The Prepper Movement Isn’t New

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Thanks to a few outspoken radicals, the prepper movement has been relegated to the league of irrational fanatics alongside children’s beauty pageant parents and obsessive hoarders. In reality, the majority of “doomsday preppers” are common-sense folks who take it upon themselves to protect their families from the tribulations of life. The movement isn’t a new phenomenon. Decades ago, citizens were much more self-reliant, and centuries ago, the self-sustainability of the prepper movement was simply the result of daily life. As modern Americans become more reliant on technology and less capable of completing the basic tasks required for living, it’s time for the true prepper movement to show its colors.

No fear-mongering here, just a refresher on the history and direction of the common-sense prepper movement.

Farmers: The Original Preppers

The idea of becoming self-reliant for food, shelter and healthcare might sound foreign to some, but it’s been the norm for most of human history. Consider early American farmers. These original preppers lived in remote fields and didn’t have the means to travel long distances in case of an emergency. That meant they had to maintain a sustainable lifestyle right where they were. Rather than driving to the mall, these early citizens made their own clothes. Without a grocery store in site, they relied on goats, dogs, pigs and chickens to hunt and eat. In that context, it makes sense why people would buy e-collars and train their dogs to hunt for food.

Photo of family canning their own food via Wikimedia Commons

Anyone who calls the prepper movement a new phenomenon isn’t familiar with history. The prepper movement is a return to the self-reliance that helped farmers and other citizens get through literal and figurative storms. You don’t need to shun modern culture to join the movement. All you need is the willingness to get your hands dirty and prepare for life’s common tribulations.

TV Preppers and the Lure of Fame

Much of the perception of the modern-day movement can be attributed to TV shows like Discovery’s “Doomsday Preppers,” which profiles the most extreme survivalists. Many of the shows subjects believe that the end of the world is imminent. Their rational tips and behaviors are overshadowed by ridiculous survival machines and loud-mouth hollering. These TV personalities may have a started out as rational preppers, but it’s clear that the promise of fame outweighs their desire to accurately represent the movement.

Photo by Nomadic Lass via Flickr

Fear-mongering preppers are grabbing headlines, too. Outsideonline.com profiled Scott Hunt, a prepper who is preparing for, among other things, a food shortage. “It would only take nine days of hunger for the women to begin prostituting themselves,” Hunt said. It’s the kind of outlandish claim that people remember, and when they remember it, they associate it with the prepper movement.

The Need for a Real Prepper Movement

Photo Of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, U.S. Navy Photo by Gary Nichols

The real prepper movement is far less irrational and far more practical. Millions of Americans wouldn’t know what to do in the face of a hurricane or tornado. Hurricane Katrina was a sobering example of how mother nature can ravage entire communities. Residents of New Orleans probably wish they had been more prepared to live without a grocery store for a few days. No one is blaming residents of New Orleans for their unpreparedness, but reasonable preppers hope to spread the word that a little planning can go a long way in the face of these disasters. With an accurate message, the prepper movement doesn’t seem so outlandish. As we continue to depend more on technology, the skills and principles that first-generation American farmers employed don’t have to become completely obsolete.

References:
Outsideonline
Sportdog

 

Hold onto Your Vision

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By Donna J. Benson

It is easy in our times to lose hold of your vision of hard times ahead as weeks, months and years roll along. Many preppers give up or burn out thinking all their preparations are for nothing as things continue to hold together. Yet all the signs are here and getting worse…we are ripe for a fall…collapse could come any time. Believers and non-believers understand the path we are currently on is not sustainable. So we prepare.

As a Christian, I found a Bible verse that greatly encouraged me.

Habakkuk 2:1-4 (GW)
1 I will stand at my guard post. I will station myself on the wall. I will watch to see what he will say to me and what answer I will get to my complaint.
2 Then the LORD answered me, “Write the vision. Make it clear on tablets so that anyone can read it quickly.
3 The vision will still happen at the appointed time. It hurries toward its goal. It won’t be a lie. If it’s delayed, wait for it. It will certainly happen. It won’t be late.
4 “Look at the proud person. He is not right in himself. But the righteous person will live because of his faithfulness.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (GW)

16 Every Scripture passage is inspired by God. All of them are useful for teaching, pointing out errors, correcting people, and training them for a life that has God’s approval.
17 They equip God’s servants so that they are completely prepared to do good things.

These verses inspire us to stay the course. They tell us our vision will happen…we just need to continue to prepare…stay the course and it will come to pass. God has given this vision to too many people to ignore. They differs some, but all agree we are headed for collapse and major difficulties. Most point to food and gas shortages, rationing, starvation and eventual martial law as our country implodes. Or outside forces could invade our weakened country, the results are the same. The cities and metropolitan areas will be the hardest hit. Rural regions where many grow gardens and can year to year will have an easier time (as far as food goes).

So I add my voice of reinforcement. We must continue to gather supplies, seeds, and equipment. Anything we can do to bring our families to self-reliance needs to be done. Each day brings us closer to the end of our nation as we know it. Do what you can now and do not lose heart. Stay the course, don’t lose heart.

 

Just Enough, Just in Time

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This is a change of pace for all of you. Though it is not a prepper suggestion or idea, it is a reminder that God is with us and will provide for our needs. It is a true story of an event that happened ten years ago. I hope you enjoy it.

~~Donna J. Benson~~

*****

“I found a five dollar bill on the pavement in front of our truck!” I waved the bill as I walked toward my husband, Bob. He stood in a circle of drivers in a truck stop parking lot. Three smiling faces turned my way and one stepped aside to allow me to join them.

“Always nice to find more than just pennies,” Bob smiled. Long haul trucking is our vocation, but it limits our ability to exercise, so we make time to walk around the parking lots. As we go along, we collect any coins we find on the ground.

“We’ve been invited to join these drivers for dinner. Would you like to?” Four sets of eyes wanted for my answer.

Joining other drivers can be quite interesting and sometimes entertaining. Other times they complain about the job, other drivers, their families or national or world events.  Sometimes that can make everyone uncomfortable. But we could always leave.

“Sure.”

The men smiled and headed toward the restaurant as we fell in behind. Most long haul truck drivers are decent, hardworking family men or women.  They take pride in their work; however, being away from family and friends for several weeks at a time takes its toll.  Loneliness, divorce and being disconnected from loved ones are common in the trucking industry. Cell phones have helped. But I understand the difficulties of having a husband away more than he was home.

“There are going to be five other guys.”  Bob stepped beside me.

“Oh great, six to one, this should be interesting.”  I whispered.

More and more women are driving semi-trucks for a living; however, men dominate the industry. Most accept women drivers, but there are a few with the macho attitude women do not belong behind the wheel of an eighteen-wheeler. Yet, many wives join their husbands, getting their CDL and driving as teams. It’s what I did. After a failed business left us with many debts, I got my license and joined my husband on the road.

Inside we were joined by two other men. We found a table, ordered, and soon our dinner arrived.  Bob prayed over our food and we all dug in. Bob and I are grateful to God for our many blessings, so regardless of where we are or whom we’re with, we bow our heads in thanks.

Lively conversation peppered our dinner hour.  We shared stories of grumpy dispatchers, shippers and receivers as well as bad roads, high fuel costs and our families.

We laughed about the goofy and unsafe things people do while driving their vehicles. Sitting higher than regular cars allows semi drivers to see into the shorter cars and pickups. It is surprising what we see. People put on makeup, play games on their phones or other devices and reading papers or books.

One by one the drivers left until only three of us were left. It had been a very enjoyable dinner.

“I was pleased you prayed over dinner,” Frank leaned back against the cushions.   “I’m a believer also.  May I share with you how I came to the Lord?”

Surprised, but pleased to be with another believer we both said, “yes.”

“You wouldn’t believe it seeing me today, but years ago I was a biker. I had long unkempt hair, a beard, mustache, and leathers. I rode a Harley with the Hell’s Angles.  We were a ruff crowd and into some pretty bad stuff. Lots of things I’m not proud of now.  One of them was drugs…big time.”

I looked at the clean-cut pleasant-looking man. He was right; it was hard to compare this short-haired middle-aged man with the one he described. I liked this man. He was not at all like any of the men in the pictures I remembered seeing of members in that bike club. They were people I wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.

“My wife, two kids and I were living in northern California where I logged for a living.  We had a small-borrowed RV trailer out in the middle of the forest.  I worked during the week and got high on the weekends.

“After a while my wife tired of our life-style. She worried about our children and the effect we were having on them. They were really young, two and three years old. She began to think our life needed to change. One day while cleaning, she came across a Bible in the trailer and began to spend time reading it. She didn’t tell me about that until later. She figured I’d get mad or something. She was probably right.

“Anyway, it was Thursday. We were out of food and almost out of gas in my
motorcycle. I’d spent all of our money getting high. When I got home from work, Karen asked me to watch the kids. She said she needed some time to herself. She told me later she walked out into the forest and prayed.

“She told me her prayer was simple. “God, I don’t know if you really exist, but if you do I really need a sign. I know the Bible says we have to have faith, but I just don’t have any.”

“You need to understand we lived out in the boonies. There was no one around for miles. We picked this spot so we could get high and no one would be around to bother us or turn us in. We’d lived there for several weeks and never caught sight of anyone around.”

“As Karen turned back toward the RV she found a brand new five-dollar bill on the ground.  She ran back to camp laughing and crying. “God is real! God really exists!  Look, I asked for a sign and he left this for us.” She was waving a five-dollar bill.

“I was surprised and pleased. As I examined the bill, I realized it was a crisp brand new bill. There were no signs of the rain that pelted the area over the last few weeks, in fact there were no signs of wear or water at all. It didn’t dawn on me till much later how that fact should have opened my eyes to God then, but it didn’t.

“I climbed on my Harley and went into town. As I drove, I grumbled, “Well, God if you gave us the money, why didn’t you make it a twenty.”  He laughed. “I know now how greedy and unthankful it was to think that way, but at the time…” He shrugged.

“When I got to town I went to the store purchased a loaf of bread and bologna for three dollars and put two bucks of gas into the Harley. I drove home and we had sandwiches for dinner. There was even an extra for my lunch the next day.  Logging is hard physical work, without lunch it’s hard to do the physical labor it demands. I was thankful there was an extra. After work, I picked up my check and rode into town.  I ran out of gas in front of the gas station just up the street from the bank. I parked the Harley and walked. After cashing my check, I purchased food and filled my tank for the next week.

“But something changed in me that day. The seed of faith was sown that Thursday and Friday. They’ve been growing ever since. My wife accepted the Lord Jesus the day she found the five-dollars and I followed shortly after. I’ve learned God gives you just enough and just in time. We didn’t get any extra and the five dollars didn’t go very far. But it perfectly provided what we needed at the time. God’s has been doing that day after day, week after week, year after year since. God sent down just enough manna for the Israelites in the desert each day, He does the same for us.”

Bob and I sat there in amazement as Frank said goodbye.

“God was telling us the same thing wasn’t he?” I pulled out the five dollar bill I had stuck in my pocket.

“Yeah, I think so.” Bob took the bill from me and lay it on the table. “I doubt it was a coincidence. Frank didn’t join us until after you found the money. So he didn’t know what happened earlier. I think God was speaking to us through Frank. Reminding us He knows what we need, when we need it and that he will provide it.”

Several weeks later, I shared this true story with our church fellowship. Just like Bob and I, there were others in the congregation that needed to hear God will provide for our needs when we have them.  At the end of the service, two women came forward and accepted Jesus as their lord and Savior.

Later our pastor shared, these two women had struggled to accept God’s love and come to him in faith. After hearing my story, they felt the assurance they were looking for.  Just like Frank, Karen, Bob and I, two new believers started their walk with Jesus knowing, believing and understanding, God will provide just enough, just in time.

Frank’s not really the man’s name.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember what it was and we’ve never seen him again. However, I’ll never forget him.  Someday, maybe not until heaven, I’ll see him again and when I do, I’ll thank him for the lesson God used him to teach us.

The lesson: God loves us and loves to bless His children. Each and every day He provides our needs, wants and desires…just enough, just in time.

I don’t know what the future holds, however; I know I’ll acknowledge Him in all my ways and He will direct my path.

Future of Pavement

Rock walls in Conemara.
Rock walls in Conemara.

By Brian Kaller

One of Ireland’s most iconic images, seen in many postcards and calendar panoramas, is the mosaic of green fields divided by stone walls. Those walls, so common in the west of our island, look even more interesting up close, for the stones are loose, irregular and often lain without mortar. They look as unstable as a card pyramid, yet many have lasted centuries. They demonstrate how insoluble problems can be combined into simple solutions, as farmers here turned an obstacle – the stones that broke their ploughs – into a barrier that would protect their livestock.

Such bucolic scenes seem a world away from, say, suburban USA, where rivers of asphalt and concrete flow through landscapes of strip-malls and housing estates. But there people actually have a similar problem as those farmers, and might learn from their solutions.

For hundreds if not thousands of years, most farmers had some knowledge of how to make walls out of the soil’s round stones, but I’m told specialists went from farm to farm to help with repairs. To build such walls you must select stones of the right size and shapes to fill the spaces formed by the ones around it, like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. When laid properly, the gravity of the stones keep each other in place, like the segments of an archway.

Crafters made their walls in straight lines by hammering posts into the ground some metres apart along the path the wall was to follow, and stretching a rope tautly between them. They did not need to transport materials, as the stones were pulled from the fields around the wall itself – and stones have always been Ireland’s biggest crop.

The resulting walls seemed to grow organically out of the land, and with their crevices could be scaled by humans but

Dry stone wall in Conemara.
Dry stone wall in Conemara.

made an effective barrier for livestock. Their crevices, meanwhile, provide a home for many forms of smaller wildlife we need for the larger ones to stay alive – the base of the food pyramid, as it were. Seeds eventually make their way to the crevices and sprout, and plants wind their roots and woody stems through the interstices until they become part of the structure, and the wall can barely be seen under the greenery. Eventually some of them become, effectively, hedgerows, and in some hedgerows you can still see their rocky foundation.

Smooth stones fill the earth here because a slow flood of ice scoured this land only ten millennia ago, ripping rock from mountain ranges and suspending it, up to a kilometre above the ground, for perhaps tens of thousands of years. When the ice melted, all the rubble suspended for a kilometre above any patch of land would have slowly tumbled to earth, some of it smoothed by millennia in an icy rock tumbler. Each new ice age would have added a new layer of till, until the soil was thick with it.

One other, more tragic factor might have accelerated the spread of stone walls, especially in the west where they take over from the hedgerows you see in our area. Humans began felling trees as soon as they reached this cold rainforest, but Ireland still had vast forested areas when it was conquered. Then the remaining trees fell to become much of Britain’s navy, until the land was the most deforested in Europe, as Ugo Bardi notes in his 2008 essay “A Distant Mirror.”

Wall in The Burren, County Galway. Note the eroded landscape in the background. 
Wall in The Burren, County Galway. Note the eroded landscape in the background.

Trees hold soil in place; without them it washes away quickly, especially in a rainy country. Bardi notes that erosion seems to have been most severe in the west, and that the thinning soil exposed stones that were brought to the surface; even today, the further west you go, the more barren the land appears, and the more stone walls replace the hedgerows of our region. The diminishing soil, single-crop agriculture, high population and political oppression created an extremely unstable situation, which came, of course, in the form of the potato blight. Over the next few decades, the resulting Famine cut the population in half.

I study old crafts and traditions here to understand how people used to live, and sometimes live well, in a truly durable way – and where they did not, to avoid their mistakes. In the modern West – and especially in my native USA – we have thousands of times the wealth that the Irish of 150 years ago, as well as devices they would consider miraculous. Our countries, however, face some of the same problems they did. Many of the forests have been felled, especially around populated areas. We rely heavily on single crops – much of the American diet now consists of corn, in the form of starch, sweetener and meat. More and more people are feeling an economic pinch, and while they have nowhere near the poverty of Ireland 150 or even 50 years ago, neither do they have any experience with the basic self-reliant skills that allowed many people then to survive.

Most of all, Americans specifically and Westerners in general have a problem very like that of the early Irish farmers – their topsoil is blocked by rock. Much of our land been locked away under cement and asphalt, and the more people live in an area, the more of their land is paved. Nor is the problem exclusively urban; suburban and rural Americans, for example, must live with mega-mall moonscapes of concrete and asphalt lining hundreds of thousands of miles of highway.

Such materials require a massive infusion of cheap energy to function, and as energy prices rose in the last decade, the cost of road surfaces soared. Such materials only last a couple of decades, and many roads are reaching the end of their lives. Rural governments in my native USA struggle to cover even rudimentary costs, and several localities are tearing up their roads for more cost-effective gravel. As other areas follow suit, they might find it advantageous to tear down berms, bridges, sidewalks, parking lots and strip malls. That would, however, leave those communities with thousands of tonnes of rubble.

Even residents who have scraps of land they could use for crops – say, suburban homeowners – often dig through their lawn and find thin, depleted soil filled with the debris from the original construction of the neighbourhood. One way or another, they will have to find some use for irregular chunks of concrete and asphalt.

At the same time, many American homes and businesses have chain-link fences for boundaries, which were only invented in the last century and whose cost will increase in the years ahead. How, then, do you discourage intruders or enclose livestock?

Hedgerows provide a thick barrier, a home for wildlife and a seasonal resource of shoots and berries. Many people with sufficient soil, a temperate climate and a bit of space could grow a hedgerow to surround and eventually supplant their existing fences. Hedgerows, however, have a few limitations. For one thing, they take time; even in a moist climate a row of willow saplings would take a few years to become a proper hedge. For another, they must have enough soil to put down roots – a problem for people with concrete or thin soil.

For many people, then, the best solution might be the same ones the Irish farmers used, to let these two problems solve each other. Chunks of rubble can be stacked into walls, and more easily than glacial till, as former pieces of road or parking lot are likely to have at least one flat side. They can keep livestock enclosed, perhaps in a single suburban block whose residents decided to tear down their chain-link fences and keep pigs together. They can break up the wind, shade lambs and piglets from strong sun, provide a home for the miniature wildlife that larger animals eat, and for the flowers that often grow in crevices.

If you think chunks of concrete and asphalt would look ugly, you could try finely chopping moss and mixing it with yogurt and beer, and painting the resulting smoothie on your rocks –I’m told it rapidly creates a moss covering. Alternately, you could plant ivy-leaved toadflax or some other flowers in the crevices, providing food for bees.

Given enough time, plants might wind their roots or stems through the gaps and you might get a proper hedgerow growing out of your wall, their fallen leaves and the animals’ waste slowly building back the soil.

Given enough time, that moonscape of parking lots could look like that green mosaic of our postcards.

Former US newspaper editor Brian Kaller moved with his family to rural Ireland years ago, and there he spends his spare time studying traditional ways of life and writing about it. He has written for the American Conservative, the Dallas Morning News, Front Porch Republic, writes a weekly column for Irish newspapers and blogs at http://restoringmayberry.blogspot.com

 

Economics of Animal Husbandry for the Small Farm

Small farms can be profitable in today's economy.Cattle need a year between birth and slaughter, much more time than poultry and rabbits.  Cattle consume much more food.  Pigs, goats and sheep fall in the middle for cost of feeding them out.  Farm animals can be produced in such a way to make it worth the time and expense of raising them.

Poultry

Selling duck eggs for $5.00 each, three dozen eggs will pay for a fifty pound bag of feed, which will feed the small flock of about 20 birds for over two weeks. The remaining duck eggs are free food and any that you incubate and feed out to butcher are almost free food. Since some breeds of ducks lay more eggs than chickens, they are quite profitable to keep.

Chicken eggs sell from $2.50 to $3.00 per dozen.  Hatching chickens from your own flock provides the same results as the ducks in terms of nearly free meat and eggs.  With the lower price for chicken eggs, you will have to sell more dozens to pay for the feed.

Guinea birds get bigger than chickens but their eggs are only about the size of a golf balls.  They are great tasting eggs,  but it takes more of them to make a meal.  Most people in this region who keep them don’t keep them for meat purposes.  They keep just a few as guard birds.  But, for those who do eat guinea, they enjoy them.

Pork

If you breed pigs and butcher the piglets while still young they make a good supply of tender meat and at a very good price.  Each litter will have 10 to 12 piglets per litter, twice a year.  One half grown piglet will make many meals.  Twenty-four piglets will provide protein for your family and those you don’t need can be sold.  The parts of the animal you do not want to eat can be used for dog food.  Pig ears are a treat no dog can avoid.

Cost of Food

Pound for pound, animal food is cheaper than human food. The problem comes when trying to feed out feeder cattle or feeder hogs.  Since small farmers can’t buy the feed as cheaply as Tyson and Omaha Beef the cost per pound of large animals is higher than larger producers.  That is if you are buying feed.

Many people begin comparing the price of beef in the grocery store with the cost of small farm meat production.  The problem with making those comparisons is that the meat in the grocery store is only the best cuts of meat and burger.  Rarely do you find ox tail, tallow and beef brains.  The same is true for pork.  The only lard to buy is loaded with preservatives and sold in a box on the shelf rather than refrigerated.

Why would you want tallow and lard?  Rendering them provides a beautiful fat for cooking, using as fuel, and for soap making just to name a few.  The point is that when you butcher your own animals you are able to keep the parts that would normally be sold to packaged food producers.  The bones for making broth.  Brains, liver, heart and tongue for making sausages.  The list goes on and on.

Efficient Use of Livestock

Every product you gain from your animals drives down the price per pound of food.  Don’t forget, if you have a milk cow your cow will not only provide milk for its offspring, but also will provide you with milk, cream, butter, ice cream, sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt, and soft cheeses. If you are adventurous, you can learn to make your own hard cheeses too. The clabber, whey and excess milk from your cows (sheep and goats) will be good food for your other animals.

Further, you can add a few extra seeds to your garden to grow animal feed.  Consider growing beets, parsnips, peas, pumpkins, and corn for cattle.  Have an orchard?  Cows will enjoy eating the produce as much as you.  Do a little research to find out which produce you grow that will also serve to feed your livestock.  Be sure to avoid onions, rhubarb, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and night shade family produce and pine needles.  Not only will they eat almost any produce, they will provide plenty of manure for your gardens and can be sold for a profit.

When you consider that other livestock provides as much in terms of food and other products, it becomes clear that the efficient small farmer can reduce his grocery bill to nearly nothing while not spending large amounts of money to feed the livestock.

The success of your operation will depend on the available land, amount of time you invest in your operation, and your production choices. Think outside “conventional” farming feeds and methods.  Good planning and education about how to raise and butcher various farm animals will make them profitable to keep.

photo by: kevinzim

Horse of a Different Color

Horse meat finds its way into the food supply.Some prepared families keep a horse and burrow for work after the fuel supply dries up either temporarily or permanently.  The reality is that animals breed, that is if you have both male and female varieties on the farm.  These animals can be used for barter in a multitude of ways.

You can trade a day’s labor of horse and rider for supplies or services.  Selling or trading the animals for other items and services is a good option too.  Since they are expensive to feed and need space to live, trading them might be a blessing.

But, what if you can’t sell, trade or otherwise make them earn their keep?  You end up with too many of them and they are consuming your resources faster than you can get them.  They have to be maintained, shod, vet care, grain, and more.  Your preps only planned for a certain number of animals at a time.

In many countries around the world, they eat horses.  Yes, they do.  For some reason people in western Europe and North America find it distasteful at best and inhumane at worst.  But is it really?  These beautiful beasts have been dinner fare for centuries in countries around the world.  It has only been in recent history that horses have been elevated to pet status because of the relationship some owners formed with their horses for work and pleasure riding.

In parts of Europe, Asia, and South America horse meat is still served on a regular basis.  In Japan it is called Basashi.  Wild horse meat is leaner than beef, but also tougher.  Domesticated horse meat is lean, tender and sweet.

Regardless, in the United States, the government banned the slaughter of horses by refusing to inspect the meat.  No meat can be sold in the U. S. without being inspected by the USDA.  Under the Obama administration, the ban on inspections was lifted in 2011.  Horses may legally be slaughtered and served as food in the U.S.

People who don’t think eating horse is right usually also won’t eat cat, dog, rat, and monkey.  All of these animals are eaten in other countries on a routine basis.  But we eat cows, pigs, elk, deer and lamb.  What makes one animal suitable for food and not another?  Cultural habits and taboos mostly.

As prepared people, we need to be prepared to change our cultural taboos on meat consumption without worry of what others will think about our eating habits.  There might come a day when they will gladly trade services for a bite of horse steak or jerky.

photo by: Gene Hunt

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.

Plan Your Garden According to the Growing Season

Planting Zone Maps are used to determine appropriate crops for your area.One of the great things about living in a sub-tropical climate is the extra long garden season.  They say we have 360 growing days per year.  That’s true.  Sort of.

The time table for this region is great.  For other regions, it is important to start planning early by purchasing seeds to start indoors according to your growing season.  The garden season for zones two, three, and four is much shorter than zones eight, nine, and ten.

AccuWeather.com provides a map with a historical average, actual weather temperatures as they occurred for the current year, and for futures months it provides the historical averages.  It goes back one year and forward one year so you can see the differences between what happened for each time period compared to the historical average.  This is important to planning when to plant your garden out doors.

If you discount the days where the temperature is too hot for anything to do well, the number of good garden days is decreased by 60 days to 300 days.  If you take out the days where there “might” be a night time freeze, then you are down another 30 days to 270 growing days per year.  Adding back in the days you can be growing plants in your home or greenhouse, it’s back up to 365 days.  This increases days for harvest and amount of food harvested.

Since weather is unpredictable, we pay attention to the historical patterns and how it is different from recent years.  There was a warmer difference of from five to fifteen degrees in January of 2013 compared to the historical average.  But, there were also some days cooler by five degrees.

Starting seeds indoors in July and early August assures your garden plants will be safe from the summer heat and ready for the fall garden.  Seed selection should include those plants that take longer than you would like until harvest.

What you plant should take into consideration how you will transplant them to your garden and when.  Read seed packages for information about how long till harvest and how well they do when transplanting.

Some garden plants do very well with transplanting and others die if the roots get disturbed.  The strong plants can be started in almost any container that allows you to remove the plant from the container easily.  Plants that have sensitive roots should be planted in biodegradable containers that are planted as is in the soil.

We consider the amount of produce needed to pack for the season and plant our garden accordingly.  Some for sale and some for canning and freezing.  By choosing different produce for the three harvest seasons, we can produce a greater variety and set aside more product for the year.

If you purchase seeds, it is important to buy your seeds in the spring when they are readily available and in good quantity.  It doesn’t matter that you won’t plant them in your garden right then.  It is important to have the seeds when the right time to start them rolls around.

By the time July and August come around, the seeds you want might be sold out locally.  There might still be some to purchase on the web.  But, most companies run out the most popular items early.  Placing orders in advance is helpful too.

Start the seeds of the longest growing time first.  Some crops take 120 days to mature.  Others take a mere 25 or 30 days.  With good planning there can be harvest nearly every day of the year in this climate zone.  Other zones require better planning to make the most of the growing days.

Seeds are a good investment.  Gardens are a great way to spend time with family and friends.  So much so that even the government recognizes the ability to increase independence and provide a nutritious diet for families.  Because of this, the USDA allows food stamp recipients to buy seeds with food stamps.  If the store does not apply the food stamps to your seeds, be sure to point out to them they are violating the law by disallowing them.  Give them this link http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers/eligible.htm.  It is the definitive answer to the question for retailers.

 

Wood Resources – Not Always Easy to Get

Tree Stumps Make Great Fire WoodWhile many people are stocking up on propane and gasoline to operate furnaces and generators, others are stocking up on wood.  Many people think that having a large supply of propane will get them through any hard time that might come along.  And, for the most part that’s true.  Not everyone believes there is a possibility, however remote, that they could run out of propane before the difficult time is over.  This makes wood one of the most important resources.  There’s a reason for that.

Every family will need wood in the event of a significant world changing event for heating and cooking.  Many people think if something happens they’ll just go out and get some.  The question to them is “How?”.  How are they going to cut down the tree?  Do they even own a chain saw with plenty of gas for it?  How will they get the wood if they don’t have a truck or other way to get the wood home?  How will they get wood if they live in an area with few or no trees?  How many people are they willing to fight off for one tree, or even part of a tree?

Collecting and storing wood should be considered one of the most important activities for prepping.  Here are some tips to help you collect wood for your emergency stores.

  • In regions sparsely wooded or nearly no trees, finding wood can be as simple as going to your local dump.  The same place you go for mulch also has mountains of wood.  Much of it is going to be stumps.  That’s okay.  Stumps make great camp stoves.  Choose your stumps well.  Make sure they are not eaten through by termites.  That’s the last thing you want to bring home.  There’s going to be other wood as well.  
  • While at the dump, or other area with cut boards, be sure not to take any construction wood that has been treated with chemicals.  The chemicals will not only get in the air for your family to breath, but will also contaminate any food you cook.  What good is it to survive an event if you or your family is going to suffer a worse end for it?
  • When there is a storm or tornado that downs many trees, be a volunteer.  Not only are you helping those in need, but you are also stocking up on wood.  Haul off as many loads of wood as you can.  Cut downed trees and put them in the back of your truck or on your trailer.  In such a situation, charging someone to haul off the wood seems wrong, especially when benefiting from their troubles.
  • If you live where there are no trees to harvest, be ready to travel.  That means have enough fuel set aside for your chainsaw, a trailer as big as the law allows, and a truck to tow the setup.  Go to where the disasters are to volunteer your services.  If you have to drive a few hundred miles to get the wood, the money is nothing if that wood is the difference between freezing to death and cooking.
  • Store the wood appropriately.  How many times have you seen a picturesque woodpile next to a building, or in a row along a fence?  That’s an okay way to store the wood if you are going to use it all up in a season.  Needing to store cut wood for many years?  No more stacking it directly on the ground.  It needs to be off the ground so that all the wood can dry after a rain.  Some people use the big round metal wood racks.  Others lay it on a concrete floor or patio.  What ever you choose, be certain the wood can dry quickly.  Cover it so moisture isn’t so much a problem.  Some people cover it with plastic tarps.  Others store wood in the wood shed.
  • If wood must be stored outside, it is important to inspect it regularly for termites.  Any wood found to be infested, get rid of it, and the termites, quickly.  Do not bring termite infested wood into the house.  Burn that wood outside.  Any wood showing signs of rot, use it up first.
  • Wood stored outside or on the ground will absorb moisture either from rain, fog, or sitting on the damp ground.  The problem with this is that wet wood won’t burn.  Well, not easily and maybe not safely.  If your wood supply gets wet, remember to place wet wood on an existing fire.  It will dry and burn, but the moisture trapped inside will cause it to “snap”, “crackle” and “pop”.  This results in flying hot embers.  Splitting the down the length will help it dry and burn better.  If you don’t have an existing fire, you’ll have to start small with twigs, paper and other small things to get the fire started.  Gradually add larger pieces of wood until the fire is the size you desire.
  • If the only wood is a tree stump still in the ground, use it.  Saw down to ground level in a pattern like a six slice pie.  Light the fire in the center and between “slices” to use as a cook top.

If you have other ideas to add to the post, please do!

photo by: donjd2

Canning Ingredients or Meals?

Home canned  tomato puree.Many of us rely on our gardens and livestock, and home canning to fortify our food stores.  For some of us, our canned goods are not only for the future, but are using them now.

The question is which is a best use of resources:  Canning meals in jars or canning ingredients in jars.  Is it better to can a meatloaf than it is to can the ingredients separately?  When one chooses to can 75 quarts of tomatoes, its a simple process with relatively few steps.  There is less chance for error.

However, in the event of a life changing event, will you be able to access all the ingredients for your favorite dishes?  Spices  for recipes we love come from all over the world.  If a global event causes a breakdown in transportation, those recipes go out the window.

RedFish was asking me what I thought about this the other day as she was considering which recipes to use for this year’s tomato crops. I didn’t know what to say.

One way, canning the ingredients, is much less work now and the canned goods are available to use in any manner as circumstances allow.  Preparing meals from these goods will be a bit more time consuming since we will need to prepare the various recipes.  We will be limited to spices and seasonings are available.  When the stored exotic ones run out, we will use what ever we can grow, find or barter for.

Food will certainly be more bland and monotonous.  Continual bland foods can contribute to depression during a prolonged period of life challenges.  Without seasoning, everything will start to taste the same.  No one wants to eat the same thing every day, week after week.

The other way, canning products as meals, complete with seasoning, is more work now and less work later. It is more expensive and time consuming now.  It will be nice to be able to open and heat a canned meal that tastes as good as it did when it was first prepared.  If those spices are no longer available, it will also be a great bartering tool.  People will long for the flavors they were accustomed to enjoying without thought.