Saturday, December 29, 2007

Supply vs. Demand

I only have two graphs to show. Right now crude oil is selling for almost $97/bbl. Of course some of that price is blamed on a falling dollar, and rightly so. What bothers me is that even at these high prices, our national inventory- the amount we have in the tank farms across the country - is falling.

My conclusion from this is that, world wide, we are beginning the slide down the back of the bell curve of production, and that while there is still a lot of oil out there that to have as much as we want, we will have to bid significantly more for it.

This graph show actual production and then a variety of different predictions for the future. Notice the very optimistic EIA and IEIA lines. These are governmental and international agency estimates that assume that supply will not be a problem for the next several decades.

The oil business is very complicated, and very intertwined with the economy in general. Everyone seems to be holding their breath for the minute that crude breaks $100/bbl. and I think that there is probably a some arm twisting from the FED/Treasury to keep it under that mark if at all possible, even if inventories suffer for it. But the truth is that $100/bbl. is just a number, and it's only importance is in our minds. If you correct for inflation oil would have to be closer to $200/bbl to produce the economic problems that we felt during the 1973 oil shock.

While these graphs illustrate the problem, here are a few links that show some promise for the future.

Designer microbes producing fuel from garbage.

New fusion techniques
that might have a huge impact on electrification. Go to 'future work'. More on the guy that came up with this new concept- Robert Bussard.

Thin film photovolatics
are promising. There are also new improvements in efficiency in standard thick film PV panels that have to do with splitting the incoming light into different colors, and allowing a wavelength specific receptor layer to accept that 'color' of photon. Efficiencies as high as 42% are claimed.

Note that these are possibilities- there is very little in the way of infrastructure. Photovoltaics are not common, they are a curiosity. They show great promise, but are still fairly rare. The garbage to fuel technology is promising, but think about how much fuel is used just in SLC in any one day, and then realize that all the garbage would have to be transported to some central location and then processed before the bugs could eat it.... a pretty big job in itself.

For you who want to wade through an excellent technical article I do recommend 'On Energy Transitions Past and Future'. There is a ton of information there.

So, what do we have here? The end of the world? Nope, but maybe the end of the world as we know it. Energy will become harder to get, and we will have to use it more carefully. If we move to a photovoltaic based energy system, we probably won't have much going on at night. Any power that is produced to keep things going will likely be charged at 20 times the daylight rate. Street lights will be a lot dimmer and probably LED based.... you get the idea. We will adapt, but adaptation is sometimes painful and inconvenient.

We are very blessed to live in a developed country as there is a good possibility that we can live comfortably and well in the future. Many developing countries are experiencing electrical shortages as well as fuel shortages. They often burn heavy oil in their power plants and find they just can't afford it anymore. Some have also installed natural gas stations and find they can't get it, or they have to import LNG, and have the port facilities necessary etc.... bottom line, they can't get that either.

Many countries are already experiencing food shortages, even famine. Food like fuel is available if you have the money, but right now grain stores world wide are at a 26 year low. In the US, they are at a 52 year low. Using grain to manufacture fuel is a bad idea. It makes food scarce and costly, and even if we use switchgrass or some other non-edible plant as a feed stock, fewer acres will be available world wide to produce food as acres are diverted to produce fuel.

I guess that time will tell. Expect the unexpected, prepare as best you can. 2008 might be an interesting year in the Chinese sense.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Nearer the Bone, the Sweeter the Meat

This was a saying that Spencer Kimball was fond of quoting. They had a large family and limited means, and the shared a chicken each Sunday as I remember. There wasn't much meat left on the bones when they were done with it either. His Mother would tell him to clean up his piece really well because... the nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat.

This post is about bottling meat and non-acid food at home safely. Sometimes you come onto a good buy, or you want to clean out the freezer and don't want to throw good things out, but just don't have room for them. I wish that this was the type of project that you could do with just what you have on hand, but unforutnately it is not. If you bottle food that doesn't have a significant amount of acid botulism bacteria can grow, and the resultant toxins can kill you. Non-acid, or weakly acid foods need to be processed under pressure. These canners aren't cheap, but you won't have to hock your jewelry. They are durable, and well worth having. As long as they have a functioning gasket and the right weight, they are very reliable. It might be possible to break the gauge on one, but ours has lasted for years and we haven't had any problems. They come in 16 quart and 23 quart sizes, and there might even be some bigger monsters out there. We are happy with our 16 quart model.

Over the years I have bottled soups, beans, and chicken. I haven't had any trouble at all with anything ever spoiling, and we always heat everying that we use for 15 minutes as an added safety measure. Last week I bought a beef chuck roast, and two smaller pork shoulder roasts. I cubed them, put a pinch of dried onions in the bottom of each pint jar. After cubing the roasts, I applied liberal salt and pepper and packed them into the clean pint jars. I added a little water and used a table knife to move the meat around and make sure that I didn't have any air voids.

I put about three inches of water in the canner and put the jars in with the lids
screwed on medium tight. Before you put the lid on, run your moistened finger around the rim of the jar. It puts a little film of water on the glass, and cleans off any debris that might be stuck there.

Each jar had meat and water in it up to the begining of the neck of the jar. Don't fill them as full as you do for water bath canning or they will leak.

I ran hot water over the seal and warmed up the lid before I put it on the canner cooker which softens the gasket and helps it to seal better. Once it was in place you just turn on the heat and wait until you have a healthy stream of steam coming out the weight vent, then put the vent on. Pressure will start to build, but it takes probably 15-20 minutes to get up to 15 lbs of steam needed for processing. Once you have reached 15 psi the weight will begin to rock, releasing a little steam, and regulating the pressure. You can turn down the heat then to about 1/2 burner capacity. I process at 15 lbs pressure for 30 minutes with the heat on, and then turn off the burner and let the cooker cool on it's own. This helps to keep the juice in the jar from boiling out. It takes a long time to cool it all down, and mostly I let it go overnight. That way everything is very cool when I take the lid off. If you rush it, the jars will still be boiling and have a little pressure in them. They juice will tend to cook out a little and has a tendency to ruin the seal. If you feel you want to follow another cooking length recommendation, please do so. This is just what has worked for me.

So here is the finished product: 5 pints of canned beef, 4 pints of canned pork, and one pint of canned sausage... an experiment within and expermiment. I have canned chicken drumsticks and thighs by just putting the raw chicken in the jar, and have also precooked the meat and de-boned it so that I would only have meat and juice in the jar.... The jury is still out on what is best there.

Hope you enjoyed this. There are a lot of things that you can bottle this way, and if you can keep them in the dark and fairly cool, they last for years.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Giving Thanks Under the Table

I suppose that this is not where you might expect to find a post about giving thanks, but I try to be thankful for all of my blessings, and I have much to be thankful for.

Being in times that will likely usher in 'The End of the World as We Know It' is not the same as 'The End of the World' or the 'End of Happiness and Light'.... It means that life as we know it will change. It is almost guaranteed to be a simpler life, and one that moves slower. It is likely that we will have to cling tighter to our family members, so while we might lose some independence, family solidarity will become more important. We might find it greatly to our advantage to learn new skills, and re-learn old skills and values.

From here, under the coffee table I find my cup overflowing. I have a wonderful wife, and wonderful children who picked amazingly wonderful mates. So far in life, I have been blessed with good health, a good job and a quiet little out of the way town to live in. I don't know what the future will bring, to me or to my loved ones. But we never really do know no matter how hard we work at guessing. I think that the frantic pace of our lives might slow down somewhat. I remember my dad telling about Sunday afternoons with his grandpa. They would sometimes contemplate a visit to relatives between Sunday dinner and evening chores, and Great Grandpa would send one of the kids out to the car with a stick and have him measure how much gas there was in the tank. If there was enough, they would make the trip. If it was too low, they would spend the afternoon at home.

In the book 'The Hiding Place' Corrie Ten Boom's sister is thankful for the lice that infest the straw they use for beds in the concentration camp they were sent to. Corrie is stunned when Betsie reveals this in her nightly prayer. Betsie explains that the lice kept the German guards from coming into the living quarters and thus the prisoners could keep some medicine and most important, they hand copies of the New Testament. Well, I am not as thankful as Betsie, or nearly as good of a person either, but I am thankful for the many, many blessings that are in my life so far. I hope that I will always be able to see the hand of the Lord in our lives. If a sparrow doesn't fall without his knowledge, we can be sure that we will not be forgotten either.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Riding the Slide

You have to come up with your own Plan 'B'.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

We have been Warned

We haven't heard a lot about preparedness in the last few conferences, but I don't think that what we have been told before has been repealed either. Here are a few pages of quotes with references from conferences and talks. I haven't been through all of these yet. There are a zillion of them, but what struck me is that a lot of them reflect the problems and trials of the moment. Which I guess is what we are worried about - the things that pose a threat or danger at the present time. I hope you find these interesting.

LDS Prophecy Part 1
LDS Prophecy Part 2
LDS Prophecy Part 3
LDS Prophecy Part 4
LDS Prophecy Part 5
LDS Prophecy Part 6
LDS Prophecy Part 7
LDS Prophecy Part 8

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Staff of LIfe

If you are serious about ever using your storage, you will want to know how to make bread. Fortunately, bread is not a high-tech food. Although, I guess you can always add bells and whistles until it is hard and complicated.

For me, bread, soups and salads are similar in that they can all be made from a variety of ingredients that you might or might not have on hand. Soups are great for making a new dish out of old leftovers. As long as they aren't spoiled, you can add them to a pot and in a few minutes you can call it soup. When you learn that onions, garlic, and black pepper are almost universal soup spices, you are 90% there. Add celery for chicken and turkey. Add bay leaf for beef. And so it goes.

Gardens are to salads as refrigerators are to soups. If you have some lettuce or cabbage, a few onions, carrots, beets or beet tops.... you are close. Or we have been making a good salad from tomatoes and onions. Mostly tomatoes, a few diced onions, Italian seasoning, black pepper, garlic salt, raspberry vinegar and olive oil and there you have it.....

With bread of course you aren't cleaning out the fridge or the garden, but if you follow a few simple principles you can have pretty good to amazing bread every time.

Start with a sponge. Put some warm water in a bowl. Water that is about the right temperature for a comfortable bath for a baby. I am guessing that you have added from a pint to a quart of water, and will scale things accordingly.

Add some sugar or molasses or honey, something for the yeast to eat. Dissolve it. Add about 2 table spoons or so of dried yeast, kept in the freezer. Mix. Let stand for 5-10 min.

Add flour to the consistency of medium thin pancake batter. This will probably be two cups or so. If you are using whole wheat, and only the whole wheat flour - no white. Also, add plain rolled oats - about 1/2 the volume of whole wheat. So if you put in two cups of wheat flour, add 1 cup of rolled oats. Some people like to chop them fine in a food processor. Whatever floats your boat. You can't see them in the finished bread, but the oats glue the crumbly whole wheat together and give it a better texture.

Add a stick of melted butter or 1/3 cup of oil or, and be strong here, 1/3 cup or so of bacon grease or chicken fat. Yes, I cook with bacon grease. And if you try it, you will probably like it. Your bread will have great texture, and great taste. You will die, as we all will, but not right away.

Add about a generous three fingered pinch of salt. Check the consistency and temperature. Add some water or milk if it is getting too thick, as it will with whole wheat. Check to see that it is just right for a baby's bath, and if it is too cold, nuke it in the microwave for 20 seconds repeatedly until it is warm enough. In the summer you probably won't have to do this. In the winter your flour will be colder.

Let this mixture set for about 30 minutes or until it is all bubbly and looks like a sponge. Then mix in white flour until it is dough, but somewhat sticky. You should be able to mold it into a big ball that is smooth, but a little tacky on your fingers. Too much flour at this stage is not desirable.

Knead it until it feels more like dough and doesn't have the consistency of batter anymore. Make sure it is warm. Microwave for 15-20 secs to rewarm. Let dough rest for 15 minutes if you are making loaves. If you are making rolls you can add just a little more flour and form the rolls.

For loaves, cut into thirds or fourths. Knead in a little more flour and roll with a rolling pin until it is about 1/2" thick or less. This gets rid of bubbles that might form big voids in the bread. Roll up the dough and form into a loaf. Do this with buttered hands to leave a little sheen on the dough, especially on the bottom. Place in a bread pan that is sprayed with pan spray , or smeared with butter. Paint top of dough with a beaten egg and sprinkle on sesame, poppy or flax seed. Place in warm area and let it rise for about 20 minutes or so. It should start to look a little soft and have expanded some. If it rises too much it might collapse in the baking. If you put it right into the oven without letting it rise, there won't be bubbles in the dough to expand in the heat and give it a good texture. There might be some trial and error to this, but keep at it.

Bake for 40 minutes or so at 350 deg. White bread can bake for a few minutes less. Remove from oven and the pan and let it cool. If you cut it too soon the knife will break the dough and you will have a crust with smashed bread inside. I like to let it cool for an hour or so, and turn it once or twice, then put it into a bag to let the crust soften. We make two little tiny loaves from a toy bread set when we bake, and these are sacrificed right away and slathered with jam or honey and butter. Before we did this we often broke the bread. It is OK if you do for eating with soup, but doesn't ever work for sandwiches.

Have fun!!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Chicken Soup for the Survialist Soul....

Actually, I don't much like the word 'survivalist'. Maybe 'survivor's' would be better. Pixie and the Nurse came down last Wednesday and during the course of our conversation asked for some soup recipes that are quick and easy. So I scribbled them down and made a copy and then forgot to give them the copies.... So I thought I would put them here, and you can either use them or not. And yes, I don't do a lot of measuring.


1 can corn
1 can green beans
1/2 bell pepper if you have it.
1 med. onion or 1 tablespoon or large three fingered pinch, or less of dried food storage onions, or none at all, but pretty boring.
1 cup of dried pasta or so.
hamburger, browned, or turkey burger browned, or what have you in the way of meat.
2 cans diced, stewed tomatoes, with one or both being pre-spiced Italian

Mix. Cook. Italian seasoning to taste. Black pepper to taste, salt with beef bullion to taste. some pesto if you have it. Mozzarella cheese to taste if you have it.

Prep time 15 minutes (be browning the meat as you put all the other stuff together) , but it is better if you let it cook for maybe 30 mins on low heat.

Very good with bread sticks fresh out of the oven.

Chicken Bone Soup

Yes, sound gross, but it is just fine. Save bones from one chicken and any pork chops or steaks you might eat. Boil for about an hour. Strain and let bones cool. There will be some salvageable meat in there - probably neck and back. If you don't strain it, then the little bones will end up in your soup and it isn't so fun.

Simmer stock with a little onion and about a handful of chopped celery for 30 min. If you have some meat saved, add it. When celery and onions are cooked, and meat is added then season with pepper, and salt with chicken bullion. Very rich taste. Add noodles or rice or pearled barley and cook until done.

If you aren't going to use the stock right away, after you strain it, bring if back to a boil and add about 1/2 packet of Knox unflavored gelatin. Oh, and put the meat in there too. Pour stock and meat into a quart jar and in will keep in the fridge for at least a week. It should have a layer of fat on the top for best preservation.

Beef Soup

Beef soup bone or oxtail soup - cook for quite a while, at least an hour. Season with bay leaf, beef bullion for salt, pepper, onion and garlic to taste.

Carrots (dried, canned or fresh), corn, cabbage, peas, potatoes, pearled barley, noodles, green beans, and even tomatoes can all be added to the soup.

Enhanced Ramen (but still quick and easy)

In boiling water cut some cabbage - not a lot for one person, some onion, fresh or dried, a little celery, and add some leftover chicken, pork, or beef or sliced hard boiled eggs if you have them.
If not, beat one or two eggs in a dish and add to soups, stirring constantly for about three minutes. Add noodles.

Quick and Good Chili:

Hamburger browned, 2 cans diced stewed tomatoes ( Mexican style with chilies is good), 1 can black beans. Season with dried onion, garlic salt, chili powder or cumin - very important, cilantro if you like it, black pepper. If you don't have the Mexican style tomatoes then add more chili powder, or Cayenne pepper, or some other gut flaming pepper of your choice, to your taste.

Prep time, about 15 minutes. Brown the meat while you warm the tomatoes, beans etc.


Start with the head of one hog.... actually that is how they do start, but you can use a pork or chicken or pork and chicken base. Chicken bones stock with some cubed pork chops or pork roast would be good. Salt with chicken bullion, use black pepper, onion, garlic, and any other peppers you might like. From bell to habanero. Add 1 can of hominy.

Garnish with some cilantro if you like but DO NOT cook it in the soup. You will be sorry, and we will laugh.

Cube some avocados, slice some radishes very thin, chop some leaf lettuce very finely and add to hot soup when served. It is kind of different, but good. Sour cream is good in this soup too.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Filling the Freezer

Well, it looks like pork is out, unless you just buy the sales. We found some nice pork roast for $1.49 and put a few away. A lady at work had a sign up for half or whole pigs, but wanted $2.50 /lb, and wouldn't change the tune when I told her that we didn't want them cut and wrapped.

I called over to Moroni and they have turkey burger for $1/lb. That sounded the best to me, and all of the work is done. Let me know how much you want and we will make a trip over. I would like to pressure bottle about 50 pints, and also try out the sausage stuffer. I think turkey sausage would be great. So let me know if you have any interest. After the wedding and before Christmas probably. They didn't blink when I said we might want 500 lbs. No discount either. :)

Thats all the news on the food storage scene. Well, maybe not all. I was mowing the lawn one last time today and when I got to the garden I found about six little garden huckleberry plants that had come up volunteer, and had survived what frost we have had so far. So I transplanted them and brought them into the house. They still have berries and even blossoms. Meanwhile, Annie's tomato is also enjoying the warm and has maybe 20 little bitty tomatoes on it. Kind of fun. I am contemplating making our front porch into a solarium/greenhouse. I think we could have peas, lettuce, onions, radishes, spinach and maybe even cabbage almost all through the winter. All but about six weeks. It would change the looks of the house some, but if I matched the siding it wouldn't look too bad.

One more thing - maybe a five year problem: My boss has been really involved in trying to get Unit 3 built. Since that effort failed he has been tracking all of the coal fired projects across the country that have also been killed, and there are probably over 30 of them. He gave us a little presentation about this, and about the big push for green energy like solar and wind. After the presentation I went to his office and talked for a few minutes. I said that it sounded like he believed we were going to experience black/brown outs in time. I asked him when he thought that might happen. He thought we would see it within five years. I said well if that is so, and it doesn't look like anyone will be changing their minds on building the fossil fuel plants, then as the head of his house hold, doesn't that leave him looking mostly to wind and solar for his own home's security? He told me to go back to work..... but with a rueful smile.

I know that this seems utterly unbelievable, but if you have anything to do with the power grid, you come to realize pretty quickly that it is pretty fragile in the best of times. The closer that it is run to capacity, the more a small problem becomes a large one. Kind of like a car. If you have to drive at 60 mph then you have power to climb a hill or fight a headwind. You also have some lee way if you hit a board with a nail in it and a tire goes flat. You can probably get to the side of the road.

If you have to still drive at 60, but you have to pull a big, heavy trailer, you can do it just fine on the level. But not up a hill, and not with a headwind. Same with a generating unit. We have to go at 60 cycles per second. If the load gets too big when we are at pressure with valves wide open, the dispatchers open switches and isolate areas for a few hours at a time. They rotate these areas so that it isn't too much of a hardship on any one neighborhood. Of course if they have a tube leak or a fan trip, or coal is bad, or a belt rips..... there are just a lot of things that can go wrong..... then more load has to be shed.

We have trouble all of the time. Plants are always having problems, but we still have excess capacity, and instead of shedding load, dispatchers ask the other plants to pick up more load and all is well. When all plants are running flat out, you don't have that option.

Well, time to call it a night. Sleep well.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Where's the Beef

Funky-Disco called last night and we had a good chat. We had talked sometime ago about getting a sow and/or a dry cow and splitting up the meat several ways. I haven't done anything about this but wondered if anyone else would be interested in this (among family).

I will let you know what I find out. There seems to be quite a few cows around, but not so many hogs. I think that they are in the concentration camps down by Milford. I don't know if anyone else even raises them anymore. Assignment for me: check out the hogs.

Reading over the last post seems a little grim. I didn't mean it to be that way, and don't really think that being thrifty and frugal should be grim. Gaining new skills should be a fun thing. Buying and making tools is a fun thing. Using all the bounties that God gives us should be a happy thing too. A thankful thing. For me it is all that and more. Anyway, it is about time for bed, so I will say goodnight.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or do without.....

The anti-consumerist mantra. This short couplet is so dangerous and radical that it is surprising that it is not illegal. For one person, or even a few families to fall off the deep end of such a philosophical cliff is a small thing, but if this were taught in the schools, and if the actual skills were taught in the schools that would allow a new generation to implement this philosophy, it would turn the entire world economy on it's head because our world is built on waste, and our economy is built on consumption. This would cause huge economic dislocations, perhaps even a global depression for a time. If people followed, at least a little of Thoreau's admonition to simplify their lives it would be amazing.

Fortunately, I don't have much worry that the fearless American Consumer will change their ways anytime soon. But I believe in using things up, wearing them out.....

Not just anybody can actually live like this. You have to actually have some skills, some tools, and you have to look at the world differently than we are accustomed to looking at it.

Use-it-up: One of the coolest ways to do this is to use up the fruit that goes to waste locally. We have been fruit scavengers for years. We have a tree across the street that lives on a lot with an absentee landlord. Annie asked him early on if we could pick the apples from this tree. He said that would be fine. The tree produces fairly small apples that mature early in the summer and get quite mushy. We were told that the apples were not any good. Undeterred, Annie has made hundreds and hundreds of quarts of applesauce from this terrible tree. Some of our children have been able to take advantage of local unwanted fruit to make applesauce, and grape juice.

But you have to have the tools: Jars, pot big enough to use for a water bath canner, and for applesauce, you should really have a squeezo. You can find them at a better price from time to time, but the all metal ones are the best. Yes this costs money. Absent the squeezo you may can peeled and chunked apples. Season with sugar or splenda and cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Yum.

And how about zucchini? I know - you can only do so much zucchini bread, and you can only have so much in your freezer. But if you are making jelly, know that zucchini will let you stretch the expensive fruit quite a bit, and with a little jello for flavoring, pretty good jelly can be made with just zucchini, jello and sugar. I am a big fan of storing sugar as jelly and syrups. Not in total, but in a good part. Much more useable.

There are a lot of possibilities of using up the food is available locally. Crab apples make great jam and jelly, and I would like to try making apple juice one day. You need a cider press or a steam juicer for this.

Wear it out: Learn to sew, learn to work with wood and metal. Learn to weld. Learn to (Oh, gosh, this is supposed to be a family rated page....) work on and repair cars. Whew, the worst is over. Not only can you repair things around the house and hearth, but you can often find a cast away object that needs only a little glue and wire to make it almost as good as new. Get a meter and learn how to trouble shoot and repair some electrical devices..... You might not ever become the Maytag man or woman, but you can easily learn to repair lamp cords, plug-ins, and lights. I guess that in this section should be the exhortation to have some kind of skill that is a hands-on skill.

Make it do: Shine it up, clean it up, be humble enough not to foolishly go into debt for the latest model of anything. Buy good things when you do, and take good care of them.

Do without: Yikes!!!! What kind of radical doctrine is this? One book that had a great effect on me as I was growing up was 'Walden Pond'. Although time has given perspective to Thoreau's little treatise, and I don't think we could all do as he did, I think that mostly our lives are better when they are simpler, and when we pay attention to the important things in life. When we are following the Two Great Commandments, the cares and desires of the world fall away, and we find that we can do without a lot of things and still be happy.

But wait you say, isn't all this a lot of work? And pretty boring work too sometimes? Well, yes and no. It is a lot of work, but in times economic trouble - either de or in flation, what happens is that you can't buy stuff. Either you don't have the money because you either lost your job, or were demoted to a lower job in a deflation, or the money that you have isn't worth it's weight in toilet paper in an inflation. Either way, you are pretty much screwed. Wages never keep up with inflation, and in a deflation, no one has any money. So, as my under-the-coffee-table daughter sometimes says, 'there you have it'. And if you are doing to prosper, you will have to create wealth on your own. You can't continue to look to wages and the giant economy to meet all of your needs. I used to get very discouraged because overtime was so hard to get. And a few hours here or there made a big difference. But the bosses watched overtime hours like hawks watch baby chicks. The ones that cared the most were making at least twice as much as I was making. One remarked one day that he couldn't understand why everyone wanted to work overtime. He said that he would rather have the time off. Yeah. If I was making what he was making, I would want the time off too. When economies go south, business' pull back. They downsize, they are cheap with raises, they cut benefits. And you can't look for a raise, a promotion or a better job to get you by. Not that you shouldn't try for a better position, volunteer for the overtime, etc. Just don't count on it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Beans, Beans, and more Beans

Back in the olden days, when inflation was running at about 15% and Grandpa was remembering the Great Depression he told me about eating corn meal in one form or another for about a month. Three meals a day, mush, corn bread, fried get the idea. But he told me that if I ever needed to get through a winter and feed my family for almost nothing to get a 100# of beans. We probably have at least 100# of beans in #10 cans, and I don't think we have used any of them. Such is the love that Annie has for beans. :)

Well, it would be nice to have a recipe that would let you make and angel food cake from a pot of navy beans, but I don't have one, and I don't have one that will make cookies, pies, or short cakes, but there are a couple of alternatives to chilli.

It is OK to soak them, but not absolutely necessary. If you want to get them soft you will either have to cook them for a long time, or pressure cook them for about 35-40 minutes. Soaking has the advantage of making sure you don't overfill the pressure cooker as they swell quite a bit with either soaking or pressure cooking.

So now you have a batch of hot, cooked beans. If you have a ham shank, you can add some tomato, brown sugar, salt, onions (a few) and maybe some beef bullion and then cook it over a low heat, stirring to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. Good with cornbread. :)

Actually you can use split peas, lentils or any kind of bean with ham. I used to make split pea soup all the time when I was in college and a small pot would last me for three or four days (lunches mostly). We aren't real wild about lentils... so much. They have a little stronger flavor than beans. Actually, I think they would make great pigeon food. And pigeons would make pretty good soup. A fair trade, don't you think?

Beans can be simmered into soup with virutally no meat, and with a little seasoning, it is pretty good.

You can also cook the beans until soft, cool overnight. The next day grind them into paste, again with some onions and maybe a little bullion if you have it. Add some butter or bacon fat or chicken fat and you have refried beans. With a little rice and home made tortilla's you can have a hearty and robust meal. Hearty and robust....kind of scary to describe a meal this way isn't it?

With a little planning you can sprout the beans and have stirfry..... again with rice, but we are doing food storage cooking. If you have several different kinds of seeds stored, your stirfry could be pretty interesting. I have taken my anaheim peppers, and the jalapenos too and chopped them up in the food processor until they are medium to small relish size, filled the jar with vinagar and added a little salt and hot water bathed them in small jars for about 15 minutes. You could put a few peppers preserved like this into a lot of different foods. They still have quite a nice pepper taste. I am going to have to buy some bell peppers and try it too.

But with a few canned peaches cut into chunks, a little bit of onion, some frozen or canned peppers, any thing fresh or crisp from a garden, like peas or green beans, possibly a carrot or two cut up small, you could make a nice stir fry. Some beef or chicken stock or bullion would be good to give it depth of flavor.

That is about the depth of my well as far as beans go. Sorry there isn't more. I will look around for other recipes. In Taiwan they make a sweet bean paste as a desert, but it might be an aquired taste.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Why 'Under the Coffee Table'? What's up with that?

My oldest daughter doesn't like stress much, and as a little girl she would hide under the coffee table and suck her thumb when things weren't going too well. Sometimes I think we all feel a little like hiding under a table when things get a little rough. I am of the opinion that our lives are going to change wildly in the next few years, and it all might start sooner then we think. Yes, I think the sky is falling, but that isn't what this blog is going to be about. That is the foregone conclusion.

I don't plan on discussing at length any of the myriad of complications that can fall into our lives. I will leave it to you, Gentle Reader, to study the economy and the energy situation and come to your own conclusions. For the record I believe that the financial situation in the world is grim, and whether or not we experience an inflation of epic proportions or a deflation of similar magnitude, that the earth is shifting beneath our feet. At the very least, in the near term, expect to see sharply higher prices for everything that we import. The dollar is falling like a rock, and that means everything that we import take more dollars to buy. Look for things in Walmart and Target to cost more. Look for higher energy costs (oil already above $83 per bbl and climbing), and sharply higher food prices. Not long ago a bushel of wheat in Australia sold for $9 per bushel. The more ethanol that is produced, the higher grain prices will go, and the higher meat and dairy cost will go. If prices follow the costs, at least the supply will remain plentiful. If production costs continue to rise and our meat and dairy prices do not then look for availability to decrease.

Furthermore, I have little trust in the official estimates of our own government agencies, the estimates of the oil companies, and the estimates of the countries that have large reserves principally because it is in the best interests of all the financial powers of the world to keep consumption at a high rate. So, in conjunction with financial catastrophe, I don't think that we will have cheap and easy energy to rebuild our infrastructure. Hence the conclusion that within a few months or years, that life as we know it (cheap available energy, cheap and available money, high levels of consumption) will be gone. So, yes I believe the sky is falling, but I don't know where and when it will land.

Whether you are of the same mind, or believe that I suffer paranoid delusions, and that Dick Cheney was right when he said that our way of life is non-negotiable doesn't really matter. I propose to talk about things that we can do, changes that we can make in the way we live now that will make life a little better, and will increase our safety and security a little bit.

So, lets put theory aside for a while. We went to Boulder for Christmas in 2005, and experienced an amazing snowstorm. When we pulled in at Grandma's house the snow was up the front bumper of the truck and we had to push our way to the driveway, leaving a wake like an ocean liner. We made it fine, but found that we had to do some shopping for the dinner we were to attend. We also found that at the store that milk and eggs and some produce had been cleaned out as the snow had kept the trucks from making their deliveries. I got the last dozen eggs that from a rack that probably would hold 1000 dozen eggs. Last one. Annie got the last of the whipping cream that was in the dairy case at the store that she was in. Last one. This was not the kind of shopping that we were and are used to. But it can happen, and it is likely that it will for what ever reason.

For your own safety and security, for Heavens sake please take the time and invest some money and buy some food to keep on your shelves and under your bed. Keep some water too. What should you store? How much should you store? I have no idea what you like or how much money that you have to put into this enterprise so I can't really say. I would think you would at the very LEAST want enough food to last from paycheck to paycheck. Basic foods cost less than kits, and are more variable and adaptable. But then you might not know how to cook, or how to cook with basics. Store what you eat and eat what you store.

If you have some food storage, or think you cupboards are big enough but you don't know how well you would do if you didn't go to the store, then I DARE you to experiment. DOUBLE DOG DARE in fact. Eat nothing that doesn't come from your storage, or go one more step and don't eat anything that you cook in your kitchen using your normal cooking equipment, including your stove. Try it for a day, or a weekend. Better yet, for a week. But try it.

When Annie and I were younger and our kids were babies we lived on a farm and did just this kind of experiment. Inflation was zooming along at about 15% per year and things were kind of scary economically. We lived on our food storage for about a week, and decided that we HATED TVP (textured vegetable protein), and that we didn't have a good cooking setup, and nothing for baking. So try it. If you don't know how to cook outdoors, or at all, I will be posting on different recipes and cooking techniques. If you don't want to wait for me, I am sure that Google will have the answers.

I don't cook with anything but staples, so you are stuck with the basics. Here is my list of basics: flour (white and wheat), oil, butter, sugar, honey, salt, dried milk, beans, dried onions, bottled peaches, tomatoes, plums, apricots, pears, and peppers. Actually I really like meat, but and we have some home bottled chicken, but that is for another day.

I don't know what part of the sky will hit you. You might get sick, you might lose your job either to downsizing or what ever. Maybe the financial markets will smooth out, and the super oil fields in the middle east will magically refill themselves with oil and gas produced abiotically. Maybe. At the end of the day most of us get hit with at least one chuck of sky. Here are a few topics that I plan to cover to help be ready when and if the ice falls off the airliner:

Cooking, or 'No, I really like chewing wheat like a cow'

Cooking, or 'I'll just put it in the microwave'

Water, or 'I'll just get a case of bottled water at the store'

First Aid, or 'I'll just take you to the emergency room'

Family, or 'Whew, I don't have to see these people until next Christmas'

Money, or 'I'll just go down to the ATM and get some more'

Money, or 'Gold, silver or chocolate?'

Sadly, I am afraid I have a lot of opinions............