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Basics of Earthbag Buildings

In my search for alternative housing construction methods, I came across this website: http://www.earthbagbuilding.com/ which presented a method that had never crossed my mind!

Basically, it's using sand bags (not necessarily filled with sand) to build a structure. Instead of using the old timey burlap bags, you use Polypropylene bags or tubes that are durable, won't rot and are super strong. They are either the rectangle that you're familiar with, or tubes that are long and thin, like snakes. Easy to mold into your pattern, plus, these bags are actually quite cheap (you'd need to calculate how many to get and buy in bulk - probably - with needing extra - probably).

You fill these bags with sand, gravel, rice hulls, or whatever else you have. Your local gravel and sand place might have "reject sand" which is sand that doesn't meet their standards. It's possible to get it for just a buck or two per ton (plus, of course, delivery fees). Especially good would be to dig your hole for your new home, and use that dirt to fill your bags. Then you stack the bags a certain way (the above noted website has pictures). Looks like domes are the best way to go.

You would still want to create interior walls, and add some kind of stucco or siding to the outside to weather-proof and bug-proof but this still looks like a really smart alternative.

Here are some links I found on the above site of people's stories:
-http://www.earthbagbuilding.com/projects/hermit.htm
-http://www.earthbagbuilding.com/projects/kiva.htm
-http://www.earthbagbuilding.com/articles/honeyhouse.htm
-http://www.earthbagbuilding.com/projects/earthdomehouse.htm
-http://www.earthbagbuilding.com/projects/angel.htm
-http://www.earthbagbuilding.com/projects/hut.htm

I can't wait to try this out! Okay, I'll have to wait... until we get our homestead, but still... amazing!

Does anyone have experience using this method?

What Do You Tell People?

You have boxes of storange/dried foods mailed to your home. Twice a week you bring lots of bags into the house from the dollar store or grocery or camping store. Friends and neighbors walk to your house to see boxes and storage buckets neatly labeled "peas", "sugar", "rice", "first aid". You practice regularly at the range. You attend gun and ammo shows every chance you get. You order special supplies over the internet. You subscribe and have delivered to your home several militant magazines. You have a warren of rabbits and cages full of "quiet" quail that increase and decrease on a regular basis.

What do you tell people?

That you're planning for the end of the world? For the s*** to hit the fan? For earth changes? For the next blizzard or earthquake or flood?

Yeah, right.

If you tell them all or any of that, chances are they'll be the first people on your doorstep when anything hits the fan. Gas prices go up again? They'll be 'round asking for a couple of gallons from your big reservoir that you'll never miss. Grocery store has a run on bread and milk just before a storm? Hi... can we borrow some bread, milk, meat and rice... just until all of this blows over?

Hmmm...

Here's what we do... since, for the most part, we're kinda anonymous with our blogs. We aren't impossible to find, but still.. our friends and families know we're store some things but ... we just say, our main purpose is to prepare for the next blizzard. For the most part, that's accurate

What do YOU tell people who ask "what on earth do you have all this for?"

Recipe: Garden Fruit Salad

Simple fruit salad from ingredients you can mostly grow yourself!

Salad Ingredients:
1 cantaloupe
2 cups red grapes
1 cup walnuts

Directions:
Prepare fruit: peel the cantaloupe, seed it, and cut into cubes. De-stem and wash grapes. Add cantaloupe, grapes and walnuts into a coverable serving dish. Prepare dressing (below), pour over fruit and nuts and refrigerate covered for 2 hours before serving.

- - -

Dressing Ingredients:
1/2 cup mild oil (canola or vegetable or walnut)
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 cups freshly picked raspberries

Dressing Directions:
Combine all ingredients except berries in a blender and process briefly to emulsify. Add berries and process until liquidy. Check seasoning. Add salt or other seasonings to taste. Does well with this salad or a green salad.

Alternate: Feel free to use whatever fruit and nuts that you have growing.

Copyright (c) 2009 New View Group, LLC

Legos for Homes: Foam Blocks and Poured Concrete

Found the following exchange while searching for info on alternative housing construction:

Q: I am currently designing an earth-sheltered home, but have been unable to determine the best building material for my location and how this will affect my design. I have been leaning toward lightweight concrete lately as I am impressed with the creative flexibility of it. I live in an extreme climate (Northern Canada)temperatures range anywhere from -40 to 104F, the prairies are dry and windy. I will be covering all but the south side of the home with earth, as this is where my greenhouse will be going. I would like to build it right into the house rather than externally and am expecting high humidity inside there, I will be separating the greenhouse from the main house with glass. I was hoping you could recommend the best material for me to work with, or if you know of any reference materials dealing specifically with this climate.

A: (J.M.) I would suggest using foam blocks and poured concrete. This method is very easy to use. The foam blocks are shipped flat and put together with plastic spacers. The walls go up quickly and are tied together with string. Additional wood braces are added, and then the walls are filled with concrete. Make sure you fill the wall in layers to help prevent a blowout. (Filling the walls in layers of a couple feet or so at a time allows the concrete to setup and reduces the likelihood of a blowout.) I've seen this technique used a couple of time, always with great success. If it's available in your area, I would suggest you explore using this method.


Here's what I found on yet another website:

One of the best house construction methods, considering your particular concerns about disasters, is stay-in-place-form concrete walls. These houses are not only super energy efficient, but they are extremely strong. Even tornado or hurricane winds won't blow one down.

Other than deeper window openings, these homes look like any other. Your architect will actually have more styling flexibility due to the strength. Interior and exterior walls can be finished with drywall, paneling, siding, brick or stucco.

I would recommend one of the foam block building methods. These are large, often four-foot-long, hollow foam blocks. They are usually made of polystyrene insulating foam like a cooler. Once the blocks are stacked up to create the wall, concrete is pumped in the top to fill the hollow block cavities.

You can expect your utility bills to be about half those of a code stick-built house. This results from the high insulation level and the efficiency benefits of the high thermal mass of the concrete. The overall building cost is only about three to five percent more than a lumber stick-built house.

The first thing you notice when you enter one of these houses is how quiet it is. The heavy insulation and concrete mass inside the walls block outdoor noise. With the concrete core and tight sealing foam blocks, the homes are very airtight. This is an advantage for your terrorism concerns.

You have several choices of foam block designs. One type, called waffle, uses molded all-foam blocks with internal webs. This creates continuous cavities of various widths. If you would break away the foam insulation after the concrete sets, the concrete surface would resemble a waffle.

Another effective design is a flat wall. These blocks are made of flat sheets of foam insulation, usually about two inches thick. There are metal or plastic webs in between them to space them apart. When the concrete is poured in, it forms a core of constant thickness, often six to 12 inches.

The waffle-type blocks produce a higher overall insulation level because there is more foam. Also, less concrete volume is needed to fill the wall. Talk to builders to see which they prefer to use in your area. A third foam block design produces a post-and-beam concrete pattern inside the blocks.

There are also new foam floor/ceiling/roof insulating foam forms. Concrete is poured over them and in channels. They are very strong, efficient and quiet.



Here's a link for more information about foam blocks (also known as Insulating Concrete Forms or ICFs): http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/home/construction/forms.html - talks about R-values (insulation quality), earthquake reinforcements, insect resistance, and more.


There HAS to be a lot of suppliers out there for foam blocks to be used with poured concrete, but I'm having troubles finding them!

Checked out the website for Home Depot - nothing turned up for my search. Called their customer service department, and the twit I talked to didn't have a clue as to what I was talking about. Said to check in the store ... when I said it wasn't for me and was probably across the country ... she got kinda smart aleck. So... dead end.

Called Lowe's because couldn't find anything on their website either. At least this customer service rep was nicer and said he would try to find someone at my local store who knew more about it. They checked, called me back, and said their stores don't have anything like this.

Does anyone know suppliers for these ICFs? If so, please feel free to leave the info here as a comment. Thanks!

Recipe: Delicate Asparagus

A gentle way to make a side dish, whether with asparagus or green beans or sliced zucchini...

Ingredients:
1 pound fresh asparagus
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
salt/pepper to taste
1/3 cup green can parmesan cheese

Directions:
Clean and trim asparagus. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place asparagus on sprayed/oiled baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cheese and bake at for 15-18 minutes. Ready when vegetable is crisp but still tender.

Copyright (c) 2009 New View Group, LLC

Don't Stress!

I recently read a blog posting on a diet blog about how stress is the number one cause of over-eating, and how, now with the economy and other problems in the forefront, the stress eating situation has been pushed to the side, but is increasing in frequency.

Thought I'd do a little blog posting of my own about the subject of stress:

If you're a prepper, you are probably under stress. You're concerned about the economy. About food prices. About inappropriate dictatorship government. About our children's education. Illegal drugs. Obesity and diabetes in preschoolers or younger. Global warming and other earth changes.

Here's a few ways to recognize stress:
Stress symptoms include mental, social, and physical manifestations. These include exhaustion, loss of/increased appetite, headaches, crying, sleeplessness, and oversleeping. Escape through alcohol, drugs, or other compulsive behavior are often indications. Feelings of alarm, frustration, or apathy may accompany stress.

Stress management is the ability to maintain control when something makes excessive demands.

Here's a few ways to manage stress:
  1. Seek help.
  2. See if you can change something or control the situation.
  3. Set realistic gols for yourself.
  4. Reduce the events in your life to reduce "circuit overload"
  5. Make a plan. Make a list. Make a lot of lists. Get it all down - what you need to do, what you can afford to do, what you think needs to be done first, who has to do it, when it has to be done ... all of it.
  6. Exercise! A little daily exercise can work wonders for your frame of mind.
  7. Take yourself out of a stressful situation whenever you can. Even if it's only for a short while each day.
  8. Don't worry. I know, easy to say, hard to do. Figure out if the earth will stand still if you don't worry about the situation.
  9. Prioritize the worrying situations and let the rest slide on by.
  10. Learn how to chill. Relax. Breathe deep. Meditate. Do yoga (also a form of exercise). These are very effective in controlling stress.
  11. Can you look at your stressful situations in a different way? Stress is basically your reaction to events or problems. If you can see something from a different perspective, perhaps it will help you cope better with it. If you'd prefer, get opinions from close friends, or other people you trust.
  12. Avoid reactions to situations what are extreme. If you are anxious, perhaps a little bit of nervousness would do better. A bit of anger instead of rage. Sadness instead of depression.
  13. Do something for others - like buy a homeless person a cup of coffee - to help you get your mind off your own problems.
  14. Get enough naps and sleep. When you don't sleep well enough or often enough, it just increases your stress.
  15. Alcohol, pills and drugs, whether prescription or illegal, mask stress symptoms. Deal with things before they get out of control, or compounded by the drug/alcohol use.
  16. Did you write those lists? Pick one of the most urgent stressful situations, and make a plan to work to resolve it. Lay it all out. Step by step. Then start following your plan. Adjust as you go along, if need be. Don't overwhelm yourself; baby steps will do just fine.
  17. Work on being positive. Smile everything you remember to. And remind yourself by drawing a little smiley face on your favorite finger. Or wear a silly ring. Or jingling earrings. Or a big red bow or tie.
  18. Remind yourself that you are a great person, and you can deal and work with anything that comes along.
  19. Did you know that "Stress causes more glucose to be delivered to the brain, which makes more energy available to neurons. This, in turn, enhances memory formation and retrieval. On the other hand, if stress is prolonged, it can impede the glucose delivery and disrupt memory." All Stressed Up, St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch, p. 8B, Monday, November 30, 1998 - so... how can you work this to your advantage?
  20. Back to number 1 - seek help. If you feel like you are absolutely overwhelmed and can't seem to do anything about anything, and if it's interfering with your life, seek professional help. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Believe me, I'm sure in these economic and stressful times, the psychiatrists of this world are making money hand over fist!

Or... you could start a blog or comment on someone else's about things that are REALLY ticking you off ... believe me, it helps sometimes just to vent!

Recipe: Cabbage and Turkey Cassarole

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1/2 cup dried onion dices (rehydrated)
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
2 cups stewed tomatoes
4 cups shredded cabbage
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a skillet, add 2 tablespoons oil and brown meat with onions. Drain. Pour the rice in with the meat and set aside. In a greased baking dish (try the lasagna pan), lay shredded cabbage then your meat/rice mixture, and continue with the layers until finished. Pour the stewed tomatoes over the top. Cover and bake for one hour or until done. If desired, uncover 10 minutes before finished, top with shredded or parmesan cheese, and finish uncovered.

Alternate: If you are using dried turkey or some other dried cooked meat, you can skip the first browning step to save energy and using an additional skillet.

Copyright (c) 2009 New View Group, LLC

Alternative Housing: Plastic Bottles

Found this link while researching different ways to make alternative housing. He used plastic bottles, linked them, floated them, then built an island on top of them, where he actually grows food, lives, cooks his meals in a solar cooker, etc. Very interesting!

http://greenupgrader.com/1821/spiral-island-constructed-from-recycled-bottles/

Recipe: Pork Chop Cassarole

An easy recipe to do in a cassarole dish in the oven or in a foil pocket on the grill (easy clean-up):

Ingredients:
6 pork chops
6 sweet potatoes
¾ cup brown sugar
1 ½ cups milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a baking dish. Put milk in a medium skillet and heat to hot but not boiling. While heating, slice the sweet potatoes and layer them into the baking dish. Sprinkle the brown sugar on each layer as you go along. Fill only 3/4 to the top. Pour the milk over the sweet potatoes. Wipe the skillet clean, spray or add 1 tablespoon oil, and add pork chops. Brown. Season to taste. Place browned pork chops over the potatoes. Cover. Bake in oven (or in foil pocket on grill) for about an hour. Uncover last 5-10 minutes to allow the pork chops to finish browning.

Copyright (c) 2009 New View Group, LLC

Beware of Best Buy and their Return Policy

I recently read an e-mail forwarded to me about Best Buy. Here's an excerpt:

= = = =

BEST BUY, MY FOOT ... Best Buy has some bad policies.....

Normally, I would not share this with others, however, since this could happen to you or your friends , I decided to share it. If you purchase something from, Wal-Mart, Sears etc. and you return the item with the receipt they will give you your money back if you paid cash, or credit your account if paid by plastic.

Well, I purchased a GPS for my car, a Tom Tom XL.S from 'Best Buy'. They have a policy that it must be returned within 14 days for a refund!

So after 4 days I returned it in the original box with all the items in the box, with paper work and cords all wrapped in the plastic. Just as I received it, including the receipt. I explained to the lady at the return desk I did not like the way it could not find store names. The lady at the refund desk said, there is a 15% restock fee, for items returned. I said no one told me that. I said how much would that be. She said it goes by the price of the item. It will be $45.00 Dollars for you. I said, all your [sic] going to do is walk over and replace it back on the shelf then charge me $45..00 of my money for restocking? She said that's the store policy. I said if more people were aware of it they would not buy anything here! If I bought a $2000.00 computer or TV and returned it I would be charged $300.00 dollars restock fee? She said yes, 15%.

I said OK, just give me my money minus the restock fee. She said, since the item is over $200.00 dollars, she can't give me my money back!!! Corporate has to and they will mail you a check in 7 to ten days.!! I said 'WHAT?!' It's my money!! I paid in cash! I want to buy a different brand..Now I have to wait 7 to 10 days. She said well, our policy is on the back of your receipt.

I said, do you read the front or back of your receipt? She said well, the front! I said so do I, I want to talk to the Manager!.. So the manager comes over, I explained everything to him, and he said, well, sir they should of told you about the policy when you got the item. I said, No one, has ever told me about the check refund or restock fee, whenever I bought items from computers to TVs from Best Buy. The only thing they ever discussed was the worthless extended warranty program. He said Well, I can give you corporate phone number.

I called corporate. The guy said, well, I'm not supposed to do this but I can give you a 45.00 dollar gift card and you can use it at20Best Buy. I told him if I bought something and returned it, you would charge me a restock fee on the item and then send me a check for the remaining 3 dollars. You can keep your gift card, I'm never shopping in Best Buy ever again, and if I would of been smart, I would of charged the whole thing on my credit card! Then I would of canceled the transaction. I would of gotten all my money back including your stupid fees! He didn't say a word! I informed him that I was going to e-mail my friends and give them a heads up on this stores policy, as they don't tell you about all the little caveats.

So please pass this on. It may save your friends from having a bad experience of shopping at Best Buy.

= = = =

We buy things from Best Buy pretty often. Have to admit, I've never read the back of our receipt, and didn't know about their return policy. Wasn't sure the above was true, so I went online to http://www.bestbuy.com/ to look up their return policy myself. It IS true. Here's an excerpt from their own website (link: http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?type=page&contentId=1218031738832&id=cat12098):

= = = =

Online Return Policy
You may return merchandise purchased at BestBuy.com if it meets the guidelines below. Not all products are returnable to the store. If you would like to return a major appliance, TV, accessory or furniture delivered via special delivery, please call Customer Care at 1-888-BEST BUY (1-888-237-8289).


Guidelines
You may return merchandise to a Best Buy store within the U.S. or by mail to our return center. All returns must be made in original condition and include all accessories. You will receive a credit for your purchase only if it meets the criteria below. We do not offer merchandise exchanges.

14-Day Return Period
Fourteen days from the date merchandise was received, refunds are available on computers, monitors, notebook computers, projectors, camcorders, digital cameras, and radar detectors.

30-Day Return Period
Thirty days from the date merchandise was received, refunds are available on the remainder of our products (see exceptions below).

Exceptions
The following items are not returnable:
-Labor and/or installation services
-Items that are abused
-Opened computer software, movies, music and video games

If the original item is opened and is damaged or defective, or if an incorrect item was shipped, you may receive credit for these items. ... Any merchandise missing the original Universal Product Code (UPC) cannot be returned. If the item is damaged or defective, please see details below.

Restocking Fee
A 15% restocking fee will be charged on opened notebook computers, projectors, camcorders, digital cameras, radar detectors, GPS navigation and in-car video systems. A 25% restocking fee will be charged on special order products, including appliances. These fees apply unless the item is defective or damaged, you received the wrong item, or the fee is prohibited by law. (That means if you pay $100 for a GPS device, you will only get back $85! ... Vikki)

Missing Item or Damaged Product Fee
A missing item or damaged product fee will be charged for any product missing the original box, packaging material, contents, accessories and/or manuals (i.e., any product not in "like new" condition).

Damaged, Defective or Incorrect Items
If you return a damaged, defective or incorrect item by mail or to a Best Buy store, you will receive a credit. You may then choose to purchase a replacement item in the store or online. To make sure the store has your product in stock, call Customer Care at 1-888-BEST BUY (1-888-237-8289).

Personal Data
Please remove all personal data (e.g., computer or wireless phone data, videotapes), from any returned products. Best Buy is not responsible for any personal data left on or in these items.

Rebate Policy
Any product that was purchased when a mail-in rebate was available on the purchase is subject to having the amount of the rebate deducted from the refund amount. Unless noted otherwise, all rebates are limited to one per product, per household or address.

Promotional Items
Any product that is returned without a promotional item(s) included with the original transaction (e.g., buy a TV, get a free DVD player; buy a TV, get a free gift card; or buy a TV, get a DVD player half off), will have the value of the promotional item deducted from the refund amount.

= = = =

Just thought you'd like to know. Buyer Beware. Ask about return policies at every store, about restocking fees, and so forth.

Yeah, Circuit City is out of business and in closing their stores, are allegedly really ripping people off (jacking up prices to discount them) but... surely there's an alternative?

Recipe: Pasta with Red Clam Sauce

For a little twist on spaghetti and marinara, try this!

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons dried garlic granules
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 30-ounce jar spaghetti sauce
3/4 cup clam juice
3 drops Tabasco sauce
3 6 1/2-ounce cans minced clams
1 16-ounce package pasta (your choice)
Minced fresh parsley

Directions:
Drain clams. Cook pasta and drain (do NOT rinse in cool water). In a medium saucepan, add olive oil and garlic. When oil has rehydrated the garlic, lightly saute. Then add sauce, clam juice and Tabasco sauce... simmer for 5 minutes. Add the clams, simmer another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon sauce over hot pasta (most people choose linguini !). Toss to coat all of the pasta. Sprinkle with parsley.

Note: Could be gluten-free if served on gluten-free pasta.

Copyright (c) 2009 New View Group, LLC

Farm Animals: Bees

Not usually considered farm animals, bees are absolutely necessary to a farm, and they are dying. Called "Colony Collapse Disorder", scientists are puzzled why bees are disappearing at such an alarming rate. That means that we need to do everything we can to provide a home for bees and plants to help them regain their strength and build growing hives.

On our Dream Land, we'll have as many hives as possible, scattered throughout. While we don't have actual bee-keeping experience, we are very willing to learn.

In addition to providing a LOT of fruit and nut trees, berry brambles, vegetables, and flowers to give the bees food, we'll also provide safe living quarters for them. We'll tend them as lovingly as we will all of our other creatures.

In return, the bees will provide us with wax to make candles and honey for sweetener, in addition to, of course, pollinating our crops. Bees are essential to the continuation of the human race as most of our crops require pollination by insects.

Who's with us?

This DTV Changeover

Ok, so we've been required to modify all of our TVs, whether we want to or not, in order to watch any TV at all. Even free TV. Now the date's been changed to sometime in June.

Question:
I noticed that the TV Guides (online and in paper) haven't started listing the shows for the additional TV channels (like PBS is not only Channel 6, but is now 6-1, 6-3, 6-5), and Channel 9 is now 9-1 with 9-2 now being a 24-hour weather channel.

Did someone forget about this?

Another Question:
More like a comment... this changeover is ridiculous. We don't have cable TV, sattelite, or anything else except for what our unmodified TV picks up. Now, if we still want our "free" entertainment, we have to pay money for either cable TV or a converter box. In this economy?


What's next... radio UNfree america?

Recipe: How to Make Oat Milk

Oats help lower total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Here's a recipe for oat milk:

Ingredients:
1 cup raw rolled oats
5 cups water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon brown rice syrup

Directions:
In a large pot, add all ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to simmer for 50-60 minutes. Using a fine sieve or cheesecloth, strain twice into a mason jar, label and refrigerate. Keeps 2-3 days. Use the remainer/pulp for baking.

This is the end of our "how to make ** milk" lactose-free substitutions recipes. You've got the general idea - print out the recipes, and feel free to substitute your own nut, etc. when experimenting with milk substitutions. Try: Peanut Milk, Brazil Nut Milk, Pine Nut Milk, Hazel Nut/Filbert Milk, Macadamia Milk, Millet Milk, Pecan Milk, Pumpkin Seed/Pepita Milk, Quinoa Milk, Sesame Seed Milk, etc.


Copyright (c) 2009 New View Group, LLC

One Person's Prep Story

I read www.survivalblog.com on a regular basis. I came across this entry (http://www.survivalblog.com/2009/02/perspectives_on_prepping_on_a.html) and had to make sure other people read this. It's about one person's story on prepping with almost no money. He has no job training, a large family, and still finds a way to prep very well. He discusses food, gardening, animal husbandry, defense, and much more. This is an absolute must-read!

After you read it, will you please come back here and give us your thoughts?

Inventory Check: Mouse Traps

We live in the suburbs near Denver, CO, and still, we get mice. We see little white ones, and bigger brown field mice. They are smart and cunning, and do NOT wait until dark to scurry around. They love flour and rice, crackers, popcorn, and can get through thin plastic.

After trying all kinds of humane and other traps, we've discovered what works for us:
- Snap-Traps (by Victor)
- Snap-Clamp (by Victor??)

We bait them with a tiny smudge of peanut butter, and place the traps directly in their path from wherever they hide/hole up along the wall to the kitchen. We've arranged the furniture and traps so that the mice would have to go completely around in order to bypass the traps. They don't.

Note: Don't even bother with the traps that emit sounds or ultrasonic waves. First, what happens when you're electricity goes out? Second, they don't usually work. Mice are smart, and it's our experience that they just ignore the sound to get to the food they want.

Another Note: The traps with sticky paper don't work either. The mice must recognize the scent or the color or something because in all of the sticky traps we've put down, we've only succeeded in catching ourselves. Waste of money.

Do an experiment yourself. Don't have mice? Talk to your friends and neighbors and do your research for your area. You'll discover what works best for the mice in your area.

Then stock up on traps, bait and so forth. You don't want to spent all that money on rice to find that mice have nibbled through the bag to help themselves to dinner!

At the first sign of a mouse, set out your traps! Or even before.

The Basics about Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Foods

A reader recently wrote this comment:

As I am very new to this and have had a hard time wrapping my brain over freeze-dried and dehydrated foods. I understand I need to add water to "revive" them. If I buy a #10 can of Freeze-dried ground beef (servings 24 1/2 cups) how long will the food be good? Right now we are two people but we could quickly become 8. But I don't want to he to eat ground beef every meal. All information about freeze-dried or dehydrated food would be appreciated. February 18, 2009 5:45 PM

Our info is towards the bottom but first, here's the specifics from what we've researched on the internet for people new to using dried foods:

Freeze-Dried Food:
Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeze-dried_food: Freeze-drying (also known as lyophilization or cryodesiccation) is a dehydration process typically used to preserve a perishable material or make the material more convenient for transport. Freeze-drying works by freezing the material and then reducing the surrounding pressure and adding enough heat to allow the frozen water in the material to sublime directly from the solid phase to gas.

The freeze-drying process: There are three stages in the complete freeze-drying process: freezing, primary drying, and secondary drying.

(1) Freezing
The freezing process consists of freezing the material. In a lab, this is often done by placing the material in a freeze-drying flask and rotating the flask in a bath, called a shell freezer, which is cooled by mechanical refrigeration,
dry ice and methanol, or liquid nitrogen. On a larger-scale, freezing is usually done using a freeze-drying machine. In this step, it is important to cool the material below its eutectic point, the lowest temperature at which the solid and liquid phases of the material can coexist. This ensures that sublimation rather than melting will occur in the following steps. Larger crystals are easier to freeze-dry. To produce larger crystals, the product should be frozen slowly or can be cycled up and down in temperature. This cycling process is called annealing. However, in the case of food, or objects with formerly-living cells, large ice crystals will break the cell walls (discovered by Clarence Birdseye). Usually, the freezing temperatures are between −50 °C and −80 °C. The freezing phase is the most critical in the whole freeze-drying process, because the product can be spoiled if badly done.

Amorphous (glassy) materials do not have an eutectic point, but do have a critical point, below which the product must be maintained to prevent melt-back or collapse during primary and secondary drying.
Large objects take a few months to freeze-dry.

(2) Primary drying
During the primary drying phase, the pressure is lowered (to the range of a few
millibars), and enough heat is supplied to the material for the water to sublimate. The amount of heat necessary can be calculated using the sublimating molecules’ latent heat of sublimation. In this initial drying phase, about 95% of the water in the material is sublimated. This phase may be slow (can be several days in the industry), because, if too much heat is added, the material’s structure could be altered.

In this phase, pressure is controlled through the application of
partial vacuum. The vacuum speeds sublimation, making it useful as a deliberate drying process. Furthermore, a cold condenser chamber and/or condenser plates provide a surface(s) for the water vapour to re-solidify on. This condenser plays no role in keeping the material frozen; rather, it prevents water vapor from reaching the vacuum pump, which could degrade the pump's performance. Condenser temperatures are typically below −50 °C (−60 °F).

It is important to note that, in this range of pressure, the heat is brought mainly by conduction or radiation; the convection effect can be considered as insignificant.

(3) Secondary drying
The secondary drying phase aims to remove unfrozen water molecules, since the ice was removed in the primary drying phase. This part of the freeze-drying process is governed by the material’s adsorption
isotherms. In this phase, the temperature is raised higher than in the primary drying phase, and can even be above 0 °C, to break any physico-chemical interactions that have formed between the water molecules and the frozen material. Usually the pressure is also lowered in this stage to encourage desorption (typically in the range of microbars, or fractions of a pascal). However, there are products that benefit from increased pressure as well.

After the freeze-drying process is complete, the vacuum is usually broken with an inert gas, such as nitrogen, before the material is sealed.


At the end of the operation, the final residual water content in the product is around 1% to 4%, which is extremely low.

Properties of freeze-dried products
If a freeze-dried substance is sealed to prevent the reabsorption of moisture, the substance may be stored at
room temperature without refrigeration, and be protected against spoilage for many years. Preservation is possible because the greatly reduced water content inhibits the action of microorganisms and enzymes that would normally spoil or degrade the substance.

Freeze-drying also causes less damage to the substance than other
dehydration methods using higher temperatures. Freeze-drying does not usually cause shrinkage or toughening of the material being dried. In addition, flavours and smells generally remain unchanged, making the process popular for preserving food. However, water is not the only chemical capable of sublimation, and the loss of other volatile compounds such as acetic acid (vinegar) and alcohols can yield undesirable results.

Freeze-dried products can be rehydrated (reconstituted) much more quickly and easily because the process leaves microscopic pores. The pores are created by the ice crystals that sublimate, leaving gaps or pores in their place. This is especially important when it comes to pharmaceutical uses. Lyophilization can also be used to increase the shelf life of some pharmaceuticals for many years.

Dehydrated Food:
Link from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dehydrated_food - Drying is a method of food preservation that works by removing water from the food, which prevents the growth of microorganisms and decay. Drying food using the sun and wind to prevent spoilage has been known since ancient times. Water is usually removed by evaporation (air drying, sun drying, smoking or wind drying) but, in the case of freeze-drying, food is first frozen and then water is removed by sublimation.

Bacteria and micro-organisms within the food and from the air need the water in the food to grow. Drying effectively prevents them from surviving in the food. It also creates a hard outer-layer, helping to stop micro-organisms from entering the food


= = =

Okay... that's the technical definitions and information about freeze-dried and dehydrated food. Practical applications?

Can I freeze-dry food at home?
First, it would be very difficult for you to freeze-dry your own food. Dehydrating is more than satisfactory, cost efficient, space-efficient, and lasts a while. But if you really have the bug... I found this link: http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/food-preservation4.htm with this information:

An Experiment in Freeze-Drying:
You probably don't have a good vacuum chamber at home, but you almost certainly have a refrigerator. If you don't mind waiting a week, you can experiment with freeze-drying at home using your freezer.

For this experiment you will need a tray, preferably one that is perforated. If you have something like a cake-cooling rack or a metal mesh tray, that is perfect. You can use a cookie sheet or a plate if that is all that you have, but the experiment will take longer.


Now you will need something to freeze-dry. Three good candidates are apples, potatoes and carrots (apples
have the advantage that they taste okay in their freeze-dried state). With a knife, cut your apple, potato and/or carrot as thin as you can (try all three if you have them). Cut them paper-thin if you can do it -- the thinner you cut, the less time the experiment will take. Then arrange your slices on your rack or tray and put them in the freezer. You want to do this fairly quickly or else your potato and/or apple slices will discolor.
In half an hour, look in on your experiment. The slices should be frozen solid.


Over the next week, look in on your slices. What will happen is that the water in the slices will sublimate away. That is, the water in the slices will convert straight from solid water to water vapor, never going through the liquid state (this is the same thing that
mothballs do, going straight from a solid to a gaseous state). After a week or so (depending on how cold your freezer is and how thick the slices are), your slices will be completely dry. To test apple or potato slices for complete drying, take one slice out and let it thaw. It will turn black almost immediately if it is not completely dry.

When all of the slices are completely dry, what you have is freeze-dried apples, potatoes and carrots. You can "reconstitute" them by putting the slices in a cup or bowl and adding a little boiling water (or add cold water and
microwave). You can eat the apples in their dried state or you can reconstitute them. What you will notice is that the reconstituted vegetables look and taste pretty much like the original! That is why freeze-drying is a popular preservation technique.

Note:
Most of the "dried" food you get from suppliers are freeze-dried. It's a faster process on the commercial level.

Using Dried Foods:
The basic principles of using freeze-dried food and dehydrated foods are the same. Once you open a can or jar of freeze-dried or dehydrated food, you need to treat like any other food exposed to "regular" air. You need to reseal the un-used portions either in the same container, or put in a separate container you can seal (like with a sealing machine). Or refrigerate the unused portion. The key to making it last in it's dried state is keeping moisture out of the food. Moisture promotes the growth of bacteria, therefore, the lack of moisture means it will be edible and not poisonous for a great while.

Recently we opened some dehydrated peas that we bought 2 or more years prior. They were just as crispy as a new container. Most suppliers will put a time limit on how long their products will be good for, unopened and opened. Be sure to make a note of product recommendations. Don't come to us because you open a container, let it sit out, get wet, and then gets filled with bacteria that makes it inedible. Keep containers closed!

What about the big #10 cans of Freeze-Dried Meat?
One can should last you a while. When we open one that size, we use what we need, then seal the rest as smaller portions (about 4 servings per - we are a family of 3 and one eats enough for 2!) in smaller containers with moisture absorbers. We seal these tightly, mark when it was opened and what the original product label was, and keep track to make sure these are used up before opening another of the same item.

You don't need to exclusively use dried chicken dices until it's gone then start on the dried ground beef or sausage. Just be sure to keep adequately sealed and tracked.

How Do I Rehydrate:
Most people prefer to "rehydrate" (add water back in) the food before using. It will depend on how much moisture was taken out as to how much water or other liquid and time you'll need to rehydrate.

You should be using these products now anyway, so experiment! Take some freeze-dried (usually cooked) chicken dices and time them against rehydrating raisins or onion dices. Make notes in your "stored foods cookbook" so you won't have to keep experimenting everytime you want to cook with them.

Use water, stock, apple juice, etc. to rehydrate. Pour off the extra or use in your recipe.

You could also rehydrate as you cook. For instance, if you are making spaghetti sauce, add the freeze-dried ground beef to the sauce with just a bit more water. The meat will absorb the sauce, making the meat even more tastier and the sauce a little thicker.

Same with adding onions and garlic to your sauce. When I make spaghetti sauce, I start off with a little olive oil, dried onions, dried garlic, then add the spaghetti sauce. When it looks like the onions and garlic have rehydrated, I'll add a bit more water.

You're worked with pasta, right? It's basically the same thing, except you don't need to boil your fruit and veggies, unless you want to lose many of the nutrients to the boiling liquid.

Is Rehydrating Necessary before Using?:
No. Not necessarily. My Very Hungry Tween Son (VHTS) loves eating dried/freeze-dried mango, blueberries, blackberries and peas just as-is. I personally love eating dried banana chips or strawberry slices. Of course, one must drink plenty of water or other liquids because as it digests, it will rehydrate a bit inside of you, which could cause constipation.

How to Dehydrate:
Dehydrating is an excellent way to preserve your harvest, or even what you get on special at the farmers market or at the super grocery store. We talk about dehydrating in this blog from time to time. We try to give specific information for specific food items.

End:
I hope this answered your questions about freeze-dried food and dehydrated food. Please feel free to ask more questions.

Recipe: Almond Brittle (Candy)

Not exactly an extremely easy recipe but can occupy your time! MUST have a candy thermometer.

Ingredients:
3 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
4 cups toasted and chopped almonds
3 tablespoons butter or lactose-free equivalent
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking soda

Directions:
Mix the sugar, corn syrup and water in a large saucepan. Heat and cook until boiling, stirring constantly. Cover saucepan for only one minute. Using a candy thermometer, cook rapidly on high heat to soft crack (270º) stage (will take about 5 minutes). Add the chopped almonds and keep cooking to crack stage (310º) or until golden brown. Add vanilla, butter, salt and soda. The candy will foam up. Pour on buttered cookie sheet. Rub a buttered spoon on the brittle to break bubbles. As the brittle cools, use that buttered spoon to thin out to desired thickness. When cooled, break into chunks and store.

Copyright (c) 2009 New View Group, LLC

Defense of Home, Family and Property

I write most of the postings for this blog, and am not well versed in defense. That's Hubby's job... he's got several firearms and ammo, and is looking for more plus repair kits and molds to make ammo. Meanwhile, we also have knives, swords, several sizes and varieties of dart guns, boomerangs and slingshots.

We recently had a chance to try shooting a rifle at a local gun show. The VHTS (age 12) did excellently considering it was his first time. I hadn't shot a rifle since BB guns in my teens (eons ago!) and did very well. Er, Hubby needs practice.

We got several dart guns that day and are teaching ourselves how to use them. We also have the slingshots and associated equipment and are learning those.

It's not that guns and other firearms scare me. I just don't know anything about them. And when we get a chance, Hubby will teach us, or we'll take classes on the different kinds and how to use and take care of them. And, of course, practice regularly.

Plus, as you know, we now have a puppy. We bought him to our specifications: a very young puppy, boy, unneutered, of a defense breed/mix, to be strong and big. Later we will breed him with a similar girl dog, and train the puppies. For now, we've begun his training and he's doing very well for a baby. He's already becoming loyal and we feel sure that by the time he learns the basics, he will be fiercely loyal and trustworthy. After the basics, he will be taught to listen to all sounds, ignore common noises, growl and bark for all intruders until told to stop, attack when commanded, patrol the perimeter, and protect our family members, home and property, which will include our farm animals like chickens, et al. Here's a defense "mechanism" that will do well for us.

If you don't want to use firearms, find an alternative that you ARE comfortable with to defend your home, family and property.

Recipe: Green Beans with Almonds

This is a simple recipe to dress up a casual meal. If you have canned beans, use about 4 cans, or 1 quart of home-processed beans.

Ingredients:
1 16-ounce package frozen green beans
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Toast almonds (place on cookie/baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees F. for several minutes until just barely lightly browned. Combine water, honey and lemon juice. In a medium sized baking dish, add all ingredients and bake for 45 minutes until beans are tender.

Alternative: Can add all ingredients to a large sheet of aluminum foil, fold over, and grill until beans are tender. Yum!

Copyright (c) 2009 New View Group, LLC

A Story

One day as the Little Red Hen was scratching in a field, she found a grain of wheat.
"This wheat should be planted," she said. "Who will plant this grain of wheat?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
Soon the wheat grew to be tall and yellow.
"The wheat is ripe," said the Little Red Hen. "Who will cut the wheat?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
When the wheat was cut, the Little Red Hen said, "Who will thresh the wheat?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
When the wheat was threshed, the Little Red Hen said, "Who will take this wheat to the mill?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
She took the wheat to the mill and had it ground into flour. Then she said, "Who will make this flour into bread?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
She made and baked the bread. Then she said, "Who will eat this bread?"
"Oh! I will," said the Duck.
"And I will," said the Cat.
"And I will," said the Dog.
"No, No!" said the Little Red Hen. "I will do that." And she did.
From The Gingerbread Guide: Using Folktales with Young Children. Copyright 1987 Scott, Foresman and Company.


Was reading this blog (http://wwwstayalive.blogspot.com/2009/02/will-to-convert.html) when I felt the need to reprint the above story. It seems appropriate to what we're doing. Are people in your family helping to gather supplies, or are they saying "call me when it's time to come over"? Don't be a duck, cat or dog. Be the red hen.

Pic of Our Guard Puppy

Here's a picture of our newest family member: Very Hungry Tween Son (VHTS) holding Sparky, our guard puppy. Hopefully to grow up to be our guard dog. In 3 days, we've taken him from never having contact with other humans or being outside of his littermates or with a collar or leash to holding his bladder all night, learning to sit and walk with a leash, and trying hard not to chew our table and chairs.

At 10 weeks old, he weighs 21.2 pounds. Look at those massive paws! He's going to be huge, and we will diligently train him to guard and protect our homestead and family. He's already bonded very well with VHTS, and listens to all of us, including the chihuahua!

p.s. notice our storage tubs in the background - we're using them to block off part of our living room to minimize "accident" damage - he is, after all, only 10 weeks old!

Recipe: Crockpot Whitebean Stewp

A stewp is a thicker than a soup and thinner than a stew. Good and hearty for a Winter meal. Put it on to cook before work, and it'll be ready when you come home!

Ingredients:
2 cups dry white beans (pick through)
2 tablespoons dried garlic granules
1 cup dried onion dices
3 cups broth
3 cups water
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup dried tomato slices or dices
1/4 cup sliced black olives
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Soak beans overnight. Add all ingredients except tomato and olives to crockpot. Cover and turn on low. Cook on low for 4-6 hours, or until you get home from work! Mash some of the beans to thicken the stewp, add the tomatoes and olives and cook another 20-30 minutes. Serve topped with parmesan cheese, and with a plate of fresh homemade bread.

Copyright (c) 2009 New View Group LLC

Alternative Housing

I haven't forgotten that some people have requested additional information on creating non-traditional homes. I'm still researching - especially underground tire homes, underground shipping container homes, storage shed conversion, etc.

Anyone want to contribute about building codes? Can we dig/create an underground tire "root cellar" and not need building inspections?

Thnx...Vikki

Farm Animals: Miniature Cattle

We would love to have a small herd of cattle on our future property, but regular sized animals eat a lot, and need lots of water. The more the cattle eat, the more hay we need to grow, harvest and store. We want to be self-sufficient, so it makes sense to have something smaller.

After researching, we found out the following about miniature cattle:
  • Most mini cows are under 41 inches tall.
  • Miniature cattle offer a great opportunity for kids to take care of and train an animal.
  • Beef type animals (Hereford, Dexter, and Lowline Angus) provide an opportunity to raise organic beef without a huge investment in equipment or feed.
  • However... Dexters come the most highly recommended. They are rugged, hardy cattle. They are naturally small but not really a "miniature" so they don't have some of the same problems that overbred mini's have. They make great milk and meat, great moms, and have dog-like personalities. Dexter bulls are as easy to handle as ponies.
  • I read somewhere that a mini cow provides as much milk as a regular-sized cow. And natural milk (organic, hormone/antibiotic-free, and unpasteurized) provides great nutrition.
  • These are perfect for a small petting zoo. They are small enough for youngsters to pet and not be intimidated.
We're thinking about 5-10 Dexter cows and one bull? We'd get plenty of milk for cheese, yogurt and ice cream, fertilizer, weed/grass "mower" and "brush-clearer", and beef, plus possible extra "babies" to sell.

Off-Topic - Another Rant About The Octuplet Mom

Only my opinion ... feel free to ignore if you'd like ...

Rant beginning... building... and exploding...

Okay okay so people, including me, have been talking almost non-stop about this Nadya chick who (allegedly) decided living without children and lots of babies wasn't worth living. She (allegedly) squandered a legal settlement on various procedures instead of doing something responsible, like contributing to her housing expenses. Each in vitro procedures costs (it has been reported) about $10,000. The 8 babies were born prematurely at 30 weeks on January 26 2009.

No, I'm not jealous but gotta say .... I'm really ticked. My tween is 12. I want another one, a baby with my new hubby. Have been trying and trying (just ask Hubby! wink wink nudge nudge) since we got engaged Nov 2006 with no luck. I have health insurance but they won't pay for any fertility treatments, or even hormones for me. I'm old. They sure as heck won't implant me! We can't afford both the in vitro AND to care adequately for the child ... therefore, if we don't get preggers naturally, it ain't happening. We're responsible people.

Or... are we? You know... just thinking here... maybe I could get a settlement from an old car accident or from when a so-called friend stole my identity about 6 years ago or maybe **I** could get caught in a mental institution riot (just teasing!) - then I could go on food stamps and use the settlement to pay for the in vitro.

Why not? Someone else did it!

Question: even though all of "her embryos" are now all used up (well, how else should I put it?), what's to stop her from doing this again? Is anyone going to make sure she becomes responsible, stop the regular manicures and start paying her own way for everything? Does she have any money in the bank? What about the rumor about some couple inviting her and her children to their farm? What about all the reports about the money she's made on interviews, selling photo ops, etc ... where is all of that money? Any gone to the hospital yet? What about her alleged dream about becoming a child care expert and being paid for her information, opinion, etc.?

(No offense but I wouldn't listen to thing she had to tell me about baby-raisin'!)

I read the transcript of her Dateline interview where she said she may not be able to provide for her children, but that (basically) don't care. "They don't feel as though we're struggling." Huh? Of course not ... they don't care about petty little things like that when they are STRUGGLING for their lives! Then she says: "I'll stop my life for them and be present with them. And hold them. And be with them. And how many parents do that? I'm sure there are many that do, but many don't. And that's unfortunate. That is selfish." How DARE she! Many many many parents hold and hug their children - my Tween still gets hugs and kisses at bedtime. Not that bedtime is the only time, but other times, well, they are just embarrassing ... "ah mah-am"!

I also heard that she's planning on (temporarily) using student loans to help care for the children - isn't that against the rules? How on earth did she qualify for student loans, especially in this economy, when she was obviously too pregnant to attend classes, and now will be way to busy (for the next 5-6 YEARS) to attend school? Someone needs to talk to that lender and set them straight. But wait a minute ... she's received student loans for classes, but couldn't attend since, what, November or December? So how is she going to pay for those classes that she already got loans for?

If she's this irresponsible now, what kind of imprinting is she going to be doing to those 14 children? Do we know yet if the 8 new babies will need extra special care for disabilities?

Can someone legally protect the sperm donor? He should NOT be held accountable for HER decisions. I sure hope he had papers drawn up and did it all nice and legal so he would NOT be responsible for any of these children. He didn't expect this and doesn't want it. Er, right?

The book deals and paid interviews and other business propositions are just feeding this woman's need for fame. Why is it going on?

ok... rant over... kinda...

As for the former p.r. rep, Joann Killeen... she shouldn't receive death threats for doing her job. That just seems wrong.

I don't begrudge these beautiful babies their lives. They are here. They did nothing wrong. They are fighting for their very lives... and they deserve a good chance at having amazing lives. Can their mother provide this? Realistically?

How does this relate to this website? It doesn't really... except with wondering how could such a thing happen in today's economy?

ok... NOW I'm done!

Recipe: Apple Cinnamon Glaze

This glaze can be used for baked ham, roasted turkey, over pancakes or waffles, as an ice-cream topping, spread on toast, as a cake or cupcake glaze, or even a dip for freshly sliced apples or pears. Very yummy and easy to make.

Ingredients:
5 Apple Cinnamon tea bags
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small saucepan, place the tea bags and pour in 1/2 cup boiling water. Cover and let steep for 4-5 minutes. Remove the tea bags. Add corn syrup and brown sugar. Mix well and bring to boil. Let cool before glazing.. Bring the sauce to a boil. Let cool some before using.

Copyright (c) 2009 New View Group, LLC

Money Saver Menu #3: Corndog, Pizza, Cake

This menu took some work, but still came in under $5.00 per person per meal. Even includes dessert!

Breakfast:
.18 = 1/2 cup 9-grain cracked cereal (Prov Pantry)
.26 = 1 cup milk
----
.44 cost for breakfast

Lunch:
.30 = 1/3 cup dried banana chips (Prov Pantry)
.37 = 2 oranges
.46 = 1/4 Jiffy Cornbread mix (.13) + 2 hotdogs (.33) = 2 corndogs!
-----
1.13 cost for lunch

Dinner:
.87 = 1/4 pizza kit (incl crust, sauce, cheese)
.50 = pepperoni or sausage for pizza
.50 = 1/4 bag salad on sale
.35 = 6 baby carrots or 2 stalks celery (for salad)
.66 = salad dressing
.35 = 1/4 cake made from $1.00 mix + 2 eggs (.10), no frosting
-----
3.23 cost for dinner

These three meals total to $4.80. Does not include snacks, drinks or leftovers. Still, you're eating pretty good for less than $5.00 per person per day. You could spend the remaining $.77 for snacks like more fruit and veggies, popcorn, or drinks. Or place it in a jar to save for something special.

Tips:
  • Be sure to scour the almost-expired produce section for good prices on the carrots, oranges, celery and bag salad. Or get whatever fruit and veggies are on sale or almost-expired. It's okay to change your menu to accommodate what you can get at terrific prices!
  • Do you have bread about to expire, and spaghetti sauce and cheese? Make a "bread pizza" for even cheaper!
  • We save cooked bacon or sausage in the freezer for when it's pizza night! That helps bring our costs down too.
  • When boxes of cake mix go on sale for a dollar or less, we buy several boxes of a variety of kinds. The tubs of frosting, though, are ridiculously overpriced and completely artificial. Now.. the boxes of cake mix is an easy and cheap way to get a filling dessert. If you must have frosting or icing, how about spreading some homemade preserves on each piece, then sprinkle on powdered sugar? Very yummy.

Enjoy!

Storing, Grinding, and Using Wheat Berries

To almost anyone's food-storage program, it's vitally important to store wheat berries. Flour goes rancid quickly, so you'll need the berries to grind into flour as you need it.

What is a wheat berry?
A wheat berry is the fruit of the grass we know as wheat. The berry is the entire wheat kernel, without the hull, which contains the bran, germ, and endosperm. Wheat berry or wheatberry, as it is also known, have a tan to reddish brown color and are available as either a hard or soft processed grain.

Basics:
Wheat (berries) stores longer than flour. Once ground the flour will start the clock on becoming rancid, and losing vitamins to oxidation. Whereas, wheat berries have been found to last, when properly stored, for years and years and years, even decades. Some have even been found in ancient Egyptian tombs!

Equipment:
You could just use a mortar and pestle to grind the wheat berries into flour, but that's gonna get tedious and old real fast. Get a grinder (mill). We have a hand grinder because I've been trying to get equipment that doesn't need electricity, but there are many electric grinders available. Trust me, you'll need something, even a food processor, to grind the wheat berries. I've heard of some people using even a coffee grinder, or one of those twist-top small grinders.

Talk to your friends and find out what they use and what they recommend. There are so many grinders and processors that it's going to be a big choice. One you'll have to live with. Many of these are expensive, so be sure to check craigslist or freecycle groups or garage sales and so forth.

Type of Wheat Berries:
Wheat is classified according to hardness, color, and best use. In the United States, the five most important classes of of wheat are: (1) hard red winter, for bread; (2) hard red spring, for bread and rolls; (3) soft red winter, for cake and pastries (it has a finer texture); (4) white, for bread, breakfast foods, and pastries; and (5) durum (to make pasta) products.

How to Store Wheat Berries:
  • If you buy them in bulk, keep in original sealed containers if they come from a reputable supplier.
  • Or you could store in paper bags in new metal garbage cans with tight-sealing lids.
  • Must be kept in a cool dry area, in a container where rodents and other critters and bugs can't get to.

Uses for Wheat Berries:

  • You can plant wheat berries to grow more wheat. You can't plant flour to grow more flour or wheat.
  • Besides grinding into flour, you can cook the cracked wheat (bulgur), make frumenty, and other cracked or whole-wheat dishes.
  • Cook wheat berries like rice and serve with a little gravy on it, or add it to casseroles.
  • Add wheat berries to chili to give it more substance, more body.
  • Cook wheat berries, re-dry them in the oven, and then crack them for cracked-wheat cereal (also known as bulgur) or top a salad.
  • Grind the wheat berries into flour for bread, pizza, pasta... really anything that calls for flour.

Hope this helps you figure out what to do with your huge stores of wheat berries! If you have a favorite way to grind the berries into flour, please feel free to leave the info as a comment to this posting. Thanks.

Welcome New Readers

Just a quick posting to say welcome to our new readers! We've noticed people from all over the world are checking out this blog, and we thank you for your reading and your comments.

Feel free to ask questions, give comments, or request particular information.

Us!

Shelf Life of Pantry and Kitchen Staples

Someone recently asked on our blog how long cooking oil will last in the pantry. In researching that I came across this website: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22593162/

Thought I'd bring the info over here to help out our readers:

Flour
Humidity is the biggest enemy for flour, so don’t store flour in the paper bags used by manufacturers. Besides exposing flour to moisture, these bags are messy. When you get home, transfer flour to an airtight container. Make sure to use a container that’s wide enough to dip a dry measure into. The natural oils in whole-wheat flour and cornmeal go rancid after just a few months. If you go through whole-grain flours slowly, slip packages into large zipper-lock bags and store them in the freezer.

Sweeteners
Granulated sugar will keep indefinitely if stored in an airtight container, like flour. Other sweeteners require gentler handling.

Brown sugar becomes rock-hard after a few months. An airtight container slows down moisture loss, but once brown sugar gets hard you will need to use this trick to revive it. Place the hardened brown sugar in a bowl, add a slice of sandwich bread, cover the bowl, and microwave for 10 to 20 seconds.

Honey and molasses will last indefinitely. Keep honey out of the fridge, where it will crystallize. The biggest issue over time with these sweeteners is that the lids become stuck in place. Try this trick: Dip a paper towel in vegetable oil and wipe the threads of the jar with the oil. This bare film of oil keeps the lid from sticking.

Maple syrup contains more moisture than honey or molasses and is susceptible to mold and bacteria. Once opened, keep maple syrup in the fridge for up to one year. Unopened bottles are fine in the pantry for a few years.

Chocolate
Never put chocolate in fridge or freezer — if you do, a white film (called bloom) will develop on the exterior. Wrap opened bars of chocolate tightly in plastic and store in a cool pantry. Milk and white chocolates will keep for up to six months, whereas semisweet, bittersweet, and unsweetened chocolate are fine for one year.

Oils
Light is the big enemy here, as is heat. So keeping oil in a clear bottle next to the stove is a big no-no. Even when stored in a cool pantry, flavorful oils (like olive and toasted sesame) will become rancid after several months. We suggest keeping toasted sesame oil in the fridge —even if you do a lot of Asian cooking, it will go rancid in the pantry before you finish a small bottle. Olive oil becomes cloudy in the fridge, so it’s best kept in the pantry.

Don’t buy more olive oil than you can use in a few months. And read labels for harvest or expiration dates. Olive oil is best used within one year of harvest date.

Neutral-tasting oils, such as canola and vegetable, are more forgiving, but don’t keep them for longer than one year. If in doubt, heat a little oil in a skillet. If the oil has an off smell, throw out the bottle. Also, over-the-hill oils become viscous with time and sticky under the cap. If you’re having trouble loosening the cap on a bottle of oil, the oil should be thrown out.

Spices and dried herbs
Whole spices will last about twice as long as ground spices. The flavor of ground spices will go downhill after a year, as with the flavor of dried herbs. In the test kitchen, we write the purchase date on stick-on dots to track age of spices and herbs. To maximize the flavor from any dried herb, push the herb through a mesh sieve (or crush herb between your fingers) to release flavorful oils.

Eggs
Do not store eggs in the egg tray that comes with your refrigerator. The paper carton protects eggs from picking up odors. Also, the egg tray is located on the door in most refrigerators and the temperature there is warmer than in the main part of the fridge. Place the carton of eggs on a shelf in the refrigerator. Keeping eggs in their carton also lets you track their expiration or sell-by date.

Butter
When stored in the refrigerator, butter (even when wrapped) can pick up odors and turn rancid within a few weeks. Keep butter in the freezer and transfer it — one stick at a time — to the fridge.

Coffee
Ground coffee belongs in the freezer. Even in an airtight container, coffee stored on the counter becomes harsh and bitter after a few weeks. If you have an extra 10 minutes, measure frozen ground coffee into the filter and let it warm to room temperature. It will make better-tasting coffee than super-cold grounds.

Nuts
Keep all nuts in the freezer, where they will stay fresh for at least six months. Even in a cool pantry, opened bags will go rancid very quickly.

Leaveners
Yeast, baking soda and baking powder will lose their punch over time. Store yeast in the refrigerator or freezer and follow printed expiration dates. Baking powder and baking soda begin to lose effectiveness after six months. Keep them in a cool pantry and, unless you want flat biscuits and cakes, replace them often. Write the date you open baking powder and baking soda on packages.

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NOTE: I strongly believe that most of the above information and lots of what's found on the internet and in books is conservative estimates of time. We don't want to get sued either from people getting sick from using expired items, so we're not going to say much more. Just that you need to use your judgement. If leaveners stop working, replace them. Figure out alternatives. Same with the rest.

The oil situation - that's a main reason that we'll be having goats and/or cows on our mini-farm/homestead. Fresh butter!!!

Self-Sufficiency - Fruit

Food Self-Sufficiency
This is something that has interested me for years. Is it possible to grow everything we need to eat a healthy and varied meals?

Here's the problem: We are products of modern days. A time when we could get in the car and drive 5 minutes to a fast food joint or convenience store. When we have freezers stocked with pre-made dinners, toaster waffles, and logs of ground beef. When our pantry is stocked with tin cans purchased, and not home-canned. When a quick meal means grabbing carbs and meat with little thought to fresh veggies and fruit. When dessert is cake or something sweet, instead of fresh fruit and homemade cheese.

What would happen if the economy got so bad that we couldn't afford to go to McDonald's or order delivery from Pizza Hut? Or Peak Oil happened so drastically that we ran out of gas? We're actually pretty close to being there.

So how do make the transition to homegrown anything and everything?

I've discovered cold turkey doesn't work for me. When I have a migraine, I just don't feel like thinking about what's in the pantry or refrigerator. I'm sure I'm not alone.

As you may know, this was our first year in a house and our first year as gardeners. We grew soy beans, corn, pumpkins, squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes and tomatoes and tomatoes, and a few other things. We planted fruit trees and berry bushes. We learned so much and put away a lot but honestly, I don't think we could survive on what we successfully grew this year. But next year, in our new house.....

Fruit:
Fresh fruit has essential vitamins and minerals needed for strong bones and blood cells, antioxidants, and fiber. Absolutely required for good health, yet we don't eat much as a USA nation.

I read somewhere that fruit should be eaten at times when you don't eat vegetables, so that they don't compete for digestion. Whether that's true or not, because of the sugar content of most fruits, I usually serve fruit during lunch, and veggies during dinner. Fruit is also a good snack in between meals, especially when served with a protein like cheese or nuts/seeds.

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Here's a list of fruits with Nutritional Values, from: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art49478.asp - not complete by any means. I mean, where's the avocado and tomato? (Concerns are in parenthesis, but if you grow them yourselves and/or limit usage, you should be ok.)

Apples - flavonoids, fiber, C (pesticides, wax coating)
Apricots - carotenoids, A, C, fiber (preservatives)
Bananas - B6, C, potassium (glycemic)
Blackberries - flavonoids, fiber, C, K, manganese
Blueberries - flavonoids, C, manganese, fiber
Cantaloupe - carotenoids, C, A, potassium
Cherries - flavonoids (pesticides)
Cranberries - flavonoids, fiber, C, manganese
Dates- (glycemic)
Dried fruit - (glycemic, preservatives)
Figs - (preservatives)
Fruit juices - (glycemic)
Grapefruit - carotenoids in pink, flavonoids, C
Grapes - flavonoids, manganese (pesticides)
Guava - carotenoids, fiber, C
Kiwifruit - C, fiber (glycemic)
Lemons - flavonoids, C (wax coating)
Limes - flavonoids, C (wax coating)
Mangoes - carotenoids, A, C (glycemic)
Nectarines - carotenoids, C (glycemic, pesticides)
Oranges - carotenoids, flavonoids, C, fiber (glycemic)
Papayas - carotenoids, C, folate, potassium
Peaches - carotenoids, C (pesticides)
Pears - flavonoids (pesticides)
Persimmons - C (glycemic)
Pineapple - C, manganese (glycemic)
Plums - carotenoids, C
Raspberries - flavonoids, fiber, manganese, C
Raisins - (glycemic, pesticides, preservatives)
Strawberries - carotenoids, flavonoids, C, fiber (pesticides)
Tangerines - carotenoids, A, C (glycemic)
Watermelon - carotenoids, C, A, B6 (glycemic)

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Here are some suggestions for quick fruit-meals that we can do 100% ourselves:
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Chunks of cheddar cheese
Bunches of grapes
Applesauce
Cornbread
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Scrambled eggs
Freshly baked bread
Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries
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Cucumber & tomato salad
Walnut muffins
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Cranberry-orange muffins
Baked Chicken
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Soybean flour crackers spread with peanut butter
fruit salad
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On-the-go "snack meal":
Sunflower Seeds, Pecans
Dried peaches and dried mango
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Wow ... that's just what I came up with in a few moments, by looking at my list of plants and animals (cows, chickens). Some, like the orange tree, will need to be a solarium, while the strawberries could be grown indoors on a windowsill or in a corner with a grow-light for year-round consumption.

Your fruit-meal suggestions?

We Brought Home a Guard Dog Puppy

As you know, we're looking to get a little homestead, about 2-5 acres. We have a 10 pound chihuahua but she's kinda old and very small so she won't be much of a guard anything. So, in anticipation that we'll have our property within the next 6 months, we got a 10 week old puppy yesterday - a cross between Alaskan Malamute, Rottweiler and Dalmatian. He's already twice the size (or more) than the Chihuahua. Should be a good to raise as a protector and guardian, which is exactly why we got him. Oh, and as a playmate to the very energetic VHTS.

We had specifics in mind when we found him: very young puppy (he's 10 weeks), of guard dog stock/mix (Rotti), male and un-neutered (we want to breed him later for more guard puppies), and someone we could afford. Basically, we wanted a good big dog that's fiercely loyal and protective, large enough to scare just by looking at him, and with a background in protection.

But ... this is the first time he'd left his littermates and his home and people where he was born. Never had a collar or leash on. No shots. No beginning of training or socialization. The owners did nothing at all but let the puppies rule the house and pretty much destroy it. Once we brought him home (after a stop at PetSmart), it took him all of yesterday afternoon to warm up to us (treats helped - typical male!), whined and barked all night in his crates, pooped on my living room floor, and loves our VHTS so much he'd do anything for him. Already.

We tried to take him on the leash last night for a walk but didn't even cross the street. Now that he's getting used to having a collar and leash on, and getting used to us, we actually made it down about 4 houses before he sat down and flat out stopped. Interesting.

Vet appointment later this afternoon to check him out, give shots and hopefully advice. Meanwhile, we're already working on the basics of commands: his name and sit. I've also started researching how to train a guard dog, and we've ordered a few DVDs from Netflix to help with basic commands.

Now, if we can just get him to not whine and bark all night! One step at a time right?

Will post pix when we have them, and updates.

Recipe: Homemade Cat Food & Treats

We posted recipes to feed dogs last week. Researched the same for cats, and even though we don't have any cats (I'm allergic), we came up with the following info.

Cats like chicken, liver, fish, turkey, lamb, and yeast. They prefer fresh to old "aged" flavors. Cats are usually fussy so you need to mix up what you give them. If you feed your cat his favorite food, at some point he will refuse to try anything else. This could cause problems down the road.

Cats should not have any starchy vegetables, like corn or peas, and may even enjoy fruit! Cats should eat 50% carbohydrates and 50% meat. They should be fed three times a day. This doesn't mean big meals though!

Modern day cats aren't used to catching their own prey, so avoid giving them bones. However, if you have a mouser, the cat will be fine with catching and eating their own meals. Be sure to watch their health and supplement as necessary.

Turkey-Egg Dinner:
1 cup dried turkey dices, rehydrated, cooked
2 boiled/scrambled eggs
1 tablespoon pureed carrots
1 tablespoon cottage cheese
1 tablespoon sunflower oil

Mix well. Feed at room temperature. Refrigerate covered for no more than 3 days.

Chicken-Seafood Dinner:
1 cup cooked chicken
1 cup cooked sweet potato or spinach or green beans
1/2 cup cooked clams with juice (check for mercury)
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons fish oil
5 rounded tablespoons Solgar Bone Meal Powder with Vitamin B-12

Combine well. Separate into 1/2 cup portions. Feed one portion a day. Freeze rest in small baggies (thaw baggies in hot water before serving).


Fish Treats:
7 ounces sardines in oil
1/4 cup dry powdered milk
1/2 cup wheat germ

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix/mash all ingredients into a dough. Roll into small balls. Place on oiled cookie/baking sheet. Flatten with a fork. Bake until begin to brown. Store in fridge in airtight container. Give only one or two treats a day.


Sources of Protein (listed here as raw - but MUST be cooked to serve):
6 ounces ground turkey, or minced turkey (dark meat)
1/2 pound beef, chicken or turkey heart, ground or minced
1/2 pound boneless chicken breast or thigh, minced
1/2 pound lean beef, minced

Three Times Per Week, add:
1 boiled or scrambled egg
4 ounces cooked organic liver
4 ounces water-packed mercury-free tuna
6 ounces sardines
5 ounces can salmon with bones
1/2 cup cooked white rice



Cats should avoid onions!

Also avoid:
-canned fish if cat has urinary tract problems
- baby food
-alcoholic beverages
-bones
-canned tuna (possibly too much mercury/lacking certain vitamins)
-milk
-caffeine
-dog food
-grapes, raisins
-fat trimmings, table scraps
-macadamia nuts
-mushrooms
-potato/rhubarb
-raw eggs / raw fish
-too much liver

For more info, check out:

We don't have experience with other pets - anyone have treats for birds, ferrets, rabbits, etc? Please feel free to leave your recipe as a comment to this post. Thanks!

Candle-Making

I haven't made candles since I was a little girl. My mother would gather the supplies and then us three girls (I'm the middle kid) would help in the kitchen. She had a special pot for melting, another for dipping and pouring. We would use cans from food like tuna or soup, suspending the wick with a pencil. We color them with those bars you scrape, and sometime scent them peppermint or cinnamon. This was usually a winter project when we'd be snowed in. I felt so proud to have created something so wonderful. Wonder why I never did it after I grew up?

But now, I want to know how to again. It's important that I be able to make candles. Last Fall we went shopping at Hobby Lobby, and luckily they were having a sale. We came away with quite an assortment of supplies.

First, we got a kit (Candle Creations - a Candle Making Machine). I know I know ... that's cheating. Yes, a little. But I want to re-learn the basics before I experiment.

So, in addition to the kit, we got block wax, bees wax, soy wax, color, scents, wicks, molds and more. We haven't had a chance to experiment yet but hopefully in the next month or so.

Actually, we plan on this being a family project, to add to our list of "specialties". At our next (and final) home, we plan on having several bee hives for honey and wax. We'll have a lot of bayberry bushes for bayberry wax. We hope to figure out how to make wax from soy. And so, when the need arises, we'll be able to make candles at any time.

I loved making candles. Hope I can remember how.

Recipe: How to Make Cinnamon Sunflower Seed Milk

Here's another recipe for a lactose-free milk substitute:

Ingredients:
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
3 cups water
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:
Soak the 1 cup of seeds in the 3 cups of water for 4-8 hours at room temperature (or overnight). Be sure to cover to keep out any bugs. After soaking, add the seeds and water they soaked in to a blender. Add the honey and cinnamon. Blend for 2-5 minutes - mixture should be kinda white. Strain twice into a mason jar, label and refrigerate. Good for 2-3 days. Use the sediment/pulp in pancakes, muffins, crackers, etc.

Copyright (c) 2009 New View Group, LLC

Inventory Check - Tea and Coffee

How much tea and coffee do you have in your stockpile?

Take an inventory: If you can't get to a store for an entire year, do you have enough of these for you and your other family members? Do you have any tea-balls to brew your own loose-tea drinks? Are you growing a coffee plant for when you run out of coffee, and there is no more to be bought? What about an extra supply of both for bartering?

We drink a lot of herbal tea, and have stored lots, and of different kinds. We don't drink caffeine, but have stored caffeinated coffee and tea for barter, as well as lots of instant decaf tea, various decaf coffees, herbal teas, loose herbs, and tea balls.

Once we move to our next place, we're planting lots of chamomile and mint/peppermint plants. We're looking into various other teas that we love, like blueberry (do we brew the leaves?)

Of course, there's never enough tea and coffee.

Recipe: Rice and Potato Flatbread

I recently had to go gluten-free again, so I'm starting to experiment with different quick breads. Whipped this one up quick, first try was successful!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups rice flour
1 1/2 cups instant potato flakes
1 teaspoon xantham gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 packages stevia (a natural sweetener)
2 eggs
3 cups water

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray/oil rectangle baking pan. Combine dry ingredients until well mixed. Add eggs and water, and mix well. Pour/spread into baking pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes. Will be thick and dense and delicious. Very yummy spread with peanut butter and all-fruit.

Very Hungry Tween Son (VHTS) loved it plain AND spread with peanut butter. Thank goodness! Something healthy and gluten-free that he can eat all day!

Alternative: Could substitute cinnamon with garlic and onion powder. Think we'll try that next week.

Feel free to add salt if desired. I have high blood pressure, so I don't add salt to anything.

Our Thrift Store Haul

We love shopping at local thrift stores. We usually go on the 3rd of 4th of each month. Here's our haul on one visit:

- masonry
- creative bottle cutting
- 4-bks on medical
- space and storage
- backpackers cookbook
- weatherproofing
- home security
- plumbing
- gardening with wildlife
and much more.

We will definitely add these 20+ books to our reference collection. We can barely wait until we get into our next home - our permanent home - where we can spread out our books, organize and catalog them.

We also brought home several items we can use for makeshift cook-stoves, an index card holder (for these recipes we create and post here), and a few other things.

We LOVE thrift stores!