Friday, December 27, 2013


Now that Christmas is over and all the presents have been opened, I can tell you about one of the things I gave this year. I have been reading about the need to have a bag ready for an emergency. Now that three of our four children live away from home (two in the City) I started to wonder what they would do if they had to leave quickly and try to get home. For the past several weeks I've been collecting up things to put into their bags. I realize there are many options for the items but these are the ones I chose to make a start. I am hoping that they will gradually add to the bag to make it more useful. I got most of the items from Walmart but a few from thrift stores, the map from the gas station, and the Berkey ordered online. Some of the items came in packs of 4-5, which was perfect for me.

Here are the items I put in the 'go bag' with approximate costs:

drawstring bag (repurposed or thrift)
Berkey water bottle (Sport Berkey $19 sale, online @LPC Survival)
rain poncho ($4.50)
bandana ($1)
emergency blanket ($4)
tissues ($2.50)
wipes ($1)
hand sanitizer ($1.50)
hand warmer packs ($1)
lighter ($1)
duct tape (from home supplies)
first-aid kit ($1)
mini toothbrush ($1)
sewing kit ($2)
pocket knife ($10)
flashlight ($1)
ear plugs ($.50)
rubber bands ($.50)
disposable gloves (from home supplies)
paracord ($2)
compass ($3)
mask ($3)
lip balm ($1)
superglue ($2)
spork ($1)
whistle ($2)
road map ($4)

There are numerous websites that sell similar bags but at first glance they all look overpriced and didn't contain all the items I wanted. My bags cost about $70 to put together.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tour of Lights

There was a program on TV the other evening about a competition to decorate your house for Christmas - called Great Christmas Light Fight. I just caught the tail end of it. The people went crazy over decorating their house using millions of lights and coordinating music. The money they won probably just paid for their electricity bill. It all reminded me of the Griswolds in the film Christmas Vacation or the Halls in Deck the Halls.

We like Christmas lights even though they're a bit indulgent. We like decorating our house. We also like driving around and looking at all the Christmas lights. Different places have different traditions. In London, people would display their tree through a window or have lights outlining the windows. In Florida, houses in one area were decorated by professionals who wrapped the palm trees with lights. Another neighborhood was dominated by lights suspended from a central pole to look like a tree. We drove around the Highland Park area of Dallas the other night and looked at lights.

I had this idea that it might be interesting to see what our little town looks like at Christmas time. So, here's the tour. I apologize up front for the picture quality - since I'm not a great photographer nor do I use a fancy camera.

Monday, December 23, 2013


We've been letting the goats out of their fenced area as often as we can when we're at home and can watch them. The downside is that they get into things. They are curious creatures. They like to get up on the back deck. They like to eat the bushes around the house. They were playfully 'fighting' with each other. I caught them getting on the Mule the other day.

When the Guv'nor's away...the goats play.

Merry Christmas from Sarah, Charlotte and Harriet.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Jury Duty

I was called for Jury Duty several weeks ago. Ever since I became a registered voter at 18 I've wanted to be on a jury. I have always thought it would be interesting to see the judicial process in action. I've only ever seen it on television.

I got my notice in the mail about a week before the date. I went to the county courthouse annex and wandered around until I found the correct court room. After I walked through the metal detector, a clerk handed me a form to read about the procedures and told me to sit down behind the barrier. I'd guess there were about 75 people in the room that had also been called that day. At the appointed time, the clerk started calling names from her list to see who was present. I was juror number 103 and it took awhile for her to call my name, so I assumed she was calling names by juror number. It seemed only about a third of the people called had actually come.

There was some activity in front of the barrier as various clerks entered and chatted. Since this was new to me, I wasn't sure what was happening. I could hear bits of conversation - 'hasn't arrived', 'not here yet'. After about 30 minutes a clerk stood up and announced that the defendant hadn't appeared and we would all be released. They did give us the standard jury duty compensation of $6. Count it, six dollars. The clerk joked that it probably wasn't even enough for a Whataburger.

I was disappointed to say the least.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I've been pretty busy for the past several weeks and have not found the time to collect my thoughts for a new post. The first freeze. Thanksgiving. The icy storm. Christmas shopping. It all takes time and there's only so many hours in the day.

So here's a brief update on happenings around our property. Thankfully we have not experienced any power outages so when we've been stuck inside it has been warm. We had a quiet and enjoyable Thanksgiving with our family. The goats seem happy and are given to free ranging several times a week without running off. The chickens seem well despite the freezing temperatures at night in their ventilated coop. We are averaging 3 eggs a day which is good considering the shorter winter days and cold weather. The roosters have been fighting again and I think have pecked each other's eye out, literally. I was thankfully at home when a hawk swooped into the chicken area and tried to snack on one of the girls. Dog and I ran out there and scared it off before it could do too much damage. And thankfully our internet is holding out so that we can get all that online Christmas shopping done. The packages have been arriving daily.

Raised beds after the first freeze

Strawberry plants a little frosty

We had five around our table this year.
The eggs are a good size and average about three a day.

I date the eggs with a pencil.

We made grilled cheese sandwiches on the waffle iron one day when it was freezing outside.

We had a very light dusting of snow one morning.

The chicken coop has been freezing on a couple of nights.

A little bit of snow on the back deck

The chickens don't seem to mind the cold weather.

The goats grazing behind the house

The sunrise through the trees over the coop this morning

Friday, December 6, 2013

Green Tomatoes

We decided to try to save as many tomatoes as we could before the first frost. So as I cut back the overgrown branches, Daughter helped pick off all the green tomatoes.

I washed them and laid them out on baking sheets and set them near a window where they would get some sun. Over the next several weeks they began to ripen enough to eat.

We felt better knowing we had saved them from the frost but Guv'nor says they don't have much taste.

I saw a recipe for grilled tomatoes that I may try with some of them.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sweet Potatoes

We were expecting a few freezing nights recently so I had to dig up all the sweet potatoes from the raised beds. I did a little reading on the internet to learn about how to deal with them. They can stay in the ground until a freeze but once it freezes they need to be dug up and stored.

I'm experimenting with them and washed some and left some with the dirt on them. Some were huge and some were thin roots. A few were cracked which I have learned is because they got too much water at some point. They are supposed to be "cured" for a couple of weeks in a warm, humid area which allows the skins to toughen. Then they should be stored in a cooler place until you need them.

I bought a recipe book from Homestead Heritage which has useful information plus lots of recipes for them.

I cut off all the big leaves first.

This left me with short vines so I could see what I was digging.

I used my hands and a trowel and fork to dig them up.

These were the various sizes.

With the dirt still on them

This was a huge one that I washed. It looked like a conch shell to me. (too much water)

Another large one

After "curing" them for a couple of weeks, I now have them laid out in the garage. (unwashed ones)

These are the washed ones laid out in the garage. I have them on some netting for air circulation.

The Homestead Heritage sweet potato recipe book