Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A visit with Dave...in person!

Earlier this month we went to Texas to meet with Dave and look things over and plan out our next book in the food preserving series and a few other projects we thought up.
A lot of the conversation was about our various food preserving experiments.  Dave's house is like a museum of food preserving and it's results.
Cooked, dehydrated, and vacuum-sealed sausage patties.  He sent some of these home with us and we munched on them in the car.  Delicious, and no one got sick.  I don't remember how old he said these were, but he'd eaten some that were older and never gotten sick.

Christmas pudding, which is essentially fruitcake. 
It's from last Christmas...almost a year ago.  It was tender and moist when we opened it and sampled it.  I just recently found out, while doing the "Beets" chapter in our upcoming book that some of the 'fruit' in here was actually beets!  They had been canned with sugar, then dehydrated a year later.

Homemade bread that Dave made. 
I think it had acorn meal in it, but it might have been the other
homemade bread we had while there.

Dehydrated slices of cheese.  This was an experiment I asked Dave to do last winter while we were working on the our book Preserving Meat, Dairy, and Eggs

Pound cake. 
It's interesting to me that it doesn't scorch on the outside against the jar. 
What a great way to have instant desserts!

Pickled cactus.
Texas is a cactus paradise.  If the world falls apart, they can eat off those cactus
that grow like weeds all through the woods and roadsides!  What a wonderful bounty of foraged food.

Watermelon syrup.
We wrote about this in our book, Preserving Fruits, Nuts, and Seeds
I never heard of watermelon preserves, watermelon syrup, or candied watermelon
until I met Dave.  He wastes nothing on a food he's working with.

Cream of Chicken soup
Can you imagine even thinking of dehydrating cream soups!  Brilliant! 
I'm a big fan of dehydrated foods because they take up less room and I don't have to worry about them freezing.  I should be opening cans and dehydrating things, one after the other, to eliminate the risk of losing food to freezing.  We heat our cabin here in NW Montana with firewood and the back rooms get pretty cold when it's below zero.  Dehydrating food is a great answer to the problem
of canned goods freezing.

This lid says "parsley" on it, and below that it says canned greens.
It's dried carrot tops that Dave sprinkles in soups and stuff like dried parsley.
Another one of those "Who would have thought?" moments!

Chili with beans
This really is chili.  Complete chili, cooked, put in a food processor, and dried. 
He cooked some for us, only he also added some cooked, dried beans to give it
some 'texture', even though there are beans in the chili in the jar.  It's not chili powder. 
It's powdered chili, the soup!

Leftover Spaghetti
Leftovers often get canned in Dave's house.  He has a refrigerator, but it's more likely to be used for food waiting to be preserved or ingredients for experiments.

Ginger juice
Dave makes this as a stomach ache remedy.  I can't remember how he said
he made it, so I'll check with him, then edit this post.

Canned velveeta
Dave's version of canned cheese.  Looks just like mine, only I use cheddar cheese. 
We have a post on this blog that gives directions for canning cheese

Bacon Fat
When Dave gets enough of it, he cans it to preserve it.  Then it's handy when
 he needs it, without taking up space in the refrigerator.  He stores it where it's
dark and cool so it doesn't get a rancid flavor.

Watermelon preserves
Another one of the ways he uses watermelon.  His candied watermelon rinds are
excellent too but I don't have a picture of them.

Fresh acorns on the left, acorn meal on the right.
This is one of the processes we described in Preserving Fruits, Nuts, and Seeds .
I know I'm putting our book links in here a lot today.  We put a lot of free information on this blog, but we also spend months working on the books we publish.  You can continue to read whatever is on this blog for free, but some things are just in the books.  It's only fair to hope for some sales to compensate for all the hours of preserving, experimenting, taking pictures, and writing.  But no one is under any obligation to go buy the books.

Pickled Cranberries
This is the best of all!  I love Dave's pickled cranberries, better than the recipe I had!
He gave us this half-gallon jar and another one that was still half full.
I lived on those and the dehydrated sausage on the 3-day drive home!  Mmmm-mmm!
(They're in the Fruit/Nut/Seed book)

Chicken Nuggets

My jaw dropped.  Dave canned chicken nuggets! 
He used the dry-canning technique for meat...and made canned chicken nuggets! 
 I am SO going to  try this!  What a great food to have on hand, especially if you don't have refrigerator.  Here on our off-grid homestead I can see these being
a huge treat when the grandkids visit!
I feel especially blessed to have a friend like Dave.  His hard-working and peaceful nature make him a pleasure to be around, and his knowledge of gardening, food, and food preservation is a wealth in itself.  We loved spending time with him and his family, who are every bit as wonderful as he is. 
We consider them family, and I hope you do too.  Thanks, Dave.
Please leave comments and questions below or at povertyprepping@yahoo.com
What?  You're asking if I took a picture of DAVE while I was there?
It depends.  Do you mean before, or after, midnight?
rotfl (rolling on the floor laughing!)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chainsaws and firewood-cutting

We heat with firewood in our cabin, and both my husband and I have heated with wood for most of our lives.  We love the way the heat radiates from the stove and soaks into our bones.  It's also a nice place to set our tea kettle so we always have hot water ready for hot chocolate, coffee, or tea. 

Here in northwest Montana that's possible most of the year, at least in the morning.  Even in the summer we have at least a small, quick fire to take the chill off the cabin, and it's usually enough to get the water in the tea kettle hot.  Often in the summer I gather pine cones from the woods around our house, and we burn those instead of "real" firewood for those short fires.

But we still need several cords of firewood to get through Fall, Winter, and Spring.  That means a lot of hours up in the forest with a chainsaw or two, cutting and filling our truck with wood.  Our old Dodge one-ton truck will haul about a cord of wood at a time, sometimes more depending on the wood and how dry it is.  Green wood is much heavier because it has a high water content.  So-called 'green' wood means that it hasn't dried out yet.  It's fresh. 

Even dead wood doesn't all weigh the same. I always knew my husband preferred the heavier, dense wood like Larch or Fir (western woods.  Back east it's probably Oak and walnut?) but I didn't really know why.  He said it was better wood, that it would burn hotter and keep us warmer in the coldest parts of winter.  He was right.  I could tell the difference both in how warm the cabin was and by how often we had to feed the stove compared to burning other wood that time of year.

If we have wood of lesser quality, such as Lodgepole or Aspen, we burn it in the spring and fall when it's not so cold outside.  Wood like Aspen leave a lot of ash and we have to shovel the stove out a lot more often, whereas with Larch there's almost no ash in the stove. 

Even though I grew up helping my Dad cut firewood, and then helping my husband cut firewood, and also some expeditions on my own to cut firewood, there were a lot of things I didn't know.  For one thing, I never dropped a tree (cut down a standing tree) because my Dad and my husband always were so grave and serious about the dangers of doing so.  I figured it was just some sort of macho guy-thing that only they could drop a tree safely.  But I decided to just stick to cutting up trees that had blown down, and it's a good thing because it turns out there are a lot of dangerous things I wouldn't have thought about, and I probably would have gotten hurt.  Or worse.

Usually when we are cutting together my husband drops the tree (unless we're cutting up fallen timber) and I help him cut the limbs off with my smaller chainsaw.  Then he slices them into stove-size pieces and I start carrying them to the truck.  When we get home we throw them out on the ground in front of the woodshed.  The ones that don't have to be split are stacked in the shed, and my husband works on splitting the rest, a bit here and a bit there.  He loves splitting wood and is good at it.  He always seems more chipper and with a lighter step after he's been out there splitting wood. 

Over the past several months my husband has been working on a book about the subject.  It's a thorough book, starting with how to choose a chainsaw, how to buy a chain for your saw, how to maintain the saw, how to cut firewood, including choosing wood (which is where I learned that Larch has a high BTU rating among woods in our area, and that's why it puts out more heat for less amount of wood burned), how to fell trees and what/why the dangers are, how to split wood, and how to sharpen (file) the chain, how to adjust the chain, how to mix the fuel...now I'm getting things out of order as I remember the subjects in the book, but let's just say it's a very complete book about chainsaws and cutting firewood.  I know.  I helped edit it.  It also has a lot of good pictures, carefully labeled, and they're in color on the kindle version.

The print book won't be out until the end of the week, but in the meanwhile, you could curl up and read this kindle version of a very good book.  Even if you're not going to cut wood, this is an interesting book.  My husband is interesting and you'll feel like you know him and more about our lives after you read it.  He included some funny stories about mistakes he made while cutting, including what happened after he sawed off a limb he was standing on, up in a tree!  No, he wasn't on the outer side of the cut, but it's still funny!  He is a good man who learns from his mistakes and keeps a good attitude.  I'm proud of him, and his book.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dehydrated butter and 'butter' substitutes

The wonderful flavor of real butter is something I would miss if I couldn't buy it at the store any more, or had no one to trade for, to get butter or the makings for it.  We have been canning butter for the last few years and I had a can of freeze-dried butter put away.  But when Dave and I were working on the book, "Preserving Meat, Dairy, and Eggs" (http://amzn.to/10YAdpA) Dave experimented with dehydrating butter.  He used real butter mixed with powdered milk, since dehydrating just butter didn't seem to work.  It made a passable spread, but we still wondered if there was something that would work better.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to visit Dave in Texas and we put our heads together to get ideas, and created a test 'assignment' for each of us.  Mine was to try to make a dehydrated butter spread out of sour cream and butter extract.  We'd already learned that certain dairy products such as sour cream, yogurt, and cream cheese dehydrate very well.  What if the sort-of bland taste of sour cream, mixed with butter flavor, would make a good buttery spread when re-hydrated?
I assembled the things I would need.  I have the sour cream (right), butter extract (the bottle laying next to it's box, center), parchment paper (center), and a drying screen from an old dehydrator.
I spooned about half a cup of sour cream into a bowl and made a well in the middle of it.  You have to look close to see it but there is about a tablespoon of butter extract in the middle of the well.  It's a clear liquid but it has a strong butter smell.
I thought of using yellow food color to make it look more like butter, but I decided not to.  I intended to add a little salt to help simulate real butter but I forgot to add it before dehydrating.

I spread the mixture on parchment paper, then laid that on a drying screen.  I tore the parchment paper in a crooked jagged line but decided to use it anyway, rather than waste it by throwing it away.  Then I set the drying screen on shelf brackets behind our wood stove.  Up here in Montana we're already using it to keep the cabin warm, with nights in the 20s and days around 40.  The dry heat from the woodstove does an excellent job of dehydrating in our off-grid cabin.

The next morning it was dry, and over-dry in some places. 
 I slid the crumbled pieces of dried sour cream into a cake pan, then into a jar.  I took a piece and nibbled on it.  It tasted like cream cheese!
I put a few pieces in a bowl, added a little bit of water, then mashed it with a spoon until I had it mostly mixed with the water, then tasted it.  Yup...tasted just like cream cheese with a buttery twist.  It had that 'twang' to it that sour cream, cream cheese, and yogurt all have, which is not a prominent flavor in butter.  Well, I thought it would still be very good spread on bagels or other breads.  We used some on mashed potatoes that night and it was really good.  But it still was not what I considered a good butter substitute. 
I never did add the salt, but it might have helped bring it closer to 'butter'.  However, I don't consider it to be a success as a butter substitute.
Meanwhile, in Texas....
Dave was experimenting with plain yogurt, which he made himself. 
"Well Sue, the butter flavored yogurt is dried and it tastes like butter flavored yogurt, lol!  Its not at all bad, would be great on a baked potato or maybe even pasta, and as you said (with the sour cream), would be great on a bagel.

I don't think that it could be called a butter substitute but it is definitely worth keeping the idea around for use if the opportunity presents itself, I'm going make another batch of it and I can send it to you if you would like."
So we still don't have a workable dried butter substitute.  The closest we came is Dave's recollection of the experiments he did last winter with powdered milk:
"I was digging through some of my old recipes and came across the experiment I did last winter.  I made a spread that can be used as a substitute for butter that's made from "Nido" whole milk powder.  It came out well enough that I thought it would be useful if our jars of canned butter ever ran out.
The basic recipe I came up with is 1 1/2 cups Nido whole milk powder, 1/2 cup oil, and 1/2 cup water, blended well until all the lumps are smoothed out and the oil is well mixed.

The resulting spread can be flavored with "Butter Extract" to give it a buttery flavor.  About 3/4 teaspoon will work, or you can add a stick of real butter instead and use it to stretch the supply of butter you have.  (Susan's note: If it were me, using the extract, I'd add some salt too).
The butter extract can be kind of pricey, so I tried making it with butter-flavored popcorn oil, and not adding any other flavorings.  That came out pretty good too.
Another thing I tried doing was to use skim milk powder instead of the Nido, but that didn't impress me too much.  It came out rubbery and had a strong 'powdered milk' taste, even with a full teaspoon of butter extract added.

 I used the substitute to make a box of mac-n-cheese (Kraft) and it worked great.  It wasn't all that good spread on toast but it'd work in a pinch.  Out of all the things I used it on, I think the best was the mashed potatoes.  It really surprised me how well that worked out.
And finally, an excerpt from the book Dave and I wrote, mentioned at the beginning of this post:
Dehydrating Butter:
This is done commercially, mainly as freeze-dried butter. It can be gone at home but the finished product is more of a soft-spread than a hard butter. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I asked David if he had ever tried dehydrating butter... “I have seen “Butter Powder” but have no idea how they make it. I have never put any in the dehydrator to see how it comes out but I'm sure there's more to it than just applying heat. Maybe mixing it with cornstarch and drying? I know what I'm going to be doing tonight – trying to dehydrate butter! Will get back to you tomorrow on what happened.”
I was thinking about the butter powder and got to thinking that maybe powdered milk would work better than cornstarch. My line of thought was that cornstarch would tend to thicken anything that was cooked with the powder.
I mixed it all up and added just enough water to dissolve the milk, and it's in the dehydrator now. Because the water is bound in all that fat, it may take all night to dry. I don't know, but I will keep an eye on it.
It tasted just a little like powdered milk but I think the overall taste will be okay. If it doesn't work out the way I want it to, I'll try it with cornstarch tomorrow.”
I tried mixing some of the butter with only milk powder in it but it just clumped and wouldn't dissolve in the butter fat. It only blended in after I poured in a few cups of water. I melted 2 pounds of butter, mixed in 4 cups of milk powder, and 2 cups of water. It's starting to dry out now in the dehydrator and so far it tastes like it will have a decent flavor. If it has enough milk powder in it I think it will do okay.”
(Next Day) “I was pretty sure the butter would take a while because of the high fat content, but so far it looks like it just may turn out to be something workable. I'll know more after it finishes drying. I may have to redo the experiment with a little more milk powder. I think it may still be too oily to store. I'm thinking that to make a usable spread from it, we may be able to mix it with some olive or other good oil and use it that way. I'm sure it would be usable in cooking as it is right now, but I'll have to give it a try to find out for sure.”
(Later, same day) “I took the butter out of the dehydrator a little while ago. It is still pretty oily and I don't know how it will store. I may have to do some more experimenting with it, “BUT!”, I did try mixing some with oil and running it in the blender. The milk just clumped together like it did when I originally mixed it in to the butter. I turned the blender on and started dripping water in as it ran, and almost like an explosion, the whole batch of it turned white and thick like mayonnaise, instantly! It startled me!
I tasted it and I do think it would make a good spread, but it is most definitely not butter or margarine. I tried it on a piece of fresh bread, on some boiled potatoes, and on some plain pasta – it wasn't bad. I would consider it a plus if I didn't already have fresh or canned butter available.”
(Another 'later') “I put the bowl in the fridge for a while and it set up just like a tub of soft-spread margarine. I tried a bit more of it on a piece of bread; now I know it's a winner! It melted in my mouth just like real butter, even though it's flavor wasn't a match. It would be especially good with chives or garlic mixed in, and used as a spread on fresh,  hot bread or crackers.”
(Two days after that) “I used some of the 'experimental' butter tonight. Made “Chicken n dumplins” out of the leftover cured chicken and put some on biscuits. It worked well on both, but on the biscuits it didn't melt. It stayed crunchy but the taste was good.”
(A few days later) “I made a discovery tonight! I was going to make more of the 'powdered butter, and my mixing bowl was too small so I tried to use less water and the butter/powdered milk mixture just lumped up like a ball of bread dough when I mixed it with the beaters. It didn't feel overly oily and it didn't stick to my hands so I just pressed some of it onto the liners of the dehydrator trays and put them on to dehydrate.
I had a crazy idea and mixed some of the remaining 'dough' up with water and ran the mixer in it until it was all dissolved and guess what? It was milk! Whole milk, no butter or oil anywhere, and it tasted better than the whole milk made with the Nido Whole Milk Powder. 
That's not the only thing! I mixed a little less water with another lump and tried to whip it like whip cream and it's whipped. Not good and stiff like fresh cream but it was definitely whipped cream, no butter taste or butter fat floating anywhere."
I don't know if there is anything useful here for all of you, but I thought you might enjoy reading about our trial-and-error experiments.  Dave is always busy trying out one thing or another in his "lab-oh-rah-tory" (Kitchen), and I love hearing about it, and he's inspired to do some experimenting of my own!
My final take on the butter experiments is that I will continue canning butter because it works so well and is easy (there is a post about it on this blog: http://povertyprepping.blogspot.com/2012/11/canning-butter-and-cheese.html )
But I will buy commercially-prepared freeze-dried butter if I feel the need to store dry butter. 
Here are some links to sources of freeze-dried butter:
Harveston Farms http://amzn.to/1ilkWaV
Love-to-Learn http://amzn.to/1agBqCd
Honeyville http://amzn.to/1illr55
Augason Farms http://amzn.to/18XAGzU

I have a can of the Augason Farms butter powder and I just opened it in the last couple weeks and started using it.  We took some on our trip to Texas, in a ziplock bag, and I added it to all kinds of things.  I added some when I made biscuits, and in the gravy.  We also mixed some up and spread it on bread.  It was 'okay', but I think it works best "in" things.  I baked bread earlier this week and I added some butter powder to give it a buttery flavor, and there is actually a faint buttery flavor to the bread.  I still spread some fresh butter on the rest of the slice and ate it!  Mmmm, good!

Please leave comments or questions below, or email them to

Susan (and Dave)



Sunday, October 6, 2013

Making berry vinegars and wine - Guest Post

by Coni
To make any of the berry vinegars warm some white wine vinegar and add berries, whatever amount you want.  Then you can put it in a mason jar and keep in a cool dark place for about 3 weeks.  Shake it a little, maybe twice .  After about 3 weeks it will be a beautiful color and full of the berry flavor.  At this point put it through a strainer and bottle for storage.  It is great for salads.  Enjoy!
Raspberry wine is fun.  The first time we made it I entered it in the fair and to my surprise we got Best in Show.  It is so simple and fun to do  The recipe is as follows:
10 pounds of Raspberries
10 pounds sugar
2 1/2 Tsp acid blend
5 tsp yeast nutrient
1 1/4 tsp grape tannin
3 tsp pectic enzymes
3 gallons water
5 campden tablets
2 packages wine yeast
Put your raspberries,  fresh or frozen, in a food grade 5-gallon plastic bucket.  Add water, sugar,and chemicals, but NOT THE YEAST.  Stir all well, to blend the sugar.  Cover with a tight lid.  You  will need to make a hole in the lid to attach a bubbler.  Let sit over night.  Next day stir again.  Add the yeast and mix well, cover tightly with lid add bubbler, which is a plastic tube that you put a little water in and put on it's cover.  This allows the gas that forms while fermenting to escape, but nothing else can get in. 
Stir at least once each day for about 5 days.  This helps the fruit to break down.  Keep in mind this is not rocket science so if you miss a day...oh well, not a problem.  We want to have fun with this, not to worry it will be just fine.
After about 5 days you will see the fruit is now pink mush.  Take a strainer and strain off all of the fruit.  The liquid that is left you will put into a 5-gallon glass bottle called a carboy.  This is the same thing as a 5-gallon water bottle.  Attach your bubbler on the top again.  You want the gas to escape but nothing to get in.  Now just watch it bubble away. 
 In about 2 weeks you will notice that there are solids on the bottom of the bottle.  This is the wild yeast and fruit solids.  At this time put your carboy on a table.  You will need a 2nd bottle.  Put it on the floor and siphon the wine from the top bottle to the bottom bottle, leaving the solids in the top bottle.  This will be thrown away. 
Now your wine will start to get clearer.  This is called racking off your wine.   Do this process maybe 2 or 3 more times over the next 6 weeks or so.   Time is not critical.  Do this when you have time or when you remember.  Each time you rack it, taste it and see if it is to your liking.
At first you will taste the yeast, so don't be alarmed.  It will get better as you go.  If it is too sweet let it go for awhile.  If it is too sour, or dry as they say, add a little sugar.  Remember this is your wine and you want it the way you like it, not the way someone else tells you to like it! 
When the bubbling has stopped and you have racked it off so that it is clear you will add 3/3/4 tsp potasium sorbate, this will stop any further fermentation.  Wait 3 days and you are ready to bottle and enjoy.  Start to finish it takes about 3 months for fruit wine.
All the chemicals ,bubblers and etc can be purchased at your local brewing shop, or purchased online: http://amzn.to/17ewHtH
It sounds hard at first but once you do it you will making all kinds of flavors.  The sky is the limit.  The amount of fruit can be more if you like.  It will intensify the flavor.  Have fun and enjoy.  If I can be of any help just let me know I will be happy to do what I can.
Thank you, Coni, for this information.  It sounds delicious!  Making vinegar and/or wine is a useful task for a prepper or homesteader to know how to do.  They have many uses.
Please leave comments or questions below, or email them to:
Thank you!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Life Without Refrigeration

I've published another book!


Life Without Refrigeration

A lot of books cover the subject of what to do with the food in your refrigerator if it goes out, whether for a short time or for the long term, but this is the only book devoted solely to the subject, rather than having it as a part of a prepper or survival book.
Why would you ever be without refrigeration? There are a lot of reasons why this could happen. It could be voluntary, such as moving to an off-grid property, or involuntary, such as the electric power grid going down due to a natural disaster or terrorist/war act.

Perhaps your refrigerator will quit working at a time when you can’t afford to replace it, or maybe you want to lower your electric bills or reduce your impact on the planet.

Whether it's voluntary or involuntary, it usually involves some life changes or a lot of frantic work to preserve the food from a refrigerator or freezer. It's a good idea to have some back-up plans and information, just in case. 

      This book fills a niche by covering a subject where information is often lacking. Some readers will remember doing these things in the old days, or hearing their parents or grandparents talking about them and enjoy the trip down memory lane. The author's own broad experiences of living without refrigeration in several climates and locales help make this book an interesting read.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Growing wheat and other grains on the small scale



Wheat, ready for harvest.
About five years ago we decided to try our hand at growing wheat.  We had an old corral that was rich with composted horse manure.  My husband tilled it up and I scattered wheat across the ground.  I used a 5-lb. bag of organic hard white wheat, and I planted it on Mother's Day, hoping it would ripen by fall.  In our climate that's always an iffy proposition.
After tossing the wheat out by handfuls we walked around scuffing our feet on the ground and using a rake to cover as much of the wheat as we could.  A week later it looked like the corral had been planted in thick, lush dark green grass.  During July and August, our dry months, we watered it.  In the fall the wheat heads formed.  Antsy to follow it's progress I broke off some kernals and they were green and soft.  As time passed they turned yellow and then brown, and became hard.
I didn't know what to expect or when to harvest them, so I almost waited too long.  The wheat kernals had begun falling from the heads.  We decided it was time for harvest.


The first thing we thought of was to have my husband cut it with the weed-eater.

He carefully edged the weed-eater into the stalks near the ground, but they flew everywhere and were a disorganized tangle of stalks. 

He next tried a scythe and it left them a little more organized but still difficult to sort out.

I finally ended up just breaking the heads off the stalks one at a time and putting them in buckets.  It was slow work but I enjoyed being in the fall sunshine, and I spread it out over about a week.  I went out and broke off wheat heads for half an hour to an hour, a couple times a day.

I tried scissors and while it did work, it wasn't any faster or easier than breaking the wheat heads off by hand.  It made me think of the cotton-pickers of old, carrying a big sack and picking the cotton, one head at a time.
 Over the fall I threshed the wheat by hand.  The middle bucket in the picture has the whole wheat heads.  The one my hands are over is the one I was 'squishing' the wheat kernals into.  The bucket around the side of my legs is where I tossed the empty wheat head after all the kernals were out.
When I had a bucket full of them done I spread them on an old cookie sheet to clean them.  There was a lot of "chaff" mixed with the kernals.  The chaff is light-weight and easily blown away, leaving just the heavier wheat kernals.  This is often done outside.  One way is to spread a tarp and pour the threshed wheat onto it.  This is best done with at least two people and on a breezy day.  Hold onto both sides of the tarp and toss the wheat and chaff into the air, just enough for the breeze to blow away the chaff.  You'll probably still have to do some cleaning by hand but it blows away a great deal of the chaff.
Regarding threshing, I've seen several homemade threshers, including one that uses a five-gallon bucket.  There's a hole drilled in the center of the lid and a drill on the outside is attached to a chain on the inside, through that hole.  When the drill is turned on, the chain whips in a circle inside the bucket and threshes the wheat.

We have an electric grain grinder that makes a fast job of milling the wheat into flour.  This one has several setting from 'fine' to 'coarse', but even the coarsest setting is finer than our hand-cranked grinder.  Here's a quick-link to electric grain grinders in case you're interested in seeing what's available and how much they cost:  http://amzn.to/19NqZAC

Our grandson loves to pour the whole grains into the hopper on our hand-cranked grinder.  This grinder is a heavy iron one that we picked up at a second-hand store about twenty years ago.  We have a lighter steel hand-cranked grinder too, but prefer to use this one because it's more heavy-duty.
Here's a link to hand-cranked grinders for those interested in browsing:
  We grind not only grains for our own use, but also for the chickens and whatever other livestock we have at the time.  Right now it's just laying hens, but we've had goats, pigs, ducks, turkeys, and rabbits. 

Just for an experiment I found a large flat stone and a smaller stone and tried hand-grinding some grains.  Grains like wheat are hard-shelled and it was a lot of work to grind even a little.  I tried some dried corn and it worked very well and it was easy to grind a lot in a short time.  Unfortunately we can't grow corn in our cold, short growing season, but for those of you who can, if you ever find yourself needing to grow and grind your own grain, especially by homemade means like stones, corn is the best grain.

This is the ground wheat when I finally got it all smashed and ground around on the stone. 
The following year after we first planted wheat, it came up on it's own, reseeded by the kernals that fell to the ground before we harvested it.  The third year it was sparse.  We tilled it up and I divided the corral into three parts and planted wheat, rye, and hulled oats.  This time I used hard red wheat out of a 50-lb. bag of non-organic wheat.  There were bare patches that didn't come up, and what did come up grew poorly and never produced mature wheat heads.  I can't say it was just because it was non-organic.  Maybe the hard red wheat has different needs than hard white wheat. 
Later in the summer I tried to sprout some of the wheat still in the bag, and it would not sprout.  Now before I plant, I test a small handful of kernals from the batch I want to use as seed, and if it sprouts, I plant it.  If it doesn't, I get different wheat or other grain.
I had ordered the rye and oats from Johnny's seed company and it grew well.  The rye was much like the wheat.  We ordered hulled oats to make harvest and threshing easier.  The oats were wonderful.  They grew well and were very tasty.  We ground some into flour, but I also put some on my big cutting board and rolled them with a rolling pin to make 'oatmeal'.  I haven't tried to grind oats on a stone, by hand, but they flatten easily with a rolling pin, so they must not be as hard of a grain as wheat.  Some day I hope to have an oat roller, but in the mean while, it does work this way.  Here's an oat roller if any of you want to look at them to see what they are, or to order one:
I've a notion to try and make a hopper for my pasta roller and see if it could double as an oat roller.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Me, on the radio

        Earlier this week I was interviewed about my books by Dr. Prepper on the Prepper radio network.  I was anxious, since this is a first for me, and I felt like I was tripping over my tongue.  But I made it through the hour-long show, with the guidance of Dr. Prepper's calm and conversational way of talking and asking questions.  He said I was his 676th guest in his years of interviews for his show! 

        If you want to listen to it, here's the link:


Friday, September 20, 2013

Dave's Kitchen - Pickled Purslane


Recently I was part of a discussion on "Wild Edibles" when the
subject of Purslane came up, I knew what it was and have it
growing in and around my garden but never did more than
nibble at it on occasion. It was always a bit too slimy  and
bland tasting for my my liking so I pretty much ignored it.
However, I would not pull it as a weed or intentionally mow
over it while in the yard or garden.

I decided to try something that was suggested, so I went out
and picked several bags, trimmed out the tender parts, washed
it, then put it in the fridge to "firm" up. I thought about the
best way to pickle it and decided that it would probably do
best as a sweet pickle.  My concern was that it might be
a bit too slimy but I decided to give it a try anyway.

I emptied the bag out and chopped the stems and leaves into
a "relish" sized mix to get an idea of how many jars I'd need
and set it aside while I prepared the jars.

In each half pint jar I added:

1 Sliced Jalapeno Pepper
Several Cloves Fresh Sliced Garlic
1 Teaspoon Dried Dill
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Allspice
1 Teaspoon Mustard Seeds
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Celery(dried)
6 Tablespoons Sugar

I then filled the jars with the chopped purslane and poured boiling
vinegar/water (2 parts vinegar-1 part water) into the jars, all the way
to the rim, leaving no headspace, then lidded the jars. I shook
them to make sure the ingredients mixed evenly, then put them on the
shelf to "Make" (the jars will seal as they cool).

I was concerned that the "slime" of the purslane would
be too heavy to be appetizing so I used a strong vinegar water
mix in the hopes it would cut it the way it does with pickled
Okra or Cactus.

After leaving it sit for about 2 weeks I decided it was time to
give it a try and "Daing", it was good!  From now on the
purslane I find growing in the yard and garden is going to
be carefully tended and gathered to make Sweet Pickle.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Thank you, Dave, for this post.  It's nice to have you back.  Dave has a huge garden and this year he had 150 tomato plants...and that's just the tomatoes.  So he keeps insanely busy over the summer, and the Texas heat is not kind.
Please leave questions or comments below, or email us at povertyprepping@yahoo.com

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Preserving Fruits, Nuts, and Seeds


Dave and I are happy to announce that the new book, "Food Storage: Preserving Fruits, Nuts, and Seeds" is published now and available at amazon.com in both kindle format and print.  This is the sequel to "Preserving Meat, Dairy, and Eggs".  We've spent the last several months working on this one, and now we're starting on "Preserving Vegetables, Grains, and Legumes", which we hope to have out by the end of the year. 

We both have a lot of real-life chores in our gardens and kitchens, as well as all the other normal work and goings on, plus families that include kids and grandkids.  But we have a lot of fun working on these books in between everything else. 

Dave is amazing in his tireless experimentation with food preserving in his "lab-oh-rah-tory" (kitchen) and I appreciate his contributions.  I have tons of emails I need to dig through and post of the "Dave's Kitchen" series we were featuring earlier on in this blog.  When we thought we were done with this book, he thought of a bunch more stuff...

"Lemons can be candied just like oranges.  The rind tends to be a little tougher but they go great in some recipes that call for lemon zest, like cakes, fruitcakes, bread or rice puddings and even for "Lemon Chicken"."

"Cranberries can make good sweet or savory pickles. The savory type of cranberry pickles are OK but the sweet are very good."

"Walnuts in honey. My daughter has, on several occasions, lightly roasted walnuts, put them in jars and poured (very) hot honey over them and they are really good after they've sat for a while to let the honey soak into the nuts. We have 1 jar that"s been on the shelf for a couple years and they appear to still be good (still sealed). Out of the jars she's done only one failed (started to ferment) but I suspect she didn't heat the honey hot enough or didn't get the jar cleaned well before adding the nuts and honey."

"Nut butters. I have made nut butter(mostly Sunflower) by running seeds through my grain mill(hand cranked).  I have a set of steel burrs so it doesn't make a mess that cant be cleaned up."

"Canning Bananas, If you add enough lemon juice to the banana "mush" it can be water-bathed. It isn't really just canned bananas done that way but it is pretty good. The ones I've done that way didn't sit on the shelf very long, "I" ate 'em all! lol."

"I don't remember if I ever mentioned it but "sulfuring" dried fruit will keep the pests away if it is stored in containers that aren't sealed (ie.. oatmeal boxes) or aren't bug proof."


Out of all those months of notes from Dave, plus my own experience and research, we put this book together, and we hope you enjoy it!  We welcome comments, questions, and suggestions about the book or anything related to prepping, food preserving, or this blog.


(NOTE: It looks like the Print version won't be available for another day or so.  It's done with the publishing process and just taking longer for Amazon to post the Print book information. Sorry for the inconvenience.  Meanwhile, the kindle version is available now.)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Canning Potatoes

We grow a lot of potatoes.  It's one of the things, along with other root vegetables like carrots and onions, that grow well in our cooler northern climate.
This is me digging our potatoes.  They're a staple food for us over the winter.  By the time we're done digging we usually have five or six bushels of potatoes.

I spread them on old sheets on our living room floor for a few days to dry.  Some people spread them outside (if at all) but we have too many wild critters who would help themselves if we did that, plus nights that could drop below freezing at the end of summer. 
When they're moisture from the ground has dried and their skins are a little cured I pack them into wooden boxes with handles and move them to our root cellar.  They keep very well until about May, when they start sprouting eyes.  When that happens I break off the eyes and bring them in.
Some are saved for planting but the rest are dehydrated to use over the summer.  These are cubed, dried potatoes packed into jars, but I also dry them as slices and shredded potatoes, and I've put dried, mostly-cooked potatoes in the blender and made my own instant mashed potatoes.

 I tried canning them a couple times thinking it would be handy to have potatoes ready-to-go for quick meals in the summer, but they were only good for mashing when I opened the jars.
Then a friend of mine told me she was writing a book about canning potatoes.  I didn't think that would be a very long book, but she said she was going to include several recipes for using canned potatoes, both homemade and store-bought canned potatoes. 
Okay, I thought.  That's more like it.  I can always use more recipes because I get tired of my own cooking.  And she's often told me what she was making for dinner and my mouth would water.  I wish I had her knack for creativity in the kitchen.
She published her book and I read her recipes and I thought "aw man, that sounds really good!" as I read each recipe.  I opened a jar of my potatoes and tried one of the recipes and it was 'oh my goodness' good, and it was fast and easy:
Potato, sausage, and egg breakfast burritos
1 pound ground sausage
1 quart diced canned potatoes
1 dozen eggs
Pepper to taste
Shredded cheddar cheese
Flour tortilla shells
Brown sausage (drain), add scrambled eggs, and cook until eggs are thoroughly done, stirring to scramble as you cook them. Drain and add diced potatoes. Add pepper to taste. Scoop onto warmed tortilla shells and top with shredded cheddar cheese.

This was even faster and easier for me.  I had browned a pound of sausage the morning before, to make biscuits and gravy, and packed up half of it and put it in the fridge.  So all I had to do was scramble the eggs, add the leftover sausage, and follow the rest of the directions and we had an almost-instant and very delicious breakfast.
And that's only one of the really terrific recipes and ideas in the book.  She also included the directions for making caramelized onions, which I've never had but looks really good.  I can't wait to have more adventures cooking out of this book.
If you're expecting to have a lot of potatoes this winter, you might want to take a look at this book.
PS: She also gives a lot of great tips such as not to cube your potatoes too small
when you can them, and she'll tell you why!
Please leave comments or questions below, or by email at:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fruit Leather - successful experiment

(Update below)

A reader responded to my last post about the perennial prepper garden with this comment:

Thank you for today's post.  Don't forget, when you have both a dehydrator and an over abundance of fruit, you can make fruit leather.
Have a great day,

What an awesome idea!  It might be especially good for hard-to-dehydrate fruits like raspberries.  Don't get me wrong, it's not hard to actually dehydrate raspberries but I haven't had success with rehydrating them and using them.  They have turned into hard little balls that stayed somewhat hard and chewy when I re-hydrated/reconstituted them. 

But fruit leather might be an excellent way to dehydrate raspberries and other fruits.  I'm going to get right on that over the weekend, and expand this post to include directions and pictures for making fruit leather, for those who have never done it, or who just want to see how I do it.  I only have one fruit leather tray so I often use wax paper to line my dehydrator trays to make more at a time.

Please drop back by this post after the weekend and see what I've added. 

UPDATE:  The raspberry fruit leather is delicious.  It took three days for it to dry in my oven with just the pilot light for heat, but it came out great.  It's tasty and it's a beautiful red color.

I decided to make a small batch for the trial, so I used 2 cups of raspberries, half a cup of sugar, and a quarter cup of water.  I heated them in a pan and simmered them until they thickened a little.

Then I lined a cake pan with parchment paper and poured the raspberry goo into the pan

I put it on the bottom shelf of our oven.  Our oven uses propane and has a pilot light, which
keeps the oven around 95 degrees.  I put the pan on the bottom shelf so that it was closer
to the heat from the pilot light.

It took three days before the top wasn't sticky any more, so I carefully peeled it up from
the parchment paper.  The underside was still sticky but there was no
sign of mold, which was a concern since the raspberry goo was at
a low-ish temperature for so many days.

I put it on a dryer screen with the sticky side up to finish drying it.
I'm sure this would have dried faster in an electric dehydrator.  If you don't have fruit leather trays for your dehydrator racks you can use parchment paper or wax paper to line your racks/trays.
The taste of the raspberry fruit leather is mouth-wateringly flavorful!
Please leave comments and questions below, or email them to me at:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Perennial Prepper Garden

Red Raspberries
When we bought our property ten years ago one of the first things we did was to start planning our perennial prepper garden.  We researched all the fruit trees, bushes, and plants that would grow here in our zone, and spent hours dreaming our way through all the seed catalogs.  It was July when we closed on the property and we had much to do before winter, so we didn't do any Fall planting, with one exception.  We dug up part of the root of a rhubarb plant at the property we sold to move up here.
That one piece of rhubarb root did well, and over the years we dug off more of the root as the plant spread, and we now have at least a dozen bushy plants that come back every year.  The downfall of rhubarb is that it takes a lot of sweetener to make it pleasant to eat.
When spring arrived we happily ordered fruit trees and berry bushes. We bought 3-year asparagus roots and strawberry plants from a local nursery.  Our climate is too cold for most nuts, and the ones that will grow here have been hard to obtain.  The years when we had the money to order them, they were out, and the years when they had them in stock were years we didn't have the money to order them. Those are hazelnut and chestnut.  We did plant an English Walnut tree but it came back from the roots every year and still does, nine years later.  It's never made it taller than a foot.
What we did plant was two varieties of apple trees (four trees total), three cherry trees, blueberry bushes, raspberry bushes, and the previously mentioned asparagus and strawberries.  We spent the summer clearing brush, rocks, and stumps for a garden spot, and hauling manure, old hay, and old leaves to compost.  We enclosed the entire garden and orchard area in a fence 7' high, to keep out the deer, rabbits, and bears, with an electric wire around the bottom and top, powered by a solar fence charger.
This far north and this high on the mountainside, the fruit trees leaf out around June 1st and the leaves start turning by the first of September, so it's a very short growing season.  We have blossoms around the second week of June, and they've frosted more years than they haven't. 
The apple trees grew well, and six years after planting them we had our first few apples.  That winter rabbits got through the fence and girdled three of the apple trees, damaged the fourth apple tree and all three cherry trees.  The damaged trees recovered, the girdled ones died.  That was really heartbreaking.  All those years of carrying water to those trees in 5-gallon buckets, watching them grow, and anticipating apples...and *poof*, with the nibble of rabbits, 3/4 of our apple crop was gone. 
We replanted them and we're waiting again for apples.  That was three years ago, so we've got a few years to go.  The apple tree that survived is producing well.
If this was a post-SHTF situation we'd have been in serious trouble to have a blow like that to our food supply.  It's not the only thing that didn't produce as planned.  We've re-started the asparagus three times and we finally have a good patch growing.  We've planted blueberries twice and I think this time they're going to make it.  The blueberry plants are now in their fourth year, still less than two feet tall, and have never produced or had a blossom. 
The cherry trees are nine years old and we've only gotten a handful of cherries.  We planted two more of another variety and in their third year they started producing.  The Manchurian apricot bush we planted kept growing up from the root every year, so after about five years I pulled them out.  Same with the elderberries.  I planted four elderberry bushes and they're for cold climates at least one zone colder than ours, yet they also came back from the root each year instead of growing into nice tall bushes. 
What has done well here?  Number one by far is the red raspberries.  My bushes are 6' to 7' tall in places, and I have three official patches.  The plants keep coming up by the dozens all over the place.  I've given away hundreds of new-growth raspberry plants, and continue to do so.  They're thornless, which is wonderful.  My blackberries are thorned and they're so bad it's like they reach out to grab your clothing.
For about a month I pick at least a gallon of raspberries a day, and during the peak of harvest, which is the first couple weeks of August here, I've picked more than two gallons a day.  I haven't found a good way to dehydrate them, so most of them get canned.  When I dehydrated them I ended up with hard little red balls.
Second best is strawberries.  The Tristar ever-bearing do fantastic here.  They're definitely not everbearing up here, but during the few weeks they produce, the berries are large, sweet, and plentiful.  The junebearing strawberries I planted did not produce well and eventually died out.
Blackberries grow well here but the berries don't ripen until Fall and most don't make it before we start getting serious frosts.  Grapes never have survived here, even the 'cold' climate grapes.  We do have wild Oregon grapes that are tart but make great jelly.
There are vegetables that will reseed themselves and they're bi-ennial.  We leave some of our carrots to go to seed the next year, and by having different patches in different years of their life cycle we usually don't have to buy seed or plant carrots.  The problem is that they come up among everything in the garden and we have to be careful weeding when they're little. 
So what's the bottom line here?  Well, for one thing, do your homework and plant carefully.  Select the plants and trees that will grow best in your climate.  Watch out for micro-climates.  Our property is 500' higher in elevation than the valley below us, and about a  zone shorter in growing season.  It's not just cold that you need to watch for.  It's the number of days in the growing season too.  Cold nights, even when it doesn't frost, will slow growth and production.
Start as soon as you can so you can make sure your plants will do well.  Just because a nursery says it will grow and produce in your area doesn't mean it will do well in your garden.  And that's something to watch out for too.  Just because something will grow doesn't mean it will produce.  One of our neighbors planted a nectarine tree because the store insisted it would grow here.  It did.  For almost a decade, and it's never had anything but leaves on it. 
Another reason to get started as soon as possible is in case you have to try again, like we did with asparagus and blueberries.  I'm pretty sure the problem with the blueberries was the soil, but I'm not sure what went wrong with the asparagus.  We followed the directions to the letter.  The first time, most didn't come up and the few that did really struggled.  The second time most of them came up but died back and didn't re-grow the next year.  The third time most send up a few spears, and they came back the next year with a few more, and now in their fourth year, we have an abundance of asparagus.  We did the exact same thing each time. 
If there are serious gardeners in the area, try to ask them what varieties do well in your area.  Sometimes they'll give you "starts", like I do with my raspberry plants.  And if anyone out there wants some raspberry bushes, I'll send you plants for free if you'll help with the postage.  I've pushed about as many as I can on friends and neighbors, and they run like people in other parts of the country do when someone approaches them with an armload of zucchini!  Gee, if I could I'd trade a few gallons of sweet, organic raspberries for an armload of zucchini!
I very much welcome comments.  It would be nice to widen the information base and hear from other parts of the country.  Though even if you're my neighbor down the road and have something to add, I welcome that too!
Please leave comments or questions below, or email them to povertyprepping@yahoo.com
Thank you!