Archive for September 19th, 2008

More for the Holy Crap Files

Sharon September 19th, 2008

Ok, folks, I’m not here.  I know I said I wasn’t going to be online on Fridays anymore, and I’m really not, but I did need to follow the new SEC short selling info, and you need to also!  Because the sudden change of economic rules really could crash the economy harder than before - it may well be that the 10 day ban, and perhaps a subsequent extension on short selling will keep things going until the election - but I’m not holding my breath, and I’m definitely with those who think that this will make the financial situation much more dire. 

Discussion here at the Oil Drum;

And here at the automatic earth:

I know most people have no idea what this means, but it is worth taking the time to sort through the articles and their comments, and get a grasp on why this matters.  Because your economic future is being played out here. 

Ok, if you are wondering what you can do about it - not a whole lot.  So you might as well go back to doing the same other stuff - getting your preparations in order, making yourself as secure as you can, helping out your neighbors, getting to know them better.  And if you are still in a planting season, I’d recommend this article by the incomparable novelist/herbalist Susan Wittig Albert, who also writes deliciously fun mysteries about China Bayles and Beatrix Potter (as Robin Paige, with her husband) and might be a good escape from all this crap:


Friday Food Storage Quickie

Sharon September 19th, 2008

Ok, last week concentrated on two common starches - pasta and popcorn.  This week, we’re going to try and diversify your holdings a little bit by adding some orange vegetables and dried fruit.

Why these two?  Well they are important for a couple of reasons.  Vitamins A and C tend to be deficient in most food storage diets.  Both most orange veggies and dried fruit are sweet, and many lend themselves to lots of familiar recipes.  Also, if you have to transition rapidly to a diet primarily of grains and beans, you may find that this leads to tummy trouble - a little dried fruit to keep things moving along is not a bad idea.

 What kind of orange vegetables?  What kind of fruit?  Well, it depends on you and your family - on what you like to eat, and on what you have the ability to store.  If you live in a place where your home is routinely in the 50s or low 60s during the winter - or if you can shut off a room and keep it quite cool, you have the optimal conditions for storing winter squash, pumpkins or sweet potatoes in their natural state.  Now these take up a considerable bit of space, so storing large quantities of these can be difficult - but if you can allot the space, the tastiest, freshest and most nutritious option would be to have grown or if it is too late for that, to buy in bulk from a farmer large quantities of sweet potatoes, squash or cooking pumpkins (jack o lantern pumpkins make good animal feed, but not good pies particularly).  Many small pie pumpkins may be available at a minimal price the day or two after Halloween, if you talk to local pumpkin dealers. 

If you don’t have moderate temperature storage, but do have a root cellar or cold storage space, another option would be to buy carrots in bulk and store them in the basement (or other suitable place) in buckets of damp playground sand.  Carrots have the advantage of being delicious raw, either straight or grated into salads.  Carrots are generally quite inexpensive as well.

But what if you live in an apartment and can’t store large quantities of orange vegetables.  Well, you can either purchase or can yourself canned pumpkin, squash and sweet potatoes - these are especially cheap around Halloween and Thanksgiving in most localities, and it isn’t a bad time to buy a large quantity.  These vegetables can be served more or less as is, baked or pureed with cinnamon, they can be added to biscuits and breads, make a delicious soup (I particularly like pumpkin-tomato) are good mixed into bean purees like hummus, used to flavor rice pilafs, and of course, pies.  A small amount of orange vegetable will ensure that you and your family have adequate natural sources of vitamin A.

What about the dried fruit?  Well, what kind of dried fruit does your family like?  Raisins?  Dried Cranberries?  Dried apple schnitzen?  Prunes?  And perhaps more importantly, since dried fruit isn’t cheap, is there any fruit you have abundantly that could be dried?  Right now, in my area, apples are abundant and often sold inexpensively by the bushel - and most northeastern households can dry them simply by peeling and coring and cutting the apples into rings, which are hung up and dried on strings in the house. 

Buying dried fruit in bulk is definitely cheaper than buying it in most packaged bags - and Sams Club type places sometimes have good deals.  If you can’t afford to buy local, or can’t find a local source, remember, you don’t need as much dried fruit as you do, say, dried beans - even a little helps flavor your oatmeal, provides a tasty, calorie dense snack for a child and helps with that little internal issue. 

There is one kind of fruit that I think is well worth making some effort to stock up on - dried elderberries. In some regions of the country, wild or cultivated elderberries are still on the plant and can be harvested for free.  In other places, these will have to be ordered.  But it is truly worth having some, so that you can make vitamin C rich elderberry sauces, syrups or other supplements.  As mentioned above, Vitamin C is the other nutrient that food storage is often short of.  Even dried, elderberries are incredibly dense in vitamin C.  Homemade elderberry syrup is not difficult to make (boil dried berries with a sweetener and a bit of water) and is a good treatment for various winter illnesses - but even more important, elderberries are a good regular source of C.  If not elderberries, dried rose hips are also excellent for this purpose.

Dried fruits make great pies (elderberries too!), great pancake sauces, good additions to rice pudding, oatmeal and other porridges, flavorings for cake and breads, and terrific snacks by themselves.  They open up wide the range of foods available to you if you have to rely primarily on your storage.  If you have kids, or adults with kid-like tastes for the sweet, dried fruits can be helpful in getting people adapted to their new diet.

Ok, what about non-food items?  This week, let’s check out our flashlight situation.  If you are like a lot of people, they live in a kitchen drawer with a lot of other junk in it.  Can you find them in the dark?  Do you have a flashlight at your bed?  Do the kids or other household residents have a light that can prevent an accident and make them feel secure?   

What’s the battery situation, for flashlights without cranks?  Do you have rechargeable batteries and a solar/crank battery charger?  When was the last time you checked the batteries on your flashlight?

Now is the time to go over your flashlight situation.  Generally speaking, I think most households need a few of these - a big one with a big light for dealing with a crisis in pitch dark - you don’t want to manage a broken bone or help a lamb birth, try and fix the water pump or check for a burglar with a teeny little light.  Plus, as one of my other readers pointed out, big maglight flashlights make excellent blunt objects just in case.

Then there are smaller LED flashlights that last a long time - try and have at least one headlamp, if you can - having your hands free to do other things makes a huge difference if you  have to do chores in the dark.

I also like the hand crank flashlights, especially for children.  They have the advantage of working even if you do let the batteries lapse.  Even though they aren’t environmentally sound, for the youngest kids, who may be scared of the dark, I find lightsticks to be a good alternative, and store a few.  That way toddlers and preschoolers, or children without the ability to manage a flashlight without breaking it can still have a sense of power and security and some light.  They don’t last all that long, and are a disposable item, so this isn’t a long term solution, but it does offer a short term way of handling a crisis.  Battery powered LED nightlights aren’t a terrible idea either.

Whatever you choose, have the lights, have the batteries and a way to replace/recharge them (honestly, recharge makes so much more sense that I can’t understand why anyone would choose the other alternative), and make sure you can find them easily and in the dark.  Because when you need them, you really need them.  Inexpensive flashlights are often available at Sams Club type warehouse stores and oddlots stores, and a quick trip through ebay suggests lots are available there.

If you’ve got the lights and batteries and things, now is a good time to make sure they are charged up, that everything is clean (ie, removing rust, etc…) and that things are accessible and that everyone in the household who might need to know can find them if they need to.