Let’s Start To Get Serious Now!

confusion  One of the toughest decisions we face as a “prepper” is the decision of what we are prepping for. I personally suspect we will face some major economic calamities that will then bring about a domino effect of other problems and situations. It will pretty much allow any other opportunists to take advantage of the situation meaning possible gangs running rampant, racial tensions to explode, foreign government  interferences, wars, rumors of wars, etc. Throw in climate upheavals and maybe an EMP of natural or not natural causes. The list can go on and on. So I started trying to be ready for hurricanes (I live in Florida ya know.) and then started becoming fearful of economic crashes. I’m already balancing a tightrope walk with finances so it wouldn’t take much to destroy us there. And gosh – I am sooooo lazy! I can’t stand the thought of giving up all my nice gadgets and toys! And hey! I LOVE reading all my Nook and Kindle books – I literally have thousands saved to one device or another. Come to think of it, I’m kinda a game freak on Facebook too. Sighhhhhhhh

Are you getting a drift of what I am suggesting? I’m a real person who enjoys life in the moment but suddenly realized I had almost no idea how to focus on what I prep when. Well — that was who I was only a few years ago. Very shortly after I began worrying about all this I realized I had to stop and think about whom I really am and what I hoped to accomplish. This led me to see that I was making mistakes in my prepping that many and probably all new preppers make: the scatter shot approach to prepping and storage. It meant I had to face up to my shortcomings in this area and become a more focused person in what I hoped to accomplish.

tinfoil hat       I often make friends in the prepper community laugh when I say tin foil hats are not a good fashion statement and I am not looking forward to zombie hordes that I have to fight off with the biggest cannon I can legally purchase online anonymously. (NSA – I am a total waste of your time and energy!)  So I had to decide how to go about this mess. Easiest plan for me was to realize I have four adult sons who are personal fitness buffs, – two Black Belts, 4 fishermen, 3 hunters, etc. My husband also is an experienced hunter and fisherman. He possesses a wealth of knowledge on how to do things having grown up in post WWII Italy on a farm. Therefore I decided to let the men of my family be men. I turned myself to concentrating on the areas I am best suited to take care of.

cannon

I love the computer. I love reading. I love crafts and homemaking skills. From my childhood these were areas of interest for me. As a teen and young twenty-something year old I wanted to live in a log cabin somewhere and raise animals and a huge garden. I saw myself wandering the woods foraging for healing herbs, healing folks with my knowledge and skills. I would go to farms to pick vegetables and fruit and can them. Next we borrowed a plot of land from a family member to grow our own vegetables. It was an easy jump to making cheese. My late mother in law was only too happy to teach me how to do so many things around the home and yard! She came for a visit from Italy for a few months and spent that time teaching a new goat owner friend how to milk the goats. That won us enough milk for her to teach me to make cheese as the family had done for many many years overseas. Then she went foraging and showed me “weeds” and mushrooms safe to eat. The cooking lessons were using things “from scratch” instead of the fancy boxed convenience foods. My sisters in law still share freely with me when I have basic questions. This background allowed me to realize where my strengths lay in this newest endeavor. I already loved vintage kitchen items – loved the look and feel of the older kitchens in soft greens and clean lines. I loved baking, cooking, canning. It was a source of pride to me to have a full table of wonderful foods for my family. My cookbook collection of recipes from Italy rivals the local bookstore selections. I began to teach myself to use all the vintage appliances and utensils. I learned to do things the “old fashioned way” sans electric!

Studying     I had my starting point to concentrate on what I knew best. From there I made it an issue to learn how to store those foods so that they would last more than the week or two or three we think they last. I began to research on the Internet and that taught me I needed to be more organized, to take stock of what I had on hand and how to add to all of it properly. To this I had to organize my cabinets and pantry area my sons gifted me with! Along with this part of my journey I discovered chickens – a natural because I wanted fresher eggs to bake with. After chickens I realized I needed a fresh source of meat – welcome my rabbits! Yes, I would enjoy raising pigs like my in laws used to overseas or even a fresh cow – and especially goats! I love goats! I love goats cheese! (Alas I live in a city that won’t let me have all that! Ha!) My next step was seeing that my granddaughters wanted to share the experience of canning. They were fascinated that grandma made all this neat stuff they love to eat. How would that continue if I weren’t here to help them? What would I do if the Internet weren’t here to show me how to do certain skills? I began to compile notebooks to have as reference manuals for myself, my sons, my randchildren later on.

What have I learned in all this? That taking time to know myself made this journey an easier one for me. I learned it doesn’t have to a journey of fear and panic that the world as we know it will end next week or even next month. I learned no matter what scenario does play out, I can walk though it in peace in my spirit whether I survive it all the way or not. What I am telling you is that even if you do believe in zombies and are concerned that it will be an all out war or whatever, there can be a peaceful calm approach to being prepared. Yes, I want to help you learn how to prepare to face any of these possible trials but let’s start the journey calmly with a focused plan of attack. Know where your strengths lay. Don’t try to be everything at one time. Plan what you need to do. Think in terms of the unusual. Look at your normal day to day activities. What things would you need to continue life as you enjoy it. Obviously food, water, shelter are the basics followed by security – having everyone safe. Is that safe from storms like here in Florida? Is it safe from zombies? Approach your goals in an organized manner so that you know what next step is needed. Use lists. Checking off a list can be a stress buster by letting you see what you are accomplishing. As you throw that extra bag of rice or beans in the shopping cart,  pay attention to the inventory of your supplies. If you already have 500 bags of rice perhaps you need the spices to flavor it. Or are you in charge of security? Having 500 rounds of ammo and no weapon or not having ever used that weapon does not make you a prepper – it makes you a prepper fail. Hone your skills, do your research, plan, organized your preps. Think about what it is you are the most concerned over and what you need to meet that challenge. As the scenario evolves, make your preps evolve in an organized fashion along with it. Approaching this in a more organized fashion will help you to avoid the stress, to find the calm in the midst of on-coming turmoil. You will know you have done the best you can for your family and friends who are in this with you.  Besides – there is nothing more calming than sitting outside listening to the chickens and watching the garden grow – except if you sit down at one end of a table full of family enjoying all the beautiful food you provided!

Advertisements

Is It a Castle or a Storage Unit?

Move-Boxes-      I have been spending a lot of time lately trying to organize our preps. Florida homes are notorious for lack of space to hide things away neatly. We’re mostly short on attic, garage, and especially basement spaces. That makes it much trickier to tuck things away in an organized fashion instead of just where it will fit. That also doesn’t take into account that most of the stuff just plain doesn’t fit! Quite a few Floridians use outdoor storage sheds in either wood or metal but they usually are not climate controlled. The same problem exists with our attics and garages not being a stable temperature. It’s challenging but not altogether impossible.

Like many of us we live in the typical older Florida home – nothing fancy or showy but comfortable for us! We live in a pleasant town on the Space Coast of Florida. Most folks here would never expect riots or race wars or for the town to fall apart in any way. Yet most of the preppers will sagely nod their heads at this because they know even nice folks will do the unthinkable to feed starving family!

In the past year we have joined a couple different preparedness groups here on the Space Coast. The members seem to run the gamut from one extreme to the other concerning how far they take the issue of preparedness. All of them profess a sense of calm and peace before the anticipated collapse due to taking control of their preparations.

Roof-Of-His-Car      A few of the people are financially secure enough to own what is known as a “Bug- Out Location” or BOL. Many others like us plan to hunker down in place due to a myriad of reasons personal and financial. That just leads us to be more selective in how we prepare.   Simplistic-Castle-Tower-2        The old adage that a man’s home is his castle has been taking on new meaning thanks to a certain television production but I personally have yet to add a moat or drawbridge to the old homestead! Indeed there is no sentry decked out in full armor at the front door. Needless to say we have discussed security and do have things in place to protect ourselves should the situation call for it but we are hoping it never falls that completely apart! We choose to be low key about those choices and not advertise those issues for safety’s sake.  knight

So as we attempt to organize and inventory our preps, we find ourselves a bit lopsided at times and then we begin to lose the sense of organization. Over the course of the next few months I hope to share with all of you how I am dealing with these issues and I hope you will join in on the discussions freely. I’m sure many of you have similar problems and solutions – many of others will have questions we will all try to help answer! I certainly can’t know for 100% certain when and if things will collapse. I pray we all have enough time to prepare adequately as well as the finances and health to do so. I pray I will be able to help you along on this journey as we undertake steps for our own family and friends – and yes, community! It seems many of us feel a sense of urgency as we do this lately but with it also comes a peace and joy in knowing we are taking the steps to protect and prepare our families by each positive step we take. Let’s take the continuing journey together so we go about it without stress or fear!

Little Things That Show Your Progress In the World of Being Self-Sustaining

Every now and then certain projects bring more than just a checkmark on our inventory or accomplishment lists. Yesterday was one of those projects for us. We collect eggs every day and we have rabbit meat put up in the freezer and we often harvest foods from the garden to add to our pantry. Yet it was yesterday’s harvest that made us feel that we are beginning to turn the corner to being successful at what we do. About a year and a half ago Val directed and our sons built a grape arbor in our back yard. We love the arbor and my sons enjoyed promptly hanging a hammock to sleep in! But yesterday was a banner day for us. We harvested the first of our Muscadine grapes off our arbor!     arbor

It was exciting to taste a few – they are incredibly sweet! Gosh – so much better than the almost tasteless ones we often purchase.  But we had a plan for these grapes yesterday – jam! Ultimately we hope to harvest enough to make homemade Moscato wine but that will be another year or two before our vines produce enough for that project!   grape harvest

Making the jam was easier than you would expect. The hardest part was sitting and picking apart the grapes to remove seeds. It isn’t as difficult as it is time consuming but Valentino and I have a great time working together in the kitchen and I find he always manages to surprise me with another story of his childhood – even after all these years! Yesterday was no different as he shared another tale. His sister had decided one year that she wanted to recreate how wine was made in the villages many years ago. He was about 14 at the time so agreed to help her. She found a large half barrel used to stomp the grapes in and her son and Valentino began the task. They found it was extremely cold so she had them use VERY clean rubber boots instead of being barefoot and they stomped away! Once all crushed, the grape juice was put aside to ferment naturally and soon enough they had wine!   picking seeds        seeds

Well, we meanwhile finished picking the seeds and then I rinsed the seeds well and left in a strainer to drip. The seeds will be spread out on a towel and left to dry —after all if our vines should die, we will want to be able to plant more! Seeds will also prove to be a great barter tool some day. Then a large canning pot was set on the stove to bring water to a boil and to heat the jars. Another pot was used to heat the rings and lids for the jars. This softens the seals on the lids so that they seal tightly after.    lids

cooking    no lids

After we finished removing all the seeds we chose to use our grinder attachment on our Kitchenaid mixer and minced all the grapes and skins. This gave us a fairly uniform mix to then cook. We added no water but used all of the pulp, skin, and juice to which we added almost 6 cups of sugar and 4 tblspns of pectin. This was all cooked at a strong boil stirring constantly to prevent burning or sticking for about 20 minutes until we could see it beginning to firm up and cook down. Then the hot jars were filled to within a ¼ inch of the rim. I wiped the rims with a hot water rag and then again with a vinegar rag to be sure the rims were clean. Lids were placed on followed by the rings finger tightened. I then water bathed the jars for 15 minutes after the water returned to a boil. I absolutely love listening for the ping of each jar when removed from the pot signaling a perfect seal! I know these jam jars won’t last long with our family – and they will taste twice as sweet because they came from our own garden!       Jam

One of Those Easy Canning Recipes with No Waste!

images   This weekend I had a fun time making a couple of great items for the pantry. I started out wanting to can apples for apple pies. So I researched and found a simple recipe or two online and then worked it out to be what our family would enjoy. Most of the online recipes called for yellow food coloring – something I choose not to use. I purchased 28 pounds of Fuji apples. These are a nice sweet apple with great texture – bonus was the beautiful color they maintained through the canning process.

The recipe was a simple one so my husband and I worked as a team this time around. He sat and peeled all the apples and then used a handy apple slicer gadget that also cores them. All the slices were dropped into a large pot holding some water along with a healthy dose of Ball Fresh Fruit Protector to keep the apples from discoloring. Some folks use lemon juice (which works well) but I was going to be adding more lemon juice to the recipe.

Now before I give the recipe, I want to give you a warning/disclaimer. Many folks do not believe in using corn starch to can – because it thickens sauces, it is considered by many to be too dense a product to safely can (much like pumpkin is also thought of)—some folks therefore recommend using a product called Clear Jel which you find in some specialty grocery stores or online. Proceed with this understanding then that not all consider cornstarch safe! Do your own research on this!

1016748_4557640718079_911699486_n

Recipe:

21 qts, peeled cored apples (20 lbs approximately before)

13.5 cups sugar

3 cups cornstarch

30 cups water

9 tbspns. Lemon juice

6 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

3 tsp. salt

Mix everything except for lemon juice and apple slices in big pot. Bring to boil and then cook until thick and it bubbles.  Turn off heat – add in lemon juice.

Pack apple slices into hot sterilized jars. Pour in syrup – leave a good inch of head space – DO NOT overfill or the jars will leak during processing and not seal! Make sure to remove air bubbles, wipe rims with hot cloth before putting on lids. Process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Any leftover syrup can also be canned to use for pancakes and waffles!

1000730_4559088434271_1582039385_n

Now before you rush out to make this – consider one of the basic rules – not to waste if we can use it! I now had lots of apple peels and cores from my 20+ pounds of apples. I put all of them in a big pot and covered with water – enough to cover by about 2 inches over the peels. And I boiled them awhile until I had a nice juice. I strained all the apple peels and cores and ended up with about nine to 12 cups of juice! For my next step I grabbed my Ball recipe books and compared to some other recipes for apple jelly. This was a first for me as I usually make jams and marmalades but had never done only a jelly. This turned out to be easier than I realized and something I will enjoy doing often! It seems a lot of folks online suggest simply buying juices to make their jelly instead of the original methods of boiling fruit and straining several times (the main reason I never attempted   to make jelly!) I broke my juice down into two batches for ease in handling. For every cup of juice, I added ¾ cup of sugar. For every 2 cups of liquid I also added 1 tbspn. of lemon juice. Per the suggestion in the Ball recipes I also added a small bit of butter to prevent foaming but this is very optional. This was all brought to a boil – I used a jelly thermometer to test – it should reach approximately 220*. I tested the jelly by the spoon/ice method – a small amount of jelly on a spoon dipped to a bowl of ice to cool it rapidly. Tilting the spoon sideways, the jelly should “sheet” – sliding off the spoon, not running   off. Then I filled my hot sterilized pint jars. Next rims were wiped down using a hot cloth before setting on lids and rings. As always the lids and rings are set in hot water while cooking jelly so they too are sterilized and ready to use. The hot water also aids in the lid rubber to seal properly. Process the jars in a hot water bath 10 minutes. Let jars cool. Jelly usually sets up fairly quickly but often can take a day or two to gel. Any jars that did not   seal can be put in refrigerator to use immediately!

So now you realize you still have a pot of cooled down  apple peels and cores left. What to do with them now? You could add them to that compost heap I’m sure you have for the garden but I chose to use them by feeding the cores to my rabbits and my chickens had a feast on the peels! See – I told you – prepping is supposed to be fun, not something to make you stress! But I do have one confession to make here. I do stress –because my family enjoys all this food so much that it seems I am working twice as hard to keep up with their favorites!!!!

Necessary Work Made Fun

Every now and then we need to do certain chores as we prep and store that can be boring or time consuming or just plain not fun. I hate anything that makes me more stressed so I’m always on the lookout for ways to avoid more stress. Because I hate stress and how it makes me feel, I’m sure most of you look for ways to avoid it too. After all the whole point of being prepared is to be able to face most trouble stress free! Just like an insurance policy should make you feel a bit less stressed, I like to think of my food storage as food insurance!

Anyway back to the point here – one of those horribly not fun jobs is to take inventory of the food supplies or to sort things into logical order in the pantry. So as I was taking count today, I decided why not label things. I keep sharing jars of food here and there and I hate to always be explaining the contents, use by date, and most important to remind everyone to return my jars and rings!

I happened across some great labels online at the pickyourown.org – and then went searching for some more.

label 1        label 2      I also ended up designing a few more of my own. The labels were made to fit some of the commercial labels you can purchase and print but I tend to be frugal (color that cheap 😉 ) so I simply printed mine out gray scale and used wide tape to put on each jar. Now I have no more questions about expiration dates – and these look cuter than indelible marker on the lids! So have fun with your preps – if worried about no electric some day, print out s few batches and store away! But have fun – don’t stress!

Pickled Eggs

1013685_4469983006691_966949435_n               One of the easiest projects I have undertaken is to make pickled eggs. I know. I know. I’m not a big fan of these either but I have four sons and a husband along with sundry friends who LOVE pickled eggs. LOVE as in can sit and eat a dozen or two in a sitting if you let them. That’s not including the granddaughters who also enjoy them. So….. it was meant to be. I would have to pickle those eggs in spite of myself!  The big surprise was how easy it was and how happy it made these men! The hardest part was the peeling the eggs part! Go figure?

So here’s how it’s done:

20130626_092955          Set the eggs into cold water that you salted fairly heavily. The salt forces the water to boil at a higher temperature. Bring the eggs to a hard boil for just a couple moments and then cover tightly and shut off the burner. Let the eggs sit in the tightly covered pan for 35 minutes. Believe it or not, the eggs will be perfectly hard boiled. Then cool the eggs done by covering in water and ice. While the eggs are cooking, bring 2 ½ -3 cups of vinegar to a boil – added to the vinegar is 1 tbs. of mustard seed, 1 tbs. dill, a couple cloves of garlic, 2 tbs. of hot pepper flakes, and about 12 – 14 slashes of a hot Louisiana sauce. Some folks like their pickled eggs really spicy and add jalapeno peppers. These do not turn red like some of the commercial pickled eggs do. If that is important to your group, either add red dye as most of the commercial sources do – or as the old timers used to do, add beet juice left over from pickling beets! I used a half gallon size Ball Canning Jar which held 2 dozen large eggs for me. Put a bit of the brine with the garlic cloves into the bottom of the jar. Then pack in all of the eggs. Fill the jar with the hot brine. Make sure that you use a rubber spatula to release any air bubbles. That’s all there is to this except to then set the jars in the refrigerator and let sit for about 1 week so the eggs pickle! We opened one of the jars tonight – I doubt that jar will last until tomorrow! It received all the appropriate complements!

Managing Time and Money For Less Stress

20130605_094051     I have been a bit quiet for awhile due to some time needed elsewhere. That made me realize that I should take a few moments to talk about the stress levels we are all facing here. Many of us have been experiencing an overload factor thanks to news, political fiascoes, and world events such as reading about food restrictions along with toilet paper limits in Venezuela. All of these combine for those into prepping as one big red flag telling us to prepare! Take that along with a healthy dose of weather calamities such as the OK. tornadoes and impending hurricane season here and we feel a “perfect storm” brewing – that watched pot is going to boil over soon if we cannot find a way to safely lower the temperature! For many the desire to garden is being replaced by frustration as snow in May with freezing temperatures or constant rain elsewhere is wrecking havoc with the gardens and seedlings struggling to survive. Then let’s all read about honey bees being decimated and we add another level of stress and tension! Sooooo….

       Take a deep breath, brew that cup of calming tea (no liquor – it will not calm you right now… hehehe!) and we can chat. Prepping is like insurance. When that bill comes in yearly and you realize what a chunk of change it takes to have homeowners or renters insurance and car insurance, the blood pressure usually goes up a notch or two. The we remember we take care of this in smaller bites along with the mortgage or rent payment (no gulping here) or in monthly or quarterly payments. That may not make it totally better but it is more manageable for most folks – few of us write that one big check to the insurance agent once a year! This is how we need to approach our prepping, how to make it fit in without causing us more grief. Very few of us can honestly believe we are prepared to face every and any threat we may face. That should not translate to a do nothing attitude but rather to realize if we put a bit by to help alleviate a bit of an unexpected bill, we can usually manage better than having nothing set aside.

20130605_093925       20130605_093956       This is true of our time as well as money and preps. There are times to focus on yourself and realize that no one can do 100% by themselves and go at a full out pace 100% of the time. It is important to take time to step back every now and then, to let yourself recharge. Maybe not listen to the news for a few days – or maybe like myself you have a need to do some additional research and reorganizing in order to be better prepared.  I was fortunate enough to be gifted with a copy of a great old book that has a wealth of information on more stuff in one book than anyone can believe. In addition I worked on adding lots more information to my notebooks that I had reorganized into more easily navigated sections. My ultimate goal with my notebooks will be to develop a table of contents that helps with that process. One of the other projects was canning more food items. Let me discuss this in terms of time management. Actually this will also apply to managing expenses too!

It can be difficult to find time to spend a whole day or two or three to can foods for your pantry. We often need to do that as harvest time comes along and we have bumper crops of food that may or may not be available all year long. But often we have a lot less time free to spend in a kitchen all day. I have found that like this week it is better to find two or three hours available to do smaller projects instead. So this week I spent a couple hours making pickles. I didn’t go out and  buy 200 lbs. of cukes. Instead I took 15 pounds of cukes and made a couple smaller batches. No fuss and easy clean up while they were processing. I harvested a small batch of jalapeno peppers and made 2 pints of pickled peppers. In less tah a half hour I added to my food pantry. Jar by jar, pound by pound the shelves get filled and we have a sense of calm knowing we are adding to our “insurance”. All of this was done after work each day, taking only a small bite of time so that I was not overtired or overworked. While bread was baking one afternoon, we roasted a sheet pan of garlic at the same time. Ten minutes later we used a one cup food processor/blender to grind them and then added them to a cup of butter, stirred it all by hand a few moments and had a jar of roasted garlic butter at a fraction of the cost of buying a specialty butter. Butter is too dense to safely can so this jar is kept in the refrigerator to have handy to make garlic bread whenever the craving hits! We didn’t make 50 pounds of butter, just one that took less than 20 minutes from start to finish while cooking bread. Again a stress free project instead of creating more stress!

947017_4369356811099_1323457543_n 6877_4372135800572_641610236_n 810_4372121000202_2126808085_n

Remember all of this is to lessen stress, not increase it or overwhelm ourselves! Pick and choose what needs to be a priority versus what can be cut back on to manage time better. If it means stepping back and then stepping forward as I do with my writing, choose to do what works best in your life. Prepping should fit into your life as part of your habit, but not to the point of consuming you so that everything else gets ignored. If you end up with high blood pressure from stress, you won’t survive to need those preps. Have fun with what you do. If you don’t like to can, find other foods to put up. No one says you have to be the master at everything so find someone to share those tasks with. Maybe barter your sewing skills for some home canned foods if need be. Or perhaps you’re a mechanic who can barter for food storage. Be creative in ways to manage time and stress!