Friday, December 30, 2011

What This Closet Prepper Got for Christmas

I am still "in the closet" about my prepping to my family and friends. I prefer it that way due to OPSEC concerns and to avoid the inevitable taunting. My dad and brother were discussing rifles at our family Christmas gathering. When I declared my interest in getting a rifle for shooting varmints, everyone got a look on their face like I had begun singing "Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay" and performing the Can-Can right there in the living room. I hadn't even mentioned anything about zombies! Yes, indeed, it is much easier for me just to stay under the radar.

However, that doesn't mean I can't receive prepping-related presents from my relatives for Christmas! I have two wish lists. One is public and has items that even a supposedly wimpy, squeamish person like myself would want. My other wishlist is set up to be private. I use it to keep track of more "hardcore" prepping items that I want to remember to add to our gear but do not want to let the whole world know about.  I was fortunate enough to receive a selection of items from my public wishlist and I thought I'd briefly review each. You may want to add these to your own wish lists!

1. A Coffee/Spice Grinder

Neither Hubby Dear nor I are coffee drinkers, so I didn't get this for the first function. Once you grind spices in a coffee grinder, you wouldn't want to use the grinder for coffee, anyway, unless you like your coffee to have a kick! Whole spices last longer than ground ones do, so they are better for long term storage. This little gizmo will quickly grind whole spices into a fine powder. I got this primarily to turn our homegrown cayenne peppers into ground red pepper. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on that process.

2. A Galvanized Chicken Fount

Both of my in-laws grew up on farms that raised chickens for eggs. They don't have the fondest memories of chicken keeping and I think they are privately expecting our chicken experiment to crash and burn. Nevertheless they bought me this chicken waterer. That's what you call love.

And now for the books....

3. The Heirloom Life Gardener by Jere and Emilee Gettle

Many of you are familiar with Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. If you aren't, you should be! I truly admire the founder, Jere Gettle; how can you have anything but respect for someone who starts a groundbreaking seed company at the age of 17? When I found out that he had put out his own gardening book, I knew I had to have it.

Once I read it, however, I was a bit disappointed. Don't get me wrong. It is full of gorgeous pictures and it is an unintimidating introduction to gardening. I was sad for two reasons. First, it was written with such a bland voice. I am sure that anyone who wears the colorful duds that Jere Gettle favors is much more entertaining than this book lets on. (Do a Google search for him and look at the photos and see what I'm talking about!) Second, and most importantly, it just didn't have that much new information for me. It would look cute on my coffee table, but not get much use.

Here's my advice: just get the free Baker Creek catalog. Many of the photos and some of the text are reprinted there! If you are interested in more in-depth information, I prefer Seed to Seed for information on seed saving and All New Square Foot Gardening, Four-Season Harvest, Mini Farming, and The Resilient Gardener for general gardening info.

4. Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes by Janice Cole

When my old college roommate read on Facebook that I was getting chickens, she recommended that I get this book. Since I love "city girl goes country" type memoirs, I thought this would be perfect for me and added it to my wish list. Chicken and Egg is a nice book, but I would classify it as mostly a cookbook with a bit of the author's life thrown in. The recipes look delicious and I'm sure to turn to this book once my 16 (!) prospective hens start laying. If you're looking for a true memoir, try The Dirty Life,which is one of the best books I read in 2011.

5. Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch by Jennifer Reese

This book is based on a fun concept. What commonly store-bought foods are worth making yourself? Which should you have no guilt about purchasing? Jennifer Reese spent years perfecting recipes for items like Worcestershire sauce, Camembert, and tahini. This book reminds me of "Julie and Julia" - the movie, that is, not the book. (The movie was cute, but I do NOT recommend the book for those who are offended by foul language and loose morals. It made me feel dirty when I attempted to read it.)  I'm looking forward to trying some of the more obscure recipes in this book. I've made my own laundry detergent and grind my own wheat, so I guess this is the next logical step!

6. The Apple Grower by Michael Phillips

I'll admit that I was first attracted to this book because of the photo on the front cover. The author looks like my brother, a Deadhead and youthful-troublemaker turned responsible husband and father. That has nothing to do with apples or this book, but I thought I'd throw that in there! ;)

I had the chance to borrow the first edition of this book from our local library and I was immediately impressed. If you want to grow apples organically, this is a fabulous resource. The book I bought is the revised and expanded edition. It has color pictures and even more useful information. Hubby Dear and I will spend a lot of time pouring over this book and putting the information into practice.

7. The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers by Harvey Ussery

I saved the best for last. I love, love, love this book. It is certainly the most helpful chicken book I have read, and believe me, I've read them A LOT of them. It has color pictures and is full of very down-to-earth, detailed advice. It is the perfect book for those of us who are interested in self-sufficiency since it gives instruction on how to grow your own feed and breed your own chicks. This book and Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens are destined to be my go-to guides on chickens.

Did you get or give any prepping-related gifts this Christmas? 

Monday, December 26, 2011

My Top Five Prepping Successes of 2011

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas. We had a lovely time with our extended family and it was quite a jolt to have to get back to everyday life on Monday. We homeschool our children and I wanted to squeeze in a few more school days in the hopes that we might complete our school year in May. This sounded like a perfectly sane and logical plan when I concocted it in November, but as I sat at the kitchen counter helping The Thinker with her Latin lesson, I seriously regretted my decision to forgo Christmas break. This led me to entertain some fanciful ideas about what I would do if I could get my hands on the ancient Roman responsible for the evil grammatical construct known as the declension. My fantasies were surprisingly creative considering the general stupor I was in at that time of the morning. That, my friends, is a classic case of  Post-Festivity Latin Declension Disorder (PFLDD for short) and is a key reason why you should never skip Christmas break.

Now that I'm mostly recovered, it's time to turn my attention to cheerier matters than dead languages: my top five prepping successes of 2011.


5. The Great Chicken Moat Build

This little fencing project was a huge undertaking

The chicken moat is not technically finished, much less put to use, but I had to put it in this countdown because of the sheer amount effort that went into it. Hopefully the chickens that will live in this moat will greatly cut down on the insect and weed pests in our garden, contribute delicious meat and eggs to our diet, and will be a source of fertility for our soil. The potential benefits made this difficult project worthwhile.

4. No more store-bought bread! 

Much better than sliced bread!

I have been baking bread since I was a teenager, but I never before attempted to make all of my family's bread products. After I bought a NutriMilland then a Bosch Mixer,it became ridiculously easy to grind wheat and bake as much bread as we consumed. So I started doing just that and even figured out how to use a Sun Oven to bake bread.

It feels really satisfying to make something so delicious and healthful for my family.

3. Explored new ways to preserve food

I have a few new tricks up my sleeve when it comes to food preservation. I've been water bath canning for a few years now, but pressure canning was new territory. Not only do I now pressure can with the best of them, but I regularly can meat, something that was very intimidating to me in the beginning.

Dehydrating oregano

I also learned the ins and outs of dehydrating. My new Excalibur Dehydrator is awesome, though I must admit I find it very tedious to place all the pieces of food meticulously on the trays.

Vacuum sealing with the FoodSaver

My favorite new trick, however, is using a FoodSaverto vacuum seal mason jars of dry goods. I have stored brown sugar, nuts, chocolate, raisins, shortening, herbs, and many other items with this little gadget.

2. One year of food storage*

Some of the comfort food items I bought during our Food Storage Blitz Month 

We finally have one year's worth of food storage! Sorta. If you go by the number of calories stored, we do, but we are still short several key nutrients (such as calcium and Vitamin C) and I want to add more meat to our supply. And then we'll need to add more food as our children grow and need more calories. And more fruits and vegetables would really be nice... You get the picture.

I can't exactly rest on my laurels here, but I'm pleased with what we've accomplished.

1. Garden re-do

Our new square foot gardening boxes

Hubby Dear deserves most of the credit here. He transformed our decidedly sub-par garden of years past to the Garden of Eatin' by adding square foot gardening boxes. That involved a lot of carpentry and an insane amount of soil toting and mixing.

This year was so successful that we plan on adding 19 more square foot boxes to our garden, albeit in stages. This will double the size of our current garden. I can't wait! (Read this post if you are unfamiliar with square foot gardening.)

What accomplishments in the area of preparedness are you the most proud of? Was 2011 a banner year or a bust? 

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Car Kits Keep Springing a Leak!

Back when I created our vehicle emergency kits, I thought Aqua Literz would be the perfect water storage solution. The 5 year shelf life, compact container, and ease of use sold me on them. I wasn't long, however, before the first batch of Aqua Literz I bought mysteriously sprang a leak, leading to a comical email exchange with the retailer I had purchased them from.  I bought their reassurance that Aqua Literz are indeed ideal for car kits and decided to buy another case.

Fast forward to today. Hubby Dear was moving things around in the back of our van and found this.

Leaky and moldy! 

That's not dirt you see in the above photo! It is mold. Eeew! All five of the Aqua Literz I had in my van's emergency kit looked like this.

I never found a real hole on any of the Aqua Literz. It appears that water had been slowly oozing out, contained between the layers of cardboard of the packaging. No wonder it grew mold!  I have no idea how any of this occurred since they were all stored securely.

Not just mold but multi-colored mold. 

Obviously, I won't buy this product any more, but how should I store water in my vehicle kits?

Here are the options as I see them:

  1. Commercially bottled water - This would be an easy route to go. I am concerned with the possibility of the plastic leaching chemicals in the water, especially in a hot car. I'd also have to rotate this fairly frequently. 
  2. Used juice bottles - I think the plastic in these are probably better than what is used in bottled water. I can't say that for sure, though. I'd certainly have to rotate these frequently, they might leak, and I'm afraid the water would taste funny. 
  3. Canned water - Canned water is relatively expensive. It is hard to think of a more durable container to store water in, however, and it boasts a 30 year shelf life. I'd have to make sure that I keep a can opener handy and it isn't exactly the easiest thing to use on the go. 

Am I missing something? How do you store water in your vehicle kits? 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Money Saving Mom's Budget: A Review

I was really excited to be given an advance copy of The Money Saving Mom's Budgetby Crystal Paine, the author of Crystal's blog is one of my favorites. I have saved a ton of money over the past few months by following tips I've found on her website, so I knew that her book would have to be dynamite. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

This book isn't another collection of money saving strategies, though you will certainly find plenty of those here. Crystal has seven rules to financial success and only two of those directly relate to couponing and cost cutting. The rest of the book will help you set goals, create a written budget, and live well on a small income. If this sounds a little bit like something my hero, Dave Ramsey, would espouse, you are correct. The section on couponing is extremely easy to understand, even for the mathematically challenged. And even though the topic of finances can be dull, this book was fun to read and full of great examples from everyday life.

Let's face it: everyone can stand to save a little money. This book can definitely help you make the right choices for your family's budget and help free up some cash to devote to preparedness. Remember, if you don't have your finances in order, you're not truly prepared. (I did a series of posts on this subject, in case you missed it. ;)

The Money Saving Mom's Budget is available for pre-order at and will be on sale everywhere on January 10. Crystal is giving all her proceeds from this book to Compassion International, an outstanding charity that our family also supports. Check them out!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Taking Stock

I've been creating a stockpile of food for the better part of 18 months, with emphasis on the pile.

Piles of boxes filled with food 

I took the opportunity this week to shift the whole mess around a bit and managed to clean up the storage room somewhat. I also inventoried my stockpile. I have a much better idea of what I have and when it expires. I thought I'd share with you some of the ways I keep track of my preps.

Our Long Term Food Storage Inventory

The most useful tools I've found for organizing my food storage are the Long Term Food Storage and 3 Month Supply  Excel spreadsheets from Food Storage Made Easy. If you don't have Excel, they have printable versions available, but it is so nice to have the computer do the calculations.

When I updated the spreadsheets this week, I found to my surprise that I have 30 lb of peanut butter stored. I guess I won't have to worry about that peanut shortage after all.

Another online tool that I really like is Emergency Essential's Food Storage Analyzer. It's not perfect, but if you put the time into personalizing it by adding in your pantry items, it can give you a good estimate as to how far your food storage would go.  The analyzer said we have enough food for 397 days, but we only have 56% of the RDA of Vitamin C, 93% of Vitamin A, and 87% of Calcium. That gives me direction for our future purchases.

Another problem to tackle is replacing items before they expire. I have a spreadsheet with preps such as batteries,water purification tablets, etc., their dates of purchase and their expiration dates.

I have one for #10 cans, too. Some of them will stay viable for 30 years, others expire in 3-5. Each individual can is labeled with the date of purchase, but this spreadsheet enables me to see at a glance what I have and when it expires. If I had my #10 cans in other locations besides my food storage room, I would also note that.

This last list is all the items I consider essential to our preparedness pantry (excluding long term storage items, such as wheat). These are the items that are in our 3 month supply and I found that typing them up in an alphabetized list was more user-friendly than the Excel file.

I find it essential to go through my canned goods like vegetables, soups, and fruit on a regular basis. If I come across any that I think we will not consume before they expire, I give them to my local food pantry and buy new stock. Most canned goods will actually be just fine for quite some time after the expiration date, but since our family gives to the food pantry on a regular basis anyway, this helps rotate our food storage. Note: food pantries cannot take expired food. My oldest two children and I went on a tour of the food bank last month and they had a whole freezer full of expired Hot Pockets and a shelving unit of expired canned goods. They were allowing volunteers to take home the expired food since they could not legally hand it out to the needy.

That's how I keep track of our inventory. Do you have any tips for organizing your preps or keeping track of expiration dates? 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Top Five Prepping Failures of 2011

It's mid-December, which is a great time to put down the eggnog and Christmas cookies and reflect upon the past year. I made progress in our preparedness but have definitely experienced some failures. I'll talk about what went right in 2011 in a future post. Today is the day I get to expose all my inadequacies to the world. ;)

Top Five Prepping Failures

5. Sun Oven
The Global Sun Oven

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with the Sun Oven itself, other than an initial chemical odor that can lend your food a nasty aftertaste until you cleaned it thoroughly. Once I finally purged the Sun Oven of the noxious fumes, the only problem was me! There is a definite learning curve to the Sun Oven and it took me a month to figure it all out. By the time I had it mastered, my family was ready to stage an Occupy the Sun Oven protest. I guess they had enough raw potato soup!

Thankfully, the experiment ended on a high note.

Bread baked in the Sun Oven. Success at last!

This is a very vivid illustration as to why it is so important to USE and PRACTICE your preps.

4. Fall Garden

Remember this garden plan? We put a lot of effort into researching fall gardens. We learned about the best varieties, methods, and timing for our part of the country.

The results were even less stellar than the toxic chocolate chip cookies I baked: a handful of carrots, a few  small heads of cauliflower, and some radishes. We couldn't even get Swiss Chard to grow and all the authorities I've consulted say that chard is pretty much as foolproof as vegetables come. We didn't get any  beets, lettuce, spinach, salad mix, or cabbage. Our broccoli sprouted and grew tall, but they never formed heads.

Obviously we'll have to go back to the drawing board for next year. Our summer was abnormally hot and dry and that didn't help. Maybe things would have performed better if we had planted transplants rather than direct seeding. Perhaps we could have used floating row covers to shade the soil so that it wasn't so hot while the seeds we germinating.

All I know is that I am not cut out to be a subsistence farmer.  

3. First aid
The beginnings of my first aid stockpile, February 2011

One of my goals at the beginning of 2011 was to develop and deepen our first aid stockpile. I bought a few first aid basics last winter but didn't really progress any further. I picked up some supplies here and there for free (hurray for coupons!), but nothing in massive quantities.

I guess I wouldn't classify this so much as a failure but a result of a shift in my priorities. Getting a full year's supply of food has been project number one. I've also slashed my prepping budget in recent months and focused instead on saving money for the chicken moat and coop.

You can bet that I'll definitely focus on first aid again in 2012.

2. Diet/Exercise

Like so many of my fellow Americans, I am a bit out of shape. Four kids, stress, and a penchant for snacking have wreaked havoc upon my once shapely figure.  Hubby Dear and I vowed that 2011 would be the year we got our flabby butts in gear and got healthy.

Although it started promisingly, our New Year's resolutions fizzled and we remain the same girth that we started the year with. We'll try again. I don't need to be supermodel thin, but I do want to make sure that I'm healthy and capable of working hard.

Lastly, my number one, most pitiful prepping failure of 2011 is

1. Cloth Pads

I had so many good intentions! 

When my mom delivered a vintage sewing machine to my house last January, a world of possibilities opened up to me. How cool - I could sew clothing for my family if need be. I didn't want to wait for TEOTWAWKI, though. I wanted to create something practical that I could use now. Since I am not only concerned about preparedness but also increasingly interested in sustainable living, I became strangely excited about sewing my own cloth menstrual pads.

I tried, I really did. But when you carry the Un-crafty gene, there's just not much you can do.

My best effort was only good for a demented hand puppet

No matter what I did, I couldn't keep the needle threaded. Part of my problems might have come from the thickness of the four layers of absorbent material I was sewing through. I'm sure the failure is mostly due to my own incompetence, however.

If I want cloth pads, it looks like I'll have to buy them from someone else.


Now that I have this all out in the open, I feel much better. I'll take a cleansing breath, take another swig of eggnog, and think of 2011's successes. But that is a post for another time.

Experienced any prepping failures? Share your tales of woe below.  

Friday, December 9, 2011

Using Your Food Storage: Crockpot Sloppy Joes

I've been meaning to share this recipe with you all for the longest time. This is the best version of sloppy joes that I've ever tried and it uses a slow cooker, the favorite appliance of harried homemakers everywhere. You know what's even better? Using food storage will streamline the preparation of this meal and make it come together very quickly. Try it - you won't be disappointed.

Crockpot Sloppy Joes
Recipe adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook

1 lb lean ground beef (OR 1 pint of home-canned ground beef, drained)
1 onion, finely chopped (OR approx. 3 T. dry onions, rehydrated according to package directions)
1/2 large red bell pepper, finely chopped (OR about 1/4 c. dry bell pepper, rehydrated according to package directions)
1 large rib celery, finely chopped (OR about 2 T. dry celery, rehydrated according to package directions)
1 clove of garlic, minced (OR 1/4 t. garlic powder)
1-6 oz. can tomato paste (OR 3 oz. tomato powder mixed with 3 oz. water)
2 T. apple cider vinegar
2 T. firmly packed brown sugar
1 t. paprika
1/2 t. dry mustard
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. chili powder
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Tabasco sauce
Dash of cayenne pepper
Buns for serving

If using fresh ingredients: Brown beef in a skillet with onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic. When the meat is cooked through, transfer the mixture to your slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

If using food storage: Heat the canned meat and rehydrated vegetables together in a skillet. When the mixture is warm, transfer it to your slow cooker, add the remaining ingredients, and proceed with recipe.

Cover and cook on low for 5 to 7 hours. If you let it cook past 5 hours, keep an eye on it because it might start to get overcooked on the sides, depending on how "hot" your slow cooker cooks.

Ladle mixture on buns and enjoy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Peeps or Pullets? Ways to Get Started in Chicken Keeping

This is the first of a multi-part series chronicling my entry into chicken keeping.

I've wanted chickens off and on for much of the past decade. The notion came to me in my Martha Stewart-idolizing days when I found out that she had a large flock of chickens in a custom-built "palais de poulet". And they weren't just any chickens. Her fancypants chickens laid eggs in shades of blue and green.

Martha's Palais de Poulet
Image from

The idea of gathering Easter eggs laid by chickens housed in a decorative outbuilding was the subject for many a daydream. The fantasy would inevitably end with Hubby Dear and I beating eggs for an omelet in a scene reminiscent of "Ghost", complete with the Righteous Brothers singing "Unchained Melody" in the background.

There are striking differences between Martha Stewart and myself. And not just the fact that she is a convicted felon and I have an over-active imagination. Martha has people. People to walk her dogs, mow her expansive lawns, and muck out her chicken coop. I have no people and I wasn't sure that I wanted to add chicken poop patrol to my job description.

Fast forward to 2011. Chicken keeping has become much more mainstream and hipsters in urban areas all across the country have chickens. If they can have chickens and like it, why not me? After all, I have plenty of space and more than an inclination for self-reliance. After pouring over a thick stack of books on poultry from the library, I threw my doubts to the wayside, coerced Hubby Dear into cooperating via the magical powers of the chicken moat and started making plans for the spring.

Which should come first? The Chicken or the Egg? 

One of the first questions you have to answer once you decide to embark upon the enterprise of chicken keeping is what kind of chickens do you want to get? No, I don't mean what breed of chicken (that will be discussed in an upcoming post), but rather, do you start with hatching eggs, chicks, or pullets?

Hatching eggs

Hatching eggs are fertilized eggs that could potentially develop into chicks, given the right set of circumstances. You can order hatching eggs from professional hatcheries, buy them online from poultry fanciers, or get some from a neighbor who keeps chickens (assuming that neighbor also has a rooster and the eggs are fertile).

Eggs come in a variety of colors
Image from

How cool would it be to raise your own chickens from the egg up? As a homeschooler, this is one of those projects that appeals to me for the sheer educational value for my children.

There are some downsides to choosing hatching eggs as the means to get a flock started, however. First,  you'd have to find a source of hatching eggs in the breed or breeds you desire. Hopefully the eggs would make it safely through their journey to your house, but even then, the danger is not over. It takes 21 days in an expensive incubator with careful turning (so the yolk does not stick to the shell) and proper humidity for a chick to develop and hatch out of an egg. Some eggs will never develop at all and some chicks may be too weak to survive. What if all the chicks that hatch out are roosters? Then what? You'd have to start the process all over if you want those fantastic fresh eggs.


Image from

The second, and probably most popular, way of starting a flock of chickens is buying chicks. You can get a wide variety of chicks through the mail from professional hatcheries, at your local feed store in the spring, and even on Craigslist at times.

Baby chicks can survive for two days without food or water because they are still absorbing the yolk sac from the egg. This marvelous fact means that newborn poultry can be shipped across the country and arrive healthy and (supposedly) happy at your domicile.  Most hatcheries require a minimum order of 25 chicks to insure the chicks stay warm, though there are a few that accept orders as small as three chicks.

You even have a good shot at getting the right sex of bird. You can specify the exact number of each sex you would like or ask for "straight run" (luck of the draw). This is especially useful if you live in an area that bans roosters and you don't want to re-home or eat any male birds. The sexing process is not foolproof, however. Those chicks and their parts are tiny!  Most hatcheries claim to have about a 90% sexing accuracy.

Chickens rapidly grow past the cute fluff ball stage but it takes a while for them to start laying. From my research it appears that a few breeds might lay at 18 weeks of age but 22-25 weeks is more typical. That is a long time and a lot of feed to buy before you get your first egg. That leads me to the last way to start your flock.

Pullets and Hens 

A Welsummer pullet
Image from

You can save a lot of time if you buy chickens that already are old enough to lay eggs. A pullet is defined as a female chicken than is less than a year old. After a year, they have earned the venerable title of hen. You can buy started pullets from a hatchery and almost immediately start collecting eggs. There won't be any surprise roosters included in the bunch. Although started pullets are more expensive than chicks ($7-15 dollars per pullet vs. $1.50-4.00 per typical chick), when you factor in the cost of feed, etc., it's not really that bad a deal.

An even less expensive option would be to check and see if your state agricultural college sells pullets to the public. One of my neighbors bought 8 pullets from the poultry unit at the Ag college. They were 18 weeks old, fully vaccinated, and ready to go when they brought them home.

If you watch Craigslist or the local classifieds, you might find listings for hens. I would approach these with caution. After two years of age, most chickens will lay significantly fewer eggs. As an inexperienced poultry keeper, I would be afraid that someone was trying to pawn off an old hen that had stopped laying.

My choice

For me, the choice was easy. I decided to buy chicks for the cute factor, the educational value of watching them grow, and the ability to get exactly the breeds I wanted.

I also determined that I would order the chicks from a hatchery versus buy them at the local feed store in the spring. My father is a veterinary epidemiologist and has seen the effects of Exotic Newcastle disease and other poultry epidemics firsthand. He strongly recommended that I buy my chicks from a certified disease-free hatchery rather than take the biosecurity risks that come with feed store chicks. Feed store chicks get handled by a lot of people and are housed in an environment that can be a breeding ground for disease. Hatchery chicks, on the other hand, go more or less straight from the incubator to your house.

Hubby Dear and I decided to order about 15 hens, plus a rooster, from a hatchery that would ship less than 25 at a time. Then we were faced with the next big decision: what kinds should we get? That's coming up in Part II of my series on chicken keeping.

Do you have chickens or chicken fantasies? ;) How did you start your flock?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

November in Review and December Preps

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and have your Christmas preparations well under way. I am about 3/4 of the way done with my Christmas shopping, though I avoided the complete madness of Black Friday. Hubby Dear and I stayed at home in our pajamas and did our shopping online. We may not have bought any waffle irons for $2, but we stayed safe and sane, thank you very much!

November in  review:

1. Gardening
  • We planted 1 lb of garlic cloves and mulched heavily over the top. Hopefully they will survive the winter depredations of field mice and emerge in the spring. We cleaned up all the garden debris and have everything clean and ready for spring plantings. 
  • We finalized our plans for a survival orchard and planted three pecan trees
  • Hubby Dear went through his garden journal and tallied up the final harvest totals. We learned a lot this year and I'll be sharing this information with you in a future post. 
  • We have a tentative plan for next year's garden. We're expanding our garden yet again, which means we'll be building yet more square foot boxes

Finally! Some cauliflower! The heads were small but very tasty.

2. Food Storage

I hope this captures some of the beauty of this particularly pretty sunset, despite my lack of camera skills! 

December Preps:

  • My major goal this month is to finalize my year's supply of long term food storage items. I need to go over our inventory and see if there are gaps. I think we are complete other than in dry milk.
  • I need to pre-order my chicks to be delivered in March! 
  • My Christmas present to myself is the mack daddy chicken coop that will be delivered in January. I can't wait to share it with you all. 

That's it for me. Are you gifting yourself or others with any preparedness items? If so, please share in the comments.