Jess Dee

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since Mar 10, 2011
Prairie Canada zone 2/3
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Recent posts by Jess Dee

I'm a straddler, and plan to stay that way for at least 6-7 more years.  I have a family with young kids, so financial stability is important to me, and I also want to get more of the infrastructure stuff dealt with before I take an enormous pay cut.  In my case, my husband is home doing a lot of the work-work, like managing the gardens and chickens and planting/watering trees, so I also get the advantage of his labor.  I feel we can do quite a lot more with his time and my income than we could with just time alone.  Fruit trees and barns and wells and renovations are expensive.  

Before I quit working, I would want to have an ironclad plan for dealing with stuff where barter isn't an option, like property taxes and insurance.  We can drop our expenses quite a bit, but we will still need cash money for some things, and there is going to be inflation to deal with, I'm sure.  I would want some sort of reasonably reliable income, like a pension check or a bunch of fruit trees that were producing stuff to sell, in order to make sure that the cash stuff was covered.  

Family status will probably be a big consideration.  If you have a spouse who's not on board, it would change the calculation a lot.  Can you cut your hours some, and dip a toe in the reduced-income waters?
6 days ago
Hi, Jennifer.

I don't think your situation is shameful at all - I think it's probably pretty common.  We've run into it, here, as well - there are a few vegetables that grow really well for us and also store through part or all of our lengthy winters, but neither of us ate some of these vegetables prior to growing them for ourselves.  That meant we had little experience with cooking them properly, and didn't grow up with those flavors.  Luckily, we're pretty adventurous about food, but there were a lot of meals quietly fed to the dogs and chickens (and a lot of surplus fed to the compost) while we figured out what to do with 100 squash a year, or 50 pounds of beets.  We were pretty determined to eat what we grew, though, and we've adapted our diet quite a lot in order to do so.

There are some good suggestions on this thread already, but I'll add my thoughts:

1) Anything you cook at home from your home-grown food will be healthier than most restaurant food.  Go ahead and load it up with butter / salt / cheese / flour if that's what makes it appetizing.  This will also stretch your budget a bit, since even those expensive ingredients are cheaper to cook with than buy at a restaurant.  Some of our favorite dishes involve roasting vegetables in gobs of butter with salt.  You probably don't want to do that every day, but a few heavier meals a week likely won't be a big deal, especially if you're replacing restaurant meals.  Heck, sometimes our 'supper' is commercial corn chips with cheese melted over top, with salsa and sour cream.  I don't feel guilty about it, considering 90% of our other meals are fairly healthy.  

2) Pinterest, recipe websites, and cookbooks are your friend.  We sometimes surf the web aimlessly in the evenings to relax, and I've made a bunch of Pinterest boards of recipes for things we always have a hard time working our way through.  We also print them off, and have a stack of novel recipes for the things we tend to have gluts of; then, when we're utterly sick of our usual squash recipes, we can try something really new.  One tactic I have is to try to have at least 5 different recipes for a main veggie ingredient, each from a different cuisine - for instance, we have 2 good Mexican squash recipes, an Indian one, a Thai one, an American one, plus recipes for squash muffins and squash cake that all taste completely different from each other.  Both my husband and I struggle coming up with what to cook once we're already hungry, so having a stack of fallback recipes helps a lot, even though I often invent recipes on the fly when I'm not starving or pressed for time.

3) You don't have to eat 100% home-grown.  We grow a ton of our own vegetables, AND we buy vegetables from the store.  I love cabbage, but we've had no luck growing it - we buy a ton.  We like bananas and mangos and oranges, and those don't grow here at all.  We enjoy bok choi in stir fries, but don't really have space for it in our garden, and it doesn't store very well.  I kind of enjoy grocery shopping, and it's nice to get out of the house sometimes.  I don't think that's terrible.

4) It sounds like food is social for you, and eating out is a chance to hang out with people and relax.  Could you invite them over for potluck, or take turns cooking each other meals?  I used to have a group of single friends who took turns cooking larger meals, then hosting each other, so out of the four days a week that they did their cooking club, you only had to cook for one of them.  That might not work as well with families, but maybe it would - it might be worth a try.  Another option would be to do your socializing over coffee or tea at a cafe, after a large meal, so you're less tempted to buy supper.

5) Eating out also sounds like a chance to get out of the house - could you substitute other things?  Maybe trips to take some of your surplus to a food bank?  Sell at the Farmer's market?  Volunteer with an organization that you would like to support?  

6) Convenience - this one was a biggie for me when I did most of the cooking (my husband now does the majority of it).  I don't enjoy cooking at all, though I really enjoy eating.  There's two tactics I took with that.  One is to find a good roster of simple recipes, and keeping all of the ingredients for them in stock at all times.  Sometimes, I plan out meals for the week, and mass prep - soak the beans for several meals, or chop the onions for multiple recipes.  I'm not very good at following meal plans, though, so I only do that intermittently.  My second major tactic is to cook with an eye to having leftovers.  For our family of four, we make chili and soup in a two-gallon pot - that's three or four meals' worth, for us.  Now, we are okay with eating the same thing for supper for days, but some people don't cope well with that - the solution there is to freeze a meal's worth (or several meals' worth, in appropriately sized containers) for later, and then it's just a matter of thawing it when you don't feel like cooking.  Chili and soup are great for this, as are meat and tomato sauces for pasta (just cook the pasta while the sauce is thawing).  

Also, if you don't particularly like a vegetable, there is no rule saying you have to grow it.  Put your focus on the stuff you really do enjoy.  If you're trying to come up with creative ways to cook something you (or most of your family) don't actually like, it's bound to be difficult, and going out for dinner becomes that much more enticing.  

Finally, eating at restaurants isn't the end of the world, either.  If it's something you truly enjoy, why not give it a budget and a day of the week, and enjoy it in planned moderation?  Say, every Friday, you go out for dinner with friends, and cook / eat at home the rest of the week?  Then, you're not completely depriving yourself of something you enjoy; just putting some limitations on it.  
3 weeks ago

elle sagenev wrote:

Jess Dee wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:Would gas still be plentiful? Our thing is that we live somewhere without any trees close. like at all. We have to drive to the mountain to get firewood. Without firewood we would freeze to death. So I'd be more worried about gas.

For me, when the power goes out, the electric fan in my furnace stops working.  So even if I have gas, I don't really have heat.  Friends who have a natural gas fireplace run into the same issue - it only heats one  room without the electric fan (it heats most of their house when the fan is on).

I believe that some of the pumps that pressurize natural gas and move it through pipes are dependent on electricity, so that might also be a problem eventually, though not for several days or weeks.  It would also depend on how large an area was without power.

We heat our house with a wood stove at this point but I can only get wood for it if I have gas for my car.

Heh, I completely misunderstood :)   When we had an extended power outage locally, we couldn't get gas for our vehicles, either, as the pumps were all electric and the gas stations didn't have generators.
1 month ago

elle sagenev wrote:Would gas still be plentiful? Our thing is that we live somewhere without any trees close. like at all. We have to drive to the mountain to get firewood. Without firewood we would freeze to death. So I'd be more worried about gas.

For me, when the power goes out, the electric fan in my furnace stops working.  So even if I have gas, I don't really have heat.  Friends who have a natural gas fireplace run into the same issue - it only heats one  room without the electric fan (it heats most of their house when the fan is on).

I believe that some of the pumps that pressurize natural gas and move it through pipes are dependent on electricity, so that might also be a problem eventually, though not for several days or weeks.  It would also depend on how large an area was without power.
1 month ago
I'm pretty sure the house we live in was built just before rural electrification got here.  There's a chimney through the kitchen with an access hole for the wood cookstove chimney (though unfortunately, we don't have a wood cookstove), a proper root cellar, and a big cistern.  Being at the end of a line, we have fairly frequent outages as is, and we're usually the last folks to get power back when things do go down.  Between a well-designed house and ongoing experience, we've gotten pretty comfortable with power outages.  We've gone as many as 5 days without power here (in the summer), and it was a nuisance, but not a huge deal.  

That time, we lost most of the food in the freezers (well, we fed it to the dogs and chickens), which I think we'd resign ourselves to in any longer-term summer outage.  Trying to can up two freezers' worth of random garden stuff when fuel is at a premium doesn't hit me as a great use of resources.  We have plenty of other food in the house, and if it was a summer outage, we'd be eating out of the garden and refilling the freezers shortly anyhow (assuming the power came back on within a few weeks).  In a winter outage, we could just drag the freezers outside to stay frozen while still protecting the food inside from critters.

In a winter outage, our biggest issue is heat.  We have a wood stove that heats the living room very nicely, but I don't think enough heat gets to the basement to keep the cistern from freezing in an extended outage.  I'm not sure what we'd do there.  We also don't have a whole winter's worth of seasoned wood, since we don't use that stove for primary heat.  

Otherwise, we're in pretty good shape for short-to-mid length (say a month) power outages.  

It would be ten minutes' work to plumb the downspouts into the cistern to collect rainwater - there are input / output holes, so the system was designed for rainwater collection, though we currently collect rainwater in outdoor barrels.  We don't actually water our garden or trees very much, and what we do water is normally from rain barrels.  The chickens and dogs also drink rainwater for much of the summer, whenever the barrels are full.  In the winter, there is usually plenty of snow to melt for drinking and washing.

For hygiene, in a short power outage, our sewers are gravity-fed into a septic tank, so we could just keep letting it do that.  After about a week, though, we'd need to stop, as the tank pumps out by electric pump.  We could easily divert the bathtub to drain onto the lawn, though, and dig an outhouse hole.  My husband and I have traveled to some very water-poor areas, and know from experience that we can clean ourselves by dippering from a bucket - you can get completely clean in less (usually waaayyy less) than 5 gallons of water that way.  We can wash laundry in the tub, and dry it on the line - either outdoors or on a rack in the house.

The root cellar is definitely not as cold as a fridge in the summertime (though it is very close in the winter), but we use it for cool storage year-round.  It works fine for keeping eggs, dairy, and such cool for a few days or a week.  Milk won't last as long in the summer, though, and I wouldn't trust meat to be stored down there for any length of time.  In a winter outage, we'd just keep frozen stuff outside, and use buckets of snow to keep the fridge cool - we've done that before.  We could probably seal things in glass jars and sink them in the cistern for some level of refrigeration, too.

Lighting is a non-issue for half the year, but in winter, we'd be stuck with flashlights and kerosene lamps.  We keep both on hand because of the frequent outages we already have.

For cooking, we have the BBQ, the wood stove, and a camp stove.  We could build a fire pit in the yard easily enough, too.  There are plenty of trees here.  

We have lots of books, drawing supplies, board games, and non-electronic kids' toys, and don't normally use a ton of electricity for entertainment anyhow, besides the internet.  

Getting to work (or to town at all) would be an issue, though if the power was out, my day job wouldn't be functioning either.  When we had the one extended local outage, the gas stations were all closed, since they need power to pump the gas.  Not a big deal for us, since we were well prepared to stay put, but it could be an issue for some people.

The thing we noticed in extended power outages (and when we traveled in places with little or no access to electricity) is that everything needs to be planned, and takes more time.  If it takes laundry two days to dry during a humid part of summer, you need to do smaller loads more often to make sure you've got clean shirts and underpants.  Cooking takes a lot more attention, since you can't just set the heat to medium and go do something else for a few minutes.  If your ingredients are more limited (since you can't grab meat and veggies from the freezer), meals might take more planning.  Also, things get dirtier when it is really time-consuming or inconvenient to clean them - we wore clothing more times before washing, and bathed less frequently.  Carpets would be a nightmare in short order, and we actually ripped all the carpet out of our house not long after that extended power outage.  It's much easier to sweep.  Income might be a problem, too - if we couldn't get to work, and weren't being paid, things like mortgages and taxes might become problematic.  

I think it would be a lot tougher to ride out long-ish power outages in the city, since there are fewer things you can do to mitigate issues - imagine the neighbors seeing you dig an outhouse in your back yard!  Here in the middle of nowhere, though, we have a lot of options.  

I think it also depends on how much you rely on electricity in the first place.  If you don't watch TV, the kids don't miss it when the power is out.  Same thing if you chop your vegetables with a knife, rather than a food processor.   Given that we're in an old house, we don't have the electric outlets or counter space for a lot of gadgets, so we don't have a dishwasher, electric kettle, food processor, coffee grinder, or many other gadgets that some folks really rely on.  That makes things run more smoothly when the power is out, as you can heat a kettle of water just as easily on the wood stove or BBQ as the electric stovetop.  
1 month ago
I would also note that you are talking about annual plants, here, so there isn't a lot of commitment by planting them however.  You can easily change it next year, once you've had a chance to digest all of the new information and make a plan.  Planning is more of an issue with trees and perennial plants, since moving them can be a real hassle.  Even with that, if the choice is between a poor plan and not planting at all, I tend towards just planting things and figuring the rest out later, but I may very well be in the minority with that opinion.  On that note, I'm off to dig up a patch of grass to plant some perennials that I ordered with no plan whatsoever :)
1 month ago
I'm more likely to regret the things I didn't do, so I tend to launch myself into projects with both feet.  This sometimes leads to a steep learning curve, and the occasional utter failure.  I'm okay with that.  If I waited for everything to be perfect, I wouldn't have done most of the things I am the most proud of in my life.  
1 month ago
I have ordered a lot of fruit trees over the years, but it is always a struggle finding zone 2/3 hardy trees.  It's also tough to find places that will ship trees in Canada on a retail level (as opposed to wholesale), since there probably isn't a huge amount of demand.  Anyhow, I've put together a list of nurseries in Canada that ship bare-root trees:
2 months ago

Shawn Klassen-Koop wrote:

Jess Dee wrote:I would also be happy to promote it on my blog, though it is tiny.  

Thanks Jess! If you want some kickback codes feel free to post in the following thread:

Thanks - I have posted a note over there.
2 months ago
I would like a link as well, please
2 months ago