Saturday, April 30, 2011

Brewing Beer

First batch of beer started with the new equipment and new ingredients. (Rebel Brewer's basic kit)
I used a malt extract for a Weizen or Wheat beer, also boiled the hops which is a new step compared to the Mr. Beer system. Took just over an hour to make the Wort (malt extract 2 gallons of water and hops) Already had 4 gallons of water in the fridge to cool it down so I could add the yeast. I'm using ordinary tap water ran through a Brita filter.
I got a great product for sanitation which is critical to brewing called Five Star that does not require rinsing. Just put a cap full in a spray bottle add water, give it a shake then spray down your equipment. It makes sanitizing much easier and faster. It is acid based rather than chlorine based safer for yeast growth.
Some lessons learned:
  1. I think a Mr. Beer kit is a great way to start off brewing. The Kegs are small 2.5- 3 gallons are easy to move and get you familiar with the basic steps of brewing. Also the little recipe book gives you ways to expand flavors and some ideas for the future. The little kegs are good for the fermenting and I think 2 of these kits would be great for anyone who wants to start brewing. I recommend 2 of Mr. Beer kits since most non Mr. Beer recipes are for 5-6 gallon batches. I have reused the Plastic bottles and caps with no problem from the Mr. Beer kits.
  2. Have local supplier of ingredients and equipment. Now I started with a massed produced Mr. Beer, then got some equipment from Rebelbrewers.com I found a local supplier that was about a mile away that has connections for all products and is excited about brewing beer, making wine and cheese. Plus if something goes wrong you got help close to home.
  3. Start small, If something goes wrong it won't cost you much in lost time or money. If everything works out on this first big batch I'm looking at a cost of 40 cents per bottle or about $10.00 per case. Not a bad  compared to a micro-brew case of beer. Add in equipment  about $2.00 a bottle. But that's only on the first batch.
  4. I think this type of beer is healthier than the pasteurized stuff we get in the USA. The foam off the fermentation process can be saved/dried for bread yeast, though it must be bloomed for baking unlike active dry yeast. 
  5. No Sin taxes, The Feds have shown they have no problem of passing laws "for our own good." This is a way to stop paying taxes to them, and starve the beast. 
So ladies and gentleman we will see how the it goes. Hopefully in 2 weeks to a month we will see if it works. cheers

Friday, April 29, 2011

Battered,Bruised, Bloody but Unbowed!

          Wow,  what a crazy week and I woke up to snow this morning! I have a lot of  friends down south and so far everyone came through the twisters and fires in Texas in good shape, minor damage at most. One of them put it best, "We'll roll up our sleeves and get to work. We don't have victims around here, we got survivors!"
So while I whimpered over a little skiff a snow. They got to work!! Mom's getting together a care package of clothes and I'll be adding some of my own as well. She heard the really need clothes especially for the kids down where the Tornadoes hit.  Both the Salvation Army and the Red Cross are setup and taking donations. Give what you can to help these folks rebuild.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

You can't eat Gold!

      Actually you can eat "gold leaf". Many restaurants use gold leaf to impart value of a meal, or ensure that you are "arrived" as a player. Colloidal silver is great anti-bacterial. So you can consume both silver and gold. What is gold or silver to the average prepper or survivalist? I see it as a store of value. I don't know why gold has retained it's value for over 6000 years. But just because I can't see its value doesn't mean others dont value it.  I may think a garden plot or a canner has greater value than an oz. of gold. But remember in barter it's not about what you value but others value. It does not matter that I see gold as a very heavy rock. Others value that rock, see it as a store of value and that is what matters. Let's say you wax cheese, brew beer and wine, make salami,bacon and can your garden. Do you want to be paid in dollars or silver and gold?
      I bake bread and have many fuels on hand that ensure I can bake bread. I'm sure you have seen many folks say bread could go to $100.00 per loaf in FRNs(Federal Reserve Notes) so if the worst happens I bake 5 loves of bread and pay my mortgage. I've stored up when costs where low. Even now with commodities spiking, the cost be low $20.00 per 50 pound bag for flour. Sugar spiked  about a dollar per pound. I only need 2 tablespoons on any sweetbread.
    You can get ahead but it will cost you up front. Buy the pressure canner, extra loaf pans. Get good at preserving and the garden. It won't be easy, every little step will help. Don't give up, if you are looking I know you can do it. Take the first step, I promise I won't tell your friends or family.  It won't hurt at all.... 
 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Never let "perfect" be the enemy of "good".

      All to often I hear and or read folks that say they can't afford to prepare because they can't do a years worth of food or buy the latest weapon or install solar panels.  I totally understand that making a home totally solar power starts about $45,000.00 and goes up. A years worth of freeze dried food start's around a couple thousand dollars for just the basic package and goes up. Both guns and ammo have jumped in price since 2008 if you could find it to buy. Silver and gold have jumped in price as has fuel and food. You are probably saying to yourself why try? You will fail or you will been seen as a kook or worse. You can't grow a garden because you rent or live in an apartment or condo. So why try?....
      You are letting perfection get in the way of good. Trust me prepping never springs fully formed like Aphrodite. It is a series of small steps. There will always be trade offs, for example time vs. money. When you got the time you don't have the money and when you got the money you no longer have the time. You have got to be flexible and build in a series of steps.
       Set an easy goal, such as I will have 500 servings of a complete meal. 50 pounds of beans and rice is good! Heck that's 1 meal a day for 5 people for 3 months. No it's not perfect! but it will keep you alive. I'm guessing you will want more than beans and rice. Breads are great, simple ingredients flour, sugar, salt, yeast and water or milk. Takes some practice to perfect but it's expandable. Add some cinnamon you got rolls, baking powder you got quick breads a little brown sugar or molasses you got coffee cake. As you can see each upgrade of products builds the next step up.
     The garden: Spices are cheap and you can grow your own herbs cheap from seeds and in a sunny spot.I get seeds from the Dollar stores 6-10 packages for a dollar. Do they all sprout heck no! Ironically most of these cheap packets are non-GMO or hybridized seeds. My chives have reseeded themselves 3 years running and even my green leaf lettuce wintered over and is growing again in my square foot garden. Even after a good turning over and running a cultivator in the soil. I'm also growing mini-citrus trees and have my sunny windows full of "Salad Buckets",bok choy and diakons that are doing great. It's not "perfect" but it's "good" enough.
     Security: I'm a big believer that guns have a place in the preppers home. The cops are never around when you need them now it will get worse in the future. I'm not blaming the cops, no more than I'd blame the farmer about food. No one can value my life as much as I do so I must protect it. I believe I have value as a person and I don't think I should give that away. If you are absolutely sure you can take a life, to shoot to kill. I think the best home defense weapon to start with is a 12 gauge shot gun. 00 buck or at least #2 shot. Now this is a tradeoff. Shotguns are cheap on a the off brands. I like a pump action, some like semi-autos. But it's a great home defense weapon. I also carry pepper spray, and few other items. I really don't want to kill anyone, I want them to go away. But I'll not hesitate to kill if they won't go away.
      Solar energy: Well this is easy to start and is so expandable. If you have a vehicle you can buy a little solar power battery maintainer. Heck add a little 200-300 watt inverter you got ac power. While you won't be able to run your home on it you can recharge radios, phones and laptops perhaps a small 12 volt car cooler/fridge.
great for folks that need insulin.


Okay let's look at the total cost between "perfection" and good enough to start.

  1. Solar energy: Let's say instead of whole home that cost's $45,000.00 we are around $1000.00
  2. Food: Instead of $2000.00 for freeze-dried we guesstimate around $300.00. Figuring a 50# of rice and beans at average cost of $50.00. 2  Flour at $15.00 per 50 bag, Sugar  50# bag at $30.00, Yeast $5.00 per 2# bag. Salt 50 # for $6.00. Wow about $121.00 add few dollar in seeds. So about $130.00 for each 500 meals. So for that extra you could allocate money for a canner? or oils? or a freezer.
  3. Guns: I won't get into beyond the 12 gauge as a home defense weapon. But let's say we go cheap on 1 weapon and ammo. Designate $300.00 for security.
This list needs a lot of additions, but it a good start for around $500.00 or less. It's not perfect if you wait for perfect you may miss good enough. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bottled Butter

I've been working hard to get back to eating basic or real foods. I got rid of oleo margarine and gone to butter.
One advantage of margarine is that is all chemical so even most bugs won't eat it. I'm not sure it can really rot or decompose!
Butter can rot and it can decompose. But it is also very easy to preserve. The process takes a bit of time, but it's easy to do and it will save you a ton of money.
First butter has long been "rendered" and still is in India where it's called ghee. Basically butter is heated to the melting point and all of the solids (Milk fats) are skimmed off which results in "clarified butter" that you dip your lobster in. This "ghee" is very stable and does not rot even in high temps. In fact it was used by pioneers of the USA in the early 1800's. But you must keep it in the coolest darkest place available like any oil. I'm sure your home has many better places to store it than a Conestoga Wagon crossing the plains in early summer.
So on to bottled butter, You will need butter, canning jars lids and bands. A canning "Kit" that contains a funnel, lid lifter, Jar lifter and a few other doodads will be a great help also you will use them again canning.
1. Clean the jars: A run through the dish washer is fine. I use a roasting pan for sanitizing the jars in an oven at 250 degrees F. Place a glass marble in each jar  Turn off heat but leave in oven till butter is ready
2. Place canning lids and all utensils in a large pot and Boil to sanitize.
3.Melt butter and bring to a slow boil over very low heat. For 5 pounds of butter have 6 pint jars ready.
4. I  use a ladle to fill my jars. You will want to leave some space I fill mine up to the neck of the jar. About an inch of spacing. Or if you are using a canning funnel a bit (1/8 in.)below the funnel's bottom edge.
5.Place lid from the other boiled/sanitized pot on jar and screw on band.
6. Walk away and check your email and you will start to hear the jars pop indicating a seal.
7. About every 5  minutes give the jar a shake. This is where the marble comes in. The marble will work to to break up the fats and distribute them evenly. Same concept as shaking a can of spray paint.
8. Now you have bottled Butter! Store in a cool dark spot and it should be good for at least 3 years. Though archeologists  have found "Bog Butter" in Ireland and Scotland that was edible from 500-1000  years ago.

Please stop by Preparedness Pro and give a thank you to Kellene. She's the one who taught me, and gave me the confidence to try it out.

Watching an Empire collapse

As an arm chair historian I always wondered what it would be like to watch an Empire collapse. Okay I did not want it to be happening while I was alive. A couple hundred years in the past would be nice. At least a generation or 2 I  would prefer, but watching real time as the American Empire pulls apart reminds me me of Samuel Johnson's quote that the prospect of hanging wonderfully concentrate's the mind.
    Ironically I find myself becoming more at peace with the whole idea of an world-wide economic collapse. Oh sure I'll have my days of ranting at the out right stupidity and denial of people at all levels. There will always be more to do and learn. I've been buying up some books that were written back in the 1800's and some others that deal with the "human condition".  I suppose I'm in the last stage of grief and have moved to acceptance. In a strange way this kicking the can down the road gets on my nerves.  I'd prefer to get it over with, another part of me knows most folks need some more time to get prepared. The main reason I do this blog is so folks on a limited income or just plain short of money learn that you can do it, and with inflation that's most of us.
    We all die as far as I know.  So I've prepared to not need the Feds. Can they cut off my checks? Yep! Take my home? Yep! I have seeds, plenty of food, bucket gardens, All vehicles are free and clear of debt, I got a couple of skills and lot's of books. This is a mighty big country and I have enough Irish and Indian in me I don't mind traveling. I got used to moving in the Army. I've done it before and can do it again. Now the German in me want's to sit tight and hold what I have and make it better. But I learned from a very early age stuff changes. You move with the current of change and hope to get to the other side or you fight the current and usually end up dead. I've spent all of my life avoiding being dead.

It is simple, instead of insisting that you could be hit truck at any time and you must live like there is no tomorrow Prepping is looking both ways before you cross the street. Look down the road. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Upcoming posts!!

 I'm still learning the limits of "Blogspot" I got up some bread recipes but I'd need to learn a bit more before I get the pages to work the way I want them to. Canned bacon and bottle butter seem to be very popular when I mention it in forums. I can add a some info on the Start Here $125.00 shopping list on storage ideas and how to make stuff go farther such as using store bought yeast as sourdough starter.
I'll have some pictures of the start of the raised beds, and the radishes and a couple of herbs are just poking out of the dirt.  While "our betters" plan the world. Plants still grow, critters still have more critters, the sun comes up and rain still falls on the just and unjust alike.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gardening

I'm trying few new things as a bucket/indoor garden. I'm also adding some new raised beds/ square foot gardens. I did get the beds cleaned in about 60 minutes, and tried out a new Black & Decker cultivator. New dwarf citrus trees and an Asian garden and a serious herb garden for medicinal plants as well as herbs to cook with daily. It's seems I have got caught up in "make haste slowly". Plant's never sprout as fast as I want. Logically I can accept that, emotionally not so much! I sit around wondering what am I doing wrong? I'm usually not doing anything wrong I'm just impatient.
So far so good on my first raised bed the newspaper I laid down is gone. I pulled up roots well over 12 inches. The soil looks good black, rich and with lot's of worms. Considering I had no worms to speak of 3 years ago that's big. I took pics of the raise beds and will post them up. Some lessons learned so far by me....

  1. If you go with raised beds stick with 4ft x4ft.. They are much easier to work with as you can reach everything easily. At 8ft you must walk in the garden and or create walkways to reach the plants. Leave about 12-18 in between beds at a min. to work in. 
  2. I think more but smaller raised garden beds work better for me. I'd never go more than 4ft. in depth that's usually within arm reach from all sides. Now if you want to build a raised bed 50 ft. by 4 ft. I'm good with that idea. I just think anything more than 4 ft wide is to hard to weed. I can handle a couple of feet but 4 feet to reach the middle of a simple 8 ft. bed is bit to much. Plus you are optimizing growing space so walkways or non-growing areas are contra-indicated.
  3. I'm trying cardboard as a weed blocker on my new 4 ft.x 4ft bed. I will plant shallow root plants in that bed. But my newspaper blocker, while not great for blocking all growth on my 8x8 bed. Most growth was on the edges and it broke down well.
Don't make a garden that is a lot of work. Try to make it work for you. I could probably grow some grains other than corn. But why would I grow oats? Very difficult to grind raw oats and they are still cheap. Don't buy what others buy. While wheat is getting packed into buckets have you looked at barley? Don't get to narrow in your focus. The LDS says you need 350 lbs. of grains, now most think wheat, but that includes rice, pasta, masa harina, barley, oats and all grains. Don't get locked into a mindset. Be flexible and willing to try new stuff. Gosh I love a good beef and barley soup. Minestrone. I'm there, Yummy!  Split pea soup with ham hock. This is all comfort food. I'm sure some folks will tell me about chiles Verde and gyros, cous cous, pitas and great ethnic foods. I have a hard time with tortillas. I'm need all the the help I can get for sopas. LOL
I'm learning Mediterranean, Latin American and Asian cooking, and growing the plants needed for it. Cause it's damn good tasting and can be made at home.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I've got a couple of post ideas? But I wonder what would you like to see?

What do you want as a new prepper or a long standing prepper? Give me some ideas I do love researching stuff. So what would help you?
I hope I've given you some ideas for prep. But you may want to go in a different direction. I'd ask you what do you need? Trot out your ideas, I won't say I'll use them all. My blog my rules, but I'm interested in things that work. Hell I got only a GED and a couple college classes I'm not the smartest person in the room.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Wal-mart CEO says inflation is coming!! Just in case you haven't noticed

I'm sure everyone but the uber rich have noticed the things you need to buy daily cost more.  Food, Fuel, power for the home, health insurance have all gone up in price. Your taxes, besides income tax have probably gone up as well. Most of these items are needs not wants and you don't have a lot of choice cutting back. I'm seeing the rising costs on my bulk food purchase the last 6 months. Now I'm seeing it in the canned items that the price has gone up or the package has gotten smaller in the last 3 months. Chicken and pork aren't to bad yet, but beef is starting to spike in price. In December and January I bought a couple of small Rib-eye roasts at $4.69 a pound. At one store I'm seeing that price for hamburger!  Fresh veggies forget about it,  the price has skyrocketed or some veggies just are not available.
It's not all bad news because the prices motivated me to start my "indoor salad gardens"  and an herb and medicinal garden as well. The dwarf citrus trees seem very happy and growing. The neighbor and I are trading seeds and or plants and tools. My Mom and I always are trading stuff back and forth to cover as many areas as we can for small gardens. We can't grow grains in a big amount,  but luckily we live in a good ag area. If the farmers have water they will grow the grain. Plus we also have lots of orchards and vineyards.  Winters are usually harsh. But all in all not bad you can do a succession planning and get about 9 months of growing season. You just got to work with "Mama Nature".
This will be my first year of planting succession crops. Planting fast growing, cool weather, growers and waiting some time and going for the "hot weather" loving crops and then to a fall crop or plants that need to winter over. So I'm excited to see how it turns out. Mother Earth news had a great article for this and a free garden planter software. So we will see what happens. I hope to post some pictures from start to finished product.

I never thought I'd be a person that would enjoy growing a garden of any sort. Weeding was always a chore as a child. If I could escape it, I did.  Honestly I just didn't care and usually killed plants via neglect. But now just seeing life and those little sprouts busting up fills me with awe, and can make my whole day. While I can't make the miracle of life happen. I can provide a place for it to grow.
So we did have a couple of good sales Paul's is having a "case lot" sale. If you have Paul's check it out on my Blogroll where I shop.
Cash and Carry has a great buy on Pinto beans 50 # for $20.50 about $5.00 off the regular price. Also hamburger $1.59 per pound for a 10 # chub 73/27 % mix.. 
I don't know about you but I don't want to eat rice with every meal and I've got 2  #10 can of mashed potatoes that have 145 servings each. I like rice and it's great for a variety of applications. But I want to mix it up on menus and some potato pancakes, potato soup and mashed potatoes will mix the menu a bit. Got some sausage and some German kielbasas for about $2.00 a pound or less. I won't be able to make Authentic "dirty rice" or a true gumbo. But what I've cooked isn't to bad, unique, and will keep you from getting tired of the menu.