Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Short-term tips for using your food storage

I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to my food storage. By that, I mean that I prefer individual ingredients to the mixes to which you only add water. I supplement the #10 cans and 5 gallon buckets with sprouting seeds and canned or dehydrated food from my garden.  I've alluded to some of my product management before, but thought I'd make a short, clear list of my favorites.

1. Get and use some of the European glass storage jars with attached glass lids. You can often find them at Ross or Marshall's for under $5. I usually buy the Bormioli, but will occasionally buy American jars. I do not buy the Chinese jars, partly principle, partly distrusting whether the seals are food safe or whether they will provide a hermetic seal.

2. Once you open a #10 can and use some of it for cooking, store the remainder in hermetically sealed jars (#1) above. For items like baking soda and powder, put them in a small mason jar, use a plastic Ball brand cap and store in fridge. Note whether it is soda or powder on the lid using a Sharpie.

3. Tomato powder is a great space-saver. I use it now for all my tomato paste and sauce needs. How many cans of tomato sauce, purée and paste do you have on your shelf? One can of tomato power will replace lots of them. I have used several cans of the Emergency Essentials brand and found it to have a nice, slightly sweet flavor that easily rivals the best canned sauces. The 'spaghetti and pizza sauce' is only about 40% tomato powder. Lots of sugars and starches that make it taste artificial. I tried it and do not recommend it.

4. If you can't afford a grain mill, do not fret. Practice now making your own sprouted wheat bread. Soak the wheat for a day or two, but not to the point you have a green blade forming. Drain well in a sieve or colander, like for a couple hours. You should be able to mash the grains into a dough, then add your yeast, sugar and salt.  Continue to process like a whole wheat bread.

5.  Unless you have a documented gluten allergy (get a blood test from your MD), keep some vital wheat gluten in your food storage. When added to flour made from non-wheat grains, like oats, nuts or acorn flour, at a rate of 1 tablespoon per cup it will help your bread stick together.

6. I don't store a lot of FD vegetables. Instead, I store seeds for sprouts and microgreens. Barring nuclear or volcanic winter for the microgreens, we have enough sunlight even in winter to get these to a point of being edible. Save some to grow out in summer if your emergency scenario is longer than a few weeks.

7. Last item is actually a frugality tip: use rubber bands. I buy #64 rubber bands at the office supply store and save the big bands from vegetables. For many consumer packaged items, if you carefully cut the package open, use what you need, roll the bag down and secure with a rubber band. You don't need near as many plastic storage bags. If you use all the product within a few weeks, it works. If it will take you longer than that to use it up, see #1.  Do this also with bag coffee, even before you open it. As soon as you bring home from the store, add a rubber band. It reduces the air in the bag for a longer storage life. Keep the band in use as you use up the bag. Don't forget to save it before you toss the bag!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Taught by Rats

The summer rains were late this year, but very heavy. Everything that could germinate, bloom and produce seeds, did. As a result, we've had a bumper crop of pack rats as well. We learned this the hard way when my husband was having some trouble with his truck. Seems the pack rats had munched on $400-worth of wiring. This was our first such experience in more than 20 years of living here.

So we began taking more serious anti-rodent measures. First was keeping the hood raised when the truck was parked, and ensuring the truck was moveddaily, even if only a few feet. Because our dog loves chasing and catching small animals, poison is not an option for us. Mouse traps were placed below the vehicle. After the second trap disappeared, Dear Hubby wired them to somewhat flat surfaces in the engine compartment of the vehicle.  Still, no luck.

At the time, we had no concept of pack rats being significantly different from mice, at least size-wize. I had seen their burrows, but never the actual critter. After seeing one caught by a neighbor, we changed strategies. The body of the rat was a good 6 inches long, and the well-fed rascal was at least three inches in diameter. This was a horse, uh rat, of a different color.

Next came removal of brush piles and moving lumber storage to remove rat havens. The missing mouse traps were found in one of the small brush piles.

Bring on the rat traps. Yes, real, big traps. No, we did not go the have-a-heart rodent relocation route. The reasonable potential for rodent- or flea-borne disease here in the mountains of the southwestern US was not an acceptable risk. We chose the big plastic traps that operate like big, mean clothespins. The brand may be 'A better mousetrap' or something similar. We chose these because of the sanitary issues. You can release the deceased rodent and re-set the trap without touching the business end. When baiting with peanut butter, we use clean disposable utensils kept from adventures in fast food, then throw them away after one use because they contact the business end of the trap.

Today, we hit paydirt -- a lovely, well-fed 5 or 6 inch packrat (excluding tail length). We will continue with this strategy until the food chain returns our furry friends to the normal balance.

Morale of our story is to have both rat and mouse traps in your supplies if your preparedness is designed to cover events that may last several weeks.

Have you had rat-stravaganzas in your location?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

My Top 5 Small Multi-purpose Items

I really don't want a 50 lb pack as my Get Home bag, so I choose a lot of items that can serve more than one purpose. Sometimes, it is a primary purpose. Other times, the item can double as redundancy for another basic survival item in the bag or complement it to create a luxury.  A few of my favorites are listed below. I'm not listing the obvious items everyone carries, like a knife, fire-starter or water bottle. What are your favorite multi-purpose items?

1. Dental floss: It tends to be very strong. In addition to its obvious use, it can be used for sewing thread (ensure you have a needle that has a big enough eye), suture thread in a pinch, substitute for twine, making a crude shelter by tying corners of mylar blankets or tarps to spots or trees. I carry 4 X 10 yard mini-containers with cutters.

2. Small bottle of 91% isopropyl alcohol: I use a 2 ounce plastic dropper bottle from REI (test in store to be sure no air escapes when you squeeze it) useful for sterilizing stuff, a solvent, ear drops to prevent fungal infection after swimming, drying tinder and helping start a fire, cleaning skin around a wound. The 70% isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) isn't as useful as the 91%, especially for sterilization. These are usually side-by-side on the store shelves.

3.  Mylar blankets: In addition to other lightweight bedding and a heavy duty mylar tarp/blanket, I keep at least 3 of the small cheap ones in each bag for so many uses. Many articles have been written about these because they have so many uses such as a poncho, groundcloth, rainfly, sling, fire-reflector, foot-warmers and water proofers (before getting feet into cold water), etc..

4. Metal cup: whether a canteen cup or deep stainless cup (not those skimpy Sierra cups) these can be a major kitchen-creator. Use to boil water, mix food, scoop water from sources, catch rainwater to fill your bigger bottles, store a roll of TP in your pack to keep it dry and round, hold a tea light for fire-safety. Depending on which bag, mine is either a GI canteen cup with stove stand or a round cross-section 28 ounce cup which holds a roll of TP perfectly.  VERY WORST CASE you can soak the TP (in the metal cup) with the alcohol and light it to keep from freezing to death (this is the luxury item mentioned above -- a chemical stove). This is a very hot fire, so do it in a place where you can maximize saving the heat (small rock, earth or snow shelter) and keep safe from fire or melting something.

5. Tea Lights: in small metal/foil cups, the 100 for $8 or less kind, unscented.  First use is to prolong the life of your other fire-starters. Use 1 match to light the little candle and use the candle to light your splinters, tinder or alcohol dotted square of TP to start your fire. Heat source : in your metal cup in a small space made of your mylar blankets, you can actually warm hands, feet etc.. Heat water: half a canteen cup of water over a canteen-cup stove with a good tea light or two can give you a smokeless unscented fire for hot water in a short time. If accomplished in your mylar hooch, it will also warm the space somewhat.  I keep at least one empty plastic medicine bottle full of these in each of my 'bags.'

What are your multi-purpose favorites?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Winter Garden update

Less than a month ago, I sewed seeds for rutabaga, parsnips, beets chard and 2 types of kale. Parsnips were a bust with almost none germinating.  Beets were a close second for losers, with about 10 little plants. The kale, chard and Rutabagas are going gang busters. I sewed the ruta's heavily and am thinning them into my salad bowl. Baby rutabaga greens are quite yummy and tender. They have a very slight cabbage flavor at the end, which goes well with most spinach and lettuce mixes, or alone. The kale and chard will be ready to start picking soon!! I also found a forgotten kale in my other raised bed, It is covered in beautiful leaves that will be joining the rutabagas in the next few days. Such bounty!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A little help, please?

Recently, I've been posting from an iPad mini. When I try to add a photo to the posts, there is some seemingly random, odd subset of my photos available, and only when I select 'from my phone' as the source. Do any of you know how to access the photo library without uploading my photos to icloud. I refer not to have my life stored in some mystery location forever.

Do I need to go into the photo library and select something to make the specific photos available?

Thanks in advance!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Basic Frugality

Great article about frugality at The Simple Dollar:

Yes, a voluntary lifestyle that can free you from debt and "keeping up" with...anyone!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Routines for better or worse

For some reason this thought has been bouncing around in my head for a few days. Probably because I broke a routine and found myself out and about, unarmed. For me, that was highly unusual and started me thinking about good routines and those that can be hazardous to your health.

While I was working for the military, we had our annual force protection/anti-terrorism training that warned us against some types of predictable physical routines. If the bad guys know you'll be at the corner of Hollywood and Vine every weekday between 7:00 and 7:15 a.m., you could become a target of opportunity for kidnapping, assassination, etc.. We were encouraged to vary our routes to and from work and in our personal lives.  That level of breaking routines is a good thing.

My husband has a daily routine that includes coffee, walking the dog, practicing his music and exercising.  I'm a bit more random about when I do things, other than morning coffee.  The day I failed to arm myself when I dressed was a fluke. We decided to bathe the dog that morning, so I didn't wear a weapon to the shower stall. Kept forgetting after that. Not the best way to break routine. Twice I found myself crossing the country road on foot, well away from the house, alone and unarmed. Fortunately, all was well -- this time.  In an emergency situation, this may have been an unrecoverable mistake.

I'm a locker and turner. I lock the doors to the house as a matter of routine. To me, it's part of the action of closing an exterior door. I also turn lights off as I leave a room or walk through the house. My husband doesn't have those automatic behaviors. As a result, I am occasionally startled to find an unlocked exterior door in a room with a blazing light.

So are you aware of your routines during the day or week? Are some good for your life, health and safety? Could others be hazardous in an emergency? What are your contingency plans for varying these routines during non-routine times? Now is the time to ponder these and prepare your thinking in case of emergency!