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Sour Cherries

Hey! I was lucky enough to find a sour cherry tree in my neighbourhood. So I took the kids and we loaded up. 

We got a good amount in a short amount of time. The trees are almost always full of fruit because people try one, thinking they’re regular cherries and don’t like them due to the sourness. 

I had enough to make jam so I tried a new recipe. It didn’t set for me but next time I’ll either add pectin or boil longer. It’s still delicious and is being used in drinks and on ice cream. 
I took 12 cups of pitted sour cherries and 5 cups of white sugar. Bring to a boil and left it boiling heavily for about an hour while my jars (8 250ml jars) were in a hot water bath. 


At this point I’d recommend testing for viscosity by taking out a bit and doing the wrinkle test. 

I was impatient I guess and just canned it at that point. I left 1″ headspace in my jars and then boiled the jars for 10 minutes. They then sat on the counter for 24 hours while they sealed and cooled. 
If you didn’t want to go this route, sour cherries are also good dehydrated with a bit of sugar, or frozen and added to baked goods. 

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Reusing your own soap

A lot of us have soap in our stocks, its a great thing to have around. In a SHTF situation, hygiene is paramount. Soap is generally cheap, but here’s a way you can save a bit of money.

I personally own a soap business (www.alchemysoapworks.com) so I have a lot of soap scraps around but you can do this using the little slivers that are left at the end of the bar.

Grate or break down your soap into smaller pieces and place them in a bowl.

soap scraps in bowl ready for our next step

Put your bowl over a pot of warm water (double boiler). Do not let the water boil, as this gets your soap too hot. If you are using all bar soap (not glycerine soap) you may have to add a little bit of water to your bowl.

Be careful, the bowl and the soap will get hot. Melt the soap down and mix it together.  When it is all melted, its time to take it off the heat.

Bowl of melted soap

Carefully pour your soap into molds. I have professional molds but this isn’t necessary at all. You can use milk cartons, silicone muffin tins, just about anything. (tip: if you want to make soap for barter or giving away PSHTF, pour your soap into ice cube trays.)

Once your soap is hardened (this can take anywhere from a couple hours to a couple of days), take it out of your mold and cut it into desired shapes and sizes. If you’re having trouble getting the soap out, you can pop it into the freezer for ten minutes and let it get cold, it should come out easily after that.

“poc” soap, ready to be wrapped.

It may not be pretty and it may be a blend of a lot of scents, but its soap, its functional and it was free.

To keep your soap for long periods, consider using shrink wrap or putting it into zipper plastic bags. If you used glycerin soap, it may develop a ‘dew’ or ‘sweat’, this is normal and does not affect the function of the soap.

 

Dehydrating Your Own Milk

Let me just say, this isn’t necessarily a recommended practise, do your reseach (as always) and decide if its for you.

I recently got 6 litres of milk for $1 each and decided to dehydrate them to make my own powdered milk. Most preppers order their powdered milk in #10 cans from various food suppliers in the US, however this is out of my price range and the tariffs Canadians have to pay on dairy are ridiculous.

To dehydrate my milk, first I had to make parchment paper containers to cover the screens in my Excalibur. I did this by cutting a square and folding up all the edges so they folded over themselves and then I stapled it just to be sure. Put the parchment on your screen and pour a small thin layer of 1% milk onto it. (I used 1% aka non fat milk because the more fat, the more likely it is to go rancid.

I cranked my dehydrator to 135′ F and left it over night. About 10 hours later it was ready. The milk turns into a crackly sheet in a sort of yellow color. At this point all you have to do it toss it in a blender or food processor and buzz it up until its a fine powder. Store it in a jar or mylar bag with an oxygen absorber.

To rehydrate, mix it with cold water and shake it until you get all the chunks out.

 

Home Made MRE’s

Have you ever opened an MRE (Military ration) and thought half the stuff was gross? Or been allergic to some of it? What about people with gluten allergies or dairy allergies? That stuff is loaded with wheat, soy and milk products. And honestly, a lot of people are just plain picky.

So I made my own MRE. I took apart some of my MRE’s that I got through the army and also searched through my cupboards. Here’s my example:

Freeze dried Chili Mac (made by Wise Company – thanks to TF for sending it!!)

Instant Vegetable Couscous (from a MRE you can make your own, just throw couscous in a bag)

Tomato Basil Rice (from a MRE but you can make your own)

Vegetable Beef Cup of Soup (grocery store)

Bread (from MRE – limited shelf life but I have seen people use vacuum packed tortillas)

Orange sport drink powder (from a MRE but you can get individual sizes at grocery stores)

Peanut Butter and Jam (from MRE but can get from restaurants)

Oatmeal (grocery store)

LaraBar energy bar (grocery store)

Salt, pepper, tea and sugar (available at almost any restaurant… well, buy your own individually wrapped tea bags)

Once you have everything you want, throw it in a bag and vacuum seal it. Or put it in a ziploc and use a straw to suck out the extra air. I’ve seen people do their own MRE’s with ramen noodles and dehydrated vegetables, macaroni and cheese (out of the box), packets of tuna, soup mixes, anything really. It is easy to go to the grocery store and buy shelf stable items. Just pick something you like and that you’ll eat and throw it all together! Later on, I’ll give you some ideas for the little ones in your survival group

Simple Jar Candles

There are a lot of ways to make candles. This is only one of them and it is fairly simple. You can get fancier if you want, but this is survival and preparedness, not a dinner party. As such, I have not included instructions for colorants or scents.

Needed:

A jar … you can use anything from baby food jars to pickle jars and mason jars are great, I’ve used small jars that I got at a dollar store, but I’ll use a small mason jar to show you. I like jars because they have lids and can be kept dry but feel free to use anything such as a milk carton, a tea cup or an old washed apple juice tin.

Wax: beeswax, paraffin, old used candles anything!  I’ll show you how to use recycled wax since it’s easy and cheap. Paraffin is easily found at a grocery store with the canning supplies (it’s not usually used for candle making but will do in a pinch. It has a lower melting point than candle paraffin that’s all) Pictured: old candles about to be chopped.

Wick: I buy these from a wholesaler but you can get them at craft shops or make them with string but the string doesn’t work as well as a proper wick. The easiest thing is to use a wick that has the metal piece at the bottom.

Pot and bowl: I usually use a container specifically for melting wax but most people will be fine with using a bowl over a pot of very warm water. You don’t want the water to be boiling over and you don’t want to heat the wax directly over a heat source because the wax can ignite at a very low temperature.

Safety Notice: Hot wax can burn! If you get it on yourself, run cold water over it and then peel off the hardened wax. If your wax catches fire while on the stove (never happened to me but you never know…) DO NOT USE WATER to put out the flames! Turn off your heat source and smother the flames with a pot lid or fire blanket etc. I shouldn’t have to say this but I am not responsible for what you do! If you hurt yourself during this project, you are on your own and I am not liable.

Put a pot of water on the stove at a medium heat. Put bowl over the pot. Cut wax into smaller pieces to allow quicker melting. Do not allow your wax to get past 170 degrees Fahrenheit.  While the wax is melting, heat up your jars a bit. I usually use another pot of water to do this. You want the jars to be warm when the wax goes in to prevent the glass from cracking and to let the wax set nicely; otherwise it pulls away from the jar as it dries.

When wax is melted, use a ladle or something similar to pour the wax slowly and gently into the warmed jars (make sure you dry them off inside first). Let them sit until hardened. (probably a few hours for all of the wax to be completely set.

Pictured: my finished product… smells vaguely cinnamony (due to old candles being scented).