Monday, May 28, 2012

The 10 Stages of Food Storage

For those of you who have been prepping and storing food for awhile these may sound somewhat familiar!  

Stage One: Something or someone has scared-your-eyes-open to the fact that the world is not what it used to be and trouble of various kinds are brewing.  You freak out, go to the grocery store to buy a case of  mac and cheese and  25 cans of beenie weenies.  You stay up late and read every post on the  International Preppers Network about zombies, EMPs, nuclear attacks and financial disaster and go to bed thinking the end of the world is tomorrow and wondering if the mac and cheese and beenie weenies will last until then.

Stage two:  Tomorrow comes and it's not the end of the world so you start to think about how much you hate mac and cheese and beenie weenies.  You freak out and go to the store to buy  25kg bags of beans and rice because you read last night that beans and rice are what you need to eat if the world is coming to an end.  You then read every post on how to cook beans and rice and buy a propane stove just-in-case

Stage three:  You are sick of tripping over the bags of beans and rice and you've eaten all the mac and cheese and beenie weenies while watching The Road on Friday night and still no disaster has occurred. You begin to wonder if there's more to food storage than this and start looking up recipes that only require canned and boxed food.  You find a chart that tells you how long canned food will stay edible and take an inventory of the neighbourhood strays just-in-case.  

Stage four: You begin to see the benefits of having some extra food on hand because some family members dropped in unexpectedly and you saw this as a great opportunity to try out your new favorite bean and rice dish on them.  You are now reading some thought provoking blog posts on the Canadian Preppers Network on taking care of yourself regardless of the emergency and have considered planting some tomatoes in pots in the back yard just-in-case. 

Stage five: Wanting to increase your storage you go crazy with grocery flyers and coupons looking for deals so you can add canned and boxed food to your food storage area.  You are feeling more confident as you see the stacks of tuna and cans of soup pile up.  You are now debating the merits of Spam and Klic and the multitude of ways it can be eaten with others on the board.

Stage six: You are beginning to calm down and see the need to organise all the "stuff" you've been buying so you go to the big box store and buy some heavy duty shelves.  After bringing the shelves home, debating with your spouse about where you can put them, putting the shelves together and organizing your food you realise how little food you really have because the shelves are mostly bare.  You take a look around the basement while you're there and see how much useless junk you have accumulated over the years.  You start purging and sell it all on Kijiji or Craigs List.  While you're selling you browse the ads for camping equipment and spend all the money you made purging buying more practical and useful stuff just-in-case.

Stage seven: You are cruising along when it suddenly occurs to you that your family needs to know about prepping because there's no way YOU can prep for them.  You call a family meeting and your parents and siblings shake their heads and sigh because you have finally proven them right - they think you are crazy.  Grandma is the only one who looks interested and pulls you aside to suggest that Grandpa (who fell sleep during your spiel) could teach you how to garden and she could teach you how to can your own food next summer. On the way home you think about how much you love your Grandparents and you stop off at the grocery store for the BOGO sale to stock up on some extra food for them - just in case.

Stage eight: You begin to wonder how you will survive the end of the world without snack foods.  You head for the nearest bulk food store and stock up on chocolate, candy and chips with plans to put it in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.  You look up mylar bags and oxygen absorbers online and order them but by the time your order arrives your family has eaten all the chocolate and candy and left you with half a bag of pretzels.  

Stage nine: You are put off by the amount of time it takes to pack your own food and you want to speed up the process so you look up Briden Solutions and put in an order for 6 months of freeze dried and dehydrated food.  It arrives in the mail and you add it to your shelves smiling at the bounty and feeling like you are finally getting somewhere.

Stage ten: You sit back and relax in your yard having planted a garden full of heirloom seeds with Grandpa.  Sipping ice tea made with dandelion leaves and other weeds you read a book on how to build a root cellar while day dreaming about your move to a country property where you can raise chickens and have a cow.

Hope that made you smile!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Two Handsome Boys Come to the Farm

We've added some new animals to the farm this week and we got rid of one too.  

The new additions are two gorgeous roosters who arrived yesterday.  We answered an ad on kijiji for FREE roosters - always a gamble but this time it worked out really well.  Best buds "Stripey" and "Daisy" as they are currently named have settled into a pen on their own for a few days to give them the idea that this is home.  The previous owners bought them as chicks - and the person they bought them from swore they were hens - whoops - NOT.  So they lived happily in the backyard in town until the inevitable happened - it was crowing time.  The neighbours were starting to complain and alas the roosters needed to go.  

I can see their point!  The barn is a good distance from the house but being warm out we have the windows open and I've been listening to them cockle-doodle-do-it-out in the barn this morning starting bright and early.  Just to bust a myth - roosters crow any time of the day - all day.  I think we may have the farm version of Canadian Idol going on in there as they compete with Solomon the Second for the loudest crow.

I agree with the original owners that one of them is a Wheaten Ameraucana.  That's the one with the furry beard.  The other is up for debate - any ideas?I think we've decided on Claude and Rupert for their new names - Jean Claude was the name of a poodle in a very funny episode of the Beverley Hill Billies. My daughter was away at school last year and bemoaned the fact that she was not part of the naming of most of the other animals so she choose Rupert. Who am I to argue - I'm just happy she's home for awhile - so Rupert it is!!

In a few days they will be officially introduced to the rest of the flock and allowed to roam the farm. So how does one tell if it's a hen or a rooster as chicks - I've never been able to figure that out reliably but I recently heard that when the chicks feather-out you can check their neck feathers - if they're pointy it's a rooster and if they're rounded it's a hen.  I've been checking out the barnyard and it's true!  Learn something new every day!

The animal we got rid of was a pesky raccoon.  I used to love raccoons. When we lived in the city they didn't do me any harm.  I would see lots of them while driving at dusk and when we went camping.  My favorite memory was leaving a watermelon under the trailer during one camping trip - the next morning the was a fist sized hole in it and all the insides were missing.  Stinkers.  Then we moved to the farm.  

A barn is the perfect habitat for raccoons - warm and dry with access to lots of food.  Raccoons are smart and have very dexterous fingers so they pop off the lids of animal feed bins, sit in them and eat till they nearly explode.  This one was getting into the feed room by climbing down between the walls and the rafters.  A few chickens did a face-off with it and lost as well.  All of a sudden it's not cute because it's getting expensive!  So we built a critter-proof feed room, sealed up every hole we could find and set a trap on the other side of the barn where we thought it was holed up.

The trap is the kind that can be purchased at any co-op or farm store.  We baited ours with a marshmallow tied in cheese cloth.  It took a few nights of stolen bait to realise we had to tie it to the bottom of the trap so the raccoon couldn't just reach in and steal it.  We finally caught the critter - GREAT - now what to do with it.  Do you know there are no instructions with the cage for how to release it!  We drove off to the local conservation area - about 10km away - and let it go without any trouble.  I was wearing a red oven glove in lieu of the "heavy work gloves" that were suggested since I don't own a pair.  I think that was rather appropriate - don't you?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Springtime chores on the farm

Springtime on the farm means lots of things to do.  I am only remembering the quiet of the winter past when I had time to read - ha!  I feel in a frenzy needing to do so many tasks at once that my head is spinning and my body is aching.

Our first batch of meat birds arrived today - cute-little-balls-of-fluff.  We picked them up in their cardboard box crate at the local co-op bright and early this morning - 60 chicks in all.  They squish them in a box together so they can help keep each other warm.   When we arrived the whole store was filled with the sounds of cheeping coming from the many boxes of other customers - maybe that's why they ask you to come in early - the sound is a little intense with so many in one room.  The chicks were hatched within the last 24 hours and they can go 72 hours without food and water because they are digesting their yolk sac so although we went straight home we knew we had a few hours to spare.

We decided to use a different pen to be our brooder box this time around.  The chicks are so little we have them in a big cardboard box for a few days before we let them have the run of the whole pen.  A heat lamp is keeping them warm and toasty and they are all eating and drinking and looking very healthy.  In a few short weeks they will already be ready to head for the butcher - it's unbelievable how fast they grow!

Last week we embarked on a new venture - quail.  We bought 1 male and 5 females from a lady north of Port Perry.  Quail are very tiny birds compared to chickens and lay the most beautiful delicate spotted brown and black eggs I've ever seen.  We're going to hatch out some of their eggs to increase our flock and when the time comes we'll be putting them in the freezer as well.  Right now my kids think I bought them just so I can take pictures of their eggs!

My rhubarb is looking fabulous - I have several clumps in different places in the yard. I was planning to move it all to one spot but then decided not to in the event that tragedy would strike one part of the garden perhaps the rest would survive - that said I've never seen rhubarb killed off by anything!   It's ready to pick so I am trying out a new recipe from a friend and fellow blogger Farmgal.  It sounds delish and it supposed to taste great with beef, lamb, on sandwiches and a million other ways.  Thanks Farmgal!  See her blog here!

Rhubarb Relish
16 cups rhubarb
6 cups vinegar and 2 cups water
8 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
5 cups white sugar
5 cups brown sugar
4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp allspice
2 tsp cloves
6 big onions

Chop rhubarb and onions, add all ingrdients, stir well,bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for 3hrs or more until thick.  Jar and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes at 10lbs pressure.  (check your altitude for pressure in your area)

I went to visit my mom and dad this week and picked up some perennial plant divisions from mom.  We have clumps of the same flowers repeated over and over in the gardens  - lillies, hollyhocks and peonies mostly so I am looking to diversify a little!  I also bought more perennials at a plant sale last weekend so I've been busy finding homes for them all and trying to prevent the chickens from digging them up as fast as I plant them.  I resorted to a section of old wire fencing around one area - it doesn't look too pretty but they need a week or two to grow some roots. Hopefully by then the chickens will have found somewhere else to scratch and peck!

Then of course there is the vegetable garden.  It truly is The Garden of Weedin.  I got a set of coasters with gardening sayings on them as a Mother's Day gift from my hubby.  I hope this is the summer that I finally get on top of the whole veggie garden thing.  I've been working steadily at it but there are days I wish I had a weeding genie to help me!  My kids will do almost anything for me except weed and since they are so helpful in so many other ways I am OK with that.  My garden is in my front yard - not the best place for a weedy mess and certainly not what I would have chosen but for now it's what I got.  My long term goal is to make it a no-till garden a la Back To Eden. It will require some major changes and several truck loads of wood chips so for this year I will do what I can and hopefully by the fall I will be ready to get started for next year.  I'm a little behind where I wanted to be so I am still at the adding-poop part when I could have had many things planted already.  Oh well!

Superwoman I am not.  Time for a bath in some epsom salts to ease the aching muscles! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Emergency Preparedness Week in Canada

This is Canada's Emergency Preparedness Week! The government has set up a great website to provide some ideas for thought and ACTION called:  GetPrepared

The "Get Prepared" campaign encourages Canadians to be prepared to cope on their own for at least the first 72 hours of an emergency, enabling first responders to focus on those in urgent need.

If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time you will probably realise that I believe that three days isn't nearly enough but it's a good start - better to have something in place than nothing.

Know the Risks So what are YOUR most likely risks?  Economic disruption, winter storms, heat wave, floods, pandemic, an EMP, a Nuclear accident, a chemical spill, the Zombie Apocalypse?

We'll have to survive on beans and pickles according to the picture!

Make a Plan What are you going to do about it?  What's your plan?  Do you have enough food in the house for three days for yourself, your family, any extra people who may happen to show up and your pets???  How will you cook the food?  Can you eat it out-of-hand?  Do you have a propane stove or BBQ with some stored propane?  Do you have some water on hand?  Would you know where to get more if the stores were closed or it wasn't safe to leave home?  Do you know how to purify water if the need arises and do you have what you need on hand to do so?  What would you do if it was the middle of winter and the power was out and you had no heat?  or the summer and you had no refrigeration?

Get a Kit What resources do you already have that you could use in an emergency situation?  What else do you need?  Do you have a family action plan?  A place to meet if everyone is away from home and you are unable to contact each other by phone?  Do you have a basic First Aid kit? Do you have extra blankets, tools, gas in the tank of your car to be able to travel, an emergency kit in your car?

Lots of questions...and many ways to answer them.  You can learn more at the websites above or grab a cup of tea and check out: 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Home-made Liquid Hand Soap

Home-made Liquid Hand Soap is simple to make, comes in your favorite scent and will save you money. However,  I  started out with another goal in mind that was actually the most important one for our family: dirty farm hands that never smelled clean.  I like to be frugal where I can but if a product doesn't do the job it's not worth the money.  I had been buying the massive jugs of cheap liquid hand soap because I had priced them out by weight and found them to be the best value for my money.  Soap is soap right?  Apparently not.  Since I don't have a sense of smell I didn't KNOW it wasn't working very well until my son mentioned that he would wash his hands and then use hand sanitizer to get rid of the lingering-odours.

I think hand sanitizer has it's place in this world but using it everyday was overdoing it in my mind.  so - what to do?  Well one day my son used the laundry sink to wash his hands - probably because the bathroom was busy and he used the bar of Linda soap I had on the counter for rubbing on stained clothes.  He was quite happy to find his hands smelled CLEAN - no sanitizer required.  We brought the Linda soap into the bathroom thinking we had found the answer but it created another problem - yellow gunk all over the counter top from the wet bar of soap.  If it was the only problem I had in life I'm sure I could live with it - ha - but then I had an idea!

...Make my OWN liquid soap.  A quick search around the internet and I had dozens of choices for how-to and so I mixed and matched until I came up with this one.  I used my laundry-making-pot and grater to grate 1/2 a bar of Linda Laundry Soap - found in the grocery stores isle for less than $1.50 a bar.  I added 2 1/2 quart sized canning jars of water to the pot (about 8 cups) and set it to simmering until the soap bits were all melted.  Then I added 2 tablespoons of liquid glycerin found in the band-aid section of a drug store (it's apparently used for the relief of chapped skin...)

Let the whole pot cool down and use an immersion blender or hand mixer to mix and get rid of any chunks.  When cool - but not before because it forms a skin as it cools - pour into a used soap pump container.  

Cost breakdown: 
* Linda soap 1/2 a bar - .50 - .75 cents
* Glycerin 250ml bottle is $5.99 - 2 tablespoons per recipe (8 total per bottle) .75 cents a recipe.

So for $1.50 max I have three jars of hand soap and very clean hands.

The great thing is this works with any bar soap so if you have a favorite bar soap - you can use it instead of Linda soap.  Since every soap is made of differing amounts of fat - you did know there was fat in soap right? - the recipe may need more or less water but this can be adjusted after the melting and cooling stage.  

It took about 20 minutes total to make this while I was cleaning up the kitchen - worth it?  I think so.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Meet Harriet and Nellie

Just a few pictures of our new arrivals - so cuddly and sweet.  These girls seem to like being handled more than "Freddy" who was born a month ago.

This whole process is so amazing.  The idea that God put it in their minds how to nurse and even to bump their heads against mama in order to get the milk to come down is amazing to me.  They seem to understand instinctively what to do when mama makes certain sounds.  They know to hide behind her when she makes a growling sort-of-noise.

This was another unattended birth - we missed the whole thing!  I was even beginning to wonder if mama wasn't preggers because she was so much later than her sister in lambing.  So although I am overjoyed that all went well I still have not seen the process but maybe that's for the best since I would have just worried myself silly anyway.  They are both drinking well and seem very lively and healthy and happy - that's all that matters!

 Having girls complicates things a bit for us.  I had sort of made up my mind what to do - sell or butcher Freddy and carry on for next year.  Now in the interest of good genetics I have to sell or butcher Freddy and trade Mr. Sheepie with someone else because we want to keep the girls as breeding stock..  We've come to love Mr. Sheepie although the poor guy could use a vacation from Maybe the donkey who is mercilessly mean to him - we really hate to see him go.  He has bald patches on his backside from having his hair ripped out by Maybe's teeth - usually they are fighting over food so Mr. Sheepie looks out for himself by climbing to the top of the big round feeder outside where Maybe can't reach him and he can eat in peace.  He does look funny playing King of the Castle but I can't blame him.

I'm glad we don't have to decide right now who goes where.  I've decided to just enjoy them for the time being.   For now I feel like a pro - tails need docking in a few days and I am OK with doing that since I know what to do. 

Then there is the possibility of milking one of the mamas...well - maybe next year!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Canning lids & rings & rubber things

I made a stop at Home Hardware the other day and I was pleased to find the red rubber rings for the glass topped canning jars.  When I saw the box I recognised it but I had never put two-and-two together before then. I'm sure I've seen them at Canadian Tire for anyone else looking in Canada.  So hurrah - for $1.99 I have a my glass tops covered and ready for very stylish food storage.

My next stop was the local thrift store - that was mostly just for fun and to buy a few more magazines for the bathroom. I refuse to pay $5-7 a magazine when I can get the ones that are a few months old  for .50 cents - works fine for me!  While I was there I came across a canners heaven!  They had lots of Ball and Mason jars but I don't need any more right now.  What they did have was a whole basket of snap lids and rings.  I actually found some to fit those little odd-sized jars I was talking about.  Yippee.  As you can see in the picture below the original price was 21 cents - I had to pay 50 cents!  Inflation I guess.

I ended up with an assortment of rings and lids for $2.00.  The lids are FAR to old to use for canning - the rubber only lasts so long before it deteriorates and becomes unsafe for canning. 

All my jars have proper lids now so all is right in the world-of-canning according to Anita!