What I Did This Week To Prep

We’re expanding our garden this week, not a whole bunch–our yard isn’t that big here in suburbia–but some. We’re making more room for the strawberries and to maximize the areas that get good sunlight. The cool thing about it is that this time we’re using compost that we made.

We’ve been composting for about a year now with very slow, unpredictable results – learning as we go. Our compost pile has had lots of ‘greens’ (high in nitrogen) coming from kitchen vegetable and fruit peelings, coffee grounds, and plant cuttings. It hasn’t had enough ‘browns’ (high in carbon) that can come from fallen leaves, hay and straw, or paper and cardboard. You need significantly more browns than greens to achieve the right ratio in your compost pile, and we’ve been short on browns. You wouldn’t think that here in Washington we’d have a shortage of fallen leaves, but the problem is (here in suburbia) all the trees were cleared when they developed our subdivision. We also can’t just pick up someone else’s bagged leaves because they’re all put in large yard waste bins for collection. So I sent Ryan out to an area with lots of leaves on the ground and he collected three big bags. We added one bag of leaves (unfortunately I didn’t shred them first – next time) to some coffee grounds from Starbucks and continued adding our normal kitchen wastes. A a week later our pile was actually ‘hot’, it had never been hot before! There are still good leaves to be had so we’re going to collect some more to have on hand (“One man’s trash…”). We’re also going to buy a cross cut paper shredder to produce more usable browns. (I found good composting tips at compost-info-guide.com)

We also took advantage of Sarah having a few extra days off over the holidays to make a day trip over to the Sequim area and look at potential homestead properties. We had plenty of time so we ambitiously visited all eleven listings we have been loosely following online. It was a long, but fun day. We brought Kate, our four month old Border Collie, and she had the time of her life tramping through the wooded areas as we walked around the different properties. We found one we liked, sure it has it’s issues – there’s a reason why it’s listed so cheap and is still on the market. But it was kind of cool. It feels remote, on a hill in a very forested area, while still being close to services in the nearby small town. When we got home Sarah looked up the plat information and found everything she could about it online, including that it is adjacent to state forest land. We asked our realtor to follow up on it for us and tentatively scheduled a date with him to go back and look at it closer. Is it “The One”? Probably not, but it has potential. We figure the more we look at, and the more we understand the process, the better prepared we’ll be to make that final decision.

As I mentioned in my What I Did This YEAR To Prep post, my wife Sarah is my “biggest prepper asset”. You’ve seen her hand in every post I write because she sits down with me, after I’ve finished writing, and helps me edit it before it’s published. She’s a good writer with very strong technical skills (she gets it from her dad, CJ Booth, he recently published his first book, Olive Park). She and I talked, on our Sequim property search road trip, about the blog and we discussed her writing a post as sort of “guest blogger” (possibly even on a monthly basis). The more we discussed it, the more we liked the idea. Next Wednesday, the 50th TraceMyPreps post, Sarah will answer the question every prepper’s wife gets, “So what do you think about all this?”

What did you do?

(Monday: Product Review: Gerber EAB Lite Utility Knife)

What I Did This Week To Prep

Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated in our prepping, especially this time of year.  November 21 to January 21 are the darkest days of the year; in Washington State on the ‘shortest day’ there are eight hours from sunrise to sunset (time to break out the Vitamin D). The holidays are here, everyone’s schedule is hectic, and money is going toward gifts, food, socializing, etc. I know, I feel it too. On TSP Jack did a show this week entitled, Avoiding Prepper Burn Out (episode 797). It was a timely and appreciated. So during this month, if you’re feeling it too, know what you’re not alone. Also realize that, statistically speaking, the world probably isn’t going to end this month (that’s not scheduled until December 2012). If you need to ease back on your prepping in December (as I do) do it, and do it guilt-free. Use this holiday season to really enjoy your family, they’re the reason we’re prepping after all.

This week we (and by ‘we’ I mean Ryan) expanded our compost bin system from two to three bins. When we had two bins, we could only have one pile going at a time because the other had to be left open for rotation. Now with three bins we will be able to have an ‘older’ and ‘newer’ pile going and use the third open one for rotation. This is the way I’ve seen others do it and think will work best for us.

We went Costco shopping early this month to get ready for Christmas. I saw a new item that I had to get: a 4-pack of industrial grade duct tape! As a good prepper I couldn’t pass this up; I’ll probably get another one next month. We all know how duct tape is the physical ‘glue’ that holds together the concept of improvise, adapt, and overcome. I also bought some more household surface disinfectant wipes. Again, in any kind of disaster keeping clean is essential and water could be in short supply. Both these items store long-term and can be regularly rotated.

What did you do?

What I Did This Week To Prep

Now that summer gardening is over, I wanted to get a jump on improving and expanding the growing space for next year. I hate watering grass, but the home owner’s association thinks it’s important, so I came to a ‘compromise’. I expanded the gardening area in the front yard so it now covers about a third of the yard. Next summer I’ll feel better  about watering because now I’ll also be watering a garden. Removing the sod was a hassle, it’s a lot of work and it’s heavy.

Ryan, Chanse, & Brynn with compost

Once the sod was out, Chanse and I (using his dad’s truck) picked up about two yards (two truck beds full) of fine compost from the landfill compost factory (the compost is made from local yard wastes). The boys and Brynn helped me add a layer of compost to the expanded front garden, and we also covered about half the back garden. We still need a couple more loads for the backyard, but it was a good start. I hadn’t purchased compost in bulk like that before; it was interesting to see the steam coming off the compost and feel the heat in the pile, even after we got it home. It felt like fluffy dirt, and was easy to move and spread.

Sarah and I finally selected and ordered some winter seeds, hopefully we’re not too late (we’ve been talking about it for weeks). We ordered from Bountiful Gardens, we like their company and love their catalog (we’d definitely recommend requesting a catalog). We’re not doing a lot, we ordered a compost crop seed mix, containing: vetch, wheat, rye, and fava beans that we’ll plant in all the beds. We also ordered Dutch White Clover seeds to spread in the backyard grass, both to improve the soil and in preparation for getting rabbits. We’re tentatively planning on getting rabbits (for meat) sometime around February.

As winter approaches the Northwest (it has definitely arrived in some parts of the country already), I decided it would be a good time to inspect the cars for winter. Ryan, Chanse and I checked to ensure all our vehicles had: ice scrapers (had to add one to Chanse’s car), air in the spare tire (couple were low), jacks, good windshield wipers, wiper fluid (needed some), and we added additional warm clothes and sleeping bags. I do still need to take Ryan out in the Jeep and review with him how to use the 4WD (both high and low), but other than that we’re in pretty good shape.

What did you do?

(Monday: But I’m Working Now)