Thursday, July 29, 2010

Canning 101

I've been saying for a LONG time now that I would like to learn how to can food. Well, yesterday I finally did it! We all went outside yesterday and picked the peaches off the last peach tree.

As usual, Sarah was a great helper.

But it didn't take long before she found a way to be rewarded for her hard work.

I never fully realized how time-consuming and messy canning was. My kitchen was a disaster. At one point I just had to step back and take a picture of the momentous process.

I had pot of boiling water to dunk the peaches in and a bowl of ice water to plunk them in so the skin would come off. I had a bowl to put the peelings in and another bowl of lemon water to keep the peeled peaches waiting. I had a cutting board for the peaches, a bowl for all the yucky spots, another bowl with lemon water to put the halved peaches in. Then I also had a pot to heat up the peeled, halved peaches, a pot of boiling water to cover the peaches once they were in the jars, and finally the pressure cooker that I used to boil the filled jars. Whew....

So, after six hours of work...yes, it took me six hours to do this. Apparently I am NOT a "natural" when it comes to canning. Anyhow, after six hours of work I ended up with...drumroll please....

FOUR, only FOUR quart jars of peaches! My children could eat one or two jars just by themselves in one sitting!

I will say that our peaches did have quite a few bad spots. With this being our first year growing an orchard, we definitely have some learning to do. Little worms did some damage and we also suffered from brown rot. If I hadn't had to cut off so much yuck then I'm sure the processing would've been faster and ended with a larger quantity. Oh well, I guess this is what has to be done if our family is going to have organic peaches. However, next year I might try dehydrating peach slices instead of canning!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Emergency Preparedness

Lately, Shawn and I have been spending some time discussing the many scenarios where emergency preparedness would be life-saving. First I have to admit that, while I write this post hoping that everyone seeing it will glean information from it, my primary reason for writing this is so that my own friends and family will be better prepared. I love them. I worry about them. So, I want to take this time and try to save them from discomfort, pain, and grief.

We became really motivated to start preparing for an emergency after the Ice Storm of 2009. After about the third day of the storm, Shawn made a trip in to Wal-Mart. What he saw in the store made us change the way we prepared for emergencies. He noticed that, after only three days, the shelves were already extremely bare. There were customers in the store openly crying because they were so overwhelmed by not having electricity for three days. He overheard a conversation where a lady was telling a friend that she'd heard a rumor that one neighborhood in town had power. The lady's family was trying to figure out if they knew anyone in that neighborhood so they could go stay with someone that had electricity. This lady was desparate to find someone, anyone, with electricity. One of Shawn's co-workers told him that most people in his neighborhood left to stay with others. He was pretty much the only person that stayed in their home. Shawn's co-worker personally had to run off a carload of men that were driving up and down the street looking for empty houses to loot. All of this happened after just a few days during the ice storm. We know some people that were without electricity for more than two weeks.

After that incident Shawn and I really started to work through what we would do if we were put into a desparate situation. I would really like it if my family and friends would start asking themselves the same questions and take actions to ensure that their families are taken care of in an emergency. As much as I would love to say, "If something bad happens, then you all just come to our place..we'll take care of you!" That response is really just not practical. You must be prepared to take care of your own family in case of an emergency.

So, if there's another ice storm this winter:
Do you have a reliable supply of drinking water?
Do you have a way of keeping your family warm if there's no electricity?
Do you have enough food to get through several weeks?
Do you have a way of cooking/preparing the food if electricity is out?
Can you protect your family and your home if looters come into your neighborhood?

If the BIG earthquake occurs:
What will you do for water if all the pipes are broken?
If the roads are impassable, are you able to survive with no outside assistance?
If your home is destroyed, do you have alternate shelter for your family?
If someone is injured, do you have the skills or tools necessary for treatment?

Like I said earlier, I would love it if we could provide sanctuary for everyone, but we just can't. Since I won't be able to help my family and friends during an actual emergency, this is my way of helping. I urge you to prepare now. If I can help you now with your preparations, please know that I am willing. Of course there's plenty more that you can prepare for besides ice storms and earthquakes. However, I think preparing for a natural disaster is a great starting point for most families.