Monday, May 4, 2009

Independence Day Challenge 2009: On Your Mark ... Get Set

Last year I participated in the IDC and had a great time, and so when Sharon asked if anyone wanted to start up again this year, I raised my hand without a second thought.

The thing about the IDC that was very helpful to me (and the Twenty-One Days to Collapse scenario from Verde in September/October of last year) was that when it came to an emergency preparedness situation, I found that I *was* prepared. We lost power in December 2008 for four days, but because I had made being prepared a regular part of my day-to-day thought processes, we were fine. In fact, we had everything we needed right here.

So, I'm doing it again.

Plant something: This particular item will be pretty heavy for the next few weeks, at least. It's that time of year. Of course, that said, I don't have a lot of space, and so I have to really (really) plan what I'm going to do.

Today, I watched a video on about Victory Gardens, and the newscaster, with the help of a gardening "expert", was planting her first "food" garden, which consisted of one approximately 4'x 8' bed into which she planted several tomatoes, a zucchini, some peppers, and ... strawberries. Given my gardening experiences (and I am, definitely, no expert), I had an immediate reaction. There's nothing wrong with planting any of these items, but I think planting them all in the same bed is probably not the best idea or the best use of space.

I just thought the whole thing was a little sad, as obviously, very little thought went into what the home-gardener wanted to plant, and while I think the philosophy behind the story is a very good one, and I wholly support the Victory Garden movement, the idea of going to the garden center and just picking plants willy-nilly kind of makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. If *we*, as a society, hope to make a really significant dent in our dependence on the agri-food culture, we need to be thinking about things we can grow that 1) *we* will eat, and 2) *we* can grow in large enough quantities that for that one item we can be self-sufficient. I applaud her taking that first, small step, but ... I guess I just felt the "expert" should have said something about putting strawberries in the same (small) bed with the tomatoes.

My *one* food - the one thing I will try to dedicate the most space and energy to - is potatoes. During the winter, potatoes are a staple in my house. Everyone will eat them. They can be cooked into dozens of easy dishes and used in many ways. They're healthful and provide much needed energy during our long, dark winters. They store well. And, they grow prolifically, in my climate.

As such, I'm experimenting with as many ways to grow potatoes as I can find to give me the largest yield for my space. My goal is 100 lbs this year.

In addition to potatoes, over the past couple of weeks, I've planted peas, lettuce, beets, spinach and onions. Last fall I planted garlic, and it's about six inches tall right now. Most of my perennials have popped up, and I was very pleased to see the tarragon and the thyme survived and is starting to thrive.

Harvest something: We participated in the Wild Greens day and harvested dandelion greens, wild carrot, trout lily, and mustard for our salad. We also had dandelion greens cooked with cheese and Japanese knotweed pie.

I'm embarrased to admit that I haven't incorporated any of that knowledge into my family's daily diet, yet, but my girls did harvest a bunch of fiddleheads the day after the class, but they're past. It goes really fast. I keep seeing dandelions all over the place, too, knowing that once we see the flowers, the greens are more bitter, and it's "too late" to harvest ... for us to eat, but we have been harvesting for the bunnies.

I also, sort of, harvested some comfrey, which I used in a poultice for Deus Ex Machina's "broken" finger, which has been bothering him for a very long time (since he smashed it between the maul handle and a log two winters ago).

Preserve something: Preserving won't start happening in earnest for another month or two ... and then, it will be strawberry season ;).

Reduce Waste: This is an ongoing *project*, but we haven't done anything new in this area recently.

Preparation and Storage: This week, we went to the Tractor & Supply store, and they had long johns on sale - $4 per pair. I bought two pairs - one for me and one for Deus Ex Machina. They also had "Union Suits" for $7, and I almost bought one of those, but they didn't have my size ;).

One thing I started this winter, after our power outage, was to start storing gallons of water. Unfortunately, we have very little storage space, and so I had to be creative. I've been storing them in the freezer. A full freezer is more efficient than an empty one. As such, it seemed like a good idea to store an item that we might need anyway (potable water) in a place that will make one of our high energy users use less.

Build Community Food Systems: I joined a the Portland Permaculture "Meet-Up" group. It's been fun, so far, and Sharon was actually a recent speaker for the group, but I missed meeting her. Drat!

Eat the Food: This is an ongoing one, too. We still spend more money than we should on eating out, but we're getting better. It kind of comes in waves, and the busier we are with outside activities, the greater the chance that we'll succumb to the temptation. Our financial picture has changed a bit over the past month, however, and with that always on our minds, we're less inclined to give in, which means there are a lot of nights when we're eating after 8:00 pm, because it takes longer to cook at home.

That said, I was reading a blog recently in which the author mentioned that her home-cooked food was just better, and that's actually what I've found. Not "better", exactly, but at least, here at home, I can get *exactly* what I want, the way *I* want it ... and I don't have to wait for Andrew to bring it to my table ... or to take the time to actually inquire as to whether there is anything else I'd like to have ... and then leave him a tip because he bothered, once or twice, to provide some level of decent service.

There was another category last year ... I don't recall what it was. Maybe I'm thinking about the "preparation" category, but we have had an experience in the past couple of weeks that fits with the whole spirit of the Independence Day Challenge.

Both of our vehicles have been acting kind of wonky. For a couple of months, now, we've known that the Honda needed some repairs (the regular mechanic estimated a couple $$thousand$$ for parts and labor). So, we waited. Then, one day, it just wouldn't start.

Deus Ex Machina talked with a friend of his, who has a friend, who is a mechanic, and he said it was probably A or B. It was A. Deus Ex Machina talked with his brother-in-law, who works at an autoparts store and got the right part us, and Deus Ex Machina fixed it. It runs fine.

In his post today, Kunstler said that people will not likely be buying new cars, but rather will be keeping the ones they have running for as long as they can. I don't disagree. We still have an income (albeit a bit smaller than it was four months ago), but there's no way either of us wanted to buy a new car. In fact, if Deus Ex Machina hadn't gotten his car operating, my solution would have been to call the junk dealer and have it hauled away, or to strip it and sell it for parts. Either way, my plan wasn't to get another, but rather to reduce our fleet.

I'm very impressed with and proud of my wonderful, resourceful husband, who's proven, once again, how incredible he is, and I love that he never gives up. He keeps me wanting to be better, and it's because of him that I'm never afraid of the future ... mostly, I'm just thankful for each new day ;).

1 comment:

  1. Potato power!!!!!

    Potatoes are my "stuck on a desert island" food. Along with apples. Which makes sense, don't the French call potatoes apples of the earth?

    There was a guy in Fairbanks a few years back that locked himself in a greenhouse full of potatoes for 30 or 60 days and that's all he ate. He came out pretty good. Little bit of green potato poisoning, but he pulled thru.