Category Archives: Homesteading and Gardening

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.

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

The Application of Bees in Home Defense and Fortification

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

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

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

Beekeeping in spring video:

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

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

Using the hives as a living barrier

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

elephant bees

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

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

Places to incorporate beehives can be: 

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

false back hive

Using the nest as an organic bomb

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

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

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

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

skep

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

castle keep

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

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

Traditional beekeeping video:

Honey as a weapon

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

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

Entomological warfare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ultimate Guide to Vertical Gardening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Can You Vertically Garden?

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

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

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

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

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

basil grown vertically

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

Building a Vertical Gardening Wall

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

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

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

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

herbs in vertical garden on balcony

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

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

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

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

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

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

vertical garden pots wooden construction

Plant Fertilization

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

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

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

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

Pest Control for Vertical Gardens

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

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

Some ingredients you can use on your plants:

1 quart of Water and Chili Peppers

Or you can use these 2 ingredients:

1 quart of Water and 2 cloves of fresh crushed garlic

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

Another recipe that works:

  • Mint
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne
  • Water
  • Biodegradable soap

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

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

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

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

Other Types of Vertical Gardens

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

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

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

Here’s a few examples gardens similar to this:

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

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

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

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

Final Notes on Vertical Gardening

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

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

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

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

How to Make Powdered Milk at Home

photo: adapted from Derek Rawlings on Flickr.com

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

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

What Is It?

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

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

Why Home Dry?

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

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

Methods for Home Drying

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

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

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Tips

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

Products

Dehydrators

Cheap yet good quality:

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

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

Mid-range:

Aroma Housewares Professional 6 Tray Food Dehydrator

Cuisinart DHR-20 Food Dehydrator

High-end:

Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator

Nesco FD-1018A Gardenmaster Food Dehydrator

Fruit Roll Trays

Nesco LSS-2-6 Fruit Roll Sheets

Reconstituting Powdered Milk

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

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

Some additional conversion facts:

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

Uses

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

Sweetened Condensed Milk (14 oz. can)

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

Evaporated Milk (12 oz. can)

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

Dry Pudding Mix (24 servings)

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

Buttermilk/Sour milk

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

Cocoa/Chocolate Milk Mix

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

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

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

Whipped Topping

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

You can also incorporate powdered milk into cooking recipes.

Potato Soup Recipe

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

Ingredients:

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

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

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

Banana Oatmeal

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

Ingredients

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

If storing, combine all ingredients in a sealable bag

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

Safety and Concerns

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

Summary

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

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

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

11 Plants You Can Grow Indoors

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

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

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

Benefits

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

  • Purifying the Air

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

  • Boosting Concentration and Memory

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

  • An Easily Accessible First Aid Kit

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

  • Reducing Illnesses

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

  • Easily Accessible Produce

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

  • Décor

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

Popular Plants Grown Indoors

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

avocado

  • Avocados

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

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

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

carrots

  • Carrots

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

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

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

tomatoes

  • Tomatoes

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

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

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

lemon

  • Lemons

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

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

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

mandaring oranges

  • Mandarin Oranges

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

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

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

aloe vera

  • Aloe

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

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

english ivy

  • English Ivy

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

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

basil

  • Basil

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

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

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

rosemary

  • Rosemary

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

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

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

chive

  • Chives

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

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

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

bucket potatoes

  • Potatoes

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

General Growing Tips for Indoors

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

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

Some Final Notes

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

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

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

So what are you waiting for? Get planting!

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

Water Bath Canning Recipes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some great recipes to consider:

Apple Butter Recipe

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

What you need

-1 tsp of ground cloves

-1 tbsp of ground cinnamon

-3 cups of sugar or 2 cups of honey

-4 pinches of allspice

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

Procedure

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

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

Blueberry Sauce

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

What You Need

-4 pounds of blueberries

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

-2 tbsps. of cornstarch

-1 juiced big lemon

-Lemon zest

Procedure

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

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

Homemade Peach jam

What you need

Pint-sized Mason Jars

8 sorted, under ripe peaches

4 cups of honey

1/2 cups of brown sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

1 half freshly squeezed lemon

2 ounce dry pectin

1tsp of butter

Procedure

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

Making and Canning Pizza sauce

What you need

32 ounces of fresh tomatoes

6 pounded garlic cloves

2 tsp vinegar

¼ tsp of Salt,

A pinch of sugar and

¼ tsp of black pepper

½ Olive oil

Procedure

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

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

Homemade Canned Pesto

What you need

2 cups of fresh basil

2 minced garlic cloves

1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup of pignolias

1/3 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese

¼ tsp of black pepper and salt

Procedure

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

Canning Lemons

This is one of the simplest canning recipes.

What you need

3 Pint size glass jars

Small cotton clothes

3 cups granulated sugar

9 lemons

Procedure

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

Homemade Canned Fig Jam

What you need

2 pounds of fresh figs

¼ cup of granulated sugar

½ a lemon juiced

1 cinnamon stick

Procedure

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

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

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

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

The Difference Between Aquaponics and Hydroponics

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

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

hydrophonics

Hydroponics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

aquaponics system

Aquaponics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

35 Pioneer Skills That Will Help You Survive

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

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

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

1. Being your own blacksmith

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

2. Knowing how to plant a garden

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

3. Milking your own cows

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

4. Tending your own chickens

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

5. Knowing how to make your own drinks

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

6. Handling your own waste needs

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

7. Making your own candles

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

8. Knowing how to wood build

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

9. Knowing how to build a canoe

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

10. Knowing how to sew

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

11. Knowing how to barter

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

12. Knowing how to can your foods

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

13. Knowing how to preserve your meat

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

14. Knowing how to set snares

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

15. Knowing how to bake

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

16. Knowing how to start a fire

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

17. Knowing how to harvest seeds

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

18. Knowing how to catch fish

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

19. Doing your own gathering of fruit

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

20. Working on leather

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

21. Knowing how to weave

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

22. Being able to plant an orchard

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

23. Being able to raise livestock

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

24. Caring for your livestock

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

25. Doing your own beekeeping

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

26. Making your own soap

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

27. Making your own beer

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

28. Building your own well

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

29. Being able to butcher your own meat

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

Making your own pemmican from meat 18th century style:

30. Knowing how to forage

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

31. Knowing how to compost

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

32. Knowing the best ways to hunt

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

33. Knowing how to use the sun to collect water

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

34. Being able to identify edible plants

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

35. Being able to make primitive weapons

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

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

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

How to Slaughter a Chicken

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

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

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

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

Essentials for Chicken Raising

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

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

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

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

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

The Ol’Block and Axe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slitting the Neck

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking the Neck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Add a Rooster to Your Flock

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

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

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

Think About What Adding a Rooster Means

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pros and Cons of Adding a Rooster to Your Flock

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

Understanding Your Rooster and How to Bond

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

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

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

Why Add a Rooster?

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

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

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

How to Add a Rooster to Your Flock

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

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

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

  1. Finding the Right Rooster for Your Flock

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

leghon rooster

Leghorns

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

rhode island red rooster

Rhode Island Reds

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

minocras rooster

Minocras

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

new hampsire rooster

New Hampshire Red

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

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

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

  1. Quarantine Your New Rooster

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

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

While quarantined:

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

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

  1. Temporary Introduction Space: Rooster Pen

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

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

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

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

  1. Introducing a Rooster to Your flock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Maintaining a health flock

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

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

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

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

Having a Happy Flock

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

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

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

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

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

How to Start a Terrarium Garden for Survival

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

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

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

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

How to Make a Terrarium Garden

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

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

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

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

Setting up One

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

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

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

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

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

Growing in One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What These Mean for Preppers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sheet Mulching With Newspaper and Cardboard to Eliminate Weeds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Basics of Composting

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

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

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

In typical composting, he wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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