Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Live" Security

In prepper circles, the question of home security is one of the most discussed topics. Many home security systems require electricity to run and when the power goes out, you will be left with only a few hours of battery power to run your system.

Dogs offer both pre and post SHTF security. Having a dog or two will keep prying eyes away from your preps and deter those who would be interested in your supplies after a disaster.
But not every dog is an ideal watcher. Tiny purse dogs are usually great for alarm systems, making lots of noise when an intruder is near, but does little to actually deter anyone. On the other hand overly large dogs can be a burden to feed and require lots of space to run around.

A properly trained, medium to large dog will do wonders for security and OPSEC. Training is not always easy, and unless you have experience with canines and LOTS of time, you may want to consider professional help. There are many people who will spew rhetoric about so called aggressive breeds. I for one do not believe that a pit bull is automatically a vicious animal. Raised properly from a young age, these breeds can be as cute and cuddly as any other dog. However, these myths can work to your advantage. The mere sight of a doberman can send chills down the spine of the most determined would be intruder, even if it is the most gentle thing on the block.

There are concerns to be considered however, such as fencing in your property, as a loose dog can be a liability should it attack another animal or person. Dogs require constant supervision, just like infants, and can also restrict travel or vacation time. Also, proper veterinary care on a regular basis will add to the costs for vaccinations and other health issues that can arise.

Having pets is a big responsibility, but the rewards in the form of loyal companionship as well as home security that doesn't fail in a grid down situation can be priceless.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fruit For Your Home Garden

Many of us grow at least some of our own produce. Summer gardens can produce enough veggies to feed us through the season and perhaps even enough to put some up for the winter. Tomatoes, beans, squash, corn, and greens are common veggies grown in our back yards, but have you thought about fruit trees? Apples, pears, peaches and plums will grow very well in many parts of the country. Berries such as raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries also grow well here.

The home orchard need not take up a large space. A few trees of each variety can keep a family fed with fresh, nutritious fruit throughout the season and up to a month after if stored properly. Also, fruit can be easily canned and kept for use through the winter. Some planning is needed though, as trees can take up to 5 years after being transplanted from the nursery to produce good quality fruit. Talk to your local grower to find trees that will do well in your hardiness zone. Also, make sure to educate yourself as to what pollination your trees require, as many are not self pollinating, and require other trees to produce fruit.

Not to be forgotten is the variety of berries that will do well in Canada. Raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are among the more popular ones that will be great for freezing raw or making batches of yummy jams & jellies, which are also easily canned in the home for year round use.

Fruit should not be forgotten or dismissed as part of your home garden. Easy home canning and the minimal space needed for a few trees or bushes, make a home orchard an ideal way to supply your family with nutritious, vitamin packed goodness that will pay for itself in little time and effort.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Maple Syrup - Natures Sugar Substitute

On a recent trip to my local country hardware store, I noticed that the maple syrup tapping supplies have come to the shelves. For those of us who strive to be as self reliant as possible, tapping a few maple trees can be a great way to put up some sugar. Maple syrup is a fantastic sugar replacement when baking, not to mention a fantastic treat on pancakes or ice cream.

The process of tapping trees & boiling down the sap really isn't that hard. The real issue is the volume of sap needed to get to useable syrup. The average tree will produce you enough sap to make about a pint or so of syrup during the entire season. Trees with a diameter of less than 10 inches should not be tapped and those with a diameter of more than 16 inches can be tapped twice. Many maple producers now advocate no more than 2 taps per tree, although very large maples were regularly taped as many as 4 times in the past.

The actual taps are relatively inexpensive. I recommend metal taps as opposed to the new plastic types for durability. Metal taps with a good enough quality for the average home producer can be found for less than $2.00. I would suggest tapping at least a dozen trees to make it worth while. Of course, I would also suggest buying more taps than you use to have some spares on hand for future tapping of more trees or replacement of broken taps.

To tap a tree, simply drill a 5/16" hole about 2" deep at an ever so slightly upward angle, at about 2' from the ground. Next, lightly pound your tap into the hole with the spout out and downward. After that, hang a bucket on the hook that is attached to the tap, cover and wait for the sap to pour out. Actually, it doesn't pour, but drips. A 2 gallon bucket may take about a day to fill, faster if the conditions are perfect. You can buy sap buckets where you bought the taps, but I like to use 2 gallon buckets that I get from the local grocery store bakery. I simply cut a hole in the lid for the sap to drip into and hang it on the hook.

Tap your trees in the spring when the temperatures hit 5 or 6 deg. cel. in the day and below freezing at night. Daily make the tour of your tapped trees to collect the sap into one or more 5 gallon buckets. Next will be the boiling down process, which although simple enough, there are a few things you need to watch out for.

You will need a pot large enough to boil in. You can also purchase a boiling pan, but any stock pot not made of aluminum will do. Next, add heat, lots and lots of gentle heat over a long period of time. Boiling your sap into syrup will take several hours. The first few hours, you are only boiling off water, so not much attention is needed. After the water is nearly gone however, you need to start paying attention a bit more. A thick, white foam will appear on the surface which must be skimmed off a discarded. At this point, your syrup may have a tendancy to boil up or even over. To avoid this, you can lower the heat a bit or add a drop of cream. Keep a candy thermometer in the syrup and when it hits 219 deg.F...voila! For those of us at higher altitudes, add 1 deg. for every 500ft. above sea level. Be careful not to over boil your syrup, boiling too long can quickly spoil your batch. Better to under do it a bit than over do it.

Pouring hot syrup into hot, sterilized mason jars and sealing them should keep your syrup for many months. You can use maple syrup in baking breads, muffins, and all sorts of recipes, thus reducing your dependancy on store bought, refined sugar.