This past week started out relatively normal, or what passes for normal these days, but it sure didn’t end up that way.
Friday was the third of the food bank days. Only twelve days since we started, and already things are looking bare and running low. I try to remind myself that a healthy portion went to the Stone Soup Kitchen, and they are feeding many of the people. No one is starving, at least not yet. The first box of food that was forced on me, I took to the Soup Kitchen; the second box, I left with a grateful Bob and Kathy; this next box I decided to divide between my two neighbors, neither of which I’d seen come in to the food bank, and there’s no record of them doing so. It was a good excuse to check on them.
John and I donned our snow shoes and loaded the sled with a box filled with half of the supplies, then set out for Doreen’s house to my north. There were no tracks, not vehicle, not human, not even animal, on the long, sloped driveway; no smoke came from the chimney; no sounds or movement whatsoever. We got near the raised wooden porch and I called out. As I stood there, somehow knowing there would be no answer, I remembered the only other time I’d been here. A few years back Tufts had gone missing for three days, and I was frantically combing the neighborhood for him. I admired and envied the large wrap-around redwood deck that had a view of both the woods and the wooded drive that crossed our mutual creek, but my arrival was less than welcomed. I called out a second time; and we waited some more; still no answer, no movement, no sound.
“Now what?” John asked, catching his breath from the strenuous hike back up the hill.
“I think we should try Bobby and Jane, on the other side,” I suggested. “From the looks of it, Doreen must have left here early on, but I know Bobby has a generator and wood heat. Chances are good they’re still here.” John nodded in agreement, and took his turn at pulling the laden sled.
My house sits on ten acres, Doreen’s on twenty acres to the north, and Bobby’s on twenty acres to my south. The distance between my two bordering neighbors isn’t that great, but it was slow going on snowshoes, and the plow hadn’t been by since the last snowfall. As we walked past our house, and that’s how I thought of it now: “our” house, it struck me how… lived in it looked: the drive was cleared of snow, there was smoke curling out of the stove pipe chimney, there was evidence of Jacob making snow angels everywhere. Yes, it looked lived in and… happy. Little did I realize at the time that that lived in look would almost destroy us.
Bobby’s drive wasn’t as steep as Doreen’s, but it was just as long. I could see a heat signature waving around the smoke stack, and then heard a dog barking inside. I stopped and called out. A curtain parted in the front, and I heard the tell-tale racking of a shot gun. We just stood very still.
“Bobby! It’s me, Deborah, from next door.”
“What do you want?” I heard him call, muffled from behind the closed door.
“We’ve just come to check on you and Jane. I’ve brought some supplies from the town food bank. Do you need any food?” I was hoping that would get his attention. The door cracked open and the barrel of a shot gun jutted out.
“Just leave it there and go.” Bobby demanded.
“No, Bobby, I won’t do that. We’ve been neighbors for eight years; you should know by now I would do you no harm. I just want to talk to both of you for a few minutes, that’s all.” The door shut; in the stillness of our solitude, I could hear a chain scraping, and the door opened wider. “May we come closer?” I asked.
“Are you armed?” he asked.
“Of course we are, Bobby, you know better than that,” I chuckled. “But you still have nothing to worry about from us.” He didn’t move, didn’t answer. “Do you want this food or not? I can take it back to the food bank if you don’t, and we won’t bother you and Jane again.” We kept our hands visible, and soon he lowered the shotgun. We walked closer and stopped maybe fifteen feet from the house. The smell kept me from going any further. Unwashed bodies; cigarette smoke; and dog: wet dog, dog crap, dog piss. I tried not to react to the stench.
I turned my back to him, facing John and the sled. “Stay here,” I whispered as I reached for the box. It was light, but full. I maneuvered on my snowshoes to face Bobby again, took a deep breath and ventured a few more steps to set the box down. As I stood, that’s when I noticed the Ham tower behind the house.
“Bobby………………, do you have a Ham radio?” I was almost breathless with hope.
<to be continued>
So, for the past five weeks I’ve been saying what I want in a mate, and I admit that I’ve set the bar pretty high. Why? I’m worth it. In wrapping up this short series, I’m now going to tell why I’ve set such a lofty goal.
First, I know it will sound very egotistical what I’m about to describe, but there’s no way around that. I am what I am. I’m 5’5” and height/weight proportional, and reasonably fit. I’m considered attractive by most; I have long, healthy hair and clear skin and that’s because I’m healthy. While I do eat some meats, my diet leans heavily on vegetables that I grow myself, and I avoid preprocessed foods. I live where the air is clean and so is the water. There is almost NO pollution here at all. I take no life sustaining medications and never have. The most is an Ibuprofen when I’ve been working hard and the muscles ache. I have a great sense of humor, I’m smart AND intelligent, IQ of 148.
Skills: I’m a good cook, a very, very good cook, and that includes baking just about everything, from bagels to breads to tortillas to pastries. All of that on my wood cook stove, which heats my house and has for the past 17 years. I grow my own herbs, for cooking and healing.
I can use a chainsaw and a log-splitter, and have both. I split & stack my own wood every Spring, and currently have 18 months ready to burn.
I raise chickens and do my own butchering. I also butcher the venison in the family, including making the sausage.
I’m a really good gardener (hold a Master Gardner certificate), and process what I don’t eat fresh. But the garden is designed to produce enough for canning and drying, which I also do.
My home is small, but it’s on ten acres of woods, with a small creek. The creek is carved into a small valley right behind the house, with a steep hill going up the other side. This makes for a perfect shooting range, so yes, I shoot and am fairly proficient at it. I’m well stocked and well armed. Oh, and my home and property are 100% paid for, as is my car.
As a Massage Therapist, my training was deeply medical, which I found fascinating. That has helped me in many areas of my life. I do not go running to the doctors for every little scrape or pain, I treat it myself. I’ve got two grown sons, and I’ve removed their stitches and my own. I can set a broken bone and cast it; stitch up a wound and treat sprains. I’ve done massage as a profession for over 25 years and make a very good living with it. It’s hard work, but I’m a hard worker.
I’m an avid wild mushroom picker, but I did take extensive classes to know what I’m doing! I also wild forage by the seasons.
I love all animals, but prefer a cat to a dog as a pet.
I do most of my own home repairs and maintenance myself, but leave the electrical to my son.
On the personal side, I can sew, and have made much of my own clothing over the last 50 years, on the treadle machine I learned on very young. I know the basics of knitting and crocheting, though neither have ‘called’ to me like sewing has. As a hobby, I write (obviously.. lol) and I paint.
For seven years, I lived off grid even deeper in the woods than I do now. It was rustic without being rough. I heated water on the stove for laundry and bathing; used oil lamps for light. I’m low maintenance, but I’m not NO maintenance. I loved the life and I’d still be there, but my companion had other plans. He left, I stayed, his loss. That was ten years ago. I’m very independent and I’ve proven to myself that I can be a self-reliant woman, but I’m ready to move forward.
First of all, because of comments left here and elsewhere, I’d like to clarify something. Last week, when I said, basically, that my ideal mate would be healthy and not dependent on any life sustaining medications, I meant it as just that: my ideal mate… and IF I have the choice, that’s the way it will be. However, the heart doesn’t always give us a choice, does it? So I’m prepared to make exceptions. Alongside of that, if my healthy mate ends up not so healthy, a stroke, dismemberment, or anything else debilitating, I would never leave him for those reasons… never.
Back to skills that would be nice to have. Nice to have, but skills CAN be learned, and practice brings proficiency.
In a post-world where ammo may be scarce, it would be nice to have someone around that can shoot a bow and arrow, and perhaps even know how to make replacement arrows. I’ve never had the interest to learn archery, though both of my sons are quite skilled at this. My oldest son prefers this method of hunting, as he says, ‘it’s silent and deadly’… and that could be important in a post-world.
Here in the north woods, trapping has been a way of life for as long as man has tamed the region. Well, tamed is a subjective word, for there are still many areas in the UP that have never been tamed. So, knowing the ins and outs of trapping, how to set a snare and not get lost doing it, would be a good quality.
On the technical side, a man with basic, or more than basic, knowledge in solar energy, electrical and plumbing, mechanical skills (small engines and automotive), HAM radio operation and repair, would move up a notch with me.
Cooking is indeed a skill, one that I’m very good at, but it would be nice, if I’m the one working late, to come home to a meal already prepared. Or it would be great to take turns in the kitchen… as long as what he fixes is edible…lol. Remember, the world hasn’t collapsed yet, and life goes on.
I guess that as long as I’m building this mythical mate, I can add in the physical characteristics I find most appealing: Over six foot, blue eyes & dark hair, lean of body, and gives good hugs. Of course, most of the men near my age are gray now, so that’s flexible :)
I know this is asking a lot of one person, but I know there are men like this out there, and again, this is my IDEAL mate… a wish list.
If there are qualifications that I may have missed, I’m open to suggestions to continue with my viewpoint on it. So please, speak up!
One last thing, and it really is an important part to any relationship…. Chemistry. There really needs to be an attraction, a basic desire for that other person, that you don’t know exists until you meet, face to face. And that chemistry, liking the other person, liking to be around and with that person, is very, very important to me. I know that often love grows with time, but ya just gotta start somewhere!
This may be a short entry, but it’s highly critical. The Survival Mate of my choice will have no physical dependencies. Primarily, he doesn’t smoke! And doesn’t do drugs. This goes for prescription drugs as well. Although I know some wonderful people who are diabetic… they won’t last in a post world, sorry, but that’s the hard truth of it. High blood pressure, heart issues, thyroid problems, severe allergies, all of these require medications to control that won’t be available anymore. Hard truth. I don’t ask anything of anyone that I’m exempt from. I don’t smoke, I don’t take any kind of drugs, prescription or otherwise. I’m healthy and active and that’s what I ask of a mate.
I’m the first to admit that I enjoy an evening cocktail, or a glass of wine with dinner, but it’s not an addiction for me, it’s a preference. My new mate will be the same. The only acceptable physical dependencies are food, water and …. Me :)
What is a skill? Something you can do? Something you can learn? Hmmm… perhaps it’s both. But what skills are desirable in a Survival Mate? Ah, the first thing that comes to mind is a hunter! That skill can be learned, definitely, so if he doesn’t hunt now, he should be proficient with guns. If he’s not proficient, he should at least not have any fear of them! I grew up in Detroit, the kid of a cop. I was taught to respect guns and what they can do. Respect, not fear, big difference. I did not start shooting until my mid 30’s. I’m acceptably proficient, but I still don’t hunt. So, yes, someone who hunts would be good… and while I’m at it, that goes for fishing too!
This year, thankfully, my 25×85 garden is doing very well, almost TOO well… I’m having a hard time keeping up with it. There’s weeding, watering (off my elevated cistern), the harvesting, the canning… it can get overwhelming while I’m still working long and erratic hours at a paying job. So a mate that does, or is willing to garden and can would be wonderful to have! Food production will be/is essential for survival. It’s our food until the next harvest. If it’s there and ripe, it needs to be picked and processed, it can’t wait. Without it, we die. He will have to understand this completely. A mate that also is comfortable in a kitchen, will work WITH me in the kitchen, but will also understand when I want to do something myself… yes, he would be good to have.
I had a comment left earlier about humor. The Poster said humor was a good trait to have, and it definitely is! Humor can also be a skill of sorts, knowing when to lighten the mood and when to let it go. Yes, a mate with a sense of humor is a big, big plus! That being said, I don’t want the class clown either.
Another thing just occurred to me, is work ethics. In a post world, everyone is going to have to pitch in, do things they didn’t do before and see the job to the end. If you’re sent for water, one bucket isn’t enough just because it was too hard. And you might have to spend all day, every day, for weeks, cutting and hauling wood for the winter…. With no whining! See the job through.
I’ve been giving this blog entry serious thought all week. Some of the character traits and skills might be wishful thinking, at least to find all in one person, but I can dream, can’t I?
So like-mindedness is a given must. What’s next? Character traits that would be helpful are: Kind, Considerate, Compassionate, Loyal, Trustable, and Even Tempered.
Kind & Considerate: yeah, I would want someone I’m with to be kind, sure don’t want a meanie or a bully. Someone who finds perverse pleasure in making other uncomfortable isn’t for me. A kind person generally gets along well and likes animals, this would be important in having a homestead. And a considerate person watches out for their partner, definitely a plus!
Compassionate: But not TOO compassionate! I would want someone who feels sympathy and empathy for his fellow human, but there will come a time when a line may need to be drawn and action taken. If someone is too compassionate, the wrong person could get a ‘second chance’ that could prove disastrous to the homestead. Hesitation can kill.
Loyal & Trustable: Having had a partner that was neither Loyal nor Trustable, I find these two traits rather appealing! Certainly don’t want someone who will switch sides in a heartbeat, or one that doesn’t/won’t stand up for you! And as far as trust goes… well, let’s just say we all need someone who will watch our back when needed, and if we can’t count on them, they shouldn’t be there. Not knowing if that person you’re with will come to your aid can be very unsettling and leave you off balance, edgy.
Even Tempered: I’ve seen plenty of ‘hot heads’ that will let any little thing upset them. Not good! And in a post SHTF world, a hot-head will be your worst companion. Someone that’s even tempered can and will have a calming effect on anyone else in the retreat, and that’s a good thing.
Now I need to consider what kind of skills would be good for my mythical mate.
The Survival Mate
By Deborah in the UP
Being single, this is a subject that has crossed my mind once or twice…. Okay, maybe more often than that… but I’m still not getting any good answers from myself, so I keep asking: what do I want in a mate? That quickly shifts over to ‘survival mate’ because I’m deeply involved in this mindset. This can’t be just any mate or companion.
Because I’ve already had that companion, a long term relationship that brought me to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, one who did NOT have the same mindset as I do, I know that is a primary ingredient. I do have to define the mindset, if not for others, then at least for myself. That thought that things just aren’t right in the world, and it could get worse at any time, without notice. That thought that if we work at it, make an effort, we would be alright, no matter what happens. That goal of having enough food and supplies to ride out whatever it might be (and that could be as simple as a Blizzard). That goal of being able to take care of, and defend if necessary, ourselves and our family no matter what the future brings.
Is that so much to ask?
Apparently it is.
in the UP of MI
There are many types and grades of masks and gloves on the market, each having their own level of function. A wide variety is good to keep on hand.
Masks can range from a simple Surgical style (loops over the ears) to painters dust masks (semi-rigid), to the increasingly popular N-95, or N-99.. And beyond. What they are being used to block will have a heavy bearing on which one should be used, and I got a good lesson today on proper fitting.
With the weather here in the UP of MI mild and temps flirting with 45*, I took the opportunity to give my wood cook stove a mid-winter cleaning. Anyone that’s ever done this knows it’s a messy, sooty job, so I donned my food server plastic gloves (just wanted to keep my hands clean), and the N-95 mask that’s tucked in the warming oven for this type of job. The N95 Particulate Respirator has two elastic bands that holds it snug to the face, preventing edge seepage. I slipped the top band around the back of my head, leaving the bottom band loose, (after all, I wasn’t trying to block a virus or anything that small) and proceeded to take apart and brush down the stove. When I was finished, I took the mask off, noticing some soot on the inside. I checked the mirror and saw soot along the side of my nose, that was covered by the mask….it shouldn’t have been there. I blew my nose, and sure enough, more soot, which means I was breathing it. I immediately used my Netti-Pot to flush my sinus’ and clean my nose, then I tossed out that mask. Lesson learned: no matter how much of a hurry I’m in, I need to properly fit my mask to the job. Had that been a virus I was dealing with, I’d be sick now.
The gloves I used were sufficient for the job at hand. (bad pun, sorry) I merely wanted to keep my hands clean and I wasn’t being exposed to anything toxic to the skin. Using harsh chemicals for cleaning, I would use one of the many styles of surgical gloves, which would block skin absorption. Gloves are only as efficient as the user though. If your gloves are contaminated, how you take them off will determine whether you contaminate your skin, and therefore yourself. One very good practice method is to put gloves on, then ’wash’ your hands with shaving cream… now take the gloves off. If you get the shaving cream on your skin, you’ve just ’contaminated’ yourself.. Keep practicing!
Properly using a face mask and gloves, could mean sickness or life/death to you or your loved ones during a pandemic or other biological outbreak.
by Deborah in the UP
One evening, after dinner, Pete and I took our evening cocktails, and ventured forth on our usual late walk. Fortified with good food and drink, and a hard day of work, the walk was slow and casual. We were sticking to the main drive, the original old logging trail, which turned out to be a good thing….
We got about half way to the main road, when we noticed the daylight was starting to fade. In the woods, it gets dark…VERY dark, and very quickly. We turned around and picked up our pace, but it was too late.
Ever since I first saw the property, I could feel the energy all around me, the spirits of the land were happy to see me, happy that I had joined them there. Never once did I feel uncomfortable being alone, for I never felt alone. It’s hard to explain, but I was almost protected by what was around me and I could call on it to reassure me at any time. This is what I did that evening. I pushed my senses out around me and called out with my heart to my woods, to guide me home.
I took Pete’s hand and said ‘just trust me’. I led him at a slow but steady pace thru the blackness of the night, right down the middle of the road. I turned us when there was a curve, kept us from stumbling into the side brush, never slowing my pace. When we arrived to the hard left turn that led up to the house, I stopped, and turned Pete to see the light in the window, 50 yards away. He dropped my hand as if it were something disgusting and said ‘you’re spooky’….
The visual and psychological success of the first booklet, Cooking in the Woods with Mushrooms, gave me the push to do more. The next booklet was Cooking in the Woods with Pasta, Breads and Pastry. At least that’s what I’m recalling. The next three writings came so quickly, with little time spacing, it’s difficult to remember! I was on a roll, and I heady with the urge to write.
As I sit here, January 8, 2011, staring out into my woods, with the snow coming down thick and heavy, I’m drawn back to the days of writing, in my other woods. Desk is different, computer much newer, internet (no internet in the deep woods), but the position is the same: off to my right, looking out a large picture window now instead of a glass door, watching the silence and peace of the wilderness dressed in white. It’s very comforting, that peace, and I feel good that I have reclaimed much of that.
My attempts to draw the reader into my way of life seemed to be working, at least it seemed so from the responses I was getting. I started out each booklet with a short story of where I was and how I got there, altering it somewhat each time. Then went on to addressing what it was that would be following. As an example, in Pasta, Breads and Pastry, I discussed the differences in flours, yeasts, and methods of kneading; also pasta and bread machines, pros and cons. The following is the introduction. Enjoy.
I moved to the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan several years ago. Having been born and raised in Detroit, and then living in a ‘rural’ community, I wasn’t sure I was prepared for the isolated life I chose. But I could never go back now.
I purchased 160 acres of hard wood forest and built a home in the middle. Wanting to cut down as few trees as necessary, I utilized old logging trails to select a building site. I first saw the property in October, when all the Maple trees were golden yellow and the ground cover was still lush and green. I fell in love with it on sight and signed the papers on the trunk of the Realtor’s car.
Concessions would have to be made. After all, I was ten miles from the nearest power lines and over a mile from the nearest county maintained dirt road. I heat with wood in the winter and cook with wood all year long. The household power is from solar charged batteries and refrigeration is a renovated antique icebox. Many of my friends and family thought I was, well, nuts. I had to be crazy to give up civilization for a life of hard work and deep snows, a life of black lies and black nights, a life of peace and quiet and tranquility, a life of independence and self sustenance. I think you can guess what I think about that!
Part of my life-style is wintering in. Now that means different things to different people, even up here. For me, it means parking the jeep at the main road a mile away just before the drive becomes impassable, and then snow-shoeing back and forth until Spring, usually four to five months. Even when I can drive out easily, running to the store for a loaf of bread or package of hotdog buns is out of the question. The nearest mart is ten miles away (a half hour on dirt roads) and major shopping is 30 miles away. I stock the pantry in November, and make everything possible from scratch. I don’t mind! You’ll hear me say often: I love to cook!
Although I was raised in a Polish kitchen, our eating habits did vary due to my parents growing up during the Depression. We were taught to eat what was on the table, which usually meant what was available. The one thing that was consistent was fresh breads.
I have always loved to cook. The first thing I ever made on my own was a loaf of plain white bread. I was 16 and enthralled with creating something that tasted so good. That was many years ago and I’ve come a long way. One of my greatest assets in cooking, I believe, was that I could follow directions, a recipe. That came from learning to sew and reading patterns. As I continued to try new recipes, I found that I had at my disposal an entirely new world of tastes. It was also endlessly fascinating to me that I could successfully alter those recipes and create a whole new dish.
It used to annoy me when asking for the recipe of something I really enjoyed, to be told “oh, some of this, some of that”, but as I experimented I realized that I, too, often did not measure ingredients. Bread recipes are like that. I measure the liquid, and I measure the yeast, everything else is tossed in. I will give you measurements, but sometimes it will say ‘1-2 T’. The exact amount can vary by how much you like that ingredient, or by how much you have on hand! If you only have ¼ cup of potato flakes instead of ½ cup, I promise not to tell anyone! Nothing is so rigid in cooking that you can’t make a few adjustments.
This was/is the introduction to Pasta, Breads and Pastry.. With one alteration. You, the reader, are now aware that I no longer live in the deep woods and ‘Pete’ and I are no longer together. I have removed reference to him as a means of moving on, and preparing to republish these books where he gets no credit for my hard work.