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Monday, November 12, 2012

State of the Homestead

It's been a season of cleaning up and prepping for the winter. Our winters aren't very harsh, but it still gets cold. And I'd rather not be chopping and dragging trees in the cold.

We've dropped maybe ten good sized trees that died due to last year's drought. That was only on one side of the property. We still have three more sides to go. But we concentrated on the side with trees leaning in the wrong direction.

Below is a video of one of our 'little' jobs; cutting off a dead branch from a huge oak.

Garden: You'd think the garden would be done, but no. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are still thriving. We've had a few blasts of Canadian air, but our temps stay in the 80s most of the time. It doesn't really get cold here until January.

I started a few pots for indoor gardening, but I need to start more. 

My potatoes (in pots) did well, and they're ready to harvest. Hmm...I wonder if I can grow potatoes indoors too. By the way, I did a post on using vegetable scraps to start new plants on Back to Basics. The potatoes I'm harvesting now were the buds from some potatoes I bought at the grocery store. 

As long as you include a little flesh to get it started you can grow your own potatoes. I've heard stories of people during the Depression who planted potato skins (with the buds) and they did indeed get potatoes from these leavings.

Processing the Harvest: Newsflash! I think I found the best way to put up my bountiful tomato harvests. This year I dehydrated a big batch of tomatoes as a test. It was fantastic!

The dried tomatoes were sweet and full of flavor. I toss them into my spaghetti sauce and chili. I am definitely dehydrating more next year. All the fruits and veggies I dehydrated this year are almost gone. That's how good they were. 

Chickens: We've been dispatching a few chickens every time Greg comes home to visit. We have to make space for the new hens. Some chickens we're keeping, but most of the old ones will go in the pot.

Dogs: I made a grievous error in judgment on Tank. If you follow me on Facebook, you might've seen the story where I found shredded bread wrappers on the floor. I naturally blamed Tank since he is the tallest and can easily snatch something off the counter.

But when it happened the second and third time, I knew it wasn't him. He'd been framed! Iko is not food motivated, but Mama is. She stole a piece of bread off Greg's plate when he wasn't looking. Who knew an old arthritic dog could jump high enough to pull stuff off the counter? Bad Mama!

Hurricanes, city vs rural: My heart goes out to those people devastated by Hurricane Sandy. I've been in your shoes--more than once. 

Two things surprised me about the people who weathered Sandy.

1. The media has been harping for DAYS about prepping for the storm, yet so many people seemed unprepared. (At least the people they filmed.) 

2. Sandy survivors who had power offered to let people recharge their cell phones on extensions. I thought that was wild! I mean it's great that, 1) some people had power, and 2) the city had working cell towers. 

After a big hurricane, our first priority is clearing debris. Communication was last on the list because cell towers were hit or miss, and there was no power for regular land lines anyway. We were on our own. Most of us came back with water, chainsaws, gas, and generators.

I think the differences have a lot to do with the density of the population. There are a lot of apartment dwellers up there. Their needs are definitely different than someone on acreage who just has to worry about getting the trees off her house. With nothing else to do, tempers are probably on edge, waiting for city services to get back online.

Power loss erodes morale. Because of how we live, it's a lot more serious than it sounds. We went without power for 21 days. Believe me, it sucks.

I'm just glad the worst is over and they can concentrate on rebuilding. Sandy survivors, hang in there. It'll get better. Promise.


Has Hurricane Sandy changed your attitude about how to prepare for disasters? Would you do anything differently now?


Darke Conteur said...

I'd given up on our garden around the beginning of October, but Husband said that a cauliflower plant was still going strong. It was, a bit. There were black spots on it so we just left it to decompose. We didn't have enough tomatoes this year. :(

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: Considering your latitude, you might have to invest in a mini greenhouse, cold frame, or start your plants inside earlier.

Cauliflower and the other brassicas are always hit and miss for me. They really do prefer cooler temps.

Wish I could trade tomatoes for cauliflower. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

The longest we've gone without power is two days. We also live in the country and can be pretty self sufficient. We have three fireplaces, a gas grill and stored water so we do okay. 21 days would be a great challenge.
I'm sure the people recovering from Sandy didn't think to prepare for such a long outage of power.

Rula Sinara said...

We had to take several trees down this summer because of gall disease (oak) and Ash borer. I'm glad they came down in a deliberate fashion, with piles of nice firewood...otherwise hurricane Sandy would have brought them down in a mess.

I love drying my tomatoes every year. I'm allergic to garlic and onion, so I like to dry them and put them in jars with my own herbed olive oil so that I can make sun-dried tomato pasta. I also use potatoes that have sprouted before use. The one thing I haven't had luck growing is broccoli and cauliflower.

Sarah Ahiers said...

We had accumulated snow this morning, and it's a firm slap in the face that i need to finish cleaning up the patio and putting my rain barrels and etc in the shed until spring.

L.G.Smith said...

Twenty one days without power? That would be tough. Doable, but not pleasant, especially in the cold weather. I really do feel for those people in New York/New Jersey who lost so much. What a mess.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

Sandy hasn't changed how we prepare. Now that we're in Austin, we don't have to worry so much, but in Houston, it was the same every fall, trim all the branches close to the house, stock up on canned goods, pet food, and water and keep a stock of wood for boarding up the windows if necessary.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: You never think it'll be that bad. I know we didn't.

Good for you for storing water. And a double bonus for all those fireplaces. I'm jealous! :)

Maria Zannini said...

Rula: I must try putting the dried tomatoes in olive oil next year. Thanks for the suggestion!

And allergic to garlic and onion? Heavens! I'd be in permanent depression.

I really enjoyed the dried tomatoes this year. I was shocked at how good they tasted.

Ref: the brassicas
I'm in the same boat. It's too hot down here for them unless I plant in the fall. I guess I could try a few and see if they do better in the greenhouse over the winter.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: Ooh, rain barrels. We picked up several cisterns but have yet to install them under the gutters yet. Our rains come in the spring.


LG: It's all doable, just not always pleasant. You really miss showering and eating fresh food.

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: Nothing prepares you for natural disasters like living in Houston. If the hurricanes don't get you, the flooding will.

Where I live now we mostly have to worry about tornadoes.

Angela Brown said...

Not to harp back on an old one, but the Katrina situation and all the hoopla and grand sensationalism surrounding that moment in time actually left me with the desire to make sure that I can/could be better prepared for a disaster, or at least more aware of the importance of leaving when advise to evacuate.

Jenny Schwartz said...

I love reading about the homestead, Maria. In my corner of Australia, the tomatoes are just ripening, the little cherry ones. But I'm ignoring them in favour of blueberries. I love blueberries!

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: It's so hit or miss, isn't it? Katrina barely nicked us, but Rita which came immediately afterward threw us back to the stone age.

Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: Blueberries are so elusive for me. They prefer acid soil and where I live now is not quite the right ph for them.

Every year I try to amend the soil in the hopes I can coax them to a harvest.

Shelley Munro said...

Poor Tank getting blamed for the crime!

Our vegetable garden grew wild while we were away, and despite telling the neighbors to help themselves, a lot of things went to seed.

Our tomatoes are just starting to flower and form. It's been a bit cold this spring and everything is slower. The strawberries are starting to ripen.

What do you use to dry the tomatoes and other things?

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: It's an electric dehydrator. Next year when I dry some of my produce, I'll do a step by step post on it.

You can also dry produce in a low oven or sun dry. But the electric is nice. It works while I sleep.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it but we are completely unprepared should a disaster hit us. Of course, we're in the desert so beyond losing A/C in the summer... Yet having had a house fire scare, and a natural gas scare, we do have our important docs and meds in an easy to grab spot, along with a plan we practice monthly to get everyone (including the fur babies) out in under 2 minutes.

I bow to you surviving 21 days without power. I remember when I was young us losing power in the middle of a blizzard and we were without for about a week. Luckily we had access to the well for water. We usually got snowed in for a week or two each winter at that house so we always had at least a week's worth of food stored. As a kid, I just remember it as a big slumber party/camp out as we all crowded around the fireplace, LOL.

I missed our growing season this year so now I'm just staging for planting in January :)

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: I need to be more organized with my documents.

Ref: 21 days
It's not like we had a choice. LOL. Well, I guess we could've left town until the infrastructure was running again, but we felt we could make it.

The only people who didn't return right away had kids. It was miserable enough for adults. I wouldn't recommend it for families with young kids.

Gwen Gardner said...

Wow, 21 days without power! That's a long time. It gets quiet, doesn't it? That's the first thing I noticed when we lost power and it was only 6 hours, lol!

I can tell you're a real gardening whiz, Maria. Everything you grow sounds so good. Our elevation (9200 ft) is too high to really grow anything but pine and aspen trees and the wildlife is hard to keep out. I did a bit of container gardening, though, and that's fun.

Maria Zannini said...

Gwen: Living at 9200 feet would be a real learning experience for me--mostly learning how to breathe. LOL. I don't do so well once I get past 5k.

Dru said...

I was so prepared but I was not prepared for our building to completely lose power. We later found out that Con Ed had turned off the power grid.

My cell phone was my life saver and I was grateful for those establishment that set up charging station.

Lesson I learned is to replace broken radio before next storm.

Maria Zannini said...

Dru: I'm so glad you finally got your power back. You guys had it rough for sure.

I recommend a wind-up radio. No batteries necessary and they're very rugged too.

Glad to see you here!

Shelley Munro said...

Maria - I think I need one of these. We've done tomatoes in a slow oven. They're delicious.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: Next to the crockpot, it's one of my favorite appliances. I bought mine at a yard sale for two dollars. Even at retail they start out at thirty dollars and go up. But don't bother with the expensive machines. Most of the base models are more than adequate to do the job.