Saturday, December 24, 2011

Best Wishes

I just wanted to take a moment to wish you all the very best during the holiday season. Since this site was revitalized in the spring, interest has grown and participation has skyrocketed.
A very special thanks goes out to all the contributers that have made this possible...

Ancient Dragon
The Real Tabby

You have all helped bring this site back to an active status, and therefore, help spread the word about preparedness and self reliance.

Of course, this would all be for nothing without you, our faithful readers.

Also, not to be forgotten is Dwight from Briden Solutions, who has directed many people to this blog as well as the forum.

Last, but certainly not least is North Idaho Patriot. Without him, all this would not be possible.

So to all of you, authors, readers, and creators...

Merry Christmas, and all the best to you and your families.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Saving Money with Homemade Laundry Soap

Saving money is most times easier than making it and I have found a way to save LOTS of money. In our home we seem to have mountains of laundry to be done but my honest first thought when I heard about making my own soap was - all I need is one-more-thing-to-do...was the extra work going to be worth it?

I decided to give it a try for several reasons. The first was my ongoing struggle with allergies. I seem to be allergic to the strangest things and at times have a wallop of an attack. Life with allergies is no fun so over the years I have looked at nearly everything I come into contact with to see if there was some way I could mitigate the allergic response. The second reason is financial - we seemed to be constantly buying or running out of laundry soap. Even though the cheapest brands weren't always satisfactory they seemed to give me less of an allergic response than the big name brands perhaps because there was less scent. Homemade laundry soap has very little scent to it except clean. The third reason is storage which I will explain in a moment.

Making your own laundry soap might seem like something super-homesteading-large-family-enviromental-frugal people do. Well - perhaps - but it's so simple it doesn't matter what your reasons are - this stuff is fantastic and inexpensive and doesn't make me itch or sneeze (except when grating the soap!) and it super-simple-easy to make and it can be used in a HD washing machine because of the minimual amount of suds AND does a great job of cleaning your clothes!

Here's what to do:
In a large pot on the stove combine:
about 8 cups of water
1 bar of Linda laundry soap grated
1 cup Borax
1 cup washing soda
All these items are easily found in most grocery store laundry aisles - you've probably just not been looking for them.

I use a pot that is exclusively used for making laundry soap - use an old one or buy on at a thrift store. some people say this is not necessary if you clean the pot out really well after you make it - you decide. I also use a dollar store grater for grating the Linda soap - it's hard to clean afterwards so don't use it for food!

Over low heat and stirring often mix the contents until they are completely dissolved for about 20 minutes.Leaving it on the stove longer won't hurt it - but any shorter and you may not have it completely dissolved.

Add this mixture to a 5 gallon pail and fill the pail till about 2/3 full with hot water. That doesn't sound very exact and that is because it doesn't seem to need to be. Stir using a whisk, immersion blender or a hand mixer - whatever you have. It should turn into a gel by the next day when it cools completely or it may look a bit watery like cottage cheese but either way it cleans your clothes very well. You can re-blend it if it bothers you. That's all there is to it!

Use about 1/16 cup - a heaping tablespoon for the more visual among us - I have a small plastic scoop beside the bucket. If the clothes are particularly greasy or dirty use a little more.

The cost is approx. .05c a load by my last calculations.A pail like that lasts us at least three months (that of course depends on how many loads your family does each month)

How does it save money???

Linda soap bar: $1.49 a bar
2kg. Borax: less than $5.00 (8.5 recipes)
3 kg. Washing soda: less than $5.00 for 13 recipes

But think about this... if you bought:
13 bars of soap $20.00
2 boxes Borax $10.00
1 box Washing soda $5.00
For a total of less than $35.00 you could make the recipe 13 times which would be enough for more than 3 years (39 months to be exact!)
That's less than $1.00 a month..

Can you see why I love this stuff! We've been using homemade laundry soap for 5 or 6 years and I wouldn't switch back for any reason. Frugal. Practical. Simple.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Staying Motivated & Moving forward

My DH and I have a fair bit on our plates like most other people. We live out here in heaven with animals to care for and 10 acres & a 150 year old home to look after but there are also the realities of working from home (that's the business that makes the money so we can live on the farm), family - including more than a few semi-grown-up young adults - friends, church activities, prepping and more. Life at warp speed is complicated without some way of keeping on top of things.

I was finding that we were having a hard time focussing on what needed to be done next, what needed to be purchased next and what we could do ourselves and where we needed to hire some help. Somehow moving out to the country also added the pressure of the seasons to our lives in a way we had not experienced before...consequently we also needed to find time for some rest in our crazy schedule. It was certainly no fun to be doing everything at the last minute under pressure when it HAD to be done or missing opportunities because we didn't plan ahead.

I am blessed to be married to my best friend and abundantly blessed that we are both headed in the same mental direction the majority of the time - if you knew my DH some would say the direction of the crazy-train. Even so the following has helped our marriage to become even stronger and reduced the frustration of unmet expectations of the Honey-Do list.

I'm the nerd of the family. I love lists and I am pretty organized so since it was bothering ME that we were not getting as much done as I thought we could I developed a series of LISTS.

The first is anything and everything to do with our business which we run from our home.

The second is our finances and purchases.

The third what needed to be done around the farm and in what order.

The fourth our living healthy goals - family relationships, eating well, exercise and rest.

The fifth the part time/fulltime job we have working with teenagers and young adults.

These 5 major areas encompass almost everything we do even though life rarely fits neatly into catagories.

Along with these lists I learned two lessons a few years ago that have become the boundary lines that frame the HOW-TO part of what we call the Priority Meetings.

The first lesson I call the Lesson of the Green Fence. When we lived in town we had a short section of fencing that ran between our house and the neighbours at the end of the driveway. It needed staining. It had needed staining for several years. I got around to buying the green stain one summer but winter was here before we got the job done. I was too busy discussing how I would do it and which brush I needed. I was concerned about the weather being right and the time it would take to dry. I talked about that fence a lot. For a long time. For at least a year and a half. One bright sunny day I FINALLY talked my daughter into helping me stain the fence. In 20 minutes we were done - that's all it took. I had pondered and worried and talked about the fence 10x longer than it actually took to do the job. Lesson 1: Seriously - Just Paint the Fence! Whatever job you have on your list won't get done by staring at it and mulling it over and over. Good planning is essential of course but there's a point where it becomes analysis paralysis which can prevent you from moving forward at all.

The second lesson I call the Lesson of the Red Couch. We were redecorating the family room in our old home. It was a very tiny room so there wasn't room for much in there but we replaced the flooring and were ready to put the old and sad looking TV stand back into the room and purchase a new couch. Everything was going according to plan when when I found THE TV cabinet. It was the perfect color and size and style and it was ON-SALE. The problem was it was going to eat up the entire budget for the room AKA the new couch. I made the VERY WISE and MATURE decision to buy the cabinet anyway. Our puppy had destroyed the couch so we had already taken it to the dump anticipating it's replacement but we would just sit on the floor… it would be fine... Well that lasted about two weeks. It was a really dumb idea and very uncomfortable! I had previously picked out the couch I wanted. It was the most beautiful couch I had ever anticipated buying. I had sat on it numerous times. It was RED. (If you know me at all you would know that was the deciding factor!) It was also a pullout bed so it made good-practical-sense as well. It was also expensive...and there was no way to squeeze that much money out of the grocery budget any time soon. So we went to the furniture store (the one that has the huge headlines and colorful flyer) and bought the front-page-on-sale-special-pricing brown couch. It was cheap. It IS uncomfortable - almost as bad as the floor. I HATE it. Being a practical girl I can't buy another couch - I have a perfectly good uncomfortable couch. I'm stuck with it until I can foist it off on one of my kids when they leave home - that would assuage my practical-but-guilty conscience and allow me to buy another one but not until then. I still walk by that red couch on occasion. I shoulda waited. Lesson 2: Wait for the red couch! Quality is worth the extra money. Waiting is an exercise of self-control and worth it every time!

We then chose Monday nights to conduct our PRIORITY MEETINGS. Each week we cover these 5 topics as best we can and make a detailed plan of what were doing that week and how to keep all the "balls in the air". We use the previous list and update and print it so we both can have a copy on our desks for reference. We were both surprised at how much of a difference this made in our productivity. It reduced stress too and that has been good motivation to continue meeting and discussing.The fact that we make these date nights on occasion and head for a local coffee shop is a great help as well. A bit of advice: if you choose to try-this-at-home -start small. Somehow on Monday nights you feel like you will be able to accomplish much more than is realistic and by Friday that becomes apparent when you need to reside the garage, hoe (by hand) the back 40, stack a years supply of hay in the barn and provide dinner for 53 guests all on Saturday night.

My list doesn't seem to get any shorter but we're getting a lot of it done. Looking back over the year and a half we've been here we've actually accomplished a lot but most of it is quickly forgotten until Mr. Farmer the Previous Owner shows up to exclaim (or perhaps shed a few tears) over all the changes and progress we've made.

Communicating about our goals means I know where we're at with our finances, what I need to save for and buy, what's going on this week with the business or the kids and what needs to get done. I have a list - so now it's time to get off my uncomfortable brown couch and go out and paint another fence!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

OPSEC when Moving

Moving is really on my mind because I'm moving in 10 days. What am I forgetting?  Oh yeah, I still have to PACK!!!

Packing aside, a recent concern of mine is OPSEC.  As economic issues in the world seem to be coming to a head, I wonder if the time is near when my preps will become a necessity instead of an eccentricity.  I don't want to compromise my supplies by allowing them to become public knowledge.

I'm using a moving company this time around.  This brings a new concern to the table.  If they are hauling hampers full of canned goods and going into my storage room to lug boxes, what are the chances they are going to remember that room when there is no food to be found?  Moving hundreds of pounds of canned foods is bound to make an impression!

However, I have an evil plan.   Using my love for hiding things in plain sight, I'm going to box up my food stores and mark them in secret code.  Shhh....I'll let you use my secret decoder ring!

BABY BOOKS:  Canned vegetables, spaghetti sauce
BABY TOYS:  Canned and dried fruits
BABY CLOTHES:  Dried goods like pasta and dry cereal
CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS: Baking supplies and flour
HALLOWEEN DECORATIONS: Juices and drink mixes

You get the drift. 

In fact, I liked this idea so much, I decided to incorporate it into OPSEC for the new house!  Imagine you have a repairman poking around the basement to fix your furnace.  Is he going to give a second glance to box after box of baby stuff and holiday decorations?

Besides my supply of food, I have enough water stored to last us for a month.  For those of you doing the math, that is 110 gallons of water.  Divide that into 2 litre bottles and you have...................190 two litre bottles and 6 five gallon jugs. LOTSA WATER!!!

Clearly, I'm not paying someone to lug all that water over there.  I feel terrible about dumping it, but I'm going to empty my 2 liter bottles into the tub and throw them into a big garbage bag.  Okay, a few big garbage bags.  Once we get moved and everyone is gone, I will refill them again.  I'm going to put them one deep at the back of the storage shelves and put boxes in front of them.  It took so long to collect that many bottles, I don't want to start all over again despite the fact that I really love Diet Coke.

Other prepping items are less likely to draw attention.  Camping supplies are simply camping supplies, candles will be in a box and so will extra batteries, etc.  I'm not too concerned that somebody will covet my 27 bottles of shampoo or my 60 bars of Ivory soap. 

Have you ever had to move your preps?  What did you do to camouflage your supplies?  Do you do anything to disguise your storage in your home?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cholera, Anyone?

Although we all dream of a lovely cabin in the remote Northern woods, tucked in beside a bubbling stream and surrounded by trees as far as the eye can see, this isn't realistic for most of us. One of my pet prepping topics is "bugging in."  For those of us without the resources to pick up and move full time to our retreat, that can be the best option in many scenarios.

As a single mama with two lovely teenage daughters, the last thing in the world I plan to do is take off on foot to destinations unknown with the rest of the golden horde.  We plan to hunker down and hide out in plain sight.

We live in a city of around 100,000 people in Southern Ontario. While that is not ideal in terms of population, it's what we have to work with. So the question is, with weapons strictly monitored in Canada, how do you make your house the least inviting one on the block?

Take a moment to consider the humble "Quarantine" sign. How can a simple typed piece of paper strike fear into the heart of the most hardened and well-armed criminal? Just invoke the power of a deadly virus.  Very few people could want what the house contains enough to enter a place that is restricted due to quarantine.

For all intents and purposes, my home could be host to H1N1, cholera, dysentery, measles, smallpox or even a biological contagion like Anthrax.  I've included some photos that I found on the internet but feel free to do your own Google search.

I've printed off a number of different signs and have them filed neatly away in my office.  It's important to use something that is realistic to the crisis at hand.  If sanitation or flooding is an issue, water-borne illnesses like Cholera are realistic. During a pandemic, go with the disease at hand.  During times of civil unrest a biological contaminant is far more likely, including radiation, small pox or anthrax.

I have signs related to specific issues and simple generic"Contagious Disease Present" signs.  I have signs with the Ministry of Health insignia, the CDC logo and the FEMA seal, ready to be affixed to all of the entrances to the house.  Keep your curtains drawn and black out your windows with heavy plastic to keep curious eyes from looking in and seeing you and your family looking perfectly healthy.  FEMA condemnation signs are usually printed on red paper.  Police tape (easily acquired at Halloween) is a nice touch.  FEMA also spray paints symbols on houses during searches to warn people to stay away.  Keep your family members indoors and lay low until the situation improves.

What horrible diseases sound realistic to you? Do you have other strategies for making your home undesirable to criminals if the SHTF?  Are there some diseases that you feel people would risk to access your home and possibly find provisions?

Remember, the fight that you avoid is the fight that you win.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Urban Chickens

The Cost of My Education

When I was in high school I was a mostly average student except in Math - were I was a complete dunce. My grade nine advanced math teacher gave me and F+ - the plus for trying really hard and still not getting it. Having to go through life and not understanding the intricacies of higher math didn't really impact me at that stage of my daily life - and I have so far managed without it more or less. Practical math was more my forte - but then again - you be the judge.

My DH and I have a philosophy in life. We are of the mind that a non-traditional financial educational system can be very effective. Some people have another name for our philosophy - they call it paying Stupid Tax. We've paid stupid tax many times over our lives and this was no exception - perhaps we should have had a little more input from a professional about building the coop...

Our first chicken coop was some mathematical equation that reversed all the known rules of our Universe or at least everything we had ever learned up to that point in our lives about financial wisdom. On the whole we're a frugal bunch but somehow it all went out the window when it came to housing the girls. I'm sure it was OK/LM x BH=UCC which means Overkill over Lots of Money x Big Headaches = Ultimate Chicken Coop

Our chicken coop was amazing! We started out with our children's playhouse (long outgrown) and turned it into the Most Expensive Backyard Chicken Coop on the planet. It had to be perfect. I didn't want my chickens to live in squalor - they were going to live in a Fort Knox safe, Martha Stewart organized, Better Homes and Gardens beautiful coop. Oh it certainly was.. We designed and painted and fiddled and had Handyman Lew come and make changes till we got it perfect. We even laid sod in the covered outdoor run. It looked so cute and adorable…

...until our 6 red sex link chickens arrived. Darn things pooped everywhere and ate the grass down to mud in less than two weeks. It seems they were much less concerned about looks than I was. I'm not sure that they appreciated anything since they are rather bird-brained. They just pecked and scratched and did chicken-stuff while making some quiet clucking sounds now and then and a few loud squawks when laying eggs.

We worried about them being cold over the winter. DH won't admit this in public but he woke me up several times on cold and blustery nights just to ask if I thought the chickens were warm enough. My sleepy and half coherent reply probably went something like - if you are so concerned why don't YOU go an check on them and LET-ME-SLEEP! Ok - I worried too - a little. But I had been reassured by many others online that they would be fine even in sub-zero weather and it seems they were.

Our coop was not insulated but it was small enough that the body heat of the six girls did add up to raise the temperature a few degrees from the outside. Of course without the wind it really wasn't unpleasant at all but then again the hens declined to give me written statements. We installed vents near the roofline to deal with the "fumes" and in nice weather we left the windows - which were covered with hardware cloth - open. Air quality is of great concern for birds. A dry and reasonably well ventilated space is more important than a closed up tight and warm one. One of the challenges of any chicken farmer is keeping the water from freezing. We used the simplest method - we had two waterers and brought one in to defrost and fill while the other was in the coop. We changed out the water several times a day if it was super cold but usually once a day was enough in good weather.

The outdoor run caused us the most trouble. We built it to withstand an army. We went overkill on the size of the wood we used but it was good and sturdy - you could walk on the joists. We used hardware cloth - not chicken wire which is far too flimsy and not enough to withstand an attack by raccoon or neighbourhood dog. We also added polycarbonite panels to the roof so the run wouldn't get so muddy in the rain - that was a luxury I'm not sure was worth the money. We made one huge design flaw that we were unable to fix and that was the height of the run. It matched up to the roofline but it was a very VERY unpleasant job to clean out the run while bent over - make the run at least 6 feet tall!

For the record we used chicken egg layer pellets from our local co-op store for feed. That's pellets instead of crumbs - much less waste with the larger pellets. I am in the process of finding a more sustainable feed option but it has been problematic for several reasons I won't go into right now. At that point I was more concerned with learning how the whole farming process worked while not killing the chickens with my lack of knowledge. Time for getting creative comes with some more experience.

Starting out with any new project means there needs to be some money involved. I consider it money well spent when I learn from the challenges and mistakes I've made. When I added up the expenses and divided by the number of eggs we got in the one year the coop was in use I think the eggs came out to about $6.00 a piece. A great deal don't you think when you consider it also made a chicken farmer out of me and that was priceless!

Continue this conversation and ask your chicken questions by checking out the Canadian Preppers Network forum thread at

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Monkey See...Monkey Do?

Well, in my morning surf through my FB lists I came across an interesting video. Since I tend to prefer focusing on skills and general knowledge type stuff, initially I didn't really think too much of it. Perhaps its a little more of a "cry wolf" thing, maybe the gent in the video is a little more of a flag waver than most.

But as I puttered through my morning routine I was mulling over the information that this man had presented in his video. As much as I dearly love my American cousins and best friends, I do believe that Americans in general can be rather excitable. They get all up in arms and in a twist over things that Canadians tend to ignore. For instance, the pepper-spray incident to get at a good deal on Black Friday. I can't really see a Canadian shopper doing something along that line. It has been said that Canadians are like Vichyssoise...cold, half french and hard to stir.

This can be a good thing...or a bad thing. In this particular case, I'm going to say that our politeness and lack of excitability is going to prove a downfall. As many of us are aware, our illustrious government is more or less UP the *@! of the US government. What goes on in the south, does tend to spill over by way of convenient legislation into our backyards whether we like it or not.

Based on the definitions used in the current piece of legislation noted in the video, every farmer that's ever lost a finger to an auger is a potential threat. Every housewife with an impressive storage room - potential threat. Every hunter smart enough to weather protect his ammunition - potential threat. All of which could be arrested and detained without cause, trial or due process.

Take a few minutes (nine, to be exact), watch the video and then post your thoughts...I would dearly love to hear everyone's take on this little bit of news that is quietly avoiding the mainstream media.

Terrorist Preppers, Total Police State, All of America Declared a Battlefield

Thoughts would be appreciated!

Rational, Positive, Creative

Monday, November 28, 2011

No man is an island...

I was considering what a typical prepper family might look like and I couldn't really come up with an answer.  I suppose if there was one we-wouldn't-be-it.  All I know is that I have no illusions about being an independent survivalist happily living in the back woods eating squirrels and sleeping in a lean-to.  I'm not even preparing for that and I LIKE camping.

We're here for better or for worse and so we're going to make the best of it. 

My DH has Muscular Dystrophy.  He's mobile but hindered by his condition.  I live with diabetes.  My son has a learning disability.  We've all learned to adapt to our collective situation.  My DH cuts down trees sitting in a lawn chair.  He has a most awesome cane made out of shovel handle that he uses for wandering the back paddock and getting around the farm.  My son and I have learned to rely on each other to handle everything from lugging heavy bags of feed  (which I could hardly do last year - this year=muscles!) or chasing wayward animals back into their pens. That means the big lifting jobs and chores are left to my son and I and any extra kids I can rope into coming over to stay for awhile and help out (thanks to Jacquie, Sarah, Danny and Courtney who helped out in the past few weeks!) Some of my own kids are married and moved out, some are away at school so even though I am prepping for a crowd most of the time it's-just-the-three-or-four-of-us. 

I am preparing to live in community.  I know that regardless of what happens in the future the answer is to be part of a community.  I have a relationship with Rebecca the sheep shearer, Lew our handyman, Karen the donkey farrier, Dale the electric fence guy, my mail carriers Cathy and Dolly, my many and assorted country neighbours, farming cousins, church members, city friends, friends online and my immediate family.  I will never be an island.  I would be bored silly and I'd have to start talking to myself (oh- I already do that!). 

I wonder sometimes if life would be simpler without all this community fuss.  It means learning to communicate and have boundaries.  It means accommodating people and dealing with problems when things don't go as planned.  It means putting up with extra laundry, more mouths to feed, different sleep schedules, different personalities...and dirty socks on the living room floor.  Deep down I know it's worth the effort but when I'm texting SHUT UP AND GO TO BED  at 1am to my teenage house guests I have a few doubts - smile.  In reality this IS life and it's exactly the one I want. 

I don't know how to do everything but almost certainly one of my friends does.  They aren't even necessarily preppers...yet. We help each other.  I can be a listening ear or a answer to a canning question for a friend.  They rewire my barn, help move heavy animal feeders or take my extra pumpkins (those are extra good friends!) 

Who do you lean on?  Are you in danger of becoming an island?  No one can do it all even in the best of health. Reach out and start building community today.  It will enrich your life now and most definitely be a blessing in the future whatever it brings.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Canadian Preppers Wanted For Documentary

I have met with some people who want to make a documentary about preppers. Their idea seems to be more of one that will focus on teaching and less "radicalism" than some of the other shows that have been produced. Opsec can be addressed as they are very aware of preppers' concerns.
If you may be interested, or know of someone who may be, please let me know using the email link below, and I can give you their contact details.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mistakes I've made...

Before our big move to the country I did a lot of reading. I read every book I could get my hands on that had anything to do with homesteading, hobby farming, livestock animals, self sufficiency etc. because I wanted to learn as much as I could to avoid the painful learning curve I knew was coming when we finally got here. I have shelves of books, stacks of books and piles of books falling off my desk. Well- it helped - a little bit…but none of it completely prepared me for our very own reality.

I had read many times that book learnin' and actual real life 'perience were two different things. Now I know it to be truth by my own hard-won experience. 
I did so many things wrong. Some things went wrong despite my best intentions and sometimes I just didn't think things all the way through. Thankfully no animals were harmed in the making of this farmer. 
Chickens got left outside the coop at night.
The sheep and the donkey got loose more times than I can count.
I fed the ducks chicken-feed because I was told it was almost the same - one duck got crook neck but later recovered.

We closed up the chicken coop nice and tight so the girls would be warm and nearly killed them with kindness from the ammonia.
We lugged water from the basement for 33 hours in the rainy springtime because we didn't buy a generator as soon as we should have.

My blooper list goes on and on.

I've also had to get over the fact that I can't control everything - well that was a surprise! Animals died from unknown causes. Raccoons broke into the feed room and ate us out of house and barn. The eavestrough 30 feet above our heads sprung a major leak right above the main entrance to the barn creating our very own outdoor shower. I asked a neighbour to find me a few heritage breed chicks and he came home with thirty - that was my mistake because I shoulda clarified "a couple".

But I have had more successes than I deserve for only being at this for a year and a half. My garden didn't do too badly but I have my first List-of-things-I-will-do-differently-next-year. I learned how to install electric fence to keep in the escapees. I learned how not to wrestle sheep and donkeys - they follow the shepherd just like the Bible says. I learned to count the chickens before I shut up the coop for the night. I've learned the different sounds of contented animals and the ones that make me drop everything and run to see what the problem is. I've learned how to deal with pressure tanks, sump pumps, water softeners, wells and lots and lots of chicken poop.

There is no book on earth that can teach you everything I've learned in the past year and a half and I am no where near done learning. You just have to dive into your own experience - whatever it brings - and learn to live with the fact that you're human and you will make mistakes.

Don't wait till the last minute - till things really count. Make your mistakes now when it's not the end of the world. Figure out how the kerosene heater works now. Get backyard chickens. Start gardening and canning now. Store food.

...and hurry up and make some mistakes before I cover them all by myself!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Skillz.....who's up for a challenge??

I suppose to a certain degree, knowledge really is one thing you really can't have TOO much of.

Preppers, survivalists, nut-jobs, call us what you will...there really is much to be said on the topic of knowledge, skills, tips and tricks and so forth. However, this all having been said, and having spent too many hours surfing around here and there looking for unique ideas on what to write about it all comes down to one thing. Can you DO it? This in turn brought me to the notion of "oh hell, I have no clue".

I was reading through an article this morning on cob ovens. Wow, I thought, what a cool idea! Then I glanced out the window at our rapidly settling (and world famous) Saskatchewan winter and thought - wow! That would really SUCK! I would really hate to try baking bread outdoors at -40.

Some of the cob ovens that I looked at were simply amazing works of art! Some were sculpted into fantastical creatures, others were simple bake ovens. This particular one caught my attention! Untold hours of tile setting went into this one. It's quite beautiful.

Items such as these would only really be applicable if your SHTF plans happen to include bugging out to a predetermined location with supplies and shelter waiting. To my mind, having the "location B" in place is simply logical. Having an oven such as this on-site would be a really good idea, for at least three seasons anyway.

Back to the original problem of winter. Winter survival is rather an issue in climates such as ours. Temperatures can hit -40 in the blink of an eye and the Girl Guides will still go door to door selling cookies. If one had to get by in a slightly more remote (or rural) location, then combining the notion of cooking as well as central heat may just be a REALLY good idea.

So, alternatives, anyone?

I surfed and dug and could NOT find anything that looked even remotely suitable. I found a few photos of cob-style ovens installed in houses, but for the most part they were small and yuppie-like devices.

Does anyone know where we could find a more practical option??

Ideally, the device would have a cooking grill or flat iron surface on which to use pots and other standard cooking items as well as the oven itself.

I found a number of large "outdoor kitchen" type of installations. Wildwood Ovens has a nifty selection of kit-like ovens. But they appear to be more of an outdoor installation or a smaller novelty type of oven. I doubt they would really suffice for a heating/cooking option during the LONG winters around here.

I would be VERY interested to see if anyone out there: 1) actually reads some of my silly ramblings or 2) knows of, or knows who, uses a cob style of oven for heat AND cooking.

I think it would be a really good idea to add a little of this type of building to my skillz portfolio!

Rational, positive, creative - pizza is no exception!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

No Yeast? No Problem...Try Sourdough

So what happens when SHTF and you run out of yeast? Well there is yeast in the air we breathe all around us as well as in the flour we use to bake bread. All you need to do is set out a bowl of food to capture and grow it. This is called sourdough. To make sourdough bread, you need a sourdough starter.

Here is what you will need...



A glass bowl to keep it in...clear glass with a lid will be best as you can use this to keep your starter in.

Yup, that’s it.

In your bowl, mix

· ½ cup flour

· ½ cup water

Day 1

Combine the flour and water in the container until all the flour has been absorbed and there are no more dry particles. It will look like a sticky, thick dough. Scrape down the sides and cover. Put the container somewhere with a consistent room temperature (like the top of the refrigerator) and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 2

· ½ cup flour

· ½ cup water

Your starter should be fairly thick and soupy. You may see a few small bubbles here and there. This is good! The bubbles mean that wild yeast from the air and the flour itself have started making themselves at home in your starter. They will eat the sugars in the the flour and release carbon dioxide (the bubbles) and alcohol. They will also increase the acidity of the mixture, preventing other "bad" microbes from growing.

Add the fresh water and flour. Stir vigorously to combine everything and incorporate more oxygen into the mixture. Scrape down the sides, cover, and let it sit for 24 hours.

Day 3

· ½ cup flour

· ½ cup water

By day three, your starter should be getting nice and bubbly (see below), be the consistency of pancake batter, and have roughly doubled in size. If you taste a little (Go on! Try it!), the mixture should make your mouth pucker with sour and vinegar flavors. It will also smell musty and fermented, a bit like grain alcohol.

Go ahead and mix in the fresh ingredients as with Day 2, cover, and let sit for 24-hours.

Day 4

Repeat day 3.

Day 5

By day 5 (or even day 4) your starter will be ripe and ready to use. The surface will look frothy and fermented (see below), and if you've been using a clear container, you can see an intricate network of bubbles when you hold it up. It will smell and taste very pungent and tangy like, well, concentrated sourdough!

At this point, your sourdough is ready to be used, or you can cover and store it in the fridge for up to one week. After a week, you'll need to refresh the starter by taking out a cup or so of starter (to use or discard) and then "feeding" it with 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of filtered water. Likewise, after using some of your starter in a recipe, you can replenish what's left with equal parts flour and water.

Starter will keep indefinitely as long as you feed it every week or so. Treat it like a household plant that needs to be watered and fertilized regularly. It's very hardy and will even perk back up with a few daily feedings if you've neglected it too long. If a clear liquid forms on the top, just stir it in (this is actually alcohol from the wild yeast). The only time you should throw away the starter completely is if that liquid has a pinkish hue, which indicates that the starter has spoiled.

To use your starter, simply replace ½ cup flour and ½ cup water in your favorite recipe for 1 cup of starter and forget about the yeast. Then, replace the used starter with ½ cup four and ½ cup water to keep it up.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hello from Ontario

I live on a farm.  When I read those words a few years ago I would be awash with a longing that almost hurt.  I wanted to be able to say that!  Now I can. 

Self-discipline is remembering what you really want.  That was the mindset that got us from the city to the country - we had a goal in mind and we kept working towards it - little by little every day.  We have been preppers for 8 or 9 years now - slowly coming to the conclusion that life as we knew it was perhaps not even the life we wanted.  It sure didn't have much in the way of security.  If the power went out I figured we had about 6 hours in the winter and we'd be forced to leave our home.  Never mind the lack of lights and the freezer defrosting.  We came up with ways to avoid most of those issues temporarily but the longing remained to have a place to call our own where we could live more self sufficiently.  It was many small decisions and steps that got us from that place to this place and there's many steps to go before this place is all that we dream it can be.

I live with my family on a small farm surrounded by conservation lands.  We raise chickens, ducks for meat and eggs and sheep.  We also have a donkey, 6 barn cats and a spoiled city dog. 

Life here is an amazing adventure of FINALLYS.  We finally had room for a huge garden - that had lots of weeds in it this summer but actually produced quite well.  We could finally have more animals than the 6 urban chickens of our city life.  We could finally sit in our "backyard" and hear - silence...  We could finally run out of the house in our pjs to feed the cats or get the mail!  Well - it doesn't take much to make me happy!

I hope to share some of my adventures with you in the coming weeks.  From food storage and canning to backyard chickens and beyond.  I'm not an expert  - just someone who loves to learn and happily lives on a farm.