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STORING MY SPICES, HERBS and other stuff!

ready to store

By WE2′sready to fill

Many of you have read by now my lovely experience with VacuCraft canisters.

I did want to share another little “thing” I do to try and keep my spices, herbs & other foods as fresh as I can whether it’s for dry pantry storage or in my refrigerator since I just finished jarring up about 7 jars.

First:  I determine which size of jar I’ll be needing to hold the food.awl puncturing

2nd:  I grab one of my “used” canning lids (I do NOT throw them away!) and a ring.

3rd:  Using my canning funnel, I put the herb, the spice, or the food, into the jar.

4th:  I use a small “awl” that MrWE2 gave me and puncture a tiny hole in the lid.

5th:  I cut a small piece of black electrical tape (about ¾ inch long) and place it over the hole.

tape on lid

6th:  I then use my manual hand pump (either one of those that came with my VacuCraft or one of those

that I’ve purchased with the Ziplock system.

7th:  Place it over the taped up hole and vacuum until it’s very hard to pull your pump up.

sealer on lid

At this time, your lid should be sealed.

Put the ring on it, and put it where you want to store it.

I use this same method when I’ve opened olive jars, pickle jars, and various other jars…just puncture a hole in the lid, tape it, vacuum it and put it back in your refrigerator!

I hate throwing out foods!

SAVING ON SANDWICH BAGS

sandwich bags

By WE2′s

With us being hikers, motorcycle riders, canoe lovers, RV”ers and MrWE2 working part time as a carpenter, we go through a lot of ziplock type baggies.

One of the things we have found that saves us a bit in baggies and in keeping sandwiches dry and fresh, are the sandwich sized plastic containers.

They have them at many different stores, but since we enjoy the deli-type sandwich meats such as turkey, ham, etc., we’ve found we can save the containers and use them as our sandwich containers.

I don’t run them through the dishwasher. Instead I just add a bit of bleach to some soapy dishwater and give them a sanitizing scrub and rinse with scalding water. They seem to be holding up fine.

They’re also good for mixing up some tuna or chicken salad to stick in our cooler along with crackers, etc., for a quick “lunch on the road”.

When I make my tuna or chicken salad, I add diced apples, celery and raisins so we get a pretty good balance for our lunch.

Just another way the WE2′s find to recycle and save some dollars to spend elsewhere 

Free Mylar Food Storage Bags!

chip bag

This is a great little video on how to get Mylar storage bags for FREE!  I LOVE FREE!

RICE TUBES

tieing tubes

By WE2′s

Don’t remember where we saw this, but it “stuck’ and we did it for ourselves.

We call them “rice tubes”.

If you’ve ever vacuum sealed rice, dehydrated potatoes or pasta’s you’ve learned that they puncture tiny little holes in the bags (even Mylar eventually) and it’s a gonner for long-term storage.  That’s why using “tubes” made sense to us.cu tubes

We made a visit to our local $Tree and purchased several packages of ankle high socks and several “hair bands”.

While wifey held the sock and the funnel, MrWE2 poured several cups of instant white rice (or whatever type rice you want to store) until it was about 3 inches from the top of the sock.

Then he shook the sock to settle the rice, gave the sock a “twirl” to tighten the top of it, and wrapped the hair band (like a rubber band) around top several times, bent the top part of the sock over, and again wrapped the hair band.

We then put them tall side up into a 5-gallon food safe bucket with a gasket sealed lid, and with a rubber mallet, hammered the lid in place.  You can get a WHOLE BUNCH of rice tubes in a bucket!

tubes in pail

VACUCRAFT

Cannister Sets $10.00 each 100_3766

WE2 wifey

Another of my perhaps “unusual” preps is the Vacucraft canisters.  I absolutely love them and glad that I can now use them instead of my canning jars.  I’ve included a picture of one of the systems I own, but alas…I own 3 sets.  Each set contains 4 canisters plus the hand vacuum to seal them.

I found them at a Menard’s store last year for $10 for a set, bought two and then when I saw them again just a week or so again, bought another.

I use them for just about everything, and they’re dishwasher safe but I don’t put the lids in since they have the gasket lid & rubber “seal” on top.  I haven’t tried to microwave in them either because I don’t want to damage them, or I am sure the lids wouldn’t survive.VacuCraft

I’m sure you’ve all heard of “salad in a jar” … I’ve got a better system now!  I take a head of Romaine lettuce, slice it 3 or 4 times length wise, and then chop it cross wise to get our favorite bite sized pieces of lettuce for our salads.  Then I put them in my largest canister and press it down as much as it will go.  Then I put the lid on and using the hand vacuum, I remove all the moisture, and in the frig it goes.  My salad lettuce is ready to go & all I have to do is add tomatoes, chunks of goat cheese, chopped almonds and our favorite homemade dressing. Sometimes I like a “sweet” salad so I add grapes, open a small can of mandarin oranges, pour some over the salad and then add some cottage cheese…yummy for me, not so for MrWE2.  He likes “salad”   Oh…did I mention my salad starter lasts me about 10 days, depending on how many times I open it.  Each time I remove some salad; I just put the lid back on and vacuum seal it back down 

I keep my butter in the smaller one, vacuum-sealed down and sitting on my worktable, soft and ready to use…but vacuum-sealed for freshness.

I put as much of my bell pepper and onion mix into the large one as I can get.  Also, just release the seal, take what I need, put the lid back on and vacuum seal it back until next time.  Also, lasting a long, long time and not frozen, so it doesn’t take long to cook in my cast iron skillet for an omelet.

I shred my hard cheeses (mild cheddar and pepper jack are our favorites) into two of the smaller canisters, vacuum seal them down and the process goes on…fresh shredded cheeses that keep for ages.

I just finished grinding up about 6 cups or so of red wheat, and putting it into the larger size.  Keeps the wheat flower freshly sealed for whenever I want to use it.

I love the fact that the canister is a harder, dishwasher safe type plastic so if I accidentally drop one it’s not shattered all over the floor like a canning jar would be (I seldom use plastic containers to store “2nd helpings”) and keeps my food so much fresher than a baggie or something.  If I leave head room, I can also freeze them…but I don’t.  I use the foods in them too fast 

If you can find them…my advice is GET THEM AS FAST AS YOU CAN and buy as many sets as you can afford.  I haven’t checked on line at the cost there, but at the Menards they were $10 a set.  At $10 a set how can anybody go wrong?

Aging and Caloric Needs

 

"Grace" Minnesota State Photograph

“Grace” Minnesota State Photograph

 

By Bev,

There has been a lot of talk on SCP about calories needed to sustain life and activity levels. I have a friend who is a nutritionist and decided to quiz her a bit on the subject.

“All calorie guidelines are just that – guidelines,” she said. “Heredity, activity level, height, boby build and age all need to be taken into consideration.”

“As we age, our caloric needs go down. Our activity level is usually less, too.”

All of this makes perfect sense to me. I’m out of peasant stock, northern European farmers – easy keepers. Centuries of subsistence living, wars, famines, plagues, etc. culled the hard keepers out. My grandmother was 4’9″ and about 90 lbs. She was a fiery little one, always moving and keeping everyone fed. My mom made it to 4’11′, not that she is that tall now, and also full of energy. Off the farm and better nutrition in the ’50s and ’60s and all of her children are taller than her and much heavier. But she still fed us like we were working on the farm.

So, mom is eating between 500 and 800 calories a day, very active for a lady her age – still drives a 4 WD truck and goes out to the farm everyday – and is just about right at 100 lbs. or less. And her hobby is cooking! She is a taster rather than an eater, but she loves to feed other people.

I’m 20 years younger, 6 inches taller, walking 1 to 2 miles a day on the treadmill, fairly homestead bound and eating about 1,500 calories a day and maintaining 25 to 30 lbs. I don’t need. According to the guidelines, I should be losing weight.

I know why I gained the weight. After the strokes and car accident I was basically bedridden for a while in recovery, but didn’t adjust my eating habits. And as I’ve aged, I’ve seen a definite shift of weight toward the middle of my body – thickening, yup. Normal as you age, but uncomfortable. I’m not alone. I look around at other men and women my age and they too are thickening and most have put on a few extra pounds. So, what do I do?

Both Bob and I have noticed that we nolonger have the desire to eat large portions. We can share a steak or even a meal out and feel plenty full.  When we do go out to dinner, which doesn’t happen often, we now order one entree with two plates and maybe an appetizer for variety, or split a dessert. Even at the drive thru a $1 cheeseburger is plenty filling and I can’t eat a whole Big Mac in one sitting. And I always ask for a glass of water instead of a pop.

The old chef’s adage is “You eat with your eyes first”. With that in mind, I do try to make anything I serve appetizing, but I have been switching to smaller plates and bowls too. The old Fire King ware of the ’50s is about perfect, but hard to find at a reasonable price anymore. New salad plates actually make wonderful dinner plates. And small, colorful bowls are perfect for my morning breakfast packet of maple brown sugar oatmeal. In fact, I am now using my old dinner plates as serving platters for just the two of us.

I’m also not prone toward spicy foods anymore, but I am using a lot more spices to dress up the smaller portions to have more taste and variety. Plus, what is a garnish of a dash of parsley on a bowl of tomato soup worth – not much, but it sure makes the soup look more appetizing.

And then there is soup, even as a first course to fill you up before the main meal. On New Year’s Day I shared that I would like to lose some weight. Carmen shared the all you can eat soup diet. She lost six pounds in one week – sounded great to me! So I immediately started the diet and was pretty faithful to it for a week. I felt full and satisfied and “lighter”. There is so much variety with soup that I didn’t get bored at all, but I only lost two pounds.

These dry soup mixes are "just add water" and make a half gallon each!

These dry soup mixes are “just add water” and make a half gallon each!

Above is a collection of dry soups from my pantry. These are very, very good tasting. The tortilla one is more like bean with bacon soup. ALL are thick and hearty. They could easily be thinned to 3/4 of a gallon and be more soup-like than stew-like. They aren’t cheap at $3-$4 a package, but perfect for a survival pantry and just to have on hand if guests appear unexpectedly. Add contents to boiling water and you have a meal to feed 4-8 people (depending on serving size) in less than 30 minutes!

So what does that tell me? That I would probably maintain a healthy weight and feel satisfied on a Survival Soup diet. Soup can be made from almost anything that you have available, from garden vegetables, to potatoes, to almost any meat or fish. And soup is absolutely perfect for the beans and rice we all have put up. Lots of seasonings for flavor and soups can and freeze well. Soups and stews can easily be made over one burner, on a campfire, or in a crockpot – my personal favorite. You can eat until you are full, no need to worry about portion sizes, and feed a lot more people with what may only feed two or three with the ingredients fixed other ways. And it is easy.

And then there are the people who just don’t have an appetite and start losing weight as they age. Whether over weight or under weight, 6 small meals a day may be a way for you to get the appropriate amount of calories needed for proper weight maintenance. One tip my nutritionist friend did give me, “Forget Ensure and just by SlimFast – less expensive and it does the same thing if you look at the can.”

Did you notice the picture at the top of this post? It is the Minnesota State Photograph “Grace”, I believe taken in 1917. This was taken long before there were caloric charts and obesity became an epidemic in our society. I sometimes wonder if we have forgotten the basics with all of our new knowledge. I ocassionally wonder if going back to what worked for generations would not be more healthful and satisfying than chips, cookies, cakes, and drive thru “Would you like to super size that?”

We have a category on the sidebar called “Survival Soup”. We are trying to collect good soup recipes from preparedness supplies and the garden. Do you have one to share? Please email me at bcfossillady at gmail dot com or Rourke at scprepper at outlook dot com

$0 Beer Case Can Rotators

By Bev Sandlin,

I’ve been having fun creating can rotators. I asked the guy at the local liquor store to keep me back some beer cases when he made six packs again. Since they are double the size of a pop 12 pack, I was doing some experimenting.

The one below is two cases laid on their sides with a piece of cardboard slide through the middle to make a double rotator. I cut the cardboard separator along the grooves in the cardboard so that all I had to do was make a half slice through the cardboard so that it folded nicely on the top and bottom. Lots of duct tape later and I had a very nice double can rotator.

double rotator 1

double rotator done

 

But the one I really like is this single beer case rotator. I turned it on its side and drew a line 3″ from the top in the front and 5″ toward the back. I cut a piece of cardboard about 12″ long to slide through it. Again I sliced for flaps, bent them down and duct taped the devil out of it for strength. Can goes in the front top, rolls down the cardboard and comes out the bottom front.

Why do I like this so much? The roll is phenomenal! Enough momentum created to roll them right to the front of the bottom with no slope on the case. See the carry holes in the top? Allows you to inventory pretty easily. If I were more ambitious, I could cut corresponding holes in the ramp – but I’m not.

single rotator finished

single rotator 1

 This an extension of the original post:

10 Can Rotation for $0

Which uses pop 12 packs and has 4 YouTube videos.

 

Doomsday Bread Video

Short and easy, I like it!

10 Can Rotation for $0

10 Can Rotation for $0

By Bev Sandlin

Okay, I’ve been experimenting again…

Bob brought home canned pop for Thanksgiving in those cardboard 12 packs. Well, after everyone left I got to thinking that if pop cans can rotate in those, why can’t veggie and soup cans do the same thing?

Well, yeah, with one you can fit in five cans, but you need access from the back. So then I got to thinking, what about two stacked?

Lots of duct tape, repeated cutting,  and some experimenting later and I now have a 10 can rotation system for $0 spent - if you don’t count the pop, these are just leftover cardboard.

Approximate Dimensions: 16″ L 11″ H 5″ wide

can rotation 1

 

can rotation 3

 

can rotation 2

 

can rotation done

 

Not pretty! But I figure next time I get to Wally World I will buy some 99 cent spray paint, give them a few coats and they will be acceptable. If you know anyone who drinks pop or beer, these should be pretty easy to come by. I know I’m going to start asking around as the size works well with my plastic shelving units and the price is right!

* These could easily be sized to fit different can sizes just by cutting and taping to the size you desire. Also to fit your cupboards just by shortening them, if you have the height.

* I’m thinking that next time I do this I will use Modpodge (white glue) to glue the boxes together and perhaps glue two pieces of cardboard on the outsides to stiffen them. Then if I wanted, I could have a nice paint job or decoupage some brown paper bags or wrapping paper onto them for added durability and attractiveness.

* Watch your boxes this Christmas season, as I’m pretty sure this can be done with shoe boxes, etc.

Here is a video I found on YouTube that is almost the same idea I had.

If you make one of these, or have some improvement ideas, send in a picture!

So I did take the suggestion in the comments and went to Katzcradul on YouTube.

Wow, is that a cool channel! But I never did find the can rotation system.

However, I did find this video that uses a large box and foam board to create a

wonderful 3 can rotation system.

And then I found this video that has the same idea I used with pop can 12 packs only a single row.

So then I found this video where he made a rotation system out of an old cabinet. Love’n’ it!

Video: Survival Pizza

YouTube_Icon

Check out this video coming from CampingSurvival.com on making a “pizza” from preparedness food storage products. Pretty cool idea. I have been wanting to research some ideas on recipes for use after the SHTF.

- Rourke

 

 

All About Canners! Part 2 of 2

All About Canners! Part 2 of 2

By servantheart, Editor At Large

If buying a used unit, know what you are doing before you buy it. Does it use a gasket? Count on needing to replace it. Most replacement gaskets also come with a new overpressure plug for that model. Make sure it has the counterweight, or, you may have trouble getting the one to fit the vent pipe for that model. That’s the doodad you drop in place to help regulate the pressure. A good, solid model will not rock and make noise unless you have too much pressure built; this is a warning sign. A pressure cooker must rock and release pressure as it works; a pressure canner should not need to do that.

If using a dial gauge canner (the only kind I use) please make sure the gauge needs to work correctly in order to safely can food. You can take your unit to your local county extension office; most of them have the ability to check it for accuracy. However, if it is a really old unit, they will likely tell you they can not check it.  I guarantee I’d get this answer on my 1930′s Kook-Kwik canners. They work, and I know my equipment well enough to know they work. It is O.K. to use a canner with a dial gauge that is “off” in reading, as long as it is NOT off more than two (2) degrees, AND you compensate for that while canning. One of my 1970′s Presto units is like this; I have used it for years in this manner; if the recipe calls for 10 lbs. pressure (I am well below 1,000 ft. altitude), then I process @ 12 lbs. pressure. If the gauge ever changes so that it is off by more than 2 degrees, I will replace it.

Do be aware that the replacement parts, including gaskets, are all coming out of China. I have bought multiple gaskets for the same canner at one time, only to have one that did not fit properly, so it would not seal and I could not use it, but another from the same shipment worked just fine. This is a good time for: “2 is 1; 1 is none; and 3 makes me happy!”.

I order replacement parts from online sources. These include:

http://gopresto.com/

http://www.pressurecooker-outlet.com/Presto-Pressure-Cooker-Parts.htm

http://www.cookingandcanning.net/16quart.html

http://www.goodmans.net/d/429/presto-pressure-cooker-parts.htm?sc=adwords&k=presto%20canner%20replacement%20parts&gclid=CKyd3ImZtbkCFUVk7Aod61sAPQ (goodman’s is also on ebay)

and ebay and Amazon.

The majority of sellers on ebay, etc., have no idea how a pressure canner works, or what it should look like. They just hope to sell it and make a few bucks. So you see used units in all kinds of conditions, from “never used much”, to “what happened”? Know what to look for or consult someone who does. If ebay, pay only by Paypal for the buyer protection. If there is any damage to certain parts of a canner, it will not be safe to operate. Some parts are replaceable, some are not.

If your canner is sputtering, leaking, etc., you do not have a proper seal. You must take it off the heat, let it cool enough to open, find the problem and fix it, or, forget about it. Food processed like this will not kill contaminants and subject the one eating it to food poisoning.

The Ball Blue Book is a common “go to” source for canning information, but, even it has a few things to say that I will not teach, because it’s just wrong, based on my own experience; but, mostly it’s good stuff. You can get one at most China  (Wal) Marts.

Do not try to use a pressure cooker as a pressure canner. Mirro makes a cooker that can be used as a canner; it’s the one with the weighted gauge in 5/10/15 pound “holes” that fit the regulator onto the vent pipe. This is do-able, but, not recommended.

The amount of pressure and time you need to can any given product is determined by: (1) what you are canning (low or high acid?); (2) the altitude where you live (over 1000 ft increases pressure needed by 2 deg. increments; and (3) whether you are canning pints, quarts. etc. If, for example, you need 12 lbs. pressure for X amount of time to safely can that food, where you live, in the size jar you want, then you can not do that with the Mirro; your only choices are 5, 10, and 15 lbs. pressure.

I do not recommend canning in half gallons (yes, you can buy these jars) , as there is no scientific info on proper times and temps per altitude, for any given kind of food. If you choose to can in half gallon jars, that’s your business, but, do know it’s a crap shoot.

What to do about that 12 lbs.? Well, you can not safely can at 10 lbs. pressure; if the recipe calls for 12 lbs., there is a reason for it; it has been scientifically tested and found to be the correct pressure at which to process that particular food, at that altitude, in the size jar you want. Anything less will not guarantee food safety, as it may not be hot enough long enough to kill any potential toxins or botulism wannabes. Ever had food poisoning? Yes, it can kill. But even if it doesn’t, you will, at least temporarily, wish it would.

So, you can process at 15 lbs. pressure. That should do it, right? Sure. If you like mush. 12 lbs. pressure means 12 lbs. pressure. You will need a dial gauge to know where that is, and keep it there.

Most books and sites tell you to take your canner to your county extension office and have it tested once a year to make sure it is safe. I do teach this in my classes, but, do I do it? What do you think? I know how it should act, and, when it doesn’t act right, I replace it.

What size canner should you choose? Nothing under 12 quarts, as they are not considered safe for food processing if they are smaller than 12 quarts – which makes me wonder why All-American sells a 10.5 quart model but, they do. Don’t buy it. I have a 12 quart Guardian Ware (vintage) that is perfect for a leftover pint or more of soup, stew, etc. During dinner, I process my jars (in the dishwasher). After dinner, I pack and process the leftovers. DH will grab a jar, take it to work, remove the metal parts, nuke it, and have it for lunch. He has refused to eat from the company cafeterias for years, because he knows what’s in Mama’s cookin’. Yes, he’s spoiled; it’s my job and I’m good at it. The 70’s harvest gold 12 quarts show up on ebay from time-to-time, as well. Prices will vary, so, shop carefully.

Back to what size canner. A 16 or 17 quart is the most common size; they will hold 7 quarts and 8 pints per fill. A 21 or 22 quart will hold 8 quarts and 9 pints, I believe. A 30 quart, well, now, that’s a pretty big one, but nice for large batches. You must have three (3) inches clearance between the top of the jars and the inside top of your canner lid.

You do need one tall enough to allow for double-stacking pints. You will use a rack at the bottom for the first layer of jars, and a rack between layers. Water does not have to cover the jars; do not use less than 3-4 inches, however; if double-stacking, make sure water is about half full in canner.

What kind of stove will you can on?

The heat source you will can on (most likely a stove) is an integral part of your canning equipment. It is possible to home can on most smooth tops; however, it is a very bad idea, and not recommended, unless you are ready for a new stove. Even radiant heat stoves can not take the prolonged heat necessary for most canning jobs indefinitely; most will do it for a while, but will eventually crack.

A gas flame is your best option for home canning; it gives you the best control over the heat, which makes your job easier.

Electric stoves work just fine, as long as they are not smooth top units.

I know people who have built “outdoor kitchens” just for canning, because they could not afford to ruin their smooth cooktop. These can be rudimentary; a tent with a gas grill and a single burner; or a Cajun cooker (though these are very hard to regulate, as well, and not recommended, particularly for a novice). Some people have purchased used gas stoves and set them up in outdoor kitchens; concrete or stone pad, with a simple roof or awning overhead.

Next:  jars, tools, and how to use your canner properly.

What specific questions do you have for me?

 

All About Canners! Part 1 of 2

All About Canners! Part 1 of 2

By servantheart, Editor At Large

Lee made me do it: A primer on pressure canners

Well, actually, Lee INSPIRED me. Thanks, Lee – I think?!! (Just messin’ with ya’!)

 

A Word About Water Bath Canners

We are here to talk about pressure canners, but I do want to first bring up water bath canners. Water bath canners are sufficient for high acid foods, the most common of which is tomatoes. However, even tomatoes need a little help; depending on the variety and the soil in which they were grown, they may or may not have sufficient levels of acid; that is why it is important to add lemon juice when canning tomatoes; salt is a matter of taste – there isn’t enough salt to have any effect on food preservation, but lemon juice guarantees proper acidity. Use one-half teaspoon per pint, one level teaspoon per quart. However, it needs to be BOTTLED lemon juice, not fresh; bottled is much more consistent in pH (power of hydrogen – the measure of acidity in an aqueous solution), and more likely to produce a safe product.

A water bath canner should NEVER be used to can foods calling for pressure canning. NEVER. No arguments. I don’t care if Grandma did do it. Water boils @ 212 deg. F.; the minimum standard pressure for home canning any food, at any altitude, is 10 lbs. – this is 240 deg. F. See the difference? Yeah, you’ll hurt people like that, or worse.

Pressure Canners

Now to pressure canners. Let’s start with the most frequently asked question. No, you can not blow it up. Not even if you try; not unless you process dynamite, or something stupid like that – as long as there is an overpressure plug or device or “hole”.  Some older models do not, but very few; those – you can blow up, but you have to work hard at it. It would take a lot of heat for a long time. Even my 1930’s KwikKooks have overpressure plugs; they are metal, and don’t look like a modern one at all, but, that’s what they are, and, unless you let them get stuffed up, they do their job, very well.

Never run a pressure canner dry. It will warp the bottom, and, once the bottom is warped, it is useless for canning. Ask this question before buying a used unit online.

Yes, you will need at least one rack that fits; if you are buying a really old one without a rack, good luck finding one that fits. I do a lot of “borrowing” of racks and that works out fine, but do be aware that with very old units, you may not be able to get replacement parts. Example: the Presto/National # 7 is a common 16 quart unit; I can find a dozen of them for sale on ebay right now. They hold 7 quarts and 8 pints. Replacement parts are easy peasy. But, the Presto/National # 5, the 12 quart, is nearly impossible to find replacement parts for; I had to buy a whole second unit just to get the part I needed for my #5. I have both units, and use both.

Presto was originally National, so, you will often see both names used; either way, they are the same unit, and use the same replacement parts.

Some of the older units (Presto/National) have wooden handles; unless you want to oil them constantly, avoid them – go with the black bakelite handle models, instead. But, if you have a wooden handle unit, olive oil works just fine; just oil them down after using.

The All-American reigns supreme as “the” Cadillac of canners. I have yet to meet an A-A canner who does not love this piece of equipment. But they are very expensive, and parts do break – mostly the hard plastic handles used to tighten down the lid to seal before canning, and reversed to release the lid after a cool down period. It is mostly loved because it is gasketless. If you have one, get spare part knobs, too, before IHTF.

There are less expensive alternatives. I have two 1930’s Kwik-Kook canners that have nothing but heavy metal parts; all canners were at one time gasketless. I use my Kwik-Kooks; they both do the job very well. One is huge, and will hold up to 16 pints or 14 quarts at a run, and the other is a 16-quart (that refers to how much liquid it will safely hold); the 16-quart will run 8 pints or 7 quarts at one time. A 16-quart is a very common size produced by all canning manufacturers.

Then there is the backbone of the canning industry – National/Presto! Presto has been manufactured out of China for about 20 years now. These canners are thinner, lighter, and do not hold up as well as their vintage American production ancestors. I have two newer ones. The dial gauges are plastic, not metal, and they break a lot. I do not like them, and do not use them except to demonstrate them at classes, i.e., “don’t buy this”!

I much prefer my vintage 1970’s American-made Presto units; I have two that are 21-quart units in the circa-1970’s harvest gold. I did not seek out this color; it just “happened”.  They come in plain chrome, too. They are rock solid and use the original pressure gauges. I do replace the gaskets and overpressure plugs about once a year, but I can year ‘round – there is no “season” for canning when you’re a homesteader!

The pre-80’s units are heavier and do a better job of even heating, so they are not as labor intensive. Once you get to know your equipment, which means your canner and how it works with your stove, you can pretty much set it and it will hold pressure very well. I find the newer, thinner models need more “adjusting”; therefore, more watching, therefore, more labor intensive.

The Importance of Storing Food & Water!

The Importance of storing Food and Water!

By

The Coach

Editor At Large

 

I live in a suburb of New Orleans, Louisiana. Today, Friday, 9/6/13, the local TV stations had an article on their evening news broadcast that shocked the entire New Orleans metro area.

In St. Bernard Parish, another suburb of New Orleans, it was announced that a four (4) year old boy died in August from encephalitis caused by a brain-eating amoeba.

The authorities stated that they believe the four year old boy had been playing on a “Slip-N-Slide” and had caught the brain eating amoeba while doing so. If that was not shocking enough, the authorities stated that he died in August of 2013. They had waited a month to release the information.

The authorities stated that the water was safe to drink, bathe in, wash dishes and clothes in. Then they say that the brain-eating amoeba was found in the toilet tank inside the house where the four year old boy had caught the brain-eating amoeba.

Now, I am not a rocket scientist, but if the brain-eating amoeba was found inside the houses water system, would you drink or use the water in the Saint Bernard Parish area for anything. Not me!

Why the public officials didn’t announce the boy’s death when it occurred?

Could someone else have caught this horrible brain-eating amoeba because the public officials had waited to announce the boy’s death in a timely manner?

Would you have liked it if you had been using this possibly contaminated water for a month without knowing the possibility that it had the brain-eating amoeba in it?

Bottle water is getting very hard to find in the Saint Bernard Parish area!

This is yet another reason to store extra food and water. It is also important to have a good water filter. You never know when the public officials will tell you that there is a problem with the areas food or water supply.

If you would like to read more on this incident, below are two of the local TV stations that ran this story.

http://www.wwltv.com/news/Water-supply-is-safe-say-St-Bernard-officials–222753651.html

http://www.wdsu.com/news/local-news/new-orleans/water-testing-continues-in-st-bernard-parish-after-boy-dies-from-amoeba/-/9853400/21820776/-/156n3cu/-/index.html

 

Quote of the day:  Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst!

 

Huge sale at Emergency Essentials…………

Hey folks – Emergency Essentials is having a HUGE sale on Mountain House Freeze Dried food. I have never seen prices marked down so low.

Click on the banner below to see the selection and prices. I am looking to form a group buy with some local folks and take advantage of the deep discounts.

Take care all -

Rourke

 

Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

 

Big WISE Food Sale at CampingSurvival.com

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From June 24th through the 28th CampingSurvival.com is having a HUGE sale on WISE Food Products. For this limited time all WISE Food products are 20% off.

This is an extremely rare event – so don’t miss out!!

campingsurvival_2268_578782041

How to keep your Food Storage Safe in The Summer

How to keep your Food Storage Safe in The Summer

The summer is finally here, and with it, warm weather, longer days, beaming sunshine, and trees and plants that are full of life. But the warm weather also poses a few problems, particularly when it comes to food. We all know the importance of keeping an emergency supply of food, but when it is hard to keep food fresh for just a couple of days in the summer, how are we supposed to keep it fresh for years at a time? Here are some useful tips to keeping your food storage safe in the summer.

Safe From Pests

Because there are so many more pests in the summertime, it can be difficult to keep them out of your food storage, especially when it is out of sight, and you don’t check it regularly. Luckily, there are steps that you can take to make sure that those creepy crawlies don’t make it into your food storage. One of the easiest is to make sure that everything is sealed in an airtight container. Even if the items already have secure packaging, it is still a good idea to put it in another container to minimize the risk. Location is also very important. Choose a cool, dark place, where pests are less likely to get in. If you have a severe pest problem, it might be worth spraying.

Safe From the Heat

You are probably already aware that for any long term food storage, you must only stock nonperishable items. What many people don’t realize, is that some items that may be otherwise nonperishable do not last long in the heat. If you have any items that may melt or otherwise be affected by high temperatures, you may want to consider different ways to store them. If you do not have space for your food storage in an insulated room, try putting items in coolers. Alternatively, there are solar-powered fridges that, although expensive, can really help you out in a grind.

Safe From Spoiling-canning

Bacteria grows much faster in warm temperatures, and as a result, some food doesn’t last as long in the summer. There are ways to preserve food however, and they can be useful techniques for saving money as well as preserving food storage. Canning is one such technique. You can start canning using a canner, but there are also ways to keep and preserve food without expensive equipment. One such way is to take vegetables and pickle them in vinegar.

Safe From Harm

This concerns yourself, rather than your food, but all of this is pointless if you don’t survive! It is important to remember that your food storage needs to include a separate supply of medication that you can use if and when disaster strikes. This includes basic things like painkillers, but also a first aid kit and especially for the summer allergy medication. If you do this, you can rest easy in the knowledge that all of your bases are covered in case of an emergency.

Lee Flynn is a freelance writer and food storage expert.

There IS such a thing as Free Lunch, if you already bought it once..

There IS such a thing as Free Lunch, if you already bought it once..

by Wyzyrd, Editor-at-large

 

My apologies to the late Mr. Robert Heinlein for misusing this famous “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (TANSTAAFL) ” from his novel, “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress”.  (If there is a sign that says “Free Lunch” at the bar, the drinks are going to be more expensive.)

 

Hopefully, we are all using as much fresh produce and meats as possible in our diets, both for taste and for health reasons. Again, hopefully, all the “kitchen waste” (aside from the meat scraps, which attract rats and other pests) end up in your compost pile, and back into your garden soil, next season. Here are a couple intermediate steps between cutting board and compost pile that can save you money, and generate some ‘free food’ for you and your family.

 

Onions

 

If you pull or purchase green onions/scallions for your kitchen, “sacrifice” getting to eat the bottom ½ -3/4 inch of the white root end (with as many roots intact as possible). Just plant them in a pot, or back in the ground, with the tips just protruding above the soil. About 95% of them will sprout again and give you a second crop, ‘for free’. If you trim the green part of the leaf vs. pulling, they will keep producing all season. Depending on location, they may even overwinter and produce larger ‘spring onions’. A  couple that I planted last summer are producing flower/seedheads this year.

 

Most supermarket onions are not dried sufficiently to really store all winter. If you end up with some in the fall that are just on the edge of going soft (e.g. a 20lb bag that I bought for a chili cookoff that got cancelled because of a tropical storm), peel them, leaving the roots intact, and plant them. Water, mulch and ignore until Spring. You’ll get some wonderful tender spring onions, that only require pulling, hosing off and tossing, greens and all, on a hot charcoal grill. Delicious. There are apparently towns in rural Spain that have Spring festivals based solely on cooking and eating these (with Romesco sauce and a lot of red wine  – info via Anthony Bourdain ).

 

Garlic

 

Sometimes, you have a few garlic cloves that end up falling to the bottom of the basket, and drying out too much for cooking purposes. Soak them in water overnight, and plant. I find about 40-50% will sprout. The young, green garlic sprouts are delicious, and if you leave them in the ground, you get a new bulb.

 

Celery

 

Celery is NOT easy to grow, so I’ll assume it comes from the grocery store :)  Cut off about 2 inches of the white root end. Cook with the rest :). Cut an “X” about 1/4” deep in the root end, and place upright in a bowl with about 1 inch of clean water, and place in a well-lit location. Change the water every couple days. In a couple weeks, you should have a 4-6 inch tall new plant, with decent roots. Cut away all the brown yukky-looking old stem material (there WILL be brown yukky-looking old stems) but leave roots intact. Plant in a sunny spot and water . Celery is extremely ‘picky’, so I usually cut them back when pretty small (8-10 inches), and cook the young, tender leafy stalks. If luck is with you, about 1 in 10 plants will sprout again. If you’re a Jedi gardener, you could end up with a whole new bunch, and a celery root (celeriac) to eat.

 

Free Freezer Feast

(note: originally published (by me) in a different form as “Garbage Soup” on “The Survival Mom” (http://www.thesurvivalmom.com) website

 

If you cook, you end up with a lot of compostable veggie scraps. Carrot peels, onion skins and roots, tater peels, parsley stems, bell pepper cores, woody broccoli stems, cabbage cores, etc.  You probably also end up with a lot of chicken carcasses, beef and pork bones, fat, shrimp shells, etc. that you DON’T want to compost, unless you really like rats and possums as neighbors.

 

Here’s a pre-compost pile step to consider: Put ‘em all in zip bags, squeeze out most of the air, and stash ‘em in your freezer.  When you have a couple big bags of “waste” veggie material, dump them into a big stockpot, cover with water, add some black peppercorns, an extra onion (don’t toss the papery skins, unless you make your own dyes, they add great color), some garlic, and your fresh herbs of choice. Bring to a boil, reduce to heavy simmer and let it go about 3-4 hours. (DON’T add salt now – please believe me, and go light on broccoli/cabbage/bell peppers/tater peels – they can overwhelm everything else- unless you’re planning on broccoli or potato soup…. You’re the cook – taste it and see what you like.).

 

Strain out the cooked veg, cool a bit, and compost. If you have a “hot” compost pile, the cooked veggie mess will break down almost before your eyes.  You can freeze or can the vegetable stock at  this point.

 

If you want a protein stock, thaw your chicken bones, skin and fat, or shrimp shells or bones, or whatever, brown the  heck out of them in a pan with a little oil, add to the hot veggie stock and simmer another 3-4 hours. Strain out the meat scraps/bones and skim excess fat, then  freeze, can or just make soup now :)

 

This is “bassackwards” from classical stock-making, but you don’t want meat, bones fat, etc in your compost pile.  Pretty tasty for something that is made out of water, and stuff that is taking a detour on the way to the compost pile or the dumpster :)

 

We’re all in this together.

 

 

 

Dry food Storage Using 2 and 3 ltr. Plastic Soda Bottles

food-storage-in-soda

This post originally appeared over at ModernSurvivalOnline.com. It can be seen HERE in its original form.

- Rourke

——————————————————————–

Over the years I have tried several different methods of dry food storage with varying degrees of success and cost. I’ve tried buckets, Ziploc bags, and canning jars. What I finally stumbled upon almost by accident was 2 and 3 liter soda bottles.

I like sodas but hate to throw the bottles away! I had been making whirly-gigs out of them for the garden to keep the birds away but there are only so many whirly-gigs a garden needs and I had extra bottles and wanted to do something with them.

Looking at the bottles, I realized that they are durable, light weight, water tight, and once the soda is gone, free. What more could you ask?

I had saved up about a dozen of the 2 ltr. bottles and had a few 3 ltr. ones as well. they have wider openings and are good for large beans like limas, or for flour or meal.

To begin, I wanted a sterile container so I mixed about a tbs. bleach in a quart of water and rinsed and swished each bottle then rinsed with clean water and turned upside down in the dish drainer.

Another way to dry thoroughly is sit them in the warm sun without their lids, or, if you have one of those big Excalibur food dehydrators like I do, take out the shelves and lay some bottles inside. Remember to remove the lids. You can dry them in there on low heat usually in a few hours or just let run overnight. The point is, you want your bottles bone dry.

Next, get your space ready. you’ll need your bottles of course, as well as a funnel or another bottle cut in half to use as a funnel, clean work space, marker and dry food for storage.

I like to pre-treat my beans, rice, grains, meal, flour etc. with a couple weeks in the deep freezer, take out and allow to come to room temp and then put back in for a week or two. This really helps kill off any mealy bug eggs that might be lurking in your food.  You’ll want to take your beans and flour treated in this way out of the freezer and allow to come to room temperature. Just sit on the counter overnight.

(You can also just put the filled tightly capped bottles in the freezer too.)

Now, all you have to do is, using your funnel or cut off bottle, fill your bottles with the rice, or beans or whatever you have, cap, use your marker to date and tell what’s inside and you’re done!

I have to say that this is one of the best storage containers I’ve come across yet.

Your food is safe, easy to move or store, won’t pop open, and is practically unbreakable.

You can also fold and insert oxygen absorbers if you like or desiccant packs for added protection and longer storage. Of course with things like sugar or salt, only the desiccant pack would be useful.

These are also excellent to store things like dried bean soup mix in for camping or for putting in your bug out bag (BOB). Being light weight and extremely durable, they are good to have in the BOB and once empty can serve other purposes like storing water.

You can also use 20 ounce bottles for smaller amounts of food that you want to store, or you can store seeds in them provided of course attention is paid to thorough drying.

I also leave the original labels on for the most part as I feel they offer some measure of added protection and aid in keeping out the light.

If you make your own dried soup mixes, or dried vegetables you can store them in the smaller bottles to take camping or in the event of a bug out situation. Dehydrated re-fried bean mix is delicious and easy to store in bottles like this, as well as ready to cook rice dishes.

Also, if you are able to get coke lugs, the heavy plastic bottle trays that the supplier uses, you can use those to put your bottles back in and stack them that way as well.

My husband was able to get a few of them from the coke man where he works and they are ideal for holding the bottles and stacking them. Otherwise, you can use cardboard boxes or just put your bottles in the cabinet if they are used often.

So, to recap. The pros of using these bottles.

1. they are cheap/free and easy to come by

2. they are durable, designed to withstand 200 lbs. of pressure, definitely tough

3. they hold foods in manageable amounts

4. water tight.

5. they are reusable

6. you can see the contents without opening to check for any problems before opening

(important if you worry about mealy bugs and the like)

7. fit easily into the BOB!

Cons

The 2 ltr bottles have a rather small mouth and so you are limited to what you can store in them, however, the 3 ltr bottles have a wider mouth and you can often use those for larger things like pasta or the big lima beans.

Other than that, I can’t really think of anymore cons.

Just one more thing.

It is important for everyone to have some food stocked up. Regardless of a person’s income of lack of it. Encourage your family and friends, neighbors and co-workers to put up at least a little food for the future. This is likely the single most important thing you can do to protect your own family because, if your neighbors and friends are provided for, you won’t have to worry about them being in need and perhaps turning to you for food. Many people are put off by all the recommended methods and supplies like Mylar bags or special drums or buckets. For those people that can’t afford those things try using what is freely available and perhaps even superior as a storage container. The ubiquitous soft drink bottle!

p.a. turner

CampingSurvival.com special sale on Mountain House foods……..

Great deal on Mountain House Freeze Dried Food. Check it out……http://www.campingsurvival.com/freezedriedfoods.html.

 

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Turning chickens into food

Turning chickens into food

 by Harriet from Australia

 

Back in the 1980s when we lived on the land we had very little money. We used to purchase end of lay hens for $1 each and would kill and dress them so we could afford to eat chicken twice weekly. These old chooks were tough so needed long cooking as a stew or cooking them in a pressure cooker, but they were a valuable source of protein for our hard up family of six and the price was about a third of what they would have cost already dressed.

sitting-cartoon-chicken 

In the first season killing and dressing the chickens was a long drawn out affair over weeks. In the second and subsequent years we set up an assembly/disassembly line. First we had the chickens in boxes ready to kill. These were alongside a scaffold which had 10 cones in two rows of five. When my husband wrung their necks he put them upside down in the cones with the heads through the bottom until they stopped moving. From there I picked them out and dunked them into boiling water in the old copper that our forebears used to heat water and wash clothes in. I held on to their feet as I dipped them in the water. Then onto the plucking table where I started on their wings, down their legs onto the chests and worked around to the back. The hot water loosened the feathers. Sometimes they needed an extra dunk in the boiling water, but I was careful not to start it cooking as that meant the skin would tear as I pulled the feathers out. The feathers were swept into a bucket which was then buried deep in the compost.

 

After defeathering the animal went to the gutting table where my husband cut off the head and feet and took out the guts and any half developed eggs. A quick wash and the chook went into a plastic bag and into the fridge.

 

We set things up so we could deal with 25 chickens before breakfast, 25 before morning tea, 25 before lunch and 25  before afternoon tea. Then we cleaned up before dinner. 100 killed, plucked, gutted and into the freezer before night fall with all the tidying up done. Ideally the animals would have been hung for a couple of days to tenderize but we didn’t have the facilities for that and with the heavy fly population it was better that they were first refrigerated and then frozen as fast as possible. However by the time we had done the first 25 the amount of time they had in the refrigerator was minimal. Both fridge and freezer worked overtime that day and night. We ate egg yolks for the next three days and chicken twice a week for the next year.

 

Maple Syrup Making!

Maple Syrup Making!

 

By Bev Sandlin, Executive Editor

 

Freezing temperatures at night and warmth in the day and you have the perfect time to tap maple trees to make some of the most delicious syrup you will ever taste! As I was driving around Canton this last week, I saw many plastic bags hanging off maple trees at Amish homesteads. It made me think back to when my children were small, and we used to make maple syrup! Lots of fun and a learning experience!

!

But I’ve got to tell you, NEVER cook down in the house! I made that mistake just once! Water literally running down the walls and my wallpaper border in the kitchen fell off! It is definitely an outside project for a weekend, once you have collected enough sap.

We collected from the soft maples in the yard in five gallon pails. It is truly amazing how much sap you can harvest from one tree! Tap five to ten trees and you are in high production!

Take some time to search around YouTube for “maple syrup making” and you will find many videos on different techniques to boil down and store the fruits of your labor! I thought this was a pretty good one to get you started!

 

 

Almost 10 minute informative video on maple syrup making.

 


 

What Will You Eat When… ?

What Will You Eat When… ?

By Pam, Editor-At-Large

 

I watched “Doomsday Preppers” once, they showed 3 or 4 different people who were preparing for 3 or 4 different “Doomsday Scenarios”. I understand that every week presents new scenarios with new people showing their solutions. Now, I have the privilege of talking to a dozen different “preppers” everyday and each of them has a different idea of what “Doomsday” will look like, consequently everyone has a different preparation priority list. While I can’t fit each person into some category of sorts, I can give some broad examples of expectations and offer advice on food solutions for each situation.

First, Weather Disasters , earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, floods, snow/ice storms, normally fairly short term. Some folks have been or know someone who has been affected by weather disasters OR live in an area where natural disasters are a distinct possibility.

In such circumstances, life is in absolute turmoil as public services are down, water is contaminated and rescue personnel are working overtime. I have to ask, “If your house has just been washed away, are you going to be sitting in a rubber raft with 200 pounds of rice and dry beans?” “If you are stranded in your car, buried under 6 feet of snow will you be boiling water to fix dinner?” “If you are on your way to the family retreat when your car breaks down, do you want to carry 40 quarts of home canned beets for the next 20 miles (possibly two days)?”

In these predicaments, Survival Food is optimal. Survival food is lightweight, compact, high in calories, vitamins and minerals, can be stored in just about any conditions and requires NOTHING to prepare.

In weather disasters or temporary situations of civil unrest where you are confined to the home, office or storm shelter, Emergency Food is also applicable. These would be prepackaged entrées that require water and heat to prepare. It should be noted that while these prepackaged entrées are extremely quick and easy to prepare, they generally provide less than 200 calories per serving and are intended to be served with other food, ie. Salad, bread, drink and a dessert. A food storage of easy to prepare items from the grocery store, that are used regularly makes eating at home no different than any other day providing you have the means to cook them.

Second, Personal Financial Setback instigated by job loss, unfavorable changes in the stock market, illness, or death in the family. As companies regularly conduct lay-offs or selfishly choose to close the doors of American facilities only to then open production facilities overseas, oft times people are witness to their formerly “professional” neighbor suddenly delivering pizza and they thus begin to brace themselves for a similar situation. One customer told me about his car engine seizing and his personal circumstances snowballed downhill from there. An older couple lost a significant amount of money in stocks, reducing their monthly retirement income. Whatever the details, it’s a personal disaster.

These situations call for food storage which can be full cupboards of grocery store goods that are used normally, home canned or dehydrated food, emergency food, long term storable food or a combination thereof.

Third, Food Shortages caused by drought, floods, world demand or oil prices, economic depression without total collapse causing hyperinflation and/or an increase in crime causing food outlet closures. The possibility of food or other resource shortage is reported on fairly regularly even in the main stream media.

There has been a return to gardening and home canning over the past 10 years because this is the prediction made by most “preppers” I talk to. GMOs, pesticides, additives and preservatives have played their part in influencing these people as well, but the greatest influence has been the rising cost of food in conjunction with the fear of food shortages on a macro scale. The potential for wide spread food shortages is also the best reason for having a long term food storage. The classical definition of Long Term Food Storage is: individual ingredients packaged in bulk in airtight containers to be stored for decades. I harbor intense concern for those who have never cooked “from scratch”, and anticipate using these products for the first time under duress. My most emphatic advice is to learn to use flour before you start grinding wheat.

Fourth, Paradigm Shifting Events such as wide spread economic collapse, an EMP type event, biological warfare or/and prolonged civil unrest even to the point of civil war. This is absolutely “Doomsday”, SHTF or TEOTWAWKI.

Every type of food would have its place in one of these scenarios. Ideally, the long term food supply would be used in conjunction with the garden and other ingredients from the cupboard providing the widest variety and greatest nutrition. When planning a Long Term Food Supply, one must consider the number of people to be fed and for what length of time, the ability to grow adequate fruits, vegetables and livestock, what additional ingredients are required to produce an end product, and how many calories are provided by each item being stored. Emergency Food would be used in much the same way DiGiorno, Stouffers and Sara Lee are now, for variety, when things are hectic, time is short or the cook is exhausted. Survival Food would be a necessity for those on guard duty or a mission away from home.

In a nutshell, these are the definitions one must apply for their food supply planning:

  1. For a short term disastrous event: Survival Food – requiring no preparation.
  2. For a relatively short term emergency: Emergency Food – requiring minimal resources and preparation.
  3. For all other scenarios including an extended personal crisis: Long Term Storable Food, a necessity as a stand alone supply or to balance other sources – requiring water, a method for cooking and time to prepare.
  4. For the longest term and ultimate sustainability, we have to rely on God and the garden. Home Canning has sustained many generations. With economic trends on a down turn, there is no time like the present to start gardening and learning to preserve food at home.

To be truly prepared you need a complete food storage system that will keep you nourished under any circumstances.

 

Author Bio

Pam and her husband have fancied themselves homesteaders for over three decades with experience in raising livestock, gardening, food preservation, using long term food storage, living off-grid and everything else that goes with the self-sufficient lifestyle. They own Mayflower Trading Company with the motto: “A pilgrimage to Resource Efficiency”. The mission being: “To help others with products and/or advise in their own pilgrimage to self-sufficiency”. You can visit them at www.mayflowertrading.com

 

 

How to build a solar food dryer that works!

From Rourke: This post originally appeared over at TheSurvivalistBlog.net. It can be seen in its original form HERE.

Provided in response to reader comment - recommended by servantheart, Editor at Large:

Ole Gunderson says:

March 27, 2013 at 10:24 pm

Great flashlight. Would like to see some more on dehydrating foods and the cooking with the results.

 

 

How to build a solar food dryer that works!

You will be building three (3) different box-like units, all of which will fit together and work to dry your food (or, just about anything else!) in the sun.

   s1

The finished dimensions of your solar dryer will be two (2) feet by four (4) feet. You will not be building legs from these directions, but could do that very easily “whenever”. If you are going to build legs, we suggest using PVC pipe and setting them in 5-gallon buckets, with enough sand or concrete to hold them in place, but allow for water in the bucket.  The water will keep ants and crawly things from crawling up the legs while your food dries. I do not do this; I simply check it from time-to-time and make sure there are no critters; so far, so good.

You can use virtually any wood you like; we used cheap pine, because, well, -  we’re cheap!  But, it’s not well finished, and I have managed a couple of splinters in handling the pine, so, consider that when deciding what wood to use.

s2

You can spray paint your metal sheet on one side and let it be drying while you build your boxes (see box # 3, below).

Box # 1 (this will be your bottom box): you will need 2 inch x 4 inch wood (untreated –you do not want chemical toxins in your food supply) and a 2 ft. x4 ft. sheet of corrugated metal roofing-type material. This first box or “the bottom box”  will hold the sheet metal “heater”. Build your two (2) foot by four (4) foot box – we did not center support this box, but, you can if you want. Attach a sheet of corrugated steel (sheet metal) to the top by whatever means you prefer (nails, bolts, screws), so long as it lies flat against the surface of the frame, and covers the entire frame, two feet wide by four feet long.

s3

You will need food-grade polypropylene screen, and you can order it from the folks below. DO NOT try to use aluminum screening or recycled housing screening for a food project. You will also need screening spline and a sharp instrument for cutting. Stainless steel screening is available; it is best, if you can afford it; feel free to send us some! ; )

We purchased polyethylene screening from:

www.dryit.com email: orders@dryit.com 1-800-609-2160

MacManiman Inc. 3023 362nd Avenue S.E. Fall City, WA 98024

Box # 2 is not one, but two (2) separate boxes built of 2 inch x 2 inch boards, each of them two (2) feet x two(2) feet square. Build your frames. Dado the top of them out to create a groove to receive your screening and spine. Cut your screening to fit across the tops of each of the two boxes, allowing extra to hang beyond frame; place your spline and, using a spline tool, work the splining material into the dado groove. Trim any excess. Having two separate frames will allow you to dry more than one kind of food at a time, if you wish, without having them “blend”.

For # 3, you’ll need sheet metal (either one 2 ft. by 4 ft. sheet, or qty. two 2 ft. by 2 ft. sheets; black spray paint, and two ft by four ft (2’x4’)’ Lexan or Plexiglass (have it cut at any window glass store) sheet, washers and screws, and waterproof clear acrylic sealant). The Lexan we bought was about $40 in 2012.

s4

Box # 3 is a single2’x4’ frame which is braced across the center and will serve as the “top box” while in use; cut sheet metal to fit 2’x 4’(we used qty. two 2 ft. x 2 ft. of sheet metal 1/16 inch thick, because, that’s all we could find). Spray paint both sides of the sheet metal (flat black); allow it to dry.

Use screws or nails to attach sheet metal to one side of 2 ft. x 4 ft. frame; this will become the bottom of this piece. Lay a bead of silicone for the Lexan, all around. Now attach the Lexan across the top; you can pre-drill it and attach with screws, if you prefer. Allow silicone to dry with Lexan in place.

We have old lawn chairs that we use as “legs”. It is important that the solar dryer be slightly angled for natural air circulation and turned toward the sun (duh!). We get a lot of sun in the Deep South, so solar drying is a natural choice. This unit does not utilize any kind of fan, or anything requiring power; you could run a fan under it, and, for some types of foods, it might help them dry faster. Most foods don’t require anything, other than checking from time-to-time until you learn how long that food takes to dry where you live. Some foods, however, may do better if you turn the foods (move them around) every few hours – although I’ve used mine extensively and rarely turn the food, nor have I ever used a fan underneath it. Just sayin’ you could.

Tip: All foods dry better if they are uniform in size; otherwise, smaller pieces will be overly dried while you wait on the larger pieces, or, you’ll have to pick the smaller pieces out in advance of the others, which makes this much more labor intensive – not necessary!

To use, the sheet metal box is the bottom; place food on drying screens (don’t pack it too tight) and place drying screens atop sheet metal heater box. Now place Lexan cover box on top, with black painted metal as bottom of this box and Lexan facing the sun. Start cooking!

I hope you enjoy your homemade solar dryer; keep it out of the elements when not in use, and you should get years of service from it.

 

Experimenting with Potato Planting Methods

potatoes

Experimenting with Potato Planting Methods

By Bev Sandlin, Executive Editor

 

 

Up here in the North Country, Good Friday is the traditional date that we plant potatoes. Although I can’t see it happening this year with 18 inches of snow on the ground, frozen ground (Not the same, sometimes snow keeps the frost from entering the soil.), and just an occasional 40 degree day. But potatoes are a mainstay in my garden.

We aren’t Irish, but it seems that potatoes enter a meal almost daily at our house—mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, baked potatoes, boiled potatoes, au gratin potatoes, potato soup, potatoes and creamed peas, you get the picture. POTATOES!

Potatoes are comparatively easy to grow and keep well. The only thing I don’t like about potatoes is digging them!

 

Experimenting with the Cage Method

Last year I tried the cage method with potatoes. Create a wire ring (I used 2×4 wire I had laying around.) about 2 feet across, plant your potatoes in a ring around the outside with the eye facing out and fill with light soil and compost, even straw or hay will work. Layer upon layer, I got about 3 feet high. Wow, did I have potato foliage, but not too many potatoes. However, in all honesty, I think I let them get too dry at times. This method leaves a lot of area for moisture to evaporate from the soil. So was the lack of success me or the method?

What would I do differently? I think this year (As I have the cage already.) I might invest in a length of 6 inch PVC pipe and a cap. Drill holes up and down it, insert into the center of the ring and keep it filled with water.

 

Experimenting with the Bin Method

I also experimented with the “bin” method. Use an indeterminate potato (Russet flower all season long hence indeterminate.) and keep covering the plant as it grows leaving 6-8 inches of the top out of the soil. Worked okay in a bucket, not so good in a wire cage. Again, I think it was moisture given the drought year.

 

Bucket Potatoes

However, cutting the bottom out of a five gallon bucket and planting the potato in there and covering it seems to work! I only did a couple last year, but this year I plan to do more. What worked for me last year was 2-6 gallon buckets. I cut the bottom off with a circular saw, then cut the bucket in half—loved the two with the handles! Set on turned ground, put seed potato in eye up and cover with 8 to 10 inches of light soil. Tip over in the fall and gather your golden nuggets!

I have a new area of the garden that I am turning this year. I’m thinkin’ that what I am goin’ do is trench the potato row, put the buckets in side by side and use the trenched dirt to fill them. That should conserve on water if it is another dry year and save my back from both turning and bringing in coverage soil. But we’ll see!

 

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 - Rourke

 

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