Category Archives: Homesteading and Gardening

The Dos and Don’ts of Grey Water

Recycling water is just as possible as recycling plastic bottles. You might not realize that some of the water you use on a regular basis is considered grey water. There are ways you can safely reuse grey water, especially in a survival scenario or once an SHTF situation calms down.

You might not even be in an SHTF scenario to want to consider using grey water. Our climate is continually changing. California faced a major drought not too long ago, and it was crucial for citizens to be conservative with their water. We have no idea where or when the next drought might hit.

Water is essential for life. Without a doubt, it is the most fundamental and valuable natural resource available to all living things, humans included. However, fresh water isn’t an infinite resource. For example, a huge portion of the Earth is covered in salt water, which is unsafe for us to consume for hydration. Only a portion of the water throughout the world is potable. In fact, only 2% of the water supply is fresh water!

What is Grey Water?

Before we get too far, it is essential that you understand what qualifies as grey water. Grey water refers to wasted fresh water that comes out of the drains. It is the water that goes down your sink after you wash your hands or take a bath. It is the water that drains out after you wash your clothes.

You must differentiate grey water and black water. Black water is what you flush down the toilet each day. It doesn’t qualify as grey water and is not safe for you to recycle. Blackwater requires major treatment and a sanitization process, typically done at large facilities. Blackwater is water that is contaminated by feces and other bodily wastes.

We must remember that not all grey water is equal. You have to consider what is in the grey water to decide how it can or cannot be reused. For example, dishwasher will contain organic matter, chemicals, and, potentially, pathogens. On the other hand, washing your hands doesn’t introduce as many pathogens. Grey water with potential pathogens should not be used for irrigation purposes.

Collecting Grey Water

In most homes, the plumbing system is not able to tell the difference between black and grey water. It is all mixed as it leaves the house for our septic or sewer systems. The biggest problem when you want to use grey water is figuring out how to collect it effectively.

An ideal situation would be to create an empty tank to collect grey water. However, that would require you to change the plumbing in your home drastically, and it could be against the codes. There are things you can do yourself or with someone who has some plumbing knowledge.

The most common choice is to follow the water pipes that drain with a gravity feed. These are the pipes that come from your kitchen and bathroom sink, bathtub and washing machine. You want to follow the pipes down to an exterior wall. With some help and elbow grease, you can attach an additional pipe that leads to your garden or a holding tank.

There are also lots of simple tips for grey water collection. Remember, using grey water is supposed to save you money, so don’t think you need an expensive setup. Here are some easy tips!

  • Put a bucket in the shower to easily collect warm-up water.
  • If you have any unused drinking water, store it! Don’t dump half-full bottles of water. You can put them in your fridge, use to water plants or store in a filtering pitcher.
  • Wash your dishes in a dishpan instead of in your sink.
  • If you wash your fruits and veggies, do so in a bowl of water rather than under running water.
  • Save water from dehumidifiers.
  • Scoop out bath water with a bucket.
  • Use a bucket to capture the rinse water from washing machines.

The Important “DOS” of Grey Water

  • Do check your local rules and regulations for grey water Believe it or not, some locations prohibit some or all collection of grey water. For example, many areas do not allow you to collect grey water from the kitchen sink.
  • Do limit your contact with grey water, especially with your bare hands. You might introduce a bacteria that was not very otherwise.
  • Do understand what each type of grey water can be used for and what it may contain.
    • Laundry water may contain soaps or fecal matter from clothing. However, this grey water is suitable for irrigation purposes.
    • Kitchen water contains dish soap, traces of pesticides and food scraps. You should not use kitchen sink grey water for irrigation, but you could use it to flush toilets.
    • Bath water might contain soap and shampoo, as well as fecal matter and urine. You can use it for irrigation purposes.
    • Hand sink water contains soap, toothpaste, and residues from cleaning products. Using it for irrigation purposes is possible.
  • Do try to use a recycling system based on water flow rather than a pooling Pooling water increases the chances that bacteria could grow inside. While there are no reported deaths or illnesses caused by grey water, we must be careful to keep our family healthy. An example of pooling water would be a bucket of water sitting on your countertop with dishwater. A system based on water flow would have a pipe flowing into the container for new water, as well as a pipe leading to either a tap or an irrigation system. The water is moving in and out with regularity.
  • Do use natural, biodegradable soaps, shampoos, detergents and other products. Doing so increases the quality of your grey water.
  • Do catch warm-up water, meaning the water that goes down the drain as you wait for the water to reach the temperature you desire. You might be surprised how much water you waste in your shower and sink. Warm-up water is clean and presents virtually no health hazards!
  • Do find ways to use grey water every You can use it to flush the toilet, water houseplants, along with outdoor plants!
  • Do rotate the area you water, either with a grey water hose or irrigation, to reduce the possibility of toxin build-ups.
  • Do make sure that you monitor your soil regularly to ensure the grey water is not causing an issue. You should check the pH level, smell, and signs of life such as earthworms.
  • Do use a watering system that distributes the water below the soil surface. While it does involve more upfront work for you, creating a grey water irrigation system comes with the natural benefit of the soil filtering out toxins.
  • Do use a nylon stocking or a sock at the end of the hose to filter out any lint and hair.
  • Do remember that a filter is necessary if you install a drip irrigation system. You will want to install a fine mesh filter on the pipe that connects the grey water collection system. Filtration is necessary to stop lint and other particles from entering.

Crucial “DON’TS” of Grey Water

  • Don’t drink grey water. It should not be used for human consumption!
  • Don’t allow your children or pets to play in the grey
  • Don’t use on edible plants such as your vegetable garden or fruit trees. While some people may do so, it could potentially introduce contamination. If you want to use it on edible plants, you need first to divert the water through a filtration system. The purpose is to remove all waste matter before using it on food crops.
  • Don’t store grey water for long periods of time. It is ideal to reuse before a 24-hour window to reduce the buildup of pathogens and bacteria.
  • Don’t use bleaches and disinfectants that will flow into your grey water collection system.
  • Don’t think you need a complicated system with pumps and expensive filters to collect your grey water. Try the tips listed above. There is no reason that you need a degree to make this happen.
  • Don’t collect grey water if your ground freezes several inches deep during cold winters. It is best to avoid collecting and irrigating during the cooler temperatures. It is best to divert the grey water to your septic tank or sewer system during the winter.
  • Don’t try to store winter grey water for the springtime uses! You can create a colony of pathogens.
  • Don’t collect grey water if someone in your home has an infectious disease. You need to avoid that grey water until your family member is healthy. Why should we take this step? We don’t want to re-introduce bacteria or viruses to our family and risk our health.
  • Don’t use grey water in the same area as food or water sources of your livestock. It may seem like a wise idea, but remember we need to reduce any contaminations.
  • Don’t use grey water on acid-loving plants. Plants to avoid, aside from edible ones, are azaleas, begonias, gardenias, hibiscus, camellias, and ferns.

Whether you are trying to save money or need to preserve water for a drought, it is important for you to understand the dos and don’ts of grey water. Grey water collection can be easy or complicated, depending on the system you pick. Most importantly, you must remember that grey water is not for human consumption and to avoid storing the water for longer than 24 hours. Stick to the tips!

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7 Ways to Keep Your Soil Fertile

The fertility of your land doesn’t remain constant, especially if you deplete the soil by growing vegetables and fruit. Just like anything else, your land must be nourished and properly cared for to continue growing food to supply your family.

Keeping your land fertile first requires that you used that makes a good soil. Organic gardening and farming require at least a basic understanding of the complex nature of the soil. There is so much hidden inside of simple dirt. Of course, you can also pump non-organic fillers and vitamins into your soil to give it boosts. However, that is not a sustainable method.

When we are thinking about surviving for years to come, we have to remember that stores may not be available for us to purchase fertilizers. Luckily, organic methods have worked for centuries to keep the land fertile. The soil is truly a complex system of food that lives inside of your garden beds. Soil is alive. There are earthworms, bacteria, fungi, mites, and microscopic organisms. These organisms release vital mineral nutrients into the soil.

There are many ways to keep your land fertile throughout the years. Most of these methods can and should be used together for maximum results.

7 Ways to Keep Your Land Fertile

Use Your Compost

Every gardener and survivalist should have a working compost. The process is easy. You need an area where you can keep brown and green materials as they break down into compost. Most things can be placed into your compost, except dairy products, cat and dog feces, and meat products. If you garden and have a yard, you will have items to compost. Some ideas are:

  • Eggshells
  • Vegetable and fruit scraps
  • Twigs and branches
  • Dead Weeds
  • Herb clippings
  • Grass clippings
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Dried leaves
  • Coffee grounds and tea leaves

Chances are you have a plethora of things to compost. Why does composting benefit the fertility of your land? As these items break down into compost, you create a nutrient-dense soil that will benefit your plants. Compost helps to increase the soil structure by adding inorganic particles with decayed, organic particles. Proper soil structure allows air to circulate and water to move freely.

Use Mulch

If you have a vegetable garden, using organic mulch is vital for its health. I don’t mean that you need to go out and buy bags of wood chips from the store. Remember that is not a sustainable practice. There are plenty of choices.

Organic mulches offer your soil benefits that other choices do not. While they all stop the growth and germinate of weeds, mulch will help to retain the moisture of your soil for longer, which helps during dry spells. Water is essential for fertility and proper growth. Mulch also helps to regulate soil temperature. During hot days, the soil stays cooler; during cooler days, the soil is warmer.

Another benefit is that organic mulch is it will add nutrients to your soil. This benefit is different than if you pick wood chips. Organic mulch will break down over time, allowing nutrients to seep into the soil. You can pick different mulches for each garden bed, depending on the plants there and nutrients required.

What types of organic mulches can you use? A few of my favorite choices are:

  • Grass clippings: A typically free source of nitrogen that decomposes easily.
  • Straw: Offers similar benefits as grass clippings, but it decomposes at a much slower rate.
  • Shredded Leaves: Another free source available to most gardeners that helps to loosen soil and add nutrients.
  • Newspapers: If the company uses organic dyes, the newspaper can help to block out weeds while eventually breaking down completely.

Crop Rotation

One of the oldest practices is crop rotation. Ancient Egyptians began this practice thousands of years ago when they would switch fields each year and plant different crops. It is a practice that we can and should still use today.

Typically, crop rotation is when you have a deep-rooted rap planted in one garden bed or area that year. Then, the next year you would plant a shallow rooted crop instead. Modern farming typically involves a three-field crop rotation.

The reason why crop rotation increases land fertility is that growing the same crop in the same soil every year depletes the soil nutrients. Every plant has their unique nutrient requirement. Plants also leave different nutrients in the soil. Rotating the plants each year helps to replace vital nutrients back into the soil. There are other benefits as well!

  • Slows down the spread of pests and diseases
  • Reduces the need for artificial fertilizers
  • Allows you to grow more food and harvest at different times.
  • Improves the nutrients in soil through green manure
  • Reduces weeds
  • Improves the soil structure
  • Reduces soil erosion

Planting a Cover Crop

Never heard of a cover crop? That’s okay; I didn’t for years! It is one of the least used methods by home gardeners, but the benefits shouldn’t be discounted. Let’s take a look at what cover crops and why you should use them.

A cover crop is any plant that you grow specifically to improve your soil. The practice started in the early 1900s to restore the fertility of the land. You have a variety of choices available. Here are some of the favorites!

  • Legumes: You can grow legumes as food or as a cover crop. The soil gets the most benefits if you don’t harvest the crop. Legumes planted in the fall help to decrease winter soil erosion.
  • Alfalfa: Alfalfa is a perennial plant that is best if sown in the spring or summer. It has aggressive secondary roots.
  • Clovers: There are several choices in the clover cover crop category such as Berseem Clover, Crimson Clover, Red Clover and Dutch White Clover. You will find annuals and perennials! Some are a winter-hardy choice that grows to three feet tall. Other choices are biennials that grow from spring through fall. You have to find the choice that fits your needs.
  • Peas: Here is another edible legume that tends to be cold-hardy. You want a field pea that will grow rapidly in the spring. You plant them in the fall or very early spring.

Cover crops, when used properly, offer a wealth of benefits of gardeners. It will increase the organic matter in your soil, prevent soil erosion, stop the growth of weeds and cycle soil-borne nutrients. There are two other benefits that you should know as well.

  • Rhizodeposition is a special benefit of cover crops. It means that the plant release sugars and other vital substances into the roots of your soil. Some cover crops can go as far as six feet into the ground! Most gardeners never dig that deep! The roots of the cover crops host sugars that encourage the growth of helpful microorganisms.
  • Bio-Drilling is a term that means the cover crops can dig, or “drill,” deep into the compacted Some plants can dig into the tight soil, creating a map or system for the next plant you pick to grow there!

No-Till Farming Method

Something newer on the scene is learning how to farm and garden without the use of tilling. No-till does preserve the topsoil and reduces soil erosion.

Many gardeners till the earth up to a foot deep with a plow or a motorized tiller. Typically, you plant your seedlings in the leftovers of the previous plants, weeds and other things in the soil. Tilling is done because gardeners believe that it loosens up the soil, allowing oxygen and water to flow easily to the roots. However, by turning the soil, farmers are moving the organic-matter to the stop of the soil and also creates soil that will become denser with rain and watering.

One of the negatives of tilling is that it creates soil erosion. Tilling disrupts and breaks up the structure of the soil, allowing soil and particles to blow away or get washed away during heavy rains. At the same time, the essential organic matter in your soil is damaged, including beetles earthworms, bacteria, and fungi. You need those for healthy plants!

On the other hand, no-till agriculture allows gardeners to plant their crops and control pesky weeds without the need for turning the soil. Instead of using disks or a plow, gardeners can use a narrow furrow that allows seeds to be injected into the soil. At the same time, fertilizers are added. The pros of no-tilling include:

  • Conserving water
  • Reducing erosion
  • Less labor to grow crops
  • Fewer fossil fuels used

Of course, one of the negatives includes more weeds. However, there are organic ways to get rid of weeds. If you want to continue to create fertile land, put away that tiller!

Make Soil Amendments

There are times when your soil needs amendments. Amendments are anything that you add to the soil to help its properties and how it holds water. There are several types of soils such as clay, sandy and silt.

If you have clay soil, some amendment choices are:

  • Peat Moss: aerates the soil
  • Lime: Increase the pH and loosens soil
  • Sand: Improves drainage

If you have sandy soil, some amendment choices are:

  • Clay Soil: Improves water retention
  • Compost: Acts as a conditioner
  • Peat Moss: Helps retain water

If you have silt soil, amendment choices are:

  • Course Sand: Improves drainage
  • Manure: Acts as a conditioner

Soil structure is essential for fertility and plant growth. If you find that your soil isn’t what you hoped, it is easy to make amendments to improve drainage, water retention and more. In the long run, amendments increase the growth of your land and plants.

Using Natural Fertilizers as Needed

Sometimes, you might find that your soil still needs some fertilizers. There are plenty of natural (and free) fertilizers you can select. There is no reason to use anything purchased from the store for your garden fertility. Many items you have in your house right now can be used to increase the fertility of the land.

Here are some of my favorites to add to my garden:

  • Banana Peels: If your soil needs a potassium boost, banana peels are the perfect addition. You can add some peels in the hole before planting. You can also create a liquid banana fertilizer by soaking the peels in water for a few days and spraying your plants.
  • Coffee Grounds: Does your soil need a boost of acid? Some plants, like tomatoes and roses, love acid. All you need to do is add some on the soil around your plant. Water will help the nutrient soak into the soil.
  • Eggshells: There is no better way to add calcium to your garden than with eggshells. Dry them out and add them into the holes before planting tomatoes and zucchini. Calcium helps to prevent blossom end rot. I suggest eggshells in your homemade potting soil mix!
  • Grass Clippings: Grass is rich in nitrogen and breaks down easily over time. You can fill a bucket with grass clippings and water, allowing it to soak for a few days. Then, spray your plants with the mixture! You can also apply grass clippings around the base of your plants as a mulch.
  • Manure: Everyone knows that manure is good for your soil. If you own chickens, horses, cows, or rabbits, you are in luck. It is best to always compost and age the manure first. You should never use fresh manure around your plants. It is extremely high in nitrogen and ammonia, which can burn your plants. Once composted or left to rot for six months, you can add manure directly to the soil. Manure can also be mixed with compost to improve soil texture and add more nutrients.

Keeping and improving the fertility of your land offers benefits for years. If you want your children to be able to grow successfully on your land, all you need to do is make some different choices. Land fertility doesn’t require specialty bought products or spending thousands of dollars. Remember to rotate your crops, avoid tilling and apply compost and other natural fertilizers. Your land will thank you!

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How to Dehydrate Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

When it comes to dehydration, there are few better options when it comes to preserving in-season produce. Dehydrated foods, if properly stored, last for months. If dehydrated food is stored properly, some homesteaders even claim that dehydrated food can last up to a year!  Unlike canned and frozen foods, the equipment for which takes up quite a bit of space, dehydrated foods can be stacked and stored easily.

Little equipment is required to successfully dehydrate your foods, and even beginners can learn to do it with very few start-up resources. It is a great option for a prepper or homesteader looking to maximize storage space and build enough of a food store to last throughout a long winter season.

Drying food using a dehydrator removes enough moisture from foods so that bacteria, yeast, and mold cannot grow. It should be noted that fruits, vegetables, and herbs (in otherwise, anything plant based) are the only products that should be dehydrated according to these methods. Meats can also be dehydrated, but require additional time and know-how, as well as the addition of several ingredients.

There are five methods that you can use when dehydrating your produce: through the use of a dehydrator, in an oven, in the sun, in the microwave, or in fresh air. Essentially, any of these methods will work so long as you have low humidity and a source of low heat (around 130 degrees Fahrenheit). You also need ample air circulation to help remove moisture from the food.

The steps for each process are outlined below. Fruits, vegetables, and herbs can essentially be dehydrated in exactly the same way. It should be noted that, due to the low acidity of most vegetables, these should never be dehydrated using the sun or air methods. Using a dehydrator is best for most types of vegetables as their low acidity can affect food safety.

Ingredients Needed

  • Fresh fruit, vegetables or herbs—use the best quality produce for the best results and avoid overripe or bruised products
  • Knife
  • Air-tight containers or freezer bags
  • Cutting board
  • Spices (optional)
  • Sugar (optional)
  • Salt (optional)

You will also need one of the following: a hot, dry location within your home, an oven, a microwave, or a dehydration machine.

How to Dry Fruits and Vegetables: The First Two Steps

Although the methods and instructions will vary slightly for foods depending on how you choose to dehydrate them, the first two steps must be followed for any type. They are as follows:

  1. Peel your fruits and vegetables (optional). Generally, skin will become tough during the dehydration process, so removing it helps the overall flavor of your food. Sliced, peeled pieces will dry more quickly than those than haven’t been peeled as well, because skin reduces surface area and does not allow moisture to escape.
  2. Pretreat your foods. Some foods dry better when pretreated, as this process reduces oxidation. Many foods achieve a better color and nutrient content when pretreated. This also increased shelf life. Additionally, any fruit that has been left unpeeled or uncovered must be treated to destroy bacteria or insect larvae.
    1. To pretreat fruits, place them in a solution of a half teaspoon of citric acid with two cups of water (or equal parts lemon juice and water). Leave them in there for ten minutes before beginning the dehydration process.
    2. To pretreat vegetables, blanch three to five minutes in boiling water. Blanching is a good idea for vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, and corn. Onions, garlic, and herbs do not need to be blanched.
    3. To pretreat fruits and vegetables for which you leave the skin intact (such as blueberries or cranberries), prepare boiling water. Dip each piece in boiling water to crack the skins. Do not leave the fruit submerged or you will cook it. Chill and then dehydrate.

dehydrated fruit in mason jars

How to Dehydrate Fruit, Veggies, and Herbs: The Dehydrator Method 

A dehydrator typically creates the best quality product compared to other methods of drying. Although most machines are inexpensive, their purchase can be a barrier for many beginning homesteaders. Therefore, other options are available that maximize the resources you already have.

Dehydrators consist of an electric element that produces heat, along with a fan and vent to circulate air. These machines dry food quickly, uniformly, and safely. Because they consist of several racks stacked on top of each other and are entirely enclosed, you don’t have to worry about pests nibbling on your fruits and veggies before they’re done drying.

Instructions:

  1. Follow The First Two Steps (peeling and pretreating).
  2. Slice fruits and vegetables thinly.
  3. Place pieces on drying racks of the dehydrator, without allowing them to overlap or touch.
  4. Return trays to the dehydrator.
  5. Dehydrate at a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit for anywhere between five to thirty hours. The length of dehydration will depend largely on the type of food you are drying. Use judgment and follow the guidelines below to ensure the food is entirely dry.

Test your food periodically to see if it has cured properly. Dehydration is complete when fruit is pliable and no beads of moisture appear. Perfectly dehydrated vegetables will be brittle and crunchy. Do not move or pack food until it is completely dry.

Dried food can be packed into an airtight container for several days, then stored in a dark location. Make sure food is packed tightly–this will allow any remaining moisture to distribute evenly.

 

The Air Drying Method

Air drying works well for low-maintenance produce such as herbs, hot peppers, and even mushrooms. Air drying can be difficult because it requires a hot, airy location that is often not available in most households. However, it is a free process and requires no extra equipment.

Air drying differs slightly from sun drying, as it must take place indoors. This can be done regardless of where you live, but you must still moderate the conditions. Air-drying can take place in a ventilated attic, spare room, or screened-in area such as a greenhouse.

Instructions:

  1. Follow The First Two Steps (peeling and preparing).
  2. Bind fruits and vegetables in a tight bundle (using a stem) or place them evenly next to each other. It’s okay if they touch.
  3. Place or hang your foods in an area with good ventilation and high heat. For example, you can place individual pieces on a milk crate or mesh window screen, or hang in a sunny window.
  4. Allow the pieces to dry for two to six days.

Follow the same steps as you would with a dehydration machine to ensure that your food is fully dehydrated. About 20% moisture will remain in air-dried fruits and vegetables, so you may want to consume it more quickly than you would food dehydrated with a machine.

raisins

photo: air dried fruit

 

Dehydrating Fruit, Veggies, and Herbs: Sun Drying Method 

Sun-drying is a method that requires consistent exposure to direct sunlight during the day. This one is tricky to do unless you live in a hot, arid climate, such as in the American Southwest. Most locales will not receive a low enough relative humidity to sun-dry fruits and vegetables.

This option only takes about three to four days, but if humidity is high, the food will mold before it gets a chance to dry. This makes it a futile effort for many. However, many popular foods (such as raisins) are typically sun-dried.

tomatoes

photo: sun dried tomatoes

Instructions:

  1. Follow The First Two Steps (peeling and preparing).
  2. Bind fruits and vegetables in a tight bundle (using a stem) or place them evenly next to each other in an outside location.
  3. Spread foods out on paper-lined trays covered with cheesecloth.
  4. Turn food every day.
  5. Allow the pieces to dry for two to four days.

Follow the same steps as you would with a dehydration machine to ensure full dehydration. It’s important that you turn the pieces every day so that they receive equal sun and heat exposure, as well as aeration. Make sure your pieces are covered. Since this process is conducted outside, your food is more likely to be nibbled by pests.

 

 

How to Dehydrate Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs: the Microwave Drying Method

Microwave drying works best for small quantities of foods. Typically, only herbs and leaf vegetables can be microwaved-dried. Others will generally wilt or cook through entirely before they are dehydrated. Food that has been microwave-dried generally just tastes overcooked instead of dehydrated, and the jury is still out when it comes to the safety and long-term preservation of food using a microwave.

Instructions:

  1. Follow The First Two Steps (peeling and preparing).
  2. Place no more than five small pieces of food between two paper towels.
  3. Microwave for two to three minutes.
  4. After three minutes, remove the plants and allow them to cool.
  5. If they are dry and brittle, they are done. If not, continue to microwave for intervals of thirty seconds each until they are finished.

Follow the same steps as you would with a dehydration machine to pack and store your food.

 

The Oven Drying Method

Using an oven is another option. Most households have an oven, so this is a highly convenient and inexpensive option. However, it takes three times longer to dry food in an oven than in a dehydrator, as it is not as efficient. Ovens also do not have built-in fans, so it’s necessary to add your own for necessary air circulation. You must also have an oven that can be set as low as 140 degrees to avoid cooking your food instead of drying it.

Instructions:

  1. Follow The First Two Steps (peeling and preparing).
  2. Place your foods on a clean cookie sheet or wire rack. Do not allow the items to touch or overlap each other.
  3. Heat your oven to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow your food to dehydrate for several hours.
  4. While dehydrating, leave the oven door propped open about two to three inches. Additionally, place a large fan near the outside of the oven to ensure that food receives proper air circulation.
  5. It is also advisable to monitor the drying temperature by using a thermometer, especially if your oven is finicky or sensitive to operating at low temperatures. You want to make sure you aren’t overcooking your food.
  6. Food will be dehydrated after about six hours if using a wire rack, or eight hours if using a cookie sheet (due to the difference in ventilation).

Follow the same steps as you would with a dehydration machine to determine if your food is fully dehydrated, and to store.

Wrap-Up

Drying your fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs is a process that allows you to enjoy the bounty of your garden throughout the year. Even if you have limited start-up funds or time, dehydration is an enjoyable hobby that will allow you to store and stockpile food to your heart’s content.

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How to Heat Your House with Wood

No matter if you want to save on bills to use that money to prep or if you are working on your retreat, you will need to heat your home with wood. Within this, you will learn how to do that, along with learning what common mistakes to avoid.

Where you live will change the level of access you have to trees. Some preppers who have purchased property that has a lot of wooded areas so as to retrieve firewood, while there are others that will need to store wood. You may find that you will have to purchase firewood if you don’t have access to any wooded areas. Otherwise, you can be arrested for trespassing. After storms pass through certain towns or communities will have some people who will pay for you to come clear off the fallen branches or trees. This is a great opportunity to earn a little extra cash and get free firewood for your home.

How to Start a Fire in Your Wood Stove

It may seem like a small task; however, starting a fire the proper way needs practice. Here are the steps that you should follow:

  1. Ensure that the draft in the chimney is going upwards. If you feel air coming downward, follow step 4.
  2. Prepare your kindling. There are different ways to do this. Here is the best way you can use. Put the fire starters, crumpled paper, or fatwood on the bottom of the stove. Put the kindling on the paper, which is tinder. The drier the kindling and the smaller, the easier it will be to start your fire. You will need to cross the kindling in a crisscross pattern so that there is airflow in between the pieces.
  3. Put more wood on the top of your kindling. You will build from small to large when putting the wood in your stove. The stove should be a bit over two-thirds full. If it is a fireplace that is open, then you will have one to two layers of the wood on the top of your kindling.
  4. If you are sure that the stove had the upward airflow, then light your fire. If you believe that the chimney has since reversed, then you can put a small balled up piece of paper in there and set it on fire. Watch for the smoke to go up the chimney. If the smoke goes up, light your kindling quickly.
  5. Stand away from your burning kindling for a minute and ensure that the fire is getting bigger. If you have a closed stove, keep your draft under control, and your damper opens complete at first. You may even need to keep the door cracked open a little bit to offer air.
  6. The fire should spread pretty fast over the wood. Do not close the air control or your damper as soon as the fire starts. Allow the stove to warm a little bit and establish a bed of coals first.
  7. You can keep your fire going by adding one up to three pieces of wood at a time before the fire is too low.

Other Types of Heating Systems

There are other ways to heat your home or bug out location if you do not want to use a wood-burning stove.

Gasification Boiler: This type of boiler is one that uses wood gasification to heat the home. It happens when your timber or your charcoal is converted into gas. Once the charcoal or wood has been burned, it pushes out the heat to your home. It is extremely energy efficient, and it offers very little ash.

You need to install duct work to pipe it throughout your house.

Fireplace: If you do not want to have a wood stove, then having a fireplace would be another good choice.  A fireplace with a blower to force the warm air out is an added feature that will help warm a greater area. Make sure to open all the doors to the rooms in your house to allow the warm air to enter.

Using a fireplace heat exchanger will decrease the amount of wood you need to use while heating your home. This can be connected to your solar power system so the fan runs off the stored energy in your batteries.

How Much and Types of Woods

If you are really not sure of how to measure your wood storage, we are going to go over it. How often have you heard this term a “cord of wood”? Cord is a measurement used to define a certain amount of wood. Another measurement is a fireplace cord. It is typically one-third of the cord. The measurement of one piece of fireplace wood is normally about 16 inches long. It can measure from 12 up to 24 inches at times. A cord measures to be 4X4 when the wood is stacked. It is best to ensure that you have ten cords. One cord of firewood will provide the same amount of heat as about 200 to 250 gallons of oil. But it depends on the type of wood you are burning.

Here is a list of wood, along with how long it will last when burning. Included is also a rating from 1 (being the worst) up to 5 (being the best).

  • Alder: 1 – This wood will produce very poor heat, and it doesn’t last very long.
  • Apple: 4 – This is a great wood, and it will burn slowly when it is dry. It will produce small flames, and it doesn’t give off any spitting or sparking.
  • Ash: 5 – This is deemed one of the best burning woods by many preppers. It offers a steady burn and has great heat output. It can be burned when it is green, but it is best when it is dry.
  • Beech: 5 – This burns great, but it will not burn when it is green.
  • Birch: 4 – It will offer good heat, but it will burn pretty fast. It can be burned when it is green. The sap does cause some deposits in the flue if you use this wood too much.
  • Cedar: 4 – It is a good burning wood. It offers a consistent heat. It has a long burning time. However, it will spit and crackle. It will cause some deposits.
  • Cherry: 4 – It will offer great heat and burns slow. It will need to be seasoned very well.
  • Chestnut: 1 – This offers very small flames and does not offer much heat.
  • Firs: 2 – This type of wood offers small flames and will only give a small amount of heat. The sap inside will cause deposits.
  • Elm: 3 – This wood will burn in different patterns due to the moisture content. It will need to be tried for at least two years before burning for it to burn well. The logs should be split very early in time before it is stored. When thinking a long-term supply for your BOL, this can be a good wood to have.
  • Eucalyptus: 2 – This wood burns pretty fast. The sap will make deposits and will increase the risks of a fire in the chimney.
  • Hawthorn: 5 – This is wood deemed a traditional type of firewood. It has a great heat output.
  • Hazel: 4 – This is another traditional type of wood for fires in stoves. It will offer a good amount of heat.
  • Holly: 1 – This wood burns very fast, but offers a good flame. The heat the wood gives off is not ideal for heating a BOL.
  • Hornbeam: 4 – This is very similar to the beech. It will burn slow and offers a decent amount of heat.
  • Horse Chestnut: 5 – This is a great wood to burn in stoves; however, it is not a good one for the open type of fires. It does tend to spit. It does offer a great flame and amazing heat output.
  • Laburnum: 1 – Do not use this wood. This is the worst wood to use. It is extremely smoky and does not burn well at all.
  • Larch: 3 – This wood offers a decent amount of heat; however, it will need to be very well seasoned before burning it. The sap from this wood will cause deposits.
  • Laurel: 3 – This wood will burn decent, but only has a small amount of heat output.
  • Lilac: 4 – This is a wood that should be used as kindling. It does offer a good flame.
  • Maple: 4 – This wood is ideal for flame, as well as heat.
  • Oak: 4 – Due to the density of this wood, it offers a small flame and burns slowly. It is better to season this wood for at least two years.
  • Pear: 4 – This has great heat. It does need extra seasoning time to ensure that it is ready to burn.
  • Pine: 4 – You will need to use caution when burning this type of wood. You will have an increased risk of having a chimney fire. It is used mainly for starting the fire and not used much afterward due to the high heat it puts out.
  • Plum: 4 – This is a great wood for stoves. It offers heat and a long burn time.
  • Poplar: 1 – This wood is extremely smoky.
  • Rowan: 5 – This is a great wood. It will burn slow and offer the perfect amount of heat.
  • Robinia (Acacia): 4 – This wood is perfect for stoves. It will offer a long burn time due to burning slowly. It also offers decent heat.
  • Spruce: 2 – This is not recommended to burn. It does not last and burns quickly.
  • Sycamore: 3 – It offers a decent flame; however, it will only offer a moderate amount of heat. It should only be used when it is extremely dry.
  • Sweet Chestnut: 3 – This wood should only be burned using a stove. It spits a lot.
  • Thorn: 5 – This wood is one of the best. It offers a consistent heat and will produce little amounts of smoke.
  • Willow: 1 – Do not use this wood. It will not even produce enough heat even after being seasoned well.
  • Yew: 5 – This wood offers a very slow burn and will give you great heat.

Common Mistakes

Common mistakes are made that even the most seasoned prepper makes when it comes to heating their homes using wood. In this section, we will cover them to ensure that you do not make the same mistakes.

CO Intoxications

Don’t forget to get a CO sensor so you and your family will be safe. When you do not have a fresh supply of air and you are burning fossil fuels CO is created. CO is very dangerous. This gas will bind to the hemoglobin faster than oxygen will, so when you or your family inhaling CO you are starving the vital organs of your body causing them to stop working properly and could result in death.

If you are experiencing really terrible headaches, check you CO levels. Many people become unconscious if the levels of CO are to high and can die in just a few minutes.

Look for the signs of carbon monoxide emission; Black Soot Marks on the walls around the boilers, stoves, fireplaces or smoke that is accumulating in certain rooms that have faulty flues. Make sure your home is equipped with an audible style carbon monoxide alarm and well as your fire alarm to keep you and your family safe.

Not Cleaning or Inspecting the Stove

Prior to burning in the stove, you will need to make sure that the stove and the chimney are actually clean and ready for the wood-burning season. Part of the inspection should be the firebrick lining. You’ll need to make sure that it is in good repair and does not need to be replaced. The brick will reflect the heat. This will keep the body of your stove from becoming overheated.

You will also need to ensure that the chimney is completely clean. You can do it yourself or if you want to, you can hire a professional. Depending on your location, you may want to do it yourself. You do not want to alert others that are not ready if TSHTF to where your retreat is located. This will also keep any chimney fires at bay, and it will aid in the fire burning more efficiently.

If any of the piping leads to the chimney has a sharp turn, you will need to give this part of the piping some attention. When you clean the piping, make sure that you spend extra time on this spot to ensure that it is cleaned properly.

Once you have done the previously mentioned maintenance, then you will need to check the seal on the stove’s door. The seal should be tight to keep any smoke from getting into the home. At times, the seal will need to be replaced. It is a good idea to purchase many seals as back ups in case they are needed once you are using your retreat for the purpose that it is intended.

Not Enough Wood

Running out of wood is definitely a bad misfortune, especially when it is in the middle of winter. It is always better to have way too much than not enough in other circumstances as well, like TEOTWAWKI. Some aspects should be factored into how much wood you will need.

  • Will your family be home the entire day?
  • How big is the retreat or home?
  • How well does the stove work?
  • Is there much insulation in the walls?
  • What kind of wood are you burning in the stove?
  • How hot would you like to have the fires?
  • How many days of the years are you going to be burning fires?

Using a home without proper insulation one of the biggest examples that can be given. It is best to have ten cords of wood by the beginning of winter. This will vary depending on how often you burn the wood. If you believe you will be burning more than just a few months out of the year, then you should aim much higher when collecting the wood. Keep in mind the more wood, the better.

Storing the Wood Improperly

This is a mistake that a lot of new stove owners end up doing. They do not store their wood properly. Once the wood is cut down to size, you will need to split it, and then you will stack it. You will need to ensure that the wood is stored in a dry place. Rain and snow should not touch your wood, as wet wood is never a good thing when trying to heat your retreat. It is best to stack your wood on a pallet. This will allow some airflow to keep your wood dry from moisture. You will also need to keep tarps over it to keep the rain and snow from it.

Not Having Backups

Think about if your wood was taken. What would happen? How would you keep your friends and family warm if TSHTF? Or what if you didn’t have enough wood? You need a backup plan to keep warm. It is a good idea to have old pairs of jeans on hand just in case of an emergency. Here is a list that you can have in reserve just in case your wood supplies is compromised.

  • Old Clothes: As you go through life, your kids and you will out grow or even wear out pairs of jeans and other items of clothing. Keep these. You can roll them into logs and tie them with string to burn them for heat. Keep in mind that if you want them to burn longer, you must roll them tighter. If you would like to get a good collection of them going, hit yard sales, resale shops, and other places that offer old clothes for a small price.
  • Green Wood: If you can get some green wood, you can cut it and burn it. You need to remember that the green wood and bushes will burn much differently than the firewood. It is much harder to get burning as it still contains water. You will need to use a torch and not just a small kindling or a lighter. You also need to know that green wood will put more creosote into the chimney. You need to make sure you are cleaning the chimney often to ensure that you do not have a block in it.
  • Emergency Marked Trees: More than likely your bug out location is in or near a wooded area. Walk this area to pinpoint a few dead trees. These trees need to remain standing so that no one can just freely take them. If you need to have an emergency stash of wood, you will cut down these “marked” trees.
  • Wood Scraps and Furniture: If you have any old or unusable furniture or wood scraping lying around, store it. Both items can be burned in place of traditional firewood.

When it comes to things that burn, just know that you must protect your friends and family from the elements, not just the outside world.

Clutter Around the Stove or Fireplace

Another extremely important safety issue to consider is the space around your wood-burning source. Whether it is a wood stove, fireplace, or Gasification Boiler the area surrounding it should always be keep clean and tidy. Do not allow anything within 3-4 feet of the fire especially anything flamable.

This is imperative to keep the area sweep and free of dust and dirt too. Dust can ignite very easily and float to other areas causing extreme damage.

Screens or Doors

Screens are not just for decoration. They actually have a purpose.  Screens placed on top of the wood stove or fireplace chimney help to keep birds, leaves, and other debris from getting inside your chimney. Fireplace screens block any pieces of glowing embers that might pop out of the fireplace.

The Fireplace screens with doors type will help in case the logs fall forward and start to roll out of the fireplace.

Bonus Tips

In this section, you are given different tips on how to heat, add heat, and other great tips for your retreat or home.

  • Tin Foil: Placing tin foil behind your radiator will keep heat loss down to a minimum. You do not need special foil; an off brand kitchen foil will do the trick.
  • Thick Curtains: Hanging thick curtains over the windows will help protect any heat from escaping.
  • Day Light: Allow the sun to come in through the windows during the daylight hours. The sunlight will heat up the air inside. Shut your curtains during the night.
  • Glaze the Windows: If you have single pane windows, then glazing them will add the double pane effect by keeping the heated air inside.
  • Shut Unused Rooms: If there are rooms that are not used, then you should close those off from the ventilation system. Spreading heat through rooms that are unused will cost you more heat.

Finals Words

Make sure that you know what wood you have before you go to burn it. There are some that should not be used, which are listed above. Ensure that you have kindling stored along with your firewood to make sure that you can start it. Preppers normally keep fire starters in their BOB. Keep in mind there are various ways to build your fire, but using the method described here will offer you a strong start to an even stronger fire.

Remember safety is important too. Stay safe and warm!

The post How to Heat Your House with Wood appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

Uses for Salt Besides Putting It in Your Food

When it comes to sprucing up a bland dinner or adding flavor to homemade pickles, there are few ingredients that can compare with good ol’ fashioned salt. Salt allows food molecules to be released into the air and gives the food a distinct aroma and flavor. It highlights and suppresses the taste of foods, and is a necessary staple for any homesteading chef.

However, did you know that there are multiple uses for salt outside of the kitchen? There are several different types of salt, all of which can serve distinctive purposes.

Table salt is the most common type of salt and is finely ground, containing no trace minerals or impurities. It does not clump and has added iodine, which is necessary to prevent conditions such as hypothyroidism. Sea salt, on the other hand, contains higher quantities of minerals such as zinc, potassium, and iron, making it excellent for cooking and food preservation.

Other types of salt include kosher, Himalayan pink, Celtic sea, flake, and pickling salt. Although there are a vast variety of salts and their uses vary, it’s important to remember that all salt can be given second-life in these multi-purposing tips.

Food Preservation

Increase longevity of foods

Salt acts as a preservative through the process of osmosis. When two chemicals are brought into contact with each other, they reach a situation of equalization. As a result, it can be said that salt helps to dehydrate foods by absorbing or “equalizing” the water contained within the food. This dehydration prevents the food from decomposing,

To preserve your fruits, vegetables, and meat, you must completely cover your food with water and then gradually add salt (until there are salt deposits on the bottom of your container). Store this container—ideally with an airtight seal– in the refrigerator for several days. After this time has elapsed, exchange the old brine for fresh. If you’re dehydrating meat, bake it in the oven at an extremely low temperature.

For short-term preservation, cut fruits and vegetables can also be placed in a salt water solution. The salt helps prevent the pieces from turning brown and losing flavor. This is a great solution if you’re cutting up large quantities of potatoes, apples, or other ingredients for cooking, and need to temporarily prevent them from browning.

Test egg freshness

If you are a homesteader and tend to stockpile large quantities of chicken eggs, this is the tip for you. If you’re not sure how long that carton of eggs has been in your fridge, never fear. Simply place the questionable egg in a cup of water with two teaspoons of salt. If the egg sinks, it’s fresh. If not, it will float (and should definitely be tossed).

For the eggs you plan to keep, there is another use for salt. You can prevent egg shells from breaking during the hard-boiling process by adding a few teaspoons of salt to the boiling water. This will save you time and energy—and also prevent a nasty, stinky mess!

Extend the shelf life of dairy products

As a prepper, it’s important that you maximize the shelf life of all of your supplies—especially hard-to-store dairy products. To preserve cheese, soak a napkin or cloth in saltwater and tightly wrap it around your cheese. This will prolong its shelf life and prevent mold.

You can also add a pinch of salt to a carton of milk. Doing so will allow the milk to stay fresh a week or sometimes more past its expiration date.

Cleaning

Season cast iron

Cast iron pans are fabulous cooking tools for homesteaders, because they add an immense amount of flavor to your food and provide trace quantities of iron. However, since they have the ability to rust when exposed to water, they are difficult to wash.

Salt can save the day! If you have grungy cast iron pan with stubborn remnants of food, simply pour one cup of coarse kosher salt into the warm pan. Scour using a rag (be careful not to burn yourself). Then dump the salt and briefly rinse with hot water. Dry or heat the pan immediately to evaporate the moisture.

Remove odors from wood cutting boards

Been cutting up some stinky salmon on your beautiful wood cutting board? Odors tend to linger for longer periods of time in wood because it can be tougher to sanitize. However, salt can help. Pour an ample amount of salt on your cutting board, then rub with a damp cloth before washing in warm water or with bleach. No more stink!

Eradicate stains and freshen up

Salt is great at removing stains because it is a natural exfoliant. As a result, it can be used to clean hard water stains, dishes, coffee rings, the oven, and even stains from red wine or blood. A salt-water paste applied to a surface is effective at getting out most tough stains.

You can also clean your cleaning supplies with salt. Sponges tend to get gross with multiples uses. Rather than throwing it out and buying more (not a good option for most preppers), soak it in saltwater overnight. When you wring it out the next morning, you’ll think it was a brand new sponge.

Get rid of rust

If your outdoor furniture or fixtures have seen better days, salt can help. Make a paste with six tablespoons of salt and two tablespoons of lemon juice. Ironically, although salt often causes rusting (which you’ll know all about if you live in a northern climate and own a vehicle), this combination can help remove rust stains from most surfaces. Just be sure to rinse thoroughly and dry so that the mixture doesn’t set in and amplify the problem.

Deodorize your clothes

If you live an active lifestyle, as most preppers and homesteaders do, you’ll find that your clothes begin to tell a smelly tale after a period of time. To freshen up your shoes, spray the inside with a salt water solution. This will help eliminate and prevent future odors.

You can also add a few tablespoons of salt to your laundry detergent. Salt is eco-friendlier than most store-bought additives such as OxiClean, and will help keep your clothes fresh and bright while removing any lingering odors.

Wash lettuce

You want your salad to have a crunch—but that crunch shouldn’t be from all the leftover dirt. Lettuce and other leafy greens, such as kale or collards, can be difficult to wash because the irregular shape of their leaves allow dirt to become trapped. If you soak your salad mixture in a water bath with a bit of salt, the salt will help to force away the rest of the dirt.

Safety and First Aid

Stop a grease fire

Grease fires are hard to put out, but are frighteningly common. In fact, cooking fires are the most common cause of house fires in the United States. Don’t rely on a fire extinguisher for small fires—instead, turn to salt.

Salt helps to smother fire as it deprives the flames of oxygen. It won’t make a mess of your grill, barbeque, bonfire, or stovetop, either. It also won’t cause excessive smoke.

Treat Wounds

The main chemical that exists in salt, sodium chloride, acts as a cell dehydrator in most situations. This means that simple cuts and injuries can be treated by applying a saline solution. Because salt forces the liquid in cells to move out of the body, it helps eliminate unwanted bacteria from entering your bloodstream. In essence, this helps to prevent infection and speed up the healing process. Next time you find yourself with a small cut, apply a small amount of salt water (yes, it will hurt!) until the wound is healed.

Disclaimer: The author is not a doctor. Neither the author nor www.SurvivalSullivan.com shall be held responsible for the usage of the information in this article.

Calm inflammation from insect bites and stings

Let’s face it. Insect bites are probably the number one most unpleasant thing about summer months. They itch, make you feel uncomfortable and frankly, make you hate going outside in the first place. Fortunately, salt can help to alleviate some of the discomfort caused by bites or stings from honey bees, wasps, mosquitoes, and other flying critters.

Soak a cloth in saltwater and use it as a compress. This will help to cool your skin and relive the itch. This remedy can also be used for rashes caused by poison ivy, oak, and sumac.

Melt hazardous icy spots

One of the most common—and most old-fashioned—uses for salt is as a de-icer. Salt naturally lowers the freezing point of water and prevents ice from forming on windshields, driveways, and other surfaces. Simply scatter salt wherever you need a surface to be slip-free. Ideally, this should be done before any precipitation, as salting works better as a preventative measure than as a treatment.

You can also de-ice your windshield using salt. To do this, simply soak a sponge in salt water and rub all of your windows down. Let them dry. When your windows get wet during the storm, this will prevent them from freezing.

Medicine

Nasal rinse

If you’re feeling congested or simply want to help prevent a cold, try using a salt nasal rinse. This helps restore moisture and calm down testy mucous membranes inside your sinuses. This is a great home remedy for individuals who suffer from frequent colds or sinus infections.

To make a saline nasal rinse, fill a squeeze bottle with a mixture of salt and water. Tip the bottle into your nose and allow the mixture to drain out of your mouth or through the other side of your nose. This strategy is much cheaper (in essence, free!) and more natural than any medication sold in pharmacies.

Sore throat

Salt doesn’t necessarily prevent or treat the underlying infections or allergies that cause a sore throat, but it does help to draw out mucous. It can help loosen up congestion and limit those nasty sick-time secretions.

Mix a ¼ teaspoon of salt with a cup of water, and then gargle. This will help relieve some of the scratchiness in your throat, as well as pressure and pain.

Gum infections

Salt can also help prevent mucous and inflammation in the mouth that cause oral problems. Gum infections can be treated with a toothpaste made of salt, baking soda, and water. You can also gargle with saltwater to help relieve canker sores and to freshen up your breath after a garlicy meal.

Skin care

As you already know, salt is a great exfoliant. Sea salt scrubs are commonly sold in stores to help remove dead skin cells and refresh tired skin. Salt helps remove odors, rough patches, and calluses from skin. To use, simply mix with water and a few drops of essential oils to create a relaxing, fresh-smelling mix. Salt treatments can help to dry out acne and improve your overall complexion and skin health.

Aches

If your muscles are screaming in agony from all the work you’ve been doing around the homestead, salt can help you take a load off. Fill a bath tub with Epsom salts and hot water, and soak for several minutes a few times a week.

If you don’t have time to lounge in the tub, you can also make a paste of salt and any kind of gel (such as aloe) and apply it directly to your skin for instant relief.

Digestion

Feeling a bit backed up? Before you reach for store-bought cleansers, try sea salt instead. A mixture of salt dissolved in water helps your system effectively push waste through the body. It will release toxins and improve your overall digestion. Pepto who?

Home Improvement/DIY

Make soap

Next time you make homemade soap, consider adding salt. Not only does salt help to slough off dead skin cells and rejuvenate your complexion, it also helps add hardness to a bar of soap. If you find that your homemade soap is finding its way to a goopy mess on the floor than it is to your skin, adding salt could be the way to go.

Fight weeds

If your garden is succumbing to weeds this season, that’s not good news for your wintertime food stores. Attack those cumbersome weeds before they can take control by pouring boiling salt water on them. The hot water will kill the weeds and the salt will prevent their regrowth.

This isn’t a permanent fix, and you must take care not to hit your precious plants, but it is a safe and natural alternative to chemical herbicides. This tip also works well in hard-to-weed areas such as the spaces between patio bricks or blocks. Salt can be dispersed among the bricks to help prevent weeds from popping up and ruining your landscaping.

Prevent ants and other pests

Many species of bugs hate salt. It kills slugs as it dehydrates them and prevents them from completing necessary respiratory processes. Ants, on the other hand, are deterred by salt as they dislike walking on the fine grains.

Sprinkle a line of salt to prevent slugs or ants from entering a specific area, or spray a saltwater mix in a general vicinity. Salt is not toxic to humans or animals, so it’s a safe alternative to Raid and other insecticides on the market.

Scale fish

There’s nothing worse after a productive day on the boat than coming home to a pile full of fish that need to be cleaned. Though this is a necessary byproduct of the enjoyable and sustainable hobby, salt provides a way to speed up the process.

If you soak fish in salt water before you attempt to descale them, you’ll find that the task is much easier. You won’t have to work as hard to peel the scales. Instead, they will fall right off as soon as you touch them.

Pluck chickens

Even if you are lucky enough to own a mechanized chicken plucker machine, pinfeathers remain an unfortunate component of the butchering process. Pinfeathers are the tiny black feather shafts that form on a chicken’s body as the result of new feather growth. They often remain even after the chicken has been plucked and, though not harmful to ingest, give the meat an unsavory appearance.

To remove them quickly, rub the chicken down with salt. The salt dries out the skin and makes it easier to pull out the stubborn pieces.

This list is a mere sample of the countless ways to use salt as a cleaner, preservative, and tool around the house. Start stockpiling salt now! Every time you head to the grocery store, make sure you grab an extra carton. It will never spoil, and will be a valued commodity to you as a prepper or homesteader.

The post Uses for Salt Besides Putting It in Your Food appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

How to Plant Fruit Trees Step by Step

Many homesteaders and preppers want to start their own home orchard as a means of increasing their food self-sufficiency. Fruit trees provide a perennial, low maintenance, and long lasting food source. Plus growing your own fruit can save you a lot of money. You can enjoy fruit fresh or freeze, dehydrate, or can it for the winter months.

While many people picture fruit trees on large farms or orchards it’s still possible to grow your own fruit even if you live on a small farm or homestead. The most common fruit trees to grow in the U.S. include:

  • apples
  • nectarines
  • pears
  • plums
  • sweet cherries
  • sour or pie cherries
  • peaches
  • oranges
  • and lemons.

Choosing Trees

To begin you’ll need to select a fruit tree. Beyond just selecting your favorite fruit there’s a few points to consider. First you need to find a tree suitable to your local climate. If you’re buying from a local nursery you’re all set. However if you plan to order non-local trees you’ll need to know your USDA hardiness zone. This will allow you to narrow down varieties that are heat or cold hardy enough for your specific region. You may also want to take a variety’s water needs into account if you live in a particularly dry area.

If space and funds are limited you may also want to think about how to get the most food from your space on your budget. Certain fruit trees are more prolific, some produce in less time, and others live longer. There’s also dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard fruit trees available to fit your homestead’s specific needs. It is worth noting that the smaller trees tend to produce more quickly but live shorter lives than the larger trees. If you plan to live on your property a long time you may eventually need to replace smaller trees.

Standard size trees can often grow up to 30 feet tall or more so they can also be utilized as shade trees on your landscape. Upon maturity they will offer the largest harvests but they can be more difficult to prune and maintain as well as to harvest from.

Many nurseries, especially those that ship trees, sell their trees bareroot. Bareroot trees are just like they sound. They’ll come with no soil around their roots and this is totally fine! They’re just dormant and will begin growing again once re-planted. You can also expect these trees to come with few branches but your tree will start filling out the first summer so there’s no need to worry.

Selecting Your Site

Once you’ve chosen trees you’ll need to decide where to plant them. Fruit trees prefer full sun so it’s best to find or clear an area that receives as much sunlight as possible. If this is a problem on your property you may want to consider a sour cherry tree. They produce better with some shade than most other varieties.

If you have it available the ideal place for fruit trees is near the top of a north facing slope. Facing the north gives the trees less spring sunlight and warmth which can encourage them to bloom later and avoid damaging spring frosts. The slope shouldn’t be too steep but a slight slope helps with drainage and discourages root problems.

If you have the time you may want to visit your site several times throughout the year before planting to watch for erosion, high winds which could damage tree limbs or even topple young trees, and monitor seasonal sunlight.

You should also examine and test you soil. Fruit trees do best in well drained soils. Very sandy soils may drain too well and and not provide your tree with enough water while heavy clay soils can hold too much moisture causing various root rots. However any soil can be amended and methods will be discussed in the “Soil Preparation” section.

Tree Spacing

After you have an idea about where you’d like to plant you’ll need to consider the space your tree or trees are going to need. Different size and type trees will obviously have different heights as well as root and crown sizes. Consider this carefully if you’re planting anywhere that isn’t completely open.

Many people forget about how the roots can spread and affect things underground like wires and piping. When you purchase your tree it should come with information about its size at maturity but the list below will give you a general idea for several different fruits in dwarf and standard sizes.

Fruit Tree Space Requirements

Apple

Standard: 35’ x 35’

Dwarf: 10’ x 10’

Apricot

Standard: 20’ x 20’

Dwarf: 10’ x 10’

Peach

Standard: 20’ x 20’

Dwarf: 10’ 10’

Pear

Standard: 20’ x 20’

Dwarf: 12’ x 12’

Plum

Standard: 20’ x 20’

Dwarf: 10’ x 10’

Sweet Cherry

Standard: 20’ x 25’

Dwarf: 10’ x 10’

Sour (Pie) Cherry

Standard: 20’ x 20’

Dwarf: 10’ x 10’

You should also take into consideration how you intend to prune your tree which will affect its roots along with height and crown size. For some with limited space espaliering or training and pruning a tree to grow flat up against a fence or building may be a great option. Espalier trees can also gain residual warmth and wind protection from the structure behind them.

Preparation

The best times to plant fruit trees is when they’re dormant during the early spring or fall. If you live in a northern area where the ground freezes fairly early in the fall it’s best to spring plant your trees. This ensures the roots have plenty of time to get established before the ground freezes which can damage or kill young roots.

Once you’ve tested your soil you can amend it if it has any deficiencies. Fruit trees generally prefer soil that is high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium but not too high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and other micronutrients.

It’s best to avoid adding commercial fertilizer as this can add too much nitrogen to the soil. Excessive nitrogen can make the tree grow too fast and potentially have a crown too big for its root system to support and make it more susceptible to certain diseases. For specific advice on your soil test and fruit tree variety contact your local agricultural extension agency.

In place of commercial fertilizers it’s safe to add plenty of compost to your site. Compost not only add nutrients but helps with soil structure so it’s especially important to add if your soil is a sandy or heavy clay soil.

No matter what size tree you’re planting, you should plan on digging a larger hole than needed and filling it back in around the tree with soil and about 50% good quality compost. This helps ensure that the tree has adequate nutrients and drainage and makes it easier for the roots to grow through the soil. If your soil is particularly poor, you may choose to amend the soil in the entire area the roots will reach at maturity. You can estimate this by finding out how wide your tree’s crown is expected to grow.

In this process you should also remove any weeds and any existing perennials from the area as they can compete with vulnerable new transplants.

Planting

You want to plant your tree at the same depth as it was previously growing which should be fairly easy to determine while you’re looking at your tree whether it’s bareroot or not. If you’re planting a bare root tree it’s best to soak it in water for about 8 hours prior to planting it.

After planting, you should thoroughly water your fruit tree. To give it an added boost, you may want to water it with compost or manure tea which will give it easily accessible nutrients.

Depending on wildlife in your area, you may need to place fencing around your tree to prevent herbivores from damaging the young tree. They also sell a tree wrap that expands as the tree grows and will keep small herbivores like mice and rabbits from eating the bark during winter.

Once the tree is planted, you’ll want to cover the exposed soil to block weeds, prevent erosion, and stop moisture loss. You can do this by using mulch such as old straw or leaves or planting a cover crop. If you decide to mulch around your tree do not make the mistake of mounding it up around the trees trunk. This will give rodents a place to hide as they gnaw on your tree. It can also attract insects that may attract the tree. If you go with a cover crop use an annual crop like buckwheat that will winter kill. It won’t compete with your tree and after it dies it will become mulch.

As the mulch or leftover cover crop rots down, it will add more nutrients and structure to the soil around your tree just like leaves on the forest floor do in a natural setting. You should keep this process up at least until your tree is well established.

That’s really all there is to planting a fruit tree! As long as you maintain it with watering and pruning as well as monitor it for disease and pest issues you’re well on your way to having a sustainable and delicious food source right in your backyard.

How to Plant Your New Fruit Tree:

How to Plant a Potted Tree:

How to Plant an Apple Tree:

Plant a Cherry Tree:

While there’s nothing about homesteading or prepping that’s easy, adding fruit trees and other perennials to your property can bring a lot of food with relatively little effort. Following this guide you can choose great trees and provide them with a great start to reap a bountiful harvest. What type of tree are you adding to your homestead?

The post How to Plant Fruit Trees Step by Step appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

Raising Rabbits in an Apartment

As a prepper, the real question you should be asking yourself is why shouldn’t you raise rabbits? They are a great investment for anybody looking to stockpile large quantities of meat, fur, fiber, or fertilizer.

If you live in a small apartment, it can be difficult to raise most livestock due to the noise and smell most species create. Rabbits, however, are incredibly easy to care and clean for. They produce little to no noise and don’t require a great deal of money to begin raising.

However, make sure you do your research first. Although rabbits are incredibly easy and beneficial to raise, you need to make sure you have enough space for them to move, live, eat, and sleep comfortably. Below are some considerations to make when deciding to raise rabbits in your apartment.

Selecting and Purchasing

There are several questions to consider before purchasing your rabbits. First, what is your overall goal? Do you plan on raising the critters for meat, fur, fiber, or just for fun?  Second, do you plan on raising these animals solely inside? What kind of containment system (if any) do you plan to use?

As a general rule, you should always select rabbits that are strong and appear to be in good health. Don’t select rabbits that have odd body formation or buck teeth, as this can indicate poor genetics. Ask to see the records of the parents, if available.

If you plan on raising multiple generations of rabbits—as is recommended—choose breeding stock from does and bucks that have been reproducing for a long time. This longevity indicates good health and genetics and indicates that your generation of rabbits will also reproduce productively.

Do you plan on raising the critters for meat, fur, fiber, or fun?

Because over thirty varieties of rabbits exist, it can be difficult to choose the right variety for your apartment. Rabbits can be categorized as meat, fur, or combination breeds. One of the most popular meat breeds is the New Zealand White. At maturity, this breed can reach up to twelve pounds! Another popular breed is the Flemish Giant, which can weigh up to twenty pounds. Other popular meat breeds include the:

  • Californian
  • Silver Fox
  • Cinnamon
  • Flemish Giant.

If fur is your main goal, the French Angora is highly recommended. It produces massive quantities of fur and reaches maturity rather quickly.

angora rabbit
Photo: angora rabbit

Combination breeds also exist that allow you to breed for both meat and fur. A popular combination breed is the American chinchilla. This breed produces up to nine pounds of delicious meat as well as luscious fur. Other popular breeds are the Palomino, Rex, and Dutch.

Of course, you can also raise a rabbit just for the enjoyment factor (or the fun of it). Rabbits make a great apartment pet for any prepper because they are so quiet and easy to transport. In the event of a disaster, it will be easy to take your pet along with you. They make virtually no noise and don’t require much luggage.

Feed

Rabbits should eat a highly varied, healthy diet. It should be comprised of quality pellets, fresh hay, water, twigs, leaves, and vegetables. They can be fed other materials in moderation as well.

Pellets should contain at least 18% fiber. It spoils relatively quickly (about six weeks later) so it’s important to only purchase small quantities. Pellets, whether made of alfalfa or timothy hay, should be available free-choice to your rabbits at all times.

Rabbits also need hay to prevent blockages and hairballs. About 80% of a rabbit’s diet should be grass or hay.

Vegetable scraps can and also should be fed to your rabbits. Almost any type of vegetable is safe for rabbit consumption, with the exception of beans and rhubarb. They love leafy greens in particular. Other items you can feed your rabbit include:

  • Herbs such as basil, cilantro, dill, mint, and parsley
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli leaves
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrot tops
  • Grass clippings
  • Hay
  • Alfalfa
  • Timothy hay
  • Celery
  • Clover
  • Collard greens and dandelion leaves
  • Berries
  • Bananas
  • Pineapple
  • Apples
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard greens
  • Water cress

rabbits eating a carrot

Baby rabbits will only need mother’s milk (with limited access to alfalfa or pellets) until about seven weeks of age. They should not be fed vegetables until twelve weeks of age, to ensure they are fully matured.

Failing to feed your rabbits the right combination and quantity of foods can cause a few specific health problems. One of these is “sticky bottom,” which is the build-up of excess droppings in the fur around the tail. Another is stasis, in which the material in a rabbit’s gut stops moving about the digestive tract. This can be deadly and should be avoided at all costs.

Did you know rabbits are also prone to dental problems and obesity? If you don’t provide your rabbit with enough roughage, their teeth can grow too long and cause problems such as cuts,  overgrown roots, and abscesses. Being obese can also be detrimental to a developing rabbit, as it puts extra pressure on a rabbit’s body. Make sure your rabbit has constant access to food, but also allow them time out of the cage for activity.

Water

Like food, rabbits should also have constant access to water. They will generally drink around 1 to 3 fluid ounces of water a day. If you raise rabbits outside or feed them high amounts of fresh food, this quantity may be less.

Monitor your rabbits for signs of dehydration or heat exhaustion. In very hot weather, they may require more water. Don’t add vitamins or minerals to your rabbit’s water as this can encourage excessive drinking.

rabbit drinking water
Photo: rabbit drinking water, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

You can provide water to your rabbits in a water bottle or bowl. One six fluid ounce water bottle can provide adequate water for two rabbits for twenty-four hours. Multiple bottles can be added for more or larger rabbits. You can attach these to the side of the cage.

Some rabbits prefer water bowls over water bottles because they provide a more natural way to drink. However, they can be easily knocked over. Place them far enough away from loose bedding or food.

Shelter

In all likelihood, if you’re reading this article, you plan on keeping your rabbit(s) within the confines of your apartment. If this is the case, read on. However, if you are planning on keeping your rabbit outside, keep in mind that this may require some extra work in terms of sheltering your rabbits.

Outdoor rabbits need slightly more insulation and protection from the elements than indoor rabbits. Do not, under any circumstances, allow your rabbit to free-range outdoors, whether on a balcony, veranda, or other area, no matter how contained it might seem. Not only will your bunny be more apt to run off, there is a high likelihood of a stray cat, hawk, or other predatory species coming after him.

Make sure you build a sturdy, large hutch out of weather resistant materials. Building an outdoor hutch may mean that it is less portable and more challenging to move under times of duress. Keep in mind that you will also need to pad the hutch with some sort of additional bedding so that your rabbits have proper insulation during the colder months. They will also need more water during the heat of summer.

What kind of containment system do you plan to use?

If you’re planning on raising rabbits in your apartment, you obviously will still need to create some sort of indoor housing system, but it can be less complex. Although rabbits can be allowed to free range inside of your apartment, you still need some sort of place in which they can rest. Generally speaking, a rabbit needs a minimum of twelve square feet, plus an additional thirty-two square feet for exercise space.

The size and quality of your cage will depend on how much time you plan to keep your rabbit confined within it. You can purchase or build a small rabbit cage or hutch, but these tend to be rather small. Alternatively, you can repurpose an old dog crate or build your own larger, custom box.

Keep in mind that if you are raising rabbits inside, that doesn’t mean they’ll need less exercise than outdoor rabbits. Again, too little exercise can cause obesity and other health ailments. Rabbits can be allowed to free range, but make sure you remove anything your rabbit can chew. Protect cables and other low-hanging wires or hazardous items. Provide your bunny with inexpensive, safe toys like cardboard tubes or balls of fabric.

Rabbit in straw bedding
Photo: rabbit in straw bedding

If you don’t free range your rabbits inside your apartment, an alternative is providing them with an indoor playpen. This pen can be constructed within their cage or as an adjacent structure but will provide toys and tools to allow the rabbit to exercise inside. They can also be walked on a leash if you have the time and interest in training them.

Regardless of whether you choose to free range your rabbit or confine them within the cage, it will also need a sleeping box or other enclosed area. Rabbits like to hide when they feel threatened and will be prone to stress if such an area is not provided.

Rabbits can be litter trained like a cat. This is a great option if you choose to free-range your rabbits so that you don’t find yourself picking up poop several times a day. They like to do their business in corners, so you should try to set up their litter box accordingly.

You can also include a litter tray in the cage so that it isn’t necessary to clean and replace bedding as often. An added bonus of using a litter box system is that it provides an easy collection receptacle if you plan on using the rabbit droppings as fertilizer or compost material.

If you choose to build your own rabbit hutch or cage, make sure you use materials that will not be toxic to your rabbit. Most untreated wood works fine, but avoid MDF as rabbits will chew it and the dust can be poisonous. Wire mesh or plastic are also safe options.

For bedding, avoid newspaper or softwood. Both can be harmful to the rabbit if ingested. Many people use shavings or dust as a cheap, easy-to-find bedding material, but it’s not recommended in most cases. Pine shavings or sawdust, in particular, can affect a rabbit’s respiratory system and cause breathing problems.

Instead, consider paper pellets, shredded cardboard, hay, or straw. These all provide good insulation to your rabbit and are also relatively cheap. Although the rabbits may eat some of the hay or straw, this is not harmful to them at all.

Breeding

Rabbits are notorious for their proclivity towards reproduction! A male rabbit, or a buck, is referred to as a “sire” for breeding purposes. A female rabbit, or a doe, is referred to as a “dam”. A small doe is generally ready to breed at five months old, while a buck is ready at six.

Generally, you should try to mate rabbits that are of the same breed. This is especially true if you plan to sell your rabbits. There isn’t much of a market for mixed genetics. It may become necessary for you to breed rabbit relatives. This is generally safe, as long as you don’t breed brothers and sisters together. This can cause some issues in genetics.

When you’re ready to breed your doe, you should take her to the buck’s cage. Avoid bringing the buck to the doe’s cage, because he will be too busy sniffing and examining his new surroundings to do any actual breeding. Leave them there overnight, or for twelve hours, to increase the likelihood of pregnancy.

You can test the doe for pregnancy about two weeks after the initial breeding. Use your thumb and forefinger to check for small nodules on her lower abdomen. If she’s pregnant, do not, under any circumstances, bring her back to the buck. A doe has two uterine horns. If both horns become fertilized, it can cause hormonal imbalances that can kill all of the babies and the mother.

baby rabbit
Photo: baby rabbit

About twenty-nine days after breeding, you should place a nest box in the doe’s cage. This will allow her to “kindle her litter,” or give birth on day thirty or thirty one. The doe can be re-bred six weeks later, when the litter has weaned. On average, a doe can produce kits for four years. Like chickens laying eggs, rabbits do require proper light to breed, so make sure you give them ample sun or artificial light.

Meat

If you plan on raising rabbits for meat, you’re making a wise choice. Rabbit is low in fat and one of the highest quality white meats available. It is low in calories, sodium, and cholesterol. It contains high amounts of important nutrients like phosphorus and calcium, and some evidence has suggested that eating rabbit meat can be beneficial for cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy.

Rabbit meat also provides more bang for your buck. It is possible to raise up to 180 pounds of rabbit meat in one year with just two does and a buck.

At six weeks, once the young rabbits have finished weaning, they should be placed in a separate hutch from their mother. They can be eaten any time up to twelve weeks old (after which their feed conversion ratio lowers and the meat becomes tougher). Make sure you separate the bucks from the does at three months unless you want more baby rabbits!

When you’re ready to butcher, it’s important that you do so ethically. Any stress experienced by the rabbit during the butchering process releases adrenaline in the meat and can cause a tough texture or poor taste. They can be butchered either by causing an arterial bleed or a fatal blow.

An arterial bleed basically consists of slitting the rabbit’s throat, being sure to slice through both jugulars. The rabbit typically dies and enters death throes within a minute. Immediately following this you should hang the rabbit by its feet and cut its head off to allow the blood to drain.

If done correctly, a sharp blow to the head can kill a rabbit more quickly (usually instantly), but there is more room for error. Hold the rabbit upside down and strike the rabbit immediately behind the ears. Then, immediately cut off the head and hang the rabbit to drain.

If you’re doing this in an apartment, be sure to have plenty of towels, buckets, and cleaning supplies handy. This is optimally done outside, but often is not possible for preppers raising meat rabbits indoors. There will be mess, so be prepared to do some cleaning afterwards.

After butchering, rabbit meat can be frozen for an indefinite period of time. It is useful in a variety of recipes, from roasted rabbit to hasenpfeffer (a traditional German recipe). The meat is nutritious and versatile, and because rabbits reproduce so frequently, you’ll never be in short supply!

Fur

Although some rabbits can’t provide fur until they’re butchered and skin, there are breeds that can produce harvestable fur. Angora rabbits, in particular, produce a soft, downy fiber that dries quickly and is ideal for knitting or weaving. Most angoras shed regularly and the hair can be combed or gently plucked. Others can be sheared like a sheep.

If you choose to raise hair rabbits (like angoras), keep in mind that they will require slightly more upkeep than meat rabbits. Fur breeds need to be groomed regularly to prevent health problems. They also have a tendency to overheat more quickly.

Fertilizer

Rabbit manure is a great fertilizing material for large or small gardens (or even container gardening inside an apartment). It is a “cool” manure which means that it will not burn your plants when fresh, like chicken or horse manure might.  

You can gather your rabbit droppings either manually, or set up a collection system underneath the cage. If you have a suspended cage, you can place a collection bin or even worm or traditional compost box underneath.

And finally…

Rabbits do require some work to maintain, so if you’re away from home for long periods of time, you may want to weigh your decision carefully. They live for up to ten years, and as such are a serious commitment. They can chew on items around your apartment, so if you are renting your space, make sure you research the details of your lease very carefully.  

At the end of the day, rabbits are a great choice for any indoor prepper. They are sustainable and have a small ecological footprint. They don’t take up space or damage land like other, larger livestock, and live on a grain-free diet.

If you for whatever reason need to get out of Dodge, you should try to make your rabbit shelter portable. Utilizing an old dog crate or other lightweight structure will allow you to do this. If you decide to allow your rabbit to free range and only have a small sleeping area, that will suffice as well. Don’t affix your rabbit cage to any structure within your apartment. Not only will this make it more difficult to move, your landlord might be less than thrilled as well.

Have a supply bag ready to go for your bunny in the event of a bug out. This should be stored in an easily accessible area and contain an ample supply of pellets, water bottles, and alfalfa.

Besides the additional benefits of fur and fertilizer, the meat produced by a rabbit is healthy, delicious, and can be produced very quickly. With minimal upkeep and investment, rabbits are a great choice for anybody looking to maximize their prepping abilities in a small urban space.

The post Raising Rabbits in an Apartment appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

110 Homesteading Tools You Need to Buy

When it comes to homesteading, it’s nearly impossible to predict with any certainty all the projects and repairs you will need to do from day to day. Experienced homesteaders will tell you that having the right tool for the job at hand is invaluable to maintaining your sanity and your homestead.

Homesteading is hard enough both physically and mentally. Don’t get caught in the midst of a project or repair and not have the tools you need to get the job done efficiently. For those who are considering homesteading or are relatively new to the practice, we’ve put together our list of homesteading tools and equipment you’ll want to start accumulating to make your homesteading life a little easier.

Homesteading Tools…..

For the Garden

One of the primary reasons that many people consider homesteading is because they want to grow their own food. The motivation to grow your own food comes from any number of reasons including to reduce the chemicals and preservatives your family eats, to prepare for an economic collapse or SHTF event, or just for the sense of pride that comes with planting and nurturing a garden for yourself and your family.

Here are a few of the basics you’ll need to make life easier when it comes to your homestead garden:

wheel cart
Photo: wheel cart

Wheeled Cart or Wagon

A good sturdy garden cart is a homesteader’s best friend. A homesteader is always mucking out stalls, transporting bedding for animals, moving bags of fertilizer or compost for the garden, or even just cleaning up sticks after a storm. A wheelbarrow is useful for smaller loads but for anything else, you can reduce muscle strain and save your back by using a good cart.

When choosing a good cart or wagon for homesteading, consider the number and type of wheels, whether you need sides, no sides, hinged or removable sides. You’ll also want to consider the material the cart is made from to get the cart most suited for your needs. In most cases metal carts will handle heavier loads better. Think about the types of items you will carry most often in the cart to determine whether a solid or mesh type cart will be best. Solid carts are better for carrying things such as manure, sand, sawdust, etc. whereas mesh carts or those with criss-cross bottoms are better for larger items.

Here are some examples of the best carts:

Large Garden Cart with Semi-Pneumatic Wheels by Carts Vermont

Users have only good things to say about this garden cart. It’s a classic and the bigger wheels provide more control and make it easier to maneuver. Make sure you seal or treat the floor of the cart before use and store out of the weather to extend its life.

Gorilla Carts 600 lb capacity

This beauty is small but mighty. It’s easy to assemble and has a convenient dump action that makes it comparable to the wheelbarrow but with less strain on your back.

Lawnmower

No homestead is complete without some way to maintain the grass and weeds that can get out of control quickly. Although some people use goats to clear pastures and fields, it’s wise to have a quality lawnmower on hand, especially for smaller areas. For those homesteads with a lot of acreage to mow, consider a tractor and mowing blade or at least a John Deer or Troy-Built riding lawn mower. Smaller homesteads and backyard homesteaders can get by with a GreenWorks gas powered push mower or even an old fashioned push reel mower for a grid-down scenario.

Composter Bin

Every good homestead needs a compost bin or even three. You can buy composting bins or you can make them yourself. There are different types of composting bins including compost tumblers, stationary compost bins, worm composting bins, and indoor composting bins. There are many different methods for composting, including using wooden pallets, wire bins, wired enclosures, sheet composting, and trench composting.

Once you’ve decided which method will work best for your homestead, here are some of the best composting bins to consider:

Redmond Green Culture 65-Gallon Bin

Epica Stainless Steel Compost Bin-Indoor

Yimby Compost Tumbler

Worm Factory 360 Composter by Nature’s Footprint

Other Garden Tools

  • Rake
  • Hoe
  • Shovel
  • Hose and Reel
  • Pickax
  • Watering Can
  • Weed Puller
  • Tiller
  • Pruning Shears
  • Soaker Hoses

For the Kitchen

If you’re going to grow your own food, chances are you’ll be making a lot of meals from scratch rather than traipsing to the grocery store, restaurants, or fast food places. Make sure your homestead has the proper supplies and equipment in the kitchen to make cooking meals from scratch easier and quicker. For those that want to homestead off-grid or in preparation for a downed power grid, food canning and preservation equipment as well as hand and manual tools and equipment should take priority.

Here are some must have items for the homesteading kitchen:

Pressure Cooker

A pressure cooker is used to cook food more quickly than it would take to cook it an oven or on the stove. A pressure cooker cannot be used for canning food but it can be used to make meals more quickly than in the oven.

Pressure Canners and Water Bath Canners

Pressure canners are used for foods with a low acid content such as soups, stews, certain vegetables such as green beans and meats, poultry, and seafood. Water bath canners are used for high acid content foods such as vinegar based pickles and most jellies. Tomatoes can be water bathed but only if done properly with added lemon juice.

The brands to consider when choosing the best pressure canner are:

meat grinder
Photo: meat grinder

Meat Grinder

Many homesteaders choose to either raise their own livestock and poultry for meat or to purchase meat in bulk from a butcher or even another homesteader who raises the animals. If you will have need to grind your own meat or make your own sausage, consider the Waring MG105 Professional or Sunmile SM-G33 ETL.

Solar Oven

Cooking is a major activity on a homestead. It can of course be done on a regular electric or gas stove if you are connected to public utilities. For those homesteaders that want to save on utility bills, live off-grid, or prepare for a potential SHTF event, cooking with the power of the sun is a great option. The All American Sun Oven is a great option for those who want to purchase a solar oven rather than making one themselves.

Other Kitchen Equipment

Consider purchasing these additional items as your budget allows. If you’re living off-grid or preparing your homestead for a SHTF event, consider purchasing manual or hand-cranked versions if available.

  • Stand Mixer
  • Food Dehydrator
  • Meat Slicer
  • Woodstove or Wood Cook stove
  • Cast Iron Pots and Pans
  • Bread Machine and Hand Dough Mixer
  • Blender
  • Electric Hand Mixer
  • Hand Egg Beater
  • Canning Supplies (jars, lids, jar lifter, funnel, rack)
  • Food Grade Buckets
  • Galvanized Buckets or Wash Tubs
  • Cast Iron Dutch Oven and Tripod
  • Big Berkey Water Filter
  • Solar Lanterns
  • Clothes Line and Clothes pins
  • Chimney Brushes
  • Outdoor Shower
  • Grain Mill
  • Propane Cook stove or Grill
  • Meat Saw
  • Skinning and Filet Knives
  • Dolly or Hand Truck
  • Coffee Grinder and Percolator
  • Crocks and other fermenting supplies (air locks and weights)
  • Tea Kettle
  • Treadle Sewing Machine and supplies
  • Pasta Maker or Pasta Attachment for Mixer

For Raising Livestock

For some homesteaders and those who want to live off-grid or work toward complete self-sufficiency, raising livestock will be an absolute necessity. Most homesteaders will find that raising chickens is a valuable endeavor. Others will prefer raising rabbits, other types of poultry, or even cattle. Even if you aren’t raising livestock for food or barter, animals such as horses or mules, when properly trained can be a great option for non-powered hauling, daily transportation, and even a bug out trip if necessary.

Here’s some basic items you may find helpful in the barn and pasture:

chicken feeder
Photo: chicken feeder

Chicken Feeders and Waterers

Chickens can be a great addition to a homestead. If you will be adding chickens to your homestead to supply fresh eggs or meat for your family or even as to sell or use as a bartering item, you’ll need to have a solid chicken coop and other supplies including something like a FOXDE TECH 1.5L Chicken Feeder and a  poultry waterer. Fresh drinking water is a crucial piece of keeping chickens healthy so in cold climates you’ll want to have a heated base to keep water from freezing over.

Rabbit Cages

If you plan to raise rabbits on your homestead for meat or to sell as a supplement to your income, you’ll need somewhere to keep them contained. The Complete Rabbit Hutch Kit By Little Giant Farm & Ag is great for starting out.

Livestock Watering Tubs

If you’re raising larger livestock such as goats or horses, you have to plan to keep them supplied with fresh drinking water. If your pasture has a pond or other fresh water source, such as a stream that the animals can get to, you’re good to go. Otherwise, consider adding a galvanized steel round end stock tank or the larger 90-Gallon Galvanized Steel Round End Stock Tank by Behlen Bountry to keep them hydrated. In colder climates, you’ll need to keep it heated to prevent it from freezing over.

Other Livestock Equipment and Tools

  • Feeding Crocks, and Water Nozzles or Bottles
  • Bee Keeper Suit and Smoker
  • Hay Feeder
  • Pitchfork
  • Bailing Twine
  • Post Hole Digger
  • Post Driver
  • Blacksmithing and Farrier Tools
  • Milking Stand and buckets
  • Hay Fork
  • Horse Drawn Plow
  • Manure Shovel
  • Manure Spreader
  • Tack repair tools
  • Fencing

For Repairs

If there’s any advice about homesteading that those with experience will give you, it’s be prepared for what goes wrong. On a homestead, it can seem like something goes awry daily. There is always something that needs fixing and having the right tool for the job will be invaluable.

Here are some the of must have items for homesteading repairs:

  • Toolbox
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • Pliers
  • Nails
  • Pipe Wrench
  • Combination Wrench
  • Ladder
  • Extension Cord
  • Crowbar
  • Allen Wrenches
  • Socket Wrench
  • Screw Drivers

For Power

Homesteaders can find themselves in just about any location. Although some homesteading practices can be modified for urban living, the majority of homesteaders live in rural areas. For preppers, the more remote the area the better. This sometimes mean getting reliable power to your homestead can be a challenge. Maintaining power during extreme weather conditions can often be a challenge for homesteaders for days or weeks at a time. In a SHTF scenario, public utility power will be completely shut down.

As a homesteader, it’s critical that you plan for short-term and long-term power outages as well as for an indefinite power outage. Many chores are much less labor intensive and time consuming with the help of power.

Here are some items you’ll want to have on hand to help maintain power for your homesteading needs:

small generator

Generator (portability in 2400w or functionality of the 3000w)

A Honda Handi 3000w Generator works well as a backup power source during power outages on the homestead or for those living off-grid who need to use power tools for projects or other activities around the homestead.

Solar Panels

Go Power!120 W Portable Folding Solar Kit with 10 Amp solar controller. Use this small solar kit to keep a 12v RV battery topped off and keep generator for running power tools and to save fuel a generator would use. For whole home solar power, you’ll need to purchase larger panels, a power inverter, batteries, and charge controller. It’s critical to determine how much electricity your homestead will need on a given day. Knowing your power needs before you buy your solar panels will help you choose the right panels. Make sure to consider both the wattage of your panels and the voltage to ensure your system will reliably produce the electricity you need.

Extra Fuel Tanks

Fuel is one thing that is always needed on a homestead. You need gas or diesel for the tractor, gas for the lawn mower, propane for the grill, and maybe kerosene for heating. It’s important to have extra fuel tanks on hand to store the fuel you will need. Most homesteaders have large tanks to hold 200 gallons or more of heating fuel. You can also have tanks to store extra gallons of gasoline or diesel.

If you can’t get large fuel tanks right now, you can get multiple smaller cans to make sure you have the fuel you need on hand when needed for homesteading chores. You can often purchase gas cans and even large fuel tanks used at yard sales or through Craigslist or if all else fails, purchase new cans such as the ones below from Amazon:

5-gallon Diesel Can by Briggs & Stratton

5-gallon Gas Can by No-Spill

For Projects

On a homestead and especially an off-grid homestead, there will always be projects on the to do list. Whether it’s carpentry, plumbing, electrical, cutting firewood, or just building a home for the newest livestock addition, everything goes a bit more smoothly when you have the right tools to get the job done.

Here are some items that will come in handy for homesteading projects:

  • Chainsaw and Chainsaw Sharpener
  • Handsaw
  • Circular Saw
  • Combination Square
  • Palm Sander
  • Level
  • G-Clamp
  • Reciprocating Saw
  • Table Saw
  • Jig Saw
  • Hand Planer
  • Deadblow Hammer
  • Cutting Torch
  • Paint Brushes and Supplies
  • Axe
  • Fiskars Splitting Axe with Sheath
  • Felling Wedges
  • Log Splitter
  • Wood Chisel
  • Barrels
  • Staple Gun
  • Glue Gun
  • Cordless Drill
  • Tape Measure
  • Retractable Utility Knife (Box Cutter)
  • Wire Strippers
  • Hard Hat
  • Safety Glasses

Basic Hauling and Heavy Work

On a homestead, there is inevitably chores that require pulling out heavy objects, pounding in posts, or moving heavy items from one area to another or into place for building or other repairs. A tractor or other fuel powered machine and the right accessories will make light work of these heavy-duty chores.

A Tractor is pretty much a necessity on a homestead. There are unlimited ways that a tractor can assist you in getting your homesteading chores completed successfully and efficiently. Look for quality brands such as Kubota, John Deere Ford, and New Holland’s Boomer line. Even the smallest of the tractors, which resemble more a riding lawn mower, come equipped with diesel engines and a rear point hitch for attachments.

A good sturdy pick-up truck is also a necessity for a homestead. Consider the types of chores you will need to do and any machinery, water containers, feed, hay, etc. that you will need to haul. Make sure to get a truck that will hold up to the wear and tear of hauling things on a regular basis. Most homesteaders find that at least one or more 5/16” Tow Chains come in handy for winching trees and maneuvering heavy parts. Homesteaders will also find that some heavy duty tie-down straps will be invaluable.

Where to Buy Homesteading Tools

We’ve provided you with some examples of tools and equipment available from Amazon for your consideration. Other places to buy these items new include department stores and specialty stores such as Tractor Supply, Home Depot, or Lowe’s. For the budget conscious homesteader, you can also plan to buy many of your homesteading tools and equipment used.

If you’re looking to get quality items without breaking the budget, consider yard and garage sales, Craigslist, and even Goodwill or Salvation army thrift stores to buy your homesteading equipment. Many of the items we’ve listed can be found in these secondhand places for a lot less than buying them new.

Another way to acquire some of these items used is to attend auctions and estate sales where these items are often thrown in with other desirable items to help empty a house of its contents after someone passes away.

As a last resort, you can even let friends and relatives know that you are setting up a homestead and share your “wish” list with them to see if they have any unused or rarely used items in their home that they are willing to part with to help you get started.

Setting up a homestead is not a quick and easy task by any means. But with proper planning, you can get started and then add additional items you know you will need. Start by identifying your motivation and your goals for homesteading. Decide which animals and other activities you will start with in the first few months and obtain the homesteading tools and equipment you need for those activities first.

Wrap-Up

As you begin to add additional animals or activities, you can make a list of needed items and acquire them as your budget allows. Many homesteaders create an end goal for their homestead, maybe five or ten years out and then work backwards from there to create a one year, three year, five year and ten year plan of action. With proper planning, buying your homesteading tools and supplies doesn’t have to bankrupt your bank account.

The post 110 Homesteading Tools You Need to Buy appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

15 Canning Mistakes to Never Ever Make

The sight of jars stacked in neat rows redolent with the taste of summer bounty will be inspiring for those who want to start canning their produce.  Before your start though there are a few mistakes to avoid if you want flavorsome, tip-top quality canned goods through the winter.

#1. Using sub-standard produce

When the recipe says choose ripe fruit or vegetables ensure they are crisp and firm. Carrots that still look good but have lost that crack when you break them are not going to make good pickles. Similarly fruit that is just that bit past ripe is going to result in a poor jam. The secret is getting the pectin right so the jam will set – slightly under ripe and perfectly ripe fruit are better than over ripe fruit which have a lower pectin content.

So, what is pectin and why do you need it? Pectin is a starch (a heteropolysaccharide) that occurs naturally in the cell walls of fruit and vegetables and in combination with the sugar and acid in lemon juice when making jams will cause the mixture to gel. Quince and apples are particularly high in pectin, as are the skins of citrus fruit.

If you need to add pectin it can be obtained in dry or liquid form but many traditional homesteading recipes use apple or quince to up the pectin content when making strawberry jam for instance – strawberries being soft and fairly low in pectin. As soft fruits are lower in pectin, generally they will benefit from added pectin.

#2. Using a boiling water bath instead of a pressure canner

For those new to canning one would think that a boiling water bath would do the same job as a pressure canner – but it doesn’t – the heat in the bath will reach 212 while the pressure canner will reach up to 425 Fahrenheit. The boiling water bath is fine for food that has a high acid content, as botulism will find it difficult to survive the pH level of around 4.5 to 4.6.

Food that can safely be processed with a boiling water bath are pickles, tomatoes – to which vinegar has been added, sweet preserves like berry jams as berries have a high acid content and other fruit. You will notice lemon juice is often introduced in the recipe raising the acid level.

Food that is not acidic like vegetables (not pickled), soup, and meat must be done in a pressure canner to kill all traces of organisms that could spoil the food. This article explains the dangers of botulism which is fortunately fairly rare – but will only remain so if proper hygiene and sterilization is carried out in home canning situations. The high temperature of the pressure canner will kill off the organisms that can cause food to spoil.

#3. Not putting enough water into the boiling water bath

Once in the boiling water bath the jars must be covered– that includes the lids – so make sure the water is deep enough so there is an inch or more of water covering the lids at all times during the processing. This is important as all the produce needs to be heated equally during the process – you can’t have the bottom half of the produce heated to kill organisms while the part near the top is not sufficiently heated, allowing organisms to proliferate once the product is stored on a shelf.

This video gives the basics on using a boiling water bath:

#4. Doubling the recipe for jam making

Especially when you are making batches of jam or canning produce, it is tempting to simply double the recipe. After all you have the produce to use up, a large pot, the space in the pressure canner so there shouldn’t be a problem – should there?

Yes, it can be a problem. Once you double a recipe you spend longer getting the ingredients to the right temperature – that can destroy the pectin, which is what you need to make the jam or jelly set. When making jam you are usually advised to use a pot with a large surface area. The reason is it leads to evaporating the water in the fruit faster. When the recipe is doubled, fruit will take longer to process and can become mushy under the weight of the rest of the fruit in the process.

Cooking the jam quickly leads to fruit retaining its texture and shape – think lovely strawberry jam where you can identify the individual chunks of strawberry. If you have a lot of produce what you can do is take two pots and make two batches at the same time, making sure to tend to them carefully so the jam doesn’t catch on the bottom and burn, then use that extra space in the pressure canner or boiling water bath.

If you are using commercial pectin then you can double recipes as there is sufficient pectin to make the product set without having to lengthen the cooking time – but be careful of adding too much otherwise you end up with jam that is more like rubber.

#5. Not testing for set in jams and preserves

If you follow the instructions, prepare the fruit, add the sugar and do not test whether it is forming a gel you my end up with fruit syrup instead of jam or a liquid that is too thick meaning the fruit you pack in the jars will tend to want to float to the top. This is because fruit will vary in pectin levels depending on the time it was picked, the climate conditions, and between various cultivars, among other factors.

The way to get the set right is to keep testing –keep 4 to 5 tablespoons chilled in the freezer and put a teaspoon of the jam or syrup onto the chilled spoon, wait a few seconds and see if it sets. If it doesn’t, keep cooking a little longer and test again with another chilled spoon until you are happy that the consistency is right.

Because you cooked the jam for 20 minutes the last time and it turned out perfect does not necessarily mean you can simply repeat – always test to avoid a disappointing batch. If the result does turn out too runny watch this video  to learn how to reprocess your product:

#6. Not using a canning rack

It happens – kids get hold of the canning rack and use it for something else and when you get out your pressure canner there’s no rack. You may be tempted to simply put the jars in without a rack. This is not advisable – the direct heat from the metal base and the bubbling and boiling heated water can cause the jars to bump against the base and crack in the high temperatures of up to 425 Fahrenheit in a pressure canner, and of 212 Fahrenheit in the boiling water bath.

If the rack has been misplaced, you can take a clean dishcloth twist it into a sausage and coil it to fit inside the canner. This will provide a buffer between the glass and the metal.

#7. Using a reactive pot

Recipes will call for a non-reactive pot. Specifically you should use stainless steel or an enameled cast iron pot. Do not use untreated cast iron or an untreated aluminum pot – the acids in the preserves will react with the pot imparting a metallic taste to the produce – also aluminum pots, particularly, will discolor due to the acid in the batch.

If the pot is made from anodized aluminum, it will probably be fine – many people cook in these and claim there is no metallic taste. The acid content keeps the food in the jars preserved by not allowing yeasts and molds to grow in the low – pH levels of around 4.6. Personally though, I prefer not to use aluminum pots for any cooking at all.

You will often see people preparing their batches in copper pots. Although copper is a reactive metal is does not give a metallic taste to the batch cooked in it.

#8. Forgetting to check for imperfections in the canning jars and lids

Once the shiny new jars and lids are delivered check each jar and lid carefully for imperfections – there may be a slight nick on the rim, a hairline crack that occurred during transportation, a part of the lid where the sealing material is thinner or non-existent, a buckled lid. These should not be used. You run the risk of seals not forming properly and in the case of cracked jars, them bursting in the canner.

#9. Not sterilizing jars and lids properly

The jars and lids are all new and clean when they arrive in their boxes so one may be tempted to skip the sterilizing step. The problem is that if you do this, figuring the hot water bath or pressure-canning process will get rid of all the organisms that can cause spoilage you are putting whoever eats your produce at risk. Rather be 100% safe and sterilize those jars and lids.

Once the hot food is placed into the jars, organisms may have snuck in from being exposed to the air, hence the boiling water bath or pressure canning step to ensure the last of the baddies is killed off.

After all who wants to be featured in the news as the person whose produce caused death or paralysis due to botulism? The trouble with botulism is you can’t see, smell or taste it in comparison with molds that announce their presence with a whitish, green or sometimes orange growth on the surface of preserved goods. This video shows how to sterilize jars:

#10. Not leaving the correct amount of headspace

Quality recipes will tell you how much headspace to leave – this will vary depending on what you are canning as some produce may swell. Leaving the correct amount of headspace allows a proper vacuum seal to form in the pressure canner or boiling water bath. If you have a little extra product that won’t quite fill the next jar, don’t be tempted to distribute it among the other jars and overfill them. You need the headspace for a proper seal to form with no product touching the seal area. Rather take the extra produce and put into a container you can keep in the fridge for use over the next two to three days.

#11. Forgetting to wipe the rims of jars where the lid and canning ring will fit

Omitting this step could mean small particles of product stop the formation of a good seal – the result being wasted food. Always keep a clean sterilized cloth at hand. You can pop it into boiling water after you have wiped a couple of jars to prevent air borne organisms settling on it while you are working with large batches.

#12. Forgetting to remove the canning rings

Once all the jars are all processed and filled with the bounty of summer it’s tempting to leave the rings on the jars. Don’t! They mask what is happening on the surface of the product so you won’t see mold growing in the headspace. They keep the lid in place if a seal hasn’t formed properly, so you are unaware of the problem until months later when you fetch a jar from the storeroom to find it has spoiled. The canning rings need to be removed, cleaned and stored for use with another batch.

Check each jar to ensure a proper seal has formed. If you do this immediately you have time to reprocess the contents before organisms proliferate to ensure you have a good seal the second time around.

#13. Reusing old lids

The seal has a red rubbery type substance on it that ensures no air can get in. Once it has been used and opened the seal can be damaged and the will have started degrading over time. Be safe and order new lids – you can reuse the jars and the canning rings provided they are in good condition. It is cheaper to spend on the new lids than to have to throw away produce, which has taken time, effort and money to process.

#14. Fiddling with jars while they are cooling

When jars are being removed from the boiling water bath or the pressure canner use canning tongs to avoid burns and place the jars in the spot where they are to be cooled. Keep jars upright as you remove them. Once the cooling process has started avoid moving them around – tilting the jar allows the hot produce to come into contact with the seal and may result in a seal not forming properly.

#15. Stacking jars directly on top of each other.

This is a big no-no. The weight of the jars on top of each other can cause the seals to pop as this video explains:

Rather, design shelves for storage that will accommodate the height of the jars or use a thin piece of plywood over the first row of jars to distribute the weight.

The post 15 Canning Mistakes to Never Ever Make appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

60 Incredible Gardening Hacks

Nothing to see here, just lots of gardening tips, tricks, secrets and hacks!

Propagation

1. Honey for rooting slips

Instead of buying hormone rooting powder use honey – when you cut your slip for planting, smear some honey on it. It will significantly increase the success rate of slips and give them a measure of protection from soil borne attacks. Just remember to keep all slips moist to encourage roots to form.

2. Never buy seed trays again

Save supermarket fruit and vegetable containers- the clear plastic is useful for starting seeds or small cuttings like thyme or rosemary before planting them out.

3. Sowing seeds with a rake

To get even spacing use a metal garden rake – push wine corks onto the ends of the tines and use this to make holes in the ground for your seeds. Alternatively, take a scrap piece of wood, a wooden dowel cut into 3-inch (7cm) lengths – drill holes into the wood the size of the dowel stick so it fits snugly at even intervals then glue dowel sticks into place.

Press this into the ground for even spacing – the harder you press the deeper the seed hole.

4. Never buy lavender plants again

Before you lavender bushes start dying off take lots of cuttings, smear with honey and root in small pots or a large tray to get new plants started to replace the bushes as they die off.

5. Egg cartons for starting seeds

Put the soil into each cardboard carton cup and plant one seed per cup. Stand on a tray and keep moist from the top. When you are ready to plant, cut the compartments apart and plant them complete in the ground. There will be no transplant shock for the seedlings and the cardboard will soon dissolve and enrich the soil.

6. Soak vegetable seed before planting

Make up a mild seaweed fertilizer solution and soak vegetable seed in it for a couple of hours while you prepare the beds for planting. It helps produce vigorous seedlings.

7. Crush cilantro seeds to encourage germination

Cilantro (coriander) seeds are hard little balls with a fibrous husk –crushing them underfoot helps before planting as often the seed battles to break through the hard husk – otherwise soak them for a day in water or the seaweed solution mentioned above.

8. Transplant on a cloudy day

Choose to transplant seedlings on a cloudy day – often the fierce midday sun can be too much for seedlings – this way they have at least have 24 hours to get established.

9. Propagating African Violets (saintpaulia)

Forget the tin foil over a glass and the leaf poking through – simply put your fresh cut leaves from your African violets into a good loamy soil in pots. Use a stick to poke a hole in the soil and then gently firm the soil around the leaf.

Stand the pots in a drip tray and make sure the drip tray is never without water – the soil will draw the moisture up. Just make sure the leaves are planted upright and do not touch the sides of the pot. Keep in a warm place that does not have direct sunlight but plenty of light and in a couple of months you’ll have new baby plants. Do not use honey or any rooting powder – the leaf needs is to be handled as little as possible. Never ever, water the leaves of the African violets unless you have a very fine misting system – water on the leaves spells crown rot.

10. Toilet paper seed tape

If you feel thinning out seedlings is wasteful make your own seed tape – use a two ply toilet paper, make a paste using a tablespoon of flour mixed with enough water to create a paste that’s of medium consistency.  Dab it on at the spacing interval suggested on the seed packet – and place your seeds – any extras that fall on the spaces between the dots of paste won’t adhere and can be used on the next piece. Keep your toilet paper piece no more than 3 feet long so they are easy to work with. Allow to dry, roll up and plant later, or plant immediately.

11. Cinnamon for seedlings

Shake ground cinnamon around seedlings to repel pests. It has anti-fungal properties.

12. Grow new plants from your purchased produce

Unless the plant has been genetically modified – and one shouldn’t be buying GM food anyway – the seeds when saved can be planted. Cut open chilies and save the seeds, the same with green peppers. Save a few fresh peas and beans to replant. Tomato gone squishy? Save the seeds and plant them. Buying the produce – which you can eat and get seeds from too, works out cheaper than buying packets of seed.

13. Allow plants to go to seed and reap the benefits

Let lettuce, cilantro and other vegetables go to seed so that you can harvest the seed and plant again for the next year. The beauty with this is that the plants have got used to the environment and nutrients in the soil in which they are growing so the seeds will germinate more readily than seeds introduced from somewhere else.

14. Easily grow avocados from seed.

Don’t throw away the large seed from an avocado.  Throw them down into a damp patch – they don’t need to be covered and as long as they soil is always moist they will soon be sprouting. Yes, they take 10 years to bear fruit but as the saying goes about planting trees the best time was 200 years ago and the second best time is now.

15. Ginger

When you buy ginger root at the greengrocer, reserve three pieces and plant them in a large pot with a good potting mix. Once the ginger has grown well you can dig out a bit of root when you need it and leave the plants to continue growing, meaning you probably won’t be needing to go to the greengrocer for ginger again.

16. One pineapple equals one plant

When you have fresh pineapples to eat cut the top off with sufficient flesh attached and plant in sandy soil that is kept moist – the tops will grow and produce plants that will give you plenty of pineapples.

17 Passion fruit vines from seed

Save and plant the seed from a fresh passion fruit. Ensure it is kept moist and soon vines will be growing – transplant carefully to a spot where they can ramble up a tree or have a trellis that has sufficient support. Soon you’ll have your own passion fruit to add to desserts.

Water

18. DIY watering can

You don’t need to buy a watering can. Repurpose a plastic milk container that comes with a handle. Poke holes with a large hot needle in the plastic lid. Voila – a watering can. Place one at each tap point in the garden so you don’t have to walk around looking for a watering can. If you want to control the spray then place the cone part cut from of a plastic soda bottle over the neck before screwing on the lid – then you have more control when watering patio and houseplants.

19. Automatically water plants

Keep those used plastic water bottles out of the landfill and in your garden. Dig a hole and plant a water bottle that has been poked with holes on the sides and bottom next to a plant – fill with water so it can slowly release water to the plant through the holes.

20. Create a vertical wall of plants from plastic bottles

Watch this video to see how a school is transformed in Israel:

You can do it on a smaller scale by cutting out a piece in the side of plastic beverage bottles, fitting the top of one with the lid on it through the base of the one below it so it sits snugly. The topmost row is filled with bottles that contain water dripping slowly from the hole in the cap permeate down from the top row to the rows below as each cap has a hole in it.

21. Rag and wine water dispenser

Put a wine jar filled with water upright next to a pot plant and place a wet rag in it leading to the plant – the moisture will slowly transfer to the plant as long as the plant is at a slightly lower level than the top of the wine bottle.

22. Automatic plant water dispenser

Place a wine jar filled with water upside down in a pot plant. Make sure it is pushed firmly into the soil so it can slowly release the water while you are away.

23. Self watering wall system

Cut off the bottoms of plastic bottles and retain the rest including the screw top cap into which you have made a hole. Place into a set of PVC fittings as shown in this video:

…with a full bottle in the PVC pipe on the side to ensure the seedlings keep getting water.

24. Watering at root level

When you need to get water to the roots then follow this method.

Squash, butternut, pumpkins – plant a large plastic pot in the ground with just an inch or so of the rim above ground. Prepare your hills for planting around the pot. When the seeds are established and needed plenty of water into the pot – the water will filter out slowly into the ground at root level feeding the plants – you can also add compost or a seaweed emulsion to the water to give the plants added nutrition.

25. Coffee filters to stop soil loss

Putting coffee filters in the bottom of a pot plant will stop the soil leaking out when you water and prevent clogging at the bottom of the pot.

Soil Health

26. Put earthworms to work

To improve the soil around trees, especially fruit trees, save all household scraps, grass clippings and leaves. Spread around the tree at the edge of the canopy – not up against the trunk of the tree. Cover the layer with leaves or a small layer of soil. The worms will soon move in to eat the matter and the worm casts will increase the nitrogen, phosphate, potash and humus in the soil, resulting in trees that are more vigorous and produce better crops.

27. Eggshells to improve soil

Crush your eggshells and dig into the garden – they are rich in calcium, which the plants need to grow strong.

28. Chicken tractors

Use a chicken tractor to fertilizer, remove weeds and keep the chickens happy. This video show you how to build one:

You won’t need to weed as much, buy chicken manure, plus the chickens will provide you with eggs.

29. Conveyor belt type compost piles

Instead of having one compost heap and moving the compost to various areas of the garden have a number of small ones going in the various garden beds. Add the weeds you have pulled out –onto the heap – add cutting and leaves, kitchen refuse and allow to break down. You’ll see lots of activity from insects and earthworms will soon move in.

Once you think it is ready move the dry stuff off the top and start the new heap next to it – moving your way across the beds.  What is left behind will be fertile soil, ready for planting. No backbreaking wheeling loads of compost around and digging it in.

30. Tea leaves for soil balance

The leftovers in the tea bag make soil healthier by promoting bacterial processes. Once a tea bag has been in boiling water most of the acid is removed. Adding the contents of teabags – not the bag itself will leave your soil with a 6.5PH level that encourages vibrant growth. Purists prefer tea without that doesn’t come in a teabag, which makes saving the tea leaves even easier.

31. Cardboard and newspaper to retain moisture

This may take a while but it is the easiest way to start a garden in a new piece of ground where the soil is rock hard and lacks nutrients. Lay down all the cardboard you throw away like old packaging boxes, egg cartons, and so on, then top the cardboard layer with old newspaper, non-coated paper, envelopes – whatever paper would normally go in the trash. Cover with a kitchen cuttings, cuttings from the garden and layers of leaves and. Water thoroughly. Top with some sand or soil.

Plant your seedlings into this mix with a handful of good loamy soil to start them and make sure to keep them watered in the beginning – all the materials will eventually break down creating healthy soil that retains moisture.

Dealing with weeds

32. Fill every inch of ground space

Try to avoid blank spaces in your garden – every inch of soil should be covered – it stops weeds developing and keeps moisture in the soil – for example use strawberries as a ground cover. Plant plants that won’t compete for root space – deep rooted, medium roots and shallow cover plants – this way the weeds can’t get a foothold.

33. Boiling water for weeds

To get rid of weeds between paving stones and other spots around the yard pour boiling water on the weed. Make sure it doesn’t get onto the plants you want to keep!

34 Vinegar to kill weeds between pavers

Get rids of weeds with vinegar and salt. Take ½ a gallon of vinegar and mix with ½ a cup of salt. Add a dessertspoon of dishwashing liquid – this makes the mixture stick to the leaves of the weeds. Spray on a warm sunny day when the leaves will absorb the mix.  Remember salt kills all plants and is no good for the soil so ONLY use between pavers or where pavers abut the walls of the house.

35. Straw or leaves to control weeds

Spread straw or raked up leaves on the ground between plants to discourage weeds. The layer will also provide a haven for insects and lizards that prey on other garden pests.

Deterring Pests

36. Luring birds away from your fruit

Instead of the birds eating your pears or plums try to lure them elsewhere by planting mulberries and other berries which they prefer – leaving the majority of your fruit alone. Unfortunately in the case of cherries and apples particularly as they are some of the birds’ favorite fruit this wont work and you may need to use nets to protect the trees, or try one of the suggestions below.

37. CDs for the birds

Tie old CDs on nylon strings or shiny strips of tape to the trees that move in the wind. The light and movement scares away the birds.

38. Owls to scare birds

A realistic looking owl, hawk or snake in a prominent position may help but it will have to be moved often otherwise they will soon realize it’s a fake.

39. Coffee grounds around plants

Coffee grounds keep away pests, so when you have filter coffee don’t throw the stuff away. Place it around plants to give them some pest protection.

40. Use companion planting to control insects

Plant basil and marigold with tomatoes, to control pests naturally. This is just one example. Check out this handy Companion Planting Guide that can be printed out and pinned in the vegetable shed or laminated and placed in the vegetable garden for easy reference. Besides controlling insects, certain plants help each other with nutrients.

41. Eggshells for slugs

To discourage slugs and snails crush up your eggshells by hand – some people use the blender but that just means more cleaning– and scatter them around plants subject to slug and snail attack. They will avoid crawling over the eggshells, as the sharp edges will create minute cuts on their bodies causing them to dehydrate and die.

42. Plants to discourage mosquitoes

Lemongrass (cymbopogon citratus)– is a close relative of citronella and will deter mosquitoes. Plant in tubs on your patio area – you can use it in Asian recipes and dogs seem to like chewing it as a health aid – they won’t ruin it –they just chew one stalk or so.

Citronella grass (cymbopogon nardus or cymbopogon winteratus) is the source of citronella oil – not the citronella pelargonium marketed as a mosquito repellant. Use the real citronella grass for best effect.

The Bay tree, Beebalm and catnip are also reported to be useful is deterring mosquitoes. The plants listed above won’t deter every single annoying mosquito but will certainly help keep the pests at bay.

43. Plants to deter flies

Lavender, rosemary and mint – plant them around chicken coops and place in kitchens.

44. Killing fruit fly larvae

In orchards and around fruit trees make sure to pick up all fallen fruit before fruit fly larvae can develop. Dig into the ground. If you have the time and space boil the rotting fruit with water in a large container outdoors and when cool add to the base of the trees as a mulch.

Using fences

45. Hedges as edible screens

Why should a hedge simply serve as a screen? Make them useful by planting edible hedging plants like blackberries and raspberries, cherry plum or quince or a mixture. This article https://www.growveg.co.za/guides/creating-an-edible-hedge-for-foraging-at-home/ will give you some good tips.

46. Roses as a protective fence

In small spaces plant fragrant standard roses alongside a wire fence interspersed with low growing roses. Besides being beautiful you can use the petals to decorate salads, crystalize for cake and dessert decoration, strew on pathways or add to pot pourri. Being thorny they will also discourage animals and people from trampling on them. https://pixabay.com/en/monk-walking-rose-petals-buddhism-458491/

47. Espalier fruit trees to create a living fence.

This video shows you how to espalier trees so they grow into a flat shape in small spaces providing you with fruit without taking up massive amounts of room:

48. Use sunflowers as living stakes

Plant sunflowers and three weeks later peas or beans near them so the climbers have a natural sturdy support system.

Miscellaneous hacks

49. Bananas for plant health

Bananas are rich is phosphorus, potassium and calcium. Take your fresh banana peels and wipe them over the leaves of your staghorn plants and orchids for better growth and blooms, or tuck a banana skin behind a staghorn fern and the tree on which it is growing.

50. Bananas to encourage blooming

An orchid grower suggests chopped peels on the potting mix for orchids to encourage flowering. There is a lot of research being done on the production of ethylene by decaying banana peel which acts as a signal transducer encouraging the plant to do different things like produce flowers or ripen fruit. Many growers treat their plants with ethylene gas to promote certain behaviors. You can also soak the banana peels in water overnight and water plants with the solution the next day.

For other plants, chop the banana peels and add around the base of the plants. If you’d like to know more about the scientific aspect read this article published in Frontiers of Plant Science titled, ‘Ethylene Role in Plant Growth, Development and Senescence: Interaction with Other Phytohormones.’

51. Cincturing to increase fruit production

Read this from the rare fruit council of Australia about cincturing to help it bear fruit. Beating a tree or cutting into the bark to get the tree to start producing fruit does apparently help – but you have to be careful otherwise you can damage or even kill the tree. The article supplies the scientific reasoning behind the practice of hurting a tree to make it produce fruit.

52. Staking beans and peas

Use jute string and wooden sticks or canes – they all go onto the compost heaps afterwards.

53. Pallet to store garden tools

Take a pallet, paint to your taste and fasten to a wall that is relatively protected from the weather. Use cup hooks and nails to accommodate and support various garden tools neatly.

54. Quick vertical pallet garden

Fasten a pallet to a wall that gets morning sun; affix cup hooks spaced according to the size and shape of your plant containers. Plant up your containers – they can be tin cans or plastic or terracotta flower pots, sling some cord around them and suspend from the hooks – easy to change and replace when the plants start dying off. This is great for creating a kitchen herb garden, starting new seedlings or having some colorful flowers around on a balcony that does not have much floor space.

55. Planting up a showy pot

Three words to remember: thriller, spiller, filler – one plant that is thrilling with upright, showy foliage or stunning flowers; a spiller – a plant that trails down over the edges of the pot softening the edges and the filler to take up all the empty spaces nicely to create a complete look.

56. Newspaper mulch

Buying mulch can be expensive – use newspaper underneath with straw or wood shavings to conserve moisture.

57. Staking plants with repurposed materials

Use scrap wood, old broom handles or thin branches trimmed from trees sharpened at one end to act as stakes for support. Use old stockings to tie them to the plant you wish to stake.

58. Pinching out the tops of plants

This will encourage bushy plants like tomatoes and gooseberries to grow two shoots making for a bushier plant with more fruit.

59. Gardener’s hand cleaning tip

Take a teaspoon of sugar and a dessertspoon of olive oil and rub into your hands thoroughly – the sugar acts as an exfoliant to get rid of the dirt and the olive oil helps it get into the fine lines on the skin leaving your with fresh, clean hands once it is rinsed off

60. No spiders in galoshes

What ever you choose to call them – gumboots, wellington’s, galoshes – those rubber boots left standing on the floor invite toads to make a home or mice or spiders…. Sprinkle a little borax in your boots when you take them off, shake it around then store them upside down from a rafter in the shed or cover the tops with a plastic bag tied over the top so insects and reptiles can’t make their way in and give you a nasty surprise.

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21 Canning Tips for Beginners

As a child, I would marvel at the canning exhibits at agricultural shows with my mother. The peaches, plums and apricots in the jars displaying the blue ribbons, were perfectly positioned and the color seemed to capture the essence of summer sun-ripened fruit. I could only imagine the taste of the contents of those award-winning jars that only the judges were lucky enough to experience.

Reaching that pinnacle of home canning isn’t so hard. It is something like medicine – to succeed as a doctor you follow procedures, and the most important of all is sterilization and scrupulous attention to hygiene. Secondly you need the right tools – the saying that ”a workman is only as good as his tools”, holds true for canning too.

So, with those two points top of mind here is the list of canning tips if you want a pantry full of fruit with ripeness to the core”, as John Keats wrote in his famous poem, Ode to Autumn. All through the icy, blustery days of winter you will be able to enjoy the richness of the balmy days of summer.

mason jars

#1. Choose the right jars

Mason jars have been tried and trusted for decades – for good reason – they are made to withstand the process of pressure canning. They also have a nice wide mouth for getting the product into the jar. Although we are all into recycling, please don’t re-use a jar you bought from the supermarket for hot water bath canning or pressure canning. Those jars have their place for storage of dry goods or making pesto and salsas that will be used within a day or so. Re-used under heat and pressure they may break. The lids are not meant to be re-used. Spend a little on buying proper canning jars – it will save time and wasted produce in the long run. In addition, you won’t run the risk of poisoning someone with a can of preserves that is spoilt.

#2. Buy new lids

Don’t re-use the lids for your mason jars – they come in two parts, the flat piece and the screw on band. Keep the screw on piece as long as it isn’t rusty or bent. Rust creates pitting on the inside of the screw on part, which can prevent a good seal and if they are slightly bent out of shape, it will prevent obtaining an airtight seal. The metal snap lids, are created for once off use only as the red rubbery seal can be heated and cooled once – after that the seal will be worn and you can’t be certain it will make the same quality seal.

pressure canner

#3. Choose a good pressure canner

Pressure canning is the only method recommended by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as safe for canning produce, which includes vegetables, poultry, meat and seafood. Why?  According to the USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning, Agriculture Bulletin No 539, “The bacterium Clostridium botulinum is destroyed in low-acid foods when they are processed at the correct time and pressure in pressure canners. Using boiling water canners for these foods poses a real risk of botulism poisoning.” (source)

As the World Health Organization (WHO) points out in the fact sheet, ‘Botulism’ that was updated in December 2016, consuming processed food that hasn’t been properly processed can cause foodborne botulism. Although it is rare, botulism poisoning is potentially fatal unless diagnosed and treated with antitoxin within a short space of time. “Homemade canned, preserved or fermented foodstuffs are a common source of foodborne botulism and their preparation requires extra caution,” cautions the WHO factsheet on Botulism.

This is why you need a pressure canner  – the model pictured above also functions as a pressure cooker with a large capacity. It comes with an extended 12-year limited warranty, but what is of vital importance is the pressure dial gauge that indicates the full range of processing pressures. This is very important when adjusting pressure for higher altitudes. It includes a canning/cooking rack and a complete recipe and instruction booklet.

#4. Clean jars and lids

When you receive your box of shiny new canning jars don’t be tempted to just fill them – they may have been created under sterile conditions but they still need to be sterilized before use, and this includes the lids. This also helps with making sure the jars are warm before you put your hot product into them. Cracking can occur due to the sudden change in temperature if you don’t do this.

canning funnel

#5. Use a canning funnel

When filling the jars use a canning funnel and remember to sterilize it before use. I prefer the stainless steel type like this one rather than the plastic type. The difference is only a couple of dollars.

Using the canning funnel helps avoid spills on the jar.

#6. Use canning tongs

The price of a visit to a doctor for burn treatment will be far more expensive than your HIC canning tongs.

When you are moving hot jars around, lifting them from the steam bath or from the pressure canner you need these! They keep your hands safely away from the steam and heat and provide a secure grip.

#7. Checking for cracks/chips

Factories have rigorous procedures for quality checking but in the journey to the shop and from there home, chips can occur. Before sterilizing jars check for imperfections that could affect your jars during the canning process.  A small chip, especially near the rim, can affect the sealing. Similarly, inspect the lids for imperfections in the seal ring. After the pressure canning also check for cracks before storing your product – which brings us to the next point.

#8. Keeping an even temperature

Treat your jars like babies: no sudden changes in temperature. From the sterilization to the filling, to taking them out of the canner, try to avoid big temperature changes. For example when you take the jars out of the canner don’t place them directly on a cold surface – cover the counter top with a towel so the temperature doesn’t drop excessively and make sure you are not in an environment where icy wind can swirl in, as cracks can occur in the glass.

#9. Headspace

This refers to the space between the top of the product in the jar and the underside of the lid. Measuring and double-checking the headspace is important in getting a good vacuum seal. Some products tend to swell taking up some of the headspace after processing – beans for example. When you’re using a hot water bath for canning then just ¼ inch for jams and jellies, and ½ an inch for other high acid foods is fine. For the pressure canner you need to leave more head space because air expands when heated and you need to leave room for the air in the food itself to expand during processing – the higher the temperature the greater the expansion.

#10. Removing air bubbles

Use a plastic spatula or knife to slide between the product and the side of the jar to release any trapped air bubbles even if they are not visible to the naked eye, as they may be trapped between pieces of food. Don’t forget this step and do it thoroughly around the sides of the jar as trapped air can lead to spoilage. If the level of product in the jar has gone down a bit after releasing the air bubbles then fill to the correct headspace with a little more product. A plastic utensil is better than steel as the metal could damage the jars – remember they are hot, and glass when heated can be weakened, resulting in breakages.

#11. Getting a good seal

Check the top of the jar particularly carefully to ensure no product has caught in the ridges otherwise the lids will not seal properly and you’ll have spoilt products. Always have a damp sterile cloth that has been dipped in some Milton’s or other germ-killing product to wipe carefully around the tops of the jars before adding the lids.

12. Temperature regulation

The boiling water bath method can be used for high acid foods like fruit, tomatoes and pickles, but even then citric acid will need to be added to some produce to increase the acidity, but all other food should be processed in the steam canner. Where the boiling water method can only reach 212 degrees F at sea level, the steam canner reaches 240 degrees F. When using a boiling water bath the general rule is to boil for an extra minute for every 1000 feet above sea level.

This handy document from Montana State University gives guide to the times and temperatures for processing different foodstuffs on page three.

#13. Maintaining pressure

When canning with a steam canner don’t set the burner on high otherwise it becomes difficult to regulate the pressure. The processing time starts from the time the pressure is reached. Stay in the kitchen to monitor the progress – if the pressure rises do not fiddle with the vent – simply turn down the burner until it the pressure is correct. If the pressure drops too low you need to start retiming from the start. To kill the organisms that cause spoilage the pressure must remain constant for the set amount of time in your pressure and processing guide.

sugar cube

#14. Don’t substitute sugar  

There is a move towards using less sugar in a bid to contain the high rates of obesity and diabetes but sugar has an important part to play in canning. Like salt, sugar acts as a preservative.

The Chair of the Nutrition and Food Science Department of Maryland University, Mickey Parish, explains in an article for Scientific American how sugar draws water from the inside of the fruit replacing the water with sugar molecules, in this way inhibiting the growth of microbes by weakening their DNA structure.

To inhibit the growth of molds and yeasts as Parish points out in the article the product water activity (aw) needs to be as low as 0.80. In fresh fruit it is 0.99. So the lesson here is that if the recipe calls for a certain amount of sugar don’t try and reduce the sugar or use artificial sweeteners – they will not have the same chemical reaction and you could end up with products that are spoilt or can make people severely ill if they eat them. Anyway artificial sweeteners are possibly even worse than sugar for health.

If you are worried about sugar, make sure to spread a little less jam or jelly on bread and reduce the portions of canned fruit served or find a recipe that uses honey. Incidentally, honey lasts so long because the bees make sure that they only cap off the honeycombs when the moisture content is around 17% to 18%. If beekeepers remove the honey before this stage then the water content may be higher and could result in fermentation. Make sure you use honey from a reliable source. The exception to this is clover honey, which has a moisture content of around 23% but is still fine to use.

pickled vegetables

#15. Prick your pickles

This follows on from Point #7 where the aim it to get the sugar or vinegar to the core of the product. In order to ensure the vinegar or sugar get to the center of harder fruit or vegetables the produce should be pricked all over with a sterilized fork.

Nice firm pickles will result from this. I remember hours spent in the kitchen with my mom preparing watermelon preserve – taking all those pieces and pricking them all over before they were processed further into a sweet concoction.

#16. Follow instructions

Recipes are a blueprint for success – ensure the ones you use have been thoroughly tested. If they are not from a reliable source, don’t use them.

Don’t be tempted to skip stages – like sterilizing, or pricking the pickles, or substituting products. The ratios have been worked out so do your best to follow the instructions correctly if you want a successful batch.

#17. When to remove jars from the pressure canner

If the instructions say the jars must be removed from the canner then don’t leave them to cool off there overnight. Once the process is finished switch off the heat source and leave the jars in the canner for ten minutes or so. Do not try to cool them off by putting the pressure canner in cold water or fiddling with the vent.

When the pressure gauge is at 0 wait for at least 2 minutes before attempting to open, if it’s one of those with the metal bit that drops down wait until it drops then give a test by lifting slightly – any sign of hissing means leave it alone to cool further. Once the lid is off – and take care at this stage that steam does not get in your face – then allow the jars to cool off for a further 10 minutes or so before removing them with the canning tongs – and wear gloves too. The jars, product and water in the canner will still be very hot.

#18. The product is as good as the produce

If the recipe says “select nice firm fruit” then do so – trying to use fruit that is a little overripe means decay has already set in and will only waste time and materials.

#19. Don’t double batches

The ratios are worked out quite precisely in recipes so doubling batching means a slower reaction time for the larger quantities of ingredients and a delay in heating which can affect the reaction, resulting in products not setting well, particularly jams and jellies. It is better to set two pots side by side and make two separate batches rather than use a huge pot for one batch.

#20. Checking seals

Once the jars are cool – this could take between 12 to 24 hours – remove the screw bands and lift by the lid to check if the seal is strong. If any of the jars did not seal correctly then put that product aside to be re-processed the same day or put it in the fridge to use within the next day or so. The product can also be frozen if suitable for freezing.

#21. Labeling

Wipe down the jars to ensure they are dry and non-sticky before putting on the labels. Every label should show the month and year, and possibly even the particular day the batch was processed to ensure you use cans in the correct rotation.

This video takes you through the basic of home canning:

If you bear these tips in mind and follow tried and trusted recipes then you’ll be able to bask in the glory of divine jars of food that will have everyone around the dinner table clamoring for more and have gifts to give to friends. What a wonderful way of sharing the bounty of summer!

The post 21 Canning Tips for Beginners appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

47 Foods to Dehydrate for Your Stockpile

Preserving your own food and building up your food storage isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time, money, and effort but putting up your harvest and having food on hand is an essential part of any survival plan. Dehydrating your own food can make the process quicker, easier, and cheaper. You won’t have to spend money on fancy freeze dried backpacking meals or sit around watching a pressure canner.

Along with being shelf stable dehydrated food is also lightweight and healthy making it great for a SHTF scenario. The process of dehydrating food destroys less of its nutrients than canning and it will last longer than frozen food even if you still have electricity. Dehydrators are also very affordable and solar dehydrators can be made at home so you can preserve food energy free.

Be sure to check specific instructions for what you’re dehydrating. Different foods have different dehydrating temperatures and times. Some should even be cooked or blanched before dehydrating.

Vegetables

If you garden or stockpile from your local farmers market dehydrating vegetables can be an extremely affordable and easy way to add tons of nutrition to your pantry. Many vegetables are delicious eaten dry or rehydrated.

 

dehydrated peppers

photo by Well Preserveed on Flickr under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

Peppers

While peppers can be pickled or pressure canned dehydrating is still a great option. It’s less work and the peppers don’t get soft like pressure canned peppers do. Chili peppers can also be ground into powder after drying.

 

sun dried tomatoes

Tomatoes

Sun dried tomatoes are absolutely delicious but in much of the world they can’t actually be dried with just sunlight. Thankfully they taste just as good in the dehydrator. Tomato skins left over from canning can also be dehydrated, powdered and added to meals for flavor and thickening.

 

dried zucchini

photo credits to George Wesley & Bonita Dannells via Flickr under the CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

Summer Squash & Zucchini

If you have a garden chances are you have tons of summer squash to put up. Unfortunately canned squash can often turn out mushy and flavorless. Dehydrated squash on the other hand keeps some of its texture and flavor and can be tossed in soups, stews, and sauces.

Pumpkin & Winter Squash

Pumpkin or squash purees are easily dehydrated and then reconstituted to go with meals or to use as pie filling. They can also be powdered to create pumpkin spice flavoring.

 

brocolli

photo credits to Backdoor Survival via Flickr under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license

Brocolli

This veggie is packed with vitamins C, B1, B2, B3, B6 and antioxidants, perfect for your survival stockpile.

 

Green Beans

Besides rehydrating them for meals many people also eat dehydrated green beans as a snack.

 

onions dehydrated

photo by vigilant20 (דָרוּך) via Flickr under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

Onions

Dehydrated onions can be easily ground into onion powder and take up much less space then fresh onions in storage.

 

dehydrated peas

photo credits to vigilant20 (דָרוּך) via Flickr under the CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

Peas

Peas are simple to dehydrate making them ready to go for quick meals.

 

dehydrated carrots

photo by vigilant20 (דָרוּך) via Flickr under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

Carrots

They can be rehydrated and used in other meals or powdered with other vegetables like onions, peas, and beans to make a flavorful vegetable powder.

Lettuce

It sounds weird but if you’ve had a big lettuce harvest there’s not really any other way to store it longterm. Dehydrated and powdered lettuce can be snuck into smoothies and meals for extra nutrients.

Other Greens

Many greens like spinach, kale, and swiss chard can be dried for a number of uses. They can be powdered, made into chips, or added to meals.

Fruit

Store bought dried fruit can be super expensive but making your own is so easy! Grow your own, look for fruit on sale, or visit a pick your own farm for the best deal.

dehydrated apples

Apples

Just slice them up and spread them on a dehydrator tray. Apples pieces can be dried with or without the peel. Dried apples are great for tossing into homemade trail mix or as a topping for oatmeal or cereal.

 

dehydrated nectarines

photo credits Duncan Creamer via Flickr under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

Nectarines

Yummm.

 

dehydrated pineapple

photo by vigilant20 (דָרוּך) via Flickr under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

Pineapple

Again, yummm.

 

dehydrated bananas

photo by vigilant20 (דָרוּך) via Flickr under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

Bananas

Dried banana slices are wonderfully sweet and make excellent snacks, especially for kids.

 

raisins

Grapes

Make your own raisins! If you grow your own you can have a much bigger variety than store-bought raisins.

 

dehydrating strawberries

photo credits: Michael Coté via Flickr under the CC by 2.0 license

Strawberries

If you’re craving candy but don’t want the sugar, dried strawberries may be the solution. They’re tasty but healthy.

Watermelon

There’s not many ways to preserve watermelon but it can be dried into what’s often called watermelon candy.

Plums

Make your own prunes.

dried berries

Berries

Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and other small berries can be dried whole and added to homemade granolas, trail mixes, or rehydrated for use in other recipes.

Herbs

Most culinary herbs are easy to grow and dehydrate. As herbs are generally expensive but relatively easy to grow you can save a lot of money by growing and dehydrating your own for relatively little effort. You can also dehydrate herbs to make your own herbal teas or remedies. These are just a few examples.

Basil

Easy to dry and a staple in many homes.

Sage

Dried sage is delicious and perfect for making biscuits and gravy!

Parsley

While often used as a garnish parsley can be a delicious addition to many meals and offers loads of nutrients. Some even consider it a superfood.

Cilantro

Having dried cilantro on hand can be perfect for adding to homemade salsa or other dishes.

Mint

Dry your own for some soothing tea.

Yarrow

Dried yarrow helps stop bleeding and can be powdered to pack into wounds in emergencies.

Chamomile

Chamomile is easy to grow and drying your own tea will save you money.

Lemon Balm

Dried lemon balm can also be made into a delicious, lemony tea.

Proteins

Sourcing protein in a survival situation is extremely important. Having some of these dried foods on hand can keep you full and energized in SHTF event.

Ground Meat

Ground meat like turkey or hamburger can be cooked and dehydrated. It’s easy to rehydrate.

 

deer jerkey

Jerky

Almost any kind of meat can be dried into jerky. Even chicken and fish. Plus it’s so much better than store-bought and is a great protein source for survival situations.

 

pemmican

Pemmican

Pemmican is another great way to store protein for survival. It’s typically made from fat, meat, and berries though a vegetarian version can be made with nuts, coconut oil, and berries instead.

 

Dehydrated Pig Skin

photo credits Arnold Gatilao via Flickr under a CC BY 2.0 license

Pig Skin

 

Eggs

If your hens are laying too many eggs for you to keep up with consider dehydrating some.

Beans

All kinds of beans can be cooked and then dehydrated to make instant beans. They’re prefect for camping or survival situations because they’re light, shelf stable, packed with protein, and have a short cook time.

Edamame

Edamame is another great protein source for survival situations once it’s dehydrated.

Snacks

These dehydrated snacks are great to keep in the pantry to encourage healthy eating habits and lower grocery bills.

Fruit Leather

Store bought fruit leather or roll ups are often full of added sugar and preservatives. Instead you can make your own at home with pureed fruit or applesauce.

Veggie Chips

Many vegetables like carrots, kale, sweet potatoes, and beets can be seasoned and dried to make a healthy snack.

Candied Ginger

Candied ginger is a tasty treat but is also highly medicinal and easy to make and dehydrate right at home.

Miscellaneous

The abundance of food that can be safely dehydrated will definitely surprise you. Some foods are dehydrated simply to preserve a harvest while dehydrating others makes cooking from scratch easier.

Rice

If you like to cook with or stockpile instant rice it’s surprisingly easy to make at home. Just partially cook regular rice than spread it in a thin layer on a dehydrator tray.

Sprouted Grains

Sprouted flours are good for you but can be quite pricy. You can make your own by sprouting wheat berries or other grains and then dehydrating them before milling them into flour.

Wild Mushrooms

Most wild mushrooms are considered unsafe for pressure canning but any are tasty even when dehydrated. Try drying oyster mushrooms or chanterelles after your next foraging adventure.

Potatoes

Potatoes can be dehydrated in a variety of ways so that they last longer and are lighter and faster to cook, perfect for your survival food storage.

Sourdough Starter

If you’ll be going on vacation or don’t want to take care of your sourdough starter for awhile it can be dehydrated. Then it can be rehydrated whenever you’re ready to start using it again.

Cheese

Cheese can in fact be dehydrated. It’s great to make cheese powders for long term storage or camping trips. Note that it’s best to use less oily cheeses like parmesan or sharp cheddar.

Sauces

Many sauces like spaghetti sauce can be dehydrated similarly to fruit leather and then reconstituted to help make an easy lightweight meal.

Pasta

If you make your own pasta it can be dehydrated and keeps just like the store bought stuff.

 

dehydrated corn

photo credits to vigilant20 (דָרוּך) via Flickr under the CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

Corn

Yummm.

Full Meals

By combining these different dehydrated foods you can create healthy, nearly instant meals for survival situations, camping trips, or simply after a long day. Some great examples include dehydrated beans and homemade instant rice with dried veggies or dried spaghetti sauce, dried ground meat, and pasta.

Whether your planning a backpacking trip to test your survival skills, putting up your harvest, or trying to stock up for various emergencies, dehydrating food is a great idea.

What’s your favorite dehydrated food? Are there any great foods missing from this list?

The post 47 Foods to Dehydrate for Your Stockpile appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

Making Delicious Dandelion Honey Butter [RECIPE]

This is something special you can get the kids involved during the spring and summer when fluffy yellow dandelions are popping their heads up in the lawn and in the pastures.

It’s amazing how kids will eat what they have made themselves – and you better be sure you give all the right words of praise for their efforts! Their nimble little fingers will make short work of picking off those dandelion petals. And then there’s the mini adventure of going out to find the dandelions and the discussions about nature and the butterflies you’re bound to get involved in as well.

I find this dandelion honey butter particularly good on scones, but you can use it wherever you would use a sweet butter – crumpets, pancakes, and bread.

dandelion butter

Before you go out hunting for your dandelions lets get the basic recipe down so you know your quantities. If you’re an average family of four then you will probably need the following amounts but you can adjust up or down, but do read the tips before starting.

dandelion

The Recipe

Ingredients

½ cup of butter

½ cup of dandelion petals

2 tablespoons of raw organic honey

Method

The butter should be at room temperature so you can simply whip the honey and butter together with a spoon then gently fold in the dandelion petals.

I think the fresher you eat anything the better, as it’s filled with all its natural goodness but you can keep this mix in the fridge for two months or so. The chances are it will be eaten long before then. Besides the kids will probably want to go dandelion picking the very next week.

Tips

Why raw honey?

Purists believe that honey should be used as it comes from the comb to benefit from its natural components like propolis, which is apparently destroyed by irradiation. This link  HYPERLINK “https://www.treehugger.com/green-food/what-you-should-know-about-honey-you-buy-it.html” https://www.treehugger.com/green-food/what-you-should-know-about-honey-you-buy-it.html will explain why you shouldn’t buy just any “honey” as some of it even has corn syrup added!

Picking the dandelions

picking petals off dandelion

The trouble with dandelion petals is that you pick loads of flower heads – you will need at least 2 cups or so to take home. You should end up with ½ a cup of petals because we don’t want the green part at the base of the flower as this isn’t so sweet. Incidentally don’t let kids chew the stems of the dandelions as they can be mildly toxic. To learn more about dandelions read this.

People have asked if you can use dried dandelion flowers. Well you can but the finished product will not look at pretty as the bright yellow combination with fresh petals. If the fresh product is right there in your garden or nearby why used the dried form? I much prefer using fresh mint, basil and oregano in dishes than the dried ones – unless its winter when the plants have died down and there is no alternative.

Watch out for chemicals

Pick from your own garden where you know no chemicals have been used or from a neighbor’s property  – in fact anywhere you can be sure the plants haven’t been treated with poisons. Explain to your picking team – aka the kids – that you want fresh looking bright colored flower heads – no wilted petals or ones turning brown. Wash the flower heads before pulling off the petals. I find it best to pick in the morning – by late afternoon the flower heads have closed up. Also use them as soon as possible after picking – otherwise they also close up.

Making it a survival treat

If you are lucky enough to have your own survival farm you can get all your ingredients from the farm – organic honey with no irradiation or additives, fresh butter churned from the cream at the top of the milk from your cow and dandelions you deliberately left growing in the pastures, which the bees love – all contributing to the cycle of food production.

Cows also enjoy dandelion in small quantities but their pastures should not have too many as this report explains. But that’s the beauty of it – by picking the dandelion flowers you are preventing the pastures being over run if they were all left to go to seed.

pure honey in a bowl

Why raw organic honey?

The FDA has approved the irradiation of certain foods with Gamma energy in order to prolong shelf life by killing bacteria and mold as well as insects but it is not apparently effective against viruses. To learn more about the pros and coms of irradiation you can read this , which gives quite a bit of technical information regarding all types of irradiated food. If you prefer more specific information about pasteurizing and irradiating honey then watch this video.

Basil Flower Butter – a savory alternative

Basil flower butter on bread

As an alternative to the sweet butter you can pick the tiny light-purple flowers from your basil plants in late summer and autumn and mix them with butter for a delicious savory spread redolent with the flavor of basil.

Ingredients

One small handful of basil flowers

½ a cup of butter at room temperature

Method

Simply stir the  basil flowers into the half cup of soft butter and spread on crackers, sourdough bread or toast.

A palmful of basil flowers

The post Making Delicious Dandelion Honey Butter [RECIPE] appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

How to Keep Your Chickens Safe and Healthy

I dreamed of having beautiful chickens, Guinea fowl, ducks, turkeys, geese, peafowl, and even cute little quail running throughout our little homestead. They all come in so many beautiful colors and sounds; not to mention the food they will provide us in the case of an emergency.

Before buying up a bunch of birds whether adults, biddies, or eggs; a lot of thought and research needs to be done on all types of birds before you can even think of starting to build coops and pens for them. I found that it is best to focus on one breed at a time to allow you to learn the best way to care for them.

If you are planning to keep poultry as pets then these are your babies and you will want to give them the best care possible. However, if you are raising these birds for food then you still need to remember that they will be going into your and your family’s bodies. You still want the best breeds for your needs. You would not give your human babies unhealthy food, so how could you do that to the chickens.

Defending the Coop

Protect your birds from various predators by beginning your process with a coop. It doesn’t matter if you buy a ready-made coop or build one yourself, as long as it is sturdy and suits the needs of the chickens. You can do some simple techniques to make it safe for your birds.

1. Know What Predators Are in The Area

To start with you will need to know what predators there are in the area. Neighborhood dogs and cats, hawks, foxes, owls, raccoons, coyotes, and opossums are the more common predators.

Knowing what predator is most prone to attack, will allow you to create a more effective and efficient defense system. Many of the predators are highly intelligent, while others are simply opportunists. All can be discouraged by some easy backyard safety measures.

2. Buried Wire

If you are planning on building a run for your birds, it is imperative to know that several predators might try digging under it to get to your birds. It’s important to know that chickens are kept in and safe with chicken wire; the predators are kept at bay through the hardware cloth.

A starving animal won’t stop until it is able to break through the flimsy chicken wire.

So, it is best to dig down and bury the chicken wire about 3 to 4 feet deep under the run. Also, don’t forget to dig 8 to 12 inches around the run to place the hardware cloth (wire). These safety measures will keep the predators from being able to tunnel through to get to the underside of the run.

The same principles apply if you have chicken tractor. Ensure that the hardware cloth covers the floor to avert predators from tunneling their way into your chickens.

Note: The wiring can cause cuts to the birds’ feet, so make sure to check the feet often to keep them safe.

If raising ducks will call for a wading pool inside their pen. You can simple dig a hole and line it with plastic. Then run a water hose out to it. The problem with this style is you would have to constantly clean it since it has no drain and ducks tend to drag food into the water. They also poop in the water.

Here is a good idea on creating a duck pool from a kid’s plastic wading pool.

3. Put A Top on The Coop

If the area you reside in has a large population of hawks, owls and other birds of prey, it’s necessary for you to put a top on your run.

Chicken wire can be used, allowing your birds to still have visibility while stopping attacks from flying predators. Tarps can provide great shade and protection too.

4. Increase Visibility

Keep the area around your run clean from debris or tall plants so you can see around it well. You obviously want to be able to see a predator before it attacks.

chicken coop

5. Block All the Access Holes

To ensure that there are no possible access holes, make sure to regularly check the enclosure, as the tiniest holes or gaps make it accessible for the predators to enter the coop. Small animals, like weasels, are able to squeeze across a hole that measures only half an inch, which is something you certainly don’t want. Weasels kill for fun, and have been known to destroy a good-sized flock in just one night. So, check often for signs that a predator may be trying to find a way into the coop and strengthen those sections.

6. Lock Up at Night

It is vital that you securely lock the coop up every night. Make sure that you are using a locking system that is not opened easily by clever critters. Raccoons are especially infamously intelligent creatures and are known to be able to open the simplest of locks and bolts.

A carabiner is a good lock to use because it requires the use of opposable thumbs. Use a padlock to further ensure that your coop is kept safe from the two-legged predator-man. Rare breeds are often stolen for their resale value, however, some will rob your hen house for eggs or meat.

This will start to happening all too often, causing unprepared neighbors to search for food. It might be a good idea to use three or four locks on the coop – two on the entrance door and another couple of locks on the coops pop door.

7. Check Biosecurity

Cleanliness is imperative to keep your birds healthy and safe. Every evening the pens should be cleaned of any leftover scraps of food.

Rats will be attracted to the food left in the feed troughs or flooring. They have been known to eat the biddies and their eggs. Once they have entered, they can wreak havoc to your birds, pens, and move into your home as well. Rats mainly come out at night, so if you’re seeing them during the day, it means the problem is huge and should be rectified immediately.

Note: Rats do not like the daylight, so only the lower hierarchical rats will risk a raid during the daytime.

8. Be Alert for Snakes

If you have rats lurking around, then it will not be long before you have snakes hanging around as well. Make sure to inspect the coop daily for these buggers. Rat, Corn and Black snakes will steal eggs and small chicks. Though snakes can help keep down the rat population, they are also able to be moved to another area.

9. Collect Eggs Daily

To keep predators away, collect the eggs daily to deter the temptation of stealing the eggs. Do this several times per day to make sure you have collected any eggs from late laying hens.

10. Add Motion Sensor Lighting

Many predators will attack only at night, one of them are raccoons. Having a bright light pop on will frighten away many would-be predators. The motion sensor lights will activate when any motion around the coop is detected and the lights can be adapted with an alarm to alert you of a possible predator.

Free Ranging Defense

While it is reasonably simple to safeguard a chicken run and coop, what can be done when you are raising free-range chickens? This is harder to do but it is feasible if you follow and implement what follows.

1. Hang Your Old CDs

For protection from preying birds (not a Klingon Destroyer either) hang up those old scratched up CDs or aluminum pie tins in the trees and bushes around your property.

When the sun rays hit the CDs, the reflection will scare off the any nearby preying birds.

Note: Avoid the use of mirrors, as they are likely to start a fire.

2. Use Electric Fences

Installing electric fences around the property will help to keep predators at bay as well. This type of fencing is inexpensive and simple to install, making the ideal choice for your homestead.

3. Install Safety Shelters

Preying birds can get very aggressive and attack all breeds with the intention of scaring them away, which is why you need to have a few safety shelters to allow your birds to hide in when under an attack. Use a 55-gallon or larger capacity plastic drum and cut it lengthways, or you can even use a wood pallet set on top of cement blocks.

rooster

4. Get Roosters

Roosters can cause a nuisance in the city or townships due to the early crowing. Some neighbors don’t like being woken up to the sound of a rooster calling the sun up when they have worked the night shift or had a rough night. On the other hand, if you reside in the countryside, it’s generally fine. A decent rooster will defend his ladies with his life.

Note: Ensure that you have done enough research to find a breed of rooster that fits your needs.

5. Use Guard Dogs

Dogs can protect a larger area around the flock than a rooster; additionally, their scent can be extremely alarming to many predators. This usually means the predator will not attempt to enter the area if they smell a dog in the vicinity. Before adding a dog to the mix make sure that they are properly trained or your dog can become a predator.

Hygiene and Cleanliness

Chickens remain curious creatures and this can sometimes get them in trouble. Keeping the predators away is not enough, as sometimes the major threats have already entered your yard or garden. So, here are a few ideas to keep your place a safe haven for your flocks.

1. Avoid Toxic Chemicals

Chemicals used to kill weeds and insects in your yard and garden can be deadly to your flocks if they eat plants with this on it. Make sure to keep the flocks away from areas that have been sprayed. Store the containers out of reach of your birds. If they accidentally get into any chemicals, call your veterinarian straight away.

2. Botulism

If you have never heard of Botulism before, it is a toxin that causes life-threatening poisoning.

If your homestead has a rat problem and you use poison to fix and hold the population of rodents, then be conscious that chickens will peck at the dead carcass and in turn be poisoned. Dispose of all dead animals that you find in a place that the chickens cannot access.

Botulism can also occur through dirty drinking water, especially caused by ducks. Try to keep the ducks’ ponds as clean as you can. However, ducks will dirty up any drinking water you have set out because they like to get in the water. Ducks will poop in the water creating a very unhealthy habitat for all sorts of problems to occur. So, keep in mind the regular cleaning that will need to be performed with the ducks’ water.

3. Clean The Feeders

Use a little bleach to clean the water dishes and feeders clean on a weekly basis. Bleach will kill a lot of germs and other nasty stuff growing in the feeders and water dishes. However, make sure to rinse the dishes well after using bleach on them. You can do the same method with the duck ponds that you have created for the flock of ducks.

4. Keep Their Feed Fresh

It is important that the feed is always fresh and not old and rotten. Make sure to store your GMO-free feed in waterproof and dry containers with a lid on it. Feed that has become old and moldy can kill your birds.

5. Regular Cleaning of the Coop

It is common knowledge that urine and poop can cause all sorts of health problems. Ammonia in high levels can cause respiratory issues and blindness in the birds. A dirty coop will attract flies, which can create health problems within the flock too. Weekly cleaning can eliminate many health issues in your flock.

6. Health Checks Regularly

Ensure you do routine health checks on all your birds. Keep notice of your birds’ behaviors every day and make sure to include vent checks to keep up their health.

If the area around the vent becomes matted and clotted with poop it could lead to what is known as Flystrike; you will then need to give your birds a bath.

Add some warm water and some vinegar into a bucket. Allow the bird to sit in this solution to soak most of the matted section off. Then gently use a mild soap, such as Dawn Dish Soap, to clean the area. Make sure to rinse all the soap off when you have thoroughly cleaned the vent area. Sometimes it is necessary to trim feathers around the area to help keep it from matting up again.

Conclusion

All the tips mentioned above will help keep your chickens safe and healthy. Ensure that you are watchful and clean in all aspects of dealing with your flocks of birds. Make sure that you always have a steady supply of food if TEOTWAWKI happens so the consequence would be that they’ll live longer when shtf so you can have fresh meat for a longer period of time.

The post How to Keep Your Chickens Safe and Healthy appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

How to Make Maple Syrup

So you’re tired of paying high prices for that delicious maple syrup to smother pancakes with and you’ve decided it’s time to make you own? Well that’s great – after all its pure natural sugar without any additives.

The Sugar Maple (scientific name Acer Saccharum) is native to Canada and the northern states of the USA. The syrup from this tree is renowned world wide for its wonderful taste that no artificial “maple” flavor can give to ordinary cane or corn syrup. Although making maple syrup can be a long process its totally worth it for the taste sensation.

If you are keen here’s the lowdown from people who have been making maple syrup for years. If you want organic maple syrup then the particular stand of trees you are tapping from should not have been treated with any synthetic fertilizer or pesticides. Here’s a video to show you the steps from start to finish, but we do suggest you read right through this article because it will answer a lot of questions about making maple syrup:

I don’t have enough sugar maples – can I tap from other maples?

You can, but their sugar concentration will be lower resulting in more sap needing to be tapped to make sufficient maple syrup, however sugar concentrations can vary. The average is 2% but as you’ll see towards the end of this report.

that at the St John’s Campus of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Minnesota the sugar concentrations were much higher than average for all the trees tested – Sugar Maple 4.5%, Red Maple 4%, Amur Maple 3.9%, Silver Maple 3.4% and Box Elder 2.5%. It could just be the particular conditions at the site and time of year the trees were tested that yielded these unusual results.

When will the sap flow?

Sap flow is dependent on weather conditions – the nights must be below freezing – that is 320 F or 00 C and the days must be warm – around 40 to 450 F Why is this temperature difference necessary? It’s because the maple has stored starch from the previous summer in the root tissue of the tree – as the temperatures rise it turns this starch back into sugar and it rises through the sap of the tree in the form of a clear liquid due to ground water being incorporated into the mix stored in the roots. If the sap is collected during warmer weather it will be darker.

The alternate thawing and freezing action allows the sap to flow due to the pressure. It’s like when they ask you squeeze a sponge repeatedly during the blood donation process – the alternate contraction and release keeps the blood flowing into the donor bag.

What size trees can I tap?

The tree should be 10 inches in diameter before tapping. If you are just beginning with maple tapping don’t go for the tube network – this is for people who are more advanced. One normally only does one tap per tree – the idea is that you use the maples sustainably – they need the sugar for their life processes too – and you want healthy trees to tap from next year – so don’t be tempted to extract more from the tree.

Where do I tap the tree and what do I use to make the hole?

You drill the hole into the side of the tree that receives the most sunlight. The tap should be tween one to four feet above the ground and should be above a root or below a branch to get the maximum flow. The tap should be made at a slightly upward angle so the sap can run down into your container and the hole should be about ½ an inch longer than the tap, also known as a spile, you are going to insert. You can use a cordless electric drill or simply a big nail and hammer, removing the nail once you have used it to make the hole.

Inserting the tap and affixing the bucket

Push the tap firmly into the hole you have made then attach the tube that leads to the bucket, or special plastic bag, which must be fastened around the tree. Make sure to use a bucket with a securely fitting cover, as you don’t want leaves and debris, rain or bugs getting into the sap. This will just take extra time in straining it before boiling.

How much sap will the average tree give me?

Well this depends on the size and type of tree as well as weather conditions, but a sugar maple should give around 10 gallons of sap per season.

Collecting the sap

As your buckets fill empty them into a storage container  – you can do this over a period of a week but not longer otherwise the sap will go off. You should boil the sap as soon as possible after collecting it.

Remove the taps

As soon as you have finished with sap collection for the season remove the taps from the trees. You do not need to put anything on the tree – the holes will seal themselves in time.

How much sap do I need to make a gallon of syrup?

The ratio is around 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. This is because the sugar content is on average around 2% – the lower the sugar content the more sap you will need.

Evaporator or pan?

Evaporators are expensive so it is probably better to boil a normal pan over a fire if you are starting out with maple syrup production. If you have access to plenty of trees and sap then perhaps think of investing in an evaporator if you are going to be selling the syrup.

Boiling Maple sap – indoors or outdoors?

It is best to boil outdoors as the clouds of steam vented during the process can make the whole house steamy and make your kitchen quite sticky unless you have a really good venting system.

Getting ready to boil outdoors

You can make a fire pit lined with stones in which to build your fire so wind doesn’t disturb your fire and the heat remains constant. Make sure you have plenty of firewood at hand as this can be long process lasting 12 or more hours – depending on how much sap you intend boiling down. Make sure you have a sturdy grid on which to rest you pans, so they are well supported. Having a pan tip and spill towards the end of the process can be heartbreaking! The fire flames shouldn’t be licking over the top of your pans – just reaching the bottom is where you want the flames to be.

Shape of pan

To allow for faster evaporation you need a flat wide container rather than the traditional pot shape otherwise you will be sitting waiting for hours on end for your syrup to evaporate down to the right consistency.

Type of pans to use

Use stainless steel pans. Aluminum will give an off taste to your syrup – and anyway cooking in aluminum containers is not good for your health as some studies have linked it to Alzheimer’s disease.

Copper is a great conductor of heat and a copper pan can be used for boiling. Just make sure that you have sufficient support under the pan as copper is a soft metal and under heat the bottom may bow unless it is properly supported. If you have sheets of copper and are planning on making your own pan then make sure to use lead free solder to join the seams. It’s also quite a job to clean copper – some people have started with copper then swopped to stainless steel simply because its easier to clean.

Filling the pans

Fill the pans to around 75% – otherwise the sap may boil over. As the moisture from the sap evaporates during the boiling process keep topping up at a steady rate. Eventually your pan should be around 50% full once most of the moisture has evaporated.

Keep an eye on them

This is one of those processes where the family or a bunch of friends need to be involved as you cannot leave the fire unattended – if the sap burns you have off-tasting syrup. You need to constantly be watching for “char” – that black stuff on the side of the pot mustn’t stay in the mix – use a small long handled strainer to remove any debris and the foam that comes to the top. When there is still a lot of water it will boil at 2120F or thereabout depending on your elevation above sea level. Do not let it go beyond this temperature!

Filtering the syrup

Before you go through the final stage of turning the sap into syrup you’ll need to filter it – you can make a sleeve from cheesecloth to filter it through or buy special cotton filter. Lots of people use a coffee filter. It’s important that you filter when the syrup is still very warm otherwise it will stick on the filter material.

The final stage

Once the syrup has been filtered you can reheat but make sure you keep an eye on the thermometer because when the sap reaches 2190F or 7 degrees above whatever the boiling point is for your elevation, you need to remove it from the heat immediately. If you let it remain on the fire it will get too thick and start to burn. If you prefer you can take your sap to boiling point outside then remove the pans to the indoor kitchen where you can watch the temperature more closely. Remember with an electric stove the plates stay warm so when it gets to 2190 F take it off the plate completely. With gas it’s easier because as soon as you turn off the flame the heat is gone.

How do I know when my syrup is ready?

The sap shouldn’t drip off the spoon – it should coat the spoon and slide off slowly – then you know you have the right consistency of syrup.

Sediment

You will see cloudy sediment that settles to the bottom of the syrup. This is not a problem but can be removed through filtering. It is referred to as sugar sand and is made up of minerals from the sap, but each time you reheat your maple syrup you need to re-filter as the heating process causes more to form. If you are selling your product and want to eliminate sediment then get a hydrometer and test with that.

If you are making for home use a little sediment will not hurt anyone – it settles to the bottom so you can just pour off and avoid this part.

Each batch is unique

Don’t feel you need to keep to a certain taste. Each batch you make will taste slightly different as it all depends on the time of the year the sap was taken, the soil type, the genetics of the tree, the weather, the sugar concentration and the process you followed in preparing the syrup – this is what makes maple syrup so special.

It’s a truly natural and unique product. The higher grades are lighter in color and come from the first sap taken in the season. As the season progresses the syrup will be darker and taste more maple-y and is graded lower – but some people prefer the darker syrup for its more robust flavor.

How long can I keep my maple syrup?

If you place it in clean sterilized canning jars and do the 10 minute boiling water processing bath, and store at room temperature your syrup should last through to the next season when you’ll be ready to make the next batch.

The post How to Make Maple Syrup appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

All-natural and Nontoxic Ways to Get Rid of Flies on the Homestead (Part 1)

My homestead brings all the flies to the yard…”

Well, it certainly feels that way. Pests are inevitable and to pets, livestock and family a little thing such as a fly used to be annoying but a way of life. Now it can be deadly with all the super strains of bacteria and disease that can be transmitted by that little bug.

What illnesses can flies transmit?

Although just considered a pest by many, the fly can actually carry life-threatening and fatal diseases a recent study by the University of Florida reports. The study documents up to 11 pathogens collected from houseflies and flies near restaurants and food sources. Five more bacteria caused illnesses showed up over the known pathogens already linked to the common house fly that included those linked to respiratory infections and food poisoning. The analyzed findings were extracted from the DNA and fatty acids of the flies, and were a lot more serious than previous reports that named up to 200 bacterium carried by flies. Researchers predict even more in the future as testing gets more advanced.

The more serious illnesses carried by flies include:

  • Typhoid
  • Dysentery
  • Salmonella
  • Cholera
  • Anthrax
  • Tuberculosis
  • Parasite eggs
  • Eye, ear, nose infections like trachoma or epidemic conjunctivitis
  • Chronic skin infection conditions like leprosy, poliomyelitis, or cutaneous diphtheria

They carry the bacteria or parasitic eggs on their little legs via the hair and it is transferred when they touch or land on the surface of things, or when they use saliva to wet and liquefy any solids before feeding and it going through the digestion process on the collected materials including offal.

The shocking thing is that when flies ingest the bacteria, they can survive several days in their gut and be transmitted with simple contact by touching or crawling on a person or their food. The scariest thought for me is since bacteria are invisible, you do not know if a fly has touched upon a surface you may use and therefore even if you do not SEE any flies you can still be a victim of this little nuisance.

What is the main food for flies?

Without water they can die within 48 hours so they stay close to water, thereby increasing the chances of tainting outside water sources and contamination can spread quickly throughout a herd or with person-to-person contact. As most of the named ailments and disease strains that a fly can carry also can be spread from the affected person or animal by them touching or preparing food, touching another, breathing too close, or any type of direct contact (even something as simple as money being handed to you, food in a bag, mail, touching a door knob or toilet flush, etc it is pretty frightening if you think on it).

Flies need to eat up to 4 times a day depending on their energy requirements. Besides the essential need for water, according to the WHO (World Health Organization) the most common food sources are all common to human homesteads, houses, and settlements:

  • Meat broth
  • Blood
  • Sugar
  • Syrup
  • milk

What are the most common breeding sites for flies?

All flies enjoy organic materials in the decaying and decomposition process so their eggs can have warmth and be protected in the soft, moist environment. Houseflies are the most common fly and make up about 92% of all flies. They prefer animal or vegetable refuse, especially heaping piles of it, while the blowfly and fleshfly species prefer to breed in carrion or meat waste.

  • Garbage, especially byproducts from home, restaurant and commercial cooking
  • Food processing waste
  • Dung
  • Sewage
  • Underground cesspools and cesspits
  • Sludge and organic waste in liquid or solid form
  • Organic manure such as that on fields
  • Fish meal
  • Accumulation of plant materials
  • Decaying grass mounds or clippings
  • Compost heaps
  • Rotting vegetable or plant matter
  • Drains
  • Food market waste

Homesteader breeding sites of flies:

  • Poultry houses
  • Stables
  • Feed lots
  • Dung heaps
  • Animal lean-tos or weather sheds
  • Cat holes
  • Latrines, outhouses, toilets
  • Compost
  • Organic refuse
  • Fertilized fields

Who are more likely to catch illnesses from flies?

For the most part, healthy immune systems can fight off the pathogens. But in times of duress or extreme stress to the immune system, even healthy adults can be infected. Those with compromised or immature and underdeveloped immune systems are at serious risk for health problems to develop, such as:

  • The elderly
  • Children
  • Pregnant women and the unborn child
  • Those who have had a recent illness
  • Those whose immune systems have been stressed, such as with chemotherapy treatments
  • Animals who fit the criteria above may be affected also

I used to spend a lot on heavy duty chemicals that just seemed to be more harmful using them with their risks than any supposed benefits they provided. I have collected a few tried and true all natural and organic ways to get rid of flies that are safe to use around the home and just costs a few cents make and to use. With a homestead and lots of places flies would love to hang around, anything that is low cost and easy to produce while doing the job is music to my ears!

I try to stay as chemical free as possible around my animals (including the hubby), but I do not want to sacrifice any effectiveness of its use. I want it to work as well, if not better, than store bought pesticides without compromising anyone’s health, having to worry about tainting my food sources, or hurting the environment or groundwater.

Here are my top picks for the many different ways you can get rid of these nasty little flying bacteria traps!

Best topical application for pets and livestock:

Marigold Magic

Animal and plant friendly fly spray:

  • Mix one cup of marigolds (flower, stem, and leaves) in a blender with 2 cups of water.
  • Cap and let it sit for 2 days, shaking twice a day.
  • After 2 days strain with a cheesecloth or rag.
  • Take the mixture and mix it with 6 cups of water.
  • To give it some grip, add Ivory soap as its plant safe and nontoxic to animals.

This is a great spray for your plants, especially tomato as it kills hornworms too. The best use for me was as a topical fly spray for those tender spots on your animals- around the eyes and inner ears. Just soak a piece of cloth and pat it in these areas. Flies can chew away the moist flesh as they drink the moisture and lay eggs in it!

Note: cat safe

The Best Hanging Fly Deterrent:

Redneck Water globe

Or Pennies sent them to Heaven…

Maybe the most strange and art project-y, but proven effective and economical.

  • Take a plastic sandwich baggie, any size but we used a gallon size for the most visible ie covering the most area.
  • Add a handful of pennies. The brighter and shinier, the better.
  • Hang in an area with direct sunlight and these are usually seen in doorways.
  • We hung it in the coop’s entrance.

I saw this in an outdoor restaurant once in Scottsdale, Arizona. As the wind and sun hit it, reflections and shadows were cast everywhere and it was so pretty to be from humble materials. It seems Mexico and the west used this method with anything shiny to repel flies and bugs in schools and anywhere crowds gather, and now it’s caught on here in the south and renamed “The Redneck Water Globe” as many thought it just décor and not a functional agricultural trick.

The science says that with a fly having big compound eyes, the refracted light confuses him or may resemble a body of water and that’s how an area is protected. The Tennessee Farm Bureau has a nice article about it here applauding its merits.

Note: great chicken coop helper

The Best dual function fly repellant:

Plant Survival Garden herbs that repel flies

One great way to naturally repel flies that will blend in and not be obvious is to plant fly repelling herbs in your surrounding gardens and survival garden. This way you can camouflage all the work the plants are doing by keeping your animals and family safe from these disease carrying pests, while growing some useful herbs to use in seasonings, canning, and drying for winter.

The fragrance will also freshen up the grounds and make a lovely touch of scent when the breeze carries it. In our next section on sprays, many of these herbs can provide essential oils that have a multitude of purposes. Check out our article on using ground covering edibles in a survival garden here.

The most effective herbs and plants to repel flies are:

  • Lavender
  • Sweet basil
  • Rosemary
  • Tansy
  • Eucalyptus
  • Catnip
  • Rue
  • Mint
  • Garlic
  • Sweet woodruff
  • Pennyroyal
  • Lemongrass
  • Citronella grass
  • Parsley
  • Chives
  • Oregano
  • Dill
  • Bay leaves
  • Fennel
  • Lemon balm

The Best DIY Fly Sprays:

Homemade fly sprays

Chicken coop spray

Mix a squirt of dish soap and 1/3rd cup vinegar in water and fill a spray bottle to make an easy and nontoxic insect repellant that’s safe for baby animals and food producing gardens and livestock.

Chicken coop spray #2

2 cups each of water and vinegar in a spray bottle with 2 tablespoons of vanilla and 45 drops of essential oils. I like mint.

For the chicken coop spray, you can mist the animals and then spray all around places where flies may land like the doors or windows. Be generous in spraying the environment. Your chickens will smell delicious too.

Essential oil sprays

When used as part of fly repelling program and mixed with a few other techniques, sprays can help eradicate flies and keep your homestead safe from contamination and threat of insect borne diseases.

We listed many of the herbs that fly avoid above. There are a multitude of essential oils that can be used to repel flies and other nasty and biting flying insects.

  • I like to use ¼ cup of fabric softener, but to keep it all natural you can opt for vinegar or Ivory soap, but something slippery to use as a medium for the oils to stick to when sprayed.
  • 2 cups of water
  • 45 drops of any mixture of essential oils.

The best essential oils for your DIY Fly Spray

  • Citrus
  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Eucalyptus
  • Spearmint
  • Wintergreen
  • Peppermint
  • Citronella
  • Thymes
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Geranium

Thanks for reading and let us know if these work for you, we will cover making your own sticky traps in our next installment of the war on bugs!

The post All-natural and Nontoxic Ways to Get Rid of Flies on the Homestead (Part 1) appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

How to Make an Edible Garden

Having an edible garden can be one of the most important features in any long term survival situation. They can also help keep everyday living expenses low which is especially important in times of economic hardship.

If you only have experience flower gardening or little gardening experience at all the thought of trying to provide some or all of your family’s produce needs can be a little intimidating. Thankfully edible gardening is really quite simple and can be accomplished on any scale.

Choosing a Site

Depending on your location you may not have much of a choice but if you can select a spot that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. You should also look for an area that’s protected from the wind. Strong winds can dry out the soil and potentially damage crops.

garden soil

Start with the Soil

The most important part of any edible garden is the soil. Having healthy soil means having healthy plants which produce more and are less prone to disease and pest problems. One of the best things for any garden is to simply add good quality compost. It adds nutrients, helps sandy soils hold water better, and helps heavy clay soils drain better.

You may also consider getting a soil test which can be done through your local agricultural extension agency. It’s typically very cheap and will let you know the pH of your soil, if it needs any specific nutrients, and if there’s any contaminants present.

If your soil is too acidic it’s a good idea to add lime. If the acidity is too low you can use acidic mulch like pine needles around your plants. Your extension agency should be able to offer you in depth advice based on your soil test.

If you’re an apartment dweller and considering planting in containers you’ll need a good quality potting soil. If you want organic produce look for something that’s OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) certified.

Breaking Ground with No-Till

Probably the easiest way to turn a new area into garden space is the no-till or lasagna method. No till gardens are typically healthier as the soil microbes and beneficial insects aren’t disturbed or killed by the soil being turned over.

To begin cover the area you want to garden in plain brown cardboard. Then add a thick layer of mulch (leaves, straw, or hay) before covering it in a layer of compost. As the mulch and cardboard breaks down it will add fertility to your garden.

Raised beds are also an excellent idea because they drain well and warm up faster in the spring. They also tend to require slightly less weeding than the traditional garden.

garden

Choosing Crops

What you choose to plant in your garden will depend on your food production goals, taste, climate, and living environment.

For those with a lot of space and big goals it may be wise to try a grain or staple crop along with traditional summer produce. Some great options include:

  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa
  • Wheat
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Yams (not sweet potatoes)
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Dry Beans
  • Flint, Dent, or Flour Corn

To learn more about what plant’s are suitable to your climate you’ll need to find out your USDA garden zone. Knowing your zone makes it easier to find plants that are suitable to your specific growing conditions. It may also be a good idea to look for an heirloom seed company that’s located in your region. They’ll have seeds from plants that have thrived in your climate for generations.

Ultimately it’s important to choose plants your family will enjoy enough to use and preserve the excess. Just because it’s easy to grow kale doesn’t mean you should if you or your family hates it.

Urban Edible Gardens

For people living in urban or suburban areas having an edible garden can be tough. There’s often regulations and concerns from nearby neighbors that put limits on vegetable gardening. Thankfully it’s easy enough to reap a good harvest even without growing all traditional vegetables.

Landscaping Plants

There are many attractive fruit bearing trees and bushes that can be used in place of traditional ornamentals even in the suburbs. Low bush blueberries offer beautiful foliage, blooms, and of course berries! Plus their small size means they can be grown on the side of a house without the need for extensive pruning. Dwarf cherry, pear, and apple trees can also look just as lovely as an ornamental tree if kept well maintained. They can also be espaliered to a fence or wall to conserve space an add a unique touch.

Hosta plants are extremely common landscape plant s that happen to be edible. The young leaves and shoots are great it stir fries.

herbs

Beautiful Vegetables & Herbs

Vegetables can be beautiful too! Many vegetable varieties are good-looking enough to fit right in with common landscape plants. Rainbow chard, beets, ornamental lettuces, well tended cabbages, and kales can look great in a flower bed. Many perennial onion varieties also offer gorgeous flowers.

Sweet potatoes are actually a relative of morning glories and have similar looking vines and flowers. Asparagus has large fronds that would look good in place of ornamental grass.

Basil and thyme are both beautiful herbs. There are many basil varieties available with a range of colors and flavors. Thyme makes a lovely, fragrant, and useful ground cover.

The options are virtually endless!

Edible Flowers

Many flower varieties offer edible blooms and/or leaves. Nasturtiums vining nature is beautiful and helps shade the soil. Both their blooms and leaves are edible and great for making tasty salads. Bachelor’s buttons, Johnny jump-ups, and day lilies (in moderation) also have edible blooms which make for colorful salads. Bread poppies offer poppy seeds and saffron crocuses can provide an extremely expensive spice.

sunflower

Sunflowers are probably the most versatile edible flower as almost every part is edible. Sprouts and young plants can be eaten in salad. Fairly young stalks can be peeled and eaten like celery. Older leaves can be boiled or added to stir fries. The buds are used like artichokes and of course the seeds are edible and can be pressed for oil. They also add height and structure to a garden and can even be used as a living trellis for other plants. They’ll also serve to attract local songbird populations.

Some flowers like echinacea and calendula also offer medicinal benefits.

Rural Edible Gardens

While it is feasible to have a productive urban garden those who own rural property will probably have more options and freedom. This can make decision making tough.  Many rural gardeners often have the opposite problem from urban gardeners, their garden is too big. While a large garden can be a wonderful thing if it’s well maintained you may be better off starting small. A small intensively maintained garden can produce more than a larger garden that’s neglected and weed ridden because it’s too big to manage.

If you have large gardens you’ll have room for productive sprawling crops like winter squashes and cucumbers which can also be used to shade out weeds beneath taller plants. Corn and other grains may also be good options especially with a survival situation in mind. They can be great staple crops. Dry beans are also an excellent crop as they provide a lot of protein.

Planting in the Shade

Especially if your property is small a shady area may be your only option for a garden. There are some plants that can tolerate varying levels of sunlight.

If you have a really shady area consider planting some traditional woodland plants or growing mushrooms. Plants like nettles, ramps, and fiddlehead ferns will tolerate a lot of shade.

For slightly less shady areas you may be able to grow some greens. Plants like lettuce, kale, arugula, spinach, and swiss chard will tolerate lower light levels. In areas that are only partially shaded you may be able to get a good harvest of root crops. Beets, potatoes, carrots, and radishes will all tolerate partial shade.

Eat Your Weeds

No matter what your garden looks like odds are you’ll have some weeds popping up. Thankfully many garden weeds are actually wonderful edible plants. Chickweed, purslane, and lambs quarter are all wonderful greens. Purslane can even be pickled for later!

chickweed

Violets have both edible greens and blooms. The blooms are especially wonderful when made into syrup or candied. Creeping Charlie many be a nuisance to many gardeners but it’s also a powerful medicinal and was traditionally a cultivated species.

Succession Planting

The best way to make the most out of your garden space is to plant multiple successions. To start don’t plant all of your seeds all at once. For example plant a few rows of corn or kale then plant another few rows in two weeks. This ensures you’ll have fresh produce over a longer period and not too much to preserve all at once.

Secondly every time a crop is harvested a new one should be planted. This is especially true with short season crops like greens and radishes.

With both of these techniques it’s important to consider your first fall frost date and growth period so that you plant crops that will be done before they’re killed by the frost.

To help with planning and planting Mother Earth News offers an online garden planner and “what to plant now” app that will send updates to your email whenever it’s time to plant.

Management

The upkeep for your garden may be the most difficult part. Planning and planting are a lot of work upfront but throughout the growing season you’ll need to weed, harvest, water, mulch, and monitor for and possibly combat pest and disease issues.

Watering

The best way to water is through drip irrigation right next to each plant. You’re not watering the pathways or weeds just your plants and little is lost to evaporation. Unfortunately sprinklers are usually the cheapest option aside from hand watering.

With any watering method but especially sprinklers it’s important to water in the early morning or late evening. This prevents some evaporation loss and can help lower your water usage.

A great way to decrease the need for watering is mulch around all your plants and/or plant vining plants underneath taller ones to shade the soil.

Weeding

No one likes weeding but there’s a few simple tricks you can use to lessen the summer burden. First mulch, mulch, mulch! Weeds have a tough time growing up through mulch so it’s important to keep a fairly thick layer around plants throughout the season. Try a layer of newspaper or cardboard followed by a layer of hay, old leaves, or straw.

You can also use plants to help block weeds. Plant low vining plants beneath taller ones. Use cover crops if you’re “resting” a bed for a season or during the fall and winter.

Use the right tools because hand weeding when you have anything but a tiny garden is extremely impractical. Learn about different tools like weed weasels, shuffle hoes, and wheel hoes to make the most of your weeding efforts.

Maintaining Soil Health

Soil health is the key to a productive garden!

Always rotate your crops. This can help prevent disease and pest issues and can help replenish nutrients. The same species should never be planted in the same space several years in a row.

Never leave soil bare! you can spread mulch around all of your plants during the growing season and in the off season utilize cover crops. It’s also a good idea to rest sections of your garden as part of your crop rotation and those rest areas should be seeded in a cover crop. Cover crops like alfalfa and clover actually add nitrogen to the soil as they grow.

Apply compost, lime, and other garden amendments as needed. It’s a good idea to have your garden’s soil tested every few years.

Practice no-till. This along with the mulch will encourage beneficial insects and microbes to flourish. It’s also a good idea to create permanent beds and avoid walking in growing areas as much as possible as this compacts the soil. You can use a broad fork to lift the soil as needed.

Fighting Pests & Disease

The best thing you can do to fight pests and disease is to grow healthy plants by watering well, keeping the weeds down, and maintaining your soil’s health. Beyond that there’s a few organic methods that you can employ.

Utilize companion planting. Some plants will help keep insects away from others. A great example is interplanting a cabbage bed with wormwood which repels cabbage moths. Others are believed to simply grow better and be healthier when planted together. A common example of this is planting basil plants in between tomato plants.

Grow crops and varieties that are well suited to your area. Sometimes it just isn’t worth the fight if you can grow a different crop more efficiently.

Try to attract beneficial insects to your garden. Learn what different species prefer and consider building an insect hotel.

If all else fails to stop pests you can hand pick them off crops which can be very tedious or use row covers to prevent them from getting to the plants in the first place.

Sadly most people have gotten away from growing their own food. Ornamentals and vast lawns have replaced bountiful gardens on the landscape. While some people believe that it’s no longer important to grow food they couldn’t be farther from the truth. Being able to produce at least some food can help you save money and even survive in the event of a disaster. Starting an edible garden is simple and easy and even a small one can help build your survival skill set.

The post How to Make an Edible Garden appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

Water Bath Canning 101

Canning is simply a step after the preparation and cooking of a meal. It’s a method that is able to use heat to store food in a closed glass jar to remove the air from the jar, creating a sealant. There are two main forms of canning: pressure canning and water bath canning. We’ll be focusing on the latter for this article.

What Is It?

Water bath canning is a shorter and lower temperature process that is generally used for high-acid foods. Higher amount of acids is the popular choice because they are easier to preserve. Foods with a 4.6 pH or less, are considered high-acid food, anything higher is low-acid. The process involves heating the water to boiling (212°Fahrenheit and 100°Celsius). The boiling process removes the oxygen remaining in the jar. Overall, water bath canning is where you seal the jars and contents through the boiling water. When it is cooled, the jar will seal. In most cases, the water bath canning process takes roughly 10 – 15 minutes after the water has reached a full boil.

The types of fruits and vegetables that ARE considered high-acid and are ideal for water bath canning, are:

  • Fruits (e.g. apples, apricots, berries, cherries, cranberries, pears, and plums, etc.)
  • Fruit juices
  • Jams and jellies
  • Fruit spreads
  • Salsas
  • Tomatoes (with added acid)
  • Pickles
  • Relishes
  • Chutneys and sauces
  • condiments
  • Vinegars

Examples of low-acid foods (higher than a 4.6 pH), that AREN’T ideal for water bath canning, are:

  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Hominy
  • Meat
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Seafood

Why Is It Done?

There are many reasons why water bathing is the preferred method for canning food. First of all, it kills off bacteria like the ‘Escherichia coli O157:H7’ and ‘Salmonella Enterica’. The high temperature kills off a lot of the molds, yeasts, and bacteria. Second, it drives out the air in the jars and food that could spoil the food. Oxygen in food and containers causes food to degrade in nutrition, flavor and appearance. This ensures a long shelf life for the product being stored. And finally, this practice is considered a good and safe procedure.

Equipment Requirements

There are two main equipment’s that are needed for the water canning process; those two being a canner and the jars (with lids).

Canner

For the canner, it can be any container that has a rack and a tight-fitting lid. The depth of the contain must be enough to cover each jar plus 1 to 2 inches on top of that. The diameter of the container must not be more than 4 inches wider than the diameter of the burner. In the case of an electric stove, the container must have a flat bottom. The rack that was mentioned before, prevents the jars from touching the surface of the container which then allows the water to boil evenly.

Jars

The second equipment is the jars and lids. The jars have to glass jars that has been tempered for heat and cold. The most common has been one that is similar to a mason jar. The jar itself should be free of any chips or nicks because those could make the jar less able to deal with heat.  The two-piece lid consists of a flat disk with a sealing compound and the outer metal screw band. Lids should only be used once but the screw band can be reused.

Best jars for different food types

  • Jars with a regular mouth (2 inches) are best for pourable foods.
  • Jars with a wide mouth (3 inches) are best for whole foods.

Best uses for different capacity jars

  • Jars that hold quart (32 oz.) are best for sliced fruits, pickles, and sauces.
  • Jars that hold pint (16 oz.) are best for salsas, sauces, and syrups.
  • Jars that hold half gallon (64 oz.) are best for apple juice and grape juice.
  • Jars that hold quart (32 oz.) are best for pickles, tomatoes, and whole fruits.

Straight shoulder jars

These jars are freezer safe.

  • Straight 8 oz. jars are best for chutneys, fruit syrups, and pizza sauces.
  • Straight pint and a half (24 oz.) jars are best for asparagus, pickles, soups and stews.
  • Straight pint (16 oz.) jars are best for relishes, fruit butters, and sauces.

Quilted Crystal Jelly Jars

  • All size (4 oz., 8 oz., and 12 oz.) jars are best for jams, jellies, marmalades, preserves, conserves, and condiments.

Optional (Extra) Utensils

  • Clean towels
  • Hot pads
  • Cutting boards
  • Jar funnel
  • Jar lifter
  • Hot jar handler
  • Timer

Products

A kit with all the necessary equipment needed for canning are available at many locations, depending on your price limits. It can range from $10 – $60+, meaning there is something out there for everyone.

Although most large containers can be used, if you would like to purchase a canner, there are quite a few that come with the rack.

An extra purchase that is necessary when canning foods, are the labels. A very popular set is available from Amazon which dissolves in water.

Fruit Canning Liquids

Since fruit cannot just be packaged on its own, there are a number of different liquids that it is generally canned with. Those can be water, sugar syrup, and juice or commercial unsweetened apple, pineapple, or grape juices. Another method is to extract the juices from the fruit that being processed by crushing the ripe fruit, placing it on a simmer and strained through a cheesecloth.

For sugar syrups, boil water and sugar together until sugar dissolves which should take roughly five or so minutes. Depending on your desired syrup thickness, you need to ratio the sugar and water accordingly. For light syrup, you would need to use 20% sugar to get 4 ¾ cups of syrup. For medium syrup, you would need 30% sugar to get 5 cups of syrup. For heavy syrup, you’d need 40% sugar to end up with 5  cups of syrup.

How Is It Done?

After the food has been picked and cooked, the process for the water bath canning starts.

Before starting:

  1. All equipment should be double checked to make sure they’re in top condition.
  2. The jars, lids and bands should be washed in hot, soapy water.
  3. Rinse well and dry.

Pre-Preparation:

  1. Heat jars in hot (not boiling) water until they are to be used.
  2. Fill a large container halfway with water
  3. Place jars in water and bring to simmer over medium heat. – heating the jars at this time prevents the jars from breaking when hot food is added later on.
  4. Leave the lids and bands at room temperature.

Preparation:

  1. Remove the hot jar from water bath using a jar lifter and empty any water inside the jar.
  2. Fill jars one at a time with the prepared food using a Jar Funnel – leave space on top depending on your recipe. (¼ inch for jams, jellies and fruit juices. ½ inch for fruits, pickles, salsa, sauces and tomatoes).
  3. If started in recipe, remove any air bubbles. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
  4. Clean any food residue off the jar rim and threads using a clean, damp cloth.

Boiling:

  1. Place filled jars into the container and lower the rack into the water – make sure water covers jars by 1 to 2 inches.
  2. Place lid onto water bath container and bring to full boil.
  3. Process the jars in boiling water based on the altitude.
  4. When finished, turn off the heat and remove the container lid.
  5. Allow container five minutes to cool slightly.

Post-Prep:

  1. Remove jars from the container and set upright.
  2. Leave jars undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours.

Final Check:

  1. Lids should not flex up or down when the center is pressed.
  2. If the lid cannot be lifted off, it has a good seal. To whether your jar has sealed, press the center with your thumb or finger, and listen for a high-pitched ring when the lid is tapped with a spoon. The lid should be in a concave.
  3. Label and store in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 1 year.

Reference Chart

The Reference Chart PDF has a table that shows types of food, styles of pack, jar size, head space, and boiling water bath time. The second page of the PDF has all the details needed for water bath canning. Disregard the first page, as it is to do with low acid foods.

Altitude Adjustments

For altitudes between 1,001 to 3000 feet, process time should be increased five minutes.

For altitudes between 3,001 to 6,000 feet, process time should be increased ten minutes.

For altitudes between 6,001 to 8,000 feet, process time should be increased fifteen minutes.

For altitudes between 8,001 to 10,000 feet, process time should be increased twenty minutes.

Tutorials

For all the visual learners out there, there are plenty of YouTube videos to give you all the information that you need. Esther Emery from ‘The Homestead Wife’ has a Complete Home Canning Basics for Beginners video on her personal channel:

Or ‘Canning 101: Basics for the New Homesteader’ by Starry Hilder, who talks about all the advice that she can give on canning for a first timer. She also has a storage video up on her channel:

Canning Recipes

There are tons of recipes online for foods that can be canned. Even though we’ve only given three full recipes, below we’ve listed fourteen that others have raved about.

Tomato Sauce Recipe (courtesy of ReadyNutrition.com)

Ingredients:

  • ½ bushel of tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. of salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic, pureed
  • Lemon juice as needed

Directions:

  1. Prep tomatoes by dropping them for 30 seconds into boiling water for blanching.
  2. Remove with a slotted spoon and place into a sink full of icy water.
  3. When they’re cool, the skin should slip right off.
  4. Remove the core of the tomato where it was attached to the stem.
  5. Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze to remove any seeds and juices (juice can be saved for a soup base).
  6. Place the halved tomatoes into a blender and puree until they reach the desired consistency. Pour that into a large stockpot.
  7. Stir in the garlic puree, and salt and bring the sauce to a boil.
  8. Ladle the sauce into the prepped (sanitized) jars leaving an inch of headspace.
  9. Add 2 tbsp. of lemon juice to each quart jar to increase the acidity for preserving,
  10. Wipe the rim clean of any food residue and cap your jars with the lids and rings.
  11. Process in a water bath for roughly 40 minutes – with adjustments for your altitude.

Strawberry Jam Recipe (courtesy of FreshPreserving.com)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of crushed strawberries.
  • 3 tbsp. pectin
  • ½ tsp of butter or margarine
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • Required equipment:

Directions:

  1. Wash strawberries in cool water and drain. Remove stem and hulls.
  2. Crush berries one layer at a time using a potato masher.
  3. Sprinkle pectin evenly over bottom of the pot (fitted with stirrer).
  4. Add crushed strawberries evenly over pectin. Then add butter or margarine (helps reduce foaming).
  5. Press jam button (timer should change to 21 minutes) press enter.
  6. Wait 4 minutes, when timer beeps four times – add sugar gradually while stirring continues running.
  7. Place glass lid on the pot.
  8. The machine will beep once again at the end of the process.
  9. Press cancel, unplug machine and immediately remove glass lid.
  10. Remove stirrer and skim foam if necessary.
  11. Ladle hot jam into prepped jars leaving ½ inch headspace.
  12. Wipe the rim clean of any food residue and cap your jars with the lids and rings.
  13. Process in a water bath for roughly 10 minutes – with adjustments for your altitude.

Applesauce Recipe (courtesy of SimplyCanning.com)

Ingredients:

  • Apples (21 lbs. per 7 quarts)
  • Water
  • Sugar (to taste)
  • Cinnamon (optional)

Directions:

  1. Wash and cut apples in quarters. Place in a large pot.
  2. Add 1 cup of water. Cover and simmer until tender whilst stirring often. (water helps to prevent sticking).
  3. Press through a food mill.
  4. Add sugar
  5. Reheat sauce to a boil, stirring often.
  6. Fill prepped jars with the applesauce, leaving ½ inch of head space
  7. Wipe the rim clean of any food residue and cap them.
  8. Process in a water bath with adjustments for your altitude.

Dill Pickles Recipe (Courtesy of Hunter from Survivalist Boards)

Ingredients:

For Spice

  • 1 tsp. Dill Seed
  • ½ tsp. Dill weed
  • ½ tsp. peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp. sliced or crushed fresh garlic

For Brine

  • 1 quart Vinegar
  • 1 quart Distilled water
  • cup salt

Directions:

  1. Cut tips of each cucumber and allow the enzyme rich juice to come out.
  2. Clean all the cucumbers with a potatoes brush.
  3. Put the spices in the bottom of the jar.
  4. Once the cucumbers are clean and slicked, pack them into the jars – leaving an inch of headspace.
  5. Pour the brine over the cucumbers and make sure it’s hot. (cucumbers should be cool, and brine should be nearly boiling). Jars should be hot before starting this process.
  6. Check for any air bubbles, wipe the rim clean of any food residue and cap them.
  7. Process in a water bath for roughly 10 minutes – with adjustments for your altitude.

Dangers and Safety Precautions

Although water bath canning is relatively safe, it can be a bit confusing for first time canners. Below are some of the important safety rules that can make your canning experience go smoothly.

Safety Information About Jars

  1. The quality of the jars is a very important part of the process. The jars have to be heated at boiling temperatures and cooled down again which can break cheaper quality jars. Ball and Kerr are a tried-and-true brand, that have been proven to last a long time. Commercial containers, such as ones for spaghetti sauce of pickle jars, as they are not strong enough to handle the processing time and procedure.
  2. Always double check your jars for any chips or nicks before starting the canning process. Discard any that do not pass the inspection as they will not seal correctly.
  3. Always sterilize jars before filling them with the food. This can be done in a dishwasher without the use of soap, or let them simmer in scaling water within the canner.

Processing Precautions

  1. Because of the constant use of hot jars, it is recommended that you invest in quality tools, such as jar lifters, canning funnels, and magnetic lid-lifting wands. Take care to look for nonmetallic or coated products as metal can damage the jars.
  2. After processing is finished, turn off the heat but let the canner sit undisturbed for at least five minutes. Once the five minutes have passed, carefully remove the jars without tilting them and place on a towel. Let them cool for about 24 hours then check the seals.
  3. When checking the seals, if the lids are concave that means that the lids are sealed. However, if they wiggle at all, the whole process should be repeated with those selected jars.
  4. Jars should be stored at around 57°F – 70°
  5. Consume the food within a year for the best quality.
  6. Only use jars again after sanitizing them.

General Safety Rules

  1. Only use modern canning recipes that are from reliable sources.
  2. Never reuse jar lids as they might not seal correctly when used more than once.
  3. If a screw-on band has rusted or been misshaped, it should be discarded and replaced. (another option would be to purchase some reusable Tattler lids).
  4. Do not use antique or ‘French’ type canning jars.
  5. Check rims carefully each time to avoid any mishaps.
  6. The correct amount of headspace must be left for each jar (recipes instruction usually give that information).
  7. Start counting the processing time after the water in the canner has come to a full boil.
  8. Lift out one jar at a time and always keep them upright.

Preventing Fruits from Darkening

As you may know, after being cut light color fruits, such as apples, apricots, peaches, and pears, may darken because of the natural enzymatic reaction. In order to prevent that from happening, the fruit should be paced in a holding solution until it is ready to be packed. The holding solution is one teaspoon of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) into a gallon of water. If Vitamin C is in a tablet form, it needs to be crushed before adding it to the water.

Summary

All in all, whether you wish to start canning because of cost saving reasons or because you wish to be a prepper – canning is for everyone. Natural and man-made disasters can happen anywhere at any time, so not being prepared is not an option anymore. With this, you can be prepared with food, and you don’t have to be a professional to do any of this. With the information that we’ve given, and the links that we’ve attached, you’ll be prepared for anything. What will you do with it? What will you make? Let us know how you prepare, whether that’s for food, water or shelter.

The post Water Bath Canning 101 appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

How to DIY Compost and Compost Bins

If you thought about buying bins for your composts from Amazon or any other place, you probably wondered if you can make your own. why spend $50 to $100 on something that looks nice and takes away the pleasure of making it yourself?

In this article, we’ll tell you two things:

#1. How to make your own compost, to help you get a higher yield from your garden.

#2. How to make several types of DIY compost bins with parts you should have in your home right now. Videos included.

So let’s dive right in!

What Is Compost?

To go by textbook definition, compost is a mixture of decaying organic matter used to fertilize the soil. Gathering plant material like grass clippings, leaves, and vegetable peels, and putting them into a pile or compost bin usually make it up. The matter will decompose as a result of aerobic bacteria, fungi, and other organisms.

Why Do I Need It?

It would be quicker to sum up why you don’t need it. Compost is completely essential to speeding up the growth speed and quality of any crop. It’s organic Miracle Grow, but stronger. Compost is essentially recycled matter turned into fresh, new, vitamin-enriched soil which is ripe for planting just about anything.

Compost is comprised of plant matter, certainly, but their chemical breakdown is only half of the process. Since the beginning of time, agriculturists have used compost to ensure longevity and health for their crops, though they didn’t really know the why behind it. In the last fifty-or-so years, we’ve taken a good, hard look at the biological breakdown of compost.

Compost needs to breathe. Microorganisms, fungi, and even worms aid in the decomposition of organic plant matter to speed up the process. Don’t be alarmed; if you reach your hands into a compost heap and feel a warmth or intense heat dwelling inside, you’re not alone. It’s just part of the process of decomposition and aeration. If you’re ever concerned that spontaneous combustion could be an issue, simply refer to these tips on building a proper compost pile to avoid such an incident.

If you want your crops to grow rapidly and fruitfully—you’re going to need compost. There is no second-guessing it. However, some ways are wrong in how to go about doing this. Leave a pile of compostable items in the yard for some time, and sure, you’ll get a heap of compost ready to spread across your field. There are better methods to incur a richer and healthier soil for your crops. Let’s get into it.

What You Need for A+ Compost

We’ve covered what it is and why it’s important, but now, you’re going to need to apply a small amount of effort to start the decomposition process. You can expect anywhere from two months to four months to get ready-to-use compost for your crops.

A compost bin—you’ll start here to speed up the process. Leaving messy piles in the yard puts your compost at risk to the elements in their key stages of creation, as well as animals using it as a place to do their business. A good compost bin doesn’t follow a dimensional requirement, however, if you’re looking to avoid spontaneous combustion as I mentioned earlier, you should stick to an area of three cubic feet. It provides good ventilation; nearly promising you won’t get rotten compost.

Recommended below are the components to an inexpensive, effective compost bin:

  • Plastic outside trash barrel with lockable lid
  • Some sort of a platform, such as a few wooden planks or bricks
  • Drill and screws to attach the barrel to said platform
  • Drill’s second use: puncture holes every 5 inches on container for aeration

This project should only take you about five minutes in total. In no time at all, you will be ready to make compost. Below is a video example from Oscar Carmona, owner of the Healing Grounds Nursery in Santa Barbara, California.

Another option for large amounts would be a plastic barrel case. This is typically an enclosure to keep your barrels safe from large critters such as raccoons and opossums, but when properly reinforced from the exterior can prove a versatile and effective compost bin.

Here, you can see a prime example PowerPoint demonstration of how to make a compost bin for around $20.00 out of a trash barrel. It includes ways to properly aerate your compost from the bottom of the barrel.

One more way to gain a wonderful compost bin is out of used pallets. If you’re savvy on websites like Craigslist, you’ve probably noted different times seeing free pallets for pickup. In this instructional video below, you’ll see how to create a small stable-like compost bin with an enormous circumference. If you choose this option, please note you’ll also need four corner brackets and a screwdriver in addition to the items listed above.

Rotten Compost?

Sounds kid of redundant, doesn’t it? Your compost, while an organic material, can be created the wrong way, making it essentially useless (and rather stinky.)

Your compost needs to breathe. In order to do that, you should regularly churn the compost bin components with a pitchfork or something of that sort, so the matter resting at the bottom has a chance to oxidize. Components in your compost make an array of odors when certain balances are thrown off.

Compost piles smell like ammonia when they give off excess nitrogen, which is in short, ammonia. If you’re adding high-nitrogen enriched components to your pile, this is bound to happen. This is most common when your compost has an abundance of green materials. One pro tip to avoid having to turn your pile often (since it can be a narcotizing experience) is to jam a few sticks in the center of your pile. It allows for air to essentially leak in, aerating the inside of the compost heap, taking out some of the guesswork for you.

Dead leaves and brush are extremely high in carbon, and as a result, compose slowly on their own. When mixed into the larger pile, that may slow or even stop entirely. Your compost is lacking moisture; throw on a pair of gloves and dig through the heap. If it’s not moist enough, the decomposition process will halt completely. This can be easily remedied with a quick run over with the hose. If you’re following the three cubic feet suggestion, run the hose for ten seconds a piece in six different spots—one minute should do the trick.

Dead leaves are brown; food waste is green. You need a healthy balance for your compost.

Building the Heap

Equipped with basic knowledge of what compost is, and how to create your own compost bin along with maintaining your compost. It’s time to get a pile going. You’d be surprised at what is considered organic, compostable waste.

  • Yard Trimmings: Take a poke around the yard; you could certainly trim back a bit, or perhaps you already have a small pile in the corner. The contents of your mower, fallen twigs, branches, any removed moss. It’s all good.
  • Shredded Newspaper: Pretty cool, right? Each one of your morning papers could do just as well in the recycling bin as they could in your yard. In an SHTF scenario, you’re probably not going to get daily newspapers delivered. Any that you have laying around, rip them into little bits and toss them in the bin.
  • Wood Chips: Ever heard of mulch fires in the dead of summer? That’s because mulch is constantly decomposing. It makes a great addition for compost heaps.
  • Coffee Grounds: This includes the wet filters after you make a pot of coffee. It’s paper and will aid in keeping moisture in the compost, as well as the water trapped in the grounds.
  • Egg Shells (Crushed): They take a little while to decompose, but add a great blend to your compost.
  • Tea Leaves (Loose): Unless you can verify that the teabags are created of natural, organic material (like hemp), you’ll want to loosen the leaves before adding them to the compost.
  • Used Paper Napkins/Towels: Same principle as the coffee filters. Paper came from nature, it can go back.
  • Fruit and Vegetable Scraps: Well, this one’s probably not that Read below to see what of this category should NOT go in your compost pile.
  • Cooked Rice: This applies to all pasta.
  • Stale Bread: Also, tortilla chips, potato chips, and crackers.
  • Hair: Either from your hairbrush or beard trimmings.
  • Dryer Lint: From 100% natural fabrics only. No exceptions
  • Old Wool Clothing: Got a sweater collecting dust in the back of a closet? Before cedar moths get a snack, refine it into confetti-like bits.
  • Old Herbs and Spices: Has your oregano gone stale or flat tasting? Toss it in the pile!
  • Nut Shells: Keep in mind – do NOT put walnut shells in your compost. It is hazardous to plant matter. There’s no way around this rule: this is toxic.
  • Cardboard: Cut it up into miniature bits; it adds a great deal of volume.
  • Egg Cartons: Cardboard-styled only; chop them up finely.
  • Crumbs: This may sound minuscule, but think about the amount of food particle crumbs you sweep up in one given day, let alone a whole month. It adds up. I’ve gotten so much as a football-sized pile of crumb compost material in one month.

Advanced Option: Tumblers

We have the basics—now let’s get a bit on the wild side with this. We’re going to look at larger productions of compost. If you viewed the previous video I provided about pallet-styled compost bins, you can see a good example of how much I’m talking about. You can also get equivalent amounts of compost from another type of bin: we’re going to take a look at tumblers.

These are essentially extremely large compost bins on stands, which are excellent and useful for multiple reasons. You can more easily access your compost once it’s completed and ready to be spread among your crops; no crouching down to the smallest corners on the floor. Look at this video below to see how easy it is using a compost tumbler.

When adding a plethora of vegetation and fruit-based compost, you need to keep one thing in mind: rodents. Especially in a less-than-favorable scenario, the possibility of rodent infestations could potentially be on the rise. Most tumblers are elevated at least 14” off the ground, resting on lightweight construction metal pipes. It prevents any critter with a collapsible skeleton from scaling the structure and gnawing at your compost.

Not only that, but it allows for easy and mess-free churning of your compost. No pitchforks or churning forks necessary; even less maintenance than compost already requires.

A really cool feature on most of these, apart from the fact that they can hold upwards of 65 gallons of compost (the highest capacity of the ones I’d recommend), is the ventilation system. Usually, in the form of a grate, these nifty features can aerate your compost for a while, releasing any extra nitrogen that may be toying with the brown/green ratio.

For the most part, these types of tumbler-style compost bins ship anywhere in the continental United States from major retailers such as Amazon. If you’re planning to create a post-apocalyptic farm, something that will secure a powerful place in any existing communities, you’ll want a small armada of these tumblers for optimized farm usage.

Mistakes to Avoid

I take it this is your first time really contemplating the production of compost, whether in small, personal batches or in large quantities. Personally, I use two of those 65-gallon Lifetime Brand Compost Tumblers at my homestead. It produces more than enough for up to ten people and basically works for itself. With the woods at the back end of my property, I can scour the forest line for 15-20 minutes and come up with gallons and gallons of brown compostable items.

That being said, there is a level of experience that comes with creating compost on a constant basis. Things you should avoid are as follows:

  • Don’t Start Small: Although I explained this in a test size of three cubic feet, if you’re serious about doing this, start with a cheap, custom-made compost bin like we talked about earlier. It’s a great preliminary before you spend $80-$105 on professional compost bins
  • Don’t Depend on One Source: For compostable matter, that is. Things come and go in supply, and there isn’t one way to know what will be available. Keep your options open between green and brown matter.
  • Don’t Get Overwhelmed: It’s easy; don’t overthink it. 99% of the time and work is all nature’s way.
  • Don’t Use Citrus Peels: I know earlier I stated to use fruit and vegetable peels without prejudice. However, one of your greatest attributing factors to a fast decomposition are worms inhabiting the compost pile. Citrus peels can kill them.

Compost is not a divine art. Mistakes can be made, some of which need solutions in the moment.

Problem: There are maggots in my compost.

Solution: You do not want them in there. Pour boiling water over any visible maggots. They’ll die and become part of the compost heap.

Problem: My compost isn’t heating up.

Solution: Your compost heap needs to be between 120F and 160F at all times to ensure proper microbial breakdown. You’re lacking nitrogen-rich components; add green matter, mix or tumble, and check again.

Problem: It’s dry or dusty.

Solution: You’re simply lacking moisture. If you live in the west where it often gets dry and dusty, you may need to moisten your compost more frequently. Make sure to blend it again and check the center of the compost. If the center isn’t moist, add more water.

Problem: It’s growing plants.

Solution: You haven’t met that threshold of 120F to kill all seed life. If the plants are simply common weeds, this tends to happen from time to time. Rip them out and blend or tumble your pile again, it should prevent another weed from popping up for quite some time.

Problem: Large critters are eating my compost!

Solution: If you’ve built a lockable-lid compost bin, I hate to tell you, racoons have caught on—they can sometimes open these. Depending on what your compost contains, these scavengers can sniff out kitchen scraps one might toss out on a normal basis and ravage it. Add a lock-and-key if it’s a serious issue, or bury your kitchen waste deeper in the compost bins to ward off any scents these critters can pick up.

Not only will your harvests be bountiful under the super-charged growth of your homemade compost, but you’ll have spent absolutely no money beyond a startup cost of a proper bin and equipment. A one-time fee for a lifetime of compost housing and nurturing; it’ll come in handy. Trust me.

The post How to DIY Compost and Compost Bins appeared first on Survival Sullivan.

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.

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