Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Month Twelve in Review and Month Thirteen Prepping Plan

I don't know about you, but the current events of the last month have really encouraged me to keep prepping. I've been only at this for a year and I feel even more fired up about preparedness than I did a year ago. I hope you all have made strides in your family's preparedness over the past month. Here's what I did:

Month Twelve in Review:

1. Added more $ to our BOBs/at-home emergency fund. It wasn't much, but I did put some of the cash left over from our vacation in our BOBs.  Even small amounts add up if you're a consistent saver!

2. Finished up the "leftovers" from Month Eleven.  I bought another case of toilet paper (I think we have about eight months worth at the moment) and got my improvised Bucket Berkey water filter.

3. Bought some additional preparedness and food storage-related books for our home library.

I bought Where There Is No Doctor, Where There Is No Dentist, Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners, and the SAS Survival Handbook

Combined with the books I bought last month, I have a ton of great reference material. I'll be posting reviews of all the books over the next month.

4. We continued to build our food storage. We bought 15 more pounds of honey and some more evil (but occasionally useful) shortening at Sam's, but mostly I spent my budget at Honeyville Grain and Emergency Essentials. I added more vital wheat gluten, freeze-dried veggies, split peas, barley, lentils, black and kidney beans, and freeze-dried fruit. We finally have a year's worth of legumes for our family. Whew! At least there's one item I can check off the list.

5. We were very busy in the garden. We weeded and planted, but didn't need to water very much due to all the severe weather! We're enjoying the fruits of our labor and can't wait for that first ripe tomato!

6. Enjoyed a safe vacation with my family. Disney World was fun, but there is no place like home.
My goals for June include:
1. Getting a dehydrator and experimenting with drying garden produce and herbs.

2. I want to stock up on canning supplies. I need more jars and I want to try out those reuseable canning lids.

4. More food storage, of course. Also some first aid items, as my budget permits. 

What preparedness projects do you have planned for this summer?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

How Does My Garden Grow? May Garden Update

The last time I did a garden update, I tried to remain upbeat. The truth of the matter was, it wasn't looking very pretty. Those rascally rodents really did a number on our garden.  What a difference a month makes!

We're very thankful that severe weather missed us for the most part. We did get buckets and buckets of rain - hence the flooding in the above picture. You can see there is standing water around the garden, but the raised beds have great drainage and our plants have done just fine. 

We've been up to our eyeballs in lettuce.

Mesclun, anyone?

My kids adore salad but even they have had their fill of leaf lettuce mix and romaine lettuce. No complaints from us adults! Lettuce is such a simple, rewarding crop to grow, not to mention economical. We bought a packet of All Star Gourmet Salad Mix for $3.95 and one of Winter Density romaine for $1.95. We have already harvested crops worth many times that value, particularly when you consider that it was grown organically.

We been enjoying some radishes along with our salads, too.

Everything else we've planted in our garden is sprouting and luxuriating in the return of sunny weather.

The east end of our garden. Hubby Dear made the tomato cages out of remesh wire and fastened them to T posts.

It's amazing to see how much the garden will change just within the course of several hours. Green beans and corn are popping up like crazy.

Strawberries are supposed to be here.

Just don't mention the strawberries, which have been a complete and total mystery. Mini-Me has a few healthy plants in her section of the kids' box, but ours are (literally) toast. We're still watering the crisp nubs that are left in the forlorn hope that something will sprout from the roots. I don't know what happened, but we'll try again next year, if necessary. 

How does your garden grow this month?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How to Make Your Own Gravity-Fed Water Filter

I hope you all are enjoying your Memorial Day weekend. Take some time to remember the reason for the holiday in between bites of BBQ, 'K?

We have quite a bit of water stored, but if there was a long-term emergency or if I simply wanted to do some laundry, we would go through our stored water quickly. You've simply got to have a way to make water safe for consumption.

You can strain and then boil water, which will certainly work fine. You could also use water purification tablets or disinfect the water by using the power of the sun. All of those methods require extra effort on my part. If there's one thing you should know about me, it is that I am l-a-z-y! I want clean water and I don't want to have to do very much to get it. Oh, and the water should taste good at the end of the deal, too.

A gravity-fed water filtration system is just the ticket. Here's the lovely stainless steel Berkey model that they sell on Amazon, at Lehman's and other retailers:

You pour the water in the top and gravity does the rest. The only problem is that a filter like this one will cost nearly $300.

I don't know about you, but that kind of money isn't in my budget when I've got so many other things to stock up on. The good news is that you can make your own filtration system for about half the cost.  This is an excellent post that gives step by step instructions and pictures.

Now back to my laziness. We didn't actually make our own filter. I planned to, but after reading about it on survivalblog, we bought a Bucket Berkey Water Filter Kit from disasterstuff.com.

Image from disasterstuff.com

The cost for two Berkey elements, the buckets, lids, spigot, etc. was $135. Everything was predrilled, so all you have to do is screw it together and viola! Instant cheap Berkey.

Now if I have to collect rainwater or bring back water from a farm pond, I'm confident we'll end up with safe, palatable drinking water.

What are your plans for obtaining clean drinking water for your family in an emergency?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Staying Sweet: Sugar as part of your Food Storage Plan

Sugar is one of the "no-nos" of the typical American diet. If refined sugar is supposed to be so bad for you and have very little nutritional value, why should you have sugar as part of your food storage?

Lots of reasons!

First, you need at least a bit of sugar for most types of baking and many items that you can (jams, jellies, pickles, etc.). If you are cooking exclusively from food storage, you need to have all of the basic building blocks available to you. Like it or not, sugar is part of that.

Not only is sugar an essential in many made-from-scratch items, but sugar is also something that is difficult to make on your own. Unless you have a bee hive or sugar cane field and processing equipment, you need to store it. If you look back to the time of the pioneers, they treasured sugar because it wasn't always readily available. Store it today, because tomorrow it might be unavailable or ridiculously expensive.

Speaking of ridiculously expensive, we all know that food storage is a way to fight inflation. Stored properly, white sugar and honey will last practically forever. If you buy sugar at today's prices, you are guaranteed to save money since food prices are continuing to rise. 

Lastly, sugar can be a useful addition to your first aid kit. Really! Check this out regarding the uses of white sugar and this link about honey. Some people report success in treating their allergies by ingesting locally-produced honey. Hubby Dear encourages his patients to use honey instead of cough syrups and cough suppressants, though it is important to remember to never give honey to babies under the age of one.

Now that I've sold you on storing sugar, what should you be storing and in what quantities? If you look at the LDS Food Storage Calculator, you'll notice that it suggests that you store a wide variety of sugars.

For a year's worth of food storage, you need:

3 lb honey per adult, 1 lb per child*
40 lb white sugar per adult, 20 lb per child
3 lb brown sugar per adult, 1 lb per child
1 lb molasses per adult or child
3 lb corn syrup per adult, 1 lb per child
3 lb jams per adult, 1 lb per child
6 lb powdered drink mix per adult, 3 lb per child
1 lb flavored gelatin per adult or child

*A child is defined as age 6 and younger in this calculator

The addition of Jello and corn syrup to this list perplexed me at first. The Jello began to make a bit more sense after I read somewhere that Utah is the number one consumer of Jello and it is even the official state snack. The food storage guidelines were drawn not only for cataclysmic emergencies but also for everyday eating. If Jello or corn syrup is part of your regular diet, by all means store it.

I decided to use the LDS quantities as a guide for how much to store total, but to personalize it for our family.
  • We do not eat Jello or corn syrup, so I'm not storing that.
  • We do, however, use a lot of real maple syrup. Maple syrup has a decent shelf life; the jugs I buy have expiration dates 2-3 years in the future. We'll easily rotate through them before they approach the expiration dates.
  • According to the calculator, our family needs 12 lb of brown sugar. We use more brown sugar than that, so I'm storing more. I repack the sugar in quart mason jars (a 2 lb package will fit in a quart jar) and vacuum seal it with my FoodSaver. You can also mix a bit of molasses into white sugar to make brown sugar.
  • We are also storing much more honey than "required". Our favorite bread recipe uses honey as a sweetener and honey is probably better for you than regular white sugar. Honey has an amazing shelf life. If it crystallizes, gently warm it and it will become liquid again.
  • The best thing about storing white sugar is that it lasts forever. Store it in an air-tight container but SKIP the oxygen absorbers!
  • I'm following the recommendations for molasses, jams, and powdered drink mix. Although we don't normally consume Tang or other powdered drink mixes, they are essential to our food storage plan. First of all, they are an excellent source of Vitamin C, something that we are short on. Second, drink mixes can go a long way toward making stored water more palatable.

What types of sugar are you storing and in what quantities?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Using Your Food Storage: My Favorite Pancake Recipe

I don't cook breakfast very often - FYOF (Find Your Own Food) is my rule for breakfast - but I do regularly cook breakfast-type foods at other times of the day. If TSHTF, I expect we'll be eating pancakes much more often. Not only can they be made entirely out of food storage, but they also are easy to cook on top of your gas stove, woodstove, grill, or campfire, providing you have the appropriate cookware.

I've been looking for the perfect whole wheat pancake recipe and I think I've finally found it. The pancakes turn out light and fluffy with none of the hard bits of wheat I always seem to get when I try one of those blender pancake recipes. They are sweet, with a pleasant, light, nuttiness from the wheat. I never thought I'd say this, but I actually prefer these pancakes to the recipe I've used for years from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

Maple syrup and butter on whole wheat pancakes? Heavenly!

Try out these pancakes! They are super yummy, no matter what time of day you make them.

Whole Wheat Pancakes, recipe from Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook

2 c. whole wheat flour (freshly ground is best)
2 t. baking powder
4 T. sugar
5 T. dried whole egg powder
6 T. non-instant, non-fat powdered milk
1/2 t. salt
2 c. plus 5 T. water
4 T. oil

Sift together dry ingredients. Add water and oil; stir until moist. Cook on a griddle or pan at medium heat. Serve with butter and syrup or whatever floats your boat. Makes 12-5" pancakes.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Want to learn more about canning meat?

Granny Miller's blog has an awesome tutorial. If you've thought about canning meat but have been intimidated by it, check out her post here. It is very thorough and informative.

If you haven't read my posts on canning meat, you can find them here.

I've finished all my laundry from our vacation, so now would be a good time to fire up the ol' pressure canner...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

How This Prepper Did Disney

Hi, y'all! I've finally escaped central Florida and found the way back to my blog. Our mega road trip to Disney World left me with a wicked sunburn, a giant pile of dirty laundry, and a desire for some real home-cooking. Don't get me wrong - our vacation was fun - but there really is no place like home.

Osama bin Laden was killed not long before we left for Disney World. You wouldn't think those two events would be connected, but I felt a bit nervous that some nutbucket would decide that DW would be a great place to retaliate. It didn't help that on the eve of our departure CNN displayed a map with potential terrorist targets in the US. Wouldn't you know it, DW was on it!

Needless to say, we had a fabulous time at DW and nothing scary or even irritating happened, but had things gone sour, we had some preparedness resources at our fingertips.  Thanks to those of you who responded to my plea for ideas on how to be prepared while on vacation. In addition to the comments left by my fabulous readers, here are some things to think about before you head out on the road this summer.

Road Trip Lessons and Tips:
  1. Our car had been recently serviced. The oil was changed, tires were inspected, and windshield wiper fluid was topped up. Vehicle maintainence is always important, but even more so prior to a road trip.
  2. I checked our car kit to see that nothing was expired/used up. This is what I routinely carry in our family van: road atlas, a case with basic tools, jumper cables, and work gloves; 3600 calorie food bars (one for each family member); Aqua Literz and Aqua Blox (beware!);  hand warmers; ponchos; emergency blankets; matches; whistle; compass; an emergency tool like this; cell phone charger/radio/flashlight like this; head lamp; lightstick; toilet paper; duct tape; multi-tool; a basic first aid kit.
  3. Take along plenty of cash. Just make sure you don't keep it all in one place in case of theft or lost purse/wallet. Both Hubby Dear and I carried some, plus we had an emergency stash in our van.  
  4. Pack with care. In addition to clothing suited for the muggy Florida weather, I packed a pair of jeans, a jacket, and sturdy shoes for each member of the family. They didn't take up much room in our suitcases, but if we had to walk long distances or camp out, we would have been thankful to have them. We also brought along an entire case of diapers. That's one item you do not want to run out of ever, much less in an emergency.
  5. Bring along plenty of snacks and additional water. I bought a case of bottled water and several kinds of snacks and kept them stashed in the car. A bag of crackers can do wonders to keep young children quiet and content. Quiet and content children = sane mom and dad. Obviously, this is also useful in case of an emergency.
  6. Hubby Dear attended a conference on three of the mornings we were at DW. His conference was being held at a different Disney resort than where we were staying. What if there was some kind of emergency while we were separated? We made plans ahead of time.  
  7. While in the parks, we made sure to take along extra water and sunscreen. Additionally, I carried all the elements of my EDC. The first aid kit came in handy a couple of times. 

Getting prepared didn't take much additional time or effort on my part, but it gave us a lot of peace of mind on our vacation. If you are travelling this summer, don't forget to make preparedness part of your planning!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Month Eleven in Review and Month Twelve Prepping Plan

April was nuts around here. I fell a bit behind on the prepping front because I was so busy with the odds and ends of ordinary life. Let's see what I may or may not have gotten accomplished:

1.Add more cash to our BOBs/at home emergency stash.  Nope, didn't do this. No excuses, really. I just forgot about it.

2.Craft our own water filter using food safe buckets and ceramic filter elements. Didn't do this either. I ordered parts from an online seller, but they haven't shipped yet. It looks like there's a bit of a wait for Berkeys and Berkey elements since the disaster in Japan. This will hopefully get done next month.

3. Stock-up on some more can openers. This I did. Thanks to all the readers who chimed in on my post about can openers. I went ahead and bought a Swing-A-Way Can Opener

This is the kind we had when I was a kid. I was disappointed to see that it is made in China nowadays, but it worked well. It's basically identical to my Oxo Good Grips Can Opener, but the handle you turn to open the cans is metal, not plastic. I also took Bitsy's advice and bought some P-38 can openers.

Using the P-38 can opener

I was concerned that my legendary lack of mechanical prowess would prevent me from figuring out how to use it, but it's pretty intuitive. Quick(ish), easy, portable, and cheap - I'd definitely recommend stocking up on these. I also bought an additional lid lifter/bung wrench. (I always giggle when I say "bung wrench". Am I the only one with a juvenile sense of humor?)

4. Buy some garden seeds for long term storage. Yup, did this. My can of survival seeds is safely stored in the back of my extra refrigerator. In a couple of years, I'll probably buy another can for back-up purposes and store it elsewhere.

5. Continue building our food and oh-so-important toilet paper supplies. Not so much. I have restocked what we've used up and bought some freebies with coupons, but haven't bought anything significant. I'll just roll that over to next month as well.

6. Gardening. Hubby Dear's War on Rodents (WoR) has been extremely successful. The death toll stands at 11 mice and 1 vole. Inspired by reading Patriots, my suggestion was to display the corpses around the edge of the garden and post a sign reading "Garden Looters and Thugs". Hubby Dear somehow didn't think that was a good idea.

We've had a few radishes and lettuce to eat from our garden. Everything we've planted since the WoR is doing great. It won't be long before we'll be planting tomatoes and peppers. I'm excited - summer is going to be huge.

7. I picked your brains for ideas on preparedness on a road trip. I'll be implementing your suggestions soon.

8. I have used my new NutriMill several times to grind flour for bread and pancakes. I certainly enjoy the convenience of an electric grain mill. It is totally worth the noise and sore ear drums.

9. Speaking of birthday presents, my brother got me a gift card to Barnes and Noble and I used it to buy three books for our library: Patriotsby James Wesley Rawles of Survival Blog fame, Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long, and Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre. I've really only delved into Patriots thus far, but I'll review them all on the blog at some point.

For Month Twelve - my one year anniversary of prepping:

1. I'd like to get more $ for our BOBs/in-home emergency fund.

2. I'm going to buy some additional preparedness and food storage-related books for our library.

3. We'll continue to build our food storage. I'd like to get some more legumes and dried fruits and vegetables, as well as miscellaneous grocery items. I also sat down and calculated the exact amount of ingredients it would take to make bread for our family for a year. We already have enough for a plain, basic type of bread, but need to buy more vital wheat gluten, potato flakes, and honey for our favorite recipe.

4. Finish up the "leftovers" from Month Eleven.

5. Continue to keep our garden growing and garden looters and thugs firmly repelled.

6. Enjoy a safe vacation with my family.