Supercharge Your Garden! 4 Steps to Vibrant Soil Using Compost and Crop Rotation

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Pest management and pathogen control are great reasons to use crop rotation. For me, though, nutrient management is my most important reason.

Our soil was devoid of organic matter when we moved to our homestead. I sheet-mulched, piled my beds with fresh compost, cover-cropped, chopped and dropped, trench-composted, and spread worm castings like I was icing a cake.

In short order, we had incredible yields. I thought I was a gardening genius…

Parsnip - Crop Rotation

The first clue that I’d run up against diminishing returns on compost applications was my parsnips. The tuber-tops peaking from the soil were 5 inches wide. The greens were shrubs. I expected a lifetime supply of parsnips. Then I harvested. My parsnips were only 2-3 inches long and looked like parsnip pancakes.

That’s when I learned about nitrogen overload from compost. I yanked my disappointing parsnips and planted corn. My corn was supposed to grow 6 feet tall and have 1 large ear and 1-2 small ears. I got 3 full-sized ears on 10-foot stalks.

With the magic of crop rotation revealed to me in that experience, I studied it and experimented extensively to create optimal crop rotations. Here’s what I learned.

1. Start with a Soil Test

If you haven’t had a comprehensive, professional soil test recently, get one. You’ll be surprised by how much they can tell you about your soil and gardening practices.

Mineral Content

Soil tests include listings of mineral content. If you have deficiencies, they will include application rates for minerals to bring your soil up to par.

They’ll include the phosphorous and potassium (the PK in NPK) content. If you are a regular compost user, it’s easy to overload soil with phosphorous and potassium. This test can let you know if your compost habits put you at risk for excesses.

Soil pH

Soil tests divulge soil pH. Unless your pH is right for what you plan to grow, you might as well be planting on the moon. Most vegetables like a pH around 6.5.

You may have to add lime to make soil alkaline (e.g. raise the pH). Alternately, you may have to add sulfur to acidify soil (lower the pH). A soil test should include recommendations for this, too.

Organic Matter Content

Tests also tell you how much organic matter is in your soil. Less than 3% and you need to add a ton (or tons) of organic matter to get your soil into shape for growing healthy vegetables.


Nitrogen level is the one thing a good soil test will not tell you. Or, it should warn you that nitrogen results are unreliable. Nitrogen, in the soil, is inherently volatile.

Nitrogen changes based on what you plant (or your weeds), tilling and harvesting practices, amendments used, weather (e.g., lightning adds nitrogen), and water sources. Heavy rain can leach nitrogen, while acid rain adds it.

This volatility is why nitrogen is one of the most difficult forces to manage in a vegetable garden. It’s also why professional growers tend to use slow-release fertilizers, or multiple applications.

If you are like me, though, you want to use stuff you can produce at home without spending a fortune. In that case, consider rotation plans that include rotating your food crops, cover crops, and homemade amendments for nutrient management.

Start by making the adjustments determined by your soil test. When you have a good soil-health baseline, start using crop rotation for long-term nutrient management and soil improvement.

2. Rotate Food Crops by Nitrogen Needs

Nitrogen is like candy to plants. They love it. Some plants can eat all the nitrogen they want and grow better. Others eat too much and end up sick. And just like people sometimes do with candy, plants are prone to eat too much nitrogen when it’s available—even when it’s not good for them.

Plants do need some quantity of nitrogen to grow. The right quantity is good for them (I can’t say the same about candy for people). Still, this analogy offers an easy framework for understanding nitrogen and its use in crop rotations.

To manage plant consumption of nitrogen, the first thing you do is load up the nitrogen in your soil. Then start the rotation party!

  1. Start with plants that thrive on nitrogen—a.k.a. heavy feeders.
  2. After the heavy feeders, bring in plants that benefit from moderate nitrogen. These are your medium feeders.
  3. When the nitrogen is nearly depleted, bring in the candy addicts. These plants can’t handle much nitrogen, but they love it so much they’ll suck every speck of it out of your beds. We call these light feeders, but they are really more like the cleanup crew.
  4. Once your bowl is empty, refill it and start the progression again. Grow nitrogen-fixing plants or add nitrogen-heavy amendments like fresh compost. Or do both.

Real Garden Crop Rotation

In a real garden scenario, this would look like adding a whole bunch of compost and fertilizer to your beds. Then, plant corn, followed by cucumbers, and finally turnips. Next, add more fertilizer and/or bring on the beans (or peas, or clover…).

If you spread this cycle over a four-year period, you have also created a rotation schedule that works for pathogen management by using four different families of plants.

Identify Heavy, Medium, and Light Feeders

When I tried to find a good list of plants by feeding type, I found a lot of discrepancies. I recommend you make your own lists based on what you actually plan to grow and on your own experience in your garden.

Whether you like big agribusiness or not, they sure know how to manage nitrogen for optimal production. Checking nitrogen application rates for commercial fertilizers is a great way to identify your feeder type (even if you won’t be using their products).

Here’s the list I used to glean this information. It’s geared for Wisconsin, but the general reference tables have universal utility.

Page 43 starts a table of nitrogen application rates for many common crops. Those rates change based on the amount of organic matter in soil. Compost-rich beds need less nitrogen than tilled dirt because the biological life in the soil continues to make nitrogen if soil is kept moist.

A table on page 30 tells you how much potassium and phosphorous plants need—as well as which plants will remove it from the soil—which conveniently brings us to our next topic!

Cover Crop - Crop Rotation

3. Rotate Cover Crops for Healthy Soil

In addition to rotating food crops, rotating cover crops is important for nutrient management. Different cover crops serve different functions.

Cover Crop to Remove Excess Potassium and Phosphorous

Compost adds humus and fertility to your garden. However, without good crop rotation, compost can overload soil with phosphorous and potassium in the long run. To prevent this, you need to rotate in plants that are effective at extracting those nutrients.

Alfalfa and red clover are exceptional at extracting potassium and good at extracting phosphorous. Hairy vetch and field peas are excellent for removing excess phosphorous. These plants are also potential nitrogen fixers.

For phosphorous and potassium removal, harvest the above-ground greens to feed your greens-eating livestock or add them to your compost pile for later application. Do not use them as chop-and-drop, or they will just end up right back in the soil. Always leave the roots in the ground, though, for nitrogen-fixing benefits.

Cover Crop to Add Nitrogen

Nitrogen fixers are plants that pull nitrogen from the air and store it in nodes on their roots. When the plants die, the nitrogen nodes decompose and release that stored nitrogen into the soil. Nitrogen fixers add more nitrogen when they are killed before they flower. If they set fruit (e.g., peas or beans), they are more like “nitrogen neutral.”

Nitrogen fixers work best when inoculated with a beneficial bacteria that encourages them to store more nitrogen. Planting rates are different for nitrogen fixing than for food production. To kill plants being used as nitrogen fixers, scythe or mow them to the ground. Leave roots in the ground and greens on the beds.

Cover Crop With a Biofumigant

Mustard is a beneficial biofumigant to break up soil pathogens and pest problems. Mustard also scavenges minerals in deeper soil and makes them available to plants that don’t root as deeply.

When using mustard as a biofumigant and mineral source, you need to purchase cover-crop mustard seeds (not edibles). Before the plants flower, cut them to the ground and gently turn them into your soil.

Cover Crop to Preserve Nitrogen

Grasses like wheat and annual rye are used as cover crops because of their ability to protect soil and scavenge nitrogen. While they don’t technically fix nitrogen like legumes, the biological organisms in your soil will quickly decompose those grasses if they are cut while green and allowed to decompose in the beds they were grown in. As the grass decomposes, it releases nitrogen into the soil at the surface, making it more readily available to next-round crops.

Choosing Your Cover Crop

Cover crops work best when selected based on either what you plan to grow next or on what you harvested, to correct for deficiencies. For example, corn is a heavy feeder. It sucks up nitrogen like a vacuum—as in, everything easily in reach.

After corn, wheat would be a good option. Wheat will pull nitrogen from all the areas the corn missed. If chopped and left on the bed, it decomposes and disperses that nitrogen more uniformly for the next planting (e.g., cucumbers).

Alternately, if nitrogen depletion is suspected, Austrian peas or clover used as a nitrogen fixer would work better than wheat. Rather than having a set schedule for cover crop rotation, make decisions based on the needs of your beds. There are fewer pests and pathogens in cooler weather, so strict rotations are not as necessary with winter cover crops.

Compost - Crop Rotation

4. Rotate Your Homemade Amendments by Crop Needs

If your main amendments are of the homemade variety, you also want to consider rotating the kinds of amendments you put on your beds along with your crops.

4 Types of Compost and Their Uses

Humus Compost

Humus compost is the stuff made by layering browns and greens at a ratio of 25 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, making a large pile that heats to at least 130°F, turning it a few times, and then allowing it to age for 2 years. Humus increases the air- and water-holding capacity of soil and allows biological life to thrive. This kind of humus compost doesn’t have a lot of nitrogen.

Fresh Compost

The biological life that makes compost also creates nitrogen through their digestive processes. The longer a pile ages, the more nitrogen and other nutrients leach out by way of rain, air, etc. Fresh compost is made by the same process as humus compost. It’s just been aged less than six months and so has more nitrogen.

Composted Manure

Composted manure—i.e., a pile of manure mixed with fallen feed and bedding materials not necessarily at a rate of 25:1—can radically vary in nitrogen and nutrient content. Store-bought chicken manure has a 3-2-3 rating for NPK. Meanwhile, uncomposted chicken manure could have an NPK rating of 40-60-40, 55-55-47, or other variations.

Personally, I use a mix of chicken and goat manure that’s been aged for 3-6 months as a nitrogen source. I don’t know the exact nitrogen content, but it doesn’t burn my plants and it grows huge corn and cabbage.

Mystery Compost

Mystery compost happens when you throw a bunch of stuff together and wait. The nitrogen content will vary by what’s in the pile and what decomposed it. You could just throw it on your beds fairly fresh and hope you get lucky! Or, you could age it and use it for humus.

With these compost definitions out of the way, on to when to use them for nutrient management crop rotation.

Rotating Compost Applications for Nutrient Management

Here’s what my amendment rotations generally look like:

Year 1: Apply 4 inches of fresh or manure compost.

The risks from E. coli and other bad bacteria are minimized if your compost materials are 6 months old when your food is harvested. If you are growing lettuce, aim for 6-month-old compost to start. If you are growing vegetables like winter squash, aim for 3-month-old compost, because it will be over 6 months old by the time you harvest.

Year 2: Apply 2-4 inches of humus compost

Humus compost will still provide some nitrogen and other nutrients. Mainly though, it will help preserve any leftover nitrogen from the fresh compost in year 1 and replace the organic matter you harvested.

Year 3: Apply 2 inches of mulch to preserve moisture.

By year 3 in this plan, you are organic-matter heavy. You may also have extra potassium and phosphorous. For light feeders, just use mulch to protect your soil and preserve moisture rather than piling on compost.

Mulch is essentially browns with no greens. Straw, leaves, or wood chips work well. Mulch will eventually decompose and add nutrients, but not within the planting period that you apply it.

Year 4: Add nitrogen; remove phosphorous and potassium.

This is when you want to plant your nitrogen-fixing, phosphorous- and potassium-extracting cover crops.

Personally, I like to eat some peas and beans, too. I plant peas and beans to eat in early spring through mid-summer. I cover-crop from late summer through winter. I mulch the plants I grow for me and leave them on the beds. I remove the greens and leave the roots from my cover crops.

Year 5: Soil test and repeat.

Start the cycle again. But first, get another soil test and make adjustments as necessary. That second soil test is like a report card on how you are doing with your crop rotations for nutrient management.

Be Flexible in Your Use of Amendments

Just like with cover-crop rotations, if your beds seem depleted, then you may need to add fresh compost rather than humus compost. You may want to add humus compost rather than mulch if your beds feel dirt heavy and humus short. You may also need to up your game at times and apply worm castings or other stronger amendments. Use the health of your crops as your guide.

Crop-Rotation Conversation—What Do You Think?

To do crop rotation really well, you need to make it specific to your soil, pests, pathogen risks, crops, and amendments. There’s no canned crop-rotation plan that is going to work well for every garden.

Personally, I love the challenge of figuring out effective crop rotations. Gardening could get boring really fast if you weren’t taking your skills to the next level, paying attention to your plants, and improving your processes.

My intent with this series has been to inspire you with some of my crop-rotation concepts. Now, I’d like to hear from you!

What kind of rotations are you thinking of, what are you using now, and what is your intuition telling you? What works? What doesn’t?

(Also, include your growing region and soil type (loam, sand, clay) if possible so others can decide whether your ideas will work for them. I started with clay, but now have what I call clay-loam.)

Please join the conversation on crop rotation and share your comments below!

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Homemade Baked Beans Recipe – Made From Dried or Canned Beans

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When you head to a picnic you will almost always find a big crockpot or dish full of baked beans. It is an American staple at each summertime holiday gathering and in Europe you will even find baked beans served

The post Homemade Baked Beans Recipe – Made From Dried or Canned Beans appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

Book Review: Country Beans

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I picked up Country Beans just to buy something is a really cool store I visited in East Tennessee. I am sure glad I did. This book is the same book I used to make the Tofu and bean milk, as well as the bean flour I used to bake the bread, which opened the door to the acorn flour I used to make the bannock. This book covers lots of material – from how to reduce gas, how to speed up the bean cooking process, and how to turn beans into a variety of other things. Who knew you

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Your Survival Garden: Time to Start Thinking About Calories

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In good times there are tons of reasons to garden.  It saves money, gets you closer to your food supply, teaches you valuable skills and gives you some independence.  In bad times there is only one real reason to garden—to grow food so you can survive. But looking deeper, it isn’t the food that keeps […]

Top 10 Seeds to Hoard

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Have you ever thought about which plants you should focus on for long-term survival? If food supplies were to run low, what could you grow to provide a large amount of food, calories, and nutrients to help your family stay full and healthy? Just as important, though, are plants that are easy to grow. Your […]

Three Sisters Gardens: Grow More Food With Less Work

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Imagine a small garden that produces an above-average harvest, yet needs minimal water, fertilizer, and weeding—and, as a bonus, leaves your soil more fertile at the end of the growing season. Some might call that a dream come true, but what it’s really called is a Three Sisters Garden.

Yet this remarkably savvy strategy for growing corn, beans, and squash wasn’t developed by a Ph.D. in a modern research garden. Instead, it began centuries—perhaps millennia—ago as a Native American agricultural tradition.

Three Sisters Garden 3

What is a Three Sisters Garden?

Unlike today’s gardens where plant varieties are separated by straight rows, a Three Sisters Garden allows corn, bean, and squash plants to grow together and benefit from each other.

The beauty of a Three Sisters Garden comes from the symbiotic relationship between these three crops.

  1. As corn stalks grow, they create poles for beans to climb on to gain support and find sunlight without getting outcompeted by the sprawling squash.
  2. The bean roots also help stabilize the corn in heavy winds and fertilize it by “fixing” nitrogen from the air into a form that corn and squash roots can absorb.
  3. The squash’s large leaves are prickly enough to deter pests from coming close, and they shade out weeds while keeping the soil moist.1)The Old Farmers’ Almanac: The Three Sisters: Corn, Beans, and Squash 

History of the Three Sisters Garden

When agriculture began in the Americas 7,000 years ago, it quickly changed the landscape and local cultures beyond recognition.

Maize, beans, and squash were domesticated in Central and South America and gradually made their way to the American Midwest.2)University of Nebraska: The “How” of the Three Sisters: The Origins of

Different Native American tribes began to integrate these crops into their horticultural traditions, though the Iroquois (also called the Haudenosaunee) first used the phrase “Three Sisters” to describe the practice of growing them together in highly productive garden plots.

Over the centuries, the Three Sisters gained physical and spiritual importance for the Iroquois. Their planting method involved sowing all three seeds in fertilized mounds that prevented the young plants from getting waterlogged.

Women then weeded and hoed these mounds throughout the summer and harvested the crops in the early fall before drying and storing them for winter. Celebrated as a gift from the Great Spirit, corn, beans, and squash were eaten together for most meals.

American colonists first learned of Three Sisters Gardens over 300 years ago.

Since they were used to straight, orderly farm fields, most settlers first dismissed these densely planted gardens as wild.

However, they soon learned that this biointensive combination-planting method was perfectly suited for the region, as cleared land was difficult to maintain and small Iroquois garden plots needed to produce higher yields than European ones.

Today, a Three Sisters Garden is a great example of an ecological guild in America because each plant directly benefits the others.

Grown together, Three Sisters crops produce more food with less water and fertilizer.

In fact, Three Sisters Garden plots tend to produce 20 percent more calories than when the same crops are grown apart.3)Estimating Productivity of Traditional Iroquoian Cropping Systems from Field Experiments and Historical Literature

A Nutritional Cornucopia

Not only are the Three Sisters naturally suited to grow well together, they also pack a powerful nutritional punch. In fact, a diet of corn, beans, and squash is nutritionally balanced without the need for other protein sources.

Corn kernels are rich in carbohydrates and become a complete protein source when eaten with beans.

Full of vitamins and minerals, squash rounds out the diet nutritionally.

Making them even more valuable, corn, beans, and squash all could be dried and eaten throughout the winter.4)Native Seeds: How to Grow a Three Sisters Garden When combined with other vegetables native to America like peppers and tomatoes, the Three Sisters fueled culinary creativity and promoted health all year long.

Three Sister Variations

Not all Three Sister gardens are the same.

While squash, beans, and corn were important food crops throughout America, many native cultures made variations on the growing method to better fit their local conditions.

For example, throughout the dry Southwest, the Three Sisters were often planted in separate fields with wide plant spacing to maximize the use of a limited water supply.5)Native Seeds: How to Grow a Three Sisters Garden

In some places, a fourth sister joined the trio. Sunflowers attracted insect pollinators to the garden while distracting birds from the corn and providing support for bean vines.

Throughout the Southwest, tobacco was interplanted with the Three Sisters as a ceremonial plant.

Likewise, watermelons and gourds were easily substituted for squash.6)Native Seeds: How to Grow a Three Sisters Garden

Three Sisters Garden 4

Tips for Getting Started

When you follow the Three Sisters method today, you equip your garden with the building blocks it needs to grow flavorful plants that are well suited to your natural conditions.

You can also help preserve a Native American heritage and benefit from centuries of horticultural innovation and experimentation by growing your own Three Sisters Garden at home.


There are plenty of variations for laying out a Three Sisters Garden, but it’s always best to plant your corn in clusters instead of rows. This makes it easier to attract pollinating insects for your squash plants and for wind-pollinated corn tassels to fertilize each other.7)Native Seeds: How to Grow a Three Sisters Garden

Make sure you choose a spot with plenty of direct sunlight and a neutral pH level (6.0–7.0 is best).

Minimal space is needed for a Three Sisters Garden. A 10-foot-by-10-foot plot tends to be ideal. That’s a small enough space to be fairly simple to prepare and maintain while ensuring that you sow enough corn (about 10–20 plants) for it to cross-pollinate.

To set up a traditional Three Sisters Garden in a 10-foot-by-10-foot plot, mark off three rows spaced five feet apart. Each row will have five 18-inch mounds, alternating corn/bean mounds with squash mounds.8)Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Growing a Three Sisters Garden


Sowing a Three Sisters Garden takes a little longer from start to finish, but the steps are simple—and the results are oh so worth it!

  1. Start by fertilizing the garden bed with your favorite amendments.
  2. Form the soil into flat mounds that are a foot high and 18 inches in diameter.
  3. Alternate the corn/bean mounds with the squash mounds.
  4. Stagger the planting by species to create a “stacked” garden that gives the corn and/or sunflowers a few weeks’ head start. This also prevents the plants from outcompeting each other in their beginning growth stages.
    1. Once the danger of frost has passed, plant four kernels of corn an inch deep and six inches apart, with each kernel forming one of the four points of a diamond shape.
    2. Once the corn reaches five inches tall, plant four bean seeds in a pattern that adds corners to your diamond shape, effectively making it a square.
    3. Squash seeds should be planted one week later in the remaining mounds. In each mound, plant three squash seeds four inches apart in a triangle shape.9)The Old Farmers’ Almanac: The Three Sisters: Corn, Beans, and Squash
  5. Make sure to hill up the soil as it starts to level out so that there is plenty of material for the root systems to work with.


As the Three Sisters grow together, you will notice the bean sprouts starting to climb the corn stems, and heavy squash leaves starting to fan out along the ground.

While squash leaves help shade out weeds as they grow, it’s best to regularly weed your plot when the plants are young to prevent them from getting outcompeted. Laying down a layer of organic mulch is also a good way to help the soil retain moisture on hot summer days.

Insect pests are likely to find your garden as exciting as you do, so make sure to watch for squash bugs, squash vine borers, and corn earworms.

A drop of vegetable oil on the tips of corn ears can help fend off an invasion, and you can keep your beans healthy by working them only when the plants are dry.10)The National Gardening Association: Growing the Three Sisters

To preserve the purity of heirloom varieties, you can hand-pollinate your corn plants. Simply place waxed paper bags over the corn silk to prevent pollen from getting in. When the tassels are two inches out, remove the bags and shake your preferred pollen on the silks before replacing the bags to prevent contamination.


By mid-to-late summer, your Three Sisters Garden will be brimming with produce.

Summer squash is often the first to mature. You can harvest the squashes once they are two inches in diameter, as they taste best when small and tender.

Winter squash needs to be harvested when the outside skin is hardened and the squash has lost its natural sheen. Make sure to cleanly slice the stem with a knife, and leave the stem on the squash to help it stay fresh for several months.

Green beans are best harvested when the pods are slim and tender. So long as you prevent your beans from over-maturing and going to seed, they should produce vigorously for a month or two. Take care not to damage the vines as you pick them, and you should enjoy fresh beans for much of the summer.

Ears of corn are ready to pick about 20 days after the first silk stacks appear. You’ll know the ears are mature when the silks are dry and brown and the kernels are smooth and plump, and emit a milk-like juice when you puncture them with your thumbnail. Simply twist off each ear when ripe, and eat immediately for the best flavor.

Three Sisters Garden 2

Best Three Sister Varieties to Grow

Not every variety of corn, beans, and squash grows well in a Three Sisters Garden.

Oftentimes, traditional heirloom varieties are better suited to the specific growing conditions that companion planting calls for.

Below are varieties of corn, beans, and squash that are well suited for Three Sisters Gardens.


Sweet corn was a staple food in Native American diets,11)Mother Earth News: Native American Gardening: The Three Sisters and More and most varieties grow well using the Three Sisters method. Native corns tend to be heartier and more drought resistant than industrial varieties, so make sure you look to corn varieties that are naturally suited for your growing conditions.

It’s best to choose a tall variety so that your bean plants have plenty of room to grow.

Pencil Cob corn is a prolific, six-foot variety, and Flor del Rio is an excellent heirloom popcorn.

If water is an issue, Southwestern varieties like Tohono O’odham and Hopi mature fast and use less water, but their short stature makes it harder for them to support beans.


When choosing your beans, it’s essential that you select pole beans instead of bush beans to ensure they trellis themselves on the corn stalks. Common pole bean varieties include pinto, kidney, black, lima, and navy.

Ideally, you should grow “corn beans,” as they have adapted to growing in shady conditions and won’t suffer from overcrowding.12)Mother Earth News: Native American Gardening: The Three Sisters and More

Few Native American bean species have been preserved, but the Ohio pole bean and Amish Nuttle are two options.13)Mother Earth News: Native American Gardening: The Three Sisters and More Other versatile pole beans include Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder, O’odham Vayos, and Four Corners Gold. If you do end up with a short corn variety like Tutelo Strawberry, you might pair it with a bean variety like Wild Pigeon, since it isn’t aggressive enough to overpower the shorter corn.


Unfortunately, few squash varieties that were common in traditional Native American gardens are still in use. While Yellow Summer Crookneck and Early White Scallop date back at least to the 1700s, the varieties available today are significantly different from the originals.

The best squash variety depends on the amount of space you have to work with.

If your garden provides ample room for plants to sprawl, go for a winter squash variety like Tarahumara Pumpkin or Magdalena Big Cheese.

Tighter arrangements better suit Yellow Crookneck squash, Ponca butternut, and Dark Star zucchini.

A Harvest of Heritage

A delightful combination of science and history, the Three Sisters Garden nurtures both body and soul.

Yes, it provides larger harvests with less work and water. But it also connects gardeners with centuries of heritage—and lets them play a vital role in ensuring that this wondrous planting method survives to nourish yet another generation.

For more information on Three Sisters Gardens, check out THE definitive book on the subject—Native American Gardening: Buffalobird-Woman’s Guide to Traditional Methods.




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Meet Mike Reeske, Local Changemaker

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Mike Reeske, Local Changemaker

Mike Reeske
Local Changemaker

Company: Rio Del Rey Heirloom Beans


Fast Fact: It was a happy accident that first led Rio Del Rey to introduce the Anazapi bean, a cross between the Anasazi and Rio Zape. The company will produce its first commercial crop of the hybrid bean in 2018.

Nominated by:
Cat M. | Escondido, CA


Please explain a little about your background and what first sparked your interest in developing organic dry heirloom beans?

I grew up in Anaheim, California, where my parents were orange ranchers and restaurant owners. I graduated from Chapman University in 1967 and began teaching high school science, a career that spanned more than 40 years in the classroom.

During this time, I opened the Orange County Marine Institute in Dana Point Harbor as its education director, developed the Outdoor Education Program on Palomar Mountain for the Vista Unified School District, and worked 12 years as a writer and developer on the Science Education for Public Understanding Program for the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley. I have co-authored 13 books there, including Science and Sustainability, Understanding Environmental Health Risks, and Plastics in Our Lives. My last book, The Life Cycle of Everyday Stuff, deals with natural systems.

In every place I have lived, I’ve developed programs that were community-based, teaching people about their local environments and the need to preserve them. I live in the chaparral now and have merged my bean-growing philosophy with the cultural and historic themes of the Southwest.

After retiring, I began what is now an eight-year effort to bring heirloom dry beans to more people as a fantastic superfood that is both very flavorful and great for personal health.

How did your passions grow into what is today Rio Del Rey Heirloom Beans and the “small family farm” that yields them?

While teaching, I had the opportunity in the early ‘70s to offer gardening as an alternative to a semester of life science in high school. There was an acre of land behind my classroom, and it soon became the center of 36 student gardens. There, the kids discovered that kohlrabi actually tastes great, and real learning takes place when we provide relevant, hands-on experiences.

Soon after this, I was hired at a new high school in Cypress, California. In addition to teaching science, I was asked to lead a volunteer community and student effort to raise funds in order to landscape the new school—a task both fun and formidable. It took two years of work, and when I wasn’t in the classroom, I was out pushing a wheel barrow of hoses to water the burgeoning plants.

After I retired, I asked myself, “What would I like to do when I grow up?” You see, in all of our lives there are opportunities to reinvent ourselves—to germinate the dormant seeds of creativity we have made in other parts of our lives and call upon those energies and ideas to lead us into the future.

I remember thinking back to what Voltaire said in the ending to Candide. After experiencing the world’s conditions and catastrophes, Candide was asked what he learned about life. His reply was, “We must tend our gardens.” That really struck me in its beautiful simplicity. I had always enjoyed working the soil and seeing the fruition of my labor. But what would I grow?

There are meaningful coincidences in our lives. In 2008, I was reading an article on heirloom dry beans—and it struck me that I had never really tasted these critters. I did some research and discovered Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson, Arizona. It was founded to preserve the native tribal seeds of the Southwest (including Northern Mexico).

I obtained some purple Hopi beans. They were like the purple, black-striped, shiny Rio Zape beans we sell today.

I was blown away by their taste!

After preparing them simply with garlic, onions, and some salt, I took my first taste. Wow! These were not my mother’s limas. They were meaty, full-flavored, and oh, so creamy. They were so unlike the canned pinto, black, and kidney beans that I had come to think of as my culinary bean palette. They sung with flavor and richness. I had to have more, and I needed to do my homework on beans.

I was able to begin growing some varieties of heirloom beans to determine which ones had the best taste and were adaptable to the inland valley of San Diego County. After three years of work, I had grown enough beans organically to begin commercial production on 23 acres of land adjacent to the San Luis Rey River that I leased from an Indian tribe.

I named my farm Rio Del Rey (“the King’s River”) and began growing heirloom beans in 2013. In 2017, we moved the farm to the land surrounding our home in Valley Center, California.

Can you describe the main tenets of the organic and sustainable farming practices you employ? How can Rio Del Rey serve as a model for other small farms that share your climate?

As I began my farm, I realized that to produce great food, you must employ the best of farming methods—and do this in a sustainable way. Conventional farming methods are, at many times, at odds with nature and interfere with the natural systems that produce soil fertility. The heavy use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides on our food crops is not sustainable and, in many cases, harmful.

We go through a great deal of effort to say that our beans are certified organic. Unlike with other terms, such as “natural,” our beans are regulated through an extensive certification process and undergo an annual inspection to ensure they meet the USDA’s National Organic Program requirements.

Our products are also certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), a not-for-profit organization. It is important to me to share with others the goal of sustainability and the stewardship we practice in caring for the land we grow on.

There are more small farms and organic farms in San Diego County than in any other county in the U.S. More than 5,500 farmers call it home and make their living on 5,732 small family farms. Sixty-eight percent of these are nine or fewer acres in size.

When I decided to farm heirloom dry beans organically, I made the commitment to a holistic management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain, and enhance ecological harmony.

In short, it’s restoring the soil to the point that it can sustain healthy growth now and in years to come.

Beans are a natural complement, because they add nitrogen to the soil and are a part of the traditional rotation of crops to promote long-term sustainability. As farmers, we work for years to restore this natural balance of the soil. Sustainable farming works in harmony with the renewable systems found in nature. Because it requires long-term goals, it costs more to implement—and leads to increased costs for organic produce.

Heirloom dry beans are a niche market with few organic players. Our farm serves as a model for what is possible using relatively inexpensive equipment and enhanced farming practices to produce a unique crop that is highly desirable for a healthy lifestyle.

Rio Del Rey’s goals focus on:

  • Developing new and disease-resistant bean varieties
  • Collecting and preserving rare and endangered beans from around the world
  • Supplying unique organic heirloom beans for cooking and for planting as seeds
  • Creating a sustainable farming system as a model for future small farms to use in further developing heirloom beans
  • Providing educational opportunities for everyone interested in our heirloom beans

You source rare and endangered bean varieties (and even the farming equipment used on them!) from all over the world. Please describe how some of these connections came about.

When I met Steve Temple, a highly respected bean researcher at the University of California, Davis (UCD), he pointed out that the greatest barrier for the small bean farmer comes in the cost of a bean threshing machine, because no small machines have been made in the U.S. for many years.

My earlier research had confirmed this, and lingering at the back of my mind was the impending harvest of 4 acres of beans. Imagine freeing the beans by hand labor! (We do this now for our 44 experimental beans, and I can assure you that shelling thousands of beans is no pool party!)

The only small-scale threshers on the market were those made in China and Italy, but after intensifying my search, I also found a company in Konya, Turkey—home of the Whirling Dervishes. These threshing machines are used all over Greece, Turkey, and northern Africa. And the best part? They were affordable! I contacted them and purchased two machines. The thresher runs off the PTO drive of a tractor. It met my desires for a more sustainable use of energy, as opposed to buying a diesel or electrically powered model.

In October 2013, my wife, Chris, and I flew to Konya for a day to meet the owners, Osman and his son Nuri, and the workers at their thresher factory. [It astonished me that the threshers were completely manufactured there using large rolls of steel and steel bars, formed by milling, bending, and welding. Only the wheels and tires were outsourced. Even the painting was done there.]

It was a great visit, demonstrating to me the high quality of the product and the integrity of the owners. I also learned how to operate the thresher and diagnose any problems that might arise during operation.

As for the beans themselves, I spent time in 2014 in Mexico’s Hidalgo state learning to harvest and prepare many foods in a 1704 hacienda. I had the opportunity to meet bean farmers who had preserved some of the great diversity found in beans.

One Hidalgo farmer gave me a bag of large, purple runner beans—each just sparkling like a deep purple gem—the Ayocote Morado.

I planted these beans back home along with subsequent beans that we collected from Turkey in 2014 and from Chile and Argentina in 2015 to determine which kinds were most productive and well-suited to our soil and climate. All of this has led me to the passion I have today for growing and sharing my heirloom beans with people.

Can you explain the goals behind the research you conduct on your own and in conjunction with the University of California?

Our goal is to make the supply of heirloom dry beans available in larger quantities and at a cheaper price than the going rates of $6-plus per pound.

We face two challenges.

The first is the lack of availability of high-quality organic bean seed, and the second (and much more daunting) is the limited amount of seed free of the Bean common mosaic virus (BCMV), which stunts plant growth and pod production.

Any industry is always in need of good research and development, and I found that partnering with UCD was an ideal answer. It has one of the most well-known bean researchers in the world, Dr. Paul Gepts. With his support, we are making great progress toward our goal.

As I mentioned, one of the greatest problems in growing heirloom dry beans is the presence of BCMV. Plants infected with the virus have light green or yellow mosaic patterns on the leaves, accompanied by puckering, blistering, and downward curling and rolling, resulting in stunted growth or death of the bean plant. This is a major barrier in producing substantial bean yields.

In 2015, we provided a grant donation to help fund the research efforts of Travis Parker, a UCD doctoral student. Travis’s work involves inserting the BCMV-resistant I gene (found naturally in most string beans and many commercial beans) into some heirloom varieties using the traditional processes of plant breeding. This begins with growing, then cross-pollinating, an heirloom plant.

In this example, the Rio Zape is crossed with a white bean, the Matterhorn, which contains the resistant I gene. The plant is grown to maturity, producing what is called the F1 hybrid seed. The hybrid seed (all brown) looks quite different from the original Rio Zape seed (purple with black stripes), but now contains the I gene. This process is repeated six more times. With each generation of back-crossing to the heirloom parent, more heirloom seed characteristics are recovered. To regain all of the original qualities of the Rio Zape bean, the hybrid seeds are planted, and their pollen is used to cross-pollinate a normal Rio Zape parent.

At the end, 99.6 percent of the qualities of the original Rio Zape have been added—with the benefit of the plant now being resistant to BCMV. From our 2017 research, this bean produces a plant twice as big as the original and with many more pods!

Our goal now is to scale up seed production and distribute the seed free of charge to farmers across America.

How about the work you’re doing to develop your own hybrid bean made from crossing an Anasazi with a Rio Zape?

Since there are no large bean processing warehouses in southern California, I needed to find a way to further clean my beans. I purchased a new Clipper seed and grain cleaner—the most widely used air screen cleaners in the world—from the A.T. Ferrell Company, which has been manufacturing them since 1869.

It worked wonders in separating split beans and debris from the beans. However, no cleaner can further separate out discolored or slightly cracked beans.

The big warehouses use a $750,000 color sorter that uses computers, laser beams, and air jets to do the final sorting. For a small farm like ours, it’s my wife and I who do the final hand sorting, a slow but effective process.

In 2014, while hand cleaning some Anasazi beans, my wife noticed a very different bean that looked like it had the characteristics of both the Anasazi and Rio Zape. After cleaning several hundred pounds of beans, we had gleaned about 50 of these seeds.

Since beans are self-pollinating, there had to be a pollinator, which we attributed to the four beehives on the farm (the Anasazi beans were planted on a field next to a field of Rio Zape beans). The following year, I planted these seeds and they stayed “true,” producing the same hybrid seeds we began with. After two more years of planting and selectively harvesting, we now have almost 30 pounds, enough to finally produce a commercial crop in 2018—God willing and the creeks don’t overflow!

Anasazi and Rio Zape beans are some of our best-tasting beans. The new Anazapi bean, as we call it, should surely excel in taste, and it also has a more upright bush habit and shorter maturity date than the Rio Zape.

You work with chefs in San Diego County and throughout southern California. How do you partner with them to determine which heirlooms will most complement their menus?

Our beans serve as an alternative to traditional bean varieties, offering unique taste and freshness free of synthetic residues. (Commercial bean producers employ up to six different synthetic pesticides.)

Unlike the limited variety of dry beans found in stores (that can be up to five years old), our beans are sold fresh each year. The difference in how fast they cook is amazing! But the real delight comes in the remarkable taste of heirloom beans.

After hosting many cooking demos at farmers markets and stores, I realized that another valuable way for people to learn about heirloom dry beans was to educate the chefs of top San Diego restaurants. I invited the chefs and their staffs to our farm to see how we grow and process the beans and, most importantly, to do some tasting!

I developed a bean-tasting scale to evaluate the flavor, texture, and other qualities people look for in a good bean. This provided an education for the chefs and helped them discover what traits were valuable for use in their cooking. They assessed our current crop of beans and also some new varieties we had been growing to help determine what we would plant the next growing season.

This made them feel more connected to the farm and also provided us with a future market for these new beans. My philosophy here was to have chefs taste and think of the beans as a culinary palette of colors and flavors. A creative chef could use these experiences to come up some great new ideas that featured our beans in their menus.

You’ve said your work is a “celebration of a common heritage we share with all the people of the Americas.” What makes this a focal point of your efforts as a farmer and business owner?

Dry beans were domesticated from wild plants and first cultivated in Mexico more than 10,000 years ago, then shared with people who spread both north and south to form some of the great empires of the Americas. Today, we find these beans in a multitude of shapes and colors throughout the world. It is these dry bean seeds that are the heartbeat of Rio Del Rey.

I share a love for the indigenous people of the Americas, who gave us so many foods, including beans, corn, tomatoes, chocolate, potatoes, quinoa, and myriad more.

I first discovered this on my honeymoon in 1968, when we visited my best friend, John, who was in the Peace Corps in Ecuador. We traveled through Quito and reached the headwaters of the Amazon in the small village of Tena, crossing the river on a cart attached to a wire and pulley. There was no electricity, but infinite night sky and bats flying through the open houses!

It was here that I first experienced the wonder of the unknown, the sweet taste of so many different foods, and, most importantly, the friendship of the people.

We continued our travels, and in early 2017, we met organic farmers in Lima, Peru, who shared some of their beans with us. They are now growing outside our home so we can determine whether they are adaptable to a southern California climate.

We all benefit from the great diversity of people, cultures, and food traditions found in the Americas. In a time when there are forces at work to separate us from our common humanity, I find the mentality of the campfire most useful. Around the warmth of the fire, we share songs and stories and celebrate our differences rather than our prejudices. In our eyes is reflected the fire that radiates our hopes and dreams for the future and our optimism that those forces that would divide will fade away in the coming dawn.

Are there plans for Rio Del Rey to provide formal educational opportunities to those interested in heirloom beans?

We are currently working with CCOF to promote more agritourism in San Diego County. In the past, we have hosted groups, such as Farm Bureau members, schools, garden clubs, and permaculture clubs. We are working on a plan with a major tour company in San Diego to promote Valley Center, where our farm is located, and the new, unique groups of farms, wineries, and specialty livestock growers in this area 40 miles north of San Diego. We also teach organic farming to students at the local high school adjacent to our farm.

Can you offer a specific piece of farming, cooking, or healthy living advice that would be of interest to our Grow Network community?

Beans are an excellent, nonfat source of protein. Just one cup of cooked dry beans provides as much as 16 grams of protein (adults generally need to eat between 50 to 60 grams in a day). Beans can also help to counteract increases in diseases linked to lifestyle, such as obesity and diabetes, and are celebrated for increasing food security in areas with shortages. Plus, they improve cropping systems and are good for farmers.


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7 Staple Crops for Northern Gardeners

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If you live in a cold climate and have to garden to feed yourself, what staple crops would you grow?

There are plenty of staple crops in the tropics (I cover 10 good ones in my Top 10 Tropical Staple Crop Countdown video), but as you move farther north it gets harder to produce a lot of calories on your land. Seasons are short and sunlight is less intense, plus the variety of plants you can choose from is greatly limited.

Yet all is not lost.

Here are a few tried-and-true survival crops for the north, plus one that shows great potential.

7 Staple Crops for Northern Gardeners


Your best bet as a survival staple in northern climates is the trusty potato.

staple survival crops - the potato

Potatoes are really hard to beat on yields and caloric content, plus they take less space and a lot less work than small grains.

I’ve grown wheat, oats, barley, and rye. Though they’re pretty easy to grow, processing makes them a serious pain. I outlined the pros and cons in this article–go read for yourself. Potatoes are much simpler.

The Three Sisters

This is a classic method of gardening practiced by American Indians, as seen here.

Interplant corn, beans, and pumpkins/winter squash for a three sisters garden.

Let’s cover them individually.


I love corn. It’s a ton of fun to grow, and it’s much easier to harvest and use than most other grains. It’s also beautiful.

staple survival crops - corn

The number of grain corn varieties is staggering. Up north, I recommend sticking to “flint” corns, as dent corn takes much longer to mature.


In the three sisters garden, pole beans are used. For a survival crop, look for types you can shell and save–not green beans.


Beans aren’t high on yields compared to a root crop, but they do contain a good amount of protein.

Pumpkins/Winter Squash

Pumpkins and winter squash will yield you a lot of weight in long-storing calories if you pick the right varieties. Vermont Harvest of the Month has a great illustration and recipes on their site.


In the north, gardeners should mostly stick to C. maxima and C. pepo varieties. In the south, C. moschata usually does better.

Jerusalem Artichokes

Steve Solomon and I were talking about northern staples earlier this year, and I suggested the Jerusalem artichoke as a super-easy root crop; however, he pointed out that the difficulty most of us have in digesting them makes them a lot less attractive in the long run.

I love their productivity, but the tubers mess up your digestion unless you’re very acclimated to them. They are likely a better choice as an animal feed, particularly for pigs.

staple survival crops - Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes are beautiful and make a great addition to the edges of a property or in rougher soil where regular vegetables don’t grow.

I planted these along a rough drainage ditch in hard Tennessee clay and rocks, and they grew like crazy.


Another option is turnips. I planted big beds of turnips one year and had great success . . . but eating turnips daily gets old fast.

Turnips: staple survival crops

I knew we grew too many when my wife Rachel presented me with a turnip pie she baked for dessert one evening.

After weeks of turnips stewed, mashed, roasted . . . then in pie . . . I didn’t want to see another turnip for a long time.

On the up side, the greens are very good to eat and quite nutritious, making them a dual-purpose crop.

Chinese Yams

Some northern gardeners have had luck growing the cold-tolerant Chinese yam, a.k.a. Dioscorea batatas.

a staple survival crop chinese yam

Experiment and see how it does. As a bonus, the Chinese yam produces tiny little roots on the vine. Cook them up like mini potatoes!

See those here:

Try Chinese yams in your garden and tell me how they turn out–they did well for me in North Florida, and Eric Toensmeier grew them successfully in Massachusetts. I think they have a lot of potential as a staple survival crop. Just be careful, as they may be an invasive species in some areas.

BTW, I mentioned their invasive nature in my newsletter and reader Sharon wrote back, the real invasive species is soy and GMO corn. Wild yam will feed you along with many other weeds.”

I agree. Feeding yourself is of high importance, and if a vegetable grows like a weed and produces calories . . . I find it hard to demonize.

You can buy Chinese yam bulbils from Sharon in her online store here, along with an assortment of other obscure and wonderful plants.


There you go: seven staple survival crops for northern gardens. Did I miss any of your favorites?

Let me know in the comments.

And check out my book Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening for serious help in a collapse.

Another great title is Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times.

And the must-have Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times (Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series), by Steve Solomon.


* Beans image by Kenneth Leung. Creative Commons license.


TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter

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How To Cook Beans And Save Money

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Have you often wondered how to cook beans? I’m talking about white, pinto, black, kidney and garbanzo beans. There are so many varieties,  but I’m just going to talk about these today. I eat beans literally every day. I love bean burritos plain without any cheese served on a flour tortilla. I also buy cans of beans, every kind of beans. I buy vegetarian pinto refried beans by the case as well. I wrote a post a few months ago about how to cook beans four different ways. I put the link below in case you missed it. The reason I am writing this post today is that I posted something on my Food Storage Moms FaceBook page about “throw an extra can of beans in your grocery cart this week”. It’s called food storage.

Well, I received comments that some people stockpile these beans and have no idea how to cook them. I had to remind myself that Mark and I grew up dirt poor. Although we didn’t know what the word poor really meant until years later. We both grew up on beans. I began to wonder, am I the only one in the neighborhood besides my friend Lyn A. that knows how to cook beans from scratch. This scares me, I mean it really concerns me.

Do you remember me asking you how we all need to live in a like-minded neighborhood, this is one example.

I went to a luncheon in the neighborhood last week, and of course, I just had to ask the question “does anyone at this table know how to cook beans, you know out of a bag, not a can?” I think I caught the group off guard, most said they don’t eat beans. I thought to myself, WHAT??? Am I the only one at the table that can cook and eat beans? It’s okay, I get it. I just don’t understand why they don’t know how to cook beans. I sure hope they know how to cook rice because I picture all of us eating a lot of beans and rice after a major disaster. Yes, we will have one, I promise.

I taught my daughters how to soak dry pinto beans, yes I bought them in 50-pound bags. Please note, we did not cook all 50-pounds at once. We picked through the beans looking for rocks or small chunks of dirt. We used a very large pan, my canning pan. Yep, I missed a chunk of dirt once in the beans and my daughter, Heidi wouldn’t eat our homemade refried beans for years. Yes, years. This is my water bath canning pan I used. When you have six in your family you learn to save money on groceries, right? Ball Water Bath Canner

Now, I buy the beans in cans or small bags. I do have several cases of beans in #10 cans (7-inches tall and 6-1/4-inches in diameter), some are instant beans that cook in 20 minutes with water and I have some regular non-instant pinto and black beans. Please check your #10 cans, I had to send some back to Thrive Life once because they were not “Instant Beans,” they were labeled incorrectly. When I called them a few years ago they quickly replaced them.

The reason I wanted a few cases of instant pinto beans is that they would use less fuel, use less water and cook faster.

Please remember, the older the beans, the longer they will take to cook. A pressure cooker is great to use for those old beans. If they need more cooking, reset the pressure cooker for a few more minutes and cook them longer. This is my favorite pressure cooker: Fagor Pressure Cooker

How To Cook Beans

I’m talking about bags of beans right now and cooking them on the stove. A small batch is one cup beans to 3 cups water.

Open the bags and spread the beans out to check for rocks and small chunks of dirt

Rinse the beans

Soak the beans overnight covered with water at least 3 inches above the beans

I drain the beans the next morning and cover with fresh water with at least 3 inches above the beans, add water as needed

Bring the beans to a boil and then simmer all day or until tender

Add your favorite items and simmer about an hour with your favorite add-ons. I like to add chopped onions, chili peppers, cumin, chopped cloves of garlic, chopped cilantro

Cook Beans That Are Old

If your beans are really old, try pressure cooking them 60-80 minutes on high. It may take more minutes depending on how old they are.

Pinto Beans

Soak and cook the beans as instructed above. These are my favorite, I use a potato masher to make my own refried beans. I use these seasonings: add your favorite items and simmer about an hour with your add-ons, I like to add chopped onions, chili pepper, cumin, chopped cloves of garlic, chopped cilantro.

cook beans

Black Beans

Soak and cook the beans as instructed above. I use these seasonings as shown above: Add your favorite items and simmer about an hour with your favorite add-ons, I like to add chopped onions, chili pepper, cumin, chopped cloves of garlic, chopped cilantro (similar to pinto beans).

cook beans

White Beans

Soak and cook the beans as instructed above. I love white beans because I all I have to do is add some dehydrated carrots, onions, celery and a ham hock. Life is good when you cook with a hot bowl of ham and beans.

cook beans

Kidney Beans

Soak and cook the beans as instructed above. I love to make these and eat them cold on a salad or add ingredients to make a chili with chopped onions, bell peppers, carrots and some celery. I try to add a few green chilies when Mark isn’t looking. Not really, but I add more to mine after the chili is cooked. Add a dollop of sour cream with some grated cheese, life is good.

cook beans

Garbanzo Beans

Soak and cook the beans as instructed above. I use these in chili as well, but I love them cold on salads too. I also make yummy hummus with them. Here is my hummus recipe: How To Make Hummus by Food Storage Moms

cook beans

How To Cook These Gems Four Different Ways by Linda

I hope you take the time to cook beans from a bag, but also buy beans readymade in cans and serve them with rice or as a side dish. We must learn to cook from scratch and teach this generation how much money they will save on their groceries if they learn to use beans in several meals each week. Take out is not an option after a disaster hits, the restaurants will be closed and the stores will be empty, trust me, life will not be as it is today.

Thanks again for being prepared for the unexpected, one can at a time is all it takes.

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3 Cheap Bean Recipes That Will Save You Time

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I have some cheap bean recipes today. As you probably know, I eat a bean burrito without cheese every day of the week. Sometimes I add salsa, and sometimes I just eat it with a dollop of guacamole. I prefer plain because I love the taste of refried beans and flour tortillas. Now, you can pressure can just about any bean, buy cans of beans, and purchase beans in small bags or 50-100 pound bags. Please note all of these recipes do not need the meat. I am a vegetarian, just giving you heads-up. In other words, meat is optional in all of my recipes.

Mark and I took a course to get our Master Preserver Canning Certificate right here in St.George, Utah. The class was at night and I asked as few women in my neighborhood to take the class but no one was interested. It didn’t take much to talk Mark into taking the class with me as he supports me in everything I have ever wanted to do in my life. Yes, I’m a very lucky woman. I wanted to know the new tricks to canning as I had not been canning for a few years. Things change, especially because we now have GMO fruits and vegetables. You may not know that now we need to add vinegar or citric acid to tomatoes, for instance. Here’s the deal, you can pressure beans, and they are very easy to do. We pressured several batches of beans at the class.

Now that we only have two living at home, I only buy a few small bags of beans, #10 cans of beans (7-inches high and 6-1/4 inches in diameter) for long-term storage. I do not store beans in 5-gallon buckets. I also store instant pinto beans that only require 20 minutes to cook them, therefore using less fuel when a disaster hits.

Purchase Cases Of Beans

I buy cases of beans when they are on sale. I prefer, pinto, refried, black, garbanzo, white, navy, kidney and chili beans. I also buy cases of tomato powder, it’s not worth my time to dehydrate tomatoes and make them into powder. I buy diced tomatoes because I can make any soup by just adding a few different spices. Please remember, only buy the beans you will eat.

When my girls were younger, I just soaked the pinto beans overnight, drained them the next morning covered with fresh water and cooked them all day on the stove. Then we made bean burritos and we froze them. This was a cheap dinner, but it also taught my girls to cook from scratch and to eat frugal meals.

Extra Items To Stock

If you stock your pantry with some of these items, you can make soup anytime for two people or your neighborhood.

  • Green chilies
  • Beef Stock
  • Chicken Stock
  • Vegetable stock
  • Dehydrated onions, fresh onions, or freeze-dried onions
  • Dehydrated celery, fresh celery, or freeze-dried celery
  • Dehydrated bell peppers, fresh bell peppers, or freeze-dried bell peppers
  • Beans: black, pinto, refried, white, kidney, chili, and garbanzo, to name just a few
  • Tomatoes: diced, fresh, freeze-dried, tomato sauce or paste
  • Cans of meat, or freeze-dried meats
  • Lime and lemon juice
  • Spices: chili pepper, cinnamon, garlic powder, sweet basil, salt, and pepper, Cayenne pepper, oregano, coriander, taco seasoning, and other spices you love to use

Cheap Bean Recipes

cheap bean recipes
1.Easy To Make Red Chili


1-2 pounds cooked and drained hamburger (optional)

2 onions or equal amount of freeze-dried onions

1-2 green or red bell peppers, chopped or equal amount of freeze-dried bell peppers

1 teaspoon garlic powder or fresh garlic chopped

2-16-ounce cans of chili beans (do not drain)

2-16-ounce cans of kidney beans (do not drain)

1-28-ounce can diced tomatoes (do not drain)

1 teaspoon sweet basil

2 tablespoons chili powder or less

1 teaspoon cumin

1-8-ounce can tomato paste or sauce


Combine the ingredients into a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until thoroughly cooked.

PRINTABLE: Recipe by Food Storage Moms

2.White Bean Soup


2 cans of cooked chicken, drained (12.5 ounces each) or 2-3 raw cubed chicken breasts

One chopped onion or freeze-dried onions (equivalent amount)

Two stalks of celery chopped or freeze-dried celery (equivalent amount)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 (15-ounce) cans white beans

1 (4-ounce) can of diced green chilies

1-(15-ounce) can of corn (drained)

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cups chicken broth

2-3 tablespoons lime juice


Grab a frying pan and stir-fry the chicken and onions in a little oil until cooked. I have pans that don’t require any oil and I love them. Combine all of the ingredients and place them in a slow cooker and cook 6-8 hours or until heated through. Serve with tortilla chips.

PRINTABLE: Recipe by Food Storage Moms

3.Easy Taco Soup

1 can of cooked ground beef, or you can use a frying pan to cook one pound. (optional)

*****This is where I buy Cooked Ground Beef for Mark.

One chopped onion or (equivalent amount) freeze-dried onions

1 (28-ounce) can of diced or crushed tomatoes, do not drain

1 (16-ounce) kidney beans, do not drain

1 (16-ounce) can of corn, do not drain

1 tablespoon taco seasoning, or one package if you don’t buy the jar Taco Seasoning 

Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan and heat through, or put the ingredients in a slow cooker for 6-8 hours.

PRINTABLE: Recipe by Food Storage Moms

This is my favorite size slow cooker, it’s a 3-1/2 Quart Slow Cooker 

I hope you store lots of beans so you can make cheap bean recipes! I store lots of beans and rice, life is good if your belly is full. May God bless you for being prepared for the unexpected. What bean do you like in your cheap bean recipes?

No-Fail Dinner Rolls by Linda

No-Fail Bread Sticks by Linda


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Dried Beans and Dried Rice – How Far Will They Go?

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Dried Beans and Dried Rice – How Far Will They Go? A couple years ago I was going through my inventory to determine how long my family could survive with the food we have stored.  I decided that I really need to do some research and some math to get a real fell for how …

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3 Never-Go-Bad, Easy-Storing Crops That Kept The Cowboys Alive

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3 Never-Go-Bad, Easy-Storing Crops That Kept The Cowboys Alive

The Old West was a tough place to hammer out a living. Whether it was mountain men, cowboys, or buffalo hunters, making ends meet in The West was not for the faint of heart.

Men and women alike had to be self-reliant, self-policed, and self-motivated if they were to survive. It certainly didn’t cater to the weak. Cowboys were one group who were particularly adept at taking care of themselves.

A major reason cowboys became so self-reliant was out of necessity. There simply wasn’t anything to fall back on in the middle of a 1,000-mile-long cattle drive. Part of their ability to complete a drive was attributed to their toughness and their ability to handle problems as they arose. Another reason they were able to complete these long drives can be credited to their planning for the drive. A properly supplied chuckwagon was essential if the cattle drive was to be successful.

One area the chuckwagon couldn’t fail in was the food department. The entire outfit would be composed of around 10-15 people, and those people needed food each day. Not only did those 10-15 people need food, but they needed fuel to energize their bodies for the 18-hour workdays they faced when on the trail.

Although they occasionally ate the cattle they were trailing, they also needed food in the wagon. Chuckwagons were packed full of all kinds of ingredients cooks used to prepare meals. Many sacks of flour and cornmeal were brought along for the journey. They also needed vegetables that would store well in the heat and provide enough energy for the cowboys to keep working.

‘Miracle Oil Maker’ Lets You Make Fresh Nut Oils Within Minutes!

If you are planning your garden and are looking for foods that store well, you might take a page from the cowboys and plant these three easy-storing crops.


One staple in the cowboy’s diet was beans – a food high in nutrition and protein (see nutritional information below). There is an old saying that proclaims, “There are two kind of people in this world — those that do eat beans, and those that should eat beans.” There are a variety of bean choices out there, but if you want to grow what the cowboys ate, then try pinto beans.

3 Never-Go-Bad, Easy-Storing Crops That Kept The Cowboys AliveAs they grow, simply let them hang on the plant until dry. After that, they need to be removed from the pod and stored in a cool, dry place. Once dried, beans can last for years without spoiling. Before cooking with them, soak them overnight to reconstitute.


Potatoes have an array of attributes that would have made them popular in any chuckwagon. First, they would have stored well on the long cattle drives. Just keep them cool and dry.

Second, they are packed with nutrition (see nutritional information below). In fact, there are stories of people eating nothing but potatoes for six months, without nutritional defects.

Just 30 Grams Of This Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

If you are looking for an easy-storing and nutritious crop, plant a few extra potatoes this spring.


One popular book with recipes from the Old West – “The Cowboy’s Cookbook” – includes a breakfast recipe of fried potatoes and onions. The ingredients’ list is short: potatoes, oil for frying, onions, and salt and pepper. Many a cowboy would have enjoyed this simple meal behind a dusty chuckwagon.

Out on the trail, cowboys needed food that not only “stuck to their ribs,” but also offered energy with essential vitamins and minerals. These staple foods, paired with a steady serving of beef, would have kept the cowboys fit and healthy.

Nutrition facts

Pinto beans (1 serving)

            Calories: 245

            Fiber 62%

            Iron 20%

            Copper 41%

            Folate 74%

            Protein 31%

            B1 28%

Potatoes (1 serving)

            Calories: 278

            Carbs 63 grams

            Fiber 26%

            Protein 7 grams

            Vitamin C 48%

            Vitamin B6 46%

            Manganese 33%

Onions (1 serving)

            Calories: 64

            Carbs 15 grams

            Fiber 11%

            Vitamin C 20%

            Manganese 10%

What would you add to our list? How do you make potatoes, beans and onions store long-term? Share your tips in the section below:

Companion Planting Basics

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Get companion planting basics for tomato, beans, peppers, and squash. Implement companion planting in your garden and have a bumper crop this year. | PreparednessMama

Implement companion planting in your garden The practice of companion planting has been around for generations. We see the principle working brilliantly when the three sisters – corn, beans, and squash – are planted together. Each crop is doing its part to sustain the other. “Companion planting is about marrying plants that work well together […]

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Top 10 Food Storage Myths

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food storage myths

The internet is full of websites that give information on survival topics, including food storage. There are dozens and dozens of books that will teach you “the right way” to store food and YouTube videos galore. Most contain valid, trustworthy information, but mixed in with that are a number of food storage myths that many people accept without question.

Here are 10 that I take issue with, and I explain why.

By the way, following Myth #10 are 2 short videos that review these myths.

Myth #1:  You should stock up on lots of wheat.

When I was researching foods typically eaten during the Great Depression, I noticed that many of them included sandwiches of every variety. So it makes sense to stock up on wheat, which, when ground, becomes flour, the main ingredient to every bread recipe.

There are a couple of problems with the focus on wheat in virtually all food storage plans, however. First, since the time of the Great Depression millions of people now have various health issues when they consume wheat. From causing gluten intolerance to celiac disease our hybridized wheat is a whole ‘nother animal that our great-grandparents never consumed.

The second issue is that wheat isn’t the simplest food to prepare, unless you simply cook the wheat berries in water and eat them as a hot cereal or add them to other dishes. In order to make a loaf of bread, you have to grind the wheat, which requires the purchase of at least one grain mill. Electric mills are much easier to use and, within just seconds, you have freshly ground flour. However, you’ll probably want to add a hand-crank mill to have on hand for power outages. All together, 2 mills will end up costing a pretty penny, depending on the brands you purchase.

Then there’s the process of making the bread itself, which is time consuming.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t store wheat, and, in fact, I have several hundred pounds of it myself. The emphasis on wheat as a major component in food storage is what I have a problem with. In retrospect, I wish I had purchased far more rice and less wheat. Rice is incredibly simple to prepare and is very versatile. It, too, has a very long shelf life.

Myth #2: Beans last forever.

While it’s true that beans have a long shelf life, they have been known to become virtually inedible over time. Old-timers have reported using every cooking method imaginable in order to soften the beans. A pressure cooker is one option but, again, some have told me that doesn’t even work!

Another option is to grind the beans and add the powdered beans to various recipes. They will still contain some nutrients and fiber.

Over the years, I’ve stocked up on cans of beans — beans of all kinds. They retain their nutrients in the canning process and are already cooked, so there’s no need to soak, boil, pressure cook, etc. You can always home can dried beans, and if you have beans that have been around for more than 10 years or so, canning them is a super simple process and insures they won’t become inedible.

Myth #3: If they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat it!

Have you ever fallen in love with a recipe that was easy to make, inexpensive, and your family loved it? You probably thought you’d finally found The Dream Recipe. And then you made it a second time, then a third, then a fourth. About the 8th or 9th time, however, you may have discovered that you had developed a mild form of food fatigue. Suddenly, it didn’t taste all that great and your family wasn’t giving it rave reviews anymore.

When it comes to food storage, don’t assume that someone will eat a certain item they currently hate, just because they’re hungry. If you stock up on dozens of #10 cans of Turkey Tetrazzini, sooner or later the family will revolt, no matter how hungry they are.

Myth #4. All I need is lots and lots of canned food.

There’s nothing wrong with canned food. In fact, that’s how I got started with food storage. However, canned food has its limitations. A can of ravioli is a can of ravioli. You can’t exactly transform it into a completely different dish. As well, canned food may have additives that you don’t care to eat and, in the case of my own kids, tastes change over time. I had to eventually give away the last few cans of ravioli and Spaghetti-O’s because my kids suddenly didn’t like them anymore.

Be sure to rotate whatever canned food you have, since age takes a toll on all foods, but, as I’ve discovered, on certain canned items in particular. My experience with old canned tuna hasn’t been all that positive, and certain high-acid foods, such as canned tomato products, are known to have issues with can corrosion. Double check the seams of canned food and look for any sign of bulging, leaks, or rust.

Lightly rusted cans, meaning you can rub the rust off with a cloth or your fingertip, are safe to continue storing. However, when a can is badly rusted, there’s a very good chance that the rust has corroded the can, allowing bacteria to enter. Those cans should be thrown away.

Worried about the “expiration” date on canned food? Well, those dates are set by the food production company and don’t have any bearing on how the food will taste, its nutrients, or safety after that date. If the food was canned correctly and you’ve been storing it in a dry and cool location, theoretically, the food will be safe to consume for years after that stamped date.

Myth #5: I can store my food anywhere that I have extra space.

Yikes! Not if you want to extend its shelf life beyond just a few months! Know the enemies of food storage and do your best to store food in the best conditions possible.

TIP: Learn more about the enemies of food storage: heat, humidity, light, oxygen, pests, and time.

I emphasize home organization and decluttering on this blog, mainly because it frees up space that is currently occupied by things you don’t need or use. Start decluttering and then storing your food in places that are cool, dark, and dry.

Myth #6: My food will last X-number of years because that’s what the food storage company said.

I have purchased a lot of food from very reputable companies over the years: Augason Farms, Thrive Life, Honeyville, and Emergency Essentials. They all do a great job of processing food for storage and then packaging it in containers that will help prolong its shelf life.

However, once the food gets to your house, only you are in control of how that food is stored. Yes, under proper conditions, food can easily have a shelf life of 20 years or more, but when it’s stored in heat, fluctuating temperatures, and isn’t protected from light, oxygen, and pests, and never rotated, it will deteriorate quickly.

NOTE: When food is old, it doesn’t become poisonous or evaporate in its container. Rather, it loses nutrients, flavor, texture, and color. In a word, it becomes unappetizing.

Myth #7: Just-add-hot-water meals are all I need.

There are many companies who make and sell only add-hot-water meals. In general, I’m not a big fan of these. They contain numerous additives that I don’t care for, in some cases the flavors and textures and truly awful, but the main reason why I don’t personally store a lot of these meals is because they get boring.

Try eating pre-made chicken teriyaki every day for 2 weeks, and you’ll see what I mean. Some people don’t require a lot of variety in their food, but most of us tire quickly when we eat the same things over and over.

These meals have a couple of advantages, though. They are lightweight and come in handy during evacuation time and power outages. If you can boil a couple of cups of water over a rocket stove, propane grill, or some other cooking device, then you’ll have a meal in a few minutes.

TIP: Store a few days worth of just-add-water meals with your emergency kits and be ready to grab them for a quick emergency evacuation. Be sure to also pack a spoon or fork for each person and a metal pot for meals that require cooking over a heat source.

However, for a well-balanced food storage pantry, stock up on individual ingredients and fewer just-add-hot-water meals.

Myth #8: I can stock up on a year’s worth and won’t need to worry about food anymore.

That is probably the fantasy of many a prepper. Buy the food, stash it away, and don’t give it a thought until the S hits the fan. There’s a big problem with that plan, however. When everything does hit the fan and it’s just you and all that food:

  • Will you know how to prepare it?
  • Will you have the proper supplies and tools to prepare the food?
  • Did you store enough extra water to rehydrate all those cans of freeze-dried and dehydrated foods?
  • Do you have recipes you’re familiar with, that your family enjoys, and that use whatever you’ve purchased?
  • What if there’s an ingredient a family member is allergic to?
  • Does everyone even like what you’ve purchased?
  • Have any of the containers been damaged? How do you know if you haven’t inspected them and checked them occasionally for bulges and/or pest damage?

If you’ve purchased a pre-packaged food storage supply, the contents of that package were determined by just a small handful of people who do not know your family, your health issues, or other pertinent details. These packages aren’t a bad thing to have on hand. Just don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

Myth #9: Freeze dried foods are too expensive.

Yes, there is a bit of sticker shock initially when you begin to shop online at sites like Thrive Life, Augason Farms, and Emergency Essentials. If you’ve been used to paying a few dollars for a block of cheddar cheese and then see a price of $35 for a can of freeze-dried cheddar, it can be alarming.

However, take a look at how many servings are in each container and consider how much it would cost to either grow or purchase that same food item and preserve it in one way or another, on your own.

The 3 companies I mentioned all have monthly specials on their food and other survival supplies — that’s how I ended up with 2 cases of granola from Emergency Essentials!

Myth #10: This expert’s food storage plan will fit my family.

The very best food storage plan is the one that you have customized yourself. By all means, use advice given by a number of experts. Take a look at online food calculators, but when it’s time to make purchases, buy what suits your family best. What one person thinks is ideal for food storage may leave your kids retching.

Lots of resources to help you with your food storage pantry

Want this info on video? Here you go!

Food Storage Myths, Part 1: Myths 1-5

Food Storage Myths, Part 2: Myths 6-10

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 food storage myths

3 ‘Survival Crops’ That Store (Naturally) More Than 1 Year

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3 ‘Survival Crops’ That Store (Naturally) More Than 1 Year

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If you’re growing or foraging your own food for winter storage, there are plenty of options for keeping your family fed in the early days of winter. Many root crops, fruits and greens can keep for a few months cool and out of direct sun, even without a proper root cellar.

As the winter presses on, though, options start to dwindle and there are fewer and fewer choices in dependable home-raised crops that will take you all the way through the hunger gap into the first productive days of late spring and early summer. Nonetheless, humans survived millennia without refrigeration and long-term food shipments, so there’s plenty to get your family by.

There are multiple reasons you should look into long-term storage crops. What if spring and early summer crops fail? What happens when a full summer’s worth of crops fail and you’re heading into winter again, with just what you still have on hand?

In 2013 the Northeast experienced record rainfall and cloud cover in June, meaning that the growing conditions were more like an average northeast November. Crops rotted in the ground, and normally dependable summer and long-season fall crops were delayed by months or could not be grown at all. Looking back further, the year 1816 was dubbed “the year without a summer” because a volcanic eruption caused widespread climate problems, and many areas experienced blizzards and hard frosts literally every single month of the year.

Looking For Non-GMO Seeds? Get Them From A Company You Can Trust!

Of course, you also could pressure can, salt cure or dehydrate food to increase storage life, all of which require either special equipment or considerable time and effort to ensure that a food that would otherwise spoil stays palatable for longer than it would on its own.

There is a better way. By selecting foods that naturally store for extended periods of time without specialized effort or processing, you ensure survival and food security with minimal extra effort and in general minimize your consumption of processed foods of any sort. There’s something to be said for providing your own home grown, long-term food security, all without the need of special equipment or elaborate processing.

1. Nuts

3 ‘Survival Crops’ That Store (Naturally) More Than 1 Year

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While annual gardens and fruit orchards tend to get a lot of attention for providing food self-sufficiency, nut trees are a great investment to provide a stable fat and protein source to balance out your family’s diet. They have the added benefit of a long storage life, especially at cool temperatures.   All nuts keep best unroasted and left in the shell.

Hazelnuts, a high-yielding, easy-to-grow home crop, can keep up to two years held between 32 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (in a cool unheated basement), or for just over a year at 50-60 (F) degrees in a back closet on the north side of your house in cooler regions. They have the added benefit of being one of the most versatile nuts, because they can be grown anywhere between zone 4 and 9 successfully. There are even some zone 3 cultivars.

Pecans come in second place in nut shelf life, and can keep just over a year at cool, unheated basement temperatures. Very high fat nuts such as walnuts don’t keep quite as well as the others, but remain good for 9-12 months at cool temperatures.

Be sure to check your nuts for rancidity by smell before eating them. Nevertheless, rancid or not, it won’t harm you to eat them during an emergency situation as long as they don’t have visible mold or pest infestation.

2. Dried corn and beans

3 ‘Survival Crops’ That Store (Naturally) More Than 1 Year

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While many forms of grain and staple legumes store for extended periods of time, dry corn and beans are the most practical for growing and processing at home without equipment. Beans and corn can be harvested, cleaned, dried and stored all by hand without specialized equipment, unlike other grains such as wheat. If dried thoroughly to a low moisture content and kept cool, home dried corn and beans can last 2-3 years, without the need to invest in long-term storage options like vacuum sealing and oxygen absorbers. With the additional investment to reduce or eliminate oxygen, corn and beans can hold successfully for up to 10 years.

3. Honey and maple

Natural sweeteners like honey and maple are full of beneficial enzymes and micro-nutrients, not to mention a ready source of calories, and they boast considerable shelf lives. Honey, if kept uncontaminated and well-sealed from moisture, can last at room temperature indefinitely. Maple syrup, packaged very hot into glass jars such Mason jars, has very long shelf life potential – upwards of 50 year or more. Maple manufacturers recommend a storage life in glass of no more than four years for optimum flavor, assuming the jar is unopened. Maple stored in plastic jugs should not be kept more than 1-2 years, and metal jugs are only rated for six months of storage life.

What would you add to our list? Are there other foods you grow and store for long-term survival? Share your tips in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

Our New Three Sisters Garden. Hugelkultur.

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This season we are trying a slightly new garden method, just to see if it works. This will be our three sisters garden, corn, beans & squash. This method of making a garden bed is known as Hugelkultur .

I will be making a video of this later when the crops are up, but right now this is as far as I have got. I dug a trench first & filled it with garden refuge, cut grass & weeds, heavier tree trimmings on top of that, some old garden edging logs that we have replaced, then the soil on top. I did add some chook manure before adding the soil to help break down the refuse.
When I started mounding the earth, I soon realised that I was not going to have enough soil to cover the highest logs. I did not want to bring more soil from elsewhere or use our compost that we needed for our other garden beds, so I removed two of the top logs.

The two pumpkins are volunteers from last year.

Beans: The Super Food that Keeps You Full

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Beans: The Super Food that Keeps You Full Stocking up your food supply is one of the main aspects of prepping and something that a homesteader always keeps in mind.  There are plenty of options for storage foods, like canned food, pouched food, dried foods or fresh produce in root cellars.  A problem a lot …

Continue reading »

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More Food from the Wild and Your Yard – Graft Fruit Trees!

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Despite a smashed thumbnail, the author bravely grafts a loquat tree in his food forest.

I once did a horticultural analysis of a property way out in the scrublands. The owner had good clean water, no real neighbors, a great location… and hot, fast-drying, mineral-poor sand that was really, really bad for gardening.

There was no couching it. I had to tell him: this area just won’t cut it for most of your planned annual gardening projects. It will barely support much in the way of fruit or nut trees.

What it did have was a decent amount of native American persimmon trees. They were dwarfed by drought and stress, but they were strong and alive. That said, I saw very few with fruit.

With antive persimmons you deal with a variety of drawbacks. Unlike their cultivated Japanese persimmon relations, they’re dioecious. That means you have male and female trees – and you need both to get fruit. The male won’t make fruit but it does provide the pollen that allows the females to fruit.

Japanese persimmons are self-fertile, plus they make hefty, sweet fruit that’s very worth growing. They’re also regularly grafted onto American persimmon rootstock.

Seeing the wild trees gave me an idea: why not use the existing trees as rootstock for Japanese persimmons? They’re already established and growing in poor soil, making them a perfect support for a higher-producing and delicious variety of improved persimmon!

Sometimes our first observations aren’t the best. You might see a crabapple with lousy fruit in your yard and think “I hate that thing! I’ll tear it out and plant a good apple in its place!”

Step back and think about it: maybe that tough tree is a resource you can use. With grafting you can go nip some twigs off good apple trees and just graft them onto the tree you don’t like. If it’s a happy and healthy mature tree, use it! If you can graft fruit trees, you can grow more food for less money.

Another interesting factoid to consider: you know those stupid ornamental pears people grow for the blooms? You can graft REAL pears onto them. There are folks doing that in California right now by illegally “guerilla grafting” street trees:

Doesn’t that change the landscape a bit? Ornamental trees are generally a non productive liability… productive trees are a serious asset. If you’ve got ornamental pears, plums, peaches, apples, etc… why not switch them up by grafting on some good varieties?

Grafting In Local Woods and Property

Here’s another thought for you.

In my neighborhood there are wild persimmons growing here and there around the block. Some of these are on empty lots and in unused property with absentee owners. We don’t know how bad things are going to get in the future so it makes sense to grow as much food as possible near our houses… even if that food is on other people’s land right now.

Wild persimmon fruit is only found on 50% of the trees (since the other half are male). That fruit is about 1″ in diameter, plus it’s astringent and seedy.

I have Japanese persimmons in my yard that make fruit that looks like this:


That fruit is as large as a beefsteak tomato and just as delicious (if not more so).

Though the legalities are rather grey, I don’t think anyone would really mind if I were to take buds off my Japanese persimmon tree and graft them into the wild trees here and there around the neighborhood. People will find it rather puzzling, sure – but be upset by it? I doubt it. Heck, at the very worst all I’ve done is improve somebody’s tree. Hehhehheh.

Just thinking out loud here. In your local woods you may have quite a few trees growing which could be judiciously improved, turning them into fruit-production machines rather than marginally useful wild specimens.

Grafting Is Easy

I know what many of you are thinking: “All the above is nice, Dave… but I don’t know how to graft fruit trees!”

I understand that feeling. I was in your shoes for a long time. Grafting was something that seemed… complicated. Planting beans? No big deal. Drying fruit? Easy.


Well… it takes a little whittling experience (unless you go this route)… and a couple of decent tools… but it isn’t really hard. If you’d like a quick illustrated guide, click here. Though it states that wood should be dormant, I’ve been able to successfully graft in summer here in Florida, at least on loquat trees.

One of my favorite (and most successful) ways to graft is called “veneer grafting.” At my site you can see how I saved the genetics of an improved loquat tree hit by a string trimmer by grafting some of its buds onto some seedling loquats.

Don’t worry about messing up. We all mess up. There’s no harm in trying something new.

This spring I grafted a big, sweet improved plum onto a sour native plum tree. I did five grafts – one took:


The leaves on the grafted plum variety are about 10 times the size of the weenie leaves on its native plum host. The author finds this strangely hilarious.

Now, in the fall of the same year, that branch is about 3′ long. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to have it bear fruit this coming spring.

Get yourself a sharp pocketknife, some pruning shears, a roll of grafting tape and your courage… then start experimenting.

Grafting can help you get food from unproductive trees and lots – harness it and you’ll be just that much more prepared for an uncertain future.


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Top 7 Mistakes To Avoid When Harvesting Rain Water

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Harvesting rain water should be a priority for any serious prepper or gardener.

Did you ever go on a long hike, then find yourself parched with thirst? The need for water catches up with you quickly.

If the city water or your well shut down for a week, would you be able to survive or would your house become unlivable? Stockpiling guns, gold and food is a good idea – but having a way to hold on to water is of paramount importance.

Fortunately – in most climates – God gives us a ready supply from above if we can just figure out how to capture it. I’ve been harvesting rainwater on a budget for years and have figured out what works and what doesn’t.

Today I’ll share my top 7 mistakes to avoid when harvesting rain water. I’ve also put them into a video version:

Let’s jump into the mistakes, starting with a very common one.

Mistake #1: Make It Expensive

Harvesting rain water DOESN’T need to be expensive!

If you have a larger budget and plan on keeping your homestead for a while, there are excellent systems with diverters, filtration, underground cisterns and pumps – which are great – but not necessary if you’re having a hard time rubbing two nickels together. You can do this on the cheap. I’ve even converted trash cans to rain barrels:

harvesting rain water

Though after I set up a couple of homemade rain barrels at my old homestead, I realized I could capture a lot more water for free by creating ponds. Instead of digging proper ponds with expensive liners, I got a pair of solid old hot tubs from a local pool company. All I had to pay was a delivery fee (these suckers were too heavy for me to move!), then find PVC caps to fit the pipe holes in them. Direct a gutter into a hot tub and you’ll hold hundreds of gallons of water. I planted mine with edible and useful aquatic plants and threw in some local “mosquitofish” and gold fish to eat any mosquito larvae that might show up. I also scored another hot tub by the side of the road, taking my total up to three.

The total capacity was roughly 1200 gallons between them and I had plenty of water to keep my gardens alive through any drought.

Mistake #2: Let the Mosquitoes In

Mosquitoes can take a great idea and make it a health hazard. As new viruses sweep around the world, people are rightly concerned about the danger of harvesting rainwater improperly. Even old tires hold enough water to breed mosquitoes, so a rain barrel has the capability of breeding thousands of the bloodsuckers.

The best way to keep them out is to keep your rain barrels or cisterns covered so mosquitoes don’t lay their eggs. I’ve covered mine with screening in the past, then had the screening get pushed in during a heavy downpour, which then let mosquitoes lay eggs, leading to a bunch of squiggling larvae.

harvesting rain water

I cover compost tea barrels and rain barrels with screening but it isn’t foolproof.

A friend with an excellent rainwater harvesting system much bigger than my own told me that he had issues with mosquitoes occasionally due to openings, but he had used “mosquito dunks,” which are a non-toxic mosquito-killing product comprised of bacteria that sicken and kill the larvae. Just desserts!

I tried it and they worked like a charm; however, the best method is just to keep things closed.

Mistake #3: Choke The Flow

This was my first rookie mistake.

I built a pair of rainbarrels and carefully attached spigots to the bottoms of them, hoisted them a few feet above the ground on stacked cinderblocks, then directed in the gutters. After the first rain I was excited to give them a test, so I put a bucket under the spigot and opened it fully. To my great irritation, the faucet aperture was too small. It would take about three to five minutes to fill a bucket. That’s an eternity if you’re hoping to get some watering done, and it meant I used those rain barrels a lot less than I would have if they had generous faucets.

A friend has a great big PVC outlet on the side of one of his 1,000 gallon cisterns that allows out a blast of water when cranked open.

That’s what you want – don’t use fiddly weenie faucets!

Mistake #4: Go Too Small

Don’t go too small!

Just like you don’t want little faucets, you should also avoid small storage capacity. Though I thought rain barrels were a great idea at first, I realized that they filled in just a few minutes under the gutters, then overflowed for the rest of a rain storm. That’s when I got thinking about ponds and then added hot tubs. The rainwater harvesting capacity of a roof is incredible.

The University of Arizona reports “A one-inch rain will collect 600 gallons from a 1,000 square foot roof, while 4,500 square foot lot will receive 2,800 gallons!”

They further share how you can calculate the water catching power of your roof:

  1. Measure the square footage of the collection area (for example a roof that is 30 feet wide x 50 feet long = 1500 sq. ft.)
  2. Multiply the area by the amount of rain in inches
  3. Multiply that number by 0.623 (that is the quantity of water in gallons one inch deep in one square foot of space)

= number of gallons that can be collected.

More capacity is better!

Mistake #5: Miss The Power of Swales

This is a common mistake.

Like your roof, the ground also catches a lot of water, yet much of it is lost due to evaporation and run off.

Using swales as a method of rainwater harvesting makes a lot of sense. Swales are just ditches or indentations deliberately constructed to slow the movement of water and allow it to soak in.

Here’s a swale running through our cocoa orchard:

harvesting rain water with a swale

Though this isn’t a method for harvesting rainwater you can drink, swales hydrate the soil deeply and effectively, particularly on sloping ground. Using swales creates passive irrigation downhill from the swale and can transform a dry area into an oasis.

Find the contour of your land and dig some swales, then plant fruit trees or gardens or both around them. I’ve seen roadside ditches filled with green vegetation at the bottom during a drought that has burned all the surrounding grass brown.

If you’re harvesting rainwater to grow food, look into swales!

Mistake #6: Muck it Up with Algae

Algae is the enemy of clean water.

Though it won’t hurt your plants to dump scummy green water on them (in fact, they like it), it’s not appetizing or helpful if you hope to filter and drink the water you catch.

Like mosquitoes, the best way to beat algae is not to let it into the system to begin with.

Harvesting rainwater in black covered containers will keep algae from becoming a problem. They are tiny plants which photosynthesize for survival, so if you cut off the sunlight you cut off the algae. I’d rather use darkness than an algacide if I have my choice.

Mistake #7: Not Harvesting Rain Water at All!

The biggest mistake in harvesting rain water… is to NOT harvest rain water at all.

You need very little infrastructure to get started.

Heck, throwing a trash can under a gutter is better than nothing – and digging a swale isn’t tough either. Just mulching after a rain will trap moisture in the soil and make your plants happier. If you have more of a budget, get some big cisterns going.

Where I live in Central America, almost every house has a cistern for harvesting rain water in case of hurricanes or a loss of city water. Water is life – get harvesting now and you’ll be in a much safer place. Without water, you and your survival gardening plans will come to nothing.

Good luck and thanks for reading. May your plans prosper and the rains fall abundantly.


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Roll Your Own Cigars

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If you don’t see tobacco as important to survival, I feel for you.

I’ve been growing it for years (and you can too) and during the worst days of the crash, when I was unemployed, watching friend after friend go broke and seeing folks lose their homes right and left… a good cigar was one of the few simple pleasures that made things better, at least for 45 minutes or so.

That’s not to say I was rolling my own. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to master that skill – but this video has given me some hope that I will one day:

The packing of the interior seems to be where my attempts always fall short. I’ve noticed that the elasticity of the tobacco leaf on the interior wrapper also presents problems, though I’ve been working on hydrating it better and my last couple of attempts did quite a bit better.

Sometimes it’s “try, try again,” especially when you don’t have a teacher locally.

If you don’t think you can manage to roll cigars, you might try making your own pipe tobacco or even grinding snuff with a coffee grinder. That works really well and ladies totally dig the snorting and sneezing associated with this arcane pleasure.

If all else fails, it’s pretty easy to roll a cigarette, too, but I don’t go in for those. It just doesn’t pack the “awesome” that a cigar does.

Trust me, though: if SHTF, tobacco is going to be a highly desirable commodity, no matter how it’s processed or consumed. Learn to grow it, at least – then pray you can find a Cuban friend to roll it for you.


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Miss Gardening? Grow Green Beans Indoors This Winter

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Miss Gardening? Grow Green Beans Indoors This Winter

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For gardeners who just can’t stand to keep their hands out of the soil for any length of time, growing food indoors in containers can be a great pastime during the winter months.

Green beans are a relatively quick-growing vegetable that can be grown inside your home and also look quite beautiful, as well.

Not only that, but they are also quite tasty and nutritious. While they may not be a nutritional powerhouse like broccoli and kale, green beans are still rich in many vitamins and nutrients. For example, one cup of cooked green beans has 22 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K, 18 percent of manganese and 16 percent of fiber. They even have carotenoids in concentrations similar to that of carrots and tomatoes.

Some Facts About Green Beans

Green beans were once referred to as string beans because of a “string” that ran down the seam of the bean and needed to be pulled out before eating. Today, most varieties have had the string bred out of them and they are more often referred to as snap beans because their crunchiness allows them to be easily snapped between your fingers.

When selecting your seeds, it is important to know that there are two main types: beans that grow as vines (typically referred to as pole beans) and bush beans. For indoor gardeners, bush beans are preferred because they do better in containers and take up less room in your home.

Plants that you are growing indoors can be started any time of the year, but you still need to remember that they have certain environmental requirements. Green beans need plenty of light, so you will need to place them in a part of your home where they can get a minimum of six hours of sunlight each day. Alternatively, grow lights can work if you do not have a window that gets enough sun.

The Best Source For Long-Lasting Heirloom Seeds Is Right Here …

Your plants will do best if they are kept in a spot where the temperature is between 50 and 85 degrees.

They are also an annual plant, so you will only have them for one season.

Starting Your Seeds

The best containers for your green beans are long and narrow with plenty of drainage. Fill your containers with compost-enriched and well-draining soil. A good formula for growing green beans is two parts garden soil, one part compost and one part sand. You should avoid using soil that is rich in nitrogen.

Miss Gardening? Grow Green Beans Indoors This WinterOnce your containers are ready, plant your seeds about one and one-half inches deep and at least four inches apart from one another. If you are growing pole beans, you will need longer stakes, or a trellis for the vines to climb. Place stakes that are about one foot in height next to each seed, and water.

Caring For Your Plants

Keep the soil for your green bean plants evenly moist, but not too wet. As the shoots begin to appear, make sure you are watering at root level rather wetting the entire plant. Once the seedlings are a couple of inches tall, you can add some mulch around them, as this will help to hold in the moisture and give you healthier plants.

Keep in mind that green beans are vulnerable to certain types of diseases, such as blight. If you notice a diseased plant, remove it immediately to keep the disease from spreading to other plants.

Green bean plants do not require much in the way of fertilization, but since you are growing them indoors, they can benefit from light feeding every so often. Try using a compost tea once or twice during their growing season.

Within 50-60 days, your plants should be fully grown and ready for harvest.

Harvesting and Enjoying Your Green Beans

Green beans are picked when they are still immature. Most varieties will be ready for harvest after they have reached about three inches in length but have not yet plumped out. Harvest them regularly to encourage more growth.

Unwashed beans may be stored in a plastic bag in your vegetable crisper for about a week, or if you have more than you can use in that timeframe, you may freeze them.

If you wish to save seeds in order to start a new plant, you will have to allow the plant to mature until some of the pods have become very plump and turned brown.

As for the beans that you harvest for eating, you can enjoy them raw or cooked in soups, casseroles or simply on their own. One of the healthiest ways of cooking them is to steam them for only five minutes. Doing so will make them nice and tender while bringing out their maximum flavor and preserving their nutritional value.

Do you have any advice for cooking green beans indoors? Share your tips in the section below:

Learn Dozens Of Organic Gardening Secrets. Read More Here.

The Top 7 Survival Gardening Secrets

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If your eyes are open right now, you know Western Civilization is in trouble. Now is the time to start survival gardening.

Today we share 7 survival gardening secrets that will get you off on the right foot.

1. Grow Near, Not Far

This is one of those “secrets” I can’t repeat enough. Don’t put your garden beds at the edge of your yard. Put them where you’ll see them. This will keep pest problems from becoming plagues. If your chickens are digging up the corn, you’ll see it… instead of finding bare ground and chicken tracks a week later. You may think you’ll be out there in the garden every day, but “out of sight, out of mind” holds truer than most of us would like to admit.

2. Healthy Soil is Key

Make sure the ground you’re trying to garden upon is suited to it. A reader recently sent me pictures of the land she is hoping to plant as a food forest. I took one look and shook my head.

The ecosystem was obviously Pine Flatwoods: acid sugar sand, poor mineralization, a clay layer, intermittent flooding and droughty conditions.

survival gardening

This is tough land for survival gardening.

When even the weeds look sick, you may need to hunt for a better spot. Though it’s possible to grow a food forest there – barely – a better use for the ground would be for growing timber and blueberries, not survival gardening or food forests.

If that was the only land I could get, I would turn to livestock such as goats, chickens and cattle for my calories, rather than plants.

If you are stuck with poor conditions all over your yard and need to garden, I recommend deep mulching the worst areas if you have the material – and if you don’t, then double dig or broadfork the soil, then feed it well with a wide range of nutrients. Planting nutrient-accumulating chop and drop species for mulch and compost is another good idea.

3. You don’t Need Lots of Compost

Having tons of organic matter is great but most of us don’t have that luxury. It’s hard to make enough compost (though I greatly expand the possibilities in my book Compost Everything) so you need to get creative. My favorite method is to make an anaerobic compost tea with a wide range of inputs. Manure, urine, seaweed, saltwater, fish guts, kitchen scraps, Epsom salts, weeds, grass and leaves – if it has some decent nutrition in it, I will pile it in a barrel, top off with fresh water and let it rot for weeks, then use it as a diluted fertilizer for my crops. Like this:

It (literally) stinks but can save your life in a survival gardening situation.

4. No Irrigation? No Problem

If you get a decent amount of rainfall during the growing season, you may not have to run irrigation to your gardens. Instead of planting intensively in tight spacing, clear more ground and increase the space between plants and rows. I grew a corn patch this way as an experiment one year and had fine luck.

survival gardening

Since then I’ve done the same with cassava, pigeon peas and winter squash.

Wide spacing and clear ground will keep your plants hydrated as root competition will be reduced and they can find the moisture in the soil with less difficulty. Steve Solomon’s book Gardening Without Irrigation is available online for free – download and read it for good in-depth info.

You can’t do this in all climates but you might be surprised how many farmers pull off irrigation-free gardening and where they are able to do so.

Want To Know Where To Find Hidden Water Sources For Irrigation?

Discover where neighborhoods hide 1,000 of gallons of emergency water

5. Urine is an Excellent fertilizer

This ties in with the anaerobic compost tea idea but it’s quicker. Urine contains a range of minerals and lots of much-needed nitrogen. In many countries it’s been used instead of chemical fertilizers and I think it makes more sense. I’ve seen rich, green gardens and trees fed on nothing but urine. It works.

Dilute urine with water so it doesn’t burn the plants with nitrogen and salt – I find six parts water to one part urine works well. I’m feeding some weak pumpkin vines this way right now and they’re really starting to perk up.

6. Calories First!

survival gardening

I grow African yams as a staple.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but we gardeners aren’t always the most practical people on the planet. We like the challenge of growing interesting things and we also love our culinary treats. Fresh tomatoes, cilantro, hops. These are all great – yet if you’re survival gardening, you’re not hobby gardening.

You need to find the best staple crops for your area and concentrate on those primarily.

As I’ve written before, plant calorie crops first – then plant some patches of nutrition crops next.

Keeping yourself from starving is more important than the potential nutritional deficiencies you might face later.

I would argue that in most case you could probably meet many of your nutritional needs through wild plant foraging for greens, nuts, berries and game.

Finding caloric staples is harder.

Plant roots, winter squash, beans and grain corn first in most climates. Also – Jerusalem artichokes and white potatoes are good in the north, cassava, sweet potatoes and African yams in the Deep South. Dent corn is your grain corn for the South – flint corn for the north.

This ties in to my next tip:

7. Snag Seeds Locally

survival gardening

I found this beautiful pumpkin at a roadside stand. Now I own the seeds and can grow my own.

Buying seeds through the mail from a seed company growing crops in a different climate isn’t the best way to prepare for a crash.

If the plants were cultivated for seed in Southern California but you live in New Hampshire, the varieties may not be well adapted to your growing conditions. This is why I seek out local varieties of vegetables at farmer’s markets, farmer’s stands and local gardeners.

See a stack of pumpkins on a stand by the road?

Ask the farmer if he grew them locally. If he did, buy one and save the seeds. Ask around for bean varieties that do well in your area. Pick up local grain corn from the farmer’s market if it’s being sold for decorations in the fall.

Keep your eyes open.

You want those seeds which will make plants that can handle your levels of sunshine, pests, humidity, rainfall and everything else. Local is good – start hunting!

I buy pumpkins all the time and save their seeds. In this video you can see how I do it:

I have been known to screech to a stop by a roadside farm stand because I spotted a variety not currently growing on my farm.


The survival gardening secrets I shared today will put you in good stead in a crisis but they’re just part of the story. You can grow your own food in a crisis but it’s very important to start right now.

I highly recommend you pick up my Survival Gardening Secrets program and learn. Get growing – and may God be with you.




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DVD: The Quick Wholesome Foods

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See larger image The Quick Wholesome Foods DVD with 28 page Recipe Booklet shows you how to make delicious heart healthy meals from wheat, grains, beans and more using your food storage. A complete HOW-TO&; Read More …

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Keep Your Garden Producing This Winter With Cold Frame Gardening

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Like most gardeners I have been looking for ways to get the most out of my garden. I don’t know about you, but feeding my family is a year round deal, my garden plays a huge role in that. Extending the season with cold frame gardening is one of the simplest ways to do so. It allows gardeners to acclimate seedlings to the outdoors, and protect plants from frost by trapping heat inside of the cold frame. If you haven’t started a garden yet, check out THE FIRST 5 STEPS TO STARTING A GARDEN.

What is cold frame gardening?

A cold frame is just a box with a transparent top, and preferably bottomless. You could use an old window, polycarbonate, or plastic sheeting. As long as it is transparent it should work just fine. I found two cabinets with glass doors. I found them at a second hand shop for really cheap, because one of them was broken. I slapped some duct tape on it to put it back together. Duct tape fixes everything, right? You can make the box out of scrap materials or do what I did and find something cheap that will work for this project that is already put together.

cold frame gardening

How do cold frames work?

Cold frame gardening lets the sun and heat inside through the transparent top. Which keeps the plants warm, even when it is cold outside. it is not only warm inside the box, but the soil is warmer also. As a result the plants will be protected from frost. When you place seedlings inside a cold frame it helps them to get used to being outside and they will soon be ready to plant in the ground if you so choose.

cold frame gardening

A cold frame will help keep the plants warm when it is cold outside. Although, you will have to watch the temperature. Fall/Winter crops will like temperatures below 60ºF and above freezing. Summer plants should be below 75ºF, but no colder than 60ºF degrees. There may be days where you will need to prop open or remove the lid completely to control the temperature. Prop open the lid several inches if it is 40ºF, and if it gets up to 50ºF, take the lid off completely.

If you have many cloudy days, painting the inside walls white, or lining them with aluminum foil will help drawn in more sun. Also, if it is going to be a really cold night you may want to think of covering the transparent top with something that will help keep the heat in. You could wrap the entire thing with a blanket, or anything that can provide some protection from the cold.

You can use potted plants in a cold frame or you can plant directly into the ground. It will depend on your preference and the type of plants that you are sowing. I like to start carrots out in a small pot inside, but once the seedlings are big enough I will plant them in the cold frame.

cold frame gardening

You will want to place your cold frames in a sunny spot. It is recommended that you place it facing the South. It is better if you can bury the box just below the frost point. Especially, if you will be planting things like carrots, that need to grow deep into the dirt. Burying the box will help keep it well insulated throughout the winter. Bury the box at an angle, so that more sun can get in.

Fall cold frame gardening

Fall is my favorite time of the year. Not only are we harvesting our pumpkins but we can use a cold frames to plant carrots, cabbage, radish, leeks, and our leafy vegetables.

Winter cold frame gardening

Depending on where you live, winter can be the hardest time for growing. Many people have to cover their plants up completely to protect them from the frost. Using cold frames is a simple and beautiful way to garden during the winter. In the winter your leafy greens such as, chard, spinach, and lettuce will do well throughout the winter in a cold frame box.

Spring cold frame gardening

You can get a head start on the summer garden by using the cold frame in springtime. Sew your seeds about 5 weeks before the last frost occurs. You could also do another round of leafy vegetables if you like!

Cold frame gardening is one of the easiest ways to extend your gardening all year round. Not only that but they look much prettier than row covers. You can make large cold frames or a small one, to fit your individual needs. Using scrap materials, cold frame gardening doesn’t have to be expensive either.


Bonus Tip:

If you already have a raised garden bed, you can turn it into a cold frame by finding old windows, doors or making your own transparent lid to go on them.


What is your favorite gardening trick? Let us know in the comments below!


Want Your Survival Garden To Grow 12 Months Of The Year?

Looking for ideas on how to keep your garden alive all 12 months of the year? Depending on where you live, there are inventions that make it quite possible if you’re willing to get clever.

Click here to check out a clever invention that make it possible














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Food Storage Smarts: Stock Up On Meal Stretchers

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Food Storage Smarts Stock Up On Meal Stretchers via The Survival Mom

For many of us, buying food specifically for food storage is an additional expense that can, sometimes, become too burdensome. When money is tight, it’s hard enough to cover the groceries for our main meals, much less add another few day’s worth of food to the grocery cart.

One solution to this dilemma is to stock up on meal stretchers. Foods like rice, beans, potatoes, pasta, and other grains have always formed the core of most food storage plans. First, they are inexpensive foods, like these potato dices. Purchased either from the grocery store or in large multi-pound packages, it’s a lot of food that will go a long way in your meals. If you add just 1 cup of rice to a pot of soup, the expense is just a few cents. This is probably why some of my Nana’s recipes contained elbow macaroni. Just cook up a little ground beef, add some onion, a can of tomatoes, seasonings — and then double the amount of food in the pot with macaroni! During the Great Depression days, as I wrote about here, this was a common and necessary practice. Most of the macaroni in my pantry is in large #10 cans. The larger size provides lots of servings and the metal can provides an optimal storage container.

These meal stretchers also add a lot of calories. Now, for many of us, calories are something to be avoided but consider what life is like during a long-term power outage. Folks who have lived for days and weeks following a hurricane or Superstorm Sandy had to do without modern electrical conveniences that typically make our lives easier. We burn far fewer calories when machines do our laundry, wash our dishes, and help us in so many other ways. Without them, there’s more physical labor and stress. Thus the need for more calories.

I’ve heard stories of financially strapped moms learning that company is coming over and quickly adding a meal stretcher or two to their dinners. A scoop of homemade chili over a cup or two of white rice, stretches the pot of chili at least another few servings. One Facebook reader recently told me how she cooked bulgur wheat with beef bouillon until it was tender and then added it to some of her soups and chili. She said it had a similar consistency to ground beef. Classic meal stretcher!

One other advantage to most meal stretchers is that they are easy to store and have long shelf lives, with the exception of pasta. Grains, rice, dehydrated or freeze dried potatoes, and beans all have exceptionally long shelf lives, which means they retain most, if not all, of their flavor, nutrients, texture, and color over a long period of time. Stored in a cool, dark, and dry location, they will last for 20 or more years. Pasta, on the other hand, is a little more finicky when it comes to long term storage, but still, we’re talking about a good 8-10 years or more shelf life and worthy of including in your food storage pantry.

Not just for homemade recipes

Although I use meal stretchers primarily in my from-scratchrecipes, they can also be helpful with just-add-water meals. This Hearty Vegetable Chicken Soup mix could easily be stretched with the addition of rice or small pasta. Augason Farm’s Southwest Chili Mix can be stretched with any number of stretchers — more beans, bulgar wheat, or macaroni for Chili Mac.

This is also a good strategy for increasing the number of calories. One complaint many of us have with “survival food” meals is that they usually don’t contain enough calories per serving. That is easilysolved, again, with the magic of meal stretchers.

If you have pouches, cans, or buckets of instant meals, give some thought as to how you might stretch them if you ever really needed to make a 3-months-supply of food last 4 months or longer.

Some downsides to meal stretchers

There are just a few negative points about storing meal stretchers. First, they can attract insects. If you’re planning on storing them for many years, you’ll want to protect them by adding food safe diatomaceous earth to the container. Here’s some information about diatomaceous earth, if you haven’t heard of it before, and these instructions will help you know exactly how to add it to your food for pest control.

One other method for pest control is to put tightly sealed containers of food in the freezer for several days. This kills any microscopic insect eggs that could be present. I do this and also add the appropriate size of oxygen absorber, which deprives insects and their eggs of oxygen, insuring their doom.

Most store-bought packages of things like rice, beans, and pasta are made from very flimsy plastic or cardboard. In both cases,the foods will have to be repackaged to extend their shelf lives. Here are instructions for doing that. It isn’t a complicated process. It just takes a little time.

A reality of modern American life is the prevalence of gluten sensitivities and other food allergies. If this applies to you or anyone in your family, then wheat and anything made from wheat will be on the “Do Not Buy!” list. Instead, stock up on varieties of beans and rice. Stocking up on large quantities of gluten-free pasta is probably not going to be practical.

Wheat and beans, in particular, can be rough on digestive systems that aren’t used to them, so in a crisis, be prepared to deal with tummy troubles for a few days.

Stocking up on meal stretchers is a very smart strategy for any family’s food storage pantry.

Food Storage Smarts Stock Up On Meal Stretchers via The Survival Mom

Build Your Own Paiute Deadfall Trap for Desert Survival

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The Home-made Paiute Deadfull Trap For Staying Fed

While doing research for an awesome upcoming post on desert survival, I came across Shawn Woods, a seriously cool YouTuber who makes primitive weapons, braids his own rope, hunts frogs with an arrow sporting a head he hand-knapped from an old Jack Daniels bottle… this guy is intense!

We often focus on finding water in the desert, or maintaining hygiene – but how about food? Knowing plants is a good place to start but you will soon start to crave protein. Shawn Woods may have provided the answer in this video on the Paiute deadfall trap. In it, we discover why this is a better option than the standard “figure 4” deadfall trap, and see how to build one step by step.  Plus, don’t forget how learning to make and use traps like this let’s you lighten your bug out bag load by allowing you to scratch a couple of items off your bugout bag checklist.


How Does the Paiute Deadfall Trap Differ from a Figure 4 Deadfall Trap?

Shawn illustrates at the beginning the difference between these two iconic traps.

Parts needed for a paiute deadfall trap

“Figure 4” deadfall trap parts on top; Paiute deadfall trap parts on bottom.

The Paiute deadfall trap is slightly more complicated and has a piece of twine and a small trigger piece which the figure 4 deadfall trap lacks. According to Shawn, this makes it more effective.

So, how do you build one?

Step 1: Find Your Rock

First, find a suitable rock or log.


Make sure the rock is big enough to kill your desired game. In the video, Shawn is hunting mice so the rock is small.

Step 2: Secure Some Twine or Braid Your Own


The twine for the trigger can be purchased or, as Shawn does, made from local materials. In his area, he notes that cordage can be made from milkweed, dogbane, cedar bark and stinging nettle. In the desert you would turn to the trusty yucca for good fiber.

Step 3: Get Your Blade Ready

For the sake of historic authenticity, Sean uses a piece of flint that he chipped off a larger chunk.


Most of us would simply use a pocket knife, but the flint is definitely an option for you hardcore history buffs.

Step 4: Start Whittling Sticks

Cut your sticks and notches as shown in the earlier illustration.


At the end of your whittling, you want this set of pieces:


Step 5: Create Your Trigger

Now it’s time to create the trigger. This requires drilling a small hole through the flat trigger piece and running your cordage through it.


You can secure the twine with a knot or a small twig looped through it.

Step 6: Tie On the Trigger

It’s time to attack the trigger and get this sucker ready for trapping!


Step 7: Learn to Set the Trap

Now is the time of reckoning. Trap-setting time.


Seeing the pieces and how they fit really puts it all together in my head. As you can see, the trigger is bent around the base of the prop stick which holds up the diagonal stick. The little twig in the back is then separately braced against the trigger and tucked tight under the rock to stabilize the deadfall.

Step 8: Bait and Kill Meat!

Shawn demonstrates his trap on rats and mice via a night vision camera:


To hunt bigger game, make the trap larger. Ideally, you would be nailing creatures a little larger than mice in a survival situation but the dynamics are the same.

Note the bait – what appears to be peanut butter – smeared above the small stick that holds the trigger in place. Any leaning or bumping that little twig and SMACK! You’ve nailed some meat.


So how hard is it to make a Paiute deadfall trap?

Well, my nine-year-old son built one after watching this video a few times. Though he is a sharp kid, I’m sure you could do the same. I’m going to practice my skills now before I need them.

Heck, I’d do this just to kill some of the rats eating my corn.


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Your Getting Started Guide To Fall Gardening Like Your Life Depended On It: Part I

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I used to wait for spring with bated breath. I would watch for a good day for tilling, go out and buy a bunch of transplants and seeds, and then have a wild and crazy weekend tearing up the earth and putting everything in the ground.

Thinking ahead? Naw… I had Spring fever! I wouldn’t think much about gardening until the seed catalogs started arriving… and then I would mostly browse and dream.

My nice garden beds were a good supplement to our diet but they weren’t a huge part of it. I was playing around with pretty beans and purple peppers, a few garlic plants, an heirloom corn I wanted to try… but it was haphazard and not planned for a long-term food security situation.

About a decade ago I realized how shaky the world was getting and knew things had to change. I also realized that just tearing up the ground and tossing fertilizer around wasn’t the way to ensure our piece of land was going to be healthy and strong enough to grow all of what we might need in a crash.

Even if you do work hard to build the soil, growing “all you need” is a tall order and it’s one even I haven’t reached yet… though every year I get closer. In 2015 I hit 1,000lbs of produce from our gardens (counting the random produce my children ate before it hit the scale) for the first time and the curve keeps going up.

The reason? I now work on preparing year-round by clearing and digging new patches of land, producing compost, planting fruit and nut trees and testing crops to find varieties that will go through the cold, the heat, the pests and the many diseases that want to rob us of our gardening sweat and toil. Much of this knowledge and experimentation culminated in my Survival Gardening Secrets course.

This fall, Chet and I want you to get ahead of the curve and get growing on a larger scale that takes less money out of your pocket and puts more produce on your table.

Here’s how you can build a fall garden – and an upcoming spring garden that will keep you fed through the year.

Let’s start with chickens.

Chickens Are Gardening Machines

When you pull out the gnarled remains of your summer tomatoes and squash, why not let chickens do the hard work of preparing your fall garden plots?

Get a good chicken tractor or fenced area in place around that plot and let those claw-footed tilling and manuring machines go!

My friend Larry built this simple chicken tractor for about $150:

He raises a good portion of his large family’s meat in there while improving his lawn. If you did the same thing with a garden plot, you’ll reap the benefits of all that turning and manuring. Chickens will compost in place while ridding your garden plot of stinkbugs and cutworms. I’ve pulled out a mess of spent vegetable plants from a garden bed and have been amazing to see just how many destroying insects are crawling around in the suddenly uncovered shade area beneath the brown stalks. Chickens turn those pests into eggs!

While this is a GREAT approach if you have a flat lawn, this sucker gets real heavy to pull through loose garden soil, up hills, in and around tightly planted Orchards or over raised Garden beds, which is why Chet Created these plans for a more light weight Chicken Tractor:

The Ultimate Portable Chicken Tractor

(Chet’s Chicken Tractor Blueprints Can Be Purchased Here)

Paul Gautschi of Back To Eden fame has a different approach. He uses his chickens to make good soil in their pen, which he then sifts and takes to his garden beds. If you have a big problem with predators snagging your Kentucky Fried goodness, this is another approach worth considering:

Kill the Weeds While the Sun Shines

I used to avoid using plastic in my gardens. Then I discovered its power for weed killing and I haven’t looked back.

If you have an area you’d like to garden but you haven’t gotten around to tilling it yet, summer and fall are the time to use the remaining heat of the sun to get it ready for later.

Get yourself some thick sheets of clear plastic and put them over the area. Pin down the edges with rocks or logs and let the sun create a weed-destroying greenhouse effect that will kill what you don’t want without removing the good biomass of all those weeds. They’ll bake and put humus into the soil beneath that plastic, then you can get out there and loosen the soil with a broadfork (this one from Meadow Creature is my favorite) or spading fork, then get planting when you’re ready.

When you till you turn up a lot of seeds that are waiting in the ground. When you kill with tarps this is less of a problem. I used to prefer black plastic until I saw some tests that were done side-by-side. Now I’m in the clear plastic camp.

An Alternate Approach

If you want to kill the weeds and really improve the soil long-term (and if you don’t have a big problem with pests like snails and slugs in your area), sheet-mulching is a good approach. The downside of sheet mulching is how much material it takes to cover a large area. If you have a friend with a tree-trimming company, great. If not, it’s not easy to get everything you need.

I successfully knocked out a persistent patch of Bermuda grass by putting down a double layer of cardboard and then stacking a foot of tree company mulch on top of it for a year. Back when I tilled that same area I had a very hard time keeping the grass from invading my beds and sapping the life from my tender domesticated vegetables.

Get Digging

One of my favorite ways to improve the tilth of the soil and reduce the water needs of my crops is to deeply double-dig garden beds. This is hard work but it’s good work. If you double-dig a garden area it adds more oxygen to the soil, improves the drainage and helps your crops delve deeply with their roots so they can get what they need in the soil.

I once did a test where I created a perfect square foot garden bed and a double-dug bed in sand that had only been amended with a half-inch of compost on top. The double-dug bed gave us about the same yields but needed a lot less watering. It also ate up a lot less compost, as a “proper” square foot bed is 1/3 finished compost. That’s too much pile-turning for me!

If you dig a garden bed well and then don’t step on it, it can stay loose and friable for a year or more. Pick areas where you can expand your garden beds while you’re planting your main beds in the fall, then get digging. If you’re not going to plant them right away, cover the area with tarps – or even better – woven plastic professional landscape “fabric” and then they’ll be ready to go when you need them. You can also dig beds and plant them with bags of beans, peas, rye, buckwheat, lentils, fava beans, chick peas, mustard or wheat seed from a local organic grocery store with the bulk bins. That’s a cheap way to cover the ground to keep out weeds while improving the soil at the same time. Sometimes I make a big seed mix from these bins, scatter it on the ground and rake ‘em in. As a bonus, you often get a bit to eat from these beds.

Double-digging is time consuming but when you dig a bed here and there on nice days, you’ll find eventually that you have a lot of long-term space in which to plant.

Get Composting Now

Composting used to be a chore for me. Now that I’ve realized Nature doesn’t care all that much about turning and aerating and that jazz, I’m having a lot more fun. After over a decade of extreme composting experiments, I even wrote a popular book on it. I’ve composted meat, sewage, pasta, paper and all kinds of other naughty things and my gardens just keep getting better and better. There are two main ways I compost without much work.

The first way is to choose a garden bed that I think could use some help and then start piling up compostable materials there, like this:

The other way is even cooler. It’s borrowed from the Koreans and isn’t anything like most compost most Westerners have seen.

All you do is find materials you want to compost and throw them in a barrel of water to rot down and ferment. I pick highly nutritional items such as urine, manure, moringa, seawater and comfrey to start with, then add whatever else I have around. Like this:

That looks insane but it works.

Let that rot for a few months and then thin it out as a liquid fertilizer for your gardens. It’s the bomb and it grows some danged good corn. Corn is needy, so if that crop likes it… imagine how the others will do!

On the downside, it smells horrible. Get a clothespin for your nose and don’t worry about it. And don’t pour it right on anything you’re about to eat. That’s nasty. It’s best for the establishment phase of a garden up until a few weeks before harvest. It’s also powerful growing magic for fruit trees.

One thing you absolutely DON’T want to do is buy compost or manure for your gardens.

Why? Because a lot – and I mean a LOT – of compost, manure and straw now contains persistent long-term herbicides that will utterly wreck your beds for a year or more. Don’t believe me?

Just ask Karen about her tomatoes.


I’ve read a lot of stories like this now and it happened to some of my own beds almost 5 years ago. Don’t let it happen to you.

BONUS IDEA: Plant Fruit Trees!

Fruit trees are really cheap compared to their potential yields.

What is an organic pear worth? Maybe $2? Imagine getting 400 of those from a tree you paid $25 for! That beats the heck out of most investments. Yet many of us don’t want to wait the 5-10 years it takes for impressive yields on fruit trees.

I used to feel that way… and then I got older. I plant on being here in a decade. Don’t you? Then get planting.

Plant more fruit and nut trees than you ever think you’ll need. Every fall, plant more. Go, drop $500 on fruit trees. Seriously. Get them in the ground, mulch around them, water them for the first year or two… and then, each spring as you plant your new garden beds, watch them wake up and grow. Eventually they’ll bear a few beautiful fruit. And then more and more and more. You can dry and preserve them. You can turn them into wine or hard liquor with a still. You can barter with them. You can fatten pigs on the fruit that falls. You can make incredible pies and cobblers, serve your children sun-ripened apples and peaches.

Look – just do it. Don’t wait to plant. Plant now and in the future you’ll look back and thank the “you” that is reading this right now.


We haven’t even covered all the potential vegetables you can plant in a fall garden yet… but what I’ve shared in this post will hopefully get you thinking long-term about your survival gardening plans. Get those chickens working. Get those weeds torched. Dig some new beds. Start some batches of compost. When you have the proper groundwork in place, your cabbages and turnips will almost grow themselves.

And so will the purple peppers (shh!).

Want More Survival Gardening Ideas?

Grab a copy of my Survival Gardening Secrets course that teaches you how to grow enough food to feed your family, even after the gardening centers close and you can no longer buy seeds, fertilizers, or pesticides to keep your garden alive.

Click here to access Survival Gardening Secrets

The post Your Getting Started Guide To Fall Gardening Like Your Life Depended On It: Part I appeared first on .

The Reality of 2 Weeks of Food Storage

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The thought of food storage can be very overwhelming, especially if you are new to being self sufficient. You have just realized the need for food-storage and the dangers of what is happening in the world. So now what are you going to do about it? You may find some very good answers in the video below.

The best answer that I have is research and lots of it. You Tuber ObessivePrepperAz shares her thoughts on an easy and affordable way to start off making sure you have two weeks’ worth of food. She walks you through how to calculate food storage for your family and points out some very helpful hints.

However, ObsessivePrepperAZ is just touching on the bare minimum you will need in her video, but by adding things like rice or noodles to some of your storage you can turn one can of soup into a pot of stew. Her tips and secrets are very helpful for a beginner prepper.

She focuses on how many cans of Campbell Chunky Soup you would need for one meal a day. One of her viewers suggested a very effective way to stretch those cans to feed four people 2 or 3 meals per day. That is a LOT more than one can of soup for one person.

“Tip: Double that food storage with one bag of rice, one bag of dried potatoes, and two packs of cubed bullion. Take two cans of that chunky soup, add I cup rice OR potatoes, and a bullion, add at least 3 cups water; make it into a large pot of stew. Feeds four, 2-3 meals per day. Stew is salvation.”

We hope you enjoy her suggestions and please feel free to comment some of your tips and advice to help the newbies!! We all have to help each other become reliant on ourselves.

The Reality of 2 Weeks of Food Storage


The post The Reality of 2 Weeks of Food Storage appeared first on American Preppers Network.

The 11 Best Survival Foods To Store For NUTRITION

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11 Most Nutritious Survival Foods

I was listening to a podcast the other day, the host was talking about the best survival foods you should be stocking up on. He was suggesting the typical rice and beans diet, with a few dollar store spices thrown in for flavor. I was a little taken aback when he commented, “It’s not so much about nutrition, it’s about survival!”


I instantly felt regret for the new preppers who were likely listening to his show. It’s not so much about nutrition? Doesn’t he realize that when your body is lacking key nutrients it begins to suffer physically? Doesn’t he realize that it’s the sickly who die first?

Here at the Prepper Project, we’ve talked plenty about the importance of nutrition when the SHTF, but how exactly does that translate into storing the best survival food? What kinds of foods should we be storing in order to maximize nutrition?

As we all know, eating a balanced meal will yield the best results. There isn’t one food item alone that has all of the essential minerals, vitamins, protein, and nutrients that you’d need to survive. You must eat a variety.

Storing the proper variety of foods is key to your survival. A year’s worth of mac and cheese and beenie weenies might keep you alive, but you’ll feel like crap. Poor health is all it takes for disease to quickly set in and take over.

A good variety of vegetables, fruits, beans, meats, and grains is absolutely essential for a well stocked pantry. There’s no doubt fresh foods are far superior to cooked or dried foods. Grow as many of these survival foods as you possibly can where you are now. But beyond the garden there are a handful of nutrient dense, shelf-stable foods to focus on attaining and storing long term. These will help you get by when the garden can’t be counted on.

Here are 11 of the best, most nutritious survival foods you should be storing for emergencies:

Best Survival Food #1: stews and soups

1) Soups and Stews

Whether you opt for home-canned soups and stews or the store-bought variety, these hearty meals combining meats and vegetables (or vegetables and legumes) are a great way to pack a ton of nutrients into one jar.

My favorite home canned meals are venison or beef stew, chicken and rice soup, chili con carne, and vegetable beef soup. You can whip up a huge pot of your favorite soup and pressure can it to be used for years down the road. Pretty much any soup you buy at the grocery store, with the exception of really thick products such as the cream-of soups, can be canned at home. Venison becomes particularly tender and flavorful when canned in a soup with potatoes, carrots, and tomato juice.

Never can low acid foods, such as meats and vegetables, in anything other than a pressure canner. I’ve seen people on YouTube demonstrating “oven canning”, where you heat jars of food in an oven, and then allow them to cool until the lid seals. Folks, just because a lid seals it does not mean the food in the jar is safe to eat. It must be heated adequately in order to kill botulism spores. Please be safe and don’t cut corners. If you want to can soups, stews, meat, beans, or vegetables, you absolutely must use a pressure canner.

Please read the article 23 Things You Must Know To Can Meat Safely before you can soups and stews for the first time.


Best Survival Food #2: bone broth

2) Bone Broth

Homemade bone broth is an excellent source of minerals. Bones from land animals are rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, and fish bones also contain iodine. (Source)

Bone broth is also a rich source of gelatin. “Although gelatin is by no means a complete protein… it acts as a protein sparer, allowing the body to more fully utilize the complete proteins that are taken in. Thus, gelatin-rich broths are a must for those who cannot afford large amounts of meat in their diets.” ~ Nourishing Traditions

You can start making your own rich bone broth now by using kitchen scraps you’re probably throwing away. Save the carcass of roasted chicken, carrot peels and ends, onion skins and tips, garlic scraps, and celery trimmings. Fill a freezer bag with your scraps until you have enough to make a large pot of broth to can. It can even be frozen in ziploc bags once cooled, though it won’t last nearly as long as canning it. Home canned broth will last for many years when stored in a somewhat cool place, out of direct sunlight and away from moisture. I try to use it up within 1-5 years for best nutritional value. Store bought bone broths are also available in shelf stable forms.


Best Survival Food #3: sweet potatoes

3) Sweet Potatoes

These tasty tubers are a great source of vitamin A and beta-carotene, vitamin C, complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, manganese, and potassium. If you have to choose between white potatoes and sweet potatoes, the latter is the winner in nutritional content.

Sweet potatoes are easy to grow at home from “slips”. Potato slips are those sprouts that start to grow from the eyes of sweet potatoes when they’ve been stored for too long. When the sprouts are a couple inches long, break them off as close to the base as possible and sit them in a cup of shallow water for a week or so. Roots will begin growing from the slip. Once a good root system has been established and the sprout starts forming leaves, the slip can then be transplanted directly into the garden. Sweet potato plants grow as long vines, so be sure to either trellis them or give them lots of room to roam! They love deeply cultivated, loose, rich soil.

To store them long term you can easily can peeled sweet potatoes at home in a pressure canner. They’ll last for several years in a jar, but will need to be rotated out for best quality. If growing and canning your own isn’t an option, commercially canned sweet potatoes are available at the grocery store. You can also find them in freeze dried form with a typical shelf life of 20-30 years.

Best Survival Food #4: Kale

4)  Kale

Fresh kale is an amazing superfood. It’s full of vitamins C, A, and K, as well as other micro-nutrients and antioxidants.  If there is any way possible that you can grow it, I would highly encourage you to do so. It’s easy to cultivate, has few pests, and tolerates cold temperatures very well making it an excellent crop to try growing year round.

Although some nutrients are lost during processing, preserved kale is an excellent alternative to fresh. Kale can be canned at home in a pressure canner, or purchased as canned kale greens at the store. It can also be found in dehydrated and powdered forms, as well as freeze dried for longer storage.

Best Survival Food #5: spinach

5) Spinach

Another important dark, leafy green to have plenty of is spinach. Spinach is low in fat and and cholesterol, and high in niacin, zinc, protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E and K, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese. Heck, it’s practically a multi-vitamin!

Spinach can be grown and canned at home, or purchased canned at the grocery store. Spinach will last for several years in a can or jar, but should be rotated out regularly for best nutritional value. You can also purchase it in freeze dried form for longer storage, up to 25 years.

I have a hard time stomaching canned spinach, so I’ve been stocking up on freeze dried greens. I plan on using them to make green smoothies, which combine fruits and juices in a way that masks the taste of fresh or dried spinach and kale. Green smoothies are a great way to get a lot of nutrient rich foods down at once.

Best Survival Food #6: wild caught salmon

6) Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon

You must be careful when choosing canned fish from the grocery store. Mercury and other toxins have been found in some wild caught fish, and farm-raised fish are lacking many of the nutrients that wild fish contain (not to mention have also tested positive for environmental contaminants). From what I’ve researched, the healthiest choice for canned fish is wild caught “sockeye salmon” (also referred to as red salmon) from Alaska.

Salmon is an excellent source of Omega 3 fats which are essential for proper body function and are necessary for good brain and heart health. It’s also low in sodium, and is a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, phosphorus, protein, niacin, vitamin B12 and selenium.

Want to make SURE You’re Stockpiling Enough Food?

Discover how to calculate your “Survival Calorie Number” so you know exactly how much of this food to stockpile for a years supply.

Calculating The REAL number of “Survival Calories’ Your Body Requires

 Best Survival Food #7: Quinoa

7) Quinoa

If you aren’t familiar with quinoa yet (pronounced KEEN-wah), it’s an excellent alternative to plain rice in your long term food storage. When rinsed and cooked, it has a very bland flavor that makes it blend well into a variety of dishes. Some people prefer it in savory meals in place of rice, while others like to sweeten it and enjoy it more like a hot breakfast cereal. It’s also great for thickening up soups and stews.

Quinoa is gluten-free, high in protein and one of the few plant foods that contain all nine essential amino acids. It is also high in fiber, magnesium, B-vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants. (Source)

I like to purchase quinoa in 5 gallon buckets for long term storage. It’ll last indefinitely when packaged in a mylar bag with oxygen absorbers, sealed in a plastic bucket and stored somewhere out of extreme temperatures.

Best Survival Food #8: Strawberries

8) Strawberries

According to the CDC, Strawberries are the healthiest, most nutrient dense choice of berries (which surprised me, I would have guessed blueberries were number one).  They contain more vitamin C than other fruits, and are especially high in antioxidants and flavonoids.

Strawberries should be in every home garden. Mix them into a flower bed if you don’t have a dedicated garden space. Strawberries are perennials, so they’ll come back year after year. They’re easy to grow, and once established will provide you with food for many years. You’ll have to do a little research to find which varieties grow best in your region. If possible, opt for an “everbearing” variety for a longer harvesting season.

Strawberries can be canned in a water bath canner, dehydrated, or freeze dried. For longest storage, stock up on freeze dried strawberries, which can last for 25 years!

Best Survival Food #9: Garlic

9) Garlic

We wouldn’t think of garlic as a stand alone food. But when added to other dishes not only does it embolden the flavor, it also adds incredible antioxidants and disease fighting properties to what you eat. Garlic has been known for centuries to be a strong antibiotic. Including it in your daily rations will help your body rid itself of dangerous free radicals, and will fight disease causing bugs you might have been exposed to.

Garlic is easy to grow in your own backyard, especially in a raised bed. Did you know you can grow garlic from store-bought bulbs? There are plenty of varieties to choose from through seed companies as well. To plant garlic, pull a bulb apart and place each individual clove with the flat end down into loose soil, pushing it just below the surface. Plant cloves a couple inches apart for bigger bulbs. Water regularly until the cloves begin to sprout. Garlic likes cool weather best, so wait until Fall to plant.

For strongest medicinal value and best flavor, garlic should be used fresh. Once harvested from the garden, it can be stored for several months if cured and kept dry. You can also store dehydrated garlic, or jars of garlic cloves in oil, though they won’t have quite the benefits of fresh.

11 Most Nutritious Survival Foods

10) Oats

Oats are a good source of calories, protein, carbs, fat, and fiber. The great thing about stocking up on oats is that they’ll last 25+ years when stored properly. You can buy them from a food storage company in bulk, or better yet, shop at wholesale clubs such as Sams or Costco and package them in large quantities yourself. Choose from steel cut oats, rolled oats, quick oats, or old fashioned oats… they’re all nutritious and worth having in an emergency.

Fill a 5 gallon mylar bag with oats, drop in a 2000 cc oxygen absorber, seal the bag with a straight iron, and store it in a sealed 5-6 gallon food grade bucket. You can spend a few extra dollars and save yourself a lot of hassle by using gamma seal lids on your food storage buckets. Store the buckets somewhere where they won’t be exposed to extreme heat or cold. Under your bed, in a closet, or in a dry basement would be perfect.

Keep in mind that oats go rancid after a few months once they’ve been opened. If you don’t think you can go through 5 gallons of oats within a few months, you’d be better off packing them in smaller quantities or purchasing them in #10 cans.


Best Survival Food #11: beans

11) Beans

Dried beans are full of protein, fiber and calories, and are known among the prepper world to be an excellent (and much cheaper!) alternative to storing a ton of meat. High fiber foods help you feel fuller longer, as well as assisting the digestive tract. Beans also contain iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, folate, thiamin and potassium, all essential nutrients to keep your body running properly.

Store a variety of beans to keep your meals interesting. For best results, store dried beans in a mylar bag with oxygen absorbers, sealed and stored in a food grade bucket in a dry location with an average temperature no higher than 70 degrees F. Plan on rotating your beans out every 8-10 years to keep them fresh. Over time beans will begin to lose their natural oils, and will get hard and won’t cook up soft no matter how long you soak them.

Every year or so I like to go through our buckets of beans and can a bunch of them. I have found this to be a good way to rotate through our storage, as canning the beans keeps them usable and soft for a few more years. Having the beans already canned and ready to heat and eat is also very convenient for meals.

Worst case, if your beans have been stored for a really long time and become too hard to cook with, you can always grind them into bean powder and use them to thicken up soups.

Of course, these aren’t the only healthy foods you can stash in your pantry. What nutritious survival foods would you add to this list?


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All You Can Eat: 6 High-Yield Vegetables Your Summer Garden Needs

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All You Can Eat: 6 High-Yield Vegetables Your Summer Garden Needs

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Some garden plants require intense diligence and extensive resources to coax out a single flower or handful of berries. Other species, however, are determined producers, bearing bushel after bushel of fresh, sun-ripened, bounty.

Want to get the most “bang” for your gardening efforts? In this post, we’ll look at some of nature’s top producers and why these “bunny rabbits” of the vegetable world ought to be included in your home garden.

1. Tomatoes

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Nothing screams summer quite like a tomato plant covered in bright red fruit. It’s no wonder these plants require caging or other support — a 10-foot row of tomato plants on average yields 15 pounds of sun-ripened bliss over the course of a season. And even more amazing, by taking special care to pick varieties appropriate to your growing conditions, properly amending the soil, and providing adequate support, it’s possible for a single plant to produce that much (or more!) on its own. Even taking into consideration the inherent challenges of growing tomatoes, it’s well worth the effort to include these high-producing summer staples in your garden plot.

2. Summer squash

There’s a reason August 8 is National Sneak Some Zucchini Into Your Neighbor’s Porch Day. Even if you’ve only planted a few of these prolific plants, you’re likely to be swimming in squash by the end of the season!

Need Non-GMO Seeds? Get The Best Deals Here!

Set aside a 10×10 plot specifically for zucchini and you will literally find yourself surrounded by more than a hundred pounds of deliciousness. To keep plants producing, pick zucchini while they’re relatively small — the size of a large cucumber or so. Not only does smaller summer squash taste better than their ginormous counterparts, but the frequent picking will stimulate additional growth.

3. Winter squash

Not to be outdone by their warm-weather counterparts, winter squash are another family of plants sure to bulk up your garden yields. Like summer squash, a dedicated plot of winter squash can easily produce a hundred pounds of fruit over a season. And with so many varieties to choose from, you’ll definitely want to set aside a space for them! Whether it’s pumpkins for home-grown Jack-o-lanterns and pie, vitamin rich butternut squash, or fun-to-eat spaghetti squash, there’s sure to be a variety for every taste. And, unlike many vegetables which must be carefully preserved in order to enjoy long term, an abundance of winter squash isn’t likely to be a problem — most winter squash will keep well into the winter months if stored in a cool, dry location.

4. Cucumbers

Not only are cucumbers easy to plant from seed directly in the garden, but if you can keep the cucumber beetles at bay, you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by piles of pickle-worthy produce. You can expect roughly 12 pounds per 10-foot row or 120 pounds per 100 square-foot plot. Want to extend your harvest? Consider staggering seed-starting dates, adding a few plants each week for a rolling harvest that lets you enjoy fresh cukes throughout the season.

5. Beans

All You Can Eat: 6 High-Yield Vegetables Your Summer Garden Needs

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Beans are another crop that can easily go gangbusters in a home garden. Not only are individual plants high producers, generally averaging up to 15 pounds per 10-foot row, but because they grow so quickly from seed to harvest it’s possible to rotate through multiple bean plantings in a single season. And while bush beans are notable producers, anyone who knows, well, beans about gardening will tell you that pole beans are where things get particularly impressive. Pole beans are happy to crawl up supports, producing over and over for weeks or even months before petering out.

6. Rhubarb

Finally, any list of high-yield hotshots wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to rhubarb. A rare perennial vegetable, rhubarb returns season after season, expanding as it grows. Considered low-maintenance and long-lasting, once a rhubarb plant is established it’s one of the easiest ways to guarantee a hefty harvest from the garden.

Few dilemmas in life are as delightful as discovering your garden has grown even more food than you can consume immediately. High-producing vegetable plants are the perfect plan for a harvest that can be shared with friends or preserved to enjoy throughout the year, making them not only a great way to maximize the return on your garden, but also the satisfaction that comes with those efforts.

Which high-yield vegetables would you add to this list? Share your advice in the section below:


Every Year, Gardeners Make This Dumb Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

8 Nutritious Foods You Can Afford When You’re Practically Broke

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free_range_eggsIf there’s one thing we all learned from the crash of 2008, it’s that any one of us could be dragged down into poverty. No one is really immune to that anymore. In the Western world, economic prosperity has been crumbling for years, and stability is rapidly disappearing for a variety reasons. Truth be told, you’ve probably read about countless disasters and survival situations on this website, but the one situation that is most likely to affect you, is a financial calamity in your family.

And if that happens, one of your most pressing concerns will be food. Every resource you consume will have to be restricted, and every day you’ll be forced to triage your finances. You’ll have to choose between paying for your rent/mortgage, utilities, debts, medical bills, and of course groceries. And even if you accept assistance in the form of food stamps, you’ll likely struggle to afford nutritious food.

That’s why I’ve compiled this list of low-cost groceries. Keep in mind however, that this isn’t a list of the cheapest foods. Things like taste or long-term health implications aren’t a priority either. These are foods that simply provide the most nutrients for the least amount of money, and you should keep them in mind if you ever find yourself in the poorhouse.


In terms of the number of calories you get for every dollar, you can’t beat butter. The only thing that would surpass it is refined sugar, but obviously you don’t want to make that a significant part of your diet. Butter is cheap, and brimming with saturated fats that will keep you sated for hours.

Whole Grain Wheat Flour

Grains have fallen out of favor among health conscious eaters in recent years, and for many very good reasons. But again, long-term health isn’t the priority of this list. Despite its faults, whole grain flour is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and is incredibly cheap. So cheap in fact, that even the organic brands often only cost a few cents per ounce.

The main drawback to wheat, and most grains for that matter, is that they contain phytic acid. This substance is known to prevent the absorption of many different nutrients. However, if you’re planning on using the flour to make bread, pancakes, or even hard tack, you can soak the flour dough in lemon juice overnight, which will eliminate most of the phytic acid.


Lately eggs have been pretty expensive due to a rampant avian flu epidemic that wiped out millions of chickens last summer. At one point, prices rose so high that ounce for ounce, the protein in chicken meat was cheaper than egg protein. Most of the time however, eggs provide one of the cheapest sources of protein and fat. However, not always as cheap as…

Whole Milk

While milk can provide plenty of protein, fat, and sugar at a low price, unlike eggs it has far more vitamins and minerals. Milk contains an abundance of vitamin D, Riboflavin, and Vitamin B12, and for minerals, it provides plenty of calcium, phosphorous, potassium, and selenium. It also contains a very good ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, which eggs do not.


White beans, Lima beans, Kidney beans etc. They all have a few things in common. They’re usually light in vitamins, rich in minerals, and contain a moderate amount of protein. They aren’t always cheap, but their high shelf life allows you to cut down costs by buying them in bulk.

Canned Salmon

I don’t normally recommend any processed canned foods, but canned salmon is one of those rare foods that are healthier than the fresh version. Aside from being expensive, fresh salmon is usually farmed, which means they are typically contaminated with PCBs, and fed chemicals that turn their flesh pink (which happens naturally in the wild). Canned salmon is almost always caught in the wild, and is usually very affordable. It provides an abundance of omega-3, vitamins, and minerals, and unlike other canned sea food like tuna, the amount of mercury in salmon is negligible.


While the cost of groceries has gone up significantly in recent years, bananas are still remarkably cheap. They also contain a well-rounded dose of nutrients like vitamins C and B6, as well as minerals like magnesium and potassium. Contrary to popular belief, bananas don’t contain the most potassium (see beans above) but they are one of the cheapest ways to consume that mineral. Though most westerners aren’t aware of this, you can actually eat the banana peel as well if it’s properly prepared, which will double your potassium intake.

Beef Liver

There’s no doubt that the taste and texture of liver renders it unpalatable to most people. Unless you grew up eating it, there’s a good chance that you will absolutely hate beef liver. However, the widespread unpopularity of liver means that it’s usually pretty affordable. The nutrient profile of this organ is also amazing. It might give you the best bang for your buck, compared to everything else on this list.

In fact, some of the nutrients in beef liver are so high, that eating a single serving every day might actually be bad for you. That serving would include 431% of your daily recommended amount of vitamin A, 137% of riboflavin, 800% of B12, and 486% of copper. Unfortunately, it doesn’t keep very long in the fridge, so you may want to skip liver if you live alone. But if you live with a family, you can easily divvy up a single slice between everyone.

Have any great ideas for highly nutritious foods that won’t break the bank? Let us know in the comments below. 

Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.

Joshua’s website is Strange Danger

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

11 Dirt-Cheap, Easy-To-Store Foods That Should Be In Every Stockpile

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11 Dirt-Cheap, Easy-To-Store Foods That Should Be In Every Stockpile

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Stockpiling food can be expensive. But there is some good news for those of us on a tight budget – you don’t have to spend a fortune to be prepared.

You may not have all the food you want, but you’ll have food to keep your family alive. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

The most expensive part of any food stockpile is meat. While I’m a carnivore, I do recognize that I can survive without it. I also recognize that of all the types of food in our diet, meat might be the easiest to come up with in the wake of a disaster. You can hunt for meat, but last I checked, you can’t hunt for a loaf of bread.

With that in mind, here are my top foods for stockpiling, based on the nutritional bang you get for your buck:

1. Dry beans

On a worldwide basis, beans are one of the most common sources of protein. If you spend any time in Mexico, you’ll find that you get beans with pretty much every meal. That’s because beans pack a lot of nutrition into a small space, and there are a lot of different types of beans. They also store very well, if you can keep moisture and bugs away.

The Quickest Way To Store A Month’s Worth Of Emergency Food!

11 Dirt-Cheap, Easy-To-Store Foods That Should Be In Every Stockpile

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Maybe beans aren’t your family favorite; that’s OK. A lot can be done to doctor up the flavor of them, especially by using spices. Chili con carne and soup are both excellent places to hide your beans and actually get your family to eat them.

2. Rice

Rice is also a staple in many parts of the world. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Colombia, and rice is also typically served with every meal. Beans and rice are a common dish in many countries and territories, such as Puerto Rico.

As with any food, the more processed rice is, the more nutrition is lost. Brown rice can be mixed with just about anything and fried, making your own version of fried rice. But many survivalists prefer white rice because it stores longer.

3. Whole grains

We normally think of wheat when we think of grains, mostly because that’s what we usually use to make bread here in the U.S. But just about any type of grain can be used. When you buy some specialty breads, such as rye bread, you’re buying a bread that is made of a mixture of rye flour and wheat flour. When you buy “seven-grain bread,” it’s literally a mixture of seven different types of grains.

Having a stock of grains, especially a mixed stock, will allow you to experiment and break up the monotony of your diet. You’ll also have more nutritious bread, as wheat flour isn’t the most nutritious grain you can use.

You’re better off buying whole grain, rather than flour, as it will keep longer. Keep in mind, however, that if you buy whole grain you will need a mill to prepare it.

4. Cooking oil

In order to use those grains, you’re going to need to have cooking oil. Fortunately, it’s inexpensive unless you buy pure olive oil or something similar. Oil keeps well for prolonged periods of time as long as it is sealed. There is little risk of insects or bacterial forming in it.

5. Peanut butter

As an inexpensive source of protein, it’s hard to beat peanut butter. Besides, what American child hasn’t grown up eating peanut butter sandwiches? That makes it a good comfort food as well. Peanut butter keeps well, is inexpensive and provides a lot of nutrition – so stock up.

6. Pasta

Pasta, like rice, is a good source of carbohydrates. The nice thing about it is that there are so many different things you can do with it. Besides throwing some sauce on it and having spaghetti, pasta forms a good base ingredient for many types of soups and casseroles. You can mix pretty much anything with it and turn it into a tasty dish.

7. Bouillon

Bouillon is your basic dehydrated or freeze-dried soup stock. If you buy it in the grocery store, it’s rather expensive. But if you buy it packaged for use in restaurants, it’s very cheap. With bouillon and pasta to start, you can turn most any food into a flavorful pot of soup.

8. Salt

Salt is necessary for your health. While doctors talk about not eating too much salt (to avoid high blood pressure and other health issues), a lack of salt prevents your body from retaining enough water.

11 Dirt-Cheap, Easy-To-Store Foods That Should Be In Every Stockpile More than that, salt is the main preservative used for meat. If you happen to kill a deer or even a cow, you’re going to need to preserve a lot of the meat. Whether you decide to smoke it or dehydrate it, you’re going to need salt … and lots of it.

The World’s Healthiest Survival Food — And It Stores For YEARS and YEARS!

Don’t buy your salt in the one-pound containers you see in the grocery store. Instead, buy it in 25-pound bags. You’ll get it for about one-eighth the cost per pound. Considering that you want to have a couple of hundred pounds of it on hand, that’s a nice savings.

9. Sugar

Sugar is more than a sweet treat. For example, it works as a preservative for fruits and helps bread dough rise so you can bake a nice, fluffy loaf.

Like salt, sugar will keep forever. The only problem is keeping moisture and ants out of it. Store it in a five-gallon, food-grade bucket and you should be able to keep it without any problem.

10. Powdered milk

Milk is one of nature’s most complete foods. It’s also needed for most baking. Unfortunately, in liquid form it doesn’t keep well and that’s why stockpiling powdered milk is wise. While powdered milk might not taste as good as regular milk, you’ll get used it and be glad to have it. Plus, powdered milk is very inexpensive.

11. Seeds

Admittedly, seeds really aren’t food. But they grow into food, and that makes them the best single food item you can stockpile. Eventually – no matter how many bags of beans, rice and other foods you stockpile – you are going to run out and will need to grow your own food. Stocking up on seeds is a great way to ensure your long-term survival.

What low-cost foods would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.


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When pulling together the nuts and bolts of your family’s preparedness plan, one of the biggest bolts to make sure you turn is long term food storage and it can be a daunting one.  The first thing you have to do is figure out how you define “long term” and then appropriately slot that into your overall food storage plan.  Once you have figured that part out, it really does not have to be difficult to square away your long term food storage.  To prove it, I wanted to share a quick project that I knocked out in just a couple hours.

We continually add to our long term food storage and we do our best to cover a wide spectrum in the type of foods we choose to stock, but for this project I addressed a couple of the staples….beans and rice.  During a recent trip to our local big box warehouse store I picked up some food supplies, I grabbed a stack of food grade buckets at a local bakery for $1 each and ordered the oxygen absorbers and Mylar bags from  What follows is the quick and easy way I package them for long term storage.  Hopefully you will see that it is a really straight forward process and that you can do it too.

The project list:

  • 2 ft aluminum level
  • standard household iron
  • Sharpie (red)
  • 2 cup measuring glass
  • 1 gallon Mylar bags (bulk)
  • oxygen absorbers (bulk)
  • food grade plastic buckets with lids
  • 25 lbs dry pinto beans
  • 50 lbs long grain white rice


To begin, I used the 2 cup measuring glass to measure out ten cups of dried pinto beans or 10 cups of long grain white rice into each 1 gallon Mylar bag and dropped in the oxygen absorbers.


Next, I pulled the top of the Mylar bag together at the top and pressed out as much trapped air as possible, then I folded it over the one inch wide flat edge of my aluminum level and used the hot iron (set to the highest setting) to seal the Mylar bag closed by pressing the one inch strip of the Mylar bag between the iron and the aluminum level across the entire width of the bag sealing it permanently.  After a few hours, the oxygen absorbers pull all of the excess air out of the sealed Mylar bag essentially vacuum sealing the food safely inside.  Once all of the bags are sealed and labeled, I placed the bags inside my food grade buckets with locking lids and then placed an external label on each of the buckets making them ready to go into storage.


As I hope you can see, this process is not as daunting as it may appear at first and that you can do an awful lot to bolster long term storage food supplies and deepen your larder quickly and inexpensively.  Remember, at every level of your family’s food storage, you want to store what you eat and eat what you store.  Stick to what you know your family enjoys and stack it as high and deep as you deem necessary to meet the requirements of your family’s preparedness plan.  If you have questions or comments, please leave them below and I’ll get back with you as soon as possible.

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The One Nutrient-Dense Vegetable That Can (Nearly) Feed Your Family For An Entire Year

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The One Nutrient-Dense Vegetable That Can (Nearly) Feed Your Family For An Entire Year

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It can be hard to decide on crops for sustenance farming, but growing beans is an easy decision. Beans have a long tradition in North America for a reason: They’re easy to grow, can yield large amounts of food, and are packed with nutrition. And if you know how many seeds to plant, you can easily grow enough to just about feed your family for a full year.

As a source of protein, beans are much less labor-intensive to produce than meat, dairy or eggs, and can be a valuable supplement in your diet. They store well, and each successive year of growing and harvesting beans will lead to better yields within your climate.

If you directly compare the nutritional content of black beans and chicken, the result is surprising:

  Black Beans, 100 g Chicken, 100 g
Calories 341 249
Fat 1.4 g 14 g
Protein 22 g 27 g
Dietary Fiber 16 g 0 g
Calcium 123 mg 15 mg
Potassium 1483 mg 223 mg
Iron 5 mg 1.3 mg
Vitamin B6 0.3 mg 0.4 mg
Magnesium 171 mg 23 mg


Comparing other beans and meats yields similar results. The two foods provide an almost equivalent amount of protein, but the beans are more nutrient-rich, by far. It should be noted that the protein in beans is an incomplete protein, and a vegetarian diet would require additional plant proteins such as whole grains or nuts eaten through the day to provide all the amino acids needed for the body.

Need Non-GMO Heirloom Beans For Your Spring Garden? The Best Deals Are Right Here!

This is partly why the Native Americans grew beans alongside corn and squash; the “three sisters” together provide nearly all the nutrients the body needs. When you’re using beans to supplement an omnivorous diet, you needn’t worry about that because the meat, dairy and eggs will provide all the complete protein you need. Beans are the go-to food to fill you up and stretch your meals, so they last longer and feed more people.

Choosing and Growing Beans

The One Nutrient-Dense Vegetable That Can (Nearly) Feed Your Family For An Entire Year

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Select two to three varieties to grow in your first year, based on flavor preferences and the amount of space in your garden. You will need 10-20 plants per person to provide enough beans for a year. Plant beans in early spring, after the last frost, being careful to rotate them through your garden yearly to keep them producing well.

Generally, there are two types of beans commonly grown: shell varieties, which can be eaten fresh or dried, and snap beans, grown mainly for their pods. These categories are subdivided by the growth patterns of the beans: bush or pole. While bush beans can be planted unsupported, pole beans grow on vines which need to be staked to grow effectively; pole beans take up less horizontal space in the garden but require more maintenance during growth to ensure they climb properly. Dry beans are more traditionally used in North America, but snap beans have also been cultivated for centuries. Some plants can provide both types of beans.

Common varieties of beans for home gardens that can be eaten fresh and dried are adzuki beans, black-eyed peas, Fava beans, Lima beans and pinto beans.

The World’s Healthiest Survival Food — And It Stores For YEARS and YEARS!

You can easily experiment with beans to decide which are best suited to your climate and are preferred by your family.

Harvesting, Storing and Cooking Dried Beans

Dry beans are allowed to mature fully on the plant, becoming fully dried before you pick them. After picking, beans must be removed from the pods by threshing; you can beat the individual plants against the inside of a container to release the beans, or use a bean flail to hit the beans on a cloth and break the pods in order to remove the beans. Separating the chaff from the beans by winnowing on a windy day is simple: Simply pour the beans and chaff from one basket to another outdoors several times and let the chaff be carried off by the breeze.

You can store beans for many months or even years, in jars kept in a cool, dry location. If you intend to save some of the beans as seed, let them dry, spread out, four to six weeks before storing them in jars, until the beans are fully hardened and cannot be broken by biting them. Dry beans require soaking before cooking. Allow the beans to soak in cool water overnight before using in soups, as side dishes, or mixed with grains for a meal. Growing dry beans for storage is like saving up for the future; no matter what happens in your garden and with your livestock in the coming year, you will have a source of nutrition at hand, ready to feed your family.


The Three Sisters: How To Garden The ‘Native American Way’

What are your bean-growing tips? How many do you plant to feed your family? Share your advice in the section below:

Every Spring, Gardeners Make This Avoidable Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

The Three Sisters: How To Garden The ‘Native American Way’

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The Three Sisters: How To Garden The ‘Native American Way’How many of us have sisters we can truly count on? One or more who will be by our side rain or shine? You may be wondering how sisters and gardening go together, but it seems they always have for Native Americans. The ancient method called Three Sisters gardening is a proven method for healthy bounty and successful vegetable growing. You can grow three vegetables – corn, beans and squash – in an efficient and earth-friendly way. It’s the method the Native Americans taught the Pilgrims, and it’s the method that thousands of people still use each spring.

A Little Bit of History

Three sisters gardening provides a healthy diet and long-term fertility of garden soil. It was a system of gardening that native people perfected before the first European stepped onto the New World. Native people grew a wide selection of plants which often were drought-resistant and adaptable. Gardens were more of a small field or clearing. This would be big enough to grow produce for seeds the next year, as well as for food. Seeds would be gathered and stored, and it has been recorded by the early settlers how the native people would store ground maize to use during the winter.

They looked for signs in nature as to when to begin planting. For example, when the Canadian geese returned or the Dogwood tree’s leaves were the size of a squirrel’s ear, the soil was warm enough to plant seeds. They grew variations of today’s Three Sister gardens. Maize was the common corn.

Need Non-GMO Heirloom Seeds For Your Spring Garden? The Best Deals Are Right Here!

At the beginning of the planting season, there would be ceremonies. A festival would be held for the harvesting of the first green corn on the cob. Men and women had specific roles in the garden.

So, why do corn, squash and beans get planted together in this type of garden?

Traditionally, the native people viewed the Three Sisters — corn, squash, and beans — as a gift from the gods. These three vegetables were important both physically and spiritually to every tribe. There were several different tribes, with their own variations of the story behind the three sisters, leading to different methods of gardening. In every one, however, each plant had a significant role. Scientifically, these three plants nutritionally complement each other. Corn has the carbs, beans have the protein and squash has vitamins and oils. Corn provides a pole for the beans to climb and in turn, bean vines stabilize the corn stalks and also provide nitrogen in the soil for the corn. Squash plants are prickly enough to deter predators. Squash also acts as a ground-covering mulch and prevents weeds from growing. Squash also helps the soil retain moisture. All leftovers can be put back into the soil at the end of the season.

Planting Your Own Three Sisters Garden

Planting a Three Sisters garden is slightly different than the common garden style we know of today. Find an area with a minimum space of 10 X 10 square feet. This ensures good corn pollination. The site needs to be in the sun. Plants will need six to eight hours of sunlight a day. Put compost or manure in the soil — or fish, if you truly want to follow native methods.

You can sow seeds once the night temperatures are about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This usually happens in middle to late spring to June.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

The Three Sisters: How To Garden The ‘Native American Way’

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Include pole beans or runner beans, as well as squash or pumpkins (both have vines, rather than bush.)

How to Plant a Three Sisters Garden

There are many ways to plant a Three Sisters garden, but here is one:

  • Choose the type of corn, squash/pumpkin and bean to plant.
  • Make mounds for your beans and corn. The center of each mound should be five feet from the next mound’s center.
  • Mounds should be 18-24 inches across with flat tops. Plant the corn with four seeds in the center of a mound, and when the plants are about four inches tall, plant the squash and beans (at the same time).
  • Plant about four beans in a circle around each corn stalk. (Make sure you weed the ground before planting.)
  • Plant several squash seeds in a circle around the beans. Once the plants start growing, thin the mounds down to allow the stronger plants to grow.

Success for this garden depends on the spacing of seeds, timing of planting and the variety of crops. Do not plant too many seeds together or the vines will snarl into a mess and the corn will be smothered or crushed. Three Sisters gardening combines food, gardening, culture and history, making this gardening experience one-of-a-kind.

Have you ever planted a Three Sisters garden? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

Every Spring Gardeners Make This Avoidable Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

Storing Beans, Everything You Wanted to Know About Them

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storing beansOver the years, we have posted a number of articles on cooking and storing beans.  Today’s post is a summary of some of the information we have learned.

Beans come in different varieties and you can normally find one that will suite every taste.  The Different Varieties of Beans  Try different  beans and find the ones that suite you and your family.

Most beans will store for 30 years if stored correctly.  This means keeping them cool and protected from exposure to oxygen by packing them in Mylar bags in plastic buckets, #10 cans or their equivalent. They are sensitive to heat and will become hard if exposed to high heat.

Beans provide good nutrition and if served with rice or wheat will make a complete protein.  Many people in third world countries use them as a staple in their everyday diet and stay quite healthy. Beans and Rice a Complete Protein for your storage

If you have been storing beans and they get hard, don’t despair. Tricks to soften them.

If you are going to add acid foods such as molasses, tomatoes, and vinegar, add them near the end of your cooking because they have a tendency to make beans hard.  The same thing applies to salt, which should be added at the last minute.

If your beans still won’t get soft, soak them in water with baking soda to soften them. Start out with about 3/8 of a teaspoon and increase if needed.  If the baking soda doesn’t work, try pressure cooking or canning the beans.  This works most of the time.  If nothing else works, try grinding them into flour.  This flour can be used to make refried beans, soup or even to mix in bread recipes.

An additional use for beans is to cook them and use them in baking to replace fat.  Beans can Replace Fat and Oils in Your Baking.  I claim these are low fat, high protein cakes and you can eat more.  But all kidding aside you can’t tell the difference between them and ones made with oils or fats.

Here are a few recipes to help you get started with cooking beans.

Like anything there is a bit of a learning curve, start using beans before you have to and get some good eating.


The post Storing Beans, Everything You Wanted to Know About Them appeared first on Preparedness Advice Blog.

What’s for dinner? It’s in the can

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food storage cansWant to know when I am most often thankful to have food storage? It’s on those nights when I have trouble figuring out what to have for dinner!

Being a Survival Mom doesn’t mean just being prepared for the big emergencies, but for the every day ones – like having four hungry children to feed.

More often than not, I have a main dish planned, but I need a side dish or two to go with it. For my kids anyway, they’ll need more nourishment than just an entree! When I’ve been desperate in the past for side dish ideas, I’ve looked over what we had on hand, hoping for some inspiration!

One recent night, I knew we were going to have shredded barbecue beef sandwiches. We’ve been having them two to three times a month as I’m trying to work our way through a half cow we bought. I needed a new side or two to keep my family’s taste buds happy. Baked beans and corn came to mind, so I searched for some new recipes on Del Monte’s Web site. (I didn’t have a can of baked beans in the house, so I’d have to make them from “scratch.”) Below is what I tried, along with a few variations that can be made with them. (There was one recipe I didn’t try yet, but it gave me an “aha” moment – using canned fruit in smoothies! My children love smoothies, but we don’t always have the right ingredients on hand. That will change soon.)

These recipes use canned ingredients, along with seasonings and an occasional fresh ingredient or two. Opening a few cans makes the cooking process super easy and painless.

Baked Beans

This baked beans recipe called for pinto beans (canned), diced tomatoes (canned), sautéed onions, brown sugar, mustard, cinnamon and allspice. Dried beans could be used, although that takes a bit of planning and prep work to soak and cook them. Dried onions could be used instead of sautéed onions. Instead of baking, I threw the ingredients in a crock pot on low.

The recipe ended up a bit on the sweet side, so I added some paprika, cumin and jalapenos to make it a little zippier. It was a hit with everyone. I’ll probably cut down on some of the brown sugar next time and add some bacon if we have some on hand, but now I can make baked beans from “scratch” pretty easily.

Zesty Mexican Corn

This easy corn side dish calls for corn, butter, chili powder, cumin and lime juice. The corn could be sautéed in oil instead of butter and lime juice could be substituted with lime essential oil (just a drop or two). I had never cooked corn this way and it added a little crunch to the corn. This was another hit with the family and I wish I had doubled the recipe. Frozen or freeze dried corn could easily be used in place of the canned corn. Onions, green peppers, diced tomatoes or salsa could all be added for extra flavor.

Both of these recipes are very easy to make from food storage and pantry items. They could easily be done on the gas or charcoal grill or even over a fire. If we ever end up facing a long-term power outage, I think my family and I will be grateful to know different options for cooking from our food storage.

It’s in the can

Canned goods are a great part of any food storage pantry. Canned fruits and vegetables can make meals easy when the power goes out and are easy to pack up if you need to leave your home. Make sure to have a hand operated can opener with the cans and in any bug-out bag, though. If you end up in a situation where you have canned food and no can opener, you can try this tip from Survival Life: rub the can top side down on a hard surface like concrete until the seal starts to break.

Canned goods do have expiration dates, but many people believe the food can be good long past that date. Expiration dates are set by food production companies and can just reflect the “peak of freshness.” How can you know canned goods are still okay to eat? Signs that the food inside may not be safe to eat are bulging cans, rusted cans and cans that are leaking. Canned meat may break down more over time and tomato based products can break down cans eventually since they are high-acidic foods. In fact, I’ve heard complaints about canned tomato products than any other canned food.

While canned goods may not always be the absolutely healthiest option, in times of emergency (every day or catastrophic), they can come in handy to feed yourself and your family. Take the time to be creative with the food you store – your future taste buds (and those of your family) will thank you!

food storage cans

Canning Green Beans for Food Storage

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Canning Green Beans for Food Storage

Canning Green Beans for Food Storage

Freshly harvested string beans are one of my favorite vegetables. The first year I started my garden, I planted a lot of different types of bush and pole beans. I loved the different colors and shapes. I may have gone a little bit overboard.

After eating my fill and giving a lot away, I blanched and froze extra to enjoy over winter. I was disappointed with the frozen string beans. I didn’t like the rubbery texture or the squeaky feeling they had on my teeth when I chewed them. I decided to try canning string beans instead.

The mission of canning green beans is what prompted me to invest in a pressure canner. Like carrots, string beans are a low acid food and can only be canned safely by using a pressure canner. I did some research and purchased the least expensive one I could find, Presto 16-Quart Aluminum Pressure Canner. It holds a canner load of 9 pint sized jars and I can lift a full canner load off the stove without help.

Harvest your string beans in their prime when they are tender and small to medium sized. String beans grow quickly and I like to pick them every day so they don’t grow too big, but sometimes they get away from me. Select the small to medium sizes string beans for preserving. The large or seedy pods may taste ok when eating fresh, but they don’t hold up very well to canning and tend to get soft. Wash and store in zipper bags for a few days until you have enough for a full canner load. I like to aim for about 10 pounds to fill 9 pint sized jars.

                                    READ FULL ARTICLE HERE 




Other Useful Resources :    

Mega Drought USA:(Discover The Amazing Device That Turns Air Into Water)-DIY

Survive The End Days (Biggest Cover Up Of Our President)

Survival MD (Best Post SHTF Medical Survival Guide Ever)

Blackout USA (EMP survival and preparedness guide)

Bullet Proof Home (A Prepper’s Guide in Safeguarding a Home )

Backyard Innovator (All Year Round Source Of Fresh Meat,Vegetables And Clean Drinking Water)-DIY

Conquering the coming collapse (Financial advice and preparedness )

Liberty Generator (Easy DIY to build your own off-grid free energy device)

Backyard Liberty (Easy and cheap DIY Aquaponic system to grow your organic and living food bank)

Family Self Defense (Best Self Defense Strategies For You And Your Family)

The post Canning Green Beans for Food Storage appeared first on Backdoor Prepper.

Pressure Cooking: Controversy & Science

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Another great one by Chaya Foedus:

(originally published on Pantry Paratus in 2012, this piece has circulated quite a few times! We’ve made some updates…enjoy!) Some swear by pressure cooking because of high altitude living constraints, meat tenderizing, energy reduction, nutrient preservation, or convenience.  Other advise against pressure cooking because it leaches antioxidants, makes meat stringy and dry, or because they…

Continue reading

The post Pressure Cooking: Controversy & Science appeared first on Pantry Paratus.

The UBER Guide to DIY Food Storage with Mylar Bags, O2 Absorbers and Buckets!

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Uber Guide to Food Storage

We all NEED food!  In any real disruption, whether that be short or long term, people realize that they need or will need food.  If you doubt, or need a reminder, just think back to pictures of grocery store shelves during winter storms or hurricanes.  The problem with “ordinary” people (or maybe we should call them irresponsible), is that they wait till the disruption is right at their doorstep!

I knew when I started in preparedness that I didn’t want to be irresponsible.  I have a family and I wanted to make sure that their needs are met if I can help it.  So to me, as a father and husband, it is a no brainer to have long term food storage!

My good friend Gaye Levy of Backdoor Survival says it well in her book, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage

When most people start thinking about preparedness, they focus on food. Not shelter, gear, sanitation, power, self-defense or the myriad of other concerns that need to be addressed following an emergency or disaster situation. Quite simply, food is the number one concern people have second only to their concern for having an adequate supply of water.


What type of food should you buy, where should you buy it, and how should you store it? You are going to learn that acquiring food for the preparedness pantry does not have to be overwhelming. Furthermore, long-term emergency food storage is something you can do over the course of a week, a month, or even longer, if that is what it takes.


Perhaps even more important, when you have filled your storage pantry, you will be secure in the knowledge that if a disaster strikes, you will have plenty of food to feed your family, along with a few treats and surprises along the way.


My Long Term Food Storage Dilemma


After doing my due diligence and researching long term food storage, I soon realized that I wouldn’t be able to afford to purchase those big pallets of food for my whole family.  It would have been nice and easy to place an order online and then just park all that food in a room, but it wasn’t happening for my budget, and I bet it isn’t happening for your own budget either.

There is also the issue with what your family will eat.  Many of those long term food packs come with food that your family might not like and won’t eat.  Yeah, I know.  In an emergency, if they were starving, they would eat it.  But still…why push it.

I knew I wanted to store long term food for my family, the issue was how and how much.  It wasn’t long that I found that you could store food long term in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers inside of plastic 5 gallon buckets.

Side Note: Now, I will tell you here that I think the easiest form of food storage is buying canned foods at your local grocery store.  You can easily create a 30 day menu by using cans.  I wrote the article, Anyone Can Do It – Fool Proof Food Storage, which provides information to an old Y2K website with a ton of recipes…no guessing!  Below that article, you will find a ton of links to other types of food storage from many of my friends who also blog about preparedness.  BUT – canned foods aren’t meant to last for the “LONG TERM.”

The only thing that worried me about making my own long term food storage buckets was ME!  At that time, there wasn’t as much information about making your own food storage buckets like now!  What if I screwed something up and the food that my family depended on went bad and we were caught without any food during a long term crisis?  It’s kind of scary if you think about it, but you have to GET OVER IT!

Making your own long term food storage buckets is very easy.  I’m going to list out the steps in a 1,2,3 format.  But if you need more encouragement, I’m going to include so many links after my steps that you are going to OD on information and feel like a long term food storage expert!


Steps to Making Your Own Long Term Food Storage Buckets


1.  Acquire Your Supplies. 

You will need mylar bags, O2 absorbers, 5 gallon buckets w/ lids, a mallet, a pail or bucket opener, an iron, a 2×4 board and the food you want to store.

Mylar Bags – Here you have a few options.  You can go with big 5 gallon bag sizes or you can go with 1 gallon bag sizes and place 4-5 in each 5 gallon bucket.  You really want to purchase mylar bags that have a decent thickness.  I usually get 4mil thick bags from Amazon.

I have a big family, with big boys.  I chose to use the big 5 gallon size bags.  I figure that we are going to eat!  If you are putting together buckets for just two people, you might want to use the 1 gallon size bags and place various types of food in one bucket.

O2 Absorbers – O2 absorbers will absorb the oxygen that you can’t push out of the mylar bag.  Various sizes of bags require various cc’s of oxygen absorbers.

To take the guess work out of it though, you can purchase packs of mylar bags with O2 absorbers.  Like I said, I purchase them from Amazon already put together.

5 gallon buckets – You don’t really NEED buckets, but you should use them!  The buckets are  there to protect the mylar bags from being punctured by accident or by little fury critters.  They will also serve as an easy place to store your food when you open up your mylar bags.  I purchase the orange buckets from Home Depot.  I purchase the lids there too.  Home Depot has also started selling gamma lids, lids that easily screw off.  But you can also purchase them on Amazon.

Mallet – You will need this to hammer down the lids on the buckets after you finish sealing your bags.

Bucket/Pail Opener – This isn’t necessary, but will save your nails and fingers when you try to open your buckets.  They are cheap and you will be glad you have one.  You can purchase them on Amazon too.

Food – If you are doing this on the cheap, you probably want to stick with white rice, beans and pasta.  All of these foods will last for a very long time.  This will get you started, but you might want to add more.  Like for example, you might want to store sugar.  You can put that in a mylar bag, but don’t include an O2 absorber.  It will turn your sugar into a hard block.  For other examples of foods that you can store, see the links below.

Iron and 2×4 board – When you get ready to seal your mylar bags, you will place the top of the bag on the board and then iron over it.  I used an old iron we didn’t throw out and I had a 2×4 just laying around in the garage.

2.Fill Up the Bags

First thing – Do not open the package that the O2 absorbers come in until you are ready to start sealing your mylar bags!  Once you open the O2 package, the absorbers start working.  You want to wait until you are really ready.

Setup your buckets in a line or in a work area that will allow you to move easily.  Turn on your iron, connect with an extension cord if it makes it easier, and set it on high.

Place your mylar bags inside the buckets and pour your food inside. You might want to go ahead and label your lids with a Sharpie and place it under the buckets of food so you don’t forget what is inside each bucket…in case you are the forgetful type! 😉  Make sure you leave some space at the top of the bag so it can seal easily.

Shake the buckets to make sure you don’t have any air pockets.  Once all your food is in mylar bags, inside of the buckets, open up your O2 absorbers and drop the appropriate size of O2 absorber inside each bucket.

Grab the 2×4 board, lay it across a portion of the mylar bag, at the top, and run the iron over it.  You don’t have to hold it over too long.  You will see it seal. (see the Yeager vid below)  Again, this is easier than it might sound.  You want to leave a portion of the bag unsealed, like at the end.  The reason is that you want to push out as much air as possible.  I have heard that you can get a long tube/straw and place it on one side of the mylar bag to help get the last bit of air out.

After you are comfortable with pushing as much air out of the bags that you can get, then completely seal the bag.  You might want to make a diagonal seal at the end of the bag to close it off.  (The first tutorial link I link to below will show you what I mean)

At this point, you can wait till the next day to make sure that the bags sealed before you hammer on the lid.  You will notice that the bags will become “tight” and firm as the O2 is absorbed.

Any O2 absorbers that you have left can go into a mason jar.  I don’t really know how long this would work because I have always used all of mine!

3. After you are comfortable with your sealed bags, you can place the lid on them and use the mallet to set the lids in place.  You will notice that the lids from Home Depot have a rubber seal around the bottom.  This makes for a very tight seal.

4.  Your buckets should already be labeled, so just find a cool, dark place to store them, like in a closet or an unused room.  Your buckets should last for many, many, years.

The above list of steps is what I did to make my long term food storage buckets.  It is very easy to do.  However, I know that I wanted to see pics and video.  Again, you want to feel comfortable that you did everything correctly, your family is depending on you!

Below you will find some of the best tutorials and links that you will want to read/watch to help you feel more comfortable.  All of these articles were linked on Prepper Website, so you know they are good! :-)

Search Amazon for Great Deals on Purchasing Mylar Bags and Oxygen Absorbers!


DIY Long Term Food Storage Tutorials

How to Seal a Mylar Bag in a 5-gallon bucket (Modern Survival Blog) – This tutorial has the pic of using the diagonal seal I spoke about above.

Supersizing Food Storage with BUCKETS  (Prepared Housewives) – Good info. with a lot of pics!

VID: Long Term Food Storage (Survive2Day) – If you are looking for a video to walk you through the process, you might want to watch this one!

VID: Beginners Guide to Food Storage (James Yeager) – Yes, that James Yeager, often does videos on preparedness.  He walks through putting together food buckets in this video along with other food storage basics!

How to Seal Food in Mylar Bags (Backdoor Survival) – Good tutorial with a lot of pics!

Sealing Food in Five Gallon Buckets is an Important Skill for Preppers (Preparedness Advice Blog)

VID: Long Term Food Storage: Dry Pasta in Mylar Bags (The Modern Survivalist) – This is a short video where Ferfal uses a hair straightener to seal a small mylar package.

Food Storage: Packing pails for long term storage ( Candian Preppers Network)


Tips & Tricks You Want to Know About Your DIY Long Term Food Buckets


Food Storage Demystified – (Ready Nutrition) – Lots of great tips to help you understand more about your food buckets!

Food Grade Buckets – (5 Gallon Ideas) – Understand the difference between food grade and non-food grade buckets!

Oxygen Absorbers For 5-Gallon Food Storage (Modern Survival Blog)

FREE – Food Storage Inventory Spreadsheets You Can Download For Free (Prepared Housewives) – Who doesn’t like FREE stuff?

A Food Storage Tip When Using Mylar Bags (Ed that Matters) – A great tip for storing rice and beans together in the same 5 gallon bucket!

Survival Basics: Using Mylar Bags for Food Storage (Backdoor Survival) – Some great tips!

Guide to Long Term Food Storage (The Daily Prep) – A graphic resource with links to specific topics and questions you might have.

The 15 Commandments of Food Storage (Survival Mom) – Just good info.

How Many Buckets of Freedom Do You Have? (The Organic Prepper) – Some thoughts on why it is important to have buckets of food!

Food Storage (Peak Prosperity) – There is a ton of info. here regarding food storage of all types.  I’m including it because it does discuss long term food buckets.

8 Tips For Storing Food in Mylar Bags  (Food Storage & Survival) – Great tips!

How Much Food Will Fit in a 5 Gallon Bucket? (Preparedness Advice Blog) – Good info.

12 Staples of Long Term Food Storage (US Prepper’s) – A good list of food to have.


3 Great Resources


The Prepper’s Cookbook (Tess Pennington) – This book is one of the best when it comes to cooking with your food storage.  The book contains a ton of recipes, charts, how-to store food for long term food storage (various ways), food calculator and more!  Read the review hereThe book has 4.5 stars and 209 reviews on Amazon.  It is definitely one you want in your preparedness library!

The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage (Gaye Levy) – This ebook is concise and packs a powerful punch.  You can read my review here.  The book has 4 stars and 33 reviews on Amazon.  You can often find it for $.99!

The Pantry Primer: A Prepper’s Guide to Whole Food on a Half-Price Budget (Daisy Luther) – I haven’t done a book review on this book.  But knowing Daisy and reading all the articles that she puts out on her website, I know it is going to be good.  The book covers building your pantry, cutting costs, storing food and also contains recipes.


Spices & Herbs?


I’m sure that your family will be very appreciative of all your efforts to provide food for extended emergencies.  However, with all the bulk food that you store, you might find that eating becomes boring.  Since food is so important to us, why not prepare a little bit more to have “good food” that your family would eat.

One thing that you will want to do is to store spices and herbs to make your food storage have various tastes.  Spices, seasonings and herbs usually store very well.  You might also want to grow your own herbs.  Having fresh herbs is easy, frugal and can be done in your big garden or even in containers.  Below you will find some good articles to reference.

Long Term Storage for Spices (Florida Hillbilly)

Food Storage: Storing Herbs and Spices for Long Term Storage (Self-Reliant School)

The Spice of Life (Paratus Familia Blog)

Food Storage, Bulk Spices, And My Must Haves (New Life on a Homestead)

10 Spice Blend Recipes (The Mountain Rose Blog)

Drying Herbs? Here’s what you do with them next (I Am Liberty)

How Do I Store That? Dried Herbs (Preparedness Mama)

Herb Gardening Basics (Simply Living Simply)




Food storage makes sense!  You know it does or you wouldn’t have read this article.  If you are looking for other ways to store food, including more tips, tricks and cooking ideas, take a look at the “Food Storage” tag on Prepper Website.  There you will find pages and pages of great food storage articles.  Just a note – at the bottom of each tag page, there is a link to take you to the next page!

Do you have a favorite food storage article or tip?  Link it below in the comments!


Search Amazon for Great Deals on Purchasing Mylar Bags and Oxygen Absorbers!