Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Preserving Everything, Every Way

A few months ago a compilation of all three of our food preserving books were
combined into one large volume.
They are still available individually as well.
If you've already bought one or two of the volumes this wouldn't save you money,
but if you're just starting out, it's cheaper to buy the compiled book with
all three volumes in it.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dehdrating blueberries and huckleberries

Just-washed blueberries

Most years we pick wild blueberries, known as 'huckleberries' in our area, on the mountainsides around our valley.  This year because of the wildfire, the roads were closed even though most of the berry patches were lower down on the mountains.  I ordered a ten pound box of blueberries through our local food co-op and in the picture above I'm putting washed berries onto dehydrator racks.

My husband, Steven, picking huckleberries
It's about a 12-mile drive to the turn-off up to the berry patches, then seven miles on a dirt road, winding ever upward.  We cross several small, clear streams cheerfully splashing over rocks as they tumble down to meet the river in the valley floor.

Seven picking berries alongside a long-fallen tree.
Blueberries and huckleberries have to have the right conditions to grow, including acidic soil.  Our pine forests are a great habitat for the berrries, but they only grow on certain hillsides in a certain elevation range.  They're around 4,000' to 5,00' elevation in our area.

Huckleberries on a bush
It's a long, slow process to pick the gallons of berries we use every year.  Depending on the size and amount of berries in a given year, we pick from three to nine gallons a year.
Susan, the author, gazing with binoculars
It's usually pleasant to be up on the mountainside.  We can hear the stream below us and the sound of the wind whispering through the pine needles, and feel the warm sun on our backs.  Sometimes the flies or mosquitoes drive us nuts, and sometimes it's rained recently and the underbrush soaks our legs. Our backs get tired bending over and our legs get achy standing on the slope all day.  But mostly, it's nice to be there.

Sometimes we look out on the scenery and appreciate it.
Sometimes the scenery runs past us! 
We've seen bears a few times too.
Huckleberry stains.  Usually our hands are worse than this after
a day of picking berries, so this must have been a light day.
Berries being cleaned.
Now it's time to wash the berries.  We usually fill the buckets with water full enough to cover the berries.  Running our fingers through the berries, up and down and around, we bring sticks and leaves to the surface where we pick them out.  Bugs sometimes float to the surface too.  It takes a while to really be thorough and get all the sticks, leaves, and bugs out.  It's also a good time to pick out unripe or overripe berries.
Next they're spread on screens.  There are going to be air dried.
Ignore the bowl of peas!  They're not relevant.
Although, dehydrated peas and dehydrated blueberries look much alike
except for color.  I used to put the jars side by side and tease people that
the purple ones are an exotic pea.

These berries are on dehydrator racks from our Nesco dehydrator, but they are being
air-dried in our gas oven over the pilot light.
Here are the dehydrated berries.
This is another type of dehydrator we own.
We live off-grid with solar electric power.  On a long, clear summer day I can run one dehydrator for several hours during the middle of the day, after our household battery bank is fully charged.  On those days it's sometimes charged by 10 Am.  While the air-drying berries were in our oven I ran this dehydrator pictured above) off the solar power.  I didn't have enough hours of power to finish them, but when it approached evening I unplugged the dehydrator and spread the racks out across teh counter to keep them from spoiling over night.  We live in a very low humidity climate, which helps with air-drying.
In an electric dehydrator it will take anywhere from 12 to 20 hours to fully dry blueberries or huckleberries.  If your dehydrator has a temperature control, set it at 135.  Otherwise rotate the racks every few hours for even drying if you can't adjust the temperature.  Watch for excessive heat and scorching of berries.

Sorting through dried berries.
When the berries are dry I dumpe the into a cake pan or in (pictured above) a pizza pan, and sort through them.  I break apart any that are stuck together, and I look for soft or gummy berries.  Some berries just simply won't dehydrate, even if you put them back in the dehydrator.  I pluck those few out and put them in a cup in the refrigerator and use them soon.
Berries ready to store.
The jar on the left is a gallon jar..  The other jars are here to show scale.  I prefer to use glass jars with tightly-fitting lids to store dehydrated huckleberries and blueberries.  You can use plastic but I would not consider that long term.  If you vacuum-sealed them in vacuum sealer bags they would keep longer.  Even better would be to toss in an oxygen-absorber packet (or Co2) and then vacuum-seal it.  Better than that would be to put your vacuum-sealed bags in a mylar bag-lined bucket and seal that, for really long-term storage.
Some metals can have a chemical reaction with the berrries an give them an 'off' taste.  If you must use metal containers, try lining it with a bag and putting the berries in the bag.  Make sure it has a tight-fitting lid to keep moisture from getting in.  Instect infestation is another, but less likely, possibility if it's not sealed well.
Store them in a cool dark place.  Daily or seasonal temperature fluctuations can also shorten the shelf life, so try to find a place with as stable a temperature as possible.  A bedroom closet or under a bed are places to consider. 

Dehydrated berries about to be rehydrated for pancakes.
To rehydrate berries, soak them in luke warm to almost-hot water for 15 minutes to half an hour.  You can just toss the dry berries into pancake or muffin batter and they'll slightly rehydrate and be a blueberry-flavored chewy bit, which is also fun.  Our grandkids like that bettter than fully-rehydrated berries.
Testing a rehydrated-berry pie on my son.  I bribed him with the ice cream.
The pie passed his taste test!
More ideas for preserving and using blueberries and huckleberries can be found in my book, Preserving Fruits, Nuts, and Seeds.  In the book there are also directions for canning and freezing blueberries.  A delicious condiment can be made by pickling blueberries but it is a short-term storage food.
Please leave comments or questions below, or email them to:
Thank you!


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Our summer of drought and wildfire, and what that meant to us as preppers.

Marston complex fire

As preppers we take into consideration what sort of natural or man-made disasters could be a risk in the area where we live, especially when we approach the possibility of buying a house or property. In the area where we live the main risk is wildfire, with extreme cold as another possibility. We have had one mild earthquake, merely a tremor. that we could actually feel (in 2006), but we don't get tornadoes or hurricanes and we don't live near a volcano or power plant, though some people could consider Yellowstone's caldera 400 miles SE of us to be a risk.
We've had weather as cold as 35 (F) degrees below zero, but the forested mountains have protected us from winds that could have given that a deadly wind chill. It's still weather to take seriously, but for the most part we stayed in the cabin with a fire in the woodstove and only went outside to check on the animals.
For our first twelve years on this property we didn't experience any big wildfires close enough to worry about. The few small lightning strike-started fires in our valley were put out while they were still only a few acres. There were a couple of dry summers that had us nervous but we fared well. Then came this year. This was the summer of drought and extreme fire danger.
Our 'rainy season' is usually from mid-May until the end of June. Some years it rained every day and we planted the garden in ankle-deep mud. Some years the cold weather persisted and we had frost and snow flurries clear into the middle of June. But all of those years, including the 'dry' ones, had plenty of rain in May and June. Not this year.
There were a few rains in the first half of May, and then a light shower on May 23rd. That was the last rain we had until a light shower on July 5th. There was not a single drop of rain in June. Everything dried up and on the bright side, we didn't have to mow again for weeks, and then only because it looked scraggly. June, normally our cool month of rain, turned into an inferno of heat and dryness. The last week of June and the first week of July brought us temperatures well over 100 degrees, some days as high as 105 and 106. This, at a time of year when we think it's too hot if it hits 80.
We joked about escaping to the coolness of the forest and mountains.... and laughed because we live up in the 'coolness' of the forest and mountains where most people go to escape the heat. And there was no escape. We don't know anyone with air conditioning out here because most years it's not necessary. We usually do hit close to 100 degrees a few times a summer but it's brief and goes away before it drains the life out of you. Not this year. We sweltered day after day.
But still, there were no wildfires in our valley, and nothing big anywhere in our county. We watched sadly as Glacier National Park, to our east, suffered two big wildfires in late July and early August. We saw terrible wildfires on the news in places like California, Washington, and Idaho. But here in NW Montana, we were pretty quiet on the wildfire scene.... until mid-August, when it seemed like the whole west end of the state went up in flames.
On the night of August 11th a lightning strike high on the shoulder of Mt. Marston was captured on a security camera at a nearby golf course. Their cameras are not just for security, they also capture wildlife such as deer, elk, bears, and the occasional mountain lion. They cover the mountainsides above and behind the golf course. They've caught beautiful lightning strikes, cloud formations, and other interesting phenomena. This night they captures the lightning strike that changed our valley.

Smoke high on the shoulder of Mt. Marston

By morning a column of smoke was rising from the location of the strike. Dispatch started receiving calls of smoke and flames, spotted from a lake below the fire. The forest service sent their first crews up to check it out. The wind picked up, causing the fire to race uphill. At the top of the mountain is a fire look-out building, one of the few “manned” lookouts still being used. The forest service evacuated the woman who was this summer's look-out person.

The smoke filled our valley.

Smoke on the flank of Mt. Marston.

As the fire raced uphill, the forest service raced to protect the historical look-out building. They wrapped it in a fire-retardant material and covered that with sprayed-on fire resistant foam. Then they left, hoping the building would survive as the fire raced toward it. They had hoped to stop the fire at the top, since fire tends to burn upward, but this fire spread out to both sides and burned slowly down the mountain too. Initially the fire died down at the top and didn't start over over and down the other side. The forest service checked the building and it had survived. 
The look-out building on Mt. Marston,
taken a few years ago.
Later when the fire to the sides send the flames around the back side of the mountain it once again roared up to the top and this time it scorched the look-out tower but the building survived. For days, we didn't know it's fate. The thick smoke veiled the mountains and we waited. It took more than a week for the smoke to clear enough to see the look-out building on top of the mountain, a local landmark visible for miles.
The pre-fire view from the look-out tower.
This building is manned from July to September with a smoke-spotter.
The fire spread out over five mountains along the east side of our valley, staying mainly on the National Forest. Fire breaks were made above the houses closest to the fire, and the local fire department was on standby for days, to defend the homes and buildings if necessary. No evacuations were ordered but a few people left anyway.

Crown fire with flames shooting dozens of feet into the air.
Our house is a few miles west of the location of the fire, and there are a lot of houses and structures between us and the fire. We were never really at risk of it burning all the way to our home, even if the wind changed direction and the fire jumped the highway and headed toward us.. The only personal impact the fire had on us was the thick smoke. It burned our eyes, noses, and throats. We couldn't see the far side of the yard through the fog-like smoke. The sun couldn't pierce the smoke to charge our solar electric power system.
A Chinook helicopter dips water out of a pond at the golf course

The National Guard was called in to help the weary fire-fighters, who's numbers were spread thin over the 103 wildfires burning in western Montana in late August. Chinook helicopters dipped water out of the nearby lakes and ponds with large canvas buckets hanging from a cable underneath; a 'cup' of water around 1,500 gallons at a time. Watching from across the valley it seemed hopeless each time the water trailed out of the bucket onto the fire. Like a drop of water sprinkled on a campfire. But slowly the fire lines stopped advancing as the helicopters circled back and forth between fire and water, hour after hour after hour.

A helicopter drops water on the fire.
From the Stonehenge Air Museum at the golf course:
"Day 12. 8-23-15
They have been steady again today. There are 3 helicopters going now. Wind has picked up again and so has fire. They are making a round trip every 4:00 minutes. With all three copters running that means 4500 gallons times 15 = 67,500 gallons an hour when they are in the air.
Warmer weather predicted this week so looks like they will be going hard.
Sure glad the Governor called on our National Guard"

A Chinook helicopter hovering over a lake.

The helicopter on the left has just left with water, and the one on the right is
coming in for water.

Full of water, ready to go drop it on the fire.
It's very well coordinated where they are to take each load of water.

The potential for fire at our property became more real when a timber company started logging just off our western boundary during the fire east of us. There are strict rules for loggers during fire danger. They have to stop work at 1 pm (because humidity levels drop in the afternoon and increase fire danger), they have to have fire-fighting equipment on site, and they had to leave someone to watch for fire or smoke for at least two hours after they quit for the day. We were still concerned. We moved valuables to one of our kids' homes 70 miles away in Kalispell.
The valuables we moved were pictures/photos, journals, financial and tax papers, memory cards and flash drives, and laptop computers. Here at home we put hunting rifles, chainsaw, tools, and similar items in our camper. If we had to evacuate, we'd drive that out. Those things are valuable to us, but they are replaceable. We moved our rototiller, garden tools, and wheel barrow to the center of the garden, farthest from potential flames. My canners went to the root cellar. Now we could only wait, and cough and choke on the smoke, which seeped into the cabin despite our efforts to keep it closed up.
An airplane drops fire-retardant slurry in a backdrop of smoke.

A black & white photo from the golf course cameras.

After two weeks of fire and smoke, the temperature dropped and the rains came. And came and came, in the wild, crazy way of unexplainable excesses of dry and wet, heat and cold. After a couple of days of rain the fires were reduced to a few wispy columns of smoke from hot spots that continued to smolder. For the last week, it has rained nearly every day, sometimes all day. The grass has the first green it's had in about two months. Our valley has heaved a huge sigh of relief and sits, exhausted, recovering.
7,200 acres of forested mountains along the east side of our valley are charred. In my life time it will never look like it did, but the forest is a renewable resource, and my children will see it in it's green beauty again.  The cost to fight just this one fire:  $6,200,000.

In accordance with the recommendations for properties in wildfire-prone areas, over the last dozen years we cut out the pines and other extremely-flammable vegetation within 30' of our house. We thinned those beyond that, out to 50' to 75' from the house. We pruned branches up until they were 10' to 12' above the ground. The reason for this is that a ground fire rolling through won't 'climb' a tree like a ladder if there are no low branches for them to catch. A ground fire can have flames 6' to 8' high. The forest is littered with pine needles and flammable plants like Kinnikinnick and Juniper bushes.
In a roll-over the safest place is to be in our house. Our cabin is built with Larch logs, which take longer to ignite than the surrounding dry grass. After the fire rolls through we would have time to escape from our house if it begins. Second-best place to go would be the center of our garden. We could scoop out a depression in the dirt and lay our faces in there for better and cooler air. Hopefully we would be far enough from the heat of the flames. 
Smoke is one of the deadliest aspects of a fire, but super-heated air can fry your lungs and kill you. Flames are less likely to be what kills. Obviously if we had a chance to safely evacuate that would be the best plan. However we'd want to make SURE the route ahead of us was safe before we started out. We have three miles of a one-lane dirt road winding down through forest before it hits a small paved county road. The possibility of fire blocking the road is a danger, and if we tried to return to our home the fire might have blocked the road behind us as well. If we're not sure we can make it to safety, we'd hole up here.
I've been told that our root cellar would be more dangerous in a wildfire roll-over than staying in our house or going to the middle of our garden. Something about the duff on the ground and roots burning underneath causing smoke or heat that could kill us in the root cellar. Yet that was the first place I thought of as a safe place in a fire.
Crown fires burn the tree tops. We watched the fire burn trees on the steep mountain slope. Like candles, one right after another would flare up and send flames 20' or more into the air, and the next one above it would go up, then the next. Wildfires can create their own wind and send embers and burning twigs ahead of them to start new fires. Ash and burned twigs landed all over the golf course at the foot of the fire.
Our biggest danger at home is a crown fire that would throw burning debris onto the roof of our cabin. Even with the evergreens cut back so far from the house the flying embers can travel quite a ways and land on our roof. We have aspens and willows in the yard, but they are much less flammable. If a fire approached and we had time, we'd grab the chainsaw and cut them out as well.
Our gardening efforts suffered this year. Since we don't have a well we rely heavily on the rainwater that usually fills all of our tanks and barrels in early summer. We were not able to haul enough water to keep the garden in good shape in 100+ degree heat and extreme aridity. We weren't able to pick huckleberries up on the mountainside since the road up to the berry patches was closed because of the fire. We normally pick 6 to 9 gallons a year. We don't know yet whether the berry bushes escaped the fire. Hundreds of acres of berry plants graced the side of the mountain below where the fire started.

Huckleberries (like a wild blueberry) that we picked last year.
Fortunately most years we have an abundance of foods to preserve from our garden, foraging, fishing, and hunting, and some things have accumulated over the years. This will give us a good chance to clear out and eat those foods, and hopefully next year will be a normal year and we'll have lots of delicious food to preserve again.
And that's the concept behind prepping (preparedness) and food storage. It's there when a person has lean years... for any reason. A lot of people focus on world-wide and political or economic conditions regarding preparedness, and here we had a situation right here at home between the drought and the wildfires, which affected our ability to provide food for ourselves. This winter we'll eat from the extra we preserved over the last few years, along with the buckets of flour, grains, sugar, etc. that we stored. And over the next couple of years we'll replenish what we need to use this year. 
We in this area are emerging from the drought and wildfires to begin living again, and to get back to the normal activities of this time of year, such as firewood cutting, bow hunting, and getting the garden ready for the winter. We were very lucky compared to other places. In Washington, California, and Idaho they had dreadful fires. Homes and lives were lost. We lost none of either here.

Billowing smoke behind the golf course
Photos courtesy of and used with permission from
Stonehenge Air Museum at Crystal Lakes Golf course
Fortine, Montana

A similar write-up on my blog at Mother Earth News can be read here
Please leave comments or questions below, or email them to povertyprepping@blogspot.com

Friday, July 31, 2015

Packing Grain and Beans for Food Storage (The way I do it)

As part of my prepping plan I practice what I wrote about in my book "Poverty Prepping: How to Stock up for Tomorrow When You Can't Afford to Eat Today" (Click here to see the book).  I buy one or two 'extra' of something every month, even if it's just a one dollar bottle of a spice. 
In times when I have a little more money to spend I buy things like a big bag of rice, beans, flour, or sugar.  This month we were able to buy a 50-lb. bag of wheat and a 50-lb. bag of oatmeal (rolled oats).
Our wonderful acquisitions!
(I don't know why both bags are upside down)
We've been lucky in being able to get buckets with tight-fitting lids from a grocery store bakery where one of our adult children works.  Most of them are about 2 1/2 gallons, which is a good size for me.  I have a hard time carrying full five-gallon buckets, so these smaller buckets are great.  We do have a few five-gallon buckets but I need the wheel barrow to move them from the shed to the house.
Scooping oatmeal into a bucket.
These buckets have been used over and over.  When I empty them I wash them and stack them in the shed until I have something to put in them again. I keep a bag nearby for lids but somehow I always seem to have more buckets than lids. 
I set the bucket on a stool and then I sat on a chair and scooped oatmeal with a 6-cup plastic measuring cup until the bucket was full.  But wait.... was the bucket really full?

Holding a plate on top of the oatmeal in a bucket.
Some foods compress better than others, but no matter what grain or bean I'm packing into buckets, I tap on the sides to help it "settle".  If you've ever bought things like cold cereal or potato chips at a grocery store you'll see that the bags or boxes appear to be half empty when you open them.  This is because the food settles in shipping.  When you first put foods like oatmeal or flour into a bucket there is a lot of air in with them.  By tapping on the side of the bucket you can jiggle it enough that the food settles and there will be more room at the top.  Then you can add more of whatever you're putting in the bucket.
I like to place a plate on top and hold it down while I tap the sides of the bucket.  This helps keep the oatmeal, or whatever food, from shaking out of the bucket, but more importantly, it helps push the food down as you tap on the sides.
There are two reasons I like to get as much air out and pack as much into the bucket as I can.  One reason is that the more I can fit into the buckets, the fewer I need and therefore I have more buckets available when I have food to put in them.
The second reason is that air oxidizes food and reduces it's storage life.  Some people buy oxygen absorbers or Co2 packets to put in the buckets when they pack them.  I figure the best I can do is to get out as much air as I can by packing the food as tightly as I can into the bucket.  This works especially good with foods like flour and oatmeal.  If I'm patient I can pack an amazing amount of flour into a bucket by tapping and by tamping it down with a plate.  Hard grains like wheat are harder to compress this way, but you can still tap on them to jiggle them as snugly together as possible, and reduce the amount of air in the buckets.
Being smaller it's easy for us to use the food in the buckets quickly and keep them rotated.  If you're packing five-gallon buckets for long-term storage you might want to buy oxygen absorbers to place inside the buckets.  Here's some available on amazon so you can see what they look like and get an idea of price: Oxygen absorbers .  This pack is $9.99 for 100 ct.

Six buckets of oatmeal, ready to be moved out to the shed.
The buckets have wonderful things on the labels, like donut glaze and pink icing and cream cheese frosting!  But inside they have oatmeal.  We also have wheat, whole corn, barley, rice, pinto beans, black beans, and kidney beans in similar buckets.

I date the buckets so I can keep them rotated.

This is the wheat being scooped into a bucket.
Recently I also put rice in buckets.
I have some of these buckets stored in the house in various places where they're not in the way, but most of them are in our sheds.  I try to put them near the ground on the north side of the shed, and cover them with old blankets to make sure they stay dark.  I don't like to set them right on the floor so I put a pallet in the shed and I set the buckets on that.  The air can then circulate under the buckets and help keep frost or condensation off of them.  I've never had moisture get inside one of these buckets, but it's still unnerving to go out on a winter morning and see frost on the outsides of the buckets. 
The storage life of all foods is lengthened by being kept cool and dark, in addition to removing or reducing the oxygen.  Wide swings in temperature are hard on foods, including grains and beans.  Daily swings are harder than seasonal swings, but to some extent we can't do anything about that.  I cover mine with several old blankets and then stack other things on or around the buckets.
It helps to have a master sheet of what you packed into buckets and when you did so.  It's constantly changing in our case, since we actively eat out of our buckets, so I keep my master list on the computer where changes and updates are easy to make.  But if my computer goes down I will lose my list, so I am planning to start printing it up a few times a year so I at least have a somewhat-recent copy of what we have stored in buckets.
Many stores with bakeries will give away or sell the buckets that frosting and other food comes in.  Check with stores near you.  Wal-Mart and other stores sell food-grade buckets, usually in bigger sizes such as 5-gallon. 
In addition to oxygen absorbers some people line their buckets with mylar bags to further extend the storage life. They usually come with oxygen absorbers as well.  These inside a bucket with a good seal can give you many years of storage life, often in excess of ten years.
Please leave comments or questions below or email them to:

Friday, July 24, 2015

Another notch on my writing belt!

I have had the honor of being asked to be a regular writer on the Mother Earth News website, for their section on food preservation. Here is my first post, and new ones coming every-other week:

I'll still be making posts here on this blog as well, on subjects not only relating to food preservation but all aspects of food storage and prepping, as well as gardening and homesteading.  My aim is still toward the more frugal aspect of these things, since many of us are at least somewhat financially-challenged! 

Sometimes there will be links back and forth, such as a link to the "Chicken Enchiladas from food storage" post from the upcoming post for Mother Earth News on canning chicken.  And I will go back and insert a link to the "Canning Chicken" post on Mother Earth News from the Chicken Enchilada post. 

Thank you, and please keep enjoying this site!  Please leave comments or questions below, or email them to:  povertyprepping@yahoo.com


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Food Storage Chicken Enchiladas


Last summer we raised and butchered 75 chickens.  We live off-grid with solar power, which is limited.  We had no refrigerator at all until a few years ago, and now we have a small 'dorm/college' fridge, which has a freezer about big enough for a pair of shoes (sorry.... that's what came to mind!).  So I canned the chickens.  We butchered them in batches of fifteen so that I could get each batch processed before the next were butchered.

It's somewhat daunting to look at more than 70 jars of canned chicken and figure out a variety of ways to use them.  Some of our favorites are chicken & dumplings, chicken pot pie, and chicken chunk gravy over homemade bread and mashed potatoes.  Those get boring after a while, so I have started asking friends for ideas.

One day on the phone with my friend, Rusty, I mentioned this to him.  He rattled off a few ideas.  One of them was enchiladas, and I realized that I could make them entirely from what I had on hand in my food storage. 

Some of the ingredients for my food storage enchiladas
Left to right:
Home-canned cheese
Home-canned cream cheese
Store-bought tomato sauce
Flour in the container in the rear.
Home-canned salsa
Store-bought sea salt
Home-canned chicken
Not in the picture is the coconut oil and (aluminum-free) baking powder I used in the tortillas and the taco seasoning I buy in large jars.  Also not pictured is the home-dried onions I reconstituted and sprinkled on the top with the cheese.
The first job in this project was to make the tortillas.  I mixed 1 3/4 cups of flour, half a teaspoon of salt, and a quarter teaspoon of baking powder, then mashed a quarter cup of coconut oil into it with a fork.  A pastry blender works too.  Coconut oil is a solid at room temperature and looks much like shortening.
I added half a cup of warm water and used the fork to mix it until a sticky ball formed, then added a little flour at a time, working the dough with my hands.  When it was no longer sticky I divided it into eight equal-sized balls, first by dividing it in half, then half again, then half one more time.  I rolled them into balls and flattened them with my hands, then used my rolling pin to roll them out as thin as I could.  Do this on a floured surface so you can get them up off of the rolling surface. 
They should be thin enough to almost be transparent, but the worst that will happen if you don't get them super-thin is that they'll be about the thickness of the crust of "Hot Pockets" that you buy in the freezer section of the grocery store. 

Next each tortilla needs to be briefly fried.  Put them one by one in an ungreased skillet and cook them for a minute or two on each side.  Then set them aside.
Grab a bowl and make the filling.  I used a jar of chicken meat in these enchiladas but you can use ground beef or any other meat, or just make them with beans and no meat.  I mixed the chicken meat with a jar of cream cheese in place of the sour cream I would have dabbed on top of the enchiladas if I had fresh sour cream.  The cream cheese gives the filling (even just beans) a nice tangy flavor.  I also stirred in half a jar of shredded home-canned cheddar cheese.
For information on canning cheese see this post:

Then I stirred in the jar of homemade salsa.  One by one I laid a tortilla in my (greased) cake pan and spooned filling into them, then rolled them up, placing them side by side as I filled the pan.  I've gotten pretty good at guessing how much filling to put in each one, but if you're not sure and you want to make them equal, you can lay the tortillas out all over the counter or table.  Then spoon the filling onto them until each one has about the same amount of filling.  At that point you can roll them up and place them in a baking pan, side by side. 
In another bowl I mix the tomato sauce and a couple tablespoons of taco seasoning.  You can add more or less seasoning according to how spicy you want it to be.  I buy salt-free tomato sauce and add a little sea salt when I cook.  In our climate it's a luxury to get enough tomatoes out of the garden to make our own tomato sauce, but I would sure love to be able to.
Pour or spoon the sauce over the tortillas.  I sprinkled rehydrated chopped onions over the sauce.  You can sprinkle the cheese on now, or you can hold off on the cheese and go ahead and bake it for half an hour at 350 degrees, then add the cheese for 10 or 15 minutes.  If you put the cheese on right away you should cover the pan with foil so the cheese won't turn dark brown and crispy.  Remove the foil for the last ten or fifteen minutes.  Total baking time is about 40 to 45 minutes at 350.  Ovens vary so check them a few times when they're almost done.
Allow to cool for five minutes, then serve!  It's a delicious meal that you can make from your food storage.  If you have questions about techniques or recipes for canning or dehydrating the ingredients for this recipe please ask.
Please leave comments or questions below or email them to me at:
I would also welcome more ideas for what to make with all this canned chicken!!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Electronic books vs. print books, for information storage.

As preppers we have a lot of information we want to save and have handy at our fingertips when we need it.  In the last few years we've moved more and more to electronic forms of storing that information.  We buy kindle books, or save pages to our computers, hoping that we will be able to access it no matter what.
In our case, we have a solar electric power system for our house, and we were smug that we would be able to access books and information stored on our computers and other devices long after any possible "SHTF" situation.  Even if the batteries would no longer hold a charge, we could power the devices directly off our solar panels. 
Oh, sure, sometimes we'd fork out the money for an actual print book, but right now on my kindle I have over 500 books stored.  So does my husband.  Not all of them are things that will be essential to survival if the world collapses.  The books containing 30 excellent muffin recipes and 15 hacks for a better work-out can probably dissolve into cyber never-land and I could continue on.  But the books about edible wild foods and how to set a snare for small game are a little more likely to be useful.
We know that electronics have to be replaced from time to time.  They get viruses or become outdated, or they have other problems.  Yet it didn't really occur to me how much information could be lost if this happened at a time when we can't easily retrieve the information on them.  When I bought a tablet I was able to add my kindle account to it.  I left all the previous books on my old black and white kindle and just started downloading any new purchases to my tablet.  
When the handwriting was on the wall that my computer was giving out two year ago, I emailed all my document files to myself so I could download them to my new computer, and then backed up all my files and pictures. 
However, we have had two things happen recently that have undermined my confidence in being able to access our books and information.  The first one was that my tablet would not turn on.  My grandson had been playing games on it and I figured he had just drained the battery totally into darkness, so I charged it.  And charged it and charged it.  It still would not turn on.  I was about to grudgingly take it in to see if it was fixable and I had resigned myself to losing the pictures on it. 
Then someone suggested I try a different charger cord.  My tablet has a weird connection for the charger cord and nothing else we owned used that same one.  So I bought a new cord and that took care of the problem.  Big relief, right?  No.  I realized that even if my tablet continued to work after a "SHTF" event, if I didn't have a working charger cord the tablet would be useless. 
The suggestion here might be that we buy and put away a few charger cords for our electronic devices that we expect to need if something were to happen and we could not buy a new cord.  That's something you'll have to each decide for yourself.
The other thing that happened is that my husband's old black & white kindle won't turn on.  He plugged it in and charged it, and the light obediently turned to green when it felt like the battery was charged.  The advertising picture that sits on the screen when the kindle is turned off is there on the screen like it should be.  But the kindle doesn't come on when he pushes the button.  We've tried over and over.  Short pushes, long pushes, nothing makes it come to life.  We still have not solved that one, but at least he can retrieve all the books and move them to another device such as his tablet.
If the "SHTF" he could not have that information transferred since it takes the internet to do so, by going through amazon's "manage my kindle" feature.  All those books would be lost.
We can have a store room full of spare computers, tablets, kindles, etc., and still risk losing all our information.  The answer would be to have "hard copies", such as print books, or by printing information off the computer.  Some information is harder to save and print than other information.  I've recently had a few people ask how they could print up some of my blog posts.  Unfortunately I am not very "techy" and I don't know how it can be done.  If something doesn't have a "printer ready" place to click on the page, I just assume it's beyond the scope of my technical knowledge.
I've recently learned how to do a "screen shot" (okay, young people, stop laughing!  I know it was easy for you!  lol) and save it to my computer like a photo image.  From there I could theoretically print it like a picture, after enlarging it enough to read it.  That might be one option for technically-challenged people like myself.
The copyright laws that cover information published on the internet have a lot of gray areas.  But generally if you're printing something for your own use, it's "okay".  If you present it to others as your own writing, that's bad.  If you re-publish it in your own name, that's plagarizing and it's bad.  If you sell the information to others, even with the original author's name on it, that's bad.  If you quote parts of it in your own writing AND GIVE CREDIT TO THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR, that's okay. 
The exception is "free downloads" from pirate or bootleg websites that illegally offer kindle and other electronic books.  Please make sure you are getting your books from a legitimate site and not a 'stolen' book offered on these book download sites.  If you get any of the kindle books that I have published from anyone except amazon.com, you are getting an illegal download. 
You should probably do your own searching regarding legal issues, but I'm giving you permission here on this post to print up anything you can off of my blog IF IT IS FOR YOUR OWN INFORMATION and you are not going to try and sell it to others.  You can even make another copy for a friend or relative, since this information is here on a blog that I have given the public access to, and your friend or relative could print it up themselves for free, too, if they wanted.  But instead you have graciously used your printer ink to provide them with a copy of information that I hope is helpful for people both before and after a SHTF event. 
But back to the original subject.... if you're relying on electronic devices to store your potentially life-saving information, consider having back ups and extra power cords and anything else you deem necessary to sustain this form in information.
Please leave comments or questions below or at: povertyprepping@yahoo.com
Thank you!