Monday, August 29, 2011

My Thoughts on TLC's "Livin' For the Apocalypse"

I DVRed the one hour special "Livin' For the Apocalypse" on TLC after reading about it on Survival Blog. Just as Rawles predicted, this show definitely tried to show preppers and survivalists as loonies. The show was short on helpful information and long on sensationalism. Most of us don't "live for the apocalypse", we just live. Here's a snippet:

The show profiled four different families with different methods of preparedness. Compared to NatGeo's "Doomsday Preppers", the producers of this show had even less regard for their participants' privacy. Full names and locations were shown with abandon. Even when the participants expressed a desire to maintain OPSEC, the producers showed items that would easily allow anyone to find out just who they are and where they live. For example, "Survival Doc" made a point about how he wouldn't reveal his real name. That was pretty much blown out of the water when the cameras caught his chiropractic licenses and an information board in his office that showed his full name and the name of his chiropractic establishment. Oh, and by the way, his chiropractic office is located in his home. OPSEC totally blown.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed seeing the preps that Peggy Layton, author of numerous food storage cookbooks, has. The ubiquitous McClung family (in the clip above) with their tilapia pool was profiled. Again. I have seen them on three different survival-related TV shows in the last six months. And contrary to what Mrs. McClung stated, you do NOT have to be a professional to can meat. All you have to do is have a pressure canner and follow some simple instructions. I just felt sorry for the last pair, a transgendered woman and her friend. I'm not going to say much about them other than to say that I think the producers should be ashamed of their extremely unflattering portrayal. They are a pretty unusual couple, but the editing did them no favors.

I don't think Hollywood is going to be knocking at my door and asking to take a look at my preps anytime soon, but if they did, you can bet I would say no. I think the potential educational value of a TV show on preppers is far outweighed by the OPSEC concerns. I'll stick with my blog, thank you very much!

In case you missed it, here's the listings for the next time "Livin' for the Apocalypse" will be shown. I didn't find it posted on YouTube yet, but I'm sure it will get there at some point.

Did you catch "Livin' for the Apocalypse"? What's your opinion on the show?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Visit by the Reverse Prize Patrol

I just love the Publisher's Clearinghouse Prize Patrol. I never get those sweepstakes entries in the mail, and if I did, I probably wouldn't fill them out. Still, I like to imagine that one day the doorbell will ring and some man will shove flowers and a check for a million dollars into my arms.

I have, however, been visited by the reverse prize patrol. What's that, you ask? The reverse prize patrol is when the doorbell rings and you find a large bill. Surprise! You owe $500.

Yep, that happened to me this week. I thought the doorbell was the UPS man when it actually was our propane delivery driver.

A 500 gallon propane tank is expensive to fill
Image from

Our conversation went something like this:

Me: "Gee, I thought we just sent you guys a huge check to pre-pay for our propane through April?"

Him: "Well, ma'am, that just covers you from September through April. We top off your tank before then.

Me: "......."

Him: "Ma'am, are you OK? You look a little pale and your jaw seems to be on the ground..."

Crud. August was a tight month for us and I definitely didn't have an extra $500 just kicking around.

A few years ago, this would have been a crisis. We would've had to take a cash advance on a credit card or engage in who knows what kind of financial tomfoolery to get this bill paid on time. Today, I was able to smile (after course of smelling salts and a Coke Zero) because I knew it would be completely different this time around.

We started following the Baby Steps outlined in Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover two years ago. As a result, we are debt free (other than our mortgage) and have an emergency fund in place just for occasions such as this.

Preparedness is not only about surviving an end of the world scenario. Preparedness means you don't have to make last-minute runs to the store for that forgotten item because you can cover it with your food storage. It means you have the ability to take care of your family and pay your bills no matter who is president or what's going on in the world at large. It means the reverse prize patrol is nothing more than a speed bump.  Preparedness makes a difference in my every day life and, boy, does that feel good!

If you don't have an emergency fund, start today. Little bits add up. If you don't have food storage, start today. Don't wait for the reverse prize patrol to come knocking! Can I get an amen from the choir?

Fresh from the Garden: Tomato-Jack Salad

This recipe couldn't be easier, and yet it is one of my family's favorite ways to eat vine-ripe tomatoes. My mom came up with this combination 20+ years ago and we've been consuming it in mass quantities ever since. The zesty dressing, sweetly acidic tomatoes, and the creamy spice of the cheese are wonderful together.

I'm happy to share with you one of my family's secret recipes. Just promise me you won't try this with bland, grocery store tomatoes, OK? That would be a sacrilege. :)

I used Roma-type tomatoes because that is all I had at the moment. Slicer-type
tomatoes are much better, but, trust me, this was still pretty good. 

Tomato-Jack Salad

Ripe tomatoes
Pepper Jack Cheese
Italian dressing (If I'm using bottled dressing, prefer to use one that is labeled "zesty" or "robusto". It enhances the spicy kick.)

Alternate slices of tomatoes with thin slices of pepper jack cheese. Drizzle dressing over the top. You can serve immediately, or let it sit for a bit to increase the lusciousness.

Monday, August 22, 2011

My summer reading list and plans for the future

In between accidents and trips to the hospital, I've been busy reading and making plans for our homestead. Can you guess what we're planning based on my selection of library books?

My reading material
Of course, when I say "we're" planning, what I really mean is that I'm planning and Hubby Dear is tolerating, albeit with sighs and massive amounts of eye-rolling.

We're going to begin with two or three pecan trees this fall and add in several apple trees in the spring. We want to plant lots of other types of fruit trees, but I know better than to try and do too much at once. We I decided to start with apples and pecans because both are nutritious foods that have the potential to store well. Pecans, in particular, take a few years to start producing, so they got bumped up to the top of the project list. Since we have such rotten soil, we're going to have to take particular care to prepare the planting sites.

We're also going to expand our square food garden and fence it in preparation for the spring's big project: a chicken coop, chicken moat, and, yes, chickens.

A chicken moat plan from Mother Earth News
The above diagram is not exactly what our chicken moat will look like, but you get the picture. The idea of a chicken moat is that you surround your garden with a chicken run, which reduces weed and bug problems. Plus, you raise your own meat and eggs and get a rich source of compost for the garden. We need to start setting up the fencing around the garden area now because we are going to be swamped with garden work in the spring. I'd rather get the chickens now, but first things first. :)

Summer's not even over, but I just can't resist planning for next year. Are you planning a major addition to your yard, garden, or preps in the year to come? Do you have any advice for my ventures? I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fresh from the Garden: Basil Pesto

It's the world's klutziest woman checking back in. :) I got a new accessory today - an arm sling.Turns out I separated my right shoulder and I get to have my arm in a sling for a month while it heals. And, yes, I am right-handed. Thankfully, I have plenty of Advil in my stockpile (that I got for free with coupons, thank you very much!) and I still have a sense of humor about the whole thing. Sometimes if you don't laugh, you'll cry.

With that out of the way, here's the latest edition to my "Fresh From the Garden" recipe collection - pesto. I know, I know. Pesto isn't exactly new and innovative. But when it is made with garlic and basil from your own garden - oh. my. gravy. So delicious! My kids practically lap it up. 

This pesto recipe is the best one I have found. The simple step of blanching the garlic keeps it from being too strong and overpowering. The spicy basil and pungent garlic are in perfect balance with the creamy pine nuts. Dang it. I've made myself drool just typing this.

Pesto fresh from the food processor

Basil Pesto
Adapted from The Best Recipe  (An A+ cookbook that I highly recommend.) 

3 medium garlic cloves (unpeeled)
1/4 c. pine nuts, toasted (In a pinch, I've used almonds, walnuts, or even pecans)
2 c. packed basil leaves
7 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Thread the garlic cloves on a skewer. Lower skewered garlic into a pot of boiling water. Boil for 45 seconds and then run garlic under cold water to stop the cooking. Remove from the skewer, peel, and mince.

Place basil in a freezer bag. Pound with something heavy (I use the flat side of my meat tenderizer) until the leaves are bruised. This step really intensifies the basil flavor.

Place all ingredients except cheese in work bowl of food processor; process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in cheese plus salt to taste.

Yield: Enough pesto for 1 lb pasta

Note: If you are using this pesto on pasta, save back a cup or so of the pasta cooking water and add it to the pesto. This loosens up the pesto just enough and the starch in the cooking water helps the whole thing "meld".

Penne alla pesto - yummers!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Comedy of Accidents

I haven't posted in a while and you might be wondering if a stack of 5 gallon buckets of wheat fell on me or if I got stuck in my bunker. Surely you didn't think my silence meant I fell off the prepping bandwagon? Never! :)

What happened is a comedy of accidents due to my inherent klutziness.

The scene of the crime

One morning, I was working in the kitchen while my four children played in the living/play room. The gruesome twosome - a.k.a. Baby Dear and Sweetie Pie - decided that Momma had spent more than enough time away from them and so they gathered at the gate that separates the living room from the dining room. Have you ever heard two, mostly non-verbal, toddlers throw a simultaneous tantrum? No? You're missing out. It sounds something like the combination of a cat in heat, nails on a chalkboard, and an approaching freight train.

Motivated by their dulcet voices, I decided to cross over the gate - usually a simple maneuver - to end the screaming as soon as possible. What happened next is kind of a blur. I tripped on either one of the babies or a toy and fell to the ground with a thud similar to the felling of a redwood tree. I half expected one of my older children to shout "Timber!", but no, they ignored my slow motion descent to the floor. I ended up with my head in a toy chest, my ribs cradled on top of a toy dog kennel, and my left knee jammed onto Baby Dear's miniature John Deere tractor. I still have the tire imprints on my patella to prove it. I got the wind knocked out of me and it shook me up a bit, but I was otherwise fine. The toddlers bounced upon my inert frame while I recovered and all was well in their baby kingdom.

That evening, I started having pain in both wrists. The pain became searing over the next couple of days and my hands remain sore two weeks later. Hubby Dear diagnosed me with sprained wrists and possibly some fractures in my metacarpals due to a FOOSH (fall on outstretched hand). Whatever. All I know is it hurts.

I decided to forgo the recommended x-ray and take the wait-and-see approach. Wait-and-see doesn't require a co-pay, radiation, or spending time in a waiting room with four restless kids. In the meantime, I had some canning to do. Salsa, spaghetti sauce, you name it. It had to get done. I don't like peeling tomatoes in the best of times, but with two sprained wrists?? Fun times.

So I decided to add to the excitement by slicing through the nail on my index finger with my chefs' knife. Twice.

I'm still avoiding the x-ray, but I had to go in for a tetanus shot to be prudent. On my way to get the tetanus shot, I jacked up my right shoulder when I slid on some wet pavement.

I think I should just stay in bed for a few days, don't you?

More garden and prep updates to come, assuming I maintain the use of my hands and my sanity.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gettin' Romantic at Cabela's

Hubby Dear and I recently celebrated 13 years of wedded bliss. My in-laws provided us with babysitting so the Hubs and I enjoyed a kid-free weekend excursion to the big, big, city.

Who needs chocolate-covered strawberries and diamonds? Nothing says romance like a trip to Cabela's! Browsing the guns and ammo under the watchful eyes of taxidermied polar bears is sure to ignite marital passions. ;)

It wasn't the only place we visited on our trip, but Cabela's was a highlight to be sure. This is what I came home with:

A can of Mountain House Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Quik Clot Trauma Pak, SAM Splint, Firestarter, and rope

Mountain House #10 cans are still in short supply. There were plenty on hand at Cabela's, though, so I picked up one. They only carried about four or five varieties, but there were plenty of them.

I added the Quick Clot Trauma Pak and SAM splint to our first aid supplies. The Quick Clot Pak is good for large wounds - even some gunshots - and the SAM splint is reusable, which is a plus.

I've been wanting to get one of these firesteels I have refillable butane lighters, matches, and now this as my means to light fires. I'll definitely need to practice using it.

The rope was kind of a random purchase. It isn't heavy-duty, so I won't be using it to rappel down a mountain or anything. You can never have enough of it on hand, though, and since I bought it, it won't be lost in Hubby Dear's Man Land (aka the garage).

Anyone else have strange "dates" with your spouse since the preparedness bug hit?

Friday, August 5, 2011

This Inflation Business Is Getting Crazy!

For 1 case of non-fat, non-instant dry milk (including shipping):

March 2011: $78.92

June 2011: $95.05

August 2011: $107.17

That is INSANE!! I don't know if the price increase is due to inflation in general or simply increased demand for preparedness products. What I do know is I don't like it!

In case you're wondering, I didn't buy the milk. Who knows what the price will be next month?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Can Your Food Supply Beat The Heat?

First, allow me a little SHTF gardening pontification:

Many preparedness-minded people have a pack of "survival seeds" socked away for TEOTWAWKI, thinking, "If SHTF, I'll just start gardening."

First of all, you can't just throw a random can of survival seeds in your fridge and expect to be able to produce enough food to survive, much less thrive, post-SHTF. We've been gardening in one way or another for 6 years and we are by no means experts. We are making remarkable strides in our skills and knowledge, but I wouldn't want to depend solely on our garden's production.

Second of all, are you sure your seed stockpile is full of varieties that will thrive in your area? Do you have good tools? How about ways to maintain your soil's fertility and to manage pest problems without petrochemicals? Are you physically capable of the labor it takes to turn virgin ground into a thriving garden? You had better know the answers to all those questions before you have to rely on your "Garden in a Can".

Hot, hot, hot

With that out of the way, let's bring this summer's heatwave and drought into the picture. Let's say SHTF has happened. Unless you are located in the Pacific Northwest or Antarctica, chances are your summer has been brutally hot. At the Harried Homemaker Acres, we have had TWENTY ONE days where the high has been over 100 degrees. This is great for using your car as a solar oven, but not much else.

Extreme Heat Warnings and Watches, July 20, 2011

Our garden has suffered, with the corn taking the brunt of nature's furnace . Keep in mind that this is with daily watering. What would have happened if we could not irrigate? Could we live on only our garden produce?

The answer, obviously, is no. Not even if we had a much larger garden and were master gardeners. We would be struggling and would be thanking the Lord that we had our food storage in place.

POINT #1: You've got to have food storage as a back-up.

If you look at the information available from the National Weather Service, you'll find some interesting charts and graphs. This July ranked in the top ten of hottest summers ever recorded in our state. When were the other ten?

A cluster of years in the early 1900s
A cluster in the 1930s
A small cluster in the 1950s

Hot and dry weather seems to come in clusters, which brings me to point number two.

POINT#2: It would be best to have enough food storage in place to account for multiple years of poor harvests.

And don't forget this -

POINT #3: In hot, dry weather, your gardening technique matters.

I will always sing the praises of Square Foot Gardening, but it is a more intensive cultivation that requires additional water and soil fertility. In a drought, giving your crops extra space is extremely useful. Two books that I own that address this issue are Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times and The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times.

I particularly find the latter book inspirational. The author, Carol Deppe, promotes corn, bean, squash, potatoes and eggs as the basis for a survival diet and gives extremely detailed information on how to grow these crops/products. If you maintain a gluten-free diet, you'll especially appreciate her book. We aren't gluten-free, but still found a lot of useful information. It is one of those books that makes you think.

Even if you are a die-hard SFGer, it makes sense to tuck these books into your survival library and learn these techniques as a option.

How is your garden growing in all this heat? How drought-proof is your garden?