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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.


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.


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,


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.


Thanks Brett, another informative post,

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.

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.