Food Preservation

Our tomato plants are starting to produce an abundance of paste tomatoes. We’ve just finished canning our first excess of tomatoes for the summer. We dehydrate our goji berries in batches as we harvest the ripe berries. We’ve previously canned up elderflower cordial earlier this summer and enjoy refreshing and healthy spritzers in the heat. Blackberry and blackberry/apricot jams have been stored up in jars. The first ripe watermelon was devoured this afternoon; will we preserve some rind?

Food preservation has become something of a lost art in this day and age, but a lot of people still express an interest in the practice. Where can you learn more about it if you don’t already have a friend who has been preserving food? One way is through books. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving or The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving are stand-bys that have been updated over the years. They mostly just cover canning, but have very reliable recipes and instructions that are easy to understand for beginners. If you can learn through reading, but don’t want a whole book on the topic, Instructables has a free online course on Canning and Preserving which lets you work through six topics at your own pace.

For a more visual approach and covering more topics, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Extension has a video series on Youtube called Preserving Alaska’s Bounty which gives you an overview of several preservation topics, including water bath canning, pressure canning, sausage-making, fruit leathers, sauerkraut, dehydrating, and more. The videos are a bit dated, but still have good basic info. Youtube user Homestead Heart also has a playlist for food preservation. English Country Life’s Youtube channel has a food preservation playlist which includes things like curing bacon, smoking food, lard, and more. A more technical or science explanation of food preservation can be found with FoodSci with ProfVigeant.

The WSU Extension normally has an online, food preservation program called Preserve the Taste of Summer, but it appears to be closed for the year. Click here to download a PDF flyer with details about the course cost and syllabus. Similarly, the University of Idaho Extension has a Preserve @ Home online program, which next airs in January 2021. Click here for a past Preserve @ Home flyer.

Other web resources include:

National Center for Home Food Preservation (Univ of Georgia) and its related website Preserving Food at Home.

Healthy Canning

The Home Preserving Bible

FoodPreserving.org This one is Australian. Weights are giving in both grams and pounds, while other volume measurements are in the familiar cups and teaspoons.

Now, go forth to a new life, rising through food preservation methods to self-sufficiency, peace and plenty.

The Prepared Homestead: PRIME Act for Food Security

In this video, The Prepared Homestead discusses the PRIME act (HR 2859/S 1620) which would exempt custom meat slaughtering from federal inspection requirements and allow states to regulate it as long as the distribution in only within the same state.

This bill expands the exemption of custom slaughtering of animals from federal inspection requirements.

Under current law, the exemption applies if the meat is slaughtered for personal, household, guest, and employee uses. The bill expands the exemption to include meat that is

  • slaughtered and prepared at a custom slaughter facility in accordance with the laws of the state where the facility is located; and
  • prepared exclusively for distribution to household consumers in the state or restaurants, hotels, boarding houses, grocery stores, or other establishments in the state that either prepare meals served directly to consumers or offer meat and food products for sale directly to consumers in the state.

The bill does not preempt any state law concerning (1) the slaughter of animals or the preparation of carcasses, parts thereof, meat and meat food products at a custom slaughter facility; or (2) the sale of meat or meat food products.

See also Real Milk: PRIME Act Reintroduced in Congress

…The PRIME Act would give states the option of passing laws to allow the sale of custom-slaughtered and processed meat in intrastate commerce direct to the consumer and to venues such as restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, and boarding houses. Federal law currently prohibits the sale of custom-processed meat; meat from a custom facility can only go to the individual or individuals who own the animal at the time slaughter takes place–a requirement costing farmers a substantial amount of business. Many potential customers either don’t have the funds to buy a whole animal or the freezer space to store it.

Farmers who sell meat by the cut must use a slaughterhouse that has an inspector present during the actual slaughtering. Many communities in the U.S. have custom facilities nearby but not inspected slaughterhouses; this means hauling the animals several hours to an inspected facility, driving up the farmer’s costs and stressing the animals. There are places in this country where the farmer has to book a year in advance with the slaughterhouse under inspection for the slaughtering of livestock.

The decline in slaughterhouse infrastructure since the passage of the Wholesome Meat Act in 1967 has been one of the biggest problems small farmers face. The Wholesome Meat Act gave the federal government jurisdiction over meat processing and sales in intrastate commerce. At the time the Act passed, there were nearly 10,000 slaughterhouses in the U.S.1; as of January 1, 2019, there were 2,766.2

Passage of the PRIME Act is more important than ever. There continues to be growing demand for grass-fed beef, but with the lack of local slaughterhouses, small farmers are missing out on much of that business. Instead of business that could go to small American farmers, imported “grass-fed” beef has the dominant market share in the U.S. According to reports, 75% to 80% of grass-fed beef sold in this country is imported. Due to lax country-of-origin-labeling laws, much of this meat is labeled as being produced in the U.S…3

Tri-Cities Potato and Onion Giveaway, May 1st

From KNDU news:

As local farmers are seeing an abundance of crops due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they need to give away some to the community.

Farmers are told to keep their crops as trading with other countries has somewhat stopped as COVID-19 fears mount.

The Tri-Cities farming community will come together Friday, May 1st for a potato and onion giveaway for those who need food assistance.

The owners of AgriNorthwest and Rover Point Farms have teamed up with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to host multiple potato and onion drive-thru giveaways for free.

They are located at the following locations:

2004 N. 24th Ave, Pasco

820 S. Buntin, Kennewick

5885 Holly Way, West Richland

Volunteers will open these locations at noon and will remain open until supplies last.

For more information you can reach out to justservetc@gmail.com.

The Prepared Homestead: Victory Gardens

The Mitzels of The Prepared Homestead have a couple of videos on their Youtube channel about victory gardens. Their homestead is a colder zone in Idaho. They give a little history of victory gardens, how supply chains work and why you would have a garden yourself. In the part two video, they get into how to start, what to grow, how to read seed catalogs and so forth. If you aren’t familiar with the Prepared Homestead already, they have a lot of herbal and permaculture knowledge in addition to what they’ve learned homesteading.

Gold Telegraph: Global Food Supply Chains Beginning to Erode, Crisis Looms?

From The Gold Telegraph – Global Food Supply Chains Beginning to Erode, Crisis Looms?

…One would begin to believe history might not be repeating itself, but it is undoubtedly starting to rhyme. During the great depression of the 1930s, the hardest-hit industry was farming. Farm incomes dropped by nearly two-thirds at the beginning of the 1930s. Dairy farmers dumped countless gallons of milk into the street instead of accepting a penny a quart.

During World War 1, farmers had produced record crops and livestock to keep everyone fed. However, when prices started to fell, they tried to harvest even more to pay their debts and living expenses. In the early 30s, prices dropped so low that many farmers went bankrupt and lost their farms. In some cases, the price of a bushel of corn fell to just eight to ten cents. Some farmers even began burning corn rather than coal in their stoves because corn was cheaper.

However, there is a dramatic difference today. Prices are not dropping; in fact, grocery bills are getting more expensive by the day. Supply chains are being disrupted due to the transportation and of course processing of a vast selection of foods.

As we are beginning to learn, the country where the coronavirus started, China, may now be facing a food crisis. The country has just reopened its economy as the communist regime has even claimed a coronavirus victory.

However, there was a leaked government document made public last Thursday that shows that government officials have been planning for a shortfall in food supplies.

The document, dated March 28, was drafted following a meeting which was called to make special arrangements for food security.

“The State Party Committee and the state governments and counties and cities must do everything possible to transfer and store all kinds of living materials such as grain, beef, mutton, oil and salt through various channels,” the document said, according to a report from Radio Free Asia

The document also calls for the “mobilization of the masses to consciously store grain and ensure that each household reserves between 3 and 6 months of grain for emergencies…”

Click here to read the entire article at The Gold Telegraph.

End of American Dream Blog: Food Distribution System Breaks Down

Michael Snyder has written an article at The End of the American Dream on how the food distribution system works in normal times and why it is breaking down now – Supplies Are Starting To Get Really Tight Nationwide As Food Distribution Systems Break Down. His message is that times have changed. Don’t blame hoarders for bare grocery shelves; the problem is much bigger.

All across America, store shelves are emptying and people are becoming increasingly frustrated because they can’t get their hands on needed supplies.  Most Americans are blaming “hoarders” for the current mess, but it is actually much more complicated than that.  Normally, Americans get a lot of their food from restaurants.  In fact, during normal times 36 percent of all Americans eat at a fast food restaurant on any given day.  But now that approximately 75 percent of the U.S. is under some sort of a “shelter-in-place” order and most of our restaurants have shut down, things have completely changed.  Suddenly our grocery stores are being flooded with unexpected traffic, and many people are buying far more than usual in anticipation of a long pandemic.  Unfortunately, our food distribution systems were not designed to handle this sort of a surge, and things are really starting to get crazy out there.

 I would like to share with you an excerpt from an email that I was sent recently.  It describes the chaos that grocery stores in Utah and Idaho have been experiencing…

When this virus became a problem that we as a nation could see as an imminent threat, Utah, because of its culture of food storage and preparing for disaster events seemed to “get the memo” first. The week of March 8th grocery sales more than doubled in Utah, up 218%. Many states stayed the same with increases in some. Idaho seemed to “get the memo” about four days later. We were out of water and TP four days after Utah. Then we were out of food staples about four days later. Next was produce following a pattern set by Utah four days earlier.

The problem for us in Idaho was this. The stores in Utah were emptied out then refilled twice by the warehouses before it hit Idaho. Many of these Utah stores have trucks delivering daily. So when it did hit Idaho the warehouses had been severely taxed. We had a hard time filling our store back up even one time. We missed three scheduled trucks that week alone. Then orders finally came they were first 50% of the order and have dropped to 20%. In normal circumstances we receive 98% of our orders and no canceled trucks. Now three weeks later, the warehouses in the Western United States have all been taxed. In turn, those warehouses have been taxing the food manufacturers. These food companies have emptied their facilities to fill the warehouses of the Western United States. The East Coast hasn’t seemed to “get the memo” yet. When they do what food will be left to fill their warehouses and grocery stores?

Food distribution and resources for the Eastern United States will be at great peril even if no hoarding there takes place. But of course it will.

Additionally the food culture of the East Coast and other urban areas is such that people keep very little food on hand. They often shop several times weekly for items if they cook at home. They don’t have big freezers full of meat, home canned vegetables in their storage rooms, gardens, or beans, wheat, and rice in buckets in the their basements.

With most of the country locked down, normal economic activity has come to a standstill, and it is going to become increasingly difficult for our warehouses to meet the demand that grocery stores are putting on them.

Meanwhile, our farmers are facing severe problems of their own.  The following comes from CNBC

The U.S.-China trade war sent scores of farmers out of business. Record flooding inundated farmland and destroyed harvests. And a blistering heat wave stunted crop growth in the Midwest.

Now, the coronavirus pandemic has dealt another blow to a vulnerable farm economy, sending crop and livestock prices tumbling and raising concerns about sudden labor shortages.

The chaos in the financial markets is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, and it is going to remain difficult for farm laborers to move around as long as “shelter-in-place” orders remain in effect on the state level.

Iowa farmer Robb Ewoldt told reporter Emma Newburger that “we’ve stopped saying it can’t get worse”, and he says that this coronavirus pandemic looks like it could be “the straw that broke the camel’s back”

“We were already under extreme financial pressure. With the virus sending the prices down — it’s getting to be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Iowa farmer Robb Ewoldt.

“We were hoping for something good this year, but this virus has stopped all our markets,” he said.

Of course this comes at a time when millions of Americans are losing their jobs and unemployment is shooting up to unthinkable levels.  Without any money coming in, many people are already turning to alternative sources of help in order to feed themselves and their families.

On Monday, hundreds of cars were lined up to get food from a food bank in Duquesne, Pennsylvania.  To many, this was eerily reminiscent of the “bread lines” during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

And it is also being reported that the number of people coming for free meals on Skid Row in Los Angeles has tripled since that city was locked down.

Sadly, these examples are likely only the tip of the iceberg of what we will see in the months ahead.

And it won’t just be the U.S. that is hurting.  The following comes from a Guardian article entitled “Coronavirus measures could cause global food shortage, UN warns”

Kazakhstan, for instance, according to a report from Bloomberg, has banned exports of wheat flour, of which it is one of the world’s biggest sources, as well as restrictions on buckwheat and vegetables including onions, carrots and potatoes. Vietnam, the world’s third biggest rice exporter, has temporarily suspended rice export contracts. Russia, the world’s biggest wheat exporter, may also threaten to restrict exports, as it has done before, and the position of the US is in doubt given Donald Trump’s eagerness for a trade war in other commodities.

If this pandemic stretches on for an extended period of time, food supplies are inevitably going to get even tighter.

So what can you do?

Well, perhaps you can start a garden this year if you don’t normally grow one.  Apparently this pandemic has sparked a tremendous amount of interest in gardening programs around the country…

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, more people are showing an interest in starting home gardens. Oregon State University‘s (OSU) Master Gardener program took notice of the growing interest.

To help citizens who want to grow their own food, the university kindly made their online vegetable gardening course free until the end of April. OSU’s post on Facebook has been shared over 21,000 times.

Food is only going to get more expensive from here on out, and growing your own food is a way to become more independent of the system.

But if you don’t have any seeds right now, you may want to hurry, because consumer demand is spiking

“It’s the largest volume of orders we have seen,” said Jere Gettle of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri. Peak seed-buying season for home gardeners is January to March, but the normal end-of-season decline in orders isn’t happening.

Customers are gravitating to vegetables high in nutrients, such as kale, spinach and other quick-to-grow leafy greens. “Spinach is off the charts,” said Jo-Anne van den Berg-Ohms of Kitchen Garden Seeds in Bantam, Connecticut.

For years, I have been warning people to get prepared for “the perfect storm” that was coming, but of course most people didn’t listen.

But now it is upon us.

Desperate people have been running out to the grocery stores to stock up on toilet paper only to find that they are limited to one or two packages if it is even available.

And now that “panic buying” of seeds has begun, it is probably only a matter of time before many stores start running out.

We have reached a major turning point in our history, and things are only going to get crazier.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans still have absolutely no idea what is ahead of us…

Related:

The Organic Prepper: It’s Only a Matter of Time Until COVID-19 Lockdowns Lead to Civil Unrest and Violent Crime

…A lot of people are blaming “hoarders” and preppers for the shortages seen in stores. Of course, it’s nonsense to blame preppers because we’ve been buying our things over a course of years. And honestly, if it was only “panic buyers” causing problems, wouldn’t the stores be replenished by now? After all, people have hardly been able to shop for two weeks in many states due to social distancing measures.

In reality, there are major issues with the supply chain, a problem many folks aren’t seeing because they’re not at the store. Distribution systems are breaking down.

A source at a Walmart Superstore recently confided that the trucks were only delivering a fraction of the items needed to restock shelves. Imports aren’t arriving in California ports, at least not anywhere close to the degree they were before.

And because more people are eating at home than ever before, the demand on grocery stores has increased dramatically. This also comes at a time after farmers have been driven out of business by the trade war. (source) We have actual shortages here, and it isn’t just due to “panic buying.” That only exposed the dangers of the Just In Time delivery philosophy used by retailers.

Some folks are reporting that the shelves in their areas are full, but many others are reporting the exact opposite

Primal Survivor: 10 Tips for Buying Food During Shortages

If you waited until now to stockpile emergency food, you are probably struggling.  The recent pandemic means Emergency food kits orders are backlogged for months.

Popular retailers like REI are out of virtually all freeze-dried meals.  And supermarkets are having an impossible time of keeping shelves stocked with non-perishables like pasta, flour, canned goods, and instant meals.

This doesn’t mean you can’t stockpile food during the pandemic.  You’ve just got to be strategic about it.  Here are some tips to help you build up a stockpile of food even in the midst of disaster shortages.

1. Understand Why You Are Stockpiling Food

As the experts keep telling us, there is no food shortage right now. Rather, all the panic buying is causing the shelves to empty quickly. People are simply buying more than usual.

Nor is there likely to be a food shortage anytime soon.  Even in countries which have almost complete shutdowns, food manufacturing employees are allowed to go to work.  In fact, governments are organizing safe transportation to make sure these people can get to work!

Sure, there could be food shortages in the not-too-distant future. It’s understandable (and even smart) if you want to stockpile just in case.  However, now is not the time to build up a long-term food stockpile.  Wait until the craziness has died down to start!

If we aren’t going to run out of food, then why stockpile?

The answer is this: So you don’t have to leave your home. And especially so you don’t have to leave home to go to the grocery store.

Because of all the crowds and people who pass through them, grocery stores are one of the most dangerous places during the coronavirus pandemic.  The longer you can go between grocery store visits, the safer you will be (and thus the safer your community will be too).

Once you realize you are stockpiling food so you don’t have to leave home, you will be able to go about shopping in a smarter way.

2. Do Not Go Grocery Shopping during the Panic

If you have enough food in your home to last a while (even if it’s just a few days), DO NOT GO GROCERY SHOPPING NOW.

At the time of writing this, people in the United States are still panic buying.  If you head to the stores now, you will likely find bare shelves and crowds of people.  You won’t succeed in getting the food you need and you’ll expose yourself to a lot of potentially-sick people.

Instead, hold off on going to the store as long as you can.  In countries like Italy, it only took a couple weeks before the panic-buying stopped.  In Serbia, the panic-buying stopped after just a few days and the shelves were back to normal.

crowds at supermarket during COVID-19
Look at all these people shopping for supplies. It’s safer to wait for the crowds to thin out! (Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

3. Make a Food Spreadsheet

A friend of mine works at a supermarket.  She tells me about all the people literally buying 30 packages of spaghetti and nothing else.  Others are buying massive amounts of flour and oil but nothing else.

What the hell are you going to do with 30 bags of pasta???

Sure, you won’t starve but do you really want to eat plain pasta for the next few weeks?  And how will you use flour without yeast or baking soda and baking powder?  Oil is also pretty useless if you don’t have something to fry or cook with it! (continues)

Click here to continue reading at Primal Survivor.

Backdoor Survival: Getting the Most Out of Your Food Supply

Samantha Biggers of Backdoor Survival has an article up addressing how to stretch your food supplies, whether it be during a quarantine or a long emergency.

Something that a lot of us don’t always pay the most attention to is getting the most out of meals and supplies. Sometimes it doesn’t seem worth our time and from a financial perspective, there are times when this actually has a ring of truth to it.

With the current state of affairs, a lot of us may need to start thinking of ways to be more frugal and less wasteful with the supplies we have on hand, especially when it comes down to food.

Although we have tried to develop good habits over the years, Matt and I have found ourselves being even more careful about using up leftovers and being creative with cooking.

We have chickens, cats, and dogs so even if something drops to the floor or there is a small amount of waste, we usually can use it to supplement the diet of our animals. In the case of chickens, they can recycle that potentially wasted food and parts that you don’t typically eat such as carrot tops and fruit cores, into delicious eggs, and hopefully in the spring, baby chicks.

Cook something delicious and basic and use the leftovers for other meals.

Some people really don’t like leftovers. Part of the reason for this is that some foods truly are better if they are eaten right after cooking. The key is to plan out meals so that you don’t have to experience this as much.

One example I can think of is soups and stews that have noodles in them. How many of us have cooked a big pot of minestrone soup or similar and went back and reheated it the next day to find that the noodles had disintegrated or at least became very mushy?

Twice Baked Potatoes

(Note: At the end of the recipe I have a casserole version of this recipe that uses boxed mashed potato flakes in case that is what you have on hand or you run out of potatoes from your pantry.)

This is a recipe that is inexpensive and delicious at the same time. My husband learned this recipe from his Mom and he cooked it for me and still does so regularly. It is also a great way to make use of leftover baked potatoes. Sometimes we will just cook a whole baking tray full of potatoes to use for many different dishes throughout the week. It saves on cooking fuel and makes it easy to cook a lot of wonderful meals.

To make twice baked potatoes you need the following:

Medium To Large Potatoes

The ingredients below can be added in any combination, depending on what you have on hand. If you have some leftover meat from another meal, then this is an excellent dish to make use of that!

Meat (Optional but adding it makes this dish a meal in itself)

Cheese

Onions (This can be dried onions like chives or dehydrated onions or you can fry them up with meat)

Mushrooms

A little milk, yogurt, or broth to cream some potato filling

To bake the potatoes, first, wash them well and place them on a baking sheet. Spritz or rub with oil. I like to use grapeseed oil for this. Salt the outside. Poke a few holes in the top of each with a knife or fork. Bake in a preheated oven at 325 F for 45 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the potato. Stick a toothpick, fork or similar into them to make sure they are soft in the middle.

Allow to cool enough to handle. Scoop out the inside as much as possible and put it in a stockpot or other small cooking pot. You want enough room to mix in any of the additional ingredients listed in the recipe above. You can also use a mixer if desired. That may be the way to go if you are doing these for a crowd.

Mash the scooped out potatoes or use a mixer to whip them with enough milk, yogurt, or broth to get them a consistency that you can scoop into potato skins. Add in any meat, cheese, veggies, etc. We usually shred cheese. You can also use powdered cheeses if that is what you have on hand.

Spoon your filling into the potato skins. Top with cheese if desired. Parmesan works well but you can also use any other type you would like.

Bake in a 350 F oven until the cheese starts to brown. Serve with sour cream, green onions, bacon, salsa or any other additional toppings you desire.

This is a very versatile recipe as you can see. There are countless combinations you can use for fillings and toppings. Think about what leftover veggies or meats you have and use them first.

Baked Potato Casserole Alternative If You Don’t Have Baking Potatoes

Make mashed potatoes from the dry boxed variety. Mix in any of the ingredients just as you would for the baked potato method above. Butter or oil a pan and spread mixture into it. Top with shredded cheese or dry Parmesan. You can sprinkle bacon crumbles on top too if you have them. Bake until cheese is as golden as you like it.

Put out smaller portions on plates. People can always go back for more. If you serve dinner in a serve-yourself manner, then have a discussion with everyone about this and encourage good habits.

Putting too much food on each person’s plate can result in waste. After all, no one is going to want to put what is left off of everyone’s plate back into the pot. If someone has a lot of leftovers on their plate then perhaps using a Tupperware and labeling it with their name so they can eat it for lunch the next day is a good idea? Just a few thoughts to prevent the age-old problem of too much on the plate sometimes… (continues)

Click here to read the entire article at Backdoor Survival.

Organic Prepper: Eating What We Grow

As Spring begins to sneak across the land, thoughts turn to gardens. Here are some thoughts from Kara Still at The Organic Prepper on growing and foraging food – Eating What We Grow: What We Learn and What We Love.

I grew up in Alaska. My family bought most of what we ate at the store, shipped in from the “Lower 48,” as the rest of the U.S. is known up north. The supply chains were long and fragile, and the produce was both expensive and terrible. Wilted lettuce, fuzzy strawberries, bruised apples. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would eat a peach or an ear of corn on the cob because after weeks in transit these delicacies taste like cardboard (or like rot). I ate ice cream, frozen hash browns and plenty of McDonald’s. Alaska is America, after all.

There was also another cuisine in my household, one born out of connection to the land. My family picked tart wild blueberries on the steep mountainside, with the tundra a spongy vermillion carpet around us and the first snows dusting the bare peaks above. We spent hours on icy glacial rivers or motoring past a pebbly shore, casting after salmon and halibut. We scoured the woods for wild mushrooms: nutty white King bolete (porcini), sweet-sour butter bolete, blue-bruising birch bolete, shaggy manes, and oyster mushrooms.

My eyes were opened when I was able to access other foods.

I got so sick of salmon that I refused to eat it, but the joke was on me because the salmon was already in my soul, residing there as a deep curiosity about unusual foods. As I attained adulthood and went traveling I sampled a long list of strange stuff: raw whitefish roe and muktuk (raw whale skin with the fat still on) in rural Alaska, alpaca and guinea pig in Peru, kangaroo and saltwater crocodile in Australia. I nibbled whatever was available: feijoa and loquat and dragon fruit, carpenter ant and raw jellyfish and bladderwrack seaweed, oysters smashed open on the beach.

This isn’t as strange as it sounds. Dr. Weston A. Price, the author of the classic book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, was a dentist who traveled the world in the 1930s to document what people ate. His research includes 500 pages of pictures of people’s mouths and long lists of who did and who did not have cavities. At the edges of the Earth, Dr. Price found healthy people thriving on almost every imaginable diet: dried fish with a little oatmeal and cabbage in Scotland, cattle milk and blood plus wild vegetables in Africa, seal or caribou and berries in Alaska, cheese and rye bread with a little cabbage in alpine Scandinavia. Their teeth were flawless, their faces beautiful.

Not everyone was healthy, though. Some places Price visited, most people had had every tooth pulled from their heads by the age of 20. Some populations also had underdeveloped chests, high incidence of tuberculosis, crowded mouths and facial deformities, all from lack of nutrients. These folks were not eating a wide variety of different diets. They were all eating the same diet, which mostly consisted of white flour and jam.

There isn’t one perfect diet, because humans are omnivores that can thrive and be healthy on lots of different sets of foods. Just not on white flour and jam.

Now we’re eating wild and foraged things, plus what we grow.

These days, I live on a little homestead in rural North Carolina. My family has 17 acres of mixed woods and overgrown fields, with a pond and a stream. We have a little house we built with our hands, a garden, a young orchard, a few goats, chickens and geese.

We still eat wild things, mostly violets and sheep sorrel, chickweed, wild spring onion, a few puffballs and blackberries, bass out of the pond. One year we found a bumper crop of shaggy-bark boletes that taste like the butter boletes I grew up with. One year I killed and cooked an egg-stealing rat snake (it made fine tacos).

But my county is farm country, a thoroughly humanized landscape since before Columbus when the natives burned the undergrowth to create a fantastically productive landscape that white settlers thought was a park. If we want to eat from the land rather than the Walmart (and we do), most of that food has to be encouraged to grow, not just hunted and gathered.

Growing food is a fascinating and complex endeavor fraught with failure and surprise. My favorite potatoes and English peas are tougher to produce here in the baking south than in the frozen north. Instead, I’m gradually learning to grow exotic things even the luckiest Alaskan gardener can only dream of, like eggplant, grinding corn, hot peppers, and sweet potatoes.

Some growing seasons are successes and others are lessons.

This year was an education in drought. In June we had a 100-year flood that took out the bridges on two of the four roads into our property. Nine months later, those bridges still aren’t fixed. After that deluge, it hardly rained for three months. Seminole pumpkin, for several years running a heavy producer, utterly failed because of squash bug combined with too little water. My tomatoes made only enough for the table and about 15 jars of salsa. I have a brand new solar dehydrator, and I was looking forward to dried tomatoes with everything. Instead, I have more frozen green beans than I know what to do with…

Click here to read the entire article at The Organic Prepper.

AmPart: Community Cooking – More Practical Approach to Prepping

NC Scout at American Partisan has an article up about the southern tradition of Community Cooking, how it aids a community, and how communal cooking may help in a disaster.

So we’re finding ourselves in a rush once more. The reality of a pandemic is setting in and people are buying up as much freeze-dried supplies as they can get their hands on. But while I don’t think the physical consequences for an overwhelmingly large percentage of healthy persons will be severe, I do think that the economic disruptions, and the trickle down interruptions in our food supplies, have the potential to be far-reaching. Then again its one of the very real reasons that a good number of people I’m friends and neighbors with have taken every opportunity to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Its not just about having solar power or ‘living off the grid’ for my own sake, but a creation of better resiliency against these sort of inevitable disasters. So you’ve got all those beans and rice put back, but how are you gonna cook them? And are you cooking off-grid? I draw on lessons I learned from my childhood growing up in the rural south and as an adult living in the third world, among Iraqis and Afghans, where a supply chain wasn’t taken for granted. Top among those lessons was the value of cooking for a whole community.

<img aria-describedby=”caption-attachment-9661″ class=”wp-image-9661 size-medium” src=”https://i1.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1245.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1″ alt=”” width=”300″ height=”200″ srcset=”https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1245-scaled.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1245-scaled.jpg?resize=1024%2C682&ssl=1 1024w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1245-scaled.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1245-scaled.jpg?resize=1536%2C1024&ssl=1 1536w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1245-scaled.jpg?resize=2048%2C1365&ssl=1 2048w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1245-scaled.jpg?resize=610%2C407&ssl=1 610w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1245-scaled.jpg?resize=1080%2C720&ssl=1 1080w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1245-scaled.jpg?resize=1320%2C880&ssl=1 1320w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1245-scaled.jpg?w=2160&ssl=1 2160w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />

Discada- a giant steel disk that people have been effectively cooking on for over a millennia.

In America we’re culturally predisposed to thinking individually, permeating all the way down to our eating habits. This has led to incredible amounts of wasteful practices, but its also led to us isolating ourselves to a large degree. In many respects this filters down to our own preparedness practices; the things we buy, the things we buy in bulk, and the justifications behind them. It is an attitude of “I GOT MINE!” negating the reality that hungry masses are motivated masses- and they’ll simply take what you have when they get desperate enough.

On the other hand, a community protects what a community values.

<img aria-describedby=”caption-attachment-9610″ class=”wp-image-9610 size-medium” src=”https://i1.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1165.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1″ alt=”” width=”300″ height=”200″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1165-scaled.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1165-scaled.jpg?resize=1024%2C682&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1165-scaled.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1165-scaled.jpg?resize=1536%2C1024&ssl=1 1536w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1165-scaled.jpg?resize=2048%2C1365&ssl=1 2048w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1165-scaled.jpg?resize=610%2C407&ssl=1 610w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1165-scaled.jpg?resize=1080%2C720&ssl=1 1080w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1165-scaled.jpg?resize=1320%2C880&ssl=1 1320w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1165-scaled.jpg?w=2160&ssl=1 2160w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />

The annual stew.

Every fall in the rural southeast communities have a stew. Every church, every volunteer fire department, and many civic clubs. Its a good fundraiser but its a hell of a lot more than that. Its a tradition and a symbol of our cultural connection with the land. Back in the less-modern era people ate a diet based on what they had at the time. Vegetables followed the harvest seasons, meats followed the livestock slaughter schedule, and at the end of the year and through the winter, stews were made from whatever was left over to prevent spoilage. Crops and livestock were hard earned like everything else. Waste not, want not.

<img class=”size-medium wp-image-9608 alignleft” src=”https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1″ alt=”” width=”300″ height=”200″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=1024%2C682&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=1536%2C1024&ssl=1 1536w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=2048%2C1365&ssl=1 2048w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=610%2C407&ssl=1 610w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=1080%2C720&ssl=1 1080w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=1320%2C880&ssl=1 1320w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?w=2160&ssl=1 2160w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Its a tradition that my own family and friends still follow today, and one that I always look forward to. The Fall is my favorite time of the year for a lot of reasons, and making a hearty stew, chili, and chicken mull is a big part of that. But that annual stew wouldn’t be possible without a few critical tools. I have a large cast iron stew pot, its iron stand, a large steel disk wok, a large dutch oven and a medium dutch oven, all cured with lard and easy to cook on off-grid. With these tools I can make nearly any meal and feed large groups of people in the process.

<img aria-describedby=”caption-attachment-9660″ class=”wp-image-9660 size-medium” src=”https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1255.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1″ alt=”” width=”300″ height=”200″ srcset=”https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1255-scaled.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1255-scaled.jpg?resize=1024%2C682&ssl=1 1024w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1255-scaled.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1255-scaled.jpg?resize=1536%2C1024&ssl=1 1536w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1255-scaled.jpg?resize=2048%2C1365&ssl=1 2048w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1255-scaled.jpg?resize=610%2C407&ssl=1 610w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1255-scaled.jpg?resize=1080%2C720&ssl=1 1080w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1255-scaled.jpg?resize=1320%2C880&ssl=1 1320w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1255-scaled.jpg?w=2160&ssl=1 2160w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />

Corn tortillas and four cups of boiled white rice. Dirt cheap meal that can feed a lot of people.

There’s a strong parallel to this and those cultures overseas, especially in Afghanistan. In most rural cultures around the world you’ll find a community kitchen in the small villages or groups of mud huts. In the center you’ll typically find a firepit, a few pots, usually a pressure cooker, and in some places a large metal disk much like the discada that I use. Its cooking gear that they’ve been using for generations, much like we did not that long ago.

The community kitchen, so to speak, is built to feed everyone- not just individually. A group learns to live off what they have, source their food from their environment, and know what goes a long way to sustaining the most, quickly and efficiently. Rice and beans are a staple food in most parts of the world. Cooking them is fairly straightforward and its a cheap food to stock up on. You can pick up a 20lb of rice and another 4lb of red beans for just over $30 total- and that will feed a small group of people for a good while. All you need is clean water and wood for the fire, and you’re good to go. Add in some bullion cubes for flavor and have some canned meat for long term storage and you’ll be the rock star of your group when people get burned out

<img aria-describedby=”caption-attachment-9657″ class=”wp-image-9657 size-medium” src=”https://i1.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1252.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1″ alt=”” width=”300″ height=”200″ srcset=”https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1252-scaled.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1252-scaled.jpg?resize=1024%2C682&ssl=1 1024w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1252-scaled.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1252-scaled.jpg?resize=1536%2C1024&ssl=1 1536w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1252-scaled.jpg?resize=2048%2C1365&ssl=1 2048w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1252-scaled.jpg?resize=610%2C407&ssl=1 610w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1252-scaled.jpg?resize=1080%2C720&ssl=1 1080w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1252-scaled.jpg?resize=1320%2C880&ssl=1 1320w, https://i2.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/100_1252-scaled.jpg?w=2160&ssl=1 2160w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />

Marinaded chicken, bell, poblano and serrano peppers and mushrooms. All locally sourced, cooked off grid, prepared for eight adults.

on freeze dried food or MREs.

Maybe its the attitude I hold towards greater sustainability, maybe its my ongoing love of re-wilding, or maybe its partly trying to squeeze everything I can out of my hard earned money, but my approach to prepping and survivalism is to know how to provide and prepare that next meal for my family- not just tomorrow, but forever. There’s a learning curve to it, but for me at least its worth it on many levels to have and practice the skills to survive rather than simply bank on prepared foods alone to carry us through. I have those too, but they’ll be the last in the rotation after I’ve exhausted every other option. No matter what the crisis, I’ve got the tools and skills to use it. And you should too.

Don’t panic. Just prepare.

 

Smart Survivalist: Low Cost Prepping – Your Survival on a Budget

Getting prepared at a low cost has always been a popular topic. Now that people have started to worry about the looming coronavirus pandemic, those who are unprepared are looking at getting prepared for the possibility of being quarantined for two to four weeks. Some have looked into their cupboards and realized (especially those living in big cities like New York) that they have nothing stashed because they are used to just hopping out and picking up what they need. Some have more money than others, but if you’re trying to stock up in a short amount of time your budget is limited. Here is The Smart Survivalist with Low Cost Prepping — Your Survival on a Budget. Canned beans, rice, and pasta are low cost staples. Make sure you have access to water and store some if you have space in case of power outages or other interruptions to your home water supply.

If you are only preparing for a 2-4 week quarantine, you can get by without having a full array of nutrition. For a short duration, you’re only worried about getting enough calories to survive through the period. For example, a 25 pound of oatmeal provides about 37,000 calories (not including adding milk, sugar or other toppings) or enough for almost 19 days at 2,000 calories per day. But you’ll need to eat almost seven cups of dry oats per day to get that many calories. So think about how much you’ll need to eat to feel full and how many calories you’ll have per day. Canned  beans tend to be rather high calorie per volume, so if you had oatmeal sometimes and beans other that would be more manageable from a caloric intake and fullness perspective. You may need to be creative to get a good variety of foods that fulfill your needs. And finally don’t forget hygiene products, too.

Low cost prepping is actually a doable task. We all should be prepared for the worst outcomes of today’s reality, but we don’t have to spend thousands of hard-earned dollars on survival equipment. It’s completely possible to just walk into Walmart, or Walmart’s counterpart in your country, and fill your survival list on a very small budget.

I’ve done my own research on this topic, and came up with a list of items that can make a big difference in disastrous events – yet each and every one of them does not cost more than five dollars. The items can be sorted into five important categories. I even took this research a few steps further and outlined ten of the cheapest and most useful of such items. And finally, I also discuss what necessary survival steps and techniques you can take without spending another penny…

All items on the low cost prepping list can be divided into 5 categories: first aid, water, food, hygiene items and emergency supplies. You might ask, do I need all of them? Well, a person can survive for 3 days without water, and as much as 3 weeks without food, but it would be a painful and probably lethal experience. And what if you are injured or running a fever? What if you are stuck on your roof for many days as your neighborhood is flooded?

As you can understand now, being fully prepared is a necessity. You will need the items that I am about to list, and trust me, I do not intend to suggest redundant or luxury items. These are the items that can be utilized when an actual disaster strikes, and all of them are on a budget. Just make sure you stock enough to last you at least a week. Also, before deciding on quantities, see how many members there are going to be in your group, and who they actually are. A child might need less food than a grown man…

s I mentioned earlier, you cannot survive for a long time without water. Fortunately, bottled water is cheap and non-perishable. You can stockpile as much as you need. You will need approximately 2 gallons for a person per day, which includes both drinking and sanitary needs. I would recommend buying even more than that, because you never know what might happen.

There is always the option of water purification, and I have written a thorough article about the best ways to purify water. Keep in mind, however, that some of the methods require additional investment, of time and/or money, while bottled water is always on a budget.

You can also stock on other low cost consumable liquids. Powdered milk costs less than $5, and one package is enough to prepare two gallons of milk. You can mix it with coffee and boiled water. Instant coffee and cappuccino mixes also cost under $5. This might not be your dreamy latte, but it’s something that can get you through a challenging day.

The total cost of products in the water category is no more than $30.

The most affordable and most reliable water filtering item is definitely LifeStraw (on Amazon). This award-winning tool has been globally recognized as a highly efficient water filter that allows you to drink any water directly. It’s ultralight, can be easly carried anywhere and nullifies the need for iodine tablets, as it removes 99.9999% of bacteries, parasites and pollutants. A trusty companion for every prepper and survivalist!…

Just like in case of water, you cannot survive without food. You need energy, nourishment, nutrients. For low cost prepping and for successful survival, we need to stockpile on food that costs less than $5 each and can last for years. It is also preferable to collect food that can be mixed with other food in order to create new dishes and break the monotony of identical dinners.

So first of all, there are cans. Canned goods can be your savior. You will need minerals and vitamins, but fresh vegetables and fruits expire quickly. The canned ones, however, can be consumed even if they are opened 2 years after they were packed. And these are the cans that I suggest to purchase:

  • Assorted beans. These can be chick peas, kidney beans, and several others. They fill you quickly and have tons of necessary protein.
  • Carrots (sliced)
  • Peas and carrots (a popular combination, and again a lot of protein)
  • Oranges or mandarins
  • Tomato sauce
  • Sliced potato
  • Lasagna
  • Mac and cheese
  • Cheese ravioli in tomato sauce
  • Italian pasta beef ravioli

In addition, there are foods that are not necessarily canned, but they can last for a very long time.

  • Pasta. This is an underrated food. Sure, it might seem boring, but it’s very cheap, very filling and can be prepared in minutes. You can always mix it with sauce or other goods. All in all, it’s a great source of carbs and energy.
  • Instant pudding (get several packs)
  • Flour – really inexpensive, you can make bread from it.
  • Sugar and salt – just keep them in dry places, don’t let them get wet!
  • Sardines
  • Ham
  • Chicken breast
  • Quaker
  • Raisins. Some don’t like them, but they are very nutritious.
  • Meatballs for pasta/spaghetti
  • Chicken pot pie soup
  • 5 pound bags of rice. Rice (particularly white one) can be stored away for a long period of time without going bad. It is very filling, very cheap and has tons of carbs to energize you when you most need it.
  • Peanut butter – a great calories source. Your body needs certain fats, and peanut butter has them. It’s delicious, and it provides you with additional energy that is needed for your survival.

The total cost of food mentioned here is no more than $175

Click here to read the entire article at The Smart Survivalist.

Related:

The Organic Prepper: How to Build a 30-Day Emergency Food Supply…Fast

Pantry Chart with shelf life (large image 1.5MB)

Organic Prepper: Off-Grid Cooking Without Electricity

Resilience homesteader Kara Stiff has written a nice article for The Organic Prepper – Off-Grid Cooking Lessons: How to Prepare Food Without Using Electricity – in which she writes of the effort made to reduce electricity use in order to make going off-grid affordable, and how she cooks during winter and summer.

Much of the remaining usage is cooking, so we got set up to cook mostly off-grid.

I say mostly because we still have a crockpot, a toaster oven, and an electric kettle to help us integrate our schedule with that of the outside world. The wage-earner can have his tea when he leaves before the morning fire. The family can have a hot dinner after a day away, or simmer broth overnight. These are convenience devices; we don’t rely on them for our main cooking needs.

Winter off-grid cooking

For winter cooking we use our wood stove, a Vermont Bun Baker. It has an oven and a cooktop. Ours is also set up to make hot water in an open-vented thermosiphon loop. That heat is transferred to the pressurized plumbing through a setup that works surprisingly well, though it was prohibitively expensive. I was nervous about planning a house with a wood cookstove because while I’d cooked on a few, I hadn’t lived with one long-term. But there wasn’t room in our 725-square-foot house for two stoves nor was there room in our tight budget. It was one or the other.

In reality, I adjusted to cooking on a wood stove fairly quickly and easily. The oven only gets good and hot when the stove runs for a while, so I only bake in the coldest months, which is fine because I’m not really into baking. Shorter fires are enough to roast peanuts for homemade peanut butter, or eggshells to crush for the chickens.

Surprisingly, I burn dinner less often on the woodstove than I did on electric or gas stoves, probably because it just takes as long as it takes. There’s no way to impatiently turn the heat way up like on an electric, only to regret it when the food blackens. It doesn’t really take longer to make dinner, though, because I use the heating-up time well. I also burn myself on it less often, probably because the woodstove is hot not just on the top but down the front as well, so it’s impossible to forget that it’s hot. The children have great respect for it and have not come close to even a minor burn.

If you care about environmental damage as we do, a wood stove is not the most environmentally-friendly choice. I did some math and discovered that the one and a half cords of home-grown and salvage wood we burn per year is definitely environmentally worse than using electricity to accomplish the same tasks, but not by that much (see a more in-depth discussion here). Though my family carefully considers environmental concerns in every decision we make, we also care a lot about resilience. In the end, resilience won out for the critical tasks of winter heat and cooking…

Practical Self Reliance: Pine Bark Bread

Ashley at Practical Self Reliance has written a good, long post on making bread from pine tree bark., at least in part. The ratio of wheat flour to pine bark flour is about 3.5 to 1. We live where pine trees are some of the few trees that will grow without irrigation, so I’m always on the lookout for ways that they can be used to supplement food in an emergency. Most people are aware that you can get pine nuts from appropriate species. Fewer may be aware that you can make pine needle tea which is high in vitamin C and A. Ashley documents the harvesting of the bark and bad effects on the trees themselves, grinds the bark into flour, and then makes some bad-tasting crackers and some good-tasting yeast bread.

Having the option to add pine tree bark would help in the less likely scenario where you are faced with a major TEOTWAWKI style disaster that occurs past the time that you can grow or store more wheat for the year, and you need to stretch your food reserves until foods can start growing again in the spring. Ashley also has a post How to Eat a Pine Tree for using other parts of the tree. You may just find that you like the flavor. My first taste for pine-flavored food came from drinking Retsina – an Aleppo Pine resin infused white wine – at Greek restaurants. Some can’t stand the flavor, but it goes well with some strong flavored dishes.

Bark breads are a staple of Nordic indigenous cuisine.  The Sami of northern Sweden harvested pine bark and mixed it with reindeer milk in their traditional breads.  Since the richest sami had the most reindeer, they’re also the ones that harvested the most pine bark.  It wasn’t out of desperation, but out of a quest for flavor.

In the case of birch bark, the historical evidence is clear that the papery outer bark was used to make food storage vessels, while the nutritious inner bark was ground into birch bark flour.  In the case of pine bark, the records are a bit less clear.  There are some sources that say only the inner bark was used, and others that claim only the outer bark was used.  Since I’ve been able to find recipes using both, I’ll share them all with you.

The outer bark of a tree is mostly there to protect the tree from the elements and doesn’t contain much in the way of calories.  Calories aren’t the only reason to eat something, and pine outer bark seems to have other benefits.  Pine outer bark may contain compounds that help keep food from spoiling or important nutrients that were scarce in a northern climate.

According to Nordic Food Lab,  though pine outer bark is not calorie rich, it does “contain condensed tannins called procyanidins that are being researched for potential health benefits. Aromatic hydrocarbons such as terpenes and phenols which give pine its distinctive warm, woody scent also deliver antimicrobial properties, perhaps useful for blending with other flours to preserve their shelf life.”

These days, nutritional supplements are made from pine bark, and you can buy bags of powdered pine bark online which claim that “Pine Bark is used worldwide for its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. When used regularly, pine bark may support healthier cardiovascular and circulatory function.”

The outer bark was harvested from a section of the tree to create a “window pane” of exposed cambium.  Over time, the bark slowly healed over the wound, and since the inner cambium was not harvested the tree continued to grow.  Such trees could be harvested multiple times over the course of their life.  There’s evidence of window panning on 700+-year-old pine trees in northern Sweden.

Obviously, if you’re going to harvest the bark of a tree, know that you are damaging the tree in a way that will impact it for hundreds of years.  This particular pine tree has a partially dead top, and it’s very near our wind turbine.  It’s going to be cut in the spring, so it’s a good candidate for bark harvest.

I started out using a draw knife, but it’s actually pretty difficult to use one just on the surface without really digging into the cambium.  Since I only needed a small amount of pine bark flour, I was able to just use my hand to flake off chunks of shaggy exterior bark from a large pine tree growing on our land.  No need to window pane a tree and cause it damage in any case.

Initially, I tried to grind the pine bark flour in a food processor, but it was in vain.  The exterior bark is quite hard, but not brittle enough to fly apart.  After several minutes the motor was heating up and had almost no pine bark flour to show for it.  The bark, even exterior bark, needs to be dried out thoroughly before grinding.

I put the bark chips in the oven at 350 for about 45 minutes.  The house smelled nice and toasty, like the warm scents of the high desert pine forests of my youth.  Once the bark was toasted it ground much more easily.  It would be possible to dry the bark out over a low fire in a similar way, which would make it much easier to grind by hand.  When the pine bark was dried, I put it back into the food processor for grinding…

 

Woodpile Report: Food, Famine, Civil War

The Woodpile Report today has a lengthier opinion piece than usual. Remus has some opinions on prepper enclaves, food, famine, and civil war. In the past week there has been a surge of violent protests and rioting in both Europe and South and Central America.  Will any of them turn into a civil war in those countries? There were already problems with food distribution in the Ecuadorian civil unrest. Is the recent capitulation of the Mexican government to the Sinaloa cartel after said cartel took control of and terrorized the city of Culiacan a sign of the failure of that state? And of course many people have expressed fears of a civil war here in the USA. Who knows what will come or when.


Posters from World Wars I and II

The US has historically used food as part of carrot-and-stick diplomacy, or said differently, bribes. During the Second World War, Great Britain and the Soviet Union relied crucially on American food, assuring a measure of their dependency in power negotiations. Germany, and particularly Japan, were nearly US territories after the war, both would have starved without prompt delivery of American food in quantity.

Wars are generally about food. Ancient Rome imported its food and fought epic wars to develop new sources and keep the ones it had. Medieval fiefdoms were agricultural enterprises, raiding their neighbors was common. The westward expansion of America in the nineteenth century was about food and the means to move it, as was Japan’s expanding empire in the early twentieth century. Germany explicitly cited food production to justify its aggression in the east. Their rants about fighting Bolshevism was pep rally stuff, Nazism itself was excessively patriotic Marxism.

History and cold calculation suggest food would be a weapon in a Civil War II, one of many, but of prime importance long term. Civil wars have long gestations, go kinetic suddenly and get complicated in a hurry. We have no firm knowledge what would set it off, who would be actively involved or how it would end. But the outlines are repeated well enough to guide our preparations.

The ruling class already treats middle America as this century’s Untermensch. Nothing is off the table in a civil war. Seizing the nation’s food would be an obvious move. Expect them to deploy troops to secure big ag and the necessary transportation facilities, destroy anyone who got in their way and terrorize potential troublemakers. But there’s a limit to even the deep state’s resources. Prudent survivalists in the far hills wouldn’t warrant their attention, they’d be more likely to trade shots with desperados than find themselves in a firefight with regular forces.

Food is the indispensable survival prep. At minimum this means a secure long-term stash of high calorie food sufficient to outlast the initial violence and privation without relying on resupply. Call it a year, maybe two.

Preppers are kidding themselves about large, elaborate enclaves. Such communities with their gardens, livestock, solar powered utilities, weapons, comms, storehouses, workshops, tools and supplies would be fatally attractive. Training with light infantry tactics and weapons is understandable, but repelling serial attacks by gangs and other armed opportunists would include attrition, i.e., the worker bees would win battles but eventually too few would remain to run the place. And when it became unviable, so would they.

Such redoubts have their place when the meltdown eases, but in the initial phases, less is more.

Well placed and practiced survivalists could get by on a onesey-twosey basis. Two may survive where one wouldn’t. Three or four may be better, assuming an adequate reserve of food and supplies. With more than four the liabilities are likely to outweigh the advantages. It assumes the deepest of deep larders, extensive supplies and harmonious wisdom in all things. Unless each make an irreplaceable contribution of critical value it’s probably too big a footprint for this phase. Loosely allying with similar small groups for mutual benefit may be the better choice. Five or more is a crowd, a danger to itself.

Famine is a given in contemporary civil war. Those embedded in interior cities have no chance, so, next item. The ruling class would continue to work against middle America’s existence. As said above, they’d confiscate local stores of food on a continuing basis, seize major food producing areas intact and grab the needed transportation facilities. Make no mistake, their hirelings would be granted license for absolute ruthlessness. Free fire zones and minefields are not off the table. Skilled labor, if otherwise unwilling, would be arrested and compelled to work.

Feeding their base would guarantee the loyalty of supporters, inflict mass death on the deplorables by ‘no cost’ neglect and keep armed confrontation largely confined to flyover country. But note, as said here before, this is a precarious solution. The coastal megacities are fed from the outside by vulnerable arteries passing through what would be hostile territory. In the end, feeding them would stutter and fail. Even now they’re cauldrons of seething hatred, barely repressed, often organized. With real scarcity and hardship they’d fall on each other and tear the place apart.

Privation, disease, hunger, murderous chaos and high intensity combat would likely peak in the second year. This is the knothole which would separate the survivalists from dabblers and hopeful idealists. In the years that follow, when the maelstrom had largely exhausted itself and the situation clarified, those who made good use of their resources could be largely self supporting, coalescing into tribes, forming families with neighbors and partying like it was 1319.

Be a survivor. The who and what of a civil war would matter only occasionally. Food would matter every hour of every week. Stack food high, wide and deep where it’s secure from looters and confiscation. Backup your stash with an “iron rations” fallback stash. Stack seeds, garden tools, fishing and hunting gear to be prepared for self-resupply opportunities. Calories are life.

Remus added an update to the above:

The phrase “deep larder” means very long term storage food. Decades, not years. One example is whole wheat, in Mylar bags, with oxygen and moisture absorbers, sealed in airtight five gallon buckets. Freeze dried food is a deep larder’s high end. Also long lasting is dehydrated food vacuum packed in Mason jars or Foodsaver-style plastic pouches.

Your shelves of commercially canned and home canned food are intermediate storage foods—a few years. The food in your cupboard, refrigerator and freezer is short term food. Some a few months, some a few weeks.

In the military, “iron rations” is ready-to-eat food to sustain troops away from a field kitchen. They’re currently called MREs, formerly known as C Rations and K Rations. Iron rations are a temporary expedient—a few days. MREs are not intended for long term storage. For the survivalist, iron rations is an emergency cache of food accessible when the main stash isn’t. Bugout backpacks are typically stocked with iron rations, either ready-to-eat or quickly prepared.

“Supplies” means ammunition, medicine and medical items, water filters, batteries, repair kits and spare parts, shoes and boots, clothing for all seasons and the like. Supplies are casualty items, in time they’re either used up or worn out. “Equipment” is different from supplies. A canteen is equipment, water is supplies. Good quality equipment with routine maintenance, hand tools for example, will outlast the user.

A partisan may use survivalist techniques, but a survivalist is a combatant when self defense is the only alternative. Militants would have you believe you’re so extra special you’ll be stalked by DC’s death squads while tending your secret potato patch. Unless you’re out sabotaging bridges or ambushing convoys they aren’t going to hunt you down with drones or trackers. They’ll have better uses for their time and resources than chasing you around in the hills. It’s the desperados you’ll have to worry about.

Prudence and a sense of proportion will see the survivalist through. He’s of no interest to the warring parties if he stays away from them and their stuff. And if he blunders into them, he’ll escape rather than shoot it out. Chances are they’ll make a big show of running him off and let it go at that. In their mind they’ve done their duty, why turn it into a confrontation? If they pursue him, then it’s decision time.

Hello Homestead: How to Prepare a Raised Garden Bed for Winter

This article from Hello Homestead includes a step on adding season extenders like the cold frames discussed in an earlier post. Getting that garden properly put to bed for the winter (or keeping it working over winter) is not accomplished by stopping gardening for the winter, much though that might appeal.

How to prepare a raised garden bed for winter

Photo by Gabor Degre

When the gardening season comes to an end, it is easy to get distracted from the pre-frost clean-up. Learning how to prepare a raised garden bed for winter, though, is essential to prepare for the season to come, even when spring is months away.

Throughout autumn, gardeners with raised beds should take several steps to ensure their garden beds are ready for next year’s seeds and seedling transplants.

“It’s an ongoing project,” said Kate Garland, horticultural specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. “I just always think of it as a to-do list for the fall.”

Properly caring for raised garden beds before winter settles in will promote soil health, ward off weeds and prevent diseases in next year’s crops. Here is how to prepare a raised garden bed for winter.

Step 1: Remove weeds

Photo by Gabor Degre

Weeding is essential well into the fall, even when the majority of your crops have stopped growing. Not only can untended autumn weeds harbor disease, but they can lay the roots for future weed problems.

“This is when people are ready to be done with weeding, but this is probably one of the most important times of year to be weeding,” Garland warned. “A lot of our weeds are setting seed right now. Some of the seeds can stay viable for 30 to 40 years or longer.”

For the parts of your raised bed that’s simply carpeted in weeds, cover them with black plastic or a layer of cardboard and leave it in place through the winter season to choke out existing weeds and suffocate sprouting weeds.

Some gardeners will till the soil to prevent weeds and expose harmful pests, but Garland suggests avoiding tillage in your raised beds as much as you can for the sake of soil health.

“There are some scenarios where [tilling] can make sense, but it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense in raised bed settings [unless the soil is really compacted],” Garland said. “If you can avoid tilling as much as possible, your soil and your gardens will thrive in the long run.”

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