Friday, October 31, 2008

They Know How to Live!

Came across this site - Some great photos and lots of ideas for living on less. Check it out.

Fixing lunch today I got frustrated with the plastic stone ground mustard bottle. (Yeah, the jerk next door is still zooming away so I'm on edge and it's spilling over!) Anyway, after standing the bottle upside down before dispensing the mustard, and then taking the cap off to clean out a bit more, I vowed to make my own mustards next year. Fewer plastic bottles to dispose of and I can clean every last drop of mustard out of the pint jars. So there.

Well, I'm on my way outdoors. Maybe a walk will help. Even the neighbor stopped by - he lives 3/4 mile away - and complained about our maniac neighbor and his lawn maintenance.

Later folks, Treesong

I Got Nothing But Bitching Right Now

Good Morning Folks,

No birds chirping today; just the sound of the city guy's leaf blower - since 7 a.m. Has to have a perfectly manicured lawn and suck up a bit more gas and remind us that he's baaaaack!

It ain't a beginning to the day when I don't get my beauty rest. Seeing as I'm a make-up free kinda gal my beauty rest is the only chance I have to look presentable. But, it is Halloween!

Nearly three hours of this "airplane about to take off" sound already! You can't pick your relatives and you can't pick your neighbors - not really 'cause property does change hands from time to time.

So what else can I bitch about this morning, seeing as that is my mood?

How about that Joe the Plumber guy, huh? Had his time in the spotlight again at a McSame campaign appearance. Thank God the news show we were watching didn't quote the guy. I'm am so sick of McSame's sound bite dribble and rah, rah "fight, fight" spectacles. Maybe he could get a job as a cheer leading coach for some losing team trying to make a comeback.

And before you get your dander up, Obammy's getting a little tiring too. Tuesday can't come soon enough.

I wonder how many millions this Inauguration is gonna cost? Like our national conventions, another opportunity to waste money. But, hey, wasting money is our national past time NOT football or baseball, silly.

And China, who we owe millions (or is it billions) to is building infrastructure and has the highest savings rate of any developed country. Plus us suckers buy all their crap! Gotta hand it to 'em; smart cookies. And they limit population growth too. But their air quality sucks as does their personal freedoms. But, like my Grammy always said "take what wisdom you can from anyone and ignore the rest."

Guess some of that bailout money is getting closer to the consumer. We got a Chase bank offer for a home-equity loan "from 4.74%." From is the operative word, there folks. I think they call that a "teaser rate." So I say, let's go visit that loan officer and get her all excited 'cause she calls us at least once a month trying to drum up business. She can't quite figure out how we survive without any debt and a bare minimum in checking and savings. Poor gal, her new Sarah Palin glasses haven't improved her perspective one bit. Oh well, I kinda like being mysterious.

Well, the moron across the road had quieted down for a few minutes but he's back at it again. Sweetie's being especially mean this morning. Says that steady drone is getting us desensitized for the hunters on four-wheelers and snowmobilers who ignore no trespassing signs. And, if the price of gas remains low there's bound to be more of them.

I wish there were young pranksters in this neighborhood who would have targeted his machine shed last night.

Oh well, maybe if I eat breakfast my blood sugar will stabilize my mood. Later, Treesong

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day 26 or 27 Freezer Experiment

Hey folks, it's either day 26 or 27 of my freezer experiment and I think we'll last through the month of November - partly because we'll be gone a week. But, we've moved into soup mode around here. Cold weather, inactivity and just plain laziness are all to blame. Oh well. If we pamper ourselves with large gastronomical displays plated on my good china (ha, ha!) every day will we accept anything less? Better to eat plain and simple now. Goes along with the theory "if you've never had it, you don't miss it."

In the past week we've had homemade chicken noodle soup, pea soup, and stew - each twice; and tonight its double tomato soup (a can of tomato soup and jar of home canned tomatoes mixed together with a can of water and some sale and pepper). Lunch had been a mishmash: grilled cheese, tuna, or peanut butter sandwiches and a couple times breakfast was later than usual so I just served a bit more of it and called it brunch!

I've got a taste for waffles again and usually serve them on Sundays. But, what the heck, maybe I'll mix it up and have breakfast for supper tomorrow.

Supposed to be in the 50's and sunny here tomorrow so we'll be outside taking care of last minute projects. No need for a wood fire then and I'm stingy with the propane so there won't be a meal simmering on either stove. is easier if you let it be. Treesong

Keeping Up Appearances

There's plenty of discussion bantered around these days about climate change, peak oil and the economy. And plenty too, about cutting back. Various media are full of stories of people eating out less, using coupons, driving less, cancelling vacations, buying goods second hand, and turning down the thermostat. While each of these actions has their benefits all of them support an underlying theme in the American psyche. Maintaining the status quo.

Last night one of the networks (maybe ABC) had a piece on how this lousy economy is affecting people's ability to live the American dream. One family chose eat out once a week instead of twice; another rationed snacks. And recently I read a blog that talked of stocking up on hair gel, makeup and hair dye. Both of these are indicative of our insistance on perpetuating "normalcy" while ignoring, or being clueless to the real problem - belief and participation in an exponential consumer driven economy.

I've got news for you all. It's not sustainable. The heavens may go on forever but the planet's resources do not. And globalization is not the answer. For starters, it makes all of us more dependent! When you can't get produce and products from 3,000 miles away and the shelves go empty and you haven't planted a garden or raised your own beef or supported your local sawmill or blacksmith just what will you do? Wait for the delivery truck? Ah, you say you've stocked up for just such a time. Great. How long will it all last? Not to mention how will you protect it? Guns and ammo, you say. Fine, what about when it runs out or there's more blood to wipe up than its all worth?

I've heard it said that preppers are one step ahead of the sheeple. True, they are. But, if a prepper is not examining how they live, what they consume and learning how to adapt to TEOTWAWKI no amount of beans, bullets, bandaids or hair gel in the world will keep life "normal."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Today's Musings

We received our bank statement today. Three Hundred in savings paid us three cents. Our deposits are loaned to the bank and we're getting three cents for our generosity.

Reading a "saving space" article today prompted me to sort out a bit more. We're going north in a week and five boxes of stuff will be passed out to kids, sister and grandkids. This is not the weather for a yard sale and I haven't the energy anyway.

My Dad always had a "giveaway" shelf in his entryway. He's whittled his possessions down to so little that I'm bringing pots and pans with us to cook meals. The only thing he has more of is medication bottles lined up on the kitchen table.

Which leads me to ask: why is it that the Veteran's Affairs negotiates the price of prescription drugs but Medicare does not? Why aren't each specific medication priced the same nationwide? Wouldn't that save a bundle? Of course, the goal of medicine (and everything else) in this country is to make money! So, there's no chance lobbyists will be out of work or lobbying declared illegal. I wonder how much "change" would really occur if those scumbags didn't exist?

A friend tried to build a home of recycled materials but the inspector tagged the place for not being up to code. Seems the studs had to be stamped with some label certifying they meet specs. In other words, her 75 year-old oak beams could become part of the "decor" but could not be used to hold up the roof. A neighbor of hers got approval, however, to hook up a 1968 moble home that had two inch walls and roof because it had the appropriate tag on a closet door.

Neighborhoods need to bring back front porches, rocking chairs, sidewalks, a chicken coop out back and a Victory Garden. Mentioned this to a gal at the grocery store who compained about the high cost of produce and not knowing anyone on her block. As we dug deeper through the pile of 10# bags of potatoes (going bad and priced at $5.99)she said, "I don't want everyone looking at me, chickens stink, and we're not at war so I don't need a Victory Garden." I had no interest in potatoes after that.

Sweetie's 96-year-old mom called today. She asked why we're going north where "there's nothing to do" and it snows more. Based on where we live it will be like going to the "big city." But, she considers wilderness to be anything above the Mackinac Bridge - based on a trip there the day after the bridge opened 50 years ago. Lots of people make judgements like that. They've seen, heard or experienced something once so it must still be the same.

We got so ticked off at the number of robo calls and campaign literature we receive that we called the biggest offender's local office and asked to be removed from their list. Stupid idea. Should have realized they use fulfillment businesses to do their dirty work. So, we were asked for our address. Four days later we get three calls from another moron in their office asking if we'd like to volunteer, some more of their flyers, and a little knock on the door. Sweetie finally blew up at that intrusion and the poor sucker took off running to his car. I think the message we delivered over the phone got misquoted.

Sometimes no matter what you try to free yourself of, improve or improvise, or who you attempt to enlighten, there's some moron or misguided do-gooder who's going to leave you wondering why you bother.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pellet Shortage - One Reason I'm Not a Fan of Those Stoves

This was on TV&&4 news tonight:

GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY -- More and more families are turning up the heat as the temperature dips, but some heating with wood pellets are finding it difficult to stock up on the product.

A viewer emailed us voicing his frustration, and we found out what's behind the shortage.

"As this point, we are all sold out of pellets," says manager of Tractor Supply Co. in Traverse City, Jeff Lemerand.

Lemerand says wood pellets for stoves would normally be stocked in the corner behind the main cash register in the store, but that spot could remain empty for awhile. Plus, some pellets that homeowners are trying to buy to heat their homes are selling for higher than usual prices.

"We did a huge pre season layaway sale, we started that very early in the year, probably three truck loads of pellets which was 22 tons on a truck, we sold out," says Lemerand.

He says the shortage could have several causes including fewer homes being built, which normally provides by-products like wood shavings to make the pellets.

"Other one is a high demand and then the third is that one the largest manufacturer of wood pellets on the east coast recently burned down...which we're seeing a shipped of product going that way too," says Lemerand.

And it's not just wood pellets, cherry pit pellets are also disappearing fast at a manufacturing company in Kingsley. Owner, Chris Storms says his pellet stoves are also selling at record numbers this year.

"We've been receiving phone calls from all over the United States with people wanting more cherry pits...This year especially to local people who cannot get wood pellets," says Storms.

Storms says the pellets that he currently has will be completely wiped out in about two weeks.

"I think it's because propane and heating oil prices went so high, people are looking for alternative sources to heat their homes to save money," says Storms.

When it comes to energy efficiency, perhaps these stoves are good; but if the grid is down what good are they? And, they are a manufactured product so you are dependent on their continued production as well as transit and a store being open to sell them. IMO you are too dependent on business as usual continuing. Just my opinion!

Almost Time For Snow Angels!

We had about two inches of snow last night. Almost time for snow angels! The termometer reads 20 degrees; the picture was taken through the dining area window. I just love looking at the first snow that sticks to the ground and trees. Reminds me of how excited I was as a child to know I'd soon be outside having snowball fights, making snow angels, building igloos and sledding. Every winter it's a tradition for me to go outside and make a snow angel; nothing wrong with expressing child-like wonder!

Enjoy your day, wherever you are, Treesong

Email About the 1500's

Received this email from a friend. Thought it was interesting.


The next time you'e washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about the 1500s:

These are interesting. ..

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, 'Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.'

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip off the roof. Hence the saying 'It's raining cats and dogs.'

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying 'dirt poor.' The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway.
Hence the saying a 'thresh hold.'

(Getting quite an education, aren't you?)

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while.
Hence the rhyme, 'Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.'

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could 'bring home the bacon.' They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and 'chew the fat.'

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or 'upper crust.'

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of day s and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a 'wake.'

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a 'bone-house' and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through
the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the 'graveyard shift') to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be 'saved by the bell' or was considered a 'dead ringer.'

And that's the truth... Now, whoever said that History was boring !

Monday, October 27, 2008

Plot to Kill Obama

Well, the nuts have got some attention now.
"WASHINGTON - A plot by two Neo-Nazi skinheads to assassinate Barack Obama and kill dozens of other African Americans has been foiled, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said Monday.
Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tenn., and Paul Schlesselman, 18, of West Helena, Ark., were charged Friday with making threats against a presidential candidate, illegal possession of a sawed-off shotgun and conspiracy to rob a gun store.
Jim Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Nashville ATF field office, said the two men sought to go on a national killing spree that included an unnamed African-American school, with Obama as their final target. "
The group "planned to shoot 88 black people and decapitate another 14," he added. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white supremacist community.
“They said that would be their last, final act — that they would attempt to kill Sen. Obama,” Cavanaugh said. “They didn’t believe they would be able to do it, but that they would get killed trying.”
Shooting from the windowsCourt documents show that Cowart and Schlesselman said they "planned to drive their vehicle as fast as they could toward Obama shooting at him from the windows."
"Both individuals stated they would dress in all white tuxedos and wear top hats during the assassination attempt," the court complaint states.
Cavanaugh said there's no evidence that others were willing to assist Cowart and Schlesselman with the plot.

The First Snow to Stick!

Some pictures of our first snow to stick. Weatherman calls for only an inch tonight. Flakes were real large for awhile but are now fine. I always love the first snow, especially since I don't have to go anywhere!

Later, Treesong

Living Small

I've always been a small house aficionado. Our place is 907 square feet and too big; too much wasted space. In a previous life I designed and built an earth-bermed, passive solar cord wood house of 648 square feet. If I had an opportunity to do it again I've got the design down to 480 square feet - the legal minimum for a residence in the area we'd like to relocate to.

Anyhow...thought I'd give you some links to small house/architecture sites that will spark your imagination.

How about living in a shipping container? Or a garbage truck? Check that out at The has reams of info and links to other sites as well as a forum. Another interesting site is Eye candy for anyone who's looking for inspiration and something different.

The typical American home is full of wasted space, poor design and unnecessary cost. In later posts, I have some small home pictures I've collected.

That's all for today folks. Going out to stack firewood and take a walk. Treesong

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Friday afternoon we had a call from our realtor. Another realtor had a client who wanted to look at our place and a couple others between 10 a.m. and noon Saturday. So yesterday we went next door to Sweetie's mom's vacant home. From there we can see our place now that the leaves have dropped. No one showed so we went home and I emailed our realtor. she soon called back and said she'd contacted the other realtor. Seems the couple called her at 11 a.m. and cancelled their appointment.

Today, I received this email from our realtor: "I'm so sorry the way the showing turned out. This is the market and the kinds of people we are dealing with now. Buyers in all price ranges know they are very much in the driver's seat and treat everybody not very well. To show you what is happening, one of our listings on _______over by _____ Lake is in foreclosure and was originally listed at $950,000. It sold this week for $259,000. 8 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms, indoor swimming pool, elevator, fireplace in each bedroom, 2 full kitchens, 5 car garage. The bank wanted it off their books. That's why people are waiting and playing very tough on price. This is the worst market I've ever seen. I wish it were different."

So somebody thinks they got a deal on a huge home. And what, I'm asking myself, does anyone need a home with a fireplace in every bedroom, an elevator, five car garage and two kitchens, etc.? And I wonder: do they pay property taxes on a home valued at nearly a million? And then there's the utilities and the upkeep. Talk about a carbon footprint! Maybe now they can afford a place this huge, but if things continue to decline, what then? Really this kind of building and consumption is nothing but waste and greed.

I emailed our realtor back and told her I'm glad we "poor" people who can afford our home and have the ability to survive if the grid goes down, etc. If things continue on this course - and I believe they will - people living in McMansions will be the targets of much frustration and anger. Imagine needing a security team to guard you and yours because you're such a visible, greedy jerk? Not a relaxing way to live.

In other news, we're watching the rain/sleet/snow mix sail past our windows in a 45 mph wind. Think I best log off for now. It's getting nasty! Treesong

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chris Martenson Blog

Just came across this blog and feel it's worth a peek. He has a Crash Course that's free and a great post called Trouble in the Real Economy. Find him at

Later, Treesong

Homeless, Jobless and Hungry

You've heard, I'm sure, the saying "sh!t happens." Despite the best laid plans things can go awry. In this day and age I'd say the probability of each of us having our own personal SHTF event is much more likely.

There was a time when I never imagined anything remotely resembling homelessness, joblessness and hunger would ever visit my life.

I was and am a prepper. I didn't have debt. I had a series of events that piled up quickly.

First the job went bye-bye; then the MS took a turn for the worse; then the marriage toppled; then the now ex-husband drained all the savings, sold property that was off site, and had an affair before the divorce was final. The final straw was my emotional/physical breakdown which later revealed had been chemically induced by the ex.

I'm not whining, just giving some background; so lets get on the experiences and the lessons learned.

Number one: aside from keeping your sanity, you need determination, faith in your abilities and a willingness to be resourceful.

After leaving the husband, I spent my first days with an elderly friend who got me into a physician. The doc found I'd been drugged for a long time and together we tackled the affects of that. Both she and my friend demonstrated empathy and compassion.

Next, I found a part time job while still living with the friend. This helped me meet new people, form connections and instill some self-confidence. After a four weeks, the friend fell ill and had to be hospitalized and I had to move. I had saved nearly every cent of my paychecks but rent, deposit and utilities required well over a $1,000 and all the subsidised places had waiting lists. In addition, the friend's bitchy daughter (whom she had not seen in years) gave me four hours to vacate. The local social services place was NO help so I lived in my car for four weeks.

Living in your car isn't comfortable, especially when it's packed to the gills (including the front seat) with you worldly belongings. One quickly learns where the best public restrooms are; how late the parks stay open and how to dodge the need for the state/county park stickers; how to assess what belongings are essential and what should be sold or given away; and how to appear "normal" under these conditions. There are a million other things I discovered but I think that developing a daily/weekly routine kept me sane in the midst of the unknowable. I worked an overnight shift in a private home and this was a God-send. It enabled me to rest on a sofa, take a shower every couple days and be warm on the nights I worked. So 3-4 nights a week I was safe at night. On the nights I didn't work I half slept while parked at a Super Walmart.

Number two: good friends are helpful but some will be uncomfortable; others will abandon you.

As the first week in my car passed I had a routine in place. Each morning I left work and went to a coffee shop that offered free newspapers and coffee and a donut for $2. I sat perusing those for jobs and housing and accepting refills on coffee. At 9 a.m. the library opened so I was first in the door to get one of the computers to search for housing and jobs. For another hour or so I'd read periodicals. Then I'd go to another friend's for coffee and chit chat. She knew I was staying in my car and appeared very helpful and concerned at first. She's not a cook, so every day I made their evening meal in advance and we'd go for a walk or I'd help out with chores until about 1 p.m. Sometimes I'd eat lunch there, sometimes I wasn't hungry. When you're homeless you either think of food constantly or lose your appetite. I lost mine. Once I left my friend's I'd go to a nearby county park and walk the trails or partake of some of their month-long series of "free in the park" concerts and workshops. I stayed there until 5 p.m. then headed for another roadside park where I'd have my meager supper (usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich) and read for an hour or two. Every day I'd park in a different spot but always in view of the highway with my doors locked. Then, I'd either wander through Walmart or K-mart for an hour and freshen up a bit (possibly change clothes) and then drive about 7 miles to work (it was a 12 hour shift).

By week two of my homelessness my "chit-chat" friend started asking when I was "going to do something." She's never experienced much in the way of deprivation or change so her growing discomfort with my situation was bound to happen. On day two of the second week, I asked her if she'd rather I didn't come by. It had been her suggestion to begin with but now she said, "I just don't know what to do with you every day." I accepted this and went on. Now I had a few more hours in the day to fill so a third park became my stomping ground. Fortunately, I love nature hikes!

On rainy days I just sat in my car and read more or spent more time at the library. The hours can seem to drag if you're reading in your car but the time at a library seemed to fly by. Sundays were the most difficult as the library was closed. So...I began visiting churches! I should mention that I had landed in an area where I knew a grand total of four people so my visiting options were limited. Anyone I had met via work was in passing between shifts and one doesn't spend a lot of time broadcasting that they're homeless; it's an invitation to suspicion and unpleasantness.

By week four I had some good news but it involved moving three hours north. Once again I was in an area where I knew about four people but I had a place of my own! For the next six months I called a 10x15 foot cabin on 10 acres home. No electric or water, no central heat, no land line phone and seasonal neighbors. I was in heaven. A few people, though, thought I had flipped.

I had a full time job as assistant manager at a restaurant and an offer to stay in the cabin as long as needed. Of course, the owner thought that would likely be about a month until I'd saved enough money for a "real home."

To this day, I value my time at the cabin the most. Reflection, quiet and resourcefulness were my constant companions. I learned how to dig a privy hole to dump the camp toilet in; how to wash dishes in a ceramic bowl; how to cook and heat water on a camp stove and bundle up on 19 degree nights. I had a kerosene heater but tried not to use it much as it's expensive and one must always have a window open. I hauled water from a creek until it froze and then befriended a single woman who lived a mile away. She let me haul water from her place for three months. But, I never took more than 10 gallons a week. I learned to take thorough "bird baths" and to keep my long hair brushed and braided ( less snarls and looks cleaner when its not). I had no TV and no one to talk to and a prepaid cell phone that only worked if I walked half a mile down the road. I hand washed my clothes and hung them on hangers that hung on hooks from the ceiling. On nice days they hung outside on the clothesline.

About the second month at the cabin I had the money together for a place and went in search of something better. Two miles from my workplace I found a great deal and gave the owner a deposit. I was to move in the following Saturday. On Friday night the place burned to the ground. On Monday the restaurant owner called everyone in and said he was closing down. We all collected our last checks that Friday. In a week's time I had lost my "new home" and my job.

For another four months I sat at the cabin watching the snowflakes, building puzzles, reading and twice a week driving 10 miles to town to use a library computer to job search. In that time I had four interviews and ran out of money.

There are two things that saved me. One was the Internet and the other was the food and toiletries I had stockpiled. Having once been homeless I knew that hunger is not good company. A 25# bag of rice, several cases of vegetables, some spices and a few bags of beans are a diet anyone can live on for a long time. At Christmas I had four cards, each with a few $ and that money went in my gas tank.

One day, while at the library, another regular visitor was using an online free dating service. We always chatted with one another and he suggested I "put myself out there" on the dating site. Yeah, right, I told him. It had been the furthest thing from my mind but he dared me so I gave him the smart remark, "Okay, I'm not posting a picture but I will be brutally honest."
Four weeks later I met Sweetie. My posting said, "I've been homeless and jobless and now I am again. I've been divorced more than once; I don't drink; I live without amenities in a 10x15 cabin; I like the outdoors." Two men responded. One was obviously an ass. The other said, "I live with my mother and cut wood. I don't spell or write well (thus far nearly every word was miss-spelled) and I like long hair." So we started chatting, first on the computer twice a week, then by phone. We eventually met in a Walmart parking lot having never seen a picture of one another. The rest, as they say, is history!

Number three: time heals a lot of hurts and can give you the opportunity to delve deep into those age-old questions: What do I really want; what's really important, etc.

I could write a book about what this journey has taught me but the thing that sticks with me is how dependent we've made ourselves on external crap. We judge everything and most judgements are based on status, fashion, education, finances or affiliations. People who don't have a job (or a "lowly" job) or a substandard or small home or who are homeless are viewed as worthless, unfortunate, ignorant, lazy, unmotivated or some other convenient label. We're constantly measuring people against some standard that is driven by media, merchandisers or our own fear of being in the same place.

At one time I told an acquaintance, "I'm the same person I've always been." I still like the outdoors and puzzles and home cooking; I still prefer certain foods and have the same beliefs. But, then, sitting at the cabin I realized I was no longer the same person. I now had experienced life at its most basic. I didn't have the comforts and conveniences or the options. I no longer took anything for granted. And most people, when they heard about my situation, talked about how unfortunate I was, or how they'd "never" do or be able to tolerate certain conditions.

After six months at the cabin I realized I was the lucky one. I knew I wasn't following some aimless huckster or myth about what the "good life" is. I wasn't hung up on what someone looked like or how new their car was or where they worked. I was no longer impressed by the external. And I knew I had survived and thrived. I was at peace and comfortable in my little home. I didn't fear being alone or not having a lot of stuff. After awhile I realized I was happier than I'd ever been and none of it was predicated on any of the mythologies and sales pitches blasted forth in most magazines, TV shows and movies. And I'd met someone who took the time to get to know me despite my living conditions or any other condition.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The View From Here

Laundry and Cooking

Today the skies are an ominous gray (like the falling stock market) and we're watching the rain and snow spit and sputter. So the laundry's hung on our drying rack above the washer and dryer (which we've never plugged in), on the shower rod and the warping board next to our wood stove. Notice that tonight's supper is already cooking in a small enamel roaster. The large uncovered roaster serves as our humidifier.

Here's a recipe for Rice Lentil Bake that can take many variations:

3-1/2 Cups chicken, beef or vegetable broth.
3/4 Cups brown lentils
3/4 Cups white rice, rinsed and uncooked
1/2 Cup chopped celery
3/4 Cup chopped onion
1 teas. garlic powder or some minced garlic
1/2 teas. oregano
1 Cup grated carrot

Mix all ingredients together in a 13x9 inch pan and cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Check half way through cooking to see if you need more liquid.

I've been known to toss leftover pork, beef or chicken in the pan too along with another half cup of liquid.

What Don't You Know?

Plenty. I'm not familiar with chemical formulations, the ins and outs of the stock market nor have I mastered the games of chess or poker. More importantly, until recently I didn't know how to operate the backhoe, the riding mower or the rototiller. Like most couples, he has his jobs around here and I have mine. But, last year he was down for 10 days with pneumonia and the drive was filling in. At that time we were the youngest couple on our road and I worried about how we'd get him out of here if the situation deteriorated. Thankfully, we made it through that time and when his health improved I bugged him until he spent an afternoon giving me "driving lessons." Our labors here are still divided along pretty traditional lines but, in a pinch I know I can operate any of his equipment.

So this morning it was time to turn the tables and give him some instructions. Now he knows where every kitchen tool is stored and how to run my sewing machine. Additionally, I wrote out a little "here's where stuff is" list for him and taped it to the inside of a cupboard door.

Along this same vein, I got to thinking about things we may have in our homes but have never used. One thing is a fire extinguisher. If you own one? Do you know how to operate it? Does anyone else in your home know how? And for medical emergencies, how many people in your household have First Aid training and have practiced any techniques?

Well, there's plenty I could say about the financial markets today; about the government morons and a few other topics which will be jabber-jawed about on countless blogs. So, I'll shut up.

Instead, I leave you with a thought. Why is it when we think of "cutting back" we associate it with pain? Real pain, dear reader, is going without. If you've ever been hungry or homeless or hopeless, that's pain. Anything else is simply an attitude adjustment.

Tomorrow I'll tell you a bit about my experiences with joblessness, homelessness and hunger.
In the meantime, appreciate what you have, take a good look at your "stuff" and ask yourself how much of it really matters.

Til tomorrow, Treesong

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tired of the Same Old Dinners?

Anyone who's spent time in a kitchen has wondered what to fix for dinner/supper. It's easy to fall into a routine, whether that's picking up take out because you're tired or in a hurry or rotating the same 8-12 meals throughout the month. Heck, I know plenty of people who would be hard pressed to create eight different dinners a month, let alone 12!

So, today I found myself in this predicament and went in search of "something I haven't had in a long time." Got myself distracted salivating over old favorites and before I knew it Sweetie was asking "what's for supper?"

We had leftovers from last night and then I got back to some serious cooking. Yeah, another evening of batch cooking. Three separate meals are precooked and tucked away in the frig.

Sorry no pictures, some thing's wrong with our camera battery charger, but here's the recipes for what I made:

Sauerkraut Meatballs

2# hamburger
1 C. fine bread crumbs (throw some bread in the toaster on "Lite" then leave them to dry for half an hour on the counter and crumble)
1 Pkg. onion soup mix or 1/2 cup chopped onion and 1 teas. dry beef soup base
3 eggs
Mix these ingredients well and shape into balls. Do not brown them; just place them in a 9x13-inch ungreased pan.

Sauce: 1 bottle chili sauce, 1 can whole cranberries or cranberry sauce, 1 can water, 1 C. brown sugar, 1 16oz. can sauerkraut. Simmer these ingredients in saucepan. Pour sauce over the meatballs. Bake covered for one hour at 350 degrees.

Serving suggestions: I've served these over plain cooked rice, homemade egg noodles and mashed potatoes.

Chinese Hamburger

1# hamburger, browned
1 large onion, chopped
1-1/2 C. chopped celery (I dice an entire package of celery and freeze it in quart bags for later use)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 C. soy sauce
1 C. water
1/2 C. uncooked rice
1 can bean sprouts, drained
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained

Brown hamburger, celery, and onion. Place in a casserole and stir in remaining ingredients. Bake covered at 350 degrees for one hour. I serve this with a salad or fruit. It is one of those "I can't stop eating this" kind of dishes.

Chicken and Rice Balls

1/2 C. chopped celery
1/4 C. chopped onion
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1/4 C. chicken broth
2 C. cooked rice
1-1/2 C. cooked, diced chicken
1/2 C. shredded cheddar cheese
1 beaten egg
1/2 Teas. salt
1/2 Teas. chili powder
1/4 Teas. poultry seasoning
1/2 C. cornflake crumbs
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 C. milk

Cook celery and onion in the butter. Blend in the flour and broth. Add the rice, chicken, cheese, egg and seasonings. Form into 12 balls, roll in the cornflake crumbs, and place in an ungreased 13x9 inch pan. Bake at 35 degrees for 25 minutes. Heat the cream of chicken soup and the milk and pour over the chicken/rice balls and serve.

While cooking today I thought of how infrequently people use the lids that come with their pots and pans. If you don't own lids, get some. They save on cooking time and fuel. Turn the burner off five minutes before you normally would and the trapped steam/heat will finish the cooking for you. Using a lid also allows one to cook at a lower temp.

Well, have some sorting and packing to do. We'll be headed north the first week in November and I'm a pre-packer. No last minute looking for things or worrying about forgetting something. Of course I tend to be anal so I start with a list and periodically review it up until the time we load the truck.

Tomorrow I'm working on our monthly shopping list. I keep a notepad near my wing chair and jot down things as I think of them. Then I check the pantries and closets and finally, I look at the sales flyers that sometimes arrive in our mailbox.

That's all for now. Have a great evening, Treesong

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cause For Depression Blog

Came across this blog and think it does a great job of explaining the financial free fall we're in. Very organized and easy to read. Check it out at Their posting today mentions the blog.
I've not read through the entire thing yet! Thanks, Treesong

Homemade Lotion

A friend emailed this to me and I thought I'd pass it along.

How to Make a Moisturizing Lotion with Only 3 Ingredients:

Ever wondered which ingredient makes up the largest percentage in lotions? Water! If you look at the ingredients list on product labels, you will notice that water is almost always listed first, meaning it is the most predominant ingredient in the product. It is also ‘free’ and readily available. For less than a dollar and using common kitchen equipment you can make a 12 oz batch of moisturizing lotion. This is cheaper than your Wal-mart petroleum-based generic brand. Best of all, it's easy and fun!Skin care lotion is nothing more than an emulsion of oil and water. As an introduction to this wonderful and useful craft, let’s make a simple lotion with just olive oil, water, and emulsifying wax. Here’s what you need to make about a 12 fl oz batch.
1-cup glass measuring cup
2-cup glass measuring cup
saucepan just large enough to fit the 1-cup measurer
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup emulsifying wax, available at some craft stores or online.
Fill a small saucepan with water and set it on medium low to use as a water bath.
Combine the oil and e. wax into the heatproof 1-cup measurer and melt the mixture in the water bath. Fill the 2-cup measurer with water and heat it in the microwave on high for 2 minutes or until it boils. Alternatively, boil water on the stove and pour it into the measurer.
When the oil/wax mixture has melted, pour it into the water. Your lotion should now have the consistency of skim milk. Let it cool slightly, stir with a spoon or chopstick and pour the lotion into a bottle while it’s still warm and pourable. Otherwise, it would be hard to get the lotion into its container. If you’re using a wide mouth jar, then this is not an issue.
Leave the cap off to let it cool completely, but occasionally cap the lotion and give it a quick shake to help blend the mixture. That’s IT!!!As is, this plain, scent-free lotion is great for babies and people with sensitive skin. But this recipe is very forgiving and you can easily vary it. Here are some suggestions:
Substitute 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the water with glycerin to make a hydrating lotion.
Substitute or combine the olive oil with other oils such as almond oil or jojoba oil
Add essential oils. Use 1 - 5 drops per fl oz of lotion This lotion will last about 3 months at room temperature. You can extend the shelf life by adding natural preservatives, packaging in smaller portions, and refrigerating the lotion.

Aging Preppers

When you get to be of a certain age, you notice physical changes creeping in: more aches and pains, forgetfulness, napping more, less physical strength and agility, decreased appetite, poor eyesight, and insomnia - to name a few.

About this time you'll be cursing the number of steps in your home, the weight of your vacuum cleaner, the length of your driveway, the height of the shelves and toilets, the width of the doors, the slippery tub, and the tendency you have of tripping over throw rugs.

What seemed like a good idea when you were 30 is dangerous when you're 60. Oh, that you would have put more thought into furnishings, tools and design of your place. So, for those of you who still have all your faculties in decent shape, here's a few suggestions:

Make all doorways at least 36" wide. Install lever type handles instead of turning knobs. Either forget the bathtub/shower combination or have both in your bathrooms. Use a rough surfaced ceramic tile on floors instead of the shiny/glossy crap. If you're going to use throw rugs get the type that have non-skid backs and no fringe. Make friends with nightlights and large numerals on clocks, calendars and remote controls. Learn what the word ergonomic means. It's much easier to open a can, peel carrots, slice apples and do countless other tasks if your hands aren't cramping. If you have carpeted areas, chairs on casters are a good thing. If you have bare floors, chairs on casters are an invitation rock, rattle and eventually roll over. Invest in cloths with snaps instead of buttons and be willing to discover how comfy sweatpants are. My 80 year old father resists sweatpants so all his jeans have a metal keyring attached to the zipper pull.

On a positive note, growing older helps you realize that 9/10th of what you thought was important at 30 is pure crap at 60. And keeping up with the Jones becomes second nature as all your friends are talking about medical appointments, the cost of prescriptions and how bland everything tastes.

Well, that's all for now folks. It's time for a nap, Treesong

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Today's Preps and Ponderings

Today was our return trip to Cadillac to pick up Kitty and have our dog Lady's shots updated. She also had three lumps on her aspirated. Came home with a bandage and antibiotic on one spot that looks suspicious. There were not enough cells in the sample the vet drew to tell for certain what's up so we're to "watch" it for further developments. Hopefully, it heals. After that $190 bill - including Kitty's declawing and spaying - we stocked up on Science Diet canned dog food, light bulbs and Sweetie's sweets. See, there's a reason I call him by that name. Never seen anyone consume so much sugar and not be a diabetic. Miniature candy bars and Life-Saver mints are his mainstays.

While at the vet's I asked if we could get a "supply of" antibiotics for our pets. Guess I should have rethought and rephrased my question 'cause I got one huge lecture in a very suspicious tone. Oh well, I'll go online and shop. Can't recall all the specifics just now, but I know there are veterinary meds that are fine for humans. Another thing to research again because I didn't print the info out earlier!

Once we were home I dug the remaining carrots from the garden. Planned to leave them in the ground for "fresh" carrots but between the deer and the rains the soil was too mucky and had started rotting the roots. Follw that with a freeze and they'd be mush. Now I'm canning seven quarts of carrots; have frozen five quarts and added some to a pan of sauteed zucchini tonight.

A few tips regarding carrots: I take a knife and large metal colander to the garden and slice the tips and tops off the carrots as I pick them. No mess in the house and the leafy tops don't need to be returned to the garden/compost pile. Also, I seldom ever peel carrots. Just give them a good scrubbing and keep a knife handy in case you need to remove a bad spot.

Likewise, I never peel potatoes. For scalloped potatoes I just wash and slice the potatoes into a baking dish or oblong cake pan, add a can of evaporated milk, some butter, and salt and pepper and mix. Cover the dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. About 20 minutes into the baking, I open the dish and stir. If the potatoes appear too dry I add some water or powdered milk mixed in water. If too moist I sprinkle flour over the top and mix again. Guess I'm just a lazy cook.

Evaporated milk also makes an appearance in creamed soups like broccoli, potato or pumpkin/squash; mashed potatoes, instant or cooked puddings, and sausage gravy.

Preps as gifts: We're gearing up for our trip north so that means packing Christmas boxes for my children and grandkids. A box of pots and pans goes to my sister and one son and each adult will also receive a lidded plastic storage box with the ingredients for seven suppers (plus instructions/recipes) and a stash of toiletries in addition to their "gifty" stuff. They all know this is coming and are amused by my concern for their welfare. Oh well, there will be a time when each has to use something from the box and then it's me who will be amused.

That's all for now folks. Have a few more stitches to complete the quilt binding/border. Treesong

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rice Recipes & Other Ruminations

We headed south today to Cadillac. Our kitty had a 7:30 a.m. appointment at the vet's to be spayed and front declawed. Maybe her attack cat mode will be subdued. I can only hope. You'd think she'd be grateful; I am, after all, the one who rescued her when some jerk dropped her off next door.

Also made a trip into Wally World. Had a real short list and it was still early morning so there were no throngs of people buying useless stuff. Found a few deals so I increased our stores of butter, jasmine rice, and canned cat food. The dry cat food had gone up by 84 cents since buying it six weeks ago. Those cats eat as well as we do. Oh well, they are our main source of entertainment and companionship.

It's 38 degrees here today, windy and raining. No backhoe work or raking today. Now we may not build the pole barn as the backhoe has not sold. Some days its up, some days its down. They way I look at it, Sweetie's stuff can remain under cover on pallets and the backhoe can clear snow.

He says he'll prepare the site anyway. He may as well or we have a pile of brush and stumps sitting next to his other pile of Stuff!

Thought I'd share a couple meatless rice recipes. I love rice; could eat it every day.

Jasmine Pineapple Pilaf

1 Cup uncooked Jasmine Rice
1 Tablespoon butter
1 C. chopped onion
1/2 C. chopped walnuts
1/2 C. raisins
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon ground ginger
1 8-oz. can pineapple bits

Cook rice in 1-1/2 C. boiling water for one minute. Reduce heat and cover. Let cook for 6-10 minutes. Do not stir the rice; this releases the starch and makes it sticky. In a skillet, heat the butter and add the onions, ginger, salt, raisins, and walnuts. Cook and stir for 4-5 minutes until the onions are tender. Add the rice and pineapple (with the juice) and heat through.

Curried Rice, Onions and Peas

1/2 C. white rice, uncooked
2 large onions, sliced
3 Tablespoons butter
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg or mace
3/4 C. cream
Either one can peas or 1 C. frozen peas

Cook rice according to package directions and set aside. In a skillet, cook the onion slices in the butter. Add cooked rice and peas. In a small bowl mix the cream with the salt, curry powder and nutmeg and add to the rice mixture. Heat through and serve. Makes four servings.

If you don't have cream use 1/2 C. milk.

Received my gallon of Sal-Suds soap from Dr. Bronner's. I'd kept an empty Dawn dish soap bottle so I filled half the bottle with water and half with soap. That way I don't overuse the Bronner's. I love the natural fragrance of Fir Needle Oil and Spruce Oil and feel better knowing I'm not disposing of countless Dawn bottles. The soap is good for all purpose cleaning, laundry and dish washing. As usual I've dated the jug, so we'll see how long it lasts.

Well, Sweetie's up from his nap so I'll pay attention to him now instead of this machine! Later, Treesong

Sunday, October 19, 2008

More Gall; More Greed

Should anyone be surprised anymore by ANY news out of Wall Street. In fact, should anyone be surprised by any news out of the mouth of any government or politician? Yet, I still am. I spit out my morning coffee when I read this piece from the Guardian: "Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned."

And why do stockholders tolerate corporations who spend millions or more for naming stadiums after themselves? Does the "poor" team needs the sponsorship? Like hell. Of course, I guess when players' salaries are in line with corporate honchos, then some body's got to foot the bill?

It all makes me sick. We truly are a world of the little guy supporting the fat cats. It's time we put them on a diet.

Consider how much financial security we'd have if we stopped participating in the "merchandising" of every "star" of film, music, literature, fashion, finance, food, sport and government under the sun. They are, after all, only stars because we've supported their vanity.

We're consumers of the most inane things on earth. Everything is "branded" and we put ourselves in the poor house in order to what? Feel included? Feel superior? It's crazy; plain crazy.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Truth About Canola Oil

Meant to mention this awhile ago but, better late than never. If you're buy and consume Canola Oil and think you're doing yourself a favor, think again.

Canola is not the name of a natural plant. It is a made-up word, from the words "Canada" and "oil". Canola is a genetically engineered plant developed in Canada from the Rapeseed Plant, part of the mustard family of plants. According to AgriAlternatives, The Online Innovation, and Technology Magazine for Farmers, "By nature, these rapeseed oils, which have long been used to produce oils for industrial purposes, are toxic to humans and other animals."

Amoung Rapeseed's other uses is an excellent insect repellent. In its diluted form, it will suffocate aphids on plants.. It works very well; it suffocates them. Ask for it at your nursery. Rape is an oil that is used as a lubricant, fuel, soap and synthetic rubber base and as an illuminate for color pages in magazines. It is an industrial oil. It is not a food.

US and Canadian farmers grow genetically engineered rapeseed and manufacturers use its oil (canola) in thousands of processed foods, with the blessings of both governments. Websites supporting canola say it's safe to use. They admit it was developed from the rapeseed, but insist that through genetic engineering it is no longer rapeseed, but "canola" instead. Except canola means "Canadian oil"; and the plant is still a rape plant, though genetically modified. The new name provides cover for commercial giants to make millions.
Canola oil is the cheapest oil to produce and the Canadian government subsidizes it to industries involved in food processing. The Canadian government and industry paid our Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) $50 million dollars to have canola oil placed on the (GRAS) List, "Generally Recognized As Safe". Thus a new industry was created. Laws were enacted affecting international trade, commerce, and traditional diets. Studies with lab. animals were disastrous. Rats developed fatty degeneration of heart, kidney, adrenals, and thyroid gland. When canola oil was withdrawn from their diets, the deposits dissolved but scar tissue remained on all vital organs. No studies on humans were made before money was spent to promote Canola oil in the USA.
Use olive oil, butter or peanut oil!

Day 16 Freezer Experiment & Other Observations

Well it's day 16 of the Freezer Experiment and I haven't opened it to retrieve anything since I did my batch cooking a few days ago. Last night we had leftover chili and there's two quarts in the frig in Mason jars. Did you pour the chili into the jars while its real hot and put the lid and ring on that the jar seals? Yup. Will keep for a few weeks that way in the frig. Otherwise, get ambitious and make a huge batch and pressure can seven quarts. Ready Made Meals.

Well, I was back outside helping Sweetie. He's really gung ho over this pole barn business. So four poplars are knocked down, delimbed and the logs cut into six foot lengths. Guess who the official brush hauler is? Now we're both worn out and I'm in the mood for a good back massage and a Reuben sandwich. Don't have any Swiss or mozzarella cheese so plain old American will have to do. We buy our corned beef in cans from the dollar store. It's handy to have around and slices better if cooled in the frig first.

I forgot to mention I made an apple pie this morning too. Now don't go thinking I'm always this ambitious. Just goes in streaks like everything else.

Also, we watched 20/20 last night on ABC. Stossel went after the government for their bailout scheme, the presidential candidates for their silliness and lies and the farm bill for its wastefulness. Not too often you see mainstream media talking anything close to the truth so it was refreshing.

Well, have clean clothes to bring in from the line and supper to make. Have a good evening, Treesong

Simplify, Simplify


These old bones are aching today. Since 10 a.m. I've been raking leaves and dumping them by wheelbarrow on our garden. Before that I did two loads of wash and hung them on the line, made breakfast, doctored the pot of chili and read the blogs. It's about 2:30 p.m. and I'm whipped.

But raking leaves has a meditative quality. The rhythm of moving a rake just carries me to other places and times when life was simpler. If I have any regrets in life, which I tend not to as they are a waste of time, it would be that I didn't remain at an 80-acre non-electrified property I used to own. I think I've spent my entire life since then trying to get back to something similar.

Can you even begin to imagine owning 80 acres with a two-acre pond, a granary, a sauna, a two-seater outhouse and a four-room house for $21,000? Oh, and a creek cut the place nearly in half. The tiny home was an original homestead that had never been modernized. I even had a stone lined well in the yard with a rope and bucket. My Dad and I modernized the place by piping the water to the house and attaching a red pitcher pump to a second hand cast iron sink - the kind with the big built in drain boards. I added a gas refrigerator and 24" gas stove and gas lights. The walls were entirely covered in 12-14 inch hand planed knotty pine that had been cut on the property! God, I was crazy to ever leave that place.

But, reality is just that. I no longer own it and could not buy the place today for love nor money, as they say. And the new owner has ruined all that was special about the place.

And as my mind wandered some more today, I was thinking about this place and the fact that it hasn't sold. But we still dream that one day it will and we'll move north. In the meantime I feel fortunate to be living as peacefully and simply as I do. I probably have an acre to rake - in three different spots, and that's fine with me. Yet across the road from us the absentee owner is at his property driving a commerical lawn sweeper across the yard. The damn thing sounds like an airplane that never takes off. And he drives up here every weekend from Detroit - three and a half hours southeast of us - to mow the lawn and play with his other assorted pieces of heavy equipment. What a waste.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wasteful People, Serendipity and Quilting

The first picture shows two of my favorite pastimes: quilting and building Charles Wysocki puzzles. The second photo is the apple corer we were given today.

The quilt is made entirely of scraps and fabrics that were given to me. The puzzle was a rummage sale find.

You know what they say about one man's trash being another man's treasure. Aside from dumpster diving, visiting resale shops or rummage sales the best opportunities to build your supplies are often unexpected. It helps too, to know wasteful people.

Some of our latest examples are: A call from his sister to pick up a box of "junk" at his mother's vacant house. We're now the proud owners of an apple corer, yet another tea kettle, some bedding and several bottles of spices. And to think I had just struck a deal with Sweetie to make an apple pie if he'd peel and core the apples. I love serendipity.

Last week he ran into his neice's husband - known as the local construction crook - and while I was in the resale shop - loaded five 20' sheets of used metal siding into our pickup. We think we've finally sold the backhoe so you know who has dreams of a 24x32 foot pole building. Another neighbor has fourteen 24' trusses for $300 and I suspect those will be hauled home this weekend. Now he's outside sorting through his lumber pile for anything to use in the pole building.

Monday we have a veterinarian appointment and he'll pick up the rest of the lumber he needs while I stock up on dry cat food and scrounge Goodwill for picture frames. Last time I was there I found stacks of them for 69 cents apiece. I'm enlarging some of my children's baby pictures for gifts.

Another house in the neighborhood has gone into foreclosure and we happened to meet the young couple as they were leaving their drive for good. That few minutes of neighborly chit chat got us bags of canned goods and two packages of frozen hamburger. They and their three children were crammed into an old Ford Fiesta and her brother was pulling a small trailer with his pickup truck. No one had room for the food so it was being left behind. We offered to deliver the food to their new home but were told they're moving three hours south.

So keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities. And, don't limit yourself to what you think you may need or use. Last year I sold lots of things on Ebay that were given to me.

That's all for now. Time to make that pie. Treesong

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Read Archdruid Today!!

He says it so much better than I do!

"When the US government announced a few days ago that it was investing $250 billion in the nation’s banks, for example, that money did not have to be pulled out of some imaginary bank account in the national treasury, much less extracted from the dwindling productive capacities of America’s remaining factories and farms; it was conjured into being by government fiat, in order to replace some even vaster sum of abstract wealth that more or less dissolved into twinkle dust over the preceding weeks.What makes this pursuit of the abstract so dangerous, of course, is that abstract value is not the same thing as the concrete realities it once represented: green fields and grain in storehouses; strong muscles and the work they accomplish; or for that matter, factories, the resources that keep them running, and the products that come from them. These are real wealth; the layers of economic abstraction piled atop them are simply complex social games that determine who gets access to how much of this real wealth – and those games can become so complex., and so dysfunctional, that they get in the way of the production of real wealth. The flight into abstraction can proceed so far, in other words, that the abstractions interfere with the concrete realities underlying them."

Presumptions and Hope

This Associated Press article by Martin Crutsinger caught my attention: "The administration plans to spend $250 billion this year on the (bank) stock purchases and the president certified Tuesday that another $100 billion would be needed in connection with covering bad assets. That would leave $350 billion of the $700 billion program, presumably to be spent by the next president."

Does anyone really believe any of the $700 billion bailout will be left for the next president? With the auto industry lining up behind the banks, the mortgage mess, the bond markets, the credit card companies (soon to come) and slumping sales (growth), rising unemployment and inflation, the $700 billion will soon need to be recapitalized - which the TARP does allow for.

And throughout my readings I keep noticing another word: hope. The shysters always preface their remarks with, "we hope this will work," and "we hope to have a plan in place."

Us "common people" hope we'll have a job, hope our retirement accounts will recover, hope to keep our homes, hope "things will get better," and hope the next president will "do something" to fix this mess. The government hopes they'll find a magic potion in uncharted territory - at least until they leave office.

I hate to tell ya folks, but the government's "hope" and Regular Joe's "hope" are one and the same; a fantasy. Our world is built on illusion and credit; two powerful elixirs that have kept us insulated from reality. It's time to wake up and stop fantasizing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Today's Musings

Last night's local newscast had a segment devoted to "surviving hard economic times." Thankfully, they did a little promo on it so I knew to sit down and listen closely to their advice.

Their feature followed a woman as she did her weekly shopping. The following tips were presented: shop for generic brands, plan your menu around what the store specials are that week, and use coupons. As expected nothing too drastic. Just simple ways to cut back a little.

While I admit these tactics work, the real opportunity to help people "survive hard economic times" was missed. So here's what the audience would have heard had I been the "shopper."

1. Plant a garden (even if it's a window box) and eat seasonally. Don't hae garden "space?" Tear up your lawn!

2. Begin building a year's food, toiletry and cleaning supply by buying extra every time you shop.

3. After a month begin shopping every other week, then every three weeks, then monthly.

4. If you have discretionary dollars (not credit) go out and buy grains, rice, canned meats, spices and coffee, etc. in bulk or large quantities NOW. Date all items and follow the first in; first out rule. Learn to "shop" in your pantry!

5. Put yourself/family on a "Do Not Spend" diet for a month. I did this years ago. Everytime one of us thought of buying something we wrote it down in a tablet that had two columns: the item in one column; the price in the next. At the end of the month we tallied the right hand column - $487.00 (rounded up)! We were so excited we committed to doing it the next month. After three months we realized two things: lots of "I want to buy" thoughts translated into "I didn't realize how much" and "I didn't realize" statements. And, we could save for the downpayment on our first home.

My final "shopper" advice would be to examine the words you use and how they reflect your choices. For example using the word "need" when you really mean "want." Once you do this you'll start examining more of the choices you make every day. Thriftiness and conserving will become second nature.

To stay focused be willing to challenge yourself with little games like these:

How long can I make that tube of toothepaste last? A lot longer if you're willing to cut the top off, slice the tube down one side and across the bottom. On average there are six to eight more uses from the tube - which is folded back to its original shape and wrapped in a piece of cling wrap. Crazy? Depends on how serious you are about "saving."

Of course, in this house nearly everything is dated - either when it's opened or when it's purchased. So the 12 tubes of toothpaste lasts about one month longer than previously.

To most people this little trick probably sounds extreme. But, if you're truly interested in saving and you believe that the economy is going to continue its downward spiral, it's well worth exploring.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Murphy's Law Five; Me One

I woke up at 5 a.m. to the sound of wind ripping the top of our shed loose. As usual, Sweetie slept through it. We still had electricity so I put on a pot of coffee, splashed some water on my face and wrapped myself in an afghan and cozied up with Mita the wonder cat while the Folger's brewed.
Just as I was getting up to savor that first cup of java, the lights went out and I stumbled over our kitten. Now I have a bruised right knee and a sore wrist. Murphy one; me zero.
But life goes on.

Back in my chair, balancing the coffee in one hand and petting Mita with the other (our morning ritual) I am attacked by the kitten again. Now Mita is upset as she does not like coffee baths. Murphy two; me another zero. The power is still off and I'm sitting in the dark, by the way.

The cats are having a little disagreement on the floor and once again I am plodding across the living room in search of the flashlight. I do not have one stashed in the magazine rack next to my chair. In fact there is no flashlight in the livng room. I have discovered a hole in our preps! There is a flashlight the kitchen silverware drawer though, and I make my way there in safety just as the power is turned on. I place the flashlight in the magazine rack "just in case" and sit down again. All is well for about an hour and the wind dies down. Sweetie is still asleep and the cats have made up.

At 7 a.m. it is finally light out and Sweetie walks into the living room asking "where the H-- have you been?" Guess he likes me snuggling next to him! I tell him about the storm and he tells me it's my imagination. I forgive him that remark because he's not yet fully awake.

I decide to venture outside and "take a peek at the damage" and he tells me I'm nuts. Oh well, he's stuck with me now!

Outside, the air is stangely calm and I recall that's how it was one year ago when a tornado came through. By this time I'm around the end of our mobile home and see something flapping off the end of the shed. Kind of expeded damage there as it was quickly built of scrap materials and we've had problems with it before. As I walk behind the shed I see a skunk heading for the woods, his back to me. I make an abrupt turn and head back inside safe and scent free.

By this time Sweetie is getting a bit contankerous and wants his breakfast. I am such a darling I ALWAYS make it for him. With that job out of the way I'm game for a walk so I get dressed. Walking down the hall I notice the back door is open and leaves are flying in the door. It is now nearly 8 a.m. and the temp is 40 degrees so I wear sweatpants and sweatshirt. Out on the road I spook a couple deer crossing the road and continue on my way. Sweetie ought to be out here. It would wake him up proper! The wind has picked up again and I'm heading into it, head bent down and determined to follow my usual two mile route. Halfway through my loop, I am met on the road by some smartass who thinks it's funny to beep the horn and pull up real close. I turn around to tell him a thing or two and discover it's the State Police. "M'am, you really shouldn't be out here alone. There's been an accident on the highway and the driver's run off into the woods in this direction." I tell him I'm headed back and he takes off. About half a mile later I'm now going uphill with the wind at my back and trying to keep my long hair in place; I didn't tie it back before leaving the house. As I crest the hill a man runs across the road...
If he saw me it didn't matter as he kept running. About two minutes later a helicoptor is overhead and the State Trooper buzzes by again.

Once home I come in the door blabbing about the "excitement" as Sweetie is pointing at the kitchen floor but NOT SAYING anything! Murphy three; me another zero. This time it kinda hurts to sit down and I'm not too happy with you know who. And when, oh when will he learn that HE needs to wipe up his spills?

So for a couple hours I decide it's safer to just sit here and read email and the blogs. All is well with the world again.

About 11 a.m. I decide to go pick the beets in the garden. The deer have beat me to all but six of them. Murphy four; me zero.

Seeing as I'm outside I'll stack some firewood. But Sweetie has let the kitten out and she spies another opportunity to score. I won't even bother with the details. Murphy five; me zero.

I come inside and gingerly sit in a chair at the table to hand quilt the border I started yesterday. As I thread my needle the kitten - who has been let back in - runs across the table where I sit. But, there is justice in the world. Dear kitty's paw finds the needle before I do and now she's whining in Sweetie's lap. Murphy five; Me one.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Batch Cooking and Other Musings

Batch Cooking:Woke up this morning fairly well rested and thought of all the things I'd like to accomplish this week - mainly outside the kitchen. So, my first plan of action was to do some batch cooking, as I call it. After a little effort, I now have three meals cooking which will be stretched into a minimum of eight separate meals.

First, I defrosted a huge bag of chicken leg quarters and they're simmering in a pot. Next, I dumped 1-1/2 Cups of white rice, a can of mixed veggies, half a chopped onion and one can of cream of chicken soup in a 9x13 inch cake pan. When the chicken is cooked and cooled I'll debone it and use one cup of chicken pieces for the chicken/rice casserole. The remaining chicken will be packed in ziplock bags and frozen for future meals. The chicken broth will be poured into quart jars and stored in the frig. The chicken skin, scraps and bone will be placed in another container for Lady. Yeah, I know about not feeding a dog chicken bones but, Sweetie has always done this and it's his dog so that's they way life goes around here.

Then, I started a huge pot of chili using the kidney beans I've been soaking for a few days, changing the water three times now. The other half of the onion went in the chili as did the last of two quarts of tomatoes that were not canned last week when we did our final batch. I added a whole can of tomatoe juice to the pot as well as chili powder and garlic powder. Once the chili has cooked (notice I did not cook the beans before adding them to the chili), I'll set some aside for tomorrow's dinner and freeze the rest in one quart containers.

I've also got more swiss chard (the last of the bunch I picked two days ago) simmering in a pot. Some of it will be eaten tonight with the chicken casserole and the remaining will be frozen. I'm already thinking of making a pot of lentil soup either yet today or later this week and adding some chopped swiss chard to it. Part of the chicken broth will make an appearance in the soup. We'll see.

Anyway, we'll be several meals ahead and my time can be spent cutting firewood, raking leaves, washing windows, walking, and rototilling more of the garden.

In other news: talked with my Dad last night and my brother and wife are home from Idaho because her father is dying. If you recall, my brother is ex-Delta Force and now hires himself out as a private contractor. Anyway, Dad discovered that his trip to Cancun (before he heads to Afganistan again) is for a job as a body guard at some big shot's wedding. Seems the guy is a Wall Street biggie. Hmmmm...

And I heard about some former neighbors whose noses have always been tilted rather high. Seems they've lost big time in the market and their 401k's have taken a nose dive too. Dad said it's rather humorous to hear them talk about how "rough" life is getting now that they may have to sell their lake property (as if there will be any buyers for a $1.2 million dollar mini castle) and cancel their three month trip to Europe. Oh well, these economic times will affect all of us.

Thus far in my blog reads today, I think Kunstler's, Mayberry and Staying Alive have been the most enlightening and entertaining. And seeing as I have no further wisdom to contribute, I'll sign off for now. Keep prepping people. Treesong

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Swiss Chard and Chow Chow

Pictured here is the Rhubarb Swiss Chard from Seeds of Change that I picked yesterday from our garden. Yeah, the garden is still producing swiss chard, though I have completely ignored it for over a month now. I cut the outer leaves first from the plants so the inner leaves can grow larger. The chard is blanched for 10 minutes and packed into quart size Ziplock bags. You may serve chard leaves in salads but you need to have a palate that prefers a taste beyond iceberg lettuce! I prefer to eat the cooked chard plain but serving it with vinegar, bacon drippings or grated parmesan is also good.

The other two photos are of Sweet/Hot Chow Chow from a wonderful little shop in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. Called The Jam Lady because of its scrumptous thimbleberry jams (and other varieties), the shop is a white clapboard house that sits alongside M-26 in Eagle River. They have a great web site at where their full product line is available including ice cream toppings, jams and jellies, chow chow, chow chow relish, and syrups. I love this stuff so much I don't bother to make my own. I doubt I could match their quality and my family knows if they're ever stumped for a gift, give me chow chow! The ingredients listed on my quart of chow chow are as follows: cauliflour, cucumber, onion, green and red peppers, vinegar, wheat flour, dry mustard,sugar, salt, tumeric, pickling spices (cinnamon chips, yellow mustard, dill seed, brown mustard,allspice, cloves, coriander seed, mace, black peppercorns, bay leaf, cardamon, chole chilies, and giner root). Be sure to visit their entire site including the picture of Grandpa John. I prefer the quart jars so there's some left over after I have my share!!
Hell, that's all for now folks. I'm going for a walk and then may finish the binding on a quilt I made last year. Have a great day, Treesong

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Accepting Limitations, Mint Plants and Other Ruminations

On the right is a picture of my mint plants - peppermint and a chocolate mint - growing in a corner garden. I just watered them with the soaking water from the kidney beans (pictured on the left) that I mentioned in yesterday's post. The mint leaves will be picked and laid on an old screen to dry for use in my teas this winter. I don't recall the exact names of the plants; I bought them at our local farm store last summer when they were 4" plants! They're fragrant and don't require any special work to grow.

Medical Equipment: Woke up late today. I'm going through another cycle of this blasted MS and fibromyalgia so my sleep has been intermittent and I'm feeling weary. I tried to knock myself out last night with a sleeping pill and a couple benadryl tablets about two hours before that but, by 4 a.m. I was still thrashing from leg cramps and having difficulty turning my head. But, I'm fortunate to live with a man who accepts my condition and I'm not yet in a wheelchair.

So insomnia led me to think of our medical provisions. Between the two of us we've spent 15 years caring for others. We've met the challenges of everything from Mesothelioma, dimentia, amputations, incontinence, broken limbs, and vertigo to heart conditions, MS and Parkinson's. And, now we're aging ourselves. It's inevitable if you live long enough. So how many of us preppers - especially those age 60 and up - have prepped for some of the aforementioned conditions or just plain old age? Do you own a pair of crutches? A wheelchair or raised toilet seat? How about a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope? A urinal or bedpan? A bath bench that allows you to slide across it so you can sit in the tub/shower? We have all of these things and in the ONE YEAR that we've lived in this home, many of them have been used. Remarkably, I'm the one who has used them the least! The bath bench, crutches and urinal have been most used by either Sweetie or visitors! Sweetie's son had one leg amputated last fall and spent two weeks with us this spring. My father visited in late summer and got sick for three days while here. Incredible, huh? And, being 10 miles out of town we were prepared. Just something to think about.
Other Ruminations: I suspect a lot of us are waiting for the next "rescue" of some financial institution (seeing as there's a pattern with Paulson and buddies), or the next "failure" of a major bank or corporation. Or perhaps we've caught mention of a suspension of trading or that government fella in the UK being chastised for mentioning the "R" word. Or maybe some of us have already grown weary of hearing about any of it and a certain amount of complacency has crep into our thoughts. Myself, I wonder if that's not what these morons are hoping for. I mean, if we grow complacent and get a bit glassy-eyed over all the financial talk and the political mud-slinging between the Repubs and Dems, wouldn't/couldn't the powers that be get a bit more emoldened? But, really, when I carry that line of thought a bit further, I say to myself "Hell, they'll do that anyway."
So, what's a person to do? Well, turn off the news for awhile. Take a walk, savor time with your loved ones, bake a cake and pet your cat! Other than continuing to prep, there's not much any of us can do at this point. Sadly, things will have to deteriorate a whole lot more on several fronts before many people do something radical. We are, after all, the peons who the rich and powerful have counted on to keep the game running. If we no longer participate in the game (due to their greed making it impossible for us to do so) than the game's over. And that's when the real uncertainty begins. And uncertainty is disconcerting; it's scary for most people. Knowing what to do, even if it's not what you want to do, is better than not knowing/uncertainty.
In my mind, one thing is certain. Life as we know it will never be again. This is both a good and not so good thing. The question is, do you know the difference?
Is it a bad thing that people without 20-25% down can no longer buy a home? Is it a bad thing that our inflated home prices are exposed for the illusion that they are? Is it a bad thing that our convenient, consumptive lives built on plenty of credit are no longer possible? Is it a bad thing that words like "scrimping", "saving", "downsizing" "making do", "gardening", "home cooking", and "lowering expectations" will likely be associated with the words "wisdom" and "prudent" and no longer be seen as denegrating the person or their lifestyle? In other words, will the words "careless" and "wasteful" and "reckless" be assoiciated with people who continue to do everything possible to maintain their illusions of "status" and "wealth" and "success"?
As all the schemes play out and our lives begin to transform, those who've recognized the errors of "globalization" and "conspitious consumption" and their associated costs will take comfort in being less affected and better prepared to weather the coming changes. And that's a good thing.
Well, it's time to take my own advice. I'm going out for a walk, Treesong

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pictures of Our Supper the smell of sauerkraut, onions, apples and pork. And let's not forget the potatoes!

So, I thought I'd share my steps to this yummy dinner. Pictures are upper left to right:
I've sauteed onion slices in a separate pan while the pork chops are browned in the large pan. Then the onions are added to the pork and the sauerkraut is browned in the small pan and added to the large pan. Next the peeled, sliced apples are placed on top of the sauerkraut/pork chops and the potatoes are added to that. The pan was covered while the chops browned and between each addition of another item. Once it's all together, the pan is covered and simmers for about half an hour. It's hot hear today so I'm cooking on the propane range.
We're watching the news and will have dinner about 6:30 p.m. 'cause we had a late lunch. Of course the smells are so good I'm feeling full already! Have a great one everyone, Treesong