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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Doom and Gloom

First comment is .. Nice post Humble Wife, You're welcome any time with that kind of advice!

I hate just posting bad news, yet from Oregon the Unemployment rate just loves to hover at 11%+/-. We had to take a 15% cut and the wife is unemployed now for 5 months(after 15 months of minimum wage/unemployment). It really doesn't matter how much you prepped in a case like that, it's going to hurt. If I knew how to pay your bills I would.

Soldier on every day. When it becomes too much, ... well you just need a place/way to fight back. Or Like me you need a place to bury the crap. Someday you might need to reach out for help in the right place, I hope you know where to look.

I found a place to look for help this week, I'll be back to report soon if it works out.

Rick

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dog Food

It sounds silly to me until recently. I just bought the good stuff for my boys, they deserve it. Now it's a new story. $50 for 40 lbs of dog food didn't really used to bother me, it was cheaper than ground beef. But then I couldn't afford $25 for 40 lbs of dog food. So maybe it's time to find another way to feed my 'other' kids. They already want to eat everything out of the garbage, what if we just make sure they don't get the things that aren't appropriate?

Say you make up a big pot of rice or noodles and have some leftovers, what about beans, refried or other meats, you know veggies are good for them. It's some nice protein. My dogs can smell a 1/64 lb Mcdonalds patty (just kidding) a mile away, I bet they would be just as happy to have the flavor with the volume. God knows that they stare at me like they know the difference.

Some recipes to follow, not sure how the dog will deal, but then they still bark.

Rick

Thursday, October 1, 2009

So the economy strikes again

I hate the fact that a lot of my posts relate to unemployment or layoffs.
2 years ago my company was very prosperous with 178 employees, today we're down to 56 employees, losing 15 more critical employees this week to just balance the books. Those that are left take a 15% paycut, insurance increases aren't any fun either.



Rick

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gleaners

Gleaners are a great concept. In general it's people who need food, who will come and get (clean) produce from a field or orchard that is no longer economically viable to harvest. Stuff that would just rot.

Why doesn't this program happen everywhere? There should be a clearing house for users and providers, a method to donate so the provider can get a kickback for a donation. Many users, ie. gleaners would be willing to help out the provider while they're out in the field, making the next years harvest more effective.

Don't get me wrong, that food being chopped up into the dirt does put minerals back into the earth.

Is that the best way to put it back in?

Nom

Speaking of cast iron

There's a great article over on Backwoods Home this month.

http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/clay118.html

I have slightly different cleaning methods; heat it up, toss in some oil, scrape it with a spatula or turner if you prefer then rub it down with salt and a paper towel for a final polish.

But the article is definitely worth the read.

Nom

You know it's hot when I want to work late.

Criminy. It's only 105 with 25% humidity and I'm complaining. I know when I spent some time back east I complained about the humidity (70-90%) and said it was at fault. I'm not so sure anymore. The office has some great AC, yes that's my job and it's keeping us at 70 degrees (other than the server room which is also my job... oops).

Tomorrow I'm making lunch on the roof. I'm bringing in a couple cast iron pans, some eggs and bacon for sandwiches. Yes, I'm cooking without fuel; using a solar reflector and just the black pan pre-heated in the sun. I'll run some sun tea and I'm tempted to do a squash, but I'm not sure how popular it would be.

I'll post some pics of the process and record temperatures / time for those with the need to know.

Nom

Monday, July 20, 2009

A personal SHTF and some observations.

It's been awhile since I''ve posted but the long drawn out crap below would help you understand it. Read it to understand the post, you won't understand the last sentence unless you read the rest.

About a year ago the wife lost her reasonably well paying government job of 10 years. After a month or so of looking for anything reasonable she settled into a CNA postion at just over minimum wage. It made things a little tight but she wanted to head into the nursing field and this was a start.

Last month she got rear ended at a stop light. About $1000 in damage to the car but a new bumper and two lightbulbs later and the car is fixed. Not so much for the wife; neck/back pain, no strength in her primary hand and a loss in range of motion. After 4 weeks of drugs, therapy, inability to do things for the kids and me learning how to apply a bra (I spent weeks learning how to remove them, it was awkward learning how to hook them back up, and much less interesting), she got hit again. Yup, at a stop light again and nailed from behind. The damage on the bumper is minimal so we're hoping to just get the cash for the bumper because they aren't interested in paying for the door handle broken as she was removed from the car. Initially the physical damage was worse; it tweaked the already sore mucles, it effected the one arm she had left and it tramatized her, twice in such a short time would mess with anybody.

Adding insult to injury (a perfect example!) she was laid off because they couldn't be sure when she would be able to return to work and they needed to fill the schedule, like it was costing them anything. The office still claims she's on medical leave, the supervisor says otherwise and unemployment doesn't care to pay out unless the office says she's unemployed.

So about 8 weeks later we're still short an income and it's starting to hurt. You know what it's like when your normally decent pay check is gone the day it's given to you and you have 2 weeks until the next one? I've always been able to add in food and materials for my hedge fund (not counting gas as it's difficult to store), cash has always been harder. If you put it in the bank you have some risks, if you store it at home you have other issues.

The cash we did have slipped away during her schooling and then the lower pay rate and then the final straw was being stuck with a single income. It's amazing how fast a few months salary can disappear while you think you're headed back uphill and just maintaining a standard of living. If I had lost my salary during this time it would have been gone almost immediately disaterous, tho if I was unemployed I would have time to work on some of my projects that require more time and specific knowledge to use effectively. I just can expect the wife to do these things, it's too bad she doesn't have her own set of fallback skills to concentrate on. I just didn't count on that.

So I've learned:
- You can't count on insurance, you can't count on the government, you can't count on your job no matter how loyal you've been.

- You can count on your family, your friends and your church (we got an extra gift, this Sunday after working the breakfast after services this week).

-It really doesn't matter how much money or food you have held back if you don't manage it the second you have to dip into it. THAT is your clue that the SHTF for you! You can't use the easy stuff, cash or steaks first assuming the the world will turn around and make your standards continue. It may be a false hope even if you can justify to yourself that's why I have XYZ, until I can get back on my feet. The 12 ribeyes need to become 48 meals instead of the normal 12, 2 awesome t-bones might become 2 stroganoffs and an awesome beef with vegetable soup, but I've fed 4 people 3 times instead of 2 people twice, for just a little investment in potatoes and vegetables.

We're good; the animals get fed, the kids go to bed full, most of the bills still get paid as our rating crashes, but screw them. We still give where we can, I still get to volunteer time for the PD and SAR, the wife is getting better and looking for a new job everyday.

Can you imagine what this would be like if I didn't prep?

Rick

Friday, June 12, 2009

A minimal stove to consider, and it will cost you about a quarter.

The Pepsi can stove is a legend, Wings is the best place I know to get a good overview of the designs. It's handy in your BOB, it's handy at home, it's perfect for a warmer at the next buffet, just don't shake it too much, it can spill and that's the only reason the gelled sterno is still so popular... there must be a trick to that.

For fuel use alcohol, not gas and I'm serious, the gas will burn just fine and maybe melt your stove or 'pop' violently when you light it.

I've used Everclear and it works great and it's something you can enjoy if it's your thing, mix well with juice and ice imo. Many places say get a bottle of rubbing alcohol and use it in your stove.. well, I'm not happy with my last bottle of juice and so I'm here to tell you. I've used 70% isopropyl successesfully in several stoves of the years but the bottle I bought today will only flare and not burn. Aim for the 90% version if you want consistant results, it's cheap and about 2 oz will boil a 1//2 gallon of water.

Fuel additives like Heat do work well but I don't have stats on them, the cost a lot more than rubbing alcohol.

You can always flip over a popcan stove and burn a solid fuel like trioxalene on it's ass-end, a 50 cent 1-1/4" drain grate will extend it's life.

Here's a picture of my new stove.

I prefer the organic method for cooking, ie. FIRE, but a stove with portable fuel makes a lot of sense and works in better in my SAR pack.
I have the tryoxylene fueled flat pack stove, it works great if you scrape up the center of the disk to provide tinder.

My old can stove still works better but I think it's the fuel issue, I'll take pics of it next time and all the addons; snuffer, grill, pot holder.

Rick

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Can you cook things from scratch?

I've been looking around at my preps and know I can prepare my stored beef, beans and rice, with a fair influx of wheat and corn and a few canned veggies and fruit but can you grow your own herbs, make your own soy sauce, bake your own bread?

It's an issue of the perfect season to the current season, your crop may fail, you might have to beg borrow barter or purchase from another grower.

I had garlic and onion seed ready to go in two plots this year, great bulbs on the sweet onions already; my boys were cutting weeds and decided the garlic bed was offensive ... I'm not sure where to turn, other than I can force the garlic for another year. I seriously wanted to beat some heads as this patch was already weeded and cleared. 4 perfect heads of seeding garlic and they cut them down like the danylions, I almost cried.

Teach your children welll and don't whine when they don't know better than what you've shown them.

Rick

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bear Grylls, what a stud!

Man vs wild is a fun show, with some valuable information, but Bear is very fit, has a lot of support and some great camera teams.

Honestly I think he's crazy with some of the stunts he manages to pull off. He's way too reckless for me, but it sure sells the show.

Be sure to check out his show with Will Ferrell tonight on Discovery, I'm betting it will be great fun.

In general I prefer Survivorman with Les Stroud; the techniques and concepts are similar but I admire a man packing all his own equipment and who is more aware of safety. One minor injury in the field can be fatal when you're alone without support or easy backup.

I'd love to see a survival show where the experts have to park it in place for a month or so and develop a solid long-term survival camp. They would be allowed some reasonable equipment depending upon the situation.
-A lost hunter might have a rifle with 10 rounds, a days worth of food, equipment to process an animal etc.
-A vacationeer lost in a rough patch of mountain passes in the winter; do you hear a Kim?
-Your airplane ditches on a mountain top, what do you do to survive?

Yes. these are tests of more than just your daily needs, but that's what we prepare for.

Oh I could go on and easily challenge the experts in my area of expertise.

Rick

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I'm not a perfect prepper, hell; I'm not even good.

My raised beds still aren't cleared of weeds, and only 3 are planted properly, all but one of my rain catchment systems are still working and the yard looks more like field.
I claim to be tired, working full-time plus, for a company struggling to survive. I add time for volunteering to the police department, Search and Rescue and then being dad, and don't even consider all the IT support questions I field.

You do what you can do everyday, If you can't do today; do better tomorrow.

Rick

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bits and pieces

Gardening-
I just dug up the last of my overwintered Yukon Golds, they sure were tasty baked with a olive oil and sea salt rub. The onions that overwintered sprouted some great green onions, they just needed a little clean up from last years onions. I had planned to let them seed this year but decided to relocate things.
If you're near Yamhill County join us at the Master Gardeners plant sale at the fairgrounds. Many other counties have similar events this weekend and coming up soon.
I've been prepping my raised beds for planting this weekend, a few beds have already sprouted and growing but my big push is just starting.

Wild goodies-
This is a great time of the year to get out into the field for spring goodies; cattail shoots, nettles, dandelion greens and buds, truffles and fiddleheads. It's also a great time to harvest pine needles for tea, the young needles just seem to taste better to me.

Unemployment is up 3%-
Yamhill county numbers jumped this month, personally I think they finally got realistic, I've seen way more than 10% looking for a job and it's getting worse. The local newspaper has 5 job offerings, the fewest I have seen in my 40+ years.

Got a GPS?
If you're near McMinnville I have tough 5 point gps course you can play with. 5 colored clothes pins hidden by dense vegetation, but still in plain site. I didn't set it up but I passed the test this week, you can expect 2 hours. If you want to play send me an email and I'll send you the coords.

Rick


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Oregon Prepper

Oregonians are a fairly moderate set of Americans, and I try to express this with our blog. (if you wish to comment or join this blog let me know, I appreciate altered content and different opinions)

Prepper's are people that want to prepare for themselves and their families and even their neighbors; some are militant, many have other agendas or opinions, all are welcome on this blog. If you wish to join in posting you can.

I don't want to prepare Oregon all alone. Other's have valid thoughts about their part of the state, Hell, the Willamette Valley is like living in a rain forest, share your portion of the state.

Rick

Sunday, April 5, 2009

It's just a simple rocket.

A few hours ago North Korea decided to test their metal and the resolve of the US and the UN. They launched a rocket they claimed was for hoisting a satellite, perhaps it put a benign payload in orbit, but do you honestly believe that? It really doesn't matter though, they weren't allowed to launch a device like this, and yet we let them to just see what they were doing. They told us what they were doing just so they could push the envelope, knowing that we wouldn't touch them for something claiming to be benign. You don't kill the known bully when he's carrying an axe to go cut wood. You have to wait until he use the axe on an innocent. But why can't you take away the axe?
We, the US had the ability to remove that axe and prevent it's first chop before it was swung, but we let it fly, I ask you WHY? Sure the repercussions would have been bad, but you could give them 10 minutes to remove people.
This rocket is no less than an ICBM, sure the range is expected to be only as far as Alaska, Hawaii or the west coast of the US, guess what; the US is their target. Not that they need to actually launch against us, they just need to make us nervous. Now we and they know their rocket works and can hit a domestic target. If we had shown the strength and resolve to cut that thing in half before the launch... well it would be another story.

North Korea now has it's own nuclear delivery system, even if they don't push their abilities they know they can sell it and money is what they need.

Welcome to the new cold war.

Rick

Friday, April 3, 2009

Springtime planting in Oregon

Today is probably your day to get started due to our first days in the 60 degree range, I could have given you 3-4 days worth of notice but I've been working in the yard and getting some equipment ready. If you don't have the first set of peas in, it's time to set them (they were due last month, but I'm lazy too). Don't get carried away with the post frost items yet, we still have a month or so left.

Dig out those old weeds, mix in some compost or peat moss and then make holes for what you plant or intend to plant in the few months. This actually allows the soil to regrow many of the beneficial strands of soil.It's a permaculture thing I don't have down yet but it's valid, the soil needs to attach to itself. The idea is to just prep the soil even if you don't plant it, leave it high on one side to brush over your future plantings.

You don't have to put in supports for pole crops today, you have 3-6 weeks before they can reach the first 12 inches. If you're planting bush peas/beans just plan to give them a 4' post to give them something to play with and it keeps them from getting too tight, a nail and some string gives them something to play on. Corn is a valid pole for many crops, just make sure you track things as you weed or you might remove the poles or the trailers.The 'three sisters' figure in here if you haven't noticed, once you have a place for the vines to grow make sure you have a ground plant to keep the moisture down. Squash is the traditional method, but cucumbers work well.

Onion sets are pretty good to plant now based on the temperature(definitely time for walla wallas), if you don't have garlic in it's still safe to plant green cloves, or even dry cloves at about 2" apart, kill off the ones that come up too close (2"). If you have raised beds it's a little cool but tomatoes and peppers should start easily. If you have plants from the local (outdoor) home and garden store let them sit outside for a week and then plant them in your yard.

Get out there and grow food for your family. Anything you grow will taste better than what you find in the store, You have the option of choosing when it's ripe for you, and it can live for a few weeks when you're not ready for it. Home grown food is like short term canning, it's live food that can be used everyday to fill your belt or more importantly supplement flavor and nutrients.

Rick

Monday, March 30, 2009

Awesome Oregon Seeds

Oregon's climate and natural diversity lends itself to producing some really high quality seeds and food.

I prefer to buy local whenever possible but I also want a higher quality product.

My top two Oregon seed companies are:

TERRITORIAL SEED - be sure to get a catalog
20 Palmer Avenue, Cottage Grove, OR 97424
(800) 626-0866

VICTORY SEED COMPANY
P.O. Box 192, Molalla, OR 97038
(503) 829-3126

Also local are: (I haven't ordered from either of these companies yet)

NICHOLS GARDEN NURSERY
1190 Old Salem Road NE, Albany, OR 97321
(800) 422-3985

WILD GARDEN SEED
P.O. Box 1509, Philomath, OR 97370
(541) 929-4068

Get out there and garden, it tastes great and it's cheaper than store bought food which will be important this year.

Rick

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A few prepper thoughts...

I've been browsing a bit and have a few websites for you to visit.

The Prudent Food Storage FAQ hasn't been updated in a few years but it deserves a fresh mention even if it's just because of the simple pdf download. The concepts are sound and actually very thorough even if a few years dated.
Also of merit is the page on water treatment. I put a bit more trust into bleach, pasteurization and potassium permanganate than described, but I'm big on pre-filtering and water collection which is easy due to the rainfall in Oregon.

A couple staples I'm interested in providing for myself are sugar and salt. They're essential in many ways, easy to store and cheap right now, they don't degrade but they do take up space. Their uses are so numerous I couldn't even begin to touch on them but what happens when they're gone? In Oregon I'm close to the sea so I plan to harvest saltwater if needed and boil it off as Lewis and Clark did. While I'm there I'll harvest clams, mussels, seaweed, fish and crab if I'm lucky. There are a lot of drawbacks to this idea that I won't go into, like the million other people with similar ideas, but it's a valid plan if it's worth the risk.

Sugar seems like a much easier task for me. Sugar beets will grow well in many parts of Oregon and honey (consider top bar hives) are a natural. Maples, while plentiful aren't known for their syrup here, it's just too moderate of a climate, though there should be bands of the Cascades that would work well.

There's nothing wrong with storing a year's worth of supplies, but if you can store 6 months worth and 1000 years worth of knowledge in replacing it... give a man a fish or teach him to fish for himself!?

If it's time to use your storage foods (other than rotation) it's time to start the replacements. Don't wait until you're lacking, replace it as you use it in one form or another.

Today is the time to buy atleast a bag of rice and a bag of beans to put back for the future though they still need water to prepare them. A few cans of fruits and vegetables on your shelf will give you flavor for the staples, but your family deserves food insurance far more than it deserves life insurance.

Grow something at home, a leftover milk jug can grow a small to moderate tomato plant, cucumber or chili (jalapeno or habenaro) herbs are easy in a cut down milk jug, fill them tight. If you use a milk jug to start a plant you can cut out the base and drop it in a clean loose hole later and then toss the pot.

Make your own food, don't expect the government to provide it at the nearest store or distribution point.

Potatoes are a great form of survival food, the starch is irreplaceable, but in creating this marvelous food they suck nutrition from the soil and have to be rotated. I guess we finally learned this from the potato famines. It you're into guerrilla gardens potatoes are a great option. the foliage is rarely recognized as food and even if it is, it's too early, you want to harvest potatoes after the greens die off.

Rick -
Pity for the guilty is treason to the innocent.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Winston update

My wife and I can't even begin to express our feelings about the interest over my post regarding giving up our dog.

The response here and at APN has been impressive to say the least. I know how I feel about my pets and I'm sure that other people feel very strongly about their pets, but to know you care so much for my pets, I'm frankly overwhelmed.

I'll keep you updated on our progress in finding Winston a new home.

Rick

Cheesemaking round two

This last weekend I gave another shot at making cheese. The first attempt was less than stellar but it was a great learning experience.

Friday night I started a batch of feta using my homemade starter and a bottle of vegetable rennet I found at the local health food store (it seems seriously over priced at $8 an oz). The recipe came together like a 4 piece puzzle, no problems and a perfect response every step of the way.

By noon on Saturday I decided I had to try another recipe, so I tried a basic hard cheese recipe. It came together pretty well but I won't be able to let it age very long as I screwed up and didn't get it in the press soon enough while it was still warm.

I cheated on the feta and tasted it after two days; I'll never need or want to buy it from the store again. I can't believe the difference, it was a little salty I guess, but they do suggest you rinse it :).

The hard cheese is already drying out well but it has too many deep cracks that would have been pressed out if I had got it in the press earlier and/or actually had a little more weight on the press (it's a jar of nickles and pennies coming in at about 5 lbs). I think I'll just slice it up and enjoy it.

I tried to make ricotta from the whey but I let it boil while I was working on a computer problem for the kids. The curds ended up so small I didn't want to clog my cheese cloth with it.

As always your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Rick

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Do you want a great dog?

I have a black lab that's going to go, I hate to do it but I just can't justify keeping him.

He's about 110 lbs, male, about 7 years old. He's loyal (protective and obedient) to females and obedient to males and male children. It took him less than a month to learn the cars, knocks and footfalls of my family so I consider Winston a great watch dog. He'll bark up a storm when the front gate opens without our cars proceeding it. He actually bit my father-in-law the first time he came over and he happened to touch my wife, it was a perfect warning bite with no blood but it pissed him off and scared us all. Winston knew what he was doing, I really wish I could keep him.

Cost is a serious issue for us, he eats twice what my other dog does and with the wife in a new, minimum wage job it makes things tough. Winston also has a issue with 'available foods', the kids walk away from their plate and it's gone. He'll drag anything out of the kitchen garbage can that smells like food, so every time I get a 5lb tub of hamburger I throw it away once when I cook it, and a second time when I pick it up out of the back yard after Winston has licked it.

We took on Winston because we wanted a second, younger dog for our boys and the family in general. We'd both been through a case where our dogs had died and nobody wanted to replace him, we wanted a place holder for the affection I guess. Winston is well loved like the black sheep he is. When he steals a 7 year-olds dinner off his plate when he runs off to the bathroom he's not that popular. He was abused at his last home and abandoned for close to a month without food. I used to walk into the house with a newspaper and toss it on the couch and he would make a puddle, If I could find his former owner I'd beat him with a lead filled newspaper. I made a 'baby' out of 2 newspapers and played with him until he now trusts people again. Winston no longer 'puddles', not even if I wack him for fun, his tail just wags. He's a true family dog now with indoor mentality.

I've been fighting this problem for over 6 months, if you want a great loyal dog that needs more than just a two hours a night I can set you up.

If I don't find a taker, Winston is going to a local shelter, I hate to do it because I know they aren't getting a ton of cash either and will have to find a solution at some point. For either a shelter or a new home I'm going to provide 2 large bags of food and all his toys.

I'll drive him a couple hours to find him a home if you're interested, he's a great dog that needs a suitable life. What I see for him is an indoor dog at night that can work a farm during the day, while having human contact most of the day. If kinda sounds like what I want for myself.

You have to know it's serious when we give up our friends..

Rick

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Seeds, gardening and yard work.

I made it out into the front yard to do some clean-up and garden prep finally. The weather so far this year has been a little temperamental and I'm not one to get wet and cold for fun, unless it's diving or hunting or for SAR or... ok so I'm not that much of a wimp, but the garden isn't a top priority when it's blustery because I don't get an instant gratification from it.

I'll get at least one more year from the raised beds, but I do need to do a little work to shore them up; I really should have used some screws instead of just nails when I assembled them, but I was saving a few bucks. I'll add 1-2 screws in each joint this year as I rework the soil.

Speaking of reworking the soil I need to rent/borrow a rototiller this year. I made it through the last two years without one but I want to expand into areas that have only had grass or blackberries. There are services that mow your yard, prep your flowerbeds; are there any that rent and deliver lawnmowers and rototillers? The delivery is a deal breaker around here, it's tough to fit something like that in a Wrangler, I suppose I should clean off the trailer and quit complaining.

After it started raining again I went in and checked on my seeds, I guess I could get by with what I have for the year or two but I really like fresh seeds and being a prepper need to have some backups to be comfortable.
I found a new website that looks promising; Get Seeds offers 100 packets for $49, with a wide assortment of seeds for a reasonable price. I'm not sure how many seeds are in each packet or the types of seeds or the care they provide but the price is right and with 100 packets you're likely to get a variety. They seal the pouch in Mylar but without a list of what they put in there I'd break it open, inventory it, buy anything seriously lacking and reseal it. I don't have any prior experience with them so I'm not endorsing them, just pointing them out.

A couple sites I do buy from with success are Seed Savers Exchange and Heirloom Seeds, remember to buy things likely to grow well in your area that you're interested in eating or storing for the future.

Rick

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Have you seen this cooking freak?!

Alton Brown has a really good show called Good Eats on Food Network.

Sure it's fun, it's informative, educational but most importantly almost everything he makes is from scratch. Using basic components he teaches how to make food and at the same time why it becomes food.

Most of his recipes are aimed at fun, tasty or popular recipes but almost all of them include concepts that are useful for a prepper, how to use yeast and why it works, how to make pickles, making soup stock, BBQ, smoking foods, brisket... I could go on but you just need to go check it out if you haven't had the experience. Shoot, he even understands sourdough and cast iron pans, I'd love to show him how to cook nettles and cattails, he's already familiar with dandelions though.

While I love to learn things, Good Eats is one of the few programs on TV that entertain me at the same time I learn things.

There was a recent post on LifeHacker about Depression Cooking, I'd love to see his take using today's concepts and locally sourced foods. I think it would have to be about 4 episodes to do it justice, though I could easily see a full season. Bread(again), cheese(again), jerky(again), sausage(again), sprouts, yogurt; well maybe he's been in our back yard all along and we just didn't see it.

Honest, his brisket recipe (while traditional and not innovative) really works like a champ, it's what worked for 100+ years and he's right to push it, screw the health issues for a treat. His clay pot smoker works great here and while I have my own food dehydrator, his box fan dryer would be an awesome addition in the summer when I have the fan on anyway.

Rick

Some thoughts on unemployment and planning ahead

Oregon's unemployment numbers hit 9.9% - Link

We're running at close to +%1 a month here and while I'd like to point out how bad it is, it's not the highest in the nation; Michigan and California to name but two, beat us consistently.

I'd be willing to bet this average rate will continue for atleast 6 months even with the 'stimulus' package. Keep in mind that the Great Depression lasted about 10 years and if this is a similar condition we might have a little ways to go before it turns around.

I don't think I can put back 10 years of income as a cushion, 10 years of food are pretty much out of reach as well. What can I do for 10 years worth of a depression? Skills, knowledge, seeds, contacts, potentially some transportation. I can't expect my job to last 10 years, I'd love it to last 2 in this climate. I can continue with my volunteer work, which will let me buy some preps that I can justify writing off on my taxes (but if you don't have money how can you buy anything?), I can write off some mileage/gas/repairs, I might even be able to be paid occasionally for a shift.

Prepare now, it won't be long before you'll be using your 'preps' or sharing them. Even if you're unemployed and on some form of financial assistance you need to continue to prep, it's only going to get worse for everybody. There will likely be a time in our near future when there isn't any government money for health care, welfare or unemployed citizens. If the money is there, it's likely to be so overshadowed by inflation that $400/week is only worth sending to your creditors as it's not enough to by a sack of groceries.

Rick

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Some personal opinions and thoughts

I'm just going to rant a bit here and you can feel free to comment, agree or laugh as your mood suits.

You could still buy gold if you want, I think it will go up another $100-150 during the next year without any help, it might go even higher and I'll just keep mine in the stash until I can't avoid using it. Silver is a little easier to find and might make more sense for daily purchases or trading. I don't expect it to gather the same amount of value but it's cheap compared to gold.

If you don't have a garden what the hell are you thinking? Grow something you like to eat even if it's in a couple pots on the patio, inside the sliding glass door (buy a cheap 3x5x18" shelf unit on wheels with 5 shelves) or on a window sill. If you have a yard and flower beds put something in there you can eat, if it's 'purty' that's a bonus, but even if it's potatoes it's food and your roof will likely provide the water it needs. Pansies and nasturtiums look great and the flowers are tasty in a salad even if they don't have a lot of calories.

Speaking of calories... When you purchase storage foods, animals or plant your garden consider what you're spending money on. Food has a few basic characteristics; nutrition, calories, flavor, mass (or fiber if you will), and fats if you can accept the differences. We love celery but it's a serious draw on water. It does have great fiber and can even be used for cordage, it adds some significant fiber to your diet, it can fill your void if needed, but it has zero effective calories and you could eat 10 lbs a day and die of starvation. Rabbits are a similar dead end, they are high in protein but have almost no fat. Tomatoes are high in sugar (carbs) and have other benefits but you just can't live on a single staple, balance is the key. You really need to handle all of the major 'food characteristics' for any kind of survival beyond the first month. Rice and beans will fill your tummy for a week or two, but $10 worth of spices and $30 worth of vegetables will make it taste a lot better if you actually have to eat it.

If you still have a job you need to suck up and stay with it, your odds of getting another job or a better job are slim to none and even if you did you would be low man on the totem pole. Last in are almost always first out unless you're seriously lucky. This will only get worse before it will get better, I think it will get much worse.

How many people can the government give money to before they drain our country of all worth (not that we have any left)? Once the US is giving just barely enough money every month for subsistence to 20% of the population where do you think the money is going to come from? The new health care options will only make it worse. Yes, it helps the people who have lost health benefits and I do feel for my friends and family that need the coverage, but the government is paying 2/3 of the cost!

Gas is headed back up, maybe not drastically but I think it will be consistant in it's increase and be fairly permanent, at least 2-3 years. The cheap stuff truly is gone and the hurt is being felt everywhere. Store some gas if it's your thing, if you want to store it for more than 6 months use a chemical to preserve it. I don't expect shortages unless the supply lines faulter.

Banks... I actually use a credit union and right now I trust it fairly completely. My whole check goes in there and I use a debit card to buy things. Even so most of my spare cash isn't in savings, it's either in food or goods or in FRNs stuck away in 'places'. I personally wouldn't leave a lot of wealth in a savings institution of any type. Banks can come and go as we've seen so often in the last year and honestly the FDIC is backed by what, a completely failed national financial system printing pretty green paper when they're low? Food and equipment are assets, gold and silver might eventually be worthwhile, FRN are just paper/linen and only good for today, tomorrow they may only be cheaper than firewood per pound.

Last tonight, will be a topic I have a hard time debating, not because I don't believe in them or have them myself but because they're so controversial, and hell, I'm a fence sitting libra. Guns baby, you do need guns and ammo. I'm not a militant SOB, honest, but I do believe people need to have the ability to protect themselves. For the last 9 years I've been a reserve police officer and I must admit I like to be the only person with a gun if there is a problem, but the next person (after my backup) I want to have a gun is anyone who supports the law. If you have a carry permit I trust you far more than I should. You went the extra mile to be legal and aboveboard and that means a lot to me. I do want to know if you have a ccw or are carrying, in most cases, it means you're a law abiding citizen and you deserve a break if everything else is equal. As a police officer I know that our coverage is decreasing locally. It's only going to get worse, even if our police departments don't want it to (we're not stupid), we want to provide more coverage, the powers that be just don't want to pay for it. In my opinion people need to be able and willing to protect themselves, you/we shouldn't rely on overtaxed , underpaid and unsupported public servants. While as a police officer, I'll do my best to protect your rights while you exercise them.

To you I wish a peaceful future, while I hope to prepare you and mine for one that likely won't be,

Rick

The Black Box

Guest blogger Brett is back again with another post he alluded to in his last one.

Well lets talk about the Black Box, I’m sure we all have one or a version of it. It could be called the blue box or the tan box. It just so happens that the store had this good sized tough plastic Black box on sale for twenty dollars, good buy I thought. Anyways, it’s just my fun name for a large “go box” or whatever acronym you would like to use.
It of course, started with my first cardboard box that was duct tapped together and held my odd assortment of supplies that led to my Hobo Lunches. That, of course, grew and adapted, as we all do. We learn from each other and experiment with what works for us and our likes and dislikes. So my fellow Prepper and friend Rick asked me what I keep in my Black Box. What kind of items do I keep, how do I plan to use it, how big is it and what am I missing.
WOW - well here goes, the Black Box and its contents more or less.
It measures 18’’x24 “x16” one long continuous hinge at the back, two clasps in the front and a spot for a lock. I will just give a basic run down of what is in it because there is so many things that it’s like a mini outlet store. Keep in mind this is my Box for my Bronco, I could not pack this around on my own. I consider this one of my 'home bases' or a cache. I think it is wise to have a few set up for yourself and family. If you can, make some that are placed in your vehicle or one that is small and mobile, so that it isn't hard to find in a last minute rush.
As I talked a bit about in the Hobo Lunch story, I shop at the canned food outlet or at stores like it. Not only my daily house food, but for some basics for the Black Box. I keep several types of canned goods like evaporated milk, spam, pork-n-beans, corned beef, canned chicken, Vienna sausages, tuna and albacore, refried beans. Oh boy, just all kinds of canned goods that I rotate through. Then, as well, I keep dry goods like 'add water only' pancake mix, plenty of pasta roni, stroganoff, rice-a-roni and a few other varieties that I’ll pick up as I see them. These things are great as they can keep for a long, long time and all you need is water and some of that evaporated milk.
I also have an assortment of those freeze-dried meals, everything from scrambled eggs to corn and more stroganoff and a number of other tasty flavors, I shop around for these as well, sports outlet stores at times, have these at a discounted prices or check around online, you can find great deals and save yourself the gas money to boot.
I have also hunted out deals on M.R.E.’s or partials, like just the entrees. I have numerous miscellaneous entree’s as well as full meals, about ten or so. A couple of those emergency protein bricks(lifeboat rations), they don’t taste great but they keep for a long time and are handy. A couple boxes of tea bags, honey and a couple bags of coffee (got to have that). I have a coffee pot in the box, but I came across a mini espresso maker, one of those totally self contained, extremely portable, ten ounce or so deals. Found this at another outlet style store, it’s hit and miss but keep looking, good and useful things are out their that are affordable. I got this thing for about eight dollars. Oh yes and that opened can of evaporated milk is great in here as well, mmm.
Keep in mind that these little things, even in the worst case scenario or locations can have a profound impact on your mood and lets face it, if your state of mind is down nothing else really feels right. As my wife says to me at times like this, just drink tea. {yes grasshopper, just drink tea and be just the tea, not everything else at least while your drinking tea} got to love a good woman.
So what else is in there, oh yes several bottles of water, several soda’s, plates, cups, camp silverware, gum, couple pots, a propane burner with a few bottles of propane, candles, a lantern and fuel for it, hatchet, knife, a no-battery flashlight, space blanket, small first aid kit, cordage, (can never have enough of that). I’m sure I have a ton of things floating around in the box I forgot about like matches and a flint. The point is with a Black Box, is to set it up with what you need for a few days to a week or more, for two people, to be self-sufficient if needed. Remember that if the need does come up, use all other options first, like food hand outs or fishing, whatever means you have before you go into the box with no clear restock date. I think its very important to keep a few of these types of setups handy and it can be done a piece here and part there with some wise shopping and imagination, keeping in mind your needs. No point in buying a bunch of stuff your not going to eat or use just because you can or it fills up your box. I’ll admit my box is full and heavy but it’s in my primary ride and as I talked about before, I do a lot of Hobo-Lunches out of it. I also keep a back pack in my ride, so if I have to foot it somewhere, I can load up what I need.
Now, if you can use out of your box, and restock it, this is real handy for being ready to go at a moments notice for lunch or camping and just incase a worse case issue comes along, you’re ready and lets face it with today’s economy it’s best to be stocked up as much as possible. You just don’t know what’s around the corner. So I keep one of these in each rig and one master box in the house and yes, my wife thinks I’m a little odd, but I think she understands why I do it. Besides the stuff in the box I keep sleeping bags, chairs, tables, large water container and even gasoline on my rig.
My wife and I use one of the smaller boxes on our canoe trips quite often. So, I guess if I were to give any advice on setting up or using a Black Box of your own, I would suggest that first off stock it with things you know you like to eat, don’t just buy stuff to stock up on that you can’t stand. Batteries are nice but unless they are those super long-lasting cells don’t waste your time, most of the time they go dead before you need them and even worse they can leak into your food supply. A hatchet is good and can double as a hammer; cordage, some stakes or big nails, a tarp, candle lantern are always good and those candles have multiple uses. Shop around and talk with like-minded people and ask where did you get that? But even with all the stuff that I have told you I keep, I’ll pass on another one-liner that my wife is fond of giving me but that makes sense here, “more is not always better, it’s just more” in other words just stick to what you need and will use.

Brett

Thanks Brett, another informative post,
Rick

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cheap prep foods

I can tell you that beans and rice are the perfect 'prep' food and I might be right, but if I don't tell you how to cook and serve these potentially nasty guys you'll be swearing at me when the time comes. Rice and beans both need a large amount of water to prepare them, you can probably (caveat emptor), use lower quality water to rehydrate both but your final preparation needs to be at temperatures higher than 170 degrees for pasteurization purposes.

Rice has a lot of uses; you can make a milk substitute, which I really don't go for but my kids like it with chocolate, yeah I'd fall for it too. As a breakfast cereal with honey and cinnamon it's tasty even if it's unusual. Adding soy sauce, meat and some vegetables and it's a main dish. Bake rice with a couple eggs, cumin, and some form of tomato and you have a great brunch.

To me, storage beans mean pintos. I know there are a bunch more but I store pintos for my family. I soak them atleast 12 hours before I try to cook them. In most cases I make refried beans, but they work well added to a soup, on tortillas, or in most any soup I try to make. The key is to make them palatable, they need to be boiled long enough that they are tender, adding spices even if it's just garlic or salt .

Lentils and split peas cook a lot faster, they can be added like herbs in the last 30 minutes or when rehydrating dried meats/vegetables.

Rick

It's time to rip up your lawn

I'm not saying you have to completely abandon your nice green lawn, though I have. Pick some places in your yard and plant some ornamental peppers; herbs like cilantro, sage, basil. Plant them in places where the automatic water system will take care of them at the same time they water the lawn. Cucumbers can fit easily in a flower bed and meander their way among flowers slowing the loss of water. Pumpkins and summer squash have the same effect while adding some new colors to the beds.

I love to grow potatoes, but I think I've finally figured out that I shouldn't grow any that I can buy locally. They're not an overly attractive plant (which makes them perfect for a guerrilla garden) and it rarely produces more than $1-2 of produce per plant. They do store well so I can't take them completely off the table. Many things I grow can't be used as fast as they grow and unless I have enough to preserve them, they may go to waste during their peak.

The most important thing to remember is to grow what you eat, just like you should only store what you eat. Okra grows like an weed here, but I don't know what to do with it, I can add it to stuff I cook, but I have to lie to the kids. I can pickle it but they're not something I've grown a taste for. I can fit it into things I guess, and I know you can dry and roast the seeds for a coffee substitute but...

Grow food that produces food that you'll eat in a volume that makes it worth your effort. Red sparkler radishes are a great example, those little red roots are awesome in my wife's opinion, I don't care for them at all and so last year when some wanted to go to seed I figured I could get some seed off them. But then I found out how good the seed pods were, and there's 10-20 times the volume of the little red thing under the soil. They taste great raw, you can stir fry them, they can be used just like fresh peas, if you keep size in mind. Oh, and they really aren't that bitter, but you will notice a radish taste. I now grow radishes just for the pods and grab 10-15 just for my own dinner. This year I will try to pickle them, since I'm planning on such a large bed, they would fit in well with pickled beans, onions, garlic, peppers.

Last but not least are my thoughts on the ultimate fruit. Tomatoes need some extra physical structure to support the plant, a cage of some sort is worth the effort. I prefer an indeterminate plant that will provide fruit over time as it fit's better into family meals. Determinate plants are really nice if you plan to can your produce as they tend to ripen at the same time allowing you to harvest and use the fruit (and possibly replant the area). Good tomatoes are really a place where I think I make my money in the garden. If I buy a container of cherry tomatoes for $3 we might eat half of it, then toss out the rest, loss $1.50. If I can pick 10 a night for a salad or let the kids go out and graze for a snack, it only cost me a one time cost seed of $2, plus care, I'm so far ahead it's not funny.

Rethink your yard, don't waste your money and time on the green stuff that you can't eat, grow stuff you can enjoy on your plate. If your neighbors used to be impressed by your nice green grass think how impressed they'll be if you have food and they don't.

Rick

Monday, February 16, 2009

No man is an island

In 1624 John Donne wrote a rather short poem which has effected me since I first read it as a child.

When I first read this simple verse at the age of 12 or so I related it the Boy Scout's motto to do a good turn every day, I suppose I still consider it valid. Give something back to people in need.

When next I read it, at 16 or so, it was required reading/memorization for an English class, and I was told what it meant, and who I was, how I mattered to the rest of the world. Honestly, I felt pretty small at the time and figured somebody was blowing smoke up my nether regions.

Many years of my life had passed, work, responsibility, even just general life and then I read it again (I must have been early 30's). This time; I read that 'No man can only be an island' a minor point, and perhaps unintended, but that's what any art requires; interpretation.

Since that time I've found my own ways to give back to the island, to the whole. I'm not looking for kudos so don't send them, I'm just giving examples. I 'spent' about 1000 hours to become a unpaid solo reserve police officer, I 'spent' 300 hours to become a certified search and rescue volunteer, add in hours for man tracking, a few other dozen topics, training, teaching and other concepts and I feel happy with who I am. At the same time these obsessions, if you will,
took time away from my wife and 2 boys. I just hope my service teaches them what I should have been there to show them.

So now I finally get to the point of the post. Damn that took awhile, carefully digging through this mind of mine.
No man is an island and neither is our economy.
I'm not stupid, but I guess you figured that out or you wouldn't have read this far. Until recently I really haven't bothered to figure out how my job relates to others, I guess I just like my check and as long as people are getting paid it's cool.
But how does your company effect the local economy? We've lost half of our work force over the last 16 months and it really does have a huge impact on the economy beyond what happened to the people we laid off. While I want to point out their losses I'm going to skip that for now so you can see what it means beyond them even though they are really very important to me).

The tire company only get's 1/3 of the re-treds we used to ask for. We sent back 1/8 of the forklifts. I canceled the AC maintenance company we've used for several years. We've gone from three days of cleaning to 1 day, all the employees need to empty their own trash and wipe their own desks. We'll use spare time to cut the lawns with a mower we have in storage. We trained somebody to resharpen all of the saw blades we use.
They don't seem like major issues but when you consider the full impact, do you see how many jobs have been lost, just by my company cutting back to stay in business? It's not just accumulative, it multiplies losses 3-5 times when you think about it. We're one fairly
small company of (originally) 150 people, consider what a company like Intel with 15,000 people have cut back on.

No island is just a man, or a group of men; every island is a part of the whole. Should one island or a portion of an island fall so to will all other islands fall and then the men with them.

Never send for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee... it tolls for us all.

Rick

Friday, February 13, 2009

I didn't post much this week ...

Well it's job and life related I guess. I took on another job in addition to my normal IT/ inventory management positions.
I know that my family relies on my job for money, heath care. peace of mind and their standard of living. It's nasty out there and I'll do most anything legal to keep things status quo. This last week I spent every hour doing a job I used to think was below my position (hell I trained them in many ways) , but I still get a check and when it comes right down to it I committed myself to my company and will continue to do so until they violate my personal standard of accountability.
The boss doesn't have to be smart or right, but as long as he's trying to be ethical I can't fault him.

Next week I can post more, I'll have a new profession that gives me another perspective on life.

PS. I still owe a post on what to do when you're unemployed, I started it but it needs a lot of work as it's just not that easy.

Rick

The art of the Hobo Lunch

Here's a post from a guest blogger and another local prepper.

--
Over the years I have continued to refine and evolve what a good, self-contained, efficient, cheap lunch could be and how to get the most out of it. With lunch being more of an adventure or outing, rather than a chore or an imposition due to financial restrictions.
When I first started doing these kinds of lunches it was years back. I had my first car and a job learning a skill (not used anymore) getting my 40 hours a week and living thin as far as a dollar went. We grew up in good sized city back in Nevada. Our Mom had to raise two sons on just her income, we learned early on the value of the buck and how to live cheap but, to live healthy and happy. Mom was a great enthusiast of the outdoors, hiking in the desert and the pine forest and showing us what bushes could be eaten and always a keen eye for watching the wildlife. It was during this time the idea's of how to be self sufficient and portable as possible started to percolate and grow.
A few years later with my first car and a small income I started my first “go box“; it had things that could keep as-is for long periods, such as canned spam, peaches or pears, oatmeal, a couple gallons of fresh water and my ever present potato's, yes they are great survival food just ask the Irish.
Another one of my favorite items was and still is the M.R.E., oh yes I love most of them anyways, back then we didn't have on-line stuff or EBAY(which I do use now days as it is saves a lot of money and time), so I would journey down to one of my favorite haunts the Twin City Surplus, otherwise known as a military outlet, so many good things for exactly this kind of stuff. Portable stoves, hand warmers, cold weather gear, tents and backpacks with the slight smell of mold and oil, equipment begging to go on another useful adventure. So from here my box grew a bit bigger and better. Now, I had a cheap two burner stove(gas fuel) M.R.E.’s, complete meals, a good knife and portable shovel, water tablets... So after a few more months I again refined the go box a little further. I went to the local second hand store and got a coffee pot for .50 cents, some camp plates and cups for a couple dollars. Oh and some of those first portable canvas chairs, a cheap oil lantern. Then back a staple that I had grown up on and use a lot even today, the canned food outlet style store and what do you know, tons of food with long shelf life that can be kept in your go box and is easy to prepare. Remember variety keeps it fun and tasty.
As time went by I came to calling on the go box for lunches at work, not having the finances to have made a fresh lunch or to go out to lunch with the others, I resorted back to my go box for lunch. With my camp stove fired up and water boiling for some Noodle Roni and applesauce with M.R.E. cookies and a tang like drink, I found that I not only had lunch for the day, that was very cheap, but that the making of it was very good for breaking up the monotony of the day and bringing back good memories of the outdoors. By pure necessity I stumble upon what I would later call the Hobo Lunch, oh sure at first I got a lot of strange looks (still do) seeing this dude pulling out a chair, a portable table, cooking gear and whipping up a lunch out of the back of my vehicle. Sitting anywhere, the parking lot, the park ,or even out in the boonies.
As the years went by, whether the money was thick or thin, I have often fallen back to the Hobo Lunch as a way to escape, even for a brief time. As well as a common ground to share ideas and a good conversation as with my friend Rick. I keep a flint striker and many other tools that easily slip into my pockets. However this is where the beauty of these lunches come in to play. Rick and I would slip off to a Hobo Lunch. Rick with some strange concoction of oats, dried beans and other ingredients in a cup. Added some hot water and what do you know, we had a instant hardy stew of a sorts and very good tasting as well. Rick even knew the basic break down of the nutrient levels, WOW! So now Rick had taken the Hobo Lunch and my Black Box ( I will talk about the black box at another time.) to a new level. Rick knew well, my buddy the potato, tossed next to the fire and letting it cook. Rick, being always the innovator of minimalism yet quality, showed me a stream of fun new ways to have dried supplies, that took less room and weighed far less (great for packing). I could go on and on here at some of the very interesting things that Rick and I would could converse on and attempt for lunch and I will definitely expand on that if there is any interest here.
What I want to impart here is the value that the Hobo Lunch could bring to you. It’s a continued lesson in how to be set up on long term foods (variety) and how to seek the best deals (you would be surprised how cheap you can shop). Finding and using things like portable chairs and tables (easily bought cheap at garage sales), or make your own portable stuff. This will make the atmosphere even better as a matter of fact. I almost always do a full set up, as it only takes a couple minutes to do so and you would be surprised how it will make you feel while eating.
I always kind of saw it as going on a Urban Safari. As on any Safari, I never liked to talk about work, or the woes of life, but rather to focus on the moment enjoying the lunch, learning from your Hobo Lunch Buddy and exploring ways to better ones situation. In times like these it's good to explore all options of affordable eating, yet without sacrificing taste or the fun of the outing. So okay it's not one of those swanky sit down restaurants or one of those fast food shacks. You have something better, self reliance, a sense of accomplishment, the outdoors even if it's in a parking lot. Look around and then you to will start seeing a lot more options around you that were hidden before and best of all, for at least the time it takes to make lunch and pack up, you’re free from all else. If not, you need to get into the Hobo Lunch Spirit!

Thanks again Rick for your encouragement.

Brett

Thanks for the post Brett, feel free to yell next time you're in town and will do lunch at our usual spot!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cheesemaking - preserving milk

I love cheese; cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella, brie, even the occasional limburger. I really don't think there's a bad cheese out there, unless it just pretends to be cheese, but you know which ones those are. I once tried bringing 3 lbs of havarti back from Germany in my luggage, it was almost fondue once it got here, good thing I brought back some bread too!

I grew up on Tillamook and Bandon cheddar, both decent in their own right and still a staple for me today, but when I went to Germany in '85 I got to taste cheese. Germans know how to serve a continental breakfast; a simple heavy rye, several pungent, mild or creamy cheeses and tasty salted or preserved meats. Add in a few simple pastries, some fruit I honestly can't eat that well here unless I spend $100+ and hit 3-4 stores in Portland/Beaverton to do it.

I can't have a cow or a couple of goats here but at some point the people with milk will need to get rid of it, trading it for something else or being able to preserve it's calcium and protein for a time when the animal doesn't produce. Cheese seems like a perfect prep item to me.

So I decided it was high time I started making my own cheese, the feta at the grocery store was $6 for 12 oz, Tillamook cheddar is close to $7/2lb, real parmesan is insane at up to $12/lb, the $7 havarti is tasteless.

This weekend I tried my hand at feta, using 2 recipes as guidelines. The Cheese Wizard doesn't seem to be around anymore but his website still exists and he has some great information, I've archived his entire website for the future should it be unavailable and I haven't had a chance to develope my own recipes. David B. Fankhauser's cheese pages are written by a chemist and I think he has a good hold on all his recipes, I should have followed his instructions a little closer...

I started out with 3.8% milkfat milk from the grocery store, well within it's 'use-by' date, some fresh buttermilk and yogurt. I created both mesophilic and thermophilic starter cultures per the Cheese Wizards instructions and then with the remaining 7/8 of a gallon of milk I proceeded to make feta cheese. I was religious about watching the temperature of the milk, to the point the dog gave up following me and just laid down to the side of my path. I was a bit less careful at adding 2 oz of starter, but I really don't measure anything as I don't thing it teaches me anything, and 2 oz of a random quality of an ingredient is just a guideline anyway. Yeast is one of the few exceptions to my rule, if it comes to baking I try to keep the proportions similar.

Everything seemed to going to plan, no scorching, no clotting, I went to add the junket rennet tablets and knowing they're atleast 2 years old I doubled the dosage. Yes, that was a mistake, I should have gone and bought new tablets, I should have measured my starter better too as far as that goes.

I never could get a clean break but after 16 hours I decided to drain the whey at the top because it seemed to be my hangup. After about 4 hours of draining in a sterile towel over a colander it had a clean break without any question, I was excited! Now 12 hours later I have about 1 1/4 quarts of whey and two textures of cheese in my towel, a thick cream cheese near the towel and a yogurt near the center. There really aren't any curds that I recognize. I'm tempted to mix some salt in early just to draw out the moisture.

Well, it was my first attempt and honestly it took several attempts to make a decent bread so I'll keep trying, who knows I might be able to turn it into something tomorrow.

Do you have any other recipe sites, or experiences to share? I don't want to buy a kit, I don't work that way, though the occasional component is ok. I like all of my parts and pieces to be local or homemade so I can repeat them when I don't have the Internet or a handy store.

Rick

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Do you have old grinding wheel?

I want an old style, LARGE (24+" dia.) grinding wheel, with or without a platform. I can sharpen knives, scissors, axes and most any other tools with the stones or files I have but a good old fashioned wheel fits into my preps as a useful skill. I can polish any newer blade with my stones, but a good wheel can turn an old worthless blade into a new tool. Being able to reprofile an old blade with a mechanical wheel mounted to a bike, foot treadle or even a large oversized weighted wheel make a lot of sense if you're cutting back from the standard 6/8"grinding wheel in a $50 bench grinder.

I have some cash, but I'd like to offer forever sharpening as a trade, that means your direct decedents, any or all of them, that can claim your line will get free sharpening off the wheel, as long as it's in use and I will guarantee it for my personal lifetime. As a bonus, the stone will be named after your surname. (shipping is a bitch, but I promise it at cost).

Let me know if you have a nice stone that I can work with, we'll make a deal.

If you're looking to sharpen your own knives and other tools I'll leave you with a couple of suggestions.

1. There's so much involved I can't do it in a short post.
2. Get a fine diamond plate sharpener (the larger the better) and try to slice off the top of the stone in equal amounts, ie. top and bottom of the blade. This is far from what you deserve and what I can provide, but it's been a long week.

Rick

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More people loose their jobs

I'm sure you've seen some of the larger announced layoffs this week but I want to touch on some of the smaller companies that don't get press in the MSM.

I work for a smaller company here in Oregon that had 160 employees just 15 months ago, we've been reducing numbers ever since. Today we laid off 24 more, leaving us with just over 70. I know we're not the only small company in the local area in a situation like this, both our suppliers and dealers are in the same condition. In fact, many of our suppliers in the building industry have completely closed up shop.

On the bright side, between online resources (craigslist and Oregon's state job listings) and local newspapers I found almost 30 local job openings in the last week. 2 years ago I could have found 60 in just the local newspaper. (I didn't check the Oregonian or Statesman Journal)

It's pure conjecture, but I'm guessing that we may only be hearing of about 50-75% of the actual layoffs across the country, reporting only the announcements of large corporations doesn't take into account all of the smaller jobs that are interconnected. I honestly don't believe the numbers listed by the various unemployment agencies either, many people are exhausting their benefits and I don't believe those numbers are as accurately reported as the numbers which indicate those actually receiving unemployment insurance. That being said, I expect Oregon's January numbers to jump 3/4 to 1 point from 9% up to 10% when the report comes in this next week.

I'm working on a entry for what to do if you lose your job. I'll have that up in the next week or so; in the mean time: focus on your food preps, polish your resume and reduce excess spending.

To my friends who are no longer at the company, I'm sorry and hope to see you back soon.

Rick

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cheap, free, barter, sell and job opportunities

Just a couple websites you need to keep in mind during these times.

Freecycle is a place for people to offer items that they don't want, to other's for no charge. If you've got something you hate to throw away that could be useful to someone else it's likely to be picked up within a day. It's a great way to recycle something you don't need. Check in frequently and you might find something you've wanted but just couldn't justify buying. It's even acceptable to request an item as many people don't think they're 'trash' is worth offering, but don't beg frequently, unless you're offering even more often.

Craigslist is a very liberal website offering anything people may want, some of them aren't legal in your state. Please understand you'll find some well-marked adult areas, but the job listings, for sale, barter and housing sections are very worthwhile. I don't see any gun listings there, but there is a lot of camping equipment.

I'm sure there are more sites like this, do you have some suggestions?

Rick

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bicycles: a near perfect prep item.

My older son rides his bike to and from school everyday, it's about 1/2 a mile each way and while I could drop him off in the morning he'd have to walk home. It's a cheap form of transportation that still allows for independence. It's not a lot of fun in the winter but if you have appropriate clothing it sure beats walking.

Unfortunately, he has neither the skills or desire to maintain his own bike. Most bike repairs are simple and inexpensive, they also tend to require a minimal number of tools. Tonight's repair was a flat front tire, tools required a 6" adjustable end wrench and a bike pump, 10 minutes later it looks like it just has a slow leak and it's back together, chances are good I'll have to revisit it later this week but I've got a couple new tubes if it really needs one.

Bikes are a great prep item; while they do have some dependence on petroleum they're not tied to the price of gas or it's availability, they're nearly silent and inexpensive to maintain. Lay in some spare parts, tubes, brakepads, and chain as a start, tires aren't a bad idea but they're more expensive and take up space. A backpack helps you transport some gear and it's easy to tie equipment to your frame. A bike trailer or panniers would come in handy but commercial versions don't fit into my price point, DIY versions are more up my alley. Instructables has some great projects; Sheldon Brown and bikewebsite.com offer great repair instructions.

Bikes aren't just for transportation or excercise though they can also be used as a near silent form of 12 volt power generation; might make a decent way to recharge a set of batteries, provide lights at night or provide other 12 volt dc power.

Rick

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Native plant sale

Native plants are a great option in your yard and garden. In addition to promoting a return to the natural state of your area, native plants tend to thrive with a minimal amount of care. Many species can be used for food, shade, ground restoration etc.

If you live near Yamhill County check out the upcoming native plant sale. I'll be there on the 13th so I can pick up some blue camas in addition to a few others I've ordered. For roughly 10,000 years natives burned local fields to encourage the growth of camas quamash and reduce weeds and douglas fir; at the same time it helped encourage the supremacy of oaks that provided acorns for food. Now we put out fires, I guess we know more in 200 years than they did in 10,000 - go figure. Sorry, I stepped up on the soapbox and that's not my intent for this forum.

Evergreen huckleberries, salal, elderberry, and Oregon grape are tasty additions to your yard, all can be eaten fresh, made into jams/jellies or used for wine. Kinnikinnick makes a great ground cover and the berries can be mixed with other berries for jams, and yes, it's been smoked by Native Americans as well as being used as a tea for urinary problems.

Pacific Yew is a great option too, though it likes to be under a canopy; such as doug fir and potentially oak; it will do well on the northern side of your house where it can get some shade. It makes a great self-bow if you're into that sort of thing but expect 8-10 years to get a 6" stick out of it. It's burned as waste during commercial lumber harvest, but it's bark is used as a cancer treatment after some serious lab work. I mention it here because it is disappearing from the environment and it's medical use make it worth preserving as a species that, and I like archery.

Wild ginger root is tasty too, if you want to plant it on the north side of your house as an herb. Bleeding heart is just beautiful, you should have some just for variety.

Last and most important, native plants are a perfect choice for guerrilla gardens if you're into such a thing. I appreciate the food aspect and the flowers are nice, but they should be responsible enough to only plant native plants.

Rick

The bounty of the sea or not

A couple weeks ago there was a great minus tide near Seaside about 7:30 at night. Sure I knew it was going to be dark but that's what my Coleman dual-fuel lantern is for. I love razor clams and other seafood so I figured it would be a cheap way to get a couple meals worth of seafood. With two adults and 2 boys I figured we could get 60 razor clams and have a bunch fresh and freeze or possibly dry some for later.

$50 later I had enough 4" PVC for 4 clam guns, after making two I figured one tall and one short version would be enough for the trip since I had a couple shoves that should work too. My wife decided she and the boys better have some rain boots since we'd be close to the water. Shellfish licenses for 2 adults ran us $13, the kids are still free.

We brought snacks and drinks but after a two hour drive and 30 minutes on the beach checking things out we decided it was still an hour before low tide and a hot drink would be nice. $10 more at a mini-mart we drove around sightseeing in the dark.

Well the big moment arrived, we parked on the beach and got out to enjoy the 30mph winds and horizontal wall of rain. I had decided a mag-light would work just as well, it didn't. The clam guns leaked air near the threads of the wing-nuts and only drew up about 2" of sand. The sand was so saturated with water the hole I dug with the shovel filled in almost as fast as I could dig it and to top it off, every time you tapped the sand to make the clam 'show' it was almost immediately washed away by the water, wind and rain.

After about 30 minutes I was soaked to the bone and knew everybody else was about as happy as I was. We got into the car with complaints of cold and hunger; we could have eaten more snacks and turned up the heater, we could have stopped at GAH! fast food, but Pig N Pancake sounded better.

I had the razor clams, I had been thinking about them for a week and didn't have a single one to take home. I figure those razor clams cost me $50 each, but I learned a lot and the next ones should only cost me the price of gas... I hope.

Next minus tides I can make it down for are next Saturday, wish me luck. After a month or two on the unsafe list mussels are back on the menu, I'll have to take a rake too.

Rick

Quick blender Salsa

A cheap Superbowl addition served with chips.

1 28 oz can, whole tomatoes with juice
1 medium sized yellow onion - 1" dices (white onion makes it a little hotter)
1 jalapeno - 1/2" dices (seeded and deveined for mild)
2 cloves of garlic diced fine
2 Tbls lemon or lime juice (vinegar is ok, but not my preference
1 tsp kosher salt (brings out the flavor of the cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cayenne
2 Tbls cilantro - chopped to 1/2"

Pour the juice from the can of tomatoes into the blender and add the onion, jalapeno, and garlic. Pulse the blender a couple times to reduce the size of the veggies slightly.

Add the juice, salt and spices and then about 1/2 the can of tomatoes, blend for about 15 seconds until the tomatoes start to get incorporated, add the cilantro and the rest of the tomatoes and blend it again until the last of the tomatoes start to break down.

To make this from your pantry you can substitute 1 Tbls of dried jalapenos or red pepper flakes, 1/4 cup dried onion or 1/2 cup frozen, diced onion, 1/2 Tbls granulated garlic. Let dried ingredients soak in the tomato juice for an hour or two; or rehydrate by pouring 2 cups boiling water over them, let sit for 15 minutes and drain. Dried cilantro just isn't the same but 1 Tbls is about right if you have to.

I usually eat this immediately but it's better after 1 hour of refrigeration, esp. if using dried ingredients. Stores well in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Rick

100,000+ people lost their jobs last week, were you one of them?

CNN reports over 100,000 job losses from major employers, it makes me wonder how many jobs were lost from smaller companies that don't report the same way.

Obviously this is more than a trend. December's numbers of 632k actually show that last week is fairly average.

I hope these people have some food put back in the pantry for themselves and their dependents.

Rick

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Ten Essentials - ie. some stuff that's nice to have when the chips are down (when the shtf)

It seems to be a unwritten rule lately that any discussion of wilderness survival skills has to cover the ten essentials, personally I just consider a list like this to be a general guide. I carry many of these items everyday and it doesn't matter if I'm in the woods, at work or at the grocery store. At the same time I often trek into the woods without food and water or a manufactured method of shelter.

This list is roughly sorted into my personal order of importance. During an 'event' the order will change constantly and the silliest thing you never considered might end up on top.

1. Knife: A Swiss Army knife with a saw, multi-tool or a fixed blade about 4" long are my top choices. I have an awesome knife, the HHS1 that I might show off in the future, it needs a little more work on the finer points before we reveal it to the world.

2. Fire Starter: Butane lighter, fero rod, or matches and some form of tinder. Flint and steel are great too, but I suck at getting the angle right when it matters, friction is tough too but I'll show you my bow drill setup eventually.

3. Cordage: 550 cord, twine or braided fishing line. You can make your own cordage as needed, but that's another post.

4. Shelter: 8x10 tarp, tube tent, large trash bags, tent, bivi bag. You can make a lean-to or debris hut as well; my personal preferences. Oh someday I'll expound on my experiences with snow caves where I wake up with the ceiling touching my nose.

5. Water: Water bladder, canteen, water treatment, filter, sponge, transpiration bag or panel or a boiling pot will provide a way to collect/carry water and make it safe to drink. Oh, condoms; these really do work but there's a few tricks. We'll get there soon, with pictures! You've heard about water pasteurization in a pop bottle right?

6. Whistle: A quality whistle (Fox 40 or similar) can be heard a mile away under the right conditions. It can get the attention of searchers, a pet or a distracted child. 3 sharp blasts are a sign of distress. I have 6-7 whistles I tested with a meter, I might discuss that again someday.

7. Flashlight: A small LED flashlight can be used to signal searchers, find your way in the dark, work on detailed tasks or for looking for that last damn match you just dropped.

8. First Aid Kit: You're more likely to be injured during a stressful situation or maybe it's the injury itself which turned this event into a survival situation. A simple kit that covers the basics for cuts, headaches, stomach discomfort, allergies; a little petroleum jelly, antibiotic cream, sunscreen, and bug repellent. Do you know how to use cayenne pepper to stop bleeding... we can cover that.

9. Map and Compass: This combination is the ultimate tool for land navigation, but they're worthless if you don't know how to use them before you need them. I love my new GPS but it sucks in many of the areas where I 'work', we'll hit that eventually too.

10. Food: Even 300-500 calories can make a big difference in your immediate survival needs. Plan 1000-2000 minimum per day if you know you're heading into the field.

So that's ten items give or take, though closer to 30 if you pack stuff the way I do; with 2-3 knives, a couple ways to make fire, a true first aid kit, spices, 2-3 forms of cordage, backups and replacements. They don't do you any good if you leave them in the car or back at camp so they should be kept on you both in camp and as you leave it. Packed into a couple zip lock bags and tucked into your pockets, it makes it easier to keep these toys with you.

A few bonus items you might want to consider:
sandwich baggies, small garbage bags, large garbage bag or survival bag, zip ties, duct tape, surveyors tape, nails, wood screws, emergency blanket, 8x10 tarp, pen or pencil and paper, spare batteries, tinfoil and about a thousand other things I could add given time.

Stick with me and we'll have enough information for a book or ten, I know I've started that many.

Semper Paratus - Rick

Time to start your garden. In January?

My garden is a key component in preparing my family and I think it's as important now as Victory Gardens were in the past.

I started my garden about 2 weeks ago. I ordered seed manuals, started pulling winter weeds, clearing leftover plants and sharpened the tools. It's still below freezing most nights and we had an inch or so of snow this week. I plan to actually start planting seeds this weekend. OSU has a great calender that you should modify to fit your location.

How do you know when it's time for you?

The USDA Hardiness Zones are usually included on most seed packets bought in the US but Sunset Magazines zones are generally considered more accurate and often used by local nurseries. Unfortunately they use a different numbering system and you'll need to interpret the recommendations based on where your own garden is located.

Your baseline for starting seeds is based on the last frost date for your region. Typically, raised beds can be planted 2-4 weeks earlier than specified, adding a cold frame can give you a couple more weeks and adding a insulated blankets at night might give you a couple weeks too. Starting seeds or pots inside extends your growing season as well, but many plants don't transplant well and need to be started in a pot suitable for the entire growth cycle.

For me (Willamette Valley) it's time to start peas in the raised beds; inside it's the first round of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower in trays. If I can finish my new cold frames I'll toss one over one of the raised beds and put in the first round of onions. My garlic cloves are in the fridge, wrapped in a damp towel next to last years short small horseradish roots (both in ziplock bags), they're just kinda hanging out for now but I give them some sun and light occasionally just for fun and they progress slowly. The garlic is late, I was lazy last fall due to work, but I can still get a decent harvest if I plant it in the next month or two.

Good Luck - Rick

My primary focus

Unemployment levels increase in all Oregon counties. [Oregon Live] 01.26.09

"Statewide, more Oregonians were out of work last month than at any time since 1983. Oregon's jobless rate was 8.8 percent, compared with 5.4 percent in December 2007."
--
This is one of the reasons we need to 'Prep' and I think it's the most important reason to do it now.

Unemployment is likely to increase for at least the next foreseeable future and having food and other materials handy will ease our minds and decrease the stress on our budgets should we be in the next batch of people to hit the unemployment lines.

Oregon's maximum unemployment benefit is $482/week, before taxes (the equivalent of $12/hour). If you're used to bringing home twice that much you're going to have a hard time meeting your bills, looking for a job and feeding your family. If on the other hand you had been making 12/hour before, don't expect a free vacation, you'll receive considerably less than the maximum amount and it could be as low as $113/week pre-tax.

If you have a decent supply of staples (not the pointy kind) and can put in a garden, grow some container vegetables, brew up a batch of sprouts on the kitchen counter, you can supplement that $482 taking some of the stress off.

This is my focus for the 'OPN' at this time. I'll interject a few other things relating to wilderness survival, frugal living, handy gadgets, DIY projects and the like. I'm not going to dwell on many other aspects being discussed on so many other websites and in the news, I'll be keeping my focus on helping out the individual and his family and the community they live in.

I'm new at the blogging 'thing' so be gentle as I jump into the mix. If you have other ideas or would like to join in let me know.

Thanks - Rick

Coming Soon....

Rick will be operating the Oregon Preppers Network. Welcome Rick! If you would like to be a contributor and Team member leave him a comment. Thank you.

Tom

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Oregon Preppers Network Est. Jan 17, 2009 All contributed articles owned and protected by their respective authors and protected by their copyright. Oregon Preppers Network is a trademark protected by American Preppers Network Inc. All rights reserved. No content or articles may be reproduced without explicit written permission.