Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Preparedness: Wildfire

Years ago, my parents made an honest assessment of their location, climate and topography and determined that wildfire was their biggest natural disaster threat.  Knowing they couldn't prepare for every eventuality, they chose to focus their natural disaster preparedness efforts on fireproofing (to the best of their abilities) their homestead.  Although there is no way to prevent wildfire there are a few things you can do in order to reduce your fire risk:

1.  REDUCE YOUR FIRELOAD:  Clear dead trees from your property, along with slash piles and brush piles.  Cut tall grasses with a field trimmer, swather or livestock.  Keep outbuildings and other structures free from debris and make sure they are accessible.  Every summer my parents cut down trees that are "standing dead", as well as dead branches and over-grown brush.  They are careful to position slash piles far away from any structures and only burn after a heavy rain.

2.  "FIREPROOF" STRUCTURES:  Although not many structures are truly fire-proof, there are a few things you can do to reduce the possibility of fire.  My parents built their home and all of their outbuildings utilizing metal roofing as siding.  Not only are their roofs metal, so are the exteriors of every building, including their home.  Falling embers and floating ash will not likely spark fires on any of their structures.  Not only did they use building materials that discouraged fire, they also built one truly fireproof structure - a "bat cave".  They dug out the side of a hill, placed a 20 foot steel container in the hole and covered it with dirt, leaving only the door accessible.  After they buried the container, they planted grass over the top and created an entry-way with huge boulders.  All of their basic necessities, food, water and medicine, along with blankets, etc. are stored in the "bat cave".  If everything else is lost, they have something to see them through.

3.  FIREFIGHTING EQUIPMENT:  In addition to other preparations, my parents have invested in equipment to fight fire.  They have a large dozer that can cut a fire-line in a matter of minutes and also a fire fighting trailer (formerly used on a logging job site) equipped with a 350 gallon water tank, trash pump (the trash pump allows them to draft from the creeks, of which they have two on their property, allowing them to fill the tank without any pressurized water supply) water pump and fire hose.  They keep the fire trailer accessible during the entire fire season, maintaining operational readiness by using the trailer to water their garden, thus ensuring well maintained motors and a familiarity of operation.

4.  PRE-PACKED BUG-OUT BAGS/ACCESSIBLE DOCUMENTS:  If all of the previously established fire prevention methods fail, my parents have bug-out bags at the ready, along with highly organized and accessible documents.  Their passports, birth certificates and other documents are stored in an easy-to-access folder in their safe.  There is no rummaging through drawers or sifting through piles in an attempt to locate important documents as a fire is bearing down on the house.  They have incorporated a "grab and go" system that is necessary when all other options fail.

There are no guarantees when preparing for natural disasters but there are steps that you can take to minimize your danger.  Thoughtfully determine what specific natural disasters are most likely to affect you and make preparations accordingly.  If you live in an area prone to tornados, prepare for tornados.  If you have a high probability of earthquake, plan for an earthquake.  If your greatest threat is wildfire, assess your situation and form a preparedness strategy.

Being prepared is much more than stocking up on food and waiting for TEOTWAWKI.  It is about assessing potential threats and taking steps to mitigate the damage.  Remember - preparedness is not rocket science, it's just good, old-fashioned common sense.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Prayers of the Saints Availeth Much

God has again parted the Red Sea, only this time it was a sea of fire rather than water.   Our Georgia Transplants had evacuated Thursday evening not knowing if they would ever see their home again, but with faith that God's will would be done, regardless of the outcome.  The firefighters had been unable to contain the fire and had called for fire planes to drop retardant directly onto structures, hoping to minimize losses.  Early Friday morning our Georgia Transplants crossed the fire line to view the devastation with their own eyes. As they crested the hill, they were met by a miracle.  Amidst the ashen devastation, shining in the smoky morning haze, was our dear friend's home.  Untouched.   The fire had roared to their fence-line, parted, and continued it's path of destruction, forming a circle around their home.  The fire had parted like the Red Sea, leaving their garden, their home, their shop, their yard, completely untouched.  The prayers of the saints availeth much!

We continue to fall upon our knees in prayer.  Roads too numerous to mention have been closed due to fire.  An entire town is being evacuated.  Fires have us hemmed in on every side.  An area to the south has lost 33 homes and over 70 outbuildings.  One woman has lost her life.  Wildland firefighters are risking their lives in an attempt to save other's lives and livelihoods.  No amount of money or preparation can or will save us - our refuge is in Christ alone.

Thank you for your prayers, but please, do not stop!  Your prayers move the very hand of GOD!  The prayers of the saints truly do availeth much.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

In the Line of Fire!!

As many of you know, a tremendous amount of the Redoubt is on fire.  Our family has been blessed to have escaped unscathed so far, however, my parents have been effectively surrounded.  Although their homestead is currently "safe", their pastor and his wife are literally in the "line of fire".  Our dear "Georgia Transplants" have been evacuated and have sought refuge at my parents home.  They were able to evacuate two trailer loads of belongings, but the majority of their worldly possessions are in immanent danger.

Fire in the distance last night
Tired and weary, hoarse from smoke and exhaustion, our Georgia Transplants are praising the Lord.  They are praising Him for His faithfulness.  They are praising Him for His Providence.  They are praising Him for His children that have surrounded them, upheld them and encouraged them.  They are praising Him for their brothers and sisters all over the country that are on their knees interceding on their behalf.  They are praising God in the midst of their storm.

Heading up the draw

Fire is almost to the front yard
I beseech you - please.  Pray for these dear people that we love.  Pray that God sends the rain.  Pray that God stays the fire.  Pray that these fires bring glory to God and point people to His majesty.  But most of all, pray.  And if you are in the middle of your own firestorm, I will pray.  I will pray that as the flames grow nearer, your faith grows stronger - and that you will praise the One that walked with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and delivered them from the fiery furnace unscathed.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Long Overdue Hello

Please accept my humblest apologies for being absent from the blog for so long.  I really have no excuse.  I do have to admit that I have been on sensory overload.  It feels as though the world is coming apart at the seams and the more chaotic the world, the more I am compelled to live a quiet and peaceful life.  Folly, to be sure, but my reality nonetheless.

Our family has been busy.  We are tirelessly preparing, maintaining and managing.  As the daily news becomes more dire our efforts become more consistently focused on preparation.  We have been inventorying our supplies, rounding out our shopping lists and creating comprehensive location charts.  We have streamlined our preparedness stores, rotated our stock and filled emptying barrels.  We have been cleaning out and organizing all of our outbuildings to make them more usable and easily accessible.  These are jobs we do every summer, but this summer we are organizing, inventorying and cleaning with a quiet, but intensified anticipation.

The shelves are filling up with this year's harvest
Along with our cleaning and organizing, we have been canning - not as much as we'd like, but canning as much as we are able.  We have canned gallons of raspberry jam and raspberry orange conserve, as well as bread and butter pickles and many quarts of green beans.  The shelves are filling and the remaining shelves are cleaned and waiting for the tomato harvest, as well as deer and elk.

Freshly canned green beans and raspberry jam

Bread and butter pickles
As the hot summer days give way to cooler, late summer evenings, we have begun our yearly firewood harvest.  Master Hand Grenade and Miss Serenity have been sawing logs so that the rest of the family can split and stack the year's firewood.

And thus we continue our quest for a quiet and peaceful life.....while we are yet able.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Harvesting Garlic

Last fall, we planted our first crop of garlic.  Maid Elizabeth had carted a large bag of bulbs home from a farmers market and, not wanting any to go to waste, we planted the largest, nicest cloves and minced and canned everything else.  We ended up with six 1/2 pints of canned garlic and two medium sized garlic beds.  It was a wonderful garlic experiment.

Early this spring we noticed that our garlic was shooting up and looking wonderful, but we hadn't the slightest idea when or how to harvest.  In early June, after we noticed some of the leaves beginning to brown, we actively began to research the proper time to harvest and how to cure garlic for long term storage (other than canning).  We found that garlic is generally harvested in the beginning to middle of July, after 4 or 5 leaves have browned and withered from the bottom up.  Although it was the last day of June, our hot summer had hurried the garlic along, and, after checking, we determined that it was ready to harvest.

The girls and I headed to the raised beds, basket in hand, to reap the rewards of our labor (although truth be told, there is very little labor involved in growing garlic).  We carefully dug up each bulb, wiped the dirt from the surface and snipped the roots close.  Bulb after bulb yielded to our gentle tugs, until at last, our basket was filled to overflowing.  The bulbs were gorgeous, some nearly as big as a baseball!

After harvesting the garlic, we stood our screened drying rack up in the sun room and prepared the garlic for curing.  Garlic needs to be cured for about two weeks in a warm, well ventilated room, out of direct sunlight.  Not wanting to put the garlic in the shed (where the generator is housed) we sacrificed precious floor space in the sunroom/sleeping porch.  After the garlic has cured for a week, we will braid the stalks and put them back on the screen racks to cure for another week.

While most of the garlic will be for eating, the best, healthiest looking bulbs will be stored until fall when we once again fill the raised garden beds with cloves for next summer's harvest.

Oh, the sweet harvest of summer!

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Sleeping Porch

We have been experiencing the most unusually extreme temperatures!  Typically we get a few days of extreme heat (over 100 degrees) every August, however June and July are warm but manageable.  This year is something else entirely.  We have already strayed into the triple digits and it's not even July!

Because we live in a metal box in the middle of a prairie, we have to get creative to keep our family from succumbing to the heat.  One of the drastic steps we have taken to beat the heat this year is to turn our "sunroom" into a sleeping porch.

When I was a little girl, my Great Grandparents had a large house in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle.  To my child's eye, their home was a mansion, filled with precious treasures and wonders.  For hours I would sit in their telephone room, situated directly between the foyer and the kitchen, and write letters and draw pictures on the pads of paper used for taking phone messages.  I would make my way through closets that connected one room to another, pretending they were secret passageways and explore the contents of long-forgotten trunks.  I would play the miniature peddle organ on the stairway landing and sneak into the breakfast nook for a solitary moment in the warm, cheery kitchen.  But, on the hot summer nights, my very favorite place in the world, was the huge, old-fashioned sleeping porch.

The porch occupied one entire end of the second story.  It was about 40 feet long by 15 feet wide with wood floors that creaked with each footfall.  The room was wall-to-wall windows, which were covered by storm windows during the winter, but come summer, the windows were stored in the basement and the room became a screened in wonderland.  The sleeping porch was nothing fancy, merely 8 metal chaise lounge chairs arranged in a line.  They had thick, heavy, old-fashioned mattresses that smelled of age and dust and a few pillows and blankets spread here and there.

My family always visited during the warmest summer months.  My mother, grandmother, brother and I would walk to Volunteer Park and meander through the conservatory.  My brother and I would perch atop the lions that guarded the entrance to the Seattle Art Museum (located, at that time, in the park), pick water cress in the creek (for sandwiches with our tea) and trot after mom and grandma as they visited, filling each other in on their dramatically different lives. 

At the end of the long summer days, sleep would beckon.  My parents would retire to a well-appointed guest room with a tall 4 poster bed, linen sheets, and rose scented pillow cases, but my brother and I, we were the lucky ones.  We got to slip into crisp sheets on freshly made chaise lounge beds, to be lulled to sleep by crickets, cool breezes and the scents of summer.

With the extreme heat this summer has brought us, I decided that my children needed to experience the sweet sleep of a sleeping porch.  Normally, our sunroom is set up with chairs and a table and a single bed, where we often have tea in the evenings, enjoying the cool breeze and lovely views.  The sunroom affords us extra living space during the late spring, summer and early fall.  But this year, we removed the chairs and tables from the sunroom and added a cot and a "nest", along with the single bed that already occupied one corner, to create a sleeping porch for the children. 

The children love their new sleeping quarters!  They awake refreshed and rejuvenated, even from the warmest nights.  Each night, the kids can't wait to crawl into their beds, made with crisp sheets, and fall asleep, cooled by night breezes and lulled by the sweet music of crickets.

And so, my children get a tiny glimpse into the lives of their Great-Great Grandparents, through our own, little, make-shift sleeping porch.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Harvesting Scapes

Last fall Maid Elizabeth brought home 3 pounds of garlic bulbs from a local farmers market.  I planted what I could and canned what was left.  The garlic flourished over our mild winter and has taken off in our warmer-than-usual spring.  As I was weeding the garlic bed last week, I noticed that the scapes were getting large and begging to be harvested.  Oh joy!

Garlic scapes are the flower stem of the garlic plant.  It is necessary to cut scapes off the plant in early to middle June in order to encourage bulb growth rather than flower growth.   Scapes really are the first harvest of the wonderful garlic plant.  They can be used fresh or preserved for future use and are incredibly versatile. 

Scapes should be harvested while very young if you are planning on eating them fresh.  Before they start to curl they are incredibly tender and can be eaten raw, right off the plant. When they are larger, with a bigger flower "bulb" and have curled, they can be eaten like green beans, with a crunchy texture and decidedly garlicky flavor.  They are wonderful sautéed with peppers and onions and can even be pickled. 

Master Calvin cutting the last scape!

Always use good olive oil!

The olive oil completely covers the scapes
Our scape harvest was only big enough for one fresh meal, so I opted to preserve the scapes in an attempt enjoy their sublime flavor long after the summer has waned and the garlic bulbs have been harvested.  To keep their pungent, fresh flavor, I simply washed the scapes, trimmed the small end near the flower bulb and chopped the scapes in the smallest pieces possible.   With Dragon Snack helping, we chopped all of the scapes and filled two canning jars to the top.  After the jars were full, we poured good quality olive oil over the scapes and screwed the caps into place.  The scapes will infuse the olive oil with wonderful flavor and be and incredible addition to pizza, pasta sauce and even garlic butter.  The olive oil will preserve the scapes and become a gourmet addition to many future recipes.

Ready for use!
Don't just enjoy your garlic harvest once when you can enjoy it twice by harvesting the scapes!  Believe me, your taste buds will thank you!!