There is such a glut of bad news around the world and still so much wrong in this country. But our personal situation has improved so dramatically over the past few months that I can't help but feel a little optimistic as we approach the New Year. It's been so long since I felt anything even remotely resembling optimism that I'm reveling in it. That doesn't mean I think we should slow down on prepping. Quite the opposite. I'm more committed than ever to being prepared in every way possible ... for whatever may come.
We had barely begun our prepper lifestyle in 2008 when our personal situation took a nosedive. Tragedy seemed to be followed by one crisis after another. Little did we know at the time, it would be a full sixteen months before things would turn around for us. If we had not been prepping in earnest for those few months before the first crisis, we would not have come through as well as we have. But even during the long hard months, we added substantially to our skills and knowledge. During all but two or three of those months, we continually added to our preps as well. Last month, we finally reached our goal of a full 12-month supply of food and personal necessities. Now if we can just keep it organized! So this is my list for 2011.
First, my Challenge Goals ...things I hope to accomplish, believe I can accomplish, but know I will have to dog myself to get them all done.
This will be my biggest challenge goal for the coming year. I want to purge, purge, purge, and then purge some more. I have accumulated a lot of STUFF over the years that has just followed me from place to place but never gets used or appreciated. These are things that are useful, just not being used. I keep them because they are sentimental ...they were my mother's or my grandmother's or my dad's ...all of whom are no longer in this world. I still have two sisters and as I sort through these things, I will give them first dibs on anything they want. What they don't want, I will find new homes for or give to charity. It is ridiculous and selfish to hang onto that much stuff if you are never going to use it. My mother, my grandmother and my dad would all heartily approve.
Once I whittle things down, I want to get what I keep ORGANIZED. I have a wonderful insulated, air conditioned storage shed that's subdivided into four rooms. All of the doorways between the rooms are open but the visual separation of the walls lends organization to the space and gives me plenty of room for shelves. The smallest of the rooms is approximately 10x10 and the slab in this room is about 8 inches lower than the other rooms. We call it the Step Down and it's where we have our food stores. Between the air conditioner and the insulation, everything stays dark and cool year 'round. It's as close to 'root cellar' conditions as you can get in central Texas, and is ideal for long-term food storage. The rest of the space is approximately 20x20, divided into three rooms. Those three rooms are half to three-quarter full now, but everything is just piled in there in no apparent order. The only reason I have any clue as to what's in there is because I had to shuffle things around when we prepared the Step Down for food storage earlier this year. The food storage room looks great. Now it's time to organize the rest of the space.
On a personal level, I want to shed some weight this coming year. Besides the obvious health benefits, I have the motivation of a closet full of clothes that I used to be able to wear! I started working on this back in June and am nearing the halfway mark. I've lost enough to feel motivated and encouraged to continue. And now that the two big EATING and COOKING holidays are behind us ...I'm hoping the last half of this goal will be easier than the first half!
So much for my Challenge Goals, now for my Standard Goals. These are the ones that will pretty much stay on the list year after year in one form or another because ...well, because we are preppers. That's what we do.
RECONFIGURE RAISED BED GARDEN
It's currently arranged as one 16x16 bed with 'walk boards (1x12's) dividing it into eight sections. Yeoldfurt wants to dismantle it and set it up as four separate beds with wider walkways between them. He has some wonderful salvage goods from his work that will be used to line the walkways. We are discussing ways to build them up (deeper) as well. They are currently 8 inches deep, and I would like to get them to 12 or even 16 inches deep. More 'leg room' for the veggies but also not as far to bend down for me! Always thinkin'....
Our first year with the raised beds was 2009 and we had a nice harvest in spite of a delay in planting and all the emotional turmoil we had that year. We had high hopes for the harvest in 2010, but were somewhat disappointed in the outcome. The crops that did great the year before were so-so this year and the only thing that did really spectacular was the cucumbers. I now have almost 40 pints of pickles from one 3x7 bed. The weeds, the ants, and the grasshoppers were all a constant battle last year. We are hoping to improve the odds in our favor by reconfiguring the beds and improving accessibility while minimizing backstrain. Yeoldfurt has been talking about a mobile dripline watering system and we also have a possible solution for the ants and weeds that is cheap, eco-friendly and recyclable.
IMPROVE CHICKEN COOP
I'm still in the thinking stages about this one so Yeoldfurt might raise an eyebrow when he reads about it here. My ideas are usually born half-baked and go through a gazillion or so gyrations before they finally evolve into a real plan. I'm used to the way I think, so it doesn't bother me to start out with Plan A and finally end up doing Plan Q. It's a woman's perrogative to change her mind, right? It's another one of those Venus things. But I've learned it's best to think on them for a long time before I approach Yeoldfurt. The first few years of marriage taught me pretty quick that he stresses out way too much on these kinds of mental journeys. So I try not to even mention my ideas to him until I'm a good ways into the alphabet and am pretty sure I'm done changing my mind about things.
My ideas for the coop are not labor intensive or expensive, and nothing I can't do all by myself if Yeoldfurt wants to turn me loose on it. I think we're both happy with the structure and design of the existing coop. But we have had two chicken snakes stealing eggs so far this year. There may have been more, we just didn't happen to catch them. We know how they got into the coop and Yeoldfurt has taken some steps to rectify that. But since I'm the one that's squeamish about snakes and really not wanting to deal with that again, I've got a few more ideas on the subject. I also want to fix a 'nursery' in one end of the coop. There's a section at one end that the previous owners here used to raise parakeets. It's about 4x4 with a walk-through door leading into the main coop. We have a free-standing broodbox that we bought as a kit from Tractor Supply (half price because the box was damaged ...only paid $25) and I want to modify it to mount to the wall in the small room in the coop. Being a relatively small area, if I cover the walls with insulating material, it would be easy to keep warm as a nursery area for young chicks. Just some ideas. I also want to break up the floor in the coop, bring in new sand and just generally clean things up. See? Nothing real major!
Get rid of it. That's the goal. We don't have any other than the mortgage and we want to get rid of that as soon as possible. We have a 30 year fixed rate mortgage with a decent rate, but I would have loved to have refinanced when rates were at their lowest last summer. We pay extra every month and are on track to pay off the 30 year mortgage in less than 20 years ...but being able to refinance at an even lower rate would have made the pay off that much quicker. Now that Yeoldfurt is employed again, we will talk to a local bank (locally owned and on the 'good bank' list) about refinancing. Even if we only drop a fraction of a percent on the interest rate, it will be worth it to get away from the BIG BANK.
I'm happy with where our food stores are now. A 12-month supply is as much as I want to try to keep track of to ensure nothing gets wasted. But I would like to add to our cash reserves and increase any nonperishable non-foodstuffs ...oh, say ammo and reloading supplies, for instance? Now I know Yeoldfurt's eyes will light up at that! Ha!
NEW SKILLS / KNOWLEDGE
You can never have enough of either of these things, in my opinion. Last year, we learned to make our own laundry soap. This year, I hope to add shampoo, conditioner and liquid body wash to our soap making repertoire. We still have a dozen or so dead trees from last year's drought that need to be felled and Yeoldfurt has promised to let me give it a whirl. Not that cutting a tree down is rocket science, but having it land where you want it ...or not land where you don't want it requires some knowledge and skill and I think it would be something useful for me to learn. But I'm pretty sure he'll want me to practice on the ones farthest from the house and fences though ...yeah, I'm pretty sure.
So that's it, my formal list for the coming year. I decided to post it partly to help me think it through and partly in hopes it will keep me honest. I've never been much more than haphazard about New Year's Resolutions ...either setting them or following up when I do set them. But maybe if I get serious about setting some goals ...publicly committing to my goals ...just maybe I'll be more serious about the 'following up' part as well.
So for 2011, let's prepare for the worst but hope for the best. May we all have a blessed New Year!