Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Starting the apple harvest early

If anyone knows how to access photos taken by an iPad mini through the blogger using the same mini, please let me know in the comments. I select 'from your phone' as it is the closest, but only a strange, seemingly random selection of my photos is available to post. Sorry, I have other pics for this topic today, but only a couple were accessible - and not the version I cropped!

We have two apple trees that in a somewhat normal year are very productive. Since they started to bear, we've only had one year with a failed crop. In the past, we've gorged and gifted our bounty. Most of the 'bummer' apples are used quickly for pies and apple crisp until we can't stand the sight of them. This year, I have a dehydrator and have already begun to dry the slightly green but somewhat sweet apples. FYI, the dehydrator has a fan and timer. These features are absolutely worth the extra cost. Everything dries more evenly and quickly, and you can leave it unattended without coming back to cardboard food.

We have gusty winds, hungry birds and minor thinning affecting the trees now. Daily checks yield fresh fruit on the ground, new areas that are crowded and newly pecked fruit. All these 'bummers' now go to the early harvest. Well, almost all. I leave some bird-pecked fruit as a tithe to my lovely songbirds. The fruit with just a new peck or two can be sliced and dried with little waste. The waste goes outside the fence for the deer as we wait for summer rains that are almost a month late. Poor hungry deer!

When preparing the fruit, I first mix fruit fresh (essentially pure vitamin C), a little sugar and water to 'dunk' the sliced fruit. This does not completely stop browning, but reduces it by 80 to 90 percent. If the apples are later used in baking, the asthetic difference is meaningful.  The first slice is a thin one to remove some skin, which doesn't dehydrate well. I taste this. If it is still astringent to taste, the apple goes in the deer bucket. The remaining apple gets sliced about about 3/16th inch wide. Eyeball-wise, that's less than a quarter but more than an eighth. This eventually makes a chip that can be used for cooking or eating as-is. Core goes in the deer bucket.

Depending on the humidity, a 9-tray load takes 6 to 8 hours to dry. The fruit should still be flexible but not have any mushy spots. I set the dehydrator out on the covered porch so that it doesn't heat up the house. When ready, I bring the trays inside to cool for about an hour. After a few samples, the chips go in an glass hermetically sealed jar. Those are the ones I raved about previously that have the rubber ring. No special process is needed to open and reclose the jars. You can use the dried fruit as needed.

By the time we get to the ripe apple harvest in a few weeks, I should have all the 'bummer' apples salvaged and in jars. What a great way to keep a taste of summer with us all winter!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

More homestead security

We've adopted the 'small town in the middle of nowhere' philosophy, for those of you who know what I mean. We bought the place long before the current era of preparedness, but it meets some basic criteria. Over the years we've renovated the house and planted fruit trees, etc. to make it a more sustainable home for our retirement. The original layout of the property puts a gate off the main drag about 12 feet from our future former front door. I've hated that.

Sorry that there will be no photos,  as there's not a practical way to do that without showing more than I prefer. I'll describe what's happening today and tomorrow. Since I began planting the garden, I've envisioned moving the front gate to a spot that is much farther from a different door. I've left a nicely mulched path to get to the new front porch, leading from a blank piece of fence. The porch  faces 90 degrees from the road and isn't obvious in passing. The door closest to the main street will be blocked securely while still allowing emergency exit. Shrubs will be planted to obscure the old porch.

Right now, the fence is being moved to remove the current gate to open a spot for the new gate. It will be about 60 feet away from the current spot and at least that far from the old and 'new' front door. The new spot provides visibility from the main living space of the house. You may think that this isn't much of a move, but there's more to it than a few feet, though that's a huge plus.

The extra distance, and posible confusion as to how to enter the house, translates into time. For a more common local emergency, it also means that if some moron opens our gate during a flood event, the rush of  water will hurt the garden, not the house. Yes, we had that happen once ("just wanted you to know there's a flood" DUH! Lucky he didn't win a Darwin Award)  and instantly had 2 FEET of water rushing into the yard. When that happens, you can't shut the gate again due to the force of  rushing water.  We were lucky, as the water stopped rising soon after. It came within 2 INCHES of coming into the house.

It will be nice to have the two-fer finished. One more long-desired improvement can be checked off the list and our little cabin will be a smidge more secure.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Why I love metal mesh security doors

Normally called 'burglar' doors, these have so many benefits beyond security! First, let's talk cost. If you buy the installation tool, you or someone you know can install these. That brings the cost down to the cost of the door and lock. Some can be special-ordered with the lock. Costs start just under $200 per door.  If you want a fancy pattern or color, the price goes up.

We first installed these because our dog had a habit of crashing through screen doors. After a while, we decided on a more dog-proof door. Problem solved with the metal mesh security door.  It gave me a dog-resistant way to ventilate without a houseful of bugs and critters.

Yes,they strain out lots of bugs for late night and early morning ventilation. If you live in drier climates, a wet sheet can turn them into evaporative coolers when the power goes out.

Oh, and they are a bit more resistant to a pocket knife if someone wants to get to your door locks and handles.

So, if you are looking to replace a screen door, or don't have one, consider a metal mesh security door or 2 in the mix.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Emergency Shopping List for 50

Well, I took the plung and joined our local volunteer fire department to update the emergency support plan and ensure that we have what we need to execute it. In the process, we looked at what would be available in a grid-down situation, such as a large snowstorm (one several years ago caused a 6-day power outage) flood or forest fire.

Because the town is relatively remote, we could be cut off by road for several days. We figured 3 days. So how to feed those affected for 3 days with a large propane stove and water as your resources? How do we provide 3 meals plus some extra for stragglers or snacks? Note that we have essentially no budget, so donations would be necessary. Also, we had to assume no refrigeration.

Here's the shopping list for the menu described in a previous post:

This menu will require 6 cases of dry food in #10 cans and should feed 50 meals, 3 per day for 3 days.  Creative people might add a few items to turn the leftover oatmeal into cookies each day.

We assumed that tea bags, salt, pepper and white sugar will be available in the shelter's kitchen. So here is what goes in the 6 cases and our sourcing:

1 case quick oats (LDS mail order)
1 case white rice (LDS mail order)
1 case refried beans (LDS mail order)
1 case macaroni (LDS mail order)

Case #5 (goes with breakfast and soup pot):
1 can dry milk
1 can brown sugar
1 can dried apples (with cinnamon)
1 can orange beverage (vitamin enriched)
2 cans vegetables for soup (Emergency Essentials)

Case #6:
1 can chocolate pudding
1 can tomato powder with herbs (Emergency Essentials
2 can sliced strawberries (FD)
1 can dehydrated carrots (for entree and soup)
1 can coffee

Sunday, October 25, 2015

I'm Addicted

I just can't get enough of these Fido jars by Bormioli. They are high quality Italian glass jars with rubber sealing rings that hermetically seal stuff inside them. That means the seal is air-tight and the glass jar is essentially air-tight, so the useful life of the food inside is extended. The jars come in sizes from about 1 cup (1/4 liter) to 3 liters, which is about 3/4 of a gallon. The rubber rings can be washed and reused.  When they lose their elasticity, they can be replaced with new rubber rings. I wash mine in the dishwasher and they come out just fine.

 I don't recommend substituting another brand of jar for these. Ones with a plastic top are not impermeable to air. I tried them and they cracked with use or cleaning in the dishwasher. The steel ones can absorb moisture from the product and often come with silicone rings which don't make the same type of seal.  Others have thinner glass or no ability to create the air-tight seal.

 Why would any one want these for preparedness, and how are the jars frugal? Let me offer answers. The jars can be frugal in two ways. First, if you find them at Ross or Marshall's, they are often under $5 each which is a great price for what they can do for you.  Second, they can extend the useful life of any dry food product that can spoil, go rancid or get stale after opening the package.

Here's how I use them: once I open a package of something, like a 5-lb bag of flour or a #10 can of something, I place the unused remainder of the product in one of these jars, seal the lid with a little wrist action and store.  The lack of oxygen will limit the speed of food oxidizing or absorbing moisture from humidity. It keeps my flour from going stale when I put the sealed jar in the frige or freezer. Overall, these extend the life of foods by delaying the processes that cause the flavor to change.

The jars are also handy for storing tea bags, the second half of that bag of rice or beans from Bob's Red mill or brown sugar. If you need to use a large can of something from food storage, you can store the unused portion in a Fido jar and it will last longer. These are also clear, which has saved me many times from opening a new bag of something because I could SEE that I already had half-a-bag in a glass jar.

I don't use these for wet items, just because I have no experience with it. If you have, I'd love to see a comment about how to use them that way. Also, if you have used them for real canning, please share!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Low cost 72 hour meal plan...for 50 people

Our small community actually consists of two small unincorporated towns about 10 miles apart. We have a fire department, small library, post office and a cafe. The smaller town was evacuated a couple or so years ago because of a forest fire. Our town and surrounding ranchers provided meals and accommodations for many of the residents.

In addition to fires, floods are possible. We've also lost electricity for days due to snow storms. So, several of us have decided to chip in, according to FEMA recommendations, for a 72 hour meal kit that would cover about half the town, assuming that only some would be affected by any single 'disaster.'

We looked at several sources of mouse-proof packaged food and prices, and decided to go with #10 canned dehydrated or otherwise dry food.. We also threw in some treats to break the monotony, as each day's meals will be identical. The spread sheet is challenging to post, so I'll describe the meals. Not including a few of the monotony-busters, you'll need a total of 6 cases of food for 3 meals and a 'soup pot' for 50 for 3 days. The menu assumes limited water and that a propane or wood stove will be available. The menu also accounts for no electricity or refrigeration being available.

Oatmeal with brown sugar (optional) (2 cans QUICK oatmeal, partial can sugar per day)
Coffee (possibly instant)
Vitamin beverage (orange from LDS or apple from Emergency Essentials)

Refried beans and rice (2 cans each beans and rice per meal)
Strawberry slices (from freeze-dried) and Tea

Italian beef-a-roni (made from 1/3 can beef TVP, 2 cans macaroni and 1/4 can seasoned tomato powder per meal)
Flavored beverage

Minestrone (from 2 cans Emergency Essentials vegetables for stew(2/3 can per day) and a little seasoned tomato powder, unserved rice, unserved beef-a-roni)

This will be available all day following first day lunch. Pot simmers on back of stove - remember, no refrigeration.  Its purpose is to warm cold bodies or fill growling tummies, as some people may not get enough during meals if portion control yields small portions. Others may arrive hungry between meals.

Some care will be needed to decide how to make the evening entree without discarding water. Start with less than recipes require to cook the pasta, then use some of the pasta water to reconstitute the tomato sauce from powder. 

So, there it is. Simple, nutritious EXCEPT fats. Adding some coconut oil for the oatmeal should help with that. A #10 can of dry milk is also recommended to improve flavor of coffee and oatmeal. Salt and sugar should also be in the larder.

The author gives permission to re-post this article provided credit or a link to FrugalPrep is included.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Cache-ing In

There are lots of articles about placing caches of stuff for emergencies out there in preparedness-land.  Most have to do with what to put in them and how to secret these goody-boxes on public or uninhabited private land.  

The most likely emergency around here is a flash flood.  50 years ago, a flash flood killed several people and washed buildings away. It was more than a small gully-washer, with some people waking in time to tread water in their bedrooms. 

Most of the floods since have been smaller, but the potential remains. With forecasts of a wet winter, part of my emergency preparation is to mini-cache on high shelves INSIDE the house. It may sound strange, but to have dry food, clean water and some comfort and hygiene gear while recovering from several feet of water in your house and yard could come in handy. Burying them outside would mean slogging through goo and hoping landmarks did not change during the flood.

My high caches are in those olive drab Army first aid kit boxes. These are sturdy, lightweight and have a good water proof seal.  For what they provide, they are also fairly cheap, around $15. The plastic is heavy enough to be fairly mouse-proof and large enough to hold some stuff like food, water, a change of socks and undies, ID, toothbrush, cash and even a cell phone.

I also keep heavier stuff in 5 gallon buckets with gamma seal lids. A fleece blanket, a few MREs, a full change of clothes and shoes, soap or shampoo. A couple of these buckets are on the closet floor. Even if these float away, I'll have some relief from the high mini-caches.

This shows the inside and relative size of the first aid box. Each holds about 700 cubic inches of stuff.