Category Archives: Homesteading and Gardening

Using Ground Covering Edibles in Survival Gardening

Have you ever cultivated a garden for yourself? Did you do it thinking about being self-reliant, thinking it will be a strong source of food for years to come with just a little daily effort to manage it? Did you plant it in neat little rows that you dug inside a carefully measured plot of land protected by chicken fence to keep out pests? Did you spray a pesticide on your plants to protect them in their newly fertilized soil after a trip to the local store? Are you going to be able to do ANY of that after SHTF? No, as that will only show others where your food is. So the approach will be the exact opposite.

You can find your answer by taking a look at cultures and peoples who lived without modern conveniences and modify that to be a self-sustaining garden that not only survives on its own, but can provide you with the means of survival: a Survival Garden.

What is a Survival Garden?

As nature has been growing nuts, berries, herbs and medicinal plants with success for millions of years without man’s help and in many ways, the plants support one another in that growth, this is what we need to consider when planning a garden for survival. Plants grow in one of 3 dimensions. Some will be taller, some will be shorter and some will be the filler or protection between. These are the ground covering plants and what we will be focusing on today.

If you had planted a survival garden, you would still have a source of food that an untrained eye won’t recognize. By choosing the right plants for your garden, you will be able to leave nature to do a job it has been doing without the aid of man for many generations – simply growing food for you with no input.

What plants do I choose for a survival garden?

The ideal species of plant to use in your survival garden would be a perennial – a plant you plant once, will grow for multiple years, and that will produce food every year without the need for human intervention to replant it like with other seeding plants.

You will also have natural camouflage, as letting the survival garden grow naturally will make it look like organic growth instead of a manmade garden, throwing potential food thieves off the trail. These are the fillers, the ground covering plants. To make the garden one step further for survival, I would suggest consider using edible ground covering plants to make your survival garden that more bountiful.

Why use ground cover?

The main reason you need ground covering plants is in the life cycle of the perennial. Once they are planted, they should return year after year true. But you need to protect them and the soil they are in for that to happen. Ground covering plants can help in a few different ways, helping boost the overall health of the garden year after year.

  • Plants that are ground covering can provide herbs, medicine and fruit year round
  • Ground cover helps protect the soil from erosion
  • They help transition soil from full sun to shaded allowing for more types of perennials to be planted
  • They protect the perennials from weather and exposure
  • Some ground covering plants can attract or repel bugs

What should you look for in a ground covering edible plant?

A good ground covering plant is chosen for its ability to be suited to the conditions of the area, its low maintenance and its ability to provide a healthy coexistence among the other plants in your survival garden. Most ground covering plants can be in one of two categories, a clumper or a carpeter.

  • Clumpers spread out leaves as they grow, making clumps of shade in varying heights. The roots are underground or at the point of the base of the plant.
  • A carpeter does not need division and it quickly covers surfaces at one height, making an even blanket of ground cover.

The best way to fill out space while awaiting the garden to grow and being able to harvest edibles is using herbaceous ground covering plants.

Ground Covering Edibles

The following is a list of the best low maintenance ground covering edible plants for consideration your garden:

Oregano

One facet of the mint family, oregano or as those in the bush call it “wild marjoram”, is a hardy ground covering edible. It is pretty drought tolerant; making it favorable for those in dry climates, as it also likes full sun. Oregano is a clumpy type of ground covering when left wild, making it good cover and protection in gardens. It has a lot of eastern medicinal value, including one that modern researchers have applied to livestock, especially cows. It reduces gas, specifically methane by up to 40% while it also increased milk production in grass-fed cows, according to a report and story by Livescience.

Oregano has been mentioned in most folk medicines and goes back as far as the times of Hippocrates. Oregano oil is crucial oil for the development of cooking and preserving food since ancient texts recorded such.

Oregano is used in:

  • Numbing topical medicines
  • Canning many sauces
  • Meat products
  • Perfumes
  • Antifungal applications
  • Antiseptic
  • Soaps
  • Detergents
  • Can be used dry or fresh
  • Alcoholic beverages as it has polyphenols
  • Hormone therapy
  • Anticancer medicines
  • Anticancer dietary supplements

Oregano types:

  • Hot and spicy
  • Golden
  • Greek
  • Mexican
  • Cuban

creeping rosemary

Creeping rosemary

From the mint family, this variety of rosemary is similar in taste to the upright growing culinary herb, and is quite popular as an edible ground covering plant. It is very prominent in arid regions for providing shade in a garden when coexisting with many garden varieties of vegetables, as it is a drought tolerant plant that is also evergreen. It can be propagate quite well in the full sun through individual cuttings or using established adults for divisional piecing. It has a very fibrous rooting system so it’s very good for retaining soil. It would be great for sloped or steep gardens.

The plants make up is 20% camphor so it can be a culinary herb or medicinal additive to any garden.

Uses in history have included:

  • Medicine
  • Herbal tea
  • Essential oil extracts
  • Antiseptic
  • Astringent
  • Treatment of inflammatory disorders
  • Perfumes
  • Improves shelf life of oils and foods

Types for ground cover:

  • Prostrates
  • Irene
  • Pyramidalis
  • Albus

mint

Mint

If you have a nice moist place that needs filling, you may want to consider one of the varieties of mint or what some bushcraft people call “deadnettle.”. For shady areas, this edible quickly covering ground plant is quite easy to acquire and grow.

Mint spreads rapidly with just a few stem cuttings, so be sure to have it in a place you don’t mind it taking over between plants. Mint varieties can cross pollinate, so to retain the unique flavor and characteristics of each strain, do not plant too close together. The many flavor profiles can enhance any soups, drinks, salads or teas.

There are hundreds of types. Some of the nicer varieties I like are:

  • Spearmint
  • Peppermint
  • Pineapple mint
  • Chocolate mint
  • Brazilian mint
  • Mint sage
  • Apple mint
  • Orange mint
  • Ginger mint

Uses in history have included:

  • Medicine
  • Herbal tea
  • Essential oil extracts
  • Antiseptic
  • Astringent
  • Treatment of inflammatory disorders

thyme

Thyme

If you have paths or need a plant that can stand up to foot traffic and isn’t fragile at all, try thyme. Thyme is usually seen along garden paths or edging survival or urban gardens for this very reason, it holds up and helps protect young plants and helps stop soil from being spread too thin or damaged in heavy rains.

Thyme lends itself to a growth pattern that is straight and upright, or it has creeping varieties that are more carpeting in growth like mint.

Simple cuttings or division of adult plants can be used for this flourishing edible ground cover.

Uses include:

  • Culinary seasoning
  • Ornamental
  • Aromatics
  • Medicinal

Some varieties are:

  • Coconut Thyme
  • Lemon frost thyme
  • Silver needle thyme
  • Highland cream thyme
  • Caraway thyme
  • Lime thyme

Woodland strawberries

Recorded as being consumed since the Stone Age, wild strawberries can make a great fruit bearing ground covering plant. They have a long flowering period and can form fruit on runners or in clusters known as crowns. They can be grown by seeds or plant division and the fruit may be white or red. Woodlawn strawberries are abundant producers of fragrant strong tasting fruit and can grow in shady, moist spots that may be too wet for most garden seedlings.

  • Jams
  • Sauces
  • Liquors
  • Medicinal

Final thoughts

In the future when there may be potentially no refrigeration or electricity, having survival gardens that produce fruit and edible foliage year round can make all the difference. Saving those gardens from erosion and predation, while hiding them in plain sight may take some planning, but it is well worth the effort.

The post Using Ground Covering Edibles in Survival Gardening appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

Garden Uses for Vinegar

Gardening is a difficult enough skill to pick up without having to worry about all the problems that come with it, like dealing with weeds, pests, animals, and more. Luckily, there’s an easy way to deal with these issues, and it’s available at your local supermarket or gardening store.

Vinegar is becoming an increasingly popular solution to dealing with common garden problems, from weeds to slugs and snails, to ants, to rabbits eating your plants. It’s easy to use, as it usually just needs to be mixed with water or sugar or even soap in different parts to use it effectively (depending on the problem you’re having).

While you can go out and buy specific products for all of your gardening needs, vinegar is a great one-stop solution for many different problems. On top of that, for preppers, vinegar is a great option for dealing with these problems because it’s so easily accessible. If you’re in a disaster situation and have to tend to your garden to feed yourself and your family, vinegar is an excellent way to solve common problems.

About Vinegar

Vinegar is produced by fermenting ethanol with acetic acid bacteria to transform it into a liquid that can be anywhere between 5 and 20% acetic acid. Most of the people use vinegar in cooking or pickling, but because it’s such an easy produced and mild acid, it has also been used for cleaning and many medical purposes. In fact, among DIYers and survivalists today, it is still popularly used for these reasons.

There are many different kinds of vinegar, as you may have seen while searching for the correct vinegar to buy when cooking. There’s everything from apple cider vinegar to balsamic vinegar to red wine vinegar. For DIY or survivalist purposes, you will be using distilled white vinegar, and very occasionally apple cider vinegar.

Different types of vinegar have different ingredients and processing methods. Fermenting distilled alcohol (most commonly made from malt or corn) and then diluting it with water produces distilled white vinegar. The final vinegar is typically between 5 and 8% acetic acid in water with a pH of 2.6.

Distilled white vinegar is the one that is usually used for cleaning and gardening.

Storing Vinegar

Before we get into using vinegar in the garden, let’s go over how to store it so that you can stockpile it for emergency situations. Since it’s so useful for tending a garden and for cleaning, it’s a great option for storing for when SHTF.

Luckily, because vinegar is so acidic, it is easy to store indefinitely without worrying that it will go bad. That’s why it’s so often used for pickling and preserving foods. Some flavored kinds of vinegar, because of the ingredients added, may lose some of their flavors over time, but this period is between five and ten years (and even then, it’s still perfectly safe to consume).

When any vinegar is stored for a long period, you may notice that it becomes cloudy or develops sediment. It is okay and does not mean that the vinegar is unsafe for consumption; however, you may notice altered flavor at this point.

Vinegar is one of the easiest products to store. In fact, the best way to stockpile vinegar is to simply store it in its original, sealed container in a cool, dark area. Like any other chemicals or similar substances, you should strive to store it in an area that does not see many temperature fluctuations.

But at the end of the day, all you really need to do is buy as many jugs of distilled white vinegar as you think you’ll need in a survival situation and store it in your basement somewhere dry.

Using Vinegar for Weeds and Fungus

The number one thing you should keep in mind when you’re using vinegar to kill weeds in the garden is that it will typically only kill the green, leafy part above the surface. The root systems, however, will remain unaffected, which simply means that after killing the surface of the weeds, you’ll still need to hand pick the roots out.

The exception to this is if you use vinegar to kill a weed repeatedly in a short period. Over time, the weed will not have enough reserve food to regrow, and will eventually die. Although, if you are looking for a quicker solution, it may be better to use vinegar to destroy the leaves then going in later to finish the job.

Another method to getting the roots is to soak the soil with your vinegar solution; however, this could affect the root systems of the plants that you want to keep. One thing to remember when using vinegar to kill weeds is that vinegar does not discriminate. It will kill surrounding grass and other plants if you are not careful with its application.

The best way to use vinegar to kill weeds is to use a spray bottle from short range and avoid misting any other plants. On the plus side, vinegar is great for destroying weeds that spring up from the cracks of your sidewalk, on the sides of your house, and more. This is because it doesn’t require you to dig in and fully remove the weed yourself, and there is no need to be as careful when spraying it in these areas.

Here’s a quick recipe on how to make an effective weed killer using regular 5% acetic acid white distilled vinegar:

  • 1-gallon vinegar
  • 1-cup salt (to prevent the weed from growing again)
  • 1-tablespoon soap (to make the mixture adhere better to the weeds)

Stir this mixture together thoroughly in a bucket, and then fill a spray bottle to start weeding. Keep in mind with this particular formulation that too much salt sprayed in one area could cause nothing to be able to grow in that soil again. Be judicious in your use of the weed killer, as it could have unintended side effects on the plants you want to keep.

When using the solution, make sure the whole plant is coated and do it on a sunny day so that the mixture and plant can dry out. With this solution, it should only take a few days for your weeds to die.

Vinegar can also be used as a fungicide for black spots or mildew on your plants. However, unlike the weed-killing recipe for vinegar, recipes for fungicides use much less vinegar because it can harm the plant. You want to kill the fungus – not your roses!

For this, you’ll want a sprayer that can spray accurately in small areas to do the least amount of damage to your plants. Some quick recipes for fungicides:

Recipe 1 (most plants)

  • One gallon of compost tea or green tea
  • 2 tablespoons of 5% acetic acid white vinegar

Recipe 2 (best for roses or mildew)

  • One gallon of water
  • 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

Recipe 3

  • One gallon of water
  • One tablespoon of baking soda
  • One tablespoon of horticultural oil
  • One tablespoon of 5% acetic acid white vinegar

As you can see, there are some recipes out there for creating great herbicides and fungicides. If you are very careful with your proportions, you shouldn’t have any trouble dealing with pesky annual weeds or the occasional mildew. Just remember to spray accurately!

Using Vinegar for Pests and to Deter Small Animals

On top of being great for an herbicide or fungicide, vinegar also has many uses in keeping out common pests and animals. Again, most remedies online call only for 5% acetic acid white vinegar, and especially when dealing with small animals, you definitely want to stick to this type.

Here’s a list of pests and animals that vinegar can help with:

  • Slugs and snails – You don’t need these pests eating your vegetables and flowers. Spray them directly with vinegar, and they will die pretty quickly.
  • Ants – Spray on thresholds to effectively repel ants from any areas you want to be bug-free. You’ll need to reapply fairly frequently for this to work. You can also spray inside the hill itself to do more damage.
  • Fruit flies – Mix half a cup of apple cider vinegar with a tablespoon of molasses, a 1/4-cup of sugar, and 1-cup of water. Then add about one inch of the solution to the bottom of a can, water bottle, or another vessel, and place near the area where you have a problem with fruit flies. Replace and clean when needed.
  • Cats, rabbits, raccoons, moles, rodents, and many other small animals – Most people will soak something in vinegar for about an hour, such as a corn cob or cotton balls, and then leave these items around the garden area to keep these animals away. You can replace them every couple of weeks. For cats, you can also just spray full-strength vinegar around the areas you don’t want them in.

Using Vinegar for Cleaning and Sanitizing

The other big use for vinegar is cleaning and sanitizing tools and pots. Again, because it is such an easily made mild acid, vinegar has been used for a long time in cleaning and even in medicine. Its usefulness in these areas remains today.

First and foremost, you can soak your garden tools in a solution that half water and half vinegar to clean and sanitize them for use again. When doing this, you only need to soak the tools for half an hour to an hour before rinsing and then drying them. The vinegar will prevent fungus and other harmful bacteria from contaminating your tools.

If your tools are rusty, you can soak them in full strength vinegar (5% acetic acid white vinegar) overnight to get rid of the rust. The vinegar will dissolve the rust over a period of hours, and once it’s done, you can scrub it off easily. Your tools will look good as new.

Another item in your garden that vinegar can refresh is a clay pot. If your garden has many clay pots that are starting to look old (no longer the lovely red-brown color they started with), you can use a solution that is one part vinegar to three parts water to soak them for about half an hour before scrubbing them. Once you’ve scrubbed them, they’ll look brand new.

Similarly, you can use vinegar to clear up mineral deposits on the saucers beneath potted plants, on birdbaths, on plastic containers, or on just about anything. So long as you soak the area (either by spraying it down well or by actually leaving it in the vinegar), the acid will break down these deposits, enabling you to scrub it properly whatever it is that needs cleaning. It will depend on what it is; you may need to use full or half strength vinegar.

Safety Precautions

Vinegar that is above 10% acetic acid is corrosive to the skin and should be handled carefully. The vinegar you buy at the grocery store is usually below 10% acetic acid, but you can get solutions up to 30% by purchasing vinegar from your local gardening store or online.

Of course, if you buy a vinegar solution that’s above 10% acetic acid, you’ll want to use some protection for your eyes and hands when you are using it. Pickling vinegar is a good compromise if you don’t want to deal with the harsher chemical, as it’s about 7% acetic acid. Most of the applications discussed, however, only call for 5% acetic acid vinegar.

If you happen to get vinegar with an acetic acid content above 10% on your hands, then you should just rinse your hands (or any other affected body parts). You want to do so for at least 10 minutes to ensure that all of the acid is gone. If it’s a large spill, immediately remove any clothing you are wearing and shower to rinse it off as quickly as possible.

If vinegar with high acetic acid content gets into your eyes, first immediately remove any contacts, then flush your eyes with water for at least 15 minutes. After this, you should seek medical attention.

Some Final Notes

Many people also use vinegar for refreshing plants like rhododendrons and azaleas because these plants prefer a little acidity. By occasionally watering these types of plants with a vinegar solution (a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water), you can help them perk up and look their best. Vinegar can also help preserve cut flowers when added to a vase (one to two tablespoons with a tablespoon of sugar).

No matter what your gardening need is, vinegar is an excellent and easy solution. Especially for those who are interested in preserving their garden in case disaster strikes, vinegar is a perfect acid for dealing with these everyday problems. It is easily stored for when SHTF, and only needs to be mixed with other common household ingredients.

In short, vinegar is one of the most versatile products that you can have in your home or retreat. If you’re someone that prefers to do things in a more natural way (or a more sustainable way for survival situations), then you should consider using vinegar for more of your household and gardening needs.

The post Garden Uses for Vinegar appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

31 Summer Plants for Preppers

As a prepper, planning a garden is so much more effort than just choosing pretty flowers or picking out neat vegetable varieties. You want to choose plants that offer a lot of benefits for the amount of space they take up. The following plants are great summer plants for preppers because they offer large harvests, medicinal benefits, and/or a use in a permaculture garden.

tomatoes

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a huge part of the modern diet. Whether it’s in salads, spaghetti sauce, ketchup, or salsa chances are your family eats them. They’re a great plant for beginners and easy to preserve. For growers in exceptionally cold climates consider cherry tomato varieties which tolerate pots well and can be brought indoors whenever temperatures dip too low.

chive

Chives

Chives are frequently used in permaculture gardens for their ability to deter pests. You may consider planting them throughout your food forest. They’re also a hardy perennial and offer loads of flavor to meals all summer long. They’re also quite beautiful which makes them a great option for urban preppers.

comfrey

Comfrey

Also called knit bone comfrey is an excellent plant for herbal medicine and permaculture. In a permaculture sense this hardy perennial has a deep tap root that can “mine” nutrients from deep in the soil and bring them up for other plants to access.It can also be cut and used as a mulch. Medicinally comfrey was traditionally used to create poultices to help heal wounds and mend broken bones.

radishes

Radishes

Radishes can handle midsummer heat and cool temperatures. Some varieties are ready to be harvested in just 21 days because of this they can be extremely useful for sticking in between slower growing plants to make the most of your garden space.

marigold

Marigolds

They’re great to plant throughout the garden because they deter many common garden pests.

sun flower

Jerusalem Artichokes

A relative of sunflowers Jerusalem Artichokes or sun chokes are so easy to grow they can be hard to contain. They’re grown for their edible root which has a starchy, potato like consistency. The roots can also be dried and ground into a gluten free flour.

swiss chard

Swiss Chard

Chard is one of the hardiest of greens. It can be planted early tolerating cold weather and will produce all through summer even in hot temperatures unlike many other greens that have the tendency to bolt.

corn

Flint/Dent/Flour Corn

In a true emergency survival situation these corn varieties can be an easy to grow staple food. They do excellently when planted in a three sisters’ garden in combination with winter squash and dry beans.

beans

Dry Beans

Dry beans are great for preppers because they’re so easy to grow and store. They can be planted in combination with corn (or another tall plant) and vining squash to form a Three Sisters Garden. If planted this way they provide the corn with nitrogen and use it as a living trellis. To plant in a Three Sisters Garden be sure to look for pole varieties.

zucchini

Summer Squash/Zucchini

Both summer squash and zucchini tend to be speedy growers and offer continual abundant harvests. They produce so well that people have come up with many unique ways to use and preserve them. You may want to have some recipes planned ahead of time.

sunflower

Sunflowers

They’re so much more than just pretty flowers. Sunflowers were cultivated by different Native American groups for their seeds. Some were bred to have a lot of large seeds for eating while others to be pressed for oil. They can also be planted as trellises for plants like pole beans or to attract pollinators.

bergamot

Bergamot

This gorgeous little flower is perfect for a permaculture garden because pollinators absolutely love it! Some Native Americans even included it in their Three Sisters garden to help ensure all the corn, beans, and squash were pollinated. It also makes a delicious tea.

plant

Peppers

While they’re not ideal for preppers living far north they can be great crops for anyone farther south. There’s so many varieties and if you have a dehydrator they’re easy to dry for winter and add to soups, stews, and chilies.

eggplant

Eggplants

Eggplants are another crop that’s better suited to the south but if you do live in the south eggplants may be perfect. They love the heat!

broccoli

Brassicas (far northern growers)

If you do live in a cold, northern climate you may include some brassicas in your summer crops. These cool weather loving vegetables include cauliflower, kale, broccoli, and cabbage. For anyone with hot summers these fair much better as early spring or fall crops.

stinging nettle

Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle is perfect for a food forest because it tolerates quite a bit of shade. You’ll need gloves to harvest but it’s absolutely worth it. The stingers dissolve once the nettles are dried, baked, pureed, or boiled (very briefly) and it’s an amazing source of protein and vitamins.

quinoa

Amaranth & Quinoa

Amaranth and quinoa are two amazing ancient grains. They’re related but amaranth favors a warm climate while quinoa does better in cool weather. They’re hardy, very productive, and full of protein.

strawberries

Strawberries

Who doesn’t love homegrown strawberries? Thankfully there even more useful than you would think. They make an excellent ground cover in food forests and are hardy perennials with varieties that will grow in many different zones. The leaves can also be used to make a tea that’s full of vitamins and has many healing properties.

soy

Soy Beans

These guys have gotten this image of being a crop only for industrial farms but they’re actually really great for small gardens too. They have good yields and are nitrogen fixing legumes so they can be interplanted to give other plants a boost. You can eat them green or dry them and roast them for snacks or make tofu or tempeh.

purslane

Purslane

While it’s often considered a weed purslane may have been intentionally cultivated by Native Americans. It’s low, vining structure is great for growing beneath other plants and it offers tons of nutritional benefits. You might just let it go if it’s already present in your garden, collect seed from a wild variety, or purchase seed from a cultivated variety for larger leaves.

the scenery

Peanuts

Not actually a nut, peanuts are another protein packed, nitrogen fixing legume. For anyone with a long, hot summer peanuts are totally worth it. Having them on hand to make peanut butter can keep spirits high in a survival situation. Plus they can be pressed for oil.

buckwheat

Buckwheat

Buckwheat is probably one of the fastest growing grains and is super protein dense and filling. It’s great for permaculture gardens because it attracts pollinators and beneficial insects plus after harvesting the grain the leftover plant material makes an excellent mulch.

mint

Mint

Once you plant mint you’ll never lack for it. If not contained this tough perennial can take over a garden or field. You can use it in livestock buildings or the home to help deter pests. It also makes a tasty tea that’s soothing for upset stomachs.

potato plant

Potatoes

Especially for preppers in cool climates potatoes can be one diet staple. Check out the many varieties available and pick a combination to grow to gain their different benefits and pest/disease resistance.

sweet potato

Sweet Potatoes

For people with long hot summers sweet potatoes should definitely be on your garden list. They are heavy producers, full of nutrients, and easy to store long term.

red clover

Red Clover

This clover makes a great ground cover for a food forest. As it grows it fixes nitrogen for other plants to use. Plus it’s edible and has been used medicinally for centuries.

beet

Beets

These can be an excellent dual purpose crop. Harvest a few leaves early in the year and then harvest the roots later. They can be stored for long periods when kept in layers of sand in a cool place like a root cellar. If your climate is warm enough you can mulch them heavily and pull them as needed.

carrot

Carrots

Carrots are easy to grow and full of important vitamins. Plus they take up very little space and can be stored just like beets for winter use.

cucumber

Cucumbers

Cucumbers may not seems like a super important crop but they’re well-liked by most families and easy to grow and put up as pickles. They’re also an excellent companion plant for taller crops and can help shade the soil and block out weeds. If you’re trying to grow a cool weather loving crop like lettuce in the middle of summer cucumbers can be grown on a slanted trellis with the lettuce underneath to offer it some shade.

turnips

Turnips

Like beets turnips offer both edible greens and roots. They’re also easy to grow and can be stored just like beets.

Lambs quarter

Lambs-quarter

It may get a bad rap as a nuisance weed but lambs-quarter is actually a nutritious edible. Its roots, leaves, and seeds can all be eaten and because it’s a weed you should have no trouble growing it!

green (snap) beans

Snap Beans

Snap beans don’t mind the heat of summer but still do well farther north. You can find bush or pole varieties to suit your garden’s layout and they are nitrogen fixing. They’re also extremely easy to save seed from for following years.

While for many gardening is merely a hobby it’s extremely important to preppers. One of the best ways to be ready for disaster is to have a secure food source. Growing these easy, productive, and useful crops can save you money this summer and help keep you alive in a SHTF event.

What’s your most important crop?

The post 31 Summer Plants for Preppers appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

Coffee, Green Tea or Dandelion Tea?

If you prefer coffee over tea fear not, coffee contains antioxidants as well, quinines, chlorogenic acid, and trigonelline, and is purported to help lower the risk of type II diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, colon cancer, and gout.

Be sure to keep in mind that coffee has about 85mg of caffeine per cup compared to about 40mg per cup for tea, so if you would like to benefit from the antioxidant properties but don’t want the stimulant side effect then tea it is.

Recent research has linked the consumption of caffeine with an increased risk of miscarriage, so moderation is key. We will go over some of the benefits of coffee and tea, and then take a look at alternatives that can be substituted in a post collapse situation or SHTF lack of resources.

Are coffee or tea fattening?

One important fact to keep in mind no matter which brew you prefer is that both coffee and tea are calorie free in their “natural” state. It takes adding sugar and creamers to add any calories. One way to do it would be to have your coffee in the morning when you need that pick-me-up to shake the cobwebs from your eyes and get your day started, and then drink tea throughout the day to keep the antioxidants flowing. Be sure to drink plenty of water too.

Which has more antioxidants: Coffee or Tea?

The evidence shows that both coffee and tea contain the antioxidants that may help decrease the risk of several forms of cancer and other disease, the only question is which do you prefer? Coffee is overwhelmingly the drink of choice for Americans, but tea is becoming more and more popular with an upwards of 10 billion servings consumed last year. Many countries around the world allocate the health benefits of a tea enriched diet. In China tea has been used to treat many ailments through the ages.

Are all coffee and teas the same?

One thing to keep in mind if you decide on tea is that many herbal teas do not actually contain tea. Some of these drinks do use tea as a base for the mix but many are made up purely of herbs that do not contain the antioxidant benefit that tea provides. The same can be said for instant coffee or heavily flavored novelty drinks, it may be mostly added elements that do not have the same health benefits as regular coffee. So, whether it’s coffee or tea that you prefer, drink up.

Can caffeine drinks help a workout or the workday?

For those that start each morning with a cup of coffee, you may be doing life more correctly than you thought. A dose of caffeine in the form of morning coffee each day can be a very useful to those who follow their coffee with a workout later in the day. A cup after a workout will help a person’s muscles relax post-workout too.

Boosting the work from your drink

An Australian institute conducted a study on the effects of caffeine ingested by runners at both the recreational and advanced levels. Each of the runners took an amount of caffeine equal to what would be in an 8oz coffee and each runner had an improvement in their run times of about 11 seconds per person. Coffee, and the caffeine within it, stimulates the glycogen of the body by giving the body a fatty acid to consume instead. This allows the muscles to focus only on consuming the energy rich glycogen, meaning those who are drinking coffee can have a longer workout.

Won’t coffee dehydrate you?

Many people who believe they are in the know about coffee think it dehydrates the drinker due to the caffeine in it. The ideal that caffeine dehydrates is not an uncommon one, and it came around from the majority of people being warned not to drink caffeinated drinks on summer days or face dehydration. This is simply a myth, and has been proven wrong through extensive testing.

In fact the opposite is true in some situations as a caffeinated beverage such as coffee can provide much needed fluids to those who are accustomed to them. Essentially for those who have come to rely on a strong cup of coffee as motivation, the body has adapted and relies on it as an intake of fluid.

How does it help?

Coffee will help the body by acting as a stimulant to the nervous system, with caffeine directly blocking the production of a hormone that causes the body to relax. Blocking this hormone puts the body in the famed ‘fight or flight’ stage, releasing a dose of adrenaline into the system. The rate of the heart increases, pupils dilate, muscles will tighten, and the body goes into over production releasing glucose into the blood for that extra kick of energy.

Caffeine taken into the body will also increase the amount of dopamine in the mind. Dopamine is the hormone that crates a euphoric sense of feeling, which leads to a person working out feeling better both about their exercise and themselves.

Thus drinking coffee physiologically creates a sense of happiness during a workout, making the drinker feel more alert with more energy to spend. So have another cup before your workout.

What are some alternative drinks that have the same effect as coffee and tea?

There are quite a few alternatives you can brew at home that can have the same effect as coffee or tea. This can be extremely beneficial if TEOTWAWKI happens and supplies are limited, but you want that mental clarity.

green tea

Green tea

Although not as popular as the mixed oolong teas or black teas we commonly associate with tea, green tea actually is growing as to its ability to be a fat fighter and profound ability to stabilize blood sugar for diabetics.

Brewing green tea

1 If you are out and need to make green tea properly, here are a few tips for this delightful drink.

2 Use bottled or spring water.

3 Get it up to 175 degrees on a fire, one tip is to boil it then remove the lid and let the steam out. Once the steam stops it should be the perfect temperature.

4 Steep your tea for 1 minute for the perfect green tea, bagged or loose leaves use the same time. If you go too long, it will be bitter.

5 Strain afterwards.

Protein shakes

If you have access to a blender, and want to combat fatigue, then a protein shake can be the ticket. Fruit, protein heavy compounds such as wheat germ, yogurt, quinoa, goat or cow’s milk, and even eggs can make a mood lifting drink.

Protein is needed when you are working strenuously not only by your body requirements, but to feed your brain replenishing amino acids.

Honey based drinks

All the way back to the bible, honey has been praised for its nutrient dense composition and multiple uses for its lovely taste. Just a quick drink made of hot water, honey, and lemon juice will give you an all-natural much needed energy boost while providing the calorie equivalent of a breakfast bar.

Dandelion tea

You wouldn’t think the little hardy plants we try so hard to kill every summer in the lawn would be such a great source of vitamins A, K, C, carbohydrates, potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium!

This plant could be an invaluable resource post collapse a sit is a natural blood pressure stabilizer and cancer treatment. The vitamin K in it improves bone health and is a natural bone knitting and blood clotting compound.  It is also a natural blood sugar stabilizer and would help fight diabetic episodes and can prevent coma.

Making dandelion tea

dried dandelion leaves

1. Use the roots or flowers of the plant. Collect 2 cups, rinse and strain.

 

boiling water

2. Boil 3 cups of water. A roiling boil is when steam is just starting to come off.

 

steeping tea

3. Add the plant matter and cover. The oil and extracts will boil away and evaporate if you do not cover the pan.  You can add it straight, or put it in a coffee filter and tie to make a tea bag.

4. Steep for 30 minutes.

 

tea color

5. You can strain the plant matter out and compost or use it as animal feed, or leave it in. You want a rich yellow color.

 

adding honey

color of tea

6. Honey or molasses to taste. I added sugared rose petals for extra vitamin C.

finished dandelion tea

 

Making dandelion coffee for detox and liver cleanse

1. Roast the dandelion roots after chopping them finely at 300 degrees on a baking sheet for two hours.

Before roasting:

dandelion roots

 

After roasting:

cooked dandelion roots

 

2. Collect the small remains, “grounds,” when cooled and put them in a coffee filter. If you have a food processor you can run them on “fine” to get smaller grounds.

ground roots

 

3. Tie the coffee filter with unwaxed dental floss.

tied loose roots

 

4. Use this as a coffee bag and let it steep in the boiling water for 10 minutes.

coffee

 

5. Pour your cup!

coffee done

 

Wrap up

As with many foods, the more processed the food, the less it retains its natural benefits. This makes many bottled and cans drinks just sugar water basically. So hopefully our tips in the why and how of making coffee, teas, and their equivalents can help you stay healthy and strong in an uncertain world.

The post Coffee, Green Tea or Dandelion Tea? appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

22 Ways to Save Money While Homesteading

Unless you are one of those well-known millionaire preppers off the coast of California, chances are you need to make homesteading as cheap and effective as possible. Saving money will not only make homesteading much simpler, but also it will also help you increase your stockpile.

You will find many saving tips that include you buying up gold and other precious metals for the time when currency stops being effective. While this is good advice, it is failing to think in the shorter term after SHTF. After all, immediately after a catastrophic event, money will still be useful and most people will not take your gold as currency; that will come at a later time.

You will have to save money mainly for two reasons, those are: emergencies and buying up equipment. The first one is self-explanatory, it is always a good idea to have some money reserved for emergencies, after all you know better than most that tragedy can strike at any moment and you should avoid being held back by them.

The second one requires a little more explanation. You will want to have equipment that lasts for a long time when SHTF and most of the time —though not all— the longest-lasting equipment is the most expensive. Saving up for these things will allow you to feel safer in your ability to provide for yourself in an emergency, since you know that your generator will not let you down, in this way by spending a little extra now you will be saving yourself a bunch further down the line.

Cutting Down Household Expenses

This is the first area where you will want to start cutting back as long as you remember that cutting back does not mean suffering. Statistically, people with larger savings accounts are those who are smart when spending for their home, these tips will not only allow you to keep afloat; they will also allow you to start saving up for emergencies and new equipment.

  1. Used Can Be Just as Good as New

This is a truly helpful thing to remember, most of the time we think that buying something new will mean that it will last longer. This is not necessarily true, especially since things today are made to last as long, so you go out to buy a new one. Buying old furniture will get you out of this vicious cycle, old furniture was made to last, and so it is guaranteed to last longer than an Ikea chair.

The same applies to clothing and other items. Buying at thrift stores and Goodwill will guarantee you a good price for gently used clothing. They will not look like hand-me-downs, but they will save you a ton of money. Also, if you have children, you can organize and exchange cycle with your neighbors, which is great because kids will be getting new stuff every once in a while and nobody will be any poorer for it.

  1. Get Used To Fixing Things Yourself

Perhaps you already know how to fix some things around the house; however, it is likely that you are would be able to repair anything if you had the right guidance. Before calling up a repairman to fix it, you should Google the problem and try to find the solution online. There are thousands of instructional videos uploaded every day, ranging from the simplest life hacks with the simplest tools to the most complex fix with heavy equipment. Look around and you will be able to save hundreds on repair work every year. This has the extra benefit of being able to repair anything after SHTF when you can’t depend on calling up a repair shop.

Search for parts online and find the best price, more often than not you will be able to find what you need for at least than half the price of what a repairman would cost.

Being able to repair your own things also means being able to repair the tools in which you use to repair your things. Keep this in mind when acquiring new fixing skills.

  1. Review Your Insurance and Other Bills

Every year review your insurance; look for better coverage, better prices, etc. This will not do much after SHTF, but at least it will help you make sure that you are protected while the system lasts and this is not to be underestimated. Do not just focus on the big companies either; some smaller insurance companies have lower rates to attract new customers, take advantage of this fact and search for a better option.

Do the same with the rest of your bills, whether it be the Internet, phone service, or anything else that comes with a monthly expense.

  1. Put Off Turning On The A.C

In warmer climates, this might seem like a hard thing to do, but the amount of electricity spent during the summer months on these kinds of appliances is enormous. There are many things you can do to keep cool during the summer without the A.C; here are a few of them.

  • Weather-strip doors and windows
  • Keep spray bottles around the house and spray your face whenever you get too hot
  • Open the windows early in the morning, when the sun starts climbing close them again
  • Consider investing in blackout blinds, if you can’t then put aluminum foil over the windows will do the trick
  • Plant trees outside your west-facing windows
  • Drink 8 glasses of water every day
  1. Put off Turning on the Heating

Following the same reasoning as the previous tip, putting off turning on the heating will drastically reduce your electrical bill. Living in rasher winter conditions, this might seem near impossible, but there are a few tips you can follow that will at the very least allow you to put it off for longer. Here are some of the most useful tips out there:

  • Once again, weather-strip your doors and windows!
  • Close off rooms that are not being used
  • Keep inside doors closed to stop the draft
  • Make a simple, cheap heater. Here’s one that will allow you to heat up a smallish room with almost no effort
  • Insulate your home by double glazing your windows, covering under door cracks, using fiberglass wool, and more.
  • Keep your blinds and curtains closed unless the window faces east
  • Cook at home! Cooking releases a ton of heat that is usually wasted

light bulb

  1. Replace Your Light bulbs

This is possibly the simplest money saving tip, simply replace all your CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lights) or Incandescent light bulbs with LED (Light Emitting Diodes) light bulbs. At first glance LEDs are more expensive (around $8 rather than the $1 or $2 you will spend on a CFL bulb); however, in the long-term LEDs are dramatically cheaper.

An incandescent light bulb will need to be replaced 21 times in 23 years while a CFL light bulb will need to be replaced three times in the same number of years; a LED light bulb will not need replacing in those 23 years unless you break it. Already there’s a significant difference between the three in terms of saving money.

At $0.12 per kWh (kilowatt-hour), an incandescent light bulb will cost you $180 for 25,000 hours; for the same time a CFL light bulb will cost you $42, and a LED light bulb will cost you $30.

In sum, the total cost of running an incandescent light bulb for 23 years is of $201 (that is more expensive than a 2-in-1 Food Saver); a CFL light bulb will cost $48, and a LED light will cost $38.

  1. Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water; Then Line Dry them

Washing in cold water will allow you to save as much as $1.08 on washday, it may not seem like much but looking at the bigger picture it is a lot of money saved every year. Line drying has the benefit of humidifying the air, which helps you stay warm during the winter and also saves money on electricity.

  1. Learn to Barter

Learning this particular skill will potentially save hundreds of dollars every year. Bartering is far more popular than you can imagine in rural areas where people might have to travel for a while to get their goods.

If you are homesteading then it is very likely that you are producing at the very least your own food. Now, it is rare that you produce the exact amount of food you will need, and it is impossible to produce all the food you need. So why not exchange those extra eggs for some animal feed?

Look for items that may have a high bartering value and produce them. My grandmother used to say that if I learned to make buttonholes, I would never be hungry and in the spirit of that is that we advise that you learn how to make these tricky items and use them, not only for your own benefit but also for bartering.

Food and Garden

The easiest way to save money while building a homestead is to grow as much of the food you consume as possible. Conservative estimates say that an average American family of four will spend around $500 a month on food and other household supplies. With the right care and equipment, it is not necessary to spend quite so much.

In fact, if you have any others in your neighborhood interested in homesteading, consider trading your equipment back and forth to accomplish your mutual needs. Gardening equipment can be expensive, so setting up a mutual lending system within your neighborhood may be the perfect way to split up front costs.

  1. Cook from Scratch

This means stop buying things you could be making at home. If you are already producing milk; then you can make your own cheese, butter, and cream, the same applies to pretty much anything in a supermarket. Sure, it takes a little longer and some planning but in the long run, you will be saving a lot of money.

seeds

  1. Seed Saving

This is easy and will instantly make you better prepared for when SHTF. You will not always be able to buy more seeds, either because you are short on money or because there simply aren’t any to be had. Pick the best produce from the garden and save the seeds. Make sure to research the various techniques to seed saving.

  1. Make Your Own Compost

Funnily enough, this is not something most people think about but making your own compost has huge benefits both to your pocket and the quality of your homestead. You might be tempted to buy a compost bin (or one of those fancy high-tech ones that make compost overnight) but it is dead simple to make one (here’s another).

Having compost will not reduce your expenses immediately, but it will do it in a more subtle way. The quality of your soil will increase dramatically, meaning that you will be able to produce a lot more with the same effort, which means you will have more items to barter or sell. You will stop buying fertilizers, which are getting alarmingly expensive, and be able to use your own product instead.

  1. Breed Animals for Sustainability

You will not always be able to order chickens online and, indeed, you might be spending more money than you need to by not breeding your own. Breeding for sustainability means buying once and keeping forever, get animals from different distinct bloodlines, and keep the best specimens to breed. With a large enough space you can breed practically anything but for cost-effective animals think of goats, chicken, turkeys and swine.

  1. Either Produce Your Own Feed or Buy It in Bulk

Animal feed has never been particularly cheap, if you are able you can seriously reduce the cost of keeping animals if you produce your own feed; it is hard work so if you are unable to make your own then you should look for offers and buy it by the ton. You will not, however, want to go for the cheapest offer as it can sometimes contain substances that will not do your animals any favors and you will end up having to pay for the vet to have them looked at or end up losing the animal completely.

natural landscape fencing

  1. Fence Strategically

You might be tempted to fence around everything you own; however, even the cheapest fencing can be costly if not used strategically (and cheap fencing will be quite useless to keep people out). Save the expensive fences for perimeter and valuables, think about using natural fencing plants. To keep animals and to separate orchards, think about building your own fences from pallets. Why not create a vineyard around the orchard; therefore, building a fence with a purpose.

  1. Building

Possibly one of the bigger costs is building costs. To save in this area, you will want to do as much of it yourself; this means acquiring new skills and perfecting them through (sadly) trial and error. Remember that you should only build the things you know how to build. Otherwise, it can quickly become unsafe and very expensive. Get an experienced friend to help out and don’t forget to return the favor later when they need you. Make sure to look for the sales. Catching some building materials on sale at your local building material store can save you some cash. Just make sure to store it inside your barn, storage building, or cover it up to keep it safe until it is needed.

  1. Finding Surplus Building Material

While in the planning stages of building, look around in your area for someone who has just finished one, it is likely that they will have some unused material they will sell cheaply just for the sake of getting rid of it quickly. Look around your local lumber mill and get gray and weathered lumber, they will sell it for next to nothing, and it is still useful (make sure it is not rotten though).

  1. Get Your Own Bandsaw Sawmill

If you are fortunate enough to live in a wooded area; then it is very likely that your most-used building material will be wood, so perhaps you want to think about not buying timber and simply cutting it into useful boards. Remember that the more independent you are, the cheaper you are living and the better prepared you are for SHTF.

  1. Pallets

Pallets are the most versatile things out there. The wood is tough, they are easy to transport, and already they have some structure. Best of all: they are free. You can find free pallets practically anywhere, from lumberyards to supermarkets to sporting goods stores; they are everywhere. Since they were designed to last for a very long time and resist heavy handling, pallets make for excellent building material in pigpens, coops, or goat barns. Here are some of the things people have made out of pallets, just to give you an idea of just how versatile they are (and perhaps inspire a few projects of your own).

Other Practical Tips

These are just some extra ideas on how to save money while homesteading, some of them are pretty common sense, but it is never a bad idea to mention them and their workings.

  1. Save $0.50 Every Day for a Year

This is so easy it almost feels like cheating. Setting aside just $0.50 daily is the simplest way of saving money. By the end of the year, you will have $182.5, which leaves you only $4 short of that Food Saver we mentioned earlier.

  1. If You Use It a Lot, Try to Make It Yourself

Toilet paper is one of the very few things that is hard to make at home, outside of that you can make pretty much everything yourself. This goes in the same spirit of tip number 9, the more you avoid going shopping, the more you save, and it is as simple as that. This does not mean that you should get used to lower-quality, homemade stuff, you can make high-quality sunblock using your food processor, toothpaste, and shampoo on your stovetop; it is only a matter of finding the instructions to make it. The less you depend on the outside world, the better prepared you will be and the less money you will spend.

  1. Think About What You Really Need

This tip applies to every area covered in this article and beyond. Before you start a new project, think about whether or not you will definitely need it and whether or not it is cost effective. Look into your closet, pantry, and shed and think about how many of the items in there you actually use and then buy replacements or completely new stuff according to your findings. Society today teaches us having more stuff makes us better this is not true. Having better and useful stuff makes us better.

  1. Grey Water

Consider using what is known as “grey water” for your gardening needs. Grey water is water that has been used for showering, washing your hands, and more, but is not contaminated with feces and other waste products. Use this it to water your plants, flush the toilet and so on.

Wrap Up

The tips listed here are probably the best out there. In truth, all you need to save money is to start spending it smartly and being able to distinguish between a good price and a rip-off so be sure to inform yourself. A smart customer is the last thing retailers want so become that person and do not allow them to cheat you out of your dollars.

Good luck!

The post 22 Ways to Save Money While Homesteading appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

How to Protect Farm Animals from Extreme Heat

Your livestock are a huge investment of money and time, which is why protecting them during extreme temperature fluctuations, is important. As much work as it may be, ensuring that your animals don’t freeze in the winter or overheat in the summer is beneficial for you. In the long run, your animals will be healthier and won’t be at risk of becoming ill or even dying because of cold or warm weather.

In cases of extreme heat, your livestock are vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, reduced production (milk, eggs, etc.), and even death if they are not cared for properly. In some ways, the principles of caring for your animals in heat are like those of caring for your animals in extreme cold. First, you need to make sure that all their basic needs are provided for.

Food and Water: How Much, and How to Give It

Food

Here is a basic chart showing how much food common farm animals need to survive normally.

Cattle Around 2.5-3% of body weight in dry matter
Sheep Around 1.5-2.2% of body weight in dry matter
Pigs Around 4-5% of body weight in dry matter
Horses Around 2.5-3% of body weight in dry matter
Goats Around 5% of body weight in dry matter
Chickens About 0.25 pounds of feed per day per chicken

The biggest thing to note is that this is food intake in dry matter. Because most animal feed will contain some kind of moisture (around 10% is a safe assumption), you’ll need to factor that in when calculating how much to feed your own livestock.

The amount of feed should not really increase during extreme heat, but you should pay attention if you have any livestock whose appetite seems to decrease. This can be a sign of heat stress (which we will talk more about later).

Unfortunately, digestion of feed causes animals to produce body heat, so if anything is changed about your animals’ feeding routine, it should be the quality of feed used. This ensures that your animals are still receiving all the nutrients they need while also minimizing the amount of body heat they produce.

You should also change the time of day that you feed your livestock. They should not be fed when temperatures are at their highest. It’s best to do it early in the morning or in the evening, when it’s cooler outside.

Extreme heat will also cause your feed to spoil faster, so whenever possible, make sure that your stockfeed is covered and protected from the rays of the sun.

Water

In extreme heat especially, your animals are going to require a lot more water. In fact, they may require up to two times more water than usual.

You will need to ensure that your farm animals have access to a source of cool, clean water at all times. Because your animals will be exposed to so much heat, you may find that you need to acquire additional water sources for them in order to keep up with demand. And unless you want to be checking on these water sources all day, it’s probably best if you have some sort of automated delivery system.

cow drinking water

Keeping this water cool is also important. If you can, shade any water storage tanks or pipes that you have above ground so that the water in them does not become too hot. You can also shade troughs so that your water does not evaporate away too quickly (which would be quite a waste if you don’t have a large supply of water when SHTF) and so that your animals are not drinking water that’s been sitting in the sun for hours.

One thing to help with water temperatures, if you can’t shade your animals’ trough, is a concrete water trough. The concrete will stay cool enough that the water won’t overheat too quickly, and is also solid enough that your animals will have a hard time tipping it over. Regardless of what your troughs are made of, however, ensuring that they are fixed to the ground well enough not to be toppled over and safe enough that they do not injure your livestock.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your animals will be near this water source often, so you will need to either make sure that it is large enough to be accessible to all of them, or that you have your water sources spaced out enough so that any given animal can get water whenever they need it. Not only does it keep access open for all of your livestock, it also ensures that they do not crowd too much in one space, which can contribute to overheating. Be sure to regularly maintain your pipes, troughs, and other equipment so that it does not break down at a crucial time.

Finally, your water sources need to be close to your animals so that they do not have to walk too much in the heat. If at all possible, you should make efforts to familiarize your animals with the location of their water before extreme heat strikes.

Electrolytes

While it may seem a little backwards, livestock like cattle, horses, goats, and sheep should be given a salt block alongside their feed, or in a separate bucket, during extreme heat. As humans, we generally think salt makes us thirsty, so having less of it when we’re hot would make more sense, right? Unfortunately, this is not the case for livestock.

These kinds of livestock do not generally get as much salt in their diet as humans do; therefore it is usually necessary to supplement their diet with minerals and salt. In extreme heat, it is important to supplement your animals’ diet with salt because they will sweat out a great deal of it. Just like in humans, this can cause a variety of health problems.

Most people offer their animals a salt block free choice so that the animals can supplement as needed. You should be sure that this is only sodium chloride (white salt), because livestock like sheep can be sensitive to trace amounts of other minerals.

cow in the shade

Keeping Your Animals in the Shade

As often as possible, you should strive to keep your animals in a shady, well-ventilated area during extreme heat. This may involve installing windows, fans, or other ventilation systems to keep your buildings cool. Some people may even run cool water across the roofs of their buildings to provide cooling.

Of course, some people even have fully air-conditioned buildings for their animals. However, as important as air conditioning your buildings may be, it can be tough to power such systems, especially in the event of a disaster. It’s a good idea to find some natural ways to keep your animals cool in case you experience a power outage and can’t run fans or air conditioning.

Again, you could always install windows to improve ventilation, but there are other ways to keep the temperature down inside as well. If you have the space for it, you should make sure that your animals are not overcrowding any one area (indoors or outdoors), because this will raise their body temperature. You might consider building earth mounds to prevent this.

You can also construct your shelters in a way to reduce how hot the inside becomes. For example, aluminum or galvanized steel (steel coated in a layer of zinc to prevent rust) works well for the roof of a shelter because it reflects the rays of the sun. You could even plant trees to provide shade with a canopy of leaves (which will absorb a great deal of heat).

However the shelter is built, it should allow wind to pass through without difficulty, which will help immensely in keeping your animals cool. It also needs to be big enough so that animals can lie down, which will preserve their energy and help them cool down.

A good sign that you need something bigger is overcrowding. In fact, you may have to divide your livestock into smaller, more manageable groups so that you can ensure that every animal has access to water and that none of your animals are overcrowding an area.

Finally, you’ll want to take measures to decrease the presence of biting insects in warm weather. Flies and mosquitoes are more active in the heat, so try to make sure that you avoid long-term standing water, excessive manure or mud buildup, and an overabundance of weeds and brush. Animals might move around more trying to avoid these insects, which causes extra overheating.

Handling

This piece is pretty simple, but very important. Your livestock should not be over handled in extreme heat, because working them will cause them to produce body heat. If it is absolutely necessary to handle or transport your animals, strive to do so in the early morning or evening.

Overhandling your animals while it is hot outside can cause significant losses to their production. If you’re relying on your cattle for milk, your chickens for eggs, and more, then making sure to reduce how often you handle your animals in the heat is vitally important.

After handling your animals, you can help reduce their body temperature by spraying or sprinkling them with water. In fact, sprinklers can be a key way to reduce the body temperature of your animals during heat. You can even create small pools of water for your animals to stand in, which also helps keep them cool.

Heat Stress and Sunburn

At all times during periods of very hot weather, you should be looking for signs of heat stress, which can include: loss of appetite, lethargy or unresponsiveness, increased respiration or panting, increased water intake, increased salivation, lack of coordination, increased urination, open-mouthed breathing, and overcrowding. Animals can even become unconscious if the heat stress is high enough.

If your animal is heat stressed, you should move them to the shade or give them shade where they are. Provide water for them to drink in small amounts. You can then sprinkle them with water to help cool them down, or lay a wet towel over them for a similar effect (except for chickens).

If you have young livestock, livestock with darker fur, or livestock with any history of respiratory illness, they may be more susceptible to heat stress. Your animals are also susceptible to sunburn, especially animals with any pink skin or sheep that have just been shorn. Try to keep them in the shade as often as possible to prevent this.

Some Notes on Specific Animals

In addition to the general guidelines for keeping your livestock cool in extreme heat, there are also some species-specific guidelines that you should take note of.

  • Cattle – Because they are such large animals, you will want to make sure that they move as little as possible to avoid them generating too much body heat. They should not have to go far to be milked, fed, and watered, and should be allowed to take their time, especially, drinking water. You will also want to make sure they don’t overcrowd one area. Cattle are prone to increased respiration when heat stressed, so if any of your cattle are breathing especially fast, you should try to cool them down. This can be done with sprinklers, allowing them to stand in water, or putting a wet towel over them (they will need to be wet to the skin for these methods to work well). Milk production can decrease significantly if appropriate precautions are not taken.
  • SheepWhile you certainly do not want your sheep coated in a thick layer of wool for hot weather, you also don’t want their skin to be too exposed to the damaging rays of the sun. This is why most farmers shear their sheep in the spring – by summertime, there is enough wool to prevent sunburn, which helps keep the sheep cool.
  • Pigs – Unlike other livestock, pigs are unable to sweat, which is why they are much more prone to heat stress and sunburn than other animals. During extreme heat, you should limit severely how often your pigs are exposed to the sun, and make sure to provide other ways that they can keep cool.  One way to do this is with a mud hole, which has the dual-effect of allowing your pigs to roll around in something cool, and coating their skin with a layer of dirt to help prevent sunburn. You will have to take care to control the insects, but this is the best way to help your pigs stay healthy in extreme weather. You can also reduce their feed intake to try to prevent too much of an increase in body heat, but you’ll need to make sure they still get the nutrients they need.
  • Chickens Chickens should not be wet down like other livestock (at least not in the same way), which makes cooling them a bit trickier. Not only that, but your chickens will likely spend a lot of time in nest boxes, which can become heat traps.

Perhaps the best way to care for your chickens is to make sure that their coop remains cool inside, whether that be by foggers, ventilation, or some other system. They should have enough space so that they do not overcrowd, and their nest boxes should be roomy enough that heat is not trapped in one area.

  • Horses – As useful as your horses may be for work, you should not exercise them too often so that they do not overheat. If you have to work them, do so during the cooler hours, and wet them down after to reduce their body temperature again. Just make sure that there’s not excess water on their coat when you are done, as the water can act as an insulator and heat them up again.

Keeping your animals cool in extreme heat is by no means easy, but it is necessary for the health of your animals. In a SHTF situation, they may be extremely important (and difficult to replace) sources of food, so ensuring that they live healthy lives is directly beneficial to you.

Above all, pay attention to what your animals are telling you. If they’re showing signs of heat stress, you should take action immediately to reduce their body temperature. If not, be sure to maintain your facilities and equipment so that heat stress does not become a problem in the future.

The post How to Protect Farm Animals from Extreme Heat appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

The Application of Bees in Home Defense and Fortification

When you talk or think of bees when it comes to a homestead or post collapse scenario, their job as pollinators for the crops or being a food producer themselves by giving us honey is what comes to mind first for many.

But throughout history, and even today, they have been used as a way to fortify your property and protect it. Currently, they are used in a few new applications by the military for innovations in agriculture and for tiny antiterrorism agents in a branch called entomological warfare.

Honey collecting has been around quite a while, with the first honey collectors depicted on rock paintings that date them to 15,000 BC. Collecting honey turned to cultivating honey by raising your own bees is recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphics showing bees as an important food resource. Bees and their honey are mentioned in the bible and many other religious texts and in epics such as Homer’s Odyssey.

Beekeeping in spring video:

We have a great article on the uses of honey from food stuff to medicinal healing agent in pets for shock, but today to celebrate the multitalented bee for National Honey Month we will look at its diversity and some additional ways to use this producer of liquid gold for survival purposes.

Bees were used in many ways for defense, from basic strategic placement on the property or built into defense themselves, to being used as living heat seeking missiles that as anyone that has had a run in with bees knows, are hard to evade in anyway but fleeing.

Using the hives as a living barrier

In a tactic that Kenya still currently uses to curtail invasions by elephants, one way to use beehives to protect land is to hang them up and string them in a fencelike formation. Elephants will raid crops and trample anything surrounding their target food they want. It turns out elephants will avoid bees as they get in their trunks and disrupt their equilibrium.

elephant bees

So Kenyans started wiring the hives on the borders of their farms and it has deterred the scavenging elephants, who consumed whole crops in one raid often stomping down housing structures in the process. The hives were given woven roofs for sun protection and basically make a living, tactical defensive fence.

This can be utilized by homesteaders and urban farmers. Make not-so-obvious beehives to protect the borders of your farm or land by camouflaging them into the natural barriers. Bee venom seems to affect everyone, and not many intruders or foraging animals stay the course when bees are present and the pain they can bring when disturbed.

Places to incorporate beehives can be: 

  • Around the garden to protect it from hungry passersby human and animals
  • Near the door to dissuade solicitors or people casing the place from looking in windowsand doors
  • Hang them as a barrier line to prevent intruders or hunting parties from accidentally coming onto your land and taking resources.
  • Outline your homestead or secure the property to turn back predatorswith well-placed hives.
  • Making Living Landmines by burying half of the hive can be a strategy for home owners.

false back hive

Using the nest as an organic bomb

Besides the hive being placed strategically, the nest itself can be weaponized and has been documented in a few ways as throwing little heat seeking missiles in historic battles.

In an ancient text it describes the Mayans as making Trojan horse mannequin warriors to run off the soldiers overtaking the city in a siege. The mannequins had shields and spears and everything, but their heads were gourds were filled with bees, wasps, and hornets. When the invading parties came into the city and shot the mannequins the little guardians were released letting the Mayans reclaim their city. This technique was also used to reclaim the city of Alba from the Turks in the 18th century.

The Romans used bees extensively in catapults and as hand thrown weapons. King Richard in the 12th century used them as cannon fodder against the Saracens. When catapults were one of the only ways to scale the walls of a keep or a castle, we have heard of “plague dogs” being lobbed over, but there is documentation that they used bees to clear an area quick by using bee hives as a one lump of nasty living projectile that would be pretty upset when it hit.

In the 14th century the Moors and Portuguese used bees on both sides in their warfare. Back then they made woven baskets from grasses, straw, and cane called “skeps,” and when it came to war these were collected and used as weapons.

skep

This also worked the other way, instead of pouring hot oil or tar upon forces trying to invade the castle, bee skeps were dropped upon them as living grenades. Books such as Robbing the Bees mentions several examples of these “bee grenades” and hurling of the skeps unto enemies, with one of the oldest references going back before the birth of Christ by about 400 years!

castle keep

For modern times both sides employed bee hives to reroute out enemy troops. In the American Civil War, troops would parallel bee farms and use cannons to turn back opposing forces into waiting troops.

Hang them in strategic spots as a living bomb. When danger is near, shoot them and drop the nest onto the path of emerging raiders or hostiles. Nothing can change the odds faster than a swarm of angry bees coming after a hostile and buying you time to get gone.

Traditional beekeeping video:

Honey as a weapon

Beekeepers are aware that honey produced during certain times of the year or in certain areas that some strains of plants grow that may be poisonous when consumed by humans. Plants such as the azalea and rhododendron have strains that contain strong alkaloids when in bloom. Usually honey collected and produced during these periods would be removed so it doesn’t contaminate the rest of the batch.

  • In ancient texts it describes Roman troops from Pompeii coming upon a cache of honey and thinking it left in a hurry, they consumed it as spoils of war. Once the deliriousness set in and the vomiting began, the defending Heptakometes moved in and claimed an easy victory and defense.
  • The Tiv of Nigeria uses bees coated in special poisonous dust were kept in horns and then released in the mist of warfare for a poison needle attack.
  • Many survivalists say you can collect the venom of bees and make a super saturated toxin to put in the tips of arrows and defenses, for emergencies.

Entomological warfare

Because a bee’s smell has been shown to be as keen as a dog’s, training a dog takes a lot longer and is several thousand more dollars. In the USA bees are being used as explosive sniffing detectors. The US military is using bees to detect landmines and facilities that may be a manufacturer or supplier of explosives.

In Great Britain, the tests have been going on longer there and they have been using bees at airports such as the experiments conducted at Heathrow airport. The load 36 bees in hand detectors then pass that over the luggage and in personal searches. The detectors are equipped with infrared sensors that can tell when the bee sticks out his tongue, his sign for the presence of dangerous explosives or chemicals. A bomb squad is then called in to investigate further.

Using this system, the US is employing bees for passenger plane and cargo ship inspections. This training includes finding poisonous gases and biochemical agents.  Training bees is a lot simpler than dogs too; they can be bribed with treats loaded with sugar. They expose the bee to the chemical or compound, and then follow up with a sugar loaded goody such as syrup.  In less than 5 exposures the bees are said to associate the connection with the dangerous compound and the treat, classic Pavlovian response.  So the odor of the compound or substance will elicit the bees to stick out their tongues, or proboscis, and that way the scientists or trainers can determine if the substance or compound is there.

In this fashion, bees are being trained in other realms and applications that a sharp nose can help.

In different scientific arenas the bees are being trained to detect:

  • The lifesaving early detection of cancer
  • Early detection of diseases such as dementia or TB
  • Determining counterfeit products or substances
  • Spoiled food sources
  • Tampered supplies
  • Decaying food
  • Rot and fungus in wood such as timber to prevent collapses
  • Tainted water
  • Contaminated soils

In many ways a home beekeeper may be able to train his bees. Imagine if you wanted to find pure water or a source of berries. You could introduce it to your bees, and then treat him a few dozen times. Maybe use a dozen bees so you can follow them. He may buzz around then want his reward. Maybe then you can follow your little Seeing Eye dogs to new fresh resource.

The post The Application of Bees in Home Defense and Fortification appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

The Ultimate Guide to Vertical Gardening

If you’ve spent any time on social media or the wider Internet lately, you’ll have noticed that vertical gardening has become immensely popular. Between urban gardeners and survivalists, it has grown significantly, and for good reason. Vertical gardening is a great step to self-sufficiency, especially in a SHTF situation.

Why do people start vertical gardening? There are a number of reasons.

First, it’s a great way to reduce the cost of your grocery bill. After you’ve set up a system that you can run efficiently, it becomes less expensive over time for you to grow your own food. This is great because the price of food has risen steadily since 1967.

If you’re an urban dweller, vertical gardening might be a great option for you because it conserves space. Why grow outward when you can grow upward? And if you’re a prepper, vertical gardening is a great way to take a step towards self-sufficiency (and also to conserve space – not all of us have access to many acres to grow crops on).

Traditional gardens are a lot of work and they’re easy to spot and loot. Spending a ton of time on a garden isn’t just tiring. it might be impractical in a long-term survival situation. You’ll probably have a host of other things to do, and leisurely tending to a garden isn’t on the list.

Vertical gardens, however, are much easier to maintain. They take up less space than gardens spread out across acres, so you don’t have to spend as much time moving throughout your garden (which is especially great if you personally have physical limitations), or set up complicated watering systems to maintain them. Not only that, but they are often small enough that you can tuck them away to hide them from zombies looking to steal from you, or you can move them in an emergency.

For those prepping, vertical gardening can also be a way to conceal buildings, sheds and basements. More importantly, however, you can grow the food you need when money will be worthless, and still get all the nutrients you need to survive.

What Can You Vertically Garden?

One important question to answer first is what exactly you can garden vertically. Some plants, obviously, do not adapt as well to vertical gardening. This is true of plants that have less flexible stems, like trees, shrubs, and vines.

Vines, on the other hand, can grow upward, which is a plus. Another thing to keep in mind is that the setup of your vertical garden can be altered depending on what you are growing. For example, you can use a chain set up to hang planters one on top of the other in order to grow plants that delve down into soil, or you can build a literal wall (complete with fertilizer and irrigation) that plants grow on.

So, the short answer to “What can I vertically garden?” is “Lots of things!”. In a survival situation, you might look into what vegetables, fruits, and herbs would be most helpful for your diet (and your health), but if you’re just looking to be a little more self-sufficient as an urban gardener, you can pick just about anything you want to (so long as you properly care for your plants).

Here’s a list of some plants you can vertically garden:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Leeks
  • Chives
  • Raddishes
  • Oregano
  • Asparagus beans
  • Melons
  • Pumpkins
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Peppers
  • Basil
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Peppers
  • Cilantro
  • Cabbage
  • …and more.

basil grown vertically

You’ll, of course, want to look up the best growing conditions for each plant, and for larger crops, you might want to set up vertical planters, which we talk more about below.

Building a Vertical Gardening Wall

The good thing about building a vertical gardening wall is that you can build it on just about any blank wall you have available, so long as it is not too large. If it is too large (read: massive), then you’ll have to worry about the weight of the plants on the wall, but for the most part, you can choose just about any vertical surface you have.

The only concern for choosing a wall should be how much sunlight it gets, because that will affect the plants. If you’re just looking to make use of a vertical surface, you can just build your vertical garden and plant what you can, but if you want to try growing something specific, you should try to choose a wall that will provide the best growing conditions.

This will teach you how to build your vertical garden apart from the wall itself – which just means that you will hang it on the wall after building it rather than building it right onto the wall. This should make it much easier for you to build it, and much easier for you to take it down if needed.

You will first build a frame the size (or less than the size) of the wall, and then cover the frame with plastic sheeting. Your frame should not be metal or wood. Metal is heavier and can rust, while wood can trap water and rot – PVC pipe is easier to put together, and will last longer.

herbs in vertical garden on balcony

Your frame should look like a large grid. This can be accomplished with long pieces of PVC pipe, elbows, and 4-way pieces. After you’ve finished building it, you’ll attach the piece of plastic sheeting.

The plastic sheet will keep water off of the wall (important if it’s a wooden wall), and will back the next layer. If you are going to attach this to a wooden wall, you’ll definitely want some form of ventilation between the plastic sheet and the wall, because while it will protect it from getting directly wet, it will still get humid.

Next, attach a layer of felt carpet padding to your plastic layer. This layer is what the plants will grow in, and will retain water for them. If you can’t access felt carpet padding, you can use any fabric material that will not rot away.

You should use at least two layers of your chosen material. When attaching it, make sure that it is tight across the plastic without wrinkles. It also needs to be secure enough that it does not fall off with the weight of the plants.

The next step is attaching your garden to your wall and setting up how your plants will be watered. This is typically done by installing some sort of tube across the top of your vertical gardening wall that uses valves and drippers to wet the fabric from the top down. It will need to emit water at least ten seconds at a time several times a day.

The goal is to keep your wall wet, but not over-water your plants. This will likely take some experimentation to get right, but a good place to start is at your local gardening and hardware store or online. After you’ve set up your irrigation system along the top of the wall, attach your structure to the wall with stainless steel hardware so that it does not rust.

vertical garden pots wooden construction

Plant Fertilization

Next, you’ll want a way to fertilize your plants. You can use a fertilizer injector with an irrigation valve and liquid fertilizer to do this – again, check your local hardware store or online for these parts. Many people also filter their irrigation water, which is another part you can buy.

After that, you can start planting! In order to plant things on your new vertical garden wall, cut horizontally into your fabric, and insert your plant’s root ball (with some soil), into the slit, then re-staple the fabric around the ball so that it is secure.

Plants that are on the bottom of your vertical garden should be more tolerant to shade. One way to plant things on a wall like this is to plant in strips. You’ll have to regularly trim your plants in order to keep them from drooping too much and over-shading the plants beneath them, and you’ll need to keep in mind that there will be some dripping beneath the garden (if your garden is situated over something like a window or door).

This type of vertical garden is great for concealing buildings, especially if you live in a wooded area or somewhere that the greenery can all blend together. It’s an excellent way to shield a bunker from prying eyes, or even just better utilize the walls of your house. There’s a ton of possibilities for this kind of vertical garden to hide from zombies in a SHTF situation – especially if you have an extended amount of time to prepare a retreat.

Pest Control for Vertical Gardens

Vertical Gardens do not have the weed problems that a ground garden would have since very little soil is used. What soil is being used for the plants is not exposed for insects, birds, or the wind to contaminate with seeds from foreign plants.

However, insects can pose a problem depending on what is grown. Most plants can withstand some homemade insecticides.

Some ingredients you can use on your plants:

1 quart of Water and Chili Peppers

Or you can use these 2 ingredients:

1 quart of Water and 2 cloves of fresh crushed garlic

Add either of these combinations into a spray bottle and applying to the plants. Be careful not to over do it, as you will shock the plant, which can kill it.

Another recipe that works:

  • Mint
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne
  • Water
  • Biodegradable soap

In a blender, add the mint and garlic. Chop fine. Add this to a pot of water along with the Cayenne pepper. Allow this to steep over night. Do not boil it, as this will kill some of the properties in the garlic.

Strain this concoction into the sprayer you intend to use. Add a small amount of the biodegradable soap to this mixture.

Make sure you really spray all the leaves well, even on the undersides.

Below are a few YouTube videos that will help you decide the best course to take for your personal vertical garden.

Other Types of Vertical Gardens

Despite how cool a garden growing up a wall is, not all of us have access to even a blank wall on which to grow things. People in apartments, for example, cannot as easily utilize the previous vertical garden. Luckily, this isn’t the only way to create a vertical gardening planter.

Below you can see a woman who created a vertical garden out of barrels:

Not only that, but there are also vertical gardens that can be made using simple latticework and hanging planters. These are great for plants that need to thrive within the soil. If you stagger your planters, you can easily accommodate for how much space each of your plants’ needs.

Here’s a few examples gardens similar to this:

Another technique of vertical gardening is aquaponics, which is the practice of growing both plants and fish at the same time in a symbiotic relationship. Yes, the systems can be set up vertically. The waste from the fish provides nutrients for the plants’ soil, while the plants provide the fish with nutrients. Any excess is for you! There are also vertical towers, gutter setups, and more.

Here’s a video of small and cheap DIY aquaponics system:

The good thing about many of these setups is that they can be moved around! If it’s cold outside, or if you need to hide your plants from looters, you’ll be thankful that you can simply pick up your garden and move it elsewhere. It’s not quite the same with the wall vertical gardens, but many of the planter setups allow for increased portability.

There are many resources on the Internet to creating unique vertical gardens. It’s an easily adapted form that can serve just about anyone. With a little bit of research, you could be well on your way to creating your own vertical garden design.

Final Notes on Vertical Gardening

Above all, when designing your own vertical garden, you want to make sure to design it with the plants you want to grow in mind. Look up where you live and see what grows best in your conditions. Or, figure out how to change these conditions to better grow what you want. The great thing about vertical gardening is that you’ll have to deal with fewer weeds and pests.

Your basic considerations, for any garden, are going to be water, sunlight, soil, and fertilizer. Each of these things will need to be carefully monitored for your vertical gardening project to be a success. Luckily, it’s much easier to maintain these things with vertical gardens because you have more control over the system, and it is much smaller.

Vertical gardening is an excellent way for both preppers and urban dwellers to provide for some of their food needs while utilizing the space they have. You can grow just about anything if you put your mind to it!

The post The Ultimate Guide to Vertical Gardening appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

How to Make Powdered Milk at Home

photo: adapted from Derek Rawlings on Flickr.com

With prices of dairy products soaring, a lot of people are turning to powdered milk to save some money. Dry, or powdered milk is still faring better than fresh milk, which can cost somewhere between $2.50 to $3.50 a gallon in most places, with dairy towns prices around $2 to $3.

Powdered milk can be intimidating to a lot of people, but with it saving you money and increasing convenience, it’s a rewarding solution. In this article, we’ll be telling you all the information that you need to know to get started with powdered milk.

What Is It?

Though powdered milk does not taste as good as fresh milk, it is a more convenient to get and easier to store. Powdered milk from a prepper store’s long term food section will have a life of up to 20 years.

Its two most common forms are: Instant Non-Fat Powdered Milk and Regular Non-Fat Powdered Milk. Instant Non-Fat Powdered Milk is made with a process that results in larger flakes. It is generally easier to mix with a spoon, or blender, because it dissolves in water easily. Regular Non-Fat Powdered Milk is considerably more difficult to mix than its instant counterpart, meaning more stirring is necessary. It also requires chilling before it can be served. Regular, Non-Instant, milk is the economical purchase as less is used in cooking.

Why Home Dry?

Although home drying is not as common as freezing or canning, there are many benefits to doing it. The most important factor is that it is cost saving as you’re generally going to buying in bulk and you’ll be reducing food waste, as products like milk are perishable goods.

Another factor is the health benefits. The slow application of heat does not destroy the minerals, vitamins (iron, fiber, several B vitamins and some A vitamins), and other nutrients in your food. The only things you lose in the process are water and moisture. You also don’t need to add any chemicals, additives, or preservatives to your dried foods.

Methods for Home Drying

There are three ways that milk can be turned into powder, those being: spray drying, drum drying, and freeze drying. Spray drying is the preferred method as it produces more even particles when compared to drum drying or freeze drying. Freeze drying puts frozen foods in a vacuum. Milk freezes well but it does not have as long shelf life as dried powder milk.

All you’ll need to make powdered milk, is a dehydrator, fruit roll sheets, and milk. The process generally takes approximately 12 hours depending on the power output. The more trays stacked, the longer it takes. Dehydrators can vary in sizes and prices, so you’ll have a range to choose from for what suits your needs best.

Any milk can be used for drying, but it must be pasteurized so that there’s a reduced number of bacteria present. Raw milk (non-pasteurized milk) should not be used for making powdered milk. For best results, use skim milk as the less fat there is, the better the milk powdered will store.

Directions

  1. Place a fruit roll insert into each dehydrator tray and slowly pour one cup of milk onto each tray. (Make sure the counter/surface is level)
  2. Set the dehydrator at 130°F – 135°
  3. Dehydrate until dry and flaky.
  4. If after 12 hours, there are some areas that are ‘goopy’, gently remove the dried milk, re-tray and dehydrate it again.
  5. After the milk is completely dry and flaky, crumble it into pieces.
  6. Place the pieces into a blender and mix until it forms a powder. (Not a necessary step, but allows for a more compact storage and makes it easier to measure).
  7. Pour powder into a jar and vacuum seal for a longer shelf life.

If you do not wish to use a dehydrator, there is another way to make powdered milk but it is not widely used. This is using the oven instead of a dehydrator. The direction is as followed:

  1. Place 1 to 2 gallons of milk into a double boiler (add water as needed).
  2. Simmer for several hours till most of the water has evaporated from the milk.
  3. When milk gets to a creamy consistency, pour into a large pan with sides.
  4. Place into an oven preheated at 150°F (the oven should be around 140°F to 160°F).
  5. Leave the oven door slightly open to allow moisture to get out.
  6. When milk is dry, flip out onto a dishtowel.
  7. Once cooled, grind the pieces in a blender and store.

The oven drying method has some advantages and disadvantages. A benefit is that most of us have an oven, and so there isn’t a need to invest in special equipment. This method does result in some flavor loss.

Tips

  • If it’s your first time, it is recommended that you only do 2 trays to ensure that the temperature setting works with your dehydrator.
  • Place the round tray (with fruit roll sheet) inside the dehydrator before pouring the milk to ensure no spillage.
  • Make sure the tray and the dehydrator is level so that it evenly dehydrates.
  • When the milk is done, it should feel like a thin piece of peanut brittle.
  • Sun drying is not an acceptable method for drying milk because it takes a long time and there is a higher risk of bacterial contamination.

Products

Dehydrators

Cheap yet good quality:

Presto 06300 Dehydro Electric Food Dehydrator (the best bang for your buck)

Hamilton Beach 32100A Food Dehydrator – $45.99 (a tiny bit more expensive)

Mid-range:

Aroma Housewares Professional 6 Tray Food Dehydrator

Cuisinart DHR-20 Food Dehydrator

High-end:

Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator

Nesco FD-1018A Gardenmaster Food Dehydrator

Fruit Roll Trays

Nesco LSS-2-6 Fruit Roll Sheets

Reconstituting Powdered Milk

The ratio for reconstituting powdered milk is: 1 part milk powder to 2 parts water.

13 tsp. of dehydrated milk powder will equal to roughly one cup of reconstituted milk. When reconstituting the powder, add 1 tbsp. of hot water to your powder and mix. Continue adding ½ tsp. of hot water until it reaches your desired consistency.

Some additional conversion facts:

  • 1 Cup Milk = 1 Cup Water + 3 Tbsp. Powdered Milk
  • ¾ Cup Milk = ¾ Cup Water + 2 ¼ Tbsp. Powdered Milk
  • 2/3 Cup Milk = 2/3 Cup Water + 2 Tbsp. Powdered Milk
  • ½ Cup Milk = ½ Cup Water + 1 ½ Tbsp. Powdered Milk
  • 1/3 Cup Milk = 1/3 Cup Water + 1 Tbsp. Powdered Milk
  • ¼ Cup Milk = ¼ Cup Water + ¾ Tbsp. Powdered Milk

Uses

After you have made the powdered milk, there are various things you can make from there. Below, we have given you some of our favorites.

Sweetened Condensed Milk (14 oz. can)

  • ½ cup hot water
  • 1 cup powdered milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. butter

Evaporated Milk (12 oz. can)

  • 1 ½ cup water
  • ½ cup + 1 tbsp. powdered milk

Dry Pudding Mix (24 servings)

  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 2 ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 ¼ cu flour
  • 1 tsp. salt

Buttermilk/Sour milk

  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup powdered milk
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice OR white vinegar (add to cup of milk and let it stand for 5-10 minutes).

Cocoa/Chocolate Milk Mix

  • 2 cups dry milk powder
  • ¾ cup sugar (or substitute)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup powdered non-dairy coffee creamer (or use an additional ½ cup of powdered milk)

If storing, whisk all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container.

If making, add three to four tbsp. of mix to 1 cup of boiling water. Mix until well incorporated.

Whipped Topping

  • ½ cup ice cold water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice

You can also incorporate powdered milk into cooking recipes.

Potato Soup Recipe

(Courtesy of The Complete Guide to Drying Foods at Home)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cup instant mashed potato flakes
  • 1 ½ cup dried milk powder
  • 2 tbsp. milk powder
  • 2 tbsp. chicken bouillon powder
  • 1 tbsp. dried onion pieces
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • ¼ tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 tsp. seasoned salt

If storing, stir everything together and store into a tight container.

If making, mix ½ cup of soup with 1 cup of boiling water. Stir until smooth and ready to eat.

Banana Oatmeal

(Courtesy of The Complete Guide to Drying Foods at Home)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup of dried cooked whole oats – chopped
  • ¼ cup dried banana slices
  • 2 tbsp. dry milk powder
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg and cinnamon

If storing, combine all ingredients in a sealable bag

If making, mix everything together with 1 cup of water and soak for half an hour. After that, put it over heat and simmer for roughly five to ten minutes.

Safety and Concerns

Dried foods preserve really well because bacteria, fungus or mold cannot survive where there is no moisture. So, it is imperative that you ensure that all the moisture has been removed. Consult the recipe to see what texture or consistency the final product should be. Let the pieces cool off because assessing their dryness.

Summary

All things considered, making powdered milk is not only saves money but also has numerous health benefits. The safety and concerns regarding the dehydration of milk can easily be avoided if the instructions are followed to the letter.

Now you have everything you need to get started with making powdered milk, so we’re curious to know if you ever tried and of this and how it worked out for you. Let us know a comment below.

The post How to Make Powdered Milk at Home appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

11 Plants You Can Grow Indoors

Imagine having your garden and plants grow indoors all year long! Having fresh vegetables and plants so easily accessible through the winter months. Growing plants indoors has become very popular and is continuously expanding.

Luckily, you do not have to be trained in the farming industry for this. This is quite possible for anyone with the right sunlight, window space, and time.

But, why would you want to grow plants indoors you may ask? There are many benefits to this that we will discuss further.

Benefits

Along with the benefits of a delightful decor of flowering and blooming plants, there are many other benefits to growing plants indoors. These are listed below:

  • Purifying the Air

Plants go through a process termed photosynthesis, where toxic air is taken in and fresh air is exposed to the environment. Having plants indoors will help to purify the air around. Plants such as herbs, lilies, aloe and palms have been seen as a great natural way to filter the air in your house for a healthy living environment.

  • Boosting Concentration and Memory

It has been said that exposure to plants can boost memory and focus. Plants such as cacti and ferns are perfect for an indoor environment to help us balance our lives. If you or a member of your family have trouble concentrating, this may be a good natural way to help.

  • An Easily Accessible First Aid Kit

Many plants are beneficial for medical reasons and can be used as first aid. Aloe Vera can be very helpful in healing burns and lavender can aid in well-being of a person. So if you run out of Neosporin or any burning cream, no need to worry, you have plants nearby that can help.

  • Reducing Illnesses

Growing plants such as a lemon trees or orange trees can help with filtering out germs indoors and balancing humidity levels in the house. This in turn can help to boost the immune system. The more plants in the house, the better the quality of the air indoors.

  • Easily Accessible Produce

Growing produce plants such as tomatoes, carrots, avocados, mushrooms, lemons and carrots, to name a few, is beneficial in having fresh produce easily accessible to you when needed. This reduces the worry if SHTF with terrible weather conditions and outside temperatures. This is a good way for a prepper to be prepared for TEOTWAWKI.

  • Décor

Another benefit of growing plants indoors is for a beautiful décor. Having blooming flowers and colorful plants will spice up the atmosphere of any room adding a nice touch. The smells of the herbs also add a great touch to the smell of the air.

Popular Plants Grown Indoors

Listed below are some of the most popular plants; vegetables, fruits, and herbs that are easy to grow indoors. All of these plants are very beneficial for a prepper in case of a SHTF situation.

avocado

  • Avocados

Avocados are a great source of vitamin B, E, and A. They have been greatly beneficial in reducing heart disease, eye problems, and risk of cancer.

It is best to grow an avocado plant starting from a drawf avocado plant. You can plant this in a pot with a potting mixture and draining holes at the bottom. Avocado plants need to be watered and pruned regularly, but not overwatered as they do not do well in soggy soil. It is best to place an avocado plant in a place with a high ceiling as it can grow all the way up to 10 feet tall.

Avocados are ready to be harvested when their peel turns almost black. They can be left on the tree for a few weeks at this color, but will start to loose flavor and become a soft texture with time.

carrots

  • Carrots

Carrots are a great source of many vitamins and minerals, the most popular being Vitamin K. Carrots are also a great for keeping eye health at its maximum.

Growing carrots indoors starts with a pack of carrot seeds that are placed in a window box or pot with drainage holes at the bottom. You will need humus-rich potting mix to plant the seeds. Carrots grow best in areas with a ton of sunlight (near a windowsill) and moist soil.

Carrots are ready to be harvested when they are about ¾ inch thick lengthwise. To pick the carrots off the plant, you wiggle them out at the root and pull straight up. Remove greens from carrots immediately, dust off any dirt, and let them dry prior to cutting and eating.

tomatoes

  • Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a source of antioxidants that are very beneficial in reducing inflammation and coronary heart disease.

Tomatoes should be grown in a minimum six inch size pot in a potting mixture. The tomato seeds should be planted ¼ inch deep into the soil, and should be watered very frequently. Make sure to keep the pot in an area with great sunlight and turn the pot throughout the day so that all sides are exposed to the direct sunlight.

Tomatoes grown indoors will not grow as large as they will outdoors. When they are light red in color and firm to touch, they are ready to be picked and eaten. You can remove the tomatoes by clipping them off the stems or gently twisting and pulling.

lemon

  • Lemons

Lemons are filled with Vitamin C and are a great source of antioxidants that are beneficial in reducing inflammation, reducing risk of heart disease, and reducing risk of some cancers.

Starting a lemon tree with a dwarf lemon tree is the best way to start growing your tree. Lemons are grown best in a clay, plastic, or ceramic pot filled with potting soil for citrus trees. Pots with several small drainage holes is the best choice so that they still have some room to breathe.

Lemons will be ripe within 6-9 months. You can tell when they are ready to harvest based on their yellow color and texture. Squeezing the rind and having some squeezing capability will indicate that they are ready to be picked.

mandaring oranges

  • Mandarin Oranges

Mandarin Oranges are a great source of calcium, fiber, magnesium, and antioxidants.

These oranges grow best in spacious pots with drainage holes at the bottom. Starting with a dwarf mandarin orange tree is preferred. They require a rich soil, a sunny location, and regular watering for best results.

The oranges need to be harvested as soon as they are orange for the best flavor. They can be twisted or clipped off the stem to be removed.

aloe vera

  • Aloe

Aloe plants shelf life are very beneficial for medical needs such as soothing burns on the skin.

Aloe plants prefer dry soil, so it is best to avoid watering the plant frequently. Aloe plants grow about 3 feet in height so they are best to be placed in small, indoor space.

english ivy

  • English Ivy

An English Ivy plant will add great décor to any space in the house. Its elegant looking leaves can trail down furniture or wall spots for a pretty effect.

It is very easy to start growing an English Ivy plant by starting with a section of a stem cut off from another plant. They grow well in moist potting soil and prefer cooler temperature conditions between 50-70 degrees.

basil

  • Basil

This is an herb that has ant-inflammatory benefits and acts as a great herb in cooking many dishes.

A basil plant can be started by purchasing seeds and planting them in a pot that is at least 5 inches wide with many drainage holes. Basil likes the warmer temperatures and a lot of sunlight, so they are best grown in a sun filled window space. Basil should be watered about once a day for maximum results.

Basil is ready to be harvested when the leaves are green in color and can be picked by snipping a few leaves off the plant at a time.

rosemary

  • Rosemary

Rosemary is an antioxidant that helps to improve cholesterol levels and reduces risk of weight gain.

Rosemary seeds can be planted in a pot made up of a mixture of potting soil and coarse sand. The soil needs to be alkaline so one teaspoon of lime needs to be added for every five inches of pot. Rosemary does well in a sunny area inside the home and direct sunlight for 6 hours a day and is ready to be watered when the soil is dry to touch.

To harvest rosemary, you can snip off the springs from the plant. Make sure not to remove all at once.

chive

  • Chives

Chives are a rich source of vitamin A and C as well as high in antioxidants.

Chives start as seeds that should be planted in a large pot in potting mixture. The seeds should be covered with a light layer of soil and the pot should be placed in an area of the house with a lot of shade. Chives should be watered frequently to avoid the soil from drying out.

When ready to remove the chives, gently snip the leaves from the plant. Make sure not to remove all at once.

bucket potatoes

  • Potatoes

These are just great for your survival stockpile. You can grow them in something as cheap as plastic buckets. Just remember they need watering and sunlight, so you’ll have to keep them by the window.

General Growing Tips for Indoors

These are some general growing tips to keep in mind for growing any type of plant indoors. By following these general tips, you should have no problems growing plants indoors.

  • All plants require a good size pot with good draining. So it is important to get a pot with drainage holes.
  • Many plants require a lot of sunlight, so it is important to place those plants near windowsills or doors where the light is shining throughout the day. If you do not have any area indoors with direct sunlight, growing lights are beneficial to help aid in this process.
  • Make sure each plant has the appropriate type of soil. Potting mix is most popular for most plants, and can be purchased from the store or created on your own.

Some Final Notes

Growing plants indoors has become increasingly popular. Many people think of spring time as planting season that is underway, however, you may be overseeing some valuable growing space, right in the comfort of your own home.

There are many benefits that we covered for growing plants indoors as well as many of the popular plants that are capable of being grown indoors.

By following the general growing tips for indoor plants, you should have no problem getting your indoor garden started.

So what are you waiting for? Get planting!

The post 11 Plants You Can Grow Indoors appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

Water Bath Canning Recipes

If you have made the decision to prep in case of a SHTF situation, then canning can be a great way to prepare ahead of that time. We can grow lots of fresh fruits, and vegetables, which can become overbearing on us at harvest time.

Perhaps you aren’t growing the fruits and vegetables yourself, but you run across that great sale at your local store. You buy up as much as you can. Now you want to put them away for later. Then canning is one way you can store your foods for years.

Another plus is water bath canning can be done over an open fire or wood burning stove. Therefore, eliminating the usage of electricity.

At today’s post, we focus on the first thing you need to have to survive: food. It has to be food that does not occupy too much space, offers a lot of calories per serving, and can last a long time. Simply put, I am talking about preserves by Water Bath Canning.

The USDA recommends a shelf life of one year to preserve nutrients and taste. Many homesteaders have discovered that is just a recommendation and have been successful at keeping foods processed by Water Bath Canning for a longer period of time.

When you go through the recipes I have written down, you will notice that most are jams and sauces. This is because they have a high sugar content, which amounts to a lot of calories. While there are other foods like breads that can last as long, it is important to remember that jams and sauces can last longer, are tasty, and also, they occupy very little space so you can stock as many of them as you want.

I have also included a recipe for canning lemons, which you can use to can other fruits like oranges, pineapples, peaches, and apples. They are cheap to make comparing to other foods and are great on your taste buds.

Click here to see a video on how water bath canning is properly done.

Some great recipes to consider:

Apple Butter Recipe

This recipe may require about two days to make but it is totally worth it.

What you need

-1 tsp of ground cloves

-1 tbsp of ground cinnamon

-3 cups of sugar or 2 cups of honey

-4 pinches of allspice

-2 gallons or 16 pints of applesauce (Preferably homemade)

Procedure

  1. Using a pot with hot water and soap, start off by washing your Mason jars.
  2. Pour out the water and put in fresh water. Warm it but don’t boil. In this water you can put in your jars, the lids, the rings, and one clean towel.
  3. Pour your applesauce in a pot till it is nearly full and heat until it is half full and heat over medium heat till bubbles start rising. Turn to low heat and let it simmer.
  4. As your applesauce simmers, add in your sugar or honey, your ground cloves, cinnamon and allspice. Personally, I prefer using honey because it brings a new flavor to your apple butter. You can of course substitute sugar for natural sweeteners if you like to experiment a little. Remember, for every cup of sugar, you substitute for 2/3 a cup of honey. Stir the mixture well.
  5. Heat the mixture over medium, low, heat for around eight hours. Make sure to scrape the sides and stir a little before letting heat again overnight or for a minimum of 7 hours occasionally stirring. If you do not stir, some of the mixture will stick to the bottom and sides of the pot.
  6. Stir in the rest of the applesauce and more sugar or honey (preferably a cup), because after boiling overnight the mixture’s volume is bound to have reduced. Stir well and let it heat over medium low heat for about 3 more hours.
  7. Remove the apple butter and set aside to cool before blending it or mixing it in a mixer. Some may prefer to leave it as is but the reason for blending or mixing is that mostly, the applebutter at the top tends to be thicker than the one at the bottom. So you mix to give it uniform consistency and become smooth.
  8. Remove the towel and twist it so that it is damp but not wet. Wipe the jars with your warm damp towel until dry.Pour the mixture into your sterilized jars making sure to leave ¼ inch space. Put on the lids and secure them with rings. Place them in boiling water and leave them for ten minutes. Remove them from the water and let them cool.
  9. Store them in a cool and dark place.

Since apple butter is acidic, you do not have to worry about bacteria getting in. Make sure to leave about a quarter inch of space in your jars before sealing them. To remove any trapped air, just tap the sides of the jars and the bubbles will rise to the top.

Blueberry Sauce

You will be surprised at how well blueberry sauce goes with pancakes. What is great about this recipe though is that it only takes about 30 minutes to make.

What You Need

-4 pounds of blueberries

-1 1/3 pounds of honey or 2 pounds of sugar

-2 tbsps. of cornstarch

-1 juiced big lemon

-Lemon zest

Procedure

  1. Using a pot with hot water and soap, start off by washing your Mason jars.
  2. Pour out the water and put in fresh water. Warm it but don’t boil. In this water you can put in your jars, the lids, the rings and one clean towel.
  3. Put your blueberries in a wooden bowl and mash them with a potato masher so that most juices are released. Alternatively, you can use a mortar to pound the blueberries in a wooden bowl. Add in the honey or sugar and keep mashing or pounding until mixed.
  4. Leave in room temperature overnight.
  5. Put the blueberry and honey or sugar mixture and put it in a fine mesh sieve to get the juice.Alternatively, you can use a clean cloth and twist so that the juices seep through. Add cornstarch to the juice, mix to a paste and put the mixture in a stainless steel pan.
  6. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest into the blueberries in the pan and cook over medium heat to a boil. Turn the heat lower and simmer for about ten minutes.
  7. Set aside and let cool or cool it in the refrigerator in a storage container.
  8. Wash your six half pint jars soapy hot water and keep them and their lids in hot but not boiling water. This is to soften the lids and kill off bacteria and germs.
  9. Boil your blueberry mixture making sure to stir so it does not stick to the sides and the bottom. Let it cool for about 30 minutes. At this point there should be a tension layer formed on the top of the mixture. If not, boil then cool again.
  10. Remove the towel and twist it so that it is damp but not wet. Wipe the jars with your warm damp towel until dry. Wipe the jars with a clean towel till dry then pour the blueberry sauce into your sterilized jars making sure to leave ¼ inch space. Put on the lids and secure them with rings. Place them in boiling water and leave them for ten minutes. Remove them from the water and let them cool.
  11. Store them in a cool and dark place.

If you like experimenting, you can try agave instead of sugar to see which one is best for you. Personally, I prefer using natural honey because…well, it is natural. Wild honey comes with an array of flavors too so why not experiment?

Homemade Peach jam

What you need

Pint-sized Mason Jars

8 sorted, under ripe peaches

4 cups of honey

1/2 cups of brown sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

1 half freshly squeezed lemon

2 ounce dry pectin

1tsp of butter

Procedure

  1. Using a pot with hot water and soap, start off by washing your Mason jars.
  2. Pour out the water and put in fresh water. Warm it but don’t boil. In this water you can put in your jars, the lids, the rings and one clean towel.
  3. Boil some water in a stainless steel pot. Halve your peaches and remove the pits then chop into smaller pieces.
  4. Place your peaches in the boiling water and heat for five minutes or till they are soft.
  5. Coat your frying pan with oil and brown sugar, leave for a minute to heat then place your peaches in. Make sure to flip them constantly to brown each side. Use the rest of the brown sugar. Set aside to cool.
  6. In a blender, add in the honey and peaches then blend till you get a thick puree.
  7. Pour the puree in a stainless steel crock pot. Add in the lemon juice and cinnamon juice and bring the mixture to a boil over low heat making sure to stir constantly to your desired consistency. Set aside to cool then remove the solids.
  8. Remove the towel and twist it so that it is damp but not wet. Wipe the jars with your warm damp towel till dry. Wipe the jars with a clean towel till dry then pour the peach jam into your sterilized jars making sure to leave ¼ inch space. Put on the lids and secure them with rings. Place them in boiling water and leave them for ten minutes. Remove them from the water and let them cool.
  9. Store them in a cool and dark place or refrigerate. It will be ready to serve in five days.

Making and Canning Pizza sauce

What you need

32 ounces of fresh tomatoes

6 pounded garlic cloves

2 tsp vinegar

¼ tsp of Salt,

A pinch of sugar and

¼ tsp of black pepper

½ Olive oil

Procedure

  1. Using a pot with hot water and soap, start off by washing your Mason jars.
  2. Pour out the water and put in fresh water. Warm it but don’t boil. In this water you can put in your jars, the lids, the rings and one clean towel.
  3. In a pot, bring water to a boil and add in your tomatoes. Boil for seven minutes or till you can peel off the skin. Smash in a bowl and mash the tomatoes. In a sieve remove the seeds and place the sieved puree in a blender.
  4. Blend your tomatoes, pounded garlic, three pinches of salt, a pinch of sugar, black pepper, and olive oil together.
  5. Sieve to remove any solids and voila! The sauce is ready to can.
  6. Wipe the jars with a clean towel till dry then pour the pizza sauce into your sterilized jars making sure to leave ¼ inch space. Put on the lids and secure them with rings. Place them in boiling water and leave them for ten minutes. Remove them from the water and let them cool.
  7. Store them in a cool and dark place or refrigerate.

There are those who prefer to cook the sauce which is okay if you prefer a thicker consistency. For the perfect taste, use balsamic vinegar.

Homemade Canned Pesto

What you need

2 cups of fresh basil

2 minced garlic cloves

1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup of pignolias

1/3 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese

¼ tsp of black pepper and salt

Procedure

  1. Using a pot with hot water and soap start off by washing your Mason jars.
  2. Pour out the water and put in fresh water. Warm it but don’t boil. In this water you can put in your jars, the lids, the rings and one clean towel.
  3. In a food processor bowl, combine the basil leaves, pignolias, garlic, parmesan, salt and black pepper and start the processor.
  4. While it is still on, add in the olive oil and process till you have an emulsion.
  5. Wipe the jars with a clean towel till dry then pour the pesto into your sterilized jars making sure to leave ¼ inch space at the top.
  6. Unlike the others though, you will not seal the pesto because this can create an atmosphere for bacterial thrive. Instead, you can secure the top with a small clean cloth and freeze the pesto.

Canning Lemons

This is one of the simplest canning recipes.

What you need

3 Pint size glass jars

Small cotton clothes

3 cups granulated sugar

9 lemons

Procedure

  1. Using a pot of hot water and soap, start off by washing your Mason jars.
  2. Pour out the water and put in fresh water. Warm it but don’t boil. In this water you can put in your jars, the lids, the rings and one clean towel.
  3. In running water, wash your lemons thoroughly with a clean cloth and dry them.
  4. Using a sharp knife, slice the lemons to give you six lemon slices per lemon.
  5. Sprinkle some sugar at the bottom of the jars and arrange three lemon slices on top of the sugar. Sprinkle some more sugar on top of the third half slice then arrange three more. Arrange three more and sprinkle some sugar on top. Arrange the other lemon slices around in the jar and sprinkle some more sugar. Cover with a clean cotton cloth and secure with a rubber band. Repeat the process with the other six lemons.
  6. You will notice the sugar will turn into syrup. Place them in the refrigerator only taking out to use.

Homemade Canned Fig Jam

What you need

2 pounds of fresh figs

¼ cup of granulated sugar

½ a lemon juiced

1 cinnamon stick

Procedure

  1. Using a pot with hot water and soap, start off by washing your Mason jars.
  2. Pour out the water and put in fresh water. Warm it but don’t boil. In this water you can put in your jars, the lids, the rings and one clean towel.
  3. Sort your figs, clean them and cut them in quarters.
  4. Place your figs in a pan and add in sugar. Turn the heat to medium low and cook while constantly stirring to avoid lumping. The mixture should become thicker and the color darker.
  5. Add in the lemon juice and cinnamon stick and keep heating while stirring for about 10 minutes or until it is thick enough to your liking.
  6. Remove the cinnamon stick and set aside to cool.
  7. Pour the fig jam into dried pint jars and secure with a lids and rings. Put the jars in boiling water and leave for ten minutes. Dry off and refrigerate your fig jam.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to water bath canning is hygiene.  Make sure all your jars and other utensils are sterilized and that you follow the water bath procedure well. Things could easily go wrong and spoil your preserves so be very careful.

When making fruit jams or sauces, it is good to remember to use stainless steel instead of aluminum. The reason is that most fruits especially berries tend to be acidic and therefore react to most metals. Aluminum will stain easily giving you a very hard time when it is time to wash the dishes. Also, it gives your sauce a metallic taste, which you do not want in your preserves.

The post Water Bath Canning Recipes appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

The Difference Between Aquaponics and Hydroponics

In your adventures and struggles with prepping you may have come across these two words. Hydroponics and Aquaponics are quickly becoming a popular method of providing food for homesteaders and preppers alike.

If you haven’t heard of those two approaches before, you are in luck, because we will be going into detail on the pros and cons of these two systems and how they benefit us. This article is also directed to those that know about aquaponics vs hydroponics – even if vaguely – and are looking for ideas on how they can implement them into their greenhouse, garden, home, or backyard. Whatever your plan is, you will be able to apply these to your prepping plans or your (urban) homestead.

hydrophonics

Hydroponics

To put it simply, it is a method of growing vegetables and produce without a growing medium like dirt. For this to work, you will have to water the seedlings with a nutrient dense water solution. This is typically done with piping properly spaced out, and a water pump to pump the water solution onto the seedlings. When done correctly, you can expect massive yields in a shorter amount of time than a traditional garden.

Hydroponics is a very popular method for growing leafy greens and some fruits. It’s also very successful at growing vines like cucumbers and tomatoes. In theory, you can grow anything through hydroponics, the only thing to keep in mind is that some plants need different nutrients, so your solution will have to change to accommodate this.

This system can be relatively simple to set up, or it can be expensive and less time-consuming. In regards to hydroponics, you will find that there are the cheap ways that are meant to last even in the worst case scenarios, or you will have systems that require more initial investment, but when they are done right, you will have tremendous yields.

Undoubtedly, the money you invest into a hydroponic system will pay its self in full with a little patience from you. But first, what is a hydroponic system?

The first thing you want to address is how much you are planning to invest into a system like this, and if your plans include pumps that require electricity. You will want to make sure that you can keep them going if the power goes out. Without those pumps, you won’t be able to keep your system running.

The best idea is to start small and focus on a group of plants that are easy to grow in a system like this. You need to supplement the water regularly to provide the right nutrients that your plants will need to thrive. Start with your favorite lettuce and master growing it in a hydroponic system. Stockpile the nutrients that it needs, and slowly implement other lettuces and leafy greens. They will need the same nutrients, so the additions/transitions won’t cost you extra, and it won’t be a huge hassle for you to change or adapt to what you are already used to.

One of cheapest ways to get started is to buy one of those moving/packing totes and set it up as bubbler hydroponic system. You will need to get an aeration device – hence the term bubbler – along with the necessities that are needed for most hydroponic systems – mesh pots, growing medium, and solution. Then you will cut holes in the tote lid for the pots to sit in with the growing medium. The water inside the tote has to come up to the level of the pots, and the aeration system(an aquarium aerator works perfectly) needs to run to keep the water and growing solution mixing through the growing medium. There are many guides you can find on this particular set-up on the internet.

Of course, if the power goes out, your pump won’t work, and that includes your ability to grow. Like with all of these systems, you will want to prepare for power outages through solar panels, or any other alternative energy source to keep your hydroponic system operating.

Most of these systems need quite a bit of water and oxygen running through it for it to be successful. There are special pots, growing mediums, and aerators for air flow while some people have their system “drip” continuously, and others will run the system multiple times a day to achieve the right water flow. The best advice in regards to this is to find what works for you. If you prefer to micromanage your system, it is probably better for you to turn it on and off while keeping a close eye on your hydroponic garden. If you are forgetful, a continuous drip may be best. Just remember that your solution will need to be more diluted because it is dripping on the plants constantly, and make sure that water never becomes too stagnant.

Once you have mastered this, start experimenting with other plants that you desire. Just remember, if you are faced with a SHTF scenario, you won’t be able to go to your local garden center and get that blood meal or bone meal that your solution requires. Stockpile these supplies and growing solutions when you can so you will be prepared. You might want to also invest in a solar panel or two to keep your pump running in these situations.

Almost all leafy lettuces will work in a hydroponic system. Along with the lettuces, most hydroponic growers have great success with tomatoes, and you can even make some good money growing hydroponic tomatoes. Vines like cucumbers, strawberries, and grapes are also prized in a hydroponic garden, while many people have been successful growing other fruits like blueberries and various melons. You can even grow most herbs, but the more popular herbs you find in a hydroponic garden are basil, rosemary, and oregano.

It’s important to remember that even though you are providing them will at the nutrients that they need to grow, they still need sunlight to thrive. If you’re planning to grow indoors, the system will need to be by a window that gets a minimum of 8-hours of sunlight, or you will need to invest in grow lights. Keep in mind that these will require even more electricity than the pump, and will have to run for quite a while. Plan ahead with your power consumption with these lights, and put in fail safes in case the power grid goes down – i.e. solar panels, wind turbines, or a fuel powered generator.

One final tip for those that a preparing for the worst; look into building a ram pump to keep your hydroponic system going if the power grid goes down. These are mechanical pumps, meaning that once you start it, it will continue to pump water till you stop it. The water flowing through it is what keep the pump running, and without a doubt, one of the most useful garden tools for homesteaders and preppers with a garden when the power grid goes down, and you need water pressure.

The pros are nearly countless, and the cons are limited to the initial investments and the power grid shutting your pumps or lights off. Whether you are in a house, apartment, or massive property out in the country, you won’t regret turning this idea into reality.

aquaponics system

Aquaponics

If Hydroponics is a Trans-Am, then Aquaponics is a Ferrari. Essentially a variation of the hydroponic system, with one significant addition. The aquaponic system includes a fish tank that will be used to fertilize the plants that the hydroponic system would do while providing you with fish to eat.

Step by step how to make your own aquaponics system at home <<

Now that is an easy way to describe it, but that is essentially what it entails. Obviously, this system will need a little more work than the hydroponic set-up, but you will reap many more rewards from it than the previous system we discussed.

Like hydroponic systems, there are many ways to put this one into practice. You will need to ensure a few critical points for it to thrive, though. The water that you pull from your fish tank has to drain through the medium you decide to use and go back into the fish tank.

That is the beauty of this system. You won’t require those additives that are needed by the hydroponic system to grow the vegetables because the waste from the fish is ideal for growing most plants. When the water works through the medium, it is filtered into clean water and recycled back into the fish tank.

The medium is imperative because it must be able to filter the water; unlike hydroponics were you can get away with no medium at all. Popular mediums that are used are perlite, some gravel types, or specialized mediums you can get from aquaponic/hydroponic suppliers.

Like the hydroponic system, you will need pumps and pipes to move the water to the plants and back into the fish tanks. You will have to take this one step further because of the fish, though. An aerator is needed for the fish tanks to give them a constant supply of oxygen, and it needs to be running 24/7, just like a fish tank. For a SHTF scenario, you will want to invest in a solar panel to keep the aerator running at a minimum. The ram pump idea can keep the pump system running, but since you may have plans for the aerator to be solar powered, you might want to make the full investment and get your pumps running on solar power as well.

Now, it’s important to note that these fish don’t have to be eaten. If you are a vegetarian, you can still have a successful aquaponic system for your veggies and fruits. Some people grow ornamental goldfish, or koi and sell them once the tanks have got too full.

If you do plan to eat the fish you are growing there are some that do better than others, and it’s best to stick to what works till you get your hands truly wet(pun intended). Without a doubt the most popular fish for aquaponics is tilapia. These beauties, like most fish in this system, will need warm water to breed and grow. What makes them unique for this method is their ability to thrive in less than ideal water conditions, which can be a problem with aquaponics systems; especially for inexperienced practitioners.

The next edible fish we will discuss is trout. The reason for this is because they are an option you want to take if you are living in colder climates. They are one of the few that can thrive in more frigid temperatures and aquaponic systems. If you are having trouble with other species due to your cold climate, trouts may very well be the solution to your problem.

Other favorite fishes for aquaponics are catfish, carp, and many varieties of bass. These three can successfully breed and grow in most conditions. The important thing to remember is keeping your water as clean as possible. If you have a good medium for your gardening area, this shouldn’t be a problem. Experiment with different fish and see what works best for your set up. For instance, you may grow catfish one year, but the next year you grow bass and find out you prefer them, and they grow faster because of your climate.

It’s crucial that you don’t overstock your fish tanks. Excellent systems will have roughly a fish for every 1-2 gallons of water, but throwing caution to the wind and trying this can kill all the fish and destroy your plants. The best method is to start off with one fish for every 7-10 gallons. If your system is filtering the water well, add more over time gradually. Just remember, no fish means no plants.

You will always need fish to grow the plants, and you will always need a medium to filter the water so the fish can thrive and fertilize the plants. Understand the intricacies of this system will guarantee your success.

This system once applied correctly, is a self-contained ecosystem. Meaning that little interaction is needed on your part to keep this thing thriving. You may have to transfer fresh water from time to time, but this is usually the only maintenance that is required, giving you more time to prep or take care of the things that matter to you.

Since aquaponic systems are self-contained ecosystems, they are becoming one of the most popular routes to self-sustainability. People are incorporating them into their greenhouses, garages, and apartments. The amount of food that they can provide you is unparalleled to any other system at the moment, and because you don’t have to buy additives continually, it is a far better option than hydroponics.

Hydroponics only outweighs aquaponics with the initial investment. The money you will save growing your fish, not buying additives, and growing the same(sometimes more) amount of produce as a hydroponic system far outweigh the negatives, though.

Our last note from a prepper’s standpoint is electricity. These things will always require it in some for or another if you haven’t taken steps to make it completely free of electricity. There are options we have mentioned for the water pump – using a ram pump – and you can find many ways to set up an aeration device that can run without electricity. It is entirely possible to have an entire system – hydroponic or aquaponic – without electricity, and if the SHTF, you will wish you did.

If you have to grow indoors and need the lights, you have a few options that will help keep your system running. It’s important to state that in a disaster like an EMP, your system will not work anymore if you rely on lights and electricity for your pumps and aeration.

Both systems are more than worth the investment for homesteaders and preppers. They provide an insane amount of food compared to the traditional methods; and due to the typically closed off environment, don’t fall victim to the pests and diseases that creep up in our gardens. If you happen to set up the system/s with solar power, then you can look forward to food indefinitely as well.

Whether you plan to start small with hydroponics or dive into the deep end with aquaponics, there is one thing that is certain; you are taking the right steps in preparing. You can look forward to fast growth, food all year round, and a system that requires minimum effort once it’s set up. This gives you more time to worry about what really matters and not about putting food on the table.

The post The Difference Between Aquaponics and Hydroponics appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

35 Pioneer Skills That Will Help You Survive

Many may equate a lifestyle lived entirely self-contained or self-sufficiently with preppers, rural communities, on farmlands, or due to location such as in the Alaskan bush.  Actually, it may be by choice to downsize, seek a healthier lifestyle, or live fully self-contained.

The lifestyle of bypassing modern conveniences to be a modern pioneer or homesteader can be in any setting, as it’s a mindset. Many 21st century people, who may be seeking independence from government interference, or just want to free themselves from any dependence on their supplies coming from the bigbox and commercial chain stores, do not have to be off grid to use traditional pioneer skills to live a healthy and simple kind of life.

Here are some traditional skills that any modern day homesteader can utilize in making themselves more self-sufficient and in control of their materials, supplies, workmanship, and food sources, and in some cases ultimate survival. We will look at a quick overview of how each old-time skill was used by the Pioneers for clean living, homemade quality, and satisfying craftsmanship in their day-to-day survival. There is no greater sense of accomplishment than making or providing for your family by hands-on know-how. When it comes down to survival situations, these are 35 pioneer skills that will help you survive.

1. Being your own blacksmith

For pioneers, the blacksmith was one of the most essential tradesmen. Blacksmiths fashioned and repaired everything from the farm equipment, carriage equipment, cooking implements, household items like irons, fishing equipment, wheels, and most important: the horseshoe. He was valued by farmers, shop owners, and business that needed transporters alike.

2. Knowing how to plant a garden

A garden was the biggest source of food besides hunting, and each Pioneer needed a garden. The garden and its care were tantamount for survival, as it produced food, medicine, dyes, herbs, spices, fragrances, animal feed and even bedding for animal and human alike. The key to careful living, and living well was a well-tended garden, Pioneers studied European and even Native American methods for the utmost output.

3. Milking your own cows

The Pioneers raised many breeds of cattle. The males could be worked with plows and used to pull wagons if necessary, and the cows could be used for milk, cream, or meat. Actually, Pioneers drank little milk due to no pasteurization, storage, and weather, so most of the cream was used for butter.

4. Tending your own chickens

Chickens are a cheap to feed and keep, and a fast resource of valuable protein and meat. Optimizing your egg output by care and feeding would help the Pioneers in daily food output and using their bedding and waste helped keep the gardens fresh with compost. Older hens not producing can be used for the cookpot.

5. Knowing how to make your own drinks

Besides water, you had to brew or mix any drinks from raw materials. Even simple tea was a process. When soda shops popped up, it was a novelty and only available at the shop by a soda jerk.

6. Handling your own waste needs

With people and animals producing pounds of it every day, knowing how to manage your waste and make it work for you on a farm is a good skill to have. The Pioneers, well the fancy townsfolk later on, had some of the first indoor plumbing and toilets.

7. Making your own candles

In a nonelectric time, using tallow or beeswax to make candles meant light past the setting of the sun.

8. Knowing how to wood build

In Pioneer times, houses were made of hewn logs and with no nails, they used wooden pins to hold them in place, and special cuts in the wood to lock them together.

9. Knowing how to build a canoe

Without cars, traveling by canoe was faster than horses in many ways. Knowing how to construct a canoe from branches and hides, or do a dug-out canoe provided transportation for 1-4 people, maybe more.

10. Knowing how to sew

When you wove your cloth, the next step was sewing. Any clothing for work or daily wear was made by sewing. A seamstress, or home sewer, was a highly valued skilled person and for many Pioneer ladies, the only presentable way to make a living if a widow or unmarried maid.

11. Knowing how to barter

A skill that can make your life a whole lot easier by providing goods and services you need.

12. Knowing how to can your foods

Canning foods was a main preparation for making it through the winter and food storage. This was one of the only ways to have fruit and vegetables off season.

13. Knowing how to preserve your meat

Meat preservation was the only way to ensure meat for the winter besides. Salting, drying, pickling, curing, pemmican, jerky, and sausages are forms of preserving meat.

14. Knowing how to set snares

The cheapest and easiest way to trap animals, snares have been around since the cavedwellers. To get fur and meat for the table or trade, snares helped immensely.

15. Knowing how to bake

Bread is a main sustenance even today in many countries, and baking helped feed Pioneers by adding grains and a variety of food to the table. Baking includes heat, frying, or ground methods.

16. Knowing how to start a fire

When there were no matches, fire making, and starting fires was a life skill for survival. Pioneers would borrow fire from a neighbor if theirs ran out.

17. Knowing how to harvest seeds

Seed saving and making selective choices by the Pioneers insured the next harvest and garden, and has been the traditional way farms have been maintained for over 12,000 years. Pioneers bartered and traded seeds for biodiversity to keep strains strong.

18. Knowing how to catch fish

The knowledge in catching fish to plump protein stores meant knowing how to snare, trap, spear, and hook them. The Pioneers used cleaning with proper preservation to store fish, add to their food supply, and as a bartering material.

19. Doing your own gathering of fruit

The Pioneers had to hunt and collect berries and fruits for jams, jellies, dyes, drying, storage, and baking needs.

20. Working on leather

Leatherworking from animal hides was needed for clothing and gear. Working items like harnesses needed proper preparation, sewing, and tanning for it to have quality, longevity, and value.

21. Knowing how to weave

Colonial America introduced spinning, dyeing, and weaving to Indians who traditionally finger wove. Learning to weave provided cloth for trade and home weaving was a currency.

22. Being able to plant an orchard

The pioneers and colonists reconstituted the fruit and apple orchards of England for fresh use, culinary preparations, drying, ciders, meads, and alcohols.

23. Being able to raise livestock

Animals meant the difference between survival or starvation in Pioneer times. They could work, be bartered, or even slaughtered. Being able to raise them from breeding and fattening a herd meant success and wealth.

24. Caring for your livestock

Knowing how to properly care for the animals meant your survival, as that was your wealth and your workforce in Pioneer times. Proper feed, care, and rest went into these workers.

25. Doing your own beekeeping

Bees are crucial to pollinate crops, produce wax, and provide a high energy, natural sweetener in honey. Phoenicians kept bees, but the Pioneers started making movable comb hives so they could protect the bees.

26. Making your own soap

Soap was of great value to colonial people from peasant to peddler for its versatility, cleaning properties, and bartering value. Using animal fat from butchering, usually once a year as an event in fall, the Colonists revolutionized the potash soap and lye recipe brought from England.

27. Making your own beer

Native Americans were the first to brew beer by using corn, teaching the early European Settlers and Virginian colonists. Almost every culture in civilization used some form of beer to drink, celebrate, and barter with.

28. Building your own well

Instead of being primitive, many hand-dug wells are considered works of amazing engineering and have reached over 80 feet deep to supply cool, fresh water. Pioneers also used materials such as stones and wood, brick and early mortar.

29. Being able to butcher your own meat

Knowing how to use every part of an animal, its fat, and hide were crucial to a family. They all pitched in to help, and saved every scrap for sausages, pemmican, and kidney pie. Hides, fat, bones, tallow, brains to tan with, even the sinew were collected.

Making your own pemmican from meat 18th century style:

30. Knowing how to forage

An important skill to collect food, medicine, herbs, moss and berries, especially for winter stores, passed down generationally.

31. Knowing how to compost

Collecting matter to enrich and fertilize soil for more abundant crops for food production and soil care.

32. Knowing the best ways to hunt

Hunting was the single most source of protein for the Pioneers and the biggest food producer. Fur was a big trade item and a main profession during the winter for survival.

33. Knowing how to use the sun to collect water

Utilizing condensation at night, and using materials with the hot sun to induce water is a must.

34. Being able to identify edible plants

Pioneers passed identification skills down so each generation could collect food, medicine, remedies, animal feed, and barter materials to survive.

35. Being able to make primitive weapons

Hunting with bows, arrows, spears, bolos, powder guns, atlatls enables the collection of meat and in some instances defense of one’s home and farm.

Many of these skills, people may take on as a passion or hobby. But in the pioneer days, you needed to know as many as you could for survival. The same can foretell successful independent living for the modern day homesteader and self-sufficient lifestylist when he learns these 35 skills.

The post 35 Pioneer Skills That Will Help You Survive appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

How to Slaughter a Chicken

One of the greatest joys in life is raising your own chickens. Observing chicks grow into full chickens and roosters is something everyone should experience at least once in their life. The life cycle, once experienced, is an amazing, fascinating, and ultimately a humbling experience.

Producing your own chicken meat and eggs give you a sense of pride and accomplishment. Starting off prepping isn’t easy in any way, and the same goes for raising chickens, but with time and practice, you will be able to raise them successfully and provide yourself with valuable meat, eggs, and feathers in situations where those things become a matter of life and death.

Probably the least known aspect of chicken raising is the slaughtering. With commercial farming, most of us have just become accustomed to going to the grocery store and buying or meat in perfectly packaged portions. A lot of us haven’t even seen an animal slaughtered, and if you ever saw how the commercial industry does it, you would think twice about buying from them ever again.

Those grocery stores won’t have your packaged meat in a SHTF situation, and if you haven’t prepared for that already, the best place to start is chickens. Chickens are by far the easiest to raise – besides rabbits – and they provide you with too many eggs to know what to do with, and when you are ready, a lot of meat.

Essentials for Chicken Raising

Slaughtering your own chickens isn’t hard, but there are right ways to do it and wrong ways to do it. You want to ensure the chicken has a quality life first off. Happy chickens lay eggs, and stressed chickens do not. It’s a simple rule to remember and living by it will make your life a lot easier. If you are slaughtering chickens without caring about their well being, your other chickens will sense this and make this joy into a nightmare.

First and foremost, you want to be able to catch them quickly without scaring the flock. This ties into the happy chicken rule. The way to make this reality is by interacting with them daily. Feed them garden scraps by hand(be careful, though), interact with them during feeding time, talk to them, and touch them often. Bring them bugs you catch in your garden and on your property, and they will love you forever. You want to hardwire into their little brains that you are just a big weird looking chicken that’s part of the flock and provides the food and water for the rest. Just don’t test the roosters resolve, they are programmed to fight to the death. If you don’t interact with them often, you are going to find it very hard to catch them, and the rooster is going to challenge you often.

The next essential is the diet. Like us, chickens need a diverse diet, and there are only a few ways you can do this. Allow them to free range so they can eat whatever they find, or provide them with scraps from the kitchen and garden. Anything besides meat and cooked food will work, and that diversity will allow them to grow bigger and ensure they are as healthy as possible without antibiotics. You don’t want to give them antibiotics if you don’t have to. That transfers into the meat and eggs and subsequently you, making you, and your chickens immune system weaker over time. Stay as organic as possible.

Their quality of life extends to the slaughtering process as well. Do not slaughter your chickens near the rest of them. They may be redundant, but it is not difficult for any animal to realize that one of them is being killed. For this reason, we will only be covering humane ways to slaughter chickens.

These methods will be covered by what the author feels is the most humane, down to the least humane. Although all of these methods are considered humane by most chicken raisers, some are easier to implement more so than others, and all of them will ensure a quick and relatively painless death.

The Ol’Block and Axe

The chopping block method is arguably the oldest one for slaughtering animals, especially chickens. It’s simple to do, cheap to implement, and guarantees instant death when done right. The only problem is doing it right, and if have ‘bad aim’ you can cause the chicken a lot of bodily harm.

A few factors cause These ‘bad swings.’ The obvious one is over-compensating for how much force is needed and applying too much force due to a dull axe. Make sure you sharpen your axe and keep it as sharp as possible all the time. You won’t need a big crazy swing to decapitate the chicken; just a firm and accurate chop will do the job, every time.

It’s important to note what type of axe you should use. A hatchet that is only used for slaughtering, and not for chopping wood is ideal. As stated, you want this as sharp as possible all the time, and chopping wood will dull the hatchet. You want to make sure it’s light, but firm in your hand as well.

Now, the block can be a number of things, but most people use an old tree stump or a round from a tree. The only thing that is important about the block is to make sure it’s flat as possible and big enough for the chicken. Any aggressive angle on the block means you will need to compensate for it in your swing. You already have enough to worry about; this is the last thing you want in the back of your mind while you are preparing your swing.

A lot of people put guides into the block to hold the chickens head in place. These blocks can be something as simple as a couple of nails, or an elaborate contraption that locks the head down. These are not necessary, but if they give you more confidence in your swing, then implement them.

Some people have others hold the chicken while they swing, but it’s just as easy alone, and depending on you, easier to do alone. The important thing to keep in mind is to have enough confidence in your swing, so you know it will be one clean cut swing.

If you don’t have the confidence to do it, practice. Draw a line on your chopping block, and swing at it. Go through the entire process of mock placing the chicken on the block and swinging. Keep doing it till you are confident enough and the whole process becomes second nature.

The first time is always an intense experience no matter what method you decide to use. Be prepared for the nerves to take over the body and make it flop around for awhile. This is why we have the saying, “Running around like a chicken with its head cut off.” This isn’t the chicken having its last dance; these are only the nerves firing off because the brain was severed from the spinal cord.

When done correctly, it’s instant death for the chicken, and it’s very easy to implement from a prepping standpoint.

Slitting the Neck

This is another very traditional method and is used by many chicken raisers to kill many in the same amount of time. It requires an extremely sharp knife, a steady hand, and something to hold the chicken. If you severe the jugular veins properly, the blood flow stops going to the brain. This gives the chicken a quick and relatively painless death.

Most people use cones that will allow the chickens head to poke out of the bottom and give you a clean cut while the chicken is secured in the cone. You can set up as many cones as you need, and slaughter as many as you need without having to continually prep and catch a new one for multiple slaughters.

The knife has to be extremely sharp, and this can’t be stressed enough. The cut has to be quick and accurate. You have to go deep enough to sever the jugular, but not too deep that you are digging into bone. This makes the cut not as clean, and cause more harm to the chicken. Just remember a quick swipe across the neck, deep enough to sever the jugular. DO NOT saw at the chicken’s neck either. If you have to saw at the chicken, your knife isn’t sharp enough.

Because you should be using cones for this method, the blood will drain out of them as well, and this is another reason why this is popular among people who have to kill many chickens at once. For some reason, the chickens also appear to be very calm once they are upside down in the cones, making it easy to perform a clean cut.

There is one downside to this method when compared to the block and axe, though. The chicken will feel pain for longer, even though it is a relatively short amount of time, it’s worth noting for those that are looking for the most humane way possible.

Breaking the Neck

This is the last method we will cover. It’s popular among backyard gardeners and people who are only raising a few chickens on a small amount of land, or those that don’t have the means to implement the other methods in this article.

This method can be humane, or extremely painful and it’s best to do as much research as possible before even attempting this.

Most people that do this will do it by hand. You may have heard about someone’s grandma grabbing a chicken by the neck and just whipping it into the air to break the neck. This is not how you do it, and you can cause a lot of harm to the chicken.

You will want to lay the chicken in your lap while sitting down to perform this correctly. Secure the chicken with your weaker arm. Whatever is the most comfortable for you and the chicken is the best way to secure it. With your stronger hand, you will be doing the break.

To break the chicken’s neck, you need to do it one swift motion.(Swift is a common theme in slaughtering.) You have to grab the neck at the base of the skull and break it by pulling towards the body and out in one fluid motion. If you have done it correctly, you will hear a snap.

Another method people use to break the chicken’s neck is laying them down, placing something long and sturdy over the neck at the base of the skull, and pulling up. There are also contraptions you can make or buy that will hold the chicken upside down and allow you to pull on the chicken’s neck.

This method has to be performed perfectly for it to be humane, or else you will cripple the chicken and cause it severe pain until you kill it or it dies. In a SHTF scenario, this might be your only option, though. So learn how to do it properly in case this becomes your only option.

They are the best farm animal to raise for preppers because of the manure, eggs, and meat that they provide. Without them, a lot of preppers wouldn’t even have a chance to survive if the SHTF. The joy and struggle of raising them is a wonderful growing experience, and we hope that this article has enlightened you on the possibilities of providing poultry for yourself in a humane way.

The post How to Slaughter a Chicken appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

How to Add a Rooster to Your Flock

If you’re already working with a stable flock of hens, the next step to consider is adding a rooster. Prepping for lack of food with a sustained protein source for when SHTF can be a lifesaver, and your flock can save you if it needs to.

Having a flock during an emergency will ensure you have a stable food source. If you add a rooster into the mix, then you’re also ensuring to have a steady population.

Before adding a rooster to your flock, there are a few things to consider: assess your flock at its current state and determine whether your hens can handle a rooster, determine what breed of rooster is right for you, and be willing to practice patience. Otherwise, lets dive into what steps you need to take in order to add a rooster to your flock.

Think About What Adding a Rooster Means

These recommendations are general, and can be used for introducing new hens into your flock as well. Introducing a rooster will be a little different from with hens, since hens tend to have a milder manner.

You will need to commit to watching your flock while introducing a rooster. Supervision will make sure you can manage bad behavior when it happens, it will also help you understand how your flock behaves with a new member.

Make sure your chicken area is spacious and well suited for the needs of your flock. Having an interesting environment for your rooster will ensure it doesn’t get bored and take out its boredom on the hens.

A bored rooster will cause trouble. Avoid this by providing plenty of space and having an interesting setting for the rooster to roam.

Also, consider your surroundings before getting a rooster. Do you live within the city limits? Is rooster ownership legal in your area? These are questions you need to answer.

Some cities have noise ordinances banning the ownership of roosters within city limits. You can’t de-crow a rooster, so make sure you can own one in your area first.

Pros and Cons of Adding a Rooster to Your Flock

Pros Cons
– Provides protection for hens – Can be aggressive
Natural alarm clock – Too noisy
Can help your flock grow – Need plenty of space to accommodate
Helps maintain pecking order

Understanding Your Rooster and How to Bond

Roosters tend to be more aggressive than hens, understanding this from the start is key. When looking for a rooster, either start with a youngster you can train or know the rooster’s past so you’re not buying an animal with violent tendencies. A rooster’s instinct is to protect his flock from harm, and if he’s had a rough life he’ll give you a tough time.

Spending some time with your rooster one-on-one will help establish trust with the bird. Hold your rooster often, try carrying them around, scratch their back, and gently pet him. You can try talking softly to your rooster if you think it will calm him while he gets used to being handled.

A rooster that is used to people will ensure he doesn’t see you as a threat. A rooster that doesn’t see you, as a threat will be better behaved, and not want to attack you.

Why Add a Rooster?

A rooster can be an excellent alarm clock, but may not prove reliable at a certain time each day. The best reason to add a rooster is to keep a robust flock. A well adapter rooster will protect your flock and ensure its growth by fertilizing eggs. Being a prepper, you want to ensure the best possible circumstances are ready when TEOTWAWKI comes. One way of doing that is by having a robust flock of hens and a strong rooster.

There is a chance you could end up with an aggressive rooster, which has pros and cons. An aggressive rooster may protect the flock better, but then it will also try to keep you away from them. Picking a more docile breed of rooster could help you avoid getting a feisty troublemaker.

*Tip: stick to having one rooster in your flock in the beginning. Having more than one rooster in a flock increases the chance of fighting. Only when you have had one rooster for a while, should you think about adding another.

How to Add a Rooster to Your Flock

Now that you know what to expect, you can begin the steps on how to add a rooster to your flock.

Give yourself some time to research rooster breeds and decide whether you want to start with a chick, or purchase a grown rooster. Depending on where you live, you can either purchase a rooster at a farm store, or use local forums to connect with sellers. If there’s a local county fair in your area, consider buying a rooster from a 4H member.

*Tip: if you’re starting from scratch with a chick, keep in mind you will need to wait until the chick is fully grown before introducing him to the flock.

  1. Finding the Right Rooster for Your Flock

Make a list of what you want in a rooster, this will help you determine what breed will best suit you and your flock’s needs. Below are a few breeds to consider, if you want to see more options visit The Chicken Breed List for more ideas.

leghon rooster

Leghorns

The Leghorn breed generally likes to forage and roam a lot. If considering a Leghorn rooster, make sure your enclosure is large enough for a chicken to forage from dawn to dusk. The breed tends to be nervous and flighty when humans are around, so be aware that extra time may be needed to acclimate a Leghorn to your presence.

rhode island red rooster

Rhode Island Reds

Rhode Island Reds are a very versatile breed, although the roosters can be aggressive. The roosters of this breed tend to fight when confined in a small space. Despite their aggression, the birds tend to do well with human interaction and enjoy attention.

minocras rooster

Minocras

Minocras are also known as the Red Faced Black Chicken. In general, Minocras are known to be timid animals and not great pet material. Male Minocras also tend to be more aggressive and don’t get along with other males in a flock. Usually, the breed’s aggression is toward other birds, which means they do fine in the presence of people.

new hampsire rooster

New Hampshire Red

If you’re looking for a breed that you can easily tame, think about getting a New Hampshire Red. NHRs are typically friendly and laid back. When kept with other birds of the same breed, aggression isn’t usually an issue.

Keep in mind that roosters raised by hand from the time they are hatched have a tendency to be tamer than a full-grown rooster purchased from an outside source.

*Tip: if you have children consider a breed that can be easily tamed. If it’s a tame rooster, encourage your children to pet him. Exposing your rooster to a lot of human attention can help him acclimate better to the flock when the time comes.

  1. Quarantine Your New Rooster

Before introducing your new rooster, reserve a space where you can keep him away from your flock for at least 30 days. Disease can take up to a month to germinate in your chicken, and keeping him separate for a month will ensure he isn’t carrying any sort of bug.

Each flock has different germs, and by keeping your new rooster separate for 30 days you will limit the chance of exposing your flock to any harmful bacteria from your new rooster.

While quarantined:

  • Observe your rooster. Note if he seems sick, practices cleanliness, or enjoys your company.
  • Look for signs of lice, mites, fungus, or any discharge on the bird.
  • During this transition period make sure your rooster has the benefit by adding supplements to their water. Also consider giving him a little bit of yogurt to encourage his digestion.
  • Give your new rooster a little protein to ensure strength.

*Tip: while your rooster is in quarantine, don’t handle him and then attend the rest of your flock. To prevent the spread of germs, wash your hands and consider changing your clothes before going from the rooster to the flock, or vice versa.

  1. Temporary Introduction Space: Rooster Pen

After the quarantine period, create a pen within your existing chicken enclosure where you can keep your new rooster. Having an area your rooster can live in while still being separate will allow the rest of the flock to get used to him, while also preventing any major attacks.

Observe how the other chickens react to having a rooster around. Are they curious? Do they try to attack him through the cage? If your flock seems aggressive, wait. Keep them separated longer.

Adding a rooster to your flock should only be done when your hens are relaxed and used to having your new rooster around.

*Tip: keep your rooster busy while he’s in his temporary enclosure space. Hang distractions like corn or vegetables he can pick at. If your rooster is bored, he might try to cause trouble through his cage.

  1. Introducing a Rooster to Your flock

Once you’ve completed step one through three, and your flock is used to the rooster, you can fully introduce him to the entire flock by letting him into the main pen.

Before you add the new rooster to your flock, clear out the flock from their enclosure and let the rooster forage and explore by himself. Doing this will help the rooster become more acquainted with his new home, outside of his temporary pen.

Next phase: in the evening, when the hens are roosting, place the rooster in the roosting area. Doing this at night when the rest of the flock is sleeping and relaxed tends to reduce any aggression the rest of the flock may have toward a new member.

Make sure there is plenty of food and water available for the flock during this time. Keep multiple food and water stations to prevent squabbling. Hens may also try to prevent the new rooster from accessing food and water, so the more food and water stations available the less likely he will be prevented from eating and drinking.

During the day, check on your flock regularly to make sure everyone is getting along.

Some initial sparring is normal; just make sure you pay attention to your flock’s behavior. Supervising your flock with its new addition will help you control any fights that occur.

Discourage spars by spraying your chickens with water when they get too aggressive. If behaviors don’t improve, consider getting a different rooster. Your flock can accept a rooster, if they’re properly introduced.

*Tip: you may experience better success if you’re introducing a rooster that’s the same size as your hens. Keep this in mind if you have a very young rooster. Chickens that are the same size won’t feel as threatened if a new comer looks similar in size to them.

  1. Maintaining a health flock

Keep an eye on your flock during the first month of introduction. Remove any chickens that have been injured and let them heal in quarantine. Make sure you’re providing enough food and water to keep the flock relaxed.

Once you observe your flock engaging in normal activity (picking, dust-bathing, scratching, and foraging) it’s safe to say the rooster has been successfully introduced.

Occasional squabbles may occur. This behavior is normal; just keep an eye out to make sure a fight doesn’t get out of hand. Let fights dissolve naturally if you can. If you feel the need, you can discourage sparring by spraying water on fighting chickens.

*Tip: always have a plan in case you need to get rid of a rooster. Whether that’s re-homing him, or making him into dinner, having a plan can help make the decision more manageable if you find you’re dealing with an aggressive rooster.

Having a Happy Flock

Introducing a rooster doesn’t have to be hard, have a plan and be ready to wait. Have patience when adding a rooster and try not to interfere with the natural order of your flock during an introduction.

If a chicken is injured remove them until they’re fully recovered. The best cure for aggressive chickens is more space and plenty of food and water. If you notice your chickens are bullying each other, here’s a helpful YouTube video about pecking and bullying:

Keep in mind that the best hen to rooster ratio is 10:1 (ten hens for every one rooster).

If you dedicate some time and effort into the process, you can achieve a healthy happy flock of chickens. Maintaining your flock by adding a rooster will help you survive any disasters that may strike.

The post How to Add a Rooster to Your Flock appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

How to Start a Terrarium Garden for Survival

photo: modified under CC 2.0 license, made by Michael McCauslin via Flickr.com

When you begin prepping, you soon find out the importance of growing your own food. This alone takes a lifetime to master, and you will never ‘perfect’ this craft. It’s a growing experience just as much as the plants growing in your garden. One technique for growing that a lot of people don’t know about are terrarium gardens. These are basically an enclosed self-sustaining ecosystem that is portable and capable of growing most plants.

These gardens have been in practice for quite a long time, but their popularity has only been recent due to the internet being able to spread the word. The first terrarium was “discovered” by botanist Nathaniel Ward from England in 1842. He was experimenting with saving and observing bugs in glass jars when he noticed that a fern had grown in one that had been neglected. This neglect was the birth of the terrarium, and gave Nathaniel the opportunity to send and receive plants from all over the world.

How does this relate to prepping, though? Well, with a terrarium you will find that you create your own ecosystem, and this brings many advantages to growing your own produce and herbs. With advantages, you have disadvantages as well, and we will be addressing these later in the article. The most relevant quality to prepping, though, is the ability to grow just about anything anywhere, and to take it with you in your vehicle while you’re bugging out.

How to Make a Terrarium Garden

There are many ways you can create a one, and your imagination can lead to some fascinating designs. With that being said, there are some rules that you will need to follow for your terrarium to be successful.

First, you need a clear container. Depending on what you are growing, you will need a lid to seal the container with as well.(We will get into the differences of closed and opened terrariums in a moment.) Many people use vases, carboys(5-gallon jug made of glass), or even aquariums. You may have noticed a common theme already; these need to be clear glass or plastic. It has to be clear to let in sunlight and create the ideal conditions inside your terrarium.

The difference between an open and closed terrarium isn’t much. The main reason you would want to close it as opposed to keeping it open rest entirely on what you are growing. An open terrarium will let out humidity and make it capable of growing things that don’t require so much heat and humidity. While the closed one it’s best to think of like a mini rain forest, and should only be used to grow plants that require these climate conditions.

If you have built an aquarium before, you can quickly create your own terrarium. You have already done it before, just make a top to seal it – if you need one – and you are ready. Most of them are bought, though, but you don’t have to fork out big bucks on specialized terrariums. All you need is a clear container. Spare 5-gallon water jugs, garage sales, and old glassware can get you started for free or relatively cheap. Some people have even used simple glasses for drinking to make a terrarium. Keep it simple and ensure it’s clear and you will have more money to spend on what matters.

Setting up One

So you have picked out your container, now what? Well, you can’t just throw some tomato seeds in an empty container and hope it grows. We need to build our substrate first so our seeds can germinate and thrive in our tiny ecosystem. Just like in the wild, this needs to be done in layers; although we will make the layers in such a way to ensure successful germination, growth, and continuation of the life cycle that keeps a thriving ecosystem turning.

The first layer needs to be something that will allow the excess water to drain through. This can be pebbles or sand. Do not use beach sand, as this can introduce harmful bacteria, parasites, and the salt content can kill your plants.

Your second layer needs to be a thin layer of charcoal. This will ensure that any harmful gasses from the decomposition process are filtered, and the air inside is kept as clean as possible. This is one of the most important steps in building a successful terrarium.

Your third layer needs to be something that will keep your soil from draining through to the bottom. Most mosses work well. You can also use cardboard if you are in a dire situation. This layer needs to be monitored as you don’t want your top soil to drain to the bottom.

Lastly, your top soil. The best soil is loose, dark, and holds moisture. If you can’t get your hands on soil like this, then any soil that you know will grow should work, because your terrarium is a tiny ecosystem, and most ecosystems naturally mend the soil in time. To speed this up you may want to add plant clippings sparingly to the top soil, and if possible, work it into the soil a little bit.

Growing in One

Now you are ready to plant your seeds. One thing to keep in mind before planting is how much sunlight your terrarium is getting. You will want to make sure that it’s getting indirect and not direct sunlight. Even for tropical plants, direct sunlight is usually too much for a terrarium. It’s a good idea to monitor your terrarium daily and make small adjustments as you see fit. If you see wilting of any kind, move the terrarium away from the light source.

Some people grow their terrariums under grow lights. So if you are one of those preppers(I know you are out there), then you can have terrariums in your basement or apartment garden as well. Just like before, monitor them daily as too much light in these things can cause too much heat and humidity and therefore kill your plants.

You will find some plants grow easier than others in this type of environment; mainly due to confined space. With selective pruning and the right amount of space, you can grow most things, though. Herbs like thyme, oregano, and mint tend to do very well in terrariums. But most of your favorite herbs can be grown in one. The key factor is creating the right conditions for the plant to thrive. So if you are having trouble with a particular herb, find out its ideal conditions, and you may discover that you are watering too much or too little, or what is usually the case, it is getting too hot and needs to be moved.

Tomatoes are always a favorite resident in the garden, and the same holds true for terrariums. These hearty plants tend to do very well in these small ecosystems so don’t hesitate to create one for your favorite varieties of tomatoes.

A great way to maximize your potential is companion planting as well. This is generally done to keep away pest – which shouldn’t be a problem because you have near complete control of the environment – but there is more that goes on in these relationships. For instance, a lot of gardeners grow leafy lettuce varieties near their tomatoes, so when the old leaves die and fall off, they create a mulch around the tomato plant.

It is also possible to grow some of the smaller varieties of fruits. It’s important to note that most of these will need their own terrarium, and they will most likely need an open lid to be successful. The smaller figs, grapes, and berries have been successful in terrariums.

We can’t forget about our leafy greens, though. These are essential for any garden because nearly all of these are packed full of vital nutrients. Things like spinach, for example, are packed with vitamin A, B, and C; as well as magnesium. These plants are also a great source of dietary fiber; essential for a healthy digestive system.

As stated before, it is best to experiment with location and lighting to get the most out of your terrarium. Because these are mini ecosystems the changes happen fast and you will notice when things are going south. As long as you are monitoring your terrariums, and you have built your substrate properly, you will be successful. You won’t be as successful neglecting your terrariums like Nathaniel was.

It’s important to remember that with terrariums water goes a long way. These don’t require much water to be successful, and it is very easy to over water them. Remember that some plants don’t need much water, and you could potentially drown them out and kill them if you’re not careful.

What These Mean for Preppers

Disadvantages that come with a terrarium are few, but they are worth noting before you dive head first into terrarium gardening. The most obvious one is the limited space. With these, you are limited to how much you can grow in one terrarium, and if you want many plants, you will have to have many terrariums.

The following disadvantage is care and maintenance. This is an advantage as well, but a lot of beginners will devote too much time and resources on these. As stated, they are self-contained ecosystems, so they don’t require much care at all, and too much attention can be detrimental to its success. Moderation is the key with terrariums; a little bit of water here and there, small adjustments in placement, introducing new plants slowly, and some indirect sunlight and you shouldn’t have many problems.

Advantages for preppers far out way the disadvantages, though. For one, you can grow just about anything in the safety of your home, and away from prying eyes. This is invaluable in a SHTF scenario. You will always have plants in a safe location capable of providing you nutrients and seeds for continuing your garden.

The last advantage we will touch up on is its portability. This is the only way you can safely transport plants over long distances besides seeds. As long as you keep the ecosystem thriving, you can transport your plants anywhere in the world without worry. This alone makes it a worthy investment – of time or money – for any prepper looking for ways to be able to transport their garden in a SHTF situation.

These clear containers have been used for centuries to transport plants across continents and vast oceans. They have been a staple in Victorian societies as talking points and to show off exotic species that would otherwise die in their climate. What a lot of people didn’t realize till now is their potential for preppers and how perfect they are for preserving essential plants if the SHTF.

So whether you are a beginner gardener, seasoned horticulturist, or die-hard prepper; there are advantages for everyone with these beautiful mini ecosystems. The only thing limiting their potential is your imagination.

The post How to Start a Terrarium Garden for Survival appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

Sheet Mulching With Newspaper and Cardboard to Eliminate Weeds

background logo photo by Jeff Tidwell via Flickr.com under a CC 2.0 License

Ask most gardeners what their least favorite past-time in the garden is, and most of them will tell you the same thing: weeding. From first hand experience, I know that it doesn’t have to be this way, however.

I’ve worked on garden beds that haven’t been weeded for more than a few minutes in years. In fact, there’s a whole art and science of advanced weed control that can see you virtually eliminating weeding from your garden to do list so that you can focus on other prepping or leisure tasks. In smaller home scale garden spaces, the perfect place to start is with sheet mulching using newspaper or cardboard.

Sheet mulching, also called lasagna gardening, is a method for fertilising and building soil, starting new garden beds (or adding fertility and organic matter to existing beds), and smothering weeds all at the same time. It involves layering compost or other nitrogen rich organic matter with carbon rich materials like newspaper.

It can be as simple as a layer of compost and newspaper on the ground with a couple of inches of wood chips tossed on top, or as sophisticated as a multi-layered masterpiece of alternating super-rich compost, newspaper, vegetable scraps, chicken manure, sawdust, rotten hay, wood ashes, branches, yard bags full of leaves, packing paper, chopped corn cobs… you get the picture; there are a lot of different options for materials.

One of the great things about this method is that it also looks quite attractive, since you can top it all off with your preferred mulch. If starting a new bed, you don’t even have to till, remove sod or deal with the existing weeds. Close planting, and that top layer of heavy mulch will drastically reduce weeding. Because the soil will be healthier and richer in organic matter and nutrients, your plants will also be healthier, and will be much less susceptible to pests and disease.

Once you establish your beds, all you have to do from year to year is add more mulch, and plant (unless you choose to plant the garden in question with perennial plants, of course). The soil underneath your multiple layers of organic material will stay cool and moist, cutting down on watering as well. This time-saving aspect of this technique makes it a perfect way to start new garden beds at your retreat (the place you have set up in case the SHTF), especially if you aren’t there often.

The Basics of Composting

Regular composting in a contained bin or pile can be very effective at conveniently breaking down food scraps and any other organic materials you may acquire, but it’s actually not the most efficient way to get nutrients into the soil.

Landscape design teacher, and co-founder of the massive permaculture (ecology based design) movement, Bill Mollison, put it like this in a design course pamphlet:

“Now let me tell you about composting as against mulch,” he wrote. “Every time you compost, you decrease the nutrients, sometimes to one 20th of the original. Usually, though, you get about a 12th of the nutrients out of compost that you get out of mulch. So what have you done by composting? You have worked hard to decrease the nutrients badly. Most of them go into the air. Composting consumes them.” (source: Bill Mollison)

In typical composting, he wrote:

“… you are taking a lot of material, putting it into a small place, and letting the whole of the decomposition activity happen under hot conditions which can be appropriate for some things. When you mulch, you are spreading those materials and letting the process occur much more slowly on the surface of the soil. Any leach loss goes into the soil, and the general level of activity spreads across the whole of it. By the time the mulch has reduced to compost, most of the action has finished. If you want to get maximum value out of what you have, sheet mulch it. If you want to increase your nutrient base, do it efficiently.” (source: Bill Mollison)

Basically, sheet mulching is composting directly where you need the nutrients most: right in your garden. Toby Hemenway, another garden designer and author, also extols the virtues of merging your compost pile and garden into one, to the extent that he used to throw his vegetable scraps directly onto his garden. I can attest to this method myself, and it’s one of the reasons I like having my garden directly in front of my house: I can just toss scraps out the door right into the garden. Later, I’ll put some bits of mulch over it if it begins to build up a little.

In typical compost piles, experts recommend aiming for a carbon to nitrogen ratio of about 30:1, but with sheet mulching, it’s fine to aim for anywhere between 30:1 and 100:1. Carbon rich materials include pulpy things like cardboard, leaves, wood chips, and newspaper, while nitrogen rich materials include vegetable scraps, animal manures, and green grass clippings.

Hemenway recommends 4 to 8 cubic yards of mulch for between 100-200 square feet, or about 6 to 10 bales of hay or straw. Just make sure that if you’re using hay, it’s well rotted, or you put it at the bottom of the pile so the seeds will rot. Straw can sometimes contain seeds too, so look closely at the straw before buying.

Now that you know some of the basics of sheet mulching and composting, let’s get down to the step by step how of it:

Step 1: Get together the materials you’ll be using. Don’t be shy about asking your neighbors for extra leaves, piles of scrap newspapers (consider asking them to save some up for you) or old cotton or wool carpets they might have laying around. A great place to find large boxes for cardboard is at appliance or bicycle stores. Just make sure not to use any shiny newspaper pages or boxes, because the colorful shine contains heavy metals and other toxins in the ink.

Step 2: The day or evening prior to sheet mulching, water the soil at the site if the ground is dry. This is to encourage the micro-organisms that will be at the bottom of the pile, and to make sure there is moisture underneath your layered pile. It can be hard to penetrate the final pile with water, but once moist, it stays moist for a long time.

Step 3: On the day of mulching, cut down weeds and other vegetation. Leave the debris directly on the soil. It will be part of your sheet mulch.

Step 4: Add amendments. If you really want to enrich your soil, you can add things like seaweed powder, rock dust, green sand, or volcanic minerals. Consider doing a soil test to determine what amendments are necessary. For soil that is overly acidic, you can add lime. For too alkaline of soil, sulfur or gypsum will balance it.

Step 5: Fork the soil. Especially if you have a compacted soil, you might consider using a spading fork to break up and loosen the soil at this point, which will also work in your amendments. This action will help bring water and oxygen into the soil as well. Just be careful not to turn the soil too much, as disrupting the soil layers is bad for the soil ecosystem.

Step 6: Add the first layer. The first thing to add is a nitrogen rich material such as manure, waste produce from restaurants, animal bedding from the barn, or compost. The more concentrated the organic material, the less you need. For example, non-composted manure could be used if you aren’t going to plant in the beds immediately (consider starting a bed the previous year and letting it break down into rich soil), but you’ll only need a bit of it. Composted manure that has straw bedding in it can be used in larger quantity. Next, moisten this layer before adding the next.

Step 7: Add the smothering carbon layer. Next, lay down your carbon rich smothering material such as a layer of newspaper mulch or cardboard. Water the material frequently to keep the wind from blowing it away. Although newspaper can be easy to find in large quantities, cardboard is especially useful since it can cover the ground much more quickly, particularly if you find large boxes. Make sure to overlap newspaper or cardboard by at least 6 inches, or even up to a foot. If using newspaper, make it about 1/2 of an inch thick, or 1/8 of an inch minimum. Avoid walking on the material as it can tear it, especially if wet.

Step 8: Add the next nitrogen layer. As you might have guessed, now is the time to add more nitrogen, such as another thin layer of manure.

Step 9: Add the bulk carbon. At this point, it’s time to add a nice thick layer of carbon such as seed free straw, although some seeds in this layer aren’t a big deal, since this is ideally still the bottom of the pile and the seeds will mostly rot rather than germinate. You may wish to sprinkle a bit of seaweed or other nitrogen rich amendment into the carbon if you’re doing a nice thick layer, which should be at least 8 to 12 inches thick. As you build the layer, water it every few inches to dampen it (but don’t make it soggy).

Step 10: Next comes the compost layer: Assuming this is your second last layer, on top of the previous bulk carbon layer, add 1 to 2 inches of compost, manure, or several inches of food scraps if the bed will have time to break down and compost for a few months prior to planting. Never plant into non-composted manure or food scraps, however. If you plan to plant within a few days to a few weeks, 1 or 2 inches of compost will suffice as a seeding or planting medium.

Step 11: Repeat until the final layers: You can continue adding more layers if you wish, until the final layers, which should be a finished compost at planting time, followed by 3-6 inches of organic mulch matter that is completely weed (and root) free. I prefer wood chips for this layer if possible, because they last longer as a mulch material.

Step 12: Planting Time: When you want to plant seeds or plants, all you have to do is push the mulch aside in lines or circles and plant your seeds or plants. The closer you plant your plants together, the less opportunity weeds will have to come up.

And there you have it. Follow these steps and you’ll have a low maintenance, highly moisture retentive and nutrient rich soil. It may be a little more work in the beginning, but in the long term, it will save you a ton of time weeding so you can focus on growing more food. Any weeds that do manage to sprout up between your plants will be very easy to pull out in such a loose, moist soil. Do you have any of your own time-saving techniques for creating new garden beds? Feel free to share any insights or experience of your own in the comments below.

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The Essential Guide to Apartment and Urban Homesteading

There are many things we have to take into account when we begin to prep for a SHTF scenario. A lot of time, research, and preparations go with the lifestyle, and some of us don’t know where we should start. One of the obvious choices is growing your own food, but how do you do that when you live in the suburbs, or worse, an apartment complex?

There are a lot of challenges that come with food growing. Even when you have the land for it, you run into diseases, pest, and many other hurdles that you will have to navigate when growing produce. This doesn’t even take into account a SHTF situation, which brings a whole slew of problems on its own. But, with our guide, you will have the confidence to start your own prepper’s homestead in your backyard, or in your apartment. We will be addressing ideas and solutions that will help you prepare for both situations, so let’s begin with homesteading in a home.

Homesteading  in an Urban Environment

How is it possible to grow all the produce I need in my backyard? This is a question that gets asked over and over again. Most are surprised that you can even do it. Before you even start planting those first seeds or building that chicken coop, there are some things you will want to figure out beforehand. Most importantly, you will want to find out if your city, HOA (Home Owner’s Association), or community will allow you even to have an edible garden. MANY cities are cracking down on this, and many HOAs forbid them.

Not only do you want to find this out, but you will also want to check on everything you want to do. That includes chickens, aquaponics, water catching, and anything that may cause you grief in the future due to laws and ordinances. We don’t condone breaking the law, but if you must, at least you are creating food for yourself and your family.

So you know the laws and it’s time to start, but how? You need to plan out your garden in the most efficient way, so you maximize your grow space. Every inch of your property has potential to grow for you, or provide energy or water. So the best advice to give is starting slow with a plan and maximize your space.

A great place to start is the garden. Start on the edge of your property, and here will go mostly fruit trees and some vegetables. As you work towards your house, you will gradually make it more and more garden for strictly vegetables and herbs. Maximizing your limited space with options hanging baskets, vertical gardens , and companion planting will turn a small backyard into thriving ecosystem full of edibles.

If you have the space for a small greenhouse, do it! You will extend your growing season like you wouldn’t believe. With the greenhouse, you can start earlier, and grow through the winter inside it. This gradual shift from fruit trees to produce garden will help to mimic nature and give you a huge advantage over traditional methods.

Within the greenhouse, you will want to grow medicinal herbs  like chamomile, lemon balm, and St.Johns Wort. In fact, you will find out as time goes on which herbs are your favorite and those are the ones that you will want to move from the herb garden and into the greenhouse. The sole purpose of this is, so you have ‘go-to’ herbs always ready for you.

If you haven’t researched it yet, we have an article on permaculture design that will help you to understand this concept. No to mention, the trees will contribute in concealing your garden from neighbors, looters, or anyone that just happens to walk by your place.

With your garden planned out, you will want to start composting your scraps, lawn clippings, and anything worth putting in there. The compost is an integral part of the garden because, without it, you will slowly deplete your soil of vital nutrients that it needs to grow those beautiful vegetables and fruits.

Composting

Learn everything you can about composting, and you will surely reap the rewards. Because you are growing in a confined space, an excellent idea to learn and implement is ‘hot composting.’ This composting method isn’t far off from the traditional method, ‘cold composting,’ but there are some differences. Primarily you focus on getting the right balance between materials high in carbon and nitrogen.

When you do this, and you turn it every two days or so while making sure your compost is ‘spongy’ wet, you get beautiful black dirt high in microbes and nutrients in about two weeks as opposed to months with the traditional method.

Water

Now you are growing and composting, what is next? Water should have come to mind immediately. Without it, you are going to have a hard time growing anything. The only reason this one isn’t at the top of the list is that, hopefully, you have running water; considering you are in the suburbs or an urban environment.

There are many methods of doing this, and if you are patient, you can collect all the water you need for your urban homestead. Installing barrels for your gutters to drain into is a good way to collect water. Some people may have issues with the chemicals used to make shingles washing into this water, but if you NEED water in a SHTF situation, you will be glad you did this. You can also use tarps to create a great water collector. And of course, you can dig a retention pond to store excess water.

A simple way to pump water when there is no electricity is a ram pump. These pumps develop pressure by a two-chamber system and work solely off of water. A prepper’s dream for watering the garden when there is no electricity or water pressure.

Aquaponics

Keeping on the subject of water, if you can set up your own aquaponics system, do it. These things are amazing for the garden and an excellent source of fish for you. With an aquaponic garden, you will have the fish fertilizing your edibles, and the added benefit of another source of protein. These can become relatively complicated or simple enough to complete on a Saturday. This is something that you would want to keep away from prying eyes, so the garage or in the house is a good place to keep it.

Energy

Since we touched on the threat of no electricity, you may want to invest in alternative energy like solar and wind. There are many DIY guides in building your own solar panels  and wind generators. They are also becoming more affordable as the demand for alternative energy rises in the global consciousness. With a home, you have the benefit of having a lot of unused surface space on your roof.

Chicken

A homestead wouldn’t be complete without a few chickens. This is heavily subject to where you live, as there are cities that explicitly forbid them. Not only that, they are loud, and everyone will know that you have them. There are ways to limit this, though. One is to get rid of the rooster. One of the chickens will ‘take command, ‘ but she won’t be as loud as a rooster. Another method is sound proofing your chicken coop as much as possible. There are also breeds that don’t make as much noise like Wyandottes, Cochins, or Brahmas to name a few.

Remember always to look to maximize your growing space. Use things like hanging baskets or planter boxes attached to the fence, the house, or garage. Research and learn the laws in your area, and stay informed on new laws and innovations that come out for homesteading.

Homesteading in an Apartment

This brings all sorts of new challenges, but like homesteading in a home, with some research and detailed planning, you can grow a lot of produce with your limited space. Like a home, the first thing you will want to find out is your limitations by the laws and apartment complex’s rules.

After you have a good understanding of your limitations, you can begin to grow with planter boxes and hanging baskets. Hopefully, you have a balcony and some large windows. These areas will have to be covered with edible plants for this to produce enough edibles to make it worth your time. Planter boxes should be staggered, and or stacked to create a vertical garden so you can have a whole wall full of plants.  Grow things that don’t need a lot of sunlight in the bottom boxes, and you guessed it, full sun crops in the top ones. From here, put hanging baskets everywhere you can.

Hanging baskets work wonderfully well for vines and plants like tomatoes and cucumbers. They hang down and become an easy way to harvest. Always experiment and look for ways that you can maximize your growing space. This will also help to conceal the inside of your apartment, but of course, you are also the person that has a garden on your balcony. You can also use large containers  for things like potatoes, carrots, and radishes.

Your medicinal herbs can be grown inside as most herbs don’t need a lot of sunlight to thrive. If you have a window in your kitchen, you may want to use this window as your medicinal herb garden . This is also a great location for all your go-to herbs for culinary uses. The point is, bring the medicinal herbs inside so they are within arms reach and your balcony space is used strictly for vegetables.

Find out about co-ops in your area, or better yet, ask your apartment owner about establishing one for the apartment complex. This option will ensure that you have all the growing space you need.

In regards to fruit trees, you do have an option, albeit small. You can bonsai fruit trees or train them to stay small; growing them in pots. This will give you smaller fruits, but it is a way for you to grow some yourself.

Composting

Now composting is a different story. You can’t just pick a corner and start doing it. There are, however, compost bins that you can buy that are completely closed, so there is no smell and no mess. This is your only option besides going to your local garden supply store and buying a bag of compost. Learn about hot composting as well, because there is almost no smell when a hot compost is done correctly.

Water

You are very limited into how much water you can collect from your apartment. You can install gutters onto your balcony, and with permission, set up rain collectors outside or on your balcony as well . This will be one of your biggest challenges, because of the limited space, and the need to water plants inside, and typically, underneath a balcony, so rain doesn’t naturally fall into these areas in large quantities. Having a co-op will give you more options.

Aquaponics

It is possible for you to set up a small aquaponics system in your apartment. This is completely up to the rules of the apartment complex, though, as some do not allow fish tanks. If you are allowed to, you will provide a lot of nutrients for your garden that would otherwise be hard to come by due to your situation.

Energy

In regards to alternative energy, you are going to find that you will need to make some sacrifices to your growing space if you want to install solar panels.  This will have to go on the balcony, and if your apartment happens to have little sun exposure throughout the day, it might not even be worth the investment. The best advice is to hire a professional to look at your situation if you have any doubts.

Animals

If you are allowed to have a chicken in your apartment, you may want to find a new apartment complex. Jokes aside, this is probably not an option for you. If the apartment owner is willing to establish a co-op within the apartment complex; that will give you more space to grow food, make allies, and possibly have chickens. The best option for raising your own meat in this situation is undoubtedly rabbits. They are quiet, fairly easy to take care of, provide a decent amount of meat, and they breed like crazy.

Developing a co-op(also known as a community garden) at your apartment complex is a great way to grow all the produce you need, and as stated, build relationships and allies with your neighbors. Prepping isn’t easy alone, and like with most things, there is strength in numbers. Using opportunities like a co-op to bring together like-minded people may be the catalyst to building a lasting relationship with fellow preppers. The worst thing that could happen is the owner says no you can’t have a co-op garden.

Wrap Up

Prepping and finding a balance between the city life and urban homesteading is one of the greatest challenges you will face. So whether you are in an apartment, house, duplex, or any dwelling in the city for that matter; you have options when it comes to homesteading.

Finding like-minded individuals to help establish a co-op(A lot of subdivisions are doing this as well) will give you peace of mind. Knowing that there are people out there with the same concerns and are taking actions to be prepared will keep you grounded and centered in your preparations. Not only that, the wealth of knowledge, manpower, and ingenuity that others bring to a group are priceless in a SHTF scenario. Having others there watching your back, will allow you to focus on what matters most; family, friends, urban homesteading, and prepping.

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How to Get Your Cows to Give More Milk

Keeping cattle for the purpose of milk production is an excellent idea since milk will be one of the hardest things to get after TEOTWAWKI, thus giving it a great barter value. It will also allow you to avoid having to go into a vegan diet for the purpose of survival and ensure that you will get the nutrients you need to stay strong and fit.

It’s not particularly hard to keep a cow, you just need to pay attention to detail and be sure to plan ahead; however, sometimes despite all your best efforts your cow is simply not producing enough milk. Boosting milk production is a matter of balance and technique.

If you have already decided to keep a cow for the production of milk, it is likely that you have already taken into account all the environmental factors that are at play when keeping livestock so we will not be talking about the very basics of keeping a cow producing milk.

The ways in which you can do this depend quite a bit on your area and on the season, it is far more complicated to boost milk production during winter than during spring so what follows is a breakdown of the basics and then special tips for those dreaded winter months.

Feeding

This almost seems like a superfluous point, mainly because everyone knows that you need to feed your animals if you want them to produce anything at all. The reason it is first on this list is that keeping cattle for milk production is not just feeding them, it is about what you feed them, how you feed them and how both of these factors affect the way in which your cattle produces milk and in what amount they do.

Proper management is essential and the most important thing about management is the feeding part of it. The amount and the quality of milk produced is directly affected, not only by what the animal is fed, but also under which conditions it is fed. This means that you should definitely consider investing in a proper shed and its cleanliness because what you save in building a cheap shed, you will end up spending on veterinary expenses.

This is what you need to know about feeding your cows to improve milk yield.

Nutrition and Feed Requirements

The feeding that lactating cows require is quite different from that of heifers and calves. For starters, the amount of feed will depend on the amount of milk it produces along with its weight, temperature, and the level of activity it is subjected to. The cow will need a balanced feed that has enough carbohydrates and fats to provide energy, as well as protein, fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals. Along with this you will need to make sure that the feed can be digested properly so that the greatest number of nutrients are absorbed into the body, thereby ensuring that your money will not go to waste.

These nutritional and feed requirements also include providing enough water, this means that you should have a very reliable water source. An average dairy cow will need around 60 liters of water per day, providing less will rapidly decrease milk production.

Making Sure that Fodder Has Enough Dry Matter

Napier grass is widely considered to be the most important feed for dairy cattle since it encourages milk production, weight gain and growth; however, Napier grass is made up of 70 to 80 percent water which means that the cows will only get 20 to 30 percent of dry matter. This is not ideal for digestion and will do nothing to improve the levels of milk fat. You should make sure to include roughage as well as other energy sources (maize, molasses, and wheat germ). A cow that weighs 400kg (881 lbs) will need 10 to 15 kg (22 to 33 lbs) of fodder per day.

Energy Needs

Meeting the cow’s energy needs means providing enough fodder to fill its stomach, a cow requires a basal diet that cannot be substituted by supplementary feeds (such as concentrates). Milk production will never increase if the cow is not given sufficient fodder since it will have to use the feed to maintain its body, this means that only the very basic requirements are being met and so, the animal will only be able to produce a sufficient amount of milk. To boost milk production, you will need to increase the amount of energy that the cow has available.

Protein

Protein is only second to fodder in importance in dietary terms. In dairy cows, the protein will help maintain its body (which will keep milk production up) and also will help the microorganisms in the stomach to convert roughage into nutrients. Cutting back on the amount of protein in the feed will result in smaller animals that mature later, low weight and very reduced milk production.

Legumes such as white clover, sweet potato vine, and bean straw are excellent protein sources and so is calliandra, and leucaena (fodder trees). Including these in your cow’s diet will save you money without affecting milk production, since 3kg of tree fodder and legumes will allow for the same milk yield as 1kg (2 lbs 3 oz.) of dairy meal. This means that you can feed the cow 12kg (26 lbs 7 oz.) of legumes instead of 4kg (8 lbs 13 oz.) of dairy meal and not lose in terms of milk yield.

Vitamins and Minerals

The addition of vitamins and minerals is important for all cows but especially for pregnant cows since it will encourage proper tissue development of the calf. Mineral licks, natural or otherwise, are the best way to provide the cow with the minerals they need, you should never give them table salt. Cows are incapable of producing vitamins A, D or E so they should be supplied in the diet, otherwise the quality and yield of the milk produced will decrease significantly. Adding vitamins will definitely boost the quality of the milk produced.

Ensuring an Appropriately Long Dry Period

It is impossible to keep a cow producing milk all the time, in fact it is unhealthy and bad for milk production. The mammary gland of a dairy cow requires a nonlactating period before giving birth in order to optimize milk production, this period is called a dry period in which fresh udder tissue is formed ahead of lactation. Not only is the dry period important to secure high milk yields, it is also the perfect time to rid the udder of pathogens which are harmful to both the cow’s health and the quality of milk produced.

To successfully dry off a cow, you will have to withdraw grain and reduce the water supply several days ahead of the start of the dry period, during that time the production of milk will be greatly reduced. You should halt milking 45 to 50 days before the delivery of the calf. Consider infusing the udder with antibiotics to prevent infections.

The optimal duration of the dry period is, as we mentioned 45 to 50 days before calving, reducing the length of the dry period will decrease milk production up to 38%; however, a long dry period will also result in reduced milk yield. To boost milk production, ensure a successful dry period. If you are keeping several cows, you can alternate the dry period in order to ensure year-round milk production.

Optimize Comfort

It sounds odd but making sure that your cow is comfortable will boost milk production. There are two reasons behind this point: the first is that a stressed cow will not produce as much milk as a comfortable cow, the second is that cows need to be able to lie down comfortably at least 12 times a day. Here are the two simplest ways to boost milk production by optimizing comfort.

Control the Temperature

This also happens to be a winter tip. Lower temperatures will cause your cow to become stressed very quickly, and just as you cannot really get anything done when you are stressed, your cow will not be able to produce enough milk. This happens because the cows have a type of defense mechanism that decreases milk production if it senses danger in order to keep nutrients and energy to ensure its survival (as danger means less food).

Cows Need a Lie-down from Time to Time

A healthy cow will lie down 12 to 15 times a day and this is good news for milk production since circulation is 25 to 30 percent faster when the cow is lying down and for a cow to produce 1 liter (2.11 pts.) of milk it needs around 400 liters (105 gal.) of blood to pass through its udder. Providing a comfortable environment in which the cow is able to lie down will therefore increase the production of milk significantly.

Reduce Inflammation After Birth

Research has shown that inflammation of the udder decreases milk production. The reason behind this is quite simple, inflammation means pressure on the mammary glands which leads the cow’s body to believe that the pressure is coming from an excess of milk so it decreases the production or halts it altogether. Inflammation following calving has a negative effect on milk production that will last at the very least four weeks. While inflammation is a natural bodily response, there is such a thing as too much, giving your cows a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug is the best way to combat this which is not ideal for a TSHTF scenario; however, inflammation can be reduced with Aloe Vera to similar results.

Partially Wean the Calf and Milk Twice a Day

There are many discussions regarding when you should wean the calf and how often you should be milking your cow, it is not a matter of personal preference, there is a best and worst way to do it.

Some people will recommend that you wean the calf completely so that all of the cow’s milk is available for consumption, this might seem like a tempting idea; however, there is higher risk and higher cost to doing things this way. For a complete weaning, you will need to remove the calf after a couple of days and pen it somewhere where the cow and calf cannot see each other or even hear each other. Unless you want your calf to die or be undernourished (thereby halving the calf’s future milk production) you will have to bottle feed the calf using milk replacers, which will most likely need to be imported (very bad news for a SHTF situation).

To ensure the maximum amount of milk for yourself as well as the health of the calf, the best thing to do is to partially wean it. This means that the cow and calf are kept separate (so that the calf cannot suckle the cow whenever it wants) but close enough that they see each other. The calf should be given feed and water and only be allowed to suckle on the cow after the morning and evening milking have concluded. Keeping the calf around the cow for longer has shown to increase milk production as well as the amount of time that the cow produces milk for.

Tips for Winter

Everything changes during the winter and this directly affects milk production. Because of the cold, the feed will not be the same, the amount of water available will change and the cows are likely to get stressed. In order to avoid the worst of this you will have to take special care with your cows.

The first thing is to make sure that your cows are ready for winter. Because of the cold, it is unlikely that you will be able to provide the appropriate feed in the appropriate amounts, this means that, unless you want the milk production to drop dramatically, you will have to make sure that your cows are heavy enough for the winter. If they are too thin they will have to use their fat stores to keep warm and will be unable to give you milk; however, the same is true for an obese cow, so you will have to make sure that they are the appropriate weight.

The second important thing is that your cows will have to acclimate to the cold so that they are able to grow their winter coat. If you keep them too shielded, then the will have no reason to grow a winter coat so unless you are absolutely sure that you can provide a temperature-stable environment ­–which would be practically impossible, or at the very least, inefficient in a post-SHTF scenario– you will want to take your cows outside to acclimate slowly to the cold.

Third, you will have to feed them more, this will contribute to both temperature and weight. Because of the cold, the cows will need more energy just to keep warm which means that if you keep their diet the same as you would during warm weather, they will soon be burning through their reserve stock to keep warm. If you followed the first two steps, then you will be able to keep your cows on regular rations until they reach critical temperature (around 20-30°F) after that you will have to increase rations by 1 percent for every 2°F below critical temperature.

And last but not least, keep her teats healthy and protected. Teats are quite delicate, just like your lips in cold weather, they are likely to chap, swell, and be sore. Making sure that their teats are healthy will reduce the chance on inflammation and infection. Remember that teats are also extremities and they can freeze so keep them dry and protected from wind to avoid this. A cow with sore teats will be unable to give you the same amount of milk as a cow with healthy teats.

Wrap-Up

You have already made an excellent choice by choosing to keep cattle for milk production and by following these guidelines and tips, you will ensure that your money will not be wasted and you will be fully prepared to face TEOTWAWKI.

The post How to Get Your Cows to Give More Milk appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

Bannock Bread: Fuel of Champions

Photo license: Alan Levine on Flickr under CC 2.0.

Bread universally represents nourishment. Since the beginning of time, man has depended on it for survival. It was not always possible for one to purchase bread at the local grocery store. So, what did people do? They made bread from scratch.

Bannock bread is referenced in historical writings as early as the year 1000. While the word “bannock” is Scottish in origin, the bread is known to also have been used by Native North Americans, native Australians, and Tibetans. In fact, almost every group of people worldwide seems to have its own recipe and method for a quick, easy bread.

In modern-day America, it is easy for every prepper to have a reliable bannock bread recipe in his or her arsenal of emergency meals. With long shelf-life ingredients and the simplicity of the recipe, bannock bread also makes a great food item to bring on camping trips.

Since bannock bread has been around for so long, there are many variations of the recipe. In any of the recipes listed below, the dry ingredients can be combined together into a sealable plastic bag (or an air-tight environmentally friendly container) and kept on hand until needed.

Some of the recipes listed here are not as camp-friendly as others. Meaning, it would be easier to follow these particular recipes in the comfort of your home, with access to kitchen appliances. These will be included since it is likely that a scenario could come up where bannock bread would need to be made at home.

Also, some people enjoy bannock bread and make it for regular use. These recipes can be a great alternative for someone wanting to cut out the GMO ingredients commonly found in commercially produced breads (depending on your ingredients sources).

Quick Tips

You will notice that these recipes include essentially the same ingredients, just in different ratios. So here are a few tips as you decide which route to take your bannock bread. First, use baking powder, not baking soda. The baking powder is a better leavening agent and will give you a lighter consistency and texture.

Also, use warm water (if available) instead of cold. Warm water will assist the leavening properties of the baking powder. And as far as shortening goes, anything goes. Bear fat has been touted as a tasty addition to the bread, although bacon fat seems to be the more popular choice.

If neither are available and you are looking for a more long-lasting shortening in your kitchen pantry, use a type of vegetable shortening that does not require refrigeration. Just remember, the ingredients will mix better if you cut the shortening into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or knife before adding water.

Also, while there are many types of flour available to use (particularly if you grow your own), these recipes are assuming that you will use regular white or wheat flour from the grocery store. If you choose to go a different route with the flour, you may find that you need to switch up the ratios of the other ingredients.

Finally, you can create a variety of bannock breads with your add-ins. Create a potato bannock with instant potato flakes, a fruit bannock with mixed berries, Italian bannock with some Italian dressing and herbs, or oatmeal bannock with instant oatmeal packets. Then honey, brown sugar, and/or cinnamon can be used to top off your warm, crusty piece of homemade bannock.

Recipes

1) This first recipe is fairly basic, although it does include a lot of powdered dry milk. This addition would make the bread a little sweeter than other recipes.

Along with the ¼ cup of dry milk, you combine:

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon shortening

1 cup of either a white flour or wheat and white flour combined (if you attempt to make it entirely with wheat flour, the bread will be too heavy. A ratio of 1 part white to 1 part wheat flour is the highest that would work with this bread).

These are the ingredients that you would combine in your airtight container ahead of time. If possible, cut the shortening into the rest of the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or fork. This will make the dough smoother and help it cook more consistently throughout.

2) This next recipe calls for significantly more flour than the previous recipe. That, along with the lack of powdered milk, will give you a more “bready” and less sweet product, which would pair well with a savory dinner of stew or venison. If you are a die-hard sweets fan; it is possible to top the bread with a little sugar at the end.

In your airtight container, combine:

½ teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoons sugar

2 ½ cups flour

This recipe deviates from most other recipes by specifying the addition of 1 cup of water and 3 tablespoons of oil when you are ready to prepare the dough. When you see the addition of oil in a bannock bread recipe, it is simply assuming that you are intending to use the frying pan cooking method.

3) The third recipe mixes up the ingredient ratios yet again, allowing for a slightly different flavor/taste than the previous two.

The dry ingredients for the container are:

2 tablespoons powdered milk (optional for this recipe)

¼ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon shortening

1 cup flour

Any other additions at your disposal (non-toxic berries, cinnamon and sugar, raisins).

For this combination, it is suggested that you start off with adding 1/3 cup of water, mix it in, then add more if necessary. Be cautious with adding in water because it is easier to add more, than it is to take out. The thinnest that you would want your dough is the consistency of muffin batter.

4) The fourth method includes milk. However you want to go about that is fine, but if you are someone who is trying to prep emergency rations or meals for an extended camping trip, this may not be the best choice for you.

The dry ingredients are:

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 cups flour

This recipe then calls for ¾ cup of milk to be added to the dry ingredients, instead of water. However, if have dry powdered milk on hand, you could simply add in an appropriate amount and still use water. Next, it is suggested to fry the dough with about ¼ of an inch of oil in a frying pan. So if you wanted to use one of the other cooking methods discussed later, you would need to adjust the quantities of liquids in the dough to get an appropriate consistency.

5) A final variation calls for the shortening (specifically, lard in this case) to be melted, cooled a little, then poured into the middle of the mixed dry ingredients:

3 teaspoons baking powder

4 cups flour

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Then, add up to 3 cups of cool water (just until the dough is firm, but not sticky). If you end up adding too much water, just add in more flour. This recipe is intended to be made with any of the cooking methods described in the next section.

Cooking Methods

Once you have your dough prepared, bannock bread can be baked one of three ways: on a cooking surface, wrapped around a stick, or directly on the coals.

If you have access to a frying pan/hearth and a source of heat, this method seems to produce a tastier, pancake-like version (frying ANYTHING makes it taste better, right?). Ideally, the cooking surface would not be so hot that the oil is smoking. If the pan is too hot, then the outside of the bread will cook too quickly, leaving you with a crusty shell and gooey inside.

However, this method does require some patience. Depending on which recipe you choose (and whether or not a leavening agent is used), the bread may need to rise a little first on the cooktop before it starts to slowly cook. It will, depending on how much water you added, range from an actual fried “pancake” to a loaf-like cake.

An experienced outdoorsman created a video showing and explaining the best way to make a quality cake of bannock bread:

Cooking with a frying pan would be the easiest method if you have one at your disposal. However, a true prepper will be prepared for the possibility of not having a suitable cooking surface. So, wrapping the dough around a stick is another realistic cooking method. This may be the true survivalist way to cook bannock bread.

It is important to properly prepare the cooking stick from a non-toxic plant. First, select a fresh green stick. Next, strip bark from the cooking end of the stick. The bark can make the bread have a bitter taste. If you do not have a knife handy, try to peel the bark off with another abrasive object such as a rock or another branch. Finally, hold the green stripped end over your fire long enough to warm and sterilize it.

The sterilization step is important because bacteria tends to reside just inside a branch’s bark. However, there is no need to burn the stick or set it on fire. Heating it, so it is warm to the touch, should be sufficient.

Next, after the dough is prepared, begin attaching the dough to the warm stick. Wrapping and/or twisting the dough around the stick and pressing the dough onto the stick is the most efficient method. Once the dough is securely fastened to the cooking stick, hold it close enough to the fire so that it is not uncomfortable for you, but close enough that the dough can cook.

As with marshmallows and other campfire foods, the key to a fantastic loaf of “fire-roasted” bannock bread is consistent turning and heat. Keep in mind that since this cooking method involves more direct contact with fire and smoke it may taste very different from a pan-fried bannock bread.

For a detailed visual representation of how to prepare a cooking stick, along with some commentary from an experienced survivalist, watch the following YouTube video:

While the video is fairly long, the first five minutes will give you a good idea of how to prepare your cooking stick and securely attach the dough to it.

The third method, the least popular method, is placing the dough straight onto the campfire’s coals. This method finds its origins in the Australian Outback. This results in an ash-covered “Damper Bread” which can be buried in smoldering coals to cook. Then, when ready, the ashes are knocked off and the bread is eaten. If the risk was not a factor, it could be argued that this is the most practical method to learn for a prepper.

The difficulty in successfully cooking the bread without burning it makes this the least favorite and least practical method. Especially if you find yourself in a dangerous situation where you are dipping into limited resources, you may want to avoid this potentially wasteful approach.

However, for those interested, here are some instructions and video footage of how to successfully create a loaf of “Damper Bread”:

An Essential Staple for Every Prepper?

Now that you are an expert on the various ingredient ratios and cooking methods for bannock bread, you’ll be more prepared for any situation. This filling bread would be an asset to any prepper’s stockpile. The ingredients have extensive shelf lives, it is simple and easy to make, and does not necessarily need any tools or utensils.

For those experienced with bannock bread, what is your favorite recipe and/or cooking method? Is this food item something that you would consider? If you have any extra tips or tricks to share, please comment!

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The Ultimate Guide to Raising Chickens

There are very few things that come to mind on what you should invest in first when you own your property or begin prepping. Chickens should be in that top 5. They’re versatile, adaptable, and ease of growing making them a staple on any farm, homestead or even for a backyard garden. Just be sure that you can have them in your neighborhood before investing into them.

That is the first thing you should realize when raising chickens. They are going to be an investment in the beginning. The time and care you put into raising your chicks into full grown laying hens will be rewarded with more eggs than you can use, and if done right, all the chicken meat you could ever need. So don’t get discouraged at investing time and money into these little beauties, because the benefits far out way the negatives.

The first thing you will need to do is identify the species you want to raise. There are way too many to list and talk about in this article, but there are a few simple tips to keep aware of when you are choosing your breed. The best thing to do is figure out exactly what your plans are for the chickens. Do you plan to eat them or just the eggs? Are you in the countryside or are you in the city? Will they be free range or in a coop and run most of the time? These are vital questions you need to ask yourself before you even think about investing in a chicken coop.

Once you have answered these questions, you will have a much better idea of what steps you need to take to start raising your chicks. Undoubtedly, free ranges chickens are happier and healthier than those kept in a run and coop for most of their lives. That doesn’t mean you can’t have happy chickens, though. Quite the contrary and many examples come to mind of happy chickens in this environment.

The important factor in keeping them satisfied in an enclosed environment is space. You need roughly 2 to 3 square feet per bird to ensure they have adequate space in the coop. Free range birds don’t need as much space, as much of their life is spent outside of the coop. Remember that if you plan not to let them free range, you need a run for them. This is usually an extension to the coop that allows the birds a little more freedom during the day. This is an extremely important factor to the happiness of the birds. Happy chickens mean a lower risk of disease, no feather plucking(this seems to be related to boredom), and more eggs!

Diseases and How they Spread

Chickens get sick very similar to how we get sick. Usually it’s spread through contaminated water or food and the sickness can spread throughout your entire flock very rapidly. This is one of the major reasons you want to keep your coop clean, and change their water and food daily.

The two most common diseases are…

…E. Coli and Salmonella which we all know can make humans very sick as well. They are also susceptible to spreading parasites and worms, viruses, and fungi. If you suspect anything, talk to your veterinarian or animal health specialist.

Now, another important point to mention about the chicken coop are the roosts, where the chickens will ideally go to lay when they are ready. They will almost always find the most comfortable spot to lay, so your roosts should always be clean and comfy, or else you are going to find eggs in the grass and other places you don’t want them. Ideally, you would want at least one roost for every three chickens, but people have got away with less, and some swear by one roost per two chickens. The best advice I ever received regarding this is to watch your chickens. It will become obvious if you need more roosts. They will lay on the floor next to the roosts if they are all taken, or even right on top of each other!

The coop needs to be a sanctuary for them. A place where they feel safe, happy, and entertained. Much how we feel when we’re at home. Keeping the coop clean is probably the best thing you can do to keep them happy.(No animal wants to hang out in its feces) The best part about cleaning the chicken coop is all the manure they will provide you. Chicken manure, in particular, is amazing for the compost, and your garden will be so happy that you are adding it to the compost. Ask anyone raising chickens, and they will tell you that chicken manure is like gold for sustainability on a farm. Always keep in the back of your mind, “Are my chickens happy?”

With some of the basics down in regards to chicken coops(We will talk on this subject again later), let’s focus on another one of those questions. Countryside or city? Obviously, if you are raising them in the country, then you have a whole host of other problems that city dwellers won’t be able to relate to, primarily predators. While people in the city will have to think about the noise factor and that isn’t even an issue with those in the country.

In regards to raising in the city, you will want to figure out the laws. There are MANY people in the city raising their chickens, and it’s only getting more and more popular, so there may be laws in place allowing you to do this with stipulations and guidelines, while a lot of cities and neighborhoods will simply not allow them under no circumstances. If you are one of the lucky ones that are allowed to raise chickens in your backyard, then count your blessings. Most people that want to raise chickens in their backyard can’t.

Noise Reduction

There is one important factor in raising them in the backyard. Noise. There are sure to be laws in place in regards to how much noise is allowed from your property, or chickens. This won’t be an issue for you though if you have taken your time and researched exactly how to proceed and be successful with your backyard chickens.

You will want to find a breed that is docile and won’t spook at every noise that the city throws at them, and you will want to make sure that they are not a loud breed.(Trust me, you don’t want to be known as that neighbor with the loud chickens.) Now, the rooster is going to crow regardless, but with the quieter breeds, they won’t be as loud or do it as often. You could always get rid of the rooster too, but keep in mind that one of the hens will assume command and will become more vocal.

The noise factor can cause some potential problems as well in a SHTF scenario. Chickens will always make noise, and it is always enough for anyone near by to know that you have chickens. If you are keeping them in a city, you will want to prepare and have plans in place for potential looters.

For the countryside dwellers, you will want to identify the predators in your area. Wild dogs, snakes, coyotes, hawks, and owls are just a few that people have issues with. These predators will tell you how you need to build your coop, and possibly what chickens you want to raise. For the coop, you may want to bury the fencing a few feet down to keep out the coyotes and wild dogs, or you may want to reinforce the top as hawks and owls will rip through it and decimate your flock.

It’s important to remember that when a predator finds a buffet like a chicken coop, and they manage to get into it, they are going to eat all the good pieces, the organs. So they are not going to kill just one chicken, they will kill one and eat its heart, kill another and eat its liver and so on. Protecting your flock from these predators will ensure your success.

Another sound investment for raising poultry in the countryside is guinea fowls. These birds are basically alarms for predators as they will raise hell and make so much noise that you know, something isn’t right. Lots of people use these alarm birds as the first line of protection for their chickens.

Breeds

In regards to what breed to choose, you have MANY options to choose from. Factors that we have discussed previously should be at the front of your mind when deciding what breed, or breeds you would like to raise. Favorite breeds like the Rhode Island Reds and most Bantoms can work in all situations. Their temperament is usually mild, and if there is a lot of human interaction when they are chicks, they tend to be even more docile. The Bantoms, in particular, are ideal for backyard gardens because of their size. Not to mention there are some very pretty Bantom breeds out there, perfect for raising and selling.

Usually, for country raising, you would want bigger breeds because you have space. A lot of country raisers go with two or more breeds for diversity in the flock. Not only that, you can raise birds that are better for slaughter and grow heavy layers at the same time. You won’t ever have to slaughter your laying breed, and your meat breed won’t breed out of control. Keep an eye out when mixing, though, as some breeds are notorious for being bullies and can even get to the point of not allowing other breeds to eat or roost. Other popular breeds include the Jersey Giants, Plymouth Rocks, Araucanas, and Sussex. All of these listed can work in most environments.

jersey giant hen
Photo: jersey giant hen

So you have your breed/s picked out, coop materials, feed, and it’s time to buy some chicks to grow while you build their coop. That’s it right? Nope. Caring for the chicks is like caring for any other baby. They need a safe space that nothing else can get into. I use large totes that we use for storage and moving. Next, they need bedding material, and it needs to be changed daily. Hay, woodchips or ever dry grass will work. This is also a good time to handle them gently and get them used to humans. You will be happy you did. Clean food and water changed daily, and you are ready to raise them. A lot of people swear by heat lamps, but I have never needed them.

Plymouth Rocks chicken
Photo: Plymouth Rocks chicken

I also live in the sub-tropic region, and I only buy chicks to raise in the spring and summer, so that is the contributing factor to my success without heat lamps. If you live anywhere where you believe it gets too cold for chicks, provide them with a heat lamp. Change the bedding, food, and water regularly, handle them a lot with care, and before you know it, they will be full grown and laying eggs. Get that coop up, and prepared for the new arrivals, because it happens very fast!

We will finish this off with some great tips and tricks I have learned throughout my time raising them and adjusting to a permaculture lifestyle. Hands down the best thing I ever did was build a portable chicken coop with a fence to enclose the coop and them. All I do now is take them to the spot I want them to scratch at for the day and set them up. They do the work of tilling and fertilizing the area until it’s time to move them. The portable coop is perfect for running them through a pasture after larger animals as the scratching helps work their manure into the ground as well. This is the best tip I can give you if you want to live the permaculture lifestyle. It’s a game changer.

Sussex chicken
Photo: Sussex chicken

The last trick I learned recently has been a life saver…

Living on a farm has its ups and downs, and one of those downs is the fly population. If you have been around farm animals, you know that flies are a problem. No, I haven’t discovered a way for the chickens to catch the flies – they sure do try, though. What I have learned is a maggot dispenser, though. You create a holder with holes for meat to rot in. The flies lay their eggs and maggots begin to eat away, all while they are falling through the holes to a guaranteed doom underneath the dispenser. The maggots provide a constant food source to the chickens, and as a bonus helps to keep the fly population down. This alone makes the chickens euphoric.

The internet has made chicken raising easier and easier(Where do you think I found out about the maggot dispenser and portable chicken coop?) with new methods and tricks coming out all the time. Just searching portable chicken coop will bring you 100’s of options. You will even find portable chicken coop designs for backyard purposes.

With this guide, the tips provided, and the internet at your disposal, you have all the tools you need to be successful in raising chickens. They will enrich your life, provide a constant source of food, and give you peace of mind while prepping. As a prepper that is what we are looking for, peace of mind and the sense of knowing that we are prepared for the unknown in every way possible. The best place to start that is raising your chickens…and starting your own garden.

The post The Ultimate Guide to Raising Chickens appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

The 12 Permaculture Design Principles

When you look at a garden, there are many systems at work than simply a seed growing, and reaping the benefits from it. All gardens are a self-contained ecosystem with its unique set of challenges. These problems can range from pests, mending soil, or even that beginnings stages of planning out the garden. One thing that has helped gardeners the world over is a revolution that helps to teach about the intricacies of growing a successful garden in a way that is more beneficial for the environment. We are talking about Permaculture.

The Permaculture movement began in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. Permaculture developed through observing nature and noticing how everything is dependent and related to another in some way. This realization came at a unique moment in time as well. We had just started industrial agriculture, and to those with the eyes to see could tell that it wasn’t sustainable.

It would become more evident due to the Dust Bowl that ravaged the Mid-West starting in 1934. These dust storms were caused by over-farming the land, and in turn, the soil devoid of nutrients turned to dust. When the wind came, it simply picked up the topsoil and blew it all away leaving arid land that couldn’t grow.

It is practices like conventional row planting and industrial agricultural methods that Permaculture turns away from, instead, turning to nature and emulating it. This emulating of nature has been proven to be successful time and time again. It makes the management of pest and diseases much easier due to diversity, you save money because your garden produces naturally(like nature intended) and you no longer need to buy fertilizers, and you will even increase your yields with companion planting and planting methods that maximize the space you have. (Row planting is extremely inefficient.)

It’s obvious that Permaculture is the best path to take when starting a backyard garden, developing a farm, or anything related to growing your own food. It’s the best method of creating sustainability on private property for a prepper. Period.

Within the Permaculture scene, you will surely come across the 12 Principles of Design in Permaculture. These were first brought up by David Holmgren in his book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. In his book, David speaks into great detail on these principles and why implementing them will bring you sustainability. No matter the size or space, these principles can be put into practice, and you can begin to see positive changes.

The 12 Permaculture Design Principles

1. Observe and Interact

This principle is easy enough, and it’s your first step. You should always be observing your Permaculture design. Watching and interacting with nature is the only way we can make positive changes to our situation. This means being in your garden regularly, making plans for new designs, and always developing and improving your situation. This is the first principle because it’s arguably the most important. Observe nature so that you can interact with it a way that is beneficial to you and to the ecosystem you are developing.

2. Catch and Store Energy

Like all the principles laid out in this article, this one is critical to sustainability. Nothing is wasted, and everything is used by the permaculturalist. Developing systems to harness the renewable energy that surrounds us is one method. With renewable energy becoming more and more popular, it’s relatively easy to buy and install solar panels. To stay faithful to the Permaculture methods, DIY methods are preferred, and with the internet, you can find many guides on building your own solar panels, windmills, and water mills.

3. Obtain a Yield

This one almost goes without saying. You are undoubtedly here because you want to start, are starting, or redesigning a garden. Excluding flower gardens and herb gardens to an extent, you are growing that garden to provide produce for yourself. This means obtaining a yield.

You need to learn and research new methods and always look for new and better ways to increase your yield. Methods like staggered planting and transplanting developed plants into your garden are ways to increase your yield. You should always be looking to improve in all of these principles, especially this one.

spinach hugelkultuur
Photo: spinach hugelkultuur

4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

This one ties into the Observing and Interacting Principle. Within the ecosystem that you are building, things will happen that will be out of your control. Or so it seems. You will find in time that everything in nature gives you clues as to what is happening. With Self-Regulating systems put into place, you can observe your garden and may become aware of changes within the system.

By accepting that feedback, you can now interact and find a resolution to the problem. An example of this is a hugelkultur which retains moisture better than conventional garden beds.

This is a self-regulating system in regards to water retention. Noticing that it needs to be watered is accepting feedback. This isn’t limited to just the method of thinking, only one example of many self-regulating systems that can be put into practice with Permaculture design.

5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services

Just like our second principle, a fundamental component of Permaculture design is renewable energy, resources, and services. The word renewable is used extensively in Permaculture circles, and the reasons should be clear. We need renewable resources like compost and mulch for our ecosystem to thrive. Services like filter plants in ponds help clean the water and make it usable by us, even though we have no intention of using the filter plants, they are vital for us because of the service they provide.

6. Produce No Waste

Permaculturalist uses EVERYTHING. Nothing in our ecosystem is considered waste or trash. Everything has a purpose or is fed into the compost. We minimize the use of plastics as much as possible, and when we do have to use them, we find a way to reuse it or recycle it. Living with and emulating nature is one of the cornerstones of Permaculture. Nature wastes nothing and neither should we.

7. Design from Patterns and Details

This simply means working with what you have. Designing around your existing terrain, plant, and wildlife will help to maximize your growing space while at the same time being less intrusive to the environment. Taking a step back and developing sound plans and concepts to implement will ensure that your entire situation has been given a look over, and will help you to integrate your garden needs into the preexisting ecosystem. Designing with these patterns and details in mind will guarantee your Permaculture success.

8. Integrate rather than Segregate

We have touched on this principle a little bit already. Nature never segregates. She is always evolving and adapting to the changes to ensure that life continues to exist. An excellent example of segregation and its debilitating effects in nature can be seen on monoculture farms. If you don’t know, these farms will grow acres and acres of one crop. They constantly have to apply pesticides and herbicides to fight off the plague level of pests and diseases due to the ecosystem consisting of one plant. Diversity is another cornerstone of Permaculture.

9. Use Small and Slow Solutions

Keeping true to one of the cornerstones of Permaculture, emulating nature to solve our solutions is the best method for keeping your garden healthy and thriving. Nature very rarely makes drastic changes to an ecosystem. Instead, these changes come on gradually giving the ecosystem time to adapt to these changes. Everything is a lock and key with ecosystems and removing or changing one aspect could be catastrophic.

This principle also relates to planning and developing your garden in a whole. Make concrete plans and implement them slowly to allow the surroundings to adapt to your changes.

corn with capsicum
Photo: corn with capsicum (companion planting example)

10. Use and Value Diversity

Diversity! It’s what turns a bland garden into a super garden. As stated before, diversity is a cornerstone to Permaculture because, without it, we wouldn’t have Permaculture or life for that matter. Because we are emulating nature, we get to see her in her true glory because of the diversity in the garden.

Increased production through companion planting, attracting beneficial bugs, and a decrease in pest and diseases are just a few of the benefits that diversity give us. If monocultures have taught us anything, it’s that it doesn’t work.

11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal

This related to the edge of two separate ecosystems. Here there is usually a large transfer of energy and resources that are available for us to use through Permaculture. Think about the traditional Chinese rice fields. They are carved into mountain valleys to collect the rain from the mountains. This is an example of utilizing the “edge.” We can implement something similar with layered edges to a pond or lake to help with diversity.

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Changes

Our last principle ties into our first one nicely. Observing and Interacting with our Permaculture design ensures that we are aware of changes in our ecosystem. Seeing these changes as opportunities instead of challenges will help you to develop responses that can potentially improve your situation. A month of heavy rain could be catastrophic, or it can be an excellent time to build a retention pond and increasing your bio-diversity.

With Permaculture, you can develop a thriving ecosystem full of bio-diversity with little to no involvement needed from you once the design is developed. Because we are emulating nature, the design will take care of itself and provide you with all the produce you will ever need. This is one of the reasons that it has become so popular, not to mention it’s one of the few methods that’s beneficial to the environment.

Following some of these design principles won’t be easy, especially if you are starting off fresh. These principles will ensure that you are on the Permaculture path and they will keep you honest when developing and implementing your design.

EXTRA TIPS

This article laid out the principles of Permaculture, but what about some practical tips to apply them into your life?

Hugelkulturs

I have recently been implementing these in my garden, and I have to say, they are AMAZING! The beds are made of old wood/logs piled up and covered with dirt. As the wood decays, it turns into a “spongy” mass, perfect for water retention. I live in an area with extreme heat and UV index during the summer time. I haven’t watered my tomato plants all summer, and I am still grabbing a bucket full of tomatoes daily. The best part, hugelkulturs only get better with time. Like a fine wine.

Rotational Grazing

This applies to grazing animals, as most Permaculturists will have a few. The idea is not to allow over-grazing of any area. To do this, you rotate your fields just like you would rotate your garden beds, so the soil isn’t depleted of the same nutrients over and over again. Instead, we ensure that the grass and top soil isn’t depleted.

A popular practice is to split your field into four sections. Two are for growing, one for grazing, and the last one is “resting.” Rotational Grazing also includes rotating the animals through the field. Usually, the largest to smallest, finishing with chickens, as they are perfect for scratching up the top soil and working in all the manure from the larger animals.

Sheet Mulching

Emulating nature, that is what sheet mulching is. In particular, how in a forest the leaves and branches fall, creating a sheet of mulch on the forest floor. This is undoubtedly on of the most successful ways of retaining water. Save the grass clippings for composting and mulching. Simply lay down a “sheet” of grass and then a “sheet” of more “traditional” mulch.(bark, leaves, and twigs) Doing this regularly will provide organic matter for the microbial bacteria to work with and turn to rich dirt while retaining most of the moisture that falls. A win-win.

Hopefully, these tips will help you as they have for me, and always remember to plan out your designs and look for new and better systems to put into place in your Permaculture design.

The post The 12 Permaculture Design Principles appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

The Ultimate Guide to Raising Turkeys

In a disaster or a crisis, food will be one of the main things people will look for. Meat contains proteins that are vital to your body’s continued well-being, and while they can be obtained from nuts and similar foods, they are not present in the same quantities and they don’t have the same amino-acid profile as they are in meat.

If you have chosen to raise turkeys then congratulations, you are very bold. Raising turkeys is a lot different from raising chickens since these animals are bigger, stronger and have requirements that are unique to them. That said, raising turkeys is also quite a lot of fun, and it is much more useful than raising chickens, they will help you controlling pests and keeping your pasture green.

There are several things to take into account when raising turkeys and these can be divided into several categories. The most important thing is that you are comfortable with your decision of raising turkeys and are ready to learn everything from the hatching to the processing.

Choosing the Right Variety

This is without a doubt the most important decision when you choose to raise turkeys, mainly because it will determine several factors going forward such as whether or not it can naturally reproduce which is a very important thing to take into account since it will be hard to get artificial methods in a post-SHTF scenario. The type of bird you choose will influence how quickly they grow and even how easy they will be to butcher.

There are two types of turkey breeds: Heritage and Production. This difference is exactly why it is very important to look into breeds beforehand. On paper, both of the Production breeds may seem very interesting; they are the Broad Breasted Whites and the Broad Breasted Bronze. Both types are available from most hatchers in the spring, what makes them so attractive is that they grow very quickly, both in terms of how big they can get and how quickly they mature.

These two breeds can get as big as 40 lbs, which is why they are so popular with commercial turkey farmers. However, there are a few drawbacks to them, the first of which being that they cannot reproduce without assistance due to how big they get; the second drawback is that they cannot fly or walk and they are very much prone to diseases.

With that in mind, we are going to look into Heritage breeds, which can reproduce naturally, thus making them better for a longer term, sustainable scenario. A prepper would benefit from raising this type precisely because the birds will be smart and mostly self-sufficient, something you do not get with Production birds. From a certain point of view, a possible drawback is the fact that Heritage turkeys have a slow growth rate and do not grow as much, the biggest Heritage Tom at 20 weeks is around 25 lbs.; it takes a heritage turkey around 28 weeks to reach what is called “marketable weight.”

We are going to list the different heritage varieties, with their advantages and disadvantages so that you will be ready to make the right choice. These are known as “standard” varieties and the ones recommended by the APA (American Poultry Association).

Bourbon Reds

Originally from Bourbon County, Kentucky, the bourbon red turkeys are known for their beautiful red plumage and excellent taste. They are considered to be the best-tasting heritage turkey breed. Bourbon toms can get up to 23 lbs. and hens can get up to 12 lbs.

Midget White

This variety was developed in the 1960’s, thus making it a relatively new heritage variety. The breed is a cross between Royal Palm and Broad-Breasted Whites. As you can probably surmise from the name, they are quite small; however, this is not all they are known for, they are famously delicious and, because of their calm disposition, they are quite good at raising poults. Toms usually weight from 16 to 20 lbs., while hens can weigh 8 to 12 lbs.

Their size makes them an excellent choice for smaller homesteads, though it should be noted that they could become good fence-jumpers, so keep that in mind if you choose to get this variety of turkey.

Narragansett

Narragansett turkeys used to be quite popular before factory farmed turkeys became the norm. They can grow to be bigger than a Bourbon Red and even though it does not share the delicious full flavor associated with Reds, it is still quite delicious and tender. A Tom can reach 30 lbs, and a hen can reach 18 lbs.

White Holland

As you may have deduced, this variety is originally from Holland and migrated with early settlers to America. It has been quite popular as a meat bird since the 1800s. The greatest advantage is that they are calm and hens make good mothers, thus, making them ideal for a self-sustaining lifestyle. A Tom can weight up to 30 lbs. while hens will weight up to 20 lbs. The largeness of hens might cause some eggs to break, but otherwise, they are good sitters.

Beltsville Small White

These grow up to be roughly the same size as a Midget White; however, their chests are wider, and they are known as “a good table bird.” Their flavor is nothing to rave about, usually blander than Midget Whites.

A small advantage is that they are prolific layers and, despite not being as social as other heritage breeds, hens make quite good sitters. A Tom will weight around 17 lbs while a hen will be around 10 lbs.

Standard Bronze

The Standard Bronze is the most popular variety of turkey in American history; it is also one of the largest varieties of heritage turkeys. Originally they are a cross between American wild turkeys and turkeys that had been brought over by Europeans. The Broad-Breasted Bronze variety we mentioned before is a variation on this particular variety. A Standard Bronze Tom can easily reach 25 lbs while a hen will reach 16 lbs. Unlike the Broad-Breasted Bronze, the Standard Bronze may reproduce naturally.

Royal Palm

These turkeys were originally bred for their good looks, and it is no wonder since their beautiful black and white plumage is quite striking. They are not as big as the Standard Bronze but they are suitable for the home production of meat, not only that but they are excellent pest controllers that forage extensively. A Tom weighs on average 16 lbs while a hen weighs 10 lbs.

Black Variety

Also known as Black Spanish or Norfolk Black, these turkeys are a mix of Mexican wild turkeys and European turkeys. They are quite striking birds and thought the plumage is a beautiful, deep black with a green sheen on top; their meat is white and tender. They grow quite quickly, which made them quite popular, and they are calm, thus making them good sitters. An average Tom will weigh around 23 lbs. while the hen will be around 14 lbs.

Acquiring and Raising Poults

Once you have chosen the variety, you will need to acquire the poults. For this, it is recommended that you do extensive research on the hatchery you are planning to buy the birds from. This means inquiring about everything from the feed they give the animals to the shipping method. Make sure to ask about the average weight of their young adult turkeys (this means turkeys under one year of age), by doing this you will get a good idea of the genetic potential of the hatchery’s stock. It is unlikely that you will get it right the first time around, so it is advisable that you acquire birds from more than hatchery and keep track of each poult’s progress and growth rate so that you will have more information going forward.

To determine how many poults to order, you will need to look at the space available. Remember that you will need to have winter accommodation for these birds and you will want to make sure that you have sufficient space. Here is a good rule of thumb to calculate space needed.

  • Poults from 1 to 6 weeks of age require at least 1 square foot of floor space each.
  • Poults from 6 to 12 weeks will need at least 2 square feet of floor space each.
  • Adult breeding birds will need 3 to 5 square feet of floor space each

Even among the best-cared birds, there are bound to be mortalities, so if you want to keep a certain number of birds, you will need to plan for 15 to 20% mortality rate and adjust the quantities you order.

If you are starting with day-old poults, then you will have to set up a turkey brooder. They are quite similar to chicken brooders, so there is no need to do much research on that topic if you have experience with baby chicks.

It is important that everything is set up and warmed up to 95°F to 98°F before your poults arrive. Here is a helpful tip: While having a thermometer is always a good idea, observing the poults will let you know if the temperature is right; if they are too cold they will huddle together under the heat source, if they are too warm they will keep to the very edges of the brooder. By using their behavior as a guide, the results will be happier poults.

Every week you will need to raise the heat lamp a few inches and lower it 5 degrees. You will need to do this until the poults are six weeks old or until the temperature in the brooder is the same as outdoors. At this point you will need to fill the feeders and waterers, placing them close to the lamp (never under it and never too far away), it is advisable to hang the feeders to avoid poults standing or pooping in them. At three weeks you will be able to add a roost to your brooder. This will teach turkeys to roost early and get them used to sleeping in roosts (which they will have to do later on).

In those first few weeks, you will need to keep a close eye on the poults at feeding time so that you can avoid deaths. A very common issue with poults is that they are prone to “starving out,” which is what happens when some poults get pushed out and away from the feeder and slowly starve to death. By keeping a close eye on the poults when they are feeding and making sure that every poult is feed you will reduce death rates considerably. As they grow, you will need to get them used to living outside so, on top of lowering the temperature of the lamp, you should also expose them to the sun on nice days.

Before you move them outside you will need to make sure that they are fully feathered and at the very least eight weeks old. You can ease them into the change by providing the lamp at night for a week or two and checking that they are not damp or chilled every night.

Housing Turkeys

Now that your turkeys are officially of age and able to live outside you will need to provide them with a roosting area with a roof, protection from predators and access to fresh pasture, or range —which is grass that is four to six inches long. Turkeys are far more active than laying hens; they will need space to stretch and be outdoors.

The very basic requirements for housing a turkey are:

  • Protection from predators.
  • Roosts to fly into at night.
  • Places to dust bathe.
  • Access to the range.
  • Enough space (75 feet squared for 12 turkeys, at least).

Roosts

Building a set of roosts for your turkeys is quite simple, just make sure to keep them all at the same height so that they will not fight for the top spots. Keeping the roosts movable will prevent the turkey manor from accumulating on one spot of the pen, thus making it much easier to clean. You can use a lightweight metal or fiberglass panel as a roof so that there is a refuge from the weather.

The number of roosts you need will depend on how many turkeys you have, for instance, a 5×8 foot roost will house around 20 turkeys.

Fencing

Turkeys, unlike chickens, can and will fly if given half a chance, so you will need your fencing to be quite tall at least four feet. Some people trim the wing feathers of frequent fliers, but if you are averse to this idea, you may top the fence with netting so that they cannot escape. You will want to make sure that the fencing is flush to the ground and sturdy enough that it will protect the turkeys from predators

You will need the fencing to be quite resistant; the most recommended material is woven-wire fencing as well as metal T-posts. Even though you will want your turkeys to be quite protected, remember that these birds are great at pest control and so, they can be turned out to pasture with cattle, and they will pick out undigested grains out of cow manure, helping you improve the pasture by spreading it.

Nesting Boxes

You may want to provide a nest box for your brooding hens so that they feel safe. It is advisable that these are small, light structures with a slanted roof (the better to prevent roosting) that can be pushed against the wall of your coop.

Feeding

We mentioned before that your turkeys would need access to range or pasture, this is because the best way to ensure a happy fowl is to allow them to roam and eat freely from pasture.  Since getting feed might be hard in a post-SHTF scenario, getting them used to pasture is actually a pretty good idea, on pasture you will need to make sure that the turkeys have access to either coarse sand or fine gravel so that they can digest their food. However, if you have taken this lack of standard feed into consideration and are already stockpiling turkey feed; then give them what you have stored. You can add dried corn to their diet, but only as a treat to keep them happy, as it cannot be their standard food.

The turkeys should have an automatic watering system that can hold several gallons of water; these will need to be quite sturdy as adult turkeys are surprisingly strong. It is advisable to supplement their water with vitamins and acidophilus, though in the event that you do not have access to either, these can be replaced by raw milk. Waterers need to be cleaned twice a day and washed with disinfectant weekly to avoid infectious diseases.

Breeding Turkeys

It is a widely-held belief that breeding turkeys are mighty complicated and they might require your assistance; however, this is only true for the production breeds we mentioned earlier, all heritage breeds can produce naturally and without you giving them a helping hand.

Turkeys are sexually mature around their seventh month; it is recommended that they are bred immediately. A Tom can be mated with as many as 10 hens, but if you want to ensure fertilization, you might want to rotate two toms during the breeding cycle, pick out your best-looking toms for the task. As soon as the female starts laying eggs you will know that the turkeys have reached the age of maturity and it is a matter of letting them be.

After the hen is mated, she will lay eggs for a week and up to 10 days, remember that the further away from the mating, the lower the chances of the egg being fertilized. If you are letting your Tom mate freely and regularly, then you will be able to pick out the eggs with consistency while also ensuring fertility.

Watch your turkeys closely, sometimes they have no parenting instincts whatsoever, and you will need to take matters into your own hands; however, there are certain breeds that take parenting seriously, and you will barely need to lift a finger.

If you do need to pick out the eggs here is what you will need to do. First, you will want to make sure that you have thoroughly washed your hands, this is very important since your hands contain natural oils that may block the tiny pores on the outside of the egg shell and damage the poult. It is a fact that clean eggs will hatch better than dirty eggs, so make sure to keep your nesting box clean. It is not necessary to wash the eggs if the nesting box is kept clean. Second, collect your eggs daily and store them in temperatures of between 50°F and 65°F, a cool and dry basement is a good enough place. Once you have collected a nice clutch, you may move them to the incubator. Turkeys incubate for 28 days at 100.5°F.

On the 26th day, you will need to stop rotating the eggs and double the humidity in preparation for hatching. It is a good idea to have the brooder ready for the brand new poults. Hatching will begin around the 28th day, despite what you might have seen in films, hatching is quite a slow process so be very patient.

After the poult has hatched, and if you have enough space, you may let them fluff out inside the incubator before moving them to the brooder. It is very important that you make sure the brooder’s temperature is around 95°F to 100°F, before you place the poults inside, freshly hatched poults are damp and can easily catch a chill, to prevent this move them quickly and surround the poult with your hand until you reach the brooder.

Processing the Turkeys

Slaughtering and processing your turkeys is quite a rewarding experience since you can finally see the fruits of all the hard work you put into them. Learning to process your turkeys humanely will make the experience less messy and traumatic.

First of all, you will want to have everything on hand so gather your supplies and set up your slaughter area before you even grab your first turkey. This is a list of what you will need to have on hand:

  • Killing Cone: This is literally a cone that is mounted to a frame or the side of a building structure.
  • Knifes: You will need them to be sharp and have at least two of them close by. Four to six inches is what is recommended.
  • Buckets: One under the killing cone and one by the scalding area.
  • Scalding Tank: A large pot or tank on a burner. You will need to heat up water up to 140°F and make sure that the tank is big enough to dunk and swirl the birds around.
  • Cooler: A large tank with ice and cold water.
  • Water: You will need a hose with access to fresh, clean water.
  • Table: For processing the bird.
  • Paper towels
  • Cutting board
  • Plastic bags: For storage.

Once you have gathered all of this, you may begin.

  1. Grab the bird’s feet first and hang it upside down. The bird will calm down as the blood rushes to its head, thus allowing you to put it in the killing cone more easily.
  2. Pull the bird’s head firmly through the bottom of the killing cone and hold it. Use a small, sharp knife to cut both the jugular vein and the carotid artery. You will need to cut just behind where the beak tendon and the tongue are attached, slide firmly on both sides of the neck- Pull the head down to allow the blood to drain.
  3. Once the blood has been drained, you will have to scald the turkey to pluck it easily. Dunk the bird into the scalding water while holding legs and feet. Swirl the bird around in the water and check every few seconds if the feathers can be removed easily. When they do, remove the bird from the water, secure the legs and pluck it.
  4. When it is plucked, you will need to remove the feet by cutting between the joints. After that remove the head with a sharp knife, slit the neck skin and loosen the trachea and esophagus all the way down until they connect to the body. You will now need to eviscerate the bird; this means inserting the knife around 1 inch above the vent and cutting the skin up to the breastbone while making sure not to cut into the intestines. Cut around either side of the vent and remove it, afterward you will be able to reach into the bird, run your hand along the ribs and free the entrails.
  5. Remove the neck by cutting the muscle tissue around it and bending it to break through the bone.
  6. Rinse the bird thoroughly inside and out. Place into the cooler, making sure it is completely submerged, for at least 30 minutes (though it is more advisable to wait for an hour).
  7. Remove the turkey and pat dry before packaging using the method of your choice. Remember that the turkey should age for a few days before eating or freezing to avoid toughness.

Preventing Diseases

The best way to prevent diseases is to avoid overcrowding and allowing your turkeys to have fresh air and range in a large pen with an appropriate number of roosts. Move the roosts around and clean manure frequently.

Follow these tips:

  • Get the poults out to pasture by eight weeks of age.
  • Make sure you have enough space (75×75 feet for every 20 turkeys).
  • Do not mix chickens with turkeys.
  • Clean the waterers with disinfectant once a week.
  • Move the roosts frequently.
  • Clean manure weekly.
  • Ensure the quality of the soil.

Now you know all you need to start raising your own turkeys and ensure your access to meat in the future. Keeping turkeys is fun, and after TEOTWAWK you will be able to gift your family with the comfort and remembrance of Thanksgiving, thus heightening morale and making the adjusting process easier.

All that remains to say in closing is good luck! And remember to enjoy yourself.

The post The Ultimate Guide to Raising Turkeys appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

Careful With These Poisonous Garden Plants

Gardens are places you can go to eat, relax, and get back to a simpler mindset, but they can also be extremely deadly. When we walk in a garden, we rarely think about how plants can kill us, and some of them can drop us in a matter of minutes. So next time you are in the garden, remember these plants you see here, because chances are, they are in someone’s garden, and the last thing you want to do is test your resolve against them.

Black Nightshade solanum nigrum

Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum)

The first on our list is one of the most well know killers in the plant world.  Also called duscle, garden huckleberry, hound’s berry, petty morel, or simply nightshade, there are many varieties, and most are extremely poisonous. The entire plant is poisonous, but the berries, in particular, are what people – especially children – tend to eat. The poison, solanine, can take anywhere between 6-12 hours for the symptoms to appear, and those include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. Fatal doses include fever, sweating, confusion, drowsiness, cardiac arrhythmias and respiratory failure.

The plant is identified by its broad leaves and black ripe berries. It’s important to remember that the berries may be different colors, and other varieties of the plant are used in culinary and can look identical to their fatal cousin.

Oleander Nerium oleander

Oleander (Nerium oleander)

The oleander is world renowned for its blooms that seem to go on all year round. This is one of the most toxic plants that we regularly find in gardens. From home gardens to massive landscaped courtyards, their cultivation is worldwide. The entire plant is poisonous, especially the leaves and flowers. The toxic compound in oleander, oleandrin, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, with fatal doses attacking the nervous system tremors, seizures and finally coma and death.

Although very few fatal cases have been reported, one, in particular, gives a good lesson to learn vicariously from. A woman died from a cup of infused Oleander tea. So even though it smells wonderful, you better think twice before infusing that lovely fragrance into a tea.

Oleanders are easily identified by their leaves and blooms; which range from white to various shades of pink, red, and even purple.

Mistletoe Phoradendron flavescens

Mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens)

The mistletoe has been a part of a lot of people’s Christmas tradition for centuries. Hung above walkways and doorways, individuals who met each other underneath it are supposed to kiss for reasons unknown to this author except for holiday cheer. What most people don’t realize is that the mistletoe, if kissed, would surely be your last.(Ok, that was an exaggeration, but I still don’t recommend kissing it.)

In the wild, the mistletoe is a parasite, living off of its host tree. They are easily identified by their white berries. The entire plant is poisonous, but like most plants, the toxins are found concentrated in the berries. Although fatal doses are rare, you are sure to have a bad time with all the abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting that ingesting small amounts will do to you.

poinsettia

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

Another popular plant that comes out during the holiday season, the poinsettia, or what my mom always called, “Don’t touch that!” Because of its beauty and abundance in the household during the holidays, this plants toxicity has been well documented. From whole parties getting sick from Poinsettia tea to the family dog dying from accidental poisoning from eating the plant, there are many misconceptions about how poisonous it is.

There have been many studies regarding the toxicology of the Poinsettia, and the definitive answer is that it isn’t as poisonous as we thought. Obviously, children and the elderly are more susceptible, but even then, they have to ingest a completely ridiculous amount for it to be fatal unless it’s an allergic reaction. The sap is toxic, and generally, the allergic reaction to the plant is due to the latex coating on the leaves.

Bright red mature leaves make the poinsettia easily identifiable.

castor beans seeds

Castor Beans (Ricinus communis)

The Castor Beans is world renowned for making castor oil, a cure-all oil used for many purposes, but a sinister compound resides within the bean that can kill you almost immediately in heavy doses. Castor beans are not a bean at all, and in fact, the bean is the seed of the plant which is where they get the oil from, and where the toxin, ricin, can be found.

The ricin compound can be found all over the plant but is concentrated in the seeds. An adult eating just 4 of these seeds can cause poisoning; including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Although seizures can happen with high doses, most people suffer from severe dehydration due to the ‘purging’ process the body goes through.

Castor Beans are identified by their multicolored leaves and seeds that look almost like watermelon seeds.

poets narcissus flickr public domain

Poet’s Narcissus (Narcissus poeticus)

Poet’s Narcissus is known for its beauty, fragrance, and toxicity in confined spaces. Dating back to antiquity, the flower has been used for centuries and has the tales to prove it. One tale from the Greeks has Persephone and her companions picking them before Hades takes her to the Underworld, and that is why to this day it is still used to decorate tombstones.

Used primarily for its fragrance for perfumes, it is this reason people put it in their homes and end up getting sick from it. The strong odor can induce headaches and vomiting, and ingesting the plant can cause abdominal pains and vomiting as well.

The flower is identified by the white flower with six petals in a star formation and its bright yellow center.

Water Hemlock

Water Hemlock (Cicuta virosa L.)

Water Hemlock; also know as cicuta, cowsbane (because they eat the roots after a plowed field), poison parsnip, or just simply as Hemlock, is an extremely poisonous plant found in the temperate climates all over North America and Europe.

Cicutoxin, the toxic compound and found all over the plant, attacks the central nervous system inducing seizures, hallucinations, delirium, coma, and respiratory failure. Death usually occurs due to the respiratory failure and symptoms can occur within 15 minutes of ingestion.

Water Hemlock is identified by its long stems, thin leaves, and a bouquet of small white flowers.

taxus baccata

English Yew (Taxus baccata)

The English Yew is native to most of Europe, Northern Africa, and parts of Asia and is grown in gardens for its beautiful red berries. All but the berries are toxic on this tree, although the seeds in those berries are toxic as well. Even the pollen from the male tree is toxic, inducing headaches, rashes, aching joints, and asthma reactions.

Taxine is the compound that causes poisoning, and the symptoms include convulsions, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, accelerated heart rate, and cardiac arrest. You could also show no symptoms and drop dead within hours.

rhubarb

Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum)

Rhubarb is an extremely popular plant in the food garden(I am growing some at the time of this writing.), but what a lot of people don’t know is that it is actually poisonous. Anyone that grows it regularly knows this, but a lot of people not familiar with the plant will assume those broad, vibrant green leaves are poisonous.

Oxalic acid is found in the leaves, and although you would have to eat A LOT of bitter leaves to equal a lethal dose, you are best staying away from the leaves and eating the stalks like everyone else. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, coma, seizures, kidney stones, difficulty breathing, and other problems with your respiratory system.

Rhubarb is identified easily by its long reddish stalks and broad green leaves.

mountain laurel

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

The Mountain Laurel is cultivated for its ground covering capabilities and lovely flowers, which cultivators have now grow to darker pinks and hues of red as opposed to it’s traditional white or soft pink colors. The entire plant is poisonous(including the pollen) to us and most farm animals.

The grayanotoxin and arbutin causes erratic breathing, profuse salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, coma, and death. Even the honey produced from these flowers is toxic!

The Mountain Laurel is identified by its evergreen leaves and distinct umbrella-shaped flowers.

daphne

Daphne (Daphne pontica)

Daphne, in all of its forms, has been grown for a long time for its flowers and fragrance. One thing it isn’t being grown for though is its berries, which are highly toxic. The flowers can range from a greenish yellow to vibrant reds and purples, but they always form in clusters at the end of the stems.

The poisonous berries can be fleshy or dry and leathery. Symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, burning of the mouth and intestinal tract, and in severe cases coma and death.

Daphne is easily identified by its long stems filled with little flowers and berries.

jimson weed

Jimson Weed (Datura stramonium)

Jimson Weed is also known as Angel’s Trumpet, Stinkweed, Locoweed, and my favorite, Devil’s Trumpet. Found in most of the United States now, the trumpet in the name comes from the trumpet-shaped flowers that this plant produces. Due to the hallucinogenic effects, it is taken for recreational use that almost always ends badly.

The hallucinations are due to the lethal amounts of hyoscyamine and scopolamine which causes them and other symptoms including delirium, hyperthermia, and painful mydriasis(dilation of the pupils).

As stated before, Jimson Weed is identified by its trumpet-shaped flowers.

rhododendron

Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum)

Rhododendrons are grown all over the world due to their hardiness and beautiful flowers. This shrub is a close relative of the azalea family, and it shows when it is in full bloom. Unfortunately, unlike its cousin, the Rhododendrons sap and pollen contain grayanotoxin.(Like the Mountain Laurel on this list.)

And like the Mountain Laurel, honey produced from these plants has proven to be toxic for consumption, and there are even accounts of Greek soldiers dying from honey produced from these plants.

Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, coma, and death. Rhododendrons are identified by their thin evergreen leaves and vibrant flowers ranging from white to bright reds, purples, and pinks.

lily of the valley

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

Like most on this list, Lily of the Valley is grown for its sweet scent and beautiful flowers, and like all the plants on this list, very toxic and very dangerous. Native to the Northern Hemisphere, you can find this plant in a lot of gardens today.

Around 38 compounds have been identified to cause cardiac issues just in this plant alone. The entire plant is toxic, and symptoms include reduced heart rate, blurred vision, skin rash, and drowsiness.

One of the most easily identifiable plants on this list, the white flowers hang off the stem to form a bell.

hydrangea

Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

A lot of gardeners don’t feel like their garden is complete without a few Hydrangeas in there. They add a lot of color to the garden, and they are very easy to take care of – Hence so many people growing them. One fact that is usually not said to you when you buy these from a nursery is how poisonous they are.

The entire plant is filled with hydragin, which acts very similar to cyanide. It’s concentrated more so in the buds and flowers, and symptoms include, respiratory failure, dizziness, low blood pressure, fainting, convulsions, and death.

You can identify Hydrangeas by the bouquets of white, blue, purple, pink or even red flowers.

foxglove

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Foxgloves are another ornamental plant on this list grown for its beautiful flowers and is also know as Dead Man’s Bells and Witch’s Gloves. The scientific name Digitalis comes from finger-like, as the flower resembles a cover that could easily slide on and cover one’s finger.

It was once believed that Foxglove could treat seizures, and it’s believed that Van Gogh’s painting “Yellow Period” was influenced by this treatment as prolonged exposure cause jaundice or yellowing of the skin.

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, blurred vision, abnormal heart rate, tremors, seizures, and death.

You can identify foxglove by its vibrant pink-purple bell-shaped flowers.

dumb cane flickr public domain

Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia bowmannii)

No office space is complete without one of these sitting in a corner. Or at least that’s what I have learned from limited experience in them. Dumb Cane, also called by its scientific name Dieffenbachia, is a hearty plant that can thrive on very little sunlight, making it perfect for indoors.

Although not considered deadly, the fact that this plant is usually within arms reach of children, or ground level for an animal, raises some alarm bells. The raphides, needle-shaped crystals on the plant, cause severe irritation.

Symptoms include numbing, drooling and swelling. You can identify this one by its distinct leaves that are striped and spotted.

Larkspur

Larkspur (Delphinium consolida)

Larkspurs grow wild in the United States and cattle ranchers actually wait till the plant is less toxic before they move their cattle to that field. That tells you something immediately about this plant. They are grown for the amazing amount of flowers and color they provide, but with that comes a cost.

The entire plant is poisonous, especially new growth and the seeds. It’s important to take the necessary precautions when dealing with this plant because even a little bit in your system could be fatal.

Death can occur within a few hours of digestion and symptoms include nausea, vomiting, burning of the mouth and esophagus, slowing of the heartbeat, and finally, death.

The flower is quite distinct in that it has a few ‘sharp’ petals that tend to be vivid and bright in color.

So whether you are planning on planting some of these popular plants in your garden, enjoying a stroll through a friend’s garden, or foraging out in the wilderness, it’s important to know these plants and what to do when you come across them. It could mean life or death, or save a few hours of spilling your lunch everywhere.

The post Careful With These Poisonous Garden Plants appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

The Ultimate Guide to Dutch Oven Cooking

There is much pride to be had by creating a recipe that cannot be duplicated. It is not always the ingredients that make the dish.

Both the cookware used and the methods of achieving mouthwatering results are becoming lost to today’s microwave happy generation. A bag of ingredients can be purchased, poured into a bread-maker and a generic loaf of bread is born. Some shrimp can be poured into a bowl along with a foil packet of ingredients, and after being nuked in a microwave, you have something that tastes like a rubbery shrimp scampi.

If we take away electricity, dumping stuff into a bowl or pan would be just the beginning. We need the cookware and the know-how of past generations to create home-cooked meals under rustic, or emergency conditions. Enter the Dutch oven, the preferred cookware of our ancestors and outdoor enthusiasts in the know.

Versatility

The most obvious reason to own a Dutch oven is the flexibility of the cookware itself. With the lid on, the vessel can be used (as its name implies) to bake everything from bread, to cakes and pies. Remove the lid and we have a sturdy pot to create soups, stews, and sauces. Flip the lid over and use it as a griddle for breakfast items like sausage and hotcakes (see below). Dutch ovens have different designs created to suit your intended cooking method.

dutch oven lid used as griddle

Many have tripod legs to elevate the oven and allow cooking over a fire or coals. These types also have rimmed lids to allow coals to be stacked on top of the oven. Some Dutch ovens have smooth bottoms and rounded tops designed to be used with modern cooktops and ovens. For our purposes, we will focus on the legged design most often associated with outdoor cooking.

Cast-Iron

For some, the advantages gained by cooking with cast-iron are outweighed by the heaviness and unique properties of the cookware. Try not to fall into this group. Cast-iron heats evenly, holds heat better, and is healthier than modern cookware. Small amounts of iron are released into your food during the cooking process. This decreases the need for the intake of supplements.

The roughness of the surface is created when molten metal is poured into sand molds. Over time this roughness diminishes and the surface becomes smooth and quite nonstick. A well-seasoned piece of cast-iron releases food as well as most newfangled nonstick surfaces, plus has the advantage of heat resistance against all but smelting temperatures.

Selecting A Dutch Oven

If we only look at Dutch ovens with legs, there are still numerous decisions to be made. First, make sure the legs are long enough… Between one and a half inches, and 3 inches will work well. This not only allows coals underneath, but also allows ovens to be stacked, so that the coals on top of one, are the bottom coals for the next.

Look for consistency.  The sides and the lid should have a uniform thickness throughout. This affects not only the evenness of heat entering the oven, but ensures a good seal between the pot and lid.

A 10 or 12-inch Dutch oven is a good starting point. Smaller ovens can be used for a couple of people, and larger ones for large groups. Going with a 16” Dutch oven to start can be a mistake. The weight and size of a 16 incher is impressive; it is also likely to get used less due to the hassle of transporting it. Another consideration on size is the depth. They do make deep Dutch ovens. These are fine for deep frying, or items that rise like breads, etc. Choosing a standard depth oven keeps the heat closer to the top of your food when cooking.

Select from a known manufacturer. It may seem impossible to mess up when manufacturing cast iron products. Some companies still do. Stick with tried and true names like Lodge, Camp Chef, GSI, TexSport, or oldies-but-goodies like Griswold.

Tools of the Trade

There are some basic accessories that make Dutch oven cooking more user friendly. While these are not required, I would seriously consider most of them worth having:

Lid Lifter – Enables cook to remove lid without losing ashes into food.

Briquette Chimney Starter – Gets coals ready for long cooking periods.

Welders Glove – Cast iron gets hot, hot, hot!

Rack – Keeps roasting food out of juices in bottom of oven.

Small Steel Plate – Put your chimney starter on it, put your oven on it. Keeps coals off the ground, reducing fire risk, and keeping briquettes or coals from smothering out.

Meat Thermometer – Takes guesswork out of not having knobs.

Straw Whisk Broom – Removes ashes from lid. A plastic broom will melt to your oven.

Charcoal Briquettes – If you do not have a good bed of hardwood coals to work with, charcoal briquettes are considered acceptable. Only the most hardened of cowpokes would sneer at a Dutch oven cook using charcoal. Use a chimney fire starter to get the amount you need started and glowing before using them.

making buiscuits on dutch oven
Photo: making buiscuits on dutch oven

Seasoning

While most manufacturers tout a pre-seasoned finish, both new and old cast-iron Dutch ovens will benefit from additional seasoning. For new vessels, clean under hot water with a brush or sponge. For used items, a hot and soapy soak may be needed to dislodge carbon and other foreign materials. Any time a piece of cast-iron is washed it must be immediately dried and given a light coat of oil to prevent rust.

To re-season cast-iron, preheat a conventional oven to 350° (please note that a large outdoor BBQ works well for this), and lightly coat all surfaces with vegetable oil, lard, or a Crisco type product. Do not use olive oil or butter as they contain proteins that can turn rancid over time. Place the cookware into the heated oven and bake it for at least an hour. Remove the Dutch oven and lid from the heat give it another light coat of oil. This can be repeated as many times as needed. The end goal is a black and shiny coating on the iron surfaces.

What Not to Cook

Once again, almost anything can be cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven once it is well-seasoned. A bit of prudence is suggested until that seasoned surface is obtained. High acid items like tomato sauce or recipes with vinegar may ruin a fledgling seasoning.

Recipes with milk require extra attention whether using a new non-stick pan, or cast iron. Either can be turned into a hot mess if milk is allowed to burn or boil over. Start instead with fatty items like pork sausage, hamburger, or better yet, use the Dutch oven base to deep fry a few batches of fish. The highly heated oil seeps easily into the cast iron surface.

The Process

Dutch oven Size Bottom Charcoal Briquettes Top Charcoal Briquettes
8” 4-5 9-10
10” 6-7 11-12
12” 7-8 13-14
14” 9-10 16-18
16” 8-12 16-20

I have mentioned deep frying, and range-top cooking, but have yet to touch on the culinary preparation method where Dutch ovens go above and beyond everyday cookware. It is after all… an oven. When created, the Dutch oven was designed to produce an environment like your modern stove or conventional oven. Heat surrounds the food to bake, roast, or steam it to perfection. Modern ovens do much of the work for us. To cook using a Dutch oven, you need to remember a basic rule that has been moved to the back of our modern brains… Heat goes UP!

To cook evenly, especially when roasting or baking, more heat must come from above than below. It seems counter-intuitive, but look at your conventional oven when baking or roasting. The top element or burner will be working hard as the bottom element coasts along. To provide an even 360-degree cooking environment, heat must be radiated from above. As such, more coals are needed on the lid than below your cast iron cooker. Usually about twice as many.

This chart will get you close for any Dutch oven, but remember that conditions like temperature and wind will affect the amount of heat that gets to your food.

underside of a dutch oven lid

Cooking School

Let’s go through a couple of recipes to ensure you have the basics of Dutch oven cookery well in hand.

Roasted Chicken:

To roast a whole chicken, the best bet is probably a 12D oven. That is a deep oven with a 12-inch diameter. Rub the inside of the oven with cooking oil or lard. Place a rack or trivet in the bottom of the oven to keep the chicken from burning on the heated bottom.

Place about 30 charcoal briquettes in a large chimney starter and follow manufacturer’s directions to get briquettes started. While waiting for the briquettes, we can return our attention to the chicken.

Wash the chicken under cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Trussing the chicken will allow for more uniform baking. Rub the outside of the chicken with vegetable oil. Season liberally with salt, pepper, and your choice of additional spices. You could make lemon-pepper chicken, garlic chicken, or just use the salt and pepper for a roasted chicken.

Place the chicken, breast down, on the rack inside the Dutch oven. Place the lid on the oven. Dump 10 or 12 coals onto a metal plate, or flat surface. Set the oven over the coals. If the coals are really warm, it may be necessary to “ring them”. In other words, just place them around the outside edges of the oven. Pour about 18 briquettes on top, and arrange them evenly. Walk away.

After 30 minutes, carefully lift the lid and check the cooking process. Turn the chicken onto its back. Replace the lid, and continue cooking. Depending on the size of the chicken and outside conditions, allow about 20 minutes before checking again. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness (Safety guidelines have been lowered to the suggested internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F. Make sure ALL the chicken is at least 165 degrees before removing from the oven.) If more browning is needed, remove oven from the bottom coals, and add everything to the top, creating a broiler effect. Once the chicken is sufficiently browned and heated, you are ready to serve.

Corn Bread:

If you have a favorite recipe for corn bread, use it. If not, any corn bread mix from the store will work fine in a Dutch oven. Dutch ovens are quite forgiving when it comes to baking. Just remember that much more heat is needed from above than below. Most store mixes or home recipes are for a certain pan size. It could be 8X8 or 10X10. In most cases, a standard 10” Dutch oven works well for corn bread.

Get your coals ready or use a chimney starter to fire up some charcoal briquettes. Grease or oil the inside of your oven. When starting with a dough or batter, it is easy to apply too much heat to the underside of the oven. Place the coals in a circle just under the edges of your oven. Pour in the cornbread batter. Place the lid, and put about 15 coals on top.

Cornbread in a Dutch oven is much like a pancake on a griddle. You will see changes that alert you to how done the batter is. After 10 minutes, lift the entire oven and turn 90 degrees. Lift the lid and quickly asses the cooking process. Are the edges pulling away from the pan? If the edges are not too brown, that is a good sign. If the edges are getting brown, but the middle is not set at all, pull back the bottom coals a bit. Turn the lid 90 degrees from its original position and replace. Unlike many recipes, check often from that point on. Cornbread should only take 15-25 minutes from the time it is placed in the oven.

Clean Up

When the Dutch oven is empty, place back over the heat. Once heated, pour in a small amount of water. This is basically a deglazing process, and should loosen any remaining food particles. Dump out the hot water, scrub with a brass pad if necessary and rinse. Reapply a coating of oil to all surfaces. If a bit of maintenance is needed, place back on the heat to allow the oil to heat and re-season.

Never leave moisture in the Dutch oven when storing. It should be clean and oiled. A piece of crumpled newspaper will help insure moisture has a place to go. With proper care, a Dutch oven will give you, and possibly another generation, a lifetime of cooking memories.

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