Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Another reader shares her prep story

Here's another story from a prepper who has been through some hard times:

"You asked about why/how we got into preparing. I grew up on a farm. My grandfather made it through the depression, and impressed the idea of stocking up on my father. On the farm, we raised 80% of our foodstuffs (eggs, chicken, milk, beef, vegetables, fruit, etc.) and went to 'the big city' shopping once a month. It was a major event: Items my step-mother refused to make (bread/rolls) and staples were purchased, often taking up two or more shopping carts. Not too many people thought much of it. There were eight in our family, including five boys and myself. Most people saw my five brothers and didn't think twice about it. After the shopping was done, we were allowed (so long as EVERYBODY behaved at the store) to stop at the Golden Arches before going home. Based on age, we got a small fry, a small soda, and one to four hamburgers/cheeseburgers. It was the only time we had soda and we all tended to suck it down like it was the nectar of the Gods!
I left the farm, and left that life behind. I was so happy to join the consumer nation, buying food as I needed it and replacing clothes instead of repairing them! Slowly, my excitement abated. To ease my 'fears', I began stocking up a little 'just in case'. My husband used to make fun of some of my habits, saying "Uh-oh, we're down to 24 rolls of toilet paper! You better run to the store for more!" "Why do you garden and can? I make good money, go to the store and buy it!". Well, he got laid off. Five and a half months later, he was still laid off. In his entire working life, he'd never been off for more than a month, so it was a shock. Once he realized my 'weird habit' of stocking up had helped us get through, he jumped on board with both feet! After going back to work, he encouraged me to set money aside each payday to buy extras to have on hand. My garden became a family project. Experiments with different crops became common, to see what grew best and provided the most in the least space. He built me square foot gardens, to test that theory. Canning was no longer scoffed at, and dehydrating was experimented with.
I feel like I've come *almost* full circle now, and I'm surprised to say I've never been happier. We bought a small property and now have chickens, cows and are about to get pigs. I bake all our own bread, cook 75% of our meals from scratch, have expanded the garden to just shy of four times the size I started with, we put in a small orchard and berry patch and hubby surprised me with a greenhouse this year. I am still addicted to soda (Ahhh, sweet nectar!), and shop more than once a month but, for the most part, I have returned to my past way of life; with my own twists. For example, I have a cell phone, internet, and satellite TV. Hey, some habits are hard to break!"

It was signed "CCWriter".  Thank you for sharing this with us.  It sounds like you had a great childhood and learned some good skills and habits!  Hey, who doesn't have some kind of habit like soda! :)

I'm glad things are going better for you.  Your small farm sounds really great.  Good luck and best wishes!

One of the best things that has come out of this book is the emails I get from readers.  Please keep sending them! 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stories and suggestions

I love printing the comments and suggestions I get from readers!  Today I was delighted to find this one in my inbox:

"Was just reading your book and you have some fabulous ideas! A couple of tricks I wanted to share. We get soda bottles from different people and store things in them. I especially like to use them for storing water. And the small bottles are great for things like salt. Another idea is that some places put the hand/feet/toe warmers on clearance at the end of winter. You can use these instead of the little oxygen things to help store food longer. I am looking forward to getting time to sit down and read your blog!
You friend in prepping,
AS Johnson"

Thank you for sending that in.  It seems like soda bottles would be good storage containers because they're of a heavier plastic than water bottles or milk jugs.  Good suggestion.  Of course, after you wash them good, make sure you let them dry for a couple days! 

I'd never heard that about the hand warmers, but if they're oxygen-absorbing, that would work.  I'll have to look for some at the store myself!  I wish I had one right now so I could double-check for harmful chemicals or any other reason why they wouldn't be wise to use, but I don't have one.  So I'm publishing this and not really sure if it's safe. Please use caution until I have more information for you.

I also got an email from a reader named Sue that started with "Just read your book – gave me some ideas on things to start storing! Thanks... will be starting with rice and getting the 5 gallon buckets from our bakery ($0.50 each)."  She went on with some great suggestions for the new book, Poverty Prepping II, which will be included in it, along with credit to her for the ideas!  Thanks a bunch, Sue!  Keep the ideas coming, folks!

My favorite kind of emails from readers are those that give some insight into their lives.  It's interesting to read what people have been through or what prompted them to think what they eat, how to get it, and whether they should store food.

Here's one from a remarkable woman named Jackie, printed here with her permission:

"I have been a prepper for many years and am now a vegan, all plant no animal products of any kind and no fat added. I use every possible type of bean in my cooking along with brown rice. Been a gardener for 40 years. Retired from teaching at 71 and began propagating landscaping plants, herbs, veggie plants, growing out berries and fruit trees.
You mention having skills to barter with. I agree most definitely!!! Very big into self reliance. Not been on the militant survivalism. Learning wiring and plumbing now. Do woodworking, sewing, major food preservation-freezing, canning, drying, and know the basics of root cellaring, and if given physical assistance, can produce enough veggies for anyone on this mountain to eat plus I am the only one with a natural water supply for a garden. Not good at foraging!! Much to learn there, but will probably stick with what I can grow here and there on the land. Always looking for new edible plants to put in.
I have needed the food, cat food, dog food, cat litter, water, and bottled gas for my generator to save the food in the deep freezer. In the last two years, we have had two major ice and snow storms that tore down trees, electrical and phone poles, and cut the satellite Internet service and cell phones for extended periods of time. The first time was the infamous ice storm which brought utility workers from out of state to get us back on the grid-for me, 23 days with no electricity. The second time was a 17 inch snow in an area that normally sees one to three inches of snow at a time a couple of times a winter. Mostly, we see more freezing rain. The temperature with the 17 inches of snow was minus 15 degrees. Normally do not see temperatures below zero. My granddaughter and I made it through both storms just fine. The only things we lost were milk and eggs in the refrigerator."
Jackie, I really enjoyed reading this.  Thanks for letting me share it with everyone.

HomeGrown Tea

Hi Everyone!  I've been buried under raspberries and peas.  We've been picking around 2 gallons of raspberries a day, and a lot of peas.  I've also been harvesting herbs and drying them.  Some are for various medicinal complaints that might arise, but our favorites are for tea.

Mint is our favorite homegrown tea.  It makes great iced tea as well as hot tea, but on a summer day nothing is more refreshing than mint iced tea.  Just straight mint leaves, fresh or dried, steeped in hot water, then add cold water.  You can add sugar or honey or your favorite sweetener if you prefer it sweetened.  I grow it in tires since it spreads out and takes over.  The mint in this picture was cut a couple weeks ago and is growing again.  In our climate I can cut it three times a year if we get enough rain or I keep it watered.

Since sugar has gotten so expensive we've started drinking it plain.  It took some getting used to, and sometimes I still add sugar.

Another tea herb we grow is lemon balm.  Besides using it for a pleasant, relaxing tea I planted it because if this old world ever does have some sort of catastrophe, we'll have something we can grow here in the north that smells like lemons.  It's something I would miss.

Some wild plants you can use for tea, and that grow in most parts of the United States, are clover (especially Red Clover), Roses (the rose hips are the part used for tea), and Pineapple weed.  Pineapple weed is a member of the Chamomile family.  They grow in hard-packed ground, such as the gravely areas along roads and sidewalks, sometimes out of the cracks in sidewalks.  They have a strong Chamomile smell and the flowers look like chamomile flowers with all the petals pulled off.  Pineapple weed never gets the petals.  They just look like little pineapples sitting atom the stems.  The stems are anywhere from a few inches tall to a couple feet tall, or for our foreign readers, they're about ankle-high to knee-high.  Pictured here is Pineapple weed.

When I harvest plants, either wild or domestic, and intend to use them for tea I pick or cut them, then spread them on screens to dry. If you cut something such as mint that has grown tall, you can tie them in bundles and hang them in your house to dry.  We live in a dry climate so it only takes a few days for spread-out herbs to dry.  In humid climates it will probably take longer.  I don't have experience with drying plants in a damp climate, so if someone would like to share stories about that, I would appreciate it. 

Mint, left, drying on screen.

Once the herbs are dry I store them in air-tight glass jars.  You can store them in plastic bags or bottles but over time they can pick up odors or they can oxidize since plastic is somewhat porous, although it seems air-tight.  If I know I'm going to use them before the next season's harvest I go ahead and use plastic if I need to.  I prefer glass jars.

I save every glass jar we get, which on our budget, isn't very many.  But we do occasionally buy a jar of Salsa or something else that comes in a glass jar, so I wash them out and keep them.  Peanut butter and Mayonaisse used to come in glass jars but now they're hard to find in anything but plastic... at least around here.

These are Rose Hips (right).  After roses are done blooming they form a small fruit that looks like a little apple.  These are the 'hips', and I don't know why they are called hips!  All roses and the hips are edible, but be sure the plant(s) you harvest from haven't been sprayed with things like pesticides or herbicides.  It might also be safer to avoid those that grow along busy highways.  I haven't heard if fumes from vehicle traffic presents a health hazard if you eat these plants and their fruits, but unless you're truly starving and can't find plants away from highways, pass them up just in case.  Perhaps one of you readers have information on this.

To make tea with the hips you can crush and steep them.  Some people remove the little hairy seeds inside them first.  Just as a matter of interest, you can make jelly with the hips, too, if you're a jelly-maker.

Pictures on the left is white clover.

 Here's an interesting tidbit about white clover. I don't know if it applies to other kinds of clover, but you can dry the white clover heads and grind them into flour. It can be added to regular wheat flour for variety in nutrients, or to extend the flour to provide more meals. This is useful information if times become very desperate. This was done during the famine in Ireland, among other times and places.

This is purple clover, and there is also Red clover, but I couldn't find any around my yard toay.  Clovers are edible and medicinal, but we'll cover medicinal in another post.  When you pluck a clover flower you can suck the bottom of the flower and there will be a small drop of honey-like sweet fluid.  It would be interesting to know if a person could make their own syrup-like sweetener by any process or extraction, at least one a person could do for free in their home.  Meanwhile, you can make a delicious slightly-sweet tea that you can drink hot or cold.

Other refreshing teas can be made from such plants as Raspberry (picture), Strawberry, and Blackberry leaves.  They won't have the faint berry-ish taste of commercial teas in those flavors, but you can mix them with other tea plants such as rose hips for more variety.  The bottom line is finding delicious, healthy foods that are free.  Many areas have wild berry plants, especially in wooded areas or along creeks and rivers.  The berries are delicious too!  If they're in season while you're harvesting leaves for tea, pick some berries and add them to your tea.  Crush them in your hands and either just squeeze the juice into your tea, or smush them up good and toss them in!                                                                                                                                   

Plants with leaves, such as mint, can be stored whole, or you can strip the dry leaves from the plants to save space in the jars or bags.  The sticks and stems won't hurt if you choose to leave them in, but the leaves are mainly what you are after.  In this picture I have been stripping the leaves, packing them into the jar, and making a pile of the sticks in the lower-right corner of the picture.

I admit to still being in the learning process myself, so I have shared with you what I know, while admitting what I don't know.  Comments, suggestions, and any information you wish to share are helpful.  We can all learn together.

As with all plants, both wild and domestic, make SURE you are certain the plant is what you think it is.  If you have any doubt, find someone reputable that knows the plant and ask.  In most places you can pick a sample of the plant and take it to the county extension office and they'll tell you what it is.  Please be careful as you learn.


"I live in N Central Texas, which has become quite humid over some years, and how I dry my tea (and other) herbs is in brown paper bags. The herb must be completely dry and the bag as well, with nothing else in it. If I am hanging the herb(s) in bunches (like Yarrow), I put them in the bag, top down, and tie a tie around the top of the bag and hang it in the driest place I have. Otherwise, I put the herb in the bag, roll the bag down at the top, clip it and set in a dry place. This has worked very well for me.

And thank you for your lovely blog. :)


Received via email Tues. August 21, 2012.  Thank you, MtWoman!  I'm guessing the paper bag wicks moisture away from the plants as they dry?  It's wonderful to get this tip from someone who lives in a humid climate.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

You are amazing people!

The entries are coming in for the contest, and there are a lot of you out there with great ideas for food storage items and how to use them! 

I've also been enjoying the personal things some of you are telling me about your lives.  There have been stories about how some readers found themselves in unexpected hardship and how they got through it.  Quite often it seems to be what led people to start being "preppers", to start storing food and other necessary items.

It got me thinking how nice it would be to share some of the stories with you.  I'm sending emails to them for permission.  If anyone else has something they want to tell about their life, please email me.  It can be something simple and short, or more lengthy.  Your privacy will be protected and I won't post your email address.

There are also some good testimonials and stories on the reviews for the book on Amazon.  Drop back by where you bought the book and read the reviews.  I've enjoyed hearing from people.