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I went to my first swap this past April. I had heard of swaps but didn’t find one in my area until a friend found this one on a MeetUp page and told me about it.

Swap July 2013

Swap July 2013

The organizer set up a few guidelines and the rest is history. She holds it once a month.

There were a few guidelines to follow:

  • No money was allowed – this is all about the trade and bartering with what you have for what you want/need.
  • Items should be sustainably-minded. Something you have grown in your garden, something you conned/cooked/brewed/baked/preserved/dried, etc. Something your animals made (goat milk, hen eggs, lamb wool, etc.) Something you sewed/knitted/re-purposed, etc. Items to do with sustainable interests are also good (Mother Earth News magazines, cookbooks, cooking/camping gear, etc)
  • The items you should leave at home: this is not a garage sale, items should be about sustainability. Leave the knick-knacks at home.

Once we set up, we were allowed 15 minutes to walk around and check out the items other people brought so we could see what we were interested in.

Lemon pickles, Dill pickles, Homemade Teriyaki sauce

Lemon pickles, Dill pickles, Homemade Teriyaki sauce

Each month I have been posting about the swap over on my personal blog. About a month ago I realized that I hadn’t posted about the July swap and I thought it would be a good topic to post here. I have known the swap and barter system is out there and alive, and I realize that there may be others out there that are interested, but don’t know were to look or even how to get started.

Here are the other swap posts I have done”

Here are a few places to look to find swaps in your area: Note: I will add additional information to this post as I find it or as people comment. (updated 19 Sept 2013)

Would you go to a swap if you had one in your area?
Are you participating in a swap in your area?

Please use the comments to let others know about how to find a swap. If you out there participating in a swap, please comment with the general area you are in and add a link to the swap information.

Sincerely, Emily

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Hard upon the (late) April repost of monthly planning from Jen at Unearthing This Life, here’s what to do in May (a day early)! My May will be taken up with continuing rehabbing (ish) of my house, and of course, getting the garden up and running.

Gardening:

  • Skip trimming shrubbery if you notice any nesting. Let those birds have some solitude!
  • Plant annuals if you’re safe from frosts and trim back perennials if needed in warmer zones.
  • Zone 4 and lower transplant tomatoes, peppers, cucurbits and other warm weather crops. Zone 5 and up– not til the end of the month!
  • Tidy up bulb foliage if it begins to die back.
  • Allow columbine and foxgloves to go to seed and collect some for next year.
  • Trim back blooms on roses and day lilies to promote re-blooming.
  • Keep shears and trimmers clean and available for deadheading and pruning.

Outdoors/Yard:

  • Set up and clean bird baths.
  • Clean Patio Furniture.
  • Clean grill.
  • Repair/purchase water hoses and fixtures. If appropriate, make sure water barrel systems are in good repair and have no algae buildup.
  • Make sure gutters are draining properly by watching them during a heavy rain. If there’s any overflow or tipping, you may need to have them cleaned or repaired.
  • If needed, have your air conditioner checked. Clean any debris and trim back plants to allow maximum airflow.
  • Start clearing paths to wild berries and keep them accessable until harvests are done.

Animals:

  • Consider weaning goats and sheep if necessary.
  • It may not be to late to purchase chicks and other fowl from your local farmers co-op.
  • Watch for hummingbirds to return. Be prepared with clean feeders and simple syrup (four parts water to one part sugar).
  • Bees – make sure you can locate queens and that they are laying. Check for foul brood, varroa mites, and hive beetles. Is your honey coming in yet? Do you need to feed your bees? Watch for swarming.
  • Look into stocking your ponds with fish now that the cold weather is gone.

Indoors:

  • Change air filters and adjust thermostat a few degrees to save on electricity.
  • Clean ceiling fan blades and shades.
  • Invest in a good window/box fan.
  • Get your furnace and water heater serviced
  • If you don’t already have one, prepare an emergency kit with 3 days worth of supplies and locate your safe place for severe weather.
  • Locate and organize your picnic gear – get out there and enjoy the beautiful Spring weather at a moment’s notice!

*****

What projects do you have lined up for this month?

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I couldn’t have chosen a better week to be sick as a dog, because the U.S. Figure Skating Championships are this week. So fortunately, I only had to do one thing all week- watch the live stream.

There’s nothing more boring than being kinda sick. If you’ve got the full out flu, you feel like you’re going to die, but at least you sleep through most of it. Illnesses like this one– low grade fever, general lethargy–don’t even come with a loss of appetite and I always say what the hell is an illness good for if you don’t even lose any weight. Of course, I probably lost weight anyway, because my husband kept forgetting to feed me.

So here are some things to keep you from being completely stir crazy:

1. Technology
What in the world did we do when we were sick before there was broadband? In addition to figure skating, I’m pretty sure I got to the end of the internet. Also, you can still talk to people, even when you can’t talk, via chat and texting. Forget the tv– that’s so last century.

2. Rooms
As in, move from one into another. Fortunately, I just finished upgrading my kids’ rooms into guest rooms, so I spent the week moving from my bed, to the side bedroom to the front bedroom to the living room and back again. At least the scenery was different.

3. Complaining about the nursing
This is easy in my house, since they all learned their nursing skills from me (see above, re: meals), and I’m the world’s worst nurse. I am also extremely crabby when I’m sick, not that it’s all that easy to tell the difference.

4. Georgette Heyer novels
Just respectable enough to not be embarrassing to buy, but trashy enough not to require too much brain power.

5. Baths
Okay, while technically not “in bed,” you’re still prone, right? Don’t do this if you have a high fever, because it will raise your core temp, but it’s fine for a low grade fever, and again– change of scenery. Plus, sweetie, you know I love you, but after 3 days in bed, you’re a little ripe. Get your nurse, such as s/he is, to change the sheets while you’re in there.

6. Make lists
I always keep a pad of paper in the nightstand, on the theory that I can jot stuff down in the middle of the night so I don’t forget in the morning. Things like “Don’t forgetl;kajdao[kerh” So helpful. While you’re lying there semicomatose, however, you can take the opportunity to mentally walk through the house and write down all the projects that you’re not going to do when you’re better anyway.

7. Get your own damn dinner
I’m sure he meant well, but seriously, somebody fix meals for the poor patient. This is the major drawback of a whole foods (no, not Whole Foods) diet. You always have to cook, because there’s no prepared foods.

What do you do to entertain yourself when you’re sick?

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I have had a FoodSaver vacuum sealer for the over 10 years. Since I have been buying meat from local farmers and ranchers, I have hardly touched the vacuum sealer in the past 4 years.

foodsaver play 2Over the past few weeks I have been doing a lot of planning ahead and pre-making some foods that will save me some time over the next few months. I will be having surgery and out of commission for a while and unable to spend time doing the things I normally do, like cook and garden. I will have lots of help to get me through the first few weeks, then the house will be back to the two of us. I want to do what I can now to be prepared and make the time easier on everyone, including me. So, I have been baking bread with onion, sage and oregano to make into stuffing and making bread crumbs. I have been stocking up on dry beans and grains (and cat food and cat little!) I have been drying more of my own herbs. I keep many of the dry herbs in the freezer to help keep them fresh.

foodsaver play 3

I have seen the jar sealers from FoodSaver and was curious about how they worked, but I couldn’t find anyone that had used them. I finally just took the plunge and bought both the jar sealer for the regular canning jar and the wide mouth canning jar (actually it was one of those practical Christmas presents that I ordered and told my husband he bought me for Christmas!) Hey, that works for us and I love those type of gifts.

I was so excited to receive the jar sealers that I have been on a vacuum-sealing spree and loving loving loving it. I have pulled all my dry herbs out of the freezer and vacuum-sealed them in canning jars. Most of the things in our cupboards are in glass jars, but I decided to switch them out into canning jars so that I could vacuum seal them. You may remember that I have an obsession with jars…. well, all those jars really came in handy.

I have gone through my soap/lotion-making cabinet and vacuum sealed the elderflower, the calendula and many other dry herbs. Next on my list is making crackers and getting those all vacuum sealed to retain freshness. When sealing anything in jars, just make sure it is completely dry. If there is any moisture and you vacuum seal your jars, you items will not be fresh.

Foodsaver play 1

I have not had these jar sealer for long, but so far I am thrilled with how they work and how easily the jars seal. I love that all the air gets sucked out and that means the contents should stay super fresh for a very long time.

I think these jar sealers make sense if you buy things in bulk, if you are planning ahead, if you are living in a humid climate and you want to extend the shelf life of you food. It all ties in with my frugal nature and trying to plan ahead and be prepared.

Have you used any jar sealers? I would love to hear how they work for you and how you like using them.

Sincerely, Emily

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boxes

In my adult life I’ve moved seven times; two of those as a family with a child. Averaged out, that’s once every three years! Ugh. No wonder I despise the process so much. Each time I move, I dislike it more and more. (I say as I’m breaking from unpacking.) It seems as though we’ve got this thing figured out, though, and perhaps I can offer some advice to those of you that are planning on a move any time soon.

I’ve learned that it will always take longer than you plan, or want it to take to get everything moved and unpacked and in working order unless you downsize your belongings. We Americans like our Stuff, even those of us that don’t consider ourselves “Normal”. As soon as you plan to move, begin ridding yourself of excess. Reduce, recycle, or give it to someone to reuse (or if you’re a glutton for punishment, hold a yard sale). E-bay, Craig’s List, or Freecycle are some excellent alternatives to a yard sale or Goodwill – and I like them because it is a lot less stress than spending an entire week to set up and clean up a yard sale.

Avoid purchasing items for your new place until you’re moved in. Yes, you’ll want your new joint to be happening and functional the day you walk in. First of all, that’s a completely unacceptable expectation to put on anyone, even your own self. Second of all, why bother getting more stuff you’ll have to pack and transport when you probably have too much as it is?

Start gathering boxes, newspapers, and other packing material as soon as possible. These are items it seems you can never have enough of. Liquor stores, grocery stores, and farmer’s markets are all great places to look for boxes. Also, look for sales on packing tape and big permanent markers. Find a home for them and put them away every time you’re done with them so that you know where to find them the next time you start packing.

Do a little research of the area you’ll be moving to beforehand. Get contact information for utilities, locate grocery and hardware stores, arrange internet/cable/telephone start dates, and find a convenient restaurant or two to make things easy on yourself.

Keep tape, markers, scissors, box cutters, garbage bags, and newspaper available even when you’re UN-packing. Surely you’ll have second thoughts on a few items and need to repack them for storage.

Label. Label. LABEL! You will never remember what is in each box unless you only have five of them or have a photographic memory. Write clearly on the top and two adjacent sides of the box what is inside and a general idea of where they belong. You may also want to come up with a color code for especially fragile items. We used bits of blue painters tape on fragile boxes so that we knew at a glance which weren’t good boxes to play basketball, soccer, or football with.

Don’t stress about dusting or making things spotless before packing them. Dishes and glasses will inevitably get fingerprints on them when unwrapping, and you’ll want to wash any newspaper/box germs off your dishes, silverware, and cooking tools anyway. You never know what’s crawled on those boxes or papers.

A quick rinse through the hot cycle of the dishwasher may be good enough to get some of those prints off. If you’re worried about germs, you can use some mild detergent in the machine, or quickly wash them in the sink.

Put your toiletries in a carry-on bag so you don’t have to search for them when you’re bedding down for the first night. It’s an awful pain to have to dig through boxes to find saline solution so you can take out your contacts. Even worse, fumbling around for your glasses once you’ve taken your contacts out!

Make sure that you have enough clean clothes to get you through the move and a day beyond. A washer and dryer will probably be one of the first things you hook up if you own them, and keeping a load or two running while you’re unpacking and cleaning is almost painless.

…however it’s a good idea to wash all your towels, bedclothes, and curtains to have them ready to hang or put away as soon as they’re unpacked. I put mine in large garbage bags for easy transport, then reuse the garbage bags for clean up in the new place.

Prepare food in a crockpot, cook a roast in the oven, or even (gasp) order out if it helps you stay sane. There’s no reason to cook big meals, bake breads, or go over the top if it’s going to add to your workload. Think of simple meals that you can make at home to save money, perhaps eggs with mushrooms and kale in tortillas topped with hot sauce and sour cream; an easy salad with sliced leftover roasted chicken; or even a bowl of oatmeal with nuts, fruit, and cream. And keep healthy snacks available! You’ll most likely be using up more calories than normal, so keep your energy levels in check. (Don’t fail like me and fill up on junk and completely crash when everyone is counting on you….)

Use up all of those disposable plates and cutlery you’ve been hording because you’d otherwise feel guilty having thrown them away.

Arrange tools like screwdrivers, wrenches, drills, and hammers in a small carry-on bag so that you don’t have to dig for them when you need them. Don’t forget any hardware you may need.

Keep cleaning supplies nearby all the time! You will drop something. Something will spill. Food will spoil. Your child will dump her drink in the backseat of the car during a poorly-timed trek through rush hour traffic in a major city. The Gods of Moving say it must be so. Keep rags, towels, a broom and dustpan, mop and bucket, trash bags, and some simple cleaners around for basic cleanup.

Don’t forget to spend time with those kids when you can so that they’re feelings don’t get completely crushed when you scold them for dumping said drink in the car during your poorly-timed trek. Remember that time spent with your loved ones is also supposed to be relaxing for you.

Ask, pay, or bribe friends and family to help you early on. Remind them (although not obsessively) when they’re expected. It’s considered excellent manners to feed people and even provide cold beverages!

Take time out to celebrate, relax, and just be with the people you’ll be leaving behind. Goodbyes are difficult, especially in these times of email, Twitter, and Facebook when short statements are the norm. Say what you feel, and keep in touch.

Finally, remember that you’re not perfect. Be realistic with your expectations concerning your time, finances, and energy, and do the same for those that are along with you for this crazy ride.

Jennifer can be found blarging at Unearthing This Life and on Twitter as @unearthingthis1.

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feb collage

 

So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we here at NDiN wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule depending on your region.

February can be one of the last chances to get indoor projects completed before the spring thaw arrives. Gardeners are getting excited and it won’t be long before the first of this year’s farm babies are here! Spring is really just around the corner, so start wrapping things up inside and get ready to head back outdoors.

Indoors:

  • Check basement or crawl space for leakage during thaws.
  • Check bathroom caulking for re-sealing needs. While you’re in there, check your pipes for leaks.
  • Freshen your kitchen sinks by pouring a mixture of 3 cups hot water and 1/4 cup vinegar (or the juice of one lemon) down each drain.
  • Keep an eye out for cracks in your drywall caused by settling during thaws and freezes. There are expandable putties and spackles available for problem areas. While you’re at it, you may want to mark outdoor masonry to be repaired. Plan to complete this project after the last hard freeze and once your biggest worries of the house settling are past.
  • If you don’t have a cold frame or greenhouse, set up an area to start seeds for your garden. Few seeds need light to germinate (be sure to read the directions) so you may be able to get by without any lights other than a window for the first few weeks. (Check out chiotsrun seedstarting 101 guide).
  • Research and prepare for any animal purchases for the year.
  • Keep a tray of water and spray bottle near indoor plants to adjust humidity levels, especially if you have central air. Running the heater can dry them out quickly and cover leaves with dust.

Outdoors/Garden/Wildlife:

  • Keep fresh water available and free of ice for birds and wildlife.
  • It’s National Bird Feeding Month. Keep feeding those birdies! Seed, dried berries, and suet are great meals for our feathered pals.
  • If you live in a climate with mild winters, this month may be a good time to dig new beds. You may also want to repair or build new composting bins to be prepared for this year’s cleanup.
  • Southerners could get away with planting bare root trees on warm days.
  • Keep driveways and walks free of snow and ice. Have shovels, plows, and salt/brine accessible and stocked.
  • Watch gutters and roofs for ice dams.
  • If you didn’t get to it during fall, now would be a great time to oil and sharpen garden tools.

Animal Husbandry

  • Be prepared for early birthing. Have any equipment you’ll need ready and accessible.
  • Nights are still very cold in most parts of the country. Keep your critters warm with fresh hay, heat lamps, or blankets, but be sure to avoid fire hazards. 
  • If you’ve been leaving a light on for your chickens you can begin weaning them off of it. The sun is setting noticeably later and your gals should begin laying more regularly soon.

You can also find Jennifer at Unearthing This Life where she blargs a bit about good food, home schooling, raising chickens, and being a suburban Yankee transplant in a rural southern town.

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We used to live in Cincinnati when we were younger and I always thought it was interesting that there would be a run on the grocery stores before a big snow storm.  People would snatch up all the bread and milk. I always thought it was funny, I always wondered what exactly people were going to be using the bread and milk for if they were snowed in, make french toast?  Mr Chiots and I now live in NE Ohio and we have a few winter storms each year that make it difficult for us to get out.  We live in a rural area, so the roads around us are not on the top of the list for clearing.  It’s not that we get snowed in for weeks and can’t go anywhere, but every now and then we choose to stay home for a few days while things clear up rather than risk heading out.

It’s nice to know that we could be snowed in for weeks and still be fine because we have; a freezer full of venison, vegetables & fruit, a pantry full of home canned goods, homegrown potatoes, and a nice stash of rice, wheat berries, and other staples. No running out to the store to be prepared for such an occasion. Truth be told we could probably survive for almost a year on the supplies we have squirreled away in the basement pantry.

If you live in a cold climate it’s always good to be prepared for cold weather related events, keep some extra food on hand and emergency heat source. If you live in an area with other natural disasters it’s wise to keep some grab and go emergency supplies so you can evacuate quickly and have the supplies you need, like: food, water filter, first aid kit, blankets, clothing, etc. Chances are you’ll never need your emergency supplies, but it sure provides peace of mind knowing you are ready!

Do you keep food and emergency supplies on hand for such occasions? How long do you think you could last on the food in your home?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, and you can follow me on Twitter.

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november collage

So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we here at NDiN wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule plus or minus two weeks or more.

  

Although many of the outdoor chores are completed for the year, it’s not time to slow down. Gardeners are beginning to dream up next year’s spring and summer crops and for most of us there’s always leaves to take care of. For some of us there’s even a bit of snow. As we get closer to the holiday season it’s easy to become consumed with gatherings and preparations, but it’s important to remember those seasonal aspects of every day life. Keeping ahead of the weather, taking care of outdoor animals, cooking with seasonal foods, and staying warm are key this month.

Indoors:

  • If you store foods like squash, potatoes, and carrots for winter use be sure that you rotate for freshness. Also be sure to occasionally check for any spoiling or critter damage.
  • If  you haven’t already done so, be sure to check the batteries in your fire detectors.
  • Check garage door for air leaks if  you have an insulated unit. Also check household windows for any drafts. Catching these now can save you lots of money over the winter.
  • If possible, set up a “craft/wrapping area” out of immediate view for holiday activities, possibly in a separate room. This should help keep clutter down in main areas of the house helping to keep it tidy and help reduce holiday stress.

 Outdoors:

  •  Trim any trees now that most of the energy has gone to the root systems of most plants. It’s also not too late to plant some trees so long as your ground is not frozen. Fruit canes can also be cut back depending on the variety.
  • When outdoor gardening chores finally slow down, clean, sharpen, oil, and put up all tools for the winter.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts.
  • Make sure all hoses and water barrels have been drained and put up until spring.

 Garden:

  • Clean up rotting plant materials to help keep your gardens healthy. Decomposition is great, rotting is not.
  • Till chopped leaves directly into garden beds where they’ll stay warmer and decompose faster over the winter.
  • Garlic and other bulbs like tulips can still be planted in zones with milder winters.

 Animal Husbandry:

  • Keep barns and other animal shelters clean to help prevent illness and discourage wild critters from nesting. Change hay often, keep tools cleaned up, and be sure to keep water free of ice.
  • If you keep an area warm for animals occasionally check for fire hazards. Examine wiring on extension cords, heat lamps, and portable heaters. Keep bedding away from heat units and keep a fire extinguisher inside larger buildings.
  • It may not be too late to have sheep and goats mated in your area.
  • Cold weather days are best for slaughter and processing. Keep an eye on weather and plan accordingly.
  • Put a light out for an extra two hours in the evening for your chickens. It will help keep their coop warm on colder evenings and promote more egg laying.

 Wildlife:

  • Most animals are starting their winter cycles, including hibernation and building up of nests. You can assist your neighborhood critters with a few little tricks. Continue to feed birds; make your own suet cakes for freezing weather to help fuel up birds; offer some peanuts and corn to squirrels; leave a few piles of leaves or stones or a piece of corrugated metal for frogs and lizards to burrow in; set out water for all animals and keep it free of ice.

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September collage
So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule plus or minus two weeks or more.

 

September is the time of year that we begin to feel the crisp air of Autumn moving in. Evenings are chilly even though afternoons can be very warm. Autumn fruits are beginning to ripen and the thought of spiced cider seem to warm spirits. September is the time for clear skies, bonfires, and wrapping up Summer’s last duties. It’s a big month for tidying up the garden, so hold back those nesting instincts for another month and enjoy the clear, bright skies and cool air.

Indoors

  • Be sure your root cellar is ready to accept produce. If you’re using boxes with sand or sawdust make sure they’re clean, sanitized, dry, and critter-proof.
  • Be sure your deep freezer is cleaned out. Remove past date items and make room for Fall’s harvests.
  • Complete any chores that require you to keep your windows open. Painting, cleaning carpeting, cleaning ovens and so forth should be finished before it gets cold during the daytime.
  • Wash items that require long, outdoor drying times or those that can only be taken care of outside. Litter boxes, garbage pails, sanitary pails, area rugs, pillows, and so forth should be washed while the remaining warm air can help with drying.
  • Air out winter clothing, blanketing, and other items you may have kept in storage over the warm seasons.
  • Be sure your fireplaces are in working order before you need them. Check that wood stacks are staying dry and are easy to get to.
  • Check fire and carbon monoxide alarms before lighting up your furnace or fireplace for the first time.

Outdoors

  • Be sure your cold frames and greenhouses are airtight and ready to go for the cooler nights. Daytime temperatures can become very hot in these locations, so be sure to open and close windows as needed. Consider investing in a self-opening elbow for your windows. They can save many trips back and forth throughout this fickle weather.
  • Leaves will begin to fall soon. Make sure your compost bins or piles are ready to accept fresh materials.
  • Give one last inspection to your windows and doors in case you didn’t get to them last month. Be sure that they’re air tight and sealed before cold weather really sets in.
  • Change air filters on furnace.

Garden

  • Herbs can be cut and dried for saving. Remember to bring some in to create a window garden for a fresh Winter source of Summer’s flavors.
  • Seed saving and dead-heading can begin once again. Remember to allow some of your perennial seeds to self-sow by leaving only a few “dead heads” or by sprinkling some seed. Save some seed for finches (they adore Echinacea) and other seed lovers. Too many dead heads can lead to disease.
  • Don’t prune rose hips yet if you plan on saving them for jellies or medicinal purposes.
  • Bring in your more sensitive plants as the nights get cooler. Stevia, ginger, and other tropicals don’t like colder weather. Many other herbs can stay outside until the first frosts.
  • It’s a good time to take cuttings of woody plants and shrubs.
  • If you’re planning on dividing or planting bulbs for next year now is the time to do it! Also divide shrubby herbs like lemon balm, oregano, mints, sage, fennel, tansy, and marjoram.
  • Harvest frost-sensitive plants and Winter keepers before your first frosts. Put green tomatoes in paper bags to ripen slowly and use later. Potatoes, onions, and other keepers should be kept in a cool dark place.
  • Cut back dying foliage. Burn diseased foliage as soon as possible. Healthy plants can be put into compost as long as they are seed-free. As fun as it is to have a surprise potato plant sprout from the compost bin, you don’t want those plants (or weeds) to use up all that energy you’ve been saving for your garden!
  • Green manures for cool seasons can be sown.
  • Strawberry runners should be rooted and transplanted by the end of the month.
  • Shrubs and trees, fruiting or not, can be planted now that the cool weather is setting in. Fall is an excellent time for transplants since most trees are storing or spending energy in and on their root systems.
  • Speaking of fruiting trees and plants, remove mulch and prune those that need it.

Animals

  • Put in your orders for Winter supplies of food, straw, and hay.
  • Give a good cleaning to coops and barns to try to avoid housing mice and other small, unwanted critters.
  • September and October are good months for building. If you’re planning on adding to the animal family next year, consider any outdoor units that may need to be added.
  • Repair coops, lean-tos, stables, and other shelters before cold weather sets in. Keep your animals happy and warm at night.
  • Start considering mating sheep and goats for Spring kids and lambs. They’re both on about a 150 gestation cycle so a late month conception would lead to a late February birth.
  • With birth also comes death. Start planning for cold weather slaughters. Animals are best harvested when the weather is below 40 degrees. The cooler the better, especially if you’re inexperienced or have a lot of work to do. Research your product and begin gathering needed items. Mise en place. Have stock pots, seasonings, casings, sharpening stones, recipes, packaging, and tools all ready prior to harvesting.

Wildlife

  • Continue to feed your hummingbirds and other songbirds. Migrations will begin this month and you may have a few unusual visitors to your feeders.
  • Like us humans, wild critters are beginning to stock away for the colder seasons. Allow seed heads to remain on natives and refrain from too much tidying up of acorns and other nuts, seeds, and berries. Skunks, squirrels, rabbits, birds, and other small animals need to fatten up to keep warm through the Winter.

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The Skills to Survive

I had an interesting conversation with some friends the other day about the skill set many of us have in our modern world and the skill set people had 200 years ago. Many of us now have skills that aren’t directly linked to our survival. My skills as an business manager earn me a salary of money which I then give to a grocery store to buy food which it purchased from someone else. If something drastic happened in our world and we could no longer earn money, or if we could no longer buy food at a grocery store many people would be in a huge pickle. This is because our skills are no longer directly linked to our survival.

There are many of us that are trying to learn these basic survival skills once again, things like growing food, raising poultry, hunting, eating seasonally, canning, baking, building, sewing, knitting, spinning, etc. Some of us were lucky and grew up with parents that grew food, mom’s that cooked from scratch and dad’s that built furniture in the garage. Others weren’t so lucky. Even if we were lucky enough to have parents that were into that sort of thing, most likely we didn’t pay attention or hated gardening, or perhaps they just didn’t do some things you are now interested in. As a result many of us are now trying to learn these skills through the internet, books, videos and from others.

One of the things I’ve noticed as I strive to learn new skills is that there’s a huge overload of information. It can be difficult to glean the good stuff from the bad. I find it amusing sometimes when I read a book about something like keeping chickens that was written by someone that didn’t grow up with chickens and just learned about them a few years ago. They often say things in the book that seem completely ridiculous and go against the way nature intended things to be. Books can be a good source of info, but they can also be completely wrong or not as in depth as they should be. Sometimes they completely gloss over important information. When researching a new topic I usually read 5-10 books about it and then assimilate all the information from the various sources. Usually I end up with a pretty good idea of how it should be done.

I find a lot of wonderful information on blogs and through internet friends (like all of you). Blogs are a great way to connect with others that are like-minded not only for advice and information, but also to have a support network. The connections I’ve made through blogging are not only a great source of information, but also a wonderful network of support!

I have also been working on building a network of local people that have some of the skills I don’t posses so I can purchase or barter for their goods or services and learn from them. I have yet to be able to raise chickens or keep dairy cows, but I have a small local farm where I get these items. I know that I can rely on them to provide me with quality milk, eggs and meat and I’m so much happier giving them my money. Bartering is also a great option when you have developed a small local network for the things you need. One spring I traded 50 tomato seedlings for a good amount of pastured meat from a local farmer. I have also traded elderberries and other items for items I can’t produce myself.

I am now confident that I have many of the skills needed to survive should I ever need them. Lets hope we never need these skills for some major disaster, but it may well be that they’ll come in handy during a localized natural disaster or even an extended season of unemployment. I’m more comfortable knowing that I have a safety net, beyond our monetary emergency fund, in the skills I’ve taken the time to cultivate over the last 5 years. I would hate to be scrambling to learn these things when I needed them most.

What kinds of survival skills have you been learning over the past couple years? Where do you find the best information?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, and you can follow me on Twitter.

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