To be prepared for a crisis, every Prepper must establish goals and make both long-term and short-term plans. In this column, the SurvivalBlog editors review their week’s prep activities and planned prep activities for the coming week. These range from healthcare and gear purchases to gardening, ranch improvements, bug-out bag fine-tuning, and food storage. This is something akin to our Retreat Owner Profiles, but written incrementally and in detail, throughout the year.  We always welcome you to share your own successes and wisdom in your e-mailed letters. We post many of those –or excerpts thereof — in the Odds ‘n Sods Column or in the Snippets column. Let’s keep busy and be ready!

Jim Reports:

For most of this week, I’ve been working in the barnyard with Lily.  Lily disced the near meadow that with our Plotmaster and then I rototilled it with our Troybilt tiller, to really work it into the soil. Then we hauled and spread a lot of manure in the near meadow.  Then I rototilled it again. We still have more meadow to manure. This coming week, we will be broadcasting Pasture Blend seed, and then raking it into the loose fertilized soil, to minimize the amount of seed that gets eaten by birds.

Now, Lily’s report…

Avalanche Lily Reports:

Dear Readers,
This week we started out cloudy and in the mid-fifties and deteriorated rapidly Sunday night into Monday with  intermittent snow and rain showers with trace accumulations of snow temperatures in the mid-thirties to high forties.  The rest of the week was rather cold with unsettled weather and some sun.

Well, someone wrote to me last week, telling me that they love reading my animal stories.  I wrote back and said that I like to write animal stories but I only have them when there is animal action, which doesn’t happen that often.

Well this week, it turned out that we had too much unwanted animal action! I’m shaking my head!

Arrrgh!  On Wednesday, I had an unexpected close encounter with a skunk.  I HATE THOSE THINGS WITH A PASSION!!!  I WAS MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS, darn it!  RUNNING OUT TO THE COMPOST BARREL TO THROW my kitchen compost into it.  I was in my usual hurry, trying to get household chores done quickly, so I could work outside where I prefer to be, but not until the inside of the house is in order.  I ran up to it and tipped the bucket over it just as I arrived to its edge and banged the tin bucket on the edge of the barrel.  I looked down and there was a skunk in there.  Too late!  I had already banged the barrel and the food was falling. A split second later I saw the tail raise, I spun around and ran towards the house, yelling at our dog H., my forever sidekick in all I do, to “COME!!!” That skunk instantaneously let loose, most spray hitting the inside of the can.  I could smell it on me as I ran for the door. I tore off my clothes at the door and threw them out the door, and slammed the door, my jeans didn’t make it outside, but I was in too much of a hurry to get to the shower,  The jeans, sadly, stunk up the house. I ran for the shower.  Jim smelled it the second I ran into our office/bedroom stark naked.  I jumped into the shower and rapidly washed my hair three times, and once with ACV that I use from time to time on my hair, and scrubbed my arms and legs three times, and my face with soap, I never use soap on my face.

I hate skunks!

And then to add insult to injury, Jim saw M. our female kitty rolling on the floor where the jeans had been laying after I went back out and threw them outside.  I would have thrown them directly into the new washer but it was already occupied running a load.

Very sad news: I found my favorite cow — our oldest Matriarch cow — L. dead in the corral early one evening this week.

I spent some time observing her the day before, because she had come to the door of the stalls where I was working mucking them out. Because, H. our dog had gone out to herd the cows and she just wanted to get out of her way.  She isn’t scared of the dog. She was shivering and in hindsight, I think it was only because she wasn’t feeling well. But I didn’t know it at the time.  We did look each other in the eyes.  I hadn’t wanted her to come in the stall, but she looked at me so beseechingly that I relented and then I backed out of the stall and let her come it. Then I stood there studying her.  “She is getting old”,  I thought.  Then I left the stall to let her and the bull be at peace and called the dog away from the corrals. She was thirteen years old.  She lived a good life and produced many calves for us over the years, about seven. I think she has birthed a total of ten in her life. She was born March 27th, in 2010 on a fellow blogger’s land, spent some years with them, had two calves, then went to live with some other folks for about two years. Then we heard from our Blogger friend that these folks wanted to sell her. I wanted her because I had owned her mother and had loved her mother who recently, died.  So we bought her when she was about four or five. She then went on to have a calf nearly every year for us.  Her last calf, “M.” was born in December. M. is now four months old. She is at an age where she can safely ween, but it’s not preferred. I have two other cows that are still in milk. I’m fairly sure she will be nursing off of them very shortly, since they all nurse off of each other, anyway, “universal donors”.  The bull takes drinks from whomever whenever he wants and I have seen the other cows get drinks from each other. They will take care of L.’s calf.

I am so sad that she died so suddenly yet, I am so glad, too. In recent months, Jim talked about butchering her, and I did not want to.  I did not want to eat her.

We don’t have a tractor or a backhoe to bury her and are waiting for our neighbor to get his fixed.  So our cow laid out in the field for a couple of days.  We let the cows out of the corrals when we dragged the cow out to the field.  The other cows in the herd have been keeping vigil over her, laying near her. They have been mourning for her for two days.  Literally, they have been moaning and groaning.  It is so sad.  Our bull has a deep deep sounding low moan when he wails.  I have been so sad listening to them.

When all of the cows first came out of the corral when Jim was removing the cow’s carcass, M. the baby heifer of this dead cow–who has never been outside of the corrals–did not follow the others out.  She spent most of the day inside the corral crying for her mother and the other cows.  We were working on the manure near the corrals.  Our bull who is such a good boy and who really cares about his herd, went twice to the corrals to try to coax the calf out of them to come and join them, but she wouldn’t go out.  Jim and I tried earlier in the day to get her to go out but she wouldn’t go.  Later, when we were done working by the corrals, Jim and I left.  We felt so sad for her.  A little later in the day, when I was in the house, I looked outside and saw the bull and the cows heading back over to the corrals.  I thought that this time they would get little M. to join them.  Sure enough, a half hour later, when I looked outside again, I saw her near our small pond out in the meadows with the other cattle.  I was very happy to see her with them.  That bull really cares for his herd.

The third challenging animal event is that our dog H. has an ear infection that I have been treating several times a day this week.  She hates it, but has been a good sport with me, as I keep squirting olive oil, that has garlic, oregano, and mullein in it, she smells like a pizza. I later washed out the oil with green tea, a natural antiseptic.  At the end of the week we took her to the vet to get it looked at, to get an antibiotic and to get her dewormed and up to date on her rabies shots. We were lucky to get the appointment at all this week. So I had four days of treating her by myself, with natural herbs.  Her ear actually improved a lot, but still needed the “big gun” meds.  It turned out to be both a staph infection and yeast infection.  The vet treated it with an Oti-Pack, an anti-fungal and antibiotics oral meds.

This week has also been a lot about moving manure and garden dirt.

I cleaned out the Hen House.

I finished moving the horse manure out of the loafing area and put it in a huge pile in the middle of the loafing area to be moved by our friend’s tractor in a week or so.

With Jim’s help, I also cleaned out the open-sided (but fenced-in) hay barn.  There was a lot of horse manure mixed with stray hay just inside the fence line of the barn that was cleaned up. Jim raked the loose hay out the barn for me.

All by my lonesome, I mucked out the cow stalls.  Now that was a huge job, this year!  It took me about four hours to do.  I worked from about 7PM until 10PM one evening.  The next morning for an hour and then later in the afternoon, for more hours. The stalls are left open for the cows to go in and out of them for shelter in the winter from the corrals as they wish.  There are two connecting stalls/separated by a bar gate, one of which is the milking parlor, when we are milking, but we are currently not milking and the other is for loafing.  There are doors to the corrals in both stalls. And both doors and stalls and the bar gate have been open and available for their sheltering needs over the winter.

The reason why they were not cleaned out throughout the winter was that we had a very early and cold winter so the manure was frozen solid to the ground in the stalls from the get-go and built up over the winter. It was impossible to clean this winter! By spring, there was at least fourteen inches of manure in each stall. Additionally, the door openings of the stalls flood when there is a lot of rain or snow melt.  With all that said, only this week did the manure thaw out enough for me to get in there and start cleaning it.  It was heavy wet stuff. I shoveled with a square-point shovel, one load at a time and put it in our wheelbarrow.  When it was loaded enough with the weight that I could still handle, I wheeled it out into the loafing yard and created a cow manure pile near the horse manure pile. The horse manure will go around the fruit trees, while the cow manure will go into the gardens, eventually.  The manure is still quite fresh because of being frozen all winter and will need some more time to break down into compost this spring before being put in the gardens.

The stalls have dirt floors therefore, over the years I have dug the floor down into the dirt quite a ways in some spots. so we need to order up some clay soil and cover the floor with it to bring up the floor level.  We have a small pile left that I hope to use up next week then we will order some more to bring up the floor level and then I would like to pour cement over it? Jim?

Later in the week, Jim attached the Plotmaster disc/rake/roller to our electric quad to plow the near meadow in order to fertilize them and replant pasture grass, the quad did not have enough torque to pull it through the soil.  So we hooked it up to our SUV and I drove around the meadow breaking up its sod.  When I finished, Jim rototilled the broken-up sod. Together, we then transported with a wheel barrel and spread the horse manure pile from the loafing area over a section of it.  We have another pile of horse manure that we want to also spread out over it.  That will be next week.  Then we will rototill it in again and plant pasture grass seed and rake it in and set up water sprinklers for it.

I also spent a lot of time digging deep into a large garden bed in the main garden to bring up the roots of horrible pernicious canary grass.  I dug down to mineralized soil which is about eight to twelve inches down, pulled that up along with the grass roots and roots of other plants that will grow weeds later this summer when the conditions are favorable.  I wish I had a whole army of people to help me do this type of early-season garden prep.  The job could be completed in all of the garden beds in two days! Instead, it is going to take me some days to do each bed.  We have a lot of work to do here in order to garden this coming summer.

I planted some squash seeds in three inch pots in the greenhouse: Hubbbard and Honey Boat Delicata, and some sweet peppers.  The sweet peppers I brought into the house and put them in the greenhouse bedroom. I had planted sweet peppers earlier, but they didn’t come up.

Two nicer animal stories:

One evening as we were settling down for the night, through our closed double-paned glass door, I could hear hooting sounds. I looked up the calls of Great Horned owls just to be sure.  I believe that what I heard was two Great Horned Owls duetting together.

A funny cat story:  I have a hard foam roller that I mostly use to crack my back and to stretch my belly muscles.  As I was typing some of this article earlier in the week, I was lying on our Persian rug on the living room floor in front of our toasty warm wood stove with my belly propped up on the roller with the computer in front of me.  M., the male kitty came over walked across my arms in front of my face, blocking my view of the computer. He received a hug and nuzzle kiss from me. He then walked around me, stepped up onto my back and then stepped down to my left side. He then turned to face the computer and draped himself over the part of the foam roller that was extended out from from the side of my belly, his chest resting on it,  his legs and paws extended out in front of the roller, just like I am doing and snugged up warm, against my side facing the computer.  M. is so cuddly cozy and companionable.  What a kitty!  I called Miss Violet to come and see our funny kitty. She laughed.  A moment later the cook stove timer alarm went off and sadly, I had to get up to turn it off and stir up the beef I was cooking.  Of course, the movement caused M. to leave for a moment.  But when I came back he returned and situated himself, laying down in front of me under my arms up against the roller in the perfect position for me drop my head to kiss his head and nuzzle his side with my chin and nose.  He loves to snuggle any chance he gets.  Only when I am on the computer am I sitting still.  Therefore, sadly, there isn’t much snuggle time, these days.

The first harvest of the season that I got from the Main garden is chives.  They grow by one of the water spigots.  That spigot leaked a bit of water all winter, so the environment in that spot was much warmer than the surrounding areas. They are yummy.  I have eaten them raw and have cooked them in some food dishes.

The snowpack is now completely gone in the Main garden but still exists behind our wood shed where I planted my garlic and some potatoes last fall. We do at this moment of writing, do have a trace of snow in the garden from a snow shower this morning, but it will melt soon enough.  Spring snows don’t stick around at all. We still have a sizeable snow pile near the shop in the parking lot.

I found in a local grocery store that I have never been in, before, ten-pound rolls of cheap beef that contained a lot of gristle for $3.49/lb. I bought it and cooked it up for the dog and cats. I froze it in individual silicon bags.

I did laundry in the laundry sink several times this week.  It really is faster and more efficient.  Jim is researching washing machines.

Update:  Midweek, we purchased a used heavy-duty Speed Queen Washing Machine from a local family. We got it home unloaded and set up within a half hour of arriving home and immediately put in a load.   It works super well.  I have already put four loads through it.  I am so thankful that we have it.  It frees up time and makes it easier to have a very clean home. To have everything in order, once again.  Yes!

Someone wrote in last week after reading Last week’s article and asked for an article on washing clothes off-grid.  Frankly, washing clothes can be as simple as using just water in a stream or river on a warm sunny day.  One soaks their clothes, thrashes, and rubs them against each other or on a rock, then one rinses them again and keeps rinsing until no more dirt comes out of them, then you wring them with your hands to get out the excess water and then drape them over a rock or hang on a tree branch to dry. Just water and agitation will clean clothes. From here you can get as technical as you would like by adding soaps, detergents, bleach, vinegar, whiteners, tubs, buckets, James Washers, heated water, scrubbing boards, wringers, rope lines, washing machines, and dryers run by electricity or gas, powered by photovoltaics or generators, etc…

I have listened to the book of John Chapters 14-16 and I did word studies in the Blue Letter Bible App.  Words I looked up were, “Weeping, mourning, groan, earth, and creation.”  It’s amazing what one learns by looking up the scriptures that a word appears in.

I did some weightlifting, but not much because all of the shoveling that I did this week gave me aching  muscles.

May you all have a very blessed and safe week.

– Avalanche Lily, Rawles

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As always,  please share and send e-mails of your own successes and hard-earned wisdom and we will post them in the “Snippets” column this coming week.  We want to hear from you.