Tuesday, April 26, 2011

10 Good Things about an EMP Strike

Ever since reading One Second After--or actually, even before then, I've thought a lot about an EMP strike against the United States. I've come to the conclusion that it would be next to impossible to really be "prepared" for such a disaster. It's depressing. I can't let myself think about it for too long, or it gets overwhelming. So, I've tried to find a bright side. Hopefully a little humor will help lighten the situation. David Letterman, eat your heart out.

Top Ten Good Things about an EMP Strike

10: You won't have to go to work any more. No cars+no electricity+no computers=no workie. Hate
            your boss? Hate your co-workers? How many times have you said to yourself, "I wish I never had to
            go back  there"? Well, guess what?!

 9: Less greenhouse gases. If the whole country was exposed to an EMP catastrophe, that's a lot less  
         fossil fuel burning and deforestation affecting the atmosphere. The ten percent or so of the population
         that actually lives on after things stabilize will have much healthier surroundings.

 8: No more taxes. If money, industry and government are suddenly made obsolete, taxes will become
         obsolete, too. Benjamin Franklin may be proven wrong yet.

 7: You'll eat healthier. Without the availability of processed foods, it'll be back to the basics: eat what
          you can grow or catch. Your kids will happily eat their veggies if it's literally that or nothing.

 6: Road rage will vanish. In fact, most roadways will probably be automobile graveyards until there's
          time to clean it up. Now that I think about it, all things car-related will no longer be a priority. Car
          maintenance, license plates, auto insurance, commuting in rush hour traffic, grumpy kids on a road trip.
          All in the past.

 5: You'll finally have all the time in the world to focus on your family. Never again will you have
          to break a date with your spouse, or miss the kid's ball game because you had to work late. Board
          games may become a nightly event. You can have checkers championship games with the neighbors.

 4: If you're like me and can easily "pinch an inch," you'll finally be happy to have those extra 
        pounds. The skinny bitches will be the first to disappear.

 3: The neighbor's dog that's always getting into your garbage, or doing business on your lawn, will
           finally be good for something--dinner!

 2: The price of oil will finally drop. Of course, we won't be buying any more anyway, so it won't really
          matter to us. But I still like the idea of sticking it to the oil barons. It'll be our present to the rest of the
          world.

And the Number 1 Good Thing about an EMP Strike:

     You can finally stop worrying about if or when TEOTWAWKI will happen!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Finally! Rain!

We have been looking with envy on our neighbors in the eastern half of Oklahoma these last few weeks, as they have gotten storm after storm, and we have gotten nothing. In all honesty, we have not had any rain, other than one or two very light mistings, since last October. On the news, farmers talked of turning their cattle loose in their wheat fields, as grazing lands were turning brown and wheat growth was stunted. Levels in our drinking water lakes (and elsewhere) were frighteningly low. At least the fishermen were happy!

But finally, at 6 a.m. yesterday, I awoke to the sound of rain. I even woke the hubster so he could hear it, too. It rained most of the day, generally a slow steady, soaking rain, except for a few hard downpours and about a minute's worth of pea-sized hail. It was a great Easter gift.

The garden loved it, of course. I have been fretting over my plants lately, because even though they seem to be growing well, it appears the root systems are very shallow. I dug around both a carrot top and a radish top with my finger, and found no carrot or radish growing--just a skinny root system. I water daily, but I've been having a difficult time really soaking all that peat moss. I'll water until there's standing water on top, wait for that to sink in, and then repeat. Yet, if I stick my finger into the Mel's mix after watering, only the top half-inch or so is even wet. The hubster and I picked up a soaker hose Saturday night, intending to install it on Sunday, but the rain did the soaking instead. I stuck my finger in the Mel's mix after the rain had stopped, and much more of it was damp. Hopefully we'll get the soaker hose in place very soon, and capitalize on what the rain started.

My poor, pummeled jalapeno seedling.
The rain did present some new challenges, though. Two of my seven garden beds are located under the roof overhang. We thought that rain coming off the roof would miss the boxes, but not so. For the most part, the roof rain was absorbed by the plant beds without causing any problems for the plants. But at a point where there was an exterior corner on the house, rain came pouring down a channel on the roof, and drowned two square feet of garden space, its impact even forcing soil out of the box. One square was recently planted with onion and chive seeds, which I'm sure were displaced. In the other box, a transplanted jalapeno plant I had started indoors was thriving, but the rain water pummeled it into the soil. I'm not sure now if it will make it.

So, we're discussing adding gutter to that side of the house, which would be costly as well as a logistical challenge, because there's not much room for a ladder to rest. Not to mention, it might be difficult to find a gutter company willing to come out for such a small job. I haven't mentioned it to the hubster yet, but I'm thinking that if the jalapeno plant revives, I'll move it to another location, and just leave those two square feet empty. They can be a sort of catch basin for the rest of the bed. As the plants grow, the roots will (hopefully) draw that water in.

Here's a quick garden shot:

On the right, you see tomatoes, peas, green beans, squash, more tomatoes and a poblano plant. On the left you can just see some chard, followed by strawberries, and sunflowers behind the strawberries.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Book Review: One Second After

There's been much talk in the prepping community about the novel One Second After by William Forstchen, so I decided to check it out at the local library. It's a fictional story about life after an EMP strike over the United States, which disables almost all electronic devices. Basic things such as newer vehicles, electricity, running water, land lines and cell phones suddenly no longer work. The story focuses on a small town in rural North Carolina and its struggles to survive. Food and medicine shortages, coupled with unsanitary conditions and roving gangs of marauders plague the town's inhabitants.

Once you get past the sometimes poor grammar, run-on sentences, and consistent use of "should of" instead of "should have" (the editor should be shot!), the story is actually quite engaging. I actually cried a few times when things went wrong for the protagonist, and found myself praying that I'd never be put in a position where I had to sacrifice my pets for my family's survival, or defend myself against my neighbors.

The novel definitely makes you think. No one can know for certain because it (thankfully) hasn't happened, but it's probably a very good representation of how things would go down if an EMP strike did occur. What makes it even scarier is the knowledge that Iran and/or North Korea may have created a bomb capable of producing an EMP large enough to implement this scenario. And they don't especially like us.

Garden's Under Way!

I started some seeds indoors in containers, and some seeds outdoors, beginning almost a month ago. Indoors, I planted several varieties of tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, a leaf celery, oregano, basil, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Outdoors, I’ve started radishes, carrots, spinach, chard, beets, kohlrabi, four kinds of lettuce,  turnips, peas, green beans and sunflowers, and more recently squash, cucumbers, onions, chives, and thyme. I also planted twelve ever-bearing strawberry plants, and just yesterday the hubster surprised me with a spearmint and a peppermint plant he picked up at a nursery he'd just discovered. 

Seedlings in the window sill.

Also just yesterday, I transplanted some of my indoor seedlings in the garden, including broccoli, cabbage, and three tomato plants. Honestly, I'm not sure if it was good timing or not. The plants were still very small, but I think that the potting soil I started them in was of poor quality, because they didn't seem to be growing as fast as I remember my plants growing in previous years. I fretted over whether to transplant them for a good part of the day, and then finally decided to transplant only some of each plant. That way if they fail, at least I'll still have some plants growing indoors.  

This year was the first year I decided to order from a seed catalog, instead of just running down to the local hardware store and grabbing some seed packets off the shelf. I want to attempt saving seeds this year, so I wanted to be certain I was getting non-GMO, heirloom seeds. I ordered several seed catalogs, did some research, and decided on Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. I spent a small fortune on seeds and I have to say, I’m a little disappointed with the germination success rate. Or, at least I think it’s about germination. I’ve had to replant carrots, lettuce, beets, turnips, chard, spinach and sunflowers. I say I “think” it’s about germination, because it could also be about my limited gardening skills. In the past I’ve not had much problem with seeds germinating, but then I haven’t done a whole lot of gardening, and never before on the scale I’m at it now. So maybe I was just lucky before. Or maybe genetically modified seeds have a better germination rate. All I know is, a lot of my seeds didn’t come up. Some of the smaller, surface-sown ones like lettuce and carrots may have simply blown away. But the turnips, chard, radish, and sunflower, for example, are all buried ¼ to ½ inch deep. Also, two varieties of tomatoes that I planted indoors have not sprouted, either, and I’ve planted them twice now. So either I’m doing something wrong, or I didn’t get good-quality seed from Baker Creek.  I don’t know how to tell which is correct. Any suggestions?

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Quick Synopsis of Square Foot Gardening

So the idea behind square foot gardening is to minimize the space needed but still grow the same amount of food as a traditional row garden. Mel talks in detail in his book about what a waste it is to plant a whole row of seeds, and then thin the seedlings down until the plants are, say, 4 inches apart. By planting in a square instead, in a specific formation, one could have 8 plants in a two-square-foot area and still have all 8 plants spaced 4 inches apart. This would take two linear feet of space in a row garden, plus at least two feet of walking space on either side of the row, resulting in 10 square feet of space to plant the same amount of plants. Even dividing the space allotted for walking between the two rows that would line it, requires 6 square feet of space for the same amount of plants. By eliminating the need for walking space, one can effectively eliminate 60% or more of the space needed for growing. How awesome is that?!
The “Mel’s Mix” that SFGers are always talking about is composed of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 a compost blend, made of at least five different compost sources. Creating this mix for use is raised beds also eliminates the problems many of us face with poor-quality native soil. Additionally, if you construct and fill the raised beds in late winter or early spring, you can begin planting earlier in the season because your new Mel’s Mix is warmer than the ground soil. 

This is obviously a very "quick and dirty" rundown of square foot gardening, but these are the points that sold me on the process. If you haven't looked into it for yourself yet, I hope you do!

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's late, and I can't sleep, so what better time to update? I thought I'd talk about getting my garden up and going.

I enjoy gardening anyway, but this whole economic nightmare that our country is in currently has gotten me thinking more and more about self sufficiency. We'd probably be called lower middle class people right now, but if--or, when--things take a turn for the worse, we could very easily become the working class poor. So saving money and learning how to take care of ourselves is becoming more important.

To that end, I first felt powerless; what could I do on our measly 1/16th of an acre, half of which is covered by house and driveway? Plus, we have a big dog, still a puppy, who needs room to run around and play.

Enter square foot gardening. I don't know exactly how I came across the idea; probably just through some of my seemingly constant googling. (I don't know what I ever did without the Internet). But I learned of the concept, and then found the All New Square Foot Gardening at the library. The book accompanied me to Mexico and back, where the hubster and I vacationed in March. I read by the pool. He watched, and laughed at a nervous tic I have, where my toes wag when I'm concentrating, or excited about something, or both, which I was with this book.

When we got back, I couldn't wait to get started. Two days after our return, I was on the back porch, building raised garden beds. Me. I don't think I've ever previously built something from wood before. Well, at least nothing that turned out like it was supposed to. But the book had given simple instructions, and even though I'm not a carpenter, I'm not incompetent. So, I built them. Or, most of them. I was better than halfway through when the hubster came home from work and adamantly insisted on giving me a hand. I can be pigheaded at times about doing things myself, but I'm glad he didn't take no for an answer, because it was easier with both of us. But don't tell him I said that.


Materials: 2x6s cut to size by the friendly Lowes associate, weed cloth, linseed oil (to preserve the wood), drywall screws, and weed cloth tacks, which I later returned without using. 



Finished bed frames.
The next step was to get the beds in place, and fill them. But remember that dog I mentioned? Well, she likes to chew. And dig. So there wasn't going to be a backyard garden unless we could devise a way to keep her out of it. The simplest thing was to have a fence built. It took a couple of weeks to research fence builders, find someone who was willing to do it for the right price, and who had time to do it before the growing season was half over. The hubster took care of all that, and shortly the garden area was cordoned off from the rest of the yard, safe from the hell hound sweet, innocent, hundred-pound puppy. 

protector.

Then the real work began. Mel's mix is the planting medium derived by the creator of square foot gardening. It is a mix of five different kinds of compost, peat moss and vermiculite. It took us most of a day to lay the beds out (on top of weed cloth), mix the planting medium and fill the beds. To mix all the ingredients, we opened the bags and dumped them onto a tarp, then folded and unfolded the tarp in all different directions, causing the ingredients to fold back onto themselves, until it was mixed evenly. We did this four times, instead of dumping all of it in one big heap, to keep the pile manageable.


Mel's Mix ingredients

Positioning the beds.

Beds filled with Mel's mix. You can see a portion of the chain link fence we had installed to separate the garden from the rest of the yard in the top pic.
And there's my garden :)

The hubster surprised me the next week by attaching a grid over the boxes, which visually divided the beds into square-foot sections, making it easier to properly space the seeds when planting. I'll talk more next time about the idea behind square foot gardening, and how it allows you to use a small amount of space more productively.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Salutations!

I always did love Charlotte's Web.

I am fairly new to the blogosphere, and fairly new to gardening, and fairly new to emergency preparedness. So this very new blog is my attempt to connect with others of like interest, and share some of my own progress as well. I've been regularly reading many blogs already, and I'm motivated by your trials, errors and successes!

My plan was to start this blog at the same time that I started my garden, but I'm only now finding the time. It's a lot of work to get a blog up and going! At any rate, I've got some fodder for some gardening posts already, and maybe even some about emergency preparedness.

We live in the suburbs of a big city, with the typical small suburban yard. I'd love to pack up and move to the country on at least five acres, but that's just not an option right now. I'm always looking for ways to maximize the use of our little lot. But a large dog, a homeowner's association, and a husband who really wants a nice back yard keep me from turning our property into a small farm :)

So that's my introduction. Hopefully I'll have more time this weekend to get things rolling on here. I hope to make some good blogging buddies and be an encouragement to the rest of you!