Archive for October 13th, 2009

If You Think Flapping Underpants are Scary Wait 'til You See the Chickens!

Sharon October 13th, 2009

I love the New York Times’ attempt to make it seem like the debate over line drying of clothes has two equally credible sides.  Thus we hear that (gasp!) once some realtor tried to sell a house to someone who didn’t like laundry hanging next door, and (gasp!) now that house is in foreclosure.  So it must be a real issue. Never mind that there are nearly a million houses in the US in some stage of foreclosure now, and one in one million is a statistical irrelevance.  Maybe they all have undies hanging on the line!  Perhaps the entire housing crisis could be stopped this way!  Why hasn’t anyone thought of this!  Someone call Tim Geithner!

Driven by “nostalgia” the Very Important Paper reports that the right to dry movement has brought together a coalition of the old and the young, the poor and the environmentally conscious.  Ummm…duh.  And obviously, “the same nostalgia that has restored the popularity of canning and private vegetable gardens” is definitely the most important motivating factor.  Sure.

There is no such thing as ecological use of a dryer.  The air dries clothes - it dried all the clothes of all human beings for thousands of years.  Yes, it takes longer when it is cold or humid.  Yes, sometimes you have to do it inside.  Yes, it takes a little longer.  So? 

My favorite quote from this piece is this one: “Richard Jacques, 63, president of the condominium’s board, said he moved to the community specifically for its strict regulations. “Those rules are why when I look out my window I now see birds, trees and flowers, not laundry,” he said.”

Awesome, Richard - you can see a whole host of species, slowly being destroyed by global warming, all so that you never have to see anyone’s sheets hanging up.  Enjoy the spectacle!  Ah the beauty of a dying ecology!

And know this - when I and all those old folks and young folks, those poor folks and environmental folks and those who just think it is silly to buy a $300 appliance to do something that the breeze or their heating source does for them get through with you, the laundry will be the least of your worries.  I’ve got goats, and a plan for inflicting them on you and all the other reactionary zoning fascists ;-)! 


How Food Secure Are You?

Sharon October 13th, 2009

As the transition to winter begins, and I spend more time talking about _Independence Days_, I thought it would be a good time to encourage my readers to do a self-evaluation of their food security and basic preparedness for an emergency.

The truth is that even if you think you are perfectly secure, you probably aren’t.  All you have to do is think about recent occasions when regions had power outages or crises for weeks on end, and when a buffer of food and medical supplies, and evacuation plan and lots of warm blankets would have been welcome.  Think Kentucky ice storms, Northeast ice storms, Houston and New Orleans Hurricanes…honestly, we all know it could happen.

So I would advise everyone to take a little while and see what your situation is, and maybe set some new goals for the fall and winter to improve - we all have things we can improve on.  So here’s a little quiz.  All questions are true/false. 

True or false:


1. I have two weeks of stored water, including my water heater and rainbarrels (if rainbarrels, you need a filter as well).  Stored water should be a minimum 1 gallon per person per day (2 is much better), plus 1 quart for each pet.

2. I have a plan for getting water (if you have a well) if the power is out for an extended period.  This could be a well bucket, a manual pump, or another water reliable water source. I have tested and used this source, and know that it works and is reliable.

3. I have a way of filtering or treating contaminated water, should my city or well water become unsafe to drink.

4. I have some familiarity with my local water infrastructure - I know where it comes from, and my community has a plan to handle water emergencies, including extended power outages. 

5. If I don’t have a reliable water source and am relying on stored water, I have a supply of alcohol-based hand-sanitizer for cleaning and hygeine. 

6. I know how to set up a composting toilet and handle hygeine issues.  If I live in a densely populated area, I’m prepared to talk to my neighbors about this stuff to prevent the spread of disease

Food Storage:

1. I have several familiar recipes that my family likes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks that I can make several times each from my food storage without any other ingredients. 

2. I have food storage to last *at least* 3 weeks?  3 months?  Six months or more?  My family could eat wholly from our pantry for this period, and, even if they didn’t love it, would enjoy the foods generally.

3. I have special foods for those who have special dietary needs in my family and among the people most likely to come to us in an emergency.  If these foods are different than our normal ones, I have used them, and know that everyone will and can eat them.

4. I have fresh foods in cool/cold storage or in the garden year ’round that allow for a diet including fresh vegetables and fruits to supplement dry, canned or other preserved foods.

5. My food storage includes a variety of staple grains and legumes, not just wheat.  I know how to cook and use these grains, and my family likes them and eats them regularly. 

6. If I rely on a freezer, I either use it only for supplementation, or have a backup plan for how to prevent food waste (throwing a big party, canning or preserving it) if the power is out. 

7. I have the tools to preserve and store foods that I grow, forage or purchase in bulk.

8. I have stored food for my pets and livestock.

9. If my family regularly consumes meat, dairy or eggs, I have the animals to reproduce this, stored equivalents or a family that is comfortable with doing without and a store of recipes to make sure they don’t miss it.

10. I have a store of vitamins and understand the basics of nutrition so that we can eat well from our pantry.

11. I take advantage of bulk purchasing, seasonal abundance and sales to expand my storage as much as I can.  I also take advantage (or direct those more in need to it) of free food, through foraging, gleaning, dumpster diving, etc…

12. I have a budget for food storage and preparedness, and I add a little to my storage every week (or whatever period you use) by preserving, purchasing or foraging.

Evacuation Plans:

1. My family has “grab and go” bags that include basic necessities to allow us to manage up to a few days in transit or a shelter if we must leave our home rapidly.  These include copies of important documents and photos, portable, easy to cook foods, medication, matches, water, hygeine items, a change of clothes, children’s needs. 

2. My family has an evacuation plan including a meet up spot, a plan for picking up children or elders from various sites, a family member who can take messages and coordinate communications if people are out of touch, and transportation security - ie, bicycles, or stabilized gas for the car, directions to likely locales, etc….

3. Everyone in the family knows what to do if we get separated.  Friends/family that we might evacuate to know we might arrive and are willing to help.

4. We have plans for pets and livestock should we need to evacuate.


1. We have multiple first-aid kits (Independence Days includes a comprehensive discussion of this) and know how to use them.  All adults and older children are competent to provide first aid, evaluate whether something needs more medical attention, and handle an emergency if medical attention isn’t immediately available.  Not only do I own the books, but I’ve actually read them ;-) .

2. I have a three week supply of any needed medication or a viable substitute that I have tried and that works.  I also have copies of all my prescriptions, including glasses. 

3. If we are quarantined, I have basic nursing skills and know how to care for a sick person, and to reduce risk of infection. 

4. I have the capacity to boil water and heat food, to prevent fires while using new tools, to keep warm or cool and handle basic hygeine issues even during an extended power outage.

Tribal issues:

1. I know which of my family/friends might come to us in a crisis.  I have made basic preparations to meet their needs in an emergency, at least for a short time.  I have enough food and clothing, and at least a sleeping bag or two to offer.

2. If I am anticipating children, parents or extended family to rely on me in the long term, I have made preparations for this in my food storage, medical storage and supply of other basic needs.  This includes covering special needs like diapers for infants, medications for elderly parents, etc…

3. I have sent people I love a letter saying “if you ever need to come here I would welcome you.”  The letter includes back-road directions and is designed to get them thinking about such an eventuality.


1. I am familiar with my local foodshed and watershed, and am working with others to expand it.

2. I am encouraging others to build up a reserve of food and medicine, and to find ways to meet other needs, at either the individual or communal level.

3. I can teach others the skills I’ve gained, and am willing to do so.

Ok, scoring: If you see a “false” that’s an indication that that’s a place to begin working.  How did you score?  Remember, if you have work to do (me too, trust me!), don’t panic - just do a little at a time.  It doesn’t take a lot of time to fill a bottle with water or pick up an extra package of bandaids and one of dried beans.  It all adds up over time.


Independence Days: PusherWoman

Sharon October 13th, 2009

i’m your mamma, I’m your daddy
i’m that farma in the alley
i’m your doctor, when in need
want sweet taters, have some nettle weed
you know me, i’m your friend
gotcher parsnips, thick and thin
i’m your pusherwoman,
i’m your pusherwoman.


ain’t i clean, veggie queen
super cool, super green
feelin’ good, for the man
onion chick, here i stand
carrot stash, heavy bread

baddest bitch in your garden bed!

i’m your pusherwoman
i’m your pusherwoman
i’m your pusherwoman

solid life, on the farm
gal of odd circumstance
a victim of agrarian dreams
feed you broccoli
and i’ll let you trip for a while
on my apple pie
how long can a good thing last?
keep ‘em in cold storage
got to be mellow, y’all
they’ll stay mellow-crisp

your pusherwoman fills you up. - With profuse apologies to Curtis Mayfield

The last few weeks we’ve had a *lot* of guests - visitors from our old haunts come to see us - family and friends.  It has been delightful - and I’ve used the occasion to play pusherwoman.  You see, out where I am, there are a number of family farmers of wonderful crops to fill root cellars, freeze, can and preserve.  So when my loved ones come and visit, we take them out to the Carrot Barn, or to Bohringers, to the Dutch Barn or Barber’s Farm, and send them home with bushel baskets and buckets and 50lbs of this.

I want these farmers to profit, and I want my friends and family to understand why it is that I never buy supermarket potatoes.  And while the food may not be perfectly local to them, as long as they are visiting anyway, and as long as there’s space in the vehicle, this is a win-win situation.

So I can be helpfully heard making gentle suggestions.  “Do you want some sweet potatoes?  Oh, don’t forget garlic - theirs is delicious.  Cortland apples?  Sure, how many bushels?  You don’t see a price for bulk cauliflower?  Let’s go ask - it wouldn’t do for you to run out.  No, slipping a bushel of tomatoes into the dehydrator isn’t that big a deal.  Sure you have room for 50lbs of onions - what about that space under the stairs?”  Yup, that’s me, I’m your pusherwoman, pressing vegetables on those I love. 

And vegetables are just a gateway drug - then there’s the poultry.  Step-mom only has four chickens?  Of course she needs two more baby chicks, and we just happen to have them.  BIL lost his ducks…well, what’s a few more?  And it doesn’t stop at poultry “Here, yes, just brush my angora bunny for a while…isn’t he soft?  Don’t you want one?” or “I know you don’t want goats…here, just hold this newborn one for a while, and would you like to taste the milk?”  That’s me, farm pusherwoman, baddest bitch in the garden.

Meanwhile, we’re finally through with all the guests and the holidays - it was wonderful, but starting to be exhausting.  We had a great visit with my college friends this weekend and a lovely time at Simchat Torah services, and now the celebrations are over, and life goes back to being quiet for a short time (other than Asher’s birthday) until I head to Georgia for my next talk.

It is getting cold now, and time to fill the root cellar - we’ll finally dig the rest of the potatoes, plant the bulbs and garlic, and pull the turnips.  We have now had a few hard frosts, so it is time to gather in the roots and also delight in the fact that the greens and roots are tastier now. 

We’re still putting up the last of the warm weather things - eggplant and tomatoes, peppers and squash, but the shift is coming to roots and greens and autumnal pleasures.  This afternoon we’ll harvest the grinding corn and see how many sunflower seeds the jays have left us. 

We’re also getting ready for the departure of the sheep - they leave tomorrow, and that means we can take down the old, falling down fence posts, mow the whole field and prepare to cross fence it.  I start building new garden beds as well, and the whole process of moving towards winter has really begun in earnest.

We’ll be buying apples to fill the root cellar, and supplementing our own crops with some from outside.  It is also a good time to sort through the storage pantry and start looking at what’s missing - we’ve run out of a few things I like to keep on hand lately, which suggests (correctly ;-) ) that we’re not paying enough attention to inside things as we focus on the final wrap up of outside.  One of the things I like about colder weather is the way it directs me inwards, to a house that has had to be content with licks and promises for a long time.

Arava and Tekiah are bouncy and adorable, spending their time exploring and playing and grazing.   Selene’s mastitis has cleared up and Maia is doing well with mothering - although she’s not quite as devoted a Mom as Selene is.  

I can see the beginning of the quiet season of planning - this morning a catalog arrived from FedCo Trees - it was the first of the 2010 seed and plant catalogs, and to me, a marker that said that gardening, while hardly done, is transitioning from “this year” to “next year.”  I’m starting to plan next year’s garden - I have to figure out where things are mostly going to go when I plant garlic.

And I’m wracking my brains to think about who else doesn’t have a cellar full of potatoes or a porch crowded with apples.  Pusherwoman gotta do her thing ;-) .

Plant something: Not a thing

Harvest something: Beets, kale, green tomatoes, sunflower heads, basil, mint, turnips, chard, broccoli, pumpkins, squash.

Preserve something: Made zucchini pickles, dried tomatoes, froze eggplant, froze sweet peppers, dried hot peppers, froze hot peppers, canned salsa, canned cider syrup for pancakes.

Waste Not: Nothing new this week

Want Not: Began the annual apple binge, picked up rolled oats.

Eat the food: Decadent raspberry pie with huge quantities of fall raspberries was the peak of things.  Grilled eggplant and pepper sandwiches are awfully good too.

Build community food systems: Some promotional stuff for Independence Days, mostly.

How about you?