Power Outage

Today I got an early start in the morning and was sitting in peace and quiet in front of my laptop, working on a project for a client, when the power suddenly went out. Since I have a problem with my laptop battery that I didn’t make a priority to fix, the screen instantly went black, not allowing me to save my work.

A call to the electric company let me know that there was an unexpected accident and the power supply would return in 3-4 hours. Thoroughly bummed out, I went ahead to straighten up the kitchen in preparation for breakfast. 

The power eventually returned and I completed my project and sent it off, but this was a throwback to the good ‘ol days when we lived in a place where this could happen any moment, and for much longer. I remember 72 hours without power, during which we did our best to eat everything that spoils and I was careful not to open my freezer so that it wouldn’t thaw.

I love living in a place with a steady electricity supply, but today’s incident reminded me how much we have to improve in preparing for emergencies.

In our old home, we took care to keep our mobile phone power banks charged and our freezer always stocked with ice bottles so that it would thaw more slowly. A laptop battery would most certainly be fixed earlier. There was a communal backup generator we could fuel and hook up to if need be.

And, from electricity my thoughts jumped to preparedness in general, which is something we really should gear up for again. A life of convenience lulls you into a sense of security which may, unfortunately, be false, as the covid-19 pandemic showed us all, turning our world upside down and giving it a thorough shake that totally messed it up.

***

From Your Own Hands: Self-Reliant Projects for Independent Living

A radical homesteader from Connecticut who prefers to call himself Xero says, “Consumerism to a large degree only exists because it profits off of our own loss of skills. Over the last hundred or so years people have undergone what I see as a horrifying loss of survival skills.

Without these skills, without the ability to survive on one’s own, one must depend on already manufactured, and continuously manufactured goods and services to stay alive. These goods and services cost money. In order to get said money, one must submit to paid labor. Sometimes one can find labor that is fun and fulfilling, but that doesn’t represent the majority of folks, especially on a global scale.” 

Another day, another basket

IMG_20200629_171923_984

I made another little rustic jute basket, much along the lines of my previous one. It seems perfect as a nest for my kids’ dinosaur collection.

It was meant to be oval but sort of came out round anyway – I guess I didn’t make the base chain long enough.

As much as I love the rustic look of jute baskets (and the fact that the material is inexpensive – I picked the roll up at the hardware store for about $2), I think I won’t be making another one anytime soon, as working with it is pretty heavy on the hands. Jute chafs the fingers, and I had to really pull on the thread to make the loops – no smooth gliding yarn action here!

I made the top row in a double strand of leftover coarse yarn of unknown origin. 😉

I hope you are all enjoying a happy and crafty summer.

Simple summer fun

I’ve been a bit quiet lately, but this doesn’t mean our days are lacking in action. On the contrary, we’ve gotten into our summer routine, which is both busy and relaxing.

Above: some lovely modeling clay art by Shira (11) and Tehilla (9).

Aaaand, we’ve had a hugely exciting event last week when our cat has had her kittens. She is such a good mom and it actually looks like she’s counting on us to babysit her kittens when she leaves them for a bit!

So these are our days. Some work. Some rest. A shady spot in the garden. Playing with the quickly growing baby chicks. Ice cream and watermelons.

Hope you’re all having a good time too and taking care of yourselves.

When being too frugal keeps you stuck

A Jar With American Change Used For Savings Or Tips, Isolated ...

I am a big proponent of doing more on less, living modestly, and implementing creative frugal strategies. In this post, however, I’m going to talk about how taking it too far can actually keep you broke rather than lift you up to a better situation.

A couple of years ago, our financial situation was pretty bad. Actually, we were in a crisis following a long period of my husband being out of work, coupled with some bad financial decisions. We were on the brink of not being able to afford to maintain the household another month without getting into debt. There were no longer any cushions or savings, and we were free-falling into poverty. 

I was very conscientious and very dedicated, and my mind kept looping and looping in endless circles, trying to come up with even more efficient ideas for saving money. I gave up on showering when there wasn’t enough sun for the solar heater to do its job, stretched one sack of chicken feed for months, and put off grocery store trips as long as I could.

All of these things helped, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t enough and I knew it. I felt helpless. I tossed and turned at night, wondering whether it would make a difference if we unplug the extra refrigerator and what to do if the thrift store doesn’t carry shoes in my kids’ sizes, because theirs all had holes.

What I should have done at that point was getting more proactive about getting paid work, selling my books, and building professional networks that would be useful in the long term. THAT makes a difference. Whether you choose a slightly cheaper oil for baking doesn’t.

True, I was limited. I lived in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of kids, with no reliable transportation and no steady internet access. I remember sitting for long minutes waiting for the HTML version of Gmail to upload and cursing under my breath when it wouldn’t budge.

But apart from that, I was a prisoner of my own rigid conceptions of a father of a family being the sole breadwinner and the mother stretching the income to make sure it’s enough. It’s a great way to do things, but if it doesn’t work for some reason – and it might fail at any time, temporarily or permanently – and you aren’t prepared for the possibility, you’re up shit creek without a paddle. I’ve learned that the hard way.

It took me a long, long time to face the fact that, while I can make a little go a long way, I do need that little. I can’t make do with nothing, or nearly nothing.

And that’s a key point of successfully overcoming financial hurdles. In a crisis, you should sit down and make a realistic, bare-bones budget of the minimum you need to live. If you aren’t reaching that minimal income, you need to focus on getting there. It’s that simple. Otherwise, you may tighten and tighten that belt until it chokes you, and it still won’t make a difference.

It’s GREAT to have the ability to go without frills. So many people have an entitled attitude and would rather live in debt that do without. But the primary focus should still be on not being poor. I wasted a tremendous amount of time on researching ways to pinch a few more pennies, while I could have used my efforts so much better looking up ways of working from home.

I have tried several things and it’s certainly been a learning curve, until I got into editing books for authors (quite accidentally) and acquired a few loyal and happy clients. I also do some content writing and, after a long time, began seeing profits from my own books, especially fiction.

I regret nothing. Whatever hard-earned lessons I had, I’m making the most of them.

For most people, financial wellbeing and resilience will have these two components – making enough money to live and staying within a reasonable budget. Sometimes, when you’re just hunkering down and trying to survive, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.

If you’ve been skimping and saving and pinching for a long time, you might be so mentally exhausted and so, for lack of a better word, poverty-wired, that it can be hard to step back and evaluate ways that might actually help you improve your situation on the macro level.

Try to take a piece of paper and pencil and brainstorm for a while. What are your strengths? How can you utilize them to earn more money and become more financially secure?

Remind yourself that though things might look hopeless, they will improve. You won’t be stuck forever. You won’t be poor forever. This mindset, I have come to discover, is the most important element in pulling out of the quagmire.

My 5 favorite herbs and how I use them

Herbs are some of the easiest things to grow, hands down. Proof is, even I am capable of keeping them alive and thriving. Many of them will spread like weeds if you let them, popping up every spring without any effort on your part. Herbs are usually pretty tolerant when it comes to soil type and sun and shade balance.

Here are my top five favorite herbs, which I use for tea, seasoning, remedies, or all of the above.

1. Mint

DSC_0713

With its refreshing, invigorating smell, mint makes delicious tea that is great either hot or cold. Mint is great for colds and digestive complaints.

2. SageDSC_0711

We had a glorious sage bush at our old home, but here, my poor little sage plant took some assaults from the chickens, who insisted on digging around it and trampling it for some reason (they don’t eat it, though – it’s a bonus point for chicken keepers. Sharp-smelling herbs are about the only thing chickens find unappetizing).

Anyway, my sage plant seems to be in recovery now, and is flowering. Which makes me really happy, because sage tea is a powerful decongestant and great for sore throats.

3. Rosemary

DSC_0712

My rosemary is still young, but its mother plant is a big arborescent bush.

Rosemary has some potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, and I just love it in cooking. It’s divine with oven-baked fish and roast potatoes.

4. Oregano (thanks to the readers who pointed out the correct name of this herb! It’s sometimes easy to get confused when the guy at the plant nursery assures you he’s selling you something which it is, in fact, not 😁)

DSC_0714

This is another herb I appreciate primarily for its culinary uses. It’s great either chopped fresh or dried and crushed – thoroughly air-dried herbs will keep almost indefinitely, retaining most of their properties.

I love it in bread, chicken roast, soup, and much more.

5. Lemongrass

DSC_0710

I adore the way this plant looks – like a giant spiky tuft of grass. It makes delicious tea, which I love to drink while breastfeeding as, unlike mint and sage, it doesn’t negatively affect milk supply.

If you’re planning a garden, herbs are one of the best places to start. I would say that at the very least, climate permitting, you should have the trio of mint, sage, and rosemary. They are perennial, hardy, easy to grow, smell delicious, and repel insects – what’s not to love?

Delicious beer and onion rolls

DSC_0705

When you’re out of bread, you can run to the grocery store… Or you can get out some flour and dry yeast and whip up a batch of delicious, savory, crusty rolls.

This time, upgraded with beer, dried onions, and caraway seeds.

I’m terrible at quantities, but the general idea is, you use beer instead of water in this recipe.

So, here goes:

About 2 1/2 cups flour

1 tbsp dry yeast

About 1 1/2 cups beer

2 tbsp dried shredded onions

Heaped teaspoon caraway seeds

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar or honey

1/4 cup olive oil

Some more olive oil for coating

Mix all ingredients and knead thoroughly. Let the dough double in size, then knead again.

Form the rolls and place on a baking sheet. Lightly pat them with olive oil, or spread it with a silicone brush.

Let the rolls double in size again.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the tops get nice and golden.

Enjoy with butter, cream cheese, or tuna salad. Yum!

This world is crazy

Honestly, though. I feel like everything that is going on right now is messing up with my head so badly that I just want to crawl into a narrow hole and hide.

DSC_0701

Seeing how that’s impossible, I can find nothing better than sitting in the shade of the mango tree, supervising the little ones in the wading pool.

DSC_0702

Watching my geraniums grow is nice and relaxing as well.

DSC_0703

Oh, and baking cookies. These ones are oatmeal-peanut butter-chocolate chip, and they are seriously good.

Hope you’re all hanging in there and keeping sane. Because it sure hasn’t been easy lately.