Friday, September 29, 2006

Harvest Time

I have a friend and neighbor who had a problem. Yes, she was afflicted by having too many fresh, ripe, beautiful pears! What to do? Why take a day away from projects, work, and cleaning and spend some time turning them into three varietys of pear honey! What fun we had and what great rewards. From pear/pineapple honey, Ginger/Lemon pear honey, and Orange/Nutmeg pear honey, we made them all. They turned out beautifully and taste delicious. It was her first time canning anything like this and she had a wonderful time and fell in love with the process of producing her own food.

Aren't we fortunate to be able to consider food production for our families to be a fun, enjoyable, and even artistic affair? It doesn't have to be the drudgery that we've all heard about. And what a feeling of satisfaction when you're done and see all those lovely little jars lined up in a row, knowing that in the coming months you'll be enjoying the sweet taste of pear honey on hot toast, pancakes, or over vanilla ice cream.

On another note, I received some wonderful books for my birthday recently. My dear husband, (who is a wonderful listener and a great giver of gifts) overheard me talking about a book (that a reader of this very humble blog) wrote on the subject of suburban homesteading. He sent away to Australia to get the book for me, since it isn't offered here in the States. It's called "Living the Good Life-How one family changed their world from their own backyard" by Linda Cockburn and published by Hardie Press, and it's the story of a family who lived without spending money for six months. How they managed this and how they reacted to it makes for a wonderful read and I recommend it.

My mother, an equally thoughtful gift giver, gave me a signed, first edition copy of "The Countryman's Year" by David Grayson, one of my favorite authors. What a wonderful book. I'm reading it a bit at a time because each page seems filled with such profound thoughts that I have to stop frequently to digest them.

Here's an entry from September. It reminds me of my own garden.

"Now the bees are active on goldenrod and aster; the swift going and coming, the comfortable hum of bountiful the orchard a scent of ripening pears...days pass, I do nothing."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Be Prepared. (It's the Boy Scout's Marching Song.)

Emergency preparedness is an interest of mine. Ever since I took a survival class in junior high, (hmmm...strange that such a thing was even offered in the 1970's, but there you are), I've kept on top of the information out there on what to do and when.

Now I've found this fun little quiz that's educational too. Take it and see how you do. (I got a pathetic 65%. But I learned a lot, like how to tell if a snake is a dangerous "Coral" snake versus a friendly snake.) (The headline will link you to the quiz as well.)

It's just plain smart to have an emergency kit at home, your office, and in your car. After the WTO riots here, the earthquakes, and the terrorist things happening around the world, please take time to put one of these together. It's easy, it's inexpensive, and it could save your life...or at least make it more comfortable in an emergency. (see here for checklist and other useful information:

For Hikers, Campers, or Outdoors People.

The Do-it-yourself Coffee Can Survival Kit
This is a compact kit that can be carried in the car, on the boat, or in a pack for hunting, hiking, exploring, etc. Most of the contents will fit in a one-pound coffee can which doubles as a pot for melting snow and device with which to dig an emergency snow shelter.(However, if you can carry it, include a small shovel. It is far, far better than trying to use a coffee can.) You should be aware that if this kit is carried while on hiking or hunting trips, you still need to carry the other Ten Essentials not included below.

Keep three points in mind when putting together a survival kit. First, make it small enough that you'll actually carry it and not leave it home. Second, use the list as a guide and customize it to your needs. For instance, if you are allergic to insect bites, bring the appropriate medicine, or carry appropriate wrap if you have knee problems.

Thirdly, bring enough to enable you to spend at least one night out. It is usually the first 6 hours that determine whether you'll be able to survive an emergency. If you can make it through the first night, then your chances are good that you can make it a few more nights if necessary.

Thanks to Allan Priddy who helps teach a Wilderness Survival class for putting this list together.

General Items
Braided nylon rope (25 feet)
Matches (2 boxes)
Fire Starter
Poncho (bright orange to attract attention)
Toilet paper
Candle (wrapped in aluminum foil)
Paper and pencil
Fishing line, hooks, split shot leads
Money (2 nickels, 2 dimes, 2 quarters, $20 bill: helpful for making phone call or paying for gas if broken down along highway)
Garbage Bags (2 large size bags)
Bright orange surveyor's tape

Repair Kit
Sewing kit
Dental floss (It's strong and useful as thread for sewing, or a fishing line or for lashing branches for improvised shelters.)
Safety pins
Wire (bailing wire)

First Aid Kit (Also see Lightweight First Aid Kit)
Sterile pads (2 x 2 and 4 x 4)
Sterile Gauze
First Aid Tape

Honey Packages (available in small foil packages available at convenience stores)
Instant Soup or tea (a couple packages)

Folding saw
Compass (learn how to use)
Hard Candy

Carrying container
Coffee Can (1 lb size) or nylon stuff bag

All contents except the plastic bags and the optional items will fit in a 1 lb coffee can.(Or you can flatten a "Spam" can or oval-shaped containers available at outdoor stores.) The plastic bags can be affixed to the outside of the can with a rubber band. To keep things from rattling in the can, wad up some wax paper and stuff it around the items. The wax paper stays dry and also doubles as a fire starter. To save weight the contents can be placed in a stuff bag and a metal cup can be used instead of the coffee can.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006



It's a misty morning, and looking out my window I see the soft glow of my roses and it warms me nearly as much as does the fire in the grate next to me. Still wrapped up in my bathrobe, sipping my second cup of coffee, you can feel autumn in the air.

I'm thinking about yesterday, about September 11th. Although there were articles in the papers, and stories on the news, and though the President gave a speech, it all seemed a little forced this year. A little like a nation trying to prove that it hadn't forgotten. Perhaps it's because it's all been said before. There isn't much new to dig into, the personal stories have been heard, those left behind have spoken. We know that life has changed.

We all still tell the stories of "where we were and what we were doing when we found out". This, perhaps, more than anything is what I notice. That people you don't even know will suddenly--at the slightest mention of the topic--tell you their story with an urgency like a need that must be met. And as people share their stories, everyone draws closer, as if they are hugging themselves--everyone feels just a little bit more like a family.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Catching Up In The Garden


Ah, it's September and it's so lovely here right now (sunny and warm--not too hot). The garden is starting to overwhelm us with swiss chard and cherry tomatoes. I like Bright Lights chard. Not only is it delicious when lightly steamed and served with a dab of butter, salt, pepper and vinegar, but it's just so pretty in the garden, especially when the sun is shining through it.


Since the Pacific NW is not known for its great tomato weather, we have given up on growing the big ones. We now stick to Sweet 100 and Sungold. These are reliable performers, pretty in salads, and a great snack right off the vine.


As you probably know, we have a severe shortage of honeybees, one of nature's best pollinators. We see lots of different bumblebees in the garden, but rarely see the littler honeybee anymore. At least until this week! My purple aster (variety unknown, as it was bought from a lady selling extras down the street) is LOADED with honeybees. They attract white moths, orange butterflies, and bumblebees too, but the honeybees are so busy happily crawling all over them that I think I will plant more next year and encourage my neighbors to do the same. If you are at all interested in having a nature garden and helping the bees along (we won't be getting many fruits and veggies without them!) then please consider planting this easy-care, lovely perennial in your garden. They look very pretty planted next to Black-eyed Susans or Gloriosa Daisies, (or Rudbeckia).

Finally, here is a branch of our Liberty apple tree. It's almost apple-picking time, and we can't wait! These do so well here. Can you believe that I truly did pick off a five-gallon bucket of apples off this tree after June blossom die-back? It's still too heavy. Next year I'll cull even more, but in the meantime...there's some apple pie baking going on around our house!