You Can NEVER Have Too Many Books – An Update

Several recommendations from the last article about seeds mentioned a book, Susan Ashworth’s book Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Growers. This reminded me of an article about books that I had written a number of years ago.

With all things internet being censored, banned, deleted or taken down, real live books you can hold in your hand may turn out to be a precious commodity, especially when you are trying to do things the new-old fashioned way. A number of the links from the old article no longer worked so I have updated them.

Think about your situation, your family and what your needs may be if this electronic gadget you are reading these words on were no longer available. We have all become dependent on this thing I am typing and reading on for everything. Computers literally control the world at the operators behest, from how much water is released from a dam during the rainy season, to controlling your banking activities, to ordering diapers for the baby – everything. What happens when a storm rolls through knocking out the power? You can’t buy anything because the cash registers don’t work, or if a company can still sell something, they can only take cash because the card reader is down and can’t process your debit or credit card. No gas pumps, no internet, cell phone towers have back up generators or alternate power, but they won’t last long with their life giving electrical grid being gone.

No power = truly the dark ages. Short term or long term, man made or natural causes, electricity, and thus all things electronic, are just another means of control. Look what has been happening in California over the last few years with intentional brown or black outs. Any reason will do when an intentional control of a population is the desired effect. Those with the power have increased their methods of control in the past few years and no longer try to hide many agendas, instead they have been blatant in wielding that power in an attempt to woo or force the people into subjugation. We can stand up, stick out and announce with a loud voice that we will not comply and get slapped down to the ground via censorship, incarceration or the disappearing act, or we can fight back from the shadows doing all we can to provide for ourselves no matter what comes.

Books. Do you have enough? For everyone under your care? Adults, teens, children? You can never have too many useful books. Enjoy the article.

Until next time – Fern

Originally published September 20, 2013

It’s true. You can never, never have too many books. I know, I know. What about your Kindle, or Nook, or iPhone, or laptop, or computer, or….or….or…..What about when the power goes down – and stays down. What if…..

We have bought ebooks. We bought all of the past issues of Mother Earth News on CD and downloaded them on our computers – a great wealth of information. Even if we had a solar panel system that would keep our computers running, it would be a waste of energy to do so. Printed material is a necessity for information preservation.

This is a wall in our living room. It is my favorite wall. Frank built this bookshelf just for me and I love it. After we put most of our books on it there was a lot of extra space. I told him, “You know what that means? We need more books!” Then after a while, we had to have the floor reinforced – a worthwhile investment.

A friend of mine – I have mentioned her several times – I told her the next time I mentioned her I was going to give her a pseudonym.

– Grace – for by the grace of God we met and have become friends. So back to books. Grace has laughed and told me I am her only friend that has a ‘bug book’. We have talked many times about needing to know how to do things for ourselves in the case of a collapse or downturn in the quality of life in our country. When she has asked me about a variety of topics, my answer is often, get a book about it. I have been trying to stock my library with many useful reference books over the past few years. 

Patrice Lewis at Rural Revolution recently reminded us that having our important information on an electronic device may not always be a dependable medium. She has printed out and organized her important information so it will not be lost if she can no longer access it on her computer or online. It is a great idea.

I would like to share a few of the many books I use regularly. I will also share a few new ones that I have not had the chance to read yet. Here are a few of my favorites by category.

Gardening

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible – great general information

The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening – We have a very old version that is literally falling apart at the seams. Tons of great, fairly detailed information.

Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver – Good book. All kinds of plant and pest information.

Carrots Love Tomatoes has taught me a great deal about companion planting. I have changed my garden planting patterns with the help of this book.

The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control – My favorite bug book. The one Grace was talking about.

The Seed-Starter’s Handbook is not only good at helping me get my seeds started, I use it for information on how to save seeds as well. It is an old book (1978), but one of my favorites. 

The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food is one of the new books I just got from Backwoods Home and I haven’t had a chance to look through it yet.

I have several new and old reference books I use as well. I have begun keeping my annual garden ‘map’ of where I plant things in a binder to make sure I rotate crops and don’t plant a new crop where it will not thrive because of the last occupant.

Food Preservation

Stocking Up – the old and new version. This is a great book. It covers canning, freezing, drying and storing. 

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is a book I use every time I can something.

I have half a dozen other canning books including Jackie Clay’s book Growing and Canning Your Own Food. It is a great book and full of a lot of information besides canning and preserving.

Another book I have had for a while and just started using with my dehydrator is Making and Using Dried Foods. After I bought the dehydrator, I was surprised that it didn’t come with more instructions. Then I got to thinking…… don’t I have a book about that? Sure enough, I did.

Enola Gay‘s new book The Prepared Family Cookbook is another one of my new books I have not had the chance to read through yet. 


Cheese Making

I have several books, but the only one I have ever used is Mary Jane Toth’s  Goats Produce Too! The Udder Real Thing

Herbs

Our book collection about herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes started many years ago. This is a mixture of old and new that I use most often now. The Herbal Antibiotics book is another new one from Backwoods Home that I have not had a chance to read yet. 

The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants and The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies both have a great deal of information about how to use plants medicinally, but little to none about how to grow and harvest them.

One of my older books Growing and Using Healing Herbs has great information about planting, harvesting, preserving and using herbs.

But the best one I found for information about growing and harvesting herbs is Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. 

When I was researching sources of perennial vegetables that I could get established here I ran across Perennial Vegetables, which has proven to be a good resource.

Animals

When we got our first Great Pyrenees to guard our goats, we wanted to make sure it was a successful venture. We had read enough to know that training a livestock guardian is not like training the Labrador Retrievers we used to raise. We found that Livestock Protection Dogs gave us very valuable information. Otherwise we probably wouldn’t have kept Pearl. She has turned out to be an excellent dog. 


I have a good selection of books about goats – my goat book collection. If something comes up, like an abscess, I look in all of my books and compare the information I find. I feel much better informed this way because not all authors have the same opinions or give the same advice for a particular situation.

All About Goats has some good basic information.

Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats is a good beginners book with fairly thorough information.

Raising Milk Goats Successfully and How To Raise Dairy Goats are very similar and have good basic information.

Natural Goat Care is by far my favorite book. It raised my learning curve on the natural needs and health of goats. I would highly recommend it.

We have other reference books for animals which include The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable and The First Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats.

Resource Books

We have a variety of books that we have not and may not ever use. They are for references when and if the need ever arises for the topics they cover, such as, establishing a black smith shop, how to train oxen, small scale grain raising, cooking on a wood stove, building small tools or equipment, and more. 

Grace and I have been doing some bartering for eggs. One of the things she brought was this Chicken Health Handbook which is another good reference book. Books that will add to your peace of mind are also an important part of a good library. The Simplicity Primer from Patrice Lewis is one of many. We read the Little House on the Prairie series last summer. They are a great resource of information for living without electricity and growing or raising what you eat, or how to do without.

So, to go back to the title – I truly do believe you can never have too many books. Printed information may one day be in very short supply. Electronic media may one day be a thing of the past. As memories age, they don’t keep details stored as well either. I have felt a strong need to include a plethora of books as a very important part of my ‘preps’. 

We have even stored more than one copy of some books to share with others if the opportunity arises. Books such as James Wesley Rawles How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It and The Ball Book of Complete Home Preserving. James Wesley Rawles’ book is what got Frank started in radio. It was the first place he read about MURS radio frequencies. You never know when that little bit of information can revolutionize a person’s perspective and greatly increase their ability to be self-sufficient and provide for their families.

I will continue to encourage to you learn something new each and every day. It will bless you and yours in untold ways for years to come.

Until next time – Fern

We All Gotta Eat

Folks, I have a real concern for the food supply of the world, and especially our country and my specific neighborhood. Wherever you are, grow anything you can to decrease your dependency on others. Control of the food supply is one of the most powerful weapons known to man. There may not be enough bullets to kill a lot of people in a given area, but you take away or control their food supply and exponential population decline can happen at a rapid pace, or on a given time table.

Frank had a conversation with a young father recently and said to him, “There are some words you don’t want to hear. Like – Daddy I’m hungry – when you have nothing to feed your children.”

Take that statement and apply it to those you are responsible for, or those you love, or just those that live around you. Really think it over. We have all heard about the golden hordes coming from the cities to take what we have, knowing we would have to defend ourselves against them. Well, folks, if you don’t have anything to eat, you aren’t going to be defending anybody against anything, because you are already dead. I wrote about it a while back in this article – Without Food You Are Dead.

If you are in a situation where you can grow food to replace the supply you are eating, DO IT IN QUANTITIES YOU NEVER DREAMED YOU WOULD NEED. All caps? Yelling at you? Yes, I am. You see, I believe that the sexes have been created to fulfill certain roles in life. Frank’s job is to protect us and keep the homestead running. Today he ran the well pump with the solar panels for an hour on a sunny day, he charged our handheld radios, took care of our finances and made me laugh – all in a days work as a husband and leader of our household. Me? I have cooked two meals, milked the goats, fed the chickens, wormed the cats and dog, watered plants and seedlings in the greenhouse, took care of some communications and now I am writing to you. I have been lead to be the food producer of our family. My days revolve around planning for and preparing meals, tending the animals that all have a job geared towards increasing our food supply. I am the gardener and the milk maid. It’s a wonderful life. No, I am not suppressed, depressed, or less of a person, I am living the life I want to live. I love being a wife and trying to prepare nutritious meals for us.

All of this is leading me to a discussion of garden seeds and the lack thereof in the usual online stores I shop with. Many of them continue to have a number of varieties that are out of stock and have been out of stock since last spring. We shop at Shumway’s for most things. They have been out of some of our choices for almost a year. If you are going to plant a garden and plan to order seeds, I hope you have already received them. If not, I would highly recommend you do so immediately, or day before yesterday. It appears the stores have seeds on the shelf, but I really wonder how long they will last.

Some seeds companies like Johnny’s have shut down ordering. They don’t have the supplies to fill more orders and are way behind on the orders they do have.

This is no joke. How are you going to resupply your food stocks if there are no seeds??? Did you save some of your own seeds from last year? Are they viable? Do you know how to save seeds? I feel like I am still a novice seed saver, but we did save quite a few last year. Saving seeds from what you grow is a good way to reproduce what has grown well for you in the past. There have been many times I have studied a new variety that would appear to grow well here in our zone and climate only to do poorly. I would hate to have to depend on an unproven seed supply for my only source of food. What if it fails? Some years things fail, that’s a fact of life. We have had some things grow great for a year to two then not hardly produce at all.

The solar minimum we are in right now has had a grave impact upon growing seasons everywhere, all over the world. Our garden did very poorly overall last year compared to the past. I can only hope and pray it will produce in abundance this year so I can refill my pantry shelves. What if it doesn’t? Do I have enough on hand to go another year and provide for Frank and I? NO. NO I DON’T. Do you? We wouldn’t starve, but we wouldn’t have the wide variety of nutrients we need either. Our health would decline as a result and that is not a position I want us to be in if all hell breaks loose like it appears it will.

Canning supplies to preserve the crops you grow? Good luck. Most places we have looked recently still have back orders. If you determine you need 500 canning jars to feed your family for a year, double it. Really. Double it. You will need more than you think. That has been reality in our case.

There are countries around the world that have lost their collective minds and turned their productive farm land back to ‘nature’ because of ‘climate change’ caused by man. They think so much of themselves and mankind to think we determine the natural climate shifts of millennia along with the solar activity of the sun. In my humble opinion, they are either crazy or trying to accelerate the starvation of the population. Not to mention the release of bioweapons used to control the world through fear and communistic mandates. I guess you can see where I stand on a few world changing events we are in the midst of.

My message for today is simple. See to your food supply and your ability to resupply if we no longer have the luxury of stores lined with row after row of convenient food at our fingertips. I haven’t even mentioned the inflation in prices and shrinking sizes of packaging portions. This phenomena is and will impact our ability to fill our shelves.

Plan to feed you and yours, because WITHOUT FOOD, YOU ARE DEAD.

Until next time – Fern

Open Thread, October 3, 2020

Well, folks. The world still turns and gets stranger every single day. There are many people that daily outline the events taking place around us – political, criminal, availability of everything from food to ammo to canning supplies to baby chicks to anything, you name it. 

Right now, and all day everyday, we request your prayers beseeching the Almighty for the quick, total recovery of our President and his beloved First Lady, President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.

The turmoil, unrest, and uncertainty of the future of our country appears to grow everyday. Every single day. There is something that happens, information that comes to light, or the placement of one more piece of a puzzle that is so deep and wide that it truly seems beyond the human mind to fathom.

So we step back, take a breath and attempt to decipher what is real, what is conjecture, opinion or outright lies and fabrications. Then we go outside and enjoy what we have been blessed with. A beautiful place to live. Flowers. Hummingbirds. The final harvesting of the garden. 

The sweet potatoes are dug and curing in the greenhouse. We grew three varieties to compare productivity and flavor. We will use those potatoes and plants for next year’s crop.

The only other things left in the garden are okra and peppers, which are declining since we are already having lows in the 40’s and 50’s. The turnip greens are growing well, they like the cool weather. The spinach is trying to grow, something killed all of the lettuce and it needs to be replanted. Yes, we are still growing some food stuffs. But it’s going to be an early winter this year, or so I have been feeling for about a month now. I would recommend you stock as deep as you can and prepare for a long, cold winter. Just a feeling.

We are canning chicken today. Baking the last dozen we had in the freezer and getting them all on the shelf. Next week we will start butchering our older laying hens to can as well. The young hens are laying well and we are over run with eggs. We also have another batch of young chicks that will start laying in January. So we have meat and eggs on the menu for part of a future food supply.

The goats are drying up. Three does are due in January. One more doesn’t seem to be bred or show any indication of doing so. We don’t know what is going on with her. Braum’s (an ice cream store in our area) has started selling A2 milk which is a very pleasant surprise. Our vet is drinking it with great success. He hasn’t been able to drink milk in years due to a gut issue. That proves to me that there really is something to the A1/A2 issue. We are buying milk from Braum’s to get us to January and our own fresh supply again.

Just walking into a store now days is a strange, eerie experience. Half of the people look at each other like they are scared to be around anyone, another half is wearing masks and doesn’t like the ones that aren’t, the other half just tries to act normal, but hardly anyone talks. It’s quiet and suspicious. I know that’s three halves, but you’ll just half to deal with it.  Just like living in this dystopian virus controlled world.

My mom is now on hospice and continues her slow steady decline. I haven’t been able to go into the nursing home to see her since March 12th. It kills me to go see her through the window and not be able to touch her and hug her. Knowing there are hundreds or thousands of others in the same predicament doesn’t make it any easier, but I am very empathetic to the pain it causes so many of us in these days and times. A person we know just lost a healthy, active parent with underlying conditions to this virus. It hits close to home since they were younger than Frank. 

Pray for our President and First Lady for there are those that take joy in their sickness. These people that wish our President and First Lady harm are part of the deep, entrenched, putrid, decay of our country. If they win the election, if they take over, we are doomed. If you are not prepared for either outcome, I fear for you. 

Please share what is going on in your neck of the woods. We are all in this together and we all need help from each other. Please share. Be safe. Stay healthy. Be extremely vigilant. Use discernment in all you read, watch and believe. Pray for guidance always.

Until next time – Fern


What You Know Might Save You

We received a very interesting and informative comment yesterday that we feel is worth posting for all to read. I have said something similar to this opening statement, that I was born in the wrong century. Frank and I have long known that our varied life experiences have brought us to this place and time with a plethora  of skills and perspectives that may help us as the current crises of the world unfold. It really doesn’t make any difference when we were born or where we live, this is where we are and what we have to deal with. The events of the world will continue to unfold, whether we are ready or not. Please share your thoughts. Enjoy.

I feel as though I am a person born out of my time period. I am not yet sixty but my childhood experiences include using an outhouse, drawing water from a well, and taking baths in a tin bathtub after heating water on a wood cook stove. My parents grew corn, peanuts, and other vegetables in a five acre field. I grew up helping to harvest and can what we grew. We milked cows and my mom made butter from the cream. I was the last born of my siblings, and born late in my parents’ lives. They grew up in the Depression and married at the beginning of WW2, so I am a tail end of the Baby Boomers. 

My experiences were embarrassing as a child but came back to help me cope many years later in the aftermath of a hurricane that plowed through our area. We lost power for about four weeks. I tried to do what my momma did and found that I was not the woman she was. But I did learn some very important lessons. I relied too heavily upon electricity and on my freezer for food storage. I had a pressure canner and had canned some vegetables, but I still had a lot of vegetables and meat in the freezer. Now I try to keep plenty of jars empty for emergency canning of meat and most of my vegetables go in jars. 

 I was given a dehydrator several years ago and found that drying vegetables and sealing them with a food sealing system in jars takes up less space that fresh. 

Since I did and do most of my cooking on an electric stove, the lack of that power has stirred me into looking into other ways of cooking without power. I have since discovered an interest and love for cast iron, especially Dutch ovens. My first experiment with one was in the coals of a burned brush pile from a tree blown down by a hurricane wind. Food burned on the bottom and was raw in the middle. But my daughters have taken up my pursuit and they cooked much of our Thanksgiving dinner last year in Dutch ovens outside over a wood fire. 

I liked your article because it fits my lifestyle of gardening, canning and enjoying the fruits of my labor. I live in a climate that allows me to grow food almost all year round, but for the past several years, I have had an urge to save seeds from the vegetables we grow and to try to save extra possibly for neighbors in the future since I can’t feed them all and they may need to have something to plant. Most of us “country folk” live like city folk now because we buy fresh seed from the feed and seed stores each year and there are fewer and fewer of us gardening and growing our own food, because it is quicker and easier to run by the grocery store and get what we need or want. It is a lot of work to grow and process your own food. I have heard comments to that effect. 

After reading the Woodpile Report, I found someone giving voice to some concerns that have been in my heart for a couple of years…namely, what would happen if we could not grow food for a year or so because of outside circumstances. And what would happen if the stores that sell seeds are no longer open or stocked? About three years ago, I saw a clearance sale of end of summer goods at a dollar store. Included in those goods, were packets of flower and vegetable seeds. I bought quite a few for pennies a packet and so I have been collecting these seed packets and storing them in my freezer for my own use and for future giveaway seed. To my surprise I even found a few heirloom seeds among them. I have other seed that I have saved in glass jars using the food sealer system and jar attachment. I opened a few jars of seeds this spring and was amazed that most of the seeds were viable. Only one of the jars of seeds failed to germinate. 

Anyway, my next canning experiments are going to include oranges, lemons, and butternut squash. By the way, have you heard of okra seed being roasted and ground to be used to stretch coffee grounds? I have heard that such a thing was done in the Great Depression, but I would like to know if anyone else has knowledge of this. 

Thanks for sharing your experiences with others.

[Name removed]

Please share what you know and have experienced. We’re all in this race to survive together. The finish line is simple. It’s your life.

Until next time – Fern
 

Carrots on the Shelf

The carrots have been pulled and processed. We were very pleased with the amount of the harvest since it was more than we expected. We grow Danver’s half longs since our rocky soil lends itself to non-straight carrots, even the short version.

That small dirt path down the middle is where the carrots were. As with most canning projects, preparing the food is the most time consuming part of the process.

Why is this one lonely carrot yellow? It was the only one. Interesting. By the way, about half of these carrots were grown from the seeds we saved last year. Two years ago, I planted a patch of carrots in the herb bed so I could leave them for two years to go to seed since they are biennial. It worked! This year, I put a small patch of beets in the herb bed that grew in the greenhouse all winter. I hope they will reward us with seeds as well.

Instead of cutting each carrot by hand, we chose to use a slicing wheel on the KitchenAid. It was much faster and easier on the aging bodies.

 

 We had exactly enough to fill up two canners – 32 pints.

One of those all purpose shelves. From left to right, top to bottom.
Row 1: Handheld radios we use everyday, work gloves, cookie sheet and bucket to dry eggshells for the garden, Frank’s hat and gloves. 
Row 2: Towel lined shelf for hot jars to cool after removing from the canner
Row 3: Milk buckets, extra bucket for scraps
 

The next morning the chickens got the carrot scraps and the garden got the whey from the soft cheese that was making while we canned the carrots.

We are grateful for the harvest and the nutrition on the shelf. A very satisfying days work.

Until next time – Fern

Good Advice from the Plant Lady

We recently published an article titled Got Food? For How Long? and received some very thought provoking comments from the PlantLady. She is an experienced gardener and provides us some very good advice. We‘d thank her for taking the time to share her experiences and we would like to share what she had to say.
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This very subject is why I became a market gardener. Not to make money – although that is very nice – but to practice growing large quantities of food. Have always been a serious gardener (ok, maybe obsessed), but more on the ornamental side as I had always hoped to have a small nursery after retirement. With the way things are now, food is far more important. And

while I am the person the master gardeners call with questions (hence the PlantLady moniker), had no idea of just how much to grow, how many seeds it would take, which crops would provide the most nutrition, which crops to grow when for a balanced diet, timing of planting and harvesting, which crops store easily without refrigeration or canning and just how big the garden needed to be. During my 6 years of elder care, studied everything I could get my hands on to try to figure all this out. Guess what? There is no way to know without actually doing it! Every location is so different as far as weather, general climate, water availability, soil structure and fertility and available resources…and all these factors change constantly. What worked last week, month or year may be totally wrong for the now.

So two years ago worked up new ground and started practicing. Last year I started selling at market. This year I doubled the size of the garden and sold at market regularly, added a second location for selling closer to home and started really keeping track of what I grew when, how much I harvested, how much I sold, how much I donated, how much I preserved, etc. Keeping records is necessary…you may think that you will remember, but
there is just too much you need

 to know. And, heaven forbid, after the Darker Ages arrive…what if something happens to you – the only person that knows everything needed to produce enough food? Your family will be oh so grateful to have a written record of how much of each crop is needed, how many seeds to plant to get that much, when each crop needs to be planted and harvested, how to time things so you have a steady supply for fresh eating, how to time things so crops for preserving ripen at the best times (ie. for making pickles, you need cukes, dill, onions, garlic, peppers and apple cider vinegar simultaneously) how to best preserve each crop, how to save seeds and breed crops to best suit your location, provide the largest harvest, resist disease and insects and suit your taste.

Then there are the infrastructure needs…do you really want to be starting a garden by digging sod by with a stick? No way – that needs to be done now with power tools. And you need to stock up on good quality shovels, hoes, rakes, wheel hoes, GLOVES – enough for many people. Do you want to wake up one morning and find your only food for the next year has been decimated by

deer/rabbits/coons/strangers? Heaven forbid – get fencing now while its available and learn how to set sturdy fence. While things are still available, plant as much perennial food as you can – fruit trees and berry bushes, nut trees, asparagus, rhubarb, horseradish, etc. And stock seeds…I get twitchy if I have less than 5 years worth on hand. Also get animals while you can, unless you plan on being a vegan in the coming Darker Ages! Not just for needed food, but also for their manure to keep your garden fertile. Green manuring is ok for the now, but how are you going to cut, chop and incorporate those easily by hand? Easier by far to turn under composted manure and bedding. Get what you need to extend the seasons so you can grow more food – cold frames, hoophouses, low tunnels. 

The only real way to know what you actually need is to do it. What are you waiting for? You can do it…start now!


PlantLady 

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PlantLady – continued

I am an excellent gardener, but am just starting on trying to figure out just how much food I need to produce to feed my extended family and how I am going to manage this feat with just what we have here in the way of natural resources, equipment and plant and animal stock. Trying to get a sustainable cycle set up before conditions get too much worse, because once the trucks stop running, it will be very hard to impossible to get anything.
 

There is a lot more to it than you might think, especially when your very lives will depend upon your success. When what you eat is what you grow, you find that you don’t plant a garden once and harvest it once. You will be constantly planting and constantly

harvesting – because of course you will be wanting to constantly eat (hehe). People I talk to are amazed that I don’t “put in” the entire garden Memorial Day weekend then harvest as it ripens. There are spring, summer, fall and winter crops possible – even here in the far north. I plant stuff most every month except Oct., Nov. and Dec. and we and the goats and chickens eat out of the winter salad garden under low hoops all fall, winter and spring. And I never plant a crop just once or all in the same location…I plant some for early cropping then wait a while and plant more for midseason, then wait a while and plant some for late. Aside from extending the harvest period, your entire crop of something isn’t vulnerable all at the same time in the same place. Plus, that way you don’t have a years worth of a crop all at once to preserve – you can spread the work out over a few weeks or months. Johnnys Selected Seeds website has some awesome planting charts for each seasons crops and succession planting – an invaluable resource.

And folks, first you gotta have land with water that will grow food, or you don’t have much of a chance to survive the coming Darker Ages. Nobody wants to hear this or think about it – but its true. Every time I read about someone planning on surviving by growing enough food on a city lot or in pots here and there, I want to cry – because that just isn’t going to work. Once the trucks stop running, its up to you to feed your family. And to grow enough food you need land. If you don’t have land, if you are real lucky, you might get taken on by someone with land and the infrastructure to grow food as a slave, serf or the like – just for the chance to be fed anything. If you aren’t lucky, you and your family will starve without the means to produce the food you need.

The upside is that growing your own food now is about the smartest thing you can do, even right now, with prices for everything rising so quickly. Every bite of food you can produce is one you don’t have to buy. And infinitely better, safer and fresher than anything you can buy anywhere. A lot of what we learn on our prepping journeys is very useful and perhaps critical to know “at some point”. But am I going to drag out the book “When There Is No Dentist” now? No, I will go to a dentist while I can. But growing your own food is great even in the “now”…saves money, you get a better product and you can afford to store more. Plus, you will be gaining the knowledge, equipment and stock you will need to survive the coming hard times.

Let’s all go plant something edible!


PlantLady

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There are a couple of things PlantLady brought up that I’d like to comment on. So far I have begun a notebook with maps of my garden from year to year for adequate crop rotation. I also have a notes on what I planted. What I don’t have is information about when and how much I planted, or how much I harvested, all of which is vital information if we plan to truly live off of what we grow. This is one of the points PlantLady discussed that really hit home with me.

Planting in succession for a steady harvest is another thing I have not done. I have always just ‘planted’ the garden. Now that we have the greenhouse up and running, I have given much more thought to planting crops more than once. This will be the beginning of my learning experience in this realm. 

We have given much thought to alternative ways of storing food such as canning, drying, curing and cool storage, as in a cellar. All of these skills are still in their infancy for us, but we have begun this process.

Saving seeds? I have done a very poor job of this. For me, it is always easier to order seeds. How will that help me at TEOTWAWKI? Obviously it won’t and I need to get very serious about having my own seeds to plant instead of someone else’s.


I can’t agree more about preparing your ground now, if you have some. Turning a garden with shovel instead of a tractor or tiller is backbreaking work, not to mention new ground is not very fertile and will grow a limited amount of food until it has been worked and enriched.


Why am I pointing out our short comings in gardening and raising our own food? Because we are all in this together and can learn so much from each other. I find PlantLady’s comments very, very encouraging. They are also inspiring me to learn more and do better. Please share your ideas, experiences and thoughts with all of us so we can learn even more.


I know the opening lines of Got Food? For How Long? were rather harsh. A friend of mine said she opened the article expecting a nice Thanksgiving thought, not me saying get with it or you will starve. Hard? Yes. True? Unfortunately, very true. The incredibly, unbelievable events taking place all over the world on a daily basis make learning every possible survival skill of the utmost importance. Please heed PlantLady’s advice and start growing something edible today. Yes, in December. Somehow, somewhere in your house, on your porch, somewhere, start growing something edible today.

Until next time – Fern

Canning the Garden & Other Stuff

It is HOT! Sorry to yell, but it really is hot here. There are some clouds forming and we might get some much needed rain, even though there’s not a great chance of it. We had record rainfall in the spring, but with these hot temperatures, we are definitely in need of more. Since the afternoons are way to hot to work outside, we have been canning up a storm, not everyday, but more often than not lately.

We finally finished canning the four bushels of peaches we bought. We broke about four or five jars by trying to put them into a hot water bath we had just taken a load out of. I was thinking that since we were putting boiling water over the peaches they would be fine. They were not. Room temperature peaches and boiling water isn’t really all that hot. The last batch of peaches we heated up and didn’t lose a jar. Lesson learned. 

Peach sauce on the left, then plums and garlic

We made a batch of peach sauce from a recommendation in one of the comments we received. Thank you! It was simple, it just took a few days of simmering to cook it down to the consistency we wanted. Wash the peaches, pit, cut out any bruises or bad spots, cut up and cook it down. That’s it. We did add some fruit fresh to prevent darkening, but the sauce does darken some naturally as you cook it down and run it through the water bath. From a half bushel of peaches we ended up with 11 pints. I like the idea of including the peels instead of taking them off. Has anyone canned peach slices with the peel on? I wonder if that would work? I know there are nutrients in the peel just like with apples and potatoes. I may try it next time.

We have continued to can our Cushaw and Buttercup winter squashes because the ones we’ve picked so far aren’t keeping well. They developed during the really wet weather and are getting soft spots or outright starting to rot already. 

We have one hill of yellow squash left alive that the squash bugs haven’t killed. I probably squished about 30 bugs this morning. I have also sprayed them with a water, baking soda, Dawn soap combination followed by a dose of diatomaceous earth. They have killed all of the Buttercup winter squash and are working on the Cushaw. This morning I planted more of all three kinds of squash in an attempt to grow a fall crop. We will see how they do.

 

We get enough cowpeas to can about once a week for now. Once the new patch of peas starts producing we will have many more. After we fill the shelf with all we want we will start drying them to use for winter feed for the goats, pigs and chickens. 

We haven’t canned very many green beans, and I was hoping for about 70 or 80 pints at least. The leaves on most of the plants look like lace from the beetles and worms. What a year for bugs. I will be planting more beans in an attempt to get a fall crop from them as well. We plan to disc up quite a bit of the garden tomorrow so I can start planting turnips, carrots, potatoes, green beans, beets and I’m not sure what else. Some of these crops will do well after a frost and some won’t. I will start some cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprout seedlings before long as well.

We tried our ‘new’ canner that we had problems with again, we found out it is a 2008 model, and it still leaks around the lid. After two calls to the factory the technician recommended we go over the seal with some ‘000’ steel wool and lubricate it with olive oil instead of Vaseline. When we started using our first All American the recommendation was Vaseline, now they are finding the lid sticks less with olive oil. We have yet to try this out, but will let you know how it goes when we do.

In the meantime we got out our tertiary All American and it works great. You know the saying, three is two, two is one, and one is none? That’s why we have three canners, two of which had never been out of the box until a few days ago. Since I have been very serious about filling our shelves with food this summer, it was time to get out a second canner so I can run both of them at the same time. It saves a lot of time. Like today.

We have some old pinto beans that are getting hard to cook. It takes a long time. So I decided to put a big batch on the stove last night and cook them for a while, let them soak overnight, cook them for a few hours this morning, then can them in pints. Well, there were a little more than 32 pints, so we will eat some for supper as well. Our model 921 All American canners hold 16 pints, and I would highly recommend them. As we were putting these beans in the canner, Frank made a great recommendation. The next time we are at the big box store, we’ll pick up a 50 lb. bag of pinto beans to can. Then, if the time comes that we need to eat these old beans, we will, but for now, we’ll use fresh ones. We can always grind the old beans into flour as another way of accessing the nutrition they contain.

So far, our canning efforts this summer have produced this yield.

  •  7 pints of green beans
  • 20 pints of yellow squash

  •  5 pints of beets
  • 10 pints of carrots
  • 12 pints of cowpeas
  • 11 pints of peach sauce
  •  7 pints of plums
  • 16 pints of minced garlic
  • 68 quarts of peaches
  • 34 quarts of winter squash

The canned minced garlic turned out fine even though it browned as we canned it. The texture is very soft, not really a minced texture anymore, but it smells fine and works well cooked into a dish. I look forward to using it and may do another batch, just to have it on the shelf. I have neglected to include enough garlic in our diets, and this has turned out to be a good option for me.

I’m glad we have put up this much food, but it really isn’t very much food if I stop and look at it. If we were to have to depend upon what we are stocking away as our sole source of nutrition, we would be in trouble. Big trouble. So, I will keep trying to add as many things to the shelves as I can. Before long our oldest baby chickens will be ready to butcher. We will freeze a few for

convenience and because we like fried chicken, but many of them will end up in a jar on the shelf along with some chicken broth. We still have wethers that should have been butchered long ago out grazing in the pasture. They will probably wait until fall. They’ve waited this long, what’s another month or two? Some of that meat will also end up in jars on the shelf. And then there are the two barrows, castrated pigs, that are wondering around in another pasture. In time, they will make their way into the freezer and into jars on the shelf. That will help with our preserved food supply. I still count them now even though they are still out there walking around. I call them meat on the hoof, or I guess in the case of the birds, meat on the foot.

It is a good summer. There is much to do everyday. Do we get it all done? No, not even close. But what we don’t get done one day waits for us the next day. It’s funny how that works, isn’t it? Things just don’t get done by themselves. We find it hard to prioritize things sometimes since there are a number of things that need our attention. The squash bugs really got the upper hand while I was canning peaches. I noticed this morning that some of my elderberries have already ripened and disappeared, probably into the mouth of a bird. I want to make some elderberry syrup this summer since it’s so good for colds. Yet another thing to put on the list. Then I wanted to check on the apple tree next door, and then……..

This thing we all feel coming gets closer everyday, do all you can to be ready.

Until next time – Fern