Is your cup half empty or half full?

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  Is your cup half empty or half full?

Prepper Encouragement

We have all met people who go through life complaining or whining or feeling sorry for themselves.  These cup half empty folk never see the blessings in their life. If we listen too long, this kind of person or persons can depress  or poison us with their sour attitudes. On the flip side, I’m sure you’ve met the half full individuals as well. These are those who look for the bright side and thank God even in the darkest of days.  They lift us up with their positive attitude and give us hope.

I bring this up because as we prepare for hard times ahead, many only see the difficulties and obstacles ahead. Some of these are budgeting in order to afford the necessary items when our finances are already stretched to the max.  Storing more food, collecting the seeds, learning skills like canning and preserving or sewing…you name it they worry about it. They have questions like: Will we be ready when the day comes and things crash? Will we be able to protect our families from those who didn’t prepare and want to take what we have? Will we have enough to get us through the dark days?

I want to take this opportunity to remind you God is with us. He will never leave or forsake us. We can trust Him to care for us. When you are overwhelmed with worry or general concerns…do what you can do and leave the rest to God. Worry is not trusting that God can or will take care of things. It is looking to self, seeing our inadequacies and not turning to the one who can help. Don’t get me wrong, we still need to do our part. Just don’t worry about it. Slow and steady preparation is the key.

I want to challenge you to be a half, three quarters, or full cup individual. Don’t look at the challenges ahead with dread. This is a time to share our faith in God and His great love. We can share our concerns with those who will listen, band together with like-minded people and plan together for the future. We should encourage one another and share information. We need to vote for more candidates who are in agreement with our views. Last, but not least, we  pray God will give us the discernment with whom to align ourselves with and resources to prepare in a wise manner.  It’s my hope this short note will give you nuggets of wisdom.

Choosing Seed Companies

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Peas are good to eat seeds.We’ve talked about whether or not to save seeds and the various possible outcomes of of those choices.  There has been discussion about what to do with your garden and how to manage the business end of it.  Now, lets talk about choosing the right seed company.  Sounds like it should be easy doesn’t it?  Seeds for sale in the local store should be good, right?  If only it were that simple.

The first decision is whether or not you want to keep a 100% organic garden.  If this is the case, your choices are restricted to only seeds labeled organic.  There is debate about if the seal of approval from the U.S.D.A. truly means it is organic since there are some “exceptions” to the rules the U.S.D.A. created.

To add fuel to the organic debate, deciding whether or not to buy non-organic seeds and raising them with organic methods.  According to the rules, if there are no organic seeds available of the plant you are looking for, if you raise non-organic seeds with organic methods, you now have organic products and the saved seeds are also organic.  It begs the argument why all non-organic seeds raised organic are not also now organic and so are the saved seeds.

Next up is do you care if you purchase your seeds from big agriculture companies or do you only want to support small farms?  If you only want to purchase from farms, your choices are restricted even more.  Small farms have any where from a few acres to a few thousand acres.  Big agriculture often has many hundreds of thousands of acres.  Plus you will have to do quite a bit of research on the business end to determine if the seeds you want to purchase are owned wholly or in part by big agriculture.  It could take hours to determine if you want to buy from a company or not.

If you choose to go with a small family business, or buy seeds from some local gardener, it is important to see how the operation works and talk with others who have purchased seeds from them.  Seeds purchased in this manner are more expensive.  More than that, there is more room for cross pollination which could end with plants who produce is misshapen, poorly producing, or not producing at all.  Those problems are more expensive than just money.  It’s also time, effort, resources, and lost opportunity to produce a product for your pantry.

For us, we chose to purchase seeds that are guaranteed to produce viable plants and raise them as organic.  Our concerns were for health reasons.  No G.M.O. seeds or others with health risks. From the plants we raise we may save seeds from some plant varieties and not save from other plant varieties.  By doing these things we are getting organic produce from reasonably priced seeds guaranteed to produce quality products.  We decided we didn’t much care who produced those seeds because we are concerned with preparing our family for what every might happen.  We can’t afford to spend time on matters that will resolve themselves when a world changing event happens.

photo by: jacilluch

Tomato Gardens and Suckers

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Most people remove suckers from their garden plants, especially tomatoes.  This improves production and strengthens the overall plant.  I can’t count the number of suckers I’ve gotten rid of by throwing them away.  Hold on!!  By following this method you not only won’t ever need seeds again, but you can increase your crop to the point of making a great profit.  Take a look at this awesome video.

Garden App Review

Considering how much work goes into a garden, everyone wants to be as effective and efficient as possible.  You would think that a garden app would be helpful. Not necessarily so. Well, actually, the apps reviewed here were all geared towards the beginner gardener. They all contained only basic information. Some of them were still useful.  Of course, everyone is entitled to his or her opinions.  Your experience may be different.

**Apps were used on a Galaxy Samsung 10.1 Tablet.

ProgramPositivesNegatives
Burpee's Garden Time Planner Most common garden vegetables, herbs and flowers are included.
Easy to use. It has a to-do list so you can check off the plants you have planted.
Not very many plants or seeds.
Not specific to each variety of each plant.
Not much information - one to three sentences each.
If a variety gets input more than one time you can't delete just one, they all get deleted.
No Calendar format.
While it asks for your zip code, it does not supply regional specific information.
Mostly for collecting demographic information and email addresses of potential customers.
You can not pinch to expand or decrease the display.

Result: This app will be deleted.
The Gardeners Calendar.co.ukDisplays a list of garden chores and seeds to plant
Displays instructions to tend various plants and trees.
Individual produce selections have instructions for sowing, growing, and companion planting.
Provides a “Guides” section which gives instructions on cultivation, harvesting rain water, and other helpful topics.
It only displays one month at a time with no way to look ahead to the next month.
Assumes all gardeners will prefer to grow the same set of fruits and vegetables.
Only a small number of plant varieties for the vegetable garden is included.
You can not pinch to expand or decrease the display.

Result: This app is useful to persons living in UK, or like climate regions of the world.
Greenhouse Growing That WorksNeatly organized e-book publication.
Chapters are separated into appropriate categories.
Information is useful to the beginner greenhouse builder or greenhouse user.
The book is free to download.
You can not pinch to expand or decrease the display.
It has formatting errors that may or may not interfere with readability.
100% of the information came from internet sites and are paraphrased into the e-book.
This e-book advertised as an app is designed to sell advertising, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Result: Deleting the app.
Garden Plants Growing Guide -------This app stalled when plant variety was selected. The only way to exit the program is to force stop or restart the device.
Result: Program uninstalled.
Home Vegetable GardeningThis book is full of useful information.
It is divided into chapters and parts.
Digi-Media Apps got a royalty free book possibly from the Gutenberg Project and repackaged it as an app.
It is poorly formatted
Tables and charts are nearly impossible to use.
The language is circa 1911 (date of original publication) and often frustrating to read because of the extra words and language use uncommon today.
Result: Deleting this version and will install the Kindle version from Gutenbeg.org
Building Your Own GreenhouseProvides a good amount of information for those who are considering building or buying a greenhouseMost of the information can be found with wa quick search on the internet.
It is only a preview of 25 pages, several of which are disclaimers and legal notices.
It is an e-book, not an app.
Result: Since we are not beginners, this is going to be deleted.
About Greenhouse GrowingOnce inside the app, choose “Greenhouse Growing E-book which is really “All About Greenhouse Growing!”
For beginners who wish to use greenhouses.
This is the same book as “Greenhouses that Work”, only better.
The app is not straight-forward about the app or e-book. Only after you install it do you realize it's about advertising.
Some parts of the app do not work or load.
The videos are YouTube videos
Mostly this is another avenue to sell advertising.

Result: This app will be deleted.

Saving Seeds – Or Not?

Saving seeds is one of the many benefits of growing your own produce.  As you are preparing foods to eat, you save the seeds for next year.  Simple, right?  Hold on.  Not so fast.  There are several things to consider when saving seeds from your produce.

On the farm corn, soybean, and oats were always saved after harvest for the next planting season.  Easy right?  For large scale farming at least.  But what happens to the seeds once they are “saved”?

They are tested for viability and vigor (luster).  Viability is the rate at which a lot of seeds germinates.  Vigor is the ability of seedlings to produce quality plants.  Commercially packaged seeds are tested for both vigor and viability.  Both vigor and viability decrease over time.  After a time, when a large number of seeds fail to germinate, it is safe to figure the remaining seeds will likely not produce strong seedlings.

Another consideration when saving seeds is determined by the other produce in your garden.  Squashes can cross pollinate and may cause the resulting seeds to produce plants with no fruit.  To prevent this, commercial growers isolate their crops by as much as two miles.  For this reason, it might be easier to purchase commercially packaged seeds.  Another solution might be to join with another gardener to share produce that can’t be grown together for the purposes of saving seeds.  One grows butternut squash while the other grows pumpkins, for example.

Another concern is to make certain to save seeds from each plant in your garden.  This will help with diversity and reduce inbreeding depression.  Inbreeding depression causes some seeds to not germinate, germinate at a poor rate, or to have poor quality plants.  Commercial growers save as many seeds as they can from each generation.

Considering that most people who save seeds are not going to be able to test their seeds because of the numbers required for testing, it is best to remember to save many more than you need in case your seeds fail to produce the quality of plants you expect in your garden.

Lastly, when you are saving seeds, be careful to save them in the most appropriate manner.  Most seeds will keep from three to ten years if properly harvested and kept at room temperature.  Freezing seeds can increase shelf life of some varieties of seed.  With the recent addition of hermetically sealed seed packages, seed storage is much easier and for much longer periods of time at higher viability.

For these reasons, and the fact that I don’t mind paying $1.19 or even $5.00 for seeds that I know will germinate and produce quality plants is important to me.  I don’t have time to plant seeds and then have to redo it later.  My idea of seed saving is to purchase many varieties of heirloom seeds for use every year, and some to save.  The ones I save this year I will use next year to keep them rotated just like other stored goods in my preps.


Much of the information in this article came from my latest book purchase “The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds”, by Gough and Moore-Gough.  After reading it I decided saving seeds is more work than I am willing to do for some varieties, but worth it for others.  It helps to know what I can effectively manage on my own and what I can not.  Using this guide, I know I won’t be wasting time and resources trying to save seeds from certain plants.

 

 

 

Heirloom Seeds, Canning Jars + Lids

Have your ordered your Heirloom Seeds?

I spent time yesterday ordering seeds. I like a company called:  Anne’s Seeds.  It is a family owned operation. I noticed their seed potatoes are already gone.  I simply didn’t get it done in time. But you should be able to purchase them locally.

Anne’s Seeds has a list of her favorites as well as the tried and true varieties. I have been going through the medicinal herbs and adding to my collection. A good book on these would be a good addition to your library. I have not found one yet I would recommend so if you know of one pass it along. There are many companies selling heirloom seeds. I urge you to stick with Heirlooms as you can harvest the seeds and save them for next year.

Anne’s has a good explanation on how to save tomato seeds. It is worth taking a look at.

Side note: The government in England is trying to outlaw heirloom seeds. I guess the big seed corporations want to ensure people must buy from them every year because most of their seeds are sterile. I heard rumblings recently they want to do something like that in the US. It’s probably best if you begin to stock up now.

What about canning jars?

If you had to can all your own food how many jars would it take to feed your family for a year? I can remember growing up, my grandmothers spent hours canning. I can still see the rows and rows of filled jars of fruits and vegetables. Yet through the years, canning has been replaced by the convenience of canned goods from the grocery store. However, consider if you can’t purchase food at the store you’ll need to grow it and preserve it yourself. You will need hundreds of jars and lids. If you figure you need to open several jars for each meal…well you can do the math. Every family is different. But that’s a lot of jars…jars you will have trouble getting if stores are closed or supplies are gone. Pints, quarts and even half gallons are among our supplies.

What about lids?

Where canning jars can be reused, many lids cannot be. I found Tattler Reusable lids.  We used them last year and found them to work really well. They are a bit pricey, but the ability to use them year after year is a plus. I am still buying some the tried and true lids. They are in my storage room also.

Don’t forget extra rings.

Through the years the rings will get rusty so it’s a good idea to have extra rings on hand as well.  They make a plastic lid for the jars you can use after opening that are easier than using the canning lids and rings. They are not expensive and much more convenient.

Wax will work

I can remember my mom using wax to seal preserves. You can still do this, but it is not popular according to the research I’ve done.  However, having wax around to make candles is a good idea.

I would consider purchasing some of all of the above as you can afford them. It is always better to be ahead of the crowds and better safe than sorry. I know this is a repeat, but I think this is important to consider and start purchasing.

I invite you to visit my blog Flee to the Mountains

It’s my hope you have a blessed week.

Commercial, Organic or Heirloom Seeds?

Which seeds to purchase?  Commercially produced, organic or heirloom seeds? (Heirloom seeds are also called heritage seeds.)  Many gardeners are concerned with keeping their crops organic.  So much so they purchase organic seeds.  Some people 

think seeds are seeds and are happy with seeds they purchase in the garden shops.  Yet another group of people will purchase garden shop seeds and then raise them in an organic way as possible.  Then there are those who don’t believe modern chemicals are all bad and that the value of their time figures into the equation.  They use them when necessary to ensure a good harvest.  With all that being said, the issue here is not whether to use organic methods or chemicals.

The key is to look at the seed package to check for desired attributes.  As mentioned above, some seeds are organic and others are not.  But don’t make the mistake of thinking heritage seeds are also organic seeds.  If the packaging does not specifically claim they are organic, they are not.

Hybrid seeds are produced after selective breeding various varieties of plants to produce strong, disease resistant plants with a bountiful harvest.  Because the plants theoretically could naturally cross breed if planted next to each other, and are not genetically modified, there is no reason hybrid seeds should not be considered when planning an organic garden for personal use.  Only the best combined plants are chosen for seed.  Hybrid seed production has been the leading cause of the increase in the food supply in the 20th century.  The seed companies claim if you save seeds from the hybrid plants that you will get inferior product.  Without any evidence to counter the claim, there is no comment about that.

Heirloom seeds are seeds from old varieties of produce that have been handed down from generation to generation and grown in the wild maybe for thousands of years.  These seeds have often traveled around the globe to find their way to your garden.  Heirloom seeds should be sought after and cultivated in our gardens because they ensure food diversity and sustainability.

Gardeners who choose to raise heirloom seeds using organic methods will have the best of both worlds.  Practicing sound seed saving  techniques will provide generations of seeds to enjoy for years to come. Organic producers are permitted to use commercially produced seeds if there are no organic seeds available. If you aren’t sure which methods are best for you, consider all the circumstances of your life.  Perhaps try both organic and regular methods.  The answer could lie somewhere in between.

Sourcing and Saving Seeds for Your Prepper Garden; Protecting Against Infestation

It’s the last thing a gardener wants to see.  Some foreign body growing in there with your tomatoes or other garden plants.  Unfortunately, there is always a chance of local life forms finding its way into your garden.  It blows in with the wind or washes in with the rain.   There isn’t anything you can do to prevent it from getting in there.  But what if only a certain plant variety has mushrooms growing right up next to it?

While every care is given to make sure seeds you purchase are free of spores, bacteria, molds and such, it can happen.  For instance, this picture shows only  beefsteak tomato plants suddenly sprouting mushrooms.  Since the person is container gardening, and since all the soil was purchased in bags and produced by a reputable producer, it is fair to assume that the contamination came from the seeds.  Or is it?

Upon examination of the remaining seeds, likely the unskilled eye could not tell if they were contaminated.  There in lies the crux of the problem.  As seed buyers, we rely on the seller to guarantee seeds are free of all manner of disease and infestations.  This problem was the beginning of commercial seed companies research into how to prevent these issues.

There are regulations requiring testing of seed lots for contamination, but even if there weren’t, producers would probably test seed lots because their reputation is their business.  Testing a  seed lot does not guarantee seeds are free of contamination, but it is helpful. If seeds test positive for infestations, the entire lot is usually destroyed and an investigation as to where the contaminated seeds were produced.  Which leads to the grower taking the necessary action to eradicate the contamination from the soil.

Not all seeds are sold by large producers.  There are many other seed suppliers who offer seed catalogs online and by mail.  Considering the amount of work that goes into producing seeds to harvest, and that they rely on return customers for their livelihood, it is doubtful sellers would knowingly sell bad seeds.  Good intentions do not always lead to good results.  Therefore it is important to pay attention when purchasing or ordering seeds.

Choosing organic seeds over “regular” commercial seeds.  The only “organic” seeds planted this year were the beefsteak tomato seeds.  They came from a national reputable grower whose seeds are sold in places like Wal-Mart and Lowe’s.  Since this is a large company, it seems likely they tested the seed lots before packaging.  None-the-less, we still have a contamination problem.

Purchasing seeds from a seed saver can be a way to get rare seeds.  It can also be a way of importing any number of diseases and infestations.  If you decide to take this risk take precautions with the seeds before and when you use them. Inspect the seeds carefully under a bright light.  Compare them to commercially produced seed.  There shouldn’t be a visible difference.  Improper seed saving is evidenced by left over plant residue attached to them.  They should not be discolored or misshapen.  If you find any of these issues, ask for a refund.  Or, if you decide to plant them anyway, choose a location far away from the rest of the garden to minimize the chance of contaminating your whole garden.  (Remember contaminants can be carried a long way by insects and wind.)

When saving seeds from year to year, it is important to be sure you follow rigid standards and processes to insure the quality of your seeds.  Make certain to remove all plant particles from the seeds and dry them according to best practices for that seed variety.  Store them carefully.  Seeds, as with everything else, can become contaminated while sitting on the picnic table uncovered.

In the event your garden is contaminated, depending on the type of contamination, you may be able to finish the growing season and harvest crops. It might be a bit more work.  If you do this, it could be best not to save your seeds for that harvest.  Instead rely on reserved seeds for the next season.

Fixing a contaminated garden can be accomplished by composting which allows the temperature to rise above 110 degrees.  That should kill off anything you don’t want.  This will likely mean you will lose whatever plant is in the section of garden since it is already contaminated.  

This particular infestation is a mushroom found in the potting soil purchased by the gardener.  The choice of seeds was not the culprit.  The potting soil was produced by a national company that promises bigger plants guaranteed.  The mushrooms are not harmful to the tomato plants, but could interfere with plant growth if they get too big.

Saving Seeds may also preserve infestations.

If an entire garden plot needs treatment, perhaps the black plastic method will work for you.  In this method you cover the entire area with heavy black plastic and weight it down.  During the summer the heat intensifies and kills everything under the plastic from heat and lack of light.  After removing the plastic, check for infestations and molds.  Prepare the garden with treatments of mulch, fertilizer and so on as you would a new garden.  This method is popular in arid and semi-arid climates and may not work for everyone in some climate zones.

Prevention is easier than fixing.  Don’t use new mulch in the garden.  Inspect compost before putting it on the garden for mold or other unwanted things.  Only apply about two inches of compost to the top of your garden.  Hopefully these methods will work for you.

Happy Prepping!

Hermetically Sealed Seeds?

20130504_142425_5According to the U. S. Food and Drug Administration, “Hermetically sealed container means a container that is designed and intended to be secure against the entry of microorganisms and thereby to maintain the commercial sterility of its contents after processing”.

That’s wonderful for food because it will keep much longer than foods packaged in some other ways.  But what does that have to do with seeds?  It means they will keep longer too.

Currently, people who save seeds or purchase them in cute little envelopes store them in the freezer to increase the shelf live of the seeds indefinitely.  Even so, the germination rate drops over time.

Many of us collect seeds, partly because we are preppers, but also because it is fun to get seeds from as many sources as possible.  What ever the reason you collect seeds, you will notice immediately that NK Seed packages feel differently in your hands than the other brands.

NK Seeds, part of Plantation Products, Inc., packages their seeds in hermetically sealed envelopes made from more durable and protective materials.  While their process and packaging is still patent pending, preppers can make the most of their seed stash with seeds that will store much longer than traditionally packaged seeds.

Some states require seed packaging to provide the germination rate of seeds for retail sales.  The lower the germination rate, the lower quality or older the seeds.  In some states, since germination rates drop over time, seeds packaged in the usual manner are not allowed to be sold after their expiration date and are required to be pulled off the shelves by that date.

Although the NK Seed package states the seeds are packaged for a certain year’s planting season, according to documents found at the Wisconsin.gov web site, hermetically sealed seeds may be labeled for 36 months instead of 12 months.

This means they have a 36 month shelf life even before they find their way to the freezer.  NK Seeds does not make this claim on their Texas packaging.  It simply states it was hermetically sealed and patent pending.  The products are affordable compared to the prices of heritage, organic and regular seed brands.  This shows dedication to the success of the home gardener.

**We gain no financial reward for this article, we just like the seeds**

References:
F.D.A.
Wisconsin.gov

 

Is Your Heart Ready for the Unthinkable to Happen?

Are you prepared?We can prepare all we want, but it is just as important (or more) to think through how you will react when the unthinkable happens.  People who are preparing usually have all the bases covered.  Food, seeds, gardening tools, canning jars, lids, medical supplies, you name it and we’re collecting it.  Many have gone back to basics, becoming or are self-reliant.  But I would venture to say, not many have thought about actually defending themselves or their family.  I’m sure most of you have guns and ammo, but having them and using them are very different things.

In all your preparations for difficult times ahead, how much have you prepared your heart?  What happens when your neighbor comes to take what he can at gun point?  Or a stranger?  How do you deal with the idea of shooting someone to prevent them from killing you and taking your food stocks?  If they ask nicely would it make a difference?  What about the family members you warned numerous times?  The ones who thought you were crazy.  What do you do about them?

What if all the stores close down?  Now you are dependent on what you have stored along with what you can grow.  Will you share?  What are you going to do to protect yourself and your family?  Can you protect them?

Do you have a circle of family or friends who are like-minded and can band together with you?  If you do, can you trust them with your life?

No one wants to think about these things. In a recent conversation, my husband was put on the spot when another man asked him if he would actually shoot someone who came to steal from him.  His answer was yes.  The other man was shocked.  This was his response:

“The Bible tells me I’m responsible for my family first. So if I have excess, I will share. However, if what I have is all I’ll be able to get, I’d have to say no. If they wouldn’t take no for an answer, I’d have to defend myself and my family.”

I have written Flee to the Mountain a fictional story of a community of people who see difficult times ahead and prepare for them. They establish a small ranch completely self-sufficient and off grid. When chaos reigns and terrorist strike, they must pull together to survive.

Right now, this seems extreme, but it wouldn’t take much for it to become reality.  All of the questions raised above need to be settled in your heart (and your spouse’s) before the situation arises.  It is especially important where family is involved.  These are life and death decisions.  Your survival, and that of your family, might come down to the determinations you make right now.  You are preparing because you believe something is on the horizon.  I urge you to at least consider your options and discuss them with your loved ones.  Don’t wait until a split second decision might put you or a loved one in grave danger.

 

photo by: Eneas