Monday, April 27, 2015

Watering your garden during a the Desert.

We have had a mild winter.  It has been nice not having to wear a coat that often, but we also have not had much snowfall.  I live in a desert, so a winter without snow is a huge concern.  

Watering your garden during a the Desert.

I recently attended a class taught by Caleb Warnock from Renaissance Seeds. He made me think differently about what I had been doing. So, I made some changes.  Because I have very limited time, I had developed some of my own little methods for gardening.  For the past few years, I had put sheets of weedblock on top of the garden and cut holes for the plants.  This ensured that I did not have weeding to do.  However, the water would bead up and run across the tops of the weedblock and not always to the plants.

I am now going to face a harsh reality this summer along with many other people.  We may have water supply issues.  Mr. Warnock suggested putting a barrier at the bottom of my growboxes and not on top.  As he explained why, it was an 'ah-hah' that weeds cannot come up from the bottom.  

I hired some young teenagers in my neighborhood and they helped me make the change.  This only took about an hour.

I have a watering system for my garden. It is tied to my lawn sprinklers.  I can turn it on and off.  The water runs through these PVC pipes and waters the garden.  Every year, I get a skinny nail and press it into the holes in the pipes to clear any debris that may be present.  Normally the holes are facing down.  I turned them upright to clear the holes.

I then tested the pipes by turning on the water....everything looks good!  

Now, I am going to garden a bit differently this summer, so I am going to leave the holes at the top instead of the bottom.  

Yes, that those really are grass clippings around my pepper plants.  I put this mulch around all of my plants and as I get more I will cover the entire box.  This helps hold moisture and keeps the plant from drying out as quickly.

This is the first step in my Garden this year.  I look forward to see how this new method works and to see how my harvest looks.  

So How Does Your Garden Grow? 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It's a matter of .....A Shake Out!

A large part of being prepared....means you practice and rehearse.  The "Great Shakeout" will happen tomorrow in Utah at 10:15 a.m.  What does that mean to Utahns (and anyone else)?  It hopefully means a lot!

What can you do? Plenty! Read, and get ready!

1. For Families:  This PDF covers a great deal of information for you.  

2. For Persons with Disabilities:  This PDF provides great information. 

3. Deseret News series on Earthquake Preparedness

4.  How to make a Grab-n-go-kit

This is a great opportunity to check out your readiness level with your family and colleagues.

Don't Miss it!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lesson's Our Family Learned Before, During, and After a Hurricane.....

Look at what a tangle mess of mighty Pine Trees this photo has.  You may be wondering how that is possible.  The source actually has a name, and many of you may recall this name......Hurricane Hugo and my family experienced it first hand.  I was inspired to share our experience with you today because of a post by Food Storage Moms.

Preparedness Lessons Learned From Hurricane Hugo....

This photo shows you what it looked like all over our neighborhood.  Many of these mighty pine trees fell into the houses all along the coast and the central part of South Carolina.  That actually happened to many of our dear neighbors.  When we went outside to look at the aftermath, it was like those huge pine trees just cut through the homes like butter.  

Due to the blessing of technology, we knew that South Carolina was going to be hit....and hit very hard.  The Media was sharing a lot of information on how to be ready and safe during this destructive storm.  My husband I tried to shield my children from the constant stream of media...I didn't want them to have unwarranted fear or anxiety.  Basically, I wanted them to be informed.  In actuality, we had put ourselves in a pretty good position to handle this or many other unexpected emergencies. We had food, water, fuel, tools, shelter....and SKILLS!  I can't stress enough how important skills are.  You can have all the gear in the world, but without knowledge and practice, they really may not serve you well.  

As I was new to the "hurricane" preparedness aspect, I found that I had to purchase a few things that we did not have.  I packed up my baby, and drove to the local grocery store.  I was looking for tape to put on the windows so that if they broke, they would not shatter into little pieces but rather would hopefully stay as close to 'one unit' as possible. Also, my husband and I decided that we needed more batteries.  

I parked in a very full parking lot, took the baby out of the car seat, found a shopping cart, and wheeled toward the store.  I was not prepared for the scene inside the front doors.  There were people everywhere.  The shelves were basically empty.  It reminded me of a scene from "The Flintstones" when Betty and Wilma went to a big sale which ensued in total chaos.  Thankfully, the store had masking tape and batteries near the front of the store.  I grabbed what I needed and got in line to check out.  It took nearly an hour to get to a register.  I was amazed at the items people were purchasing.  I saw roasts, donuts, hamburger, candy etc. Many people had items that required refrigeration. I wondered why folks weren't purchasing shelf-stable foods like Peanut Butter and bread.  However, as I crawled by the bread aisle...there was no bread to be found. After checking out, I started to drive home. At that point, the roads were packed with people. Some were attempting to leave and others were attempting to come into our area.

When I got home, the children were coming in the door as school was let out early due to the impending Hurricane.  All family members that were able went around the house and began taping the windows in a crisscross/star shape.  The kids thought it was pretty fun to put tape on the windows.  

Because our daughter was a baby, we had a 'playpen' (which people now call 'pack-n-play') in the kitchen. We started a basic 'treasure hunt'. We put sleeping bags, board games, backpacks with clothing etc and portable foods in the 'playpen'.  Our thought was that if we had to leave in a hurry, my husband could lash the playpen on the back of his truck (covered by a big tarp) and we could move quickly.  I need to let you know that my husband is a general contractor. His truck is like the clown car at the circus....stuff just keeps appearing out of it. He said it was our biggest preparedness asset...and I had no reason to doubt him.

When it came time for bedtime, we gave our children the option of sleeping on the main floor as their bedrooms were on the second floor. They wanted to sleep in their own beds, and if we felt things were getting a bit crazy, we would have gone upstairs and to get them.  If things did get too crazy, we had a safe place to go. Our home was built on a slope and we had 'under-the house-storage' that was a bricked-in area.  This was going to be our safe shelter if we need to access it.

On the news, we learned that the state had asked folks along the coast to evacuate and move to the central part of the state...which is where we were.  The USC stadium was being used as essentially a refuge camp. Folks were streaming into our area.

My husband and I did not sleep that night.  Not only were we trying to stay on top of things, but a hurricane is REALLY LOUD!  It really does sound like a Freight Train running through your home.  Add to that the loud explosions we heard from those mighty Pine trees breaking and cutting through other trees or homes near us.  (We did not have any large trees on our lot. My husband had them all removed before we built the house. I was so frustrated with him for doing it when we were building....but I was very thankful to him for his foresight when all the chaos was happening around us).  

We were listening to the radio all night.  I guarantee that some people were at their craziest when the hurricane actually hit.  People were calling into the radio station reporting that they were standing on 'such and such' corner of Charleston and watching roofs being torn off and big pieces of debris were flying right by them etc.  Really?  Who in their right mind would be out driving around during a Category 5 storm anyway?

During the night, our baby did wake up. We brought her into bed with us and she spent most of the night playing with our hair or poking our eyes.  This is another reason we did not sleep.  It became eerily quiet as the eye of the storm passed over, but the vengeance returned soon enough. 

In the morning, the phone rang. My parents were calling to see if we were still alive and well. Shortly thereafter, our young son came down and asked when the 'huwicane' was coming. Thank goodness all of our other children slept through the night....but I still don't know how because it was sooo noisy.

This is what things looked like all over town.  We were without power for nearly a week.  We were the only ones in our area to still have water.  We had people calling to see if we had water to share.  We ended up giving our entire water storage away and as well as letting people come into our home to fill up their own containers and take them home.  I met the parents of many of the classmates of our children as my kids let it be known (by phone) that we had water.

As we were without power, we ate as much as we could from our freezer.  We had steak etc that we cooked on the gas grill out on our deck.  We used the refrigerator as a big giant cooler. The little bit of ice we had we put in there to keep things as cool as possible.  It didn't last for the entire week, but we got a few days from it.

The kids played a lot of board and card games.  They also played outside on our swing-set and played some soccer. We used flashlights and lanterns in the house (the windows were open....because there was no air conditioning).  

Unexpected events....

We actually had friends call us and ask us for things. If we had it or could spare it, we did so willingly.  However, I was surprised by the boldness of some folks. People act unexpectedly during emergencies.  I remember fielding one call from folks we know.  Here is what they asked of us.... "Do you have a generator?  If you do, can we come and get it?"  I thought they were kidding...they weren't. They were concerned about their freezer and refrigerator and did not seem to have any difficulty asking us for a generator....which we didn't have at the time.  

Within a day, our Stake President (a local leader of many congregations in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) asked for as many men as possible to be ready to leave and go to the coast to help in the relief efforts.  This meant that as soon as the chainsaws in our area were able to clear the fallen trees from the roads, that my husband and our older son were going to leave for days to go and help those who were hit harder than we were.  

We made it a matter of prayer, they packed up and went.  The rest of us were totally fine.  We had food, water, old-fashioned entertainment, and a phone, which was my daughter's life-line.  The photo above was taken by my husband miles from the coastline.  This powerful storm had lifted boats and yachts and dropped them inland by miles.  (Even 3 years after the storm, I still drove by big yachts that had been dropped into the middle forested areas that were too difficult to access and remove). 

Take Home Points:

  • We didn't have a Generator....but we purchased one as soon as they were back on the shelves at our local store (for a reasonable price).  As you noted above, people were bold enough to ask to borrow one from us.  Also, you need to find a way to secure it to your home so that it cannot be stolen. Lots of things walked away during that time.  
  • We had too much of our Food Storage in our Freezer. We lost it all and it was very, very costly.  I now have a combination of frozen, canned, and dehydrated/freeze-dried foods in our food storage.
  • We had plenty of food to eat and had enough water to last us if we needed to live off from it. We also used our gas grill and our camp stove to prepare meals. Because we often went camping as a family, we all knew how and what to cook as if we were camping.
  • We had skills and tools to help ourselves and others.  My husband used his chainsaw to help free our neighborhood (along with others who had one as well).  He and my son did go to Charleston and helped repair roofs, close off open areas of homes, and help repair things that they could with the materials that were available.  
  • We had the opportunity to serve others in a time of need. We had water and we shared it. We also shared what was in our food storage and particularly our freezer.  One of our friends loaded up their truck with the contents of their freezer and went to a part of town where folks were in great need. They gave away their food to very grateful recipients.  We were able teach our children how blessed they were and also how to be of service to others.  
  • We learned to have 72 hour kits all put together. We were putting them together in anticipation of the storm with things that we already had. WE LEARNED not to do that in the future.  
  • Because we had water, hygiene was not as big of an issue as it could have been. We just has cold baths....which was a bit of a harsh reality. However, we were so grateful.  I had a baby and children for heaven's sake!  I was fortunate that I had finished the laundry before the storm hit.  After the power came back on, we had a mountain of laundry to do.  I now have the means to clean clothes without power.  
  • Because we had water, we could use the toilets. That was a major plus from a hygiene standpoint.  
  • People do unexpected things during an emergency.  Many rise to the occasion, but others certainly do not.  There was looting, and individuals posing as repairmen who took advantage of folks who were desperate to get their homes back together.  Others sold items for inflated prices etc.  Even those you know and love may put their needs above yours and make inappropriate requests/demands.
  • You need to have cash on hand.  Have a variety of currency/cash on hand because you most likely will not get change back.  I would suggest a lot of $20.00, $10.00, $5.00, and many singles. Have coins as well.  I also suggest that you have other items to barter as well. Medications, food, water, etc. Some folks suggest liquor for bartering.  
  • Gas, keep your tanks at least half-full. The lines at the gas station were long when the power came back on and initially gas was rationed.  There were also a lot of abandoned vehicles on the side of the road that ran out of fuel. We knew that we had a shelter that was appropriate for us, so we sheltered in place.
  • Power:  We used a lot of batteries. Now we not only have batteries, but some solar options, and a Biolite wood buring campstove.  The solar and the Biolite can charge our electronics.  One requires sunlight and the other generates fuel from burning wood.  These two options offer us redundancy. 
  • Protection:  My husband has several weapons, and the oldest children and I knew how to shoot them.  My son's had their own weapons and knew how to care for them. When my husband and oldest son were away, I knew how to use our weapons if I needed to. Thank heavens it was not required.
  • Entertainment:  We had a lot of board games and card games.  Although my children had a few electronic devices, they were not as available as devices are now.  I believe it is important to have a balance in the entertainment that your family is offered.  I love my technology....there is no question about that. However, as a family we were used to playing outside and playing boardgames together.  Although my kids did get bored and hot, they were so good to try to play and work together.
  • If we had to evacuate, we had the equipment, food, and supplies to do so. Our family is used to camping, so it would not have been a hardship for us.

So, learn from our experience. Now is as good of time as any to look at your Emergency Preparedness readiness.    Take inventory with your family.

How would you fare in such an emergency?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Because He is Risen....

On this beloved Easter Morning, I am very well aware of the great blessing that only the Savior of the World can give.  May we all live worthy of this most eternal gift...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

It's a matter of having a Root Cellar....when you don't have one!

30 Ways of Homesteading

I am an urban girl....I live in a small city in a neighborhood.  I am also someone who likes to be prepared for life's little bumps and bruises.  Today I am going to focus on a Storing your a type of Root Cellar.

Portable Root Cellar....

In a previous post, I share my excitement about  a "Root Vegetable Bin" from Gardner's Supply Company.  I have used it a great deal and have felt that it was a good purchase. However, I wanted to take the concept and expound upon it without making this purchase multiple times.

In case you are unfamiliar with a "Root Cellar", it's purpose is to preserve vegetables, fruits, and other foods.  I remember going on a Sunday drive with my Mother in her little home town.  She stopped at a mound on the side of the road and informed me that this was her parent's Root Cellar and that they stored their harvest to preserve it over the long winter.  At the time, I had this very rude thought "I'm glad I don't have to do that".  Fast forward a few years and hopefully with a healthy dose of maturity, I now see the wisdom of this time-tested method of storage.  The challenge for our family is that our home is built on top of a primitive river bed complete with lots of rocks.  Just to give you an idea of what it is like, when the basement for this house was dug....I remember driving up and thinking that Fred and Wilma Flintstone were going to pop out any minute because of the many large boulders and round stones that had been unearthed.  

Since so many people may not have the option of having their own root cellar because of where they live, I want to share an option that I have found to be very versatile and successful.

I ordered Milk Crates  and Natural Twill Tape online.  You will need just under 6 yards of twill tape for each of these units. I also purchased Burlap at my local big box store for $2.19 a yard.  Once the Milk Crates arrived, I measured the width and height of these units.  I decided to cut the Burlap in the following manner.

I measured 2 sides and the bottom of the crate.  Each side was 10.5 inches high and 13 inches across the bottom.  I decided to add them all together and add a few more inches for the design I had in mind.  In ended up cutting a long piece that was 36 inches by 14 inches which will allow for 1/2 inch seam allowance on the sides.

Next I cup squares that were 14 x 14 inch squares.

I began sewing the long piece around 3 sides of one square.  I did the same for the 2nd square.

See how it starts to take on a cube shape?

Note how the raw seams are on the outside. As such, you have a very clean look on the inside.  Because I am a bit OCD, I serged all edges because I didn't want the Burlap to fray. This could also be done by using a zig-zag stitch.  I then encased the raw edges of the seams with the twill tape. You can do this by folding the tape in half around the seam and top-stitching the tape to the burlap.

I cut a piece of burlap that was 14 x 20 inches. I then sewed the twill tape around the 2 long sides and one short side of this piece.  This will serve as the top of the cube.

Here I am sewing the raw edge of the top piece to the edge of the long piece used of the bottom (that makes 3 sides of the bottom cube--not the square pieces).

Just as an FYI, fold the edge of the tape over and top-stitch to  your burlap edges/seams.  After sewing the top to the bottom, encase the top edge of your lining/cube by top-stitching the twill tape on all four edges.

I inserted the burlap liner into the Milk Crate. Notice how I folded the liner over the top of the crate by a couple of inches. This keeps the liner from collapsing on itself.

See how the top pieces folds over the edge and hangs down.  Would you like to know why?

Here is the reason why.  I sewed long pockets of clear vinyl on the flap.  I used a tight zig-zag stitch along the 2 sides and bottom of the clear pocket. This leaves the top edge open to insert a label.  Note that I printed labels to insert into the pocket to identify the contents.  Note how easily you can stack these on top of each other.  The Milk crate and the burlap allow good airflow around all sides of the unit.

Note that I tried both square corners and rounded corners.  The rounded corners stretched quite a bit.  When I make more, I will try rounded corners again and stay stitch the corners to hold the fabric steady while the twill tape is applied.  I like the rounded corners because it makes quick work when sewing on the twill mitered corders to sew!

Here you can see that these fit very well on the floor of my Pantry.  This is usually a dark room and the floor is the coolest part of the room.  I keep onions and potatoes there as I use these foods often in my cooking.

During the winter, the Garage is very cool.  Here I can stack them just outside the garage door.  The cool temperatures are enjoyed by your root crops.

Here is another option I can use.  I put them down in my basement storage room that has cement walls and floors. It is cool in there.  I have this little alcove that allows me to stack several of these.  Because they are labeled, I can quickly see what I have.  It is important to keep a spray bottle handy here to keep the burlap damp for certain crops like Carrots.  If you put damp burlap in a pile and then place your carrots between little the damp layers, the carrots will last longer. Spraying the burlap periodically keeps it nice and damp.  Some folks store Carrots etc in damp sand. I chose not to do this as it can fall through the burlap and make a mess. Remember that OCD thing?

What do you store together?

It may come as a surprise to some of you that you do not traditionally store fruits and root vegetables together.  This is because many fruits give off Ethylene gas which can encourage the root vegetables to ripen and spoil.  You have seen where I keep my root vegetables. Now let me show you one option that we use for our fruits.

This is a Sterilite container measuring 17 1/8 x 12 7/8 x 7 1/4 inches.  I purchased these at the local big box store.  I like how sturdy they are and how they are also perforated allowing the Ethylene gas to escape each time I open the refrigerator door.  

I was very pleased with the fact that the handles can fold toward the inside and to allow stacking these units on top of each other.

See how these stack so nicely and fit into the refrigerator that we have in our garage.  

I have read that placing these items in tubs (wrapped in newspaper) with a tight fitting lid helps to keep the Ethylene gas contained.

Take Home Points:

  • These units are very portable.  I love that they can serve you in a variety of places and will be sturdy enough to hold many different crops. 
  • The Burlap can be washed and air-dried if it gets soiled.
  • I calculate that each Milk-Crate unit costs about $11.00 to make. Compare that with the Root Vegetable Bin that costs over $35.00 for a smaller unit.
  • This options allows you to store your harvest and preserve it even without the benefit of an underground root cellar.  Not everyone has an underground option where they may live.

Consider it!

30 Ways of Homesteading

The Prepared Bloggers Network is at it again! We're glad you've found us, because the month of April is all about homesteading.

Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by growing your own food, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may even involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale. Most importantly homesteading is not defined by where someone lives, such as the city or the country, but by the lifestyle choices they make.

The Prepared Bloggers are passionate about what they do and they each have their own way of achieving self-sufficiency. Grab your favorite drink and enjoy reading about the 30 Ways of Homesteading!

Crops on the Homestead

Straw Bale Gardening from PreparednessMama
Benefits of Growing Fruit from SchneiderPeeps
Crops to Grow for Food Storage from Grow A Good Life
Winter Gardening Series from Our Stoney Acres
How To Build a Raised Garden Bed For Under $12 from Frugal Mama and The Sprout
How to Save Carrot Seeds from Food Storage and Survival

Animals on the Homestead

Getting Your Bees Started from Game and Garden
Homesteading How-To: Bees from Tennessee Homestead
How to Get Ready for Chicks from The Homesteading Hippy
Selecting a Goat Breed for Your Homestead from Chickens Are a Gateway Animal
Adding New Poultry and Livestock from Timber Creek Farm
How to Prepare for Baby Goats from Homestead Lady
Tips to Raising Livestock from Melissa K. Norris

Making the Homestead Work for You - Infrastructure

DIY Rainwater Catchment System from Survival Prepper Joe
Finding Our Homestead Land from Simply Living Simply
I Wish I Was A Real Homesteader by Little Blog on the Homestead
Endless Fencing Projects from Pasture Deficit Disorder
Homesteading Legal Issues from The 7 P's Blog

Preserving and Using the Bounty from the Homestead

How to Make Soap from Blue Yonder Urban Farms
How to Render Pig Fat from Mama Kautz
How to Make Your Own Stew Starter from Homestead Dreamer
Why You Should Grow and Preserve Rhubarb! from Living Life in Rural Iowa
30 Ways of Homesteading
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