Monday, April 26, 2010

New Chicken Fence Completed

Spent a good chunk of my Saturday, & part of my Sunday to revamp my outdoor chicken fencing, along with a great deal of help from dear old dad. I think that the old storm door is a brilliant touch, as it automatically closes, thus preventing chickens from flying the coop (hahaha).

Also extended the height of the fence to approximately 6' from the original 4'.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

THINGS YOU CAN DO (to be more self-sufficient)

1. Plant your own vegetable garden.

2. Change your own oil on your car or truck.

3. Cut your own firewood.

4. Collect and use rain water instead of municiple or well water.

5. Supplement your house's heating system with solar water panels.

6. Supplement your hot water needs with solar water panels.

7. Mulch your garden with local organic mulch instead of store bought products.

8. Use home-made compost and free manure to enrich your garden's soil.

9. Grow non-hybrid vegetables and save the seeds for next year's planting.

10. Grow potatoes and save the fingerlings for next years planting.

11. Use square foot gardening techniques to grow lots of vegetables in small places.

12. Build a greenhouse to extend your growing season.

13. Build a root cellar to store your harvest.

14. Start a small orchard for a variety of fruits.

15. Learn how to preserve food by canning.

16. Raise bees to help pollination and for honey. (Honey is the only food substance that will not spoil.)

17. Raise chickens for meat and eggs.

18. Raise sheep for wool and meat.

19. Raise goats or a dairy cow for dairy products.

20. Preserve vegetables by sun drying them.

21. Spin wool into yarn for making clothes.

22. Make your own furniture out of tree branches.

23. Preserve vegetables by freezing them.

24. Grow herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes.

25. Use edible wild plants to supplement one's diet.

26. Use containers to grow vegetables in small places.

27. Use chicken manure (composted) to help fertilize your garden.

28. Use, use and reuse as much as possible before throwing away.

29. Conserve electricity whenever possible.

30. Tune-up your own car or truck.

31. Sharpen your own tools.

32. Build your own home.

33. Grow grapes for preserves or raisins.

34. Build a pond and raise fish for food.

35. Use solar panels to supplement your energy needs.

36. Learn how to use a welder.

37. Use clothes lines to dry clothes instead of a mechanical dryer.

38. Grow grains to feed your own livestock.

39. Grow alfalfa to return nitrogen to the soil.

40. Use a generator for emergency and supplemental power.

41. Dig or drive your own well (make sure the water is tested before using for drinking).

42. Bake your own bread.

43. Do your own plumbing.

44. Do your own electrical work.

45. Run a small business from your home.

46. Barter goods and services with your neighbors.

47. Use a push mower instead of a gas or electric mower.

48. Use a bicycle (whenever possible) instead of a motorized vehicle.

49. Consider becoming a vegetarian. (Raising animals for food takes more energy and resources than growing vegetables--eat lower on the food chain.)

50. Have any maples trees? Make your own syrup as a sugar substitute.

51. Not a vegetarian? Supplement your diet by hunting game.

52. Home school your children. They can incorporate gardening and livestock care into their curriculum and it saves on travel(environmentally sound), uniform costs and school trip expenses(frugal).As well as allowing them to be educated in sustainable living/permaculture. Something schools don't cover!! It's rewards are many fold and results in happy well balanced children!!


How Common Culinary Herbs and Spices Can Help You Feel Better
By Rebekah L. Cowell
In a perfect world, we would get all the nutrients and medication we needed from the food we ate. However, our diets and the foods available to us have changed in the past century, so that eating healthily can be a challenge. Most of us have a spice rack filled with seasonings we grab in a hurry, but what do we know about these ancient herbs and their medicinal powers?

Understanding the importance of adding oregano or basil to your spaghetti sauce, not as flavor but as a digestive aid is just one of the keys to turning your kitchen into the pharmacy it was meant to be.

Kelly M. Shattuck, a Certified Herbalist based in North Carolina, says before health food stores made specific herbs such as valerian root readily available for medicinal healing, individuals relied on their culinary herbs to play a very important pharmaceutical role.

"The great thing about culinary herbs," said Shattuck, "is that a lot people already have them in their kitchen for seasoning, which makes the whole process less intimidating." She also says using kitchen herbs is typically less expensive, and doesn't require a lot of herbal knowledge or monetary investment. "Anyone can successfully use herbs as they were meant to be used, to heal and regenerate the body," said Shattuck. "It's just a matter of reading material, taking what you already have on your spice rack, and putting what you read into practice."

Before you begin to take stock of your spice rack, let's look at preparation methods.


Use one teaspoon of dried herb or two tablespoons of fresh herb for each cup of water.

The most common method for making a brewed tea is called an infusion.

"Infusions are used for preparing more fragile parts of the herbs like flowers, seeds, leaves, fruits, and a few roots that are high in volatile oils, for example: valerian root and golden seal root," said Shattuck. "Place the herbs in a pan of cold water, place a tight fitting lid on the pan, and slowly over low heat bring the water to boiling point. Take the brew off the heat right before it boils and let it sit 10 to 20 minutes."

A decoction is used to break down more tenacious herb materials such as roots, bark, and nuts. "Bring water to a boil, add the herbs, bring heat down to a gentle simmer and let brew for 15 to 20 minutes before turning off heat," said Shattuck who also recommends soaking tenacious herb materials overnight to soften material before simmering.

Shattuck doesn't use a tea ball when infusing teas, she says it's best to put the loose herbs into the water so that the herb material is able to completely release its properties. Be sure to strain before drinking.


Basil (Ocimum basilicum)—Most commonly found in Italian dishes, basil is best added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavor. Basil makes an excellent flavoring for sauces, pesto, dressings, infused oils, and vinegars. You'll find it complements chicken, fish, and pasta dishes—not to mention tomatoes and mozzarella during the summer.

As a medicinal herb, basil is commonly used to treat stress-induced insomnia, tension, nervous indigestion, and has been recommended as a tonic for melancholy spirits. As part of the mint family, basil can be very cooling to the body. Shattuck recommends infusing minced basil leaves and making a tea before nighttime to help you relax and settle down for the evening. As a natural mood enhancer, adding basil to your culinary dishes just provides the additional benefit of mental well being.

Bay leaves (Laurus nobilis)—Used as a dry leaf since the flavor intensifies after drying, bay leaves are most often added to stock, stews, braises, and grain dishes. The fragrance of the bay leaf is slightly floral, herbal, and similar in scent to oregano and thyme.

Bay leaves have an especially beneficial effect on the stomach and intestinal tract, and contain a property that makes them useful as an alkalizing aid for an overly acidic system. A simple remedy would be to add extra bay leaves to your soups, stews, and stocks. You can also infuse a tea with a handful of leaves, and drink that after your meal to calm the intestinal tract.

Black pepper (Piper nigrum)—Dried pepper, derived from the peppercorn, is one of the most commonly used spices in European cuisine—it's always seen paired with its mate, salt. Typically, pepper is used as a basic spice for almost any savory dish.

Considered one of the great tonics in Chinese medicine, black pepper has warming, energizing, and stimulating properties. Often used as an addition to other infusions, black pepper is valued for its ability to stimulate the senses and warm the body. Shattuck recommends using black peppercorns in a decoction for poor circulation, for colds, or for low energy levels.

Black pepper is also a cook's best friend. In the event you cut yourself while working in the kitchen, pepper applied directly to the cut will stem bleeding.

Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)—Cayenne is the most potent, essential, and safest stimulant in your spice rack. In the event you are out camping or hunting, be sure to pack a little cayenne. As a hemostatic and astringent, cayenne powder applied topically to wounds will arrest bleeding, working rapidly to form a clot and seal off the wound. It can also be taken for internal bleeding as well. Cayenne is a wonderful heart tonic, and has an amazing effect upon circulation and stimulation of the cardiovascular system. For those who feel weak and often chilled, cayenne taken internally increases circulation in the extremities. Cayenne is also helpful for a sluggish digestive system, and can be sprinkled over any kind of food to aid the body's immune system in the event of colds and flus. When you need extra heat use cayenne—in both culinary dishes and physical wellness. Powdered cayenne has been favored by many as a winter remedy to prevent cold feet and frostbite—sprinkle it in your socks to aid warmth in frigid temperatures.

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)—Cinnamon has long been valued as a spice of precious value, and was one of the earliest spices imported from Sri Lanka. Cinnamon can be often found in cookies, cakes, and cereals in the United States, but in the Middle East it is highly valued in savory dishes and curries. Cinnamon's antioxidant properties make it a spice you might want to start using more frequently. Cinnamon aids the digestive system, increases poor circulation, and is being tested in the treatment of type II diabetes, as it is believed to aid in blood sugar control. Shattuck says it is often used by herbalists to make other herbs palatable. "If you had a cold, you could make a warming tea with ginger, and add cinnamon to make that tea taste better and add another element of medicinal value." The smell of cinnamon is also thought to boost brain activity.

Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)—Cloves were one of the most highly prized spices of the middle-age spice trade. Cloves are almost always used as a spice in Indian cuisine. Cloves combined with cumin and cinnamon are found in Mexican aromatic dishes such as rice and chicken. Medicinally, the essential oils of cloves are a must in the case of a dental emergency. Applied topically to a tooth, the oil of clove is an analgesic and powerful germicidal that kills bacteria. Cloves can also reduce fever: make a decoction if you have clove buds, or an infusion if you have powdered clove to reduce a fever. Mull the cloves with cinnamon and apple peel to make a tastier tea for those suffering from acute nausea. Cloves are also believed to have antibiotic properties, and the oil can be applied topically to burns, skin rashes, or irritations like acne.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)—The fennel root bulb and its seed are found in Italian and Middle-Eastern cooking where the aromatic flavor is used to enhance the taste of fish, eggs, breads, and sauces. Fennel is the primary ingredient in absinthe. Medicinally, Fennel is an amazing herb to employ in your cabinet. Fennel has carminative properties (reduces gas and flatulence) and is often used when purgatives are needed to ease the side effects of purging. A wonderful digestive aid, fennel seeds can be used to make an infusion you can drink after a meal to help digest a food that might cause gassiness or bloating. You can also sprinkle a spoonful of fennel seeds on your food if you have a cold to clear congestion as fennel helps remove mucous from the body. Fennel is also used to enrich the quality and quantity of a nursing mother's milk—fennel capsules are best if a mother is trying to increase milk supply, so that she is getting a more concentrated amount of fennel than with tea. Fennel also is used to make "Gripe Water" for infants—which is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate, syrup, and either fennel, anise, or dill water. In Indian medicine, fennel seeds are believed to improve one's eyesight. In the event of eye inflammation or soreness, room temperature fennel tea can be applied topically with an eyedropper.

Sage (Salvia officinalis)—Sage is found in many traditional European dishes. Its slightly peppery flavor and savory leanings make it best when added to meats and cheeses. And no stuffing would be complete without a good pinch of sage. Sage also enhances pork flavors and makes an excellent sausage spice.

Sage is believed to have medicinal properties for almost any ailment. You can make an infusion and use it as an astringent. Sage has antibiotic properties and is effective in improving a weak digestive system and cutting excess mucous. Sage tea is an excellent remedy for a chronic winter cough. A cleansing herb, sage can also be used as a tonic for low energy. For lactating mothers, sage is also effective in assisting slowing down the milk supply when weaning a baby from mother's milk. Sage has a place historically as an herb that is used to cleanse and purify a space, increase fertility when burned, ward off evil, and heal snake-bites.

Garlic (Allium sativum)—Garlic is used all over the world as a culinary herb for its pungent flavor and seasoning versatility. You can add fresh or powdered garlic to soups, stews, stocks, meat dishes, and risottos to name a few. Garlic is the herb of choice for colds, flus, and sore throats. Garlic is a very powerful anti-fungal and has antibiotic properties. In the event of a cold or flu, add powdered garlic to your meal—sprinkle on your salad for added flavor and herbal healing. Shattuck recommends making the following cold-fighting concoction using whole cloves during the winter. "Peel about eight or nine garlic cloves and put in a glass jar with equal parts honey and tamari or soy sauce that completely covers the top of the cloves," she said, allow the mixture to marinate for several weeks and then eat one or two cloves per day if you feel a cold coming on. Garlic is an immune booster and is believed to lower cholesterol levels. Garlic is also used in humans and animals for expelling parasites and ridding the body of intestinal worms. Garlic can be used as an infection fighter and anti-fungal compound. Crushed garlic is useful in healing thrush and strep throat. At the first signs of a scratchy throat, begin self dosing with garlic cloves or powder. You can alleviate "garlic breath" by chewing fresh parsley.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)—Ginger is an ancient Asian spice that can be found in many desserts, curries, candies, seafood dishes, and vegetarian stir-fries. Recently, candied ginger has become readily available and has shown up in coffee drinks and on the top of cream cheese frosted cupcakes.

Ginger is an excellent remedy for morning sickness and motion sickness. Shattuck recommends taking candied ginger on any "seafaring" trip in the event of nausea. Ginger is not only an excellent warming herb but acts as a decongestant—in the event of a fever, draw a hot bath and sprinkle a handful of powdered ginger in your water. The bath will induce your body to sweat out impurities, provide warming in the event of chills, and help your congestion break-up. Towel off, put on some warm flannels, and go to bed. You can brew an infusion of fresh ginger to help a sore throat.

Ginger can also stop diarrhea and provide relief from arthritic inflammation.

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)—Nutmeg has a slightly sweet spicy flavor that is often used in cheese sauces to add a delicate taste, or in brewed drinks like eggnog, mulled wine, and mulled cider.

Nutmeg is very useful as a remedy for nausea, vomiting, and indigestion, and also helpful for diarrhea related to food poisoning. Shattuck says in the event of food poisoning, nutmeg can settle the stomach. She advises sprinkling powder or grating whole nutmeg over plain brown rice to reintroduce solids, and to make a tea for those who are still unable to keep anything down. If used improperly, large doses of nutmeg could be toxic.

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)—Oregano (and basil) give Italian cuisine its distinctive flavor, and is more flavorful in its dried state than as a fresh herb. Found in Greek cuisine, oregano is a wonderful addition to salads, aromatic oils, and meat dishes. In the United States, oregano is a staple on pizza. Oregano can help strengthen the immune system, heal digestive eruptions, and is proven to have antioxidant properties, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, advised using oregano as an antiseptic and for respiratory ailments. Oregano can aid in restful sleep, and an infused tea before bed is advised for nervous temperaments. Oregano is helpful in fighting skin infections. Shattuck says you can add oregano to your bath if you have a skin condition or persistent rash. "Take a handful of Oregano, tie it in a handkerchief, and toss it in your bath water."

Peppermint (Mentha × piperita)—Peppermint is an easy herb to cultivate and keep in one's spice rack. Believed to be the world's oldest medicine, it is often found in teas, candies, chewing gum, and toothpaste. It is a soothing herb that provides a nice pick-me-up for fatigue. It is highly calming to the digestive system and especially good for ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease because of its natural calming properties. Shattuck recommends those with intestinal issues invest in peppermint oil capsules that will get into the intestines in a concentrated form. Peppermint is one of the tastier herbs, and makes a perfect infusion with a little raw honey. In studies conducted in Italy in 2007, peppermint oil was also found to relieve symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)—Rosemary has a woodsy evergreen smell that complements many Mediterranean dishes. Rosemary makes an excellent addition to meat gravies, risotto dishes, and stocks. Rosemary is high in iron, calcium, and Vitamin B6. It has long been believed to help the mind in retaining information, and Shakespeare called it the herb of "remembrance." Rosemary can provide relief for headaches through aromatherapy and ingestion. Rosemary is often used to combat depression and is an excellent all around herb for the mind.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)—Thyme is a natural source of iron and is found widely in culinary dishes all over the world. It was used by ancient Egyptians in the embalming process, and has long been believed to purify the body and environment.

Another herb most flavorful in its dried state, thyme is found in many lamb, tomato, and egg dishes. Its natural expectorant properties make it excellent for throat or bronchial problems. Thyme is a natural antiseptic, and you can make a thyme infusion and gargle with it to coat a sore throat up to three times daily to reduce inflammation. Its antibiotic properties makes thyme a well favored herb in a first-aid kit—ancient doctors used thyme to coat bandages, and it is believed to have anti-fungal properties that assist in healing an infected or fungal toenail. In the event of a respiratory infection, you can make an infusion and then let the affected individual bend over the steaming thyme infusion and inhale. Traditional use of thyme included giving it to children at bedtime to help control bed wetting and nightmares. Tea is the easiest way to administer to children; if they are worried about the taste you can mix it with apple juice (half-and-half).

Culinary herbs enhance our daily cuisine, but they also have medicinal properties that have been all but forgotten. Focus on the herbs you are using when seasoning your next meal; it's amazing what a little knowledge can do for boosting one's confidence in natural herbal healing.


Congratulations. You've escaped the city life and are now the proud owners of your little plot of rural paradise. It's natural to start thinking about all the possibilities for your acreage: chickens, a garden, maybe an orchard or berry patch.

And a cow. Yeah, a cow. Fresh milk, cheese, and butter—what could be better? Owning your own cow can be one of the most satisfying of rural experiences...if you're prepared.

As Roger Staubach observed, "Spectacular achievements are always preceded by unspectacular preparation." Like raising children, getting a cow takes forethought and adequate homework.

A home dairy cow can provide you with all the milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese that your family could want.


I am assuming you would not be interested in obtaining a cow if you were living in a tightly-packed suburb. So how much land do you need?

There's no cut-and-dried one-size-fits-all requirement for how much land a cow needs because it depends on whether you're planning on grazing your animals year-round, confining your animals to a paddock, or something in-between. It also depends on whether you live in the lush croplands of Virginia or the dry Mohave Desert.

Yet another variable is whether you must feed hay during the winter, or if your winters are mild enough that the animals can graze year-round. If you live in Tennessee, your pasture and available forage will be far different than if you live in North Dakota.

Obviously there's no easy answer to how much land a cow requires. The important thing is not to obtain more animals than your land can comfortably support. Work with what you have, and be prepared to supplement with purchased hay as needed.

Remember, a cow's "job"—what she does for twelve hours a day—is to eat. It is surprising how quickly a cow or two can eat down a small pasture. But just because you only have a one-acre field shouldn't preclude you from getting cows. However, you will need to purchase hay to feed them because one acre is not enough land to support anything bovine.

Cows can indeed be kept on small plots—an acre or two—but they must be fed. We used to own a home with a two-acre pasture on which we kept three bovines (cow/calf and yearling steer). We needed to supplement their feed about nine months out of the year.


In my experience—and I'm talking about a family milk cow, not a high-producing animal in a commercial dairy—a cow does fine raised almost exclusively on grass or field hay. This is a shocking statement to a lot of dairymen, so let me qualify it.

A home dairy cow does fine fed almost exclusively on grass or hay with just a little grain as a treat.

A family cow does not need to produce to the absolute maximum of her potential. Indeed, doing so will probably overwhelm a family with too much milk. By feeding a cow on a diet of grass and/or hay, her output will adjust according to her nutritional intake. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

A Jersey cow might produce six to ten gallons of milk a day at her maximum output. Day after day. Week after week. Saturdays and Sundays included. Most families cannot keep up with that amount of milk. You could literally takes baths in it and still have leftovers.

But by feeding your Jersey cow on a diet of grass and hay, with perhaps a minimal amount of grain as a treat, she may reduce her milk output to two to four gallons a day. This is far less overwhelming and more manageable.

There's no question that grain provides a high-protein boost, which is important when your animal is lactating. However, grain is a concentrated source of protein, so you don't need to overfeed. A modest amount during milking or as a reward for coming into the barn at night is perfectly fine.

Cows originated as grass-fed livestock. The concept of grain-feeding is fairly recent and came into vogue only after animals became deprived of pasture, such as in feed lots or concentrated commercial dairies. Yes, animals gain weight or produce more milk on a diet high in grain—but again, it isn't necessary for your family cow to produce at the absolute peak of her capacity. Outside of commercial enterprises, grass-fed animals are the norm, not the exception. The average small land-owner won't need to worry about more than a pound or two of grain per day per cow.

What is a nutritional necessity is a mineral block. Most grass-fed diets are deficient in certain essential nutrients, including plain salt. Always make sure a mineral block (which should include selenium) is available for your cows. An even better option is loose mineral salts placed in a location where the rain won't get to it. In places where livestock may suddenly be released onto fresh grass after a winter of hay-fed confinement, you should also provide a "bloat block" to ease the change in diet. A bloat block prevents a cow from bloating on too much fresh grass after months of dry hay, a potentially fatal condition.

Naturally, your cow needs access to fresh water at all times. In hot summer, if you can't check the tank frequently, you may need a float and valve (or similar device) to automatically keep tanks full. In the winter, you may wish to get a tank warmer, which keeps the water temperature above freezing.


On the flip side of feeding, don't let your pastures become so eaten down that your cow is forced to consume noxious weeds or—worse—go hungry. Some people have the extraordinary notion that once an animal is on pasture, they never have to be fed.

In areas with cold winters, your cows need shelter and supplemental feeding.

We've met folks who, oddly, don't feel the need to regularly feed their livestock even in winter because the animals are a "hardy" breed. The cruelty involved is hard to comprehend as the animals slowly starve and are brought back from the brink of death in the nick of time by hasty and

infrequent feedings. Their poor diet reduces their ability to withstand winter wind and temperatures.

Even if you have a "hardy" breed of cow (Dexters or Scottish Highland, for example), don't fall for the erroneous line of thinking that they don't need to be fed. "Hardy" animals can indeed thrive on what is often considered suboptimal forage, but they can't eat bare dirt. Be sensible—and humane.

How much hay you need to feed your livestock depends on your climate, amount of land, severity of winters, and other factors mentioned above. As a rule of thumb, cows need about 3% of body weight in hay per day. Check with your local County Extension agent to learn what types, quality, and prices of hay are available in your area.


We live in a climate with bitterly cold winters and lots of wind and snow. Shelters can make everyone's life vastly more comfortable, especially if you are milking your cow.

Offering shade in the brutally hot summers and shelter in bitterly cold winters is the humane thing to do. Unlike wild animals, your cow cannot leave her pasture to seek protection under harsh conditions. You need to provide it for her.

This doesn't mean you need to build a $60,000 two-story barn with all the bells and whistles. A 10x10 (per animal) open-sided shed can suffice. Sometimes you can build multiple sheds and connect them with breezeways or other expansions, adding space as needed for livestock, hay, equipment, etc.

Try not to obtain your cow until you have a place to put her (hint: fence your pasture first!). If you purchase your cow during mild weather, you can build the shelter around her (so to speak) before the snow flies or before the temperature soars above the century mark. If you plan to purchase your cow during winter snows or summer heat, build the shelter in advance.

Cows have thrived in slapstick, ramshackle shelters and have done just fine. But do provide something. When you're lying in bed at night listening to the howling wind and pouring rain, don't you think you'll sleep better knowing that your cow is tucked snugly in her stall?


A single cow can give you six to ten gallons of milk every day.

It sounds anthropomorphic to recommend you obtain another animal to keep your cow company, but that's exactly what I'm suggesting.

Cows are herd animals. They thrive in a social setting. A single cow in a herd of horses often gets picked on, so if you don't want to get two cows, you might think about providing a wether (castrated male goat), a sheep or two, or just the cow's calf for company.

Cows also like attention. A brushing absolutely makes their day. Even taking a book and a stool and sitting in the pasture can be fun—your cow may amble over, try to eat your book, lick your hair, or otherwise make herself an amusing nuisance. While not on par with a dog, cows can be surprisingly good company.


Can you keep a milking schedule? If you purchase a lactating cow (a cow producing milk) and she does not have a calf with her, she must be milked twice a day.

If you're like me and love to milk, this is no hardship even in winter. In the morning I put on my walkman headset and listen to the news as I zing the milk into the bucket. When it's chilly, milking a warm furry cow can be a cozy experience. In the evening (weather permitting), I often pull the cow out of the barn and milk under the open sky so I can watch the sunset. There is no finer time of day, in my opinion.

But it can get relentless. The cow needs to be milked whether you're feeling up to it or not. You can't say "Not tonight, I have a headache." You can't take off for an evening in the city without making arrangements for someone else to milk her. Be ready to take on the responsibility of a milking schedule.

There can be easier ways, though. You might be able to do a cow-sharing arrangement with neighbors. They can milk on certain days of the week in exchange for the output. This will provide milk to the neighbors and give you a break.

Fresh butter is just one of the delicious benefits of milking your own cow.

Alternately, keep the calf on the cow and do once-a-day milking (see BHM Issue 99, article available online at Separate the cow and calf at night, milk the cow in the morning, release the calf, and don't bother milking in the evening. Naturally this reduces the amount of cow juice you get for yourself, but if you're swimming in milk from two daily milkings, then milking once a day may be your solution.

Much has been written about the strict schedule necessary for milking cows. We hear stories about commercial dairies starting the morning milking at 3 am or something equally hideous. Don't think this is how you have to treat your family cow.

Milking roughly—roughly!—twelve hours apart is fine, and even that's fairly negotiable. If it's convenient to milk your cow at 7 am because you have to leave for work at 7:45, that's fine. But nothing says you must milk your cow at 7 pm precisely. 6 pm will do. Or 8 pm. Just try to keep it about the same time every day, and your cow will adjust.


What kind of cow should you get? It depends on what you want from your cow.

We started out with Dexters, a small Irish breed that is dual-purpose (milk and meat). I milked our Dexters for years until I needed more milk for cheese-making purposes. Now I milk a Jersey and our Dexters fill the freezer.

Heavy milk-producing breeds also include Guernseys and Holsteins. Guernseys have one of the highest butterfat contents, but they are also very large and produce tremendous amounts of milk. Holsteins have lower butterfat content but are one of the highest volume producers of all breeds. Can you really handle twelve to fourteen gallons of milk a day? If you have a large extended family all needing milk, that's fine—you just need to know.


This may be self-evident, but a cow needs to have a calf in order to provide milk. Therefore, once a year you must breed your cow either through artificial insemination (AI) or the very willing services of a bull.

Either way, the result will be a calf. After a few years, these calves can add up. It's natural to wonder what to do with your surplus animals.

As a rule, female calves (heifers) are more valuable than bull calves. It's a fairly simple matter to sell heifers. Or you can raise the heifer yourself and have another milk cow after she's bred.

I never, ever recommend leaving a bull calf intact (uncastrated) unless you're experienced in handling bulls. Depending on the breed, bull calves grow into adult bulls ranging in temperament from "okay" to "watch-your-back incredibly dangerous." So within a couple of weeks after a bull calf is born, I recommend you have a vet castrate him. Without the testosterone, the steer will grow up into a much more docile animal.

Consider putting your steers in the freezer at about two years of age. Unless you have experience in butchering, my suggestion is to have a mobile butcher come to your farm and do the dirty deed for you (ask around to find a reputable service). Mobile butchers will humanely slaughter and quarter the steer, then take the carcass back to their facility to hang, cut, wrap, and freeze the meat. Believe me when I say you will never eat better meat than that of your own grass-fed steers.

You'll have to breed your cow every year to get milk, so think about what you'll do with your surplus animals.


Much of what it takes to successfully own a cow can be learned on the job, as you go. You'll be teaching yourself how to milk, how to groom, and maybe how to make butter and cheese. Look upon it as an adventure and enjoy every minute.

Well, mostly every minute. No one likes to clean the barn. But now you can also utilize your cow's by-product. Composted manure makes a superb addition to vegetable gardens. Cows can help close your circle of interdependency on your new farm.

Remember, a happy cow is a productive cow. Your livestock's milk or meat will reflect the excellent quality of care you give it.

Patrice Lewis is a freelance writer and the author of The Home Craft Business: How to Make it Survive and Thrive. She is co-founder (with her husband) of a home woodcraft business. The Lewises live on 20 acres in north Idaho with their two homeschooled children, assorted livestock, and a shop that overflows into the house with depressing regularity. Visit her website at

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Here are some uses for vinegar:

1. Arthritis tonic and treatment; 2 spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar and honey in a glass of water several times daily.

2. Thirst-quenching drink: apple cider vinegar mixed with cold water.

3. Sagging cane chairs: sponge them with a hot solution of half vinegar and half water. Place the chairs out in the hot sun to dry.

4. Skin burns: apply ice cold vinegar right away for fast relief. Will prevent burn blisters.

5. Add a spoonful of vinegar to cooking water to make cauliflower white and clean.

6. Storing cheese: keep it fresh longer by wrapping it in a vinegar-soaked cloth and keeping it in a sealed container.

7. Remove stains from stainless steel and chrome with a vinegar-dampened cloth.

8. Rinse glasses and dishes in water and vinegar to remove spots and film.

9. Prevent grease build-up in your oven by frequently wiping it with vinegar.

10. Wipe jars of preserves and canned food with vinegar to prevent moldproducing bacteria.

11. To eliminate mildew, dust and odors, wipe down walls with vinegar-soaked cloth.

12. Clean windows with vinegar and water.

13. Hardened paint brushes: simmer in boiling vinegar and wash in hot soapy water.

14. Clean breadbox and food containers with vinegar-dampened cloth to keep fresh-smelling and clean.

15. Pour boiling vinegar down drains to unclog and clean them.

16. Clean fireplace bricks with undiluted vinegar.

17. An excellent all-purpose cleaner: vinegar mixed with salt. Cleans copper, bronze, brass, dishes, pots, pans, skillets, glasses, windows. Rinse well.

18. Make your catsup and other condiments last long by adding vinegar.

19. To clear up respiratory congestion, inhale a vapor mist from steaming pot containing water and several spoonfuls of vinegar.

20. Apple cider vinegar and honey as a cure-all: use to prevent apathy, obesity, hay fever, asthma, rashes, food poisoning, heartburn, sore throat, bad eyesight, dandruff, brittle nails and bad breath.

21. When boiling eggs, add some vinegar to the water to prevent white from leaking out of a cracked egg.

22. When poaching eggs, add a teaspoon of vinegar to the water to prevent separation.

23. Weight loss: vinegar helps prevent fat from accumulating in the body.

24. Canned fish and shrimp: to give it a freshly caught taste, soak in a mixture of sherry and 2 tablespoons of vinegar.

25. Add a spoonful of vinegar when cooking fruit to improve the flavor.

26. Soak fish in vinegar and water before cooking for a tender, sweeter taste.

27. Add vinegar to boiling ham to improve flavor and cut salty taste.

28. Improve the flavor of desserts by adding a touch of vinegar.

29. Add vinegar to your deep fryer to eliminate a greasy taste.

30. Add a tablespoon of vinegar to fruit gelatin to hold it firm.

31. Steep your favorite herb in vinegar until you have a pleasing taste and aroma.

32. Use vinegar instead of lemon on fried and broiled foods.

33. To remove lime coating on your tea kettle; add vinegar to the water and let stand overnight.

34. To make a good liniment: beat 1 whole egg, add 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup turpentine. Blend.

35. Apply vinegar to chapped, cracked skin for quick healing.

36. Vinegar promotes skin health: rub on tired, sore or swollen areas.

37. Reduce mineral deposits in pipes, radiators, kettles and tanks by adding vinegar into the system.

38. Rub vinegar on the cut end of uncooked ham to prevent mold.

39. Clean jars with vinegar and water to remove odor.

40. Avoid cabbage odor by adding vinegar to the cooking water.

41. Skunk odor: remove from pets by rubbing fur with vinegar.

42. Paint adheres better to galvanized metal that has been wiped with vinegar.

43. Pets' drinking water: add vinegar to eliminate odor and encourage shiny fur.

44. For fluffy meringue: beat 3 egg whites with a teaspoon of vinegar.

45. Pie crust: add 1 tablespoon vinegar to your pastry recipe for an exceptional crust.

46. Half a teaspoon per quart of patching plaster allows you more time to work the plaster before it hardens.

47. Prevent discoloration of peeled potatoes by adding a few drops of vinegar to water. They will keep fresh for days in fridge.

48. Poultry water: add vinegar to increase egg production and to produce tender meat.

49. Preserve peppers: put freshly picked peppers in a sterilized jar and finish filling with boiling vinegar.

50. Olives and pimentos will keep indefinitely if covered with vinegar and refrigerated.

51. Add 1 tsp. vinegar to cooking water for fluffier rice.

52. Add vinegar to laundry rinse water: removes all soap and prevents yellowing.

53. After shampoo hair rinse: 1 ounce apple cider vinegar in 1 quart of distilled water.

54. For a shiny crust on homemade bread and rolls: just before they have finished baking, take them out, brush crusts with vinegar, return to oven to finish baking.

55. Homemade sour cream: blend together 1 cup cottage cheese, 1/4 cup skim milk and 1 tsp. vinegar.

56. Boil vinegar and water in pots to remove stains.

57. Remove berry stains from hands with vinegar.

58. Prevent sugaring by mixing a drop of vinegar in the cake icing.

59. Cold vinegar relieves sunburn.

60. When boiling meat, add a spoonful of vinegar to the water to make it more tender.

61. Marinate tough meat in vinegar overnight to tenderize.

62. A strength tonic: combine raw eggs, vinegar and black pepper. Blend well.

63. Douche: 2 to 4 ounces of vinegar in 2 quarts of warm water.



Wheat, winter 650 lbs Indefinitely

Unbleached White Flour 120 lbs 1-2 Years

Bulgur Wheat 110 lbs Indefinitely

Whole Kernel Corn or Corn Meal 75 lbs 5 Years

Baking Powder 2 Large Boxes 2 Years

Cornstarch 4 Large Boxes 5 Years

Baking Soda 12 lbs Indefinitely

Oatmeal 25 lbs 5 Years

Honey 2 Gallons Indefinitely

Molasses 1 Gallon Indefinitely

Karo Syrup 1 Gallon Indefinitely

Sugar (Keep Dry) 25 lbs Indefinitely

Brown Sugar (Keep Dry) 12 lbs Indefinitely

Salt 100 lbs Indefinitely

Shortening/Lard 60 lbs 3 Years

Soybean Oil 1 Gallon 3 Years

Peanut Oil 1 Gallon 3 Years

Olive Oil 1 Gallon 3 Years

Coffee 12 Large Cans 3-5 Years

Cocoa 4 Large Boxes 3-5 Years

Spaghetti 10 lbs 5 Years

Macaroni 12 lbs 5 Years

Misc. Noodles 15 lbs 5 Years

Rice, white 15 lbs 5 Years

Rice, brown 15 lbs 6-9 months


Powdered Milk 100 lbs 2-15 Years

Mixed Nuts 20 lbs 1-2 Years

Peanuts 10 lbs 1-2 Years

Soybeans 20 lbs 5 Years

Pinto Beans 15 lbs 5 Years

Red Beans 10 lbs 5 Years

Navy Beans 10 lbs 5 Years

Large Lima Beans 15 lbs 5 Years

Baby Lima Beans 12 lbs 5 Years

Blackeyed Peas 10 lbs 5 Years

Dried Green Peas 15 lbs 5 Years

Millet Grain 10 lbs 5 Years

Split Peas 15 lbs 5 Years

Mung Beans 15 lbs 5 Years

Alfalfa Seeds - Lentils 15 lbs 5 Years

Garbanzo Beans 12 lbs 5 Years


Chicken 12 lbs 5 Years

Hamburger 15 lbs 5 Years

Sausage 12 lbs 5 Years

Plain 15 lbs 5 Years

Ham 15 lbs 5 Years

Bacon 12 lbs 5 Years


Peas 10 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Peas and Carrots 10 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Corn 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Green Beans 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Carrots 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Tomatoes 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Spinach 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Pumpkin 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Asparagus 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Turnip Greens 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Mustard Greens 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Collard Greens 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Sauerkraut 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Cabbage 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Cauliflower 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Onions 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Ketchup 12 jars/Bottles 3-5 Years

Relish 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Pickles 12 jars 3-5 Years

Zuccini Squash 12 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Potatoes 12 Jars/cans 3-5 Years


Prunes 12 lbs Indefinitely

Raisins 12 lbs Indefinitely

Apples 12 lbs Indefinitely

Pears 12 lbs Indefinitely

Peaches 12 lbs Indefinitely

Apricots 12 lbs Indefinitely

Blueberries 10 lbs Indefinitely


Soup base, beef 3 lbs 2-3 Years

Soup base, chicken 3 lbs 2-3 Years

Granulated garlic 2 lbs 2-3 Years

Granulated onion 1 lb 2-3 Years

Cayanne pepper 3 lbs 2-3 Years

Celery salt 8 oz 2-3 Years

Oregano 8 oz 2-3 Years

Chili powder 8 oz 2-3 Years

Dry mustard 8 oz 2-3 Years

Ginger, ground 8 oz 2-3 Years

Mace, ground 8 oz 2-3 Years

Allspice, ground 8 oz 2-3 Years

Marjoran, ground 8 oz 2-3 Years

Pickling spice 1 lb 2-3 Years

Pumpkin pie spice 8 oz 2-3 Years

Cinnamon sticks 8 oz 2-3 Years

Cinnamon, ground 8 oz 2-3 Years

Nutmeg 8 oz 2-3 Years

Sage, ground 8 oz 2-3 Years

Poultry seasoning 8 oz 2-3 Years

Black Pepper 8 oz 2-3 Years

Parsley Flakes 1 lb 2-3 Years

Bay leaves 8 oz 2-3 Years

Curry Powder 8 oz 2-3 Years

Cloves, Ground 8 oz 2-3 Years

Horseradish 8 oz 2-3 Years

Cream of Tarter 4 oz 2-3 Years

Old Hickory smoked salt 8 oz 2-3 Years

Cumin seed, ground 4 oz 2-3 Years

Tarragon leaves 8 oz 2-3 Years

Vanilla beans 8 oz 2-3 Years

Tumeric, ground 8 oz 2-3 Years

Paprika 1 lb 2-3 Years

Thyme, ground 8 oz 2-3 Years

Rosemary 8 oz 2-3 Years

Maple flavoring 1 pint 2-3 Years

Vanilla flavoring/Extract 1 pint 2-3 Years

Lemon extract 3 oz 2-3 Years

Peppermint flavoring 4 oz 2-3 Years

Almond extract 4 oz 2-3 Years


Tomato 12 Large Cans 3-5 Years

Pineapple 12 Large Cans 3-5 Years

Apple 12 Large Cans 3-5 Years

Grapefruit 12 Large Cans 3-5 Years


Apples 15 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Applesauce 15 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Apricots 15 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Peaches 15 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Pears 15 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Cherries 15 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Blackberries 15 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Blueberries 15 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Strawberries 15 jars/cans 3-5 Years

Mixed Fruit 15 jars/cans 3-5 Years


Cheddar cheese powder 2-#10 Can Indefinitely

Swiss cheese powder 2-#10 Can Indefinitely

Butter powder 2-#10 Can Indefinitely

Peanut butter powder 2-#10 Can Indefinitely

Multi purpose food 2-#10 Can Indefinitely

Egg powder 2-#10 Can Indefinitely

VEGETABLES (dehydrated)

Cut Green Beans 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Diced Beets 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Diced Cabbage 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Diced Celery 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Corn 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Chopped Onions 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Diced Potatoes 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Sliced Potatoes 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Potato Granules(for mashed) 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Soup blend 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Spinach flakes 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Stew blend 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Tomato crystals/flakes 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Peas - green garden 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

FRUIT (dehydrated)

Applesauce (plain) 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Apple slices 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Apricot slices 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Banana flakes 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Banana slices 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Date slices 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Fruit cocktail 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Fruit mix 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Peach slices 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Prunes, pitted 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Raisins, seedless 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Tomato flakes 1-#10 Can Indefinitely

Monday, April 19, 2010

Newspaper Sprout Cups

I came across this article in my online travels, & I think it looks like a really easy & economical way to transplant seedlings.

Check it out.

Newspaper Sprout Cups

Saturday, April 17, 2010

DIY Homemade Dehydrator - Cheap and Easy!

Hi Everyone! I mentioned in my last post a few of my great yard sale/park and swap deals. Trust me; I got really lucky on most of them! Most people don't know how to can, use a pressure cooker, make jerky in a dehydrator, whatever, or they have no patience. Water canning is super simple, provided you only do what is correct for it, boiling water and waiting, pretty much. Pressure canning/cooking needs a special setup. So, how to dehydrate? All you need is warm, dry air and a semi-sealed container. So let's make one!

First, you need a source of warm, dry air...hmmm; a cheap yard sale hairdryer fits the bill! Make sure it has a low setting though; you don't want veggies blowing around!

Second, you will need a cardboard box. If you want to do it long term, you may prefer to whip up a wooden box or something like a metal or plastic 5 gallon bucket with a lid.

Next, you need some racks to fit inside. You could make these out of 1x2's cut to the boxes inside size like a picture frame, then window screen stapled to it.

Cut a hole in the box or bucket on the side, near the bottom, to fit the hairdryer nozzle into. Then cut a hole in the opposite side near the top. The idea is to make the air circulate all throughout the box.

Place your food on the racks, stack them in the box, close the top of the box, flip on the dryer on low and wait! Depending on what you are drying, how much, and so on, it will take at least 12 hours. When I started, I could only do 1 pound per rack. A trick I've learned, wait a few hours for the first batch to start to dry, then add more. Now I can do 4 pound's of veggies in 16 hours. And that 4 pound's fits easily into a 1 quart freezer baggies!

My experience is that fresh or frozen stuff works best. I'm not sure if you can do canned stuff, as I assume its already cooked to some degree. Besides, frozen is cheaper, as your not paying for the water. Potatoes need to be blanched 5 minutes, or it turns gray. Probably ok, they’re just ugly looking. Eggs are super easy, but you'll need some type of shallow PLASTIC dish, as metal will probably react to it.(Aluminum is out, as I've already learned!).My dehydrator has a plastic dish for making fruit roll ups, holds 6 eggs, barely.

Like my grandfather always told me "If you put a lazy man on a hard job, he'll find an easy way to do it. And if it works, who cares?" I've tweaked it to be "If you put a cheapskate on an expensive task, he'll find a cheap way to do it!"

Dried and True: Some Tips for Dehydrating Vegetables

Each method of "putting food by" has its pros and cons, in terms of simplicity, flavor, and length of shelf life. Perhaps you had a mother or grandmother who spent days (or weeks) each summer in the kitchen, canning or freezing the garden's bounty with your willing (or unwilling!) assistance. Another method worth looking at is dehydration. Did you know that only 20 to 30 percent of nutrients are retained by canning, 40 to 60 percent by freezing, but 95 to 97 percent by dehydration? In addition, dehydrated foods take a fraction of the space that canned goods take, and do not require a constant power supply as frozen foods do. Most everyone has had the depressing - and expensive - experience of pitching a freezer full of food after a power outage.

If you're ready to try your hand at dehydrating food, start with a few basic veggies. Here are some tips... Green beans. One traditional method is to use a needle and thread: Simply run a string through the beans and hang them to dry. Or use your dehydrator, but be sure to blanch the beans first to ensure better flavor. After the beans are dried, they may be shrink-wrapped for further "compactness." If so, wrap each portion in a paper towel to prevent the beans from poking through the package. When you're ready to use them, they may be dropped directly into soups and stews However, rehydrate them before using in recipes calling for canned beans.

Potatoes - Modern housing - even in rural areas - most often snubs the idea of the root cellar. Even if you're fortunate enough to have a root cellar, you may still want to dry a few potatoes, which turns out to be a real space saver (five pounds of potatoes become just one). First, scrub them, and slice them up. Then soak in salt brine for a few minutes to prevent them from turning brown, then place them in the dehydrator for about a day. You can even pre-shred your spuds and dehydrate them to use for hash browns.

Tomatoes - If you've got sun, you can take advantage of the free energy; and if necessary, finish the job in the dehydrator. Cut them in quarter-inch wedges, and coat lightly with salt before setting them out. This pre-drying in the sun works well for tomatoes; their water content makes them more challenging in the dehydrator than other produce. When finished, put them in plastic bags or glass jars. You can store them this way for up to 6 months If longer storage is needed, put them in the freezer.

Onions - After removing the outer layer, cut into quarter-inch slices. Dry until brittle. Like green beans, you can drop dried onions directly into soups or stews. Grind in a food mill or blender to make onion flakes or powder; mix powder with an equal amount of salt for homemade onion salt.

The next time you have surplus harvest and want to preserve some for the days of winter - or for times when your food supply is endangered by any number of circumstances - give dehydration a try. And share some of your "dried goods" with your neighbors to let them in on the secret of easy, nutritious preserved food.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lessons from the Siege of Leningrad

(Food Storage, Disaster Preparedness, WWII, History, USSR)

James: This is an interesting link. See:

 A city of 2.5 million ( about the same as Philadelphia and immediate suburbs) cut off from food deliveries. One big difference from today was the general patriotism and social order. The magnitude of deaths is ominous for those of us aware of future scenarios disrupting the grid and/or trade.


When the Germans invaded Russia in June 1941, the population of Leningrad was about 2,500,000. However, as the Germans advanced into Russia, a further 100,000 refugees entered the city. The area that the city authorities controlled produced just 1/3rd of what was needed for grain, 1/3rd of what was needed for coal, 1/12th of what was needed for sugar and half of what was needed with regards to meat - if the supply lines could be kept open. On September 12th, those in charge of the city estimated that they had the following supplies:

+Flour for 35 days
+Cereals for 30 days
+Meat for 33 days
+Fats for 45 days
+Sugar for 60 days

The nearest rail head outside of the city was about 100 miles to the east at Tikhvin - but this was soon to fall to the Germans on November 9th. By mid-September (two weeks into the siege), Leningrad was effectively surrounded and cut-off from the rest of Russia with minimal food and energy supplies for her population. The siege was to last for 900 days.

While the city had a rail network of sorts, Stalin ordered that all vital goods in the city that could help defend Moscow be moved out of Leningrad and to the capital.

Rationing had been introduced almost immediately. Soldiers and manual workers got the most of what was available, followed by office workers then by non-working dependents and children. The city authorities found it difficult to grasp just how serious their situation was. While certain food was rationed, restaurants continued to serve non-rationed food in their 'normal' way.

The authorities also failed to inform people in Leningrad just how much food there was - this was probably done so as not to panic people, but if people had known the true situation, they could have planned accordingly. The number of shops handling food was drastically cut to allow for better control - but it also meant that people had to queue for much longer. There is also evidence that money could buy food away from rationing and the black market thrived where it could away from prying eyes.

Winters in Leningrad are invariably extremely cold. The winter of 1941-42 was no exception. Lack of fuel meant that the use of electricity in homes was banned - industry and the military took priority. Kerosene for oil lamps was unobtainable. Wood became the major source of heat in homes with furniture and floor boards being burned in most homes.

The food needed to fight the cold was simply not available. If bread was obtainable, people had to queue in the bitter cold in the hope that some might be left by the time they got to the front of the queue. Dogs and cats were hunted for food and stories emerged of cannibalism - freshly buried bodies were, according to some, dug up in the night. Gangs of people braved German guns to leave the city and dig up potatoes in fields outside of the city. This actually did bring in some food that was not kept by those who ventured out - the potatoes were handed in to the authorities and then distributed equably.

The city authorities ordered that a bread substitute be concocted by those who might have the skill, as they knew that flour was in very short supply. 'Bread' baked by bakers even in the first few months of the siege contained only 50% rye flour. To boost the loaf, soya, barley and oats were used. However, the oats were meant to feed horses and malt was used as an alternate substitute. Even cellulose and cottonseed were tried in an effort to produce bread. Both had little nutritional value but there was plenty of both in Leningrad. The city developed ingenious ways to produce 'food' - cats and sheep intestines were stewed, flavored with oil of cloves and the resulting liquid became a substitute for milk; seaweed was made into broth and yeast was made into soup.

Regardless of all the work done by the experts in Leningrad, food remained in very short supply and people were only getting 10% of the required daily calorific intake - despite the fact that most of their work was labor intensive. One writer in the city, Tikhonov, wrote about workers who ate grease from bearings in factory machines and drank oil from oil cans such was their hunger. People collapsed in factories and on the streets - and died. The city organized mass burials to cope with the number who died. When not enough grave diggers could be found, explosives were used to blow a hole in the ground and the bodies were simply thrown in with the expectation that snow would simply cover them up.

Where people died in the street, there was a scramble for their ration card. " If this happened, there was an immediate scrabbling for the dead one's ration card - not because anyone wanted to steal it but because everyone realized that a ration card handed in to the authorities meant an infinitesimal portion more food for all. Such were the indignities we suffered."

" I watched my father and mother die - I knew perfectly well they were starving. But I wanted their bread more than I wanted them to stay alive. And they knew that about me too. That's what I remember about the blockade: that feeling that you wanted your parents to die because you wanted their bread."

In November 1941, while the siege was in its early stages, 11,000 people died of what the authorities called 'alimentary dystrophy' (starvation) - over 350 a day. However, this number greatly increased as the winter took a hold on the city. The two lifelines Leningrad had were constructing a road out of the city to allow supply trucks to get through and using Lake Lagoda as a means of transport. Thousands of people assisted in building the road that was meant to link to Zaborie - the next major staging post east of the fallen Tikhvin. The road was more than 200 miles long when it was completed in just 27 days. However, though it was termed a road, in many places it was barely more than a track not wide enough for two lorries to pass. Parts of it were too steep for lorries to cope with and the snow made parts of it impossible to use. On December 6th, the city authorities announced that the road - known by the people as the 'Road of Life' - was to be used for the first time. The news was well received in the city but, in truth, the road was not capable of providing all that the city required for survival. Over 300 lorries started out on the first journey but breakdowns and blizzards meant that the most distance traveled in any one day was 20 miles.

On December 9th, the city received news that Tikhvin, with its vital railhead, had been recaptured by the Russians. The Germans who had occupied the town were the victims of Hitler's belief that the Russian campaign would be over quickly. They had not been issued with winter clothing and became victims of both the weather and a major Russian assault. 7,000 Germans were killed in the attack and they were pushed back 50 miles from Tikhvin. Railway engineers were brought in by the Russians to repair the line and bridges. For one week they ate food supplies left by the Germans in their retreat. As a result, and by the standards of those in Leningrad, they ate well and all the required repairs to the line were finished in just one week. Supplies started to trickle into the beleaguered city.

Another supply route was to use the frozen Lake Lagoda. Ironically, though the weather was extremely cold for the people of Leningrad, it was not cold enough to sufficiently freeze the lake to allow it to cope with the weight of lorries. The lake was frozen enough to stop barges bringing in supplies but the ice had to be 200mm thick to cope with lorries. It only achieved such a thickness at the end of November, and on November 26th, eight lorries left Leningrad, crossed the lake and returned with 33 tons of food. It was a major achievement - but the city needed 1000 tons of food each day to function. Once the ice had proved reliable and safe, more journeys were made and occasionally this mode of transport brought in 100 tons of food a day.

Though the 'Road of Life', the rail system and the use of Lake Lagoda brought much needed relief to the city, they could not provide all that was needed and the city's records show that 52,000 died in December 1941 alone - lack of food and the cold accounted for over 1,600 death a day. However, the figures collected by the city were for those who were known to have died and been buried in some form or another. They do not include people who died at home or on the street and whose bodies were never found. The official death total for the whole 900 day siege is 632,000. However, some believe (such as Alan Wykes) that the figure is likely to be nearer 1 million.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Survival on a Budget

The truth is, not many of us can afford to go out and spend thousands of dollars on survival equipment. Forget about the fully-stocked hideaway and the loaded four-wheel drive you need to get there, how can you afford a good solid stash of food?

But even if you had all the money necessary, you can't buy everything you need, learn everything you'll have to know and prepare for "the big one" in a day, a week, or even a year. Preparedness is a lifetime journey, and your mental attitude is a key component. The best approach is to start small and build your resources. As time passes, re-evaluate and add to your plan, your stash, your skills and abilities. 


After shelter, food and transportation are frequently the largest expense a family faces. Buying a few extra months of food can be a burden. But by shopping wisely and adding to your food stash over time, you can make this less expensive.

OK, the following may not be news to you, so if you feel you're doing a pretty good job of buying groceries inexpensively, feel free to skip it. But I figure everyone may gain a kernel of knowledge, so it's your call:

One of the best resources for large quantities of food is warehouse club stores, such as Sam's, and food co-ops. You can also purchase grain and other supplies from farm supply stores and wholesalers. This may take some searching out, but can be worth while if you want to buy bushels of grain to preserve yourself.


In my experience, warehouse club stores generally offer large sizes of items that can be used for survival. While it is sometimes possible to get better buys on some items when they go on sale at the grocery store, you have to shop carefully and watch the circulars to catch them. At the warehouse club, prices are constant and sizes large.

In addition to the survival-related foods you can acquire here, you may save enough money by buying at the club stores to afford some of those 45-pound kegs of red winter wheat you've been admiring in the catalog. Just be careful and don't buy so much it spoils, or your savings will evaporate.

25- & 50-Pound Bags of Rice - A staple in many countries, it could be yours during the bad times. Rice is one of the few foods that no one has allergies to, plus it is an excellent source of nutrients. And let's face it, most of us don't live where we can grow rice. Check out the Food Storage FAQ for information on how to preserve rice.

25-Pound Bags of Flour - Although grains are better to store than flour, this is fine if you do a lot of baking already. You can bake your way through the bag and always have some ready in an emergency.

5-Pound Bags of Complete Pancake Mix - These are great because all the ingredients are ready to go, just add water (Make sure you get complete, you don't want the kind where you have to add eggs.) Muffins and other mixes are also available, but it's a lot easier to cook pancakes over an open fire or camp stove than muffins!

Number 10 Cans of Powdered Potato Flakes - OK, so they don't taste as good as the real thing, but they store a lot longer and whip up fast. And if you want, you can still pick up the 50 pound bag of potatoes. I've seen these for $5 at flea markets and such. But the powdered stuff won't grow eyes.

5-Pound Bags of Elbow Macaroni and Spiral Noodles - These are a staple around here, so we always keep a couple bags on hand. Much cheaper buying them in bulk than the tiny boxes on grocery store shelves.

5-Pound Canisters of Peanut Butter - A favorite for kids and adults, plus you don't need refrigeration. Don't keep 'em forever or they could go rancid, but a good product to rotate in your every-day pantry. Add some crackers to your stash, too.

Number 10 Cans of Canned Vegetables or Beans - I really don't look forward to the day I have to sit down and eat nothing but canned peas or corn or whatever. But they are generally much cheaper than the small grocery-store cans, which would barely make a meal for one person. They won't keep as long as freeze-dried veggies packed in nitrogen, but they're good for feeding yourself and the hungry neighbors. To ensure rotation, use these for summer picnics or donate them to the homeless shelter every year or so.

Number 10 Cans of Chili - We all know beans are a good source of protein, and a hot bowl of chili, which usually combines meat and beans, will keep you working for many hours.

Six-Packs of Canned Goods Including Pasta, Vegetables, Meats - You may grimace to think you'll be living on canned Beefaroni or Spam, but there just aren't that many canned meats, and they're a heck of a lot cheaper than MRE's. Some of the pasta-products come in larger cans, too.

Large Boxes of Powdered Milk (Makes 20-Quarts) - These' won't last too long (see the Food Storage FAQ section on powdered milk), but if you are buying powdered milk, you can realize substantial savings over grocery store prices. A good item to keep in your spare refrigerator.

120 - 13-Pallon Trash Bags - I could probably come up with a whole web page dedicated to 1001 uses for plastic bags. But you'll just have to use your imagination. From storing water to lining your emergency potty, you'll need them.

Pouch Noodles - I swear ten years ago these were available only in backpacking stores, but now Lipton and others make them for the time-challenged family. Just add water, boil and voila: pasta Alfredo, shells in creamy garlic sauce or garden rotini. These are small sizes and this is one product where you can definitely get a better buy during a sale at the grocery store.

Pouches & Boxed Drinks- These are great for bug-out packs and survival stashes that could be subject to freezing and thawing. My experience has shown the pouches will freeze and thaw throughout a winter stored in the car, but try it yourself in the freeezer before you take my word on it. Every brand could be different.

For those with a large freezer or a large family, 5-pound blocks of cheese, 10-pound packages of frozen hamburgers and large quantities of frozen vegetables are often good buys. If the you-know-what hits the fan, you'll just have to eat alot of hamburgers for the first day or two.

Paper products, cleaning supplies, candy and personal care products are also available in large quantities at reasonable prices.

OK, so what's the down side, you ask? Usually, warehouse stores offer one brand, so you may not get the exact product you want.


Let me digress a moment for a comment about canned goods. Traditional canned goods aren't the best for survival because they loose their food value over time. But we think they have a lot going for them nonetheless. They are cheaper and easier to obtain than specialty foods such as MRE's or freezedried foods. They also can be heated in their cans. Remove the lid (You didn't forget to pack a couple of can openers, did you?) and plop them carefully on the burner or stove, and the can becomes an instant pan. Also, you can drink the juice off vegetables to preserve your water reserves (as long as it isn't too salty). Plus, you can get a wide variety of foods, and cans are a lot tougher than glass.


Somewhere between the traditional supermarket and the Warehouse club lie discount grocers. This could be the "Super Kmart" that carries groceries as well as just about anything else you need. There are also Food4Less and similar stores that are a bit like warehouse clubs, only they don't carry anything except food. Becoming a careful consumer and a survival-shopper may require visit to all three types of stores over time.


Food co-ops can be found in the yellow pages. While some require you to work, most allow you to purchase as non-working members at a slightly higher price than the participants. Others require that you order in advance so you can share in their volume purchasing

Food co-ops often make large purchases of fresh vegetables, nuts, grains and similar supplies. Many times, these are organically-grown, so you are benefitting health-wise as well as financially.

Some farmers markets are seasonal, usually around only during the growing season or only on Saturdays, but others are permanent. If you put up canned goods, there's nowhere better to make large purchases of fresh fruit and vegetables. Whether you're looking for tomatoes or peaches, this is the next best thing to growing your own.

A Suggested Survival List

By Chuck Baldwin
December 15, 2009
This column is archived at

One does not have to be a prophet to know that we are on the precipice of some potentially catastrophic--or at the very least, challenging--days. In fact, most of us are already in challenging days, and some are already enduring catastrophic events. That is, if one would call being out of work, losing one's home, facing life-threatening medical conditions without any prospect of medical insurance, several families being forced to live in one house due to homes being foreclosed, etc., catastrophic.

The potential for an escalation of cataclysmic events, however, is very real. Only a "blooming idiot" would call someone who attempts to prepare for "the day of adversity" a Chicken Little now. Anyone who does not see the storm clouds on the horizon isn't paying attention.

For example, can one imagine what would happen if terrorists nuked a major American city or cities? (Once again, I encourage readers to go get the videos of the CBS TV series "Jericho" to get an idea of how quickly life, and even civilization, could change.) Imagine if there was another 9/11-type event. What would happen if some form of Zimbabwe-style inflation hit the US? What would happen if anything disrupted the distribution of Welfare checks, or food to local grocers? Imagine a Hurricane Katrina-style natural disaster in your town. I think people everywhere are beginning to awaken to just how vulnerable we all really are.

As a result, people from virtually every walk of life have recently been asking my thoughts on how they should prepare. Therefore, I will attempt to share with my readers some of the counsel I have given these folks.

First, a disclaimer. I am not an economist; I am not a survival expert; I am not a firearms expert; I am not an attorney; I am not a physician. In fact, I am not an expert in anything! For several years, however, I have tried to learn from others. I am an avid reader. My work has allowed me to travel extensively. I have had the privilege of sitting at the feet of--and learning from--many of America's most learned, most trained, and most qualified "experts" in a variety of fields. What I write today, I have learned from others. I've formed my own opinions and priorities, of course, but everything I'm sharing has been said, or written about, before. But if I can share something in today's column that will help someone be better prepared for the days to come, then my goal will have been achieved.


First, analyze your living conditions. Where do you live? Do you live in an urban or rural environment? Is it a big city or small town? Do you live in an apartment or condominium? How close are your neighbors? Do you even know your neighbors? Would you trust them if the electricity was off and they were hungry? Could you grow your own food, if you had to? How easily could you secure your home? If you live in a cold weather environment, how long could you stay warm without electricity? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself now.

Over the past several decades, masses of people have migrated into large metropolitan areas. More people live in urban areas than at any time in American history. While this may be well and good for times of prosperity, it is an absolute nightmare in any kind of disaster. Does anyone remember what New Orleans looked like after Hurricane Katrina came through? Can anyone recall what happened in downtown Los Angeles during the 1992 riots?

Needless to say, any inner-city environment could become a powder keg almost instantaneously, given the right (or wrong) circumstances. And the bigger the city, the bigger the potential problems.

If you live in the inner city, I suggest you consider moving to a more rural location. Obviously, now is a very good time to buy property (especially rural property), but the downside is, selling property is not as favorable.

If you can afford it, now is a great time to buy a "safe house" outside the city. If you are fortunate enough to have family or some true friends nearby, you might want to put your heads--and some resources--together in preparation for serious upheaval. Obviously, a team of prepared people is much better than being alone.

If you must stay in your urban location, have some commonsense plans in hand in the event of a major disaster. Get to know your neighbors: find out whom you can trust and whom you can't. Keep some extra gasoline on hand, in case you need to get in your car quickly and leave. Have several exit routes planned ahead of time, in case roads are blocked. Have a "bug-out" bag containing essential ingredients to live on for 3 or 4 days. If leaving is not an option, have a plan to secure your home as best you can. You'll need to think about things such as food, water, medicine, warmth, self-defense, etc. But at this point, to do nothing is absolute lunacy!


During a major disaster, food will quickly disappear. Living for over 3 decades on the Gulf Coast, I can tell you with absolute certainty that whenever disaster strikes (usually an approaching hurricane, for us), food and provisions at the store sell completely out in a matter of a few hours.

People panic, and within hours, you cannot find food, bottled water, ice, generators, batteries, candles, etc. In a matter of hours, every gas station in the area will be completely out of gas. Not days. Hours!

Furthermore, almost all disasters include a complete loss of electricity.

The water supply is compromised. Bottled water becomes more valuable than bank accounts. Dehydration becomes a very real and present danger. I remember witnessing a man offer an ice vendor $100 for an extra bag of ice during Hurricane Ivan. My wife and I went 2 weeks (14 days) without electricity in the aftermath of that hurricane. Believe me, I got a taste of just how precious bottled water, ice, batteries, generators, fuel, etc., can become.

I suggest you have a supply of food and water to last at least 2 weeks. A month would be even better. Personally, I can live a long time on tuna fish or peanut butter. You can purchase MREs from a variety of sources, as well as "camp-style" packaged food from stores such as Academy Sports & Outdoors.

Of course, bottled water is available everywhere during normal times. Stock up! Plus, I suggest you have some water purification tablets or a Katadyn water filter on hand. And, if you are able, prepare to grow your own food.

Canning food is another very helpful hedge against deprivation. If your parents were like mine, this was standard operating procedure.

Get a generator. Keep a supply of fuel on hand. Stay stocked up on batteries, candles, portable lights, first aid supplies, and personal hygiene items--especially toilet paper. Trust me, during times of intense and prolonged disaster, toilet paper could become more valuable than money.

I also suggest you never run out of lighters or matches. You never know when you'll need to build a fire, and during a prolonged survival situation, fire could save your life. If you live in a cold weather climate, you probably already have some sort of wood stove or fireplace.

Obviously, you need to take stock of your clothing. Do you have clothes suitable for extended outdoor activity? What about boots? During a disaster, you would trade your best suit from Neiman Marcus for a good pair of boots.

Do you have gloves? Insulated underwear? What about camouflage clothing?

These could become essential outerwear in the right conditions. Plus, any "bug-out" bag will need to include spare clothing.

And one more suggestion, while we're on this subject: the best resources in the world are of little use if one is physically incapable of making good use of them. In other words, GET IN SHAPE. During any kind of emergency situation, physical exertion and stamina become immensely important.


I suggest you have at least some cash on hand. Just about any and all disasters will result in banks being closed for extended periods of time.

That also means credit card purchases being suspended. You need to have enough cash to be able to purchase essential goods (if they are even available) for an undetermined amount of time.

Of course, some survival gurus insist that during any cataclysmic climate, precious metals will become the only reliable currency. But when most of us are trying to feed our families and pay our bills, it is difficult to get excited about buying gold and silver. Obviously, I would never recommend that anyone jeopardize the present on the altar of the future. My parents made it through the Great Depression with canned goods and garden vegetables; gold and silver were certainly not a priority with them. And maybe it should not be with you, either?

In fact, in a disaster, what is considered a valuable commodity can change rather quickly, as the barter system takes a life of its own. What is valuable is determined by what you need and how badly you need it. In a prolonged disaster, simple things such as toilet paper, canned goods, ammunition, and clothing could become extremely valuable; while cars, video games, televisions, etc., could be reduced to junk status. In antiquity, wars were fought over things such as salt.

Speaking of cars, remember that during a prolonged "national emergency" that might involve some sort of nuclear attack or widespread civil unrest, an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) might be employed; in which case, most every late model vehicle would be completely inoperable. Accordingly, if one can keep an older, pre-computer-age vehicle in good working order, he or she might be driving the only non-government vehicle capable of going anywhere.


Needless to say, during any kind of disaster, your safety and protection will be completely up to you. If you really think that the police are going to be able to protect you during an upheaval, you are living in a dreamworld.

In both the New Orleans and Los Angeles disasters, police protection was non-existent. Lawless gangs quickly took control of the streets, and people were left to either defend themselves or swiftly become the helpless prey of violent marauders. In fact, in New Orleans, some of the policemen actually abandoned their oaths to uphold the law and joined with the criminals, turning their weapons upon the public.

Face it, folks: in any kind of disaster, you must be able to defend yourself, or you and your family will be meat for these animals of society that will quickly descend without mercy upon the unprepared, unsuspecting souls around them. This requires that you be armed! It also requires that you be skilled enough to be able to efficiently use your arms.

Therefore, I strongly suggest that you purchase firearms sufficient to keep you and your family safe, and also that you practice sufficiently to know how to proficiently use them.

Now, when it comes to a discussion of which firearms are preferable for self-defense, the suggestions are as varied as the people who proffer them.


I believe every man (along with his wife and children of adequate age) should be proficient with the following weapons: a handgun in .38 caliber or above, a .22 rifle, a center-fire hunting rifle, a semi-automatic battle rifle, and a shotgun.

My personal preference for a self-defense handgun is either a .45 ACP 1911 (either Colt or Kimber) or a .40 S&W. In the .40 caliber, my favorite is a Glock 23. In the 1911, I like the Commander size configuration. I also like the Glock 30 and 36 in .45 caliber. My wife prefers to carry a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver in the snub-nose, J-frame configuration. But this is primarily due to the reduced weight of these weapons for carry purposes. If needed, she could make a good accounting of herself with a Glock 19 in 9mm. If you are someone who has never owned and seldom fired a handgun, I recommend you buy a Glock. They are as simple as revolvers to operate, reliable, and almost indestructible. Plus, they provide increased magazine capacity, and are safe. They are also very easy to disassemble and clean.

For a .22 rifle, I really like the Ruger 10/22. For a hunting rifle, my suggestion is either a .270 or .30-06 caliber bolt-action rifle. (If I had to pick one, I'd pick the .30-06.) I prefer the Remington Model 700 BDL, but there are several fine weapons in this configuration and caliber by numerous manufacturers. For a battle rifle, I suggest an AR-15-style weapon in .223 caliber. Here I prefer a Bushmaster. (Please, I don't need to hear from all you .308 lovers out there. I love the Springfield M1A, too.) For a shotgun, I suggest a 12-gauge pump. Here I prefer a Winchester Model 1300, which is not made anymore. So, you'll probably have to choose between Mossberg and Remington.

Whatever you choose, practice with it to the point that you are able to use it proficiently. And be sure you stock up on ammunition. A gun without ammo is reduced to being either an expensive club or a cumbersome paperweight.


I firmly believe that man is created to have fellowship with his Creator-God. I really don't know how people can face the uncertain future that we currently face without the spiritual knowledge, wisdom, comfort, and power that is made available through Jesus Christ. I believe the maxim is true: "Wise men still seek Him." I strongly suggest that you seek to possess a personal relationship with God's only begotten Son.

That we are facing challenging days is a certainty. Exactly what that means is yet to be determined. I trust that some of my suggestions will help you be better prepared for what lies before us.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


It's not a single idea, but many ideas and attitudes, including a reverence for nature and a preference for country life; a desire for maximum personal self-reliance and creative leisure; a concern for family nurture and community cohesion; a certain hostility toward luxury; a belief that the primary reward of work should be well-being rather than money; a certain nostalgia for the supposed simplicities of the past and an anxiety about the technological and bureaucratic complexities of the present and the future; and a taste for the plain and functional." --- JD Belanger, Countryside Magazine

"Over the last hundred years or so, the term "homesteading" has evolved to a new meaning, and there are about as many interpretations as there are homesteaders. To us, the modern homesteader is someone who strives for autonomy; to become as self-sufficient and self-confident as possible. We don't mean by this that all folks calling themselves homesteaders are automatically enrolled in some sort of worldwide self-sufficiency contest, either. Each person has to decide just how far he or she wishes to take self-sufficiency...To us, "homesteader" might be the antithesis to "consumer." Even the term "consumer" implies that one only consumes: continually buys, uses up, and buys more. A true consumer gives nothing back to the planet in return. A homesteader, on the other hand, creates, nourishes, and nurtures. A homesteader is a worthy steward to the Earth." --- Skip Thomsen and Cat Freshwater, The Modern Homestead Manual

"Homesteading has more than one meaning. It used to mean qualifying for free government land because you lived on it, built a house on it, and so on. Now it means living on the land and trying for at least some degree of home production of your needs, especially food. When people who were raised in cities try to accomplish that, I believe it can be every bit as much of a challenge for them as crossing the plains was for our pioneer ancestors. People go to all kinds of places to do their homesteading: the suburbs of their city, the mountains of Appalachia or the western United States, the northeastern United States, the Midwest, northern California, Alaska, Canada, Mexico. No matter where you are or go -- if you can grow a garden and raise some animals, you're a homesteader. And a fortunate human being!" --- Carla Emery, The Encyclopedia of Country Living


Welcome to the inaugural post of the Homestead Survivalist Blog! I will be posting articles/info here related to homesteading topics such as farming, gardening, home security, food preservation, etc, as well as topics related to disaster preparedness or "prepping". Enjoy, and drop me a line if you have any questions.