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Enjoying Autumn & Pumpkin Spice Maple Syrup

In my corner of the world, autumn arrived many weeks ago and is near its righteous peak this very moment. Skies so deeply blue, catching the scent of overly ripe grapes and blackberries as I go about chores. Geese overhead in the afternoon, departing for winter, one flock at a time. Rose hips plump, sweet and frost-kissed. They are ready to be dried for a winter supply of Vitamin C, and some will be sampled fresh, too. Persimmon of the north. 

The seasons here feel like theatre to me. Every aspect elevated beyond my limited imaginings, each with its own dramatic flair. A production so grand even the finest Broadway directors could not begin to duplicate it. Here, the premium box seats are found on the edge of the garden as I watch my flock cluck and purr their way through the garden for fall cleanup; beneath a crimson maple tree as the sun dips below the western ridge; on the water, enjoying a late day paddle, listening to the chatter of loons as a bald eagle swoops down, talons extended, snatching a plump fish straight from the water’s surface for their dinner. Immediately knowing you might never bear witness to a scene like that that again. 

Inside, surfaces overflow with the fruits of the season. Herbs drying, seeds accumulating, vegetables ripening and awaiting my attention. My two hands can only do so much and this year more than any other, I think they have reached capacity. I am ready to be done with food preservation, but there is much to do still. Kale, cabbage, apples, pears, carrots, tomatoes, onions, leeks. Give the cold room shelves a fresh wipe down with vinegar and water before filling them up with the winter squash that’s been curing in the greenhouse for weeks, bushels of potatoes, onions, carrots, and garlic. Make tomato sauce. Clean out the catch-all freezer so that we have room for the chickens in a few weeks, and hopefully venison a few weeks after that. 


Last week I made a recipe for Pumpkin Spice Simple Syrup that was circulating on Instagram and it was delicious! The idea is to use it in your coffee, which I did with great autumnal pleasure. I went ahead and made a second batch this weekend and tweaked the recipe enough that it no longer resembles the original at all, so I am going to share it here in case you’d like to make some. 


Pumpkin Spice Maple Syrup

  • 2 tbsp pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 (slightly rounded) tsp pumpkin pie spice

In a small over medium-high heat, bring mixture just to a boiling point, while whisking. Turn heat down to medium-low and continue whisking for 2-3 minutes, until everything is combined. Watch carefully so it does not boil over. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Shake or stir before use. Will keep for 7-10 days. Use in coffee or stir into steel cut oatmeal. 


Even though our harvest and preservation tasks continue to stretch out before us, it’ll all end soon enough. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise anyone around here if we see our first snow in a few weeks. Another summer has passed us by, and this one for the record books; I will give a proper end of season garden and harvest synopsis soon. For now, there is nesting to do and September to enjoy. 

Stocking a Two Week Pantry of Food and Water for Emergencies

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Let’s return to our ongoing series on everyday preparedness. Today we will talk about stocking two weeks worth of food and water in your home. Two important steps that go hand in hand, so I am including them together as Step One.

Step One? But we’ve already had a few posts in this series!

When the idea for this topic was first suggested, I jumped in a little out of order due to immediate and ongoing needs that most people were facing. In the spring, I felt there was a small window to focus on time sensitive matters such as planting a garden or developing relationships with others who grow food nearby. We’ve taken care of that now, so let’s focus on what many deem the actual first step you should take in emergency preparedness: two weeks or stored food and water. 

The time to plan for a disaster is of course not in the midst of disaster, but here we are wrapped up in an ongoing global pandemic, while many of our western neighbors in the US are evacuating their homes due to the ravages of wildfires. Add to that social and political unrest, and it seems disaster is all around us. So we take the next step, do the next right thing, and try our best. It's all any of us can do. 

If you are someone that is at square one, operating with a slim pantry and much needed weekly trips to the market, this post is for you. 

Before we get too far along, I feel compelled to tell you that I do not use the term “preparedness” much in my day to day life. This aspect of my identity is not placed in a separate category, nor is it a persona or a group I identify with. It all makes me feel a little strange quite frankly. Mostly it’s a term that I use only in instances like this, when talking with others, as a way to cut to the chase on the subject. Growing extra, storing extra, prioritizing health; these are things that are incorporated into my everyday life without much delineation. Save for a rainy day and all that.

Having said that, I have been of a “preparedness” mindset for most of my adult life, with more attention given to the matter since my family experienced Hurricane Irene in 2011, with a subsequent eight day power outage. Additionally, a tree fell through our neighbors' house and several centennial maples and oaks were down throughout our neighborhood, cutting power lines, blocking roads, blowing up and igniting transformers (911 told us to "let them burn"). We managed okay (city water still flows, it turns out), but if an eight day power outage with massive, costly cleanup is not eye opening for a person, I’m not sure what would be. Irene revealed to us not how difficult or inconvenient it was to live without power for eight days (it wasn’t), but the unexpected supply gaps, upheaval, and overall vulnerabilities one cannot quite imagine unless you experience it first hand. The biggest lesson for me from that event?

In times of natural disaster, you and your community are on your own. At least for a period of time.

There is no emergency switch that can be flipped to instantly mobilize the government to make it all go away. They do not have a magic wand. Depending on the scale of the emergency and volume of population involved, things just might be bad for a while. This is probably not so much due to governmental apathy as it is because in general, bureaucratic entities are historically inept at responding swiftly or maintaining proper supplies. That, and at the end of the day, mother nature remains more powerful than government agencies. Do I think our government could try harder and make better decisions and plans for the American people? Yes I do. Will that likely happen anytime soon? It’s not something I count on.

But I can count on myself. You can count on yourself. And we can count on each other.

Until eight months ago, I would have suggested to anyone who asked that they begin by stocking a minimum of two weeks supply of food and stored water, and work up from there. At the time, my personal bare minimum supply for food and various household consumables was about three months. My true comfort level was six months. Now? Double all of those numbers. For us, this includes any and all supplies that we would need to comfortably live if we did not have access to a store. My unwritten rule has always been to prepare for scenarios we’ve actually lived through, plus a bit more. Now that we’ve lived through a global pandemic, we’ve added extended lockdown and supply interruptions to our readiness plan.

For the purposes of this post, I want to focus on the most immediate needs that any family will likely face: getting through two weeks. Even though that timeframe feels paltry in current times, it statistically provides good coverage for the most likely scenarios, and is a manageable starting point for the average family. Secure two weeks, then build from there.

Please note that I am writing this as a general guideline for the average household. Everyone has unique circumstances to consider, and should. For instance, I don’t worry much about refrigeration for seven months out of the year because our winters are so cold. We will not lose perishables during that time when the power goes out. Sure, we might need to get creative and move some things around, but we won't lose anything. We have the means to cook and bake without electricity, so we do not feel dependent on canned goods, though they can be nice simply for convenience.

Your two week pantry should suit your needs and current circumstances.

A typical two week emergency pantry needs to include at least two gallons of water per person per day, and (mostly) shelf stable foods, with a simple way to heat them. These may not be your first choice meals, but they should be foods that you find palatable and nutritious enough to actually use in rotation, over time. If they are not needed for an emergency, you will eventually want to consume them so they do not go to waste.

The first thing we need to talk about in detail is water. People get excited about stocking food and various supplies, but without water, there is no point in stocking two weeks worth of food because you will not live long enough to enjoy it. In another post we will get further into longterm water storage and systems, because no matter how much you have stocked up now, it is not enough for true longterm needs. While it is possible for the average person to stock 6-12 months worth of food and supplies, the average person does not have the space to stock 6-12 months of water. You need back up water systems, and we will cover that soon. For now, lets focus on two weeks, because that will provide for the majority of life’s emergencies.

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Some of our two week emergency water supply is in those buckets.

Nothing fancy, just stacked up in front of our oil tank. 


Two Week Water Supply

As mentioned above, the first thing to understand about water is that you cannot store enough of it for long term needs. A few cases of bottled water thrown into your grocery cart is not a water storage solution. Every person needs to have a water plan, no matter where you live. For today, we are focusing on two weeks. The good news is, everyone can store two weeks worth of water, and doing so is really quite easy. You might have to look at it in the corner of your bedroom if you have a small space, but if you have a roof over your head, you have enough room for two weeks worth of water (I know, I can be a little tough-love about this).


Here is a simple equation to follow:

  • number of people in household x two gallons = number of gallons needed daily
  • number of gallons needed daily x fourteen days = two week supply


You can choose to stock this by purchasing one gallon or three gallon jugs at the grocery store, or use food grade five gallon buckets or three gallon water bricks*, filling those containers straight from your tap, which is a great option if you have well water. This is our method. We do not have any bottled water on hand to speak of. (We do have a Berkey water filter that any stored water is filtered through before consumption. It is stored in plastic after all, which to us is not ideal.)

*We have several water bricks and paid A LOT less five years ago than the current cost in the link provided. 

You will also need to stock water for pets and other animals. Quantities vary depending on the animal and size (and if you have a pond or creek), but you will need to consider planning for them as well.

That’s about it for a two week supply of water. The method couldn’t be simpler: fill containers or buy bottled water. One of the reasons I like to store in our own containers is so I can rotate it out every six months or so without wasting money. I just use it to water plants and the garden.

Now let’s talk about building a two-week emergency food pantry.



Two Short-Term Food Pantry Scenarios

There are two ways to go about this. Both methods are equally important, and both are only a starting point. A doable, immediate way to pad the reserves. If you are starting from square one and have no working pantry to speak of, I would begin with a Natural Disaster/Grid Down Pantry. A two week inventory that will likely serve the majority of your emergency needs. Once you have that covered, move on to building your two week Everyday Protection Pantry.


1. Natural Disaster/Grid Down Pantry

This two week supply should consist of foods that require little to no cooking, preferably with just the addition of water, and are shelf stable. Consider this your When the Lights Go Out supply. Snowstorm, ice storm, hurricane, tornado, flooding, earthquake, etc. These things happen every day and are rarely, if ever, marked on the calendar. Is your family ready for weather events common for your region?

When building a two week emergency pantry, consider nutrition, ease of storage/preparation, and comfort. If you are in an area where evacuation is likely, you will want to store these easy to heat foods in lidded totes along with water and a camp stove for easy grab and go. Add a mess kit for each family member as well.

This pantry is not necessarily the tastiest, nor is it the most nutritious, but it will get you and your children through, and that is important. My only suggestion when building this supply is to purchase items with some intention. Meaning, if ramen noodles and Vienna sausages are the last thing you want to eat on a good day, then don’t buy them. Maybe stock up on peanut butter, good quality crackers, canned fruit, and organic macaroni and cheese instead. This is not a true longterm pantry, at some point your family is going to need to rotate through this shelf stable food if it is not needed for an emergency; you won’t want anything to go to waste.


Ideas for a two week (shelf stable) emergency pantry:

  • oats
  • granola
  • nut or seed butters
  • jam
  • rice cakes
  • hot cocoa mix or ingredients
  • coffee, tea, hot cocoa mix
  • canned beans
  • canned soup
  • pasta + sauce
  • rice
  • seasoned rice mixes
  • salsa
  • macaroni and cheese
  • baked beans
  • trail mix
  • canned meats - tuna, chicken, salmon, sardines
  • eggs (farm fresh, unwashed eggs do not need refrigeration)
  • quick cooking grains such as quinoa and rice
  • maple syrup or honey
  • powdered or canned milk/cream
  • dried fruit
  • applesauce
  • add-water-only pancake mix (you can make this homemade)
  • nuts and/or seeds
  • canned fruit
  • canned vegetables
  • dehydrated vegetables
  • crackers
  • tortillas
  • jerky
  • granola bars
  • treats such as chocolate or potato chips
  • seasonings
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • ghee
  • lard
  • optional - butter, sealed cured meats and hard cheeses that can manage with little or no refrigeration


Optional non-food items:

  • camp stove + fuel
  • mess kits
  • vitamins
  • hygiene supplies
  • medications
  • first aid kit
  • oil lamps
  • matches/lighters
  • flashlights/headlamps and batteries
  • paper goods

Similar to stocking your water supply, you will need to do a little math to figure how much food is needed for your family. If your family family needs two boxes of macaroni and cheese plus a cup of dehydrated veggies for a meal, and you want to have enough in your pantry for this meal to be served twice in your two week plan, then you’ll need four boxes of macaroni and two cups of dehydrated vegetables. Go through this process with every item in your pantry or meal/snack you'd like to serve. Even if it’s something as simple as Ramen. If you need one package of ramen per person per meal, and you have four family members, you’ll need four packages per meal. Would you like to serve this twice in your two week plan? Then you’ll need eight packages. I know this might seem obvious to some of you, but sometimes people feel paralyzed by not knowing how much to stock, and they stock nothing as a result.

My biggest tip for stocking a Natural Disaster/Grid Down Pantry is to keep a master list with your supply that lists simple meal ideas that can be made from the pantry. This way everyone knows what is available and you won’t need to get creative in the moment.


Examples might include:

  • Apple Cinnamon Oats - oats, dried apples, cinnamon, powdered milk, honey, salt
  • Rice and Beans - rice, canned beans, taco seasoning, jar of salsa
  • Peanut Butter & Jam Crackers
  • Macaroni & Cheese w/ Dehydrated Mixed Vegetables (added during cooking)
  • Rice Cakes w/ Nut Butter + raisins
  • GORP - good ol’ raisins and peanuts
  • Rice Mixes cooked with dehydrated vegetables and a can of chicken added
  • Snack Plates - nuts, dried fruit, crackers, hard cheese and meat (if you have), or tuna
  • Canned Soup, crackers, applesauce


2. Everyday Protection Pantry

This pantry is to be used when utilities are still functioning, but life throws a curveball in the form of job loss, medical event, death in the family, or interruption in food supply type scenarios. You will still have electricity so cooking, running water, and refrigeration remain, you just need a cushion to see you through.

Your Everyday Protection Pantry will include ingredients to make the meals your family already enjoys on a regular basis! Nothing terribly complicated, and it does help to focus on your favorite meals that utilize pantry or frozen ingredients so foods needed are not highly perishable. This is a great place to stock a few freezer meals, and to focus on your family’s easy button favorites such as grilled cheese and tomato soup, nachos, omelets and toast, chicken potpie, beef stew. Fresher, more perishable ingredients than your Natural Disaster/Grid Down Pantry, but still fairly storable with the help of refrigeration.

This pantry may take a bit longer to build if finances need to stretch, but the best approach is to make a two week menu of your family’s favorite easy meals, then start doubling ingredients for one or two meals each time you go shopping over the next few weeks. Put up the extra ingredients, and soon enough you will have your two week backup supply for all your family favorites.



I’m sure many of you already have two weeks worth of food and stored water, but for those that do not, I hope this is helpful. If finances are keeping you from doing this, your community food shelf can be of help. Two weeks worth of food is not “hoarding.” Please do not feel guilty for utilizing community food assistance. If their supplies are low and they cannot help, they will tell you. They might even tell you of a better time to come back when supplies are replenished. Food shelf workers tend to know the schedule of certain deliveries and just because they cannot help in that moment, does not mean there will not be better time in a few days or so. It never hurts to inquire.

And finally, a two week emergency pantry is not just for you. No matter how often we plead with the people we care about, some people are just not going to do this. Not because they can't, but because they do not see the point. Like you and me, they will have hard times, too. That's just life. And gosh darn it because we care about their unprepared selves (wink, wink), we're going to want to help. 

In times like we are experiencing now, two weeks hardly seems like security, but it is a tangible starting point that anyone can focus on. From there, you can work on a three month plan which we will cover soon. Eat the elephant one bite at a time, as they say.

Life has taught me that hard times and emergencies are never written on the calendar. I don't know about you, but I've never had an appointments for one. If there are simple steps I can take to ease some of the hardships life brings for myself or those I care about, then that is something I try to do... for myself, my family, and my immediate community.

I hope this is helpful for you. As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions. 


Preparedness Series (to date)

  1. At Home Cold & Flu Kit
  2. It's Just How I'm Wired {Preparedness Introduction}
  3. Now is the Time to Grow Food
  4. This Year, Go all In: 2020 Vegetable Garden
  5. Stocking a Two Week Pantry of Food and Water for Emergencies