13 Tips for Using Oatmeal from Your Food Stores

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Editor’s Note: This article was generously contributed by R. Ann Parris. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.


Oatmeal – Jazzing Up the Ubiquitous Prepper Cereal

Being inexpensive, rolled oats can help us save money now, and it’s a good one to stock up on for the same reasons – cheap, filling and full of endurance-granting slow-release energy. I’m not a big fan of “just” oatmeal as a hot cereal. It’s just … well, boring. Too, I anticipate plenty enough spoon-and-bowl meals from beans and rice, boiled wheat or barley, or soups in a crisis, whether it’s a personal crisis or a widespread disaster. I’d rather avoid more as much as possible. The humble rolled oats tub actually helps me there in a big way.

Using mostly things that are also already in my storage or that are easy and inexpensive to obtain, I can churn out desserts, snacks, sides, dinners and breakfasts that are interesting and varied, and don’t really taste like oatmeal. Oatmeal also has a lot of soothing and absorption properties that gives it some handy topical uses.

Using Oatmeal to Extend Meats & Meals

Mix in flakes of oatmeal and-or lentils and ground beans to extend things like meatloaf, meatballs and the hamburger in stews. Oats also make a fabulous replacement for breadcrumbs that would be used as binding or for coating meats.

Add it into Stovetop or homemade bread dressing or stuffing to increase the healthy fibers and calories, and the feelings of satiety from meals.

Grind coarsely or finely and add to flours for bannock, breads, muffins, and biscuits. Zucchini bread, carrot cake and other sweets can take as much as a quarter of the flour in oats without a significant change in texture or flavor. Pancakes, pie crusts, dumplings, cookies and cobblers can all have part of the flour replaced, especially with oats processed to a fine powder.

Fifty-fifty mixes or greater will be far more noticeable and may require additional liquids, but it also increases the heartiness of foods, helps us feel fuller and keep that satisfaction longer over stripped bleached flours especially, gives us healthier, natural arcs of energy, and lowers the glycemic index of foods while helping stomachs process.

Ground oatmeal can also be used to thicken soups, stews and gravy, just like ground beans or lentils that are too old to soak up water efficiently.

Easy Non-Cereal Recipes

Oatmeal has a lot of applications for cooking, without resorting to a bowl of hot cereal. Most of them can be done with a Dutch oven, campfire, rocket stove, or a solar oven or Wonderbag cooker if we don’t have access to our stoves and ovens.

Ash cakes can be made out of pretty much any flour. Using some salt, milk, egg or fats will improve flavor, but the bare-bones way of doing it is to mix just a little water at a time with flour or meal – or in this case, oats – until we can form a patty, then flopping it onto a cooler section of ash. Rolled oats will do best if they’re ground to a flour or if they’re allowed to soak a bit first. As a plain, just-salted version, they make a bread we can have with soups or meats. A little sugar or fruits, and we’re getting closer to a cookie. Alternatively, we can top them with honey or jams, fruits, sweetened cream, or something like a chili or bean medley.

Baked Oatmeal Muffins – A basic recipe with add-in’s for interest and variety is here https://brendid.com/healthy-oatmeal-muffins-no-flour-no-sugar-no-oil/ along with additional links. You can also find dozens of recipes as simple or complicated as you like, with and without other flours and oils, with just about any search. They turn oats into a fast, easy finger food that’s readily portable.

No-Bake Cookies are a staple in some lives. With just a few ingredients and few utensils dirtied, we can use up our oats to satisfy cravings for a fork or finger food as well as a sweet treat. Given the speed with which they disappear as either drop clusters or sliced squares at BSA and adult gatherings these days, during a disaster they’ll be a for-sure hit.

Oatmeal bars can be found as Amish Baked Oatmeal or other standard baked oatmeal, such as this one http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/baked-oatmeal. Oatmeal can also be turned into homemade granola bars. They’re out there in the internet world as soft chewy bars or crunchy options. All of them are adaptable to the fruits, nuts and seeds we have on hand or prefer. There are also homemade granola bars that make use of cereals that store well such as Rice Krispies, Cheerios, or Chex, which can increase the variety even more.

Crunchy granola clusters like this one that has healthier ingredients and a few extra steps and this one that uses lower-cost and easy-to-source ingredients with fewer steps in the process have a lot of versatility. There’s a lot to be said for the ability to turn out a nice snacking portion while using up inexpensive oats, today and later. And, if you’re giddy for it, making mini clusters to throw in as a homemade cold cereal can help provide a different breakfast meal even with a spoon.

Fruit crisps – A basic oatmeal crisp recipe such as this one has a lot of versatility, both now and during a personal crisis or a widespread disaster. We can use it with any pie filling we have, or regular canned fruits we strain or thicken the syrups. We can also use it to make stuffed apples, pears or peaches. It can go over cubed, mashed or pureed pumpkin or sweet potatoes as well, or can be used as a topper for a baked sweet potato. Oatmeal crisp is pretty versatile and forgiving, so we can add a quarter to a half extra oats to our recipe if we want a somewhat heartier and healthier version, or just to help us use up a few more of our rolled oats.

Cookies, Pizzas & Pie Crusts – Cookies are pretty cool as they are. Made thick and gooey, they can be a pretty hearty dessert by topping with dried or canned fruit or pie filling, with or without heavy or whipped cream. We can spread them out in a pie pan to make a quickie crust, use a crisp recipe for a pie crust, or we can bake them as a big, wide cookie to then slice up as a dessert pizza topped with cream cheese, frosting or glaze and then whatever fruit, nuts or morsels floats our boat.

Southern Oatmeal Cake – There are numerous versions of oatmeal cakes, although they’re pretty similar. It’s not the prettiest dish in the lineup, but it’s gooey happiness that can satisfy our sweet tooth without enormous expense. For an easier version that’s more storage friendly or to create some variety, we can alternate the topping with tubs of German chocolate cake frosting, reduced sweetened condensed milk, or just honey if coconut isn’t available. It’s also pretty darn nummy just with some heavy cream, whole milk, whipped cream, or clotted cream on top.

Fried Oatmeal is like fried grits. It starts with the cereal we all know, then it gets packed in a glass or a lined bowl, chilled so it sets up, and later, gets turned out and sliced, then fried in grease, butter or oil. The amount or depth of oil in the pan can change the texture some. The size of the slice both in thickness and width-by-height can affect whether it’s a plate meal like pancakes or if it can be picked up like happy French toast fingers for a non-spoon meal. As with pancakes, waffles and French toast, the topping options become endless – fried “dippy” eggs, sweetened syrups or fruits, chocolate or strawberry milk syrup, cinnamon sugar, and sausage bits and honey are favorites in our house. Chopped nuts can be included in the cereal or added on top for a little bit more texture yet.

For additional ideas about using oatmeal, do a search for savory recipes. Even when it’s served as a bowl of hot cereal, inclusions like grated radish, sprouts, fish, and tomatoes and peppers can increase the variety we’re seeing with our rolled oats and help prevent fatigue from them.

Oats Outside the Kitchen

We can really feel our oats sometimes. Probably most of us have already seen or use – possibly regularly – a product that makes use of some of oats’ best qualities. Just as oatmeal is a pretty soothing and mild option for breakfast, it has a lot of uses externally, too.

Oats can be added to bathwater or used as a paste to relieve:

It can also be added to soaps for its soothing qualities, or turned into an exfoliating scrub.

Combined with baking soda, we can use ground oatmeal flour as a dry shampoo, scrubbing it in with our fingers, then brushing it out. The two absorb oils and relieve any itching, which can be an excellent low-weight and inexpensive option during sweaty garden seasons should water be in limited supply.

That dry shampoo can also safely be used on cats and dogs, to save money on no-rinse shampoos, to avoid stressing a pet with a shower bath, to treat flea or grass allergies, or to avoid getting them wet in cold weather.

Satchels & Sachets

When we don’t really want to turn a bath into an oatmeal pot to scrub, or don’t have a tub available, we can make little balls of rolled oats, with or without additives like baking soda or herbs and oils to gain relief from skin irritations. We can use them in showers, baths, creeks, or just dampened and dabbed on affected areas.

Those, too, can be used on our pets to treat hot spots, bites, and irritated skin.

Satchels of rolled oats can also be used to:

  • Absorb odors in shoes, closets, bags, coolers
  • Absorb moisture from containers before sealing, or sealed with important items

Heat relieves some of the discomfort from cramps, headaches and muscle pains. Pouches can also be filled with warmed dry oatmeal to create in-the-glove or pocket hand-warmers.

Using Up Oats

Oats are a major part of prepper food storage kits because they’re inexpensive. They store well, last well past supermarket best-by dates, have a lot of health benefits for the gut and cardiovascular system, and the fiber and whole grains of rolled oats help us feel full for longer as well as provide slow-release energy that can keep us moving through long days of work or travel.

Happily, they’re also pretty versatile, and with a little creativity we can use them to stretch our budgets now as well as increase our food storage.

There are probably fifty million more recipes out there for making oats without a steaming bowl and spoon, from breads to desserts. There are probably another dozen helpful ways to use it up outside the kitchen. These are just a few of my favorites, due to the ease or the effectiveness of them. Feel free to tag on your additional favorite non-cereal-bowl recipes and uses outside the kitchen.

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Prepping Priorities – What Should You Be Prepping For?

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

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Practical Preparedness – Planning by Prevalence

When we jump on preparedness sites, sometimes we’re immediately struck by the enormous loads of things to buy, do, and learn. We immediately start hearing about WROL, battle rifles, ammo counts in the thousands, pressure canners, INCH/BOB bags and locations, pace count, and primitive skills. World- and nation-altering events such as nuclear war, internet-ending viruses, Nibiru, Agenda 21 and NWO, and the like pop up. They all have their places, but sometimes things get missed and it can make for a very overwhelming introduction. It can make it hard to prioritize where to spend our time and financial budgets even for those with experience and years of exposure to the prepared mindset.

To make it a little easier to prioritize, we can work in stages. We can look at what is most likely to occur in the near future and our lifetimes, and use that information to help us decide where to focus our time, efforts and resources.

Zone-Ring Systems

In permaculture, planning is based on zones. The basic premise is that you start at 0 or 1 with the self or home, and move outward through 2-4 and eventually into Zone 5. The inner rings have the most immediate contact with the resident, while the outer rings are visited less frequently. Other systems also use similar ring concepts of involvement, frequency and impact.

The same can be applied to preparedness, just like we modified a Health Wheel to fit our particular interests and needs. In this case, instead of looking at the frequency with which we’ll make contact with an area, we’ll be looking at the frequency with which things occur and impact our worlds.

Like permaculture, I’ve gone with five general categories. In this case, they are: Daily, Seasonal/Annual, 5-10 Year, Generational, & Lifetime/Eventually/Maybe. There are some examples for the average Western World resident. Later in the article there’s a few tips for planning for and around those most and least-prevalent scenarios.

Zone 1/First Ring – Daily Occurrences

A layoff can be just as devastating as a zombie invasion if you aren’t prepared.

Daily emergencies are those that strike somebody somewhere every single day in our English-reading modern life. While some affect larger groups, these tend to be personal or family related items. They’re the kinds of things the neighbors might not even notice. Some examples are:

  • Layoff, cut hours, cut wages
  • Major bills (roof, medical, HVAC, veterinary)
  • House fire
  • Major injury/developing disability
  • Theft, burglary, mugging
  • Vehicular accident & malfunction (temporarily removing transportation)
  • Temporary power outages (hours to 1-3 days)
  • Personal physical altercation (mugging, home invasion, the drunk at a bar, date rape)
  • Missing person(s), family death

When considering the financial aspects of preparedness, also consider the things that might not affect jobs, but do affect our income and-or our ability to offset daily costs. For instance, an injury that prevents gardening and picking up overtime or a second job as a stocker, pipe-fitter, or forklift driver, or a developing disability that renders an arm/hand weak or unusable and prevents needlepoint, canine grooming, or weaving.

Zone 2/Second Ring – Seasonal/Annual Occurrences

These are the things we can consult our Almanacs and insurance companies to consider. They regularly tend to affect a larger number of people. It might be a block or a street in some cases, parts of a town or county, or might impact a whole state if not a region. They’d be things like…

River ice jam flooding

 

Let’s hope that last stays firmly in the “annual” category or shifts back to the third prevalence ring for most of us. Let’s also acknowledge that in some places and nations, it’s already more common to be caught in crossfire of some sort than it is to live peaceful lives, and for some of them, it’s as or almost as common as paying monthly bills or going out to eat.

Zone 3/Third Ring – 5-10 Year Occurrences

These are the things that happen regularly, but infrequently. Some occur on cycles. Some, as with the natural disasters above, are a nearly predictable cycle. Some aren’t really predictable, per se, but as with tornadoes in one of the nations’ tornado alley or hurricane-prone areas, you learn to expect them. We can expect them to affect a larger area or more people in many cases.

  • Natural Disasters from above
  • Mudslides
  • Major industrial or business closures/layoffs
  • Drought (personal & widespread impacts)
  • Widespread livestock illnesses (such as the avian diseases that pop up regularly)
  • Temporary outages (3-14 days)
  • Changing life phases (child-birth & toddlers, school-age kids, driving-age youths, empty nests, retirements)
  • Fuel cost cycles

Zone 4/Fourth Ring – Generational Occurrences

The span covered by the term “generation” tends to change if you use the strictest definitions. Most account for a generation to cover about 20-30 years. Some examples of things that very much tend to be generational include:

  • Major wars (mental & physical disabilities, income effects good & bad)
  • Recessions, depressions
  • Fuel cost cycles (more extreme)
  • Serious multi-year “weird” weather (droughts, floods, late or early springs)
  • 25- & 50-year flood levels
  • Some diseases

Zone 5/Fifth Ring – Lifetime/Eventual/Possible Occurrences

A lot of these are going to affect not just a region, not just one nation, but many. In some nations and regions, they may fall under the fourth ring of prevalence instead of the fifth. Some of these are also the big-fear “gotcha’s” or clickbait types that seem to draw folks in. Some are truly believed in, and I try not to judge people on what they believe. Poles have shifted in the past, Yellowstone has erupted, we’ve had serious solar effects on power, and asteroids have struck our earth. Will they happen again in our lifetime or eventually? Some almost certainly. Some are a firm “maybe”. Some are … possible.

  • Great Depression
  • Devastating Midwest seismic activity
  • National or global pandemics in the Western world
  • Major Ring of Fire activity
  • Significant volcanic eruptions (the atmosphere-blocking ash type)
  • Major global climate change (for the hotter or colder)
  • EMP, devastating solar activity
  • Nation-crippling electronic-based virus(es)

Alternative Scale Systems

Like permacuture’s zoning, the business world can also give us some scale systems to apply. High-probability, high-reward, urgent-response items are given priority, while lower-chance and less-likely risks are tended to later. We can create the same for our preparedness.

Another way to look at the five rings would be to apply a timespan for event duration. Perhaps 3-7 days, then 3-6 weeks, 3 months, 6-12 months, and 18-months+.

Like using prevalence, using time spans creates a measurable scale that works off a “most likely” basis. Most of us, at some point inside 1-5 years, will have some sort of financial upheaval or power outage that makes the supplies in the first few rings useful.

Ensuring we have everything we need to cook, clean, stay warm (or cool), and pay bills for those periods will keep us more balanced in our preparedness, and make us better prepared for the things that are MOST likely to occur in our near future and our lifetimes.

Applying Prevalence Rings

It’s inarguable that if you’re ready for the New World Order to freeze the planet and then send out FLIR drones to drop nuclear bombs in the midst of a planned or unplanned foreign-nation bank account hack while satellites are inaccessible due to solar storms’ interference, you’re pretty much good.

That’s not a particularly practical place to start and it might not be the best plan for resource allocation unless everything else really is covered.

There are a world’s worth of things that occur on a small-scale, inside homes and towns, that happen a lot more frequently than the dinosaurs and mega-mammals die out.

I see an awful lot of people hyped on one thing that can go wrong and might one day go wrong, but they exclude all kinds of things that do actually happen.

They forget that we sometimes have disasters that mean daily life is taking place all around us, or in the rest of the county, state, nation and world. They neglect fire extinguishers and smoke detectors for the sexy-cool aspects of preparedness like the rifles and Rambo knives.

Fact is, most of us will experience something from the first tier or two in our lives at least once, and for some of us, they’re regular parts of life.

In many cases of upheaval and crisis, we’re still going to want electricity, most likely.

We will still have a job or need to find a new one, will still be expected to present ourselves showered and with money to receive services, will still have doctor’s appointments, hunting and squatting in county-state-national parks will still be frowned on, and combat gear in the streets will still be the exception rather than the rule.

In some cases, the duration of our life-altering events might only be a few hours or days. However, in many parts of the world, those hours or days can be seriously inconvenient if not downright deadly. The ability to keep a CPAP machine running, repair a down or wrecked vehicle, and continue on with life after a squirrel invasion or a tree comes down is just as important as defending the home from looters and making beeswax candles.

Being able to repel the zombie horde does me little good if my vehicle is in poor repair on a daily basis and leaves me stranded on my way to work. 5K-10K rounds of ammo times my 7 platforms sounds nice, unless I don’t keep oil, coolant, jumper cables and fix-a-flat or a mini air compressor in my vehicle so I can limp my way home to them safely – on a daily basis.

Prioritizing instead of jumping willy-nilly – and tracking instead of continuing to add to whatever my favorite prep stash is – can help prevent daily disasters from truly causing upheaval.

Overlap Between Rings

The nice thing about seriously assessing what is likely to go wrong based on prevalence in the past is that we can sometimes make just little twitches.

We don’t have to be ready for all-out neighborhood wars over food, grazing rights, and tickets to the Earth Arks to create that overlap.

A bug-out bag serves as a shelter-in-place kit as well as a “standard” wildfire or hurricane evac kit. Having a month or two of food (or far more) means we can also weather a big bill because we can skip buying groceries.

Image: How’s your insurance coverage?

Preparing by Prevalence

Resources like the Ready.gov site and our insurance carriers can help us determine what goes wrong in our area. We might be well served making maps using the information they give us about regular, fifty-year and hundred-year floods, wind storms, and snow/hurricane routes to apply to our walk-out and drive-out plans.

We can also use their information – like, what is the number-one thing that causes job-loss or vehicle and home damage in our area – to make sure we’re buffered against it.

Pat’s preparedness arc and the article about a balanced wheel (especially the comments) may help even longtime preppers better assess where they stand, and focus or refocus on any gaps between normal daily life and the return of the Ice Age, Dust Bowl, total economic collapse, and other extreme events. They – and the standard FEMA/Red Cross recommendations for 3-7-10-14 days of supplies – can be excellent starting places for beginners.

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How to Get the Most Food from Your Survival Garden

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Boosting Our Garden Productivity

Our practices can affect our garden productivity hugely. Sometimes that’s as easy as changing our mindsets, so that the time and labor it takes to garden is lowered, which allows us to do more. Sometimes it’s embracing “Semper Gumby” and accepting the feedback our gardens and yards offer us, and sometimes it’s looking at our home and yard spaces differently. Sometimes it’s letting the Johnson’s be the Johnson’s and contenting ourselves with being us – with our needs and abilities the measuring standard we use. In some cases, the practices we apply might be hugely unconventional. In other cases, they’re tiny things only in our minds. They can all make a difference when it comes to successful growing. Here are a few ways we can cut down on the labor and time of gardening and increase our yields, whether we’re just getting started with some pots or whether we’re ready to expand our production in times of crisis when food production has stopped.

Pick the Right Plants

Sometimes if we’re after heirlooms and open-pollinated plants so we can collect seed, it can be tough, but whenever possible, selecting local or regional plants and seeds will boost our success. They’re adapted to if not developed specifically for our climate, so there’s a better chance of them performing for us than something that was produced across the country, even of the same cultivar.

If we can’t find our choices locally, we can do some research. There are some proven winners that work across multiple USDA growing zones for most types of veggies and even most of the field crops we’ll grow.

Most of our county extension, state Ag department, and the Master Gardener’s programs will have stock lists of varieties that perform well regionally within the state and county. Remember that the Big Ag guys are going to most likely be spraying and irrigating, so look for and ask about dryland farming varieties and varieties that are resistant to pests.

We can also improve our gardens by selecting disease-resistant varieties whenever possible. Not dealing with a crop illness at all is far easier on the labor, pocketbook, and productivity of a garden.

We also want to pick the right plants for us, and the right number of plants.

15,000 Non GMO Heirloom Vegetable Seeds Survival Garden 32 Variety Pack

Ten or twenty tomatoes take a lot of work, and a lot of resources. On the other hand, ten or twenty pea or bean plants is likely to only yield enough for a couple of meals at once. Four-square-feet of corn is nearly nothing – one, maybe two meals for 4-5. Four-square-feet of spinach could be salads and greens for a whole season, depending on family size.

Determinate plants dump the majority of their produce all at once, which can lead to a glut we have to deal with, and then they die. That can be good or bad.

If we want to go with determinates, for some things like squash and tomatoes, maybe we stagger two to four plants at a time for a small family or a beginner. It makes less to deal with at one time, and it lets us re-plant after them at a reasonable pace for busy people as well.

Alternatively, maybe we go with a longer-lived set of indeterminate plants that trickle in produce at a rate we can consume or process easily.

Proximity – Plan garden plots along paths we already take, and near the resources they’ll need.

Proximity

Location, location, location – we hear it all the time when finding property, but it’s just as important once we have our space to play with. The closer we can put our gardens to our homes, the more attention they’re going to get and the less time we’re going to spend crossing ground to go weed, water, fetch tools, and harvest.

Once we’re hitting about fifty-percent of our veggie consumption, it’s tough to keep the whole garden close at hand, but we can still keep rotations plants that require a lot of water, that get harvested from regularly, and our problem-prone plants near at hand.

The closer we can put our gardens to our homes, the more attention they’re going to get

We also want to be mindful of proximity to water. Since rooflines are going to be our most common rain catchment points (using our free salvaged buckets and totes), we can check both those boxes keeping at least some of our beds along our common walkways to and from the house and garage or sheds, or establishing beds near doorways and outdoor water faucets.

With our beds near the house, we’ll then also want to keep some of the maintenance basics like hand tools and maybe a watering can right there handy as well. The most regularly used items are fairly compact, so they should fit right in with our porch broom or a bucket or deck box near the door.

Eliminate Ego

Right up there with making our life easier by picking out plants that are proven winners and producers, is giving ourselves a break. The neighbors might have a bare earth garden without a speck of a weed. Martha Stewart and the Neeleys might have awesome, bountiful beds with expensive chipped mulch or thick mats of straw.

Good for them. They’re not us.

We can take advice from them if we want – and if their advice falls in line with our growing style, and the desire to be more self-sufficient, which means cutting some of the umbilical cords to Lowe’s and Tractor Supply. We can ask what varieties they use, maybe even trade some seeds. We need to not compare ourselves – or our gardens – to them and theirs.

Every person and family is different, and soil changes step by step. The extra time being cultivated, a reliance on outside fertilizers, different wind and sun patterns, and a devotion to watering can all have effects.

We also need to just be nice to ourselves. If the weeds aren’t big enough to bother the plants, they’re not hurting anything; take a few minutes to enjoy family or a book now and then. If we have to pick between having cardboard between rows and beds, or running a tiller or weed-eater or hoe, go with the time and fuel and labor-saving ugly.

All our garden should be about is our yield and our health and our abilities, compared only to our past.

The rest of it, that’s just ego. Hubris is how mere mortals take down the gods and giants in all the good stories. Stick with humble and happy.

Slow, Steady Solutions

This is actually a permaculture principle. What it means is that we add things at a pace where we can handle them, where they will thrive, and where we can accept feedback from them – and adjust accordingly. It goes hand-in-hand with that ego point above. But also, it’s about learning, and not getting overwhelmed.

Whether we’re just starting or expanding, it can be tempting to go for broke. And sometimes, we break. Then we get discouraged, either by a method and we write it off, or by this whole gardening thing in general.

We can also break the bank trying to do it all at once, either getting started or making changes or trying to keep up with others’ results.

Deciding on our pace should include a look at our financials. Sometimes it’s more economical to buy or rent a machine and get lots done in a few hours, but sometimes we’re better served with a shovel and a post-hole auger and working by inches over days and weeks.

We do need to get started with gardening, but make changes and expand at a pace we can maintain. In the end, we’ll have a better situation than if we rushed around and ended up unhappy or worn out later.

Leave Room to Renovate

When we eke out our plots and expansions, we can benefit from leaving ourselves some elbow room through and around them. Especially if we’re new, we might also want to use a more temporary “build” for the first few rounds.

Container gardens, lasagna beds, using established flower and ornamental beds for veggies, expanding at the base of trees or hedges just a foot or two, and inexpensive beds made from things like shelving units can help with that. So can doing an unbounded, free-form bed instead of starting off with brick or timbers.

That way we have a chance to test out our water solutions, placement around our homes and placement of our tools, our composting systems, make sure it’s not too dry or too sodden or in a frost pocket or heavily shaded come June, exposed to winds, or affected by our livestock locations, and then actually apply the feedback that our plants themselves will give us.

Then we can go around and reinforce our beds with timbers and CMU if we’re happy, or reassemble them somewhere else if we’re not, or go whole-hog with our in-ground, tilled-out methods.

Having extra elbow room also allows us to try out new methods as we become aware of them, and have space to maneuver or change focus as we lose mobility due to injury or age, or as our family situation changes.

In the end, our gardens and our time in them will be far more productive if we leave ourselves room to adjust for better efficiency or economy down the line.

Bed Down Beds

Cover vegetable beds with leaves in the winter.

At the end of the season, cover garden soil with something, no matter what it is – tilled plots eked out of the yard, actual built raised beds, unbounded lasagna beds, pots and planters.

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible

Maybe it’s newspaper you soak and then weigh down with loose sticks and rocks and the brick/CMU for a later project, or cardboard that gets screwed into timbers. Maybe it’s a tarp, some old shower curtains, or a patchwork of trash bags and duct tape. Maybe it’s a layer of mown leaves and pine needles. In some cases, you might actually plant a cover crop that will grow for a bit and then get killed off in winter’s cold, forming a mat.

Do whatever it takes, but cover gardens for the non-growing seasons.

It’ll reduce the amount of work necessary to start all over in spring, because it’ll prevent or limit weeds – especially from trees that have long, hard-to-kill roots and the most prolific annuals – and in some cases, it will deprive any that are already in the soil of light come spring.

In most cases, covers of all kinds will also help prevent compaction from winter and early spring rains, so it’ll take less work to loosen soil for planting again.

Even piles of unused mulch can benefit from being covered.

Mulch is there to help us prevent weeds on top of the benefits of reducing compaction and creating a slow-breakdown feed for our beds. If it sits open to the sky, weed seeds can blow in, and some of those weeds will get roots going all the way through the pile, a foot or more deep. We don’t really want to be moving weeds into our garden beds, especially not when there’s a fast, easy way to prevent it.

Garden Management Practices

How we manage our gardens, and even the mentalities we adopt as we plot them out and watch them over the season, has major effects on how much yield they return.

Siting and plant selection in particular is crucial, no more so than for busy people. It’s also crucial that we be realistic with ourselves and with our goals – because every style of gardening requires at least some labor and inputs from us to be successful.

Veggie gardening can be rewarding, but it can also be frustrating. Using practices that make it a little easier to get started now and that leave room for improvements in the future can limit some of the frustrations, and can let us work out the kinks while there are still grocery stores filled with cheap produce to cover our gaps.

The post How to Get the Most Food from Your Survival Garden appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Are You Really Prepared for the Real World?

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

I happen to cruise the same prepper forum as this child’s father . He’s all the time popping up with updates of what he’s ordered in or purchased on the “What Did You Prep Today” thread – parts for his expanding power system, tons of first-aid supplies, another hunting blind, potassium iodide and more gas masks, more MOPP suits, replacing his fifth wheel with a pop-up camper, endless survival books.

He’s not really doing anything hundreds if not thousands aren’t. He’s worried about a game-changing Z-event – doesn’t matter what it is. His wife somewhat supports him, and ignores chunks of the rest. When the power goes out, he flips some switches and keeps them going. When his son first got sick, he identified some gaps in their preps – namely, ways to control nausea and ways to combat low oxygen in patients.

Then the real world kicked the door in, and so did the “uh oh”.

The amount that was not covered by their insurance was a sucker punch, on top of lost wages and normal bills, and the additional expenditures for traveling and staying with an in-hospital patient.

That kind of thing happens. All the time.

It’s the kind of thing in between our normal, everyday life and an actual major disaster that just doesn’t get prepared for all that often.

The World We Live In

We live in a highly unpredictable world. You’d think, as “preppers”, we’d accept that, and prepare for it.

We commonly don’t though.

We prepare for the worst case and a short-term storm or a flat tire, and with frightening regularity, we skip the vast number of things that can happen in between. In some or many cases, we live paycheck to paycheck or via debt to get our supplies for that worst and that storm, without actually being able to readily and more easily weather life’s mid-range crises.

Most of us don’t have to practice much actual triage in our daily lives. Man, am I grateful not to be in those fields, or living in a world that does require it. At some point in the future, we may have to make those hard calls, or watch people fade away from us, helpless to do anything at all because resources just don’t exist.

Right now, though, it’s unlikely that we’re going to watch our children, spouses, or parents slowly fade away in bed without getting them every medical advantage we can beg, steal and borrow against, and then waiting for the bills to roll in. So we need to get ready for them.

Our “bunker” (really, it’s food and hygiene supplies), our generator and fuel supplies, and our cached medical supplies may help us defray our living expenses while we shovel out of a financial hole, whatever the cause of that hole. For those starting out and with less than three, six or twelve months of really well-rounded supplies, however, it may be a minuscule fraction of the $8K the prepper above is trying to raise.

In other cases, such as vehicle or roof repairs, we may need that money now and find ourselves maxing out cards or taking out a loan – in some cases, a personal loan with a higher interest rate than a vehicle loan – which then leaves us even more vulnerable.

The Things That Go Wrong

Predicting just how much a common, no-frills surgery or dental procedure is going to end up costing out of pocket is a little bit like throwing darts blindfolded, even with major insurance coverage. It’s one of the many flaws in our healthcare system, and it can lead to some painful surprises, just as it did for the family above with their unexpected and uncommon situation.

There are minor disasters like a leak that means an out-of-this-world water bill, discovering that bees now inhabit 85% of an outer wall, and vet bills.

There are somewhat less-minor disasters such as cut hours or other loss of wages, or injury or circumstances that limit how much we can hunt or garden or forage and thus require making that up out of pocket.

Seasonal trends in the greater financial world can mean our income and costs can vary greatly. Some types of self-employment come in ebbs and flows that are hard to predict. Workers comp and unemployment are fractions of what regular wages are in some cases.

Can you take the hit on water, repair, and field losses from a broken irrigation line?

 

Then there are the disasters like farm-ag insurance that doesn’t actually cover our loss of stock to a dog or illness, or weather conditions leading to feed and hay prices going through the roof.

There are heart-breakers like loss of spouse – either divorce or death or debilitating injury that leave a big gap between former wages and real-work “income” and their social security disability.

All kinds of things go wrong, all the time.

Armageddon-ELE and a snowstorm are only the extreme ends of the spectrum. There’s a lot of middle ground we need to cover if we want to call ourselves prepared.

We need a plan for things in between a night spent in the cold because our kayak went downriver without us, and our plan to batten down the hatches of the bunker, board our ark, or shoulder our bag and go eat bugs and roots in the forest.

So what do we do about it? Especially those just starting out, or who have hit that ugly hump where they thought they were prepared, then discovered the world of sustainability and self-reliance that entails even more purchases and education?

We do have options. We have one more hurdle to leap first, though.

Stuff is the same as cash

Most preppers agree Ammo would be highly valuable in a SHTF Event.

I hate to see the belief that firearms and ammo, and our hardware like generators, are going to bail us out.

I’ve seen the theory that firearms hold value well. Depending on how you define value, maybe. Depending on how long you can wait, they also might hold more value. Run a test, though.

There are books, just like for vehicles, that define value of firearms based on a percent of their condition. That’s the top dollar somebody’s going to pay, unless you can find a sympathy buy, nostalgia buy, or somebody willing to pay for specialty etching.

Most of the time, if you need cash relatively quickly, you’re not going to get that top dollar, even if you did accurately gauge whether your shotgun, revolver, and rifle are at 75% or at 85%. You’re going to a gun store or a pawn store.

In some cases, they’ll take a percentage of the price you want and stick it on a shelf to see if it sells, but you won’t get paid until it does. If you have other money forthcoming, there’s the pawn option – which lets you buy it back for basically what they gave you upfront, but with a time limit.

Most of the time, you’re going to take a hard hit on that best-case value. See, that’s the most they’re going to be able to get. So off the top, they’re going to cut the price by the overhead – the costs of running and manning a storefront and-or internet presence.

There are definitely guns out there that are investments. Man, how many of us wish we’d snagged a few more of those K98’s, 91/30’s, or those .22LR German training pistols while they were under $100, now that they’re sitting at $200+?

Those are the exception.

Your bog standard 870-500, AR, and Glock, even purchased used, is not going to return the same money it was purchased for. In some cases, it’s not going to return 2/3 and may only hit half what it cost.

The same for ammo, unless you’re in the middle of a shortage. Especially if you’re looking to offload fast, chances are good you’re going to get less than 75% what you paid.

Sometimes hardware like chainsaws and generators, reloading presses, and tow-behind attachments will fetch decent returns back, but if you purchased new and are selling used, or if you need to sell fast, you may be in for a nasty surprise there, too. Same goes for selling off some of those canning, long-storage food, and equine supplies.

Please, don’t take my word for it, or anybody else’s.

Pretend you’re there, with a sick kid and $8K you can’t cover, out of space on credit cards and unable to wait 7-14 days for a loan. Haul some of the examples in to a shop. Call around.

Better to find out now than later.

Fire insurance may or may not cover outbuildings like barns and sheds, and their contents to include livestock, let alone feeding & getting livestock out of the cold afterward.

 

Getting Right

A lot of the middle-ground disasters revolve around finances, either losing our income or having to shell out. It’s not fun and in many cases, income is one of the fixed facts of our lives. There are a few things we can do to help build resilience, though.

Insurance: Go over your policies – all of them. Flood coverage is almost always separate. Wildfire and house-fire coverage can vary wildly. Don’t play the odds on health coverage for big disasters and cancer treatments; plan for that disaster, too. Make sure you check on things like preexisting conditions, such as diabetes or world travel that may make you an exception to coverage.

The biggest is to make sure insurance actually covers your losses.

Make sure life insurance and disability coverage actually covers your mortgage, or rent for enough time for your family to get up on its feet. Make sure vehicle coverage and theft coverage actually pays for the gear inside the vehicle, too.

In some/many cases, firearms are severely limited in coverage without additional or separate policies, and so are precious metals.

We can increase our deductibles to lower our monthly bills, but to do so, we need to make sure we actually have the deductibles on hand to pay out – all of them, in case a tree falls across all the vehicles and a roof, and then there’s a house fire while we’re staying in a hotel/campground.

That’s where honest self-assessment comes into play. If we’re not going to keep that payout on hand, we need to stick to the lower deductibles and just pay the higher monthly rates.

Have an emergency credit card with zero balance.

Emergency Credit Card: Have a card with nothing on it, enough to cover those insurance deductibles above and for that hotel room and the unexpected expenses that crop up. Cash is great, and I endorse keeping plenty on hand, but insurance doesn’t cover or severely limits paper money replacement and it’s bulky. If it can get tucked somewhere accessible in the middle of the night that won’t be affected by the “it” crisis facing the family, go for it, but keep a card handy, too.

Companies like to send cards to even people with bad credit and no jobs. If you’re not actually using it until a disaster occurs, the obnoxious interest rate doesn’t matter. But again, that’s about individual willpower.

Stop Spending: That can be harder than it sounds for some people. “It’s only” and “it’s on sale” and the eye-catchers at stores can wind up adding a fair bit to totals. Lack of organization and counts means I’ve seen people with six or seven of the same thing that doesn’t actually wear out all that often or 47 cheap flashlights, which is money that could have been spent far differently or tucked in a jar for a rainy day.

If impulse purchases are a problem write on the inside of your dominant hand “do I need this – how much of an hourly wage equivalent is this?”. Framing things into that last question has actually helped others, really and truly. Is that $8 fast-food combo or gadget really worth an hour or a half-hour of your daily income?

To combat internet impulse buys, take the card information off your accounts after every purchase, and make it a habit to keep cards in another room from computers. Stick the same question on those cards or on a slip in the wallet.

Cut Expenses: Every situation is different. Chances are good though, that most of us have something we can cut.

Whether it’s $90/year for Amazon Prime for our TV and movies, $8/month for Hulu, and whatever internet costs versus a cable package, gong to VoIP instead of a landline (you can plug in a phone to dial 911 even without phone service), or really deciding if we need those smart phones – or the major carrier contracts instead of reloadables, electronics are a main source.

Tally up what we spend and where, every penny; from the candy added to carts to the brand clothes and shoes, those $1 coffees instead of a thermos and lunches/snacks out instead of packing them. Consider what we cook, and what we could save by cooking differently.

Where we shop, and how much we spend on a DIY project (to include cooking) versus waiting or just buying something, are big contributors to what we spend.

We may also seriously consider downsizing if we rent, assessing the vehicle we drive for its maintenance and fuel costs versus something more economical, or getting out of a house that’s a money suck.

Communicate Goals: When it comes to the expenses and to the spending mentioned above, we’re going to have to talk to our families in many cases, and that’s going to be a headache, because what we prioritize is different.

You have to leave in at least some of the sanity savers, and it’s going to have to be transparently balanced, especially if you’re the only or the primary prepper. Cutting data, internet, subscriptions, and TV while you still buy a tacticool hatchet-prybar-tent stake and 500 rounds of ammo is likely to go down like ground glass.

In fact, forget the word “prepper” and all the world of gear and goodies while you’re working the financials. Every bank, credit union and investment agency is going to have mail-outs they’re happy to send you about budgeting and financial security. Get them. Print the example prepper’s story. Sit down with the goal to simply get out of a rut or become more financially stable.

Stay calm, stay open, be understanding, be non-aggressive, and walk in with some ideas but also asking about their solutions, too, and willing to compromise.

Write out the anticipated costs – roofs, tires, replacement appliances, vet bills, medical and dental bills, vehicles, graduation and college, annual shopping binges (holidays, back-to-school, vacations/trips, garden supplies). Come up with a “now” plan, and 1-2, 5, and 10-year plans and goals.

Involve everybody, and remember that their priorities are as prized to them as yours are to you, and what’s “obvious” is not going to be so for everyone else.

Piggy Bank vs. Zero-Balance: There’s going to always be a balancing act between paying off debt and sticking money in a kitty for another time. It’s another one that’s going to be deeply personal and individual. Have some money available, instead of immediately dumping every penny against a debt. Build up or keep enough on hand to go ahead and pay deductibles and for the credit cards that get so many people in trouble.

Just as we slowly build up food storage a few days, then a week, then a month, then 3 months, build financial backups that prevent late fees or huge interest rates.

Once we have it, pick the things that cost us the most (highest interest) and-or that we can eliminate pretty quickly, and focus on those.

 

House floods – It does not take Katrina or Sandy to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in un-covered damages.

Preparing for the Middle Ground

Our food storage and some of our other prepping supplies absolutely helps with some of those disasters, lessening our expenditures, but it can take some time for the savings to equal what we really need to pay out, and sometimes we need to pay that now. Too, if our supplies are things we will not actually use while the rest of the world is chugging around like normal (beans and rice 5-7x a week, scrubbing board, NBC or surgical suite) they’re not going to help us dig out of a hole.

The only thing less-sexy and less-interesting than getting right financially is going to be making up those disks and binders of our important information. Do it anyway. Make a chart or a graduated pie graph that can be colored in, weekly or monthly, so that we have a nice, physical tangible and can look at something to see what we’ve accomplished. It’ll help keep us on track.

Getting on track and staying on track financially is probably harder than any other aspect of preparedness. Try. There’s a lot that goes wrong in our world that does not involve ARs, survival gardens, INCH-BO bags, and making our own charcoal.

The post Are You Really Prepared for the Real World? appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Garden Hacks – Repurpose Everyday Items

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

When it comes to preparedness – or life in general – there’s a ton to buy. When we can reuse something, it helps. One, there’s the direct cost application. Two, looking at something and seeing its ability to be something completely different has enormous benefits in opening the mind in general.

If we’re preparing for a crisis, gardening and the ability to provide fresh foods in the gulf of winter and spring take on a far greater importance than just a hobby or a passion. Happily, there are some things that can be salvaged for free or found at very low-cost that make a world’s worth of difference. Channel your inner Julie Andrews with me as we look at a few of my favorite things. There’s some non-gardening uses for each listed as well.

DVD Racks

Years ago I picked up a free DVD rack to be a bean trellis for a Rubbermaid tote garden. I have since been in love, and it’s one of the things I consistently watch for at yard sales, curbside pickup listings, and foreclosure cleanup sites.

I got lucky, and mine have a rounded top at the sides. If you find some that don’t, just glue on a milk jug cap for some of its applications.

They go way beyond trellising.

They work for the far ends and sometimes central support “poles” of low poly tunnels or low hoops for garden beds and rows. A little free bamboo or PVC to span distances, some binder clips (Dollar Tree) to clamp the plastic on, and you’re in business.

They can also be set up long-wise down the middle of a bed to form an A-frame style “camping tent” poly cover if desired, which works really well for peas, with roots and salads to the outer verges, and converts well to later tomato beds.

They also form plant racks for inside near windows, against pale walls, or outdoors to keep salads conveniently close or make use of vertical height.

Mine all hold square plastic coffee tubs (they need a length of string along the front unless it’s a really well-protected area), #2.5 cans (the large tomato or peaches can), and V8 bottles without any modification at all. They’ll hold 2L bottles on their sides for longer, shallow containers, or Lipton and Arizona tea jugs of both types and sizes either cut off vertically or horizontally.

I can do square juice jugs as well, but they overhang enough to make the dog tails an issue on their sides, and I’m more comfortable with some twine or wire looping them to the back bar.

I prefer the open-dowel construction type, just because it leaves me options. I can add thin saplings, bamboo or thin sheathing to convert them if needed, but the open frame allows more light and nestles the rounded-bottom containers well.

Outside Gardening the DVD racks have the ability to hold larger canned goods and bottles of water, be used to dry clothes as-is or be half of a frame of dowels or saplings to create a larger drying space, and the poor kid used to have a pair that were hung with a curtain, topped with a chunk of (free) plywood, and outfitted with $2 in hooks to hang her uniform shirts and pants, like a mini closet that was also the mirror and vanity.

Storm Doors & Windows

These guys don’t multipurpose to the same degree as the DVD racks. They’re really handy to run across, though. One, having a backup is never a bad thing. Two, they are ready-made cold frames and pest exclusion frames.

I like a 3’ width for garden beds, permanent or bounded, and they fit pretty perfectly as-is. I can tighten up and use straw bales to create a different kind of cold frame with them laid across the top. I can run them in series or as individual structures.

An A-frame can be pretty quickly mocked up and is one of the easiest builds for getting your feet wet. It’s also handy in that it sluices ice and snow build-up and is more resistant to winds. The doors and windows get hinged at the tops, any stick or tool props them so they don’t flip the frame or ka-bong off your noggin, and cats, dogs and goats are less likely to stand on them.

Just the mesh from storm doors and windows is useful. So is mesh that comes off when you repair those.

It’s going in the garden, so some stitching or a little duct tape on both sides to repair a rip isn’t an issue. All it’s doing is protecting seed-stock squash from cross-pollination or keeping creepy-crawlies from eating the brassicas, lettuce, and beans before you can.

The advantage to taking out the mesh is that it’s an even easier build yet. There’s no hinges (unless you hinge the whole frame) and there’s less weight. That means more materials become potentials for the frame itself. You can tie some loops to go around a brick or post, or add some eye hooks to keep it in place.

Do keep the builds small enough that you can lift or flip by yourself once plants are in there. Some posts to the inside of the bed or rows can create a pivot point for flipping.

Painter’s/Construction Drop Cloth

My first set of drop cloth came from a part-time job in high school. I have been in love ever since.

It’s not super expensive, and it’s a toss-up whether the construction poly or the garden poly is cheaper to buy new, but it’s usually the totally clear construction drop cloth in our area. The 5+ mil I use is fairly durable in Southern wind storms, sun rot, ice and freezing rain, and Mid-Atlantic snow.

Contact handyman type businesses and painting businesses – for these as well as the windows and storm doors, and the mesh from those. Usually they’ll only use them for so long and as with the mesh, a few duct tape patches and the paint stains won’t impede too much structurally or light-wise.

Should you see them pop up cheap or free somewhere, don’t neglect those fancy-people outdoor grill, furniture and sofa covers, or any clear, thick, translucent vehicle covers.

Like the totally clear and colorless painter’s plastic, they all make for great garden hoop houses. Some of them can also be outfitted with sturdier construction to form a more permanent greenhouse.

Outside Gardening drop “cloth” or storm doors and windows can also be assembled into wind and snow-blocking shields around exposed doors at the home, or can enclose part or all of a porch to turn into a mudroom in an emergency or during snowy weather. Doing so creates a buffer chamber so there will be less polar vortex entering the house with every human and pet.

Plastic can also be used to cover windows and doors inside or out to decrease drafts and increase insulation value.

The painter’s plastic has the same value for livestock in extreme environments, especially if a normally warm climate is experiencing sudden return-to-winter weather after flocks or rabbits have adjusted to 60s-70s-80s, or if it’s so rare to have severe weather, coops and hutches were never built for extreme cold.

Drop cloths and poly covers can also be used to line bedding for the young, ill and elderly, so that every sneeze and cough or “mommy, I feel- blech” does not lead to disinfecting a mattress as well as changing bedding.

Wire Shelving

Really, do you ever have enough shelving? I particularly like seeing the simple-frame, open-weave, metal-wire shelving for bathrooms, laundry rooms and closets pop up in junk piles, yard sales, and Craigslist, because it’s super handy, super versatile stuff.

Like the DVD racks, it’s indoor-outdoor tiered plant stands, either year-round or during seed-starting and transplant season(s).

It can also be wrapped in our reclaimed plastic sheets or form part or all of the structure for salvaged windows or poly covers to make a mini greenhouse on a porch, beside a house or garage, for growing later and earlier in the season.

Then it gets even more useful.

Even if the whole is a little rickety, the shelves themselves can be removed and then turned into trellises. They can be rearranged around their original legs-stand or affixed to bamboo or the legs from old tables or chairs to form short garden fences to discourage turtles and rabbits, and limit dogs running through beds.

As an added bonus, if you have a senior gardener or an injury, sinking some of those sturdy table legs or a bundle of 3-4 larger bamboo canes 18” deep and up to hip or rib level can be a major aid in keeping them gardening.

The sturdy supports can then be covered with netting or sections of storm door mesh to act as a further bird and pest exclusions.

Outside Gardening there are endless uses for shelving, from water collection to organizing anything at all. Wire shelves also offer a lot of airflow for drying clothes.

The shelf “planks” of wire units can be used to patch and shore up fences and coops, especially somewhere something dug. They can be used to cover vehicle and house windows to limit damage from thrown bricks or if a storm window is damaged during a crisis.

They can also be reconfigured into a cage or crate for rabbits or small birds, to expand flocks or because they happened to be stacked from Craigslist and Freecycle runs ahead of time and now there’s a puppy to crate train or weather has shifted and we’re worried about the next generation of layers.

The shelves can be used to sift the largest chunks out of compost or soil in some cases, help form a gabion to slow water and keep it from increasing erosion, or can be lined with mesh or cloth for drying foods or seeds.

The shelves can usually be easily reconfigured with larger or smaller gaps than originally intended to facilitate buckets, larger boxes, or drying seeds and grains.

They don’t pop up as much as they used to, but some can still be found on the freebie sites as curbside pickup, or for <$15-20. They also sometimes pop up at Salvation Army/Goodwill, and if you cultivate contacts, sometimes you get your hands on just the shelf parts because the rest of the racks have been lost during multiple transfers or all the pieces weren’t donated.

Garden Reuse-its – My Favorite Things

These are just a few of my favorite things to re-purpose for growing veggies. The world is full of things like laundry bags we can use to prevent caterpillars and squash bugs on our cabbage and beans and zucchini, and old carpeting we can layer deep in garden walkways to cut down on maintenance time.

Any time we can reuse something, it cuts down on waste, making for a better world – not just the world around us. If we’re saving time and money, and if we’re developing some creativity and a new way of looking at things, we increase our preparedness and better our own world directly.

The post Garden Hacks – Repurpose Everyday Items appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Prepper Must-Haves – Garden Tools

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

At its most basic, growing food doesn’t take much. At home it can be accomplished with some tin cans and plastic bottles, maybe some storage totes or buckets or drawers that were salvaged for free, and seeds or starts. When we’re working on that scale our hands and a pencil are sufficient.

Most of the time, though, we expand beyond small and tiny containers. Even with some small, modest beds, there are a few tools like hooked three-prong hand cultivators or a small spade that come in handy. When we’re dealing with numerous beds and a larger plot, we want to step up again. If our food production deals with shrubs, brambles and trees, we need a few more things yet.

To some degree, growing style largely dictates what is a must-have item and what can be set aside. Our bodies and health dictate more – as we get older or accumulate injuries, we may need more mechanical help or to spend less time crouched and thus more time with a long-handled tool of some kind. However, for veggie-veggies – not the large-scale calorie staple and protein staple crops like grinding corn, wheat, barley, beans, lentils, and field peas – there are some standards that will apply for most gardeners.

The Underdog

When I see articles about garden tools for beginners, upgrades for old hats, and reviews on the best contraptions to hit the market, there’s one thing that never seems to make it on the pages: Twine.

Maybe the big guys don’t need it. I sure use a fair bit of twine, string and cord in my gardens, though. I also use a fair bit while I’m air layering. Okay, in truth, I use some, and I also use strips of ruined clothing.

We need something to be tying up plants with, though, regularly, and I regularly use cord for parts of my trellises. There are alternatives, like using netting or light-gauge fencing. Cultivar selection for our plants might also reduce or eliminate trellis needs.

Regularly, though, we need to support something, from a seedling tree that needs staked to hanging planters or containers from and above porch railings.

Some decent twine that doesn’t break as we tie the knot and doesn’t rot in a single season will save us a lot of not-nice words. In the long run, it’s worth the money.

It’s also one of those things that really ought to just wander around the garden and outside with us, right there with a handy pair of pliers, pruners, and our pocketknife.

Machines

Stone me now; there’s not the first Kubota, Deere, Gator, or Kioti on my list. Tractors revolutionized the way we farm, made our way of life possible, and made it possible for the human population worldwide to snowball. The thing is, most of us don’t need them.

Sure, a riding mower or an ATV – especially with tow-behind cultivators, furrowers, spreaders or even just trailers – make life a lot easier. As we start cultivating significant properties, move into producing our own staple crops or producing grass hay and grains for livestock, when we start cutting grass straw, we should look in that direction. Until then … they need fuels, they need maintenance, and for the most part they’re a convenience. With the exception of folks who can’t push or pull physically, they’re not necessary for a veggie garden, even a big one.

Tillers/Powered Cultivators might be a must-have or might be a convenience. It depends on our bodies, growing scheme, and the scale of growing. There are some smaller versions where the power head cross-purposes with other tools like weed-eaters, overhead saws, and the tiller, and that’s a right handy tool to consider. Another option would be either electric tillers that can be powered from a running vehicle or charged from a solar battery bank. Because diesel stores so well, diesel-powered machines – or the vehicle that’s going to be used as a generator – might appeal to others despite the upfront costs.

Wood Chipper-Shredders do make my list as a must-have garden item when we get serious about production. So long as we have plenty of junk trees, firewood trimmings, or fruit trees and brambles to feed through them, anyway.

Mulch is an enormous aid in gardening. It saves labor in weeding, prevents soil compaction and erosion, and limits evaporation of rain and irrigation water. While some types of mulch-bed growing creates an alkaline environment that’s tougher on acid-loving domestic veggies and berries, for the most part we can mitigate the pH of our gardens.

Being able to convert bamboo, privet (pre-seed), and tree prunings from living specimens and firewood or construction into mulch is too valuable to ignore that particular machine.

On the other hand, if we’re shy on trees but have the land space, there’s nothing wrong with switching that chipper-shredder for a weed-eater that’s been modified into an electric, gas or diesel powered scythe. It’ll allow us to relatively quickly cut and lay out straw we can use for garden mulch.

Standard Manual Garden Tools

By and large, once we have beds or plots eked out of the ground with either a tiller or a sod cutter, and have dedicated ourselves to maintaining them, getting them seeded with weed-choking cover crops or heavily mulched, we don’t need a whole lot to maintain gardens.

Still, there are some tools that are right handy.

The short list for manual tools for a garden would really be a round-point digging shovel and-or a trenching shovel, a small garden trowel, a hay rake or flat-tined garden rake for leveling and aerating soil or dragging rows for seeds and transplants, a hoe, and in many cases a cultivator of some kind – a weasel, tiller, broad fork, or similar.

A small three-prong cultivator for one-handed or a long-handled, two-handed version can make weeds a much simpler task, and be used for spacing out seed rows.

A garden fork rates pretty highly as well (like a hay fork but with flat, wide tines) since it can be used as a secondary cultivator following a shovel or furrowing plow

Garden by garden, a leaf rake, square-point (transfer, moving) shovel, and both a pointed and a flat-square hoe rate really highly as well.

With them we can turn beds, collect and distribute chipped or leaf mulch and compost, dig in-situ composting trenches and holes, break up soil, level beds and rows, build up triangular and flattened-top mounded rows and beds, and even use them to create seed furrows and cover our beds again.

Mallets

They’re not as ignored and maligned as string, because I don’t use them or see them used quite as much, but I spend a lot of time hammering things. Mallets deserve a little credit there.

I hammer stakes for supporting row covers and baby trees, bird netting, and to keep things from digging under fences. I hammer in supports for new trellises and arbors. I pound in stakes and string line for rows and to mark expansions or areas I want left alone. I tap CMU block into place. I infrequently use nails or stakes to assemble trellises or bounded beds (usually I’m a fan of a screw and a drill for those).

Could I do it with a plumber’s wrench, carpenter’s hammer, or my pruners? Usually. I’d work harder and longer though.

Sometimes the right tool, right at hand, is worth it. Mallets are one of those tools for me, and the shorty 2-3# mallets with a flat square side are one of them for me.

If a garden area is small, and there’s a lot of pre-fab without as much annual assembly season-by-season, a mallet would go down in usefulness.

Power Tools

Having busted on energy draws while discussing machines, I’m going to contradict myself. There are two things that get reached for constantly, especially at the beginning of the growing season, the beginning and early in warm-tender crop seasons, harvest seasons, row-cover seasons, and bed-down-the-garden seasons.

They are my trusty-dusty little drill, and my trusty-dusty little saws-all.

When I say little, I mean that.

As with CCW firearms and EDC/GHB kits, when things are big, bulky and heavy, we don’t carry them all the time. In this case, that means that things get put off or I spend time making round trips to the vehicle.

With lighter, compact tools, they can sit in their bags with a variety of tips and blades, both of them inside a bucket with some string, sturdy pruners, a small hand cultivator, a mini hoe, and a hooked knife. I snag my bucket whenever I’m working in the yard, and whatever I need, it’s right there.

Must-Have’s for the Garden

I have a friend who managed in excess of three acres of just vegetable and fruit production without any fossil-fuel or battery-powered assistance. She does use a “work pig” and her birds, sheep and goats to help her, but the bulk of what she does is by manual labor. It’s possible. It’s not easy, it takes time – especially with livestock – but it’s possible.

I consider it telling that with few exceptions for “block” crops like corn and peas, she doesn’t grow in conventional rows or big plots. She grows in beds, by curving blocks and lines that follow her land’s fairly minor contours. It’s too much work to eke out the space, initially and every year after thaw, to use conventional methods.

It’s also too much work to leave bare earth. The work isn’t just the weed maintenance, but also the water hauling and the amount of time that has to be dedicated to plant health. So she mulches. Her mulches melt away in 12-24 month cycle, but the labor of creating and spreading them works out to be less than fighting more weeds and against harder soil and more evaporation.

If we’re planning to live a power-free or low-power-draw “sustainable” and “self-sufficient” life without the noise or fuels of machines, we might want to consider some of the alternative growing methods and ease-of-gardening methods, just as she does.

Our garden “must-have” tools are going to change depending on those methods.

It’s also going to depend on space. If we have smaller gardens, we can get away with fewer and less-specialized tools. At a market or large family scale conventional garden plot, some mechanization is going to be right on the borderline of a must-have.

Aging and broken bodies may also have to rely on some method that will help them, be it a growing style or machines. That will change the tools they reach for significantly.

The number-one “must” for gardening is to get started.

There are a lot of learning curves specific even to one section of a small yard. No book is going to have every answer, and by the time we’re troubleshooting, we’re already behind the curve. Hard times or a disaster is a terrible time to discover our microclimates, niche pests and diseases, and soil types.

Once we get started, our personal “must have” list will refine itself.  We’ll want backups of what we use most. We may expand to the full array of shovel and hoe and rake types, or we may stick with a few subtly different styles. Over time, we may find that it ebbs and flows.

We can start small and add a few things as budgets open up, working toward those items that multipurpose or have the most value for our lives first, then adding on the things that will allow us to expand and be more efficient. Knowing some of the rec’s and the priorities for them from other growers may help with that, either getting started or expanding.

The post Prepper Must-Haves – Garden Tools appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Prepping for Our Furry Friends – Stuff for Spot

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

For a lot of us, companion animals are as much family as the people we don’t really want to see even on the holidays. For some of us, they are working partners, part of our mental well-being, and our therapy all rolled into one. While most of our companion animals are going to be cats and dogs, there are also birds, pigs, goats and even horses that fit the bill of a pet as opposed to solely being livestock. Livestock or pets, we took responsibility for a feeling creature’s life, and we owe it to them to take care of them.

That means adding to the long lists of things we need to do, buy and plan for should our worlds fall apart on either a small-scale or a large-scale.

I’ll mostly focus on the cats and dogs, but a lot will apply to anything, from ferrets to pot-bellied pigs.

Water for Mr. Whiskers

Just like people need food and water, so do our animals. Ferret to bunny, pony to puppy, if the animals dehydrate, we’re in a world of hurt.

Water is going to really be a biggie should the world or nation ever collapse. Try to monitor the water use in winter and in summer, or in high-activity seasons, so we keep at least a week or so on hand for them (ideally more).

With animals, we also have to remember that a lot of them pant. Whether it’s a stress action or cooling action, panting will dry them out and we’ll need to allot extra water for them.

It may be possible to do sub-cutaneous fluids for even very small livestock if it becomes necessary, but ideally, it’s not necessary. In an emergency, we’ll have to monitor our animals just like we do small children and seniors.

Bathing animals may take an even lower priority, but in that case, we may need to come up with a smell and-or pest plan.

Commercially Available Long-Storage Foods

Food might be simple, or it might be more complicated.

There are “normal” commercially available freeze-dried pet foods. There is no way I’d buy them. I’d be totally broke and then my beloved fur-balls would be in a shelter anyway.

There are long-term storage foods available in buckets. The Ready Store sells one, and  MayDay makes another. One of the wholesale bulk warehouse stores sells a bucket of food for cats or dogs as well.

I consider them about on par with Ol’ Roy, on top of being expensive. I do have a couple of buckets of cat food (I really think they came from Costco) but I have every intention of using a Pearson Square to make it part of the protein component and it’s mostly there for helping to clean their teeth.

MRE Depot sells doggy biscuit treats and at one point sold those “quart” #2.5 cans of dog and cat food. However, MRE Depot tends to … think very highly of their products, and I have dogs who consider those single-serving cans.

Plus, again, this is not Blue Buffalo or Nutrish level dining here.

Therefore, I tend to avoid the commercial long-storage options. I either repackage, or I create “normal” food storage for my furry friends.

Repacking for Rufus & Rex

I pack Milky Bones and Alpo squares in mylar and oxygen absorbers, and in canning jars with oxygen absorbers. I keep in several bags of food that get rotated, even with the oil-rancidity risks of our hot Southern summers. (Wowser article that I ignore)

I have tried to repackage bagged pet food in Mylar with oxygen absorbers, but it tends to barely extend the life by 2-4 months – which is not overly worth it to me. In cooler climates, with fewer or smaller animals, it might be worth it to be able to open smaller increments.

Stocking Up for Socks & Spot

I could just buy cans of cat and dog food, but we rarely feed it. That means whole stacks of flats end up donated on a regular basis as it comes time to rotate, and the deductible barely dents replacement costs every year.

While I don’t mind giving some extra love to unwanted shelter animals, I need to be able to take care of mine.

Years ago when imported foods started making animals sick, I started making homemade food. There are a million and five recipes available, with the best options very home and animal-specific.

We had incredible results from it. The older dogs perked up, leaned down, tightened up, and played more. Periodic tummy sensitivities and Gassy Gus went away almost overnight. Attention, retention, and stamina went through the roof.

I no longer make all of our pet feed, but I do still make a portion of it and I tend to make extras of certain foods to add to the scraps our animals get.

For us, a casserole or soup worked best. I make up enormous kettles in one go, freeze a portion, and pull out three days’ worth at a time to defrost. It’s then as easy as scooping.

For an emergency, it won’t be quiet that easy, since I won’t have fridge and freezer space for the pets’ foods, but I will still be making them basically human foods.

Storage Foods for Pets

Powdered Eggs make up the backbone of the protein and fats that are stored for the dogs and cats. Commercially, they’re available as whole eggs or scrambled egg mix. They can also be dehydrated at home if inclined.

Oatmeal, barley, brown rice & white rice are my go-to feeds for the dogs, both in daily life and in the stored foods. The oatmeal especially is cheap, fast, and easy. The grains make for a decent calorie base and belly filler for dogs and rodents.

Potatoes are stocked for both the cats and the dogs, home-dehydrated as well as commercial buckets and #10 cans of slices, dices and grated shreds. I even can baked potato skins, although the cats won’t touch those. They’re full of good nutrients for the dogs.

Apples, Carrots & Sweet Potatoes are present for the cats and dogs, with the dogs a little heavier than the cats on the apples and sweet potatoes or sweet African yams. Again, I can dehydrate them at home, or buy them in affordable bulk to repackage or already set in cans and buckets. The veggies give the animals much-needed vitamins, just as they do us.

Peas are no longer part of my animal-diet plan. Some dogs handle them, some don’t. There are enough other options, I tend to just skip them now, but for years I included them.

Berries are fine for cats and dogs most of the time, but they tend to be expensive and human favorites so with the exception of copiously producing cranberry-equivalent bushes, I don’t allot many to the animals. Cats and dogs are less likely to eat the bitter berries than birds or ferrets.

Greens are dehydrated, purchased dehydrated, and grown in tin soup cans, small Dollar Tree cubes and planters, and outside. They’re also foraged wild. While the animals may not be super wild about them, and the greens should represent a smaller proportion of feed than even something like apples or carrots, they are another one that is stacked-legit with nutrients – especially the nutrients we’ll find lacking in lean animals and winter.

Boiled with something meaty or flat-fried or baked-and-chipped eggs, our cats, dogs, rats, and ferrets will dive on greens just as fast as they will a chunk of salmon jerky or broth from meat trimmings.

Milk gets stored as a calcium source and calorie boost. My animals handle whey milk and soy milk without any problems, so I can buy whatever’s cheapest at the time. Previous animals have handled raw milk and goat milk even if pasteurized was off the table.

Most long-storage milk is fat-free, so I have to be aware and get their fats in from something else.

When’s lunch?

Fish is a major part of my dogs’ and cats’ long-term food storage plan. For a few dollars a year, I can spend days in the sun collecting dozens and hundreds of pounds of feed for them. Skins and some of the organs we don’t even want help boost proteins and oils for the animals.

Especially important with cats, pressure canning or drying fish for storage creates something I can open or soak-and-simmer to create an enticing scent. If cats can’t smell food, they won’t eat.

Without a fishing license or with prohibitive keeper restrictions, tuna in oil and then tuna in water (which will last longer) can make somewhat less-expensive food-flavoring options. There are places that sell cod, shrimp, and salmon, but it tends to be freeze-dried and pretty pricey.

Repacking well-dried jerky-like treats to extend the storage life might be another option to consider to induce kitties to eat.

Peanut Butter Powder is also in my storage for the animals, but it’s there mainly to make them homemade doggy “biscotti” biscuits that will give them something to gnaw and help keep their teeth in better shape.

Wheat & corn are in my storage, but not for my animals. A lot of dogs and cats don’t actually process much corn, and some are sensitive to wheat. With potatoes, rice, and oats inexpensive and compact, I can easily avoid having wheat and corn be their base calories.

Transitioning Foods

Pets or people, we’ll want to plan transitions between foods – almost always. While some animals don’t need it, even transitions between types of kibble or canned foods should be done slowly.

You replace 1/10 to 1/4 the feed for 2-5 days, then another 1/10 or 1/4. If an emergency requires it, you can go ahead and skip to 50-50 blends or 70-30 new-old blends.

My preference is to have dry food as a finisher or by itself at least several times weekly, because it really is better on their teeth. When we transition to smokes and raw bones, we use a step process as well.

It’s my personal belief that because my animals do get scraps and leftovers, and do get trimmings and bones stewed for them, their guts stay ready to process more foods. Skipping a meal or a few days of their usual feeds doesn’t bother my animals’ stomachs at all.

Just like people, animals vary widely, so consult a vet and add those transitions slowly.

Goodies for Evac Kits

Red Cross and FEMA sites are happy to list out supplies to consider for our animals. Whether we’re evac’ing alone, with a cat, or with a trailer of six crated dogs, two goats and three horses, there are some goodies we might want to add to make everybody more comfortable, both during the trip and after.

  • Portable, battery-operated fans (blow into crates)
  • Misting systems/bottles
  • Umbrellas, portable pavilions (shade, rain coverage)
  • Animal entertainment
  • Spare towels
  • Tarps
  • Treats (even hooved livestock like treats, such as applesauce or sweet pellets)
  • Hoods
  • Fly screen/fly hoods/mesh, and-or tiki torches or various Off fan types (flies and mosquitoes are bears)
  • Pool mattresses (elevated bedding)
  • Nail trimmers & file (to save the air mattresses)
  • Garbage bags, kitty litter, shovels (waste cleanup)

Medications

Remember that cats, especially, can’t take a lot of human or dog medications. Those need to be sourced and stocked separately. There are, however, a lot of overlaps between species, fish to humans, pigs to dogs.

We have to research any meds our animals are on or can be anticipated to be on, just like with humans. Contraindication can delay recovery and set animals back if we combine the wrong things, or push them at the wrong intervals. Just like human meds, we’ll want to stock up on prescriptions and OTC drugs our animals have used in the past, or that we can anticipated them needing in the future.

Flea and tick preventatives, dewormers, heartworm preventative, mange washes, lice and flea dips, and ear cleaners are just a few of the things we might consider stocking up on.

Prepping for Furry Friends

There’s a lot to think about with our family disaster plans, big and small. Figuring out how we’re going to take care of our critters – pets or livestock or working animals – just adds to the headache. The moisture content in animal feeds and the expense of some types of feeds can make it seem impossible at first, but with some twitches, we can use standard, inexpensive storage foods to keep the animals fat and happy. There are also things like a water plan and sport umbrellas or mesh screens that will not only make us and animals happier, they can help reduce diseases, illness and heat stroke. It takes a little forethought, be we can absolutely prepare to keep our animals in personal crises or nation-altering events.

The post Prepping for Our Furry Friends – Stuff for Spot appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Lessons from History – The Importance of Water

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Throughout history, settlements form near water. The largest and most successful settle with plentiful water. There are a number of reasons for that. One, water really is life. We require water for drinking. We also use it for cleaning and laundry. As the human species advanced, we needed additional water for livestock. Then we became stationary, mastered various forms of irrigation, and bred our crops to become more and more dependent on water. Doing so allowed us to reap larger yields of sweeter and more mild crops, but it also tied us inexorably to water systems.

Historically we were further tied to water systems for faster and easier travel and trade, and we eventually turned to it for some of our labor. First with direct-labor systems such as grinding mills, then for the generation of power that could be sent across distances, water made life easier as well as sustaining it.

We are no less tied to water now than the caveman, Viking or European colonist. We just don’t always notice. And because most of North America enjoys easy, low-cost water, we aren’t great about conserving it.

Test Your Water Use

Want to see just how influential water is, and how much we use? Easy enough. Turn off the water at the main for a day. Remember to also tape or turn off faucets so you don’t empty any hot water heaters and end up with problems.

If you’re on a well, use your backup pump system. If you don’t have a backup system, one immune to fire and earthquake and the prepper-minded EMPs, you don’t actually have a water system. Turn it off.

Do it on a standard day. A day you’re not off backpacking, not working on your three-day bare-minimum drill doing a dry camp in the living room or backyard. Really ideally, do it in summer or autumn on the day(s) you’d be watering if you irrigate gardens, and on a day you’re hunting or harvesting some doves, chickens and rabbits.

For less-immersive comparison, just monitor the water gauge. For livestock on a non-metered system, fill containers that can have checks and tally lines added quickly.

Don’t let yourself become complacent or say, “well, that’s just because” to justify the amount of water used. Yes, our grooming standards can go down and change, and we can adopt some laundry methods and clothing treatment from the past that limit our uses more. Eventually, though, hygiene suffers.

If water’s out, something else is regularly going on, from “small” family-sized crises to storms and other disasters that affect the area and region. Roads and doctors may not be available if someone does become ill.

If anything, a crisis is a time to focus more on proper hygiene.

Handwashing, especially, can make a major impact on fecal-oral route infections, which tend to be the root of most of the illnesses laymen call “food poisoning”.

If your hygiene is dependent on wipes, run that test as long as you can to get the best possible average for how many you run through per day. Whatever your backup toilet system is, use that.

Use the data to create a baseline. How much do you use? How long will your stored water last? What seasons can you reasonably count on resupply?

From there, we look for ways to increase our sources and our efficiency in harvesting and using the water we can access.

A Double-Edged Sword

Water is one of the few things we can’t do without, and a functioning stream, river or lake system or even just a marsh can make a huge positive impact on our preparedness. They aren’t without hazards, however.

Flooding is a primary risk, although healthy marsh systems can actually mitigate and minimize floods. Still, the levee systems in the U.S. are aging and Midwest floods aren’t uncommon. Colorado and Tennessee have both had major, devastating disasters due to river- or creek-originated floods.

In a protracted crisis, the hydro dams put in by the Tennessee Valley Authority and in the Northwest are likely to suffer failures, on top of the failures we see washing out roads and creating mudslides and large floods right now.

In addition to those failures, there are mines and factories along our waterways these days. We’ve seen in just the last year what can happen as they fail and toxins leak out. Nuclear plants are routinely along waterways.

Failures combined with flooding can wash those contaminants into our farmlands, cities and suburbs, affecting creeks and wildlife long before and long after we can see the effects.

EPA Accidentally Turns Colorado River Orange With Pollution, Putting Drinking Water At Risk

Livestock are also a contamination risk to both well intakes and streams, just like human waste can already be right here in the U.S. Those risks are even more prevalent in some of the third-world nations that live without our level of basic services. Disease is rampant after earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods due to fecal wastes, and can be expected to go up after a major disaster.

Mosquitoes and the spread of ever increasing and previously “dead” diseases by insects are another risk.

Many of those risks can be limited with site selection and sculpting the land a little, by planting a few things that can help create buffers, predators, and sinks for water and its diseases and pests. An interruption in “easy” water after we’ve become accustomed to it is still the bigger and more likely threat for most of us.

While a gravity-driven well with a pressure-driven cistern would be ideal, not everybody is there. Not every well can either reach or hit the amounts needed for livestock and crop irrigation.

Self-Sufficiency through Streams

 

A moving channel is a fantastic element to site. One aspect to watch for with small systems is that they don’t dry out in summer. Ideally, they won’t even dry up in the 25- and 50-year drought cycles.

Through much of history, moving water has helped us either with direct labor, such as the old mills we can still find here and there, or later by producing power for us to then use however we like.

Running streams, creeks and rivers can also turn water wheels that help us by lifting water into aqueduct systems or into cisterns that will produce enough gravity from water weight to push water further away from the source.

With even a small amount of motion, there are sling pumps capable of moving water for us. Even if a sling pump won’t reach all the way to gardens and livestock, saving us the bend-lift labor of filling buckets and being able to fill a cistern while we move the first load can make an enormous difference.

With greater rates of movement, we can create hydro re-directs to lessen some of our labors and in some cases produce small amounts of energy. We can dam small waterways to increase pressure or create channel- or pipe-based systems to generate power.

In some cases it’s not going to be a lot of electricity, but even the ability to slowly charge electric tools, appliances, and our music and photo devices can be a huge boost.

Slow it, Sink it, Spread it, Store it

In permaculture, there are several “S’s” promoted in regards to water. They simplify the desires to:

  • Catch water for future use
  • Prevent flooding even on the “daily” and seasonal scales, and by doing so prevent erosion and soil hardening via water (runoff, soil compaction)
  • Allow water to infiltrate so roots can access it, and to lift the water table for springs and swale systems
  • Keep chemicals and waste from running across landscapes and polluting our waters or gardens

Catchments are one way we capture water – storing it for later and preventing it from running wasted over the surface of the soil.

Water catchment on a huge scale was and still is used in Australia, with systems similar to water towers and large roof-to-cistern systems both above ground and below ground.

Sheep and cattle stations and small farmers also create nearly lock-style channels to store water for the three- to six-month dry seasons. Those systems can be duplicated in North America depending on local laws.

In places where regulations prohibit such large scale water harvesting or hoarding, it may be possible to obtain permits to put in lakes or ephemeral or permanent pond systems, which can function similarly and have added benefits for homesteads.

On a small scale, water can be stored using systems as complex as we like, or we can go simple and create pyramids or triangles of trickle-over buckets and barrels with no plumbing and just mesh or permeable cloth to prevent mosquito infestations.

Small, shallow swales sequester less, but can prevent damage from rains over years. Larger swales can hold more water, allowing that water a greater amount of time to infiltrate. That water then creates a “lens” beneath the surface of the soil and allows plants a longer period of time to access it.

The slope of the land and the soil type and structure play the biggest roles in the types and sizes of swale systems we put in.

Preexisting vegetation and the type of vegetation we want to put in, if we plan to move livestock through the swale systems and what type of livestock also affects what type of swale system will work best for us.

Reducing Reliance On Systems

We have to have some water, and ideally a constant source. However, even with the best of planning and siting, sometimes we run into droughts or damaged systems. One way to build resiliency to those is to lessen our overall dependence.

Silvopasture over turf can provide forage and fodder even in drought years, and lessen dependence on irrigated grains and delicate pasture and hay. Some silvopasture is coppiced, but most will be either pollarded or selective-drop of large limbs from each tree.

The type and number of livestock and the amount of labor desired affects what style of silvopasture is effective.

Our livestock selection can also lessen dependence.

Ducks tend to be wasteful of water, while with drip waterers, chickens can be highly efficient. Pigs really need a lot of water to gain weight efficiently, and they need regular access to it. Comparatively, dairy and meat goats need a little less access and less total water per pound of produce.

If we veer a little further away from the American norm, camels need less yet, and have traditionally been used for milk, meat and hides and in some cases angora just like llamas.

We can also look into more water efficient breeds from typically dry regions of the world. They may be more expensive as an initial investment and have less-efficient feed-milk-meat ratios, but in a survival situation, the fact that they do survive with little water may make them invaluable.

If we have a fair bit of property, we can also tailor habitat for hunting small game, and focus our water labors on egg and dairy producers.

Hugelkultur beds are another way to limit use and dependence on rainfall and irrigation. Once established, a properly sized and layered hugel bed requires almost no assistance at all. It retains and essentially generates moisture from within.

When we do use water, we can use it as many times as humanly possible instead of letting it run and flow past our fingers.

Gray water systems, using cooled cooking water in gardens or for livestock, and reclaiming runoff from sprouts and sprouted fodder for livestock or re-watering can all help decrease our total draw.

Then there are little things like using a cup of water to rinse while brushing teeth, and having catch basins for washing hands or rinsing produce that then gets used for laundry or put back into the garden systems – at least once, and in some cases, several times.

Water Is Life

We have always been dependent on water as a species, and civilization and modern post-industrial life has made us more so. However, we can look back at history and to some of the underdeveloped nations to find ways that we can harvest and store water against need, and in some cases, use water wheels and even small creeks or lake properties to help us move water or generate a little bit of power.

There are a few tips here. The TPJ article about gardening in droughts has additional lessons from fairly recent history that can be applied to reduce water uses for human and livestock food production, large scale or small, urban or rural.

When we’re ready to delve into long-term disaster planning, water needs to be a focus. Without water, and a backup plan for water, all the rest of our preparations become null and void in a large-scale emergency.

Water can also be dangerous. It’s worth researching the local flood patterns, especially pre-levee system, and looking up the diseases, symptoms and cures common to waterways in third world nations and after disasters.

 

The post Lessons from History – The Importance of Water appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Prepper Must-Haves: Vices

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Are vices really and truly a must-have item? No. History is full of periods and survival situations, particularly during the exploration of the colder climates, when even people accustomed to “modern” conveniences went months and years without goodies.

Our vices aren’t necessary to our survival in many cases, but when you cut us off from them, hard times and adjustments just get harder.

The ramifications on families and partnerships in stressful but not life-threatening situations are out there to be viewed in rates of dissolution’s, divorce, separation, domestic violence, addiction-abuse, and suits and counter-suits. If you think a crisis will smooth those away, I have a bridge to sell ya.

We can add one more stress to those difficult times, or we can find alternatives (some of them long-term sustainable) and plan supplies and caches to make things as easy as possible.

Top Vices

Some of the top vices are going to be sugar and caffeine, with tobacco and alcohol right there with them. I can’t do anything to prepare a family to lose internet and TV besides make sure we have puzzles and games, but I can slow our transition away from some of our other vices.

Bad times are already stressful, and we’re already looking at making some hard adjustments. Things that we consume daily before we even feel human are worth stocking – in bulk and out of proportion to the rest of my supplies, really.

If I like coffee, I might also consider stockpiling tea. I can get gallons to the cup per dollar for tea, without taking up much if any more space than pre-ground or instant coffee.

If I’m in a warm enough climate, I might even go so far as to plan greenhouse or protected space for a yaupon holly for caffeine and tea camellia species. Herbal teas will lack the zing, but many tea herbs have the benefit of being perennials and hardy.

There are a wide range of trees that can be tapped for syrup, all of which (and honey) will boil down into candy or can be dried to crystals. Sugar beets and stevia are just two options for producing sweet syrups and flavor at home even outside sugarcane territory.

Everyday Cravings = Higher Priorities

While we tend to look at sugar, caffeine, alcohol and tobacco as the common vices and see them high on bartering lists, they’re not the only things we’re doing without. Pure sugar is a fantastic preparedness item with both vice and food-preservation value, but we don’t all have a sweet tooth.

Our vices are our feel-goods.

They’re our comfort foods – be they salty or sweet or savory – activities, and even exercise or hobbies. All of those may be crimped in an emergency, whether it’s widespread or personal.

Know your actions, and those of family.

Just because my priority leads me to crunchy-salty goodies and chicken broth, and I am willing to scoff off sweets, without sweets my lover is pretty miserable. He is also annoying, gets antsy, and breaks down and goes to the store.

When determining priorities (and budgets), snag and stash the store receipts for a couple of weeks or months. Snag them ahead of holidays and in-family events as well. Do it in all four seasons.

They will rock-solid determine what you’re getting, and even when.

Just going by the shopping list and menu plan isn’t enough. I recently realized that a full third of our Walmart-supermarket spending is not on the lists. They’re not even impulse. They’re actually the things my lover ends up going to the store for because they aren’t on my radar as much.

Those are the kinds of everyday priority to watch for.

My vices, my parents, the kids’ – they’re taken into account with small, compact puzzles to bring out, stashed books, a portable hard drive of movies, little games, baking mixes, inexpensive instant pudding, Hershey’s syrup, and the ability to add crunch to our lives on a regular basis through familiar cold cereals, chips, crackers and dry cookies.

It didn’t actually add all that much to the preparedness budgets to do it, and it allows “treats” and normalcy in unrest, even if I never harvest anything else.

Anticipated Cravings

We can look at history and the way modern North Americans and Western Europeans eat to anticipate some of the food cravings we’re likely to see and can account for with our storage.

Meat – For most of us, meat is going to become a treat, just as it has been for most of human history. It will go back to being more of a flavoring, especially if a crisis drags on.

Anticipating that, I stock it.

I have no lost love for t-rats and MREs. I dislike canned meats pretty much across the board. But they’re in my pantries and caches, because the men in my life will dive after them, and I might wind up desperate enough to eat my share.

Things like pouches of bacon bits, canned hash, the less-expensive freeze-dried meats like crumbled sausage, and the TVP-soy products we can buy for long storage can at least give me and my guys some flavor and the hint of our usual meats.

Things like Slim Jim’s and small beef sticks can be used as a snack, presented as a whole to bite into, or sliced into cold pasta and wheat salads.

Non-Spoon Foods – Maybe somebody eats oatmeal and farina, soup for lunch, and Hamburger Helper or shepherd’s pie pretty much daily. Most of us are probably accustomed to picking up, cutting or stabbing something somewhere through there.

For parts of the growing season, we can adapt how we prepare fresh foods to create a fork-and-knife meal. Some fruit trees will also allow us to present a crunchy for weeks or sometimes a couple of months after harvest.

One advantage to MRE entrees like the feta chicken is that it’s not as gag-worthy, but also, it’s a nice, whole breast portion. You can flake it with a spoon, but you can also stick it on a bun or a bed of couscous.

Planning for pancakes and omelets, to turn Bisquick into pseudo-tortillas, stashing dry cookies in canning jars with oxygen absorbers, and stashing bigger pastas and spaghetti for fork meals will help alleviate the boredom with spoon meals.

Dairy/Cheese – Without dairy animals and specific skills, a long-term crisis will affect us hard and fast in the cheese category. We love fresh cheese. I’m lucky enough that we also really like Bega, and I buy it on sale cycles.

Local stores sell tins of mild cheddar chip sauce at a fairly reasonable price, and it can readily top potatoes or be used as a cracker spread or pretzel dip, even if chips are painful to store due to the bulk they require. Velveeta and Cheez Whiz live on shelves as-is, too. Cheese soup can season rice, potatoes and macaroni.

Powdered parm from the pasta aisle can at least impart some flavors and toast up on top of zucchini, or be used in pasta salad.

There are shelf-stable cheese sticks and slices from companies like Northwoods and those awful combo packets put out by Jack Links and others, but they’re almost as expensive as freeze-dried cheese (and soooo much worse tasting).

I also keep most of the cheese packets that come in our processed foods. I dislike them, but as mentioned in the article about canning jars, being able to whip them up to top or season something makes them well worth a few oxygen absorbers.

Portion Control

The canning jar article also talked about portion control, and how I accomplish it on a regular basis. That goes for both the annual “events” and the weekly-monthly allowances we put back.

If we’re accustomed to free-grazing coffee and tea (I am), we may very well start our path to ratcheting back by only pulling out enough for a day at a time instead of buying things in a giant tub. Maybe we only buy instant packets for a week or a month, and keep it somewhere *else* in the house or kitchen to keep us and our families from snagging out of habit. As we adjust to our new levels, we might bring it out more often.

Cool drinks are another place where we might portion things out.

Instead of mixing up a pitcher and trusting all the kids (and adults) to pour the same amounts, which is bound to lead to arguments (adults, too), maybe we stash a rotating couple of short juice bottles with the wider mouths. We mix up the pitcher, everybody gets their (labeled) bottles. Once that’s gone, that’s it. No discussion of “I only poured half a glass earlier” or “everybody’s pouring extra and I only got half a cup” or “I’ve only had one cup of coffee, but the whole tub is empty, and now I want my second cup with my cookie”.

And I’m serious – anticipate that stress and aggravation or just personalities will pull that crap out of adults as well.

Once things settle into a new normal, no big deal. But I can drink an entire pot of coffee without realizing it until it’s empty, and I’ve seen people mow through a bag of chips or pack of cookies one or two at a time without realizing just how many they’re having.

Portioning things out can also help us truly plan for daily, weekly and monthly uses.

Not everything needs to be strictly regimented, but some things are really easy, and would be easy to lean on early, until they’re all gone. That big stack of canned meats looks like a lot, but can drop fast.

A case of canning jars (or three) and a couple of boxes or kitty litter buckets labelled 1-12, cold or warm, lets us really and truly portion things out.

Pudding fits 3, 5 or 6-8 in a jar, and might be a monthly or quarterly allowance. We might stick our Lorna Doone’s and Cheez-Its in baggies before we put them in a Mylar bag, and take out only this week’s or month’s to jazz up a plate or have as a snack. Instead of just calling it “good” with a few dollar-store boxes of Slim Jims and pepperoni, a test run and then busting in and separating will help them last, in an appropriate amount.

Vices in a Crisis

Not all disasters are equal. Some are very personal, and some are widespread – localized, regional, national, international. Some are short term, while some leave a question mark and some we can anticipate being truly devastating and taking years to recover from.

Or stored supplies and our resupply-production plans should reflect those varying possibilities.

Regardless of the crisis, it’s likely to be stressful. Change itself is stressful. Combining the two is already a recipe for hard times.

Adding the dynamic of spouses and family, any partners, and the potential of neighbors and coworkers to still be contending with creates additional stresses and variables.

Regularly our vices are not all that good for us. It’s still not a great idea to go cold turkey on all of them immediately or shortly after a life-altering job loss, spouse/partner death that affects funds, natural disaster, long-term outage or rolling brown-outs, or big-time disaster.

At no other time in our lives are we likely to be so grateful for whatever our vice is – a couple little cookies and a cup of tea, strawberry syrup for topping pancakes, campfire tin-can cakes topped with applesauce, something nice and salty and crunchy, popcorn with Molly McButter, a cracker-cheese-meat snack or meal after a week of beans and various grains, a new puzzle or game, the ability to put our feet up and watch a show, or delighting Grandpa and the kids with some little Lego vehicle kits to then race across the dining room table.

With a little forethought and planning, we can readily and affordably still have and give our loved ones those feel-goods, to enjoy with a candlelit game of Tsuro or clustered around a screen watching old cartoons. They’ll offer breaks from reality, just as they do now, and help destress our lives a little.

The post Prepper Must-Haves: Vices appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Bamboo – Nature’s Gift to Preppers

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

I have a love-hate relationship with bamboo. I’m from parts of the country where the stuff takes over the edges of some roadways and chokes out some of the natural diversity found in some locations, usually locations with a lot of uses for wildlife and foraging. On the other hand, bamboo is really useful stuff. Whether somebody’s looking at a long-term, widespread, nation-altering event and wants the sustainable source of materials, or whether somebody’s just trying to save a few bucks to get ahead of the curve or save up for basic preparedness, a stand or two of bamboo has a lot to offer us. Even hitting some examples for inside and outside homes, gardens, and livestock I can’t even touch on all its uses. Feel free to list out what I miss at will, from its use as cups to the impressive BTUs bamboo can offer, furniture to bridges. It really is a handy material to locate.

Harvesting Bamboo

I’m going to encourage you to drive around looking and knock on doors or don a blaze-orange vest and harvest from roadsides instead of planting bamboo. Try to wash off boots, vehicles, and tools after any harvest of wild species, especially in damp areas. There are all kinds of things from phrag grass to kudzu that will hitch rides, plus various diseases and pests we can transfer between locations.

The great *they* like to tell us that you’re supposed to harvest bamboo from as close to the ground plane as you can.

I don’t do that.

I prefer not to create future punji sticks and heel-catchers we can’t see from all the future leaf fall. Nor do I cut at knee-height.

I tend to cut up in the rib to head level. It eats up the earth space or footprint and takes longer to die back and be replaced, true. However, pretty much nobody is going to get speared when they kneel down, nobody’s going to snag a boot or toe, and nobody’s dog is going to gash its face.

What size bamboo you want is dependent on your task, but as you harvest, don’t just abandon the leafy bits.

Remember, bamboo is really just a big, thick grass.  In most cases, the leaves make fine mulch and compost. You can also use trimmings as a fiber element for goats – especially goats that are getting rich tree and shrub fodders. Chickens and rabbits can have it as well.

There is a handy knife-type saw the Japanese and Koreans each have specifically for bamboo. I use mine for all kinds of harvests. However, for bamboo, I’m more likely to go with either style of long-handled pruners, a laminate or hardwood blade on a hacksaw, or the same on a sawsall – it depends on what’s waiting closest in my truck and sometimes how much I’m planning to harvest.

The hacksaw or pruners are handy for dropping, then immediately bucking off the tops and the leafy “branches”, and sorting as I go. I tend to always have good one-handed pruners in my pocket or bag(s), though, so there are times I alternate cutting and stripping instead.

Garden Trellis

I can’t do an article about bamboo and not talk about one of its best-known uses as a garden trellis material. However, because it is so well-known, I won’t beleaguer the point.

What I’ll say instead is that bamboo is fairly long-lived, but not indefinite, especially in the damp-soil conditions of a lot of gardens. It’s not as strong as steel. However, it is pretty tough, and it does last out a season or longer, easily. The thicker the bamboo, the longer it lasts. I will also point out that unless it’s the UV-resistant type, or painted, PVC is also going to crack under a lot of conditions – sometimes in a season, sometimes after two or three.

So if you’re able to find it for free, and are looking for a long-term sustainable material that can be whacked and added to compost or used as mulch when it’s failing, bamboo can be a super alternative to buying tomato cages or lumber for squash and bean trellises.

I also want to point out a handy trick. Instead of using just cord, or any cord at all, you can drill out holes near the tops of your poles, and use thinner stalks as a pin.

I prefer drilling bamboo while it’s green, first with a thin “standard” bit, and then either a larger drywall bit or a narrow auger, depending on the size hole and thickness of the bamboo.

You can use other lengths of bamboo as a spacer to create a wider tripod, or keep it snugged up tight for a teepee type structure.

The amount of “top” left above the holes and pin can change what the bamboo will do for you. You can lay out another thick piece or pieces across the tops to move water, form a longer bean trellis, or support a row cloth or plastic cover. Or, you can trim it nice and tight for a neater appearance and create fewer perches.

Other Garden Uses for Bamboo

Bamboo can be used in lots of other ways for our food production.

It has been used to create irrigation systems in both frigid and steamy-humid parts of the world for millennia. We can use it to create “gutter” or “PVC” style tiered raised beds for shallow-rooted plants.

It can be split or small branches can be stripped and bent while green to create exclusion nets or frames – to keep butterflies and thus their caterpillars off our plants, or to protect plants from dog tails, birds, or chickens. The same types of frames can be used to create feed-through graze boxes for chickens, preventing just how much of a plant they can reach and damage, which allows the plant to survive and grow back for continuous feeding.

It has also been used to create the framework for hoop houses.

Bamboo can be used to create our whole greenhouse, point in fact, and to build raised garden beds. By size and desired style, it can create everything from neat, tidy faces to woven wattle. It can be left raw and rustic, or have boards added to smooth the upper surface.

Again, this stuff isn’t cedar, it’s not CMU brick, and it’s not landscaping timbers. It will have to be replaced more frequently than those. However, it’s been used pretty much forever and it does offer that free, sustainable material instead of paying for something.

Fencing

While we’re building our garden out of free, sustainable materials, we might also want to fence it. Bamboo can also help either lower those costs or eliminate them.

We can weave it in wattle style, or get artsy and cute. We can fill in gaps on rail fences to prevent dogs and rabbits from slipping through, or extend the height of fencing to deter deer.

We can place it tightly or weave nearly mats with it to help buffer winds and create snow fences as well, which lets us almost pick the places snow will pile up or spread the snow load out to create lower drifts over a larger area.

Housing & Enclosures

Bamboo can also keep our livestock housed and where we put them.

From bird cages to goat pens, and even for the live otter and primate trade in parts of the world, it’s been doing so for centuries.

We can create full sheds and barns out of it, using either the lap-roof, tile or thatching styles for roofs.

We can also create fish traps and boxes of various types. Those boxes can be used in our aquaculture and aquaponics systems to separate breeders and growouts without needing separate tanks, or to purge our fish before harvest depending on our feeding systems.

Bamboo can also be used to create the drop-out or crawl-out tubes for various types of BSF larvae or mealworms for our feed systems as well.

Construction

Around the world, from places like snowy Nepal to steam Thailand, bamboo gets used for long-term construction on a regular basis.

The most effective roofing style is the split-overlap that prevents drips, although roofing is also done with mats and thatching styles using bamboo stalks and leaves.

In many cases where load-bearing is of issue, you’ll find bamboo bundled into pillars and pillars closer than we use in 2×4 stick construction.

As mentioned with beds and trellises, construction isn’t going to last forever. However, folks have been using it for centuries and in places with high winds and snow loads, they’re still using it.

If we have running water, we can use some of those eons-old construction methods to make our lives easier.

Water wheels use running waterways to lift relatively small amounts of water up into aqueduct style irrigation systems or through channels or piping to cisterns – which either hold it, or are used to create pressurized tanks to then distribute that water elsewhere.

Bamboo is also used to build mills that Westerners are more accustomed to seeing. Those mills can be used to do work directly – like threshing and grinding grain – or to spin low-level turbines for pumps or generating energy.

Similar designs for slow-moving fish wheels exist as well, spinning in rivers and streams and using scoops to drop fish into catchments. They’re not super efficient, but like a yoyo, they’re fishing while we’re off doing something else.

Creativity – Corn Crib or Coop?

Even if we don’t see plans for something straight off, the flexibility of bamboo and our minds can help us cut costs.

There’s no reason a shelf system can’t be combined with a plan for hampers to create a drying rack for foods, herbs, tea, or seeds.

Likewise, with some modifications, a coconut caddy we see from the balmy East can be modified into a corn crib, or a hay feeder that will reduce wastes and costs – even now. That caddy and what we know about cages can be used to create a bird coop or rabbit hutch, or that hutch can be converted back to grain drying and storage or curing potatoes or sweet potatoes.

We aren’t limited to the styles we see, either. While slender wands aren’t as strong, we can use them pretty much anywhere bamboo would have been split.

We can also take inspiration from the uses for bamboo, and apply them to things we may have in excess in our area, like young stands of aspen, copious privet, or willow.

Seventh Generation

As much as I love bamboo for all the things it can do, it doesn’t really belong running loose in North America. While certain species are less invasive than others, and it can be controlled by mowing around it and keeping it contained, I caution against planting it. Some of that is the Seventh Generation outlook on life. Sure, even invasive stuff can be fairly easily controlled on a property now, with mowing or due to other plantings or the terrain. But what happens when we’re no long fit and able, and it’s no longer our property?

So while I love it, I highly encourage preppers and homesteaders and craftsmen to find a patch of bamboo, not plant it. They’re out there, California to Wyoming, Florida to Vermont. They’ll usually be found on a secondary highway or county road, routinely in damper areas along those roadsides, or near homes.

The post Bamboo – Nature’s Gift to Preppers appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Practical Preparedness – Simplify Your Shopping List

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

When we embark on the road of preparedness, whether we aim small or plan to survive a nuclear holocaust, there are a million and five things to learn, build, do, and buy. It can be overwhelming at every stage. In fact, it can almost be more overwhelming at some of the intermediate stages than early on. You have great piles of stuff, but then you start thinking longer-term, sustainability, self-sufficiency, and the needs/wants just balloon all over. In some cases, the financial aspect alone is such a burden that people fall out and let go of the preparedness bug.

One thing that can help is to simplify the shopping list. In some case it’s about paring it down. In other cases, it’s about finding multi-purpose items.

The major benefit of the latter is that it can simplify things for beginners and old hands alike. When we pick something that can do multiple jobs right now, it gives us the ability to later expand to more specialized items as we’re ready. I’ll mostly focus on those items. I’ll also touch on some items I commonly see stocked deep that can get reduced or eliminated.

Pine Cleaner & Dish Detergent

Pine Sol is proof of a higher being or Mother Nature that loves us. Pine cleaner can be just about all things. It’s a disinfectant, and it doesn’t create color changes in fabric or wood. As such, pine cleaner can be used for:

  • Floors (tile, linoleum, hardwood, carpet)
  • Laundry (electric HE washers to hand-scrubbing)
  • Toilets & bathrooms
  • Kitchen and butcher area surfaces
  • Vehicles
  • Dusting surfaces with rags
  • Bedding

Happily, it also comes in a whole variety of scents for those of us who don’t actually like lemon or pine scented cleaners.

Pine cleaner also has a major case for being the be-all number-one cleaning product because it can be had in super condensed forms that you dilute as much as 10:1 and 25:1 by purpose.

Dish detergent is another one that can do a lot of jobs. As a pet owner and cook, little breaks the grease around the stove hood or sickness stains in carpets the way dish detergent will – and usually, especially with hot water and a decent scrubby sponge or brush, with the least amount of elbow grease of anything else I’ve purchased.

This is the stuff we count on to kill the raw chicken germs on our cutting boards and knives, and to prep jars for another year of canning – it’s fine as a surface cleaner for nurseries, kitchens, and sick rooms.

Dawn gets counted on to work pants from whatever my father and I picked up through the day. The incredible oil breaking compounds also save critters after oil spills. While it will upset the microbe communities, Dawn is safe to use for potted plants and garden beds, which lets us reuse the water we’ve pulled for cleaning and laundry.

Bleach

Bleach has its place in the cleaning world and in preparedness, but usually in limited quantity. Plain, unscented bleach gets used 5-8 drops per gallon to help clean water for drinking – a single bottle will do hundreds or thousands of gallons of water.

However, that bleach has a shelf life, and the more unstable the temperatures, the faster it breaks down and loses its abilities.

Bonus fact: When you use bleach in hot water, you’re nullifying its purification abilities. It’ll brighten whites, but it’s the hot water killing germs in those cases.

Since you can wash anything in Pine Sol that you could in bleach, and get it sanitized to the same degree, consider keeping a little around for water supplies and cool-water post-wash dips for food service or sick room supplies, but you don’t really need a gallon a week or even a gallon a month.

Vinegar & Windex

Instead of stocking up on both window cleaners and vinegar, consider just going with vinegar. And if you’re not yet, give your windows and bathroom bright-work a scrub-down using sheets of newspaper or phone book pages instead of paper towels next time around.

Vinegar can be used full strength if needed, or diluted and combined in various ways for doing windows and mirrors. It can also be used to unclog shower heads, remove water spots, kill ants, deodorize drains (or, change the smell coming from them, anyway), and act as a fabric softener in laundry water.

And, of course, there’s the fact that we can use white vinegar for canning and cooking, something we’d never do with a window cleaner.

Windshield Glass Cleaner

If you do want to have and stockpile a separate, specific window cleaner, consider getting the tabs and concentrate packets that fuel stations use for restocking their squeegee buckets such as Kwik Blue, 303, or Bug Blitzer . They dissolve in even cool water, then can be transferred to a spray bottle for cleaning. They can cost pennies per gallon while storing very compactly.

Baking Soda & Epsom Salts

Baking soda had its own article as a prepper must-have item. Both were also mentioned in some of the barter articles. Between them, they do a lot of jobs in and on the body, in and around the home, out in the yard and garden, and on the road.

I could hardly write an article about do-it-all shopping and not include them, but they truly deserve 6-12 articles all their own.

Standard & Common Ammo/Firearms

As much as possible, I try to standardize at least ammunition if not actual firearms. I also try to pick up long-production-run and common firearms. Doing so means increased aftermarket parts and accessories at (more) affordable rates.

That allows us to use a step-up program.

I can buy a basic firearm, then a different/extra barrel or stock. I can upgrade as I’m able, using the reviews that abound for the more-common firearms, accessories and gear.

Being a freak, I also tend to take both magazine cost into account, as well as the variety of pouches and holsters with and without a rail/light system and-or the sling systems available for the firearms.

And then sometimes I pick a firearm because it has a wide range of magazines it will accept, as opposed to one that only takes its specific model, or the H&K AR model that is ever so slightly different and is thus restricted to H&K mags made just for it.

The same applies to ammo.

Rimfires like the 10/22 that aren’t picky about what type of ammo they get fed are also more likely to come home with me.

By sticking with common calibers, I can readily find an affordable round that shoots just like my preferred self- and home-defense ammo for practice. In some cases, it means I have a wider array of hunting, defense, and special-purpose rounds and-or bullets ready and waiting for me on the shelf.

Having commonly-used calibers also means that there’s a better chance even if somebody can’t use my magazine or stripper clip, they can reload theirs from mine if need be.

Bedding & Clothes

Cheat on your bed linens. If there’s a queen and a full bed, just buy queen sheets for both. You might have to tuck the sheets in further and tighter and more often for the full, but they mix and match. That means when a set or two rip, it’s no big deal. I have used king blankets and comforters on queens and full beds half my life. It works.

Fun fact about that king comforter: It folds up to fit either a full or a twin bed as a mattress pad just fine, and you can tuck it under queen bedding if needed as well most of the time.

That means that as age starts wearing mattresses, we can extend their lives. It also means that should somebody be sick or potty training, we can throw some garbage bags between the mattress and the comforter, and the bags won’t shift as much (and annoy the sleeper). Should somebody sneeze or giggle and dribble a little, we’re washing and drying a big blanket and sheets, not trying to clean, then cover a mattress, and inviting mold and mildew right into bed with us while it dries much slower.

Clothing can also be simplified with some regularity.

Shoes are pretty specific and socks need to fit a well, although with kids we can skip sizes and plan for 2-3 pairs of socks. Most other clothing has some leeway. If we make sure there are drawstrings and belt loops, we can tighten, add suspenders, pin up, and roll clothing.

Also, a hair elastic makes a hand sleeve garter for washing hands and dishes, or any other time rolled-up sleeves might try to un-roll or slide down.

 

As somebody who now gets her nephews’ hand-me-downs instead of us passing things to them, I can tell you that some oversized clothing is hazardous because it will catch and snag, but a M-L and a L-XL soul can share a lot of outerwear if it’s purchased in the larger size.

Storage Containers

As we start seriously accumulating things, we need somewhere to put it.

Tip #1: Avoid the “I’ll sort it later” trap of a junk drawer, junk shelf, “Misc.” box, and a catchall laundry basket.

If you truly go through weekly and put things in their place, that’s cool. Most of us toss, say we’ll get it later, don’t, toss, repeat, toss, repeat, and a 5-15 minute job of sorting turns into an hour+ that we then really start dodging.

There are lots of options for holding our goodies, any of which let us sort things as they come home.

Laundry baskets of varying sizes are cheap, and pretty durable. Lined with a sheet, towel or garbage bag, the holes don’t matter. If at some point we need to, they allow us to re-line or remove the liner and plant in them. They can be doubled up into fish traps or holders, large baskets can be turned into cribs (lined! lined well!) or puppy crates, we can use them harvesting larger produce, and then we can sponge them with pine cleaner and turn them into something else all over again.

Accounting or banker’s file boxes with the separate lids aren’t as durable as storage totes, but most of mine actually keep their lids better than the storage totes. They readily fit on shelves and they’re a size that’s reasonable to carry whether they’re packed with papers, books, or (oops) canned goods. They stack well and uniformly across manufacturers.

It’s easy to pop up a lid instead of re-taping or doing the four-corners tucks, which will also help us keep our storage supplies fairly neat.

The downside to them, of course, is that they’re not water- or bug proof. We can line them with trash bags, and-or wet-pack our supplies in gallon and two-gallon Ziploc, but it still leaves the potential that at some point, the cardboard will dissolve into sodden mess. Still, apples to apples with standard cardboard boxes, they hold their own.

They’re less expensive than most moving boxes, but if there’s a liquor store, go with the free boxes there instead – those will be nice and sturdy, too.

Then there are the things like kitty litter buckets we might get for free or buy instead of a smaller container of litter.

While not appropriate for everything, they, too, hold a ton of weight, and multi-function when needed. Today they might be canned goods, medical stuff, or actual litter for winter weight and traction. Tomorrow they might be a water catchment system, a stacked vertical tower for the garden, or sub-irrigated gardening containers. Given another year, they might start holding bulk seeds or garden tool heads.

Like the file boxes, square buckets have an advantage in being a nice, standard size (which simplifies shelving) and not wasting as much space as a rounded and deeply V-ed storage tote or bucket would.

Defunct coolers are another that can make for nice storage containers. The downside to those is the space lost to insulating, but wheels, sturdy handles, and a flip-top lid can definitely be handy sometimes.

Simplified Shopping Lists

Hopefully these few examples were enough to start the brain churning for experienced preppers and beginners alike. From things like pasta that we can use to make a dozen different distinct dishes to having two firearm calibers, from what we stock for cleaning to the lawn-and-garden supplies, there are a million ways we can simplify our shopping and thus simplify our lives. Working off lists of multi-use items can be an affordable way to get started, or to fill in gaps we’ve started noticing after a trial run.

In some cases, we can buy one thing and cross eight others off our lists as a result. Other times, we might choose to hold off on some of the diversity we want to add.

By simplifying lists, we can also eliminate a little of the pressure on our storage spaces, and we may be able to identify and rectify gaps in our supplies when we sit down to compare what we have to what we use normally. It might also let us make a switch in our daily life that will save money in the long run, opening up the budget for extra seeds, Sevin dust, shoes, sugar and storage racks.

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The post Practical Preparedness – Simplify Your Shopping List appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Prepping with Pets – Evacuating with Animals

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Whether they’re solely companion animals or serve some level of function, many of us have animals. In some cases, they are members of our families as well as partners. Having accepted responsibility for them – simple companion, paddock pony, pet horses, livestock guardian donkeys and llamas, barn cats, or working dogs of various types – we are responsible for their welfare in a disaster. I’ll start with some of the tough situations first, and then list some tips for evacuating with animals or temporarily surrendering them to a shelter for a natural disaster.

When it comes to disaster planning for pets and livestock, we tend to have a lot of choices in North America, especially the United States. More and more human shelters are accepting crated and kenneled animals. Animal shelters and rescues also accept cats, dogs and other small companion animals in advance of hurricanes or when flood evacuation orders are issued. ASPCA barnyards will commonly work with owners as well, given enough of a head’s up. We have enough advanced warning of storms — and even wildfires to some degree – to heighten awareness and choose to evacuate them if it looks at all sketchy.

There are a few steps we can take to make evacuations a little easier.

One thing we should not do, ever, is leave them to fend for themselves, whether we think we’ll be back in a couple of days, or we’re thinking of setting them “free” or dumping them on somebody’s property.

Short-Term Emergency

If we evacuate, we need to evacuate our animals.

Following ever major hurricane and regularly after fires out West, people flood shelters and help lines because they’ve left pets and companion animals behind, and now roads are closed or completely washed out, bridges are missing, and roads are blocked by downed trees.

Private and public-funded rescuer organizations go out in force to try to save as many as they can, but animals perish. In some cases, they wind up far from home, never identified, and never adopted.

Some time on the phone ahead of a disaster, attention to weather news, and pre-packing for animals can mitigate some of the complications and make it possible for us to get our animals out of harm’s way before highways and roads become clogged or impassable.

If we act early, we can also work through local shelters and rescues to leave our animals with them while we evac or take refuge in a storm shelter.

Long-Term Disaster

In a long-term disaster, stray animals are almost guaranteed to increase in number. In some cases, it will be because they got lost and without infrastructure, were never returned. Unaltered animals will increase, and then further multiply, adding to the loose animal populations.

And then there will be the people who dump their animals.

Nine times out of ten, a pet is ill-equipped to survive on its own. A cat that seems to be an excellent hunter and one that is already outdoors may seem like a good candidate to take off somewhere and leave to fend for itself.

Don’t.

There are a lot of ways to die in this world, especially for animals, many of them slow and painful. They’ll be in competition with other animals. Coyotes and cougars already kill and consume even sizable canines every year – deeper and deeper into residential areas. Livestock owners are going to be totally justified in shooting animals that could menace their own either through predation or the spread of disease.

It’s already heartbreakingly common for people to dump dogs and cats across a gate in rural properties, especially if they see there are already dogs or cats.

Resist that temptation, too.

One, a lot of us in rural areas have dogs that double as flock and herd protection. Those dogs will attack and kill strange animals, especially if the newcomer chases or bristles up at them.

Two, it puts the “strange” cat, dog, bird, or goat at risk of fighting with existing dominant animals, or a whole pack of them, and it puts our animals at risk, makes us pay for meds and vet bills after a fight, even if there’s no death.

Three, some of us have donkeys that will stomp a canine and even the odd cat to death. Our dogs know to avoid them, or we have a hot line or fence you may not see to keep them separate.

Four, chances are good we are already at our carrying capacity for animals, well ahead of a crisis, and have not planned to feed an additional dog or cat or five. That means we’re left with the sad duty somebody else is dodging, and have to take it in to a shelter (now) or, in the future, may have to choose between chasing it away and hoping it doesn’t starve to death or run afoul of a local stray pack, and killing it so that at least it doesn’t suffer any more.

Those are sucky choices. They’re really sucky to lay at somebody else’s feet.

We need to plan to do the responsible thing and take care of our animals ourselves. In some scenarios, with no shelters/rescues/vets available, the kindest thing we can do will be to cull our herds and-or euthanize our companion animals.

Personally, I think everybody who considers getting livestock or a companion animal should have to volunteer at a shelter. They might weigh out the financial and emotional costs associated with animals – and the trials of disaster planning and recovery for them – a little more closely. There should be a lifelong commitment to that animal, and to treating even livestock respectfully.

End of Life

No matter how well we plan, our companion animals will end up with low quality of life from age, disease, or severe injury.

With any luck, we’ve considered that and are prepared to end their suffering.

In most situations we’ll face, there will still be options. Some pre-planning and supplies can prevent the need to choose between keeping a healthy animal and leaving it at a shelter permanently or long-term, or having to euthanize at home due to widespread, long-term crises that leave them slowly starving.

Evacuating with Animals

It’s not the easiest thing with multiple animals, especially larger livestock, but just as we have BOB’s and evac kits, multiple methods of evacuation, and plans for our families, we need to have the same for the critters in our lives.

When the authorities say it’s time to go, go.

Yes, sometimes to regularly it’s no big deal. There’s a lot of moving parts with animals, though, especially larger livestock. Hotels and campgrounds that accept dogs and cats are more common now, but in an evacuation, they’ll be getting picked over. Especially with livestock, whether it’s fire or flood risk, don’t delay.

Waiting too long puts animals and rescuers at risk after the fact. It’s easier and safer for everyone just to get them out early.

Trailers & Crates

If we have livestock that won’t fit in the backseat or pickup bed, we need a trailer. It’s almost that simple to me.

We need something we can rig with a ramp and cattle fencing even, and we need to train livestock to ascend and descend. Horses, goats, and cattle are lost in every wildfire, from Fort Mac to California and Arizona, because they won’t load when seconds and minutes count.

People in Fort Mac were supposed to have been safe, so some of the ones who ran out of fuel and rode their horses out or lost the seniors and slow ones to lung damage later have an excuse, but by and large, we can pay enough attention to cut and run. If we have to call around finding trailers and vans first, we’re already behind the curve.

If we have cats and dogs, we need to socialize them and we need to train them to go on trips or to load in crates, too.

If we have multiple small companions, sheep or goats, it may be absolutely necessary that we have enough crates and kennels on hand to move them at once – and thus, a vehicle or trailer capable of holding those crates and kennels, even if we have to stack them.

Animals that are friendly when loose may become aggressive with each other when stressed and over-tired. One trick is to keep cardboard, plywood or blankets on hand that we can arrange around, over and between crates if we need them. The visual barriers can help keep the peace.

Data Prep

Attach information about the animal to that animal, as well as to their crate or trailer. For dogs and cats, and even goats, that might be a collar or harness with a standard tag on it.

On their leads, crates, or trailers attach a larger card or sheet that’s cased in plastic with primary and secondary contact information, and a second point of contact.

Note any behavioral issues or medical needs. It can help keep others and the animals safe.

If the animal is being surrendered to a shelter temporarily, include the same and make sure there are updated photos for claiming them after the disaster.

There is livestock marking ink that can be used to write a name or number (or both) on even medium or large dogs as well as hoofstock. In an evacuation scenario, it’s not a terrible idea to use them.

For smaller animals, it’s easiest to have a pre-cut stencil that says “Baby Parris – ###-###-####” and color the fur through it with the sticks or spray.

Go Kits for Critters

Just like humans, animals should have a go bag or go kit.

When I had larger animals, hefty rolling trash cans that I could lash to the very front or the very back of the trailer(s) or run off the porch onto my tailgate and pickup bed were handy. I could carry several days of grain feed, a set of tack, electric fencing and battery/batteries, long-lines and short leads, shipping blankets and booties, and the Old Man’s old-horse mash mix and supplements in a couple of trash cans.

I also had a rolling trash can with a portion cut out near the bottom and a board blocking the hole that I could fill with hay and bring with us, then just haul down about a square bale and a quarter if I needed to. Both the ponies and the goats could feed from it.

They were easy to grab and pre-load if things started looking iffy, so that I could just load the animals when we made the call to cut and run.

For smaller companion animals or just a couple of goats, life can get even easier.

Several days of water and-or food and-or dishes can just wait around in rolling coolers. Coolers lose some space efficiency, but they’re nice and sturdy (and usually make handy seats and umbrella props). They can also be made water-resistant pretty easily with a roll of duct tape. Rolling luggage and storage totes offers a lot of the same advantages.

With kits pre-packed and ready to go, all we do is rotate the contents.

As with humans, they’ll need shelter and water, which can be wow-painful for large stock. Research the area and contact the ASPCA or Humane Society, Sheriff’s department, or animal rescues within your county and area to find out if they have ideas or resources you can tap. Do it well in advance of an emergency.

There are some parks that do still allow livestock. Another option is to work through the county extension, farm bureau, and county co-ops to find somebody at 20-50-150-300 mile intervals who would be willing to let you camp on their properties and pump or haul water.

Preparing for Furry Friends – Leaving Home

It can be difficult to deal with everything in the moment of a crisis. There are fifty-five things to remember to do and load. Make a checklist to make it easier, and have a way to stick it right by the door.

When we make our lists and plans, hopefully we’re preparing for our animals. With any luck, we’re taking them into consideration for the everyday and seasonal/annual occurrences that strike our modern world regularly. Planning for long-term care of pets and livestock can be difficult, especially if we’re not yet where we want to be for our human families.

It needs to be done, though. Like our children, our animals are helpless in a world we create for them. They count on us to be the responsible party.

Sometimes that can mean we have hard choices and tough actions that we need to be ready to take. Just like in our modern world, at some point a working animal or companion is going to be gray and pained, overcome by tumors, or crippled with disease or injury. Right now and in a lot of situations, shelters are available if we have no recourse left. If we’re planning on some WROL, nation-altering event, we need to plan to deal with those scenarios ourselves.

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Prepper Hacks – Jumpstart That Survival Garden

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Spring Into Planting (Early & Anywhere)

Hopefully we’ve all sited or started making notes of where we want to plant, expand, shore-up and re-do our gardens, whether they’re beds or little containers, a string of tin cans or a tower of 2L soda bottles. Some of us are already sowing seeds directly, many of us have our tomatoes and peppers and squashes started for transplants, but some of us are likely lagging behind a little, whether it’s due to water, effort, space, weather, or time.

If planting is an interest – and it really should be for preppers – we may be itching to go ahead and start. Resisting those false springs and holding on through the last frosts and snows can be painful.

We can always do our germination testing, update our crop rotation plan or garden journals, or make up some seed tapes and mats with trash and a little glue, but sometimes we want to get those tasty edibles in the soil, no matter what the calendar says. The inclination for fresh food is likely to be even stronger following a winter of storage foods and with only dry and canned produce to get us through to mid-summer.

Happily, we can cheat the weather and time a little. We can get our survival garden ready indoors, with almost any amount of space and almost any budget and time available.

Digging Up Dirt

We may want to sterilize soil that’s coming from outside to do up some pots.

We may want to sterilize soil that’s coming from outside to do up some pots. It’s pretty easy, and can be done multiple ways.

We can add equal parts water and boil it for 10-30 minutes, or process it in jars in water-bath or pressure canners as we would tomato paste or meat. We can also bake it (350 degrees for 60 minutes, or 450 degrees for 30 minutes). Or, we can make sure it’s damp and then microwave it for 5-10 minutes.

Being able to use just about any soil means we can run out and scoop a couple of gallons from the yard, established beds, or – in small, polite increments – bits from a nearby ditch or park. We want to skip soil that may have been treated with a broadleaf herbicide, because most of our veggies are dicots.

Dicots – broadleaf plants; non-grasses (hay, corn, wheat and other grains are monocots).

Because we can sterilize our soil, we don’t have to worry about bringing any creepy-crawlies into the house.

Cheating the Calendar

We can start planting with our non-buggy soil right away, even if we live indoors with no windows, or if it’s going to be June before it’s safe to plant anything outside of a greenhouse.

A number of edible plants really don’t need much light. In fact, some of us are likely to grow a shelf worth of beets, radishes and lettuces indoors even if we have lots of yard space because we’re restricted by heat and too much sunlight.

Using just the ambient light from winter and early spring windows, some or many plants grow a little slower, but even doubling a microgreen, radish, or leaf lettuce that takes 14, 21, or 30 days means we’re munching in as little as 4-6 weeks, as much as 60 days in cool, very dim conditions indoors.

Any full-spectrum light bulb can go in any lamp in the home – we don’t have to get fancy there.

If we do get a specialty light for plants, make sure it’s for growth. (Those green-light bulbs make plants look better; plants will eventually die if it’s their only or primary source because they don’t absorb those wavelengths.)

Whether we use a window from across a room or a bulb in a “normal” stand, we’ll likely want to be able to spin our planters. It’ll help plants grow straight and tall instead of bending, and give them equal access to airflow.

Early Transplants

GrowVeg likes to promote the green pea-house gutter transplant method. You fill a shallow container 12-24” long with soil, plant out pea seed at high density, and then just slide the whole thing out when the seedlings and weather are cooperating.

The same can also be done for strawberries, spinach and baby lettuces.

Spinach and baby lettuces are ideal for it, because we can be harvesting the largest leaf of 3-5 leaves while they’re inside for weeks before we send them out to make bigger heads. However, they’re also fine just staying in that shallow dirt – especially if given some used coffee grounds or tea leaves now and then.

Beets can get the same treatment if desired.

A few leaves are sacrificed to salad, keeping it from producing a tuber. The seedlings are transitioned outside in stages, then the soil is slid out and into a bed. With the leaves less disturbed or undisturbed, the plant starts gaining enough growth to make that tuber for us.

Pots for Planting

We don’t have to spend a fortune on our planting containers. Depending on how “cute” we want them, we may not have to spend anything.

Some families are exceptions, but most of us use or can gain access to tins from canned foods, soda and juice bottles, milk jugs, and coffee cans (plastic or steel).

Even if our local fast food restaurants and delis no longer get or pass along food-safe buckets, we can get our hands on tubs the size gallon+ ice cream comes in, and giant condiment jars and tubs. The local humane society and ASPCA may not have kitty litter buckets, but we can cut down the giant plastic pour-bottles two different ways to buy some growing room.

Any plant that’s a candidate for soup cans (green onions, leaf lettuce, baby spinach, chickweed) is also a candidate for peanut jars and cashew tubs, peanut butter tubs, and bottles from bulk vegetable or olive oil.

A few holes for drainage in the sides and-or bottoms, and we’re in business. We may want to go easy on the pickle tubs for indoors, but it might not bother us on a porch or small balcony.

We can also line baskets of various types, or collect pretty lampshades to flip upside down and line, then add a fill like pinecones at the bottom for drainage and air space, and be very, very careful watering for the rest of the season.

Seed Selection

In keeping with this as an article for everybody, no matter their skill, budget or space constraints, I’m sticking with smaller plants that can be grown in anything and focusing on plants with cut-and-come-again convenience.

Cut and come again: You snip the tips or tops, or select-harvest larger leaves, but leave the plant growing; with the established root system and-or leaves still collecting sunlight, plants regrow faster than reseeding, allowing for more harvest total over a period of time even if each harvest is a little smaller.

I’m also mostly going to stick with plants that have low light needs. They can survive in a window, 6-8’ away from a window, or with the standard full-spectrum bulbs mentioned earlier – even the LEDs that burn so little energy. That keeps it open even for people with limited window space.

Using things like coffee grounds we get from Starbucks, McD’s, or our own pots, and tea leaves, we can keep even very small containers and “pots” fertile a pinch or two at a time, right on the surface of the soil to be watered in as we go.

A pinch or so of Epsom salt here and there will also keep our plants productive and flowering.

All of the leaf lettuces are excellent candidates for small “mini” pots and planters with shallow roots. So is spinach that will be harvested small.

Baby beet leaves are commonly included in field green mixes. Sprinkle or space at a half-inch, thin and eat the smaller sprouts to give a 1-1.5” spacing, and they’ll be fine.

Radishes, baby carrots, and even small beets or turnips for roots won’t work well in soup and small veggie cans – they just aren’t all that productive for the space used.

Radishes do work well with gutter sections, glass brownie and bread pans, and milk jugs and bottles that are cut to lay horizontally instead of stacked in a vertical tower.

Herbs go fifty-fifty. Some will stay smaller when grown in 20-oz., cans, and 2L jugs, but most will be fine.

Chives, parsley, thyme & basil especially have a lot of bang for the buck. The first three are also troopers with very long growing seasons, especially indoors.

Green/spring onions also pack a lot of flavor, and can have just a stalk harvested as well, so they’ll regrow from the roots like cutting lettuce.

Fenugreek has some restrictions, but is another tasty additive.

Mustards are salad add-in’s at our house, but can be grown larger and in more bulk for people who dig cooked greens.

Pea sprouts and shoots are an excellent spinach replacement. They can be harvested as “stems” with just little baby leaves, or allowed to grow larger.

Strawberries are happy with half a 2L, milk jugs, wider bean/fruit cans, and coffee cans & tubs.

They work for raw salads, cooking like spinach, or adding to Oriental noodles or lasagna. If you decide you don’t like the stems or if they get a little overlarge, just pinch off the leaves themselves to toss into meals.

Edible weeds are the real troopers of the plant world – which is how they become weeds in the first place.

Dandelion and plantain aren’t overly space efficient for small containers, but chickweed is fantastic, I love henbit, and I specifically abuse soil and find crappy dirt so I can grow purslane (which gets tossed in to roast with potatoes and autumn veggies). Pineapple weed is happy to grow in containers for us, as are wild garlic and onion to use as spicing.

Strawberries aren’t really successful in our soup cans or 20-oz. bottles, but they’re happy with half a 2L, milk jugs, wider bean/fruit cans, and coffee cans & tubs.

We can also start flowers so they’re ready for edible harvests earlier, or so they’re already blooming or established enough to serve as companions for our outdoor plants earlier in the growing season.

Spring into Sowing

We’re not going to feed ourselves off the contents of even a couple dozen small containers (or for that matter, 5-gallon buckets). However, it’s a good way to plan for disaster. Most of those cool-season, small-space, low-light herbs and greens are jam-packed with vitamins that can round out diets heavy in beans and rice or lentils and wheat.

It also gets our feet wet. Growing is both a science and an art, and very situational dependent. Even when we successfully grow one way, we may find switching to “easy” indoor plants – especially over winter – presents new challenges. Anything we plan to do “after”, we should go ahead and give a few tries now.

For a couple bucks worth of seeds, some trash, and some dirt (free or purchased) we can go ahead and start improving our diet, preparing for the future, and – for some of us – scratching the garden itch. They’ll take only a few minutes a day to care for, and using small plants and containers, can be grown in nearly any amount of space.

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Skills-Stuff: When Stuff Matters More

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

I generally agree with the premise that skills are far more important than stuff, and that knowledge weighs nothing. There are skills that benefit us, every single day and definitely in a disaster – on any scale. However, sometimes collecting knowledge can be a pricey and time-consuming prospect. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn, but we need to prioritize as with anything else. We also have to honestly assess our preparedness level, plan, and current lifestyle. Pat’s Preparedness Arc is perfect for this.

Exceptions & Assessments

There are exceptions to some of what I’ll suggest. If you’re a wilderness adventure enthusiast or work in extremes, you already know it. If you truly have lots of free time but zero money after lots of cutbacks, and you have materials/resources lying around and don’t have to buy anything, okay.

If somebody is just into history, a reenactor, a hobbyist, I’m also not talking about that. Mental health clause – you need an outlet. However, interests are just interests and don’t belong in the “but it’s useful/preparedness” category of our time and financial budgets. It belongs under our entertainment budgets.

Please remember those caveats as you read the list. I’m talking about somebody learning from scratch specifically as a survival/preparedness skill in lieu of practicing, buying, or learning something else.

I also hear the argument put forth that somebody’s going to learn a skill or trade because then they can barter it. That is absolutely true in some cases (medical, mechanics, midwives). In others …

We have to ask ourselves: How many people who are preparing or not preparing are actually going to be around and need that particular skill? How do we plan to find those souls who are unprepared to do it themselves, but are expected to have surpluses worth our time and labor to trade for us?

Below are a few things I regularly see pushed as a must-have skill. I’ll break down the pro’s and con’s, and cover alternatives.

Image: How sustainable is our water plan – and our bodies – compared to our need to make soap or learn primitive fire making methods, or learning an already fairly common trade?

Alternatives After Assessment

Would it be better to develop the knowledge of how to find water by recognizing terrain and land cover patterns, a map of streams and springs in the area, and the physical strength to carry and drag water-level weight through woods, on crappy roadsides and ditches, and repeatedly lift buckets and containers out of a downed well or deep cut with cord, or over the side of a pickup?

Could we instead spend time locating buckets, storage totes, and barrels, the used and wrecked pieces of furniture and equipment on Craigslist and Freecycle to turn them into water catchment, and the afternoon or afternoons it takes to assemble them, to limit the amount of time we even have to go out hunting water?

We have to ask ourselves how important primitive skills are instead of something like wrapping a sprain.

Water is always going to be a focus for me, but there are other skills, too.

Gather wood for the stove/grill and practice cooking and canning on it. Learn hauling and tying knots, and practice felling, branch removal, and topping on consecutively larger trees. Learn to change your own oil and bike chain. Figure out how to unclog a drain using supplies and tools you already have on hand. Walk on the ditch verges and wooded hills to strengthen ankles.

We have to ask ourselves how important primitive skills are instead of something like wrapping a sprain, turning off water and gas mains, producing and finding food, mending a fence, sharpening a blade, rescuing a drowning/choking infant or child, and backing a trailer.

Fire From Scratch

If you happen to have a battery and steel wool, more power to you. It was never in my pack for fire tools.

Let’s start off with a super controversial one – yay!

First, I’m not talking about finding dry tinder in wet woods or making a feather stick. If somebody’s out in the woods regularly, the potential of injury in a downpour makes them worthwhile in the crisis stance. As a through packer (I think they call it ultralight now, but my bag was never light) and multi-day paddler, those are things that saved me time and energy for my hot meal.

I’m talking about Survivorman fire starting, primitive fire starting. If you happen to have a battery and steel wool, more power to you. It was never in my pack for fire tools.

Second, if you’re a remote-creek kayaker, canoe trekker, or a hiker, get a few pill bottles to stuff with wet-weather or DIY-coated matches and a few cotton balls or some dryer lint, and start wearing one around your neck and carrying one in a pants pocket. Get a ferro rod and block or a windproof cigar lighter, and replace the chain with 550 cord to wear on your belt or pants button or the snap of your life vest or knife. Keep another set duct taped to the bottom of your water bottle or glasses case.

No belt or knife? No glasses? Don’t worry about fire from scratch then. It takes a long time to master starting a fire with a bow and starting it with a lens requires a lens. If you don’t have a knife to make shavings and the bow and start the notch, there’s a stick and another stick, and you’d be far better served spending the time making a cocoon-style debris hut.

Matches/Lighters versus Primitive Skills

People do get lost in the woods, and eventually we absolutely will run out of matches and lighters on a homestead.

We’ll run out of them faster if we’re using smaller fires for short periods and thus starting them regularly. They can break, leak, get wet and grody, and strike-anywhere are harder and harder to find so you have to figure on the striker strips getting worn totally smooth, especially if we buy the big bulk boxes.

Learning to find tinder in wet woods is time-consuming enough (and worth it for some/many).

If you’re only bugging-out to a BOL, not in an INCH situation, or if you’re a boater, fisherman, hunter, hiker, or outdoors enthusiast, throw in a cigar lighter so wind is less of a factor – they fit in a Gerber case inside bags or small plastic bottles with matches and other fire-starting materials pretty well.

For a homestead/bug-in situation, we can say three meals and a snack a day, plus morning coffee. Starting five fires is pretty generous and buys time for us to learn how to bank a fire for coals and keep one going.

Say it takes us a couple broken/burn-out matches to get one started, so we need three matches per fire. Using 15 a day for a year gives us a total of 5.5K matches.

Bricks of 100 small kitchen match boxes run $8-15 bucks each for 3.2K matches – two would cover our needs for $20-$30. My dollar store also carries match books cheaper (not my first choice).

Or we could buy one of those multi-pack bricks for $10-15, and hit Amazon for a 100-pack of disposable lighters for $20 and a set of three big boxes of 300 matches for $7-$10. That gives us 4K+ matches and 100 lighters for $37-45.

We can store them in our currently empty canning jars, or spend $5-6 at the dollar store to get candles or nail polish or lacquer to waterproof them and some baggies to keep them in. Strikers and blast matches, cigar lighters that work even in whipping Montana winds, run in the $4-$12 ranges.

Yes, it costs money. Yes, if you already have the knife, tromping into the woods to do it like Bear doesn’t.

Tromp into the woods learning to not make noise, recognize animal sign, and recognize landscape features that promise water instead.

There are multiple situations (and future practical, everyday skills) that benefit from that knowledge.

Soap – Making vs. Buying

 

Let’s start with the basics of soap. There’s a couple of modern recipes, and a link to the history. About halfway down, that one breaks soap making into three stages of lye, fats, and combination – which is where we’d be at a total pioneer homestead or “My Side Of The Mountain forever” INCH lifestyle.

I’m going to discount any soap making as viably sustainable if it’s using a fat or oil that’s not locally produced. That’s including people who buy the glycerin soap blocks. (For soap making – no comment on other uses.)

That’s the whole argument about sustainable, colonial and primitive skills – they’re for when there is no store and we run out of things.

If you need palm oil, you’re storing something and you might as well store the finished product. (There are exceptions, like the many balms and other uses for various oils.)

Some basic soap-making starter kits are available for as little as $10-15. Better will run as high as you like. I couldn’t find one that already included a scale (soap making is one of those things that requires weights according to some experts, although others have converted recipes to volume).

$10-15 for a kit isn’t much, absolutely. However, soap requires those rendered animal fats or oils. Those aren’t in the kits, and some of the ones I’ve seen in recipes are pretty pricey.

Too, in a crisis, especially if we’re living off grass-fed livestock and wildlife and the diet food of garden produce, fats and oils are going to be precious to keep our bodies functioning.

There’s still tons of bar soaps available at the dollar store and <$1 at Walmart. Some are travel sized and singles in boxes. However, options are available in 2-packs and 3-packs of standard-sized bars. So for $10 I can get 18-27 bars of soap and still pay tax.

If I’m inclined, I can cut that down, get a bottle or two each of Dawn and pine cleaner for dishes and laundry, floors, and surfaces, and still get 14-18 bars of soap.

I once figured that between bathing and washing my hands and face, I run through a cake of soap a week, so I need more than $9-10 worth. I need more in the neighborhood of $20-$30, and about a shoebox of space. For laundry, surfaces and dishes for a year, and surface cleaning, depending on household, I need a couple of free liquor boxes and another $20-30 for liquid cleaners, even buying from the dollar store. (The dollar store is not the cheapest per ounce or most compact form, but they are incremental purchase and use sizes.)

Cost doesn’t apply for the folks who plan to have fatty pigs and cattle, and use their wood ash. For them, the comparison is strictly about time. For a lark, sure, jump one weekend. But weigh out what else could be learned, what other materials cost, and what family ties could be strengthened with a different activity.

Soap is compact. They are sensitive to dampness, so they need a Ziploc bag, lidded can, or plastic tub. There are environments where dry soaps melt, but most of North America could keep them in a shed. So will the ingredients for making soap, or finished homemade soaps.

Rendering suet for tallow

Some will still think it’s worthwhile. To each their own, but please refer back to the general premise and Pat’s arc to be sure it’s the best use of your resources and time as you stand now.

On the flip side, totally learn how to make suet and tallow if fatty animals and materials are present. They have a ton of uses, provide a storable sustainable fat source, and they fill very real needs in a self-sustainable lifestyle.

Treating Hides

Hides and making useful items from hides is 50-50 with me. On one hand, I know a woman who makes a bundle from it, and if you have rabbits or hunt deer, you have hides. On the other hand, should the world collapse to colonial and pioneer day levels if not the Dark Ages, lots of humanity will die fast enough for me to find underroos, sheets, work boots, and socks should I need to go out past my X date – they aren’t exactly the things being grabbed in today’s riots.

Photo from North American Bushcraft School

 

If it’s going to be a side business, sure, jump – after you do some market research. If it’s a niche market half-hobby, jump.

If it’s something on the to-do list because it seems like a great skill … maybe consider jumping on a maps website, finding farm fields and nearby specialty farms, making some non-nut cookies or muffins to carry, and sharing that you’re interested in breaking away from city life, would the nice farmer be willing to work out some kind of tag-along for labor deal so you can get a good idea of what’s involved.

Another option useful in disasters of all kinds is mapping power-line cuts to avoid traffic jams, snow and flood evacuation routes, and directions and A, B, C routes to and from kids’ schools and the school evac rally points.

Skills versus Stuff

Nine times out of ten, I would argue that knowing is better than having. However, there are exceptions – usually because of the time and-or resources they require, and sometimes because of the space.

There are lots of things that we should know just to be well-round humans, let alone homesteaders or – if inclined – nomads. However, sometimes we waste our precious resources learning something that only benefits most people during a very specific type of disaster, or a total breakdown and reversal that lasts for 5-10+ years.

Sadly, a lot of people who push and learn those lack the skills and supplies to survive long enough for some primitive skills to become valuable again. Some of those skills come at the cost of things that can benefit us, right now.

There are all kinds of things to do without spending more money or spending time on something with highly specialized skills and low-likelihood needs.

I figure I’ll get hate mail for the concept and for the specific few I listed. I just want people to weigh their to-do and to-learn lists so that they can prioritize based on where they already stand and where they want to go.

If there’s true need and potential – and sometimes there is – or it’s just a hobby, there’s nothing wrong with any of the primitive skills. I think most of us, though, have something we would be better served learning, practicing or building than the three listed.

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Lessons from History – Hand Powered Tools

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Crank It Out

When we hear “crank it out”, we tend to be hearing “get it done”. We have a lot of advantages with that these days. Nobody’s spinning a wheel on a giant roller to produce our news – we just tap a few buttons, and systems lift and press, roll, and cut for us, or we’re online and reading away without a walk to the morning paper at all.

The conveniences are all around us, from our coffee grinders and brewers, out in our sheds, and all around our homes and lives. But it wasn’t actually too far back in history that “crank” was a very literal term for a lot of those conveniences.

In my kitchen, I have a simple slider mandolin, mason jar pump-top onion chopper, and a salad spinner. I’m going to break down and get a cherry pitter this year or next year. They’re convenient. They save labor in time and energy. Grinders are there for coffee and wheat, so I stay happy/sane. My world is full of items that do the same, from my battery drill and power saws to the blender that cranks out curach and turns strained jelly peels and pulp into slurries for fruit roll-ups.

A disaster is a bad time to lose all of our conveniences in life. There are also some hand powered tools we can pull from the pages of history – and that inspire modern tools – that will help us with our self-reliance. They bounce back and forth from the kitchen to the workshop, out to the barn. Here’s a quick look at a handful of those things that can help us keep cranking it out.

Oil press

An oil press can be a big financial commitment, and it’s not for everybody. Until there’s enough land space to be producing foods, let alone oil nuts and seeds, it should go on the back-burner. On the other hand, if you’re in suburbia and you have the 1-2 working oil presses in 3-25 miles, you have a very powerful bartering tool at your fingertips.

Essential Oils Natural Remedies: The Complete A-Z Reference of Essential Oils for Health and Healing

That’s because fats are important. A lot of game animals are very lean in fats. In a world where we and our limited livestock are working just as hard as wildlife to eat, stay warm, prepare for winter, recover, and raise a family, we’re going to get leaner, too. That’s not always a good thing. There are vitamins and minerals our bodies can’t process without fats.

Fats are also important in baking, and make cooking (and cleanup) a whole lot easier. Plus, check out your powdered peanut butter. I’ll bet it tells you to add some oil for best results.

Sadly, even Crisco and powdered margarine won’t last forever, and it’s not like they’re all that good for you.

There is an alternative to a press to get those fats – at least one.

We can basically mince the heck out of various seeds and nuts, turn them into a slurry, let them settle (for hours or days), pour off the liquids (that’s what we keep), strain and press the wet mass (to get more of the liquids), and wait for the water to dehydrate (days). There are regularly additional steps for different types of plants, like shelling, simmering, filtering, additional pour-offs, and milling. Fermentation and spoilage risks are high. Labor and time are through the roof.

With an oil press, an impressive number of tree and grass seeds can be turned into oils.

Many presses have or can be fitted with automatic shellers and separators. The leftover meal can be dried to use in breads, thicken stock and gravy, or be fed to animals. The same presses can be used for a wide variety of seeds and nuts, sometimes requiring a gear change and sometimes extremely small or large seeds require an additional piece or to be minced. Sometimes we do have to take our peanut shells and skins off, and feed it just corn kernels.

(There are corn threshers and bean-pea shellers available crank-style, too.)

Not only is the time and effort hugely reduced with an oil press, our product comes out cleaner and we usually have more to show for it at the end of the day.

I won’t go into as much detail for the rest of today’s list, but those types of factors are there for all of them. It’s why the “convenience” and “efficiency” machines came into play in the first place.

Hand Beater

While we’re right there talking about speed and ease in the kitchen, let’s talk about rotary beaters.

I know that at various stages, there were also rotary and pull-cord blenders on the counters. This guy has good memories for me, though.

Moms and Grandma used to have a set. They made whipping eggs or cupcake frosting for twelve or a classroom fast and easy. If we’re going to be doing a lot of from-scratch cooking, or if we have months and months’ worth of powdered milk, butter and creamed soups stored, something as simple as a design that hasn’t much changed in 50-100 years and can still be found in stores is a force multiplier.

Peeler-Corer-Slicer

Another kitchen equivalent to the venerable 1911 is also probably one of the most commonly suggested and available hand-crank tools. It extends way beyond the preparedness-homesteading crowds. Like a cherry pitter, anybody who grows or processes a lot of fruit considers these things gold. When I’m only filling out a few drawers in a dehydrator I’ll still just whip out the mini-paddle mandolin, but when you start talking buckets and bushels, these apple peelers more than earn their price.

Ours has the option for using the coring center or just a spike, so I can also peel potatoes with it, and the slicing blade can come off so I can grate those, pears, or apples instead of slicing them.

Hand-Crank Food Processor

Once we’ve peeled or washed our produce, there’s another gem we can upgrade to if we want – people have actually started (or returned to) making hand-crank food processors. Like the electric versions, they make pretty fast work of assembling salsa veggies, dicing for relish and chutney, slicing salads, or cutting butter into pie and tart crust.

Salad Master

There’s another version we can use that bolts onto a countertop or table. I actually prefer it, because I like the resiliency of metal when I’m plunking down a chunk of change (Queen Klutz here).

You can get them in a number of styles and there are sets with attachments as far ranging as the modern Kitchen Aid base mixer. That means a single hand crank base can be adapted for ground meat and sausages, and pressing pasta, as well as mincing, slicing and dicing veggies.

Which styles we like best is just personal preference.

Applesauce and Baby Food Strainer

If we do a lot of jelly and jam canning, want to quickly churn out applesauce, or want to make our own baby food, there are some pretty simple devices out there still – and that we can pick up from old farm estate sales fairly regularly if we watch for those.

Like the Foley applesauce and baby food strainer, many are meant to be used as a stage in the process of cooking.

You can also find steam and hand-crank juicers that work for syrups and jellies. If you plan to forage or produce a lot of the cranberry viburnum and chokecherry type fruits, those are handy to have.

Butter Churns

When we think of churning butter, a lot of people apparently think of somebody sitting with the tall canister and paddle or plunger, lifting up and down. I think of my blender, personally.

Throughout history, however, there have been a lot of different styles and scales of butter churns, and some of the small and countertop hand crank versions are more likely to fit into our storage space – and regularly, our budgets.

Styles like the canning-jar base are also a lot more hygienic than the wooden ones and the larger, longer metal designs. You can clean them more effectively in between uses.

If we’re in a world with limited outside assistance, that becomes even more important. Goats aren’t as likely to have a milk infection, but cattle used to get them regularly. They still do in some cases. Some of those diseases will only spoil flavor, but some of them have human health concerns. If that milk is transferred into plastic or wooden containers, it takes a lot of cleanser and then a lot of rinsing to regain comfort in using them. Water is going to be a hugely important resource for a lot of people, and it still might not do the trick.

Smaller glass and metal vessels can fit inside pressure canners and are easier to reach (and rinse) than larger ones, and long, skinny churns.

They’re far faster than shaking a jar or rolling it underfoot – although if you’re about to shell a solid ton of peas, the foot thing might work for you.

Centrifuge for Butterfat Testing

So, we have our goats, sheep, camels or cattle, and we want the ones with the highest butterfat for butter and clotted cream. How do we find out in the second and third generation of livestock after a crash?

An old-school hand-crank centrifuge.

That centrifuge can also be used just to find out which animal’s butterfat or heaviest creams separate fastest and easiest.

Instead of having shallow containers sit for hours – without jostling – with the risks of pests, dust and heat spoilage, we can also use various turn-of-the-century tools to speed that process.

Hand-crank sewing machines

When a ram horn catches us and rips a hole in our clothes, or our pockets start failing, when growing kids need clothes made out of curtains, we can sit down with a needle and hand sew, but if a sewing machine is available, it tends to be a lot faster of a process.

It’s also an easier process for old and damaged hands – some tension adjustments and threading is required, but then those hands (and eyes) can relax a bit.

You can hunt up antiques, or run some searches for non-electric sewing machines – they’re out there, especially from/for some of the still-developing nations.

Modern Manual Drill

Nothing is going to help us rebuild a shed or fence or put in a new milking bench like our electric drill and driver, but there are still manufacturers out there for hand-crank versions that will be faster and easier than doing it all with a screwdriver.

Hand augers are commonly seen on the lists of disaster tools, and are shaped a bit differently. They’re really good at what they do. Modern and yester-year manual drills that can also be fitted with our current drill’s screw tips have some advantages, too.

Combined, they make a pretty handy pairing around a house or farm that’s looking at losing power. 

Bench Grinders

Modern-made and antique, there are all kinds of handy things for the shop. While a drill is one of the most commonly reached-for items in our house, the wheel grinders are in high demand at my father’s. They make fast work out of sharpening tools and blades.

Some of the hand-crank versions are massive beasts that can be set up for two hands, and can handle light notching, planer, and plank sanding and some can even be set up as circular saws and used to cut pipes, tubing and OSB. (Those are two-person jobs for safety reasons.)

As with the kitchen, the speed and work effort compared to a hacksaw, steel wool, and sharpening stone plays a factor when looking at the costs.

And, as with the kitchen, both the bench grinders and the manual drills mean that people with injuries or ailments can still get work done in a lot of cases, and do that work faster. That, too, factors into what we’ll pay and how we prioritize.

The Wide Range of Shop Tools

Shop tools of all kinds are out there. I don’t use a drill press often enough (and they’re expensive enough) to have given it its own listing. But they’re out there. So are things like barn beam boring drills, smaller tinker-merchant and jeweler’s presses, ratcheting drill presses and nail setters.

Farm horses used to regularly be hitched to circle and power things like turnip slicers, grain threshers, and grain mills. Horse-drawn harvesters dug, separated and in some cases even sorted potatoes and turnips, working off gears attached to the wheels. Dogs and goats can handle some of that workload with smaller versions.

Modern Spins

Just as some of the hand-crank and -lever tools that bear consideration can be had from current production runs, the modern world has not turned its back on hand cranks.

They’re there in tire pumps and emergency lights large and small. We can also buy little hand-cranked battery boxes to charge our small electronic devices. One of my earliest articles dealt with laundry, with several modern takes on manual washers and wringers.

In some cases, we can find those devices in bike-pedal powered forms as well.

Cranking It Out in the Modern Age

The internet is a wonderful thing. It brings the whole world right to our fingertips, and it can regularly have most of that world delivered to our door.

We didn’t jump from caveman sticks and rocks directly over to sending email over HAM radio. Throughout history, there are gadgets that made lives easier and allowed us to do more work. As preparedness spending grows, we can find a lot of new manual gadgets becoming available from suppliers and inventors.

Whatever you reach for this week or this month, especially over planting and harvest season and the next DIY build or repair, make a note of it (a real, physical note). Is it a force multiplier? A must-have? A beloved convenience? How important does it rate on your scale?

If you’re doing things by hand or planning for a world without power, it might be worth popping a “manual” or “hand-operated” search for that item into your browser. There are fair chances somebody has one, makes one, or has a hack to create one.

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Radio Silence – Communication Without Electronics

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

I love modern technology, particularly the electronics that allow me to communicate so quickly and easily. Even so, the loss of that capability – for whatever reason it’s lost – doesn’t have to be entirely devastating. We communicate not only without our electronics, but without noise all the time.

I tap my wrist, hold up my hand with my fingers splayed. Across a room, instantly, I’ve told someone they have five minutes, or that I need/want five minutes. I tap beside my eyes, point in a general direction, and then point lower or higher in an aisle of a store. It tells somebody at the other end that I found what we’re looking for, or that I want them to look at something, and then where more specifically that something is.

We do it nearly instinctively, some of us more than others. While hand gestures especially change meaning culture to culture, the ability to communicate without speaking is inherent to our species. It has been since before the first cave painting.

Recently the topic of communication without radios came up. The possible reasons for a non-radio life are pretty varied – a generator or solar panels with significant damage, low winter light, extended-time crisis when even rechargeable batteries are exhausted, seasons and locations when it’s hard to get messages through, EMPs and solar storms, neighbors who have the skills to survive but don’t have the same EMP-proof stockpiles we do, newer homesteaders and preppers who can survive but haven’t moved into serious “thrive” supplies yet.

There are also times we want to communicate, but don’t necessarily want to be heard. Hunting and tactical reasons are two of those.

History and modern technology have given us a lot of options to work around those possibilities and needs. Here are a few.

Morse

Morse code can be applied to a lot of communication options. While it’s primarily associated with radios, it was once a common ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communication method using light instead.

Navy signalman using Morse –

It wasn’t until I started looking for an image online that I realized how dependent people are on the blinker-clicker features of their flashlights for light-transmitted Morse. If you have a milspec light that can take that abuse, great.

If not, cover and uncover your flashlight with your hand.  It’s still fast and easy.

For some of us with broken and aging fingers, and for people who are turning their lights on and off to get the same effect, it’s not only actually easier, sometimes faster, it’s also going to save your light a lot of wear and tear.

You can use a laser pointer for it as well, or cover and uncover a battery-candle-oil lantern with a box (or an oatmeal tub, coffee can, small ones with your hand).

Containing Light

Light stands out like it’s cool at night. Even a little green-red-blue laser light. It travels a long way when it’s dark-dark.

If you’re only trying to not stand out to everybody with one of those insane fifty-yard beams and you’re working from a set, expected position, you can signal by flashing the laser light or a flashlight into your palm or onto your chest, onto a tree or certain wall that’s visible from another location but not most of the property.

If you anticipate the need to really not be seen by anybody but your LOS partner, carry a flattened toilet paper roll wrapped around your small flashlight. (Flattened but tube, not sliced.)

When you’re ready to send a message back to the house, to the other side of a building, along the length of a wall, or down a roadway, cup the tube in one hand so you’re blocking the back, and stick the front of the light just inside it. Or, hold a laser sight/pointer just outside it.

The roll contains the light, so only somebody facing you sees it. If you want, add a mirror or a white disk to the palm to make it a little easier for that person to see.

I pretty much prefer those two general methods, regardless, because you stand a really good chance of blinding the person you’re trying to signal, or at least giving them dots in the eyes, especially with a pointer.

 

Ship Flags

The sea services have been using specific flags to communicate since some of the earliest days, from pirates warning about trying to run from them, warning others that illnesses are aboard, to requesting assistance. This site has a list of international signal flags, their phonetic name, and the navy/maritime meanings.

The phonetic name becomes valuable, because some of the meanings at sea translate directly or with minor modification to things we face on land, too. The Morse, semaphore, or ASL of the phonetic name can be flashed or signed to convey a whole thought or message, just as a flag would.

The flags can be made – painted on boards or drawn on cards to use in windows or to be flashed, or drawn in chalk on a wall or sidewalk as needed. It doesn’t have  to be fabric, or flying in the air.

Any flag, banner, or windsock at all can be part of group and neighbor communication.

If we all normally fly the local team’s colors, but somebody puts it at half-mast or upside down, they could be saying they need help – or they’re ready for harvest/planting assistance. One person with a weather station might say rain, so a blue banner goes up. A black cross on yellow might mean a woman went into labor and the local sheep keeper would be welcome as a midwife. A black dot might mean there’s sickness – don’t come calling.

A flag might also just mean all’s well here, and a quick snip to drop it on the way past alerts all the rest that the gunfire wasn’t practice, it’s real, or that there’s a fire-fire, not burning waste or smoking out bees.

We can get as creative or simple as we want.

Semaphore Flagging

Another powerful tool in the box for sending messages visually, with the same alpha-numeric capabilities of Morse, is semaphore signaling – that signalman out there with the two bright flags or cone lights. Semaphore flag signaling was also once done using a single flag in just four positions (you can find it called wigwag signaling as well).

 

With two flags, there are fewer combinations to remember, but you also have to have two flags – and hands – available. For both, a larger line-of-sight space is required so the flags can be seen.

Established Shorthand Codes

Radio Q codes  and 10 codes have a lot of value for quickly sending messages.

Various established codes provide shorthand communication for “Suspicious vehicle” (10-37), “your keying is hosed and hit every branch of the ugly tree on its way down” (QSD), “Report to [location]” (10-25), “stand by” (QRX), and “Be super-duper quiet” (“Do not use siren or flashers”) (10-40).

Those are all phrases we might use, from communicating across a yard or across a farm, as a simple survivor with a neighbor or family, or as a group with defensive and patrol forces. 10-codes especially have a lot of preexisting elements that are of use in many situations.

They can be transmitted with clicks, whistles, a pipe smacked with a hammer, marker on a dry erase board, flashed/blinker lights, or using semaphore flag(s) and hand signals.

We can also easily modify or truncate existing codes.

“QRO” (are you troubled by static noise) can become “do you hear anything”.

10-81 (breathalyzer report) becomes “just a drunk”.

10-90 (bank alarm) can become a prefacing code for an audio or visual alarm, with the location following it.

As with cop and amateur radio codes, there are hospital codes that can apply or be readily modified to fit life without radio communication. Heavy equipment operators and divers also have signals we can steal and modify. Knowing the common motorcyclist signals can be applied to daily life as well as serious disasters.

Military Hand Signals

Whether we’re ever planning to clear a house or a yard with another person or not, military and police hand signals also have applications for many situations. The numbers alone are useful. There are also action-information signals that are pretty handy.

The difference between “stop” and “freeze” gets used with my dumb dog 20 and 200 feet from our house with some regularity. I prefer to just go extract her or the ball from my pots and planters, but sometimes I just want her to stay generally where she is while a car passes. “Go back” translates to “out/away” in our world – I want her to back away from me, usually while I’m playing with sharp things or might squish her.

I originally thought it was just my quirky father telling dogs, the rest of the family, and hunting buddies that we were going to the vehicle with his “steering wheel” gesture. For a while I though the military had stolen the “down” signal from hunters with dogs.

Turned out, not so much. He just modified them from his military days.

Even without need for silence, it’s just really easy to whistle or clap a hand once, tap a window, ring a triangle, and then make a quick gesture, as opposed to shouting fifteen times or hiking out to somebody.

The gestures themselves are rooted in military hand signals we each learned (decades apart). In most of my lifetime’s applications of them, they’ve had no military bearing at all. But like the ability to say “I love you” a last time from a window, or immediately flag a distress signal in a boating-savvy community, they entered into our world and stayed in use.

ASL

American sign language has some of the same benefits as the everyday-everyone useful military signals. There are a world’s worth of truncated single-gesture shorthand signs, for everything from “man” or “female child” to “taking lunch”.  Deaf-mute people are able to hold the same sophisticated conversation as speaking and hearing folks. The addition of spelling and broader concepts to military hand signals allows ASL signers to be more specific across even distance, silently.

It’s also just a handy skill to have and might increase your employability when you stick it on a resume.

Written Word

As with flags and hand signals, we can take cues from history and modern eras with leaving drawn symbols – or flashing cards and posters – as well.

Here’s a fairly comprehensive listing of WWII symbols. It wouldn’t be completely crazy talk to go with another nation’s symbols, such as German or Russian, if you want to keep the information a little more segmented, although there tends to be a lot of commonality.

The old hobo symbols can be a little tricky. I can think of three or four for “safe water” alone. It also means adjusting from “black spot of death” and “X marks the spot” to slashes and X’s are bad, and dots are good.

However, from “dangerous man” and “vicious dogs” to “rickety bridge” or “avoid this in rain”, there are many apply, whether we’re planning on a community, thinking “Kilroy” situations, or just making notes for family or a core group.

The symbols also allow us to quickly and easily annotate our own maps for areas of concern or resources.

Limitations

The limitation to all of these is line of sight. But in some to many cases, being able to communicate even from a driveway to the house, the length of a hall, or stacked in a ditch, without making noise or taking a lot of time, makes them worth considering. There’s a good reason many of them have never faded from use, even with today’s technology.

If you want to communicate at range in the dark, you’ll need flashlights or pointers, (or oil-candle lanterns if your non-radio needs are expected due to long-duration interruptions in shipping). For us, that’s balanced, because we have lights on us, almost always, but not always a cell signal and not always a radio. That might not hold true for everyone.

Hand and flag signals are limited in range, while light carries longer distance. However, blinker-light comms is only really reliable at night. I may be able to use red boards, car windshield heat reflectors, or white flags to increase range in the daytime.

The number-one piece of gear for longer-distance communication without electronics is going to be binoculars or a scope.

Day or night, if I can’t see what you’re sending, clearly, we have delays or miscommunication. They’re inexpensive enough and should be part of most preparedness closets anyway.

If you’re mostly in brush country and are only talking about distances of double-digit yards, don’t break the bank there – there are more important things. If you’re looking at using blinker lights and somebody climbing a windmill or water tower daily or weekly to do a neighborhood-town flag check, a simple scope should work.

It’s also a lot to learn.

Instead of planning to use all of them, maybe take notes, print guides, but cherry pick. The very basic hand signals (heard, saw, numbers, armed or unarmed, child, adult, animal, danger, recover/relax, say again) and basic Morse code would take priority. 10 and Q codes can be added on. A few flags or graphics to represent ideas or situations follow.

Radio Silence Backups

The point is not to discourage anyone with fifty-five million more things to learn or buy. It’s that we have lots of options even if electronics-driven communication becomes unavailable. With any luck, there are some ideas here that can add some resiliency and redundancy to existing plans.

And, since a lot of it is learning based, not resource based, non-radio comms can be a way to improve preparedness with free-inexpensive skill building while saving up for purchases.

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Lessons from History – Staying Warm in Winter

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Whether bedding down in a sturdy home, on the move, or making a temporary camp for the snowy season, there are a lot of lessons we can take from history to keep us safer and more comfortable.

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Winter Prepper Project Ideas – Outdoors

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

There’s a lot that winter (or early spring) can tell us about our properties, both for planting decisions, siting various things around our property, and for mitigating some of the weather that comes with winter and spring.

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Stacking Functions: Increasing Efficiency with Multi-Function Spaces

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Analyzing homestead elements for multi-functionality and redundancy were covered in the first article. This time we’ll look at combining them into multi-function spaces.

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Stacking Functions: Increasing Yields & Decreasing Labor with Multi-Function Elements

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Stacking functions is a quick term for the concept of planning things (elements) and areas (space) to perform the most services for us.

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Planned Parenthood for Preppers

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Managed Livestock Breeding Livestock keeping is one of the things that those interested in self-sufficiency regularly end up considering. There are factors involving breeding, especially, that can increase our success and let us custom-fit our livestock’s needs to our situations. While some aspects of controlled breeding may seem obvious, especially to experienced livestock keepers, other […]

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Feeding the Beast During SHTF – Soups & Substitutions

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Sometimes we may feel pigeonholed or daunted by the storage foods we can afford, or overwhelmed by how we’re going to use those storage foods without the endless repetition taking a toll. Here are some formulas and ideas for turning common storage foods into actual meals, increasing the variety of meals we can make with a few standard ingredients, and some substitutions that can lower our costs or improve the serving size, nutrition, and flavor of our cooking.

I’m not a big baker and I don’t thrill to the stove top – only the dinner table. Given the amount of work a lot of us are going to be doing just hauling water where it’s needed, plus the labor of gardens and any animals, rearing our children, cooking from scratch, cleaning without a dishwasher and washer-dryer, I’m planning to go simple with a lot of my cooking. So even if you’re not a big cook, there are ideas here that can help, ideas that can be made even with off-grid cooking methods.

Replacements

While I’ll get into some specifics in a minute or two, one thing to consider in our disaster cooking is simple substitutions.

Wheat is commonly pushed for home storage due to the price and condensed calories, and then people feel obligated to buy a grinder, and then they feel like slackers for not practicing their home-ground wheat flour bread options. I do think we should practice what we plan to use, but I don’t think everybody with buckets of wheat actually has to view it as only a future bread dough.

Wheat can be boiled and served with the same seasonings as every side dish, from herbed buttered noodles to fried rice.

Whole wheat berries & fruit in cream

Wheat berry & white bean soup

It can also be boiled to be part of or replace oatmeal and cream of wheat (soaking it overnight will make it boil faster in the morning).

If there’s a soup that calls for barley, couscous, or rice, wheat will work there, too, and cooks in about the same amount of time as barley, maybe a hair longer if it’s stored oxygen free and is older than 2-3 years (45-60 minutes usually, without a pre-soak).

Having an alternative use for the first 50-300# (or more) of wheat can buy us a little more time before we get pushed into buying not only a good grain mill, but then all the replacements for it.

Point in fact, most of our grains, from starchy dent corn to barley, wheat to quinoa, and amaranth to rice are fairly interchangeable. They take different times to cook in some cases, they definitely have their own flavors, but there’s little that can’t be made to work for any of them.

Likewise, spaghetti can be very easily used in place of an Oriental noodle, especially whole-grain spaghetti or angel hair pasta. That’s pretty handy, since even the good stuff is pretty cheap, and two pounds of spaghetti stores in about the same space than two packages of ramen.

Those substitutions exist all over.

And once we do get our grain mill, don’t neglect the other things in the pantry.

We can grind dry oats – even rolled oats – to replace part of our flour as well.

Old dry beans that don’t want to soften can be turned into flour to replace a quarter or a third of a recipe, either bread or fry batter or even for gravies.

Until recent times, we used flours from barley and maize as often as we did wheat, and a lot of the world still uses them – just as often or as a partial replacement for flavoring. So can boiled or roasted acorns. We can grind dry oats – even rolled oats – to replace part of our flour as well. Doing so can sometimes to often improve the protein components of our foods, decrease the glycemic index, and help us use something that’s not really moving in our pantries.

That inexpensive oatmeal can also be turned into homemade granola bars, muffins, and griddle cakes, decreasing the amount of flour we need to use and providing a fork or finger-food in a world of spoons.

Recipes

When seeking out recipes specifically for preppers, a fair number use a lot of ingredients or require a fair bit of prep. Call me lazy, but I’m just not there, even in today’s world. Camping and backpacking recipes regularly seem to call for things we might not have on hand anymore, too, and a lot of perishable foods these days.

One, a lot of the no-fire, no-gas cooking methods really lend themselves to such. Two, the less ingredients and effort, the more time reading with kids, playing a game, or sitting with my eyes closed listening. I kind of like those options better.

Pioneer Soup

If you’ve heard of 3-5-7 can soups, you’re familiar with this. It’s basically just a rule of thumb to help check the boxes on the main “eating” components:

  • Filling/satiety
  • Fast-access energy
  • Slow-access energy
  • Proteins
  • Vitamins

The general concept is to pull 1-2 items from each category to make sure the body is getting all the nutrients it needs, which is increased by consuming a rainbow. That said, even I don’t make broth with just one seasoning. Still, the lists from the guidelines can help.

One that I ran across breaks it into “Five F’s”:

  • Fat: Oil, margarine, butter, lard, tallow, fatty meat (bacon, salt pork, hocks)
  • Flavor Root/Shoot: Garlic, onion, scallion, celery/celeriac, turmeric
  • Flavor Leaf: parsley, marjoram, thyme, oregano, basil, nasturtium
  • Filler (starches): Potato, pasta, grains & corn, pseudo-grains, cattail root
  • Fuel (protein): Legumes (beans, peas, lentils), jerky, meat sticks/sausage, ham, fish, game

The breakdowns are nice as more than a check-box guide to make sure nutritional needs are being met.

Sometimes soup get pigeonholed, which is a shame, because from a creamy red bean and rice soup to veggie to chicken-noodle to some of the Oriental soups and things like borsch and solyanka, we have a ton of options available to us. Even working off of simple, cheap, condensed-calorie prepper staples and garden veggies or wild edibles, we can present a huge variety.

Alternating what we combine and even how we serve it can help avoid appetite fatigue, which is another aspect where limiting ourselves to 1-2 items from each category can help.

How we present soups can make a big difference as well, creating significantly different feels to meals even with the exact same ingredients, or very minor twitches.

That applies whether we use the 5-F method, or one of the other guides.

One of those other common formulas for pioneer soup breaks it into three fuel categories – the primary fats, proteins, starches – and then three filler (belly filling, short on calories) and flavor components:

Veggies – tomatoes, tomato powder, green beans, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, radish and mustard sprouts, cooking/roasting radishes, autumn squash, bell peppers, salsify, turnip, parsnip, beets, etc.

Leafy Greens – spinach, beet tops, lettuce, swiss chard, mizuna, cabbage, endive, turnip tops, dandelion, plantain, nettles, borage, leeks, ramps, radish tops, water or upland cress, mustard greens, mache/corn salad, sweet pea leaves, dock, kale, sprouts

Herbs & Seasonings – tart/sour berries, garden herbs, cress, wild onions, hot radishes, horseradish, onion, garlic, ground or cracked mustard seed, modern-day seasoning blends & stock bones

Soup Alternates

Part of what makes soup an economy food is that the broth helps us feel full and increases the satisfaction from the meal.

That said, we can break apart our general standard for pioneer or 7-can soup and still get the benefits of economical belly filling balance and variety.

A pasta salad can easily be made from storage foods and fresh garden or foraged goodies, especially if we plan ahead for something like powdered Parmesan cheese that can be a pick-me-up. Three or four roasted autumn veggies on a pile of fresh or wilted leafy greens creates another fork-ready meal.

We can turn our protein component into a creamed soup or just serve a broth beside either of them to get some of the belly filling aspects back, or incorporate dried beans or cut-up dry sausage (or Slim Jims).

Shrimp Tacos

Likewise, we can turn simple ash cakes or thinned-down Bisquick into tortillas or crepes, mix up a cabbage slaw, and bust open a can of small shrimp to sear in fajita spices as a pick me up. Just a few shrimp and a couple of tacos can provide the mental boost of a non-spoon meal, even served with a pile of rice on the side and-or a cup of spicy black bean puree soup.

Instant Potatoes

Potato buds that say they’re ready to eat and just need water are telling bald-faced lies. That said, instant mashed potatoes are in a lot of kits and come pretty inexpensively on their own. Even without extra seasonings and evaporated milk for them, instant potatoes have a lot of value, especially in conjunction with our pioneer soups.

One, little says I love you like a wedge of shepherd’s pie. We can use those general basic flavorings to make a brothier version to make it stretch further, or increase the veggies beyond the usual ratios.

We can also indulge in things like a broth-heavy roasted marrow meal or just serve our Bear Creek or homemade beef or veggie soup with a happy mound of potatoes to the side or right in the middle. The seasonings from the soups will (hopefully) help mask the bland flavor, and it creates a different presentation – which is good for the mental aspects of eating, especially if a lot of our diet is rice and beans and boiled wheat.

Two, instant potatoes can be turned into goodies like potato pancakes. Or, we can mix them as directed (even in cold water; they’ll absorb it in a minute) and then bake them off to create a pseudo-dumpling or biscuit with little effort and little clean-up.

Instant potatoes can be turned into goodies like potato pancakes.

Instant potatoes also make a great thickener for our soups. We can use them to create a gravy-like broth or to imitate a creamed soup or chowder. They can also make a nice, easy flavor and calorie base for standard potato chowder without taking as much time as potatoes would to cook and mash.

Assortment of foodstuffs with a high fiber content, including various fruits and vegetables, wholemeal bread and baked beans.

Emergency Foods

While things like soup and the common basics for food storage focus around economy, it doesn’t mean we have to break the bank to jazz it up one way or another. We can avoid falling into ruts – now and later – by figuring out new ways to use the items we already have.

We can apply a little creativity and still get meals that offer variety by adding in a few things like a variety of pasta and some feel-good seasonings like powdered parm and fajita spices. Spices and sauces like soy, Dale’s, Old Bay (or the generic) and Adobo powder pack a lot of bang for the buck. We can make use of things like hot radishes, sprouts, microgreens, and wild edibles to season and bulk up our serving sizes.

We can also ease our workloads by harkening back to pottage with soups, casseroles, and one-pot meals.

In some cases, examining where we stand on our preparedness arc and how balanced our preparedness health wheels are invaluable, because it can help us decide if we need something expensive like a good grinder or a wood stove, or if our storage is at a point where a smaller set of fixes makes more sense – at least for now. Being able to buy inexpensive foods like grains, pasta and dry beans, and still create filling, varied, satisfying meals out of them, can help open up the budget for those items.

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Feeding the Beast During SHTF – Bread Options

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

A crisis of any scale is a tough time to either have to learn to do without, or create a lot of work for ourselves. With a little practice and planning, we can still have things that make our next dish of soup or pinto beans or squirrel a little happier, and give us some versatility in how we use flour and mixes for baked goods. We can do it without adding a ton of steps, mess, and in most cases a lot of ingredients to our daily tasks. Whether we’re at home or on the trail, that can save some sanity as well as time and labor.

This is me, so you’re mostly going to see 5 ingredients or less through here, and a focus on cleanup. I’m just not Martha Stewart. But I do like my breads and I do like something sweet now and again, so here’s half a dozen ways we can still get them, even without a working oven or supermarket.

Ash Cakes & Bannock 

What would a soup be without some sort of bread? Not as happy, that’s what. Two of the simplest breads to make have already been talked about in the 6 One-Day Projects article, down in the list of other things to try. 

Any flour will work for either an ash cake or bannock bread, even purchased mixes like the dinner rolls Augason Farms apparently figures I’ll be making – ever, but especially in a disaster. Even when it’s got extra stuff in there, I go ahead and follow the cup-tablespoon-teaspoon ratio for bannock, or just drizzle in water or milk for an ash cake.
biscuit-dumpling-i
Those ash cakes and bannock can also be augmented by rolled oats, rolled wheat, or instant rolled barley, although you need to let those sit for 10-20 minutes to make sure they have a chance to soak up some liquid, and you’ll probably need to add more liquid than usual. It’s a way to both add some texture and variety to diets, as well as use up some of the cheaper ingredients like oatmeal that are in our storage even when we haven’t planned for no-bake cookies.

Any cornbread or cornmeal can also be turned into ash cakes or pseudo-Johnny cakes, to go beside a soup or under a stew, or to add variety to our breakfast meals.

Drop biscuits & dumplings

Most pancake and dinner roll mixes have the potential to turn into nice, easy biscuits; and anything that’s a biscuit (or bannock bread) can be dropped by mounded tablespoons into a simmering pot of broth, gravy or soup, simmered for 10 minutes, flipped, simmered another 10-12 minutes, and whala – we have a fluffy(ish) bread right there in our soups.

Head’s up: Biscuit dumplings will regularly turn your clear, light broth into something thicker and more gravy like. That is not a bad thing, just a point.

Something that can be a bad thing, is that if you completely cover the top of your soup with dumplings, it gets really hard to stir the bottom.

Both of those factors go away if you opt to make your meal in a solar oven or similar. You can do it one of two ways, just like a regular biscuit bake – stick the biscuits/dumplings on the bottom to slowly rise and fluff, or space them out on top from the get-go or after part of the bake time has elapsed.

biscuit-bake-ii

An advantage to dumplings over other ways of getting a breading into our soup meal is that it’s still only one cooking pot.

Drop biscuits have advantages in clean-up, too, and in time and waste. When we mix a batter and then spoon biscuits out onto a sheet pan, we don’t even have to dip our fingers in flour for molding them. We sure don’t have to flour a counter and a rolling-pin or drinking glass (which is also what I usually use for a cutter).

When I make drop biscuits, they’re ingredients to oven in 5 minutes or less, and my cleanup involves a bowl and two spoons. When Mr. P makes *real* biscuits, I consider just torching the kitchen and starting over.

In a life with limited water, limited resources, and a lot of labor involved with every aspect of survival, the differences can matter. The same holds true for the drop biscuit dumplings instead of rolling out and cutting even more to make flat drop dumplings.

Hardtack

hardtack
Hardtack is definitely an option to go with our soups, just like it was in colonial and pioneer days. There are lots of recipes online for baking it.

There are not as many as I’d have expected where people actually eat this stuff, and discover that it’s best soaked for a few hours first, then simmered right along with broth, tea, or soup, anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour depending on the alignment of the stars*.

*Snicker; but not entirely kidding on the predictability front.

That veers it away from a convenience food, but if you’re using a crock pot or equivalent, or are simmering soup for a few hours anyway, heating the house anyway, it’s pretty handy to be able to pop open a bucket of these things 2-5 years after you made them and have a nice, portable, calorie-dense portion to pick up and eat or saw with a fork and knife. We can even sub in some of our crazy flours like ground dry beans, acorn, and barley if we’re so inclined.

Just be aware that real hardtack is not Mountain House pilot bread or a cracker, and that 5-20 minutes under gravy or in a fry pan goes nowhere without a pre-soak once it’s hard and dry.

Beer bread

I am lazy, if it was not obvious from the articles about bed sheets, laundry, and gardening. I’m also not big into babysitting food at timed intervals.

Beer bread fits me to a T.

Price out some inexpensive light beer, and don’t neglect the option of a local store ordering a couple flats of forties for you. They’re actually the cheapest option for me, both bottles and cans, because I’m not willing to buy Natty Ice even for a disaster, even though there’s boxed wine in case I decide a wine IV or camelback is necessary for my sanity.

There are many recipes online. I like this one, although I sometimes just omit the butter entirely or use oil instead. This one skips the salt and goes straight to self-rising flour. We can sub in a dinner roll mix or Bisquick for either.

And the sifting … I call it optional.

We can use a beer bread recipe in any kind of cooker, from a crock pot or facsimile to a solar oven. We can make it in little cans around a campfire or rocket stove, too, or atop a clay pot candle heater.

Spread out in a pie plate or frying pan instead of a loaf pan, or separated into muffin pans, it’ll cook faster and be easy to portion out.

That can save arguments over who does or doesn’t get the heels (there are freaks out there who consider that a lesser slice). It can also just make it faster and less messy to serve, while also saving cooking fuel and time.

If you want more flavor to your bread, you can go with heavier and darker ales as you like. While I’m happy sipping a well-built Guinness or Killian’s Red, I don’t actually like them in my bread and that bread is no good for PBJ.

Griddle Cakes 

Another cheat I learned for backpacking is that you can make any baked good into a griddle cake. For those of us who want fast and easy in a disaster, or who aren’t *ready* yet and are dying for a quick and easy treat, bag and box mixes I have successfully made into little rounds of goodness with a pan or on the greased top of a canteen mug and any heat source include:

  • Oatmeal cookies
  • Brownies
  • Muffin mixes
  • Cake mixes
  • Scone mixes
  • Cornbread & corn muffin mixes
  • Hushpuppy batter

You can follow the directions (or portion them, depending on how easy fresh or powdered eggs and oil are to divide) or cut some of the liquids, and they come out about like puffy pancakes.

Thin them down a fair bit, and, boy oh boy, we’re starting to look into the gourmet side with crepes.

They can be eaten as-is like a soft cookie or roll-up, or topped with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, ice cream and milk flavoring syrups, nuts in syrup, honey, tree syrup, Karo, and jelly.

Frosting in a Ziploc bag offers the ability to make cute spirals and grids or fluffy artistic mounds. Pudding can be reserved and mixed thick to do the same, or used as a filling for crepes.

They can also be topped or filled with canned or rehydrated fruits, cannoli filling, pie filling, cream cheese, or peanut butter. You can also play with adding shredded coconut and nuts (and chocolate) to German chocolate frosting, or use sweetened condensed milk and shredded coconut as a super-sweet filler.

Fun note: They can also be baked in a skillet to cut like wedges of cornbread. I regularly bake muffin mixes in a pie pan to create thin little slices that are usually drizzled with something. Tuna cans and soup cans can also be used for any batter, as can small Pyrex bowls or ramekins. Those containers are also all options for baked pancakes, such as this one .

Off-Grid Cooking

Even when we’re not as prepared as we’d like to be, or when we like convenience and we want to continue to have convenient options in a disaster, we can still get the feel-good foods that bread and even “baked” sweet treats can be.

Whether it opens up options for us, just provides some extra backups, or becomes part of our daily habits, keeping an open mind about what we can accomplish – and how much effort it has to take – can only benefit us in the future.

This focused on my weakness: Breads. (And laziness, okay.) I totally endorse knowing how to do and make things from scratch. There are preservatives and cost issues with some of my cheats. However, from things like ash cakes and bannock that truly need few ingredients, to new ways to make and use mixes we might already have around, we don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves, especially if our disaster plans involve holing up in summertime or a lot more physical labor year-round.

Other things to consider when we look at these lists are the amount of fuel some of the treatments take, the amount of pan scrubbing and kitchen cleanup involved, and even the cookware we have at our disposal.

We also might want to look at some of our guilty pleasures when it comes to eating. Even if we don’t stock our cupboards to make it a daily or even weekly staple, we might consider stashing some premade mixes, hiding away some beer, and holding onto some tin cans so we can pop them out now and then for special occasions.

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What We Don’t Know Can Hurt Us – Livestock Edition

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Livestock keeping requires some research. It seems obvious, but it’s apparently not. It really merits researching in great depth, because there are a lot of investments and there are some issues that regularly crop up, having somehow have escaped a fair number of the people who choose to get livestock. I developed this article because I’m running into some of the same issues, regularly from people who really ought to know better. This is basically a primer on those situations. The information is not hidden, but seems to somehow end up overlooked – repeatedly.

I’m going to hit a few things that I run into (regularly) in quick little bullets. They’re tips for animal safety, the protection of genetic lines (ours and also a buyer’s), and successful breeding. They may be taken at face value, or they’re points for research.

I don’t mean to insult anybody’s intelligence. Some of them just keep repeatedly cropping up. With any luck, old hats will read it as well – if nothing else, maybe for some commiseration. I’d really like them to add the trends they see as well, though. The more information available, the better off all livestock keepers will be.

The Biggies BLUF Style

First off, I’d like to say: Do the research. This article and every other TPJ article about livestock in general and specific species and breeds should only be part. “Back To Basics” is only a primer. There are too many resources, completely free in many cases, for folks to end up as overwhelmed as they sometimes do.

Second: Go buy one of the type you’re going to raise or breed, just one. A spring kid, a rabbit, an aging-out hen, even a calf – although I suggest the smaller animals. Care for it for a season or longer. Then slaughter it. If you can’t, there’s only one animal eating you out of house and home, not a pair or a handful that can continue to multiply until it’s out of control. Even if you hunt, even if you slaughter poultry, make sure you can do it with the next livestock type – a lot of people can’t.

Hobby Farm Animals: A Comprehensive Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks, Rabbits, Goats, Pigs, Sheep, and Cattle

Hobby Farm Animals: A Comprehensive Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks, Rabbits, Goats, Pigs, Sheep, and Cattle

I mention these two because I’ve volunteered for livestock rescues, I consult on sustainable systems (which include livestock), I’m on several forums, and I have personal relationships with livestock keepers. I have run into livestock costs and numbers getting out of control in numerous ways.

Rescues end up taking on the burdens in a lot of cases – when it’s just too much work or too much effort, too much expense, when it’s too hard to kill and eat an aged-out hen or the fluffy bunnies, when things spiral so long that the whole experiment fails and people lose their homesteads.

So beginners and expanding keepers: Start small – very small.

The Birds & The Bees

Sperm wilts in Summer. This is especially true of rabbits, who already face a lot of physical stress from heat. Litters will be typically smaller and there will regularly be fewer fertile eggs in the hottest periods for all stock. In some cases, you’ll need to plan more frequent and longer exposures to studs to have a pregnancy take.

farm-sign-iiHens make eggs. They don’t need males to do it. Males are only needed to make more birds.

Dairy animals need “freshened”. Cattle, sheep, llamas, yaks, camels, and goats…

A.) Must have a baby (and thus be bred) before they make milk.

B.) Only produce that milk for a period of months before it dries up, and they have to have another baby.

Animals lack sexual mores. Livestock has no qualms about inbreeding with parents, siblings, grandparents, and close cousins. Wildlife ends up spread out and thus genetically diverse by numerous mechanisms. They cover more territory than domestic equivalents, and in some cases – like science is proving for wild ducks – they’re rampant adulterers even when forming seasonal or lifetime partners. We take that away from livestock. It can lead to serious genetic faults.

Livestock breeds early. By species, livestock can be breeding by 3-5 months of age. Failure to identify and separate or neuter males leads to inbreeding and overpopulation.

Separation is necessary – breeding I. Livestock will mate again as soon as they’re able. This leads to worn-down females, as well as overpopulation.

By their size, it’s easily possible that these rabbits have all reached sexual maturity – which means half or more of these animals could be gestating another 6-12 rabbits each. If they’re a mother and kits, especially if they’re not handled and examined regularly and a male hid his limas for a while, it’s not just the potential 48 new hoppers. It’s also inbreeding.

By their size, it’s easily possible that these rabbits have all reached sexual maturity – which means half or more of these animals could be gestating another 6-12 rabbits each. If they’re a mother and kits, especially if they’re not handled and examined regularly and a male hid his limas for a while, it’s not just the potential 48 new hoppers. It’s also inbreeding.

Castrating hoofstock creates options. Once altered, especially young, male animals are no longer a threat to the studs, or to our genetic lines and feed/housing budgets. They can stay with sisters and mothers, or go be a stud companion. They can also leave our properties, even if they come from faulted genetic lines, because they’re no longer a threat to others’ bloodlines even if they prove too cute/clever to slaughter and become a pet.

Neuter/Castrate early I. Testes will drop in a matter of days or weeks. The longer we wait, the more the at-home tools to castrate cost and the fewer options we have. By 2 months, some species are already getting too big for some of the less-invasive, non-surgical methods, and by 4 months, anything non-surgical is usually off the table.

Callicrate Smart Bander Kit

Callicrate Smart Bander Kit

Neuter/Castrate early II. The earlier we alter male mammals, the easier it is. One, smaller is easier to wrestle. Two, there’s less time (and pain) involved in either crimping or banding a small mole than there would be for crushing off or wrapping a rubber band around a finger and waiting for it to rot off. Same deal with testes.

Separation is necessary – breeding II. Males are really into the passing down of their genetic material, and they will bloody and kill each other to do so. Wildlife doesn’t fight to the death over sex because the losers have enough room to run away. Livestock doesn’t (usually).

Separation is necessary – breeding III. Stud pigs and rabbits will kill off even their own young, and mothers will attack other pigs or rabbits and the young of a previously peaceful companion. They want the chance to mate again, or to eliminate competition for resources for their own litters or possible threats to their litters (it’s instinct).

Friends are fine. There’s nothing wrong with combining studs or grow-outs from different species while separating them from their original herds, or keeping the cow (and her calf) with the ram. They’ll gain valuable socialization. They can also share in the protection of numbers and combined body heat.

sheepcow

Limit unaltered males. It helps reduce the competition. That can lead to quieter, more peaceful barnyards. Especially with chickens, at high ratios of hens to roosters, you’ll find roosters are less sexually frustrated (and more tired), and thus less like to attack vehicles, other animals, and people.

Breeding affects female health. Pregnancy and lactation take a physical toll on dams, even with proper feed. So does egg production. Even though most livestock mammals can become pregnant again while still nursing the last young, it’s not always the best choice. A break in the cycles for recovery is of huge benefit for both poultry and mammals. Especially with mammals, we can gain years of useful life by providing rest cycles.

Dairy Drive-By’s

Sample goat milk before you buy. Not just any goat milk; that doe’s. If it’s not possible to sample the milk of the doe you’re getting, sample her mother’s and sisters’. While some breeds vary hugely animal-to-animal, most will have some similarity to their nearest relatives, especially if the stud line is the same.

Separation is necessary – Bucks effect milk. Lots effects milk flavor, from breed and feed to how fast we can cool it off, to a tiny little amount of dust.  But bucks really do contribute hugely to that goaty flavor.

Separation is necessary – Milking.  If we want to milk once daily, we can separate overnight after the first milks finish. If we want to milk twice daily and bottle feed numerous times a day, we can separate as soon as the colostrum finishes.

lucy-triplets

Separation is necessary – Weaning. Livestock will not usually forcibly wean their own young until they are near birthing again or naturally dry off. Even then kids/calves/foals will sometimes try to continue to nurse – even off other dams. This creates undo stress on the dual-nursing mothers, and competition for the newborns losing the highest fat and highest production milks.

Triplets are trouble – the birth. Sheep seem to handle triplets like champs, but goats and especially cattle regularly end up needing help with them – or with the last one, at least. It’s not uncommon for that third to be stillborn, or unable to nurse a first time.

Triplets are trouble – the kids. Between bottle feeding and super-productive dams, there are plenty of survivors. However, one of the triplets is sometimes seriously stunted, and due to competition for colostrum and high-fat milk, is likely to lag behind and be more susceptible to illness for life. Conversely, sometimes one kid is significantly larger than both its siblings and will take a lion’s share, leaving both behind the curve as they split the remains.

Triplets are trouble – the dam. I know people who won’t burden a doe with a third kid, because even if she has enough milk early, it will put enormous strain on her body and she may not be able to maintain that production when they get to the pre-weaning stage and are taking quarts off her. I also know people who milk colostrum and early milk for runts, then bottle feed a different mother’s milk to get enough volume for all three. Time available, the presence of other dams, whether we want to share that much milk for triplets (or cull early) all impact our decisions, as do our future herd needs.

Chickens Are Vicious

chicken-647226_640(Newsflash: So are geese.)

Roosters are lean & active. The earlier we harvest our male birds, the less tough and “gamey” the meat will be – and the less disruption from excess roosters we’ll deal with over weeks and months.

Roosters are rough lovers. Even within the unaided egg season, hens can use a break from roos. Roosters break and pull feathers as they mate, and their favorites can end up pretty bedraggled. Unfortunately this leads to…

Hens Peck Injuries. Chickens will keep after a flock mate with a visible wound or bare patches of skin, reopening and enlarging injuries, and can end up killing them.

chickensaddle1_large

Chicken Saddles & Blue Dot can help. We can cover a love-torn or injured bird in a chicken saddle (or sock sweater for young/small birds) and we can treat with a spray (which leaves blue dots). Ideally, we also use them on uninjured senior animals. If all (or half) of the flock also sports saddles or blue dots, the flock won’t focus its attention on the oddball, and the oddball has a chance to recover without separation.

Separation is necessary – Injuries. Chickens especially may need separated if they have a serious injury. All livestock may need a smaller pen or box to provide recovery, limit activity, or so they aren’t taken by predators while injured.

Chicks need protection. Chicks commonly need heat lamps, special food, and water they can reach. They also slip through smaller cracks, are susceptible to damp grass and cold ground, and fit in more mouth sizes. Whether we incubate and box chicks, or provide them with a broody hen, they need some help.

Chicks can be left in a flock. If a broody hen is of high enough seniority, and a flock is relatively small (under 10-18), hens can raise their nests right there in the existing coop. Otherwise, multiple hens that will sit nests within 4-6 weeks of each other can be removed to an adjacent coop. Being adjacent, having high-ranking, dominant mothers, and being in higher numbers can ease…

chicks-in-flockPecking Order – It’s a real thing. It’s when birds use pointy beaks to peck others and establish their dominance. It gets brutal.

Integration of flocks takes time. One, separated and new birds need to be exposed to the flock through a fence or crate for days and weeks, not hours. Two, new and re-introduced birds really need to be of compatible size with flocks, especially big flocks. Otherwise, birds will be injured and-or killed.

chicks-separated

Roosters don’t share well. Sometimes birds raised as brothers will share a flock, just like lions sometimes work in pairs. Usually, there’s fighting. And if a stud is kept with hens, and sexually mature baby roo’s are outside that fence, they will …

A.) Fight through the fences.

B.) Crow challenges constantly.

C.) Find new and creative ways to get inside the fence to the hens/rooster.

D.) Regularly become aggressive/more aggressive with other living and inanimate beings. Good times.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Some rabbits get along. Many don’t, especially rabbits accustomed to life in their own cages, and rabbits that aren’t spayed and neutered.

Breeding pairs need introductions. You arrange hutches so that a male can ideally be between two females, so his hutch slides and overlaps two females’, or leave empty spaces he can occupy for at least a couple weeks. That way, they’re accustomed to each other when they’re plunked in together.

Bunnies need buddies. They’re social creatures, just like dogs. Adjoining hutches allows for social interaction, as well as the potential for combined body heat if temperatures dip.

rabbits-hutches

Females go to males. Neutral ground is iffy, but a male entering a female hutch can lead to…

A.) Distraction, with the male sniffing and marking instead of crooning Barry Manilow.

B.) The female taking offense to a male rushing right up to her.

C.) A female taking offense to a male poking through all her private spaces (especially if she’s raised kits in there and has a permanent box).

Bunnies need watched. Even if introductions and mating went well, sometimes you want your own space back, or somebody’s toes get stepped on. Hot weather makes everybody more cranky, too, and rabbits are no exception. Bunnies do their business, then get separated again.

Feeding – Them & Us

Feed is expensive. Whether we’re feeding off forage that takes time to recover, or buying sacks, there’s a cost associated. We need to know how much animals eat, and how many we can afford, before we create situations for breeding.

baconMeat animals are for eating. Don’t breed animals until you’ve tasted that species’ meat, and don’t breed animals whose meat you don’t like. (Riiiigghhtt???)

Harvest meat by size/age, not season. Big animals might lend themselves to waiting until after frosts, but when we’re feeding ourselves or other livestock off what we raise, we don’t have to wait for some magic season any more. In the case of chickens and rabbits especially, just a month or two delay greatly affects meat quality and flavor.

Eat some early. Doing so can save money on feed and wear on pastures, lower water hauling in late summer, and prevent aggression or breeding within the confines of limited infrastructure and labor. Just because typical butcher weight is 100-350# for pigs doesn’t mean we have to hold a whole litter for 6-9 months, especially the males. Some species lend themselves to waiting at least a while, but we can select 28-day poussin or 3-month pullets, lamb and kid and veal are traditional feasts, and suckling pig is a treat, whether it’s truly <8 weeks or we’re harvesting tender vittles once a month until the last few are freezer-filling beasts.

Nutritional needs change. As animals progress through their life-cycles, the nutrients they need change, as do the amounts of feed they need. Feeding everybody expensive game bird starter or lactating-female levels wastes money.

Feed type matters. Nutrients in bagged feeds & supplements and in pasture/forage/fodder vary, and affect health as well as the time to production or harvest.

Not everybody grazes. Ducks aren’t really grazers at all. In the case of free-range or foraging fowl, the accessible sources for feed changes by age, just as it does for wild birds like quail (quail lifecycle habitat is an excellent research point for creating pasture for poultry).

Llama grazing with sheep.

Llama grazing with sheep.

Worms steal nutrients. Parasites take from our animals. Regular deworming can prevent it. We can also rotate pastures. It limits re-exposure. It also allows pastures to gain height, which impacts hoofstock – worms occupy lower levels with the feces; if the livestock is grazing well above that level, it can break the fecal-oral route and lower belly loads.

Forage-based eaters are different. Free-range, pasture-fed animals that forage significant portions of feed are slower by as much as half-again or twice the time it takes commercial-diet fed animals to reach target weights, and production can be lowered for eggs and dairy as well. They’re also going to be leaner, and meat and eggs will change flavor seasonally.

Predators eat, too. Also, accidents happen and animals roam. Proper housing and fencing – before we bring home livestock – is vitally important. “Proper” varies by species and sometimes breed, and by climate. It’s also affected by rotation plans, keeping style, and the threats within our property and from our surrounding areas, or the natural barriers and safeties we can introduce, to include Livestock Guardian dogs, donkeys and llamas.

Not-So-Short Primer

So that’s the Big List of Bullets that made the cut for sharing. There are others, but I tried to come in under War and Peace, and the others come up more sporadically.

The over-breeding, misconceptions about which livestock needs mates and how often, when we harvest animals, and the inbreeding are biggies. Overpopulation due to males and females in constant exposure, and due to owners’ inability or unwillingness to cull flocks and herds also crops up – constantly, even among manly men who have deployed as grunt infantry and who hunt very similar deer, quail, turkey and duck. I also see a lot of people miss the opportunity to cut feed costs for other livestock or companion animals by using gluts of eggs and milk or meat they don’t want (goats), or who don’t *really* handle livestock and then run into problems moving and vetting them.

Hopefully, there was a nugget in there somewhere for almost everyone – and if not a nugget, some snickers and laughter and the joy of realizing you’re not the only one that ran into a head-scratcher.

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8 Backups & Barter Items for Preppers

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

4.5/5 (6)

Get a few preppers together, and you can pretty much guarantee that at some point bug out bags and bartering will come up. My personal take is that it’s a little bit foolish to stock something solely to barter – especially stuff that relates to addictions, because people with addictions can be a little bit crazy about their vices. Stocking things that can get used by the household means there’s little regret about expenditures in 2-10 years, whether a disaster occurs or not.

There have been other bartering articles on TPJ, and they’re totally worth looking at. I have zero arguments with the gear, meds, candles, batteries, foods and feel-goods that show up on those lists and are so very common when it comes up on forums. Still, there are some things that are very, very useful, readily affordable, readily portable in a bag or loaded into a game cart to take to Bartertown, and that I see very few people talk about – period, but almost never in the “barter” conversations and posts.

So those are where I’m focusing today.

In many cases, they’re not going to be the first things to run off shelves. Know your area and know what disappears – and when seasonally it tends to disappear even without a disaster. I tend to focus my own efforts on those things I don’t expect to find 3-9 months after a major crisis. I’m also cognizant that some things are never in much bulk – or enough bulk – and that even beyond looters and municipal groups that stand up to try to save their communities and go salvaging, there’s the risk of fires spreading and taking out stores.

With that in mind, here’s my list of 8 barter items that end up ignored as barter items and that aren’t without merit as backups for our own stockpiles.

Canning Jars – Especially Lids

Tattler Reusable Wide Mouth Canning Lids & Rubber Rings

Tattler Reusable Canning Lids & Rubber Rings

It’s pretty rare to find stores with nothing but canning jars on the aisles these days. In most cases, a store at its max display capacity has fewer jars than a single family would need to can only a veggie supplement for 6-9 months, and sometimes even fewer spare lids.

That makes lids and jars pretty much number one on my stock-up list, both for home use and to trade with neighbors and locals.

You’re not going to stick more than a box or two of spare lids in a bag, so this is one of the cases where if you’re on foot, you might want to go ahead and stick with some of those things like batteries, candles, an airgun and pellets, meds, and other lightweight items that will go pretty quick and that people 5 days, 50 days, 5 months and maybe even 50 months into a disaster will still be interested in taking off your hands.

Sevin Dust

sevin-dust-mixed

If you’re big on health, go with dish soap, vinegar and water as a spray, and just skip on down to the next one. I’m pretty much required to turn in my greenie card for promoting Sevin Dust.

But, see, Sevin is pretty darn handy. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, my father used to coat pretty much anything alive in the stuff – ducks, horses, goats, veggies, trees, wasp houses. He used it as flea and tick control as well as on garden pests.

We now have health concerns and concerns about wiping out beneficial bugs and microbes, but if your garden’s getting eaten by eight different things, if you absolutely have to have it to have anything but beans and wheat – or if your beans are being eaten by three different things – you’re going to be willing to think seriously about pretty much anything on the table to get your hands on an easy-to-apply dust that will kill almost any of them, something you can spot treat by hand or hook up to a backpack blower.

I specify the dust because it’s more compact, stores easily, and comes in both big bulk bags and small-container three packs that make it a viable option to cart to the church or community potluck, market or specific neighbors. It also has some of the shortest interval-to-harvest periods of a commercial pesticide.

Liquid Sevin doesn’t store as long, but it does kill extra things and it’s easier to get on the underside of leaves than powder.

Diatomaceous Earth

de_group

First, an apology to our Canadians. I have gathered the impression that this stuff can be tough for you guys to get ahold of, especially in bulk, and it’s not especially cheap there. Here we can just swing by on a whim and get it in packaging from the size of a deck of cards, by the gallon, or even by the 55-gal barrel.

There aren’t as many uses for Diatomaceous Earth as there are for baking soda and Epsom salt, but, man, it’s pretty handy.

It’s the active ingredient in SMITE for poultry, it clears up everything from bed bugs to livestock and pet ear mites, ants to roaches. It can form protective barriers around plants or be spread over them as a powdered insecticide. It’s natural, physical as opposed to chemical, has a nearly endless shelf life because it’s really just ancient plankton shells, can help protect stored foods – especially those we’re harvesting and our next-year seeds – and it has at least a dozen health and beauty uses.

The more uses something has, the less variety we have to store and the better the chances that when somebody has a problem, we have a valuable solution. DE checks those boxes in a big way.

Baking Soda & Baking Powder

baking-soda-baking-powder-2It’s hard to bake without leavening of some sort, and baking soda has about a million uses outside baking – and about a million more totally outside the kitchen. Both have long expirations and easily extend beyond their best-by dates even at room temperature and with fluctuations from 60 to 80 degrees. They’re sensitive to moisture in their smallest packaging forms, but it’s easy to get several or a whole handful in a gallon bag to keep in buckets and pull out as needed.

I don’t expect them to simply run off the shelves as soon as a disaster is announced, but they’re inexpensive, cheaper yet to buy in bulk bags, and it’s worth having some baking soda stocked because it’s one of those that when you want it, there’s not a lot of substitution.

Epsom Salts

epsom

First, sorry, Australian readers (and maybe Brits). I know this stuff is expensive and controlled to a ridiculous degree for you guys. It’s cheap and plentiful in the U.S.

Epsom Salts is what I consider an absolute, 100%, no-arguments prepper must-have. If there’s not already a reminder of how awesome Epsom salt is on an annual basis, there should be. Epsom salt is another one like baking soda, with fifty million uses for human health and hygiene, cleaning, livestock, and gardens. There are so many uses, it truly deserves its own article just as a primer on how useful Epsom salt is.

I’ll take just a moment here to point out that Epsom salt is far, far different from table salts. Epsom is magnesium sulfate, not sodium chloride.

When you want to burn it down and salt the earth so nothing grows (or clean a cutting board and preserve food), use table salt, kosher salt and sea salt.

When you want to encourage flowers, reduce soil deficiencies so plants can uptake their macronutrients properly and produce healthy, bountiful yields, fix an ear infection, reduce swelling, pamper your feet and skin, create barriers for certain types of pests in the home and garden, clean a wound, clear up skin conditions in humans, poultry and hoof stock, that’s what Epsom salt does.

And more.

As with everything else mentioned here, it can be purchased in bulk, or it’s available in small, moisture-resistant containers that make it very viable for trade when somebody’s struggling with any of a multitude of issues.

Rat Traps

rattrap

Rat traps have a ton of uses, but number one is their actual pest-control job. Eventually I think the rat population will level out one way or another, but between death and waste-removal shutdowns, I think they’ll boom for a while first. There have also been some historic accounts from Rome, London and other sites of major fires, where rats flee the cities and end up a plague on outlying areas in waves – and I anticipate fires since they happen daily even now.

Rat traps also have applications as squirrel and songbird traps for feeding families and pets, protecting gardens from small raiders, and combining with fishing line and various magnetic strip alarms or things like chem lights to create visual and audio alerts for home and property alarms. They can also be rigged with bells on a line to alert a barrier run of pigs that something has tripped the wire, and with some training the pigs will rush in to remove threats to chickens and gardens.

They’re small, light, and typically pretty cheap.

For smaller rodent controls, there are several ways (at least) to turn cans and buckets or rubber bands and 2L bottles into pretty effective rodent traps, and some additional ways to use PVC for squirrels and rats. They’re reusable and potentially can be made out of scavenged refuse or scrap, so it’s worth looking up those, too.

After all, sometimes know-how is as valuable a barter object as a physical item.

Water Catchment Faucets, Spigots, & Overflow Fittings

catchment-bucket-spigot

We’re almost guaranteed to see increased attempts to catch and store rain if a disaster ever occurs. Drought and periodic no-boil orders already make water a valuable – and expensive – resource right here in North America.

Having extra fittings for turning our emptied and scavenged buckets, totes, barrels, and tubs into more effective catchment systems has the potential to make not only our lives easier, but convince somebody to share a tool or pasture they’d rather not, or sweeten a deal over somebody else’s offer.

I doubt hardware stores will empty of plumbing fittings super early, but there’s always a chance, since few areas have enough in to truly impact catchment for every farmer and rooftop in the area. There’s also the risk of fire.

The washers and faucets for making the simplest conversions are lightweight, and at most should cost a few bucks. They have the potential of appeal to a much larger community than just smokers, drinkers and tokers, and will appeal to those as well. That makes them a pretty easy item to keep in even an INCH bag and definitely worth throwing in a cargo pocket when we patrol or go to a neighbor – you never know when the opportunity for new boots, tampons, or better bullets will appear.

Various silicone tubes and thread tape have value even outside the rain barrel creations. Some of our local stores and contractors are pretty happy to let us have odds and ends of PVC from jobs for free. The faucets or spigots valves and washers are the more pocketable pieces, but some short runs of PVC and small tubes of aquarium repair silicone can sweeten a deal even more when suggesting or building a system for somebody.

Portable Solar Chargers

solarcharger

Small, portable battery and device solar chargers abound on the market today, from $5-50. The battery chargers are useless without fresh batteries to charge, but having access to downloaded music, movies, games and pictures may mean a great deal to some folks.

They’re small enough even for folks who aren’t ready for $100-3,000 systems to keep phones, iPods, walkies, and headlamps going, and their value will go up further in protracted crises or a situation with regular brownouts. They’re already something you see folks gouge prices on and hit the streets with during “normal” natural disasters.

I wouldn’t fill up buckets with this one, but having a few for us, a few as backups, and a few I’m willing to part with for the little pocket versions and maybe a couple of the larger laptop-tablet or C-9V or combo chargers and rechargeable batteries for them is worth it to me. I also keep Nokeros and some of the little flat flashlights in my windows, though (and use them nearly daily instead of a bedside lamp or regular flashlight).

Backups and Bartering Alternatives

Like I said, I tend to think folks should focus on things they’ll use in a disaster or daily life over something they never have and plan to never want. I also really like the items that can sit on a shelf for years even before best-by dates expire, especially the ones that don’t need additional packaging.

I have no problem with the lists of the common items like meds, batteries, and knife sharpeners. There are always going to be others, from things like clip-on book and cap lights to the ammo that leads to so much back-and-forth and conditional settings. This is just a list of options that I rarely see discussed as storage items, and almost never see on the bartering lists – even though they can be had compactly and they offer so much in so many ways for the most part, that really don’t have replacements, or are rare to find on shelves even now.

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6 One-Day Preparedness Projects & Skills

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

A ton of preparedness projects and skills can be completed in as little as an afternoon, regularly with minimal outlay of cost. Some of them can even be done with kids, significant others and neighbors, without even admitting to being a prepper. That can be a great way to learn yourself but also help others be more prepared, and fostering a work-together and DIY mindset can be huge. The confidence to do, build and create carries forward in daily life for both kids and adults, boosting other types of preparedness as well.

There’s a whole list of other ideas to research for quickie free-time, afternoon and even weekend projects at the bottom of the article. I’m not big into pushing every prepper into the Survivor-man aspect or tons of primitive/colonial skills from the outset, so you’re not going to see those from me.

Instead, here are some insights on half a dozen preparedness projects and skills that can be learned and put together in short bursts or even a single afternoon, things that can immediately affect our self-sufficiency and preparedness for daily life and major disaster events. The projects require minimal tools that most of us (should) already have.

Feather Sticks

I tend to make several when I make one, because you can use the extras to save a fire that starts to go out.

 

Feather sticks are handy-dandy tools anytime you’re making a fire or starting a grill, even on a small-scale with a mini rocket stove. You basically shave a stick into a fluffy cone. Doing so creates the thin shavings, increases airflow and surface area for early kindling uses, and in damp conditions has the added benefit of exposing potentially drier wood inside. They can be made with pocket knives, survival knives, and even machetes if needed.

I tend to make several when I make one, because you can use the extras to save a fire that starts to go out. That’s particularly handy in wet, windy conditions, and it’s handy while you’re learning to pyramid stack, use Swiss torches, or bank a fireplace or wood stove so it stays lit through the night.

#1 Mostest Importantest-Ever Tip: Cut away from yourself. Especially for these.

That means, do not brace a branch on your knee, ankle or thigh and then scrape a blade over a stick that could snap or have a knot that sends your blade skittering. Important tendons, blood vessels, and ligaments are in your limbs.

I won’t say anything if you’re inclined to put a stick in your shoulder and pull a blade toward your neck and eyes – Darwin is obviously working from beyond the grave and I try not to get in Darwin’s way.feather-stick-4

 

Internet hunting & phone gathering

This isn’t actually a one-off. This is setting time aside to poke around sites with free and cheap used stuff, and hunting up “curbside pickup” locations.

In just one “free curbside pickup” listing, I see: high hoop poles + boards for water catchment shelves; metal trellis or bird-exclusion net supports; totes & drawers for water catchment or sub-irrigated or standard containers (big enough for shrubs and mini trees, even); and a laundry basket for growing potatoes in straw and compost.

It’s also time set aside to find out who still chips trees to see if we can get ourselves a mulch source, time for calling around to see who still gets icing so we can get free buckets for food storage, and time for sourcing more buckets by calling around to see if the local humane society/ASPCA, Petsmart, Petco, or animal rescue gets kitty litter in buckets – and if they’d be willing for us to take them off their hands.

We can use Craigslist, Freecycle, and the phone to find sources for:

  • Wooden pallets (all kinds of projects, from mini raised beds to tall keyhole beds, sheds, muddy-spot bridges, etc)
  • Painter’s drop cloth (greenhouse, hoop material weatherproofing windows)
  • Replaced storm doors & windows or mesh from the same (shade covers, exclusion frames) (general contractors, handyman, window repair specialists)
  • Replaced windows and doors (cold frames to grow vegetables in cooler temperatures)

gathering-wood-pile

A downed tree look more like firewood or a hugel bed to me, and construction or renovation trash looks like my next source for all kinds of lumber, plus shelving I can use for raised beds pretty quickly and easily, poles for trellises and extending clothes lines, and plastic I can use as a weed exclusion, machine cover, to extend water catchment, provide shade, or to warm soil in spring and autumn.

  • Creative material for trellises, fencing, and supplies to make other items on the list from others’ refuse (2-5 drawers and a deep raised bed from a filing cabinet; old wire shelving unit; DVD racks for trellises; buckets from delis, caterers, bakeries, restaurants; liquor and appliance stores for cardboard for weed exclusion and water sinks in deep beds)
  • Dinged and scratched solar panels from roadside signs & hurricane netting from roadway construction & repair companies

Bucket rain catchment

We hear about rain barrels, but they can be pretty expensive to buy. Buckets are cheap or free, and easier to haul to the point of use, rearrange, and clean.

Especially early on, we might find some real benefit even in just stacking buckets on each other in a pyramid, or on a chair or stool, then a few bricks, then a couple of sticks or a boards, and angling them a bit so they overflow into each other and then maybe a lidless storage tote or freebie kiddie pool.

rain-catchment

Rain catchment can be as simple or complex, large or small-scale as we want to make it – just getting started is more important than having a pretty, fancy system.

 

If we cover them with old pillowcases, cut-up freebie sheets and towels, or shirts from yard sale leftovers piles, we prevent mosquitoes. We can also hide some of the “ugly” that way if we have neighbors or partners who don’t want to look at them.

We can also go higher tech with angled or laddered systems of several levels, drilling our double overflow and spigot holes as we collect hose, PVC and plumbing attachments.

Go higher tech with angled or laddered systems of several levels

Even if we don’t want to filter the captured water for human use, it can impact the amount we have to water plants or be used for cleaning purposes.

Draft-proofing

Draft-proofing (or at least locating) is about increasing the efficiency of our homes. We want to close doors and turn off lights, and creep around looking at the bottoms of doors and around the door jambs. If we have a partner, we can work at night, looking for places where their flashlight comes through. We can also carry a candle around – the dancing of the flame will help us locate and pinpoint drafts.

Some utilities will come out with sensors to help us find even the little holes where pipes and cables come into our homes.

Windows and doors can have various types of window weather-stripping, bottom-of-door weather strips, and “draft rolls” – homemade or purchased – put in place. We can also lay on clear insulating plastic to cover our windows with – or even a never-used door. There are also silicone sealants we can use with a caulk gun in some areas.

Cutting drafts can save us money on heating and cooling right now. It can also make our whole-house fans and our fireplaces more efficient – now and when we depend on them because grid power is out.

Earth boxes

Buckets and totes, metal and plastic drawers, and even some wooden drawers can be readily turned into planters. If they’ll hold water, we can also turn them into Earth Boxes and “self-irrigated” containers.

earthbox-1

*They’re not really self-irrigated, they’re sub-irrigated but you hear it both ways.

Both input water through tubes to a reservoir space, and soil or wicks then pull it to the root zones, limiting evaporation and making our water use hugely efficient.

There are all kinds of DIY tutorials out there. What I will add to them is: Be sure you don’t actually have to buy something before you do.

I know for a fact that socks that have lost their mates can be filled with the exact same soil I plant in, and work just fine as a wick without buying any specialty baskets. Chunks of wood will eventually decay, but for a long time, they work as well as PVC or bricks for supporting the grate, mesh or upper container we drilled a million holes in. Do you need PVC, or can you daisy-chain some soda bottles together to create an input tube?

We have enough expenses in this life, especially in preparedness. Pocket what you can. Buy another can to put back or go wild and treat yourself, a partner, or the family to Value Menu sundaes or a new DVD when you can.

I don’t have a lot of problems with nutrient runoff with these buckets, but you could elevate containers above other buckets, tubs or pools to collect it if you do, then dump the water back in. I’m just not big into the water-shedding lids (I hate not using rain). Mulch helps preserve more water and protect soil from compaction, which is another issue some folks have with bucket planters and container gardens.

Don’t have all the materials yet? No big.

Use the buckets as containers. Drill holes a few inches up or as much as 4-6” if you’re going to build one in the future. Fill to the holes with pine cones, sticks, logs, gravel, or mulch to limit your fill dirt to 6-16” – that’s sufficient even for corn, with a healthy mix, and the bottom becomes a water storage reservoir still, while promoting drainage. You can upgrade them into earthbox-type planters later.

The TPJ “Garden Hacks” article shows how to use soda bottles to deliver water right to plants’ roots, so you can still get a lot of earth box and self-watering benefits without as much DIY or materials needed.

More preparing with quickie skills and projects

Some other quickie afternoon, one-day and weekend projects and skills to consider are:

    • Creating and scouting positions for small-game and bird snares
    • Homemade solar cookers
    • 550 cord fishing lures (or make them out of boot laces) get crazy creative and pick out extra threads to make newts and frogs, too
  • perfect casting your fishing line (set up competitions in the yard)
  • Pace count (multiple terrains)
  • Pace count in full pack (or a small pack with equivalent weight inside); with one leg strapped straight for a hobbling effect; with an arm tucked inside your shirt/a sling
  • Disposable Straws for EDC, BOBs, and camping ***Go easy if you’re inclined to put flammables like cotton, sawdust, etc. in your straws, and try to think about the flame you’re going to use for sealing it before you play with alcohol, hand sanitizer, or pre-shaved magnesium.

straws-1

  • Solar showers from garbage bags and garden sprayers
  • Solar cooking grains in a canning jar by hanging it inside dark plastic or cloth
  • Swedish torch
  • Rat-trap squirrel traps
  • Master sharpening knives – properly – Angles and tasks matter with blades. Dull and wrong-angle, curled-over, nicked blades increase the labor it takes to do our work. Mister P would not be allowed near my knives if I had to hold them in my teeth and use a curb to sharpen them. Papa P, now, that man could probably sweet-stone a shaving edge on a machete or a chopping wedge onto a box cutter if he needed to. The skill matters now. If we’re ever cut off, it matters more.
  • Bucket-can & bucket-shingle mouse & rat traps
  • Garden journal/binder
  • Important document binder (& electronic versions)
  • Medical DIY home-remedy binder
  • Quiet step in woods & water
  • Proper knots for hauling, packing, tying off, and building tepees – which can in turn support poles and racks for clothes lines and drying foods or creating shade and plant protection
  • Rat-trap visual perimeter alarms
  • Carrying and stacking wood – It’s not always as easy as you’d first think, and there are some camping and backpacking hacks that help, and some nifty circular or beehive piles that put tons of wood in a very small footprint
  • Cord nets
  • Ash cakes

Outdoor/Clay bread ovens (and research the order of baking and ways colonists used all of the heat generated efficiency; no reason to heat up the house unnecessarily)

Bannock bread – Skip the complicated versions:

  • 1 cup flour (doesn’t matter)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • herbs to taste (onion, garlic, Italian blend, lemon & thyme, black pepper) or dried fruit and nuts, or use chocolate chips or jimmies, brown sugar and cinnamon, and do a dessert version with apple or cherry pie filling or canned pears

Add small amounts of water to make a sticky dough or even a near-batter thickness for pans; this stuff is pretty forgiving and you don’t need 5-8 ingredients for the bare-bones survival version to be great with fresh fish or a can of chili.

You don’t have to take a lot of time to increase preparedness, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fifteen-minute increments, in a few hours, or with a weekend, you can start seriously impacting your preparedness with small, easy projects and useful skills.

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Prepper Lessons from History – Castle Gardens

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

When we think of castles in the medieval periods particularly, we generally think of staid, damp, barren places. Within some areas, they certainly were. It was a harsh, brutish time for many. It and the times leading up to it were filled with violence – hence the need for wall-ringed castles and hillforts in the first place.

And yet in these periods when death by violence and disease was prevalent, when survival was a constant chore, we find castle gardens within the very walls that were so utilitarian. By medieval and Tudor times, portions of the castles and even villager areas were being designed for pleasure as well as productivity. While we may not have enough land or resources to truly create our own castle, we can take away a fair bit from the layout of those castles, hillforts and even some of the equally guarded and protected monasteries.

First let’s take a look at some of the general consistencies between castles and protected areas during the pre-cannon times, and then we’ll look at how the residents can impact how we arrange large, sprawling homesteads and even small areas and yards.

Castle Layouts

British Hillforts tended to be Spartan environments, but even there – and when the Spartans existed – defensive structures also included water sources and regularly livestock and at least some limited garden spaces or wild foods within the safest palisades.

In the case of castles, there was even greater gardening taking place within the tiers of earthworks and walls carved out of hillsides.

dunlopvillage

Dunlop Hillfort and village – a macro-example of defensive structures and Spartan existence.

Castles and hillforts both made use of terrain. At the time, high was good, since it afforded more outward line-of-sight and thus more time to sound alarms. Deep trenches or moats surrounded the innermost walls and upper levels. Attackers not only had to scale the lower and outlying walls, they had to get themselves and siege equipment uphill, while defenders had the benefits of gravity and elevation on their side in all phases of attack.

If they could hold a force outside even middle and lower rings and walls, the defenders could even still reap the benefits of having crops and livestock grazing the rings around the inner walls.

Bonus – Fun Fact: This is the era in which we became obsessed with lawns. Rich folks had bunches of livestock, especially sheep. Sheep grazed all around, closely cropping grass and anything else that dared grow. It resulted in tightly mown lawns. The more sheep, the more pure grass and closer shorn it was. Having nothing but foods, shrubs and trees right around the house meant you couldn’t afford sheep. That poverty-wealth dichotomy stayed embedded as specialization grew, and everybody wanted a lawn so show their worth. It has stayed so embedded that here we are, hundreds of years later, burning fuel to prove we’re rich enough for short grass and competing with neighbors to have the most perfect, even, level grass on the block.

We can apply the lesson the same way Iron-Age Europeans did. We can create alleys or rings of silvopasture to shade and feed livestock and ourselves, creating tough fixtures and alarms where we can’t see – like the age-old sheepdog and sturdy gate or ha-ha. We can arrange properties large and small so that lower pastures and fields are outlying, allowing us more time to visualize threats.

We can create some of our first-line defensive walls with things like hugelkulture beds and other raised beds, and create ditches across roadways or leave trees standing that we can use to reinforce gates. Low or mid-height and dense, thorny brambles can also form our walls or create enough depth, noise and pain that simple thugs can’t make the jumps or choose and easier target.

We can use water catchment, mandala and keyhole beds, and our buildings and vehicles to form an inner wall from which we can defend property if necessary, keeping the things and supplies we most need access to safe within the innermost ring.

And we can use the castle gardens as examples of ways we can still produce food and medicine even if we decide to retreat inside our high, inner walls and abandon the rest.

pevensey-castle

The aerial view of Pensevey ruins helps show the amount of green space inside a hillfort and its moats, with sheep still grazing one of the inner walls and farm and grazing land still laid out around the lower and outer earthworks. We don’t have to have a true castle or that much space to follow the example laid out.

Zoning

In permaculture, a concept called zoning is at the forefront of design – right up there with the ever-pressing reminders of health and productivity through diversity and edge habitat. Zoning is where we create spaces for each thing, working by patterns of traffic frequency.

The places we go most are Zone 1, and we put the most needy members of our homesteads there, the things we’ll need to visit most often. Zone 5 is the outer limit. It’s basically an area left wild, only periodically visited for at most a little foraging and hunting.

The terms and definitions may have changed, but castles made use of the same theories.

The inner set of tall, high walls would be our Zones 1-2, with 3-4 those rings of livestock and feed and large crops outside the moat. Maybe we have a true Zone 5, or maybe we designate little patches of brush, hang bug motels and bat houses, and create towers and boxes where swallows and owls will do their things – ridding us of pests as they do.

pottager-combo-1Pottager Gardens

Pottager gardens are just a different way of saying kitchen garden – or they were.

Starchy peas, turnips, potatoes, and the grains for bread were largely grown in some of the outer rings and beyond them – the equivalent of Zone 3 and 4 from our permaculture example – but most of the rest was either from the hedgerows and wild fruit areas, collected by foraging, or grown very near the kitchens where they’d be used.

Most of the British populace ate little meat and roasted foods even up into Tudor times. Instead, pottage was the daily meal – and was for a long, long period of history. It’s basically just a stew based around peas and whatever is in season. The gardens that mostly influenced the stew’s flavor picked up the same name.

Pottagers evoke certain images for designers and historians: small beds, regularly bounded by wattle (woven horizontal branches and saplings) or stone, raised as often as they were ground level.

They were usually surrounded by bent-hedge (laid hedge) living fencing, dense hedges, brush fencing that used upright posts filled with thick timber debris laid horizontally between them, rip-gut twisted-timber and -stick fences, vertical wattle, or simple vertical stick and top-rail fences, either vertical posts or arranged in a series of bottom-heavy X’s with horizontal poles laid in the cross sections.

The fencing was largely dependent on what it guarded against – poultry, dogs, rabbits, a loose horse in some areas, geese – and was made out of fast-growing “junk” brush and the leftover debris from cutting housing timbers, firewood, and clearing fields. Wattle was even used to make livestock housing in some temperate areas of Great Britain, particularly.

Medieval Style Garden

Medieval Style Garden

We see pottager beds inside tight castle spaces as well as out among the village cottages and even used in the wide-open outlying guard shacks.

Outside the castle walls, fencing would typically be stronger and taller to prevent entry by deer, but thick debris fencing was even used to contain or exclude pigs.

Square beds predominate, with triangular or curving beds as well, particularly in later periods. In the small square and rectangular courtyards between various walls and towers and portions of the castles and hillforts, they were efficient to work by hand without losing much space.

It’s hard for us to conceive breaking up long rows, even with our high-yielding, milder, sweeter vegetables. In fact, Europeans and early colonists with their less-efficient crops may have benefitted hugely by using them instead of the plows.

Pottagers were visited and tended much more frequently than crops that were alternated with grazing animals between the rings of the further, lower outer walls around a castle. The field crops had to deal with much less compaction as a result.

Working the smaller beds from walkways likely kept those beds in better health because no one was stepping on the soil, packing it down the way we do when we work down our rows and lines.

Every Single Inch

While there were gardens near kitchens, and while chatelaines typically also had gardens, they all also had to compete with the chapel gardens that were typically allowed and with the physic gardens maintained by the official healers.

It could get tight.

Because so many people could be expected to cram into castles and protected monasteries during attacks, carrying everything they could, to include livestock, and because the early castles and the hillforts, especially, tended to be high-traffic areas, growing space within the inner walls was at a premium – a condition many of us can relate to.

Growing food and herbs in long sweeps between sets of castle walls.

Growing food and herbs in long sweeps between sets of castle walls.

 

It was also vital to be able to grow some of the food inside walls in case of siege.

So they made use of roadsides not only for foragable hedgerows, but also for small trees, flowers, herbs, and annual and perennial fruits. In some cases, they even built up raised beds against the castle walls themselves.

It was also very common to have orchards in the graveyards inside one ring of a castle or another, to use arbors around gates for vining fruit, and to make use of the steep sides of the earthworks that were left with sometimes vary narrow verges.

highcote-kitchen-garden-recreate-the-kitchen-gardens-of-the-past

Images: Recreation of the castle-interior kitchen gardens of Highcote

Diversity

The small spaces weren’t necessarily a bad thing. From the narrow spaces available between pathways and walls, to the kitchen, noble women’s, and monk’s gardens, the tight quarters led to increased diversity in garden strips, hedges and beds.

Historians have decided that it was actually pretty rare for herbs and high-yielding fruits and vegetables to be separated into rows. Bulk-produced foods – especially those that needed each other for pollination, kept close because gardeners realized they did better when grouped even if they didn’t understand the mechanics – might occupy whole beds, but most were rambling and intermingled where there was space for annuals.

packed-gardens-similar-to-interior-pottagers-from-history

Recreated and English-style kitchen gardens typically have fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers intermingled, with perennial hedges, shrubs, arbors, and trees in corners an surrounding the garden space.

Beautification and “smelling” gardens around trees in graveyards and orchards increased diversity there. Even when things were only planted to take advantage of pre-leaf-out sunlight and make every use of the space, it resulted in longer periods of flowering, a heavy mixing of herbs and perennials near and with annuals, and a great many microclimates where all the plant types met each other.

Until formal gardens took over, those “margin” areas undulated and staggered in differing waves and sizes, further increasing the amount of edge.

Diversity and a mixing of microclimates creates the same relationships we see with both companion planting – where a plant attracts or repels something for another plant – and at the edges of roads, places where water meets woods or meadows, and other verges – places that we harvest the most game and the most edible weeds.

With rich, diverse webs of life taking place in the soil, nutrients are cycled effectively. Mixed plants mean roots are drawing from different levels, and pests find it harder to locate their victims.

It also creates resiliency. With so much life, if something in the soil is wiped out one way or another, it’s not that big of a deal. There’s plenty of other life available to make up for it.

Likewise, with many types of herbs and foods growing together, should one fail in one spot, another might survive. If all of a type were lost, because gardens were so diverse, there was still food production taking place – inside the inner walls, even if it was unsafe to venture out into the lower-walled sections with bulk crops and livestock.

Fences were made with what you had on hand, designed for simple function.

Fences were made with what you had on hand, designed for simple function.

Castle Gardens

We can learn a lot from history, and given the defensive mindsets of preppers, we can apply some of the defensive lessons directly to even our suburban and urban homes. Really, up until the last hundred years, we still very strongly relied on defensive works designed surprisingly similar to castles – well after the widespread adoption of cannon and cartridges.

The gardens kept within the walls of palace castles and hillforts have particular application as well, both for efficiency and for remembering that even when life was short and brutish in the Iron Age an medieval eras, peons and princes still planted their castles for beauty as well as yield.

Castle defenses, medieval gardening methods, and permaculture sectors and zones are all things that can be further researched to forward the preparedness of our homesteads. Permaculture’s stacking functions can help make our spaces even more efficient.

They can also help city dwellers, looking at apartments and condos as inhabitated towers and making use of the narrow strips of greener. Japan’s container and small-bed growing has been in place since the time of the Samurai in the largest cities – about the same time we’re looking at European castles – and can make for good study as well for those in tight, tiny spaces.

For more information about some of the garden features from the Iron Age through medieval and Tudor times, check out http://www.castlesandmanorhouses.com/life_06_gardens.htm and http://www.sudeleycastle.co.uk/gardens/tudor-physic-garden/ . There are tons of images, as well as lists of foods and medicines valued by people who depended on what they pulled out of the ground.

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A Prepper Must-Have: Bed Sheets

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

4.14/5 (7)

When it comes to things that are super useful in daily life, bed sheets rank right up there. In a world where we’d like to conserve energy, go as unnoticed as possible, or avoid stores, or when fresh resources just aren’t all that available, sheets go up even further on the usefulness scale. To be clear from the start, I’m not saying everybody should run out and buy multiple sets of brand-new bed sheets. For some uses, threadbare and worn are actually better. Used is always acceptable.

Tarps are best for some things, but tarps are also more expensive than old, used sheets we’d throw away or that we find for free or 10-50 cents each, and they tend to be larger to store. A cheap $5-10 tarp is usually about as vulnerable as a well-made used motel sheet, so if the moisture protection isn’t as much an issue and it’s a temp use, we may be able to save some money and space with sheets.

When the Sheet Hits the Fan: The advantage of bed sheets

One of the major repetitive advantages to sheets is that they’re lightweight. That means they’ll both wash and dry easily and pretty quickly, even in total off-grid situations. They’re also fairly compact, so it’s pretty easy to store them. They’re not heavy to carry. And of course, there’s the myriad uses an old bed sheet can offer us.

Uses for Bed sheets

Like any “must have” item, an internet search is going to return dozens of hits, some of them really, really good. This is the kind of area where Pinterest is worth its weight, too. I’ll stick to the less-artsy and more-practical uses here, but there’s still no way I’ll cover them all. It’s just to show some of the range so we can justify a trashcan filled with bags of sheets. I totally welcome other ideas and uses – it’ll only benefit everybody to share ideas.

Lining bedrolls – Lining a sleeping bag or bedroll with a sheet or two gives us hot-night options as well as keeps dust and sweat from hitting the thicker blankets and bag. The same applies to a “regular” bed – both under and atop the main covers, especially if there are pets. Sheets are much faster to wash and dry, especially on the move.

This also works for dogs beds, unless there’s a “nester” involved who likes to dig or root around in their spot before they lie down.

Lining furniture – I have pets, and a guy who thinks pets on furniture is normal, regardless of size or shedding seasons. I can switch out a couple of sheets on chairs and sofas, wash them, and hang them to dry in about the same time it takes me to vacuum and lint roll them. That’s especially nice if somebody drops by, because I can just flick sheets off and they have a clean place to sit besides an office chair and the kitchen table.

It also works for me. There are times I’m too sweaty to even consider padded furniture, but sometimes I’m just dusty or flecked with stuff when I’m hungry and want a break or to watch a show while I cool down or warm up. With sheets on my two rocking chairs and my squishier furniture, I don’t have to sit in the floor like a 1930s child.

Color coordinating by mood and season is just a bonus, as is catching all kinds of remotes and pocket detritus.

bed-sheets - garden

Plant covers – Keeping in some extra sheets can help extend our garden season, especially if we have unexpected cool weather. Thin, white or pale green sheets are best for extended use, but any color works for just overnight or for a day or two of cold weather. It’s best if they’re propped up above plants with some air space between the plants and sheets, but just covering them is enough to save tender seedlings and flowers in a lot of cases.

Heat sinks – We can use sheets to make dark curtains that absorb and hold onto more heat in winter without needing nails the way ad libbed tapestries from comforters do.

We can also fold them into 1-2’ rectangles several layers thick to lay right against our plant rows in early spring and autumn. They’ll help block some of the weeds and help protect against splash-up dirt, as well as help warm the soil, hold a little more moisture than bare earth, and protect the roots from frost a little more. Sheets aren’t going to last season after season, but not much does. If we’re only using them for a few days or weeks early and late, we can wash them and fold them back up, and protect them from the most damaging weather and extended bug attacks.

Image: An old bedsheet can be used to shade a baby or tractored livestock, or hung over a porch, used as window awnings and curtains, or spread like a tarp for even a few days or weeks to help beat blistering hot days.

Image: An old bedsheet can be used to shade a baby or tractored livestock, or hung over a porch, used as window awnings and curtains, or spread like a tarp for even a few days or weeks to help beat blistering hot days.

Shade – Sheets aren’t going to last in the long run, but to break the heat for an afternoon, weekend, or even a particularly brutal heat wave, sheets are pretty nice for rigging as a shade cloth since they’re light enough to hang from clothesline, 550 cord, a lot of garden twines, duct tape, and household-level screws and nails. Without rivets, sheets are going to rip in high winds and after hanging soaked from rains and exposed to sun repeatedly, but I’ve had some last out most or all of the summer over rental porches in Arizona and Alabama. Folding the edges to double or triple before poking line, nails or hooks through them can help prevent some of the tearing.

Defensive Training Space – String line and weigh curtains with spare sticks and rocks, and create red-gun and airsoft reaction training courses. They’re inexpensive, faster to erect than OSB/plywood, they cost a fraction of stick construction, and they can be updated and renovated to keep experiences fresh. They can also be cut into truly man-sized targets for airsoft and paintball training. (Do not conduct live-fire drills with restricted visibility unless you have experience running live-fire drills with restricted visibility – that’s how idiots shoot each other.)

bedsheet reusable paper towel
bedsheet reusable paper towel II
bedsheet reusable towels, wipes, diapers or cloth  pads

Sheets – especially thick, absorbent ones – can be turned into reusable paper towels, cleaning wipes, baby wipes, cloth pads, or hankies.

Health & Hygiene – We’ve all heard of boiling sheets for bandages. We can also cut them up to make hankies. We can go as sew-happy or KISS as we like to turn them into reusable bleach and Lysol cleaning wipes or baby wipes. They can make decent enough dusting cloths. Thicker and softer versions that are fairly absorbent can be turned into top and middle layers for cloth menstrual pads or diapers. We can use any of them to make “family” cloths (reusable adult baby wipes).

If we find multiple colors and patterns, we can color-coordinate by person for a lot of the hygiene uses, which might at least help with the knee jerk “eww” and “eek” factor.

Line floors – When there’s a sick or still-house training pet indoors, sometimes you just can’t get there fast enough. With carpets or old hardwood, this is a recipe for a lot of time on knees. My pets tend to avoid plastic (including training pads) or the cat plays with them, so folding sheets into quarters to stick in their usual areas and the runways leading to doors works far better for us.

Pine Sol and bleach are my friends, and they tend to make it all better. Instead of scrubbing on my knees, it’s a matter of wiping up the worst of it, then washing the sheets the same way I would a changing table cover, leaky diaper bedding, “accident” pants, and puked-on shirts and towels. One baby is very much like another when you love them, especially when the four-legged baby would kill, maim and die for the two-legged baby.

If it’s ugly or I’m rushed, since it’s a sheet that outlasted its mate or cost me $0.25-$1, I am more than willing to just throw that puppy away.

Lining the floors also has a great deal of use when it’s muddy and there’s a lot of foot traffic and no pre-built mudroom for dusty, sandy environments, snow and wet, and freshly tilled garden areas, especially when you’re dealing with poorly trained humans.

Sources for Bed sheets

There are lots of places we can get our hands on used bed sheets without necessarily outing ourselves as nut jobs. We can limit our “crazy” reaction by citing the camping, pet, and garden uses as our primary interest.

bed sheet remanufactured into clothing - white guy

Image/Images: Used sheets picked up for free or at low cost can be re-manufactured and reused in all kinds of ways, to include clothing, which can be especially handy for families with growing children during a crisis.

In all cases, like free and low-cost buckets and windows and screens, the burden is on us. Other people have regular jobs and priorities. We cannot make contact once and expect them to both remember our request and keep our phone number, then declare it a dead and stupid idea. We have to check back. Weekly or twice monthly, not enough to be an annoyance, but enough to be that smiling sweetheart. Showing up in person works best in many cases, because a face, a respectful and pleasant tone, and a hand shake can still go far.

We can find used sheets from:

  • Salvation Army/Goodwill, etc. (they sometimes don’t accept linens, or don’t accept stained/ripped linens of any kind)
  • Lower-rent and independent motels (they eventually rotate worn and stained linens, and are less likely to brush you off or already have contracts like larger, mid-high level hotels)
  • Message boards for “want” ads – church and community halls, agricultural co-ops and Tractor Supply, and flea markets (ask first if it’s a member-driven location)

Usually you’ll need at least a manager. Most commonly an owner has to give their nod. Still, there’s nothing wrong with hitting up housekeeping ahead of time to find out how they handle worn linens or calling ahead to find out when owners will be available to talk to with the least disturbance. Second shift is always the busiest for hotels, so try to avoid harassing them between 1-11 p.m. In the case of donation centers, sometimes the sorters are happy to let you poke through the trash or to pile stuff beside the dumpster instead of in it.

Another use for old sheets: Divide living areas and sleeping quarters into separate spaces with easy-hanging privacy curtains. It can save some much-needed sanity during even a temporary crisis.

Another use for old sheets: Divide living areas and sleeping quarters into separate spaces with easy-hanging privacy curtains. It can save some much-needed sanity during even a temporary crisis.

Preparedness via Bed sheets

Some of the other uses for bed sheets in various condition include stocking them for clothing fabric, having plenty of extras on hand to limit rainy-day laundry, and hanging windows and doors with 3-4 overlapping layers to help with light discipline. They can also be used for animal and human towels, outdoor shower privacy curtains, and to hang for a DIY iPod or cell phone movie projector screen.

On the “daily” side, we can also turn them into tablecloths to cover our buckets and cases of stockpiled goodies or use them to make hook rugs and animal bedding. When we start accruing friends and relatives at our prepper palace, we can hang sheets as curtains to at least visually divide space (don’t knock it – high stress is a bad time to have fights break out because one person’s fidget is another person’s pet peeve; there’s a reason some of us take our glasses off in church and waiting rooms when somebody’s twitchy or acting up).

Bed sheets have lots of uses, with tons of crafty DIY out there for those interested. When it comes to preparedness, they offer so much potential for such a low cost and relatively tight storage space, they’re almost a shoe-in for a must-have list.

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Planning Your Homestead Orchard: Benefits of Dwarf Trees

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Dwarf Trees – When Less is More

We spend a lot of time looking at annual crops and gardens, but perennials have their places. When it comes to fruit trees, we have many options in sizes. There’s little more majestic than a full-sized cherry tree, and not much will match a standard apple for yield. However, there are a lot of times when we’d be equally or better served with a smaller tree, and lots reasons to consider dwarf trees or semi-dwarf instead of a standard, even when there aren’t space constraints that affect the ability to get pollination partners. I’m starting with a primer on size and expected yields by size and species, then hitting considerations such as maintenance, resiliency, harvest size, and more.

Tree Sizes

There are some generally accepted sizes for dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard sized fruit trees.

4653622636_b0db696caa

A lot of fruit trees have about the same spread (circular footprint) as they do height. Dwarfs are usually 8-12’ (also regularly seen as 8-10’), semi-dwarfs tend to range 10-16’, and standard fruit varieties are usually considered to be 18-25’.

There are exceptions, such as peaches that are naturally already fairly compact at 12-15’ and cone-shaped pears with a spread of just 10-12’ but a height upwards of 20’ for mature standard varieties. Some standard trees are also just smaller, such as plums and figs.

Part of planning the size we want is planning for space around a tree or shrub where we can work. As a permaculturist, I love stacking spaces and full canopies. However, there’s not much room to maneuver underneath a dwarf or semi-dwarf tree – their canopies tend to start around thigh and shoulder height – and it’s not like all standards are roomy below the canopies. I can create a planting plan that allow me to maximize the space I have without encircling each and every single tree with a path, but somewhere through there, I do have to give myself room to harvest and rake and prune.

Dwarf and semi-dwarf trees produce the same type and size fruit as standards, just less per tree.

Dwarf and semi-dwarf trees produce the same type and size fruit as standards, just less per tree.

 

 Yield By Size

A nice lady who ran a blog once went through and compiled yield ranges from the information Stark Bros. puts out. I turned it into a single-page printable for clients (with citations). As with any, this information should be taken with a grain of salt. Climate, soils, care, and disease can all affect yield, and yield can vary greatly by variety within a species. Still, it makes a nice printable to use for a ratio comparison between dwarf, semi-dwarf and standard trees.

Fruit yields by tree & plant

Be aware: Yields vary depending on soil types, nutrients, water, pests, pruning and variety of tree within each species. I halve the numbers from Harried Homemaker and Stark Bros. when presenting estimated to clients.

Remember, locally produced trees and shrubs, even grafted, will have more success than shipped-in specimens most of the time.

Specialty Types

There are all sorts of even smaller fruit trees and ways to tailor fruits to our needs. Espalier can be done against walls and fences, or grape style in the middle of a yard. Some fruits that are commonly produced on trees have a bush variety, such as the bush nectarine or some of the bush cherries. There are also potted varieties of a lot of fruits now, trees to shrubs and brambles, specimens specifically bred and designed to thrive in a container and be more compact.

 

Cordon or columnar fruit is available in several species, and while expensive, it can save space to increase diversity and allow homeowners variety and resilience.

Cordon or columnar fruit is available in several species, and while expensive, it can save space to increase diversity and allow homeowners variety and resilience.

Columnar or colonnade trees are extremely narrow and small. They can be potted or directly planted. Their yield suffers due to their size, but they can be excellent as canary varieties for us and they excel at providing some backup pollinators, especially for folks in small spaces or who want edible beautification. However, they are pretty darn pricey.

Container fruit needs a lot of water and nutrients over the seasons, but if we stick them on rolling casters, it lets us maneuver our fruit into protected areas. Those minis can allow us a sustainable source of things like citrus, tea, figs, and peaches. Likewise, an espalier against a wall will typically be warmer as well as easier to protect and keep damp than a freestanding tree in a yard.

Dwarf, container, trellis and espalier fruit can transform a compound into a more pleasant space, allow perennial production in urban and suburban environments, and let us take our fruit trees and shrubs with us when we move.

Dwarf, container, trellis and espalier fruit can transform a compound into a more pleasant space, allow perennial production in urban and suburban environments, and let us take our fruit trees and shrubs with us when we move.

 

Yard-planting container-intended columnar, bush and espalier fruit has particular application not only for those who are spacially challenged in their yards, but for those with compounds. There’s no reason our castle has to look industrial. In fact, back when castles were in vogue, they typically made use of every inch with plantings, which were tailored both for form and function.

Benefits of Smaller Specimens

Apples - chart w dates & usesIncreases harvest season – One benefit to smaller trees is that we can spread out the harvest season. The common standard tree yields of 10-20 bushels is a lot to deal with inside the 1-3 weeks of harvest season for each variety, and once it’s in and processed, there’s no more fresh fruit. Instead, we can tailor our home orchard for 3-6 months of fresh produce by selecting varieties from late, mid and early seasons within their species and having a couple of other species with them.

Spreads out the workload – Avoiding a single-type glut such as can come from even just 1-2 large trees (or species) by tailoring our home orchards by harvest period can let us select varieties that go straight to storage to complete the sweetening and softening process, while still having some fresh fruit now. Since summer and autumn are already hectic seasons for a lot of us and will be more so if we’re producing our own food, it’s nice to have that option. Even without storage fruit, smaller amounts harvested over 1-3 weeks per species lets us process fruit at a slower, steadier, more manageable rate.

dwarf cherry

Easier Management – The workload from processing harvest isn’t the only thing that goes down. Smaller trees allow us to work around them with less use of overhead tools. They’re easier to harvest and prune with only a step stool, and it’s easier to see what’s going on in the canopies. That alone can help us spot problems early.

Increase variety and species within a space – Instead of having three apples in standard sizes, we may be able to fit 5-9 dwarf and semi-dwarf trees, in addition to any wall-hugging espaliers and the super-compact minis or potted varieties. Sometimes that means we can get two pollinators for a primary semi-dwarf, and sometimes that means we can have a pair of small apples with a plum and a peach. Other times it means we can have a fruit tree or five, and still have sunlight and space for other perennials or an annual garden.

Smaller trees can allow us to increase variety and resilience in the same space. If one species, variety, or specimen is lost or damaged by pests or weather, others may survive.

Smaller trees can allow us to increase variety and resilience in the same space. If one species, variety, or specimen is lost or damaged by pests or weather, others may survive.

 

Fresh eating is always healthiest, and having multiple harvest seasons from a variety of trees helps increase the periods of fresh produce, especially if we’re not gardening yet or a drought or the power/labor supply is making us choose between livestock and gardens for water. A variety in fruit types also provides a wider array of nutrients than having just 1-2 trees that produce all at once.

Increases resilience to varying weather conditions, climatic change and pests – Diversity is always a benefit in many ways, but in this case, it’s tangible. A lot of our fruit trees share pests and diseases with each other and other plants, and many require pollination.

If there are only two varieties of apple (or other species), and one is sensitive to something around us, the other has lost its pollinator. We won’t get any more fruit. If we get a semi-dwarf or a single standard for the tree we want most, then 3 smaller trees that cross pollinate, losing one of them to a pest/disease and one of them to weather (drought to storm) still leaves us with a pollinator. We still get our fruit harvest from our target tree.  If we had 5-7 smaller trees and lose 2-4, we increase our chances of good harvest in harsh conditions even further.

Graphic: Using a mix of semi-dwarf and dwarf trees can increase the total fruit yield in a space as well as create resiliency. *Yield estimates taken from Harried Homemaker Preps’ compilation of Stark Bros. estimates.

Graphic: Using a mix of semi-dwarf and dwarf trees can increase the total fruit yield in a space as well as create resiliency. *Yield estimates taken from Harried Homemaker Preps’ compilation of Stark Bros. estimates.

The resiliency benefits extend beyond pollination partners. An early-season fruit tree stands more chance of having late frosts and freezes or false springs kill off the buds. Summer storms, bug/pest seasons, and late storms and frosts can all become risks as well. With 3 smaller trees instead of one large tree, we can still get a harvest if one fails or if we lose a tree entirely, inside a species or by planting a variety of species.

Whether they’re small or not, having multiple varieties and species can help avoid total losses and it can help us spot problems early enough to save a harvest. Even if we don’t catch something for the first variety or species, because so many pests are common within domestic fruits, we may be able to treat later-blooming and later-fruiting specimens.

Faster Maturation – Most dwarfs and semi-dwarfs will begin production and hit average, mature rates in less time than standards. Their ultimate total yields are lower, although that can be mitigated with multiple trees.

Future Moves – Dwarf and mini fruit that can handle containers is also beneficial for those who plan to move to a new, larger space or compound. Some of us just can’t justify putting fruit into our small spaces, then leaving it. We can also go ahead and get our fruit trees the day we move, with the plan to transplant once we study and develop our plan for our homestead. That way we’re a little (or a lot) closer to our mature production rates when we hit our new locations.

Small Trees for Big Spaces

Small fruit trees can also be used as “canaries” a la mine-shaft mode, especially on large spreads. We can tuck a sampling of dwarf and super-dwarf compacts in similar light, water and soil conditions along our driveways and near our homes. Doing so lets us keep better track of flowering, health, and fruit development, especially in our busy daily lives, since we see them right there, all the time.

Dwarf and espalier fruit can be trained to hedges, serving multiple functions on our property as well as producing food.

Dwarf and espalier fruit can be trained to hedges, serving multiple functions on our property as well as producing food.

We still need to check on orchards – especially if they’re planted in blocks of the same species or close cousins. Differing microclimates may (will) produce fluctuation even within members of the same species.The diversity of fruit species and other landscaping and gardening can protect our canaries, and lower compaction might be leading to better soil health in one spot or another. Then there are things like chickens, goats, pigs, deer and porcupines that can be affecting outlying trees but not the ones where our dogs and people run most frequently.

Still, over a few seasons, we’ll pick up on the trends and be able to use our canaries to tell us what’s going on in an orchard or even just a few trees that are out of sight-line.

Small Trees for Home Orchards

A small fruit tree isn’t always the solution. For larger families and groups, and anyone interested in silvopasture or sticking crated/kenneled livestock under trees, standard varieties may be a better choice. For those who are looking at age, physical ability, resilience, and small spaces for an edible orchard, smaller trees and container fruits may be a major boost to our capabilities. Smaller trees can also just be faster and easier to care for than large trees, and provide a variety of fruits sooner and a longer harvest period for a busy working family, which may better serve some people.

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Calculating Livestock Feed: Will You Have Enough?

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

There’s a really handy tool called a Pearson Square that can help when we decide to feed livestock. Basically, it allows you to reach your desired total protein percentage using sets of known feeds.

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Cut Through the Dark – Grid down Light Options

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Light options that can be set up by anyone who owns a screwdriver, no electrical connections needed, that runs off the sun and-or a spare battery, and that provides quality lighting when somebody walks inside its sensor range.

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A Prepper Must-Have: Hands-Free Light

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When it comes to a portable light, it’s hard to beat something that leaves your hands free and moves around with your eyes. Their cost, usefulness, and weight make them an absolute must-have for preppers.

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How Many Canning Jars Do You Need?

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

When we work our way toward a goal of self-sufficiency, a lot of times producing and preserving food comes up. There are lots of methods, and there are thankfully things like dry meats, grains and legumes, and fruits and veggies that can go straight into cellars and other cold storage. However, for most of us, […]

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Save on Prepping Supplies: Tax-Free and On-Sale

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Sometimes though, even when it’s not a preparedness-related sale, there are things we can stock up on that applies directly to preparing for the worst. Today we talk about how you can save on prepping supplies.

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Beating The Heat Old-School Southern Summer Style

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There are a ton of ways we can help cool our bodies and little changes to activity and habits that can lower the heat in our homes, too, but for this article, I’m going to concentrate on the dwelling space itself.

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The Preparedness Wheel: At-A-Glance Balance Check for Readiness

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

It’s not about the mental and emotional health. It’s about the balance. When wheels are balanced, we roll much more smoothly through life’s up and downs and this exercise will show if the rest of our preparedness needs and goals are in balance.

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Lessons From History – Eating Well Off Home Food Preservation

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Growing and storing foods is commonly a goal we strive for as we seek self-sufficiency. The easiest and fastest way to store foods is, of course, just dumping it into a root cellar or grain bin or barn, although not everything does so hot with that treatment.

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Site Planning for Your Survival Homestead

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A great deal can go into site planning for your survival homestead, even when the infrastructure is already in place and funds don’t exist to renovate lines or move buildings. Where we place things can increase or decrease our defensive abilities, success in growing, and how likely we are to see something – which can be good or bad

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Shotguns – the Firearm Do-Alls

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We hear about how shotguns are the do-all when it comes to hunting and self-defense. What we don’t always hear is how to best choose one or that to make them a do-all, we need to know what to feed them.

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Alternative Feeds for Livestock

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Having some backup ideas and methods in place as alternate feeds is rarely a bad thing, especially if we’re counting on meat rabbits and chickens, eggs, and milk in a collapse or Great Depression situation.

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Laundry – Keeping Clothes Clean When the Grid Goes Down

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Using history and modern innovation, we now have a lot of options for keeping our clothes clean, even if we end up off the grid, conserving power, or lacking electricity entirely.

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Survival Homesteading: Crop Production and Storage for Livestock

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

One of the hardest cords to cut for homesteaders is dependence on commercial feeds. However, I’ve put together some ideas for root vegetables that can cut some of our feed bills and feed dependency and alternative or “forgotten” ways of storing and using grains.

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How to Procure and Test Seeds

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Gardening starts with the very seeds we plant, so I’d like to look at two of the seed sources we see in the preparedness fold, and how to test seeds to find out if stored seeds are still viable.

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The Best Gadgets for Your Guns

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

So today, I’m going to point out offset sights, optics with integrated sights, and a specific type of single-point sling adaptor that could change some minds about the best gadgets for your guns.

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Considering Precious Metals? – the Case for Suisse Bars

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

There are options when we talk about stockpiling wealth or currency in preparedness folds. Precious metals (PM) as a preparedness item are a topic of some debate in and of themselves

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Sowing Concepts & Planting Styles

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Regardless of scale, maximizing our production is something we all strive for. There are some terms and sowing concepts we may see but not really understand that relate to sowing seeds, especially, that can help us maximize our yields

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Understanding Seed Types and Their Importance

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Maybe we’re stuck in a rut because of the things we read about seeds, and maybe aren’t really and truly understanding seed types and some of the terms we see.

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Conventional Guides to Crop Rotation

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Plants with really good, healthy soil can fight off a lot of diseases and overcome leaf damage from pests without problems. However, even when we start with really good soil, certain practices mean we strip it out, stop the nutrient cycling, or otherwise break those systems. Rotation is one way we can prevent some of the stripping and reduce the disease load for our plants.

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Hiding in Plain Sight – There Are Others Like Us

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

These are the people we can go to, explaining simply that we’d like to get closer to our roots, learn a new skill, indulge in a hobby, live more connected to our history and the land around us, or that we’d like to be more self-sufficient for environmental or health reasons. No “P” word involved.

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Going “Green” Instead of Being A “Prepper”

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

I can tell you we’re not all that bad. You may find that it is wiser to couch your actions by going green instead of broadcasting you are a prepper. And sometimes, preppers and greenies are already kind of walking in lock-step. We just don’t always realize it.

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8 Easy Garden Hacks

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Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from R. Ann Parris. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.   Work Smarter Not Harder – In The Garden Sometimes in […]

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