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A few days ago, the Damsel posted an interesting infographic on preparedness. (See THIS post) Pretty amazing, and for most people, a bit overwhelming. The Damsel received this thoughtful reply and wanted to pass it along to you. (with permission)

“This friend of the Damsel found this plan fascinating and exhaustING!  and feels that the sanest form of preparedness is what my friends and I call “provident living.”  This means that we prepare thoughtfully for future emergencies without excessive focus on fearful events.  If we know how do to the necessities “old school” style, and live closer to the earth in practical ways, storing what we eat and eating what we store, we will be better able to cope with various disruptions in the world as we now know it.
This matrix has a lot of elements of fear and extreme changes, and it is both entertaining and anxiety-making to contemplate. But as for me, I cannot live happily if I am always imagining the scary future.  I have to live mostly with the demands of today. Not to be overly pious, but honestly, are not the evils of any given day sufficient thereunto? (Matt 6:34) I subscribe to the philosophy, “if you are prepared you shall not fear.”
This prepper plan would take the dedication of an absorbing hobby–using a lot of time and a lot of money.  But I have printed it and will put it in my binder for a time when I have a little extra of both, because it is so very complete.
Love your writing.

Carolyn McDonald”

Thank you, Carolyn. The Damsel appreciates your point of view and common sense.

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At the Cottage by the Mountains, it’s finally spring, and the garden planting has commenced: peas, beans, beets, spinach, chard, and onions are currently underway. Various squash and pumpkin starts are next up to move outdoors, and last fall’s garlic planting is looking great. Here we go!

Garden experts say that plants grow best in a neutral pH environment…not too acidy, not to alkaline. 6 or 7 on the pH scale is good. So now that many of us are getting ready to sow our gardens, how can we find out about the soil’s acidity?

pH test kits are readily available at home and garden stores, but here’s a simple and sorta free way to test your soil’s pH level, with stuff you probably have in your cupboard.


Go out to your garden and scoop some soil into a cup or jar. Add a half cup of vinegar. If the soil bubbles, it’s alkaline. In a separate container, scoop a fresh sample, and add 1/2 cup baking soda mixed in 1/2 cup water. Fizzing here says your soil is acidy.

To bring your garden soil into the neutral range, you will need to add to or “amend” your soil, as they say in Gardenland. Amend your soil with wood ash or lime, if it’s acidic. Amend your soil with sulfur or pine needles, if it’s alkaline. There are probably other amendments your local garden store would recommend as well.

The Damsel wishes you good luck with Garden 2013.

EDIT: please see the comments for a very informative link on adding pine needles to your soil or compost pile.





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The Damsel found this prepping matrix exhaustive and fascinating. What do you think?

A link to a .pdf version is below the image.

prepping matrix ver 1

prepping matrix ver 1prepping matrix ver 1

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From time to time, the Damsel receives requests to guest post at the Old School. Substitute teaching, so to speak. She must admit that most of the requests don’t fit in with the curriculum and she sadly has to take a pass.

However, this one caught her eye. Could it be because the photo features a MAN cleaning?

How to Speed Clean the Kitchen
The kitchen is the room in the home that is cleaned the most frequently, so that thorough cleaning, which is carried out from time to time, is easier. With the aid of organisation and planning, the whole kitchen can be cleaned in a really short span of time. Of course, even when the daily cleaning of the kitchen is carried out, people need the usual cleaning tools and substances. They should have enough cloths, sponges, cleaners, etc. If there are not enough tools or cleaning products at home, the necessary ones should be bought before the speed cleaning starts.


  1. First the sink should be filled with hot water, and soap should be added. If there is a double sink with a garbage disposal, the disposal free side should be used. The disposal side will be useful when it is necessary to scrape leftovers and send them down the drain. The scraping off of the dishes into the disposal is the next step. The dishes that need to be soaked in order to be washed well should be inserted into the dishwasher. The most heavily soiled dishes should be left at the bottom of the dishwasher. The large ones, like bowls or pans, should be filled with soapy water and left to soak.
  2. While the dishes are soaking, it is time to clear the garbage from the floor, collect unnecessary matter from the cupboards or from any place in the kitchen.
    There can be items in the kitchen that do not belong there, having been left by the family members while in a hurry. These items should be gathered in one place, and preferably put into some container, for example a basket, to be taken out in order to take the items to the places where they belong. Here is when more family members can join to help make cleaning the kitchen shorter.
  3. Then the dishwasher can be loaded, or washing the dishes by hand can be done. The washing by hand option is another stage of cleaning the kitchen when more family members can join to speed up the washing and putting in place of dishes, cutlery, etc.
  4. The next stage of the fast cleaning of the kitchen is the washing of the appliances, the sink, and the worktop.
  5. After the washing and the wiping, it is time to rinse the cloths and the sponges. Mopping or vacuuming should round off the speed cleaning process.
  6. The garbage collected in the course of the cleaning can be taken out and disposed of.

The amount of time spent on speed cleaning the kitchen depends on the number of householders. With larger families, the speed cleaning undertaking will take longer. On the other hand, if speed cleaning is done by the whole family, e.g. after dinner, it can be really fast and hassle free. Speed cleaning is needed on a daily basis, as a small cleaning project which saves a lot of time in the long run, and also when some unexpected guests phone to inform they are coming any moment. Speed cleaning can turn into a fun family game if you involve some of the family members who can even get some small reward for the work being done.
Bio: Cindy Davis is writer and freelancer. She has great passion for cleaning, as it is of great importance of her family’s health to always keep their home clean and sanitized. Therefore her present article is focused around this topic.

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Bright lights, big lettuce.

The Damsel heard you could grow lettuce indoors under florescent lights and decided then and there she wanted to try it, because the Cottage By The Mountains was buried in snow, and spring seemed oh so far away. She yearned for soil, seeds, and sprouts.

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Jan. 26: She fetched a plastic tray that bedding plants came in last year and filled it full of potting soil. After wetting the soil well, she made a little furrow with her finger. Then she sprinkled two kinds of lettuce seed in the furrows. She figured she was using way too much seed, but the seed looked so…well, like little broken pieces of stems/leaves/plant matter…not uniform at all. She couldn’t feel sure what was seed and what wasn’t. She decided she’d plant thick and then thin the plants later. Then she covered the furrows and patted it sweetly.

The husband found a spot beside a garage window and rigged a florescent light directly overhead.

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Ten days later she saw this and felt happy inside. Green growing things!

A lot more lettuce seed sprouted than the Damsel guessed. Obviously they would never grow well this close together, so when the plants got to be a few inches tall, she thinned them even though it broke her heart to pull out the little darlings.

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March 8. Yes, there are two types of lettuce: a red leaf variety and a green romaine.

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This photo shows the placement of the florescent lights…the closer, the better. We also rotate the tray so both sides get the benefit of the sun through the window, but people have successfully grown lettuce indoors where there are no windows at all. So there you go.

The Damsel has eaten a bit of this lettuce already–she snipped it off with a pair of sharp scissors instead of pulling it out because IT WILL GROW BACK. Is that not the best thing ever?

Next year the Damsel plans to have lettuce grown all through the winter, now that she knows how easy and delicious it is.

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how to freeze eggs

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We freeze all sorts of things to keep them for later. Why don’t people know that we can freeze eggs too?


(eggs courtesy of the Damsel’s Freerange Flightless Female Flock.)

It’s okay. You can do it. It’s not illegal. The knowledge of this secret can now sweep the earth.

Now, calmly realize you aren’t going to be able to thaw a frozen egg and then cook it sunny side up. But you can use them quite happily in baked things, and even scrambled eggs.

Most professional egg-freezers say to do it like this: Crack the eggs into a bowl, and lightly mix them. Break up the yolks and so on, but don’t beat a lot of air into the eggs.

The Damsel wonders why, but although many people share the air warning, no one seems to know the reason.

Then pour the eggs into an ice cube tray. Freeze, then pop them out into a ziplock bag. One cube = one egg.

Some people have had trouble getting the egg cubes to pop out. One person even said they broke the ice cube tray because they tried so very hard. So, you may want to spray the ice cube tray with cooking spray and see if that helps.

Others like to freeze the whites and yolks separately.

Yolks, whether separate or part of a whole egg, will become lumpy after freezing, but this can be avoided by stirring in a 1/2-teaspoon salt per 1-cup of egg or yolks. If using for desserts, use 1-tablespoon sugar or corn syrup per 1-cup yolks or whole eggs.

Why are they called “yolks?” Yolk. Yolk. What a funny word.

You can just freeze the eggs in a freezer container instead of the ice cube tray, and then measure out the amount you want. (Thaw by putting in the refrigerator the day before you want to use them) Here is a handy chart for that:

Whole Eggs
3 whole eggs = 1/2 cup
1 whole egg = 3 tablespoons

6-7 yolks = 1/2 cup
1 yolk = 1 tablespoon

4-6 whites = 1/2 cup
1 white = 2 tablespoons

One reader (Hi Caleb!) has a good suggestion: crack the eggs directly into a freezer bag. He prefers making bags of two eggs since that’s what most of his recipes call for. He doesn’t mix the eggs or fool around with salt or sugar. He lays them flat in the freezer so they take up very little space.

Or, go walk on the wild side. This will sound heretical, but you could just Put The Egg In The Freezer. Just as it is. Shell and all. It won’t explode. It may crack, and while this is disturbing, you may decide you feel ok about it. Cracked eggs aren’t a great idea because eggs can harbor salmonella. But if the egg is frozen, and then thawed and cooked thoroughly, you may decide the chances of contamination are pretty small. Your mileage may vary.

Be aware that thawed eggs will seem watery, but will cook up just fine.


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kitchen cheat sheet

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Here’s a super cool infographic for cheating in the kitchen. It says it’s for the UK but even if the Damsel is a Yank, she found it useful and appealing, especially below the metric conversion section.

The Damsel regrets she can’t seem to figure out how to fix the fact that the sidebar blocks part of the image. **fail**  To see the complete image and/or for a printable version, please click the handy link at the bottom.


If you’d like to find a printable version of this cheat sheet, visit the Everest kitchens page.

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How to make oat flour:

Real way: obtain whole oat grains, ideally by going into an organic field with a sickle, while singing Kumbaya. Grind them in a mill.

Lazy/easy way: Put oatmeal (dry, uncooked, plain, old-fashioned or quick) in your blender. Turn it on. Watch it turn into powder, which you now name “oat flour.”

Seems too simple to be right, but for most purposes, it will work just fine.

You’re welcome.

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Yay! The Old School is featured in this list of the top 100 food blogs to follow in 2013. What an honor! Check it out at #70:

Top 100 food blogs to follow


An infographic by the team at CouponAudit


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At the Cottage by the Mountains, snow isn’t unusual. It’s a pretty constant companion through January and February. Snow is common off and on from Halloween to Mother’s Day.

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But snow this deep is pretty rare. (A shot of the path to the chicken coop.)

All this snow makes the Damsel crave a cup of hot chocolate–one of her weaknesses. Some whipped cream on top makes it even more special. But sometimes, that’s not so easy. Maybe there’s no spray cream in the house. (There usually is no spray cream in the house.) Cream freezes well, but at times it’s hard to wait until the cream thaws to indulge that hot chocolate yearning. By the time it’s whipped, life has passed us by. And who wants to create all those dishes for a little plop of whipped cream?

When a recipe calls for heavy or whipped cream, the Damsel often has some left. It’s as easy as kindergarten to make this leftover cream into hot chocolate dollops that you can freeze–and then access instantly the next time a cup of hot chocolate comes into your life.

If it’s not already whipped, whip the cream until it’s nice and firm–to the point where it holds its shape. Add sweetening and vanilla if you’re that kind of person. Now spread a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment or wax paper.


Make dollops of whipped cream on the cookie sheet . . . you can use a decorating gun if you want, like this, or just use a spoon. Set this cookie sheet carefully in the freezer so it stays level. In an hour or so the dollops should be frozen.


Load these (quickly) into a freezer bag and keep in the most convenient, easy-to-grab place in your freezer. Then you know what to do. Put on or two of these into a cup of steaming hot chocolate and there you go.

The Damsel loves this for both reasons. 1. Cream in hot chocolate, heaven. 2. Using up leftover cream instead of letting it languish in the back of the fridge, win.

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