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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dehydrating Is Fun

I really love dehydrating foods.  It is an easy solution  for storing many things in your long term storage.  Fruits and vegetables don't take up as much room and it is also extremely easy to do.  Folks have been drying foods for centuries.  It doesn't take much equipment and the foods, when dried, can be stored easily and take very little space. 
You can dehydrate most vegetables.  There are of course exceptions to every rule, but generally most will do well when dried.
   You will need some method of drying your vegetables, something to cut them with and some method of blanching some of your vegetables.  All that means is that you need a dryer, a knife and a big pot of boiling water!
    People ask what kind of dehydrators they should look for.  Two of the most popular are the Excalibur and the Nesco American Harvester.  The Excalibur is an excellent dehydrator and what I call the "Caddy" (as in Cadillac) of dryers. It is also one of the most expensive ones on the market.  The folks I know who own them wouldn't trade them for the world.  A really nice dehydrator with nine large trays.  The fan is located in the back of the dehydrator and blows air evenly ACROSS the foods.
    The Nesco American Harvester is a great dehydrator. The cost is less than half of the Excalibur.  It is the one that I own.  I love mine and it does a wonderful job.  It is an expandable dehydrator. What that means is that you can add up to 12 trays or use as few as one.  The fan on the Nesco is at the top of the dryer and blows air down and back up the trays.  It has "vents" in the sides that also help to circulate the air. 
Either of these dehydrators are an excellent choice. The one thing you want in a dryer is to make sure that it has a thermostat.  Some come with timers but in my opinion they are unnecessary.
   Another dehydrator to consider is a solar dehydrator.  You can buy these already constructed or build one yourself.  There are many plans out there on the internet for building  one yourself.  You may just have things laying around the house that can be turned into a solar dryer.  You could even make a "redneck" dehydrator by using a car in the summertime.  Sounds funny I know, but it can and does work!  Like I said, just do an internet search and you will come up with tons of different ways to make your own dehydrator. 
    As I said earlier, you can dehydrate almost any vegetable and lots of different fruits. Once your garden starts producing ( You do have a garden started right?) you can dry all those vegetables rather than using up your freezer space. 
I'll be doing some more posts on dehydrating in the future.   Don't forget to check out the American Preppers Network Forums. Lots of wonderful folks there with many layers of experience.  So if you are just starting out prepping or have been at it all your life you can find something of interest there.  There's a link at the top of the page.  Click it and ta da!!  You are there.
But if you are looking for more information there are many places on the net. One of the best is Dehydrate2Store.  Tammy is a dehydrating "guru" and there is much that you can learn from her videos. 
                 ~~~ Hey ... I'm Just Sayin' ...~~~

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spring Time in the Garden

I haven't been doing a lot of "prepper" stuff  lately. With all the things going on in America and around the world these days I should be screaming from the rafters PREPARE NOW!!!!  Things are getting scary and for some reason, now that things are starting to fall apart, I feel almost frozen in place.  Which happens occasionally.  I'm sure I'm not the only one.  I believe we are living in what will be looked back upon as historic times.  Take notes boys and girls, this will be one to tell your grandchildren about.  Let's just hope we can tell them while still living in a Free America and not just about "the good old days" when we lived in a place we used to call America, the Beautiful.

Ok, now that I have identified the reason for my "dismal mood" and realize that my general outlook has been sucking... (sucking? I'm pretty sure that's not really the word I was looking for but it certainly fits)  It is now time to pull up my proverbial "big girl panties" and get on with it.  After all, spring is right around the corner and there are things we can be doing to get ready for what is sure to be an "interesting" summer.
One of the things we CAN do about getting ourselves more prepared for the inevitable higher prices we are going to see in the grocery stores this year is to plant a garden. Even if you have never tried growing one it's really  not that hard to do.

So lets talk about some gardening!  After spending most of the winter looking out the window and wishing for warmer weather, nothing makes a person feel better than to start planning your garden.
 You will first have to figure out just what you have to work with. No excuses either!  Even if you live in an apartment you can grow something.  Container gardening can produce lots of vegetables in small amount of space. You just need a few containers, some good dirt, and some seeds.  Heck, this year, instead of planting those seasonal flowers in your flower bed, how about using that space to grow edible plants!  You would be amazed at how many vegetables are not only good to eat but are pretty to look at!

You can use most any kind of containers as long as they have a way to let the water drain off the soil.  Even old 5 gallon buckets will work.  Just drill some holes in the bottom and you will be ready to go.  Your choice of containers is only as limited as your imagination.   You can easily grow tomato's, peppers, lettuce, cucumbers, etc in containers.

I am a big advocate for shopping local and your local nursery is no exception.  You can pick up most everything you need there as well as your seeds.  You can also purchase some vegetable starter plants at your local nursery.  They are a great resource for information about planting in your area.   If you don't have a nursery near you then even your "big box" stores will usually carry starter plants and seeds.  I personally would rather not shop there but if there isn't another option for now then by all means go for it.  Planting something is much better than not planting at all!

If you still have time to do it, then another option for purchasing your seeds is to  shop online for them.  Places like Baker Creek Seeds, Seeds of Change and the Seed Savers Exchange  all carry heirloom and open pollinated seeds.  There are many other places that carry heirloom seeds as well. Just be sure that they are truly not Genetically Modified seeds.  And be sure to ask if they are affiliated in ANY way with Monsanto.  Those seeds are a big no no in my personal opinion.

With that being said I personally think that most plants are just as easy to start from seed, but if you are more comfortable starting out with seedlings then go with that!  Remember, this is your garden and it is supposed to be fun and lots of us find it pretty relaxing too! So don't let the little things stress you out.  Find a  spot somewhere that gets maximum sunlight. Some morning or afternoon shade is ok but you will want to have at least 6 hours or so of direct sunlight. 

  Do you have a garden spot already? Then it's time to get your dirt turned over and tilled up. Now would be a good time to take a soil sample to your local County Extension Agency. Some of them still offer this service for free or at a really nominal rate. They can tell you what, if anything, your soil might be needing.  They are also a great source for information about what AND when to plant in your specific area.  And now is a great time to do that.

Here is the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map. Click here to find out what zone you are in.  Most vegetables can be planted between April 15th and June 1st, depending on the zone you are in. The Vegetable Garden is a super website  that lists the planting schedules and extension agencies for your area.  The information there is invaluable to both the new gardener and those with more hands on experience as well.

Planting a garden of any kind can be lots of fun. Make a summer kids garden while you are at it.  Teach your children gardening this year and create a lifetime of memories.  And face it, there isn't anything much better that fresh, right out of the garden vegetables on your dinner table.  You will be amazed at what you can do.   With food prices out of control in the stores, you can save a ton of money this summer.  So get out there and get started.  The only thing stopping you is you!

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived with all of her family.  Of course most people live with their family, but this little girl lived with ALL of hers from time to time. She would visit with her mothers parents and all of her wonderful aunts and uncles from time to time.  You see, her mother went away when she was small and so her father sent her to live with his parents.  He was a soldier and Uncle Sam said the little girl couldn't go with him.  
     So she came to live with her grandparents. Her grandparents loved her very much. In fact, more wonderful people were hard to find.  Her grandmother shared her love of music and her love of life with the little girl. Grandmother would play the piano and the little girl would place her hands on hers. She felt  magic in the sounds of the piano.  They would sing fun songs and songs she would sing in Sunday School. Her grandmother taught her to crochet and even how to paint.  Of course the little girls pictures were just the pictures that little girls draw, but to her grandmother they were works of art.  She showed her and to cook  and to can all sorts of wonderful things that came from the garden her grandfather tended.  
     Her grandfather taught her to whistle and  where to find the best worms for fishing.  How put a wiggly worm on the hook and how to reel in "The biggest fish I ever saw!" They would work in the big garden he grew. He showed her how to tell the differences in the good plants and the bad plants. They would eat fresh vegetables right off the plants. She learned the difference between beans and peas  and all sorts of other good things to eat.  Once he even planted strawberries  for her just because she loved them so much. .  He showed her how to tell when the strawberries were just right to pluck from the vine.  They filled their baskets with the red sweet fruits, nibbling at the juicy berries all the while. and would take them to her grandmother to wash and clean.  The little girl would pull up her favorite chair to the kitchen counter and help her grandmother make heavenly jams and jellies.
     Her father came home from the war and brought a new mom for the little girl.  Her new mom was lots of fun and knew how to do lots of things. She taught the little girl how to do cartwheels.  She even learned make her own bed, with clean sheets that smelled of sunshine and fresh breezes.  Hanging clothes on the line was fun and besides, her mom really needed someone to hand her the clothes pins right?    Her new mother would bake fresh bread  and cakes and cookies.  On Saturday mornings they would cook yummy things like French Toast or pancakes and bacon.  Once again the little girl dragged her chair up to the kitchen counter and helped make all these yummy things. 
    Her father let her help in his garden since she now knew what weeds looked like! They would eat warm ripe tomato's out in the garden and the juice would run down their chins. Sometimes she would  make sandwiches with fresh bread and homemade jelly and they would go to the woods and hunt. Other times they would go fishing. Often they had fresh meat or fish for dinner that night.  She learned how to clean a fish but never wanted to learn to how to clean game.  Her father called it "dressing out the game".  She never did figure that one out.  It was more like undressing to her!  
And then, before she knew it, the girl had grown  up and had a home and family of her own.  But she would never forget the things her family had  taught her. She knew that one day she would be able to do all these things and more.
                                        The End
Or is it just the beginning?  You see, all those skills that our parents and grandparents taught us are slowly becoming lost. I feel that we, as parents and responsible adults,  have a responsibility to make sure they not. Pass them on.  The day is coming (soon) that they will be some of the most important things we could know.

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Prepping For Pets

by Who is John Gall »

Ok, I would be the first to admit that if I had to choose, I would choose a loved human over a loved animal and most of my planning has been done with that in mind. But, nevertheless, I do still plan for them.

We have a cat, four dogs, three parrots, a 50 gallon fish tank (with fish), and the koi pond (with koi). I live in hurricane country, so I plan with that in mind... What if we are without power for weeks? What if the house is destroyed (nearly was in Gustav)?

Yes, I do stock extra food and water for everyone (fur, feathers, and scales). But, the fish need good water quality. A well maintained aquarium should be able to withstand 24 (maybe 48) hours without circulating water, but after that the fish will start to suffocate and die in the stagnant water. To try and keep the fish alive (I have had some of them for over 5 years now, they are like scaly family) here are my plans: First, when I know that a storm is approaching, do a water change (time permitting). Next, during the storm when the power goes out, use battery powered air pumps (more on those latter). Then, when the generator gets going, run the tanks filters on the ginny. As a last resort, manually circulate the water (pull out and dump back in a gallon of water at a time every hour or so).

Not sure if I am doing this photo bit right, but here is a pic of one brand of battery powered air pump:
There are others, I have seen some at Walmart in the fishing section for use with live bait wells. Most seem to rum about $7-$15. The one that I have runs off of D cells and plugs into a wall outlet. It does not run off of the AC current, but as soon as that current goes off/the power goes out the little pump comes on. They come with air stones, but I use the little disposable charcoal filters for kiddie tanks from Petsmart. They are cheap, provide some circulation, and provide some filtration too. You just rinse them off with tap water and plug them into the air hose and they are ready to go. I have three of these air pumps for the tank. I am also planning on using this system with the fish in 5 gallon buckets, should we need to evacuate (or when we end up moving in the next year or so...no, toting the fish about during a forced relocation is not my plan, but I am prepared to do so).

Still working on the koi pond. It holds about 800 gallons, which would probably be topped off with the rain during a hurricane, and the fish have all fared well without the pump going for several days in a row. I am thinking of building a solar generator to run some things in the house at need (the generator gets really loud) and will probably have it run the pond's pump all of the time to exercise the battery.

As for the other animals, I try and keep them all ready to evacuate at need. I keep a 5-gallon bucket sealed with their stuff in it: extra collars and leashes, toys, doggie baggies, copies of immunization records, zip lock bags of kitty litter. I have a travel carrier for each animal (2 of the parrots fit well in wire rabbit cages and the third goes into a wire dog crate) and a disposable litter box for the cat. I also keep a pet first aid kit...amazingly enough, though, the antibiotics for the fish that they sell at Petsmart seem to be the same as the ones that are dispensed for people.

I do know that these pets are all just creature comforts, and if worse were to come to worse and I had to chose what goes into the truck, a case of MREs or a bucket of fish...well MREs can be pretty tasty. Nonetheless, I still believe in planning for the worst and hoping for the best.

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