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Here in Vermont we were very lucky this time around when Hurricane Sandy struck — we were spared the devastation that took all of us by surprise a year ago in August. It is sad to see the destruction that has befallen our home state of New Jersey, especially “down the shore”.

It was however interesting to see as I drove around over this past weekend and on Monday before the storm gained a foothold, the preparations being taken here, although the forecast was not as dire as it was in the New York area and other coastal sections of the eastern seaboard. The gas stations were doing a booming business since everyone was there, filling their vehicles, filling their supply of gas cans (a requirement here in Vermont), and even some folks had their generators on their vehicles, filling those as well. The stores didn’t have the run that the stores closer to the storm did, but clearly you could see that people had some extra water or milk in their shopping carts. As I dropped a child off down in town, I was amazed to see that every single house along the way had their outdoor belongings tucked away or tied down, bare lawns and secured belongings clearly added to the evidence that the folks in Vermont weren’t taking any chances this time around.

One of the good things about living up here is that you feel almost compelled to be “stocked up”. Everyone, or so it seems, puts food by for the winter…or the blizzard….or the hurricane… or even the zombie apocalypse (Happy Halloween, everyone!) if you believe my sons. If you don’t can, pickle, dry or jar you are pretty much a newbie and you feel like a loser. If you haven’t learned how to make at least some of the stuff that you eat yourself … well, you definitely aren’t from around these parts. Everyone that I know does some form of preservation of the fresh summer veggies and has other goodies tucked away to keep them going through the bad weather.

My recent posts on homemade yogurt and homemade granola go hand in hand with my post on homemade jam. The peppers from the garden have been sliced and frozen for winter soups or stir fries. The tomatoes have been slowly boiled down to sauce and tucked away in the freezer. Habanero peppers, cayenne peppers and Thai peppers have been dried, as has the basil that now resides in a mason jar on a shelf in the pantry. I have made pickles and put up Jersey peaches at the height of the season.

Potatoes from the garden will be stored in the basement, along with the canned goods and non-perishables that will help us weather what Mother Nature and zombies may throw our way in the coming months. My sourdough starter is in mason jars (note the plural) in the fridge and can easily be turned into a loaf of bread when the mood strikes.

We have huge stockpots that were hauled out a few days ago to hold water in the event that the power went out, so we wouldn’t need to start the generator right away. The firewood was brought in and stacked by the wood stove. Many a batch of dough has risen by the warmth of that fire as have many bagels, cinnamon buns and dinner rolls. When the power was out before the generator, we even cooked soup and boiled water for pasta on the wood stove.

We are fortunate that the farm down the hill is a dairy farm and we have gotten raw milk there on occasion – especially when the ladies and I made cheese.

 

 

I remember someone that I knew in New Jersey years ago commenting, “why store stuff in our house when we have the supermarket down the street, storing everything for us?” Why? Because you never know when zombies can come out of the wood work or the “storm of the century” decides that you are in its path. Here, we lose the power quite a bit (not as much as we used to, but it happens with some frequency, especially during windy or rainy weather). Sometimes, it happens when you least expect it. For instance, two weeks ago at about 10 p.m. the power went out for about 1/2 hour for no discernable reason. I was critical of Tom’s decision to buy a generator, figuring candles are romantic aren’t they? However, not being able to shower or flush the toilets or have drinking water, isn’t. When we lived in New Jersey a power outage if it occurred usually happened at the height of a heatwave and resulted in no power. We had a gas stove and our water came from the water system. Here, our water comes from a well that guess what? Doesn’t work without power so when our power goes out, so goes our water, and our showers and our toilets. Trust me, generators are a good thing and for the time or two that you might need them for days or a week or more, you will be thanking your stars that you invested in one.

If living in Vermont, and my wonderful neighbors and friends, have taught me anything, it is that we have to be prepared to be self-sufficient — whatever the reason. We could survive here for days (in fact, last year when Irene struck we did) without a store run and weeks if necessary. I have made bread on the gas grill, I have cooked dinner on the wood stove. We have melted snow in pots on the wood stove to flush toilets. It may sound apocalyptic but it’s not. It’s being prepared. We are fortunate to have honey from the bees and fresh eggs from the chickens. If the zombies ever did strike, I am sure that we could have chicken from the chickens as well, but I’m hoping that we don’t have to go that route. The goats, cuties that they are, are off limits.

Being prepared is something that I have learned not to take for granted. You never know when the weather or the zombies may take a turn for the worse and after these last few storms we have all learned that you can never, ever be too prepared. In addition, knowing that you can take care of yourself and be self reliant and self sufficient, even if it is only for a few days, is a really good feeling.

I love to bake. It’s sweet – usually quite literally. I love the holidays. It is however hard to believe that my inbox has been accumulating “cookie of the day” recipes since before Halloween. I really dislike this push to get us through the holidays — at this rate I’m sure that we will be finding Valentine’s Day hearts and candy crowding the shelves well before we’re ringing in the new year. Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays, it has always been a big part of my life and my family’s lives. But, really, can we just slow it down and actually enjoy them? My sister commented that it was difficult for my youngest nephew who is autistic to understand why Christmas trees were crowding the aisles of the stores already when they were still shopping for his Halloween costume. It’s difficult for me to understand as well. Thanksgiving is coming up, yet we are bombarded by Christmas all over the place. I realize that the stores are anxiously looking to increase sales in an economy that is less than desirable for any of us, but can we also enjoy the holidays without having to cut ourselves off completely from civilization.

Christmas tree

Image via Wikipedia

I know that there are those folks out there that bake or prebake or make and freeze their cookies well in advance of the holidays. To me, that’s a couple weeks, not a couple months. I can’t even think of holiday cookie baking before Thanksgiving rolls around and I’d like to think that I am not the weird one in this equation.

Try to relax, divest yourself of the commercialism and enjoy the holidays, one at a time instead of all at once, pretty soon we’ll just be celebrating Hallothankschristmasyear Day because it would be more time-saving — and then they can start putting out those Easter bunnies in December.

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With snow on the ground and Halloween behind us, it appears that retailers would like us to be full steam ahead for the holidays. Stores are already decked out with their holiday decorations and most of them were that way well in advance of Halloween. I say it every year to my kids, give me a list — tell me what you want because I don’t want to get caught up in the craziness that becomes the holiday season. Today is November 1st and in the blink of an eye, we will be turning the calendar yet again.

Central Cemetery on All Souls' Day

Image by rwhgould via Flickr

Today and tomorrow are the holidays of All Saints Day and All Souls Day — reflection and recollection of those who are no longer with us. It is hard to embark on the journey that ends with Christmas and New Years without reflecting and remembering those who are no longer present to share those holidays with us. In my own world, Christmas and my dad are pretty much one in the same; it is hard to not think about him during the holiday season. Christmas was indeed his favorite holiday, Christmas Eve was the night he proposed to my mother and he was such a kid with presents. In many cultures and countries, on November 2nd people visit the graves of their deceased relatives to remember and reflect. My dad’s grave is hundreds of miles from where I live today, but he and my grandparents will be remembered as if I were there putting flowers on the spots where they rest.

As we enter the beginning of the race toward the holidays pause to remember what the holiday season is all about. Friends and family — those that make us smile, regardless of where they may be today.

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Welcome to the last day of October — All Hallow’s Eve. Samhain, the Celtic New Year was celebrated on November 1st. Celebrations began on the night before and since it was a time during which the pagans believed that the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was the thinnest, it was also thought of as a time when communication between the world of the living and the world of the dead was possible. When Christianity came through, the holiday of Samhain was transformed into its Christian skin and known as All Saint’s Day, November 2nd became All Soul’s Day . Hallowmas is Old English for All Saint’s Day and the night before was deemed All Hallow’s Eve or eventually, the Halloween as we know it.

Jack-o-latern

Image via Wikipedia

Tonight, a few towns over from us, there will be the annual Rutland Halloween Parade. The parade is celebrating its 52nd year this year and is considered one of the largest, if not the largest, Halloween Parade in the United States. I must say that it is one cool parade. If you ever have the opportunity, I suggest that you take it in. Traditionally, the parade is always held on Halloween itself, regardless of the day of the week that it falls on. This year, the parade was to be held on Saturday, October 29th. The snowstorm that overtook much of the East Coast saw to putting it back in its rightful place — late Saturday afternoon, the powers that be deemed that the parade would be postponed and held on…..you guessed it…. Halloween.

Not good for my brother and his family who traveled up to see the parade and couldn’t stay until Monday for it — but good that it wasn’t canceled all together. That only happened once in 1962 – before my time.  This year’s parade will honor the heroes of Tropical Storm Irene — the policemen, rescue workers, firemen and construction folks who are considered by a great many here to be real superheros. Just like Humpty Dumpty they’re the ones that helped to put Vermont back together again after one of its biggest disasters. Tonight, I can imagine that they will be the folks commanding the biggest cheers.

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Jack-o-latern
Image via Wikipedia

Or, Happy New Year as Halloween marks the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The holiday in Celtic is called Samhain which means “summer’s end” and marks the transition from the light part of the year to the dark part of the year. Halloween is considered one of the oldest holidays and has traces of both pagan and christian meshed into it. The Wiccan and pagan celebration of Halloween reflected the belief that during the time from October 31 through November 1 the veil between this mortal world and the spirit world is the thinnest, enabling departed spirits to mingle with the living. When the Christians became involved and attempted to convert the holiday, Halloween became known as All Hallow’s Eve, the night before the Christian celebration of All Saints Day on November 1st.

The tradition of giving out candy is believed to be derived from the Celtic traditions which marked the giving of food and drink to costumed celebrants of Samhain, on the chance that they were departed spirits returned to mingle among the living. The Celtics keep hearths burning all night long to light the way for the spirits to return to the world of the mortals.

However you celebrate Halloween, may the spirits be with you. Happy Halloween!

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Photo: Craftzine

I came across this and it is just so darn cool, I had to share.

Craftzine has a post on a completely knitted skeleton created by fiber artist, Ben Cuevas. If you go on over to his site you can see some of the finer detail of this work of art. Truly amazing stuff.

Photo: Craftzine (Ben Cuevas skeleton)

My hat totally goes off to him, ’cause you can ask Tom, the words that can come out of my mouth when I’m knitting socks can be pretty aweful, imagine knitting a whole human (skeleton)!

DSCN1594Everyone associates Vermont with certain things – maple syrup, fall foliage and skiing. But Halloween? Vermont boasts the country’s largest and longest running Halloween parade in the country. The parade takes place every year, like clockwork on Halloween night at 6:30 p.m. This year the Rutland Halloween Parade turns 50. The parade has run every year  with the exception of one year, 1962 when it was canceled due to the weather. Last year, one of the original founders of the parade, Tom Fagan died on October 21st. He desired not to miss the parade in the event of his death and there was serious talk about putting him in the parade – despite the fact that he was dead. I kid you not. Ultimately, he didn’t make it, but imagine what sort of stories that would have created for generations to come? A parade so good, you even come when you’re dead.

The parade, some would argue, lacks the glitz and glamour associated with that other famous Halloween Parade, the one that takes place in Greenwich Village, NYC. Others, like myself, would disagree. The parade takes community to another level, only the way Vermont can do it. Hay wagons and manure spreaders are transformed into floats, school bands, community groups and even the sheep and cows march in the parade. Everyone can march and everyone participates, whether you are the one throwing the candy (Mardi Gras style) or the one in the crowds, collecting it. The streets are lined with people, more people than one would see at any other time in Rutland or at any one place in Vermont for that matter.

We have been attending the parade for years now, even before we moved here permanently. Once the boys found out that you could stand in one spot and collect an entire sack full of candy and assorted goodies, all while being entertained, they were hooked.

This year, Tim’s Odyssey of the Mind team will have a float in the parade. This means that two of the boys will be parade participants. I promised them that somehow they wouldn’t miss out on the candy, and I guess that I should get cracking on that one, since time is a wastin’.

If you are in the Rutland area, I would highly suggest that you endure the Vermont-style crowds and take in the parade, it is well worth it.

Evilwife on the move

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