Well, my thoughts have been filled with preparedness this year for some reason. Maybe it's because the January Ensign was full of preparedness articles. Maybe it's all the crazy earthquakes and natural disasters, job losses, etc. that have happened this past year.
The thing that keeps coming to my mind is, "If I had to [live off my food storage, use/make cloth diapers, make my own clothes, go "raw", make my own furniture, etc.], could I? I mean, I don't think I'll have to do all of these things, but it is interesting to think about how self sufficient we really are. It's easy to think that we'll always have what we have now, but who knows what the future has in store for us? War on American soil? famines? inability to purchase or obtain things we normally have access to? job lay-offs? I figure it's better to learn how to deal with those situations before we actually get to them.
I promise I'm not a pessimist. I don't sit here and think about doom and gloom all day long.
I do, however, think it's good to prepare for unforeseen circumstances.
With the help of my parents earlier this year, we finally started a real food storage. You know, with wheat and all that good stuff. We don't have as much as I'd like, but it's a good start. With wheat you need a grinder, so we researched and researched. We went back and forth on the electric or hand grinder. We decided that for a true emergency situation, we needed to have a hand grinder first. So, I purchased a Wondermill Junior Deluxe. It was almost as expensive as an electric nutrimill, but in all my research I found that most hand grinders were ridiculously difficult to use, and that most couldn't even get the wheat fine enough for flour to make bread. One day I'd like to also own the nutrimill.
While I've had the Junior Delux for a couple of months, I used it for the first time this week, just to see how hard it was, and how fine I could get the flour. It took me about 1/2 hour to grind 5 cups of flour, and I worked up a light sweat. It wasn't particularly difficult, but it did take a little time and effort. There was something earthy and satisfying about it, I have to admit. I had to do two passes through the stones to get it fine enough for flour. There was a little bit of grit from the stones grinding (normal for the first use), but not tons. My biggest problem with it was that I have no good place to hook it. My kitchen table is not set up right for it, and I have no other surface the right height. What I ended up using was my portable craft table, but it bent the table a bit and kept slipping off. So, I'm going to have to build something. The bread turned out quite nicely. All in all, I'm happy with the purchase. I can grind oily things (like flax, nuts, etc.) in it too since we got the steel burs as well.
Earlier this year I also ordered some freeze dried and dehydrated foods from THRIVE that you can't get at the cannery. Broccoli, butter, cheese, some fruits, etc. I really want to open and try them, but I want to save them for now "just in case". I've heard really good reviews about their food though. I would like to get some MREs and full freeze dried or dehydrated meals for our 72 hour kits, but they're a little pricey. Maybe one day.
We finally filled up our 50 gallon water barrels after having them sit empty in our garage for 3 years! We have 2 cases of bottled water in our car and 4 or 5 gallons in the house in case we have to leave quickly or if our water supply is cut. I do need to go through my 72 hour kits and update the food. I'm basically going to throw out the junk (you know, like ramen and what not) and put in a couple canisters of Isagenix shakes, a shaker cup and some Isagenix bars. Much, much healthier, longer shelf life, more meals, and all you need is water (no heat!).
Another food thing I've had on my mind is food staples. I would like to know how to and be able to: pressure can, make any pantry staple that I couldn't live without from scratch with my food storage, sprout things, make my own jelly, etc. I have decided to stop buying tortillas and bread products and make them myself. I did that occasionally anyway, but I'm really trying to crack down on my non-existent food budget and spend less in that area. I have good recipes for tortillas (white or wheat), french bread, pitas with some tips from me here, hamburger/hot dog buns, biscuits, oatmeal/wheat pancake mix, granola, pizza dough, and cornbread. (Hey, that just reminded me that I need to get some popcorn into my food storage since my grinder and grind that down into corn meal...) I tried making crackers, and they were ok. Too thick, without much "crack" to them, but edible. The boys really liked them. If I had a pasta roller I think it would be much easier to get them thin enough and uniform thickness. While we don't eat pasta much, I've made my own before and know I can do it. I also got a pretty good recipe for oat and jam bars (nutrigrain knock offs), but just like nutrigrain bars, they were a bit too sweet for me. At least when you're making them you can adjust that, right?! =) Sweetness aside, they were really good, though.
Next on my list to try: bagels. We don't care much for store bagels and I want to see if I can get a good deli-like bagel going. I'd also really like a dehydrator so I can try some raw recipes. While I don't think that a completely raw lifestyle is very doable for us, I would love to learn more about it and find recipes that work easily for us and incorporate them into our pantry/menu.
TX (at least our area) is not very great for gardening, but we have been faithful in our gardening efforts the last 4 years to improve and make it work here. We've done tons of soil conditioning since it's mostly clay here. We're hoping that next year it will be better after all we did this year. I figure, it's better to know what grows well, what doesn't, etc. now instead of trying to figure it all out if we ever had to rely on our garden! We know that we are done trying zucchini/squash because the vine borers are out of control!!!! We even bought resistant plants this year and the stupid pests were just too much for them. Grr. At least we know.
As most of you know, I switched to cloth diapers because I couldn't shake this feeling that I needed to for preparedness purposes. Overall it's been fine. There are problems and annoyances here and there, but I can do it, and I like knowing that. I use disposables with them at night and occasionally for church, but we've been fine otherwise. Again, there's something earthy and satisfying about seeing diapers hung up outside to dry, and bringing them in all stiff and putting them in the drier to fluff up a bit.
While I don't really think I'll be having to make my own furniture, it's nice to know that I know how to use a drill, glue, and a saw if I needed to! I made a picnic table for the boys this summer and it was a great learning process!
Sewing. I've really upped my sewing skills this past year. I know how to draft a simple skirt pattern. I've learned that you can refashion lots of old clothes. I've learned how to piece a quilt and and how to quilt it.
Wow. So I had not intended on using my evening to blog this, but that's where I ended up! Maybe someone out there needed a little inspiration. Anyway, I may periodically check in on this when I figure out how to do other things that I want to learn.