I have been more quiet the last few weeks while we adjusted to new routines and life style here at home. I have been busy though working on projects and taking notes (including photographs) so that I can share with all of you as we glean results and master some learning curves! Events unfolding around the world have certainly been leading our family to see the importance of being prepared, being able to take care of ourselves without expecting government or any charity or volunteer groups to be able to pick up the slack in caring for the huge numbers of people who will be impacted by any one crisis. I was in shock at the sheer numbers of folks who were not able to last 24 hours in their homes without needing milk for babies or diapers or medicine for older folks. It was nice to see photos of policemen who were willing to help bring milk to some of those impacted but it was shocking to know that even in “nice” neighborhoods there were some who could not take care of themselves. With the war on terror coming home so obviously now, it is a reminder to many of us that we cannot become lazy in learning to care for ourselves. So with this in mind, I have been doing more research, more reading, more printing out of ideas, lessons, recipes to add to our notebooks. For those of you who prep for an EMP, I have not yet built a Faraday Cage of any type for any of our electronics. Economic hardship could also influence power supply as well as weather conditions. Therefore it makes sense to have hard copies to refer to when it’s not possible to access the internet.
Our family has gotten quite ambitious with many projects all at one time. We decided to rearrange the rabbit pack a bit. We had 6 breeding pairs but decided to limit ourselves to only four of the more healthy rabbits for two breeding pairs. That will provide plenty of meat but be more manageable for us. We purchased a new male who is not related to the two females so that we could introduce a new strong bloodline to the mix. We will then be able to cross breed the next two litters. Interestingly we discovered by accident that a neighbor of one of our sons is a “closet prepper” as he and his wife adopted six of our rabbits from the previous litters to have a meat stock! Although they have not spoken about anything specifically, my son was encouraged that this was a positive! They happen to have a new unused chicken coop so the rabbits have a comfy home. However they seem to also have plans for chickens. My son has also started to hear a rooster crowing nearby every morning letting him know someone has managed to sneak a flock into the neighborhood. That particular town is not a chicken friendly one and roosters are a definite no-no! We added to our mini-flock this past week also. We took a ride south of us to a farm and were able to purchase some pullets almost ready to start laying. I kept them in a smaller cage within the pen for about 4 days to allow our girls to be used to the appearance and smell of the new gals. Naturally the bigger girls are still playing boss hen but they tolerate the new additions pretty well and everyone sleeps together fine each night now! One of the pullets is a rooster so we will see how he does. Our neighbors are aware and seem to have no objections so far. They actually all requested we find one so that the flock will be self sustaining if need be. If he becomes too aggressive with our family later or too annoying to the neighbors, we can return him to the farm or cull him for chicken soup! One bigger decision for us is that we want to increase the pen for our chickens to be a fully enclosed one. We like having them free range but we are becoming aware of outside predators such as hawks and raccoons hanging around. We have the chickens to an area where overhanging trees and shrubs offer a great natural barrier to the hawks but the raccoons are a different story. One would not think a city neighborhood would be plagued by raccoons but we have quite a few. Growing up in the woods of Connecticut I used to love to watch raccoon antics – and had a friend who had pet raccoons. However his parents made sure the coons were vaccinated to avoid any serious issues! Not so here in Florida unfortunately where the raccoons seem to be fighting rabies too frequently. We don’t want to restrict the chickens from having more than only a minimal pen so we will enlarge this one but also give it a wire roof to keep out all predators!
This has also been great weather for working in the garden This past week we planted a new grape vine so that we now have an arbor with Muscadine as well as a beautiful Concord on another arbor. The wisteria has been blooming giving off such a pretty soft aroma while we work outside! I also planted a banana tree so that we can eventually have some bananas for our food supply. We strung jute for the bean vines – made trellises for the vines to grow along to get best yield. Everything is sprouting flower buds and the tomatoes are already starting to ripen. There are about twenty more San Marzano seedlings sprouted so hopefully we have lots of tomatoes this year! We need to get lots more seedlings going for continuing harvesting on everything though. This year the plan is to watch the counts so that we can determine how many of each we actually need to have enough to store in addition to enjoying fresh from the garden. Our potato vines have been growing – we set some seed potatoes in tires and filled with dirt. Now we need to build them taller but are going to use straw instead of dirt – supposedly this allows potatoes to grow but makes it easier to harvest them later so we’re experimenting.
This week I taught someone how to can. She had major surgery recently so could not do most of the work but she helped my husband to chop the Roma tomatoes into small chucks. Then I made a marinara sauce that cooked for 4 hours each batch. I say each batch because we purchased 250 pounds of tomatoes! Along with that we also purchased 50 pounds of big onions of which we used about 20 pounds for the marinara. All told at the end I cooked and canned over 120 quarts of marinara sauce. I was one very tired cook! I also managed to take lots of photographs so we will have a few posts on the progress of making sauce and canning. We also dehydrated several onions making a form of onion powder to put up in jars. I have a few hints I will be sharing later with you all about onions too!