Category Archives: food

Start gardening now, or pay the price

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

It is getting closer to spring (thank goodness), and time is quickly approaching for getting the gardens ready. If you are not a gardener, then this year should be the kick in the rear to get you started. If you have been following the news lately, you should have heard that California is continuing another drought year with a bang. It has been reported that the largest state for producing many of the fruits and vegetables we see at the store has only received 1/4th of the snowfall they normally would get. Compound this with the dependence on diverted water from nearby states and environmental restrictions to save some endangered slug, prices and availability of common food you buy will be that kick you need. The government has already stated that they will not provide needed water from their stockpile to irrigate farmland, due to a limited initial supply for this year.

Gardening is a crazy mix between and art and a science. Starting a garden this year provides knowledge and experience for next year, and for life. These lessons compound over time and the yields increase each year due to the skill you learn and better soil care. Now is the time to be starting seeds. If you are not experienced at gardening, please ask a neighbor, friend, look online, or get some books to help get your garden started right.

The quality of the food you grow will be much healthier for you as compared to the “science” used by large scale growers to grow the redder and bigger than belief tomato that shows up at your grocery store weeks after it was picked. The taste and nutrition factor of food you can grow will be superior to most of the food in the stores, but it unfortunately may not look exactly like what you may be used to.

Learn to can extra food that you have grown, to fill your pantry and remind you of your hard work during the growing season. There are many reasons for food prices to rise, and it seems this year is going to be especially difficult, and we are not even out of February yet.

Take care,
SP

SHTF Chickens, Bock bock

We have had chickens for the last 5-6 years, and they have been enjoyable little workers for our tiny homestead. Awhile ago I was one of the Trustees for our large plot subdivision, that prohibits having chickens. My wife wanted chickens, and she ignored my dislike of the idea, and spoke with the other Trustees. She was asking for a variance to the subdivision rules, and followed their direction getting signatures from a portion of the other homeowners. Once complete, then they had other hoops for her to jump through just to get a vote to change the rules. What??? She just wanted a variance, not to change the rules, or to jump through more hoops to be told no. She asked what would happen if she just got them, and they replied they would sue (with a grin on his face, because he know there were much bigger fish to fry than a pretty girl’s chickens).

So, now we had to build a coop. The coop measured about 8 foot by 4 foot, and about 5 foot high at the top of the angled roof. The floor of the coop is layered with wood shavings and a nesting box provides access into the coop to grab the eggs. My wife built a run measuring 8 foot by 20, out of regular lumber and covered it with chicken wire. The chickens were ordered in a group of 25 baby hens, and she raised them, then found a new home for half of them, as she originally only wanted about a dozen birds.

Chicken coop

The birds are allowed to free range throughout the day, and they find their way back into the coop as the sun is setting. We will go out in the evening to close the run and the coop, and open it all up the next morning. A couple of times, the run gets closed before they retire for the night, and we have had to hunt them down roosting in trees and behind bushes in the middle of the night. There is chicken feed to supplement the food they can find free ranging. Their egg production for the first few years was great, we would net about 8 eggs every day. We could had more if we ran a light 16 hours a day in the coop. Now that the remainder of those chickens are older, egg production has dwindled to almost none. She has a couple of new batches of hens (and a rooster, hope the neighbors aren’t too annoyed) that she has raised since May.

The chickens help the yard by scratching around looking for bugs. They are entertaining to watch how they interact with each other and handle their “pecking order”. One bit of advice though, don’t let your wife name them after her aunts, because it is difficult to tell the family that a stray dog, or another predator has killed the chicken named after them. The chickens we have are basically pets that luckily have a small production quality, rather than just being consumers. We have considered getting birds to raise for meat, but we are not ready for handling the day the culling would happen just yet, although the quality of meat would be far superior to what the grocery stores offer.

Chicken coop

We also realized how little is known about chicken reproduction. We have been asked numerous time about why we get eggs when we (at the time) did not have a rooster. We also were surprised when someone couldn’t believe we would eat brown eggs that came out of a chicken’s butt. So I asked where the white eggs she buys at the store come from (and watched a blank stare of realization happening). The eggs are very fresh and look much richer than eggs bought from the store, and likely they are a month or two fresher.

If you have some space and the desire to raise chickens, they will be an asset to your little homestead too. Please feel free to comment with your questions or tell us about your flock.

SP

Important survival skills during a SHTF event

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

Basic survival is rather easy, and humans have managed to prosper for tens of thousands of years with a rather small skill set. Arguably these are the skills everyone should be learning and practicing.

Firemaking
Starting a fire without using a lighter or matches is difficult to do. I also see plenty of people that have issues when they do have a lighter. The key to getting a fire started is to have three groups of materials ready. Start with tinder which is a material that will easily turn a spark into a flame. To get a spark, a ferrocerium rod and steel striker can be used, or upgrade to magnesium block. Use a knife to create small shavings of magnesium inside your tender, and use a steel striker on the ferrocerium rod to get an intense flame. Next start adding kindling, small thin sticks to keep your flame burning. Then add small fuel branches and work your way up to bigger pieces of fuel.

Water finding
Finding water and purifying it is very important to staying alive. If you are not fortunate to live by a lake river, creek etc., you will want to have plenty of it stored up for drinking, cooking and sanitation. You will also need to be proactive and have systems in place to catch rainfall from the roof of your home or some other method that works for your area. Water is heavy, and walking long distances to a water source and carrying it back will be uncomfortable and it will expose yourself to increased security problems. Use a filter to help remove water pathogens, and boiling it for a couple of minutes will be additional insurance to have safe drinking water.

Raising small livestock
Knowing how to care for and raise chickens and/ or rabbits is another skill that will be important to know. Both of these animals will reproduce quickly, and other than storing feed for them, are easy to care for. If you have garden space available, it could be used to grow things both chickens and rabbits can eat.

Gardening and foraging
It takes time to get your green thumb, as we have had better and better results from our garden each year. We unfortunately have busy lives, and the garden seems to suffer towards the end of summer. Start small and work in additional garden space, and realize you can have a spring, summer and fall garden. Learn to can the extra food you grow, for the winter months. Learn about plants in your area that can be eaten. The yellow flower and green leaves of a Dandelion can be eaten, and is a good source of minerals your body can use. The more sources of food you can grow or find, will extend the life of any food you have stored in your basement.

Trapping, Snaring
One of the best benefits of trapping is that these are passive hunting techniques. You set your trap, and while you are working on other projects, your traps are working for you.

Knot tying and Rope making
It took me a long time to figure out why my Dad tied certain knots, when I could tie a knot much faster, then it dawned on me that his knots were much easier to untie… I have a definite appreciation of the basic knots and the best uses for each of them. Visit ProKnot to learn about the different knots. I like their applications on iOS and Android. As far as rope making, unlike our ancestors, we have various kinds of rope available. Knowing how to twist a couple of bundles of long fibers in a clockwise direction, then twist both of them together in a counter clockwise direction will make a rope. The rope you make is much better than the rope you forgot to bring with you.

Security – situational awareness
It will be important to do quick security assessments during a SHTF event. Just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. Be careful about running loud generators at night, or lighting up your entire house if every other house is dark. You may want to have a big roaring fire to cook on, or cook something that will send an unwanted invitation to some bad people’s noses. If you are in a subdivision, work with neighbors and help each other with keeping watch, or reporting suspicious behaviors. Have a warning bell that can alert many people to a possible situation.

Knife sharpening
Lastly I think more people need to know how to sharpen a knife or axe, etc., these tools work so much better when they are sharp.

Please comment on your ideas of skills that will be needed when the SHTF. Our ancestors were obviously very good at surviving without electricity, AC, smartphones and TV. We have become too reliant on modern conveniences.

Take care,
Sensible Prepper

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SP’s weekend foraging

I have been tracking some edibles growing in my yard this year, and wanted to show some simple things readers in the sticks might be able to find and enjoy. There is plenty of Sumac trees growing behind the dam of our pond. The small red berries have a coating on them that is very tart. You don’t need to eat them, as the flavor is just on the outside.

Sumac berries on the tree
Sumac berries collected

I usually will pick them in July, as they will lose flavor as the rain will washes off the tartness towards fall. Collect a couple of big berry pods, and put them in a container of drinking water to have a Sumac Lemonade.

I also collected some Amaranth seeds, but I was too late to catch them at the right time. I actually collected some seeds earlier in June, but thought they were not ready yet. the seeds in June were white and larger than the darker small seeds I collected over the weekend. Amaranth can be winnowed to just the seed, and milled to be an amendment to flour for baking. The smaller seeds would not winnow very well and will be spread out for a bigger yield next year.
Amaranth

Hopefully, foraging can include some jalapeños growing in the garden. My wife has grown them for a few years, but the yield didn’t seem to be enough to do anything with them. I used Simply Scratch’s Easy Homemade Pickled Jalapeños as a guide for my first pickling adventure. I only used a couple tablespoons of sugar, and the next time I will reduce it to one. The process was quick and easier than I thought it would be. Other than the sugar, the jalapeños came out tasting terrific, and were crisp.
Pickled Peppers

What do you have growing in your area that you have eaten? Please comment and share.

SP

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