Monday, December 31, 2012


This is a book I've wanted to read for some time. Compiled by Mrs. Walter Hellman, it contains the experiences of people who lived through one of the worst winters recorded.

A brief recap to set the stage: in November 1951 the winter storms began and grew progressively worse until the first major blizzard on December 6 which blocked roads and left large snowdrifts. On January 11 the drifts (and everything else) were coated with a thick layer of ice. During this time the roads were only clear for one to two days at a time before drifting shut again. Thus, when January 21 started as a warm, sunny day, many people headed to town for supplies and children were in school. The first storm reports caused some to fetch their children home (or attempt to). 

My mother remembers when the blizzard hit it was like a 'wall smashing into the house'.  Zero visibility and strong winds left dozens of vehicles stalled or stuck and the occupants had the option of sitting it out for what became 48 hours or attempting to walk to the nearest farm. Eight people died of exposure and many more treated for severe frostbite.

Digging out after the storm presented new challenges. Clearing the roads overwhelmed the equipment available in the counties. Supplies had to be flown to some who couldn't be reached by road. One farmer had to dig down through eight feet of snow to reach the roof of his chicken coop.

Drifts higher than houses.

Hundreds of cattle died.

Heading in for supplies.
There were 31 days of blizzard conditions recorded (and few days spent in school). The last blizzard of that winter was on March 29. The flooding that followed the thaw was extensive and caused massive damage. It's not surprising that those who lived through it never forgot that year.

We are currently in the middle of another unusually mild winter here in South Dakota. It's best if we remember that extreme winters have struck in the past and will again. The short-sighted (and rather stupid) people who ran out of food during the ONE day blizzard we had a few weeks ago would do well to learn from their experience.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Vacation Day 4

The day of gastric distress - nuf said.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Vacation day 3

It wasn't an ambitious day for me. My son went ice fishing with friends so I've been on my own all day. Still very cold out so right after lunch I brought the dog back in and collected the four eggs that had been laid since morning chores. I sewed some hangers onto the blankets used over my son's bedroom windows to make them more secure and easier to put up. Other than that I watched lots of New Tricks and enjoyed a quiet day.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Vacation Day 2

Whew! I'm beat tonight. More plastic on the windows today: living room, kitchen, and bathroom for a total of ten windows. I know it's important; I could feel the cold air coming in around the edges as I was taping and covering them...if only there weren't so many! The only room I won't do is my son's. His bed is against both windows so the plastic never stays in place. Instead, we hang blankets over them.

According to the weather forecast our cold spell is going to continue all week. It feels like a waste now that the young hens have begun laying when the eggs freeze solid and crack open before I can collect them. All the chickens are in good health, which is the important thing.

This is definitely a night for going to bed early!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Vacation Day 1

After months of back to back projects, I've finally caught up at work and am on vacation! My dual goals for this time off are to destress and catch up on my to-do list here at home.

Today I put plastic up over my bedroom windows to help keep the northwest winds out. This evening we went to see The Hobbit. I'm afraid that I'm one of those who found it boring. It didn't have that special feel like The Lord of the Rings and the pace was very slow. My son enjoyed it though.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

First blizzard of the winter

Sunday was our first blizzard of the winter. As blizzards go, this one was mild; about 10 inches of snow combined with strong winds caused road closures and advice not to travel, yet by Monday the winds had died down. I shoveled the driveway today and it wasn't bad with no wind and moderate temps.

So, it feels as if we're being eased into the winter season. Personally, I'd love to see a pattern of heavy snow followed by a melt down. We desperately need the moisture and as long as we can avoid ice it wouldn't be too hard to deal with.

There's something especially cozy about being home by the fire when you know you can't go anywhere but feeling safe anyway. If there had been an ice storm and the power lines were in danger I would have felt it necessary to try to clear some of the snow off the solar panels. As it was, I reread The Long Winter and marveled at what they survived. Imagine not being able to leave your home town for over five months, no school for an entire winter, heat only during the day, no lighting, no insulation and being on the edge of starvation. It really would feel like the weather was some malevolent force trying to destroy you.

Keep warm, dry and safe.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fluffy stuff

Our abnormally warm and dry winter has finally taken a turn towards normal. These were the scenes that waited outside my back door this morning.

The moisture is desperately needed, but it is a bit worrying because the wind is supposed to blow hard today. A good day to stay least that is what my chickens tell me. They aren't leaving the coop.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


I've got our wood stores filled up as much as possible so I took some pictures. This way I can track how much we burn and how long it will take until we can fit another pickup load into the garage.

Double stack at the back of the garage.
Full rack on the side.
We're enjoying a little warming trend right now. I'll even be able to hang clothes out on the line this weekend.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ethical Prepping

I read a forum discussion of a hypothetical situation: information leaked to the public about a global situation that would happen in one week...what would the readers do with that time.

The responses varied on how fast panic would hit the general public and if martial law would be declared, but the majority stated they would buy as much food, fuel and ammo that they could. Granted, this is understandable for those with a tight budget who haven't been able to prepare as much as they want. What bothered me were all these survivalist types with months or years of food ready who would still dash to the stores and buy more, knowing that the stores wouldn't be resupplied.

A major part of my prepping philosophy is that by being able to take care of ourselves, we don't add to the problem and aren't a burden on society. The flip side of this is if, in a time of emergency, we took supplies we don't need then we become hoarders and deny those supplies to people who do desperately need them.

Food for thought.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A new family member

It's so difficult to resist a kitten and I caved on this one.

She is the smallest of this year's farm kittens and the one nobody else wanted to take in. We haven't settled firmly on a name but are leaning towards Loki. Our house cats are still a little unsettled by the invasion but she's working on Tommy's defenses first.

She also has very sharp little claws and teeth!

Special spiders

I'm not a fan of spiders, but something about this one is fascinating. I don't recall seeing one last year so I had to hurry and get my camera when I spotted it.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Bee visitors!

There were lots of bugs visiting the flowers this week but the bees made me feel the happiest.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bread & Butter Pickle Recipe

For Tanya:

Approximately 2 gallons of sliced cucumbers and onions
Mix with 1/2 cup pickling salt and enough water to cover
Stand for 3 hours
Drain - do not rinse
Add: 5 cups sugar
         3 cups vinegar (5% acidity)
         1.5 tsp tumeric
         2 tsp ground mustard
         1 tsp celery seed
         1/2 tsp cloves
         2 cups water
Bring to a boil
Fill jars and place in water-bath canner for 10 minutes at a boil

Thanks to Lam and Kylie for sharing their recipe.

Busy days

 Yesterday I used up the last of my cucumbers (my own and gifted ones) and made another 9 pints of bread and butter pickles. This should keep my parents well stocked!

And keeping an eye on craigslist finally paid off with a treadle sewing machine for $100. I arranged for my nephew to pick it up and drop it at my place when passing. My original plan was to buy a new manual machine and put it in this cabinet, but I'm so intrigued by the history of the antique sewing machine that I'll have to try it out first.

This is a Singer model with the Lotus decal, made in 1909...yes, 1909!!!! Can you imagine buying a new machine and expecting it to still work after 100 years? Obviously, they hadn't caught on to built in obsolescence yet. I've found pictures of this style with the vibrant decals in full color and, while beautiful, I love how the worn paint testifies to the many hours of usage this machine has seen.

I have to salute Singer for making the information available online for their customers to find details about their past models and even instruction manuals.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Weekend over

Changing my weekend around: pickling on Sunday and dehydrating corn on Saturday.

A dozen ears of sweet corn...

reduced to a quart jar.

For the pickling I did 6 more pints of bread and butter pickles. Things always take longer than I expect, but preserving food is important.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Still here

Strange - it feels like I haven't posted in months, but it's only been a couple weeks.

Weather update: the heat wave broke and we've actually had some rain; not enough to revive the brown grass yet but very helpful for the crops and keeping the temperature down.

I took a few pictures of my garden jungle. Happily, the squash started setting fruit when the weather changed. It's even gone a bit mad and is trying for world domination (I always plant them too close together but they are so small at the beginning!). I've decided that curly kale is a super-crop; it flourishes in all weather and keeps going. Other successes this year are beets and cabbage. Peas and spinach did great at first but are long gone now. Dismal failure: potatoes. A full season of growth yielded a harvest smaller than seed potatoes.

It's raining this morning (not forecast) so more photos will have to wait.

My therapist told me yesterday that I probably won't regain full range of motion in my shoulder. That was disheartening, but I'm thankful the pain is gone.

The chickens are doing fine - here and at the farm. I'm not 100% certain that all I've brought over are hens, but will wait and see if any start crowing. :) If they do they will have to go back; Frodo is a fine rooster and won't be replaced this year.

Everything else is going pretty well. I think I'll make more pickles today.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Other drought lesson learned: dry potting soil can spontaneously ignite.

This all happened two doors down the street from our house. Luckily, nobody was hurt but at 102 degrees outside it wasn't much fun for the volunteer firefighters to kit up in full gear. Probably the saddest part was watching my neighbor cry - they were moving out and she had just finished cleaning the house yesterday.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Events and changes

I've noticed an apathy towards blogging lately; largely due to a lack of anything new happening (hot and dry over and over and over again). Today, for the first time in over a month we got measurable rain! Only 0.15" but it rained! It was such a gentle rain that none was wasted in run off; instead, every drop was soaked in immediately.

Thanks to google I found a method to deal with the raccoon predators dining on fresh chicken daily. I can report that it works and if any reader needs more information please ask in the comments.

Drought has caused some extra problems here. One thing I've never seen before is an increase in the chemical warfare the black walnut trees are engaged in; normally they spit out growth inhibitors in the spring but this year it's gotten worse along with the drought. I can't even use my clothesline because it leaves sticky streaks on the laundry. The other immediate affect is the failure of any of my squash plants to set fruit after blossoming. This is very disappointing.

On the positive side: the cucumbers are producing fairly well. Today I made 5 pints of bread and butter pickles. These I made for my parents: I prefer dill and my son is 'meh' about any pickles.

Therapy continues on my shoulder. Early days, yet.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Trying out the camera

I recently splurged on a new camera lens for distant photos (on sale of course) and a very cheap macro attachment to take close ups. Lots of fun for experimenting with.


Saturday, July 14, 2012


I've had off and on shoulder aches and pains for quite awhile but last weekend it escalated. Suddenly I was unable to raise my right arm and the pain was bad. Tuesday I saw the doctor and he scheduled an MRI and x-ray. The results came in as calcified tendinitis and a torn tendon. I'll be seeing a specialist next week to discuss options.

The good news: there are many things I can do with my left arm only that I never tried before like hanging up laundry.

The bad news: my right arm is almost completely immobilized due to pain now. It aches even when not in use. This is also going to wipe out my savings. I'm feeling pretty useless.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chicken news

Something has been eating the chickens at the farm (probably raccoons) so Tuesday night we went over and caught seven that look likely to be hens. They've now joined my little flock. I was always planning on this, just not quite this soon.

Lion - in front - is as large as the adult hens already.

Zen coming over to say hello.

The little bearded bird is Sherlock - master of disguise.


New kids stick together.

Lion, Smoke, Bear, and Zen are all offspring of Frodo and my older hens. Sherlock and the Ninja Twins (all black pair) came from the mail order chicks. There are a few others I'll be bringing over soon, two of the Duchess' daughters among them.

It's interesting that out of the eight hatching eggs from Frodo, at least six are hens. But his father, Duke, produced 100% roosters.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


There was a recent article on the local news site about how people spend an average of $125,000 on clothes in a lifetime. The reporter interviewed a clothes store owner who thought the figure was low. The obvious reason is that most people don't buy their clothes at an expensive 'boutique' type shop. Most can't afford that lifestyle.

Oddly enough, if it was a priority, I could shop in places like that...but why would I want to? I spend maybe $200 a year (probably less) to replace work clothes that get ratty and worn. Nobody expects engineers to be fashionable which is great because, honestly, I think the young women who do wear the latest styles look rather trashy.

What bothers me the most is the waste. So much money, time and resources wasted on clothes and shoes that are rarely practical and are treated almost as disposable. Often compounding the problem is the debt that is incurred for something so very transitory. Reading the article made me ashamed to be part of a culture/country that has its priorities so messed up.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th!

The kitty saga
 My parents no longer have any cats of their own. What they do have are neighbors. For some reason the cats love hanging out at the farm. This litter is so adorable the neighbor keeps fetching them home and mama cat turns around and brings them back over.


What's all the fuss about kittens?

How high?
The old saying is that the corn should be knee high by the fourth of July. This year it's over six feet high. 

Nom nom
The first peas!

Monday, July 2, 2012

My mom had this idea to replant the base of leeks so I'm going to try putting these in the polytunnel. Maybe they will seed out.

Midday wilt. My part ends with the broccoli row.

Estelle having a dust bath.

Frodo still handsome.

Staying in the shade

Still growing

Dry as ever

A splash of color
I got up early to do some weeding this morning. I've also stopped using the rain barrels from now on; there's no sign of when they will get filled again and I need some for emergency use. Last week the town of Salem had a problem with their water supply and if they hadn't stopped using it the risk was that the tower would be drained and pipes would have collapsed from lack of pressure. Who knows how long it would have taken to fix that mess! The worst part of this heat wave is that there is no room for error - miss a day watering and the garden would likely be beyond recovery.

Even my hens are protesting the weather...they've stopped laying.