Saturday, December 31, 2011

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth and it's time for resolutions again

The strangest thing came in the mail yesterday.  Two gift cards to Best Buy.  I have no idea who sent them.  They were ordered on Dec. 24 and I was really who they were sent to.  Nobody that I know has told me they sent them.  I'm not sure what I'm going to buy with them.  I'll figure out something.  The strange thing is I never go to Best Buy.  Or at least almost never.  I was there yesterday buying a new memory card for the outdoor spy camera. Then I came home and got the gift cards in the mail. 

It's New Year's Eve.  Time to make resolutions for the upcoming year.  I made a few last year and actually kept them.  I'm going to keep those same resolutions for this year.  That's not cheating, is it? 

First resolution - no brainer but not always easy.  God's rules and expectations are not there to stifle us or frustrate us, but to benefit us.  Study the word.

Second resolution - health.  Don't do stupid things while I'm pretending to still be a teenager or in my twenties.  The body doesn't bend as easily nor lift as much weight.  Bend the knees!  Don't over eat.  Eat healthy.  10-20 pounds more than when you were in your 20s is fine.  50 or 100 pounds more is not.   

Third resolution - the farm and house.  I had a hard time with this one this year.  I don't know why exactly.  I expanded the garden and did a couple of extra things around the property but it doesn't seem like very much was accomplished.  I want to declutter the house.  Everyone wants to store their crap here.  I don't mind storing things but let's not store things that we don't want to get rid of but don't ever want to use.  I'm not talking about preps.  I don't want to use a hand well pump but I certainly am not going to get rid of it!  I want to do more in the yard.  Plant more fruit trees both here and at the bug-out place.  Last year the bug-out place didn't get fruit trees.  I bought them.  Bug-out renters promised to plant them.  They didn't.  Some died, the rest I planted here.  

Fourth resolution - debt and purchasing.  This was a new one last year - focusing on bills.   Being successful in prepping can't really be complete when you have debt.  Mortgage, student loans, car loans, credit cards, and big bills from lots of "necessities" of life.  The only debt I have is my house.  The bug-out place is paid for.  Our monthly necessities bills are rather low.  Of course I'm freezing right now in a 61 degree house!  I do have some extra money each month to buy prep items or to make improvements to the property, usually. 

The savings account is slowly coming back. I spent every penny I owned a couple years ago because of daughter-in-law's accident.  Then getting the grand kids who came with nothing was another hit.  But we've managed.  While the money talk shows tell you not to use credit cards, I do.  Why?  Because I get cash back.  I like the Discover card.  They give 5% back on some things and then with that 5% you can buy discounted gift cards.  The credit cards get paid off each month so in my mind it's a money maker. 

I bought more silver this year.  I have no idea how much is enough.  If I sold it all it would amount to a months take home pay.  Is this enough?  Am I better off buying silver or putting the extra money into other preps or paying more on the house?  I just don't know.

But I'm not going to stop prepping because the house isn't paid off.  No, it's more important to have my preps in order.  But when am I done prepping?  I'm talking about buying stuff.  What is enough?  How much ammo is enough?  How much food is enough?  How much material to make clothes is enough?  How many spare tools?  How many fruit trees?  How much stuff? 

I realized why I write this blog.  It's to keep my focused on surviving.  It's really that simple.  I'm sure for those of you who don't write a blog but spend time reading them, that's probably one of the reasons you do so.  To keep the focus.  May you have a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

30 year old food ad

Yesterday when I was working I happened upon a pile of old newspapers.  One in particular caught my eye.  It was the food ad from January 22, 1981.  Some prices haven't changed in over 30 years: 
2 liter store brand soda .79 a bottle - I can go to the dollar store and buy a 2.5 or 3 liter bottle for a buck now!  Chicken legs .69 a pound - on sale just last week for .79. Cake mixes .68 a box - on sale for .88 a box recently.

So you are thinking that prices really haven't risen much, at least not by the three examples I just gave.  Let's get down to the other items.   Since it's almost New Year's Eve let's talk about alcohol prices.
$1.79 for a 6-pack of beer, $4.89 for a bottle of vodka.  I saw the vodka in the latest ad from the same store for $15.  Or Johnny Walker Red Label scotch from $9.99 to $32.  Those prices tripled over the past 30 years!

How about real food and groceries in 1981?
Coffee 2.29 a pound
Bubble bread (cheap white bread) 4-$1.00
Toilet paper four pack -.59
Kraft mac and cheese .18 a box
Clorox bleach .78 a gallon jug
tangerines .29 a pound
avocados .25 each
lettuce .25 a head
most beef was between $2.00 and $2.50 a pound
bacon $1.19 a pound
spaghetti .89 for 24 oz.
ragu 15 oz jar for .79!  Comparing this to the canned spag sauce for .88 at present meant that ragu was really expensive.  No wonder I never bought it in the "olden days".

So much for reminiscing about prices.  Buy food and stock up on things that will last.  It's better than money in the bank! 

Along with the food ads was the daily comic section.  I have to repeat one comic here.  It's Hagar the Horrible by Dik Browne.  The setting: Two people are sitting on top of a rock in the middle of the ocean.  Eight sharks are visible swimming nearby.  "We're shipwrecked in shark-infested waters thousand of miles from land with no food or water - what should be do?!" "Try not to think about it..."

Most people listen to the news on TV or read it on their electronic devices.  There are so many things happening that can have a significant effect on our lives but most people don't really put much stock into what they hear or read.  After all, it's easier to be oblivious to the real dangers to our way of life.  At some point society will be sitting on that rock, without food or water, and trying not to think about it.  I won't be one of those people.   

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Goals met in 2011

The news has been reporting that 70% of people polled said that 2011 was a bad year.  Less than 30% called it a success.  60% are saying that 2012 will be a good year.  I suppose it depends on what criteria you were using to determine if it was good or bad or will be good or bad.  If all you are judging the good or bad by is income, then I'm sure that it wasn't a good year for many.  I guess it was a good year for me as I only made 25% less than I was making before I had to change things around when the grand kids moved in.  The first year they were here I made 30% less!  See!  Such an improvement.  Or I can look at the negative and say that four years ago I was making 25% more than now.  Whatever.  I'll look for the positive when it comes money being the determining factor of happiness. 

For me 2011 was pretty successful.  This is my 353rd post of the year.  Some days I posted more than once.  There were very few breaks.  Most were because I was out of town and not able to get internet connections.  I'm sure there was one or two times that I had nothing to say! 

If I'm judging the success of the year by my improvements in preparedness then this was an extremely successful year.  I got myself much more prepared for any What Ifs.  Here's what I can remember that I've accomplished in 2011:
Expanded and made additional permanent garden beds
Elective surgery on my arm
Bought a safe
Bought silver
Started a hedgerow along the front of the property
Planted more fruit trees
Expanded the chicken coop
Learned how to butcher chickens
Got my concealed weapons permit
Experienced the tsunami, volcano eruption, earthquake, wild fires...anyone say that I attract disaster?
Put together bug-out bags and get-home bags
Made soft cheese and learned to can cheese
Canned lots of fruits and vegetables
Used the clothesline most of the year
Lived off what we had on hand for a month - aka no spending for a month
Lived without heat in the house (OK it's day two and counting)
Played the no electricity game for a weekend - this means no "tap" water or flushing toilets as we are on a well!
Bought a 650 gallon plastic stock tank, aka swimming pool
Learned how to make belts and straps with paracord
Built a 17'x4' hidden room that's not hidden at the moment but presently is our home grocery store
Met other like minded people who live in the same general area

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How low will it go? The no heat experiment

I've had a no shopping for a month experiment and now the no heat experiment.  As soon as the company left after dinner last night I turned the heaters off.  We have two separate heating systems in the house, with a thermostat for each.  One is in the family room the other in the hall.  Their temperatures are 63 and 61 respectively.  My bedroom is at 59.  It's 35 outside right now and it's supposed to get up to 61 later today.  I'm not expecting the house to warm up any! 

What am I wearing?  Just a pair of sweats (the sweatshirt has the sleeves cut off at the elbow) and a pair of slippers with fur on the inside.  I have a wrap around my neck, which isn't any different than if my sweatshirt was a turtleneck.  No hat, no gloves.  My fingers are cold.  I know those of you who live in the cold climates must be laughing!  Cold at 61 degrees!  The grand kids haven't noticed it's cold.    I know people who will hang out in t-shirts and shorts in 61 degree weather. Lucky them.  Me, I bundle.  I like 80-90 and won't complain too much during the 30 plus days of 100 degrees.

I'm not turning on the furnace.  I'm not putting a fire into the wood stove.  Maybe I'll have a fire on New Years Day because it's a holiday.  We'll see how we fare.  

I wonder what the next experiment will be?  No cooking with propane for a month?  No, get that thought out of my head!!!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gifts - this year and next

This year my brothers and sisters and I decided we are going to do something different for next years gift giving.  Instead of going out and buying gifts, something that I did not do this year anyway, we are picking a theme and the gifts will all be related to that theme.  The big gathering is going to be at sister's house in San Diego.  The theme?  Food.

This is easy for me.  I'm going to give everyone home canned food, some sort of perennial - probably asparagus crowns, and photocopied pages of some of my favorite recipes. 

This year most of the gifts I gave were home made.  I did buy my mother a book that I know she'll read, which was found at the dollar store.  Otherwise it was home made all the way.  This doesn't mean that gift giving was free.  Not at all but I was able to take advantage of sales during the year. 

I made decorated holiday themed handtowels and kitchen towels.  These were made using a $3.00 hand towel, a little fabric, and some iron on interfacing.

I made fleece pajama pants for all the grand kids.  Son said he wants some!  Oldest daughter's four kids spent the night last night.  It was hard to get the kids out of their pajamas today.  In fact, grand daughter got dressed then changed her mind and put her John Deere pj pants back on!  I let the boys, ages 14-17, pick their fabric from what I had on hand here at home.  One picked a brown leaf camo pattern, one picked a green leaf camo pattern, and one picked black. They looked so comfortable that I decided to make a pair for myself!

Two nieces were very excited about their gifts.  The oldest is a freshman in college so she got a blanket with her school colors.  The younger one got peace sign pj pants.  Their mom lamented that she wished she could sew and make things like this.  I told her that the pj pants take about 30 minutes from start to finish.  There are only a couple of seams and it's really hard to mess them up.  It's a perfect beginner sewing project.  I think that's going to be a gift to her this year - spending time teaching her how to sew. 

Sewing is easy to do if you use a simple pattern, especially if you have someone walk you through the steps.  It can be very expensive though.  Home made doesn't necessarily mean inexpensive.  Most fabrics are over $10 a yard, so waiting until a sale comes along is important. I've also learned how to take things apart and reuse the fabric.  This makes things almost free! 

Monday, December 26, 2011

The basic four foods

I was reading an article the other day (can't tell you where because I can't remember) and it talked about how much food you should be storing for a year.  I remember it was a LDS article because it was heavy into storing wheat.  The article stated that 400 pounds of wheat should be stored for one person for a year.  That's a lot of wheat, but I think this amount was recommended when the storage program meant the basic four: wheat, powdered milk, honey, and salt.  Otherwise, if you store other food then you wouldn't need that much wheat.  

Nevertheless, the article went with the 400 pounds and how much space that takes up.  If you buy from the feed store in 50 pound bags then it's 8 bags.  If you put the wheat into 5 gallon buckets, each bucket holds about 25 pounds.  This means 16 - 5 gallon buckets for wheat for one person.  As I said, for me, a years worth of food isn't 400 pounds of wheat. But it did get me to thinking about my "years" worth of food that I think I have.  Do I really?  Stored in the home store room, doubt it.  If I include fresh food from the garden, the fifty fruit trees, the eggs and chickens, and the sheep, then yes we have a years worth of food "stored".  If all I'm doing is counting 5 gallon buckets, then no.

Back to the basic four.  My first three books on food storage and cheap eating were 1. Eat Well on a Dollar a Day by Bill and Ruth Kaysing, 2. Making the Best of Basics by James Talmage Stevens, and 3. Esther Dickeys Passport to Survival.  I picked these three books up when I was in college way back in the 70s.  It's Passport to Survival that emphasizes the "survival four and forty more". 

The grocery store filled with 30,000 or so items can be pared down to your favorite 25 or 50 or 100 items.  Make a list of your priorities and your food storage program will be much easier to manage.  In Esther's case she listed them as follows:
Group 1.  Wheat, powdered milk, honey, salt
Group 2. Peanut butter, tomato juice, vitamin pills
Group 3. Soybeans, lentils, dried green peas, millet, yellow corn, molasses, brown rice, yeast, vegetable powders
Group 4. Canned meat, figs, rye, sauerkraut, canned tomatoes, white rice
Group 5. Dried fruit, vegetable oil, evaporated milk, raisins, string beans

While I don't agree with everything in each of her lists, I do like the concept.  Not that I would want to live on group one alone, but for under $150 I could buy a years worth of food.  That's cheap insurance.  I think I'm going to buy more wheat.  It's under $25 for 100 pounds of recleaned wheat from the feed store.  If you don't want to get it that way, for about $60 you can get 100 pounds of wheat from the grocery store.  When I buy it I put it into the freezer for a week to kill off any bug or moths.  Then I can put it into buckets. 

After you have the basic life sustaining food in the first group then start adding to group two, then three, then four, etc.  Your groups of food don't have to match, of course, but if you start off with group one no matter what happens tomorrow or the next day you will be prepared.  It won't be a fun, variety filled diet, but you will not starve.  In my group one I have honey but also white sugar.  In my group two I have pasta and also spaghetti sauce.  I have buckets of pasta and about 100 cans of spaghetti sauce.  I also know how to make, and do make, pasta from scratch.  Spaghetti sauce is also something that can easily be produced from the home garden.  But still, these two items are in my number two group.

Back to wheat.  Esther's book gives 110 recipes to make using the basic four items.  It was probably close to 30 years ago when a friend of mine and I tried our hand at making all the recipes.  She had more time than I and made almost everything.  I think I made about 10 things.  It's hard to live on the basic four when you have a pantry full of other food and a garden full of fresh food.  It takes more work to make the food from scratch, and some things you have to start the night before but learning to make some recipes from the basic four would be a good skill.  I know I can make a great loaf of bread using those basic items.  I can also sprout wheat.  I'll soak it and cook up a pot of wheat for breakfast.  Oats are my favorite but wheat is good with honey.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

How cold can we get?

Here in the Great Central Valley the temperature will drop into the 20s for a dozen or so nights during the winter.  During the day the temperature usually rises into the 40s or 50s, except when we are socked in with fog.  On those days the highs may never get out of the 30s.  I got to thinking, after spending the last two days in Southern California in a house heated to 75 with the outside daytime temperature in the 70s and the lows in the 50s.  What was I thinking?  How cold can we let it get before deciding it's too cold in our house? Yesterday morning, right before we left to head down south I turned the heater down to 63.  When we got home today I turned the heater on for about an hour.  I set it to 68.   

We heat the house with propane and wood.  The wood stove isn't too efficient.  It's a 1970s Earthstove.  It's got a fan to push the hot air into the house.  It's works fine if I was just heating up the dining room and kitchen.  If I have the thing blasting and using lots of wood then it will heat up about 1000 square feet of house to 70-75 degrees.  Pretty good except the house is over 2000 square feet.  My bedroom never gets the heat.  In fact it's really cold in my room... and don't tell me it's because I don't have a spouse! 

My bedroom has a cement floor and three sides of the room are outside walls.  Only one side of the room is attached to the rest of the house and there's a closet and bathroom between the hall and the main part of my room.  There's also a drafty outside door and two good windows that face to the north.  It's just a cold room.  I just checked the temperature with my Kestrel (a weather tool) and the bedroom is 58.  My library, where I'm working now is 62, and the kitchen is 65.  And the thermostat in the hall says it's 68.  It lies!!!

For all who know me, I hate being cold.  Even though the house is not kept warm (I don't want to pay the high cost of propane) I want to be warm.  I'm usually found wearing a knit cap, a long sleeve shirt, a sweat shirt or knit vest over the shirt, and thermals of some sort under my pants. 

OK, I'm rambling.  At the beginning I wrote that I was wondering how cold we can let the house get.  If TSHTF and I wanted to save the propane for cooking, it would last a long time if just for cooking and not heating the house or the hot water.  But what about us?  Can we stand not having heat?  Would we eventually put blankets up to block off the dining room from the rest of the house just to keep that room toasty by using the wood stove?  Would we set up a tent in the middle of the house to keep our body heat in an enclosed area? 

I am going to have a two week experiment.  I'm turning off the heat on Wednesday.  No central heat, no wood stove.  I wonder how cold the house will get?  We do get sunshine coming in the windows during the day.  Will the house stay in the 60s because of the heat coming off of the people and pets?  Will it drop into the 50s?   40s?  One good thing is that the home store food will stay fresher longer at the cooler temperatures!  I'm going to save somewhere between $50 and $100 in propane! 

Why not start now?  We are having company tomorrow and Tuesday and while I'm up for the experiment, and the grand kids have no choice in the matter, I'm not going to treat our guests to the cold.  Wednesday starts the chilling experiment. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Symbolism of Christmas

I probably won't be posting is weekend because I'll be out of town.  But then, I doubt that many of you will be on line reading survival posts!  I am reposting what I wrote last year because I liked it.  While you may not think so, this post does have a lot to do with being a survivalist.  Your spirituality is more important than the rest of your prepping. 
Many say that Christmas is an American holiday and everyone should celebrate it.  They are truly wrong.  It is a Christian holiday and those who want to celebrate Christmas as an American holiday because it's fun rather than a religious commemoration are missing the true meaning.  We think the commercialization robs it from its religious values but so much of what is thought of as commercialism is truly symbolic.   The meaning is forgotten by turning it into an American holiday.

The wood tree - the wood of the cross and life and resurrection. 
A star on the top of your tree - the stars that the wise men followed.  (same with the lights on your house)
Tinsel - angel's hair and therefore is a symbol of the angels who attended the birth of Jesus. 
Mistletoe - is a symbol of life. 
The wreath -  the crown of thorns.
The red berries - the blood. 
Gifts - to remember the gifts of the wise men.
More gifts - for the unselfishness of Jesus

Each Christmas symbol does have religious importance.  When you have these symbols in your home do not distance yourself from the religious significance and adopt them into an American celebration that is merely fun.  This is disrespectful to the Christian religion.  Teach your children well.

Merry Christmas to my Christian friends.  Have a wonderful day.  To my Jewish friends Happy Chanukah.  So far four nights of family and friends celebrating religious freedom.  Four more nights to go! 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Non-electric kitchen items

I love cooking.  I have a almost 25 feet of shelves with cook books and cooking magazines.  In the kitchen I have a really nice Kitchen Aid mixer, a blender, a small food processor, a stick blender, a pancake griddle, waffle iron, a dehydrator, rice cooker, crock pot, coffee maker, microwave, and the list goes on and on.  Most of my appliances are over 10 years old, the dehydrator I bought in 1979 when the company was 6 years old!  I don't have a bread maker.  I used to but gave it away.  I found it was just as easy and made a better loaf if I just made it myself.  I also didn't replace the electric can opener.  A swing-away is all we need. 

Most people don't have many electric appliances because they don't have room for them all.  That's not the case here.  The appliances I use several times per month are stored in the kitchen.  The rest go on the shelves in the garage.  I don't buy every gadget.  Some are stupid...the mix the egg in the shell gadget as an example...  Because I'm concerned about the future, possibly without electricity unless I generate it myself, I have been thinking about my kitchen appliances.  How well would I get along without the electric gadgets?  So I started listing the gadgets that I have that only need hand power - then I need to figure out if those items would take the place of my electric gadgets or if I could use some other hand gadgets.  Hint,'s holiday and birthday time!

The Kitchen Aid: Not only does my mixer have the three mixing blades I have the shredder attachment, the pasta attachment, and the meat grinder attachment.  How do I replace all of this?  I have several whisks.  I have mixing spoons.  I also have a hand mixer.  It's about 60 years old but it still works.  I think they make hand mixers that are a bit more ergonomically better.   I have a hand crank pasta maker.  A friend of mine just gave me his mandoline slicer.  I have an old (100 year old) hand crank meat grinder with different size grinding attachments.  

The blender:  This I would miss the most because I like to take fruit, ice, and a little sweetener and mix it up in the morning for a drink.  I suppose the grinder would work and then I'd just mix it all together with a spoon.  I'll have to work on this.  Is there a hand crank blender?  I do have a Hawaiian ice shaver.  They turn ice into snow.  On the other hand, if I don't have electricity I'm not going to be having ice that needs shaving!

The stick blender:  Another of my favorite tools, especially for blending up soups.  I could use the old hand mixer.  I could also take the soup and put it into a ricer or the food mill that you rotate the plunger. 

The rice cooker, crock pot, griddle, waffle maker, coffee maker:  I can use the stove top with a pot, pan, or percolator to replace these.  It sure is convenient to keep the crock pot going most of the winter! 

The microwave:  I'd miss the convenience.  There's no substitute.  Don't tell me about using a pressure cooker to cook fast.  I don't do much cooking in the microwave; it's mainly used to!

I guess I'm pretty well set up in the kitchen if the power goes out.  I can say that my new mandoline slicer is fantastic.  My sister has had one for a long time and I never really saw the need for it since I had the food processor and the slicer attachment for the Kitchen Aid.  But after thinking about no power it seemed like something I would want.  My new slices doesn't adjust for thickness but it sure made great french fries tonight.  I may be on the lookout for a used mandoline that does adjust for thickness. 

Any other kitchen tools that people just love and don't want to live without?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rising Feed Costs

I've mentioned before that my sheep are being fed leaves from the mulberry trees and any other leaves that drop on the ground.  They have some pasture grasses left to eat but if I was one of the sheep I'd not be very happy with the quality of food.  Of course they'd prefer hay.  And not just any hay...alfalfa.  Last summer hay was going for under $9.00 a bale for alfalfa.  Oat was cheaper and grass hay couldn't hardly be given away.  Not this year. 

Around here grass hay is going for $18. a bale, oat for $19 or $20 and alfalfa has been priced up to $22 per bale.  That's 100-120 pounds of hay for $22!  The sheep can eat leaves. 

On Friday I had just pulled out of my driveway and had only gone about 1/4 mile or so when what was all over the road?  A bale of hay that had fallen off someone's truck.  It split open and was mostly on the side of the road covering an area about 25 feet in length.  I pulled the truck to the side of the road and loaded the hay into the back of my pickup.  I drove back home, dumped it into five wheelbarrow loads and put it into the barn.  My sheep are very happy.

I needed some more food for the chickens.  I called around to Tractor Supply and four local feed stores asking for the prices of hen scratch and layer pellets.  One feed store beat all the rest by over a dollar  per 50 pound bag.  I drove to that store and picked up 7 bags of layer pellets and three of hen scratch. 

I also saw they had recleaned wheat for $11 for 50 pounds.  That's 22 cents per pound for wheat.  At the grocery store it's 56 cents a pound.  I bought a 50 pound sack for us.  Now that I have the wheat grinder up and running it's easy to make whole wheat flour.  Grinding it myself at this price is about 1/4 the price of buying it in the grocery store already ground.  And mine's fresher.

I asked the person at the feed store why the hay prices are up so high.  I was surprised by the response.  Part of the reason is the drought in Texas, so a lot of hay is getting sent to Texas.  That makes sense.  But that's not the entire reason.  She said that the farmers have exported a lot of the hay out of the country leaving not as much for us.  Even this isn't the entire reason the prices are up.  She said that a lot of the farmers are holding on to the hay.  They are expecting the hay prices to rise even higher and plan on selling it to the hay brokers at that time.  She said prices may go as high as $30 a bale!!!

I'm expecting a lot of animals to get put up for sale this winter due to the high prices.  Either that or they will get sold for meat, which may lower the prices of meat.  It might be a good time to pick up a couple of goats.  I just hope they enjoy eating mulberry leaves.  They aren't getting $20 a bale hay.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nothing like a friendly chicken butchering get together

Today was the day to butcher the chickens.  Steve and Maureen came over to help.  They gave me some pointers about their 40 pound turkey they butchered for Thanksgiving.  I was to show them how I butcher chickens (the expert that I am because we went over to Bee Wench farm just two weeks ago).  Did I remember all the steps?  No.  But I was close and it all worked out great. 

In the morning I got everything set up.  I didn't want to have to keep running back and forth when the next step came along.  I set up the picnic table for the area to clean the innards out of the chickens.  Two sharp knives and two cutting boards were on the table.  I covered the table with a piece of plastic sheeting that I got from Lowe's.  (When you are walking out the door of the store note that they have twine and plastic sheeting free for the taking.  I always do.)  I set up the BBQ to keep the pot of water hot.  I hung up strings along the edge of the little shed to hang the chickens.  Below each string was a bucket for the chickens to bleed out any additional and for us to throw the feathers into the bucket rather than have them fly all over the yard.  I had a rubber cone from Pacific Telephone that somehow came into my possession years ago.  We cut it down so the chicken could be put into it.  I had the hose out by the table.  All was ready.  At least all that I remembered.

When Steve and Maureen arrived, two wonderful people that I've been communicating with on the computer but whom I'd never met in person until today, I showed them my garden and the animals.  They laughed at the sight of my polish hen.  She is pretty funny looking with a big white mop of feathers on top of her little black body.  We had the grand kids catch the chickens.  The ones needing butchering were gifts from my nephew's preschool class.  They raised the chicks but then didn't know what to do with them.  My sister volunteered that I'd take them.  There were nine. 

Three instantly drowned themselves in my water tub in the chicken coop.  The other six grew up just fine.  They were really nice looking chickens.  I don't know what kind they were, something that I'd never raised before.  Anyway, of the six survivors five were cockerels!  This means baby roosters.  You can't have a lot of roosters in the hen house.  They will fight each other  but worse than that they will continuously go after the hens.  So they had to go. 

When I was at Bee Wench farm they cut the heads off each chicken as they killed the chicken.  I wanted to try doing it a different way.  I was told that if you just cut the jugular vein the chicken's heart would still be pumping for an extra 30 seconds or so and this would help bleed out the chicken.  The first chicken Steve cut.  Then it was my turn.  I think I butchered three and Steve two.  Some of them the blood flowed out quickly, some sort of slow and we wondered if we did it wrong.  The chicken was dead so we didn't do it too wrong!!!  The last chicken bled out well but took a very long time to stop with the muscular movements.  We took it out of the cone too quickly I suppose.  It was a good thing that it was the last chicken that we butchered because if it was the first we would not have been confident with what we were doing. 

After the chickens looked like they were done bleeding out we dunked them in the pot of hot water.  Maureen made a fantastic suggestion that I will use next time.  My pot was one of my hot water bath canning pots.  It's big but not really big enough to get the water on all the surfaces of the chicken easily.  Maureen said that we just needed the hot water, we didn't need to use the pot.  You could use a garbage can or anything that's large and will hold water.  I have several large buckets that I use for animal waterers.  One of these would have worked much easier.  I could have added some boiling water after each dunking to keep the water hot.  Next time.

After dunking the chickens in the hot water we hung them back up on the string.  I made a slip knot and while I was going to put both feet into the knot Steve suggested we only put one foot in.  That way it would be easier to get the feathers in the fold of the legs.  It was really easy this way.  I called the grand kids over.  Besides the two that live here we had two more that had spent the night.  Their friend also spent the night but went home about an hour before we started on the chickens.  The four grand kids had to help pluck chickens.  Boy and Girl had no problem with this.  They were eager to show everyone what a good job they could do.  The older grandsons were not too happy about plucking chickens but they didn't complain.  I don't think it's something they'd volunteer to do but they did tell me that they were happy to know how to do it. 

When each chicken was plucked we brought them over to the table for the cutting.  I guess we went too slow and should have done one or two at a time rather than having all five in production at the same time.  The chickens were getting a little stiff and it wasn't as easy to get them gutted compared to two weeks ago at Bee Wench.  Here's where I forgot a step.  I should have had an ice chest filled with cold water.  When the birds were done being processed they should have been put into the ice chest to immediately cool down. 

After the birds were gutted we washed them out with the hose and then put them into plastic bags and into the refrigerator.  But we really took our time.  I think it took a little over two hours total to process the five birds from taking them out of the coop to putting them into the refrigerator.  This evening I took them out and packaged them up with my food saver and put them into the freezer.  While I was packaging them I was thinking that I should cut some of them up.  Perhaps a bag with four legs, another with four thighs, etc.  But I didn't.  All five chickens went into the freezer whole. 

I've been told by a hunter friend that you don't eat the meat right away.  It will be tough.  Instead you wait for several weeks and then cook it. 

I forgot two things today.  First was the ice chest.  Second was the asparagus.  I was going to dig up some of the asparagus plants to share the roots.  I'm digging them up and transplanting them down the fence line in the front yard.  One plant is giving me about 40 crowns for new plants so I still have a lot of plants to give away.  We talked about digging up a plant but forgot when it was time for them to go.  I'll be down there way in a couple of weeks.  Since the asparagus crowns can be planted any time, although winter is the best time, they will be able to get them in the ground while it's still our "cold" season.

All in all it was a good day. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

So much to do, so little time

Being a working, single grand parent with two grand kids to raise and a third that I am semi-raising means there isn't a lot of time to do what needs to be done.  Yesterday was an exception.  We did get a lot done around here because the kids were cooperating.  That's because today they were promised a trip to the arcade with their older sister who just turned 14.  But only if you do a good job on the chores!  So they did.  They raked leaves from our yard and pine needles from the neighbor's yard.  They cleaned their rooms and put all their laundry away.  Boy even cleaned the bathroom. They wanted to know if I did anything or if I was just watching them work.  Thanks a lot!  I read them the list of chores that I did.  That shut them up for a bit. 

The biggest task I had was cleaning up the garage.  After Army daughter moved out I started with the clean up, but it was a mess and I never finished.  The garage is 1250 square feet.  That's larger than my first house.  It's larger than oldest daughter’s house.  About half of it was turned into a disaster area with some of Army daughter's things stashed away.  Then oldest daughter and son both cleaned out their houses and dumped things off in my garage.  Then I put things into the garage.  I ended up with an area about 10 feet wide and 15 or 20 feet long that was crammed full of stuff.  I had to get through the stuff just to get to the shelves to clean them up.  I have two bikes I'm going to drop off at Goodwill.  The garage is clean.  I even found my pressure cooker, which had gone missing in the mess of the garage!

The next door neighbors are on vacation for two weeks.  They asked me to take in the trash cans, move their truck around, and just keep an eye on the place.  Sure, we can watch the place and move the truck.  As for the trash cans, I took them straight over to my house.  Since they will be gone for two trash pickups, and in this area you get charged $50 a month if you subscribe to the trash service whether you have a pick up or not, I decided to fill their cans.  We don't have trash pick up.  I usually bring my trash over to oldest daughter's house, since she is in the city and the property taxes I pay on that house pay for the trash service.  I also don't normally have much trash.  If we are being really trashy we will go through a 33 gallon can in a week.  Usually it takes two weeks to fill a can.  The trash service around here provides 90 gallon cans!  Anyway, I filled both their trash can and their recycle can. I cleaned stuff up from the yard, the barn, and the garage! 

I still want to go through all the clothes bins again.  I just recently went through the infant clothes because there was a call put out for clothes needed for a three year old boy and girl.  We were able to donate quite a lot and still have enough clothes for a size three little one around here if necessary.  But Army daughter and son both dropped more clothes off for me to store.  I think their kids have enough clothes to wear everything once or twice and then put it into storage. 

Today we didn't do much since the kids got to go to the arcade after Sunday school.  When I returned home I found two grandsons in the backyard and one of their friends.  15 year old boy is working on his truck.  I was given two free Toyota pickups that together almost make one truck.  His goal is to have his truck working by the time he turns 16.  I think he may make it. I'm really proud of him for taking on this project. 

Now what were we going to do for dinner?  Going from three people to six, with the three additional being teenage boys could be a challenge.  Not really.  I had taken out some antelope steak, about a pound total.  I just sliced it thin.  The friend had never had antelope.  Girl told him it was armadillo.  Not even close!  I cooked up two pounds of noodles and made a sauce with milk, parmesan cheese, and parsley.  I added a lot more flour to the bread dough.  I put in a bunch of garlic into the dough.  Quick, easy dinner.  Everyone was full and we had one piece of bread and about 1/2 pound of noodles left. 

Tomorrow I'm hoping to get the rest of the garden beds cleaned out and the plants given to the sheep. We are also going to butcher the chickens tomorrow.  Our blog friends are supposed to come over around 11:00 to help and perhaps give us some of their pointers.  They butchered their 40, yes 40 pound turkey at Thanksgiving!  Looking forward to actually meeting them!  

I also have a couple of conference calls tomorrow morning.  People are trying to rush getting things done so they can take off the rest of the year.  I expect to work some each day.  We are only going to be out of town on the 24th and 25th, otherwise we'll be around.  I'm hoping to do some work travel the last week of the month.  I have a project about 100 miles from home that will take two or three days.  Lots of friends and relatives have said they want the grandkids for part of their three week vacation.  We'll see...  Otherwise they will come with me and go hiking around while I work.  The hotels in that area don't have indoor pools so it won't be as much fun as when I brought them over to Paso Robles two weeks ago. 

There's just so much to do. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Grinding Wheat

I was given a Magic Mill grain mill a while ago and up until today it's been out in the barn.  I used it a few times when I got it but it is so noisy, big and heavy that it wasn't worth its weight.  Instead if I wanted some flour from my whole wheat I'd use the hand crank coffee grinder.  It's metal, not plastic and worked just fine.  I got the idea to use the coffee grinder from reading The Long Winter, one of the Little House books.   In fact, The Long Winter was what lead me to the idea of the hidden food storage room! If you recall, Almonzo didn't want anyone to take his seed wheat (or at least he didn't want his brother Royal to sell it).  He built a false wall in their cabin and poured the wheat into it. 

My mill is about 40 years old but still works.   It's big and heavy and is not something that I can store in the kitchen.  I put the mill on a sturdy shelf in the garage.  It is so loud that I am tempted to put in ear plugs.  The mill has the ability to be hand cranked if there is no power.  This is a real important feature.  Of course, I don't have the hand crank.  I looked on the internet and found it available for $23.99 plus shipping.  I'm going to first see if I can make one myself.  That's a lot of money to spend for the crank.  On the other hand, it's not that much money if you have a bunch of wheat in your storage program and no way to grind it up!  I have a years supply of food stashed away but I have very little wheat, instead just storing flour.  I know that the flour has a shelf life of a couple years (I store it in the freezer then pack into mylar and buckets) and wheat can last forever.  Wheat can also be planted to grow more and give myself an unlimited supply. 

In some areas of the country it is illegal to plant wheat that has not been treated with fungicides to make sure that the wheat growing areas don't get infected and all die off.  I'm not sure what the regulations are around here since it's not a big wheat growing area.  Around here they historically grew barley.  Anyway, if I wanted to grow wheat in an area 100 feet by 100 feet (about 1/4 acre) I would need about 20-25 pounds of wheat seed.  I'd broadcast plant, which for me would mean putting the seed into the "whirly-twirly" and walk around with the seed getting spit out the front.  Yield is anywhere between 2 and 15 bushels (60 pounds per bushel or between 120 and 900 pounds) for that 1/4 acre grain patch.  The difference in yield would depend on the amount of rain we get, or the moisture in the ground, or if I water a couple times during the growing season.  If I wanted to make a pound loaf of bread each day for the year I'd need 350 pounds of flour.  A 1/4 acre patch should be plenty.  I'm going to buy wheat seed next month and spread it in one area of the pasture that I will be able to fence off to keep the sheep out.  

The property across the road planted oats many years ago.  The oats grow each year, they mow it down and bale it up for hay.  Enough of the oats fall back on the ground that they don't reseed it each year.  It comes back on its own.  I wonder if the same could be said for wheat.  That way the grain is available if needed but if not needed we don't have to go through the labor intensive activity to process it.  It's said that doing all the work by hand from cutting and threshing will take about an hour or two for each gallon of wheat that you can put into your storage program.  That's really labor intensive.  I'd rather go to the store and buy it, if IT hasn't hit the fan and we can still go to the store! 

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Road Home

A little while ago Rudy at  gave me the book The Road Home, written by Andrew Baze.  I had absolutely no idea what the book was about as I hadn't read any reviews of it.  Rudy assured me that I'd like it.  He was right.  Not only that but I'm going to give it to the grand kids and have them read it over their three week school vacation.  This book is a really good book to get the discussion going for kids to get started in prepping. 

There are five characters in the book, Dad, Mom, 14 year old son, 5 year old daughter, and bad guy. Dad and son go on a hiking/camping trip a couple hours from home.  Mom and daughter stay home.  A huge earthquake hits.  Son has to step up when dad gets trapped and hurt.  Mom and daughter are at home and bad guy breaks into the house.  Mom keeps her cool while protecting herself and her daughter.  All ends well. 

OK there's a lot more to the story than that.  It discusses basic preps like vehicles, first aid, keeping your wits, fortifying a room in your house, ham radios, full tank of gas, having water, carrying a weapon, and many other things.  I didn't really learn a lot, but the book isn't a manual for a hard core prepper or survivalist.  It's pure entertainment for about four hours.  It is a good book for the younger kids through teens.  I think my 9 year old grandson, 17 year old grandson and the other grand kids in between them would like the book. 

There were many things I liked about this book.  There wasn't any foul language.  Dad fell over the cliff and hurt his ankle.  No cussing due to the pain.  Do you know how many children's books use foul language?  Way too many.  There wasn't any sexual content in the book either.  Bad guy is in the house with mom and daughter.  Nobody is around to help.  Even when the bad guy was getting angry with the mom for not unlocking the closet door, the text read, "maybe he would even punish the woman for not letting him in."  Not that he was going to beat her or rape her.  No, just maybe punish her. 

At the back of the book is a list of what the author calls "Bonus Content." Some items in this list include: What should be in your backpack? What is ham radio? What is 550 cord? How can a Leatherman tool be useful?  If I was a young teen I'd read this list over and over.  There is a lot to learn and it all sounds very exciting and interesting for the youngster.  If the grand kids don't like it I'll let you know.

Half Price Certificate at G.I. Jim's

For any of you local folks, today's Valley Daily Deals is once again featuring G.I. Jim's Surplus and Supply. The sale is only three days long!  For $10 you get a $20 certificate that's good for a year. You purchase the certificate and print it up right on your own printer.  You can buy up to three certificates but Jim asks that you only use one at a time rather than all three on the same day.  It's a nice store and if he doesn't have it in stock he can most likely get it for you.  When you get there plan on staying a little while just to chat.  Jim has a wealth of knowledge and may be able to answer any questions that you have about prepping, weapons, or home safety.  And no, he doesn't give me a discount or free stuff for advertising his store.  I just think it's a good store to shop at. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The bottom of the lake

The other day I had the privilege of being one of a very few who got to go out into the local lake that is being drained.  When full it has a shoreline about 19 miles long is about 2300 acres across the surface.  Right now it's perhaps a five acre lake.  We were able to walk as far down as we could, until we started sinking.  Fortunately I only sunk in to my knee.  We had rope with us to be able to pull someone out if necessary.  Luckily it wasn't necessary.  The muck had a thin layer of ice on it for the first hour which enabled us to get down to a boat that had sunk many years ago. 
The tall posts that you see are remnants of the pier where the old steamboats used to pull up.  Behind the present day dam is the old dam and saw mill.  The old dam was put in as a mill pond. 

Here you can see the old mill site and the dam. 

Some water was backing up behind the dam and many logs and downed trees that had been submerged were now visible.  Water was flowing freely through the spillway. 

In this picture I was standing on top of the old dam.  See that metal wheel stuck in the mud behind the building? 

You can't tell in this picture but that flywheel is 8 feet diameter!

Of course, we were allowed to pick up items that we found and show them to the group but nobody was able to keep any of them.  The landowners are probably going to pick up some of the artifacts and put them on display at the local museum. 

Walking on the lake bottom brought into view many items that you would expect to find on a lake bottom.  Namely beer cans!  We found several anchors and some really heavy weights that we thought were for catching the Loch Ness Monster's relatives or something.  We weren't quite sure why anyone would use some of the fishing gear that we found. 

I was given permission to collect some of the junk that was related to the fishing.  I brought home two fishing poles.  There was a stack of about 50 that had been found over the last few months as the lake was draining, but the two I brought home I stumbled upon in the muck.  Before you get too excited about the great poles, I have to tell you that while both of them are still usable, the best of the two was a "Scooby Doo" fishing pole.  That can't really be topped, now can it? 

In one spot an entire tray filled with bait and tackle must have fallen off a boat and into about 100 feet of water.  There were four full jars of stinky bait and a little tackle box.  That ruined their day, I'm sure.  I got lots of lures and several pairs of sun glasses for the grand kids.  We were able to walk where nobody has walked for over 100 years.  I had a wonderful day.  So why am I telling you this story other than to share the cool pictures? 

Walking along the lake bottom made me think about the need for back up supplies.  You know the saying two is one and one is none.  Do you own one fishing pole?  Do you have it wrapped in something that will float in case it gets pulled off shore or dropped out of your boat?  What about your tackle?  Do you have it all in one tackle box so when that tackle box gets dumped overboard you are left with nothing?  Do you have a back up pair of sun glasses?  Or regular glasses?  Or keys? 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Home grown sweeteners

I once saw a recipe for making sugar from sugar beets.  You chopped up the beets, cooked them in water, then used the syrup for sweetening.  You could cook it further and then evaporate the liquid and leave sugar crystals.  If you live in an area that can grow sugar cane then you can press that into liquid.  There's got to be an easier way! 

There are easier ways.  The first are honeybees.  I've just started thinking about bees, not only for the honey but also for the polenization that they provide.  One problem with bees is a son-in-law is allergic to bee stings.  So if no bees, then what?

How about stevia?  Making stevia sweetener is really an easy process.  Stevia is a plant that you can grow in your garden.  According to Burpee a single plant will yield 1/2 pound of dried leaves.  You can buy seeds or established plants from your local nursery.

I have two recipes for making the liquid sweetener, one using vodka and the other water.

Vodka recipe first! (with recipes with alcohol or alcohol free)

1/2 cup dried chopped up leaves.  Don't powder the leaves.  Put the leaves in a glass jar, then pour just enough vodka over them to cover. Put the lid on your jar, shake it up, and let it sit on the counter for a day or day and a half.  Don't let it sit longer than that or it will be bitter.  Filter out the leaves by pouring the extract through a coffee filter or cheesecloth. 

With alcohol in your final product: Transfer the filtered extract into a colored glass bottle and store at room temperature in a dark place for up to 2-4 years.

Without alcohol in your final product:  Gently heat the extract over low-heat for 20-30 minutes. Don't boil it or you will overheat it and destroy the sweet taste. The longer you heat the extract, the thicker and more syrup-like it will become. 15-20 minutes on low heat should be plenty of time.  This cooks out the alcohol!  Transfer into a colored glass bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Water recipe!

Line the bottom of a 1/2 pint canning jar with a coffee filter.  Put a teaspoon of ground (not quite powdered) dried stevia leaves into the jar on top of the filter.  Add two tablespoons of boiling water over the leaves.  Let steep for five minutes.  Pull out the filter with the leaves.  Let drain back into the liquid but don't squeeze the remaining liquid in the filter to get every last drop.  This will make it bitter. 
Once the liquid cools place it in a bottle that has a dropper in the lid.  Refrigerate and use within a week. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Watching TV

Rourke put up a good post about  cutting the TV expenses by watching streaming video off the internet or subscribing to companies such as Netflix. This is great if you have good internet reception.  I don't.  When I watch any video that's from YouTube it has to be watched in 240p.  The 360p or higher stop every five or ten seconds.  I'd go mad if I had to watch something that kept stopping.  Because of the slow speed I can't watch much internet TV.  I can watch some YouTube since many of them have different resolutions. 

When people post clips to their blogs they forget about this and usually have things posted in 360p or higher.  If possible I go back to the YouTube source to watch it in the lower resolution.  If it's not a YouTube video then I am out of luck. 

One of the comments that Rourke made wasn't right.  He said by cutting the cable or satellite you can say goodbye to local channels.  That's not at all correct.  In fact, that's what we now have at home because I did cut the satellite in order to save the $50 each month.  We have a $30 digital antenna.  It picks up all the local stations in HD as well as many stations that I didn't know existed.  We get about 20 stations including ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CW, NBC Weather, France 24 (English speaking European News).  This digital antenna is only hooked up to one TV because this antenna is an indoor one that I just haven't bothered to wire to the other two TVs.  I could buy an outdoor digital antenna for about $50 and run it through the same wires that the satellite ran through in order to serve each TV.  I am planning on doing something because I like having the TV in my room (although if it's on it's for about 5 minutes to check if it's a foggy day school schedule).

If we want to watch movies we either get them at Red Box for a dollar to rent, pick them up on sale for $5 or less, or watch one from Army daughter's, oldest daughter's, or son's movie collections.  During the winter we will watch more movies than during summer time.  Maybe one each weekend if the weather is bad. 

The second biggest thing about cutting the cable or satellite is getting used to not having the sports channels, the big ticket movie channels, or the news channels.  And the main reason to not cut the cable or satellite?  You need to have something to focus your entire existence around and you like sitting on the couch. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Almost Free Dinner

Had to write a second post tonight, again about cheap food.  Tonight's dinner was really good and filling and very inexpensive.  Army daughter and baby were over for dinner tonight.  Baby is spending the night because son-in-law is sick.  So we had four plus baby for dinner.  For this meal baby ate a really good serving. 

I made cabbage soup and rolls.  The soup consists of home grown ingredients:  tomato juice, raisins, and a head of cabbage.  There was a pound of antelope stew meat in it although I usually use beef ribs.  I also add a little sour salt (citric acid) and sugar.  I put it in the crock pot this morning and it was perfect at dinner time. 

I also made rolls.  It was going to be a small loaf of bread using my basic recipe: flour, water, yeast, salt.  I added a teaspoon of sugar.  I made the batter up this morning and at about 4:00 this afternoon I put a little flour on the counter and kneaded a small amount of the flour into the dough to stiffen it up a little.  I shaped it into a round loaf then changed my mind.  I took out the cutting board and a sharp knife.  I cut the loaf in half and then each half into three pieces.  I then took the six pieces and put them into a sprayed muffin tin.  I melted some butter (about a teaspoon total) and brushed it lightly on top of each chunk of dough.  I let it sit for about five minutes then put it into a 375 degree oven for not very long, maybe 15 minutes.  I can't tell you how long exactly because I didn't pay any attention to the time.  When it smells done I take it out.  I brushed another little bit of butter on top.

For the drinks I mixed about 2 cups of ice with two cut up pears, a banana that was getting over ripe, two persimmons, half an orange that I didn't eat at breakfast, and a little water to get it mixed.  I then added just a tad of honey.  

So dinner cost a little sour salt, sugar, flour, butter, banana, and honey.  Maybe a dollar at most.  Cheap, easy, and pretty sustainable with some minor substitutions if TSHTF and we couldn't get to the store.   

Fresh Fish

Fish is a cheap way to get protein. We haven't gone fishing in a while but we sure like to do so.  The pond across the road has some fish in it but we've been so busy that we haven't gone over in a long time.  I've also given thought to transforming the stock tank/pool into a fish pond to raise tilapia, although the pool may not be deep enough.   
One nice thing about fish is that it cooks really quickly.  This is good in any type of situation where you don't have a lot of fuel for the cooking.  There's another way to eat your fish that doesn't take any cooking at all.  You need to use fresh fish and also healthy fish.  The first is just eating it raw. (Think sushi)  The second way is ceviche.  What is that?  It's fish that's cooked in the acid of lemons or limes.  You don't cook it with heat.  If you like fish you really should try ceviche.  You may read that you can only use one kind of fish.  That's not true.  It's better with a firmer fish but any fish will do.  You can vary the recipe just like anything else you cook.  Here's a recipe - cut everything into bite sized pieces.  Do your own thing and use the ingredients from your garden.  And if you are lucky to have your own pond or creek then you can truly make this meal completely home made.
One pound of fillet of trout, tilapia, mahi-mahi, snapper, shrimp, blue gill (anything!!) cut into bite sized pieces
about a cup of lime or lemon juice
a couple of tomatoes, peeled and chopped (I don't peel) 
1/2 to 1 onion, chopped (I use white and red for added color)
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped (or 1/2 red and 1/2 green)
pinch or so of salt
1/4 cup olive oil - optional
1/8 cup red wine vinegar - optional
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1 teaspoon of powdered sugar - optional
1 finely chopped jalapeno pepper - optional

Rinse the fish.  Put it into a nonmetallic bowl.  Cover the fish with the juice, stir to coat it.  Marinate for anywhere from a couple of hours to all day.  Drain the liquid.  Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour it over the fish and mix together.  Serve cold with crackers or by itself. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chicken butchering

This morning we went over to Bee Wench Farm  to help with the chicken butchering.   The grand kids had a great time.  They liked walking down the hill to catch the chickens and carry them up to the butchering area.  Boy was carrying the chickens by the feet.  Girl was cuddling it like it was a little kitten.  When the chickens were brought up boy watched as each head was cut off.  Girl didn't want anything to do with it.  Each chicken was individually placed into an orange cone (like the ones used for traffic control).  The narrow end of the cone was cut off to make it easy for the chicken's head to hang through the top of the cone.  Someone would hold the cone up above the 5 gallon bucket and Mr. Bee Wench Farm cut the head off. 

After the head was cut off, the cone was placed on the rim of the bucket.  The chicken was able to start the bleeding out process right over the bucket.  By being in the cone it wasn't able to flop around and make a bloody mess, although there were a couple of times that blood got on other people besides Mr. Bee Wench Farm.  Boy was really please that the front of his pants had chicken blood on them!

 Mr. Bee Wench Farm hung heavy string over the open patio cover.  The chickens were individually hung to bleed. Each chicken hung over its own plastic bucket.  After five minutes or so they were then dunked into the pot of hot water to loosen the feathers.  They had a bbq with a side burner and were able to keep the water hot this way.  The chickens were in the water for about 20 seconds.  The chicken wasn't dunked until someone was available to pull the feathers.  Now it was time to pluck.  Both kids did fine on this although they weren't happy about the ones who "made little messes" after their heads were cut off.  Boy thought that was disgusting.  Sure.  But cutting their heads off and pulling out feathers was just fine!

After a while girl got up enough nerve to go to the bucket where the chicken heads were being dropped into and the initial bleeding was done.  Not too bad she thought. 

I watched the first one get gutted and cleaned.  Can I try?  Sure.  This was easy enough although I kept having trouble getting the lungs out.  After a few I got the hang of it.  Girl was watching, telling me that it was gross, yet playing with the cut off chicken feet!  Then, miracle of miracles, girl wanted to try.  (Boy was too busy playing with Bee Wench boy) She cut off the feet herself and got the nerve to cut open the chicken cavity and pull the innards out. 

While we were there 15 chickens were butchered.  We had leave for our two hour drive home, leaving our hosts with a couple more chickens to do on their own.  We had a great time.  I told the kids how pleased I was that they learned this new skill.  After all, most kids their age, and adults too, think that chicken comes in the plastic bag from the grocery store.  There is no connection between the clucking creature and the food we eat. 

We have half a dozen chickens that need to be butchered at our house.  Next weekend I'm going to see who wants to come over and we will have a butchering party.  Sounds kind of morbid!  OK, I'll include apple cider to keep us warm rather than having to warm our hands by holding chicken guts.  Thanks Bee Wench Farm!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Where's north and south and how much more daylight do I have?

My work truck doesn't have a compass built in like my personal truck does.  Sometimes while driving on windy roads I get a bit turned around, especially if I don't have my GPS going and I'm not used to the area.  I come to an intersection and I'm supposed to head in a certain direction.  How do I know which direction is which? 

What about if you are hiking on a trail that's brought you all around.  You are told to take the trail off to the south.  Fine, your trail has taken you all over and you don't know where south is.  Are you sure that trail doesn't head more toward the west?

It's easy to figure out which direction you are going if you know where the sun is.  Sure, it rises in the east and sets in the west.  This trick is easier with a dial watch than a digital but it will work if you know what a dial watch looks like, and you have a clock of some sort on you.  You take the hour hand of your watch and point it directly to the sun.  Half way between that and the 12:00 will be south.  You want to head north?  Look at the opposite side of the face.  That will be north.  For example, if you point the hour hand to the sun and it's 4:00, then south would be 2:00.  Half way between the sun and 12:00.  North would then be facing 8:00.  Pretty simple.  If you don't have a watch with a face but you still know what time it is you can make your own clock by drawing on a piece of paper or scratching a circle into the ground.

What about if you are out and you have to head back to your vehicle?  Do you know when it's time to turn around?  How long until it starts to get dark?  This time let's pretend that you are just visiting the area and don't know when the sun sets in this part of the country. 

Face the sun.  Extend your arm out and bend your wrist so your fingers are parallel to the ground.  Measure the distance between the bottom of the sun and the horizon  with your hand.  If the distance is greater than your four fingers put your other hand underneath or above that hand.  Each finger between the bottom of the sun and the horizon is 15 minutes.  If you have four fingers between the bottom of the sun and the horizon the sun will set in one hour.  If you have 6 fingers you have an hour and a half.  Two fingers?  Well, get a move on! 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What's an emergency?

Last night at bedtime boy took off his shoe to show me his toe.  He had gone to the nurses office during school and she looked at it and told him to show me.  He has an abscess that has a little pus in it.  (Doesn't this sound like what I just read on Survivalblog last night?) I asked him how his toe got this little infection.  When did it start? 

Then we talked about going to the nurses office.  Why did you go?  "Because my toe hurt." I told him he is not supposed to get out of class to see the nurse unless it's an emergency.  But "my toe hurt!"  Not an emergency.  If you broke your arm on the playground, if you throw up, if you are running a high fever, if you fell and stubbed your toe...those are emergencies for you to go to see the nurse.  Not for a sore toe.  You know why?  Because it wasn't important enough to tell me, it's not important enough to become an emergency just because it's bugging you in class.  Not an emergency.

So what is an emergency?  I suppose his toe could be considered an emergency if this infection got into his bloodstream or something of that sort.  In our state the term emergency has actually been defined.  Why?  Because our citizens voted in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), with sort of mirrors the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).  If you are doing any kind of project that required permitting where the government (state or local) has any sort of say, then that government office is supposed to consider CEQA.  So does just about everything that any government body does if it can affect view, noise, biological, etc.  Yes, the government has to take all sorts of things into account prior to either going ahead with a project or giving the go ahead for someone elses project.  Except, and there's always an exception, in an emergency.  So, they had to define emergency.  Otherwise everything would be an emergency and nobody would be looking at the environment. 

Now before you start with calling me an environmental wacko or complaining about regulations, I will explain myself a bit.  I do see a need for some environmental regulation.  The problem is while something starts off well, it usually gets so screwed up by people with certain agendas that it ends up not at all doing what it was intended to do.  In my job, during an emergency I tell the people I work with that all environmental regulation (at least state regulation, not federal) gets thrown out the window.  The problem is after the emergency is over.  Then regulation comes back into effect so if you can avoid something during the emergency it's much easier and cheaper to deal with it after.  But my saying when I teach is "nuke it" if you have to, just tell me what you did so I can deal with it, preferably before hits the media.  

OK I'm really off track.  This started with boy's toe.  I still haven't defined emergency.    An emergency is an occurrence, not a condition.  It's that simple.  Let's use a leaking roof as an example of the definition.  If a tree branch breaks and puts a hole in your roof during a rainstorm and rain gets into your house, that is an emergency.  If your roof leaks because it's an old roof in need of repair or replacement and it loses some shingles from the high winds in the rainstorm and rain gets into your house, it may seem like an emergency to you, but not to me.  That is a condition.  You've put off roof repairs.  Too expensive.  Too much time.  You are afraid of heights.  Whatever your excuse.  Your roof is in bad condition.  No wonder it leaks.  See where I'm going with this???

Boy's toe was not an emergency.  It may be something that we have to deal with right away but it's not an emergency.  It's a condition.  He should have mentioned it to me a day or two earlier.  He shouldn't have waited until he was sitting in class bored, which gave him time to concentrate on his toe. 

A lot of problems we have in life are because we don't take care of "conditions", we tend to wait until they become "emergencies."  Keep up on your home repairs, your health, and prepare  by doing things like storing food, self defense items, fuel, water, and learning new skills. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Teaching new skills

I told my kids that I was bringing the grand kids to a new acquaintances home to learn the fine art of chicken butchering among other things.  My kids were not thrilled.  They remember as children their task of butchering our ducks and chickens and said they don't wish that on anyone, especially their niece and nephew.  Too bad, the grand kids are going to learn anyway. 

About 25 years ago we used to butcher our chickens and ducks but I really honestly do not remember butchering, plucking, or anything.  I must just be getting old.  I'm sure that once I do it again it will all come back to me.  If not, then it's one of those suppressed memories.  Rather odd.

Yesterday I had some fieldwork to do.  While I was out there the wife and young son of one of my coworkers came out to watch the bulldozers.  The little one had a good time.  The wife was talking to me and she said that she has no skills of value and she thought butchering chickens would be a good skill to learn.  Just yesterday morning at breakfast she told her husband that she wants to learn how to butcher a chicken.  I told the wife that I was going to PR to learn the fine art of butchering this Saturday!  I told her that their family should come over to my house sometime in the next few weeks and I will pass on the skills that I will learn on Saturday. 

It got me to thinking about the skills we pass on to others.  Of course our kids learn: sometimes by watching what we are doing and sometimes by participating.  Who else do we teach?  Friends?  Family?  Neighbors?  Not that there's anyone else I know who wants to learn how to butcher a chicken...

But what about our gardening skills?  Shooting skills?  Shopping, storage, and cooking?  Sewing?  House and yard safety?  First aid? Do you have skills you can teach as a gift?  The grand kids always make coupon books.  They will make my bed, cook my breakfast, and do all kinds of things.  How about a gift of teaching a skill?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


The grand kids like pudding of every kind.  Vanilla, chocolate, and rice are their three favorites.  I will make rice pudding for breakfast if we have left over rice from the night before.  It takes about 2 or 3 minutes to make to make pudding.  It's really that easy.  And no, it's not the instant pudding mix package.

It's easy to make your own mix to have on hand.  The ingredients are all things you should have in your home storage.  If you don't have these items then you'd better add them to your storage program!  You still have to add ingredients at the time you make it, it's not one of those home made mixes where you just add water.

Vanilla Pudding Mix - makes about five cups of mix or about 20 servings
3 cups instant powdered milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups corn starch or potato starch (don't pack it down when measuring)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

To make vanilla pudding
In a saucepan mix the following ingredients:
1 cup of the pudding mix
3/4 cups milk
1 1/4 cup water
1 beaten egg
Cook this together on medium to low heat.  Mix constantly.  Once it starts to thicken cook for another minute.  Stir constantly.  Turn off the heat.
Add in:
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon melted butter (optional and I don't add it)

Chocolate Pudding Mix- makes about four cups of mix or about 16 servings
2 1/4 instant dry milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch or potato starch (don't pack it down while measuring)
2/3 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt

To make chocolate pudding
In a saucepan mix the following ingredients:
1 cup of the pudding mix
1 cup milk
1 cup water
Cook this together on medium to low heat.  Mix constantly.  Once it starts to thicken cook for another minute .  Stir constantly.  Turn off the heat.
Add in:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon melted butter (optional and I don't add it)

The kids like rice pudding so once the vanilla pudding is done I just mix in some cooked rice straight out of the refrigerator.  The cold rice cools down the pudding so they can eat it right away.  This rice pudding is certainly not like the rice pudding you make when you steam the pot of pudding in water for an hour or so.  The rice does not plump up.  Since the kids don't know any different, only I do, they are happy to have it the way I make it.  Sometimes I will put raisins and cinnamon sugar in just to change things up a bit.  If you wanted to make the rice more soft and plump you can soak the rice in some milk overnight and add that to the pudding in the morning. 

These two mixes are easy to make, perfect for a quick breakfast or dessert, and come right out of your food storage. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Brain Overload and no American Redoubt for me

Every once in a while I work so hard that my brain actually hurts at the end of the day.  Please no snide remarks about government workers not's not that at all.  Well today is one of those days that I didn't get any breaks for more than a couple of minutes and each phone call or email message was urgent and something that I had to respond to instantly.  I never did make it out to the field.  That's for tomorrow as long as it doesn't start off like today!

I had one call where I had to explain why I had to do what I was doing for a certain project.  I like those...justify your job.  Only normally the person is totally obnoxious and they don't want to really listen.  This wasn't the case.  This person was part of a committee and the committee asked why I had to do what I had to do on their project and the person calling me didn't know how to respond.  All he knew was I had to go out and make an inspection and I only wanted to do it in good weather!  So I explained and he was satisfied.  He will be able to get the answer off to his other committee members and all will be happy.

It's interesting being a government employee in an era of hating government employees.  And my job especially is one that may need explaining.  The government does WHAT????  On the other hand, when I am in what I call "the wrong place at the wrong time" I've done things like being in charge of saving people's lives and property.  So it all works out. 

One of the things that I did mull over in my mind is this super push lately on the survivalblog site about moving to the American Redoubt.  You know: Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, etc.  Sounds great other than it's COLD there and I don't like the cold.  I've been told by a friend of mine with plans to move to North Dakota that you can always hang out by the fire.  Sure but at some point you have to go outside to take care of the animals unless you live in one of those houses that has the barn attached - and it's heated!  No, I'll stay in the Great Central Valley.  I just want to make sure that I'm as prepared as can be in the location that I'm at.

I do have the bug-out place in the hills about an hour from here.  With the kids still doing their activities in the city moving an hour and a half from the city and then having to commute in two times per week for the kids and between two and five times per week for my job just doesn't make sense to me.  Perhaps when I retire when the kids are older I may think about permanently moving to the other property.  The only upside to moving there is that it's paid for and this place that I'm in now is not.  I'd be spending less money each month even with the added expense of the commute and building a decent house on that property when compared to the mortgage on this place.  But my time has value in that the time I spend in the garden and on the animals would be used for commuting. 

So I just keep working on this place here.  I make it as safe and secure as time and money allows.  Unfortunately, time and money are both sort of scarce! 

It's going to be cold once again tonight.  We have a freeze warning from midnight until nine tomorrow morning.  I'd better go out and check the trees to make sure the coverings I put on are secure just in case the wind picks up.