Travel Scenery as How-To Garden Instructions

When you travel, or are just out and about, pay attention to other people’s stuff.  Sounds kind of nosy doesn’t it?  Not so.  If it’s out in plain view, then you should be looking at it.  By looking at what other people are doing, you gain precious information about what you are doing right, or wrong.  Maybe you gain an idea about how to create something similar for your own home.  Or maybe you find a new way to use something that otherwise would be tossed out.  This is especially true for a garden.  Knowledge gained for free is free prepping.

Shutter box planter box for annual vegetable garden.For example, while traveling this week, we noticed this unique garden box.  Clearly it was not a flower garden.  We had to know more about it, but since we didn’t live in the community we didn’t’ know how well received we would be if we knocked on the door.  As luck would have it, the owner of the flower box just happened to stop by our host’s home to borrow a screw driver.

AHA!  The perfect opportunity to ask about the garden box.  As it turned out, Rachael was in the process of moving and had taken the rest of her garden to her new home.  She couldn’t take the box.

Rachael and Jerry used old window shutters that were going to be discarded to form the sides of the box.  They filled it with 100 fifty pound bags of compost dirt they got from the county landfill.  The first year they planted flowers, and every year after that they planted vegetable seeds staged for various harvest times.

Rachael was careful to plant according to space and time to harvest so that some plants would be harvesting while others were still growing.  This is important because they live in zone 6a as defined by the USDA plant hardiness map.  She harvested fast growing vegetables like peas, green  beans, and radishes while the slow growing vegetables like acorn squash, eggplant, and cucumbers were taking their time.  She did all of this in the same planting box at the same time.  As each vegetable was ready to harvest, they enjoyed them fresh and canned or froze the remaining produce.

Because they enjoyed the produce so much, Rachael and Jerry took their gardening another step further.  They decided You can grow almost anything in a bucket garden.to container garden using five gallon buckets and old wooden barrels.  In those containers they have several varieties of tomatoes, peppers, yellow corn and multi-color corn,  green and yellow watermelon varieties.

In the end, their garden is successful and has brought them happiness to see their labor return their favorite foods to eat for several years and will for many years to come.  To see more images of Rachael and Jerry’s garden go to the gallery.

Recycle and Reuse: Are there 100 Ways to Use a Milk Jug?

Milk jugs are among the easiest items to reuse and recycle.We believe in using, reusing and recycling what we have.  Not just milk jugs and cartons either.  Why spend money when you can use something in your garage or back room just the same?  For us it’s common to go to the garage or barn to see what we have laying around, perhaps leftover from some other project.  What we can’t reuse we recycle.

During conversations about reusing milk jugs, people say things like, “There’s hundreds of ways to reuse them”.  Okay, really?  Seems like there should be, right?  There begins the quest to find 100 ways to reuse the milk jugs.  The following is a list of the ways we found both at home and on the internet.  Almost all of them require at least minimal alterations to the jugs or cartons.

  1. Dust pan
  2. Chandelier
  3. Piggy bank
  4. Lunch box
  5. Plant pots
  6. Little greenhouses to protect plants from frost
  7. Storage bins (you can store anything that fits in them!)
  8. Ball toss game scoops
  9. Cut into templates for quilting or other templates
  10. buried auto-watering pots (olla)
  11. Cut and decorate the pieces into shapes for decor
  12. Cut and decorate the pieces into shapes for jewelry
  13. Combine with other jugs to make a child’s sized play house
  14. Combine with other jugs to make sculptures
  15. Sprinkler top jug (plain water or compost tea)
  16. Stackable storage containers (cut like lunch boxes)
  17. Seed starting container
  18. Scoops of various sizes and shapes
  19. Lamp shades
  20. Fresh water storage
  21. Freeze gallon size blocks of ice
  22. Tea light containers
  23. Yard and path lights (luminaries)
  24. Instead of jack-o-lanterns
  25. Making sun tea
  26. Cool kiddo’s car seat (place frozen water container in the seat while you are gone)
  27. Pool toys, closed milk jugs float
  28. Bird feeder
  29. Classroom art projects
  30. Drink shaker (add ingredients, shake and pour, refrigerate, drink)
  31. Cut into plant marker signs
  32. Hot Wheels gas station and repair shop
  33. Holiday decorations
  34. Disposable travel pet food and water containers
  35. Filled with warm water to keep a greenhouse warm at night
  36. Hanging storage containers
  37. Hanging plant pots
  38. Funnel
  39. Refrigerator storage bins for food items like fruits and vegetables
  40. Trash bins for home and car
  41. Weightlifting, filled with your choice of heavy stuff
  42. Food storage (anything that easily fits in through the top)
  43. Yarn holder
  44. Store rain water
  45. Toilet brush holder
  46. Convert older toilet to low flow by placing a filled gallon jug in the tank
  47. Cut into sections to keep burgers separated
  48. Paint trays, with or without the handle
  49. Biology class to make a skeleton
  50. Cut a hole in the top for your hand, slide the belt through the handle for hands free work
  51. Absolutely the best:  Storm Trooper Helmet

We weren’t able to come up with 100 unique uses, but these are all great!  If you have an idea no listed here, please comment!  The more uses the better.

Recycle all you can.  It saves you time, money and effort.  It also saves natural resources.  All of these ideas came from two Google searches.  The first was for images, and the second was for text.

Free Prepping Series, Part 6: Food Stores and Budgeting

Food Supply and BudgetIn this article on food stores and budgeting we will look at one of the most difficult things to prepare: a food supply.  It sounds and looks easy enough.  Just buy extra food when you go to the store, right?  Hold on.  Not so fast.  If it were that easy, people all over would be doing it.  Whether or not you are already stocking food for an emergency, this prepper activity you can, and should, do at not money cost.  But first you need to figure out where to start.

Inventory

Most of us have had an experience with not getting to the grocery store often enough and one day realizing there isn’t anything in the house to eat.  Sure, you have some ingredients, but not really enough to make a balanced meal.  Off to the store to buy that huge supply of groceries that costs a lot of money out of the budget.  If you are at that point right now, GREAT!  This gives you a baseline to look at what you have in the pantry that, for one reason or another, you consider “not food”.  Include the freezer in the pantry!  Make a list of those items.  If you don’t want to write it down, use your cell phone’s speech to text option in either the email function or the text message function.  Use that feature to email the list to yourself.

Once the inventory is completed and emailed, you can use one of the programs discussed in the Getting Started series to see what you can actually do with the groceries you have on hand.  You will be surprised at just how many items you can make and you still have not gone to the store.  For even more recipes, try importing them from the web into your recipe program.  Type mealmaster or mastercook recipes into your favorite search engines.  There are hundreds of thousands of recipes out there free for the downloading.

Making use of these programs and recipes enriches your cooking habits, provides alternatives outside your normal habits, and helps prepare you for times when your ingredient list is shorter than you like.  More than that, they help you plan menus in doubled or tripled proportions so you can set aside products for the prepper’s food pantry.  They organize your grocery lists and manage your kitchen if you fully utilize the features.  The key is that you actually use the programs as designed.  The most difficult part is sticking to the menu plans you make and actually marking them in the program as completed.  The first time you don’t do as you should, you no longer have an accurate record of your pantry.  But, using the program to plan every menu, either as you are making it, or for the whole month, will help you keep track of everything from what it will cost before you go to the grocery store to what you need if you want to make your spouse’s favorite dinner.

Now that you are in the habit of using the program for your everyday needs, it is time to start planning the long term supply.  If you got the free mealmaster program, you still have not spent anything on prepping.  If you bought mastercook, it was $20.00.  Look back through the history of which menus you used over the last several months.  Those are your family’s favorite foods.  Now plan a menu for a month.  Not so easy, but still no cost in planning.  Once you have mastered monthly planning, go big and plan a menu for three months.  The fact is eating the same foods every month, people get bored and crave something different.  Planning inexpensive meals is optimal, but every now and then you must plan a meal that feels more luxurious.  Over time you will know what items to start putting in your prepper pantry.  If you maintain a complete inventory, you will quickly be able to increase your pantry.

Menus

Let’s talk more about what menus mean to the cook and the family.  For the cook, menus force the issue of stretching your cooking skills and addressing dietary and budgetary issues.  Cooking the same meals over and over is boring.  So is eating them. Posting the menu lets every one anticipate what is coming up.  This can be a source of entertainment all by itself.  Pay attention to the comments they make when they see the menu.  If you hear a lot of grumbling about this meal or that, take notice.  Foods that don’t get eaten are a waste of money.  Find other ways to sneak the spinach or broccoli into a meal.  Keep notes on each recipe such as “spouse hated it but the kids loved it”.  Later if your spouse is going to be gone, you can do a recipe search for those recipes.  The kids will feel special because they get something they wouldn’t get if your spouse was home.  It’s a win-win.  This is how you will know which recipes probably would not be a good choice for your prepper pantry.

Budgeting

Lets talk about budgeting.    Gather up your receipts for the last twelve months if you have them.  If you don’t have them, you will need to start saving them.  Once you have at least 90 days worth of receipts  you can start figuring out what you are doing with your food money.  If you want to work on a rough estimate of what you spend, look in your bank records to see what you spent at the grocery store.  The trouble is most stores stock more than groceries, so the totals won’t be accurate.  In any case, do not include in your food budget anything you can’t eat.  Once you have an idea what you spend monthly on everything edible, evaluate the list for items that are not of good nutritional value.  Boxed foods, chips and candy are not a good value for the money, calories, sugars, salt and fat.  You get the idea.  Add up the cost of those items, and that is the amount of wasted money and the rest of that deadly diet list.

Now that you have tightened your belt and removed the poor quality foods from your shopping list, you can use that money to purchase good quality foods for your family.  It is hard to know what is an appropriate budget for your family’s food supply.  Use the tools at the USDA offices to help you decide what your budget should look like.  If you are currently spending more than you should, menu planning will help.  While sticking to a budget and a menu plan requires discipline, it is important.  Only when you are able to be disciplined in the kitchen, and with the checkbook, will you be able to effectively plan for a SHTF event.

Free Prepping Series: Part 5: Planning Your Stash

Earlier we discussed travel routes and the planning required to get out of town in the shortest amount of time possible.  Today we are going to talk about planning your stashes.   Just a reminder, planning costs nothing and help you determine your financial needs and prioritize your goals.  Planning is worth a great deal.  If you have read the primer series, you already have an idea of what you have on hand and what you will be gathering for prepping purposes.

When TSHTF, you may or may not be able to access cash, and even if you do have cash, you may not be able to buy what you need.  It is best to have necessities stashed along the way to your bug out location.  Even if this is all hypothetical for you, it is important to engage in the process of planning.

What goes into your stash containers depends on you and your family’s special needs.  If you know you have to travel further than your fuel tanks hold, you need to plan fuel stashes.  The same goes for water and food stashes to supply one to three days each.  Consider the women in your group that will have female needs.  The point is to meticulously evaluate the needs of each person and compile a list of things each will need to have restocked if you have to bust open a stash.

Once you have the aggregated supply list, figure out which parts can be broken into separate stashes.  Now it is time to devise the containers.  Some people claim to be able to make containers that can’t be detected by metal detectors.  If you can do that, awesome, but I don’t really think you can.  Next time you go to the hardware store, check out the items you would need to make your stash containers.  The idea is to get an idea of the time involved, complexity and the price for making one container.  You still haven’t spent any money, but now you are that much more ready to get prepared.  You have knowledge and skills you didn’t have before.

Now that you know what goes in the containers, how many containers you need, where the containers will be placed, and how much money you need to build and fill each container you are ready to begin preparing the containers as you find the resources.  You can place them when driving your exit routes, or place them as  you build them so they are already in play if you need them.  No matter what, devise a way to remember where you placed them.  They do you no good if you don’t can’t get to them when you need them.

Free Prepping Series, part 4: Attitudes

AttitudeToday we are talking about money and things we can do at no cash cost.  But first a little primer about attitudes and misconceptions about the financial aspects of prepping.  Attitude is everything.  Everything you do was an attitude first.

Many people don’t prepare because they think they have to have a lot of extra cash to properly prepare.  While that is partially true, it isn’t the whole story.  Consider the fact that people do that which is important to them.  People say things the way the wish they were.  Most people will say they think it is important to prepare for emergency situations.  But the fact of the matter is if they don’t really believe there will be an emergency, they won’t plan for one.  Other people think they can’t do it because it is a monumental task.

This is exactly the same thinking about saving money.  People know they should have a three month supply of money, but most households don’t have even one month’s supply.   In America, many people, even those who make a good income, are one paycheck away from poverty and one month away from homelessness.  This serves as an example of the mindset people have that prevent them from setting aside money for preparations.

Would you like to have a guaranteed supply of food and clothing for your family should you find yourself without a paycheck next month?  Everyone would like security for their family wouldn’t they?  If you are in the situation where you live paycheck to paycheck but want to prepare, there is a way.  It isn’t “easy” but it is “simple”.  The first step to preparedness is free.  No money required.

If you read the series Getting Prepared:  A Primer for Beginners Series and the other parts of this series, you know many things you do require time but not money.  When you engage in these activities, your thought processes will change over time.   You will make choices more in line with what you want to accomplish over time.

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Free Prepping Series, Part 3: Community

Many preppers think the best policy is to keep prepping secret and to not discuss things with “everyone”.

Here at The Daily Prepper News, we agree and disagree.  There’s a reason the phrase “no man is an island” exists.  No one can do everything on his own.  This is the foundation for every society.

Sure, people can “survive” on their own in the wilderness, if they don’t mind eating bugs and wearing animal skins, if they are available.  Aside from the “eewww” factor, it is just surviving.  Not living.  No enjoyment in life that family and friends bring.  In such an existence every minute is spent either resting when possible, finding food and water and finding shelter.  When SHTF, is it possible the loner will be living a nomadic life finding food, water and shelter wherever possible?  No that sounds like a bunch of living dead.

Prepping in Your Community

Even if your family is prepared for an event, it is just that.

One family.  Everyone needs human interaction with people outside the family unit, especially teenagers.  Without the social aspect problems arise.

If you join a network of like-minded people your skill pool will increase.  The labor force available to you increases as does the labor force of the whole group when you throw your labor into the mix.  This helps get big projects done for more people.  It also serves to teach skills to all members of the group.

Security is one of the main reasons groups band together.  It’s much harder to attack a whole city than a single home.  This is how communities formed from the beginning.  People recognized early on that survival meant helping each other.  Indeed, it is stated in the documents and letters about the forming of a union for the mutual defense of the newly formed states.  They decided to trust each other for this purpose.

Trust is earned over time.  Trust is not always reciprocal.

Not everyone is trustworthy.  Some people can’t tell the difference between those who are trustworthy and those who are not trustworthy.  Some people don’t trust any one for any reason.  Other people trust a person until they are given a reason not to.  In this respect, we agree that you shouldn’t reveal everything.  Some things need to be kept close.

With all that being said, it is important to realize that a network of people will be your best help in a time of crisis.

You can count on them and they can count on you.

If something happens and your stores are destroyed during an event, your group should take you in because they would want you to take them in if it happened to them.  A well organized group will have contingency plans for such events.

While legitimate arguments can be made about each person only using his own preps, one needs to consider their humanity and the person they are at the core of their being.  Sharing with those who share with you is a good thing.  Defending each other against marauders is a good thing.

Meeting other people who prepare for when SHTF doesn’t cost you anything and can have immense rewards.  Just knowing who the go-to people are will be a great bonus for your own prepping experience.  Having them identify you as a go-to person for some skill or knowledge you have will be a bonus to you.  It will be a measurement of how well respected you are in the prepper community.

In the final analysis, finding common ground in your local community where you can meet with other forward planning groups will only enhance your life.  Meetings of this sort happen all the time in local meeting halls or parks.  Nothing says you have to continue with the group if you later decide it isn’t for you.  But if you wait until after SHTF, it will be too late to join a group.  Most people will be not be trusted and will likely be seen as opportunistic and possibly dangerous.

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Free Prepping Series, Part 2: Organization

Proper prepping means thinking about organization and what it means to a prepper.  Becoming organized is something you can do for no cost.  Everyone can organize their preps, especially a beginning prepper.  As a beginning prepper, your organization task is much easier than someone who has just been stuffing their things in a room or garage for the last 15 years.  If you have read  “Getting Started: A Primer Series for New Preppers” and have done those things, then you know you have stuff to organize.

If your food preps are not sorted, labeled and dated, you will not be able to use your supply in the order in which it ages out.  It is important to use the oldest foods first to prevent waste or illness.  Store food supplies in dry, cool, dark areas.  I can’t say how many times preppers go to a lot of work to prepare and save food items then store it in inappropriate places or in rooms with sunlight.  Many of those prepping efforts are wasted.

People don’t think about clothing and sewing supplies as perishable.Prepping Fabric

They are.  Fabric will rot over time if exposed to air.  It gets moldy and moths and dust mites get in it.  Thread decays and weakens.  Test thread by wrapping around a finger on each hand and pull it with a snap.  The easier it breaks the more rotted it is.  Elastic also gives out over time.  It is possible to save the products in much the same manners as food items by vacuum sealing plastic bags.

The same goes for almost everything else you will be setting aside as preps.  Pay attention to how you store them.  Nothing lasts forever.

Organizing and planning how and where you will store your items will save you years of trouble and heartache.

Free Prepping Series, Part 1: Travel Routes

Maps are an Important Part of Prepping.

Prepping can be a difficult process if you jump in with both feet and try to do everything to “catch up”.

So, lets just back up a bit and take a look at what is going on around us.   The worst case scenarios?  None of us will live through, so don’t bother about those.  Once you have that cause for anxiety dismissed, life is instantly easier.  This revelation gives us time to step back and do the things we can do for free or nearly free to prepare for an emergency.  Today we will talk about preparing travel routes in the event of evacuation.

First, grab those maps from your car’s glove box.  If you live in a metropolitan area, grab the city and state map.  Scour the map for routes out of town that don’t include major arteries or highways.  That’s going to mean lots of turns and curves and stop signs.  But, in the end, you may be out of town while the people in the traffic jam are waiting six hours later.

While you are mapping out your routes, use a highlighter to mark you maps.  Yes, maps.  One map per route makes it easier.  However if you use various colors of highlighters to show several routes out of town that will work too.   Having your routes highlighted makes it easy to know where you are going.  More importantly, if you have a navigator, you will both be more able to focus on your jobs.  The driver drives and the navigator navigates.   Because there won’t be time to make mistakes, you and your navigators will need to practice.  The plan needs to be able to work regardless of who is driving and who is navigating.  It is impossible to know under what circumstances you will be evacuating.

While you are planning your routes, bridges, railway bridges, and other obstacles may be on the map.  If they are not, make certain to mark them.  It is important to plan a route that goes around them.  It’s the last thing you want to be moving along and then get trapped in a location you can’t escape from.  Also pay close attention to where the barriers are between lanes of traffic and along the sides of the road.  If you can’t just drive off the road in your off road vehicle, you need a new route.

Also, once you have your route and alternate routes planned, do the math.

Figure out how much fuel you will need to operate a fully loaded vehicle.

The more weight in the vehicle the more fuel you need.  And, you will have to watch out considering the speed you will be able to travel.  Heavy vehicles use fuel faster at the same speed as without the load.  Even if fuel is not a concern, you won’t be able to travel as fast during an evacuation situation as you do when plotting your route during a normal day.  Everyone else will be attempting to leave the area as well.  The more time you are driving the vehicle, the more fuel you will need.

When you are ready to move to the next phase of your prepping by devoting money towards your evacuation plan, then you will go back to your maps and find suitable locations to stash fuel based on your conservative math.  Depending on the distance you will travel, you might want to stash other supplies as well.

Evacuation is like anything else.

If you don’t plan, it won’t go well.

Planning ensures you have what you need, when you need it.  Failure to plan leads to not having enough supplies and to conflicts among your group members.  Being prepared keeps everyone calm.