account with all three of these books, is that they cover EVERY possible scenario, and some of it was difficult for me to read and think about, but in the day to day of life, most of the topics will not be necessary.

My thinking is that if you look at the worst case scenario and understand what may be required in that situation, and then plan for your specific family and location and the situation most likely to occur for you (for instance, we are most likely to have a blizzard, hurricane or tornado) then, no matter what happens, you will not be in a panic mode when day to day things occur.

It seems extreme to think of food shortages, gas shortages, water shortages, drought, etc., but in the past two years we have experienced all of these things in our country, and specifically the East Coast and New England have been repeatedly in need of help.

I don't plan to do surgery on anyone I know, but if we are out hiking and one of us falls and get a serious wound of some sort, I would like to know that I will be able to bandage it and act correctly to minimize the trauma and get to the hospital.

I don't plan to be without running water or electricity, but both of these things have happened unexpectedly in the past few months - a main water break in the city shut water off for all of us and then brought the possibility of contamination. There isn't any need to panic if you have a couple of  24 packs of bottled water on hand - most of us have this anyway.

Think through your day and ask yourself where you might be, what are the possible scenarios that you may have to deal with and throw an emergency kit in your car, carry a little flashlight to work in your bag in case you have to get out of a dark building or garage. Get to know your neighbors and your surroundings at work. Just be aware.

At home, we have a drawer of crank/solar flashlights and an emergency radio. Always there, we can find them in the dark if we have to. We have solar lights in the yard that can easily be brought inside if the power goes out. There are little things we can do to make a difficult situation easier.

I have talked before about our Go Bags - these are for the last resort, we need to evacuate our house situation. I don't expect that to ever happen, we cycle out the supplies every few months and refresh them, but I feel better knowing it is there if we need it. And if we go on vacation, we have a little travel bag already packed =)

We all have difficult times. Layoffs, pay cuts, prices of food increasing, gas prices, unexpected health issues, etc.  Being prepared is just smart. I'm not preparing for an earthquake, I'm prepared if one of us loses our job, or if the store doesn't have something I use on a regular basis.

For me, it is mostly about having all of my faculties about me if there ever is a crisis. I've thought about the worst, and appreciate every day that I have a regular, ordinary, amazing day without having to worry about anything.

Peace of mind, for me is the greatest preparation.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Update: Indoor Fruit Trees

In April of last year, we bought 6 fruit trees, potted them and waited to see what would happen.

The lemon did not make it. All the rest are doing well, and the Banana is almost ready to be transplanted for a 2nd time into a larger pot. It could be years before they flower, or produce fruit, but it is still so nice to have all these green plants around us in the Winter while the garden is covered in snow. My dream would be to have a greenhouse someday where they can grow bigger and live in a more tropical environment.

In the meantime, this is working fine...


Key Lime




Orange, Key Lime, Tangerine

Thursday, January 24, 2013

NOFA Winter Conference 2013

The Northeast Organic Farmers Association (Massachusetts) met January 12th for the annual meeting and workshops. This was our second year attending and it was really great. We went to two workshops, one on planning a garden for small spaces and one on herbalism.  There were booths set up of different sponsors and vendors and a truly amazing organic lunch for everyone.

I am not a farmer, but this day gave me access to ideas and vendors that farmers have access to. It gave me a glimpse into the fight to keep GMO seeds and food out of our gardens and homes. It showed me that extraordinary people like Karen Washington , the keynote speaker for the conference, can make a difference - one day at a time, one action at a time, one person at a time.

It gives me hope that each small action I take will stand together and make a difference. Most people don't start off extraordinary...ordinary people do small things (and sometimes big things) and end up changing the world around them.

One of the most important things for me, was the workshop on herbalism.  We learned that so many plants that we consider weeds and a nuisance around us, are plants that have healing properties and can help us to have a better balance of nutrition and health. It seems to me that we have all but lost our connection to the earth, and to nature. We eat chemicals and plastic tasting, food colored, sugar and starch with no nutritional value at all. Emotionally we think we're full, but physically we are killing ourselves with our choices. We are drowsy, malnourished and dying quicker than we should.

What I hold in my mind is the sun on my face, and the golden hairs on a tomato plant glistening in the sun. The smell as the tomato is picked and the taste of the freshness of summer. This reminds me of the garden of our childhood, as large as the lot I live on now, that I sometimes resentfully weeded or tended, but I never complained about the amazing vegetables and fruit we ate from that garden. I knew the food was good, but I didn't appreciate the work.

Now I understand better that the work, the journey of life is the best part. If I plant seeds and tend them, and they grow, but never produce anything...I am still changed. If the food grows, it is a lovely reward, but it is not the goal. The goal is the work, the doing of it all.

There are good and bad years farming and we have had some things grow, and some things die, but what matters most is that we are trying. More than ever, this effort is needed, and I believe it will yield something greater than we understand. Not just vegetables or fruit, but a return to the land, and a return to a connection to the world around us. A connection to each other and the building of community.

NOFA is a tool and a place of education and fellowship with people who share the vision of being connected to the land, and to other people. I'm grateful we were able to attend and participate in our little way on the path of change.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Perfection of Human Beings

Summer Dreaming
"When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness
 in the attempt to possess them, 
the essence of natural farming will be realized.

The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, 
but the cultivation and perfection of human beings."

~Masanobu Fukuoka, One-Straw Revolution

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Easy Eggplant Lasagna

In an effort to stop spending money during the work week on take out or vending machine substitutes for lunch, my daughter and I decided to make Eggplant Lasagna. 
Now, this is our version. Less cheese, more veggies and quite delicious.

We started with 2 medium eggplants sliced into 1/4 inch rounds.
Salt, pepper and olive oil and bake at 350 degrees on aluminum foil covered baking sheet.  
Also, cover with Aluminum foil.   Bake (15 minutes or until soft) and put aside to cool.

Grease (I used olive oil) a 9x13 inch pan, and then put 1/3 of a jar of Marinara sauce 
Next, add a layer of the eggplant rounds

In a separate bowl, combine 1 package of your favorite cheese (we used a 3 cheese blend)
and 2 eggs.  Mix well and place 1/2 the cheese mixture on the eggplant.
Because we were not using a lot of cheese, we placed it directly on each round of eggplant

Note:  Many of the recipes I read used several cups of 2-3 different kinds of cheese.
We opted to use less cheese to keep the recipe as low cal as possible, but this is completely up to you. Layer whatever you would like !

We then covered with another 1/3 of the jar of Marinara and a package of frozen peppers.
I would at this point use whatever veggies you would like to bulk up the lasagna, the peppers added a great amount of flavor to the eggplant.  

Cover the pepper layer with the rest of the cheese and egg mixture.

Cover with the final 1/3 of the Marinara sauce and sprinkle with Panko and grated Parmesan cheese. Again, this is preference and to your taste, but I find that about a cup of Panko and a couple of tablespoons of Parmesan can go a long way with flavor.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and you will have the delicious bubbling dish below.

We cut it into 8 servings (4 lunches each) and lunch for the week was ready.
We already had many of the ingredients in the house and only needed to purchase the eggplant.

In the Spring, I will be planting eggplant to see if we can reduce 
the cost of this delicious dish even more! 

New Version of Boiled Dinner

One of my favorite memories growing up is of Sunday afternoons for dinner at my Grandmother's house. The delicious aroma of dinner cooking and pies baking is forever engrained in my mind.

I'm not sure if it came out of the Great Depression, but we often had boiled dinners, which consisted of some sort of kielbasa or salted pork boiled in a pot or pressure cooker with a head of cabbage, lots of potatoes, carrots and turnips.

Craving a warm Winter dish like I remembered, we updated the boiled dinner idea with:

1 package of Andouille Sausage links - cut up into 5 pieces each
1 package of frozen brussel sprouts (fresh is better, if available)
1 quart of canned red potatoes
1 pint of canned carrots
Add additional veggies your family prefers

Put all of the ingredients in about 6-8 cups of water (or to cover)
Boil until veggies are soft. If you are using canned vegetables, you can boil together for 15-20 mins until the meat flavors the veggies and makes a broth.
Serve with or without broth depending on what you prefer and a little pepper.
I find that the sausage adds more than enough salt for me.
This served 4 - add a piece of homemade bread to soak up the broth and it is just perfect.

This is a quick and easy way to have that substantial boiled dinner meal with much less time and no pressure cooker involved. I prefer the brussel sprouts because they are easier to work with and easier to portion for servings. Also - they are delicious and make a great replacement for the cabbage.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Simple Happiness

Have you noticed that it is the simple things that make us happy?

For example, a really great cup of coffee, a conversation with a friend, a kindness from a stranger, or a connection to another person of any kind; it adds to our lives, it adds to us as people.

I am sitting watching the 300 lights on our Christmas tree. Some are blinking, some are solid, ALL are solar. At the end of each day, as night falls, there is this thing inside of me, childlike and pure that squeals with glee when the lights come on.

There are two sides to this – or more, if I am really honest about it. The child loves the lights and has forever wanted to see lights of every color blinking away during the holidays, or every day if possible; there is the adult who celebrates the fact that these lights cost nothing after they are purchased – no additional charge to the electric bill, and even the lights blinking away on the fence outside only require the power of the sun to bring the squeal of glee to that child inside.

This is a perfect time to reflect on the previous year and take the time to remember losses and reflect upon growth, to remember experiments and take note of future endeavors.  But really, all that matters is a good day’s work and to value the family and friends around me. There is never enough time to spend, or conversations to satisfy the desire to be close to the people we care about. What we have to do, is try our best and take advantage of every opportunity we have to connect. Each little action adds up, it creates a bridge to those we care about that sometimes months later will lead to a reunion and it is like time has not passed at all.

If there is any doubt in the minds of my family and friends, I treasure you with all of my heart. I am human and forget to show my feelings all the time, and I am not perfect and will make mistakes, but it never changes the fact of how much I love you.

You are the lights in my life all year long - that fill my heart with joy and make that child inside of me squeal with happiness at the visit of a family member, a chance to game with a friend, a meal or conversation shared.

You are the lights and inspiration and what spurs me on in the days that are difficult or trying and knowing that I am never alone. You are always with me, and the reason I can do everything I do, and strive to be better than I am.

I look forward to 2013 and the adventures we will have! <3

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Snow Day

Benny Goodman record for the Victrola - love this music!

As 2013 begins, I am starting the second week of much needed vacation. The morning is cold, like January in New England should be. I just put a log in the wood stove and poured a hot cup of coffee, took the Swedish Coffee Bread out of the freezer and opened all the curtains to let the sun in and life is pretty good from where I am sitting.

Sometimes I feel like I am still a child and this house is my fort, surrounded by snow and I am hiding out here with family or friends and my favorite things. Covered in blankets, with the whole of the day stretching ahead, time is different when you are home and you let go of the “normal” stressors. Like a snow day when you were in grade school! 

This is the time that I am most grateful for technology. I have a Benny Goodman radio show streaming while I use an iPad to check email and take on the task of unsubscribing from everything that tagged me during the holidays. I have access to the ebooks I am reading and can get caught up with reading the blogs I am interested in. I can write anywhere with my laptop, and love the freedom. My husband left for work, everyone else is still sleeping – even the dog is snoring, so it is a perfect time to write.  I enjoy when technology works for me, and fits into the activities I am already planning. I dislike when technology steals time from me, like the ridiculous amount of emails I have to go through. Unsubscribing is the first step to being free of that mess.

I am not making any resolutions this year, just continuing on in the direction of simplifying possessions and life. I have become more aware of what makes me happy and inspires me, and what speaks to my heart. Every day is an open page to write on, and to simply do a day’s work and find the good in each day sounds like a good place to start for 2013. 

The bread should be thawed, so I am off to see where the day leads…


Happy New Year!

This is what I wrote in our Christmas card this year and is my hope for everyone in the new year...

“With each year that passes, it becomes clearer
how much we treasure the people in our lives
and the memories that we share.

May your eyes be open to the miracles around you,
your ears hear music in the wind,
your feet always lead you to the home of a friend,
and your heart understand that you are loved.”